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´╗┐Title: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
 - With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects
Author: Wollstonecraft, Mary
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
 - With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects" ***

Amy E Zelmer  
Col Choat  
Sue Asscher  

















8 April, 2001


M. Wollstonecraft was born in 1759.  Her father was so great a
wanderer, that the place of her birth is uncertain; she supposed,
however, it was London, or Epping Forest:  at the latter place she
spent the first five years of her life.  In early youth she
exhibited traces of exquisite sensibility, soundness of
understanding, and decision of character; but her father being a
despot in his family, and her mother one of his subjects, Mary,
derived little benefit from their parental training.  She received
no literary instructions but such as were to be had in ordinary day
schools.  Before her sixteenth year she became acquainted with Mr.
Clare a clergyman, and Miss Frances Blood; the latter, two years
older than herself; who possessing good taste and some knowledge of
the fine arts, seems to have given the first impulse to the
formation of her character.  At the age of nineteen, she left her
parents, and resided with a Mrs. Dawson for two years; when she
returned to the parental roof to give attention to her mother,
whose ill health made her presence necessary.  On the death of her
mother, Mary bade a final adieu to her father's house, and became
the inmate of F. Blood; thus situated, their intimacy increased,
and a strong attachment was reciprocated.  In 1783 she commenced a
day school at Newington green, in conjunction with her friend, F.
Blood.  At this place she became acquainted with Dr. Price, to whom
she became strongly attached; the regard was mutual.

It is said that she became a teacher from motives of benevolence,
or rather philanthropy, and during the time she continued in the
profession, she gave proof of superior qualification for the
performance of its arduous and important duties.  Her friend and
coadjutor married and removed to Lisbon, in Portugal, where she
died of a pulmonary disease; the symptoms of which were visible
before her marriage.  So true was Mary's attachment to her, that
she entrusted her school to the care of others, for the purpose of
attending Frances in her closing scene.  She aided, as did Dr.
Young, in "Stealing Narcissa a grave."  Her mind was expanded by
this residence in a foreign country, and though clear of religious
bigotry before, she took some instructive lessons on the evils of
superstition, and intolerance.

On her return she found the school had suffered by her absence, and
having previously decided to apply herself to literature, she now
resolved to commence.  In 1787 she made, or received, proposals
from Johnson, a publisher in London, who was already acquainted
with her talents as an author.  During the three subsequent years,
she was actively engaged, more in translating, condensing, and
compiling, than in the production of original works.  At this time
she laboured under much depression of spirits, for the loss of her
friend; this rather increased, perhaps, by the publication of
"Mary, a novel," which was mostly composed of incidents and
reflections connected with their intimacy.

The pecuniary concerns of her father becoming embarrassed, Mary
practised a rigid economy in her expenditures, and with her savings
was enabled to procure her sisters and brothers situations, to
which without her aid, they could not have had access; her father
was sustained at length from her funds; she even found means to
take under her protection an orphan child.

She had acquired a facility in the arrangement and expression of
thoughts, in her avocation of translator, and compiler, which was
no doubt of great use to her afterward.  It was not long until she
had occasion for them.  The eminent Burke produced his celebrated
"Reflections on the Revolution in France."  Mary full of sentiments
of liberty, and indignant at what she thought subversive of it,
seized her pen and produced the first attack upon that famous work.
It succeeded well, for though intemperate and contemptuous, it was
vehemently and impetuously eloquent; and though Burke was beloved
by the enlightened friends of freedom, they were dissatisfied and
disgusted with what they deemed an outrage upon it.

It is said that Mary, had not wanted confidence in her own powers
before, but the reception this work met from the public, gave her
an opportunity of judging what those powers were, in the estimation
of others.  It was shortly after this, that she commenced the work
to which these remarks are prefixed.  What are its merits will be
decided in the judgment of each reader; suffice it to say she
appears to have stept forth boldly, and singly, in defence of that
half of the human race, which by the usages of all society, whether
savage or civilized, have been kept from attaining their proper
dignity--their equal rank as rational beings.  It would appear that
the disguise used in placing on woman the silken fetters which
bribed her into endurance, and even love of slavery, but increased
the opposition of our authoress:  she would have had more patience
with rude, brute coercion, than with that imposing gallantry,
which, while it affects to consider woman as the pride, and
ornament of creation, degrades her to a toy--an appendage--a
cypher.  The work was much reprehended, and as might well be
expected, found its greatest enemies in the pretty soft
creatures--the spoiled children of her own sex.  She accomplished
it in six weeks.

In 1792 she removed to Paris, where she became acquainted with
Gilbert Imlay, of the United States.  And from this acquaintance
grew an attachment, which brought the parties together, without
legal formalities, to which she objected on account of some family
embarrassments, in which he would thereby become involved.  The
engagement was however considered by her of the most sacred nature,
and they formed the plan of emigrating to America, where they
should be enabled to accomplish it.  These were the days of
Robespierrean cruelty, and Imlay left Paris for Havre, whither
after a time Mary followed him.  They continued to reside there,
until he left Havre for London, under pretence of business, and
with a promise of rejoining her soon at Paris, which however he did
not, but in 1795 sent for her to London.  In the mean time she had
become the mother of a female child, whom she called Frances in
commemoration of her early friendship.

Before she went to England, she had some gloomy forebodings that
the affections of Imlay, had waned, if they were not estranged from
her; on her arrival, those forebodings were sorrowfully confirmed.
His attentions were too formal and constrained to pass unobserved
by her penetration, and though he ascribed his manner, and his
absence, to business duties, she saw his affection for her was only
something to be remembered.  To use her own expression, "Love, dear
delusion!  Rigorous reason has forced me to resign; and now my
rational prospects are blasted, just as I have learned to be
contented with rational enjoyments."  To pretend to depict her
misery at this time would be futile; the best idea can be formed of
it from the fact that she had planned her own destruction, from
which Imlay prevented her.  She conceived the idea of suicide a
second time, and threw herself into the Thames; she remained in the
water, until consciousness forsook her, but she was taken up and
resuscitated.  After divers attempts to revive the affections of
Imlay, with sundry explanations and professions on his part,
through the lapse of two years, she resolved finally to forgo all
hope of reclaiming him, and endeavour to think of him no more in
connexion with her future prospects.  In this she succeeded so
well, that she afterwards had a private interview with him, which
did not produce any painful emotions.

In 1796 she revived or improved an acquaintance which commenced
years before with Wm. Godwin, author of "Political Justice," and
other works of great notoriety.  Though they had not been
favourably impressed with each other on their former acquaintance,
they now met under circumstances which permitted a mutual and just
appreciation of character.  Their intimacy increased by regular and
almost imperceptible degrees.  The partiality they conceived for
each other was, according to her biographer, "In the most refined
style of love.  It grew with equal advances in the mind of each.
It would have been impossible for the most minute observer to have
said who was before, or who after.  One sex did not take the
priority which long established custom has awarded it, nor the
other overstep that delicacy which is so severely imposed.  Neither
party could assume to have been the agent or the patient, the
toil-spreader or the prey in the affair.  When in the course of
things the disclosure came, there was nothing in a manner for
either to disclose to the other."

Mary lived but a few months after her marriage, and died in
child-bed; having given birth to a daughter who is now known to the
literary world as Mrs. Shelly, the widow of Percy Bysche Shelly.

We can scarcely avoid regret that one of such splendid talents, and
high toned feelings, should, after the former seemed to have been
fully developed, and the latter had found an object in whom they
might repose, after their eccentric and painful efforts to find a
resting place--that such an one should at such a time, be cut off
from life is something which we cannot contemplate without feeling
regret; we can scarcely repress the murmur that she had not been
removed ere clouds darkened her horizon, or that she had remained
to witness the brightness and serenity which might have succeeded.
But thus it is; we may trace the cause to anti-social arrangements;
it is not individuals but society which must change it, and that
not by enactments, but by a change in public opinion.

The authoress of the "Rights of Woman," was born April 1759, died
September 1797.

That there may be no doubt regarding the facts in this sketch, they
are taken from a memoir written by her afflicted husband.  In
addition to many kind things he has said of her, (he was not
blinded to imperfections in her character) is, that she was "Lovely
in her person, and in the best and most engaging sense feminine in
her manners."





Having read with great pleasure a pamphlet, which you have lately
published, on National Education, I dedicate this volume to you,
the first dedication that I have ever written, to induce you to
read it with attention; and, because I think that you will
understand me, which I do not suppose many pert witlings will, who
may ridicule the arguments they are unable to answer.  But, sir, I
carry my respect for your understanding still farther:  so far,
that I am confident you will not throw my work aside, and hastily
conclude that I am in the wrong because you did not view the
subject in the same light yourself.  And pardon my frankness, but I
must observe, that you treated it in too cursory a manner,
contented to consider it as it had been considered formerly, when
the rights of man, not to advert to woman, were trampled on as
chimerical.  I call upon you, therefore, now to weigh what I have
advanced respecting the rights of woman, and national education;
and I call with the firm tone of humanity.  For my arguments, sir,
are dictated by a disinterested spirit:  I plead for my sex, not
for myself.  Independence I have long considered as the grand
blessing of life, the basis of every virtue; and independence I
will ever secure by contracting my wants, though I were to live on
a barren heath.

It is, then, an affection for the whole human race that makes my
pen dart rapidly along to support what I believe to be the cause of
virtue:  and the same motive leads me earnestly to wish to see
woman placed in a station in which she would advance, instead of
retarding, the progress of those glorious principles that give a
substance to morality.  My opinion, indeed, respecting the rights
and duties of woman, seems to flow so naturally from these simple
principles, that I think it scarcely possible, but that some of the
enlarged minds who formed your admirable constitution, will
coincide with me.

In France, there is undoubtedly a more general diffusion of
knowledge than in any part of the European world, and I attribute
it, in a great measure, to the social intercourse which has long
subsisted between the sexes.  It is true, I utter my sentiments
with freedom, that in France the very essence of sensuality has
been extracted to regale the voluptuary, and a kind of sentimental
lust has prevailed, which, together with the system of duplicity
that the whole tenor of their political and civil government
taught, have given a sinister sort of sagacity to the French
character, properly termed finesse; and a polish of manners that
injures the substance, by hunting sincerity out of society.  And,
modesty, the fairest garb of virtue has been more grossly insulted
in France than even in England, till their women have treated as
PRUDISH that attention to decency which brutes instinctively

Manners and morals are so nearly allied, that they have often been
confounded; but, though the former should only be the natural
reflection of the latter, yet, when various causes have produced
factitious and corrupt manners, which are very early caught,
morality becomes an empty name.  The personal reserve, and sacred
respect for cleanliness and delicacy in domestic life, which French
women almost despise, are the graceful pillars of modesty; but, far
from despising them, if the pure flame of patriotism have reached
their bosoms, they should labour to improve the morals of their
fellow-citizens, by teaching men, not only to respect modesty in
women, but to acquire it themselves, as the only way to merit their

Contending for the rights of women, my main argument is built on
this simple principle, that if she be not prepared by education to
become the companion of man, she will stop the progress of
knowledge, for truth must be common to all, or it will be
inefficacious with respect to its influence on general practice.
And how can woman be expected to co-operate, unless she know why
she ought to be virtuous?  Unless freedom strengthen her reason
till she comprehend her duty, and see in what manner it is
connected with her real good?  If children are to be educated to
understand the true principle of patriotism, their mother must be a
patriot; and the love of mankind, from which an orderly train of
virtues spring, can only be produced by considering the moral and
civil interest of mankind; but the education and situation of
woman, at present, shuts her out from such investigations.

In this work I have produced many arguments, which to me were
conclusive, to prove, that the prevailing notion respecting a
sexual character was subversive of morality, and I have contended,
that to render the human body and mind more perfect, chastity must
more universally prevail, and that chastity will never be respected
in the male world till the person of a woman is not, as it were,
idolized when little virtue or sense embellish it with the grand
traces of mental beauty, or the interesting simplicity of

Consider, Sir, dispassionately, these observations, for a glimpse
of this truth seemed to open before you when you observed, "that to
see one half of the human race excluded by the other from all
participation of government, was a political phenomenon that,
according to abstract principles, it was impossible to explain."
If so, on what does your constitution rest?  If the abstract rights
of man will bear discussion and explanation, those of woman, by a
parity of reasoning, will not shrink from the same test: though a
different opinion prevails in this country, built on the very
arguments which you use to justify the oppression of woman,

Consider, I address you as a legislator, whether, when men contend
for their freedom, and to be allowed to judge for themselves,
respecting their own happiness, it be not inconsistent and unjust
to subjugate women, even though you firmly believe that you are
acting in the manner best calculated to promote their happiness?
Who made man the exclusive judge, if woman partake with him the
gift of reason?

In this style, argue tyrants of every denomination from the weak
king to the weak father of a family; they are all eager to crush
reason; yet always assert that they usurp its throne only to be
useful.  Do you not act a similar part, when you FORCE all women,
by denying them civil and political rights, to remain immured in
their families groping in the dark? For surely, sir, you will not
assert, that a duty can be binding which is not founded on reason?
If, indeed, this be their destination, arguments may be drawn from
reason; and thus augustly supported, the more understanding women
acquire, the more they will be attached to their duty,
comprehending it, for unless they comprehend it, unless their
morals be fixed on the same immutable principles as those of man,
no authority can make them discharge it in a virtuous manner.  They
may be convenient slaves, but slavery will have its constant
effect, degrading the master and the abject dependent.

But, if women are to be excluded, without having a voice, from a
participation of the natural rights of mankind, prove first, to
ward off the charge of injustice and inconsistency, that they want
reason, else this flaw in your NEW CONSTITUTION, the first
constitution founded on reason, will ever show that man must, in
some shape, act like a tyrant, and tyranny, in whatever part of
society it rears its brazen front, will ever undermine morality.

I have repeatedly asserted, and produced what appeared to me
irrefragable arguments drawn from matters of fact, to prove my
assertion, that women cannot, by force, be confined to domestic
concerns; for they will however ignorant, intermeddle with more
weighty affairs, neglecting private duties only to disturb, by
cunning tricks, the orderly plans of reason which rise above their

Besides, whilst they are only made to acquire personal
accomplishments, men will seek for pleasure in variety, and
faithless husbands will make faithless wives; such ignorant beings,
indeed, will be very excusable when, not taught to respect public
good, nor allowed any civil right, they attempt to do themselves
justice by retaliation.

The box of mischief thus opened in society, what is to preserve
private virtue, the only security of public freedom and universal

Let there be then no coercion ESTABLISHED in society, and the
common law of gravity prevailing, the sexes will fall into their
proper places.  And, now that more equitable laws are forming your
citizens, marriage may become more sacred; your young men may
choose wives from motives of affection, and your maidens allow love
to root out vanity.

The father of a family will not then weaken his constitution and
debase his sentiments, by visiting the harlot, nor forget, in
obeying the call of appetite, the purpose for which it was
implanted; and the mother will not neglect her children to practise
the arts of coquetry, when sense and modesty secure her the
friendship of her husband.

But, till men become attentive to the duty of a father, it is vain
to expect women to spend that time in their nursery which they,
"wise in their generation," choose to spend at their glass; for
this exertion of cunning is only an instinct of nature to enable
them to obtain indirectly a little of that power of which they are
unjustly denied a share; for, if women are not permitted to enjoy
legitimate rights, they will render both men and themselves
vicious, to obtain illicit privileges.

I wish, sir, to set some investigations of this kind afloat in
France; and should they lead to a confirmation of my principles,
when your constitution is revised, the rights of woman may be
respected, if it be fully proved that reason calls for this
respect, and loudly demands JUSTICE for one half of the human race.

I am, sir,

Yours respectfully,

M. W.


After considering the historic page, and viewing the living world
with anxious solicitude, the most melancholy emotions of sorrowful
indignation have depressed my spirits, and I have sighed when
obliged to confess, that either nature has made a great difference
between man and man, or that the civilization, which has hitherto
taken place in the world, has been very partial.  I have turned
over various books written on the subject of education, and
patiently observed the conduct of parents and the management of
schools; but what has been the result? a profound conviction, that
the neglected education of my fellow creatures is the grand source
of the misery I deplore; and that women in particular, are rendered
weak and wretched by a variety of concurring causes, originating
from one hasty conclusion.  The conduct and manners of women, in
fact, evidently prove, that their minds are not in a healthy state;
for, like the flowers that  are planted in too rich a soil,
strength and usefulness are sacrificed to beauty; and the flaunting
leaves, after having pleased a fastidious eye, fade, disregarded on
the stalk, long before the season when they ought to have arrived
at maturity.  One cause of this barren blooming I attribute to a
false system of education, gathered from the books written on this
subject by men, who, considering females rather as women than human
creatures, have been more anxious to make them alluring mistresses
than rational wives; and the understanding of the sex has been so
bubbled by this specious homage, that the civilized women of the
present century, with a few exceptions, are only anxious to inspire
love, when they ought to cherish a nobler ambition, and by their
abilities and virtues exact respect.

In a treatise, therefore, on female rights and manners, the works
which have been particularly written for their improvement must not
be overlooked; especially when it is asserted, in direct terms,
that the minds of women are enfeebled by false refinement; that the
books of instruction, written by men of genius, have had the same
tendency as more frivolous productions; and that, in the true style
of Mahometanism, they are only considered as females, and not as a
part of the human species, when improvable reason is allowed to be
the dignified distinction, which raises men above the brute
creation, and puts a natural sceptre in a feeble hand.

Yet, because I am a woman, I would not lead my readers to suppose,
that I mean violently to agitate the contested question respecting
the equality and inferiority of the sex; but as the subject lies in
my way, and I cannot pass it over without subjecting the main
tendency of my reasoning to misconstruction, I shall stop a moment
to deliver, in a few words, my opinion.  In the government of the
physical world, it is observable that the female, in general, is
inferior to the male.  The male pursues, the female yields--this is
the law of nature; and it does not appear to be suspended or
abrogated in favour of woman.  This physical superiority cannot be
denied--and it is a noble prerogative!  But not content with this
natural pre-eminence, men endeavour to sink us still lower, merely
to render us alluring objects for a moment; and women, intoxicated
by the adoration which men, under the influence of their senses,
pay them, do not seek to obtain a durable interest in their hearts,
or to become the friends of the fellow creatures who find amusement
in their society.

I am aware of an obvious inference: from every quarter have I heard
exclamations against masculine women; but where are they to be
found?  If, by this appellation, men mean to inveigh against their
ardour in hunting, shooting, and gaming, I shall most cordially
join in the cry; but if it be, against the imitation of manly
virtues, or, more properly speaking, the attainment of those
talents and virtues, the exercise of which ennobles the human
character, and which raise females in the scale of animal being,
when they are comprehensively termed mankind--all those who view
them with a philosophical eye must, I should think, wish with me,
that they may every day grow more and more masculine.

This discussion naturally divides the subject.  I shall first
consider women in the grand light of human creatures, who, in
common with men, are placed on this earth to unfold their
faculties; and afterwards I shall more particularly point out their
peculiar designation.

I wish also to steer clear of an error, which many respectable
writers have fallen into; for the instruction which has hitherto
been addressed to women, has rather been applicable to LADIES, if
the little indirect advice, that is scattered through Sandford and
Merton, be excepted; but, addressing my sex in a firmer tone, I pay
particular attention to those in the middle class, because they
appear to be in the most natural state.  Perhaps the seeds of false
refinement, immorality, and vanity have ever been shed by the
great.  Weak, artificial beings raised above the common wants and
affections of their race, in a premature unnatural manner,
undermine the very foundation of virtue, and spread corruption
through the whole mass of society!  As a class of mankind they have
the strongest claim to pity! the education of the rich tends to
render them vain and helpless, and the unfolding mind is not
strengthened by the practice of those duties which dignify the
human character.  They only live to amuse themselves, and by the
same law which in nature invariably produces certain effects, they
soon only afford barren amusement.

But as I purpose taking a separate view of the different ranks of
society, and of the moral character of women, in each, this hint
is, for the present, sufficient; and I have only alluded to the
subject, because it appears to me to be the very essence of an
introduction to give a cursory account of the contents of the work
it introduces.

My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational
creatures, instead of flattering their FASCINATING graces, and
viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood,
unable to stand alone.  I earnestly wish to point out in what true
dignity and human happiness consists--I wish to persuade women to
endeavour to acquire strength, both of mind and body, and to
convince them, that the soft phrases, susceptibility of heart,
delicacy of sentiment, and refinement of taste, are almost
synonymous with epithets of weakness, and that those beings who are
only the objects of pity and that kind of love, which has been
termed its sister, will soon become objects of contempt.

Dismissing then those pretty feminine phrases, which the men
condescendingly use to soften our slavish dependence, and despising
that weak elegancy of mind, exquisite sensibility, and sweet
docility of manners, supposed to be the sexual characteristics of
the weaker vessel, I wish to show that elegance is inferior to
virtue, that the first object of laudable ambition is to obtain a
character as a human being, regardless of the distinction of sex;
and that secondary views should be brought to this simple

This is a rough sketch of my plan; and should I express my
conviction with the energetic emotions that I feel whenever I think
of the subject, the dictates of experience and reflection will be
felt by some of my readers.  Animated by this important object, I
shall disdain to cull my phrases or polish my style--I aim at being
useful, and sincerity will render me unaffected; for wishing rather
to persuade by the force of my arguments, than dazzle by the
elegance of my language, I shall not waste my time in rounding
periods, nor in fabricating the turgid bombast of artificial
feelings, which, coming from the head, never reach the heart.  I
shall be employed about things, not words! and, anxious to render
my sex more respectable members of society, I shall try to avoid
that flowery diction which has slided from essays into novels, and
from novels into familiar letters and conversation.

These pretty nothings, these caricatures of the real beauty of
sensibility, dropping glibly from the tongue, vitiate the taste,
and create a kind of sickly delicacy that turns away from simple
unadorned truth; and a deluge of false sentiments and
over-stretched feelings, stifling the natural emotions of the
heart, render the domestic pleasures insipid, that ought to sweeten
the exercise of those severe duties, which educate a rational and
immortal being for a nobler field of action.

The education of women has, of late, been more attended to than
formerly; yet they are still reckoned a frivolous sex, and
ridiculed or pitied by the writers who endeavour by satire or
instruction to improve them.  It is acknowledged that they spend
many of the first years of their lives in acquiring a smattering of
accomplishments:  meanwhile, strength of body and mind are
sacrificed to libertine notions of beauty, to the desire of
establishing themselves, the only way women can rise in the
world--by marriage.  And this desire making mere animals of them,
when they marry, they act as such children may be expected to act:
they dress; they paint, and nickname God's creatures.  Surely these
weak beings are only fit for the seraglio!  Can they govern a
family, or take care of the poor babes whom they bring into the

If then it can be fairly deduced from the present conduct of the
sex, from the prevalent fondness for pleasure, which takes place of
ambition and those nobler passions that open and enlarge the soul;
that the instruction which women have received has only tended,
with the constitution of civil society, to render them
insignificant objects of desire; mere propagators of fools! if it
can be proved, that in aiming to accomplish them, without
cultivating their understandings, they are taken out of their
sphere of duties, and made ridiculous and useless when the short
lived bloom of beauty is over*, I presume that RATIONAL men will
excuse me for endeavouring to persuade them to become more
masculine and respectable.

(*Footnote.  A lively writer, I cannot recollect his name, asks
what business women turned of forty have to do in the world.)

Indeed the word masculine is only a bugbear:  there is little
reason to fear that women will acquire too much courage or
fortitude; for their apparent inferiority with respect to bodily
strength, must render them, in some degree, dependent on men in the
various relations of life; but why should it be increased by
prejudices that give a sex to virtue, and confound simple truths
with sensual reveries?

Women are, in fact, so much degraded by mistaken notions of female
excellence, that I do not mean to add a paradox when I assert, that
this artificial weakness produces a propensity to tyrannize, and
gives birth to cunning, the natural opponent of strength, which
leads them to play off those contemptible infantile airs that
undermine esteem even whilst they excite desire.  Do not foster
these prejudices, and they will naturally fall into their
subordinate, yet respectable station in life.

It seems scarcely necessary to say, that I now speak of the sex in
general.  Many individuals have more sense than their male
relatives; and, as nothing preponderates where there is a constant
struggle for an equilibrium, without it has naturally more gravity,
some women govern their husbands without degrading themselves,
because intellect will always govern.




In the present state of society, it appears necessary to go back to
first principles in search of the most simple truths, and to
dispute with some prevailing prejudice every inch of ground.  To
clear my way, I must be allowed to ask some plain questions, and
the answers will probably appear as unequivocal as the axioms on
which reasoning is built; though, when entangled with various
motives of action, they are formally contradicted, either by the
words or conduct of men.

In what does man's pre-eminence over the brute creation consist?
The answer is as clear as that a half is less than the whole; in

What acquirement exalts one being above another?  Virtue; we
spontaneously reply.

For what purpose were the passions implanted?  That man by
struggling with them might attain a degree of knowledge denied to
the brutes:  whispers Experience.

Consequently the perfection of our nature and capability of
happiness, must be estimated by the degree of reason, virtue, and
knowledge, that distinguish the individual, and direct the laws
which bind society:  and that from the exercise of reason,
knowledge and virtue naturally flow, is equally undeniable, if
mankind be viewed collectively.

The rights and duties of man thus simplified, it seems almost
impertinent to attempt to illustrate truths that appear so
incontrovertible:  yet such deeply rooted prejudices have clouded
reason, and such spurious qualities have assumed the name of
virtues, that it is necessary to pursue the course of reason as it
has been perplexed and involved in error, by various adventitious
circumstances, comparing the simple axiom with casual deviations.

Men, in general, seem to employ their reason to justify prejudices,
which they have imbibed, they cannot trace how, rather than to root
them out.  The mind must be strong that resolutely forms its own
principles; for a kind of intellectual cowardice prevails which
makes many men shrink from the task, or only do it by halves.  Yet
the imperfect conclusions thus drawn, are frequently very
plausible, because they are built on partial experience, on just,
though narrow, views.

Going back to first principles, vice skulks, with all its native
deformity, from close investigation; but a set of shallow reasoners
are always exclaiming that these arguments prove too much, and that
a measure rotten at the core may be expedient.  Thus expediency is
continually contrasted with simple principles, till truth is lost
in a mist of words, virtue in forms, and knowledge rendered a
sounding nothing, by the specious prejudices that assume its name.

That the society is formed in the wisest manner, whose constitution
is founded on the nature of man, strikes, in the abstract, every
thinking being so forcibly, that it looks like presumption to
endeavour to bring forward proofs; though proof must be brought, or
the strong hold of prescription will never be forced by reason; yet
to urge prescription as an argument to justify the depriving men
(or women) of their natural rights, is one of the absurd sophisms
which daily insult common sense.

The civilization of the bulk of the people of Europe, is very
partial; nay, it may be made a question, whether they have acquired
any virtues in exchange for innocence, equivalent to the misery
produced by the vices that have been plastered over unsightly
ignorance, and the freedom which has been bartered for splendid
slavery.  The desire of dazzling by riches, the most certain
pre-eminence that man can obtain, the pleasure of commanding
flattering sycophants, and many other complicated low calculations
of doting self-love, have all contributed to overwhelm the mass of
mankind, and make liberty a convenient handle for mock patriotism.
For whilst rank and titles are held of the utmost importance,
before which Genius "must hide its diminished head," it is, with a
few exceptions, very unfortunate for a nation when a man of
abilities, without rank or property, pushes himself forward to
notice.  Alas! what unheard of misery have thousands suffered to
purchase a cardinal's hat for an intriguing obscure adventurer, who
longed to be ranked with princes, or lord it over them by seizing
the triple crown!

Such, indeed, has been the wretchedness that has flowed from
hereditary honours, riches, and monarchy, that men of lively
sensibility have almost uttered blasphemy in order to justify the
dispensations of providence.  Man has been held out as independent
of his power who made him, or as a lawless planet darting from its
orbit to steal the celestial fire of reason; and the vengeance of
heaven, lurking in the subtile flame, sufficiently punished his
temerity, by introducing evil into the world.

Impressed by this view of the misery and disorder which pervaded
society, and fatigued with jostling against artificial fools,
Rousseau became enamoured of solitude, and, being at the same time
an optimist, he labours with uncommon eloquence to prove that man
was naturally a solitary animal.  Misled by his respect for the
goodness of God, who certainly for what man of sense and feeling
can doubt it! gave life only to communicate happiness, he considers
evil as positive, and the work of man; not aware that he was
exalting one attribute at the expense of another, equally necessary
to divine perfection.

Reared on a false hypothesis, his arguments in favour of a state of
nature are plausible, but unsound.  I say unsound; for to assert
that a state of nature is preferable to civilization in all its
possible perfection, is, in other words, to arraign supreme wisdom;
and the paradoxical exclamation, that God has made all things
right, and that evil has been introduced by the creature whom he
formed, knowing what he formed, is as unphilosophical as impious.

When that wise Being, who created us and placed us here, saw the
fair idea, he willed, by allowing it to be so, that the passions
should unfold our reason, because he could see that present evil
would produce future good.  Could the helpless creature whom he
called from nothing, break loose from his providence, and boldly
learn to know good by practising evil without his permission?  No.
How could that energetic advocate for immortality argue so
inconsistently?  Had mankind remained for ever in the brutal state
of nature, which even his magic pen cannot paint as a state in
which a single virtue took root, it would have been clear, though
not to the sensitive unreflecting wanderer, that man was born to
run the circle of life and death, and adorn God's garden for some
purpose which could not easily be reconciled with his attributes.

But if, to crown the whole, there were to be rational creatures
produced, allowed to rise in excellency by the exercise of powers
implanted for that purpose; if benignity itself thought fit to call
into existence a creature above the brutes, who could think and
improve himself, why should that inestimable gift, for a gift it
was, if a man was so created as to have a capacity to rise above
the state in which sensation produced brutal ease, be called, in
direct terms, a curse?  A curse it might be reckoned, if all our
existence was bounded by our continuance in this world; for why
should the gracious fountain of life give us passions, and the
power of reflecting, only to embitter our days, and inspire us with
mistaken notions of dignity?  Why should he lead us from love of
ourselves to the sublime emotions which the discovery of his wisdom
and goodness excites, if these feelings were not set in motion to
improve our nature, of which they make a part, and render us
capable of enjoying a more godlike portion of happiness?  Firmly
persuaded that no evil exists in the world that God did not design
to take place, I build my belief on the perfection of God.

Rousseau exerts himself to prove, that all WAS right originally:  a
crowd of authors that all IS now right:  and I, that all WILL BE

But, true to his first position, next to a state of nature,
Rousseau celebrates barbarism, and, apostrophizing the shade of
Fabricius, he forgets that, in conquering the world, the Romans
never dreamed of establishing their own liberty on a firm basis, or
of extending the reign of virtue.  Eager to support his system, he
stigmatizes, as vicious, every effort of genius; and uttering the
apotheosis of savage virtues, he exalts those to demigods, who were
scarcely human--the brutal Spartans, who in defiance of justice and
gratitude, sacrificed, in cold blood, the slaves that had shown
themselves men to rescue their oppressors.

Disgusted with artificial manners and virtues, the citizen of
Geneva, instead of properly sifting the subject, threw away the
wheat with the chaff, without waiting to inquire whether the evils,
which his ardent soul turned from indignantly, were the consequence
of civilization, or the vestiges of barbarism.  He saw vice
trampling on virtue, and the semblance of goodness taking place of
the reality; he saw talents bent by power to sinister purposes, and
never thought of tracing the gigantic mischief up to arbitrary
power, up to the hereditary distinctions that clash with the mental
superiority that naturally raises a man above his fellows.  He did
not perceive, that the regal power, in a few generations,
introduces idiotism into the noble stem, and holds out baits to
render thousands idle and vicious.

Nothing can set the regal character in a more contemptible point of
view, than the various crimes that have elevated men to the supreme
dignity.  Vile intrigues, unnatural crimes, and every vice that
degrades our nature, have been the steps to this distinguished
eminence; yet millions of men have supinely allowed the nerveless
limbs of the posterity of such rapacious prowlers, to rest quietly
on their ensanguined thrones.

What but a pestilential vapour can hover over society, when its
chief director is only instructed in the invention of crimes, or
the stupid routine of childish ceremonies?  Will men never be wise?
will they never cease to expect corn from tares, and figs from

It is impossible for any man, when the most favourable
circumstances concur, to acquire sufficient knowledge and strength
of mind to discharge the duties of a king, entrusted with
uncontrolled power; how then must they be violated when his very
elevation is an insuperable bar to the attainment of either wisdom
or virtue; when all the feelings of a man are stifled by flattery,
and reflection shut out by pleasure!  Surely it is madness to make
the fate of thousands depend on the caprice of a weak fellow
creature, whose very station sinks him NECESSARILY below the
meanest of his subjects!  But one power should not be thrown down
to exalt another--for all power intoxicates weak man; and its abuse
proves, that the more equality there is established among men, the
more virtue and happiness will reign in society.  But this, and any
similar maxim deduced from simple reason, raises an outcry--the
church or the state is in danger, if faith in the wisdom of
antiquity is not implicit; and they who, roused by the sight of
human calamity, dare to attack human authority, are reviled as
despisers of God, and enemies of man.  These are bitter calumnies,
yet they reached one of the best of men, (Dr. Price.) whose ashes
still preach peace, and whose memory demands a respectful pause,
when subjects are discussed that lay so near his heart.

After attacking the sacred majesty of kings, I shall scarcely
excite surprise, by adding my firm persuasion, that every
profession, in which great subordination of rank constitutes its
power, is highly injurious to morality.

A standing army, for instance, is incompatible with freedom;
because subordination and rigour are the very sinews of military
discipline; and despotism is necessary to give vigour to
enterprises that one will directs.  A spirit inspired by romantic
notions of honour, a kind of morality founded on the fashion of the
age, can only be felt by a few officers, whilst the main body must
be moved by command, like the waves of the sea; for the strong wind
of authority pushes the crowd of subalterns forward, they scarcely
know or care why, with headlong fury.

Besides, nothing can be so prejudicial to the morals of the
inhabitants of country towns, as the occasional residence of a set
of idle superficial young men, whose only occupation is gallantry,
and whose polished manners render vice more dangerous, by
concealing its deformity under gay ornamental drapery.  An air of
fashion, which is but a badge of slavery, and proves that the soul
has not a strong individual character, awes simple country people
into an imitation of the vices, when they cannot catch the slippery
graces of politeness.  Every corps is a chain of despots, who,
submitting and tyrannizing without exercising their reason, become
dead weights of vice and folly on the community.  A man of rank or
fortune, sure of rising by interest, has nothing to do but to
pursue some extravagant freak; whilst the needy GENTLEMAN, who is
to rise, as the phrase turns, by his merit, becomes a servile
parasite or vile pander.

Sailors, the naval gentlemen, come under the same description, only
their vices assume a different and a grosser cast.  They are more
positively indolent, when not discharging the ceremonials of their
station; whilst the insignificant fluttering of soldiers may be
termed active idleness.  More confined to the society of men, the
former acquire a fondness for humour and mischievous tricks; whilst
the latter, mixing frequently with well-bred women, catch a
sentimental cant.  But mind is equally out of the question, whether
they indulge the horse-laugh or polite simper.

May I be allowed to extend the comparison to a profession where
more mind is certainly to be found; for the clergy have superior
opportunities of improvement, though subordination almost equally
cramps their faculties? The blind submission imposed at college to
forms of belief, serves as a noviciate to the curate who most
obsequiously respects the opinion of his rector or patron, if he
means to rise in his profession.  Perhaps there cannot be a more
forcible contrast than between the servile, dependent gait of a
poor curate, and the courtly mien of a bishop.  And the respect and
contempt they inspire render the discharge of their separate
functions equally useless.

It is of great importance to observe, that the character of every
man is, in some degree, formed by his profession.  A man of sense
may only have a cast of countenance that wears off as you trace his
individuality, whilst the weak, common man, has scarcely ever any
character, but what belongs to the body; at least, all his opinions
have been so steeped in the vat consecrated by authority, that the
faint spirit which the grape of his own vine yields cannot be

Society, therefore, as it becomes more enlightened, should be very
careful not to establish bodies of men who must necessarily be made
foolish or vicious by the very constitution of their profession.

In the infancy of society, when men were just emerging out of
barbarism, chiefs and priests, touching the most powerful springs
of savage conduct--hope and fear--must have had unbounded sway.  An
aristocracy, of course, is naturally the first form of government.
But clashing interests soon losing their equipoise, a monarchy and
hierarchy break out of the confusion of ambitious struggles, and
the foundation of both is secured by feudal tenures.  This appears
to be the origin of monarchial and priestly power, and the dawn of
civilization.  But such combustible materials cannot long be pent
up; and getting vent in foreign wars and intestine insurrections,
the people acquire some power in the tumult, which obliges their
rulers to gloss over their oppression with a show of right.  Thus,
as wars, agriculture, commerce, and literature, expands the mind,
despots are compelled, to make covert corruption hold fast the
power which was formerly snatched by open force.*  And this baneful
lurking gangrene is most quickly spread by luxury and superstition,
the sure dregs of ambition.  The indolent puppet of a court first
becomes a luxurious monster, or fastidious sensualist, and then
makes the contagion which his unnatural state spreads, the
instrument of tyranny.

(*Footnote.  Men of abilities scatter seeds that grow up, and have
a great influence on the forming opinion; and when once the public
opinion preponderates, through the exertion of reason, the
overthrow of arbitrary power is not very distant.)

It is the pestiferous purple which renders the progress of
civilization a curse, and warps the understanding, till men of
sensibility doubt whether the expansion of intellect produces a
greater portion of happiness or misery.  But the nature of the
poison points out the antidote; and had Rousseau mounted one step
higher in his investigation; or could his eye have pierced through
the foggy atmosphere, which he almost disdained to breathe, his
active mind would have darted forward to contemplate the perfection
of man in the establishment of true civilization, instead of taking
his ferocious flight back to the night of sensual ignorance.



To account for, and excuse the tyranny of man, many ingenious
arguments have been brought forward to prove, that the two sexes,
in the acquirement of virtue, ought to aim at attaining a very
different character:  or, to speak explicitly, women are not
allowed to have sufficient strength of mind to acquire what really
deserves the name of virtue.  Yet it should seem, allowing them to
have souls, that there is but one way appointed by providence to
lead MANKIND to either virtue or happiness.

If then women are not a swarm of ephemeron triflers, why should
they be kept in ignorance under the specious name of innocence?
Men complain, and with reason, of the follies and caprices of our
sex, when they do not keenly satirize our headstrong passions and
groveling vices.  Behold, I should answer, the natural effect of
ignorance!  The mind will ever be unstable that has only prejudices
to rest on, and the current will run with destructive fury when
there are no barriers to break its force.  Women are told from
their infancy, and taught by the example of their mothers, that a
little knowledge of human weakness, justly termed cunning, softness
of temper, OUTWARD obedience, and a scrupulous attention to a
puerile kind of propriety, will obtain for them the protection of
man; and should they be beautiful, every thing else is needless,
for at least twenty years of their lives.

Thus Milton describes our first frail mother; though when he tells
us that women are formed for softness and sweet attractive grace, I
cannot comprehend his meaning, unless, in the true Mahometan
strain, he meant to deprive us of souls, and insinuate that we were
beings only designed by sweet attractive grace, and docile blind
obedience, to gratify the senses of man when he can no longer soar
on the wing of contemplation.

How grossly do they insult us, who thus advise us only to render
ourselves gentle, domestic brutes!  For instance, the winning
softness, so warmly, and frequently recommended, that governs by
obeying.  What childish expressions, and how insignificant is the
being--can it be an immortal one?  who will condescend to govern by
such sinister methods!  "Certainly," says Lord Bacon, "man is of
kin to the beasts by his body: and if he be not of kin to God by
his spirit, he is a base and ignoble creature!"  Men, indeed,
appear to me to act in a very unphilosophical manner, when they try
to secure the good conduct of women by attempting to keep them
always in a state of childhood.  Rousseau was more consistent when
he wished to stop the progress of reason in both sexes; for if men
eat of the tree of knowledge, women will come in for a taste:  but,
from the imperfect cultivation which their understandings now
receive, they only attain a knowledge of evil.

Children, I grant, should be innocent; but when the epithet is
applied to men, or women, it is but a civil term for weakness.  For
if it be allowed that women were destined by Providence to acquire
human virtues, and by the exercise of their understandings, that
stability of character which is the firmest ground to rest our
future hopes upon, they must be permitted to turn to the fountain
of light, and not forced to shape their course by the twinkling of
a mere satellite.  Milton, I grant, was of a very different
opinion; for he only bends to the indefeasible right of beauty,
though it would be difficult to render two passages, which I now
mean to contrast, consistent:  but into similar inconsistencies are
great men often led by their senses:--

"To whom thus Eve with perfect beauty adorned:
My author and disposer, what thou bidst
Unargued I obey; so God ordains;
God is thy law, thou mine; to know no more
Is woman's happiest knowledge and her praise."

These are exactly the arguments that I have used to children; but I
have added, "Your reason is now gaining strength, and, till it
arrives at some degree of maturity, you must look up to me for
advice:  then you ought to THINK, and only rely on God."

Yet, in the following lines, Milton seems to coincide with me, when
he makes Adam thus expostulate with his Maker:--

"Hast thou not made me here thy substitute,
And these inferior far beneath me set?
Among unequals what society
Can sort, what harmony or delight?
Which must be mutual, in proportion due
Given and received; but in disparity
The one intense, the other still remiss
Cannot well suit with either, but soon prove
Tedious alike:  of fellowship I speak
Such as I seek fit to participate
All rational delight."

In treating, therefore, of the manners of women, let us,
disregarding sensual arguments, trace what we should endeavour to
make them in order to co-operate, if the expression be not too
bold, with the Supreme Being.

By individual education, I mean--for the sense of the word is not
precisely defined--such an attention to a child as will slowly
sharpen the senses, form the temper, regulate the passions, as they
begin to ferment, and set the understanding to work before the body
arrives at maturity; so that the man may only have to proceed, not
to begin, the important task of learning to think and reason.

To prevent any misconstruction, I must add, that I do not believe
that a private education can work the wonders which some sanguine
writers have attributed to it.  Men and women must be educated, in
a great degree, by the opinions and manners of the society they
live in.  In every age there has been a stream of popular opinion
that has carried all before it, and given a family character, as it
were, to the century.  It may then fairly be inferred, that, till
society be differently constituted, much cannot be expected from
education.  It is, however, sufficient for my present purpose to
assert, that, whatever effect circumstances have on the abilities,
every being may become virtuous by the exercise of its own reason;
for if but one being was created with vicious inclinations--that
is, positively bad-- what can save us from atheism? or if we
worship a God, is not that God a devil?

Consequently, the most perfect education, in my opinion, is such an
exercise of the understanding as is best calculated to strengthen
the body and form the heart; or, in other words, to enable the
individual to attain such habits of virtue as will render it
independent.  In fact, it is a farce to call any being virtuous
whose virtues do not result from the exercise of its own reason.
This was Rousseau's opinion respecting men:  I extend it to women,
and confidently assert that they have been drawn out of their
sphere by false refinement, and not by an endeavour to acquire
masculine qualities.  Still the regal homage which they receive is
so intoxicating, that, till the manners of the times are changed,
and formed on more reasonable principles, it may be impossible to
convince them that the illegitimate power, which they obtain by
degrading themselves, is a curse, and that they must return to
nature and equality, if they wish to secure the placid satisfaction
that unsophisticated affections impart.  But for this epoch we must
wait--wait, perhaps, till kings and nobles, enlightened by reason,
and, preferring the real dignity of man to childish state, throw
off their gaudy hereditary trappings; and if then women do not
resign the arbitrary power of beauty, they will prove that they
have LESS mind than man.  I may be accused of arrogance; still I
must declare, what I firmly believe, that all the writers who have
written on the subject of female education and manners, from
Rousseau to Dr. Gregory, have contributed to render women more
artificial, weaker characters, than they would otherwise have been;
and, consequently, more useless members of society.  I might have
expressed this conviction in a lower key; but I am afraid it would
have been the whine of affectation, and not the faithful expression
of my feelings, of the clear result, which experience and
reflection have led me to draw.  When I come to that division of
the subject, I shall advert to the passages that I more
particularly disapprove of, in the works of the authors I have just
alluded to; but it is first necessary to observe, that my objection
extends to the whole purport of those books, which tend, in my
opinion, to degrade one half of the human species, and render women
pleasing at the expense of every solid virtue.

Though to reason on Rousseau's ground, if man did attain a degree
of perfection of mind when his body arrived at maturity, it might
be proper in order to make a man and his wife ONE, that she should
rely entirely on his understanding; and the graceful ivy, clasping
the oak that supported it, would form a whole in which strength and
beauty would be equally conspicuous.  But, alas! husbands, as well
as their helpmates, are often only overgrown children; nay, thanks
to early debauchery, scarcely men in their outward form, and if the
blind lead the blind, one need not come from heaven to tell us the

Many are the causes that, in the present corrupt state of society,
contribute to enslave women by cramping their understandings and
sharpening their senses.  One, perhaps, that silently does more
mischief than all the rest, is their disregard of order.

To do every thing in an orderly manner, is a most important
precept, which women, who, generally speaking, receive only a
disorderly kind of education, seldom attend to with that degree of
exactness that men, who from their infancy are broken into method,
observe.  This negligent kind of guesswork, for what other epithet
can be used to point out the random exertions of a sort of
instinctive common sense, never brought to the test of reason?
prevents their generalizing matters of fact, so they do to-day,
what they did yesterday, merely because they did it yesterday.

This contempt of the understanding in early life has more baneful
consequences than is commonly supposed; for the little knowledge
which women of strong minds attain, is, from various circumstances,
of a more desultory kind than the knowledge of men, and it is
acquired more by sheer observations on real life, than from
comparing what has been individually observed with the results of
experience generalized by speculation.  Led by their dependent
situation and domestic employments more into society, what they
learn is rather by snatches; and as learning is with them, in
general, only a secondary thing, they do not pursue any one branch
with that persevering ardour necessary to give vigour to the
faculties, and clearness to the judgment.  In the present state of
society, a little learning is required to support the character of
a gentleman; and boys are obliged to submit to a few years of
discipline.  But in the education of women the cultivation of the
understanding is always subordinate to the acquirement of some
corporeal accomplishment; even while enervated by confinement and
false notions of modesty, the body is prevented from attaining that
grace and beauty which relaxed half-formed limbs never exhibit.
Besides, in youth their faculties are not brought forward by
emulation; and having no serious scientific study, if they have
natural sagacity it is turned too soon on life and manners.  They
dwell on effects, and modifications, without tracing them back to
causes; and complicated rules to adjust behaviour are a weak
substitute for simple principles.

As a proof that education gives this appearance of weakness to
females, we may instance the example of military men, who are, like
them, sent into the world before their minds have been stored with
knowledge or fortified by principles.  The consequences are
similar; soldiers acquire a little superficial knowledge, snatched
from the muddy current of conversation, and, from continually
mixing with society, they gain, what is termed a knowledge of the
world; and this acquaintance with manners and customs has
frequently been confounded with a knowledge of the human heart.
But can the crude fruit of casual observation, never brought to the
test of judgment, formed by comparing speculation and experience,
deserve such a distinction? Soldiers, as well as women, practice
the minor virtues with punctilious politeness.  Where is then the
sexual difference, when the education has been the same; all the
difference that I can discern, arises from the superior advantage
of liberty which enables the former to see more of life.

It is wandering from my present subject, perhaps, to make a
political remark; but as it was produced naturally by the train of
my reflections, I shall not pass it silently over.

Standing armies can never consist of resolute, robust men; they may
be well disciplined machines, but they will seldom contain men
under the influence of strong passions or with very vigorous
faculties.  And as for any depth of understanding, I will venture
to affirm, that it is as rarely to be found in the army as amongst
women; and the cause, I maintain, is the same.  It may be further
observed, that officers are also particularly attentive to their
persons, fond of dancing, crowded rooms, adventures, and ridicule.
Like the FAIR sex, the business of their lives is gallantry.  They
were taught to please, and they only live to please.  Yet they do
not lose their rank in the distinction of sexes, for they are still
reckoned superior to women, though in what their superiority
consists, beyond what I have just mentioned, it is difficult to

The great misfortune is this, that they both acquire manners before
morals, and a knowledge of life before they have from reflection,
any acquaintance with the grand ideal outline of human nature.  The
consequence is natural; satisfied with common nature, they become a
prey to prejudices, and taking all their opinions on credit, they
blindly submit to authority.  So that if they have any sense, it is
a kind of instinctive glance, that catches proportions, and decides
with respect to manners; but fails when arguments are to be pursued
below the surface, or opinions analyzed.

May not the same remark be applied to women?  Nay, the argument may
be carried still further, for they are both thrown out of a useful
station by the unnatural distinctions established in civilized
life.  Riches and hereditary honours have made cyphers of women to
give consequence to the numerical figure; and idleness has produced
a mixture of gallantry and despotism in society, which leads the
very men who are the slaves of their mistresses, to tyrannize over
their sisters, wives, and daughters.  This is only keeping them in
rank and file, it is true.  Strengthen the female mind by enlarging
it, and there will be an end to blind obedience; but, as blind
obedience is ever sought for by power, tyrants and sensualists are
in the right when they endeavour to keep women in the dark, because
the former only want slaves, and the latter a play-thing.  The
sensualist, indeed, has been the most dangerous of tyrants, and
women have been duped by their lovers, as princes by their
ministers, whilst dreaming that they reigned over them.

I now principally allude to Rousseau, for his character of Sophia
is, undoubtedly, a captivating one, though it appears to me grossly
unnatural; however, it is not the superstructure, but the
foundation of her character, the principles on which her education
was built, that I mean to attack; nay, warmly as I admire the
genius of that able writer, whose opinions I shall often have
occasion to cite, indignation always takes place of admiration, and
the rigid frown of insulted virtue effaces the smile of
complacency, which his eloquent periods are wont to raise, when I
read his voluptuous reveries.  Is this the man, who, in his ardour
for virtue, would banish all the soft arts of peace, and almost
carry us back to Spartan discipline?  Is this the man who delights
to paint the useful struggles of passion, the triumphs of good
dispositions, and the heroic flights which carry the glowing soul
out of itself?  How are these mighty sentiments lowered when he
describes the prettyfoot and enticing airs of his little favourite!
But, for the present, I waive the subject, and, instead of severely
reprehending the transient effusions of overweening sensibility, I
shall only observe, that whoever has cast a benevolent eye on
society, must often have been gratified by the sight of humble
mutual love, not dignified by sentiment, nor strengthened by a
union in intellectual pursuits.  The domestic trifles of the day
have afforded matter for cheerful converse, and innocent caresses
have softened toils which did not require great exercise of mind,
or stretch of thought:  yet, has not the sight of this moderate
felicity excited more tenderness than respect?  An emotion similar
to what we feel when children are playing, or animals sporting,
whilst the contemplation of the noble struggles of suffering merit
has raised admiration, and carried our thoughts to that world where
sensation will give place to reason.

Women are, therefore, to be considered either as moral beings, or
so weak that they must be entirely subjected to the superior
faculties of men.

Let us examine this question.  Rousseau declares, that a woman
should never, for a moment feel herself independent, that she
should be governed by fear to exercise her NATURAL cunning, and
made a coquetish slave in order to render her a more alluring
object of desire, a SWEETER companion to man, whenever he chooses
to relax himself.  He carries the arguments, which he pretends to
draw from the indications of nature, still further, and insinuates
that truth and fortitude the corner stones of all human virtue,
shall be cultivated with certain restrictions, because with respect
to the female character, obedience is the grand lesson which ought
to be impressed with unrelenting rigour.

What nonsense!  When will a great man arise with sufficient
strength of mind to puff away the fumes which pride and sensuality
have thus spread over the subject!  If women are by nature inferior
to men, their virtues must be the same in quality, if not in
degree, or virtue is a relative idea; consequently, their conduct
should be founded on the same principles, and have the same aim.

Connected with man as daughters, wives, and mothers, their moral
character may be estimated by their manner of fulfilling those
simple duties; but the end, the grand end of their exertions should
be to unfold their own faculties, and acquire the dignity of
conscious virtue.  They may try to render their road pleasant; but
ought never to forget, in common with man, that life yields not the
felicity which can satisfy an immortal soul.  I do not mean to
insinuate, that either sex should be so lost, in abstract
reflections or distant views, as to forget the affections and
duties that lie before them, and are, in truth, the means appointed
to produce the fruit of life; on the contrary, I would warmly
recommend them, even while I assert, that they afford most
satisfaction when they are considered in their true subordinate

Probably the prevailing opinion, that woman was created for man,
may have taken its rise from Moses's poetical story; yet, as very
few it is presumed, who have bestowed any serious thought on the
subject, ever supposed that Eve was, literally speaking, one of
Adam's ribs, the deduction must be allowed to fall to the ground;
or, only be so far admitted as it proves that man, from the
remotest antiquity, found it convenient to exert his strength to
subjugate his companion, and his invention to show that she ought
to have her neck bent under the yoke; because she as well as the
brute creation, was created to do his pleasure.

Let it not be concluded, that I wish to invert the order of things;
I have already granted, that, from the constitution of their
bodies, men seem to be designed by Providence to attain a greater
degree of virtue.  I speak collectively of the whole sex; but I see
not the shadow of a reason to conclude that their virtues should
differ in respect to their nature.  In fact, how can they, if
virtue has only one eternal standard?  I must, therefore, if I
reason consequentially, as strenuously maintain, that they have the
same simple direction, as that there is a God.

It follows then, that cunning should not be opposed to wisdom,
little cares to great exertions, nor insipid softness, varnished
over with the name of gentleness, to that fortitude which grand
views alone can inspire.

I shall be told, that woman would then lose many of her peculiar
graces, and the opinion of a well known poet might be quoted to
refute my unqualified assertions.  For Pope has said, in the name
of the whole male sex,

"Yet ne'er so sure our passions to create,
As when she touch'd the brink of all we hate."

In what light this sally places men and women, I shall leave to the
judicious to determine; meanwhile I shall content myself with
observing, that I cannot discover why, unless they are mortal,
females should always be degraded by being made subservient to love
or lust.

To speak disrespectfully of love is, I know, high treason against
sentiment and fine feelings; but I wish to speak the simple
language of truth, and rather to address the head than the heart.
To endeavour to reason love out of the world, would be to out
Quixote Cervantes, and equally offend against common sense; but an
endeavour to restrain this tumultuous passion, and to prove that it
should not be allowed to dethrone superior powers, or to usurp the
sceptre which the understanding should ever coolly wield, appears
less wild.

Youth is the season for love in both sexes; but in those days of
thoughtless enjoyment, provision should be made for the more
important years of life, when reflection takes place of sensation.
But Rousseau, and most of the male writers who have followed his
steps, have warmly inculcated that the whole tendency of female
education ought to be directed to one point to render them

Let me reason with the supporters of this opinion, who have any
knowledge of human nature, do they imagine that marriage can
eradicate the habitude of life?  The woman who has only been taught
to please, will soon find that her charms are oblique sun-beams,
and that they cannot have much effect on her husband's heart when
they are seen every day, when the summer is past and gone.  Will
she then have sufficient native energy to look into herself for
comfort, and cultivate her dormant faculties? or, is it not more
rational to expect, that she will try to please other men; and, in
the emotions raised by the expectation of new conquests, endeavour
to forget the mortification her love or pride has received?  When
the husband ceases to be a lover--and the time will inevitably
come, her desire of pleasing will then grow languid, or become a
spring of bitterness; and love, perhaps, the most evanescent of all
passions, gives place to jealousy or vanity.

I now speak of women who are restrained by principle or prejudice;
such women though they would shrink from an intrigue with real
abhorrence, yet, nevertheless, wish to be convinced by the homage
of gallantry, that they are cruelly neglected by their husbands;
or, days and weeks are spent in dreaming of the happiness enjoyed
by congenial souls, till the health is undermined and the spirits
broken by discontent.  How then can the great art of pleasing be
such a necessary study? it is only useful to a mistress; the chaste
wife, and serious mother, should only consider her power to please
as the polish of her virtues, and the affection of her husband as
one of the comforts that render her task less difficult, and her
life happier.  But, whether she be loved or neglected, her first
wish should be to make herself respectable, and not rely for all
her happiness on a being subject to like infirmities with herself.

The amiable Dr. Gregory fell into a similar error.  I respect his
heart; but entirely disapprove of his celebrated Legacy to his

He advises them to cultivate a fondness for dress, because a
fondness for dress, he asserts, is natural to them.  I am unable to
comprehend what either he or Rousseau mean, when they frequently
use this indefinite term.  If they told us, that in a pre-existent
state the soul was fond of dress, and brought this inclination with
it into a new body, I should listen to them with a half smile, as I
often do when I hear a rant about innate elegance.  But if he only
meant to say that the exercise of the faculties will produce this
fondness, I deny it.  It is not natural; but arises, like false
ambition in men, from a love of power.

Dr. Gregory goes much further; he actually recommends
dissimulation, and advises an innocent girl to give the lie to her
feelings, and not dance with spirit, when gaiety of heart would
make her feet eloquent, without making her gestures immodest.  In
the name of truth and common sense, why should not one woman
acknowledge that she can take more exercise than another? or, in
other words, that she has a sound constitution; and why to damp
innocent vivacity, is she darkly to be told, that men will draw
conclusions which she little thinks of?  Let the libertine draw
what inference he pleases; but, I hope, that no sensible mother
will restrain the natural frankness of youth, by instilling such
indecent cautions.  Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth
speaketh; and a wiser than Solomon hath said, that the heart should
be made clean, and not trivial ceremonies observed, which it is not
very difficult to fulfill with scrupulous exactness when vice
reigns in the heart.

Women ought to endeavour to purify their hearts; but can they do so
when their uncultivated understandings make them entirely dependent
on their senses for employment and amusement, when no noble pursuit
sets them above the little vanities of the day, or enables them to
curb the wild emotions that agitate a reed over which every passing
breeze has power?  To gain the affections of a virtuous man, is
affectation necessary?

Nature has given woman a weaker frame than man; but, to ensure her
husband's affections, must a wife, who, by the exercise of her mind
and body, whilst she was discharging the duties of a daughter,
wife, and mother, has allowed her constitution to retain its
natural strength, and her nerves a healthy tone, is she, I say, to
condescend, to use art, and feign a sickly delicacy, in order to
secure her husband's affection? Weakness may excite tenderness, and
gratify the arrogant pride of man; but the lordly caresses of a
protector will not gratify a noble mind that pants for and deserves
to be respected.  Fondness is a poor substitute for friendship!

In a seraglio, I grant, that all these arts are necessary; the
epicure must have his palate tickled, or he will sink into apathy;
but have women so little ambition as to be satisfied with such a
condition?  Can they supinely dream life away in the lap of
pleasure, or in the languor of weariness, rather than assert their
claim to pursue reasonable pleasures, and render themselves
conspicuous, by practising the virtues which dignify mankind?
Surely she has not an immortal soul who can loiter life away,
merely employed to adorn her person, that she may amuse the languid
hours, and soften the cares of a fellow-creature who is willing to
be enlivened by her smiles and tricks, when the serious business of
life is over.

Besides, the woman who strengthens her body and exercises her mind
will, by managing her family and practising various virtues, become
the friend, and not the humble dependent of her husband; and if she
deserves his regard by possessing such substantial qualities, she
will not find it necessary to conceal her affection, nor to pretend
to an unnatural coldness of constitution to excite her husband's
passions.  In fact, if we revert to history, we shall find that the
women who have distinguished themselves have neither been the most
beautiful nor the most gentle of their sex.

Nature, or to speak with strict propriety God, has made all things
right; but man has sought him out many inventions to mar the work.
I now allude to that part of Dr. Gregory's treatise, where he
advises a wife never to let her husband know the extent of her
sensibility or affection.  Voluptuous precaution; and as
ineffectual as absurd.  Love, from its very nature, must be
transitory.  To seek for a secret that would render it constant,
would be as wild a search as for the philosopher's stone, or the
grand panacea; and the discovery would be equally useless, or
rather pernicious to mankind.  The most holy band of society is
friendship.  It has been well said, by a shrewd satirist, "that
rare as true love is, true friendship is still rarer."

This is an obvious truth, and the cause not lying deep, will not
elude a slight glance of inquiry.

Love, the common passion, in which chance and sensation take place
of choice and reason, is in some degree, felt by the mass of
mankind; for it is not necessary to speak, at present, of the
emotions that rise above or sink below love.  This passion,
naturally increased by suspense and difficulties, draws the mind
out of its accustomed state, and exalts the affections; but the
security of marriage, allowing the fever of love to subside, a
healthy temperature is thought insipid, only by those who have not
sufficient intellect to substitute the calm tenderness of
friendship, the confidence of respect, instead of blind admiration,
and the sensual emotions of fondness.

This is, must be, the course of nature--friendship or indifference
inevitably succeeds love.  And this constitution seems perfectly to
harmonize with the system of government which prevails in the moral
world.  Passions are spurs to action, and open the mind; but they
sink into mere appetites, become a personal momentary
gratification, when the object is gained, and the satisfied mind
rests in enjoyment.  The man who had some virtue whilst he was
struggling for a crown, often becomes a voluptuous tyrant when it
graces his brow; and, when the lover is not lost in the husband,
the dotard a prey to childish caprices, and fond jealousies,
neglects the serious duties of life, and the caresses which should
excite confidence in his children are lavished on the overgrown
child, his wife.

In order to fulfil the duties of life, and to be able to pursue
with vigour the various employments which form the moral character,
a master and mistress of a family ought not to continue to love
each other with passion.  I mean to say, that they ought not to
indulge those emotions which disturb the order of society, and
engross the thoughts that should be otherwise employed.  The mind
that has never been engrossed by one object wants vigour--if it can
long be so, it is weak.

A mistaken education, a narrow, uncultivated mind, and many sexual
prejudices, tend to make women more constant than men; but, for the
present, I shall not touch on this branch of the subject.  I will
go still further, and advance, without dreaming of a paradox, that
an unhappy marriage is often very advantageous to a family, and
that the neglected wife is, in general, the best mother.  And this
would almost always be the consequence, if the female mind was more
enlarged; for, it seems to be the common dispensation of
Providence, that what we gain in present enjoyment should be
deducted from the treasure of life, experience; and that when we
are gathering the flowers of the day and revelling in pleasure, the
solid fruit of toil and wisdom should not be caught at the same
time.  The way lies before us, we must turn to the right or left;
and he who will pass life away in bounding from one pleasure to
another, must not complain if he neither acquires wisdom nor
respectability of character.

Supposing for a moment, that the soul is not immortal, and that man
was only created for the present scene; I think we should have
reason to complain that love, infantine fondness, ever grew insipid
and palled upon the sense.  Let us eat, drink, and love, for
to-morrow we die, would be in fact the language of reason, the
morality of life; and who but a fool would part with a reality for
a fleeting shadow?  But, if awed by observing the improvable powers
of the mind, we disdain to confine our wishes or thoughts to such a
comparatively mean field of action; that only appears grand and
important as it is connected with a boundless prospect and sublime
hopes; what necessity is there for falsehood in conduct, and why
must the sacred majesty of truth be violated to detain a deceitful
good that saps the very foundation of virtue?  Why must the female
mind be tainted by coquetish arts to gratify the sensualist, and
prevent love from subsiding into friendship or compassionate
tenderness, when there are not qualities on which friendship can be
built?  Let the honest heart show itself, and REASON teach passion
to submit to necessity; or, let the dignified pursuit of virtue and
knowledge raise the mind above those emotions which rather imbitter
than sweeten the cup of life, when they are not restrained within
due bounds.

I do not mean to allude to the romantic passion, which is the
concomitant of genius.  Who can clip its wings?  But that grand
passion not proportioned to the puny enjoyments of life, is only
true to the sentiment, and feeds on itself.  The passions which
have been celebrated for their durability have always been
unfortunate.  They have acquired strength by absence and
constitutional melancholy.  The fancy has hovered round a form of
beauty dimly seen--but familiarity might have turned admiration
into disgust; or, at least, into indifference, and allowed the
imagination leisure to start fresh game.  With perfect propriety,
according to this view of things, does Rousseau make the mistress
of his soul, Eloisa, love St. Preux, when life was fading before
her; but this is no proof of the immortality of the passion.

Of the same complexion is Dr. Gregory's advice respecting delicacy
of sentiment, which he advises a woman not to acquire, if she has
determined to marry.  This determination, however, perfectly
consistent with his former advice, he calls INDELICATE, and
earnestly persuades his daughters to conceal it, though it may
govern their conduct:  as if it were indelicate to have the common
appetites of human nature.

Noble morality! and consistent with the cautious prudence of a
little soul that cannot extend its views beyond the present minute
division of existence.  If all the faculties of woman's mind are
only to be cultivated as they respect her dependence on man; if,
when she obtains a husband she has arrived at her goal, and meanly
proud, is satisfied with such a paltry crown, let her grovel
contentedly, scarcely raised by her employments above the animal
kingdom; but, if she is struggling for the prize of her high
calling, let her cultivate her understanding without stopping to
consider what character the husband may have whom she is destined
to marry.  Let her only determine, without being too anxious about
present happiness, to acquire the qualities that ennoble a rational
being, and a rough, inelegant husband may shock her taste without
destroying her peace of mind.  She will not model her soul to suit
the frailties of her companion, but to bear with them:  his
character may be a trial, but not an impediment to virtue.

If Dr. Gregory confined his remark to romantic expectations of
constant love and congenial feelings, he should have recollected,
that experience will banish what advice can never make us cease to
wish for, when the imagination is kept alive at the expence of

I own it frequently happens, that women who have fostered a
romantic unnatural delicacy of feeling, waste their lives in
IMAGINING how happy they should have been with a husband who could
love them with a fervid increasing affection every day, and all
day.  But they might as well pine married as single, and would not
be a jot more unhappy with a bad husband than longing for a good
one.  That a proper education; or, to speak with more precision, a
well stored mind, would enable a woman to support a single life
with dignity, I grant; but that she should avoid cultivating her
taste, lest her husband should occasionally shock it, is quitting a
substance for a shadow.  To say the truth, I do not know of what
use is an improved taste, if the individual be not rendered more
independent of the casualties of life; if new sources of enjoyment,
only dependent on the solitary operations of the mind, are not
opened.  People of taste, married or single, without distinction,
will ever be disgusted by various things that touch not less
observing minds.  On this conclusion the argument must not be
allowed to hinge; but in the whole sum of enjoyment is taste to be
denominated a blessing?

The question is, whether it procures most pain or pleasure?  The
answer will decide the propriety of Dr. Gregory's advice, and show
how absurd and tyrannic it is thus to lay down a system of slavery;
or to attempt to educate moral beings by any other rules than those
deduced from pure reason, which apply to the whole species.

Gentleness of manners, forbearance, and long suffering, are such
amiable godlike qualities, that in sublime poetic strains the Deity
has been invested with them; and, perhaps, no representation of his
goodness so strongly fastens on the human affections as those that
represent him abundant in mercy and willing to pardon.  Gentleness,
considered in this point of view, bears on its front all the
characteristics of grandeur, combined with the winning graces of
condescension; but what a different aspect it assumes when it is
the submissive demeanour of dependence, the support of weakness
that loves, because it wants protection; and is forbearing, because
it must silently endure injuries; smiling under the lash at which
it dare not snarl.  Abject as this picture appears, it is the
portrait of an accomplished woman, according to the received
opinion of female excellence, separated by specious reasoners from
human excellence.  Or, they (Vide Rousseau, and Swedenborg) kindly
restore the rib, and make one moral being of a man and woman; not
forgetting to give her all the "submissive charms."

How women are to exist in that state where there is to be neither
marrying nor giving in marriage, we are not told.  For though
moralists have agreed, that the tenor of life seems to prove that
MAN is prepared by various circumstances for a future state, they
constantly concur in advising WOMAN only to provide for the
present.  Gentleness, docility, and a spaniel-like affection are,
on this ground, consistently recommended as the cardinal virtues of
the sex; and, disregarding the arbitrary economy of nature, one
writer has declared that it is masculine for a woman to be
melancholy.  She was created to be the toy of man, his rattle, and
it must jingle in his ears, whenever, dismissing reason, he chooses
to be amused.

To recommend gentleness, indeed, on a broad basis is strictly
philosophical.  A frail being should labour to be gentle.  But when
forbearance confounds right and wrong, it ceases to be a virtue;
and, however convenient it may be found in a companion, that
companion will ever be considered as an inferior, and only inspire
a vapid tenderness, which easily degenerates into contempt.  Still,
if advice could really make a being gentle, whose natural
disposition admitted not of such a fine polish, something toward
the advancement of order would be attained; but if, as might
quickly be demonstrated, only affectation be produced by this
indiscriminate counsel, which throws a stumbling block in the way
of gradual improvement, and true melioration of temper, the sex is
not much benefited by sacrificing solid virtues to the attainment
of superficial graces, though for a few years they may procure the
individual's regal sway.

As a philosopher, I read with indignation the plausible epithets
which men use to soften their insults; and, as a moralist, I ask
what is meant by such heterogeneous associations, as fair defects,
amiable weaknesses, etc.? If there is but one criterion of morals,
but one archetype for man, women appear to be suspended by destiny,
according to the vulgar tale of Mahomet's coffin; they have neither
the unerring instinct of brutes, nor are allowed to fix the eye of
reason on a perfect model.  They were made to be loved, and must
not aim at respect, lest they should be hunted out of society as

But to view the subject in another point of view.  Do passive
indolent women make the best wives?  Confining our discussion to
the present moment of existence, let us see how such weak creatures
perform their part?  Do the women who, by the attainment of a few
superficial accomplishments, have strengthened the prevailing
prejudice, merely contribute to the happiness of their husbands?
Do they display their charms merely to amuse them?  And have women,
who have early imbibed notions of passive obedience, sufficient
character to manage a family or educate children?  So far from it,
that, after surveying the history of woman, I cannot help agreeing
with the severest satirist, considering the sex as the weakest as
well as the most oppressed half of the species.  What does history
disclose but marks of inferiority, and how few women have
emancipated themselves from the galling yoke of sovereign man?  So
few, that the exceptions remind me of an ingenious conjecture
respecting Newton:  that he was probably a being of a superior
order, accidentally caged in a human body.  In the same style I
have been led to imagine that the few extraordinary women who have
rushed in eccentrical directions out of the orbit prescribed to
their sex, were MALE spirits, confined by mistake in a female
frame.  But if it be not philosophical to think of sex when the
soul is mentioned, the inferiority must depend on the organs; or
the heavenly fire, which is to ferment the clay, is not given in
equal portions.

But avoiding, as I have hitherto done, any direct comparison of the
two sexes collectively, or frankly acknowledging the inferiority of
woman, according to the present appearance of things, I shall only
insist, that men have increased that inferiority till women are
almost sunk below the standard of rational creatures.  Let their
faculties have room to unfold, and their virtues to gain strength,
and then determine where the whole sex must stand in the
intellectual scale.  Yet, let it be remembered, that for a small
number of distinguished women I do not ask a place.

It is difficult for us purblind mortals to say to what height human
discoveries and improvements may arrive, when the gloom of
despotism subsides, which makes us stumble at every step; but, when
morality shall be settled on a more solid basis, then, without
being gifted with a prophetic spirit, I will venture to predict,
that woman will be either the friend or slave of man.  We shall
not, as at present, doubt whether she is a moral agent, or the link
which unites man with brutes.  But, should it then appear, that
like the brutes they were principally created for the use of man,
he will let them patiently bite the bridle, and not mock them with
empty praise; or, should their rationality be proved, he will not
impede their improvement merely to gratify his sensual appetites.
He will not with all the graces of rhetoric, advise them to submit
implicitly their understandings to the guidance of man.  He will
not, when he treats of the education of women, assert, that they
ought never to have the free use of reason, nor would he recommend
cunning and dissimulation to beings who are acquiring, in like
manner as himself, the virtues of humanity.

Surely there can be but one rule of right, if morality has an
eternal foundation, and whoever sacrifices virtue, strictly so
called, to present convenience, or whose DUTY it is to act in such
a manner, lives only for the passing day, and cannot be an
accountable creature.

The poet then should have dropped his sneer when he says,

"If weak women go astray,
The stars are more in fault than they."

For that they are bound by the adamantine chain of destiny is most
certain, if it be proved that they are never to exercise their own
reason, never to be independent, never to rise above opinion, or to
feel the dignity of a rational will that only bows to God, and
often forgets that the universe contains any being but itself, and
the model of perfection to which its ardent gaze is turned, to
adore attributes that, softened into virtues, may be imitated in
kind, though the degree overwhelms the enraptured mind.

If, I say, for I would not impress by declamation when reason
offers her sober light, if they are really capable of acting like
rational creatures, let them not be treated like slaves; or, like
the brutes who are dependent on the reason of man, when they
associate with him; but cultivate their minds, give them the
salutary, sublime curb of principle, and let them attain conscious
dignity by feeling themselves only dependent on God.  Teach them,
in common with man, to submit to necessity, instead of giving, to
render them more pleasing, a sex to morals.

Further, should experience prove that they cannot attain the same
degree of strength of mind, perseverance and fortitude, let their
virtues be the same in kind, though they may vainly struggle for
the same degree; and the superiority of man will be equally clear,
if not clearer; and truth, as it is a simple principle, which
admits of no modification, would be common to both.  Nay, the order
of society, as it is at present regulated, would not be inverted,
for woman would then only have the rank that reason assigned her,
and arts could not be practised to bring the balance even, much
less to turn it.

These may be termed Utopian dreams.  Thanks to that Being who
impressed them on my soul, and gave me sufficient strength of mind
to dare to exert my own reason, till becoming dependent only on him
for the support of my virtue, I view with indignation, the mistaken
notions that enslave my sex.

I love man as my fellow; but his sceptre real or usurped, extends
not to me, unless the reason of an individual demands my homage;
and even then the submission is to reason, and not to man.  In
fact, the conduct of an accountable being must be regulated by the
operations of its own reason; or on what foundation rests the
throne of God?

It appears to me necessary to dwell on these obvious truths,
because females have been insulted, as it were; and while they have
been stripped of the virtues that should clothe humanity, they have
been decked with artificial graces, that enable them to exercise a
short lived tyranny.  Love, in their bosoms, taking place of every
nobler passion, their sole ambition is to be fair, to raise emotion
instead of inspiring respect; and this ignoble desire, like the
servility in absolute monarchies, destroys all strength of
character.  Liberty is the mother of virtue, and if women are, by
their very constitution, slaves, and not allowed to breathe the
sharp invigorating air of freedom, they must ever languish like
exotics, and be reckoned beautiful flaws in nature; let it also be
remembered, that they are the only flaw.

As to the argument respecting the subjection in which the sex has
ever been held, it retorts on man.  The many have always been
enthralled by the few; and, monsters who have scarcely shown any
discernment of human excellence, have tyrannized over thousands of
their fellow creatures.  Why have men of superior endowments
submitted to such degradation?  For, is it not universally
acknowledged that kings, viewed collectively, have ever been
inferior, in abilities and virtue, to the same number of men taken
from the common mass of mankind--yet, have they not, and are they
not still treated with a degree of reverence, that is an insult to
reason?  China is not the only country where a living man has been
made a God.  MEN have submitted to superior strength, to enjoy with
impunity the pleasure of the moment--WOMEN have only done the same,
and therefore till it is proved that the courtier, who servilely
resigns the birthright of a man, is not a moral agent, it cannot be
demonstrated that woman is essentially inferior to man, because she
has always been subjugated.

Brutal force has hitherto governed the world, and that the science
of politics is in its infancy, is evident from philosophers
scrupling to give the knowledge most useful to man that determinate

I shall not pursue this argument any further than to establish an
obvious inference, that as sound politics diffuse liberty, mankind,
including woman, will become more wise and virtuous.



Bodily strength from being the distinction of heroes is now sunk
into such unmerited contempt, that men as well as women, seem to
think it unnecessary:  the latter, as it takes from their feminine
graces, and from that lovely weakness, the source of their undue
power; and the former, because it appears inimical with the
character of a gentleman.

That they have both by departing from one extreme run into another,
may easily be proved; but it first may be proper to observe, that a
vulgar error has obtained a degree of credit, which has given force
to a false conclusion, in which an effect has been mistaken for a

People of genius have, very frequently, impaired their
constitutions by study, or careless inattention to their health,
and the violence of their passions bearing a proportion to the
vigour of their intellects, the sword's destroying the scabbard has
become almost proverbial, and superficial observers have inferred
from thence, that men of genius have commonly weak, or to use a
more fashionable phrase, delicate constitutions.  Yet the contrary,
I believe, will appear to be the fact; for, on diligent inquiry, I
find that strength of mind has, in most cases, been accompanied by
superior strength of body, natural soundness of constitution, not
that robust tone of nerves and vigour of muscles, which arise from
bodily labour, when the mind is quiescent, or only directs the

Dr. Priestley has remarked, in the preface to his biographical
chart, that the majority of great men have lived beyond forty-five.
And, considering the thoughtless manner in which they lavished
their strength, when investigating a favourite science, they have
wasted the lamp of life, forgetful of the midnight hour; or, when,
lost in poetic dreams, fancy has peopled the scene, and the soul
has been disturbed, till it shook the constitution, by the passions
that meditation had raised; whose objects, the baseless fabric of a
vision, faded before the exhausted eye, they must have had iron
frames.  Shakespeare never grasped the airy dagger with a nerveless
hand, nor did Milton tremble when he led Satan far from the
confines of his dreary prison.  These were not the ravings of
imbecility, the sickly effusions of distempered brains; but the
exuberance of fancy, that "in a fine phrenzy" wandering, was not
continually reminded of its material shackles.

I am aware, that this argument would carry me further than it may
be supposed I wish to go; but I follow truth, and still adhering to
my first position, I will allow that bodily strength seems to give
man a natural superiority over woman; and this is the only solid
basis on which the superiority of the sex can be built.  But I
still insist, that not only the virtue, but the KNOWLEDGE of the
two sexes should be the same in nature, if not in degree, and that
women, considered not only as moral, but rational creatures, ought
to endeavour to acquire human virtues (or perfections) by the SAME
means as men, instead of being educated like a fanciful kind of
HALF being, one of Rousseau's wild chimeras.

But, if strength of body be, with some show of reason, the boast of
men, why are women so infatuated as to be proud of a defect?
Rousseau has furnished them with a plausible excuse, which could
only have occurred to a man, whose imagination had been allowed to
run wild, and refine on the impressions made by exquisite senses,
that they might, forsooth have a pretext for yielding to a natural
appetite without violating a romantic species of modesty, which
gratifies the pride and libertinism of man.

Women deluded by these sentiments, sometimes boast of their
weakness, cunningly obtaining power by playing on the WEAKNESS of
men; and they may well glory in their illicit sway, for, like
Turkish bashaws, they have more real power than their masters:  but
virtue is sacrificed to temporary gratifications, and the
respectability of life to the triumph of an hour.

Women, as well as despots, have now, perhaps, more power than they
would have, if the world, divided and subdivided into kingdoms and
families, was governed by laws deduced from the exercise of reason;
but in obtaining it, to carry on the comparison, their character is
degraded, and licentiousness spread through the whole aggregate of
society.  The many become pedestal to the few.  I, therefore will
venture to assert, that till women are more rationally educated,
the progress of human virtue and improvement in knowledge must
receive continual checks.  And if it be granted, that woman was not
created merely to gratify the appetite of man, nor to be the upper
servant, who provides his meals and takes care of his linen, it
must follow, that the first care of those mothers or fathers, who
really attend to the education of females, should be, if not to
strengthen the body, at least, not to destroy the constitution by
mistaken notions of beauty and female excellence; nor should girls
ever be allowed to imbibe the pernicious notion that a defect can,
by any chemical process of reasoning become an excellence.  In this
respect, I am happy to find, that the author of one of the most
instructive books, that our country has produced for children,
coincides with me in opinion; I shall quote his pertinent remarks
to give the force of his respectable authority to reason.*

(*Footnote.  A respectable old man gives the following sensible
account of the method he pursued when educating his daughter.  "I
endeavoured to give both to her mind and body a degree of vigour,
which is seldom found in the female sex.  As soon as she was
sufficiently advanced in strength to be capable of the lighter
labours of husbandry and gardening, I employed her as my constant
companion.  Selene, for that was her name, soon acquired a
dexterity in all these rustic employments which I considered with
equal pleasure and admiration.  If women are in general feeble both
in body and mind, it arises less from nature than from education.
We encourage a vicious indolence and inactivity, which we falsely
call delicacy; instead of hardening their minds by the severer
principles of reason and philosophy, we breed them to useless arts,
which terminate in vanity and sensuality.  In most of the countries
which I had visited, they are taught nothing of an higher nature
than a few modulations of the voice, or useless postures of the
body; their time is consumed in sloth or trifles, and trifles
become the only pursuits capable of interesting them.  We seem to
forget, that it is upon the qualities of the female sex, that our
own domestic comforts and the education of our children must
depend.  And what are the comforts or the education which a race of
beings corrupted from their infancy, and unacquainted with all the
duties of life, are fitted to bestow?  To touch a musical
instrument with useless skill, to exhibit their natural or affected
graces, to the eyes of indolent and debauched young men, who
dissipate their husbands' patrimony in riotous and unnecessary
expenses:  these are the only arts cultivated by women in most of
the polished nations I had seen.  And the consequences are
uniformly such as may be expected to proceed from such polluted
sources, private misery, and public servitude.

"But, Selene's education was regulated by different views, and
conducted upon severer principles; if that can be called severity
which opens the mind to a sense of moral and religious duties, and
most effectually arms it against the inevitable evils of
life."--Mr. Day's "Sandford and Merton," Volume 3.)

But should it be proved that woman is naturally weaker than man,
from whence does it follow that it is natural for her to labour to
become still weaker than nature intended her to be?  Arguments of
this cast are an insult to common sense, and savour of passion.
The DIVINE RIGHT of husbands, like the divine right of kings, may,
it is to be hoped, in this enlightened age, be contested without
danger, and though conviction may not silence many boisterous
disputants, yet, when any prevailing prejudice is attacked, the
wise will consider, and leave the narrow-minded to rail with
thoughtless vehemence at innovation.

The mother, who wishes to give true dignity of character to her
daughter, must, regardless of the sneers of ignorance, proceed on a
plan diametrically opposite to that which Rousseau has recommended
with all the deluding charms of eloquence and philosophical
sophistry:  for his eloquence renders absurdities plausible, and
his dogmatic conclusions puzzle, without convincing those who have
not ability to refute them.

Throughout the whole animal kingdom every young creature requires
almost continual exercise, and the infancy of children, conformable
to this intimation, should be passed in harmless gambols, that
exercise the feet and hands, without requiring very minute
direction from the head, or the constant attention of a nurse.  In
fact, the care necessary for self-preservation is the first natural
exercise of the understanding, as little inventions to amuse the
present moment unfold the imagination.  But these wise designs of
nature are counteracted by mistaken fondness or blind zeal.  The
child is not left a moment to its own direction, particularly a
girl, and thus rendered dependent--dependence is called natural.

To preserve personal beauty, woman's glory! the limbs and faculties
are cramped with worse than Chinese bands, and the sedentary life
which they are condemned to live, whilst boys frolic in the open
air, weakens the muscles and relaxes the nerves.  As for Rousseau's
remarks, which have since been echoed by several writers, that they
have naturally, that is from their birth, independent of education,
a fondness for dolls, dressing, and talking, they are so puerile as
not to merit a serious refutation.  That a girl, condemned to sit
for hours together listening to the idle chat of weak nurses or to
attend at her mother's toilet, will endeavour to join the
conversation, is, indeed very natural; and that she will imitate
her mother or aunts, and amuse herself by adorning her lifeless
doll, as they do in dressing her, poor innocent babe! is
undoubtedly a most natural consequence.  For men of the greatest
abilities have seldom had sufficient strength to rise above the
surrounding atmosphere; and, if the page of genius has always been
blurred by the prejudices of the age, some allowance should be made
for a sex, who, like kings, always see things through a false

In this manner may the fondness for dress, conspicuous in women, be
easily accounted for, without supposing it the result of a desire
to please the sex on which they are dependent.  The absurdity, in
short, of supposing that a girl is naturally a coquette, and that a
desire connected with the impulse of nature to propagate the
species, should appear even before an improper education has, by
heating the imagination, called it forth prematurely, is so
unphilosophical, that such a sagacious observer as Rousseau would
not have adopted it, if he had not been accustomed to make reason
give way to his desire of singularity, and truth to a favourite

Yet thus to give a sex to mind was not very consistent with the
principles of a man who argued so warmly, and so well, for the
immortality of the soul.  But what a weak barrier is truth when it
stands in the way of an hypothesis!  Rousseau respected--almost
adored virtue--and yet allowed himself to love with sensual
fondness.  His imagination constantly prepared inflammable fuel for
his inflammable senses; but, in order to reconcile his respect for
self-denial, fortitude and those heroic virtues, which a mind like
his could not coolly admire, he labours to invert the law of
nature, and broaches a doctrine pregnant with mischief, and
derogatory to the character of supreme wisdom.

His ridiculous stories, which tend to prove that girls are
NATURALLY attentive to their persons, without laying any stress on
daily example, are below contempt.  And that a little miss should
have such a correct taste as to neglect the pleasing amusement of
making O's, merely because she perceived that it was an ungraceful
attitude, should be selected with the anecdotes of the learned

(*Footnote.  "I once knew a young person who learned to write
before she learned to read, and began to write with her needle
before she could use a pen.  At first indeed, she took it into her
head to make no other letter than the O:  this letter she was
constantly making of all sizes, and always the wrong way.
Unluckily one day, as she was intent on this employment, she
happened to see herself in the looking glass; when, taking a
dislike to the constrained attitude in which she sat while writing,
she threw away her pen, like another Pallas, and determined against
making the O any more.  Her brother was also equally averse to
writing:  it was the confinement, however, and not the constrained
attitude, that most disgusted him."
Rousseau's "Emilius.")

I have, probably, had an opportunity of observing more girls in
their infancy than J. J. Rousseau.  I can recollect my own
feelings, and I have looked steadily around me; yet, so far from
coinciding with him in opinion respecting the first dawn of the
female character, I will venture to affirm, that a girl, whose
spirits have not been damped by inactivity, or innocence tainted by
false shame, will always be a romp, and the doll will never excite
attention unless confinement allows her no alternative.  Girls and
boys, in short, would play harmless together, if the distinction of
sex was not inculcated long before nature makes any difference.  I
will, go further, and affirm, as an indisputable fact, that most of
the women, in the circle of my observation, who have acted like
rational creatures, or shown any vigour of intellect, have
accidentally been allowed to run wild, as some of the elegant
formers of the fair sex would insinuate.

The baneful consequences which flow from inattention to health
during infancy, and youth, extend further than is supposed,
dependence of body naturally produces dependence of mind; and how
can she be a good wife or mother, the greater part of whose time is
employed to guard against or endure sickness; nor can it be
expected, that a woman will resolutely endeavour to strengthen her
constitution and abstain from enervating indulgences, if artificial
notions of beauty, and false descriptions of sensibility, have been
early entangled with her motives of action.  Most men are sometimes
obliged to bear with bodily inconveniences, and to endure,
occasionally, the inclemency of the elements; but genteel women
are, literally speaking, slaves to their bodies, and glory in their

I once knew a weak woman of fashion, who was more than commonly
proud of her delicacy and sensibility.  She thought a
distinguishing taste and puny appetite the height of all human
perfection, and acted accordingly.  I have seen this weak
sophisticated being neglect all the duties of life, yet recline
with self-complacency on a sofa, and boast of her want of appetite
as a proof of delicacy that extended to, or, perhaps, arose from,
her exquisite sensibility:  for it is difficult to render
intelligible such ridiculous jargon.  Yet, at the moment, I have
seen her insult a worthy old gentlewoman, whom unexpected
misfortunes had made dependent on her ostentatious bounty, and who,
in better days, had claims on her gratitude.  Is it possible that a
human creature should have become such a weak and depraved being,
if, like the Sybarites, dissolved in luxury, every thing like
virtue had not been worn away, or never impressed by precept, a
poor substitute it is true, for cultivation of mind, though it
serves as a fence against vice?

Such a woman is not a more irrational monster than some of the
Roman emperors, who were depraved by lawless power.  Yet, since
kings have been more under the restraint of law, and the curb,
however weak, of honour, the records of history are not filled with
such unnatural instances of folly and cruelty, nor does the
despotism that kills virtue and genius in the bud, hover over
Europe with that destructive blast which desolates Turkey, and
renders the men, as well as the soil unfruitful.

Women are every where in this deplorable state; for, in order to
preserve their innocence, as ignorance is courteously termed, truth
is hidden from them, and they are made to assume an artificial
character before their faculties have acquired any strength.
Taught from their infancy, that beauty is woman's sceptre, the mind
shapes itself to the body, and, roaming round its gilt cage, only
seeks to adorn its prison.  Men have various employments and
pursuits which engage their attention, and give a character to the
opening mind; but women, confined to one, and having their thoughts
constantly directed to the most insignificant part of themselves,
seldom extend their views beyond the triumph of the hour.  But was
their understanding once emancipated from the slavery to which the
pride and sensuality of man and their short sighted desire, like
that of dominion in tyrants, of present sway, has subjected them,
we should probably read of their weaknesses with surprise.  I must
be allowed to pursue the argument a little farther.

Perhaps, if the existence of an evil being was allowed, who, in the
allegorical language of scripture, went about seeking whom he
should devour, he could not more effectually degrade the human
character than by giving a man absolute power.

This argument branches into various ramifications.  Birth, riches,
and every intrinsic advantage that exalt a man above his fellows,
without any mental exertion, sink him in reality below them.  In
proportion to his weakness, he is played upon by designing men,
till the bloated monster has lost all traces of humanity.  And that
tribes of men, like flocks of sheep, should quietly follow such a
leader, is a solecism that only a desire of present enjoyment and
narrowness of understanding can solve.  Educated in slavish
dependence, and enervated by luxury and sloth, where shall we find
men who will stand forth to assert the rights of man; or claim the
privilege of moral beings, who should have but one road to
excellence? Slavery to monarchs and ministers, which the world will
be long in freeing itself from, and whose deadly grasp stops the
progress of the human mind, is not yet abolished.

Let not men then in the pride of power, use the same arguments that
tyrannic kings and venal ministers have used, and fallaciously
assert, that woman ought to be subjected because she has always
been so.  But, when man, governed by reasonable laws, enjoys his
natural freedom, let him despise woman, if she do not share it with
him; and, till that glorious period arrives, in descanting on the
folly of the sex, let him not overlook his own.

Women, it is true, obtaining power by unjust means, by practising
or fostering vice, evidently lose the rank which reason would
assign them, and they become either abject slaves or capricious
tyrants.  They lose all simplicity, all dignity of mind, in
acquiring power, and act as men are observed to act when they have
been exalted by the same means.

It is time to effect a revolution in female manners, time to
restore to them their lost dignity, and make them, as a part of the
human species, labour by reforming themselves to reform the world.
It is time to separate unchangeable morals from local manners.  If
men be demi-gods, why let us serve them!  And if the dignity of the
female soul be as disputable as that of animals, if their reason
does not afford sufficient light to direct their conduct whilst
unerring instinct is denied, they are surely of all creatures the
most miserable and, bent beneath the iron hand of destiny, must
submit to be a FAIR DEFECT in creation.  But to justify the ways of
providence respecting them, by pointing out some irrefragable
reason for thus making such a large portion of mankind accountable
and not accountable, would puzzle the subtlest casuist.

The only solid foundation for morality appears to be the character
of the Supreme Being; the harmony of which arises from a balance of
attributes; and, to speak with reverence, one attribute seems to
imply the NECESSITY of another.  He must be just, because he is
wise, he must be good, because he is omnipotent.  For, to exalt one
attribute at the expense of another equally noble and necessary,
bears the stamp of the warped reason of man, the homage of passion.
Man, accustomed to bow down to power in his savage state, can
seldom divest himself of this barbarous prejudice even when
civilization determines how much superior mental is to bodily
strength; and his reason is clouded by these crude opinions, even
when he thinks of the Deity.  His omnipotence is made to swallow
up, or preside over his other attributes, and those mortals are
supposed to limit his power irreverently, who think that it must be
regulated by his wisdom.

I disclaim that species of humility which, after investigating
nature, stops at the author.  The high and lofty One, who
inhabiteth eternity, doubtless possesses many attributes of which
we can form no conception; but reason tells me that they cannot
clash with those I adore, and I am compelled to listen to her

It seems natural for man to search for excellence, and either to
trace it in the object that he worships, or blindly to invest it
with perfection as a garment.  But what good effect can the latter
mode of worship have on the moral conduct of a rational being?  He
bends to power; he adores a dark cloud, which may open a bright
prospect to him, or burst in angry, lawless fury on his devoted
head, he knows not why.  And, supposing that the Deity acts from
the vague impulse of an undirected will, man must also follow his
own, or act according to rules, deduced from principles which he
disclaims as irreverent.  Into this dilemma have both enthusiasts
and cooler thinkers fallen, when they laboured to free men from the
wholesome restraints which a just conception of the character of
God imposes.

It is not impious thus to scan the attributes of the Almighty:  in
fact, who can avoid it that exercises his faculties? for to love
God as the fountain of wisdom, goodness, and power, appears to be
the only worship useful to a being who wishes to acquire either
virtue or knowledge.  A blind unsettled affection may, like human
passions, occupy the mind and warm the heart, whilst, to do
justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God, is forgotten.  I
shall pursue this subject still further, when I consider religion
in a light opposite to that recommended by Dr. Gregory, who treats
it as a matter of sentiment or taste.

To return from this apparent digression.  It were to be wished,
that women would cherish an affection for their husbands, founded
on the same principle that devotion ought to rest upon.  No other
firm base is there under heaven, for let them beware of the
fallacious light of sentiment; too often used as a softer phrase
for sensuality.  It follows then, I think, that from their infancy
women should either be shut up like eastern princes, or educated in
such a manner as to be able to think and act for themselves.

Why do men halt between two opinions, and expect impossibilities?
Why do they expect virtue from a slave, or from a being whom the
constitution of civil society has rendered weak, if not vicious?

Still I know that it will require a considerable length of time to
eradicate the firmly rooted prejudices which sensualists have
planted; it will also require some time to convince women that they
act contrary to their real interest on an enlarged scale, when they
cherish or affect weakness under the name of delicacy, and to
convince the world that the poisoned source of female vices and
follies, if it be necessary, in compliance with custom, to use
synonymous terms in a lax sense, has been the sensual homage paid
to beauty:  to beauty of features; for it has been shrewdly
observed by a German writer, that a pretty woman, as an object of
desire, is generally allowed to be so by men of all descriptions;
whilst a fine woman, who inspires more sublime emotions by
displaying intellectual beauty, may be overlooked or observed with
indifference, by those men who find their happiness in the
gratification of their appetites.  I foresee an obvious retort;
whilst man remains such an imperfect being as he appears hitherto
to have been, he will, more or less, be the slave of his appetites;
and those women obtaining most power who gratify a predominant one,
the sex is degraded by a physical, if not by a moral necessity.

This objection has, I grant, some force; but while such a sublime
precept exists, as, "be pure as your heavenly father is pure;" it
would seem that the virtues of man are not limited by the Being who
alone could limit them; and that he may press forward without
considering whether he steps out of his sphere by indulging such a
noble ambition.  To the wild billows it has been said, "thus far
shalt thou go, and no further; and here shall thy proud waves be
stayed."  Vainly then do they beat and foam, restrained by the
power that confines the struggling planets within their orbits,
matter yields to the great governing Spirit.  But an immortal soul,
not restrained by mechanical laws, and struggling to free itself
from the shackles of matter, contributes to, instead of disturbing,
the order of creation, when, co-operating with the Father of
spirits, it tries to govern itself by the invariable rule that, in
a degree, before which our imagination faints, the universe is

Besides, if women are educated for dependence, that is, to act
according to the will of another fallible being, and submit, right
or wrong, to power, where are we to stop?  Are they to be
considered as viceregents, allowed to reign over a small domain,
and answerable for their conduct to a higher tribunal, liable to

It will not be difficult to prove, that such delegates will act
like men subjected by fear, and make their children and servants
endure their tyrannical oppression.  As they submit without reason,
they will, having no fixed rules to square their conduct by, be
kind or cruel, just as the whim of the moment directs; and we ought
not to wonder if sometimes, galled by their heavy yoke, they take a
malignant pleasure in resting it on weaker shoulders.

But, supposing a woman, trained up to obedience, be married to a
sensible man, who directs her judgment, without making her feel the
servility of her subjection, to act with as much propriety by this
reflected light as can be expected when reason is taken at second
hand, yet she cannot ensure the life of her protector; he may die
and leave her with a large family.

A double duty devolves on her; to educate them in the character of
both father and mother; to form their principles and secure their
property.  But, alas! she has never thought, much less acted for
herself.  She has only learned to please men, to depend gracefully
on them; yet, encumbered with children, how is she to obtain
another protector; a husband to supply the place of reason?  A
rational man, for we are not treading on romantic ground, though he
may think her a pleasing docile creature, will not choose to marry
a FAMILY for love, when the world contains many more pretty
creatures.  What is then to become of her?  She either falls an
easy prey to some mean fortune hunter, who defrauds her children of
their paternal inheritance, and renders her miserable; or becomes
the victim of discontent and blind indulgence.  Unable to educate
her sons, or impress them with respect; for it is not a play on
words to assert, that people are never respected, though filling an
important station, who are not respectable; she pines under the
anguish of unavailing impotent regret.  The serpent's tooth enters
into her very soul, and the vices of licentious youth bring her
with sorrow, if not with poverty also, to the grave.

This is not an overcharged picture; on the contrary, it is a very
possible case, and something similar must have fallen under every
attentive eye.

I have, however, taken it for granted, that she was well disposed,
though experience shows, that the blind may as easily be led into a
ditch as along the beaten road.  But supposing, no very improbable
conjecture, that a being only taught to please must still find her
happiness in pleasing; what an example of folly, not to say vice,
will she be to her innocent daughters!  The mother will be lost in
the coquette, and, instead of making friends of her daughters, view
them with eyes askance, for they are rivals--rivals more cruel than
any other, because they invite a comparison, and drive her from the
throne of beauty, who has never thought of a seat on the bench of

It does not require a lively pencil, or the discriminating outline
of a caricature, to sketch the domestic miseries and petty vices
which such a mistress of a family diffuses.  Still she only acts as
a woman ought to act, brought up according to Rousseau's system.
She can never be reproached for being masculine, or turning out of
her sphere; nay, she may observe another of his grand rules, and,
cautiously preserving her reputation free from spot, be reckoned a
good kind of woman.  Yet in what respect can she be termed good?
She abstains, it is true, without any great struggle, from
committing gross crimes; but how does she fulfil her duties?
Duties!--in truth she has enough to think of to adorn her body and
nurse a weak constitution.

With respect to religion, she never presumed to judge for herself;
but conformed, as a dependent creature should, to the ceremonies of
the church which she was brought up in, piously believing, that
wiser heads than her own have settled that business:  and not to
doubt is her point of perfection.  She therefore pays her tythe of
mint and cummin, and thanks her God that she is not as other women
are.  These are the blessed effects of a good education! these the
virtues of man's helpmate.  I must relieve myself by drawing a
different picture.

Let fancy now present a woman with a tolerable understanding, for I
do not wish to leave the line of mediocrity, whose constitution,
strengthened by exercise, has allowed her body to acquire its full
vigour; her mind, at the same time, gradually expanding itself to
comprehend the moral duties of life, and in what human virtue and
dignity consist.  Formed thus by the relative duties of her
station, she marries from affection, without losing sight of
prudence, and looking beyond matrimonial felicity, she secures her
husband's respect before it is necessary to exert mean arts to
please him, and feed a dying flame, which nature doomed to expire
when the object became familiar, when friendship and forbearance
take place of a more ardent affection.  This is the natural death
of love, and domestic peace is not destroyed by struggles to
prevent its extinction.  I also suppose the husband to be virtuous;
or she is still more in want of independent principles.

Fate, however, breaks this tie.  She is left a widow, perhaps,
without a sufficient provision:  but she is not desolate!  The pang
of nature is felt; but after time has softened sorrow into
melancholy resignation, her heart turns to her children with
redoubled fondness, and anxious to provide for them, affection
gives a sacred heroic cast to her maternal duties.  She thinks that
not only the eye sees her virtuous efforts, from whom all her
comfort now must flow, and whose approbation is life; but her
imagination, a little abstracted and exalted by grief, dwells on
the fond hope, that the eyes which her trembling hand closed, may
still see how she subdues every wayward passion to fulfil the
double duty of being the father as well as the mother of her
children.  Raised to heroism by misfortunes, she represses the
first faint dawning of a natural inclination, before it ripens into
love, and in the bloom of life forgets her sex--forgets the
pleasure of an awakening passion, which might again have been
inspired and returned.  She no longer thinks of pleasing, and
conscious dignity prevents her from priding herself on account of
the praise which her conduct demands.  Her children have her love,
and her brightest hopes are beyond the grave, where her imagination
often strays.

I think I see her surrounded by her children, reaping the reward of
her care.  The intelligent eye meets her's, whilst health and
innocence smile on their chubby cheeks, and as they grow up the
cares of life are lessened by their grateful attention.  She lives
to see the virtues which she endeavoured to plant on principles,
fixed into habits, to see her children attain a strength of
character sufficient to enable them to endure adversity without
forgetting their mother's example.

The task of life thus fulfilled, she calmly waits for the sleep of
death, and rising from the grave may say, behold, thou gavest me a
talent, and here are five talents.

I wish to sum up what I have said in a few words, for I here throw
down my gauntlet, and deny the existence of sexual virtues, not
excepting modesty.  For man and woman, truth, if I understand the
meaning of the word, must be the same; yet the fanciful female
character, so prettily drawn by poets and novelists, demanding the
sacrifice of truth and sincerity, virtue becomes a relative idea,
having no other foundation than utility, and of that utility men
pretend arbitrarily to judge, shaping it to their own convenience.

Women, I allow, may have different duties to fulfil; but they are
HUMAN duties, and the principles that should regulate the discharge
of them, I sturdily maintain, must be the same.

To become respectable, the exercise of their understanding is
necessary, there is no other foundation for independence of
character; I mean explicitly to say, that they must only bow to the
authority of reason, instead of being the MODEST slaves of opinion.

In the superior ranks of life how seldom do we meet with a man of
superior abilities, or even common acquirements?  The reason
appears to me clear; the state they are born in was an unnatural
one.  The human character has ever been formed by the employments
the individual, or class pursues; and if the faculties are not
sharpened by necessity, they must remain obtuse.  The argument may
fairly be extended to women; for seldom occupied by serious
business, the pursuit of pleasure gives that insignificancy to
their character which renders the society of the GREAT so insipid.
The same want of firmness, produced by a similar cause, forces them
both to fly from themselves to noisy pleasures, and artificial
passions, till vanity takes place of every social affection, and
the characteristics of humanity can scarcely be discerned.  Such
are the blessings of civil governments, as they are at present
organized, that wealth and female softness equally tend to debase
mankind, and are produced by the same cause; but allowing women to
be rational creatures they should be incited to acquire virtues
which they may call their own, for how can a rational being be
ennobled by any thing that is not obtained by its OWN exertions?



That woman is naturally weak, or degraded by a concurrence of
circumstances is, I think, clear.  But this position I shall simply
contrast with a conclusion, which I have frequently heard fall from
sensible men in favour of an aristocracy:  that the mass of mankind
cannot be any thing, or the obsequious slaves, who patiently allow
themselves to be penned up, would feel their own consequence, and
spurn their chains.  Men, they further observe, submit every where
to oppression, when they have only to lift up their heads to throw
off the yoke; yet, instead of asserting their birthright, they
quietly lick the dust, and say, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow
we die.  Women, I argue from analogy, are degraded by the same
propensity to enjoy the present moment; and, at last, despise the
freedom which they have not sufficient virtue to struggle to
attain.  But I must be more explicit.

With respect to the culture of the heart, it is unanimously allowed
that sex is out of the question; but the line of subordination in
the mental powers is never to be passed over.  Only "absolute in
loveliness," the portion of rationality granted to woman is,
indeed, very scanty; for, denying her genius and judgment, it is
scarcely possible to divine what remains to characterize intellect.

The stamina of immortality, if I may be allowed the phrase, is the
perfectibility of human reason; for, was man created perfect, or
did a flood of knowledge break in upon him, when he arrived at
maturity, that precluded error, I should doubt whether his
existence would be continued after the dissolution of the body.
But in the present state of things, every difficulty in morals,
that escapes from human discussion, and equally baffles the
investigation of profound thinking, and the lightning glance of
genius, is an argument on which I build my belief of the
immortality of the soul.  Reason is, consequentially, the simple
power of improvement; or, more properly speaking, of discerning
truth.  Every individual is in this respect a world in itself.
More or less may be conspicuous in one being than other; but the
nature of reason must be the same in all, if it be an emanation of
divinity, the tie that connects the creature with the Creator; for,
can that soul be stamped with the heavenly image, that is not
perfected by the exercise of its own reason?  Yet outwardly
ornamented with elaborate care, and so adorned to delight man,
"that with honour he may love," (Vide Milton) the soul of woman is
not allowed to have this distinction, and man, ever placed between
her and reason, she is always represented as only created to see
through a gross medium, and to take things on trust.  But,
dismissing these fanciful theories, and considering woman as a
whole, let it be what it will, instead of a part of man, the
inquiry is, whether she has reason or not.  If she has, which, for
a moment, I will take for granted, she was not created merely to be
the solace of man, and the sexual should not destroy the human

Into this error men have, probably, been led by viewing education
in a false light; not considering it as the first step to form a
being advancing gradually toward perfection; (This word is not
strictly just, but I cannot find a better.) but only as a
preparation for life.  On this sensual error, for I must call it
so, has the false system of female manners been reared, which robs
the whole sex of its dignity, and classes the brown and fair with
the smiling flowers that only adorn the land.  This has ever been
the language of men, and the fear of departing from a supposed
sexual character, has made even women of superior sense adopt the
same sentiments.  Thus understanding, strictly speaking, has been
denied to woman; and instinct, sublimated into wit and cunning, for
the purposes of life, has been substituted in its stead.

The power of generalizing ideas, of drawing comprehensive
conclusions from individual observations, is the only acquirement
for an immortal being, that really deserves the name of knowledge.
Merely to observe, without endeavouring to account for any thing,
may, (in a very incomplete manner) serve as the common sense of
life; but where is the store laid up that is to clothe the soul
when it leaves the body?

This power has not only been denied to women; but writers have
insisted that it is inconsistent, with a few exceptions, with their
sexual character.  Let men prove this, and I shall grant that woman
only exists for man.  I must, however, previously remark, that the
power of generalizing ideas, to any great extent, is not very
common amongst men or women.  But this exercise is the true
cultivation of the understanding; and every thing conspires to
render the cultivation of the understanding more difficult in the
female than the male world.

I am naturally led by this assertion to the main subject of the
present chapter, and shall now attempt to point out some of the
causes that degrade the sex, and prevent women from generalizing
their observations.

I shall not go back to the remote annals of antiquity to trace the
history of woman; it is sufficient to allow, that she has always
been either a slave or a despot, and to remark, that each of these
situations equally retards the progress of reason.  The grand
source of female folly and vice has ever appeared to me to arise
from narrowness of mind; and the very constitution of civil
governments has put almost insuperable obstacles in the way to
prevent the cultivation of the female understanding:  yet virtue
can be built on no other foundation!  The same obstacles are thrown
in the way of the rich, and the same consequences ensue.

Necessity has been proverbially termed the mother of invention; the
aphorism may be extended to virtue.  It is an acquirement, and an
acquirement to which pleasure must be sacrificed, and who
sacrifices pleasure when it is within the grasp, whose mind has not
been opened and strengthened by adversity, or the pursuit of
knowledge goaded on by necessity?  Happy is it when people have the
cares of life to struggle with; for these struggles prevent their
becoming a prey to enervating vices, merely from idleness!  But, if
from their birth men and women are placed in a torrid zone, with
the meridian sun of pleasure darting directly upon them, how can
they sufficiently brace their minds to discharge the duties of
life, or even to relish the affections that carry them out of

Pleasure is the business of a woman's life, according to the
present modification of society, and while it continues to be so,
little can be expected from such weak beings.  Inheriting, in a
lineal descent from the first fair defect in nature, the
sovereignty of beauty, they have, to maintain their power, resigned
their natural rights, which the exercise of reason, might have
procured them, and chosen rather to be short-lived queens than
labour to attain the sober pleasures that arise from equality.
Exalted by their inferiority (this sounds like a contradiction)
they constantly demand homage as women, though experience should
teach them that the men who pride themselves upon paying this
arbitrary insolent respect to the sex, with the most scrupulous
exactness, are most inclined to tyrannize over, and despise the
very weakness they cherish.  Often do they repeat Mr. Hume's
sentiments; when comparing the French and Athenian character, he
alludes to women.  "But what is more singular in this whimsical
nation, say I to the Athenians, is, that a frolic of yours during
the Saturnalia, when the slaves are served by their masters, is
seriously continued by them through the whole year, and through the
whole course of their lives; accompanied too with some
circumstances, which still further augment the absurdity and
ridicule.  Your sport only elevates for a few days, those whom
fortune has thrown down, and whom she too, in sport, may really
elevate forever above you.  But this nation gravely exalts those,
whom nature has subjected to them, and whose inferiority and
infirmities are absolutely incurable.  The women, though without
virtue, are their masters and sovereigns."

Ah! why do women, I write with affectionate solicitude, condescend
to receive a degree of attention and respect from strangers,
different from that reciprocation of civility which the dictates of
humanity, and the politeness of civilization authorise between man
and man?  And why do they not discover, when "in the noon of
beauty's power," that they are treated like queens only to be
deluded by hollow respect, till they are led to resign, or not
assume, their natural prerogatives?  Confined then in cages, like
the feathered race, they have nothing to do but to plume
themselves, and stalk with mock-majesty from perch to perch.  It is
true, they are provided with food and raiment, for which they
neither toil nor spin; but health, liberty, and virtue are given in
exchange.  But, where, amongst mankind has been found sufficient
strength of mind to enable a being to resign these adventitious
prerogatives; one who rising with the calm dignity of reason above
opinion, dared to be proud of the privileges inherent in man? and
it is vain to expect it whilst hereditary power chokes the
affections, and nips reason in the bud.

The passions of men have thus placed women on thrones; and, till
mankind become more reasonable, it is to be feared that women will
avail themselves of the power which they attain with the least
exertion, and which is the most indisputable.  They will smile,
yes, they will smile, though told that--

"In beauty's empire is no mean,
And woman either slave or queen,
Is quickly scorn'd when not ador'd."

But the adoration comes first, and the scorn is not anticipated.

Lewis the XIVth, in particular, spread factitious manners, and
caught in a specious way, the whole nation in his toils; for
establishing an artful chain of despotism, he made it the interest
of the people at large, individually to respect his station, and
support his power.  And women, whom he flattered by a puerile
attention to the whole sex, obtained in his reign that prince-like
distinction so fatal to reason and virtue.

A king is always a king, and a woman always a woman: (And a wit,
always a wit, might be added; for the vain fooleries of wits and
beauties to obtain attention, and make conquests, are much upon a
par.)  his authority and her sex, ever stand between them and
rational converse.  With a lover, I grant she should be so, and her
sensibility will naturally lead her to endeavour to excite emotion,
not to gratify her vanity but her heart.  This I do not allow to be
coquetry, it is the artless impulse of nature, I only exclaim
against the sexual desire of conquest, when the heart is out of the

This desire is not confined to women; "I have endeavoured," says
Lord Chesterfield, "to gain the hearts of twenty women, whose
persons I would not have given a fig for."  The libertine who in a
gust of passion, takes advantage of unsuspecting tenderness, is a
saint when compared with this cold-hearted rascal; for I like to
use significant words.  Yet only taught to please, women are always
on the watch to please, and with true heroic ardour endeavour to
gain hearts merely to resign, or spurn them, when the victory is
decided, and conspicuous.

I must descend to the minutiae of the subject.

I lament that women are systematically degraded by receiving the
trivial attentions, which men think it manly to pay to the sex,
when, in fact, they are insultingly supporting their own
superiority.  It is not condescension to bow to an inferior.  So
ludicrous, in fact, do these ceremonies appear to me, that I
scarcely am able to govern my muscles, when I see a man start with
eager, and serious solicitude to lift a handkerchief, or shut a
door, when the LADY could have done it herself, had she only moved
a pace or two.

A wild wish has just flown from my heart to my head, and I will not
stifle it though it may excite a horse laugh.  I do earnestly wish
to see the distinction of sex confounded in society, unless where
love animates the behaviour.  For this distinction is, I am firmly
persuaded, the foundation of the weakness of character ascribed to
woman; is the cause why the understanding is neglected, whilst
accomplishments are acquired with sedulous care:  and the same
cause accounts for their preferring the graceful before the heroic

Mankind, including every description, wish to be loved and
respected for SOMETHING; and the common herd will always take the
nearest road to the completion of their wishes.  The respect paid
to wealth and beauty is the most certain and unequivocal; and of
course, will always attract the vulgar eye of common minds.
Abilities and virtues are absolutely necessary to raise men from
the middle rank of life into notice; and the natural consequence is
notorious, the middle rank contains most virtue and abilities.  Men
have thus, in one station, at least, an opportunity of exerting
themselves with dignity, and of rising by the exertions which
really improve a rational creature; but the whole female sex are,
till their character is formed, in the same condition as the rich:
for they are born, I now speak of a state of civilization, with
certain sexual privileges, and whilst they are gratuitously granted
them, few will ever think of works of supererogation, to obtain the
esteem of a small number of superior people.

When do we hear of women, who starting out of obscurity, boldly
claim respect on account of their great abilities or daring
virtues?  Where are they to be found?  "To be observed, to be
attended to, to be taken notice of with sympathy, complacency, and
approbation, are all the advantages which they seek."  True! my
male readers will probably exclaim; but let them, before they draw
any conclusion, recollect, that this was not written originally as
descriptive of women, but of the rich.  In Dr. Smith's Theory of
Moral Sentiments, I have found a general character of people of
rank and fortune, that in my opinion, might with the greatest
propriety be applied to the female sex.  I refer the sagacious
reader to the whole comparison; but must be allowed to quote a
passage to enforce an argument that I mean to insist on, as the one
most conclusive against a sexual character.  For if, excepting
warriors, no great men of any denomination, have ever appeared
amongst the nobility, may it not be fairly inferred, that their
local situation swallowed up the man, and produced a character
similar to that of women, who are LOCALIZED, if I may be allowed
the word, by the rank they are placed in, by COURTESY?  Women,
commonly called Ladies, are not to be contradicted in company, are
not allowed to exert any manual strength; and from them the
negative virtues only are expected, when any virtues are expected,
patience, docility, good-humour, and flexibility; virtues
incompatible with any vigorous exertion of intellect.  Besides by
living more with each other, and to being seldom absolutely alone,
they are more under the influence of sentiments than passions.
Solitude and reflection are necessary to give to wishes the force
of passions, and enable the imagination to enlarge the object and
make it the most desirable.  The same may be said of the rich; they
do not sufficiently deal in general ideas, collected by
impassionate thinking, or calm investigation, to acquire that
strength of character, on which great resolves are built.  But hear
what an acute observer says of the great.

"Do the great seem insensible of the easy price at which they may
acquire the public admiration? or do they seem to imagine, that to
them, as to other men, it must be the purchase either of sweat or
of blood?  By what important accomplishments is the young nobleman
instructed to support the dignity of his rank, and to render
himself worthy of that superiority over his fellow citizens, to
which the virtue of his ancestors had raised them? Is it by
knowledge, by industry, by patience, by self-denial, or by virtue
of any kind?  As all his words, as all his motions are attended to,
he learns an habitual regard for every circumstance of ordinary
behaviour, and studies to perform all those small duties with the
most exact propriety.  As he is conscious how much he is observed,
and how much mankind are disposed to favour all his inclinations,
he acts, upon the most indifferent occasions, with that freedom and
elevation which the thought of this naturally inspires.  His air,
his manner, his deportment all mark that elegant and graceful sense
of his own superiority, which those who are born to an inferior
station can hardly ever arrive at.  These are the arts by which he
proposes to make mankind more easily submit to his authority, and
to govern their inclinations according to his own pleasure:  and in
this he is seldom disappointed.  These arts, supported by rank and
pre-eminence, are, upon ordinary occasions, sufficient to govern
the world.  Lewis XIV. during the greater part of his reign, was
regarded, not only in France, but over all Europe, as the most
perfect model of a great prince.  But what were the talents and
virtues, by which he acquired this great reputation? Was it by the
scrupulous and inflexible justice of all his undertakings, by the
immense dangers and difficulties with which they were attended, or
by the unwearied and unrelenting application with which he pursued
them?  Was it by his extensive knowledge, by his exquisite
judgment, or by his heroic valour?  It was by none of these
qualities.  But he was, first of all, the most powerful prince in
Europe, and consequently held the highest rank among kings; and
then, says his historian, 'he surpassed all his courtiers in the
gracefulness of his shape, and the majestic beauty of his features.
The sound of his voice noble and affecting, gained those hearts
which his presence intimidated.  He had a step and a deportment,
which could suit only him and his rank, and which would have been
ridiculous in any other person.  The embarrassment which he
occasioned to those who spoke to him, flattered that secret
satisfaction with which he felt his own superiority.' These
frivolous accomplishments, supported by his rank, and, no doubt,
too, by a degree of other talents and virtues, which seems,
however, not to have been much above mediocrity, established this
prince in the esteem of his own age, and have drawn even from
posterity, a good deal of respect for his memory.  Compared with
these, in his own times, and in his own presence, no other virtue,
it seems, appeared to have any merit.  Knowledge, industry, valour,
and beneficence, trembling, were abashed, and lost all dignity
before them."

Woman, also, thus "in herself complete," by possessing all these
FRIVOLOUS accomplishments, so changes the nature of things,

--"That what she wills to do or say
Seems wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best;
All higher knowledge in HER PRESENCE falls
Degraded.  Wisdom in discourse with her
Loses discountenanc'd, and like folly shows;
Authority and reason on her wait."--

And all this is built on her loveliness!

In the middle rank of life, to continue the comparison, men, in
their youth, are prepared for professions, and marriage is not
considered as the grand feature in their lives; whilst women, on
the contrary, have no other scheme to sharpen their faculties.  It
is not business, extensive plans, or any of the excursive flights
of ambition, that engross their attention; no, their thoughts are
not employed in rearing such noble structures.  To rise in the
world, and have the liberty of running from pleasure to pleasure,
they must marry advantageously, and to this object their time is
sacrificed, and their persons often legally prostituted.  A man,
when he enters any profession, has his eye steadily fixed on some
future advantage (and the mind gains great strength by having all
its efforts directed to one point) and, full of his business,
pleasure is considered as mere relaxation; whilst women seek for
pleasure as the main purpose of existence.  In fact, from the
education which they receive from society, the love of pleasure may
be said to govern them all; but does this prove that there is a sex
in souls?  It would be just as rational to declare, that the
courtiers in France, when a destructive system of despotism had
formed their character, were not men, because liberty, virtue, and
humanity, were sacrificed to pleasure and vanity.  Fatal passions,
which have ever domineered over the WHOLE race!

The same love of pleasure, fostered by the whole tendency of their
education, gives a trifling turn to the conduct of women in most
circumstances:  for instance, they are ever anxious about secondary
things; and on the watch for adventures, instead of being occupied
by duties.

A man, when he undertakes a journey, has, in general the end in
view; a woman thinks more of the incidental occurrences, the
strange things that may possibly occur on the road; the impression
that she may make on her fellow travellers; and, above all, she is
anxiously intent on the care of the finery that she carries with
her, which is more than ever a part of herself, when going to
figure on a new scene; when, to use an apt French turn of
expression, she is going to produce a sensation.  Can dignity of
mind exist with such trivial cares?

In short, women, in general, as well as the rich of both sexes,
have acquired all the follies and vices of civilization, and missed
the useful fruit.  It is not necessary for me always to premise,
that I speak of the condition of the whole sex, leaving exceptions
out of the question.  Their senses are inflamed, and their
understandings neglected; consequently they become the prey of
their senses, delicately termed sensibility, and are blown about by
every momentary gust of feeling.  They are, therefore, in a much
worse condition than they would be in, were they in a state nearer
to nature.  Ever restless and anxious, their over exercised
sensibility not only renders them uncomfortable themselves, but
troublesome, to use a soft phrase, to others.  All their thoughts
turn on things calculated to excite emotion; and, feeling, when
they should reason, their conduct is unstable, and their opinions
are wavering, not the wavering produced by deliberation or
progressive views, but by contradictory emotions.  By fits and
starts they are warm in many pursuits; yet this warmth, never
concentrated into perseverance, soon exhausts itself; exhaled by
its own heat, or meeting with some other fleeting passion, to which
reason has never given any specific gravity, neutrality ensues.
Miserable, indeed, must be that being whose cultivation of mind has
only tended to inflame its passions!  A distinction should be made
between inflaming and strengthening them.  The passions thus
pampered, whilst the judgment is left unformed, what can be
expected to ensue?  Undoubtedly, a mixture of madness and folly!

This observation should not be confined to the FAIR sex; however,
at present, I only mean to apply it to them.

Novels, music, poetry and gallantry, all tend to make women the
creatures of sensation, and their character is thus formed during
the time they are acquiring accomplishments, the only improvement
they are excited, by their station in society, to acquire.  This
overstretched sensibility naturally relaxes the other powers of the
mind, and prevents intellect from attaining that sovereignty which
it ought to attain, to render a rational creature useful to others,
and content with its own station; for the exercise of the
understanding, as life advances, is the only method pointed out by
nature to calm the passions.

Satiety has a very different effect, and I have often been forcibly
struck by an emphatical description of damnation, when the spirit
is represented as continually hovering with abortive eagerness
round the defiled body, unable to enjoy any thing without the
organs of sense.  Yet, to their senses, are women made slaves,
because it is by their sensibility that they obtain present power.

And will moralists pretend to assert, that this is the condition in
which one half of the human race should be encouraged to remain
with listless inactivity and stupid acquiescence?  Kind
instructors! what were we created for?  To remain, it may be said,
innocent; they mean in a state of childhood.  We might as well
never have been born, unless it were necessary that we should be
created to enable man to acquire the noble privilege of reason, the
power of discerning good from evil, whilst we lie down in the dust
from whence we were taken, never to rise again.

It would be an endless task to trace the variety of meannesses,
cares, and sorrows, into which women are plunged by the prevailing
opinion, that they were created rather to feel than reason, and
that all the power they obtain, must be obtained by their charms
and weakness;

"Fine by defect, and amiably weak!"

And, made by this amiable weakness entirely dependent, excepting
what they gain by illicit sway, on man, not only for protection,
but advice, is it surprising that, neglecting the duties that
reason alone points out, and shrinking from trials calculated to
strengthen their minds, they only exert themselves to give their
defects a graceful covering, which may serve to heighten their
charms in the eye of the voluptuary, though it sink them below the
scale of moral excellence?

Fragile in every sense of the word, they are obliged to look up to
man for every comfort.  In the most trifling dangers they cling to
their support, with parasitical tenacity, piteously demanding
succour; and their NATURAL protector extends his arm, or lifts up
his voice, to guard the lovely trembler--from what?  Perhaps the
frown of an old cow, or the jump of a mouse; a rat, would be a
serious danger.  In the name of reason, and even common sense, what
can save such beings from contempt; even though they be soft and

These fears, when not affected, may be very pretty; but they shew a
degree of imbecility, that degrades a rational creature in a way
women are not aware of--for love and esteem are very distinct

I am fully persuaded, that we should hear of none of these
infantine airs, if girls were allowed to take sufficient exercise
and not confined in close rooms till their muscles are relaxed and
their powers of digestion destroyed.  To carry the remark still
further, if fear in girls, instead of being cherished, perhaps,
created, were treated in the same manner as cowardice in boys, we
should quickly see women with more dignified aspects.  It is true,
they could not then with equal propriety be termed the sweet
flowers that smile in the walk of man; but they would be more
respectable members of society, and discharge the important duties
of life by the light of their own reason.  "Educate women like
men," says Rousseau, "and the more they resemble our sex the less
power will they have over us."  This is the very point I aim at.  I
do not wish them to have power over men; but over themselves.

In the same strain have I heard men argue against instructing the
poor; for many are the forms that aristocracy assumes.  "Teach them
to read and write," say they, "and you take them out of the station
assigned them by nature."  An eloquent Frenchman, has answered
them; I will borrow his sentiments.  But they know not, when they
make man a brute, that they may expect every instant to see him
transformed into a ferocious beast.  Without knowledge there can be
no morality!

Ignorance is a frail base for virtue!  Yet, that it is the
condition for which woman was organized, has been insisted upon by
the writers who have most vehemently argued in favour of the
superiority of man; a superiority not in degree, but essence;
though, to soften the argument, they have laboured to prove, with
chivalrous generosity, that the sexes ought not to be compared; man
was made to reason, woman to feel:  and that together, flesh and
spirit, they make the most perfect whole, by blending happily
reason and sensibility into one character.

And what is sensibility?  "Quickness of sensation; quickness of
perception; delicacy."  Thus is it defined by Dr. Johnson; and the
definition gives me no other idea than of the most exquisitely
polished instinct.  I discern not a trace of the image of God in
either sensation or matter.  Refined seventy times seven, they are
still material; intellect dwells not there; nor will fire ever make
lead gold!

I come round to my old argument; if woman be allowed to have an
immortal soul, she must have as the employment of life, an
understanding to improve.  And when, to render the present state
more complete, though every thing proves it to be but a fraction of
a mighty sum, she is incited by present gratification to forget her
grand destination.  Nature is counteracted, or she was born only to
procreate and rot.  Or, granting brutes, of every description, a
soul, though not a reasonable one, the exercise of instinct and
sensibility may be the step, which they are to take, in this life,
towards the attainment of reason in the next; so that through all
eternity they will lag behind man, who, why we cannot tell, had the
power given him of attaining reason in his first mode of existence.

When I treat of the peculiar duties of women, as I should treat of
the peculiar duties of a citizen or father, it will be found that I
do not mean to insinuate, that they should be taken out of their
families, speaking of the majority.  "He that hath wife and
children," says Lord Bacon, "hath given hostages to fortune; for
they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or
mischief.  Certainly the best works, and of greatest merit for the
public, have proceeded from the unmarried or childless men." I say
the same of women.  But, the welfare of society is not built on
extraordinary exertions; and were it more reasonably organized,
there would be still less need of great abilities, or heroic
virtues.  In the regulation of a family, in the education of
children, understanding, in an unsophisticated sense, is
particularly required:  strength both of body and mind; yet the men
who, by their writings, have most earnestly laboured to domesticate
women, have endeavoured by arguments dictated by a gross appetite,
that satiety had rendered fastidious, to weaken their bodies and
cramp their minds.  But, if even by these sinister methods they
really PERSUADED women, by working on their feelings, to stay at
home, and fulfil the duties of a mother and mistress of a family, I
should cautiously oppose opinions that led women to right conduct,
by prevailing on them to make the discharge of a duty the business
of life, though reason were insulted.  Yet, and I appeal to
experience, if by neglecting the understanding they are as much,
nay, more attached from these domestic duties, than they could be
by the most serious intellectual pursuit, though it may be
observed, that the mass of mankind will never vigorously pursue an
intellectual object, I may be allowed to infer, that reason is
absolutely necessary to enable a woman to perform any duty
properly, and I must again repeat, that sensibility is not reason.

The comparison with the rich still occurs to me; for, when men
neglect the duties of humanity, women will do the same; a common
stream hurries them both along with thoughtless celerity.  Riches
and honours prevent a man from enlarging his understanding, and
enervate all his powers, by reversing the order of nature, which
has ever made true pleasure the reward of labour.
Pleasure--enervating pleasure is, likewise, within woman's reach
without earning it.  But, till hereditary possessions are spread
abroad, how can we expect men to be proud of virtue?  And, till
they are, women will govern them by the most direct means,
neglecting their dull domestic duties, to catch the pleasure that
is on the wing of time.

"The power of women," says some author, "is her sensibility;" and
men not aware of the consequence, do all they can to make this
power swallow up every other.  Those who constantly employ their
sensibility will have most: for example; poets, painters, and
composers.  Yet, when the sensibility is thus increased at the
expense of reason, and even the imagination, why do philosophical
men complain of their fickleness?  The sexual attention of man
particularly acts on female sensibility, and this sympathy has been
exercised from their youth up.  A husband cannot long pay those
attentions with the passion necessary to excite lively emotions,
and the heart, accustomed to lively emotions, turns to a new lover,
or pines in secret, the prey of virtue or prudence.  I mean when
the heart has really been rendered susceptible, and the taste
formed; for I am apt to conclude, from what I have seen in
fashionable life, that vanity is oftener fostered than sensibility
by the mode of education, and the intercourse between the sexes,
which I have reprobated; and that coquetry more frequently proceeds
from vanity than from that inconstancy, which overstrained
sensibility naturally produces.

Another argument that has had a great weight with me, must, I
think, have some force with every considerate benevolent heart.
Girls, who have been thus weakly educated, are often cruelly left
by their parents without any provision; and, of course, are
dependent on, not only the reason, but the bounty of their
brothers.  These brothers are, to view the fairest side of the
question, good sort of men, and give as a favour, what children of
the same parents had an equal right to.  In this equivocal
humiliating situation, a docile female may remain some time, with a
tolerable degree of comfort.  But, when the brother marries, a
probable circumstance, from being considered as the mistress of the
family, she is viewed with averted looks as an intruder, an
unnecessary burden on the benevolence of the master of the house,
and his new partner.

Who can recount the misery, which many unfortunate beings, whose
minds and bodies are equally weak, suffer in such
situations--unable to work and ashamed to beg?  The wife, a
cold-hearted, narrow-minded woman, and this is not an unfair
supposition; for the present mode of education does not tend to
enlarge the heart any more than the understanding, is jealous of
the little kindness which her husband shows to his relations; and
her sensibility not rising to humanity, she is displeased at seeing
the property of HER children lavished on an helpless sister.

These are matters of fact, which have come under my eye again and
again.  The consequence is obvious, the wife has recourse to
cunning to undermine the habitual affection, which she is afraid
openly to oppose; and neither tears nor caresses are spared till
the spy is worked out of her home, and thrown on the world,
unprepared for its difficulties; or sent, as a great effort of
generosity, or from some regard to propriety, with a small stipend,
and an uncultivated mind into joyless solitude.

These two women may be much upon a par, with respect to reason and
humanity; and changing situations, might have acted just the same
selfish part; but had they been differently educated, the case
would also have been very different.  The wife would not have had
that sensibility, of which self is the centre, and reason might
have taught her not to expect, and not even to be flattered by the
affection of her husband, if it led him to violate prior duties.
She would wish not to love him, merely because he loved her, but on
account of his virtues; and the sister might have been able to
struggle for herself, instead of eating the bitter bread of

I am, indeed, persuaded that the heart, as well as the
understanding, is opened by cultivation; and by, which may not
appear so clear, strengthening the organs; I am not now talking of
momentary flashes of sensibility, but of affections.  And, perhaps,
in the education of both sexes, the most difficult task is so to
adjust instruction as not to narrow the understanding, whilst the
heart is warmed by the generous juices of spring, just raised by
the electric fermentation of the season; nor to dry up the feelings
by employing the mind in investigations remote from life.

With respect to women, when they receive a careful education, they
are either made fine ladies, brimful of sensibility, and teeming
with capricious fancies; or mere notable women.  The latter are
often friendly, honest creatures, and have a shrewd kind of good
sense joined with worldly prudence, that often render them more
useful members of society than the fine sentimental lady, though
they possess neither greatness of mind nor taste.  The intellectual
world is shut against them; take them out of their family or
neighbourhood, and they stand still; the mind finding no
employment, for literature affords a fund of amusement, which they
have never sought to relish, but frequently to despise.  The
sentiments and taste of more cultivated minds appear ridiculous,
even in those whom chance and family connexions have led them to
love; but in mere acquaintance they think it all affectation.

A man of sense can only love such a woman on account of her sex,
and respect her, because she is a trusty servant.  He lets her, to
preserve his own peace, scold the servants, and go to church in
clothes made of the very best materials.  A man of her own size of
understanding would, probably, not agree so well with her; for he
might wish to encroach on her prerogative, and manage some domestic
concerns himself.  Yet women, whose minds are not enlarged by
cultivation, or the natural selfishness of sensibility expanded by
reflection, are very unfit to manage a family; for by an undue
stretch of power, they are always tyrannizing to support a
superiority that only rests on the arbitrary distinction of
fortune.  The evil is sometimes more serious, and domestics are
deprived of innocent indulgences, and made to work beyond their
strength, in order to enable the notable woman to keep a better
table, and outshine her neighbours in finery and parade.  If she
attend to her children, it is, in general, to dress them in a
costly manner--and, whether, this attention arises from vanity or
fondness, it is equally pernicious.

Besides, how many women of this description pass their days, or, at
least their evenings, discontentedly.  Their husbands acknowledge
that they are good managers, and chaste wives; but leave home to
seek for more agreeable, may I be allowed to use a significant
French word, piquant society; and the patient drudge, who fulfils
her task, like a blind horse in a mill, is defrauded of her just
reward; for the wages due to her are the caresses of her husband;
and women who have so few resources in themselves, do not very
patiently bear this privation of a natural right.

A fine lady, on the contrary, has been taught to look down with
contempt on the vulgar employments of life; though she has only
been incited to acquire accomplishments that rise a degree above
sense; for even corporeal accomplishments cannot be acquired with
any degree of precision, unless the understanding has been
strengthened by exercise.  Without a foundation of principles taste
is superficial; and grace must arise from something deeper than
imitation.  The imagination, however, is heated, and the feelings
rendered fastidious, if not sophisticated; or, a counterpoise of
judgment is not acquired, when the heart still remains artless,
though it becomes too tender.

These women are often amiable; and their hearts are really more
sensible to general benevolence, more alive to the sentiments that
civilize life, than the square elbowed family drudge; but, wanting
a due proportion of reflection and self-government, they only
inspire love; and are the mistresses of their husbands, whilst they
have any hold on their affections; and the platonic friends of his
male acquaintance.  These are the fair defects in nature; the women
who appear to be created not to enjoy the fellowship of man, but to
save him from sinking into absolute brutality, by rubbing off the
rough angles of his character; and by playful dalliance to give
some dignity to the appetite that draws him to them.  Gracious
Creator of the whole human race! hast thou created such a being as
woman, who can trace thy wisdom in thy works, and feel that thou
alone art by thy nature, exalted above her--for no better purpose?
Can she believe that she was only made to submit to man her equal;
a being, who, like her, was sent into the world to acquire virtue?
Can she consent to be occupied merely to please him; merely to
adorn the earth, when her soul is capable of rising to thee?  And
can she rest supinely dependent on man for reason, when she ought
to mount with him the arduous steeps of knowledge?

Yet, if love be the supreme good, let women be only educated to
inspire it, and let every charm be polished to intoxicate the
senses; but, if they are moral beings, let them have a chance to
become intelligent; and let love to man be only a part of that
glowing flame of universal love, which, after encircling humanity,
mounts in grateful incense to God.

To fulfil domestic duties much resolution is necessary, and a
serious kind of perseverance that requires a more firm support than
emotions, however lively and true to nature.  To give an example of
order, the soul of virtue, some austerity of behaviour must be
adopted, scarcely to be expected from a being who, from its
infancy, has been made the weathercock of its own sensations.
Whoever rationally means to be useful, must have a plan of conduct;
and, in the discharge of the simplest duty, we are often obliged to
act contrary to the present impulse of tenderness or compassion.
Severity is frequently the most certain, as well as the most
sublime proof of affection; and the want of this power over the
feelings, and of that lofty, dignified affection, which makes a
person prefer the future good of the beloved object to a present
gratification, is the reason why so many fond mothers spoil their
children, and has made it questionable, whether negligence or
indulgence is most hurtful:  but I am inclined to think, that the
latter has done most harm.

Mankind seem to agree, that children should be left under the
management of women during their childhood.  Now, from all the
observation that I have been able to make, women of sensibility are
the most unfit for this task, because they will infallibly, carried
away by their feelings, spoil a child's temper.  The management of
the temper, the first and most important branch of education,
requires the sober steady eye of reason; a plan of conduct equally
distant from tyranny and indulgence; yet these are the extremes
that people of sensibility alternately fall into; always shooting
beyond the mark.  I have followed this train of reasoning much
further, till I have concluded, that a person of genius is the most
improper person to be employed in education, public or private.
Minds of this rare species see things too much in masses, and
seldom, if ever, have a good temper.  That habitual cheerfulness,
termed good humour, is, perhaps, as seldom united with great mental
powers, as with strong feelings.  And those people who follow, with
interest and admiration, the flights of genius; or, with cooler
approbation suck in the instruction, which has been elaborately
prepared for them by the profound thinker, ought not to be
disgusted, if they find the former choleric, and the latter morose;
because liveliness of fancy, and a tenacious comprehension of mind,
are scarcely compatible with that pliant urbanity which leads a
man, at least to bend to the opinions and prejudices of others,
instead of roughly confronting them.

But, treating of education or manners, minds of a superior class
are not to be considered, they may be left to chance; it is the
multitude, with moderate abilities, who call for instruction, and
catch the colour of the atmosphere they breathe.  This respectable
concourse, I contend, men and women, should not have their
sensations heightened in the hot-bed of luxurious indolence, at the
expence of their understanding; for, unless there be a ballast of
understanding, they will never become either virtuous or free:  an
aristocracy, founded on property, or sterling talents, will ever
sweep before it, the alternately timid and ferocious slaves of

Numberless are the arguments, to take another view of the subject,
brought forward with a show of reason; because supposed to be
deduced from nature, that men have used morally and physically to
degrade the sex.  I must notice a few.

The female understanding has often been spoken of with contempt, as
arriving sooner at maturity than the male.  I shall not answer this
argument by alluding to the early proofs of reason, as well as
genius, in Cowley, Milton, and Pope, (Many other names might be
added.) but only appeal to experience to decide whether young men,
who are early introduced into company (and examples now abound) do
not acquire the same precocity.  So notorious is this fact, that
the bare mentioning of it must bring before people, who at all mix
in the world, the idea of a number of swaggering apes of men whose
understandings are narrowed by being brought into the society of
men when they ought to have been spinning a top or twirling a hoop.

It has also been asserted, by some naturalists, that men do not
attain their full growth and strength till thirty; but that women
arrive at maturity by twenty.  I apprehend that they reason on
false ground, led astray by the male prejudice, which deems beauty
the perfection of woman--mere beauty of features and complexion,
the vulgar acceptation of the world, whilst male beauty is allowed
to have some connexion with the mind.  Strength of body, and that
character of countenance, which the French term a physionomie,
women do not acquire before thirty, any more than men.  The little
artless tricks of children, it is true, are particularly pleasing
and attractive; yet, when the pretty freshness of youth is worn
off, these artless graces become studied airs, and disgust every
person of taste.  In the countenance of girls we only look for
vivacity and bashful modesty; but, the springtide of life over, we
look for soberer sense in the face, and for traces of passion,
instead of the dimples of animal spirits; expecting to see
individuality of character, the only fastener of the affections.
We then wish to converse, not to fondle; to give scope to our
imaginations, as well as to the sensations of our hearts.

At twenty the beauty of both sexes is equal; but the libertinism of
man leads him to make the distinction, and superannuated coquettes
are commonly of the same opinion; for when they can no longer
inspire love, they pay for the vigour and vivacity of youth.  The
French who admit more of mind into their notions of beauty, give
the preference to women of thirty.  I mean to say, that they allow
women to be in their most perfect state, when vivacity gives place
to reason, and to that majestic seriousness of character, which
marks maturity; or, the resting point.  In youth, till twenty the
body shoots out; till thirty the solids are attaining a degree of
density; and the flexible muscles, growing daily more rigid, give
character to the countenance; that is, they trace the operations of
the mind with the iron pen of fate, and tell us not only what
powers are within, but how they have been employed.

It is proper to observe, that animals who arrive slowly at
maturity, are the longest lived, and of the noblest species.  Men
cannot, however, claim any natural superiority from the grandeur of
longevity; for in this respect nature has not distinguished the

Polygamy is another physical degradation; and a plausible argument
for a custom, that blasts every domestic virtue, is drawn from the
well-attested fact, that in the countries where it is established,
more females are born than males.  This appears to be an indication
of nature, and to nature apparently reasonable speculations must
yield.  A further conclusion obviously presents itself; if polygamy
be necessary, woman must be inferior to man, and made for him.

With respect to the formation of the foetus in the womb, we are
very ignorant; but it appears to me probable, that an accidental
physical cause may account for this phenomenon, and prove it not to
be a law of nature.  I have met with some pertinent observations on
the subject in Forster's Account of the Isles of the South Sea,
that will explain my meaning.  After observing that of the two
sexes amongst animals, the most vigorous and hottest constitution
always prevails, and produces its kind; he adds,--"If this be
applied to the inhabitants of Africa, it is evident that the men
there, accustomed to polygamy, are enervated by the use of so many
women, and therefore less vigorous; the women on the contrary, are
of a hotter constitution, not only on account of their more
irritable nerves, more sensitive organization, and more lively
fancy; but likewise because they are deprived in their matrimony of
that share of physical love which in a monogamous condition, would
all be theirs; and thus for the above reasons, the generality of
children are born females."

"In the greater part of Europe it has been proved by the most
accurate lists of mortality, that the proportion of men to women is
nearly equal, or, if any difference takes place, the males born are
more numerous, in the proportion of 105 to 100."

The necessity of polygamy, therefore, does not appear; yet when a
man seduces a woman, it should I think, be termed a LEFT-HANDED
marriage, and the man should be LEGALLY obliged to maintain the
woman and her children, unless adultery, a natural divorcement,
abrogated the law.  And this law should remain in force as long as
the weakness of women caused the word seduction to be used as an
excuse for their frailty and want of principle; nay, while they
depend on man for a subsistence, instead of earning it by the
exercise of their own hands or heads.  But these women should not
in the full meaning of the relationship, be termed wives, or the
very purpose of marriage would be subverted, and all those
endearing charities that flow from personal fidelity, and give a
sanctity to the tie, when neither love nor friendship unites the
hearts, would melt into selfishness.  The woman who is faithful to
the father of her children demands respect, and should not be
treated like a prostitute; though I readily grant, that if it be
necessary for a man and woman to live together in order to bring up
their offspring, nature never intended that a man should have more
than one wife.

Still, highly as I respect marriage, as the foundation of almost
every social virtue, I cannot avoid feeling the most lively
compassion for those unfortunate females who are broken off from
society, and by one error torn from all those affections and
relationships that improve the heart and mind.  It does not
frequently even deserve the name of error; for many innocent girls
become the dupes of a sincere affectionate heart, and still more
are, as it may emphatically be termed, RUINED before they know the
difference between virtue and vice:  and thus prepared by their
education for infamy, they become infamous.  Asylums and Magdalens
are not the proper remedies for these abuses.  It is justice, not
charity, that is wanting in the world!

A woman who has lost her honour, imagines that she cannot fall
lower, and as for recovering her former station, it is impossible;
no exertion can wash this stain away.  Losing thus every spur, and
having no other means of support, prostitution becomes her only
refuge, and the character is quickly depraved by circumstances over
which the poor wretch has little power, unless she possesses an
uncommon portion of sense and loftiness of spirit.  Necessity never
makes prostitution the business of men's lives; though numberless
are the women who are thus rendered systematically vicious.  This,
however, arises, in a great degree, from the state of idleness in
which women are educated, who are always taught to look up to man
for a maintenance, and to consider their persons as the proper
return for his exertions to support them.  Meretricious airs, and
the whole science of wantonness, has then a more powerful stimulus
than either appetite or vanity; and this remark gives force to the
prevailing opinion, that with chastity all is lost that is
respectable in woman.  Her character depends on the observance of
one virtue, though the only passion fostered in her heart--is love.
Nay the honour of a woman is not made even to depend on her will.

When Richardson makes Clarissa tell Lovelace that he had robbed her
of her honour, he must have had strange notions of honour and
virtue.  For, miserable beyond all names of misery is the condition
of a being, who could be degraded without its own consent!  This
excess of strictness I have heard vindicated as a salutary error.
I shall answer in the words of Leibnitz--"Errors are often useful;
but it is commonly to remedy other errors."

Most of the evils of life arise from a desire of present enjoyment
that outruns itself.  The obedience required of women in the
marriage state, comes under this description; the mind, naturally
weakened by depending on authority, never exerts its own powers,
and the obedient wife is thus rendered a weak indolent mother.  Or,
supposing that this is not always the consequence, a future state
of existence is scarcely taken into the reckoning when only
negative virtues are cultivated.  For in treating of morals,
particularly when women are alluded to, writers have too often
considered virtue in a very limited sense, and made the foundation
of it SOLELY worldly utility; nay, a still more fragile base has
been given to this stupendous fabric, and the wayward fluctuating
feelings of men have been made the standard of virtue.  Yes, virtue
as well as religion, has been subjected to the decisions of taste.

It would almost provoke a smile of contempt, if the vain
absurdities of man did not strike us on all sides, to observe, how
eager men are to degrade the sex from whom they pretend to receive
the chief pleasure of life; and I have frequently, with full
conviction, retorted Pope's sarcasm on them; or, to speak
explicitly, it has appeared to me applicable to the whole human
race.  A love of pleasure or sway seems to divide mankind, and the
husband who lords it in his little harem, thinks only of his
pleasure or his convenience.  To such lengths, indeed, does an
intemperate love of pleasure carry some prudent men, or worn out
libertines, who marry to have a safe companion, that they seduce
their own wives.  Hymen banishes modesty, and chaste love takes its

Love, considered as an animal appetite, cannot long feed on itself
without expiring.  And this extinction, in its own flame, may be
termed the violent death of love.  But the wife who has thus been
rendered licentious, will probably endeavour to fill the void left
by the loss of her husband's attentions; for she cannot contentedly
become merely an upper servant after having been treated like a
goddess.  She is still handsome, and, instead of transferring her
fondness to her children, she only dreams of enjoying the sunshine
of life.  Besides, there are many husbands so devoid of sense and
parental affection, that during the first effervescence of
voluptuous fondness, they refuse to let their wives suckle their
children.  They are only to dress and live to please them:  and
love, even innocent love, soon sinks into lasciviousness when the
exercise of a duty is sacrificed to its indulgence.

Personal attachment is a very happy foundation for friendship; yet,
when even two virtuous young people marry, it would, perhaps, be
happy if some circumstance checked their passion; if the
recollection of some prior attachment, or disappointed affection,
made it on one side, at least, rather a match founded on esteem.
In that case they would look beyond the present moment, and try to
render the whole of life respectable, by forming a plan to regulate
a friendship which only death ought to dissolve.

Friendship is a serious affection; the most sublime of all
affections, because it is founded on principle, and cemented by
time.  The very reverse may be said of love.  In a great degree,
love and friendship cannot subsist in the same bosom; even when
inspired by different objects they weaken or destroy each other,
and for the same object can only be felt in succession.  The vain
fears and fond jealousies, the winds which fan the flame of love,
when judiciously or artfully tempered, are both incompatible with
the tender confidence and sincere respect of friendship.

Love, such as the glowing pen of genius has traced, exists not on
earth, or only resides in those exalted, fervid imaginations that
have sketched such dangerous pictures.  Dangerous, because they not
only afford a plausible excuse to the voluptuary, who disguises
sheer sensuality under a sentimental veil; but as they spread
affectation, and take from the dignity of virtue.  Virtue, as the
very word imports, should have an appearance of seriousness, if not
austerity; and to endeavour to trick her out in the garb of
pleasure, because the epithet has been used as another name for
beauty, is to exalt her on a quicksand; a most insidious attempt to
hasten her fall by apparent respect.  Virtue, and pleasure are not,
in fact, so nearly allied in this life as some eloquent writers
have laboured to prove.  Pleasure prepares the fading wreath, and
mixes the intoxicating cup; but the fruit which virtue gives, is
the recompence of toil:  and, gradually seen as it ripens, only
affords calm satisfaction; nay, appearing to be the result of the
natural tendency of things, it is scarcely observed.  Bread, the
common food of life, seldom thought of as a blessing, supports the
constitution, and preserves health; still feasts delight the heart
of man, though disease and even death lurk in the cup or dainty
that elevates the spirits or tickles the palate.  The lively heated
imagination in the same style, draws the picture of love, as it
draws every other picture, with those glowing colours, which the
daring hand will steal from the rainbow that is directed by a mind,
condemned, in a world like this, to prove its noble origin, by
panting after unattainable perfection; ever pursuing what it
acknowledges to be a fleeting dream.  An imagination of this
vigorous cast can give existence to insubstantial forms, and
stability to the shadowy reveries which the mind naturally falls
into when realities are found vapid.  It can then depict love with
celestial charms, and dote on the grand ideal object; it can
imagine a degree of mutual affection that shall refine the soul,
and not expire when it has served as a "scale to heavenly;" and,
like devotion, make it absorb every meaner affection and desire.
In each other's arms, as in a temple, with its summit lost in the
clouds, the world is to be shut out, and every thought and wish,
that do not nurture pure affection and permanent virtue.  Permanent
virtue! alas! Rousseau, respectable visionary! thy paradise would
soon be violated by the entrance of some unexpected guest.  Like
Milton's, it would only contain angels, or men sunk below the
dignity of rational creatures.  Happiness is not material, it
cannot be seen or felt!  Yet the eager pursuit of the good which
every one shapes to his own fancy, proclaims man the lord of this
lower world, and to be an intelligential creature, who is not to
receive, but acquire happiness.  They, therefore, who complain of
the delusions of passion, do not recollect that they are exclaiming
against a strong proof of the immortality of the soul.

But, leaving superior minds to correct themselves, and pay dearly
for their experience, it is necessary to observe, that it is not
against strong, persevering passions; but romantic, wavering
feelings, that I wish to guard the female heart by exercising the
understanding; for these paradisiacal reveries are oftener the
effect of idleness than of a lively fancy.

Women have seldom sufficient serious employment to silence their
feelings; a round of little cares, or vain pursuits, frittering
away all strength of mind and organs, they become naturally only
objects of sense.  In short, the whole tenor of female education
(the education of society) tends to render the best disposed,
romantic and inconstant; and the remainder vain and mean.  In the
present state of society, this evil can scarcely be remedied, I am
afraid, in the slightest degree; should a more laudable ambition
ever gain ground, they may be brought nearer to nature and reason,
and become more virtuous and useful as they grow more respectable.

But I will venture to assert, that their reason will never acquire
sufficient strength to enable it to regulate their conduct, whilst
the making an appearance in the world is the first wish of the
majority of mankind.  To this weak wish the natural affections and
the most useful virtues are sacrificed.  Girls marry merely to
BETTER THEMSELVES, to borrow a significant vulgar phrase, and have
such perfect power over their hearts as not to permit themselves to
FALL IN LOVE till a man with a superior fortune offers.  On this
subject I mean to enlarge in a future chapter; it is only necessary
to drop a hint at present, because women are so often degraded by
suffering the selfish prudence of age to chill the ardour of youth.

>From the same source flows an opinion that young girls ought to
dedicate great part of their time to needle work; yet, this
employment contracts their faculties more than any other that could
have been chosen for them, by confining their thoughts to their
persons.  Men order their clothes to be made, and have done with
the subject; women make their own clothes, necessary or ornamental,
and are continually talking about them; and their thoughts follow
their hands.  It is not indeed the making of necessaries that
weakens the mind; but the frippery of dress.  For when a woman in
the lower rank of life makes her husband's and children's clothes,
she does her duty, this is part of her business; but when women
work only to dress better than they could otherwise afford, it is
worse than sheer loss of time.  To render the poor virtuous, they
must be employed, and women in the middle rank of life did they not
ape the fashions of the nobility, without catching their ease,
might employ them, whilst they themselves managed their families,
instructed their children, and exercised their own minds.
Gardening, experimental philosophy, and literature, would afford
them subjects to think of, and matter for conversation, that in
some degree would exercise their understandings.  The conversation
of French women, who are not so rigidly nailed to their chairs, to
twist lappets, and knot ribbands, is frequently superficial; but, I
contend, that it is not half so insipid as that of those English
women, whose time is spent in making caps, bonnets, and the whole
mischief of trimmings, not to mention shopping, bargain-hunting,
etc. etc.:  and it is the decent, prudent women, who are most
degraded by these practices; for their motive is simply vanity.
The wanton, who exercises her taste to render her person alluring,
has something more in view.

These observations all branch out of a general one, which I have
before made, and which cannot be too often insisted upon, for,
speaking of men, women, or professions, it will be found, that the
employment of the thoughts shapes the character both generally and
individually.  The thoughts of women ever hover around their
persons, and is it surprising that their persons are reckoned most
valuable?  Yet some degree of liberty of mind is necessary even to
form the person; and this may be one reason why some gentle wives
have so few attractions beside that of sex.  Add to this, sedentary
employments render the majority of women sickly, and false notions
of female excellence make them proud of this delicacy, though it be
another fetter, that by calling the attention continually to the
body, cramps the activity of the mind.

Women of quality seldom do any of the manual part of their dress,
consequently only their taste is exercised, and they acquire, by
thinking less of the finery, when the business of their toilet is
over, that ease, which seldom appears in the deportment of women,
who dress merely for the sake of dressing.  In fact, the
observation with respect to the middle rank, the one in which
talents thrive best, extends not to women; for those of the
superior class, by catching, at least a smattering of literature,
and conversing more with men, on general topics, acquire more
knowledge than the women who ape their fashions and faults without
sharing their advantages.  With respect to virtue, to use the word
in a comprehensive sense, I have seen most in low life.  Many poor
women maintain their children by the sweat of their brow, and keep
together families that the vices of the fathers would have
scattered abroad; but gentlewomen are too indolent to be actively
virtuous, and are softened rather than refined by civilization.
Indeed the good sense which I have met with among the poor women
who have had few advantages of education, and yet have acted
heroically, strongly confirmed me in the opinion, that trifling
employments have rendered women a trifler.  Men, taking her ('I
take her body,' says Ranger.) body, the mind is left to rust; so
that while physical love enervates man, as being his favourite
recreation, he will endeavour to enslave woman:  and who can tell
how many generations may be necessary to give vigour to the virtue
and talents of the freed posterity of abject slaves?  ('Supposing
that women are voluntary slaves--slavery of any kind is
unfavourable to human happiness and improvement.'--'Knox's

In tracing the causes that in my opinion, have degraded woman, I
have confined my observations to such as universally act upon the
morals and manners of the whole sex, and to me it appears clear,
that they all spring from want of understanding.  Whether this
arises from a physical or accidental weakness of faculties, time
alone can determine; for I shall not lay any great stress upon the
example of a few women (Sappho, Eloisa, Mrs. Macaulay, the Empress
of Russia, Madame d'Eon, etc.  These, and many more, may be
reckoned exceptions; and, are not all heroes, as well as heroines,
exceptions to general rules?  I wish to see women neither heroines
nor brutes; but reasonable creatures.) who, from having received a
masculine education, have acquired courage and resolution; I only
contend that the men who have been placed in similar situations
have acquired a similar character, I speak of bodies of men, and
that men of genius and talents have started out of a class, in
which women have never yet been placed.



The opinions speciously supported, in some modern publications on
the female character, and education, which have given the tone to
most of the observations made, in a more cursory manner, on the
sex, remain now to be examined.


I shall begin with Rousseau, and give a sketch of the character of
women in his own words, interspersing comments and reflections.  My
comments, it is true, will all spring from a few simple principles,
and might have been deduced from what I have already said; but the
artificial structure has been raised with so much ingenuity, that
it seems necessary to attack it in a more circumstantial manner,
and make the application myself.

Sophia, says Rousseau, should be as perfect a woman as Emilius is a
man, and to render her so, it is necessary to examine the character
which nature has given to the sex.

He then proceeds to prove, that women ought to be weak and passive,
because she has less bodily strength than man; and from hence
infers, that she was formed to please and to be subject to him; and
that it is her duty to render herself AGREEABLE to her master--this
being the grand end of her existence.

Supposing women to have been formed only to please, and be subject
to man, the conclusion is just, she ought to sacrifice every other
consideration to render herself agreeable to him:  and let this
brutal desire of self-preservation be the grand spring of all her
actions, when it is proved to be the iron bed of fate, to fit
which, her character should be stretched or contracted, regardless
of all moral or physical distinctions.  But if, as I think may be
demonstrated, the purposes of even this life, viewing the whole,
are subverted by practical rules built upon this ignoble base, I
may be allowed to doubt whether woman was created for man:  and
though the cry of irreligion, or even atheism be raised against me,
I will simply declare, that were an angel from heaven to tell me
that Moses's beautiful, poetical cosmogony, and the account of the
fall of man, were literally true, I could not believe what my
reason told me was derogatory to the character of the Supreme
Being:  and, having no fear of the devil before mine eyes, I
venture to call this a suggestion of reason, instead of resting my
weakness on the broad shoulders of the first seducer of my frail

"It being once demonstrated," continues Rousseau, "that man and
woman are not, nor ought to be, constituted alike in temperament
and character, it follows of course, that they should not be
educated in the same manner.  In pursuing the directions of nature,
they ought indeed to act in concert, but they should not be engaged
in the same employments:  the end of their pursuits should be the
same, but the means they should take to accomplish them, and, of
consequence, their tastes and inclinations should be different."
(Rousseau's 'Emilius', Volume 3 page 176.)

"Girls are from their earliest infancy fond of dress.  Not content
with being pretty, they are desirous of being thought so; we see,
by all their little airs, that this thought engages their
attention; and they are hardly capable of understanding what is
said to them, before they are to be governed by talking to them of
what people will think of their behaviour.  The same motive,
however, indiscreetly made use of with boys, has not the same
effect:  provided they are let to pursue their amusements at
pleasure, they care very little what people think of them.  Time
and pains are necessary to subject boys to this motive.

"Whencesoever girls derive this first lesson it is a very good one.
As the body is born, in a manner before the soul, our first concern
should be to cultivate the former; this order is common to both
sexes, but the object of that cultivation is different.  In the one
sex it is the developement of corporeal powers; in the other, that
of personal charms:  not that either the quality of strength or
beauty ought to be confined exclusively to one sex; but only that
the order of the cultivation of both is in that respect reversed.
Women certainly require as much strength as to enable them to move
and act gracefully, and men as much address as to qualify them to
act with ease."

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

"Children of both sexes have a great many amusements in common; and
so they ought; have they not also many such when they are grown up?
Each sex has also its peculiar taste to distinguish in this
particular.  Boys love sports of noise and activity; to beat the
drum, to whip the top, and to drag about their little carts:
girls, on the other hand, are fonder of things of show and
ornament; such as mirrors, trinkets, and dolls; the doll is the
peculiar amusement of the females; from whence we see their taste
plainly adapted to their destination.  The physical part of the art
of pleasing lies in dress; and this is all which children are
capacitated to cultivate of that art."

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

"Here then we see a primary propensity firmly established, which
you need only to pursue and regulate.  The little creature will
doubtless be very desirous to know how to dress up her doll, to
make its sleeve knots, its flounces, its head dress, etc., she is
obliged to have so much recourse to the people about her, for their
assistance in these articles, that it would be much more agreeable
to her to owe them all to her own industry.  Hence we have a good
reason for the first lessons which are usually taught these young
females:  in which we do not appear to be setting them a task, but
obliging them, by instructing them in what is immediately useful to
themselves.  And, in fact, almost all of them learn with reluctance
to read and write; but very readily apply themselves to the use of
their needles.  They imagine themselves already grown up, and think
with pleasure that such qualifications will enable them to decorate

This is certainly only an education of the body; but Rousseau is
not the only man who has indirectly said that merely the person of
a young woman, without any mind, unless animal spirits come under
that description, is very pleasing.  To render it weak, and what
some may call beautiful, the understanding is neglected, and girls
forced to sit still, play with dolls, and listen to foolish
conversations; the effect of habit is insisted upon as an undoubted
indication of nature.  I know it was Rousseau's opinion that the
first years of youth should be employed to form the body, though in
educating Emilius he deviates from this plan; yet the difference
between strengthening the body, on which strength of mind in a
great measure depends, and only giving it an easy motion, is very

Rousseau's observations, it is proper to remark, were made in a
country where the art of pleasing was refined only to extract the
grossness of vice.  He did not go back to nature, or his ruling
appetite disturbed the operations of reason, else he would not have
drawn these crude inferences.

In France, boys and girls, particularly the latter, are only
educated to please, to manage their persons, and regulate their
exterior behaviour; and their minds are corrupted at a very early
age, by the worldly and pious cautions they receive, to guard them
against immodesty.  I speak of past times.  The very confessions
which mere children are obliged to make, and the questions asked by
the holy men I assert these facts on good authority, were
sufficient to impress a sexual character; and the education of
society was a school of coquetry and art.  At the age of ten or
eleven; nay, often much sooner, girls began to coquet, and talked,
unreproved, of establishing themselves in the world by marriage.

In short, they were made women, almost from their very birth, and
compliments were listened to instead of instruction.  These,
weakening the mind, Nature was supposed to have acted like a
step-mother, when she formed this after-thought of creation.

Not allowing them understanding, however, it was but consistent to
subject them to authority, independent of reason; and to prepare
them for this subjection, he gives the following advice:

"Girls ought to be active and diligent; nor is that all; they
should also be early subjected to restraint.  This misfortune, if
it really be one, is inseparable from their sex; nor do they ever
throw it off but to suffer more cruel evils.  They must be subject,
all their lives, to the most constant and severe restraint, which
is that of decorum:  it is, therefore, necessary to accustom them
early to such confinement, that it may not afterward cost them too
dear; and to the suppression of their caprices, that they may the
more readily submit to the will of others.  If, indeed, they are
fond of being always at work, they should be sometimes compelled to
lay it aside.  Dissipation, levity, and inconstancy, are faults
that readily spring up from their first propensities, when
corrupted or perverted by too much indulgence.  To prevent this
abuse, we should learn them, above all things, to lay a due
restraint on themselves.  The life of a modest woman is reduced, by
our absurd institutions, to a perpetual conflict with herself:  not
but it is just that this sex should partake of the sufferings which
arise from those evils it hath caused us."

And why is the life of a modest woman a perpetual conflict?  I
should answer, that this very system of education makes it so.
Modesty, temperance, and self-denial, are the sober offspring of
reason; but when sensibility is nurtured at the expense of the
understanding, such weak beings must be restrained by arbitrary
means, and be subjected to continual conflicts; but give their
activity of mind a wider range, and nobler passions and motives
will govern their appetites and sentiments.

"The common attachment and regard of a mother, nay, mere habit,
will make her beloved by her children, if she does nothing to incur
their hate.  Even the restraint she lays them under, if well
directed, will increase their affection, instead of lessening it;
because a state of dependence being natural to the sex, they
perceive themselves formed for obedience."

This is begging the question; for servitude not only debases the
individual, but its effects seem to be transmitted to posterity.
Considering the length of time that women have been dependent, is
it surprising that some of them hug their chains, and fawn like the
spaniel? "These dogs," observes a naturalist, "at first kept their
ears erect; but custom has superseded nature, and a token of fear
is become a beauty."

"For the same reason," adds Rousseau, "women have or ought to have,
but little liberty; they are apt to indulge themselves excessively
in what is allowed them.  Addicted in every thing to extremes, they
are even more transported at their diversions than boys."

The answer to this is very simple.  Slaves and mobs have always
indulged themselves in the same excesses, when once they broke
loose from authority.  The bent bow recoils with violence, when the
hand is suddenly relaxed that forcibly held it:  and sensibility,
the plaything of outward circumstances, must be subjected to
authority, or moderated by reason.

"There results," he continues, "from this habitual restraint, a
tractableness which the women have occasion for during their whole
lives, as they constantly remain either under subjection to the
men, or to the opinions of mankind; and are never permitted to set
themselves above those opinions.  The first and most important
qualification in a woman is good-nature or sweetness of temper;
formed to obey a being so imperfect as man, often full of vices,
and always full of faults, she ought to learn betimes even to
suffer injustice, and to bear the insults of a husband without
complaint; it is not for his sake, but her own, that she should be
of a mild disposition.  The perverseness and ill-nature of the
women only serve to aggravate their own misfortunes, and the
misconduct of their husbands; they might plainly perceive that such
are not the arms by which they gain the superiority."

Formed to live with such an imperfect being as man, they ought to
learn from the exercise of their faculties the necessity of
forbearance; but all the sacred rights of humanity are violated by
insisting on blind obedience; or, the most sacred rights belong
ONLY to man.

The being who patiently endures injustice, and silently bears
insults, will soon become unjust, or unable to discern right from
wrong.  Besides, I deny the fact, this is not the true way to form
or meliorate the temper; for, as a sex, men have better tempers
than women, because they are occupied by pursuits that interest the
head as well as the heart; and the steadiness of the head gives a
healthy temperature to the heart.  People of sensibility have
seldom good tempers.  The formation of the temper is the cool work
of reason, when, as life advances, she mixes with happy art,
jarring elements.  I never knew a weak or ignorant person who had a
good temper, though that constitutional good humour, and that
docility, which fear stamps on the behaviour, often obtains the
name.  I say behaviour, for genuine meekness never reached the
heart or mind, unless as the effect of reflection; and, that simple
restraint produces a number of peccant humours in domestic life,
many sensible men will allow, who find some of these gentle
irritable creatures, very troublesome companions.

"Each sex," he further argues, "should preserve its peculiar tone
and manner:  a meek husband may make a wife impertinent; but
mildness of disposition on the woman's side will always bring a man
back to reason, at least if he be not absolutely a brute, and will
sooner or later triumph over him."  True, the mildness of reason;
but abject fear always inspires contempt; and tears are only
eloquent when they flow down fair cheeks.

Of what materials can that heart be composed, which can melt when
insulted, and instead of revolting at injustice, kiss the rod?  Is
it unfair to infer, that her virtue is built on narrow views and
selfishness, who can caress a man, with true feminine softness, the
very moment when he treats her tyrannically?  Nature never dictated
such insincerity; and though prudence of this sort be termed a
virtue, morality becomes vague when any part is supposed to rest on
falsehood.  These are mere expedients, and expedients are only
useful for the moment.

Let the husband beware of trusting too implicitly to this servile
obedience; for if his wife can with winning sweetness caress him
when angry, and when she ought to be angry, unless contempt had
stifled a natural effervescence, she may do the same after parting
with a lover.  These are all preparations for adultery; or, should
the fear of the world, or of hell, restrain her desire of pleasing
other men, when she can no longer please her husband, what
substitute can be found by a being who was only formed by nature
and art to please man?  what can make her amends for this
privation, or where is she to seek for a fresh employment?  where
find sufficient strength of mind to determine to begin the search,
when her habits are fixed, and vanity has long ruled her chaotic

But this partial moralist recommends cunning systematically and

"Daughters should be always submissive; their mothers, however,
should not be inexorable.  To make a young person tractable, she
ought not to be made unhappy; to make her modest she ought not to
be rendered stupid.  On the contrary, I should not be displeased at
her being permitted to use some art, not to elude punishment in
case of disobedience, but to exempt herself from the necessity of
obeying.  It is not necessary to make her dependence burdensome,
but only to let her feel it.  Subtilty is a talent natural to the
sex; and as I am persuaded, all our natural inclinations are right
and good in themselves, I am of opinion this should be cultivated
as well as the others:  it is requisite for us only to prevent its

"Whatever is, is right," he then proceeds triumphantly to infer.
Granted; yet, perhaps, no aphorism ever contained a more
paradoxical assertion.  It is a solemn truth with respect to God.
He, reverentially I speak, sees the whole at once, and saw its just
proportions in the womb of time; but man, who can only inspect
disjointed parts, finds many things wrong; and it is a part of the
system, and therefore right, that he should endeavour to alter what
appears to him to be so, even while he bows to the wisdom of his
Creator, and respects the darkness he labours to disperse.

The inference that follows is just, supposing the principle to be
sound: "The superiority of address, peculiar to the female sex, is
a very equitable indemnification for their inferiority in point of
strength: without this, woman would not be the companion of man;
but his slave:  it is by her superiour art and ingenuity that she
preserves her equality, and governs him while she affects to obey.
Woman has every thing against her, as well our faults as her own
timidity and weakness: she has nothing in her favour, but her
subtilty and her beauty.  Is it not very reasonable, therefore, she
should cultivate both?"  Greatness of mind can never dwell with
cunning or address; for I shall not boggle about words, when their
direct signification is insincerity and falsehood; but content
myself with observing, that if any class of mankind be so created
that it must necessarily be educated by rules, not strictly
deducible from truth, virtue is an affair of convention.  How could
Rousseau dare to assert, after giving this advice, that in the
grand end of existence, the object of both sexes should be the
same, when he well knew, that the mind formed by its pursuits, is
expanded by great views swallowing up little ones, or that it
becomes itself little?

Men have superiour strength of body; but were it not for mistaken
notions of beauty, women would acquire sufficient to enable them to
earn their own subsistence, the true definition of independence;
and to bear those bodily inconveniences and exertions that are
requisite to strengthen the mind.

Let us then, by being allowed to take the same exercise as boys,
not only during infancy, but youth, arrive at perfection of body,
that we may know how far the natural superiority of man extends.
For what reason or virtue can be expected from a creature when the
seed-time of life is neglected? None--did not the winds of heaven
casually scatter many useful seeds in the fallow ground.

"Beauty cannot be acquired by dress, and coquetry is an art not so
early and speedily attained.  While girls are yet young, however,
they are in a capacity to study agreeable gesture, a pleasing
modulation of voice, an easy carriage and behaviour; as well as to
take the advantage of gracefully adapting their looks and attitudes
to time, place, and occasion.  Their application, therefore, should
not be solely confined to the arts of industry and the needle, when
they come to display other talents, whose utility is already
apparent." "For my part I would have a young Englishwoman cultivate
her agreeable talents, in order to please her future husband, with
as much care and assiduity as a young Circassian cultivates her's,
to fit her for the Haram of an Eastern bashaw."

To render women completely insignificant, he adds,--"The tongues of
women are very voluble; they speak earlier, more readily, and more
agreeably than the men; they are accused also of speaking much
more:  but so it ought to be, and I should be very ready to convert
this reproach into a compliment; their lips and eyes have the same
activity, and for the same reason.  A man speaks of what he knows,
a woman of what pleases her; the one requires knowledge, the other
taste; the principal object of a man's discourse should be what is
useful, that of a woman's what is agreeable.  There ought to be
nothing in common between their different conversation but truth."

"We ought not, therefore, to restrain the prattle of girls, in the
same manner as we should that of boys, with that severe question,
'To what purpose are you talking?' but by another, which is no less
difficult to answer, 'How will your discourse be received?'  In
infancy, while they are as yet incapable to discern good from evil,
they ought to observe it as a law, never to say any thing
disagreeable to those whom they are speaking to:  what will render
the practice of this rule also the more difficult, is, that it must
ever be subordinate to the former, of never speaking falsely or
telling an untruth."  To govern the tongue in this manner must
require great address indeed; and it is too much practised both by
men and women.  Out of the abundance of the heart how few speak!
So few, that I, who love simplicity, would gladly give up
politeness for a quarter of the virtue that has been sacrificed to
an equivocal quality, which, at best, should only be the polish of

But to complete the sketch.  "It is easy to be conceived, that if
male children be not in a capacity to form any true notions of
religion, those ideas must be greatly above the conception of the
females:  it is for this very reason, I would begin to speak to
them the earlier on this subject; for if we were to wait till they
were in a capacity to discuss methodically such profound questions,
we should run a risk of never speaking to them on this subject as
long as they lived.  Reason in women is a practical reason,
capacitating them artfully to discover the means of attaining a
known end, but which would never enable them to discover that end
itself.  The social relations of the sexes are indeed truly
admirable:  from their union there results a moral person, of which
woman may be termed the eyes, and man the hand, with this
dependence on each other, that it is from the man that the woman is
to learn what she is to see, and it is of the woman that man is to
learn what he ought to do.  If woman could recur to the first
principles of things as well as man, and man was capacitated to
enter into their minutae as well as woman, always independent of
each other, they would live in perpetual discord, and their union
could not subsist.  But in the present harmony which naturally
subsists between them, their different faculties tend to one common
end; it is difficult to say which of them conduces the most to it:
each follows the impulse of the other; each is obedient, and both
are masters."

"As the conduct of a woman is subservient to the public opinion,
her faith in matters of religion, should for that very reason, be
subject to authority.  'Every daughter ought to be of the same
religion as her mother, and every wife to be of the same religion
as her husband:  for, though such religion should be false, that
docility which induces the mother and daughter to submit to the
order of nature, takes away, in the sight of God, the criminality
of their error'.*  As they are not in a capacity to judge for
themselves, they ought to abide by the decision of their fathers
and husbands as confidently as by that of the church."

(*Footnote.  What is to be the consequence, if the mother's and
husband's opinion should chance not to agree?  An ignorant person
cannot be reasoned out of an error, and when persuaded to give up
one prejudice for another the mind is unsettled.  Indeed, the
husband may not have any religion to teach her though in such a
situation she will be in great want of a support to her virtue,
independent of worldly considerations.)

"As authority ought to regulate the religion of the women, it is
not so needful to explain to them the reasons for their belief, as
to lay down precisely the tenets they are to believe:  for the
creed, which presents only obscure ideas to the mind, is the source
of fanaticism; and that which presents absurdities, leads to

Absolute, uncontroverted authority, it seems, must subsist
somewhere:  but is not this a direct and exclusive appropriation of
reason?  The RIGHTS of humanity have been thus confined to the male
line from Adam downwards.  Rousseau would carry his male
aristocracy still further, for he insinuates, that he should not
blame those, who contend for leaving woman in a state of the most
profound ignorance, if it were not necessary, in order to preserve
her chastity, and justify the man's choice in the eyes of the
world, to give her a little knowledge of men, and the customs
produced by human passions; else she might propagate at home
without being rendered less voluptuous and innocent by the exercise
of her understanding:  excepting, indeed, during the first year of
marriage, when she might employ it to dress, like Sophia.  "Her
dress is extremely modest in appearance, and yet very coquettish in
fact:  she does not make a display of her charms, she conceals
them; but, in concealing them, she knows how to affect your
imagination.  Every one who sees her, will say, There is a modest
and discreet girl; but while you are near her, your eyes and
affections wander all over her person, so that you cannot withdraw
them; and you would conclude that every part of her dress, simple
as it seems, was only put in its proper order to be taken to pieces
by the imagination."  Is this modesty?  Is this a preparation for
immortality?  Again.  What opinion are we to form of a system of
education, when the author says of his heroine, "that with her,
doing things well is but a SECONDARY concern; her principal concern
is to do them NEATLY."

Secondary, in fact, are all her virtues and qualities, for,
respecting religion, he makes her parents thus address her,
accustomed to submission--"Your husband will instruct you in good

After thus cramping a woman's mind, if, in order to keep it fair,
he has not made it quite a blank, he advises her to reflect, that a
reflecting man may not yawn in her company, when he is tired of
caressing her.  What has she to reflect about, who must obey? and
would it not be a refinement on cruelty only to open her mind to
make the darkness and misery of her fate VISIBLE?  Yet these are
his sensible remarks; how consistent with what I have already been
obliged to quote, to give a fair view of the subject, the reader
may determine.

"They who pass their whole lives in working for their daily bread,
have no ideas beyond their business or their interest, and all
their understanding seems to lie in their fingers' ends.  This
ignorance is neither prejudicial to their integrity nor their
morals; it is often of service to them.  Sometimes, by means of
reflection, we are led to compound with our duty, and we conclude,
by substituting a jargon of words, in the room of things.  Our own
conscience is the most enlightened philosopher.  There is no need
of being acquainted with Tully's offices, to make a man of probity:
and perhaps the most virtuous woman in the world is the least
acquainted with the definition of virtue.  But it is no less true,
than an improved understanding only can render society agreeable;
and it is a melancholy thing for a father of a family, who is fond
of home, to be obliged to be always wrapped up in himself, and to
have nobody about him to whom he can impart his sentiments.

"Besides, how should a woman void of reflection be capable of
educating her children?  How should she discern what is proper for
them?  How should she incline them to those virtues she is
unacquainted with, or to that merit of which she has no idea?  She
can only sooth or chide them; render them insolent or timid; she
will make them formal coxcombs, or ignorant blockheads; but will
never make them sensible or amiable."  How indeed should she, when
her husband is not always at hand to lend her his reason --when
they both together make but one moral being?  A blind will, "eyes
without hands," would go a very little way; and perchance his
abstract reason, that should concentrate the scattered beams of her
practical reason, may be employed in judging of the flavour of
wine, discanting on the sauces most proper for turtle; or, more
profoundly intent at a card-table, he may be generalizing his ideas
as he bets away his fortune, leaving all the minutiae of education
to his helpmate or chance.

But, granting that woman ought to be beautiful, innocent, and
silly, to render her a more alluring and indulgent companion--what
is her understanding sacrificed for?  And why is all this
preparation necessary only, according to Rousseau's own account, to
make her the mistress of her husband, a very short time?  For no
man ever insisted more on the transient nature of love.  Thus
speaks the philosopher.  "Sensual pleasures are transient.  The
habitual state of the affections always loses by their
gratification.  The imagination, which decks the object of our
desires, is lost in fruition.  Excepting the Supreme Being, who is
self-existent, there is nothing beautiful but what is ideal."

But he returns to his unintelligible paradoxes again, when he thus
addresses Sophia.  "Emilius, in becoming your husband, is become
your master, and claims your obedience.  Such is the order of
nature.  When a man is married, however, to such a wife as Sophia,
it is proper he should be directed by her:  this is also agreeable
to the order of nature:  it is, therefore, to give you as much
authority over his heart as his sex gives him over your person,
that I have made you the arbiter of his pleasures.  It may cost
you, perhaps, some disagreeable self-denial; but you will be
certain of maintaining your empire over him, if you can preserve it
over yourself;  what I have already observed, also shows me, that
this difficult attempt does not surpass your courage.

"Would you have your husband constantly at your feet? keep him at
some distance from your person.  You will long maintain the
authority of love, if you know but how to render your favours rare
and valuable.  It is thus you may employ even the arts of coquetry
in the service of virtue, and those of love in that of reason."

I shall close my extracts with a just description of a comfortable
couple.  "And yet you must not imagine, that even such management
will always suffice.  Whatever precaution be taken, enjoyment will,
by degrees, take off the edge of passion.  But when love hath
lasted as long as possible, a pleasing habitude supplies its place,
and the attachment of a mutual confidence succeeds to the
transports of passion.  Children often form a more agreeable and
permanent connexion between married people than even love itself.
When you cease to be the mistress of Emilius, you will continue to
be his wife and friend; you will be the mother of his children."
(Rousseau's Emilius.)

Children, he truly observes, form a much more permanent connexion
between married people than love.  Beauty he declares will not be
valued, or even seen, after a couple have lived six months
together; artificial graces and coquetry will likewise pall on the
senses:  why then does he say, that a girl should be educated for
her husband with the same care as for an eastern haram?

I now appeal from the reveries of fancy and refined licentiousness
to the good sense of mankind, whether, if the object of education
be to prepare women to become chaste wives and sensible mothers,
the method so plausibly recommended in the foregoing sketch, be the
one best calculated to produce those ends?  Will it be allowed that
the surest way to make a wife chaste, is to teach her to practise
the wanton arts of a mistress, termed virtuous coquetry by the
sensualist who can no longer relish the artless charms of
sincerity, or taste the pleasure arising from a tender intimacy,
when confidence is unchecked by suspicion, and rendered interesting
by sense?

The man who can be contented to live with a pretty useful companion
without a mind, has lost in voluptuous gratifications a taste for
more refined enjoyments; he has never felt the calm satisfaction
that refreshes the parched heart, like the silent dew of heaven--of
being beloved by one who could understand him.  In the society of
his wife he is still alone, unless when the man is sunk in the
brute.  "The charm of life," says a grave philosophical reasoner,
is "sympathy; nothing pleases us more than to observe in other men
a fellow-feeling with all the emotions of our own breast."

But, according to the tenor of reasoning by which women are kept
from the tree of knowledge, the important years of youth, the
usefulness of age, and the rational hopes of futurity, are all to
be sacrificed, to render woman an object of desire for a short
time.  Besides, how could Rousseau expect them to be virtuous and
constant when reason is neither allowed to be the foundation of
their virtue, nor truth the object of their inquiries?

But all Rousseau's errors in reasoning arose from sensibility, and
sensibility to their charms women are very ready to forgive!  When
he should have reasoned he became impassioned, and reflection
inflamed his imagination, instead of enlightening his
understanding.  Even his virtues also led him farther astray; for,
born with a warm constitution and lively fancy, nature carried him
toward the other sex with such eager fondness, that he soon became
lascivious.  Had he given way to these desires, the fire would have
extinguished itself in a natural manner, but virtue, and a romantic
kind of delicacy, made him practise self-denial; yet, when fear,
delicacy, or virtue restrained him, he debauched his imagination;
and reflecting on the sensations to which fancy gave force, he
traced them in the most glowing colours, and sunk them deep into
his soul.

He then sought for solitude, not to sleep with the man of nature;
or calmly investigate the causes of things under the shade where
Sir Isaac Newton indulged contemplation, but merely to indulge his
feelings.  And so warmly has he painted what he forcibly felt,
that, interesting the heart and inflaming the imagination of his
readers; in proportion to the strength of their fancy, they imagine
that their understanding is convinced, when they only sympathize
with a poetic writer, who skilfully exhibits the objects of sense,
most voluptuously shadowed, or gracefully veiled; and thus making
us feel, whilst dreaming that we reason, erroneous conclusions are
left in the mind.

Why was Rousseau's life divided between ecstasy and misery?  Can
any other answer be given than this, that the effervescence of his
imagination produced both; but, had his fancy been allowed to cool,
it is possible that he might have acquired more strength of mind.
Still, if the purpose of life be to educate the intellectual part
of man, all with respect to him was right; yet, had not death led
to a nobler scene of action, it is probable that he would have
enjoyed more equal happiness on earth, and have felt the calm
sensations of the man of nature, instead of being prepared for
another stage of existence by nourishing the passions which agitate
the civilized man.

But peace to his manes!  I war not with his ashes, but his
opinions.  I war only with the sensibility that led him to degrade
woman by making her the slave of love.

...."Curs'd vassalage,
First idoliz'd till love's hot fire be o'er,
Then slaves to those who courted us before."

The pernicious tendency of those books, in which the writers
insidiously degrade the sex, whilst they are prostrate before their
personal charms, cannot be too often or too severely exposed.

Let us, my dear contemporaries, arise above such narrow prejudices!
If wisdom is desirable on its own account, if virtue, to deserve
the name, must be founded on knowledge; let us endeavour to
strengthen our minds by reflection, till our heads become a balance
for our hearts; let us not confine all our thoughts to the petty
occurrences of the day, nor our knowledge to an acquaintance with
our lovers' or husbands' hearts; but let the practice of every duty
be subordinate to the grand one of improving our minds, and
preparing our affections for a more exalted state!

Beware then, my friends, of suffering the heart to be moved by
every trivial incident:  the reed is shaken by a breeze, and
annually dies, but the oak stands firm, and for ages braves the

Were we, indeed, only created to flutter our hour out and die--why
let us then indulge sensibility, and laugh at the severity of
reason.  Yet, alas! even then we should want strength of body and
mind, and life would be lost in feverish pleasures or wearisome

But the system of education, which I earnestly wish to see
exploded, seems to presuppose, what ought never to be taken for
granted, that virtue shields us from the casualties of life; and
that fortune, slipping off her bandage, will smile on a
well-educated female, and bring in her hand an Emilius or a
Telemachus.  Whilst, on the contrary, the reward which virtue
promises to her votaries is confined, it is clear, to their own
bosoms; and often must they contend with the most vexatious worldly
cares, and bear with the vices and humours of relations for whom
they can never feel a friendship.

There have been many women in the world who, instead of being
supported by the reason and virtue of their fathers and brothers,
have strengthened their own minds by struggling with their vices
and follies; yet have never met with a hero, in the shape of a
husband; who, paying the debt that mankind owed them, might chance
to bring back their reason to its natural dependent state, and
restore the usurped prerogative, of rising above opinion, to man.


Dr. Fordyce's sermons have long made a part of a young woman's
library; nay, girls at school are allowed to read them; but I
should instantly dismiss them from my pupil's, if I wished to
strengthen her understanding, by leading her to form sound
principles on a broad basis; or, were I only anxious to cultivate
her taste; though they must be allowed to contain many sensible

Dr. Fordyce may have had a very laudable end in view; but these
discourses are written in such an affected style, that were it only
on that account, and had I nothing to object against his
MELLIFLUOUS precepts, I should not allow girls to peruse them,
unless I designed to hunt every spark of nature out of their
composition, melting every human quality into female weakness and
artificial grace.  I say artificial, for true grace arises from
some kind of independence of mind.

Children, careless of pleasing, and only anxious to amuse
themselves, are often very graceful; and the nobility who have
mostly lived with inferiors, and always had the command of money,
acquire a graceful ease of deportment, which should rather be
termed habitual grace of body, than that superiour gracefulness
which is truly the expression of the mind.  This mental grace, not
noticed by vulgar eyes, often flashes across a rough countenance,
and irradiating every feature, shows simplicity and independence of
mind.  It is then we read characters of immortality in the eye, and
see the soul in every gesture, though when at rest, neither the
face nor limbs may have much beauty to recommend them; or the
behaviour, any thing peculiar to attract universal attention.  The
mass of mankind, however, look for more TANGIBLE beauty; yet
simplicity is, in general, admired, when people do not consider
what they admire; and can there be simplicity without sincerity?
but, to have done with remarks that are in some measure desultory,
though naturally excited by the subject.

In declamatory periods Dr. Fordyce spins out Rousseau's eloquence;
and in most sentimental rant, details his opinions respecting the
female character, and the behaviour which woman ought to assume to
render her lovely.

He shall speak for himself, for thus he makes nature address man.
"Behold these smiling innocents, whom I have graced with my fairest
gifts, and committed to your protection; behold them with love and
respect; treat them with tenderness and honour.  They are timid and
want to be defended.  They are frail; O do not take advantage of
their weakness!  Let their fears and blushes endear them.  Let
their confidence in you never be abused.  But is it possible, that
any of you can be such barbarians, so supremely wicked, as to abuse
it?  Can you find in your hearts* to despoil the gentle, trusting
creatures of their treasure, or do any thing to strip them of their
native robe of virtue?  Curst be the impious hand that would dare
to violate the unblemished form of Chastity!  Thou wretch! thou
ruffian! forbear; nor venture to provoke heaven's fiercest
vengeance."  I know not any comment that can be made seriously on
this curious passage, and I could produce many similar ones; and
some, so very sentimental, that I have heard rational men use the
word indecent, when they mentioned them with disgust.

(*Footnote.  Can you?--Can you? would be the most emphatical
comment, were it drawled out in a whining voice.)

Throughout there is a display of cold, artificial feelings, and
that parade of sensibility which boys and girls should be taught to
despise as the sure mark of a little vain mind.  Florid appeals are
made to heaven, and to the BEAUTEOUS INNOCENTS, the fairest images
of heaven here below, whilst sober sense is left far behind.  This
is not the language of the heart, nor will it ever reach it, though
the ear may be tickled.

I shall be told, perhaps, that the public have been pleased with
these volumes.  True--and Hervey's Meditations are still read,
though he equally sinned against sense and taste.

I particularly object to the lover-like phrases of pumped up
passion, which are every where interspersed.  If women be ever
allowed to walk without leading-strings, why must they be cajoled
into virtue by artful flattery and sexual compliments?  Speak to
them the language of truth and soberness, and away with the lullaby
strains of condescending endearment!  Let them be taught to respect
themselves as rational creatures, and not led to have a passion for
their own insipid persons.  It moves my gall to hear a preacher
descanting on dress and needle-work; and still more, to hear him
address the 'British fair, the fairest of the fair', as if they had
only feelings.

Even recommending piety he uses the following argument.  "Never,
perhaps, does a fine woman strike more deeply, than when, composed
into pious recollection, and possessed with the noblest
considerations, she assumes, without knowing it, superiour dignity
and new graces; so that the beauties of holiness seem to radiate
about her, and the by-standers are almost induced to fancy her
already worshipping amongst her kindred angels!"  Why are women to
be thus bred up with a desire of conquest? the very epithet, used
in this sense, gives me a sickly qualm!  Does religion and virtue
offer no stronger motives, no brighter reward?  Must they always be
debased by being made to consider the sex of their companions?
Must they be taught always to be pleasing?  And when levelling
their small artillery at the heart of man, is it necessary to tell
them that a little sense is sufficient to render their attention
INCREDIBLY SOOTHING?  "As a small degree of knowledge entertains in
a woman, so from a woman, though for a different reason, a small
expression of kindness delights, particularly if she have beauty!"
I should have supposed for the same reason.

Why are girls to be told that they resemble angels; but to sink
them below women?  Or, that a gentle, innocent female is an object
that comes nearer to the idea which we have formed of angels than
any other.  Yet they are told, at the same time, that they are only
like angels when they are young and beautiful; consequently, it is
their persons, not their virtues, that procure them this homage.

Idle empty words!  what can such delusive flattery lead to, but
vanity and folly?  The lover, it is true, has a poetic licence to
exalt his mistress; his reason is the bubble of his passion, and he
does not utter a falsehood when he borrows the language of
adoration.  His imagination may raise the idol of his heart,
unblamed, above humanity; and happy would it be for women, if they
were only flattered by the men who loved them; I mean, who love the
individual, not the sex; but should a grave preacher interlard his
discourses with such fooleries?

In sermons or novels, however, voluptuousness is always true to its
text.  Men are allowed by moralists to cultivate, as nature
directs, different qualities, and assume the different characters,
that the same passions, modified almost to infinity, give to each
individual.  A virtuous man may have a choleric or a sanguine
constitution, be gay or grave, unreproved; be firm till be is
almost over-bearing, or, weakly submissive, have no will or opinion
of his own; but all women are to be levelled, by meekness and
docility, into one character of yielding softness and gentle

I will use the preacher's own words.  "Let it be observed, that in
your sex manly exercises are never graceful; that in them a tone
and figure, as well as an air and deportment, of the masculine
kind, are always forbidding; and that men of sensibility desire in
every woman soft features, and a flowing voice, a form not robust,
and demeanour delicate and gentle."

Is not the following portrait--the portrait of a house slave?  "I
am astonished at the folly of many women, who are still reproaching
their husbands for leaving them alone, for preferring this or that
company to theirs, for treating them with this and the other mark
of disregard or indifference; when, to speak the truth, they have
themselves in a great measure to blame.  Not that I would justify
the men in any thing wrong on their part.  But had you behaved to
THEIR OPINIONS in matters indifferent, passing by little instances
of unevenness, caprice, or passion, giving SOFT answers to hasty
words, complaining as seldom as possible, and making it your daily
care to relieve their anxieties and prevent their wishes, to
enliven the hour of dulness, and call up the ideas of felicity:
had you pursued this conduct, I doubt not but you would have
maintained and even increased their esteem, so far as to have
secured every degree of influence that could conduce to their
virtue, or your mutual satisfaction; and your house might at this
day have been the abode of domestic bliss."  Such a woman ought to
be an angel--or she is an ass--for I discern not a trace of the
human character, neither reason nor passion in this domestic
drudge, whose being is absorbed in that of a tyrant's.

Still Dr. Fordyce must have very little acquaintance with the human
heart, if he really supposed that such conduct would bring back
wandering love, instead of exciting contempt.  No, beauty,
gentleness, etc. etc. may gain a heart; but esteem, the only
lasting affection, can alone be obtained by virtue supported by
reason.  It is respect for the understanding that keeps alive
tenderness for the person.

As these volumes are so frequently put into the hands of young
people, I have taken more notice of them than strictly speaking,
they deserve; but as they have contributed to vitiate the taste,
and enervate the understanding of many of my fellow-creatures, I
could not pass them silently over.


Such paternal solicitude pervades Dr. Gregory's Legacy to his
daughters, that I enter on the task of criticism with affectionate
respect; but as this little volume has many attractions to
recommend it to the notice of the most respectable part of my sex,
I cannot silently pass over arguments that so speciously support
opinions which, I think, have had the most baneful effect on the
morals and manners of the female world.

His easy familiar style is particularly suited to the tenor of his
advice, and the melancholy tenderness which his respect for the
memory of a beloved wife diffuses through the whole work, renders
it very interesting; yet there is a degree of concise elegance
conspicuous in many passages, that disturbs this sympathy; and we
pop on the author, when we only expected to meet the--father.

Besides, having two objects in view, he seldom adhered steadily to
either; for, wishing to make his daughters amiable, and fearing
lest unhappiness should only be the consequence, of instilling
sentiments, that might draw them out of the track of common life,
without enabling them to act with consonant independence and
dignity, he checks the natural flow of his thoughts, and neither
advises one thing nor the other.

In the preface he tells them a mournful truth, "that they will
hear, at least once in their lives, the genuine sentiments of a
man, who has no interest in deceiving them."

Hapless woman! what can be expected from thee, when the beings on
whom thou art said naturally to depend for reason and support, have
all an interest in deceiving thee!  This is the root of the evil
that has shed a corroding mildew on all thy virtues; and blighting
in the bud thy opening faculties, has rendered thee the weak thing
thou art!  It is this separate interest-- this insidious state of
warfare, that undermines morality, and divides mankind!

If love has made some women wretched--how many more has the cold
unmeaning intercourse of gallantry rendered vain and useless! yet
this heartless attention to the sex is reckoned so manly, so
polite, that till society is very differently organized, I fear,
this vestige of gothic manners will not be done away by a more
reasonable and affectionate mode of conduct.  Besides, to strip it
of its imaginary dignity, I must observe, that in the most
civilized European states, this lip-service prevails in a very
great degree, accompanied with extreme dissoluteness of morals.  In
Portugal, the country that I particularly allude to, it takes place
of the most serious moral obligations; for a man is seldom
assassinated when in the company of a woman.  The savage hand of
rapine is unnerved by this chivalrous spirit; and, if the stroke of
vengeance cannot be stayed--the lady is entreated to pardon the
rudeness and depart in peace, though sprinkled, perhaps, with her
husband's or brother's blood.

I shall pass over his strictures on religion, because I mean to
discuss that subject in a separate chapter.

The remarks relative to behaviour, though many of them very
sensible, I entirely disapprove of, because it appears to me to be
beginning, as it were at the wrong end.  A cultivated
understanding, and an affectionate heart, will never want starched
rules of decorum, something more substantial than seemliness will
be the result; and, without understanding, the behaviour here
recommended, would be rank affectation.  Decorum, indeed, is the
one thing needful!  decorum is to supplant nature, and banish all
simplicity and variety of character out of the female world.  Yet
what good end can all this superficial counsel produce?  It is,
however, much easier to point out this or that mode of behaviour,
than to set the reason to work; but, when the mind has been stored
with useful knowledge, and strengthened by being employed, the
regulation of the behaviour may safely be left to its guidance.

Why, for instance, should the following caution be given, when art
of every kind must contaminate the mind; and why entangle the grand
motives of action, which reason and religion equally combine to
enforce, with pitiful worldly shifts and slight of hand tricks to
gain the applause of gaping tasteless fools?  "Be even cautious in
displaying your good sense.*  It will be thought you assume a
superiority over the rest of the company-- But if you happen to
have any learning keep it a profound secret, especially from the
men, who generally look with a jealous and malignant eye on a woman
of great parts, and a cultivated understanding."  If men of real
merit, as he afterwards observes, are superior to this meanness,
where is the necessity that the behaviour of the whole sex should
be modulated to please fools, or men, who having little claim to
respect as individuals, choose to keep close in their phalanx.
Men, indeed, who insist on their common superiority, having only
this sexual superiority, are certainly very excusable.

(*Footnote.  Let women once acquire good sense--and if it deserve
the name, it will teach them; or, of what use will it be how to
employ it.)

There would be no end to rules for behaviour, if it be proper
always to adopt the tone of the company; for thus, for ever varying
the key, a FLAT would often pass for a NATURAL note.

Surely it would have been wiser to have advised women to improve
themselves till they rose above the fumes of vanity; and then to
let the public opinion come round--for where are rules of
accommodation to stop?  The narrow path of truth and virtue
inclines neither to the right nor left, it is a straight-forward
business, and they who are earnestly pursuing their road, may bound
over many decorous prejudices, without leaving modesty behind.
Make the heart clean, and give the head employment, and I will
venture to predict that there will be nothing offensive in the

The air of fashion, which many young people are so eager to attain,
always strikes me like the studied attitudes of some modern prints,
copied with tasteless servility after the antiques; the soul is
left out, and none of the parts are tied together by what may
properly be termed character.  This varnish of fashion, which
seldom sticks very close to sense, may dazzle the weak; but leave
nature to itself, and it will seldom disgust the wise.  Besides,
when a woman has sufficient sense not to pretend to any thing which
she does not understand in some degree, there is no need of
determining to hide her talents under a bushel.  Let things take
their natural course, and all will be well.

It is this system of dissimulation, throughout the volume, that I
despise.  Women are always to SEEM to be this and that--yet virtue
might apostrophize them, in the words of Hamlet--Seems!  I know not
seems!--Have that within that passeth show!--

Still the same tone occurs; for in another place, after
recommending, (without sufficiently discriminating) delicacy, he
adds, "The men will complain of your reserve.  They will assure you
that a franker behaviour would make you more amiable.  But, trust
me, they are not sincere when they tell you so.  I acknowledge that
on some occasions it might render you more agreeable as companions,
but it would make you less amiable as women:  an important
distinction, which many of your sex are not aware of."

This desire of being always women, is the very consciousness that
degrades the sex.  Excepting with a lover, I must repeat with
emphasis, a former observation--it would be well if they were only
agreeable or rational companions.  But in this respect his advice
is even inconsistent with a passage which I mean to quote with the
most marked approbation.

"The sentiment, that a woman may allow all innocent freedoms,
provided her virtue is secure, is both grossly indelicate and
dangerous, and has proved fatal to many of your sex."  With this
opinion I perfectly coincide.  A man, or a woman, of any feeling
must always wish to convince a beloved object that it is the
caresses of the individual, not the sex, that is received and
returned with pleasure; and, that the heart, rather than the
senses, is moved.  Without this natural delicacy, love becomes a
selfish personal gratification that soon degrades the character.

I carry this sentiment still further.  Affection, when love is out
of the question, authorises many personal endearments, that
naturally flowing from an innocent heart give life to the
behaviour; but the personal intercourse of appetite, gallantry, or
vanity, is despicable.  When a man squeezes the hand of a pretty
woman, handing her to a carriage, whom he has never seen before,
she will consider such an impertinent freedom in the light of an
insult, if she have any true delicacy, instead of being flattered
by this unmeaning homage to beauty.  These are the privileges of
friendship, or the momentary homage which the heart pays to virtue,
when it flashes suddenly on the notice--mere animal spirits have no
claim to the kindnesses of affection.

Wishing to feed the affections with what is now the food of vanity,
I would fain persuade my sex to act from simpler principles.  Let
them merit love, and they will obtain it, though they may never be
told that:  "The power of a fine woman over the hearts of men, of
men of the finest parts, is even beyond what she conceives."

I have already noticed the narrow cautions with respect to
duplicity, female softness, delicacy of constitution; for these are
the changes which he rings round without ceasing, in a more
decorous manner, it is true, than Rousseau; but it all comes home
to the same point, and whoever is at the trouble to analyze these
sentiments, will find the first principles not quite so delicate as
the superstructure.

The subject of amusements is treated in too cursory a manner; but
with the same spirit.

When I treat of friendship, love, and marriage, it will be found
that we materially differ in opinion; I shall not then forestall
what I have to observe on these important subjects; but confine my
remarks to the general tenor of them, to that cautious family
prudence, to those confined views of partial unenlightened
affection, which exclude pleasure and improvement, by vainly
wishing to ward off sorrow and error--and by thus guarding the
heart and mind, destroy also all their energy.  It is far better to
be often deceived than never to trust; to be disappointed in love,
than never to love; to lose a husband's fondness, than forfeit his

Happy would it be for the world, and for individuals, of course, if
all this unavailing solicitude to attain worldly happiness, on a
confined plan, were turned into an anxious desire to improve the
understanding.  "Wisdom is the principal thing:  THEREFORE get
wisdom; and with all thy gettings get understanding."  "How long ye
simple ones, will ye love simplicity, and hate knowledge?"  Saith
Wisdom to the daughters of men!


I do not mean to allude to all the writers who have written on the
subject of female manners--it would in fact be only beating over
the old ground, for they have, in general, written in the same
strain; but attacking the boasted prerogative of man--the
prerogative that may emphatically be called the iron sceptre of
tyranny, the original sin of tyrants, I declare against all power
built on prejudices, however hoary.

If the submission demanded be founded on justice--there is no
appealing to a higher power--for God is justice itself.  Let us
then, as children of the same parent, if not bastardized by being
the younger born, reason together, and learn to submit to the
authority of reason when her voice is distinctly heard.  But, if it
be proved that this throne of prerogative only rests on a chaotic
mass of prejudices, that have no inherent principle of order to
keep them together, or on an elephant, tortoise, or even the mighty
shoulders of a son of the earth, they may escape, who dare to brave
the consequence without any breach of duty, without sinning against
the order of things.

Whilst reason raises man above the brutal herd, and death is big
with promises, they alone are subject to blind authority who have
no reliance on their own strength.  "They are free who will be

(*Footnote.  "He is the free man, whom TRUTH makes free!"  Cowper.)

The being who can govern itself, has nothing to fear in life; but
if any thing is dearer than its own respect, the price must be paid
to the last farthing.  Virtue, like every thing valuable, must be
loved for herself alone; or she will not take up her abode with us.
She will not impart that peace, "which passeth understanding," when
she is merely made the stilts of reputation and respected with
pharisaical exactness, because "honesty is the best policy."

That the plan of life which enables us to carry some knowledge and
virtue into another world, is the one best calculated to ensure
content in this, cannot be denied; yet few people act according to
this principle, though it be universally allowed that it admits not
of dispute.  Present pleasure, or present power, carry before it
these sober convictions; and it is for the day, not for life, that
man bargains with happiness.  How few! how very few! have
sufficient foresight or resolution, to endure a small evil at the
moment, to avoid a greater hereafter.

Woman in particular, whose virtue* is built on mutual prejudices,
seldom attains to this greatness of mind; so that, becoming the
slave of her own feelings, she is easily subjugated by those of
others.  Thus degraded, her reason, her misty reason! is employed
rather to burnish than to snap her chains.

(*Footnote.  I mean to use a word that comprehends more than
chastity, the sexual virtue.)

Indignantly have I heard women argue in the same track as men, and
adopt the sentiments that brutalize them with all the pertinacity
of ignorance.

I must illustrate my assertion by a few examples.  Mrs. Piozzi, who
often repeated by rote, what she did not understand, comes forward
with Johnsonian periods.

"Seek not for happiness in singularity; and dread a refinement of
wisdom as a deviation into folly."  Thus she dogmatically addresses
a new married man; and to elucidate this pompous exordium, she
adds, "I said that the person of your lady would not grow more
pleasing to you, but pray let her never suspect that it grows less
so:  that a woman will pardon an affront to her understanding much
sooner than one to her person, is well known; nor will any of us
contradict the assertion.  All our attainments, all our arts, are
employed to gain and keep the heart of man; and what mortification
can exceed the disappointment, if the end be not obtained: There is
no reproof however pointed, no punishment however severe, that a
woman of spirit will not prefer to neglect; and if she can endure
it without complaint, it only proves that she means to make herself
amends by the attention of others for the slights of her husband!"

These are true masculine sentiments.  "All our ARTS are employed to
gain and keep the heart of man:"--and what is the inference?--if
her person, and was there ever a person, though formed with
Medicisan symmetry, that was not slighted? be neglected, she will
make herself amends by endeavouring to please other men.  Noble
morality!  But thus is the understanding of the whole sex
affronted, and their virtue deprived of the common basis of virtue.
A woman must know, that her person cannot be as pleasing to her
husband as it was to her lover, and if she be offended with him for
being a human creature, she may as well whine about the loss of his
heart as about any other foolish thing.  And this very want of
discernment or unreasonable anger, proves that he could not change
his fondness for her person into affection for her virtues or
respect for her understanding.

Whilst women avow, and act up to such opinions, their
understandings, at least, deserve the contempt and obloquy that
men, WHO NEVER insult their persons, have pointedly levelled at the
female mind.  And it is the sentiments of these polite men, who do
not wish to be encumbered with mind, that vain women thoughtlessly
adopt.  Yet they should know, that insulted reason alone can spread
that SACRED reserve about the persons which renders human
affections, for human affections have always some base alloy, as
permanent as is consistent with the grand end of existence--the
attainment of virtue.

The Baroness de Stael speaks the same language as the lady just
cited, with more enthusiasm.  Her eulogium on Rousseau was
accidentally put into my hands, and her sentiments, the sentiments
of too many of my sex, may serve as the text for a few comments.
"Though Rousseau," she observes, "has endeavoured to prevent women
from interfering in public affairs, and acting a brilliant part in
the theatre of politics; yet, in speaking of them, how much has he
done it to their satisfaction!  If he wished to deprive them of
some rights, foreign to their sex, how has he for ever restored to
them all those to which it has a claim!  And in attempting to
diminish their influence over the deliberations of men, how
sacredly has he established the empire they have over their
happiness!  In aiding them to descend from an usurped throne, he
has firmly seated them upon that to which they were destined by
nature; and though he be full of indignation against them when they
endeavour to resemble men, yet when they come before him with all
respect for their PERSONS amounts almost to adoration."  True!--For
never was there a sensualist who paid more fervent adoration at the
shrine of beauty.  So devout, indeed, was his respect for the
person, that excepting the virtue of chastity, for obvious reasons,
he only wished to see it embellished by charms, weaknesses, and
errors.  He was afraid lest the austerity of reason should disturb
the soft playfulness of love.  The master wished to have a
meretricious slave to fondle, entirely dependent on his reason and
bounty; he did not want a companion, whom he should be compelled to
esteem, or a friend to whom he could confide the care of his
children's education, should death deprive them of their father,
before he had fulfilled the sacred task.  He denies woman reason,
shuts her out from knowledge, and turns her aside from truth; yet
his pardon is granted, because, "he admits the passion of love."
It would require some ingenuity to show why women were to be under
such an obligation to him for thus admitting love; when it is clear
that he admits it only for the relaxation of men, and to perpetuate
the species; but he talked with passion, and that powerful spell
worked on the sensibility of a young encomiast.  "What signifies
it," pursues this rhapsodist, "to women, that his reason disputes
with them the empire, when his heart is devotedly theirs."  It is
not empire--but equality, that they should contend for.  Yet, if
they only wished to lengthen out their sway, they should not
entirely trust to their persons, for though beauty may gain a
heart, it cannot keep it, even while the beauty is in full bloom,
unless the mind lend, at least, some graces.

When women are once sufficiently enlightened to discover their real
interest, on a grand scale, they will, I am persuaded, be very
ready to resign all the prerogatives of love, that are not mutual,
(speaking of them as lasting prerogatives,) for the calm
satisfaction of friendship, and the tender confidence of habitual
esteem.  Before marriage they will not assume any insolent airs,
nor afterward abjectly submit; but, endeavouring to act like
reasonable creatures, in both situations, they will not be tumbled
from a throne to a stool.

Madame Genlis has written several entertaining books for children;
and her letters on Education afford many useful hints, that
sensible parents will certainly avail themselves of; but her views
are narrow, and her prejudices as unreasonable as strong.

I shall pass over her vehement argument in favour of the eternity
of future punishments, because I blush to think that a human being
should ever argue vehemently in such a cause, and only make a few
remarks on her absurd manner of making the parental authority
supplant reason.  For every where does she inculcate not only BLIND
submission to parents; but to the opinion of the world.*

(*Footnote.  A person is not to act in this or that way, though
convinced they are right in so doing, because some equivocal
circumstances may lead the world to SUSPECT that they acted from
different motives.  This is sacrificing the substance for a shadow.
Let people but watch their own hearts, and act rightly as far as
they can judge, and they may patiently wait till the opinion of the
world comes round.  It is best to be directed by a simple
motive--for justice has too often been sacrificed to
propriety;--another word for convenience.)

She tells a story of a young man engaged by his father's express
desire to a girl of fortune.  Before the marriage could take place
she is deprived of her fortune, and thrown friendless on the world.
The father practises the most infamous arts to separate his son
from her, and when the son detects his villany, and, following the
dictates of honour, marries the girl, nothing but misery ensues,
because forsooth he married WITHOUT his father's consent.  On what
ground can religion or morality rest, when justice is thus set at
defiance?  In the same style she represents an accomplished young
woman, as ready to marry any body that her MAMMA pleased to
recommend; and, as actually marrying the young man of her own
choice, without feeling any emotions of passion, because that a
well educated girl had not time to be in love.  Is it possible to
have much respect for a system of education that thus insults
reason and nature?

Many similar opinions occur in her writings, mixed with sentiments
that do honour to her head and heart.  Yet so much superstition is
mixed with her religion, and so much worldly wisdom with her
morality, that I should not let a young person read her works,
unless I could afterwards converse on the subjects, and point out
the contradictions.

Mrs. Chapone's Letters are written with such good sense, and
unaffected humility, and contain so many useful observations, that
I only mention them to pay the worthy writer this tribute of
respect.  I cannot, it is true, always coincide in opinion with
her; but I always respect her.

The very word respect brings Mrs. Macaulay to my remembrance.  The
woman of the greatest abilities, undoubtedly, that this country has
ever produced.  And yet this woman has been suffered to die without
sufficient respect being paid to her memory.

Posterity, however, will be more just; and remember that Catharine
Macaulay was an example of intellectual acquirements supposed to be
incompatible with the weakness of her sex.  In her style of
writing, indeed, no sex appears, for it is like the sense it
conveys, strong and clear.

I will not call her's a masculine understanding, because I admit
not of such an arrogant assumption of reason; but I contend that it
was a sound one, and that her judgment, the matured fruit of
profound thinking, was a proof that a woman can acquire judgment,
in the full extent of the word.  Possessing more penetration than
sagacity, more understanding than fancy, she writes with sober
energy, and argumentative closeness; yet sympathy and benevolence
give an interest to her sentiments, and that vital heat to
arguments, which forces the reader to weigh them.*

(*Footnote.  Coinciding in opinion with Mrs. Macaulay relative to
many branches of education, I refer to her valuable work, instead
of quoting her sentiments to support my own.)

When I first thought of writing these strictures I anticipated Mrs.
Macaulay's approbation with a little of that sanguine ardour which
it has been the business of my life to depress; but soon heard with
the sickly qualm of disappointed hope, and the still seriousness of
regret--that she was no more!


Taking a view of the different works which have been written on
education, Lord Chesterfield's Letters must not be silently passed
over.  Not that I mean to analyze his unmanly, immoral system, or
even to cull any of the useful shrewd remarks which occur in his
frivolous correspondence--No, I only mean to make a few reflections
on the avowed tendency of them--the art of acquiring an early
knowledge of the world.  An art, I will venture to assert, that
preys secretly, like the worm in the bud, on the expanding powers,
and turns to poison the generous juices which should mount with
vigour in the youthful frame, inspiring warm affections and great

For every thing, saith the wise man, there is reason; and who would
look for the fruits of autumn during the genial months of spring?
But this is mere declamation, and I mean to reason with those
worldly-wise instructors, who, instead of cultivating the judgment,
instil prejudices, and render hard the heart that gradual
experience would only have cooled.  An early acquaintance with
human infirmities; or, what is termed knowledge of the world, is
the surest way, in my opinion, to contract the heart and damp the
natural youthful ardour which produces not only great talents, but
great virtues.  For the vain attempt to bring forth the fruit of
experience, before the sapling has thrown out its leaves, only
exhausts its strength, and prevents its assuming a natural form;
just as the form and strength of subsiding metals are injured when
the attraction of cohesion is disturbed.  Tell me, ye who have
studied the human mind, is it not a strange way to fix principles
by showing young people that they are seldom stable?  And how can
they be fortified by habits when they are proved to be fallacious
by example?  Why is the ardour of youth thus to be damped, and the
luxuriancy of fancy cut to the quick?  This dry caution may, it is
true, guard a character from worldly mischances; but will
infallibly preclude excellence in either virtue or knowledge.  The
stumbling-block thrown across every path by suspicion, will prevent
any vigorous exertions of genius or benevolence, and life will be
stripped of its most alluring charm long before its calm evening,
when man should retire to contemplation for comfort and support.

A young man who has been bred up with domestic friends, and led to
store his mind with as much speculative knowledge as can be
acquired by reading and the natural reflections which youthful
ebullitions of animal spirits and instinctive feelings inspire,
will enter the world with warm and erroneous expectations.  But
this appears to be the course of nature; and in morals, as well as
in works of taste, we should be observant of her sacred
indications, and not presume to lead when we ought obsequiously to

In the world few people act from principle; present feelings, and
early habits, are the grand springs:  but how would the former be
deadened, and the latter rendered iron corroding fetters, if the
world were shown to young people just as it is; when no knowledge
of mankind or their own hearts, slowly obtained by experience
rendered them forbearing?  Their fellow creatures would not then be
viewed as frail beings; like themselves, condemned to struggle with
human infirmities, and sometimes displaying the light and sometimes
the dark side of their character; extorting alternate feelings of
love and disgust; but guarded against as beasts of prey, till every
enlarged social feeling, in a word--humanity, was eradicated.

In life, on the contrary, as we gradually discover the
imperfections of our nature, we discover virtues, and various
circumstances attach us to our fellow creatures, when we mix with
them, and view the same objects, that are never thought of in
acquiring a hasty unnatural knowledge of the world.  We see a folly
swell into a vice, by almost imperceptible degrees, and pity while
we blame; but, if the hideous monster burst suddenly on our sight,
fear and disgust rendering us more severe than man ought to be,
might lead us with blind zeal to usurp the character of
omnipotence, and denounce damnation on our fellow mortals,
forgetting that we cannot read the heart, and that we have seeds of
the same vices lurking in our own.

I have already remarked, that we expect more from instruction, than
mere instruction can produce:  for, instead of preparing young
people to encounter the evils of life with dignity, and to acquire
wisdom and virtue by the exercise of their own faculties, precepts
are heaped upon precepts, and blind obedience required, when
conviction should be brought home to reason.

Suppose, for instance, that a young person in the first ardour of
friendship deifies the beloved object--what harm can arise from
this mistaken enthusiastic attachment?  Perhaps it is necessary for
virtue first to appear in a human form to impress youthful hearts;
the ideal model, which a more matured and exalted mind looks up to,
and shapes for itself, would elude their sight.  He who loves not
his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God? asked the
wisest of men.

It is natural for youth to adorn the first object of its affection
with every good quality, and the emulation produced by ignorance,
or, to speak with more propriety, by inexperience, brings forward
the mind capable of forming such an affection, and when, in the
lapse of time, perfection is found not to be within the reach of
mortals, virtue, abstractly, is thought beautiful, and wisdom
sublime.  Admiration then gives place to friendship, properly so
called, because it is cemented by esteem; and the being walks alone
only dependent on heaven for that emulous panting after perfection
which ever glows in a noble mind.  But this knowledge a man must
gain by the exertion of his own faculties; and this is surely the
blessed fruit of disappointed hope! for He who delighteth to
diffuse happiness and show mercy to the weak creatures, who are
learning to know him, never implanted a good propensity to be a
tormenting ignis fatuus.

Our trees are now allowed to spread with wild luxuriance, nor do we
expect by force to combine the majestic marks of time with youthful
graces; but wait patiently till they have struck deep their root,
and braved many a storm.  Is the mind then, which, in proportion to
its dignity advances more slowly towards perfection, to be treated
with less respect?  To argue from analogy, every thing around us is
in a progressive state; and when an unwelcome knowledge of life
produces almost a satiety of life, and we discover by the natural
course of things that all that is done under the sun is vanity, we
are drawing near the awful close of the drama.  The days of
activity and hope are over, and the opportunities which the first
stage of existence has afforded of advancing in the scale of
intelligence, must soon be summed up.  A knowledge at this period
of the futility of life, or earlier, if obtained by experience, is
very useful, because it is natural; but when a frail being is shown
the follies and vices of man, that he may be taught prudently to
guard against the common casualties of life by sacrificing his
heart--surely it is not speaking harshly to call it the wisdom of
this world, contrasted with the nobler fruit of piety and

I will venture a paradox, and deliver my opinion without reserve;
if men were only born to form a circle of life and death, it would
be wise to take every step that foresight could suggest to render
life happy.  Moderation in every pursuit would then be supreme
wisdom; and the prudent voluptuary might enjoy a degree of content,
though he neither cultivated his understanding nor kept his heart
pure.  Prudence, supposing we were mortal, would be true wisdom,
or, to be more explicit, would procure the greatest portion of
happiness, considering the whole of life; but knowledge beyond the
conveniences of life would be a curse.

Why should we injure our health by close study?  The exalted
pleasure which intellectual pursuits afford would scarcely be
equivalent to the hours of languor that follow; especially, if it
be necessary to take into the reckoning the doubts and
disappointments that cloud our researches.  Vanity and vexation
close every inquiry:  for the cause which we particularly wished to
discover flies like the horizon before us as we advance.  The
ignorant, on the contrary, resemble children, and suppose, that if
they could walk straight forward they should at last arrive where
the earth and clouds meet.  Yet, disappointed as we are in our
researches, the mind gains strength by the exercise, sufficient,
perhaps, to comprehend the answers which, in another step of
existence, it may receive to the anxious questions it asked, when
the understanding with feeble wing was fluttering round the visible
effects to dive into the hidden cause.

The passions also, the winds of life, would be useless, if not
injurious, did the substance which composes our thinking being,
after we have thought in vain, only become the support of vegetable
life, and invigorate a cabbage, or blush in a rose.  The appetites
would answer every earthly purpose, and produce more moderate and
permanent happiness.  But the powers of the soul that are of little
use here, and, probably, disturb our animal enjoyments, even while
conscious dignity makes us glory in possessing them, prove that
life is merely an education, a state of infancy, of which the only
hopes worth cherishing should not be sacrificed.  I mean, therefore
to infer, that we ought to have a precise idea of what we wish to
attain by education, for the immortality of the soul is
contradicted by the actions of many people, who firmly profess the

If you mean to secure ease and prosperity on earth as the first
consideration, and leave futurity to provide for itself, you act
prudently in giving your child an early insight into the weaknesses
of his nature.  You may not, it is true, make an Inkle of him; but
do not imagine that he will stick to more than the letter of the
law, who has very early imbibed a mean opinion of human nature; nor
will he think it necessary to rise much above the common standard.
He may avoid gross vices, because honesty is the best policy; but
he will never aim at attaining great virtues.  The example of
writers and artists will illustrate this remark.

I must therefore venture to doubt, whether what has been thought an
axiom in morals, may not have been a dogmatical assertion made by
men who have coolly seen mankind through the medium of books, and
say, in direct contradiction to them, that the regulation of the
passions is not always wisdom.  On the contrary, it should seem,
that one reason why men have superiour judgment and more fortitude
than women, is undoubtedly this, that they give a freer scope to
the grand passions, and by more frequently going astray, enlarge
their minds.  If then by the exercise of their own reason, they fix
on some stable principle, they have probably to thank the force of
their passions, nourished by FALSE views of life, and permitted to
overleap the boundary that secures content.  But if, in the dawn of
life, we could soberly survey the scenes before us as in
perspective, and see every thing in its true colours, how could the
passions gain sufficient strength to unfold the faculties?

Let me now, as from an eminence, survey the world stripped of all
its false delusive charms.  The clear atmosphere enables me to see
each object in its true point of view, while my heart is still.  I
am calm as the prospect in a morning when the mists, slowly
dispersing, silently unveil the beauties of nature, refreshed by

In what light will the world now appear?  I rub my eyes and think,
perchance, that I am just awaking from a lively dream.

I see the sons and daughters of men pursuing shadows, and anxiously
wasting their powers to feed passions which have no adequate
object--if the very excess of these blind impulses pampered by that
lying, yet constantly-trusted guide, the imagination, did not, by
preparing them for some other state, render short sighted mortals
wiser without their own concurrence; or, what comes to the same
thing, when they were pursuing some imaginary present good.

After viewing objects in this light, it would not be very fanciful
to imagine, that this world was a stage on which a pantomime is
daily performed for the amusement of superiour beings.  How would
they be diverted to see the ambitious man consuming himself by
running after a phantom, and, pursuing the bubble fame in "the
cannon's mouth" that was to blow him to nothing:  for when
consciousness is lost, it matters not whether we mount in a
whirlwind or descend in rain.  And should they compassionately
invigorate his sight, and show him the thorny path which led to
eminence, that like a quicksand sinks as he ascends, disappointing
his hopes when almost within his grasp, would he not leave to
others the honour of amusing them, and labour to secure the present
moment, though from the constitution of his nature he would not
find it very easy to catch the flying stream?  Such slaves are we
to hope and fear!

But, vain as the ambitious man's pursuit would be, he is often
striving for something more substantial than fame--that indeed
would be the veriest meteor, the wildest fire that could lure a man
to ruin.  What! renounce the most trifling gratification to be
applauded when he should be no more! Wherefore this struggle,
whether man is mortal or immortal, if that noble passion did not
really raise the being above his fellows?

And love!  What diverting scenes would it produce--Pantaloon's
tricks must yield to more egregious folly.  To see a mortal adorn
an object with imaginary charms, and then fall down and worship the
idol which he had himself set up--how ridiculous!  But what serious
consequences ensue to rob man of that portion of happiness, which
the Deity by calling him into existence has (or, on what can his
attributes rest?) indubitably promised; would not all the purposes
of life have been much better fulfilled if he had only felt what
has been termed physical love?  And, would not the sight of the
object, not seen through the medium of the imagination, soon reduce
the passion to an appetite, if reflection, the noble distinction of
man, did not give it force, and make it an instrument to raise him
above this earthy dross, by teaching him to love the centre of all
perfection! whose wisdom appears clearer and clearer in the works
of nature, in proportion as reason is illuminated and exalted by
contemplation, and by acquiring that love of order which the
struggles of passion produce?

The habit of reflection, and the knowledge attained by fostering
any passion, might be shown to be equally useful though the object
be proved equally fallacious; for they would all appear in the same
light, if they were not magnified by the governing passion
implanted in us by the Author of all good, to call forth and
strengthen the faculties of each individual, and enable it to
attain all the experience that an infant can obtain, who does
certain things, it cannot tell why.

I descend from my height, and mixing with my fellow creatures, feel
myself hurried along the common stream; ambition, love, hope, and
fear, exert their wonted power, though we be convinced by reason
that their present and most attractive promises are only lying
dreams; but had the cold hand of circumspection damped each
generous feeling before it had left any permanent character, or
fixed some habit, what could be expected, but selfish prudence and
reason just rising above instinct?  Who that has read Dean Swift's
disgusting description of the Yahoos, and insipid one of Houyhnhnm
with a philosophical eye, can avoid seeing the futility of
degrading the passions, or making man rest in contentment?

The youth should ACT; for had he the experience of a grey head, he
would be fitter for death than life, though his virtues, rather
residing in his head than his heart could produce nothing great,
and his understanding prepared for this world, would not, by its
noble flights, prove that it had a title to a better.

Besides, it is not possible to give a young person a just view of
life; he must have struggled with his own passions before he can
estimate the force of the temptation which betrayed his brother
into vice.  Those who are entering life, and those who are
departing, see the world from such very different points of view,
that they can seldom think alike, unless the unfledged reason of
the former never attempted a solitary flight.

When we hear of some daring crime--it comes full upon us in the
deepest shade of turpitude, and raises indignation; but the eye
that gradually saw the darkness thicken, must observe it with more
compassionate forbearance.  The world cannot be seen by an unmoved
spectator, we must mix in the throng, and feel as men feel before
we can judge of their feelings.  If we mean, in short, to live in
the world to grow wiser and better, and not merely to enjoy the
good things of life, we must attain a knowledge of others at the
same time that we become acquainted with ourselves-- knowledge
acquired any other way only hardens the heart and perplexes the

I may be told, that the knowledge thus acquired, is sometimes
purchased at too dear a rate.  I can only answer, that I very much
doubt whether any knowledge can be attained without labour and
sorrow; and those who wish to spare their children both, should not
complain if they are neither wise nor virtuous.  They only aimed at
making them prudent; and prudence, early in life, is but the
cautious craft of ignorant self-love.  I have observed, that young
people, to whose education particular attention has been paid,
have, in general, been very superficial and conceited, and far from
pleasing in any respect, because they had neither the unsuspecting
warmth of youth, nor the cool depth of age.  I cannot help imputing
this unnatural appearance principally to that hasty premature
instruction, which leads them presumptuously to repeat all the
crude notions they have taken upon trust, so that the careful
education which they received, makes them all their lives the
slaves of prejudices.

Mental as well as bodily exertion is, at first, irksome; so much
so, that the many would fain let others both work and think for
them.  An observation which I have often made will illustrate my
meaning.  When in a circle of strangers, or acquaintances, a person
of moderate abilities, asserts an opinion with heat, I will venture
to affirm, for I have traced this fact home, very often, that it is
a prejudice.  These echoes have a high respect for the
understanding of some relation or friend, and without fully
comprehending the opinions, which they are so eager to retail, they
maintain them with a degree of obstinacy, that would surprise even
the person who concocted them.

I know that a kind of fashion now prevails of respecting
prejudices; and when any one dares to face them, though actuated by
humanity and armed by reason, he is superciliously asked, whether
his ancestors were fools.  No, I should reply; opinions, at first,
of every description, were all, probably, considered, and therefore
were founded on some reason; yet not unfrequently, of course, it
was rather a local expedient than a fundamental principle, that
would be reasonable at all times.  But, moss-covered opinions
assume the disproportioned form of prejudices, when they are
indolently adopted only because age has given them a venerable
aspect, though the reason on which they were built ceases to be a
reason, or cannot be traced.  Why are we to love prejudices, merely
because they are prejudices?  A prejudice is a fond obstinate
persuasion, for which we can give no reason; for the moment a
reason can be given for an opinion, it ceases to be a prejudice,
though it may be an error in judgment:  and are we then advised to
cherish opinions only to set reason at defiance?  This mode of
arguing, if arguing it may be called, reminds me of what is
vulgarly termed a woman's reason.  For women sometimes declare that
they love, or believe certain things, BECAUSE they love, or believe

It is impossible to converse with people to any purpose, who, in
this style, only use affirmatives and negatives.  Before you can
bring them to a point, to start fairly from, you must go back to
the simple principles that were antecedent to the prejudices
broached by power; and it is ten to one but you are stopped by the
philosophical assertion, that certain principles are as practically
false as they are abstractly true.  Nay, it may be inferred, that
reason has whispered some doubts, for it generally happens that
people assert their opinions with the greatest heat when they begin
to waver; striving to drive out their own doubts by convincing
their opponent, they grow angry when those gnawing doubts are
thrown back to prey on themselves.

The fact is, that men expect from education, what education cannot
give.  A sagacious parent or tutor may strengthen the body and
sharpen the instruments by which the child is to gather knowledge;
but the honey must be the reward of the individual's own industry.
It is almost as absurd to attempt to make a youth wise by the
experience of another, as to expect the body to grow strong by the
exercise which is only talked of, or seen.

Many of those children whose conduct has been most narrowly
watched, become the weakest men, because their instructors only
instill certain notions into their minds, that have no other
foundation than their authority; and if they are loved or
respected, the mind is cramped in its exertions and wavering in its
advances.  The business of education in this case, is only to
conduct the shooting tendrils to a proper pole; yet after laying
precept upon precept, without allowing a child to acquire judgment
itself, parents expect them to act in the same manner by this
borrowed fallacious light, as if they had illuminated it
themselves; and be, when they enter life, what their parents are at
the close.  They do not consider that the tree, and even the human
body, does not strengthen its fibres till it has reached its full

There appears to be something analogous in the mind.  The senses
and the imagination give a form to the character, during childhood
and youth; and the understanding as life advances, gives firmness
to the first fair purposes of sensibility--till virtue, arising
rather from the clear conviction of reason than the impulse of the
heart, morality is made to rest on a rock against which the storms
of passion vainly beat.

I hope I shall not be misunderstood when I say, that religion will
not have this condensing energy, unless it be founded on reason.
If it be merely the refuge of weakness or wild fanaticism, and not
a governing principle of conduct, drawn from self-knowledge, and a
rational opinion respecting the attributes of God, what can it be
expected to produce?  The religion which consists in warming the
affections, and exalting the imagination, is only the poetical
part, and may afford the individual pleasure without rendering it a
more moral being.  It may be a substitute for worldly pursuits; yet
narrow instead of enlarging the heart:  but virtue must be loved as
in itself sublime and excellent, and not for the advantages it
procures or the evils it averts, if any great degree of excellence
be expected.  Men will not become moral when they only build airy
castles in a future world to compensate for the disappointments
which they meet with in this; if they turn their thoughts from
relative duties to religious reveries.

Most prospects in life are marred by the shuffling worldly wisdom
of men, who, forgetting that they cannot serve God and mammon,
endeavour to blend contradictory things.  If you wish to make your
son rich, pursue one course --if you are only anxious to make him
virtuous, you must take another; but do not imagine that you can
bound from one road to the other without losing your way.*

(*Footnote.  See an excellent essay on this subject by Mrs.
Barbauld, in Miscellaneous pieces in Prose.)



Educated in the enervating style recommended by the writers on whom
I have been animadverting; and not having a chance, from their
subordinate state in society, to recover their lost ground, is it
surprising that women every where appear a defect in nature?  Is it
surprising, when we consider what a determinate effect an early
association of ideas has on the character, that they neglect their
understandings, and turn all their attention to their persons?

The great advantages which naturally result from storing the mind
with knowledge, are obvious from the following considerations.  The
association of our ideas is either habitual or instantaneous; and
the latter mode seems rather to depend on the original temperature
of the mind than on the will.  When the ideas, and matters of fact,
are once taken in, they lie by for use, till some fortuitous
circumstance makes the information dart into the mind with
illustrative force, that has been received at very different
periods of our lives.  Like the lightning's flash are many
recollections; one idea assimilating and explaining another, with
astonishing rapidity.  I do not now allude to that quick perception
of truth, which is so intuitive that it baffles research, and makes
us at a loss to determine whether it is reminiscence or
ratiocination, lost sight of in its celerity, that opens the dark
cloud.  Over those instantaneous associations we have little power;
for when the mind is once enlarged by excursive flights, or
profound reflection, the raw materials, will, in some degree,
arrange themselves.  The understanding, it is true, may keep us
from going out of drawing when we group our thoughts, or transcribe
from the imagination the warm sketches of fancy; but the animal
spirits, the individual character give the colouring.  Over this
subtile electric fluid,* how little power do we possess, and over
it how little power can reason obtain!  These fine intractable
spirits appear to be the essence of genius, and beaming in its
eagle eye, produce in the most eminent degree the happy energy of
associating thoughts that surprise, delight, and instruct.  These
are the glowing minds that concentrate pictures for their
fellow-creatures; forcing them to view with interest the objects
reflected from the impassioned imagination, which they passed over
in nature.

(*Footnote.  I have sometimes, when inclined to laugh at
materialists, asked whether, as the most powerful effects in nature
are apparently produced by fluids, the magnetic, etc. the passions
might not be fine volatile fluids that embraced humanity, keeping
the more refractory elementary parts together--or whether they were
simply a liquid fire that pervaded the more sluggish materials
giving them life and heat?)

I must be allowed to explain myself.  The generality of people
cannot see or feel poetically, they want fancy, and therefore fly
from solitude in search of sensible objects; but when an author
lends them his eyes, they can see as he saw, and be amused by
images they could not select, though lying before them.

Education thus only supplies the man of genius with knowledge to
give variety and contrast to his associations; but there is an
habitual association of ideas, that grows "with our growth," which
has a great effect on the moral character of mankind; and by which
a turn is given to the mind, that commonly remains throughout life.
So ductile is the understanding, and yet so stubborn, that the
associations which depend on adventitious circumstances, during the
period that the body takes to arrive at maturity, can seldom be
disentangled by reason.  One idea calls up another, its old
associate, and memory, faithful to the first impressions,
particularly when the intellectual powers are not employed to cool
our sensations, retraces them with mechanical exactness.

This habitual slavery, to first impressions, has a more baneful
effect on the female than the male character, because business and
other dry employments of the understanding, tend to deaden the
feelings and break associations that do violence to reason.  But
females, who are made women of when they are mere children, and
brought back to childhood when they ought to leave the go-cart
forever, have not sufficient strength of mind to efface the
superinductions of art that have smothered nature.

Every thing that they see or hear serves to fix impressions, call
forth emotions, and associate ideas, that give a sexual character
to the mind.  False notions of beauty and delicacy stop the growth
of their limbs and produce a sickly soreness, rather than delicacy
of organs; and thus weakened by being employed in unfolding instead
of examining the first associations, forced on them by every
surrounding object, how can they attain the vigour necessary to
enable them to throw off their factitious character?--where find
strength to recur to reason and rise superior to a system of
oppression, that blasts the fair promises of spring?  This cruel
association of ideas, which every thing conspires to twist into all
their habits of thinking, or, to speak with more precision, of
feeling, receives new force when they begin to act a little for
themselves; for they then perceive, that it is only through their
address to excite emotions in men, that pleasure and power are to
be obtained.  Besides, all the books professedly written for their
instruction, which make the first impression on their minds, all
inculcate the same opinions.  Educated in worse than Egyptian
bondage, it is unreasonable, as well as cruel, to upbraid them with
faults that can scarcely be avoided, unless a degree of native
vigour be supposed, that falls to the lot of very few amongst

For instance, the severest sarcasms have been levelled against the
sex, and they have been ridiculed for repeating "a set of phrases
learnt by rote," when nothing could be more natural, considering
the education they receive, and that their "highest praise is to
obey, unargued"--the will of man.  If they are not allowed to have
reason sufficient to govern their own conduct--why, all they
learn--must be learned by rote!  And when all their ingenuity is
called forth to adjust their dress, "a passion for a scarlet coat,"
is so natural, that it never surprised me; and, allowing Pope's
summary of their character to be just, "that every woman is at
heart a rake," why should they be bitterly censured for seeking a
congenial mind, and preferring a rake to a man of sense?

Rakes know how to work on their sensibility, whilst the modest
merit of reasonable men has, of course, less effect on their
feelings, and they cannot reach the heart by the way of the
understanding, because they have few sentiments in common.

It seems a little absurd to expect women to be more reasonable than
men in their LIKINGS, and still to deny them the uncontroled use of
reason.  When do men FALL IN LOVE with sense?  When do they, with
their superior powers and advantages, turn from the person to the
mind?  And how can they then expect women, who are only taught to
observe behaviour, and acquire manners rather than morals, to
despise what they have been all their lives labouring to attain?
Where are they suddenly to find judgment enough to weigh patiently
the sense of an awkward virtuous man, when his manners, of which
they are made critical judges, are rebuffing, and his conversation
cold and dull, because it does not consist of pretty repartees, or
well-turned compliments?  In order to admire or esteem any thing
for a continuance, we must, at least, have our curiosity excited by
knowing, in some degree, what we admire; for we are unable to
estimate the value of qualities and virtues above our
comprehension.  Such a respect, when it is felt, may be very
sublime; and the confused consciousness of humility may render the
dependent creature an interesting object, in some points of view;
but human love must have grosser ingredients; and the person very
naturally will come in for its share--and, an ample share it mostly

Love is, in a great degree, an arbitrary passion, and will reign
like some other stalking mischiefs, by its own authority, without
deigning to reason; and it may also be easily distinguished from
esteem, the foundation of friendship, because it is often excited
by evanescent beauties and graces, though to give an energy to the
sentiment something more solid must deepen their impression and set
the imagination to work, to make the most fair-- the first good.

Common passions are excited by common qualities.  Men look for
beauty and the simper of good humoured docility:  women are
captivated by easy manners: a gentleman-like man seldom fails to
please them, and their thirsty ears eagerly drink the insinuating
nothings of politeness, whilst they turn from the unintelligible
sounds of the charmer--reason, charm he never so wisely.  With
respect to superficial accomplishments, the rake certainly has the
advantage; and of these, females can form an opinion, for it is
their own ground.  Rendered gay and giddy by the whole tenor of
their lives, the very aspect of wisdom, or the severe graces of
virtue must have a lugubrious appearance to them; and produce a
kind of restraint from which they and love, sportive child,
naturally revolt.  Without taste, excepting of the lighter kind,
for taste is the offspring of judgment, how can they discover, that
true beauty and grace must arise from the play of the mind? and how
can they be expected to relish in a lover what they do not, or very
imperfectly, possess themselves?  The sympathy that unites hearts,
and invites to confidence, in them is so very faint, that it cannot
take fire, and thus mount to passion.  No, I repeat it, the love
cherished by such minds, must have grosser fuel!

The inference is obvious; till women are led to exercise their
understandings, they should not be satirized for their attachment
to rakes; nor even for being rakes at heart, when it appears to be
the inevitable consequence of their education.  They who live to
please must find their enjoyments, their happiness, in pleasure!
It is a trite, yet true remark, that we never do any thing well,
unless we love it for its own sake.

Supposing, however, for a moment, that women were, in some future
revolution of time, to become, what I sincerely wish them to be,
even love would acquire more serious dignity, and be purified in
its own fires; and virtue giving true delicacy to their affections,
they would turn with disgust from a rake.  Reasoning then, as well
as feeling, the only province of woman, at present, they might
easily guard against exterior graces, and quickly learn to despise
the sensibility that had been excited and hackneyed in the ways of
women, whose trade was vice; and allurement's wanton airs.  They
would recollect that the flame, (one must use appropriate
expressions,) which they wished to light up, had been exhausted by
lust, and that the sated appetite, losing all relish for pure and
simple pleasures, could only be roused by licentious arts of
variety.  What satisfaction could a woman of delicacy promise
herself in a union with such a man, when the very artlessness of
her affection might appear insipid?  Thus does Dryden describe the

"Where love is duty on the female side,
On theirs mere sensual gust, and sought with surly pride."

But one grand truth women have yet to learn, though much it imports
them to act accordingly.  In the choice of a husband they should
not be led astray by the qualities of a lover--for a lover the
husband, even supposing him to be wise and virtuous, cannot long

Were women more rationally educated, could they take a more
comprehensive view of things, they would be contented to love but
once in their lives; and after marriage calmly let passion subside
into friendship--into that tender intimacy, which is the best
refuge from care; yet is built on such pure, still affections, that
idle jealousies would not be allowed to disturb the discharge of
the sober duties of life, nor to engross the thoughts that ought to
be otherwise employed.  This is a state in which many men live; but
few, very few women.  And the difference may easily be accounted
for, without recurring to a sexual character.  Men, for whom we are
told women are made, have too much occupied the thoughts of women;
and this association has so entangled love, with all their motives
of action; and, to harp a little on an old string, having been
solely employed either to prepare themselves to excite love, or
actually putting their lessons in practice, they cannot live
without love.  But, when a sense of duty, or fear of shame, obliges
them to restrain this pampered desire of pleasing beyond certain
lengths, too far for delicacy, it is true, though far from
criminality, they obstinately determine to love, I speak of their
passion, their husbands to the end of the chapter--and then acting
the part which they foolishly exacted from their lovers, they
become abject wooers, and fond slaves.

Men of wit and fancy are often rakes; and fancy is the food of
love.  Such men will inspire passion.  Half the sex, in its present
infantine state, would pine for a Lovelace; a man so witty, so
graceful, and so valiant; and can they DESERVE blame for acting
according to principles so constantly inculcated?  They want a
lover and protector: and behold him kneeling before them--bravery
prostrate to beauty!  The virtues of a husband are thus thrown by
love into the background, and gay hopes, or lively emotions, banish
reflection till the day of reckoning comes; and come it surely
will, to turn the sprightly lover into a surly suspicious tyrant,
who contemptuously insults the very weakness he fostered.  Or,
supposing the rake reformed, he cannot quickly get rid of old
habits.  When a man of abilities is first carried away by his
passions, it is necessary that sentiment and taste varnish the
enormities of vice, and give a zest to brutal indulgences: but when
the gloss of novelty is worn off, and pleasure palls upon the
sense, lasciviousness becomes barefaced, and enjoyment only the
desperate effort of weakness flying from reflection as from a
legion of devils.  Oh! virtue, thou art not an empty name!  All
that life can give-- thou givest!

If much comfort cannot be expected from the friendship of a
reformed rake of superior abilities, what is the consequence when
he lacketh sense, as well as principles?  Verily misery in its most
hideous shape.  When the habits of weak people are consolidated by
time, a reformation is barely possible; and actually makes the
beings miserable who have not sufficient mind to be amused by
innocent pleasure; like the tradesman who retires from the hurry of
business, nature presents to them only a universal blank; and the
restless thoughts prey on the damped spirits.  Their reformation as
well as his retirement actually makes them wretched, because it
deprives them of all employment, by quenching the hopes and fears
that set in motion their sluggish minds.

If such be the force of habit; if such be the bondage of folly, how
carefully ought we to guard the mind from storing up vicious
associations; and equally careful should we be to cultivate the
understanding, to save the poor wight from the weak dependent state
of even harmless ignorance.  For it is the right use of reason
alone which makes us independent of every thing--excepting the
unclouded Reason--"Whose service is perfect freedom."



Modesty!  Sacred offspring of sensibility and reason! true delicacy
of mind! may I unblamed presume to investigate thy nature, and
trace to its covert the mild charm, that mellowing each harsh
feature of a character, renders what would otherwise only inspire
cold admiration--lovely!  Thou that smoothest the wrinkles of
wisdom, and softenest the tone of the more sublime virtues till
they all melt into humanity! thou that spreadest the ethereal cloud
that surrounding love heightens every beauty, it half shades,
breathing those coy sweets that steal into the heart, and charm the
senses--modulate for me the language of persuasive reason, till I
rouse my sex from the flowery bed, on which they supinely sleep
life away!

In speaking of the association of our ideas, I have noticed two
distinct modes; and in defining modesty, it appears to me equally
proper to discriminate that purity of mind, which is the effect of
chastity, from a simplicity of character that leads us to form a
just opinion of ourselves, equally distant from vanity or
presumption, though by no means incompatible with a lofty
consciousness of our own dignity.  Modesty in the latter
signification of the term, is that soberness of mind which teaches
a man not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think,
and should be distinguished from humility, because humility is a
kind of self-abasement.  A modest man often conceives a great plan,
and tenaciously adheres to it, conscious of his own strength, till
success gives it a sanction that determines its character.  Milton
was not arrogant when he suffered a suggestion of judgment to
escape him that proved a prophesy; nor was General Washington when
he accepted of the command of the American forces.  The latter has
always been characterized as a modest man; but had he been merely
humble, he would probably have shrunk back irresolute, afraid of
trusting to himself the direction of an enterprise on which so much

A modest man is steady, an humble man timid, and a vain one
presumptuous; this is the judgment, which the observation of many
characters, has led me to form.  Jesus Christ was modest, Moses was
humble, and Peter vain.

Thus discriminating modesty from humility in one case, I do not
mean to confound it with bashfulness in the other.  Bashfulness, in
fact, is so distinct from modesty, that the most bashful lass, or
raw country lout, often becomes the most impudent; for their
bashfulness being merely the instinctive timidity of ignorance,
custom soon changes it into assurance.*

(*Footnote.  "Such is the country-maiden's fright,
When first a red-coat is in sight;
Behind the door she hides her face,
Next time at distance eyes the lace:
She now can all his terrors stand,
Nor from his squeeze withdraws her hand,
She plays familiar in his arms,
And every soldier hath his charms;
>From tent to tent she spreads her flame;
For custom conquers fear and shame.")

The shameless behaviour of the prostitutes who infest the streets
of London, raising alternate emotions of pity and disgust, may
serve to illustrate this remark.  They trample on virgin
bashfulness with a sort of bravado, and glorying in their shame,
become more audaciously lewd than men, however depraved, to whom
the sexual quality has not been gratuitously granted, ever appear
to be.  But these poor ignorant wretches never had any modesty to
lose, when they consigned themselves to infamy; for modesty is a
virtue not a quality.  No, they were only bashful, shame-faced
innocents; and losing their innocence, their shame-facedness was
rudely brushed off; a virtue would have left some vestiges in the
mind, had it been sacrificed to passion, to make us respect the
grand ruin.

Purity of mind, or that genuine delicacy, which is the only
virtuous support of chastity, is near a-kin to that refinement of
humanity, which never resides in any but cultivated minds.  It is
something nobler than innocence; it is the delicacy of reflection,
and not the coyness of ignorance.  The reserve of reason, which
like habitual cleanliness, is seldom seen in any great degree,
unless the soul is active, may easily be distinguished from rustic
shyness or wanton skittishness; and so far from being incompatible
with knowledge, it is its fairest fruit.  What a gross idea of
modesty had the writer of the following remark!  "The lady who
asked the question whether women may be instructed in the modern
system of botany, consistently with female delicacy?" was accused
of ridiculous prudery:  nevertheless, if she had proposed the
question to me, I should certainly have answered--They cannot."
Thus is the fair book of knowledge to be shut with an everlasting
seal!  On reading similar passages I have reverentially lifted up
my eyes and heart to Him who liveth for ever and ever, and said, O
my Father, hast Thou by the very constitution of her nature forbid
Thy child to seek Thee in the fair forms of truth?  And, can her
soul be sullied by the knowledge that awfully calls her to Thee?

I have then philosophically pursued these reflections till I
inferred, that those women who have most improved their reason must
have the most modesty --though a dignified sedateness of deportment
may have succeeded the playful, bewitching bashfulness of youth.*

(*Footnote.  Modesty, is the graceful calm virtue of maturity;
bashfulness, the charm of vivacious youth.)

And thus have I argued.  To render chastity the virtue from which
unsophisticated modesty will naturally flow, the attention should
be called away from employments, which only exercise the
sensibility; and the heart made to beat time to humanity, rather
than to throb with love.  The woman who has dedicated a
considerable portion of her time to pursuits purely intellectual,
and whose affections have been exercised by humane plans of
usefulness, must have more purity of mind, as a natural
consequence, than the ignorant beings whose time and thoughts have
been occupied by gay pleasures or schemes to conquer hearts.  The
regulation of the behaviour is not modesty, though those who study
rules of decorum, are, in general termed modest women.  Make the
heart clean, let it expand and feel for all that is human, instead
of being narrowed by selfish passions; and let the mind frequently
contemplate subjects that exercise the understanding, without
heating the imagination, and artless modesty will give the
finishing touches to the picture.

She who can discern the dawn of immortality, in the streaks that
shoot athwart the misty night of ignorance, promising a clearer
day, will respect, as a sacred temple, the body that enshrines such
an improvable soul.  True love, likewise, spreads this kind of
mysterious sanctity round the beloved object, making the lover most
modest when in her presence.  So reserved is affection, that,
receiving or returning personal endearments, it wishes, not only to
shun the human eye, as a kind of profanation; but to diffuse an
encircling cloudy obscurity to shut out even the saucy sparkling
sunbeams.  Yet, that affection does not deserve the epithet of
chaste which does not receive a sublime gloom of tender melancholy,
that allows the mind for a moment to stand still and enjoy the
present satisfaction, when a consciousness of the Divine presence
is felt--for this must ever be the food of joy!

As I have always been fond of tracing to its source in nature any
prevailing custom, I have frequently thought that it was a
sentiment of affection for whatever had touched the person of an
absent or lost friend, which gave birth to that respect for relics,
so much abused by selfish priests.  Devotion, or love, may be
allowed to hallow the garments as well as the person; for the lover
must want fancy, who has not a sort of sacred respect for the glove
or slipper of his mistress.  He could not confound them with vulgar
things of the same kind.

This fine sentiment, perhaps, would not bear to be analyzed by the
experimental philosopher--but of such stuff is human rapture made
up!-- A shadowy phantom glides before us, obscuring every other
object; yet when the soft cloud is grasped, the form melts into
common air, leaving a solitary void, or sweet perfume, stolen from
the violet, that memory long holds dear.  But, I have tripped
unawares on fairy ground, feeling the balmy gale of spring stealing
on me, though November frowns.

As a sex, women are more chaste than men, and as modesty is the
effect of chastity, they may deserve to have this virtue ascribed
to them in rather an appropriated sense; yet, I must be allowed to
add an hesitating if:-- for I doubt, whether chastity will produce
modesty, though it may propriety of conduct, when it is merely a
respect for the opinion of the world, and when coquetry and the
lovelorn tales of novelists employ the thoughts.  Nay, from
experience, and reason, I should be lead to expect to meet with
more modesty amongst men than women, simply because men exercise
their understandings more than women.

But, with respect to propriety of behaviour, excepting one class of
females, women have evidently the advantage.  What can be more
disgusting than that impudent dross of gallantry, thought so manly,
which makes many men stare insultingly at every female they meet?
Is this respect for the sex?  This loose behaviour shows such
habitual depravity, such weakness of mind, that it is vain to
expect much public or private virtue, till both men and women grow
more modest--till men, curbing a sensual fondness for the sex, or
an affectation of manly assurance, more properly speaking,
impudence, treat each other with respect--unless appetite or
passion gives the tone, peculiar to it, to their behaviour.  I mean
even personal respect--the modest respect of humanity, and
fellow-feeling; not the libidinous mockery of gallantry, nor the
insolent condescension of protectorship.

To carry the observation still further, modesty must heartily
disclaim, and refuse to dwell with that debauchery of mind, which
leads a man coolly to bring forward, without a blush, indecent
allusions, or obscene witticisms, in the presence of a fellow
creature; women are now out of the question, for then it is
brutality.  Respect for man, as man is the foundation of every
noble sentiment.  How much more modest is the libertine who obeys
the call of appetite or fancy, than the lewd joker who sets the
table in a roar.

This is one of the many instances in which the sexual distinction
respecting modesty has proved fatal to virtue and happiness.  It
is, however, carried still further, and woman, weak woman! made by
her education the slave of sensibility, is required, on the most
trying occasions, to resist that sensibility.  "Can any thing,"
says Knox, be more absurd than keeping women in a state of
ignorance, and yet so vehemently to insist on their resisting
temptation?  Thus when virtue or honour make it proper to check a
passion, the burden is thrown on the weaker shoulders, contrary to
reason and true modesty, which, at least, should render the
self-denial mutual, to say nothing of the generosity of bravery,
supposed to be a manly virtue.

In the same strain runs Rousseau's and Dr. Gregory's advice
respecting modesty, strangely miscalled! for they both desire a
wife to leave it in doubt, whether sensibility or weakness led her
to her husband's arms.  The woman is immodest who can let the
shadow of such a doubt remain on her husband's mind a moment.

But to state the subject in a different light.  The want of
modesty, which I principally deplore as subversive of morality,
arises from the state of warfare so strenuously supported by
voluptuous men as the very essence of modesty, though, in fact, its
bane; because it is a refinement on sensual desire, that men fall
into who have not sufficient virtue to relish the innocent
pleasures of love.  A man of delicacy carries his notions of
modesty still further, for neither weakness nor sensibility will
gratify him--he looks for affection.

Again; men boast of their triumphs over women, what do they boast
of? Truly the creature of sensibility was surprised by her
sensibility into folly--into vice;* and the dreadful reckoning
falls heavily on her own weak head, when reason wakes.  For where
art thou to find comfort, forlorn and disconsolate one?  He who
ought to have directed thy reason, and supported thy weakness, has
betrayed thee!  In a dream of passion thou consentedst to wander
through flowery lawns, and heedlessly stepping over the precipice
to which thy guide, instead of guarding, lured thee, thou startest
from thy dream only to face a sneering, frowning world, and to find
thyself alone in a waste, for he that triumphed in thy weakness is
now pursuing new conquests; but for thee--there is no redemption on
this side the grave!  And what resource hast thou in an enervated
mind to raise a sinking heart?

(*Footnote.  The poor moth fluttering round a candle, burns its

But, if the sexes be really to live in a state of warfare, if
nature has pointed it out, let men act nobly, or let pride whisper
to them, that the victory is mean when they merely vanquish
sensibility.  The real conquest is that over affection not taken by
surprise--when, like Heloisa, a woman gives up all the world,
deliberately, for love.  I do not now consider the wisdom or virtue
of such a sacrifice, I only contend that it was a sacrifice to
affection, and not merely to sensibility, though she had her share.
And I must be allowed to call her a modest woman, before I dismiss
this part of the subject, by saying, that till men are more chaste,
women will be immodest.  Where, indeed, could modest women find
husbands from whom they would not continually turn with disgust?
Modesty must be equally cultivated by both sexes, or it will ever
remain a sickly hot-house plant, whilst the affectation of it, the
fig leaf borrowed by wantonness, may give a zest to voluptuous

Men will probably still insist that woman ought to have more
modesty than man; but it is not dispassionate reasoners who will
most earnestly oppose my opinion.  No, they are the men of fancy,
the favourites of the sex, who outwardly respect, and inwardly
despise the weak creatures whom they thus sport with.  They cannot
submit to resign the highest sensual gratification, nor even to
relish the epicurism of virtue--self-denial.

To take another view of the subject, confining my remarks to women.

The ridiculous falsities which are told to children, from mistaken
notions of modesty, tend very early to inflame their imaginations
and set their little minds to work, respecting subjects, which
nature never intended they should think of, till the body arrived
at some degree of maturity; then the passions naturally begin to
take place of the senses, as instruments to unfold the
understanding, and form the moral character.

In nurseries, and boarding schools, I fear, girls are first
spoiled; particularly in the latter.  A number of girls sleep in
the same room, and wash together.  And, though I should be sorry to
contaminate an innocent creature's mind by instilling false
delicacy, or those indecent prudish notions, which early cautions
respecting the other sex naturally engender, I should be very
anxious to prevent their acquiring indelicate, or immodest habits;
and as many girls have learned very indelicate tricks, from
ignorant servants, the mixing them thus indiscriminately together,
is very improper.

To say the truth, women are, in general, too familiar with each
other, which leads to that gross degree of familiarity that so
frequently renders the marriage state unhappy.  Why in the name of
decency are sisters, female intimates, or ladies and their waiting
women, to be so grossly familiar as to forget the respect which one
human creature owes to another?  That squeamish delicacy which
shrinks from the most disgusting offices when affection or humanity
lead us to watch at a sick pillow, is despicable.  But, why women
in health should be more familiar with each other than men are,
when they boast of their superiour delicacy, is a solecism in
manners which I could never solve.

In order to preserve health and beauty, I should earnestly
recommend frequent ablutions, to dignify my advice that it may not
offend the fastidious ear; and, by example, girls ought to be
taught to wash and dress alone, without any distinction of rank;
and if custom should make them require some little assistance, let
them not require it till that part of the business is over which
ought never to be done before a fellow-creature; because it is an
insult to the majesty of human nature.  Not on the score of
modesty, but decency; for the care which some modest women take,
making at the same time a display of that care, not to let their
legs be seen, is as childish as immodest.*

(*Footnote.  I remember to have met with a sentence, in a book of
education that made me smile.  "It would be needless to caution you
against putting your hand, by chance, under your neck-handkerchief;
for a modest woman never did so!")

I could proceed still further, till I animadverted on some still
more indelicate customs, which men never fall into.  Secrets are
told--where silence ought to reign; and that regard to cleanliness,
which some religious sects have, perhaps, carried too far,
especially the Essenes, amongst the Jews, by making that an insult
to God which is only an insult to humanity, is violated in a brutal
manner.  How can DELICATE women obtrude on notice that part of the
animal economy, which is so very disgusting?  And is it not very
rational to conclude, that the women who have not been taught to
respect the human nature of their own sex, in these particulars,
will not long respect the mere difference of sex, in their
husbands?  After their maidenish bashfulness is once lost, I, in
fact, have generally observed, that women fall into old habits; and
treat their husbands as they did their sisters or female

Besides, women from necessity, because their minds are not
cultivated, have recourse very often, to what I familiarly term
bodily wit; and their intimacies are of the same kind.  In short,
with respect to both mind and body, they are too intimate.  That
decent personal reserve, which is the foundation of dignity of
character, must be kept up between women, or their minds will never
gain strength or modesty.

On this account also, I object to many females being shut up
together in nurseries, schools, or convents.  I cannot recollect
without indignation, the jokes and hoiden tricks, which knots of
young women indulged themselves in, when in my youth accident threw
me, an awkward rustic, in their way.  They were almost on a par
with the double meanings, which shake the convivial table when the
glass has circulated freely.  But it is vain to attempt to keep the
heart pure, unless the head is furnished with ideas, and set to
work to compare them, in order, to acquire judgment, by
generalizing simple ones; and modesty by making the understanding
damp the sensibility.

It may be thought that I lay too great a stress on personal
reserve; but it is ever the hand-maid of modesty.  So that were I
to name the graces that ought to adorn beauty, I should instantly
exclaim, cleanliness, neatness, and personal reserve.  It is
obvious, I suppose, that the reserve I mean, has nothing sexual in
it, and that I think it EQUALLY necessary in both sexes.  So
necessary indeed, is that reserve and cleanliness which indolent
women too often neglect, that I will venture to affirm, that when
two or three women live in the same house, the one will be most
respected by the male part of the family, who reside with them,
leaving love entirely out of the question, who pays this kind of
habitual respect to her person.

When domestic friends meet in a morning, there will naturally
prevail an affectionate seriousness, especially, if each look
forward to the discharge of daily duties; and it may be reckoned
fanciful, but this sentiment has frequently risen spontaneously in
my mind.  I have been pleased after breathing the sweet bracing
morning air, to see the same kind of freshness in the countenances
I particularly loved; I was glad to see them braced, as it were,
for the day, and ready to run their course with the sun.  The
greetings of affection in the morning are by these means more
respectful, than the familiar tenderness which frequently prolongs
the evening talk.  Nay, I have often felt hurt, not to say
disgusted, when a friend has appeared, whom I parted with full
dressed the evening before, with her clothes huddled on, because
she chose to indulge herself in bed till the last moment.

Domestic affection can only be kept alive by these neglected
attentions; yet if men and women took half as much pains to dress
habitually neat, as they do to ornament, or rather to disfigure
their persons, much would be done towards the attainment of purity
of mind.  But women only dress to gratify men of gallantry; for the
lover is always best pleased with the simple garb that sits close
to the shape.  There is an impertinence in ornaments that rebuffs
affection; because love always clings round the idea of home.

As a sex, women are habitually indolent; and every thing tends to
make them so.  I do not forget the starts of activity which
sensibility produces; but as these flights of feeling only increase
the evil, they are not to be confounded with the slow, orderly walk
of reason.  So great, in reality, is their mental and bodily
indolence, that till their body be strengthened and their
understanding enlarged by active exertions, there is little reason
to expect that modesty will take place of bashfulness.  They may
find it prudent to assume its semblance; but the fair veil will
only be worn on gala days.

Perhaps there is not a virtue that mixes so kindly with every other
as modesty.  It is the pale moon-beam that renders more interesting
every virtue it softens, giving mild grandeur to the contracted
horizon.  Nothing can be more beautiful than the poetical fiction,
which makes Diana with her silver crescent, the goddess of
chastity.  I have sometimes thought, that wandering with sedate
step in some lonely recess, a modest dame of antiquity must have
felt a glow of conscious dignity, when, after contemplating the
soft shadowy landscape, she has invited with placid fervour the
mild reflection of her sister's beams to turn to her chaste bosom.

A Christian has still nobler motives to incite her to preserve her
chastity and acquire modesty, for her body has been called the
Temple of the living God; of that God who requires more than
modesty of mien.  His eye searcheth the heart; and let her
remember, that if she hopeth to find favour in the sight of purity
itself, her chastity must be founded on modesty, and not on worldly
prudence; or verily a good reputation will be her only reward; for
that awful intercourse, that sacred communion, which virtue
establishes between man and his Maker, must give rise to the wish
of being pure as he is pure!

After the foregoing remarks, it is almost superfluous to add, that
I consider all those feminine airs of maturity, which succeed
bashfulness, to which truth is sacrificed, to secure the heart of a
husband, or rather to force him to be still a lover when nature
would, had she not been interrupted in her operations, have made
love give place to friendship, as immodest.  The tenderness which a
man will feel for the mother of his children is an excellent
substitute for the ardour of unsatisfied passion; but to prolong
that ardour it is indelicate, not to say immodest, for women to
feign an unnatural coldness of constitution.  Women as well as men
ought to have the common appetites and passions of their nature,
they are only brutal when unchecked by reason:  but the obligation
to check them is the duty of mankind, not a sexual duty.  Nature,
in these respects, may safely be left to herself; let women only
acquire knowledge and humanity, and love will teach them modesty.
There is no need of falsehoods, disgusting as futile, for studied
rules of behaviour only impose on shallow observers; a man of sense
soon sees through, and despises the affectation.

The behaviour of young people, to each other, as men and women, is
the last thing that should be thought of in education.  In fact,
behaviour in most circumstances is now so much thought of, that
simplicity of character is rarely to be seen;  yet, if men were
only anxious to cultivate each virtue, and let it take root firmly
in the mind, the grace resulting from it, its natural exteriour
mark, would soon strip affectation of its flaunting plumes;
because, fallacious as unstable, is the conduct that is not founded
upon truth!

(Footnote.  The behaviour of many newly married women has often
disgusted me.  They seem anxious never to let their husbands forget
the privilege of marriage, and to find no pleasure in his society
unless he is acting the lover.  Short, indeed, must be the reign of
love, when the flame is thus constantly blown up, without its
receiving any solid fuel.)

Would ye, O my sisters, really possess modesty, ye must remember
that the possession of virtue, of any denomination, is incompatible
with ignorance and vanity! ye must acquire that soberness of mind,
which the exercise of duties, and the pursuit of knowledge, alone
inspire, or ye will still remain in a doubtful dependent situation,
and only be loved whilst ye are fair! the downcast eye, the rosy
blush, the retiring grace, are all proper in their season; but
modesty, being the child of reason, cannot long exist with the
sensibility that is not tempered by reflection.  Besides, when
love, even innocent love, is the whole employ of your lives, your
hearts will be too soft to afford modesty that tranquil retreat,
where she delights to dwell, in close union with humanity.



It has long since occurred to me, that advice respecting behaviour,
and all the various modes of preserving a good reputation, which
have been so strenuously inculcated on the female world, were
specious poisons, that incrusting morality eat away the substance.
And, that this measuring of shadows produced a false calculation,
because their length depends so much on the height of the sun, and
other adventitious circumstances.

>From whence arises the easy fallacious behaviour of a courtier?
>From this situation, undoubtedly:  for standing in need of
dependents, he is obliged to learn the art of denying without
giving offence, and, of evasively feeding hope with the chameleon's
food;  thus does politeness sport with truth, and eating away the
sincerity and humanity natural to man, produce the fine gentleman.

Women in the same way acquire, from a supposed necessity, an
equally artificial mode of behaviour.  Yet truth is not with
impunity to be sported with, for the practised dissembler, at last,
becomes the dupe of his own arts, loses that sagacity which has
been justly termed common sense; namely, a quick perception of
common truths:  which are constantly received as such by the
unsophisticated mind, though it might not have had sufficient
energy to discover them itself, when obscured by local prejudices.
The greater number of people take their opinions on trust, to avoid
the trouble of exercising their own minds, and these indolent
beings naturally adhere to the letter, rather than the spirit of a
law, divine or human.  "Women," says some author, I cannot
recollect who, "mind not what only heaven sees."  Why, indeed
should they? it is the eye of man that they have been taught to
dread--and if they can lull their Argus to sleep, they seldom think
of heaven or themselves, because their reputation is safe; and it
is reputation not chastity and all its fair train, that they are
employed to keep free from spot, not as a virtue, but to preserve
their station in the world.

To prove the truth of this remark, I need only advert to the
intrigues of married women, particularly in high life, and in
countries where women are suitably married, according to their
respective ranks by their parents.  If an innocent girl become a
prey to love, she is degraded forever, though her mind was not
polluted by the arts which married women, under the convenient
cloak of marriage, practise; nor has she violated any duty--but the
duty of respecting herself.  The married woman, on the contrary,
breaks a most sacred engagement, and becomes a cruel mother when
she is a false and faithless wife.  If her husband has still an
affection for her, the arts which she must practise to deceive him,
will render her the most contemptible of human beings; and at any
rate, the contrivances necessary to preserve appearances, will keep
her mind in that childish or vicious tumult which destroys all its
energy.  Besides, in time, like those people who habitually take
cordials to raise their spirits, she will want an intrigue to give
life to her thoughts, having lost all relish for pleasures that are
not highly seasoned by hope or fear.

Sometimes married women act still more audaciously; I will mention
an instance.

A woman of quality, notorious for her gallantries, though as she
still lived with her husband, nobody chose to place her in the
class where she ought to have been placed, made a point of treating
with the most insulting contempt a poor timid creature, abashed by
a sense of her former weakness, whom a neighbouring gentleman had
seduced and afterwards married.  This woman had actually confounded
virtue with reputation; and, I do believe, valued herself on the
propriety of her behaviour before marriage, though when once
settled, to the satisfaction of her family, she and her lord were
equally faithless--so that the half alive heir to an immense estate
came from heaven knows where!

To view this subject in another light.

I have known a number of women who, if they did not love their
husbands, loved nobody else, giving themselves entirely up to
vanity and dissipation, neglecting every domestic duty; nay, even
squandering away all the money which should have been saved for
their helpless younger children, yet have plumed themselves on
their unsullied reputation, as if the whole compass of their duty
as wives and mothers was only to preserve it.  Whilst other
indolent women, neglecting every personal duty, have thought that
they deserved their husband's affection, because they acted in this
respect with propriety.

Weak minds are always fond of resting in the ceremonials of duty,
but morality offers much simpler motives; and it were to be wished
that superficial moralists had said less respecting behaviour, and
outward observances, for unless virtue, of any kind, is built on
knowledge, it will only produce a kind of insipid decency.  Respect
for the opinion of the world, has, however, been termed the
principal duty of woman in the most express words, for Rousseau
declares, "that reputation is no less indispensable than chastity."
"A man," adds he, "secure in his own good conduct, depends only on
himself, and may brave the public opinion; but a woman, in behaving
well, performs but half her duty; as what is thought of her, is as
important to her as what she really is.  It follows hence, that the
system of a woman's education should, in this respect, be directly
contrary to that of ours.  Opinion is the grave of virtue among the
men; but its throne among women."  It is strictly logical to infer,
that the virtue that rests on opinion is merely worldly, and that
it is the virtue of a being to whom reason has been denied.  But,
even with respect to the opinion of the world, I am convinced, that
this class of reasoners are mistaken.

This regard for reputation, independent of its being one of the
natural rewards of virtue, however, took its rise from a cause that
I have already deplored as the grand source of female depravity,
the impossibility of regaining respectability by a return to
virtue, though men preserve theirs during the indulgence of vice.
It was natural for women then to endeavour to preserve what once
lost--was lost for ever, till this care swallowing up every other
care, reputation for chastity, became the one thing needful to the
sex.  But vain is the scrupulosity of ignorance, for neither
religion nor virtue, when they reside in the heart, require such a
puerile attention to mere ceremonies, because the behaviour must,
upon the whole be proper, when the motive is pure.

To support my opinion I can produce very respectable authority; and
the authority of a cool reasoner ought to have weight to enforce
consideration, though not to establish a sentiment.  Speaking of
the general laws of morality, Dr. Smith observes--"That by some
very extraordinary and unlucky circumstance, a good man may come to
be suspected of a crime of which he was altogether incapable, and
upon that account be most unjustly exposed for the remaining part
of his life to the horror and aversion of mankind.  By an accident
of this kind he may be said to lose his all, notwithstanding his
integrity and justice, in the same manner as a cautious man,
notwithstanding his utmost circumspection, may be ruined by an
earthquake or an inundation.  Accidents of the first kind, however,
are perhaps still more rare, and still more contrary to the common
course of things than those of the second; and it still remains
true, that the practice of truth, justice and humanity, is a
certain and almost infallible method of acquiring what those
virtues chiefly aim at, the confidence and love of those we live
with.  A person may be easily misrepresented with regard to a
particular action; but it is scarcely possible that he should be so
with regard to the general tenor of his conduct.  An innocent man
may be believed to have done wrong:  this, however, will rarely
happen.  On the contrary, the established opinion of the innocence
of his manners will often lead us to absolve him where he has
really been in the fault, notwithstanding very strong

I perfectly coincide in opinion with this writer, for I verily
believe, that few of either sex were ever despised for certain
vices without deserving to be despised.  I speak not of the calumny
of the moment, which hangs over a character, like one of the dense
fogs of November over this metropolis, till it gradually subsides
before the common light of day, I only contend, that the daily
conduct of the majority prevails to stamp their character with the
impression of truth.  Quietly does the clear light, shining day
after day, refute the ignorant surmise, or malicious tale, which
has thrown dirt on a pure character.  A false light distorted, for
a short time, its shadow--reputation; but it seldom fails to become
just when the cloud is dispersed that produced the mistake in

Many people, undoubtedly in several respects, obtain a better
reputation than, strictly speaking, they deserve, for unremitting
industry will mostly reach its goal in all races.  They who only
strive for this paltry prize, like the Pharisees, who prayed at the
corners of streets, to be seen of men, verily obtain the reward
they seek; for the heart of man cannot be read by man!  Still the
fair fame that is naturally reflected by good actions, when the man
is only employed to direct his steps aright, regardless of the
lookers-on, is in general, not only more true but more sure.

There are, it is true, trials when the good man must appeal to God
from the injustice of man; and amidst the whining candour or
hissing of envy, erect a pavilion in his own mind to retire to,
till the rumour be overpast; nay, the darts of undeserved censure
may pierce an innocent tender bosom through with many sorrows; but
these are all exceptions to general rules.  And it is according to
these common laws that human behaviour ought to be regulated.  The
eccentric orbit of the comet never influences astronomical
calculations respecting the invariable order established in the
motion of the principal bodies of the solar system.

I will then venture to affirm, that after a man has arrived at
maturity, the general outline of his character in the world is
just, allowing for the before mentioned exceptions to the rule.  I
do not say, that a prudent, worldly-wise man, with only negative
virtues and qualities, may not sometimes obtain a smoother
reputation than a wiser or a better man.  So far from it, that I am
apt to conclude from experience, that where the virtue of two
people is nearly equal, the most negative character will be liked
best by the world at large, whilst the other may have more friends
in private life.  But the hills and dales, clouds and sunshine,
conspicuous in the virtues of great men, set off each other; and
though they afford envious weakness a fairer mark to shoot at, the
real character will still work its way to light, though bespattered
by weak affection, or ingenious malice.*

(*Footnote.  I allude to various biographical writings, but
particularly to Boswell's Life of Johnson.)

With respect to that anxiety to preserve a reputation hardly
earned, which leads sagacious people to analyze it, I shall not
make the obvious comment; but I am afraid that morality is very
insidiously undermined, in the female world, by the attention being
turned to the show instead of the substance.  A simple thing is
thus made strangely complicated; nay, sometimes virtue and its
shadow are set at variance.  We should never, perhaps, have heard
of Lucretia, had she died to preserve her chastity instead of her
reputation.  If we really deserve our own good opinion, we shall
commonly be respected in the world; but if we pant after higher
improvement and higher attainments, it is not sufficient to view
ourselves as we suppose that we are viewed by others, though this
has been ingeniously argued as the foundation of our moral
sentiments.  (Smith.)  Because each bystander may have his own
prejudices, besides the prejudices of his age or country.  We
should rather endeavour to view ourselves, as we suppose that Being
views us, who seeth each thought ripen into action, and whose
judgment never swerves from the eternal rule of right.  Righteous
are all his judgments--just, as merciful!

The humble mind that seeketh to find favour in His sight, and
calmly examines its conduct when only His presence is felt, will
seldom form a very erroneous opinion of its own virtues.  During
the still hour of self-collection, the angry brow of offended
justice will be fearfully deprecated, or the tie which draws man to
the Deity will be recognized in the pure sentiment of reverential
adoration, that swells the heart without exciting any tumultuous
emotions.  In these solemn moments man discovers the germ of those
vices, which like the Java tree shed a pestiferous vapour
around--death is in the shade! and he perceives them without
abhorrence, because he feels himself drawn by some cord of love to
all his fellow creatures, for whose follies he is anxious to find
every extenuation in their nature--in himself.  If I, he may thus
argue, who exercise my own mind, and have been refined by
tribulation, find the serpent's egg in some fold of my heart, and
crush it with difficulty, shall not I pity those who are stamped
with less vigour, or who have heedlessly nurtured the insidious
reptile till it poisoned the vital stream it sucked?  Can I,
conscious of my secret sins, throw off my fellow creatures, and
calmly see them drop into the chasm of perdition, that yawns to
receive them.  No! no!  The agonized heart will cry with
suffocating impatience--I too am a man! and have vices, hid,
perhaps, from human eye, that bend me to the dust before God, and
loudly tell me when all is mute, that we are formed of the same
earth, and breathe the same element.  Humanity thus rises naturally
out of humility, and twists the cords of love that in various
convolutions entangle the heart.

This sympathy extends still further, till a man well pleased
observes force in arguments that do not carry conviction to his own
bosom, and he gladly places in the fairest light to himself, the
shows of reason that have led others astray, rejoiced to find some
reason in all the errors of man; though before convinced that he
who rules the day makes his sun to shine on all.  Yet, shaking
hands thus, as it were, with corruption, one foot on earth, the
other with bold strides mounts to heaven, and claims kindred with
superiour natures.  Virtues, unobserved by men, drop their balmy
fragrance at this cool hour, and the thirsty land, refreshed by the
pure streams of comfort that suddenly gush out, is crowned with
smiling verdure; this is the living green on which that eye may
look with complacency that is too pure to behold iniquity! But my
spirits flag; and I must silently indulge the reverie these
reflections lead to, unable to describe the sentiments that have
calmed my soul, when watching the rising sun, a soft shower
drizzling through the leaves of neighbouring trees, seemed to fall
on my languid, yet tranquil spirits, to cool the heart that had
been heated by the passions which reason laboured to tame.

The leading principles which run through all my disquisitions,
would render it unnecessary to enlarge on this subject, if a
constant attention to keep the varnish of the character fresh, and
in good condition, were not often inculcated as the sum total of
female duty; if rules to regulate the behaviour, and to preserve
the reputation, did not too frequently supersede moral obligations.
But, with respect to reputation, the attention is confined to a
single virtue--chastity.  If the honour of a woman, as it is
absurdly called, is safe, she may neglect every social duty; nay,
ruin her family by gaming and extravagance; yet still present a
shameless front --for truly she is an honourable woman!

Mrs. Macaulay has justly observed, that "there is but one fault
which a woman of honour may not commit with impunity."  She then
justly and humanely adds--This has given rise to the trite and
foolish observation, that the first fault against chastity in woman
has a radical power to deprave the character.  But no such frail
beings come out of the hands of nature.  The human mind is built of
nobler materials than to be so easily corrupted; and with all their
disadvantages of situation and education, women seldom become
entirely abandoned till they are thrown into a state of
desperation, by the venomous rancour of their own sex."

But, in proportion as this regard for the reputation of chastity is
prized by women, it is despised by men:  and the two extremes are
equally destructive to morality.

Men are certainly more under the influence of their appetites than
women; and their appetites are more depraved by unbridled
indulgence, and the fastidious contrivances of satiety.  Luxury has
introduced a refinement in eating that destroys the constitution;
and, a degree of gluttony which is so beastly, that a perception of
seemliness of behaviour must be worn out before one being could eat
immoderately in the presence of another, and afterwards complain of
the oppression that his intemperance naturally produced.  Some
women, particularly French women, have also lost a sense of decency
in this respect; for they will talk very calmly of an indigestion.
It were to be wished, that idleness was not allowed to generate, on
the rank soil of wealth, those swarms of summer insects that feed
on putrefaction; we should not then be disgusted by the sight of
such brutal excesses.

There is one rule relative to behaviour that, I think, ought to
regulate every other; and it is simply to cherish such an habitual
respect for mankind, as may prevent us from disgusting a fellow
creature for the sake of a present indulgence.  The shameful
indolence of many married women, and others a little advanced in
life, frequently leads them to sin against delicacy.  For, though
convinced that the person is the band of union between the sexes,
yet, how often do they from sheer indolence, or to enjoy some
trifling indulgence, disgust?

The depravity of the appetite, which brings the sexes together, has
had a still more fatal effect.  Nature must ever be the standard of
taste, the guage of appetite--yet how grossly is nature insulted by
the voluptuary.  Leaving the refinements of love out of the
question; nature, by making the gratification of an appetite, in
this respect, as well as every other, a natural and imperious law
to preserve the species, exalts the appetite, and mixes a little
mind and affection with a sensual gust.  The feelings of a parent
mingling with an instinct merely animal, give it dignity; and the
man and woman often meeting on account of the child, a mutual
interest and affection is excited by the exercise of a common
sympathy.  Women then having necessarily some duty to fulfil, more
noble than to adorn their persons, would not contentedly be the
slaves of casual appetite, which is now the situation of a very
considerable number who are, literally speaking, standing dishes to
which every glutton may have access.

I may be told, that great as this enormity is, it only affects a
devoted part of the sex--devoted for the salvation of the rest.
But, false as every assertion might easily be proved, that
recommends the sanctioning a small evil to produce a greater good;
the mischief does not stop here, for the moral character, and peace
of mind, of the chaster part of the sex, is undermined by the
conduct of the very women to whom they allow no refuge from guilt:
whom they inexorably consign to the exercise of arts that lure
their husbands from them, debauch their sons and force them, let
not modest women start, to assume, in some degree, the same
character themselves.  For I will venture to assert, that all the
causes of female weakness, as well as depravity, which I have
already enlarged on, branch out of one grand cause--want of
chastity in men.

This intemperance, so prevalent, depraves the appetite to such a
degree, that a wanton stimulus is necessary to rouse it; but the
parental design of nature is forgotten, and the mere person, and
that, for a moment, alone engrosses the thoughts.  So voluptuous,
indeed, often grows the lustful prowler, that he refines on female

To satisfy this genius of men, women are made systematically
voluptuous, and though they may not all carry their libertinism to
the same height, yet this heartless intercourse with the sex, which
they allow themselves, depraves both sexes, because the taste of
men is vitiated; and women, of all classes, naturally square their
behaviour to gratify the taste by which they obtain pleasure and
power.  Women becoming, consequently weaker, in mind and body, than
they ought to be, were one of the grand ends of their being taken
into the account, that of bearing and nursing children, have not
sufficient strength to discharge the first duty of a mother; and
sacrificing to lasciviousness the parental affection, that ennobles
instinct, either destroy the embryo in the womb, or cast it off
when born.  Nature in every thing demands respect, and those who
violate her laws seldom violate them with impunity.  The weak
enervated women who particularly catch the attention of libertines,
are unfit to be mothers, though they may conceive; so that the rich
sensualist, who has rioted among women, spreading depravity and
misery, when he wishes to perpetuate his name, receives from his
wife only an half-formed being that inherits both its father's and
mother's weakness.

Contrasting the humanity of the present age with the barbarism of
antiquity, great stress has been laid on the savage custom of
exposing the children whom their parents could not maintain; whilst
the man of sensibility, who thus, perhaps, complains, by his
promiscuous amours produces a most destructive barrenness and
contagious flagitiousness of manners.  Surely nature never intended
that women, by satisfying an appetite, should frustrate the very
purpose for which it was implanted?

I have before observed, that men ought to maintain the women whom
they have seduced; this would be one means of reforming female
manners, and stopping an abuse that has an equally fatal effect on
population and morals.  Another, no less obvious, would be to turn
the attention of woman to the real virtue of chastity; for to
little respect has that woman a claim, on the score of modesty,
though her reputation may be white as the driven snow, who smiles
on the libertine whilst she spurns the victims of his lawless
appetites and their own folly.

Besides, she has a taint of the same folly, pure as she esteems
herself, when she studiously adorns her person only to be seen by
men, to excite respectful sighs, and all the idle homage of what is
called innocent gallantry.  Did women really respect virtue for its
own sake, they would not seek for a compensation in vanity, for the
self-denial which they are obliged to practise to preserve their
reputation, nor would they associate with men who set reputation at

The two sexes mutually corrupt and improve each other.  This I
believe to be an indisputable truth, extending it to every virtue.
Chastity, modesty, public spirit, and all the noble train of
virtues, on which social virtue and happiness are built, should be
understood and cultivated by all mankind, or they will be
cultivated to little effect.  And, instead of furnishing the
vicious or idle with a pretext for violating some sacred duty, by
terming it a sexual one, it would be wiser to show, that nature has
not made any difference, for that the unchaste man doubly defeats
the purpose of nature by rendering women barren, and destroying his
own constitution, though he avoids the shame that pursues the crime
in the other sex.  These are the physical consequences, the moral
are still more alarming; for virtue is only a nominal distinction
when the duties of citizens, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and
directors of families, become merely the selfish ties of

Why then do philosophers look for public spirit?  Public spirit
must be nurtured by private virtue, or it will resemble the
factitious sentiment which makes women careful to preserve their
reputation, and men their honour.  A sentiment that often exists
unsupported by virtue, unsupported by that sublime morality which
makes the habitual breach of one duty a breach of the whole moral



>From the respect paid to property flow, as from a poisoned
fountain, most of the evils and vices which render this world such
a dreary scene to the contemplative mind.  For it is in the most
polished society that noisome reptiles and venomous serpents lurk
under the rank herbage; and there is voluptuousness pampered by the
still sultry air, which relaxes every good disposition before it
ripens into virtue.

One class presses on another; for all are aiming to procure respect
on account of their property:  and property, once gained, will
procure the respect due only to talents and virtue.  Men neglect
the duties incumbent on man, yet are treated like demi-gods;
religion is also separated from morality by a ceremonial veil, yet
men wonder that the world is almost, literally speaking, a den of
sharpers or oppressors.

There is a homely proverb, which speaks a shrewd truth, that
whoever the devil finds idle he will employ.  And what but habitual
idleness can hereditary wealth and titles produce?  For man is so
constituted that he can only attain a proper use of his faculties
by exercising them, and will not exercise them unless necessity, of
some kind, first set the wheels in motion.  Virtue likewise can
only be acquired by the discharge of relative duties; but the
importance of these sacred duties will scarcely be felt by the
being who is cajoled out of his humanity by the flattery of
sycophants.  There must be more equality established in society, or
morality will never gain ground, and this virtuous equality will
not rest firmly even when founded on a rock, if one half of mankind
are chained to its bottom by fate, for they will be continually
undermining it through ignorance or pride.  It is vain to expect
virtue from women till they are, in some degree, independent of
men; nay, it is vain to expect that strength of natural affection,
which would make them good wives and good mothers.  Whilst they are
absolutely dependent on their husbands, they will be cunning, mean,
and selfish, and the men who can be gratified by the fawning
fondness, of spaniel-like affection, have not much delicacy, for
love is not to be bought, in any sense of the word, its silken
wings are instantly shrivelled up when any thing beside a return in
kind is sought.  Yet whilst wealth enervates men; and women live,
as it were, by their personal charms, how, can we expect them to
discharge those ennobling duties which equally require exertion and
self-denial.  Hereditary property sophisticates the mind, and the
unfortunate victims to it, if I may so express myself, swathed from
their birth, seldom exert the locomotive faculty of body or mind;
and, thus viewing every thing through one medium, and that a false
one, they are unable to discern in what true merit and happiness
consist.  False, indeed, must be the light when the drapery of
situation hides the man, and makes him stalk in masquerade,
dragging from one scene of dissipation to another the nerveless
limbs that hang with stupid listlessness, and rolling round the
vacant eye which plainly tells us that there is no mind at home.

I mean, therefore, to infer, that the society is not properly
organized which does not compel men and women to discharge their
respective duties, by making it the only way to acquire that
countenance from their fellow creatures, which every human being
wishes some way to attain.  The respect, consequently, which is
paid to wealth and mere personal charms, is a true north-east
blast, that blights the tender blossoms of affection and virtue.
Nature has wisely attached affections to duties, to sweeten toil,
and to give that vigour to the exertions of reason which only the
heart can give.  But, the affection which is put on merely because
it is the appropriated insignia of a certain character, when its
duties are not fulfilled is one of the empty compliments which vice
and folly are obliged to pay to virtue and the real nature of

To illustrate my opinion, I need only observe, that when a woman is
admired for her beauty, and suffers herself to be so far
intoxicated by the admiration she receives, as to neglect to
discharge the indispensable duty of a mother, she sins against
herself by neglecting to cultivate an affection that would equally
tend to make her useful and happy.  True happiness, I mean all the
contentment, and virtuous satisfaction that can be snatched in this
imperfect state, must arise from well regulated affections; and an
affection includes a duty.  Men are not aware of the misery they
cause, and the vicious weakness they cherish, by only inciting
women to render themselves pleasing; they do not consider, that
they thus make natural and artificial duties clash, by sacrificing
the comfort and respectability of a woman's life to voluptuous
notions of beauty, when in nature they all harmonize.

Cold would be the heart of a husband, were he not rendered
unnatural by early debauchery, who did not feel more delight at
seeing his child suckled by its mother, than the most artful wanton
tricks could ever raise; yet this natural way of cementing the
matrimonial tie, and twisting esteem with fonder recollections,
wealth leads women to spurn.  To preserve their beauty, and wear
the flowery crown of the day, that gives them a kind of right to
reign for a short time over the sex, they neglect to stamp
impressions on their husbands' hearts, that would be remembered
with more tenderness when the snow on the head began to chill the
bosom, than even their virgin charms.  The maternal solicitude of a
reasonable affectionate woman is very interesting, and the
chastened dignity with which a mother returns the caresses that she
and her child receive from a father who has been fulfilling the
serious duties of his station, is not only a respectable, but a
beautiful sight.  So singular, indeed, are my feelings, and I have
endeavoured not to catch factitious ones, that after having been
fatigued with the sight of insipid grandeur and the slavish
ceremonies that with cumberous pomp supplied the place of domestic
affections, I have turned to some other scene to relieve my eye, by
resting it on the refreshing green every where scattered by nature.
I have then viewed with pleasure a woman nursing her children, and
discharging the duties of her station with, perhaps, merely a
servant made to take off her hands the servile part of the
household business.  I have seen her prepare herself and children,
with only the luxury of cleanliness, to receive her husband, who
returning weary home in the evening, found smiling babes and a
clean hearth.  My heart has loitered in the midst of the group, and
has even throbbed with sympathetic emotion, when the scraping of
the well known foot has raised a pleasing tumult.

Whilst my benevolence has been gratified by contemplating this
artless picture, I have thought that a couple of this description,
equally necessary and independent of each other, because each
fulfilled the respective duties of their station, possessed all
that life could give.  Raised sufficiently above abject poverty not
to be obliged to weigh the consequence of every farthing they
spend, and having sufficient to prevent their attending to a frigid
system of economy which narrows both heart and mind.  I declare, so
vulgar are my conceptions, that I know not what is wanted to render
this the happiest as well as the most respectable situation in the
world, but a taste for literature, to throw a little variety and
interest into social converse, and some superfluous money to give
to the needy, and to buy books.  For it is not pleasant when the
heart is opened by compassion, and the head active in arranging
plans of usefulness, to have a prim urchin continually twitching
back the elbow to prevent the hand from drawing out an almost empty
purse, whispering at the same time some prudential maxim about the
priority of justice.

Destructive, however, as riches and inherited honours are to the
human character, women are more debased and cramped, if possible by
them, than men, because men may still, in some degree, unfold their
faculties by becoming soldiers and statesmen.

As soldiers, I grant, they can now only gather, for the most part,
vainglorious laurels, whilst they adjust to a hair the European
balance, taking especial care that no bleak northern nook or sound
incline the beam.  But the days of true heroism are over, when a
citizen fought for his country like a Fabricius or a Washington,
and then returned to his farm to let his virtuous fervour run in a
more placid, but not a less salutary stream.  No, our British
heroes are oftener sent from the gaming table than from the plough;
and their passions have been rather inflamed by hanging with dumb
suspense on the turn of a die, than sublimated by panting after the
adventurous march of virtue in the historic page.

The statesman, it is true, might with more propriety quit the Faro
Bank, or card-table, to guide the helm, for he has still but to
shuffle and trick.  The whole system of British politics, if system
it may courteously be called, consisting in multiplying dependents
and contriving taxes which grind the poor to pamper the rich; thus
a war, or any wild goose chace is, as the vulgar use the phrase, a
lucky turn-up of patronage for the minister, whose chief merit is
the art of keeping himself in place.

It is not necessary then that he should have bowels for the poor,
so he can secure for his family the odd trick.  Or should some show
of respect, for what is termed with ignorant ostentation an
Englishman's birth-right, be expedient to bubble the gruff mastiff
that he has to lead by the nose, he can make an empty show, very
safely, by giving his single voice, and suffering his light
squadron to file off to the other side.  And when a question of
humanity is agitated, he may dip a sop in the milk of human
kindness, to silence Cerberus, and talk of the interest which his
heart takes in an attempt to make the earth no longer cry for
vengeance as it sucks in its children's blood, though his cold hand
may at the very moment rivet their chains, by sanctioning the
abominable traffick.  A minister is no longer a minister than while
he can carry a point, which he is determined to carry.  Yet it is
not necessary that a minister should feel like a man, when a bold
push might shake his seat.

But, to have done with these episodical observations, let me return
to the more specious slavery which chains the very soul of woman,
keeping her for ever under the bondage of ignorance.

The preposterous distinctions of rank, which render civilization a
curse, by dividing the world between voluptuous tyrants, and
cunning envious dependents, corrupt, almost equally, every class of
people, because respectability is not attached to the discharge of
the relative duties of life, but to the station, and when the
duties are not fulfilled, the affections cannot gain sufficient
strength to fortify the virtue of which they are the natural
reward.  Still there are some loop-holes out of which a man may
creep, and dare to think and act for himself; but for a woman it is
an herculean task, because she has difficulties peculiar to her sex
to overcome, which require almost super-human powers.

A truly benevolent legislator always endeavours to make it the
interest of each individual to be virtuous; and thus private virtue
becoming the cement of public happiness, an orderly whole is
consolidated by the tendency of all the parts towards a common
centre.  But, the private or public virtue of women is very
problematical; for Rousseau, and a numerous list of male writers,
insist that she should all her life, be subjected to a severe
restraint, that of propriety.  Why subject her to propriety--blind
propriety, if she be capable of acting from a nobler spring, if she
be an heir of immortality?  Is sugar always to be produced by vital
blood?  Is one half of the human species, like the poor African
slaves, to be subject to prejudices that brutalize them, when
principles would be a surer guard only to sweeten the cup of man?
Is not this indirectly to deny women reason? for a gift is a
mockery, if it be unfit for use.

Women are in common with men, rendered weak and luxurious by the
relaxing pleasures which wealth procures; but added to this, they
are made slaves to their persons, and must render them alluring,
that man may lend them his reason to guide their tottering steps
aright.  Or should they be ambitious, they must govern their
tyrants by sinister tricks, for without rights there cannot be any
incumbent duties.  The laws respecting woman, which I mean to
discuss in a future part, make an absurd unit of a man and his
wife; and then, by the easy transition of only considering him as
responsible, she is reduced to a mere cypher.

The being who discharges the duties of its station, is independent;
and, speaking of women at large, their first duty is to themselves
as rational creatures, and the next, in point of importance, as
citizens, is that, which includes so many, of a mother.  The rank
in life which dispenses with their fulfilling this duty,
necessarily degrades them by making them mere dolls.  Or, should
they turn to something more important than merely fitting drapery
upon a smooth block, their minds are only occupied by some soft
platonic attachment; or, the actual management of an intrigue may
keep their thoughts in motion; for when they neglect domestic
duties, they have it not in their power to take the field and march
and counter-march like soldiers, or wrangle in the senate to keep
their faculties from rusting.

I know, that as a proof of the inferiority of the sex, Rousseau has
exultingly exclaimed, How can they leave the nursery for the camp!
And the camp has by some moralists been termed the school of the
most heroic virtues; though, I think, it would puzzle a keen
casuist to prove the reasonableness of the greater number of wars,
that have dubbed heroes.  I do not mean to consider this question
critically; because, having frequently viewed these freaks of
ambition as the first natural mode of civilization, when the ground
must be torn up, and the woods cleared by fire and sword, I do not
choose to call them pests; but surely the present system of war,
has little connection with virtue of any denomination, being rather
the school of FINESSE and effeminacy, than of fortitude.

Yet, if defensive war, the only justifiable war, in the present
advanced state of society, where virtue can show its face and ripen
amidst the rigours which purify the air on the mountain's top, were
alone to be adopted as just and glorious, the true heroism of
antiquity might again animate female bosoms.  But fair and softly,
gentle reader, male or female, do not alarm thyself, for though I
have contrasted the character of a modern soldier with that of a
civilized woman, I am not going to advise them to turn their
distaff into a musket, though I sincerely wish to see the bayonet
converted into a pruning hook.  I only recreated an imagination,
fatigued by contemplating the vices and follies which all proceed
from a feculent stream of wealth that has muddied the pure rills of
natural affection, by supposing that society will some time or
other be so constituted, that man must necessarily fulfil the
duties of a citizen, or be despised, and that while he was employed
in any of the departments of civil life, his wife, also an active
citizen, should be equally intent to manage her family, educate her
children, and assist her neighbours.

But, to render her really virtuous and useful, she must not, if she
discharge her civil duties, want, individually, the protection of
civil laws; she must not be dependent on her husband's bounty for
her subsistence during his life, or support after his death--for
how can a being be generous who has nothing of its own? or,
virtuous, who is not free?  The wife, in the present state of
things, who is faithful to her husband, and neither suckles nor
educates her children, scarcely deserves the name of a wife, and
has no right to that of a citizen.  But take away natural rights,
and there is of course an end of duties.

Women thus infallibly become only the wanton solace of men, when
they are so weak in mind and body, that they cannot exert
themselves, unless to pursue some frothy pleasure, or to invent
some frivolous fashion.  What can be a more melancholy sight to a
thinking mind, than to look into the numerous carriages that drive
helter-skelter about this metropolis in a morning, full of
pale-faced creatures who are flying from themselves.  I have often
wished, with Dr. Johnson, to place some of them in a little shop,
with half a dozen children looking up to their languid countenances
for support.  I am much mistaken, if some latent vigour would not
soon give health and spirit to their eyes, and some lines drawn by
the exercise of reason on the blank cheeks, which before were only
undulated by dimples, might restore lost dignity to the character,
or rather enable it to attain the true dignity of its nature.
Virtue is not to be acquired even by speculation, much less by the
negative supineness that wealth naturally generates.

Besides, when poverty is more disgraceful than even vice, is not
morality cut to the quick?  Still to avoid misconstruction, though
I consider that women in the common walks of life are called to
fulfil the duties of wives and mothers, by religion and reason, I
cannot help lamenting that women of a superiour cast have not a
road open by which they can pursue more extensive plans of
usefulness and independence.  I may excite laughter, by dropping an
hint, which I mean to pursue, some future time, for I really think
that women ought to have representatives, instead of being
arbitrarily governed without having any direct share allowed them
in the deliberations of government.

But, as the whole system of representation is now, in this country,
only a convenient handle for despotism, they need not complain, for
they are as well represented as a numerous class of hard working
mechanics, who pay for the support of royality when they can
scarcely stop their children's mouths with bread.  How are they
represented, whose very sweat supports the splendid stud of an heir
apparent, or varnishes the chariot of some female favourite who
looks down on shame?  Taxes on the very necessaries of life, enable
an endless tribe of idle princes and princesses to pass with stupid
pomp before a gaping crowd, who almost worship the very parade
which costs them so dear.  This is mere gothic grandeur, something
like the barbarous, useless parade of having sentinels on horseback
at Whitehall, which I could never view without a mixture of
contempt and indignation.

How strangely must the mind be sophisticated when this sort of
state impresses it!  But till these monuments of folly are levelled
by virtue, similar follies will leaven the whole mass.  For the
same character, in some degree, will prevail in the aggregate of
society:  and the refinements of luxury, or the vicious repinings
of envious poverty, will equally banish virtue from society,
considered as the characteristic of that society, or only allow it
to appear as one of the stripes of the harlequin coat, worn by the
civilized man.

In the superiour ranks of life, every duty is done by deputies, as
if duties could ever be waved, and the vain pleasures which
consequent idleness forces the rich to pursue, appear so enticing
to the next rank, that the numerous scramblers for wealth sacrifice
every thing to tread on their heels.  The most sacred trusts are
then considered as sinecures, because they were procured by
interest, and only sought to enable a man to keep GOOD COMPANY.
Women, in particular, all want to be ladies.  Which is simply to
have nothing to do, but listlessly to go they scarcely care where,
for they cannot tell what.

But what have women to do in society?  I may be asked, but to
loiter with easy grace; surely you would not condemn them all to
suckle fools, and chronicle small beer!  No.  Women might certainly
study the art of healing, and be physicians as well as nurses.  And
midwifery, decency seems to allot to them, though I am afraid the
word midwife, in our dictionaries, will soon give place to
accoucheur, and one proof of the former delicacy of the sex be
effaced from the language.

They might, also study politics, and settle their benevolence on
the broadest basis; for the reading of history will scarcely be
more useful than the perusal of romances, if read as mere
biography; if the character of the times, the political
improvements, arts, etc. be not observed.  In short, if it be not
considered as the history of man; and not of particular men, who
filled a niche in the temple of fame, and dropped into the black
rolling stream of time, that silently sweeps all before it, into
the shapeless void called eternity.  For shape can it be called,
"that shape hath none?"

Business of various kinds, they might likewise pursue, if they were
educated in a more orderly manner, which might save many from
common and legal prostitution.  Women would not then marry for a
support, as men accept of places under government, and neglect the
implied duties; nor would an attempt to earn their own subsistence,
a most laudable one! sink them almost to the level of those poor
abandoned creatures who live by prostitution.  For are not
milliners and mantuamakers reckoned the next class?  The few
employments open to women, so far from being liberal, are menial;
and when a superior education enables them to take charge of the
education of children as governesses, they are not treated like the
tutors of sons, though even clerical tutors are not always treated
in a manner calculated to render them respectable in the eyes of
their pupils, to say nothing of the private comfort of the
individual.  But as women educated like gentlewomen, are never
designed for the humiliating situation which necessity sometimes
forces them to fill; these situations are considered in the light
of a degradation; and they know little of the human heart, who need
to be told, that nothing so painfully sharpens the sensibility as
such a fall in life.

Some of these women might be restrained from marrying by a proper
spirit or delicacy, and others may not have had it in their power
to escape in this pitiful way from servitude; is not that
government then very defective, and very unmindful of the happiness
of one half of its members, that does not provide for honest,
independent women, by encouraging them to fill respectable
stations?  But in order to render their private virtue a public
benefit, they must have a civil existence in the state, married or
single; else we shall continually see some worthy woman, whose
sensibility has been rendered painfully acute by undeserved
contempt, droop like "the lily broken down by a plough share."

It is a melancholy truth; yet such is the blessed effects of
civilization! the most respectable women are the most oppressed;
and, unless they have understandings far superiour to the common
run of understandings, taking in both sexes, they must, from being
treated like contemptible beings, become contemptible.  How many
women thus waste life away, the prey of discontent, who might have
practised as physicians, regulated a farm, managed a shop, and
stood erect, supported by their own industry, instead of hanging
their heads surcharged with the dew of sensibility, that consumes
the beauty to which it at first gave lustre; nay, I doubt whether
pity and love are so near a-kin as poets feign, for I have seldom
seen much compassion excited by the helplessness of females, unless
they were fair; then, perhaps, pity was the soft handmaid of love,
or the harbinger of lust.

How much more respectable is the woman who earns her own bread by
fulfilling any duty, than the most accomplished beauty!  beauty did
I say? so sensible am I of the beauty of moral loveliness, or the
harmonious propriety that attunes the passions of a well-regulated
mind, that I blush at making the comparison; yet I sigh to think
how few women aim at attaining this respectability, by withdrawing
from the giddy whirl of pleasure, or the indolent calm that
stupifies the good sort of women it sucks in.

Proud of their weakness, however, they must always be protected,
guarded from care, and all the rough toils that dignify the mind.
If this be the fiat of fate, if they will make themselves
insignificant and contemptible, sweetly to waste "life away," let
them not expect to be valued when their beauty fades, for it is the
fate of the fairest flowers to be admired and pulled to pieces by
the careless hand that plucked them.  In how many ways do I wish,
from the purest benevolence, to impress this truth on my sex; yet I
fear that they will not listen to a truth, that dear-bought
experience has brought home to many an agitated bosom, nor
willingly resign the privileges of rank and sex for the privileges
of humanity, to which those have no claim who do not discharge its

Those writers are particularly useful, in my opinion, who make man
feel for man, independent of the station he fills, or the drapery
of factitious sentiments.  I then would fain convince reasonable
men of the importance of some of my remarks and prevail on them to
weigh dispassionately the whole tenor of my observations.  I appeal
to their understandings; and, as a fellow-creature claim, in the
name of my sex, some interest in their hearts.  I entreat them to
assist to emancipate their companion to make her a help meet for

Would men but generously snap our chains, and be content with
rational fellowship, instead of slavish obedience, they would find
us more observant daughters, more affectionate sisters, more
faithful wives, more reasonable mothers--in a word, better
citizens.  We should then love them with true affection, because we
should learn to respect ourselves; and the peace of mind of a
worthy man would not be interrupted by the idle vanity of his wife,
nor his babes sent to nestle in a strange bosom, having never found
a home in their mother's.



Parental affection is, perhaps, the blindest modification of
perverse self-love; for we have not, like the French two terms
(L'amour propre, L'amour de soi meme) to distinguish the pursuit of
a natural and reasonable desire, from the ignorant calculations of
weakness.  Parents often love their children in the most brutal
manner, and sacrifice every relative duty to promote their
advancement in the world.  To promote, such is the perversity of
unprincipled prejudices, the future welfare of the very beings
whose present existence they imbitter by the most despotic stretch
of power.  Power, in fact, is ever true to its vital principle, for
in every shape it would reign without controul or inquiry.  Its
throne is built across a dark abyss, which no eye must dare to
explore, lest the baseless fabric should totter under
investigation.  Obedience, unconditional obedience, is the
catch-word of tyrants of every description, and to render
"assurance doubly sure," one kind of despotism supports another.
Tyrants would have cause to tremble if reason were to become the
rule of duty in any of the relations of life, for the light might
spread till perfect day appeared.  And when it did appear, how
would men smile at the sight of the bugbears at which they started
during the night of ignorance, or the twilight of timid inquiry.

Parental affection, indeed, in many minds, is but a pretext to
tyrannize where it can be done with impunity, for only good and
wise men are content with the respect that will bear discussion.
Convinced that they have a right to what they insist on, they do
not fear reason, or dread the sifting of subjects that recur to
natural justice:  because they firmly believe, that the more
enlightened the human mind becomes, the deeper root will just and
simple principles take.  They do not rest in expedients, or grant
that what is metaphysically true can be practically false; but
disdaining the shifts of the moment they calmly wait till time,
sanctioning innovation, silences the hiss of selfishness or envy.

If the power of reflecting on the past, and darting the keen eye of
contemplation into futurity, be the grand privilege of man, it must
be granted that some people enjoy this prerogative in a very
limited degree.  Every thing now appears to them wrong; and not
able to distinguish the possible from the monstrous, they fear
where no fear should find a place, running from the light of reason
as if it were a firebrand; yet the limits of the possible have
never been defined to stop the sturdy innovator's hand.

Woman, however, a slave in every situation to prejudice seldom
exerts enlightened maternal affection; for she either neglects her
children, or spoils them by improper indulgence.  Besides, the
affection of some women for their children is, as I have before
termed it, frequently very brutish; for it eradicates every spark
of humanity.  Justice, truth, every thing is sacrificed by these
Rebekahs, and for the sake of their own children they violate the
most sacred duties, forgetting the common relationship that binds
the whole family on earth together.  Yet, reason seems to say, that
they who suffer one duty, or affection to swallow up the rest, have
not sufficient heart or mind to fulfil that one conscientiously.
It then loses the venerable aspect of a duty, and assumes the
fantastic form of a whim.

As the care of children in their infancy is one of the grand duties
annexed to the female character by nature, this duty would afford
many forcible arguments for strengthening the female understanding,
if it were properly considered.

The formation of the mind must be begun very early, and the temper,
in particular, requires the most judicious attention--an attention
which women cannot pay who only love their children because they
are their children, and seek no further for the foundation of their
duty, than in the feelings of the moment.  It is this want of
reason in their affections which makes women so often run into
extremes, and either be the most fond, or most careless and
unnatural mothers.

To be a good mother--a woman must have sense, and that independence
of mind which few women possess who are taught to depend entirely
on their husbands.  Meek wives are, in general, foolish mothers;
wanting their children to love them best, and take their part, in
secret, against the father, who is held up as a scarecrow.  If they
are to be punished, though they have offended the mother, the
father must inflict the punishment; he must be the judge in all
disputes:  but I shall more fully discuss this subject when I treat
of private education, I now only mean to insist, that unless the
understanding of woman be enlarged, and her character rendered more
firm, by being allowed to govern her own conduct, she will never
have sufficient sense or command of temper to manage her children
properly.  Her parental affection, indeed, scarcely deserves the
name, when it does not lead her to suckle her children, because the
discharge of this duty is equally calculated to inspire maternal
and filial affection; and it is the indispensable duty of men and
women to fulfil the duties which give birth to affections that are
the surest preservatives against vice.  Natural affection, as it is
termed, I believe to be a very weak tie, affections must grow out
of the habitual exercise of a mutual sympathy; and what sympathy
does a mother exercise who sends her babe to a nurse, and only
takes it from a nurse to send it to a school?

In the exercise of their natural feelings, providence has furnished
women with a natural substitute for love, when the lover becomes
only a friend and mutual confidence takes place of overstrained
admiration--a child then gently twists the relaxing cord, and a
mutual care produces a new mutual sympathy.  But a child, though a
pledge of affection, will not enliven it, if both father and mother
are content to transfer the charge to hirelings; for they who do
their duty by proxy should not murmur if they miss the reward of
duty--parental affection produces filial duty.



There seems to be an indolent propensity in man to make
prescription always take place of reason, and to place every duty
on an arbitrary foundation.  The rights of kings are deduced in a
direct line from the King of kings; and that of parents from our
first parent.

Why do we thus go back for principles that should always rest on
the same base, and have the same weight to-day that they had a
thousand years ago--and not a jot more?  If parents discharge their
duty they have a strong hold and sacred claim on the gratitude of
their children; but few parents are willing to receive the
respectful affection of their offspring on such terms.  They demand
blind obedience, because they do not merit a reasonable service:
and to render these demands of weakness and ignorance more binding,
a mysterious sanctity is spread round the most arbitrary principle;
for what other name can be given to the blind duty of obeying
vicious or weak beings, merely because they obeyed a powerful
instinct? The simple definition of the reciprocal duty, which
naturally subsists between parent and child, may be given in a few
words:  The parent who pays proper attention to helpless infancy
has a right to require the same attention when the feebleness of
age comes upon him.  But to subjugate a rational being to the mere
will of another, after he is of age to answer to society for his
own conduct, is a most cruel and undue stretch of power; and
perhaps as injurious to morality, as those religious systems which
do not allow right and wrong to have any existence, but in the
Divine will.

I never knew a parent who had paid more than common attention to
his children, disregarded (Dr. Johnson makes the same
observation.); on the contrary, the early habit of relying almost
implicitly on the opinion of a respected parent is not easily
shaken, even when matured reason convinces the child that his
father is not the wisest man in the world.  This weakness, for a
weakness it is, though the epithet AMIABLE may be tacked to it, a
reasonable man must steel himself against; for the absurd duty, too
often inculcated, of obeying a parent only on account of his being
a parent, shackles the mind, and prepares it for a slavish
submission to any power but reason.

I distinguish between the natural and accidental duty due to

The parent who sedulously endeavours to form the heart and enlarge
the understanding of his child, has given that dignity to the
discharge of a duty, common to the whole animal world, that only
reason can give.  This is the parental affection of humanity, and
leaves instinctive natural affection far behind.  Such a parent
acquires all the rights of the most sacred friendship, and his
advice, even when his child is advanced in life, demands serious

With respect to marriage, though after one and twenty a parent
seems to have no right to withhold his consent on any account; yet
twenty years of solicitude call for a return, and the son ought, at
least, to promise not to marry for two or three years, should the
object of his choice not entirely meet with the approbation of his
first friend.

But, respect for parents is, generally speaking, a much more
debasing principle; it is only a selfish respect for property.  The
father who is blindly obeyed, is obeyed from sheer weakness, or
from motives that degrade the human character.

A great proportion of the misery that wanders, in hideous forms
around the world, is allowed to rise from the negligence of
parents; and still these are the people who are most tenacious of
what they term a natural right, though it be subversive of the
birth right of man, the right of acting according to the direction
of his own reason.

I have already very frequently had occasion to observe, that
vicious or indolent people are always eager to profit by enforcing
arbitrary privileges; and generally in the same proportion as they
neglect the discharge of the duties which alone render the
privileges reasonable.  This is at the bottom, a dictate of common
sense, or the instinct of self-defence, peculiar to ignorant
weakness; resembling that instinct, which makes a fish muddy the
water it swims in to elude its enemy, instead of boldly facing it
in the clear stream.

>From the clear stream of argument, indeed, the supporters of
prescription, of every denomination, fly:  and taking refuge in the
darkness, which, in the language of sublime poetry, has been
supposed to surround the throne of Omnipotence, they dare to demand
that implicit respect which is only due to His unsearchable ways.
But, let me not be thought presumptuous, the darkness which hides
our God from us, only respects speculative truths-- it never
obscures moral ones, they shine clearly, for God is light, and
never, by the constitution of our nature, requires the discharge of
a duty, the reasonableness of which does not beam on us when we
open our eyes.

The indolent parent of high rank may, it is true, extort a show of
respect from his child, and females on the continent are
particularly subject to the views of their families, who never
think of consulting their inclination, or providing for the comfort
of the poor victims of their pride.  The consequence is notorious;
these dutiful daughters become adulteresses, and neglect the
education of their children, from whom they, in their turn, exact
the same kind of obedience.

Females, it is true, in all countries, are too much under the
dominion of their parents; and few parents think of addressing
their children in the following manner, though it is in this
reasonable way that Heaven seems to command the whole human race.
It is your interest to obey me till you can judge for yourself; and
the Almighty Father of all has implanted an affection in me to
serve as a guard to you whilst your reason is unfolding; but when
your mind arrives at maturity, you must only obey me, or rather
respect my opinions, so far as they coincide with the light that is
breaking in on your own mind.

A slavish bondage to parents cramps every faculty of the mind; and
Mr. Locke very judiciously observes, that "if the mind be curbed
and humbled too much in children; if their spirits be abased and
broken much by too strict an hand over them; they lose all their
vigour and industry."  This strict hand may, in some degree,
account for the weakness of women; for girls, from various causes,
are more kept down by their parents, in every sense of the word,
than boys.  The duty expected from them is, like all the duties
arbitrarily imposed on women, more from a sense of propriety, more
out of respect for decorum, than reason; and thus taught slavishly
to submit to their parents, they are prepared for the slavery of
marriage.  I may be told that a number of women are not slaves in
the marriage state.  True, but they then become tyrants; for it is
not rational freedom, but a lawless kind of power, resembling the
authority exercised by the favourites of absolute monarchs, which
they obtain by debasing means.  I do not, likewise, dream of
insinuating that either boys or girls are always slaves, I only
insist, that when they are obliged to submit to authority blindly,
their faculties are weakened, and their tempers rendered imperious
or abject.  I also lament, that parents, indolently availing
themselves of a supposed privilege, damp the first faint glimmering
of reason rendering at the same time the duty, which they are so
anxious to enforce, an empty name; because they will not let it
rest on the only basis on which a duty can rest securely:  for,
unless it be founded on knowledge, it cannot gain sufficient
strength to resist the squalls of passion, or the silent sapping of
self-love.  But it is not the parents who have given the surest
proof of their affection for their children, (or, to speak more
properly, who by fulfilling their duty, have allowed a natural
parental affection to take root in their hearts, the child of
exercised sympathy and reason, and not the over-weening offspring
of selfish pride,) who most vehemently insist on their children
submitting to their will, merely because it is their will.  On the
contrary, the parent who sets a good example, patiently lets that
example work; and it seldom fails to produce its natural
effect--filial respect.

Children cannot be taught too early to submit to reason, the true
definition of that necessity, which Rousseau insisted on, without
defining it; for to submit to reason, is to submit to the nature of
things, and to that God who formed them so, to promote our real

Why should the minds of children be warped as they just begin to
expand, only to favour the indolence of parents, who insist on a
privilege without being willing to pay the price fixed by nature?
I have before had occasion to observe, that a right always includes
a duty, and I think it may, likewise fairly be inferred, that they
forfeit the right, who do not fulfil the duty.

It is easier, I grant, to command than reason; but it does not
follow from hence, that children cannot comprehend the reason why
they are made to do certain things habitually; for, from a steady
adherence to a few simple principles of conduct flows that salutary
power, which a judicious parent gradually gains over a child's
mind.  And this power becomes strong indeed, if tempered by an even
display of affection brought home to the child's heart.  For, I
believe, as a general rule, it must be allowed, that the affection
which we inspire always resembles that we cultivate; so that
natural affections, which have been supposed almost distinct from
reason, may be found more nearly connected with judgment than is
commonly allowed.  Nay, as another proof of the necessity of
cultivating the female understanding, it is but just to observe,
that the affections seem to have a kind of animal capriciousness
when they merely reside in the heart.

It is the irregular exercise of parental authority that first
injures the mind, and to these irregularities girls are more
subject than boys.  The will of those who never allow their will to
be disputed, unless they happen to be in a good humour, when they
relax proportionally, is almost always unreasonable.  To elude this
arbitrary authority, girls very early learn the lessons which they
afterwards practise on their husbands; for I have frequently seen a
little sharp-faced miss rule a whole family, excepting that now and
then mamma's anger will burst out of some accidental cloud-- either
her hair was ill-dressed,* or she had lost more money at cards, the
night before, than she was willing to own to her husband; or some
such moral cause of anger.

(*Footnote.  I myself heard a little girl once say to a servant,
"My mamma has been scolding me finely this morning, because her
hair was not dressed to please her."  Though this remark was pert,
it was just.  And what respect could a girl acquire for such a
parent, without doing violence to reason?)

After observing sallies of this kind, I have been led into a
melancholy train of reflection respecting females, concluding that
when their first affection must lead them astray, or make their
duties clash till they rest on mere whims and customs, little can
be expected from them as they advance in life.  How, indeed, can an
instructor remedy this evil? for to teach them virtue on any solid
principle is to teach them to despise their parents.  Children
cannot, ought not to be taught to make allowance for the faults of
their parents, because every such allowance weakens the force of
reason in their minds, and makes them still more indulgent to their
own.  It is one of the most sublime virtues of maturity that leads
us to be severe with respect to ourselves, and forbearing to
others; but children should only be taught the simple virtues, for
if they begin too early to make allowance for human passions and
manners, they wear off the fine edge of the criterion by which they
should regulate their own, and become unjust in the same proportion
as they grow indulgent.

The affections of children, and weak people, are always selfish;
they love others, because others love them, and not on account of
their virtues.  Yet, till esteem and love are blended together in
the first affection, and reason made the foundation of the first
duty, morality will stumble at the threshold.  But, till society is
very differently constituted, parents, I fear, will still insist on
being obeyed, because they will be obeyed, and constantly endeavour
to settle that power on a Divine right, which will not bear the
investigation of reason.



The good effects resulting from attention to private education will
ever be very confined, and the parent who really puts his own hand
to the plow, will always, in some degree be disappointed, till
education becomes a grand national concern.  A man cannot retire
into a desert with his child, and if he did, he could not bring
himself back to childhood, and become the proper friend and
play-fellow of an infant or youth.  And when children are confined
to the society of men and women, they very soon acquire that kind
of premature manhood which stops the growth of every vigorous power
of mind or body.  In order to open their faculties they should be
excited to think for themselves; and this can only be done by
mixing a number of children together, and making them jointly
pursue the same objects.

A child very soon contracts a benumbing indolence of mind, which he
has seldom sufficient vigour to shake off, when he only asks a
question instead of seeking for information, and then relies
implicitly on the answer he receives.  With his equals in age this
could never be the case, and the subjects of inquiry, though they
might be influenced, would not be entirely under the direction of
men, who frequently damp, if not destroy abilities, by bringing
them forward too hastily:  and too hastily they will infallibly be
brought forward, if the child could be confined to the society of a
man, however sagacious that man may be.

Besides, in youth the seeds of every affection should be sown, and
the respectful regard, which is felt for a parent, is very
different from the social affections that are to constitute the
happiness of life as it advances.  Of these, equality is the basis,
and an intercourse of sentiments unclogged by that observant
seriousness which prevents disputation, though it may not inforce
submission.  Let a child have ever such an affection for his
parent, he will always languish to play and chat with children; and
the very respect he entertains, for filial esteem always has a dash
of fear mixed with it, will, if it do not teach him cunning, at
least prevent him from pouring out the little secrets which first
open the heart to friendship and confidence, gradually leading to
more expansive benevolence.  Added to this, he will never acquire
that frank ingenuousness of behaviour, which young people can only
attain by being frequently in society, where they dare to speak
what they think; neither afraid of being reproved for their
presumption, nor laughed at for their folly.

Forcibly impressed by the reflections which the sight of schools,
as they are at present conducted, naturally suggested, I have
formerly delivered my opinion rather warmly in favour of a private
education; but further experience has led me to view the subject in
a different light.  I still, however, think schools, as they are
now regulated, the hot-beds of vice and folly, and the knowledge of
human nature, supposed to be attained there, merely cunning

At school, boys become gluttons and slovens, and, instead of
cultivating domestic affections, very early rush into the
libertinism which destroys the constitution before it is formed;
hardening the heart as it weakens the understanding.

I should, in fact, be averse to boarding-schools, if it were for no
other reason than the unsettled state of mind which the expectation
of the vacations produce.  On these the children's thoughts are
fixed with eager anticipating hopes, for, at least, to speak with
moderation, half of the time, and when they arrive they are spent
in total dissipation and beastly indulgence.

But, on the contrary, when they are brought up at home, though they
may pursue a plan of study in a more orderly manner than can be
adopted, when near a fourth part of the year is actually spent in
idleness, and as much more in regret and anticipation; yet they
there acquire too high an opinion of their own importance, from
being allowed to tyrannize over servants, and from the anxiety
expressed by most mothers, on the score of manners, who, eager to
teach the accomplishments of a gentleman, stifle, in their birth,
the virtues of a man.  Thus brought into company when they ought to
be seriously employed, and treated like men when they are still
boys, they become vain and effeminate.

The only way to avoid two extremes equally injurious to morality,
would be to contrive some way of combining a public and private
education.  Thus to make men citizens, two natural steps might be
taken, which seem directly to lead to the desired point; for the
domestic affections, that first open the heart to the various
modifications of humanity would be cultivated, whilst the children
were nevertheless allowed to spend great part of their time, on
terms of equality, with other children.

I still recollect, with pleasure, the country day school; where a
boy trudged in the morning, wet or dry, carrying his books, and his
dinner, if it were at a considerable distance; a servant did not
then lead master by the hand, for, when he had once put on coat and
breeches, he was allowed to shift for himself, and return alone in
the evening to recount the feats of the day close at the parental
knee.  His father's house was his home, and was ever after fondly
remembered; nay, I appeal to some superior men who were educated in
this manner, whether the recollection of some shady lane where they
conned their lesson; or, of some stile, where they sat making a
kite, or mending a bat, has not endeared their country to them?

But, what boy ever recollected with pleasure the years he spent in
close confinement, at an academy near London? unless indeed he
should by chance remember the poor scare-crow of an usher whom he
tormented; or, the tartman, from whom he caught a cake, to devour
it with the cattish appetite of selfishness.  At boarding schools
of every description, the relaxation of the junior boys is
mischief; and of the senior, vice.  Besides, in great schools what
can be more prejudicial to the moral character, than the system of
tyranny and abject slavery which is established amongst the boys,
to say nothing of the slavery to forms, which makes religion worse
than a farce?  For what good can be expected from the youth who
receives the sacrament of the Lord's supper, to avoid forfeiting
half-a-guinea, which he probably afterwards spends in some sensual
manner?  Half the employment of the youths is to elude the
necessity of attending public worship; and well they may, for such
a constant repetition of the same thing must be a very irksome
restraint on their natural vivacity.  As these ceremonies have the
most fatal effect on their morals, and as a ritual performed by the
lips, when the heart and mind are far away, is not now stored up by
our church as a bank to draw on for the fees of the poor souls in
purgatory, why should they not be abolished?

But the fear of innovation, in this country, extends to every
thing.  This is only a covert fear, the apprehensive timidity of
indolent slugs, who guard, by sliming it over, the snug place,
which they consider in the light of an hereditary estate; and eat,
drink, and enjoy themselves, instead of fulfilling the duties,
excepting a few empty forms, for which it was endowed.  These are
the people who most strenuously insist on the will of the founder
being observed, crying out against all reformation, as if it were a
violation of justice.  I am now alluding particularly to the
relicks of popery retained in our colleges, where the protestant
members seem to be such sticklers for the established church; but
their zeal never makes them lose sight of the spoil of ignorance,
which rapacious priests of superstitious memory have scraped
together.  No, wise in their generation, they venerate the
prescriptive right of possession, as a strong hold, and still let
the sluggish bell tingle to prayers, as during the days, when the
elevation of the host was supposed to atone for the sins of the
people, lest one reformation should lead to another, and the spirit
kill the letter.  These Romish customs have the most baneful effect
on the morals of our clergy; for the idle vermin who two or three
times a day perform, in the most slovenly manner a service which
they think useless, but call their duty, soon lose a sense of duty.
At college, forced to attend or evade public worship, they acquire
an habitual contempt for the very service, the performance of which
is to enable them to live in idleness.  It is mumbled over as an
affair of business, as a stupid boy repeats his task, and
frequently the college cant escapes from the preacher the moment
after he has left the pulpit, and even whilst he is eating the
dinner which he earned in such a dishonest manner.

Nothing, indeed, can be more irreverent than the cathedral service
as it is now performed in this country, neither does it contain a
set of weaker men than those who are the slaves of this childish
routine.  A disgusting skeleton of the former state is still
exhibited; but all the solemnity, that interested the imagination,
if it did not purify the heart, is stripped off.  The performance
of high mass on the continent must impress every mind, where a
spark of fancy glows, with that awful melancholy, that sublime
tenderness, so near a-kin to devotion.  I do not say, that these
devotional feelings are of more use, in a moral sense, than any
other emotion of taste; but I contend, that the theatrical pomp
which gratifies our senses, is to be preferred to the cold parade
that insults the understanding without reaching the heart.

Amongst remarks on national education, such observations cannot be
misplaced, especially as the supporters of these establishments,
degenerated into puerilities, affect to be the champions of
religion.  Religion, pure source of comfort in this vale of tears!
how has thy clear stream been muddied by the dabblers, who have
presumptuously endeavoured to confine in one narrow channel, the
living waters that ever flow toward God-- the sublime ocean of
existence!  What would life be without that peace which the love of
God, when built on humanity, alone can impart?  Every earthly
affection turns back, at intervals, to prey upon the heart that
feeds it; and the purest effusions of benevolence, often rudely
damped by men, must mount as a free-will offering to Him who gave
them birth, whose bright image they faintly reflect.

In public schools, however, religion, confounded with irksome
ceremonies and unreasonable restraints, assumes the most ungracious
aspect:  not the sober austere one that commands respect whilst it
inspires fear; but a ludicrous cast, that serves to point a pun.
For, in fact, most of the good stories and smart things which
enliven the spirits that have been concentrated at whist, are
manufactured out of the incidents to which the very men labour to
give a droll turn who countenance the abuse to live on the spoil.

There is not, perhaps, in the kingdom, a more dogmatical or
luxurious set of men, than the pedantic tyrants who reside in
colleges and preside at public schools.  The vacations are equally
injurious to the morals of the masters and pupils, and the
intercourse, which the former keep up with the nobility, introduces
the same vanity and extravagance into their families, which banish
domestic duties and comforts from the lordly mansion, whose state
is awkwardly aped on a smaller scale.  The boys, who live at a
great expence with the masters and assistants, are never
domesticated, though placed there for that purpose; for, after a
silent dinner, they swallow a hasty glass of wine, and retire to
plan some mischievous trick, or to ridicule the person or manners
of the very people they have just been cringing to, and whom they
ought to consider as the representatives of their parents.

Can it then be a matter of surprise, that boys become selfish and
vicious who are thus shut out from social converse? or that a mitre
often graces the brow of one of these diligent pastors? The desire
of living in the same style, as the rank just above them, infects
each individual and every class of people, and meanness is the
concomitant of this ignoble ambition; but those professions are
most debasing whose ladder is patronage; yet out of one of these
professions the tutors of youth are in general chosen.  But, can
they be expected to inspire independent sentiments, whose conduct
must be regulated by the cautious prudence that is ever on the
watch for preferment?

So far, however, from thinking of the morals of boys, I have heard
several masters of schools argue, that they only undertook to teach
Latin and Greek; and that they had fulfilled their duty, by sending
some good scholars to college.

A few good scholars, I grant, may have been formed by emulation and
discipline; but, to bring forward these clever boys, the health and
morals of a number have been sacrificed.

The sons of our gentry and wealthy commoners are mostly educated at
these seminaries, and will any one pretend to assert, that the
majority, making every allowance, come under the description of
tolerable scholars?

It is not for the benefit of society that a few brilliant men
should be brought forward at the expence of the multitude.  It is
true, that great men seem to start up, as great revolutions occur,
at proper intervals, to restore order, and to blow aside the clouds
that thicken over the face of truth; but let more reason and virtue
prevail in society, and these strong winds would not be necessary.
Public education, of every denomination, should be directed to form
citizens; but if you wish to make good citizens, you must first
exercise the affections of a son and a brother.  This is the only
way to expand the heart; for public affections, as well as public
virtues, must ever grow out of the private character, or they are
merely meteors that shoot athwart a dark sky, and disappear as they
are gazed at and admired.

Few, I believe, have had much affection for mankind, who did not
first love their parents, their brothers, sisters, and even the
domestic brutes, whom they first played with.  The exercise of
youthful sympathies forms the moral temperature; and it is the
recollection of these first affections and pursuits, that gives
life to those that are afterwards more under the direction of
reason.  In youth, the fondest friendships are formed, the genial
juices mounting at the same time, kindly mix; or, rather the heart,
tempered for the reception of friendship, is accustomed to seek for
pleasure in something more noble than the churlish gratification of

In order then to inspire a love of home and domestic pleasures,
children ought to be educated at home, for riotous holidays only
make them fond of home for their own sakes.  Yet, the vacations,
which do not foster domestic affections, continually disturb the
course of study, and render any plan of improvement abortive which
includes temperance; still, were they abolished, children would be
entirely separated from their parents, and I question whether they
would become better citizens by sacrificing the preparatory
affections, by destroying the force of relationships that render
the marriage state as necessary as respectable.  But, if a private
education produce self-importance, or insulates a man in his
family, the evil is only shifted, not remedied.

This train of reasoning brings me back to a subject, on which I
mean to dwell, the necessity of establishing proper day-schools.

But these should be national establishments, for whilst
school-masters are dependent on the caprice of parents, little
exertion can be expected from them, more than is necessary to
please ignorant people.  Indeed, the necessity of a master's giving
the parents some sample of the boy's abilities, which during the
vacation, is shown to every visiter, is productive of more mischief
than would at first be supposed.  For they are seldom done
entirely, to speak with moderation, by the child itself; thus the
master countenances falsehoods, or winds the poor machine up to
some extraordinary exertion, that injures the wheels, and stops the
progress of gradual improvement.  The memory is loaded with
unintelligible words, to make a show of, without the
understanding's acquiring any distinct ideas: but only that
education deserves emphatically to be termed cultivation of mind,
which teaches young people how to begin to think.  The imagination
should not be allowed to debauch the understanding before it gained
strength, or vanity will become the forerunner of vice:  for every
way of exhibiting the acquirements of a child is injurious to its
moral character.

How much time is lost in teaching them to recite what they do not
understand! whilst, seated on benches, all in their best array, the
mammas listen with astonishment to the parrot-like prattle, uttered
in solemn cadences, with all the pomp of ignorance and folly.  Such
exhibitions only serve to strike the spreading fibres of vanity
through the whole mind; for they neither teach children to speak
fluently, nor behave gracefully.  So far from it, that these
frivolous pursuits might comprehensively be termed the study of
affectation: for we now rarely see a simple, bashful boy, though
few people of taste were ever disgusted by that awkward
sheepishness so natural to the age, which schools and an early
introduction into society, have changed into impudence and apish

Yet, how can these things be remedied whilst schoolmasters depend
entirely on parents for a subsistence; and when so many rival
schools hang out their lures to catch the attention of vain fathers
and mothers, whose parental affection only leads them to wish, that
their children should outshine those of their neighbours?

Without great good luck, a sensible, conscientious man, would
starve before he could raise a school, if he disdained to bubble
weak parents, by practising the secret tricks of the craft.

In the best regulated schools, however, where swarms are not
crammed together many bad habits must be acquired; but, at common
schools, the body, heart, and understanding, are equally stunted,
for parents are often only in quest of the cheapest school, and the
master could not live, if he did not take a much greater number
than he could manage himself; nor will the scanty pittance, allowed
for each child, permit him to hire ushers sufficient to assist in
the discharge of the mechanical part of the business.  Besides,
whatever appearance the house and garden may make, the children do
not enjoy the comforts of either, for they are continually
reminded, by irksome restrictions, that they are not at home, and
the state-rooms, garden, etc. must be kept in order for the
recreation of the parents; who, of a Sunday, visit the school, and
are impressed by the very parade that renders the situation of
their children uncomfortable.

With what disgust have I heard sensible women, for girls are more
restrained and cowed than boys, speak of the wearisome confinement
which they endured at school.  Not allowed, perhaps, to step out of
one broad walk in a superb garden, and obliged to pace with steady
deportment stupidly backwards and forwards, holding up their heads,
and turning out their toes, with shoulders braced back, instead of
bounding, as nature directs to complete her own design, in the
various attitudes so conducive to health.  The pure animal spirits,
which make both mind and body shoot out, and unfold the tender
blossoms of hope are turned sour, and vented in vain wishes, or
pert repinings, that contract the faculties and spoil the temper;
else they mount to the brain and sharpening the understanding
before it gains proportionable strength, produce that pitiful
cunning which disgracefully characterizes the female mind--and I
fear will ever characterize it whilst women remain the slaves of

The little respect which the male world pay to chastity is, I am
persuaded, the grand source of many of the physical and moral evils
that torment mankind, as well as of the vices and follies that
degrade and destroy women; yet at school, boys infallibly lose that
decent bashfulness, which might have ripened into modesty at home.

I have already animadverted on the bad habits which females acquire
when they are shut up together; and I think that the observation
may fairly be extended to the other sex, till the natural inference
is drawn which I have had in view throughout--that to improve both
sexes they ought, not only in private families, but in public
schools, to be educated together.  If marriage be the cement of
society, mankind should all be educated after the same model, or
the intercourse of the sexes will never deserve the name of
fellowship, nor will women ever fulfil the peculiar duties of their
sex, till they become enlightened citizens, till they become free,
by being enabled to earn their own subsistence, independent of men;
in the same manner, I mean, to prevent misconstruction, as one man
is independent of another.  Nay, marriage will never be held sacred
till women by being brought up with men, are prepared to be their
companions, rather than their mistresses; for the mean doublings of
cunning will ever render them contemptible, whilst oppression
renders them timid.  So convinced am I of this truth, that I will
venture to predict, that virtue will never prevail in society till
the virtues of both sexes are founded on reason; and, till the
affection common to both are allowed to gain their due strength by
the discharge of mutual duties.

Were boys and girls permitted to pursue the same studies together,
those graceful decencies might early be inculcated which produce
modesty, without those sexual distinctions that taint the mind.
Lessons of politeness, and that formulary of decorum, which treads
on the heels of falsehood, would be rendered useless by habitual
propriety of behaviour.  Not, indeed put on for visiters like the
courtly robe of politeness, but the sober effect of cleanliness of
mind.  Would not this simple elegance of sincerity be a chaste
homage paid to domestic affections, far surpassing the meretricious
compliments that shine with false lustre in the heartless
intercourse of fashionable life?  But, till more understanding
preponderate in society, there will ever be a want of heart and
taste, and the harlot's rouge will supply the place of that
celestial suffusion which only virtuous affections can give to the
face.  Gallantry, and what is called love, may subsist without
simplicity of character; but the main pillars of friendship, are
respect and confidence--esteem is never founded on it cannot tell

A taste for the fine arts requires great cultivation; but not more
than a taste for the virtuous affections:  and both suppose that
enlargement of mind which opens so many sources of mental pleasure.
Why do people hurry to noisy scenes and crowded circles?  I should
answer, because they want activity of mind, because they have not
cherished the virtues of the heart.  They only, therefore, see and
feel in the gross, and continually pine after variety, finding
every thing that is simple, insipid.

This argument may be carried further than philosophers are aware
of, for if nature destined woman, in particular, for the discharge
of domestic duties, she made her susceptible of the attached
affections in a great degree.  Now women are notoriously fond of
pleasure; and naturally must be so, according to my definition,
because they cannot enter into the minutiae of domestic taste;
lacking judgment the foundation of all taste.  For the
understanding, in spite of sensual cavillers, reserves to itself
the privilege of conveying pure joy to the heart.

With what a languid yawn have I seen an admirable poem thrown down,
that a man of true taste returns to, again and again with rapture;
and, whilst melody has almost suspended respiration, a lady has
asked me where I bought my gown.  I have seen also an eye glanced
coldly over a most exquisite picture, rest, sparkling with
pleasure, on a caricature rudely sketched; and whilst some terrific
feature in nature has spread a sublime stillness through my soul, I
have been desired to observe the pretty tricks of a lap-dog, that
my perverse fate forced me to travel with.  Is it surprising, that
such a tasteless being should rather caress this dog than her
children?  Or, that she should prefer the rant of flattery to the
simple accents of sincerity?

To illustrate this remark I must be allowed to observe, that men of
the first genius, and most cultivated minds, have appeared to have
the highest relish for the simple beauties of nature; and they must
have forcibly felt, what they have so well described, the charm,
which natural affections, and unsophisticated feelings spread round
the human character.  It is this power of looking into the heart,
and responsively vibrating with each emotion, that enables the poet
to personify each passion, and the painter to sketch with a pencil
of fire.

True taste is ever the work of the understanding employed in
observing natural effects; and till women have more understanding,
it is vain to expect them to possess domestic taste.  Their lively
senses will ever be at work to harden their hearts, and the
emotions struck out of them will continue to be vivid and
transitory, unless a proper education stores their minds with

It is the want of domestic taste, and not the acquirement of
knowledge, that takes women out of their families, and tears the
smiling babe from the breast that ought to afford it nourishment.
Women have been allowed to remain in ignorance, and slavish
dependence, many, very many years, and still we hear of nothing but
their fondness of pleasure and sway, their preference of rakes and
soldiers, their childish attachment to toys, and the vanity that
makes them value accomplishments more than virtues.

History brings forward a fearful catalogue of the crimes which
their cunning has produced, when the weak slaves have had
sufficient address to over-reach their masters.  In France, and in
how many other countries have men been the luxurious despots, and
women the crafty ministers?  Does this prove that ignorance and
dependence domesticate them?  Is not their folly the by-word of the
libertines, who relax in their society; and do not men of sense
continually lament, that an immoderate fondness for dress and
dissipation carries the mother of a family for ever from home?
Their hearts have not been debauched by knowledge, nor their minds
led astray by scientific pursuits; yet, they do not fulfil the
peculiar duties, which as women they are called upon by nature to
fulfil.  On the contrary, the state of warfare which subsists
between the sexes, makes them employ those wiles, that frustrate
the more open designs of force.

When, therefore, I call women slaves, I mean in a political and
civil sense; for, indirectly they obtain too much power, and are
debased by their exertions to obtain illicit sway.

Let an enlightened nation then try what effect reason would have to
bring them back to nature, and their duty; and allowing them to
share the advantages of education and government with man, see
whether they will become better, as they grow wiser and become
free.  They cannot be injured by the experiment; for it is not in
the power of man to render them more insignificant than they are at

To render this practicable, day schools for particular ages should
be established by government, in which boys and girls might be
educated together.  The school for the younger children, from five
to nine years of age, ought to be absolutely free and open to all
classes.*  A sufficient number of masters should also be chosen by
a select committee, in each parish, to whom any complaint of
negligence, etc. might be made, if signed by six of the children's

(*Footnote.  Treating this part of the subject, I have borrowed
some hints from a very sensible pamphlet written by the late bishop
of Autun on public Education.)

Ushers would then be unnecessary; for, I believe, experience will
ever prove, that this kind of subordinate authority is particularly
injurious to the morals of youth.  What, indeed, can tend to
deprave the character more than outward submission and inward
contempt?  Yet, how can boys be expected to treat an usher with
respect when the master seems to consider him in the light of a
servant, and almost to countenance the ridicule which becomes the
chief amusement of the boys during the play hours?

But nothing of this kind could occur in an elementary day-school,
where boys and girls, the rich and poor, should meet together.  And
to prevent any of the distinctions of vanity, they should be
dressed alike, and all obliged to submit to the same discipline, or
leave the school.  The school-room ought to be surrounded by a
large piece of ground, in which the children might be usefully
exercised, for at this age they should not be confined to any
sedentary employment for more than an hour at a time.  But these
relaxations might all be rendered a part of elementary education,
for many things improve and amuse the senses, when introduced as a
kind of show, to the principles of which dryly laid down, children
would turn a deaf ear.  For instance, botany, mechanics, and
astronomy.  Reading, writing, arithmetic, natural history, and some
simple experiments in natural philosophy, might fill up the day;
but these pursuits should never encroach on gymnastic plays in the
open air.  The elements of religion, history, the history of man,
and politics, might also be taught by conversations, in the
socratic form.

After the age of nine, girls and boys, intended for domestic
employments, or mechanical trades, ought to be removed to other
schools, and receive instruction, in some measure appropriated to
the destination of each individual, the two sexes being still
together in the morning; but in the afternoon, the girls should
attend a school, where plain work, mantua-making, millinery, etc.
would be their employment.

The young people of superior abilities, or fortune, might now be
taught, in another school, the dead and living languages, the
elements of science, and continue the study of history and
politics, on a more extensive scale, which would not exclude polite
literature.  Girls and boys still together? I hear some readers
ask:  yes.  And I should not fear any other consequence, than that
some early attachment might take place; which, whilst it had the
best effect on the moral character of the young people, might not
perfectly agree with the views of the parents, for it will be a
long time, I fear, before the world is so enlightened, that
parents, only anxious to render their children virtuous, will let
them choose companions for life themselves.

Besides, this would be a sure way to promote early marriages, and
from early marriages the most salutary physical and moral effects
naturally flow.  What a different character does a married citizen
assume from the selfish coxcomb, who lives but for himself, and who
is often afraid to marry lest he should not be able to live in a
certain style.  Great emergencies excepted, which would rarely
occur in a society of which equality was the basis, a man could
only be prepared to discharge the duties of public life, by the
habitual practice of those inferior ones which form the man.

In this plan of education, the constitution of boys would not be
ruined by the early debaucheries, which now make men so selfish,
nor girls rendered weak and vain, by indolence and frivolous
pursuits.  But, I presuppose, that such a degree of equality should
be established between the sexes as would shut out gallantry and
coquetry, yet allow friendship and love to temper the heart for the
discharge of higher duties.

These would be schools of morality--and the happiness of man,
allowed to flow from the pure springs of duty and affection, what
advances might not the human mind make?  Society can only be happy
and free in proportion as it is virtuous; but the present
distinctions, established in society, corrode all private, and
blast all public virtue.

I have already inveighed against the custom of confining girls to
their needle, and shutting them out from all political and civil
employments; for by thus narrowing their minds they are rendered
unfit to fulfil the peculiar duties which nature has assigned them.

Only employed about the little incidents of the day, they
necessarily grow up cunning.  My very soul has often sickened at
observing the sly tricks practised by women to gain some foolish
thing on which their silly hearts were set.  Not allowed to dispose
of money, or call any thing their own, they learn to turn the
market penny; or, should a husband offend, by staying from home, or
give rise to some emotions of jealousy--a new gown, or any pretty
bauble, smooths Juno's angry brow.

But these LITTLENESSES would not degrade their character, if women
were led to respect themselves, if political and moral subjects
were opened to them; and I will venture to affirm, that this is the
only way to make them properly attentive to their domestic duties.
An active mind embraces the whole circle of its duties, and finds
time enough for all.  It is not, I assert, a bold attempt to
emulate masculine virtues; it is not the enchantment of literary
pursuits, or the steady investigation of scientific subjects, that
lead women astray from duty.  No, it is indolence and vanity --the
love of pleasure and the love of sway, that will reign paramount in
an empty mind.  I say empty, emphatically, because the education
which women now receive scarcely deserves the name.  For the little
knowledge they are led to acquire during the important years of
youth, is merely relative to accomplishments; and accomplishments
without a bottom, for unless the understanding be cultivated,
superficial and monotonous is every grace.  Like the charms of a
made-up face, they only strike the senses in a crowd; but at home,
wanting mind, they want variety.  The consequence is obvious; in
gay scenes of dissipation we meet the artificial mind and face, for
those who fly from solitude dread next to solitude, the domestic
circle; not having it in their power to amuse or interest, they
feel their own insignificance, or find nothing to amuse or interest

Besides, what can be more indelicate than a girl's coming out in
the fashionable world?  Which, in other words, is to bring to
market a marriageable miss, whose person is taken from one public
place to another, richly caparisoned.  Yet, mixing in the giddy
circle under restraint, these butterflies long to flutter at large,
for the first affection of their souls is their own persons, to
which their attention has been called with the most sedulous care,
whilst they were preparing for the period that decides their fate
for life.  Instead of pursuing this idle routine, sighing for
tasteless show, and heartless state, with what dignity would the
youths of both sexes form attachments in the schools that I have
cursorily pointed out; in which, as life advanced, dancing, music,
and drawing, might be admitted as relaxations, for at these schools
young people of fortune ought to remain, more or less, till they
were of age.  Those, who were designed for particular professions,
might attend, three or four mornings in the week, the schools
appropriated for their immediate instruction.

I only drop these observations at present, as hints; rather, indeed
as an outline of the plan I mean, than a digested one; but I must
add, that I highly approve of one regulation mentioned in the
pamphlet already alluded to (The Bishop of Autun), that of making
the children and youths independent of the masters respecting
punishments.  They should be tried by their peers, which would be
an admirable method of fixing sound principles of justice in the
mind, and might have the happiest effect on the temper, which is
very early soured or irritated by tyranny, till it becomes
peevishly cunning, or ferociously overbearing.

My imagination darts forward with benevolent fervour to greet these
amiable and respectable groups, in spite of the sneering of cold
hearts, who are at liberty to utter, with frigid self-importance,
the damning epithet-- romantic; the force of which I shall
endeavour to blunt by repeating the words of an eloquent moralist.
"I know not whether the allusions of a truly humane heart, whose
zeal renders every thing easy, is not preferable to that rough and
repulsing reason, which always finds in indifference for the public
good, the first obstacle to whatever would promote it."

I know that libertines will also exclaim, that woman would be
unsexed by acquiring strength of body and mind, and that beauty,
soft bewitching beauty! would no longer adorn the daughters of men.
I am of a very different opinion, for I think, that, on the
contrary, we should then see dignified beauty, and true grace; to
produce which, many powerful physical and moral causes would
concur.  Not relaxed beauty, it is true, nor the graces of
helplessness; but such as appears to make us respect the human body
as a majestic pile, fit to receive a noble inhabitant, in the
relics of antiquity.

I do not forget the popular opinion, that the Grecian statues were
not modelled after nature.  I mean, not according to the
proportions of a particular man; but that beautiful limbs and
features were selected from various bodies to form an harmonious
whole.  This might, in some degree, be true.  The fine ideal
picture of an exalted imagination might be superior to the
materials which the painter found in nature, and thus it might with
propriety be termed rather the model of mankind than of a man.  It
was not, however, the mechanical selection of limbs and features,
but the ebullition of an heated fancy that burst forth; and the
fine senses and enlarged understanding of the artist selected the
solid matter, which he drew into this glowing focus.

I observed that it was not mechanical, because a whole was
produced--a model of that grand simplicity, of those concurring
energies, which arrest our attention and command our reverence.
For only insipid lifeless beauty is produced by a servile copy of
even beautiful nature.  Yet, independent of these observations, I
believe, that the human form must have been far more beautiful than
it is at present, because extreme indolence, barbarous ligatures,
and many causes, which forcibly act on it, in our luxurious state
of society, did not retard its expansion, or render it deformed.
Exercise and cleanliness appear to be not only the surest means of
preserving health, but of promoting beauty, the physical causes
only considered; yet, this is not sufficient, moral ones must
concur, or beauty will be merely of that rustic kind which blooms
on the innocent, wholesome countenances of some country people,
whose minds have not been exercised.  To render the person perfect,
physical and moral beauty ought to be attained at the same time;
each lending and receiving force by the combination.  Judgment must
reside on the brow, affection and fancy beam in the eye, and
humanity curve the cheek, or vain is the sparkling of the finest
eye or the elegantly turned finish of the fairest features;  whilst
in every motion that displays the active limbs and well-knit
joints, grace and modesty should appear.  But this fair assemblage
is not to be brought together by chance; it is the reward of
exertions met to support each other; for judgment can only be
acquired by reflection, affection, by the discharge of duties, and
humanity by the exercise of compassion to every living creature.

Humanity to animals should be particularly inculcated as a part of
national education, for it is not at present one of our national
virtues.  Tenderness for their humble dumb domestics, amongst the
lower class, is oftener to be found in a savage than a civilized
state.  For civilization prevents that intercourse which creates
affection in the rude hut, or mud cabin, and leads uncultivated
minds who are only depraved by the refinements which prevail in the
society, where they are trodden under foot by the rich, to domineer
over them to revenge the insults that they are obliged to bear from
their superiours.

This habitual cruelty is first caught at school, where it is one of
the rare sports of the boys to torment the miserable brutes that
fall in their way.  The transition, as they grow up, from barbarity
to brutes to domestic tyranny over wives, children, and servants,
is very easy.  Justice, or even benevolence, will not be a powerful
spring of action, unless it extend to the whole creation; nay, I
believe that it may be delivered as an axiom, that those who can
see pain, unmoved, will soon learn to inflict it.

The vulgar are swayed by present feelings, and the habits which
they have accidentally acquired; but on partial feelings much
dependence cannot be placed, though they be just; for, when they
are not invigorated by reflection, custom weakens them, till they
are scarcely felt.  The sympathies of our nature are strengthened
by pondering cogitations, and deadened by thoughtless use.
Macbeth's heart smote him more for one murder, the first, than for
a hundred subsequent ones, which were necessary to back it.  But,
when I used the epithet vulgar, I did not mean to confine my remark
to the poor, for partial humanity, founded on present sensations or
whim, is quite as conspicuous, if not more so, amongst the rich.

The lady who sheds tears for the bird starved in a snare, and
execrates the devils in the shape of men, who goad to madness the
poor ox, or whip the patient ass, tottering under a burden above
its strength, will, nevertheless, keep her coachman and horses
whole hours waiting for her, when the sharp frost bites, or the
rain beats against the well-closed windows which do not admit a
breath of air to tell her how roughly the wind blows without.  And
she who takes her dogs to bed, and nurses them with a parade of
sensibility, when sick, will suffer her babes to grow up crooked in
a nursery.  This illustration of my argument is drawn from a matter
of fact.  The woman whom I allude to was handsome, reckoned very
handsome, by those who do not miss the mind when the face is plump
and fair; but her understanding had not been led from female duties
by literature, nor her innocence debauched by knowledge.  No, she
was quite feminine, according to the masculine acceptation of the
word; and, so far from loving these spoiled brutes that filled the
place which her children ought to have occupied, she only lisped
out a pretty mixture of French and English nonsense, to please the
men who flocked round her.  The wife, mother, and human creature,
were all swallowed up by the factitious character, which an
improper education, and the selfish vanity of beauty, had produced.

I do not like to make a distinction without a difference, and I own
that I have been as much disgusted by the fine lady who took her
lap-dog to her bosom, instead of her child; as by the ferocity of a
man, who, beating his horse, declared, that he knew as well when he
did wrong as a Christian.

This brood of folly shows how mistaken they are who, if they allow
women to leave their harams, do not cultivate their understanding,
in order to plant virtues in their hearts.  For had they sense,
they might acquire that domestic taste which would lead them to
love with reasonable subordination their whole family, from the
husband to the house-dog; nor would they ever insult humanity in
the person of the most menial servant, by paying more attention to
the comfort of a brute, than to that of a fellow-creature.

My observations on national education are obviously hints; but I
principally wish to enforce the necessity of educating the sexes
together to perfect both, and of making children sleep at home,
that they may learn to love home; yet to make private support
instead of smothering public affections, they should be sent to
school to mix with a number of equals, for only by the jostlings of
equality can we form a just opinion of ourselves.

To render mankind more virtuous, and happier of course, both sexes
must act from the same principle; but how can that be expected when
only one is allowed to see the reasonableness of it?  To render
also the social compact truly equitable, and in order to spread
those enlightening principles, which alone can meliorate the fate
of man, women must be allowed to found their virtue on knowledge,
which is scarcely possible unless they be educated by the same
pursuits as men.  For they are now made so inferiour by ignorance
and low desires, as not to deserve to be ranked with them; or, by
the serpentine wrigglings of cunning they mount the tree of
knowledge and only acquire sufficient to lead men astray.

It is plain from the history of all nations, that women cannot be
confined to merely domestic pursuits, for they will not fulfil
family duties, unless their minds take a wider range, and whilst
they are kept in ignorance, they become in the same proportion, the
slaves of pleasure as they are the slaves of man.  Nor can they be
shut out of great enterprises, though the narrowness of their minds
often make them mar what they are unable to comprehend.

The libertinism, and even the virtues of superior men, will always
give women, of some description, great power over them; and these
weak women, under the influence of childish passions and selfish
vanity, will throw a false light over the objects which the very
men view with their eyes, who ought to enlighten their judgment.
Men of fancy, and those sanguine characters who mostly hold the
helm of human affairs, in general, relax in the society of women;
and surely I need not cite to the most superficial reader of
history, the numerous examples of vice and oppression which the
private intrigues of female favourites have produced; not to dwell
on the mischief that naturally arises from the blundering
interposition of well-meaning folly.  For in the transactions of
business it is much better to have to deal with a knave than a
fool, because a knave adheres to some plan; and any plan of reason
may be seen through much sooner than a sudden flight of folly.  The
power which vile and foolish women have had over wise men, who
possessed sensibility, is notorious; I shall only mention one

Whoever drew a more exalted female character than Rousseau?  though
in the lump he constantly endeavoured to degrade the sex.  And why
was he thus anxious?  Truly to justify to himself the affection
which weakness and virtue had made him cherish for that fool
Theresa.  He could not raise her to the common level of her sex;
and therefore he laboured to bring woman down to her's.  He found
her a convenient humble companion, and pride made him determine to
find some superior virtues in the being whom he chose to live with;
but did not her conduct during his life, and after his death,
clearly show how grossly he was mistaken who called her a celestial
innocent.  Nay, in the bitterness of his heart, he himself laments,
that when his bodily infirmities made him no longer treat her like
a woman, she ceased to have an affection for him.  And it was very
natural that she should, for having so few sentiments in common,
when the sexual tie was broken, what was to hold her?  To hold her
affection whose sensibility was confined to one sex, nay, to one
man, it requires sense to turn sensibility into the broad channel
of humanity: many women have not mind enough to have an affection
for a woman, or a friendship for a man.  But the sexual weakness
that makes woman depend on man for a subsistence, produces a kind
of cattish affection, which leads a wife to purr about her husband,
as she would about any man who fed and caressed her.

Men, are however, often gratified by this kind of fondness which is
confined in a beastly manner to themselves, but should they ever
become more virtuous, they will wish to converse at their fire-side
with a friend, after they cease to play with a mistress.  Besides,
understanding is necessary to give variety and interest to sensual
enjoyments, for low, indeed, in the intellectual scale, is the mind
that can continue to love when neither virtue nor sense give a
human appearance to an animal appetite.  But sense will always
preponderate; and if women are not, in general, brought more on a
level with men, some superior women, like the Greek courtezans will
assemble the men of abilities around them, and draw from their
families many citizens, who would have stayed at home, had their
wives had more sense, or the graces which result from the exercise
of the understanding and fancy, the legitimate parents of taste.  A
woman of talents, if she be not absolutely ugly, will always obtain
great power, raised by the weakness of her sex; and in proportion
as men acquire virtue and delicacy: by the exertion of reason, they
will look for both in women, but they can only acquire them in the
same way that men do.

In France or Italy have the women confined themselves to domestic
life? though they have not hitherto had a political existence, yet,
have they not illicitly had great sway? corrupting themselves and
the men with whose passions they played?  In short, in whatever
light I view the subject, reason and experience convince me, that
the only method of leading women to fulfil their peculiar duties,
is to free them from all restraint by allowing them to participate
the inherent rights of mankind.

Make them free, and they will quickly become wise and virtuous, as
men become more so; for the improvement must be mutual, or the
justice which one half of the human race are obliged to submit to,
retorting on their oppressors, the virtue of man will be worm-eaten
by the insect whom he keeps under his feet.

Let men take their choice, man and woman were made for each other,
though not to become one being; and if they will not improve women,
they will deprave them!

I speak of the improvement and emancipation of the whole sex, for I
know that the behaviour of a few women, who by accident, or
following a strong bent of nature, have acquired a portion of
knowledge superior to that of the rest of their sex, has often been
over-bearing; but there have been instances of women who, attaining
knowledge, have not discarded modesty, nor have they always
pedantically appeared to despise the ignorance which they laboured
to disperse in their own minds.  The exclamations then which any
advice respecting female learning, commonly produces, especially
from pretty women, often arise from envy.  When they chance to see
that even the lustre of their eyes, and the flippant sportiveness
of refined coquetry will not always secure them attention, during a
whole evening, should a woman of a more cultivated understanding
endeavour to give a rational turn to the conversation, the common
source of consolation is, that such women seldom get husbands.
What arts have I not seen silly women use to interrupt by
FLIRTATION, (a very significant word to describe such a manoeuvre)
a rational conversation, which made the men forget that they were
pretty women.

But, allowing what is very natural to man--that the possession of
rare abilities is really calculated to excite over-weening pride,
disgusting in both men and women--in what a state of inferiority
must the female faculties have rusted when such a small portion of
knowledge as those women attained, who have sneeringly been termed
learned women, could be singular? Sufficiently so to puff up the
possessor, and excite envy in her contemporaries, and some of the
other sex.  Nay, has not a little rationality exposed many women to
the severest censure?  I advert to well known-facts, for I have
frequently heard women ridiculed, and every little weakness
exposed, only because they adopted the advice of some medical men,
and deviated from the beaten track in their mode of treating their
infants.  I have actually heard this barbarous aversion to
innovation carried still further, and a sensible woman stigmatized
as an unnatural mother, who has thus been wisely solicitous to
preserve the health of her children, when in the midst of her care
she has lost one by some of the casualties of infancy which no
prudence can ward off.  Her acquaintance have observed, that this
was the consequence of new-fangled notions--the new-fangled notions
of ease and cleanliness.  And those who, pretending to experience,
though they have long adhered to prejudices that have, according to
the opinion of the most sagacious physicians, thinned the human
race, almost rejoiced at the disaster that gave a kind of sanction
to prescription.

Indeed, if it were only on this account, the national education of
women is of the utmost consequence; for what a number of human
sacrifices are made to that moloch, prejudice!  And in how many
ways are children destroyed by the lasciviousness of man?  The want
of natural affection in many women, who are drawn from their duty
by the admiration of men, and the ignorance of others, render the
infancy of man a much more perilous state than that of brutes; yet
men are unwilling to place women in situations proper to enable
them to acquire sufficient understanding to know how even to nurse
their babes.

So forcibly does this truth strike me, that I would rest the whole
tendency of my reasoning upon it; for whatever tends to
incapacitate the maternal character, takes woman out of her sphere.

But it is vain to expect the present race of weak mothers either to
take that reasonable care of a child's body, which is necessary to
lay the foundation of a good constitution, supposing that it do not
suffer for the sins of its fathers; or to manage its temper so
judiciously that the child will not have, as it grows up, to throw
off all that its mother, its first instructor, directly or
indirectly taught, and unless the mind have uncommon vigour,
womanish follies will stick to the character throughout life.  The
weakness of the mother will be visited on the children!  And whilst
women are educated to rely on their husbands for judgment, this
must ever be the consequence, for there is no improving an
understanding by halves, nor can any being act wisely from
imitation, because in every circumstance of life there is a kind of
individuality, which requires an exertion of judgment to modify
general rules.  The being who can think justly in one track, will
soon extend its intellectual empire; and she who has sufficient
judgment to manage her children, will not submit right or wrong, to
her husband, or patiently to the social laws which makes a
nonentity of a wife.

In public schools women, to guard against the errors of ignorance,
should be taught the elements of anatomy and medicine, not only to
enable them to take proper care of their own health, but to make
them rational nurses of their infants, parents, and husbands; for
the bills of mortality are swelled by the blunders of self-willed
old women, who give nostrums of their own, without knowing any
thing of the human frame.  It is likewise proper, only in a
domestic view, to make women, acquainted with the anatomy of the
mind, by allowing the sexes to associate together in every pursuit;
and by leading them to observe the progress of the human
understanding in the improvement of the sciences and arts; never
forgetting the science of morality, nor the study of the political
history of mankind.

A man has been termed a microcosm; and every family might also be
called a state.  States, it is true, have mostly been governed by
arts that disgrace the character of man; and the want of a just
constitution, and equal laws, have so perplexed the notions of the
worldly wise, that they more than question the reasonableness of
contending for the rights of humanity.  Thus morality, polluted in
the national reservoir, sends off streams of vice to corrupt the
constituent parts of the body politic; but should more noble, or
rather more just principles regulate the laws, which ought to be
the government of society, and not those who execute them, duty
might become the rule of private conduct.

Besides, by the exercise of their bodies and minds, women would
acquire that mental activity so necessary in the maternal
character, united with the fortitude that distinguishes steadiness
of conduct from the obstinate perverseness of weakness.  For it is
dangerous to advise the indolent to be steady, because they
instantly become rigorous, and to save themselves trouble, punish
with severity faults that the patient fortitude of reason might
have prevented.

But fortitude presupposes strength of mind, and is strength of mind
to be acquired by indolent acquiescence?  By asking advice instead
of exerting the judgment?  By obeying through fear, instead of
practising the forbearance, which we all stand in need of
ourselves?  The conclusion which I wish to draw is obvious; make
women rational creatures and free citizens, and they will quickly
become good wives, and mothers; that is--if men do not neglect the
duties of husbands and fathers.

Discussing the advantages which a public and private education
combined, as I have sketched, might rationally be expected to
produce, I have dwelt most on such as are particularly relative to
the female world, because I think the female world oppressed; yet
the gangrene which the vices, engendered by oppression have
produced, is not confined to the morbid part, but pervades society
at large;  so that when I wish to see my sex become more like moral
agents, my heart bounds with the anticipation of the general
diffusion of that sublime contentment which only morality can



There are many follies, in some degree, peculiar to women:  sins
against reason, of commission, as well as of omission; but all
flowing from ignorance or prejudice, I shall only point out such as
appear to be injurious to their moral character.  And in
animadverting on them, I wish especially to prove, that the
weakness of mind and body, which men have endeavoured by various
motives to perpetuate, prevents their discharging the peculiar duty
of their sex:  for when weakness of body will not permit them to
suckle their children, and weakness of mind makes them spoil their
tempers--is woman in a natural state?


One glaring instance of the weakness which proceeds from ignorance,
first claims attention, and calls for severe reproof.

In this metropolis a number of lurking leeches infamously gain a
subsistence by practising on the credulity of women, pretending to
cast nativities, to use the technical phrase; and many females who,
proud of their rank and fortune, look down on the vulgar with
sovereign contempt, show by this credulity, that the distinction is
arbitrary, and that they have not sufficiently cultivated their
minds to rise above vulgar prejudices.  Women, because they have
not been led to consider the knowledge of their duty as the one
thing necessary to know, or, to live in the present moment by the
discharge of it, are very anxious to peep into futurity, to learn
what they have to expect to render life interesting, and to break
the vacuum of ignorance.  I must be allowed to expostulate
seriously with the ladies, who follow these idle inventions; for
ladies, mistresses of families, are not ashamed to drive in their
own carriages to the door of the cunning man.  And if any of them
should peruse this work, I entreat them to answer to their own
hearts the following questions, not forgetting that they are in the
presence of God.

Do you believe that there is but one God, and that he is powerful,
wise, and good?

Do you believe that all things were created by him, and that all
beings are dependent on him?

Do you rely on his wisdom, so conspicuous in his works, and in your
own frame, and are you convinced, that he has ordered all things
which do not come under the cognizance of your senses, in the same
perfect harmony, to fulfil his designs?

Do you acknowledge that the power of looking into futurity and
seeing things that are not, as if they were, is an attribute of the
Creator?  And should he, by an impression on the minds of his
creatures, think fit to impart to them some event hid in the shades
of time, yet unborn, to whom would the secret be revealed by
immediate inspiration?  The opinion of ages will answer this
question--to reverend old men, to people distinguished for eminent

The oracles of old were thus delivered by priests dedicated to the
service of the God, who was supposed to inspire them.  The glare of
worldly pomp which surrounded these impostors, and the respect paid
to them by artful politicians, who knew how to avail themselves of
this useful engine to bend the necks of the strong under the
dominion of the cunning, spread a sacred mysterious veil of
sanctity over their lies and abominations.  Impressed by such
solemn devotional parade, a Greek or Roman lady might be excused,
if she inquired of the oracle, when she was anxious to pry into
futurity, or inquire about some dubious event:  and her inquiries,
however contrary to reason, could not be reckoned impious.  But,
can the professors of Christianity ward off that imputation?  Can a
Christian suppose, that the favourites of the most High, the highly
favoured would be obliged to lurk in disguise, and practise the
most dishonest tricks to cheat silly women out of the money, which
the poor cry for in vain?

Say not that such questions are an insult to common sense for it is
your own conduct, O ye foolish women! which throws an odium on your
sex!  And these reflections should make you shudder at your
thoughtlessness, and irrational devotion, for I do not suppose that
all of you laid aside your religion, such as it is, when you
entered those mysterious dwellings.  Yet, as I have throughout
supposed myself talking to ignorant women, for ignorant ye are in
the most emphatical sense of the word, it would be absurd to reason
with you on the egregious folly of desiring to know what the
Supreme Wisdom has concealed.

Probably you would not understand me, were I to attempt to show you
that it would be absolutely inconsistent with the grand purpose of
life, that of rendering human creatures wise and virtuous:  and
that, were it sanctioned by God, it would disturb the order
established in creation; and if it be not sanctioned by God, do you
expect to hear truth?  Can events be foretold, events which have
not yet assumed a body to become subject to mortal inspection, can
they be foreseen by a vicious worldling, who pampers his appetites
by preying on the foolish ones?

Perhaps, however, you devoutly believe in the devil, and imagine,
to shift the question, that he may assist his votaries? but if
really respecting the power of such a being, an enemy to goodness
and to God, can you go to church after having been under such an
obligation to him.  From these delusions to those still more
fashionable deceptions, practised by the whole tribe of
magnetisers, the transition is very natural.  With respect to them,
it is equally proper to ask women a few questions.

Do you know any thing of the construction of the human frame?  If
not, it is proper that you should be told, what every child ought
to know, that when its admirable economy has been disturbed by
intemperance or indolence, I speak not of violent disorders, but of
chronical diseases, it must be brought into a healthy state again
by slow degrees, and if the functions of life have not been
materially injured, regimen, another word for temperance, air,
exercise, and a few medicines prescribed by persons who have
studied the human body, are the only human means, yet discovered,
of recovering that inestimable blessing health, that will bear

Do you then believe, that these magnetisers, who, by hocus pocus
tricks, pretend, to work a miracle, are delegated by God, or
assisted by the solver of all these kind of difficulties--the

Do they, when they put to flight, as it is said, disorders that
have baffled the powers of medicine, work in conformity to the
light of reason? Or do they effect these wonderful cures by
supernatural aid?

By a communication, an adept may answer, with the world of spirits.
A noble privilege, it must be allowed.  Some of the ancients
mention familiar demons, who guarded them from danger, by kindly
intimating (we cannot guess in what manner,) when any danger was
nigh; or pointed out what they ought to undertake.  Yet the men who
laid claim to this privilege, out of the order of nature, insisted,
that it was the reward or consequence of superior temperance and
piety.  But the present workers of wonders are not raised above
their fellows by superior temperance or sanctity.  They do not cure
for the love of God, but money.  These are the priests of quackery,
though it be true they have not the convenient expedient of selling
masses for souls in purgatory, nor churches, where they can display
crutches, and models of limbs made sound by a touch or a word.

I am not conversant with the technical terms, nor initiated into
the arcana, therefore I may speak improperly; but it is clear, that
men who will not conform to the law of reason, and earn a
subsistence in an honest way, by degrees, are very fortunate in
becoming acquainted with such obliging spirits.  We cannot, indeed,
give them credit for either great sagacity or goodness, else they
would have chosen more noble instruments, when they wished to show
themselves the benevolent friends of man.

It is, however, little short of blasphemy to pretend to such power.

>From the whole tenor of the dispensations of Providence, it appears
evident to sober reason, that certain vices produce certain
effects: and can any one so grossly insult the wisdom of God, as to
suppose, that a miracle will be allowed to disturb his general
laws, to restore to health the intemperate and vicious, merely to
enable them to pursue the same course with impunity?  Be whole, and
sin no more, said Jesus.  And are greater miracles to be performed
by those who do not follow his footsteps, who healed the body to
reach the mind?

The mentioning of the name of Christ, after such vile impostors may
displease some of my readers--I respect their warmth; but let them
not forget, that the followers of these delusions bear his name,
and profess to be the disciples of him, who said, by their works we
should know who were the children of God or the servants of sin.  I
allow that it is easier to touch the body of a saint, or to be
magnetised, than to restrain our appetites or govern our passions;
but health of body or mind can only be recovered by these means, or
we make the Supreme Judge partial and revengeful.

Is he a man, that he should change, or punish out of resentment?
He--the common father, wounds but to heal, says reason, and our
irregularities producing certain consequences, we are forcibly
shown the nature of vice; that thus learning to know good from
evil, by experience, we may hate one and love the other, in
proportion to the wisdom which we attain.  The poison contains the
antidote; and we either reform our evil habits, and cease to sin
against our own bodies, to use the forcible language of scripture,
or a premature death, the punishment of sin, snaps the thread of

Here an awful stop is put to our inquiries.  But, why should I
conceal my sentiments?  Considering the attributes of God, I
believe, that whatever punishment may follow, will tend, like the
anguish of disease, to show the malignity of vice, for the purpose
of reformation.  Positive punishment appears so contrary to the
nature of God, discoverable in all his works, and in our own
reason, that I could sooner believe that the Deity paid no
attention to the conduct of men, than that he punished without the
benevolent design of reforming.

To suppose only, that an all-wise and powerful Being, as good as he
is great, should create a being, foreseeing, that after fifty or
sixty years of feverish existence, it would be plunged into never
ending woe--is blasphemy.  On what will the worm feed that is never
to die?  On folly, on ignorance, say ye--I should blush indignantly
at drawing the natural conclusion, could I insert it, and wish to
withdraw myself from the wing of my God!  On such a supposition, I
speak with reverence, he would be a consuming fire.  We should
wish, though vainly, to fly from his presence when fear absorbed
love, and darkness involved all his counsels.

I know that many devout people boast of submitting to the Will of
God blindly, as to an arbitrary sceptre or rod, on the same
principle as the Indians worship the devil.  In other words, like
people in the common concerns of life, they do homage to power, and
cringe under the foot that can crush them.  Rational religion, on
the contrary, is a submission to the will of a being so perfectly
wise, that all he wills must be directed by the proper motive--must
be reasonable.

And, if thus we respect God, can we give credit to the mysterious
insinuations which insult his laws?  Can we believe, though it
should stare us in the face, that he would work a miracle to
authorize confusion by sanctioning an error?  Yet we must either
allow these impious conclusions, or treat with contempt every
promise to restore health to a diseased body by supernatural means,
or to foretell, the incidents that can only be foreseen by God.


Another instance of that feminine weakness of character, often
produced by a confined education, is a romantic twist of the mind,
which has been very properly termed SENTIMENTAL.

Women, subjected by ignorance to their sensations, and only taught
to look for happiness in love, refine on sensual feelings, and
adopt metaphysical notions respecting that passion, which lead them
shamefully to neglect the duties of life, and frequently in the
midst of these sublime refinements they plunge into actual vice.

These are the women who are amused by the reveries of the stupid
novelists, who, knowing little of human nature, work up stale
tales, and describe meretricious scenes, all retailed in a
sentimental jargon, which equally tend to corrupt the taste, and
draw the heart aside from its daily duties.  I do not mention the
understanding, because never having been exercised, its slumbering
energies rest inactive, like the lurking particles of fire which
are supposed universally to pervade matter.

Females, in fact, denied all political privileges, and not allowed,
as married women, excepting in criminal cases, a civil existence,
have their attention naturally drawn from the interest of the whole
community to that of the minute parts, though the private duty of
any member of society must be very imperfectly performed, when not
connected with the general good.  The mighty business of female
life is to please, and, restrained from entering into more
important concerns by political and civil oppression, sentiments
become events, and reflection deepens what it should, and would
have effaced, if the understanding had been allowed to take a wider

But, confined to trifling employments, they naturally imbibe
opinions which the only kind of reading calculated to interest an
innocent frivolous mind, inspires.  Unable to grasp any thing
great, is it surprising that they find the reading of history a
very dry task, and disquisitions addressed to the understanding,
intolerably tedious, and almost unintelligible?  Thus are they
necessarily dependent on the novelist for amusement.  Yet, when I
exclaim against novels, I mean when contrasted with those works
which exercise the understanding and regulate the imagination.  For
any kind of reading I think better than leaving a blank still a
blank, because the mind must receive a degree of enlargement, and
obtain a little strength by a slight exertion of its thinking
powers; besides, even the productions that are only addressed to
the imagination, raise the reader a little above the gross
gratification of appetites, to which the mind has not given a shade
of delicacy.

This observation is the result of experience; for I have known
several notable women, and one in particular, who was a very good
woman--as good as such a narrow mind would allow her to be, who
took care that her daughters (three in number) should never see a
novel.  As she was a woman of fortune and fashion, they had various
masters to attend them, and a sort of menial governess to watch
their footsteps.  From their masters they learned how tables,
chairs, etc. were called in French and Italian; but as the few
books thrown in their way were far above their capacities, or
devotional, they neither acquired ideas nor sentiments, and passed
their time, when not compelled to repeat WORDS, in dressing,
quarrelling with each other, or conversing with their maids by
stealth, till they were brought into company as marriageable.

Their mother, a widow, was busy in the mean time in keeping up her
connexions, as she termed a numerous acquaintance lest her girls
should want a proper introduction into the great world.  And these
young ladies, with minds vulgar in every sense of the word, and
spoiled tempers, entered life puffed up with notions of their own
consequence, and looking down with contempt on those who could not
vie with them in dress and parade.

With respect to love, nature, or their nurses, had taken care to
teach them the physical meaning of the word; and, as they had few
topics of conversation, and fewer refinements of sentiment, they
expressed their gross wishes not in very delicate phrases, when
they spoke freely, talking of matrimony.

Could these girls have been injured by the perusal of novels?  I
almost forgot a shade in the character of one of them; she affected
a simplicity bordering on folly, and with a simper would utter the
most immodest remarks and questions, the full meaning of which she
had learned whilst secluded from the world, and afraid to speak in
her mother's presence, who governed with a high hand;  they were
all educated, as she prided herself, in a most exemplary manner;
and read their chapters and psalms before breakfast, never touching
a silly novel.

This is only one instance; but I recollect many other women who,
not led by degrees to proper studies, and not permitted to choose
for themselves, have indeed been overgrown children; or have
obtained, by mixing in the world, a little of what is termed common
sense;  that is, a distinct manner of seeing common occurrences, as
they stand detached:  but what deserves the name of intellect, the
power of gaining general or abstract ideas, or even intermediate
ones, was out of the question.  Their minds were quiescent, and
when they were not roused by sensible objects and employments of
that kind, they were low-spirited, would cry, or go to sleep.

When, therefore, I advise my sex not to read such flimsy works, it
is to induce them to read something superior; for I coincide in
opinion with a sagacious man, who, having a daughter and niece
under his care, pursued a very different plan with each.

The niece, who had considerable abilities, had, before she was left
to his guardianship, been indulged in desultory reading.  Her he
endeavoured to lead, and did lead, to history and moral essays; but
his daughter whom a fond weak mother had indulged, and who
consequently was averse to every thing like application, he allowed
to read novels;  and used to justify his conduct by saying, that if
she ever attained a relish for reading them, he should have some
foundation to work upon; and that erroneous opinions were better
than none at all.

In fact, the female mind has been so totally neglected, that
knowledge was only to be acquired from this muddy source, till from
reading novels some women of superior talents learned to despise

The best method, I believe, that can be adopted to correct a
fondness for novels is to ridicule them;  not indiscriminately, for
then it would have little effect; but, if a judicious person, with
some turn for humour, would read several to a young girl, and point
out, both by tones and apt comparisons with pathetic incidents and
heroic characters in history, how foolishly and ridiculously they
caricatured human nature, just opinions might be substituted
instead of romantic sentiments.

In one respect, however, the majority of both sexes resemble, and
equally show a want of taste and modesty.  Ignorant women, forced
to be chaste to preserve their reputation, allow their imagination
to revel in the unnatural and meretricious scenes sketched by the
novel writers of the day, slighting as insipid the sober dignity
and matronly grace of history,* whilst men carry the same vitiated
taste into life, and fly for amusement to the wanton, from the
unsophisticated charms of virtue, and the grave respectability of

(*Footnote.  I am not now alluding to that superiority of mind
which leads to the creation of ideal beauty, when life surveyed
with a penetrating eye, appears a tragi-comedy, in which little can
be seen to satisfy the heart without the help of fancy.)

Besides, the reading of novels makes women, and particularly ladies
of fashion, very fond of using strong expressions and superlatives
in conversation; and, though the dissipated artificial life which
they lead prevents their cherishing any strong legitimate passion,
the language of passion in affected tones slips for ever from their
glib tongues, and every trifle produces those phosphoric bursts
which only mimick in the dark the flame of passion.


Ignorance and the mistaken cunning that nature sharpens in weak
heads, as a principle of self-preservation, render women very fond
of dress, and produce all the vanity which such a fondness may
naturally be expected to generate, to the exclusion of emulation
and magnanimity.

I agree with Rousseau, that the physical part of the art of
pleasing consists in ornaments, and for that very reason I should
guard girls against the contagious fondness for dress so common to
weak women, that they may not rest in the physical part.  Yet, weak
are the women who imagine that they can long please without the aid
of the mind; or, in other words, without the moral art of pleasing.
But the moral art, if it be not a profanation to use the word art,
when alluding to the grace which is an effect of virtue, and not
the motive of action, is never to be found with ignorance; the
sportiveness of innocence, so pleasing to refined libertines of
both sexes, is widely different in its essence from this superior

A strong inclination for external ornaments ever appears in
barbarous states, only the men not the women adorn themselves; for
where women are allowed to be so far on a level with men, society
has advanced at least one step in civilization.

The attention to dress, therefore, which has been thought a sexual
propensity, I think natural to mankind.  But I ought to express
myself with more precision.  When the mind is not sufficiently
opened to take pleasure in reflection, the body will be adorned
with sedulous care; and ambition will appear in tattooing or
painting it.

So far is the first inclination carried, that even the hellish yoke
of slavery cannot stifle the savage desire of admiration which the
black heroes inherit from both their parents, for all the
hardly-earned savings of a slave are commonly expended in a little
tawdry finery.  And I have seldom known a good male or female
servant that was not particularly fond of dress.  Their clothes
were their riches; and I argue from analogy, that the fondness for
dress, so extravagant in females, arises from the same cause--want
of cultivation of mind.  When men meet they converse about
business, politics, or literature; but, says Swift, "how naturally
do women apply their hands to each others lappets and ruffles."
And very natural it is--for they have not any business to interest
them, have not a taste for literature, and they find politics dry,
because they have not acquired a love for mankind by turning their
thoughts to the grand pursuits that exalt the human race and
promote general happiness.

Besides, various are the paths to power and fame, which by accident
or choice men pursue, and though they jostle against each other,
for men of the same profession are seldom friends, yet there is a
much greater number of their fellow-creatures with whom they never
clash.  But women are very differently situated with respect to
each other--for they are all rivals.

Before marriage it is their business to please men; and after, with
a few exceptions, they follow the same scent, with all the
persevering pertinacity of instinct.  Even virtuous women never
forget their sex in company, for they are for ever trying to make
themselves AGREEABLE.  A female beauty and a male wit, appear to be
equally anxious to draw the attention of the company to themselves;
and the animosity of contemporary wits is proverbial.

Is it then surprising, that when the sole ambition of woman centres
in beauty, and interest gives vanity additional force, perpetual
rivalships should ensue?  They are all running the same race, and
would rise above the virtue of mortals if they did not view each
other with a suspicious and even envious eye.

An immoderate fondness for dress, for pleasure and for sway, are
the passions of savages; the passions that occupy those uncivilized
beings who have not yet extended the dominion of the mind, or even
learned to think with the energy necessary to concatenate that
abstract train of thought which produces principles.  And that
women, from their education and the present state of civilized
life, are in the same condition, cannot, I think, be controverted.
To laugh at them then, or satirize the follies of a being who is
never to be allowed to act freely from the light of her own reason,
is as absurd as cruel; for that they who are taught blindly to obey
authority, will endeavour cunningly to elude it, is most natural
and certain.

Yet let it be proved, that they ought to obey man implicitly, and I
shall immediately agree that it is woman's duty to cultivate a
fondness for dress, in order to please, and a propensity to cunning
for her own preservation.

The virtues, however, which are supported by ignorance, must ever
be wavering--the house built on sand could not endure a storm.  It
is almost unnecessary to draw the inference.  If women are to be
made virtuous by authority, which is a contradiction in terms, let
them be immured in seraglios and watched with a jealous eye.  Fear
not that the iron will enter into their souls--for the souls that
can bear such treatment are made of yielding materials, just
animated enough to give life to the body.

"Matter too soft a lasting mark to bear,
And best distinguish'd by black, brown, or fair."

The most cruel wounds will of course soon heal, and they may still
people the world, and dress to please man--all the purposes which
certain celebrated writers have allowed that they were created to


Women are supposed to possess more sensibility, and even humanity,
than men, and their strong attachments and instantaneous emotions
of compassion are given as proofs; but the clinging affection of
ignorance has seldom any thing noble in it, and may mostly be
resolved into selfishness, as well as the affection of children and
brutes.  I have known many weak women whose sensibility was
entirely engrossed by their husbands; and as for their humanity, it
was very faint indeed, or rather it was only a transient emotion of
compassion,  "Humanity does not consist in a squeamish ear," says
an eminent orator.  "It belongs to the mind as well as the nerves."

But this kind of exclusive affection, though it degrade the
individual, should not be brought forward as a proof of the
inferiority of the sex, because it is the natural consequence of
confined views:  for even women of superior sense, having their
attention turned to little employments, and private plans, rarely
rise to heroism, unless when spurred on by love; and love as an
heroic passion, like genius, appears but once in an age.  I
therefore agree with the moralist who asserts, "that women have
seldom so much generosity as men;" and that their narrow
affections, to which justice and humanity are often sacrificed,
render the sex apparently inferior, especially as they are commonly
inspired by men; but I contend, that the heart would expand as the
understanding gained strength, if women were not depressed from
their cradles.

I know that a little sensibility and great weakness will produce a
strong sexual attachment, and that reason must cement friendship;
consequently I allow, that more friendship is to be found in the
male than the female world, and that men have a higher sense of
justice.  The exclusive affections of women seem indeed to resemble
Cato's most unjust love for his country.  He wished to crush
Carthage, not to save Rome, but to promote its vain glory; and in
general, it is to similar principles that humanity is sacrificed,
for genuine duties support each other.

Besides, how can women be just or generous, when they are the
slaves of injustice.


As the rearing of children, that is, the laying a foundation of
sound health both of body and mind in the rising generation, has
justly been insisted on as the peculiar destination of woman, the
ignorance that incapacitates them must be contrary to the order of
things.  And I contend, that their minds can take in much more, and
ought to do so, or they will never become sensible mothers.  Many
men attend to the breeding of horses, and overlook the management
of the stable, who would, strange want of sense and feeling! think
themselves degraded by paying any attention to the nursery; yet,
how many children are absolutely murdered by the ignorance of
women!  But when they escape, and are neither destroyed by
unnatural negligence nor blind fondness, how few are managed
properly with respect to the infant mind!  So that to break the
spirit, allowed to become vicious at home, a child is sent to
school; and the methods taken there, which must be taken to keep a
number of children in order, scatter the seeds of almost every vice
in the soil thus forcibly torn up.

I have sometimes compared the struggles of these poor children who
ought never to have felt restraint, nor would, had they been always
held in with an even hand, to the despairing plunges of a spirited
filly, which I have seen breaking on a strand;  its feet sinking
deeper and deeper in the sand every time it endeavoured to throw
its rider, till at last it sullenly submitted.

I have always found horses, an animal I am attached to, very
tractable when treated with humanity and steadiness, so that I
doubt whether the violent methods taken to break them, do not
essentially injure them; I am, however, certain that a child should
never be thus forcibly tamed after it has injudiciously been
allowed to run wild; for every violation of justice and reason, in
the treatment of children, weakens their reason.  And, so early do
they catch a character, that the base of the moral character,
experience leads me to infer, is fixed before their seventh year,
the period during which women are allowed the sole management of
children.  Afterwards it too often happens that half the business
of education is to correct, and very imperfectly is it done, if
done hastily, the faults, which they would never have acquired if
their mothers had had more understanding.

One striking instance of the folly of women must not be omitted.
The manner in which they treat servants in the presence of
children, permitting them to suppose, that they ought to wait on
them, and bear their humours.  A child should always be made to
receive assistance from a man or woman as a favour; and, as the
first lesson of independence, they should practically be taught, by
the example of their mother, not to require that personal
attendance which it is an insult to humanity to require, when in
health; and instead of being led to assume airs of consequence, a
sense of their own weakness should first make them feel the natural
equality of man.  Yet, how frequently have I indignantly heard
servants imperiously called to put children to bed, and sent away
again and again, because master or miss hung about mamma, to stay a
little longer.  Thus made slavishly to attend the little idol, all
those most disgusting humours were exhibited which characterize a
spoiled child.

In short, speaking of the majority of mothers, they leave their
children entirely to the care of servants: or, because they are
their children, treat them as if they were little demi-gods, though
I have always observed, that the women who thus idolize their
children, seldom show common humanity to servants, or feel the
least tenderness for any children but their own.

It is, however, these exclusive affections, and an individual
manner of seeing things, produced by ignorance, which keep women
for ever at a stand, with respect to improvement, and make many of
them dedicate their lives to their children only to weaken their
bodies and spoil their tempers, frustrating also any plan of
education that a more rational father may adopt; for unless a
mother concurs, the father who restrains will ever be considered as
a tyrant.

But, fulfilling the duties of a mother, a woman with a sound
constitution, may still keep her person scrupulously neat, and
assist to maintain her family, if necessary, or by reading and
conversations with both sexes, indiscriminately, improve her mind.
For nature has so wisely ordered things, that did women suckle
their children, they would preserve their own health, and there
would be such an interval between the birth of each child, that we
should seldom see a house full of babes.  And did they pursue a
plan of conduct, and not waste their time in following the
fashionable vagaries of dress, the management of their household
and children need not shut them out from literature, nor prevent
their attaching themselves to a science, with that steady eye which
strengthens the mind, or practising one of the fine arts that
cultivate the taste.

But, visiting to display finery, card playing, and balls, not to
mention the idle bustle of morning trifling, draw women from their
duty, to render them insignificant, to render them pleasing,
according to the present acceptation of the word, to every man, but
their husband.  For a round of pleasures in which the affections
are not exercised, cannot be said to improve the understanding,
though it be erroneously called seeing the world; yet the heart is
rendered cold and averse to duty, by such a senseless intercourse,
which becomes necessary from habit, even when it has ceased to

But, till more equality be established in society, till ranks are
confounded and women freed, we shall not see that dignified
domestic happiness, the simple grandeur of which cannot be relished
by ignorant or vitiated minds; nor will the important task of
education ever be properly begun till the person of a woman is no
longer preferred to her mind.  For it would be as wise to expect
corn from tares, or figs from thistles, as that a foolish ignorant
woman should be a good mother.


It is not necessary to inform the sagacious reader, now I enter on
my concluding reflections, that the discussion of this subject
merely consists in opening a few simple principles, and clearing
away the rubbish which obscured them.  But, as all readers are not
sagacious, I must be allowed to add some explanatory remarks to
bring the subject home to reason--to that sluggish reason, which
supinely takes opinions on trust, and obstinately supports them to
spare itself the labour of thinking.

Moralists have unanimously agreed, that unless virtue be nursed by
liberty, it will never attain due strength--and what they say of
man I extend to mankind, insisting, that in all cases morals must
be fixed on immutable principles; and that the being cannot be
termed rational or virtuous, who obeys any authority but that of

To render women truly useful members of society, I argue, that they
should be led, by having their understandings cultivated on a large
scale, to acquire a rational affection for their country, founded
on knowledge, because it is obvious, that we are little interested
about what we do not understand.  And to render this general
knowledge of due importance, I have endeavoured to show that
private duties are never properly fulfilled, unless the
understanding enlarges the heart; and that public virtue is only an
aggregate of private.  But, the distinctions established in society
undermine both, by beating out the solid gold of virtue, till it
becomes only the tinsel-covering of vice; for, whilst wealth
renders a man more respectable than virtue, wealth will be sought
before virtue; and, whilst women's persons are caressed, when a
childish simper shows an absence of mind--the mind will lie fallow.
Yet, true voluptuousness must proceed from the mind--for what can
equal the sensations produced by mutual affection, supported by
mutual respect?  What are the cold or feverish caresses of
appetite, but sin embracing death, compared with the modest
overflowings of a pure heart and exalted imagination?  Yes, let me
tell the libertine of fancy when he despises understanding in
woman--that the mind, which he disregards, gives life to the
enthusiastic affection from which rapture, short-lived as it is,
alone can flow!  And, that, without virtue, a sexual attachment
must expire, like a tallow candle in the socket, creating
intolerable disgust.  To prove this, I need only observe, that men
who have wasted great part of their lives with women, and with whom
they have sought for pleasure with eager thirst, entertain the
meanest opinion of the sex.  Virtue, true refiner of joy! if
foolish men were to fright thee from earth, in order to give loose
to all their appetites without a check--some sensual wight of taste
would scale the heavens to invite thee back, to give a zest to

That women at present are by ignorance rendered foolish or vicious,
is, I think, not to be disputed; and, that the most salutary
effects tending to improve mankind, might be expected from a
REVOLUTION in female manners, appears at least, with a face of
probability, to rise out of the observation.  For as marriage has
been termed the parent of those endearing charities, which draw man
from the brutal herd, the corrupting intercourse that wealth,
idleness, and folly produce between the sexes, is more universally
injurious to morality, than all the other vices of mankind
collectively considered.  To adulterous lust the most sacred duties
are sacrificed, because, before marriage, men, by a promiscuous
intimacy with women, learned to consider love as a selfish
gratification--learned to separate it not only from esteem, but
from the affection merely built on habit, which mixes a little
humanity with it.  Justice and friendship are also set at defiance,
and that purity of taste is vitiated, which would naturally lead a
man to relish an artless display of affection, rather than affected
airs.  But that noble simplicity of affection, which dares to
appear unadorned, has few attractions for the libertine, though it
be the charm, which, by cementing the matrimonial tie, secures to
the pledges of a warmer passion the necessary parental attention;
for children will never be properly educated till friendship
subsists between parents.  Virtue flies from a house divided
against itself--and a whole legion of devils take up their
residence there.

The affection of husbands and wives cannot be pure when they have
so few sentiments in common, and when so little confidence is
established at home, as must be the case when their pursuits are so
different.  That intimacy from which tenderness should flow, will
not, cannot subsist between the vicious.

Contending, therefore, that the sexual distinction, which men have
so warmly insisted upon, is arbitrary, I have dwelt on an
observation, that several sensible men, with whom I have conversed
on the subject, allowed to be well founded; and it is simply this,
that the little chastity to be found amongst men, and consequent
disregard of modesty, tend to degrade both sexes; and further, that
the modesty of women, characterized as such, will often be only the
artful veil of wantonness, instead of being the natural reflection
of purity, till modesty be universally respected.

>From the tyranny of man, I firmly believe, the greater number of
female follies proceed; and the cunning, which I allow, makes at
present a part of their character, I likewise have repeatedly
endeavoured to prove, is produced by oppression.  Were not
dissenters, for instance, a class of people, with strict truth
characterized as cunning?  And may I not lay some stress on this
fact to prove, that when any power but reason curbs the free spirit
of man, dissimulation is practised, and the various shifts of art
are naturally called forth?  Great attention to decorum, which was
carried to a degree of scrupulosity, and all that puerile bustle
about trifles and consequential solemnity, which Butler's
caricature of a dissenter brings before the imagination, shaped
their persons as well as their minds in the mould of prim
littleness.  I speak collectively, for I know how many ornaments to
human nature have been enrolled amongst sectaries; yet, I assert,
that the same narrow prejudice for their sect, which women have for
their families, prevailed in the dissenting part of the community,
however worthy in other respects; and also that the same timid
prudence, or headstrong efforts, often disgraced the exertions of
both.  Oppression thus formed many of the features of their
character perfectly to coincide with that of the oppressed half of
mankind; for is it not notorious, that dissenters were like women,
fond of deliberating together, and asking advice of each other,
till by a complication of little contrivances, some little end was
brought about?  A similar attention to preserve their reputation
was conspicuous in the dissenting and female world, and was
produced by a similar cause.

Asserting the rights which women in common with men ought to
contend for, I have not attempted to extenuate their faults; but to
prove them to be the natural consequence of their education and
station in society.  If so, it is reasonable to suppose, that they
will change their character, and correct their vices and follies,
when they are allowed to be free in a physical, moral, and civil

Let woman share the rights, and she will emulate the virtues of
man; for she must grow more perfect when emancipated, or justify
the authority that chains such a weak being to her duty.  If the
latter, it will be expedient to open a fresh trade with Russia for
whips; a present which a father should always make to his
son-in-law on his wedding day, that a husband may keep his whole
family in order by the same means; and without any violation of
justice reign, wielding this sceptre, sole master of his house,
because he is the only being in it who has reason; the divine,
indefeasible, earthly sovereignty breathed into man by the Master
of the universe.  Allowing this position, women have not any
inherent rights to claim; and, by the same rule their duties
vanish, for rights and duties are inseparable.

Be just then, O ye men of understanding! and mark not more severely
what women do amiss, than the vicious tricks of the horse or the
ass for whom ye provide provender, and allow her the privileges of
ignorance, to whom ye deny the rights of reason, or ye will be
worse than Egyptian task-masters, expecting virtue where nature has
not given understanding!

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
 - With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects" ***

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