The opinions speciously supported in some modern publications on

the female character and education, which have given the tone to

most of the observations made, in a more cursory manner, on the

sex, remain now to be examined.

                            SECTION I

I shall begin with Rousseau, and give a sketch of his character of

woman in his own words, interspersing comments and reflections. My

comments, it is true, will all spring from a few simple principles,

and might have been deduced from what I have already said; but the

artificial structure has been raised with so much ingenuity that it

seems necessary to attack it in a more circumstantial manner, and

make the application myself.

Sophia, says Rousseau, should be as perfect a woman as Emilius is

a man, and to render her so it is necessary to examine the

character which nature has given to the sex.

He then proceeds to prove that woman ought to be weak and passive,

because she has less bodily strength than man; and hence infers

that she was formed to please and to be subject to him, and that it

is her duty to render herself agreeable to her master-- this being

the grand end of her existence.[1] Still, however, to give a little

mock dignity to lust, he insists that man should not exert his

strength, but depend on the will of the woman, when he seeks for

pleasure with her.

"Hence we deduce a third consequence from the different

constitutions of the sexes, which is that the strongest should be

master in appearance, and be dependent, in fact, on the weakest,

and that not from any frivolous practice of gallantry or vanity of

protectorship, but from an invariable law of nature, which,

furnishing woman with a greater facility to excite desires than she

has given man to satisfy them, makes the latter dependent on the

good pleasure of the former, and compels him to endeavour to please

in his turn, in order to obtain her consent that he should be

strongest.[2] On these occasions the most delightful circumstance


man finds in his victory is to doubt whether it was the woman's

weakness that yielded to his superior strength, or whether her

inclinations spoke in his favour; the females are also generally

artful enough to leave this matter in doubt. The understanding of

women answers in this respect perfectly to their constitution. So

far from being ashamed of their weakness, they glory in it; their

tender muscles make no resistance; they affect to be incapable of

lifting the smallest burdens, and would blush to be thought robust

and strong. To what purpose is all this? Not merely for the sake of

appearing delicate, but through an artful precaution. It is thus

they provide an excuse beforehand, and a right to be feeble when

they think it expedient." 

I have quoted this passage lest my readers should suspect that I

warped the author's reasoning to support my own arguments. I have

already asserted that in educating women these fundamental

principles lead to a system of cunning and lasciviousness. 

Supposing woman to have been formed only to please, and be subject

to man, the conclusion is just. She ought to sacrifice every other

consideration to render herself agreeable to him, and let this

brutal desire of self-preservation be the grand spring of all her

actions, when it is proved to be the iron bed of fate, to fit which

her character should be stretched or contracted, regardless of all

moral or physical distinctions. But if, as I think, may be

demonstrated, the purposes of even this life, viewing the whole, be

subverted by practical rules built upon this ignoble base, I may be

allowed to doubt whether woman were created for man; and though the

cry of irreligion, or even atheism, be raised against me, I will

simply declare that were an angel from Heaven to tell me that

Moses' beautiful poetical cosmogony, and the account of the fall of

man, were literally true, I could not believe what my reason told

me was derogatory to the character of the Supreme Being; and,

having no fear of the devil before mine eyes, I venture to call

this a suggestion of reason, instead of resting my weakness on the

broad shoulders of the first seducer of my frail sex. 

"It being once demonstrated," continues Rousseau, "that man and

woman are not, nor ought to be, constituted alike in temperament

and character, it follows, of course, that they should not be

educated in the same manner. In pursuing the directions of nature,

they ought, indeed, to act in concert, but they should not be

engaged in the same employments; the end of their pursuits should

be the same, but the means they should take to accomplish them,

and, of consequence, their tastes and inclinations, should be


                            . . . . .

"Whether I consider the peculiar destination of the sex, observe

their inclinations, or remark their duties, all things equally

concur to point out the peculiar method of education best adapted

to them. Woman and man were made for each other, but their mutual

dependence is not the same. The men depend on the women only on

account of their desires; the women on the men both on account of

their desires and their necessities. We could subsist better

without them than they without us.

                            . . . . .

"For this reason the education of the women should be always

relative to the men. To please, to be useful to us, to make us love

and esteem them, to educate us when young, and take care of us when

grown up, to advise, to console us, to render our lives easy and

agreeable--these are the duties of women at all times, and what

they should be taught in their infancy. So long as we fail to recur

to this principle, we run wide of the mark, and all the precepts

which are given them contribute neither to their happiness nor our


                            . . . . .

 "Girls are from their earliest infancy fond of dress. Not content

with being pretty, they are desirous of being thought so. We see,

by all their little airs, that this thought engages their

attention; and they are hardly capable of understanding what is

said to them, before they are to be governed by talking to them of

what people will think of their behaviour. The same motive,

however, indiscreetly made use of with boys, has not the same

effect. Provided they are let pursue their amusements at pleasure,

they care very little what people think of them. Time and pains are

necessary to subject boys to this motive. 

"Whencesoever girls derive this first lesson, it is a very good

one. As the body is born, in a manner, before the soul, our first

concern should be to cultivate the former; this order is common to

both sexes, but the object of that cultivation is different. In the

one sex it is the development of corporeal powers; in the other,

that of personal charms. Not that either the quality of strength or

beauty ought to be confined exclusively to one sex, but only that

the order of the cultivation of both is in that respect reversed.

Women certainly require as much strength as to enable them to move

and act gracefully, and men as much address as to qualify them to

act with ease.

                            . . . . .

"Children of both sexes have a great many amusements in common; and

so they ought; have they not also many such when they are grown up?

Each sex has also its peculiar taste to distinguish in this

particular. Boys love sports of noise and activity; to beat the

drum, to whip the top, and to drag about their little carts: girls,

on the other hand, are fonder of things of show and ornament; such

as mirrors, trinkets, and dolls: the doll is the peculiar amusement

of the females; from whence we see their taste plainly adapted to

their destination. The physical part of the art of pleasing lies in

dress; and this is all which children are capacitated to cultivate

of that art.

                            . . . . .

"Here then we see a primary propensity firmly established, which

you need only to pursue and regulate. The little creature will

doubtless be very desirous to know how to dress up her doll, to

make its sleeve-knots, its flounces, its head-dress, etc., she is

obliged to have so much recourse to the people about her, for their

assistance in these articles, that it would be much more agreeable

to her to owe them all to her own industry. Hence we have a good

reason for the first lessons that are usually taught these young

females: in which we do not appear to be setting them a task, but

obliging them, by instructing them in what is immediately useful to

themselves. And, in fact, almost all of them learn with reluctance

to read and write; but very readily apply themselves to the use of

their needles. They imagine themselves already grown up, and think

with pleasure that such qualifications will enable them to decorate

themselves." This is certainly only an education of the body; but

Rousseau is not the only man who has indirectly said that merely

the person of a young woman, without any mind, unless animal

spirits come under that description, is very pleasing. To render it

weak, and what some may call beautiful, the under- standing is

neglected, and girls forced to sit still, play with dolls and

listen to foolish conversations;--the effect of habit is insisted

upon as an undoubted indication of nature. I know it was Rousseau's

opinion that the first years of youth should be employed to form

the body, though in educating Emilius he deviates from this plan;

yet, the difference between strengthening the body, on which

strength of mind in a great measure depends, and only giving it an

easy motion, is very wide.

Rousseau's observations, it is proper to remark, were made in a

country where the art of pleasing was refined only to extract the

grossness of vice. He did not go back to nature, or his ruling

appetite disturbed the operations of reason, else he would not have

drawn these crude inferences.

In France boys and girls, particularly the latter, are only

educated to please, to manage their persons, and regulate the

exterior behaviour; and their minds are corrupted, at a very early

age, by the worldly and pious cautions they receive to guard them

against immodesty. I speak of past times. The very confessions

which mere children were obliged to make, and the questions asked

by the holy men, I assert these facts on good authority, were

sufficient to impress a sexual character; and the education of

society was a school of coquetry and art. At the age of ten or

eleven; nay, often much sooner, girls began to coquet, and talked,

unreproved, of establishing themselves in the world by marriage. 

In short, they were treated like women, almost from their very

birth, and compliments were listened to instead of instruction.

These weakening the mind, Nature was supposed to have acted like a

step-mother, when she formed this afterthought of creation. 

Not allowing them understanding, however, it was but consistent to

subject them to authority independent of reason; and to prepare

them for this subjection, he gives the following advice: 

"Girls ought to be active and diligent; nor is that all; they

should also be early subjected to restraint. This misfortune, if it

really be one, is inseparable from their sex; nor do they ever

throw it off but to suffer more cruel evils. They must be subject,

all their lives, to the most constant and severe restraint, which

is that of decorum: it is, therefore, necessary to accustom them

early to such confinement, that it may not afterwards cost them too

dear; and to the suppression of their caprices, that they may the

more readily submit to the will of others. If, indeed, they be fond

of being always at work, they should be sometimes compelled to lay

it aside. Dissipation, levity, and inconstancy, are faults that

readily spring up from their first propensities, when corrupted or

perverted by too much indulgence. To prevent this abuse, we should

teach them, above all things, to lay a due restraint on themselves.

The life of a modest woman is reduced, by our absurd institutions,

to a perpetual conflict with herself: not but it is just that this

sex should partake of the sufferings which arise from those evils

it hath caused us." 

And why is the life of a modest woman a perpetual conflict? I

should answer, that this very system of education makes it so.

Modesty, temperance, and self-denial, are the sober offspring of

reason; but when sensibility is nurtured at the expense of the

understanding, such weak beings must be restrained by arbitrary

means, and be subjected to continual conflicts; but give their

activity of mind a wider range, and nobler passions and motives

will govern their appetites and sentiments. 

"The common attachment and regard of a mother, nay, mere habit,

will make her beloved by her children, if she do nothing to incur

their hate. Even the constraint she lays them under, if well

directed, will increase their affection, instead of lessening it;

because a state of dependence being natural to the sex, they

perceive themselves formed for obedience." 

This is begging the question; for servitude not only debases the

individual, but its effects seem to be transmitted to posterity.

Considering the length of time that women have been dependent, is

it surprising that some of them hunger in chains, and fawn like the

spaniel ? " These dogs," observes a naturalist, " at first kept

their ears erect; but custom has superseded nature, and a token of

fear is become a beauty." 

"For the same reason," adds Rousseau, "women have, or ought to

have, but little liberty; they are apt to indulge themselves

excessively in what is allowed them. Addicted in everything to

extremes, they are even more transported at their diversions than


The answer to this is very simple. Slaves and mobs have always

indulged themselves in the same excesses, when once they broke

loose from authority. The bent bow recoils with violence, when the

hand is suddenly relaxed that forcibly held it; and sensibility,

the plaything of outward circumstances, must be subjected to

authority, or moderated by reason. 

"There results," he continues, "from this habitual restraint a

tractableness which women have occasion for during their whole

lives, as they constantly remain either under subjection to the

men, or to the opinions of mankind; and are never permitted to set

themselves above those opinions. The first and most important

qualification in a woman is good nature or sweetness of temper:

formed to obey a being so imperfect as man, often full of vices,

and always full of faults, she ought to learn betimes even to

suffer injustice, and to bear the insults of a husband without

complaint; it is not for his sake, but her own, that she should be

of a mild disposition. The perverseness and ill-nature of the women

only serve to aggravate their own misfortunes, and the misconduct

of their husbands; they might plainly perceive that such are not

the arms by which they gain the superiority." 

Formed to live with such an imperfect being as man they ought to

learn from the exercise of their faculties the necessity of

forbearance: but all the sacred rights of humanity are violated by

insisting on blind obedience; or, the most sacred rights belong

only to man.

The being who patiently endures injustice, and silently bears

insults, will soon become unjust, or unable to discern right from

wrong. Besides, I deny the fact, this is not the true way to form

or meliorate the temper; for, as a sex, men have better tempers

than women, because they are occupied by pursuits that interest the

head as well as the heart; and the steadiness of the head gives a

healthy temperature to the heart. People of sensibility have seldom

good tempers. The formation of the temper is the cool work of

reason, when, as life advances, she mixes with happy art, jarring

elements. I never knew a weak or ignorant person who had a good

temper, though that constitutional good humour, and that docility,

which fear stamps on the behaviour, often obtains the name. I say

behaviour, for genuine meekness never reached the heart or mind,

unless as the effect of reflection; and that simple restraint

produces a number of peccant humours in domestic life, many

sensible men will allow, who find some of these gentle irritable

creatures, very troublesome companions. 

"Each sex," he further argues, "should preserve its peculiar tone

and manner; a meek husband may make a wife impertinent; but

mildness of disposition on the woman's side will always bring a man

back to reason, at least if he be not absolutely a brute, and will

sooner or later triumph over him."

Perhaps the mildness of reason might sometimes have this defect.

but abject fear always inspires contempt; and tears are only

eloquent when they flow down fair cheeks. 

Of what materials can that heart be composed, which can mdt when

insulted, and instead of revolting at injustice, kiss the rod? It

is unfair to infer that her virtue is built on narrow views and

selfishness, who can caress a man, with true feminine softness, the

very moment when he treats her tyrannically. Nature never dictated

such insincerity; and, though prudence of this sort be termed a

virtue, morality becomes vague when any part is supposed to rest on

falsehood. These are mere expedients, and expedients are only

useful for the moment. 

Let the husband beware of trusting too implicitly to this i servile

obedience; for if his wife can with winning sweetness, caress him

when angry, and when she ought to be angry, unless contempt has

stifled a natural effervescence, she may do the same after parting

with a lover. These are all preparations for adultery; or, should

the fear of the world, or of hell, restrain her desire of pleasing

other men, when she can no longer please her husband, what

substitute can be found by a being who was only formed, by nature

and art, to please man? what can make her amends for this

privation, or where is she to seek for a fresh employment? where

find sufficient strength of mind to determine to begin the search,

when her habits are fixed, and vanity has long ruled her chaotic


But this partial moralist recommends cunning systematically and


"Daughters should be always submissive; their mothers, however,

should not be inexorable. To make a young person tractable, she

ought not to be made unhappy; to make her modest she ought not to

be rendered stupid. on the contrary, I should not be displeased at

her being permitted to use some art, not to elude punishment in

case of disobedience, but to exempt herself from the necessity of

obeying. It is not necessary to make her dependence burdensome, but

only to let her feel it. Subtility is a talent natural to the sex;

and, as I am persuaded, all our natural inclinations are right and

good in themselves, I am of opinion this should be cultivated as

well as the others: it is requisite for us only to prevent its


"Whatever is, is right," he then proceeds triumphantly to infer.

Granted; yet, perhaps, no aphorism ever contained a more

paradoxical assertion. It is a solemn truth with respect to God.

He, reverentially I speak, sees the whole at once, and saw its just

proportions in the womb of time; but man, who can only inspect

disjointed parts, finds many things wrong; and it is a part of the

system, and therefore, right, that he should endeavour to alter

what appears to him to be so, even while he bows to the wisdom of

his Creator, and respects the darkness he labours to disperse. 

The inference that follows is just, supposing the principle to be

sound. "The superiority of address, peculiar to the female sex, is

a very equitable indemnification for their inferiority in point of

strength: without this, woman would not be the companion of

marriage, but his slave; it is by her superior art and ingenuity

that she preserves her equality, and governs him while she affects

to obey. Woman has everything against her, as well our faults, as

her own timidity and weakness; she has nothing in her favour, but

her subtility and her beauty. Is it not very reasonable, therefore,

she should cultivate both?" Greatness of mind can never dwell with

cunning, or address; for I shall not boggle about words, when their

direct signification is insincerity and falsehood, but content

myself with observing, that if any class of mankind be so created

that it must necessarily be educated by rules not strictly

deducible from truth, virtue is an affair of convention. How could

Rousseau dare to assert, after giving this advice, that in the

grand end of existence the object of both sexes should be the same,

when he well knew that the mind, formed by its pursuits, is

expanded by great views swallowing up little ones, or that it

becomes itself little? 

Men have superior strength of body; but were it not for mistaken

notions of beauty, women would acquire sufficient to enable them to

earn their own subsistence, the true definition of independence;

and to bear those bodily inconveniences and exertions that are

requisite to strengthen the mind. Let us then, by being allowed to

take the same exercise as boys, not only during infancy, but youth,

arrive at perfection of body, that we may know how far the natural

superiority of man extends. For what reason or virtue can be

expected from a creature when the seed-time of life is neglected?

None; did not the winds of heaven casually scatter many useful

seeds in fallow ground." 

Beauty cannot be acquired by dress, and coquetry is an art not so

early and speedily attained. While girls are yet young, however,

they are in a capacity to study agreeable gesture, a pleasing

modulation of voice, an easy carriage and behaviour; as well as to

take the advantage of gracefully looks and attitudes to time,

place, and occasion. Their application, therefore, should not be

solely confined to the arts of industry and the needle, when they

come to display other talents, whose utility is already apparent. 

"For my part, I would have a young Englishwoman cultivate her

agreeable talents, in order to please her future husband, with as

much care and assiduity as a young Circassian cultivates hers, to

fit her for the harem of an Eastern bashaw. 

To render women completely insignificant, he adds: "The tongues of

women are very voluble; they speak earlier, more readily, and more

agreeably, than the men; they are accused also of speaking much

more: but so it ought to be, and I should be very ready to convert

this reproach into a compliment; their lips and eyes have the same

activity, and for the same reason. A man speaks of what he knows,

a woman of what pleases her; the one requires knowledge, the other

taste; the principal object of a man's discourse should be what is

useful, that of a woman's what is agreeable. There ought to be

nothing in common between their different conversation but truth. 

"We ought not, therefore, to restrain the prattle of girls, in the

same manner as we should that of boys, with that severe question,

To what purpose are you talking? but by another, which is no less

difficult to answer, How will your discourse be received? In

infancy, while they are as yet incapable to discern good from evil,

they ought to observe it, as a law never to say anything

disagreeable to those whom they are speaking to. What will render

the practice of this rule also the more difficult is, that it must

ever be subordinate to the former, of never speaking falsely or

telling an untruth." To govern the tongue in this manner must

require great address indeed, and it is too much practised both by

men and women. out of the abundance ;)f the heart how few speak !

So few that I, who love simplicity, would gladly give up politeness

for a quarter of the virtue that has been sacrificed to an

equivocal quality which at best should only be the polish of


But, to complete the sketch. "It is easy to be conceived, that if

male children be not in a capacity to form any true notions of

religion, those ideas must be greatly above the conception of the

females: it is for this very reason, I would begin to speak to them

the earlier on this subject; for if we were to wait till they were

in a capacity to discuss methodically such profound questions, we

should run a risk of never speaking to

them on this subject as long as they lived. Reason in women is a

practical reason, capacitating them artfully to discover the means

of attaining a known end, but which would never enable them to

discover that end itself. The social relations of the sexes are

indeed truly admirable: from their union there results a moral

person, of which woman may be termed the eyes, and man the hand,

with this dependence on each other, that it is from the man that

the woman is to learn what she is to see, and it is of the woman

that man is to learn what he ought to do. If woman could recur to

the first principles of things as well as man, and man was

capacitated to enter into their minutiae as well as woman, always

independent of each other, they would live in perpetual discord,

and their union could not subsist. But in the present harmony which

naturally subsists between them, their different faculties tend to

one common end: it is difficult to say which of them conduces the

most to it: each follows the impulse of the other; each is

obedient, and both are masters. 

"As the conduct of a woman is subservient to the public opinion,

her faith in matters of religion should, for that very reason, be

subject to authority. Every daughter ought to be of the same

religion as her mother, and every wife to be of the same religion

as her husband: for, though such religion should be false, that

docility which induces the mother and daughter to submit to the

order of nature, takes away, in the sight of God, the criminality

of their error.[3] As they are not in a capacity to judge for

themselves, they ought to abide by the decision of their fathers

and husbands as confidently as by that of the Church. 

"As authority ought to regulate the religion of the women, it is

not so needful to explain to them the reasons for their belief, as

to lay down precisely the tenets they are to believe: for the

creed, which presents only obscure ideas to the mind, is the source

of fanaticism; and that which presents absurdities, leads to


Absolute, uncontroverted authority, it seems, must subsist

somewhere: but is not this a direct and exclusive appropriation of

reason? The rights of humanity have been thus confined to the male

line from Adam downwards.

Rousseau would carry his male aristocracy still further, he

insinuates, that he should not blame those, who contend _ leaving

woman in a state of the most profound ignorance, if it were not

necessary in order to preserve her chastity and justify the man's

choice, in the eyes of the world, to give her a little knowledge of

men, and the customs produced by human passions; else she might

propagate at home without being rendered less voluptuous and

innocent by the exercise of her understanding: excepting, indeed,

during the first year of marriage, when she might employ it to

dress like Sophia. "Her dress is extremely modest in appearance,

and yet very coquettish in fact: she does not make a display of her

charms, she conceals them; but in concealing them, she knows how to

affect your imagination. Everyone who sees her will say, There is

a modest and discreet girl; but while you are near her, your eyes

and affections wander all over her person, so that you cannot

withdraw them; and you would conclude, that every part of her

dress, simple as it seems, was only put in its proper order to be

taken to pieces by the imagination." Is this modesty? Is this a

preparation for immortality? Again, What opinion are we to form of

a system of education, when the author says of his heroine, "that

with her, doing things well, is but a secondary concern; her

principal concern is to do them neatly." 

Secondary, in fact, are all her respecting religion, he makes her

accustomed to submission--"Your husband will instruct you in good


After thus cramping a woman's mind, if, in order to keep it fair,

he have not made it quite reflect, that a reflecting man may  when

he is tired of caressing her. What has she to reflect about who

must obey? and would it not be a refinement on cruelty only to open

her mind to make the darkness and misery of her fate visible? Yet

these are his sensible remarks; how consistent with what I have

already been obliged to quote, to give a fair view of the subject,

the reader may determine. 

"They who pass their whole lives in working for their daily bread,

have no ideas beyond their business or their interest, and all

their understanding seems to lie in their fingers' ends. This

ignorance is neither prejudicial to their integrity nor their

morals; it is often of service to them. Sometimes, by means of

reflection, we are led to compound with our duty, and we conclude

by substituting a jargon of words in the room of things. our own

conscience is the most enlightened philosopher. There is no need to

be acquainted with Tully's offices, to make a man of probity; and

perhaps the most virtuous woman in the world is the least

acquainted with the definition of virtue. But it is no less true,

that an improved understanding only can render society agreeable;

and it is a melancholy thing for a father of a family, who is fond

of home, to be obliged to be always wrapped up in himself, and to

have nobody about him to whom he can impart his sentiments. 

"Besides, how should a woman void of reflection be capable of

educating her children? How should she discern what is proper for

them? How should she incline them to those virtues she is

unacquainted with, or to that merit of which she has no idea? She

can only soothe or chide them; render them insolent or timid; she

will make them formal coxcombs, or ignorant blockheads, but will

never make these sensible or amiable." How indeed should she, when

her husband is not always at hand to lend her his reason?--when

they both together make but one moral being. A blind will, " eyes

without hands," would go a very little way; and perchance his

abstract reason, that should concentrate the scattered beams of her

practical reason, may be employed in judging of the flavour of

wine, descanting on the sauces most proper for turtle; or, more

profoundly intent at a card-table, he may be generalising his ideas

as he bets away his fortune, leaving all the minutiae of education

to his helpmate, or to chance. 

But, granting that woman ought to be beautiful, innocent, and

silly, to render her a more alluring and indulgent companion;

--what is her understanding sacrificed for? And why is all this

preparation necessary only, according to Rousseau's own account, to

make her the mistress of her husband, a very short time? For no man

ever insisted more on the transient nature of love. Thus speaks the

philosopher, "Sensual pleasures are transient. The habitual state

of the affections always loses by their gratification. The

imagination, which decks the object of our desires, is lost in

fruition. Excepting the Supreme Being, who is self-existent, there

is nothing beautiful but what is ideal." 

But he returns to his unintelligible paradoxes again, when he thus

addresses Sophia--"Emilius, in becoming your husband, is become

your master, and claims your obedience. Such is the order of

nature. When a man is married, however, to such a wife as Sophia,

it is proper he should be directed by her. This is also agreeable

to the order of nature. It is, therefore, to give you as much

authority over his heart as his sex gives him over your person that

I have made you the arbiter of his pleasures. It may cost you,

perhaps, some disagreeable self-denial; but you will be certain of

maintaining your empire over him, if you can preserve it over shows

me that this difficult attempt does not surpass your courage. 

"Would you have your husband constantly at your feet, keep him at

some distance from your person. You will long maintain the authority

in love, if you know but how to render your favours rare and

valuable. It is thus you may employ even the arts of coquetry in

the service of virtue, and those of love in that of reason." I

shall close my extracts with a just description of a comfortable

couple: " And yet you must not imagine that even such management

will always suffice. Whatever precaution be taken, enjoyment will

by degrees take off the edge of passion. But when love hath lasted

as long as possible, a pleasing habitude supplies its place, and

the attachment of a mutual confidence succeeds to the transports of

passion. Children often form a more agreeable and permanent

connection between married people then even love itself. When you

cease to be the mistress of Emilius, you will continue to be his

wife and friend--you will be the mother of his children."[4]

Children, he truly observes, form a much more permanent connection

between married people than love. Beauty, he declares, will not be

valued, or even seen, after a couple have lived six months

together; artificial graces and coquetry will likewise pall on the

senses. Why, then, does he say that a girl should be educated for

her husband with the same care as for an Eastern harem? 

I now appeal from the reveries of fancy and refined licentiousness

to the good sense of mankind, whether, if the object of education

be to prepare women to become chaste wives and sensible mothers,

the method so plausibly recommended in the foregoing sketch be the

one best calculated to produce those ends? Will it be allowed that

the surest way to make a wife chaste is to teach her to practise

the wanton arts of a mistress, termed virtuous coquetry, by the

sensualist who can no longer relish the artless charms of

sincerity, or taste the pleasure arising from a tender intimacy,

when confidence is unchecked by suspicion, and rendered interesting

by sense?

The man who can be contented to live with a pretty, useful

companion, without a mind, has lost in voluptuous gratifications a

taste for more refined enjoyments; he has never felt the calm

satisfaction that refreshes the parched heart like the silent dew

of heaven--of being beloved by one who could understand him. In the

society of his wife he is still alone, unless when the man is sunk

in the brute. "The charm of life," says a grave philosophical

reasoner, is "sympathy; nothing pleases us more than to observe in

other men a fellow-feeling with all the emotions of our own breast"

But according to the tenor of reasoning by which women are kept

from the tree of knowledge, the important years of youth, the

usefulness of age, and the rational hopes of futurity, are all to

be sacrificed to render women an object of desire for a short time.

Besides, how could Rousseau expect them to be virtuous and constant

when reason is neither allowed to be the foundation of their

virtue, nor truth the object of their inquiries? 

But all Rousseau's errors in reasoning arose from sensibility, and

sensibility to their charms women are very ready to forgive. When

he should have reasoned he became impassioned, and reflection

inflamed his imagination instead of enlightening his understanding.

Even his virtues also led him farther astray; for, born with a warm

constitution and lively fancy, nature carried him toward the other

sex with such eager fondness that he soon became lascivious. Had he

given way to these desires, the fire would have extinguished itself

in a natural manner, but virtue, and a romantic kind of delicacy,

made him practise self-denial; yet when fear, delicacy, or virtue

restrained him, he debauched his imagination, and reflecting on the

sensations to which fancy gave force, he traced them in the most

glowing colours, and sunk them deep into his soul. 

He then sought for solitude, not to sleep with the man of nature,

or calmly investigate the causes of things under the shade where

Sir Isaac Newton indulged contemplation, but merely to indulge his

feelings. And so warmly has he painted what he forcibly felt, that

interesting the heart and inflaming the imagination of his readers,

in proportion to the strength of their fancy, they imagine that

their understanding is convinced when they only sympathise with a

poetic writer, who skilfully exhibits the objects of sense most

voluptuously shadowed or gracefully veiled; and thus making us feel

whilst dreaming that we reason, erroneous conclusions are left in

the mind.

Why was Rousseau's life divided between ecstasy and misery? Can ny

other answer be given than this, that the effervescence of his

imagination produced both; but had his fancy been allowed to cool,

it is possible that he might have acquired more strength of mind.

Still, if the purpose of life be to educate the intellectual part

of man, all-with respect to him was right; yet had not death led to

a nobler scene of action, it is probable that he would have enjoyed

more equal happiness on earth, and have felt the calm sensations of

the man of nature, instead of being prepared for another stage of

existence by nourishing the passions which agitate the civilised


But peace to his manes! I war not with his ashes, but his opinions.

I war only with the sensibility that led him to degrade woman by

making her the slave of love.

          "--- Cursed vassalage, 

          First idolised till love's hot fire be o'er, 

          Then slaves to those who courted us before."--DRYDEN.

The pernicious tendency of those books, in which the writers

insidiously degrade the sex whilst they are prostrate before their

personal charms, cannot be too often or too severely exposed. 

Let us, my dear contemporaries, arise above such narrow pr judices.

If wisdom be desirable on its own account, if virtue, to deserve

the name, must be founded on knowledge, let us endeavour to

strengthen our minds by reflection till our heads become a balance

for our hearts; let us not confine all our thoughts to the petty

occurrences of the day, or our knowledge to an acquaintance with

our lovers' or husbands' hearts, but let the practice of every duty

be subordinate to the grand one of improving our minds, and

preparing our affections for a more exalted state. 

Beware, then, my friends, of suffering the heart to be moved by

every trivial incident; the reed is shaken by a breeze, and

annually dies, but the oak stands firm, and for ages braves the


Were we, indeed, only created to flutter our hour out and die--why

let us then indulge sensibility, and laugh at the severity of

reason. Yet, alas ! even then we should want strength of body and

mind, and life would be lost in feverish pleasures or wearisome


But the system of Education, which I earnestly wish to see

exploded, seems to presuppose what ought never to be taken for

granted, that virtue shields us from the casualties of life; and

that Fortune, slipping off her bandage, will smile on a

well-educated female, and bring in her hand an Emilius or a

Telemachus. Whilst, on the contrary, the reward which Virtue

promises to her votaries is confined, it seems clear, to their own

bosoms; and often must they contend with the most vexatious worldly

cares, and bear with the vices and humours of relations for whom

they can never feel a friendship. 

There have been many women in the world who, instead of being

supported by the reason and virtue of their fathers and brothers,

have strengthened their own minds by struggling with their vices

and follies; yet have never met with a hero, in the shape of a

husband; who, paying the debt that mankind owed them, might chance

to bring back their reason to its natural dependent state, and

restore the usurped prerogative, of rising above opinion, to man.

                           SECTION II

Dr. Fordyce's sermons have long made a part of a young woman's

library; nay, girls at school are allowed to read them but I should

instantly dismiss them from my pupil's if I wished to strengthen

her understanding, by leading her to form sound principles on a

broad basis; or, were I only anxious to cultivate her taste, though

they must be allowed to contain many sensible observations. 

Dr. Fordyce may have had a very laudable end in view; but these

discourses are written in such an affected style, that were it only

on that account, and had I nothing to object against his

mellifluous precepts, I should not allow girls to peruse them,

unless I designed to hunt every spark of nature out of their

composition, melting every human quality into female meekness and

artificial grace. I say artificial, for true grace arises from some

kind of independence of mind. 

Children, careless of pleasing, and only anxious to amuse

themselves, are often very graceful; and the nobility who have

mostly lived with inferiors, and always had the command of money,

acquire a graceful ease of deportment, which should rather be

termed habitual grace of body, than that superior gracefulness

which is truly the expression of the mind. This mental grace, not

noticed by vulgar eyes, often flashes across a rough countenance,

and irradiating every feature, shows simplicity and independence of

mind. It is then we read characters of immortality in the eye, and

see the soul in every gesture, though when at rest, neither the

face nor limbs may have much beauty to recommend them; or the

behaviour, anything peculiar to attract universal attention. The

mass of mankind, however, look for more tangible beauty; yet

simplicity is, in general, admired, when people do not consider

what they admire ? and can there be simplicity without sincerity?

But, to have done with remarks that are in some measure desultory,

though naturally excited by the subject. 

In declamatory periods Dr. Fordyce spins out Rousseau's eloquence;

and in most sentimental rant, details his opinions respecting the

female character, and the behaviour which woman ought to assume to

render her lovely. 

He shall speak for himself, for thus he makes Nature address man.

"Behold these smiling innocents, whom I have graced with my fairest

gifts, and committed to your protection; behold them with love and

respect; treat them with tenderness and honour. They are timid and

want to be defended. They are frail; oh do not take advantage of

their weakness! Let their fears and blushes endear them. Let their

confidence in you never be abused. But is it possible, that any of

you can be such barbarians, so supremely wicked, as to abuse it?

Can you find in your hearts[5] to despoil the gentle, trusting

creatures of their treasure, or do anything to strip them of their

native robe of virtue? Curst be the impious hand that would dare to

violate the unblemished form of chastity! Thou wretch! thou ruffian

! forbear; nor venture to provoke Heaven's fiercest vengeance." I

know not any comment that can be made seriously on this curious

passage, and I could produce many similar ones; and some, so very

sentimental, that I have heard rational men use the word indecent,

when they mentioned them with disgust. 

Throughout there is a display of cold artificial feelings, and that

parade of sensibility which boys and girls should be taught to

despise as the sure mark of a little vain mind. Florid appeals are

made to Heaven, and to the beauteous innocents, the fairest images

of Heaven here below, whilst sober sense is left far behind. This

is not the language of the heart, nor will it ever reach it, though

the ear may be tickled. 

I shall be told, perhaps, that the public have been pleased with

these volumes. True--and Hervey's Meditations are :_ read, though

he equally sinned against sense and taste.

I particularly object to the love-like phrases of pumped up

passion, which are everywhere interspersed. If women be ever

allowed to walk without leading-strings, why must they be cajoled

into virtue by artful flattery and sexual compliments? Speak to

them the language of truth and soberness, and away with the lullaby

strains of condescending endearment ! Let them be taught to respect

themselves as rational creatures, and not led to have a passion for

their own insipid persons. It moves my gall to hear a preacher

descanting on dress and needlework; and still more, to hear him

address the British fair, the fairest of the fair, as if they had

only feelings. 

Even recommending piety he uses the following argument. "Never,

perhaps, does a fine woman strike more deeply, than when, composed

into pious recollection, and possessed with the noblest

considerations, she assumes, without knowing it, superior dignity

and new graces; so that the beauties of holiness seem to radiate

about her, and the bystanders are almost reduced to fancy her

already worshipping amongst her kindred angels!" Why are women to

be thus bred up with a desire\of conquest? the very word, used in

this sense, gives me a sickly qualm! Do religion and virtue offer

no stronger motives, no brighter reward ? Must they always be

debased by being made to consider the sex of their companions? Must

they be taught always to be pleasing ? And when levelling their

small artillery at the heart of man, is it necessary to tell them

that a little sense is sufficient to render their attention

incredibly soothing? "As a small degree of knowledge entertains in

a woman, so from a woman, though for a different reason, a small

expression of kindness delights, particularly if she have beauty!"

I should have supposed for the same reason. 

Why are girls to be told that they resemble angels; but to sink

them below women? Or, that a gentle innocent female is an object

that comes nearer to the idea which we have formed of angels than

any other. Yet they are told, at the same time, that they are only

like angels when they are young and beautiful; consequently, it is

their persons, not their virtues, that procure them this homage. 

Idle empty words ! What can such delusive flattery lead to, but

vanity and folly? The lover, it is true, has a poetical licence to

exalt his mistress; his reason is the bubble of his passion, and he

does not utter a falsehood when he borrows the language of

adoration. His imagination may raise the idol of his heart,

unblamed, above humanity; and happy would it be for women, if they

were only flattered by the men who loved them; I mean, who love the

individual, not the sex; but should a grave preacher interlard his

discourses with such fooleries? 

In sermons or novels, however, voluptuousness is always true to its

text. Men are allowed by moralists to cultivate, as Nature directs,

different qualities, and assume the different characters, that the

same passions, modified almost to infinity, give to each

individual. A virtuous man may have a choleric or a sanguine

constitution, be gay or grave, unreproved; be firm till he is

almost overbearing, or, weakly submissive, have no will or opinion

of his own; but all women are to be levelled, by meekness and

docility, into one character of yielding softness and gentle


I will use the preacher's own words. "Let it be observed, that in

your sex manly exercises are never graceful; that in them a tone

and figure, as well as an air and deportment, of the masculine

kind, are always forbidding; and that men of sensibility desire in

every woman soft features, and a flowing voice, a form, not robust,

and demeanour delicate and gentle." 

Is not the following portrait--the portrait of a house slave? "I am

astonished at the folly of many women, who are still reproaching

their husbands for leaving them alone, for preferring this or that

company to theirs, for treating them with this and the other mark

of disregard or indifference; when, to speak the truth, they have

themselves in a great measure to blame. Not that I would justify

the men in anything wrong on their part. But had you behaved to

them with more respectful observance, and a more equal tenderness;

studying their humours, overlooking their mistakes, submitting to

their opinions in matters indifferent, passing by little instances

of unevenness, caprice, or passion, giving soft answers to hasty

words, complaining as seldom as possible, and making it your daily

care to relieve their anxieties and prevent their wishes, to

enliven the hour of dullness, and call up the ideas of felicity:

had you pursued this conduct, I doubt not but you would have

maintained and even increased their esteem, so far as to have

secured every degree of influence that could conduce to their

virtue, or your mutual satisfaction; and your house might at this

day have been the abode of domestic bliss " Such a woman ought to

be an angel--or she is an ass-- for I discern not a trace of the

human character, neither reason nor passion in this domestic

drudge, whose being is absorbed in that of a tyrant's. 

Still Dr. Fordyce must have very little acquaintance with the human

heart, if he really supposed that such conduct would bring back

wandering love, instead of exciting contempt. No, beauty,

gentleness, etc., etc., may gain a heart; but esteem, the only

lasting affection, can alone be obtained by virtue supported by

reason. It is respect for the understanding that keeps alive

tenderness for the person. 

As these volumes are so frequently put into the hands of young

people, I have taken more notice of them than, strictly speaking,

they deserve; but as they have contributed to vitiate the taste,

and enervate the understanding of many of my fellow-creatures, I

could not pass them silently over.

                          SECTION III 

Such paternal solicitude pervades Dr. Gregory's Legacy to his

Daughters, that I enter on the task of criticism with affectionate

respect; but as this little volume has many attractions to

recommend it to the notice of the most respectable part of my sex,

I cannot silently pass over arguments that so speciously support

opinions which, I think, have had the most baneful effect on the

morals and manners of the female world. 

His easy familiar style is particularly suited to the tenor of his

advice, and the melancholy tenderness which his respect for the

memory of a beloved wife, diffuses through the whole work, renders

it very interesting; yet there is a degree of concise elegance

conspicuous in many passages that disturbs this sympathy; and we

pop on the author, when we only expected to meet the--father. 

Besides, having two objects in view, he seldom adhered steadily to

either; for wishing to make his daughters amiable, and fearing lest

unhappiness should only be the consequence, of instilling

sentiments that might draw them out of the track of common life

without enabling them to act with consonant independence and

dignity, he checks the natural flow of his thoughts, and neither

advises one thing nor the other. 

In the preface he tells them a mournful truth, "that they will

hear, at least once in their lives, the genuine sentiments of a man

who has no interest in deceiving them." 

Hapless woman! what can be expected from thee when the beings on

whom thou art said naturally to depend for reason and support, have

all an interest in deceiving thee! This is the root of the evil

that has shed a corroding mildew on all thy virtues; and blighting

in the bud thy opening faculties, has rendered thee the weak thing

thou art! It is this separate interest--this insidious state of

warfare, that undermines morality, and divides mankind! 

If love have made some women wretched, how many more has the cold

unmeaning intercourse of gallantry rendered vain and useless ! yet

this heartless attention to the sex is reckoned so manly, so polite

that, till society is very differently organised, I fear, this

vestige of gothic manners will not be done away by a more

reasonable and affectionate mode of conduct. Besides, to strip it

of its imaginary dignity, I must observe, that in the most

uncivilised European states this lip-service prevails in a very

great degree, accompanied with extreme dissoluteness of morals. In

Portugal, the country that I particularly allude to, it takes place

of the most serious moral obligations! for a man is seldom

assassinated when in the company of a woman. The savage hand of

rapine is unnerved by this chivalrous spirit; and, if the stroke of

vengeance cannot be stayed, the lady is entreated to pardon the

rudeness and depart in peace, though sprinkled, perhaps, with her

husband's or brother's blood. 

I shall pass over his strictures on religion, because I mean to

discuss that subject in a separate chapter. 

The remarks relative to behaviour, though many of them very

sensible, I entirely disapprove of, because it appears to me to be

beginning, as it were, at the wrong end. A cultivated

understanding, and an affectionate heart, will never want starched

rules of decorum-- something more substantial than seemliness will

be the result; and, without understanding the behaviour here

recommended, would be rank affectation. Decorum, indeed, is the one

thing needful !--decorum is to supplant nature, and banish all

simplicity and variety of character out of the female world. Yet

what good end can all this superficial counsel produce ? It is,

however, much easier to point out this or that mode of behaviour,

than to set the reason to work; but, when the mind has been stored

with useful knowledge, and strengthened by being employed, the

regulation of the behaviour may safely be left to its guidance. 

Why, for instance, should the following caution be given when art

of every kind must contaminate the mind; and why entangle the grand

motives of action, which reason and religion equally combine to

enforce, with pitiful worldly shifts and sleight-of-hand tricks to

gain the applause of gaping tasteless fools? "Be even cautious in

displaying your good sense.[6] It will be thought you assume a

superiority over the rest of the company. But if you happen to have

any learning, keep it a profound secret, especially from the men,

who generally look with a jealous and malignant eye on a woman of

great parts, and a cultivated understanding." If men of real merit,

as he afterwards observes, be superior to this meanness, where is

the necessity that the behaviour of the whole sex should be

modulated to please fools, or men, who having little claim to

respect as individuals, choose to keep close in their phalanx. Men,

indeed, who insist on their common superiority, having only this

sexual superiority, are certainly very excusable. 

There would be no end to rules for behaviour, if it be proper

always to adopt the tone of the company; for thus, for ever varying

the key, a flat would often pass for a natural note. 

Surely it would have been wiser to have advised women to improve

themselves till they rose above the fumes of vanity; and then to

let the public opinion come round--for where are rules of

accommodation to stop? The narrow path of truth and virtue inclines

neither to the right nor left--it is a straightforward business,

and they who are earnestly pursuing their road, may bound over many

decorous prejudices, without leaving modesty behind. Make the heart

clean, and give the head employment, and I will venture to predict

that there will be nothing offensive in the behaviour. 

The air of fashion, which many young people are so eager to attain,

always strikes me like the studied attitudes of some modern

pictures, copied with tasteless servility after the antiques; the

soul is left out, and none of the parts are tied together by what

may properly be termed character. This varnish of fashion, which

seldom sticks very close to sense, may dazzle the weak; but leave

nature to itself, and it will seldom disgust the wise. Besides,

when a woman has sufficient sense not to pretend to anything which

she does not understand in some degree, there is no need of

determining to hide her talents under a bushel. Let things take

their natural course, and all will be well. 

It is this system of dissimulation, throughout the volume, that I

despise. Women are always to seem to be this and that--yet virtue

might apostrophise them, in the words of Hamlet--Seems! I know not

seems! Have that within passeth show! 

Still the same tone occurs; for in another place, after

recommending, without sufficiently discriminating delicacy, he

adds,-- "The men will complain of your reserve. They will assure

you that a franker behaviour would make you more amiable. But,

trust me, they are not sincere when they tell you so. I acknowledge

that on some occasions it might render you more agreeable as

companions, but it would make you less amiable as women: an

important distinction, which many of your sex are not aware of." 

This desire of being always women, is the very consciousness that

degrades the sex. Excepting with a lover, I must repeat with

emphasis, a former observation,--it would be well if they were only

agreeable or rational companions. But in this respect his advice is

even inconsistent with a passage which I mean to quote with the

most marked approbation. 

"The sentiment, that a woman may allow all innocent freedoms,

provided her virtue is secure, is both grossly indelicate and

dangerous, and has proved fatal to many of your sex." With this

opinion I perfectly coincide. A man, or a woman, of any feeling,

must always wish to convince a beloved object that it is the

caresses of the individual, not the sex, that are received and

returned with pleasure; and, that the heart, rather than the

senses, is moved. Without this natural delicacy, love becomes a

selfish personal gratification that soon degrades the character. 

I carry this sentiment still further. Affection, when love is out

of the question, authorises many personal endearments, that

naturally flowing from an innocent heart, give life to the

behaviour; but the personal intercourse of appetite, gallantry, or

vanity, is despicable. When a man squeezes the hand of a pretty

woman, handing her to a carriage, whom he has never seen before,

she will consider such an impertinent freedom in the light of an

insult, if she have any true delicacy, instead of being flattered

by this unmeaning homage to beauty. These are the privileges of

friendship, or the momentary homage which the heart pays to virtue,

when it flashes suddenly on the notice--mere animal spirits have no

claim to the kindnesses of affection. 

Wishing to feed the affections with what is now the food of vanity,

I would fain persuade my sex to act from simpler principles. Let

them merit love, and they will obtain it, though they may never be

told that--"The power of a fine woman over the hearts of men, of

men of the finest parts, is even beyond what she conceives." 

I have already noticed the narrow cautions with respect to

duplicity, female softness, delicacy of constitution; for these are

the changes which he rings round without ceasing--in a more

decorous manner, it is true, than Rousseau; but it all comes home

to the same point, and whoever is at the trouble to analyse these

sentiments, will find the first principles not quite so delicate as

the superstructure. 

The subject of amusements is treated in too cursory a manner; but

with the same spirit. 

When I treat of friendship, love, and marriage, it will be found

that we materially differ in opinion; I shall not then forestall

what I have to observe on these important subjects; but confine my

remarks to the general tenor of them, to that cautious family

prudence, to those confined views of partial unenlightened

affection, which exclude pleasure and improvement, by vainly

wishing to ward off sorrow and error, and by thus guarding the

heart and mind, destroy also all their energy. It is far better to

be often deceived than never to trust; to be disappointed in love

than never to love; to lose a husband's fondness than forfeit his


Happy would it be for the world, and for individuals, of course, if

all this unavailing solicitude to attain worldly happiness, on a

confined plan, were turned into an anxious desire to improve the

understanding. "Wisdom is the principal thing: Therefore get

wisdom; and with all thy gettings get understanding." "How long, ye

simple ones, will ye love simplicity, and hate knowledge?" saith

Wisdom to the daughters of men.

                           SECTION IV

I do not mean to allude to all the writers who have written on the

subject of female manners--it would, in fact, be only beating over

the old ground, for they have, in general, written in the same

strain; but attacking the boasted prerogative of man--the

prerogative that may emphatically be called the iron sceptre of

tyranny, the original sin of tyrants, I declare against all power

built on prejudices, however hoary. 

If the submission demanded be founded on justice--there is no

appealing to a higher power--for God is justice itself. Let us

then, as children of the same parent, if not bastardised by being

the younger born, reason together, and learn to submit to the

authority of Reason--when her voice is distinctly heard. But, if it

proved, that this throne of prerogative only rests on a chaotic

mass of prejudices, that have no inherent principle of order to

keep them together, or on an elephant, tortoise, or even the mighty

shoulders of a son of the earth, they may escape, who dare to brave

the consequence, without any breach of duty, without sinning

against the order of things. 

Whilst reason raises man above the brutal herd, and death is big

with promises, they alone are subject to blind authority who have

no reliance on their own strength. They are free --who will be

free! --[7]

The being who can govern itself has nothing to fear in life; but if

anything be dearer than its own respect, the price must be paid to

the last farthing. Virtue, like everything valuable, must be loved

for herself alone; or she will not take up her abode with us. She

will not impart that peace, " which passeth understanding," when

she is merely made the stilts of reputation; and respected, with

pharisaical exactness, because "honesty is the best policy." 

That the plan of life which enables us to carry some knowledge and

virtue into another world, is the one best calculated to ensure

content in this, cannot be denied; yet few people act according to

this principle, though it be universally allowed that it admits not

of dispute. Present pleasure, or present power, carry before it

these sober convictions; and it is for the day, not for life, that

man bargains with happiness. How few!--how very few! have

sufficient foresight, or resolution, to endure a small evil at the

moment, to avoid a greater hereafter. 

Woman in particular, whose virtue[8] is built on mutable


seldom attains to this greatness of mind; so that, becoming the

slave of her own feelings, she is easily subjugated by those of

others. Thus degraded, her reason, her misty reason ! is employed

rather to burnish than to snap her chains. 

Indignantly have I heard women argue in the same track as men, and

adopt the sentiments that brutalise them, with all the pertinacity

of ignorance. 

I must illustrate my assertion by a few examples. Mrs. Piozzi, who

often repeated by rote, what she did not understand, comes forward

with Johnsonian periods.

"Seek not for happiness in singularity; and dread a refinement of

wisdom as-a deviation into folly." Thus she dogmatically addresses

a new married man; and to elucidate this pompous exordium, she

adds, " I said that the person of your lady would not grow more

pleasing to you, but pray let her never suspect that it grows less

so: that a woman will pardon an affront to her understanding much

sooner than one to her person, is well known; nor will any of us

contradict the assertion. All our attainments, all our arts, are

employed to gain and keep the heart of man; and what mortification

can exceed the disappointment, if the end be not obtained ? There

is no reproof however pointed, no punishment however severe, that

a woman of spirit will not prefer to neglect; and if she can endure

it without complaint, it only proves that she means to make herself

amends by the attention of others for the slights of her husband !"

These are truly masculine sentiments. "All our arts are employed to

gain and keep the heart of man:"--and what is the inference?--if

her person, and was there ever a person, though formed with

Medicean symmetry, that was not slighted ? be neglected, she will

make herself amends by endeavouring to please other men. Noble

morality! But thus is the understanding of the whole sex affronted,

and their virtue deprived of the common basis of virtue. A woman

must know, that her person cannot be as pleasing to her husband as

it was to her lover, and if she be offended with him for being a

human creature, she may as well whine about the loss of his heart

as about any other foolish thing. And this very want of discernment

or unreasonable anger, proves that he could not change his fondness

for her person into affection for her virtues or respect for her


Whilst women avow, and act up to such opinions, their

understandings, at least, deserve the contempt and obloquy that

men, who never insult their persons, have pointedly levelled at the

female mind. And it is the sentiments of these polite men, who do

not wish to be encumbered with mind, that vain women thoughtlessly

adopt. Yet they should know, that insulted reason alone can spread

that sacred reserve about the person, which renders human

affections, for human affections have always some base alloy, as

permanent as is consistent with the grand end of existence--the

attainment of virtue.

The Baroness de Stael speaks the same language as the lady just

cited, with more enthusiasm. Her eulogium on Rousseau

was accidentally put into my hands and her sentiments, the

sentiments of too many of my sex, may serve as the text for a few

comments. "Though Rousseau," she observes, "has endeavoured to

prevent women from interfering in public affairs, and acting a

brilliant part in the theatre of politics; yet in speaking of them,

how much has he done it to their satisfaction ! If he wished to

deprive them of some rights foreign to their sex, how has he for

ever restored to them all those to which it has a claim! And in

attempting to diminish their influence over the deliberations of

men, how sacredly has he established the empire they have over

their happiness! In aiding them to descend from an usurped throne,

he has firmly seated them upon that to which they were destined by

nature; and though he be full of indignation against them when they

endeavour to resemble men, yet when they come before him with all

the charms, weaknesses, virtues, and errors of their sex, his

respect for their persons amounts almost to adoration." True! For

never was there a sensualist who paid more fervent adoration at the

shrine of beauty. So devout, indeed, was his respect for the

person, that excepting the virtue of chastity, for obvious reasons,

he only wished to see it embellished by charms, weaknesses, and

errors. He was afraid lest the austerity of reason should disturb

the soft playfulness of love. The master wished to have a

meretricious slave to fondle, entirely dependent on his reason and

bounty; he did not want a companion, whom he should be compelled to

esteem, or a friend to whom he could confine the care of his

children's education, should death deprive them of their father,

before he had fulfilled the sacred task. He denies woman reason,

shuts her out from knowledge, and turns her aside from truth; yet

his pardon is granted, because " he admits the passion of love." It

would require some ingenuity to show why women were to be under

such an obligation to him for thus admitting love; when it is clear

that he admits it only for the relaxation of men, and to perpetuate

the species; but he talked with passion, and that powerful spell

worked on the sensibility of a young encomiast. " What signifies

it," pursues this rhapsodist, " to women, that his reason disputes

with them the empire, when his heart is devotedly theirs," It is

not empire,--but equality, that they should contend for. Yet, if

they only wished to lengthen out their sway, they should not

entirely trust to their persons, for though beauty may gain a

heart, it cannot keep it, even while the beauty is in full bloom,

unless the mind lend, at least, some graces. 

When women are once sufficiently enlightened to discover their real

interest, on a grand scale, they will, I am persuaded, be very

ready to resign all the prerogatives of love, that are not mutual,

speaking of them as lasting prerogatives, for the calm satisfaction

of friendship, and the tender confidence of habitual esteem. Before

marriage they will not assume any insolent airs, or afterwards

abjectly submit; but endeavouring to act like reasonable creatures,

in both situations, they will not be tumbled from a throne to a


Madame Genlis has written several entertaining books for children;

and her Letters on Education afford many useful hints, that

sensible parents will certainly avail themselves of; but her views

are narrow, and her prejudices as unreasonable as strong. 

I shall pass over her vehement argument in favour of the eternity

of future punishments, because I blush to think that a human being

should ever argue vehemently in such a cause, and only make a few

remarks on her absurd manner of making the parental authority

supplant reason. For everywhere does she inculcate not only blind

submission to parents, but to the opinion of the world.[9]

She tells a story of a young man engaged by his father's express

desire to a girl of fortune. Before the marriage could take place

she is deprived of her fortune, and thrown friendless on the world.

The father practises the most infamous arts to separate his son

from her, and when the son detects his villainy, and, following the

dictates of honour, marries the girl, nothing but misery ensues,

because, forsooth! he married without his father's consent. On what

ground can religion or morality rest when justice is thus set at

defiance? With the same view she represents an accomplished young

woman, as ready to marry anybody that her mamma pleased to

recommend; and, as actually marrying the young man of her own

choice, without feeling any emotions of passion, because that a

well-educated girl had not time to be in love. Is it possible to

have much respect for a system of education that thus insults

reason and nature? 

Many similar opinions occur in her writings, mixed with sentiments

that do honour to her head and heart. Yet so much superstition is

mixed with her religion, and so much worldly wisdom with her

morality, that I should not let a young person read her works,

unless I could afterwards converse on the subjects, and point out

the contradictions. 

Mrs. Chapone's letters are written with such good sense and

unaffected humility, and contain so many useful observations, that

I only mention them to pay the worthy writer this tribute of

respect. I cannot, it is true, always coincide in opinion with her,

but I always respect her. 

The very word respect brings Mrs. Macaulay to my remembrance. The

woman of the greatest abilities, undoubtedly, that this country has

ever produced; and yet this woman has been suffered to die without

sufficient respect being paid to her memory. 

Posterity, however, will be more just, and remember that Catherine

Macaulay was an example of intellectual acquirements supposed to be

incompatible with the weakness of her sex. In her style of writing,

indeed, no sex appears, for it is like the sense it conveys, strong

and clear. 

I will not call hers a masculine understanding, because I admit not

of such an arrogant assumption of reason; but I contend that it was

a sound one, and that her judgment, the matured fruit of profound

thinking, was a proof that a woman can acquire judgment in the full

extent of the word. Possessing more penetration than sagacity, more

understanding than fancy, she writes with sober energy and

argumentative closeness; yet sympathy and benevolence give an

interest to her sentiments, and that vital heat to arguments, which

forces the reader to weigh them.[10]

When I first thought of writing these strictures I anticipated Mrs.

Macaulay's approbation, with a little of that sanguine ardour which

it has been the business of my life to depress, but soon heard with

the sickly qualm-of disappointed hope, and the still seriousness of

regret--that she was no more!

                             SECTION V                            


Taking a view of the different works which have been written on

education, Lord Chesterfield's Letters must not be silently passed

over. Not that I mean to analyse his unmanly, immoral system, or

even to cull any of the useful, shrewd remarks which occur in his

epistles. No, I only mean to make a few reflections on the avowed

tendency of them, the art of acquiring an early knowledge of the

world--an art, I will venture to assert, that preys secretly, like

the worm in the bud, on the expanding powers, and turns to poison

the generous juices which should mount with vigour in the youthful

frame, inspiring warm affections and great resolves.[11]  

For everything, saith the wise man, there is a season; and who

would look for the fruits of autumn during the genial months of

spring? But this is mere declamation, and I mean to reason with

those worldly-wise instructors, who, instead of cultivating the

judgment, instil prejudices, and render hard the heart that gradual

experience would only have cooled. An early acquaintance with human

infirmities; or, what is termed knowledge of the world, is the

surest way, in my opinion, to contract the heart and damp the

natural youthful ardour which produces not only great talents, but

great virtues. For the vain attempt to bring forth the fruit of

experience, before the sapling has out thrown its leaves, only

exhausts its strength, and prevents its assuming a natural form;

just as the form and strength of subsiding metals are injured when

the attraction of cohesion is disturbed. 

Tell me, ye who have studied the human mind, is it not a strange

way to fix principles by showing young people that they are seldom

stable? And how can they be fortified by habits when they are

proved to be fallacious by example? Why is the ardour of youth thus

to be damped, and the luxuriancy of fancy cut to the quick? This

dry caution may, it is true, guard a character from worldly

mischances, but will infallibly preclude excellence in either 

virtue or knowledge.[12] The stumbling-block thrown across every

path by suspicion will prevent any vigorous exertions of genius or

benevolence, and life will be stripped of its most alluring charm

long before its calm evening, when man would retire to

contemplation for comfort and support.

A young man who has been bred up with domestic friends, and led to

store his mind with as much speculative knowledge as can be

acquired by reading and the natural reflections which youthful

ebullitions of animal spirits and instinctive feelings inspire,

will enter the world with warm and erroneous expectations. But this

appears to be the course of Nature. and in morals, as well as in 

works of taste, we should be observant of her sacred indications, 

and not presume to lead when we ought obsequiously to follow.

In the world few act from principle; present feelings and early

habits are the grand springs; but how would the former be deadened,

and the latter rendered iron-corroding fetters, if the world were

shown to young people just as it is, when no knowledge of mankind

or their own hearts, slowly obtained by experience, rendered them

forbearing? Their fellow-creatures would not then be viewed as

frail beings like themselves, condemned to struggle with human

infirmities, and sometimes displaying the light, and sometimes the

dark, side of their character; extorting alternate feelings of love

and disgust, but guarded against as beasts of prey, till every

enlarged social feeling--in a word, humanity--was eradicated.  

In life, on the contrary, as we gradually discover the

imperfections of our nature, we discover virtues, and various

circumstances attach us to our fellow-creatures, when we mix with

them and view the same objects, that are never thought of in

acquiring a hasty unnatural knowledge of the world. We see a folly

swell into a vice, by almost imperceptible degrees, and pity while

we blame; but if the hideous monster burst suddenly on our sight,

fear and disgust, rendering us more severe than man ought to be,

might lead us with blind zeal to usurp the character of

omnipotence, and denounce damnation on our fellow-mortals,

forgetting that we cannot read the heart, and that we have seeds of

the same vices lurking in our own.

I have already remarked that we expect more from instruction than

mere instruction can produce; for instead of preparing young people

to encounter the evils of life with dignity, and to acquire wisdom

and virtue by the exercise of their own [13] faculties, precepts

are heaped upon precepts, and blind obedience required when

conviction should be brought home to reason.

Suppose, for instance, that a young person, in the first ardour of

friendship, deifies the beloved object, what harm can arise from

this mistaken enthusiastic attachment? Perhaps it is necessary for 

virtue first to appear in a human form to impress youthful hearts; 

the ideal model, which a more matured and exalted mind looks up to,

and shapes for itself, would elude their sight. "He who loves not

his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God?" asked the

wisest of men.   

It is natural for youth to adorn the first object of its affection

with every good quality, and the emulation produced by ignorance,

or, to speak with more propriety, by inexperience, brings forward

the mind capable of forming such an affection, and when, in the

lapse of time, perfection is found not to be within the reach of

mortals, virtue, abstractedly, is thought beautiful, and wisdom

sublime. Admiration then gives place to friendship, properly so

called, because it is cemented by esteem; and the being walks alone

only dependent on Heaven for that emulous panting after perfection

which ever glows in a noble mind. But this knowledge a man must

gain by the exertion of his own faculties; and this is surely the

blessed fruit of disappointed hope! for He who delighteth to

diffuse happiness and show mercy to the weak creatures, who are

learning to know Him, never implanted a good propensity to be a

tormenting ignis fatuus.

Our trees are now allowed to spread with wild luxuriance, nor do we

expect by force to combine the majestic marks of time with youthful

graces; but wait patiently till they have struck deep their root,

and braved many a storm. Is the mind then, which, in proportion to

its dignity, advances more slowly towards perfection, to be treated

with less respect? To argue from analogy, everything around us is

in a progressive state; and when an unwelcome knowledge of life

produces almost a satiety of life, and we discover by the natural

course of things that all that is done under the sun is vanity, we

are drawing near the awful close of the drama. The days of activity

and hope are over, and the opportunities which the first stage of 

existence has afforded of advancing in the scale of intelligence,

must soon be summed up. A knowledge at this period of the futility

of life, or earlier, if obtained by experience, is very useful,

because it is natural; but when a frail being is shown the follies

and vices of man, that he may be taught prudently to guard against

the common casualties of life by sacrificing his heart--surely it

is not speaking harshly to call it the wisdom of this world,

contrasted with the nobler fruit of piety and experience.

I will venture a paradox, and deliver my opinion without reserve;

if men were only born to form a circle of life and death, it would

be wise to take every step that foresight could suggest to render

life happy. Moderation in every pursuit would then be supreme

wisdom; and the prudent voluptuary might enjoy a degree of content,

though he neither cultivated his understanding nor kept his heart 

pure. Prudence, supposing we were mortal, would be true wisdom, or,

to be more explicit, would procure the greatest portion of

happiness, considering the whole of life, but knowledge beyond the

conveniences of life would be a curse.

Why should we injure our health by close study? The exalted

pleasure which intellectual pursuits afford would scarcely be

equivalent to the hours of languor that follow; especially, if it

be necessary to take into the reckoning the doubts and

disappointments that cloud our researches. Vanity and vexation

close every inquiry: for the cause which we particularly wished to

discover flies like the horizon before us as we advance. The

ignorant, on the contrary, resemble children, and suppose, that if

they could walk straight forward they should at last arrive where

the earth and clouds meet. Yet, disappointed as we are in our

researches, the mind gains strength by the exercise, sufficient,

perhaps, to comprehend the answers which, in another step of

existence, it may receive to the anxious questions it asked, when

the understanding with feeble wing was fluttering round the visible

effects to dive into the hidden cause.

The passions also, the winds of life, would be useless, if not

injurious, did the substance which composes our thinking being,

after we have thought in vain, only become the support of vegetable

life, and invigorate a cabbage, or blush in a rose. The appetites

would answer every earthly purpose, and produce more moderate and

permanent happiness. But the powers of the soul that are of little

use here, and, probably, disturb our animal enjoyments, even while

conscious dignity makes us glory in possessing them, prove that

life is merely an education, a state of infancy, to which the only

hopes worth cherishing should not be sacrificed. I mean, therefore,

to infer, that we ought to have a precise idea of what we wish to

attain by education, for the immortality of the soul is

contradicted by the actions of many people who firmly profess the


If you mean to secure ease and prosperity on earth as the first

consideration, and leave futurity to provide for itself; you act

prudently in giving your child an early insight into the weaknesses

of his nature. You may not, it is true, make an Inkle of him; but

do not imagine that he will stick to more than the letter of the

law, who has very early imbibed a mean opinion of human nature; nor

will he think it necessary to rise much above the common standard.

He may avoid gross vices, because honesty is the best policy; but

he will never aim at attaining great virtues. The example of

writers and artists will illustrate this remark.

I must therefore venture to doubt whether what has been thought an

axiom in morals may not have been a dogmatical assertion made by

men who have coolly seen mankind through the medium of books, and

say, in direct contradiction to them, that the regulation of the

passions is not, always, wisdom. on the contrary, it should seem,

that one reason why men have superior judgment, and more fortitude

than women, is undoubtedly this, that they give a freer scope to

the grand passions, and by more frequently going astray enlarge

their minds. If then by the exercise of their own reason they fix

on some stable principle, they have probably to thank the force of

their passions, nourished by false views of life, and permitted to

overleap the boundary that secures content. But if, in the dawn of

life, we could soberly survey the scenes before as in perspective,

and see everything in its true colours, how could the passions gain

sufficient strength to unfold the faculties?

Let me now as from an eminence survey the world stripped of all its

false delusive charms. The clear atmosphere enables me to see each

object in its true point of view, while my heart is still. I am

calm as the prospect in a morning when the mists, slowly

dispersing, silently unveil the beauties of nature, refreshed by


In what light will the world now appear? I rub my eyes, and think,

perchance, that I am just awaking from a lively dream.

I see the sons and daughters of men pursuing shadows, and anxiously

wasting their powers to feed passions which have no adequate

object. If the very excess of these blind impulses, pampered by

that lying, yet constantly trusted guide, the imagination, did not,

by preparing them for some other state, render short-sighted

mortals wiser without their own concurrence, or, what comes to the

same thing, when pursuing some imaginary present good.

After viewing objects in this light, it would not be fanciful to

imagine that this world was a stage on which a pantomime is daily

performed for the amusement of superior beings. How would they be

diverted to see the ambitious man consuming himself by running

after a phantom, and "pursuing the bubble fame in the cannon's

mouth" that was to blow him to nothing; for when consciousness is

lost, it matters not whether we mount in a whirlwind, or descend in

rain. And should they compassionately invigorate his sight, and

show him the thorny path which led to eminence, that, like a

quicksand, sinks as he ascends, disappointing his hopes when almost

within his grasp, would he not leave to others the honour of

amusing them, and labour to secure the present moment, though, from

the constitution of his nature, he would not find it very easy to

catch the flying stream? Such slaves are we to hope and fear!

But vain as the ambitious man's pursuits would be, he is often

striving for something more substantial than fame. That, indeed,

would be the veriest meteor, the wildest fire that could lure a man

to ruin. What! renounce the most trifling gratification to be

applauded when he should be no more! Wherefore this struggle,

whether man be mortal or immortal, if that noble passion did not

really raise the being above his fellows?

And love! What diverting scenes would it produce; pantaloon's

tricks must yield to more egregious folly. To see a mortal adorn an

object with imaginary charms, and then fall down and worship the

idol which he had himself set up--how ridiculous But what serious

consequences ensue to rob man of that portion of happiness which

the Deity by calling him into existence has (or on what can His

attributes rest?) indubitably promised. Would not all the purposes

of life have been much better fulfilled if he had only felt what

has been termed physical love? And would not the sight of the

object, not seen through the medium of the imagination, soon reduce

the passion to an appetite if reflection, the noble distinction of

man, did not give it force, and make it an instrument to raise him

above this earthly dross, by teaching him to love the centre of all

perfection, whose wisdom appears clearer and clearer in the works

of nature in proportion as reason is illuminated and exalted by

contemplation, and by acquiring that love of order which the

struggles of passion produce?   

The habit of reflection, and the knowledge attained by fostering

any passion, might be shown to be equally useful, though the object

be proved equally fallacious; for they would all appear in the same

light if they were not magnified by the governing passion implanted

in us by the Author of all good to call forth and strengthen the

faculties of each individual, and enable it to attain all the

experience that an infant can obtain who does certain things, it

cannot tell why.

I descend from my height, and mixing with my fellow-creatures feel

myself hurried along the common stream. Ambition, love, hope, and

fear, exert their wonted power, though we be convinced by reason

that their present and most attractive promises are only lying

dreams; but had the cold hand of circumspection damped each

generous feeling before it had left any permanent character, or

fixed some habit, what could be expected but selfish prudence and

reason just rising above instinct? Who that has read Dean Swift's

disgusting description of the Yahoos, and insipid one of Houyhnhnm

with a philosophical eye, can avoid seeing the futility of

degrading the passions, or making man rest in contentment?

The youth should act, for had he the experience of a grey head he

would be fitter for death than life, though his virtues, rather

residing in his head than his heart, could produce nothing great,

and his understanding, prepared for this world, would not, by its

noble flights, prove that it had a title to a better.

Besides, it is not possible to give a young person a just view of

life; he must have struggled with his own passions before he can

estimate the force of the temptation which betrayed his brother

into vice. Those who are entering life, and those who are

departing, see the world from such very different points of view

that they can seldom think alike, unless the unfledged reason of

the former never attempted a solitary flight.

When we hear of some daring crime, it comes full on us in the

deepest shade of turpitude, and raises indignation; but the eye

that gradually saw the darkness thicken must observe it with more

compassionate forbearance. The world cannot be seen by an unmoved

spectator; we must mix in the throng, and feel as men feel, before

we can judge of their feelings. If we mean, in short, to live in

the world, to grow wiser and better, and not merely to enjoy the

good things of life, we must attain a knowledge of others at the

same time that we become acquainted with ourselves. Knowledge

acquired any other way only hardens the heart, and perplexes the


I may be told that the knowledge thus acquired is sometimes

purchased at too dear a rate. I can only answer that I very much

doubt whether any knowledge can be attained without labour and

sorrow; and those who wish to spare their children both should not

complain if they are neither wise nor virtuous. They only aimed at

making them prudent, and prudence early in life is but the cautious

craft of ignorant self-love.

I have observed that young people, to whose education particular

attention has been paid, have in general been very superficial and

conceited, and far from pleasing in any respect, because they had

neither the unsuspecting warmth of youth, nor the cool depth of

age. I cannot help imputing this unnatural appearance principally

to that hasty premature instruction which leads them presumptuously

to repeat all the crude notions they have taken upon trust, so that

the careful education which they received, makes them all their

lives the slaves of prejudices.

Mental as well as bodily exertion is at first irksome; so much so,

that the many would fain let others both work and think for them.

An observation which I have often made will illustrate my meaning.

When in a circle of strangers or acquaintances a person of moderate

abilities asserts an opinion with heat, I will venture to affirm--

for I have traced this fact home' --very often that it is a

prejudice. These echoes have a high respect for the understanding

of some relation or friend, and without fully comprehending the

opinions which they are so eager to retail, they maintain them with

a degree of obstinacy that would surprise even the person who

concocted them.

I know that a kind of fashion now prevails of respecting

prejudices; and when anyone dares to face them, though actuated by

humanity and armed by reason, he is superciliously asked whether

his ancestors were fools. No, I should reply. opinions at first of

every description were all probably considered, and therefore were

founded on some reason; yet not unfrequently, of course, it was

rather a local expedient than a fundamental principle that would be

reasonable at all times. But moss-covered opinions assume the

disproportioned form of prejudices when they are indolently adopted

only because age has given them a venerable aspect, though the

reason on which they were built ceases to be a reason, or cannot be

traced.  Why are we to love prejudices merely because they are

prejudices?[14] A prejudice is a fond obstinate persuasion for

which we can give no reason; for the moment a reason can be given

for an opinion, it ceases to be a prejudice, though it may be an

error in judgment; and are we then advised to cherish opinions only

to set reason at defiance? This mode of arguing, if arguing it may

be called, reminds me of what is vulgarly termed a woman's reason;

for women sometimes declare that they love, or believe certain

things, because they love or believe them.

It is impossible to converse with people to any purpose who only

use affirmatives and negatives. Before you can bring them to a

point to start fairly from, you must go back to the simple

principles that were antecedent to the prejudices broached by

power; and it is ten to one but you are stopped by the

philosophical assertion that certain principles are as practically

false as they are abstractly true.[15] Nay, it may be inferred that

reason has whispered some doubts, for it generally happens that

people assert their opinions with the greatest heat when they begin

to waver; striving to drive out their own doubts by convincing

their opponent, they grow angry when those gnawing doubts are

thrown back to prey on themselves.

The fact is, that men expect from education, what education cannot

give. A sagacious parent or tutor may strengthen the body and

sharpen the instruments by which the child is to gather knowledge;

but the honey must be the reward of the individual's own industry.

It is almost as absurd to attempt to make a youth wise by the

experience of another, as to expect the body to grow strong by the

exercise which is only talked of, or seen.[16] Many of those

children whose conduct has been most narrowly watched, become the

weakest men, because their instructors only instil certain notions

into their minds, that have no other foundation than their

authority; and if they be loved or respected, the mind is cramped

in its exertions and wavering in its advances. The business of

education in this case, is only to conduct the shooting tendrils to

a proper pole; yet after laying precept upon precept, without

allowing a child to acquire judgment itself, parents expect them to

act in the same manner by this borrowed fallacious light, as if

they had illuminated it themselves; and be, when they enter life,

what their parents are at the close. They do not consider that the

tree, and even the human body, does not strengthen its fibres till

it has reached its full growth.

There appears to be something analogous in the mind. The senses and

the imagination give a form to the character, during childhood and

youth; and the understanding, as life advances, gives firmness to

the first fair purposes of sensibility, till virtue, arising rather

from the clear conviction of reason than the impulse of the heart,

morality is made to rest on a rock against which the storms of

passion vainly beat.

I hope I shall not be misunderstood when I say, that religion will

not have this condensing energy, unless it be founded on reason. If

it be merely the refuge of weakness or wild fanaticism, and not a

governing principle of conduct, drawn from self-knowledge, and a

rational opinion respecting the attributes of God, what can it be

expected to produce? The religion which consists in warming the

affections, and exalting the imagination, is only the poetical

part, and may afford the individual pleasure without rendering it

a more moral being. It may be a substitute for worldly pursuits;

yet narrow, instead of enlarging the heart: but virtue must be

loved as in itself sublime and excellent, and not for the

advantages it procures or the evils. it averts, if any great degree

of excellence be expected. Men will not become moral when they only

build airy castles in a future world to compensate for the

disappointments which they meet with in this; if they turn their

thoughts from relative duties to religious reveries.

Most prospects in life are marred by the shuffling worldly wisdom

of men, who, forgetting that they cannot serve God and mammon,

endeavour to blend contradictory things. If you wish to make your

son rich, pursue one course if you are only anxious to make him

virtuous, you must not imagine that you can bound from one road to

the other without losing your way.[17]


[1]  I have already inserted the passage, p.44.

[2]  What nonsense!

[3]  What is to the consequence, if the mother's and husband's

opinion should chance not to agree? An ignorant person cannot be

reasoned out of an error -- and when persuaded to give up one

prejudice for another the mind is unsettled. Indeed, the husband

may not have any religion to teach her, though in such a situation

she will be in great want of a support to her virtue, independent

of worldly considerations.

[4]  Rousseau's Emilius.

[5]  Can you? -- Can you? would be the most emphatical comment,

were it drawled out in a whining voice.

[6]  Let women once acquire good sense -- and if it deserve the

name, it will teach them; or, of what use will it be? how to employ


[7]  "He is the free man, whom the truth makes free!" -- Cowper.

[8]  I mean to use a word that comprehends more than chastity, the

sexual virtue.

[9]  A person is not to act in this or that way, though convinced

they are right in so doing, because some equivocal circumstances

may lead the world to suspect that they acted from different

motives. This is sacrificing the substance for a shadow. Let people

by watch their own hearts, and act rightly, as far as they can

judge, and they may patiently wait till the opinion of the world

comes round. It is best to be directed by a simple motive, for

justice has too often been sacrificed to propriety -- another word

for convenience.

[10] Coinciding in opinion with Mrs. Macauly relative to many

branches of education, I refer to her valuable work, instead of

quoting her sentiments to support my own.

[11] That children ought to be constantly guarded against the vices

and follies of the world appears to me a very mistaken opinion; for

in the course of my experience, and my eyes have looked abroad, I

newer knew a youth educated in this manner, who had earlt imbibed

these chilling suspicions, and repeated by rote the hesitating if

of age, that did not prove a selfish character.

[12] I have already observed that an early knowledge of the world,

obtained in a natural way, by mixing in the world, has the same

effect, instancing officers and women.

[13] "I find that all is but lip-wisdom which want experience,"

says Sidney.

[14] Vide Mr. Burke.

[15]           "Convince a man against his will,

               He's of the same opinion still."

[16] 'One sees nothing when one is content to contemplate only: it

is necessary to act oneself to be able to see how others act." --


[17] see an excellent essay on this subject by Mrs. Barbauld, in

Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose.

                           CHAPTER VI



                     HAS UPON THE CHARACTER


Educated in the enervating style recommended by the writers on whom

I have been animadverting; and not having a chance, from their

subordinate state in society, to recover their lost ground, is it

surprising that women everywhere appear a defect in nature? Is it

surprising, when we consider what a determinate effect an early

association of ideas has on the character, that they neglect their

understandings, and turn all their attention to their persons?

The great advantages which naturally result from storing the mind

with knowledge, are obvious from the following considerations. The

association of our ideas is either habitual or instantaneous; and

the latter mode seems rather to depend on the original temperature

of the mind than on the will. When the ideas, and matters of fact,

are once taken in, they lie by for use, till some fortuitous

circumstance makes the information dart into the mind with

illustrative force, that has been received at very different

periods of our lives. Like the lightning's flash are many

recollections; one idea assimilating and explaining another, with

astonishing rapidity. I do not now allude to that quick perception

of truth, which is so intuitive that it baffles research, and makes

us at a loss to determine whether it is reminiscence or

ratiocination, lost sight of in its celerity, that opens the dark

cloud. Over those instantaneous associations we have little power;

for when the mind is once enlarged by excursive flights, or

profound reflection, the raw materials will, in some degree,

arrange themselves. The understanding, it is true, may keep us from

going out of drawing when we group our thoughts, or transcribe from

the imagination the warm sketches of fancy; but the animal spirits,

the individual character, give the colouring. Over this subtile

electric fluid,[1] how little power do we possess, and over it how

little power can reason obtain. These fine intractable spirits

appear to be the essence of genius, and beaming in its eagle eye,

produce in the most eminent degree the happy energy of associating

thoughts that surprise, delight, and instruct These are the glowing

minds that concentrate pictures for their fellow-creatures; forcing

them to view with interest the objects reflected from the

impassioned imagination, which they passed over in nature.

I must be allowed to explain myself. The generality of people

cannot see or feel poetically, they want fancy, and therefore fly

from solitude in search of sensible objects; but when an author

lends them his eyes they can see as he saw, and be amused by images

they could not select, though lying before them.  

Education thus only supplies the man of genius with knowledge to

give variety and contrast to his associations; but there is an

habitual association of ideas, that grows "with our growth," which

has a great effect on the moral character of mankind, and by which

a turn is given to the mind that commonly remains throughout life.

So ductile is the understanding, and yet so stubborn, that the

associations which depend on adventitious circumstances, during the

period that the body takes to arrive at maturity, can seldom be

disentangled by reason. one idea calls up another, its old

associate, and memory, faithful to the first impressions,

particularly when the intellectual powers are not employed to cool

our sensations, retraces them with mechanical exactness.

This habitual slavery, to first impressions, has a more baneful

effect on the female than the male character, because business and

other dry employments of the understanding, tend to deaden the

feelings and break associations that do violence to reason. But

females, who are made women of when they are mere children, and

brought back to childhood when they ought to leave the go-cart for

ever, have not sufficient strength of mind to efface the

superinductions of art that have smothered nature.

Everything that they see or hear serves to fix impressions, call

forth emotions, and associate ideas, that give a sexual character

to the mind. False notions of beauty and delicacy stop the growth

of their limbs and produce a sickly soreness, rather than delicacy

of organs; and thus weakened by being employed in unfolding instead

of examining the first associations, forced on them by every

surrounding object, how can they attain the vigour necessary to

enable them to throw off their factitious character?--where find

strength to recur to reason and rise superior to a system of

oppression, that blasts the fair promises of spring? This cruel

association of ideas, which everything conspires to twist into all

their habits of thinking, or, to speak with more precision, of

feeling, receives new force when they begin to act a little for

themselves; for they then perceive that it is only through their

address to excite emotions in men, that pleasure and power are to

be obtained. Besides, the books professedly written for their

instruction, which make the first impression on their minds, all

inculcate the same opinions. Educated then in worse than Egyptian

bondage, it is unreasonable, as well as cruel, to upbraid them with

faults that can scarcely be avoided, unless a degree of native

vigour be supposed, that falls to the lot of very few amongst


For instance, the severest sarcasms have been levelled against the

sex, and they have been ridiculed for repeating "a set of phrases

learnt by rote," when nothing could be more natural, considering

the education they receive, and that their "highest praise is to

obey, unargued"--the will of man. If they be not allowed to have

reason sufficient to govern their own conduct --why, all they learn

must be learned by rote! And when all their ingenuity is called

forth to adjust their dress, "a passion for a scarlet coat," is so

natural, that it never surprised me; and, allowing Pope's summary

of their character to be just, "that every woman is at heart a

rake," why should they be bitterly censured for seeking a congenial

mind, and preferring a rake to a man of sense?

Rakes know how to work on their sensibility, whilst the modest

merit of reasonable men has, of course, less effect on their

feelings, and they cannot reach the heart by the way of the

understanding, because they have few sentiments in common.

It seems a little absurd to expect women to be more reasonable than

men in their likings, and still to deny them the uncontrolled use

of reason. When do men fall in love with sense? When do they, with

their superior powers and advantages, turn from the person to the

mind? And how can they then expect women, who are only taught to

observe behaviour, and acquire manners rather than morals, to

despise what they have been all their lives labouring to attain?

Where are they suddenly to find judgment enough to weigh patiently

the sense of an awkward virtuous man, when his manners, of which

they are made critical judges, are rebuffing, and his conversation

cold and dull, because it does not consist of pretty repartees, or

well-turned compliments? In order to admire or esteem anything for

a continuance, we must, at least, have our curiosity excited by

knowing, in some degree, what we admire; for we are unable to

estimate the value of qualities and virtues above our

comprehension. Such a respect, when it is felt, may be very

sublime; and the confused consciousness of humility may render the

dependent creature an interesting object, in some points of view;

but human love must have grosser ingredients; and the person very

naturally will come in for its share--and, an ample share it mostly


Love is, in a great degree, an arbitrary passion, and will reign,

like some other stalking mischiefs, by its own authority, without

deigning to reason; and it may also be easily distinguished from

esteem, the foundation of friendship, because it is o.'ten excited

by evanescent beauties and graces, though, to give an energy to the

sentiment, son deepen their impression and set the make the most

fair--the first good. 

Common passions are excited by look for beauty and the simper of

women are captivated by easy manners; a gentleman-like man seldom

fails to please them, and their thirsty ears eagerly drink the

insinuating nothings of politeness, whilst they turn from the

unintelligible sounds of the charmer--reason, charm he never so

wisely. With respect to superficial accomplishments, the rake

certainly has the advantage; and of these females can form an

opinion, for it is their own ground. Rendered gay and giddy by the

whole tenor of their lives, the very aspect of wisdom, or the

severe graces of virtue, must have a lugubrious appearance to them;

and produce a kind of restraint from which they and love, sportive

child, naturally revolt. Without taste, excepting of the lighter

kind, for taste is the offspring of judgment, how can they discover

that true beauty and grace must arise from the play of the mind?

and how can they be expected to relish in a lover what they do not,

or very imperfectly, possess themselves? The sympathy that unites

hearts, and invites to confidence, in them is so very faint, that

it cannot take fire, and thus mount to passion. No, I repeat it,

the love cherished by such minds, must have grosser fuel!

The inference is obvious; till women are led to exercise their

understandings, they should not be satirised for their attachment

to rakes; or even for being rakes at heart, when it appears to be

the inevitable consequence of their education. They who live to

please--must find their enjoyments, their happiness, in pleasure!

It is a trite, yet true remark, that we never do anything well,

unless we love it for its own sake.

Supposing, however, for a moment, that women were, in some future

revolution of time, to become, what I sincerely wish them to be,

even love would acquire more serious dignity, and be purified in

its own fires; and virtue giving true delicacy to their affections,

they would turn with disgust from a rake. Reasoning then, as well

as feeling, the only province of woman, at present, they might

easily guard against exterior graces, and quickly learn to despise

the sensibility that had been ex- cited and hackneyed in the ways

of women, whose trade was vice; and allurements, wanton airs. They

would recollect that the flame, one must use appropriated

expressions, which they wished to light up, had been exhausted by

lust, and that the sated appetite, losing all relish for pure and

simple pleasures, could only be roused by licentious arts or

variety. What satisfaction could a woman of delicacy promise

herself in a union with such a man, when the very artlessness of

her affection might appear insipid? Thus does Dryden describe the


     Where love is duty, on the female side,

     On theirs mere sensual gust, and sought with surly pride.

But one grand truth women have yet to learn, though much it imports

them to act accordingly. In the choice of a husband, they should

not be led astray by the qualities of a lover--for a lover the

husband, even supposing him to be wise and virtuous, cannot long


Were women more rationally educated, could they take a more

comprehensive view of things, they would be contented to love but

once in their lives; and after marriage calmly let passion subside

into friendship--into that tender intimacy, which is the best

refuge from care; yet is built on such pure, still affections, that

idle jealousies would not be allowed to disturb the discharge of

the sober duties of life, or to engross the thoughts that ought to

be otherwise employed. This is a state in which many men live; but

few, very few, women. And the difference may easily be accounted

for, without recurring to a sexual character. Men, for whom we are

told women were made, have too much occupied the thoughts of women;

and this association has so entangled love with all their motives

of action; and, to harp a little on an old string, having been

solely employed either to prepare themselves to excite love, or

actually putting their lessons in practice, they cannot live

without love. But, when a sense of duty, or fear of shame, obliges

them to restrain this pampered desire of pleasing beyond certain

lengths, too far for delicacy, it is true, though far from

criminality, they obstinately determine to love, I speak of the

passion, their husbands to the end of the chapter--and then acting

the part which they foolishly exacted from their lovers, they

become abject wooers and fond slaves. 

Men of wit and fancy are often rakes; and fancy is the food of

love. Such men will inspire passion. Half the sex, in its present

infantine state, would pine for a Lovelace; a man so witty, so

graceful, and so valiant: and can they deserve blame for acting

according to principles so constantly inculcated? They want a

lover, and protector; and behold him kneeling before them--bravery

prostrate to beauty! The virtues of a husband are thus thrown by

love into the background, and gay hopes, or lively emotions, banish

reflection till the day of reckoning come; and come it surely will,

to turn the sprightly lover into a surly suspicious tyrant, who

contemptuously insults the very weakness he fostered. or, supposing

the rake reformed, he cannot quickly get rid of old habits. When a

man of abilities is first carried away by his passions, it is

necessary that sentiment and taste varnish the enormities of vice,

and give a zest to brutal indulgences; but when the gloss of

novelty is worn off, and pleasure palls upon the sense,

lasciviousness becomes barefaced, and enjoyment only the desperate

effort of weakness flying from reflection as from a legion of

devils. Oh! virtue, thou art not an empty name! All that life can

give--thou givest!

If much comfort cannot be expected from the friendship of a

reformed rake of superior abilities, what is the consequence when

he lacketh sense, as well as principles? Verily misery, in its most

hideous shape. When the habits of weak people are consolidated by

time, a reformation is barely possible; and actually makes the

beings miserable who have not sufficient mind to be amused by

innocent pleasure; like the tradesman who retires from the hurry of

business, Nature presents to them only a universal blank; and the

restless thoughts prey on the damped spirits.[2] The reformation,

as well as his retirement, actually makes them wretched, because it

deprives them of all employment, by quenching the hopes and fears

that set in motion their sluggish minds.

If such be the force of habit; if such be the bondage of folly, how

carefully ought we to guard the mind from storing up vicious

associations; and equally careful should we be to cultivate the

understanding, to save the poor wight from the weak dependent state

of even harmless ignorance. For it is the right use of reason alone

which make us independent of everything--excepting the unclouded

reason--"Whose service is perfect freedom."


[1]  I have sometimes, when inclined to laugh at materialists,

asked whether, as the most powerful effects in nature are

apparently produced by fluids, the magnetic, etc., the passions

might not be fine volatile fluids that embraced humanity, keeping

the more refractory elementary parts together -- or whether they

were simply a liquid fire that pervaded the more sluggish

materials, giving them life and heat?

[2]  I have frequently seen this exemplified in women whose beauty

could no longer be repaired. They have retired from the noisy

scenes of dissipation; but unless they became Methodists, the

solitude of the select society of their family connections or

acquaintance, has presented only a fearful void; consequently,

nervous complaints, and all the vapourish train of idleness,

rendered them quite as useless, and far more unhappy than when they

joined the giddy throng.

                           CHAPTER VII



                        AS A SEXUAL VIRTUE


Modesty! sacred offspring of sensibility and reason!--true

delicacy of mind!--may I unblamed presume to investigate thy

nature, and trace to its covert the mild charm, that mellowing each

harsh feature of a character, renders what would otherwise only

inspire cold admiration--lovely! Thou that smoothest the wrinkles

of wisdom, and softenest the tone of the sublimest virtues till

they all melt into humanity; thou that spreadest the ethereal cloud

that, surrounding love, heightens every beauty, it half shades,

breathing those coy sweets that steal into the heart, and charm the

senses-- modulate for me the language of persuasive reason, till I

rouse my sex from the flowery bed, on which they supinely sleep

life away!

In speaking of the association of our ideas, I have noticed two

distinct modes; and in defining modesty, it appears to me equally

proper to discriminate that purity of mind, which is the effect of

chastity, from a simplicity of character that leads us to form a

just opinion of ourselves, equally distant from vanity or

presumption, though by no means incompatible with a lofty

consciousness of our own dignity. Modesty, in the latter

signification of the term, is that soberness of mind which teaches

a man not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think,

and should be distinguished from humility, because humility is a

kind of self-abasement.

A modest man often conceives a great plan, and tenaciously adheres

to it, conscious of his own strength, till success gives it a

sanction that determines its character. Milton was not arrogant

when he suffered a suggestion of judgment to escape him that proved

a prophecy; nor was General Washington when he accepted of the

command of the American forces. The latter has always been

characterised as a modest man; but had he been merely humble, he

would probably have shrunk back irresolute, afraid of trusting to

himself the direction of an enterprise, on which so much depended.

A modest man is steady, an humble man timid, and a vain one

presumptuous: this is the judgment, which the observation of many

characters, has led me to form. Jesus Christ was modest, Moses was

humble, and Peter vain.

Thus, discriminating modesty from humility in one case, I do not

mean to confound it with bashfulness in the other. Bashfulness, in

fact, is so distinct from modesty, that the most bashful lass or

raw country lout, often become the most impudent; for their

bashfulness being merely the instinctive timidity of ignorance,

custom soon changes it into assurance.[1]

The shameless behaviour of the prostitutes, who infest the streets

of this metropolis, raising alternate emotions of pity and disgust,

may serve to illustrate this remark. They trample on virgin

bashfulness with a sort of bravado, and glorifying in their shame,

become more audaciously lewd than men, however depraved, to whom

this sexual quality has not been gratuitously granted, ever appear

to be. But these poor ignorant wretches never had any modesty to

lose, when they consigned themselves to infamy; for modesty is a

virtue, not a quality. No, they were only bashful, shamefaced

innocents; and losing their innocence, their shamefacedness was

rudely brushed off: a virtue would have left some vestiges in the

mind, had it been sacrificed to passion, to make us respect the

grand ruin.

Purity of mind, or that genuine delicacy, which is the only

virtuous support of chastity, is near akin to that refinement of

humanity, which never resides in any but cultivated minds. It is

something nobler than innocence, it is the delicacy of reflection,

and not the coyness of ignorance. The reserve of reason, which,

like habitual cleanliness, is seldom seen in any great degree,

unless the soul is active, may easily be distinguished from rustic

shyness or wanton skittishness; and, so far from being incompatible

with knowledge, it is its fairest fruit. What a gross idea of

modesty had the writer of the following remark!--"The lady who

asked the question whether women may be instructed in the modern

system of botany consistently with female delicacy? was accused of

ridiculous prudery; nevertheless, if she had proposed the question

to me, I should certainly have answered--they cannot." Thus is the

fair book of knowledge to be shut with an everlasting seal! on

reading similar passages I have reverentially lifted up my eyes and

heart to Him who liveth for ever and ever, and said, "O, my Father,

hast Thou, by the very constitution of her nature forbid Thy child

to seek Thee in the fair forms of truth? And can her soul be

sullied by the knowledge that awfully calls her to Thee?"

I have then philosophically pursued these reflections till I

inferred that those women who have most improved their reason must

have the most modesty, though a dignified sedateness of deportment

may have succeeded the playful, bewitching bashfulness of youth.[2]

And thus have I argued. To render chastity the virtue from which

unsophisticated modesty will naturally flow, the attention should

be called away from employments which only exercise the

sensibility, and the heart made to beat time to humanity rather

than to throb with love. The woman who has dedicated a considerable

portion of her time to pursuits purely intellectual, and whose

affections have been exercised by humane plans of usefulness, must

have more purity of mind, as a natural consequence, than the

ignorant beings whose time and thoughts have been occupied by gay

pleasures, or schemes to conquer hearts.[3] The regulation of the

behaviour is not modesty, though those who study rules of decorum

are in general termed modest women. Make the heart clean; let it

expand and feel for all that is human, instead of being narrowed by

selfish passions; and let the mind frequently contemplate subjects

that exercise the understanding, without heating the imagination,

and artless modesty will give the finishing touches to the picture.

She who can discern the dawn of immortality in the streaks that

shoot athwart the misty night of ignorance, promising a clearer

day, will respect, as a sacred temple, the body that enshrines such

an improvable soul. True love likewise spreads this kind of

mysterious sanctity round the beloved object, making the lover most

modest when in her presence.[4] So reserved is affection that,

receiving or returning personal endearments, it wishes not only to

shun the human eye, as a kind of profanation, but to diffuse an

encircling cloudy obscurity to shut out even the saucy sparkling

sunbeams. Yet that affection does not deserve the epithet of chaste

which docs not receive a sublime gloom of tender melancholy, that

allows the mind for a moment to stand still and enjoy the present

satisfaction, when a consciousness of the Divine presence is

felt--for this must ever be the food of joy.

As I have always been fond of tracing to its source in nature any

prevailing custom, I have frequently thought that it was a

sentiment of affection for whatever had touched the person of an

absent or lost friend, which gave birth to that respect for relics,

so much abused by selfish priests. Devotion or love may be allowed

to hallow the garments as well as the person, for the lover must

want fancy who has not a sort of sacred respect for the glove or

slipper of his mistress. He could not confound them with vulgar

things of the same kind. This fine sentiment perhaps would not bear

to be analysed by the experimental philosopher. But of such stuff

is human rapture made up. A shadowy phantom glides before us,

obscuring every other object; yet when the soft cloud is grasped,

the form melts into common air, leaving a solitary void, or sweet

perfume, stolen from the violet, that memory long holds dear. But

I have tripped unawares on fairy ground, feeling the balmy gale of

spring stealing on me, though November frowns.

As a sex, women are more chaste than men; and as modesty is the

effect of chastity, they may deserve to have this virtue ascribed

to them in rather an appropriated sense. Yet I must be allowed to

add an hesitating if, for I doubt whether chastity will produce

modesty, though it may propriety of conduct, when it is merely a

respect for the opinion of the world,[5] and when coquetry and the

lovelorn tales of novelists employ the thoughts. Nay, from

experience and reason, I should be led to expect to meet with more

modesty amongst men than women, simply because men exercise their

understandings more than women.

But with respect to propriety of behaviour, excepting one class of

females, women have evidently the advantage. What can be more

disgusting than that impudent dross of gallantry thought so manly,

which makes many men stare insultingly at every female they meet?

Can it be termed respect for the sex? No, this loose behaviour

shows such habitual depravity, such weakness of mind, that it is

vain to expect much public or private virtue till both men and

women grow more modest--till men, curbing a sensual fondness for

the sex, or an affectation of manly assurance--more properly

speaking, impudence--treat each other with respect, unless appetite

or passion give the tone, peculiar to it, to their behaviour. I

mean every personal respect--the modest respect of humanity and

fellow-feeling--not the libidinous mockery of gallantry, nor the

insolent condescension of protectorship.

To carry the observation still further, modesty must heartily

disclaim, and refuse to dwell with that debauchery of mind, which

leads a man coolly to bring forward, without a blush, indecent

allusions, or obscene witticisms, in the presence of a

fellow-creature; women are now out of the question, for then it is

brutality. Respect for man, as man, is the foundation of every

noble sentiment. How much more modest is the libertine who obeys

the call of appetite or fancy than the lewd joker who sets the

table in a roar!

This is one of the many instances in which the sexual distinction

respecting modesty has proved fatal to virtue and happiness It is,

however, carried still further, and woman--weak woman--made by her

education the slave of sensibility, is required, on the most trying

occasions, to resist that sensibility. "Can anything," says Knox,

"be more absurd than keeping women in a state of ignorance, and yet

so vehemently to insist on their resisting temptation?" Thus when

virtue or honour make it proper to check a passion, the burden is

thrown on the weaker shoulders, contrary to reason and true

modesty, which at least should render the self-denial mutual, to

say nothing of the generosity of bravery, supposed to be a manly


In the same strain runs Rousseau's and Dr. Gregory's advice

respecting modesty, strangely miscalled! for they both desire a

wife to leave it in doubt whether sensibility or weakness led her

to her husband's arms. The woman is immodest who can let the shadow

of such a doubt remain in her husband's mind a moment.

But, to state the subject in a different light, the want of

modesty, which I principally deplore as subversive of morality,

arises from the state of warfare so strenuously supported by

voluptuous men as the very essence of modesty, though, in fact, its

bane, because it is a refinement on lust that men fall into who

have not sufficient virtue to relish the innocent pleasures of

love. A man of delicacy carries his notions of modesty still

further, for neither weakness nor sensibility will gratify him--he

looks for affection.  

Again. Men boast of their triumphs over women. What do they boast

of? Truly the creature of sensibility was surprised by her

sensibility into folly--into vice;[6] and the dreadful reckoning


heavily on her own weak head, when reason wakes. For where art thou

to find comfort, forlorn and disconsolate one? He who ought to have

directed thy reason, and supported thy weakness, has betrayed thee.

In a dream of passion thou consented to wander through flowery

lawns, and heedlessly stepping over the precipice to which they

guide, instead of guarding, lured thee; thou startest from thy

dream only to face a sneering, frowning world, and to find thyself

alone in a waste, for he that triumphed in thy weakness is now

pursuing new conquests. But for thee there is no redemption on this

side the grave! And what resource hast thou in an enervated mind to

raise a sinking heart?

But if the sexes be really to live in a state of warfare, if Nature

have pointed it out, let them act nobly, or let pride whisper to

them that the victory is mean when they merely vanquish

sensibility. The real conquest is that over affection not taken by

surprise, when, like Heloisa, a woman gives up all the world

deliberately for love. I do not now consider the wisdom or virtue

of such a sacrifice, I only contend that it was a sacrifice to

affection, and not merely to sensibility, though she had her share.

And I must be allowed to call her a modest woman, before I dismiss

this part of the subject, by saying, that till men are more chaste,

women will be immodest. Where, indeed, could modest women find

husbands from whom they would not continually turn with disgust?

Modesty must be equally cultivated by both sexes, or it will ever

remain a sickly hot-house plant, whilst the affectation of it, the

fig leaf borrowed by wantonness, may give a zest to voluptuous


Men will probably still insist that woman ought to have more

modesty than man; but it is not dispassionate reasoners who will

most earnestly oppose my opinion. No, they are the men of fancy,

the favourites of the sex, who outwardly respect and inwardly

despise the weak creatures whom they thus sport with. They cannot

submit to resign the highest sensual gratification, nor even to

relish the epicurism of virtue--self-denial.

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

The ridiculous falsities[7] which are told to children, from

mistaken notions of modesty, tend very early to inflame their

imaginations and set their little minds to work, respecting

subjects which Nature never intended they should think of till the

body arrived at some degree of maturity; then the passions

naturally begin to take the place of the senses, as instruments to

unfold the understanding, and form the moral character.

In nurseries and boarding-schools, I fear, girls are first spoiled,

particularly in the latter. A number of girls sleep in the same

room, and wash together. And though I should be sorry to

contaminate an innocent creature's mind by instilling false

delicacy, or those indecent prudish notions which early cautions

respecting the other sex naturally engender, I should be very

anxious to prevent their acquiring nasty or immodest habits; and as

many girls have learned very nasty tricks from ignorant servants,

the mixing them thus indiscriminately together, is very improper.

To say the truth, women are in general too familiar with each

other, which leads to that gross degree of familiarity that so

frequently renders the marriage state unhappy. Why in the name of

decency are sisters, female intimates, or ladies and their

waiting-women, to be so grossly familiar as to forget the respect

which one human creature owes to another? That squeamish delicacy

which shrinks from the most disgusting offices when affection [8]

or humanity lead us to watch at a sick pillow is despicable. But

why women in health should be more familiar with each other than

men are, when they boast of their superior delicacy, is a solecism

in manners which I could never solve.

In order to preserve health and beauty, I should earnestly

recommend frequent ablutions, to dignify my advice that it may not

offend the fastidious ear; and by example, girls ought to be taught

to wash and dress alone, without any distinction of rank; and if

custom should make them require some little assistance, let them

not require it till that part of the business is over which ought

never to be done before a fellow-creature, because it is an insult

to the majesty of human nature. Not on the score of modesty, but

decency; for the care which some modest women take, making at the

same time a display of that care not to let their legs be seen, is

as childish as immodest.[9]

I could proceed still further, till I animadverted on still more

nasty customs, which men never fall into. Secrets are told where

silence ought to reign; and that regard to cleanliness, which some

religious sects have perhaps carried too far especially the

Essenes, amongst the Jews, by making that an insult to God which is

only an insult to humanity, is violated in a beastly manner. How

can delicate women obtrude notice that part of the animal economy,

which is so very disgusting? And is it not very rational to

conclude, that women who have not been taught to respect the human

nature of their own sex in these particulars, will not long respect

the mere difference of sex in their husbands? After their maidenish

bashfulness is once lost, I, in fact, have generally observed that

women fall into old habits, and treat their husbands as they did

their sisters or female acquaintance.

Besides, women from necessity, because their minds are not

cultivated, have recourse very often to what I familiarly term

bodily wit, and their intimacies are of the same kind. In with

respect to both mind and body, they are too intimate. That decent

personal reserve, which is the foundation of dignity of character,

must be kept up between woman, or their minds will never gain

strength or modesty.  

On this account also, I object to many females being shut up

together in nurseries, schools, or convents. I cannot recollect,

without indignation, the jokes and hoyden tricks which knots of

young women indulged themselves in, when in my youth accident threw

me, an awkward rustic, in their way. They were almost on a par with

the double meanings which shake the convivial table when the glass

has circulated freely. But it is vain to attempt to keep the heart

pure unless the head is furnished with ideas, and set to work to

compare them, in order to acquire judgment, by generalising simple

ones; and modesty, by making the understanding damp the


It may be thought that I lay too great a stress on personal

reserve, but it is ever the handmaid of modesty; so that were I to

name the graces that ought to adorn beauty, I should instantly

exclaim, cleanliness, neatness, and personal reserve. It is

obvious, I suppose, that the reserve I mean has nothing sexual in

it, and that I think it equally necessary in both sexes. So

necessary, indeed, is that reserve and cleanliness which indolent

women too often neglect, that I will venture to affirm that, when

two or three women live in the same house, the one will be most

respected by the male part of the family who reside with them,

leaving love entirely out of the question, who pays this kind of

habitual respect to her person.

When domestic friends meet in a morning, there will naturally

prevail an affectionate seriousness, especially if each look

forward to the discharge of daily duties; and it may be reckoned

fanciful, but this sentiment has frequently risen spontaneously in

my mind, I have been pleased, after breathing the sweet bracing

morning air, to see the same kind of freshness in the countenances

I particularly loved; I was glad to see them braced, as it were,

for the day, and ready to run their course with the sun. The

greetings of affection in the morning are by these means more

respectful than the familiar tenderness which frequently prolongs

the evening talk. Nay, I have often felt hurt, not to say

disgusted, when a friend has appeared, whom I parted with full

dressed the evening before, with her clothes huddled on, because

she chose to indulge herself in bed till the last moment.

Domestic affection can only be kept alive by these neglected

attentions; yet if men and women took half as much pains to dress

habitually neat, as they do to ornament, or rather to disfigure,

their persons, much would be done towards the attainment of purity

of mind. But women only dress to gratify men of gallantry; for the

lover is always best pleased with the simple garb that fits close

to the shape. There is an impertinence in ornaments that rebuffs

affection, because love always clings round the idea of home.

As a sex, women are habitually indolent; and everything tends to

make them so. I do not forget the spurts of activity which

sensibility produces; but as these flights of feelings only

increase the evil, they are not to be confounded with the slow,

orderly walk of reason. So great in reality is their mental and

bodily indolence, that till their body be strengthened and their

understanding enlarged by active exertions, there is little reason

to expect that modesty will take place of bashfulness. They may

find it prudent to assume its semblance; but the fair veil will

only be worn on gala days.

Perhaps, there is not a virtue that mixes so kindly with every

other as modesty. It is the pale moonbeam that renders more

interesting every virtue it softens, giving mild grandeur to the

contracted horizon. Nothing can be more beautiful than the poetical

fiction, which makes Diana with her silver crescent, the goddess of

chastity. I have sometimes thought, that wandering with sedate step

in some lonely recess, a modest dame of antiquity must have felt a

glow of conscious dignity when, after contemplating the soft

shadowy landscaper she has invited with placid fervour the mild

reflection of her sister's beams to turn to her chaste bosom.

A Christian has still nobler motives to incite her to preserve her

chastity and acquire modesty, for her body has been called the

temple of the living God; of that God who requires more than

modesty of mien. His eye searcheth the heart; and let her remember,

that if she hope to find favour in the sight of purity itself, her

chastity must be founded on modesty, and not on worldly prudence;

or verily a good reputation will be her only reward; for that awful

intercourse, that sacred communication, which virtue establishes

between man and his Maker, must give rise to the wish of being pure

as He is pure!  

After the foregoing remarks, it is almost superfluous to add, that

I consider all those feminine airs of maturity, which succeed

bashfulness, to which truth is sacrificed, to secure the heart of

a husband, or rather to force him to be still a lover when Nature

would, had she not been interrupted in her operations, have made

love give place to friendship, as immodest. The tenderness which a

man will feel for the mother of his children is an excellent

substitute for the ardour of unsatisfied passion; but to prolong

that ardour it is indelicate, not to say immodest, for women to

feign an unnatural coldness of constitution. Women as well as men

ought to have the common appetites and passions of their nature,

they are only brutal when unchecked by reason: but the obligation

to check them is the duty of mankind, not a sexual duty. Nature, in

these respects, may safely be left to herself; let women only

acquire knowledge and humanity, and love will teach them

modesty.[10] There is no need of falsehoods, disgusting as futile,

for studied rules of behaviour only impose on shallow observers; a

man of sense soon sees through, and despises the affectation.  

The behaviour of young people, to each other, as men and women, is

the last thing that should be thought of in education. In fact,

behaviour in most circumstances is now so much thought of, that

simplicity of character is rarely to be seen: yet, if men were only

anxious to cultivate each virtue and let it take root firmly in the

mind, the grace resulting from it, its natural exterior mark, would

soon strip affectation of its flaunting plumes; because, fallacious

as unstable, is the conduct that is not founded upon truth!  

Would ye, o my sisters, really possess modesty, ye must remember

that the possession of virtue, of any denomination, is incompatible

with ignorance and vanity! ye must acquire that soberness of mind,

which the exercise of duties, and the pursuit of knowledge, alone

inspire, or ye will still remain in a doubtful dependent situation,

and only be loved whilst ye are fair! The downcast eye, the rosy

blush, the retiring grace, are all proper in their season; but

modesty being the child of reason, cannot long exist with the

sensibility that is not tempered by reflection. Besides, when love,

even innocent love, is the whole employ of your lives, your hearts

will be too soft to afford modesty that tranquil retreat, where she

delights to dwell, in close union with humanity. 

[1]            "Such is the country maiden's fright,

               When first a redcoat is in sight,

               Behind the door she hides her face;

               Next time at distance eyes the lace;

               She now can all his terrors stand,

               Nor from his squeeze withdraws her hand,

               She plays familiar in his arms,

               And every soldier hath his charms;

               From tent to tent she spreads her flame;

               For custom conquers fear and shame." -- GAY

[2]  Modesty is the graceful calm virtue of maturity; bashfulness

the charm of vivacious youth.

[3]  I have conversed, as man with man, with medical men on

anatomical subjects, and compared the proportions of the human body

with artists, yet such modesty did I meet with, that I was never

reminded by word or look of my sex, of the absurd rules which make

modesty a Pharisaical cloak of weakness. And I am persuaded that in

the pursuit of knowledge women would never be insulted by sensible

me, and rarely by men of any description, if they did not by mock

modesty remind them that they were women -- actuated by the same

spirit as the Portuguese ladies, who would think their charms

insulted if, when left alone with a man, he did not at least

attempt to be grossly familiar with their persons. Men are not

always men in the company of women, nor would women always remember

that they are women, if they were allowed to acquire more


[4]  Male or female, for the world contains many modest men.

[5]  The immodest behaviour of many married women, who are

nevertheless faithful to their husbands' beds, will illustrate this


[6]  The poor moth fluttering round a candle, burns its wings.

[7]  Children very early see cats with their kittens, birds with

their young ones, etc. Why then are they not to be told that their

mothers carry and nourish them in the same way? As there would then

be no appearance of mystery, they would never think of the subject

more. Truth may always be told to children, if it be told gravely;

but it is the modesty of affected modesty that does all the

mischief; and this smoke heats the imagination by vainly

endeavouring to obscure certain objects. If, indeed, children could

be kept entirely from improper company, we should never allude to

any such subjects; but as this is impossible, it is best to tell

them the truth, especially as such information, not interesting

them, will make no impression on their imagination.

[8]  Affection would rather make one choose to perform these

offices, to spare the delicacy  of a friend, by still keeping a

veil over them, for the personal helplessness, produced by

sickness, is of an humbling nature.

[9]  I remember to have met with a sentence, in a book of

education, that made me smile: "It would be needless to caution you

against putting your hand by chance under you neck-handkerchief,

for a modest woman never did so!"

[10] The behaviour of many newly married women has often disgusted

me. They seem anxious never to let their husbands forget the

privilege of marriage; and to find no pleasure in his society

unless he is acting the lover. Short, indeed, must be the reign of

love, when the flame is thus constantly blown up, without its

receiving any solid fuel!

                          CHAPTER VIII



It has long since occurred to me that advice respecting behaviour,

and all the various modes of preserving a good reputation, which

have been so strenuously inculcated on the female world, were

specious poisons, that encrusting morality eat away the substance.

And, that this measuring of shadows produced a false calculation,

because their length depends so much on the height of the sun, and

other adventitious circumstances.  

Whence arises the easy fallacious behaviour of a courtier? From his

situation, undoubtedly: for standing in need of dependents, he is

obliged to learn the art of denying without giving offence, and, of

evasively feeding hope with the chameleon's food: thus does

politeness sport with truth, and eating away the sincerity and

humanity native to man, produce the fine gentleman.  

Women likewise acquire, from a supposed necessity, an equally

artificial mode of behaviour. Yet truth is not with impunity to be

sported with, for the practised dissembler, at last become the dupe

of his own arts, loses that sagacity, which has been justly termed

common sense; namely a quick perception of common truths: which are

constantly.received as such by the unsophisticated mind, though it

might not have had sufficient energy to discover themselves, when

obscured by local prejudices. The greater number of people take

their opinions on trust to avoid the trouble of exercising their

own minds, and these indolent beings naturally adhere to the

letter, rather than the spirit of a law, divine or human. "Women,"

says some author, I cannot recollect who, " mind not what only

Heaven sees." Why, indeed, should they? it is the eye of man that

they have been taught to dread--and if they can lull their Argus to

sleep, they seldom think of Heaven or themselves, because their

reputation is safe; and it is reputation, not chastity and all its

fair train, that they are employed to keep free from spot, not as

a virtue, but to preserve their station in the world. 

To prove the truth of this remark, I need not advert to the

intrigues of married women, particularly in high life, and in

countries where women are suitably married, according to their

respective ranks, by their parents. If an innocent girl become a

prey to love, she is degraded for ever, though her mind was not

polluted by the arts which married women, under the convenient

cloak of marriage, practise; nor has she violated any duty--but the

duty of respecting herself. The married woman, on the contrary,

breaks a most sacred engagement, and becomes a cruel mother when

she is a false and faithless wife. If her husband have still an

affection for her, the arts which she must practise to deceive him,

will render her the most contemptible of human beings; and, at any

rate, the contrivances necessary to preserve appearances, will keep

her mind in that childish, or vicious, tumult, which destroys all

its energy. Besides, in time, like those people who habitually take

cordials to raise their spirits, she will want an intrigue to give

life to her thoughts, having lost all relish for pleasures that are

not highly seasoned by hope or fear.  

Sometimes married women act still more audaciously. I will mention

an instance.  

A woman of quality, notorious for her gallantries, though as she

still lived with her husband, nobody chose to place her in the

class where she ought to have been placed, made a point of treating

with the most insulting contempt a poor timid creature, abashed by

a sense of her former weakness, whom a neighbouring gentleman had

seduced and afterwards married. The woman had actually confounded

virtue with reputation; and, I do believe, valued herself on the

propriety of her behaviour before marriage, though when once

settled to the satisfaction of her family, she and her lord were

equally faithless, so that the half-alive heir to an immense estate

came from Heaven knows where!  

To view this subject in another light.  

I have known a number of women who, if they did not love their

husbands, loved nobody else, give themselves entirely up to vanity

and dissipation, neglecting every domestic duty; nay even

squandering away all the money which should have been saved for

their helpless younger children, yet have plumed themselves on

their unsullied reputation, as if the whole compass of their duty

as wives and mothers was only to preserve it. Whilst other indolent

women, neglecting every personal duty have thought that they

deserved their husbands' affection, because, forsooth, they acted

in this respect with propriety. 

Weak minds are always fond of resting in the ceremonials of duty,

but morality offers much simpler motives; and it were to be wished

that superficial moralists had said less respecting behaviour, and

outward observances, for unless virtue, of any kind, be built on

knowledge, it will only produce a kind of insipid decency. Respect

for the opinion of the world, has, however, been termed the

principal duty of woman in the most express words, for Rousseau

declares, "that reputation is no less indispensable than chastity."

"A man," adds he, "secure in his own good conduct, depends only on

himself, and may brave the public opinion; but a woman, in behaving

well, performs but half her duty; as what is thought of her, is as

important to her as what she really is. It follows hence, that the

system of a woman's education should in this respect, be directly

contrary to that of ours. opinion is the grave of virtue among the

men; but its throne among women." It is strictly logical to infer

that the virtue that rests on opinion is merely worldly, and that

it is the virtue of a being to whom reason has been denied. But,

even with respect to the opinion of the world, I am convinced that

this class of reasoners are mistaken.  

This regard for reputation, independent of its being one of the

natural rewards of virtue, however, took its rise from a cause that

I have already deplored as the grand source of female depravity,

the impossibility of regaining respectability by a return to

virtue, though men preserve theirs during the indulgence of vice.

It was natural for women then to endeavour to preserve what once

lost--was lost for ever, till this care swallowing up every other

care, reputation for chastity, became the one thing needful to the

sex. But vain is the scrupulosity of ignorance, for neither

religion nor virtue, when they reside in the heart, require such a

puerile attention to mere ceremonies, because the behaviour must,

upon the whole, be proper, when the motive is pure.  

To support my opinion I can produce very respectable authority; and

the authority of a cool reasoner ought to have weight to enforce

consideration, though not to establish a sentiment. Speaking of the

general laws of morality, Dr. Smith observes,--"That by some very

extraordinary and unlucky circumstance, a good man may come to be

suspected of a crime of which he was altogether incapable, and upon

that account be most unjustly exposed for the remaining part of his

life to the horror and aversion of mankind. By an accident of this

kind he may be said to lose his all, notwithstanding his integrity

and justice, in the same manner as a cautious man, notwithstanding

his utmost circumspection, may be ruined by an earthquake or an

inundation. Accidents of the first kind, however, are perhaps still

more rare, and still more contrary to the common course of things

than those of the second; and it still remains true, that the

practice of truth, justice, and humanity, is a certain and almost

infallible method of acquiring what those virtues chiefly aim at,

the confidence and love of those we live with. A person may be

easily misrepresented with regard to a particular action; but it is

scarce possible that he should be so with regard to the general

tenor of his conduct. An innocent man may be believed to have done

wrong: this, however, will rarely happen. On the contrary, the

established opinion of the innocence of his manners will often lead

us to absolve him where he has really been in the fault,

notwithstanding very strong presumptions."  

I perfectly coincide in opinion with this writer, for I verily

believe that few of either sex were ever despised for certain vices

without deserving to be despised. I speak not of the calumny of the

moment, which hovers over a character, like one of the dense

morning fogs of November, over this metropolis, till it gradually

subsides before the common light of day, I only contend that the

daily conduct of the majority prevails to stamp their character

with the impression of truth. Quietly does the clear light, shining

day after day, refute the ignorant surmise, or malicious tale,

which has thrown dirt on a pure character. A false light distorted,

for a short time, its shadow--reputation; but it seldom fails to

become just when the cloud is dispersed that produced the mistake

in vision.  

Many people, undoubtedly, in several respects obtain a better

reputation than, strictly speaking, they deserve; for unremitting

industry will mostly reach its goal in all races. They who only

strive for this paltry prize, like the Pharisees, who prayed at the

corners of streets, to be seen of men, verily obtain the reward

they seek; for the heart of man cannot be read by man! Still the

fair fame that is naturally reflected by good actions, when the man

is only employed to direct his steps aright, regardless of the

lookers-on, is, in general, not only more true, but more sure.  

There are, it is true, trials when the good man must appeal to God

from the injustice of man; and amidst the whining candour or

hissings of envy, erect a pavilion in his own mind to retire to

till the rumour be overpast; nay, the darts of undeserved censure

may pierce an innocent tender bosom through with many sorrows; but

these are all exceptions to general rules. And it is according to

common laws that human behaviour ought to be regulated. The

eccentric orbit of the comet-never influences astronomical

calculations respecting the invariable order established in the

motion of the principal bodies of the solar system.  

I will then venture to affirm, that after a man is arrived at

maturity, the general outline of his character in the world is

just, allowing for the before-mentioned exceptions to the rule. I

do not say that a prudent, worldly-wise man, with only negative

virtues and qualities, may not sometimes obtain a smoother

reputation than a wiser or a better man. So far from it, that I am

apt to conclude from experience, that where the virtue of two

people is nearly equal, the most negative character will be liked

best by the world at large, whilst the other may have more friends

in private life. But the hills and dales, clouds and sunshine,

conspicuous in the virtues of great men, set off each other; and

though they afford envious weakness a fairer mark to shoot at, the

real character will still work its way to light, though bespattered

by weak affection, or ingenious malice.[1]  

With respect to that anxiety to preserve a reputation hardly

earned, which leads sagacious people to analyse it, I shall not

make the obvious comment; but I am afraid that morality is very

insidiously undermined, in the female world, by the attention being

turned to the show instead of the substance. A simple thing is thus

made strangely complicated; nay, sometimes virtue and its shadow

are set at variance. We should never, perhaps, have heard of

Lucretia, had she died to preserve her chastity instead of her

reputation. If we really deserve our own good opinion we shall

commonly be respected in the world; but if we pant after higher

improvement and higher attainments, it is not sufficient to view

ourselves as we suppose that we are viewed by others, though this

has been ingeniously argued, as the foundation of our moral

sentiments.[2] Because each bystander may have his own prejudices,

beside the prejudices of his age or country. We should rather

endeavour to view ourselves as we suppose that Being views us who

seeth each thought ripen into action, and whose judgment never

swerves from the eternal rule of right. Righteous are all His

judgments--just as merciful!  

The humble mind that seeketh to find favour in His sight, and

calmly examines its conduct when only His presence is felt, will

seldom form a very erroneous opinion of its own virtues. During the

still hour of self-collection the angry brow of offended justice

will be fearfully deprecated, or the tie which draws man to the

Deity will be recognised in the pure sentiment of reverential

adoration, that swells the heart without exciting any tumultuous

emotions. In these solemn moments man discovers the germ of those

vices, which, like the Java tree, shed a pestiferous vapour

around--death is in the shade! and he perceives them without

abhorrence, because he feels himself drawn by some cord of love to

all his fellow-creatures, for whose follies he is anxious to find

every extenuation in their nature--in himself. If I, he may thus

argue, who exercise my own mind, and have been refined by

tribulation, find the serpent's egg in some fold of my heart, and

crush it with difficulty, shall I not pity those who have stamped

with less vigour, or who have heedlessly nurtured the insidious

reptile till it poisoned the vital stream it sucked? Can I,

conscious of my secret sins, throw off my fellow-creatures, and

calmly see them drop into the chasm of perdition, that yawns to

receive them. No, no! The agonised heart will cry with suffocating

impatience--I, too, am a man! and have vices, hid perhaps, from

human eye, that bend me to the dust before God, and loudly tell me,

when all is mute, that we are formed of the same earth, and breathe

the same element. Humanity thus rises naturally out of humility and

twists the cords of love that in various convolutions entangle the


This sympathy extends still further, till a man well pleased

observes force in arguments that do not carry conviction to his own

bosom, and he gladly places in the fairest light, to himself, the

shows of reason that have led others astray, rejoiced to find some

reason in all the errors of man, though before convinced that He

who rules the day, makes His sun to shine on all. Yet, shaking

hands thus as it were with corruption, one foot on earth, the other

with bold stride mounts to Heaven and claims kindred with superior

natures. Virtues, unobserved by man, drop their balmy fragrance at

this cool hour, and the thirsty land, refreshed by the pure streams

of comfort that suddenly rush out, is crowned with smiling verdure;

this is the living green on which that eye may look with

complacency that is too pure to behold iniquity!  

But my spirits flag; and I must silently indulge the reverie these

reflections lead to, unable to describe the sentiments, that have

calmed my soul, when watching the rising sun, a soft shower

drizzling through the leaves of neighbouring trees, seemed to fall

on my languid, yet tranquil spirits, to cool the heart that had

been heated by the passions which reason laboured to tame.  

The leading principles which run through all my disquisitions,

would render it unnecessary to enlarge on this subject, if a

constant attention to keep the varnish of the character fresh, and

in good condition, were not often inculcated as the sum total of

female duty; if rules to regulate the behaviour, and to preserve

the reputation, did not too frequently supersede moral obligations.

But, with respect to reputation, the attention is confined to a

single virtue of chastity. If the honour of a woman, as it is

absurdly called, be safe, she may neglect every social duty; nay,

ruin her family by gaming and extravagance; yet still present a

shameless front--for truly she is an honourable woman!  

Mrs. Macaulay has justly observed, that "there is but one fault

which a woman of honour may not commit with impunity." She then

justly and humanely adds--"This has given rise to the trite and

foolish observation, that the first fault against chastity in woman

has a radical power to deprave the character. But no such frail

beings come out of the hands of Nature. The human mind is built of

nobler materials than to he easily corrupted; and with all their

disadvantages of situation and education, women seldom become

entirely abandoned till they are thrown into a state of

desperation, by the venomous rancour of their own sex."  

But, in proportion as this regard for the reputation of chastity is

prized by women, it is despised by men: and the two extremes are

equally destructive to morality.  

Men are certainly more under the influence of their appetites than

women; and their appetites are more depraved by unbridled

indulgence and the fastidious contrivances of satiety. Luxury has

introduced a refinement in eating, that destroys the constitution;

and, a degree of gluttony which is so beastly, that a perception of

seemliness of behaviour must be worn out before one being could eat

immoderately in the presence of another, and afterwards complain of

the oppression that his intemperance naturally produced. Some

women, particularly French women, have also lost a sense of decency

in this respect; for they will talk very calmly of an indigestion.

It were to be wished that idleness was not allowed to generate, on

the rank soil of wealth, those swarms of summer insects that feed

on putrefaction, we should not then be disgusted by the sight of

such brutal excesses.  

There is one rule relative to behaviour that, I think, ought to

regulate every other; and it is simply to cherish such an habitual

respect for mankind as may prevent us from disgusting a

fellow-creature for the sake of a present indulgence. The shameful

indolence of many married women and others a little advanced in

life, frequently leads them to sin against delicacy. For, though

convinced that the person is the band of union between the sexes,

yet, how often do they from sheer indolence, or, to enjoy some

trifling indulgence, disgust?  

The depravity of the appetite which brings the sexes together, has

had a still more fatal effect. Nature must ever be the standard of

taste, the gauge of appetite--yet how grossly is nature insulted by

the voluptuary. Leaving the refinements of love out of the

question; nature, by making the gratification of an appetite, in

this respect, as well as every other, a natural and imperious law

to preserve the species, exalts the appetite, and mixes a little

mind and affection with a sensual gust. The feelings of a parent

mingling with an instinct merely animal, give it dignity; and the

man and woman often meeting on account of the child, a mutual

interest and affection is excited by the exercise of a common

sympathy. Women then having some necessary duty to fulfil, more

noble than to adorn their persons, would not contentedly be the

slaves of casual lust; which is now the situation of a very

considerable number who are, literally speaking, standing dishes to

which every glutton may have access.  

I may be told that great as this enormity is it only affects a

devoted part of the sex--devoted for the salvation of the rest.

But, false as every assertion might easily be proved, that

recommends the sanctioning a small evil to produce a greater good;

the mischief does not stop here, for the moral character, and peace

of mind, of the chaster part of the sex, is undermined by the

conduct of the very women to whom they allow no refuge from guilt:

whom they inexorably consign to the arts that lure their husbands

from them, debauch and force them, let not modest women start, to 

no refuge exercise of their sons, assume, in some degree, the same

character themselves. For I will venture to assert, that all the

causes of female weakness, as well as depravity, which I have

already enlarged on, branch out of one grand cause--want of

chastity in men.   

This intemperance, so prevalent, depraves the appetite to such a

degree, that a wanton stimulus is necessary to rouse it; but the

parental design of Nature is forgotten, and the mere person, and

that for a moment, alone engrosses the thoughts. So voluptuous,

indeed, often grows the lustful prowler, that he refines on female

softness. Something more soft than women is then sought for; till,

in Italy and Portugal, men attend the levees of equivocal beings,

to sigh for more than female languor.   

To satisfy this genus of men, women are made systematically

voluptuous, and though they may not all carry their libertinism to

the same height, yet this heartless intercourse with the sex, which

they allow themselves, depraves both sexes, because the taste of

men is vitiated; and women, of all classes, naturally square their

behaviour to gratify the taste by which they obtain pleasure and

power. Women becoming, consequently, weaker, in mind and body, than

they ought to be, were one of the grand ends of their being taken

into the account, that of bearing and nursing children, have not

sufficient strength to discharge the first duty of a mother; and

sacrificing to lasciviousness the parental affection, that ennobles

instinct, either destroy the embryo in the womb, or cast it off

when born. Nature in everything demands respect, and those who

violate her laws seldom violate them with impunity. The weak

enervated women who particularly catch the attention of libertines,

are unfit to be mothers, though they may conceive; so that the rich

sensualist, who has rioted among women, spreading depravity and

misery, when he wishes to perpetuate his name, receives from his

wife only an half-formed being that inherits both its father's and

mother's weakness.   

Contrasting the humanity of the present age with the barbarism of

antiquity, great stress has been laid on the savage custom of

exposing the children whom their parents could not maintain; whilst

the man of sensibility, who thus, perhaps, complains, by his

promiscuous amours produces a most destructive barrenness and

contagious flagitiousness of manners. Surely nature never intended

that women, by satisfying an appetite, should frustrate the very

purpose for which it was implanted?   

I have before observed, that men ought to maintain the women whom

they have seduced; this would be one means of reforming female

manners, and stopping an abuse that has an equally fatal effect on

population and morals. Another, no less obvious, would be to turn

the attention of woman to the real virtue of chastity; for to

little respect has that woman a claim, on the score of modesty,

though her reputation may be white as the driven snow, who smiles

on the libertine whilst she spurns the victims of his lawless

appetites and their own folly.  

Besides, she has a taint of the same folly, pure as she esteems

herself, when she studiously adorns her person only to be seen by

men, to excite respectful sighs, and all the idle homage of what is

called innocent gallantry. Did women really respect virtue for its

own sake, they would not seek for a compensation in vanity, for the

self-denial which they are obliged to practise to preserve their

reputation, nor would they associate with men who set reputation at


The two sexes mutually corrupt and improve each other. This I

believe to be an indisputable truth, extending it to every virtue.

Chastity, modesty, public spirit, and all the noble train of

virtues, on which social virtue and happiness are built, should be

understood and cultivated by all mankind, or they will be

cultivated to little effect. And, instead of furnishing the vicious

or idle with a pretext for violating some sacred duty, by terming

it a sexual one, it would be wiser to show that Nature has not made

any difference, for that the unchaste man doubly defeats the

purpose of Nature, by rendering women barren, and destroying his

own constitution, though he avoids the shame that pursues the crime

in the other sex. These are the physical consequences, the moral

are still more alarming; for virtue is only a nominal distinction

when the duties of citizens, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and

directors of families, become merely the selfish ties of


Why then do philosophers look for public spirit? Public spirit must

be nurtured by private virtue, or it will resemble the factitious

sentiment which makes women careful to preserve their reputation,

and men their honour. A sentiment that often exists unsupported by

virtue, unsupported by that sublime morality which makes the

habitual breach of one duty a breach of the whole moral law. 


[1]  I allude to various biographical writings, but particularly to

Boswell's Life of Johnson.

[2]  Smith.