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romantic turn. Having little imagination herself, she removes from her daughters every thing by which theirs might be warmed: novels that melt, and dra. mas that agitate the mind, she is at pains to prevent their getting a taste for. Even a relish for music she seems to wish to discourage.
Mrs: Williams is in every thing candour itself. Indeed, she never feels any thing which she would wish to conceal. Her good sense makes her always fix on her plan of conduct with firmness; and as she is not perplexed with any
difficulties, nor encumbered with any doubts about its being right, she always takes the direct road to accomplish the end she has in view. Upon the whole, Mrs. Williams is more respectable than many who seem formed to command more respect, and happier than many who seem to have more avenues for happiness.
Mrs. Hambden possesses a mind of a much superior order to that of Mrs. Williams. She is, indeed, one of the most accomplished women I ever knew. With an uncommon portion of acuteness and discernment, she possesses the highest degree of taste and refinement. Her conversation is ever animated and ever improving; and a delicate sense of virtue, as well as a warmth of sensibility, which runs through every thing she says, creates an attachment to her, and gives to her discourse (to use an expression of Sir William Temple's) that race, without which, discourse as well as wine is insipid. Intimately acquainted with human nature, she possesses the quickest discernment and the truest knowledge of every character that comes within her observation; and yet, from a native generosity of mind, she is ever willing to make allowance for the weaknesses or follies of others. With such accomplishments, and so much worth, it is natural to suppose that Mrs. Hambden will exhibit, in every part of her conduct, a pattern of perfection; and yet, from the very possession of those endowments, she seems to fail in those parts of conduct in which Mrs. Williams, with much inferior talents and accomplishments, appears to succeed. Mrs Hambden's superior acuteness and penetration, far from enabling her to fix upon a certain, steady, uniform line of conduct, frequently produce only doubt, uncertainty, and hesitation. To whichever side she turns, she sees difficulties ; difficulties which her discernment enables her to perceive, and her imagination tends to magnify. When resolved, she is but half-resolved; she begins to doubt that she has determined wrong; thinks of varying her plan, and becomes more and more uncertain how to proceed. Even after she is completely fixed as to the object, she wavers as to the means of obtaining it, and obstacles are constantly starting up in her idea which she knows not how to surmount. This not only produces a vacillancy in her conduct, but at times gives her the appearance of a want of fairness ; she wishes to disguise her own perplexity to herself, and this leads her to assume somewhat of disguise to others. Uncertain of the justness or expediency of her own conduct, afraid of the light in which it may appear, she but half communicates, resolutions of which she doubts the propriety, and half conceals intentions which she is afraid to fulfil.
Mrs. Hamben was left, not long after her marriage, a widow, with one son and one daughter, and, since her husband's death, her whole care has certered in these children. From her anxiety with regard to her son, she has taken the management of his education upon herself. From her eager wish to conduct him in the paths of virtue, and to secure him from the snares of vice, she has kept him almost constantly under her own eye ; she has prevented in from going to a public school, and has hardly allowed him any companions. The boy is now about fifteen, with wonderful learning and knowledge for his years, and possessed of the
finest and most ami. able dispositions ; but, from his mode of education, he is awkward, timid, and perfectly ignorant of the world. With the world, however, he must soon mix ; and what change this may produce in his character is uncertain. It is much to be feared, that that
very purity and refinement of mind, of which he is possessed, and which certainly has been preserved by his seclusion from the world, may produce very
fatal consequences to him on his entrance into life. If he retains this extreme purity and refinement untainted, there is danger lest he become disgusted with and unfit for a world, many of the maxims and practices of which he will find very different from the lessons he has received from too fond a mother. But the danger is still greater that his purity and refinement may leave him; being introduced into the world, not gradually, but all at once; not being taught by degrees to struggle with and resist the corruptions around him, he may fall into the very opposite extreme from that in which he has been led, and desert, from the refinement and severity of virtue, to the grossness and licentiousness of vice. He will meet with vice in colours that often dazzle rather than shock inexperience like his, and his weakness may sometimes yield where his inclination may not be seduced. The boldness of confident folly may overthrow his wisest resolutions, and the laugh of shallow ridicule triumph over his best-founded principles.
Mrs. Hambden's daughter is at this moment. the most amiable girl I ever knew. Here I am at a loss whether to find fault with the education her mother has given her or not : Mrs. Hambden's object has been to bestow upon her every accomplishment which can adorn the female character : music and drawing, the French and Italian languages, she is mistress of; her reading is extensive, her taste exquisite, her judgment delicate : and yet, I confess, I am not less afraid than I am interested about this girl's fate. Her soul is too refined for the common, but useful and necessary departments of life ; and that imagination which she has enlivered and cultivated, may be to her the source of infinite distress. While her mother lives, even her support may not always protect her daughter, nor ensure that peace of mind which feeling may betray or fancy mislead. But what a change in her situation must that, parent's death produce! If she remains unmarried, I fear she will be little able to struggle with the harsh difficulties of a single state ; for reading and refinement, far from enabling the female mind to grapple with its situation, have rather a tendency to soften and enfeeble it. Should she marry, and I am persuaded, she never will, unless she finds a man whom she thinks worthy of her most ardent affection, in that state also she is not less exposed to unhappiness. Even supposing she should meet with a husband (and there are few such) every way worthy of her, it is to be feared that her extreme delicacy may give her many uneasinesses, and create an anxiety which it will not be easy to cure. If from that ignorance of the characters of the men, to which every woman is exposed, she should be unlucky in her choice, her danger is dreadful.
But I have wandered somewhat from my purpose, which was to illustrate the difference between the two ladies in question ; and to shew, against the too decisive apophthegm of the Poet, the possible discrimination of female character. Yet, in tracing those different persons through the different plans of education for their children, I am not sure if I hawn
not stumbled upon something intimately as well as usefully connected with my subject. If there are very distinguishing features in female as well as in male characters, it is for mothers to mark their features, to watch betimes their different propensities. Education can do much to confirm goodness, to correct depravity of temper and of disposition: and in characters more common than either of those extremes, education can give exertion to indolence, refinement to insensibility, strength to the weak, and support to the too susceptible mind,
,-can call forth talents into usefulness, and bestow happiness upon virtue.
N° 53. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 1786.
Minime contentos nocte Britannos.
In a late paper, I laid before my readers a letter from a correspondent, subscribing himself Senex, on the little attention which is now-a-days paid to the rights and jurisdiction of Time. Since the publication of that paper, I received the following application from a personage who claims my attention and regard, by desiring me to observe, that she is still older than Senex, and has had more opportunities of witnessing that corruption of modern manners, of which he so warmly complains.