« AnteriorContinuar »
OF THE CHARACTERS OF WOMEN.
NOTHING SO true as what you once let fall ;-
And best distinguish'd by black, brown, or fair.
2 Most women have no characters at all. Warburton attempts to dilute this formidable libel, by alleging that it had been juster to say, their characters are not so easily developed as those of men.' He curiously regards matrimony as the effective means by which the confusion of the original qualities of the sex is reducible into shape. A husband, he affirms, acts the part of the cylindrical steel mirror which brings irregularity of lines into form; adding, with a daring defiance of all female posterity, but whether under the form of a lamb or a tiger, a dove or a cat, could never be guessed from the disorder of the unreduced lines and unharmonious coloring.'
Or dress'd in smiles of sweet Cecilia shine,
With simpering angels, palms, and harps divine;
Come then, the colors and the ground prepare: Dip in the rainbow, trick her off in air; Choose a firm cloud, before it fall, and in it Catch, ere she change, the Cynthia of this minute. Rufa, whose eye quick-glancing o'er the park, Attracts each light gay meteor of a spark, Agrees as ill with Rufa studying Locke, As Sappho's diamonds with her dirty smock; Or Sappho at her toilet's greasy task, With Sappho fragrant at an evening mask : So morning insects that in muck begun, Shine, buzz, and fly-blow in the setting sun. How soft is Silia! fearful to offend;
The frail one's advocate, the weak one's friend.
16 I must paint it. Warburton, in allusion to Pope's note on the preceding lines, again commits himself in rash hostility with the sex. He tells us that the poet threw away his apologies; that 'men bear general satire most heroically, women with the utmost impatience;' still more oddly assigning as the reason, that it is from the fear that such representations may hurt them in the opinion of the men; whereas the men are not at all apprehensive that their follies or vices would prejudice them in the opinion of the women.' Yet Warburton's matrimonial experience might have taught him that general scandal might be borne by a female with very remarkable intrepidity.
24 Sappho's diamonds. Young's fifth Satire on Women seems to have been the model of this animated passage. Sappho was probably meant for queen Caroline, whose philosophic habits rendered her occasionally the object of burlesque to the poets. The well-known and bitter lines,
When Artemisia talks by fits, &c.
were written for her.
To her Calista proved her conduct nice;
But spare your censure; Silia does not drink.
'Tis to their changes half their charms we owe;
As when she touch'd the brink of all we hate.
To make a wash, would hardly stew a child;
54 Hardly stew a child. It was said, that some monstrous use of a dead body for this purpose was made by a woman of rank at the time. The rest of the character was designed for the duchess of Hamilton.
Why then declare good-nature is her scorn,
Now conscience chills her, and now passion burns;
The nose of haut goût, and the tip of taste,
Flavia's a wit; has too much sense to pray :
63 So Philomedé. Probably meant for Henrietta, daughter of the celebrated duchess of Marlborough.
Nor asks of God, but of her stars, to give
The mighty blessing, While we live, to live.' 90
Turn then from wits, and look on Simo's mate;
No ass so meek, no ass so obstinate:
Or her, that owns her faults, but never mends, Because she's honest, and the best of friends: Or her, whose life the church and scandal share, For ever in a passion or a prayer:
Or her, who laughs at hell, but, like her grace, Cries, Ah! how charming if there's no such
Or who in sweet vicissitude appears,
Of mirth and opium, ratafia and tears,
To kill those foes to fair ones, time and thought.
108 Cries, Ah, how charming. The duchess of Montague. 115 Great Atossa. Atossa was the daughter of Cyrus, sister of Cambyses, and wife of Cyrus. Whether it were for those high relationships, or her violence of temper, that Pope chose