English press: then & now

The Spectator (1711 -1712)
" I have, in former Papers, endeavoured
to expose this Party-Rage in Women (...)" (Addison)

ON PATCHES

Party among women

The Spectator
n.81

Saturday
2 June
1711

"This Account of Party-Patches
will, I am afraid,
appear improbable
to those who live
at a distance
from the fashionable
World"

Patches and Ladies - a detail

W. Hogarth - A Rake's Progress (1732) Soane Museum, London - detail
Read also the issues:
 

Qualis ubi audito venantum murmure Tigris
Horruit in maculas
----Statius.

" ABOUT the Middle of last Winter I went to see an Opera at the Theatre in the Hay-Market. where I could not but take notice of two Parties of very fine Women, that had placed themselves in the opposite Side-Boxes, and seemed drawn lip in a kind of Battle-Array one against another. After a short Survey of them, I found they were Patch'd differently; the Faces on one Hand, being spotted on the right Side of the Forehead, and those upon the other on the Left. I quickly perceived that they cast hostile Glances upon one another and that their Patches were placed in those different Situations, as Party-Signals to distinguish Friends from Foes. In the Middle-Boxes, between these two opposite bodies, were several Ladies who Patched indifferently on both Sides of their Faces, and seem'd to sit there with no other Intention but to see the Opera. Upon Inquiry I found, that the Body of Amazons on my Right Hand, were Whigs, and those on my Left, Tories: And that those who had placed themselves in the Middle Boxes were a Neutral Party, whose Faces had not yet declared themselves. These last, however, as I afterwards found, diminished daily, and took their Party with one Side or the other; insomuch that I observed in several of them, the Patches, which were before dispersed equally, are now all gone over to the Whig or Tory Side of the Face. The Censorious say, That the Men, whose hearts are aimed at, are very often the Occasions that one Part of the Face is thus dishonoured, and lies under a kind of Disgrace, while the other is so much Set off and Adorned by the Owner; and that the Patches turn to the Right or to the Left, according to the Principles of the Man who is most in Favour. But whatever may be the Motives of a few fantastical Coquets, who do not Patch for the Publick Good so much as for their own private Advantage, it is certain, that there are several Women of Honour who patch out of Principle, and with an Eye to the Interest of their Country. Nay, I am informed that some of them adhere so stedfastly to their Party, and are so far from sacrificing their Zeal for the Publick to their Passion for any particular Person, that in a late Draught of Marriage-Articles a Lady has stipulated with her Husband, That, whatever his Opinions are, she shall be at liberty to Patch on which Side she pleases.

I must here take notice, that Rosalinda, a famous Whig Partizan, has most unfortunately a very beautiful Mole on the Tory Part of her Forehead; which being very conspicuous, has occasioned many Mistakes, and given an Handle to her Enemies to misrepresent her Face, as tho' it had Revolted from the Whig Interest. But, whatever this natural Patch may seem to intimate, it is well known that her Notions of Government are still the same. This unlucky Mole, however, has mis-led several Coxcombs; and like the hanging out of false Colours, made some of them converse with Rosalinda in what they thought the Spirit of her Party, when on a sudden she has given them an unexpected Fire, that has sunk them all at once. If Rosalinda is unfortunate in her Mole, Nigranilla is as unhappy in a Pimple, which forces her, against her Inclinations, to Patch on the Whig Side.

I am told that many virtuous Matrons, who formerly have been taught to believe that this artificial Spotting of the Face was unlawful, are now reconciled by a Zeal for their Cause, to what they could not be prompted by a Concern for their Beauty. This way of declaring War upon one another, puts me in mind of what is reported of the Tigress, that several Spots rise in her Skin when she is angry, or as Mr. Cowley has imitated the Verses that stand as the Motto on this Paper,

------She swells with angry Pride,
And calls forth all her Spots on ev'ry Side
[1].

When I was in the Theatre the Time above-mentioned, I had the Curiosity to count the Patches on both Sides, and found the Tory Patches to be about Twenty stronger than the Whig; but to make amends for this small Inequality, I the next Morning found the whole Puppet-Show filled with Faces spotted after the Whiggish Manner. Whether or no the Ladies had retreated hither in order to rally their Forces I cannot tell; but the next Night they came in so great a Body to the Opera, that they out-number'd the Enemy.

This Account of Party Patches, will, I am afraid, appear improbable to those who live at a Distance from the fashionable World: but as it is a Distinction of a very singular Nature, and what perhaps may never meet with a Parallel, I think I should not have discharged the Office of a faithful SPECTATOR, had I not recorded it.

I have, in former Papers, endeavoured to expose this Party-Rage in Women, as it only serves to aggravate the Hatreds and Animosities that reign among Men, and in a great measure deprive the Fair Sex of those peculiar Charms with which Nature has endowed them.

When the Romans and Sabines were at War, and just upon the Point of giving Battel, the Women, who were allied to both of them, interposed with so many Tears and Intreaties, that they prevented the mutual Slaughter which threatned both Parties, and united them together in a firm and lasting Peace.

I would recommend this noble Example to our British Ladies, at a Time when their Country is torn with so many unnatural Divisions, that if they continue, it will be a Misfortune to be born in it. The Greeks thought it so improper for Women to interest themselves in Competitions and Contentions, that for this Reason, among others, they forbad them, under Pain of Death, to be present at the Olympick Games, notwithstanding these were the publick Diversions of all Greece.

As our English Women excel those of all Nations in Beauty, they should endeavour to outshine them in all other Accomplishments [proper [2] to the Sex, and to distinguish themselves as tender Mothers, and faithful Wives, rather than as furious Partizans. Female Virtues are of a Domestick Turn. The Family is the proper Province for Private Women to shine in. If they must be shewing their Zeal for the Publick, let it not be against those who are perhaps of the same Family, or at least of the same Religion or Nation, but against those who are the open, professed, undoubted Enemies of their Faith, Liberty and Country. When the Romans were pressed with a Foreign Enemy, the Ladies voluntarily contributed all their Rings and Jewels to assist the Government under a publick Exigence, which appeared so laudable an Action in the Eyes of their Countrymen, that from thenceforth it was permitted by a Law to pronounce publick Orations at the Funeral of a Woman in Praise of the deceased Person, which till that Time was peculiar to Men. Would our English Ladies, instead of sticking on a Patch against those of their own Country, shew themselves so truly Publick-spirited as to sacrifice every one her Necklace against the common Enemy, what Decrees ought not to be made in Favour of them?

Since I am recollecting upon this Subject such Passages as occur to my Memory out of ancient Authors, I cannot omit a Sentence in the celebrated Funeral Oration of Pericles, [3]. which he made in Honour of those brave Athenians that were slain in a fight with the Lacedæmonians. After having addressed himself to the several Ranks and Orders of his Countrymen, and shewn them how they should behave themselves in the Publick Cause, he turns to the Female Part of his Audience; And as for you (says he) I shall advise you in very few Words: Aspire only to those Virtues that are peculiar to your Sex; follow your natural Modesty, and think it your greatest Commendation not to he talked of one way or other."

 
 


1. Davideis, Bk III. But Cowley's Tiger is a Male.
2. [that are proper]
3. Thucydides, Bk II.

 
  Commentary  
 

It contains an interesting note on the “moeurs” or social habits of the time,showing the ladies sitting in the side boxes, and thus breaking the custom of the time which required them to sit in the front or middle boxes when attending the theatre.
Also in this essay Addison demonstrates his ability in “count these follies charmingly and with a natural relish for the task”, the comparison between women’s world and military world is very frequent and underlines his ironical point of view about the manias of the time.

 
     
  Find out more about

back to The Age of Journalism