The Toilette "A Miss For Pleasure, And A Wife For Breed"
by John Gay

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"A Miss For Pleasure, And A Wife For Breed"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Gay's satire is about a woman of thirty-five, a lady of fashion, who has lost her lover to a much younger woman. Gay catches the victim of age and love as she dresses in the morning, surrounded by her parrot, her lapdog, and all the other paraphernalia of a lady of fashion's dressing-room at the time. Lydia mourns not only the loss of her lover, Damon; she mourns as well the loss of her youth and the inconsistency of love. Life seems suddenly empty to her, and she wonders what to do with her time; she thinks of going shopping at the Exchange, but she knows that shopping will only remind her of similar times spent with her faithless lover in the past. Such considerations lead the unhappy woman to raving:

"O happy Poll, in wiry prison pent;
Thou ne'er hast known what love or rivals meant,
And Pug with pleasure can his fetters bear,
Who ne'er believed the vows that lovers swear!
How am I curst! (unhappy and forlorn)
With perjury, with love, and rival's scorn!
False are the loose coquet's inveigling airs,
False is the pompous grief of youthful heirs,
False is the cringing courtier's plighted word,
False are the dice when gamesters stamp the board,
False is the sprightly widow's public tear;
Yet these to Damon's oaths are all sincere.
"Fly from perfidious man, the sex disdain;
Let servile Chloe wear the nuptial chain.
Damon is practis'd in the modish life,
Can hate, and yet be civil to a wife;
He games; he swears; he drinks; he fights; he roves;
Yet Chloe can believe he fondly loves.
Mistress and wife can well supply his need,
A miss for pleasure, and a wife for breed."