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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

They do not prevent inward dissatisfaction


In

the same room, when the parties begin to take their places to dance; other little circumstances not infrequently occur, which give rise to other passions. Many aiming to be as near the top of the dance as possible, are disappointed of their places by others, who have just slept into them, dissatisfaction, and sometimes murmurs, follow. Each in his own mind, supposes his claims and pretensions to the higher place to be stronger on account of his money, his connections, his profession, or his rank. Thus his own dispositions to pride are only the more nursed and fostered. Malice too is often engendered on the occasion; and though the parties would not be allowed by the master of the ceremonies to disturb the tranquillity of the room, animosities have sometimes sprung up between them, which have not been healed in a little time. I am aware that in some large towns of the kingdom regulations are made with a view to the prevention of these evils, but it is in some only; and even where they are made, though they prevent outward rude behaviour, they do not prevent inward dissatisfaction. Monied influence still feels itself often debased by a lower place.

If we were to examine the ball-room further, we should find new circumstances arising to call out new and degrading passions. We should find disappointment and discontent often throwing irritable matter upon the mind. Men, fond of dancing, frequently find an over proportion of men, and but few females

in the room, and women, wishing to dance, sometimes find an over proportion of women, and but few men; so that partners are not to be had for all, and a number of each class must make up their minds to sit quietly, and to loose their diversion for the night. Partners too are frequently dissatisfied with each other. One thinks his partner too old, another too ugly, another below him. Matched often in this unequal manner, they go down the dance in a sort of dudgeon, having no cordial disposition towards each other, and having persons before their eyes in the same room with whom they could have cordially danced. Nor are instances wanting where the pride of some has fixed upon the mediocrity of others, as a reason, why they should reluctantly lend them their hands, when falling in with them in the dance. The slight is soon perceived, and disgust arises in both parties.

Various other instances might be mentioned, where very improper passions are excited. I shall only observe, however, that these passions are generally stronger and give more uneasiness, and are called up to a greater height, than might generally be imagined from such apparently slight causes. In many instances indeed they have led to such serious misunderstandings, that they were only terminated by the duel.

From this statement I may remark here, though my observation be not immediately to the point, that there is not probably that portion of entertainment, or that substantial pleasure, winch people expected to find at these monthly meetings. The little jealousies arising about precedency, or about the admiration of one more than of another; the falling in occasionally with disagreeable partners; the slights and omissions that are often thought to be purposely made; the head-achs, colds, sicknesses, and lassitude afterwards, must all of them operate as so many drawbacks from this pleasure: and it is not unusual to hear persons, fond of such amusements, complaining afterwards that they had not answered. There is therefore probably more pleasure in the preparations for such amusements, and in the previous talk about them, than in the amusements themselves.


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