Monday 26 August 2013

Contemporary Reviews of Haywood's The Wife (1756)

Below are transcripts of two contemporary reviews of Eliza Haywood's The Wife (1756), with links to the original texts (now on Google Books). See here for a complete list of early reviews of Haywood's works available online.

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Ab.70 The Wife The Monthly Review 13 (December 1755): 509, Art.9—online here, transcribed below, without the running quotation marks.

IX. The Wife. By Mira, one of the authors of the Female Spectator, and Epistles for Ladies. 12mo. 3s. Gardner.
The title of this work may, perhaps, have induced some to imagine it of the novel kind; it is, however, wholly perceptive, and intended to direct the conduct of wives; who are here advised to discard those fashionable follies, and subdue those dangerous passions, that too often contribute to render the married state of all others the most unhappy. Mrs. Mira, tho' not a very spirited writer, in general, has painted some of the foibles of her sex in striking colours; but to anticipate the resentment she seems to apprehend from the freedoms she has so taken, she concludes this volume with "promising, that If any of them shall think her admonitions too strongly enforced, they will have their full revenge, when they read the duties she has enjoined a husband."—These last are to be the subject of another publication, said to be now in the press.

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Ab.70 The Wife The Critical Review 1 (March 1756): 129–33, Art.6—online here, transcribed below, without the running quotation marks.

Art. VI. The Wife. By Mira, one of the authors of The female spectator, and Epistles for ladies, i2mo. Price 3s Gardner.

THE design of this work is good; it is intended to restore marriage to its ancient honour, to relieve it from the imputations under which it labours, from the general ill-conduct of the parties united. This laudable end is endeavoured at, by examining the various occasions of difference, dislike, or disagreement, that may arise in that state; and adapting |130| proper advice in such circumstances to the wife, whose duty and happiness is the subject of our author’s study.

The principal objects that occasion disputes in life, are religion and politics; with both these, our author advises the wife not to intermeddle; desiring her, in the former case, provided her husband be a Latitudinarian, to endeavour to reclaim him by the regularity of her own conduct, and her attachment to the service of God; in the latter, to be silent, if she chances to be of different sentiments; few women being from their abilities, either natural or acquired, fit to talk upon such subjects; and if they are, discontents may possibly ensue, which may end very much to the disadvantage of the woman, from the rank she holds in the creation.

Our author's sentiments, with regard to dress, are very just; if a man really loves, his esteem will be kept up, by finding his wife always neat: and I believe a neglect of this essential circumstance, contributes much to that indifference, wherewith we see so many husbands daily behave to their wives; and that emulation in dress of the light wanton, or unthinking coquet, which is too much practised, is certainly an extreme that ought to be avoided almost as much as sluttishness. A woman should moreover study the mode of her husband's mind, and avoid talkative impertinence when he is inclined to be serious, as much as damping his gayer hours with an unaccountable gloomy appearance.

Under the article of oeconomy we may rank public diversions, Bath, Tunbridge, &c. on the use of which pleasures our author descants very prettily; but she certainly has never been at Bath, or she would not have introduced company to play at cards in the pump-room; however, it is a mistake of no manner of consequence.

Our author's dissertations upon detraction, secrecy, sloth, and complaisance, are worth being attended to; and she has represented in a just light the folly of a woman's engaging in abstruse and speculative sciences, when her domestic concerns claim particularly her attention.

It is hard for most women to bear peaceably a knowledge of their husband's galantry; and we shall conclude this review of The Wife, with quoting a story concerning a woman in such |131| a situation, in whose conduct there appears something entertaining; tho' a wife, ought to be very certain of her husband's good-nature, before she ventures to probe his failings so deeply before company.

A gentleman of a very ancient family and considerable estate, was married to a lady of beauty, wit, virtue, and good humour; but though he knew and acknowledg'd the merits of his wife, yet he was a man of so deprav'd a taste, that the most dirty dowdy he could pick up frequently supply'd her place within his arms.

It happen'd when they were at their country-seat, that riding one morning to take the air, as was his usual custom, he met a ragged country wench, with a pair of wallets, or coarse linnen-bags, thrown over her shoulder;—he stopp'd his horse and ask'd what she had got there,—to which she reply'd, with a low curtsy after her fashion,—that it was broken victuals,—that her mother and she had no sustenance but what they got from the charity of the cooks at great gentlemen's houses, and that she was now going home with what they had given her.—‘You need not be in haste, I suppose,’ said he;—‘if you will go with me into yonder field I will give you something to buy you a new gown.’

The poor girl needed not much persuasion to bring her to consent, on which he alighted from his horse and threw the bridle over a hedge-stake, and the girl at the same time hung her bags on the pummel of the saddle, to prevent their coming to any harm,—then follow'd the gentleman a little way out of the road, where they soon commenced and finish'd their amour.

The horse not liking his situation, found means to get loose and ran directly home;—the lady by chance was at the window when he came galloping into the court-yard;—she was at first a little frighted to see him without his rider, but perceiving the bags, call'd to have them brought to her, and on their being so, was not long at a loss to guess the meaning of this adventure.

She then order'd the cook to empty the wallets, and put whatever she found in them into a clean dish, and send it up |132| in the first course that day at dinner,—which accordingly was done.

The husband on missing his horse walk'd home, and brought with him two neighbouring gentlemen whom he accidentally met with in his way; but these guests did not prevent the lady from prosecuting her intention;—the beggar's provision was set upon the table,—remnants of stale fowls,—bones half pick'd,-pieces of beef,—mutton, —lamb,—veal, with several lumps of bread, promiscuously huddled together, made a very comical appearance: —every one presently had their eyes upon this dish, and the husband not knowing what to make of it cried out pretty hastily, —‘What's this! What have we got here!’—To which the lady with the greatest gaiety replied, ‘It is a new-fashion Olio, my dear; —it wants no variety, I think there is a little of every thing, and I hope you will eat heartily of it, as it is a dish of your own providing.’

The significant smile which accompanied these last words, as well as the tone of voice in which they were spoke, making him remember where the girl had hung her wallets, threw him into a good deal of confusion; which she perceiving, order'd the dish to be taken away, and said, ‘I see you do not like it, my dear, therefore when next you go to market pray be a better caterer.’—‘Forgive this,’ cried he, ‘and I promise never to go to any such markets more.’

The gentlemen found there was some mystery in all this, but would not be so free as to desire an explanation.—When dinner was over, however, and the lady, after behaving the whole time with all the chearfulness imaginable, had retired to leave them to their bottle, the husband made no scruple of relating to them by what means his table had been furnish'd with a dish of so particular a kind; at which they laughed very heartily, and would have done so much more if their admiration of the lady's wit and good humour had not almost entirely engross'd their attention.

Upon the whole, this work is performed in a loose, familiar manner, the topics being enlivened by short anecdotes, which are natural, and soften the edge of reflection and advice; neither of which can, without alternatives, be easily digested by | 133| minds warm, active, youthful and vigorous: and whatever may be the execution of it, it is much fitter for the hands of young people, than the numbers of novels void of morals, beauty, language or design, which some publisher, every day almost, throws out upon the town.

[NB: This review was reprinted in The Repository, or general Review, consisting of a select Collection of literary Compositions, with occasional Remarks (1756): 163–65.]

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