An Essay in Defence of the Female Sex/Section 9

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After this Digreſſion, Madam, let us return to our Subject. We ſtand yet charg’d with Levity, and Inconſtancy, two Failings ſo nearly related and ſo generally United, that it is hard to treat of ’em apart; we will therefore conſider ’em briefly together.
Levity is an unſteddy Humour that makes men like and diſlike, ſeek and reject frequently the ſame things upon ſlender or no Reaſons. This is the Humour of the Infancy of both Sexes, and proceeds from the ſtrength of their Appetites, and the weakneſs of their Judgments. At theſe tender Years every thing we ſee moves our Curioſities, and becauſe we think little beyond our Appetites, deſire impatiently whatever pleaſes. This wears of in Proportion to the growth of our Judgments, when we begin to conſider the Fatigue, Hazard, Diſreputation, and other Inconveniences that attend unreaſonable, or inordinate Deſires.
Leſs Levity among Women then Men.
Herein our Sex have a manifeſt Advantage over the other; For it is confeſs’d on all hands that our Judgments ripen ſooner than theirs, whence of courſe it Follows, that this Folly prevails not ſo long upon us, as them. ’Tis yet true, that even the moſt experienc’d and wiſeſt of Us have no ſmall mixture of it, which appears in the greateſt Part of our Actions. But it is certain likewiſe, that Men have a greater proportion of it than we. From this it is that Novelty derives all its Charms, and that Men perſue with ſo much Eagerneſs and Impatience what they ſo ſoon ſlight if obtain’d. I appeal to the Experience of all mankind, if they do not generally frame to themſelves much greater Idea’s of any thing they deſire, and are unacquainted with, that they find real, when they become Familiar to ’em; and if they did not imagine greater Pleaſures, while they were in perſuit, than they met with after they were in Poſſeſſion of their Wiſhes. The Imagery of Fancy is, like ſome Paintings, raviſhing, and ſurprizing at a due diſtance, but approach ’em near, and all the Charms and Beauty vaniſh, and they appear rough and unpleaſant. Hence it is that Men grow uneaſie, and their deſires pall ſo ſoon upon the full enjoyment of their Wiſhes; they ſee then the imperfections as well Beauties of what they coveted, which glitter’d ſo far of, and like the Moon appear’d all Luſtre and Smoothneſs, but when arriv’d at, all dark and uneven. Theſe Fallacies Men are more ſubmitted to than we, by thoſe very Priviledges which give ’em in ſome things the advantage over us. The variety of Buſineſs, and Society they run through, the large acquaintance they contract, give ’em encouragement to aſpire to, and hopes to obtain many difficult things, which our Sex ſeldom lift their Thoughts up to. I know this aſpiring Humour of theirs is generally call’d Ambition, and I allow the Term to be proper; but their Ambition works upon their Levity, which only can make them Barter certain Eaſe, Peace and Security, for uncertain Pomp and Splendour; and forſake a Condition they know to be good, for one they know no more of, than that it Shines, and that it Glitters, and and ſo part with the true Jewel for the falſe one. Theſe are the ſerious and applauded Follies of Mankind, and ſhew the Weakneſs and Levity of thoſe we call the greateſt, and wiſeſt Men, that ſacrifice the Eaſe and Pleaſure of their lives to Popular Ereath, and ſounding Titles, which is like bartring a ſmall Diamond for a large Glaſs Bubble.
Inconſtancy is ſo like Levity that little more needs to be ſaid of it, only that it is commonly reſtrain’d to the change of Affections in regard to Perſons, and ſo is chiefly concern’d in Love and Freindſhip. It is founded upon Levity, thro’ which we firſt make an injudicious Choice, and are afterwards as unreaſonably diſguſted with it. This happens oftner in Love, than Friendſhip; becauſe the Impreſſions of Love are more ſuddenly receiv’d, and the Effects of it more violent, than thoſe of Friendſhip; and the Deſires, which are commonly kindled by one ſingle Perfection, ſuch as Beauty or Wit, not being ſuddenly anſwered are in Proceſs of time extinguiſh’d, or abated by obſervation of ſome diſguſtful Imperfection or other in the Perſon belov’d.
Love, why ſo ſoon cold.
This is indeed the true Reaſon, why Love, which is generally ſo hot at firſt, cools commonly ſo ſuddenly; becauſe being generally the Iſſue of Fancy, not Judgment, it is grounded upon an over great Opinion of thoſe Perfections, which firſt ſtrike us, and which fall in our Eſteem upon more mature Examination. From whence it is likewiſe that Men are leſs conſtant in their Affections, than we; for Beauty only being generally the Object of their Paſſion, the Effect muſt neceſſarily be as fadeing as the Cauſe; their Love therefore being only the reſult of wonder and Surprize, is abated by Familiarity, and decays, as they wear of, by Degrees. Beside, that, a Love ſo Founded is liable to be raviſh’d by any Superiour Beauty; or if not ſo, yet the Novelty of the Former once worn of, the New Comer has the aſſiſtance of Fancy the Slave of Novelty to gain the Superiority. This is the Cauſe why ſo few real and laſting Paſſions are found amongſt Men. For Charms depending upon, and owing their Power to Fancy, can maintain no Conqueſts any longer, than that is on their ſide, which is as inconſtant as the Wind.
Women conſtanter Lovers.
In this alſo we are leſs faulty, than they; For, not uſually fixing our Affection on ſo mutable a Thing as the Beauty of a Face, which a thouſand accidents may deſtroy, but on Wit, Good Humour, and other Graces of the Mind, as well as of the Body, our Love is more durable, and conſtant in proportion to the longer continuance of those Qualities in the Object. Neither indeed have we the means, or temptation to be Fickle and inconſtant ſo ready as Men have; For Modeſty, and the Rules of Decency obſerv’d among Us, not permitting to us the Liberty of declaring our ſentiments to thoſe we love, as Men may, we dare not indulge a wanton Fancy, or rambling Inclination, which muſt be ſtiffled in our own Breaſts, and cou’d only give us a hopeleſs Anxiety, unleſs we were able to inſpire the ſame Paſſion for us in them; which it were vain to expect, without breaking thro’ all reſtraint of Modeſty and Decorum at the price of our Fame and Reputation, which I hope few are ſo daring as to venture. Beſides this our Tempers are by Nature calm, ſedate, and tender, not apt to be ruffl’d, and diſturb’d by Paſſions, and too fearful to enterprize any thing in ſatisfaction of ’em; theirs on the contrary, bold, active, and uneven, eaſily ſuſceptible of all manner of Deſires, and readily executing any Deſigns to gratifie ’em. Thus are we debarr’d the liberty of chuſing for our ſelves out of the number that like and addreſs to us, of which if we fix our Affections upon any one, we are generally fixt and unmoveable, as having neither the Inclination to, nor opportunity of Inconſtancy, that the Men have. I don’t deny but that there may be ſome among us guilty of this Fault, but they are vaſtly ſhort of the Number of Men involv’d in the like Guilt, amongſt whom it is now grown ſo faſhionable, that is become no Scandal; but is daily juſtified, and the Treachery boaſted of as high Gallantry. The Crimes therefore of ſome few Women ought, to be no reproach to the Sex in general. Of Infidelity in Friendſhip I ſhall ſay little, becauſe I think there are ſo few Inſtances of any thing that deſerve the Name, that ſcarce any Age has been ſo fruitful as to produce two Pair of real and true Friends.
I know that the Name is commonly given to ſuch as are linkt by any Ties of Conſanguinity, Affinity, Intereſt, mutual Obligations, Acquaintance, and the like: But theſe are ſuch Friendſhips (if they may be call’d ſo) as are always contracted with a tacit Reſerve to Intereſt on both ſides, and ſeldom laſt longer than the Proſperity of either Party, and during that are frequently renounc’d upon ſlight Diſobligations, or languiſh and die of themſelves. Yet if I may preſume to give my Opinion in a Caſe, where matter of Fact does not appear, I think we ſhou’d be the more Faithful even in this too: For as we are leſs concern’d in the Affairs of the World, ſo we have leſs Temptation from Intereſt to be falſe to our Friends.
Women truer Friends than Men.
Neither are we ſo likely to be falſe thro’ Fear; becauſe our Sex are ſeldom engag’d in matters of any Danger. For theſe Reaſons it is, our Sex are generally more hearty and ſincere in the ordinary Friendſhips they make than Men, among whom they are uſually clogg’d with ſo many Conſiderations of Intereſt, and Punctilio’s of Honour; to which laſt perhaps are owing the greateſt part of thoſe honourable Actions, which are miſtakenly imputed to Friendſhip. For ſomething done to ſalve Honour, commonly puts a Period to all Friendſhip, with unfortunate Perſons; whom Men think they may afterward grow cold to without Reproach.