BOOK XIV. CONTAINING TWO DAYS.
1. Chapter i. An essay...
Some there are, however, of this rank upon whom passion exercises its
tyranny, and hurries them far beyond the bounds which decorum
prescribes; of these the ladies are as much distinguished by their
noble intrepidity, and a certain superior contempt of reputation, from
the frail ones of meaner degree, as a virtuous woman of quality is by
the elegance and delicacy of her sentiments from the honest wife of a
yeoman and shopkeeper. Lady Bellaston was of this intrepid character;
but let not my country readers conclude from her, that this is the
general conduct of women of fashion, or that we mean to represent them
as such. They might as well suppose that every clergyman was
represented by Thwackum, or every soldier by ensign Northerton.
There is not, indeed, a greater error than that which universally
prevails among the vulgar, who, borrowing their opinion from some
ignorant satirists, have affixed the character of lewdness to these
times. On the contrary, I am convinced there never was less of love
intrigue carried on among persons of condition than now. Our present
women have been taught by their mothers to fix their thoughts only on
ambition and vanity, and to despise the pleasures of love as unworthy
their regard; and being afterwards, by the care of such mothers,
married without having husbands, they seem pretty well confirmed in
the justness of those sentiments; whence they content themselves, for
the dull remainder of life, with the pursuit of more innocent, but I
am afraid more childish amusements, the bare mention of which would
ill suit with the dignity of this history. In my humble opinion, the
true characteristic of the present beau monde is rather folly than
vice, and the only epithet which it deserves is that of frivolous.