I can tell Parthenissa for her Comfort, That the Beauties, generally speaking, are the most impertinent and disagreeable of Women. An apparent Desire of Admiration, a Reflection upon their own Merit, and a precious Behaviour in their general Conduct, are almost inseparable Accidents in Beauties. All you obtain of them is granted to Importunity and Sollicitation for what did not deserve so much of your Time, and you recover from the Possession of it, as out of a Dream.
You are ashamed of the Vagaries of Fancy which so strangely mis-led you, and your Admiration of a Beauty, merely as such, is inconsistent with a tolerable Reflection upon your self: The chearful good-humoured Creatures, into whose Heads it never entred that they could make any Man unhappy, are the Persons formed for making Men happy. There’s Miss Liddy can dance a Jigg, raise Paste, write a good Hand, keep an Account, give a reasonable Answer, and do as she is bid; while her elder Sister Madam Martha is out of Humour, has the Spleen, learns by Reports of People of higher Quality new Ways of being uneasie and displeased. And this happens for no Reason in the World, but that poor Liddy knows she has no such thing as a certain Negligence that is so becoming, that there is not I know not what in her Air: And that if she talks like a Fool, there is no one will say, Well! I know not what it is, but every Thing pleases when she speaks it.
Ask any of the Husbands of your great Beauties, and they’ll tell you that they hate their Wives Nine Hours of every Day they pass together. There is such a Particularity for ever affected by them, that they are incumbered with their Charms in all they say or do. They pray at publick Devotions as they are Beauties. They converse on ordinary Occasions as they are Beauties. Ask Belinda what it is a Clock, and she is at a stand whether so great a Beauty should answer you. In a Word, I think, instead of offering to administer Consolation to Parthenissa, I should congratulate her Metamorphosis; and however she thinks she was not in the least insolent in the Prosperity of her Charms, she was enough so to find she may make her self a much more agreeable Creature in her present Adversity. The Endeavour to please is highly promoted by a Consciousness that the Approbation of the Person you would be agreeable to, is a Favour you do not deserve; for in this Case Assurance of Success is the most certain way to Disappointment. Good-Nature will always supply the Absence of Beauty, but Beauty cannot long supply the Absence of Good-Nature.
Madam, February 18.
I have yours of this Day, wherein you twice bid me not to disoblige
you, but you must explain yourself further before I know what to do.
Your most obedient Servant,
[Footnote 1: Mr. John Duncombe ascribed this letter to his relative, John Hughes, and said that by Parthenissa was meant a Miss Rotherham, afterwards married to the Rev. Mr. Wyatt, master of Felsted School, in Essex. The name of Parthenissa is from the heroine of a romance by Roger Boyle, Earl of Orrery.]