On Reading

Whilst others of my Sex and age delight

In noisy mirth, to spend each day and Night

O’ercome with Vapors if but once away

From the dear Rout, the Op’ra, Ball, or Play;

In one enchanted Circle still they seem

Or as deluded by some dazzling dream.

Tho’ languid with Fatigue, they still pursue

The Phantom Pleasure – ever in their view

But which eludes their grasp and farther flies, )

Mocks at their eager steps and ardent Eyes )

Their Toil and swift career alike defies. )

Often thro’ Life they still admire the bait

But Death brings Wisdom tho’ it brings it late.

Let me more early warn’d the snare avoid

By which so much of fleeting Life’s destroy’d;

By Pleasure see what numbers are undone

Her flatt’ring blandishment ah let me shun.

Let me no more among the giddy gay

In tasteless dissipation waste the day.

Insipid, Trifling, Empty, Joys depart, )

Unworthy to engross the smallest part )

Of any Elevated thinking Heart. )

In some retirement let my Life be spent

With Peace, with Competence, and Health Content.

Blest with some Friend who amiably Serene

With chearfull chat despises envious Spleen,

With me delights the instructive Page to explore

And read each pleasing author ore and ore.

Their various beauties, variously admire,

One’s easy stile, another’s sacred Fire,

Expressions Elegant with Sense combined,

Sentiments Elevated, Taste refined.

Here flowing numbers, delicate and clear,

With softest Harmony salutes the year.

Sometimes (tho’ seldom) we with pleasure see

These excellencies all in one agree.

O Reading, which I ever must admire,

The more I use it, I the more desire,

By which I learn my Passions to subdue,

To slight the Frowns of Pride and Fortune too.

Reading instructs with fortitude to bear

Each disappointment Heaven decrees my share;

With such delights how swift my Time would fly,

How can I wish for other company?

This, whilst it pleases, will improve my mind, )

In this each peacefull Joy I’m sure to find, )

And make my hopes and Fears alike resign’d. )


Text: Box 28, Reeves Collection, Bodleian Library; Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 4, pp. 172-73.