The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 7/The Journal of a Modern Lady

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in a letter to a person of quality. 1728.


IT was a most unfriendly part
In you, who ought to know my heart,
Are well acquainted with my zeal
For all the female commonweal —
How could it come into your mind
To pitch on me, of all mankind,
Against the sex to write a satire,
And brand me for a woman hater?
On me, who think them all so fair,
They rival Venus to a hair;
Their virtues never ceas'd to sing,
Since first I learn'd to tune a string?
Methinks I hear the ladies cry,
Will he his character belie?
Must never our misfortunes end?
And have we lost our only friend?
Ah, lovely nymphs! remove your fears,
No more let fall those precious tears.
Sooner shall, &c.

[Here several verses are omitted.]

The hound be hunted by the hare,
Than I turn rebel to the fair.
'Twas you engaged me first to write,
Then gave the subject out of spite:
The journal of a modern dame,
Is, by my promise, what you claim.
My word is past, I must submit;
And yet perhaps you may be bit.
I but transcribe; for not a line
Of all the satire shall be mine.
Compell'd by you to tag in rhymes
The common slanders of the times,
Of modern times, the guilt is yours,
And me my innocence secures.
Unwilling Muse, begin thy lay,
The annals of a female day.
By nature turn'd to play the rake well,
(As we shall show you in the sequel)
The modern dame is wak'd by noon,
(Some authors say not quite so soon)
Because, though sore against her will,
She sat all night up at quadrille.
She stretches, gapes, unglues her eyes,
And asks, if it be time to rise;
Of headach and the spleen complains;
And then, to cool her heated brains,
Her nightgown and her slippers brought her,
Takes a large dram of citron water.
Then to her glass; and, "Betty, pray
Don't I look frightfully today?
But was it not confounded hard?
Well, if I ever touch a card!
Four matadores, and lose codille!
Depend upon't, I never will.
But run to Tom, and bid him fix
The ladies here to night by six."
"Madam, the goldsmith waits below;
He says, his business is to know
If you'll redeem the silver cup
He keeps in pawn?" — "First, show him up."
"Your dressing-plate he'll be content
To take, for interest cent per cent.
And, madam, there's my lady Spade
Has sent this letter by her maid:
Well, I remember what she won;
And has she sent so soon to dun?
Here, carry down those ten pistoles
My husband left to pay for coals:
I thank my stars, they all are light;
And I may have revenge to-night."
Now, loitering o'er her tea and cream,
She enters on her usual theme;
Her last night's ill success repeats,
Calls lady Spade a hundred cheats:
"She slipt spadillo in her breast,
Then thought to turn it to a jest:
There's Mrs. Cut and she combine,
And to each other give the sign."
Through every game pursues her tale,
Like hunters o'er their evening ale.
Now to another scene give place:
Enter the folks with silks and lace:
Fresh matter for a world of chat,
Right Indian this, right Mechlin that:
"Observe this pattern; there's a stuff;
I can have customers enough.
Dear madam, you are grown so hard —
This lace is worth twelve pounds a yard:
Madam, if there be truth in man,
I never sold so cheap a fan."
This business of importance o'er,
And madam almost dress'd by four;
The footman, in his usual phrase,
Comes up with, "Madam, dinner stays."
She answers, in her usual style,
"The cook must keep it back a while:
I never can have time to dress,
No woman breathing takes up less;
I'm hurried so, it makes me sick;
I wish the dinner at Old Nick."
At table now she acts her part,
Has all the dinner cant by heart:
"I thought we were to dine alone,
My dear; for sure, if I had known
This company would come to day —
But really 'tis my spouse's way!
He's so unkind, he never sends
To tell when he invites his friends:
I wish ye may but have enough!"
And while with all this paltry stuff
She sits tormenting every guest,
Nor gives her tongue one moment's rest,
In phrases batter'd, stale, and trite,
Which modern ladies call polite;
You see the booby husband sit
In admiration at her wit!
But let me now a while survey
Our madam o'er her evening tea;
Surrounded with her noisy clans
Of prudes, coquets, and harridans;
When, frighted at the clamorous crew,
Away the God of Silence flew,
And fair Discretion left the place,
And Modesty with blushing face;
Now enters overweening Pride,
And Scandal ever gaping wide;
Hypocrisy with frown severe,
Scurrility with gibing air;
Rude Laughter seeming like to burst,
And Malice always judging worst;
And Vanity with pocket glass,
And Impudence with front of brass;
And studied Affectation came,
Each limb and feature out of frame;
While Ignorance, with brain of lead,
Flew hovering o'er each female head.
Why should I ask of thee, my Muse,
A hundred tongues, as poets use,
When, to give every dame her due,
A hundred thousand were too few?
Or how should I, alas! relate
The sum of all their senseless prate,
Their innuendoes, hints, and slanders,
Their meaning lewd, and double entendres?
Now comes the general scandal charge;
What some invent, the rest enlarge;
And, "Madam, if it be a lie,
You have the tale as cheap as I;
I must conceal my author's name:
But now 'tis known to common fame."
Say, foolish females, bold and blind,
Say, by what fatal turn of mind,
Are you on vices most severe,
Wherein yourselves have greatest share?
Thus every fool herself deludes;
The prudes condemn the absent prudes:
Mopsa, who stinks her spouse to death,
Accuses Chloe's tainted breath;
Hircina, rank with sweat, presumes
To censure Phyllis for perfumes;
While crooked Cynthia, sneering, says,
That Florimel wears iron stays:
Chloe, of every coxcomb jealous,
Admires how girls can talk with fellows;
And, full of indignation, frets,
That women should be such coquets:
Iris, for scandal most notorious,
Cries, "Lord, the world is so censorious!"
And Rufa, with her combs of lead,
Whispers that Sappho's hair is red:
Aura, whose tongue you hear a mile hence,
Talks half a day in praise of silence:
And Sylvia, full of inward guilt,
Calls Amoret an arrant jilt.
Now voices over voices rise,
While each to be the loudest vies:
They contradict, affirm, dispute,
No single tongue one moment mute;
All mad to speak, and none to hearken,
They set the very lapdog barking;
Their chattering makes a louder din
Than fishwives o'er a cup of gin:
Not schoolboys at a barring out
Rais’d ever such incessant rout:
The jumbling particles of matter
In chaos made not such a clatter;
Far less the rabble roar and rail,
When drunk with sour election ale.
Nor do they trust their tongues alone,
But speak a language of their own;
Can read a nod, a shrug, a look,
Far better than a printed book;
Convey a libel in a frown,
And wink a reputation down:
Or, by the tossing of the fan,
Describe the lady and the man.
But see, the female club disbands,
Each twenty visits on her hands.
Now all alone poor madam sits
In vapours and hysterick fits:
"And was not Tom this morning sent?
I'd lay my life he never went:
Past six, and not a living soul!
I might by this have won a vole."
A dreadful interval of spleen!
How shall we pass the time between?
"Here, Betty, let me take my drops;
And feel my pulse, I know it stops:
This head of mine, lord, how it swims!
And such a pain in all my limbs!"
"Dear madam, try to take a nap" —
But now they hear a footman's rap:
"Go, run, and light the ladies up:
It must be one before we sup."
The table, cards, and counters, set,
And all the gamester ladies met,
Her spleen and fits recover'd quite,
Our madam can sit up all night;
"Whoever comes, I'm not within." —
Quadrille's the word, and so begin.
How can the Muse her aid impart,
Unskill'd in all the terms of art?
Or in harmonious numbers put
The deal, the shuffle, and the cut?
The superstitious whims relate,
That fill a female gamester's pate?
What agony of soul she feels
To see a knave's inverted heels!
She draws up card by card, to find
Good fortune peeping from behind;
With panting heart, and earnest eyes,
In hope to see spadillo rise;
In vain, alas! her hope is fed;
She draws an ace, aud sees it red;
In ready counters never pays,
But pawns her snuff box, rings, and keys;
Ever with some new fancy struck,
Tries twenty charms to mend her luck.
"This morning, when the parson came,
I said I should not win a game.
This odious chair, how came I stuck in't?
I think I never had good luck in't.
I'm so uneasy in my stays;
Your fan a moment, if you please.
Stand farther, girl, or get you gone;
I always lose when you look on."
"Lord! madam, you have lost codille:
I never saw you play so ill."
"Nay, madam, give me leave to say,
'Twas you that threw the game away:
When lady Tricksey play'd a four,
You took it with a matadore;
I saw you touch your wedding ring
Before my lady call'd a king;
You spoke a word began with H,
And I know whom you mean to teach,
Because you held the king of hearts;
Fie, madam, leave these little arts."
"That's not so bad as one that rubs
Her chair, to call the king of clubs;
And makes her partner understand
A matadore is in her hand."
"Madam, you have no cause to flounce,
I swear I saw you thrice renounce."
"And truly, madam, I know when
Instead of five, you scor'd me ten.
Spadillo here has got a mark;
A child may know it in the dark:
I guess'd the hand; it seldom fails:
I wish some folks would pair their nails."
While thus they rail, and scold, and storm,
It passes but for common form:
But, conscious that they all speak true,
And give each other but their due,
It never interrupts the game,
Or makes them sensible of shame.
The time too precious how to waste,
The supper gobbled up in haste;
Again afresh to cards they run,
As if they had but just begun.
But I shall not again repeat,
How oft they squabble, snarl, and cheat.
At last they hear the watchman knock,
"A frosty morn — past four o'clock."
The chairmen are not to be found,
"Come, let us play the other round."
Now all in haste they huddle on
Their hoods, their cloaks, and get them gone;
But, first, the winner must invite
The company to morrow night.
Unlucky madam, left in tears,
(Who now again quadrille forswears)
With empty purse, and aching head,
Steals to her sleeping spouse to bed.