indiscretion

“Amusement is impatiently desired, and eagerly sought by young ladies in
general. Forgetful that the noblest entertainment arises from a placid
and well cultivated mind, too many fly from themselves, from thought and
reflection, to fashionable dissipation, or what they call pleasure, as a
mean of beguiling the hours which solitude and retirement render
insupportably tedious.

“An extravagant fondness for company and public resorts is incompatible
with those domestic duties, the faithful discharge of which ought to be
the prevailing object of the sex. In the indulgence of this disposition,
the mind is enervated, and the manners corrupted, till all relish for
those enjoyments, which being simple and natural, are best calculated to
promote health, innocence, and social delight, is totally lost.

“It is by no means amiss for youth to seek relaxation from severer cares
and labors, in a participation of diversions, suited to their age, sex,
and station in life. But there is great danger of their lively
imaginations’ hurrying them into excess, and detaching their affections
from the ennobling acquisitions of moral improvement, and refined
delicacy. Guard, then against those amusements which have the least
tendency to sully the purity of your minds.

“Loose and immoral books; company, whose manners are licentious, however
gay and fashionable; conversation which is even tinctured with
profaneness or obscenity; plays in which the representation is immodest,
and offensive to the ear of chastity; indeed, pastimes of every
description, from which no advantage can be derived, should not be
countenanced; much less applauded. Why should those things afford
apparent satisfaction in a crowd which would call forth the blush of
indignation in more private circles? This question is worthy the serious
attention of those ladies, who at the theatre, can hardly restrain their
approbation of expressions and actions, which at their houses, would be
intolerably rude and indecent, in their most familiar friends!

“Cards are so much the taste of the present day, that to caution my
pupils against the too frequent use of them may be thought old fashioned
in the extreme. I believe it, however, to be a fascinating game, which
occupies the time, without yielding any kind of pleasure or profit. As
the satirist humorously observes,

“The love of gaming is the worst of ills;
With ceaseless storms the blacken’d soul it fills;
Inveighs at Heaven, neglects the ties of blood;
Destroys the power and will of doing good;
Kills health, pawns honor, plunges in disgrace;
And, what is still more dreadful—spoils your face.”

“One thing at least is certain; it entirely excludes all rational
conversation. That delightful interchange of sentiment, which the social
meeting of friends is calculated to afford and from which many
advantages might be derived, is utterly excluded.

“Reading, writing, drawing, needle-work, dancing, music, walking,
riding, and conversation are amusements well adapted to yield pleasure
and utility. From either of these, within proper bounds, there is no
danger of injury to the person or mind; though to render even our
diversions agreeable, they must be enjoyed with moderation, and
variously and prudently conducted. Such as are peculiarly exhilarating
to the spirits, however innocent in themselves, should be more
cautiously and sparingly indulged.

“When once the mind becomes too much relaxed by dissipating pastimes, it
is proportionably vitiated, and negligent of those nice attentions to
the rules of reserve and decorum which ought never to be suspended.
Intoxicating is the full draught of pleasure to the youthful mind; and
fatal are the effects of unrestrained passions.

“Flavia was the daughter of a gentleman, whose political principles
obliged him to leave his country at the commencement of the American
revolution. At that time she was at nurse in a neighboring village;
between which and the metropolis all communication being cut off, he was
reduced to the necessity of leaving her to the mercy of those to whom
she was entrusted. Having received her from pecuniary motives only, they
no sooner found themselves deprived of the profits of their labor and
care, than they sought relief by an application to the town for her
support. A wealthy farmer in the vicinity, who had often seen and been
pleased with the dawning charms of Flavia, pitied her condition, and
having no children of his own, resolved to shelter her from the
impending storm, till she could be better provided for. At his house she
was brought up in a homely, though comfortable manner. The good man and
his wife were excessively fond of her, and gave her every instruction
and advantage in their power. Plain truths were liberally inculcated,
and every exertion made to give her a habit of industry and good nature.
Flavia requited their kindness by an obliging and cheerful, a docile and
submissive deportment. As she advanced in years, she increased in
beauty. Her amiable disposition rendered her beloved, and her personal
accomplishments made her admired by all the village swains. The
approbating smile of Flavia was the reward of their toils, and the favor
of her hand in the rustic dance was emulously sought.

“In this state, Flavia was happy. Health and innocence were now her
portion; nor had ambition as yet taught her to sigh for pleasure beyond
the reach of her attainment.

“But the arrival of her father, who had been permitted to return, and
re-possess the estate which he had abandoned, put a period to the
simplicity and peace of Flavia’s mind. He sought and found her; and
though sensible of his obligations to her foster-parents for snatching
her from want and distress, still he could not prevail on himself to
make so great a sacrifice to gratitude as they wished, by permitting his
daughter to spend her days in obscurity. The lively fancy of Flavia was
allured by the splendid promises and descriptions of her father; and she
readily consented to leave the friends of her childhood and youth, and
explore the walks of fashionable life.

“When she arrived in town, what new scenes opened upon the dazzled eyes
of the admiring, and admired Flavia!

“Wealth, with its attendant train of splendid forms and ceremonies,
courted her attention, and every species of dissipating amusement,
sanctioned by the name of pleasure, beguiled the hours and charmed the
imagination of the noviciate. Each enchanting scene she painted to
herself in the brightest colours; and her experienced heart promised her
happiness without allay. Flattery gave her a thousand charms which she
was hitherto unconscious of possessing, and the obsequiousness of the
gaudy train around raised her vanity to the highest pitch of arrogance
and pride. Behold Flavia, now, launched into the whirlpool of
fashionable folly. Balls, plays, cards, and parties engross every
portion of her time.

“Her father saw, too late, the imprudence of his unbounded indulgence;
and his egregious mistake, in so immediately reversing her mode of life,
without first furnishing her mind with sufficient knowledge and strength
to repel temptation. He endeavored to regulate and restrain her conduct;
but in vain. She complained of this, as an abridgment of her liberty,
and took advantage of his doating fondness to practise every excess.
Involved in expenses (of which losses at play composed a considerable
part) beyond her power to defray, in this embarrassing dilemma, she was
reduced to the necessity of accepting the treacherous offer of Marius to
advance money for the support of her extravagance. Obligated by his
apparent kindness, she could not refuse the continuance of his
acquaintance, till his delusive arts had obtained the reward he proposed
to himself, in the sacrifice of her honor. At length she awoke to a
trembling sense of her guilt, and found it fatal to her peace,
reputation, and happiness.

“Wretched Flavia! no art could conceal thy shame! The grief of her mind,
her retirement from company, and the alteration in her appearance,
betrayed her to her father’s observation. Highly incensed at the
ingratitude and baseness of her conduct, he refused to forgive her; but
sent her from the ensnaring pleasures of the town, to languish out the
remainder of life in solitude and obscurity.”

“The filial and fraternal are the first duties of a single state. The
obligations you are under to your parents cannot be discharged, but by a
uniform and cheerful obedience; an unreserved and ready compliance with
their wishes, added to the most diligent attention to their ease and
happiness. The virtuous and affectionate behaviour of children is the
best compensation, in their power, for that unwearied care and
solicitude which parents, only, know. Upon daughters, whose situation
and employments lead them more frequently into scenes of domestic
tenderness; who are often called to smooth the pillow of sick and aged
parents, and to administer with a skilful and delicate hand the cordial,
restorative to decaying nature, and endearing sensibility, and a dutiful
acquiescence in the dispositions, and even peculiarities of those from
whom they have derived existence, are indispensably incumbent.

“Such a conduct will yield a satisfaction of mind more than equivalent
to any little sacrifices of inclination or humour which may be required
at your hands.

“Pope, among all his admired poetry, has not six lines more beautifully
expressive than the following:

“Me, let the pious office long engage,
To rock the cradle of declining age;
With lenient arts extend a mother’s breath,
Make languor smile, and smooth the bed of death;
Explore the thought, explain the asking eye,
And keep awhile one parent from the sky!”

“Next in rank and importance to filial piety, is fraternal love. This is
a natural affection which you cannot too assiduously cultivate. How
delightful to see children of the same family dwell together in unity;
promoting each other’s welfare, and emulous only to excel in acts of
kindness and good will. Between brothers and sisters the connexion is
equally intimate and endearing. There is such a union of interests, and
such an undivided participation of enjoyments, that every sensible and
feeling mind must value the blessings of family friendship and peace.

“Strive, therefore, my dear pupils, to promote them, as objects which
deserve your particular attention; as attainments which will not fail
richly to reward your labour.

“Prudelia, beside other amiable endowments of person and mind, possessed
the most lively sensibility, and ardent affections.

“The recommendations of her parents, united to her own wishes, had
induced her to give her hand to Clodius, a gentleman of distinguished
merit. He was a foreigner; and his business required his return to his
native country.

“Prudelia bid a reluctant adieu to her friends, and embarked with him.
She lived in affluence, and was admired and caressed by all that knew
her, while a lovely family was rising around her. Yet these pleasing
circumstances and prospects could not extinguish or alienate that
affection, which still glowed in her breast for the natural guardians
and companions of her childhood and youth.

“With the deepest affliction she heard the news of her father’s death,
and the embarrassed situation in which he had left his affairs. She was
impatient to console her widowed mother, and to minister to her
necessities. For these purposes, she prevailed on her husband to consent
that she should visit her, though it was impossible for him to attend
her. With all the transport of dutiful zeal, she flew to the arms of her
bereaved parent. But how great was her astonishment and grief, when told
that her only sister had been deluded by an affluent villain, and by his
insidious arts, seduced from her duty, her honor, and her home! The
emotions of pity, indignation, regret, and affection, overwhelmed her,
at first; but recollecting herself, and exerting all her fortitude, she
nobly resolved, if possible, to snatch the guilty, yet beloved Myra,
from ruin, rather than revenge her injured family by abandoning her to
the infamy she deserved. To this intent she wrote her a pathetic letter,
lamenting her elopement, but entreating her, notwithstanding, to return
and receive her fraternal embrace. But Myra, conscious of her crime, and
unworthiness of her sister’s condescension and kindness, and above all,
dreading the superiority of her virtue, refused the generous invitation.
Prudelia was not thus to be vanquished in her benevolent undertaking.
She even followed her to her lodgings, and insisted on an interview.
Here she painted, in the most lively colours, the heinousness of her
offence, and the ignominy and wretchedness that awaited her. Her
affection allured, her reasoning convinced her backsliding sister. Upon
the promise of forgiveness from her mother, Myra consented to leave her
infamous paramour, and re-trace the paths of rectitude and virtue.

“Her seducer was absent on a journey. She, therefore, wrote him a
farewell letter, couched in terms of sincere penitence for her
transgression, and determined resolution of amendment in future, and
left the house. Thus restored and reconciled to her friends, Myra
appeared in quite another character.

“Prudelia tarried with her mother till she had adjusted her affairs, and
seen her comfortably settled and provided for. Then taking her reclaimed
sister with her, she returned to her anxiously expecting family. The
uprightness and modesty of Myra’s conduct, ever after, rendered her
universally esteemed, though the painful consciousness of her defection
was never extinguished in her own bosom.

“A constant sense of her past misconduct depressed her spirits, and cast
a gloom over her mind; yet she was virtuous, though pensive, during the
remainder of her life.

“With this, and other salutary effects in view, how necessary, how
important are filial and fraternal affection!”

“Friendship is a term much insisted on by young people; but, like many
others more frequently used than understood. A friend, with girls in
general, is an intimate acquaintance, whose taste and pleasures are
similar to their own; who will encourage, or at least connive at their
foibles and faults, and communicate with them every secret; in
particular those of love and gallantry, in which those of the other sex
are concerned. By such friends their errors and stratagems are flattered
and concealed, while the prudent advice of real friendship is neglected,
till they find too late, how fictitious a character, and how vain a
dependence they have chosen.

“Augusta and Serena were educated at the same school, resided in the
same neighborhood, and were equally volatile in their tempers, and
dissipated in their manners. Hence every plan of amusement was concerted
and enjoyed together. At the play, the ball, the card-table and every
other party of pleasure, they were companions.

“Their parents saw that this intimacy strengthened the follies of each;
and strove to disengage their affections, that they might turn their
attention to more rational entertainments, and more judicious advisers.
But they gloried in their friendship, and thought it a substitute for
every other virtue. They were the dupes of adulation, and the votaries
of coquetry.

“The attentions of a libertine, instead of putting them on their guard
against encroachments, induced them to triumph in their fancied
conquests, and to boast of resolution sufficient to shield them from
delusion.

“Love, however, which with such dispositions, is the pretty play-thing
of imagination, assailed the tender heart of Serena. A gay youth, with
more wit than sense, more show than substance, more art than honesty,
took advantage of her weakness to ingratiate himself into her favour,
and persuade her they could not live without each other. Augusta was the
confident of Serena. She fanned the flame, and encouraged her resolution
of promoting her own felicity, though at the expense of every other
duty. Her parents suspected her amour, remonstrated against the man, and
forbade her forming any connexion with him, on pain of their
displeasure. She apparently acquiesced; but flew to Augusta for counsel
and relief. Augusta soothed her anxiety, and promised to assist her in
the accomplishment of all her wishes. She accordingly contrived means
for a clandestine intercourse, both personal and epistolary.

“Aristus was a foreigner, and avowed his purpose of returning to his
native country, urging her to accompany him. Serena had a fortune,
independent of her parents, left her by a deceased relation. This, with
her hand, she consented to give to her lover, and to quit a country, in
which she acknowledged but one friend. Augusta praised her fortitude,
and favored her design. She accordingly eloped, and embarked. Her
parents were almost distracted by her imprudent and undutiful conduct,
and their resentment fell on Augusta, who had acted contrary to all the
dictates of integrity and friendship, in contributing to her ruin; for
ruin it proved. Her ungrateful paramour, having rioted on the property
which she bestowed, abandoned her to want and despair. She wrote to her
parents, but received no answer. She represented her case to Augusta,
and implored relief from her friendship; but Augusta alleged that she
had already incurred the displeasure of her family on her account and
chose not again to subject herself to censure by the same means.

“Serena at length returned to her native shore, and applied in person to
Augusta, who coolly told her that she wished no intercourse with a
vagabond, and then retired. Her parents refused to receive her into
their house; but from motives of compassion and charity, granted her a
small annuity, barely sufficient to keep her and her infant from want.

“Too late she discovered her mistaken notions of friendship; and learned
by sad experience, that virtue must be its foundation, or sincerity and
constancy can never be its reward.

“Sincerity and constancy are essential ingredients in virtuous
friendship. It invariably seeks the permanent good of its object; and in
so doing, will advise, caution and reprove, with all the frankness of
undissembled affection. In the interchange of genuine friendship,
flattery is utterly excluded. Yet, even in the most intimate connexions
of this kind, a proper degree of respect, attention and politeness must
be observed. You are not so far to presume on the partiality of
friendship, as to hazard giving offence, and wounding the feelings of
persons, merely because you think their regard for you will plead your
excuse, and procure your pardon. Equally cautious should you be, of
taking umbrage at circumstances which are undesignedly offensive.

“Hear the excellent advice of the wise son of Sirach, upon this subject:

“Admonish thy friend; it may be he hath not done it; and if he have done
it, that he do it no more. Admonish thy friend; it may be he hath not
said it; and if he have, that he speak it not again. Admonish thy
friend; for many times it is a slander; and believe not every tale.
There is one that slippeth in his speech, but not from his heart; and
who is he that offendeth not with his tongue?”

“Be not hasty in forming friendships; but deliberately examine the
principles, disposition, temper and manners, of the person you wish to
sustain this important character. Be well assured that they are
agreeable to your own, and such as merit your entire esteem and
confidence, before you denominate her your friend. You may have many
general acquaintances, with whom you are pleased and entertained; but in
the chain of friendship there is a still closer link.

“Reserve will wound it, and distrust destroy,
Deliberate on all things with thy friend:
But since friends grow not thick on every bough
Nor ev’ry friend unrotten at the core,
First on thy friend, deliberate with thyself:
Pause, ponder, first: not eager in the choice,
Nor jealous of the chosen: fixen, fix:
Judge before friendship: then confide till death.”

“But if you would have friends, you must show yourselves friendly; that
is, you must be careful to act the part you wish from another. If your
friend have faults, mildly and tenderly represent them to her; but
conceal them as much as possible from the observation of the world.
Endeavor to convince her of her errors, to rectify her mistakes, and to
confirm and increase every virtuous sentiment.

“Should she so far deviate, as to endanger her reputation and happiness;
and should your admonitions fail to reclaim her, become not, like
Augusta, an abettor of her crimes. It is not the part of friendship to
hide transactions which will end in the ruin of your friend. Rather
acquaint those who ought to have the rule over her of her intended
missteps, and you will have discharged your duty; you will merit, and
very probably may afterwards receive her thanks.

“Narcissa and Florinda were united in the bonds of true and generous
friendship. Narcissa was called to spend a few months with a relation in
the metropolis, where she became acquainted with, and attached to a man
who was much her inferior; but whose specious manners and appearance
deceived her youthful heart, though her reason and judgment informed
her, that her parents would disapprove the connexion. She returned home,
the consciousness of her fault, the frankness which she owed to her
friend, and her partiality to her lover, wrought powerfully upon her
mind, and rendered her melancholy. Florinda soon explored the cause, and
warmly remonstrated against her imprudence in holding a moment’s
intercourse with a man, whom she knew, would be displeasing to her
parents. She searched out his character, and found it far inadequate to
Narcissa’s merit. This she represented to her in its true colours, and
conjured her not to sacrifice her reputation, her duty and her
happiness, by encouraging his addresses; but to no purpose were her
expostulations. Narcissa avowed the design of permitting him to solicit
the consent of her parents, and the determination of marrying him
without it, if they refused.

“Florinda was alarmed at this resolution; and, with painful anxiety, saw
the danger of her friend. She told her plainly, that the regard she had
for her demanded a counteraction of her design; and that if she found no
other way of preventing its execution, she should discharge her duty by
informing her parents of her proceedings. This Narcissa resented, and
immediately withdrew her confidence and familiarity; but the faithful
Florinda neglected not the watchful solicitude of friendship; and when
she perceived that Narcissa’s family were resolutely opposed to her
projected match and that Narcissa was preparing to put her rash purpose
into execution, she made known the plan which she had concerted and by
that mean prevented her destruction. Narcissa thought herself greatly
injured, and declared that she would never forgive so flagrant a breach
of fidelity. Florinda endeavoured to convince her of her good
intentions, and the real kindness of her motives; but she refused to
hear the voice of wisdom, till a separation from her lover, and a full
proof of his unworthiness opened her eyes to a sight of her own folly
and indiscretion, and to a lively sense of Florinda’s friendship, in
saving her from ruin without her consent. Her heart overflowed with
gratitude to her generous preserver. She acknowledged herself indebted
to Florinda’s benevolence, for deliverance from the baneful impetuosity
of her own passions. She sought and obtained forgiveness; and ever after
lived in the strictest amity with her faithful benefactress.”