Story type: Essay
Tuesday, April 17, 1711. Steele.
‘Tu non inventa reperta es.’
Compassion for the Gentleman who writes the following Letter, should not prevail upon me to fall upon the Fair Sex, if it were not that I find they are frequently Fairer than they ought to be. Such Impostures are not to be tolerated in Civil Society; and I think his Misfortune ought to be made publick, as a Warning for other Men always to Examine into what they Admire.
Supposing you to be a Person of general Knowledge, I make my Application to you on a very particular Occasion. I have a great Mind to be rid of my Wife, and hope, when you consider my Case, you will be of Opinion I have very just Pretensions to a Divorce. I am a mere Man of the Town, and have very little Improvement, but what I have got from Plays. I remember in The Silent Woman the Learned Dr. Cutberd, or Dr. Otter (I forget which) makes one of the Causes of Separation to be Error Personae, when a Man marries a Woman, and finds her not to be the same Woman whom he intended to marry, but another.  If that be Law, it is, I presume, exactly my Case. For you are to know, Mr. SPECTATOR, that there are Women who do not let their Husbands see their Faces till they are married.
Not to keep you in suspence, I mean plainly, that Part of the Sex who paint. They are some of them so Exquisitely skilful this Way, that give them but a Tolerable Pair of Eyes to set up with, and they will make Bosoms, Lips, Cheeks, and Eye-brows, by their own Industry. As for my Dear, never Man was so Enamour’d as I was of her fair Forehead, Neck, and Arms, as well as the bright Jett of her Hair; but to my great Astonishment, I find they were all the Effects of Art: Her Skin is so Tarnished with this Practice, that when she first wakes in a Morning, she scarce seems young enough to be the Mother of her whom I carried to Bed the Night before. I shall take the Liberty to part with her by the first Opportunity, unless her Father will make her Portion suitable to her real, not her assumed, Countenance. This I thought fit to let him and her know by your Means.
I am, SIR, Your most obedient, humble Servant.
I cannot tell what the Law, or the Parents of the Lady, will do for this Injured Gentleman, but must allow he has very much Justice on his Side. I have indeed very long observed this Evil, and distinguished those of our Women who wear their own, from those in borrowed Complexions, by the Picts and the British. There does not need any great Discernment to judge which are which. The British have a lively, animated Aspect; The Picts, tho’ never so Beautiful, have dead, uninformed Countenances. The Muscles of a real Face sometimes swell with soft Passion, sudden Surprize, and are flushed with agreeable Confusions, according as the Objects before them, or the Ideas presented to them, affect their Imagination. But the Picts behold all things with the same Air, whether they are Joyful or Sad; the same fixed Insensibility appears upon all Occasions. A Pict, tho’ she takes all that Pains to invite the Approach of Lovers, is obliged to keep them at a certain Distance; a Sigh in a Languishing Lover, if fetched too near her, would dissolve a Feature; and a Kiss snatched by a Forward one, might transfer the Complexion of the Mistress to the Admirer. It is hard to speak of these false Fair Ones, without saying something uncomplaisant, but I would only recommend to them to consider how they like coming into a Room new Painted; they may assure themselves, the near Approach of a Lady who uses this Practice is much more offensive.
WILL. HONEYCOMB told us, one Day, an Adventure he once had with a Pict. This Lady had Wit, as well as Beauty, at Will; and made it her Business to gain Hearts, for no other Reason, but to rally the Torments of her Lovers. She would make great Advances to insnare Men, but without any manner of Scruple break off when there was no Provocation. Her Ill-Nature and Vanity made my Friend very easily Proof against the Charms of her Wit and Conversation; but her beauteous Form, instead of being blemished by her Falshood and Inconstancy, every Day increased upon him, and she had new Attractions every time he saw her. When she observed WILL. irrevocably her Slave, she began to use him as such, and after many Steps towards such a Cruelty, she at last utterly banished him. The unhappy Lover strove in vain, by servile Epistles, to revoke his Doom; till at length he was forced to the last Refuge, a round Sum of Money to her Maid. This corrupt Attendant placed him early in the Morning behind the Hangings in her Mistress’s Dressing-Room. He stood very conveniently to observe, without being seen. The Pict begins the Face she designed to wear that Day, and I have heard him protest she had worked a full half Hour before he knew her to be the same Woman. As soon as he saw the Dawn of that Complexion, for which he had so long languished, he thought fit to break from his Concealment, repeating that of Cowley:
‘Th’ adorning Thee, with so much Art,
Is but a barbarous Skill;
‘Tis like the Pois’ning of a Dart,
Too apt before to kill.’ 
The Pict stood before him in the utmost Confusion, with the prettiest Smirk imaginable on the finished side of her Face, pale as Ashes on the other. HONEYCOMB seized all her Gallypots and Washes, and carried off his Han kerchief full of Brushes, Scraps of Spanish Wool, and Phials of Unguents. The Lady went into the Country, the Lover was cured.
It is certain no Faith ought to be kept with Cheats, and an Oath made to a Pict is of it self void. I would therefore exhort all the British Ladies to single them out, nor do I know any but Lindamira, who should be Exempt from Discovery; for her own Complexion is so delicate, that she ought to be allowed the covering it with Paint, as a Punishment for choosing to be the worst Piece of Art extant, instead of the Masterpiece of Nature. As for my part, who have no Expectations from Women, and consider them only as they are Part of the Species, I do not half so much fear offending a Beauty, as a Woman of Sense; I shall therefore produce several Faces which have been in Publick this many Years, and never appeared. It will be a very pretty Entertainment in the Playhouse (when I have abolished this Custom) to see so many Ladies, when they first lay it down, incog., in their own Faces.
In the mean time, as a Pattern for improving their Charms, let the Sex study the agreeable Statira. Her Features are enlivened with the Chearfulness of her Mind, and good Humour gives an Alacrity to her Eyes. She is Graceful without affecting an Air, and Unconcerned without appearing Careless. Her having no manner of Art in her Mind, makes her want none in her Person.
How like is this Lady, and how unlike is a Pict, to that Description Dr. Donne gives of his Mistress?
Her pure and eloquent Blood
Spoke in her Cheeks, and so distinctly wrought,
That one would almost say her Body thought. 
[Footnote 1: Ben Jonson’s ‘Epicoene’, or the Silent Woman, kept the stage in the Spectator’s time, and was altered by G. Colman for Drury Lane, in 1776. Cutbeard in the play is a barber, and Thomas Otter a Land and Sea Captain.
“Tom Otter’s bull, bear, and horse is known all over England, ‘in rerum natura.’”
In the fifth act Morose, who has married a Silent Woman and discovered her tongue after marriage, is played upon by the introduction of Otter, disguised as a Divine, and Cutbeard, as a Canon Lawyer, to explain to him
‘for how many causes a man may have ‘divortium legitimum’, a lawful divorce.’
Cutbeard, in opening with burlesque pedantry a budget of twelve impediments which make the bond null, is thus supported by Otter:
‘Cutb.’ The first is ‘impedimentum erroris’.
‘Otter.’ Of which there are several species.
‘Cutb.’ Ay, ‘as error personae’.
‘Otter. If you contract yourself to one person, thinking her another.’]
[Footnote 2: This is fourth of five stanzas to ‘The Waiting-Maid,’ in the collection of poems called ‘The Mistress.’]
[Footnote 3: Donne’s Funeral Elegies, on occasion of the untimely death of Mistress Elizabeth Drury. ‘Of the Progress of the Soul,’ Second Anniversary. It is the strain not of a mourning lover, but of a mourning friend. Sir Robert Drury was so cordial a friend that he gave to Donne and his wife a lodging rent free in his own large house in Drury Lane,
‘and was also,’ says Isaac Walton, ‘a cherisher of his studies, and such a friend as sympathized ‘with him and his, in all their joys and sorrows.’
The lines quoted by Steele show that the sympathy was mutual; but the poetry in them is a flash out of the clouds of a dull context. It is hardly worth noticing that Steele, quoting from memory, puts ‘would’ for ‘might’ in the last line. Sir Robert’s daughter Elizabeth, who, it is said, was to have been the wife of Prince Henry, eldest son of James I, died at the age of fifteen in 1610.]
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