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it was the manner among the Persians to have several fairs in the kingdom, at which all the young unmarried women were annually exposed to sale. The men who wanted wives came hither to provide themselves. Every woman was given to the highest bidder, and the money which she fetched laid aside for the public use, to be employed as thou shalt hear by and by. By this means the richest people had the choice of the market, and culled out all the most extraordinary beauties. As soon as the fair was thus picked, the refuse was to be distributed among the poor, and among those who could not go to the price of a beauty. Several of these married the agreeables, without paying a farthing for them, unless somebody chanced to think it worth his while to bid for them, in which case the best bidder was always the purchaser. But now you must know, Spec, it happened in Persia as it does in our country, that there were as many ugly women as beauties or agreeables; so that by consequence, after the magistrates had put off a great many, there were still a great many that stuck upon their hands. In order therefore to clear the market, the money which the beauties had sold for was disposed of among the ugly; so that a poor man, who could not afford to have a beauty for his wife, was forced to take up with a fortune; the greatest portion being always given to the most deformed. To this the author adds, that every poor man was forced to live kindly with his wife, or in case he repented of his bargain, to return her portion with her to the next public sale.
“What I would recommend to thee on this occasion is, to establish such an imaginary fair in Great Britain : thou couldst make it very pleasant, by matching women of quality with cobblers and carmen, or describing titles and garters leading off in great ceremony shop-keepers and farmers' daughters. Though to tell thee the truth, I am confoundedly afraid, that as the love of money prevails in our island more than it did in Persia, we should find that some of our greatest men would choose out the portions, and rival one another for the richest piece of deformity; and that, on the contrary, the toasts and belles would be bought up by the extravagant heirs, gamesters, and spendthrifts. Thou
couldst make very pretty reflections upon this occasion in honour of the Persian politics, who took care, by such marriages, to beautify the upper part of the species, and to make the greatest persons in the government the most graceful. But this I shall leave to thy judicious pen. “I have another story to tell thee, which I likewise met with in a book. It seems the general of the Tartars, after having laid siege to a strong town in China, and taken it by storm, would set to sale all the women that were found in it. Accordingly, he put each of them into a sack, and after having thoroughly considered the value of the woman who was inclosed, marked the price that was demanded for her upon the sack. There were a great confluence of chapmen, that resorted from every part, with a design to purchase; which they were to do unsight unseen. The book mentions a merchant, in particular, who observing one of the sacks to be marked pretty high, bargained for it, and carried it off with him to his house. As he was resting with it upon a halfway bridge, he was resolved to take a survey of his purchase: upon opening the sack, a little old woman popped her head out of it; at which the adventurer was in so great a rage, that he was going to shoot her out into the river. The old lady, however, begged him first of all to hear her story, by which he learned that she was sister to a great mandarin, who would infallibly make the fortune of his brother-in-law as soon as he should know to whose lot she fell. Upon which the merchant again tied her up in his sack, and carried her to his house, where she proved an excellent wife, and procured him all the riches from her brother that she had promised him. “I fancy, if I was disposed to dream a second time, I could make a tolerable vision upon this plan. I would suppose all the unmarried women in London and Westminster brought to market in sacks, with their respective prices on each sack. The first sack that is sold is marked with five thousand pounds. Upon the opening of it, I find it filled with an admirable housewife, of an agreeable countenance. The purchaser, upon hearing her good qualities, pays down her price very cheerfully. The second I would open, should be a five hundred pounds sack. The lady in it, to our surprise, has the face and person of a toast. As we are wondering how she came to be set at so low a price, we hear that she would have been valued at ten thousand pounds, but that the public had made those abatements for her being a scold. I would afterwards find some beautiful, modest, and discreet woman, that should be the top of the market: and perhaps discover half a dozen romps tied up together in the same sack, at one hundred pounds a head. The prude, and the coquette, should be valued at the same price, though the first should go off the better of the two. I fancy thou wouldst like such a vision, had I time to finish it; because, to talk in thy own way, there is a moral in it. Whatever thou mayest think of it, prythee do not make any of thy queer apologies for this letter, as thou didst for my last. The women love a gay lively fellow, and are never angry at the railleries of one who is their known admirer. I am always bitter upon them, but well with them. “Thine, ADDISON. “HoNEYCOMB.”
SULTAN MAHMOUD. A TALE. (No. 512).
THE oblique manner of giving advice is so inoffensive, that if we look into ancient histories, we find the wise men of old very often chose to give counsel to their kings in fables. There is a pretty instance of this nature in a Turkish tale, which I do not like the worse for that little oriental extravagance which is mixed with it.
We are told that the Sultan Mahmoud, by his perpetual wars abroad, and his tyranny at home, had filled his dominions with ruin and desolation, and half unpeopled the Persian empire. The visier to this great sultan (whether an humourist or an enthusiast, we are not informed) pretended to have learned of a certain dervise to understand the language of birds, so that there was not a bird that could open his mouth, but the visier knew what it was he said. As he was one evening with the emperor, in their return from hunting, they saw a couple of owls upon a tree that grew near an old wall, out of a heap of rubbish. “I would fain know,” says the sultan, “what those two owls are saying to one another; listen to their discourse, and give me an account of it.” The visier approached the tree, pretending to be very attentive to the two owls. Upon his return to the sultan, “Sir,” says he, “I have heard part of their conversation, but dare not tell you what it is.” The sultan would not be satisfied with such an answer, but forced him to repeat, word for word, everything the owls had said. “You must know, then,” said the visier, “that one of these owls has a son, and the other a daughter, between whom they are now upon a treaty of marriage. The father of the son said to the father of the daughter, in my hearing, ‘Brother, I consent to this marriage, provided you will settle upon your daughter fifty ruined villages for her portion.’ To which, the father of the daughter replied, “Instead of fifty, I will give her five hundred, if you please. God grant a long life to Sultan Mahmoud; whilst he reigns over us, we shall never want ruined villages.”
The story says, the sultan was so touched with the fable, that he rebuilt the towns and villages which had been destroyed, and from that time forward consulted the good of his people. ADDISON.
DEATH OF SIR Roger DE COVERLEY. (No. 517).
WE last night received a piece of ill news at our club, which very sensibly afflicted every one of us. I question not but my readers themselves will be troubled at the hearing of it. To keep them no longer in suspense, Sir Roger de Coverley is dead. He departed this life at his house in the country, after a few weeks' sickness. I have letters both from the chaplain and Captain Sentry, which are filled with many particulars to the honour of the good old man. I have likewise a letter from the butler, who took so much care of me last summer when I was at the
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knight's house. As my friend the butler mentions, in the simplicity of his heart, several circumstances the others have passed over in silence, I shall give my reader a copy of his letter, without any alteration or diminution. “Honoured Sir, “Knowing that you was my old master's good friend, I could not forbear sending you the melancholy news of his death, which has afflicted the whole country as well as his poor servants, who loved him, I may say, better than we did our lives. I am afraid he caught his death the last county-sessions, where he would go to see justice done to a poor widow woman, and her fatherless children, that had been wronged by a neighbouring gentleman; for you know, sir, my good master was always the poor man's friend. Upon his coming home, the first complaint he made was, that he had lost his roast-beef stomach, not being able to touch a sirloin, which was served up according to custom ; and you know he used to take great delight in it. From that time forward he grew worse and worse, but still kept a good heart to the last. Indeed we were once in great hope of his recovery, upon a kind message that was sent him from the widow lady whom he had made love to the forty last years of his life; but this only proved a lightning before death. He has bequeathed to this lady, as a token of his love, a great pearl necklace, and a couple of silver bracelets set with jewels, which belonged to my good old lady his mother. He has bequeathed the fine white gelding, that he used to ride a-hunting upon, to his chaplain, because he thought he would be kind to him, and has left you all his books. He has, moreover, bequeathed to the chaplain a very pretty tenement with good lands about it. It being a very cold day when he made his will, he left for mourning, to every man in the parish, a great frizecoat, and to every woman a black riding-hood. It was a moving sight to see him take leave of his poor servants, commending us all for our fidelity, whilst we were not able to speak a word for weeping. As we most of us are grown grey-headed in our dear master's service, he has left us pensions and legacies, which we may live very comfortably