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No. 015 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 15
Saturday, March 17, 1711. Addison.

‘Parva leves capiunt animos …’


When I was in France, I used to gaze with great Astonishment at the Splendid Equipages and Party-coloured Habits, of that Fantastick Nation. I was one Day in particular contemplating a Lady that sate in a Coach adorned with gilded Cupids, and finely painted with the Loves of Venus and Adonis. The Coach was drawn by six milk-white Horses, and loaden behind with the same Number of powder’d Foot-men. Just before the Lady were a Couple of beautiful Pages, that were stuck among the Harness, and by their gay Dresses, and smiling Features, looked like the elder Brothers of the little Boys that were carved and painted in every Corner of the Coach.

The Lady was the unfortunate Cleanthe, who afterwards gave an Occasion to a pretty melancholy Novel. She had, for several Years, received the Addresses of a Gentleman, whom, after a long and intimate Acquaintance, she forsook, upon the Account of this shining Equipage which had been offered to her by one of great Riches, but a Crazy Constitution. The Circumstances in which I saw her, were, it seems, the Disguises only of a broken Heart, and a kind of Pageantry to cover Distress; for in two Months after, she was carried to her Grave with the same Pomp and Magnificence: being sent thither partly by the Loss of one Lover, and partly by the Possession of another.

I have often reflected with my self on this unaccountable Humour in Woman-kind, of being smitten with every thing that is showy and superficial; and on the numberless Evils that befall the Sex, from this light, fantastical Disposition. I my self remember a young Lady that was very warmly sollicited by a Couple of importunate Rivals, who, for several Months together, did all they could to recommend themselves, by Complacency of Behaviour, and Agreeableness of Conversation. At length, when the Competition was doubtful, and the Lady undetermined in her Choice, one of the young Lovers very luckily bethought himself of adding a supernumerary Lace to his Liveries, which had so good an Effect that he married her the very Week after.

The usual Conversation of ordinary Women, very much cherishes this Natural Weakness of being taken with Outside and Appearance. Talk of a new-married Couple, and you immediately hear whether they keep their Coach and six, or eat in Plate: Mention the Name of an absent Lady, and it is ten to one but you learn something of her Gown and Petticoat. A Ball is a great Help to Discourse, and a Birth-Day furnishes Conversation for a Twelve-month after. A Furbelow of precious Stones, an Hat buttoned with a Diamond, a Brocade Waistcoat or Petticoat, are standing Topicks. In short, they consider only the Drapery of the Species, and never cast away a Thought on those Ornaments of the Mind, that make Persons Illustrious in themselves, and Useful to others. When Women are thus perpetually dazling one anothers Imaginations, and filling their Heads with nothing but Colours, it is no Wonder that they are more attentive to the superficial Parts of Life, than the solid and substantial Blessings of it. A Girl, who has been trained up in this kind of Conversation, is in danger of every Embroidered Coat that comes in her Way. A Pair of fringed Gloves may be her Ruin. In a word, Lace and Ribbons, Silver and Gold Galloons, with the like glittering Gew-Gaws, are so many Lures to Women of weak Minds or low Educations, and, when artificially displayed, are able to fetch down the most airy Coquet from the wildest of her Flights and Rambles.

True Happiness is of a retired Nature, and an Enemy to Pomp and Noise; it arises, in the first place, from the Enjoyment of ones self; and, in the next, from the Friendship and Conversation of a few select Companions. It loves Shade and Solitude, and naturally haunts Groves and Fountains, Fields and Meadows: In short, it feels every thing it wants within itself, and receives no Addition from Multitudes of Witnesses and Spectators. On the contrary, false Happiness loves to be in a Crowd, and to draw the Eyes of the World upon her. She does not receive any Satisfaction from the Applauses which she gives her self, but from the Admiration which she raises in others. She flourishes in Courts and Palaces, Theatres and Assemblies, and has no Existence but when she is looked upon.