An Essay in Defence of the Female Sex/Letter 3

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The Lady’s Anſwer.


HOwever impertinent the unjuſt Aſperſions of thoſe that envie you, may appear to your ſelf, and others; yet methinks, there is a ſort of Generoſity in it, that makes ’em deny me Juſtice with a Complement: If they will not ſuffer me to own my Triffle, I am at leaſt oblig’d to ’em, that in aſcribing it to you, they confeſs it deſerves a better Author. I am far from imagining, that this was intended as a Civility to me, which was indeed deſign’d as an Injury to you: But it has laid freſh Obligations upon me, ſince it leſſens not their Respect, tho’ you ſuffer in the Inputation, and lets me ſee that you can with all the Gallantry of a Courtier engage in a Friends cauſe, and ſcorn the Court Trick of deſerting it, when it grows troubleſome, or difficult. ’Tis no ſmall comfort to me, that I have ſuch a Champion againſt ſuch petty Adverſaries; for tho’ a Man can’t decently draw his Sword upon e’ yelping little Cur, that barks at him in the ſtreet, yet if they ſnarl too near his heels, he may ſpurn ’em without offence to his gravity. To oppoſe ſuch Fellows their own way, were like quarrelling with the common Scavengers, and throwing Filth about to bewray themſelves and annoy the Neighborhood. Such immoral Swine ought to be ſubmitted to the Eccleſiaſtical Cenſure, and do Pennance in one clean ſheet, for the filthy Rheams they’ve abus’d the World with.
I ſend you herewith the Enclos’d, that you may ſee there are thoſe, that tho’ they differ in my Opinion, yet can treat me with good Breeding: The Candour and Ingenuity of this Gentleman, makes me regret his being unknown to me, becauſe it deprives me of the proper means of Acknowledgment: For tho’ I can’t in all points mention’d be convinc’d by his Arguments, yet I muſt confeſs my Self throughout overcome, and made a Proſelite to his Civility. I wiſh I had his Leave to make it publick, which I dare not preſume to do without it: I am confident e’ry civil Woman, as well as Man, wou’d think her ſelf oblig’d to him, even while he pleads for the ſubjection of her whole Sex. If I ſhould ever be induc’d to proſecute this Subject (which is far from being exhauſted by all that I, or others, have written upon it) any farther; I ſhou’d think my ſelf oblig’d to yield to his Arguments, or produce my own Reaſons for my Diſſent; and ſhall, I am confident, have more cauſe to bluſh for his Complements, than his Oppoſition.
Here, Sir, Gratitude compels me to return you and him Thanks, for thoſe obliging fine things you are pleas’d to ſay of me; tho’ they have an effect on me quite contrary to your Deſign; for, I believe, you generouſly intended to encourage me by ’em; but they have humbl’d me, by giving ſuch admirable means to meaſure the diſproportion between how I write, and how I ought to write. I am ſenſible of the native courſeneſs of my Mettal, (tho’ without the Alloy ſome wou’d find in it) and if it has met with general Acceptance, ’tis the Stamp you have put upon it has made it current: Yet, with the ſincerity of a Friend, permit me to adviſe you againſt my own Intereſt: Let your Complaiſance prevail no more againſt your Opinion, for fear the World ſhou’d ſuſpect, that you had either loſt your Judgment, or alter’d your Standard. ’Tis no vain Opinion of my own Luſtre, that makes me ſeek Obſcurity, but a juſt Conſciouſneſs; that like a Glow-worm, ’tis to that only I am beholding for the notice that is taken of me; and if I Affect the ſhade, ’tis out of a fear of diſappearing in the Sun-ſhine of better Authors. Nor am I without my Apprehenſions, that your obliging Letter, like the Sun let in upon a common fire, may extinguiſh what it was deſign’d to cheriſh. This Advantage however I reap by being unknown, that I frequently hear unſuſpected, the unbiaſs’d Opinions of thoſe that criticize upon me, and ſcarce, without Scorn, hear moſt Men pronounce it a Performance upove the Ability of a Woman, yet none Anſwer the Arguments in it to the contrary. But of all the nice Judges, the pleaſanteſt are thoſe that think the Stile too Maſculine: But, with their leave, I think I may boldly advance, that let them form themſelves with equal Care, by the ſame Models, and they will no more be able to diſcern a Man’s Stile from a Woman’s, than they can tell whether this was written with a Gooſe Quill, or a Gander’s: But I ſhall not trouble you, nor my ſelf any longer about ’em, but leave ’em to the liberty of their cenſure, and only aſſure you, that I am


Sir,


Feb. 15.   Your real Friend
1696.    
and Servant