Henry J. (Henry John) Van-Lennep.

The American lady's preceptor : a compilation of observations, essays and poetical effusions designed to direct the female mind in a course of pleasing and instructive reading online

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Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry John) Van-LennepThe American lady's preceptor : a compilation of observations, essays and poetical effusions designed to direct the female mind in a course of pleasing and instructive reading → online text (page 2 of 18)
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them to improve. They are, as Montaigne says,
" flowers of quick growth, and by the delicacy
of their conception, catch readily and without
ti'ouble, the relation of things to each other."

The charms of their persons, how powerful
soever, may attract, but cannot fix us ; something
more than beauty is necessary to rivet the lover's
chain. By often beholding a beautiful face, the
impression it first made soon wears away. When
the woman whose person we admire, is incapable
of pleasing us by her conversation, langour and
satiety soon triumph over the relish we had for
her charms : hence arises the inconstancy with
which men are so often reproached ; that barren-
ness of ideas which we find in women, renders
men unfaithful.

The ladies may judge of the difference there
is among them, by that which they themselves
make between a fool who teases them with his
impertinence, and a man of letters who entertains
them agreeably ; a very little labour would equal
them to the last, and perhaps give them the advan-
tage. This is a kind of victory which we wish
to yield them.

The more they enlarge their notions, the more
subjects of conversation will be found between
them and us, and the more sprightly and affecting
will that conversation be. How many delicate
sentiments, how many nice sensibilities are lost by
not being communicable, and what an increase of
satisfaction should we feel could we meet with
women disposed to taste them.

But what are the studies to which women may
with propriety apply themselves ? This question
I take upon myself to answer. I would particu-
larly recommend to them to avoid all abstract


learning, all difficult researches, which may blimt
the finer edge of their wit, and change the delica-
cy in which they excel into pedantic coarseness.

It is in such parts of learning only as afford the
highest improvement that we invite women to
share with us. All that may awaken curiosity,
and lend graces to the imagination, suits them
still better than us. This is a vast field, where
we may together exercise the mind ; and here
they may even excel us without mortifying our

History and natural philosophy are alone suffi-
cient to furnish women with an agreeable kind of
study. The latter, in a series of useful observa-
tions and interesting experiments, offers a specta-
cle well worthy the consideration of a reasonable
being. But in vain does nature present her mi-
racles to the generality of women, who have no
attention but to trifles.

Yet surely it requires but a small degree of at-
tention to be struck with that wonderful harmony
which reigns throughout the universe, and to be-
come ambitious of investigating its secret springs.
This is a large volume open to ail ; here a pair
of beautiful eyes may employ themselves with-
out being fatigued. This amiable study will
banish langour from the sober amusements of the
country, and repair that waste of intellect which
is caused by the dissipations of the town. Wo-
men cannot be too much excited to raise their
eyes to objects like these, which they but too often
cast down to such as are unworthy of tiiem.

The sex is more capable of attention than we
imagine : what they chiefly want is a well-direct-
ed application. There is scarcely a young girl
who has nqt read with eagerness a great number
of idle romances, sufficient to corrupt her imagi-


nation and cloud her understanding. If she had
devoted the same time to the study of history, in
those varied scenes she would have found facts
more interesting, and instruction which only truth
can give.

Those striking pictures that are displayed in
the annals of the human race, are highly proper
to direct the judgment, and form the heart. Wo-
men have at all times had so great a share in
events, that they may with reason consider our
archives as their own ; nay, there are many of
them who have written memoirs of the several
events of which they had been eye-witnesses.
Christina, of Pisan, daughter to the astronomer,
patronized by the emperor Charles the Fifth, has
given us the life of that prince ; and long before
her, the princess Anna Compaenus wrote the his-
tory of her own times. We call upon the ladies
to assert their rights, and from the study of his-
tory, to extract useful lessons for the conduct of

This study, alike pleasing and intructive, will
naturally lead to that of the fine arts. The
arts are in themselves too amiable to need any re-
commendation to the sex : all the obj ects they
offer to their view have some analogy with wo-
men, and are like them adorned with the brightest
colours. The mind is agreeably soothed by those
images which poetry, painting and music trace
out, especially if they are found to agree with
purity of manners.

To familiarize ourselves with the arts, is ia
some degree to create a new sense. So agreeably
have they imitated nature ; nay, so often have
they embellished it, that whoever cultivates them,
will in them always find a fruitful source of new
pleasures. We ought to provide against the en-


croachments of langour and weariness by this
addition to our natural riches ; and surely when
we may so easily transfer to ourselves the posses-
sion of that multitude of pleasing ideas which they
have created, it would be the highest stupidity to
neglect such an advantage.

There is no reason to fear that the ladies, by
applying themselves to these studies, will throw
, ^ shade over the natural graces of their wit. On
the contrary, those graces will be placed in a
more conspicuous point of view. What can equal
the pleasure we receive from the conversation of
a woman who is more solicitous to adorn her rnind
than her person ? in the company of such women
there can be no satiety ; every thing becomes in-
teresting, and has a secret charm which only they
can give. The happy art of saying the most in-
genious things with a graceful simplicity is pecu-
liar to them ,* they call forth the powers of wit in
men, and communicate to them that easy elegance
which is never to be acquired in the closet.

But what preservative is there against disgust
in the society 6f women of unimproved under-
standings ? in vain do they endeavour to fill the
void of their conversation with insipid gaiety ;
they soon exhaust the barren fund of fashionable
trifles, the news of the day, and hacknied compli-
ments ; they are at length obliged to have re-
course to scandal, and it is well if they stop there ;
a commerce in which there is nothing solid, must
be either mean or criminal.

There is but one way to make it more varied
and more interesting. If ladies of rank would
condescend to form their taste and collect ideas
from our best authors, conversation would take
another cast : their acknowledged merit would
banish that swarm of noisy impertinents who flut-


ter about them, and endeavour to render them as
contemptible as themselves: men of sense and
learmng would frequent their assemblies, and
lorm a circle more worthy of the name of i^ood
EGmpany, ^

In this new circle, gaiety would not be banish-
ed, but refined by delicacy and wit. Merit is not
austere a calm and uniform chearfulness runs
through the conversation of persons of real un-
derstandmg, which is far preferable to the noisy
mirth of Ignorance and folly. The societies form-

wth V T7 '^"""'V'^'" ^^>^""^' the Sablieres,
with the Vevonnes, the La Fares, and Rochefou-
caults, were surely more pleasing than the assem-
bhes oi our days. Among them learning was not
pedantic, nor wisdom severe ; and subjects of
the highest importance were treated with aU the
sprightliness of wit.

The ladies must allcw me once more to repeat
to them, that the only means of charming, and of
charming long, is to improve their minds ; ^ood
sense gives beauties which are not subject to fade
like the lilhes and roses of their cheeks, but wiU
prolong the power of an agreeable woman to the
autumn of her l:ie.



WITHOUT religion no lady's education
can be compleat.— True Religion (as an elegant
Author observes) is the joint refulgence of all the
virtues. It resembles the Sun, at whose sight all
tne Stars hide their diminished heads. It breathef^


benevolence and love to man. T1.e truly piou.
serve God, their creator and benetactor, wiu,
^hX whole soul. They honour and love him,
Jofso much for the sa/e of their pro-sed re-
ward%™ for the benefits they have received and
ritn^ore actuated by Gratitude than Hope. They
Zl Tevere to" Aemsaves, and compassionate to
Xr They endeavour to reclam the^ errone-
ous, not by severity, but meekness. 1 hey are
Xays si Jlar to therriselves, ^nd serve God urn
formlv not by fits and starts. They are at peace
wkh all men.^ They comfort the afflicted, support
^e dis ressed, and clothe the naked. They neith-
er exult In prosperity, nor sink in adversity but
maincontLe'd w|h the will of God a^d pa-
tientlv bear those afflictions he is pleased to lay
upon them. They shew their piety not in tteory
bSt in practice ; n'ot in words, but works. They
are not led by fear, ambition, or worldly interest,
but by love to the Author of their being. They
strivTto promote the good of all men, and labou.
to secure eternal bliss.




EThe Eaitor introauces Lord Halifax to the reaaer

^ ratheTon acccount of the good sense by h,»

AovtcEis distinguished, thai, on account of h,»

style! which abounds with the quaintness of former


I MUST, in particular, recommend to you a
atrict care in the choice of your friendships. Per.-



haps the best are not without their objections, but
however, be sure that yours may not stray from
the rules which the wiser part of the world hath
set to them. The leagues, offensive and defen-
sive, seldom hold in politics, and much less in
friendships. Besides, these great attachments, by
degrees, grow injurious to the rest of your ac-
quamtance, and throw them off from you. There
IS such an offensive distinction when the dear friend
comes mto the room, that it is flinging stones at
the company, who are not apt to forgive it.

Do not lay out your friendship too lavishly at
first, smce it will, like other things, be so much
the sooner spent ; neither let it be of too sudden
a growth ; for as the plants which shoot up too
fast, are not of that continuance as those which
take more time for it ; so too sv/ift a progress in
pouring out your kindness, is a certain sign that
by the course of nature it will not be long lived.
You will be responsible to the world, if vou pitch
upon such friends as at that time are under the
weight of any criminal objection. In that case,
you will bring yourself under the disadvantages
of their character, and must bear your part of it.
Choosing implies approving; and if vou fix upon
a lady for your friend against whorn the world
hath given judgment, 'tis not so well natured as to
believe you are altogether averse to her way of
living, since it doth not discourage you from ad-
mitting her into your kindness. And resemblance
of inclinations being thought none of the least
inducements to friendship, you will be looked up-
on as a well wisher, if not a partner with her in her
faults. If you can forgive them in another, it may
be presumedyou will not be less gentle to yourself;
and therefore you must not take it ill, if you are
reckoned a croupiere, and condemned to pay aij


equal share with a friend of the reputation she
hath lost.

If it happens that your friend should fall from
the state of innocence, after your kindness was
engaged to her, you may be slow in your belief
in the beginning of the discovery : but as soon as
you are convinced by a rational evidence, you
must, without breaking too roughly, make a fair
and a quick retreat from such a mistaken acquaint-
ance : else by moving too slowly from one that is so
tainted, the contagion may reach you so far as to
give you part of the scandal, though not of the
guilt. This matter is so nice, that as you must
not be too hasty to join in the censure upon your
friend when she is accused, so you are not, on the
other side, to defend her with too much warmth ;
for if she should happen to deserve the report of
common fame, besides the vexation that belongs
to such a mistake, you will draw an ill appearance
upon yourself, and it will be thought you pleaded
for her, not vv^ithout some consideration for your-
self. The anger which must be put on to vindi-
cate the reputation of an injured friend, may in-
cline the company to suspect you would not be so
zealous, if there was not a possibility that the case
mightbe your own. For this reason, you are not to
carry your attachments so far as absolutely to lose
your sight where your friend is concerned. Be-
cause malice is too quick sighted, it doth not fol-
low, that friendship must be blind ; there is to be
a mean between these two extremes, else your ex-
cess of good nature may betray you into a
very ridiculous figure, and by degrees you may be
preferred to such ofSces as you v/ill not be proud

Let the good sense of your friends be a chief
ingredient in your choice of them ; else let your

3:S> PRID&.

reputation be ever so clear, it may be clouded by
their impertinence. It is like our houses being
in the power of a drunken or a careless neighbour :
only so much worse as that there will be no insur-
ance here to make you amends, as there is in the
case of fire.

To conclude this paragraph ; if formality is to
be allowed in any instance, it is to be put on to
resist the invasion of such forward women as shall
press themselves into your friendship, where, if
admitted, they will either be a snare or an incum-


THIS is an ambiguous word ; one kind of it
is as much a virtue, as the other is a vice : but
we are naturally so apt to choose the worst, that
it is become dangerous to commend the best side
of it.

A woman is not to be proud of her fine gown f
nor when she hath less wit than her neighbours^
to comfort herself that she hath more lace. Some
ladies put so much weight upon ornaments, that
if one could see into their hearts, it would be
foimd, that even the thoughts of death is made
less heavy to them by the contemplation of their
being laid out in state, and honourably attended
to the grave. One may come a good deal short
of such an extreme, and yet still be sufficiently
impertinent, by setting a wrong value upon things,
which ought to be used with more indifference.
A lady must not appear solicitous to engross re-
spect to herself, but be content with a reasonable
fetribution, and allow it to others, that she may

PRIDE. i33

have it returned to her. She is not to be trouble-
somely nice, nor distinguish herself by being too
delicate, as if ordinary things were too coarse for
her ; this in an unmannerly and an offensive pride,
and where it is practised, deserves to be mortifi-
ed, of which it seldom fails. She is not to lean too
much upon her quality, much less to despise those
who are below it. Some make quality an idol,
and then their reason must fall down and worship
it. They v/ouid have the world think, that no
amends can ever be made for the want of a great
title, or an ancient coat of arms : they imagine,
that with these advantages they stand upon the
higher ground, which makes them look down up-
on merit and virtue, as things inferior to them.— -
This mistake is not only senseless, but criminal
too, in putting a greater price upon that which is a
piece of good luck, than upon things which are
valuable in themselves. Laughing is not enough
for such a folly ; it must be severely whipped, as
it justly deserves. It will be confessed, there are
frequent temptations given by pert upstarts to be
angry, and by that to have our judgnaents corrupt-
ed in these cases; but they are to be resisted ;
and the utmost that is to be allowed, is, when
those of a new edition will forget themselves, so
as either to brag of their weak side, or endeavour
to hide their meanness by their insolence, to cure
them by a little seasonable raillery, a little sharp-
ness well placed, v/ithout dwelling too long upon it.

These and many other kinds of pride are to be

That which is to be recommended to you, is an
emulation to raise yourself to a character, by
which you may be distinguished : an eagerness
for precedence in virtue, and all such other things
as may gain you a greater share of the good opi-


nion of the world. Esteem to virtue is like a che-
rishing air to plants and flowers, which makes
them blow and prosper ; and for that reason it
may be allowed to be, in some degree, the cause
as well as the reward of it. That pride which
leadeth to a good end, cannot be a vice, since it is
the beginning of a virtue ; and to be pleased with
just applause, is so far from a fault, that it would
be an ill symptom in a woman, who should not
place the greatest part of her satisfaction in it.— •
Humility is no doubt a great virtue ; but it ceas-
eth to be so, when it is afraid to scorn an ill thing.
Against vice and folly it is becoming your sex to
be haughty ; but you must not carry the contempt
of things to arrogance towards persons, and it
must be done with fitting distinctions, else it may
be inconvenient by being unseasonable. A pride
that raises a little anger to be outdone in any thing
that is good, will have so good an effect, that it is
very hard to allow it to be a fault.

It is no easy matter to carry even between these
differing kinds so described ; but remember that
it is safer for a woman to be thought too proud,
than too familiar.


THE next thing I shall recommend to you,
is a wise and a safe method of using diversions.
To be too eager in the pursuit of pleasure whilst
you are young, is dangerous ; to catch at it in ri-
per years, is grasping a shadow ; it will not be
held. Besides that by being less natural, it grows
to be indecent. Diversions are the most proper-
ly applied, to ease and relieve those who are op^


pressed, by being too much employed. Those
that are idle have no need of them, and yet they
above all others, give themselves up to them. —
To unbend our thoughts, when they are too much
stretched by our cares, is not more natural than
it is necessary, but to turn our whole life into a
holiday, is not only ridiculous, but destroys plea-
sure, instead of promoting it. The mind, like
the body, is tired by being always in one posture,
too serious breaks, and too diverting loosens it :
it is variety that gives the relish ; so that diver-
sions too frequently repeated, grow first to be in-
different, *ftnd at last tedious. Whilst they are
well chosen and well timed, they are never to be
blamed ; but when they are used to an excess,
though very innocent at first, they often grow to
be criminal, and never fail to be impertinent.

Some ladies are bespoken for merry meetings,
as Bessus was for duels. They are engaged in a
circle of idleness, where they turn round for the
whole year, without the interruption of a serious
hour. They know all the players' names, and are
intimately acquainted with all the booths in Bar-
tholomew fair. No soldier is more obedient to
the sound of his captain's trumpet, than they are
to that which summons them to a puppet, play, or
a monster. The spring that brings out flies and
fools, makes them inhabitants in Hide Park: in
the winter they are incumbrance to the play house
and the ballast of the drawing-room. The streets
all this while are so weary of these daily faces,
that men's eyes are overlaid with them. The
sight is glutted with fine things, as the stomach
with sweet ones ; when a fair lady will give
too much of herself to the world, she op-
presses, instead of pleasing. These ladies


SO continually seek diversion, that in little time
they grow into a jest, yet are unwilling to remem-
ber, that if they are seldomer seen, they would
not be so often laughed at. Besides, they make
themselves cheap, than which there cannot be an
unkinder word bestowed upon your sex.

To play so as to be called a gamester, is to be
avoided, next to the things that are most crimi-
nal. It hath consequences of several kinds not
to be endured : it will engage you into a habit of
idleness and ill hours, draw you into ill mixed
company, make you neglect your civilities abroad
and your business at home, and impose into your
acquaintance such as will do you no credit.

To deep play there will be yet greater objec-
tions. It will give occasion to the world to ask
spiteful questions. How you dare venture to lose,
and what means you have to pay such great sums ?
If you pay exactly, it will be enquired from
whence the money comes ? If you owe, and espe-
cially to a man, you must be so very civil to him
for his forbearance, that it lays a ground of having
it farther improved, if the gentleman is so dispo-
sed; It will be thought no unfair creditor, if
where the estate fails, he seizes upon the person.
Besides, if a lady could see her own face upon an
ill game, at a deep stake, she would certainly for-
swear any thing that could put her looks under
such a disadvantage.

To dance sometimes, will not be imputed to
you as a fault; but remember, that the end of
your learning it, was, that you might the better
know how to move gracefully. It is only an ad-
vantage so far. When it goes beyond it, one
may call it excelling in a mistake which is no
very great commendatio» It is better for a wo-


man never to dance, because she hath no skill in
it, than to do it too often, because she doth it
well. The easiest, as well as the safest method
of doing it, is in private companies, amongst par-
ticular friends and then carelesly, like a diversion,
rather than with solemnity, as if it was a busi-
ness, or had any thing in it to deserve a month's
preparation by serious conference with a dancing

Much more might be said on all these heads,
and many more might be added to them. But I
must restrain my thoughts, which are full for my
dear child, and would overflow into a volume
which would not be fit for a new-year's gift. I
will conclude with my warmest wishes for all that
is good to you. That you may live so as to be
an ornament to your family, and a pattern to
your sex.



THAT admired maxim of heathen antiquity,
" reverence thyself," seems to me peculiarly pro-
per for a woman. She that does not reverence
herself must not hope to be respected by others.
I would therefore remind you of your own value.
By encouraging you to entertain a just esteem for
yourselves, I would on one hand guard you against
every thing degrading, and on the other aAvaken
your ambition to act up to the best standard of
your sex ; to aspire at every amiable, every no-
ble quality that is adapted to your state, or that
can insure the affection and preserve the impor-
tance to which you were bom. Now this impoi*-



tance is very great, whether we consider you in
your present single condition, or as afterwards
connected in wedlock.

Considering you in your present single condi-
tion, I would begin where your duty in society be-
gins, by putting you in mind how deeply your pa-
rents are interested in your behaviour. For the
sake of the argument, I suppose your parents to
be alive. Those that have had the misfortune to
be early deprived of theirs, are commonly left to
the care of some friend or guardian, who is under-
stood to supply their place; and to such my re-
marks on this head v/ill not be altogether inappli-

Are you who now hear me blest with parents
that even in these times, and in this metropolis,
where all the corruption and futility of these times
are concentred, discover a zeal for your improve-
ment and salvation ? how thankful should you be
for the mighty blessing ! Would you show that you
are thankful ? do nothing to make them unhap-
py ; do all in your power to give them delight. —
Ah, did you but know how much it is in your

power to give them ! But who can describe

the transports of a breast truly parental, on be-
holding a daughter shoot up like some fair but
modest flower, and acquire, day after day, fresh
beauty and growing sweetness, so as to fill every

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Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry John) Van-LennepThe American lady's preceptor : a compilation of observations, essays and poetical effusions designed to direct the female mind in a course of pleasing and instructive reading → online text (page 2 of 18)