Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

No. 099 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 99
Saturday, June 23, 1711.

‘… Turpi secernis Honestum.’

Hor.

The Club, of which I have often declared my self a Member, were last Night engaged in a Discourse upon that which passes for the chief Point of Honour among Men and Women; and started a great many Hints upon the Subject, which I thought were entirely new: I shall therefore methodize the several Reflections that arose upon this Occasion, and present my Reader with them for the Speculation of this Day; after having premised, that if there is any thing in this Paper which seems to differ with any Passage of last Thursday’s, the Reader will consider this as the Sentiments of the Club, and the other as my own private Thoughts, or rather those of Pharamond.

The great Point of Honour in Men is Courage, and in Women Chastity. If a Man loses his Honour in one Rencounter, it is not impossible for him to regain it in another; a Slip in a Woman’s Honour is irrecoverable. I can give no Reason for fixing the Point of Honour to these two Qualities, unless it be that each Sex sets the greatest Value on the Qualification which renders them the most amiable in the Eyes of the contrary Sex. Had Men chosen for themselves, without Regard to the Opinions of the Fair Sex, I should believe the Choice would have fallen on Wisdom or Virtue; or had Women determined their own Point of Honour, it is probable that Wit or Good-Nature would have carried it against Chastity.

Nothing recommends a Man more to the Female Sex than Courage; whether it be that they are pleased to see one who is a Terror to others fall like a Slave at their Feet, or that this Quality supplies their own principal Defect, in guarding them from Insults and avenging their Quarrels, or that Courage is a natural Indication of a strong and sprightly Constitution. On the other side, nothing makes a Woman more esteemed by the opposite Sex than Chastity; whether it be that we always prize those most who are hardest to come at, or that nothing besides Chastity, with its collateral Attendants, Truth, Fidelity, and Constancy, gives the Man a Property in the Person he loves, and consequently endears her to him above all things.

I am very much pleased with a Passage in the Inscription on a Monument erected in Westminster Abbey to the late Duke and Dutchess of Newcastle:‘Her Name was Margaret Lucas, youngest Sister to the Lord Lucas of Colchester; a noble Family, for all the Brothers were valiant, and all the Sisters virtuous.

In Books of Chivalry, where the Point of Honour is strained to Madness, the whole Story runs on Chastity and Courage. The Damsel is mounted on a white Palfrey, as an Emblem of her Innocence; and, to avoid Scandal, must have a Dwarf for her Page. She is not to think of a Man, ’till some Misfortune has brought a Knight-Errant to her Relief. The Knight falls in Love, and did not Gratitude restrain her from murdering her Deliverer, would die at her Feet by her Disdain. However he must wait some Years in the Desart, before her Virgin Heart can think of a Surrender. The Knight goes off, attacks every thing he meets that is bigger and stronger than himself, seeks all Opportunities of being knock’d on the Head, and after seven Years Rambling returns to his Mistress, whose Chastity has been attacked in the mean time by Giants and Tyrants, and undergone as many Tryals as her Lover’s Valour.

In Spain, where there are still great Remains of this Romantick Humour, it is a transporting Favour for a Lady to cast an accidental Glance on her Lover from a Window, tho’ it be two or three Stories high; as it is usual for the Lover to assert his Passion for his Mistress, in single Combat with a mad Bull.