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their sentiments are repeated, and bow their
anthority is quoted, they would be so on their
guard, that general society might become a
■oene of profits ble commumcation and common
improvement; and the young who are looking
fiur models on which to feshion themselves, would
beoome ashamed and afraid of exhibiting any
thing like levity, or scepticism, or profkneness.

Let it be understood, that it is not meant to
intimate that serious subjects should make up
the bulk of conversation ; this, as it is impossi-
ble, would also often be improper. It is not in-
tended to suggest that they should be abruptly
introduced, or unsuitably prolonged ; but only
that they should not be systematically shunned ;
DOT the brand of fanaticism be fixed on the per-
•OB who, with whatever propriety hazards the
faitrodnction of euoh sulneots. It is evident,
nowevvr, that this general dread of serious to-
pics arises a mod deal fVom an ignorance of the
true oatnro m Christianity ; people avoi4 it on



the princii^ expressed hj the vulgar pthrdse of .
the danger of playing with edge toon. They
conceive of religion as something which involves '
oontroversy, and dispute ; something either me-
lancholy or mischievous ; something of an in-
flammatory nature which is to stir up ill hu^
mours and hatred ; they consider it as a question
which has two sides ; as of a sort of party-busi-
ness which sets fiiends at variance. So mudi
is this notion adopted, that I have seen announ-
ced two works of considerable merit, in which
it was stipulated as an attraction, that the sub-
ject of religioli, as being likely to excite anger
and party distinctions, should be carefbUy ex-
cluded. Such is the worldly idea of the spirit
of that religion whose direct object it was to
bring * peace and good will to men !*

Women too little live or converse up to the
standard of their understandings, and however
we have deprecated affectation or pedantry, let it
be remembered, that both in reading and conver-
sing, the understanding gains more by stretch-
ing than stooping. If by exerting itself it may
not attain to all ita desires, yet it will be snre to
ffain something. The mind by always applyinjp
itself to objects below its level, contracts its di-
mensions, and shrinks itself to the size, and
lowers itself to the level, of the object about
which it is conversant : while the understanduig
which b active and aspiring, expands and raises
itself, grows stronger by exercise, larger by dif-
fusion, and richer by communication.

But the taste of general society is not &vour.
able to improvement The seriousness with
Svhich the most frivolous subjects are agitated,
and the levity with which the most serious are
despatched, bear a pretty exact proportion to
each other. Society too is a sort of magic lan-
tern ; the scene is perpetually shifUng. In this
incessant change we must

Catch, e*er tbe Ikll, the Cynthia of the minute ;—
and the fashion of the present minute, evanee-
cent probably like its rapid precursors, while in
many it leads to tbe cultivation of reid know-
ledge, has also not unfrequentl^ led even the nj
and idle to the afi^tation of mixing a sprink&ig
of science with the mass of dissipation. The
ambition of appearing to be well informed breaka
out even in those triflers who will not spars
time from their pleasurable pursuits sufficient
fi)r acquiring that knowledge, of whioh, how-
ever, the refutation is so desirable. A little
smattering of philosophy often di^^nifies the par-
suits of their day, withoat rescuing them from
the vanities of the night A coarse of lectures
(that admirable assistant fbr enlightening the
understanding) b not seldom resorted to as a
means to substitute the appearance of knowled^
fbr the fiOiffue of application. But where tms
valuable help is attended merely like nnj other
public exhibitioj^as a fiishionable pursuit, and
18 not fortherecflly correspondent reading at
home it often serves to set (jff the reality of ig.
norance with the afibctation of skill. But in-
stead of producing in conversation a few reign-
ing scientific terms, with a fkmiliarity and rea
diness, which

Amaxe tbe onleaniM, and make tbe kamsd smile,
would it not be more modest even fiv thoee who



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THE W0U8 OF HAKNaH MQRIL



are better infbrmed to avoid the nee of tedmieal
fermf wbenerer the ufea can beat well ooDveyed
without them? For it argnea no real abiCtj to
know the mrme$ of tools; the aUfi^ lies in
knowinf their use : and while it is in the thing,
not in the term, that real knowledge oonsnts,
the charge of pedantrj is att a ch ed to the nse of
the term, which would not attach to the know-
ledffe of the science.

in the hcahy ot speakinpf weQ, hdkf have
such a hap|yj promptitode oftnming their slen-
der advantages to accoont, that there are manv
who, though the? have never been taught a ruw
of syntax, yet W a quick fkcility in profiting
from the best books and the best eompanjr, har£
ly ever violate one ; and who often exhibit an
elegant and perspicuous arrangement of style
wiuiout having studied any of Sie laws of com-
position. Every kind of knowledge which ap-
pears to be the result of observation, reflection,
and natural taste, sits gracefully on women. —
Yet on the other hand it sometimes happens,
that ladies of no oonCemptible natural parts are
too ready to produce, not only pedantic expres-
•ions, but crude and unfounded notions; and
still oftener to bring forward obvious and hack-
aeyed remarks; wmch float on the very sur&ce
of a subject, with the imposmg air of recent in-
vention, and all the vanity of oonsoibus discove-
ry. This is because their acquirements have
not been worked into their minds by early in-
struction; what knowledge they have gotten
stands out as it were above the very surface of
their minds, like the afpTs^ves of the 6mbroider<
er, instead of having been interwoven with the
growth of the piece, so as to have become a part
of the stuff. They did not, like men, acquire
what i;iey know while the texture was forming.
Perhaps no better i>reventive could be devis^
fi>r this literary vanity, than early instruction :
that woman would be less likely to be vain of
her knowledge who did not remember the time
when she was ignorant Knowledge that is
Immt in if I may so speak, is seldom obtrusive,
rarely impertinent

Their reading also has probably consisted
much in abridgments from larger works, as was
observed in a rormer chapter ; this makes a rea-
dier talker, but a shallower thinker, than the
perusal of books of more bulk. By these scanty
sketches, their critical powers liave not been
formed ; for in those crippled mutilations they
have seen nothing of that just proportion of
parts, that skilful arrangement of the plan, and
that artfbl distribution of the subject, which,
while they prove the master hand of the writer,
seem also to form the taste of the reader, far
more than a disjointed skeleton, or a bouitiful
feature or two, can do. The instruction of wo-
men is also too much drawn ffrom the scanty and
penurious sources of short writing* of the essay
kind : this, when it comprisdMhe best part of a
person's reading, makes a smatterer and spoils
a schoUr ; for though it supplies current talk,
yet it does not make a fhll mind ; it does not
furnish a storehouse of materials, to stock the
understanding, neither does it accustom the
nund to any trains of reflection : for the subjects,
besides bemg each succinctly, and, on account
of this brevity, superficially treated, are distinc*



and disconnected ; they arieo out of do i
nation of ideas, nor any dependent series of dr
ductioo. Tet on this pleasant bat desottoty
reading, the mind which has not been trained
to severe exercise, loves to repoee iHdf m a sort
of creditable indofence, instead of stTCtduDg its
energies in the wholesome labour of oonseeuthv
InvesdgatiML*

lam not discouraging study atalale period
€€ lifo, or even censnnng sicndpr knowlei^e
infbnnation is good at whatever period and Ir
whatever degree it be acquired. Blit in soefc
cases it sboiSd be attended with peculiar hurai^
lity : and the new poescesor riKNild bear in mind,
tliat what is fVeah to ber has been long known
to others ; and she should therefore be aware of
advancing as novel that which is eommoo, and
obtruding as nn that which everv body pes*
sesees.— &me ladies are eager to eniibit proofii
of their reading, thou^ at 5ie expense of their
judgment, and wifl mtroduce in eooversatian
quotations quite irrelevant to die matter in band,
because tfa«y happen at the instant to recur to
their recc^ection, or were, perhm, found in th0
book they have Just been reading. Unappio-
priate quotations or strained analogy may show
reading, but they do not show taste. T^ just
and happy allusion which knows hy a word
how to awaken a oorrespoocfing image, or lo
excite in the hearer the. idea whieh £^ the
mind of the speaker, shows less pedantry and
more taste than bare citations ; and a mind im-
bued with elegant knowledge will inevitably
betray the opuknoe of its resources, even on to-
pics which do not relate to science or literatnre
It is the union of parts and acquirements, ef
spirit and modes^, which produces the indefi.
nable charm of conversatieo. Well-infbnned
persons will easily be discovered to have read
the best books, though they are not always de.
tailing lists of autluirs; for a muster-roll of
names mav be learnt from the catalogue as weQ
as from the library. — ^Tliough honey owes its
exquisite taste to the flagrance ot tM s w eetest
flowers, yet the skill of the little artificer appears
in this, that the delicious tlUxm are so admire
bly worked up, and there is such a doe propor-
tion observed m mixing them, that the perfection
of the whole oonsiits in its not tasting individu-
ally of the rose, the jessamine, the carnation, or
anjr of those sweets of the very essence of all
which it is compounded. But true Judgment
will discover the infusion which true modesty
will not dispUy; and even common sulMects
passing througii a cultivated unders t an ding ,
borrow a flavour of its riohneM. >A power ef
apt selection is more valuaMe than any power
of general retention ; and an apposile remark
which shoots straight to tiie pmit, demands a
higher capacity of mind than an hundred simple
acts of memory ; foi the business of the memory
is onlv to store up materials which the under
standmg is to mix and work up with its natite



atins tbe value of Uxmo many
which adorn oar lani



* The writer eaaoot be sappoaod i
my beautif
'fuag
better to resale tbe mind witb then ainfly. at diflbteal



ofdepred-
tiAil periodieal mmts



lage. Bat, perhape. It nifrht
kd witb then ainflr. at diflbti
times, tbaa to read, at tbe same aittiag. a muUStode at
' lieces on dinimilar and ' ' '

gUUng tknuffh tJU book



■hort pieces on dinimilar and onoonnected topics. H



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THE WOBXB OF HANNAH MORE.



373



ftcifltiM, and whiob tlie judgiiMBt it to hting
oQt And apply. Bat jroong* women who have
more Tivaeitjr than sense^ and more yanity than
▼Wacity, often ruk the charge of absurdity to
escape that of ignorance, and will even compare
two anthers who are totally nnlike, rather than
miss the occaaion to show that they have read
both.

Among the arts to spoil conyersation some
itdies p oesee s that of suddenly diverting it fh>m
the channel in which it was beneficially flowing,
because some word used by the person who was
speaking has accidentally struck out a new train
of thinkmg in their own minds, and not because
the genend ide^ expressed has struck out a cor.
responding idea, which sort of collision is in-
deed the way of eliciting the true fire. Younf
hdiea, whoM sprightliness has not been disci-
pUned by a correct education, consider how
things may be prettily said, rather than how
th^ ma^ be nrudently or seasonably spoken ;
and wilhngfy hazard being thought wrong, or
rash, or yarn, for the chance of b^g reckoned
pleasant. The graces of rhetoric captivate them
more than the justest deductions of reason;
when they have no arms they use flowers, and
to repel an argument, they arm themselves with
a metaphor. — ^Those also who do not aim so
hiffh as eloquence, are often surprised that you
renise to accept of a prejudice instead of a rea-
son ; they are apt to take up with a probability
instead of a demonstration, and cheaply put you
off with an assertion, when you are rec^iuring a
proof. The mode of education which renders
them light in -assumption, and superficial in
reasoning, renders them also impatient of oppo-
sitkm ; nnd if thev happen to possess beauty,
and to be vain of it, they may be tempted to
consider that this is an additional proof of their
being always in the right In this case, they
will not ask you to submit your judgment to Uie
fbroe of their argument, so moon as to the au-
thority of their charms.

The same fiiult in the mind, stren^ened bv
the same error (a neglected education) leads
Bvely women often to pronounce on a question,
without examining it: on any given point they
•eldomer doubt than men ; not because they are
more clear-sighted, but because they have not
been accustomed to look into a subject long
enough to discover its depths and its intricacies;
and not discerning its difficulties, they conclude
that it has none. Is it a contradiction to say,
that they seem at once to be quick-sirhted and
short-sighted 7 Wiiat they see at all, Uiey com-
monly see at once ; a little difficulty discourages
them ; and, having cau^ a hasty glimpse of a
■nbiect, they rush to this conclusion, that either
there is no more to be seen, or that what is be-
hind win not pay them for the trouble of search-
ing. They pursue their object CAgerly, but not
r^ttlarly ; rapidly, but not pertinaciously ; £at
they want that obstinate patience of investifira-
iSon which grows stouter by repulae. What
they have not attained, they do not believe ex-
ists : what they cannot seize at once, they per-
suade themselves is not worth having.

Is a subject of moment started in company 7
WhUo the aiore sagacious are deliberating on
its difficulties, and viewing it under all its as-



pects, in order to fiirm a competent jtkdgmeni
before they decide ; you will often find the most
superficial woman present determine the mat-
ter, without hesitation. Not seeing the per-
plexities in which the question is involved, sbe
wonders at the want of penetration in the man
whose very penetration keeps him silent She
secretly despises the dull perception and slow
decision of him who is patiently icn^ytng' the
knot which she fancies Hhe exhibits more dex-
terity by cutting. By this shallow sprightliness,
of which vanity is commonly the radical princi-
ple, the most ignorant person in the company
leads the conversation, while he whose opmlon
is best worth having is discouraged from deli-
vering it, and an important subject is dismissed
without discussion, by inconsequent flippancy
and voluble rashness. It is this abundance of
florid talk, from superficial matter, which has
brought on so many of the sex the charge of tn-
vertiiig the Apo6tle*s precept, and being $wift to
$peai, slow to hear.

If the great Roman orator could observe, thit
silence was so important a part of conversation,
that * there was not only an art but an eloquence
in it,* how peculiarly does the remark (^ply to
the modesty of youthfiil females ! But the si-
lence of listless and vapid ignorance, and the
animated silence of sparkling intelligence, are
two things almost as obviouSy distinct, as the
wisdom and the folly of the tongue. An invio-
lable and marked attention may show that a
woman is pleased with a subject, and an illu-
minated countenance may prove that she under-
stands it almost as unequivocally as language
itself could do ; and this, with a modest ques-
tion, which indicates at once rational curiosity
and becoming diffidence, is in man;^ cases as
large a share of the conversation as it is deco-
rous fi>r feminine delicacy to take. It is also
as flattering an encouragement as men of sense
and politeness require, for pursuing useful topics
in the presence of women, which they would be
more disposed to do, did they oftener ^in by it
the attention which it is natural to wish to ex-
cite; and did women themselves discover that
desire of improvement which liberal-minded
men are pleased with communicating.

Tet do we not sometimes see an impatience
to be heard (nor is it a feminine fidling only)
which ffood breeding can scarcely subdue 7 And
even when these incorrigible talkers are com-
pelled to be quiet, b it not evident that they are
not silent because they are listening to what is
said, but because they are thinking of what they
themselves shall say when they can seize the
first lucky interval for which they are so nar-
rowly watching 7 The very turn of their coun-
tenance betrays that they do not take the slight-
est degree of interest in any thinff that is said
by others, except with a view to fie in wait for
any little chasm in the discourse, on which they
may lay hold, and give vent to their own over-
flowing yanity.

But conversation must not be considered as a
stage for the display of our talents, so much as
a field for the exercise and improvement of our
virtues ; as a means for promoting the glory of
our Creator, and the good and happiness of*^ our
fellow creatures. Well-bred and intelligent



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374



TH£ WORKS OF HANNAH MORB.



ChristiaDV are not, when tfae^ join in locietj, to
amsider themselves as entering the lists like in-
tellectaal prize-fighters, in order to exhibit their
mwn Tigour and dexterity, to discomfit their ad-
▼ersarj, and to bear away the palm of rictory.
TVnth and not triumph moold be the invariaUe
object ; and there are few occasions in life, in
which we are more unremittingly called upon
to watch ourselves narsowly, and to resist the
assaults of various temptations, than in conver-
ntion. Vanity, jealousy, envy, misrepresenta-
tion, resentment, disdain, lerity, impatience, in-
sincerity, and pride, will in turn solicit to be
gratified. Constantly to struggle against the
desire of being thought more wise, more witty,
and more knowing, than those with whmn we
associate, demands the incessant exertion of
Christian vigiUnce ; a vigilance which the ge-
nerality are far from suspecting to be at all ne-
eessary in the intercourse of common soci^.
On the contrary, cheerful conversation is rather
considered as an exemption and release firoA
watchfuLoess, than as an additional obligation to
it But a circumspect soldier of Christ will
never be (^ his post; even when he is not call-
ed to public oombat by the open assaults of his
great spiritosl enemy, he must still be acting as
a sentinel, for the dangers of an ordinary cSris.
tian will arise more from these little skirmishes
which are daily happening in the warfare of
human life, than from those pitched battles
which more rarely occur, and for which he will
probably think it sufficient to be armed.

But society, as was observed before, is not
a stage on which to throw down our gauntlet,
and prove our own prowess by the number of
fklls we give to our adversary ; so far from it,
true good-breneding as well as Christianity, con-
siders as an indispensable requisite for conver-
sation, the disposition to bring forward to no-
tice any talent in others, which thehr own mo-
desty, or conscious inferiority, would lead them
to keep back. To do this with effect it requires
a penetration exercised to discern merit, and a
generous candour which delights in drawing it
out There are few who cannot converse tole-
rably on some one topic: what that is, w6
should try to discover, and in general introduee
that topic, though to the suppression of any one
on which we ourselves are supposed to excel :
and however superior we may be in other re-
spects to the persons in question, we may, per-
haps, in that particular point, improve by them ;
or if we do not gain information, we shall at
least gain a wholesome exercise to our humility
and self-denial ; we shall be restraining our own
impetuosity ; we shall, if we take this course on
just occasions only, and so as to beware lest we

5 ratify the vanity of others, be giving confi-
ence to a doubting, or cheerfulness to a de-
pressed spirit And to |>lace a just remark, ha-
E&rded by the diffident, m the most advantage-
ous point of view ; to call the attention of the
inattentive, the forward, and the self-sufficient,
to the unobtrusive merit of some quiet person
in the company, who, though of much worth, is
perhaps of little note ; these are requisites for
conversation, less brilliant, but far more valua-
ble, than the power of exciting bursts of laugh-



ter by tixe brightest wh, or ef t

tion by the most poig^naiit saUies of i

Wit is, of all the qualities of the female mind,
that whidi requires the severest casti^rBtian : y«t
the temperate exercise of this ftacinating qaalitj
throws an additional lustre round the tbarmci^r
of an amiable woman ; for to manage with dis
creet modesty a dangerous talent, ooofers •
higher praise than can be daimed by those Gnm
whom the absence of the talent rsoioves the
temptation to misemploy it To womeo, wk is
a peculiar perilous possesoon, which nothing
short of the sober-mindedness of religion can
keep in subjection ; and perhaps there is searee-
Iv any one order of human bemgs that reqoiras
the powerful curb of Christian control more than
women whose genius has this tendeaey. In.
temperate wit craves admiratioB as its natmal
aliment : it lives on flattery as its daily bread !
The professed wit is a hongry begw, subsist-
ing on the extorted alms of perpetuu panegyric
and like the vulture in the Ghredan ftUe, the
appetite increases by indulgenos. Simpls tnitfa
and sober approbation beeooae tastelsss and in-
sipid to the palate daily vHiatad by the delidous
poignancies of exaggerated comm endat ion. Un-
der the above restrictions, however, wit may be
safely and pleasantly exercised; for dUsttserf
wit is an ek^fant and well-bred, and not unftrai*
nine quality. But AwMor, especially if it de.
generates into imitation, or nrimiery, b veer
sparingly to be ventured on ; for it is so diffienil
totallyr to detach it firom the snspieien of ba£.
fbonery, that a woman will be likely to lose
more of the delicacy which is her sppropriats
grace, and without which every other quality
loses its charm, than she win gain in another
way in the eyes fff te jodidoos, by the most
successful display of hnoMNir.

A woman of genius, if she have tme humility,
will not despise those lesser arts which sIm may
not happen to possess, even though she besostie-
times put to the trial of having her superior
mental endowments overlooked, while she is
held cheap fi>r being destitute of sosse SDore or-
dinary acoomplisfament Though the rebuke of
Themistocles* was just to one who thought that
so great a general and politidan shonld employ
his time like an eflbminate lutinist, yet he would
probably have made a difierent answer if he had
happened to understand music

If it be true that some women are too apt to
affect brilliancy and display in their own dts-
course, and to undervalue the more humUs pre.
tensions of less showy characters ; it nmst bs
confessed also, that some of mors ordinary abi»
lities are now and then gniHv of the opposits
error and fodisMy affect to valos themselves en
not makmg use of the understanding they reat
ly possess ; and a^ct to be thought even mors
silly than they are. They exhibit -no small sa-
tismdtion in ridiculing women of high intsllee>
tual endowments, wnite they exmtim, with
much afl^ted horoilify and nnich real envy»
that * they are thankfbl (ftsy are not ^fsniuses.
Now, though we are glad to hear gratitBde sx-

* ' Ofto 70a play on the lute V said a certain Atfaenita
to Tbemistoclea. * No/ replied be, 'hut I can make
little village a great city.*



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fnmdH on 9Mj ocoailoii, yet the waot of sense
IS really no sooh gre^i mercy to be tbankfol for;
and it woold indicate a better spirit, were they
to pray to be enabled to make a right use of the
moderate anderstanding they possess, than to
expose with a too Tisible pleasare, the imaginary
or real defects of their more shining acqaaint-
«iice. Women of the brightest facolties should



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