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Title: Sketches of the Fair Sex, in All Parts of the World

Author: Anonymous

Release Date: July 24, 2008 [EBook #26117]

Language: English

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Page 201.








Entered according to act of congress, in the year 1841, by
in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of Massachusetts.

In the following Pages,

It is our design to present a pleasing and interesting miscellany, which will serve to beguile the leisure hour, and will at the same time couple instruction with amusement. We have used but little method in the arrangement: Choosing rather to furnish the reader with a rich profusion of narratives and anecdotes, all tending to illustrate the


to display its delicacy, its sweetness, its gentle or sometimes heroic virtues, its amiable weaknesses, and strange defects—than to attempt an accurate analysis of the hardest subject man ever attempted to master, viz—WOMAN.

It will be seen that we do not set down Woman as a cipher in the account of human beings. We accord to her her full share of importance in the world, and we have not attempted to relieve her from a sense of her responsibility as an accountable being. Above all, we have not failed to impress upon her the obligations she is under to Christianity, whose benign influences have raised her to be the companion and bosom-friend of man, [pvi] instead of his mere handmaid and dependant. It is religion that must form such a character as the following, which though applied by Pope to one of the most accomplished women of his time, is that of a Christian Wife in every age and station,—

“Oh! blest with temper whose unclouded ray
Can make tomorrow cheerful as to-day:
She who can love a sister’s charms, or hear
Sighs for a daughter with unwounded ear;
She who ne’er answers till a husband cools,
Or, if she rules him, never shows she rules;
Charms by accepting—by submitting sways,

By causing the character of woman to be more thoroughly discussed and better understood;—by making it more frequently the theme of rational meditation to the young and ardent, who, from the force of defective education, are apt to regard all “the sex,” beyond a very limited circle, as mere accessaries to animal enjoyment,—whose peace they may wound without compunction, and whose happiness they may peril without reflection,—we feel that we shall do both sexes a good service, and one for which as they advance in life, and in their turn become husbands, wives and parents, they will thank our little book, as having helped them to know themselves and each other.


African Women,43
Adultery, punishment of155
Bathing at Rome,31
Betrothing and Marriage,104
Chinese Women,40
Chinese Bridegroom,41
Cęsar, Anecdote of157
Celibacy of the Clergy,160
Cleopatra, Death of199
Courts of Love,172
Courtship, ancient Swedish176
Courtship, Grecian165
Courtship, Eastern168
Condition of Women in the 8th Century,52
Egyptian Women, Ancient13
Egyptian Women, Modern15
Euthira, desperate act of162
Eastern Women,37
English Women,62
First Woman,9
Female Friendship,109
Female Delicacy,30
French Women,53
French Girls,55
Female Simplicity,71
Female Inferiority, idea of67
Females during the age of Chivalry,48
First Kiss of Love,198
Grecian Women,19
German Women,99
Grecian Courtezans,20
Greeks, religious festivals of180
Grecian Ladies, luxurious dress of164
Girls sold at Auction,153
Husbands, on the choice of114
Italian Women,57
Influence of female society,83
Immodesty at Babylon,173
Indecency at Adrianople,175
Lucretia and Virginia,182
Ladies of Lapland and Greenland,177
Matrimony, an essay on203
Matrimony among the French55
Matrimony in three different lights,103
Magnanimity of Women,77
Monastic Life,89
Marriage Brokers at Genoa,60
Marrying, power of159
Noah’s three sons,43
Nuptial Ceremonies,66
On looking at the picture of a beautiful female,183
Persian Women,17
Philtres and charms, power of167
Roman Women,24
Roman Oppian Law,29
Russian Women,65
Spanish Women,60
St. Valentine’s Day,171
Sentimental Attachment,92
Sale of a wife,154
Saxons and Danes, long hair of170
Venus de Medici,194
Women, Art of determining the figure, beauty, habits, and the age of185
Women in the Patriarchal ages,10
Woman in Savage Life,32
Woman in times of Chivalry,45
Women in Asia and Africa,79
Sketches indeed, from that most passionate page,
A woman’s heart, of feelings, thoughts, that make
The atmosphere in which her spirit moves;
But like all other earthly elements,
O’ercast with clouds; now dark, now touched with light,
With rainbows, sunshine, showers, moonlight, stars,
Chasing each other’s change. I fain would trace
Its brightness and its blackness.”



The great Creator, having formed man of the dust of the earth, “made a deep sleep to fall upon him, and took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof. And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.” Hence the fair sex, in the opinion of some authors, being formed of matter doubly refined, derive their superior beauty and excellence.

Not long after the creation, the first woman was tempted by the serpent to eat of the fruit of a certain tree, in the midst of the garden of Eden, with regard to which God had said, “Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.”

This deception, and the fatal consequences arising from it, furnish the most interesting story in the whole history of the sex.

On the offerings being brought, and that of Abel accepted, Cain’s jealousy and resentment rose to such a pitch, that, as soon as they came down from the mount where they had been sacrificing, he fell upon his brother and slew him.

For this cruel and barbarous action, Cain and his posterity, being banished from the rest of the human race, indulged themselves in every species of wickedness. On this account, it is supposed, they were called the Sons and Daughters of Men. The posterity of Seth, on the other hand, became eminent for virtue, and a regard to the divine precepts. By their regular and amiable conduct, they acquired the appellation of Sons and Daughters of God.

After the deluge there is a chasm in the history of women, until the time of the patriarch Abraham. They then begin to be introduced into the sacred story. Several of their actions are recorded. The laws, customs, and usages, by which they were governed, are frequently exhibited.


The condition of women among the ancient patriarchs, appears to have been but extremely indifferent. When Abraham entertained the angels, sent to denounce the destruction of Sodom, he seems to have treated his wife as a menial servant: “Make ready quickly,” said [p11] he to her, “three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes on the hearth.”

In many parts of the east, water is only to be met with deep in the earth, and to draw it from the wells is, consequently, fatiguing and laborious. This, however, was the task of the daughters of Jethro the Midianite; to whom so little regard was paid, either on account of their sex, or the rank of their father, as high priest of the country, that the neighboring shepherds not only insulted them, but forcibly took from them the water they had drawn.

This was the task of Rebecca, who not only drew water for Abraham’s servant, but for his camels also, while the servant stood an idle spectator of the toil. Is it not natural to imagine, that, as he was on an embassy to court the damsel for Isaac, his master’s son, he would have exerted his utmost efforts to please, and become acceptable?

When he had concluded his bargain, and was carrying her home, we meet with a circumstance worthy of remark. When she first approached Isaac, who had walked out into the fields to meet her, she did it in the most submissive manner, as if she had been approaching a lord and master, rather than a fond and passionate lover. From this circumstance, as well as from several others, related in the sacred history, it would seem that women, instead of endeavoring, as in modern times, to persuade the world that they confer an immense favor on a lover, by deigning to accept of him, did not [p12] scruple to confess, that the obligation was conferred on themselves.

This was the case with Ruth, who had laid herself down at the feet of Boaz; and being asked by him who she was, answered, “I am Ruth, thine handmaid; spread, therefore, thy skirt over thine handmaid, for thou art a near kinsman.”

When Jacob went to visit his uncle Laban, he met Rachel, Laban’s daughter, in the fields, attending on the flocks of her father.

In a much later period, Tamar, one of the daughters of king David, was sent by her father to perform the servile office of making cakes for her brother Amnon.

The simplicity of the times in which these things happened, no doubt, very much invalidates the strength of the conclusions that naturally arise from them. But, notwithstanding, it still appears that women were not then treated with the delicacy which they have experienced among people more polished and refined.

Polygamy also prevailed; which is so contrary to the inclination of the sex, and so deeply wounds the delicacy of their feelings, that it is impossible for any woman voluntarily to agree to it, even where it is authorized by custom and by law. Wherever, therefore, polygamy takes place, we may assure ourselves that women have but little authority, and have scarcely arrived at any consequence in society.


Wherever the human race live solitary, and unconnected with each other, they are savage and barbarous. Wherever they associate together, that association produces softer manners and a more engaging deportment.

The Egyptians, from the nature of their country, annually overflowed by the Nile, had no wild beasts to hunt, nor could they procure any thing by fishing. On these accounts, they were under a necessity of applying themselves to agriculture, a kind of life which naturally brings mankind together, for mutual convenience and assistance.

They were, likewise, every year, during the inundation of the river, obliged to assemble together, and take shelter, either on the rising grounds, or in the houses, which were raised upon piles, above the reach of the waters. Here, almost every employment being suspended, and the men and women long confined together, a thousand inducements, not to be found in a solitary state, would naturally prompt them to render themselves agreeable to each other. Hence their manners would begin, more early, to assume a softer polish, and more elegant refinement, than those of the other nations who surrounded them.

The practice of confining women, instituted by jealousy, and maintained by unlawful power, was not adopted by the ancient Egyptians. This appears from the story of Pharaoh’s [p14] daughter, who was going with her train of maids to bathe in the river, when she found Moses hid among the reeds. It is still more evident, from that of the wife of Potiphar, who, if she had been confined, could not have found the opportunities she did, to solicit Joseph to her adulterous embrace.

The queens of Egypt had the greatest attention paid to them. They were more readily obeyed than the kings. It is also related, that the husbands were in their marriage-contracts, obliged to promise obedience to their wives; an obedience, which, in our modern times, we are often obliged to perform, though our wives entered into the promise.

The behavior of Solomon to Pharaoh’s daughter is a convincing proof that more honor and respect was paid to the Egyptian women, than to those of any other people. Solomon had many other wives besides this princess, and was married to several of them before her, which, according to the Jewish law, ought to have entitled them to a preference. But, notwithstanding this, we hear of no particular palace having been built for any of the others, nor of the worship of any of their gods having been introduced into Jerusalem. But a magnificent palace was erected for Pharaoh’s daughter; and she was permitted, though expressly contrary to the laws of Israel, to worship the gods of her own country.


The women of modern Egypt are far from being on so respectable a footing as they were in ancient times, or as the European women are at present.

In Europe, women act parts of great consequence, and often reign sovereigns on the world’s vast theatre. They influence manners and morals, and decide on the most important events. The fate of nations is frequently in their hands.

How different is their situation in Egypt! There they are bound down by the fetters of slavery, condemned to servitude, and have no influence in public affairs. Their empire is confined within the walls of the Harem. There are their graces and charms entombed. The circle of their life extends not beyond their own family and domestic duties.

Their first care is to educate their children; and a numerous posterity is their most fervent wish. Mothers always suckle their children. This is expressly commanded by Mahomet:—“Let the mother suckle her child full two years, if the child does not quit the breast; but she shall be permitted to wean it, with the consent of her husband.”

The harem is the cradle and school of infancy. The new born feeble being is not there swaddled and filletted up in a swathe, the source of a thousand diseases. Laid naked on a mat, exposed in a vast chamber to the pure air, he [p16] breathes freely, and with his delicate limbs sprawls at pleasure.

The daughter’s education is the same. Whalebone and husks, which martyr European girls, they know not. They are only covered with a shift until six years old: and the dress they afterwards wear confines none of their limbs, but suffers the body to take its true form; and nothing is more uncommon than ricketty children, and crooked people. In Egypt, man rises in all his majesty, and woman displays every charm of person.

The Egyptian women, once or twice a week, are permitted to go to the bath, and visit female relations and friends. They receive each other’s visits very affectionately. When a lady enters the harem, the mistress rises, takes her hand, presses it to her bosom, kisses, and makes her sit down by her side; a slave hastens to take her black mantle; she is entreated to be at ease, quits her veil, and discovers a floating robe tied round her waist with a sash, which perfectly displays her shape. She then receives compliments according to their manner: “Why, my mother, or my sister, have you been so long absent? We sighed to see you! Your presence is an honor to our house! It is the happiness of our lives!”

Slaves present coffee, sherbet, and confectionary. They laugh, talk and play. A large dish is placed on the sofa, on which are oranges, pomegranates, bananas, and excellent melons. Water, and rose-water mixed, are [p17] brought in an ewer, and with them a silver bason to wash the hands; and loud glee and merry conversation season the meal. The chamber is perfumed by wood of aloes, in a brazier; and, the repast ended, the slaves dance to the sound of cymbals, with whom the mistresses often mingle. At parting they several times repeat, “God keep you in health! Heaven grant you a numerous offspring! Heaven preserve your children; the delight and glory of your family!”

When a visitor is in the harem, the husband must not enter. It is the asylum of hospitality, and cannot be violated without fatal consequences; a cherished right, which the Egyptian women carefully maintain, being interested in its preservation. A lover, disguised like a woman, may be introduced into the harem, and it is necessary he should remain undiscovered; death would otherwise be his reward. In that country, where the passions are excited by the climate, and the difficulty of gratifying them is great, love often produces tragical events.


Several historians, in mentioning the ancient Persians, have dwelt with peculiar severity on the manner in which they treated their women. Jealous, almost to distraction, they confined the whole sex with the strictest attention, and could not bear that the eye of a stranger [p18] should behold the beauty whom they adored.

When Mahomet, the great legislator of the modern Persians, was just expiring, the last advice that he gave to his faithful adherents, was, “Be watchful of your religion, and your wives.” Hence they pretend to derive not only the power of confining, but also of persuading them, that they hazard their salvation, if they look upon any other man besides their husbands. The Christian religion informs us, that in the other world they neither marry, nor are given in marriage. The religion of Mahomet teaches us a different doctrine, which the Persians believing, carry the jealousy of Asia to the fields of Elysium, and the groves of Paradise; where, according to them, the blessed inhabitants have their eyes placed on the crown of their heads, lest they should see the wives of their neighbors.

To offer the least violence to a Persian woman, was to incur certain death from her husband or guardian. Even their kings, though the most absolute in the universe, could not alter the manners or customs of the country, which related to the fair sex.

Widely different from this is the present state of Persia. By a law of that country, their monarch is now authorized to go, whenever he pleases, into the harem of any of his subjects; and the subject, on whose prerogative he thus encroaches, so far from exerting his usual jealousy, thinks himself highly honored by such a visit.

A laughable story, on this subject, is told of Shah Abbas, who having got drunk at the house of one of his favorites, and intending to go into the apartment of his wives, was stopped by the door-keeper, who bluntly told him, “Not a man, sir, besides my master, shall put a mustachio here, so long as I am porter.” “What,” said the king, “dost thou not know me?” “Yes,” answered the fellow, “I know that you are king of the men, but not of the women.”


Woman, in ancient Greece, seems to have been regarded merely in the light of an instrument for raising up members of the state. And surely it may be said of them that they nobly fulfilled this duty. The catalogue of heroes and sages which shine in Grecian history bright and numerous as stars in the firmament, are so many testimonials to the faithfulness of Grecian women in this respect.

The sexes were but little society for each other. Even husbands were, in Sparta, limited as to the time and duration of the visits made to their wives.

That women in ancient Greece did not enjoy that delicate consideration which other refined nations accord to their sex, may be inferred from the inferiority of the apartments allotted to them. The famous Helen is said to have had her chamber in the attic; and Penelope, the queen of Ulysses, descended from hers by a ladder.


The rank which the courtezans enjoyed, even in the brightest ages of Greece, and particularly at Athens, is one of the greatest singularities in the manners of any people. By what circumstances could that order of women, who debase at once their own sex and ours—in a country where the women were possessed of modesty, and the men of sentiment, arrive at distinction, and sometimes even at the highest degree of reputation and consequence? Several reasons may be assigned for that phenomenon in society.

In Greece, the courtezans were in some measure connected with the religion of the country. The Goddess of Beauty had her altars; and she was supposed to protect prostitution, which was to her a species of worship. The people invoked Venus in times of danger; and, after a battle, they thought they had done honor to Miltiades and Themistocles, because the Laises and the Glyceras of the age had chaunted hymns to their Goddess.

The courtezans were likewise connected with religion, by means of the arts. Their persons afforded models for statues, which were afterwards adored in the temples. Phryne served as a model to Praxiteles, for his Venus of Cnidus. During the feasts of Neptune, near Eleusis, Apelles having seen the same courtezan on the sea-shore, without any other veil than her loose and flowing hair, was so much struck with her [p21] appearance, that he borrowed from it the idea of his Venus rising from the waves.

They were, therefore connected with statuary and painting, as they furnished the practisers of those arts with the means of embellishing their works.

The greater part of them were skilled in music; and, as that art was attended with higher effects in Greece than it ever was in any other country, it must have possessed, in their hands, an irresistible charm.

Every one knows how enthusiastic the Greeks were of beauty. They adored it in the temples. They admired it in the principal works of art. They studied it in the exercises and the games. They thought to perfect it by their marriages. They offered rewards to it at the public festivals. But virtuous beauty was seldom to be seen. The modest women were confined to their own apartments, and were visited only by their husbands and nearest relations. The courtezans offered themselves every where to view; and their beauty as might be expected, obtained universal homage.

Greece was governed by eloquent men; and the celebrated courtezans, having an influence over those orators must have had an influence on public affairs. There was not one, not even the thundering, the inflexible Demosthenes, so terrible to tyrants, but was subjected to their sway. Of that great master of eloquence it has been said, “What he had been a whole year in erecting, a woman overturned in a day.” That [p22] influence augmented their consequence; and their talent of pleasing increased with the occasions of exerting it.

The laws and the public institutions, indeed, by authorizing the privacy of women, set a high value on the sanctity of the marriage vow. But in Athens, imagination, sentiment, luxury, the taste in arts and pleasures, was opposite to the laws. The courtezans, therefore may be said to have come in support of the manners.

There was no check upon public licentiousness; but private infidelity, which concerned the peace of families, was punished as a crime. By a strange and perhaps unequalled singularity the men were corrupted, yet the domestic manners were pure. It seems as if the courtezans had not been considered to belong to their sex; and, by a convention to which the laws and the manners bended, while other women were estimated merely by their virtues, they were estimated only by their accomplishments.

These reasons will in some measure, account for the honors, which the votaries of Venus so often received in Greece. Otherwise we should have been at a loss to conceive, why six or seven writers had exerted their talents to celebrate the courtezans of Athens—why three great painters had uniformly devoted their pencils to represent them on canvass—and why so many poets had strove to immortalize them in verses. We should hardly have believed that so many illustrious men had courted their society—that Aspasia had been consulted in deliberations of [p23] peace and war—that Phryne had a statue of gold placed between the statues of two kings at Delphos—that, after death, magnificent tombs had been erected to their memory.

“The traveller,” says a Greek writer, “who, approaching to Athens, sees on the side of the way a monument which attracts his notice at a distance, will imagine that it is the tomb of Miltiades or Pericles, or of some other great man, who has done honor to his country by his services. He advances, he reads, and he learns that it is a courtezan of Athens who is interred with so much pomp.”

Theopompus, in a letter to Alexander the Great, speaks also of the same monument in words to the following effect—“Thus, after her death, is a prostitute honored; while not one of those brave warriors who fell in Asia, fighting for you, and for the safety of Greece, has so much as a stone erected to his memory, or an inscription to preserve his ashes from insult.”

Such was the homage which that enthusiastic people, voluptuous and passionate, paid to beauty. More guided by sentiment than reason, and having laws rather than principles, they banished their great men, honored their courtezans, murdered Socrates, permitted themselves to be governed by Aspasia, preserved inviolate the marriage bed, and placed Phryne in the temple of Apollo!


Among the Romans, a grave and austere people, who, during five hundred years, were unacquainted with the elegancies and the pleasures of life, and who, in the middle of furrows and fields of battle, were employed in tillage or in war, the manners of the women were a long time as solemn and severe as those of the men, and without the smallest mixture of corruption, or of weakness.

The time when the Roman women began to appear in public, marks a particular era in history.

The Roman women, for many ages, were respected over the whole world. Their victorious husbands re-visited them with transport, at their return from battle. They laid at their feet the spoils of the enemy, and endeared themselves in their eyes by the wounds which they had received for them and for the state. Those warriors often came from imposing commands upon kings, and in their own houses accounted it an honor to obey. In vain the too rigid laws made them the arbiters of life and death. More powerful than the laws, the women ruled their judges. In vain the legislature, foreseeing the wants which exist only among a corrupt people, permitted divorce. The indulgence of the polity was proscribed by the manners.

Such was the influence of beauty at Rome before the licentious intercourse of the sexes had corrupted both.

The Roman matrons do not seem to have possessed that military courage which Plutarch has praised in certain Greek and barbarian women; they partook more of the nature of their sex; or, at least, they departed less from its character. Their first quality was decency. Every one knows the story of Cato the censor, who stabbed a Roman Senator for kissing his own wife in the presence of his daughter.

To these austere manners, the Roman women joined an enthusiastic love of their country, which discovered itself upon many great occasions. On the death of Brutus, they all clothed themselves in mourning. In the time of Coriolanus they saved the city. That incensed warrior who had insulted the senate and priests, and who was superior even to the pride of pardoning, could not resist the tears and entreaties of the women. They melted his obdurate heart. The senate decreed them public thanks, ordered the men to give place to them upon all occasions, caused an altar to be erected for them on the spot where the mother had softened her son, and the wife her husband; and the sex were permitted to add another ornament to their head-dress.

The Roman women saved the city a second time, when besieged by Brennus. They gave up all their gold as its ransom. For that instance of their generosity, the senate granted them the honor of having funeral orations [p26] pronounced in the rostrum, in common with patriots and heroes.

After the battle of Cannę, when Rome had no other treasures but the virtues of her citizens, the women sacrificed both their jewels and their gold. A new decree rewarded their zeal.

Valerius Maximus who lived in the reign of Tiberius, informs us that, in the second triumvirate, the three assassins who governed Rome thirsting after gold, no less than blood, and having already practised every species of robbery, and worn out every method of plunder; resolved to tax the women. They imposed a heavy contribution upon each of them. The women sought an orator to defend their cause, but found none. Nobody would reason against those who had the power of life and death. The daughter of the celebrated Hortensius alone appeared. She revived the memory of her father’s abilities, and supported with intrepidity her own cause and that of her sex. The ruffians blushed and revoked their orders.

Hortensia was conducted home in triumph, and had the honor of having given, in one day, an example of courage to men, a pattern of eloquence to women, and a lesson of humanity to tyrants.

During upwards of six hundred years, the virtues had been found sufficient to please. They now found it necessary to call in the accomplishments. They were desirous to join admiration to esteem, ’till they learned to exceed esteem itself. For in all countries, in proportion [p27] as the love of virtue diminishes, we find the love of talents to increase.

A thousand causes concurred to produce this revolution of manners among the Romans. The vast inequality of ranks, the enormous fortunes of individuals, the ridicule, affixed by the imperial court to moral ideas, all contributed to hasten the period of corruption.

There were still, however, some great and virtuous characters among the Roman women. Portia, the daughter of Cato, and wife of Brutus, showed herself worthy to be associated with the first of human kind, and trusted with the fate of empires. After the battle of Phillippi, she would neither survive liberty nor Brutus, but died with the bold intrepidity of Cato.

The example of Portia was followed by that of Arria, who seeing her husband hesitating and afraid to die, in order to encourage him, pierced her own breast, and delivered to him the dagger with a smile.

Paulinia too, the wife of Seneca, caused her veins to be opened at the same time with her husband’s, but being forced to live, during the few years which she survived him, “she bore in her countenance,” says Tacitus, “the honorable testimony of her love, a paleness, which proved that part of her blood had sympathetically issued with the blood of her spouse.”

To take notice of all the celebrated women of the empire, would much exceed the bounds of the present undertaking. But the empress Julia the wife of Septimius Severus, possessed a [p28] species of merit so very different from any of those already mentioned, as to claim particular attention.

This lady was born in Syria, and a daughter of a priest of the sun. It was predicted that she would rise to sovereign dignity; and her character justified the prophecy.

Julia, while on the throne, loved, or pretended passionately to love, letters. Either from taste, from a desire to instruct herself, from a love of renown, or possibly from all these together, she spent her life with philosophers. Her rank of empress would not, perhaps, have been sufficient to subdue those bold spirits; but she joined to that the more powerful influences of wit and beauty. These three kinds of empire rendered less necessary to her that which consists only in art; and which, attentive to their tastes and their weaknesses, govern great minds by little means.

It is said she was a philosopher. Her philosophy, however, did not extend so far as to give chastity to her manners. Her husband, who did not love her, valued her understanding so much, that he consulted her upon all occasions. She governed in the same manner under his son.

Julia was, in short, an empress and a politician, occupied at the same time about literature, and affairs of state, while she mingled her pleasures freely with both. She had courtiers for her lovers, scholars for her friends, and philosophers for her counsellors. In the midst of a [p29] society, where she reigned and was instructed. Julia arrived at the highest celebrity; but as among all her excellencies, we find not those of her sex, the virtues of a woman, our admiration is lost in blame. In her life time she obtained more praise than respect; and posterity, while it has done justice to her talents and her accomplishments, has agreed to deny her esteem.


The Roman women, as well as the Grecian, were under perpetual guardianship; and were not at any age, nor in any condition, ever trusted with the management of their own fortunes.

Every father had power of life and death over his own daughters: but this power was not restricted to daughters only; it extended also to sons.

The Oppian law prohibited women from having more than half an ounce of gold employed in ornamenting their persons, from wearing clothes of divers colors, and from riding in chariots, either in the city, or a thousand paces round it.

They were strictly forbid to use wine, or even to have in their possession the key of any place where it was kept. For either of these faults they were liable to be divorced by their husbands. So careful were the Romans in restraining their women from wine, that they are supposed [p30] to have first introduced the custom of saluting their female relations and acquaintances, on entering the house of a friend or neighbor, that they might discover by their breath, whether they had tasted any of that liquor.

This strictness, however, began in time to be relaxed; until at last, luxury becoming too strong for every law, the women indulged themselves in equal liberties with the men.

But such was not the case in the earlier ages of Rome. Romulus even permitted husbands to kill their wives, if they found them drinking wine.

Fabius Pictor relates, that the parents of a Roman lady, having detected her picking the lock of a chest which contained some wine, shut her up and starved her to death.

Women were liable to be divorced by their husbands almost at pleasure, provided the portion was returned which they had brought along with them. They were also liable to be divorced for barrenness, which, if it could be construed into a fault, was at least the fault of nature, and might sometimes be that of the husband.

A few sumptuary laws, a subordination to the men, and a total want of authority, do not so much affect the sex, as to be coldly and indelicately treated by their husbands.

Such a treatment is touching them in the tenderest part. Such, however we have reason to believe, they often met with from the Romans, who had not learned, as in modern times to blend the rigidity of the patriot, and roughness [p31] of the warrior, with that soft and indulging behavior, so conspicuous in our modern patriots and heroes.

Husbands among the Romans not only themselves behaved roughly to their wives, but even sometimes permitted their servants and slaves to do the same. The principal eunuch of Justinian the Second, threatened to chastise the Empress, his master’s wife, in the manner that children are chastised at school, if she did not obey his orders.

With regard to the private diversions of the Roman ladies, history is silent. Their public ones, were such as were common to both sexes; as bathing, theatrical representations, horse-races, shows of wild beasts, which fought against one another, and sometimes against men, whom the emperors, in the plenitude of their despotic power, ordered to engage them.

The Romans, of both sexes, spent a great deal of time at the baths; which at first, perhaps, were interwoven with their religion, but at last were only considered as refinements in luxury. They were places of public resort, where people met with their acquaintances and friends, where public libraries were kept for such as chose to read, and where poets recited their works to such as had patience to hear.

In the earlier periods of Rome, separate baths were appropriated to each sex. Luxury, by degrees getting the better of decency, the men and women at last bathed promiscuously together. Though this indecent manner of bathing was [p32] prohibited by the emperor Adrian; yet, in a short time, inclination overcame the prohibition; and, in spite of every effort, promiscuous bathing continued until the time of Constantine, who, by the coercive force of the legislative authority, and the rewards and terrors of the Christian religion, put a final stop to it.


Man, in a state of barbarity, equally cruel and indolent, active by necessity, but naturally inclined to repose, is acquainted with little more than the physical effects of love; and having none of those moral ideas which only can soften the empire of force, he is led to consider it as his supreme law, subjecting to his despotism those whom reason had made his equals, but whose imbecility betrayed them to his strength.

Cast in the lap of naked nature, and exposed to every hardship, the forms of women, in savage life, are but little engaging. With nothing that deserves the name of culture, their latent qualities, if they have any, are like the diamond, while enclosed in the rough flint, incapable of shewing any lustre. Thus destitute of every thing by which they can excite love, or acquire esteem; destitute of beauty to charm, or art to soothe, the tyrant man; they are by him destined to perform every mean and servile office. In this the American and other savage women differ widely from those of Asia, who, if they are [p33] destitute of the qualifications necessary for gaining esteem, have beauty, ornaments, and the art of exciting love.

In civilized countries a woman acquires some power by being the mother of a numerous family, who obey her maternal authority, and defends her honor and her life. But, even as a mother, a female savage has not much advantage. Her children, daily accustomed to see their father treat her nearly as a slave, soon begin to imitate his example, and either pay little regard to her authority or shake it off altogether.

Of this the Hottentot boys afford a remarkable proof. They are brought up by the women, till they are about fourteen years of age. Then, with several ceremonies they are initiated into the society of men. After this initiation is over it is reckoned manly for a boy to take the earliest opportunity of returning to the hut of his mother, and beating her in the most barbarous manner, to show that he is now out of her jurisdiction. Should the mother complain to the men, they would only applaud the boy for showing so laudable a contempt for the society and authority of women.

In the Brazils, the females are obliged to follow their husbands to war, to supply the place of beasts of burden, and to carry on their backs their children, provisions, hammocks, and every thing wanted in the field.

In the Isthmus of Darien, they are sent along with warriors and travellers, as we do baggage horses. Even their Queen appeared before [p34] some English gentlemen, carrying her sucking child, wrapt in a red blanket.

The women among the Indians of America are what the Helots were among the Spartans, a vanquished people obliged to toil for their conquerors. Hence on the banks of the Oroonoko we have heard of mothers slaying their daughters out of compassion, and smothering them in the hour of their birth. They consider this barbarous pity as a virtue.

Father Joseph Gumilla, reproving one of them for this inhuman crime, received the following answer:—“I wish to God, Father, I wish to God, that my mother had, by my death, prevented the manifold distresses I have endured, and have yet to endure as long as I live. Had she kindly stilled me in my birth, I should not have felt the pain of death, nor the numberless other pains to which life has subjected me. Consider, Father, our deplorable condition. Our husbands go to hunt with their bows and arrows, and trouble themselves no farther: we are dragged along with one infant at our breast, and another in a basket. They return in the evening without any burden; we return with the burden of our children. Though tired with long walking, we are not allowed to sleep, but must labor the whole night, in grinding maize to make chica for them. They get drunk, and in their drunkenness beat us, draw us by the hair of the head, and tread us under foot. A young wife is brought upon us and permitted to abuse us and our children. What kindness can [p35] we show to our female children, equal to that of relieving them from such servitude, more bitter a thousand times than death? I repeat again, would to God my mother had put me under ground, the moment I was born.”

“The men,” says Commodore Byron, in his account of the inhabitants of South America, “exercise a most despotic authority over their wives whom they consider in the same view they do any other part of their property, and dispose of them accordingly. Even their common treatment of them is cruel. For, though the toil and hazard of procuring food lies entirely on the women, yet they are not suffered to touch any part of it, until the husband is satisfied; and then he assign them their portion, which is generally very scanty, and such as he has not a stomach for himself.”

The Greenlanders, who live mostly upon seals, think it sufficient to catch and bring them on shore; and would rather submit to starve than assist their women in skinning, dressing, or dragging home the cumbrous animals to their huts.

In some parts of America, when the men kill any game in the woods, they lay it at the root of a tree, fix a mark there, and travelling until they arrive at their habitation, send their women to fetch it, a task which their own laziness and pride equally forbid.

Among many of the tribes of wandering Arabs, the women are not only obliged to do every domestic and every rural work, but also to feed, [p36] to dress, and saddle the horses, for the use of their husbands.

The Moorish women, besides doing all the same kinds of drudgery, are also obliged to cultivate the fields, while their husbands stand idle spectators of the toil, or sleep inglorious beneath a neighboring shade.

In Madura the husband generally speaks to his wife in the most imperious tone; while she with fear and trembling approaches him, waits upon him while at meals, and pronounces not his name, but with the addition of every dignifying title she can devise. In return for all this submission he frequently beats and abuses her in the most barbarous manner. Being asked the reason of such a behavior, one of them answered, “As our wives are so much our inferiors why should we allow them to eat and drink with us? Why should they not serve us with whatever we call for, and afterwards sit down and eat up what we leave? If they commit faults, why should they not suffer correction? It is their business only to bring up our children, pound our rice, make our oil, and do every other kind of drudgery, purposes to which only their low and inferior natures are adapted.”

The Circassian custom of breeding young girls, on purpose to be sold in the public market to the highest bidder, is generally known. Perhaps, however, upon minute examination, we shall find that women are, in some degree, bought and sold in every country, whether savage or civilized.


The women of the East, have in general, always exhibited the same appearance. Their manners, customs, and fashions, unalterable like their rocks, have stood the test of many revolving ages. Though the kingdoms of their country have often changed masters, though they have submitted to the arms of almost every invader, yet the laws by which their sex are governed and enslaved, have never been revised nor amended.

Had the manners and customs of the Asiatic women been subject to the same changes as they are in Europe, we might have expected the same changes in the sentiments and writings of their men. But, as this is not the case, we have reason to presume that the sentiments entertained by Solomon, by the apocryphal writers, and by the ancient Bramins, are the sentiments of this day.

Though the confinement of women be an unlawful exertion of superior power, yet it affords a proof that the inhabitants of the East are advanced some degrees farther in civilization than mere savages, who have hardly any love and consequently as little jealousy.

This confinement is not very rigid in the empire of the Mogul. It is, perhaps, less so in China, and in Japan hardly exists.

Though women are confined in the Turkish empire, they experience every other indulgence. They are allowed, at stated times, to go to the [p38] public baths; their apartments are richly, if not elegantly furnished; they have a train of female slaves to serve and amuse them; and their persons are adorned with every costly ornament which their fathers or husbands can afford.

Notwithstanding the strictness of confinement in Persia, their women are treated with several indulgences. They are allowed a variety of precious liquors, costly perfumes, and beautiful slaves: their apartments are furnished with the most elegant hangings and carpets; their persons ornamented with the finest silks, and even loaded with the sparkling jewels of the East. But all these trappings, however elegant, or however gilded, are only like the golden chains sometimes made use of to bind a royal prisoner.

Solomon had a great number of queens and concubines; but a petty Hindoo chief has been known to have two thousand women confined within the walls of his harem, and appropriated entirely to his pleasure. Nothing less than unlimited power in the husband is able to restrain women so confined, from the utmost disorder and confusion. They may repine in secret, but they must clothe their features with cheerfulness when their lord appears. Contumacy draws down on them immediate punishment: they are degraded, chastised, divorced, shut up in dark dungeons, and sometimes put to death.

Their persons, however, are so sacred, that they must not in the least be violated, nor even be looked at, by any one but their husbands. This female privilege has given an opportunity [p39] of executing many conspiracies. Warriors, in such vehicles as are usually employed to carry women, have been often conveyed, without examination, into the apartments of the great; from whence, instead of issuing forth in the smiles of beauty, they have rushed out in the terror of arms, and laid the tyrants at their feet.

No stranger is ever allowed to see the women of Hindostan, nor can even brothers visit their sisters in private. To be conscious of the existence of a man’s wives seems a crime; and he looks surly and offended if their health is inquired after. In every country, honor consists in something upon which the possessor sets the highest value. This, with the Hindoo, is the chastity of his wives; a point without which he must not live.

In the midst of slaughter and devastation, throughout all the East, the harem is a sanctuary. Ruffians, covered with the blood of a husband, shrink back with veneration from the secret apartment of his wives.

At Constantinople, when the sultan sends an order to strangle a state-criminal, and seize on his effects, the officers who execute it enter not into the harem, nor touch any thing belonging to the women.

Every Turkish seraglio and harem, has a garden adjoining to it, and in the middle of this garden a large room, more or less decorated according to the wealth of the proprietor. Here the ladies spend most of their time, with their [p40] attendant nymphs around them employed at their music, embroidery, or loom.

It has long been a custom among the grandees of Asia, to entertain story-tellers of both sexes, who like the bards of ancient Europe, divert them with tales, and little histories, mostly on the subject of bravery and love. These often amuse the women, and beguile the cheerless hours of the harem, by calling up images to their minds which their eyes are forever debarred from seeing.

All their other amusements, as well as this, are indolently voluptuous. They spend a great part of their time in lolling on silken sofas; while a train of female slaves, scarcely less voluptuous, attend to sing to them, to fan them, and to rub their bodies; an exercise which the Easterns enjoy, with a sort of placid ecstasy, as it promotes the circulation of their languid blood.

They bathe themselves in rose water and other baths, prepared with the precious odors of the East. They perfume themselves with costly essences, and adorn their persons, that they may please the tyrant with whom they are obliged to live.


Of all the other Asiatics, the Chinese have, perhaps the best title to modesty. Even the men wrap themselves closely up in their garments, and reckon it indecent to discover any [p41] more of their arms and legs than is necessary.—The women, still more closely wrapt up, never discover a naked hand even to their nearest relations, if they can possibly avoid it. Every part of their dress, every part of their behavior is calculated to preserve decency, and inspire respect. And, what adds lustre to of their charms, is that uncommon modesty which appears in every look and in every action.

Charmed, no doubt, with so engaging a deportment, the men behave to them in a reciprocal manner. And, that their virtue may not be contaminated by the neighborhood of vice, the legislature takes care that no prostitutes shall lodge within the walls of any of the great cities of China.

Some, however, suspect whether this appearance of modesty be any thing else than the custom of the country; and allege that, notwithstanding so much decency and decorum, they have their peculiar modes of intriguing, and embrace every possible opportunity of putting them in practice; and that, in these intrigues, they frequently scruple not to stab the paramour they had invited to their arms, as the surest method of preventing detection and loss of character.

A bridegroom knows nothing of the character or person of his intended wife, except what he gathers from the report of some female relative, or confidant, who undertakes to arrange the marriage, and determine the sum that shall be paid for the bride. Very severe laws are made [p42] to prevent deception and fraud in these transactions. On the day appointed for the wedding the damsel is placed in a close palanquin the key of which is sent to the bridegroom, by the hands of some trusty domestic. Her relations and friends accompanied by squalling music, escort her to his house; at the gate of which he stands in full dress, ready to receive her. He eagerly opens the palanquin and examines his bargain. If he is pleased, she enters his dwelling, and the marriage is celebrated with feasting and rejoicing; the men and women being all the time in separate apartments. If the bridegroom is dissatisfied, he shuts the palanquin, and sends the woman back to her relations; but when this happens, he must pay another sum of money equal to the price he first gave for her. A woman who unites beauty with accomplishments brings from four to seven hundred louis d’ors; some sell for less than one hundred. The apartments of the women are separated from those of the men by a wall at which a guard is stationed. The wife is never allowed to eat with her husband; she cannot quit her apartments without permission; and he does not enter hers without first asking leave. Brothers are entirely separated from their sisters at the age of nine or ten years.


The Africans were formerly renowned for their industry in cultivating the ground, for their trade, navigation, caravans and useful arts.—At present they are remarkable for their idleness, ignorance, superstition, treachery, and, above all, for their lawless methods of robbing and murdering all the other inhabitants of the globe.

Though they still retain some sense of their infamous character, yet they do not choose to reform. Their priests, therefore, endeavor to justify them, by the following story: “Noah,” say they, “was no sooner dead, than his three sons, the first of whom was white, the second tawny, and the third black, having agreed upon dividing among them his goods and possessions, spent the greatest part of the day in sorting them; so that they were obliged to adjourn the division till the next morning. Having supped and smoked a friendly pipe together, they all went to rest, each in his own tent. After a few hours sleep, the white brother got up, seized on the gold, silver, precious stones, and other things of the greatest value, loaded the best horses with them, and rode away to that country where his white posterity have been settled ever since. The tawny, awaking soon after, and with the same criminal intention, was surprised when he came to the store house to find that his brother had been beforehand with him. Upon which he hastily secured the rest of the horses [p44] and camels, and loading them with the best carpets, clothes, and other remaining goods, directed his route to another part of the world, leaving behind him, only a few of the coarsest goods, and some provisions of little value.

When the third, or black brother, came next morning in the simplicity of his heart to make the proposed division, and could neither find his brethren, nor any of the valuable commodities, he easily judged they had tricked him, and were by that time fled beyond any possibility of discovery.

In this most afflicted situation, he took his pipe, and begun to consider the most effectual means of retrieving his loss, and being revenged on his perfidious brothers.

After revolving a variety of schemes in his mind, he at last fixed upon watching every opportunity of making reprisals on them, and laying hold of and carrying away their property, as often as it should fall in his way, in revenge for that patrimony of which they had so unjustly deprived him.

Having come to this resolution, he not only continued in the practice of it all his life, but on his death laid the strongest injunctions on his descendants to do so, to the end of the world.”

Some tribes of the Africans, however, when they have engaged themselves in the protection of a stranger, are remarkable for fidelity. Many of them are conspicuous for their temperance, hospitality, and several other virtues.

Their women, upon the whole, are far from being indelicate or unchaste. On the banks of the Niger, they are tolerably industrious, have a considerable share of vivacity, and at the same time a female reserve, which would do no discredit to a politer country. They are modest, affable, and faithful; an air of innocence appears in their looks and in their language, which gives a beauty to their whole deportment.

When, from the Niger, we approach toward the East, the African women degenerate in stature, complexion, sensibility, and chastity. Even their language, like their features, and the soil they inhabit, is harsh and disagreeable. Their pleasures resemble more the transports of fury, than the gentle emotions communicated by agreeable sensations.


The times and the manners of chivalry, by bringing great enterprises, bold adventures, and extravagant heroism into fashion, inspired the women with the same taste.

The two sexes always imitate each other. Their manners and their minds are refined or corrupted, invigorated or dissolved together.

The women, in consequence of the prevailing passion, were now seen in the middle of camps and of armies. They quitted the soft and tender inclinations, and the delicate offices of their [p46] own sex, for the courage, and the toilsome occupations of ours.

During the crusades, animated by the double enthusiasm of religion and of valor, they often performed the most romantic exploits. They obtained indulgences on the field of battle, and died with arms in their hands, by the side of their lovers, or of their husbands.

In Europe, the women attacked and defended fortifications. Princesses commanded their armies, and obtained victories.

Such was the celebrated Joan de Mountfort, disputing for her duchy of Bretagne, and engaging the enemy herself.

Such was the still more celebrated Margaret of Anjou, queen of England and wife of Henry VI. She was active and intrepid, a general and a soldier. Her genius for a long time supported her feeble husband, taught him to conquer, replaced him upon the throne, twice relieved him from prison, and though oppressed by fortune and by rebels, she did not yield, till she had decided in person twelve battles.

The warlike spirit among the women, consistent with ages of barbarism, when every thing is impetuous because nothing is fixed, and when all excess is the excess of force, continued in Europe upwards of four hundred years, showing itself from time to time, and always in the middle of convulsions, or on the eve of great revolutions.

But there were eras and countries, in which that spirit appeared with particular lustre. Such [p47] were the displays it made in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Hungary, and in the Islands of the Archipelago and the Mediterranean, when they were invaded by the Turks.

Every thing conspired to animate the women of those countries with an exalted courage; the prevailing spirit of the foregoing ages; the terror which the name of the Turks inspired; the still more dreadful apprehensions of an unknown enemy; the difference of dress, which has a stronger effect than is commonly supposed on the imagination of a people; the difference of religion, which produced a kind of sacred horror; the striking difference of manners; and above all, the confinement of the female sex, which presented to the women of Europe nothing but the frightful ideas of servitude and a master; the groans of honor, the tears of beauty in the embrace of barbarism, and the double tyranny of love and pride!

The contemplation of these objects, accordingly, roused in the hearts of the women a resolute courage to defend themselves; nay, sometimes even a courage of enthusiasm, which hurled itself against the enemy.—That courage, too, was augmented, by the promises of a religion, which offered eternal happiness in exchange for the sufferings of a moment.

It is not therefore surprising, that when three beautiful women of the isle of Cyprus were led prisoners to Selim, to be secluded in the seraglio, one of them, preferring death to such a condition, conceived the project of setting fire to the [p48] magazine; and after having communicated her design to the rest, put it in execution.

The year following, a city of Cyprus being besieged by the Turks, the women ran in crowds, mingling themselves with the soldiers, and, fighting gallantly in the breach, were the means of saving their country.

Under Mahomet II. a girl of the isle of Lemnos, armed with the sword and shield of her father, who had fallen in battle, opposed the Turks, when they had forced a gate, and chased them to the shore.

In the two celebrated sieges of Rhodes and Malta, the women, seconding the zeal of the knights, discovered upon all occasions the greatest intrepidity; not only that impetuous and temporary impulse which despises death, but that cool and deliberate fortitude which can support the continued hardships, the toils, and the miseries of war.


When a man had said any thing that reflected dishonor on a woman, or accused her of a crime, she was not obliged to fight him to prove her innocence: the combat would have been unequal. But she might choose a champion to fight in her cause, or expose himself to the horrid trial, in order to clear her reputation. Such champions were generally selected from her [p49] lovers or friends. But if she fixed upon any other, so high was the spirit of martial glory, and so eager the thirst of defending the weak and helpless sex, that we meet with no instance of a champion ever having refused to fight for, or undergo whatever custom required, in defence of the lady who had honored him with the appointment.

To the motives already mentioned, we may add another. He who had refused, must inevitably have been branded with the name of coward: and, so despicable was the condition of a coward, in those times of general heroism, that death itself appeared the more preferable choice. Nay, such was the rage of fighting for women, that it became customary for those who could not be honored with the decision of their real quarrels, to create fictitious ones concerning them, in order to create also a necessity of fighting.

Nor was fighting for the ladies confined to single combatants. Crowds of gallants entered the lists against each other. Even kings called out their subjects, to shew their love for their mistresses, by cutting the throats of their neighbors, who had not in the least offended.

In the fourteenth century, when the Countess of Blois and the widow of Mountford were at war against each other, a conference was agreed to, on pretence of settling a peace, but in reality to appoint a combat. Instead of negotiating, they soon challenged each other; and Beaumanoir, who was at the head of the Britons, [p50] publicly declared that they fought for no other motive, than to see, by the victory, who had the fairest mistress.

In the fifteenth century, we find an anecdote of this kind still more extraordinary. John, duke de Bourbonnois, published a declaration, that he would go over to England, with sixteen knights, and there fight it out, in order to avoid idleness, and merit the good graces of his mistress.

James IV. of Scotland, having, in all tournaments, professed himself knight to queen Anne of France, she summoned him to prove himself her true and valorous champion, by taking the field in her defence, against his brother-in-law, Henry VIII. of England. He obeyed the romantic mandate; and the two nations bled to feed the vanity of a woman.

Warriors, when ready to engage, invoked the aid of their mistresses, as poets do that of the Muses. If they fought valiantly, it reflected honor on the Dulcineas they adored; but if they turned their backs on their enemies, the poor ladies were dishonored forever.

Love, was at that time, the most prevailing motive to fighting. The famous Gaston de Foix, who commanded the French troops at the battle of Ravenna, took advantage of this foible of his army. He rode from rank to rank, calling his officers by name, and even some of his private men, recommending to them their country, their honor, and, above all, to shew what they could do for their mistresses.

The women of those ages, the reader may imagine, were certainly more completely happy than in any other period of the world. This, however, was not in reality the case.

Custom, which governs all things with the most absolute sway, had, through a long succession of years, given her sanction to such combats as were undertaken, either to defend the innocence, or display the beauty of women. Custom, therefore, either obliged a man to fight for a woman who desired him, or marked the refusal with infamy and disgrace. But custom did not oblige him, in every other part of his conduct, to behave to this woman, or to the sex in general, with that respect and politeness which have happily distinguished the character of more modern times.

The same man who would have encountered giants, or gigantic difficulties, “when a lady was in the case,” had but little idea of adding to her happiness, by supplying her with the comforts and elegancies of life. And, had she asked him to stoop, and ease her of a part of that domestic slavery which, almost in every country, falls to the lot of women, he would have thought himself quite affronted.

But besides, men had nothing else, in those ages, than that kind of romantic gallantry to recommend them. Ignorant of letters, arts, and sciences, and every thing that refines human nature, they were, in every thing where gallantry was not concerned, rough and unpolished in their manners and behavior. Their time was [p52] spent in drinking, war, gallantry, and idleness. In their hours of relaxation, they were but little in company with their women; and when they were, the indelicacies of the carousal, or the cruelties of the field, were almost the only subjects they had to talk of.

From the subversion of the Roman empire, to the fourteenth or fifteenth century, women spent most of their time alone. They were almost entire strangers to the joys of social life. They seldom went abroad, but to be spectators of such public diversions and amusements as the fashion of the times countenanced. Francis I. was the first monarch who introduced them on public days to court.

Before his time, nothing was to be seen at any of the courts of Europe, but long bearded politicians, plotting the destruction of the rights and liberties of mankind; and warriors clad in complete armor, ready to put their plots in execution.

In the eighth century, so slavish was the condition of women on the one hand, and so much was beauty coveted on the other, that, for about two hundred years, the kings of Austria were obliged to pay a tribute to the Moors, of one hundred beautiful virgins per annum.

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, elegance had scarcely any existence, and even cleanliness was hardly considered as laudable. The use of linen was not known; and the most delicate of the fair sex wore woollen shifts.

In the time of Henry VIII. the peers of the [p53] realm carried their wives behind them on horseback when they went to London; and, in the same manner, took them back to their country seats, with hoods of waxed linen over their heads, and wrapped in mantles of cloth, to secure them from the cold.

There was one misfortune of a singular nature, to which women were liable in those days: they were in perpetual danger of being accused of witchcraft, and suffering all the cruelties and indignities of a mob, instigated by superstition and directed by enthusiasm; or of being condemned by laws, which were at once a disgrace to humanity and to sense. Even the bloom of youth and beauty could not secure them from torture and from death. But when age and wrinkles attacked a woman, if any thing uncommon happened in her neighborhood, she was almost sure of atoning with her life for a crime it was impossible for her to commit.


Though the ladies of France are not very handsome, they are sensible and witty. To many of them, without the least flattery, may be applied the distich which Sappho ascribes to herself:

If partial nature has denied me beauty, the charms of my mind amply make up for the deficiency.

No women upon earth can excel, and few rival them, in their almost native arts of pleasing all who approach them. Add to this, an education beyond that of most European ladies, a consummate skill in those accomplishments that suit the fair sex, and the most graceful manner of displaying that knowledge to the utmost advantage.

Such is the description that may safely be given of the French ladies in general. But the spirit, or rather the evil genius of gallantry, too often perverts all these lovely qualities, and renders them subservient to very iniquitous ends.

In every country, women have always a little to do, and a great deal to say. In France, they dictate almost every thing that is said, and direct every thing that is done. They are the most restless beings in the world. To fold her hands in idleness, and impose silence on her tongue, would be to a French woman worse than death. The sole joy of her life is to be engaged in the prosecution of some scheme, relating either to fashion, ambition, or love.

Among the rich and opulent, they are entirely the votaries of pleasure, which they pursue through all its labyrinths, at the expense of fortune, reputation, and health. Giddy and extravagant to the last degree, they leave to their husbands economy and care, which would only spoil their complexions, and furrow their brows.

When we descend to tradesmen and mechanics, the case is reversed: the wife manages every thing in the house and shop, while the [p55] husband lounges in the back-shop an idle spectator, or struts about with his sword and bag-wig.

Matrimony among the French, seems to be a bargain entered into by a male and female, to bear the same name, live in the same house, and pursue their separate pleasures without restraint or control. And, so religiously is this part of the bargain kept, that both parties shape their course exactly as convenience and inclination dictate.

The French girls are kept under very strict superintendence. They are not allowed to go to parties, or places of public amusement, without being accompanied by some married female relation; and they see their lovers only in the presence of a third person. Marriages are entirely negotiated by parents; and sometimes the wedding day is the second time that a bride and bridegroom see each other. Nothing is more common than to visit a lady, and attend her parties, without knowing her husband by sight; or to visit a gentleman without ever being introduced to his wife. If a married couple were to be seen frequently in each other’s company, they would be deemed extremely ungenteel. After ladies are married, they have unbounded freedom. It is a common practice to receive morning calls from gentlemen, before they have risen from bed; and they talk with as little reserve to such visiters, as they would in the presence of any woman of refinement.

In no country does real politeness shew itself [p56] more than in France, where the company of the women is accessible to every man who can recommend himself by his dress, and by his address. To affectation and prudery the French women are equally strangers. Easy and unaffected in their manners, their politeness has so much the appearance of nature, that one would almost believe no part of it to be the effect of art. An air of sprightliness and gaiety sits perpetually on their countenances, and their whole deportment seems to indicate that their only business is to “strew the path of life with flowers.” Persuasion hangs on their lips; and, though their volubility of tongue is indefatigable, so soft is their accent, so lively their expression, so various their attitudes, that they fix the attention for hours together on a tale of nothing.

The Jewish doctors have a fable concerning the etymology of the word Eve, which one would almost be tempted to say is realized in the French women. “Eve,” say they, “comes from a word, which signifies to talk; and she was so called, because, soon after the creation, there fell from heaven twelve baskets full of chit chat, and she picked up nine of them, while her husband was gathering the other three.”

French ladies, especially those not young, use a great deal of rouge. A traveller who saw many of them in their opera boxes, says, “I could compare them to nothing but a large bed of pionies.”

After the French revolution, it became the [p57] fashion to have everything in ancient classic style. Loose flowing drapery, naked arms, sandaled feet, and tresses twisted, were the order of the day.

The state of gross immorality that prevailed at this time ought not to be described, if language had the power. The profligacy of Rome in its worst days was comparatively thrown into the shade. Religion and marriage became a mockery, and every form of impure and vindictive passion walked abroad, with the consciousness that public opinion did not require them to assume even a slight disguise. The fish-women of Paris will long retain an unenviable celebrity for the brutal excess of their rage. The goddess of Reason was worshipped by men, under the form of a living woman entirely devoid of clothing; and in the public streets ladies might be seen who scarcely paid more attention to decorum.


Dr Goldsmith thus characterises the Italians in general:

“Could nature’s bounty satisfy the breast,
The sons of Italy were surely blest.
Whatever fruits in different climes are found,
That proudly rise, or humbly court the ground;
Whatever blooms in torrid tracts appear,
Whose bright succession decks the varied year:
Whatever sweets salute the northern sky,
With vernal leaves that blossom but to die:
These here disporting, own the kindred soil,
Nor ask luxuriance from their planter’s toil;
While sea-born gales their gelid wings expand,
To winnow fragrance round the smiling land.
“But small the bliss that sense alone bestows,
And sensual bliss is all the nation knows.
In florid beauty groves and fields appear,
Man seems the only growth that dwindles here.
Contrasted faults thro’ all his manners rein;
Though poor, luxurious; though submissive, vain;
Though grave, yet trifling; zealous, yet untrue;
And e’en in penance planning sins anew.
All evils here contaminate the mind,
That opulence departed leaves behind:
For wealth was theirs, not far remov’d the date,
When commerce proudly flourish’d thro’ the state;
At her command the palace learn’d to rise,
Again the long fall’n column sought the skies;
The canvass glow’d, beyond e’en nature warm;
The pregnant quarry teem’d with human form.
Till, more unsteady then the southern gale,
Commerce on other shores display’d her sail;
While naught remain’d of all that riches gave,
But towns unmann’d, and lords without a slave;
And late the nation found, with fruitless skill,
Its former strength was but plethoric ill.
“Yet still the loss of wealth is here supplied
By arts, the splendid wrecks of former pride;
From them the feeble heart and long fall’n mind
An easy compensation seem to find.
Here may be seen in bloodless pomp array’d,
The pasteboard triumph, and the cavalcade;
Processions form’d from piety and love,
A mistress or a saint in every grove.”

Almost every traveller who has visited Italy, agrees in describing it as the most abandoned of all the countries of Europe. At Venice, at Naples, and indeed in almost every port of Italy, women are taught from their infancy the various [p59]
arts of alluring to their arms the young and unwary, and of obtaining from them, while heated by love or wine, every thing that flattery and false smiles can obtain, in these unguarded moments.

The Italians, like their neighbors of Spain and Portugal, live under the paralyzing influence of a religion that retains its superstitious forms, while little of life-giving faith remains. Like them they have lively passions, are extremely susceptible, and in the general conduct of life more governed by the impetuosity of impulse than rectitude of principle. The ladies have less gravity than the Spanish, and less frivolity than the French, and in their style of dress incline towards the freedom of the latter. Some of the richest and most commodious convents of Europe are in Italy. The daughters of wealthy families are generally bestowed in marriage as soon as they leave these places of education. These matters are entirely arranged by parents and guardians, and youth and age are not unfrequently joined together, for the sake of uniting certain acres of land. But the affections, thus repressed, seek their natural level by indirect courses. It is a rare thing for an Italian lady to be without her cavaliere servente, or lover, who spends much of his time at her house, attends her to all public places, and appears to live upon her smiles. The old maxim of the Provenēal troubadours, that matrimony ought to be no hindrance to such liaisons, seems to be generally and practically believed in Italy.

In Genoa, there are marriage-brokers, who have pocketbooks filled with the names of marriageable girls of different classes, with an account of their fortunes, personal attractions, &c. When they succeed in arranging connections, they have two or three per cent. commission on the portion. The marriage-contract is often drawn up before the parties have seen each other. If a man dislikes the appearances or manners of his future partner, he may break off the match, on condition of paying the brokerage and other expenses.


As the Spanish ladies are under a greater seclusion from general society, than the sex is in other European countries, their desires of an adequate degree of liberty are consequently more strong and urgent. A free and open communication being denied them, they make it their business to secure themselves a secret and hidden one. Hence it is that Spain is the country of intrigue.

The Spanish women are little or nothing indebted to education. But nature has liberally supplied them with a fund of wit and sprightliness, which is certainly no small inducement to those, who have only transient glimpses of their charms, to wish very earnestly for a removal of those impediments, that obstruct their more frequent presence. This not being attainable in a [p61] lawful way of customary intercourse, the natural propensity of men to overcome difficulties of this kind, incites them to leave no expedient untried to gain admittance to what perhaps was at first only the object of their admiration, but which, by their being refused an innocent gratification of that passion, becomes at last the subject of a more serious one. Thus in Spain, as in all countries where the sex is kept much out of sight, the thoughts of men are continually employed in devising methods to break into their concealments.

There is in the Spaniards a native dignity; which, though the source of many inconveniences, has nevertheless this salutary effect, that it sets them above almost every species of meanness and infidelity. This quality is not peculiar to the men; it diffuses itself, in a great measure, among the women also. Its effects are visible both in their constancy in love and friendship, in which respects they are the very reverse of the French women. Their affections are not to be gained by a bit of sparkling lace, or a tawdry set of liveries. Their deportment is rather grave and reserved; and, on the whole, they have much more of the prude than the coquette in their composition. Being more confined at home, and less engaged in business and pleasure, they take more care of their children than the French, and have a becoming tenderness in their disposition to all animals, except a heretic and a rival.

Something more than a century ago, the Marquis D’Astrogas having prevailed on a young woman of great beauty to become his mistress, the Marchioness hearing of it, went to her lodging with some assassins, killed her, tore out her heart, carried it home, made a ragout of it, and presented the dish to the Marquis. “It it exceedingly good,” said he. “No wonder,” answered she, “since it was made of the heart of that creature you so much doated on.” And, to confirm what she had said, she immediately drew out her head all bloody from beneath her hoop, and rolled it on the floor, her eyes sparkling all the time with a mixture of pleasure and infernal fury.

A lady to whom a gentleman pays his addresses, is sole mistress of his time and money; and, should he refuse her any request, whether reasonable or capricious, it would reflect eternal dishonor upon him among the men, and make him the detestation of all the women.

But, in no situation does their character appear so whimsical, or their power so conspicuous, as when they are pregnant. In this case, whatever they long for, whatever they ask, or whatever they have an inclination to do, they must be indulged in.


The women of England are eminent for many good qualities both of the head and of the [p63] heart. There we meet with that inexpressible softness and delicacy of manners, which, cultivated by education, appears as much superior to what it does without it, as the polished diamond appears superior to that which is rough from the mine. In some parts of the world, women have attained to so little knowledge and so little consequence, that we consider their virtues as merely of the negative kind. In England they consist not only in abstinence from evil, but in doing good.

There we see the sex every day exerting themselves in acts of benevolence and charity, in relieving the distresses of the body, and binding up the wounds of the mind; in reconciling the differences of friends, and preventing the strife of enemies; and, to sum up all, in that care and attention to their offspring, which is so necessary and essential a part of their duty.

A woman may succeed to the throne of England with the same power and privileges as a king; and the business of the state is transacted in her name, while her husband is only a subject. The king’s wife is considered as a subject; but is exempted from the law which forbids any married woman to possess property in her own right during the lifetime of her husband; she may sue any person at law without joining her husband in the suit; may buy and sell lands without his interference; and she may dispose of her property by will, as if she were a single woman. She cannot be fined by any court of law; but is liable to be tried and [p64] punished for crimes by peers of the realm. The queen dowager enjoys nearly the same privileges that she did before she became a widow; and if she marries a subject still continues to retain her rank and title; but such marriages cannot take place without permission from the reigning sovereign. A woman who is noble in her own right, retains her title when she marries a man of inferior rank; but if ennobled by her husband, she loses the title by marrying a commoner. A peeress can only be tried by a jury of peers.

In old times, a woman who was convicted of being a common mischief-maker and scold, was sentenced to the punishment of the ducking-stool; which consisted of a sort of chair fastened to a pole, in which she was seated and repeatedly let down into the water, amid the shouts of the rabble. At Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a woman convicted of the same offence was led about the streets by the hangman, with an instrument of iron bars fitted on her head, like a helmet. A piece of sharp iron entered the mouth, and severely pricked the tongue whenever the culprit attempted to move it.

A great deal of vice prevails in England, among the very fashionable, and the very low classes. Misconduct and divorces are not unfrequent among the former, because their mode of life corrupts their principles, and they deem themselves above the jurisdiction of popular opinion; the latter feel as if they were beneath the influence of public censure, and find it very [p65] difficult to be virtuous, on account of extreme poverty, and the consequent obstructions in the way of marriage. But the general character of English women is modest, reserved, sincere, and dignified. They have strong passions and affections, which often develope themselves in the most beautiful forms of domestic life. They are in general remarkable for a healthy appearance, and an exquisite bloom of complexion. Perhaps the world does not present a lovelier or more graceful picture than the English home of a virtuous family.


It is only a few years since the Russians emerged from a state of barbarity.

A late empress of Russia, as a punishment for some female frailties, ordered a most beautiful young lady of family to be publicly chastised, in a manner which was hardly less indelicate than severe.

It is said that the Russian ladies were formerly as submissive to their husbands in their families, as the latter are to their superiors in the field; and that they thought themselves ill treated, if they were not often reminded of their duty by the discipline of a whip, manufactured by themselves, which they presented to their husbands on the day of their marriage. The latest travellers, however, assert, that they find no remaining traces of this custom at present.

Russian fathers, of all classes, generally arrange marriages for their children, without consulting their inclinations. Among the peasantry, if the girl has the name of being a good housewife, her parents will not fail to have applications for her, whatever may be her age or personal endowments. As soon as a young man is old enough to be married, his parents seek a wife for him, and all is settled before the young couple know any thing of the matter.

Their nuptial ceremonies are peculiar to themselves; and formerly consisted of many whimsical rites, some of which are now disused. On her wedding day, the bride is crowned with a garland of wormwood; and, after the priest has tied the nuptial knot, his clerk or sexton throws a handful of hops upon the head of the bride, wishing that she might prove as fruitful as that plant. She is then led home, with abundance of coarse ceremonies, which are now wearing off even among the lowest ranks; and the barbarous treatment of wives by their husbands is either guarded against by the laws of the country, or by particular stipulations in the marriage contract.

In the conversation and actions of the Russian ladies, there is hardly any thing of that softness and delicacy which distinguishes the sex in other parts of Europe. Even their exercises and diversions have more of the masculine than the feminine. The present empress, with the ladies of her court, sometimes divert themselves by shooting at a mark. Drunkenness, [p67] the vice of almost every cold climate, they are so little ashamed of, that not many years ago, when a lady got drunk at the house of a friend, it was customary for her to return next day, and thank him for the pleasure he had done her.

Females, however, in Russia, possess several advantages. They share the rank and splendor of the families from which they are sprung, and are even allowed the supreme authority. This a few years ago, was enjoyed by an empress, whose head did honor to her nation and to her sex; although, on some occasions, the virtues of her heart have been much suspected. The sex, in general, are protected from insult, by many salutary laws; and, except among the peasants, are exempted from every kind of toil and slavery. Upon the whole, they seem to be approaching fast to the enjoyment of that consequence, to which they have already arrived in several parts of Europe.


It is an opinion pretty well established, that in strength of mind, as well as of body, men are greatly superior to women.

Men are endowed with boldness and courage, women are not. The reason is plain, these are beauties in our character; in theirs they would be blemishes. Our genius often leads to the great and the arduous; theirs to the soft and the pleasing; we bend our thoughts to make [p68] life convenient; they turn theirs to make it easy and agreeable. If the endowments allotted to us by nature could not be easily acquired by women, it would be as difficult for us to acquire those peculiarly allotted to them. Are we superior to them in what belongs to the male character? They are no less so to us, in what belongs to the female character.

Would it not appear rather ludicrous to say, that a man was endowed only with inferior abilities, because he was not expert in the nursing of children, and practising the various effeminacies which we reckon lovely in a woman? Would it be reasonable to condemn him on these accounts? Just as reasonable, as it is to reckon women inferior to men, because their talents are in general not adapted to tread the horrid path of war, nor trace the mazes and intricacies of science.

The idea of the inferiority of female nature has drawn after it several others the most absurd, unreasonable, and humiliating to the sex. Such is the pride of man, that in some countries he has considered immortality as a distinction too glorious for women. Thus degrading the fair partners of his nature, he places them on a level with the beasts that perish.

As the Asiatics have, time immemorial, considered women as little better than slaves, this opinion probably originated among them. The Mahometans, both in Asia and Europe, are said, by a great variety of writers, to entertain this opinion.

Lady Montague, in her letters, has opposed this general assertion of the writers concerning the Mahometans; and says that they do not absolutely deny the existence of female souls, but only hold them to be of a nature inferior to those of men; and that they enter not into the same, but into an inferior paradise, prepared for them on purpose. Lady Montague, and the writers whom she has contradicted, may perhaps be both right. The former might be the opinion which the Turks brought with them from Asia; and the latter, as a refinement upon it they may have adopted by their intercourse with the Europeans.

This opinion, however, has had but few votaries in Europe: though some have even here maintained it, and assigned various reasons for so doing. Among these, the following laughable reason is not the least particular—“In the Revelations of St. John the divine,” said one, whose wife was a descendant of the famous Xantippe,1 “you will find this passage: And there was silence in heaven for about the space of half an hour. Now, I appeal to any one, whether that could possibly have happened, had there been any women there? And, since there are none there, charity forbids us to imagine that they are all in a worse place; therefore it follows that they have no immortal part: and happy is it for them, as they are thereby exempted from [p70] being accountable for all the noise and disturbance they have raised in this world.”

In a very ancient treatise, called the Wisdom of all Times, ascribed to Hushang, one of the earliest kings of Persia, are the following remarkable words: “The passions of men may, by long acquaintance, be thoroughly known; but the passions of women are inscrutable; therefore they ought to be separated from men, lest the mutability of their tempers should infect others.”

Ideas of a similar nature seem to have been at this time, generally diffused over the East. For we find Solomon, almost every where in his writings, exclaiming against women; and, in the Apocrypha, the author of Ecclesiasticus is still more illiberal in his reflections.

Both these authors, it is true, join in the most enraptured manner to praise a virtuous woman; but take care at the same time to let us know, that she is so great a rarity as to be very seldom met with.

Nor have the Asiatics alone been addicted to this illiberality of thinking concerning the sex. Satirists of all ages and countries, while they flattered them to their faces, have from their closets scattered their spleen and ill-nature against them. Of this the Greek and Roman poets afford a variety of instances; but they must nevertheless yield the palm to some of our moderns. In the following lines, Pope has outdone every one of them:

“Men some to pleasure, some to business take;
But every woman is at heart—a rake.”

Swift and Dr Young have hardly been behind this celebrated splenetic in illiberality. They perhaps were not favorites of the fair, and in revenge vented all their envy and spleen against them. But a more modern and accomplished writer who by his rank in life, by his natural and acquired graces, was undoubtedly a favorite, has repaid their kindness by taking every opportunity of exhibiting them in the most contemptible light. “Almost every man,” says he, “may be gained some way, almost every woman any way, can any thing exhibit a stronger caution to the sex?” It is fraught with information; and it is to be hoped they will use it accordingly.

1 Xantippe, was the wife of Socrates, and the most famous scold of antiquity.


Would we conceive properly of that simplicity which is the sweetest expression of a well-informed and well-meaning mind, which every where diffuses tenderness and delicacy, sweetens the relations of life, and gives a zest to the minutest duties of humanity, let us contemplate every perceptible operation of nature, the twilight of the evening, the pearly dew-drops of the early morning, and all that various growth which indicates the genial return of spring. The same principle from which all that is soft and pleasing, amiable or exquisite, to the eye or to the ear, in the exterior frame of nature, produces that taste for true simplicity, which is one [p72] of the most useful, as well as the most elegant lessons, that ladies can learn.

Infancy, is perhaps, the finest and most perfect illustration of simplicity. It is a state of genuine nature throughout. The feelings of children are under no kind of restraint, but pure as the fire, free as the winds, honest and open as the face of heaven. Their joys incessantly flow in the thickest succession, and their griefs only seem fleeting and evanescent. To the calls of nature they are only attentive. They know no voice but hers. Their obedience to all her commands is prompt and implicit. They never anticipate her bounties, nor relinquish her pleasures. This situation renders them independent of artifice. Influenced only by nature, their manners, like the principle that produces them, are always the same.

Genuine simplicity is that peculiar quality of the mind, by which some happy characters are enabled to avoid the most distant approaches to any thing like affectation, inconstancy, or design, in their intercourse with the world. It is much more easily understood, however than defined; and consists not in a specific tone of the voice, movement of the body, or mode imposed by custom, but is the natural and permanent effect of real modesty and good sense on the whole behavior.

This has been considered in all ages, as one of the first and most captivating ornaments of the sex. The savage, the plebeian, the man of the world, and the courtier, are agreed in stamping [p73] it with a preference to every other female excellence.

Nature only is lovely, and nothing unnatural can ever be amiable. The genuine expressions of truth and nature are happily calculated to impress the heart with pleasure. No woman, whatever her other qualities may be, was ever eminently agreeable, but in proportion as distinguished by these. The world is good-natured enough to give a lady credit for all the merit she can possess or acquire, without affectation. But the least shade or coloring of this odious foible brings certain and indelible obloquy on the most elegant accomplishments. The blackest suspicion inevitably rests on every thing assumed. She who is only an ape of others, or prefers formality in all its gigantic and preposterous shapes, to that plain, unembarassed conduct which nature unavoidably produces, will assuredly provoke an abundance of ridicule, but never can be an object either of love or esteem.

The various artifices of the sex discover themselves at a very early period. A passion for expense and show is one of the first they exhibit. This gives them a taste for refinement, which divests their young hearts of almost every other feeling, renders their tempers desultory and capricious, regulates their dress only by the most fantastic models of finery and fashion, and makes their company rather tiresome and awkward, than pleasing or elegant.

No one perhaps can form a more ludicrous contrast to every thing just and graceful in [p74] nature, than the woman whose sole object in life is to pass for a fine lady. The attentions she every where and uniformly pays, expects, and even exacts, are tedious and fatiguing. Her various movements and attitudes are all adjusted and exhibited by rule. By a happy fluency of the most eloquent language, she has the art of imparting a momentary dignity and grace to the merest trifles. Studious only to mimic such peculiarities as are most admired in others, she affects a loquacity peculiarly flippant and teazing because scandal, routs, finery, fans, china, lovers, lap-dogs, or squirrels, are her constant themes. Her amusements, like those of a magpie, are only hopping over the same spots, prying into the same corners, and devouring the same species of prey. The simple and beautiful delineations of nature, in her countenance, gestures and whole deportment, are habitually arranged, distorted, or concealed, by the affected adoption of whatever grimace or deformity is latest or most in vogue.

She accustoms her face to a simper, which every separate feature in it belies. She spoils, perhaps, a blooming complexion with a profusion of artificial coloring, she distorts the most exquisite shape by loads or volumes of useless drapery. She has her head, her arms, her feet, and her gait, equally touched by art and affectation, into what is called the taste, the ton, or the fashion.

She little considers to what a torrent of ridicule and sarcasm this mode of conduct exposes [p75] her; or how exceedingly cold and hollow that ceremony must be, which is not the language of a warm heart. She does not reflect how insipid those smiles are, which indicate no internal pleasantry; nor how awkward those graces, which spring not from habits of good-nature and benevolence. Thus, pertness succeeds to delicacy, assurance to modesty, and all the vagaries of a listless to the sensibilities of an ingenuous mind.

With her, punctilio is politeness; dissipation, life; and levity, spirit. The miserable and contemptible drudge of every tawdry innovation in dress or ceremony, she incessantly mistakes extravagance for taste, and finery for elegance.

Her favorite examples are not those persons of acknowledged sincerity, who speak as they feel, and act as they think; but such only as are formed to dazzle her fancy, amuse her senses, or humor her whims. Her only study is how to glitter or shine, how to captivate and gratify the gaze of the multitude, or how to swell her own pomp and importance. To this interesting object all her assiduities and time are religiously devoted.

How often is debility of mind, and even badness of heart concealed under a splendid exterior! The fairest of the species, and of the sex, often want sincerity; and without sincerity every other qualification is rather a blemish, than a virtue, or excellence. Sincerity operates on the moral, somewhat like the sun on the natural world; and produces nearly the same effects on [p76] the dispositions of the human heart, which he does on inanimate objects. Wherever sincerity prevails and is felt, all the smiling and benevolent virtues flourish most, disclose their sweetest lustre, and diffuse their richest fragrance.

Heaven has not a finer or more perfect emblem on earth than a woman of genuine simplicity. She affects no graces which are not inspired by sincerity. Her opinions result not from passion and fancy, but from reason and experience. Candor and humility give expansion to her heart. She struggles for no kind of chimerical credit, disclaims the appearance of every affectation, and is in all things just what she seems, and others would be thought. Nature, not art, is the great standard of her manners; and her exterior wears no varnish, or embellishment, which is not the genuine signature of an open, undesigning, and benevolent mind. It is not in her power, because not in her nature, to hide, with a fawning air, and a mellow voice, her aversion or contempt, where her delicacy is hurt, here temper ruffled, or her feelings insulted.

In short, whatever appears most amiable, lovely, or interesting in nature, art, manners, or life, originates in simplicity. What is correctness in taste, purity in morals, truth in science, grace in beauty, but simplicity? It is the garb of innocence. It adorned the first ages, and still adorns the infant state of humanity. Without simplicity, woman is a vixen, a coquette, a hypocrite; society a masquerade, and pleasure a phantom.

The following story, I believe, is pretty generally known. A lady, whose husband had long been afflicted with an acute but lingering disease, suddenly feigned such an uncommon tenderness for him, as to resolve on dying in his stead. She had even the address to persuade him not to outlive this extraordinary instance of her conjugal fidelity and attachment. It was instantaneously agreed they should mutually swallow such a quantity of arsenic, as would speedily effect their dreadful purpose. She composed the fatal draught before his face and even set him the desperate example of drinking first. By this device, which had all the appearance of the greatest affection and candor, the dregs only were reserved for him, and soon put a period to his life.

It then appeared that the dose was so tempered, as, from the weight of the principal ingredient, to be deadly only at the bottom, which she had artfully appropriated for his share. Even after all this finesse, she seized, we are told, his inheritance, and insulted his memory by a second marriage.


A late eminent anatomist, in a professional discourse on the female frame, is said to have declared, that it almost appeared an act of cruelty in nature to produce such a being as woman. This remark may, indeed, be the natural [p78] exclamation of refined sensibility, in contemplating the various maladies to which a creature of such delicate organs is inevitably exposed; but, if we take a more enlarged survey of human existence, we shall be far from discovering any just reason to arraign the benevolence of its provident and gracious Author. If the delicacy of woman must render her familiar with pain and sickness, let us remember that her charms, her pleasures, and her happiness, arise also from the same attractive quality. She is a being, to use the forcible and elegant expression of a poet,

“Fine by defect, and admirably weak.”

There is, perhaps, no charm by which she more effectually secures the tender admiration and the lasting love, of the more hardy sex, than her superior endurance, her mild and graceful submission to the common evils of life.

Nor is this the sole advantage she derives from her gentle fortitude. It is the prerogative of this lovely virtue, to lighten the pressure of all those incorrigible evils which it cheerfully endures. The frame of man may be compared to the sturdy oak, which is often shattered by resisting the tempest. Woman is the pliant osier, which, in bending to the storm, eludes its violence.

The accurate observers of human nature will readily allow, that patience is most eminently the characteristic of woman. To what a sublime and astonishing height this virtue has been carried by beings of the most delicate texture, [p79] we have striking examples in the many female martyrs who were exposed, in the first ages of christianity, to the most barbarous and lingering torture.

Nor was it only from christian zeal that woman derived the power of defying the utmost rigors of persecution with invincible fortitude. Saint Ambrose, in his elaborate and pious treatise on this subject, records the resolution of a fair disciple of Pythagoras, who, being severely urged by a tyrant to reveal the secrets of her sex, to convince him that no torments should reduce her to so unworthy a breach of her vow, bit her own tongue asunder, and darted it in the face of her oppressor.

In consequence of those happy changes which have taken place in the world, from the progress of purified religion, the inexpressible spirit of the tender sex is no longer exposed to such inhuman trials. But if the earth is happily delivered from the demons of torture and superstition; if beauty and innocence are no more in danger of being dragged to perish at the stake—perhaps there are situations, in female life, that require as much patience and magnanimity, as were formerly exerted in the fiery torments of the virgin martyr. It is more difficult to support an accumulation of minute infelicities, than any single calamity of the most terrific magnitude.


Where the human race has little other culture than what it receives from nature, the two sexes live together, unconscious of almost any restraint on their words or on their actions. The Greeks, in the heroic ages, as appears from the whole history of their conduct, were totally unacquainted with delicacy. The Romans in the infancy of their empire, were the same. Tacitus informs us that the ancient Germans had not separate beds for the two sexes, but that they lay promiscuously on reeds or on heath, spread along the walls of their houses. This custom still prevails in Lapland, among the peasants of Norway, Poland, and Russia; and it is not altogether obliterated in some parts of the highlands of Scotland and Wales.

In Otaheite, to appear naked or in clothes, are circumstances equally indifferent to both sexes; nor does any word in their language, nor any action to which they are prompted by nature, seem more indelicate or reprehensible than another. Such are the effects of a total want of culture.

Effects not very dissimilar, are, in France and Italy, produced from a redundance of it. Though those are the polite countries in Europe, women there set themselves above shame, and despise delicacy. It is laughed out of existence, as a silly and unfashionable weakness.

But in China, one of the politest countries in Asia, and perhaps not even, in this respect, [p81] behind France, or Italy, the case is quite otherwise. No human being can be more delicate than a Chinese woman in her dress, in her behavior, and in her conversation; and should she ever happen to be exposed in any unbecoming manner, she feels with the greatest poignancy the awkwardness of her situation, and if possible, covers her face, that she may not be known.

In the midst of so many discordant appearances, the mind is perplexed, and can hardly fix upon any cause to which female delicacy is to be ascribed. If we attend, however, to the whole animal creation, if we consider it attentively wherever it falls under our observation, it will discover to us, that in the female there is a greater degree of delicacy or coy reserve than in the male. Is not this a proof, that, through the wide extent of creation, the seeds of delicacy are more liberally bestowed upon females than upon males?

In the remotest periods of which we have any historical account, we find that the women had a delicacy to which the other sex were strangers. Rebecca veiled herself when she first approached Isaac, her future husband. Many of the fables of antiquity mark, with the most distinguishing characters, the force of female delicacy. Of this kind is the fable of Actęon and Diana. Actęon, a famous hunter, being in the woods with his hounds, beating for game, accidentally spied Diana and her nymphs bathing in a river. Prompted by curiosity, he stole silently into a neighboring thicket, that he [p82] might have a nearer view of them. The goddess discovering him, was so affronted at his audacity, and so much ashamed to have been seen naked, that in revenge she immediately transformed him into a stag, set his own hounds upon him, and encouraged them to overtake and devour him. Besides this, and other fables, and historical anecdotes of antiquity, their poets seldom exhibit a female character without adorning it with the graces of modesty and delicacy. Hence we may infer, that these qualities have not been only essential to virtuous women in civilized countries, but were also constantly praised and esteemed by men of sensibility; and that delicacy is an innate principle in the female mind.

There are so many evils attending the loss of virtue in women, and so greatly are the minds of that sex depraved when they have deviated from the path of rectitude, that a general contamination of their morals may be considered as one of the greatest misfortunes that can befal a state, as in time it destroys almost every public virtue of the men. Hence all wise legislators have strictly enforced upon the sex a particular purity of manners; and not satisfied that they should abstain from vice only, have required them even to shun every appearance of it.

Such, in some periods, were the laws of the Romans; and such were the effects of these laws, that if ever female delicacy shone forth in a conspicuous manner, it was perhaps among those people, after they had worn off much of [p83] the barbarity of their first ages, and before they became contaminated, by the wealth and manners of the nations which they plundered and subjected. Then it was that we find many of their women surpassing in modesty almost every thing related by fable; and then it was that their ideas of delicacy were so highly refined, that they could not even bear the secret consciousness of an involuntary crime, and far less of having tacitly consented to it.


The company of ladies has a very powerful influence on the sentiments and conduct of men. Women, the fruitful source of half our joys, and perhaps of more than half our sorrows, give an elegance to our manner, and a relish to our pleasures. They soothe our afflictions, and soften our cares. Too much of their company will render us effeminate, and infallibly stamp upon us many signatures of the female nature. A rough and unpolished behavior, as well as slovenliness of person, will certainly be the consequence of an almost constant exclusion from it. By spending a reasonable portion of our time in the company of women, and another in the company of our own sex, we shall imbibe a proper share of the softness of the female, and at the same time retain the firmness and constancy of the male.

As little social intercourse subsisted between [p84] the two sexes, in the more early ages of antiquity, we find the men less courteous, and the women less engaging. Vivacity and cheerfulness seem hardly to have existed. Even the Babylonians, who appear to have allowed their women more liberty than any of the ancients, seem not to have lived with them in a friendly and familiar manner. But, as their intercourse with them was considerably greater than that of the neighboring nations, they acquired thereby a polish and refinement unknown to any of the people who surrounded them. The manners of both sexes were softer, and better calculated to please.

They likewise paid more attention to cleanliness and dress.

After the Greeks became famous for their knowledge of the arts and sciences, their rudeness and barbarity were only softened a few degrees. It is not therefore arts, sciences, and learning, but the company of the other sex, that forms the manner and renders the man agreeable.

The Romans were, for some time, a community without any thing to soften the ferocity of male nature. The Sabine virgins, whom they had stolen, appear to have infused into them the first ideas of politeness. But it was many ages before this politeness banished the roughness of the warrior, and assumed the refinement of the gentleman.

During the times of chivalry, female influence was at the zenith of its glory and perfection. [p85] It was the source of valor, it gave birth to politeness, it awakened pity, it called forth benevolence, it restricted the hand of oppression, and meliorated the human heart. “I cannot approach my mistress,” said one, “till I have done some glorious deed to deserve her notice. Actions should be the messengers of the heart; they are the homage due to beauty, and they only should discover love.”

Marsan, instructing a young knight how to behave so as to gain the favor of the fair, has these remarkable words:—“When your arm is raised, if your lance fail, draw your sword directly; and let heaven and hell resound with the clash. Lifeless is the soul which beauty cannot animate, and weak is the arm which cannot fight valiantly to defend it.”

The Russians, Poles, and even the Dutch, pay less attention to their females than any of their neighbors, and are, by consequence, less distinguished for the graces of their persons, and the feelings of their hearts.

The lightness of their food, and the salubrity of their air, have been assigned as reasons for the vivacity and cheerfulness of the French, and their fortitude, in supporting their spirits through all the adverse circumstances of this world. But the constant mixture of the young and old, of the two sexes, is no doubt one of the principal reasons why the cares and ills of life sit lighter on the shoulders of that fantastic people, than on those of any other country in the world.

The French reckon an excursion dull, and a [p86] party of pleasure without relish, unless a mixture of both sexes join to compose in. The French women do not even withdraw from the table after meals; nor do the men discover that impatience to have them dismissed, which they so often do in England.

It is alleged by those who have no relish for the conversation of the fair sex, that their presence curbs the freedom of speech, and restrains the jollity of mirth. But, if the conversation and the mirth are decent, if the company are capable of relishing any thing but wine, the very reverse is the case. Ladies, in general, are not only more cheerful than gentlemen, but more eager to promote mirth and good humor.

So powerful, indeed, are the company and conversation of the fair, in diffusing happiness and hilarity, that even the cloud which hangs on the thoughtful brow of an Englishman, begins in the present age to brighten, by his devoting to the ladies a larger share of time than was formerly done by his ancestors.

Though the influence of the sexes be reciprocal, yet that of the ladies is certainly the greatest. How often may one see a company of men, who were disposed to be riotous, checked at once into decency by the accidental entrance of an amiable woman; while her good sense and obliging deportment charms them into at least a temporary conviction, that there is nothing so delightful as female conversation, in its best form! Were such conviction frequently repeated, what might we not expect from it at last?

“Were virtue,” said an ancient philosopher, “to appear amongst men in a visible shape, what vehement desires would she enkindle!” Virtue, exhibited without affectation, by a lovely young person, of improved understanding and gentle manners, may be said to appear with the most alluring aspect, surrounded by the Graces.

It would be an easy matter to point out instances of the most evident reformation, wrought on particular men, by their having happily conceived a passion for virtuous women.

To form the manners of men, various causes contribute; but nothing, perhaps, so much as the turn of the women with whom they converse. Those who are most conversant with women of virtue and understanding, will be always found the most amiable characters, other circumstances being supposed alike. Such society, beyond every thing else, rubs off the corners that gives many of our sex an ungracious roughness. It produces a polish more perfect, and more pleasing than that which is received from a general commerce with the world. This last is often specious, but commonly superficial. The other is the result of gentler feelings, and more humanity. The heart itself is moulded. Habits of undissembled courtesy are formed. A certain flowing urbanity is acquired. Violent passions, rash oaths, coarse jests, indelicate language of every kind, are precluded and disrelished.

Female society gives men a taste for cleanliness and elegance of person. Our ancestors, [p88] who kept but little company with their women, were not only slovenly in their dress, but had their countenances disfigured with long beards. By female influence, however, beards were, in process of time, mutilated down to mustaches. As the gentlemen found that the ladies had no great relish for mustaches, which were the relics of a beard, they cut and curled them into various fashions, to render them more agreeable. At last, however, finding such labor vain, they gave them up altogether. But as those of the three learned professions were supposed to be endowed with, or at least to stand in need of, more wisdom than other people, and as the longest beard had always been deemed to sprout from the wisest chin, to supply this mark of distinction, which they had lost, they contrived to smother their heads in enormous quantities of frizzled hair, that they might bear greater resemblance to an owl, the bird sacred to wisdom and Minerva.

To female society it has been objected by the learned and studious, that it enervates the mind, and gives it such a turn for trifling, levity, and dissipation, as renders it altogether unfit for that application which is necessary in order to become eminent in any of the sciences. In proof of this they allege, that the greatest philosophers seldom or never were men who enjoyed, or were fit for, the company or conversation of women. Sir Isaac Newton hardly ever conversed with any of the sex. Bacon, Boyle, Des Cartes, and many others, conspicuous for their learning and [p89] application, were but indifferent companions to the fair.

It is certain, indeed, that the youth who devotes his whole time and attention to female conversation, and the little offices of gallantry, never distinguishes himself in the literary world. But notwithstanding this, without the fatigue and application of severe study, he often obtains, by female interest, that which is denied to the merited improvements acquired by the labor of many years.


The venerable Bede has given us a very striking picture of Monastic enormities, in his epistle to Egbert. From this we learn that many young men who had no title to the monastic profession, got possession of monasteries; where, instead of engaging in the defence of their country, as their age and rank required, they indulged themselves in the most dissolute indolence.

We learn from Dugdale, that in the reign of Henry the Second, the nuns of Amsbury abbey in Wiltshire were expelled from that religious house on account of their incontinence. And to exhibit in the most lively colors the total corruption of monastic chastity, bishop Burnet informs us in his “History of the Reformation,” that when the nunneries were visited by the command of Henry the VIII. “whole houses almost, were found whose vows had been made in vain.”

When we consider to what oppressive indolence, to what a variety of wretchedness and guilt, the young and fair inhabitants of the cloister were frequently betrayed, we ought to admire those benevolent authors who, when the tide of religious prejudice ran very strong in favor of monastic virginity, had spirit enough to oppose the torrent, and to caution the devout and tender sex against so dangerous a profession. It is in this point of view that the character of Erasmus appears with the most amiable lustre; and his name ought to be eternally dear to the female world in particular. Though his studies and constitution led him almost to idolize those eloquent fathers of the church who have magnified this kind of life, his good sense and his accurate survey of the human race, enabled him to judge of the misery in which female youth was continually involved by a precipitate choice of the veil. He knew the successful arts by which the subtle and rapacious monks inveigled young women of opulent families into the cloister; and he exerted his lively and delicate wit in opposition to so pernicious an evil.

In those nations of Europe where nunneries still exist, how many lovely victims are continually sacrificed to the avarice or absurd ambition of inhuman parents! The misery of these victims has been painted with great force by some benevolent writers of France.

In most of those pathetic histories that are founded on the abuse of convents, the misery originates from the parent, and falls upon the [p91] child. The reverse has sometime happened; and there are examples of unhappy parents, who have been rendered miserable by the religious perversity of a daughter. In the fourteenth volume of that very amusing work, Les Causes Celebres, a work which is said to have been the favorite reading of Voltaire, there is a striking history of a girl under age, who was tempted by pious artifice to settle herself in a convent, in express opposition to parental authority. Her parents, who had in vain tried the most tender persuasion, endeavored at last to redeem their lost child, by a legal process against the nunnery in which she was imprisoned. The pleadings on this remarkable trial may, perhaps, be justly reckoned amongst the finest pieces of eloquence that the lawyers of France have produced. Monsieur Gillet, the advocate for the parents, represented, in the boldest and most affecting language, the extreme baseness of this religious seduction. His eloquence appeared to have fixed the sentiments of the judges; but the cause of superstition was pleaded by an advocate of equal power, and it finally prevailed. The unfortunate parents of Maria Vernal (for this was the name of the unfortunate girl) were condemned to resign her forever, and to make a considerable payment to those artful devotees who had piously robbed them of their child.

When we reflect on the various evils that have arisen in convents, we have the strongest reason to rejoice and glory in that reformation by which the nunneries of England were abolished. Yet [p92] it would not be candid or just to consider all these as the mere harbors of licentiousness; since we are told that, at the time of their suppression, some of our religious houses were very honorably distinguished by the purity of their inhabitants. “The visitors,” says Bishop Burnet, “interceded earnestly for one nunnery in Oxfordshire, where there was great strictness of life, and to which most of the young gentlewomen of the country were sent to be bred; so that the gentry of the country desired the king would spare the house: yet all was ineffectual.”


In the earlier ages, sentiment in love does not appear to have been much attended to. When Abraham sent his servant to court a bride for his son Isaac, we do not so much as hear that Isaac was consulted on the matter: nor is there even a suspicion, that he might refuse or dislike the wife which his father had selected for him.

From the manner in which Rebecca was solicited, we learn, that women were not then courted in person by the lover, but by a proxy, whom he, or his parents, deputed in his stead. We likewise see, that this proxy did not, as in modern times, endeavor to gain the affection of the lady he was sent to, by enlarging on the personal properties, and mental qualifications of the lover; but by the richness and magnificence [p93] of the presents he made to her and her relations.

Presents have been, from the earliest ages, and are to this day, the mode of transacting all kinds of business in the east. When a favor is to be asked of a superior, one cannot hope to obtain it without a present. Courtship, therefore, having been anciently transacted in this manner, it is plain, that it was only considered in the same light as any other negotiable business, and not as a matter of sentiment, and of the heart.

In the courtship, however, or rather purchase of a wife by Jacob, we meet with something like sentiment; for when he found that he was not possessed of money or goods, equal to the price which was set upon her, he not only condescended to purchase her by servitude, but even seemed much disappointed when the tender-eyed Leah was faithlessly imposed upon him instead of the beautiful Rachel.

The ancient Gauls, Germans, and neighboring nations of the North, had so much veneration for the sex in general, that in courtship they behaved with a spirit of gallantry, and showed a degree of sentiment, to which those who called them barbarians, never arrived. Not contented with getting possession of the person of his mistress, a northern lover could not be satisfied without the sincere affection of her heart; nor was his mistress ever to be gained but by such methods as plainly indicated to her the tenderest attachment from the most deserving man.

The women of Scandinavia were not to be courted but by the most assiduous attendance, seconded by such warlike achievements as the custom of the country had rendered necessary to make a man deserving of his mistress. On these accounts, we frequently find a lover accosting the object of his passion by a minute and circumstantial detail of his exploits, and all his accomplishments. “We fought with swords,” says King Regner, in a beautiful ode composed by himself, in memory of the deeds of his former days, “that day wherein I saw ten thousand of my foes rolling in the dust, near a promontory of England. A dew of blood distilled from our swords. The arrows which flew in search of the helmets, bellowed through the air. The pleasure of that day was truly exquisite.

“We fought with swords. A young man should march early to the conflict of arms. Man should attack man, or bravely resist him. In this hath always consisted the nobility of the warrior. He who aspires to the love of his mistress, ought to be dauntless in the clash of swords.”

The descendants of the northern nations, long after they had plundered and repeopled the greatest part of Europe, retained nearly the same ideas of love, and practised the same methods in declaring it, that they had imbibed from their ancestors. “Love,” says William of Montagnogout, “engages to the most amiable conduct. Love inspires the greatest actions. Love has no will but that of the object beloved, nor seeks [p95] any thing but what will augment her glory. You cannot love, nor ought to be beloved, if you ask any thing that virtue condemns. Never did I form a wish that could wound the heart of my beloved, nor delight in a pleasure that was inconsistent with her delicacy.”

The method of addressing females, among some of the tribes of American Indians, is the most simple that can possibly be devised. When the lover goes to visit his mistress, he only begs leave, by signs, to enter her hut. After obtaining this, he goes in, and sits down by her in the most respectful silence. If she suffers him to remain there without interruption, her doing so is consenting to his suit. If, however, the lover has any thing given him to eat and drink, it is a refusal; though the woman is obliged to sit by him until he has finished his repast. He then retires in silence.

In Canada, courtship is not carried on with that coy reserve, and seeming secrecy, which politeness has introduced among the inhabitants of civilized nations. When a man and a woman meet, though they never saw each other before, if he is captivated by her charms, he declares his passion in the plainest manner; and she, with the same simplicity, answers, Yes, or No, without further deliberation. “That female reserve,” says an ingenious writer, [Dr Alexander,] “that seeming reluctance to enter into the married state, observable in polite countries, is the work of art, and not of nature. The history of every uncultivated people amply proves it. It tells us, [p96] that their women not only speak with freedom the sentiments of their hearts, but even blush not to have these sentiments made as public as possible.”

In Formosa, however, they differ so much from the simplicity of the Canadians, that it would be reckoned the greatest indecency in the man to declare, or in the woman to hear, a declaration of the passion of love. The lover is, therefore, obliged to depute his mother, sister, or some female relation; and from any of these the soft tale may be heard without the least offence to delicacy.

In Spain, the women had formerly no voice in disposing of themselves in matrimony. But as the empire of common sense began to extend itself, they began to claim a privilege, at least of being consulted in the choice of the partners of their lives. Many fathers and guardians, hurt by this female innovation, and puffed up with Spanish pride, still insisted on forcing their daughters to marry according to their pleasure, by means of duennas, locks, hunger, and even sometimes of poison and daggers. But as nature will revolt against every species of oppression and injustice, the ladies have for some time begun to assert their own rights. The authority of fathers and guardians begins to decline, and lovers find themselves obliged to apply to the affections of the fair, as well as to the pride and avarice of their relations.

The nightly musical serenades of mistresses by their lovers are still in use. The gallant [p97] composes some love sonnets, as expressive as he can, not only of the situation of his heart, but of every particular circumstance between him and the lady, not forgetting to lard them with the most extravagant encomiums on her beauty and merit. These he sings in the night below her window accompanied with his lute, or sometimes with a whole band of music. The more piercingly cold the air, the more the lady’s heart is supposed to be thawed with the patient sufferance of her lover, who, from night to night, frequently continues his exercises for many hours, heaving the deepest sighs, and casting the most piteous looks towards the window; at which if his goddess at last deigns to appear, and drops him a curtsey, he is superlatively paid for all his watching; but if she blesses him with a smile, he is ready to run distracted.

In Italy the manner of addressing the ladies, so far as it relates to serenading, nearly resembles that of Spain. The Italian, however, goes a step farther than the Spaniard. He endeavors to blockade the house where his fair one lives, so as to prevent the entrance of any rival. If he marries the lady who cost him all this trouble and attendance, he shuts her up for life: If not, she becomes the object of his eternal hatred, and he too frequently endeavors to revenge by poison the success of his happier rival.

In one circumstance relating to courtship, the Italians are said to be particular. They protract the time as long as possible, well knowing that even with all the little ills attending it, a period [p98] thus employed is one of the sweetest of human life.

A French lover, with the word sentiment perpetually in his mouth, seems by every action to have excluded it from his heart. He places his whole confidence in his exterior air and appearance. He dresses for his mistress, dances for her, flutters constantly about her, helps her to lay on her rouge, and to place her patches. He attends her round the whole circle of amusements, chatters to her constantly, whistles and sings, and plays the fool with her. Whatever be his station, every thing gaudy and glittering within the sphere of it is called in to his assistance, particularly splendid carriages and tawdry liveries; but if, by the help of all these, he cannot make an impression on the fair one’s heart, it costs him nothing but a few shrugs of his shoulders, two or three silly exclamations, and as many stanzas of some satirical song against her; and, as it is impossible for a Frenchman to live without an amour, he immediately betakes himself to another.

There is hardly any such thing among people of fashion as courtship. Matters are generally so ordered by parents and guardians, that to a bride and bridegroom, the day of marriage is often the second time of their meeting. In many countries, to be married in this manner would be reckoned the greatest of misfortunes. In France it is little regarded. In the fashionable world, few people are greater strangers to, or more indifferent about each other, than husband [p99] and wife; and any appearance of fondness between them, or their being seen frequently together, would infallibly make them forfeit the reputation of the ton, and be laughed at by all polite company. On this account, nothing is more common than to be acquainted with a lady without knowing her husband, or visiting the husband without ever seeing his wife.


Of all the German females, the ladies of Saxony are the most amiable. Their persons are so superiorly charming and preferable in whatever can recommend them to be notice of mankind, that the German youth often visit Saxony in quest of companions for life. Exclusive of their beauty and comeliness of appearance, they are brought up in a knowledge of all those arts, both useful and ornamental, which are so brilliant an addition to their native attractions. But what chiefly enhances their value, and gives it reality and duration, is a sweetness of temper and festivity of disposition, that never fail to endear them on a very slight acquaintance. To crown all, they are generally patterns of conjugal tenderness and fidelity.

As they are commonly careful to improve their minds by reading and instructive conversation, they have no small share of facetiousness and ingenuity. From their innate liveliness, they are extremely addicted to all the gay kind [p100] of amusements. They excel in the allurements of dress and decoration, and are in general skilful in music.

The character, however, of the women in most other parts of Germany, particularly of the Austrian, is very different from this. Notwithstanding the advantages of size and make, their looks and features, though not unsightly, betray a vacancy of that life and spirit, without which beauty is uninteresting, and, like a mere picture, becomes utterly void of that indication of sensibility, which alone can awaken a delicacy of feeling.

As their education is conducted by the rules of the grossest superstition, and they are taught little else than set forms of devotion, they arrive to the years of maturity uninstructed in the use of reason, and usually continue profoundly ignorant the remainder of their days, which are spent, or rather loitered away, in apathy and indolence.

The principal happiness of the Austrian ladies of fashion consists in ruminating on the dignity of their birth and families, the antiquity of their race, the rank they hold, the respect attached to it, and the prerogatives they enjoy over the inferior classes, whom they treat with the utmost superciliousness, and hold in the most unreasonable contempt. In the mean time, their domestic affairs are condemned to the most unaccountable neglect. They dwell at home, careless of what passes there; and suffer disorder and confusion to prevail, without [p101] feeling the least uneasiness. Great frequenters of churches, their piety consists in the strictest conformity to all the externals of religion. They profess the most boundless belief in all the silly legends with which their treatises of devotion are filled; and these are the only books they ever read. The coldness of their constitution occasions a species of regulated gallantry, which is rather the effect of an opinion that it is an appendage of high life, than the result of their natural inclination.

It must, at the same time be allowed, that the Austrian women are endowed with a great fund of sincerity and candor; and, though too much on the reserve, and prone to keep at an unnecessary distance, are yet capable of the truest attachment, and always warm and zealous in the cause of those whom they have admitted to their friendship.

Though the Germans are rather a dull and phlegmatic people, and not greatly enslaved by the warmer passions, yet at the court of Vienna they are much given to intrigue: and an amour is so far from being scandalous, that a woman gains credit by the rank of her gallant, and is reckoned silly and unfashionable if she scrupulously adheres to the virtue of chastity. But such customs are more the customs of courts, than of places less exposed to temptation, and consequently less dissolute; and we are well assured that in Germany there are many women who do honor to humanity, not by chastity only, but also by a variety of other virtues.

The ladies at the principal courts, differ not much in their dress from the French and English. They are not, however, so excessively fond of paint as the former. At some courts, they appear in rich furs: and all of them are loaded with jewels, if they can obtain them. The female part of the burgher’s families, in many of the German towns, dress in a very different manner, and some of them inconceivably fantastic, as may be seen in many prints published in books of travels. But, in this respect, they are gradually reforming, and many of them make quite a different appearance in their dress from what they did thirty or forty years ago.

The inhabitants of Vienna lived luxuriously, a great part of their time being spent in feasting and carousing. In winter, when the different branches of the Danube are frozen over, and the ground covered with snow, the ladies take their recreation in sledges of different shapes, such as griffins, tigers, swans, scallop-shells, etc. Here the lady sits, dressed in velvet lined with rich furs, and adorned with laces and jewels, having on her head a velvet cap. The sledge is drawn by one horse, stag or other creature, set off with plumes of feathers, ribbons and bells. As this diversion is taken chiefly in the night time, servants ride before the sledge with torches; and a gentleman, standing on the sledge behind, guides the horse.


The marriage life is always an insipid, a vexatious, or a happy condition, the first is, when two people of no taste meet together, upon such a settlement as has been thought reasonable by parents and conveyancers, from an exact valuation of the land and cash of both parties. In this case the young lady’s person is no more regarded than the house and improvements in purchase of an estate; but she goes with her fortune, rather than her fortune with her. These make up the crowd or vulgar of the rich, and fill up the lumber of the human race, without beneficence towards those below them, or respect towards those above them; and lead a despicable, independent, and useless life, without sense of the laws of kindness, good-nature, mutual offices, and the elegant satisfactions which flow from reason and virtue.

The vexatious life arises from a conjunction of two people of quick taste and resentment, put together for reasons well known to their friends, in which especial care is taken to avoid (what they think the chief of evils) poverty; and ensure them riches with every evil besides. These good people live in a constant restraint before company, and when alone, revile each other’s person and conduct. In company they are in purgatory; when by themselves, in hell.

The happy marriage is, where two persons [p104] meet, and voluntarily make choice of each other without principally regarding or neglecting the circumstances of fortune or beauty. These may still love in spite of adversity or sickness. The former we may in some measure defend ourselves from; the other is the common lot of humanity. Love has nothing to do with riches or state. Solitude, with the person beloved, has a pleasure, even in a woman’s mind, beyond show or pomp.


At a very early period, families who lived in a friendly manner, fell upon a method of securing their children to each other by what is called in the sacred writings Betrothing. This was agreeing on a price to be paid for the bride, the time when it should be paid, and when she should be delivered into the hands of her husband.

There were, according to the Talmudists, three ways of betrothing. The first by a written contract. The second, by a verbal agreement, accompanied with a piece of money. And the third, by the parties coming together, and living as husband and wife; which might as properly be called marriage as betrothing.

The written contract was in the following manner—“On such a day, month, year, A the son of B, has said to D the daughter of E, be thou my spouse according to the law of Moses [p105] and of the Israelites; and I give thee as a dowry the sum of two hundred suzims, as it is ordered by our law. And the said D hath promised to be his spouse upon the conditions aforesaid, which the said A doth promise to perform on the day of marriage. And to this the said A doth hereby bind himself and all that he hath, to the very cloak upon his back; engages himself to love, honor, feed, clothe, and protect her, and to perform all that is generally implied in contracts of marriage in favor of the Israelitish wives.”

The verbal agreement was made in the presence of a sufficient number of witnesses, by the man saying to the women, “Take this money as a pledge that at such a time I will take thee to be my wife.” A woman who was thus betrothed or bargained for, was almost in every respect by the law considered as already married.

Before the legislation of Moses, “marriages among the Jews,” say the Rabbies, “were agreed on by the parents and relations of both sides. When this was done, the bridegroom was introduced to his bride. Presents were mutually exchanged, the contract signed before witnesses, and the bride, having remained sometime with her relations, was sent away to the habitation of her husband, in the night, with singing, dancing, and the sound of musical instruments.”

By the institution of Moses, the Rabbies tell us the contract of marriage was read in the presence [p106] of, and signed by, at least ten witnesses, who were free, and of age. The bride, who had taken care to bathe herself the night before, appeared in all her splendor, but veiled, in imitation of Rebecca, who veiled herself when she came in sight of Isaac. She was then given to the bridegroom by her parents, in words to this purpose: “Take her according to the law of Moses.” And he received her, by saying, “I take her according to that law.” Some blessings were then pronounced on the young couple, both by the parents and the rest of the company.

The blessings or prayers generally run in this style: “Blessed art thou, O Lord of heaven, and earth, who has created man in thine own likeness, and hast appointed woman to be his partner and companion! Blessed art thou, who fillest Zion with joy for the multitude of her children! Blessed art thou who sendest gladness to the bridegroom and his bride; who hast ordained for them, love, joy, tenderness, peace and mutual affection. Be pleased to bless not only this couple, but Judah and Jerusalem, with songs of joy, and praise for the joy that thou givest them, by the multitudes of their sons and of their daughters.”

After the virgins had sung a marriage song, the company partook of a repast, the most magnificent the parties could afford; after which they began a dance, the men round the bridegroom, the women round the bride. They pretended that this dance was of divine institution and an essential part of the ceremony. The bride was [p107] then carried to the nuptial bed, and the bridegroom left with her. The company again returned to their feasting and rejoicing; and the Rabbies inform us, that this feasting, when the bride, was a widow, lasted only three days, but seven if she was a virgin.

At the birth of a son, the father planted a cedar; and at that of a daughter, he planted a pine. Of these trees the nuptial bed was constructed, when the parties, at whose birth they were planted, entered into the married state.

The Assyrians had a court, or tribunal whose only business was to dispose of young women in marriage, and see the laws of that union properly executed. What these laws were, or how the execution of them was enforced, are circumstances that have not been handed down to us. But the erecting a court solely for the purpose of taking cognizance of them, suggests an idea that they were many and various.

Among the Greeks, the multiplicity of male and female deities who were concerned in the affairs of love, made the invocations and sacrifices on a matrimonial occasion a very tedious affair. Fortunate omens gave great joy, and the most fortunate of all others was a pair of turtles seen in the air, as those birds were reckoned the truest emblems of conjugal love and fidelity. If, however, one of them was seen alone it infallibly denoted separation, and all the ills attending an unhappy marriage.

On the wedding day, the bride and bridegroom [p108] were richly dressed, and adorned with garlands of herbs and flowers. The bride was conducted in the evening to the house of her husband in a chariot, seated between her husband and one of his relations. When she alighted from the chariot the axle-tree of it was burnt to show that there was no method for her to return back. As soon as the young couple entered the house, figs and other fruits were thrown upon their heads to denote plenty; and a sumptuous entertainment was ready for them to partake of, to which all the relations on both sides were invited.

The bride was lighted to bed by a number of torches, according to her quality; and the company returned in the morning to salute the new married couple, and to sing epithalamia at the door of their bed-chamber.

Epithalamia were marriage songs, anciently sung in praise of the bride or bridegroom, wishing them happiness, prosperity and a numerous issue.

Among the Romans there were three different kinds of marriage. The ceremony of the first consisted in the young couple eating a cake together made only of wheat, salt and water. The second kind was celebrated by the parties solemnly pledging their faith to each other, by giving and receiving a piece of money. This was the most common way of marrying among the Romans. It continued in use, even after they became Christians. When writings were introduced to testify that a man and a woman had become husband and wife, and also, that the [p109] husband had settled a dower upon his bride, these writings were called Tabulę Dotales (dowry tables;) and hence, perhaps the words in our marriage ceremony, “I thee endow.”

The third kind of marriage was, when a man and woman, having cohabited for some time and had children, found it expedient to continue together. In this case, if they made up the matter between themselves, it became a valid marriage, and the children were considered as legitimate.

Something similar to this is the present custom in Scotland. There, if a man live with, and have children by a woman, though he do not marry her till he be upon his death-bed, all the children are thereby legitimated and become entitled to the honors and estates of their father. The case is the same in Holland and some parts of Germany; with this difference only, that all the children to be legitimated must appear with the father and mother in church at the ceremony of their marriage.


It has long been a question, Which of the two sexes is most capable of friendship? Montague, who is so much celebrated for his knowledge of human nature, has given it positively against the women; and his opinion has been generally embraced.

Friendship perhaps, in women, is more rare than among men; but, at the same time, it must [p110] be allowed that where it is found, it is more tender.

Men, in general, have more of the parade than the graces of friendship. They often wound while they serve; and their warmest sentiments are not very enlightened, with respect to those minute sentiments which are of so much value. But women have a refined sensibility, which makes them see every thing; nothing escapes them. They divine the silent friendship; they encourage the bashful or timid friendship; they offer the sweetest consolations to friendship in distress. Furnished with finer instruments, they treat more delicately a wounded heart. They compose it, and prevent it from feeling its agonies. They know, above all, how to give value to a thousand things, which have no value in themselves.

We ought therefore, perhaps, to desire the friendship of a man upon great occasions; but, for general happiness, we must prefer the friendship of a woman.

With regard to female intimacies, it may be taken for granted that there is no young woman who has not, or wishes not to have, a companion of her own sex, to whom she may unbosom herself on every occasion. That there are women capable of friendship with women, few impartial observers will deny. There have been many evident proofs of it, and those carried as far as seemed compatible with the imperfections of our common nature. It is, however, questioned by some; while others believe that it happens [p111] exceedingly seldom. Between married and unmarried women, it no doubt happens very often; whether it does so between those that are single, is not so certain. Young men appear more frequently susceptible of a generous and steady friendship for each other, than females as yet unconnected; especially, if the latter have, or are supposed to have, pretensions to beauty, not adjusted by the public.

In the frame and condition of females, however, compared with those of the other sex, there are some circumstances which may help towards an apology for this unfavorable feature in their character.

The state of matrimony is necessary to the support, order, and comfort of society. But it is a state that subjects the women to a great variety of solicitude and pain. Nothing could carry them through it with any tolerable satisfaction or spirit, but very strong and almost unconquerable attachments. To produce these, is it not fit they should be peculiarly sensible to the attention and regards of the men? Upon the same ground, does it not seem agreeable to the purposes of Providence, that the securing of this attention, and these regards, should be a principal aim? But can such an aim be pursued without frequent competition? And will not that too readily occasion jealousy, envy, and all the unamiable effects of mutual rivalship? Without the restraints of superior worth and sentiment, it certainly will. But can these be ordinarily expected from the prevailing turn [p112] of female education; or from the little pains that women, as well as other human beings, commonly take to control themselves, and to act nobly? In this last respect, the sexes appear pretty much on the same footing.

This reasoning is not meant to justify the indulgence of those little and sometimes base passions towards one another, with which females have been so generally charged. It is only intended to represent such passions in the first approach; and, while not entertained, as less criminal than the men are apt to state them; and to prove that, in their attachments to each other, the latter have not always that merit above the women, which they are apt to claim. In the mean time, let it be the business of the ladies, by emulating the gentlemen, where they appear good-natured and disinterested, to disprove their imputation, and to show a temper open to friendship as well as to love.

To talk much of the latter is natural for both; to talk much of the former, is considered by the men as one way of doing themselves honor. Friendship, they well know, is that dignified form, which, in speculation at least every heart must respect.

But in friendship, as in religion, which on many accounts it resembles, speculation is often substituted in the place of practice. People fancy themselves possessed of the thing, and hope that others will fancy so too, because they are fond of the name, and have learned to talk about it with plausibility. Such talk indeed imposes, till experience give it the lie.

To say the truth, there seems in either sex but little of what a fond imagination, unacquainted with the falsehood of the world, and warmed by affections which its selfishness has not yet chilled, would reckon friendship. In theory, the standard is raised too high; we ought not, however, to wish it much lower. The honest sensibilities of ingenuous nature should not be checked by the over-cautious maxims of political prudence. No advantage, obtained by such frigidity, can compensate for the want of those warm effusions of the heart into the bosom of a friend, which are doubtless among the most exquisite pleasures. At the same time, however, it must be owned, that they often by the inevitable lot of humanity, make way for the bitterest pains which the breast can experience. Happy beyond the common condition of her sex, is she who has found a friend indeed; open hearted, yet discreet; generously fervent, yet steady; thoroughly virtuous, but not severe; wise, as well as cheerful! Can such a friend be loved too much, or cherished too tenderly? If to excellence and happiness there be any one way more compendious than another, next to friendship with the Supreme Being, it is this.

But when a mixture of minds so beautiful and so sweet takes place, it is generally, or rather always the result of early prepossession, casual intercourse, or in short, a combination of such causes as are not to be brought together by management or design. This noble plant may be cultivated; but it must grow spontaneously.


Assist me, ye Nine,
While the youth I define,
With whom I in wedlock would class;
And ye blooming fair,
Lend a listening ear,
To approve of the man as you pass.

Not the changeable fry
Who love, nor know why,
But follow bedup’d by their passions:
Such votaries as these
Are like waves of the seas,
And steer’d by their own inclinations.

The hectoring blade
How unfit for the maid,
Where meekness and modesty reigns!
Such a blundering bully
I’ll speak against truly,
Whatever I get for my pains.

Not the dogmatic elf,
Whose great all is himself,
Whose alone ipse dixit is law:
What a figure he’ll make,
How like Momus he’ll speak
With sneering burlesque, a pshaw! pshaw!

Not the covetous wretch
Whose heart’s at full stretch
To gain an inordinate treasure;
Him leave with the rest,
And such mortals detest,
Who sacrifice life without measure.

The fluttering fop,
How empty his top!
Nay, but some call him coxcomb, I trow;
[p115] But ’tis losing your time,
He’s not worth half a rhyme,
Let the fag ends of prose bind his brow.

The guttling sot,
What a conduit his throat!
How beastly and vicious his life!
Where drunkards prevail,
Whole families feel,
Much more an affectionate wife.

One character yet;
I with sorrow repeat,
And O! that the number were less;
’Tis the blasphemous crew:
What a pattern they’ll shew
To their hapless and innocent race!

Let wisdom then shine
In the youth that is mine,
Whilst virtue his footsteps impress;
Such I’d choose for my mate,
Whether sooner or late:
Tell me, Ladies, what think you of this?

“The chief point to be regarded,” says Lady Pennington in her Advice to her Daughters, “in the choice of a companion for life, is a really virtuous principle—an unaffected goodness of heart. Without this, you will be continually shocked by indecency, and pained by impiety. So numerous have been the unhappy victims to the ridiculous opinion, a reformed libertine makes the best husband—that, did not experience daily evince the contrary, one would believe it impossible for a girl who has a tolerable degree of common understanding, to be made the dupe of so erroneous a position, which has not the [p116] least shadow of reason for its foundation, and which a small share of observation will prove to be false in fact. A man who has been conversant with the worst sort of women, is very apt to contract a bad opinion of, and a contempt for, the sex in general. Incapable of esteeming any, he is suspicious of all; jealous without cause, angry without provocation, his own disturbed imagination is a continued source of ill-humor. To this is frequently joined a bad habit of body, the natural consequence of an irregular life, which gives an additional sourness to the temper. What rational prospect of happiness can there be with such a companion? And, that this is the general character of those who are called reformed rakes, observation will certify. But, admit there may be some exceptions, it is a hazard upon which no considerate woman would venture the peace of her whole life. The vanity of those girls who believe themselves capable of working miracles of this kind, and who give up their persons to men of libertine principles, upon the wild expectation of reclaiming them, justly deserves the disappointment which it will generally meet with; for, believe me, a wife is, of all persons, the least likely to succeed in such an attempt. Be it your care to find that virtue in a lover which you must never hope to form in a husband. Good sense, and good nature, are almost equally requisite. If the former is wanting, it will be next to an impossibility for you to esteem the person, of whose behavior you may have cause to be ashamed. Mutual esteem is [p117] as essential to happiness in the married state, as mutual affection. Without the latter, every day will bring with it some fresh cause of vexation, until repeated quarrels produce a coldness, which will settle into an irreconcilable aversion, and you will become, not only each other’s torment, but the object of contempt to your family, and to your acquaintance.

“This quality of good nature is, of all others, the most difficult to be ascertained, on account of the general mistake of blending it with good-humor, as if they were in themselves the same; whereas, in fact, no two principles of action are more essentially different. But this may require some explanation. By good nature, I mean that true benevolence, which partakes in the felicity of every individual within the reach of its ability, which relieves the distressed, comforts the afflicted, diffuses blessings, and communicates happiness, far as its sphere of action can extend; and which, in the private scenes of life, will shine conspicuous in the dutiful son, in the affectionate husband, the indulgent father, the faithful friend, and in the compassionate master both to man and beast. Good humor, on the other hand, is nothing more than a cheerful, pleasing deportment, arising either from a natural gaiety of mind, or from an affection of popularity, joined to an affability of behavior, the result of good breeding, and from a ready compliance with the taste of every company. This kind of mere good humor is, by far, the most striking quality. It is frequently mistaken for [p118] and complimented with the superior name of real good nature. A man, by this specious appearance, has often acquired that appellation who, in all the actions of private life, has been a morose, cruel, revengeful, sullen, haughty tyrant. Let them put on the cap, whose temples fit the galling wreath!

“A man of a truly benevolent disposition, and formed to promote the happiness of all around him, may sometimes, perhaps, from an ill habit of body, an accidental vexation, or from a commendable openness of heart, above the meanness of disguise, be guilty of little sallies of peevishness, or of ill humor, which, carrying the appearance of ill nature, may be unjustly thought to proceed from it, by persons who are unacquainted with his true character, and who, take ill humor and ill nature to be synonymous terms, though in reality they bear not the least analogy to each other. In order to the forming a right judgment, it is absolutely necessary to observe this distinction, which will effectually secure you from the dangerous error of taking the shadow for the substance, an irretrievable mistake, pregnant with innumerable consequent evils!

“From what has been said, it plainly appears, that the criterion of this amiable virtue is not to be taken for the general opinion; mere good humor being, to all intents and purposes, sufficient in this particular, to establish the public voice in favor of a man utterly devoid of every humane and benevolent affection of heart. It is [p119] only from the less conspicuous scenes of life, the more retired sphere of action, from the artless tenor of domestic conduct, that the real character can, with any certainty be drawn. These, undisguised, proclaim the man. But, as they shun the glare of light, nor court the noise of popular applause, they pass unnoticed, and are seldom known till after an intimate acquaintance. The best method, therefore, to avoid the deception in this case, is to lay no stress on outward appearances, which are too often fallacious, but to take the rule of judging from the simple unpolished sentiments of those whose dependent connections give them undeniable certainty; who not only see, but who hourly feel, the good or bad effect of that disposition, to which they are subjected. By this, I mean, that if a man is equally respected, esteemed, and beloved by his dependants and domestics, you may justly conclude, he has that true good nature, that real benevolence, which delights in communicating felicity, and enjoys the satisfaction it diffuses. But if by these he is despised and hated, served merely from a principle of fear, devoid of affection, which is ever easily discoverable, whatever may be his public character, however favorable the general opinion, be assured, that his disposition is such as can never be productive of domestic happiness. I have been the more particular on this head, as it is one of the most essential qualifications to be regarded, and of all others the most liable to be mistaken.

“Never be prevailed with, my dear, to give [p120] your hand to a person defective in these material points. Secure of virtue, of good nature, and understanding, in a husband, you may be secure of happiness. Without the two former it is unattainable. Without the latter in a tolerable degree, it must be very imperfect.

“Remember, however, that infallibility is not the property of man, or you may entail disappointment on yourself, by expecting what is never to be found. The best men are sometimes inconsistent with themselves. They are liable to be hurried, by sudden starts of passion, into expressions and actions, which their cooler reason will condemn. They may have some oddities of behavior, and some peculiarities of temper. They may be subject to accidental ill humor, or to whimsical complaints. Blemishes of this kind often shade the brightest character; but they are never destructive of mutual felicity, unless when they are made so by an improper resentment, or by an ill-judged opposition. When cooled, and in his usual temper, the man of understanding, if he has been wrong, will suggest to himself all that could be urged against him. The man of good nature will, unupbraided, own his error. Immediate contradiction is, therefore, wholly unserviceable, and highly imprudent; an after repetition is equally unnecessary and injudicious. Any peculiarities in the temper or behavior ought to be properly represented in the tenderest and in the most friendly manner. If the representation of them is made discreetly, it will generally be well taken. But [p121] if they are so habitual as not easily to be altered, strike not too often upon the unharmonious string. Rather let them pass unobserved. Such a cheerful compliance will better cement your union; and they may be made easy to yourself, by reflecting on the superior good qualities by which these trifling faults are so greatly overbalanced.

“You must remember, my dear, these rules are laid down on the supposition of your being united to a person who possesses the three qualifications for happiness before mentioned. In this case no farther direction is necessary, but that you strictly perform the duty of a wife, namely, to love, to honor, and obey. The two first articles are a tribute so indispensably due to merit, that they must be paid by inclination—and they naturally lead to the performance of the last, which will not only be easy, but a pleasing task, since nothing can ever be enjoined by such a person that is in itself improper, and a few things will, that can, with any reason, be disagreeable to you.

“The being united to a man of irreligious principles, makes it impossible to discharge a great part of the proper duty of a wife. To name but one instance, obedience will be rendered impracticable, by frequent injunctions inconsistent with, and contrary to, the higher obligations of morality. This is not a supposition, but is a certainty founded upon facts, which I have too often seen and can attest. Where this happens, the reasons for non-compliance ought to be [p122] offered in a plain, strong, good natured manner. There is at least the chance of success from being heard. But should those reasons be rejected, or the hearing them refused, and silence on the subject enjoined, which is most probable, few people caring to hear what they know to be right, when they are determined not to be convinced by it—obey the injunction, and urge not the argument farther. Keep, however, steady to your principles, and suffer neither persuasion nor threats to prevail on you to act contrary to them. All commands repugnant to the laws of christianity, it is your indispensable duty to disobey. All requests that are inconsistent with prudence, or incompatible with the rank and character which you ought to maintain in life, it is your interest to refuse. A compliance with the former would be criminal, a consent to the latter highly indiscreet; and it might thereby subject you to general censure. For a man, capable of requiring, from his wife, what he knows to be in itself wrong, is equally capable of throwing the whole blame of such misconduct on her, and of afterwards upbraiding her for a behavior, to which he will, upon the same principle, disown that he has been accessary. Many similar instances have come within the compass of my own observation. In things of less material nature, that are neither criminal in themselves, nor pernicious in their consequences, always acquiesce, if insisted on, however disagreeable they may be to your own temper and inclination. Such a compliance will evidently prove [p123] that your refusal, in the other cases, proceeds not from a spirit of contradiction, but merely from a just regard to that superior duty which can never be infringed with impunity.

“As the want of understanding is by no art to be concealed, by no address to be disguised, it might be supposed impossible for a woman of sense to unite herself to a person whose defect, in this instance, must render that sort of rational society, which constitutes the chief happiness of such an union, impossible. Yet here, how often has the weakness of female judgment been conspicuous! The advantages of great superiority in rank or fortune have frequently proved so irresistible a temptation, as, in opinion, to outweigh, not only the folly, but even the vices of its possessor—a grand mistake, ever tacitly acknowledged by a subsequent repentance, when the expected pleasures of affluence, equipage, and all the glittering pageantry, have been experimentally found insufficient to make amends for the want of that constant satisfaction which results from the social joy of conversing with a reasonable friend!

“But however weak this motive must be acknowledged, it is more excusable than another, which, I fear, has sometimes had an equal influence on the mind—I mean so great a love of sway, as to induce her to give the preference to a person of weak intellectuals, in hopes of holding, uncontrolled, the reins of government. The expectation is, in fact, ill grounded. Obstinacy and pride are generally the companions of folly. [p124] The silliest people are often the most tenacious of their opinions, and, consequently, the hardest of all others to be managed. But admit the contrary, the principle is in itself bad. It tends to invert the order of nature, and to counteract the design of Providence.

“A woman can never be seen in a more ridiculous light than when she appears to govern her husband. If, unfortunately, the superiority of understanding is on her side, the apparent consciousness of that superiority betrays a weakness, that renders her contemptible in the sight of every considerate person, and it may, very probably, fix in his mind a dislike never to be eradicated. In such a case, if it should ever be your own, remember that some degree of dissimulation is commendable, so far as to let your husband’s defects appear unobserved. When he judges wrong, never flatly contradict, but lead him insensibly into another opinion, in so discreet a manner, that it may seem entirely his own, and let the whole credit of every prudent determination rest on him, without indulging the foolish vanity of claiming any merit to yourself. Thus a person of but an indifferent capacity, may be so assisted, as, in many instances, to shine with borrowed lustre, scarce distinguishable from the native, and by degrees he may be brought into a kind of mechanical method of acting properly, in all the common occurrences of life. Odd as this position may seem, it is founded in fact. I have seen the method successfully practised by more than one person, [p125] where a weak mind, on the governed side, has been so prudently set off as to appear the sole director; like the statue of the Delphic god, which was thought to give forth its own oracles, whilst the humble priest, who lent his voice, was by the shrine concealed, nor sought a higher glory than a supposed obedience to the power he would be thought to serve.”


I received the news of your marriage with infinite delight, and hope that the sincerity with which I wish you happiness, may excuse the liberty I take in giving you a few rules, whereby more certainly to obtain it. I see you smile at my wrong-headed kindness, and, reflecting on the charms of your bride, cry out in a rapture, that you are happy enough without any rules. I know you are. But after one of the forty years, which I hope you will pass pleasingly together, is over, this letter may come in turn, and rules for felicity may not be found unnecessary, however some of them may appear impracticable.

Could that kind of love be kept alive through the marriage state, which makes the charm of a single one, the sovereign good would no longer be sought for; in the union of two faithful lovers it would be found: but reason shows that this is impossible, and experience informs us that [p126] it never was so; we must preserve it as long, and supply it as happily as we can.

When your present violence of passion subsides, however, and a more cool and tranquil affection takes its place, be not hasty to censure yourself as indifferent, or to lament yourself as unhappy; you have lost that only which it was impossible to retain, and it were graceless amid the pleasures of a prosperous summer to regret the blossoms of a transient spring. Neither unwarily condemn your bride’s insipidity till you have recollected that no object however sublime, no sounds however charming, can continue to transport us with delight when they no longer strike us with novelty. The skill to renovate the powers of pleasing is said indeed to be possessed by some women in an eminent degree; but the artifices of maturity are seldom seen to adorn the innocence of youth: you have made your choice, and ought to approve it.

Satiety follows quickly upon the heels of possession; and to be happy, we must always have something in view. The person of your lady is already all your own, and will not grow more pleasing in your eyes I doubt, though the rest of your sex will think her handsome for these dozen of years. Turn therefore all your attention to her mind, which will daily grow brighter by polishing. Study some easy science together, and acquire a similarity of tastes while you enjoy a community of pleasures. You will by this means have many images in common, and be freed from the necessity of separating to find [p127] amusement. Nothing is so dangerous to wedded love as the possibility of either being happy out of the company of the other: endeavor therefore, to cement the present intimacy on every side; let your wife never be kept ignorant of your income, your expenses, your friendships, or aversions; let her know your very faults, but make them amiable by your virtues; consider all concealment as a breach of fidelity; let her never have any thing to find out in your character; and remember, that from the moment one of the partners turns spy upon the other, they have commenced a state of hostility.

Seek not for happiness in singularity; and dread a refinement of wisdom as a deviation into folly. Listen not to those sages who advise you always to scorn the counsel of a woman, and if you comply with her requests pronounce you to be wife-ridden.

I said that the person of your lady would not grow more pleasing to you; but pray let her never suspect that it grows less so: that a woman will pardon an affront to her understanding much sooner than one to her person, is well known; nor will any of us contradict the assertion. All our attainments, all our arts, are employed to gain and keep the heart of man: and what mortification can exceed the disappointment, if the end be not obtained? There is no reproof however pointed, no punishment however severe, that a woman of spirit will not prefer to neglect; and if she can endure it without complaint, it only proves that she means to make [p128] herself amends by the attention of others for the slights of her husband. For this, and for every reason, it behoves a married man not to let his politeness fail, though his ardor may abate, but to retain at least that general civility towards his own lady which he is so willing to pay to every other, and not show a wife of eighteen or twenty years old, that every man in company can treat her with more complaisance than he, who so often vowed to her eternal fondness.

It is not my opinion that a young woman should be indulged in every wild wish of her gay heart or giddy head; but contradiction may be softened by domestic kindness, and quiet pleasures substituted in the place of noisy ones. Public amusements are not indeed so expensive as is sometimes imagined, but they tend to alienate the minds of married people from each other. A well chosen society of friends and acquaintance, more eminent for virtue and good sense than for gaiety and splendor, where the conversation of the day may afford comment for the evening, seems the most rational pleasure this great town can afford.

That your own superiority should always be seen, but never felt, seems an excellent general rule. A wife should outshine her husband in nothing, not even in her dress. The bane of married happiness among the city men in general has been, that finding themselves unfit for polite life, they transferred their vanity to their ladies, dressed them up gaily, and sent them out a gallanting, while the good man was to regale [p129] with port wine or rum punch, perhaps among mean companions, after the compting house was shut. This practice produced the ridicule thrown on them in all our comedies and novels since commerce began to prosper. But now that I am so near the subject, a word or two on jealousy may not be amiss; for though not a failing of the present age’s growth, yet the seeds of it are too certainly sown in every warm bosom, for us to neglect it as a fault of no consequence. If you are ever tempted to be jealous, watch your wife narrowly—but never tease her; tell her your jealousy, but conceal your suspicion; let her, in short, be satisfied that it is only your odd temper, and even troublesome attachment, that makes you follow her; but let her not dream that you ever doubted seriously of her virtue even for a moment. If she is disposed towards jealousy of you, let me beseech you to be always explicit with her and never mysterious: be above delighting in her pain, of all things—nor do your business nor pay your visits with an air of concealment, when all you are doing might as well be proclaimed perhaps in the parish vestry. But I hope better than this of your tenderness and of your virtue, and will release you from a lecture you have so little need of, unless your extreme youth and my uncommon regard will excuse it. And now farewell; make my kindest compliments to your wife, and be happy in proportion as happiness is wished you by, Dear Sir, &c.


Ye fair married dames who so often deplore
That a lover once blest is a lover no more;
Attend to my counsel, nor blush to be taught
That prudence must cherish what beauty has caught.

The bloom on your cheek, and the glance of your eye,
Your roses and lilies may make the men sigh;
But roses, and lilies, and sighs pass away,
And passion will die as your beauties decay.

Use the man that you wed like your fav’rite guitar,
Though music in both, they are both apt to jar;
How tuneful and soft from a delicate touch,
Not handled too roughly, nor play’d on too much!

The sparrow and linnet will feed from your hand,
Grow tame by your kindness, and come at command:
Exert with your husband the same happy skill,
For hearts, like your birds, may be tamed to your will.

Be gay and good-humour’d, complying and kind,
Turn the chief of your care from your face to your mind;
’Tis thus that a wife may her conquests improve,
And Hymen shall rivet the fetters of love.


Soon after the introduction of Christianity, St. Mark is said to have founded a society called Therapeutes, who dwelt by the lake Moeris in Egypt, and devoted themselves to solitude and religious offices. About the year 305 of the christian computation, St. Anthony being persecuted by Dioclesian, retired into the desert near the lake Moeris; numbers of people soon followed his example, joined themselves to the Therapeutes; St. Anthony being placed at their head, and improving upon their rules, first formed them into regular monasteries, and enjoined them to live in mortification and chastity. About the same time, or soon after, St. Synclitica, resolving not to be behind St. Anthony in her zeal for chastity, is generally believed to have collected together a number of enthusiastic females, and to have founded the first nunnery for their reception. Some imagine the scheme of celibacy was concerted between St. Anthony and St. Synclitica, as St. Anthony, on his first retiring into solitude, is said to have put his sister into a nunnery, which must have been that of St. Synclitica; but however this be, from their institution, monks and nuns increased so fast, that in the city of Orixa, about seventeen years after the death of St. Anthony, there were twenty thousand virgins devoted to celibacy.

Such at this time was the rage of celibacy; a rage which, however unnatural, will cease to excite our wonder, when we consider, that it was accounted by both sexes the sure and only infallible road to heaven and eternal happiness; and as such, it behoved the church vigorously to maintain and countenance it, which she did by beginning about this time to deny the liberty of marriage to her sons. In the first council of Nice, held soon after [p132] the introduction of christianity, the celibacy of the clergy was strenuously argued for, and some think that even in an earlier period it had been the subject of debate; however this be, it was not agreed to in the council of Nice, though at the end of the fourth century it is said that Syricus, bishop of Rome, enacted the first decree against the marriage of monks; a decree which was not universally received: for several centuries after, we find that it was not uncommon for clergymen to have wives; even the popes were allowed this liberty, as it is said in some of the old statutes of the church, that it was lawful for the pope to marry a virgin for the sake of having children. So exceedingly difficult is it to combat against nature, that little regard seems to have been paid to this decree of Syricus; for we are informed, that several centuries after, it was no uncommon thing for the clergy to have wives, and perhaps even a plurality of them; as we find it among the ordonnances of pope Sylvester, that every priest should be the husband of one wife only; and Pius the Second affirmed, that though many strong reasons might be adduced in support of the celibacy of the clergy, there were still stronger reasons against it.


At the end of the chapel is a large quadrangle, entered by a massive gateway, surrounded by three stories of grated windows. Here female negro pedlars come with their goods, and expose them in the court-yard below. The nuns, from their grated windows above, see what they like, and, letting down a cord, the article is fastened to it; it is then [p133] drawn up and examined, and, if approved of, the price is let down. Some that I saw in the act of buying and selling in this way, were very merry, joking and laughing with the blacks below, and did not seem at all indisposed to do the same with my companion. In three of the lower windows, on a level with the court-yard, are revolving cupboards, like half-barrels, and at the back of each is a plate of tin, perforated like the top of a nutmeg-grater. The nuns of this convent are celebrated for making sweet confectionary, which people purchase. There is a bell which the purchaser applies to, and a nun peeps through the perforated tin; she then lays the dish on a shelf of the revolving cupboard, and turns it inside out; the dish is taken, the price laid in its place, and it is turned in. While we stood there, the invisible lady-warder asked for a pinch of snuff; the box was laid down in the same way, and turned in and out.


The disposition to take the veil, even among young girls, is not uncommon in Brazil. The opposition of friends can prevent it, until they are twenty-five years old; but after that time they are considered competent to decide for themselves. A writer describes the initiation of a young lady, whose wealthy parents were extremely reluctant to have her take the vow. She held a lighted torch in her hand, in imitation of the prudent virgins; and when the priest chanted, “Your spouse approaches; come forth and meet him,” she approached the altar singing, “I follow with my whole heart;” and, accompanied by two nuns already professed, she knelt before the bishop. She seemed [p134] very lovely, with an unusually sweet, gentle, and pensive countenance. She did not look particularly or deeply affected; but when she sung her responses, there was something exceedingly mournful in the soft, tremulous, and timid tones of her voice. The bishop now exhorted her to make a public profession of her vows before the congregation, and said, “Will you persevere in your purpose of holy chastity?” She blushed deeply, and, with a downcast look, lowly, but firmly answered, “I will.” He again said, more distinctly, “Do you promise to preserve it?” and she replied more emphatically, “I do promise.” The bishop then said, “Thanks be to God;” and she bent forward and reverently kissed his hand, while he asked her, “Will you be blest and consecrated?” She replied, “Oh! I wish it.”

The habiliments, in which she was hereafter to be clothed, were sanctified by the aspersion of holy water: then followed several prayers to God, that “As he had blessed the garments of Aaron, with ointment which flowed from his head to his beard, so he would now bless the garments of his servant, with the copious dew of his benediction.” When the garment was thus blessed, the girl retired with it; and having laid aside the dress in which she had appeared, she returned, arrayed in her new attire, except her veil. A gold ring was next provided, and consecrated with a prayer, that she who wore it “might be fortified with celestial virtue, to preserve a pure faith, and incorrupt fidelity to her spouse, Jesus Christ.” He last took the veil, and her female attendants having uncovered her head, he threw it over her, so that it fell on her shoulders and bosom, and said, “Receive this sacred veil, under the shadow of which you may learn to despise the world, and submit yourself truly, and with all humility of heart, to your Spouse;” to [p135] which she sung a response, in a very sweet, soft, and touching voice: “He has placed this veil before my face that I should see no lover but himself.”

The bishop now kindly took her hand, and held it while the following hymn was chanted by the choir with great harmony: “Beloved Spouse, come—the winter is passed—the turtle sings, and the blooming vines are redolent of summer.”

A crown, a necklace, and other female ornaments, were now taken by the bishop and separately blessed; and the girl bending forward, he placed them on her head and neck, praying that she might be thought worthy “to be enrolled into the society of the hundred and forty-four thousand virgins, who preserved their chastity and did not mix with the society of impure women.”

Last of all, he placed the ring on the middle finger of her right hand, and solemnly said, “So I marry you to Jesus Christ, who will henceforth be your protector. Receive this ring, the pledge of your faith, that you may be called the spouse of God.” She fell on her knees, and sung, “I am married to him whom angels serve, whose beauty the sun and moon admire;” then rising, and showing with exultation her right hand, she said, emphatically, as if to impress it on the attention of the congregation, “My Lord has wedded me with this ring, and decorated me with a crown as his spouse. I here renounce and despise all earthly ornaments for his sake, whom alone I see, whom alone I love, in whom alone I trust, and to whom alone I give all my affections. My heart hath uttered a good word: I speak of the deed I have done for my King.” The bishop then pronounced a general benediction, and retired up to the altar; while the nun professed was borne off between her friends, with lighted tapers, and garlands waving.


Hail, wedded love, mysterious law, true source
Of human offspring, sole propriety,
In Paradise of all things common else!

By thee adult’rous lust was driven from men,
Among the bestial herds to range; by thee,
Founded in reason, loyal, just and pure,
Relations dear, and all the charities
Of father, son, and brother, first were known.

Thou art the fountain of domestic sweets,
Whose bed is undefiled and chaste pronounced.
Here Love his golden shafts employs, here lights
His constant lamp, and waves his purple wings,
Reigns here and revels; not in the bought smile
Of harlots, loveless, joyless, unendear’d,
Casual fruition; nor in court amours,
Mix’d dance, or wanton mask, or midnight ball,
Or serenade, which the starved lover sings
To his proud fair, best quitted with disdain.


If chastity is none of the most shining virtues of the French, it is still less so of the Italians. Almost all the travellers who have visited Italy, agree in describing it as the most abandoned of all the countries of Europe. At Venice, at Naples, and indeed in almost every part of Italy, women are taught from their infancy, the various arts of alluring [p137] to their arms, the young and unwary, and of obtaining from them, while heated by love or wine, every thing that flattery and false smiles can obtain in those unguarded moments: and so little infamous is the trade of prostitution, and so venal the women, that hardly any rank or condition set them above being bribed to it, nay, they are frequently assisted by their male friends and acquaintances to drive a good bargain; nor does their career of debauchery finish with their unmarried state; the vows of fidelity which they make at the altar, are like the vows and oaths made upon too many other occasions, only considered as nugatory forms, which law has obliged them to take, but custom absolved them from performing. They even claim and enjoy greater liberties after marriage than before; every married woman has a cicisbey, or gallant, who attends her to all public places, hands her in and out of her carriage, picks up her gloves or fan, and a thousand other little offices of the same natures; but this is only his public employment, as a reward for which, he is entitled to have the lady as often as he pleases at a place of retirement sacred to themselves, where no person not even the most intrusive husband must enter, to be witness of what passes between them. This has been considered by people of other nations, as a custom not altogether consistent with chastity and purity of manners; the Italians themselves however, endeavor to justify it in their conversations with strangers, and Baretti has of late years published a formal vindication of it to the world. In this vindication he has not only deduced the original of it from pure Platonic love, but would willingly persuade us that it is still continued upon the same mental principles; a doctrine which the world will hardly be credulous enough to swallow, even though he should offer more convincing arguments to support it than he has already done.


So different over all the world are the sects of saints as well as of sinners, that besides the Bramins, a set of innocent and religious priests, who have rendered their women virtuous by treating them with kindness and humanity, there are another sect of religio-philosophical drones, called Fakiers, who contribute as much as they can to debauch the sex, under a pretence of superior sanctity. These hypocritical saints, like some of the ridiculous sects which formerly existed in Europe, wear no clothes; considering them only as proper appendages to sinners, who are ashamed, because they are sensible of guilt; while they, being free from every stain of pollution, have no shame to cover. In this original state of nature, these idle and pretended devotees, assemble together sometimes in armies of ten or twelve thousand, and under a pretence of going in pilgrimage to certain temples, like locusts devour every thing on their way; the men flying before them, and carrying all that they can out of the reach of their depredations; while the women, not in the least afraid of a naked army of lusty saints, throw themselves in their way, or remain quietly at home to receive them.

It has long been an opinion, well established all over India, that there is not in nature so powerful a remedy for removing the sterility of women, as the prayers of these sturdy naked saints. On this account, barren women constantly apply to them for assistance; which when the good natured Fakier has an indication to grant, he leaves his slipper, or his staff at the door of the lady’s apartment with whom he is praying; a symbol so sacred, that it effectually prevents any one from violating the secrecy of their devotion; but should he forget this [p139] signal, and at the same time be distant from the protection of his brethren, a sound drubbing is frequently the reward of his pious endeavors. But though they venture sometimes in Hindostan, to treat a Fakier in this unholy manner, in other parts of Asia and Africa, such is the veneration in which these lusty saints are held, that they not only have access when they please, to perform private devotions with barren women, but are accounted so holy, that they may at any time, in public or private, confer a personal favor upon a woman, without bringing upon her either shame or guilt; and no woman dare refuse to gratify their passion. Nor indeed, has any one an inclination of this kind; because she, upon whom this personal favor has been conferred, is considered by herself, and by all the people, as having been sanctified and made more holy by the action.

So much concerning the conduct of the Fakiers in debauching women, seems certain. But it is by travellers further related, that wherever they find a woman who is exceedingly handsome, they carry her off privately to one of their temples; but in such a manner, as to make her and the people believe, that she is carried away by the god who is there worshipped; who being violently in love with her, took that method to procure her for his wife. This done, they perform a nuptial ceremony, and make her further believe that she is married to the god; when, in reality, she is only married to one of the Fakiers who personates him. Women who are treated in this manner are revered by the people as the wives of the gods, and by that stratagem secured solely to the Fakiers, who have cunning enough to impose themselves as gods upon some of these women, through the whole of their lives. In countries where reason is stronger than superstition, we almost think this impossible: [p140] where the contrary is the case, there is nothing too hard to be credited. Something like this was done by the priests of ancient Greece and Rome; and a few centuries ago, tricks of the same nature were practiced by the monks, and other libertines, upon some of the visionary and enthusiastic women of Europe. Hence we need not think it strange, if the Fakiers generally succeed in attempts of this nature; when we consider that they only have to deceive a people brought up in the most consummate ignorance; and that nothing can be more flattering to female vanity, than for a woman to suppose herself such a peculiar favorite of the divinity she worships, as to be chosen, from all her companions, to the honor of being admitted to his embraces; a favor, which her self-admiration will dispose her more readily to believe than examine.


But it is not the religion of the Hindoos only, that is unfavorable to chastity; that of Mahomet which now prevails over a great part of India, is unfavorable to it likewise. Mahometanism every where indulges men with a plurality of wives while it ties down the women to the strictest conjugal fidelity; hence, while the men riot in unlimited variety, the women are in great numbers confined to share among them the scanty favors of one man only. This unnatural and impolitic conduct induces them to seek by art and intrigue, what they are denied by the laws of their prophet. As polygamy prevails over all Asia, this art and intrigue follow as the consequence of it; some have imagined, that it is the result of climate, but it rather appears to be the result of the injustice which [p141] women suffer by polygamy; for it seems to reign, as much in Constantinople, and in every other place where polygamy is in fashion, as it does on the banks of the Ganges, or the Indus. The famous Montesquieu, whose system was, that the passions are entirely regulated by the climate, brings as a proof of this system, a story from the collection of voyages for the establishment of an East India Company, in which it is said, that at Patan, “the wanton desires of the women are so outrageous, that the men are obliged to make use of a certain apparel to shelter them from their designs.” Were this story really true, it would be but a partial proof of the effect of climate, for why should the burning suns of Patan only influence the passions of the fair? Why should they there transport that sex beyond decency, which in all other climates is the most decent? And leave in so cool and defensive a state, that sex, which in all other climates is apt to be the most offensive and indecent? To whatever length the spirit of intrigue may be carried in Asia and Africa, however the passions of the women may prompt them to excite desire, and to throw themselves in the way of gratification, we have the strongest reasons to reprobate all these stories, which would make us believe, that they are so lost to decency as to attack the other sex: such a system would be overturning nature, and inverting the established laws by which she governs the world.


In Otaheite, an island in the Southern Ocean, we are presented with women of a singular character. As far as we can recollect, we think it is a pretty [p142] general rule, that whatever the sex are accustomed to be constantly clothed, they are ashamed to appear naked: those of Otaheite seem however to be an exception to this rule; to show themselves in public, with or without clothing, appears to be to them a matter of equal indifference, and the exposition of any part of their bodies, is not attended with the least backwardness or reluctance; circumstances from which we may reasonably infer, that among them, clothes were not originally invented to cover shame, but either as ornaments, or as a defence against the cold. But a still more striking singularity in the character of these women, and which distinguishes them not only from the females of all other nations, but likewise from those of almost all other animals, is, their performing in public those rites, which in every other part of the globe, and among almost all animals, are performed in privacy and retirement: whether this is the effect of innocence, or of a dissoluteness of manners to which no other people have yet arrived, remains still to be discovered; that they are dissolute, even beyond any thing we have hitherto recorded, is but too certain. As polygamy is not allowed among them, to satisfy the lust of variety, they have a society called Arreoy, in which every woman is common to every man; and when any of these women happens to have a child, it is smothered in the moment of its birth, that it may not interrupt the pleasures of its infamous mother; but in this juncture, should nature relent at so horrid a deed, even then the mother is not allowed to save her child, unless she can find a man who will patronise it as a father; in which case, the man is considered as having appropriated the woman to himself, and she is accordingly extruded from this hopeful society. These few anecdotes sufficiently characterise the women of this island.


Our own times furnish us with an instance of a ceremony from which all women are carefully excluded;2 but the Roman ladies, in performing the rites sacred to the good goddess, were even more afraid of the men than our masons are of women; for we are told by some authors, that so cautious were they of concealment, that even the statutes and pictures of men and other male animals were hood-winked with a thick veil. The house of the consul, though commonly so large that they might have been perfectly secured against all intrusion in some remote apartment of it, was obliged to be evacuated by all male animals, and even the consul himself was not suffered to remain in it. Before they began their ceremonies, every corner and lurking place in the house was carefully searched, and no caution omitted to prevent all possibility of being discovered by impertinent curiosity, or disturbed by presumptive intrusion. But these cautions were not all the guard that was placed around them; The laws of the Romans made it death for any man to be present at the solemnity.

Such being the precautions, and such the penalties for insuring the secrecy of this ceremony, it was only once attempted to be violated, though it existed from the foundation of the Roman empire till the introduction of Christianity; and this attempt was made, not so much perhaps with a view to be present at the ceremony, as to fulfil an assignation with a mistress. Pompeia, the wife of Cęsar, having been suspected of a criminal correspondence with Claudius, and so closely watched that she could find no opportunity of gratifying her passion, at last, by the means of a female slave, [p144] settled an assignation with him at the celebration of the rites of the good goddess. Claudius was directed to come in the habit of a singing girl, a character he could easily personate, being young and of a fair complexion. As soon as the slave saw him enter, she ran to inform her mistress. The mistress eager to meet her lover, immediately left the company and threw herself into his arms, but could not be prevailed upon by him to return so soon as he thought necessary for their mutual safety; upon which he left her, and began to take a walk through the rooms, always avoiding the light as much as possible. While he was thus walking by himself, a maid servant accosted him, and desired him to sing; he took no notice of her, but she followed and urging him so closely, that he was at last obliged to speak. His voice betrayed his sex; the maid servant shrieked, and running into the room where the rites were performing, told that a man was in the house. The women in the utmost consternation, threw a veil ever the mysteries, ordered the doors to be secured, and with lights in their hands, ran about the house searching for the sacrilegious intruder. They found him in the apartment of the slave who had admitted him, drove him out with ignominy, and, though it was in the middle of the night immediately dispersed, to give an account to their husbands of what had happened. Claudius was soon after accused of having profaned the holy rites; but the populace declaring in his favor, the judges, fearing an insurrection, were obliged to acquit him.

2 Masonry


There is amongst us a female character, not uncommon, which we denominate the outrageously virtuous. Women of this stamp never fail to seize all opportunities of exclaiming, in the bitterest manner, against every one upon whom even the slightest suspicion of indiscretion or unchastity has fallen; taking care, as they go along, to magnify every mole-hill into a mountain, and every thoughtless freedom into the blackest of crimes. But besides the illiberality of thus treating such as may frequently be innocent, you may credit us, dear countrywomen, when we aver, that such a behavior, instead of making you appear more virtuous, only draws down upon you, by those who know the world, suspicions not much to your advantage. Your sex are in general suspected by ours, of being too much addicted to scandal and defamation; a suspicion, which has not arisen of late years, as we find in the ancient laws of England a punishment, known by the name of ducking-stool, annexed to scolding and defamation in the women, though no such punishment nor crime is taken notice of in the men. This crime, however, we persuade ourselves, you are less guilty of, than is commonly believed: but there is another of a nature not more excusable, from which we cannot so much exculpate you; which is, that harsh and forbidding appearance you put on, and that ill treatment, which you no doubt think necessary, for the illustration of your own virtue, you should bestow on every one of your sex who has deviated from the path of rectitude. A behaviour of this nature, besides being so opposite to that meek and gentle spirit which should distinguish female nature, is in every respect contrary to the charitable and forgiving [p146] temper of the Christian religion, and infallibly shuts the door of repentance against an unfortunate sister, willing, perhaps, to abandon the vices into which heedless inadvertency had plunged her, and from which none of you can promise yourselves an absolute security.

We wish not, fair countrywomen, like the declaimer and satirist, to paint you all vice and imperfection, nor, like the venal panegyrist, to exhibit you all virtue. As impartial historians, we confess that you have, in the present age, many virtues and good qualities, which were either nearly or altogether unknown to your ancestors; but do you not exceed them in some follies and vices also? Is not the levity, dissipation, and extravagance of the women of this century arrived to a pitch unknown and unheard of in former times? Is not the course which you steer in life, almost entirely directed by vanity and fashion? And are there not too many of you who, throwing aside reason and good conduct, and despising the counsel of your friends and relations, seem determined to follow the mode of the world, however it may be mixed with vice? Do not the generality of you dress, and appear above your station, and are not many of you ashamed to be seen performing the duties of it? To sum up all, do not too, too many of you act as if you thought the care of a family, and the other domestic virtues, beneath your attention, and that the sole end for which you were sent into the world, was to please and divert yourselves, at the expense of those poor wretches the men, whom you consider as obliged to support you in every kind of idleness and extravagance? While such is your conduct, and while the contagion is every day increasing, you are not to be surprised if the men, still fond of you as playthings in the hours of mirth and revelry, ever shun serious connection with you; [p147] and while they wish to be possessed of your charms, are so much afraid of your manners and conduct, that they prefer the cheerless state of a bachelor, to the numberless evils arising from being tied to a modern wife.


In a variety of parts of the Mogul empire, when the women are carried abroad, they are put into a kind of machine like a chariot, and placed on the backs of camels, or in covered sedan chairs, and surrounded by a guard of eunuchs and armed men, in such a manner, that a stranger would rather suppose the cavalcade to be carrying some desperate villain to execution, than employed to prevent the intrigues or escape of a defenceless woman. At home, the sex are covered with gauze veils, which they dare not take off in the presence of any man, except their husband, or some near relation. Over the greatest part of Asia, and some parts of Africa, women are guarded by eunuchs, made incapable of violating their chastity. In Spain, where the natives are the descendants of the Africans, and whose jealousy is not less strong than that of their ancestors, they, for many centuries, made use of padlocks to secure the chastity of their women; but finding these ineffectual, they frequently had recourse to old women, called Gouvernantes. It had been discovered, that men deprived of their virility, did not guard female virtue so strictly, as to be incapable of being bribed to allow another a taste of those pleasures they themselves were incapable of enjoying. The Spaniards, sensible of this, imagined, that vindictive old women were more likely to be incorruptible; as envy would stimulate them to [p148] prevent the young from enjoying those pleasures, which they themselves had no longer any chance for; but all powerful gold soon overcame even this obstacle; and the Spaniards, at present, seem to give up all restrictive methods, and to trust the virtue of their women to good principles, instead of rigor and hard usage.


If the laws forbidding the marriage of near relations with each other, originated from the political view of preserving the human race from degeneracy, they are the only laws we meet with on that subject, and exert almost the only care we find taken of so important a matter. The Asiatic is careful to improve the breed of his elephants, the Arabian of his horses, and the Laplander of his reindeer. The Englishman, eager to have swift horses, staunch dogs, and victorious cocks, grudges no care and spares no expense, to have the males and females matched properly; but since the days of Solon, where is the legislator, or since the days of the ancient Greeks, where are the private persons who take any care to improve, or even to keep from degeneracy the breed of their own species? The Englishman who solicitously attends the training of his colts and puppies, would be ashamed to be caught in the nursery; and while no motive could prevail upon him to breed horses or hounds from an improper or contaminated kind, he will calmly, or rather inconsiderately, match himself with the most decrepid or diseased of the human species; thoughtless of the weaknesses and evils he is going to entail on posterity, and considering nothing but the acquisition of fortune he is by her [p149] alliance to convey to an offspring, by diseases rendered unable to use it. The Muscovites were formerly the only people, besides the Greeks, who paid a proper attention to this subject. After the preliminaries of a marriage were settled between the parents of a young couple, the bride was stripped naked, and carefully examined by a jury of matrons, when if they found any bodily defect they endeavored to cure it; but if it would admit of no remedy, the match was broke off, and she was considered not only as a very improper subject to breed from, but improper also for maintaining the affections of a husband, after he had discovered the imposition she had put upon him.


In Timor, an island in the Indian Ocean, it is said, that parents sell their children in order to purchase more wives. In Circassia, women are reared and improved in beauty and every alluring art, only for the purpose of being sold. The prince of the Circassians demanded of the prince of Mingrelia an hundred slaves loaded with tapestry, an hundred cows, as many oxen, and the same number of horses, as the price of his sister. In New-Zealand, we meet with a custom which may be called purchasing a wife for a night, and which is proof that those must also be purchased who are intended for a longer duration; and what to us is a little supprising, this temporary wife, insisted upon being treated with as much deference and respect, as if she had been married for life; but in general, this is not the case in other countries, for the wife who is purchased, is always trained up in the principles of slavery; and, being inured to every indignity [p150] and mortification from her parents, she expects no better treatment from her husband.

There is little difference in the condition of her who is put to sale by her sordid parents, and her who is disposed of in the same manner by the magistrates, as a part of the state’s property. Besides those we have already mentioned in this work, the Thracians put the fairest of their virgins up to public sale, and the magistrates of Crete had the sole power of choosing partners in marriage for their young men; and, in the execution of this power, the affection and interest of the parties was totally overlooked, and the good of the state the only object of attention; in pursuing which, they always allotted the strongest and best made of the sex to one another, that they might raise up a generation of warriors, or of women fit to be the mothers of warriors.


Polygamy and concubinage having in process of time become fashionable vices, the number of women kept by the great became at last more an article of grandeur and state, than a mode of satisfying the animal appetite: Solomon had threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number. Maimon tells us, that among the Jews a man might have as many wives as he pleased, even to the number of a hundred, and that it was not in their power to prevent him, provided he could maintain, and pay them all the conjugal debt once a week; but in this duty he was not to run in arrear to any of them above a month, though with regard to concubines he might do as he pleased.

It would be an endless task to enumerate all the nations which practised polygamy; we shall, therefore, only mention a few, where the practice seemed to vary something from the common method. The ancient Sabęans are not only said to have had a plurality, but even a community of wives; a thing strongly inconsistent with that spirit of jealousy which prevails among men in most countries where polygamy is allowed. The ancient Germans were so strict monogamists,3 that they reckoned it a species of polygamy for a woman to marry a second husband even after the death of the first. “A woman (say they) has but one life, and but one body, therefore should have but one husband;” and besides, they added, “that she who knows she is never to have a second husband, will the more value and endeavor to promote the happiness and preserve the life of the first.” Among the Heruli this idea was carried farther, a woman was obliged to strangle herself at the death of her husband, lest she should, afterwards marry another; so detestable was polygamy in the North, while in the East it is one of these rights which they most of all others esteem, and maintain with such inflexible firmness, that it will probably be one of the last of those that it will wrest out of their hands.

The Egyptians, it is probable, did not allow of polygamy, and as the Greeks borrowed their institutions from them, it was also forbid by the laws of Cecrops, though concubinage seems either to have been allowed or overlooked; for in the Odyssey of Homer we find Ulysses declaring himself to be the son of a concubine, which he would probably not have done, had any degree of infamy been annexed to it. In some cases, however, polygamy [p152] was allowed in Greece, from a mistaken notion that it would increase population. The Athenians, once thinking the number of their citizens diminished, decreed that it should be lawful for a man to have children by another woman as well as by his wife; besides this, particular instances occur of some who have transgressed the law of monogamy. Euripides is said to have had two wives, who, by their constant disagreement, gave him a dislike to the whole sex; a supposition which receives some weight from these lines of his in Andromache:

ne’er will I commend
More beds, more wives than one, nor children curs’d
With double mothers, banes and plagues of life.

Socrates too had two wives, but the poor culprit had as much reason to repent of his temerity as Euripides.

3 Monogamy is having only one wife.


As the appetite towards the other sex is one of the strongest and most ungovernable in our nature; as it intrudes itself more than any other into our thoughts, and frequently diverts them from every other purpose or employment; it may, at first, on this account, have been reckoned criminal when it interfered with worship and devotion; and emasculation was made use of in order to get rid of it, which may, perhaps, have been the origin of Eunuchs. But however this be, it is certain, that there were men of various religions who made themselves incapable of procreation on a religious account, as we are told that the priests of Cybele constantly castrated themselves; and by our Saviour, that there are eunuchs who make themselves such for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.


The ancient Assyrians seem more thoroughly to have settled and digested the affairs of marriage, than any of their cotemporaries. Once in every year they assembled together all the girls that were marriageable, when the public crier put them up to sale, one after another. For her whose figure was agreeable, and whose beauty was attracting, the rich strove against each other, who should give the highest price; which price was put into a public stock, and distributed in portions to those whom nobody would accept without a reward. After the most beautiful were disposed of, these were also put up by the crier, and a certain sum of money offered with each, proportioned to what it was thought she stood in need of to bribe a husband to accept her. When a man offered to accept of any of them, on the terms upon which she was exposed to sale, the crier proclaimed that such a man had proposed to take such a woman, with such a sum of money along with her, provided none could be found who would take her with less; and in this manner the sale went on, till she was at last allotted to him who offered to take her with the smallest portion.—When this public sale was over, the purchasers of those that were beautiful were not allowed to take them away, till they had paid down the price agreed on, and given sufficient security that they would marry them; nor, on the other hand, would those who were to have a premium for accepting of such as were less beautiful, take a delivery of them, till their portions were previously paid.


In England, the sale of a wife sometimes occurs, even at the present day, of which the following is an example, from the Lancaster Herald.

Sale of a wife at Carlisle—The inhabitants of this city lately witnessed the sale of a wife by her husband, Joseph Thompson, who resides in a small village about three miles distant, and rents a farm of about forty-two or forty-four acres. She was a spruce, lively, buxom damsel, apparently not exceeding twenty-two years of age, and appeared to feel a pleasure at the exchange she was about to make. They had no children during their union, and that, with some family disputes, caused them by mutual agreement to come to the resolution of finally parting. Accordingly, the bellman was sent round to give public notice of the sale, which was to take place at twelve o’clock; and this announcement attracted the notice of thousands. She appeared above the crowd, standing on a large oak chair, surrounded by many of her friends, with a rope or halter, made of straw, round her neck, being dressed in rather a fashionable country style, and appearing to some advantage. The husband, who was also standing in an elevated position near her, proceeded to put her up for sale, and spoke nearly as follows:—‘Gentlemen, I have to offer to your notice my wife, Mary Anne Thompson, otherwise Williamson, whom I mean to sell to the highest and fairest bidder. It is her wish as well as mine to part for ever. I took her for my comfort, and the good of my house, but she has become my tormentor and a domestic curse, &c. &c. Now I have shown you her faults and failings, I will explain her qualifications [p155] and goodness. She can read fashionable novels and milk cows; she can laugh and weep with the same ease that you can take a glass of ale; she can make butter, and scold the maid; she can sing Moore’s melodies, and plait her frills and caps; she cannot make rum, gin, or whiskey, but she is a good judge of their quality from long experience in tasting them, I therefore offer her, with all her perfections and imperfections, for the sum of fifty shillings.’—After an hour or two, she was purchased by Henry Mears, a pensioner, for the sum of twenty shillings and a Newfoundland dog. The happy pair immediately left town together, amidst the shouts and huzzas of the multitude, in which they were joined by Thompson, who, with the greatest good-humor imaginable, proceeded to put the halter, which his wife had taken off, round the neck of his Newfoundland dog, and then proceeded to the first public house, where he spent the remainder of the day.”


As fidelity to the marriage-bed, especially on the part of woman, has always been considered as one of the most essential duties of matrimony, wise legislators, in order to secure that benefit have annexed punishment to the act of adultery; these punishments, however, have generally some reference to the manner in which wives were acquired, and to the value stamped upon woman by civilization and politeness of manners. It is ordained by the Mosaic code, that both the men and the women taken in adultery shall be stoned to death; whence it would seem, that no more latitude was given to the male than to the female. [p156] But this is not the case; such an unlimited power of concubinage was given to the men, that we may suppose him highly licentious indeed, who could not be satisfied therewith, without committing adultery. The Egyptians, among whom women were greatly esteemed, had a singular method of punishing adulterers of both sexes; they cut off the privy parts of the man, that he might never be able to debauch another woman; and the nose of the woman, that she might never be the object of temptation to another man.

Punishments nearly of the same nature, and perhaps nearly about the same time, were instituted in the East Indies against adulterers; but while those of the Egyptians originated from a love of virtue and of their woman, those of the Hindoos probably arose from jealousy and revenge. It is ordained by the Shaster, that if a man commit adultery with a woman of a superior cast, he shall be put to death; if by force he commit adultery with a woman of an equal or inferior cast, the magistrate shall confiscate all his possessions, cut off his genitals, and cause him to be carried round the city, mounted on a ass. If by fraud he commit adultery with a woman of an equal or inferior cast, the magistrate shall take his possessions, brand him in the forehead, and banish him the kingdom. Such are the laws of the Shaster, so far as they regard all the superior casts, except the Bramins; but if any of the most inferior casts commit adultery with a woman of the casts greatly superior, he is not only to be dismembered, but tied to a hot iron plate, and burnt to death; whereas the highest casts may commit adultery with the very lowest, for the most trifling fine; and a Bramin, or priest, can only suffer by having the hair of his head cut off; and, like the clergy of Europe, while under the dominion of the Pope, he cannot be put [p157] to death for any crime whatever. But the laws, of which he is always the interpreter, are not so favorable to his wife; they inflict a severe disgrace upon her, if she commit adultery with any of the higher casts; but if with the lowest, the magistrate shall cut off her hair, anoint her body with Ghee, and cause her to be carried through the whole city, naked, and riding upon an ass; and shall cast her out on the north side of the city, or cause her to be eaten by dogs. If a woman of any of the other casts goes to a man, and entices him to have criminal correspondence with her, the magistrate shall cut off her ears, lips and nose, mount her upon an ass, and drown her, or throw her to the dogs. To the commission of adultery with a dancing girl, or prostitute, no punishment nor fine is annexed.


When Cęsar had subdued all his competitors, and most of the foreign nations which made war against him, he found that so many Romans had been destroyed in the quarrels in which he had often engaged them, that, to repair the loss, he promised rewards to fathers of families, and forbade all Romans who were above twenty, and under forty years of age, to go out of their native country. Augustus, his successor, to check the debauchery of the Roman youth, laid heavy taxes upon such as continued unmarried after a certain age, and encouraged with great rewards, the procreation of lawful children. Some years afterwards, the Roman knights having pressingly petitioned him that he would relax the severity of that law, he ordered their whole body to assemble before him, and the married and unmarried to arrange themselves in [p158] two separate parties, when, observing the unmarried to be much the greater company, he first addressed those who had complied with his law, telling them, that they alone had served the purposes of nature and society; that the human race was created male and female to prevent the extinction of the species; and that marriage was contrived as the most proper method of renewing the children of that species. He added, that they alone deserved the name of men and fathers, and that he would prefer them to such offices, as they might transmit to their posterity. Then turning to the bachelors, he told them, that he knew not by what name to call them; not by that of men, for they had done nothing that was manly; nor by that of citizens, since the city might perish for them; nor by that of Romans, for they seemed determined to let the race and name become extinct; but by whatever name he called them, their crime, he said, equalled all other crimes put together, for they were guilty of murder, in not suffering those to be born who should proceed from them; of impiety, in abolishing the names and honors of their fathers and ancestors; of sacrilege, in destroying their species, and human nature, which owed its original to the gods, and was consecrated to them; that by leading a single life they overturned, as far as in them lay, the temples and altars of the gods; dissolved the government, by disobeying its laws; betrayed their country, by making it barren. Having ended his speech, he doubled the rewards and privileges of such as had children, and laid a heavy fine on all unmarried persons, by reviving the Poppęan law.

Though by this law all the males above a certain age were obliged to marry under a severe penalty, Augustus allowed them the space of a full year to comply with its demands; but such was the [p159] backwardness to matrimony, and perversity of the Roman knights, and others, that every possible method was taken to evade the penalty inflicted upon them, and some of them even married children in the cradle for that purpose; thus fulfilling the letter, they avoided the spirit of the law, and though actually married, had no restraint upon their licentiousness, nor any incumbrance by the expense of a family.


Among nations which had shaken off the authority of the church of Rome, the priests still retained almost an exclusive power of joining men and women together in marriage. This appears rather, however, to have been by the tacit consent of the civil power, than from any defect in its right and authority; for in the time of Oliver Cromwell, marriages were solemnized frequently by the justices of the peace; and the clergy neither attempted to invalidate them, nor make the children proceeding from them illegitimate; and when the province of New England was first settled, one of the earliest laws of the colony was, that the power of marrying should belong to the magistrates. How different was the case with the first French settlers in Canada! For many years a priest had not been seen in the country, and a magistrate could not marry: the consequence was natural; men and woman joined themselves together as husband and wife, trusting to the vows and promises of each other. Father Charlevoix, a Jesuit, at last travelled into those wild regions, found many of the simple, innocent inhabitants living in that manner; with all of whom he found much fault, enjoined them to do penance, and afterwards married them. [p160] After the Restoration, the power of marrying again reverted to the clergy. The magistrate, however, had not entirely resigned his right to that power; but it was by a late act of parliament entirely surrendered to them, and a penalty annexed to the solemnization of it by any other person whatever.


At a synod held at Winchester under St. Dunstan, the monks averred, that so highly criminal was it for a priest to marry, that even a wooden cross had audibly declared against the horrid practice. Others place the first attempt of this kind, to the account of Aelfrick, archbishop of Canterbury, about the beginning of the eleventh century; however this may be, we have among the canons a decree of the archbishops of Canterbury, and York, ordaining, That all ministers of God, especially priests, should observe chastity, and not take wives: and in the year 1076, there was a council assembled at Winchester, under Lanfranc, which decreed, that no canon should have a wife; that such priests as lived in castles and villages should not be obliged to put their wives away, but that such as had none should not be allowed to marry; and that bishops should not ordain priests or deacons, unless they previously declared that they were not married. In the year 1102, archbishop Anselm held a council at Westminster, where it was decreed, that no archdeacon, priest, deacon, or canon, should either marry a wife, or retain her if he had one. Anselm, to give this decree greater weight, desired of the king, that the principal men of the kingdom might be present at the council, and that the [p161] decree might be enforced by the joint consent both of the clergy and laity; the king consented, and to these canons the whole realm gave a general sanction. The clergy of the province of York, however, remonstrated against them, and refused to put away their wives; the unmarried refused also to oblige themselves to continue in that state; nor were the clergy of Canterbury much more tractable.

In the celibacy of the clergy, we may discover also the origin of nunneries; the intrigues they could procure, while at confession, were only short, occasional, and with women whom they could not entirely appropriate to themselves; to remedy which, they probably fabricated the scheme of having religious houses, where young women should be shut up from the world, and where no man but a priest, on pain of death, should enter. That in these dark retreats, secluded from censure, and from the knowledge of the world, they might riot in licentiousness. They were sensible, that women, surrounded with the gay and the amiable, might frequently spurn at the offers of a cloistered priest, but that while confined entirely to their own sex, they would take pleasure in a visit from one of the other, however slovenly and unpolished. In the world at large, should the crimes of the women be detected, the priests have no interest in mitigating their punishment; but here the whole community of them are interested in the secret of every intrigue, and should Lucinda unluckily proclaim it, she can seldom do it without the walls of the convent, and if she does, the priests lay the crime on some luckless laic, that the holy culprit may come off with impunity.


In ancient and modern history, we are frequently presented with accounts of women, who, preferring death to slavery or prostitution, sacrificed their lives with the most undaunted courage to avoid them. Apollodorus tells us, that Hercules having taken the city of Troy, prior to the famous siege of it celebrated by Homer, carried away captive the daughters of Laomedon then king. One of these, named Euthira, being left with several other Trojan captives on board the Grecian fleet, while the sailors went on shore to take in fresh provisions, had the resolution to propose, and the power to persuade her companions, to set the ships on fire, and to perish themselves amid the devouring flames. The women of Phœnicia met together before an engagement which was to decide the fate of their city, and having agreed to bury themselves in the flames, if their husbands and relations were defeated, in the enthusiasm of their courage and resolution, they crowned her with flowers who first made the proposal. Many instances occur in the history of the Romans of the Gauls and Germans, and of other nations in subsequent periods; where women being driven to despair by their enemies, have bravely defended their walls, or waded through fields of blood to assist their countrymen, and free themselves from slavery or from ravishment. Such heroic efforts are beauties, even in the character of the softer sex, when they proceed from necessity: when from choice, they are blemishes of the most unnatural kind, indicating a heart of cruelty, lodged in a form which has the appearance of gentleness and peace.

It has been alleged by some of the writers on human nature, that to the fair sex the loss of beauty [p163] is more alarming and insupportable than the loss of life; but even this loss, however opposite to the feelings of their nature, they have voluntarily consented to sustain, that they might not be the objects of temptation to the lawless ravisher. The nuns of a convent in France, fearing they should be violated by a ruffian army, which had taken by storm the town in which their convent was situated, at the recommendation of their abbess, mutually agreed to cut off all their noses, that they might save their chastity by becoming objects of disgust instead of desire. Were we to descend to particulars, we could give innumerable instances of women, who from Semiramis down to the present time, have distinguished themselves by their courage. Such was Penthesilea, who, if we may credit ancient story, led her army of viragoes to the assistance of Priam, king of Troy; Thomyris, who encountered Cyrus, king of Persia; and Thalestris, famous for her fighting, as well as for her amours with Alexander the Great. Such was the brave but ill-fated Boadicea, queen of the Britons, who led on that people to revenge the wrongs done to herself and her country by the Romans. And in later periods, such were the Maid of Orleans, and Margaret of Anjou; which last, according to several historians, commanded at no less than twelve pitched battles. But we do not choose to multiply instances of this nature, as we have already said enough to shew, that the sex are not destitute of courage when that virtue becomes necessary; and were they possessed of it, when unnecessary, it would divest them of one of the principal qualities for which we love, and for which we value them. No woman was ever held up as a pattern to her sex, because she was intrepid and brave; no woman ever conciliated the affections of the men, by rivalling them in what they reckon the peculiar excellencies of their own character.


As the Greeks emerged from the barbarity of the heroic ages, among other articles of culture, they began to bestow more attention on the convenience and elegance of dress. At Athens, the ladies commonly employ the whole morning in dressing themselves in a decent and becoming manner; their toilet consisted in paints and washes, of such a nature as to cleanse and beautify the skin, and they took great care to clean their teeth, an article too much neglected: some also blackened their eyebrows, and, if necessary, supplied the deficiency of the vermillion on their lips, by a paint said to have been exceedingly beautiful. At this time the women in the Greek islands make much use of a paint which they call Sulama, which imparts a beautiful redness to the cheeks, and gives the skin a remarkable gloss. Possibly this may be the same with that made use of in the times we are considering; but however this be, some of the Greek ladies at present gild their faces all over on the day of their marriage, and consider this coating as an irresistible charm; and in the island of Scios, their dress does not a little resemble that of ancient Sparta, for they go with their bosoms uncovered, and with gowns which only reach to the calf of their leg, in order to show their fine garters, which are commonly red ribbons curiously embroidered. But to return to ancient Greece; the ladies spent likewise a part of their time in composing head-dresses, and though we have reason to suppose that they were not then so preposterously fantastic as those presently composed by a Parisian milliner, yet they were probably objects of no small industry and attention, especially as we find that they then dyed their hair, [p165] perfumed it with the most costly essences, and by the means of hot irons disposed of it in curls, as fancy or fashion directed. Their clothes were made of stuffs so extremely light and fine as to show their shapes without offending against the rules of decency. At Sparta, the case was widely different; we shall not describe the dress of the women; it is sufficient to say that it has been loudly complained of by almost every ancient author who has treated on the subject.


In the earlier periods of the history of the Greeks, their love, if we may call it so, was only the animal appetite, impetuous and unrestrained either by cultivation of manners, or precepts of morality; and almost every opportunity which fell in their way, prompted them to satisfy that appetite by force, and to revenge the obstruction of it by murder. When they became a more civilized people, they shone much more illustriously in arts and in arms, than in delicacy of sentiment and elegance of manners: hence we shall find, that their method of making love was more directed to compel the fair sex to a compliance with their wishes by charms and philtres, than to win them by the nameless assiduities and good offices of a lover.

As the two sexes in Greece had but little communication with each other, and a lover was seldom favored with an opportunity of telling his passion to his mistress, he used to discover it by inscribing her name on the walls of his house, on the bark of the trees of a public walk, or leaves of his books; it was customary for him also to deck [p166] the door of the house where his fair one lived, with garlands and flowers, to make libations of wine before it, and to sprinkle the entrance with the same liquor, in the manner that was practised at the temple of Cupid. Garlands were of great use among the Greeks in love affairs; when a man untied his garland, it was a declaration of his having been subdued by that passion; and when a woman composed a garland, it was a tacit confession of the same thing: and though we are not informed of it, we may presume that both sexes had methods of discovering by these garlands, not only that they were in love, but the object also upon whom it was directed.

Such were the common methods of discovering the passion of love; the methods of prosecuting it were still more extraordinary, and less reconcilable to civilization and to good principles; when a love affair did not prosper in the hands of a Grecian, he did not endeavor to become more engaging in his manners and person, he did not lavish his fortune in presents, or become more obliging and assiduous in his addresses, but immediately had recourse to incantations and philtres; in composing and dispensing of which, the women of Thessaly were reckoned the most famous, and drove a traffic in them of no considerable advantage. These potions were given by the women to the men, as well as by the men to the women, and were generally so violent in their operations as for some time to deprive the person who took them, of sense, and not uncommonly of life: their composition was a variety of herbs of the most strong and virulent nature, which we shall not mention; but herbs were not the only things they relied on for their purpose; they called in the productions of the animal and mineral kingdoms to their assistance; when these [p167] failed, they roasted an image of wax before the fire, representing the object of their love, and as this became warm, they flattered themselves that the person represented by it would be proportionally warmed with love. When a lover could obtain any thing belonging to his mistress, he imagined it of singular advantage, and deposited in the earth beneath the threshold of her door. Besides these, they had a variety of other methods equally ridiculous and unavailing, and of which it would be trifling to give a minute detail; we shall, therefore, just take notice as we go along, that such of either sex as believed themselves forced into love by the power of philtres and charms, commonly had recourse to the same methods to disengage themselves, and break the power of these enchantments, which they supposed operated involuntarily on their inclinations; and thus the old women of Greece, like the lawyers of modern times, were employed to defeat the schemes and operations of each other, and like them too, it is presumable, laughed in their sleeves, while they hugged the gains that arose from vulgar credulity.


The Romans, who borrowed most of their customs from the Greeks, also followed them in that of endeavoring to conciliate love by the power of philtres and charms; a fact of which we have not the least room to doubt, as they are in Virgil and some other of the Latin poets so many instances that prove it. But it depends not altogether on the testimony of the poets: Plutarch tells us, that Lucullus, a Roman General, lost his senses by a love potion; and Caius Caligula, according to Suetonius, [p168] was thrown into a fit of madness by one which was given him by his wife Cęsonia; Lucretius too, according to some authors, fell a sacrifice to the same folly. The Romans, like the Greeks, made use of these methods mostly in their affairs of gallantry and unlawful love; but in what manner they addressed themselves to a lady they intended to marry, has not been handed down to us, and the reason we suppose is, that little or no courtship was practised among them; women had no disposing power of themselves, to what purpose was it then to apply to them for their consent? They were under perpetual guardianship, and the guardian having sole power of disposing of them, it was only necessary to apply to him. In the Roman authors, we frequently read of a father, a brother, or a guardian, giving his daughter, his sister, or his ward, in marriage; but we do not recollect one single instance of being told that the intended bridegroom applied to the lady for her consent; a circumstance the more extraordinary, as women in the decline of the Roman empire had arisen to a dignity, and even to a freedom hardly equalled in modern times.


It has long been a common observation among mankind, that love is the most fruitful source of invention; and that in this case the imagination of a woman is still more fruitful of invention and expedient than that of a man; agreeably to this, we are told, that the women of the island of Amboyna, being closely watched on all occasions, and destitute of the art of writing, by which, in other places, [p169] the sentiments are conveyed to any distance, have methods of making known their inclinations to their lovers, and of fixing assignations with them, by means of nosegays, and plates of fruit so disposed, as to convey their sentiments in the most explicit manner: by these means their courtship is generally carried on, and by altering the disposition of symbols made use of, they contrive to signify their refusal, with the same explicitness as their approbation. In some of the neighboring islands, when a young man has fixed his affection, like the Italians, he goes from time to time to her door, and plays upon some musical instrument; if she gives consent, she comes out to him, and they settle the affair of matrimony between them; if, after a certain number of these kind of visits, she does not appear, it is a denial; and the disappointed lover is obliged to desist.

We shall see afterward when we come to treat of the matrimonial compact, that, in some places, the ceremony of marriage consists in tying the garments of the young couple together, as an emblem of that union which ought to bind their affections and interests. This ceremony has afforded a hint for lovers to explain their passion to their mistresses, in the most intelligible manner, without the help of speech, or the possibility of offending the nicest delicacy. A lover in these parts, who is too modest to declare himself, seizes the first opportunity he can find, of sitting down by his mistress, and tying his garment to hers, in the manner that is practised in the ceremony of marriage: if she permits him to finish the knot, without any interruption, and does not soon after cut or loose it, she thereby gives her consent; if she looses it, he may tie it again on some other occasion, when she may [p170] prove more propitious; but if she cuts it, his hopes are blasted forever.


The human hair has ever been regarded as an ornament. The Anglo-Saxons and Danes considered their hair as one of their greatest personal beauties, and took great care to dress it to the utmost advantage. Young ladies wore it loose, and flowing in ringlets over their shoulders; but after marriage they cut it shorter, tied it up, and covered it with a head-dress, according to the fashion of the times; but to have the hair cut entirely off, was a disgrace of such a nature, that it was even thought a punishment not inadequate to the crime of adultery; so great, in the Middle ages, was the value set upon the hair by both sexes, that, as a piece of the most peculiar mortification, it was ordered by the canons of the church, that the clergy should keep their hair short, and shave the crown of their head; and that they should not, upon any pretence whatever, endeavor to keep the part so shaved from public view. Many of the clergy of these times, finding themselves so peculiarly mortified, and perhaps so easily distinguished from all other people by this particularity, as to be readily detected when they committed any of the follies or crimes to which human nature is in every situation sometimes liable, endeavored to persuade mankind that long hair was criminal, in order to reduce the whole to a similarity with themselves. Amongst these, St. Wulstan eminently distinguished himself. “He rebuked,” says William of Malmsbury, “the wicked of all ranks with great boldness, but was peculiarly severe upon those who were proud of [p171] their long hair. When any of these vain people bowed their heads before him, to receive his blessing, before he gave it he cut a lock from their hair, with a sharp penknife, which he carried about him for that purpose; and commanded them, by way of penance for their sins, to cut all the rest in the same manner: if any of them refused to comply with his command he reproached them for their effeminacy, and denounced the most dreadful judgments against them. Such, however, was the value of their hair in these days, that many rather submitted to his censures than part with it; and such was the folly of the church, and of this saint in particular, that the most solemn judgments were denounced against multitudes, for no other crime than not making use of pen-knives and scissors, to cut off an ornament bestowed by nature.”


On St. Valentine’s day, it is customary, in many parts of Italy, for an unmarried lady to choose, from among the young gentlemen of her acquaintance, one to be her guardian or gallant; who, in return for the honor of this appointment, presents to her some nosegays, or other trifles, and thereby obliges himself to attend her in the most obsequious manner in all her parties of pleasure, and to all her public amusements, for the space of one year, when he may retire, and the lady may choose another in his place. But in the course of this connection it frequently happens, that they contract such an inclination to each other, as prompts them to be coupled for life. In the times of the chivalry, we have seen that the men gloried in protecting the women, and the women thought themselves safe and happy [p172] when they obtained that protection. It is probable, therefore, that this custom, though now more an affair of gallantry than of protection, is a relic of chivalry still subsisting among that romantic and sentimental people.

But the observation of some peculiar customs on St. Valentine’s day is not confined to Italy; almost all Europe has joined in distinguishing it by some particular ceremony. As it always happens about that time of the year, when the genial influences of the spring begin to operate, it has been believed by the vulgar, that upon it the birds invariably choose their mates for the ensuing season. In imitation, therefore, of their example, the vulgar of both sexes, in many parts of Britain, meet together; and having upon slips of paper wrote down the names of all their acquaintances, and put them into two different bags, the men drew the female names by lot, and the women the male; the man makes the woman who drew his name some trifling present, and in the rural gambol becomes her partner; and she considers him as her sweetheart, till he is otherwise disposed of, or till next Valentine’s day provide her with another.


In Spain, during the Middle Ages, courts of Love were established. These courts were composed of ladies summoned to meet together, for the purpose of discussing, in the most formal and serious manner, “beautiful and subtle questions of love.” They decided the precise amount of inconstancy which a lady might forgive, without lowering her own dignity, provided her lover made certain supplications, and performed certain penances; they [p173] took it into solemn consideration whether a lover was justified, under any circumstances, in expressing the slightest doubt of his lady’s fidelity; they laid down definite rules, and ceremonials of behavior, to be observed by those who wished to be beloved; and gravely discussed the question whether sentiment, or sight, the heart, or the eyes, contributed most powerfully to inspire affection.


That modesty and chastity, which we now esteem as the chief ornament of the female character, does not appear in times of remote antiquity to have been much regarded by either sex. At Babylon, the capital of the Assyrian empire, it was so little valued, that a law of the country even obliged every woman once in her life to depart from it. This abominable law, which, it is said, was promulgated by an oracle, ordained, That every woman should once in her life repair to the temple of Venus; that on her arrival there, her head should be crowned with flowers, and in that attire, she should wait till some stranger performed with her the rites sacred to the goddess of debauchery.

This temple was constructed with a great many winding galleries appropriated to the reception of the women, and the strangers who, allured by debauchery, never failed to assemble there in great numbers, being allowed to choose any woman they thought proper from among those who came there in obedience to the law. When the stranger accosted the object of his choice, he was obliged to present her with some pieces of money, nor was she at liberty to refuse either these, or the request of the stranger who offered them, whatever was the [p174] value of the money, or however mean or disagreeable the donor. These preliminaries being settled, they retired together to fulfil the law, after which the woman returned and offered the goddess the sacrifice prescribed by custom, and then was at liberty to return home. Nor was this custom entirely confined to the Babylonians; in the island of Cyprus they sent young women at stated times to the sea-shore, where they prostituted themselves to Venus, that they might be chaste the rest of their lives. In some other countries, a certain number only were doomed to prostitution, as it is supposed, by way of a bribe, to induce the goddess of debauchery to save the rest.

When a woman had once entered the temple of Venus, she was not allowed to depart from it till she had fulfilled the law: and it frequently happened that those to whom nature had been less indulgent than to others, remained there a long time before any person offered to perform with them the condition of their release. A custom, we think, some times alluded to in scripture, and expressly delineated in the book of Baruch: “The women also, with cords about them, sitting in the ways, burn bran for perfume; but, if any of them, drawn by some that passeth by, lie with him, she reproacheth her fellow that she was not thought worthy as herself, nor her cord broken.” Though this infamous law was at first strictly observed by all the women of Babylon, yet it would seem that, in length of time, they grew ashamed of, and in many cases dispensed with it; for we are informed that women of the superior ranks of life, who were not willing literally to fulfil the law, were allowed a kind of evasion; they were carried in litters to the gates of the temple, where, having dismissed all their attendants, they entered alone, presented themselves [p175] before the statue of the goddess, and returned home. Possibly this was done by the assistance of a bribe, to those who had the care of the temple.


In Adrianople and the neighboring cities, the women have public baths, which are a part of their religion and of their amusement, and a bride, the first time she appears there, after her marriage, is received in a particular manner. The matrons and widows being seated round the room, the virgins immediately put themselves into the original state of Eve. The bride comes to the door richly dressed and adorned with jewels; two of the virgins meet her, and soon put her into the same condition with themselves; then filling some silver pots with perfume, they make a procession round the rooms, singing an epithalamium, in which all the virgins join in chorus; the procession ended, the bride is led up to every matron, who bestows on her some trifling presents, and to each she returns thanks, till she has been led round the whole. We could add many more ceremonies arising from marriage, but as they are for the most part such as make a part of the marriage ceremony itself, we shall have occasion to mention them with more propriety under another head.


Grymer, a youth early distinguished in arms, who well knew how to dye his sword in the blood of his enemies, to run over the craggy mountains, to wrestle, to play at chess, trace the motions of the stars, and throw far from him heavy weights, frequently shewed his skill in the chamber of the damsels, before the king’s lovely daughter; desirous of acquiring her regard, he displayed his dexterity in handling his weapons, and the knowledge he had attained in the sciences he had learned; at length ventured to make this demand: “Wilt thou, O fair princess, if I may obtain the king’s consent, accept of me for a husband?” To which she prudently replied, “I must not make that choice myself, but go thou and offer the same proposal to my father.”

The sequel of the story informs us, that Grymer accordingly made his proposal to the king, who answered him in a rage, that though he had learned indeed to handle his arms, yet as he had never gained a single victory, nor given a banquet to the beasts of the field, he had no pretensions to his daughter, and concluded by pointing out to him, in a neighboring kingdom, a hero renowned in arms, whom, if he could conquer, the princess should be given him: that on waiting on the princess to tell her what had passed, she was greatly agitated, and felt in the most sensible manner for the safety of her lover, whom she was afraid her father had devoted to death for his presumption, that she provided him with a suit of impenetrable armor and a trusty sword, with which he went, and having slain his adversary, and the most part of his warriors, returned victorious, and received her as the reward [p177] of his valor. Singular as this method of obtaining a fair lady by a price paid in blood may appear, it was not peculiar to the northerns: we have already taken notice of the price which David paid for the daughter of Saul, and shall add, that among the Sacę, a people of ancient Scythia, a custom something of this kind, but still more extraordinary, obtained: every young man who made his addresses to a lady, was obliged to engage her in single combat; if he vanquished, he led her off in triumph, and became her husband and sovereign; if he was conquered, she led him off in the same manner, and made him her husband and her slave.


The delicacy of a Lapland lady, which is not in the least hurt by being drunk as often as she can procure liquor, would be wounded in the most sensible manner, should she deign at first to listen to the declaration of a lover; he is therefore obliged to employ a match-maker to speak for him; and this match-maker must never go empty handed; and of all other presents, that which must infallibly secures him a favorable reception is brandy. Having, by the eloquence of this, gained leave to bring the lover along with him, and being, together with the lover’s father or other nearest-male relation, arrived at the house where the lady resides, the father and match-maker are invited to walk in, but the lover must wait patiently at the door till further solicited. The parties, in the mean time, open their suit to the other ladies of the family, not forgetting to employ in their favor their irresistible advocate brandy, a liberal distribution of which is reckoned the strongest proof of the lover’s affection. When [p178] they have all been warmed by the lover’s bounty, he is brought into the house, pays his compliments to the family, and is desired to partake of their cheer, though at this interview seldom indulged with a sight of his mistress; but if he is, he salutes her, and offers her presents of reindeer skins, tongues, &c.; all which, while surrounded with her friends, she pretends to refuse; but at the same time giving her lover a signal to go out, she soon steals after him, and is no more that modest creature she affected to appear in company. The lover now solicits for the completion of his wishes; if she is silent, it is construed into consent; but if she throws his presents on the ground with disdain the match is broken off forever.

It is generally observed, that women enter into matrimony with more willingness, and less anxious care and solicitude, than men, for which many reasons naturally suggest themselves to the intelligent reader. The women of Greenland are however, in many cases, an exception to this general rule. A Greenlander, having fixed his affection, acquaints his parents with it; they acquaint the parents of the girl; upon which two female negociators are sent to her, who, lest they should shock her delicacy, do not enter directly on the subject of their embassy, but launch out in praises of the lover they mean to recommend, of his house, of his furniture, and whatever else belongs to him, but dwell most particularly on his dexterity in catching seals. She, pretending to be affronted, runs away, tearing the ringlets of her hair as she retires; after which the two females, having obtained a tacit consent from her parents, search for her, and on discovering her lurking place, drag her by force to the house of her lover, and there leave her. For some days she sits with dishevelled hair, silent and dejected, [p179] refusing every kind of sustenance, and at last, if kind entreaties cannot prevail upon her, is compelled by force, and even by blows, to complete the marriage with her husband. It sometimes happens, that when the female match-makers arrive to propose a lover to a Greenland young woman, she either faints, or escapes to the uninhabited mountains, where she remains till she is discovered and carried back by her relations, or is forced to return by hunger and cold; in both which cases, she previously cuts off her hair; a most infallible indication, that she is determined never to marry.


In several of the warmer regions of Asia and Africa, the little education bestowed upon women, is entirely calculated to debauch their minds and give additional charms to their persons. They are taught vocal and instrumental music, which they accompany with dances, in which every movement and every gesture is expressively indecent: but receive no moral instruction; for it would teach them that they were doing wrong. This, however, is not the practice in all parts of Asia and Africa: the women of Hindostan are educated more decently; they are not allowed to learn music or dancing; which are only reckoned accomplishments fit for those of a lower order; they are notwithstanding, taught all the personal graces; and particular care is taken to instruct them in the art of conversing with elegance and vivacity; some of them are also taught to write, and the generality to read, so that they may be able to read the Koran; instead of which they more frequently dedicate themselves to tales and romances; which, painted [p180] in all the lively imagery of the East, seldom fail to corrupt the minds of creatures shut up from the world, and consequently forming to themselves extravagant and romantic notions of all that is transacted in it.

In well regulated families, women are taught by heart some prayers in Arabic, which at certain hours they assemble in a hall to repeat; never being allowed the liberty of going to the public mosque. They are enjoined always to wash themselves before praying; and, indeed, the virtues of cleanliness, of chastity, and obedience, are so strongly and constantly inculcated on their minds, that in spite of their general debauchery of manners, there are not a few among them, who, in their common deportment, do credit to the instructions bestowed upon them; nor is this much to be wondered at, when we consider the tempting recompense that is held out to them; they are, in paradise, to flourish forever, in the vigor of youth and beauty; and however old, or ugly, when they depart this life, are there to be immediately transformed into all that is fair, and all that is graceful.


A cause, which contributed to make the religious festivals of the Greeks appear as amusements and diversions, was that ridiculous buffoonery that constituted so great a part of them: it would be tedious to enumerate one half of these buffooneries; but let a few serve as a specimen. At a festival held in honor of Bacchus, the women ran about for a long time seeking the god, who, they pretended, had run away from them: this done, they passed their time in proposing riddles and questions to each other, and [p181] laughing at such as could not answer them; and at last often closed the scene with such enormous excesses, that at one of these festivals, the daughters of Minya, having, in their madness, killed Hippasus, had him dressed and served up to table as a rarity. At another, kept in honor of Venus and Adonis, they beat their breasts, tore their hair, and mimicked all the signs of the most extravagant grief, with which they supposed the goddess to have been affected on the death of her favorite paramour. At another, in honor of the nymph Cotys, they addressed her as the goddess of wantonness with many mysterious rites and ceremonies. At Corinth, these rites and ceremonies, being perhaps thought inconsistent with the character of modest women, this festival was only celebrated by harlots. Athenęus mentions a festival, at which the women laid hold on all the old bachelors they could find, and dragged them round an altar; beating them all the time with their fists, as punishment for their neglect of the sex. We shall only mention two more; at one of which, after the assembly had met in the temple of Ceres, the women shut out all the men and dogs, themselves and the bitches remaining in the temple all night; in the morning, the men were let in, and the time was spent in laughing together at the frolic. At the other, in honor of Bacchus, they counterfeited phrenzy and madness; and to make this madness appear the more real, they used to eat the raw and bloody entrails of goats newly slaughtered. And, indeed, the whole of the festivals of Bacchus, a deity much worshipped in Greece, were celebrated with rites either ridiculous, obscene, or madly extravagant. There were others, however, in honor of the other gods and goddesses, which were more decent, and had more the appearance of religious solemnity, though even in these, the women dressed out in all their finery; and, adorned with flowers and garlands, either formed splendid [p182] processions, or assisted in performing ceremonies, the general tendency of which was to amuse rather than instruct.


The force of prejudice appears in nothing more strongly than in the encomiums which have been lavished upon Lucretia for laying violent hands upon herself, and Virginius for killing his own daughter. These actions seem to derive all their glory from the revolutions to which they gave rise, as the former occasioned the abolition of monarchy amongst the Romans, and the latter put an end to the arbitrary power of the decemviri. But if we lay aside our prepossessions for antiquity, and examine these actions without prejudice, we cannot but acknowledge, that they are rather the effects of human weakness and obstinacy than of resolution and magnanimity. Lucretia, for fear of worldly censure, chose rather to submit to the lewd desires of Tarquin, than have it thought that she had been stabbed in the embraces of a slave; which sufficiently proves that all her boasted virtue was founded upon vanity, and too high a value for the opinion of mankind. The younger Pliny, with great reason, prefers to this famed action that of a woman of low birth, whose husband being seized with an incurable disorder, chose rather to perish with him than survive him. The action of Arria is likewise much more noble, whose husband Pętus, being condemned to death, plunged a dagger in her breast, and told him, with a dying voice, “Pętus, it is not painful.” But the death of Lucretia gave rise to a revolution, and it therefore became illustrious; though, as St. Augustine justly [p183] observes, it is only an instance of the weakness of a woman, too solicitous about the opinion of the world.

Virginius, in killing his daughter, to preserve her from falling a victim to the lust of the decemvir Claudius, was guilty of the highest rashness; since he might certainly have gained the people, already irritated against the tyrant, without imbruing his hands in his own blood. This action may indeed be extenuated, as Virginius slew his daughter from a false principle of honor, and did it to preserve her from what both he and she thought worse than death; namely, to preserve her from violation; but though it may in some measure be excused, it should not certainly be praised or admired.


What dazzling beauties strike my ravish’d eyes,
And fill my soul with pleasure and surprise!
What blooming sweetness smiles upon that face!
How mild, yet how majestic every grace!
In those bright eyes what more than mimic fire
Benignly shines, and kindles gay desire!
Yet chasten’d modesty, fair white-robed dame,
Triumphant sits to check the rising flame.
Sure nature made thee her peculiar care:
Was ever form so exquisitely fair?
Yes, once there was a form thus heavenly bright,
But now ’tis veil’d in everlasting night;
Each glory which that lovely face could boast,
And every charm, in traceless dust is lost;
An unregarded heap of ruin lies
That form which lately drew ten thousand eyes.
What once was courted, lov’d, adored, and prais’d,
Now mingles with the dust from whence ’twas raised.
No more soft dimpling smiles those cheeks adorn,
Whose rosy tincture sham’d the rising morn;
No more with sparkling radiance shine those eyes,
Nor over those the sable arches rise;
Nor from those ruby lips soft accents flow,
Nor lilies on the snowy forehead blow;
All, all are cropp’d by death’s impartial hand,
Charms could not bribe, nor beauty’s power withstand;
Not all that crowd of wondrous charms could save
Their fair possessor from the dreary grave.

How frail is beauty, transient, false and vain!
It flies with morn, and ne’er returns again.
Death, cruel ravager, delights to prey
Upon the young, the lovely and the gay.
If death appear not, oft corroding pain,
With pining sickness in her languid train,
Blights youth’s gay spring with some untimely blast,
And lays the blooming field of beauty waste;
But should these spare, still time creeps on apace,
And plucks with wither’d hand each winning grace;
The eyes, lips, cheeks, and bosom he disarms,
No art from him can shield exterior charms.

But would you, fair ones, be esteem’d, approved,
And with an everlasting ardor loved;
Would you in wrinkled age, admirers find,
In every female virtue dress the mind;
Adorn the heart, and teach the soul to charm,
And when the eyes no more the breast can warm,
These ever-blooming beauties shall inspire
Each gen’rous heart with friendship’s sacred fire;
These charms shall neither wither, fade, nor fly;
Pain, sickness, time, and death, they dare defy.
When the pale tyrant’s hand shall seal your doom,
And lock your ashes in the silent tomb,
These beauties shall in double lustre rise,
Shine round the soul, and waft it to the skies.



External indications as to figure are required chiefly as to the limbs which are concealed by drapery. Such indications are afforded by the walk, to every careful observer.

In considering the proportion of the limbs to the body—if, even in a young woman, the walk, though otherwise good, be heavy, or the fall on each foot alternately be sudden, and rather upon the heel, the limbs though well formed, will be found to be slender, compared with the body.

This conformation accompanies any great proportional developement of the vital system; and it is frequently observable in the woman of the Saxon population of England, as in the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, &c.

In women of this conformation, moreover, the slightest indisposition or debility is indicated by a slight vibration of the shoulders, and upper part of the chest, at every step, in walking.

In considering the line or direction of the limbs—if, viewed behind, the feet, at every step, are thrown out backward, and somewhat laterally, the knees are certainly much inclined inward.

If, viewed in front, the dress, at every step, is as it were, gathered toward the front, and then tossed more or less to the opposite side, the knees are certainly too much inclined.

In considering the relative size of each portion of the limbs—if, in the walk, there be a greater or less approach to the marching pace, the hip is large; for we naturally employ the joint which is surrounded with the most powerful muscles, and in any approach to the march, it is the hip-joint which is used, and the knee and ancle-joints which remain proportionally unemployed.

If, in the walk, the tripping pace be used, as in an approach to walking on tiptoes, the calf is large; for it is only by the power of its muscles that, under the weight of the whole body, the foot can be extended for this purpose.

If, in the walk, the foot be raised in a slovenly manner, and the heel be seen, at each step, to lift the bottom of the dress upward and backward, neither the hip nor the calf is well developed.

Even with regard to the parts of the figure which are more exposed to observation by the closer adaptation of dress, much deception occurs. It is, therefore, necessary to understand the arts employed for this purpose, at least by skilful women.

A person having a narrow face, wears a bonnet with wide front, exposing the lower part of the cheeks.—One having a broad face, wears a closer front; and, if the jaw be wide, it is in appearance diminished, by bringing the corners of the bonnet sloping to the point of the chin.

A person having a long neck has the neck of the bonnet descending, the neck of the dress rising, [p187] and filling more or less of the intermediate space. One having a short neck has the whole bonnet short and close in the perpendicular direction, and the neck of the dress neither high nor wide.

Persons with narrow shoulders have the shoulders or epaulets of the dress formed on the outer edge of the natural shoulder, very full, and both the bosom and back of the dress running in oblique folds, from the point of the shoulder to the middle of the bust.

Persons with waists too large, render them less before by a stomacher, or something equivalent, and behind by a corresponding form of the dress, making the top of the dress smooth across the shoulders, and drawing it in plaits to a narrow point at the bottom of the waist.

Those who have the bosom too small, enlarge it by the oblique folds of the dress being gathered above, and by other means.

Those who have the lower posterior part of the body too flat, elevate it by the top of the skirt being gathered behind, and by other less skilful adjustments, which though hid, are easily detected.

Those who have the lower part of the body too prominent anteriorly, render it less apparent by shortening the waist, by a corresponding projection behind, and by increasing the bosom above.

Those who have the haunches too narrow, take care not to have the bottom of the dress too wide.

Tall women have a wide skirt, or several flounces, or both of these: shorter women, a moderate one, but as long as can be conveniently worn, with the flounces, &c., as low as possible.


Additional indications as to beauty are required chiefly where the woman observed precedes the [p188] observer, and may, by her figure, naturally and reasonably excite his interest, while at the same time it would be rude to turn and look in her face on passing.

There can, therefore, be no impropriety in observing, that the conduct of those who may happen to meet the women thus preceding, will differ according to the sex of the person who meets her.—If the person meeting her be a man, and the lady observed be beautiful, he will not only look with an expression of pleasure at her countenance, but will afterward turn more or less completely to survey her from behind.—If the person meeting her be a woman, the case becomes more complex. If both be either ugly or beautiful, or if the person meeting her be beautiful and the lady observed be ugly, then it is probable, that the approaching person may pass by inattentively, casting merely an indifferent glance; if, on the contrary, the woman meeting her be ugly, and the lady observed be beautiful, then the former will examine the latter with the severest scrutiny, and if she sees features and shape without defect, she will instantly fix her eyes on the head-dress or gown, in order to find some object for censure of the beautiful woman, and for consolation in her own ugliness.

Thus he who happens to follow a female may be aided in determining whether it is worth his while to glance at her face in passing, or to devise other means of seeing it.

Even when the face is seen, as in meeting in the streets or elsewhere, infinite deception occurs as to the degree of beauty. This operates so powerfully, that a correct estimate of beauty is perhaps never formed at first. This depends on the forms and still more on the colors of dress in relation to the face. For this reason, it is necessary to understand the principles according to which colors are employed at least by skilful women.

When it is the fault of a face to contain too much yellow, then yellow around the face is used to remove it by contrast, and to cause the red and blue to predominate.

When it is the fault of a face to contain too much red, then red around the face is used to remove by contrast, and to cause the yellow and blue to predominate.

When it is the fault of a face to contain too much blue, then blue around the face is used to remove it by contrast, and to cause the yellow and red to predominate.

When it is the fault of a face to contain too much yellow and red, then orange is used.

When it is the fault of a face to contain too much red and blue, then purple is used.

When it is the fault of a face to contain too much blue and yellow, then green is used.

It is necessary to observe that the linings of bonnets reflect their color on the face, and transparent bonnets transmit that color, and equally tinge it. In both these cases, the color employed is no longer that which is placed around the face, and which acts on it by contrast, but the opposite. As green around the face heightens a faint red in the cheeks by contrast, so the pink lining of the bonnet aids it by reflection.

Hence linings which reflect, are generally of the teint which is wanted in the face; and care is then taken that these linings do not come into the direct view of the observer, and operate prejudicially on the face by contrast, overpowering the little color which by reflection they should heighten. The fronts of bonnets so lined, therefore, do not widen greatly forward, and bring their color into contrast.

When bonnets do widen, the proper contrast is used as a lining; but then it has not a surface [p190] much adapted for reflection, otherwise it may perform that office, and injure the complexion.

Understanding, then, the application of these colors in a general way, it may be noticed, that fair faces are by contrast best acted on by light colors, and dark faces by darker colors.

Dark faces are best affected by darker colors, evidently because they tend to render the complexion fairer; and fair faces do not require dark colors, because the opposition would be too strong.

Objects which constitute a background to the face, or which, on the contrary, reflect their hues upon it, always either improve or injure the complexion. For this and some other reasons, many persons look better at home in their apartments than in the streets. Apartments may, indeed, be peculiarly calculated to improve individual complexions.


External indications as to mind may be derived from figure, from gait, and from dress.

As to figure, a certain symmetry or disproportion of parts (either of which depends immediately upon the locomotive system)—or a certain softness or hardness of form (which belongs exclusively to the vital system)—these reciprocally denote a locomotive symmetry or disproportion—or a vital softness or hardness—or a mental delicacy or coarseness, which will be found also indicated by the features of the face.

These qualities are marked in pairs, as each belonging to its respective system; for, without this, there can be no accurate or useful observation.

As to gait, that progression which advances, unmodified by any lateral movement of the body, or any perpendicular rising of the head, and which [p191] belongs exclusively to the locomotive system—or that soft lateral rolling of the body, which belongs exclusively to the vital system—or that perpendicular rising or falling of the head at every impulse to step, which belongs exclusively to the mental system—these reciprocally indicate a corresponding locomotive, or vital, or mental character, which will be found also indicated by the features of the face.

To put to the test the utility of these elements of observation and indication, let us take a few instances.—If, in any individual, locomotive symmetry of figure is combined with direct and linear gait, a character of mind and countenance not absolutely repulsive, but cold and insipid, is indicated. If vital softness of figure is combined, with a gentle lateral rolling of the body in its gait, voluptuous character and expression of countenance are indicated.—If delicacy of outline in the figure, be combined with perpendicular rising of the head, levity, perhaps vanity, is indicated.—But there are innumerable combinations and modifications of the elements which we have just described. Expressions of pride, determination, obstinacy, &c., are all observable.

The gait, however, is often formed, in a great measure, by local or other circumstances, by which it is necessary that the observer should avoid being misled.

Dress, as affording indications, though less to be relied on than the preceding, is not without its value. The woman who possesses a cultivated taste, and a corresponding expression of countenance, will generally be tastefully dressed; and the vulgar woman, with features correspondingly rude, will easily be seen through the inappropriate mask in which her milliner or dressmaker may have invested her.


External indications as to the personal habits of women are both numerous and interesting.

The habit of child-bearing is indicated by a flatter breast, a broader back, and thicker cartilages of the bones of the pubis, necessarily widening the pelvis.

The same habit is also indicated by a high rise of the nape of the neck, so that the neck from that point bends considerably forward, and by an elevation which is diffused between the neck and shoulders. These all arise from temporary distensions of the trunk in women whose secretions are powerful, from the habit of throwing the shoulders backward during pregnancy, and the head again forward, to balance the abdominal weight; and they bestow a character of vitality peculiarly expressive.

The same habit is likewise indicated by an excess of that lateral rolling of the body in walking, which was already described as connected with voluptuous character. This is a very certain indication, as it arises from temporary distensions of the pelvis, which nothing else can occasion. As in consequence of this lateral rolling of the body, and of the weight of the body being much thrown forward in gestation, the toes are turned somewhat inward, they aid in the indication.

The habit of nursing children is indicated, both in mothers and nursery-maids, by the right shoulder being larger and more elevated than the left.

The habits of the seamstress are indicated by the neck suddenly bending forward, and the arms being, even in walking, considerably bent forward or folded more or less upward from the elbows.

Habits of labor are indicated by a considerable [p193] thickness of the shoulders below, where they form an angle with the inner part of the arm; and, where these habits are of the lowest menial kind, the elbows are turned outward, and the palms of the hands backward.


External indications of age are required chiefly where the face is veiled, or where the woman observed precedes the observer and may reasonably excite his interest.

In either of these cases, if the foot and ankle have lost a certain moderate plumpness, and assumed a certain sinewy or bony appearance, the woman has generally passed the period of youth.

If in walking, instead of the ball or outer edge of the foot first striking the ground, it is the heel which does so, then has the woman in general passed the meridian of life. Unlike the last indication, this is apparent, however the foot and ankle may be clothed.—The reason of this indication is the decrease of power which unfits the muscles to receive the weight of the body by maintaining the extension of the ankle-joint.

Exceptions to this last indication are to be found chiefly in women in whom the developments of the body are proportionally much greater, either from a temporary or a permanent cause, than those of the limbs, the muscles of which are consequently incapable of receiving the weight of the body by maintaining the extension of the ankle-joint.


The Venus de Medici at Florence is the most perfect specimen of ancient sculpture remaining; and is spoken of as the Model of Female Beauty. It was so much a favorite of the Greeks and Romans, that a hundred ancient repetitions of this statue have been noticed by travellers. This statue is said to have been found in the forum of Octavia at Rome. It represents woman at that age when every beauty has just been perfected.

“The Venus de Medici at Florence,” says a distinguished writer, “is like a rose which, after a beautiful daybreak, expands its leaves to the first ray of the sun, and represents that age when the limbs assume a more finished form and the breast begins to develop itself.”

The size of the head is sufficiently small to leave that predominance to the vital organs in the chest, which, as already said, makes the nutritive system peculiarly that of woman. This is the first and most striking proof of the profound knowledge of the artist, the principles of whose art taught him that a vast head is not a constituent of female beauty. In mentioning the head it is scarcely possible to avoid noticing the rich curls of hair.

The eyes next fix our attention by their soft, sweet, and glad expression. This is produced with exquisite art. To give softness, the ridges of the eyebrows are rounded. To give sweetness, the under eyelid, which I would call the expressive one, is slightly raised. To give the expression of gladness or of pleasure, the opening of the eyelids is diminished, in order to diminish, or partially to exclude, the excess of those impressions, which make even pleasure painful. Other exquisite details about those eyes, confer on them unparallelled beauty. Still, this look is far from those traits indicative of lasciviousness, with which some modern artists have thought to characterize their Venuses.

Art still profounder was perhaps shown in the configuration of the nose. The peculiar connexion of this sense with love was evidently well understood by the artist. Not only is smell peculiarly associated with love, in all the higher animals, but it is associated with reproduction in plants, the majority of which evolve delicious odors only when the flowers or organs of fructification are displayed. Connected, indeed, with the capacity of the nose, and the cavities which open into it, is the projection of the whole middle part of the face.

The mouth is rendered sweet and delicate by the lips being undeveloped at their angles, and by the upper lip continuing so, for a considerable portion of its length. It expresses love of pleasure by the central development of both lips, and active love by the especial development of the lower lip. By the slight opening of the lips, it expresses desire.

These exquisite details, and the omission of nothing intellectually expressive that nature presents, have led some to imagine the Venus de Medici to be a portrait. In doing so, however, they see not the profound calculation for every feature thus embodied. More strangely still, they forget the ideal character [p196] of the whole: the notion of this ideal head being too small, is especially opposed to such an opinion.

Withal, the look is amorous and languishing, without being lascivious, and is as powerfully marked by gay coquetry, as by charming innocence.

The young neck is exquisitely formed. Its beautiful curves show a thousand capabilities of motion; and its admirably-calculated swell over the organ of voice, results from, and marks the struggling expression of still mysterious love.

With regard to the rest of the figure, the admirable form of the mammę, which, without being too large, occupy the bosom, rise from it with various curves on every side, and all terminate in their apices, leaving the inferior part in each precisely as pendent as gravity demands; the flexile waist gently tapering little farther than the middle of the trunk; the lower portion of it beginning gradually to swell out higher even than the umbilicus; the gradual expansion of the haunches, those expressive characteristics of the female, indicating at once her fitness for the office of generation and that of parturition—expansions which increase till they reach their greatest extent at the superior part of the thighs; the fulness behind their upper part, and on each side of the lower part of the spine, commencing as high as the waist, and terminating in the still greater swell of the distinctly-separated hips; the flat expanse between these, and immediately over the fissure of the hips, relieved by a considerable dimple on each side, and caused by the elevation of all the surrounding parts; the fine swell of the broad abdomen which, soon reaching its greatest height immediately under the umbilicus, slopes neatly to the mons veneris, but, narrow at its upper part, expands more widely as it descends, while, throughout, it is laterally distinguished by a gentle depression from the more muscular parts on the sides of the pelvis; the beautiful elevation of the [p197] mons veneris; the contiguous elevation of the thighs which, almost at their commencement rise as high as it does; the admirable expansion of these bodies inward, or toward each other, by which they almost seem to intrude upon each other, and to exclude each from its respective place; the general narrowness of the upper, and the unembraceable expansion of the lower part thus exquisitely formed;—all these admirable characteristics of female form, the mere existence of which in woman must, one is tempted to imagine, be even to herself, a source of ineffable pleasure—these constitute a being worthy, as the personification of beauty, of occupying the temples of Greece; present an object finer, alas! than nature seems even capable of producing; and offer to all nations and ages a theme of admiration and delight.

Well might Thomson say:—

“So stands the statue that enchants the world,
So bending tries to veil the matchless boast,
The mingled beauties of exulting Greece.”

And Byron, in yet higher strain:—

“There, too, the goddess loves in stone, and fills
The air around with beauty;
within the pale
We stand, and in that form and face behold
What Mind can make, when Nature’s self would fail;
And to the fond idolaters of old
Envy the innate flash which such a soul could mould.

We gaze and turn away, and know not where,
Dazzled and drunk with beauty, till the heart
Reels with its fulness; there—forever there—
Chained to the chariot of triumphal Art,
We stand as captives, and would not depart.”



Away with those fictions of flimsy romance!
Those tissues of falsehood which folly has wove!
Give me the mild beam of the soul-breathing glance,
Or the rapture which dwells on the first kiss of love.

Ye rhymers, whose bosoms with phantasy glow,
Whose pastoral passions are made for the grove,
From what blest inspiration your sonnets would flow,
Could you ever have tasted the first kiss of love!

I hate you, ye cold compositions of art;
Though prudes may condemn me, and bigots reprove,
I court the effusions that spring from the heart
Which throbs with delight to the first kiss of love.

Oh! cease to affirm that man, since his birth,
From Adam till now, has with wretchedness strove;
Some portion of paradise still is on earth,
And Eden revives in the first kiss of love.

When age chills the blood, when our pleasures are past—
For years fleet away with the wings of the dove—
The dearest remembrance will still be the last,
Our sweetest memorial the first kiss of love.


See Frontispiece.

The Princess of antiquity, most renowned for her personal charms, was in her unrivalled beauty, her mental perfections, her weaknesses, and the unhappy conclusion of an amorous existence the counterpart of the most beautiful queen of later times, the unfortunate Mary of Scotland.

Cleopatra was the daughter of Ptolemy Auletes, king of Egypt. She was early given to wife to her own brother, Ptolemy Dionysius, and ascended the throne conjointly with him, on the death of their father. It was doubtless the policy of the kingdom thus to preserve all the royal honors in one family—the daughter being the queen, as well as the son king of the country. But her ambitious and intriguing spirit, restrained by no ties of reciprocal love to her husband, who was also her brother, sought for means to burst a union at once unnatural and galling: and the opportunity at length arrived. Julius Cęsar, the conqueror of the world, having pursued the defeated Pompey into Egypt, there beheld Cleopatra in the zenith of her beauty; and he before whose power the whole world was kneeling, prostrated himself before a pretty woman. The following is the account of her first introduction to Cęsar, as given by the historian. It shows that she had no maidenly scruples as to the mode of attaining her ends.

Her intrigues to become sole monarch, had made her husband-brother banish her from the capital. [p200] Hearing of the arrival of Cęsar, she got into a small boat, with only one male friend, and in the dusk of the evening made for the palace where Cęsar as well as her husband lodged. As she saw it difficult to enter it undiscovered by her husband’s friends, she rolled herself up in a carpet. Her companion tied her up at full length like a bale of goods, and carried her in at the gates to Cęsar’s apartments. This stratagem of hers, which was a strong proof of her wit and ingenuity, is said to have first opened her way to Cęsar’s heart, and her conquest advanced rapidly by the charms of her speech and person. The genius of Shakspeare has well depicted the power of her beauty at this time. He makes her to say, at a later period of life, when chagrined at the expected desertion of another lover,—

“Broad-fronted Cęsar!
When thou wast here above the ground, I was
A morsel for a monarch: And great Pompey
Would stand, and make his eyes grow in my brow;
There would he fix his longing gaze, and die
With looking on his life.”

But Cleopatra, who was not less remarkable for her cunning than for her beauty, knowing that Cęsar was resolved to be gratified at whatever cost, determined that the price should be a round one: the terms of his admission to her arms, were that Cęsar should expel her brother from the kingdom, and give the crown to her; which Cęsar complied with. Cleopatra had a son by Cęsar called Cęsarion.

In the civil wars which distracted the Roman empire after the death of Cęsar, Cleopatra supported Brutus, against Antony and Octavius. Antony, in his expedition to Parthia, summoned her to appear before him. She arrayed herself in the most magnificent apparel, and appeared before her judge in the most captivating attire. Though somewhat older [p201] than when she drew Cęsar to her arms, her charms were still conspicuous;

“Age could not wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety. Other women cloy
The appetite they feed. But she made hungry
Where most she satisfied.”

Her artifice on this occasion succeeded; Antony became enamoured of her, and publicly married her, although his wife the sister of Octavius was living. He gave Cleopatra the greater part of the eastern provinces of the Roman empire. This behaviour was the cause of a rupture between Octavius and Antony; and these two celebrated generals met in battle at Actium, where Cleopatra, by flying with sixty sail of vessels, ruined the interest of Antony, and he was defeated. Cleopatra had retired to Egypt, where soon after Antony followed her. Antony stabbed himself upon the false information that Cleopatra was dead; and as his wound was not mortal, he was carried to the queen, who drew him up by a cord from one of the windows of the monument, where she had retired and concealed herself.

Antony soon after died of his wounds, and Cleopatra, after she had received pressing invitations from Octavius, and even pretended declarations of love, destroyed herself by the bite of an asp, not to fall into the conqueror’s hands. She had previously attempted to stab herself, and had once made a resolution to starve herself. But the means by which she destroyed herself, is said to produce the easiest of deaths: the Asp is a small serpent found near the river Nile, so delicate that it may be concealed in a fig; and when presented to the vitals of the body, its bite is so deadly as to render medical skill useless, while at the same time it is so painless, that the victim fancies herself dropping into a sweet slumber, instead of the arms of death. So Cleopatra, while [p202] she is applying the venomous reptile to her bosom, (as represented in the Frontispiece,) is supposed to use language like the following,—

“Dost thou not see my baby at my breast,
That sucks the nurse asleep?”

Thus, after having chained in her embrace the two greatest generals that the Roman empire had produced, Julius Cęsar and Mark Antony, at the periods when they were respectively arbiters of the world’s fate, perished Cleopatra by her own hand.

Cleopatra was a voluptuous and extravagant woman, and in one of the feasts she gave to Antony at Alexandria, she melted pearls into her drink to render the entertainment more sumptuous and expensive. She was fond of appearing dressed as a goddess; and she advised Antony to make war against the richest nations, to support her debaucheries. Her beauty has been greatly commended, and her mental perfections so highly celebrated, that she has been described as capable of giving audience to the ambassadors of seven different nations, and of speaking their various languages as fluently as her own.

How vain are the possessions of beauty, power, personal and mental accomplishments, if to these are not united virtuous principles. All history, as well as all experience, is full of examples calculated to impress the great lesson that

Virtue alone is Happiness below.”


Socrates, being asked, whether it were better for a man to marry, or to remain single, replied,—“Let him do either, he will repent of it.”

The philosopher spoke ‘like an oracle,’ leaving the world as much in the dark as to his views of the comparative advantages of matrimony and celibacy, as they could have been before. But a vast majority of men have chosen, since they must repent of one or the other, to repent of marrying, deeming perhaps that this repentance is “the repentance which needeth not to be repented of.”

We shall conclude our little treatise on “the sex,” with a few remarks on the subject of—we were about to say—Happiness,—but as we are content that every married man and woman should judge for themselves as to the happiness of the married state, we will simply style it an Essay on Matrimony.

No event is more important, and none is conducted, on many occasions, with less prudence, than Marriage. Providence has allowed the passions to exercise a powerful influence in this matter, otherwise the cares and anxieties with which it is attended would deter most persons from launching their bark of earthly happiness on the great ocean of matrimony. But too frequently the passions are the only guide, and these stimulate to bewilder: they exhibit pleasing and attractive imagery, and then the possession destroys the bliss.

Love is a pleasing but exciting passion. The eye is delighted by form, manners, and the expression of the features, the ears by musical language, and the imagination paints future joys; all of which contribute to one great principle, that of receiving happiness from those we love, and evincing love for those from whom we derive our happiness. As the crystal streams are absorbed by the sun, and distributed as brilliant clouds in the heavens, and then fall and run in their accustomed channels, and thus the rivers supply the clouds, and the vapors the rivers, so is the interchange between love and happiness. This will agree with the opinion that love may be occasioned suddenly, because enjoyment is expected; or it may arise gradually, because the unattractiveness which first existed, may be succeeded by attraction.

There was no appointment by nature of particular persons for each other; but we may expect among a great variety of occurrences to meet with some singular and astonishing coincidences. Human beings appear to be left in this respect, as in many others, to their own judgment. If they act discreetly, they enjoy the comfort of it; but if otherwise, they bring upon themselves a disadvantage.

The happiness arising from an union depends chiefly on the character of the persons who are concerned in it. If men and women were as consistent and virtuous as they should be, the connubial bond would be soft and pleasant; but as these effects do not always arise, where is the fault? Which is better, or more worthy, the male or the female sex? This is rather a difficult question; and let the palm of superior merit be awarded to either, the imputation of prejudice would be connected with the decision. But fortunately there is little difference: one varies from the other in particular qualities; but if the aggregate of merit be taken in each, the amount will not differ much. Education forms the principal [p205] variation: men are instructed in the more active and laborious employments, women in the more sedentary and domestic. Dr Southey says, that “if women are not formed of finer clay, there has been more of the dew of heaven to temper it.” Richard Flecknoe, a contemporary with Dryden, observes of the female sex,—“I have always been conversant with the best and worthiest in all places where I came; and among the rest with ladies, in whose conversation, as in an academy of virtue, I learnt nothing but goodness, and saw nothing but nobleness.” It must be granted, that women in general possess more of the sweetness and softness of human nature, while men are endowed with more vigorous virtues; women are gifted with more fortitude, and men with more valor.

Jeremy Taylor says,—“Marriage hath in it the labor of love, and the delicacies of friendship; the blessings of society, and the union of hands and hearts.”

Cowper has also alluded to the advantages of a matrimonial settlement,—

“O friendly to the best pursuits of man,
Friendly to thought, to virtue, and to peace,
Domestic life in rural pleasure pass’d.”

Marriage is frequently an union of interest: the happiness of one is made a source of enjoyment to the other. It is for life, because it is most agreeable with the inclination of mankind that friendship, esteem and love should be permanent. In this instance a continuance of the union constitutes no small part of the bliss. The expectation of a durable connection makes men careful, otherwise they would marry and unmarry every week. There is, by the arrangement of the Almighty, a comparative power or influence [p206] vested in the man, because, agreeably with all good government,—

“Some are, and must be, greater than the rest;”

but then, as Dr Beattie observes, “the superiority vested by law in the man is compensated to the woman by that superior complaisance which is paid them by every man who aspires to elegance of manners.” And besides this, the husband has frequently the nominal, while the wife has the actual power:—

“Like as the helme doth rule the shippe,”

so she regulates all the household affairs. This is proper, when the husband allows it; and he ought to do so, when his wife is capable of managing these things; but when the inclinations of his Eve run perversely, when he is conscious that he has reason on his side, and she only folly, and yet he is vacillating and yielding, he is unmanly and inconsistent; he sacrifices future happiness to present peace. Every woman, it must be granted, is not a sensible one; and “there is nothing,” as Lord Burleigh observed to his son, “more fulsome than a she foole.” If Socrates had properly controlled his Xantippe before her disorder had increased beyond cure, it would have contributed to her happiness and his own. Prince Eugene observed, on one occasion, rather satirically, that love was a mere amusement, and calculated for nothing more than to enlarge the influence of the woman, and abridge the power of the man. Goldsmith’s Hermit said to his lovely visiter,—

“And love is still an emptier sound,
The modern fair one’s jest;
On earth unseen, or only found
To warm the turtle’s nest.”

But love is an actual, a powerful, and a beneficial [p207] principle, if it be properly regulated. Among married persons there ought to be as much love as would induce either to yield in trifling matters; and there ought to be as much reason as would enable both to act correctly. Matrimony should be something like the union of the ivy and the oak: the latter is firm, and capable of supporting its more tender companion; the ivy, however, must follow in some measure the humors and windings of the oak; but they grow together, and the longer they continue the more closely they are united. There have been many instances of great attachment. Porcia, the wife of Brutus, when she heard of her husband’s death swallowed burning coals that she might go with him. Alceste, wife of Admetus king of Thessaly, sacrificed herself for the safety of her husband. This monarch was ill; and when the oracle was consulted, it was declared that he would not recover except some friend would die for him; and as no one else would do so, the wife heroically drank a cup of poison. Paulina the wife of Seneca in his old age, was young, beautiful, and accomplished; and she was so much attached to her husband, that when the veins of Seneca were opened by the command of Nero, she caused her own to be cut, that she might also bleed to death. When Conrad III. had taken the town of Winsberg in Bavaria, he allowed only the women to go out; but they had leave to carry with them as much as they pleased. They loaded themselves, therefore, with their husbands and children, and brought them all out on their shoulders! When love is genuine; when professions are sincere, and the practice agreeable therewith; when health is enjoyed, and as many comforts as are necessary for this life; when children grow up in vigor, good behaviour, and mental improvement; when old age is solaced by the company of each other, and the kind attention of daughters and sons; then matrimony is a cause of happiness.

But if all these enjoyments were the lot of every married person, men would become too much contented with the present life, and they would scarcely think, as they sail on smoothly, of the haven, for which they are bound. Besides, the fascinations of domestic life would attract them from many duties which they owe to their fellow creatures. There are then many disadvantages connected with matrimony. There is so much ignorance, perverseness, undue inclination for power, disposition to contradict, anger, jealousy, hatred, and versatility among human beings that many unpleasant occurrences will necessarily arise, and especially in the marriage state, because here most of these feelings are brought into action, and are most sensibly felt by those who are subject to their influence. He that paints the experience of human life in brilliant colors only gives a flattering and deceptive representation,—he may just as well pretend that the heavens are always cloudless. People soon discover that there are sorrows in the world as well as joys, unpleasant as well as pleasant events; hence arises the advantage of examining, of pointing out, and endeavoring to avoid “the ills which flesh is heir to.” The perpetuity of marriage, under pleasing circumstances, is its most lovely character; but the same peculiarity, under a different aspect, is its principal source of misery. It is too frequently a state of bondage, “which thousands once fast-chained to quit no more.” But what exists, and cannot be removed, should always be borne as patiently as possible; and thus we may keep a cheerful heart, when another, less prudent, would be gloomy. Besides, an ill temper makes every condition of life unhappy; a cheerful disposition will throw a gleam of sunshine over the scenery of a November day. Some people, very foolishly, make themselves uneasy because they are bound. Sir Jonah Barrington seems to think it a natural propensity. He says,—“The [p209] moment any two animals, however fond before, are fastened together by a chain they cannot break, they begin to quarrel without any apparent reason, and peck each other solely because they cannot get loose again.” But it must be remembered that people enter into marriage with a knowledge of the permanency of the union, and perhaps they seldom repent, except they had been deceived; and this we may hope would not occur frequently. After the Romans had introduced a law of divorce, no respectable person, for the space of forty years, availed himself of it. Divorcement was much practised among the Jews, and was productive of great evil. One of the Jewish doctors asserted, that if a man beheld a woman who was handsomer than his wife, he might put away his wife and marry her; and thus all the wives in Judea, except the handsomest, might have been divorced. Josephus observes, on one occasion, very coolly,—“About this time I put away my wife, who had borne me three children, not being pleased with her manners.”

One cause of unhappiness in a married state, is too little affection; and in other instances, although affection may be possessed, it is not shown. Montesquieu observes, “that women commonly reserve their love for their husbands until their husbands are dead.” Sometimes a mortal hatred springs up, which induces a man, like Henry VIII., to cause the murder of those whom he has sworn to love and preserve; or a woman, like Livia, to poison her husband. Not only is a great dissimilarity of rank and condition a cause of dislike, but a great variation in age is frequently the cause of distrust and unhappiness. The proportion which Aristotle suggests (a man of thirty-seven to a woman of eighteen,) may be appropriate in one respect, but it is objectionable in others. The life of the female is just as long as that of the male; and the union of middle age and youth, where the one is [p210] twice as old as the other, will not always allow an uniformity of feelings and disposition. The case of Seneca (to which we have alluded,) and that of Sir Matthew Hale, are exceptions. Youth is generally gay, thoughtless, and frivolous; but life, in more advanced periods, is sober, thoughtful, and dignified. A husband should not be deemed a teacher or guardian for the wife so much as a companion; and the wife should not be considered as guardian for the husband: there ought to be a mutual sympathy, and in most respects an equality of influence.

Jealousy is a passion which allows the hapless possessor to enjoy neither rest nor confidence. It is frequently the companion of love. Shakspeare says,

“For where love reigns, disturbing jealousy
Doth call himself affection’s sentinel.”

When this principle obtains possession of the breast, it destroys the health and spirits: the streams which gladden the heart become corrupted, and productive of rage and melancholy. Jealousy is like the snake which insidiously entwines itself around its victim; or like the bohun upas of Java, which diffuses death. The bright beams of hope, which cheered the possessor, and carried his vision to distant days and distant scenes of enjoyment, are all eclipsed by this pillar of darkness. Moliere the poet was endowed with an eminent genius—he was esteemed as the first wit in Europe; but his wife was faithless, and no enjoyment, or success, or honor could tranquillize his mind, and make him happy. The attractions of youth and beauty will sometimes excite an illicit passion, but the indulgence of this feeling is the path to anxiety and degradation. The female may be less faulty; but she will be the greater sufferer; for, with regard to her lawful companion, confidence is changed to timidity, love to hypocrisy, and a continual fear torments [p211] her, lest accident or malice should discover her imprudence. How dearly is the pleasure of a moment procured when it is purchased by years of unhappiness! On the other hand, it is extremely unreasonable for some persons to indulge as they do, their natural disposition of suspicion, and thus make others unhappy. Where virtue only exists, it is a most grievous hardship that the possessor should be subject to the penalty of vice. Nothing should be made with more caution than a decision in which the innocent may receive the odium which belongs to the guilty.

Sometimes the worst sort of accomplishments are brought by a lady into the marriage state: she may be capable of singing admirably, of dancing, of painting, of performing skilfully on the harp or piano, of making ingenious trinkets and ornaments; all this may be well enough for an unmarried lady, but of what use are they in a state of matrimony? It is true, that if she be favored with a handsome fortune, she may indulge herself agreeably with her inclination, and employ others to manage her household affairs; but not many are thus situated; and, even in this case, there are duties which belong to the wife, in regard to her husband and children, which would occupy pretty much of her time. It is still worse if she be fond of dissipation,—of routs, balls, and public amusements; if she fly abroad in pursuit of a phantom while domestic enjoyment is neglected. A good wife will endeavor to make herself happy at home, and she will try to make all at home happy: she should endeavor to make the pathway of life cheerful by her smiles and attention, so that her husband may be delighted with his dwelling, and find it his happiest place; and that the children may be regulated with all necessary care.

A good temper is essential for matrimonial happiness. An habitually irritable or gloomy disposition [p212] is a source of misery to the possessor and to others. A dark and murky cave could as well throw out a cheerful lustre, as a surly person communicate happiness to those around him. Obstinacy must not be indulged by either party; for, as the bond of union cannot be easily broken, if one be perverse the other must bend. If two trees be bound tightly together, and both be stiff, the cords will probably break; if not immediately, they will when the cords become weaker: and thus with regard to matrimony, what God has joined together, the perversity of human beings will put asunder. Obstinacy in trifling matters in the marriage state is an evidence of little love and a bad heart; but if trifling matters appear important, and the gaining of every point be as the taking of a citadel, the person is wrong in his judgment; he is insane, or partially so. Many worthy women have been cursed with worthless husbands; but, unfortunately, the grievances of the female sex have been less frequently known than those of the men; for women are not authors, and men are frequently so; consequently, in all estimates of the comparative merit of the sexes, it must be remembered that more has been said on the one side than on the other. Home, however, is the castle of the wife, if she be a good one; here she keeps her permanent abode, agreeably with the injunction of St. Paul. The husband is absent the principal part of his time, may there not therefore, on some occasions, be too greet an inclination in the lady to consider herself as the governor of the establishment, while the husband may be deemed a visiter, rather than the master? This would not arise in the breast of an amiable and affectionate wife, but it has sometimes arisen; for, unfortunately, all wives have not been good ones. Jerome Cardan was so unfortunate as to have a wife who was proverbial for her ill temper and arbitrary conduct. John Knox said of Lord Erskine, “He [p213] has a very Jezebel to his wife.” Salmasius, the opponent of Milton, was made perpetually uneasy by a similar thorn. The unfortunate husband was a Frenchman, and Milton said (as Dr Johnson observes,) “Tu es Gallus, et, ut aiunt, nimium gallinaceus.” Milton himself seems to have suffered from a similar cause, for he evinces so much hostility to the female sex, that no other reason would so naturally account for it. He exclaims,

“O why did God,
Creator wise, that peopled highest Heaven
With spirits masculine, create at last
This novelty on earth, this fair defect
Of nature, and not fill the world at once
With men and angels without feminine?”

Milton adds a great deal more, which, if he had a high opinion of woman, even his anxiety to make his character of Adam consistent would not have demanded. An amiable temper on the part of a wife, with her own natural softness, and an inclination to yield in unimportant matters, will not only increase love, but power; for in this respect, agreeably to the opinion of Prince Eugene, love is power.

Marriage is sometimes made a matter of mere convenience; people enter into it with as much indifference as they would into any other speculation, and when one companion dies they take another. In the book of Tobit we have an account of Sara, the daughter of Raguel, who had been favored with seven husbands, whom “Asmodeus the evil spirit had killed.” Love must be exceedingly pliable, it must be love to man, and not to a man, that would suffer a woman to transfer her affections seven times. It would be a ludicrous occurrence, if, upon any particular occasion, a man’s three or four wives, or a woman’s three or four husbands, should “burst their [p214] cerements,” and visit their former dwelling. What astonishment! What uplifted hands and distended eyeballs! What speechlessness and violent speeches,—reproaches and animosities! When the Duke of Rutland was Viceroy of Ireland, Sir John Hamilton attended one of his Grace’s levees. “This is timely rain,” said the Duke, “it will bring every thing above ground.”—“I hope not, my Lord,” replied Sir John, “for I have three wives there.” Marriage may be well extended to two wives and two husbands in succession; this, in some cases, is necessary; but when it goes to three or four it is objectionable. The man who moves from place, sometimes living here and sometimes there, will never gain a pure and ardent love of home; by the same rule, a succession of wives will only induce an habitual or mechanical regard to the wife for the time being; in the same way as loyalty may be transferred from one sovereign to another. Besides, a family with different degrees of relationship and with different interests is formed, and this contributes nothing towards domestic tranquillity. There may be some particular cases in which the evils to which we have alluded may not arise; these may be deemed exceptions.

There are some sorrows peculiar to matrimony; and some which, though they fall on other conditions of life, are felt more heavily when they intrude themselves within the boundary of connubial love. Poverty and sickness are more grievous evils under circumstances of this sort; because a man feels not only for himself, but for others. How dreadful must it be when the husband beholds his wife in squalid misery. What are the feelings of a mother when she sees her innocent children suffering from hunger! And when the iron hand of affliction presses upon the brow of a husband or a wife, and the sharp arrows of pain occasion groans, is there not an almost equal anguish is the breast of an affectionate partner? And when [p215] the heavy clouds of sorrow gather around at the anticipated separation of those who had lived in the bonds of harmony—when the chilly arms of death are held out to clasp him, or her, who had been used to a more tender embrace, how dreadful is that period! Is not the woe of separating generally in the same proportion as the bliss of uniting? And is it not a valuable loan to be paid by a mighty sacrifice?

Unhappiness may be occasioned by indulging an undue degree of love. Sentimental bliss is generally followed by sentimental sorrow; consequently, people may love one another too ardently, so as to make the thought of parting a source of misery. If two plants grow up together, imparting to each other shelter and fragrance, it may contribute to their mutual advantage; but if they become so closely united as to grow from the same stalk, and depend on the same nutriment, then take away one, and both will perish. Connubial love should, therefore, be regulated by reason. Extremes are seldom durable. Violent love in the marriage state may change to hatred; and an unusual quantity expended on the husband or wife, may occasion a lesser degree of regard towards others. It is not an uncommon event for external enemies to occasion harmony at home; and harmony at home, or the yielding to the foolish notions of each other, may occasion enemies without. So difficult is it to act consistently, and to live in peace with all men! But the Scripture demands it, and we have a long period for studying our lesson.

In matrimony it is necessary that many things should contribute to a permanency of enjoyment. A good temper on both sides; property enough to supply the wants of a family; good health; children—not too many, nor too few, nor all of one sex; a continuance in each other’s society, till both pass away gradually as the twilight into darkness: but, if chilly poverty exert its influence; if the husband or the wife be [p216] ill-tempered; if he or she be unfaithful or jealous; if love be followed by hatred; if one be taken, and the other left in solitude; if children be imperfect in birth, or habitually sickly, or drop off in early years as unripe fruit; if sons prove vicious, and daughters bring disgrace on themselves and their families; if the extravagance of children bring their aged parents in sorrow to the grave; where, then, will be the pleasure of matrimony? The cares of a family, when the family is large and unruly, are more perplexing than the cares of a state. Cardan confessed, that out of four great troubles which he had experienced, two arose from his children. When Thales was asked why he did not marry, he replied, “because I want no children.” One of the ancient sages was so much impressed with the disappointments and anxieties of matrimony, that when he was asked, at what time, a man should marry? replied, “If he be young, not yet; if older, not at all.”

This sentiment however, so repugnant to all our ideas of social improvement, as well as to the command of our Creator, who presented woman to man as a helpmate, because it was not good that he should live alone, and demanded of them to “be fruitful and multiply,” will find no advocates except among the disappointed, the ignorant, and the abandoned. “The love of woman” is a feeling too deeply rooted in the breast of man, and the reality of domestic felicity has been too long tested by experience, for either to be sacrificed on the altar of the revilers of matrimony, whether they be libertines, weak husbands, or misnamed “philosophers.”

The dearest boon from Heaven above,
Is bliss which brightly hallows home,
’Tis sunlight to the world of love,
And life’s pure wine without its foam.
There is a sympathy of heart
Which consecrates the social shrine,
Robs grief of gloom and doth impart
A joy to gladness all divine.

Transcriber's Note

Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. Details are provided in the source code (search for class="TN"). Archaic spellings have been retained.

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