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There were, some years since, a set of these ladies who were of quality, and gave out, that virginity was to be their state of life during this mortal condition, and therefore resolved to join their fortunes and erect a nunnery. The place of residence was pitched upon; and a pretty situation, full of natural falls and risings of waters, with shady coverts, and flowery arbours, was approved by seven of the founders. There were as many of our sex who took the liberty to visit their mansions of intended severity; among others, a famous rake of that time, who had the grave way to an excellence. He came in first; but, upon seeing a servant coming towards him, with a design to tell him this was no place for him or his companions, up goes my grave impudence to the maid ;.“ Young woman,” said he, “ if any of the ladies are in the way on this side of the house, pray carry us on the other side towards the
gardens: we are, you must know, gentlemen that are travelling England ; after which we shall go into foreign parts, where some of us have already been.” Here he bows in the most humble manner, and kissed the girl, who knew not how to behave to such a sort of carriage. He goes on : “ Now you must know we have an ambition to have it to say, that we have a protestant nunnery in England: but pray, Mrs Betty" Sir,” she replied, my name is Susan, at your service.”
" Then I heartily beg your pardon -“No offence in the least,” said she," for I have a cousin-german, whose name is Betty." “ Indeed," said he, “ I protest to you, that was more than I knew; I spoke at random : but since it happens that I was near in the right, give me leave to present this gentleman to the favour of a civil salute.” His friend advances, and so on, until they had all sa
luted her. By this means the poor girl was in the middle of the crowd of these fellows, at a loss what to do, without courage to pass through them; and the Platonics, at several peep-holes, pale, trembling, and fretting. Rake perceived they were observed, and therefore took care to keep Sukey in chat with questions concerning their way of life; when appeared at last Madonella, a lady who had writ a fine book concerning the recluse life, and was the projectrix of the foundation She approaches into the hall; and Rake, knowing the dignity of his own mien and aspect, goes deputy from his company. She begins, “Sir, I am obliged to follow the servant, who was sent out to know what affair could make strangers press upon a solitude which we, who are to inhabit this place, have devoted to heaven and our own thoughts ?” “ Madam,” replies Rake, with an air of great distance, mixed with a certain indifference, by which he could dissemble dissimulation, your great intention has made more noise in the world than you design it should ; and we travellers, who have seen inany foreign institutions of this kind, have a curiosity to see, in its first rudiments, the seat of primitive piety; for such it must be called by future ages, to the eternal honour of the founders: I have read Madonella's excellent and seraphic discourse on this
ject.” The lady immediately answered, “ If what I have said could have contributed to raise any thoughts in you that may make for the advancement of intellectual and divine conversation, I should think myself extremely happy.” He immediately fell back with the profoundest veneration ; then advancing, “Are you then that admired lady? If I may approach lips which have uttered things so sacred." He salutes her. His
friends followed his example. The devoted within stood in amazement where this would end, to see Madonella receive their address and their company. But Rake
goes on —“ We would not transgress rules; but if we may take the liberty to see the place you have thought fit to choose for ever, we would go into such parts of the gardens, as is consistent with the severities you have imposed on yourselves.”
To be short, Madonella permitted Rake to lead her into the assembly of nuns, followed by his friends, and each took his fair-one by the hand, after due explanation, to walk round the gardens. The conversation turned upon the lilies, the flowers, the arbours, and the growing vegetables ; and Rake had the solemn impudence, when the whole company stood round him, to say, that “he sincerely wished men might rise out of the earth like plants; and that our minds were not of necessity to be sullied with carnivorous appetites for the generation, as well as support of our species." This was spoken with so easy and fixed an assurance, that Madonella answered, “ Sir, under the notion of a pious thought, you deceive yourself in wishing an institution foreign to that of Providence. These desires were implanted in us for reverend purposes, in preserving the face of men, and giving opportunities for making our chastity more heroic. The conference was continued in this celestial strain, and carried on so well by the managers on both sides, that it created a second and a third interview ; and, without entering into farther particulars, there was hardly one of them but was a mother or father that day twelvemonth.
-Any unnatural part is long taking up, and as long laying aside; therefore Mr Sturdy may as
sure himself, Platonica will fly for ever from a forward behaviour ; but if he approaches her according to this model, she will fall in with the necessities of mortal life, and condescend to look with pity upon an unhappy man, imprisoned in so much body, and urged by such violent desires.
“ Not long since you were pleased to give us a chimerical account of the famous family of the Staffs, from whence I suppose you would insinuate, that it is the most ancient and numerous house in all Europe. But, I positively deny that it is either, and wonder much at your audacious proceedings in this manner, since it is well known, that our most illustrious, most renowned, and most celebrated Roman family of Ix has enjoyed the precedency to all others from the reign of good old Saturn. I could say much to the defamation and disgrace of your family; as, that your relations Distaff and Broomstaff were both inconsiderable mean persons, one spinning, the other sweeping the streets, for their daily bread. But I forbear to vent my spleen on objects so much beneath my indignation. I shall only give the world a catalogue of my ancestors, and leave them to determine which hath hitherto had, and
which for the future ought to have the prefer
“ First then comes the most famous and popular lady Meretrix, parent of the fertile family of Bellatrix, Lotrix, Netrix, Nutrir, Obstetrir, Famulatrix, Coctrix, Ornatrix, Sarcinatrix, Fextrix, Balneatrir, Portatrix, Saltatrix, Divinatrir, Conjectrix, Comtrix, Debitrir, Creditrix, Donatrix, Ambulatrix, Mercatrix, Adsectrix, Assectatrix, Palpatrix, Praceptrix, Pistrix.
I am yours,
THE TATLER, No. LIX.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 25, 1709.
Will's Coffee-house, August 24. The author of the ensuing letter, by his name and the quotations he makes from the ancients, seems a sort of spy from the old world, whom we moderns ought to be careful of offending; therefore, I must be free, and own it a fair hit where he takes me, rather than disoblige him. *
* Swift, under the character of Obadiah Greenhat, ridicules Steele for a seeming inconsistency in a former paper. Steele in return gives an excellent account of Swift's talents for irony,
Which he was born to introduce,