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Mr. Dryden, who knew human nature perhaps as well as any man who ever studied it, has given us a picture of the force of female charms, in the story of Cymon and Iphigenia. Boccacio, from whom he took it, had adorned it with all the tinsel finery of which an Italian composition is capable. The English poet, like most English travellers, gave stirling silver in change for that superficial gilding, and bestowed a moral where he found a tale. He paints in Cymon, a soul bound in a confusion of ideas, informed with so little fire, as scarce to struggle under the load, or afford any glimmering energies of sense. In this condition he represents him struck with the rays of Iphigenia's beauty; kindled by them his mind exerts its powers; his intellectual faculties seem to awake, and that uncouth ferocity of manners, by which he had hitherto been distinguished, gave way to an obliging behaviour, the natural effect of love!
The moral of this fable is a truth, which can never be inculcated too much. It is to the fair sex we owe the most shining qualities of which ours is master; as the antients insinuated, with their usual address, by painting both the virtues and graces as females. Men of true taste feel a natural complaisance for women when they converse with them, and fall, without knowing it
apon every art of pleasing, which is the disposition at once the most grateful to others, and the most satisfactory to ourselves. An intimate acquaintance with the other sex fixes this complaisance into a habit, and that habit is the very essence of politeness.
Nay, I presume to say politeness can be no other way attained. Books may furnish us with right ideas; experience may improve our judgments; but it is the acquaintance of the ladies only, which can bestow that ease of address, whereby the fine gentleman is distinguished from the scholar, and the man of business.
That my readers may be perfectly satisfied in a point, which I think of so great importance, let us examine this a little more strictly.
There is a certain constitutional pride in men, which hinders their yielding, in point of knowledge, honour, or virtue, to another. This immediately forsakes them at the sight of woman. And a custom of submitting to the ladies, gives a new turn to our ideas, and opens a path to reason, which she bad not trod before. Things appear in another light, and that degree of complacency seems now a virtue, which heretofore we regarded as a meanness.
I have dwelt the longer on the charms of the sex, arising from the perfection visible in their
exterior composition; because there is the strong est analogy between them, and the excellencies which from a nicer enquiry, we discover in the minds of the fair. As they are distinguished from the robust make of man, by that delicacy, expressed by nature, in their form; so the severity of masculine sense is softened by a sweetness peculiar to the female soul. A native capacity of pleasing attends them through every circumstance of life; and what we improperly call the weakness of the sex, gives them a superiority unattainable by force.
The fable of the North wind and the Sun contending to make the man throw off his cloak is not an improper picture of the specific difference between the powers of either sex. The blustering fierceness of the former, instead of producing the effect at which it aimed, made the fellow but wrap himself up the closer; yet no sooner did the sunbeams play, than that which before protected, became now an incumbrance. Just so, that pride which makes us tenacious in disputes between man and man, when applied to the ladies, inspires us with an eagerness not to contend, but to obey.
To speak sincerely and philosophically, women seem designed by Providence to spread the same splendour and cheerfulness through the in
tellectual œconomy, that the celestial bodies diffuse over the material part of the creation. Without them, we might indeed contend, destroy, and triumph over one another. Fraud and force would divide the world between them, and we should pass our lives like slaves, in continual toil, without the prospect of pleasure or relaxation.
It is the conversation of women that gives a proper bias to our inclinations, and by abating the ferocity of our passions engages us to that gentleness of deportment which we style humanity. Our tenderness for them softens the ruggedness of our nature; and the virtues we put on to make the better figure in their eyes, keep us in humour with ourselves.
I speak it without affectation or vanity, that no man has applied more assiduously than myself to the study of the fair sex; and I aver it with the greatest simplicity of heart, that I have not only found the most engaging and most amiable, but also the most generous and most heroic qualities among the ladies; and that I have discovered more of candour, disinterestedness, and fervour in their friendships, than in those of our own sex; though I have been very careful, and particularly happy in the choice of my acquaint
Fram'd to give joy, the lovely sex are seen,