An Essay in Defence of the Female Sex/Section 8

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Envy is the Parent of Calumny, and the Daughter of Jealouſie. Men ſeldom envy others, till they fear being out ſtrip’d by ’em in Fortune or Reputation. It is the moſt criminal, becauſe the moſt injurious to Vertue, and worth of all our natural Failings, againſt which it’s Malice is generally bent. This vice and Jealouſie ſeem to be more particularly hated of Providence than any other; For they carry their Puniſhment inſeparably along with ’em, The Envious and the Jealous need no other Tormentours than their own Thoughts. The Envious Man ruines his own to diſturb anothers Tranquillity, and ſacrifices his own Happineſs and Repoſe to a perverſe Deſire of troubling his Neighbours. He feeds like Toads upon the Venome of the Earth, and ſucks in Scandal greedily, that he may at Pleaſure diſgorge it to the greater annoyance of other Men. His mind has the Vapours, a Sweet Report of any one throws it into Convulſions, and Agonies, and a foul one is the Relief and Refreſhment of it. A wholeſome Air free from the Blaſts of Detraction and Slander is as certainly pernicious to him, as Ireland to Frogs and Toads. This Vice is generally diſclaim’d by both Sexes, yet generally practic’d by both. Men love as little to have their Reputation as their Chimneys over-topt by their Neighbours; For they think by that means their names become dark, as their Houſes do ſmoaky by the other: Yet thro’ a lazy Malignity had rather pull the other’s down to their Level, than build their own up higher. This Humour prevails indeed, yet not in equal Meaſure in both Sexes. For as we have confeſſedly leſs Ambition, ſo have we apparently leſs of this Poiſon which uſually attends it, and ariſes from a ſelf Intereſted Principle, which makes ’em endeavour by baſe ſiniſter means to level that Merit which they think ſtands in their way to Preferment, and which they deſpair of being able to ſurmount by honourable attempts. For what need any one uſe baſe Sleights to ſtop the Man, whom by fair Speed he thought he cou’d overtake. No ſooner is any Man rais’d to any Eminence in the World, but half the Sex at leaſt join in Confederacy to raiſe a Battery of Scandal againſt him, to bring him down again. Honour is the Pillory of great Deſert, whither a Man is no ſooner rais’d, but the vile Raſcally inferiour Croud gather immediately together, to throw Dirt at him, and make that which was intended as a Grace, and Reward, but a more honourable Puniſhment. Our Sex ſeldom arrive to this Pitch of Envy, our Ambition is more bounded, and our Deſires ſooner ſatisfied. Hence it is that we are leſ troubl’d at the Proſperity of others; for not giving our ſelves the Liberty of aiming at things far out of our Power, they are the ſooner compaſs’d, and we the ſooner at Eaſe. He, that thinks himſelf Happy, is incapable of Envying another’s Felicity, ſince he ſees him poſſeſs’d of nothing which either he has not or deſpiſes not. Yet it muſt be confeſs’d that the leſſer Piques and Grudgings are daily to be met with among us, but no leſs among Men. What is it that ſpawns daily ſuch Fryes of Satyriſts without Wit, and Criticks without Judgment, but this humour of carping, and nibbling at the Reputation of others? But they are generally abundantly furniſht with Impudence, a good Quality that commonly ſupplies largely the want of all other.
Character of a City Critick.
A Critick of this ſort is one that for want of Wit ſets up for Judgment; yet he has ſo much Ambition to be thought a Wit, that he lets his Spleen prevail againſt Nature, and turns Poet. In this Capacity he is as juſt to the World as in the other Injurious. For as the Critick wrong’d ev’ry Body in his Cenſure, and ſnarl’d, and grin’d at their Writings, the Poet gives ’em Opportunity to do themſelves Juſtice, to return the Compliment and laugh at or deſpiſe his. He wants nothing but Wit to fit him for a Satyriſt, yet he has Gall and Vanity enough to diſpence with that Want, and write without it. His works are Libells upon others, but Satyrs upon himſelf, and while they Bark at Men of Wit, call him Fool that writ ’em. He takes his Malice for a Muſe, and thinks himſelf inſpir’d when he is only Poſſeſs’d, and blown up with a Flatus of Envy and Vanity. His great helps to Poetry are Crambo, and Arithmetick, by which he aſpires to Chime, and Numbers, yet miſtakes frequently in the tale of his Fingers. He has a very great Antipathy to his own Species, and hates to ſee a Fool any where but in his Glaſs.
7th. Satyre of Boilean Eng.
For (as he says) they Provoke him And offend his Eyes: He Follows ’em in his way: He knows, to ſay no more that Whit is ſcarce, to gingle out a Rhime, or tag a Verſe: Or Cobble wretched Proſe to numerous Lines: There if he has a Genius there it ſhines. His Fund of Criticiſm is a Set of Terms of Art pickt out of the French Criticks, or their Tranſlators; and his Poetical ſtock is a Common Place of certain Forms and Manners of Expreſſion. He writes better in Verſe than Proſe; For in that there is Rhime, in this neither Rhime nor Reaſon. He talks much of the Naivete of his Thoughts, which appears ſufficiently in the Dullneſs of ’em; yet nothing but the Phlegmatick, Spiritleſs Air is his own. He rails at Mr. Oldham for want of Breeding and good Manners without a grain of either, and ſteals his own Wit to beſpatter him with, but like an ill Chymiſt, he lets the Spirit flie of in the drawing over, and retains only the Phlegm. He cenſures Mr. Cowley for too much Wit, and corrects him with none. The difference between Mr. Cowley and him is this; the one has too much Wit, and too fine for the Standard; the other not enough to blanch his baſe Metal, or cover the Braſs of his Counterfeits. To compleat himſelf in the Formalities of Parnaſſus, he falls in love and tells the World, it is oblig’d to his Paſſion for his Poetry; but if his Miſtreſs prove no more indulgent than his Muſe, his Amour is like to conclude but unluckily. For if his Love be no warmer than in his Lines, his Corinna may play with his Flame without danger of Burning. He pretends to have written only his ſincereſt Thoughts; I don’t know how well his Miſtreſs may take that from the Lover, but I dare ſwear the World did not expect it from the Poet. He is happieſt at the Picture of a Rhiming Fool, for he need only to look in his Glaſs, and he may Copy a Country Wit from the City Original. If this Rhiming Humour laſts, there’s a good Sugar-Jobber ſpoil’d for an ill Poet; yet for his comfort, Time, Improvement, and two or three Books more may raiſe him to Rival ES— and ſing London’s Triumphs, to the Envy of Tom Jordan of happy Memory.
You may wonder, Madam, why I shou’d give you the trouble of this Character, after I had given you my word to trouble you with no more of this Nature. I muſt confeſs, I am ſorry that ſo fooliſh an Occaſion cou’d make me forget my ſelf; but a Book newly publiſh’d happening juſt at this Juncture unluckily to fall into my Hands, I cou’d not without Indignation ſee the Scurrility and Inſolence, with which Mr. Oldham, and Mr. Cowley are treated; and cou’d not but reſent a little the Wrongs done to the Memory of Men whom the reſt of the World with Juſtice admire; and cou’d not help taking Notice upon ſo fair an Opportunity, that they are not, tho’ dead, to be ſo rudely plaid with, and made the May-Game of e’ry Splenetick Boy. There are ſome yet living, whoſe Wit and Performances deſerve a more reſpectful treatment, than they have met with from him. But they are able to revenge their own Quarrel, if they think he deſerves the honour to be Scourg’d by ’em. Nothing but Envy and a Vain Conceit of himſelf cou’ move him to attack the Reputation of Men, whoſe Verſe will alwayes command Admiration, while his own raiſe nothing but Scorn and Indignation. If his Bookſeller were but bleſt with half a dozen ſuch Authors, he wou’d in a ſhort time infallibly be Stationer general to all the Grocers and Tobacconiſts in the Town.