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cannot exempt themselves from the guilt, they may from the shame of it. The scandal of a lie is in a manner lost and annihilated, when diffused among several thousands; as a drop of the blackest tincture wears away and vanishes, when mixed and confused in a considerable body of water; the blot is still in it, but is not able to discover itself. This is certainly a very great motive to several party-offenders, who avoid crimes, not as they are prejudicial to their virtue, but to their reputation. It is enough to shew the weakness of this reason, which palliates guilt without removing it, that every man who is influenced by it de. clares himself in effect an infamous hypocrite, prefers the appearance of virtue to its reality, and is determined in his conduct neither by the dictates of his own conscience, the suggestions of true honour, nor the principles of religion.
The third and last great motive for men's joining in a popular falsehood, or, as I have hitherto called it, a party-lie, notwith. standing they are convinced of it as such, is the doing good to a cause which every party may be supposed to look upon as the most meritorious. The unsoundness of this principle has been so often exposed, and is so universally acknowledged, that a man must be an utter stranger to the prineiples, either of natural religion or Christianity, who suffers himself to be guided by it. If a man might promote the supposed good of his country by the blackest calumnies and falsehoods, our nation abounds more in patriots than any other of the Christian world. When Pompey was desired not to set sail in a tempest that would hazard his life, 'It is necessary for me (says he) to sail, but it is not necessary for me to live:' every man should say to himself, with the
* Neither. The disjunctive “neither” is improperly used, when more than two things come under consideration. The author should either have left out-"the suggestions of true honour,” or, he should have said, " is not determined by the dictates of his own conscience, the suggestions of true honour, or the principles of religion.”—H.
same spirit, It is my duty to speak truth, though it is not my duty to be in an office. One of the fathers has carried this point so high as to declare, ' He would not tell a lie, though he were sure to gain heaven by it.' However extravagant such a protestation may appear, every one will own, that a man may say very reasonably, 'He would not tell a lie, if he were sure to gain hell by it;' or, if you have a mind to soften the expression, that he would not tell a lie to gain any temporal reward by it, when he should run the hazard of losing much more than it was possible for him to gain.
No. 511. THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16.
Quis non invenit tarbd quod amaret in illa?
OVID, Ars Am. i. 175.
" DEAR SPEC. "FINDING that my last letter took, I do intend to continue my epistolary correspondence with thee, on those dear confounded creatures, women. Thou knowest, all the little learning I am master of is upon that subject; I never looked in a book, but for their sakes. I have lately met with two pure stories for a Spectator, which I am sure will please mightily, if they pass through thy hands. The first of them I found by chance in an English book called Herodotus, that lay in my friend Dapperwit's window, as I visited him one morning. It luckily opened in the place where I met the following account. He tells us that 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 pro
vide 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 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 own 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 coblers and carmen, or describing titles and garters leading off in great ceremony, shopkeepers 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 chuse 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 extravagant heirs, gamesters, and spendthrifts. Thou couldst make very pretty reflections upon this occasion in honour of the Persian politics, who take 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 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 half way 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 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 pound: 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 pound 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 pound, but that the public had made those abatements for her being a scold. I would afterwards find some beautiful, modest, and discreet wo. man, 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 pound 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 an. gry at the railleries of one who is their own admirer. I am always bitter upon them, but well with them.