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caterpillars and moths, who are not resisted, because they are not feared, and who work on with unheeded mischiefs, and invisible encroachments.
He, whose rank or merit procures him the notice of mankind, must give up himself, in a great measure to the convenience or humour of those who surround him. Every man, who is sick of himself, will fly to him for relief; he that wants to speak will require him to hear; and he that wants to hear will expect him to speak. Hour passes after hour, the noon succeeds to morning, and the evening to noon, while a thousand objects are forced upon his attention, which he rejects as fast as they are offered, but which the custom of the world requires to be received with appearance of regard.
If we will have the kindness of others, we must endure their follies. He who cannot persuade himself to withraw from society, must be content to pay a tribute of his time to a multitude of tyrants ; to the loiterer, who makes appointments which he never keeps; to the consulter, who asks advice which he never takes; to the boaster, who blusters only to be praised; to the complainer, who whines only to be pitied; to the projector, whose happiness is to entertain his friends with expectations which all but himself know to be vain ; to the economist, who tells of bargains and settlements; to the politician, who predicts the fate of battles and breach of alliances; to the usurer, who compares the different funds; and to the talker, who talks only because he loves to be talking
To put every man in possession of his own time,
and rescue the day from this succession of usurpers, is beyond my power, and beyond my hope. Yet, perhaps some stop might be put to this unmerciful persecution, if all would seriously reflect, that whoever pays a visit that is not desired, or talks longer than the hearer is willing to attend, is guilty of an injury which he cannot repair, and takes away that which he cannot give.
NUMB. 15. SATURDAY, July 22, 1758.
TO THE IDLER.
SIR, I HAVE the misfortune to be a man of business ; that, you will say, is a most grievous one; but what makes it the more so to me, is, that my wife has nothing to do: at least she had too good an education, and the prospect of too good a fortune in reversion when I married her, to think of employing herself either in my shop-affairs, or the management of my family.
Her time, you know, as well as my own, must be filled up some way or other. For my part, I have eno ugh to mind, in weighing my goods out, and waiting on my customers : but my wife, though she could be of as much use as a shopman to me, if she would put her hand to it, is now only in my
way. She walks all the morning sauntering about the shop with her arms through her pocket-holes, or stands gaping at the door-sill, and looking at every person that passes by. She is continually asking me a thousand frivolous questions about every customer that comes in and goes out; and all the while that I am entering any thing in my day-book, she is lolling over the counter, and staring at it, as if I was only scribbling or drawing figures for her amusement. Sometimes, indeed, she will take a needle : but as she always works at the door, or in the middle of the shop, she has so many interruptions, that she is longer hemming a towel, or darning a stocking, than I am in breaking forty loaves of sugar, and making it up into pounds.
In the afternoon I am sure likewise to have her company, except she is called upon by some of her acquaintance : and then, as we let out all the upper part of our house, and have only a little room backwards for ourselves, they either keep such a chattering, or else are calling out every moment to me, that I cannot mind my business for them.
My wife, I am sure, might do all the little matters our family requires ; and I could wish that she would employ herself in them; but, instead of that, we have a girl to do the work, and look after a little boy about two years old, which I may fairly say is the mother's own child. The brat must be humoured in every thing: he is therefore suffered constantly to play in the shop, pull all the goods about, and clamber up the shelves to get at the plums and sugar. Į dare not correct him ; because, if I did, I should
have wife and maid both upon me at once. As to the latter, she is as lazy and sluttish as her mistress; and because she complains she has too much work, we can scarcely get her to do any thing at all: nay, what is worse than that, I am afraid she is hardly honest; and as she is intrusted to buy all our provisions, the jade, I am sure, makes a market-penny out of every article.
But to return to my deary.—The evenings are the only time when it is fine weather, that I am left to myself; for then she generally takes the child out to give it milk in the park. When she comes home again, she is so fatigued with walking, that she cannot stir from her chair: and it is an hour, after shop is shut, before I can get a bit of supper, while the maid is taken up in undressing and putting the child to bed. But you
will pity me much more when I tell you the manner in which we generally pass our Sundays. In the morning she is commonly too ill to dress herself to go to church ; she therefore never gets up till noon ; and what is still more vexatious, keeps me in bed with her, when I ought to be busily engaged in better employment. It is well if she can get her things on by dinner-time; and when that is
I am sure to be dragged out by her, either to Georgia, or Hornsey Wood, or the White Conduit House. Yet even these near excursions are so very fatiguing to her, that, besides what it costs me in tea and hot rolls, and syllabubs, and cakes for the boy, I am frequently forced to take a hackney-coach, or drive them out in a one-horse chair. At other times, as my
wife is rather of the fattest, and a very poor walker, besides bearing her whole weight upon my arm, I am obliged to carry the child myself.
Thus, Sir, does she constantly drawl out her time, without either profit or satisfaction ; and, while I see my neighbours' wives helping in the shop, and almost earning as much as their husbands, I have the mortification to find, that mine is nothing but a dead weight upon me.
In short, I do not know any greater misfortune can happen to a plain hard-working tradesman, as I am, than to be joined to such a woman, who is rather a clog than an help-mate to him.
I am, Sir,
* An unknown correspondent.