An Essay in Defence of the Female Sex/Dedication

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

To Her Royal Highneſs the

Princeſs Anne of Denmark.


IF in adventuring to lay this little Piece at your Highneſſes Feet, and humbly to beg your Royal Protection of it, I have preſum’d too far, be pleas’d to impute it to your own moſt gracious Goodneſs, the knowledge of which encourag’d me. Our Sex are by Nature tender of their own Off-ſpring, and may be allow’d to have more fondneſs for thoſe of the Brain, then any other; becauſe they are ſo few, and meet with ſo many Enemies at their firſt appearance in the World. I hope therefore to find pardon, if like an indulgent Parent, I have endeavour’d to advance my firſt Born, by entering it very early into your Highneſſes Service.

I have not preſum’d to approach your Highneſs out of any Confidence in the merits of this Eſſay, but of the Cauſe which it pleads, wherein the Honour of the whole Sex ſeem’d to exact of me no leſs a Patronage than that of the Beſt, as well as Greateſt among ’em, whom they are all ambitious to ſee at their head. I have only endeavour’d to reduce the Sexes to a Level, and by Arguments to raiſe Ours to an Equallity at moſt with the Men: But your Highneſs by illuſtrious Example daily convinces the World of our Superiority, and we ſee with wonder, Vertues in you, Madam, greater than your Birth. In this I am peculiarly happy, that I am exempted from the common Task of other Dedicators, who lie under an Obligation of publiſhing to the World thoſe Excellencies of their Patrons, which perhaps appear no where but in their Epiſtles. In me it were as great folly, to pretend to make known the Illuſtrious Quallities of your Highneſs, as it wou’d be to go about to demonſtrate by Argument, that the Sun ſhin’d, to a Crowd that are warm’d by the Influence of it.
I had attempted the Character of a conſummate Woman, could I, tho’ but faintly have ſhaddow’d the inimitable Graces of your Highneſs; but the impoſſibillity of that Task forc’d me to deſiſt. It were eaſy here to lanch into thoſe glorious particulars, which affirmed of any other than your Royal Highneſs, would have been extravagance of Flattery; but to you Injuſtice, and in me the higheſt preſumption, to attempt with my feeble Hand thoſe perfections, which the ableſt muſt fall infinitely ſhort of. The luſtre of your Royal Vertues, Madam, like the Sun, gives us warmth and light, and while at a modeſt diſtance we admire it, improves our ſight, which too bold a view confounds, yet the meaneſt and moſt ignorant ſee thoſe Glories, which the moſt exquiſite Artiſt can never expreſs. The World therefore will rather juſtify than condemn my conduct, if I do not wrong ſo bright an Original with a dark obſcure Copy.
Madam, Tho’ the world may condemn my performance, it muſt applaud my choice in this Addreſs, and own that had I known as well how to Argue, as to Inſtance, I muſt infallibly have Triumph’d over all Oppoſition. It may be eaſie to evade, or baffle the force of my Arguments, but it is impoſſible without the utmoſt Stupidity and Injuſtice, to deny the manifeſt Advantages of thoſe Illuſtrious Graces, which raiſe your Highneſs ſo far above theirs as well as your own Sex. In this I have imitated the conduct of prudent Generals, who, when they doubt the ſufficiency of their ſtrength, retire to ſome ſtrong Fort, and reſt ſecure under the Protection of it.
There is yet another Reaſon, Madam, which tho’ the leaſt juſtifiable, was nevertheleſs moſt prevalent with me to devote this Eſſay to your Highneſs. My Ambition to ſhew the profound Reſpects I have always had for your Highneſs, would not ſuffer me to let ſlip any occaſion of expreſſing it, even tho’ I bluſh for the meanes of it. Thus I find my ſelf reduc’d by my Zeal, to the condition of poor Tenants, who muſt expoſe their Poverty, to ſhew their Affection to their Lord in a worthleſs Preſent. I am ſenſible of the raſhneſs of my Ambition in aſpiring to the Patronage of Your Highneſs, and the need I have of an Apology; but were I able to make one as I ought, I ſhould have taken care to have had leſs occaſion for it. Yet I doubt not from Your Goodneſs that Indulgence, which I cannot expect from Your Juſtice, nor but that you will (like Heaven, whoſe more immediate Images Princes are) accept my unprofitable Service, for the ſincerity with which it is tender’d. If my unfeign’d Submiſſion may procure pardon for my Preſumption, that Your Happineſs may equal Your illuſtrious Vertues, and Your Royal Perſon be as far out of the reach of Fortune, as your Fame and Honour of Detraction, ſhall ever be the prayers of


Your Royal Highneſs’s
moſt Humble, moſt
Obedient, and moſt
Devouted Servant