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the pages of Shakspeare and Spenser, Petrarch and Tasso,—such love
As doth become mortality
he could not imagine or appreciate, far less express or describe.
He could pourtray a Cleopatra; but he could not conceive a Juliet. His ideas of our sex seem to have been formed from a profligate actress,* and a silly, wayward, provoking wife; and we have avenged ourselves,—for Dryden is not the poet of women ; and, of all our English classics, is the least honoured in a lady's library.
Dryden was the original of the famous repartee to be found, I believe, in every jest book: shortly after his marriage, Lady Elizabeth, being rather annoyed at her husband's very studious habits, wished herself a book, that she might have a little more of his attention. --- Yes, my dear,” replied Dryden, “ an almanack.”—“Why an almanack ?" asked the wife innocently.—“Because then, my
* Mrs. Reeves, his mistress : she afterwa. ds became a nun.
dear, I should change you once a year.” The laugh, of course, is on the side of the wit; but Lady Elizabeth was a young spoiled beauty of rank, married to a man she loved ; and her wish, methinks, was very feminine and natural : if it was spoken with petulance and bitterness, it deserved the repartee; if with tenderness and playfulness, the wit of the reply can scarcely excuse its
Addison married the Countess of Warwick.
Poor man! I believe his patrician bride did every thing but beat him. His courtship had been long, timid, and anxious; and at length, the lady was persuaded to marry him, on terms much like those on which a Turkish Princess is espoused, to whom the Sultan is reported to pronounce, “Daughter, I give thee this man to be thy slave."* They were only three years married, and those were years
of bitterness. Young, the author of the Night Thoughts, married Lady Elizabeth Lee, the daughter of the Earl of Litchfield, and grand-daughter of the too famous, or more properly, infamous Duchess of Cleveland :--the marriage was not a happy one. I think, however, in the two last instances, the ladies were not entirely to blame.
* Johnson's Life of Addison.
But these, it will be said, are the wives of poets, not the loves of the poets; and the phrases not synonymus,-au contraire.
This is a question to be asked and examined; and I proceed to examine it accordingly. But as I am about to take the field on new ground, it will require a new chapter.
If it be generally true, that Love, to be poetical, must be wreathed with the willow and the cypress, as well as the laurel and the myrtle,still it is not always true. It is not, happily, a necessary condition, that a passion, to be constant, must be unfortunate ; that faithful lovers must needs be wretched; that conjugal tenderness and “ domestic doings” are ever dull and invariably prosaic. The witty invectives of some of our poets, whose domestic misery stung them into satirists, and blasphemers of a happiness denied to them, are familiar in the memory-ready on the lips of common-place scoffers. But of matrimonial poetics, in a far different style, we have instances sufficient to put to shame such heartless raillery ; that there are not more, is owing to the reason which Klopstock has given, when writing of his angelic Meta. “A man,” said he, “ should speak of his wife as seldom and with as much modesty as of himself.”
A woman is not under the same restraint in speaking of her husband; and this distinction arises from the relative position of the two sexes. It is a species of vain-glory to boast of a possession ; but we may exult, unreproved, in the virtues of him who disposes of our fate. Our inferiority has here given to us, as women, so high and dear a privilege, that it is a pity we have been so seldom called on to exert it.
The first instance of conjugal poetry which occurs to me, will perhaps startle the female reader, for it is no other than the gallant Ovid himself. One of the epistles, written during his banishment to Pontus, is addressed to his wife Perilla, and very tenderly alludes to their mutual