Original source: info.umd.edu/info/ReadingRoom/Miscellaneous/VindicationofRights

Digitized August 1993 by:
Paula Gaber

Based on the Everyman's Library edition, originally published in 1929, reprinted 1992. (Only the introduction is copyrighted.) ISBN 0 460 87173 0

[Fixed several typos, WT, 9/1/93]

This text is in the PUBLIC DOMAIN.





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 civilisation 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 which 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 attri- bute 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 affectionate wives and rational mothers; and the understanding

of the sex has been so bubbled by this specious homage, that the

civilised 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 improve- ment 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 treated as a kind of subordinate beings,

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 quality or 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 point of

strength is, in general, inferior to the male. This is the law of

Nature; and it does not appear to be suspended or abrogated in

favour of woman. A degree of physical superiority cannot,

therefore, be denied, and it is a noble prerogative! But not

content with this natural preeminence, 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 raises females in the scale of animal being,

when they are comprehensively termed mankind, all those who view

them with a philosophic 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 gland 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


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


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 charac- teristics 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 hurnan 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, or 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 superlatives, dropping glibly from the tongue, vitiate

the taste, and create a kind of sickly delicacy that tums away from

simple unadorned truth; and a deluge of false sentiments and

overstretched 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 nse 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 a seraglio! Can they be expected to govern a family

with judgment, or take care of the poor babes whom they bring into

the world?

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 hitherto received has only

tended, with the constituion 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,[1] I presume that rational men

will excuse me for endeavouring to persuade them to become more

masculine and respectable.

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


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 tyrannise, and

gives birth to cunning, the natural opponent of strength, which

leads them to play off those contemptible infantine airs that

undermine esteem even whilst they excite desire. Let men become

more chaste and modest, and if women do not grow wiser in the same

ratio, it will be clear that they have weaker understandings. 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. 


[1] A lively writer (I cannot recollect his name) asks what

business women turned of forty have to do in the world?



                     M. TALLEYRAND-PERIGORD

                      Late Bishop of Autun

SIR,--Having read with great pleasure a pamphlet which you have

lately published, 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, from which naturally flow 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 observe.

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 woman, 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 and virtue; 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 knows why

she ought to be virtuous? unless freedom strengthens her reason

till she comprehends 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,

idolised, 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


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 of 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 principle 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 

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 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, inter- meddle 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 rights, 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. 

                      A VINDICATION OF THE 

                         RIGHTS OF WOMAN


                       MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT


When I began to write this work, I divided it into three parts,

supposing that one volume would contain a full discussion of the

arguments which seemed to me to rise naturally from a few simple

principles; but fresh illustrations occurring as I advanced, I now

present only the first part to the public.

Many subjects, however, which I have cursorily alluded to, call for

particular investigation, especially the laws relative to women,

and the consideration of their peculiar duties. These will furnish

ample matter for a second volume, which in due time will be

published, to elucidate some of the sentiments and complete many of

the sketches begun in the first.

                            CHAPTER I


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 can scarcely 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 civilisation 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, like Pandora's pent-up

mischiefs, 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 at- tribute 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 B state of nature is preferable to civilisation, 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 error 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 excellence by the exercise of powers

implanted for that purpose; if benignity itself thought fit to call

into existence a creature above the brutes,[1] who could think and

improve himself, why should that inestimable gift, for a gift it

was, if 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 the whole of our

existence were 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 imbitter 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,[2] 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 apostrophising 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

stigmatises, as vicious, every effort of genius; and, uttering the

apotheosis of savage virtues, he exalts those to demi-gods, who

were scarcely human--the brutal Spartans, who, in defiance of

justice and gratitude, sacrificed, in cold blood, the slaves who

had shown themselves heroes 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 civilisation or the vestiges of barbarism. He saw vice trampling

on virtue, and the semblance of goodness taking the 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 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.[3]

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 thistles?

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! Sure 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 inebriates 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,[4] whose ashes still


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 chair; of despots, who,

submitting and tyrannising 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 novitiate to the curate, who must

obsequiously respect the opinion of his rector or patron, if he

mean 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 monarchical and priestly power, and the dawn of

civilisation. 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, expand the mind,

despots are compelled to make covert corruption hold fast the power

which was formerly snatched by open force.[5] And this baneful


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 spread, the

instrument of tyranny.

It is the pestiferous purple which renders the progress of

civilisation 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 civilisation, instead of taking

his ferocious flight back to the night of sensual ignorance. 


[1]  Contrary to the opinion of the anatomists, who argye by

analogy from the formation of the teeth, stomach, and intestines,

Rousseau will not allow a man to be a carniverous animal. And,

carried away from nature by a love of system, he disputes whether

man be a gregarious animal, though the long and helpless state of

infancy seems to point him out as particularly impelled to pair,

the first step towards herding.

[2]  What would you say to a mechanic whom you had desired to make

a watch to point out the hour of the day, if, to show his

ingenuity, he added wheels to make it a repeater, etc., that

perplexed the simple mechanism; should he urge - to excuse himself

- had you not touched a certain spring, you would have known

nothing of the matter, and that he should have amused himself by

making an experiment without doing you any harm, would you not

retort fairly upon him, bu insisting that if he had not added those

needless wheels and springs, the accident could not have happened?

[3]  Could there be a greater insult offered to the rights of man

than the beds of justice in France, when an infant was made the

organ of the detestable Dubois?

[4]  Dr. Price.

[5]  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.

                           CHAPTER II


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 satirise our headstrong passions and

grovelling 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, everything 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 con- duct 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


          To whom thus Eve with perfect beauty adorn'd 

          My author and disposer, what thou bid'st 

          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 equals what society

          Can sort, what harmony or true 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 until 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. XXXXX 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, weak 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 consequence. 

Many are the causes that, in the present corrupt state of society,

contribute to enslave women by cramping their under- standings and

sharpening their senses. One, perhaps, that silently does more

mischief than all the rest, is their disregard of order. 

To do everything 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

generalising 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 generalised 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 when 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, practise 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.[1] 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 discover.  

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 analysed. 

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 civilised

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 into society, which leads the

very men who are the slaves of their mistresses to tyrannise 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 endeavour to keep woman  in the dark, because only

want slaves, and the latter a plaything. 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 pretty

foot 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, or strengthened by a union in intellectual

pursuits. The domestic trifles of the day have afforded matters 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;[2] 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

coquettish 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, should 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 sober light. 

Probably the prevailing opinion that woman was created for man, may

have taken its rise from Moses' 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 the whole creation was only

created for his convenience or 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 seemed 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, or 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 assertion. For Pope has said in the name of

the whole male sex:

          Yet ne'er so sure our passion 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 very 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 sunbeams, and

that they cannot have much effect on her husband's heart when they

are seen every day, when the summer is passed 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 their health is undermined and their 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 to rely for all her

happiness on a being subject to like infirmities with herself.  

The worthy 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 fulfil with scrupulous exactness when vice reigns in the heart. 

Women ought to endeavour to purify their heart; but can they do so

when their uncultivated understandings make them entirely dependent

on their senses for employment and amusement, when no noble

pursuits set 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 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, by possessing such substantial qualities, merit his regard,

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

harmonise 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 and 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 .ouch 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 were 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 acquire neither 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 improbable 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 coquettish 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 embitter

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 wing? 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 have

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 a husband be obtained, she have arrived at her goal, and

meanly proud, rests satisfied with such a paltry crown, let her

grovel contentedly, scarcely raised by her employments above the

animal kingdom;  but, if struggling for the prize of her high

calling, she look beyond  the present scene, 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 expense of


I own it frequently happens, that women who have fostered a

romantic unnatural delicacy of feeling, waste their [3] 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 [4] 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 neither to be

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 towards

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

individuals 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 be but one criterion of morals,

but one architype 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 superior order

accidentally caged in a human body. Following the same train of

thinking, 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

female frames. 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 understanding 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 ill 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 be 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 insulated, 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 be, 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. 

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 scarcely have shown any

discernment of human excellence, have tyrannised 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.


[1]  Why should women be censured with petulant acrimony because

they seem to have a passion for a scarlet coat? Has not an

education placed them more on a level with soldiers than any other

class of men?

[2]  Similar feelings has Milton's pleasing picture of paradisiacal

happiness ever raised in my; yet, instead of envying the lovely

pair, I have with concious dignity or satanic pride turned to hell

for sublimer objects. In the same style, when viewing some noble

monument of human art, I have traced the emanation of the Deity in

the order I admired, till, descending from that giddy height, I

have caught myself contemplating the grandest of all human sights;

for fancy quickly placed in some solitary recess an outcast of

fortune, rising superior to passion and discontent.

[3]   For example, the herd of Novelists.

[4]  Vide Rousseau and Swedenborg.

                          CHAPTER III


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 to the character

of a gentleman.  

That they have both, by departing from one extreme run into

another, may easily be proved; but first it 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 cause. 

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 fortyfive.

And considering the thoughtless manner in which they have 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 danger 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 frenzy " 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.[1]

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, were 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,

or 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


But should it be proved that woman is naturally weaker than man,

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 pages of genius have 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


Purposing these reflections, the fondness for dress, conspicuous in

woman, may 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 paradox. 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 he 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


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


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, harmlessly 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 & 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 could

have become such a weak and depraved being, if, like the Sybarites,

dissolved in luxury, everything like virtue had not been worn

pressed by precept, a poor substitute, it is 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 everywhere 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

adore 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 were 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 further.  

Perhaps, if the existence of an evil being were 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 extrinsic 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 subtilest 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

civilisation 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 morals are supposed

to limit His power irreverently, who think that it must be

regulated by His wisdom. 

I disclaim that specious 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 dash with those

I adore--and I am compelled to listen to her voice. 

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, to 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, 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 their

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 farther; and here shall thy proud waves be

stayed." Vainly then do they beat and foam, restrained by the power

that confines the struggling planets in 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, regulates the universe.  

Besides, if women be 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 vicegerents allowed to reign over a small domain, and answerable

for their conduct to a higher tribunal, liable to error?  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

secondhand, 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 [4] 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


With respect to religion, she never presumed to judge for herself;

but conformed, as a dependent creature should, to the effects of a

good education ! These the virtues of man's helpmate ![5] 

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 discharge of 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 hers, 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 of their understanding

is necessary, there is of character; I mean bow to the authority

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

organised, 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 anything that is not obtained by its own exertions?


[1]  "Researches into abstract and speculative truths the

principles and axioms of sciences,--in short, everything which

tends to generalise our ideas,--is not the proper province of

women, their studies should be relative to points of practice; it

belongs to them to apply those principles which men have

discovered- and it is their part to make observations which direct

men to the establishment of general principles. All the ideas of

women, which have not the immediate tendency to points of duty

should be directed to the study of men, and to the attainment of

those agreeable accomplishments which have taste for their object-

for as to works of genius they are beyond their capacity neither

have they sufficient precision or power of attention to succeed in

sciences which require accuracy- and as to physical knowledge, it

belongs to those only who are most active, most inquisitive, who

comprehend the greatest variety of objects; in short, it belongs to

those who have the strongest powers, and who exercise them most, to

judge of the relations between sensible beings and the laws of

nature. A woman who is naturally weak, and does not carry her ideas

to any great extent, knows how to judge and make a proper estimate

of those movements which she sets to work, in order to aid her

weakness; and these movements are the passions of men. The

mechanism she employs is much more powerful than ours, for all her

levers move the human heart. She must have the skill to incline us

to do everything which her sex will not enable her to do herself,

and which is necessary or agreeable to her; therefore she ought to

study the mind of man thoroughly, not the mind of man in general,

abstractedly, but the dispositions of those men to whom she is

subject either by the laws of her country or by the force of

opinion. She should learn to penetrate into their real sentiments

from their conversation, their actions, their looks and gestures.

She should also have the art, by her own conversation, actions,

looks, and gestures, to communicate those sentiments which are

agreeable to them without seeming to intend it. Men will argue more

philosophically about the human heart- but women will read the

heart of men better than they. It belongs to women--if I may be

allowed the expression--to form an experimental morality, and to

reduce the study of man to a system Women have most wit, men have

most genius- women observe, men reason. From the Concurrence of

both we derive the clearest light and the most perfect knowledge

which the human mind is of itself capable of attaining. In one

word, from hence we acquire the most intimate acquaintance, both

with ourselves and others, of which our nature is capable; and it

is thus that art has a constant tendency to perfect those

endowments which nature has bestowed. The world is the book of

women." -- ROUSSEAU'S Emilius.

I hope my readers still remember the comparison which I have

brought forward between women and officers. 

[2]  "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 ill

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 art 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 tribulations become the only pursuit

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 being 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

cultural or affected graces to the eyes of indolent and debauched

young men, to dissipate their husband's 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 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 it arms it against the inevitable evils of life.'"

--Mr. Day's Sandford and Merton, vol. iii.

[3]  "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 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 Emililus.

[4]  "In the union of the sexes, both pursue one common object, but

not in the same manner. From their diversity in this particular,

arises the first determinate difference between the moral relations

of each. The one should be active and strong the other passive and

weak; it is necessary the one should have both the power and the

will and that the other should make little resistance.

"This principle being established it follows that woman is

expressly formed to please the man: if the obligation be reciprocal

also and the man ought to please in his turn it is not so

immediately necessary his great merit is in his power and he

pleases merely because he is strong. This I must confess is not one

of the refined maxims of love; it is however one of the laws of

nature prior to love itself.

"If woman be formed to please and be subjected to man, it is her

place, doubtless, to render herself agreeable to him instead of

challenging his passion. The violence of his desires depends on her

charms is by means of these she should urge him to the exertion of

those powers which nature hath given him. The most successful

method of exciting them, is, to render such exertion necessary by

resistance; as in that case self-love is added to desire and the

one triumphs in the victory which the other is obliged to acquire.

Hence arise the various modes of attack and defence between the

sexes the boldness of one sex and the timidity of the other- and in

a word that bashfulness and modesty with which nature hath armed

the weak in order to subdue the strong." --Rousseau's Emilius.

I shall make no other comment on this ingenious passage than just

to observe that it is the philosophy of lasciviousness.

[5]  "O how lovely, exclaims Rousseau, speaking of Sophia, is her

ignorance! Happy is he who is destined to instruct her! She will

never pretend to be the tutor of her husband but will be content to

be his pupil. Far from attempting to subject him to her taste she

will accommodate her self to his. She will be more estimable to him

than if she was learned he will have a pleasure in instructing her.

--Rousseau's Emilius.

I shall content myself with simply asking how friendship can

subsist when love expires between the master and his pupil. 

                           CHAPTER IV



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 anything, or the obsequious slaves, who patiently allow

themselves to be driven forward, would feel their own consequence,

and spurn their chains. Men, they further observe, submit

everywhere 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 tomorrow 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.[1] 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 characterise intellect.

The stamen of immortality, if I may be allowed the phrase is the

perfectibility of human reason; for, were 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 another; 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?[2] Yet outwardly

ornamented with elaborate care, and so adorned to delight man, "

that with honour he may love,"[3] the soul of woman is not allowed


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 have reason or

not. If she have, 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 character. 

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 towards perfection;[4] 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.[5] Thus understanding, strictly speaking, has been


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 anything,

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 everything 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 be 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 themselves? 

Pleasure is the business of 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 the natural

rights which the exercise of reason might have procured them, and

chosen rather to be short-lived queens than labour to obtain 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 tyrannise 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 for ever 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 civilisation 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 P 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 scorned when not adored

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

Louis XIV, 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.[6] His


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 question. 

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 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, 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 by 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 civilisation--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 localised--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 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 to 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 impassioned 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 to 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 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. Louis 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 trembled, 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 knowledge falls

               Degraded. Wisdom in discourse with her 

               Loses discountenanced, 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 civilisation, 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. Civilised women are, therefore, so

weakened by false refinement, that, respecting morals, their

condition is much below what it would be were they left 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 in the

mould of folly 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 anything 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


                    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 danger 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 produce some pretty attitudes;

but they show a degree of imbecility which degrades a rational

creature in a way women are not aware of--for love and esteem are

very distinct things. 

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 organised, 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 offence;

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 everything 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 organised,

there would be still less need of great abilities, or heroic


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, which

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 such important duties

the main business of life, though reason were insulted. Yet, and I

appeal to experience, if by neglecting the understanding they be as

much, nay, more detached from these domestic employments, 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,[7] 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 follow their example; 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 women'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 sits lightly on the wing

of time. 

"The power of the woman," 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.[8] 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


Another argument that has had 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, led him to violate prior duties. She

would wish not to 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 dependence. 

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 connections 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 sa 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 by

reflection, are very unfit to manage a family, for, by an undue

stretch of power, they are always tyrannising 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 arise 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; 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

civilise 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 woman be only educated to

inspire it, and let every charm be polished to intoxicate the

senses; but if they be 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 be

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

expense 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,[9] but only appeal to


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 word, whilst male beauty is allowed to

have some connection with the mind. Strength of body, and that

character of countenance which the French term a physionomic, 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 spring tide 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.[10] 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, hut 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 presented itself; if polygamy

be necessary, woman must be inferior to man, and made for him. 

With respect to the formation of the fetus 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 Foster'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 sensible organisation, 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 the

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

exertion 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, have 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 [11] 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 have more

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 bedfellow, 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 circumstances 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

of 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

recompense 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

likewise, to apply the comparison, 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 everyone

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 com- plain 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 needlework; 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 her part of the family 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

Frenchwomen, who are not so rigidly nailed to their chairs to twist

lappets, and knot ribands, is frequently superficial; but, I

contend, that it is not half so insipid as that of those

Englishwomen 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

passion 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 round 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 civilisation. 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

woman a trifler. Man, taking her [12] 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?[13]

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 arise

from a physical or accidental weakness of faculties, time alone can

determine; for I shall not lay any great stress on the example of

a few women [14] 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.

[1]  Into what inconsistencies do men fall when thy argue without

the compass of principles. Women, weak women, are compared with

angels; yet, a superior order of beings should be supposed to

possess more intellect than man; or, in what does their superiority

consist? In the same strain, to drop the sneer, they are allowed to

possess more goodness of heart; piety, and benevolence. I doubt the

fact, though it be courteously brought forward, unless ignorance be

allowed to be the mother of devotion; for I am firmly persuaded

that, on an average, the proportion between virtue and knowledge,

is more upon a par than is commonly granted.

[2] "The brutes," says Lord Monboddo, "remain in the states in

which nature has placed them, except in so far as their natural

instinct is improved by the culture we bestow upon them."

[3]  Vide Milton.

[4]  This word is not stricly just, but I cannot find a better.

[5]            "Pleasure's the portion of th' inferior kind;

               But glory, virtue, Heaven for man designed."

After writing these lines, how could Mrs. Barbauld write the

following ignoble comparison?

               "To a Lady with Some Painted Flowers

               "Flowers to the fair: to you these flowers I bring,

               And strive to greet you with an earlier spring.

               Flowers, sweet, and gay, and delicate like you;

               Emblems of innocence, and beauty too

               With flowers the Graces bind their yellow hair

               And flowery wreaths consenting lovers wear.

               Flowers, the sole luxury which Nature knew,

               In Eden's pure and guiltless garden grew.

               To loftiers forms are rougher tasks assign'd;

               The sheltering oak resists the stromy wind,

               The tougher yew repels invading foes,

               And the tall pine for future navies grows;

               But this soft family, to cares unknown,

               Were born for pleasure and delights alone.

               Gay without toil, and lovely without art,

               They spring to cheer the sense, and glad the heart.

               Nor blush, my fair, to own you copy these;

               Your best, you sweetest empire is -- to please."

So the men tell us; but virtue, says reason, must be acquired by

rough toils, and useful struggles with worldly cares.

[6]  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.

[7]  The mass of mankind are rather the slaves of their appetites

than of their passions.

[8]  Men of these descriptions pour sensibility into their

compositions, to amalgamate the gross materials; and moulding them

with passion, give to the inert body a soul; but in woman's

imagination, love alone concentrates these ethereal beams.

[9]  Many other names might be added.

[10] The strength of an affection is, generally, in the same

proportion as the character of the species in the object beloved,

lost in that of the individual.

[11] Dr. Young supports the same opinion, in his plays, when he

talks of the misfortune that shunned the light of day.

[12] "I take her body," says Ranger.

[13] "Supposing that women are voluntary slaves -- slavery of any

kind is unfavourable to human happiness and improvement." --Knox's


[14] Sappho, Eloisa, Mrs. Macauly, 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.