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excellent woman. That fading in her countenance is chiefly caused by her watching with me, in my fever. This was followed by a fit of sickness, which had like to have carried
her off last winter. I tell you sincerely, I have so many 70 obligations to her, that I cannot, with any sort of modera
tion, think of her present state of health. But as to what you say of fifteen, she gives me every day pleasures beyond what I ever knew in the possession of her beauty, when I
was in the vigour of youth. Every moment of her life 75 brings me fresh instances of her complacency to my inclina
tions, and her prudence in regard to my fortune. Her face is to me much more beautiful than when I first saw it; there is no decay in any feature, which I cannot trace, from
the very instant it was occasioned by some anxious concern 80 for my welfare and interests. Thus, at the same time,
methinks, the love I conceived towards her for what she was, is heightened by my gratitude for what she is. The love of a wife is as much above the idle passion commonly
called by that name, as the loud laughter of buffoons is 85 inferior to the elegant mirth of gentlemen. Oh! she is an
inestimable jewel. In her examination of her household affairs, she shows a certain fearfulness to find a fault, which makes her servants obey her like children; and the meanest
we have has an ingenuous shame for an offence, not always 90 to be seen in children in other families. I speak freely to
you, my old friend; ever since her sickness, things that gave me the quickest joy before, turn now to a certain anxiety. As the children play in the next room, I know the poor things
by their steps, and am considering what they must do, 95 should they lose their mother in their tender years. The
pleasure I used to take in telling my boy stories of battles, and asking my girl questions about the disposal of her doll, and the gossiping of it, is turned into inward reflection and melancholy."
He would have gone on in this tender way, when the good 100 lady entered, and with an inexpressible sweetness in her countenance told us, “she had been searching her closet for something very good, to treat such an old friend as I was.” Her husband's eyes sparkled with pleasure at the cheerfulness of her countenance; and I saw all his fears vanish 105 in an instant. The lady observing something in our looks which showed we had been more serious than ordinary, and seeing her husband receive her with great concern under a forced cheerfulness, immediately guessed at what we had been talking of; and applying herself to me, said, with a 110 smile, “Mr. Bickerstaff, do not believe a word of what he tells you, I shall still live to have you for a second, as I have often promised you, unless he takes more care of himself than he has done since coming to town. You must know, he tells me that he finds London is a much more healthy 115 place than the country; for he sees several of his old acquaintances and school-fellows are here with fair full-bottomed periwigs. I could scarce keep him in this morning from going out open-breasted.'
My friend, who is always extremely delighted with her 120 agreeable humour, made her sit down with us. She did it with that easiness which is peculiar to women of sense; and to keep up the good humour she had brought in with her, turned her raillery upon me.
“Mr. Bickerstaff, you remember you followed me one night from the play-house; suppose 125 you should carry me thither to-morrow night, and lead me into the front box." This put us into a long field of discourse about the beauties who were mothers to the present, and shined in the boxes twenty years ago. I told her, “I was glad she had transferred so many of her charms, and I 130 did not question but her eldest daughter was within half-ayear of being a toast.”
We were pleasing ourselves with this fantastical pre
ferment of the young lady, when on a sudden we were alarmed 135 with the noise of a drum, and immediately entered my little
godson to give me a point of war. His mother, between laughing and chiding, would have put him out of the room; but I would not part with him so. I found, upon conversa
tion with him, though he was a little noisy in his mirth, 140 that the child had excellent parts, and was great master of
all the learning on the other side eight years old. I perceived him a very great historian in Æsop's Fables ; but he frankly declared to me his mind, “that he did not delight
in that learning, because he did not believe they were true;' 145 for which reason I found he had very much turned his studies,
for about a twelvemonth past, into the lives and adventures of Don Belianis of Greece, Guy of Warwick, the Seven Champions, and other historians of that age. I could not
but observe the satisfaction the father took in the forward150 ness of his son; and that these diversions might turn to
some profit, I found the boy had made remarks which might be of service to him during the course of his whole life.
He would tell you the mismanagement of John Hickerthrift, find fault with the passionate temper in Bevis of South155 ampton, and loved St. George for being the champion of Eng
land; and by this means had his thoughts insensibly moulded into the notions of discretion, virtue, and honour. I was extolling his accomplishments, when his mother told me,
that the little girl who led me in this morning was in her 160 way a better scholar than he. "Betty," said she, "deals
chiefly with fairies and sprites; and sometimes in a winternight will terrify the maids with her accounts, until they are afraid to go to bed.”
I sat with them until it was very late, sometimes in merry, 165 sometimes in serious discourse, with this particular pleasure,
which gives the only true relish to all conversation, a sense that every one of us liked each other. I went home, considering the different conditions of a married life and that of a bachelor; and I must confess it struck me with a secret concern, to reflect, that whenever I go off, I shall leave no 170 traces behind me. In this pensive mood I returned to my family; that is to say, to my maid, my dog, and my cat, who only can be the better or worse for what happens to me.
The Editor's Troubles
(The Tatler, No. 164. Thursday. April 27, 1710.) I have lately been looking over the many packets of letters which I have received from all quarters of Great Britain, as well as from foreign countries, since my entering upon the office of Censor; and indeed am very much surprised to see so great a number of them, and pleased to think that 5 I have so far increased the revenue of the post-office. As this collection will grow daily, I have digested it into several bundles, and made proper indorsements on each particular letter; it being my design, when I lay down the work that I am now engaged in, to erect a paper office, and give it to 10 the public.
I could not but make several observations upon reading over the letters of my correspondents. As first of all, on the different tastes that reign in the different parts of this city. I find, by the approbations which are given me, that 15 I am seldom famous on the same days on both sides of Temple-bar; and that when I am in greatest repute within the liberties, I dwindle at the court-end of the town. Sometimes I sink in both these places at the same time; but, for my comfort, my name hath then been up in the districts 20 of Wapping and Rotherhithe. Some of my correspondents desire me to be always serious, and others to be always merry. Some of them intreat me to go to bed and fall into a dream, and like me better when I am asleep than when I
25 am awake: others advise me to sit all night upon the stars,
and be more frequent in my astrological observations; for that a vision is not properly a lucubration. Some of my readers thank me for filling my paper with the flowers of
antiquity, others desire news from Flanders. Some approve 30 my criticisms on the dead, and others my censures on the
living. For this reason, I once resolved, in the new edition of my works, to range my several papers under distinct heads, according as their principal design was to benefit
and instruct the different capacities of my readers; and to 35 follow the example of some very great authors, by writing
at the head of each discourse, Ad Aulam, Ad Academiam, Ad Populum, Ad Clerum.
There is no particular in which my correspondents of all ages, conditions, sexes, and complexions, universally agree, 40 except only in their thirst after scandal. It is impossible
to conceive, how many have recommended their neighbours to me upon this account, or how unmercifully I have been abused by several unknown hands, for not publishing the
secret histories that I have received from almost every 45 street in town.
It would indeed be very dangerous for me to read over the many praises and eulogiums, which come post to me from all the corners of the nation, were they not mixed with
many checks, reprimands, scurrilities, and reproaches : 50 which several of my good-natured countrymen cannot
forbear sending me, though it often costs them two-pence or a groat before they can convey them to my hands : so that sometimes when I am put into the best humour in the
world, after having read a panegyric upon my performances, 55 and looked upon myself as a benefactor to the British nation,
the next letter, perhaps, I open, begins with “You old doting scoundrel ! — Are not you a sad dog? Sirrah, you deserve to have your nose slit;" and the like ingenious con