An Essay in Defence of the Female Sex/Letter 2

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To Madam — on the Occaſion of her Eſſay, in Defence of her Sex.


Ican’t but ſmile at the Fantaſtick Malice of ſome, that love me not, for their Spightful clamor has effected that, which the kind Inſinuations of ſome of my miſtaken Friends, in vain attempted, and fixt upon me an honour, and upon themſelves Characters, they wou’d be glad to claw off again, tho’ at the expence of their Skins. Caprice, and Humour have indeed a great ſhare in the Movements, even of the wiſeſt of Mankind, but I never met before with ſuch a frollickſome piece of Malice, as to ſlander a Man into Reputation.
I’m none of the firſt, that have ſhin’d by the lustre of another’s worth, and valu’d themſelves upon’t too: But I believe, Madam, you find but few Precedents of Men, that have taken ſo much pains to undeceive the World to their own diſadvantage. I have known Men (and ſo I fancy have you too) and thoſe of no mean Reputation, that have affected to look grave and compos’d at the Repetition of another Man’s Jeſt, that it might be taken for their own; and, to ſay truth, if the World will miſtake Men for greater, or Wiſer, than they are, there are few that have Ingenuity enough not to help on the Cheat. Your Conduct, Madam, is very different, You conquer without triumphing and like a generous Enemy ſcorn to inſult o’re thoſe you vanquiſh. You leave the Spoil to ſuch as S—n,[*] you are contented with Victory, they, like peaſants after the rout, of an Army, come in only to do the Butcherly Execution. Yet thus to keep your ſelf conceal’d, and refuſe the Honour, is a ſtrain beyond the Gallantry of Romance; there the Knight, tho’ he atchieves Incognito, always lifts up his Beaver to receive the Favour, and the Complement. But you, like your Laurels, affect the Shade, and, like the richeſt Jewels, are content to have your Luſtre try’d in the Dark.
This Procedure of Yours, Madam, eſſentially diſtinguiſhes your Character from that of ſome, that malign it. They are ſo unwilling to acknowledge themſelves defeated by you, that they endeavour to force the Honour, tho’ unmerited, upon me, and extreamly regretted by them; and diſdain a chaſtiſement from a Female Hand, tho’ too weak to oppoſe it. You draw too well, to have occaſion to write under your Pieces: for there is ſcarce an Eminent Fool in Town, but owns his Picture. Yet ſo far are they from mending for your ſmart correction, (ſo much Solomon is wiſer than Mr. Dryden) ſo far from profiting by the Modeſty of your Example, that inſtead of ſuppreſſing their names to what they write, they are ready upon all occaſions to put ’em to what others write. Not a French Journal, Mercure, Farce, or Opéra can ſcape their pillaging, ſo violently they affect the Reputation of Wits. Yet the utmoſt they arrive at, is but a ſort of Jack a Lanthorn Wit, that like the Sunſhine with wanton Boys with Fragments of Looking Glaſs reflect in Men’s Eyes, dazles the Weak-ſighted, and troubles the ſtrong. Theſe are the Muſes Black Guard, that, like thoſe of our Camps, tho’ they have no ſhare in the danger, or Honour, yet have the greateſt in the Plunder, that indifferently ſtrip all that lie before ’em, dead or alive, Friends or Enemies. A ſtray Horſe is ſafer in the Spaniſh Quarters, than an Anonymous Piece, Scene, or Line among them, and they are as unrefunding as a caſt Miſtreſs, and as unacknowledging as a Dutch Tradeſman. Whatever they light on is Terra Incognita, and they claim the right of diſcoverers, that is, or giving their Names to it. They, like the Parſon and Clark, are the common Godfathers, and anſwer frequently what the true Parents are aſham’d to own: They fancy they make a Splendid figure in print, but like the Phoſphorus (which the Chymiſts extract from fermented Ordure) with all their glimmerling, and ſham fire, they retain the Scent (pardon the homelineſs of the expreſſion, Madam,) of the Original, Sir Reverence. Theſe Fellows are in their Humours ſomething a-kin to one (that I once knew) who never met a Man very drunk in an Evening, but he led him to his own Door to diſcharge, that he might in the morning have the Credit of his Debauchery; ſo theſe will ſcarce ſuffer any one Scribler to enjoy undiſputed the Scandal of his own Nonſenſe.
Methinks, Madam, I begin to find the Ambition of an Author creeping upon me, and to feel (like ſome greater Men than my ſelf) a ſtrange itching to forfeit, by ſomething of my own production, the Reputation I have got by yours. This thing call’d Reputation, Madam, is a very unaccountable thing, and baffles a very celebrated Axiom, or two of the Schools; for both they give, and they loſe it, who never had, nor ever ſhall have any, like prodigal young Heirs, that ſpend their Eſtates before they come at ’em.
I perceive, Madam, after this way of digreſſing, it were eaſier to tire your patience than my own; for nothing is more natural (to me at leaſt) than to forget the Deſign we firſt act upon, and write as incoherently as we talk: But whatever that were, I ſhall ſpare you that trouble at preſent, and only beg the continuance of your Friendſhip, which ſhall always be eſteem’d an honour, by


Madam,


Your moſt humble, and
moſt oblig’d Servant,
J. D.
^*  Another Eſſay. Seſſion of Poets 96, 6 Characters of a Beau, &c.