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This is a source of infinite calamities to the sex, as it frequently joins them to men, who in their own thoughts are as fine creatures as themselves; or, if they chance to be goodhumoured, serve only to dissipate their fortunes, inflame their follies, and aggravate their indiscretions.
The same female levity is no less fatal to them after marriage than before: it represents to their imaginations the faithful, prudent husband as an honest, tractable, and domestic animal; and turns their thoughts upon the fine gay gentleman that laughs, sings, and dresses so much more 10 agreeably.
As this irregular vivacity of temper leads astray the hearts of ordinary women in the choice of their lovers and the treatment of their husbands, it operates with the same pernicious influence towards their children, who are taught to accomplish themselves in all those sublime perfections that appear captivating in the eye of their mother. She admires in her son what she loved in her gallant; and by that means contributes all she can to perpetuate herself in a worthless progeny.
The younger Faustina was a lively instance of this sort of 20 woman. Notwithstanding she was married to Marcus Aurelius, one of the greatest, wisest, and best of the Roman Emperors, she thought a common gladiator much the prettier gentleman; and had taken such care to accomplish her son Commodus according to her own notions of a fine man, that when he ascended the throne of his father, he became the most foolish and abandoned tyrant that was ever placed at the head of the Roman Empire, signalizing himself in nothing but the fighting of prizes, and knocking out men's brains. As he had no taste of true glory, we see him in several medals 30 and statues, which are still extant of him, equipped like an Hercules with a club and a lion's skin.
I have been led into this speculation by the characters I have heard of a country gentleman and his lady, who do not live many miles from Sir Roger. The wife is an old coquette, that is always hankering after the diversions of the town;
the husband, a morose rustic, that frowns and frets at the name of it. The wife is over-run with affectation, the husband sunk into brutality: the lady cannot bear the noise of the larks and nightingales, hates your tedious summer days, and is sick at the sight of shady woods and purling streams; the husband wonders how any one can be pleased with the fooleries of plays and operas, and rails from morning to night at essenced fops and taudry courtiers. The children are educated in these different notions of their parents. The 10 sons follow the father about his grounds, while the daughters read volumes of love-letters and romances to their mother. By this means it comes to pass, that the girls look upon their father as a clown, and the boys think their mother no better than she should be.
How different are the lives of Aristus and Aspasia ! the innocent vivacity of the one is tempered and composed by the cheerful gravity of the other. The wife grows wise by the discourses of the husband, and the husband goodhumoured by the conversations of the wife. Aristus would 20 not be so amiable were it not for his Aspasia, nor Aspasia so much esteemed were it not for her Aristus. Their virtues are blended in their children, and diffuse through the whole family a perpetual spirit of benevolence, complacency, and satisfaction.
A plundering race, still eager to invade,
On spoil they live and make of theft a trade.
As I was yesterday riding out in the fields with my friend 30 Sir Roger, we saw at a little distance from us a troop of
gipsies. Upon the first discovery of them, my friend was in some doubt whether he should not exert the justice of peace upon such a band of lawless vagrants: but not having his clerk with him, who is a necessary counsellor on these occasions, and fearing that his poultry might fare the worse for it, he let the thought drop; but at the same time gave me a particular account of the mischiefs they do in the country, in stealing people's goods, and spoiling their servants. "If a stray piece of linen hangs upon an hedge (says Sir Roger), they are sure to have it; if a hog loses his 10 way in the fields, it is ten to one but he becomes their prey : our geese cannot live in peace for them. If a man prosecutes them with severity, his hen-roost is sure to pay for it. They generally straggle into these parts about this time of the year; and set the heads of our servant-maids so agog for husbands, that we do not expect to have any business done as it should be, whilst they are in the country. I have an honest dairy-maid who crosses their hands with a piece of silver every summer; and never fails being promised the handsomest young fellow in the parish for her pains. Your 20 friend the butler has been fool enough to be seduced by them; and though he is sure to lose a knife, a fork, or a spoon, every time his fortune is told him, generally shuts himself up in the pantry with an old gipsy for about half an hour once in a twelvemonth. Sweethearts are the things they live upon, which they bestow very plentifully upon all those that apply themselves to them. You see now and then some handsome young jades among them; the sluts have very often white teeth and black eyes."
Sir Roger, observing that I listened with great attention 30 to his account of a people who were so entirely new to me, told me, that if I would, they should tell us our fortunes. As I was very well pleased with the knight's proposal, we rid up and communicated our hands to them. A Cassandra of the crew, after having examined my lines very diligently, told me that I loved a pretty maid in a corner, that I was a
good woman's man, with some other particulars, which I do not think proper to relate. My friend Sir Roger alighted from his horse, and exposing his palm to two or three that stood by him, they crumpled it into all shapes, and diligently scanned every wrinkle that could be made in it; when one of them, who was older and more sun-burnt than the rest, told him that he had a widow in his line of life: upon which the knight cried, "Go, go, you are an idle baggage"; and at the same time smiled upon me. The gipsy, finding he was not 10 displeased in his heart, told him, after a further inquiry into his hand, that his true love was constant, and that she should dream of him to-night. My old friend cried pish, and bid her go on. The gipsy told him that he was a bachelor, but would not be so long; and that he was dearer to somebody than he thought. The knight still repeated, she was an idle baggage, and bid her go on. "Ah, master (says the gipsy), that roguish leer of yours makes a pretty woman's heart ache; you ha'n't that simper about the mouth for nothing." The uncouth gibberish with which all this was uttered, like 20 the darkness of an oracle, made us the more attentive to it. To be short, the knight left the money with her that he had crossed her hand with, and got up again on his horse.
As we were riding away, Sir Roger told me, that he knew several sensible people who believed these gipsies now and then foretold very strange things; and for half an hour together appeared more jocund than ordinary. In the height of this good humour, meeting a common beggar upon the road who was no conjurer, as he went to relieve him, he found his pocket was picked! that being a kind of palmistry 30 at which this race of vermin are very dexterous.
I might here entertain my reader with historical remarks on this idle, profligate people, who infest all the countries of Europe, and live in the midst of governments in a kind of commonwealth by themselves. But, instead of entering into observations of this nature, I shall fill the remaining part of my paper with a story which is still fresh in Holland, and
was printed in one of our monthly accounts about twenty years ago. "As the Trekschuyt, or Hackney-boat, which carries passengers from Leyden to Amsterdam, was putting off, a boy running along the side of the canal desired to be taken in; which the master of the boat refused because the lad had not quite money enough to pay the usual fare. An eminent merchant being pleased with the looks of the boy, and secretly touched with compassion towards him, paid the money for him, and ordered him to be taken on board. Upon talking with him afterwards, he found that he could 10 speak readily in three or four languages, and learned, upon further examination, that he had been stolen away when he was a child by a gipsy, and had rambled ever since with a gang of those strollers up and down several parts of Europe. It happened that the merchant, whose heart seems to have inclined towards the boy by a secret kind of instinct, had himself lost a child some years before. The parents, after a long search for him, gave him for drowned in one of the canals with which that country abounds; and the mother was so afflicted at the loss of a fine boy, who was her only 20 son, that she died for grief of it. Upon laying together all particulars, and examining the several moles and marks by which the mother used to describe the child when he was first missing, the boy proved to be the son of the merchant, whose heart had so unaccountably melted at the sight of him. The lad was very well pleased to find a father who was so rich, and likely to leave him a good estate: the father, on the other hand, was not a little delighted to see a son return to him, whom he had given for lost, with such a strength of constitution, sharpness of understanding, and skill in 30 languages." Here the printed story leaves off; but if I may give credit to reports, our linguist having received such extraordinary rudiments towards a good education, was afterwards trained up in everything that becomes a gentleman; wearing off, by little and little, all the vicious habits and practices that he had been used to in the course of his pere