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character, bestowed on them by Providence, like
the sensitive and tender organs of some timid
animals, as a kind of naturd guard to warn, of
the approach of danger, beings who are oflen
called to act defensively.

In summing up the evidence, if I may so
speak, of the different capacities of the eexcs,
one may venture, perhaps, to assert, that women
have equal parity but are inferior in wholeneta
of mind, in the integral understanding : that
though a superior woman may possess single
faculties in equal perfection, yet tliere is com-
monly a juster proportion in the mind of a su-
perior man : that if women hav»» in an equal
degree the faculty of fancy which creates images,
and the faculty of memory which collects and
stores ideas, they seem not to possess in equal
measure the faculty of comparing, combining,
analysing, and separating these ideas ; that deep
and patient thinking which goes to the bottom
of a subject; nor that power of arrangement
which knows how to link a thousand connected
ideas in one dependant train, without losing
sight of the original idea out of which the rest
grow, and on which they all hang. The female
too, wanting steadiness in her intellectual pur^
suits, is perpetually turned aside by her charac-
teristic tastes and feelings. Woman in the ea-
rcer of genius, is the Atalania, who will risk
losing the race by xunning out of her road to
pick up the golden apple ; while her male com-
petitor, without, perhaps, possessing greater na-
tural strength or swiflness, will more certainly
attain his object, by direct purnuit, by being
less exposed to the seductions of extraneous
beauty, and will win the race, not by excelling
in speed, but by despising the bait* '

Here it may be justly enough retorted, that
as it is allowed the education of women is so de-
fective, the alleged inferiority of their minds
may be accounted for on that ground, more
justly than by ascribing it to their natural make
And, indeed, there is so much truth in the re-
mark, that till women shall be more reasonably
educated, and till the native growth of thtir
mind shall cease to be stinted and cramped, we
have no juster ground for pronouncing that their
understanding has already reached its highest
attainable point, than the Chinese would have
for affirming that their women have attained to
the greatest possible perfection in walking, whilst
the first care is, dnrin? their infancy, to cripple
their feet I At least, till the female sex are more
carefully instructed, this question will always

* Wbat indisposes even reasonable '.vofTien to conci-de
in these points is, that the weakf«t man instantly layg
hoki on the conc<»!»«on ; and on the m(?rc protind of sm?.x,
pliiracf himself on bis own indiridual supcrionty , in-
fcfiing that the ailliedt man is superior to tho first ratt

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remain u nodecided as to the degree of difier*
ence between the masculine and feminine un-
derstandings, as tli9 question between the under-
sftindings of blacks and whites; for until men
and women, and until Africans and Europeans
are put more nearly on a par in the cultivation
of their minds, the shades of distinction, what-
ever they bo, between their native abilities, can
never be fairly ascertained.

And when we see (and who will deny that we
sec it frequently ?) so many women nobly risinjr
from under all the pressure of a disadvantageous
education, and a defective system of eoci'ety,
and exhibiting the most unambiguous marks of
a vigorous understanding, a correct judgment,
and a sterling piety, it reminds us of those shi-
ning lights which have now and then burst out
through all the * darkness visible* of the Romish
church, have disencumbered themselves from
the gloom of ignorance, shaken off the fetters of
prejudice, and with a noble energy risen supe-
rior-to all the errors of a corrupt theology.

But whatever characteristical distinctions may
exist ; whatever inferiority may be attached to
woman from the slighter frame of her body« or
the more circumscribed powers of her ^ind ;
from a less systematic education, ai>d from tho
subordinate statbn she is called to fill in life ;
there is one great and leading circumstance
which raises her importance, and even establishes
her equality. Christianity has exalted women
to true and undisputed dignity ; in Christ Jesos,
as there is neither * rich nor poor,* * bond nor
free,* so there is neither * male nor female.* In
tho view of that immortality, which is brou||fbt
to light by the Gospel, she has no superior.
* Women* (to borrow tlie idea of an excellent
prelate) * make up one half of the human race ;
equally with men redeemed by the blood of
Christ' In this their true dignity consists;
here their best pretensions rest ; here their high-
est claims are allowed.

All disputes then for pre-eminence between
the sexes, have only for their object the poor
precedence for a few short years, the attention
of which would be better devoted to the duties
of life and the interests of eternity.

And as the final hope of the female sex is
equal, so are their present means, perhaps, more
favourable, and their opportunities, oiVen, less
obstructed than those of the other sex. In their
Christian course, women have every superior
advantajre, whether wo consider the natural
make of* their minds, their leisure for acquisi-
lion in youth, or their subsequently less exposed
mode of life. Their hearts are naturally soft
and flexible, open to impressions of love and gra-
titude ; their feelings tender and lively ; all these
are favourable to the cultivation of a devotional
spirit Yet while we remind them of these na-
tive benefits, they will do well to be on their
guard lest this very softness and ductility lay
tliom more open to the seductions of temptation
and error.

They have in the native constitution of their
minds, as well as from the relative situations
they are called to fill, a certain sense of attach-
ment and dcpendance, which is peculiarly fa-
vourable to religion. Thoy feel, perhaps, more
intimately tho want of a strength which is not

their own. Christknity brings tb«t sapenndu.
oed strength ; it comes in aid of their consciouf
weakness, and offers the only true counterpoise
to it — * Woman be thou healed of thine infirmi-
ty,* is still the heart-cheering language of a gra.
cious Saviour.

Women also bring to the study of Christianity
fewer of those prejudices which persons of the
other sex too often early contract Men, from
their classical education, acquire a strong par-
tiality for the manners of pa^an antiquity, and
the documents of pagan philosophy: this, to.
gether with the impure tamt caught from the
loose descriptions of their poets, and the licen-
tious language even of their historians (in whom
we .reasonably look for more gravity) often
weakens the good impressions of young men,
and at least confuses their ideas of piety, by
mixing them with so much heterogeneous mat-
ter. Their very spirits are imbued all the week
with the impure follies of a depraved mytholo-
gy ; and it is well if even on Sundays they can
hear of tho * true God, and Jesus Christ whom
he has sent' While women, though struggling
with the same natural corruptions, have com-
monly less knowledge to unknow, and fewer
schemes to onlearn ; they have not to shake off
the pride of system, and to disencumber their
minds from the shackles of favourite theories :
they do not bring from the porch or the acade-
my an^ * oppositions of science* to obstruct their
reception of those pure doctrines, taught on the
Mount : doctrines which ought to find a readier
entrance into minds uninfected with the pride
of the school of Zeno, or the libertinism of that
of Epicurus.

And as women are naturally more affectionate
than fastidious, they are likely both to read and
to hear with a less critical spirit than men : they
will not be on the watch to detect errors, so
much as to gather improvement ; they have sel-
dom that hardness which is acquired by dealing
deeply in books of controversy, but are more in-
clinea to the perusal of works which qi^cken
the devotional feelings, than to such as awaken
a spirit of doubt and scepticism. They are less
disposed to consider the compositions they read,
as materials on which to ground objections and
answers, than as helps to faith and rules of life.
With these advantages, however, they should
also bear in mind that their more easily received
impressions being ofUn less abiding, and their
reason less open to conviction by means of the
strong evidences which exist in favour of the
truth of Christianity, * they ought, therefore, to
give the more earnest heed to tlie things which
they have heard, lest at any time they should
let them slip.' Women are, also, from their do
mestic habits, in possession of more leisure and
tranquility for religious pursuits, as well as se.
cured from those diffieultics and strong tempta-
tions to which men are exposed in the tumuli
of a bustling world. Their lives are more n
gular and uniform, less agitated by the p assio ns
tJie businesses, the contentions, the shock of opi
nions, and the opposition of interests which di
vide society and convulse the world.

If wc have denied them tho possession of ta
lents which might lead them to excel as lawyers
tlicy are prcgcrved from the peril of having tnci

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WATped hj that too indiseriiiiiiMta d«-

Boe of right and wrong, to which the profts-
mn of the law are expom, If we ahoola ^oaa-
tkm their title to eminenoe mm matheniaticiana,
the^ are happilj exempt firom the danger to
which men devoted to that tcienoe are Mid to
be liable : namely, that of looking for demon*
■tration on rabjecta, whioh by their yery nature,
afe incapahle of a£R>rding it If they are leaa
eooTeraant in the powera of nature, the atroc-
tore of the human framei and the knowledge of
the heayenly bodiee tbui phikMophers, pbyai-
eiana, and astronomers ; they are, however, de-
firered from the error into whi<sh many of each
of these have sometimes &Uen, I mean from the
frital habit of resting in second causes, instead
of referring all to the first; instead of making
* the heavens declare the glory of God, and pro-
dsim his handy work ;* instead of condadmg,
when they observe * how fearfully and wonder-
IblW we are made, marvellous are thy works
O Lord, and that my soul knoweth right welL*

And let the weaker sex take comfort, that in
their very exemption firom privileges, which
they are sometimes foolishly disposed to envy,
consists not only their security, but their hap-
piness. If tbev onjoy not the distinctions of
public life and high offices, do they not escape
the re8ponsibilit|r attached to them, and the mor-
tification of bemg dismissed from them? If
they have no voice in deliberative assemblies, do
they not avoid the load of dnnr inseparably con-
ueeted with such privileges 7 JPreposterous pains
have been taken to excite in women an uneasy
jealoosy, that their talents are neither rewarded
with public honours nor emoluments in life;
nor with inscriptions, statues,, and mausoleums
after death. It has been absurdly represented
to them as an hardshij[>, that while th^ are ex-
pected to perform duties, they must yet be con-
tent to relmquish honours, and must unjustly be
Compelled to renounce ikine, while they roust
sedulously labour to deserve it

But fer christian women to act on the low
views suggested to them hy their ill-judging
panegyrists; for christian women to look up
with a gid^ head and a throbbing heart, to
honours and remunerations, so little suited to
the wants and capacities of an immortal spirit,
would be no less ridiculous than if christias
heroes should look back with an envy on the
old pagan reward of ovations, oak garlands,
parsley crowns, and laurel wreaths. Ine Chris-
tian liope more than reconciles Christian wo-
men to these petty privations, by substituting a
nobler prise fer their ambitioii, * the prise dfthe
hi^h calling of God in Christ Jesus,** by sub-
stituting, fer that popular and fluctuatina voice,
which may cry, * Hosanna,* and • crucify* in a
breath, that * fevour of God which b eternal life.'

If women should lament it as a disadtantage
attached to their sex, that their character is of
so delicate a texture as to be sullied by the
slightest breath of calumny, and that the stain
once received is indelible ; yet are they not led
by that very circumstance as if indistinctivelv
to shrink from aQ those irregularities to which
the loss of character is so certainly expected to
be attached ; and to shun with keener circum-
spection the most distant approach towards the

Vet. I. A 9

confinee of danger 7 Let them not lament it as
an hardship, but account it as a privilege, that
the delicaoy of their sex impels them more
scrupulouslr to avoid the very * appearance of
evil;* let tnem not regret that the consdous-
ness of their danger serves to secure their puri^
by placing them at a greater distance, and in a
more deep intrenchment fh>m the evil itself.

Though it be one main ol^ect of this little
work, rather to k>wer than to raise any desire
of celebrity in the female heart ; yet I woukl
awaken it to a just sanstbiliW to honest fame :
I would call on women to reflect that our reK-
potk has not only made them heirs to a blessed
immortality hereafter, but has greatly raisei
them in the scale of being here, Inr lifting them
to an importance in society unknown to th»
most polished ages of antionity. The religi<m
of Christ has even bestowed a degree of renown
on the sex beyond what anv other religion ever
did. Perhaps there are hardly so many virtqooa
women (for I reject the lonff eataJosue whom
their vices have transferred from obhvion to iiu-
ftmy) named in all the pages of Greek or Roman,
history, as are handed down to eternal fame, in.
afew of those short chapters with which th»
great Apostle to the Gentiles has concluded his>
epistles to his converts. 'Of devout and hoo-^
ourable women,* the seered scriptures record*
* not a few.* Somepf the most affecting scenes,,
the most faiterestin^ transactions, and the most
touching conversations which are recorded of
the Saviour of the world, pa ss e d with women.
Their examples have suM>tied some of the most
Eminent instances of fiuth and bve. They are
the first lemarked as having * ministered to him-
of their substanoe.* Tftstrt was the praise of
not abandoning their despised Redeemer whert
he was led to executioii, and under all the hope-
less circumstances of his ignominious deam.
they appear to have been the last attending *
his tomb, and the^rtl on the morning when he-
arose fhun it TheirB was die privilege of re-
ceiving the earliest consolation trom their risen.
Lord ; theire was the honour of being first com-
missioned to announce his glorious resurrection.
And even to have furnisheid heroic confessors,,
devoted saints, and unshrinking martyrs to the
Church of Christ, has not be^ the exclusive,
honour of the bolder sex.


CoHVxasATioif^— l&i<« eugge^Ud on the eubjeet
— On the tempen and diepoeUiane to be tntrs-
dueed m iL — Erroro «o he avoided. Vanity
under vojmm ohapeo^ the eauee ofthote errore.

The sexes will naturally desire to appear to
each other, silch as each believes the other wiD
best like ; their conversation will act recipro-
caOy ; and each sex will wish to appear more or-
less rational as they perceive it will more or
less recommend them to the other* It is there*
fore to be regretted, that many men, even of
distinflruishecTsense and learning, are too apt :..
consider the society of ladies as a scene in wnidi
they are rather to rest their understandings,

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than to exeroiM tliem ; whfle la<lie0, in retonx,
are too much addicted to make their court bj
lending themselves to this spirit of trifling';
they often avoid making use of what abilities
they have ; and affect to talk bebw tiieir natural
and acquired povrers of mind ; considering it as
a tacit and welcome flattery to the imderstand-
mg of men^ to renounce the eztfrcise of their

Now since taste and principles thus mutually
operate ; men, by keeping up convenuition to its
proper standard, would not only caH into ezer-
oise the powers of mind which women actually
possess ; but would evBn awaiken in them new
energies which they do not know they possess ;
and men of sense would find their account in
doioff this, fyr their own talents would be more
highly rated by companions who were better
alne to apprecmte them ; and they would be re-
ceiving as well as imparting improvement
And on the other hand, tf young women found
it did not often recommend them in the eyes of
those whom they most wish to please, to be
fHvolous and superficial, they would become
more sedulous in correcting toeir own habits.
Whenever fashionable women indicate a relish
ibr instructive conversation, men will nut be
apt to hazard what is vain, or unprofitable ; much
less will they ever presume to bring forward
what is loose or corrupt, where some signal has
not been previously j^ven, that it will he accep-
table, or at least that it wUl be pardoned

Ladies commonly bring into company minds
already too much relaxed by petty pursuits,

rather than overstrained by intense application, 'rescued f^om vapid common place, iVom tmin

The littleness of the employments in which they
are usually engaged, does not so exhaust their
spirits as to jnake them stand in need of that
relaxation from company which severe applica-
tion or overwhelming business makes requisite
for studious or public men. The due conside-
ration of this circumstance might serve to bring
the sexes more nearly on a level in society ; and
each might meet the other half way ; ibr that
degree of lively and easy conversation, which is
a necessary refreshment to the learned and the
busy, would not decrease in pleasantness by
being made of so rational a cast as would yet
somewhat raise the minds of women, who com-
monly seek society as a scene of pleasure, not as
.a refuge from intense thought or exhausting la-

It is a disadvantage even to those women who
keep the best company, that it is unhappily
almost established into a system, by the other
sex, to postpone every thing hke instructive
discourse till the ladies are withdrawn ; their
retreat serving as a kind of signal for the exer-
cise of intellect And in the few cases in which
it happens that any important discussion takes
place in their presence, they are (or the most
part considered as having little interest in
serious subjects. Strong truths, whenever such
nappen to be addressed to them, are either di-
luted with flattery, or kept back in part, or
softened to their taste ; or if the ladies express a
wish for infbrmation on any point, they are put
off with a compliment, instead of a reason.
They are reminded of their beauty when they
.4re seeking to i&fi>rm their understanding, and

are oonsidered as bshigs who must be eontent»9
to behold every thing through a false medium,
and who are not expected to see and to judge of
things as they really exist

00 we then wish to see, the ladies whoss
want of opportunities leaves Ibem so inoompe
fent on many points, and the modesty of whoB»
sex ought never to allow them even to be as
shining as they are aUe; do we wirii to an
them take the lead in metaphysical cfisqoisi-
tions 7 Do you wish them to plunge mto Htm
depths of theologieal pc^mies,

And find no end in wBBd^ng maaess lost ?

Do we wish them to revive the animosities of
the Bangorian controversy, or to decide the pro-
cess between the Jesuits and the five proposi-
tions of Jansenius? Do we wish to enthrone
them in the professor's chair, to deliver oracles,
harangues, and dissertations 7 to weigh tht
merits of every new produ(^on in the scales of
Quintilian, or to regulate the unities of drama-
tic composition ^ AritMUU clock ? Or re»
nouncing those fbreign aids, do we desire to
behold them vain of a native independence of
soul, inflated with their origbal powers, labour,
ing to strike out sparks of wit, with a resUess
anxiet^r to shine, which generally fkib, and with
an anxious afiectation to please, which never

Diseors de boa acts, Odes caracteres !

An this be fkr firom them ! — But we do wis>
to see the conversation of welKbred women

teresting tattle, from trite and hackneyed cool
munications, firom frivolous earnestness, ftook
false sensibility, from a warm interest about
things of no moment, and an indiflbrence to
topics the most important; ftom a cold ranity,
fVom the ill concealed ovei^owings oT self-love,
exhibiting itself under the smUing mask of an
engaging flattery,^ and fVom all the factitiout
manners of artificial intercourse. We do wish
to see the time passed in polished and intelligent
society, considered among die beneficial, as well
as the pleasant portions of our existence, and
not consigned over, as it too firequently is, to
premeditated triflings, to empty duiness, to un-
meaning levity, to systematic unprofitableness.
Let me* hot however, be misunderstood : it is
not meant to proscribe that ladies should afiect
to discuse lofty subjects, so much as to suggtist
that they should bring good sense, simplicity,
precision, and truth to the discussion of those
common subjects, of which, after all, both the
business and conversation of mankind must be
in a ^rbat measure made up.

It IS too well known how much the dread of
imputed pedantry keeps off every ihing that
verges towards UarMa^ and the terror of inv
puted enthusiasm frightens away any thing that
approaches to oeriouo conversation ; so that the
two topics which peculiarly distln|uish us, as
rational and immoital beings, are by general
consent in a good degree banished from tht
societjT of rational and immortal creatures. But
we might almost as consistently give up the
comforts of fire, because a few persons have been
burnt, and the benefit of water^ because somt


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«idiefB hafB beon drowned, as rolinqolsh the en-
jo/mento of intellectual, and the blessings of
teugioos intercourse, becanse the learned world
has sometimes been infested with pedanta, and
the religions world with fanatics.

As in the momentons times in which we li?e
it is next to impossible to pass an evening in
company bnt the talk will so inevitably revert
to politics, that withoat anv premeditated de-
sign, every one present shall mfallibly be able
to find out to which side the other inclines;
why, in the far higher concern of eternal things,
shonld we so carefully shon every offered op-
portunity of bearing oven a casual testimony to
the part we espouse in religion t Why, while
we make it a sort of point of conscience to leave
no doubt on the mind of a stranger, whether we
adopt the party of Pitt or Fox, shall we choose
to leave it very problematical whether we belong
to God or Baal 7 Why, in religion, as well as
in politics, should we not act like oeople who,
havmff their all at stake, cannot forbear now
and then adverting for a moment to the object
of their grand concern, and dropping, at leabt,
an incidental intimation of the side to which
they belong?

Even the news of the day, in such an eventful
period as the present, may lend frequent occa-
eions to a woman of principle to declare, without
parade, her &ith in a moral Grovernor of the
world ; her trust in a particular Providence ;
her bdief in the Divine Omnipotence ; her con-
fidence in the power of God, in educing good
from evil, in his employing wicked nations, not
as favourites, but instruments ; her persuasion
that preeent success is no proof of the Divine
fiivow; in short, some intimation that she is
not ashamed to dedaro that her mind is under
the influenoe of Christian faith ; that she is stea-
dily governed by an unalterable principle, of
which no authority is too ^tti to make her
ashamed, which no occasion is too trivial to call
into exercise. A general concurrence in habi-
tnally exhibiting this spirit of decided faith and
holy tmst, would inconceivably discourage that
pert and wakeful infidelity which is ever on the
watch to produce itself: and, as we have alrea-
dy observed, if women, who derive authority
fifom their rank or talents, did but reflect how

Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 88 of 135)