From the respect paid to property flow, as from a poisoned

fountain, most of the evils and vices which render this world such

a dreary scene to the contemplative mind. For it is in the most

polished society that noisome reptiles and venomous serpents lurk

under the rank herbage; and there is voluptuousness pampered by the

still sultry air, which relaxes every good disposition before it

ripens into virtue.  

One class presses on another, for all are aiming to procure respect

on account of their property; and property once gained will procure

the respect due only to talents and virtue. Men neglect the duties

incumbent on man, yet are treated like demigods. Religion is also

separated from morality by a ceremonial veil, yet men wonder that

the world is almost, literally speaking, a den of sharpers or


There is a homely proverb, which speaks a shrewd truth, that

whoever the devil finds idle he will employ. And what but habitual

idleness can hereditary wealth and titles produce? For man is so

constituted that he can only attain a proper use of his faculties

by exercising them, and will not exercise them unless necessity of

some kind first set the wheels in motion. Virtue likewise can only

be acquired by the discharge of relative duties; but the importance

of these sacred duties will scarcely be felt by the being who is

cajoled out of his humanity by the flattery of sycophants. There

must be more equality established in society, or morality will

never gain ground, and this virtuous equality will not rest firmly

even when founded on a rock, if one-half of mankind be chained to

its bottom by fate, for they will be continually undermining it

through ignorance or pride.  

It is vain to expect virtue from women till they are in some degree

independent of men; nay, it is vain to expect that strength of

natural affection which would make them good wives and mothers.

Whilst they are absolutely dependent on their husbands they will be

cunning, mean, and selfish; and the men who can be gratified by the

fawning fondness of spaniel-like affection have not much delicacy,

for love is not to be bought; in any sense of the words, its silken

wings are instantly shrivelled up when anything beside a return in

kind is sought. Yet whilst wealth enervates men, and women live, as

it were, by their personal charms, how can we expect them to

discharge those ennobling duties which equally require exertion and

self-denial? Hereditary property sophisticates the mind, and the

unfortunate victims to it--if I may so express myself--swathed from

their birth, seldom exert the locomotive faculty of body or mind,

and thus viewing everything through one medium, and that a false

one, they are unable to discern in what true merit and happiness

consist. False, indeed, must be the light when the drapery of

situation hides the man, and makes him stalk in masquerade,

dragging from one scene of dissipation to another the nerveless

limbs that hang with stupid listlessness, and rolling round the

vacant eye, which plainly tells us that there is no mind at home. 

I mean therefore to infer that the society is not properly

organised which does not compel men and women to discharge their

respective duties by making it the only way to acquire that

countenance from their fellow-creatures, which every human being

wishes some way to attain. The respect consequently which is paid

to wealth and mere personal charms is a true north-east blast that

blights the tender blossoms of affection and virtue. Nature has

wisely attached affections to duties to sweeten toil, and to give

that vigour to the exertions of reason which only the heart can

give. But the affections which is put on merely because it is the

appropriated insignia of a certain character, when its duties are

not fulfilled, is one of the empty compliments which vice and folly

are obliged to pay to virtue and the real nature of things.  

To illustrate my opinion, I need only observe that when a woman is

admired for her beauty, and suffers herself to be so far

intoxicated by the admiration she receives as to neglect to

discharge the indispensable duty of a mother, she sins against

herself by neglecting to cultivate an affection that would equally

tend to make her useful and happy. True happiness--I mean all the

contentment and virtuous satisfaction that can be snatched in this

imperfect state--must arise from well-regulated affections, and an

affection includes a duty. Men are not aware of the misery they

cause, and the vicious weakness they cherish, by only inciting

women to render themselves pleasing; they do not consider that they

thus make natural and artificial duties clash by sacrificing the

comfort and respectability of a woman's life to voluptuous notions

of beauty, when in nature they all harmonise.   

Cold would be the heart of a husband, were he not rendered

unnatural by early debauchery, who did not feel more delight at

seeing his child suckled by its mother than the most artful wanton

tricks could ever raise, yet this natural way of cementing the

matrimonial tie, and twisting esteem with fonder recollections,

wealth leads women to spurn. To preserve their beauty, and wear the

flowery crown of the day, which gives them a kind of right to reign

for a short time over the sex, they neglect to stamp impressions on

their husbands' hearts that would be remembered with more

tenderness when the snow on the head began to chill the bosom than

even their virgin charms. The maternal solicitude of a reasonable

affectionate woman is very interesting, and the chastened dignity

with which a mother returns the caresses that she and her child

receive from a father who has been fulfilling the serious duties of

his station is not only a respectable, but a beautiful sight. So

singular, indeed, are my feelings--and I have endeavoured not to

catch factitious ones--that after having been fatigued with the

sight of insipid grandeur and the slavish ceremonies that with

cumbrous pomp supplied the place of domestic affections, I have

turned to some other scene to relieve my eye by resting it on the

refreshing green everywhere scattered by Nature. I have then viewed

with pleasure a woman nursing her children, and discharging the

duties of her station with perhaps merely a servant-maid to take

off her hands the servile part of the household business. I have

seen her prepare herself and children, with only the luxury of

cleanliness, to receive her husband, who, returning weary home in

the evening, found smiling babes and a clean hearth. My heart has

loitered in the midst of the group, and has even throbbed with

sympathetic emotion when the scraping of the well-known foot has

raised a pleasing tumult.   

Whilst my benevolence has been gratified by contemplating this

artless picture, I have thought that a couple of this description,

equally necessary and independent of each other, because each

fulfilled the respective duties of their station, possessed all

that life could give. Raised sufficiently above abject poverty not

to be obliged to weigh the consequence of every farthing they

spend, and having sufficient to prevent their attending to        

a frigid system of economy which narrows both mind, I declare, so

vulgar are my conceptions, that I know not what is wanted to render

this the happiest as well as the most respectable situation in the

world, but a taste for literature, to throw a little variety and

interest into social converse, and some superfluous money to give

to the needy and to buy books. For it is not pleasant when the

heart is opened by compassion, and the head active in arranging

plans of usefulness, to have a prim urchin continually twitching

back the elbow to prevent the hand from drawing out an almost empty

purse, whispering at the same time some prudential maxim about the

priority of justice.  

Destructive, however, as riches and inherited honours are to the

human character, women are more debased and cramped, if possible,

by them than men, because men may still in some degree unfold their

faculties by becoming soldiers and statesmen.  As soldiers, I grant

they can now only gather for the most part vain-glorious laurels,

whilst they adjust to a hair the European balance, taking especial

care that no bleak northern nook or sound incline the beam. But the

days of true heroism are over, when a citizen fought for his

country like a Fabricius or a Washington, and then returned to his

farm to let his virtuous fervour run in a more placid, but not a

less salutary, stream. No, our British heroes are oftener sent from

the gaming-table than from the plough; and their passions have been

rather inflamed by hanging with dumb suspense on the turn of a die,

than sublimated by panting after the adventurous march of virtue in

the historic page.  

The statesman, it is true, might with more propriety quit the faro

bank, or card-table, to guide the helm, for he has still but to

shuffle and trick--the whole system of British politics, if system

it may courteously be called, consisting in multiplying dependents

and contriving taxes which grind the poor to pamper the rich. Thus

a war, or any wild-goose chase, is, as the vulgar use the phrase,

a lucky turn-up of patronage for the minister. whose chief merit is

the art of keeping himself in place. It is not necessary then that

he should have bowels for the poor, so he can secure for his family

the odd trick. or should some show of respect, for what is termed

with ignorant ostentation an Englishman's birthright, be expedient

to bubble the gruff mastiff that he has to lead by the nose, he can

make an empty show, very safely, by giving his single voice, and

suffering his light squadron to file off to the other side. And

when a question of humanity is agitated, he may dip a sop in the

milk of human kindness to silence Cerberus, and talk of the

interest which his heart takes in an attempt to make the earth no

longer cry for vengeance as it sucks in its children's blood,

though his cold hand may at the very moment rivet their chains, by

sanctioning the abominable traffic. A minister is no longer a

minister, than while he can carry a point, which he is determined

to carry. Yet it is not necessary that a minister should feel like

a man, when a bold push might shake his seat.  

But, to have done with these episodical observations, let me return

to the more specious slavery which chains the very soul of woman,

keeping her for ever under the bondage of ignorance.  

The preposterous distinctions of rank, which render civilisation a

curse, by dividing the world between voluptuous tyrants and cunning

envious dependents, corrupt, almost equally, every class of people,

because respectability is not attached to the discharge of the

relative duties of life, but to the station, and when the duties

are not fulfilled the affections cannot gain sufficient strength to

fortify the virtue of which they are the natural reward. Still

there are some loop-holes out of which a man may creep, and dare to

think and act for himself; but for a woman it is an herculean task,

because she has difficulties peculiar to her sex to overcome, which

require almost superhuman powers.  

A truly benevolent legislator always endeavours to make it the

interest of each individual to be virtuous; and thus private virtue

becoming the cement of public happiness, an orderly whole is

consolidated by the tendency of all the parts towards a common

centre. But the private or public virtue of woman is very

problematical, for Rousseau, and a numerous list of male writers,

insist that she should all her life be subjected to a severe

restraint, that of propriety. Why subject her to propriety--blind

propriety--if she be capable of acting from a nobler spring, if she

be an heir of immortality? Is sugar always to be produced by vital

blood? Is one half of the human species, like the poor African

slaves, to be subject to prejudices that brutalise them, when

principles would be a surer guard, only to sweeten the cup of man?

Is not this indirectly to deny woman reason? for a gift is a

mockery, if it be unfit for use. 

Women are, in common with men, rendered weak and luxurious by the

relaxing pleasures which wealth procures; g but added to this they

are made slaves to their persons, and must render them alluring

that man may lend them his reason to guide their tottering steps

aright. or should they be ambitious, they must govern their tyrants

by sinister tricks, for without rights there cannot be any

incumbent duties. The laws respecting woman, which I mean to

discuss in a future part, make an absurd unit of a man and his

wife; and then by the easy transition of only considering him as

responsible, she is reduced to a mere cipher.  

The being who discharges the duties of its station is independent;

and, speaking of women at large, their first duty is to themselves

as rational creatures, and the next, in point of importance, as

citizens, is that, which includes so many, of a mother. The rank in

life which dispenses with their fulfilling this duty, necessarily

degrades them by making them mere dolls. or should they turn to

something more important than merely fitting drapery upon a smooth

block, their minds are only occupied by some soft platonic

attachment; or the actual management of an intrigue may keep their

thoughts in motion; for when they neglect domestic duties, they

have it not in their power to take the field and march and

counter-march like soldiers, or wrangle in the senate to keep their

faculties from rusting.  

I know that, as a proof of the inferiority of the sex, Rousseau has

exultingly exclaimed, How can they leave the nursery for the camp!

And the camp has by some moralists been proved the school of the

most heroic virtues; though I think it would puzzle a keen casuist

to prove the reasonableness of the greater number of wars that have

dubbed heroes. I do not mean to consider this question critically;

because, having frequently viewed these freaks of ambition as the

first natural mode of civilisation, when the ground must be torn

up, and the woods cleared by fire and sword, I do not choose to

call them pests; but surely the present system of war has little

connection with virtue of any denomination, being rather the school

of finesse and effeminacy than of fortitude.  

Yet, if defensive war, the only justifiable war, in the present

advanced state of society, where virtue can show its face and ripen

amidst the rigours which purify the air on the mountain's top, were

alone to be adopted as just and glorious, the true heroism of

antiquity might again animate female bosoms. But fair and softly,

gentle reader, male or female, do not alarm thyself, for though I

have compared the character of a modern soldier with that of a

civilised woman, I am not going to advise them to turn their

distaff into a musket, though I sincerely wish to see the bayonet

concerted into a pruning-hook. I only re-created an imagination,

fatigued by contemplating the vices and follies which all proceed

from a feculent stream of wealth that has muddied the pure rills of

natural affection, by supposing that society will some time or

other be so constituted, that man must necessarily fulfil the

duties of a citizen, or be despised, and that while he was employed

in any of the departments of civil life, his wife, also an active

citizen, should be equally intent to manage her family, educate her

children, and assist her neighbours.  

But to render her really virtuous and useful, she must not, if she

discharge her civil duties, want individually the protection of

civil laws; she must not be dependent on her husband's bounty for

her subsistence during his life, or support after his death; for

how can a being be generous who has nothing of its own? or virtuous

who is not free? The wife, in the present state of things, who is

faithful to her husband, and neither suckles nor educates her

children, scarcely deserves the name of a wife, and has no right to

that of a citizen. But take away natural rights, and duties become


Women then must be considered as only the wanton solace of men,

when they become so weak in mind and body that they cannot exert

themselves unless to pursue some frothy pleasure, or to invent some

frivolous fashion. What can be a more melancholy sight to a

thinking mind, than to look into the numerous carriages that drive

helter-skelter about this metropolis in a morning full of

pale-faced creatures who are flying from themselves! I have often

wished, with Dr. Johnson, to place some of them in a little shop

with half a dozen children looking up to their languid countenances

for support. I am much mistaken, if some latent vigour would not

soon give health and spirit to their eyes, and some lines drawn by

the exercise of reason on the blank cheeks, which before were only

undulated by dimples, might restore lost dignity to the character,

or rather enable it to attain the true dignity of its nature.

Virtue is not to be acquired even by speculation, much less by the

negative supineness that wealth naturally generates.  

Besides, when poverty is more disgraceful than even vice, is not

morality cut to the quick? Still to avoid misconstruction, though

I consider that women in the common walks of life are called to

fulfil the duties of wives and mothers, by religion and reason, I

cannot help lamenting that women of a superior cast have not a road

open by which they can pursue more extensive plans of usefulness

and independence. I may excite laughter, by dropping an hint, which

I mean to pursue, some future time, for I really think that women

ought to have representatives, instead of being arbitrarily

governed without having any direct share allowed them in the

deliberations of government.  

But, as the whole system of representation is now, in this country,

only a convenient handle for despotism, they need not complain, for

they are as well represented as a numerous class of hard-working

mechanics, who pay for the support of royalty when they can

scarcely stop their children's mouths with bread. How are they

represented whose very sweat supports the splendid stud of an

heir-apparent, or varnishes the chariot of some female favourite

who looks down on shame? Taxes on the very necessaries of life,

enable an endless tribe of idle princes and princesses to pass with

stupid pomp before a gaping crowd, who almost worship the very

parade which costs them so dear. This is mere gothic grandeur,

something like the barbarous useless parade of having sentinels on

horseback at Whitehall, which I could never view without a mixture

of contempt and indignation.  

How strangely must the mind be sophisticated when this sort of

state impresses it! But, till these monuments of folly are levelled

by virtue, similar follies will leaven the whole mass. For the same

character, in some degree, will prevail in the aggregate of

society; and the refinements of luxury, or the vicious repinings of

envious poverty, will equally banish virtue from society,

considered as the characteristic of that society, or only allow it

to appear as one of the stripes of the harlequin coat, worn by the

civilised man.  

In the superior ranks of life, every duty is done by deputies, as

if duties could ever be waived, and the vain pleasures which

consequent idleness forces the rich to pursue, appear so enticing

to the next rank, that the numerous scramblers for wealth sacrifice

everything to tread on their heels. The most sacred trusts are then

considered as sinecures, because they were procured by interest,

and only sought to enable a man to keep good company. Women, in

particular, all want to be ladies. Which is simply to have nothing

to do, but listlessly to go they scarcely care where, for they

cannot tell what.  

But what have women to do in society? I may be asked, but to loiter

with easy grace; surely you would not condemn them all to suckle

fools and chronicle small beer! No. Women might certainly study the

art of healing, and be physicians as well as nurses. And midwifery,

decency seems to allot to them, though I am afraid, the word

midwife, in our dictionaries, will soon give p]ace to accoucheur,

and one proof of the former delicacy of the sex be effaced from the


They might also study politics, and settle their benevolence on the

broadest basis; for the reading of history will scarcely be more

useful than the perusal of romances, if read as mere biography; if

the character of the times, the political improvements, arts, etc.,

be not observed. In short, if it be not considered as the history

of man; and not of particular men, who filled a niche in the temple

of fame, and dropped into the black rolling stream of time, that

silently sweeps all before it into the shapeless void

called--eternity.--For shape, can it be called, "that shape hath


Business of various kinds, they might likewise pursue, if they were

educated in a more orderly manner, which might save many from

common and legal prostitution. Women would not then marry for a

support, as men accept of places under Government, and neglect the

implied duties; nor would an attempt to earn their own subsistence,

a most laudable one! sink them almost to the level of those poor

abandoned creatures who live by prostitution. For are not milliners

and mantua-makers reckoned the next class? The few employments open

to women, so far. from being liberal, are menial; and when a

superior education enables them to take charge of the education of

children as governesses, they are not treated like the tutors of

sons, though even clerical tutors are not always treated in a

manner calculated to render them respectable in the eyes of their

pupils, to say nothing of the private comfort of the individual.

But as women educated like gentlewomen, are never designed for the

humiliating situation which necessity sometimes forces them to

fill; these situations are considered in the light of a

degradation; and they know little of the human heart, who need to

be told, that nothing so painfully sharpens sensibility as such a

fall in life.   

Some of these women might be restrained from marrying by a proper

spirit of delicacy, and others may not have had it in their power

to escape in this pitiful way from servitude; is not that

Government then very defective, and very unmindful of the happiness

of one-half of is members, that does not provide for honest,

independent women, by encouraging them to fill respectable

stations? But in order to render their private virtue a public

benefit, they must have a civil existence in the State, married or

single; else we shall continually see some worthy woman, whose

sensibility has been rendered painfully acute by undeserved

contempt, droop like "the lily broken down by a plowshare."  

It is a melancholy truth; yet such is the blessed effect of

civilisation! the most respectable women are the most oppressed;

and, unless they have understandings far superior to the common run

of understandings, taking in both sexes, they must, from being

treated like contemptible beings, become contemptible. How many

women thus waste life away the prey of discontent, who might have

practised as physicians, regulated a farm, managed a shop, and

stood erect, supported by their own industry, instead of hanging

their heads surcharged with the dew of sensibility, that consumes

the beauty to which it at first gave lustre; nay, I doubt whether

pity and love are so near akin as poets feign, for I have seldom

seen much compassion excited by the helplessness of females, unless

they were fair; then, perhaps, pity was the soft handmaid of love,

or the harbinger of lust.  

How much more respectable is the woman who earns her own bread by

fulfilling any duty, than the most accomplished beauty!--beauty did

I say!--so sensible am I of the beauty of moral-loveliness, or the

harmonious propriety that attunes the passions of a well-regulated

mind, that I blush at making the comparison; yet I sigh to think

how few women aim at attaining this respectability by withdrawing

from the giddy whirl of pleasure, or the indolent calm that

stupefies the good sort of women it sucks in.  

Proud of their weakness, however, they must always be protected,

guarded from care, and all the rough toils that dignify the mind.

If this be the fiat of fate, if they will make themselves

insignificant and contemptible, sweetly to waste "life away," let

them not expect to be valued when their beauty fades, for it is the

fate of the fairest flowers to be admired and pulled to pieces by

the careless hand that plucked them. In how many ways do I wish,

from the purest benevolence, to impress this truth on my sex; yet

I fear that they will not listen to a truth that dear bought

experience has brought home to many an agitated bosom, nor

willingly resign the privileges of rank and sex for the privileges

of humanity, to which those have no claim who do not discharge its


Those writers are particularly useful, in my opinion, who make man

feel for man, independent of the station he fills, or the drapery

of factitious sentiments. I then would fain convince reasonable men

of the importance of some of my remarks; and prevail on them to

weigh dispassionately the whole tenor of my observations. I appeal

to their understandings; and, as a fellow-creature, claim, in the

name of my sex, some interest in their hearts. I entreat them to

assist to emancipate their companion, to make her a helpmeet for


Would men but generously snap our chains, and be content with

rational fellowship instead of slavish obedience, they would find

us more observant daughters, more affectionate sisters, more

faithful wives, more reasonable mothers--in a word, better

citizens. We should then love them with true affection, because we

should learn to respect ourselves; and the peace of mind of a

worthy man would not be interrupted by the idle vanity of his wife,

nor the babes sent to nestle in a strange bosom, having never found

a home in their mother's.                                         

                            CHAPTER X

                       PARENTAL AFFECTION

Parental affection is, perhaps, the blindest modification of

perverse self-love; for we have not, like the French,[1] two terms

to distinguish the pursuit of a natural and reasonable desire, from

the ignorant calculations of weakness. Parents often love their

children in the most brutal manner, and sacrifice every relative

duty to promote their advancement in the world. To promote, such is

the perversity of unprincipled prejudices, the future welfare of

the very beings whose present existence they embitter by the most

despotic stretch of power. Power, in fact, is ever true to its

vital principle, for in every shape it should reign without control

or inquiry. Its throne is built across a dark abyss, which no eye

must dare to explore, lest the baseless fabric should totter under

investigation. obedience, unconditional obedience, is the catchword

of tyrants of every description, and to render "assurance doubly

sure," one kind of despotism supports another. Tyrants would have

cause to tremble if reason were to become the rule of duty in any

of the relations of life, for the light might spread till perfect

day appeared. And when it did appear, how would men smile at the

sight of the bugbears at which they started during the night of

ignorance, or the twilight of timid inquiry.  

Parental affection, indeed, in many minds, is but a pretext to

tyrannise where it can be done with impunity, for only good and

wise men are content with the respect that will bear discussion.

Convinced that they have a right to what they insist on, they do

not fear reason, or dread the sifting of subjects that recur to

natural justice: because they firmly believe that the more

enlightened the human mind becomes the deeper root will just and

simple principles take. They do not rest in expedients, or grant

that what is metaphysically true can be practically false; but

disdaining the shifts of the moment they calmly wait till time,

sanctioning innovation, silences the hiss of selfishness or envy. 

If the power of reflecting on the past, and darting the keen shall

more eye of contemplation into futurity, be the grand privilege of

man, it must be granted that some people enjoy this prerogative in

a very limited degree. Everything new appears to them wrong; and

not able to distinguish the possible from the monstrous, they fear

where no fear should find a place, running from the light of

reason, as if it were a firebrand; yet the limits of the possible

have never been defined to stop the sturdy innovator's hand.   

Woman, however, a slave in every situation to prejudice, seldom

exerts enlightened maternal affection; for she either neglects her

children, or spoils them by improper indulgence. The affection of

some women for their children is, as I have before termed it,

frequently very brutish: for it eradicates every spark of humanity.

Justice, truth, everything is sacrificed by these Rebekahs, and for

the sake of their own children they violate the most sacred duties,

forgetting the common relationship that binds the whole family on

earth together. Yet, reason seems to say, that they who suffer one

duty, or affection, to swallow up the rest, have not sufficient

heart or mind to fulfil that one conscientiously. It then loses the

venerable aspect of a duty, and assumes the fantastic form of a


As the care of children in their infancy is one of the grand duties

annexed to the female character by nature, this duty would afford

many forcible arguments for strengthening the female understanding,

if it were properly considered.  

The formation of the mind must be begun very early, and the temper,

in particular, requires the most judicious attention--an attention

which woman cannot pay who only love their children because they

are their children, and seek no further for the foundation of their

duty, than in the feelings of the moment. It is this want of reason

in their affections which makes women so often run into extremes,

and either be the most fond or most careless and unnatural mothers. 

To be a good mother, a woman must have sense, and that independence

of mind which few women possess who are taught to depend entirely

on their husbands. Meek wives are, in general, foolish mothers;

wanting their children to love them best, and take their part, in

secret, against the father, who is held up as a scarecrow. When

chastisement is necessary, though they have offended the mother,

the father must inflict the punishment; he must be the judge in all

disputes; but fully discuss this subject when I treat of private

education. I now only mean to insist, that unless the understanding

of woman be enlarged, and her character rendered more firm, by

being allowed to govern her own conduct, she will never have

sufficient sense or command of temper to manage her children

properly. Her parental affection, indeed, scarcely deserves the

name, when it does not lead her to suckle her children, because the

discharge of this duty is equally calculated to inspire maternal

and filial affection: and it is the indispensable duty of men and

women to fulfil the duties which give birth to affections that are

the surest preservatives against vice. Natural affection, as it is

termed, I believe to be a very faint tie, affections must grow out

of the habitual exercise of a mutual sympathy; and what sympathy

does a mother exercise who sends her babe to a nurse, and only

takes it from a nurse to send it to a school?   

In the exercise of their maternal feelings Providence has furnished

women with a natural substitute for love, when the lover becomes

only a friend, and mutual confidence takes place of overstrained

admiration--a child then gently twists the relaxing cord, and a

mutual care produces a new mutual sympathy. But a child, though a

pledge of affection, will not if both father and mother be content

to transfer to hirelings; for they who do their duty by proxy

murmur if they miss the reward of duty--parental affection produces

filial duty.


[1]  L'amour propre. L'amour de soi meme.

                           CHAPTER XI

                         DUTY TO PARENTS

There seems to be an indolent propensity in man to make

prescription always take place of reason, and to place every duty

on an arbitrary foundation. The rights of kings are deduced in a

direct line from the King of kings, and that of parents from our

first parent.  

Why do we thus go back for principles that should always rest on

the same base, and have the same weight to-day that they had a

thousand years ago--and not a jot more ? If parents discharge their

duty they have a strong hold and sacred claim on the gratitude of

their children, but few parents are willing to receive the

respectful affection of their offspring on such terms. They demand

blind obedience, because they do not merit a reasonable service:

and to render these demands of weakness and ignorance more binding,

a mysterious sanctity is spread round the most arbitrary principle;

for what other name can be given to the blind duty of obeying

vicious or weak beings merely because they obeyed a powerful


The simple definition of the reciprocal duty which naturally

subsists between parent and child may be given in a few words. The

parent who pays proper attention to helpless infancy has a right to

require the same attention when the feebleness of age comes upon

him. But to subjugate a rational being to the mere will of another,

after he is of age to answer to society for his own conduct, is a

most cruel and undue stretch of- power, and perhaps as injurious to

morality as those religious systems which do not allow right and

wrong to have any existence, but in the Divine will.  

I never knew a parent who had paid more than common attention to

his children disregarded.[1] on the contrary, the early habit of

relying almost implicitly on the opinion of a respected parent is

not easily shook, even when matured reason convinces the child that

his father is not the wisest man in the world. This weakness--for

a weakness it is, though the epithet amiable may be tacked to it--a

reasonable man must steel himself against; for the absurd duty, too

often inculcated, of obeying a parent only on account of his being

a parent, shackles the mind, and prepares it for a slavish

submission to any power but reason.  

I distinguish between the natural and accidental duty due to


The parent who sedulously endeavours to form the heart, and enlarge

the understanding of his child, has given that dignity to the

discharge of a duty, common to the whole animal world, that only

reason can give. This is the parental affection of humanity, and

leaves instinctive natural affection far behind. Such a parent

acquires all the rights of the most sacred friendship, and his

advice, even when his child is advanced in life, demands serious


With respect to marriage, though after one-and-twenty a parent

seems to have no right to withhold his consent on any account, yet

twenty years of solicitude call for a return, and the son ought at

least to promise not to marry for two or three years, should the

object of his choice not entirely meet with the approbation of his

first friend.  

But respect for parents is, generally speaking, a much more

debasing principle; it is only a selfish respect for property. The

father who is blindly obeyed is obeyed from sheer weakness, or from

motives that degrade the human character.  

A great proportion of the misery that wanders in hideous forms

around the world is allowed to rise from the negligence of parents;

and still these are the people who are most tenacious of what they

term a natural right, though it be subversive of the birthright of

man, the right of acting according to the direction of his own


I have already very frequently had occasion to observe that vicious

or indolent people are always eager to profit by enforcing

arbitrary privileges, and generally in the same proportion as they

neglect the discharge of the duties which alone render the

privileges reasonable. This is at the bottom a dictate of common

sense, or the instinct of self-defence, peculiar to ignorant

weakness, resembling that instinct which makes a fish muddy the

water it swims in to elude its enemy, instead of boldly facing it

in the clear stream.  

From the clear stream of argument indeed the supporters of

prescription of every denomination fly; and taking refuge in the

darkness, which, in the language of sublime poetry, has been

supposed to surround the throne of omnipotence, they dare to demand

that implicit respect which is only due to His unsearchable ways.

But let me not be thought presumptuous; the darkness which hides

our God from us only respects speculative truths. It never obscures

moral ones; they shine clearly, for God is light, and never, by the

constitution of our nature, requires the discharge of a duty, the

reasonableness of which does not beam on us when we open our eyes. 

The indolent parent of high rank may, it is true, extort a show of

respect from his child, and females on the Continent are

particularly subject to the views of their families, who never

think of consulting their inclination, or providing for the comfort

of the poor victims of their pride. The consequence is notorious:

these dutiful daughters become adulteresses, and neglect the

education of their children, from whom they, in their turn, exact

the same kind of obedience.  

Females, it is true, in all countries are too much under the

dominion of their parents; and few parents think of addressing

their children in the following manner, though it is in this

reasonable way that Heaven seems to command the whole human

race:--It is your interest to obey me till you can judge for

yourself; and the Almighty Father of all has implanted an affection

in me to serve as a guard to you whilst your reason is unfolding;

but when your mind arrives at maturity, you must only obey me, or

rather respect my opinions, so far as they coincide with the light

that is breaking in on your own mind.  

A slavish bondage to parents cramps every faculty of the mind; and

Mr. Locke very judiciously observes, that "if the mind be curbed

and humbled too much in children; if their spirits be abased and

broken much by too strict an hand over them, they lose all their

vigour and industry." This strict hand may in some degree account

for the weakness of women; for girls, from various causes, are more

kept down by their parents, in every sense of the word, than boys.

The duty expected from them is, like all the duties arbitrarily

imposed on women, more from a sense of propriety, more out of

respect for decorum, than reason; and thus taught slavishly to

submit to their parents, they are prepared for the slavery of

marriage. I may be told that a number of women are not slaves in

the marriage state. True, but they then become tyrants; for it is

not rational freedom, but a lawless kind of power, resembling the

authority exercised by the favourites of absolute monarchs, which

they obtain by debasing means. I do not likewise dream of

insinuating that either boys or girls are always slaves. I only

insist that when they are obliged to submit to authority blindly

their faculties are weakened, and their tempers rendered imperious

or abject. I also lament that parents, indolently availing

themselves of a supposed privilege, damp the first faint glimmering

of reason, rendering at the same time the duty, which they are so

anxious to enforce, an empty name; because they will not let it

rest on the only basis on which a duty can rest securely; for

unless it be founded on knowledge, it cannot gain sufficient

strength to resist the squalls of passion, or the silent sapping of

self-love. But it is not the parents who have given the surest

proof of their affection for their children, or, to speak more

properly. who, by fulfilling their duty, have allowed a natural

parental affection to take root in their hearts, the child of

exercised sympathy and reason, and not the overweening offspring of

selfish pride, who most vehemently insist on their children

submitting to their will merely because it is their will. On the

contrary, the parent who sets a good example, patiently lets that

example work, and it seldom fails to produce its natural

effect--filial reverence.   

Children cannot be taught too early to submit to reason-- the true

definition of that necessity which Rousseau insisted on, without

defining it; for to submit to reason is to submit to the nature of

things, and to that God who formed them so, to promote our real


Why should the minds of children be warped as they just begin to

expand, only to favour the indolence of parents who insist on a

privilege without being willing to pay the price fixed by Nature?

I have before had occasion to observe that a right always includes

a duty, and I think it may likewise fairly be inferred that they

forfeit the right who do not fulfil the duty.   

It is easier, I grant, to command than reason; but it does not

follow from hence that children cannot comprehend the reason why

they are made to do certain things habitually: for from a steady

adherence to a few simple principles of conduct flows that salutary

power which a judicious parent gradually gains over a child's mind.

And this power becomes strong indeed, if tempered by an even

display of affection brought home to the child's heart. For, I

believe, as a general rule, It must be allowed that the affection

which we inspire always resembles that we cultivate; so that

natural affections, which have been supposed almost distinct from

reason, may be found more nearly connected with judgment than is

commonly allowed. Nay, as another proof of the necessity of

cultivating the female understanding, it is but just to observe,

that the affections seem to have a kind of animal capriciousness

when they merely reside in the heart.  

It is the irregular exercise of parental authority that first

injures the mind, and to these irregularities girls are more

subject than boys. The will of those who never allow their will to

be disputed, unless they happen to be in a good humour, when they

relax proportionally, is almost always unreasonable. To elude this

arbitrary authority girls very early learn the lessons which they

afterwards practise on their husbands; for I have frequently seen

a little sharp-faced miss rule a whole family, excepting that now

and then mamma's anger will burst out of some accidental

cloud;--either her hair was ill-dressed,[2] or she had lost more

money at cards, the night before, than she was willing to own to

her husband; or some such moral cause of anger.  

After observing sallies of this kind, I have been led into a

melancholy train of reflection respecting females, concluding that

when their first affection must lead them astray, or make their

duties clash till they rest on mere whims and customs, little can

be expected from them as they advance in life. How, indeed, can an

instructor remedy this evil? for to teach them virtue on any solid

principle is to teach them to despise their parents. Children

cannot, ought not, to be taught to make allowance for the faults of

their parents, because every such allowance weakens the force of

reason in their minds, and makes them still more indulgent to their

own. It is one of the most sublime virtues of maturity that leads

us to be severe with respect to ourselves, and forbearing to

others; but children should only be taught the simple virtues, for

if they begin too early to make allowance for human passions and

manners, they wear off the fine edge of the criterion by which they

should regulate their own, and become unjust in the same proportion

as they grow indulgent.  

The affections of children, and weak people, are always selfish;

they love their relatives, because they are beloved by them, not on

account of their virtues. Yet, till esteem and love are blended

together in the first affection, and reason made the foundation of

the first duty, morality will stumble at the threshold. But, till

society is very differently constituted, parents, I fear, will

still insist on being obeyed, because they will be obeyed, and

constantly endeavour to settle that power on a Divine right which

will not bear the investigation of reason. 


[1]  Dr. Johnson makes the same observation.

[2]  I myself heard a little girl once say to a servant, "My mamma

has been scolding me finely this morning, because her hair was not

dressed to please her." Though this remark was pert, it was just.

And what respect could a girl acquire for such a parent without

doing violence to reason?

                           CHAPTER XII

                      ON NATIONAL EDUCATION

The good effects resulting from attention to private education will

ever be very confined, and the parent who really puts his own hand

to the plough, will always, in some degree, be disappointed, till

education becomes a grand national concern. A man cannot retire

into a desert with his child, and if he did he could not bring

himself back to childhood, and become the proper friend and

playfellow of an infant or youth. And when children are confined to

the society of men and women, they very soon acquire that kind of

premature manhood which stops the growth of every vigorous power of

mind or body. In order to open their faculties they should be

excited to think for themselves; and this can only be done by

mixing a number of children together, and making them jointly

pursue the same objects.  

A child very soon contracts a benumbing indolence of mind, which he

has seldom sufficient vigour afterwards to shake off, when he only

asks a question instead of seeking for information, and then relies

implicitly on the answer he receives. With his equals in age this

could never be the case, and the subjects of inquiry, though they

might be influenced, would not be entirely under the direction of

men, who frequently damp, if not destroy, abilities, by bringing

them forward too hastily: and too hastily they will infallibly be

brought forward, if the child be confined to the society of a man,

however sagacious that man may be.  

Besides, in you the seeds of every affection should be sown, and

the respectful regard, which is felt for a parent, is very

different from the social affections that arc to constitute the

happiness of life as it advances. Of these equality is the basis,

and an intercourse of sentiments unclogged by that observant

seriousness which prevents disputation, though it may not enforce

submission. Let a child have ever such an affection for his parent,

he will always languish to play and prattle with children; and the

very respect he feels, for filial esteem always has a dash of fear

mixed with it, will, if it do not teach him cunning, at least

prevent him from pouring out the little secrets which first open

the heart to friendship and confidence, gradually leading to more

expansive benevolence. Added to this, he will never acquire that

frank ingenuousness of behaviour, which young people can only

attain by being frequently in society where they dare to speak what

they think; neither afraid of being reproved for their presumption,

nor laughed at for their folly.  

Forcibly impressed by the reflections which the sight of schools,

as they are at present conducted, naturally suggested, I have

formerly delivered my opinion rather warmly in favour of a private

education; but further experience has led me to view the subject in

a different light. I still, however, think schools, as they are now

regulated, the hot-beds of vice and folly, and the knowledge of

human nature, supposed to be attained there, merely cunning


At school boys become gluttons and slovens, and, instead of

cultivating domestic affections, very early rush into the

libertinism which destroys the constitution before it is formed;

hardening the heart as it weakens the understanding.  

I should, in fact, be averse to boarding-schools, if it were for no

other reason than the unsettled state of mind which the expectation

of the vacations produces. on these the children's thoughts are

fixed with eager anticipating hopes, for, at least, to speak with

moderation, half of the time, and when they arrive they are spent

in total dissipation and beastly indulgence.  

But, on the contrary, when they are brought up at home, though they

may pursue a plan of study in a more orderly manner than can be

adopted when near a fourth part of the year is actually spent in

idleness, and as much more in regret and anticipation; yet they

there acquire too high an opinion of their own importance, from

birth, allowed to tyrannise over servants, and from the anxiety

expressed by most mothers, on the score of manners, who, eager to

teach the accomplishments of a gentleman, stifle, in their birth,

the virtues of a man. Thus brought into company when they ought to

be seriously employed, and treated like men when they are still

boys, they become vain and effeminate.  

The only way to avoid two extremes equally injurious to morality

would be to contrive some way of combining a public and private

education. Thus to make men citizens two natural steps might be

taken, which seem directly to lead to the desired point; for the

domestic affections, that first open the heart to the various

modifications of humanity, would be cultivated, whilst the children

were nevertheless allowed to spend great part of their time, on

terms of equality, with other children.   

I still recollect, with pleasure, the country day-school; where a

boy trudged in the morning, wet or dry, carrying his books, and his

dinner, if it were at a considerable distance; a servant did not

then lead master by the hand, for, when he had once put on coat and

breeches, he was allowed to shift for himself, and return alone in

the evening to recount the feats of the day close at the parental

knee. His father's house was his home, and was ever after fondly

remembered; nay, I appeal to many superior men, who were educated

in this manner, whether the recollection of some shady lane where

they conned their lesson; or, of some stile, where they sat making

a kite, or mending a bat, has not endeared their country to them? 

But, what boy ever recollected with pleasure the years he spent in

close confinement, at an academy near London? unless, indeed, he

should, by chance, remember the poor scarecrow of an usher, whom he

tormented; or, the tartman, from whom he caught a cake, to devour

it with a cattish appetite of selfishness At boarding-schools of

every description, the relaxation of the junior boys is mischief;

and of the senior, vice. Besides, in great schools, what can be

more prejudicial to the moral character than the system of tyranny

and abject slavery which is established amongst the boys, to say

nothing of the slavery to forms, which makes religion worse than a

farce? For what good can be expected from the youth who receives

the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, to avoid forfeiting half a

guinea, which he probably afterwards spends in some sensual manner?

Half the employment of the youths is to elude the necessity of

attending public worship; and well they may, for such a constant

repetition of the same thing must be a very irksome restraint on

their natural vivacity. As these ceremonies have the most fatal

effect on their morals, and as a ritual performed by the lips, when

the heart and mind are far away, is not now stored up by our Church

as a bank to draw on for the fees of the poor souls in purgatory,

why should they not be abolished?   

But the fear of innovation, in this country, extends to everything.

This is only a covert fear, the apprehensive timidity of indolent

slugs, who guard, by sliming it over, the snug place, which they

consider in the light of an hereditary estate; and eat, drink, and

enjoy themselves, instead of fulfilling the duties, excepting a few

empty forms, for which it was endowed. These are the people who

most strenuously insist on the will of the founder being observed,

crying out against all reformation, as ;f it were a violation of

justice. I am now alluding particularly to the relics of Popery

retained in our colleges, when the Protestant members seem to be

such sticklers for the Established Church; but their zeal never

makes them lose sight of the spoil of ignorance, which rapacious

priests of superstitious memory have scraped together. No, wise in

their generation, they venerate the prescriptive right of

possession, as a stronghold, and still let the sluggish bell tinkle

to prayers, as during the days when the elevation of the host was

supposed to atone for the sins of the people, lest one reformation

should lead to another, and the spirit kill the letter. These

Romish customs have the most baneful effect on the morals of our

clergy; for the idle vermin who two or three times a day perform in

the most slovenly manner a service which they think useless, but

call their duty, soon lose a sense of duty. At college, forced to

attend or evade public worship, they acquire an habitual contempt

for the very service, the performance of which is to enable them to

live in idleness. It is mumbled over as an affair of business, as

a stupid boy repeats his talk, and frequently the college cant

escapes from the preacher the moment after he has left the pulpit,

and even whilst he is eating the dinner which he earned in such a

dishonest manner.  

Nothing, indeed, can be more irreverent than the cathedral service

as it is now performed in this country, neither does it contain a

set of weaker men than those who are the slaves of this childish

routine. A disgusting skeleton of the former state is still

exhibited; but all the solemnity that interested the imagination,

if it did not purify the heart, is stripped off. The performance of

high mass on the Continent must impress every mind, where a spark

of fancy glows, with that awful melancholy, that sublime

tenderness, so near akin to devotion. I do not say that these

devotional feelings are of more use, in a moral sense, than any

other emotion of taste; but I contend that the theatrical pomp

which gratifies our senses, is to be preferred to the cold parade

that insults the understanding without reaching the heart.  

Amongst remarks on national education, such observations cannot be

misplaced, especially as the supporters of these establishments,

degenerated into puerilities, affect to be the champions of

religion. Religion, pure source of comfort in this vale of tears!

how has thy clear stream been muddied by the dabblers, who have

presumptuously endeavoured to confine in one narrow channel, the

living waters that ever flow towards God--the sublime ocean of

existence! What would life be without that peace which the love of

God, when built on humanity, alone can impart? Every earthly

affection turns back, at intervals, to prey upon the heart that

feeds it; and the purest effusions of benevolence, often rudely

damped by man, must mount as a free-will offering to Him who gave

them birth, whose bright image they faintly reflect.   

In public schools, however, religion, confounded with irk- some

ceremonies and unreasonable restraints, assumes the most ungracious

aspect: not the sober austere one that commands respect whilst it

inspires fear; but a ludicrous cast, that serves to point a pun.

For, in fact, most of the good stories and smart things will

enliven the spirits that have been concentrated at whist, are

manufactured out of the incidents to which the very men labour to

give a droll turn who countenance the abuse to live on the spoil. 

There is not, perhaps, in the kingdom, a more dogmatical, or

luxurious set of men, than the pedantic tyrants who reside in

colleges and preside at public schools. The vacations are equally

injurious to the morals of the masters and pupils, and the

intercourse, which the former keep up with the nobility, introduces

the same vanity and extravagance into their families, which banish

domestic duties and comforts from the lordly mansion, whose state

is awkwardly aped. The boys, who live at a great expense with the

masters and assistants, are never domesticated, though placed there

for that purpose; for, after a silent dinner, they swallow a hasty

glass of wine, and retire to plan some mischievous trick, or to

ridicule the person or manners of the very people they have just

been cringing to, and. whom they ought to consider as the

representatives of their parents.   

Can it then be a matter of surprise that boys become selfish and

vicious who are thus shut out from social converse? or that a mitre

often graces the brow of one of these diligent pastors?   

The desire of living in the same style, as the rank just above

them, infects each individual and every class of people, and

meanness is the concomitant of this ignoble ambition; but those

professions are most debasing whose ladder is patronage; yet, out

of one of these professions the tutors of youth are, in general,

chosen. But, can they be expected to inspire independent

sentiments, whose conduct must be regulated by the cautious

prudence that is ever on the watch for preferment?

So far, however, from thinking of the morals of boys, I have heard

several masters of schools argue, that they only undertook to teach

Latin and Greek; and that they had fulfilled their duty, by sending

some good scholars to college.    

A few good scholars, I grant, may have been formed by emulation and

discipline; but, to bring forward these clever boys, the health and

morals of a number have been sacrificed. The sons of our gentry and

wealthy commoners are mostly educated at these seminaries, and will

anyone pretend to assert that the majority, making every allowance,

come under the description of tolerable scholars?    

It is not for the benefit of society that a few brilliant men

should be brought forward at the expense of the multitude. It is

true, that great men seem to start up, as great revolutions occur,

at proper intervals, to restore order, and to blow aside the clouds

that thicken over the face of truth; but let more reason and virtue

prevail in society, and these strong winds would not be necessary.

Public education, of every denomination, should be directed to form

citizens; but if you wish to make good citizens, you must first

exercise the affections of a son and a brother. This is the only

way to expand the heart; for public affections, as well as public

virtues, must ever grow out of the private character, or they are

merely meteors that shoot athwart a dark sky, and disappear as they

are gazed at and admired.  

Few, I believe, have had much affection for mankind, who did not

first love their parents, their brothers, sisters, and even the

domestic brutes, whom they first played with. The exercise of

youthful sympathies forms the moral temperature; and it is the

recollection of these first affections and pursuits that gives life

to those that are afterwards more under the direction of reason. In

youth, the fondest friendships are formed, the genial juices

mounting at the same time, kindly mix; or, rather the heart,

tempered for the reception of friendship, is accustomed to seek for

pleasure in something more noble than the churlish ratification of


In order then to inspire a love of home and domestic pleasures,

children ought to be educated at home for riotous holidays only

make them fond of home for their own sakes. Yet, the vacations,

which do not foster domestic affections, continually disturb the

course of study, and render any plan of improvement abortive which

includes temperance; still, were they abolished, children would be

entirely separated from their parents, and I question whether they

would become better citizens by sacrificing the preparatory

affections, by destroying the force of relationships that render

the marriage state as necessary as respectable. But, if a private

education produce self-importance, or insulate a man in his family,

the evil is only shifted, not remedied.   

This train of reasoning brings me back to a subject, on which mean

to dwell, the necessity of establishing proper day-schools.   

But, these should be national establishments, for whilst

schoolmasters are dependent on the caprice of parents, little

exertion can be expected from them, more than is necessary to

please ignorant people. Indeed, the necessity of a master's giving

the parents some sample of the boy's abilities, which during the

vacation is shown to every visitor,[1] is productive of more

mischief than would at first be supposed. For it is seldom done

entirely, to speak with moderation, by the child itself; thus the

master countenances falsehood, or winds the poor machine up to some

extraordinary exertion, that injures the wheels, and stops the

progress of gradual improvement. The memory is loaded with

unintelligible words, to make a show of, without the

understanding's acquiring any distinct ideas: but only that

education deserves emphatically to be termed cultivation of mind,

which teaches young people how to begin to think. The imagination

should not be allowed to debauch the understanding before it gained

strength, or vanity will become the forerunner of vice: for every

way of exhibiting the acquirements of a child is injurious to its

moral character.   

How much time is lost in teaching them to recite what they do not

understand? whilst, seated on benches, all in their best array, the

mammas listen with astonishment to the parrot like prattle, uttered

in solemn cadences, with all the pomp of ignorance and folly. Such

exhibitions only serve to strike the spreading fibres of vanity

through the whole mind; for they neither teach children to speak

fluently, nor behave gracefully. So far from it, that these

frivolous pursuits might comprehensively be termed the study of

affectation; for we now rarely see a simple, bashful boy, though

few people of taste were ever disgusted by that awkward

sheepishness so natural to the age which schools and an early

introduction into society, have changed into impudence and apish


Yet, how can these things be remedied whilst schoolmaster depend

entirely on parents for a subsistence; and, when so many rival

schools hang out their lures, to catch the attention of vain

fathers and mothers, whose parental affection only leads them to

wish that their children should outshine those of their neighbours? 

Without great good luck, a sensible, conscientious man, would

starve before he could raise a school, if he disdained to bubble

weak parents by practising the secret tricks of the craft.   

In the best regulated schools, however, where swarms are not

crammed together, many bad habits must be acquired; but, at common

schools, the body, heart, and understanding, are equally stunted,

for parents are often only in quest of the cheapest school, and the

master could not live, if he did not take a much greater number

than he could manage himself; nor will the scanty pittance, allowed

for each child, permit him to hire ushers sufficient to assist in

the discharge of the mechanical part of the business. Besides,

whatever appearance the house and garden may make, the children do

not enjoy the comfort of either, for they are continually reminded

by irksome restrictions that they are not at home, and the

state-rooms, garden, etc., must be kept in order for the recreation

of the parents; who, of a Sunday, visit the school, and are

impressed by the very parade that renders the situation of their

children uncomfortable.   

With what disgust have I heard sensible women, for girls are more

restrained and cowed than boys, speak of the wearisome confinement,

which they endured at school. Not allowed, perhaps, to step out of

one broad walk in a superb garden, and obliged to pace with steady

deportment stupidly backwards and forwards, holding up their heads

and turning out their toes, with shoulders braced back, instead of

bounding, as nature directs to complete her own design, in the

various attitudes so conducive to health.[2] The pure animal

spirits, which make both mind and body shoot out, and unfold the

tender blossoms of hope, are turned sour, and vented in vain wishes

or pert repinings, that contract the faculties and spoil the

temper; else they mount to the brain, and sharpening the

understanding before it gains proportionable strength, produce that

pitiful cunning which disgracefully characterises the female mind--

and I fear will ever characterise it whilst women remain the slaves

of power!  

The little respect paid to chastity in the male world is, I am

persuaded, the grand source of many of the physical and moral evils

that torment mankind, as well as of the vices and follies that

degrade and destroy women; yet, at school, boys infallibly lose

that decent bashfulness, which might have ripened into modesty, at


And what nasty indecent tricks do they not also learn from each

other, when a number of them pig together in the same bedchamber,

not to speak of the vices, which render the body weak, whilst they

effectually prevent the acquisition of any delicacy of mind. The

little attention paid to the cultivation of modesty, amongst men,

produces great depravity in all the relationships of society; for,

not only love--love that ought to purify the heart, and first call

forth all the youthful powers, to prepare the man to discharge the

benevolent duties of life, is sacrificed to premature lust; but,

all the social affections are deadened by the selfish

gratifications, which very early pollute the mind, and dry up the

generous juices of the heart. In what an unnatural manner is

innocence often violated; and what serious consequences ensue to

render private vices a public pest. Besides, an habit of personal

order, which has more effect on the moral character, than is, in

general, supposed, can only be acquired at home, where that

respectable reserve is kept up which checks the familiarity that,

sinking into beastliness, undermines the affection it insults.  

I have already animadverted on the bad habits which females acquire

when they are shut up together; and, I think, that the observation

may fairly be extended to the other sex, till the natural inference

is drawn which I have had in view throughout--that to improve both

sexes they ought, not only in private families, but in public

schools, to be educated together. If marriage be the cement of

society, mankind should all be educated after the same model, or

the intercourse of the sexes will never deserve the name of

fellowship, nor will women ever fulfil the peculiar duties of their

sex, till they become enlightened citizens, till they become free

by being enabled to earn their own subsistence, independent of men;

in the same manner, I mean, to prevent misconstruction, as one man

is independent of another. Nay, marriage will never be held sacred

till women, by being brought up with men, are prepared to be their

companions rather than their mistresses; for the mean doublings of

cunning will ever render them contemptible, whilst oppression

renders them timid. So convinced am I of this truth, that I will

venture to predict that virtue will never prevail in society till

the virtues of both sexes are founded on reason; and, till the

affections common to both are allowed to gain their due strength by

the discharge of mutual duties.   

Were boys and girls permitted to pursue the same studies together,

those graceful decencies might early be inculcated which produce

modesty without those sexual distinctions that taint the mind.

Lessons of politeness, and that formulary of decorum, which treads

on the heels of falsehood, would be rendered useless by habitual

propriety of behaviour. Not indeed put on for visitors, like the

courtly robe of politeness, but the sober effect of cleanliness of

mind. Would not this simple elegance of sincerity be a chaste

homage paid to domestic affections, far surpassing the 

meretricious compliments that shine with false lustre in the

heartless intercourse of fashionable life? But till more

understanding preponderates in society, there will ever be a want

of heart and taste, and the harlot's rouge will supply the place of

that celestial suffusion  which only virtuous affections can give

to the face. Gallantry, and what is called love, may subsist

without simplicity of character but the main pillars of friendship

are respect and confidence--esteem is never founded on it cannot

tell what!   

A taste for the fine arts requires great cultivation, but not more

than a taste for the virtuous affections, and both suppose that

enlargement of mind which opens so many sources of mental pleasure.

Why do people hurry to noisy scenes and crowded circles? I should

answer, because they want activity of mind, because they have not

cherished the virtues of the heart. They only therefore see and

feel in the gross, and continually pine after variety, finding

everything that is simple insipid. 

This argument may be carried further than philosophers are rare of,

for if nature destined woman, in particular, for the discharge of

domestic duties, she made her susceptible of the attached

affections in a great degree. Now women are notoriously fond of

pleasure, and naturally must be so according to my definition,

because they cannot enter into the minutia of domestic taste,

lacking judgment, the foundation of all taste; for the

understanding, in spite of sensual cavillers, reserves to itself

the privilege of conveying pure joy to the heart.  

With what a languid yawn have I seen an admirable poem thrown down

that a man of true taste returns to again and again with rapture;

and whilst melody has almost suspended respiration, a lady has

asked me where I bought my gown. I have seen also an eye glanced

coldly over a most exquisite picture rest, sparkling with pleasure,

on a caricature rudely sketched; and whilst some terrific feature

in nature has spread a sublime stillness through my soul, I have

been desired to observe the pretty tricks of a lap-dog that my

perverse fate forced me to travel with. Is it surprising that such

a tasteless being should rather caress this dog than her children?

Or that she should prefer the rant of flattery to the simple

accents of sincerity?  

To illustrate this remark I must be allowed to observe that men of

the first genius and most cultivated minds have appeared to have

the highest relish for the simple beauties of nature; and they must

have forcibly felt, what they have so well described, the charm

which natural affections and unsophisticated feelings spread round

the human character. It is this power of looking into the heart,

and responsively vibrating with each emotion, that enables the poet

to personify each passion, and the painter to sketch with a pencil

of fire.  

True taste is ever the work of the understanding employed in

observing natural effects; and till women have more understanding,

it is vain to expect them to possess domestic taste. Their lively

senses will ever be at work to harden their hearts, and the

emotions struck out of them will continue to be vivid and

transitory, unless a proper education store their mind with


It is the want of domestic taste, and not the acquirement of

knowledge, that takes women out of their families, and tears the

smiling babe from the breast that ought to afford it nourishment.

Women have been allowed to remain in ignorance and slavish

dependence many, very many, years, and still we hear of nothing but

their fondness of pleasure and sway, their preference of rakes and

soldiers, their childish attachment to toys, and the vanity that

makes them value accomplishments more than virtues. 

History brings forward a fearful catalogue of the crimes which

their cunning has produced, when the weak slaves nave had

sufficient address to overreach their masters. In France, and in

how many other countries, have men been the luxurious despots, and

women the crafty ministers? Does this prove that ignorance and

dependence domesticate them? Is not their folly the byword of the

libertines, who relax in their society? and do not men of sense

continually lament that an immoderate fondness for dress and

dissipation carries the mother of a family for ever from home?

Their hearts have not been debauched by knowledge, or their minds

led away by scientific pursuits, yet they do not fulfil the

peculiar duties which, as women, they are called upon by Nature to

fulfil. On the contrary, the state of warfare which subsists

between the sexes makes them employ those wiles that often

frustrate the more open designs of force.  

When therefore I call women slaves, I mean in a political and civil

sense; for indirectly they obtain too much power, and are debased

by their exertions to obtain illicit sway.  

Let an enlightened nation [3] then try what effect reason would

have to bring them back to nature, and their duty; and allowing

them to share the advantages of education and government with man,

see whether they will become better, as they grow wiser and become

free. They cannot be injured by the experiment, for it is not in

the power of man to render them more insignificant than they are at


To render this practicable, day-schools for particular ares should

be established by Government, in which boys and girls might be

educated together. The school for the younger children, from five

to nine years of age, ought to be absolutely free and open to all

classes.[4] A sufficient number of masters should also be chosen by

a select committee in each parish, to whom any complaint of

negligence, etc., might be made, if signed by six of the children's


Ushers would then be unnecessary; for I believe experience will

ever prove that this kind of subordinate authority is particularly

injurious to the morals of youth. What, indeed, can tend to deprave

the character more than outward submission and inward contempt? Yet

how can boys be expected to treat an usher with respect, when the

master seems to consider him in the light of a servant, and almost

to countenance the ridicule which becomes the chief amusement of

the boys during the play hours?   

But nothing of this kind could occur in an elementary day school,

where boys and girls, the rich and poor, should meet together. And

to prevent any of the distinctions of vanity, they should be

dressed alike, and all obliged to submit to the same discipline, or

leave the school. The schoolroom ought to be surrounded by a large

piece of ground, in which the children might be usefully exercised,

for at this age they should not be confined to any sedentary

employment for more than an hour at a time. But these relaxations

might all be rendered a part of elementary education, for many

things improve and amuse the senses, when introduced as a kind of

show, to the principles of which, dryly laid down, children would

turn a deaf ear. For instance, botany, mechanics, and astronomy;

reading, writing, arithmetic, natural history, and some simple

experiments in natural philosophy, might fill up the day; but these

pursuits should never encroach on gymnastic plays in the open air.

The elements of religion, history, the history of man, and

politics, might also be taught by conversations in the Socratic


After the age of nine, girls and boys, intended for domestic

employments, or mechanical trades, ought to be removed to other

schools, and receive instruction in some measure appropriated to

the destination of each individual, the two sexes being still

together in the morning; but in the afternoon the girls should

attend a school, where plain work, mantua-making, millinery, etc.,

would be their employment.   

The young people of superior abilities, or fortune, might now be

taught, in another school, the dead and living languages, the

elements of science, and continue the study of history and

politics, on a more extensive scale, which would not exclude polite


Girls and boys still together? I hear some readers ask. Yes. And I

should not fear any other consequence than that some early

attachment might take place; which, whilst it had the best effect

on the moral character of the young people, might not perfectly

agree with the views of the parents, for it will be a long time, I

fear, before the world will be so far enlightened that parents,

only anxious to render their children virtuous, shall allow them to

choose companions for life themselves.   

Besides, this would be a sure way to promote early marriages, from

early marriages the most salutary physical and moral effects

naturally flow. What a different character does a married citizen

assume from the selfish coxcomb, who lives but for himself, and who

is often afraid to marry lest he should not be able to live in a

certain style. Great emergencies excepted, which would rarely occur

in a society of which equality was the basis, a man can only be

prepared to discharge the duties of public life, by the habitual

practice of those inferior ones which form the man.  

In this plan of education the constitution of boys would not be

ruined by the early debaucheries, which now make men so selfish, or

girls rendered weak and vain, by indolence, and frivolous pursuits.

But, I presuppose, that such a degree of equality should be

established between the sexes as would shut out gallantry and

coquetry, yet allow friendship and love to temper the heart for the

discharge of higher duties.  

These would be schools of morality--and the happiness of man,

allowed to flow from the pure springs of duty and affection, what

advances might not the human mind make? Society can only be happy

and free in proportion as it is virtuous; but the present

distinctions, established in society, corrode all private, and

blast all public virtue.  

I have already inveighed against the custom of confining girls to

their needle, and shutting them out from all political and civil

employments; for by thus narrowing their minds they are rendered

unfit to fulfil the peculiar duties which Nature has assigned them. 

Only employed about the little incidents of the day, they

necessarily grow up cunning. My very soul has often sickened at

observing the sly tricks practised by women to gain some foolish

thing on which their silly hearts were set. Not allowed to dispose

of money, or call anything their own, they learn to turn the market

penny; or, should a husband offend, by staying from home, or give

rise to some emotions of jealousy--a new gown, or any pretty

bauble, smooths Juno's angry brow.  

But these littlenesses would not degrade their character, if women

were led to respect themselves, if political and moral subjects

were opened to them; and, I will venture to affirm, that this is

the only way to make them properly attentive to their domestic

duties. An active mind embraces the whole circle of its duties, and

finds time enough for all. It is not, I assert, a bold attempt to

emulate masculine virtues; it is not the enchantment of literary

pursuits, or the steady investigation of scientific subjects, 

that leads women astray from duty. No, it is indolence and 

vanity--the love of pleasure and the love of sway, that will reign 

paramount in an empty mind. I say empty emphatically, because the 

education which women now receive scarcely deserves the name. For the 

little knowledge that they are led to acquire, during the important 

years of youth, is merely relative to accomplishments; and accomplishments 

without a bottom, for unless the understanding be cultivated, superficial and

monotonous is every grace. Like the charms of a made-up face, they

only strike the senses in a crowd; but at home, wanting mind, they

want variety. The consequence is obvious; in gay scenes of

dissipation we meet the artificial mind and face, for those who fly

from solitude dread, next to solitude, the domestic circle; not

having it in their power to amuse or interest, they feel their own

insignificance, or find nothing to amuse or interest themselves. 

Besides, what can be more indelicate than a girl's coming out in

the fashionable world? Which, in other words, is to bring to market

a marriageable miss, whose person is taken from one public place to

another, richly caparisoned. Yet, mixing in the giddy circle under

restraint, these butterflies long to flutter at large, for the

first affection of their souls is their own persons, to which their

attention has been called with the most sedulous care whilst they

were preparing for the period that decides their fate for life.

Instead of pursuing this idle routine, fighting for tasteless show,

and heartless state, with what dignity would the youths of both

sexes form attachments in the schools that I have cursorily pointed

out; in which, as life advanced, dancing, music, and drawing) might

be admitted as relaxations, for at these schools young people of

fortune ought to remain, more or less, till they were of age. Those

who were designed for particular professions might attend, three or

four mornings in the week, the schools appropriated for their

immediate instruction. 

I only drop these observations at present, as hints; rather,

indeed, as an outline of the plan I mean, than a digested one; but

I must add, that I highly approve of one regulation mentioned in

the pamphlet [5] already alluded to, that of making the children

and youths independent of the masters respecting punishments. They

should be tried by their peers, which would be an admirable method

of fixing sound principles of justice in the mind, and might have

the happiest effect on the temper, which is very early soured or

irritated by tyranny, till it becomes peevishly cunning, or

ferociously overbearing.

My imagination darts forward with benevolent fervour to greet these

amiable and respectable groups, in spite of the sneering of cold

hearts, who are at liberty to utter, with frigid self-importance,

the damning epithet--romantic; the force of which I shall endeavour

to blunt by repeating the words of an eloquent moralist: "I know

not whether the allusions of a truly humane heart, whose zeal

renders everything easy, be not preferable to that rough and

repulsing reason, which always finds an indifference for the public

good, the first obstacle to whatever would promote it."

I know that libertines will also exclaim, that woman would be

unsexed by acquiring strength of body and mind, and that beauty,

soft bewitching beauty! would no longer adorn the daughters of men.

I am of a very different opinion, for I think that, on the

contrary, we should then see dignified beauty and true grace; to

produce which, many powerful physical and moral causes would

concur. Not relaxed beauty, it is true, or the graces of

helplessness; but such as appears to make us respect the human body

as a majestic pile fit to receive a noble inhabitant, in the relics

of antiquity.

I do not forget the popular opinion that the Grecian statues were

not modelled after nature. I mean, not according to the proportion

of a particular man; but that beautiful limbs and features were

selected from various bodies to form an harmonious whole. This

might, in some degree, be true. The fine ideal picture of an

exalted imagination might be superior to the materials which the

statuary found in nature, and thus it might with propriety be

termed rather the model of mankind than of a man. It was not,

however, the mechanical selection of limbs and features; but the

ebullition of an heated fancy that burst forth, and the fine senses

and enlarged understanding the artist selected the solid matter,

which he drew into this glowing focus.

I observed that it was not mechanical because a whole was

produced--a model of that grand simplicity, of those concurring

energies, which arrest our attention and command our reverence. For

only insipid lifeless beauty is produced by a servile copy of even

beautiful nature. Yet, independent of these observations, I believe

that the human form must have been far more beautiful than it is at

present, because extreme indolence, barbarous ligatures, and many

causes, which forcibly act on it, in our luxurious state of

society, did not retard its expansion, or render it deformed.

Exercise and cleanliness appear to be not only the surest means of

preserving health, but of promoting beauty, the physical causes

only considered; yet this is not sufficient, moral ones must

concur, or beauty will be merely of that rustic kind which blooms

on the innocent, whole some countenances of some country people,

whose minds have not been exercised. To render the person perfect,

physical and moral beauty ought to be attained at the same time;

each lending and receiving force by the combination. Judgment must

reside on the brow, affection and fancy beam in the eye, and

humanity curve the cheek, or vain is the sparkling of the finest

eye or the elegantly turned finish of the fairest features; whilst

in every motion that displays the active limbs and well-knit

joints, grace and modesty should appear. But this fair assemblage

is not to be brought together by chance; it is the reward of

exertions calculated to support each other; for judgment can only

be acquired by reflection, affection by the discharge of duties,

and humanity by the exercise of compassion to every living


Humanity to animals should be particularly inculcated as a part of

national education, for it is not at present one of our national

virtues. Tenderness for their humble dumb domestics, amongst the

lower class, is oftener to be found in a savage than a civilised

state. For civilisation prevents that intercourse which creates

affection in the rude hut, or mud hovel, and leads uncultivated

minds who are only depraved by the refinements which prevail in the

society, where they are trodden under foot by the rich, to domineer

over them to revenge the insults that they are obliged to bear from

their superiors. 

This habitual cruelty is first caught at school, where it is one of

the rare sports of the boys to torment the miserable brutes that

fall in their way. The transition, as they grow up, from barbarity

to brutes to domestic tyranny over wives, children, and servants,

is very easy. Justice, or even benevolence, will not be a powerful

spring of action unless it extend to the whole creation; nay, I

believe that it may be delivered as an axiom, that those who can

see pain, unmoved, will soon learn to inflict it. 

The vulgar are swayed by present feelings, and the habits which

they have accidentally acquired; but on partial feelings much

dependence cannot be placed, though they be just; for, when they

are not invigorated by reflection, custom weakens them, till they

are scarcely perceptible. The sympathies of our nature are

strengthened by pondering cogitations, and deadened by thoughtless

use. Macbeth's heart smote him more for one murder, the first, than

for a hundred subsequent ones, which were necessary to back it. 

But, when I used the epithet vulgar, I did not mean to confine my

remark to the poor, for partial humanity, founded on present

sensations, or whim, is quite as conspicuous, if not more so,

amongst the rich. 

The lady who sheds tears for the bird starved in a snare, and

execrates the devils in the shape of men, who goad to madness the

poor ox, or whip the patient ass, tottering under a burden above

its strength, will nevertheless keep her coachman and horses whole

hours waiting for her, when the sharp frost bites, or the rain

beats against the well-closed windows which do not admit a breath

of air to tell her how roughly the wind blows without. And she who

takes her dogs to bed, and nurses them with a parade of

sensibility, when sick. will suffer her babes to grow up crooked in

a nursery. This illustration of my argument is drawn from a matter

of fact. The woman whom I allude to was handsome, reckoned very

handsome, by those who do not miss the mind when the face is plump

and fair; but her understanding had not been led from female duties

by literature, nor her innocence debauched by knowledge. No, she

was quite feminine, according to the masculine acceptation of the

word; and, so far from loving these spoiled brutes that filled the

place which her children ought to have occupied, she only lisped

out a pretty mixture of French and English nonsense, to please the

men who flocked round her. The wife, mother, and human creature,

were all swallowed up by the factitious character which an improper

education and the selfish vanity of beauty had produced. 

I do not like to make a distinction without a difference, and I own

that I have been as much disgusted by the fine lady who took her

lap-dog to her bosom instead of her child; as by the ferocity of a

man, who, beating his horse, declared, that he knew as well when he

did wrong, as a Christian. 

This brood of folly shows how mistaken they are who, if they allow

women to leave their harems, do not cultivate their understandings,

in order to plant virtues in their hearts. For had they sense, they

might acquire that domestic taste which would lead them to love

with reasonable subordination their whole family, from their

husband to the house dog; nor would they ever insult humanity in

the person of the most menial servant by paying more attention to

the comfort of a brute, than to that of a fellow-creature. 

My observations on national education are obviously hints; but I

principally wish to enforce the necessity of educating the sexes

together to perfect both, and of making children sleep at home that

they may learn to love home; yet to make private support, instead

of smothering, public affections, they should be sent to school to

mix with a number of equals, for only by the jostlings of equality

can we form a just opinion of ourselves. 

To render mankind more virtuous, and happier of course, both sexes

must act from the same principle; but how can that be expected when

only one is allowed to see the reasonableness of it? To render also

the social compact truly equitable, and in order to spread those

enlightening principles, which alone can ameliorate the fate of

man, women must be allowed to found their virtue on knowledge,

which is scarcely possible unless they be educated by the same

pursuits as men. For they are now made so inferior by ignorance and

low desires, as not to deserve to be ranked with them; or, by the

serpentine wrigglings of cunning, they mount the tree of knowledge,

and only acquire sufficient to lead men astray. 

It is plain from the history of all nations, that women cannot be

confined to merely domestic pursuits, for they will not fulfil

family duties, unless their minds take a wider range, and whilst

they are kept in ignorance they become in the same proportion the

slaves of pleasure as they are the slaves of man. Nor can they be

shut out of great enterprises, though the narrowness of their minds

often make them mar, what they are unable to comprehend. 

The libertinism, and even the virtues of superior men, will always

give women, of some description, great power over them; and these

weak women, under the influence of childish passions and selfish

vanity, will throw a false light over the objects which the very

men view with their eyes, who ought to enlighten their judgment.

Men of fancy, and those sanguine characters who mostly hold the

helm of human affairs, in general, relax in the society of women;

and surely I need not cite to the most superficial reader of

history the numerous examples of vice and oppression which the

private intrigues of female favourites have produced; not to dwell

on the mischief that naturally arises from the blundering

interposition of well-meaning folly. 

For in the transactions of business it is much better to have to

deal with a knave than a fool, because a knave adheres to some

plan; and any plan of reason may be seen through much sooner than

a sudden flight of folly. The power which vile and foolish women

have had over wise men, who possessed sensibility, is notorious; I

shall only mention one instance. 

Whoever drew a more exalted female character than Rousseau? though

in the lump he constantly endeavoured to degrade the sex. And why

was he thus anxious? Truly to justify to himself the affection

which weakness and virtue had made him cherish for that fool

Theresa. He could not raise her to the common level of her sex; and

therefore he laboured to bring woman down to hers. He found her a

convenient humble companion, and pride made him determine to find

some superior virtues in the being whom he chose to live with; but

did not her conduct during his life, and after his death, clearly

show how grossly he was mistaken who called her a celestial

innocent? Nay, in the bitterness of his heart, he himself laments

that when his bodily infirmities made him no longer treat her like

a woman, she ceased to have an affection for him. And it was very

natural that she should, for having so few sentiments in common,

when the sexual tie was broken, what was to hold her? To hold her

affection whose sensibility was confined to one sex, nay, to one

man, it requires sense to turn sensibility into the broad channel

of humanity. Many women have not mind enough to have an affection

for a woman, or a friendship for a man. But the sexual weakness

that makes woman depend on a man for a subsistence, produces a kind

of cattish affection, which leads a wife to purr about her husband

as she would about any man who fed and caressed her. 

Men are, however, often gratified by this kind of fondness, which

is confined in a beastly manner to themselves; but should they ever

become more virtuous, they will wish to converse at their fireside

with a friend after they cease to play with a mistress. 

Besides, understanding is necessary to give variety and interest to

sensual enjoyments, for low indeed in the intellectual scale is the

mind that can continue to love when neither virtue nor sense give

a human appearance to an animal appetite. will always preponderate;

and if women be not, in general, brought more on a level with men,

some superior like the Greek courtesans, will assemble the men of

abilities around them, and draw from their families many citizens,

who would have stayed at home had their wives had more sense, or

the graces which result from the exercise of the understanding and

fancy, the legitimate parents of taste. A woman of talents, if she

be not absolutely ugly, will always obtain great power--raised by

the weakness of her sex; and in proportion as men acquire virtue

and delicacy, by the exertion of reason, they will look for both in

women, but they can only acquire them in the same way that men do. 

In France or Italy, have the women confined themselves to domestic

life? Though they have not hitherto had a political existence, yet

have they not illicitly had great sway, corrupting themselves and

the men with whose passions they played? In short, in whatever

light I view the subject, reason and experience convince me that

the only method of leading women to fulfil their peculiar duties is

to free them from all restraint by allowing them to participate the

inherent rights of mankind. 

Make them free, and they will quickly become wise and virtuous, as

men become more so, for the improvement must be mutual, or the

injustice which one-half of the human race are obliged to submit to

retorting on their oppressors, the virtue of man will be worm-eaten

by the insect whom he keeps under his feet. 

Let men take their choice. Man and woman were made for each other,

though not to become one being; and if they will not improve women,

they will deprave them. 

I speak of the improvement and emancipation of the whole sex, for

I know that the behaviour of a few women, who, by accident, or

following a strong bent of nature, have acquired a portion of

knowledge superior to that of the rest of their sex, has often been

overbearing; but there have been instances of women who, attaining

knowledge, have not discarded modesty, nor have they always

pedantically appeared to despise the ignorance which they laboured

to disperse in their own minds. The exclamations then which any

advice respecting female learning commonly produces, especially

from pretty women, often arise from envy. When they chance to see

that even the lustre of their eyes, and the flippant sportiveness

of refined coquetry, will not always secure them attention during

a whole evening, should a woman of a more cultivated understanding

endeavour to give a rational turn to the conversation, the common

source of consolation is that such women seldom get husbands. What

arts have I not seen silly women use to interrupt by flirtation--a

very significant word to describe such a manoeuvre--a rational

conversation, which made the forget that they were pretty women. 

But, allowing what is very natural to man, that the possession of

rare abilities is really calculated to excite over-weening pride,

disgusting in both men and women, in what a state of inferiority

must the female faculties have rusted when such a small portion of

knowledge as those women attained, who have sneeringly been termed

learned women, could be singular?-- sufficiently so to puff up the

possessor, and excite envy in her contemporaries, and some of the

other sex. Nay, has not a little rationality exposed many women to

the severest censure? I advert to well-known facts, for I have

frequently heard women ridiculed, and every little weakness

exposed, only because they adopted the advice of some medical men,

and deviated from the beaten track in their mode of treating their

infants. I have actually heard this barbarous aversion to

innovation carried still further, and a sensible woman stigmatised

as an unnatural mother, who has thus been wisely solicitous to

preserve the health of her children, when in the midst of her care

she has lost one by some of the casualties of infancy, which no

prudence can ward off. Her acquaintance have observed that this was

the consequence of new-fangled notions--the new-fangled notions of

ease and cleanliness. And those who pretending to experience,

though they have long adhered to prejudices that have, according to

the opinion of the most sagacious physicians, thinned the human

race, almost rejoiced at the disaster that gave a kind of sanction

to prescription. 

Indeed, if it were only on this account, the national education of

women is of the utmost consequence, for what a number of human

sacrifices are made to that Moloch prejudice! And in how many ways

are children destroyed by the lasciviousness of man? The want of

natural affection in many women, who are drawn from their duty by

the admiration of men, and the ignorance of others, render the

infancy of man a much more perilous state than that of brutes; yet

men are unwilling to place women in situations proper to enable

them to acquire sufficient understanding to know how even to nurse

their babes. 

So forcibly does this truth strike me that I would rest the whole

tendency of my reasoning upon it, for whatever tends to

incapacitate the maternal character, takes woman out of her sphere.

But it is vain to expect the present race of weak mothers either to

take that reasonable care of a child's body, which is necessary to

lay the foundation of a good constitution, supposing that it do not

suffer for the sins of its fathers; or to manage its temper so

judiciously that the child will not have, as it grows up, to throw

off all that its mother, its first instructor directly or

indirectly taught; and unless the mind have uncommon vigour,

womanish follies will stick to the character throughout life. The

weakness of the mother will be visited on the children. And whilst

women are educated to rely on their husbands for judgment, this

must ever be the consequence, for there is no improving an

understanding by halves, nor can any being act wisely from

imitation, because in every circumstance of life there is a kind of

individuality, which requires an exertion of judgment to modify

general rules. The being who can think justly in one track will

soon extend its intellectual empire; and she who has sufficient

judgment to manage her children will not submit, right or wrong, to

her husband, or patiently to the social laws which make a nonentity

of a wife. 

In public schools women, to guard against the errors of ignorance,

should be taught the elements of anatomy an medicine, not only to

enable them to take proper care of their own health, but to make

them rational nurses of their infants, parents, and husbands; for

the bills of mortality are swelled by the blunders of self-willed

old women, who give nostrums of their own without knowing anything

of the human frame. It is likewise proper, only in a domestic view,

to make women acquainted with the anatomy of the mind, by allowing

the sexes to associate together in every pursuit, and by leading

them to observe the progress of the human understanding in the

improvement of the sciences and arts--never forgetting the science

of morality, or the study of the political history of mankind. 

A man has been termed a microcosm, and every family might also be

called a state. States, it is true, have mostly been governed by

arts that disgrace the character of man, and the want of a just

constitution and equal laws have so perplexed the notions of the

worldly wise, that they more than question the reasonableness of

contending for the rights of humanity. Thus morality, polluted in

the national reservoir, sends off streams of vice to corrupt the

constituent parts of the body politic; but should more noble, or

rather more just, principles regulate the laws, which ought to be

the government of society, and not those who execute them, duty

might become the rule of private conduct. 

Besides, by the exercise of their bodies and minds women would

acquire that mental activity so necessary in the maternal

character, united with the fortitude that distinguishes steadiness

of conduct from the obstinate perverseness of weakness. For it is

dangerous to advise the indolent to be steady, because they

instantly become rigorous, and to save themselves trouble, punish

with severity faults that the patient fortitude of reason might

have prevented. 

But fortitude presupposes strength of mind, and is strength of mind

to be acquired by indolent acquiescence? by asking advice instead

of exerting the judgment? by obeying through fear, instead of

practising the forbearance which we all stand in need of ourselves?

The conclusion which I wish to draw is obvious. Make women rational

creatures and free citizens, and they will quickly become good

wives and mothers--that is, if men do not neglect the duties of

husbands and fathers. 

Discussing the advantages which a public and private education

combined, as I have sketched, might rationally be expected to

produce, I have dwelt most on such as are particularly relative to

the female world, because I think the female world pressed; yet the

gangrene, which the vices engendered by oppression have produced,

is not confined to the morbid part, but pervades society at large;

so that when I wish to see my sex become more like moral agents, my

heart bounds with the anticipation of the general diffusion of that

sublime contentment which only morality can diffuse.


[1]  I now particularly allude to the numerous academies in and

about London, and to the behaviour of the trading part of this


[2]  I remember a circumstance that once came under my own

observation, and raised my indignation. I went to visit a little

boy at a school where young children were prepared for a large one.

The master took me into the schoolroom, etc., but whilst I walked

down a broad gravel walk, I could not help observing that the grass

grew very luxuriantly on each sie of me. I immediately asked the

child some questions, and found that the poor boys were not allowed

to stir off the walk, and that the master sometimes permitted sheep

to be turned in to crop the untrodden grass. The tyrant of this

domain used to sit by a window that overlooked the prison yard, and

one nook turning from it, where the unfortunate babes could sport

freely, he enclosed, and planted it with potatoes. The wife

likewise was equally anxious to keep the children in order, lest

they should dirty or tear their clothes.

[3]  France.

[4]  Treating this part of the subject, I have borrowedsome hints

from a very sensible pamphlet, written by the late Bishop of Autun,

on "Public Education."

[5]  The Bishop of Autun's.

                          CHAPTER XIII





There are many follies in some degree peculiar to women--sins

against reason of commission as well as of omission--but all

flowing from ignorance or prejudice. I shall only point out such as

appear to be particularly injurious to their moral character. And

in animadverting on them, I wish especially to prove that the

weakness of mind and body, which men have endeavoured, impelled by

various motives, to perpetuate, prevents their discharging the

peculiar duty of their sex; for when weakness of body will not

permit them to suckle their children, and weakness of mind makes

them spoil their tempers, is woman in a natural state?

                            Section I

One glaring instance of the weakness which proceeds from ignorance

first claims attention, and calls for severe reproof. In this

metropolis a number of lurking leeches infamously gain a

subsistence by practising on the credulity of women, pretending to

cast nativities, to use the technical phrase; and many females who,

proud of their rank and fortune, look down on the vulgar with

sovereign contempt, show by this credulity that the distinction is

arbitrary, and that they have not sufficiently cultivated their

minds to rise above vulgar prejudices. Women, because they have not

been led to consider the knowledge of their duty as the one thing

necessary to know, or to live in the present moment by the

discharge of it, are very anxious to peep into futurity to learn

what they have to expect to render life interesting, and to break

the vacuum of ignorance. 

I must be allowed to expostulate seriously with the ladies who

follow these idle inventions; for ladies, mistresses of families,

are not ashamed to drive in their own carriages to door of the

cunning man.[1] And if any of them should use this work, I entreat

them to answer to their own hearts the following questions, not

forgetting that they are in presence of God: 

Do you believe that there is but one God, and that He is powerful,

wise, and good? 

Do you believe that all things were created by Him, and that all

beings are dependent on Him?

Do you rely on His wisdom, so conspicuous in His works, and your

own frame, and are you convinced that He has ordered things which

do not come under the cognisance of your senses, in the same

perfect harmony, to fulfil His designs?

Do you acknowledge that the power of looking into futurity, I

seeing things that are not, as if they were, is an attribute of the

Creator? And should He, by an impression on the minds His

creatures, think fit to impart to them some event hid the shades of

time yet unborn, to whom would the secret revealed by immediate

inspiration? The opinion of ages will answer this question--to

reverend old men, to people distinguished for eminent piety. 

The oracles of old were thus delivered to the service of the God

who was supposed to inspire them. The glare of worldly pomp which

surrounded these impostors, the respect paid to them by artful

politicians, who knew how to avail themselves of this useful engine

to bend the necks of the strong under the dominion of the cunning,

spread a sacred mysterious veil of sanctity over their lies and

abominations. Impressed by such solemn devotional parade, a Greek

or Roman lady might be excused, if she inquired of the oracle, when

she was anxious to pry into futurity, or inquire about some dubious

event, and her inquiries, however contrary to reason, could not be

reckoned impious. But can the professors of Christianity ward off

that imputation? Can a Christian suppose that the favourites of the

Most High, the highly favoured, would be obliged to lurk in

disguise, and practise the most dishonest tricks to cheat silly

women out of the money, which the poor cry for in vain?

Say not that such questions are an insult to common sense, it is

your own conduct, O ye foolish women! which throws an odium on your

sex. And these reflections should make you shudder at your

thoughtlessness and irrational devotion. For I do not suppose that

all of you laid aside your religion, such as it is, when you

entered those mysterious dwellings. Yet, as I have throughout

supposed myself talking to ignorant women--for ignorant ye are in

the most emphatical sense of the word--it would be absurd to reason

with you on the egregious folly of desiring to know what the

Supreme Wisdom has concealed. 

Probably you would not understand me were I to attempt to show you

that it would be absolutely inconsistent with the grand purpose of

life, that of rendering human creatures wise and virtuous; and

that, were it sanctioned by God, it would disturb the order

established in creation; and if it be not sanctioned by God, do you

expect to hear truth? Can events be foretold, events which have not

yet assumed a body to become subject to mortal inspection, can they

be foreseen by a vicious worldling, who pampers his appetites by

preying on the foolish ones? 

Perhaps, however, you devoutly believe in the devil, and imagine,

to shift the question, that he may assist his votaries; but, if

really respecting the power of such a being, an enemy to goodness

and to God, can you go to church after having been under such an

obligation to him? 

From these delusions to those still more fashionable deceptions,

practised by the whole tribe of magnetisers, the transition is very

natural. With respect to them, it is equally proper to ask women a

few questions. 

Do you know anything of the construction of the human frame? if

not, it is proper that you should be told what every child ought to

know, that when its admirable economy has been disturbed by

intemperance or indolence, I speak not of violent disorders, but of

chronical diseases, it must be brought into a healthy state again,

by slow degrees, and if the functions of life have not been

materially injured, regimen, another word for temperance, air,

exercise, and a few medicines, prescribed by persons who have

studied the human body, are the only human means, yet discovered,

of recovering that inestimable blessing health, that will bear


Do you then believe that these magnetisers, who, by hocus pocus

tricks, pretend to work a miracle, are delegated by God, or

assisted by the solver of all these kind of difficulties--the


Do they, when they put to flight, as it is said, disorders that

have baffled the powers of medicine, work in conformity to the

light of reason? or, do they effect these wonderful cures by

supernatural aid? 

By a communication, an adept may answer, with the world of spirits.

A noble privilege, it must be allowed. Some of the ancients mention

familiar demons, who guarded them from danger by kindly intimating,

we cannot guess in what manner, when any danger was nigh; or,

pointed out what they ought to undertake. Yet the men who laid

claim to this privilege, out of the order of nature, insisted that

it was the reward, or consequence, of superior temperance and

piety. But the present workers of wonders are not raised above

their fellows by superior temperance or sanctity. They do not cure

for the love of God, but money. These are the priests of quackery,

though it is true they have not the convenient expedient of selling

masses for souls in purgatory, or churches where they can display

crutches, and models of limbs made sound by a touch or a word. 

I am not conversant with the technical terms, or initiated into the

arcana, therefore I may speak improperly; but it is clear that men

who will not conform to the law of reason, and earn a subsistence

in an honest way, by degrees, are very fortunate in becoming

acquainted with such obliging spirits. We cannot, indeed, give them

credit for either great sagacity or goodness, else they would have

chosen more noble instruments, when they wished to show themselves

the benevolent friends of man. 

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


From the whole tenor of the dispensations of Providence, it appears

evident to sober reason, that certain vices produce certain

effects; and can anyone so grossly insult the wisdom of God, as to

suppose that a miracle will be allowed to disturb His general laws,

to restore to health the intemperate and vicious, merely to enable

them to pursue the same course with impunity? Be whole, and sin no

more, said Jesus. And, are greater miracles to be performed by

those who do not follow His footsteps, who healed the body to reach

the mind?  

The mentioning of the name of Christ, after such vile impostors,

may displease some of my readers--I respect their warmth; but let

them not forget that the followers of these delusions bear His

name, and profess to be the disciples of Him, who said, by their

works we should know who were the children of God or the servants

of sin. I allow that it is easier to touch the body of a saint, or

to be magnetised, than to restrain our appetites or govern our

passions; but health of body or mind can only be recovered by these

means, or we make the Supreme Judge partial and revengeful. 

Is He a man that He should change, or punish out of resentment?

He--the common father, wounds but to heal, say reason, and our

irregularities producing certain consequences, we are forcibly

shown the nature of vice: that thus learning to know good from

evil, by experience, we may hate one and love the other, in

proportion to the wisdom which we attain. The poison contains the

antidote; and we either reform our evil habits and cease to sin

against our own bodies, to use the forcible language of Scripture,

or a premature death, the punishment of sin, snaps the thread of


Here an awful stop is put to our inquiries. But, why should I

conceal my sentiments? Considering the attributes of God, I believe

that whatever punishment may follow, will tend, like the anguish of

disease, to show the malignity of vice, for the purpose of

reformation. Positive punishment appears so contrary to the nature

of God, discoverable in all His works, and in our own reason, that

I could sooner believe that the Deity paid no attention to the

conduct of men, than that He punished without the benevolent design

of reforming. 

To suppose only that an all-wise and powerful Being, as good as He

is great, should create a being foreseeing, that after fifty or

sixty years of feverish existence, it would be plunged into

never-ending woe--is blasphemy. On what will the worm feed that is

never to die? on folly, on ignorance, say ye--I should blush

indignantly at drawing the natural conclusion could I insert it,

and wish to withdraw myself from the wing of my God! On such a

supposition, I speak with reverence, He would be a consuming fire.

We should wish, though vainly, to fly from His presence when fear

absorbed love, and darkness involved all His counsels! 

I know that many devout people boast of submitting to the will of

God blindly, as to an arbitrary sceptre or rod, on the same

principle as the Indians worship the devil. In other words, like

people in the common concerns of life, they homage to power, and

cringe under the foot that can crush them. Rational religion, on

the contrary, is a submission to the will of a being so perfectly

wise, that all he wills must be directed by the proper motive--must

be reasonable. 

And, if thus we respect God, can we give credit to mysterious

insinuations, which insult His laws? can we believe, though it

should stare us in the face, that He would work a miracle to

authorise confusion by sanctioning an error? Yet we must either

allow these impious conclusions, or treat with contempt every

promise to restore health to a diseased body by supernatural means,

or to foretell the incidents that can only be foreseen by God.

                           SECTION II

Another instance of that feminine weakness of character, often

produced by a confined education, is a romantic twist of the mind,

which has been very properly termed sentimental. 

Women subjected by ignorance to their sensations, and only taught

to look for happiness in love, refine on sensual feelings and adopt

metaphysical notions respecting that passion, which lead them

shamefully to neglect the duties of life, and frequently in the

midst of these sublime refinements they plump into actual vice. 

These are the women who are amused by the reveries of the stupid

novelists, who, knowing little of human nature, work up stale

tales, and describe meretricious scenes, all retailed in a

sentimental jargon, which equally tend to corrupt the taste, and

draw the heart aside from its daily duties. I do not mention the

understanding, because never having been exercised, its slumbering

energies rest inactive, like the lurking particles of fire which

are supposed universally to pervade matter. 

Females, in fact, denied all political privileges, and not allowed,

as married women, excepting in criminal cases, a civil existence,

have their attention naturally drawn from the interest of the whole

community to that of the minute parts, though the private duty of

any member of society must be very imperfectly performed when not

connected with the general good. The mighty business of female life

is to please, and restrained from entering into more important

concerns by political and civil oppression, sentiments become

events, and reflection deepens what it should, and would have

effaced, if the understanding had been allowed to take a wider


But, confined to trifling employments, they naturally imbibe

opinions which the only kind of reading calculated to interest an

innocent frivolous mind inspires. Unable to grasp anything great,

is it surprising that they find the reading of history a very 

dry task, and disquisitions addressed to the understanding

intolerably tedious, and almost unintelligible? Thus are they

necessarily dependent on the novelist for amusement. Yet, when I

exclaim against novels, I mean when contrasted with those works

which exercise the understanding and regulate the imagination. For

any kind of reading I think better than leaving a blank still a

blank, because the mind must receive a degree of enlargement and

obtain a little strength by a slight exertion of its thinking

powers; besides, even the productions that are only addressed to

the imagination, raise the reader a little above the gross

gratification of appetites, to which the mind has not given a shade

of delicacy. 

This observation is the result of experience; for I have known

several notable women, and one in particular, who was a very good

woman--as good as such a narrow mind would allow her to be, who

took care that her daughters (three in number) should never see a

novel. As she was a woman of fortune and fashion, they had various

masters to attend them, and a sort of menial governess to watch

their footsteps. From their masters they learned how tables,

chairs, etc., were called in French and Italian; but as the few

books thrown in their way were far above their capacities, or

devotional, they neither acquired ideas nor sentiments, and passed

their time, when not compelled to repeat words, in dressing,

quarrelling with each other, or conversing with their maids by

stealth, till they were brought into company as marriageable. 

Their mother, a widow, was busy in the meantime in keeping up her

connections, as she termed a numerous acquaintance, lest her girls

should want a proper introduction into the great world. And these

young ladies, with minds vulgar in every sense of the word, and

spoiled tempers, entered life puffed up with notions of their own

consequence, and looking down with contempt on those who could not

vie with them in dress and parade. 

With respect to love, Nature, or their Nurses, had taken care to

teach them the physical meaning of the word; and, as they had few

topics of conversation, and fewer refinements of sentiment, they

expressed their gross wishes not in very delicate phrases, when

they spoke freely, talking of matrimony. 

Could these girls have been injured by the perusal of novels? I

almost forgot a shade in the character of one of them; she affected

a simplicity bordering on folly, and with a simper would utter the

most immodest remarks and questions, the full meaning of which she

had learned whilst secluded from the world, and to speak in her

mother's presence, who governed with a hand; they were all

educated, as she prided herself, in a most exemplary manner, and

read their chapters before breakfast, never touching a silly novel.

This only one instance; but I recollect many other women not led by

degrees to proper studies, and not permitted to choose for

themselves, have indeed been overgrown children; or have obtained,

by mixing in the world, a little of what is termed common sense;

that is, a distinct manner of seeing common occurrences, as they

stand detached; but what deserves name of intellect, the power of

gaining, general or abstract, or even intermediate ones, was out of

the question. Their minds were quiescent, and when they were not

roused by sensible objects and employments of that kind, they were

spirited, would cry, or go to sleep. 

When, therefore, I advise my sex not to read such flimsy works, it

is to induce them to read something superior; for I coincide in

opinion with a sagacious man, who, having a daughter and niece

under his care, pursued a very different with each. 

The niece, who had considerable abilities, had, before she left to

his guardianship, been indulged in desultory reading. Her he

endeavoured to lead, and did lead to history and moral essays; but

his daughter, whom a fond weak mother had indulged, and who

consequently was averse to everything like fornication, he allowed

to read novels; and used to justify his conduct by saying, that if

she ever attained a relish for reading them, he should have some

foundation to work upon; and that erroneous opinions were better

than none at all. 

In fact, the female mind has been so totally neglected, that

knowledge was only to be acquired from this muddy source, till from

reading novels some women of superior talents learned to despise


The best method, I believe, that can be adopted to correct a

fondness for novels is to ridicule them: not indiscriminately, for

then it would have little effect; but, if a judicious person, with

some turn for humour, would read several to a young girl and point

out both by tones, and apt comparisons with pathetic incidents and

heroic characters in history, how foolishly and ridiculously they

caricatured human nature, just opinions might substituted instead

of romantic sentiments. 

In one respect, however, the majority of both sexes resemble, 

and equally show a want of taste and modesty. Ignorant women,

forced to be chaste to preserve their reputation, allow their

imagination to revel in the unnatural and meretricious scenes

sketched by the novel writers of the day, slighting as insipid the

sober dignity, and matron graces of history,[2] whilst men carry

the same vitiated taste into life, and fly for amusement to the

wanton, from the unsophisticated charms of virtue, and the grave

respectability of sense. 

Besides, the reading of novels makes women, and particularly ladies

of fashion, very fond of using strong expressions and superlatives

in conversation; and, though the dissipated artificial life which

they lead prevents their cherishing any strong legitimate passion,

the language of passion in affected tones slips for ever from their

glib tongues, and every trifle produces those phosphoric bursts

which only mimic in the dark the flame of passion.

                         SECTION III   

Ignorance and the mistaken cunning that nature sharpens in weak

heads as a principle of self-preservation, render women very fond

of dress, and produce all the vanity which such a fondness may

naturally be expected to generate, to the exclusion of emulation

and magnanimity. 

I agree with Rousseau that the physical part of the art of pleasing

consists in ornaments, and for that very reason I should guard

girls against the contagious fondness for dress so common to weak

women, that they may not rest in the physical part. Yet, weak are

the women who imagine that they can long please without the aid of

the mind, or, in other words, without the moral art of pleasing.

But the moral art, if it be not a profanation to use the word art,

when alluding to the grace which is an effect of virtue, and not

the motive of action, is never to be found with ignorance; the

sportiveness of innocence, so pleasing to refined libertines of

both sexes, is widely different in its essence from this superior


A strong inclination for external ornaments ever appears in

barbarous states, only the men not the women adorn themselves; for

where women are allowed to be so far on a level with men, society

has advanced, at least, one step in civilisation.

The attention to dress, therefore, which has been thought a sexual

propensity, I think natural to mankind. But I ought to express

myself with more precision. When the mind is not sufficiently

opened to take pleasure in reflection, the body will be adorned

with sedulous care; and ambition will appear in tattooing or

painting it. 

So far is this first inclination carried, that even the hellish

yoke of slavery cannot stifle the savage desire of admiration which

the black heroes inherit from both their parents, for all the

hardly earned savings of a slave are commonly expended in a little

tawdry finery. And I have seldom known a good male or female

servant that was not particularly fond of dress. Their clothes were

their riches; and, I argue from analogy, that the fondness for

dress, so extravagant in females, arises from the same cause--want

of cultivation of mind. When men meet they converse about business,

politics, or literature; but, says Swift, "how naturally do women

apply their hands to each other's lappets and ruffles." And very

natural is it--for they have not any business to interest them,

have not a taste for literature, and they find politics dry,

because they have not acquired a love for mankind by turning their

thoughts to the grand pursuits that exalt the human race, and

promote general happiness. 

Besides, various are the paths to power and fame which by accident

or choice men pursue, and though they jostle against each other,

for men of the same profession are seldom friends, yet there is a

much greater number of their fellow-creatures with whom they never

clash. But women are very differently situated with respect to each

other--for they are all rivals. 

Before marriage it is their business to please men; and after, with

a few exceptions, they follow the same scene with all the

persevering pertinacity of instinct. Even virtuous women never

forget their sex in company, for they are for ever trying to make

themselves agreeable. A female beauty, and a male wit, appear to be

equally anxious to draw the attention of the company to themselves;

and the animosity of contemporary wits is proverbial. 

Is it then surprising, that when the sole ambition of woman centres

in beauty, and interest gives vanity additional force perpetual

rivalships should ensue? They are all running the same race, and

would rise above the virtue of mortals, if they did not view each

other with a suspicious and even envious eye. 

An immoderate fondness for dress, for pleasure, and for sway, 

are the passions of savages; the passions that occupy those

uncivilised beings who have not yet extended the dominion of the

mind, or even learned to think with the energy necessary to

concatenate that abstract train of thought which produces

principles. And that women from their education and the present

state of civilised life, are in the same condition, cannot, I think

be controverted. To laugh at them then, or satirise the follies of

a being who is never to be allowed to act freely from the light of

her own reason, is as absurd as cruel; for, that they who are

taught blindly to obey authority, will endeavour cunningly to elude

it, is most natural and certain. 

Yet let it be proved that they ought to obey man implicitly, and I

shall immediately agree that it is woman's duty to cultivate a

fondness for dress, in order to please, and a propensity to cunning

for her own preservation. 

The virtues, however, which are supported by ignorance must ever be

wavering--the house built on sand could not endure a storm. It is

almost unnecessary to draw the inference. If women are to be made

virtuous by authority, which is a contradiction in terms, let them

be immured in seraglios and watched with a jealous eye. Fear not

that the iron will enter into their souls--for the souls that can

bear such treatment are made of yielding materials, just animated

enough to give life to the body.

     Matter too soft a lasting mark to bear 

     And best distinguished by black, brown, or fair. 

The most cruel wounds will of course soon heal, and they may still

people the world, and dress to please man--all the purpose! which

certain celebrated writers have allowed that they were created to


                          SECTION IV   

Women are supposed to possess more sensibility, and even humanity,

than men, and their strong attachments and instantaneous emotions

of compassion are given as proofs; but the clinging affection of

ignorance has seldom anything noble in it, and may mostly be

resolved into selfishness, as well as the affection of children and

brutes. I have known many weak women whose sensibility was entirely

engrossed by their husbands; and as for their humanity, it was very

faint indeed, or rather it was only a transient emotion of

compassion. Humanity does not consist "in a squeamish ear," says an

eminent orator belongs to the mind as well as the nerves." 

But this kind of exclusive affection, though it degrades the

individual, should not be brought forward as a proof of the

inferiority of the sex, because it is the natural consequence of

confined views; for even women of superior sense, having their

attention turned to little employments, and private plans, rarely

rise to heroism, unless when spurred on by love! and love, as an

heroic passion, like genius, appears but once in an age. therefore

agree with the moralist who asserts, "that women have seldom so

much generosity as men"; and that their narrow affections, to which

justice and humanity are often sacrificed, render the sex

apparently inferior, especially, as they are commonly inspired by

men; but I contend that the heart would expand as the understanding

gained strength, if women re not depressed from their cradles. 

I know that a little sensibility, and great weakness, will produce

a strong sexual attachment, and that reason must cement friendship;

consequently, I allow that more friendship is to be found in the

male than the female world, and that men have a higher sense of

justice. The exclusive affections women seem indeed to resemble

Cato's most unjust love for his country. He wished to crush

Carthage, not to save Rome, but to promote its vain-glory; and, in

general, it is to similar principles that humanity is sacrificed,

for genuine duties support each other.

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


                          SECTION V   

As the rearing of children, that is, the laying a foundation of

sound health both of body and mind in the rising generation, has

justly been insisted on as the peculiar destination of woman

ignorance that incapacitates them must be contrary to the order of

things. And I contend that their minds can take in much more, and

ought to do so, or they will never become sensible mothers. Many

men attend to the breeding of horses overlook the management of the

stable, who would, strange want of sense and feeling! think

themselves degraded by paying attention to the nursery; yet, how

many children are absolutely murdered by the ignorance of women!

But when they escape, and are destroyed neither by unnatural

negligence nor blind fondness, how few are managed properly with

respect to the infant mind! So that to break the spirit, allowed to

become vicious at home, a child is sent to school; and the methods

taken there, which must be taken to keep a number of children in

order, scatter the seeds of almost every vice in the soil thus

forcibly torn up. 

I have sometimes compared the struggles of these poor children, who

ought never to have felt restraint, nor would, had they been always

held in with an even hand, to the despairing plunges of a spirited

filly, which I have seen breaking on a strand: its feet sinking

deeper and deeper in the sand every time it endeavoured to throw

its rider, till at last it sullenly submitted. 

I have always found horses, animals I am attached to, very

tractable when treated with humanity and steadiness, so that I

doubt whether the violent methods taken to break them, do not

essentially injure them; I am, however, certain that a child should

never be thus forcibly tamed after it had injudiciously been

allowed to run wild: for every violation of justice and reason, in

the treatment of children, weakens their reason. And, so early do

they catch a character, that the base of the moral character,

experience leads me to infer, is fixed before their seventh year,

the period during which women are allowed the sole management of

children. Afterwards it too often happens that half the business of

education is to correct, and very imperfectly is it done, if done

hastily, the faults, which they would never have acquired if their

mothers had had more understanding. 

One striking instance of the folly of women must not be omitted.

The manner in which they treat servants in the presence of

children, permitting them to suppose that they ought to wait on

them, and bear their humours. A child should always be made to

receive assistance from a man or woman as a favour; and, as the

first lesson of independence, they should practically be taught, by

the example of their mother, not to require that personal

attendance, which it is an insult to humanity to require, when in

health; and instead of being led to assume airs of consequence, a

sense of their own weakness should first make them feel the natural

equality of man. Yet, how frequently have I indignantly heard

servants imperiously called to put children to bed, and sent away

again and again, because master or miss hung about mamma, to stay

a little longer. Thus made slavishly to attend the little idol, all

those most disgusting humours were exhibited which characterise a

spoiled child. 

In short, speaking of the majority of mothers, they leave their

children entirely to the care of servants; or, because they are

their children, treat them as if they were little demi-gods though

I have always observed, that the women who thus idolise their

children, seldom show common humanity to servants, or feel the

least tenderness for any children but their own. 

It is, however, these exclusive affections, and an individual

manner of seeing things, produced by ignorance, which keep women

for ever at a stand, with respect to improvement, and make many of

them dedicate their lives to their children only to weaken their

bodies and spoil their tempers, frustrating also any plan of

education that a more rational father may adopt. for unless a

mother concur, the father who restrains will ever be considered as

a tyrant. 

But, fulfilling the duties of a mother, a woman with a sound

constitution, may still keep her person scrupulously neat, and

assist to maintain her family, if necessary, or by reading and

conversation with both sexes, indiscriminately, improve her mind.

For Nature has so wisely ordered things, that did women suckle

their children, they would preserve their own health and there

would be such an interval between the birth of each child, that we

should seldom see a houseful of babes. And did they pursue a plan

of conduct, and not waste their time in following the fashionable

vagaries of dress, the management of their household and children

need not shut them out from literature, or prevent their attaching

themselves to a science with that steady eye which strengthens the

mind, or practising one of the fine arts that cultivate the taste. 

But, visiting to display finery, card-playing, and balls, not to

mention the idle bustle of morning trifling, draw women from their

duty to render them insignificant, to render them pleasing,

according to the present acceptation of the word, to every man but

their husband. For a round of pleasures in which the affections are

not exercised, cannot be said to improve the understanding, though

it be erroneously called seeing the world. yet the heart is

rendered cold and averse to duty, by such a senseless intercourse,

which becomes necessary from habit even when it has ceased to


But, we shall not see women affectionate till more equality be

established in society, till ranks are confounded and women freed,

neither shall we see that dignified domestic happiness, the simple

grandeur of which cannot be relished by ignorant or vitiated minds;

nor will the important task of education ever be properly begun

till the person of a woman is no longer preferred to her mind. For

it would be as wise to expect corn from tares, or figs from

thistles, as that a foolish ignorant woman should be a good mother.

                          SECTION VI   

It is not necessary to inform the sagacious reader, now I enter on

my concluding reflections, that the discussion of this subject

merely consists in opening a few simple principles, and clearing

away the rubbish which obscured them. But, as all readers are not

sagacious, I must be allowed to add some explanatory remarks to

bring the subject home to reason--to that sluggish reason, which

supinely takes opinions on trust, and obstinately supports them to

spare itself the labour of thinking. 

Moralists have unanimously agreed, that unless virtue be nursed by

liberty, it will never attain due strength--and what they say of

man I extend to mankind, insisting that in all cases morals must be

fixed on immutable principles; and, that the being cannot be termed

rational or virtuous, who obeys any authority, but that of reason. 

To render women truly useful members of society, I argue that they

should be led, by having their understandings cultivated on a large

scale, to acquire a rational affection for their country, founded

on knowledge, because it is obvious that we are little interested

about what we do not understand. And to render this general

knowledge of due importance, I have endeavoured to show that

private duties are never properly fulfilled unless the

understanding enlarges the heart; and that public virtue is only an

aggregate of private. But, the distinctions established in society

undermine both, by beating out the solid gold of virtue, till it

becomes only the tinsel-covering of vice; for whilst wealth renders

a man more respectable than virtue, wealth will be sought before

virtue; and, whilst women's persons are caressed, when a childish

simper shows an absence of mind--the mind will lie fallow. Yet,

true voluptuousness must proceed from the mind--for what can equal

the sensations produced by mutual affection, supported by mutual

respect? What are the cold, or feverish caresses of appetite, but

sin embracing death, compared with the modest overflowings of a

pure heart and exalted imagination? Yes, let me tell the libertine

of fancy when he despises understanding in woman-- that the mind,

which he disregards, gives life to the enthusiastic affection from

which rapture, short-lived as it is, alone can flow! And, that,

without virtue, a sexual attachment must expire like a tallow

candle in the socket, creating intolerable disgust. To prove this,

I need only observe, that men who have wasted great part of their

lives with women, and with whom they have sought for pleasure with

eager thirst, entertain the meanest opinion of the sex. Virtue,

true refiner of joy!--if foolish men were to fright thee from

earth, in order to give loose to all their appetites without a

check--some sensual wight of taste would scale the heavens to

invite thee back, to give a zest to pleasure! 

That women at present are by ignorance rendered vicious, is, I

think, not to be disputed; and, that salutary effects tending to

improve mankind might be expected from a REVOLUTION in female

manners, appears, at least, with a face of probability, to rise out

of the observation. For as marriage has been termed the parent of

those endearing charities which draw man from the brutal herd, the

corrupting intercourse that wealth, idleness, and folly, produce

between the sexes, is more universally injurious to morality than

all the other vices of mankind collectively considered. To

adulterous lust the most sacred duties are sacrificed, because

before marriage, men, by a promiscuous intimacy with women, learned

to consider love as a selfish gratification--learned to separate it

not only from esteem, but from the affection merely built on habit

which mixes a little humanity with it. Justice and friendship are

also set at defiance, and that purity of taste is vitiated which

would naturally lead a man to relish an artless display of

affection rather than affected airs. But that noble simplicity of

affection, which dares to appear unadorned, has few attractions for

the libertine, though it be the charm, which by cementing the

matrimonial tie, secures to the pledges of a warmer passion the

necessary parental attention; for children will never be properly

educated till friendship subsists between parents. Virtue flies

from a house divided against itself--and a whole legion of devils

take up their residence there. 

The affection of husbands and wives cannot be pure when they have

so few sentiments in common, and when so little confidence is

established at home, as must be the case when their pursuits are so

different. That intimacy from which tenderness should flow, will

not, cannot subsist between the vicious. 

Contending, therefore, that the sexual distinction which men have

so warmly insisted upon, is arbitrary, I have dwelt on an

observation, that several sensible men, with whom I have conversed

on the subject, allowed to be well founded; and it is simply this,

that the little chastity to be found amongst men, and consequent

disregard of modesty, tend to degrade both sexes; and further, that

the modesty of women, characterised as such, will often be only the

artful veil of wantonness instead of being the natural reflection

of purity, till modesty be universally respected. 

From the tyranny of man, I firmly believe, the greater number of

female follies proceed; and the cunning, which I allow makes at

present a part of their character, I likewise have repeatedly

endeavoured to prove, is produced by oppression. 

Were not dissenters, for instance, a class of people, with strict

truth, characterised as cunning? And may I not lay some stress on

this fact to prove, that when any power but reason curbs the free

spirit of man, dissimulation is practised, and the various shifts

of art are naturally called forth? Great attention to decorum,

which was carried to a degree of scrupulosity, and all that puerile

bustle about trifles and consequential solemnity, which Butler's

caricature of a dissenter brings before the imagination, shaped

their persons as well as their minds in the mould of prim

littleness. I speak collectively, for I know how many ornaments in

human nature have been enrolled amongst sectaries; yet, I assert,

that the same narrow prejudice for their sect, which women have for

their families, prevailed in the dissenting part of the community,

however worthy in other respects; and also that the same timid

prudence, or headstrong efforts, often disgraced the exertions of

both. oppression thus formed many of the features of their

character perfectly to coincidence with that of the oppressed half

of mankind; for is it not notorious that dissenters were, like

women, fond of deliberating together, and asking advice of each

other, till by a complication of little contrivances, some little

end was brought about? A similar attention to preserve their

reputation was conspicuous in the dissenting and female world, and

was produced by a similar cause. 

Asserting the rights which women in common with men ought to

contend for, I have not attempted to extenuate their faults; but to

prove them to be the natural consequence of their education and

station in society. If so, it is reasonable to suppose that they

will change their character, and correct their vices and follies,

when they are allowed to be free in a physical, moral, and civil


Let woman share the rights, and she will emulate the virtues of

man; for she must grow more perfect when emancipated, or justify

the authority that chains such a weak being to her duty. If the

latter, it will be expedient to open a fresh trade with Russia for

whips: a present which a father should always make to his

son-in-law on his wedding day, that a husband may keep his whole

family in order by the same means; and without any violation of

justice reign, wielding this sceptre, sole master of his house,

because he is the only thing in it who has reason:--the divine,

indefeasible earthly sovereignty breathed into man by the Master of

the universe. Allowing this position, women have not any inherent

rights to claim; and, by the same rule, their duties vanish, for

rights and duties are inseparable. 

Be just then, O ye men of understanding: and mark not more severely

what women do amiss than the vicious tricks of the horse or the ass

for whom ye provide provender--and allow her the privileges of

ignorance, to whom ye deny the rights of reason, or ye will be

worse than Egyptian task-masters expecting virtue where Nature has

not given understanding.


[1]  I once lived in the neighbourhood of one of these men, a

handsome man, and saw with surprise and indignation women, whose

appearance and attendance bespoke that rank in which females are

supposed to receive a superior education, flock to his door.

[2]  I am not now alluding to that superiority of mind which leads

to the creation of ideal beauty, when life, surveyed with a

penetrating eye, appears a tragi-comedy, in which little can be

seen to satisfy the heart without the help of fancy.

[3]  I had further enlarged on the advantages which might

reasonably be expected to result from an improvement in female

manners, towards the general reformation of society; but it

appeared to me that such reflections would more properly close the

last volume.