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treachery, the strokes of casualty, or the tenderness of pity: many whose sufferings disgrace society, and whose virtues would adorn it: of these, when familiarity shall have enabled me to recount their stories without horror, you may expect another narrative from,
“ Your most humble servant,
No. 54. SATURDAY, MAY 12, 1753.
-Sensim labefacta cadebat
If a recluse moralist, who speculates in a cloister, should suppose every practice to be infamous in proportion as it is allowed to be criminal, no man would wonder; but every man who is acquainted with life, and is able to substitute the discoveries of experience for the deductions of reason, knows that he would be mistaken.
Lying is generally allowed to be less criminal than adultery; and yet it is known to render a man much more infamous and contemptible; for he who would modestly acquiesce in an imputation of adultery as a compliment would resent that of a lie as an insult for which life only could atone. Thus are men tamely led hoodwinked by custom, the creature of their own folly; and while imaginary light Aashes under the bandage which excludes the reality, they fondly believe that they behold the sun.
Lying, however, does not incur more infamy than
it deserves, though other vices incur less. I have before remarked, that there are some practices which, though they degrade a man to the lowest class of moral characters, do yet imply some natural superiority; but lying is, on the contrary, always an implication of weakness and defect. Slander is the revenge of a coward, and dissimulation bis defence; lying boasts are the stigma of impotent ambition, of obscurity without merit, and pride totally destitute of intellectual dignity: and even lies of apology imply indiscretion or rusticity, ignorance, folly, or indecorum.
But there is equal turpitude, and yet greater meanness, in those forms of speech which deceive without direct falsehood. The crime is committed with greater deliberation, as it requires more contrivance; and by the offenders the use of language is totally perverted : they conceal a meaning opposite to that which they express ; their speech is a kind of riddle propounded for an evil purpose : and as they may, therefore, be properly distinguished by the name of Sphinxes, there would not perhaps be much cause for regret, if, like the first monster of the name, they should break their necks upon the solution of their enigmas.
Indirect lies, more effectually than others, destroy that mutual confidence which is said to be the band of society : they are more frequently repeated, because they are not prevented by the dread of detection: and he who has obtained a virtuous character is not always believed, because we know not but that he may bave been persuaded, by the sophistry of folly, that to deceive is not to lie, and that there is a certain manner in which truth may be violated without incurring either guilt or shame.
But lying, however practised, does, like every other vice, ultimately disappoint its own purpose :
" A lying tongue is but for a moment.” Detraction, when it is discovered to be false, confers honour, and dissimulation provokes resentment; the false boast incurs contempt, and the false apology aggravates the offence.
Is it not, therefore, astonishing that a practice, for whatever reason, so universally infamous and unsuccessful should not be more generally and scrupulously avoided ? To think, is to renounce it: and that I
readers a little longer upon the subject, I shall relate a story, which, perhaps, by those who have much sensibility, will not soon be forgotten.
Charlotte and Maria were educated together at an eminent boarding-school near London: there was little difference in their age, and their accomplishments were equal; but though their families were of the same rank, yet, as Charlotte was an only child, she was considerably superior in fortune.
Soon after they were taken home, Charlotte was addressed by Captain Freeman, wbo, besides his commission in the guards, had a small paternal estate; but as her friends hoped for a more advantageous match, the captain was desired to forbear his visits, and the lady to think of him no more. After some fruitless struggles they acquiesced; but the discontent of both was so apparent that it was thought expedient to remove Miss into the country. She was sent to her aunt, the Lady Meadows, who, with her daughter, lived retired at the family seat, more than one hundred miles distant from the metropolis. After she had repined in this dreary solitude from April to August, she was surprised with a visit from her father, who brought with him Sir. James Forrest, a young gentleman who had just succeeded to a baronet's title, and a very large
estate in the same county. Sir James had good nature and good sense, an agreeable person, easy address. Miss was insensibly pleased with his company; her vanity, if not her love, had a new object; a desire to be delivered from a state of dependence and obscurity had almost absorbed all the rest; and it is no wonder that this desire was gratified, when scarce any other was felt; or that, in compliance with the united solicitations of her friends and her lover, she suffered herself within a few weeks to become a lady and a wife. They continued in the country till the beginning of October, and then came up to London, having prevailed upon her aunt to accompany them, that Miss Meadows, with whom the bride had contracted an intimate friendship, might be gratified with the diversions of the town during the winter.
Captain Freeman, when he heard that Miss Charlotte was married, immediately made proposals of marriage to Maria, with whom he became acquainted during his visits to her friend, and soon after married her.
The friendship of the two young ladies seemed to be rather increased than diminished by their marriage: they were always of the same party both in the private and public diversions of the season, and visited each other without the formalities of messages and dress.
But neither Sir James nor Mrs. Freeman could reflect without uneasiness upon the frequent interviews which this familiarity and confidence produced between a lover and his mistress, whom force only had divided; and though of these interviews they were themselves witnesses, yet Sir James insensibly became jealous of his lady, and Mrs. Freeman of her husband.
It happened in the May following that Sir James
went about ten miles out of town, to be present at the election of a member of parliament for the county, and was not expected to return till the next day. In the evening his lady took a chair, and visited Mrs. Freeman : the rest of the company went away early, the captain was upon guard, Sir James was out of town, and the two ladies after supper sat down to piquet, and continued the game without once reflecting upon the hour till three in the morning. Lady Forrest would then have gone home; but Mrs. Freeman, perhaps chiefly to conceal a contrary desire, importuned her to stay till the captain came in, and at length with some reluctance she consented.
About five the captain came home, and Lady Forrest immediately sent out for a chair: a chair, as it happened, could not be procured; but a hackney coach being brought in its stead, the captain insisted upon waiting on her ladyship home. This she refused with some emotion; it is probable that she still regarded the captain with less indifference than she wished, and was therefore more sensible of the impropriety of his offer: but her reasons for rejecting it, however forcible, being such as she could not allege, he persisted, and her resolution was overborne. By this importunate complaisance the captain had not only thrown Lady Forrest into confusion, but displeased his wife: she could not, however, without unpoliteness, oppose it; and lest her uneasiness should be discovered, she affected a negligence which in some degree revenged it: she desired that when he came back he would not disturb her, for that she should go directly to bed : and added, with a kind of drowsy insensibility, “I am more than half asleep already.”
Lady Forrest and the captain were to go from the Haymarket to Grosvenor Square. It was about