Page images

causes; and, in fact, instances to the contrary so frequently occur in common life, as to draw upon the fair sex an imputation of whimsicalness from superficial observers. The affection of Desdemona for the Moor Othello is strictly according to nature, and is perhaps much less improbable than the villany of Iago. At any rate, it is a sufficient consolation to the deformed, to know that they are capable of inspiring that calm and rational attachment, which is the true foundation of domestic happiness, and which, being fixed on moral qualities, is not liable to decay with years, or to pall by satiety.

It will probably, however, be thought by many, that consolation of this kind is very little wanted by the description of persons under consideration, and that ob. servations like the foregoing will be rather detrimental than useful, by increasing that absurd personal vanity for which they are already so remarkable. This opinion, that deformed people are peculiarly subject to vanity, is very generally entertained, and seems to lie at the bottom of that persuasion of their mental inferiority which may be observed among the vulgar. It is, however, evidently a mistake, occasioned by not adverting to the fact, that states of mind in many respects similar often arise from contrary causes. Thus, the handsome and the deformed are both much occupied about their persons, but from motives precisely opposite; the one because he is conscious of being an agreeable object in the sight of mankind; the other because he feels that he is the reverse. Both are fond of dress, and equally ready to adopt every new ornament; but in the former, this arises from a desire to increase his attractions; in the latter, from a wish to palliate or conceal his defects. Their actions are therefore similar, and hence are ascribed to the same motive; though in the one, vanity or conceit is the moving principle; in the other, perhaps

too deep a sense of inferiority. It must be acknowledged, however, that this principle in the minds of the deformed, by keeping the attention constantly fixed on the personal appearance, produces many of the effects of vanity. In its excess, it is the great source of their unhappiness; as its usual effect is either a total want of firmness, in so much that, like bashful children, they are hardly able to look up to meet the eye of a stranger; or an irritable jealousy of temper, which is constantly watching the looks of others for symptoms of contempt or ridicule, and finds matter of resentment and complaint in the most indifferent circumstances. The only effectual remedy against it, is a just and manly confidence in the superiority of the mind over the body, together with an assiduous cultivation of those intellectual and moral graces which form the best counterpoise to corporeal imperfections.



“ Why do you smile, Egeria ?" said the Bachelor one day, as the nymph of his affections was looking over an old Magazine, from which she was in the practice of occasionally tearing a leaf to curl her hair with.

“ The smartest hit at the bachelors which I have ever met with. It professes to be the speech of Miss Polly Baker before a court of judicature in Connecticut, where she was prosecuted the fifth time for having a bastard child. It is said that this address

not only influenced the court to dispense with her punishment, but so captivated one of the judges, that he married her next day, and to whom she had afterwards fifteen children. Listen.”

“ May it please the honourable bench to indulge me in a few words. I am a poor unhappy woman, who have no money to fee lawyers to plead for me, being hard put to it to get a tolerable living. I shall not trouble your honours with long speeches; for I have not the presumption to expect that you may, by any means, be prevailed on to deviate in your sentence from the law in my favour. All I humbly hope is, that your honours would charitably move the governor's goodness on my behalf, that my fine may be remitted. This is the fifth time, gentlemen, that I have been dragged before your court on the same account; twice I have paid heavy fines, and twice have been brought to public punishment for want of money to pay those fines. This may have been agreeable to the laws, and I don't dispute it; but since laws are sometimes unreasonable in themselves, and therefore repealed, and others bear too hard on the subject in particular circumstances, and therefore there is left a power somewhat to dispense with the execution of them, I take the liberty to say, that I think this law, by which I am punished, is both unreasonable in itself, and particularly severe with regard to me, who have always lived an inoffensive life in the neighbourhood where I was born, and defy my enemies (if I have any) to say I ever wronged man, woman, or child. Abstracted from the law, I cannot conceive (may it please your honours) what the nature of my offence is. I have brought five fine children into the world at the risk of my life ; I have maintained them well by my own industry, without burdening the township, and would have done it better, if it had not been for the heavy charges and fines I have paid. Can it be a crime (in the nature of things I mean) to add to the number of the king's subjects in a new country that really wants people? I own it, I should think it a praiseworthy rather than a punishable action. I have debauched no other woman's husband, nor enticed any youth : these things I never was charged with, nor has any one the least cause of complaint against me, unless perhaps the minister or the justice, because I have had children without being married, by which they have missed a wedding-fee. But can this be a fault of mine? I appeal to your honours. You are pleased to allow I don't want sense; but I must be stupified to the last degree, not to prefer the honourable state of wedlock to the condition I have lived in. I always was, and still am, willing to enter into it; and doubt not my behaving well in it, having all the industry, frugality, fertility, and skill in economy, appertaining to a good wife's character. I defy any person to say I ever refused an offer of that sort : on the contrary, I readily consented to the only proposal of marriage that ever was made me, which was when I was a virgin ; but, too easily confiding in the person's sincerity that made it, I unhappily lost my own honour by trusting to his; and he then forsook me. That very person you all know; he is now become a magistrate of this county, and I had hopes he would have appeared this day on the bench, and have endeavoured to moderate the court in my favour ; then I should have scorned to have mentioned it; but I must now complain of it as unjust and unequal, that my betrayer and undoer, the first cause of all my faults and miscarriages (if they must be deemed such), should be advanced to honour and power in the government that punishes my misfortunes with stripes and infamy. I should be told, 'tis like, that, were there no act of assembly in the case, the precepts of religion are violated by my transgressions. If mine is a religious offence, leave it to religious punishments. You have already excluded me from the comforts of your church communion. Is not that sufficient? You believe I have offended Heaven, and must suffer eternal fire: Will not that be sufficient? But how can it be believed that Heaven is angry at my having children, when, to the little done by me towards it, God has been pleased to add his divine skill and admirable workmanship in the formation of their bodies, and crowned it by furnishing them with rational and immortal souls ? Forgive me, gentlemen, if I talk a little extravagantly on these matters. I am no divine; but if you, gentlemen, must be making laws, take into your wise consideration the great and growing number of bachelors in the country, many of whom, from the mean fear of the expenses of a family, have never sincerely and honourably courted a woman in their lives. Is not theirs a greater offence against the public good than mine ? Compel them, then, by law, either to marriage, or to pay double the fine. What must poor young women do, whom custom hath forbid to solicit the men, and who cannot force themselves upon husbands, when the laws take no care to provide them with any ? Is not increase and multiply the first and great commandment of nature and of nature's God? and are those that contravene the law by human institutions not greater offenders than the mother of five fine children that now supplicates your mercy for having fulfilled its obligations? No, gentlemen ; though the king's statutes make me guilty of wrong against society, as it happens at present to be constituted, it is your duty, by obeying the natural feelings to which my poor estate and condition cannot but move you, at this time

« PreviousContinue »