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should be selected with the
anecdotes of the learned pig."
A VINDICATION OF
Bodily strength from being the distinction of heroes
is now sunk into such unmerited contempt that men, as well as women, seem
to think it unnecessary; the latter, as it takes from their feminine graces,
and from that lovely weakness, the source of their undue power; and the
former, because it appears inimical to the character of a gentleman.
People of genius have very frequently impaired
their constitutions by study or careless inattention to their health, and
the violence of their passions bearing a proportion to the vigour of their
intellects, the sword's destroying the scabbard has become almost proverbial,
and superficial observers have inferred from thence that men of genius
have commonly weak, or, to use a more fashionable phrase, delicate constitutions.
Dr. Priestley has remarked, in the preface to his
biographical chart, that the majority of great men have lived beyond forty-five.
And considering the thoughtless manner in which they have lavished their
strength when investigating a favourite science, they have wasted the lamp
of life, forgetful of the midnight hour; or, when lost in poetic dreams,
fancy has peopled the scene, and the soul has been disturbed, till it shook
the constitution by the passions that meditation had raised, - whose objects,
the baseless fabric of a vision, faded before the exhausted eye - they
must have had iron frames.
I am aware that this argument would carry me further than it may be supposed I wish to go; but I follow truth, and still adhering to my first position, I will allow that bodily strength seems to give man a natural superiority over woman; and this is the only solid basis on which the superiority of the sex can be built.
But I still insist that not only the virtue but the knowledge of the two sexes should be the same in nature, if not in degree, and that women, considered not only as moral but rational creatures, ought to endeavour to acquire human virtues (or perfections) by the same means as men, instead of being educated like a fanciful kind of half being - one of Rousseau's wild chimeras. 
But if strength of body be with some show of reason the boast of men, why are women so infatuated as to be proud of a defect?
Rousseau has furnished them with a plausible excuse,
which could only have occurred to a man whose imagination had been allowed
to run wild, and refine on the impressions made by exquisite senses; that
they might forsooth have a pretext for yielding to a natural appetite without
violating a romantic species of modesty, which gratifies the pride and
libertinism of man.
Women, as well as despots, have now perhaps more power than they would have if the world, divided and subdivided into kingdoms and families, were governed by laws deduced from the exercise of reason; but in obtaining it, to carry on the comparison, their character is degraded, and licentiousness spread through the whole aggregate of society. The many become pedestal to the few.
I, therefore, will venture to assert that till
women are more rationally educated, the progress of human virtue and improvement
in knowledge must receive continual checks.
In this respect I am happy
to find that the author of one of the most instructive books that our country
has produced for children, coincides with me in opinion.
But should it be proved that woman is naturally weaker than man, whence does it follow that it is natural for her to labour to become still weaker than nature intended her to be? Arguments of this cast are an insult to common sense, and savour of passion.
The divine right of husbands, like the divine right
of kings, may, it is to be hoped, in this enlightened age, be contested
without danger; and though conviction may not silence many boisterous disputants,
yet, when any prevailing prejudice is attacked, the wise will consider,
and leave the narrow-minded to rail with thoughtless vehemence at innovation.
Throughout the whole animal kingdom every young creature requires almost continual exercise, and the infancy of children, conformable to this intimation, should be passed in harmless gambols that exercise the feet and hands, without requiring very minute direction from the head, or the constant attention of a nurse. In fact, the care necessary for self-preservation is the first natural exercise of the understanding as little inventions to amuse the present moment unfold the imagination.
But these wise designs of nature are counteracted
by mistaken fondness or blind zeal. The child is not left a moment to its
own direction - particularly a girl and thus rendered dependent. Dependence
is called natural.
For men of the greatest abilities have seldom had sufficient strength to rise above the surrounding atmosphere; and if the pages of genius have always been blurred by the prejudices of the age, some allowance should be made for a sex, who, like kings, always see things through a false medium.
Purposing these reflections, the fondness for dress,
conspicuous in woman, may be easily accounted for, without supposing it
the result of a desire to please the sex on which they are dependent.
Yet thus to give a sex to mind was not very consistent
with the principles of a man who argued so warmly, and so well, for the
immortality of the soul. But what a weak barrier is truth when it stands
in the way of an hypothesis ! Rousseau respected - almost adored virtue
- and yet he allowed himself to love with sensual fondness.
His ridiculous stories, which tend to prove that girls are naturally attentive to their persons, without laying any stress on daily example, are below contempt. And that a little miss should have such a correct taste as to neglect the pleasing amusement of making O's, merely because she perceived that it was an ungraceful attitude, should be selected with the anecdotes of the learned pig. 
I have, probably, had an opportunity of observing
more girls in their infancy than J. J. Rousseau.
Girls and boys, in short, would play, harmlessly together, if the distinction of sex was not inculcated long before nature makes any difference.
I will go further, and affirm, as an indisputable fact, that most of the women, in the circle of my observation, who have acted like rational creatures, or shown any vigour of intellect, have accidentally been allowed to run wild, as some of the elegant formers of the fair sex would insinuate.
The baneful consequences which flow from inattention to health during infancy and youth, extend further than is supposed - dependence of body naturally produces dependence of mind; and how can she be a good wife or mother, the greater part of whose time is employed to guard against or endure sickness?
Nor can it be expected that a woman will resolutely endeavour to strengthen her constitution and abstain from enervating indulgences, if artificial notions of beauty, and false descriptions of sensibility, have been early entangled with her motives of action.
Most men are sometimes obliged to bear with bodily inconveniences, and to endure, occasionally, the inclemency of the elements; but genteel women are, literally speaking, slaves to their bodies, and glory in their subjection.
I once knew a weak woman of fashion, who was more
than commonly proud of her delicacy and sensibility. She thought a distinguishing
taste and puny appetite the height of all human perfection, and acted accordingly.
Is it possible that a human creature could have become such a weak and depraved being, if, like the Sybarites, dissolved in luxury, everything like virtue had not been worn pressed by precept, a poor substitute, it is of mind, though it serves as a fence against vice?
Such a woman is not a more irrational monster than some of the Roman emperors, who were depraved by lawless power. Yet, since kings have been more under the restraint of law, and the curb, however weak, of honour, the records of history are not filled with such unnatural instances of folly and cruelty, nor does the despotism that kills virtue and genius in the bud, hover over Europe with that destructive blast which desolates Turkey, and renders the men, as well as the soil, unfruitful.
Women are everywhere in this deplorable state; for, in order to preserve their innocence, as ignorance is courteously termed, truth is hidden from them, and they are made to assume an artificial character before their faculties have acquired any strength. Taught from their infancy that beauty is woman's sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adore its prison.
Men have various employments and pursuits which
engage their attention, and give a character to the opening mind; but women,
confined to one, and having their thoughts constantly directed to the most
insignificant part of themselves, seldom extend their views beyond the
triumph of the hour. But were their understanding once emancipated from
the slavery to which the pride and sensuality of man and their short-sighted
desire, like that of dominion in tyrants, of present sway, has subjected
them, we should probably read of their weaknesses with surprise.
Perhaps, if the existence of an evil being were allowed, who, in the allegorical language of Scripture, went about seeking whom he should devour, he could not more effectually degrade the human character, than by giving a man absolute power.
This argument branches into various ramifications.
Birth, riches, and every extrinsic advantage that
exalt a man above his fellows, without any mental exertion, sink him in
reality below them. In proportion to his weakness, he is played upon by
designing men, till the bloated monster has lost all traces of humanity.
And that tribes of men, like flocks of sheep, should quietly follow such
a leader, is a solecism that only a desire of present enjoyment and narrowness
of understanding can solve.
Let not men then in the pride of power, use the
same arguments that tyrannic kings and venal ministers have used, and fallaciously
assert that woman ought to be subjected because she has always been so.
Women, it is true, obtaining power by unjust means, by practising or fostering vice, evidently lose the rank which reason would assign them, and they become either abject slaves or capricious tyrants. They lose all simplicity, all dignity of mind, in acquiring power, and act as men are observed to act when they have been exalted by the same means.
It is time to effect a revolution in female
manners - time to restore to them their lost dignity - and make them, as
a part of the human species, labour by reforming themselves to reform the
The only solid foundation for morality appears
to be the character of the Supreme Being; the harmony of which arises from
a balance of attributes - and, to speak with reverence, one attribute seems
to imply the necessity of another. He must be just, because He is wise;
He must be good, because He is omnipotent. For to exalt one attribute at
the expense of another equally noble and necessary, bears the stamp of
the warped reason of man - the homage of passion.
I disclaim that specious humility which, after investigating nature, stops at the Author. The High and Lofty one, who inhabiteth eternity, doubtless possesses many attributes of which we can form no conception; but Reason tells me that they cannot dash with those I adore - and I am compelled to listen to her voice.
It seems natural for man to search for excellence,
and either to trace it in the object that he worships, or blindly to invest
it with perfection, as a garment.
And, supposing that the Deity acts from the vague impulse of an undirected will, man must also follow his own, or act according to rules, deduced from principles which he disclaims as irreverent. Into this dilemma have both enthusiasts and cooler thinkers fallen, when they laboured to free men from the wholesome restraints which a just conception of the character of God imposes.
It is not impious thus to scan the attributes of
the Almighty: in fact, who can avoid it that exercises his faculties?
To return from this apparent digression.
Why do men halt between two opinions, and expect
Still I know that it will require a considerable
length of time to eradicate the firmly rooted prejudices which sensualists
have planted; it will also require some time to convince women that they
act contrary to their real interest on an enlarged scale, when they cherish
or affect weakness under the name of delicacy, and to convince the world
that the poisoned source of female vices and follies, if it be necessary,
in compliance with custom, to use synonymous terms in a lax sense, has
been the sensual homage paid to beauty: to beauty of features; for it has
been shrewdly observed by a German writer, that a pretty woman, as an object
of desire, is generally allowed to be so by men of all descriptions; whilst
a fine woman, who inspires more sublime emotions by displaying intellectual
beauty, may be overlooked or observed with indifference, by those men who
find their happiness in their gratification of their appetites.
This objection has, I grant, some force; but while such a sublime precept exists, as "Be pure as your heavenly Father is pure," it would seem that the virtues of man are not limited by the Being who alone could limit them; and that he may press forward without considering whether he steps out of his sphere by indulging such a noble ambition.
To the wild billows it has been said, "Thus
far shalt thou go, and no farther; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed."
Vainly then do they beat and foam, restrained by the power that
confines the struggling planets in their orbits, matter yields to the great
Besides, if women be educated for dependence, that
is, to act according to the will of another fallible being, and submit,
right or wrong, to power, where are we to stop?
It will not be difficult to prove that such delegates will act like men subjected by fear, and make their children and servants endure their tyrannical oppression. As they submit without reason, they will, having no fixed rules to square their conduct by, be kind, or cruel, just as the whim of the moment directs; and we ought not to wonder if sometimes, galled by their heavy yoke, they take a malignant pleasure in resting it on weaker shoulders.
But, supposing a woman, trained up to obedience, be married to a sensible man, who directs her judgment without making her feel the servility of her subjection, to act with as much propriety by this reflected light as can be expected when reason is taken at secondhand, yet she cannot ensure the life of her protector; he may die and leave her with a large family.
A double duty devolves on
her; to educate them in the character of both father and mother; to form
their principles and secure their property. But, alas! she has never thought,
much less acted for herself.
A rational man, for we are not treading on romantic
ground, though he may think her a pleasing docile creature, will not choose
to marry a family for love, when the world contains many more pretty creatures.
This is not an overcharged picture; on the contrary, it is a very possible case, and something similar must have fallen under every attentive eye.
I have, however, taken it for granted, that she
was well disposed, though experience shows, that the blind may as easily
be led into a ditch as along the beaten road.
The mother will be lost in the coquette, and, instead of making friends of her daughters, view them with eyes askance, for they are rivals - rivals more cruel than any other, because they invite a comparison, and drive her from the throne of beauty, who has never thought of a seat on the bench of reason.
It does not require a lively pencil, or the discriminating
outline of a caricature, to sketch the domestic miseries and petty vices
which such a mistress of a family diffuses.
Yet in what respect can she be termed good?
With respect to religion, she never presumed to judge for herself; but conformed, as a dependent creature should, to the effects of a good education! These the virtues of man's helpmate! 
I must relieve myself by drawing a different picture.
Let fancy now present a woman with a tolerable understanding, for I do not wish to leave the line of mediocrity, whose constitution, strengthened by exercise, has allowed her body to acquire its full vigour; her mind, at the same time, gradually expanding itself to comprehend the moral duties of life, and in what human virtue and dignity consist.
Formed thus by the discharge of the relative duties
of her station, she marries from affection, without losing sight of prudence,
and looking beyond matrimonial felicity, she secures her husband's respect
before it is necessary to exert mean arts to please him and feed a dying
flame, which nature doomed to expire when the object became familiar, when
friendship and forbearance take place of a more ardent affection.
Fate, however, breaks this tie. She is left a widow,
perhaps without a sufficient provision; but she is not desolate!
I think I see her surrounded by her children, reaping
the reward of her care. The intelligent eye meets hers, whilst health and
innocence smile on their chubby cheeks, and as they grow up the cares of
life are lessened by their grateful attention.
The task of life thus fulfilled, she calmly waits for the sleep of death, and rising from the grave, may say - "Behold, Thou gavest me a talent, and here are five talents."
I wish to sum up what I have said in a few words, for I here throw down my gauntlet, and deny the existence of sexual virtues, not excepting modesty. For man and woman, truth, if I understand the meaning of the word, must be the same; yet the fanciful female character, so prettily drawn by poets and novelists, demanding the sacrifice of truth and sincerity, virtue becomes a relative idea, having no other foundation than utility, and of that utility men pretend arbitrarily to judge, shaping it to their own convenience.
Women, I allow, may have different duties to fulfill; but they are human duties, and the principles that should regulate the discharge of them, I sturdily maintain, must be the same.
To become respectable, the exercise of their of their understanding is necessary, there is of character; I mean bow to the authority slaves of opinion.
In the superior ranks of life how seldom do we
meet with a man of superior abilities, or even common acquirements?
Such are the blessings of civil governments, as they are at present organised, that wealth and female softness equally tend to debase mankind, and are produced by the same cause; but allowing women to be rational creatures, they should be incited to acquire virtues which they may call their own, for how can a rational being be ennobled by anything that is not obtained by its own exertions?
I hope my readers still remember the comparison which I have brought forward between women and officers. RETURN TO TEXT
I shall content myself with simply asking how friendship can subsist when love expires between the master and his pupil. RETURN TO TEXT
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