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handkerchief. Worked half a leaf on it. Eyes ached and head out of order. Threw by my work, and read over the remaining part of Aurengzebe." When driven by ennui to books, she chose-if choice it I could be called when there were so few other books available- "lewd plays and winning romances," thus serving to heighten the superficial atmosphere in which she lived.
But prominent in society was the young beau-of whom our dude of the nineteenth century is a feeble copy who imitated the fine gentlemen in all their weaknesses and sins, intensifying them in his "airy conceit" and lofty flippancy. He, too, frequented the Mall, coffee-house, and theatre, hobnobbing with other beaux as aimless and brainless as himself, boasting the charms of his many friends, and his latest conquest. His dress, which was usually of bright colors, occupied much of his attention, and his cane and ever-present snuff-box much more. "He scorns to condescend so low as to speak of any person beneath the dignity of a nobleman; the Duke of such a place, and my Lord such a one, are his common cronies, from whom he knows all the secrets of the court, but does not impart 'em to his best friend because the Duke enjoined him to secrecy." He was so happily unconscious of his own vacuity that he paraded his weakness, thinking it wisdom. Yet, insufferable as
he seems to us, "he was an institution of the times," and was petted and adored by the ladies.
Society was permeated with corrupt ideas and morals, and the strange fact is that these were openly accepted and approved. No man had confidence in his neighbor because he knew of his own unworthiness, and could conceive of no reason why his companion should care to be better than he was himself. Robert Walpole's declaration, that every man has his price, was then painfully true, and nobody denied it or seemed. ashamed of the fact. The unusual was not that men should be bad, but that they should be good. Men priding themselves on their honor, and engaging in a duel to prove this so-called honor as readily as they ordered their horses for hunting, yet slandered the ladies, flirted outrageously with other men's wives, cheated at cards, and contracted debts they knew they were unable to pay. Women pretending to be friends, lost no opportunity of back-biting and defaming one another. Social gatherings were based, not on merit of individuals, nor congeniality of taste, but on a feverish craving for excitement and admiration, or the laudable desire to kill time.
Men might talk rationally and sensibly when with one another, but in the presence of women they uttered the most shallow commonplaces and vapid compliments, and were applauded as witty. Through all
conversation there was an undercurrent of insincerity and sham deference. Addison notes this and makes his protest. "The world is grown so full of dissimulation and compliment that men's words are hardly any significance of their thoughts." Accompanying this most extravagant flattery —often to mere strangers was the greatest freedom in personal relations, and all reserve was classed as prudish and affected.
Both men and women gambled openly and excessively, staking even their clothes when purses were empty. Ward, speaking of a group of this class, said: "They are gamesters waiting to pick up some young bubble or other as he comes from his chamber; they are men whose conditions are subject to more revolutions than a weathercock, or the uncertain mind of a fantastical woman. They are seldom two days in one and the same stations; they are one day very richly dressed, and perhaps out at elbows the next;" and of woman that "were she at church in the height of her devotions, should anybody but stand at the church. door and hold up the knave of clubs, she would take it to be a challenge, and starting from her prayers, would follow as a deluded traveller his ignis fatuus." Furious as they all were when they lost, and prone to laxity in money matters, they yet looked upon a gambling debt as one necessary to be paid. "Why, sir, among gentlemen, that debt is looked upon the most
just of any; you may cheat widows, orphans, tradesmen, without a blush, but a debt of honor, sir, must be paid. I could name you some noblemen that pay nobody — yet a debt of honor, sir, is as sure as their ready money."
But there were many diversions besides those that have been mentioned. These vivacious, restless, superficial triflers must have variety, and have it they did. Periodical suburban fairs were held - somewhat similar to our modern circus where at different booths one might enjoy seeing sword dancing, dancing on the rope, acrobatic agility, puppet shows, monstrosities from all parts of the world, and various exhibitions more or less refined. In process of time the fairs became so debasing in their influence that Her Majesty ordered them closed. Cock-fighting and bull-baiting
the latter being a fight between a dog and a bull tied at the horns with a rope several yards long— were also greatly enjoyed.
Next to the club and gaming table, the theatre was probably the most attractive place to while away time. The English drama which during the reign of Elizabeth reached the greatest height, and began to descend, had been denounced and suppressed by the Puritans. When it was revived under the dissolute court of Charles II, the new kind of drama was like the people, "light, witty, and immoral." The theatre was a gath
ering place for all classes, high and low, rich and poor, refined and coarse, pure and impure, and the greatest levity and license prevailed. Misson says that during the performance the audience "chatter, toy, play, hear and not hear." This state of things continued during Anne's reign. The object was not to interpret life or teach right living. As Steele asserts: "The understanding is dismissed from our entertainments. Our mirth is the laughter of fools, and our admiration is the wonder of idiots." Plays were written by men, for men, and were usually acted by men no woman having appeared on the stage till 1660. Even in Queen Anne's reign, so few actresses were known that when a play "acted by all women was advertised, it greatly attracted by its novelty, the pleasure-seeking crowd. That a woman might be pure and womanly, and still appear on the stage, was beyond the knowledge or comprehension of society. It has remained for the nineteenth century to make it possible. Queen Anne did not attend the theatre, and she strove to abolish its evils, but was far from successful.
In observing the influences which were slowly bringing about a change in London society, too much importance cannot be placed upon the coffee-house, “the centre of news, the lounge of the idler, the rendezvous for appointments, the mart for business men."