An Essay in Defence of the Female Sex/Section 9/Modern

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After this Digression, Madam, let us return to our Subject. We stand yet charged with Levity, and Inconstancy, two Failings so nearly related and so generally United, that it is hard to treat of them apart; we will therefore consider them briefly together.
Levity is an unsteady 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 off 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 than Men.
Herein our Sex have a manifest Advantage over the other; For it is confessed 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 experienced 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 pursue with so much Eagerness and Impatience what they so soon slight if obtained. I appeal to the Experience of all mankind, if they do not generally frame to themselves much greater Ideas of any thing they desire, and are unacquainted with, that they find real, when they become Familiar to them; and if they did not imagine greater Pleasures, while they were in pursuit, than they met with after they were in Possession of their Wishes. The Imagery of Fancy is, like some Paintings, ravishing, and surprising at a due distance, but approach them near, and all the Charms and Beauty vanish, and they appear rough and unpleasant. Hence it is that Men grow uneasy, and their desires pall so soon upon the full enjoyment of their Wishes; they see then the imperfections as well as Beauties of what they coveted, which glittered so far off, and like the Moon appeared all Lustre and Smoothness, but when arrived at, all dark and uneven. These Fallacies Men are more submitted to than we, by those very Privileges which give them in some things the advantage over us. The variety of Business, and Society they run through, the large acquaintance they contract, give them 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 called 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 so part with the true Jewel for the false one. These are the serious and applauded Follies of Mankind, and show 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 bartering 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 restrained to the change of Affections in regard to Persons, and so is chiefly concerned in Love and Friendship. It is founded upon Levity, through which we first make an injudicious Choice, and are afterwards as unreasonably disgusted with it. This happens oftener in Love, than Friendship; because the Impressions of Love are more suddenly received, 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 extinguished, or abated by observation of some disgustful Imperfection or other in the Person beloved.
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 fading as the Cause; their Love therefore being only the result of wonder and Surprise, is abated by Familiarity, and decays, as they wear off, by Degrees. Beside, that, a Love so Founded is liable to be ravished by any Superior Beauty; or if not so, yet the Novelty of the Former once worn off, 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 observed 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 stifled in our own Breasts, and could 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 through 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 ruffled, and disturbed by Passions, and too fearful to enterprise any thing in satisfaction of them; theirs on the contrary, bold, active, and uneven, easily susceptible of all manner of Desires, and readily executing any Designs to gratify them. Thus are we debarred the liberty of choosing 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 fixed and unmovable, 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 involved 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 linked by any Ties of Consanguinity, Affinity, Interest, mutual Obligations, Acquaintance, and the like: But these are such Friendships (if they may be called 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 renounced 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 should be the more Faithful even in this too: For as we are less concerned 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 through Fear; because our Sex are seldom engaged 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 clogged with so many Considerations of Interest, and Punctilios 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.