Saturday, May 26, 1711.
‘Omnis Aristippum decuit color, et status, et res.’
It was with some Mortification that I suffered the Raillery of a Fine Lady of my Acquaintance, for calling, in one of my Papers, Dorimant a Clown. She was so unmerciful as to take Advantage of my invincible Taciturnity, and on that occasion, with great Freedom to consider the Air, the Height, the Face, the Gesture of him who could pretend to judge so arrogantly of Gallantry. She is full of Motion, Janty and lively in her Impertinence, and one of those that commonly pass, among the Ignorant, for Persons who have a great deal of Humour. She had the Play of Sir Fopling in her Hand, and after she had said it was happy for her there was not so charming a Creature as Dorimant now living, she began with a Theatrical Air and Tone of Voice to Read, by way of Triumph over me, some of his Speeches. ‘Tis she, that lovely Hair, that easy Shape, those wanton Eyes, and all those melting Charms about her Mouth, which Medley spoke of; I’ll follow the Lottery, and put in for a Prize with my Friend Bellair.
In Love the Victors from the Vanquish’d fly;
They fly that wound, and they pursue that dye,
Then turning over the Leaves, she reads alternately, and speaks,
And you and Loveit to her Cost shall find
I fathom all the Depths of Womankind.
Oh the Fine Gentleman! But here, continues she, is the Passage I admire most, where he begins to Teize Loveit, and mimick Sir Fopling: Oh the pretty Satyr, in his resolving to be a Coxcomb to please, since Noise and Nonsense have such powerful Charms!
I, that I may Successful prove,
Transform my self to what you love.
Then how like a Man of the Town, so Wild and Gay is that
The Wife will find a Diff’rence in our Fate,
You wed a Woman, I a good Estate.
It would have been a very wild Endeavour for a Man of my Temper to offer any Opposition to so nimble a Speaker as my Fair Enemy is; but her Discourse gave me very many Reflections, when I had left her Company. Among others, I could not but consider, with some Attention, the false Impressions the generality (the Fair Sex more especially) have of what should be intended, when they say a Fine Gentleman; and could not help revolving that Subject in my Thoughts, and settling, as it were, an Idea of that Character in my own Imagination.
No Man ought to have the Esteem of the rest of the World, for any Actions which are disagreeable to those Maxims which prevail, as the Standards of Behaviour, in the Country wherein he lives. What is opposite to the eternal Rules of Reason and good Sense, must be excluded from any Place in the Carriage of a Well-bred Man. I did not, I confess, explain myself enough on this Subject, when I called Dorimant a Clown, and made it an Instance of it, that he called the Orange Wench, Double Tripe: I should have shewed, that Humanity obliges a Gentleman to give no Part of Humankind Reproach, for what they, whom they Reproach, may possibly have in Common with the most Virtuous and Worthy amongst us. When a Gentleman speaks Coarsly, he has dressed himself Clean to no purpose: The Cloathing of our Minds certainly ought to be regarded before that of our Bodies. To betray in a Man’s Talk a corrupted Imagination, is a much greater Offence against the Conversation of Gentlemen, than any Negligence of Dress imaginable. But this Sense of the Matter is so far from being received among People even of Condition, that Vocifer passes for a fine Gentleman. He is Loud, Haughty, Gentle, Soft, Lewd, and Obsequious by turns, just as a little Understanding and great Impudence prompt him at the present Moment. He passes among the silly Part of our Women for a Man of Wit, because he is generally in Doubt. He contradicts with a Shrug, and confutes with a certain Sufficiency, in professing such and such a Thing is above his Capacity. What makes his Character the pleasanter is, that he is a professed Deluder of Women; and because the empty Coxcomb has no Regard to any thing that is of it self Sacred and Inviolable, I have heard an unmarried Lady of Fortune say, It is pity so fine a Gentleman as Vocifer is so great an Atheist. The Crowds of such inconsiderable Creatures that infest all Places of Assembling, every Reader will have in his Eye from his own Observation; but would it not be worth considering what sort of Figure a Man who formed himself upon those Principles among us, which are agreeable to the Dictates of Honour and Religion, would make in the familiar and ordinary Occurrences of Life?