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A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft [Godwin]

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their persons, much would be done towards the attainment of purity
of mind. But women only dress to gratify men of gallantry; for the
lover is always best pleased with the simple garb that sits close
to the shape. There is an impertinence in ornaments that rebuffs
affection; because love always clings round the idea of home.

As a sex, women are habitually indolent; and every thing tends to
make them so. I do not forget the starts of activity which
sensibility produces; but as these flights of feeling only increase
the evil, they are not to be confounded with the slow, orderly walk
of reason. So great, in reality, is their mental and bodily
indolence, that till their body be strengthened and their
understanding enlarged by active exertions, there is little reason
to expect that modesty will take place of bashfulness. They may
find it prudent to assume its semblance; but the fair veil will
only be worn on gala days.

Perhaps there is not a virtue that mixes so kindly with every other
as modesty. It is the pale moon-beam that renders more interesting
every virtue it softens, giving mild grandeur to the contracted
horizon. Nothing can be more beautiful than the poetical fiction,
which makes Diana with her silver crescent, the goddess of
chastity. I have sometimes thought, that wandering with sedate
step in some lonely recess, a modest dame of antiquity must have
felt a glow of conscious dignity, when, after contemplating the
soft shadowy landscape, she has invited with placid fervour the
mild reflection of her sister's beams to turn to her chaste bosom.

A Christian has still nobler motives to incite her to preserve her
chastity and acquire modesty, for her body has been called the
Temple of the living God; of that God who requires more than
modesty of mien. His eye searcheth the heart; and let her
remember, that if she hopeth to find favour in the sight of purity
itself, her chastity must be founded on modesty, and not on worldly
prudence; or verily a good reputation will be her only reward; for
that awful intercourse, that sacred communion, which virtue
establishes between man and his Maker, must give rise to the wish
of being pure as he is pure!

After the foregoing remarks, it is almost superfluous to add, that
I consider all those feminine airs of maturity, which succeed
bashfulness, to which truth is sacrificed, to secure the heart of a
husband, or rather to force him to be still a lover when nature
would, had she not been interrupted in her operations, have made
love give place to friendship, as immodest. The tenderness which a
man will feel for the mother of his children is an excellent
substitute for the ardour of unsatisfied passion; but to prolong
that ardour it is indelicate, not to say immodest, for women to
feign an unnatural coldness of constitution. Women as well as men
ought to have the common appetites and passions of their nature,
they are only brutal when unchecked by reason: but the obligation
to check them is the duty of mankind, not a sexual duty. Nature,
in these respects, may safely be left to herself; let women only
acquire knowledge and humanity, and love will teach them modesty.
There is no need of falsehoods, disgusting as futile, for studied
rules of behaviour only impose on shallow observers; a man of sense
soon sees through, and despises the affectation.

The behaviour of young people, to each other, as men and women, is
the last thing that should be thought of in education. In fact,
behaviour in most circumstances is now so much thought of, that
simplicity of character is rarely to be seen; yet, if men were
only anxious to cultivate each virtue, and let it take root firmly
in the mind, the grace resulting from it, its natural exteriour
mark, would soon strip affectation of its flaunting plumes;
because, fallacious as unstable, is the conduct that is not founded
upon truth!

(Footnote. The behaviour of many newly married women has often
disgusted me. They seem anxious never to let their husbands forget
the privilege of marriage, and to find no pleasure in his society
unless he is acting the lover. Short, indeed, must be the reign of
love, when the flame is thus constantly blown up, without its
receiving any solid fuel.)

Would ye, O my sisters, really possess modesty, ye must remember
that the possession of virtue, of any denomination, is incompatible
with ignorance and vanity! ye must acquire that soberness of mind,
which the exercise of duties, and the pursuit of knowledge, alone
inspire, or ye will still remain in a doubtful dependent situation,
and only be loved whilst ye are fair! the downcast eye, the rosy
blush, the retiring grace, are all proper in their season; but
modesty, being the child of reason, cannot long exist with the
sensibility that is not tempered by reflection. Besides, when
love, even innocent love, is the whole employ of your lives, your
hearts will be too soft to afford modesty that tranquil retreat,
where she delights to dwell, in close union with humanity.



It has long since occurred to me, that advice respecting behaviour,
and all the various modes of preserving a good reputation, which
have been so strenuously inculcated on the female world, were
specious poisons, that incrusting morality eat away the substance.
And, that this measuring of shadows produced a false calculation,
because their length depends so much on the height of the sun, and
other adventitious circumstances.

>From whence arises the easy fallacious behaviour of a courtier?
>From this situation, undoubtedly: for standing in need of
dependents, he is obliged to learn the art of denying without
giving offence, and, of evasively feeding hope with the chameleon's
food; thus does politeness sport with truth, and eating away the
sincerity and humanity natural to man, produce the fine gentleman.

Women in the same way acquire, from a supposed necessity, an
equally artificial mode of behaviour. Yet truth is not with
impunity to be sported with, for the practised dissembler, at last,
becomes the dupe of his own arts, loses that sagacity which has
been justly termed common sense; namely, a quick perception of
common truths: which are constantly received as such by the
unsophisticated mind, though it might not have had sufficient
energy to discover them itself, when obscured by local prejudices.
The greater number of people take their opinions on trust, to avoid
the trouble of exercising their own minds, and these indolent
beings naturally adhere to the letter, rather than the spirit of a
law, divine or human. "Women," says some author, I cannot
recollect who, "mind not what only heaven sees." Why, indeed
should they? it is the eye of man that they have been taught to
dread--and if they can lull their Argus to sleep, they seldom think
of heaven or themselves, because their reputation is safe; and it
is reputation not chastity and all its fair train, that they are
employed to keep free from spot, not as a virtue, but to preserve
their station in the world.

To prove the truth of this remark, I need only advert to the
intrigues of married women, particularly in high life, and in
countries where women are suitably married, according to their
respective ranks by their parents. If an innocent girl become a
prey to love, she is degraded forever, though her mind was not
polluted by the arts which married women, under the convenient
cloak of marriage, practise; nor has she violated any duty--but the
duty of respecting herself. The married woman, on the contrary,
breaks a most sacred engagement, and becomes a cruel mother when
she is a false and faithless wife. If her husband has still an
affection for her, the arts which she must practise to deceive him,
will render her the most contemptible of human beings; and at any
rate, the contrivances necessary to preserve appearances, will keep
her mind in that childish or vicious tumult which destroys all its
energy. Besides, in time, like those people who habitually take
cordials to raise their spirits, she will want an intrigue to give
life to her thoughts, having lost all relish for pleasures that are
not highly seasoned by hope or fear.

Sometimes married women act still more audaciously; I will mention
an instance.

A woman of quality, notorious for her gallantries, though as she
still lived with her husband, nobody chose to place her in the
class where she ought to have been placed, made a point of treating
with the most insulting contempt a poor timid creature, abashed by
a sense of her former weakness, whom a neighbouring gentleman had
seduced and afterwards married. This woman had actually confounded
virtue with reputation; and, I do believe, valued herself on the
propriety of her behaviour before marriage, though when once
settled, to the satisfaction of her family, she and her lord were
equally faithless--so that the half alive heir to an immense estate
came from heaven knows where!

To view this subject in another light.

I have known a number of women who, if they did not love their
husbands, loved nobody else, giving themselves entirely up to
vanity and dissipation, neglecting every domestic duty; nay, even
squandering away all the money which should have been saved for
their helpless younger children, yet have plumed themselves on
their unsullied reputation, as if the whole compass of their duty
as wives and mothers was only to preserve it. Whilst other
indolent women, neglecting every personal duty, have thought that
they deserved their husband's affection, because they acted in this
respect with propriety.

Weak minds are always fond of resting in the ceremonials of duty,
but morality offers much simpler motives; and it were to be wished
that superficial moralists had said less respecting behaviour, and
outward observances, for unless virtue, of any kind, is built on
knowledge, it will only produce a kind of insipid decency. Respect
for the opinion of the world, has, however, been termed the
principal duty of woman in the most express words, for Rousseau
declares, "that reputation is no less indispensable than chastity."
"A man," adds he, "secure in his own good conduct, depends only on
himself, and may brave the public opinion; but a woman, in behaving
well, performs but half her duty; as what is thought of her, is as
important to her as what she really is. It follows hence, that the
system of a woman's education should, in this respect, be directly
contrary to that of ours. Opinion is the grave of virtue among the
men; but its throne among women." It is strictly logical to infer,
that the virtue that rests on opinion is merely worldly, and that
it is the virtue of a being to whom reason has been denied. But,
even with respect to the opinion of the world, I am convinced, that
this class of reasoners are mistaken.

This regard for reputation, independent of its being one of the
natural rewards of virtue, however, took its rise from a cause that
I have already deplored as the grand source of female depravity,
the impossibility of regaining respectability by a return to
virtue, though men preserve theirs during the indulgence of vice.
It was natural for women then to endeavour to preserve what once
lost--was lost for ever, till this care swallowing up every other
care, reputation for chastity, became the one thing needful to the
sex. But vain is the scrupulosity of ignorance, for neither
religion nor virtue, when they reside in the heart, require such a
puerile attention to mere ceremonies, because the behaviour must,
upon the whole be proper, when the motive is pure.

To support my opinion I can produce very respectable authority; and
the authority of a cool reasoner ought to have weight to enforce
consideration, though not to establish a sentiment. Speaking of
the general laws of morality, Dr. Smith observes--"That by some
very extraordinary and unlucky circumstance, a good man may come to
be suspected of a crime of which he was altogether incapable, and
upon that account be most unjustly exposed for the remaining part
of his life to the horror and aversion of mankind. By an accident
of this kind he may be said to lose his all, notwithstanding his
integrity and justice, in the same manner as a cautious man,
notwithstanding his utmost circumspection, may be ruined by an
earthquake or an inundation. Accidents of the first kind, however,
are perhaps still more rare, and still more contrary to the common
course of things than those of the second; and it still remains
true, that the practice of truth, justice and humanity, is a
certain and almost infallible method of acquiring what those
virtues chiefly aim at, the confidence and love of those we live
with. A person may be easily misrepresented with regard to a
particular action; but it is scarcely possible that he should be so
with regard to the general tenor of his conduct. An innocent man
may be believed to have done wrong: this, however, will rarely
happen. On the contrary, the established opinion of the innocence
of his manners will often lead us to absolve him where he has
really been in the fault, notwithstanding very strong

I perfectly coincide in opinion with this writer, for I verily
believe, that few of either sex were ever despised for certain
vices without deserving to be despised. I speak not of the calumny
of the moment, which hangs over a character, like one of the dense
fogs of November over this metropolis, till it gradually subsides
before the common light of day, I only contend, that the daily
conduct of the majority prevails to stamp their character with the
impression of truth. Quietly does the clear light, shining day
after day, refute the ignorant surmise, or malicious tale, which
has thrown dirt on a pure character. A false light distorted, for
a short time, its shadow--reputation; but it seldom fails to become
just when the cloud is dispersed that produced the mistake in

Many people, undoubtedly in several respects, obtain a better
reputation than, strictly speaking, they deserve, for unremitting
industry will mostly reach its goal in all races. They who only
strive for this paltry prize, like the Pharisees, who prayed at the
corners of streets, to be seen of men, verily obtain the reward
they seek; for the heart of man cannot be read by man! Still the
fair fame that is naturally reflected by good actions, when the man
is only employed to direct his steps aright, regardless of the
lookers-on, is in general, not only more true but more sure.

There are, it is true, trials when the good man must appeal to God
from the injustice of man; and amidst the whining candour or
hissing of envy, erect a pavilion in his own mind to retire to,
till the rumour be overpast; nay, the darts of undeserved censure
may pierce an innocent tender bosom through with many sorrows; but
these are all exceptions to general rules. And it is according to
these common laws that human behaviour ought to be regulated. The
eccentric orbit of the comet never influences astronomical
calculations respecting the invariable order established in the
motion of the principal bodies of the solar system.

I will then venture to affirm, that after a man has arrived at
maturity, the general outline of his character in the world is
just, allowing for the before mentioned exceptions to the rule. I
do not say, that a prudent, worldly-wise man, with only negative
virtues and qualities, may not sometimes obtain a smoother
reputation than a wiser or a better man. So far from it, that I am
apt to conclude from experience, that where the virtue of two
people is nearly equal, the most negative character will be liked
best by the world at large, whilst the other may have more friends
in private life. But the hills and dales, clouds and sunshine,
conspicuous in the virtues of great men, set off each other; and
though they afford envious weakness a fairer mark to shoot at, the
real character will still work its way to light, though bespattered
by weak affection, or ingenious malice.*

(*Footnote. I allude to various biographical writings, but
particularly to Boswell's Life of Johnson.)

With respect to that anxiety to preserve a reputation hardly
earned, which leads sagacious people to analyze it, I shall not
make the obvious comment; but I am afraid that morality is very
insidiously undermined, in the female world, by the attention being
turned to the show instead of the substance. A simple thing is
thus made strangely complicated; nay, sometimes virtue and its
shadow are set at variance. We should never, perhaps, have heard
of Lucretia, had she died to preserve her chastity instead of her
reputation. If we really deserve our own good opinion, we shall
commonly be respected in the world; but if we pant after higher
improvement and higher attainments, it is not sufficient to view
ourselves as we suppose that we are viewed by others, though this
has been ingeniously argued as the foundation of our moral
sentiments. (Smith.) Because each bystander may have his own
prejudices, besides the prejudices of his age or country. We
should rather endeavour to view ourselves, as we suppose that Being
views us, who seeth each thought ripen into action, and whose
judgment never swerves from the eternal rule of right. Righteous
are all his judgments--just, as merciful!

The humble mind that seeketh to find favour in His sight, and
calmly examines its conduct when only His presence is felt, will
seldom form a very erroneous opinion of its own virtues. During
the still hour of self-collection, the angry brow of offended
justice will be fearfully deprecated, or the tie which draws man to
the Deity will be recognized in the pure sentiment of reverential
adoration, that swells the heart without exciting any tumultuous
emotions. In these solemn moments man discovers the germ of those
vices, which like the Java tree shed a pestiferous vapour
around--death is in the shade! and he perceives them without
abhorrence, because he feels himself drawn by some cord of love to
all his fellow creatures, for whose follies he is anxious to find
every extenuation in their nature--in himself. If I, he may thus
argue, who exercise my own mind, and have been refined by
tribulation, find the serpent's egg in some fold of my heart, and
crush it with difficulty, shall not I pity those who are stamped
with less vigour, or who have heedlessly nurtured the insidious
reptile till it poisoned the vital stream it sucked? Can I,
conscious of my secret sins, throw off my fellow creatures, and
calmly see them drop into the chasm of perdition, that yawns to
receive them. No! no! The agonized heart will cry with
suffocating impatience--I too am a man! and have vices, hid,
perhaps, from human eye, that bend me to the dust before God, and
loudly tell me when all is mute, that we are formed of the same
earth, and breathe the same element. Humanity thus rises naturally
out of humility, and twists the cords of love that in various
convolutions entangle the heart.

This sympathy extends still further, till a man well pleased
observes force in arguments that do not carry conviction to his own
bosom, and he gladly places in the fairest light to himself, the
shows of reason that have led others astray, rejoiced to find some
reason in all the errors of man; though before convinced that he
who rules the day makes his sun to shine on all. Yet, shaking
hands thus, as it were, with corruption, one foot on earth, the
other with bold strides mounts to heaven, and claims kindred with
superiour natures. Virtues, unobserved by men, drop their balmy
fragrance at this cool hour, and the thirsty land, refreshed by the
pure streams of comfort that suddenly gush out, is crowned with
smiling verdure; this is the living green on which that eye may
look with complacency that is too pure to behold iniquity! But my
spirits flag; and I must silently indulge the reverie these
reflections lead to, unable to describe the sentiments that have
calmed my soul, when watching the rising sun, a soft shower
drizzling through the leaves of neighbouring trees, seemed to fall
on my languid, yet tranquil spirits, to cool the heart that had
been heated by the passions which reason laboured to tame.

The leading principles which run through all my disquisitions,
would render it unnecessary to enlarge on this subject, if a
constant attention to keep the varnish of the character fresh, and
in good condition, were not often inculcated as the sum total of
female duty; if rules to regulate the behaviour, and to preserve
the reputation, did not too frequently supersede moral obligations.
But, with respect to reputation, the attention is confined to a
single virtue--chastity. If the honour of a woman, as it is
absurdly called, is safe, she may neglect every social duty; nay,
ruin her family by gaming and extravagance; yet still present a
shameless front --for truly she is an honourable woman!

Mrs. Macaulay has justly observed, that "there is but one fault
which a woman of honour may not commit with impunity." She then
justly and humanely adds--This has given rise to the trite and
foolish observation, that the first fault against chastity in woman
has a radical power to deprave the character. But no such frail
beings come out of the hands of nature. The human mind is built of
nobler materials than to be so easily corrupted; and with all their
disadvantages of situation and education, women seldom become
entirely abandoned till they are thrown into a state of
desperation, by the venomous rancour of their own sex."

But, in proportion as this regard for the reputation of chastity is
prized by women, it is despised by men: and the two extremes are
equally destructive to morality.

Men are certainly more under the influence of their appetites than
women; and their appetites are more depraved by unbridled
indulgence, and the fastidious contrivances of satiety. Luxury has
introduced a refinement in eating that destroys the constitution;
and, a degree of gluttony which is so beastly, that a perception of
seemliness of behaviour must be worn out before one being could eat
immoderately in the presence of another, and afterwards complain of
the oppression that his intemperance naturally produced. Some
women, particularly French women, have also lost a sense of decency
in this respect; for they will talk very calmly of an indigestion.
It were to be wished, that idleness was not allowed to generate, on
the rank soil of wealth, those swarms of summer insects that feed
on putrefaction; we should not then be disgusted by the sight of
such brutal excesses.

There is one rule relative to behaviour that, I think, ought to
regulate every other; and it is simply to cherish such an habitual
respect for mankind, as may prevent us from disgusting a fellow
creature for the sake of a present indulgence. The shameful
indolence of many married women, and others a little advanced in
life, frequently leads them to sin against delicacy. For, though
convinced that the person is the band of union between the sexes,
yet, how often do they from sheer indolence, or to enjoy some
trifling indulgence, disgust?

The depravity of the appetite, which brings the sexes together, has
had a still more fatal effect. Nature must ever be the standard of
taste, the guage of appetite--yet how grossly is nature insulted by
the voluptuary. Leaving the refinements of love out of the
question; nature, by making the gratification of an appetite, in
this respect, as well as every other, a natural and imperious law
to preserve the species, exalts the appetite, and mixes a little
mind and affection with a sensual gust. The feelings of a parent
mingling with an instinct merely animal, give it dignity; and the
man and woman often meeting on account of the child, a mutual
interest and affection is excited by the exercise of a common
sympathy. Women then having necessarily some duty to fulfil, more
noble than to adorn their persons, would not contentedly be the
slaves of casual appetite, which is now the situation of a very
considerable number who are, literally speaking, standing dishes to
which every glutton may have access.

I may be told, that great as this enormity is, it only affects a
devoted part of the sex--devoted for the salvation of the rest.
But, false as every assertion might easily be proved, that
recommends the sanctioning a small evil to produce a greater good;
the mischief does not stop here, for the moral character, and peace
of mind, of the chaster part of the sex, is undermined by the
conduct of the very women to whom they allow no refuge from guilt:
whom they inexorably consign to the exercise of arts that lure
their husbands from them, debauch their sons and force them, let
not modest women start, to assume, in some degree, the same
character themselves. For I will venture to assert, that all the
causes of female weakness, as well as depravity, which I have
already enlarged on, branch out of one grand cause--want of
chastity in men.

This intemperance, so prevalent, depraves the appetite to such a
degree, that a wanton stimulus is necessary to rouse it; but the
parental design of nature is forgotten, and the mere person, and
that, for a moment, alone engrosses the thoughts. So voluptuous,
indeed, often grows the lustful prowler, that he refines on female

To satisfy this genius of men, women are made systematically
voluptuous, and though they may not all carry their libertinism to
the same height, yet this heartless intercourse with the sex, which
they allow themselves, depraves both sexes, because the taste of
men is vitiated; and women, of all classes, naturally square their
behaviour to gratify the taste by which they obtain pleasure and
power. Women becoming, consequently weaker, in mind and body, than
they ought to be, were one of the grand ends of their being taken
into the account, that of bearing and nursing children, have not
sufficient strength to discharge the first duty of a mother; and
sacrificing to lasciviousness the parental affection, that ennobles
instinct, either destroy the embryo in the womb, or cast it off
when born. Nature in every thing demands respect, and those who
violate her laws seldom violate them with impunity. The weak
enervated women who particularly catch the attention of libertines,
are unfit to be mothers, though they may conceive; so that the rich
sensualist, who has rioted among women, spreading depravity and
misery, when he wishes to perpetuate his name, receives from his
wife only an half-formed being that inherits both its father's and
mother's weakness.

Contrasting the humanity of the present age with the barbarism of
antiquity, great stress has been laid on the savage custom of
exposing the children whom their parents could not maintain; whilst
the man of sensibility, who thus, perhaps, complains, by his
promiscuous amours produces a most destructive barrenness and
contagious flagitiousness of manners. Surely nature never intended
that women, by satisfying an appetite, should frustrate the very
purpose for which it was implanted?

I have before observed, that men ought to maintain the women whom
they have seduced; this would be one means of reforming female
manners, and stopping an abuse that has an equally fatal effect on
population and morals. Another, no less obvious, would be to turn
the attention of woman to the real virtue of chastity; for to
little respect has that woman a claim, on the score of modesty,
though her reputation may be white as the driven snow, who smiles
on the libertine whilst she spurns the victims of his lawless
appetites and their own folly.

Besides, she has a taint of the same folly, pure as she esteems
herself, when she studiously adorns her person only to be seen by
men, to excite respectful sighs, and all the idle homage of what is
called innocent gallantry. Did women really respect virtue for its
own sake, they would not seek for a compensation in vanity, for the
self-denial which they are obliged to practise to preserve their
reputation, nor would they associate with men who set reputation at

The two sexes mutually corrupt and improve each other. This I
believe to be an indisputable truth, extending it to every virtue.
Chastity, modesty, public spirit, and all the noble train of
virtues, on which social virtue and happiness are built, should be
understood and cultivated by all mankind, or they will be
cultivated to little effect. And, instead of furnishing the
vicious or idle with a pretext for violating some sacred duty, by
terming it a sexual one, it would be wiser to show, that nature has
not made any difference, for that the unchaste man doubly defeats
the purpose of nature by rendering women barren, and destroying his
own constitution, though he avoids the shame that pursues the crime
in the other sex. These are the physical consequences, the moral
are still more alarming; for virtue is only a nominal distinction
when the duties of citizens, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and
directors of families, become merely the selfish ties of

Why then do philosophers look for public spirit? Public spirit
must be nurtured by private virtue, or it will resemble the
factitious sentiment which makes women careful to preserve their
reputation, and men their honour. A sentiment that often exists
unsupported by virtue, unsupported by that sublime morality which
makes the habitual breach of one duty a breach of the whole moral



>From the respect paid to property flow, as from a poisoned
fountain, most of the evils and vices which render this world such
a dreary scene to the contemplative mind. For it is in the most
polished society that noisome reptiles and venomous serpents lurk
under the rank herbage; and there is voluptuousness pampered by the
still sultry air, which relaxes every good disposition before it
ripens into virtue.

One class presses on another; for all are aiming to procure respect
on account of their property: and property, once gained, will
procure the respect due only to talents and virtue. Men neglect
the duties incumbent on man, yet are treated like demi-gods;
religion is also separated from morality by a ceremonial veil, yet
men wonder that the world is almost, literally speaking, a den of
sharpers or oppressors.

There is a homely proverb, which speaks a shrewd truth, that
whoever the devil finds idle he will employ. And what but habitual
idleness can hereditary wealth and titles produce? For man is so
constituted that he can only attain a proper use of his faculties
by exercising them, and will not exercise them unless necessity, of
some kind, first set the wheels in motion. Virtue likewise can
only be acquired by the discharge of relative duties; but the
importance of these sacred duties will scarcely be felt by the
being who is cajoled out of his humanity by the flattery of
sycophants. There must be more equality established in society, or
morality will never gain ground, and this virtuous equality will
not rest firmly even when founded on a rock, if one half of mankind
are chained to its bottom by fate, for they will be continually
undermining it through ignorance or pride. It is vain to expect
virtue from women till they are, in some degree, independent of
men; nay, it is vain to expect that strength of natural affection,
which would make them good wives and good mothers. Whilst they are
absolutely dependent on their husbands, they will be cunning, mean,
and selfish, and the men who can be gratified by the fawning
fondness, of spaniel-like affection, have not much delicacy, for
love is not to be bought, in any sense of the word, its silken
wings are instantly shrivelled up when any thing beside a return in
kind is sought. Yet whilst wealth enervates men; and women live,
as it were, by their personal charms, how, can we expect them to
discharge those ennobling duties which equally require exertion and
self-denial. Hereditary property sophisticates the mind, and the
unfortunate victims to it, if I may so express myself, swathed from
their birth, seldom exert the locomotive faculty of body or mind;
and, thus viewing every thing through one medium, and that a false
one, they are unable to discern in what true merit and happiness
consist. False, indeed, must be the light when the drapery of
situation hides the man, and makes him stalk in masquerade,
dragging from one scene of dissipation to another the nerveless
limbs that hang with stupid listlessness, and rolling round the
vacant eye which plainly tells us that there is no mind at home.

I mean, therefore, to infer, that the society is not properly
organized which does not compel men and women to discharge their
respective duties, by making it the only way to acquire that
countenance from their fellow creatures, which every human being
wishes some way to attain. The respect, consequently, which is
paid to wealth and mere personal charms, is a true north-east
blast, that blights the tender blossoms of affection and virtue.
Nature has wisely attached affections to duties, to sweeten toil,
and to give that vigour to the exertions of reason which only the
heart can give. But, the affection which is put on merely because
it is the appropriated insignia of a certain character, when its
duties are not fulfilled is one of the empty compliments which vice
and folly are obliged to pay to virtue and the real nature of

To illustrate my opinion, I need only observe, that when a woman is
admired for her beauty, and suffers herself to be so far
intoxicated by the admiration she receives, as to neglect to
discharge the indispensable duty of a mother, she sins against
herself by neglecting to cultivate an affection that would equally
tend to make her useful and happy. True happiness, I mean all the
contentment, and virtuous satisfaction that can be snatched in this
imperfect state, must arise from well regulated affections; and an
affection includes a duty. Men are not aware of the misery they
cause, and the vicious weakness they cherish, by only inciting
women to render themselves pleasing; they do not consider, that
they thus make natural and artificial duties clash, by sacrificing
the comfort and respectability of a woman's life to voluptuous
notions of beauty, when in nature they all harmonize.

Cold would be the heart of a husband, were he not rendered
unnatural by early debauchery, who did not feel more delight at
seeing his child suckled by its mother, than the most artful wanton
tricks could ever raise; yet this natural way of cementing the
matrimonial tie, and twisting esteem with fonder recollections,
wealth leads women to spurn. To preserve their beauty, and wear
the flowery crown of the day, that gives them a kind of right to
reign for a short time over the sex, they neglect to stamp
impressions on their husbands' hearts, that would be remembered
with more tenderness when the snow on the head began to chill the
bosom, than even their virgin charms. The maternal solicitude of a
reasonable affectionate woman is very interesting, and the
chastened dignity with which a mother returns the caresses that she
and her child receive from a father who has been fulfilling the
serious duties of his station, is not only a respectable, but a
beautiful sight. So singular, indeed, are my feelings, and I have
endeavoured not to catch factitious ones, that after having been
fatigued with the sight of insipid grandeur and the slavish
ceremonies that with cumberous pomp supplied the place of domestic
affections, I have turned to some other scene to relieve my eye, by
resting it on the refreshing green every where scattered by nature.
I have then viewed with pleasure a woman nursing her children, and
discharging the duties of her station with, perhaps, merely a
servant made to take off her hands the servile part of the
household business. I have seen her prepare herself and children,
with only the luxury of cleanliness, to receive her husband, who
returning weary home in the evening, found smiling babes and a
clean hearth. My heart has loitered in the midst of the group, and
has even throbbed with sympathetic emotion, when the scraping of
the well known foot has raised a pleasing tumult.

Whilst my benevolence has been gratified by contemplating this
artless picture, I have thought that a couple of this description,
equally necessary and independent of each other, because each
fulfilled the respective duties of their station, possessed all
that life could give. Raised sufficiently above abject poverty not
to be obliged to weigh the consequence of every farthing they
spend, and having sufficient to prevent their attending to a frigid
system of economy which narrows both heart and mind. I declare, so
vulgar are my conceptions, that I know not what is wanted to render
this the happiest as well as the most respectable situation in the
world, but a taste for literature, to throw a little variety and
interest into social converse, and some superfluous money to give
to the needy, and to buy books. For it is not pleasant when the
heart is opened by compassion, and the head active in arranging
plans of usefulness, to have a prim urchin continually twitching
back the elbow to prevent the hand from drawing out an almost empty
purse, whispering at the same time some prudential maxim about the
priority of justice.

Destructive, however, as riches and inherited honours are to the
human character, women are more debased and cramped, if possible by
them, than men, because men may still, in some degree, unfold their
faculties by becoming soldiers and statesmen.

As soldiers, I grant, they can now only gather, for the most part,
vainglorious laurels, whilst they adjust to a hair the European
balance, taking especial care that no bleak northern nook or sound
incline the beam. But the days of true heroism are over, when a
citizen fought for his country like a Fabricius or a Washington,
and then returned to his farm to let his virtuous fervour run in a
more placid, but not a less salutary stream. No, our British
heroes are oftener sent from the gaming table than from the plough;
and their passions have been rather inflamed by hanging with dumb
suspense on the turn of a die, than sublimated by panting after the
adventurous march of virtue in the historic page.

The statesman, it is true, might with more propriety quit the Faro
Bank, or card-table, to guide the helm, for he has still but to
shuffle and trick. The whole system of British politics, if system
it may courteously be called, consisting in multiplying dependents
and contriving taxes which grind the poor to pamper the rich; thus
a war, or any wild goose chace is, as the vulgar use the phrase, a
lucky turn-up of patronage for the minister, whose chief merit is
the art of keeping himself in place.

It is not necessary then that he should have bowels for the poor,
so he can secure for his family the odd trick. Or should some show
of respect, for what is termed with ignorant ostentation an
Englishman's birth-right, be expedient to bubble the gruff mastiff
that he has to lead by the nose, he can make an empty show, very
safely, by giving his single voice, and suffering his light
squadron to file off to the other side. And when a question of
humanity is agitated, he may dip a sop in the milk of human
kindness, to silence Cerberus, and talk of the interest which his
heart takes in an attempt to make the earth no longer cry for
vengeance as it sucks in its children's blood, though his cold hand
may at the very moment rivet their chains, by sanctioning the
abominable traffick. A minister is no longer a minister than while
he can carry a point, which he is determined to carry. Yet it is
not necessary that a minister should feel like a man, when a bold
push might shake his seat.

But, to have done with these episodical observations, let me return
to the more specious slavery which chains the very soul of woman,
keeping her for ever under the bondage of ignorance.

The preposterous distinctions of rank, which render civilization a
curse, by dividing the world between voluptuous tyrants, and
cunning envious dependents, corrupt, almost equally, every class of
people, because respectability is not attached to the discharge of
the relative duties of life, but to the station, and when the
duties are not fulfilled, the affections cannot gain sufficient
strength to fortify the virtue of which they are the natural
reward. Still there are some loop-holes out of which a man may
creep, and dare to think and act for himself; but for a woman it is
an herculean task, because she has difficulties peculiar to her sex
to overcome, which require almost super-human powers.

A truly benevolent legislator always endeavours to make it the
interest of each individual to be virtuous; and thus private virtue
becoming the cement of public happiness, an orderly whole is
consolidated by the tendency of all the parts towards a common
centre. But, the private or public virtue of women is very
problematical; for Rousseau, and a numerous list of male writers,
insist that she should all her life, be subjected to a severe
restraint, that of propriety. Why subject her to propriety--blind
propriety, if she be capable of acting from a nobler spring, if she
be an heir of immortality? Is sugar always to be produced by vital
blood? Is one half of the human species, like the poor African
slaves, to be subject to prejudices that brutalize them, when
principles would be a surer guard only to sweeten the cup of man?
Is not this indirectly to deny women reason? for a gift is a
mockery, if it be unfit for use.

Women are in common with men, rendered weak and luxurious by the
relaxing pleasures which wealth procures; but added to this, they
are made slaves to their persons, and must render them alluring,
that man may lend them his reason to guide their tottering steps
aright. Or should they be ambitious, they must govern their
tyrants by sinister tricks, for without rights there cannot be any
incumbent duties. The laws respecting woman, which I mean to
discuss in a future part, make an absurd unit of a man and his
wife; and then, by the easy transition of only considering him as
responsible, she is reduced to a mere cypher.

The being who discharges the duties of its station, is independent;
and, speaking of women at large, their first duty is to themselves
as rational creatures, and the next, in point of importance, as
citizens, is that, which includes so many, of a mother. The rank
in life which dispenses with their fulfilling this duty,
necessarily degrades them by making them mere dolls. Or, should
they turn to something more important than merely fitting drapery
upon a smooth block, their minds are only occupied by some soft
platonic attachment; or, the actual management of an intrigue may
keep their thoughts in motion; for when they neglect domestic
duties, they have it not in their power to take the field and march
and counter-march like soldiers, or wrangle in the senate to keep
their faculties from rusting.

I know, that as a proof of the inferiority of the sex, Rousseau has
exultingly exclaimed, How can they leave the nursery for the camp!
And the camp has by some moralists been termed the school of the
most heroic virtues; though, I think, it would puzzle a keen
casuist to prove the reasonableness of the greater number of wars,
that have dubbed heroes. I do not mean to consider this question
critically; because, having frequently viewed these freaks of
ambition as the first natural mode of civilization, when the ground
must be torn up, and the woods cleared by fire and sword, I do not
choose to call them pests; but surely the present system of war,
has little connection with virtue of any denomination, being rather
the school of FINESSE and effeminacy, than of fortitude.

Yet, if defensive war, the only justifiable war, in the present
advanced state of society, where virtue can show its face and ripen
amidst the rigours which purify the air on the mountain's top, were
alone to be adopted as just and glorious, the true heroism of
antiquity might again animate female bosoms. But fair and softly,
gentle reader, male or female, do not alarm thyself, for though I
have contrasted the character of a modern soldier with that of a
civilized woman, I am not going to advise them to turn their
distaff into a musket, though I sincerely wish to see the bayonet
converted into a pruning hook. I only recreated an imagination,
fatigued by contemplating the vices and follies which all proceed
from a feculent stream of wealth that has muddied the pure rills of
natural affection, by supposing that society will some time or
other be so constituted, that man must necessarily fulfil the
duties of a citizen, or be despised, and that while he was employed
in any of the departments of civil life, his wife, also an active
citizen, should be equally intent to manage her family, educate her
children, and assist her neighbours.

But, to render her really virtuous and useful, she must not, if she
discharge her civil duties, want, individually, the protection of
civil laws; she must not be dependent on her husband's bounty for
her subsistence during his life, or support after his death--for
how can a being be generous who has nothing of its own? or,
virtuous, who is not free? The wife, in the present state of
things, who is faithful to her husband, and neither suckles nor
educates her children, scarcely deserves the name of a wife, and
has no right to that of a citizen. But take away natural rights,
and there is of course an end of duties.

Women thus infallibly become only the wanton solace of men, when
they are so weak in mind and body, that they cannot exert
themselves, unless to pursue some frothy pleasure, or to invent
some frivolous fashion. What can be a more melancholy sight to a
thinking mind, than to look into the numerous carriages that drive
helter-skelter about this metropolis in a morning, full of
pale-faced creatures who are flying from themselves. I have often
wished, with Dr. Johnson, to place some of them in a little shop,
with half a dozen children looking up to their languid countenances
for support. I am much mistaken, if some latent vigour would not
soon give health and spirit to their eyes, and some lines drawn by
the exercise of reason on the blank cheeks, which before were only
undulated by dimples, might restore lost dignity to the character,
or rather enable it to attain the true dignity of its nature.
Virtue is not to be acquired even by speculation, much less by the
negative supineness that wealth naturally generates.

Besides, when poverty is more disgraceful than even vice, is not
morality cut to the quick? Still to avoid misconstruction, though
I consider that women in the common walks of life are called to
fulfil the duties of wives and mothers, by religion and reason, I
cannot help lamenting that women of a superiour cast have not a
road open by which they can pursue more extensive plans of
usefulness and independence. I may excite laughter, by dropping an
hint, which I mean to pursue, some future time, for I really think
that women ought to have representatives, instead of being
arbitrarily governed without having any direct share allowed them
in the deliberations of government.

But, as the whole system of representation is now, in this country,
only a convenient handle for despotism, they need not complain, for
they are as well represented as a numerous class of hard working
mechanics, who pay for the support of royality when they can
scarcely stop their children's mouths with bread. How are they
represented, whose very sweat supports the splendid stud of an heir
apparent, or varnishes the chariot of some female favourite who
looks down on shame? Taxes on the very necessaries of life, enable
an endless tribe of idle princes and princesses to pass with stupid
pomp before a gaping crowd, who almost worship the very parade
which costs them so dear. This is mere gothic grandeur, something
like the barbarous, useless parade of having sentinels on horseback
at Whitehall, which I could never view without a mixture of
contempt and indignation.

How strangely must the mind be sophisticated when this sort of
state impresses it! But till these monuments of folly are levelled
by virtue, similar follies will leaven the whole mass. For the
same character, in some degree, will prevail in the aggregate of
society: and the refinements of luxury, or the vicious repinings
of envious poverty, will equally banish virtue from society,
considered as the characteristic of that society, or only allow it
to appear as one of the stripes of the harlequin coat, worn by the
civilized man.

In the superiour ranks of life, every duty is done by deputies, as
if duties could ever be waved, and the vain pleasures which
consequent idleness forces the rich to pursue, appear so enticing
to the next rank, that the numerous scramblers for wealth sacrifice
every thing to tread on their heels. The most sacred trusts are
then considered as sinecures, because they were procured by
interest, and only sought to enable a man to keep GOOD COMPANY.
Women, in particular, all want to be ladies. Which is simply to
have nothing to do, but listlessly to go they scarcely care where,
for they cannot tell what.

But what have women to do in society? I may be asked, but to
loiter with easy grace; surely you would not condemn them all to
suckle fools, and chronicle small beer! No. Women might certainly
study the art of healing, and be physicians as well as nurses. And
midwifery, decency seems to allot to them, though I am afraid the
word midwife, in our dictionaries, will soon give place to
accoucheur, and one proof of the former delicacy of the sex be
effaced from the language.

They might, also study politics, and settle their benevolence on
the broadest basis; for the reading of history will scarcely be
more useful than the perusal of romances, if read as mere
biography; if the character of the times, the political
improvements, arts, etc. be not observed. In short, if it be not
considered as the history of man; and not of particular men, who
filled a niche in the temple of fame, and dropped into the black
rolling stream of time, that silently sweeps all before it, into
the shapeless void called eternity. For shape can it be called,
"that shape hath none?"

Business of various kinds, they might likewise pursue, if they were
educated in a more orderly manner, which might save many from
common and legal prostitution. Women would not then marry for a
support, as men accept of places under government, and neglect the
implied duties; nor would an attempt to earn their own subsistence,
a most laudable one! sink them almost to the level of those poor
abandoned creatures who live by prostitution. For are not
milliners and mantuamakers reckoned the next class? The few
employments open to women, so far from being liberal, are menial;
and when a superior education enables them to take charge of the
education of children as governesses, they are not treated like the
tutors of sons, though even clerical tutors are not always treated
in a manner calculated to render them respectable in the eyes of
their pupils, to say nothing of the private comfort of the
individual. But as women educated like gentlewomen, are never
designed for the humiliating situation which necessity sometimes
forces them to fill; these situations are considered in the light
of a degradation; and they know little of the human heart, who need
to be told, that nothing so painfully sharpens the sensibility as
such a fall in life.

Some of these women might be restrained from marrying by a proper
spirit or delicacy, and others may not have had it in their power
to escape in this pitiful way from servitude; is not that
government then very defective, and very unmindful of the happiness
of one half of its members, that does not provide for honest,
independent women, by encouraging them to fill respectable
stations? But in order to render their private virtue a public
benefit, they must have a civil existence in the state, married or
single; else we shall continually see some worthy woman, whose
sensibility has been rendered painfully acute by undeserved
contempt, droop like "the lily broken down by a plough share."

It is a melancholy truth; yet such is the blessed effects of
civilization! the most respectable women are the most oppressed;
and, unless they have understandings far superiour to the common
run of understandings, taking in both sexes, they must, from being
treated like contemptible beings, become contemptible. How many
women thus waste life away, the prey of discontent, who might have
practised as physicians, regulated a farm, managed a shop, and
stood erect, supported by their own industry, instead of hanging
their heads surcharged with the dew of sensibility, that consumes
the beauty to which it at first gave lustre; nay, I doubt whether
pity and love are so near a-kin as poets feign, for I have seldom
seen much compassion excited by the helplessness of females, unless
they were fair; then, perhaps, pity was the soft handmaid of love,
or the harbinger of lust.

How much more respectable is the woman who earns her own bread by
fulfilling any duty, than the most accomplished beauty! beauty did
I say? so sensible am I of the beauty of moral loveliness, or the
harmonious propriety that attunes the passions of a well-regulated
mind, that I blush at making the comparison; yet I sigh to think
how few women aim at attaining this respectability, by withdrawing
from the giddy whirl of pleasure, or the indolent calm that
stupifies the good sort of women it sucks in.

Proud of their weakness, however, they must always be protected,
guarded from care, and all the rough toils that dignify the mind.
If this be the fiat of fate, if they will make themselves
insignificant and contemptible, sweetly to waste "life away," let
them not expect to be valued when their beauty fades, for it is the
fate of the fairest flowers to be admired and pulled to pieces by
the careless hand that plucked them. In how many ways do I wish,
from the purest benevolence, to impress this truth on my sex; yet I
fear that they will not listen to a truth, that dear-bought
experience has brought home to many an agitated bosom, nor
willingly resign the privileges of rank and sex for the privileges
of humanity, to which those have no claim who do not discharge its

Those writers are particularly useful, in my opinion, who make man
feel for man, independent of the station he fills, or the drapery
of factitious sentiments. I then would fain convince reasonable
men of the importance of some of my remarks and prevail on them to
weigh dispassionately the whole tenor of my observations. I appeal
to their understandings; and, as a fellow-creature claim, in the
name of my sex, some interest in their hearts. I entreat them to
assist to emancipate their companion to make her a help meet for

Would men but generously snap our chains, and be content with
rational fellowship, instead of slavish obedience, they would find
us more observant daughters, more affectionate sisters, more
faithful wives, more reasonable mothers--in a word, better
citizens. We should then love them with true affection, because we
should learn to respect ourselves; and the peace of mind of a
worthy man would not be interrupted by the idle vanity of his wife,
nor his babes sent to nestle in a strange bosom, having never found
a home in their mother's.



Parental affection is, perhaps, the blindest modification of
perverse self-love; for we have not, like the French two terms
(L'amour propre, L'amour de soi meme) to distinguish the pursuit of
a natural and reasonable desire, from the ignorant calculations of
weakness. Parents often love their children in the most brutal
manner, and sacrifice every relative duty to promote their
advancement in the world. To promote, such is the perversity of
unprincipled prejudices, the future welfare of the very beings
whose present existence they imbitter by the most despotic stretch
of power. Power, in fact, is ever true to its vital principle, for
in every shape it would reign without controul or inquiry. Its
throne is built across a dark abyss, which no eye must dare to
explore, lest the baseless fabric should totter under
investigation. Obedience, unconditional obedience, is the
catch-word of tyrants of every description, and to render
"assurance doubly sure," one kind of despotism supports another.
Tyrants would have cause to tremble if reason were to become the
rule of duty in any of the relations of life, for the light might
spread till perfect day appeared. And when it did appear, how
would men smile at the sight of the bugbears at which they started
during the night of ignorance, or the twilight of timid inquiry.

Parental affection, indeed, in many minds, is but a pretext to
tyrannize where it can be done with impunity, for only good and
wise men are content with the respect that will bear discussion.
Convinced that they have a right to what they insist on, they do
not fear reason, or dread the sifting of subjects that recur to
natural justice: because they firmly believe, that the more
enlightened the human mind becomes, the deeper root will just and
simple principles take. They do not rest in expedients, or grant
that what is metaphysically true can be practically false; but
disdaining the shifts of the moment they calmly wait till time,
sanctioning innovation, silences the hiss of selfishness or envy.

If the power of reflecting on the past, and darting the keen eye of
contemplation into futurity, be the grand privilege of man, it must
be granted that some people enjoy this prerogative in a very
limited degree. Every thing now appears to them wrong; and not
able to distinguish the possible from the monstrous, they fear
where no fear should find a place, running from the light of reason
as if it were a firebrand; yet the limits of the possible have
never been defined to stop the sturdy innovator's hand.

Woman, however, a slave in every situation to prejudice seldom
exerts enlightened maternal affection; for she either neglects her
children, or spoils them by improper indulgence. Besides, the
affection of some women for their children is, as I have before
termed it, frequently very brutish; for it eradicates every spark
of humanity. Justice, truth, every thing is sacrificed by these
Rebekahs, and for the sake of their own children they violate the
most sacred duties, forgetting the common relationship that binds
the whole family on earth together. Yet, reason seems to say, that
they who suffer one duty, or affection to swallow up the rest, have
not sufficient heart or mind to fulfil that one conscientiously.
It then loses the venerable aspect of a duty, and assumes the
fantastic form of a whim.

As the care of children in their infancy is one of the grand duties
annexed to the female character by nature, this duty would afford
many forcible arguments for strengthening the female understanding,
if it were properly considered.

The formation of the mind must be begun very early, and the temper,
in particular, requires the most judicious attention--an attention
which women cannot pay who only love their children because they
are their children, and seek no further for the foundation of their
duty, than in the feelings of the moment. It is this want of
reason in their affections which makes women so often run into
extremes, and either be the most fond, or most careless and
unnatural mothers.

To be a good mother--a woman must have sense, and that independence
of mind which few women possess who are taught to depend entirely
on their husbands. Meek wives are, in general, foolish mothers;
wanting their children to love them best, and take their part, in
secret, against the father, who is held up as a scarecrow. If they
are to be punished, though they have offended the mother, the
father must inflict the punishment; he must be the judge in all
disputes: but I shall more fully discuss this subject when I treat
of private education, I now only mean to insist, that unless the
understanding of woman be enlarged, and her character rendered more
firm, by being allowed to govern her own conduct, she will never
have sufficient sense or command of temper to manage her children
properly. Her parental affection, indeed, scarcely deserves the
name, when it does not lead her to suckle her children, because the
discharge of this duty is equally calculated to inspire maternal
and filial affection; and it is the indispensable duty of men and
women to fulfil the duties which give birth to affections that are
the surest preservatives against vice. Natural affection, as it is
termed, I believe to be a very weak tie, affections must grow out
of the habitual exercise of a mutual sympathy; and what sympathy
does a mother exercise who sends her babe to a nurse, and only
takes it from a nurse to send it to a school?

In the exercise of their natural feelings, providence has furnished
women with a natural substitute for love, when the lover becomes
only a friend and mutual confidence takes place of overstrained
admiration--a child then gently twists the relaxing cord, and a
mutual care produces a new mutual sympathy. But a child, though a
pledge of affection, will not enliven it, if both father and mother
are content to transfer the charge to hirelings; for they who do
their duty by proxy should not murmur if they miss the reward of
duty--parental affection produces filial duty.



There seems to be an indolent propensity in man to make
prescription always take place of reason, and to place every duty
on an arbitrary foundation. The rights of kings are deduced in a
direct line from the King of kings; and that of parents from our
first parent.

Why do we thus go back for principles that should always rest on
the same base, and have the same weight to-day that they had a
thousand years ago--and not a jot more? If parents discharge their
duty they have a strong hold and sacred claim on the gratitude of
their children; but few parents are willing to receive the
respectful affection of their offspring on such terms. They demand
blind obedience, because they do not merit a reasonable service:
and to render these demands of weakness and ignorance more binding,
a mysterious sanctity is spread round the most arbitrary principle;
for what other name can be given to the blind duty of obeying
vicious or weak beings, merely because they obeyed a powerful
instinct? The simple definition of the reciprocal duty, which
naturally subsists between parent and child, may be given in a few
words: The parent who pays proper attention to helpless infancy
has a right to require the same attention when the feebleness of
age comes upon him. But to subjugate a rational being to the mere
will of another, after he is of age to answer to society for his
own conduct, is a most cruel and undue stretch of power; and
perhaps as injurious to morality, as those religious systems which
do not allow right and wrong to have any existence, but in the
Divine will.

I never knew a parent who had paid more than common attention to
his children, disregarded (Dr. Johnson makes the same
observation.); on the contrary, the early habit of relying almost
implicitly on the opinion of a respected parent is not easily
shaken, even when matured reason convinces the child that his
father is not the wisest man in the world. This weakness, for a
weakness it is, though the epithet AMIABLE may be tacked to it, a
reasonable man must steel himself against; for the absurd duty, too
often inculcated, of obeying a parent only on account of his being
a parent, shackles the mind, and prepares it for a slavish
submission to any power but reason.

I distinguish between the natural and accidental duty due to

The parent who sedulously endeavours to form the heart and enlarge
the understanding of his child, has given that dignity to the
discharge of a duty, common to the whole animal world, that only
reason can give. This is the parental affection of humanity, and
leaves instinctive natural affection far behind. Such a parent
acquires all the rights of the most sacred friendship, and his
advice, even when his child is advanced in life, demands serious

With respect to marriage, though after one and twenty a parent
seems to have no right to withhold his consent on any account; yet
twenty years of solicitude call for a return, and the son ought, at
least, to promise not to marry for two or three years, should the
object of his choice not entirely meet with the approbation of his
first friend.

But, respect for parents is, generally speaking, a much more
debasing principle; it is only a selfish respect for property. The
father who is blindly obeyed, is obeyed from sheer weakness, or
from motives that degrade the human character.

A great proportion of the misery that wanders, in hideous forms
around the world, is allowed to rise from the negligence of
parents; and still these are the people who are most tenacious of
what they term a natural right, though it be subversive of the
birth right of man, the right of acting according to the direction
of his own reason.

I have already very frequently had occasion to observe, that
vicious or indolent people are always eager to profit by enforcing
arbitrary privileges; and generally in the same proportion as they
neglect the discharge of the duties which alone render the
privileges reasonable. This is at the bottom, a dictate of common
sense, or the instinct of self-defence, peculiar to ignorant
weakness; resembling that instinct, which makes a fish muddy the
water it swims in to elude its enemy, instead of boldly facing it
in the clear stream.

>From the clear stream of argument, indeed, the supporters of
prescription, of every denomination, fly: and taking refuge in the
darkness, which, in the language of sublime poetry, has been
supposed to surround the throne of Omnipotence, they dare to demand
that implicit respect which is only due to His unsearchable ways.
But, let me not be thought presumptuous, the darkness which hides
our God from us, only respects speculative truths-- it never
obscures moral ones, they shine clearly, for God is light, and
never, by the constitution of our nature, requires the discharge of
a duty, the reasonableness of which does not beam on us when we
open our eyes.

The indolent parent of high rank may, it is true, extort a show of
respect from his child, and females on the continent are
particularly subject to the views of their families, who never
think of consulting their inclination, or providing for the comfort
of the poor victims of their pride. The consequence is notorious;
these dutiful daughters become adulteresses, and neglect the
education of their children, from whom they, in their turn, exact
the same kind of obedience.

Females, it is true, in all countries, are too much under the
dominion of their parents; and few parents think of addressing
their children in the following manner, though it is in this
reasonable way that Heaven seems to command the whole human race.
It is your interest to obey me till you can judge for yourself; and
the Almighty Father of all has implanted an affection in me to
serve as a guard to you whilst your reason is unfolding; but when
your mind arrives at maturity, you must only obey me, or rather
respect my opinions, so far as they coincide with the light that is
breaking in on your own mind.

A slavish bondage to parents cramps every faculty of the mind; and
Mr. Locke very judiciously observes, that "if the mind be curbed
and humbled too much in children; if their spirits be abased and
broken much by too strict an hand over them; they lose all their
vigour and industry." This strict hand may, in some degree,
account for the weakness of women; for girls, from various causes,
are more kept down by their parents, in every sense of the word,
than boys. The duty expected from them is, like all the duties
arbitrarily imposed on women, more from a sense of propriety, more
out of respect for decorum, than reason; and thus taught slavishly
to submit to their parents, they are prepared for the slavery of
marriage. I may be told that a number of women are not slaves in
the marriage state. True, but they then become tyrants; for it is
not rational freedom, but a lawless kind of power, resembling the
authority exercised by the favourites of absolute monarchs, which
they obtain by debasing means. I do not, likewise, dream of
insinuating that either boys or girls are always slaves, I only
insist, that when they are obliged to submit to authority blindly,
their faculties are weakened, and their tempers rendered imperious
or abject. I also lament, that parents, indolently availing
themselves of a supposed privilege, damp the first faint glimmering
of reason rendering at the same time the duty, which they are so
anxious to enforce, an empty name; because they will not let it
rest on the only basis on which a duty can rest securely: for,
unless it be founded on knowledge, it cannot gain sufficient
strength to resist the squalls of passion, or the silent sapping of
self-love. But it is not the parents who have given the surest
proof of their affection for their children, (or, to speak more
properly, who by fulfilling their duty, have allowed a natural
parental affection to take root in their hearts, the child of
exercised sympathy and reason, and not the over-weening offspring
of selfish pride,) who most vehemently insist on their children
submitting to their will, merely because it is their will. On the
contrary, the parent who sets a good example, patiently lets that
example work; and it seldom fails to produce its natural
effect--filial respect.

Children cannot be taught too early to submit to reason, the true
definition of that necessity, which Rousseau insisted on, without
defining it; for to submit to reason, is to submit to the nature of
things, and to that God who formed them so, to promote our real

Why should the minds of children be warped as they just begin to
expand, only to favour the indolence of parents, who insist on a
privilege without being willing to pay the price fixed by nature?
I have before had occasion to observe, that a right always includes
a duty, and I think it may, likewise fairly be inferred, that they
forfeit the right, who do not fulfil the duty.

It is easier, I grant, to command than reason; but it does not
follow from hence, that children cannot comprehend the reason why
they are made to do certain things habitually; for, from a steady
adherence to a few simple principles of conduct flows that salutary
power, which a judicious parent gradually gains over a child's
mind. And this power becomes strong indeed, if tempered by an even
display of affection brought home to the child's heart. For, I
believe, as a general rule, it must be allowed, that the affection
which we inspire always resembles that we cultivate; so that
natural affections, which have been supposed almost distinct from
reason, may be found more nearly connected with judgment than is
commonly allowed. Nay, as another proof of the necessity of
cultivating the female understanding, it is but just to observe,
that the affections seem to have a kind of animal capriciousness
when they merely reside in the heart.

It is the irregular exercise of parental authority that first
injures the mind, and to these irregularities girls are more
subject than boys. The will of those who never allow their will to
be disputed, unless they happen to be in a good humour, when they
relax proportionally, is almost always unreasonable. To elude this
arbitrary authority, girls very early learn the lessons which they
afterwards practise on their husbands; for I have frequently seen a
little sharp-faced miss rule a whole family, excepting that now and
then mamma's anger will burst out of some accidental cloud-- either
her hair was ill-dressed,* or she had lost more money at cards, the
night before, than she was willing to own to her husband; or some
such moral cause of anger.

(*Footnote. I myself heard a little girl once say to a servant,
"My mamma has been scolding me finely this morning, because her
hair was not dressed to please her." Though this remark was pert,
it was just. And what respect could a girl acquire for such a
parent, without doing violence to reason?)

After observing sallies of this kind, I have been led into a
melancholy train of reflection respecting females, concluding that
when their first affection must lead them astray, or make their
duties clash till they rest on mere whims and customs, little can
be expected from them as they advance in life. How, indeed, can an
instructor remedy this evil? for to teach them virtue on any solid
principle is to teach them to despise their parents. Children
cannot, ought not to be taught to make allowance for the faults of
their parents, because every such allowance weakens the force of
reason in their minds, and makes them still more indulgent to their
own. It is one of the most sublime virtues of maturity that leads
us to be severe with respect to ourselves, and forbearing to
others; but children should only be taught the simple virtues, for
if they begin too early to make allowance for human passions and
manners, they wear off the fine edge of the criterion by which they
should regulate their own, and become unjust in the same proportion
as they grow indulgent.

The affections of children, and weak people, are always selfish;
they love others, because others love them, and not on account of
their virtues. Yet, till esteem and love are blended together in
the first affection, and reason made the foundation of the first
duty, morality will stumble at the threshold. But, till society is
very differently constituted, parents, I fear, will still insist on
being obeyed, because they will be obeyed, and constantly endeavour
to settle that power on a Divine right, which will not bear the
investigation of reason.



The good effects resulting from attention to private education will
ever be very confined, and the parent who really puts his own hand
to the plow, will always, in some degree be disappointed, till
education becomes a grand national concern. A man cannot retire
into a desert with his child, and if he did, he could not bring
himself back to childhood, and become the proper friend and
play-fellow of an infant or youth. And when children are confined
to the society of men and women, they very soon acquire that kind
of premature manhood which stops the growth of every vigorous power
of mind or body. In order to open their faculties they should be
excited to think for themselves; and this can only be done by
mixing a number of children together, and making them jointly
pursue the same objects.

A child very soon contracts a benumbing indolence of mind, which he
has seldom sufficient vigour to shake off, when he only asks a
question instead of seeking for information, and then relies
implicitly on the answer he receives. With his equals in age this
could never be the case, and the subjects of inquiry, though they
might be influenced, would not be entirely under the direction of
men, who frequently damp, if not destroy abilities, by bringing
them forward too hastily: and too hastily they will infallibly be
brought forward, if the child could be confined to the society of a
man, however sagacious that man may be.

Besides, in youth the seeds of every affection should be sown, and
the respectful regard, which is felt for a parent, is very
different from the social affections that are to constitute the
happiness of life as it advances. Of these, equality is the basis,
and an intercourse of sentiments unclogged by that observant
seriousness which prevents disputation, though it may not inforce
submission. Let a child have ever such an affection for his
parent, he will always languish to play and chat with children; and
the very respect he entertains, for filial esteem always has a dash
of fear mixed with it, will, if it do not teach him cunning, at
least prevent him from pouring out the little secrets which first
open the heart to friendship and confidence, gradually leading to
more expansive benevolence. Added to this, he will never acquire
that frank ingenuousness of behaviour, which young people can only
attain by being frequently in society, where they dare to speak
what they think; neither afraid of being reproved for their
presumption, nor laughed at for their folly.

Forcibly impressed by the reflections which the sight of schools,
as they are at present conducted, naturally suggested, I have
formerly delivered my opinion rather warmly in favour of a private
education; but further experience has led me to view the subject in
a different light. I still, however, think schools, as they are
now regulated, the hot-beds of vice and folly, and the knowledge of
human nature, supposed to be attained there, merely cunning

At school, boys become gluttons and slovens, and, instead of
cultivating domestic affections, very early rush into the
libertinism which destroys the constitution before it is formed;
hardening the heart as it weakens the understanding.

I should, in fact, be averse to boarding-schools, if it were for no
other reason than the unsettled state of mind which the expectation
of the vacations produce. On these the children's thoughts are
fixed with eager anticipating hopes, for, at least, to speak with
moderation, half of the time, and when they arrive they are spent
in total dissipation and beastly indulgence.

But, on the contrary, when they are brought up at home, though they
may pursue a plan of study in a more orderly manner than can be
adopted, when near a fourth part of the year is actually spent in
idleness, and as much more in regret and anticipation; yet they
there acquire too high an opinion of their own importance, from
being allowed to tyrannize over servants, and from the anxiety
expressed by most mothers, on the score of manners, who, eager to
teach the accomplishments of a gentleman, stifle, in their birth,
the virtues of a man. Thus brought into company when they ought to
be seriously employed, and treated like men when they are still
boys, they become vain and effeminate.

The only way to avoid two extremes equally injurious to morality,
would be to contrive some way of combining a public and private
education. Thus to make men citizens, two natural steps might be
taken, which seem directly to lead to the desired point; for the
domestic affections, that first open the heart to the various
modifications of humanity would be cultivated, whilst the children
were nevertheless allowed to spend great part of their time, on
terms of equality, with other children.

I still recollect, with pleasure, the country day school; where a
boy trudged in the morning, wet or dry, carrying his books, and his
dinner, if it were at a considerable distance; a servant did not
then lead master by the hand, for, when he had once put on coat and
breeches, he was allowed to shift for himself, and return alone in
the evening to recount the feats of the day close at the parental
knee. His father's house was his home, and was ever after fondly
remembered; nay, I appeal to some superior men who were educated in
this manner, whether the recollection of some shady lane where they
conned their lesson; or, of some stile, where they sat making a
kite, or mending a bat, has not endeared their country to them?

But, what boy ever recollected with pleasure the years he spent in
close confinement, at an academy near London? unless indeed he
should by chance remember the poor scare-crow of an usher whom he
tormented; or, the tartman, from whom he caught a cake, to devour
it with the cattish appetite of selfishness. At boarding schools
of every description, the relaxation of the junior boys is
mischief; and of the senior, vice. Besides, in great schools what
can be more prejudicial to the moral character, than the system of
tyranny and abject slavery which is established amongst the boys,
to say nothing of the slavery to forms, which makes religion worse
than a farce? For what good can be expected from the youth who
receives the sacrament of the Lord's supper, to avoid forfeiting
half-a-guinea, which he probably afterwards spends in some sensual
manner? Half the employment of the youths is to elude the
necessity of attending public worship; and well they may, for such
a constant repetition of the same thing must be a very irksome
restraint on their natural vivacity. As these ceremonies have the
most fatal effect on their morals, and as a ritual performed by the
lips, when the heart and mind are far away, is not now stored up by
our church as a bank to draw on for the fees of the poor souls in
purgatory, why should they not be abolished?

But the fear of innovation, in this country, extends to every
thing. This is only a covert fear, the apprehensive timidity of
indolent slugs, who guard, by sliming it over, the snug place,
which they consider in the light of an hereditary estate; and eat,
drink, and enjoy themselves, instead of fulfilling the duties,
excepting a few empty forms, for which it was endowed. These are
the people who most strenuously insist on the will of the founder
being observed, crying out against all reformation, as if it were a
violation of justice. I am now alluding particularly to the
relicks of popery retained in our colleges, where the protestant
members seem to be such sticklers for the established church; but
their zeal never makes them lose sight of the spoil of ignorance,
which rapacious priests of superstitious memory have scraped
together. No, wise in their generation, they venerate the
prescriptive right of possession, as a strong hold, and still let
the sluggish bell tingle to prayers, as during the days, when the
elevation of the host was supposed to atone for the sins of the
people, lest one reformation should lead to another, and the spirit
kill the letter. These Romish customs have the most baneful effect
on the morals of our clergy; for the idle vermin who two or three
times a day perform, in the most slovenly manner a service which
they think useless, but call their duty, soon lose a sense of duty.
At college, forced to attend or evade public worship, they acquire
an habitual contempt for the very service, the performance of which
is to enable them to live in idleness. It is mumbled over as an
affair of business, as a stupid boy repeats his task, and
frequently the college cant escapes from the preacher the moment
after he has left the pulpit, and even whilst he is eating the
dinner which he earned in such a dishonest manner.

Nothing, indeed, can be more irreverent than the cathedral service
as it is now performed in this country, neither does it contain a
set of weaker men than those who are the slaves of this childish
routine. A disgusting skeleton of the former state is still
exhibited; but all the solemnity, that interested the imagination,
if it did not purify the heart, is stripped off. The performance
of high mass on the continent must impress every mind, where a
spark of fancy glows, with that awful melancholy, that sublime
tenderness, so near a-kin to devotion. I do not say, that these
devotional feelings are of more use, in a moral sense, than any
other emotion of taste; but I contend, that the theatrical pomp
which gratifies our senses, is to be preferred to the cold parade
that insults the understanding without reaching the heart.

Amongst remarks on national education, such observations cannot be
misplaced, especially as the supporters of these establishments,
degenerated into puerilities, affect to be the champions of
religion. Religion, pure source of comfort in this vale of tears!
how has thy clear stream been muddied by the dabblers, who have
presumptuously endeavoured to confine in one narrow channel, the
living waters that ever flow toward God-- the sublime ocean of
existence! What would life be without that peace which the love of
God, when built on humanity, alone can impart? Every earthly
affection turns back, at intervals, to prey upon the heart that
feeds it; and the purest effusions of benevolence, often rudely
damped by men, must mount as a free-will offering to Him who gave
them birth, whose bright image they faintly reflect.

In public schools, however, religion, confounded with irksome
ceremonies and unreasonable restraints, assumes the most ungracious
aspect: not the sober austere one that commands respect whilst it
inspires fear; but a ludicrous cast, that serves to point a pun.
For, in fact, most of the good stories and smart things which
enliven the spirits that have been concentrated at whist, are
manufactured out of the incidents to which the very men labour to
give a droll turn who countenance the abuse to live on the spoil.

There is not, perhaps, in the kingdom, a more dogmatical or
luxurious set of men, than the pedantic tyrants who reside in
colleges and preside at public schools. The vacations are equally
injurious to the morals of the masters and pupils, and the
intercourse, which the former keep up with the nobility, introduces
the same vanity and extravagance into their families, which banish
domestic duties and comforts from the lordly mansion, whose state
is awkwardly aped on a smaller scale. The boys, who live at a
great expence with the masters and assistants, are never
domesticated, though placed there for that purpose; for, after a
silent dinner, they swallow a hasty glass of wine, and retire to
plan some mischievous trick, or to ridicule the person or manners
of the very people they have just been cringing to, and whom they
ought to consider as the representatives of their parents.

Can it then be a matter of surprise, that boys become selfish and
vicious who are thus shut out from social converse? or that a mitre
often graces the brow of one of these diligent pastors? The desire
of living in the same style, as the rank just above them, infects
each individual and every class of people, and meanness is the
concomitant of this ignoble ambition; but those professions are
most debasing whose ladder is patronage; yet out of one of these
professions the tutors of youth are in general chosen. But, can
they be expected to inspire independent sentiments, whose conduct
must be regulated by the cautious prudence that is ever on the
watch for preferment?

So far, however, from thinking of the morals of boys, I have heard
several masters of schools argue, that they only undertook to teach
Latin and Greek; and that they had fulfilled their duty, by sending
some good scholars to college.

A few good scholars, I grant, may have been formed by emulation and
discipline; but, to bring forward these clever boys, the health and
morals of a number have been sacrificed.

The sons of our gentry and wealthy commoners are mostly educated at
these seminaries, and will any one pretend to assert, that the
majority, making every allowance, come under the description of
tolerable scholars?

It is not for the benefit of society that a few brilliant men
should be brought forward at the expence of the multitude. It is
true, that great men seem to start up, as great revolutions occur,
at proper intervals, to restore order, and to blow aside the clouds
that thicken over the face of truth; but let more reason and virtue
prevail in society, and these strong winds would not be necessary.
Public education, of every denomination, should be directed to form
citizens; but if you wish to make good citizens, you must first
exercise the affections of a son and a brother. This is the only
way to expand the heart; for public affections, as well as public
virtues, must ever grow out of the private character, or they are
merely meteors that shoot athwart a dark sky, and disappear as they
are gazed at and admired.

Few, I believe, have had much affection for mankind, who did not
first love their parents, their brothers, sisters, and even the
domestic brutes, whom they first played with. The exercise of
youthful sympathies forms the moral temperature; and it is the
recollection of these first affections and pursuits, that gives
life to those that are afterwards more under the direction of
reason. In youth, the fondest friendships are formed, the genial
juices mounting at the same time, kindly mix; or, rather the heart,
tempered for the reception of friendship, is accustomed to seek for
pleasure in something more noble than the churlish gratification of

In order then to inspire a love of home and domestic pleasures,
children ought to be educated at home, for riotous holidays only
make them fond of home for their own sakes. Yet, the vacations,
which do not foster domestic affections, continually disturb the
course of study, and render any plan of improvement abortive which
includes temperance; still, were they abolished, children would be
entirely separated from their parents, and I question whether they
would become better citizens by sacrificing the preparatory
affections, by destroying the force of relationships that render
the marriage state as necessary as respectable. But, if a private
education produce self-importance, or insulates a man in his
family, the evil is only shifted, not remedied.

This train of reasoning brings me back to a subject, on which I
mean to dwell, the necessity of establishing proper day-schools.

But these should be national establishments, for whilst
school-masters are dependent on the caprice of parents, little
exertion can be expected from them, more than is necessary to
please ignorant people. Indeed, the necessity of a master's giving
the parents some sample of the boy's abilities, which during the
vacation, is shown to every visiter, is productive of more mischief
than would at first be supposed. For they are seldom done
entirely, to speak with moderation, by the child itself; thus the
master countenances falsehoods, or winds the poor machine up to
some extraordinary exertion, that injures the wheels, and stops the
progress of gradual improvement. The memory is loaded with
unintelligible words, to make a show of, without the
understanding's acquiring any distinct ideas: but only that
education deserves emphatically to be termed cultivation of mind,
which teaches young people how to begin to think. The imagination
should not be allowed to debauch the understanding before it gained
strength, or vanity will become the forerunner of vice: for every
way of exhibiting the acquirements of a child is injurious to its
moral character.

How much time is lost in teaching them to recite what they do not
understand! whilst, seated on benches, all in their best array, the
mammas listen with astonishment to the parrot-like prattle, uttered
in solemn cadences, with all the pomp of ignorance and folly. Such
exhibitions only serve to strike the spreading fibres of vanity
through the whole mind; for they neither teach children to speak
fluently, nor behave gracefully. So far from it, that these
frivolous pursuits might comprehensively be termed the study of
affectation: for we now rarely see a simple, bashful boy, though
few people of taste were ever disgusted by that awkward
sheepishness so natural to the age, which schools and an early
introduction into society, have changed into impudence and apish

Yet, how can these things be remedied whilst schoolmasters depend
entirely on parents for a subsistence; and when so many rival
schools hang out their lures to catch the attention of vain fathers
and mothers, whose parental affection only leads them to wish, that
their children should outshine those of their neighbours?

Without great good luck, a sensible, conscientious man, would
starve before he could raise a school, if he disdained to bubble
weak parents, by practising the secret tricks of the craft.

In the best regulated schools, however, where swarms are not
crammed together many bad habits must be acquired; but, at common
schools, the body, heart, and understanding, are equally stunted,
for parents are often only in quest of the cheapest school, and the
master could not live, if he did not take a much greater number
than he could manage himself; nor will the scanty pittance, allowed
for each child, permit him to hire ushers sufficient to assist in
the discharge of the mechanical part of the business. Besides,
whatever appearance the house and garden may make, the children do
not enjoy the comforts of either, for they are continually
reminded, by irksome restrictions, that they are not at home, and
the state-rooms, garden, etc. must be kept in order for the
recreation of the parents; who, of a Sunday, visit the school, and
are impressed by the very parade that renders the situation of
their children uncomfortable.

With what disgust have I heard sensible women, for girls are more
restrained and cowed than boys, speak of the wearisome confinement
which they endured at school. Not allowed, perhaps, to step out of
one broad walk in a superb garden, and obliged to pace with steady
deportment stupidly backwards and forwards, holding up their heads,
and turning out their toes, with shoulders braced back, instead of
bounding, as nature directs to complete her own design, in the
various attitudes so conducive to health. The pure animal spirits,
which make both mind and body shoot out, and unfold the tender
blossoms of hope are turned sour, and vented in vain wishes, or
pert repinings, that contract the faculties and spoil the temper;
else they mount to the brain and sharpening the understanding
before it gains proportionable strength, produce that pitiful
cunning which disgracefully characterizes the female mind--and I
fear will ever characterize it whilst women remain the slaves of

The little respect which the male world pay to chastity is, I am
persuaded, the grand source of many of the physical and moral evils
that torment mankind, as well as of the vices and follies that
degrade and destroy women; yet at school, boys infallibly lose that
decent bashfulness, which might have ripened into modesty at home.

I have already animadverted on the bad habits which females acquire
when they are shut up together; and I think that the observation
may fairly be extended to the other sex, till the natural inference
is drawn which I have had in view throughout--that to improve both
sexes they ought, not only in private families, but in public
schools, to be educated together. If marriage be the cement of
society, mankind should all be educated after the same model, or
the intercourse of the sexes will never deserve the name of
fellowship, nor will women ever fulfil the peculiar duties of their
sex, till they become enlightened citizens, till they become free,
by being enabled to earn their own subsistence, independent of men;
in the same manner, I mean, to prevent misconstruction, as one man
is independent of another. Nay, marriage will never be held sacred
till women by being brought up with men, are prepared to be their
companions, rather than their mistresses; for the mean doublings of
cunning will ever render them contemptible, whilst oppression
renders them timid. So convinced am I of this truth, that I will
venture to predict, that virtue will never prevail in society till
the virtues of both sexes are founded on reason; and, till the
affection common to both are allowed to gain their due strength by
the discharge of mutual duties.

Were boys and girls permitted to pursue the same studies together,
those graceful decencies might early be inculcated which produce
modesty, without those sexual distinctions that taint the mind.
Lessons of politeness, and that formulary of decorum, which treads
on the heels of falsehood, would be rendered useless by habitual
propriety of behaviour. Not, indeed put on for visiters like the
courtly robe of politeness, but the sober effect of cleanliness of
mind. Would not this simple elegance of sincerity be a chaste
homage paid to domestic affections, far surpassing the meretricious
compliments that shine with false lustre in the heartless
intercourse of fashionable life? But, till more understanding
preponderate in society, there will ever be a want of heart and
taste, and the harlot's rouge will supply the place of that
celestial suffusion which only virtuous affections can give to the
face. Gallantry, and what is called love, may subsist without
simplicity of character; but the main pillars of friendship, are
respect and confidence--esteem is never founded on it cannot tell

A taste for the fine arts requires great cultivation; but not more
than a taste for the virtuous affections: and both suppose that
enlargement of mind which opens so many sources of mental pleasure.
Why do people hurry to noisy scenes and crowded circles? I should
answer, because they want activity of mind, because they have not
cherished the virtues of the heart. They only, therefore, see and
feel in the gross, and continually pine after variety, finding
every thing that is simple, insipid.

This argument may be carried further than philosophers are aware
of, for if nature destined woman, in particular, for the discharge
of domestic duties, she made her susceptible of the attached
affections in a great degree. Now women are notoriously fond of
pleasure; and naturally must be so, according to my definition,
because they cannot enter into the minutiae of domestic taste;
lacking judgment the foundation of all taste. For the
understanding, in spite of sensual cavillers, reserves to itself
the privilege of conveying pure joy to the heart.

With what a languid yawn have I seen an admirable poem thrown down,
that a man of true taste returns to, again and again with rapture;
and, whilst melody has almost suspended respiration, a lady has
asked me where I bought my gown. I have seen also an eye glanced
coldly over a most exquisite picture, rest, sparkling with
pleasure, on a caricature rudely sketched; and whilst some terrific
feature in nature has spread a sublime stillness through my soul, I
have been desired to observe the pretty tricks of a lap-dog, that
my perverse fate forced me to travel with. Is it surprising, that
such a tasteless being should rather caress this dog than her
children? Or, that she should prefer the rant of flattery to the
simple accents of sincerity?

To illustrate this remark I must be allowed to observe, that men of
the first genius, and most cultivated minds, have appeared to have
the highest relish for the simple beauties of nature; and they must
have forcibly felt, what they have so well described, the charm,
which natural affections, and unsophisticated feelings spread round
the human character. It is this power of looking into the heart,
and responsively vibrating with each emotion, that enables the poet
to personify each passion, and the painter to sketch with a pencil
of fire.

True taste is ever the work of the understanding employed in
observing natural effects; and till women have more understanding,
it is vain to expect them to possess domestic taste. Their lively
senses will ever be at work to harden their hearts, and the
emotions struck out of them will continue to be vivid and
transitory, unless a proper education stores their minds with

It is the want of domestic taste, and not the acquirement of
knowledge, that takes women out of their families, and tears the
smiling babe from the breast that ought to afford it nourishment.
Women have been allowed to remain in ignorance, and slavish
dependence, many, very many years, and still we hear of nothing but
their fondness of pleasure and sway, their preference of rakes and
soldiers, their childish attachment to toys, and the vanity that
makes them value accomplishments more than virtues.

History brings forward a fearful catalogue of the crimes which
their cunning has produced, when the weak slaves have had
sufficient address to over-reach their masters. In France, and in
how many other countries have men been the luxurious despots, and
women the crafty ministers? Does this prove that ignorance and
dependence domesticate them? Is not their folly the by-word of the
libertines, who relax in their society; and do not men of sense
continually lament, that an immoderate fondness for dress and
dissipation carries the mother of a family for ever from home?
Their hearts have not been debauched by knowledge, nor their minds
led astray by scientific pursuits; yet, they do not fulfil the
peculiar duties, which as women they are called upon by nature to
fulfil. On the contrary, the state of warfare which subsists
between the sexes, makes them employ those wiles, that frustrate
the more open designs of force.

When, therefore, I call women slaves, I mean in a political and
civil sense; for, indirectly they obtain too much power, and are
debased by their exertions to obtain illicit sway.

Let an enlightened nation then try what effect reason would have to
bring them back to nature, and their duty; and allowing them to
share the advantages of education and government with man, see
whether they will become better, as they grow wiser and become
free. They cannot be injured by the experiment; for it is not in
the power of man to render them more insignificant than they are at

To render this practicable, day schools for particular ages should
be established by government, in which boys and girls might be
educated together. The school for the younger children, from five
to nine years of age, ought to be absolutely free and open to all
classes.* A sufficient number of masters should also be chosen by
a select committee, in each parish, to whom any complaint of
negligence, etc. might be made, if signed by six of the children's

(*Footnote. Treating this part of the subject, I have borrowed
some hints from a very sensible pamphlet written by the late bishop
of Autun on public Education.)

Ushers would then be unnecessary; for, I believe, experience will
ever prove, that this kind of subordinate authority is particularly
injurious to the morals of youth. What, indeed, can tend to
deprave the character more than outward submission and inward
contempt? Yet, how can boys be expected to treat an usher with
respect when the master seems to consider him in the light of a
servant, and almost to countenance the ridicule which becomes the
chief amusement of the boys during the play hours?

But nothing of this kind could occur in an elementary day-school,
where boys and girls, the rich and poor, should meet together. And
to prevent any of the distinctions of vanity, they should be
dressed alike, and all obliged to submit to the same discipline, or
leave the school. The school-room ought to be surrounded by a
large piece of ground, in which the children might be usefully
exercised, for at this age they should not be confined to any
sedentary employment for more than an hour at a time. But these
relaxations might all be rendered a part of elementary education,
for many things improve and amuse the senses, when introduced as a
kind of show, to the principles of which dryly laid down, children
would turn a deaf ear. For instance, botany, mechanics, and
astronomy. Reading, writing, arithmetic, natural history, and some
simple experiments in natural philosophy, might fill up the day;
but these pursuits should never encroach on gymnastic plays in the
open air. The elements of religion, history, the history of man,
and politics, might also be taught by conversations, in the
socratic form.

After the age of nine, girls and boys, intended for domestic
employments, or mechanical trades, ought to be removed to other
schools, and receive instruction, in some measure appropriated to
the destination of each individual, the two sexes being still
together in the morning; but in the afternoon, the girls should
attend a school, where plain work, mantua-making, millinery, etc.
would be their employment.

The young people of superior abilities, or fortune, might now be
taught, in another school, the dead and living languages, the
elements of science, and continue the study of history and
politics, on a more extensive scale, which would not exclude polite
literature. Girls and boys still together? I hear some readers
ask: yes. And I should not fear any other consequence, than that
some early attachment might take place; which, whilst it had the
best effect on the moral character of the young people, might not
perfectly agree with the views of the parents, for it will be a
long time, I fear, before the world is so enlightened, that
parents, only anxious to render their children virtuous, will let
them choose companions for life themselves.

Besides, this would be a sure way to promote early marriages, and
from early marriages the most salutary physical and moral effects
naturally flow. What a different character does a married citizen
assume from the selfish coxcomb, who lives but for himself, and who
is often afraid to marry lest he should not be able to live in a
certain style. Great emergencies excepted, which would rarely
occur in a society of which equality was the basis, a man could
only be prepared to discharge the duties of public life, by the
habitual practice of those inferior ones which form the man.

In this plan of education, the constitution of boys would not be
ruined by the early debaucheries, which now make men so selfish,
nor girls rendered weak and vain, by indolence and frivolous
pursuits. But, I presuppose, that such a degree of equality should
be established between the sexes as would shut out gallantry and
coquetry, yet allow friendship and love to temper the heart for the
discharge of higher duties.

These would be schools of morality--and the happiness of man,
allowed to flow from the pure springs of duty and affection, what
advances might not the human mind make? Society can only be happy
and free in proportion as it is virtuous; but the present
distinctions, established in society, corrode all private, and
blast all public virtue.

I have already inveighed against the custom of confining girls to
their needle, and shutting them out from all political and civil
employments; for by thus narrowing their minds they are rendered
unfit to fulfil the peculiar duties which nature has assigned them.

Only employed about the little incidents of the day, they
necessarily grow up cunning. My very soul has often sickened at
observing the sly tricks practised by women to gain some foolish
thing on which their silly hearts were set. Not allowed to dispose
of money, or call any thing their own, they learn to turn the
market penny; or, should a husband offend, by staying from home, or
give rise to some emotions of jealousy--a new gown, or any pretty
bauble, smooths Juno's angry brow.

But these LITTLENESSES would not degrade their character, if women
were led to respect themselves, if political and moral subjects
were opened to them; and I will venture to affirm, that this is the
only way to make them properly attentive to their domestic duties.
An active mind embraces the whole circle of its duties, and finds
time enough for all. It is not, I assert, a bold attempt to
emulate masculine virtues; it is not the enchantment of literary
pursuits, or the steady investigation of scientific subjects, that
lead women astray from duty. No, it is indolence and vanity --the
love of pleasure and the love of sway, that will reign paramount in
an empty mind. I say empty, emphatically, because the education
which women now receive scarcely deserves the name. For the little
knowledge they are led to acquire during the important years of
youth, is merely relative to accomplishments; and accomplishments
without a bottom, for unless the understanding be cultivated,
superficial and monotonous is every grace. Like the charms of a
made-up face, they only strike the senses in a crowd; but at home,
wanting mind, they want variety. The consequence is obvious; in
gay scenes of dissipation we meet the artificial mind and face, for
those who fly from solitude dread next to solitude, the domestic
circle; not having it in their power to amuse or interest, they
feel their own insignificance, or find nothing to amuse or interest

Besides, what can be more indelicate than a girl's coming out in
the fashionable world? Which, in other words, is to bring to
market a marriageable miss, whose person is taken from one public
place to another, richly caparisoned. Yet, mixing in the giddy
circle under restraint, these butterflies long to flutter at large,
for the first affection of their souls is their own persons, to
which their attention has been called with the most sedulous care,
whilst they were preparing for the period that decides their fate
for life. Instead of pursuing this idle routine, sighing for
tasteless show, and heartless state, with what dignity would the
youths of both sexes form attachments in the schools that I have
cursorily pointed out; in which, as life advanced, dancing, music,
and drawing, might be admitted as relaxations, for at these schools
young people of fortune ought to remain, more or less, till they
were of age. Those, who were designed for particular professions,
might attend, three or four mornings in the week, the schools
appropriated for their immediate instruction.

I only drop these observations at present, as hints; rather, indeed
as an outline of the plan I mean, than a digested one; but I must
add, that I highly approve of one regulation mentioned in the
pamphlet already alluded to (The Bishop of Autun), that of making
the children and youths independent of the masters respecting
punishments. They should be tried by their peers, which would be
an admirable method of fixing sound principles of justice in the
mind, and might have the happiest effect on the temper, which is
very early soured or irritated by tyranny, till it becomes
peevishly cunning, or ferociously overbearing.

My imagination darts forward with benevolent fervour to greet these
amiable and respectable groups, in spite of the sneering of cold
hearts, who are at liberty to utter, with frigid self-importance,
the damning epithet-- romantic; the force of which I shall
endeavour to blunt by repeating the words of an eloquent moralist.
"I know not whether the allusions of a truly humane heart, whose
zeal renders every thing easy, is not preferable to that rough and
repulsing reason, which always finds in indifference for the public
good, the first obstacle to whatever would promote it."

I know that libertines will also exclaim, that woman would be
unsexed by acquiring strength of body and mind, and that beauty,
soft bewitching beauty! would no longer adorn the daughters of men.
I am of a very different opinion, for I think, that, on the
contrary, we should then see dignified beauty, and true grace; to
produce which, many powerful physical and moral causes would
concur. Not relaxed beauty, it is true, nor the graces of
helplessness; but such as appears to make us respect the human body
as a majestic pile, fit to receive a noble inhabitant, in the
relics of antiquity.

I do not forget the popular opinion, that the Grecian statues were
not modelled after nature. I mean, not according to the
proportions of a particular man; but that beautiful limbs and
features were selected from various bodies to form an harmonious
whole. This might, in some degree, be true. The fine ideal
picture of an exalted imagination might be superior to the
materials which the painter found in nature, and thus it might with
propriety be termed rather the model of mankind than of a man. It
was not, however, the mechanical selection of limbs and features,
but the ebullition of an heated fancy that burst forth; and the
fine senses and enlarged understanding of the artist selected the
solid matter, which he drew into this glowing focus.

I observed that it was not mechanical, because a whole was
produced--a model of that grand simplicity, of those concurring
energies, which arrest our attention and command our reverence.
For only insipid lifeless beauty is produced by a servile copy of
even beautiful nature. Yet, independent of these observations, I
believe, that the human form must have been far more beautiful than
it is at present, because extreme indolence, barbarous ligatures,
and many causes, which forcibly act on it, in our luxurious state
of society, did not retard its expansion, or render it deformed.

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