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No. 10. THURSDAY, MARCH 18, 1714.
- Magis illa placent quæ pluris emuntur. I HAVE lately been very much teased with the thought of Mrs. Anne Page, and the memory of those many cruelties which I suffered from that obdurate fair one. Mrs. Anne was, in a particular manner, very fond of china ware, against which I had, unfortunately, declared my aversion. I do not know but this was the first occasion of her coldness towards me, which makes me sick at the very sight of a china dish ever since. This is the best introduction I can make for my present discourse, which may serve to fill up a gap, till I am more at leisure to resume the thread of my amours.
There are no inclinations in women which more surprise me than their passions for chalk and china. The first of these maladies wears out in a little time; but when a woman is visited with the second, it generally takes possession of her for life. China vessels are playthings for women of all ages. An old lady of fourscore shall be as busy in cleaning an Indian Mandarin, as her great-grand-daughter is in dressing her baby. The common way of purchasing such trifles, if I may
believe my female informers, is by exchanging old suits of clothes for this brittle ware. The potters of China have, it seems, their factors at this distance, who retail out their several manufactures for cast clothes and superannuated garments. I have known an old petticoat metamorphosed into a punch-bowl, and a pair of breeches into a tea-pot. For this reason, my friend Tradewell in the city calls his great room, that is nobly furnished out with china, his wife's ward
robe. “In yonder corner (says he) are above twenty suits of clothes, and on that scrutoire above a hundred yards of furbelowed silk. You cannot imagine how many nightgowns, stays, and mantuas went to the raising of that
pyramid. The worst of it is, (says he,) a suit of clothes is not suffered to last half its time, that it may be the more vendible; so that in reality, this is but a more dexterous way of picking the husband's pocket, who is often purchasing a great vase of china, when he fancies that he is buying a fine head, or a silk gown for his wife.” There is, likewise, another inconvenience in this female passion for china, namely, that it administers to them great matter of wrath and sorrow.
How much anger and affliction are produced daily in the hearts of my dear country-women, by the breach of this frail furniture. Some of them pay half their servants' wages in china fragments, which their carelessness has produced.
“ If thou hast a piece of earthen ware, consider, (says Epictetus,) that it is a piece of earthen ware, and very easy and obnoxious to be broken: be not, therefore, so void of reason, as to be angry or grieved when this comes to pass.” In order, therefore, to exempt my fair readers from such additional and supernumerary calamities of life, I would advise them to forbear dealing in these perishable commodities, till such time as they are philosophers enough to keep their temper at the fall of a tea-pot, or a china cup. I shall further recommend to their serious consideration these three particulars : first, that all china ware is of a weak and transitory nature: secondly, that the fashion of it is changeable: and thirdly, that it is of no use. And first of the first: the fragility of china is such as a reasonable being ought by no means to set its heart upon, though, at the same time, I am afraid I may complain with Seneca on the like occasion, that this very consideration recommends them to our choice, our luxury being grown so wanton, that this kind of treasure becomes the more valuable, the more easily we may be deprived of it, and that it receives a price from its brittleness. There is a kind of ostentation in wealth, which sets the possessors of it upon distinguishing themselves in those things wherel it is hard for the poor to
| Things where.] The adverb where includes the idea of place, and is, therefore, inaccurately used, when what precedes does not suggest that idea. If he had said- -“ Which puts the possessors of it upon striking out into those paths, where," the use of it had been proper.
follow them. For this reason, I have often wondered that our ladies have not taken pleasure in egg-shells, especially in those which are curiously stained and streaked, and which are so very tender, that they require the nicest hand to hold without breaking them. But, as if the brittleness of this ware were not sufficient to make it costly, the very fashion of it is changeable, which brings me to my second particular.
It may chance, that a piece of china may survive all those accidents to which it is by nature liable, and last for some years, if rightly situated and taken care of.
To remedy, therefore, this inconvenience, it is so ordered, that the shape of it shall grow unfashionable, which makes new supplies always necessary, and furnisbes employment for life to women of great and generous souls, who cannot live out of the mode. I myself remember, when there were few china vessels to be seen that held more than a dish of coffee; but their size is so gradually enlarged, that there are many at present which are capable of holding half a hogshead. The fashion of the teacup is also greatly altered, and has run through a wonderful variety of colour, shape, and size.
But, in the last place, china ware is of no use. Who would not laugh to see a smith's shop furnished with anvils and hammers of china ? The furniture of a lady's favourite room is altogether as absurd: you see jars of a prodigious capacity, that are to hold nothing. I have seen horses, and herds of cattle, in this fine sort of porcelain, not to mention the several Chinese ladies, who, perhaps, are naturally enough represented in these frail materials.
Did our women take delight in heaping up piles of earthen platters, brown jugs, and the like useful products of our British potteries, there would be some sense in it. They might be ranged in as fine figures, and disposed of in as beautiful pieces of architecture; but there is an objection to these which cannot be overcome, namely, that they would be of some use, and might be taken down on all occasions, to be employed in the services of the family, besides that they are intolerably cheap, and most shamefully durable and lasting.
No. 39. TUESDAY, MAY 25.
Nec verbum verbo curabis reddere fidus
SINCE I have given public notice of my abode, I have had many visits from unfortunate fellow-sufferers who have been crossed in love as well as myself.
Will. Wormwood, who is related to me by my mother's side, is one of those who often repair to me for advice. Will. is a fellow of good sense, but puts it to little other use than to torment himself. He is a man of so refined an understanding, that he can set a construction upon everything to his own disadvantage, and turn even a civility into an affront. He groans under imaginary injuries, finds himself abused by his friends, and fancies the whole world in a kind of combination against him. In short, poor Wormwood is devoured with the spleen: you may be sure a man of this humour makes a very whimsical lover. Be that as it will, he is now over head and ears in that passion, and by a very curious interpretation of his mistress's behaviour, has, in less than three months, reduced himself to a perfect skeleton. As her fortune is inferior to his, she gives him all the encouragement another man could wish, but has the mortification to find that her lover still sours upon her hands. Will. is dissatisfied with her, whether she smiles or frowns upon him : and always thinks her too reserved, or too coming. A kind word, that would make another lover's heart dance for joy, pangs poor Will., and makes him lie awake all night.-As I was going on with Will. Wormwood's amour, I received a present from my bookseller, which I found to be the Characters of Theophrastus, translated from the Greek into English, by Mr. Budgell.
It was with me, as I believe it will be with all who look into this translation; when I had begun to peruse it, I could not lay it by, until I had gone through the whole book; and was agreeably surprised to meet with a chapter in it, entitled, “A discontented Temper," which gives a livelier picture of my cousin Wormwood, than that which I was drawing for him myself. It is as follows:
A DISCONTENTED TEMPER.
“A discontented temper is a frame of mind which sets a man upon complaining without reason.' When one of his neighbours, who makes an entertainment, sends a servant to him with a plate of anything that is nice, 'What, (says he,) your master did not think me good enough to dine with him ?' He complains of his mistress, at the very time she is caressing him; and when she redoubles her kisses and endearments, 'I wish (says he) all this came from your heart.' In a dry season, he grumbles for want of rain, and, when, a shower falls, mutters to himself, “ Why could not this have come sooner ?' If he happens to find a purse of money, 'Had it been a pot of gold, (says he,) it would have been worth stooping for.' He takes a great deal of pains to beat down the price of a slave; and after he has paid his money for him, I am sure, (says he,) thou art good for nothing, or I should not have had thee so cheap. When a messenger comes with great joy, to acquaint him that his wife is brought to bed of a son, he answers, “ That is as much as to say, my friend, I am poorer by half to-day than I was yesterday.'Though he has gained a cause, with full costs and damages, he complains that his counsel did not insist upon the most material points. If, after any misfortune has befallen him, his friends raise a voluntary contribution for him, and desire him to be merry, 'How is that possible, (says he,) when I am to pay every one of you his money again, and be obliged to you into the bargain ? '»
The instances of a discontented temper, which Theophrastus has here made use of, like those which he singles out to illustrate the rest of his characters, are chosen with the greatest nicety, and full of humour. His strokes are always fine and exquisite, and, though they are not sometimes violent enough to affect the imagination of a coarse reader, cannot but give the highest pleasure to every man of a refined taste, who has a thorough insight into human nature.
As for the translation, I have never seen any of a prose author which has pleased me more. The gentleman who has obliged the public with it, has followed the rule which Horace has laid down for translators, by preserving every