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 3 of 18)
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eye with pleasure, and every heart with admira-
tion ; while, like that same flower, she appears
unconscious of her opening charms, and only re-
joices in the sun that chears, and the hand that
shelters her ? In this manner shall you, my lovely
friend, -repay most acceptably a part (you never
can repay the whole) of that immense debt you
owe for all the pains and fears formerly suffered,


and for all the unalterable anxieties daily expert*
enced, on your account.

Perhaps you are the only daughter, perhaps the
only child of your mother, and she a widow. All
her cares, all her sensations point to you. Of the
tenderness of a much loved and much lamented
husband you are the sole remaining pledge. On
you she often fixes her earnest melting eye ,* with
watchful attention she marks the progress of your
rising virtues ; in every softened feature she
fondly traces your father's sense, your father's
probity. Something within her whispers, you
shall live to be the prop and comfort of her age,
as you are now her companion and her friend. — •
Blessed Lord, v/hat big emotions swell her labour-
ing soul ! but lest, by venting them in your com-
pany she should affect you too much, she silently
withdraws to pour them forth in tears of rapture |
a rapture only augmented by the sweetly sad re-
membrance that mingles with it, while at the same
time it is exalted and consecrated doubly by ar-
dent vows to heaven for your preservation and
prosperity. Is there a young woman that can
think of this with indifference ? is there a young-
woman that can reverse the description, suppose
herself the impious creature that could break a
widowed mother's heart, and support the thought ?

When a daughter, it may be a favourite daugh-
ter, turns out unruly, foolish, wanton ; when she
disobeys her parents, disgraces her education, dis-
honours her sex, disappoints the hopes she had
raised ; when she throws herself away on a mau
unworthy of her, or unqualified to make her hap-
py ; what her parents in any of these cases must
necessarily suffer, we may conjecture^ they alom'
can feel.

( 40 O





ONE of the chief beauties in a female charac-
ter is that modest reserve, that retiring delicacy,
^vhich avoids the public eye, and is disconcerted
even at the gaze of admiration. I do not wish
you to be insensible to applause ; if you were,
you mustbecome, if not worse, at least,less amiable
women. But you may be dazzled by that admi-
ration, which yet rejoices your hearts.

When a girl ceases to blush, she has lost the
most powerful charm of beauty. That extreme
sensibility which it indicates, may be a weakness
and incumbrance in our sex, as I have too often
felt ; but in yours it is peculiarly engaging. Pe-
dants, who think themselves philosophers, ask
why a woman should blush when she is conscious
of no crime ? it is a sufficient answer, that nature
has made you to blush when you are guilty of no
fault, and has forced us to love you because you
do so. Blushing is so far from being a necessary
attendant on guilt, that it is the usual companiorii,
of innocence.

This modesty which I think so essential in your
sex, will dispose you to be rather silent in compa-
ny, especially in a large one. People of sense and
discernment will never mistake such silence for
dulness. One may take a share in conversation
without uttering a syllable. The expression in


die countenance shews it, and this never escapes
an observing eye.

I should be glad that you had an easy dignity
in your behaviour at public places, but not that
confident ease, that unabashed countenance, which
seems to set the company at defiance. If, while
a gentleman is speaking to you, one of superior
rank addresses you, do not let your eager atten-
tion and visible preference, betray the flutter of
your heart. Let pride on this occasion, preserve
you from that meanness into which your vanity
would sink you. Consider that you expose your-
selves to the ridicule of the company, and affront
one gentleman only to swell the triumph of ano-
ther, who perhaps thinks he does you honour in
speaking to you.

Converse with men even of the first rank with
that dignified modesty, which may prevent the
approach of the most distant familiarity, and con-
sequently prevent them from feeling themselves
your superiors.

Wit is the most dangerous talent you can pos-
sess. It must be guarded with great discretion
and good nature, otherwise it will create you ma-
ny enemies. Wit is perfectly consistent with soft-
ness and delicacy, yet they are seldom found
united. Wit is so flattering to vanity, that they
who possess it become intoxicated and lose all
self command.

Humour is a different quality. I*t will make
your company much solicited ; but be cautious
how you indulge it. It is often a great enemy to
delicacy, and a still greater one to dignity of cha-
racter. Sometimes it may gain you applause, but
will never procure you respect.

Be even cautious in displaying your good sense.
It will be thought you assume a superiority over


42 A father's legacy.

the rest of the company. Bat if you happen to
have any learniRg, keep it a profound secret, es-
pecially from the men, who generally look with a
jealous and malignant eye on a woman of great
parts and cultivated understanding.

A man of real genius and candour is far supe-
rior to this meanness ; but such a one will seldom
I'all in your way ; and if by accident he should,
do not be anxious to shew the full extent of your
knowledge. If he has any opportunity of seeing
vou, he will soon discover it himself; and if you
have any advantages of person or manner, and
keep your own secret, he will probably give you
credit for more than vou possess. The great art
in conversation, consists in making the company
pleased with themselves. You will more readily
hear than talk yourselves into their good graces.

Beware of detraction, especially where your
own sex is concerned. You are generally accu-
sed of being particularly addicted to this vice. —
I think unjustly. Men are full as guilty of it,
when their interests interfere. As your interests
more frequently clash, and as your feelings are
quicker than ours, your temptations to it are more
frequent. For this reason be particularly tender
of the reputation of your own sex, especially
when they happen to rival you in our regards. —
We look on this as the strongest proof of dignity
and true greatness of mind.

Shew a compassionate sympathy to unfortunate
women, especially to those who are rendered so
by the villany of men. Indulge a secret plea-
sure, I may say pride, in being the friends and
refuge of the unhappy, but without the vanity of
shewing it.

Consider every species of indelicacv in conver-
sation as shameful in itself, and as highh disgust-

A father's legacy. 43

ing to us. All double entendre is of this sort. —
The dissoluteness of men's education allows them
to be diverted with a kind of wit, which yet they
have delicacy enough to be shocked at when it
comes from your mouths ,* or even when you hear
it without pain and contempt. Virgin purity is
of that delicate nature that it cannot hear certain
things without contamination. It is always in
your power to avoid these. No man, but a brute
or a fool, will insult a w^oman w^ith conversation
which he sees gives her pain ; nor will he dare to
do it, if she resent the injury with a becoming
spirit. There is a dignity in conscious virtue,
which is able to awe the most shameless and
abandoned of men.

You will be reproached perhaps with pruderv.
By prudery is usually meant an affectation of de-
licacy. Now I do not wish you to affect delica-
cy : I wish you to possess it. At any rate, it is
better to run the risk of being thought ridiculous
than disgusting.




























Every man who remembers a few years back,
is sensible of a very striking change in the atten-
tion and respect formerly paid by the gentlemen
to the ladies. Their drawing rooms are deserted,
and after dinner and supper, the gentlemen are
impatient till they retire. How they came to lose
this respect, which nature and politeness so well
entides them to, I shall not here particularly en-
quire. The revolutions of nature in any coun-
trv, depend on causes very various and compli-
cated. I shall only observe, that the behaviour
of the ladies in the last age was very reserved anc].


Stately. It would now be reckoned ridiculously
stiff and formal. Whatever it was, it had certain-
ly the effect of making them more respected.

A fine woman, like other fine things in nature,
has her proper points of view, from which she
may be seen to most advantage.

To fix this point requires great judgment, and
an intimate knowledge of the human heart. By
the present mode of female manners, the ladies
seem to expect that they shall regain their ascen-
dency over us by the fullest display of their per-
sonal charms, by being always in our eye at pub-
lic places, by conversing with us with the same
unreserved freedom we do with one another ; in
short, by resembling us as nearly as they possibly
can. But a little time and experience will shew
the folly of their expectation and conduct.

The power of a fine woman over the hearts of
men of the finest parts, is ever beyond what she
conceives. They are sensible of the pleasing il-
lusion, but they cannot, nor do they wish to dis-
solve it. But if she is determined to dispel the
charm, it certainly is in her power. She may
soon reduce the angel to a very ordinary girl.

There is a native dignity in ingenious modesty
to be expected in your sex, which is your natural
protection from the familiarity of men, and v/hich
you should feel previous to the reflection, that it
is your mterest to keep yourselves sacred from all
personal freedoms. The many nameless charms
and endearments of beauty should be reserved to
bless the happy man to whom you give your hearts.
The sentiment, that a woman may allow all inno-
cent freedoms, provided her virtue is secure, is
both grossly indelicate and dangerous, and has
proved fatal to many of your sex.


Let me now recommend to your attention, that
elegance, which is not so much a quality of itself,
as the high polish of every other. It is what dif-
fuses an ineffable grace over every look, every
motion, every sentence you utter. It gives that
charm to beauty, without which it generally fails
to please. It is partly a personal quality, in which
respect it is the gift of nature : but I speak of it
principally as a quality of the mind. In a word,
it is the perfection of taste in life and manners ;
every virtue, and every excellence, in their most
graceful and proper forms.

You may perhaps think I want to throw every
spark of nature out of your composition, and to
make you entirely artificial. Far from it, I wish
you to possess the most perfect simplicity of heart
and manners. I think you may possess dignity
without pride, affability without meanness, and
simple elegance without affectation. Milton had
my idea, when he says of Eve,

Grace was in all her steps, heav-n in her eye ;
In every gesture dignity and love.


Ridiculed Z7i a Letter from a Chinese Philosopher^
to his Friend in the East,


THE ladies here are by no means such ardent
gamesters as the women of Asia. In this respect
I must do the English justice ; for I love to praise
where applause is justly merited. Nothing is
more common in China, than to see two women


of Fashion continue gaming till one has won all
the other's clothes, and stript her quite naked ;
the winner thus marching off in a double suit of
finery, and the loser shrinking behind in the pri-
mitive simplicity of nature.

No doubt you remember when Shang^ our
maiden aunt, played with a sharper. First her
money went ; then her trinkets were produced ;
her clothes followed, piece by piece, soon after ;
when she had thus played herself quite naked,
being a woman of spirit, and v/illing to pursue
her own, she staked her teeth ; fortune was against
her even here, and her teeth followed her clothes ;
at last she played for her left eye, and, oh ! hard
fate, this too she lost : however, she had the con-
solation of biting the sharper, for he never per-
ceived that it was made of glass till it became his

How happy, my friend, are the English ladies,
who never rise to such an inordinance of passion !
Though the sex here are naturally fond of games
of chance, and are taught to manage games of
skill from their infancy, yet they never pursue
ill fortune with such amazing intrepidity. Indeed
I may entirely acquit them of ever playing- — I mean
of playing for their eyes or their teeth.

It is true they often stake their fortune, their
beauty, health and reputations at a gaming-table.
It even sometimes happens, that they pla}^ their
husbands into a jail; yet still they preserve a de-
corum unknown to our wives and daughters of
China. I have been present at a rout in this
country, where a woman of fashion, after losing
her money, has sat writhing in all the agonies of
bad luck ; and yet, after all, never once attempted
to strip a single petticoat, or cover the board, as
her last stake, with her head-clothes.


However, though I praise their moderation at
play, I must not conceal their assiduity. In Chi-
na, our women, except upon some great days, are
never permitted to finger a dice-box ; but here,
every day seems to be a festival ; and night itself,
which gives others rest, only serves to increase
the female gamester's industry. I have been told
of an old lady in the country, who being given
over by the physicians, played with the curate of
her parish to pass the time away : having won all
his money, she next proposed playing for her fu-
neral charges ; the proposal v/as accepted ; but
unfortimately, the lady expired just as she had
taken in her game.

There are some passions, which, though differ-
ently pursued, are attended with equal conse-
quences in every country : here they game with
more perseverance, there with greater fury ; here
they strip their families, there they strip themselves
naked. A lady in China, wiio indulges a passion
for gaming, often becomes a drunkard ; and by
flourishing a dice-box in one hand, she generally
comes to brandish a dram cup in the other. Far
be it from me to say there are any who drink
drams in England ; but it is natural to suppose,
that when a lady has lost every thing but her ho-
nour, she will be apt to toss that into the bargain ;
and, grown insensible to nicer feelings, bf^have like
the Spaniard, who, when all his money was gone,
endeavoured to borrow more, by offering to pawn
his whiskers.

C 48 )



To Asem Hacchem^ principal slave-driver to his
highness the bashaw of Tripoli.

[The works of education, in common use, are made
up of selections from trans-atlantic writers. Young
persons being aocustomed to regard English litera-
ture as excluoivelj deserving*; their applause and imi-
tation, acquire a disrelish and disiespect lor the pro-
ductions of our own country. This disrespect re-
sults 80 much from early prejudice, that elementary
ccmpilers should exert ther ^ejives to vindicate their
national character. We are conscious that flowers of
gen-US have btrn oorn (but " born to blush unseen")
in fhe American republic, which needed only the fos-
tering; Mecaenes, to display their beauties, and force
them into public view, it is not enough that men
write ; excellence, in any shape, must be thrust into
immortality, or that excellence is forgotten. We
acknowledge that the distinguished authors from
whom we select the following, cannot complain of
popular neglect. The satires of the Cockloft
Family have circulated every where, and at one
time the little volumes of Salmagundi were thought
an indispensable part of the tea- table furniture of
every fashionable house in America. But this kind
of celebrity is most perishable. The works of
Launcelot Langstaff, and his noble brothers, have
been too much regarded as meri amusing trifles,
while they are adorned by all the graces of style
and sentiment. The editor of the Lady's Precep-
tor wishes to convince youth, that American pro-
ductions exist, which they may admire and imitate.
He wishes also to adduce the works of Langstaff


mustapha's letter. *5

j>«B Co. as choice specimens of nationaniteratute
He issatisfied, thatfemales wiUnotbe displeasea with
the selection, and confess that SA'-^^^^f'^Yi '
not only on Ihe toilet and the tea-table, but that its
lustre is bright amidst the surrounding glare ot Bn- -
tish erudition.]

THOUGH I am often disgusted, my good
Asem, with the vices and absurdities of the mm
Of this country ; yet the women afford me a world
of amusement. Their lively prattle is as d vert-
inK as the chattering of the red-tailed parrot , nor
can the green-headed monkey of Timandi, equal
Aem in'whim and playfulness.. But notwi h
standing these valuable qualifications I am sorry
to observe they are not treated with half the atten-
tion bestowed on the before ™-'-""\:">^,^f^
These infidels put their parrots in cages a"d chain
their monkeys ; but their women, mstead ot be-
inff carefully shut up in harams and seragl.oes, are
abLdoned 'to the 'direction of *exr own reason
and suffered to run about in perfect f^^^dom >'k^.
other domestic animals: this comes, Asem, ot
treating their women as rational bemgs and al-
oting Aem souls. The consequence of this pi-
teous neglect may easily be imagined-they have
degenerated into all their native wildness, are sel-
dom to be caught at home, and at an early age take
to the streets and highways, where they rove abom.
in droves, giving almost as much annoyance to
the peaceable people, as the troops of wild dogs
that infest our great cities, or the flights of locusts,
that sometimes%pread famine and desolation over
whole regions of fertdity. . ., , „

This propensity to relapse into pristine wildness,
convinces me of the untameable disposition of the
sex, who may indeed be partially domesticated by


a long course of refinement and restraint, but the
moment they are restored to personal freedom be-
come wild as the young partridge of this country,
%vhich, though scarcely half hatched, will take to
the fields and run about with the shell upon its

Notwithstanding their wildness, however, they
are remarkably easy of access, and suffer them-
selves to be approached, at certain hours of the
day, without any symptoms of apprehension ; and
I have even happily succeeded in detecting them
at their domestic occupations. One of the most
important of these consists in thumping vehe-
mently on a kind of musical instrument, and pro-^
ducing a confused, hideous, and indefinable up-
roar, which they call the description of a battle—
a jest, no doubt, for they are wonderfully facetious
at times, and make great p^ractice of passing jokes
upon strangers. Sometimes they employ them-
selves in painting little caricatures and landscapes,
wherein they will display their singular drollery
in bantering nature fairly out of countenance — re-
presenting her tricked out in all the tawdry finery
of copper skies, purple rivers, calico rocks, red
grass, clouds that look like old clothes set adrift
by the tempest, and foxy trees, whose melancholy
foliage, drooping and curling most fantastically,
reminds me of an undressed periwig that I have
now and then seen hang on a stick in a barber.^s
window* At other times they employ themselves
in acquiring a smattering of languages spoken by
nations on the other side of the globe, as they find
their own language not sufficiently copious to sup-
ply their constant demands, and express their
multifarious ideas. But their most important do-
mestic avocation is to embroider on satin or mus-
lin, flowers of a non-descript kind, in which the


grent art is to make them as unlike nature as pos-
sible — or to fasten little bits of silver, gold, tinsel
and glass, on long strips of muslin, which they
drag after them with much dignity whenever they
go abroad — a fine lady, like a bird of paradise,
being estimated by the length of her taiU

But do not, my friend, fall into the enormous
error of supposing, that the exercise of these arts
is attended with any useful or profitable result—'
believe me, thou cGuldst not indulge an idea more
unjust and injurious ; for it appears to be an esta-
blished maxim among the women of this coun-
try that a lady loses her dignity w'hen she conde-
scends to be useful ; and forfeits all rank in society
the moment she can be convinced of earning a
farthing. Their labours, therefore, are directed
not towards supplying their household, but in
decking their persons, and^ — ^generous souls ! —
they deck their persons, not so much to please
themselves, as to gratify others, particularly stran^
gers. I am confident thou wilt stare at this, my
good Asem, accustomed as thou art to our eastern
females, who shrink in blushing timidity even
from the glances of a lover, and are so chary of
their favours that they even seem fearful of lavish-
ing their smiles too profusely on their husbands.
Here, on the contrary, the stranger has the first
place in female regard, and so far do they carry
their hospitality, that I have seen a fine lady slight
a dozen tried friends and real admirers, who lived
in her smiles and made her happiness their study,
merely to allure the vague and wandering glances
of a stranger who viewed her person with indiffer-
ence and treated her advances v/ith contempt. By
the whiskers of our sublime bashaw, but this is
highly flattering to a foreigner ! and thou mayest
jud^-e hovy particularly pleasing to one who is, like

32 mustapha's letter.

myself, so ardent an admirer of the sex. Far be
it from me to condemn this extraordinary mani-
festation of good will — let their own countrymen
look to that.

Be not alarmed, I conjure thee, my dear Asem,
lest I should be tempted by the beautiful barba-
rians to break the faith I owe to the three-and-
twenty wives from whom my unhappy destiny has
perhaps severed me for ever — no Asem ; neither
time nor the bitter succession of misfortunes that
pursues me, can shake from my heart the memory
of former attachments. I listen with tranquil
heart to the strumming and prattling of these fair
syrens— -their whimsical paintings touch not the
tender chord of my aifections ; and I would still
defy their fascinations, though they trailed after
them trains as long as the gorgeous trappings
which are dragged at the heels of the holy camel
of Mecca : or as the tail of the great beast in our
prophet's vision, which measured three hundred
and forty- nine leagues, two miles, three furlongs,
and a hand's breadth in longitude.

The dress of these women is, if possible, more
eccentric and v/himsical than their deportment,
and they take an inordinate pride in certain orna-
ments, which are probably derived from their sa-
vage progenitors. A woman of this country,
dressed out for an exhibition, is loaded with as
many ornaments as a Circassian slave when brought
out for sale. Their heads are tricked out v/ith
little bits of horn or shell, cut into fantastic shapes,
and they seem to emulate each other in the num-
ber of these singular baubles—'like the women wc
have seen in our journeys to Aleppo, who cover
their heads with the entire shell of a tortoise, and
thus equipped, are the envy of all their less for-
tunate acquaintance. , They also decorate their

mustapha's letter. S3

necks and ears with coral, gold chains, and glass-
beads, and load their fingers with a variety o^
rings ; though, I must confess, I have never per-
ceived that they wear any in their noses — as has
been affirmed by many travellers. We have heard
much of their painting themselves most hideously,
and making use of bear's grease in great profu-
sion ; but this, I solemnly assure thee, is a misre-
presentation ; civilization, no doubt, having gra-
dually extirpated these nauseous practices. It is
true, I have seen two or three of these females,

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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 3 of 18)