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No. 045 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 45
Saturday, April 21, 1711. Addison.

‘Natio Comaeda est.’


There is nothing which I more desire than a safe and honourable Peace, [1] tho’ at the same time I am very apprehensive of many ill Consequences that may attend it. I do not mean in regard to our Politicks, but to our Manners. What an Inundation of Ribbons and Brocades will break in upon us? What Peals of Laughter and Impertinence shall we be exposed to? For the Prevention of these great Evils, I could heartily wish that there was an Act of Parliament for Prohibiting the Importation of French Fopperies.

The Female Inhabitants of our Island have already received very strong Impressions from this ludicrous Nation, tho’ by the Length of the War (as there is no Evil which has not some Good attending it) they are pretty well worn out and forgotten. I remember the time when some of our well-bred Country-Women kept their Valet de Chambre, because, forsooth, a Man was much more handy about them than one of their own Sex. I myself have seen one of these Male Abigails tripping about the Room with a Looking-glass in his Hand, and combing his Lady’s Hair a whole Morning together. Whether or no there was any Truth in the Story of a Lady’s being got with Child by one of these her Handmaids I cannot tell, but I think at present the whole Race of them is extinct in our own Country.

About the Time that several of our Sex were taken into this kind of Service, the Ladies likewise brought up the Fashion of receiving Visits in their Beds. [2] It was then look’d upon as a piece of Ill Breeding, for a Woman to refuse to see a Man, because she was not stirring; and a Porter would have been thought unfit for his Place, that could have made so awkward an Excuse. As I love to see every thing that is new, I once prevailed upon my Friend WILL. HONEYCOMB to carry me along with him to one of these Travelled Ladies, desiring him, at the same time, to present me as a Foreigner who could not speak English, that so I might not be obliged to bear a Part in the Discourse. The Lady, tho’ willing to appear undrest, had put on her best Looks, and painted her self for our Reception. Her Hair appeared in a very nice Disorder, as the Night-Gown which was thrown upon her Shoulders was ruffled with great Care. For my part, I am so shocked with every thing which looks immodest in the Fair Sex, that I could not forbear taking off my Eye from her when she moved in her Bed, and was in the greatest Confusion imaginable every time she stired a Leg or an Arm. As the Coquets, who introduced this Custom, grew old, they left it off by Degrees; well knowing that a Woman of Threescore may kick and tumble her Heart out, without making any Impressions.

Sempronia is at present the most profest Admirer of the French Nation, but is so modest as to admit her Visitants no further than her Toilet. It is a very odd Sight that beautiful Creature makes, when she is talking Politicks with her Tresses flowing about her Shoulders, and examining that Face in the Glass, which does such Execution upon all the Male Standers-by. How prettily does she divide her Discourse between her Woman and her Visitants? What sprightly Transitions does she make from an Opera or a Sermon, to an Ivory Comb or a Pincushion? How have I been pleased to see her interrupted in an Account of her Travels, by a Message to her Footman; and holding her Tongue, in the midst of a Moral Reflexion, by applying the Tip of it to a Patch?