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EPISTLE II.

TO A . LADY.

OF THE CHARACTERS OF WOMEN.

ARGUMENT.

That the particular characters of women are not so strongly

marked as those of men, seldom so fixed, and still more inconsistent with themselves. Instances of contrarieties given, even from such characters as are more strongly marked, and seemingly, therefore, most consistent: as 1. In the affected. 2. In the soft-natured. 3. In the cunning and artful. 4. In the whimsical. 5. In the lewd and vicious. 6. In the witty and refined. 7. In the stupid and simple. The former part having shown that the particular characters of women are more various than those of men, it is nevertheless observed that the general characteristic of the sex, as to the ruling passion, is more uniform. This is occasioned partly by their nature, partly by their education, and in some degree by necessity. What are the aims and the fate of this sex: 1. As to power. 2. As to pleasure. Advice for their true interest. The picture of an estimable woman, with the best kind of contrarieties.

Nothing so true as what you once let fall,
6. Most women have no characters at all :"
Matter too soft a lasting mark to bear,
And best distinguish'd by black, brown, or fair.

1 Martha Blount.

How many pictures of one nymph we view, And how unlike each other, all how true! Arcadia’s countess here, in ermin'd pride, Is there, Pastora by a fountain side: Here Fannia, leering on her own good man, And there a naked Leda with a swan. Let then the fair one beautifully cry, In Magdalen's loose hair and lifted eye; Or dress'd in smiles of sweet Cecilia shine, With simpering angels, palms, and harps divine ; Whether the charmer sinner it, or saint it, If folly grow romantic, I must paint it.

Come, then, the colours and the ground prepare; Dip in the rainbow, trick her off in air; Choose a firm cloud before it fall, and in it Catch, ere she change, the Cynthia of this minute.

Rufa, whose eye quick glancing o'er the park, Attracts each light gay meteor of a spark, Agrees as ill with Rufa studying Locke, As Sappho’s diamonds with her dirty smock, Or Sappho at her toilet's greasy task, With Sappho fragrant at an evening mask: So morning insects, that in muck begun, Shine, buzz, and fly-blow in the setting sun.

How soft is Silia! fearful to offend ; The frail one's advocate, the weak one's friend. To her Calista prov'd her conduct nice, And good Simplicius asks of her advice. Sudden she storms ! she raves ! you tip the wink; But spare your censure; Silia does not drink.

All eyes may see from what the change arose ; All

eyes may seema pimple on her nose. Papillia, wedded to her amorous spark, Sighs for the shades—" How charming is a park!” A park is purchas'd; but the fair he sees All bath'd in tears—“Oh, odious, odious trees !

Ladies, like variegated tulips, show; 'Tis to their changes half their charms we owe: Fine by defect, and delicately weak, Their happy spots the nice admirer take. 'Twas thus Calypso once each heart alarm’d, Aw'd without virtue, without beauty charm’d; Her tongue bewitch'd as oddly as her eyes; Less wit than mimic, more a wit than wise. Strange graces still, and stranger flights, she had; Was just not ugly, and was just not mad; Yet ne'er so sure our passion to create, As when she touch'd the brink of all we hate.

Narcissa's nature, tolerably mild, To make a wash would hardly stew a child ; Has e'en been prov'd to grant a lover's prayer, And paid a tradesman once to make him stare; Gave alms at Easter in a christian trim, And made a widow happy for a whim. Why then declare good-nature is her scorn, When 'tis by that alone she can be borne? Why pique all mortals, yet affect a name? A fool to pleasure, yet a slave to fame:

2 Duchess of Hamilton.

Now deep in Taylor and the Book of Martyrs,
Now drinking citron with his grace and Chartres :
Now conscience chills her, and now passion burns,
And atheism and religion take their turns :
A very heathen in the carnal part,
Yet still a sad good christian at her heart.

See sin in state, majestically drunk,
Proud as a peeress, prouder as a punk;
Chaste to her husband, frank to all beside,
A teeming mistress, but a barren bride.
What then? let blood and body bear the fault;
Her head's untouch'd, that noble seat of thought :
Such this day's doctrine—in another fit
She sins with poets through pure love of wit.
What has not fir'd her bosom or her brain ?
Cæsar and Tall-boy, Charles and Charlemagne
As Helluo, late dictator of the feast,
The nose of Hautgout, and the tip of Taste,
Critiqu'd your wine, and analyz'd your meat,
Yet on plain pudding deign'd at home to eat :
So Philomedé, lecturing all mankind
On the soft passion, and the taste refin'd,
The address, the delicacy-stoops at once,
And makes her hearty meal upon a dunce.

Flavia's a wit, has too much sense to pray;
To toast our wants and wishes is her way;
Nor asks of God, but of her stars, to give
The mighty blessing while we live to live.'

Henrietta, usually called the young Duchess of Marlborough; to whom Congreve left the greater part of his fortune.

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Then all for death, that opiate of the soul !
Lucretia's dagger, Rosamonda's bowl.
Say, what can cause such impotence of mind ?
A spark too fickle, or a spouse too kind.
Wise wretch! with pleasures too refin'd to please ;
With too much spirit to be e'er at ease;
With too much quickness ever to be taught;
With too much thinking to have common thought ;
You purchase pain with all that joy can give,
And die of nothing but a rage to live.

Turn then from wits, and look on Simo's mate;
No ass so meek, no ass so obstinate:
Or her that owns her faults but never mends,
Because she's honest, and the best of friends :
Or her whose life the church and scandal share,
For ever in a passion or a prayer:
Or her who laughs at hell, but (like her grace)*
Cries, “Ah! how charming if there's no such

place !

Or who in sweet vicissitude appears
Of mirth and opium, ratifie and tears;
The daily anodyne and nightly draught,
To kill those foes to fair ones, time and thought.
Woman and fool are two hard things to hit ;
For true no-meaning puzzles more than wit.

But what are these to great Atossa's mind ? Scarce once herself, by turns all womankind !

4 The Duchess of Montague. 5 The famous Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough.

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