Letter IX

From Letter IX:

[42] The degree of attention which is paid to the preparation of our food cannot surely be justified. Women in the middle ranks, when they are to entertain company, (by which, in general, no more is intended than giving them a good dinner,) frequently rise at an earlier hour than usual, and are employed, till the moment their guests are expected, in making soups, gravies, pastry, &c. &c. and, exhausted with fatigue and anxiety about their entertainment, would rather go to bed than meet their visitants. You are sufficient judges of the propriety of this; or whether a woman so employed is very likely either to be benefited herself, or to benefit her associates. Suppose, if her situation required it, she had spent half the time in preparing a plain dinner, and the other half in pursuits calculated to afford rational enjoyment during the rest of the day, which would have been the wiser part, or likely to afford her most satisfaction? What is intended to pass for generosity, is often nothing more than vanity and prodigality; and those persons in the middle ranks, who wish to vie with their opulent neighbours in giving expensive entertainments, are only laughed at for their folly and extravagance.