An Essay in Defence of the Female Sex/Dedication/Modern

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 Highness’s Feet, and humbly to beg your Royal Protection of it, I have presumed too far, be pleased to impute it to your own most gracious Goodness, the knowledge of which encouraged me. Our Sex are by Nature tender of their own Off-spring, and may be allowed to have more fondness for those of the Brain, than 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 endeavoured to advance my first Born, by entering it very early into your Highness’s Service.

I have not presumed 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 seemed to exact of me no less a Patronage than that of the Best, as well as Greatest among them, whom they are all ambitious to see at their head. I have only endeavoured to reduce the Sexes to a Level, and by Arguments to raise Ours to an Equality at most with the Men: But your Highness by illustrious Example daily convinces the World of our Superiority, and we see with wonder, Virtues 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 Qualities of your Highness, as it would be to go about to demonstrate by Argument, that the Sun shined, to a Crowd that are warmed by the Influence of it.
I had attempted the Character of a consummate Woman, could I, though but faintly have shadowed the inimitable Graces of your Highness; but the impossibility of that Task forced me to desist. It were easy here to launch 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 Virtues, 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, Though 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 Triumphed over all Opposition. It may be easy 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 though the least justifiable, was nevertheless most prevalent with me to devote this Essay to your Highness. My Ambition to show the profound Respects I have always had for your Highness, would not suffer me to let slip any occasion of expressing it, even though I blush for the meanness of it. Thus I find my self reduced by my Zeal, to the condition of poor Tenants, who must expose their Poverty, to show 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 tendered. If my unfeigned Submission may procure pardon for my Presumption, that Your Happiness may equal Your illustrious Virtues, 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
Devoted Servant