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The virtues of a Roman Matron, in the better times of that republic, appear on some accounts to have been greatly respectable. They were such as might be looked for, from her education amongst a people where ideas of prowess, patriotism, and glory, ran high; where, in effect, these things were regarded as the suminit of human excellence and felicity. But not to insist on the national pride, and ungenerous prepossessions, on which those ideas were founded ; it is manifest to me, that whatever force or grandeur the female mind might in other views derive from them, such advantage was overbalanced by the loss or the diminution of that gentieness and softness, which ever were, and ever will be, the sovereign charm of the female character. Nor do I wish the women of Great Britain, who profess a system so much more just, amiable, and happy, to adopt for the regulation of their temper any standard different from that in my text.
Some of the most agreeable and important consequences of a meek and quiet spirit in your sex, let us now proceed to survey.
Where nature has bestowed any kind of personal beauty, be it ever so inconsiderable ; how early is it known, and at what pains are the generality of the too conscious possessors to display it, on all occasions, to the utmost advantage! But Nature has endowed the greater part of the sex with a constitutional softness, which, under right direction, would render them unspeakably more pleasing than any possible attraction that is purely external.
Yet how few of you seem acquainted with its proper use, so as to turn it to any valuable account. What esteem might you not procure, and what happiness communicate ; if, instead of employing this softness, merely to
foster passion in yourselves or others, you made it subservient to all the amiable purposes of a mild and obliging behaviour! How preposterous to think of any allurement, rather than that which would chiefly adorn you as women!
The gift I speak of is imparted in different degrees, and with various mixtures ; nor will any culture prevent a diversity from appearing in individuals, with regard to this, as well as other features of the female mind: neither indeed ought it. Such diversity is not only beautiful in itself, but agreeably adapted to the various and different tastes of men.
But still some portion of the quality under.consideration is absolutely essential to feminine excellence. Like every other one, no doubt, it requires the guard of Virtue, and the guidance of Discretion. The truth is that any good disposition you can name, how laudable or how eminent soever, if you
could suppose it to be found alone, would constitute a character extremely imperfect, and produce effects sufficiently hurtful. Where an easiness of temper is particularly prevalent, and the heart uncommonly susceptible of warm emotions in the way of love and friendship ; there, without question, a peculiar strain of prudence and fortitude is required, to prevent a young person's being betrayed into great inconveniences and dangerous tendernesses, But while I consider meekness ing grace of a woman, it will be naturally understood, that some share of the virtues and accomplishments before recommended is presupposed.
A cultivated mind and delicate spirit, together with strict principles of conduct, will teach you to make the necessary
you converse with, to join caution with freedom, and,
while with a graceful ease you give to others what their characters claim, with a modest firmness to support your own. There are few things, perhaps, more contemptible than an undistinguishing female, who can smile alike upon all, who seems prepared for every address, who looks as if the freest would not be unwelcome, who scatters herself amongst promiscuous objects; who, if I may be indulged the expression, prostitutes to every vagrant eye, and every new comer, any mental charms she may possess, instead of preserving them for the intimacies of virtuous love, or of sacred friendship. You will readily conceive, that the deportment I would enforce is something widely different.
In effect, were religious and moral consider. ations set aside, such women would not be very pleasing on the footing of female softness alone. Coquettes have commonly bụt little sensibility. Their natural graces, if any they had, are lost in levity and affectation. While they court the regards of all, they have none to bestow upon any. Let what was said long ago be here remembered, that a forward appearance, and light demeanour, immediately disgust a man of the least delicacy; who, if he be weak enough to love the courtship, has commonly however so much perception as not to approve of her who offers it. But good-nature, under the government of good sense and real worth, will engage our esteem without flattering our folly, and reach that just standard of the female character, which consists in a fine composition of gentleness and dignity, of sweet complacence and virtuous reserve, the happy medium so hard to hit between prudery and its opposite extreme.
As the former of these is most directly repugnant to that lovely quality which we are now considering,
I will proceed to offer a few remarks upon it; willing to rectify the notions were it but of one of your sex, on a subject which, in the present age, may be reckoned, by severe judges, least of all necessary in discoursing to young women.
That a prudish behaviour is never sincere, I will not take upon me to affirm. It may arise sometimes from an original frigidity, or strange insensibility of make. I speak not of the dislikes that women conceive to particular men, while from others they are by no means unsusceptible of kind impressions. Neither do I speak of those females whose first address is frequently forbidding, occasioned by a peculiar reservedness of manner rather than temper, not at all incompatible with good affection ; since it evidently wears off in a little, and that excessive bashfulness gives place, on proper encouragement, to a carriage equally courteous and modest. But where a woman bears amongst candid spirits the character of a prude, there I must confess myself tempted to doubt both her honesty and her understanding.
This we are sure of, that it is very common for people to affect most the appearance of those virtues which they least possess. What they want in reality they would fain supply in show, afraid of suspicion, where they are conscious of guilt ; whereas those that are sound at heart, are seldom apprehensive of being suspected. “A good man shall be “ satisfied from himself,” and generally leaves oihers to collect his principles from his practice. An honest confidence in the rectitude of his own intentions begets a simplicity of manners that despises ostentation in all cases, and supersedes profession in
I do not mean Religious Profession, which a good man will never think unnecessary, though
he will always make it with modesty. In short, true virtue, whether male or female, is like the sun, best seen in its own light.
Of a defect of sense I look on prudery as an indisputable proof. It never succeeds in its attempts to impose. A woman of this character is considered by our sex as a hypocrite, by yours as a hypocrite and a spy at the same time. Both are incited to a keener inspection into her conduct. On the least failure, both are provoked to sharper reproach; and should the ungracious dissembler at last drop her disguise altogether, the triumph over her is universal : : nor does the world ever forget a miscarriage which was preceded by pretensions to superior strictness. In any case she is a disagreeable creature, whom none can love, and whom most will shun. How just the words of an elegant writer on this subject!
“ Virtue is amiable, mild, serene ;
Should such a woman live to grow old in the single state, she will be regarded with a mixture of hatred and contempt. When I say this, every one will recollect the imputation which has been so frequently brought against unmarried females at that age. Is it an unpleasant idea ? The inference is plain : Let it be your care to lay in now such a store of good humour and christian meekness, as, mingling with other agreeable acquisitions, may prevent the advance of life from spoiling your cheerfulness, or robbing you of that benignity which communicates a grace to every condition, and of that consequence which youth and beauty alone can