Page:Essays and phantasies by James Thomson.djvu/233

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221
A WORD FOR XANTIPPE.

figure which he kicks and punches in lieu of Mrs. Dryasdust, of whom he is very properly afraid; he conceits himself, Dryasdust, to be a fair counterpart of Socrates, the sublime imperturbable philosopher; and all the Dryasdust mummies throughout Europe, whose wives do not understand Latin, can mumble and chuckle over the tidbit of recondite ribaldry. The withered old wretches! Their blood gets reddish and lukewarm, their wrinkles interwrinkle and their dead eyes twinkle, when they come across a Phryne, a Lais, a Rhodopis, a Helen, or any other lady of not doubtful character; but they can find no words vile enough for a decent and respectable married woman, who did her best to bring up a lawful family honestly, who stood up for her own and the children's rights, and who used her woman's weapon with the most feminine sharpness and determination.

I do not want to say a word against Socrates. I am ready to cry with as much devotion as anybody, Sancte Socrates, ora pro nobis!—but surely he will be all the more likely to pray for us if we venture to say a good word for his much-injured wife.

In his Apology (as taken down by Plato, the well-known reporter for the Times, and Ages) Socrates himself says, section 9—"Still therefore I go about and search and inquire into these things, in obedience to the god, both among citizens and strangers, if I think any one of them is wise; and when he appears to me not to be so, I take the part of the god, and show that he is not wise. And in consequence of this occupation I have no leisure to attend in any considerable degree to the affairs of the State or my own; but I am in the greatest poverty through my devotion to the service of the god."

Again, section 18—"But that I am a person who has been given by the Deity to this city, you may discern from hence; for it is not like the ordinary conduct of men that