A1r A1v
Licens’d,
1694-07-16July 16th. 1694. D. Poplar.
A2r

A Serious
Proposal
To the
Ladies,

For the Advancement of
their true and greatest
Interest.

By a Lover of Her Sex.

London,
Printed for R. Wilkin at
the King’s Head in St. Paul’s
Church-Yard
1694-07-161694.

A2v
B1r 1

A Serious
Proposal
To the
Ladies,
For the Advancement of their
true and greatest Interest.

Ladies,

Since the Profitable Adventures
that have
gone abroad in the World, Bhave B1v 2
have met with so great
Encouragement, tho’ the
highest advantage they can
propose, is an uncertain
Lot for such matters as Opinion
(not real worth)
gives a value to; things
which if obtain’d, are as
flitting and fickle, as that
Chance which is to dispose
of them. I therefore
persuade my self, you
will not be less kind to a
Proposition that comes attended
with more certain
and substantial Gain; whose
only design is to improve
your Charms and heighten
your Value, by suffering
you no longer to be cheap
and contemptible. It’s aim is B2r 3
is to fix that Beauty, to
make it lasting and permanent,
which Nature
with all the helps of Art,
cannot secure: And to
place it out of the reach of
Sickness and Old Age, by
transferring it from a corruptible
Body to an immortal
Mind. An obliging
Design, which wou’d
procure them inward Beauty,
to whom Nature has
unkindly denied the outward;
and not permit those
Ladies who have comely
Bodies, to tarnish their Glory
with deformed Souls.
Wou’d have you all be wits,
or what is better Wise.
Raise you above the VulgarB2 gar B2v 4
by something more
truely illustrious, than a
founding Title, or a great
Estate. Wou’d excite in
you a generous Emulation
to excel in the best
things, and not in such
Trifles as every mean person
who has but Mony enough,
may purchase as
well as you. Not suffer
you to take up with the
low thought of distinguishing
your selves by any
thing that is not truly valuable;
and procure you
such Ornaments as all the
Treasures of the Indies are
not able to purchase. Wou’d
help you to surpass the Men
as much in Vertue and Ingenuity,genuity, B3r 5
as you do in Beauty;
that you may not only
be as lovely, but as wise
as Angels. Exalt and Establish
your Fame, more than
the best wrought Poems,
and loudest Panegyricks, by
ennobling your Minds with
such Graces as really deserve
it. And instead of the Fustian
Complements and Fulsome
Flatteries of your Admirers,
obtain for you the
Plaudit of Good Men and
Angels, and the approbation
of him who cannot err.
In a word, render you the
Glory and Blessing of the
present Age, and the Admiration
and Pattern of the
next.

B3 And B3v 6

And sure, I shall not need
many words to persuade
you to close with this Proposal.
The very offer is
a sufficient inducement; nor
does it need the set-off’s of
Rhetorick to recommend it,
were I capable, which yet
I am not, of applying them
with the greatest force. Since
you cannot be so unkind to
your selves, as to refuse
your real Interest; I
only entreat you to be so
wise as to examine wherein
it consists; for nothing is of
worser consequence than to
be deceiv’d in a matter of so
great concern. ’Tis as little
beneath your Grandeur as
your Prudence, to examine curiously B4r 7
curiously what is in this
case offer’d you; and to
take care that cheating
Hucksters don’t impose upon
you with deceitful Ware.
This is a matter infinitely
more worthy your Debates,
than what Colours are
most agreeable, or whats
the Dress becomes you best?
Your Glass will not do you
half so much service as
a serious reflection on your
own Minds; which will
discover Irregularities more
worthy your Correction,
and keep you from being
either too much elated or
depress’d by the representations
of the other. ’Twill
not be near so advantagious B4 to B4v 8
to consult with your Dancing-master
as with your
own Thoughts, how you may
with greatest exactness
tread in the Paths of Vertue,
which has certainly the
most attractive Air, and
Wisdom the most graceful
and becoming Meen:
Let these attend you, and
your Carriage will be always
well compos’d, and
ev’ry thing you do will
carry its Charm with it.
No solicitude in the adornation
of your selves is discommended,
provided you employ
your care about that
which is really your self;
and do not neglect that particle
of Divinity within you B5r 9
you, which must survive,
and may (if you please) be
happy and perfect when
it’s unsuitable and much
inferiour Companion is
mouldring into Dust. Neither
will any pleasure be denied
you, who are only desir’d
not to catch at the
Shadow and let the Substance
go. You may be as
ambitious as you please, so
you aspire to the best things;
and contend with your
Neighbours as much as you
can, that they may not out-
do you in any commendable
Quality. Let it never be
said, that they to whom preeminence
is so very agreeable,
can be tamely content B5 that B5v 10
that others shou’d surpass
them in this, and precede
them in a better World!
Remember, I pray you, the
famous Women of former
Ages, the Orinda’s of late,
and the more Modern D’acier
and others, and blush
to think how much is now,
and will hereafter be said of
them, when you your selves
(as great a Figure as you
make) must be buried in silence
and forgetfulness!
Shall your Emulation fail
there only where it is commendable?
Why are you
so preposterously humble,
as not to contend for one
of the highest Mansions in
the Court of Heav’n? Believelieve B6r 11
me Ladies, this is the only
Place worth contending
for; you are neither better
nor worse in your selves for
going before, or coming
after now; but you are
really so much the better,
by how much the higher
your station is in an Orb
of Glory. How can you be
content to be in the world
like Tulips in a Garden, to
make a fine shew and be
good for nothing; have all
your Glories set in the grave,
or perhaps much sooner?
What your own sentiments
are, I know not, but I cannot
without pity and resentment
reflect, that those
Glorious Temples on which your B6v 12
your kind Creator has bestow’d
such exquisite workmanship,
shou’d enshrine
no better than Egyptian
Deities; be like a garnish’d
Sepulchre, which for all it’s
glittering, has nothing within
but Emptiness or Putrifaction!
What a pity it
is, that whilst your Beauty
casts a lustre round about,
your Souls which are infinitely
more bright and radiant
(of which if you had
but a clear Idea, as lovely
as it is, and as much as you
now value it, you wou’d
then despise and neglect the
mean Case that encloses it)
shou’d be suffer’d to overrun
with Weeds, lye fallow and B7r 13
and neglected, unadorn’d
with any Grace! Altho
the Beauty of the Mind is
necessary to secure those
Conquests which your Eyes
have gain’d; and Time
that mortal Enemy to handsome
Faces, has no influence
on a lovely Soul, but
to better and improve it.
For shame, let us abandon
that Old, and therefore one
wou’d think, unfashionable
employment of pursuing
Butterflies and Trifles! No
longer drudge on in the
dull beaten road of Vanity
and Folly, which so many
have gone, before us; but
dare to break the enchanted
Circle that custom has placed B7v 14
plac’d us in, and scorn the
vulgar way of imitating all
the Impertinencies of our
Neighbours. Let us learn
to pride our selves in something
more excellent than
the invention of a Fashion:
And not entertain such a
degrading thought of our
own worth, as to imagin that
our Souls were given us only
for the service of our Bodies,
and that the best improvement
we can make
of these, is to attract the
eyes of men. We value
them too much, and our
selves too little, if we place
any part of our worth in
their Opinion; and do not
think our selves capable of Nobler B8r 15
Nobler Things than the pitiful
Conquest of some
worthless heart. She who
has opportunities of making
an interest in Heav’n, of obtaining
the love and admiration
of God and Angels,
is too prodigal of her Time,
and injurious to her Charms,
to throw them away on
vain insignificant men. She
need not make her self so
cheap, as to descend to Court
their Applauses; for at the
greater distance she keeps,
and the more she is above
them, the more effectually
she secures their esteem and
wonder. Be so generous
then Ladies, as to do nothing
unworthy of you; so true B8v 16
true to your Interest as not
to lessen your Empire, and
depreciate your Charms.
Let not your Thoughts
be wholly busied in
observing what respect is
paid you, but a part of them
at least, in studying to deserve
it. And after all, remember,
that Goodness is
the truest Greatness, to be
wise for your selves, the
greatest Wit, and that
Beauty the most desirable,
which will endure to Eternity.

Pardon me the seeming
rudeness of this Proposal,
which goes upon a supposition
that there is something
amiss in you, which it is intended B9r 17
intended to amend. My
design is not to expose, but
to rectify your Failures. To
be exempt from mistake, is
a priviledge few can pretend
to, the greatest is to
be past Conviction, and too
obstinate to reform. Even
the Men, as exact as they
wou’d seem, and as much
as they divert themselves
with our Miscarriages, are
very often guilty of greater
faults; and such as considering
the advantages
they enjoy, are much
more inexcusable. But I
will not pretend to correct
their Errors, who either are
or at least think themselves
too wise to receive Instructiontion B9v 18
from a Womans Pen.
My earnest desire is, that
you Ladies, would be as
perfect and happy as ’tis
possible to be in this imperfect
state; for I love you
too well to endure a spot
upon your Beauties, if I
can by any means remove
and wipe it off. I would
have you live up to the dignity
of your Nature, and
express your thankfulness
to God for the benefits you
enjoy by a due improvement
of them: As I know very
many of you do, who
countenance that Piety
which the men decry,
and are the brightest
Patterns of Religion that the B10r 19
the Age affords; ’tis my
grief that all the rest of our
Sex do not imitate such illustrious
Patterns, and therefore
I would have them encreas’d
and render’d more
conspicuous, that Vice being
put out of countenance,
(because Vertue is the only
thing in fashion) may sneak
out of the world, and it’s
darkness be dispell’d by the
confluence of so many shining
Graces. Some perhaps
will cry out that I teach
you false Doctrine; for because
by their seductions,
some amongst us are become
very mean and contemptible,
they would fain persuade
the rest to be as despicablepicable B10v 20
and forlorn as they.
We are indeed oblig’d to
them for their management,
in endeavouring to make us
so; who use all the artifice
they can to spoil, and deny
us the means of improvement.
So that instead of
inquiring why all Women
are not wise and good, we
have reason to wonder that
there are any so. Were
the men as much neglected,
and as little care taken to
cultivate and improve them,
perhaps they wou’d be so
far from surpassing those
whom they now despise,
that they themselves wou’d
sink into the greatest stupidity
and brutality. The prepost- B11r 21
preposterous returns that
the most of them make, to
all the care and pains that
is bestow’d on them, renders
this no uncharitable,
nor improbable Conjecture.
One wou’d therefore almost
think, that the wise disposer
of all things, foreseeing
how unjustly Women are
denied opportunities of improvement
from without, has
therefore by way of compensation
endow’d them
with greater propensions to
Vertue, and a natural goodness
of Temper within, which
if duly manag’d, would raise
them to the most eminent
pitch of Heroick Vertue.
Hither Ladies, I desire you wou’d B11v 22
wou’d aspire, ’tis a noble
and becoming Ambition;
and to remove such Obstacles
as lye in your way, is
the design of this Paper.
We will therefore enquire
what it is that stops your
flight, that keeps you groveling
here below, like Domitian
catching Flies, when
you should be busied in obtaining
Empires?

Whatever has been said
by Men of more Wit than
Wisdom, and perhaps of
more malice than either,
that Women are naturally
Incapable of acting Prudently,
or that they are
necessarily determined to
folly, I must by no means grant B12r 23
grant it; that Hypothesis
would render my endeavours
impertinent, for then
it would be in vain to advise
the one, or endeavour
the Reformation of the other.
Besides, there are
Examples in all Ages, which
sufficiently confute the Ignorance
and Malice of this
Assertion.

The Incapacity, if there
be any, is acquired not natural;
and none of their
Follies are so necessary, but
that they might avoid
them if they pleased themselves.
Some disadvantages
indeed they labour under, &
what these are we shall see
by and by, and endeavour to B12v 24
to surmount; but Women
need not take up with mean
things, since (if they are not
wanting to themselves) they
are capable of the best.
Neither God nor Nature
have excluded them from
being Ornaments to their
Families, and useful in
their Generation; there is
therefore no reason they
should be content to be
Cyphers in the World,
useless at the best, and in
a little time a burden and
nuisance to all about them.
And ’tis very great pity
that they who are so apt to
over-rate themselves in
smaller matters, shou’d,
where it most concerns them C1r 25
them to know, and stand
upon their Value, be so
insensible of their own
worth.

The cause therefore of
the defects we labour under,
is, if not wholly, yet
at least in the first place, to
be ascribed to the mistakes
of our Education; which
like an Error in the first
Concoction, spreads its ill
Influence thro’ all our Lives.

The Soil is rich and
would, if well cultivated,
produce a noble Harvest,
if then the Unskilful Managers
not only permit,
but incourage noxious
Weeds, tho’ we shall suffer
by their Neglect, yet C they C1v 26
they ought not in justice
to blame any but themselves,
if they reap the
Fruit of their own Folly.
Women are from their very
Infancy debar’d those
Advantages, with the want
of which, they are afterwards
reproached, and nursed
up in those Vices which
will hereafter be upbraided
to them. So partial are
Men as to expect Brick
where they afford no straw;
and so abundantly civil as
to take care we shou’d make
good that obliging Epithet
of Ignorant, which out of an
excess of good Manners,
they are pleas’d to bestow
on us! One C2r 27
One wou’d be apt to
think indeed, that Parents
shou’d take all possible care
of their Childrens Education,
not only for their sakes,
but even for their own. And
tho the Son convey the
Name to Posterity, yet certainly
a great Part of the
Honour of their Families depends
on their Daughters.
’Tis the kindness of Education
that binds our duty
fastest on us: For the being
instrumental to the
bringing us into the world,
is no matter of choice, and
therefore the less obliging.
But to procure that we
may live wisely and happily
in it, and be capable of C2 endless C2v 28
endless Joys hereafter, is a
benefit we can never sufficiently
acknowledge. To
introduce poor Children into
the world, and neglect to
fence them against the temptations
of it, and so leave
them expos’d to temporal
and eternal Miseries, is a
wickedness, for which I want
a Name; ’tis beneath Brutality,
the Beasts are better
natur’d, for they take care
of their off-spring, till they
are capable of caring for
themselves. And, if Mothers
had a due regard to
their Posterity, how Great
soever they are, they wou’d
not think themselves too
Good to perform what Natureture C3r 29
requires, nor thro’ Pride
and Delicacy remit the poor
little one to the care of a
Foster Parent. Or, if necessity
inforce them to depute
another to perform
their Duty, they wou’d be
as choice at least in the Manners
and Inclinations, as
they are in the complections
of their Nurses, least with
their Milk they transfuse
their Vices, and form in the
Child such evil habits as will
not easily be eradicated.

Nature as bad as it is, and
as much as it is complain’d
of, is so far improveable by
the grace of God, upon our
honest and hearty endeavours,
that if we are not C3 wanting C3v 30
wanting to our selves, we
may all in some, tho not in
an equal measure, be instruments
of his Glory, Blessings
to this world, and capable
of eternal Blessedness
in that to come. But if our
Nature is spoil’d, instead of
being improv’d at first; if
from our Infancy, we are
nurs’d up in Ignorance and
Vanity; are taught to be
Proud and Petulent, Delicate
and Fantastick, Humorous
and Inconstant, ’tis
not strange that the ill effects
of this Conduct appears
in all the future Actions
of our Lives. And seeing
it is Ignorance, either habitual
or actual, which is the C4r 31
the cause of all sin, how are
they like to escape this, who
are bred up in that? That
therefore women are unprofitable
to most, and a plague
and dishonour to some men
is not much to be regretted
on account of the Men, because
’tis the product of
their own folly, in denying
them the benefits of an ingenuous
and liberal Education,
ion, the most effectual means
to direct them into, and to
secure their progress in the
ways of Vertue.

For that Ignorance is the
cause of most Feminine Vices
may be instanc’d in that
Pride and Vanity which is
usually imputed to us, and C4 which, C4v 32
which, I suppose, if throughly
sifted, will appear to be
some way or other, the rise
and Original of all the rest.
These, tho very bad Weeds,
are the product of a good
Soil; they are nothing else
but Generosity degenerated
and corrupted. A desire to
advance and perfect its Being,
is planted by God in
all Rational Natures, to excite
them hereby to every
worthy and becoming Action;
for certainly, next to
the Grace of God, nothing
does so powerfully restrain
people from Evil, and stir
them up to Good, as a generous
Temper. And therefore
to be ambitious of perfectionsfections C5r 33
is no fault; tho to
assume the Glory of our Excellencies
to our selves, or to
Glory in such as we really
have not, are. And were
Womens haughtiness express’d
in disdaining to do
a mean and evil thing;
wou’d they pride themselves
in somewhat truly perfective
of a Rational Nature,
there were no hurt in it.
But then they ought not to
be denied the means of examining
and judging what
is so; they should not be
impos’d on with tinsel ware.
If by reason of a false Light,
or undue Medium, they
chuse amiss; theirs is the
loss, but the Crime is the C5 De- C5v 34
Deceivers. She who rightly
understands wherein
the perfection of her Nature
consists, will lay out
her Thoughts and Industry
in the acquisition
of such Perfections. But
she who is kept ignorant of
the matter, will take up
with such Objects as first
offer themselves, and bear
any plausible resemblance
to what she desires; a shew
of advantage is sufficient
to render them agreeable
baits to her, who wants
Judgment and skill to discern
between reality and
pretence. From whence
it easily follows, that she
who has nothing else to value C6r 35
value her self upon, will
be proud of her Beauty, or
Money, and what that can
purchase; and think her self
mightily oblig’d to him,
who tells her she has those
Perfections which she naturally
longs for. Her imbred
self-esteem, and desire of
good, which are degenerated
into Pride, and mistaken
self-love, will easily open
her Ears to whatever
goes about to nourish and
delight them; and when a
cunning designing Enemy
from without, has drawn
over to his Party these Traytors
within, he has the Poor
unhappy Person at his Mercy,
who now very glibly swallows C6v 36
swallows down his Poyson,
because ’tis presented in a
Golden Cup; and credulously
hearkens to the most
disadvantagious Proposals,
because they come attended
with a seeming esteem. She
whose Vanity makes her
swallow praises by the
whole sale, without examining
whether she deserves
them, or from what hand
they come, will reckon it
but gratitude to think well
of him who values her so
much; and think she must
needs be merciful to the
poor dispairing Lover whom
her Charms have reduc’d to
die at her feet. Love and
Honour are what every one C7r 37
one of us naturally esteem1 characterflawed-reproduction
they are excellent things in
themselves, and very worthy
our regard; and by how
much the readier we are to
embrace what ever resembles
them, by so much the
more dangerous, it is that
these venerable Names
should be wretchedly abus’d,
and affixt to their
direct contraries, yet this is
the Custom of the World.
And how can she possibly
detect the fallacy, who has
no better Notion of either
but what she derives from
Plays and Romances? How
can she be furnished with
any solid Principles whose
very Instructors are Froth and C7v 38
and emptiness? Whereas
Women were they rightly
Educated, had they obtain’d
a well inform’d and discerning
Mind, they would be
proof against all these Batteries,
see through and scorn
those little silly Artifices
which are us’d to ensnare
and deceive them. Such an
one would value her self
only on her Vertue, and
consequently be most chary
of what she esteems so
much. She would know,
that not what others say,
but what she her self does,
is the true Commendation,
and the only thing that exalts
her; the loudest Encomiums
being not half so satisfactorytisfactory, C8r 39
as the calm and
secret Plaudit of her own
Mind; which moving on
true Principles of Honour
and Vertue, wou’d not fail
on a review of it self to anticipate
that delightful Eulogy
she shall one day hear.

Whence it is but from ignorance,
from a want of understanding
to compare and
judge of things, to chuse a
right end, to proportion the
means to the end, and to rate
ev’ry thing according to its
proper value; that we quit
the Substance for the Shadow,
Reality for Appearance,
and embrace those very
things, which if we understood,
we shou’d hate and fly; C8v 40
fly, but now are reconcil’d
to, merely because they usurp
the Name, tho they have
nothing of the Nature of
those venerable Objects we
desire and seek? Were it not
for this delusion, is it probable
a Lady who passionately
desires to be admir’d, shou’d
ever consent to such Actions
as render her base and contemptible?
Wou’d she be so
absurd as to think either to
get love, or to keep it, by
those methods which occasion
loathing, and consequently
end in hatred? Wou’d she
reckon it a piece of her Grandeur,
or hope to gain esteem
by such excesses as really lessen
her in the eyes of all consideratesiderate C9r 41
and judicious persons?
Wou’d she be so silly
as to look big, and think her
self the better person, because
she has more Mony to
bestow profusely, or the good
luck to have a more ingenious
Taylor or Milliner than
her Neighbour? Wou’d she
who by the regard she pays
to Wit, seems to make some
pretences to it, undervalue
her Judgment so much as to
admit the Scurrility and profane
noisy Nonsense of men,
whose Fore-heads are better
than their Brains to pass under
that Character? Wou’d
she be so weak as to imagine
that a few airy Fancies,
joyn’d with a great deal of Impu- C9v 42
Impudence (the right definition
of modern Wit) can
bespeak him a Man of sense,
who runs counter to all the
sense and reason that ever
appear’d in the world? than
which nothing can be an
Argument of greater shallowness,
unless it be to regard
and esteem him for it.
Wou’d a woman, if she truly
understood her self, be affected
either with the praises
or calumnies of those
worthless persons, whose
Lives are a direct contradiction
to Reason, a very sink
of corruption; by whom
one wou’d blush to be commended,
lest they shou’d be
mistaken for Partners or Con- C10r 43
Connivers at their Crimes?
Will she who has a jot of
discernment think to satisfy
her greedy desire of Pleasure,
with those promising
nothings that have again &
again deluded her? Or, will
she to obtain such Bubbles,
run the risque of forfeiting
Joys, infinitely satisfying
and eternal? In sum, did
not ignorance impose on us,
we would never lavish out
the greatest part of our Time
and Care, on the decoration
of a Tenement, in which
our Lease is so very short,
and which for all our industry,
may lose it’s Beauty e’re
that Lease be out, and in
the mean while neglect a more C10v 44
more glorious and durable
Mansion! We wou’d never
be so curious of the House,
and so careless of the Inhabitant,
whose beauty is capable
of great improvement,
and will endure forever
without diminution or decay!

Thus Ignorance and a narrow
Education, lay the Foundation
of Vice, and imitation
and custom rear it up.
Custom, that merciless torrent
that carries all before.
And which indeed can be
stem’d by none but such as
have a great deal of Prudence
and a rooted Vertue.
For ’tis but Decorous that
she who is not capable of giving C11r 45
giving better Rules, shou’d
follow those she sees before
her, lest she only change the
instance, and retain the absurdity.
’Twou’d puzzle a
considerate Person to account
for all that Sin and
Folly that is in the World,
(which certainly has nothing
in it self to recommend
it,) did not custom help to
solve the difficulty. For
Vertue without question
has on all accounts the preeminence
of Vice ’tis abundantly
more pleasant in the
Act, as well as more advantagious
in the consequences, as
any one who will but rightly
use her reason, in a serious
reflection on her self, and the nature C11v 46
nature of things, may easily
perceive. ’Tis custom therefore,
that Tyrant Custom,
which is the grand motive
to all those irrational choices
which we daily see made in
the World, so very contrary
to our present interest and
pleasure, as well as to our
Future. We think it an unpardonable
mistake, not to
do what others do round about
us, and part with our
Peace and Pleasure as well
as our Innocence & Vertue,
meerly in complyance with
an unreasonable Fashion.
And having inur’d our selves
to Folly, we know not how
to quit it; we go on in Vice,
not because we find satisfactionfaction C12r 47
in it, but because we
are unacquainted with the
Joys of Vertue.

Add to this the hurry and
noise of the world, which
does generally so busy and
pre-ingage us, that we have
little time, and less inclination
to stand still and reflect
on our own Minds. Those
impertinent Amusements
which have seiz’d us, keep
their hold so well, and so
constantly buz about our
Ears, that we cannot attend
to the Dictates of our Reason,
nor to the soft whispers
and winning persuasives of
the divine Spirit, by whose
assistance were we dispos’d
to make use of it, we might shake C12v 48
shake off these Follies, and
regain our Freedom. But
alas! to complete our misfortunes,
by a continual application
to Vanity and Folly,
we quite spoil the contexture
and frame of our
Minds; so loosen and dissipate,
that nothing solid and
substantial will stay in it. By
an habitual inadvertency we
render our selves incapable
of any serious & improving
thought, till our minds
themselves become as light
and frothy as those things
they are conversant about.
To all which, if we further
add the great industry that
bad people use to corrupt
the good, and that unaccountabletable D1r 49
backwardness that appears
in too many good persons,
to stand up for, and
propagate the Piety they
profess; (so strangely are
things transposed, that Vertue
puts on the blushes,
which belong to Vice, and
Vice insults with the authority
of Vertue!) and we
have a pretty fair account of
the Causes of our non-improvement.

When a poor Young Lady
is taught to value her
self on nothing but her
Cloaths, and to think she’s
very fine when well accoutred.
When she hears say,
that ’tis Wisdom enough for
her to know how to dress D her D1v 50
her self, that she may become
amiable in his eyes,
to whom it appertains to be
knowing and learned; who
can blame her if she lay out
her Industry and Money on
such Accomplishments, and
sometimes extends it farther
than her misinformer desires
she should? When she sees
the vain and the gay, making
Parade in the World,
and attended with the
Courtship and admiration
of all about them, no wonder
that her tender Eyes are
dazled with the Pageantry;
and wanting Judgment to
pass a due Estimate on them
and their Admirers, longs to
be such a fine and celebratedted D2r 51
thing as they! What
tho’ she be sometimes told
of another World, she has
however a more lively perception
of this, and may
well think, that if her Instructors
were in earnest,
when they tell her of hereafter,
they would not be so
busied and concerned about
what happens here. She is,
it may be, taught the Principles
and Duties of Religion,
but not acquainted with the
Reasons and Grounds of
them; being told, ’tis enough
for her to believe, to examin
why, and wherefore belongs
not to her. And
therefore, though her Piety
may be tall and spreading, D2 yet D2v 52
yet because it wants foundation
and Root, the first rude
Temptation overthrows and
blasts it; or perhaps the
short liv’d Gourd decays
and withers of its own accord.
But why should she
be blamed for letting no
great value on her Soul,
whose noblest Faculty, her
Understanding is render’d
useless to her? Or censur’d
for relinquishing a course of
Life, whose Prerogatives she
was never acquainted with,
and tho highly reasonable in
it self, was put upon the embracing
it, with as little reason
as she now forsakes it?
For if her Religion it self, be
taken up as the Mode of the Country D3r 53
Country, ’tis no strange
thing that she lays it down
again, in conformity to the
Fashion. Whereas she
whose Reason is suffer’d to
display it self, to inquire
into the grounds and Motives
of Religion, to make a
disquisition of its Graces, and
search out its hidden Beauties;
who is a Christian out
of Choice, not in conformity
to those about her; and
cleaves to Piety, because ’tis
her Wisdom, her Interest,
her Joy, not because she has
been accustom’d to it; she
who is not only eminently
and unmoveably good, but
able to give a Reason why she
is so; is too firm and stable D3 to D3v 54
to be mov’d by the pitiful
Allurements of sin, too wise
and too well bottom’d to be
undermin’d and supplanted
by the strongest Efforts of
Temptation. Doubtless a
truly Christian Life requires
a clear Understanding, as
well as regular Affections,
that both together may
move the Will to a direct
choice of Good, and a stedfast
adherence to it. For tho
the heart may be honest, it
is but by chance that the
Will is right, if the Understanding
be ignorant and
Cloudy. And whats the reason
that we sometimes unhappily
see persons falling
off from their Piety, but because D4r 55
because ’twas their Affections,
not their Judgment,
that inclin’d them to be Religious?
Reason and Truth
are firm and immutable, she
who bottoms on them is on
sure ground: Humour and
Inclination are sandy Foundations;
and she who is
sway’d by her Affections
more than by her Judgment,
owes the happiness of her
Soul in a great measure
to the temper of
her Body; her Piety may
perhaps blaze higher, but
will not last so long. For
the Affections are various
and changeable, mov’d by every
Object, and the last
comer easily undoes whateverD4 ver D4v 56
its Predecessor had done
before it. Such Persons are
always in extreams; they
are either violently good, or
quite cold and indifferent, a
perpetual trouble to themselves
& others, by indecent
Raptures, or unnecessary
Scruples; there is no Beauty
and order in their lives,
all is rapid and unacoccountable;
they are now very
furious in such a course, but
they cannot well tell why,
& anon as violent in the
other extream. Having more
Heat than Light, their Zeal
out runs their knowledge
and instead of representing
Piety as it is in it self, the
most lovely and inviting thing D5r 57
thing imaginable, they expose
it to the contempt and
ridicule of the censorious
World. Their Devotion
being ricketed, starv’d and
contracted in some of it’s vital
parts, and disproportioned
and over grown in less
material instances; whilst
one Duty is over done, to
commute for the neglect of
another, and the mistaken
Person thinks the being often
on her knees, attones for
all the miscarriages of her
Conversation: Not considering
that ’tis in vain to
Petition for those Graces
which we take no care to
Practice, and a mockery to adore
those Perfections we D5 run D5v 58
run counter to: and that
the true end of all our Prayers
and external Observances,
is to work our minds into
a truly Christian temper,
to obtain for us the Empire
of our Passions, and to reduce
all irregular Inclinations,
that so we may be as like
God in Purity, Charity,
and all his imitable excellencies,
as is consistent with the
imperfection of a Creature.

And now having discovered
the Disease and its cause,
’tis proper to apply a Remedy;
single Medicines are too
weak to cure such complicated
Distempers, they require
a full Dispensatory;
and what wou’d a good womanman D6r 59
refuse to do, could she
hope by that to advantage
the greatest part of the
world, and improve her Sex
in Knowledge and true Religion?
I doubt not Ladies,
but that the Age, as bad as
it is, affords very many of
you who will readily embrace
whatever has a true
tendency to the Glory of
God, and your mutual Edification,
to revive the antient
Spirit of Piety in the
World, and to transmit it to
succeeding Generations. I
know there are many of you
who so ardently love God,
as to think no time too much
to spend in his service, nor
any thing too difficult to do for D6v 60
for his sake; and bear such
a hearty good-will to your
Neighbours, as to grudge no
Prayers or Pains to reclaim
and improve them. I have
therefore no more to do, but
to make the Proposal, to
prove that it will answer
these great and good Ends,
and then ’twill be easy to
obviate the Objections that
Persons of more Wit than
Vertue may happen to raise
against it.

Now as to the Proposal, it
is to erect a Monastry, or if
you will (to avoid giving offence
to the scrupulous and
injudicious, by names which
tho innocent in themselves,
have been abus’d by superstitiousstitious D7r 61
Practices.) we will
call it a Religious Retirement,
and such as shall have a double
aspect, being not only a
Retreat from the World for
those who desire that advantage;
but likewise, an institution
and previous discipline,
to fit us to do the greatest
good in it; such an institution
as this (if I do not
mightily deceive my self,)
would be the most probable
method to amend to present,
and improve the future
Age. For here, those who
are convinc’d of the emptiness
of earthly Enjoyments,
who are sick of the vanity
of the world, and its impertinencies,
may find more sub- D7v 62
substantial and satisfying entertainments,
and need not
be confin’d to what they
justly loath. Those who are
desirous to know and fortify
their weak side, first do good
to themselves, that hereafter
they may be capable of doing
more good to others; or
for their greater security are
willing to avoid temptation,
may get out of that danger
which a continual stay in
view of the Enemy, and the
familiarity and unwearied
application of the Temptation
may expose them to; and
gain an opportunity to look
into themselves, to be acquainted
at home, and no
longer the greatest strangers to D8r 63
to their own hearts. Such
as are willing in a more peculiar
and undisturb’d manner,
to attend the great business
they came into the
world about, the service of
God, and improvement of
their own Minds, may find
a convenient and blissful recess
from the noise and hurry
of the world. A world
so cumbersom, so infectious,
that altho’ thro’ the
grace of God, and their
own strict watchfulness,
they are kept from sinking
down into its corruptions,
’twill however damp their
flight to heav’n, hinder them
from attaining any eminent
pitch of Vertue.

You D8v 64

You are therefore Ladies,
invited into a place, where
you shall suffer no other confinement,
but to be kept out
of the road of sin: You shall
not be depriv’d of your
grandeur, but only exchange
the vain Pomps and Pageantry
of the world, empty Titles
and Forms of State, for
the true and solid Greatness
of being able to dispise them.
You wi ll only quit the Chat
of insignificant people, for an
ingenious Conversation; the
froth of flashy wit for real
wisdom; idle tales for instructive
discourses. The deceitful
Flatteries of those who under
pretence of loving and
admiring you, really served their D9r 65
their own base ends, for the
seasonable Reproofs and
wholsom Counsels of your
hearty well-wishers and affectionate
Friends; which
will procure you those perfections
your feigned lovers
pretended you had, and kept
you from obtaining. No
uneasy task will be enjoyn’d
you, all your labour being
only to prepare for the highest
degrees of that Glory,
the very lowest of which,
is more than at present you
are able to conceive, and
the prosp ect of it sufficient
to out-weigh all the
Pains of Religion, were there
any in it, as really there is
none. All that is requir’d of you D9v 66
you, is only to be as happy
as possibly you can, and to
make sure of a Felicity that
will fill all the capacities of
your Souls! A happiness,
which when once you have
tasted, you’l be fully convinc’d,
you cou’d never do
too much to obtain it; nor
be too solicitous to adorn
your Souls, with such
tempers and dispositions, as
will at present make you in
some measure such holy and
Heavenly Creatures, as you
one day hope to be in a
more perfect manner; without
which Qualifications
you can neither reasonably
expect, nor are capable of enjoying
the Happiness of the Life D10r 67
Life to come. Happy Retreat!
which will be the introducing
you into such a
Paradise as your Mother
Eve forfeited, where you
shall feast on Pleasures, that
do not, like those of the
World, disappoint your expectations,
pall your Appetites,
and by the disgust
they give you, put you on
the fruitless search after
new Delights, which when
obtain’d are as empty as the
former; but such as will
make you truly happy now,
and prepare you to be perfectly
so hereafter. Here are
no Serpents to deceive you,
whilst you entertain your
selves in these delicious Gardens.dens. D10v 68
No Provocations are
given in this Amicable Society,
but to Love and to
good Works, which will afford
such an entertaining
employment, that you’l have
as little inclination as leisure
to pursue those Follies
which in the time of your
ignorance pass’d with you
under the name of love; altho’
there is not in nature
two more different things,
than true Love, and that brutish
Passion
which pretends
to ape it. Here will be no
Rivalling but for the love
of God, no ambition but
to procure his Favour, to
which nothing will more
effectually recommend you than D11r 69
than a great and dear affection
to each other. Envy, that
Canker, will not here disturb
your Breasts; for how
can she repine at anothers
wel-fare, who reckons it the
greatest part of her own?
No Covetousness will gain
admittance in this blest abode,
but to amass huge
Treasures of good Works,
and to procure one of the
brightest Crowns of Glory.
You will not be solicitous
to encrease your Fortunes,
but enlarge your Minds;
esteeming no Grandeur like
being conformable to the
meek and humble Jesus.
So that you only withdraw
from the noise and trouble, the D11v 70
the folly and temptation of
the world, that you may
more peaceably enjoy your
selves, and all the innocent
Pleasures it is able to afford
you, and particularly that
which is worth all the rest,
a noble, Vertuous and Disinteress’d
Friendship. And to
compleat all that acme of delight
which the devout Seraphic
Soul enjoys, when
dead to the World, she devotes
her self entirely to the
contemplation and fruition
of her Beloved; when having
disengag’d her self from
all those Lets which hindred
her from without, she
moves in a direct and vigorous
motion towards her true D12r 71
true and only Good, whom
now she embraces and acquiesces
in, with such an
unspeakable pleasure, as is
only intelligible to them
who have tried and felt it,
which we can no more describe
to the dark and sensual
part of Mankind, that we
can the beauty of Colours,
and harmony of Sounds, to
the Blind and Deaf. In fine,
the place to which you are
invited will be a Type
and Antipast of Heav’n,
where your Employment
will be as there, to magnify
God, and to love one another,
and to communicate
that useful knowledge, which
by the due improvement of your D12v 72
your time in Study and Contemplation
you will obtain;
and which when obtain’d,
will afford you a much
sweeter and durable delight,
than all those pitiful diversions,
those revellings and amusements,
which now thro
your ignorance of better, appear
the only grateful and
relishing Entertainments.

But because we were not
made for our selves, nor can
by any means so effectually
glorify God, and do good
to our own Souls, as by doing
Offices of Charity and
Beneficence to others; and
to the intent, that every Vertue,
and the highest degrees
of every Vertue, may be exercis’dercis’d E1r 73
& promoted the most
that may be; your Retreat
shall be so manag’d as not to
exclude the good Works of
an Active, from the pleasure
and serenity of a contemplative
Life, but by a due mixture of
both, retain all the advantages,
and avoid the inconveniencies
that attend either. It
shall not so cut you off from
the world, as to hinder you
from bettering and improving
it; but rather qualify you
to do it the greatest Good,
and be a Seminary to stock
the Kingdom with pious and
prudent Ladies; whose good
Example it is to be hop’d,
will so influence the rest of
their Sex, that Women may
no longer pass for those little E usles E1v 74
useless and impertinent Animals,
which the ill conduct
of too many, has caus’d them
to be mistaken for.

We have hitherto consider’d
our Retirement only in
relation to Religion, which
is indeed its main, I may say,
its only design; nor can this
be thought too contracting
a word, since Religion is the
adequate business of our lives
and largely consider’d, takes
in all we have to do; nothing
being a fit employment for a
rational Creature, which has
not either a direct or remote
tendency to this great and only
end. But because, as we
have all along observ’d, Religion
never appears in it’s true
Beauty, but when it is accompaniedcompanied E2r 75
with Wisdom
and Discretion; and that
without a good Understanding,
we can scarce be truly,
but never eminently Good;
being liable to a thousand
seductions and mistakes; for
even the men themselves, if
they have not a competent
degree of Knowledge, they
are carried about with every
wind of Doctrine. Therefore,
one great end of this institution,
shall be to expel that
cloud of Ignorance, which
custom has involv’d us in, to
furnish our minds with a
stock of solid and useful
Knowledge, that the Souls
of women may no longer be
the only unadorn’d and neglected
things. It is not intendedE2 tended E2v 76
that our Religious
shou’d waste their time, and
trouble their heads about
such unconcerning matters,
as the vogue of the world has
turn’d up for Learning; the
impertinency of which has
been excellently expos’d by
an ingenious Pen, Mr NorNorris.
Conduct of
Hum.Human Life
.
but
busy themselves in a
serious enquiry after
necessary and perfective truths;
something which it concerns
them to know, and which
tends to their real interest
and perfection, and what
that is, the excellent Author
just now mention’d, will sufficiently
inform them, such a
course of Study will neither
be too troublesome nor out of
the reach of a Female Virtuoso;oso; E3r 77
for it is not intended she
shou’d spend her hours in
learning words but things, and
therefore no more Languages
than are necessary to acquaint
her with useful Authors
Nor need she trouble
her self in turning over a
huge number of Books, but
take care to understand and
digest a few well-chosen and
good ones. Let her but obtain
right Ideas, and be truly
acquainted with the nature
of those Objects that present
themselves to her mind, and
then no matter whether or
no she be able to tell what
fanciful people have said about
them: And throughly
to understand Christianity as
profess’d by the Church of E3 England, E3v 78
England
, will be sufficient to
confirm her in the truth, tho
she have not a Catalogue of
those particular errors which
oppose it. Indeed a Learned
Education of the Women
will appear so unfashionable,
that I began to startle at the
singularity of the proposition,
but was extreamly pleas’d
when I found a late ingenious
Author (whose Book I
met with since the writing of
this) agree with me in my
Opinion. For speaking of the
Repute that Learning was
in about 150
years ago: “It
was so very modish”
Mr. Wottons Reflect.Reflections
on Ant.Ancient and Mod.Modern
Learn.Learning
p. 349, 350.
(says he)
“that the fair Sex seem’d to believe
that Greek and Latin addedded E4r 79
to their Charms; and Plato
and Aristotle untranslated,
were frequent Ornaments of
their Closets. One wou’d think
by the effects, that it was a proper
way of Educating them, since
there are no accounts in History
of so many great Women in any
one Age, as are to be found between
the years 150015 and 16001600.”

For, since God has given
Women as well as Men intelligent
Souls, why should
they be forbidden to improve
them? Since he has not denied
us the faculty of Thinking,
why shou’d we not (at
least in gratitude to him) employ
our Thoughts on himself,
their noblest Object,
and not unworthily bestow
them on Trifles and Gaities E4 and E4v 80
and secular Affairs? Being
the Soul was created for the
contemplation of Truth, as
well as for the fruition of
Good, is it not as cruel and
unjust to preclude Women
from the knowledge of the
one, as well as from the enjoyment
of the other? Especially
since the Will is blind,
and cannot chuse but by the
direction of the Understanding;
or to speak more properly,
since the Soul always
Wills according as she Understands,
so that, if she Understands
amiss she Wills amiss:
And as Exercise enlarges and
exalts any Faculty, so thro’
want of using, it becomes
crampt and lessened; if we
make little or no use of our Under- E5r 81
Understandings we shall
shortly have none to use; and
the more contracted, and unemploy’d
the deliberating
and directive Power is, the
more liable is the elective to
unworthy and mischievous
options. What is it but the
want of an ingenious Education
that renders the generality
of Feminine Conversations
so insipid and foolish, and
their solitude so insupportable?
Learning is therefore necessary
to render them more agreeable
and useful in company,
and to furnish them with becoming
entertainments when
alone, that so they may not
be driven to those miserable
shifts, which too many make
use of to put off their time, E5 that E5v 82
that precious Talent that never
lies on the hands of a judicious
Person. And since
our Happiness in the next
world depends so far on those
dispositions which we carry
along with us out of this, that
without a right habitude and
temper of mind, we are not
capable of Felicity; and seeing
out Beautitude consists in
the contemplation of the divine
Truth and Beauty, as
well as in the fruition of
his Goodness, can Ignorance
be a fit preparative for Heaven?
Is’t likely that she
whose Understanding has
been busied about nothing
but froth and trifles, shou’d
be capable of delighting her
self in noble and sublime Truths? E6r 83
Truths? Let such therefore
as deny us the improvement
of our Intellectuals, either
take up his Paradox, who
said, “That Women have no
Souls”
; which at this time a
day, when they are allow’d
to Brutes, wou’d be as unphilosophical
as it is unmannerly;
or else let them permit
us to cultivate and improve
them. There is a sort
of Learning indeed which is
worse than the greatest Ignorance:
A woman may study
Plays and Romances all her
days, & be a great deal more
knowing, but never a jot the
wiser. Such a Knowledge
as this serves only to instruct
and put her forward in the
practice of the greatest Follies;lies; E6v 84
yet how can they justly
blame her, who forbid, or
at least, won’t afford opportunity
of better? A rational
mind will be employ’d, it will
never be satisfy’d in doing
nothing; and if you neglect
to furnish it with good materials,
’tis like to take up with
such as come to hand.

We pretend not that Women
shou’d teach in the
Church, or usurp Authority
where it is not allow’d them;
permit us only to understand
our own duty, and not be
forc’d to take it upon trust
from others; to be at least so
far learned, as to be able to
form in our minds a true Idea
of Christianity, it being so
very necessary to fence us againstgainst E7r 85
the danger of these last
and perilous days, in which
Deceivers, a part of whose
Character is, to lead captive
silly Women
, need not creep into
Houses
, since they have Authority
to proclaim their Errors
on the House top. And
let us also acquire a true Practical
Knowledge, such as will
convince us of the absolute
necessity of Holy Living, as
well as of Right Believing, and
that no Heresy is more dangerous,
than that of an ungodly
and wicked Life. And
since the French Tongue is understood
by most Ladies, methinks
they may much better
improve it by the study of
Philosophy (as I hear the
French Ladies do,) DesCartes, Malebranch, E7v 86
Malebranch, and others, than
by reading idle Novels and
Romances. ’Tis strange we
shou’d be so forward to imitate
their Fashions and Fopperies,
and have no regard to
what is truly imitable in
them! And why shall it not
be thought as genteel, to understand
French Philosophy, as
to be accoutred in a French
Mode
? Let therefore the famous
Madam D’acier, &c. and
our own incomparable Orinda,
excite the Emulation of
the English Ladies.

The Ladies, I’m sure, have
no reason to dislike this Proposal,
but I know not how
the Men will resent it, to
have their enclosure broke
down, and Women invited to E8r 87
to tast e of that Tree of Knowledge
they have so long unjustly
monopoliz’d. But they must
excuse me, if I be as partial
to my own Sex as they are to
theirs, and think Women as
capable of Learning as Men
are, and that it becomes them
as well. For I cannot imagine
wherein the hurt lyes, if
instead of doing mischief to
one another, by an uncharitable
and vain Conversation,
women be enabled to inform
and instruct those of their
own Sex at least; the Holy
Ghost having left it on record,
that Priscilla as well as
her Husband catechis’d the
eloquent Apollos, and the great
Apostle found no fault
with her. It will therefore be E8v 88
be very proper for our Ladies
to spend part of their time in
this Retirement, in adorning
their minds with useful
Knowledge.

To enter into the detail of
the particulars concerning
the Government of the Religious,
their Offices of Devotion,
Employments, Work,
&c. is not now necessary.
Suffice it at present to signify,
that they will be more
than ordinarily careful to redeem
their time, spending no
more of it on the Body than
the necessities of Nature require,
but by a judicious
choice of their Employment,
and a constant industry about
it, so improve this invaluable
Treasure, that it may neitherther E9r 89
be buried in Idleness, nor
lavish’d out in unprofitable
concerns. For a stated portion
of it being daily paid to
God in Prayers and Praises,
the rest shall be employ’d in
innocent, charitable, and useful
Business; either in study
(in learning themselves, or instructing
others; for it is design’d
that part of their Employment
be the Education
of those of their own Sex)
or else in spiritual and corporal
Works of Mercy, relieving
the Poor, healing the Sick,
mingling Charity to the Soul
with that they express to the
Body, instructing the Ignorant,
counselling the Doubtful,
comforting the Afflicted,
and correcting those that err
and do amiss. And

E9v 90

And as it will be the business
of their lives, their meat
and drink to know and do the
Will of their heavenly Father,
so will they pay a strict
conformity to all the Precepts
of their holy Mother the
Church, whose sacred Injunctions
are too much neglected,
even by those who pretend
the greatest zeal for her.
For, besides the daily performance
of the Publick Offices
after the Cathedral manner,
in the most affecting and elevating
way, the celebration
of the Holy Eucharist every
Lords Day and Holyday, and
a course of solid instructive
Preaching and Catechizing;
our Religious, considering
that the holy Jesus punctuallyally E10r 91
observ’d the innocent
usages of the Jewish Church;
and tho in many instances
the reason of the Command
ceas’d as to him, yet he wou’d
obey the letter to avoid giving
offence, and to set us an
admirable pattern of Obedience;
therefore, tho’ it may
be thought such pious Souls
have little occasion for the
severities of fasting and mortification;
yet, they will
consider it as a special part of
their Duty, carefully to observe
all the Fasts of the
Church, viz. Lent, Ember,
and Rogation days, Fridays and
Vigils; times so little heeded
by the most, that one wou’d
scarce believe them set apart
for Religious Purposes, did we E10v 92
we not find them in the antiquated
Rubricks. And as
their Devotion will be regular,
so shall it likewise be solid
and substantial. They will
not rest in the mere out-side
of Duty, nor fancy the performance
of their Fasts and
Offices will procure them license
to indulge a darling
Vice. But having long since
laid the Ax to the root of sin,
and destroy’d the whole body
of it, they will look upon
these holy times of recollection
and extraordinary Devotion
(without which Fasting
signifies little) as excellent
means to keep it down, and
to pluck up every the least
Fibre that may happen to remain
in them. But we intendtend E11r 93
not by this to impose
any intolerable burden on
tender Constitutions, knowing
that our Lord has taught
us, that Mercy is to be prefer’d
before Sacrifice; and
that Bodily Exercise profiteth
but a little, the chief business
being to obtain a divine
and God-like temper of
Mind.

And as this institution will
strictly enjoyn all pious and
profitable Employments, so
does it not only permit but
recommend harmless and ingenious
Diversions, Musick
particularly, and such as may
refresh the Body, without enervating
the mind. They
do a disservice to Religion
who make it an enemy to innocentnocent E11v 95
Nature, and injure the
Almighty when they represent
him as imposing burdens
that are not to be born. Neither
God nor Wise men will
like us the better, for an affected
severity and waspish
sourness. Nature and Grace
will never disagree, provided
we mistake not the one, nor
indulge the petulency of
the other; there being no
Displacencies in Religion,
but what we our selves
have unhappily made.
For true Piety is the most
sweet and engaging thing
imaginable, as it is most obliging
to others, so most easie
to our selves. ’Tis in
truth the highest Epicurism,
exalting our Pleasures by refiningfining E12r 94
them; keeping our
Appetites in that due regularity
which not only Grace,
but even Nature and Reason
require, in the breach of
which tho’ there may be a
Transport, there can be no
true and substantial delight.

As to Lodging, Habit and
Diet, they may be quickly
resolv’d on by the Ladies who
shall subscribe; who I doubt
not will make choice of what
is most plain and decent,
what Nature, not Luxury
requires. And since neither
Meat nor Cloaths commend
us unto God, they’l content
themselves with such things
as are fit and convenient,
without occasioning scruple
to themselves, or giving any trou- E12v 96
trouble or offence to others.
She who considers to how
much better account that
Money will turn, which is
bestow’d on the Poor, then
that which is laid out in unnecessary
Expences on her
self, needs no Admonitions
against superfluities: She
who truly loves her self, will
never waste that Money on
a decaying Carkass, which
if prudently disburs’d, wou’d
procure her an eternal Mansion.
She will never think
her self so fine, as when the
backs of the Poor do bless
her; and never feast so
luxuriously as when she
treats an hungry person. No
perfume will be thought so
grateful as the Odour of Good Works; F1r 97
Works; nor any Wash so
beautifying as her own tears.
For her Heroic Soul is too
great to ambition any Empire
but that of her own
Breast; or to regard any other
Conquest than the rescuing
poor unhappy Souls
from the slavery of Sin and
Satan, those only unsupportable
Tyrants; and therefore
what Decays she observes in
her Face will be very unconcerning,
but she will with
greatest speed and accuracy
rectify the least Spot that
may prejudice the beauty of
her lovely Soul.

In a word, this happy Society
will be but one Body,
whose Soul is love, animating
and informing it, and perpetuallyF tually F1v 98
breathing forth it self
in flames of holy desires after
God, and acts of Benevolence
to each other. Envy
and Uncharitableness are the
Vices only of little and narrow
hearts, and therefore ’tis
suppos’d, they will not enter
here amongst persons whose
Dispositions as well as their
Births are to be Generous.
Censure will refine into
Friendly Admonition, all
Scoffing and offensive
Railleries will be abominated
and banish’d hence;
where not only the Words
and Actions, but even the
very Thoughts and Desires
of the Religious, tend to promote
the most endearing
Love, and universal Goodwill;will; F2r 99
for tho’ there may be
particular Friendships, they
must by no means prejudice
the general Amity. Thus
these innocent and holy Souls
shou’d run their Race, measuring
their hours by their
Devotions, and their days by
the charitable Works they
do. Thus wou’d they live
the life of Heaven whilst on
Earth, and receive an Earnest
of its Joys in their hearts.
And now, what remains for
them to do at Night, but to
review the Actions of the
Day? to examine what Passions
have been stirring?
How their Devotions were
perform’d? in what temper
their Hearts are? what good
they have done? and what F2 progress F2v 100
progress made towards Heaven?
and with the plaudit
of a satisfied Conscience
sweetly to sleep in peace and
safety, Angels pitching their
Tents round about them, and
he that neither slumbers nor
sleeps, rejoycing over them
to do them good!

And to the end, that these
great designs may be the better
pursu’d, and effectually
obtain’d, care shall be taken
that our Religious be under
the tuition of persons of irreproachable
Lives, of a consummate
Prudence, sincere
Piety, and unaffected Gravity.
No Novices in Religion,
but such as have spent
the greatest part of their lives
in the study and practice of Christi- F3r 101
Christianity; who have lived
much, whatever the time
of their abode in the world
has been. Whose understandings
are clear and comprehensive,
as well as their
Passions at command, and Affections
regular; and their
knowledge able to govern
their Zeal. Whose scrutiny
into their own hearts has
been so exact, that they fully
understand the weaknesses of
human Nature, are able to
bear with its defects, and by
the most prudent methods
procure its Amendment.
Plentifully furnish’d with instructions
for the ignorant,
and comfort for the disconsolate.
Who know how to
quicken the slothful, to awakenF3 waken F3v 102
the secure, and to dispel
the doubts of the Scrupulous.
Who are not ignorant
when to use the Spur, and
when the Rein, but duly qualified
to minister to all the
spiritual wants of their
Charge. Watching over their
Souls with tenderness and
prudence; applying fitting
Medicines with sweetness &
affability. Sagacious in discovering
the very approaches
of a fault, wise in preventing,
and charitable in bearing
with all pityable Infirmities.
The sweetness of whose
Nature is commensurate to
all the rest of their good Qualities,
and all conspire together
to make them lov’d and
reverenc’d. Who have the perfect F4r 103
perfect government of themselves,
and therefore rule according
to Reason, not Humour,
consulting the good of
the Society, not their own arbitrary
sway. Yet know how
to assert their Authority
when there is just occasion
for it, and will not prejudice
their Charge, by an indiscreet
remissness and loosning the
Reins of discipline. Yet what
occasion will there be for rigour,
when the design is to
represent Vertue in all her
Charms and native Loveliness,
which must needs attract
the eyes, and enamour
the hearts of all who behold
her? To joyn the sweetness
of Humanity to the strictness
of Philosophy, that both togetherF4 gethe F4v 104
being improv’d and
heighten’d by grace, may
make up an accomplish’d
Christian; who (if truly so) is
certainly the best-bred and
best-natur’d person in the
world, adorn’d with a thousand
Charms, most happy in
her self, and most agreeable
and beneficial to all about
her. And that every one
who comes under this holy
Roof, may be such an amiable,
such a charming Creature,
what faults they bring
with them shall be corrected
by sweetness, not severity;
by friendly Admonitions, not
magisterial Reproofs; Piety
shall not be roughly impos’d,
but wisely insinuated by a
perpetual Display of the Beauties F5r 105
Beauties of Religion in an
exemplary Conversation, the
continual and most powerful
Sermon of an holy Life. And
since Inclination can’t be
forc’d, (and nothing makes
people more uneasy than the
fettering themselves with unnecessary
Bonds) there shall
be no Vows or irrevocable
Obligations, not so much as
the fear of Reproach to keep
our Ladies here any longer
then they desire. No: Ev’ry
act of our Religious Votary
shall be voluntary and free,
and no other tye but the
Pleasure, the Glory and Advantage
of this blessed Retirement,
to confine her to it.

And now, I suppose, you
will save me the labour of F5 proving, F5v 106
proving, that this institution
will very much serve the
ends of Piety and Charity;
it is methinks self-evident,
and the very Proposal sufficient
proof. But if it will not
promote these great ends, I
shall think my self mightily
oblig’d to him that will shew
me what will; for provided
the good of my Neighbour
be advanc’d, ’tis very indifferent
to me, whether it be
by my method or by anothers.
Here will be no impertinent
Visits, no foolish
Amours, no idle Amusements
to distract our Thoughts, and
waste our precious time; a
very little of which is spent
in Dressing, that grand devoure,
and its concomitants; and F6r 107
and no more than necessity
requires in sleep and eating;
so that here’s an huge Treasure
gain’d, which for ought
I know, may purchase an
happy Eternity. But we need
not rest in generals, a cursory
view of some particulars
will sufficiently demonstrate
the great usefulness of such
a Retirement; which will
appear by observing first, a
few of those inconveniences
to which Ladies are expos’d,
by living in the world, and
in the next place the positive
advantages of a Retreat.

And first, as to the inconveniences
of living in the
World; no very small one
is that strong Idea and warm
perception it gives us of its Vanities; F6v 108
Vanities; since these are ever
at hand, constantly
thronging about us, they
must necessarily push aside
all other Objects, and the
Mind being prepossess’d and
gratefully entertain’d with
those pleasing Perceptions
which external Objects occasion,
takes up with them as
its only Good, is not at leisure
to taste those delights
which arise from a Reflection
on it self, nor to receive
the Ideas which such a Reflection
conveys, and consequently
forms all its Notions
by such Ideas only as
sensation has furnish’d it
with, being unacquainted
with those more excellent
ones which arise from its own opera- F7r 109
operations and a serious reflection
on them, and which
are necessary to correct the
mistakes, and supply the defects
of the other. From
whence arises a very partial
knowledge of things, nay,
almost a perfect ignorance in
things of the greatest moment.
For tho we are acquainted
with the Sound of
some certain words, ve.g. “God,
Religion, Pleasure”
and “Pain,
Honour”
and “Dishonour”, and
the like; yet having no other
Ideas but what are convey’d
to us by those Trifles we converse
with, we frame to our
selves strange & awkard notions
of them, conformable only
to those Ideas sensation has
furnish’d us with, which some F7v 110
sometimes grow so strong
and fixt, that ’tis scarce possible
to introduce a new
Scheme of Thoughts, and so
to disabuse us, especially
whilst these Objects are thick
about us.

Thus she who sees her
self and others respected in
proportion to that Pomp
and Bustle they make in the
world, will form her Idea
of Honour accordingly. She
who has relish’d no Pleasures
but such as arise at the presence
of outward Objects, will
seek no higher than her Senses
for her Gratification. And
thus we may account for
that strange insensibility that
appears in some people when
you speak to them of any seriousrious F8r 111
religious matter. They
are then so dull you’l have
much ado to make them understand
the clearest Truth:
Whereas if you rally the same
persons, or chat with them
of some Mode or Foppery,
they’ll appear very quick, expert,
and ingenious. I have
sometimes smil’d to hear
Women talk as gravely
and concernedly about
some trifling disappointment
from their Milliner or Taylor,
as if it had related to the
weightiest concerns of their
Soul, nay, perhaps more seriously
that others who wou’d
pass for Good, do about their
eternal Interest; but turn
the talk that way, and they
grow as heavy and cold as they F8v 112
they were warm and sensible
before. And whence is
this, but because their heads
are full of the one, and quite
destitute of such Ideas as
might give them a competent
notion of the other; and
therefore to discourse of such
matters, is as little to the purpose
as to make Mathematical
Demonstrations to one
who knows not what an
Angle or Triangle means.
(Hence by the way, will appear
the great usefulness of
judicious Catechizing, which
is necessary to stir up clear
Idea’s in the mind, without
which it can receive but
little benefit from the Discourses
of the Pulpit, and perhaps
the neglect of the formermer F9r 113
is the reason that the
great plenty of the latter has
no better effect.) By all which
it appears, that if we wou’d
not be impos’d on by false
Representations and Impostures,
if we wou’d obtain a
due knowledge of the most
important things, we must
remove the little Toys and
Vanities of the world from
us, or our selves from them;
enlarge our Ideas, seek out
new Fields of Knowledge,
whereby to rectify our first
mistakes.

From the same Original,
viz.videlicet the constant flattery of
external Objects, arises that
querulousness and delicacy
observable in most Persons
of Fortune, and which betraystrays F9v 114
them to many inconveniencies.
For besides that,
it renders them altogether
unfit to bear a change, which
considering the great uncertainty,
the swift vicissitudes
of worldly things, the Greatest
and most established,
ought not to be unprepar’d
for; besides this, it makes
them perpetually uneasy, abates
the delight of their enjoyments,
for such persons
will very rarely find all
things to their mind, and
then some little disorder
which others wou’d take no
notice of, like an aching
Tooth or Toe, spoils the relish
of their Joys. And tho
many great Ladies affect this
temper, mistaking it for a piece F10r 115
piece of Grandeur, ’tis so far
from that, that it gives evidence
of a poor weak Mind;
a very childish Humour, that
must be cocker’d and fed
with Toys and Baubles to
still its froorwardness; & is like
the crazy stomach of a sick
Person, which no body has
reason to be fond of or desire.

This also disposes them to
Inconstancy, (for she who is
continually supply’d with
variety, knows not where to
fix,) a Vice which some women
seem to be proud of, and
yet nothing in the world so
reproachful and degrading,
because nothing is a stronger
evidence of a weak and injudicious
mind. For it supposes
us either so ignorant as to F10v 116
to make a wrong Choice at
first, or else so silly as not to
know and stick to it, when
we have made a right one.
It bespeaks an unthinking
inconsiderate Mind, one that
lives at Random, without
any design or end; who
wanting judgment to discern
where to fix, or to know
when she’s well, is ever fluctuating
and uncertain, undoing
to day what she had
done yesterday, which is the
worst Character that can be
given of ones Understanding.

A constant Scene of Temptations,
and the infection of
ill company, is another great
danger, which conversing in
the world exposes to. ’Tis a
dangerous thing to have all the F11r 117
the opportunities of sinning
in our power, and the danger
is increas’d by the ill Precedents
we daily see of those
who take them. “Liberty” (as
some body says) “will corrupt
an Angel.”
And tho it is indeed
more glorious to conquer
than to fly, yet since
our Vertue is so visibly
weakned in other instances,
we have no reason to presume
on’t in this. ’Tis become
no easy matter to secure
our Innocence in our
necessary Civilities and daily
Conversations; in which, if
we have the good luck to avoid
such as bring a necessity
on us, either of seeming rude
to them, or of being really so
to God Almighty, whilst we F11v 118
we tamely hear him, our best
Friend and Benefactor affronted,
and swallow’d it,
at the same time, that we
wou’d reckon’t a very pitiful
Spirit to hear an Acquaintance
traduc’d and hold our
Tongue; yet, if we avoid
this Trial, our Charity is
however in continual danger,
Censoriousness being
grown so modish, that we
can scarce avoid being active
or passive in it; so that she
who has not her pert jest
ready to pass upon others,
shall as soon as her back is
turn’d, become a Jest her
self for want of Wit.

In consequence of all this,
we are insensibly betray’d to
a great loss of time, a Treasuresure F12r 119
whose value we are too
often quite ignorant of, till
it be lost past redemption.
And yet, considering the
shortness and uncertainty of
Life, the great work we have
to do, and what advantages
accrew to us by a due management
of our time, we
cannot reconcile it with prudence
to suffer the least minute
to escape us. But besides
our own lavish Expences
(concerning which one
may ask as Solomon does of
Labour, “What Fruit have we
of all that Sport and Pastime
we have taken under the Sun?”
)
So unreasonable is the humour
of the World, that those
who wou’d reckon it a rudeness
to make so bold with our F12v 120
our Mony, never scruple to
waste, and rob us of this infinitely
more precious Treasure.

In the last place, by reason
of this loss of time and the
continual hurry we are in,
we can find no opportunities
for thoughtfulness and recollection;
we are so busied
with what passes abroad, that
we have no leisure to look at
home, nor to rectify the disorders
there. And such an
unthinking mechanical way
of living, when like Machines
we are condemn’d every day
to repent the impertinencies
of the day before; shortens
our Views, contracts our
Minds, exposes to a thousand
practical Errors, and renders Improve- G1r 121
Improvement impossible, because
it will not permit us
to consider and recollect,
which is the only means to
attain it. So much for the
inconveniences of living in
the World; if we enquire
about Retirement, we shall
find it does not only remove
all these, but brings considerable
advantages of its
own.

For first, it helps us to
mate custom, and delivers us
from its Tyranny, which is
the most considerable thing
we have to do, it being nothing
else but the habituating
our selves to Folly that can
reconcile us to it. But how
hard is it to quit an old road?
What courage as well as prudenceG dence G1v 122
does it require? How
clear a Judgment to overlook
the Prejudices of Education
and Example, and to
discern what is best, and how
strong a resolution, notwithstanding
all the Scoffs and
Noises of the world to adhere
to it! For Custom has usurpt
such an unaccountable
Authority, that she who
wou’d endeavour to put a
stop to its Arbitrary Sway,
and reduce it to Reason, is
in a fair way to render her
self the Butt for all the Fops
in Town to shoot their impertinent
Censures at. And
tho a wise Woman will not
value their Censure, yet she
cares not to be the subject of
their Discourse. The only way G2r 123
way then is to retire from the
world, as the Israelites did out
of Egypt, lest the Sacrifice we
must make of its Follies,
shou’d provoke its Spleen.

This also puts us out of
the road of temptation, and
very much redeems our
Time, cutting off those extravagancies
on which so
much of it was squandred
away before. And furnishing
us constantly with good
employment, secures us from
being seduc’d into bad. Great
are the Benefits of holy Conversation
which will be here
enjoy’d: As Vice is, so Vertue
may be catching; and
to what heights of Piety
will not she advance, who
is plac’d where the sole BusinessG2 siness G2v 124
is to be Good, where
there is no pleasure but in
Religion, no contention but
to excel in what is truly
commendable; where her
Soul is not defil’d nor her
Zeal provok’d, by the sight
or relation of those Villanies
the World abounds with?

And by that Learning
which will be here afforded,
and that leisure we have, to
enquire after it, and to know
and reflect on our own
minds, we shall rescue our
selves out of that woful incogitancy
we have slipt into,
awaken our sleeping Powers,
and make use of that reason
which God has given us.
We shall then begin to wonder
at our Folly, that amongst all G3r 125
all the pleasures we formerly
pursued, we never attended
to that most noble and delicious
one which the chase
of truth affords us; and bless
our selves at last, that our
eyes are open’d to discern
how much more pleasantly
we may be entertain’d by
our own Thoughts, than by
all the Diversions which the
world affords us. By this
means we are fitted to receive
the influences of the holy
Spirit, and are put in a due
frame of Devotion. No doubt
but he has often knock’d at
the door or our hearts, when
the croud and noise of our
Vanities would not suffer us
to regard or hear him; and
could find no admittance G3 when G3v 126
when our house was so fill’d
with other company. Here
therefore is the fittest place
for his Entertainment, when
we are freed from outward
disturbances, and entirely at
leisure to attend so divine a
Guest. Our Devotions will
be perform’d with due
attention, those Objects that
used to distract being now
remov’d from us; simplicity
of desire will beget simplicity
of thought, and that will
make our minds most intense
and elevated, when we come
to address our selves to the
Throne of Grace. Being dead
to the things of this world,
we shall with greater fervour
petition for those of another;
and living always in a lively and G4r 127
and awful sense of the divine
Majesty, our hearts will ever
be dispos’d to approach
him in the most solemn, serious
and reverent manner.
’Tis a very unseemly thing
to jump from our Diversions
to our Prayers; as if when
we have been entertaining
our selves and others with
Vanity, we were instantly
prepar’d to appear in the
sacred presence of God.
But a Religious Retirement
and holy Conversation, will
procure us a more serious
Temper, a graver Spirit, and
so both make us constantly
fit to approach, and likewise
stir us up to be more careful
in our preparations when we
do. For besides all other G4 improve- G4v 128
improvements of knowledge,
we shall hereby obtain truer
Notions of God than we
were capable of before,
which is of very great consequence,
since the want of
right apprehensions concerning
him, is the general cause
of mistakes in Religion, and
Errors in Practice; for as he
is the noblest Object of our
Understanding, so nothing is
more necessary or of such consequence
to us as to busy our
thoughts about him. And did
we rightly consider his Nature,
we shou’d neither dare
to forget him, nor draw near
to him with unclean hands,
and unholy hearts.

From this sacred Mountain
where the world will be G5r 129
be plac’d at our feet, at such
a distance from us, that the
steams of its corruptions
shall not obscure our eyesight;
we shall have a right
prospect of it, and clearly discern
that all its Allurements,
all those Gaities and Pageantries
which at present we admire
so much, are no better
than insignificant Toys,
which have no value but
what our perverse Opinion
imposes on them. Things
which contribute so very
little to our real Good, that
even at present, which is their
only season, we may live
much happier without than
with them; and which are
so far from being necessary
to true Felicity, that they G5 shall G5v 130
shall vanish and be no more
when that is consummate
and perfect. Many are the
Topic’s from whence we
might declaim against the
vanity of the world, but methinks
Experience is so convincing,
that it supersedes all
the rest, and wou’d certainly
reclaim us from the immoderate
love of earthly enjoyments,
did we but seriously
hearken to it. For tell
me Ladies, if your greatest
Pleasures are not attended
with a greater sting; when
you think to grasp them, do
they not either vanish into
froth, or gall your fingers?
To want, or to enjoy them,
is equally tormenting; the
one produces in you the Pain of G6r 131
of Hunger, the other of
Loathing. For in reality,
there is no good in them, nothing
but the Shadow and
Appearance; if there were,
you cou’d not so easily loath
your old Delights, and be so
fond of variety, what is truly
desirable never ending in
disgust. They are not therefore
Pleasures but Amusements
which you now pursue,
and which, through your
ignorance of better Joys, pretend
to fill their place; toll
you on with fair pretences,
and repay your Labour with
defeated Hopes. Joys, not
near so lasting as the slightest
toy you wear; the most capricious
Humorist among
you is more constant far than they. G6v 132
they. Come hither therefore
and take a true view of
’em, that you may no longer
deceive your selves with
that which profits not; but
spurning away these empty
nothings, secure a portion in
such a Bliss as will not
fail, as cannot disappoint
you! A Felicity which depending
on God only and
your own Minds, is out of
Fortunes reach, will place
you above the Batteries of
the world, above its Terrors
and Allurements, and enable
you at once to triumph over,
and despise it. And what can
be more glorious, than to
have a mind unshaken by the
blandishments of Prosperity,
or the rough shocks of Adversity;versity; G7r 133
that passes thro both
with the same indifferency
and integrity, is not to be
tempted by either to a mean
unworthy and indecent Action?

Farther yet, besides that
holy emulation which a continual
view of the brightest
and most exemplary Lives
will excite in us; we shall
have opportunity of contracting
the purest and noblest
Friendship; a Blessing, the
purchase of which were richly
worth all the world besides!
For she who possesses
a worthy Person, has certainly
obtain’d the richest
Treasure! a Blessing that
Monarchs may envy, and she
who enjoys is happier than she G7v 134
she who fills a Throne! a
Blessing, which next to the
love of God, is the choicest
Jewel in our Cælestial Diadem,
which, were it duly
practic’d, wou’d both fit us
for heav’n, and bring it down
into our hearts whilst we
tarry here. For Friendship
is a Vertue which comprehends
all the rest; none being
fit for this, who is not adorn’d
with every other
Vertue. Probably one considerable
cause of the degeneracy
of the present Age, is
the little true Friendship that
is to be found in it; or perhaps
you will rather say, that
this is the effect of our corruption.
The cause and the
effect are indeed reciprocal; for G8r 135
for were the world better,
there wou’d be more Friendship,
and were there more
Friendship we shou’d have a
better world. But because
Iniquity abounds, therefore the
love of many is not only waxen
cold
, but quite benum’d
and perish’d. But if we have
such narrow hearts, be so
full of mistaken Self-love, so
unreasonably fond of our
selves, that we cannot spare
a hearty Good-will to one or
two choice Persons, how can
it ever be thought, that we
shou’d well acquit our selves
of that Charity which is due
to all mankind? For Friendship
is nothing else but Charity
contracted; it is (in the
words of an admired Author)thor)- G8v 136
a kind of revenging
our selves on the narrowness
of our Faculties, by exemplyfying
that extraordinary charity
on one or two, which we
are willing, but not able to
exercise towards all. And
therefore ’tis without doubt,
the best Instructor to teach
us our duty to our Neighbour,
and a most excellent
Monitor to excite us to make
payment as far as our power
will reach. It has a special
force to dilate our hearts,
to deliver them from that vicious
selfishness and the rest
of those sordid passions, which
express a narrow illiberal
temper, and are of such pernitious
consequence to mankind.
That institution therefore,fore, G9r 137
must needs be highly
beneficial, which both disposes
us to be friends our selves,
and helps to find them. But
by Friendship I do not mean
any thing like those intimacies
that are about in the
world, which are often combinations
in evil, and at best
but insignificant dearnesses;
as little resembling true
Friendship, as Modern
Practice does Primitive
Christianity. But I intend
by it the greatest
usefulness, the most refin’d
and disinteress’d Benevolence,
a love that thinks nothing
within the bounds of Power
and Duty, too much to do
or suffer for its Beloved:
And makes no distinction betwixt G9v 138
betwixt its Friend and its
self, except that in Temporals
it prefers her interest.
But tho it be very desirable
to obtain such a Treasure;
such a Medicine of Life, (as
the wise man speaks) yet the
danger is great, least being
deceiv’d in our choice, we
suck in Poyson where we
expected Health. And considering
how apt we are to
disguise our selves, how hard
it is to know our own hearts,
much less anothers, it is not
advisable to be too hasty in
contracting so important a
Relation; before that be
done, it were well if we
could look into the very Soul
of the beloved Person, to
discover what resemblance it G10r 139
it bears to our own, and in
this Society we shall have
the best opportunities of doing
so. There are no interests
here to serve, no contrivances
for another to be a
stale to; the Souls of all the
Religious will be open and
free, and those particular
Friendships must be no prejudice
to the general Amity.
But yet, as in Heav’n, that
region of perfect Love, the
happy Souls (as some are of
opinion) now and then step
aside from more general Conversations,
to entertain themselves
with a peculiar friend;
so, in this little emblem of
this blessed place, what should
hinder, but that two Persons
of a sympathizing disposition,on, G10v 140
the make and frame of
whose Souls bears an exact
conformity to each other, and
therefore one wou’d think,
were purposely design’d by
Heaven to unite and mix;
what shou’d hinder them
from entring into an holy
combination to watch over
each other for Good, to advise,
encourage and direct,
and to observe the minutest
fault in order to its amendment.
The truest effect of
love being to endeavour the
bettering the beloved Person.
And therefore nothing is
more likely to improve us
in Vertue, and advance us to
the very highest pitch of
Goodness, than unfeigned
Friendship, which is the most beneficial, G11r 141
beneficial, as well as the most
pleasant thing in the world.

But to hasten; such an institution
will much confirm
us in Vertue, and help us to
persevere to the end, and by
that substantial Piety and solid
Knowledge, we shall here
acquire, fit us to propagate
it when we return into the
World. An habitual Practice
of Piety for some years
will so root and establish us
in it, that Religion will become
a second Nature, and
we must do strange violences
to our selves, if after that we
dare venture to oppose it.
For besides all the other Advantages
that Vertue has over
Vice, this will disarm it
of Custom, the only thing that G11v 142
that recommends it, bravely
win its strongest Fort, and
turns its own Cannon against
it self. How almost impossible
wou’d it be for her to sin,
whose Understanding being
clearly illuminated with the
knowledge of the Truth, is
too wise to be impos’d on by
those false representations that
sin wou’d deceive it with;
whose will has found out and
united it self to its true Centre;
and having been long habituated
to move in a right line,
has no temptation to decline
to an Oblique. Whose affections
have daily regaled on
those delicious Fruits of Paradice,
which Religion presents
them with, and are
therefore too sublime and refin’dfin’d G12r 143
to relish the muddy
Pleasures of sensual Delights.
It must certainly be a Miracle
if such an one relinquish
her Glory and Joy; she must
be as bad as Lucifer himself
who after such Enjoyments
can forsake her Heaven. ’Tis
too unreasonable to imagine
such an Apostacy, the supposition
is monstrous, & therefore
we may conclude will
never, or very rarely happen.
And then what a blessed
world shou’d we have, shining
with so many stars of
Vertue! Who, not content
to be happy themselves, for
that’s a narrowness of mind
too much beneath their Godlike
temper, would like the
glorious Lights of Heav’n, or rather G12v 144
rather like him who made
them, diffuse their benign
Influences round about. Having
gain’d an entrance into
Paradise themselves, they
wou’d both shew the way
and invite all others to partake
of their felicity. Instead
of that froth and impertinence,
that Censure and Pragmaticalness,
with which Feminine
Conversations so
much abound, we should
hear their tongues employ’d
in making Proselytes to heaven,
in running down Vice,
in establishing Vertue, and
proclaiming their Makers
Glory. ’Twou’d be more
genteel to give and take instructions
about the ornaments
of the Mind, than to enquire H1r 145
enquire after the Mode; and a
Lecture on the Fashions wou’d
become as disagreeable as at present
any serious discourse is. Not
the Follies of the Town, but the
Beauties and the Love of Jesus
wou’d be the most polite and delicious
Entertainment. ’Twould
be thought as rude and barbarous
to send our Visitors away uninstructed,
as our foolishness at present
reckons it to introduce a
pertinent and useful Conversation.
Ladies of Quality wou’d be
able to distinguish themselves
from their Inferiors by the blessings
they communicated, and
the good they did. For this is
their grand Prerogative, their
distinguishing Character, that they
are plac’d in a condition which
makes that which is every ones
chief business, to be their only
employ. They have nothing to
do but to glorify God, and to H benefit H1v 146
benefit their Neighbours, and
she who does not thus improve
her Talent, is more vile and despicable
than the meanest Creature
about her.

And if after so many spiritual
Advantages, it be convenient to
mention Temporals, here Heiresses
and Persons of Fortune may
be kept secure, from the rude attempts
of designing Men; And
she who has more Mony than Discretion,
need not curse her Stars,
for being expos’d a prey to bold
importunate and rapacious Vultures.
She will not here be inveigled
and impos’d on, will neither
be bought nor sold, nor be
forc’d to marry for her own
quiet, when she has no inclination
to it, but what the being tir’d
out with a restless importunity
occasions. Or if she be dispos’d
to marry, here she may remain
in safety till a convenient Match be H2r 147
be offer’d by her Friends, and be
freed from the danger of a dishonourable
one. Modesty requiring
that a Woman should not
love before Marriage, but only
make choice of one whom she can
love hereafter: She who has
none but innocent affections, being
easily able to fix them where
Duty requires.

And tho at first I propos’d to
my self to speak nothing in particular
of the employment of the
Religious, yet to give a Specimen
how useful they will be to the
World, I am now inclin’d to declare,
that it is design’d a part of
their business shall be to give the
best Education to the Children
of Persons of Quality, who shall
be attended and instructed in
lesser matters by meaner persons
deputed to that Office, but the
forming of their minds shall be
the particular care of those of H2 their H2v 148
their own Rank; who cannot
have a more pleasant and useful
employment than to exercise and
encrease their own knowledge,
by instilling it into these young
ones, who are most like to profit
under such Tutors. For how can
their little Pupils forbear to credit
them, since they do not decry
the World (as others may be
thought to do) because they cou’d
not enjoy it; but when they had
it in their power, were courted
and caress’d by it, for very good
Reasons, and on mature deliberation,
thought fit to relinquish
and despise its offers for a better
choice? Nor are mercenary people
on other accounts capable of
doing so much good to young
Persons, because, having often
but short views of things themselves,
sordid and low Spirits,
they are not like to form a generous
temper in the minds of the Educated. H3r 149
Educated. Doubtless ’twas well
consider’d of him, who wou’d
not trust the breeding of his Son
to a Slave, because nothing great
or excellent could be expected
from a person of that condition.

And when by the increase of
their Revenue, the Religious
are enabled to do such a work of
Charity, the Education they design
to bestow on the Daughters
of Gentlemen who are fallen into
decay, will be no inconsiderable
advantage to the Nation.
For hereby many Souls will be
preserv’d from great Dishonours,
and put in a comfortable way of
subsisting, being either receiv’d
into the House, if they incline to
it, or otherwise dispos’d of. It
being suppos’d that prudent men
will reckon the endowments they
here acquire a sufficient Dowry;
and that a disecreet and vertuous
Gentlewoman will make a better H3 Wife H3v 150
Wife that she whose mind is
empty, tho her Purse be full.

But some will say, May not people
be good without this confinement?
may they not live at large
in the world, and yet serve God
as acceptably as here? ’tis allow’d
they may; truly wise and vertuous
Souls will do it by the assistance
of Gods Grace, in despite
of all temptations; and I heartily
wish, that all Women were of
this temper. But it is to be consider’d,
that there are tender Vertues,
who need to be screened
from the ill Airs of the world:
Many persons who had begun well
might have gone to the Grave in
peace and innocence, had it not
been their misfortune to be violently
tempted. For those who
have honest Hearts have not always
the strongest Heads; and
sometimes the enticements of the
world, and the subtil insinuations of H4r 151
of such as lye in wait to deceive,
may make their Heads giddy,
stagger their Resolutions, and overthrow
all the fine hopes of a
promising beginning. ’Tis fit
therefore, such tender Cyons
shou’d be transplanted, that they
may be supported by the prop of
Vertuous Friendship, and confirm’d
in Goodness by holy Examples,
which alas! they will
not often meet with in the world.
And, such is the weakness of human
Nature, that bad people are
not so apt to be better’d by the
Society of the Good, as the Good
are to be corrupted by theirs.
Since therefore we daily pray against
temptation, it cannot be
amiss if we take all prudent care
to avoid it, and not out of a vain
presumption face the danger,
which God may justly permit
to overcome us for a due correction
of our Pride. It is not impossibleH4 possible H4v 152
for a man to live in an
infected House or Town, and escape
with Life and Health; yet
if he have a place in the Country
to retire to, he will not make
slight of that advantage; and
surely the Health of our Souls is
of greater consideration than the
health of our Bodies. Besides, she
has need of an establish’d Vertue
and consummated Prudence,
who so well understands the great
end she was sent into the world
about, and so faithfully pursues
it, that not content to be wise
and good her self alone, she endeavours
to propagate Wisdom
and Piety to all about her. But
neither this Prudence nor heroic
Goodness are easily attainable amidst
the noise and hurry of the
world, we must therefore retire
a while from its clamour and importunity,
if we generously design
to do it good; and having calmly H5r 153
calmly and sedately observ’d and
rectify’d what is amiss in our
selves, we shall be fitter to promote
a Reformation in others.
A devout Retirement will not
only strengthen and confirm our
Souls, that they be not infected
by the worlds Corruptions, but
likewise so purify and refine
them, that they will become Antidotes
to expel the Poyson in others,
and spread a salutary Air
round about them.

If any object against a Learned
Education, that it will make
Women vain and assuming, and
instead of correcting, encrease
their Pride: I grant, that a smattering
in Learning may; for it
has this effect on the Men, none
so Dogmatical, and so forward
to shew their Parts as your little
Pretenders to Science. But I
wou’d not have the Ladies content
themselves with the shew, my H5 desire H5v 154
desire is, that they shou’d not rest
till they obtain the Substance.
And then she who is most knowing,
will be forward to own with
the wise Socrates, that she knows
nothing: nothing that is matter
of Pride and Ostentation; nothing
but what is attended with
so much ignorance and imperfection,
that it cannot reasonably
elate and puff her up. The more
she knows, she will be the less
subject to talkativeness and its
sister Vices, because she discerns,
that the most difficult piece of
Learning is, to know when to
use and when to hold ones
Tongue, and never to speak but
to the purpose.

But the men if they rightly
understand their own interest,
have no reason to oppose the ingenious
Education of the Women,
since ’twou’d go a great way
towards reclaiming the men; great is H6r 155
is the influence we have over
them in their Childhood, in which
time, if a Mother be discreet and
knowing as well as devout, she
has many opportunities of giving
such a Form and Season to the tender
Mind of the Child, as will
shew its good effects thro’ all the
stages of his Life. But tho’ you
should not allow her capable of
doing good, ’tis certain, she may
do hurt: If she do not make the
Child, she has power to marr him,
by suffering her fondness to get
the better of discreet affection.
But besides this, a good and prudent
Wife, wou’d wonderfully
work on an ill man; he must be
a Brute indeed, who cou’d hold
out against all those innocent
Arts, those gentle persuasives,
and obliging methods she wou’d
use to reclaim him. Piety is often
offensive, when it is accompanied
with indiscretion: but she H6v 156
she who is as Wise as Good, possesses
such Charms as can hardly
fail of prevailing. Doubtless,
her Husband is a much happier
Man, and more likely to abandon
all his ill Courses, than he
who has none to come home to,
but an ignorant, froward and fantastick
Creature. An ingenious
Conversation will make his life
comfortable, and he who can be
so well entertain’d at home, needs
not run into Temptations in
search of Diversions abroad. The
only danger is, that the Wife be
more knowing than the Husband;
but if she be, ’tis his own fault,
since he wants no opportunities
of improvement; unless he be a
natural Blockhead, and then such
an one will need a wise Woman
to govern him, whose prudence
will conceal it from publick Observation,
and at once both cover
and supply his defects. Give me H7r 157
me leave therefore to hope, that
no Gentleman who has honourable
designs, will henceforward
decry Knowledge and Ingenuity
in her he wou’d pretend to Honour:
Or if he does, it may serve
for a Test to distinguish the
feigned and unworthy from the
real Lover.

Now, who that has a Spark of
of Piety, will go about to oppose
so Religious a design? What generous
Spirit that has a due regard
to the good of Mankind, will
not be forward to advance and
perfect it? Who will think 500
pounds too much to lay out for
the purchase of so much Wisdom
and Happiness? Certainly, we
shou’d not think them too dearly
paid for by a much greater
Sum, did not our pitiful and sordid
Spirits set a much higher value
on Money than it deserves.
But granting so much of that dear Idol H7v 158
Idol is given away, a person thus
bred, will easily make it up by
her Frugality and other Vertues:
if she bring less, she will not
waste so much, as others do in
superfluous and vain Expences.
Nor can I think of any expedient
so useful as this to Persons of
Quality, who are over-stock’d
with Children; for thus they may
honourably dispose of them without
impairing their Estates. Five
or six hundred pounds may be
easily spar’d with a Daughter,
when so many thousand would
go deep; and yet as the world
goes be a very inconsiderable
Fortune for Ladies of their Birth;
neither maintain them in that
Port which Custom makes almost
necessary, nor procure them an
equal Match; those of their own
Rank (contrary to the generous
custom of the Germans) chusing
rather to fill their Coffers than to H8r 159
to preserve the purity of their
Blood, and therefore think a
weighty Bag the best Gentility,
preferring a wealthy Upstart before
the best Descended and best
Qualifyed Lady: Their own extravagancies
perhaps having
made it necessary, that they may
keep up an empty shadow of
Greatness, which is all that remains
to shew what their Ancestors
have been.

Does any think their money
lost to their Families, when ’tis
put in here? I will only ask what
course they can take to save it,
and at once to preserve their
Money, their Honour and their
Daughters too? Were they sure
the Ladies wou’d die unmarried,
I shou’d commend their Thrift;
but Experience has too often
shewn us the vanity of this expectation.
For the poor Lady
having past the prime of her years H8v 160
years in Gaity and Company,
in running the Circle of all
the Vanities of the Town,
having spread all her Nets
and us’d all her Arts for Conquest,
and finding that the Bait
fails where she wou’d have it
take, and having all this while
been so over-careful of her Body,
that she had no time to improve
her mind, which therefore affords
her no safe retreat now she meets
with Disappointments abroad,
and growing every day more and
more sensible that the respect
which us’d to be paid her, decays
as fast as her Beauty; quite terrified
with the dreadful name of
Old Maid, which yet none but
Fools will reproach her with,
nor any wise Woman be afraid
of; to avoid this terrible Mormo,
and the scoffs that are thrown
on superannuated Virgins, she
flies to some dishonourable Match as H9r 161
as her last, tho much mistaken
Refuge, to the disgrace of her
Family, and her own irreparable
Ruin. And now let any person
of Honour tell me, if it were not
richly worth some thousand
Pounds, to prevent all this mismischief,
and the having an
idle Fellow, and perhaps a race
of beggarly Children to hang
on him, and to provide for?

Cou’d I think of any other objection,
I wou’d consider it; theres
nothing indeed which witty persons
may not argue for & against,
but they who duly weigh the Arguments
on both sides, unless
they be extreamly prejudiced,
will easily discern the great usefulness
of this Institution. The
Beaux perhaps, and topping
Sparks of the Town, will ridicule
and laugh at it. For Vertue
her self as bright as she is, can’t
escape the lash of scurrilous Tongues; H9v 162
Tongues; the comfort is, whilst
they impotently endeavour to
throw dirt on her, they are unable
to soil her Beauty, and only
render themselves the more contemptible.
They may therefore
if they please, hug themselves in
their own dear folly, and enjoy
the diversion of their own insipid
Jests. She has but little Wisdom
and less Vertue, who is to be
frighted from what she judges
reasonable by the scoffs and insignificant
noises of ludicrous
Wits, and pert Buffoons. And
no wonder that such as they, (who
have nothing to shew for their
pretences to Wit, but some scraps
of Plays, and blustring Non-sence;
who fancy a well adjusted Peruke
is able to supply their want of
Brains, and that to talk much is
a sign of Ingenuity, tho’t be never
so little to the purpose,) object
against our Proposal; ’twou’d indeed H10r 163
indeed spoil the Trade of the gay
fluttering Fops, who wou’d be
at a loss, had they no body as impertinent
as themselves to talk
with. The Criticism of their
Dress wou’d be useless, and the
labour of their Valet de Chambre
lost, unless they cou’d peaceably
lay aside their Rivalling, and
one Ass be content to complement
and admire another. For
the Ladies wou’d have more discernment
than to esteem a Man
for such Follies as shou’d rather
incline them to scorn and despise
him. They wou’d never be so
sottish as to imagine, that he who
regards nothing but his own brutish
Appetite, shou’d have any
real affection for them, nor ever
expect Fidelity from one who is
unfaithful to God and his own
Soul. They wou’d not be so absurd
as to suppose, that man can
esteem them who neglects his Maker; H10v 164
Maker; for what are all those
fine Idolatries, by which he wou’d
recommend himself to his pretended
Goddess; but mockery
and delusion from him who forgets
and affronts the true Deity?
They wou’d not value themselves
on account on the Admiration
of such incompetent Judges,
nor consequently make use of
those little trifling Arts that are
necessary to recommend them
to such Admirers: Neither
wou’d they give opportunity to
profess themselves their Slaves
so long, till at last they become
their Masters.

What now remains, but to reduce
to Practice that which tends
so very much to our advantage.
Is Charity so dead in the world
that none will contribute to the
saving their own and their neighbours
Souls? Shall we freely expend
our Money to purchase Vanity,nity, H11r 165
and often times both present
and future Ruin, and find
none for such an eminent good
Work, which will make the Ages
to come arise and call us Blessed?
I would fain persuade my self
better things, and that I shall one
day see this Religious Retirement
happily setled, and its great
designs wisely and vigorously
pursu’d; and methinks I have already
a Vision of that lustre and
glory our Ladies cast round about
them! Let me therefore intreat
the rest of our Sex, who tho at
liberty in the world, are the miserable
Slaves of their own vile
affections; let me entreat them
to lay aside their Prejudices, and
whatever borders on Envy and
Malice, and with impartial eyes
to behold the Beauties of our
Religious. The native innocency
and unaffectedness of whose
Charms, and the unblameable Integri- H11v 166
Integrity of their Lives, are abundantly
more taking than all
the curious Artifices and studied
Arts the other can invent to recommend
them, even bad men
themselves being Judges, who
often betray a secret Veneration
for that vertue they wou’d seem
to despise and endeavour to corrupt.
As there is not any thing,
no not the least shadow of a motive
to recommend vice, but its
fashionableness, and the being accustom’d
to it; so there is nothing
at all forbidding in vertue
but her uncouthness. Acquaint
your selves with her a little, and
you’l wonder how you cou’d be
so foolish as to delight in any
thing besides! For you’l find her
Conversation most sweet and
obliging; her Precepts most easy
and beneficial; her very tasks
Joys, and her Injunctions the
highest Pleasures. She will not rob H12r 167
rob you of any innocent delight,
not engage you to any thing beneath
your Birth and Breeding:
But will put a new and more
grateful relish into all your
Enjoyments, and make them
more delicious with her Sweetness.
She’ll preserve and augment
your Honour, by allying
you to the King of Heaven;
secure your Grandeur by fixing
it on a firm bottom, such as the
caprice of Fortune cannot shake
or overthrow; she’ll enlarge
your souls, raise them above the
common level, and encourage
that allowable Pride of Scorning
to do a base unworthy action.
Make you truly amiable in the
eyes of God and Man, preserve
even the Beauty of your Bodies
as long as ’tis possible for such a
brittle thing to last; and when
it must of necessity decay, impress
such a loveliness on your Minds, as H12v 168
as will shine thro’ and brighten
your very Countenances; enriching
you with such a stock of
Charms, that Time which devours
every other thing, shall
never be able to decay. In a
word, ’tis Vertue only which
can make you truly happy in this
world as well as in the next.

There is a sort of Bravery and
Greatness of Soul, which does
more truly ennoble us than the
highest Title, and it consists in
the living up to the dignity of
our Natures, scorning to do a
mean unbecoming thing; in
passing differently thro Good
and Evil Fortune, without being
corrupted by the one or deprest
by the other. For she that can
do so, gives evidence that her
Happiness depends not on so
mutable a thing as this world;
but, in a due subserviency to the
Almighty, is bottom’d only on her I1r 169
her own great Mind. This is
the richest Ornament, and renders
a Woman glorious in the
lowest Fortune: So shining is
real worth, that like a Diamond it
loses not its lustre, tho cast on a
Dunghill. Whereas, she who is
advanc’d to some eminent Station,
and wants this natural and
solid Greatness, is no better than
Fortunes May-game, rendered
more conspicuous, that she may
appear the more contemptible.
Let those therefore who value
themselves only on external Accomplishments,
consider how liable
they are to decay, and how
soon they may be depriv’d of
them, and that supposing they
shou’d continue, they are but sandy
Foundations to build Esteem
upon. What a disappointment
will it be to a Ladies Admirer
as well as to her self, that her Conversation
shou’d lose and endangerI ger I1v 170
the Victory her eyes had
gain’d! For when the Passion
of a Lover is evaporated into the
cool temper of a Husband, and
a frequent review had lessen’d
the wonder which her Charms
at first had rais’d, she’ll retain
no more than such a formal respect
as decency and good breeding
will require, and perhaps
hardly that; but unless he be a
very good Man (and indeed the
world is not over full of ’em)
her worthlesness has made a
forfeit of his Affections, which
are seldom fixt by any other
thing than Veneration and Esteem.
Whereas, a wise and good
Woman is useful and valuable in
all Ages and Conditions; she
who chiefly attends the one thing
needful
, the good part which shall
not be taken from her
, lives a
cheerful and pleasant Life, innocent
and sedate, calm and tranquile,quile, I2r 171
and makes a glorious
Exit; being translated from
the most happy life on Earth, to
unspeakable happiness in heaven;
a fresh and fragrant Name, embalming
her Dust, and extending
its Perfume to succeeding
Ages. Whilst the Fools, and
the worst sort of them the wicked,
live as well as die in Misery,
go out in a snuff, leaving nothing
but stench and putrefaction behind
them.

To close all, if this Proposal
which is but a rough draught and
rude Essay, and which might be
made much more beautiful by
a better Pen, give occasion to
wiser heads to improve and perfect
it, I have my end. For imperfect
as it is, it seems so desirable,
that she who drew the
Scheme is full of hopes, it will
not want kind hands to perform
and compleat it. But if it miss of I2v 172
of that, it is but a few hours
thrown away, and a little labour
in vain, which yet will
not be lost, if what is here offer’d
may serve to express her
hearty Good-will, and how much
she desires your Improvement,
who is

Ladies,


Your very humble Servant.

Errata.

  • P. 2. l. 6. deledelete ()
  • p. 19. l. 4. f. Patterns
    r. Examples.
  • p. 37. l. 8. del. ,.
  • l. 17.
    f. but r. than
  • p. 44. l. 15. after before add
    it
  • p. 48. l. 10. f. in r. them.
  • p. 49. l. 7. d. ,.

  • p. 56. l. 11. r. unaccountable.
  • p. 69. l. 16.
    aft. but add to
  • p. 80. l. 8. d. as well,

  • p. 103. l. 1312.f. yet, r. But.
  • p. 107. l. 12.
    d. ,.
  • p. 111. l. 10. aft. smil’d, add betwixt
    scorn and Pity.
  • p. 118. l. 3. r.
    swallow.
  • p. 125. l. 4. aft. which, add, is
    to be found in,
  • l. 5. del. affords us,
  • p. 130
    l. 19. f. froth, r. air.
  • p. 139. Antep.antepenult f.
    this, r. that.
Books I3r

Books Printed and Sold by
Richard Wilkin at the King’s Head in St. Paul’s
Church Yard.

A I3v A I4r

Finis.