An Essay in Defence of the Female Sex/Section 5/Modern

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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 us, and after see how they fit the Donors, and survey them in their proper Figures and Colours. The most familiar of these are Vanity, Impertinence, {{{2}}} 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 engaged otherwise. He wears Red, and a long Sword openly to show his Valour, and Mail privately to show 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 shows 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 suit of Armour. He is at first the Terror 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 discovered by all the rest of the World, the Cheat passes still upon himself, and he is pleased with the terrible Figure he makes in his Glass, though he is ready to shake at his own Shadow.
Character of a Scourer.
There are men of a humour directly opposite to this, yet every 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 them, and like true Cocks of the Game, have a quarrel to all Mankind at first sight. They are Passionate Admirers of scarred Faces, and dote on a Wooden Leg. They receive a Challenge like a Billet Doux, 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 Scarf is a high satisfaction. They are frugal in their expenses with the Tailor, for they have their Doublets pinked on their Backs, but they are as good as an Annuity to the Surgeon, though they need him not to let them blood. Flanders is their Mistress, and a Clap from her carries them off the Stage. If they return, a 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 wondered at, arise both from the same Principle, and the same mistaken Notion, and are only differenced by the diversity of Tempers in Men. The common Motive to both is Vanity, and they jointly concur 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 honoured and feared, 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 showing 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 should. Among peaceable Men, and those of his own Temper he comes off with Colours flying, and those are the Men he would be valiant amongst only, could he read Men’s hearts. But the first Rencounter betrays the Ass through the Lion’s Skin, and he is Cudgelled 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 forced against the natural bent of our Tempers must be so. Nature is our best guide, and has fitted every Man for some things more particularly than others; which if they had the sense to prosecute, they would 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 ourselves, that we may practise with applause, whatever we see another succeed in; though as contrary to the intent of our Nature, as Dancing to an Elephant; so some Men that talk well of serious matters, are so moved 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 Mimic, that they fall presently to making awkward Faces and wry Mouths, and are all their lives after in a Visor, Masked though bare faced.
These, and innumerable others of the like Nature, are the lesser Follies of Mankind, by which their Vanity makes them fit only to be laughed at. There are others, who by more studied and refined 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 covered than filled. His Tailor and Barber are his Cabinet Council, to whom he is more beholding for what he is, than to his Maker. He is One that has travelled to see Fashions, and brought over with him the newest cut suit, and the prettiest Fancied Ribbands for Sword Knots. His best Acquaintance at Paris was his Dancing Master, whom he calls the Marquis, and his chief Visits to the Operas. He has seen the French King once, and knows the name of his chief Minister, and is by this sufficiently convinced, 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 followed him hither, and all that he retains of the Language is a few modish words to lard his discourse with, and show his Breeding, and the names of his Garniture. He should be a Philosopher, for he studies nothing but himself, yet every 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 prepared according to Art, his Wig and his Coat abundantly Powdered, his Gloves Essenced, and his Handkercher perfumed, 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 Perfumer’s 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 Hour’s Compliment to himself in the great Glass, he faces about and salutes the Company, and puts in practice his Morning’s Meditations; When he has made his Cringes Round, and played over all his Tricks, out comes the fine Snush-box, and his Nose is Regaled 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 Clothes, this ushers in a discourse of the Appearance last Birth Night, or Ball at Court, and so a Critic upon this Lord, or that Lady’s 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 Clothes 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 Beaus (as he calls them) of the other End of Town, is mightily offended at their ill scented Snush, and in spite 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 feigned; at all which he laughs aloud and often, not to show his satisfaction, but his Teeth. She shows him who is kept by such a Lord, Who was lately discarded by such a Knight, for granting Favour too indiscreetly to such a Gentleman: who has lately been in the Country for two or three 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 Ortolans are the meanest of his Diet, and a Spoonful of Green Peas 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 would not so much as taste 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, shows counterfeit Tokens, and in Conclusion slanders some Lady, or other of unquestioned Virtue with a particular fondness for him. His Amours are all profound Secrets, yet he makes a confidence of them 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 Fly, whatever he blows on is tainted. He talks of nothing under Quality, though he never obtained 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 damned for Sins he never Committed. At last, with his Credit as low as his Fortune he retires sullenly 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 we’ll 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 feared a lighted Pipe as much as if it had been a great Gun levelled at him) with his Nose Flaming, and his Breath stinking of Spirits worse than a Dutch Tarpaulin’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 would 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 could easily give a description of them, but that so foul a Relation must needs be Nauseous to a Person so Neat as your Self; and would be treating You as the Country Squire did his Court Friend, who when he had showed him all the Curiosities of his House and Gardens, carried him into his Hog-sties. But there are more than enough to justify what I have said of the Humour of Diogenes, who was as vain and as proud in his Tub, as Plato could be in the midst of his fine Persian Carpets, and rich Furniture. Vanity is only an Ambition of being taken notice of, which shows 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 Flttered; like some cunning Preachers that cry up Mortification and Self-denial perpetually, and are pampered all the while by the Zeal, and at the Charges of their Followers, who are afraid the good Man should starve himself. It is the Blessing of Fools, and the Folly of Ingenious Men. For it makes those contentedly hug themselves under all the scorn of the World, and the Indignities that are offered them, and these restless and dissatisfied with its applause. Both think the World envious, and that their merit is injured, and it is impossible, to right either of them 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 Natured as to undeceive them, and then it is their Comfort, that these are envious Men, and misrepresent the World’s opinion of them. Could these Men be convinced of their mistake, I see nothing that should 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 Mediator 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 maintained amongst Men, who, were this imaginary Equality destroyed, 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 Privilege 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 one 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 should not jump with him, tells you his own first. He desires no Favour, yet is disappointed, if he be not Flattered, 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 Mechanic, and resolves to sell all his stock, and purchase a Plantation in Parnassus. He is now a Poetical Haberdasher of Small Wares, and deals very much in Novels, Madrigals, Riddles, Funeral and Love Odes, and Elegies, and other Toys from Helicon, which he has a Shop so well furnished 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 launched; who have lately made a good Voyage, who a saving one only, and have suffered a Wreck in Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields, or Drury-Lane, and which are brought into the Dock to be Careened, 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 them, because they have so much for him, and his Writings; otherwise he could show them to be mere Sots and Blockheads that understand little of Poetry, in comparison of himself; but he forbears them merely 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 revamped 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 them. 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 them, than their Duns. His Pocket is an unexhaustible Magazine of Rhyme, and Nonsense, and his Tongue like a repeating Clock with Chimes, is ready upon every touch to sound to them. 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 Ruin of his Bookseller. He is more profitable to the Grocers and Tobacconists, than the Paper Manufacture; for his Works, which talk so much of Fire and Flame, commonly expire in their Shops in Vapour and Smoke. If he aspire to Comedy, he intrigues with some experienced Damsel of the Town, in order to instruct himself in the humour of it, and is cullied by her into Matrimony, and so is furnished 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 afraid I have been too large upon that Head already. Not that I think there is any Order or Degree of Men, which would 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 Men so Ingenious, or so Virtuous, but something of it will shine through the greatest Part of what they do, let them cast never so thick a Veil over it. What makes Men so solicitous of leaving a Reputation behind them 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 talked of and remembered, 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, these slight Touches may serve to let them see, that even the greatest, and Wisest are not wholely exempt, if they have it not in a higher Degree, though 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.