**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

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. 033 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

Monsieur St. Evremont [1] has concluded one of his Essays, with affirming that the last Sighs of a Handsome Woman are not so much for the loss of her Life, as of her Beauty. Perhaps this Raillery is pursued too far, yet it is turn’d upon a very obvious Remark, that Woman’s strongest Passion is for her own Beauty, and that she values it as her Favourite Distinction. From hence it is that all Arts, which pretend to improve or preserve it, meet with so general a Reception among the Sex. To say nothing of many False Helps and Contraband Wares of Beauty, which are daily vended in this great Mart, there is not a Maiden-Gentlewoman, of a good Family in any County of South-Britain, who has not heard of the Virtues of May-Dew, or is unfurnished with some Receipt or other in Favour of her Complexion; and I have known a Physician of Learning and Sense, after Eight Years Study in the University, and a Course of Travels into most Countries of Europe, owe the first raising of his Fortunes to a Cosmetick Wash.

This has given me Occasion to consider how so Universal a Disposition in Womankind, which springs from a laudable Motive, the Desire of Pleasing, and proceeds upon an Opinion, not altogether groundless, that Nature may be helped by Art, may be turn’d to their Advantage. And, methinks, it would be an acceptable Service to take them out of the Hands of Quacks and Pretenders, and to prevent their imposing upon themselves, by discovering to them the true Secret and Art of improving Beauty.

In order to this, before I touch upon it directly, it will be necessary to lay down a few Preliminary Maxims, viz.

– That no Woman can be Handsome by the Force of Features alone, any more than she can be Witty only by the Help of Speech.

– That Pride destroys all Symmetry and Grace, and Affectation is a more terrible Enemy to fine Faces than the Small-Pox.

– That no Woman is capable of being Beautiful, who is not incapable of being False.

– And, That what would be Odious in a Friend, is Deformity in a Mistress.

From these few Principles, thus laid down, it will be easie to prove, that the true Art of assisting Beauty consists in Embellishing the whole Person by the proper Ornaments of virtuous and commendable Qualities. By this Help alone it is that those who are the Favourite Work of Nature, or, as Mr. Dryden expresses it, the Porcelain Clay of human Kind [2], become animated, and are in a Capacity of exerting their Charms: And those who seem to have been neglected by her, like Models wrought in haste, are capable, in a great measure, of finishing what She has left imperfect.

It is, methinks, a low and degrading Idea of that Sex, which was created to refine the Joys, and soften the Cares of Humanity, by the most agreeable Participation, to consider them meerly as Objects of Sight. This is abridging them of their natural Extent of Power, to put them upon a Level with their Pictures at Kneller’s. How much nobler is the Contemplation of Beauty heighten’d by Virtue, and commanding our Esteem and Love, while it draws our Observation? How faint and spiritless are the Charms of a Coquet, when compar’d with the real Loveliness of Sophronia’s Innocence, Piety, good Humour and Truth; Virtues which add a new Softness to her Sex, and even beautify her Beauty! That Agreeableness, which must otherwise have appeared no longer in the modest Virgin, is now preserv’d in the tender Mother, the prudent Friend, and the faithful Wife. Colours, artfully spread upon Canvas, may entertain the Eye, but not affect the Heart; and she, who takes no care to add to the natural Graces of her Person any excelling Qualities, may be allowed still to amuse, as a Picture, but not to triumph as a Beauty.