A1r

Thoughts
on the
Condition of Women,
And on the Injustice of
Mental Subordination.

By Mary Robinson.

Second Edition.
“Wherefore are we
Born with high Souls, but to assert ourselves?”
Rowe.

London:
Printed for T.N. Longman, and O. Rees, No. 39, Paternoster-Row,
by G. Woodfall, No. 22, Paternoster-Row. 17991799.

A1v A2r

Advertisement.

To the public,


Finding that a Work on a subject similar
to the following, has lately been published
at Paris, Mrs. Robinson is induced to avow
herself the Author of this Pamphlet. The
first Edition was published in --02February last,
under the fictitious Signature of Anne
Frances Randall
; and the mention of Mrs.
Robinson’s
works was merely inserted with
a view to mislead the reader respecting the
Real Author of the Pamphlet.

London: Printed by G. Woodfall, No. 22, Paternoster-row.

A2v B1r

Letter, &c. &c.

Custom, from the earliest periods of
antiquity, has endeavoured to place the
female mind in the subordinate ranks of
intellectual sociability. Woman has ever
been considered as a lovely and fascinating
part of the creation, but her claims to
mental equality have not only been questioned,
by envious and interested sceptics;
but, by a barabarous policy in the
other sex, considerably depressed, for
want of liberal and classical cultivation.
I will not expatiate largely on the doctrines
of certain philosophical sensualists,
who have aided in this destructive oppression,
because an illustrious British B female, B1v 2
female, (whose death has not been sufficiently
lamented, but to whose genius
posterity will render justice) has already
written volumes in vindication of The
Rights of Woman. The writer of this letter, though avowedly of
the same school, disdains the drudgery of servile imitation.
The same subject may be argued in a variety
of ways; and though this letter may not display the
philosophical reasoning with which The Rights of
Woman
abounded; it is not less suited to the purpose.
For it requires a legion of Wollstonecrafts to undermine
the poisons of prejudice and malevolence.
But I shall endeavour
to prove that, under the present
state of mental subordination, universal
knowledge is not only benumbed and
blighted, but true happiness, originating
in enlightened manners, retarded in its
progress. Let woman once assert her
proper sphere, unshackled by prejudice,
and unsophisticated by vanity; and pride,
(the noblest species of pride,) will establish
her claims to the participation of
power, both mentally and corporeally.

In B2r 3

In order that this letter may be clearly
understood, I shall proceed to prove my
assertion in the strongest, but most undecorated
language. I shall remind my
enlightened country-women that they
are not the mere appendages of domestic
life, but the partners, the equal associates
of man: and, where they excel in intellectual
powers, they are no less capable
of all that prejudice and custom have
united in attributing, exclusively, to the
thinking faculties of man. I argue thus,
and my assertions are incontrovertible.

Supposing that destiny, or interest, or
chance, or what you will, has united a
man, confessedly of a weak understanding,
and corporeal debility, to a woman
strong in all the powers of intellect, and
capable of bearing the fatigues of busy
life: is it not degrading to humanity that
such a woman should be the passive, the
obedient slave, of such an husband? Is
it not repugnant to all the laws of nature,
that her feelings, actions, and opinions, B2 should B2v 4
should be controuled, perverted, and debased,
by such an help-mate? Can she
look for protection to a being, whom she
was formed by the all wise Creator, to
protect? Impossible, yet, if from prudence,
or from pity, if for the security
of worldly interest, or worldly happiness,
she presumes to take a lead in domestic
arrangements, or to screen her wedded
shadow from obloquy or ruin, what is she
considered by the imperious sex? but an
usurper of her husband’s rights; a domestic
tyrant; a vindictive shrew; a petticoat
philosopher; and a disgrace to that
race of mortals, known by the degrading
appellation of the “defenceless sex.”


The barbarity of custom’s law in this
“enlightened” country, has long been exercised
to the prejudice of woman: The ancient Romans were more liberal, even
during the reigns of this most atrocious tyrants: and it
is to be presumed that the intellectual powers of British
women, were they properly expanded, are, at least,
equal to those of the Roman ladies.
and even B3r 5
even the laws of honour have been perverted
to oppress her. If a man receive
an insult, he is justified in seeking retribution.
He may chasitise, challenge, and
even destroy his adversary. Such a proceeding
in man is termed honourable;
his character is exonerated from the stigma
which calumny attached to it; and his
courage rises in estimation, in proportion
as it exemplifies his revenge. But were a
woman to attempt such an expedient,
however strong her sense of injury, however
invincible her fortitude, or important
the preservation of character, she would
be deemed a murdress. Thus, custom
says, you must be free from error; you
must possess an unsullied fame: yet, if
a slanderer, or a libertine, even by the
most unpardonable falshoods, deprive you
of either reputation or repose, you have
no remedy. He is received in the most
fastidious societies, in the cabinets of
nobles, at the toilettes of coquets and
prudes, while you must bear your load of
obloquy, and sink beneath the uniting B3 efforts B3r 6
efforts of calumny, ridicule, and malevolence.
Indeed we have scarcely seen a
single instance where a professed libertine
has been either shunned by women, or
reprobated by men, for having acted either
unfeelingly or dishonorably towards what
is denominated the “defenceless sex”. Females,
by this mis-judging lenity, while
they give proofs of a degrading triumph,
cherish for themselves that anguish,
which, in their turn, they will, unpitied,
experience.

Man is able to bear the temptations of
human existence better than woman, because
he is more liberally educated, and
more universally acquainted with society.
Yet, if he has the temerity to annihilate
the bonds of moral and domestic life, he
is acquitted; and his enormities are placed
to the account of “human frailty”. But
if woman advance beyond the boundaries
of decorum, “Ruin ensues, reproach, and endless shame,And one false step, entirely damns her fame.”

Such B4r 7

Such partial discriminations seem to
violate all laws, divine and human! If
woman be the weaker creature, her
frailty should be the more readily forgiven.
She is exposed by her personal
attractions, to more perils, and yet she is
not permitted to bear that shield, which
man assumes; she is not allowed the exercise
of courage to repulse the enemies
of her fame and happiness; though, if
she is wounded,—she is lost for ever!

Supposing that a woman has experienced
every insult, every injury, that
her vain-boasting, high-bearing associate,
man, can inflict: imagine her, driven
from society; deserted by her kindred;
scoffed at by the world; exposed to poverty;
assailed by malice; and consigned
to scorn: with no companion but sorrow,
no prospect but disgrace; she has no remedy.
She appeals to the feeling and
reflecting part of mankind; they pity,
but they do not seek to redress her: she B4 flies B4v 8
flies to her own sex, they not only condemn,
but they avoid her. She talks
of punishing the villain who has destroyed
her: he smiles at the menace, and tells
her, she is, a woman.

Let me ask this plain and rational question,
—is not woman a human being, gifted
with all the feelings that inhabit the bosom
of man? Has not woman affections, susceptibility,
fortitude, and an acute sense of
injuries received? Does she not shrink at
the touch of persecution? Does not her
bosom melt with sympathy, throb with
pity, glow with resentment, ache with
sensibility, and burn with indignation?
Why then is she denied the exercise of
the nobler feelings, an high consciousness
of honour, a lively sense of what is due
to dignity of character? Why may not
woman resent and punish? Because the
long established laws of custom, have decreed
her “passive!” Because she is by nature
organized to feel every wrong more acutely, B5r 9
acutely, and yet, by a barbarous policy,
denied the power to assert the first of Nature’s
rights, self-preservation.

How many vices are there that men
perpetually indulge in, to which women
are rarely addicted. Drinking, in man,
is reckoned a proof of good fellowship;
and the bon vivant is considered as the
best and most desirable of companions.
Wine, as far as it is pleasant to the sense
of tasting, is as agreeable to woman as to
man; but its use to excess will render
either brutal. Yet man yields to its influence,
because he is the stronger-minded”
creature; and woman resists its power over
the senses, because she is the “weaker”. How
will the superiorly” organized sex defend
this contradiction? Man will say his passions
are stronger than those of women;
yet we see women rush not only to ruin,
but to death, for objects they love; while
men exult in an unmeaning display of
caprice, intrigue, and seduction, frequently,
without even a zest for the vices they exhibit. B5v 10
exhibit. The fact is simply this: the passions
of men originate in sensuality; those
of women, in sentiment: man loves corporeally,
woman mentally: which is the nobler
creature?

Gaming is termed, in the modern vocabulary,
a masculine vice. Has vice then a sex?
Till the passions of the mind in man and
woman are separate and distinct, till the sex
of vital animation, denominated soul, be
ascertained, on what pretext is woman deprived
of those amusements which man is
permitted to enjoy? If gaming be a vice
(though every species of commerce is
nearly allied to it), why not condemn it
wholly? why suffer man to persevere in
the practice of it; and yet in woman execrate
its propensity? Man may enjoy the
convivial board, indulge the caprices of
his nature; he may desert his home, violate
his marriage vows, scoff at the moral
laws that unite society, and set even religion
at defiance, by oppressing the defenceless;
while woman is condemned to bear B6r 11
bear the drudgery of domestic life, to vegetate
in obscurity, to love where she abhors,
to honour where she dispises, and to obey,
while she shudders at subordination. Why?
Let the most cunning sophist, answer me,
why?

If women sometimes, indeed too frequently,
exhibit a frivolous species of character,
we should examine the evil in
which it originates, and endeavour to find
a cure. If the younger branches of some
of our nobility are superficially polished,
and wholly excluded from essential knowledge,
while they are regularly initiated
in the mysteries of a gaming table, and
the mazes of intrigue, can we feel surprized
at their soon discovering an aptitude
to evince their hereditary follies?
We know that women, like princes, are
strangers to the admonitions of truth; and
yet we are astonished when we behold
them emulous of displaying every thing
puerile and unessential; and aiming perpetually
at arbitrary power, without one mental B6v 12
mental qualification to authorize dominion.
From such women, the majority
of mankind draw their opinions of sexual
imbecility; and, in order that their convenient
plea may be sanctioned by example,
they continue to debilitate the female
mind, for the sole purpose of enforcing
subordination.

Yet, the present era has give indisputable
proofs, that woman is a thinking
and an enlightened being! We have seen
a Wollstonecraft, a Macaulay, a Sévigné;
and many others, now living, who embelish
the sphere of literary splendour,
with genius of the first order. The aristocracy
of kingdoms will say, that it is
absolutely necessary to extort obedience:
if all were masters, who then would stoop
to serve? By the same rule, man exclaims,
If we allow the softer sex to participate
in the intellectual rights and privileges
we enjoy, who will arrange our domestic
drudgery? who will reign (as Stephano
says, “while we are vice-roys over them”) in B7r 13
in our household establishments? who will
rear our progeny; obey our commands;
be our affianced vassals; the creatures of
our pleasures? I answer, women, but
they will not be your slaves; they will
be your associates, your equals in the extensive
scale of civilized society; and in
the indisputable rights of nature. The Mahometans are said to be of opinion that
women have no souls! Some British husbands would
wish to evince that they have no senses, or at least
not the privilege of using them: for a modern wife,
I mean to say that which is denominated a “good one”,
should neither hear, see, speak, nor feel, if she would
wish to enjoy any tolerable portion of tranquillity.

In the common occurrences and occupations
of life, what in man is denominated
high-spirit, is in woman termed
vindictive. If a man be insulted and inflicts
a blow upon his assailant, he is called
a brave and noble-minded creature! If
woman acts upon the same principle of
resistance, she is branded as a Zantippe,
though in such a situation she would
scarcely meet with a Socrates, even if, in B7v 14
in the scale of comparison, she possessed
stronger corporeal, as well as mental,
powers, than the object of her resentment.

How comes it, that in this age of reason
we do not see statesmen and orators
selecting women of superior mental acquirements
as their associates? Men allow
that women are absolutely necessary
to their happiness, and that they “had
been brutes”
without them. But the poet
did not insinuate that none but silly or ignorant
women were to be allowed the supreme
honour”
of unbrutifying man, of rendering
his life desirable, and of smoothing
the rugged path of care”
with their
endearments. The ancients were emulous
of patronizing, and even of cultitivating
the friendship of enlightened women.
But a British Demosthenes, a Pythagoras,
a Leontius, a Eustathius, or a
Brutus, would rather pass his hours in
dalliance with an unlettered courtezan,
than in the conversation of a Theano, a Themiste, B8r 15
Themiste, a Cornelia, a Sosipatra, or a
Portia. What is this display of mental
aristocracy? what but the most inveterate
jealousy; the most pernicious and
refined species of envy and malevolence?

Let me ask the rational and thinking
mortal, why the graces of feminine beauty
are to be constituted emblems of a debilitated
mind? Does the finest symmetry of
form, or the most delicate tint of circulation,
exemplify a tame submission to insult
or oppression? Is strength of intellect,
in woman, bestowed in vain? Has the supreme
disposer of events
given to the
female soul a distinguished portion of energy
and feeling, that the one may remain
inactive, and the other be the source
of her destruction? Let the moralist think
otherwise. Let the contemplative philosopher
examine the portions of human
intellect; and let us hope that the immortality
of the soul springs from causes
that are not merely sexual.

2 Cicero B8v 16

Cicero says, “There was, from the beginning
such a thing as Reason; a direct emanation
from nature itself, which prompted
to good, and averted from evil.”
Reason
may be considered as a part of soul: for,
by its powers, we are taught intuitively to
hope for a future state. Cicero did not
confine the attribute of Reason to sex;
such doctrine would have been completely
Mahometan!

The most celebrated painters have uniformly
represented angels as of no sex.
Whether this idea originates in theology,
or imagination, I will not pretend to determine;
but I will boldly assert that there
is something peculiarly unjust in condemning
woman to suffer every earthly insult,
while she is allowed a sex; and only permitting
her to be happy, when she is divested
of it. There is also something profane
in the opinion, because it implies
that an all-wise Creator sends a creature
into the world, with a sexual distinction, which C1r 17
which shall authorise the very extent of
mortal persecution. If men would be
completely happy by obtaining the confidence
of women, let them unite in confessing
that mental equality, which evinces
itself by indubitable proofs that the
soul has no sex. If, then, the cause of
action be the same, the effects cannot be
dissimilar.

In what is woman inferior to man? In
some instances, but not always, in corporeal
strength: in activity of mind, she is
his equal. Then, by this rule, if she is to
endure oppression in proportion as she is
deficient in muscular power, only, through
all the stages of animation the weaker
should give precedence to the stronger.
Yet we should find a Lord of the Creation
with a puny frame, reluctant to confess
the superiority of a lusty peasant girl,
whom nature had endowed with that bodily
strength of which luxury had bereaved
him.

C The C1v 18

The question is simply this: Is woman
persecuted and oppressed because she is
the “weaker” creature? Supposing that to be
the order of Nature; let me ask these human
despots, whether a woman, of strong
mental and corporeal powers, is born to
yield obedience, merely because she is a
woman
, to those shadows of mankind who
exhibit the effeminacy of women, united
with the mischievous foolery of monkies?
I remember once, to have heard one of
those modern Hannibals confess, that he
had changed his regiments three times,
because the regimentals were unbecoming!

If woman be the “weaker” creature, why
is she employed in laborious avocations?
why compelled to endure the fatigue of
household drudgery; to scrub, to scower,
to labour, both late and early, while the
powdered lacquey only waits at the chair,
or behind the carriage of his employer?
Why are women, in many parts of the
kingdom, permitted to follow the plough;
to perform the laborious business of the 5 dairy; C2r 19
dairy; to work in our manufactories; to
wash, to brew, and to bake, while men are
employed in measuring lace and ribands;
folding gauzes; composing artificial bouquets;
fancying feathers, and mixing cosmetics
for the preservation of beauty? I
have seen, and every inhabitant of the metropolis
may, during the summer season,
behold strong Welsh girls carrying on their
heads strawberries, and other fruits from
the vicinity of London to Covent-Garden
market, in heavy loads which they repeat
three, four, and five times, daily, for
a very small pittance; while the male
domesticks of our nobility are revelling in
luxury, to which even their lords are strangers.
Are women thus compelled to labour,
because they are of the “weaker
sex”
?

In my travels some years since through
France and Germany, I often remember
having seen stout girls, from the age of
seventeen to twenty-five, employed in the
most fatiguing and laborious avocations; C2 such C2v 20
such as husbandry, watering horses, and
sweeping the public streets. Were they
so devoted to toil, because they were the
“weaker” creatures? and would not a modern
petit maître have fainted beneath the powerful
grasp of one of these rustic or domestic
amazons?

Man is said to possess more personal
courage than woman. How comes it,
then, that he boldly dares insult the “helpless”
sex, whenever he finds an object unprotected?
I here beg leave to present a
true story, which is related by a polished
and impartial traveller.――

“A foreign lady of great distinction, of
a family to whom I had the honour to be
well known, was appointed to be married
to a young gentleman of equal rank: the
settlements were all made, the families
agreed, and the day was come for the
union. The morning of the same day, the
ceremony of the marriage being fixed for
the same evening, the lover being young, thought- C3r 21
thoughtless, and lost with passion, when
alone with the bride, insinuated, in the
softest and most endearing terms, that he
was her husband in every sense but a few
trifling words, which were to pass that
night from the mouth of the priest; and,
that if she loved him, as he presumed she
did, she certainly would not keep him one
moment in anxiety; much less ten or
twelve hours, which must be the case, if
she waited for the ceremony of the church.
The lady, astonished at what she had
heard, discovered in her looks not only the
warmest resentment, but resolved in her
heart to be amply revenged; and having
had an excellent education, was well acquainted
with the world, and no stranger
to the artifices of designing men in affairs
of love; after recovering a little her surprise,
determined to keep her temper, and
promised with a smile, obedience to her
lover’s will, and begged him to name the
place proper for such a design; which,
being mutually agreed on for four in the
afternoon, the indiscreet lover, ravished at C3 his C3v 22
his expectation, met, agreeable to appointment,
the lady, in a garden leading
to the house, where they proposed the
interview. When walking together, with
all seeming tenderness on both sides, the
lady, on a sudden, started from her lover,
and threw him a pistol, holding another
in her right hand, and spoke to him to
this effect: ‘Remember for what infamous
purpose you invited me here: you shall
never be a husband of mine; and such
vengeance do I seek for the offence, that,
on my very soul, I vow, you or I shall die
this hour. Take instantly up the pistol,
I’ll give you leave to defend yourself;
though you have no right to deserve it.
In this, you see, I have honour; though
you have none.’
The lover, amazed at this unforeseen
change, took up the pistol, in obedience
to her commands, directing it towards the
earth, threw himself at her feet, and was
going to say a thousand things in favour of
his passion; the lady gave attention a few minutes, C4r 23
minutes, pointing the pistol to his breast;
while the lover, with a voice confused,
and every other appearance of despair,
begged her pity and her pardon; declared
his love for her was such, that he was deprived
of all power of reflection; that he
had no views of offending; that all he said
was for want of thought, that his reason
was absent, and that her beauty was the
cause of all.――‘Beauty!’ says the lady,
interrupting him, ‘Thou art a villain! I’ll
hear no more, for one of us must die this
moment.’
――The lover perceiving her violent
anger, and finding that all his soft
phrases had no effect on her, in his distraction
raised the pistol then in his hand
a little higher; thinking, by its appearance
in that situation, to affect his admired
lady with some terror, while he continued
to pursue his defence; but alas! no sooner
did the angry fair perceive the pistol of
her lover raised breast high, but, that instant
being the crisis of her resentment,
she fired upon him, and shot him through
the heart. He fell; and in falling, being C4 deprived C4v 24
deprived of both speech and reason, his
pistol went off, and the consequence was,
her collar bone was broke, and much
blood followed. She clapped her handkerchief
to the wound, ran to her coach,
which was waiting at the garden door,
ordered her servant to take care of the
dead body, and directed some others to
conduct her with the utmost expedition
to her father’s house; to whom she related
the whole affair. Proper assistance was
instantly sent for; and I being that day at
table with the physician of the Court, who
was also of this family, went with him;
saw the wound, and was well instructed
in the particulars of this adventure. The
lady was never so much as called to a trial
for the death of her lover; because all the
circumstances proved the truth of what
she had related: her promising to marry
him that night, was so powerful an argument
of her love for the deceased, that no
other motive could have produced so
dreadful an event. The lady was cured
of her wound, threw herself into a convent;vent; C5r 25
and, from despair for the loss of
her lover, languished a few weeks, and
then followed him, as she hoped, to the
other world. The brother of the lover,
according to the custom of the country,
fought the brother of the lady, and killed
his antagonist. He flew to Spain for
refuge, where I afterwards saw him a colonel
in a regiment of that nation. ”

This short story will prove that the
mind of woman, when she feels a correct
sense of honour, even though it is
blended with the very excess of sensibility,
can rise to the most intrepid defence
of it. Yet had such a circumstance taken
place in Britain, the perpetrator of this
heroic act of indignant and insulted virtue,
would probably have suffered an ignominous
death, or been shut up during
the remainder of her days as a confirmed
maniac; The fate of Miss Broderick is still recent in the
memory of those who either condemned her rashness,
or commiserated her misfortunes.
for here woman is placed in the C5v 26
the very front of peril, without being allowed
the means of self-preservation, and
that very resistance which would secure
her from dishonour, would stigmatize
her in the world’s opinion.

What then is woman to do? Where
is she to hope for justice? Man who professes
himself her champion, her protector,
is the most subtle and unrelenting enemy
she has to encounter: yet, if she determines
on a life of celibacy and secludes herself
wholly from his society, she becomes an
object of universal ridicule.

It has lately been the fashion of the
time, to laugh at the encreasing consequence
of women, in the great scale of
human intellect. Why? Because, by
their superior lustre, the overweening and
ostentatious splendour of some men, is
placed in a more obscure point of view.
The women of France have been by some
popular, though evidently prejudiced writers,
denominated little better than shedevils!devils! C6r 27
And yet we have scarcely heard
of one instance, excepting in the person
of the vain and trifling Madame Du Barry,
in which the females of that country have
not displayed almost a Spartan fortitude
even at the moment when they ascended
the scaffold. If there are political sceptics,
who affect to place the genuine
strength of soul to a bold but desperate
temerity, rather than to a sublime effort
of heroism, let them contemplate the last
moments of Marie Antoinette; this extraordinary
woman, whose days had
passed in luxurious splendour; whose will
had been little less than law! Behold
her hurled from the most towering altitude
of power and vanity; insulted,
mocked, derided, stigmatized, yet unappalled
even at the instant when she was
compelled to endure an ignominious
death! Let the strength of her mind, the
intrepidity of her soul, put to shame the
vaunted superiority of man; and at the
same time place the female character in
a point of view, at once favourable to nature,ture, C6v 28
and worthy of example. France has,
amidst its recent tumultuous scenes, exhibited
women whose names will be the
glory of posterity. Women who have
not only faced the very front of war, The DemoisellesFernig, who followed, and
shared the perils of Dumourier’s army.

but thereby sustained the heroic energies
of their countrymen, by the force of example
and the effect of emulation. Even
the rash enthusiast, Corday, whose poniard
annihilated the most sanguinary and
atrocious monster that ever disgraced humanity,
claimed our pity, (even while
religion and nature shuddered), as she
ascended the fatal scaffold, to expiate the
deed she had accomplished.

Let us take a brief retrospect of events
in British history, and let the liberal
mind dwell with rapture on the heroic
affection evinced by the illustrious Eleonora,
consort of Edward the First. Tradition
may then point out the learned Elizabeth, C7r 29
Elizabeth, (with all her sexual” failings)
and then judge whether England ever
boasted a more wise or more fortunate
sovereign: one, more revered in council;
more obeyed in power; or more successful
in enterprize. And yet Elizabeth
was but a woman! A woman with all her
sex’s frailties. An historical writer in his account of Russia,
speaking of the Czarina Elizabeth, says “her reign
was most uncommonly glorious. She abolished all
capital punishments, and introduced a species of lenity
in the operations of government, before unknown in
Russia.”

“The glories of a part of the reign of
Anne, rise thick as the beauties of a constellation;
this, the plain of Blenheim,
and the field of Ramilies can witness.”

It may not be amiss, for the advantage
of my unlettered readers, here to introduce
an extract from the learned Vossius,
in his treatise de philologia, concerning illustrious
women who had excelled in polite C7v 30
polite literature. It consists chiefly of such
female names as he had not before celebrated,
among his poets and historians:
and the list might have been very much
enlarged, since the time that Vossius
wrote. About a century and half ago.

“It is wrong,” says this learned and
liberal author, “to deny that the fair
sex are capable of literature; all the old
philosophers thought better of them. It was reserved for modern Englishmen to question
their capability.

Pythagoras instructed not men only, but
women; and among them Theano,
whom Laertius makes to be his wife, and
St. Clement calls the first of women; declaring
that she both philosophized and
wrote poems. The Stoics, Epicureans, and
even the Academicks, delivered their lessons
freely to both sexes, and all conditions.
Themiste, the wife of Leontius,
to whom there is extant, an epistle of Epicurus, C8r 31
Epicurus, was a disciple of this philosopher.

Atossa queen of Persia, is said to be
the first who taught the art of writing
epistles.
In the time of Alexander the Great,
flourished Hipparchia, the sister of Metroples
the Cynic
, and wife of Crates.
She wrote of philosophical arguments, essays
and questions to Theodorus, surnamed
the Deist.
Pamphila, the Egyptian, who lived in
the time of Nero, wrote eight books of
Historical Miscellanies.
Agallis, of Corcyra, is celebrated for
her skill in grammar. She ascribes the
invention of the play at ball, to her
countrywoman Nausicaa; who is the only
one, of all his heroines, which Homer introduces
at this diversion.
“Quintilian, C8v 32 Quintilian, celebrated three Roman
women, in words to this effect. Cornelia
the mother of the Gracchi, contributed
much to the eloquence of her sons;
and her learned stile is handed down to
posterity in her letters. The daughter of
Laelius expressed in her conversation the
eloquence of her father. There is an
oration of the daughter of Quintus Hortensius,
delivered before Triumvirs, which
will ever be read to the honour of her
sex. Quintilian has omitted the learned
wife of Varus, and Cornisicia the poetess,
who left behind her most exquisite epigrams.
This woman, who flourished in
the reign of Octavius Caesar, used to say
that ‘learning alone was free, as being entirely
out of the reach of fortune.’ Cornisicia, happily, did not live in Britain, where
learning, and even moderate mental expansion, are not
thought necessary to female education; at least in the
eighteenth century!
Catherine of Alexandria was a learned woman; D1r 33
woman; she is said to have disputed
with fifty philosophers, at the age of
eighteeen, and so far to have overcome
them by the subtlety of her discourse, as
to have converted them to the christian
religion.
Who was more learned than Zenobia,
queen of Palmyra
, by religion a Jew?
We have the testimony of her conqueror
himself, the emperor Aurelian, to her
character in his letters to the Roman senate.
Trebellius Pollio says, she spoke
Egyptian, read Latin into Greek, and
wrote an abridgement both of Alexandrine
and Oriental history. Her master,
in the Greek, was Dionysius Longinus,
who was called a living library, and a
walking museum.’
Sosipatra, wife of the famous Eustathius
remembered all the finest passages,
of all the poets, philosophers, and orators;
and had an almost inimitable talent
of explaining them. Though her husbandD band D1v 34
was a man of high celebrity in
learning, yet she so far out-shone him, as
to obscure his glory; The fear that emulation may, in some instances,
produce superiority, probably occasions that illiberal
neglect of female genius, and that perserverance in affording
British women the contracted and trivial educations
which stigmatize the present era. Yet were
the youth of the eighteenth century committed to the
care of some living females, both manners and morals
would greatly be benefited.
and after his death
she took upon her the education of
youth.
What shall we say of Eustochium,
daughter of Paulla the Roman, who was
learned in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew;
and most assiduous in the study of the
sacred scriptures? St. Jerom speaks many
things in her praise; there are epistles of
the same father, extant, to several illustrious
women, as Paulla, Læta, Fabrilla,
Marcella, Furia, Demetrias Salvia and
Gerontia. Why should we mention others
to whom we have letters extant of Ambrose,brose, D2r 35
Augustin, and Fulgentius? The
compliments of the fathers are testimonies
of their learning. Men of modern education suppose that women
are only worthy of receiving billet doux, because the extent
of their own literary acquirements is that of writing
them. And it is to be lamented, that our classical
scholars, and men of extensive observation, scarcely
condescend to acknowledge that there can be such a
thing as a woman of genius.
Hypatia was the daughter of that
Theon of Alexandria, whose writings now
remain. She was a vast proficient in astronomy.
This woman was murdered,
through religious frenzy, by the Alexandrine
mob; because she made frequent
visits to Orestes, the philosopher.
At the same time flourished Eudocia,
whose name before was Athenais, daughter
of Leontius the philosopher, and wife of
the emperor Theodosius the younger. She
was deep read both in Greek and Latin D2 learning; D2v 36
learning; skilled in poetry, mathematics,
and all the philosophical sciences.
About 0500the year of Christ, 500, Amalasuenta,
the daughter of Theodoric king
of the Goths, and wife of Eutharic who
was made consul by the emperor Justin,
was celebrated both for her learning and
her wisdom. Princes are said to come
and advise with her, and admire her understanding.
If the great men of the present day paid more attention
to the genius and good sense of some British
women, they would be considerable gainers by the
experiment.
She took upon her the
administration of affairs, in the name of
her son, Athalaric, who was left king, at
eight years of age; and whom she instructed
in all the polite learning before
unknown to the Goths
. Query. Might not the society of some living
English women, if properly appreciated, tend to the
reformation of certain gothic eccentricities; as well as,
by comparison, produce more masculine energies? Men
Men would be shamed out of their “effeminate” foibles,
when they beheld the masculine virtues dignifying the
mind of woman.
“Helpis D3r 37 Helpis, the learned wife of the learned
Boethius flourished in 0530530. She left
behind her hymns to the apostles.
Bandonia, the scholar of St. Radegundis,
wrote the life of her holy mistress.
She died in 0530530.
About 0650650 lived Hilda, an English
abbess, celebrated by Pits among English
writers, and Bede in his ecclesiastical
history
. She was daughter of Hereric,
prince of Deira
, and aunt of Aldulph, king
of the East Saxons
. This was at a period when English women, (excepting
those devoted to celibacy), were rarely taught
either to read or write. It cannot be therefore a matter
of surprize, that their minds were enervated by
monkish superstition; the origin of those idle tales respecting
ghosts, witches, &c.
About 0770770 Rictrude, a noble virgin, D3 made D3v 38
made great proficiency in literature under
her master Alcuin; after whose departure
out of England, she shut herself
up to her studies in the monastery of
Saint Bennet at Canterbury, where she
produced many writings.
About two centuries lower down,
under the emperors Otho I. and II. lived
the nun Rhosoitar, skilled both in the
Latin and Greek languages. She wrote
a panegyrick upon the deeds of the
Othos; six comedies, the praises of the
Blessed Virgin, and St. Dennis in elegiac
verse, with other works.
In 1140the year of Christ 1140, flourished
Anna Comnena, daughter of Alexius Comnenus,
emperor of Constantinople. This
woman, in the fifteen books of her Alexiad,
which she wrote upon the deeds
of her father, displayed equally her eloquence
and her learning.
“St. D4r 39 St. Hildegard of Mentz, was famous
about eight years after, and at the same
time flourished St. Elizabeth of Schonua,
sister of king Ecbert. The monkish writers
celebrate them for their visions,
which received the sanction of pope
Eugenius III
. But we mention them for
their historical, didactical and epistolary
writings, a collection of which has been
published. St. Catherine Senesis also
wrote epistles, and various treatises in the
dialogue manner, which are now extant,
as well as her life, written by Raimund
her confessor, a Dominican friar. Whatever
was the sanctity of these women, of
their learning we have certain monuments.
In the year 14841484, under Charles VIII.
king of France, flourished Gabriele de
Bourbon, princess Trimouille
. Catalogues
of her various writings are preserved
in French authors. About three years
after, Cassandra Fidele, a Venetian girl,
acquired great applause, by an excellent D4 oration D4v 40
oration delivered publicly, in the universities
of Padua
,
A Cassandra in the universities of England, at the
present period, would be considered as one of those literary
bugbears, a female philsopher, and would consequently
be treated with ridicule and contempt.
in behalf of Betruri
Lamberti
, her relation. She won
the supreme crown in Philosophy!
This oration was afterwards printed at
Modena.
Alike for her own learning, and her
patronage of the learned, Margaret of
Valois queen of Navarre
, merited of mankind.
Joan, the daughter of this princess,
had by Anthony of Bourbon, Henry
the Fourth, king of France
, founder of
the family now reigning.
Bologna boasts several learned women;
among which were Joanna Blanchetta,
and Novella Andrea, and the
learned Catherina Landa, we read of in
Bambo’s epistles.
“What D5r 41 What shall we say of Joanna married
to Philip archduke of Austria, duke
of Burgundy, and, by his wife, king of
Spain. She answered extempore, in Latin,
the orations made to her through the
several towns and cities, after her accession.
Our English sovereign Elizabeth, gave similar
proofs of learning on several occasions.
Sir Thomas More, chancellor of England,
had three daughters, Margaret,
Elizabeth, and Cæcilia; of whom their
father took care that they were not only
very chaste but very learned. Because
he rightly judged that their chastity
would be, by this means, the more secure.
Read this, ye English fathers and husbands, and
retract your erroneus opinions, respecting female
education.
The learning of Fulvia Olympia Morata,
daughter of Perigrine Moratus, is
evident from writings she has left: and that D5v 42
that Hippolita Taurellas was equal, appears
from her writings, collected together with
those of Morata.

It is needless, in England, to quote
Queen Elizabeth, or the lady Jane Grey,
as eminent instances of the kind; because
our historians are full of their praises upon
the subject. ”

Vossius mentions farther only Anne
Schurman
, a noble woman, whose Latin
poetry recommends her to this day. He
thinks, that if this catalogue were added
to those he had given separately, of the
female poets and historians, sufficient
examples would appear in behalf of
women, that they were equally capable
of fine literature with the other sex
.

We might add to these, says another
author “the two Le Fevres, among the
French: one of them married to Monsieur
Dacier
; and the other to the famous Le
Clerc
: and among ourselves, Mrs. Catherinerine D6r 43
Philips
, Mrs. Cenlivre, Mrs. Behn,
and Mrs. Elizabeth Singer, (afterwards
Mrs. Rowe), as in no degree, according to
their several walks of literature, inferior to
any that have been mentioned.”

The name of the Grecian poetess, Sappho,
is probably known to almost every reader.
Some anecdotes of this celebrated woman,
who lived near -0600600 years before Christ,
may be found in the Abbé Barthelimi’s
Travels of Anacharsis the Younger: and
in the account of this poetess, preceding
Mrs. Robinson’s legitimate sonnets.

Since the beginning of the present century,
we have seen many examples, not
only of natural genius, but of enthusiastic
resolution, even in unlearned women;
prompted by the purest and most feminine
passion of the human soul. A memorable instance of genuine and invincible
attachment appeared in the conduct of the misguided
and unfortunate Sophia Pringle: and though justice con-
condemened her crime, pity will never refuse a sigh to
the memory of her heroic affection.
We have known D6v 44
known women desert their peaceful
homes, the indolence of obscure retirement,
and the indulgence of feminine
amusements, to brave the very heat of
battle, stand to their gun, amidst the
smoak and din of a naval engagement; Hannah Snell, and several others, equally brave
and romantic.

conceal the anguish of their wounds; and,
from the very heroism of love, repeatedly
hazard their existence. How few men
have we seen so nobly uniting the softest
passion of the soul, with the enthusiasm
of valour. When man exposes his person
in the front of battle, he is actuated either
by interest or ambition: woman, with
neither to impel her, has braved the cannons
thunder; stood firmly glorious amidst
the din of desolation; “begrimed and
footed in the smoak of war” Shakespeare.
and yet
she is, by the undiscriminating or prejudiceddiced D7r 45
part of mankind, denominated the
“weaker” creature.

As another striking example of female
excellence, of invincible resolution, of attachment,
marking a sublimity of character
which will put to shame those puerile
cavillers who attempt to depreciate the
mental strength of woman, even where it
is blended with the most exquisite sensibility,
I transcribe the following events, in
the words of a brave and liberal British
officer; whose feelings and manners, enlightened
by philanthropy and polished
by learning, will be long remembered
with regret and admiration. The late General Burgoyne.

“Lady Harriet Ackland had accompanied
her husband to Canada, in the beginning
of the year 17761776. In the course
of the campaign, she traversed a vast space
of country, in different extremities of season,
and with difficulties that an European traveller D7v 46
traveller will not easily conceive, to attend
in a poor hut at Chamblee upon his sick
bed.
In the opening of the campaign of
17771777, she was restrained from offering
herself to a share of the fatigue and hazard
expected before Ticonderago, by the positive
injunctions of her husband. The day
after the conquest of that place, he was
badly wounded, and she crossed the Lake
Champlain
to join him.
As soon as he recovered, Lady Harriet
proceeded to follow his fortunes through
the campaign; and at Fort Edward, or at
the next camp, she acquired a twowheeled
tumbrel, which had been constructed
by the artificers of artillery, something
similar to the carriage used for the
mail in the great roads of England. Major
Ackland
commanded the British grenadiers
which were attached to Frazer’s
corps; and consequently were always the
most advanced post of the army; their situationstuations D8r 47
were often so alert, that no person
slept out of their clothes.
In one of these situations, a tent, in
which the Major and Lady Harriet were
asleep, suddenly took fire. An orderly
serjeant of grenadiers, with great hazard
of suffocation, dragged out the first person
he caught hold of; it proved the Major.
It happened in the same instant, that
Lady Harriet had, unknowing what she
did, and perhaps not perfectly awake,
providentially made her escape, by creeping
under the walls of the back part of
the tent. The first object she saw, on the
recovery of her senses, was the Major, on
the other side; and, in the same instant,
again in the fire, in search of her. The
serjeant again saved him; but not without
the Major being very severely burned in
the face, and different parts of the body:
every thing they had with them in the
tent was consumed.
This 2 D8v 48 This accident happened a little before
the army passed Hudson’s river. It neither
altered the resolution nor the
chearfulness of Lady Harriet; and she
continued her progress, a partaker of the
fatigues of the advanced corps.
The next call upon her fortitude
was of a different nature; and more distressing,
as of longer suspense. On the
march of the 1777-09-1919th of September, the grenadiers
being liable to action every step,
she had been directed by the Major to
follow the route of the artillery and baggage,
which was not exposed. At the
time the action began, she found herself
near a small uninhabited hut, where she
alighted.
When it was found that the action
was becoming general and bloody, the
surgeons of the hospital took possession of
the same place, as the most convenient
for the care of the wounded. Thus was
this lady, in hearing of one continued fire of E1r 49
of cannon and musketry for four hours together,
with the presumption, from the
post of her husband at the head of the
grenadiers, that he was in the most exposed
part of the action. She had three
female companions; the Baroness of
Reidesel
, and the wives of two British
officers, Major Harnage, and Lieutenant
Reynell
: but in the event, their presence
served but little for comfort. Major Harnage
was soon brought to the surgeons,
very badly wounded; and a little after
came intelligence, that Lieutenant Reynell
was shot, dead. Imagination will want
no help to figure the state of the whole
group.
From the date of that action, to the
1777-10-077th of October, Lady Harriet, with her
usual serenity, stood prepared for new
trials! And it was her lot, that their severity
increased with their numbers. She
was again exposed to the hearing of the
whole action; and at last recieved the
shock of her individual misfortune, mixed E with E1v 50
with the intelligence of the general calamity,
that the troops were defeated, and
that Major Ackland, desperately wounded,
was a prisoner.
The day of 1777-10-08the 8th was passed by
Lady Harriet and her companions in inexpressible
anxiety: not a tent, not a
shed was standing, except what belonged
to the hospital: their refuge was among
the wounded and the dying. The night
of 1777-10-08the 8th the army retreated; and at
day-break on 1777-10-09the 9th, reached very advantageous
ground. A halt was necessary
to refresh the troops, and to give time to
the batteaux loaded with provisions, to
come a-breast.
When the army was upon the point
of moving after the halt, I received a message
from Lady Harriet, submitting to my
decision a proposal of passing to the camp
of the enemy, and requesting General
Gate’s
permission to attend her husband!
Lady Harriet expressed an earnest solicitude2 tude E2r 51
to execute her intentions, if not interfering
with my designs.
Though I was ready to believe, for I
had experienced, that patience and fortitude,
in a supreme degree, were to be found,
as well as every other virtue
, under the most
tender forms, I was astonished at the proposal,
after so long an agitation of spirits;
exhausted not only for want of rest, but
absolutely for want of food; drenched by
rains for twelve hours together; that a
woman should be capable of such an undertaking
as delivering herself to the enemy,
probably in the night, and uncertain
of what hands she might fall into, appeared
an effort, above human nature!
The assistance I was enabled to give,
was small indeed. I had not even a cup
of wine to offer her; but I was told she
had found, from some kind and fortunate
hand, a little rum and dirty water. All I
could furnish to her was an open boat, and
a few lines, written upon dirty and wet E2 paper, E2v 52
paper, to General Gates, recommending
her to his protection.
Mr. Brudenell, the chaplain to the
artillery, the same gentleman that had officiated
so signally at General Frazer’s funeral,
readily undertook to accompany
her; and with one female servant and the
Major’s valet de chambre, who had a ball,
which he had received in the late action,
then in his shoulder, she moved down the
river, to meet the enemy! But her distresses
were not yet at an end.
The night was advanced before the
boat reached the enemy’s outposts; and
the centinel would not let it pass, nor
even come on shore. In vain Mr. Brudenell
offered the flag of truce; and represented
the state of the extraordinary passenger.
The guard, apprehensive of treachery,
and punctilious to his orders,
threatened to fire into the boat, if she stirred
before day-light. Her anxiety and
suffering were thus protracted through seven E3r 53
seven or eight dark and cold hours, and
her reflections upon that first reception
could not give her very encouraging ideas
of the treatment she was afterwards to expect.
But it is due to justice, at the close
of this adventure, to say, that she was
received and accomodated by General
Gates
with all the humanity and respect
that her rank, her merits, and her fortunes
deserved. The writer of this letter once knew General
Gates
, and believes him capable of every thing liberal
and humane, which General Burgoyne’s statement attributes
to his character.
Let such as are affected by these circumstances
of alarm, hardship, and danger,
recollect, that the subject of them
was a woman! of the most tender and
delicate frame; of the gentlest manners;
habituated to all the soft elegancies and
refined enjoyments that attend high birth
and fortune; and far advanced in a state
in which the tender cares, always due to
the sex, become indispensably necessary. E3 Her E3v 54
Her mind, alone, was formed for such
trials.” The enlightened and liberal writer of this pathetic
story, confesses, that the subject of it was not masculinely
educated. Yet she displayed the glorious energy
of Roman constancy, mingled with affectations the most
pure, and sentiments the most exalted! An Arria or
a Portia could have done no more.

The most argumentative theorists cannot
pretend to estimate mental by corporeal
powers. If strength or weakness
are not allowed to originate in the faculty
of thought, Charles Fox, or William
Pitt
, labouring under the debilitating
ravages of a fever, is a weaker
animal than the thrice-essenced poppinjay,
who mounts his feathered helmet,
when he should be learning his Greek alphabet.
If strength of body is to take the
lead of strength of mind, the pugilist is
greater than the most experienced patriot;
the uncultivated plough-boy surpasses the
man of letters; and the felicity of kingdoms
would be as safe in the hands of a
savage Patagonian ruler, as under the wiser E4r 55
stronger faculties of the most accomplished
Statesman. By this rule, monarchs should
select their cabinets by the standard of measurement;
and while the first minister could
say with Sir Andrew Ague-cheek, “I am
as tall a man as any in Illyria,”
he may
laugh to scorn the most gigantic talents.

This question does not admit of argument;
it is self-evident. And yet, though
it be readily allowed that the primary requisites
for the ruling powers of man, are
strong mental faculties; woman is to be
denied the exercise of that intuitive privilege,
and to remain inactive, as though
she were the least enlightened of rational
and thinking beings. What first established,
and then ratified this oppressive,
this inhuman law? The tyranny of man;
who saw the necessity of subjugating a
being, whose natural gifts were equal, if
not superior to his own. Let these mental
despots recollect, that education cannot
unsex a woman; that tenderness of soul,
and a love of social intercourse, will still E4 be E4v 56
be her’s; even though she become a rational
friend, and an intellectual companion.
She will not, by education, be less tenacious
of an husband’s honour; though
she may be rendered more capable of defending
her own.

A man would be greatly shocked, as
well as offended, were he told that his son
was an idiot; and yet he would care but
little, if every action proved that his wife
were one. Tell a modern husband that
his son has a strong understanding, and he
will feel gratified. Say that his wife has
a masculine mind, and he will feel the information
as rather humbling than pleasing
to his self-love. There are but three
classes of women desirable associates in the
eyes of men: handsome women; licentious
women; and good sort of women.—
The first for his vanity; the second for his
amusement; and the last for the arrangement
of his domestic drudgery. A thinking
woman does not entertain him; a
learned woman does not flatter his selflove,
by confessing inferiority; and a womanman E5r 57
of real genius, eclipses him by her
brilliancy.

Not many centuries past, the use of
books was wholly unknown to the commonality
of females; and scarcely any but
superior nuns, then denominated learned
women
could either read or write. Wives
were then considered as household idols,
created for the labour of domestic life,
and born to yield obedience. To brew, to
bake, and to spin, were then deemed indispensably
necessary qualifications: but
to think, to acquire knowledge, or to interfere
either in theological or political
opinions, would have been the very climax
of presumption! Hence arose the evils of
bigotry and religious imposition. The reign
of credulity, respecting supernatural warnings
and appearances, was then in its full
vigour. The idle tales of ghosts and goblins,
and the no less degrading and inhuman
persecutions of age and infirmity,
under the idea of witchcraft, were not
only countenanced, but daily put in practice.tice. E5v 58
We do not read in history of any act
of cruelty practised towards a male bewitcher;
though we have authentic records
to prove, that many a weak and defenceless
woman has been tortured, and
even murdered by a people professing
Christianity, merely because a pampered
priest, or a superstitious idiot, sanctioned
such oppression. The “witcheries” of mankind
will ever be tolerated, though the
frenzy of fanaticism and the blindness of
bigotry sink into oblivion.

In or about the year 17591759, were published
some excellent lines, from the pen
of a British woman, I believe Lady Mary Wortley Montague, the
same woman, whose name should be immortalized,
for having first introduced to Europe the blessing of
inoculation.
addressed to Mr.
Pope
, whose cynical asperity towards the
enlightened sex was not one of his least
imperfections. I shall only give an extract:

“In E6r 59 “In education all the difference lies, Women, if taught, would be as brave, as wise, As haughty man, improv’d by arts and rules; Where God makes one, neglect makes twenty fools, Can women, left to weaker women’s care, Misled by custom, Folly’s fruitful heir, Told that their charms a monarch may enslave, That beauty, like the gods, can kill and save; And taught the wily and mysterious arts, By ambush’d dress, to catch unwary hearts; If wealthy born, taught to lisp French, and dance, Their morals left, Lucretius like, to chance; Strangers to Reason and Reflection made; Left to their passions, and by them betray’d; Untaught the noble end of glorious Truth, Bred to deceive, e’en from their earliest youth; Unus’d to books, nor Virtue taught to prize, Whose mind, a savage waste, all desart lies; Can these, with aught but trifles, fill the void, Still idly busy, to no end employ’d: Can these, from such a school, with virtue glow, Or tempting vice, treat like a dang’rous foe? Can these resist when soothing Pleasure woos, Preserve their virtue, when their fame they lose? Can these, on other themes, converse or write, Than what they hear all day, and dream all night? Not E6v 60 Not so the Roman female fame was spread, Not so was Clelia or Lucretia bred! Not so such heroines true glory sought, Not so was Portia or Cornelia taught. Portia, the glory of the female race; Portia, more lovely in her mind than face; Early inform’d by Truth’s unerring beam, What to reject, what justly to esteem. Taught by Philosophy, all moral good; How to repel, in youth, th’ impetuous blood: How ev’ry darling passion to subdue; And Fame, through Reason’s avenues, pursue. Of Cato born; to noble Brutus join’d; Supreme in beauty, with a roman mind!”

The women, the Sévignés, the Daciers,
the Rolands, and the Genlis’s of France,
were the first, of modern times, to shake
off the yoke of sexual tyranny. The widow
of Scarron
, (afterwards Madame de
Maintenon
,) was an ornament to her sex,
till she became the dupe of a profligate
monarch, and the instrument of bigot persecution.
The freezing restraint which
custom placed on the manners of other nations, E7r 61
nations, and which is as far removed from
true delicacy as the earth is from the
heavens, in France, threw no chilling
impediment on the progress of intellect.
Men soon found by experience, that society
was embellished, conversation enlivened,
and emulation excited, by an intercourse
of ideas. The younger branches
of male nobility in France, were
given to the care of female preceptors;
and the rising generations of women, by
habit, were considered as the rational associates
of man. Both reason and society
benefited by the change; for though the
monasteries had less living victims, though
monks had fewer proselytes, the republic
of letters had more ornaments of genius
and imagination.

Women soon became the idols of a
polished people. They were admitted
into the councils of statesman, the cabinets
of princes. The influence they obtained
contributed greatly towards that
urbanity of manners which marked the reign E7v 62
reign of Louis the Sixteenth. The tyrants
of France, at the toilettes of enlightened
women, were taught to shudder
at the horrors of a Bastille: which was
never more crowded with victims, than
when bigotry and priestcraft were in their
most exulting zenith. I will not attempt
to philosophize how far the influence of
reason actuated on more recent events.
That hypothesis can only be defined by
posterity.

It is an indisputable fact that a woman,
(excepting in some cases of supposed
witchcraft) if thrown into the water, has,
as Falstaffe says, “a strange alacrity at
sinking.”
And yet a woman must not be
taught to swim; it is not feminine!
though it is perfectly masculine to let a
woman drown merely because she is a
woman, and denied the knowledge of
preserving her existence. In this art the
savages of Oreehoua and Tahoora are initiated
from their infancy; the females
of those islands are early taught the necessarycessary E8r 63
faculty of self-defence. They are
familiarized to the limpid element at so
early a period that a child of four years
old, dropped into the sea, not only betrays
no symptoms of fear, but seems to
enjoy its situation. The women consider
swimming as one of their favourite diversions;
in which they amuse themselves
when the impetuosity of the dreadful
surf that breaks upon their coast, is encreased
to its utmost fury, in a manner
equally perilous and extraordinary. And
yet these courageous females are denominated
of the weaker sex.

A celebrated geographer Salmon remarks, that
“the best test of civilization, is the respect
that is shewn to women.”

The little regard shewn to the talents
of women in this country, strongly characterizes
the manners of the people.
The Areopagites, once put a boy to death for E8v 64
for putting out the eyes of a bird: and
they argued thus, says an elegant writer,
“il ne s’agit point lá d’une condamnation pour
crime, mais d’un jugement de moeurs, dans
une republique fondée sur les moeurs.”

Heaven forbid that the criterion of this
national and necessary good, should be
drawn from the conduct of mankind towards
British women. There is no country,
at this epocha, on the habitable globe,
which can produce so many exalted
and illustrious women (I mean mentally)
as England. And yet we see many of
them living in obscurity; known only by
their writings; neither at the tables of
women of rank; nor in the studies of
men of genius; we hear of no national
honours, no public marks of popular applause,
no rank, no title, no liberal and
splendid recompense bestowed on British
literary women! They must fly to foreign
countries for celebrity, where talents
are admitted to be of no sex, where
genius, whether it be concealed beneath the F1r 65
the form of a Grecian Venus, Lady Hamilton, and Helen Maria Williams, are
existing proofs, that an English woman, like a prophet,
is never valued in her own country. In Britain
they were neglected, and scarcely known; on the
continent, they have been nearly idolized!
or that of a
Farnese Hercules, is still honoured as genius,
one of the best and noblest gifts of
the creator.

Here, the arts and the sciences have
exhibited their accomplished female votaries.
We have seen the graces of poetry,
painting, and sculpture, rising to unperishable
fame from the pen, the pencil,
and the chissel of our women. History
has lent her classic lore to adorn the annals
of female literature; while the manners
of the age have been refined and polished
by the wit, and fancy of dramatic
writers. I remember hearing a man of
education, an orator, a legislator, and a
superficial admirier of the persecuted sex,
declare, that “the greatest plague which F society F1v 66
society would meet with, was a literary
woman
!”

I agree that, according to the long established
rule of custom, domestic occupations,
such as household management,
the education of children, the exercise
of rational affection, should devolve on
woman. But let the partner of her cares
consider her zeal as the effect of reason,
temporizing sensibility, and prompting the
exertions of mutual interest; not as the
constrained obsequiousness of inferior organization.
Let man confess that a wife,
(I do not mean an idiot), is a thinking
and a discriminating helpmate; not a
bondswoman, whom custom subjects to his
power, and subdues to his convenience.
A wife is bound, by the laws of nature
and religion, to participate in all the various
vicissitudes of fortune, which her
husband may, through life, be compelled
to experience. She is to combat all the
storms of an adverse destiny; to share the
sorrows of adversity, imprisonment, sickness,ness, F2r 67
and disgrace. She is obliged to labour
for their mutual support, to watch
in the chamber of contagious disease; to
endure patiently, the peevish inquietude
of a weary spirit; to bear, with tacit resignation,
reproach, neglect, and scorn;
or, by resisting, to be stigmatized as a
violator of domestic peace, and enemy to
decorum, an undutiful wife, and an unworthy
member of society. Hapless woman!
Why is she condemned to bear
this load of persecution, this Herculean
mental toil, this labour of Syssiphus; this
more than Ixion’s sufferings, as fabled by
heathen mythologists? Because she is of
the “weaker” sex!

Tradition tells us that the Laura of Petrarch,
whose name was immortalized by
the Genius of her lover during twenty
years of unabating fondness, could neither
read nor write! Petrarch was a poet and
a scholar; I will not so far stigmatize his
memory, as to attribute his excessive idolatry
to the intellectual obscurity of his F2 idol. F2v 68
idol. Yet from the conduct of some
learned modern philosophers, (in every
thing but love), the spirit of cynical observation
might trace something like jealousy
and envy, or a dread of rivalry in
mental acquirements. We have seen
living husbands, as well as lovers, who will
agree with the author of some whimsical
stanzas, printed in the year 17391739, of
which I remember the following lines,

“Now all philosophers agree, That women should not learned be: Should modern preceptors object to the classics
through fear that the minds of English women would
be corrupted by the writings of an Ovid, a Martial,
or a Tibullus: let them recollect, that there lived also
a Virgil, a Terence, a Lucan, and a Propertius.
They should also remember that their native language
present the works of Wycherly, Vanbrugg,
Prior, and Rochester; and that they cannot so contataminate,
as those of Shakespeare, Denham, Steel, Cowley,
Waller, Addison, Shenstone, and many more, can
purify.
For fear that, as they wiser grow, More than their husbands they should know. For F3r 69 For if we look we soon shall find, Women are of a tyrant kind; They love to govern and controul, Their bodies lodge a mighty soul! The sex, like horses, could they tell Their equal strength, would soon rebel; They would usurp and ne’er submit, To bear the yoke, and champ the bit.”

Constrained obedience is the poison of
domestic joy: hence we may date the
disgust and hatred which too frequently
embitter the scenes of wedded life. And
I should not be surprized, if the present
system of mental subordination continues
to gain strength, if, in a few years, European
husbands were to imitate those
beyond the Ganges. There, wives are to
be purchased like slaves, and every man
has as many as he pleases. The husbands
and even fathers are so far from being jealous,
that they frequently offer their wives
and daughters to foreigners. We have some British sposos who already advance
half way in this liberal system of participation, stepping somewhat somewhat beyond the polished track of Italian cecisheos:
it may be said of such husbands as it was of Cataline,
that he was alieni appetens, sui profusus: greedy after
the goods of others, and lavish of his own.
However F3 F3v 70

However contradictory it may seem, to
contracted minds, I firmly believe that
the strongest spell which can be placed
upon the human affections, is a consciousness
of freedom. Let the husband assume
the complacency of the friend, and
he will, if his wife be not naturally depraved,
possess not only her faith but her
affection. There is a resisting nerve in
the heart of both man and woman, which
repels compulsion. Constraint and attachment,
are incompatible: the mind of woman
is not more softened by sensibility
than sustained by pride; and every violation
of moral propriety, every instance of
domestic infidelity, every divorce which
puts asunder “those whom God has joined,”
is a proof of that maxim being a false,
I may say a ludicrous one, which declares
that man was born to command, and woman
to obey! excepting in proportion as the intellectual F4r 71
intellectual power devolves on the husband.

If a woman receives an insult, she has
no tribunal of honour to which she can appeal;
and by which she would be sanctioned
in punishing her enemy. What in
man, is laudable; in woman is deemed
reprehensible, if not preposterous. We have a living proof of this observation in the
person of Madame D’Eon. When this extraordinary
female filled the arduous occupations of a soldier and
an embassador, her talents, enterprize, and resolution,
procured for her distinguished honours. But alas!
when she was discovered to be a woman, the highest
terms of praise were converted into, “eccentricity, absurd
and masculine temerity, at once ridiculous and
disgusting.”
What
in man is noble daring, in woman is considered
as the most vindictive persecution.
Supposing a woman is calumniated, robbed
at a gaming table, falsely accused of
mean or dishonourable actions, if she appeals
to a stranger; “it is no business of
his! such things happen every day! the
world has nothing to do with the quarrels F4 of F4v 72
of individuals!”
If she involves a dear
friend, or a relation in her defence; she
is a dangerous person; a promoter of
mischief; a revengeful fury.
She has
therefore no remedy but that of exposing
the infamy of her enemy; (for sexual
prejudices will not allow her to fight him
honourably), even then, all that she asserts,
however disgraceful to her opponent, is
placed to the account of womanish revenge.
The dastardly offender triumphs
with impunity, because he is the noble
creature man, and she a “defenceless”, persecuted
woman.

Prejudice (or policy) has endeavoured,
and indeed too successfully, to cast an
odium on what is called a “masculine” woman;
or, to explain the meaning of the
word, a woman of enlightened understanding.
Such a being is too formidable
in the circle of society to be endured,
much less sanctioned. Man is a despot
by nature; he can bear no equal, he
dreads the power of woman; because he knows F5r 73
knows that already half the felicities of
life depend on her; and that if she be
permitted to demand an equal share in the
regulations of social order, she will become
omnipotent.

I again recur to the prominent subject
of my letter, viz. that woman is denied
the first privilege of nature, the power of
self-defence. There are lords of the
creation, who would not hesitate to rob
a credulous woman of fortune, happiness,
and reputation, yet they would deem
themselves justified in punishing a petty
thief, who took from them a watch or a
pocket handkerchief. Man is not to be
deprived of his property; he is not to be
pilfered of the most trifling article, which
custom has told him is necessary to his
ideas of luxury. But woman is to be
robbed of that peace of mind which depended
on the purity of her character;
she is to be duped out of all the proud
consolations of independence; defrauded of F5v 74
of her repose, wounded in the sensibilites
of her heart; and, because she is of the
“weaker” sex, she is to bear her injuries with
fortitude.

If a man is stopped on the highway,
he may shoot the depredator: and he will
receive the thanks of society. If a woman
were to act upon the same principle,
respecting the more atrocious robber
who has deprived her of all that rendered
life desirable, she would be punished as a
murderer. Because the highwayman only
takes that which the traveller can afford
to lose, and the loss of which he will
scarcely feel; and the woman is rendered
a complete bankrupt of all that rendered
life supportable. The swindler and the
cheat are shut out from society; but the
avowed libertine, the very worst of defrauders,
is tolerated and countenanced
by our most fastidious British females.
This is one of the causes why the manners
of the age are so unblushingly licentious:2 tious: F6r 75
men will be profligate, as long as
women uphold them in the practice of
seduction.

If, in the common affairs of life, a man
be guilty of perjury, on conviction he is
sentenced to undergo the penalty of his
crime, even though the motive for committing
it, were unimportant to the community
at large, and only acting against
the plea of individual interest. But if a
man takes an oath, knowing and premeditatedly
resolved to break it, at the altar
of the Divinity, his crime is tolerated, and
he pleads the force of example, in extenuation
of his apostacy. Man swears to
love and to cherish his wife, never to forsake
her in sickness, or in health, in poverty
or wealth, and to keep to her alone so
long as they both shall live. Let me ask
these law makers, and these law breakers,
these sacriligious oath takers, whether
nine out of ten, are not conscious of committing
perjury at the moment when
they make a vow so universally broken? But F6v 76
But man is permitted to forswear himself,
even at the altar dedicated to the Supreme
Being
! He is allowed, even there,
to consider the most sacred of ceremonies
as merely a political institution, of which
he may exclusively avail himself as far as
it tends to the promotion of his interest,
while neither the publicity, nor the number
of his infidelities, attach the badge of
worldly censure to his conduct. He is
still the lordly reveller; the master of his
pleasures; the tolerated breaker of his
oath: he pleads the frailty of human nature,
though he, as the stronger creature,
is supposed to possess an omnipotent source
of mental power; he urges the sovereignty
of the passions, the dominion of the
senses, the sanction of long established
custom. He is a man of universal gallantry;
he is consequently courted and
idolized by the generality of women,
though all his days and all his actions
prove, that woman is the victim of his
falsehood.

Now F7r 77

Now examine the destiny of the “weaker”
sex, under similar circumstances. Woman
is to endure neglect, infidelity, and
scorn: she is to endure them patiently.
She is not allowed to plead the frailty of
human nature; she is to have no passions,
no affections; and if the chance to overstep
the boundaries of chastity, (whatever
witcheries and machinations are employed
to mislead her;) if she violates that oath,
which, perhaps the pride of her kindred,
family interest, ambition, or compulsion,
extorted from her, custom, that pliant
and convenient friend to man, declares
her infamous. While women, who are
accessaries to her disgrace, by countenancing
her husband’s infidelities, condemn
the wife with all the vehemence of
indignation; because woman is the weaker
creature, and most subjected to temptation!
because man errs voluntarily; and
woman is seduced, by art and by persecution,
from the paths of Virtue.

There F7v 78

There is scarcely an event in human existence,
in which the oppression of woman
is not tolerated. The laws are made by
man; and self-preservation is, by them,
deemed the primary law of nature.
Hence, woman is destined to be the passive
creature: she is to yield obedience,
and to depend for support upon a being
who is perpetually authorised to deceive
her. If a woman be married, her property
becomes her husband’s; and yet she
is amenable to the laws, if she contracts
debts beyond what that husband and those
laws pronounce the necessaries of existence.
If the comforts, or even the conveniences
of woman’s life rest on the
mercy of her ruler, they will be limited
indeed. We have seen innumerable instances,
in cases of divorce, where the
weaker, the defenceless partner is allotted
a scanty pittance, upon which she is expected
to live honourably; while the husband,
the lord of the creation, in the very
plentitude of wealth, in the very zenith of splen- F8r 79
splendour, is permitted openly to indulge
in every dishonourable propensity. Yet
he is commiserated as the injured party;
and she is branded with the name of infamous:
though he is deemed the stronger”,
and she the “weaker” creature.

Frailty, through all the stages of social
intercourse, appears to be most enormous
in those who are supposed to have least
fortitude to sustain the powers of self-resistance.
Yet, such is the force of prejudice,
the law of custom, against woman,
that she is expected to act like a philosopher,
though she is not allowed to think like
one. If she pleads the weakness of her
sex, her plea is not admitted; if she professes
an equal portion of mental strength
with man, she is condemned for arrogance.
Yet, if a General be sent into the field of
battle with a force inferior to that of the
enemy, and is vanquished, the plea of inequality
in resisting powers is admitted,
and his honour is exonerated from every
imputation: woman encounters an allcommandingcom- F8v 80
enemy; she is subdued;――
and she is eternally dishonoured!

The laws of man have long since decreed,
that the jewel, Chastity, and the
purity of uncontaminated morals, are the
brightest ornaments of the female sex.
Yet, the framers of those laws are indefatigable
in promoting their violation.
Man says to woman, “without chastity you
are declared infamous”
; and at the same
moment, by a subtle and gradual process,
he undermines the purity of her heart,
by a bold defiance of all that tends to the
support of religion and morality. Man
thus commits a kind of mental suicide;
while he levels that image to the lowest
debasement, which he has ostentatiously
set up for universal idolatry.

It is not by precept, but by example,
that conviction strikes deeply into the
thinking mind. Man is supposed to be
the more wise and more rational creature;
his faculties are more liberally expanded by G1r 81
by classical education: he is supposed to
be more enlightened by an unlimited intercourse
with society. He is permitted
to assert the dignity of his character; to
punish those who assail his reputation;
and to assume a superiority over all his
fellow creatures. He is not accountable
to any mortal for the actions of his life;
he may revel in the follies, indulge the
vices of his superior” nature. He pursues
the pleasures or the eccentricites of his
imagination, with an avidity insatiable:
and he perpetually proves that human
passions subjugate him to the degradations
of human frailty; while woman, the
“weaker” animal, she whose enjoyments are
limited, whose education, knowledge, and
actions are circumscribed by the potent
rule of prejudice, she is expected to resist
temptation; to be invincible in fortitude;
strong in prescient and reflecting powers;
subtle in the defence of her own honour;
and forbearing under all the conflicts of
the passions. Man first degrades, and
then deserts her. Yet, if driven by famine,G mine, G1v 82
insult, shame, and persecution, she
rushes forth like the wolf for prey; if, like
Milwood, she finds it “necessary to be
rich”
in this sordid, selfish world, she is
shunned, abhorred, condemned to the
very lowest scenes of vile debasement; to
exist in misery, or to perish unlamented.
No kindred breast will pity her misfortunes;
no pious tear embalm her ashes:
she rushes into the arms of death, as her
last, her only asylum from the monsters

who have destroyed her.

Woman is destined to pursue no path
in which she does not find an enemy. If
she is liberal, generous, careless of wealth,
friendly to the unfortunate, and bountiful
to persecuted merit, she is deemed prodigal,
and over-much profuse; all the good
she does, every tear she steals from the
downcast eye of modest worth, every sigh
she converts into a throb of joy, in grateful
bosoms, is, by the world, forgotten;
while the ingenuous liberality of her soul
excites the imputation of folly and extravagance.trava- G2r 83
If, on the contrary, she is
wary, shrewd, thrifty, economical, and
eager to procure and to preserve the advantages
of independence; she is condemned
as narrow-minded, mean, unfeeling,
artful, mercenary, and base: in either
case she is exposed to censure. If liberal,
unpitied; if sordid, execrated! In
a few words, a generous woman is termed
a fool; a prudent one, a prodigal.miser.

If woman is not permitted to assert a
majesty of mind, why fatigue her faculties
with the labours of any species of education?
why give her books, if she is not
to profit by the wisdom they inculcate?
The parent, or the preceptress, who enlightened
her understanding, like the dark
lantern, to spread its rays internally only,
puts into her grasp a weapon of defence
against the perils of existence; and at the
same moment commands her not to use it.
Man says you may read, and you will
think, but you shall not evince your
knowledge, or employ your thoughts, G2 beyond G2v 84
beyond the boundaries which we have set
up around you. Then wherefore burthen
the young mind with a gaudy outline
which man darkens with shades indelible?
why expand the female heart, merely to
render it more conscious that it is, by the
tyranny of custom, rendered vulnerable?
Let man remember, that “A little learning is a dangerous thing.”

Let him not hope for a luxurious mental
harvest, where the sun of cultivation is obscured
by impenetrable prejudice; that
cloud which has too long spread over the
mind of woman a desolating darkness. So
situated, woman is taught to discriminate
just sufficiently to know her own unhappiness.
She, like Tantalus, is placed in a
situation where the intellectual blessing
she sighs for is within her view; but she
is not permitted to attain it: she is conscious
of possessing equally strong mental
powers; but she is obliged to yield, as the
weaker creature. Man says, “you shall
be initiated in all the arts of pleasing; but you G3r 85
you shall, in vain, hope that we will contribute
to your happiness one iota beyond
the principle which constitutes our own.”

Sensual Egoists! woman is absolutely necessary
to your felicity; nay, even to your
existence: yet she must not arrogate to
herself the power to interest your actions.
You idolize her personal attractions, as
long as they influence your senses; when
they begin to pall, the magick is dissolved;
and prejudice is ever eager to
condemn what passion has degraded.

A French author, Monsieur Tourriel, author of an Examination
whether it was wisely done to abolish that law of the
Romans, by which women were kept under the power
of guardianship all their lives.
who wrote in the
early part of the present century, says,
“The empire we exercise over the fair
sex is usurped; and that which they obtain
over us is by nature. Our submission
very often costs them no more than a
glance of the eye; the most stern and G3 fierce G3v 86
fierce of mankind grow gentle at the sight
of them. If this remark were true, it is to be lamented that
they do not grow liberal and unprejudiced also.
What a whimsical conduct it
is to dispute with women the right of
managing their own estates, while we give
up our liberties at so cheap a rate.”

The same author, in the same work,
says, “It rarely happens, that we share
with women the shame of their errors,
though we are either the authors, or the
accomplices of them. On the other hand,
how many follies have we, that are peculiar
to ourselves; how many occasions are
there where their modesty conceals more
merit, than we can shew, with all our vanity!”

Supposing women were to act upon the
same principle of egotism, consulting
their own inclinations, interest, and amusement
only, (and there is no law of Nature G4r 87
Nature which forbids them; none of any
species but that which is framed by man;)
what would be the consequences? The
annihilation of all moral and religious order.
So that every good which cements
the bonds of civilized society, originates
wholly in the forbearance, and conscientiousness
of woman.


I wish not to advise the sex against cultivating
what modern writers term, the
graces. The mind of woman, in proportion as it is expanded
by education, will become refined. Mental
emulation would be the best safeguard against the vanity
of sensual conquest.
I would have woman highly,
eminently polished; she should dance, if
her form be well proportioned; she should
sing, if nature has endowed her with the
power of conveying that harmony so soothing
to the senses. She should draw, paint,
and perform fanciful tasks with her needle;
particularly if her frame be delicate, her
intellects feminine. But if nature has
given her strong mental powers, half her G4 hours G4v 88
hours of study should be devoted to more
important acquirements. She should likewise,
if strong and active, be indulged in
minor sports; such as swimming, the use
of the ball, and foot racing, &c. We
should then see British Atalantas, as well as
female Nimrods.


However singular it may appear to a
reflecting mind, hunting, certainly one of
the most barabarous of masculine sports is,
in Europe, tolerated as an amusement for
the softer” sex! There again, weakness is,
by the humane ordinance of man, devoted
to persecution. The harmless stag
and timid hare are hunted to destruction,
even by women!—Why, in this single
instance, does man agree in the propriety
of masculine pursuits? Why does the
husband, without apprehension or disgust,
permit the “tender, weak” and “delicate” partner
of his cares to leap a quarry or a fivebarred
gate, at the same time that he
would deem it the excess of arrogance, to
offer an opinion, on any subject which man G5r 89
man considers as exclusively adapted to
his discussion. I can only conclude that
a wife has full permission to break her
neck; though she is forbid to think or
speak like a rational creature. A husband infers from this conduct, that he permits
his wife to act like a mad-woman, but he does not
allow her to think like a wise one.

Why are women excluded from the
auditory part of the British senate? The
welfare of their country, cannot fail to
interest their feelings; and eloquence
both exalts and refines the understanding. Many of the American tribes admit women into
their public councils, and allow them the privileges of
giving their opinions, first, on every subject of deliberation.
The ancient Britons allowed the female sex the
same right: but in modern Britain women are scarcely
allowed to express any opinions at all!

Man makes woman a frivolous creature,
and then condemns her for the folly he
inculcates. He tells her, that beauty is
her first and most powerful attraction;
her second complacency of temper, and softness G5v 90
softness of manners. She therefore dedicates
half her hours to the embellishment
of her person, and the other half to the
practice of soft, languishing, sentimental
insipidity. She disdains to be strong
minded, because she fears being accounted
masculine; she trembles at every
breeze, faints at every peril, and yields to
every assailant, because it would be unwomanly
to defend herself. She sees no
resemblance of her own character in the
Portias and Cornelias of antiquity; she is
content to be the epitome of her celebrated
archetype, the “good woman” of St. Giles’s! This elegant and estimable female, is represented
headless;—and I believe almost the only female
in the kingdom universally allowed to be a good
woman
.

The embargo upon words, the enforcement
of tacit submission, has been productive
of consequences highly honourable
to the women of the present age.
Since the sex have been condemned for
exercising the powers of speech, they have G6r 91
have successfully taken up the pen: and
their writings exemplify both energy of
mind, and capability of acquiring the
most extensive knowledge. The press
will be the monuments from which the
genius of British women will rise to immortal
celebrity: their works will, in proportion
as their educations are liberal,
from year to year, challenge an equal
portion of fame, with the labours of their
classical male contemporaries.

In proportion as women are acquainted
with the languages they will become citizens
of the world. The laws, customs
and inhabitants of different nations will
be their kindred in the propinquity of
nature. Prejudice will be palsied, if not
receive its death blow, by the expansion
of intellect: and woman being permitted
to feel her own importance in the scale
of society, will be tenacious of maintaining
it. She will know that she was created
for something beyond the mere amusement
of man; that she is capable of mental1 tal G6v 92
energies, and worthy of the most unbounded
confidence. Such a system of
mental equality, would, while it stigmatized
the trifling vain and pernicious
race of high fashioned Messalinas, produce
such British women, as would equal the
Portias and Arrias of antiquity. Pætus being commanded by the emperor Nero, to
die by his own hands, his wife, an illustrious Roman
woman, was permitted to take leave of him. She felt
the impossibility of surviving him, and plunging the
poniard into her bosom, exclaimed “Pætus it is not
much,”
and instantly expired. This anecdote I relate
for the information of my unlearned readers.

Had fortune enabled me, I would build
an univerity for women; where they
should be politely, and at the same time
classically educated; the depth of their
studies, should be proportioned to their
mental powers; and those who were incompetent
to the labours of knowledge
, should
be dismissed after a fair trial of their capabilites,
and allotted to the more humble
paths of life; such as domestic and useful2 ful G7r 93
occupations
. The wealthy part of the
community who neglected to educate
their female offspring, at this seminary of
learning, should pay a fine, which should
be appropriated to the maintenance of
the unportioned scholars. In half a century
there would be a sufficient number
of learned women to fill all the departments
of the university, and those who
excelled in an eminent degree should
receive honorary medals, which they
should wear as an order of literary
merit
.

O! my unenlightened country-women!
read, and profit, by the admonition of
Reason. Shake off the trifling, glittering
shackles, which debase you. Resist those
fascinating spells which, like the petrifying
torpedo, fasten on your mental faculties.
Be less the slaves of vanity, and
more the converts of Reflection. Nature
has endowed you with personal attractions:
she has also given you the mind
capable of expansion. Seek not the visionaryonary G7v 94
triumph of universal conquest;
know yourselves equal to greater, nobler,
acquirements: and by prudence, temperance,
firmness, and reflection, subdue
that prejudice which has, for ages past,
been your inveterate enemy. Let your
daughters be liberally, classically, philosophically,
By Philsophy, the writer of this Letter means
rational wisdom; neither the flimsy cobwebs of pretended
metaphysical and logical mysteries; nor the unbridled
liberty which would lead to the boldness of licentious
usurpation. A truly enlightened woman never
will forget that conscious dignity of character which
ennobles and sustains, but never can debase her.
and usefully educated; let
them speak and write their opinions freely;
let them read and think like rational creatures;
adapt their studies to their strength
of intellect; expand their minds, and purify
their hearts, by teaching them to feel
their mental equality with their imperious
rulers. By such laudable exertions, you
will excite the noblest emulation; you
will explode the superstitious tenets of bigotry
and fanaticism; confirm the intuitive
immortality of the soul, and give them G8r 95
them that genuine glow of conscious virtue
which will grace them to posterity.

There are men who affect, to think lightly
of the literary productions of women: and
yet no works of the present day are so universally
read as theirs. The best novels that
have been written, since those of Smollet,
Richardson, and Fielding, have been produced
by women: and their pages have
not only been embellished with the interesting
events of domestic life, portrayed
with all the elegance of phraseology, and
all the refinement of sentiment, but with
forcible and eloquent, political, theological,
and philosophical reasoning. To the
genius and labours of some enlightened
British women posterity will also be indebted
for the purest and best translations
from the French and German languages.
I need not mention Mrs. Dobson, Mrs.
Inchbald
, Miss Plumptree, &c. &c. Of
the more profound researches in the dead
languages, we have many female classicks
of the first celebrity: Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Thomas, G8v 96
Thomas
, (late Miss Parkhurst;) Mrs.
Francis
, the Hon. Mrs. Damer, &c. &c.

Of the Drama, the wreath of fame has
crowned the brows of Mrs. Cowley, Mrs.
Inchbald
, Miss Lee, Miss Hannah More,
and others of less celebrity. Of Biography,
Mrs. Dobson, Mrs. Thickness, Mrs.
Piozzi
, Mrs. Montagu, Miss Helen Williams,
have given specimens highly honourable
to their talents. Poetry has
unquestionably risen high in British literature
from the productions of female
pens; for many English women have
produced such original and beautiful compositions,
that the first critics and scholars
of the age have wondered, while they applauded.
But in order to direct the attention
of my fair and liberal country-women
to the natural genius and
mental acquirements of their illustrious
contemporaries, I conclude my Letter
with a list of names, which, while they
silence the tongue of prejudice, will not
fail to excite emulation.

P.S. H1r 97

P.S. Should this Letter be the means of
influencing the minds of those to whom
it is addressed, so far as to benefit the
rising generation, my end and aim will
be accomplished. I am well assured,
that it will meet with little serious attention
from the male disciples of
modern philosophy. The critics,
though they have liberally patronized
the works of British women, will perhaps
condemn that doctrine which inculcates
mental equality; lest, by the
intellectual labours of the sex, they
should claim an equal portion of power
in the tribunal of British literature.
By the profound scholar, and
the unprejudiced critic, this Letter will
be read with candour; while, I trust,
its purpose will be deemed beneficial to
society.

Exeter, 1798-11-07Nov. 7, 1798.
H H1v H2r 99

List
of British
Female Literary Characters
Living in the Eighteenth Century. In order to escape the imputation of partiality, the
names are arranged alphabetically.

  • A.

    • Anspach, Margravine of――Tour to the Crimea,
      and Dramatic Pieces.
  • B.

    • Barbauld, Mrs.――Poems and Moral Writings.
    • Brooke, Mrs.――Novels and Dramatic Pieces.
    • Bennet, Mrs.――Novelist.
  • H2 Carter, H2v 100
  • C.

    • Carter, Mrs.――Greek and Hebrew Classic,
      Poetess, &c. &c.
    • Cowley, Mrs.――Poems, Comedies, Tragedies,
      &c. &c. &c. &c.
    • Crespigny, Mrs.――Novelist.
    • Cosway, Mrs.――Paintress.
  • D.

    • Dobson, Mrs.――Life of Petrarch, from the
      Italian.
    • D’Arblæy, Mrs.――Novels, Edwy and Elgiva,
      a Tragedy, &c. &c. &c.
    • Damer, Hon. Mrs.――Sculptor, and Greek
      Classic.
  • F.

    • Francis, Mrs.――Greek and Latin Classic.
  • G.

    • Gunning, Mrs.――Novelist.
    • Gunning, Miss――Novelist, and Translator
      from the French.
  • Hayes, H3r 101
  • H.

    • Hayes, Miss――Novels, Philosophical and
      Metaphysical Disquisitions.
    • Hanway, Mrs.――Novelist.
  • I.

    • Inchbald, Mrs.――Novels, Comedies, and
      Translations from the French and
      German.
  • L.

    • Linwood, Miss――Artist.
    • Lee, Misses――Romance, Comedies, Canterbury
      Tales
      Canterbury
      Tales for the Year 1797
      , a Tragedy, &c. &c.
    • Lennox, Mrs.――Novelist.
  • M.

    • Macauley Graham, Mrs.――History of England,
      and other works. Montagu, H3v 102
    • Montagu, Mrs.—Essay on the Writings and
      Genius of Shakespeare; being a
      Defence of him from the Slander
      of Voltaire
      .
    • More, Miss Hannah.――Poems, Sacred Dramas,
      a Tragedy, and other moral
      pieces.
  • P.

    • Piozzi, Mrs.――Biography, Poetry, British
      Synonymy, Travels, &c. &c. &c.
    • Plumptree, Miss――Translations from the German,
      a Novel, &c.
    • Parsons, Mrs.――Novelist.
  • R.

    • Ratdcliffe, Mrs.――Romances, Travels, &c. &c.
    • Robinson, Mrs.――Poems, Romances, Novels,
      A Tragedy, Satires, &c. &c.
    • Reeve, Miss――Romances and Novels.
    • Robinson, Miss――Novelist.
  • Seward, H4r 103
  • S.

    • Seward, Miss――Poems, a Poetical Novel, and
      various other works.
    • Smith, Mrs. Charlotte――Novels, Sonnets, Moral
      Pieces, for the Instruction of
      Youth; and other works.
    • Sheridan, Late Mrs.――Sidney Biddulph, a Novel.
  • T.

    • Thomas, Mrs. late Miss Parkhurst――Greek
      and Hebrew Classic
    • Thickness, Mrs.――Biography, Letters, &c.
  • W.

    • Wolstonecraft, Mrs.――A Vindication of the
      Rights of Woman
      , Novels, Philosophical
      Disquisitions, Travels, &c.
    • Williams, Miss Helen Maria――Poems, Travels,
      a Novel, and other miscellaneous
      pieces.
    • West, Mrs.――Novels, Poetry, &c. &c.
  • H4 Yearsley, H4v 104
  • Y.

    • Yearsley, Mrs.――Poems, a Novel, a Tragedy,
      &c. &c.

There are various degrees of merit in the
compositions of the female writers mentioned
in the preceding list. Of their several claims
to the wreath of Fame, the Public and the
critics are left to decide. Most of them have
been highly distinguished at the tribunal of
literature.