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even of the most enlightened, as the^ tend to
the casting down of those * high imaginations*
which women of genius are too much tempted
to indulge. t

For instance ; ladies whose natural vanity has
been aggravated by a false education, may look
down on economy as a vulgar attainment ; un-
worthy of the attention of an highly cultivatec^
intellect ; but this is the false estimate of a shal-
low tnind. Economy, such as a woman of for-
tnne is called on to practise, is not merely the
potty detail of small daily expenses, the shabby
curtailments and stinted parsimony of a little
mind, operating on litUe concerns ; but it is the
excpcise of a sound judgment exerted in the
comprehensive outline of order, of arrangements,
of distribution ; of regulations by which alone
w'ell governed societies, great and small, sub-
sist She who has the best regulated mind will,
other things being equal, have the best regulat.
ed family. As in the superintendaiice of the
universe, wisdom is seen in its effects ; and as
in the visible works of Providence that which
goes on with such beautiful regularity is the re-
suit not of chance but of design, so that manage-

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ment which seems the most ca<«j is commonly
the consequence of the best concerted plan : and
a well concerted plan is seldom the offspring of
an ordinary mind. A sound economy is a sound
understanding brought into action : it is calcu-
lation realized ; it is the doctrine of proportion
reduced to practice: it is foreseeing conse.
quenres, and guarding against them ; it is ex-
pecting contingencies and being prepared for
them. The difference is, that to a narrow
minded vulgar economist, the details are conti-
nually present; shd is overwhelmed by their
weight, and is perpetually bespeaking your pity
(or her iaboars, and your praise for her exer-
lions ; she is afraid you will not see how much
the is harassed. She is not satisfied that the
machine moves harmoniously, unless she is per-
petually exposing every secret spring to obser.
ration. Little events and trivial operations en-
gross her whole soul , while a woman of sense,
having provided for their probable recurrence,
P^uards against the inconveniences, without be-
mg disconcerted by the casual obstructions
which they offer to her general scheme. Sub-
^ irdinate expenses and inconsiderable retrench,
ments should not swallow ap that attention
which is better bestowed on regulating the ge.
neral scale of expense ; correcting and reducing
an overgrown establishment, and reforming ra-
dical and growing excesses.

' Superior talents, however, are not so common,
as, by their frequency, to offer much disturb-
ance to the general course of human affairs :
and many a lady, who tacitly accuses herself of
neglecting her ordinary duties because she is a
feniui^ will perhaps be found oflen to accuse
nerself as unjustly as good St Jerome, when he
hunenU that be was beaten by the angel for be-
Ingtoo Ciceronian in bis style.

The truth is, women who are so puf&d up
with the conceit of talents as to neglect the pUin
duties of life, will not frequently be found to be
women of the best abilities. And here may the
author be allowed the gratification of observing,
that those women of i^ genius and extensive
knowledge, whose friendship has conferred ho-
nour and happiness on her own life, have been,
in general, eminent for economy and the prac-
tice of domestic virtues ; and have risen superior
to the poor affectation of neglecting the duties
and despising tiie knowledge of common life,
with which Hterary women nave been frequent-
ly, and not always unjustly, accused.

A romantic girl with a pretension to senti-
ment, which her still more ignorant friends
mistake for genius (for in the empire of the blind
the one-eyed are kings) and possessing some-
thing of a natural ear, has perhaps in her child-
hood exhausted all the images of grief, and love,
and fancy picked up in her desultory poetical
reading, in an elegy on a sick linnet, or a son-
net on a dead lap-dog; she begins thencefor-
ward to be considered as a prodigy in her little
circle; surrounded with fond and flattering
fViends, every avenue to truth is shut out ; she
has no opportunity of learning that her fame is
derivod not from her powers, but her position ;
and that when an impartial critic shall have
made all the necessary deductions, such as —
that she is a neighb >ur, that she is a relation,

I that she is a female, that she is yoong, that aha
I has had no advantages, that she is pretty per-
I haps — when her veraee come to be stripped of
all their extraneous appendages, and the hit
author is driven off her * vantage ground* of
partiality, sex, and favour, she will commonly
sink to the level of ordinary capacities. Whife
those more quiet women, who hsve meekly sat
down in the humble shades of prose and |hii.
dence, by a patient perseverance in rational stu-
dies, rise afler wards much higher in the scale
of intellect, and acquire a much larger stock of
sound knowledge for far better purposes than
mere display. And though it may seem a con-
tradiction, yet it will generally be found true,
that girls who take to scribble, are the least stn-
dious, the least reflecting, and the least rational.
They early acquire a false confidence in theb
own unassisted powers : it becomes more grati-
fying to their natural vanity to be always pear>
ing out their minds on paper, than to be draw-
ing into them fresh ideas from richer soorcee.
The original stock, small perhaps at first, is
soon spent The subsequent efforts |;row more
and more feeble, if the mind which is oontinQ.
ally exhausting itselC be not also contimtaUy
replenished ; till the latter compositions become
little more than reproductions of the same ideaa^
and fki|(ter copies of the same images, a little
varied and modified perhaps, and not a little di
luted and enfeebled.

It will be necessary to combat vigilantly thai
favourite plea of lively ignorance, uiat stedj it
an enemy to originality. Correct the judginenl,
while you humUe the vanity of the young ub-
taught pretender, by convincing her that thoas
halflfbrmed thoughts and undigMted ideaawh.ch
she considers as proofs of her invention, prove
only, that she wants taste and knowledge. That
while conversation must pdish and reflecticn
invigorate her ideas, she most improve and en-
large them by the accession of varioos kinds of
virtue and elegant literature ; and that the cul-
tivated mind will repay with large interest the
seeds sown in it by judicious study. Let it be
observed, I am by no means encouraging ^onng
ladies to turn authors: I am only remmding
them, that

Aatbon befbre they write diould read.

I am only putting them in mind that to be Ig-
norant is not to bb original

These eelf-taaght, and self-dependant scrib-
biers pant fbr the onmeriled and unattainable
praise of fiincy and of genius, while they disdain
the commendation of judgment, know ledge, and
perseverance which would probably be within
their reach. To extoK admiratir*u they are ac-
customed to boast of an impossible rapidity in
composing ; and while they insinuate how Uttle
time their performances cost them, they intend
you should infer how perfect they might have
made them had they condescended to the drud^
ery of application: but application with them
implies defect of genius. They take superfluous
pains to convince you that there was neither
learning nor labour employed in the work fbr
which they solicit your praise : Alas ! the judi*
cious eye too soon perceives it ! though it does
not perceive that native strength and mother

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wit, whioh in works of real genius make some
unenos for the negligence, which jet they do
not justify. But instead of extolling those effu-
■ions ibr their facility, it would be kind in
friends rather to blame them for their crudeness :
and when the ^oung candidates for fame, are
eager to prove in how short a time such a poem
has been struck off, it would be well to regret
that they had not either taken a longer time, or
refrained from writin? at all ; as in the former
case the work would have been less defective,
and in the latter the writer would have discover-
ed more humility^ and selfUlistrust

A general capacity for luiowledge, and the
cultivation of the understanding at large, will
always put a woman into the best state of di-
recting her pursuits into those particular chan-
nels which her destination In life mav ailer-
wards require. But she should be carefully in-
structed that her talents are only a means to a
still higher attainment, and that she is not to
rest in them as an end : that merely to exercise
them as instruments for the acquisition of fame
and the promotion of pleasure is subversive of
her delicay as a woman, and ccmtrary to the
spirit of a christian*

Study, therefore, is to be considered as the
means of strengthening the mind, and of fitting
it for higher duties, just as exercise is to be con-
sidered as an instrument for strengthening the
bod^ for the same purpose ! And the valetndi-
narian who is religiously punctual in the obser-
vanee of his daily rides to promote his health, and
rests in that as an end, without so much as in-
tending to make his improved health an instru-
ment of increased usefiUness, acts on the same
low and selfish principle with her who reads
merely for pleasure and for fame, without an^
design of devoting the more enlarged and invi-
gorated mind to the glory of the Giver.

But there is one human consideration which
would perhaps more effectually tend to damp in
an aspiring wonian the ardours of literary vanity
(I speak not of real genius, though there the re-
mark oflen applies) than any which she will de-
rive from motives of humility, or propriety, or
religion ; whieh is, that in the judgment passed
on her performances, she will have to encounter
the mortifying circumstance of having her sex
always taken into account ; and her highest ex-
ertions will probably be received with the quali^
fied approbation that it it really extraordinary
for a woman. Men of learning, who are natu-
rally inclined to estimate works in proportion as
they appear to bo the result of art, study, and
institution, are inclined to consider even the
happier performances of the other sex as the
spontaneous productions of a fruitful but shallow
soil ; and to give them the same kind of praise
which we bestow on certain sallads, which often
draw firom us a sort o^ wondering commenda-
tion, not indeed as being worth much in them-
selves, but because by the lightness of the earth,
and a happy knack in the gardener, these in-
difierent cresses spring up in a night, and there-
fore we are ready to wonder they are no worse.

As to men of sense, however, tliey need be
the less hostile to the improvement of the other
sex, as they themselves will be sure to be gainers
by it ; the enlargement of the female understand-

ing being the most likely means \a» put an end
to those petty and absurd contentions for equality
which female smatterers so anxiously maintain.
I say smatterers, for between the first class of
both sexes the question is much more, rarely, and
always more temperately agitated. Co-operation
and not competition is indeed the clear principle
we wish to see reciprocally adopted by those
higher minds in each sex which readily approxi-
mate the nearest to each other. The more a wo-
man's understanding is improved, the more ob-
viously she will discern that there can be no hap-
piness in any society where there is a perpetual
struggle for power ; and the more her judgmontis
recti&d, the more accurate views will she take
of the station she was born to fill, and the more
readily will she accommodate herself to it;
while the most vulgar and ill informed women
are ever most inclined to be tyrants, and those
always struggle most vehemently for power,
who feel themselves at the greatest distance from
deserving it ; and who would not fail to make
the worst use of it when attained. Thus the
weakest reasoners are always the most positive
in debate ; and the cause is obvious, for they are
unavoidably driven to maintain their pretensions
by violence, who want arguments and reasons
to prove that they are in the right.

There is this singular difference between a
woman vain of her wit, and a woman vain of
her beauty ; that the beauty while she is an-
xiously alive to her own fame, is often indiffer-
ent enough about the beauty of other women ,
and provided she herself is sure of your admira-
tion, she does not insist on your thinking that
there is another handsome woman in the world ;
while she who is vain of her genius, more liberal
at least in her vanity, is jealous for the honour
of her whole sex, and contends for the equality
of their pretensions as a body, in which she fee»
that her own are involved as an individual.
The beauty vindicates her own rights, the wit
the rights of women ; the beauty fiffhts for her-
self; the wit for a party ; and while the more
selfish though more moderate beauty

woa d but bo qaeea for life.

the public spirited wit struggles to abrogate the
Salique law of intellect, and to enthrone
a whole sex of queens.

At the revival of letters in the sixteenth ana
the following century, the controversy about
this equality was agitated with more warmth
than wisdom ; and the process was instituted
and carried on, on the part of the female com-
plainant, with that sort of acrimony which al-
ways raises a suspicion of the justice of any
cause; for violence commonly implies dou^t,
and invective indicates weakness rather than
strength. The novelty of that knowledge that
was then bursting out from the dawn of a long
dark night, kindled all the ardours of a female
mind, and the ladies fought zealously for a por-
tion of tliat renown whieh Uie reputation of
learning was bcginninar to bestow. Besides
their own pens, they had for theur advocates all
those needy authors who had any thing to hope
from their power, their riches or their influence ;
and so giddf did some of these literary .adies

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bocumo by tho idaUtion of their numerous pane-
gyrists, that tlirough these repeated draughts
ofinphriating praise, thej even lost their former
moderate measure of sober-mindedneto, and
grew to despise the equality for which thej had
before contended, as a state below their merit,
and unworthy of their acceptance. They now
scorned to litigate for what they had already
thought they obviously possessed, and nothing
short of the palm of superiority was at length
considered as adequate to their growing claims.
When court'ladies and princesses were the can-
didates, the^ could not bng want champions to
support their cause ; by these champions female
authorities were produced as if paramount to
facts; quotations fVom these female authors
were considered as proofs, and their point-blank
assertions stood for solid and irreOagable argu-
ments. In those parasites who ofiered mIs
homage to female genius, the homsge was the
effect neither of truth, nor of justice, nor of con-
viction. It arose rather out of gratitude, or it
was a reciprocation of flattery ; it was sometimes
vanity, it was often dbtress, which prompted
the adulation ; it was the want of a patroness ;
it was the want of a dinner. When a lady, and
especially as it then often happened, when a
lady who was noble or royal sat with gratifying
docility at the foot of a professor's chair ; when
she admired the philosopher, or took upon her to
protect the theologian, whom hb rivals among
hit) own sex were tearing to pieces, what could
the grateful professor or delighted thedogian do
less in return than make the apotheosis of her
who had the penetration to discern his merit and
the spirit to reward it 7 Thus in fact it was not
so much her vanity as his own, that he was often
flattering, though she was the dupe of her more
deep and designing panegyrist

But it is a little unfortunate for the perpetuity
of that fame which the encomiast had made
over to his patroness, in the never-dying records
of his verses and orations, that in the revolution
of a century or two the names of the flattered
are now almost as little known as the works
of the flatterers. Their memorial is perished
with them,* An instructive lesson, reminding
us that whoever bestows, or assumes a reputa-
tion disproportioncd to the merit of the claimant,
will find that reputation as little durable as it is
solid. For this literary warfare which engaged
such troops of the second-hand authors of the
age in question in such continual skirmishes,
and not a few pitched battles ; which provoked
so much rancour, so many volumes, and so little
wit ; so much vanity, so much flattery, and so
much invective, produced no useful nor lasting
ef^ct. Those who promised themselves that
thoir names would outlive * one half of round
eternity,' did not reach the end of the century
in which the boast was made ; and those who
prodigally offered the incense, and those who
greedily snufibd up the fumes, are buried in the
same blank oblivion !

But when the temple of Janus seemed to have
oeen closed ; or when at worst the peace was
only occasionally broken by a slight and random
i»hot from the hand of some single straggler ;

• See Branlome, Perc lo Mo: no. Mons. Thomas. &c.

it appears that thoQgh open rebellioo had ceaseo,
yet the female claim had not been renounced
it had only (if we may change the metaphor)
lain in abeyance. The contest has recently
been revived with added /bry, and wUh multi-
plied exactions ; for whereas the ancient demand
was merely a kind of imaginary prerogative, a
speculative importance, a mere titolar right, a
shadowy claim to a few unreal acres of Pamas*
sian territory ; the revived qontentioa has taken
a more serious torn, and brings forward poli-
tical as well as intellectual pretensions ; and
among the innovations of this innovating period,
the impoeingterm o( rights has been produced
to sanctify the daim of our female pretenders,
with a view not only to rekindle in the minds of
women a presumptuous vanity dishonourable to
their sex, but produced with a view to ?xcite in
their hearts an impious discontent with the post
which God has assigned them in this world.

But they little understand the true interests
of woman who would lift her from the impor-
tant duties of her allotted station, to fill with
fantastic dignity a loftier but less appropriate
niche. Nor do they understand her true hap-
piness, who seek to annihilate distinctions from
which she derives advantages, and to attempt
innovations which would depreciate her real
value. Each sex has its proper excellencies
which would be lost, were they melted down
into the common character by the fusion of
the new philosophy. Why should we do
away distinctions which increase the mutual
beneflts and enhance the satisfactions of life?
Whence, but by carefully preserving the original
marks of difierenee stamped by the hand of the
Creator, would be derived the superior advan-
tage of mixed society 7 Is either sex so abound*
ing in pecfi»ction as to be independent on the
other for improvement 7 Have men no need to
have their rough angles filed off, and their harsh-
ness and asperities smoothed and poltsfied by
assimilating with beings of more softness and
refinement ! Are the ideas of women naturally
so very judicious, are their principles so imnnci-
bly firm, are their views bo perfectly correct, are
their judgments so completely exact, that there
is occasion for no additional weight, no snper-
added strength, no increased clearness, none of
that enlargement of mind, none of that addi-
tional mvigoration which may be derived from
the aids of the stronger sex? What identity
could advantageously supercede such an enliven-
ing opposition, such an interesting variety of
character? Is it not then more wise, as weU as
more honourable to move contentedly in the
plain path which Providence has obviously
marked out to tho sex, and in which custom has
for the most part rationally confirmed them,
rather than to stray, awkwardly, unbecomingly,
and unsuccessfully, in a forbidden road ? Is it
not desirable to be the .lawful possessors of a
lesser domestic territory, rather than the turbu
lent usurpers of a wider foreign empire T to be
good originals, than bad imitators? to bo the
best thing of one's own kind, rather than an infe-
rior thing even if it were of an higher kind ? to be
excellent women rather than indifferent men '
Is the author then undervaluing her own sex
No. It is her zeal for their true intere$C

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whicb leads her to oppose their imaginary rights.
It is her regard for their happiness which makes
her endeavour to cure them of a feverish thint
for a fame as unattainable as inappropriate ; to
puard them against an ambition as little becom-
ing the delicacy of their female character as the
meekness of their religious profession. A little
Christian humility and sober-mindedness are
worth all the empty renown which was ever at-
tained by the misapplied energies of the sex ;
it is worth all the wild metaphysical discussion
which has ever been obtruded under the name
of reason and philosophy ; which has unsettled
the peace of vain women, and forfeited the re-
spect of reasonable men. And the most elabo-
rate definition of ideal rights, and the most hardy
measures for obtaining them, are of less value
in the eyes of a truly amiable woman, than * that
meek and quiet spirit which is in the sight of
God of great price.*

Natural propensities best mark the designa-
tions of Providence as to their application. The
fin was not more clearly bestowed on the fish
that he should swim, nor the wing given to the
bird that he should fly, than superior strength
of body, and a firmer texture of mind was given
to man, that he might preside in the deep and
daring scenes of action and of council ; in the
compficated arts of government, in the conten-
tion of arms, in the intricacies and deptlis of
•cienca, in the bustle of commerce, and in those
orofbssions which demand a higher reach, and
a Wider range of powers. The true value of
woman is not diminished by the imputation of
inferiority in those talents which do not belong
to her, of those qualities in which her claim to
excellence does not consist. She has other re-
quisite?, bot'cr adapted to answer the end and
purposes of her being, from • Him who does all
things wcl! ;* who suits the agent to the ac-
tion ; who accommodates the instrument to the

Let not then aspiring, because ill-judging
woman, view with pining envy the keen satirist,
hunting vice through all the doublings and wind-
ings of tho heart; the sagacious politician, lead-
ing senates and directing the fate of empires ;
the acute lawyer, deteclmg the obliqdilies of
fraud ; and the skilful dramatist, exposing the
pretensions of folly ; but let her ambition be
consoled by reflectingv that those who thus ex-
eel, to all that Nature bestows, and books can
teach, must add besides, that consummate know-
ledge of the world, to which a delicate woman
has no fair avenues, and which even if she could
attain, she would never be supposed to have
come honestly by.

In almost all that comes under the description
of polite letters, in all that captivates by image-
ry, or warms by just and affecting sentiment,
women are excellent. They possess in a high
Jogrpo that delicacy and quicKness of iwrception,
and that nice discernment between the beautiful
and tiftfiv live which comes under the denomina-
ion of tast?*. Both in composition and action
hey excel in details ; but they do pot so much
> gencralirc their ideas as men, nor do their minds
«.Mze a great subject with so Urt^c a crasp.
They arc acute observers, and accurate jndi:'\'='
if lilb aiid manners, as far as their own sDhc^*-"? i

of observation extends ; but they describe a
smaller circle. A woman sees the world, as i*
were, from a little elevation in her own garden,
whence she makes an exact survey ol IFome
scenes, but takes not in that wider range of dis-
tant prospects which he who stands on a loflier
eminence commands. Women have a certain
tact which oAen enables them to feel what is
just, more instantaneously than they can define
it. They have an intuitive penetration into

Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 87 of 135)