Слике страница

most excite but inferior desires. Men are so made. They refuse their admiration, where it is courted: where it seems rather shunned, they love to bestow it. The retiring graces have been always the most attractive.

You remember the representation which Milton puts into Adam's mouth on his first meeting with our general mother. How beautiful and how deli. cate!

de She heard me thus, and tho' divinely brought,
“ Yet innocence and virgin modesty,
" Her virtue and the conscience of her worth,
" That would be woo'd, and not unsought be won,
" Not obvious, not obtrusive, but retir'd
“ The more desirable ; or, to say all,
“ Nature herself, tho' pure of sinful thought,
“ Wrought in her so, that seeing me she turn'd.
“ I followed her. She what was honour knew,
“ And with obsequious majesty approved
“ My pleaded reason. To the nuptial bower
“ I led her blushing like the morn."

But this was only the poet's fancy. True. Yet the poet knew the sexes well, and seems to have studied yours particularly. He painted from the completest standards he could find. His picture of Eve in her state of innocence, may be considered as the model of a woman most amiably feminine in whom his imagination, alike exalted and correct, could figure nothing so alluring,


“ As those graceful acts,
“ Those thousand decencies that daily now
“ From all her words and actions."

What mind of any worth can forbear to be charmed with the description you have just heard ? VOL. I.


[ocr errors]

To say the truth, there is not, I verily believe, a man living, who in his sober senses would not prefer a modest to an impudent woman. An impudent woman Who can tell which is greater, the disgrace thrown upon humanity by such a character, or the honour reflected on our natures by that abhorrence, which is raised by the bare idea in every breast not totally degenerate?

Surely it deserves your notice, what pains the all-presiding power has graciously taken to show his care of female virtue, not only by impressing the minds of your sex with that deep and lively sense of reputation, which is one of its most powerful preservatives, but also by forming the minds of ours with so high an esteem for every indication of chastity in women, and with so strong a disapprobation of the contrary. That esteem, and this disapprobation, it is certain, are felt by the men, whensoever reason is permitted to take place of appetite ; and these indications are perfectly and universally intelligible. I say not, that those of the last kind are always apparent, where women have given themselves up to vice; but, I apprehend, they are so for the greater part. This breach of her most sacred law, the justice of Nature has generally branded with a look and manner peculiarly charac. teristic and significant ; as, on the other side, she has always (I think, always) marked the genuine feelings of modesty with a look and manner no less correspondent and impressive.

In the latter case, she seems to say to us men, pointing to her yet uncorrupted daughters, · Behold these smiling innocents, whom I have graced with

my fairest gifts, and committed to your protec* tion? behold them with love and respect, treat

them with tenderness and honour. They are timid, and want to be clefended. They are frail;

[ocr errors]


*O do not take advantage of their weakness.

Let their fears and blushes endear them. Let their confidence in you never be abused But * is it possible, that any

you can

be such barba* rians, so supremely wicked, as to abuse it? Can

ye find in your hearts to despoil the gentle trust*ing creatures of their treasure, or do any thing * to strip them of their native robe of virtue ? • Curst be the impious hand that would dare to • violate the unblemished form of Chastity! Thou • wretch! thou ruffian! forbear; nor venture to provoke heaven's fiercest vengeance.?

In the other case, the same parental power, equally watchful for all her children, seems to cast an eye of awful reproach on such of her daughe ters as are unhappily abandoned, and, raising her voice to address our sex to this purpose : " Flee, • my sons, flee these destructive Syrens. They

smile, only to tempt; and they tempt, in order ' to devour. Once indeed they shone in many * of my sweetest charms.

These are no more. · They have forgotten to blush; their foreheads are • hardened into shamelessness. Their eyes for* merly soft, virtuous, and downcast; those very

eyes that effused the soul of innocence,. have learnt to stare, and roll with unbounded wantonness; to dart nothing but unholy fire. Their * hands are the hands of Harpies. Their feet go * down to death, and their steps take hold on hell.'

This account of those wretched beings will be always true in part. The profligate and the foolish, that are taken in their toils, shall some time or other be sure to repent it. Nevertheless it must be owned, there are of them who, with hearts of adamant to the best impressions, and without any remains of natural modesty, yet practise the art of


feigning its decent demeanour; one of the strongest arguments that can be conceived in its favour!

Yes, those more accomplished ensnarers are sufficiently aware, that there is no allurement equal to that of maiden virtue ; and therefore, having lost the reality, they study to retain the appearance. In this instance, no doubt, as in numberless others, the operations of Nature may be counteracted by violence, and her most speaking features silenced by dissimulation. But ah, how much more easy, pleasant, noble and happy, to be virtuous, than only to seem so ! that vicegerent of God within us, Conscience, will not bear the abuse calmly. All essential transgressions of order, how successful soever they may outwardly appear, shall certainly be punished by inward disquietude, and home-felt meanness. But the truth is, that the art of dissembling, in the case before us, seldom succeeds so far, as not to be seen through on many occasions ; and when it is, the contempt and aversion produced by it are only heightened by those attempts to impose. Of this be assured, that to the sense of decency there is nothing more disgusting than the notion of a young woman who cannot be put out of countenance. In our sex, the character of being lost to shame is scandalous ; but in yours-who can describe the detestation it excites ?

Next to this is the dislike we feel to her who has contracted a certain briskness of air and levity of deportment, which, though by good nature, or the courtesy of custom, distinguished from the brazen front and bold attack of the prostitute, does yet, I cannot help saying, approach too near them, and can never, I am sure, be pleasing to men of sentiment. Such an air and deportment, I well

be so.

know, are by many esteemed marks of spirit. It may

I am willing at least to believe, that no real harm is meant by numbers who affect them. But surely they are the worst kind of affectation. I had rather a thousand times see a young lady carry her bashfulness too far, than pique herself on the freedom of her manners.

A masculine woman must be naturally an amiable creature. I confess myself shocked, whene ever I see the sexes confounded. An effeminate fellow, that, destitute of every manly sentiment, copies with inverted ambition from your sex, is, an object of contempt and aversion at once. On the other hand, any young woman of better rank that throws off all the lovely softness of her nature, and emulates the daring intrepid temper of a manhow terrible! The transformation on either side must ever be

monstrous. Is not this shadowed out to us in that particular prohibition of the Jewish law, which says,

66 The woman shall not wear " that which pertaineth unto a man: neither shall a man put on a woman's garment. For all that do

are abomination to the Lord.” Such confusion of apparel was to be considered as renouncing, in effect, the distinction of form, which the Almighty had established in the creation. To this unnatural mode do we not sometimes observe a visible tendency in our days ? But what though the dress be kept ever so distinct, if the behaviour be not ;in those points, I mean, where the character peculiar to each sex seems to require a difference? There a metamorphosis in either will always offend an eye that is not greatly vitiated. It will do so particularly in your sex. By dint of assiduity and flattery, fortune and show, a Female Man shall sometimes succeed strangely with the women ::



« ПретходнаНастави »