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dition. On the contrary, I have met with other examples; and have seen persons not a little solicitous to acquire the easy use of some fashionable impieties and immoralities. I have seen delicate females, to say nothing of dainty gentlemen, wishing to forget their catechism; striving to overcome their reluctance, and meditating, in their own minds, the utterance of some fashionable piece of raillery against religion; yet, like the Amen of Macbeth, I have often seen it stick in their throat.
But," continued the Dervise," if you hold this Mirror in a fit posture, it will not only shew you men as they are, or as they wish to be, but with the talents of which they reckon themselves actually possessed; and in that very character or situation which they hold most suited to their abilities." Now this property of the Mussulman's Mirror has given me more amusement than any other. By this means I have seen a whole company undergo instantaneous and strange transformation. I have seen the unwieldy burgess changed into a slender gentleman; the deep philosopher become a man of the world; the laborious merchant converted into a fox-hunter; the mechanic's wife in the guise of a countess; and the pert scrivener become a cropped ensign. I have seen those grave personages, whom you may observe daily issuing from their alleys at noon, with white wigs, black coats, buttoned, and inclined to gray, with a cane in one hand, and the other stationed at their side-pocket, beating the streets for political intelligence, and diving afterward into their native lanes, or rising in a coffee-house in the full dignity of a spectacled nose; I have seen them moving in my Mirror in the shape of statesmen, mi-' nisters at foreign courts, chancellors of England, judges, justices of the peace, or chief magistrates in electing boroughs.
Now, Sir, as you have engaged in the important business of instructing the public, I reckon you a much fitter person than me to be possessed of this precious Mirror. By these presents, therefore, along with a paper of directions, I consign it into your hands. All that I demand of you, in return, is to use this extraordinary gift in a proper and becoming manner; for, like every other excellent gift, it is liable to be misused. Therefore be circumspect; nor let any person say of you, that you make use of a false glass, or that the reflection is not just, or that the representation is partial; or, lastly, that it exhibits broken, distorted, or unnatural images. In full confidence that it will be an instrument in your hands for the most useful purposes, I am, Sir, Your obedient servant,
N° 9. TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 1779.
'SOME weeks ago I was called from my retreat in the country, where I have passed the last twenty years in the enjoyment of ease and tranquillity, by an important family concern, which made it necessary for me to come to town.
'Last Thursday I was solicited by an old friend to accompany him to the playhouse, to see the tragedy of King Lear; and, by way of inducement, he told me the part of Lear was to be performed by an actor who had studied the character under the English Roscius, and was supposed to play it somewhat
in the manner of that great master.
As the theatre
had been always my favourite amusement, I did not long withstand the entreaties of my friend; and when I reflected that Mr. Garrick was now gone to "that undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveller returns," I felt a sort of tender desire to see even a copy of that great original, from whose performances I had often, in the earlier part of my life, received such exquisite pleasure.
As we understood the house was to be crowded, we went at an early hour, and seated ourselves in the middle of the pit, so as not only to see the play to advantage, but also to have a full view of the audience, which, I have often thought, is not the least pleasing part of a public entertainment. When the boxes began to fill, I felt a secret satisfaction in contemplating the beauties of the present times, and amused myself with tracing in the daughters, those features which, in the mothers and grandmothers, had charmed me so often.
My friend pointed out to me, in different parts of the house, some of the reigning toasts of our times, but so changed, that without his assistance, I never should have been able to find them out. I looked in vain for that form, that complexion, and those numberless graces, on which I had been accustomed to gaze with admiration. But this change was not more remarkable, than the effect it had upon the beholders; and I could not help thinking the silent neglect with which those once celebrated beauties were now treated, by much too severe a punishment for that pride and haughtiness they had formerly assumed.
While I was amusing myself in this manner, I observed that some of the upper boxes were filled with ladies, whose appearance soon convinced me that they were of an order of females more desirous of
being distinguished for beauty than for virtue. could not refrain from expressing some disgust at seeing those unfortunate creatures sitting thus openly mingled with women of the first rank and fashion. "Poh!" said my friend, "that is thought nothing of now-a-days; and every body seems to be of the same opinion with the celebrated Countess of Dorchester, mistress of King James II. who having seated herself on the same bench with a lady of rigid virtue, the other immediately shrunk back; which the Countess observing, said, with a smile, Don't be afraid, Madam; gallantry is not catching."
'As I was going to reprove my friend for talking with such levity of a matter that seemed to be' of so serious a nature, the curtain drew up, and the play began. It is not my design, Sir, to trouble you with any remarks on the performance; the purpose of this letter is to request of you to take some notice of a species of indecorum, that appeared altogether new to me, and which I confess it hurt me to observe.
'Before the end of the first act, a number of young men came in, and took their places in the upper boxes, amidst those unhappy females I have already mentioned. I concluded that these persons were as destitute of any pretensions to birth or fashion, as they were void of decency of manners; but I was equally surprised and mortified to find, that many of them were of the first families of the kingdom. You, Sir, who have lived in the world, and seen the gradual and almost imperceptible progress of manners, will not, perhaps, be able to judge of my astonishment, when I beheld those very gentlemen quit their seats, and come down to pay their respects to the ladies in the lower boxes. The gross impropriety of this behaviour raised in me a degree of indignation which I could not easily restrain. I comforted myself, however, with the hopes that those unthinking.
youths would meet with such a reception from the women of honour, as would effectually check this indecency; but I am sorry to add, that I could not discern, either in their looks or manner, those marks of disapprobation which I had made my account with perceiving. Both the old and the young, the mothers and the daughters, seemed rather pleased when these young men of rank and fortune approached them. I am persuaded, at the same time, that were they to think but for a moment of the consequences, they would be sensible of the impropriety of their behaviour in this particular. I must therefore entreat of you, Sir, to take the earliest opportunity of giving your sentiments ou the subject. I am, &c.
The complaints of my correspondent are not without reason. The boundaries between virtue and vice cannot be too religiously maintained; and every thing that tends to lesson, in any degree, the respect due to a woman of honour, ought ever to be guarded against with the utmost caution.
When I was in France, I observed a propriety of behaviour in the particular mentioned by Mr. A. W. that pleased me much. Even in that country, loose as we imagine the manners there to be, nobody who wishes to preserve the character of a well-bred gentleman, is ever seen at a place of public resort, in company with those misguided fair ones, who, however much they may be objects of pity and compassion, have forfeited all title to respect and esteem. I would recommend to our young men to follow, in this, the example of our neighbours, whom they are so ready to imitate in less laudable instances. To consider it only in this view, there is certainly no greater breach of politeness than that which has given occasion to this letter. In other respects, the con