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nately, she is yoked to as unreflecting a mortal as herself, or to one who pursues his own plans of amusement unconnected with hers, there is then but little chance of her turning away from the alluring but deceitful paths of dissipation, before every other course has lost its power to attract her. To vary her pleasures and her dress will be the business of her life; and as these are not inclinations which can be indulged without considerable expense, it is probable that she soon finds herself in pecuniary difficulties, from which her husband may not have the power, or, as in some instances, not the inclination, to relieve her. Supposing this to be the the first moment of her difficulties you may mark as the commencement of that state of degradation which ends in a total corruption of the heart. Every thought that might rouse reflection, and lead to strengthen the principle of right implanted within her breast, is banished, and she is reduced to base expedients to avert the inconveniences which folly has occasioned her. Disingenuousness towards her husband is the first consequence, and this practice must be painful indeed to a mind hitherto upright. Meanness and faithlessness mark her conduct to those with whom she is involved in pecuniary debts, while a selfish indulgence of all her extravagant propensities grows each day in strength, and urges her on to still greater improprieties, until it end in the overthrow of every virtuous principle within her.
The state of her mind at this juncture, could it be pictured, would be a mournful illustration of her degradation, and of the chagrin and disappoint
ment to which she is a prey. The generous and disinterested affections of her heart have been gradually supplanted by malignant dispositions and selfishness. She is perpetually gnawed by envy at the supposed happiness, the greater personal attractions, or the superior estimation in society of others; while remorse reminds her ever, that she is, herself, the author of every trouble of which she complains; and that, once, she had within her power the choice of good or evil, and that she, then, suffered folly to hold the scales, and to determine her election.
Although incapable of feeling now for others, she is keenly alive to what affects herself. She repines at the neglect and indifference she experiences from her husband, and at the want of affection towards her in her children, yet acknowledging she has sacrificed nothing for them; that to her they are indebted for no care in infancy, nor for instruction or example in their riper years. Now they are in their turn deficient in duty, and though their conduct may fill her with anguish, she can scarcely claim a right to complain. Perhaps her health is undermined; late hours, with spirits constantly over-excited, having assisted to exhaust her frame. Her existence may not be long protracted, and she will pass from this stage to another unlamented; and having left behind her no memorial of good, the remembrance of all relating personally to her will fade away, long before her remains are mouldered and mingled with the dust. Suppose her to be permitted to enter the vale of years; long life would be to her only a prolongation of misery. Old
age brings evils to the good as well as to the bad; but the former finds an antidote in the reminiscence of a well spent life, and in the cheering hopes and prospects of futurity. But the latter can draw no such solace. Moral evils she has herself added to those to which, as flesh, she is heir; and, therefore, her continuance in life must be joyless and undesirable. If she look back, she beholds almost a desolate waste; few virtuous resolutions made, and still fewer virtuous actions performed; if she look forward, her view is gloomy, and portentous.
Those who remember the history of the celebrated Duchess of, will remark, in it, an illustration of the picture I have attempted to draw. Married early in life, and to a man to whom ambition, not affection, united her, that distinguished comet in the sphere of fashion ran a course marked by notoriety, and by the luxuriance of pleasure, but not of happiness. She set out, in her career, with a resolution to be the first object of attention in the gay world, and distinction was her being's end, object, aim. Nor would this have been reprehensible, had the eminence to which she aspired been attainable only by virtuous actions, or by the exercise of intellectual endowments; unhappily the prize she coveted was open to the frivolous, the dissipated, and the vain. If we may judge of the importance of a race, by the competitors who engage in it, what shall we say of the candidate for fashionable celebrity, which is the most readily gained by the most ridiculous and contemptible of mankind? The lady to whom I allude could not be ranked among either of these classes, if her mental powers
be considered: Providence had blessed her with strong sense, and with a quick and acute perception; and education had improved these advantages into all that could delight in society, and give variety to retirement. But pursuing every species of excitement (falsely called pleasure) with an avidity that left no time for continued improvement, after she became her own mistress, the wit of this ill-judging woman was sullied by effrontery and coarseness, her imagination perverted by eccentricity, and her judgment impaired by want of exertion, and warped by passion. As in her calculations of the happiness a ducal coronet might impart, she had not included the comforts of domestic life, she paid so little attention to the disposition and happiness of her husband, that although they ought to have been united by those ties which a numerous offspring usually occasion, they were estranged and lived separate; she, continuing her progress to the heights of fashionable honours, and he, sinking from his station, his duties to society and to himself, into all the degradation of low profligacy, and of debased and debasing company.
We cannot suppose that a being, endowed with the capability of reflection, could long lead such a course as that of the Duchess of without experimentally finding its actual insipidity, nay, wretchedness. That she did even acknowledge her conviction of this, has been asserted by her acquaintance; and long after she had ceased to enjoy the species of disreputable fame which her follies and excesses had procured her in the gay world, she remained in it, perhaps from not know
ing what alternative to choose, perhaps from habit, or more probably from the desire of gratifying a favourite project, that of marrying her daughters in a station as elevated as her own. Nor was it till this darling object was secured, and till no other stimulus remained to her, that she saw the worthlessness of all that she had attained, and the value of all that she had rejected. In the close of life, she acknowledged with penitence her misapplication of talents, her worse than profusion, her abuse of the gifts of fortune, her neglect of all important duties, her eagerness in following vain, and even criminal enjoyments; and to a clergyman to whom, on her deathbed, she imparted those feelings, which were soon to be reviewed before a far more awful tribunal, she confessed her errors and her disappointments; and acknowledged that one conviction, from the experience of a long life, alone remained impressed upon her mind, -- that all the enjoyments that the most complete state of luxury and of dissipation can impart are totally incapable of affording one hour's solid gratification; and that upon review they are, compared with neglected duties, as the stings of a serpent, which are not the less replete with venom although the danger be concealed amidst a bed of flowers.
We will turn from this lamentable picture, to enquire whether the opposite extreme of conduct ought not, also, to be avoided, by which I mean the abandonment of a woman to household concerns, and to the over-solicitous care of her children, involving her in an entire neglect of the duties connected with social life and good neighbourhood.