Playing with edged tools

We all need a bit of advice from time to time, and it was no different in the eighteenth century. Eliza Taylor, who I wrote about in the last post, had a friend Kitty Talbot, who had been going through some unspecified difficulties, possibly to do with a romance. Eliza had been dispensing words of wisdom, for which Kitty was grateful:

You have frightened me my Dear Mrs Taylor by saying so many more fine things than I deserve… Oh dear Oh dear how shall my poor wooden head… dictate any thing worthy of a Lady so Speechified… So what expedient do you think I have fallen upon? Why to run away from my self as far as I can.

In the rest of the entertaining letter she described herself in the third person to try to gain a sense of detachment about her state of mind, which I’m sure all of us can recognise:

Indeed she has been too sad for some weeks past to be tolerable Company even to herself. Yet she thankfully received your kind Advice, acknowledged it to be very wise & seasonable and has endeavour’d she assures me to follow it… Not as one ought to follow good Advice full Gallop over Hedge & Ditch without once looking behind one, but stealing along a Snails trot, & stopping every minute to parley with less wayward fancies. Parlying with a temptation how dangerous! Every one has its plausible Cant, every one its bewitching disguise, & one fancies one is very laudably following good Nature, Compassion, Reason, Friendship, till at once one is stuck fast in a Slough an hundred miles off from the road one intended to have kept. To be cautious in making a Resolution & obstinate in keeping to it is the only rule. But how does this sad Kate practice the Rules she gives? Many a Morning might you, with a shorter Telescope then shows one the people in the Moon, have seen her riding very briskly in gay Sunshine through a Flowery Field determined to be as chearful as the Scene around her, & the next Minute, from some foolish Connexion of Ideas that she was not aware of, her face cover’d with Tears so that she could scarce see her way. But now she is really better. Not that any length of time she says can efface a Remembrance which will ever be most Dear & Valuable to her, but that Reason & Duty (& a little touch of Experience too for we all want that Teacher) have taught her not to play with edged tools any longer.

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