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AS a Second Edition of the following Book has been called for, it has been revised and corrected with that attention which is due from
an author to the Public.
The two first Letters upon Female Literature, the Letters to Julia, and the Art of Self-Justification, were printed and paged separately : the publisher afterwards thought proper to join them in one volume, under the title of 6 LETTERS FOR LITERARY LADIES ;" which is applicable only to the two first letters.
The author, however, has thought it better to continue the former name, than to hazard the imputation of publishing on old work under a new title.
In the first edition, the Second Letter upon the advantages of cultivating the female understanding, was thought to weaken the cause it was intended to support. That letter has been written over again ; no pains have been spared to improve it, and to assert more distinctly the female right to literature.
Sept. 1st, 1798.
LETTER FROM A GENTLEMAN TO HIS FRIEND, UPON THE BIRTH
OF A DAUGHTER.
I CONGRATULATE you, my dear Sir, upon the birth of
your daughter; and I wish that some of the fairies of ancient times were at hand to endow the damsel with health, wealth, wit, and beauty.-Wit?-I should make a long pause before I accepted of this gift for a daughter-you would make none.
As I know it to be your opinion, that it is in the power of education, more certainly than it was ever believed to be in the power of fairies, to bestow all mental gifts ; and as I have heard you say that education should begin as early as possible, I am in haste to offer you my sentiments, lest my advice should come too late.
Your general ideas of the habits and virtues essential to the perfection of the female character nearly agree with mine; but we differ materially as to the cultivation, which it is necessary or expedient to bestow upon the understandings of women: you are a champion for the rights of woman, and insist upon the equality of the sexes: but since the days of chivalry are past, and since modern gallantry permits men to speak at least to one another, in less sublime language of the fair, I may confess to you that I see neither from experience nor analogy, much reason to believe that, in the human species alone, there are no marks of inferiority in the female ;curious and admirable exceptions there may be, but many such have not fallen within my observation. I cannot say
that I have been much enraptured either on a first view, or on a closer inspection with female prodigies. Prodigies are scarcely less offensive to my taste than monsters: humanity makes us refrain from expressing disgust at the awkward shame of the one, whilst the intemperate vanity of the other justly provokes ridicule and indignation. I have always observed in the understandings of women who have been too much cultivated, some disproportion between the different faculties of their minds. One power of the mind undoubtedly may be cultivated at the expence of the rest; as we see that one muscle or limb may acquire excessive strength, and an unnatural size, at the expence of the health of the whole body: I cannot think this desirable either for the individual or for society.—The unfortunate people in certain mountains of Switzerland are, some of them, proud of the excrescence by which they are deformed. I have seen women vain of exhibiting mental deformities, which to me appeared no less disgusting. In the course of my life it has never been my good fortune to meet with a female whose mind, in strengtħ, just proportion, and activity, I could compare to that of a sen
Allowing, however, that women are equal to our sex in natural abilities; from their situation in society, from their domestic duties, their taste for dissipation, their love of romance, poetry, and all the lighter parts of literature, their time must be so fully occupied, that they could never have leisure, even supposing that they were capable of that severe application to which our sex submit.—Between persons of equal genius, and equal industry, time becomes the only measure of their acquirements. -Now calculate the time, which is wasted by the fair sex, and tell me how much the start of us they ought to have in the beginning of the race, if they are to reach the goal before us ?- It is not possible that women should ever be our equals in knowledge, unless you assert that they are far our superiors in natural capacity. Not only time but opportunity must be wanting to complete female studies :-we mix with the world without restraint, we converse freely with all classes of people, with men of wit
, of science, of learning, with the artist, the mechanic, the labourer; every scene of life is open to our view; every assistance, that foreign or domestic ingenuity can invent, to encourage literary studies, is ours almost exclusively. From academies, colleges, public libraries, private associations of literary men, women are excluded, if not by law, at least by custom, which cannot easily
conquered. Whenever women appear, even when we seem to admit them as our equals in understanding, every thing assumes a different form; our politeness, delicacy, habits towards the sex forbid us to argue, or to converse with