An Essay in Defence of the Female Sex/Letter 3/Modern

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The Lady’s Answer.

However impertinent the unjust Aspersions of those that envy you, may appear to your self, and others; yet methinks, there is a sort of Generosity in it, that makes them deny me Justice with a Compliment: If they will not suffer me to own my Trifle, I am at least obliged to them, 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 designed as an Injury to you: But it has laid fresh Obligations upon me, since it lessens not their Respect, though you suffer in the Inputation, and lets me see that you can with all the Gallantry of a Courtier engage in a Friend’s 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 though a Man can’t decently draw his Sword upon every yelping little Cur, that barks at him in the street, yet if they snarl too near his heels, he may spurn them 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 Neighbourhood. Such immoral Swine ought to be submitted to the Ecclesiastical Censure, and do Penance in one clean sheet, for the filthy Reams they’ve abused the World with.
I send you herewith the Enclosed, that you may see there are those, that though 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 though I can’t in all points mentioned be convinced 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 public, which I dare not presume to do without it: I am confident every civil Woman, as well as Man, would think her self obliged to him, even while he pleads for the subjection of her whole Sex. If I should ever be induced to prosecute this Subject (which is far from being exhausted by all that I, or others, have written upon it) any farther; I should think my self obliged 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 Compliments, than his Opposition.
Here, Sir, Gratitude compels me to return you and him Thanks, for those obliging fine things you are pleased to say of me; though they have an effect on me quite contrary to your Design; for, I believe, you generously intended to encourage me by them; but they have humbled 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 Mettle, (though without the Alloy some would 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 should suspect, that you had either lost your Judgment, or altered 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 designed to cherish. This Advantage however I reap by being unknown, that I frequently hear unsuspected, the unbiased 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 Style 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 Style 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 them, but leave them to the liberty of their censure, and only assure you, that I am


Feb. 15.   Your real Friend
and Servant