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First, I would observe that History, in which I include Biography, and Memoirs, ought to employ a considerable share of your leisure. Those pictures which it exhibits, of the passions operating in real life and genuine characters ; of virtues to be imitated, and of vices to be shunned ; of the effects of both on society and individuals ; of the mutability of human affairs ; of the conduct of divine providence ; of the great consequences that often arise from little events ; of the weakness of power, and the wanderings of prudence, in mortal men ; with the sudden, unexpected, and frequently unaccountable revolutions, that dash triumphant wickedness, or disappoint presumptuous hope ;-the pictures, I say, which History exhibits of all these, have been ever reckoned by the best judges, among the richest sources of instruction and entertainment.
On both accounts, we would also recommend books of Voyages and Travels ; a favourite study of the celebrated Mr. Locke. How amusing to curiosity! How enlarging to our prospect of mankind! How conducive to cure the contracted prepossessions of national pride, and withal to inspire gratitude for the peculiar blessings bestowed upon our country ; to excite on one side pity towards the many millions of human beings left by mysterious heaven in ignorance and barbarity, and to beget on the other admiration of the virtues and abilities displayed by numbers of these under all the disadvantages that tend to darken and overwhelm them.
Here too we would mention Geography, as closely connected with both the former; as often useful in conversation ; and in which a . competent
skill may be acquired with little application, but much amusement.
These several studies, to which may be added the principal facts, or great outlines of Astronomy, are beautiful ; and they are improving. Some of them present the most interesting scenes; all contain the most pleasing discoveries. They open and enlarge the mind; they delight and humanize the heart ; they remind us that we are citizens of the universe; they show us how small the part that we fill in the immense orb of being. Amidst the amplitude of such contemplations, superfluous trifles shrink away; wealth and grandeur " hide their diminished heads ;” a generous ambition rises in the thoughtful mind, to approve itself to the all-inspecting eye of Him to whom none of his works are indifferent, but to whom those only can be acceptable, that, under the uncertainty and imperfection of sublunary things, seek their security, happiness, and glory, in doing well.
Permit me to ask, whence it proceeds that studies like these are neglected by the generality of your
Is it because they are not calculated to inflame the fancy, and flatter the passions; or because to relish them to purpose, requires some degree of solidity and judgment ?-But did not the preacher say, that there were women who are no way deficient in these latter qualities? He did and therefore pleases himself with the hope, that the hints now offered may imprint conviction on such, where there has been an omission, and encourage perseverance where there has not.
As to works of imagination, it is allowed on all hands, that the female mind is disposed to be peculiarly fond of them ; and surely when blended
with instruction, so as to be rendered more immediately subservient to it, they have a particular elaim to your attention. In this view, we must not forget to recommend Fables, Visions, Allegories, and such like compositions, where Fancy sports under the control of Reason ; Dramatic Writings also, where truth of character and purity of thought are preserved; (of these last how inconsiderable the number!) Poetry of all kinds, where a strict regard is paid to decorum, but chiefly of the sublimer forms, where Nature, Virtue, Religion, are painted and embellished with all the beauty of a chaste yet elevated imagination. What a field is here open within the reach, and adapted to the tuin, of female faculties! What a profusion of intellectual ornament is spread before you, for memory to collect, and for reflexion to work upon! How many sprightly, delightful, and lofty ideas do here pass before the mental eye, all dressed in the brightest colours ! How strangely inexcusable must those be, who complain at any time of want of amusement, when the genius and invention of every illuminated age have taken such happy pains to supply the noblest !
I say nothing now of Novels and Romances, having had occasion to speak of them so largely in a former discourse. But I must not omit to recommend those admirable productions of the present century, which turn principally on the two great hinges of sentiment and character; joining description to precept, and presenting in particular the most animated sketches of modern manners, where the likeness is caught warm from life ; while the powers of fancy, wit, and judgment, combine to expose vice and folly, to enforce reformation, and in short but spirited essays, to convey the rules of
domestic wisdom and daily conduct. I need not here name the Spectator, or those who have fol. lowed him with various success in the same track; many of them ingenious, some of them masterly writers. How much are both sexes indebted to their elegant pens, for a species of instruction better fitted perhaps than most others of human device, to delight and improve at the same moment ; such is its extent, its diversity, its familiarity, its ease, its playful manner, its immediate reference to scenes and circumstances with which we are every day conversant!
Works of this kind are peculiarly calculated to allure the lively and the gay, who are not yet de. livered over to licentiousness.
Hardly indeed will girls, for instance, who mean no ill, but whose fancies are all alive and restless, submit-to have their understandings attired at Wisdom's glass ; if lovely forms and smiling images be not often reflected from thence, to detain the eye, and captivate the heart. In reality, none of you, my dear hearers, can be too well acquainted with those approved masters of life, those able teachers of decorum, those singularly successful painters of truth and morality. Let me advise you to dwell on their pictures, to imbibe their sentiments, to replenish your minds with that inexhausted fund of stores and examples which they have furnished. You cannot fail of improving under such tutors. They too will provide you with a touchstone by which to judge of other writings, and while you are searching“ for knowledge as for hid trea* sures," to separate between the pure ore and the alloy.
I should not on this occasion do justice to your sex, if I did not say, that such books as those last
mentioned are, in a particular degree, proportioned to the scope of your capacities. Of this I am certain, that amongst women of sense I have discovered an uncommon penetration in what relates to characters, an uncommon dexterity in hitting them off through their several specific distinctions, and even nicer discriminations, together with a race of fancy, and a fund of what may be strictly termed sentiment, or a pathetic manner of thinking, which I have not so frequently met with in men.
It should seem that Nature, by her liberality to the female mind in these respects, has seen fit to compensate what has been judged a defect in point of depth and force ; and a real defect, I believe, it is, if estimated absolutely. If estimated with a due regard to the design and formation of the sex, it ought to be considered as no defect at all.
I have already hinted, that to men and women the Almighty has allotted very different provinces, on the filling of which with suitable kinds of ability and excellence depends, under his conduct, the proper perfection and welfare of each. In all I have said therefore, or may yet say, concerning Female Accomplishments, I would be still understood as recommending what is refined in study, and useful in the milder modes of life; not what is profound in the former, or of no material advantage in the latter. This hinders not however, but that those ladies, whom Nature, not confining herself to her customary operations, has endowed with any signal strength of genius, may, if favoured also by their situation, give way to that original bent, by prosecuting severer studies to every prudent length. I say, to every Prudent length. For should they push their application so far as to hurt