An Essay in Defence of the Female Sex/Section 5

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They tax us with a long Liſt of Faults, and Imperfections, and ſeem to have taken a Catalogue of their own Follies and Vices, not with deſign to correct them, but to ſhift of the Imputation to us. There is no doubt, but particular Women may be found upon whom every charge may be juſtified; but our Sex is not anſwerable for them, till they prove there are no ſuch Men, which will not be before Dooms-day. However, like ill Neighbours they bring the Dirt out of their own Homes not out of neatneſs, but out of Envy to their Neighbours, at whoſe Doors they lay it. But let them remove their Follies as oft as they pleaſe, they are ſtill as conſtant to them, as the Needle to the North Pole, they point them out which way ſoever they move. Let us ſee what theſe Qualities are, they ſo liberally beſtow upon, and after ſee how they fit the Donours, and ſurvey ’em in their proper Figures and Colours. The moſt familiar of theſe are Vanity, Impertinence, Enviouſneſs, Diſſimulation, Inconſtancy rather than occaſion Blood-ſhed. He is ſo full of Courage, that it boils over when there is no occaſion, and his Sword and Perſon are always at Leisure, and at your Service, till you want them, and then to his great Trouble, he is always indiſpenſably engag’d otherwiſe. He wears Red, and a long Sword openly to ſhew his Valour, and Mail privately to ſhew his Diſcretion. He threatens terribly, but he is like a Witch, if you draw Blood of him, he has no power to hurt you. No man ſhews or boaſts more of his Scars with leſs Reaſon. He ſcorns to take a blow in the Face, and a Back-piece is as good to him as a whole ſute of Armour. He is at firſt the Terrour of all the Young Bullies, at laſt their Maygame, and they blood their Cub Hectors upon him, as they do young Beagles on a Hare. Good uſage makes him inſolent, but he fawns like a Spaniel moſt upon thoſe that beat him. When he is diſcover’d by all the reſt of the World, the Cheat paſſes ſtill upon himſelf, and he is pleas’d with the terrible Figure he makes in his Glaſs, tho’ he is ready to ſhake at his own Shaddow.
Character of a Scowrer.
There are men of an humour directly oppoſite to this, yet e’ry whit as Mad, Fooliſh, and Vain; theſe are your Men of nice Honour, that love Fighting for the ſake of Blows, and are never well but when they are wounded, they are ſevere Interpreters of Looks, are affronted at every Face that don’t please ’em, and like true Cocks of the Game, have a quarrel to all Mankind at firſt ſight. They are Paſſionate Admirers of ſcarr’d Faces, and dote on a Wooden Leg. They receive a Challenge like a Billet Douce, and a home thruſt as a Favour. Their common Adverſary is the Conſtable, and their uſual Lodging the Counter. Broken heads are a diverſion, and an Arm in a Scarfe is a high ſatisfaction. They are frugal in their expences with the Taylor, for they have their Doublets pinkt on their Backs, but they are as good as an Annuity to the Surgeon, tho’ they need him not to let ’em blood. Flanders is their Miſtreſs, and a Clap from her carries ’em off the Stage. If they return, an Hoſpital is their Retreat, or the Sheriff their Executor. Theſe two, Madam, are very different extravagances, and very ſtrange ones, yet they are real, and ſuch as appear every day. But, what is moſt to be wonder’d at, ariſe both from the ſame Principle, and the ſame miſtaken Notion, and are only differenc’d by the diverſity of Tempers in Men. The common Motive to both is Vanity, and they jointly concurr in this Opinion, that Valour is the moſt eſtimable, and moſt honourable Quality, that Man is capable of; they agree in a deſire to be honour’d and fear’d, but they differ in their methods in perſuing this common End. The one is naturally active, bold and daring; and therefore takes the true courſe to arrive at it by ſhewing what he can do, by what he dare ſuffer, and his immoderate deſire, and indiſcretion ſuffer him to know no bounds. The other is mean ſpirited, and fearful, and ſeeks by falſe Fire to Counterfeit a heat that may paſs for genuine, to conceal the Froſt in his Blood, and like an ill Actor, over-does his Part for want of underſtanding it, which ’tis impoſſible he ſhou’d. Among peaceable Men, and thoſe of his own Temper he comes off with Colours flying, and thoſe are the Men he wou’d be valiant amongſt only, cou’d he read Men’s hearts. But the firſt Rencounter betrays the Aſs through the Lion’s Skin, and he is Cudgel’d like an Aſs in ſpite of his covering.
Imitation ridiculous.
It is our happineſs, Madam, that we lie under no manner of Temptation from theſe two Vanities, whereof one is ſo dangerous, the other ſo ridiculous. For all humours that are forc’d againſt the natural bent of our Tempers muſt be ſo. Nature is our beſt guide, and has fitted ev’ry Man for ſome things more particularly than others; which if they had the ſenſe to proſecute, they wou’d at leaſt not be ridiculous, if they were not extraordinary. But ſo prevalent are our Vanity, and this Apiſh Humour of Imitation, that we perſuade our ſelves, that we may practiſe with applauſe, whatever we ſee another ſucceed in; tho’ as contrary to the intent of our Nature, as Dancing to an Elephant; ſo ſome Men that talk well of ſerious matters, are ſo mov’d at the applauſe ſome merry Drolls gain, that they forget their gravity, and aiming to be Wits, turn Buffoons. There are others, that are ſo taken with the actions and grimace of a good Mimick, that they fall preſently to making awkard Faces and wry Mouths, and are all their lives after in a Vizor, Maskt tho’ bare fac’d.
Theſe, and innumerable others of the like Nature, are the leſſer Follies of Mankind, by which their Vanity makes ’em fit only to be laugh’d at. There are others, who by more ſtudied and refin’d Follies arrive to be more conſiderable, and make a great Figure and Party among their Sex.
Character of a Beau.
Of the firſt rank of theſe is the Beau, who is one that has more Learning in his Heels than his Head, which is better cover’d than fill’d. His Taylor and Barber are his Cabinet Councel, to whom he is more beholding for what he is, than to his Maker. He is One that has travell’d to ſee Faſhions, and brought over with him the neweſt cut ſuit, and the prettieſt Fancy’d Ribbands for Sword Knots. His beſt Acquaintance at Paris was his Dancing Maſter, whom he calls the Marquis, and his chief Viſits to the Opera’s. He has ſeen the French King once, and knows the name of his chief Miniſter, and is by this ſufficiently convinc’d, that there are no Politicians in any other Part of the World. His improvements are a nice Skill in the Mode, and a high Contempt of his own Country, and of Senſe.
Commonly miſtaken.
All the knowledge he has of the Country, or Manners of it, is in the keeping of the Valet that follow’d him hither, and all that he retains of the Language is a few modiſh words to lard his diſcourſe with, and ſhew his Breeding, and the names of his Garniture. He ſhou’d be a Philoſopher, for he ſtudies nothing but himſelf, yet ev’ry one knows him better, that thinks him not worth knowing. His looks and geſtures are his conſtant Leſſon, and his Glaſs is the Oracle that reſolves all his mighty doubts and ſcruples. He examines and refreſhes his Complexion by it, and is more dejected at a Pimple, than if it were a Cancer. When his Eyes are ſet to a languiſhing Air, his Motions all prepar’d according to Art, his Wig and his Coat abundantly Powder’d, his Gloves Eſſenc’d, and his Handkercher perfum’d, and all the reſt of his Bravery rightly adjuſted, the greateſt part of the day, as well the buſineſs of it at home, is over; ’tis time to launch, and down he comes, ſcented like a Perfumers Shop, and looks like a Veſſel with all her rigging under ſail without Ballaſt. A Chair is brought within the door, for he apprehends every Breath of Air as much, as if it were a Hurricane. His firſt Viſit is to the Chocolate Houſe, and after a quarter of an Hours Compliment to himſelf in the great Glaſs, he faces about and ſalutes the Company, and puts in practice his Mornings Meditations; When he has made his Cringes round, and play’d over all his Tricks, out comes the fine Snuſh-box, and his Noſe is Regal’d a while: After this he begins to open, and ſtarts ſome learned Argument about the neweſt Faſhion, and hence takes occaſion to commend the next Man’s Fancy in his Cloths, this uſhers in a diſcourſe of the Appearance laſt Birth Night, or Ball at Court, and ſo a Critick upon this Lord, or that Ladies Maſquing Habit. From hence he adjourns to the Play-houſe, where he is to be met again in the ſide Box, from whence he makes his Court to all the Ladies in general with his Eyes, and is particular only with the Orange-Wench. After a while he engages ſome neighbouring Vizor, and together they run over all the Boxes, take to pieces every Face, examine every Feature, paſs their Cenſure upon every one, and ſo on to their Dreſs; here he very Judiciouſly gives his opinion upon every particular, and determines whoſe Colours are well choſen, whoſe Fancy is neateſt, and whoſe Cloths ſit with moſt Air; but in concluſion ſees no Body compleat, but himſelf in the whole Houſe. After this he looks down with contempt upon the Pit, and rallies all the ſlovenly Fellows, and awkward Beau’s (as he calls them) of t’other End of Town, is mightily offended at their ill ſcented Snuſh, and in ſpight of all his Pulvilio and Eſſences, is overcome with the ſtink of their Cordovant Gloves. To cloſe all, Madam, in the Mask muſt give him an account of the Scandal of the Town, which ſhe does in the Hiſtory of abundance of Intrigues, real or feign’d; at all which he laughs aloud and often, not to ſhew his ſatisfaction, but his Teeth. She ſhews him who is kept by ſuch a Lord, Who was lately diſcarded by ſuch a Knight, for granting Favour too indiſcreetly to ſuch a : who has lately been in the Country for two or Months upon extraordinary Occaſions, To all which he gives great attention, that he may paſs for a Man of Intelligence in another Place. His next Stage is Locket’s, where his Vanity, not his Stomach, is to be gratified with ſomething that is little and dear, Quails and Ortalans are the meaneſt of his Diet, and a Spoonful of Green Peaſe at Chriſtmas, are worth to him more than the inheritance of the Field where they grow in Summer. Every thing falls in his Eſteem, as it fall in price, and he wou’d not ſo much as taſt the Wine, if the hard name, and the high rate did not give it a reliſh. After a glaſs, or two, (for a Pint is his ſtint) he begins to talk of his Intrigues, boaſts much of the Favours he has received, ſhews counterfeit Tokens, and in Concluſion ſlanders ſome Lady, or other of unqueſtion’d Vertue with a particular fondneſs for him. His Amours are all profound Secrets, yet he makes a confidence of ’em to every Man he meets with. He pretends a great reverence for the Ladies, and a mighty tenderneſs of their Reputations; yet he is like a Fleſh Flye, whatever he blows on is tainted. He talks of nothing under Quality, tho’ he never obtain’d a Favour which his Man might not have for half a Crown. He, and his Footman in this Caſe are like English, and Dutch at an Ordinary in Holland, the Fare is the ſame, but the Price is vaſtly different. Thus the Show goes forward, till he is beaten for Treſpaſſes he was never guilty of, and ſhall be damn’d for Sins he never Committed. At laſt, with his Credit as low as his Fortune he retires ſsullenly to his Cloiſter, the King’s-Bench, or Fleet, and paſſes the reſt of his days in Privacy, and Contemplation. Here, Madam, if you pleaſe wee’l give him one Viſit more, and ſee the laſt Act of the Farce; and you ſhall find him (whoſe Sobriety was before a Vice, as being only the Pimp to his other Pleaſures, and who fear’d a lighted Pipe as much as if it had been a great Gun levell’d at him) with his Noſe Flaming, and his Breath ſtinking of Spirits worſe than a Dutch Tarpawlin’s, and ſmoking out of a ſhort Pipe, that for ſome Months has been kept hot as conſtantly as a Glaſs-Houſe, and ſo I leave him to his Meditation.
You wou’d think it yet more ſtrange, that any one ſhould be Slovenly and Naſty out of Vanity; yet ſuch there are I can aſſure you, Madam, and cou’d eaſily give a deſcription of ’em, but that ſo foul a Relation muſt needs be Nauſeous to a Perſon ſo Neat as your Self; and wou’d be treating You as the Country Squire did his Court Friend, who when he had ſhew’d him all the Curioſities of his Houſe and Gardens, carried him into his Hog-ſties. But there are more than enow to justifie what I have ſaid of the Humour of Diogenes, who was as vain and as proud in his Tub, as Plato cou’d be in the midſt of his fine Perſian Carpets, and rich Furniture. Vanity is only an Ambition of being taken notice of, which ſhews it ſelf variouſly according to the humour of the Perſons; which was more extravagant in the Anti-Beau, than in the Beau Philoſopher. Vanity is the veriest Proteus in the World, it can Ape Humility, and can make Men decry themſelves on purpoſe to be Fltter’d; like ſome cunning Preachers that cry up Mortification and Self-denial perpetually, and are pamper’d all the while by the Zeal, and at the Charges of their Followers, who are affraid the good Man ſhou’d ſtarve himſelf. It is the Bleſſing of Fools, and the Folly of Ingenious Men. For it makes thoſe contentedly hugg themſelves under all the ſcorn of the World, and the Indignities that are offer’d ’em, and theſe reſtleſs and diſſatisfied with its applauſe. Both think the World envious, and that their merit is injur’d, and it is impoſſible, to right either of ’em to their Minds; for thoſe have no title to the pretence of merit, and theſe not ſo much as they think they have.
Vanity a Bleſſing to Fools.
Yet it is the Happineſs of the firſt that they can think themſelves capable of moving Envy; for though they commonly miſtake the Deriſion of Men, for their applauſe, yet Men are ſometimes ſo ill Natur’d as to undeceive ’em, and then it is their Comfort, that theſe are envious Men, and miſrepreſent the Worlds opinion of ’em. Cou’d theſe Men be convinc’d of their miſtake, I ſee nothing that ſhou’d hinder them from being deſperate, and hanging or diſpoſing of themſelves ſome other ſuch way. For though a Man may comfort himſelf under Afflictions, it is either that they are undeſerved, or if deſerved, that he ſuffers only for Overſights, or raſh Acts, by which the wiſest Man may be ſometimes overtaken; that he is in the main Diſcreet and Prudent, and that others believe him ſo. But when a Man falls under his own Contempt, and does not only think himſelf not wiſe, but by Nature made abſolutely incapable of ever becoming Wiſe, he is in a deplorable State, and wants the common Comfort, as well of Fools, as Wiſe Men, Vanity; which in ſuch a Caſe is the only proper Mediatour of a Reconcilement. No Quality ſeems to be more Providentially diſtributed to every Man according to his Neceſſity; for thoſe that have leaſt Wit, ought to have the greateſt Opinion of it; as all other Commodities are rated higheſt, where they are ſcarceſt. By this means the level is better maintain’d amongſt Men, who, were this imaginary Equality deſtroy’d, might be apt to reverence, and idolize one another too much, and (forgetting the common Fate, they are all Born to) pay Honours too near divine to their Fellow Mortals. But as the humour of the World now runs, this ſort of Idolatry is ſcarce likely to come into Faſhion. We have too great an Opinion of our ſelves, to believe too well of any one elſe, and we are in nothing more difficult than in points of Wit and Underſtanding, in either of which we very unwillingly yield the Preference to any Man. There is nothing of which we affect to ſpeak with more humility and indifference than our own Senſe, yet nothing of which we think with more Partiality, and Preſumption. There have been ſome ſo bold as to aſſume the Title of the Oracles of Reaſon to themſelves, and their own Writings; and we meet with others daily, that think themſelves Oracles of Wit. Theſe are the moſt Vexatious Animals in the World, that think they have a Priviledge to torment and plague every Body; but thoſe moſt, who have the beſt Reputation for their Wit or Judgment; as Fleas are ſaid to moleſt thoſe moſt, who have the tendereſt Skins, and the ſweeteſt Blood.
Character of a Poetaſter
Of theſe the moſt voluminous Fool is the Fop Poet, who is that has always more Wit in his Pockets than any where elſe, yet ſeldom or never any of his own there. Eſop’s Daw was a Type of him; For he makes himſelf fine with the Plunder of all Parties. He is a Smuggler of Wit, and ſteals French Fancies without paying the cuſtomary Duties. Verſe is his Manufacture; For it is more the labour of his Finger than his brain. He ſpends much time in Writing, but ten times more in Reading what he has Written. He is loaden conſtantly with more Papers, and duller than a Clerk in Chancery, and ſpends more time in Hearings, and Rehearings. He asks your Opinion, yet for fear you ſhou’d not jump with him, tells you his own firſt. He deſires no Favour, yet is diſappointed, if he be not Flatter’d, and is offended always at the Truth. His firſt Education is generally a Shop, or a Counting-Houſe, where his acquaintance commences with the Bell-man upon a New Years day. He puts him upon Intriguing with the Muſes, and promiſes to Pimp for him. From this time forward he hates the name of Mechanick, and reſolves to ſell all his ſtock, and purchaſe a Plantation in Parnaſſus. He is now a Poetical Harberdaſher of Small Wares, and deals very much in Novels, Madrigals, Riddles, Funeral and Love Odes, and Elegies, and other Toyes from Helicon, which he has a Shop ſo well firniſh’d with, that he can fit you with all ſorts, and Sizes, upon all Occaſions in the twinkling of an Eye. He frequents Apollo’s Exchange in Covent-Garden, and picks up the freſheſt Intelligence, what Plays are upon the Stocks, or ready to be launch’d; who have lately made a good Voyage, who a ſaving one only, and have ſuffer’d a Wreck in Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields, or Drury-Lane, and which are brought into the Dock to be Careen’d, and fitted for another Voyage. He talks much of Jack Dryden, and Will. Wycherley, and the reſt of that Set, and proteſts he can’t help having ſome reſpect for ’em, becauſe they have ſo much for him, and his Writings; otherwiſ he cou’d ſhew ’em to be meer Sots and Blockheads that underſtand little of Poetry, in compariſon of himſelf; but he forbears ’em meerly out of Gratitude, and Compaſſion. Once a Month he fits out a ſmall Poetical Smeck at the charge of his Bookſeller, which he lades with French Plunder new vampt in Engliſh, ſmall Ventures of Tranſlated Odes, Elegies and Epigrams of Young Traders, and ballaſts with heavy Proſe of his own; for which returns are to be made to the ſeveral Owners in Teſters, or applauſe from the Prentices and Tyre Women that deal for ’em. He is the Oracle of thoſe that want Wit, and the Plague of thoſe that have it; for he haunts their Lodgings, and is more terrible to ’em, than their Duns. His Pocket is an unexhaustible Magazine of Rhime, and Nonſenſe, and his Tongue like a repeating Clock with Chimes, is ready upon every touch to ſound to ’em. Men avoid him for the ſame reaſon, they avoid the Pillory, the ſecurity of their Ears; of which he is as mercileſs a Proſecutor. He is the Bane of Society, a Friend to the Stationers, the Plague of the Preſs, and the Ruine of his Bookſeller. He is more profitable to the Grocers and Tabacconiſts, than the Paper Manufacture; for his Works, which talk ſo much of Fire and Flame, commonly expire in their Shops in Vapour and Smoak. If he aſpire to Comedy, he intrigues with ſome experienc’d Damſel of the Town, in order to inſtruct himſelf in the humour of it, and is cullied by her into Matrimony, and ſo is furniſh’d at once with a Plot, and two good Characters, himſelf and his Wife, and is paid with a Portion for a Jointure in Parnaſſus, which I leave him to make his beſt of.
Vanity Univerſal.
I ſhall not trouble you with any more Inſtances of the fooliſh vanities of Mankind; becauſe I am affraid I have been too large upon that Head already. Not that I think there is any Order or Degree of Men, which wou’d not afford many and notorious Inſtances for our Purpoſe. For as I think Vanity almoſt the Univerſal mover of all our Actions, whether good or bad; ſo I think there are ſcarce any ſo Ingenious, or ſo Vertuous, but ſomething of it will ſhine through the greateſt Part of what they do, let them caſt never ſo thick a Vail over it. What makes Men ſo ſolicitous of leaving a Reputation behind ’em in the World, though they know they can’t be affected with it after Death, but this even to a degree of Folly? What elſe makes great Men involve themſelves in the Fatigues and hazards of War, and intricate Intrigues of State, when they have already more than they can enjoy, but an Itch of being talk’d of and remembred, to which they ſacrifice their preſent happineſs and repoſe?
But I ſhall carry theſe conſiderations no farther; becauſe I have already ſingled out ſome of thoſe many, whoſe Vanity is more extravagant and ridiculous, than any our Sex is chargeable with, and theſe ſlight Touches may ſerve to let ’em ſee, that even the greateſt, and Wiſeſt are not wholely exempt, if they have it not in a higher Degree, tho’ they exerciſe it in things more Popular, and Plauſible. I hope therefore the burthen of this good Quality will not hereafter be laid upon us alone, but the Men will be contented to divide the Load with us, and be thankful that they bear leſs than their Proportion.