L O I T E R E R.
"Speak of us as we are."
PRINTED FOR THE AUTHOR;
And sold by Messrs. PRINCE and COOKE, OXFORD;
Messr. EGERTONS, Whitehall, LONDON; Messrs. PEARSON
And POLLASON, BIRMINGHAM; Mr. W. MEYLER, Grove,
BATH; AND Messrs. COWSLADE and SMART, READING.
L O I T E R E R.
SATURDAY, December 19, 1789.
Nil admirari prope res est una –
Solaque qiæ possit facere et seruare beatum. Hor.
To the AUTHOR of the LOITERER,
Sir,If I rightly understand the nature of your work, the writer of the following pages will not act improperly in submitting to your consideration some few remarks on certain prevalent opinions which have lately made more than common progress, and which demand a serious refutation. I am sorry, Mr. Loiterer, to observe that a spirit of degenerate and sickly refinement has spread itself with such rapidity through the regions of fashion and elegance. It might indeed be instanced in several cases, but I shall at present confine myself to one particular effect, which is the more worthy of attention, as it is productive of the most grievous calamities. What I here allude to, Sir, is, that excess of sentiment and susceptibility, which the works of the great Rousseau chiefly introduced, which every subsequent Novel has since foster'd, and which the voluptuous manners of the present age but too eagerly embrace. I shall not here enumerate the many baneful effects which are produced by it in the morals of mankind, when under the mask of feeling and liberality are concealed the grossest allurements of sense, and the most daring attacks of Deism; but shall merely consider this one point, "how far the indulgence of the above mentioned sentiments affects the immediate happiness or misery of human life." To enter into a philosophical disquisition on the nature of passions and affections, is a task far beyond my abilities. But I think it is not assuming too much when I venture to assert, that the violence of them is in a great degree influenced, and of course may be much restrained by early care and proper education. This being once acknowledged, it surely will not be a difficult thing to prove, that such a restraint and government of them does actually contribute to our future happiness. For these very sentimentalists themselves, these worshippers of extravagant refinement must confess that the identical works whence they draw their favorite theories, exhibit the strongest proofs of their own fallacy. For though these Heroes and Heroines of sentimental memory be only imaginary characters, yet we may fairly presume, they were meant to be probable ones; and hence too we may conclude, that all who adopt their opinions will share their fate; that they will be tortured by the poignant delicacy of their own feelings, and fall the Martyrs to their own Susceptibility. Now, that contrary effects are produced by contrary causes is self evident; but as example is ever more powerful than precept, I shall beg leave to bring forward my own life as the best justification of my sentiments, and give a recital of facts rather than a series of arguments.
In the following account of myself, Mr. Loiterer, expect neither variety of incident, or excentricity of conduct, since mediocrity and contentment were ever my sole wishes; and to prove the acquisition of them compatible with the common occurrences of human life, is the purport of my present letter. My Father had by devoting the early part of his life to the strictest attention to business, realized sufficient to have indulged his age in affluent indolence; but what necessity first compels us to undertake, habit often induces us to persevere in, long after the necessity is removed. This was exactly my Father's case; nor do I think it less praise worthy than it is natural; since in no situation could he have been so respectable, and in no line of life could he have enjoyed opulence so becomingly as in that where he had acquired it. But though he was content himself to live a Citizen of London, yet parental partiality, and perhaps a secret desire of aggrandizing his family, determined him to endeavour at making his only child an elegant Scholar, an accomplished Politician, and a future Member of the first Senate in the World. I had accordingly the honour of being whipped into a competent knowledge of two dead languages in the company of Lords and Right Honourables, at one of the most fashionable public schools in the kingdom. Possessing naturally a good constitution, and as almost inexhaustible flow of spirits, I was disposed to laugh whenever I could, and cry only where I could not help it. The plan of education, and the number of my companions tended still more to banish abstracted and unsocial thoughts. Totally taken up with Horace and Virgil in the Morning, and Cricket or Tennis in the Afternoon, I read neither Romances or Novels. I had little time to build castles in the air; I never fancied myself in love, or suspected that I was a Prince in disguise. My vacations were generally spent in London, where the frequent recurrence of public amusements, and the continual intercourse of company, confirmed the natural bias of my temper; and I reach the age of eighteen without ever thinking of rivulets or groves, without making a single copy of love verses, or remembering one pretty face a moment after I had seen another. From school I was removed to college in Oxford, where I resided about three years. And let me not miss this occasion of paying the tribute of unfeigned gratitude to that place, and the friends I made in it. Certain am I that the recollection of those three years has often served to check the sigh which the events of succeeding ones would sometimes but too well have justified. And thought I grant that a numerous body of young men connected amoung themselves, and removed from the frown of parental authority, may sometimes accompany each other in temporary extravagance, or even encourage each other to temporary vice; still must I think that the certain advantages of a University Education are greater than the possible evils of it. For a young man may not only form friends for his future years, and gain intelligence for his future profession; but he will likewise see what he ought to avoid by feeling what he has to repent of. It is in short a rehearsal of life; he is sufficiently in the world to make a trial of himself, and yet has it still in his power to reform or to change his subsequent character. –– When I left the University, I flatter myself I brought away from it a constitution unhurt, and a mind undebauched; my temper too, I think, was not altered; my feelings were neither blunted by sensuality, or tortured by too sentimental and exquisite a refinement. Thus disposed to like all around me, yet cautious to love but few, I complied with my Father's will, and my own inclination, in setting out on the grand tour; and left my county, if not with pleasure, at least without pain, because I hoped to return better informed concerning others, and more content with my own.
The first place at which I stopped was of course Paris, and here I determined to take a view of the French nation; concluding, that in the Metropolis I should find an epitome of the whole. Being amply provided with recommendatory letters, and seriously wishing to profit by them, I found it not a difficult task to acquire an extensive acquaintance among the gayest and most fashionable circles. And to this it was owing that I very soon found myself deeply engaged in an adventure, the event of which I must beg leave to lay before my readers as they will find it the primary foundation of my present opinions, and the indirect cause of all my subsequent happiness. –– At one of the petits soupers of M. de T––––, I happened to sit next to the elegant Marquise de la V––––e. My being a stranger was sufficient to interest her curiosity, and my ignorance of the French language a plea for exerting her politeness. Grateful, young, and bleu Etourdi, what wonder that I should feel myself charmed by her attentions, and profess my desire of returning them. In France such a profession ensures its own success; and I found myself more intimate with my new friend in the space of three days, than I could have been with most English women in as many years.
M. de la Marquise was a coquet, but she was an accomplished one. Possessing at once quick observation and correct judgment, she had the address to secure the heart without alarming the reason. Equally careful to conceal the forwardness of direct invitation, and to suppress the saucy sallies of caprice, the only character she offered to the world was unguarded generosity, and exquisite sensibility. Affecting to deprecate the arts of our sex, and to defy the malice of her own, she pretended to fling herself on the honour of her lovers; and, under the specious terms of unbounded confidence, and romantic refinement, glossed over the excess of voluptuousness. Thus did this consummate Hypocrite give to her very frailties the stamp of Virtue, and affect to sacrifice at the shrine of disinterested Love, in the very moments that she was gratifying vanity without discrimination, and passion without preference. Relying on my own discernment, and confident of my own strength, I entered into engagements without reluctance, because I thought that I could break them at pleasure. But let no man presume to say, "So far and no farther will I play with my passions." Their violence is too fluctuating for foresight to prevent, and their reign too absolute for philosophy to controul. Seduced by pleasure, rather than deluded by sophistry, I continued to advance whilst I was resolving to withdraw, and verged upon the precipice till my feet had well nigh slipped. –– But Fortune preserved me when Prudence was discarded. La Marquise, either attracted by the novelty of the conquest, or desirous of rousing the jealousy of my rivals, or from some other equally commendable reason, devoted so considerable a share of her attentions to me, that her conduct was soon the topic of public discussion; and a young French officer, who thought himself unjustly neglected, threw out some reflections on her character in a manner too public to be unnoticed, and too sarcastic to be forgiven. My fair friend by turns raved, wept, and fainted; at length after innumerable protestations of her hounour and her love, concluded with the modest request that I would cut the throat of her calumniator. But however I might have hitherto shut my eyes against common sense, and consented to make my reason subservient to my vanity, such a thunderbolt could not by sufficiently awake me. As my sentiments concerning single combat were not totally a la Francoise, I did not see any necessity of risking my life against every random shaft of rumour. The more especially as there was reason to think, that her accuser had some grounds for his insinuations; since a few weeks before my arrival, he was known to have been the warmest of her admirers, and the highest in her confidence. Accordingly summoning to my assistance all the courage, and all the French I could collect, I professed the highest admiration of her virtues, and the sincerest confidence in her honour. I execrated the calls of business, and lamented the injunctions of parental authority, which, in a few hours, would tear me from all I loved; but assured her, I should be charmed at my return to fling myself at her feet once more, and renew the vows of my profoundest homage. Having finished my harangue, I left the house with the utmost rapidity. –– Eager to secure my retreat, and to avoid the possibility of a relapse, I set out for Italy that very day, not a little pleased with having cut the knot which I could never have untied. –– Of La Marquise I have since heard, that she once condescended to mention me under the name of "Le Garcon Anglois, sans foi, and sans cœur." How far I deserve such a title must be determined by my readers; who, I hope, will not be surprised, that where I professed to esteem, I could bestow little affection; nor prevail on myself to be jealous of the person, where I despised the principle.
[To be continued in our next.
N.B. This work will in future be sold by Messrs. Prince and Cooke; to whom our Correspondents are requested to direct their communications.
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