It is very easy for a man who sits idle at home, and has nobody to please but himself, to ridicule or to censure the common practices of mankind; and those who have no present temptation to break the rules of propriety, may applaud his judgment, and join in his merriment; but let the author or his readers mingle with common life, they will find themselves irresistibly borne away by the stream of custom, and must submit, after they have laughed at others, to give others the same opportunity of laughing at them.
There is no paper published by the Idler which I have read with more approbation than that which censures the practice of recording vulgar marriages in the newspapers. I carried it about in my pocket, and read it to all those whom I suspected of having published their nuptials, or of being inclined to publish them, and sent transcripts of it to all the couples that transgressed your precepts for the next fortnight. I hoped that they were all vexed, and pleased myself with imagining their misery.
But short is the triumph of malignity. I was married last week to Miss Mohair, the daughter of a salesman; and, at my first appearance after the wedding night, was asked, by my wife’s mother, whether I had sent our marriage to the Advertiser? I endeavoured to show how unfit it was to demand the attention of the publick to our domestick affairs; but she told me, with great vehemence, “That she would not have it thought to be a stolen match; that the blood of the Mohairs should never be disgraced; that her husband had served all the parish offices but one; that she had lived five-and-thirty years at the same house, had paid every body twenty shillings in the pound, and would have me know, though she was not as fine and as flaunting as Mrs. Gingham, the deputy’s wife, she was not ashamed to tell her name, and would show her face with the best of them; and since I had married her daughter—” At this instant entered my father-in-law, a grave man, from whom I expected succour; but upon hearing the case, he told me, “That it would be very imprudent to miss such an opportunity of advertising my shop; and that when notice was given of my marriage, many of my wife’s friends would think themselves obliged to be my customers.” I was subdued by clamour on one side, and gravity on the other, and shall be obliged to tell the town, that “three days ago Timothy Mushroom, an eminent oilman in Seacoal-lane, was married to Miss Polly Mohair of Lothbury, a beautiful young lady, with a large fortune.”
I am, Sir, &c.
I am the unfortunate wife of the grocer whose letter you published about ten weeks ago, in which he complains, like a sorry fellow, that I loiter in the shop with my needle-work in my hand, and that I oblige him to take me out on Sundays, and keep a girl to look after the child. Sweet Mr. Idler, if you did but know all, you would give no encouragement to such an unreasonable grumbler. I brought him three hundred pounds, which set him up in a shop, and bought in a stock, on which, with good management, we might live comfortably; but now I have given him a shop, I am forced to watch him and the shop too. I will tell you, Mr. Idler, how it is. There is an alehouse over the way, with a ninepin alley, to which he is sure to run when I turn my back, and there he loses his money, for he plays at ninepins as he does every thing else. While he is at this favourite sport, he sets a dirty boy to watch his door, and call him to his customers; but he is so long in coming, and so rude when he comes, that our custom falls off every day.
Those who cannot govern themselves, must be governed. I have resolved to keep him for the future behind his counter, and let him bounce at his customers if he dares. I cannot be above stairs and below at the same time, and have therefore taken a girl to look after the child, and dress the dinner; and, after all, pray who is to blame?
On a Sunday, it is true, I make him walk abroad, and sometimes carry the child; I wonder who should carry it! But I never take him out till after church-time, nor would do it then, but that, if he is left alone, he will be upon the bed. On a Sunday, if he stays at home, he has six meals, and, when he can eat no longer, has twenty stratagems to escape from me to the alehouse; but I commonly keep the door locked, till Monday produces something for him to do.
This is the true state of the case, and these are the provocations for which he has written his letter to you. I hope you will write a paper to show, that, if a wife must spend her whole time in watching her husband, she cannot conveniently tend her child, or sit at her needle.
I am, Sir, &c.
There is in this town a species of oppression which the law has not hitherto prevented or redressed.
I am a chairman. You know, Sir, we come when we are called, and are expected to carry all who require our assistance. It is common for men of the most unwieldy corpulence to crowd themselves into a chair, and demand to be carried for a shilling as far as an airy young lady whom we scarcely feel upon our poles. Surely we ought to be paid, like all other mortals, in proportion to our labour. Engines should be fixed in proper places to weigh chairs as they weigh waggons; and those, whom ease and plenty have made unable to carry themselves, should give part of their superfluities to those who carry them.
I am, Sir, &c.