Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/26

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tain amount of testimony which will he all that is left for posterity to judge from, and in consulting this we may find material from which to form a tolerably satisfactory conclusion.

It is an easy definition of the literature of the last century that its tone was didactic. From the "Spectator" to the "Rambler" it abounds with the soundest instruction in morality, yet it may be worth while to notice that this is generally about the very rudiments of decorum. The "Spectator," for example, defended matrimony from the ribald attacks of the comic writers; it preached sound views concerning education, and it by no means neglected minor matters, such as "that huddled economy of dress which passes under the general name of a mob, the bane of conjugal love, and one of the readiest means imaginable to alienate the affection of a husband, especially a fond one" (No. 302). Elsewhere mention is made of misbehavior at church; improper conversation in public vehicles is denounced: these are the domestic and somewhat rudimentary lessons inculcated amid a great deal of social instruction concerning witchcraft, the folly of dueling, the beauties of the arts, etc. The work of the "Spectator" was summed up not inaccurately in these lines of an admirer, which are given in Drake's "Essays," illustrative of the "Tatler," etc.:

"Improving youth, and hoary age,
Are bettered by thy matchless page,
And, what no mortal could devise,
Women, by reading thee, grow wise.
. . . wedlock by thy art is got
To be a soft and easy knot. . . .
The ladies, pleased with thee to dwell,
Aspire to write correct, and spell."

There is a certain anti-climax in this outburst of praise, but it has the merit of accuracy, and it is easy to see how great are the advances made since the beginning of the last century in what we may call social morality.

Richardson, too, was didactic; but no reader of "Pamela" can avoid seeing that the heroine clings to her virtue quite as much for the reward she expects to win in this world as from any higher motive. The dangers portrayed in "Clarissa Harlowe" are somewhat remote in this more decorous age; and Sir Charles Grandison is a curious combination of heroic romance and catlike domesticity. The life that Fielding draws seems to us all very remote. Miss Edgeworth, again, took charge of the education of her contemporaries by writing a series of novels, each one of which exhibited the evil effects of one minor vice and the advantages of the opposite virtue. In all her stories, clever though they are, there is a great deal of the teaching with which Frank was dosed.

When at length society was tamed, hospitality did not mean drinking with your guest till one or both of you fell under the table, and