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Those who have been able to conquer habit, are like those that are fabled to have returned from the realms of Pluto
“ Pauci, quos æquus amavit " Jupiter, atque ardens evexit ad æthera virtus." They are sufficient to give hope, but not security ; to animate the contest, but not to promise victory.
Those who are in the power of evil habits must conquer them as they can; and conquered they must be, or neither wisdom or happiness can be attained : but those who are not yet subject to their influence may, by timely caution, preserve their freedom; they may effectually resolve to escape the tyrant, whom they will very vainly resolve to conquer.
No, 28. SATURDAY, October 28, 1758.
TO THE IDLER.
"SIR-It is very easy for a man who sits idle at home, and has nobody to please but himself, to ridicule or to censure the common practices of mankind ; and those who have no present temptation to break the rules of propriety, may applaud his judgment, and join in his merriment; but let the author or his readers mingle with common life, they will find themselves irresistibly born away by the stream of custom, and must submit, after they have laughed at others, to give others the same opportunity of laughing at them.
There is no paper published by the Idler which I have read with more approbation than that which censures the practice of recording vulgar marriages in the newspapers. I carried it about in my pocket, and read it to all those whom I suspected of having published their nuptials, or of being inclined to publish them, and sent transcripts of it to all the couples that transgressed your precepts for the next fortnight. I hoped that they were all vexed, and pleased myself with inagining their misery.
But short is the triumph of malignity. I was married last week to Miss Mohair, the daughter of a sales-man, and at my first appearance after the wedding-night, was asked by my wife's mother, whether I had sent our marriage to the Advertiser? I endeavoured to show how unfit it was to demand the attention of the public to our domestic affairs; she told me, with great vehemence, “That she would not have it thought to be a stolen match ; that the blood of the Mohairs should never be disgraced ; that her husband had served all the parish officers but one; that she had lived five and thirty years at the same house, had paid every body twenty shillings in the pound, and would have me know, though she was not as fine and as flaunting as Mrs. Ginghum, the deputy's wife, she was not ashamed to tell her name, and would show her face with the best of them, and since I had married her daughter” At this instant entered my father-in-law, a grave man, from whom I expected succour; but upon hearing the case he told me, "That it would be very imprudent to miss such an opportunity of advertising my shop; and that when notice was given of my marriage, many of my wife's friends would think themselves obliged to be my customers.” I was subdued by clamour on one side, and gravity on the other, and shall be obliged to tell the town, that “three days ago, Timothy Mushroom, an emirent oilman in Sea-Coal Lane, was married to Miss Polly Mohair of Lothbury, a beautiful young lady, with a large fortune.
I am, Sir, &c.
“ SirI am the unfortunate wife of the grocer whose letter you published about ten weeks ago, in which he complains, like a sorry fellow, that I loiter in the shop with my needle-work in my hand, and that I oblige him to take me out on Sundays, and keep a girl to look after the child. Sweet Mr. Idler, if you did but know all, you would give no encouragement to such an unreasonable grumbler. I brought him three hundred pounds, which set him up in a shop, and bought in a stock, on which, with good management, we might live comfortably; but now I have given him a shop. I am forced to watch him and the shop too. I will tell you, Mr. Idler, how it is. There is an alehouse over the way with a ninepin alley, to which he is sure to run when I turn my back, and there loses his money, for he plays at ninepins as he does every thing else. While he is at this favourite sport, he sets a dirty boy to watch his door and call him to his customers; but he is long in coming, and so rude when he comes, that our custom falls off every day.
Those who cannot govern themselves, must be governed. I have resolved to keep him for the future behind his counter, and let him bounce at his customers if he dares. I cannot be above stairs and below at the same time, and have therefore taken a girl to look after the child and dress the dinner; and, after all, pray who is to blame?
“On a Sunday, it is true, I make him walk abroad, and sometimes carry the child ; I wonder who should carry it! But I never take him out till after church-time, nor would do it then, but that, if he is left alone, he will be upon the bed. On a Sunday, if he stays at home, he has six meals, and when he can eat no longer, has twenty stratagems to escape from me to the alehouse; but I commonly keep the door locked, till Monday produces something for him to do.
* This is the true state of the case ; and these are the provocations for which he has written his letter to you. I hope you will write a paper to show, that, if a wife must spend her whole time in watching her husband, she cannot conveniently tend her child, or sit at her needle.
I am, Sir, &c.”
“ SIR_There is in this town a species of oppression which the law has not hitherto prevented or redressed.
"I am a chairman. You know, Sir, we come when we are called, and are expected to carry all who require our assistance. It is common for men of the most unwieldy corpulence to crowd themselves into a chair, and demand to be carried for a shilling as far as an airy young lady whom we scarcely feel upon our poles. Surely we ought to be paid like all other mortals in proportion to our labour. Engines should be fixed in proper places to weigh chairs as they weigh wagons ; and those whom ease and plenty have made unable to carry themselves, should give part of their superfluities to those who carry them.
I am, Sir, &c.”
No. 29. SATURDAY, November 4, 1758.
TO THE IDLER,
SIR-I have often observed, that friends are lost by discontinuance of intercourse without any offence on either part, and have long known, that it is more dangerous to be forgotten than to be blamed ; I therefore make haste to send you the rest of my story, lest, by the delay of another fortnight, the name of Betty Broom might be no longer remembered by you or your readers.
“Having left the last place in haste, to avoid the charge or the suspicion of theft, I had not secured another service, and was forced to take a lodging in a back street. I had now got good clothes. The woman wbo lived in the garret opposite to
mine was very oflicious, and offered to take care of my room and clean it, while I went round to my acquaintance to inquire for a mistress. I knew not why she was so kind, nor how I could recompense her; but in a few days I missed some of my linen, went to another lodging, and resolved not to have another friend in the next garret.
“ In six weeks I became under-maid at the house of a mercer in Cornhill, whose son was his apprentice. The young gentleman used to sit late at the tavern, without the knowledge of his father; and I was ordered by my mistress to let him in silently to his bed under the counter, and to be very careful to take away his candle. The hours which I was obliged to watch, whilst the rest of the family was in bed, I considered as supernumerary, and, having no business assigned for them, thought myself at liberty to spend them my own way: I kept myself awake with a book, and for some time liked my state the better for this opportunity of reading. At last, the upper-maid found my book, and showed it to my mistress, who told me, that wenches like me might spend their time better; that she never knew any of the readers that had good designs in their heads ; that she could always find something else to do with her time, than to puzzle over books; and did not like that such a fine lady should sit up for her young master.
“ This was the first time that I found it thought criminal or dangerous to know how to read. I was dismissed decently, lest I should tell tales, and had a small gratuity above my wages.
“I then lived with a gentlewoman of a small fortune. This was the only happy part of my life. My mistress, for whom public diversions were too expensive, spent her time with books, and was pleased to find a maid who could partake her amusements. I rose early in the morning, that I might have time in the afternoon to read or listen, and was suffered to tell my opinion, or express my delight. Thus fifteen months stole away, in which I did not repine that I was born to servitude. But a burning fever seized my mistress, of whom I shall say no more, than that her servant wept upon her grave.
"I had lived in a kind of luxury, which made me very unfit for another place; and was rather too delicate for the conversation of a kitchen; so that when I was hired in the family of an East India director, my behaviour was so different, as they said, from that of a common servant, that they concluded me a gentlewoman in disguise, and turned me out in three weeks, on suspicion of some design which they could not comprehend.
“I then fled for refuge to the other end of the town, where I hoped to find no obstruction from my new accomplishments, and was hired under the house-keeper in a splendid family. Here I was too wise for the maids, and too nice for the footmen; yet I might have lived on without much uneasiness, had not my mistress, the housekeeper, who used to employ me in buying necessaries for the family, found a bill which I had made of one day's expenses. I suppose it did not quite agree with her own book, for she fiercely declared her resolution, that there should be no pen and ink in that kitchen but her own.
“She had the justice, or the prudence, not to injure m reputation; and I was easily admitted into another house in the neighbourhood, where my business was to sweep the rooms and make the beds. Here I was, for some time, the favourite of Mrs. Simper, my lady's woman, who could not bear the vulgar girls, and was happy in the attendance of a young woman of some education. Mrs. Simper loved a novel, though she could not read hard words, and therefore, when her lady was abroad, we always laid hold on her books. At last, my abilities became so much celebrated, that the housesteward used to employ me in keeping his accounts. Mrs. Simper then found out, that my sauciness was grown to such a height that nobody could endure it, and told my lady, that there never had been a room well swept since Betty Broom came into the house.
“I was then hired by a consumptive lady, who wanted a maid that could read and write. I attended her four years, and though she was never pleased, yet when I declared my resolution to leave her, she burst into tears, and told me that I must bear the peevishness of a sick bed, and I should find myself remembered in her will. I complied, and a codicil was added in my favour; but in less than a week, when I set her gruel before her, I laid the spoon on the left side, and she threw her will into the fire. In two days she made another, which she burnt in the same manner because she could not eat her chicken. A third was made, and destroyed because she heard a mouse within the wainscot, and was sure that I should suffer her to be carried away alive.
After this I was for some time out of favour; but as her illness grew upon her, resentment and sullenness gave way to kinder sentiments. She died, and left me five hundred pounds; with this fortune I am going to settle in my native parish, where I resolve to