Project Canterbury

The Ladies Calling
attributed to Richard Allestree

Oxford: Printed at the Theater, 1673

Part I. SECT. IV. Of Affability.

1. IN the next place we may reckon Affability and Courtesie, which as it is amiable in all, so it is singularly so in women of Quality, and more universally necessary in them then in the other Sex; for men have often charges and emploiments which do justifie, nay perhaps require somwhat of sternness and austerity; but women ordinarily have few or no occasions of it, and those who have well digested the former Lectures of Meekness and Compassion; will not be apt to put it on unnecessarily. Now Affability may be considered either as a meer human Accomplishment, or as a divine Vertu; in either notion 'tis commendable; but 'tis the latter that gives it the highest Excellence and Perfection.

2. To begin with the first notion of it, we may take an estimate of its worth by its Cause, and by its Effects. For its Cause, it derives itself either from a native candor, and generosity of mind; or from a noble and ingenious Education, or somthing jointly from both; and these are as good originals as any thing meerly moral can flow from. And that these are indeed its sources; common experience will attest: those of the greatest Minds, & best Extractions, being usually most condescending and obliging; whereas those of most abject Spirits and Birth, are the most insulting and imperious. Alexander the Great, tho terrible in the field, yet was of a gentle, complaisant conversation, familiarly treating those about him: yet Crispinus, Narcissus, Nymphidius, and other enfranchised bondmen, we find insolently trampling upon the Roman Senators and Consuls. 'Tis therefore a great error for Persons of Honor, to think they acquire a reverence by putting on a supercilious gravity, looking coily and disdainfully upon all about them; 'tis so far from that, that it gives a suspicion that 'tis but a pageantry of greatness, som mushrome newly sprung up, that stands so stiff, and swells so much. But instead of teaching others to keep their distance, this fastidious disdain invites them to a closer inspection, that if there be any flaw either in their life or birth, 'twill be sure to be discovered, there being no such prying inquisitor as curiosity, when 'tis eggd on by a sense of contemt.

3. On the other side, if we consider the effects of Courtesie, they are quite contrary; it endears to all, and often keeps up a Reputation in spight of many blemishes: a kind look or word from a Superior, is strangely charming, and insensibly steals away mens hearts from them. This the Wise man refers to Ecclus. 18. 16. when he prefers a Word before a Gift. And 'tis Plutarch's observation of Cleomenes King of Sparta, that when the Grecians compared his Affability and easiness of Access with the sullen state and pride of other Princes, they were so enamored with it, that they judged him only worthy to be a King. And as their is no certainer, so also no cheaper way of gaining love: a friendly salutation is as easie as a frown or reproch; and that kindness may be preserved by them, which if once forfeited, will not at a far greater price be recovered.

4. Besides, when human vicissitudes are considered, it may be a point of Providence too; the greatest Persons may somtimes want assistance from the meanest; nay somtimes the face of affairs is quite changed, and the wheel of Fortune turns them lowest that were uppermost, and proportionably elevates the meanest. 'Tis wisdom therefore so to treat all, as to leave no impressions of unkindness, since none is so despicable, but may possibly at one time or other have an opportunity to retaliate. Twas therefore a prudent as well as an equitable resolution of the Emperor, who said he would so entertain the addresses of his Subjects; as, if he were a Subject, he would wish the Prince should entertain him. A rule very worthy to sway all Persons of Honor in their entercourse with others. And since even among Persons in Command there are degrees, and she which is superior to one, is inferior to another; they have a ready way to compare the civility they pay, with that they expect. Let therefore one who meets with a cold, neglectful Treatment from any above her, examin her own resentments, and then reflect, that if she give the like to those below her, they will doubtless have the same sense; and therefore let her resolve never to offer what she so much dislikes to bear: and she that does thus, that makes such inferences, will convert an injury into a benefit; civilize her self by the rudeness of others, and make that ill nurture her own discipline.

5. But hitherto we consider Affability only in its ethnic dress, as it is a human ornament; 'twill appear yet more enamoring upon a second view, when we look on it as bearing the impress of the Sanctuary, as a divine Vertu. And that it is capable of being so, we have the autority of St. Paul, who inserts it in the number of those Christian Graces which he recommends to his Roman Proselites; condescend to them of low estate, Rom. 12. 16. and that we may the better discern its valu, 'tis observable that he links it with the most eminent Vertu of Humility; for it immediatly follows his Precept of be not high minded. Indeed 'tis not only joined with it as a Friend or Allie, but derived from it as its stock and Principle: and certainly a more divine extraction it cannot have, Humility being the Alpha and Omega of Vertues, that which laies the foundation, (without which the most towring Structure will but crush it self with its own weight) and that which perfects and consummates the building also, secures and crowns all other Graces; which when they are most verdant and flourishing, are like Jonas his gourd, that may afford some shadow and refreshment for a while, but are apt to breed that worm which will destroy them. When once they are smitten with Pride, they instantly fade and wither; so necessary is humility both for the acquiring and conserving, all that is good in us.

6. We may therefore conclude; that courtesie and obligingness of behavior which proceeds thence, is in respect of its spring and original, infinitly to be preferr'd before that which descends from no higher stock then natural or prudential motives; and since 'tis natural for every production to have some similitude to that which produces it, we shall find it no less excellent in respect of its properties then its descent, I shall instance only in two, Sincerity and Constancy.

7. For the first as far as Affability partakes of Humility it must of Sincerity also, that being a vertu whose very elements are plainness and simplicity: for as it has no designs which want a cover, so it needs none of those subtilties and simulations, those pretences and artifices requisite to those that do. Tis the precept of the Apostle, Phil. 2. 3. In lowliness of mind let each esteem others better then himself, where we see 'tis the nature of a lowly mind to transfer that esteem to others which he substracts from himself: how where such an esteem is planted into the heart, it verifies all the expressions and outward significations of respect, and renders the greatest condescentions (which to an insolent humor may seem extravagant and affected) real and unfeigned.

8. On the contrary that courtesie which derives no higher then from meer human principles, is not much to be confided in. 'Tis the Psalmists affirmation that all men are liars. And therefore there is more then a possibility of deceit in their fairest shews. Somtimes we know smooth & plausible addresses have bin designed as the stale to vile and trecherous practices. The extraordinary blandishments and endearing behavior of Absolom to the people, was only to steal their hearts, and advance his intended rebellion, 2 Sam. 15. and David tells us of some, whose words were softer then butter, having war in the heart, whose words were smoother then oil, and yet were very swords, Psal. 55. 21. and God knows this age has not so much improved in sincerity, that we should think the same Scenes are not daily acted over among us.

9. But besides all the blacker projects of this kind, which nothing but the event can detect, there is a lower sort of this treachery, which is visible, nay so avowed, that it is one of the most common subjects of mirth and entertainment, I mean that of scoffing and derision, a thing too frequent among all, but I fear I may say very peculiarly so among Ladies, those at least of the modish sort, their very civilities and caresses, being often design'd to gain matter of scorn and laughter. Mutual visits we know are an expression of respect, and should flow from a real kindness, but if those now in use be sifted, how few will be found of that make? They are at the best formal, a tribute rather paid to custom then friendship, and many go to see those, for whom they are perfectly indifferent whether they find them alive or dead, well or sick. Nay very often they are worse then thus, design'd only to make observations, to bolt out somthing ridiculous wherewith to sport themselves as soon as they are gone; and least the inquest should return with a non inventus, they will accept of the slightest discoveries, the least misplacing of a word, nay of a hair shall be theme enough for a Comedy.

10. But if a poor Country Gentlewoman fall within their circuit, what a stock of mirth does she afford them, how curiously do they anatomise every part of her dress, her meen, her dialect, nay perhaps to improve the Scene, will recommend yet greater absurdities to her, under the notion of the mode, that so she may be the more ample subject of their scorn. Such visits as these are but insidious intrusions, the insinuations of a spy rather then the good office of a neighbor; and when 'tis remembred how great a portion of some womens time is spent in this kind of diversion, we must conclude there have a multitude of acts gon to make up the habit. I wish they would seriously reflect on it, and unravel that injurious mirth by a penitential sadness, and either spend their time better then in visiting, or else direct their visits to better purposes: and this they would certainly do if they would exchange their meer popular civilities (that kind of paint and varnishing manners) for that true Christian condescension; which admits of no deceit, but is as transparent as Drusus wisht his house would be, that has no secret scrues and spring, to move the eyes or tongue a contrary way from the heart, but is in reality all that it pretends to be.

11. A second property of it is Constancy, for as it is true to others, so it is to its self; 'tis foundid on the solidest of vertues, and is not subject to those light and giddy uncertainties, that the vulgar civilities are. For he that out of a disesteem of his proper worth, has placed himself in a state of inferiority, will think it not an arbitrary matter, but a just debt to pay a respect to those he thinks his betters; and an humble mind will in every body find somthing or other to prefer to himself. So that he acts upon a fixt principle, and is not in danger of those contradictions in his manners, which shall render him one day sweet and affable, and another sowre and morose. But such mutations are frequently incident to those who are swaied by other motives, somtimes an interest changes, and then the most fauning Sycophant can transplant his flatteries, and court a new Patron; yea many times to the despight and vilifying of the old.

12. Somtimes again, fortune may change; a man may fall from a prosperous to an adverse state, and then those who were prodigal of their civilities whilst he needed nothing else, will withdraw even those from him, least they should incourage him to demand somthing more; an experiment of this Job made in his friends (or rather flatterers) whom he fitly compares to winter brooks, running over when not needed, but quite dry when they are.

13. But the most frequent change is that of fancy and humor, which has a much more general sway then reason and judgment. This is so observable in the vulgar rabble, that often in an instant they will shift passions, and hate this hour what they doted on the last. Of this all popular states, have afforded many costly experiments, but we need not go farther then the sacred Story, where we find the Acclamations and Hosannahs of the multitude, quickly converted into crucifie him, crucifie him. This levity of mind has bin observed so incident to women, that 'tis become almost proverbial; for by how much their passions are more violent, they are commonly the less lasting, and as they are reckon'd among those colder bodies that are particularly influenced by the Moon, so they seem to bear a great resemblance to her in her vicissitudes and changes; yet still with a greater degree of uncertainty, for she in all her revolutions observes some constant periods, and we can tell in her wain when she will be at full, so that she has a kind of certainty even in her planetary errors; but what Ephemerides can be framed for some womens humors? who can tell how long the present will last? and what will be the next that will succeed?

14. I need not bring instances of their inconstancy from that common place of passionate widows, who have let a new love sail even through those flouds of tears wherewith they bewailed the old: for (besides that that is a case wherein possibly they may find matter enough for retortion) it is here a little wide from my purpose, which designs no farther inquisition then into their ordinary conversation, wherein that love of variety which is so remarkable in their habit, their diet, their diversions, extends it self often to their company, their friendships also and converse. Those intimacies which they cherisht lately, quickly grow despicable, and at last nauseous, and consequently their behavior falls from kind and civil, to cold and disdainful. I doubt not this has often bin proved by many of those humble companions, which officiously attend them, who cannot always fix themselves, no not by those flatteries that first introduced them; some new comer perhaps has better refined the Art, and do's the same thing more acutely and ingeniously, and then the old one is to be turned off as too gross a Sycophant; or if they have bin so happy as to light upon some of a more generous temper, who instead of a servile compliance with their humor, and high characters of their worth, entertain them with the true images of themselvs, and endeavor to make what others only speak them, this is that unpardonable crime which forfeits all degrees of favor, and does not only avert, but incense. A faithful Monitor is as unacceptable as a true Looking-glass to a deformed person, which at the best will be set aside, and escapes well if not broken; and while great persons dispence their favors or their frowns by such perverse mesures as these, they will be sure to do it unjustly, as well as unconstantly.

15. I am far from making this an universal charge, I know there are women of the highest quality, that guide themselves by other rules, that are deaf to all the songs of Sirens, and have the prudence to valu a seasonable reproof before the most extravagant Panegyric; but this is owing to that humility which I am now recommending, without which 'tis as impossible for greatness to be proof against flattery, as it is for a Pinnace with spreading sails, and a violent gust of wind, to sail steddily without ballast. And the frequent want of this is it which makes it no less frequent to see those unevennesses and inequalities in behavior; those partialities in dispensing even the commonest civilities, which I have now represented.

16. And sure 'tis none of the meanest attributes due to that excellent vertu of humility that it can thus fix and poise the mind, cure those vertigoes and giddy humors, incident to those who are mounted aloft: and above all that it is a sure Antidote against the most insinuating poison of flattery, a holy spel or amulet against the venom of a Parasite, which the Philosopher justly calls the worst of tame beasts, as a Detractor is of wild: He being indeed a kind of vulture, in the way of seizure, no less than ravine, who first picks out the eies of that which he designs to prey upon; suffering not the person concern'd, to see any thing of that destruction which he is to feel. And certainly none of the ominous Birds, no night-Raven or screech-Owle can abode half so dismally as these domestic Birds of prey, which are not only presages, but instruments of ruine wheresoever they haunt.

17. 'Tis therefore the universal concern of those that are great and prosperous, to chase them away, as Abraham did the Fowles from his Sacrifice, Gen. 15. 11. but yet more peculiarly so of those to whom fortune has given a sudden rise, and unexpected grandeur, they being of all others the most obnoxious to this sort of Harpies. The surprizes of prosperity do no less disturb the judgment then those of adversity: and as one who in an instant snatcht up to some high Tower, is so amazed to see himself there, that he has no just mesure of the altitude, but thinks every thing farther below him then it is: so they that ascend to greatness by swift and rapid motions, have their heads so turned that they are apt to over valu it; and to look with contempt on those who before perhaps they thought worth their envie. And on a mind thus prepared, flattery may make any impressions, it suborning even Providence as a witness on its side, and inferring from the Dignities obtained, the transcending merit of the obtainer. A piece of Sophistry which the slightest observer may easily confute, all Ages giving instances of those whose Vices have preferred them, and by a strange Chimistry have extracted Honor out of infamous acts. Yet to a mind possest with its own admiration, this shall pass for a demonstration: so trecherous a thing is Pride, that it combines with all who design to cheat us: and indeed 'tis not only an accessary, but the principal; none being in danger by others flatteries, who are not first seduced by their own,

18. It will therefore be a point of Wisdom for all Persons of Honor to encrease their caution with their fortune, and as they multiply their Retinues without, so especially to inforce their Guard within, that they become not slaves to their own Greatness, fix not themselves in such a posture of State, as to become immovable to all the offices of Humanity and Civility; nor think that their admission to Greatness is upon the same terms on which the Jews were wont to receive their Proselites, that they must renounce all their former relations; but to remember that they differ no more from others then as a counter set in the place of thousands or hundreds, does from one set in the place of tens or units. A little transposition may quite alter the case; or however, when they are all taken off the score, they are then indiscriminatly tumbled together, and one has no precedence of another, either in place or valu. So undiscernible will be the difference between the greatest Queen, and the meanest Servant, when Death, that great Leveller, shall have mixt them; there will be no inquisition in the Grave who came embalmed, or perfumed thither. And, as a Learned man says, the Ulcers of Lazarus will make as good dust as the Paint of Jezebel.

19. But I shall be thought to have out-run my Subject, or instead of that amiable Image of Affability, and universal Obligingness, the great Ornament of Life, introduce the grim figure of Death, that sullen Executioner, whom no Gifts, no Praiers can mollifie. Yet I cannot yield it wholly impertinent; for, as its final stroke cures all the infirmities of the body, so the foresight and contemplation of it is, as much a Catholicon for all the maladies of the mind; especially that of insolence and disdain. For sure they cannot much pride themselves in any exaltation, that remember they must finally fall into the dust: nor arrogantly despise others, who consider that themselves shall one day be insulted over by worms and insects. Such mental descents into the vault or charnel-house, are the best disciplines for the demeanor in other places, according to the admonition of the Wise man, Remember thy end, and thou shalt never do amiss.

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