Quanta laborabas Charybdi
Digne puer meliore flamma? — Horace
"Ah, wretched youth,
in what a fatal whirlpool art thou caught,
boy worthy of a better flame?"
About four this afternoon, which is the hour I usually put my self in a readiness to receive company, there entered a gentleman who I believed at first came upon some ordinary question; but as he approached nearer to me, I saw in his countenance a deep sorrow, mixed with a certain ingenuous complacency that gave me a sudden Good-will towards him. He stared, and betrayed an absence of thought as he was going to communicate his business to me. But at last, recovering himself, he said, with an air of great respect, Sir, It would be an injury to your knowledge in the occult sciences, to tell you what is my distress; I dare say, you read it in my countenance: I therefore beg your advice to the most unhappy of all men.
Much experience has made me particularly sagacious in the discovery of distempers, and I soon saw that his was love. I then turned to my common-place book, and found his cafe under the word Coquette; and reading over the catalogue which I have collected out of this great city of all under that character, I saw at the name of Cynthia his fit came upon him. I repeated the name thrice after a musing manner, and immediately perceived his pulse quicken two thirds; when his eyes, instead of the wildness with which they appeared at his entrance, looked with all the gentleness imaginable upon me, not without tears.
Oh, Sir! (said he) you know not the unworthy usage I have met with from the woman my soul dotes on. I could gaze at her to the end of my being; yet when I have done so, for some time past I have found her eyes fixed on another. She is now two and twenty, in the full tyranny of her charms, which she once acknowledged she rejoiced in, only as they made her choice of me, out of a crowd of admirers, the more obliging. But in the midst of this happiness, so it is Mr. Bickerstaff, that young Quicksett, who is just come to town, without any other recommendation than that of being tolerably handsome, and excessively rich, has won her heart in so shameless a manner, that she dies for him. In a word, I would consult you, how to cure myself of this passion for an ungrateful woman, who triumphs in her falsehood, and can make no man happy, because her own satisfaction consists chiefly in being capable of giving distress. I know Quicksett is at present considerable with her, for no other reason but that he can be without her, and feel no pain in the loss. Let me therefore desire you, Sir, to fortify my reason against the levity of an inconstant, who ought only be treated with neglect.
All this time I was looking over my receipts, and asked him, if he had any good winter boots—Boots, Sir! said my patient—I went on; You may easily reach Harwich in a day, so as to be there when the packet goes off.
Sir, (said the lover) I find you design me for travelling; but alas! I have no language, it will be the same thing to me as solitude, to be in a strange country. I have (continued he sighing) been many years in love with this creature, and have almost lost even my English, at least to speak such as any body else does. I asked a tenant of ours, who came up to town the other day with rent, whether the Flowry Meads near my father's house in the country had any shepherd in it. I have called a cave a grotto these three years, and must keep ordinary company, and frequent busy people for some time, before I can recover my common words.
I smiled at his raillery upon himself, though I well saw it came from an heavy heart. You are (said I) acquainted to be sure with some of the general officers, suppose you made a campaign?
If I did, (said he) I should venture more than any man there, for I should be in danger of starving; my father is such an untoward old gentleman, that he would tell me he found it hard enough to pay his taxes towards the war, without making it more expensive by an allowance to me. With all this, he is as fond as he is rugged, and I am his only son.
I looked upon the young gentleman with much tenderness, and not like a physician, but a friend; for I talked to him so largely, that if I had parcelled my discourse into distinct prescriptions, I am confident I gave him two hundred pounds worth of advice. He heard me with great attention, bowing, smiling, and showing all other instances of that natural good breeding which ingenuous tempers pay to those who are elder and wiser than themselves. I entertained him to the following purpose. I am sorry, sir, that your passion is of so long a date, for evils are much more curable in their beginnings; but at the same time must allow, that you are not to be blamed, since your youth and merit has been abused by one of the most charming, but the most unworthy sort of women, the Coquets.
A Coquet is a chaste jilt, and differs only from a common One, as a soldier, who is perfect in exercise, does from one that is actually in service. This grief, like all other, is to be cured only by time; and although you are convinced this moment, as much as you will be ten years hence, that she ought to be scorned and neglected, you see you must not expect your remedy from the force of reason. The cure then, is only in time; and the hastening of the cure, only in the manner of employing that time. You have answered me as to travel and a campaign, so that we have only Great Britain to avoid her in. Be then your self, and listen to the following rules, which only can be of use to you in this unaccountable distemper, wherein the patient is often averse even to his recovery. It has been of benefit to some to apply themselves to business; but as that may not lie in your way, go down to your estate, mind your fox-hounds, and venture the life you are weary of over every hedge and ditch in the country. These are wholesome remedies; but if you can have resolution enough, rather stay in town, and recover your self even in the town where she inhabits. Take particular care to avoid all places where you may possibly meet her, and shun the sight of every thing which may bring her to your remembrance; there is an infection in all that relates to her: You'll find, her house, her chariot, her domestics, and her very lap-dog, are so many instruments of torment. Tell me seriously, do you think you could bear the sight of her fan? He shook his head at the question, and said,
"Ah! Mr. Bickerstaff, you must have been a patient, or you could have not have been so good a physician."
To tell you truly, said I, about the thirtieth year of my age, I received a wound that has still left a scar in my mind, never to be quite worn out by time or philosophy.
The means which I found the most effectual for my cure, were reflections upon the ill usage I had received from the woman I loved, and the pleasure I saw her take in my sufferings.
I considered the distress she brought upon me, the greatest that could befall any humane creature, at the same time that she did not inflict this upon one who was her enemy, one that had done her an injury, one that had wished her ill; but on the man who loved her more than any else loved her, and more than it was possible for him to love any other person.
In the next place I took pains to consider her in all her imperfections; and that I might be sure to hear of them constantly, kept company with those her female friends who were her dearest and most intimate acquaintance.
Among her highest imperfections, I still dwelt upon her baseness of mind and ingratitude, that made her triumph in the pain and anguish of the man who loved her, and of one who in those days (without vanity be it spoken) was thought to deserve her love.
To shorten my story, she was married to another, which would have distracted me had he proved a good husband; but to my great pleasure, he used her at first with coldness, and afterwards with contempt. I hear he still treats her very ill; and am informed, that she often says to her woman,
"This is a just revenge for my falsehood to my first love: What a wretch am I, that might have been married to the famous Mr. Bickerstaff".
My patient looked upon me with a kind of melancholy pleasure, and told me, he did not think it was possible for a man to live to the age I now am of, who in his thirtieth year had been tortured with that passion in its violence: "For my part," (said he)" I can neither eat, drink, nor sleep in it; nor keep company with any body, but two or three friends who are in the same condition."
There (answer I) you are to blame; for as you ought to avoid nothing more than keeping company with your self, so you ought to be particularly cautious of keeping company with men like your self. As long as you do this, you do but indulge your distemper.
I must not dismiss you without further instructions. If possible, transfer your passion from the woman you are now in love with, to another; or if you cannot do that, change the passion it self into some other passion; that is, to speak more plainly, find out some other agreeable woman: Or if you can't do this, grow covetous, ambitious, litigious; turn your love of woman into that of profit, preferment, reputation; and for a time, give up your self entirely to the pursuit.
This is a method we sometimes take in Physick, when we turn a desperate disease into one we can more easily cure.
He made little answer to all this, but crying out, "Ah, Sir!" For his passion reduced his discourse to interjections.
There is one thing added, which is present death to a man in your condition, and therefore to be avoided with the greatest care and caution: that is, in a word, to think of your mistress and rival together, whether walking, discoursing, dallying—The Devil! (he cried out) Who can bear it? To compose him, for I pitied him very much, the time will come, said I, when you shall not only bear it, but laugh at it. As a preparation to it, ride every morning an hour at least with the wind full in your face. Upon your return, recollect the several precepts which I have now given you, and drink upon them a bottle of Spa-Water. Repeat this every day for a month successively, and let me see you at the end of it. He was taking his leave, with many thanks, and some appearance of consolation in his countenance, when I called him back to acquaint him, that I had private information of a design of the coquets to buy up all the true Spa-Water in town: upon which he took his leave in haste, with a resolution to get all things ready for entering upon his regimen the next morning.