An Essay in Defence of the Female Sex/Section 10

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Theſe are the moſt conſiderable Imperfections, or at leaſt thoſe which with moſt Colour of Reaſon are charg’d upon us, as general Defects; and I hope, Madam, I have fairly ſhown, that the other Sex are both by Intereſt and Inclination more expos’d, and more Subject to ’em, than we. Pride, Luſt, Cruelty, and many more, are by the Declaimers againſt us thrown into the Scale to make weight and bear us down, but with ſuch manifeſt Injuſtice, that without giving my ſelf any further trouble, I dare appeal to any reaſonable Man, and leave him to decide the Difference.
More ill Men than Women.
I know there was a Tullia, a Claudia, and a Meſſalina; there was likewiſe, a Sardanapalus, a Nero, a Caligula; but if the Sexes in general are to be reproach’d with, and meaſur’d by theſe; Human Race is certainly the vileſt Part of the Creation. ’Tis very ill Logick to argue from Particulars to Generals, and where the Premiſſes are ſingular, to conclude Univerſally: But if they will allow us the Liberty they take themſelves, and come to numbering the Vicious of both Sexes, they will certainly out poll us by infinite Numbers. It were therefore better Policy ſurely in them, to quit a way of arguing, which is at once ſo falſe, and ſo much to the diſadvantage of the Cauſe they contend for: and when they can by ſound Arguments make out any Advantages their Sex has over ours, other than what I have already granted, I am ready to be convinc’d, and become their Convert; and I make no doubt but every ingenuous Man will do as much by me. Thus I have endeavour’d to vindicate our Sex, from the unjuſt Imputations with which ſome unreaſonable, malicious Men wou’d load us: For I am willing to think the greater, or at leaſt the better Part of their Sex, more generous than to encourage their Scandal. There remains nothing more, but to ſhew that there are ſome neceſſary Qualifications to be acquir’d, ſome good Improvements to be made by Ingenious Gentlemen in the Company of our Sex.
Many Advantages from Womens Company.
Of this number are Complacence, Gallantry, Good Humour, Invention, and an Art, which (tho’ frequently abus’d) is of admirable uſe to thoſe that are Maſters of it, the Art of Inſinuation, and many others. ’Tis true a Man may be an Honeſt and Underſtanding Man, without any of theſe Qualifications; but he can hardly be a Polite, a Well Bred, an Agreable, Taking Man, without all, or moſt of theſe. Without ’em Honeſty, Courage, or Wit, are like Rough Diamonds, or Gold in the Ore, they have their intrinſick Value, and Worth, before, but they are doubtful and obſcure, till they are poliſh’d, refin’d, and receive Luſtre, and Eſteem from theſe.
Complacence to be learnd by it.
The Principal of theſe is Complacence, a good Quality, without which in a competent Meaſure no Man is fitted for Society. This is beſt learnt in our Company, where all Men affect Gaiety, and endeavour to be agreable. State News, Politicks, Religion, or private Buſineſs take up the greateſt Part of their Converſation, when they are among themſelves only. Theſe are Subjects that employ their Paſſions too much, to leave any room for Complacence; they raiſe too much heat to ſuffer Men to be eaſie and pleaſant, and Men are too ſerious when they talk of ’em, to ſuppreſs their natural Temper, which are apt to break out upon any Oppoſition. Men are as apt to defend their Opinions, as their Property, and wou’d take it as well to have their Titles to their Eſtates queſtion’d, as their Sense; and perhaps in that they imitate the Conduct of our Sex, and do, like indulgent Mothers, that are moſt tender of thoſe Children that are weakeſt. But however it be, I have obſerv’d, when ſuch Arguments have been introduc’d even in our Company, and by Men that affect Indifference and abundance of Temper, that very few have been able to ſhew ſo much Maſtery, but that ſomething appear’d either in their Air, or Expression, or in the Tone of their Voices, which argued a greater Warmth, and Concern, than is proper for the Converſation of Gentlemen, or the Company of Ladies. Theſe Uneaſineſſes happen not ſo often among us, becauſe the Men look upon us to have very little Intereſt in the Publick Affairs of the World, and therefore trouble us very ſeldom with their grave, ſerious Trifles, which they debate with ſo much earneſtneſs among one another. They look upon us as Things deſign’d and contriv’d only for their Pleaſure, and therefore uſe us tenderly, as Children do their Favourite Bawbles. They talk gayly, and pleaſantly to us, they do, or ſay nothing that may give us any Diſguſt, or Chagrin, they put on their chearfullest Looks, and their beſt Humour, that they may excite the like in us: They never oppoſe us but with a great deal of Ceremony, or in Raillery, not out of a Spirit of Opposition, (as they frequently do one another) but to maintain a pleaſant Argument, or heigthen by variety of Opinions an agreable Entertainment. Mirth, and Good Humour reign generally in our Society, Good Manners always; For with us Men ſhew in a manner, the Reverſe of what they are one to another: They let their thoughts play at Liberty, and are very careful of the Expreſſion, that nothing harſh, or obſcene eſcape ’em, that may ſhock a tender Mind, or offend a modeſt Ear. This Caution it is, which is the Root of Complacence, which is nothing but a Deſire to oblige People, by complying with their Humours. ’Tis true ſome Tempers are too Obſtinate, and forward, ever to arrive at any great Heigth of this good Quality, yet there is nothing ſo ſtubborn, but it may be bent. Aſſiduity and conſtant Practice will contract ſuch Habits, as will make any thing eaſie and familiar, even to the worſt contriv’d Diſpoſition; but where Nature concurs, Men are ſoon Perfect. This is one great advantage Men reap by our Society, nor is it to be deſpis’d by the Wiſeſt of ’em, who know the uſe of this Accompliſhment, and are ſenſible, that it is hardly, if at all, to be acquir’d, but by converſing with us. For tho’ Men may have Wit and Judgment, yet the Liberty they take of thwarting, and oppoſing one another makes ’em Eager, and Diſputative, Impatient, Sowre, and Moroſe; till by converſing with us, they grow inſenſibly aſham’d of ſuch Rustick Freedom. The truth of this is Evident from the Obſervation of the Univerſities, and Inns of Court, I mean thoſe Students in ’em that lead a more recluſe and Monaſtick Life, and converſe little with our Sex. They want neither Wit, nor Learning, and frequently neither Generoſity, nor Good Nature, yet when they come into gay, tho’ Ingenious Company, are either damp’d and ſilent, or unſeaſonably Frolickſom and Free, ſo that they appear either Dull, or Ridiculous.
Gallantry acquird by our Company.
Nor is Complacence the only thing theſe Men want, they want likewiſe the Gallantry of thoſe Men that frequent our Company. This Quality is the heigth and perfection of Civility, without which it is either Languiſhing, or Formal, and with which it appears always with an engaging Air of Kindneſs, and Good Will. It ſets a value upon the moſt inconſiderable Trifles, and turns every Civility into an Obligation. For in ordinary Familiarities, and civil Correſpondencies, we regard not ſo much what, as how things are done, the Manner is more lookt upon than the Matter of ſuch Courteſies. Almoſt all Men that have had a liberal, and good Education know, what is due to Good Manners, and civil Company. But till they have been us’d a little to Our Society, their Modeſty ſits like Conſtraint upon ’em, and looks like a forc’d Compliance to uneaſie Rules, and Forms of Civility. Converſing frequently with us makes ’em familiar to Men, and when they are convinc’d, as well of the Eaſineſs, as the Neceſſity of ’em, they are ſoon reconcil’d to the Practice. This Point once gain’d, and they become expert in the common, and neceſſary Practices. Thoſe that have any natural Bravery of Mind, will never be contented to ſtop there; Indifference is too cold and Phlegmatick a thing for ’em, a little Formal Ceremony, and common Civilities, ſuch as are paid to e’ry one of Courſe, will not ſatisfie their Ambitious Spirits, which will put ’em upon endeavouring for better Receptions, and obliging thoſe, whom they can’t without Reproach to themſelves offend. This is the Original, and firſt Spring of Gallantry, which is an Humour of Obliging all People, as well in our Actions and Words.
Difference betwixt Complacence and Gallantry.
It differs from Complacence, this being more active, that more paſſive; This inclines us to oblige, by doing or ſaying after our own Humours ſuch things as we think will pleaſe; that by ſubmitting to, and following theirs. A Man may be Complacent without Gallantry, but he can’t be Gallant without Complacence. For ’tis poſſible to pleaſe and be agreable, without ſhewing our own Humours to Others; but ’tis impoſſible without ſome regard to theirs: yet this Pleaſure will be but faint and languid, without a Mixture of both. This mixture of Freedom, Obſervance, and a deſire of pleaſing, when rightly tempered, is the true Compoſition of Gallantry; of which, who ever is compleat Maſter, can never fail of being both admir’d, and belov’d. This Accompliſhment is beſt, if not only to be acquir’d by converſing with us; for beſides the natural Deference, which the Males of every obſervable Species of the creation pay to their Females, and the Reaſons before given for Complacence, which all hold good here, there is a tender Softneſs in the Frame of our Minds, as well as in the Conſtitution of our Bodies, which inſpire Men, a Sex more rugged, with the like Sentiments, and Affections, and infuſes gently and inſenſibly a Care to oblige, and a Concern not to offend us.
Invention, improvd by our Society.
Hence it is that they employ all their Art, Wit, and Invention to ſay and do things, that may appear to us, ſurprizing and agreable either for their Novelty or Contrivance. The very End and Nature of Converſation among us retrench aboundance of thoſe things, which make the greateſt part of Men’s diſcourſe, and they find themſelves oblig’d to ſtrain their Inventions to fetch from other Springs, Streams proper to entertain us with. This puts ’em upon beating and ranging ore the Fields of Fancy to find ſomething new, ſomething pretty to offer us, and by this means refines at the ſame time their Wit, and enlarges, and extends their Invention; For by forcing ’em out of the common Road, they are neceſſitated to invent new Arguments, and ſeek new ways to divert and pleaſe us, and by reſtraining the large Liberty they take one with another, they are compell’d to poliſh their Wit, and File off the Roughneſs of it. To this they owe, the Neatneſs of Raillery, to which abundance of Gentlemen are now arriv’d; For Contrariety, of Opinions, being that which gives Life, and Spirit to Converſation, as well Women as Men do frequently hold Arguments contrary to their real Opinions, only to heigthen the Diverſion, and improve the pleaſure of Society. In theſe the utmoſt Care is taken to avoid all things that may ſound harſh, offenſive, or indecent, their Wit is employ’d only to raiſe mirth, and promote good Humour, Conditions that can’t well be obſerv’d, when Men contend for Realities, and diſpute for the Reputation of their Wit or Judgment, and the truth of their Opinions.
Fools no fit Companions for Women.
’Tis true theſe Improvements are to be made only by Men, that have by Nature an improvable Stock of Wit and good Senſe; For thoſe that have it not, being unable to diſtinguiſh what is proper for their Imitation, are apt to Ape us in thoſe Things which are the peculiar Graces and Ornaments of our Sex, and which are the immediate Objects of Sight, and need no further Reflection, or thinking. This Affectation is notorious in our Modern Beau’s, who obſerving the Care taken by ſome of our Sex in the ſetting of their Perſons, without penetrating any farther into the Reaſons Women have for it, or conſidering, that what became them, might be ridiculous in themſelves, fall to licking, ſprucing, and dreſſing their Campaign Faces, and ill contriv’d Bodies, that now, like all Fooliſh Imitatours, they out do the Originals, and out-powder, out-patch, and out-paint the Vaineſt and moſt extravagant of our Sex at thoſe Follies, and are perpetually Cocking, Bruſtling, Twiring, and making Grimaces, as if they expected we ſhou’d make Addreſſes to ’em in a ſhort Time. Yet ought not this to diſcourage any Ingenious Perſon, or bring any Scandal upon our Coverſation, any more than Travelling ought to be brought into Diſrepute, becauſe it is obſerv’d, that thoſe, who go abroad Fools, return Fops. It is not in our power to alter Nature, but to poliſh it, and if an Aſs has learnt all his Paces, ’tis as much as the thing is capable of, ’twere abſurd to expect he ſhou’d chop Logick. This is ſo far from being an Objection againſt us, that it is an Argument, that none but Ingenious Men are duely qualified to converſe with us; Who by our Means have not only been fitted, and finiſh’d for great things, but have actually aſpir’d to ’em. For ’tis my Opinion, that we owe the Neat, Gentile Raillery in Sir George Etheredge, and Sir Charles Sedley’s Plays, and the Gallant Verſes of Mr. Waller to their Converſing much with Ladies. And I remember an Opinion of a very Ingenious Perſon, who aſcribes the Ruine of the Spaniſh Grandeur in great meaſure, to the ridiculing in the Perſon of Don Quixot, the Gallantry of that Nation toward their Ladies. This Opinion however Ingenious carries me beyond the Scope and deſign of the preſent Argument, and therefore I ſhall leave all further Conſideration of it to thoſe that are more at leiſure, and leſs weary than I am at preſent.
There remain yet ſome things to be ſpoken to, but I muſt confeſs to you, Madam, that I am already very much tired, and I have reaſon to fear that you are more. When you enjoyn’d me to this Task, I believe, you did not expect, I am ſure, I did not intend ſo long a Letter. I know I have written too much, yet I leave you to judge, whether it be enough. One Experience I have gain’d by this Eſſay, that I find, when our Hands are in, ’tis as hard to ſtop ’em, as our Tongues, and as difficult not to write, as not to talk too much. I have done wondring at those Men, that can write huge Volumes upon ſlender Subjects, and ſhall hereafter admire their Judgment only, who can confine their Imaginations, and curb their wandring Fancies. I pretend no Obligation upon our Sex for this Attempt in their Defence; becauſe it was undertaken at your Command, and for your Diverſion only, which if I have in any meaſure ſatisfied, I have my Ambition, and ſhall beg nothing farther, than that my ready Obedience may excuſe the mean Performance of
Your real Friend, and
Moſt humble Servant.