Page:Poems of Anne Countess of Winchilsea 1903.djvu/65

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INTRODUCTION Ixi ���The Comparison between the Two Stages (1702), attributed to Gildon, is also severe on the female wits of his day, with especial reference to Mrs. Manley. A dialogue between Ram- bler, Sullen, and the Critick illustrates the attitude toward women playwrights. Rambler brings forward Mrs. Manley's The Lost Lover for comment, but the Critick is roused to fury by the mere mention of a play by a lady and exclaims: �I hate these Petticoat-Authors ; 'tis false Grammar, there's no Feminine for the Latin word, 'tis entirely of the Masculine Gender, and the language won't bear such a thing as a she-author. �Sullen insists that " 'twas a Lady carry'd the Prize of Poetry in France t'other day," and that "there have been some of that sex in England who have done admirably," and Rambler proposes a toast to " the Fair Author of the Fatal Friendship," but the Critick is not so easily to be appeased. �Mrs. Centlivre's Basset-Table (1705) gives disagreeable prominence to a learned young lady, but Mrs. Centlivre, herself a writer of plays, adroitly places her heroine in the scientific rather than the literary realm. Her Valeria is a younger sister of Wright's Lady Meanwell in that she pro- fesses to find a microscope more interesting than a man. The physical peculiarities of flesh-flies and tapeworms rouse her to an ecstacy of admiration. In her search for knowledge she calmly dissects her pretty dove, and is with difficulty restrained from dissecting her lover's Italian greyhound. She prefers the "immense pleasures of dear, dear Philoso- phy " to converse with beings so unenlightened and irrational as would-be suitors, and it is not strange that they declare her " fitter for Moorfields than Matrimony." The lady who represents "common sense" in the play urges that " Philosophy suits the Female Sex as Jack-boots would do," but Valeria defends even the Jack-boots. The character of Valeria doubtless gained in raciness from the various references to the famous Mary Astell, whose Serious Proposal to the ��� �