The Spectator "A Woman Seldom Asks Advice Before She Has Bought Her Wedding Clothes"

Joseph Addison, Richard Steele

"A Woman Seldom Asks Advice Before She Has Bought Her Wedding Clothes"

Context: In the Spectator, Joseph Addison and Richard Steele raised popular essay journalism to a level of perfection never before achieved. For a large middle-class reading public they created an interest in public affairs, literary and dramatic criticism, public morality, and manners. In this essay, Addison is discussing with subtle but gentle satire those people who ask for advice they do not intend to use simply because they cannot keep a secret. The request for advice is, says Addison, merely an excuse for revealing the secret:

It is an old observation, which has been made of politicians who would rather ingratiate themselves with their sovereign than promote his real service, that they accommodate their counsels to his inclinations, and advise him to such actions only as his heart is naturally set upon. The privy-councillor of one in love must observe the same conduct, unless he would forfeit the friendship of the person who desires his advice. I have known several odd cases of this nature. Hipparchus was going to marry a common woman, but being resolved to do nothing without the advice of his friend Philander, he consulted him upon the occasion. Philander told him his mind freely, and represented his mistress to him in such strong colors, that the next morning he received a challenge for his pains, and before twelve o'clock was run through the body by the man who had asked his advice. Celia was more prudent on the like occasion; she desired Leonilla to give her opinion freely upon a young fellow who made his addresses to her. Leonilla, to oblige her, told her with great frankness that she looked upon him as one of the most worthless–Celia, forseeing what a character she was to expect, begged her not to go on, for that she had been privately married to him above a fortnight. The truth of it is, a woman seldom asks advice before she has bought her wedding clothes. When she has made her own choice, for form's sake she sends a congé d'élire to her friends.