In what esteem the Women are held by the Men, and how justly.
In what esteem the Women are held by the Men, and how justly.
My fair adversary is undoubtedly right in saying that "the men are unanimous in thinking women made only for their use, fit only to breed and nurse children in their tender years, to mind household affairs, and to obey, serve and please the masters" appointed them by Heaven. And would not all women be as right in thinking the same with men? Can it be doubted by the Christian Sophia that her sex was made for our use, after St. Paul has told her in his Epistle to the Corinthians that the man was not made for the woman, but the woman for the man?
. . . Though the consideration of man's not being created till all creatures were in readiness for him be no contemptible argument of their being created for his use; yet it is far from being the only one on which he builds his authority. It is the only one indeed which Sophia thought to her purpose to alledge; though had she allowed herself time to reflect, woman as she is, she might have been able to see how little it suits the purpose she has applied it to. For she is certainly mistaken in saying, that, "if this argument has any weight at all, it must equally prove that the men were made for the woman's use rather than she for theirs." And her mistake, it is plain, arises from the vulgar error of imagining that woman was created at all. Whereas any understanding inferior to that of woman, if such a being could exist, would be capable of discerning that the production of that weak sex was no distinct creation from that of man. . . Let not Sophia then nor any of her sex glory any more in their disgrace. Let them not be vain of the title of creatures which our sex is so generous to compliment them with; rather ought they to reject it as flattery, since they cannot themselves but be convinced that we can look upon the most perfect of their sex in no better a light than a kind of amphibious thing between a creature and no creature; and therefore man, who calls them creatures, must mean very poor creatures indeed.
After what I have just now said, good breeding obliges me to add, that, whenever I let the word drop in the course of this little treatise, it neither is nor will be my meaning to offend, or call them names; but a desire of complying with fashion, a goddess ever sacred in their tender eyes. However, to show more fully my aversion to abusing them, whenever I may chance to give them the title of creatures, I shall take the precaution of adding the softening epithets, pretty, charming, beautiful, etc, which, unless I am more unfortunate than others before me, would, I know, be looked upon by the generality of them as a sufficient atonement for the grossest invectives.
Though I will allow the women to deserve that some care should be taken of them, in consideration of the part they have in the propogation of human nature, as a field does on account of the vegetables it produces; yet I cannot see the reason why they are to be considered on a level with the men they bring forth, any more than that the mould in a garden is to be equally valued with the fruits it produces; unless the Ladies place a merit in the superior propensity they have above men to this office of life. But how ever they may value themselves upon this score, I am apt to believe that they, who have the most of this sort of merit, are not such as have the least of our disesteem.
To name but one instance of the many which this one town affords, Salacia is undeniably rich in this kind of worth, and too much so to obtain the esteem of the more moderate even of her own sex. It is true she is fair, most exquisitely fair; but not more fair than wanton. The charms of her person can be excelled by nothing, but the brightness of her wit; which bears so near a resemblance to sense that any man would be liable to mistake it for such, who should lay down reflection but for a minute. Her good nature is boundless, and her evenness of temper not to be ruffled. In short, all the blemishes which compose the perfections of her sex, she possesses in so high a degree, that we could not but acknowledge her worthy of something very like our esteem, if all these feminine accomplishments were not eclipsed by one more, which absorbs all the rest. She is sensible that the chief end she was made for is to breed; and therefore is unweariedly solicitous to answer that end. The good man she pitched upon for a husband, as the most likely to second her procreative zeal, is indeed every way qualified to answer the expectations of any woman less public- spirited than herself; and is rather industrious than indolent in the duty of propogation. But the misfortune is, that his industry to forward the Lady's good intentions serves only to point out his inability, and to convince her, that all mankind are scarce a sufficient match for one woman, whose zeal nothing less could gratify than being the immediate mother of all men. If she herself is not so, it is more to be ascribed to the obstinacy of fate than any slackness in her capricious disposition which takes in the whole creation of men. Had she her will she would breed in every pore. And if she is not incessantly employed in this important office, it is for want of a perpetual succession of help-mates. Though to give her her due Nature itself is not more active in multiplying, than she in procuring them. As she is never tired with labouring towards the preservation of the species, no assistant comes amiss to her. Her taste is as little nice as her appetite is never sated nor satiable. In the act of gratifying it, like a true woman,
No hungry Churl feeds coarser at a feast;
Every rank Fool goes down: Otway
And in the few short intervals of bodily inactivity, her mind is ever busied in preparing for action. Awake she is ever conceiving in body or soul; and her very slumbers are so many rough draughts of future embryos. If nevertheless none of them are brought to maturity, it is not for want of manuring the soil which should produce them: In this so far from being sparing she is profuse; for, as the polite Lord Lansdown says of another heroine of the same class, I may say,
She's mine, or thine, and strolling up and down
Sucks in more Filth than and Sink in Town.
It is true, indeed, that all this extravagant merit in Salacia, entitles her to no degree of esteem from our sex or her own. Her too eager desire of being serviceable to the human species renders her useless, nay destructive to it. What colonies might not the motley nation of foetuses within her have peopled, if properly dispersed? . . . which are now too busy in struggling for room to aim at maturity; and too much taken up, in their intestine war, with destroying each other, to add one perfect individual to the decaying numbers of mankind. In a word, what esteem can we have for a woman made barren by excess of fertility, and lavish of the choicest fruits of the creation by an insatiable lust of monopolizing them?
Clavia, it must be owned has been more cautious, though not less criminal. Disposed from her cradle to become a common recevoir of human nature, she took care not to launch out into wholesale lechery, till she furnished the world with a breeder in her stead. Indeed she makes ample amends in her old age for the little time she lost in her prime, by converting her house into a public stew, and making herself the sewer of it. All men are welcome there, if provided with brawn, though unprovided with breeches, from the tall apothecary to the luftylimbed porter. Though neither the purchased roses on her cheeks, nor the borrowed ivory in her gums would have any power over the most rampant, even of her powdered, pampered, parti-coloured stallions-in-keeping, if the yellow charms of all enchanting gold, which the God of waste has lavished upon her, did not fill up the deep-indented furrows of seventy. 'Tis by this she is empowered, in the last stage of life, to vie with her sex in the favourite commerce of their youth, and to convince the world, that though there are some women, whom the whole collection of mankind would be an equal match for, there are others again of more extensive inclinations, who, but for the short date of their existence, could unweariedly weary a new creation of men in the business of enjoyment. Not that she herself is capable of reaping any thing from fruition but the guilt of it - too old and battered to produce even a monster, and too inanimate for any sensation, she has nothing to enjoy but sin. And this her eager soul has such a talent for, that, like the demon who inspires her, she can take in an eternity of lust into one single minute. And multiply one libidinous act into an infinity. Such are the pretty creatures we are to esteem for the talent of breeding.
The general rule however will admit of some exceptions: and Sprucilla is one. Formed by Heaven a perfect vehicle of human nature, she has every qualification requisite to reap the fruits of fruition, and no dislike to the pleasure of it. The graces have combined to enrich her with every endearment capable of charming the man she is married to, and making him forget himself, to stoop to the low but necessary office of rendering her really useful. But pride, predominant pride, is so prevalent in her, as to make her prefer the empty praise of a fine shape to that of being a mother of children. And if, in complying with her husband's wantonness to gratify her own, she is at any time made a mother before she is aware, so careless is she of the only good she is fit for, as rather to risk the loss of an heir to his estate, than to miss an opportunity of gaining new admirers at a ball or a play.
Among the unmarried women, what numberless tribes of useless things are there not, whose pride, avarice, fickleness or icy constitutions, rob human nature of the individuals they were intended to bear; and by not answering the use they were given to him for, become a dead weight upon man? Indeed, if there are some among them less squeamish than the rest, who atone out of wedlock for their slowness to engage in it; how few of them is human nature the better for? How many of them stifle the fruit of their pleasure before it is ripe? Not to speak of those disgraces to the soft shape they wear, who only delay destruction to make it more cruel.
Nor can it be deemed a sufficient amends to the creation for the many particles of human nature wafted and destroyed in their passage through these quicksanded, baneful channels, that there are a few married women, fertile enough to forward the propogation of man, and modest enough to moderate their pregnative zeal. Especially if we consider, how dearly their whims, their vanity, their extravagance, and fantastical humours make us purchase the service they do us. Uberia has blessed her husband with a numerous offspring, all his own. But she would scarce be a woman, if she did not take pains to make him sensible how expensive and troublesome a thing is a fruitful, faithful wife. Every lying-in costs him more than would make a handsome provision for the infant; besides an estate spent in the time of her breeding. Indeed she has economy enough to lose him no time between her bringing forth one child and preparing him another. The reason is, that there are two conditions in which her Ladyship can bear no contradiction, that is before delivery and after. And therefore she is in the perpetual possession of her own will, because ever with child or in the straw. However the happy father might be very well content to sell her a wood for every longing, to mortgage a manor for every lying-in, and to fell another for every Christening; nay to make her over, by deed of gift, the everlasting property of her own will, upon the bare condition of her leaving him the undisturbed possession of his. But nothing less can reward the prolific merit of this Lady than her husband's peace. He must not so much as look civilly on any other female. And such a miser is she of his manhood, that while she takes care to hoard up the principal to herself, she is as solicitous to secure even the interest. He must not have even the use of a single smile at his own disposal. His company must be such only as her Ladyship approves of; and them he must converse with no longer than his pretty fond thing of a wife can spare him from her embraces. At home, it is true, he never wants amusement, being sure in the daytime to be entertained with seeing his children either humoured into impertinencies, or chastised into faults; and rendered incorrigible by the folly, passion, and caprice of their fond, fickle, foolish mother; to contradict whom would cost nothing less than the price of another child. Then that he may not grow tired with such entertainments by daily repetition, they are ever succeeded by an evening interlude of vapours, ratasee, and tears, till bed invites him to repose; where, after he has glutted the kind creature's fonder fits, he is generally lulled to sleep, and awakened from it, by the melody of a curtain-serenade. Now can it be denied after all that Uberia's husband is a happy man; and that all men have reason to esteem the women for their prolific merit?
But that they should be entitled to any part of our esteem for nursing the children they bring forth for their pleasure, I see nothing in it. What is it they do for infants which would not be much better done by the men, if they were not called away from that meaner task to provide for the safety and sustenance of them and their mothers? Indeed they may save the expense of milk, which we cannot: but how much more cheaply might this defect be supplied from a cow, a goat, or an ass than from them? And how few women of any condition in life have economy enough to save us this superfluous expense! Too delicate themselves, to bestow on the fruits of their own bowels the nutriment which heaven and nature design them, don't they force us to hire a mercenary wretch, to starve her own babe to give suck to ours? Pretty nurses indeed! Happy for man that the life of an infant does not entirely depend on the liberality of woman in this particular! And how much happier would it not be for all infants, were they snatched from the arms of the women, in the instant they are born! How much more healthy, wise, and comely would they grow! For 'tis notorious that the longer a child sucks the more weakly and stupid it turns out; and that those which suck at all are never so wise, so strong or well-formed as those which are brought up by hand. The reason is plain: with the milk they suck in, they generally imbibe a tincture of the follies, passions, and imbecillities of that sex, besides having their various distempers entailed upon them.
However, as this is a means of humiliation pointed out to us by Nature, we are not to condemn it, but to apply to it, when not to be avoided without danger to the infant. The greater mischief is that which comes from the weakness of woman in their manner of educating it. With what innumerable follies, vices, and impertinencies do they not fill children's heads, by their example and precepts, during the time of their nursing them! To what secret crimes do they often make them privy; and to what fanciful inconsistencies do they not publicly expose and encourage them!
I can forgive a mother for putting a doll into the hands of her daughters as soon as they are able to hold it. As the great end of their semi-creation is the getting of children, it may not be absolutely improper to forward their natural propensity to that duty, while they are but children themselves. But for this diligence in an industrious parent, here and there one of them might be so awkwardly innocent as not to know the essential difference of her own sex from the opposite, till the period of her passing from a maid to a mother. Whereas, by this and other helps they are generally supplied with, they are often as well versed as the most skilful matron, in the theory, if not in the practical knowledge of propogation, long before they are ripe for the fruits of it. A very
useful science to some young Ladies, who have been able to instruct an ignorant booby of a husband in the sacred and secret rites of wedlock, in a much more familiar manner than the modest Albertus could pretend to.
But I can by no means be reconciled to their training up our boys, as they do, from their earliest infancy, to folly, foppery, effeminacy, and vice. If little master must be humoured into pride, idleness, or mischief; why should he be taught to lie, cajole, dissemble to all above him, and domineer over all beneath him? If it is thought so necessary to acquaint him with the greatness of his birth and fortune, with the handsomness of his person, or the acuteness of his understanding, or any advantages he possesses above others designed by Nature for his equals; why must be he taught to make no better use of them than to disregard the authority of those above him, to envy his equals, to despise his inferiors, and render himself the contempt of all who know him, by an unlimited gratification of his lawless passions? Let his fond, foolish mother think it wonderfully pretty to initiate the little urchin in the mystery of intriguing with the little miffes of his companions: but let her not expose him to the danger of practising those intrigues in her absence, by abandoning him to the corrupt company of the wanton wenches, her servants. And yet how many of our youth, by such shocking education, have been utterly debauched at an age when we could scarce think it possible for them to have parted with innocence! Have we not then the greatest reason to esteem and revere that sex on account of the obligations we have to them for our early advances in the knowledge of good and evil? Must not we be lost to all reason, if we are not pleased with these eminent services which the pretty creatures are so industrious to do us? Or if not; must not Sophia be lost to all shame, should she again repeat without a blush that what she has so inconsiderately advanced "that their office of nursing our children entitles them to the first place in civil society?" If I had a mind to be severe, I could tell them, that it is owing to our own generosity that we give them any place at all; and that nothing, but the want of power to annihilate them, or to create a lower degree for them, can excuse our leaving them in possession even of the lowest place in society. But I choose to drop a subject so much the more disagreeable as we are daily made sensible of the truth of it. I shall therefore immediately pass to another consideration.
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