Judith Sargent Murray Society
JSM's dates: 1751-1820
The Reaper. No. III.
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This essay appeared in the Monday, November 17, 1794 edition of the Federal Orrery. In it, "The Reaper" describes an acquaintance she considers the ideal man.


The Reaper. No. III.
 
There is something, in the contemplation of uncommon excellence, that ameliorates the mind, and from which the insidious observer, industriously engaged in the pursuit of improvement, must, of necessity, reap the fairest lessons.

I know a man -- he hath now, perhaps, completed his thirtieth year -- in the habit of intimacy with his family, I have marked him from the moment of his birth -- and this man I produce, as a model for his sex. If he have faults, it is envy alone, who can trace them; and they are of such a nature, as serve only to ascertain his humanity. He unites the elegance and mild virtues, which are peculiar to the female world, with all the firmness, and solidity, that are the supposed prerogatives of manhood.

He possesseth a dignity of soul, which disdains those fashionable violations of veracity, which the petit maitres of our day deem so monstrously funny, "which are so vastly in vogue,["] and which come under the description of innocent mirth. -- He will not stoop to lie, even in jest; and, from his boyish years, considering honor and integrity, as synonimous, he hath evinced an elevation of sentiment, which hath rendered him superior to falsehood, in whatever shape the miscreant may have been presented, or however ludicrously it may have been garbed.

He is a genteel man; and, I believe, it would be difficult to prove, that he hath ever, in a single instance, deviated from the strict line of politeness. He had not completed his tenth year, when I paid a visit at his father's. Both his parents were absent -- a tedious north-east storm shut me up for some days, and I anticipated a kind of gloomy imprisonment; but this promising lad, as if already an adept in the arts and refinements of polished life, was fruitful in resources for my amusement -- I was enchanted by his manners. The germ of native goodness, he evidently possessed; and in his opening mind, the rich fruits of genuine philanthropy, elegant taste, captivating urbanity, and inborn probity, seemed more than budding. -- I was in raptures with the child; and I have seldom passed a more rationally happy period; nor have I observed, without the accompanying glow of suffusive pleasure, that his subsequent life hath exhibited a wide expansion of those early, and pleasing prelibations.

He is a brave man. A thousand instances might be adduced to evince the heroism of his soul; but, could I give publicity to a certain affair, in which, with undaunted resolution, he seized the weapon of death from the hand of a delinquent, rendered desperate by his particular situation, and who had the temerity to arm himself for the purpose of impeding the operation of justice, it would be sufficient to demonstrate this trait in his character. But, as newspaper recitals should not be too circumstantial, on this head, I will only observe, that he is uniformly found upon the square of rectitude; and that genuine virtue, in an energetic mind, is seldom debased by fear.

He is a man of wit. This is confessed by every tongue. But he wields the most burnished shafts; the brilliancy of his imagination emits none, but the most genial rays; his points have nothing of asperity in them; they give no mortal wounds, and, although exquisitely edged, they are rather calculated to ameliorate, than to irritate. In one word, his "wit is mature, to advantage dressed."

He is in the mercantile line; and his punctual, and regular manner of transacting his commercial affairs, hath not been surpassed. His plans have been crowned with a considerable share of success; and, if he doth not attain to opulence, his integrity, indefatigable industry, and consistent uprightness, will, at least, have merited the utmost propriety.

He is a man of benevolence; and, in the same moment, that his bosom melts at the sorrows of the unfortunate, sedulously intent upon accomplishing the relief of the sufferer, in a pursuit so laudable, all the energies of his nature are roused to action. Boston is justly celebrious for the cheerful alacrity, with which she extends an extricating hand to the sons and daughters of misfortune; and our young gentleman, in proportion to his abilities, ever ranks in the first rank of the munificent. Yet, although he is always thus ready in his public benefactions, the Reaper presumes not (however the whisperer may have been abroad) to sketch his private largess.

After these shining traits, were it possible to regard it as essential, veracity could throw, into the scale, a graceful exterior, a form uncommonly pleasing, with whatever can be conceived of, as completing the aggregate of manly beauty. But even common observers, captivated by the mild, and easy dignity of manners, forget to admire advantages, so adventitious. He is considered, as one of the brightest ornaments of society; and, in the most polished assemblies, he is ever a welcome guest. He combines the easy vivacity, and sprightly gaiety of youth, with those matured observations, which, being the growth of years, are seldom reaped but from experience. An economist of time, he has learned to number his hours by improvement; and his select friends, fond of enwreathing the brow of merit, have bestowed upon him the name of Senex. The uniformity of his temper is remarkable, and he is always distinguished by the same equal flow of spirits. In short, our youthful Senex is a truly accomplished man.

A celebrated portrait-painter, more famous for his art of embellishing, than for his resemblances, was reduced to the necessity of inscribing the names of those he had painted, upon his pieces. But the Reaper is persuaded, that the striking likeness, which she has been happy enough to catch, renders, in the present instance, such an addition superfluous: and she entertains not the smallest doubt, but that every one, who hath the felicity of ranking in the number of his acquaintances, will immediately recognize, the Senex of their circles.

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2007 © Bonnie Hurd Smith

Independent scholar and author Bonnie Hurd Smith is the president and CEO of History Smiths, a marketing company that works with businesses to incorporate history -- their own and their community's -- into their branding, marketing, and community outreach to attract customers, boost customer loyalty, and secure a high status reputation in the communities they serve.