« PreviousContinue »
and to this hope she constantly referred in all her conversations with them; assuring them that all her happiness depended on their future elevation. · Their father hoped, with far more judgment, that they would be a comfort to him both in sickness and in health. He had had no learning himself, and could write but poorly, and owed what skill he had in figures to his natural turn for business. He reasonably hoped that his daughters, after all the money he had spent on them, would now write his letters and keep his accounts, And as he was now and then laid up with a fit of the gout, he was enjoying the prospect of having two affectionate children to nurse him, as well as two skilful assistants to relieve him.
When they came home, however, he had the mortification to find, that though he had two sinart showy ladies to visit him, he had neither dutiful daughters to nurse him, nor faithful stewards to keep his
books, nor prudent children to manage his house. They neither foothed him by their kindness when he was fick, nor helped him by their industry when he was busy. They thought the maid might take care of him in the gout as she did before; for they fancied that nursing was a coarse and servile employment:' and as to their skill in cyphering he foon found, to his cost, that though they knew how to spend both pounds, shillings, and pence, yet they did not know so well how to cast them up. Indeed it is to be regretted that women in general, especially in the middle class, are so little grounded in fo indispensable, folid, and valuable an acquirement as arithmetic.
Mrs. Bragwell being one day very busy in preparing a great dinner for the neighbours, ventured to request her daughters to allift in making the pastry. They asked her with a scornful smile, whether she had sent them to boarding school to learn to cook ; and added, that they supposed she would expect them next to make hafty. puddings for the bay-makers. So saying they coolly marched off to their music. When the mother found her girls were too polite to be of any use, she would take comfort in observing how her parlour was set out with their fillagree and flowers, their embroidery and cut paper. They spent the morning in bed, the noon in dressing, the evening at the harpsichord, and the night in reading novels.
With all these fine qualifications it is easy to suppose, that as they despised their sober duties, they no less despised their plain neighbours. When they could not get to a horse-race, a petty ball, or a strolling play, with some company as idle and as smart as themselves, they were driven for amusement to the circulating library. Jack, the plough-boy, on whom they had now put a livery jacket, was employed half his time in trotting backwards and forwards with the most wretched trash the little neighbouring book-shop could furnish.
The choice was often left to Jack, who could not read, but who had general orders to bring all the new things, and a great many of them.
It was a misfortune, that at the school at which they had been bred, and at some others, there was no system of education which had any immediate reference to the ftation of life to which the girls chiefly belonged. As persons in the middle line, for want of that acquaintance with books, and with life and manners, which the great possess, do not always see the connexion between remote consequences and their causes, the evils of a corrupt and inappropriate system of education do not strike them so forcibly; and provided they can pay for it, which is made the grand criterion between the fit and the unfit, they are too little disposed to consider the value, or rather the worthlessness, of the thing which is paid for; but literally go on to give their money for that which is not bread. VOL. IV.
Their Their subsequent course of reading serves to establish all the errors of their education. Instead of such books as might help to confirm and strengthen them in all the virtues of their station; in humility, economy, meekness, contentment, self-denial, and industry; the studies now adopted are, by a graft on the old stock, made to grow on the habits acquired at school. Of those novels and plays which are so eagerly deroured by persons of this defcription, there is perhaps scarce one which is nec funded upon principles which would kau reung women of the middle ranks to be di contented with their station. It is rank—it is elegance—it is beauty-it is fentimental feelings- it is sensibility—it is fome peedless, or some superficial, or some quality hurtful, even in that fashionable person to whom the author ascribes it, which is the ruling principle. This quality transferred into the heart and the conduct of an illiterate woman in an inferior station becomès impropriety, becomes absurdity, becomes finfulness.