Story type: Essay
Friday, March 9, 1711. Addison.
‘At Venus obscuro gradientes aere sepsit,
Et multo Nebulae circum Dea fudit amictu,
Cernere ne quis eos …’
I shall here communicate to the World a couple of Letters, which I believe will give the Reader as good an Entertainment as any that I am able to furnish [him ] with, and therefore shall make no Apology for them.
‘To the SPECTATOR, etc.
I am one of the Directors of the Society for the Reformation of Manners, and therefore think myself a proper Person for your Correspondence. I have thoroughly examined the present State of Religion in Great-Britain, and am able to acquaint you with the predominant Vice of every Market-Town in the whole Island. I can tell you the Progress that Virtue has made in all our Cities, Boroughs, and Corporations; and know as well the evil Practices that are committed in Berwick or Exeter, as what is done in my own Family. In a Word, Sir, I have my Correspondents in the remotest Parts of the Nation, who send me up punctual Accounts from time to time of all the little Irregularities that fall under their Notice in their several Districts and Divisions.
I am no less acquainted with the particular Quarters and Regions of this great Town, than with the different Parts and Distributions of the whole Nation. I can describe every Parish by its Impieties, and can tell you in which of our Streets Lewdness prevails, which Gaming has taken the Possession of, and where Drunkenness has got the better of them both. When I am disposed to raise a Fine for the Poor, I know the Lanes and Allies that are inhabited by common Swearers. When I would encourage the Hospital of Bridewell, and improve the Hempen Manufacture, I am very well acquainted with all the Haunts and Resorts of Female Night-walkers.
After this short Account of my self, I must let you know, that the Design of this Paper is to give you Information of a certain irregular Assembly which I think falls very properly under your Observation, especially since the Persons it is composed of are Criminals too considerable for the Animadversions of our Society. I mean, Sir, the Midnight Masque, which has of late been frequently held in one of the most conspicuous Parts of the Town, and which I hear will be continued with Additions and Improvements. As all the Persons who compose this lawless Assembly are masqued, we dare not attack any of them in our Way, lest we should send a Woman of Quality to Bridewell, or a Peer of Great-Britain to the Counter: Besides, that their Numbers are so very great, that I am afraid they would be able to rout our whole Fraternity, tho’ we were accompanied with all our Guard of Constables. Both these Reasons which secure them from our Authority, make them obnoxious to yours; as both their Disguise and their Numbers will give no particular Person Reason to think himself affronted by you.
If we are rightly inform’d, the Rules that are observed by this new Society are wonderfully contriv’d for the Advancement of Cuckoldom. The Women either come by themselves, or are introduced by Friends, who are obliged to quit them upon their first Entrance, to the Conversation of any Body that addresses himself to them. There are several Rooms where the Parties may retire, and, if they please, show their Faces by Consent. Whispers, Squeezes, Nods, and Embraces, are the innocent Freedoms of the Place. In short, the whole Design of this libidinous Assembly seems to terminate in Assignations and Intrigues; and I hope you will take effectual Methods, by your publick Advice and Admonitions, to prevent such a promiscuous Multitude of both Sexes from meeting together in so clandestine a Manner.’
Your humble Servant,
And Fellow Labourer,
Not long after the Perusal of this Letter I received another upon the same Subject; which by the Date and Stile of it, I take to be written by some young Templer.
Middle Temple, 1710-11.
When a Man has been guilty of any Vice or Folly, I think the best Attonement he can make for it is to warn others not to fall into the like. In order to this I must acquaint you, that some Time in February last I went to the Tuesday’s Masquerade. Upon my first going in I was attacked by half a Dozen female Quakers, who seemed willing to adopt me for a Brother; but, upon a nearer Examination, I found they were a Sisterhood of Coquets, disguised in that precise Habit. I was soon after taken out to dance, and, as I fancied, by a Woman of the first Quality, for she was very tall, and moved gracefully. As soon as the Minuet was over, we ogled one another through our Masques; and as I am very well read in Waller, I repeated to her the four following Verses out of his poem to Vandike.
‘The heedless Lover does not know
Whose Eyes they are that wound him so;
But confounded with thy Art,
Enquires her Name that has his Heart.’
I pronounced these Words with such a languishing Air, that I had some Reason to conclude I had made a Conquest. She told me that she hoped my Face was not akin to my Tongue; and looking upon her Watch, I accidentally discovered the Figure of a Coronet on the back Part of it. I was so transported with the Thought of such an Amour, that I plied her from one Room to another with all the Gallantries I could invent; and at length brought things to so happy an Issue, that she gave me a private Meeting the next Day, without Page or Footman, Coach or Equipage. My Heart danced in Raptures; but I had not lived in this golden Dream above three Days, before I found good Reason to wish that I had continued true to my Landress. I have since heard by a very great Accident, that this fine Lady does not live far from Covent-Garden, and that I am not the first Cully whom she has passed herself upon for a Countess.
Thus, Sir, you see how I have mistaken a Cloud for a Juno; and if you can make any use of this Adventure for the Benefit of those who may possibly be as vain young Coxcombs as my self, I do most heartily give you Leave.’
Your most humble admirer,
I design to visit the next Masquerade my self, in the same Habit I wore at Grand Cairo;  and till then shall suspend my Judgment of this Midnight Entertainment.
[Footnote 1: them]
[Footnote 2: See [Spectator] No. 1.]