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the length of time
that women have been dependent, is it surprising
that some of them hunger in chains, and fawn like the spaniel?
A VINDICATION OF
THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN
by Mary Wollstonecraft
Animadversions on Some
of the Writers who have Rendered Women Objects of Pity, Bordering on Contempt
The opinions speciously supported in some modern
publications on the female character and education, which have given the
tone to most of the observations made, in a more cursory manner, on the
sex, remain now to be examined.
I shall begin with Rousseau, and give a sketch
of his character of woman in his own words, interspersing comments
and reflections. My comments, it is true, will all spring from a few simple
principles, and might have been deduced from what I have already said;
but the artificial structure has been raised with so much ingenuity that
it seems necessary to attack it in a more circumstantial manner, and make
the application myself.
Sophia, says Rousseau, should be as perfect a woman
as Emilius is a man, and to render her so it is necessary to examine the
character which nature has given to the sex.
He then proceeds to prove
that woman ought to be weak and passive, because she has less bodily strength
than man; and hence infers that she was formed to please and to be subject
to him, and that it is her duty to render herself agreeable to her master
- this being the grand end of her existence. 
Still, however, to give a little mock dignity to lust,
he insists that man should not exert his strength, but depend on the will
of the woman, when he seeks for pleasure with her.
"Hence we deduce a third consequence
from the different constitutions of the sexes, which is that the strongest
should be master in appearance, and be dependent, in fact, on the weakest,
and that not from any frivolous practice of gallantry or vanity of protectorship,
but from an invariable law of nature, which, furnishing woman with a greater
facility to excite desires than she has given man to satisfy them, makes
the latter dependent on the good pleasure of the former, and compels him
to endeavour to please in his turn, in order to obtain her consent that
he should be strongest. 
"On these occasions
the most delightful circumstance a man finds in his victory is to doubt
whether it was the woman's weakness that yielded to his superior strength,
or whether her inclinations spoke in his favour; the females are also generally
artful enough to leave this matter in doubt.
"The understanding of women answers in this respect
perfectly to their constitution. So far from being ashamed of their weakness,
they glory in it; their tender muscles make no resistance; they affect
to be incapable of lifting the smallest burdens, and would blush to be
thought robust and strong.
"To what purpose is all this? Not merely for
the sake of appearing delicate, but through an artful precaution.
"It is thus they provide an excuse beforehand,
and a right to be feeble when they think it expedient."
I have quoted this passage lest my readers should
suspect that I warped the author's reasoning to support my own arguments.
I have already asserted that in educating women these fundamental principles
lead to a system of cunning and lasciviousness.
Supposing woman to have been formed only to please,
and be subject to man, the conclusion is just. She ought to sacrifice every
other consideration to render herself agreeable to him, and let this brutal
desire of self-preservation be the grand spring of all her actions, when
it is proved to be the iron bed of fate, to fit which her character should
be stretched or contracted, regardless of all moral or physical distinctions.
But if, as I think, may be demonstrated, the purposes
of even this life, viewing the whole, be subverted by practical rules built
upon this ignoble base, I may be allowed to doubt whether woman were created
for man; and though the cry of irreligion, or even atheism, be raised against
me, I will simply declare that were an angel from Heaven to tell me that
Moses' beautiful poetical cosmogony, and the account of the fall of man,
were literally true, I could not believe what my reason told me was derogatory
to the character of the Supreme Being; and, having no fear of the devil
before mine eyes, I venture to call this a suggestion of reason, instead
of resting my weakness on the broad shoulders of the first seducer of my
"It being once demonstrated,"
continues Rousseau, "that man and woman
are not, nor ought to be, constituted alike in temperament and character,
it follows, of course, that they should not be educated in the same manner.
In pursuing the directions of nature, they ought, indeed, to act in concert,
but they should not be engaged in the same employments; the end of their
pursuits should be the same, but the means they should take to accomplish
them, and, of consequence, their tastes and inclinations, should be different.
"Whether I consider
the peculiar destination of the sex, observe their inclinations, or remark
their duties, all things equally concur to point out the peculiar method
of education best adapted to them.
"Woman and man
were made for each other, but their mutual dependence is not the same.
"The men depend
on the women only on account of their desires; the women on the men both
on account of their desires and their necessities. We could subsist better
without them than they without us.
"For this reason
the education of the women should be always relative to the men. To please,
to be useful to us, to make us love and esteem them, to educate us
when young, and take care of us when grown up, to advise, to console us,
to render our lives easy and agreeable - these are the duties of women
at all times, and what they should be taught in their infancy. So long
as we fail to recur to this principle, we run wide of the mark, and all
the precepts which are given them contribute neither to their happiness
nor our own.
"Girls are from their
earliest infancy fond of dress. Not content with being pretty, they are
desirous of being thought so. We see, by all their little airs, that this
thought engages their attention; and they are hardly capable of understanding
what is said to them, before they are to be governed by talking to them
of what people will think of their behaviour.
"The same motive,
however, indiscreetly made use of with boys, has not the same effect. Provided
they are let pursue their amusements at pleasure, they care very little
what people think of them. Time and pains are necessary to subject boys
to this motive.
derive this first lesson, it is a very good one. As the body is born, in
a manner, before the soul, our first concern should be to cultivate the
former; this order is common to both sexes, but the object of that cultivation
is different. In the one sex it is the development of corporeal powers;
in the other, that of personal charms. Not that either the quality of strength
or beauty ought to be confined exclusively to one sex, but only that the
order of the cultivation of both is in that respect reversed. Women certainly
require as much strength as to enable them to move and act gracefully,
and men as much address as to qualify them to act with ease.
"Children of both sexes
have a great many amusements in common; and so they ought; have they not
also many such when they are grown up?
"Each sex has also
its peculiar taste to distinguish in this particular. Boys love sports
of noise and activity; to beat the drum, to whip the top, and to drag about
their little carts: girls, on the other hand, are fonder of things of show
and ornament; such as mirrors, trinkets, and dolls: the doll is the peculiar
amusement of the females; from whence we see their taste plainly adapted
to their destination. The physical part of the art of pleasing lies
in dress; and this is all which children are capacitated to cultivate of
"Here then we see a
primary propensity firmly established, which you need only to pursue and
"The little creature
will doubtless be very desirous to know how to dress up her doll, to
make its sleeve-knots, its flounces, its head-dress, etc., she is obliged
to have so much recourse to the people about her, for their assistance
in these articles, that it would be much more agreeable to her to owe them
all to her own industry.
"Hence we have a
good reason for the first lessons that are usually taught these young females:
in which we do not appear to be setting them a task, but obliging them,
by instructing them in what is immediately useful to themselves.
"And, in fact, almost
all of them learn with reluctance to read and write; but very readily apply
themselves to the use of their needles. They imagine themselves already
grown up, and think with pleasure that such qualifications will enable
them to decorate themselves."
This is certainly only an education of the body;
but Rousseau is not the only man who has indirectly said that merely the
person of a young woman, without any mind, unless animal spirits come under
that description, is very pleasing. To render it weak, and what some may
call beautiful, the understanding is neglected, and girls forced to sit
still, play with dolls and listen to foolish conversations; - the effect
of habit is insisted upon as an undoubted indication of nature.
I know it was Rousseau's opinion that the first years
of youth should be employed to form the body, though in educating Emilius
he deviates from this plan; yet, the difference between strengthening the
body, on which strength of mind in a great measure depends, and only giving
it an easy motion, is very wide.
Rousseau's observations, it is proper to remark,
were made in a country where the art of pleasing was refined only to extract
the grossness of vice.
He did not go back to nature, or his ruling appetite
disturbed the operations of reason, else he would not have drawn these
In France boys and girls, particularly the latter,
are only educated to please, to manage their persons, and regulate the
exterior behaviour; and their minds are corrupted, at a very early age,
by the worldly and pious cautions they receive to guard them against immodesty.
I speak of past times.
The very confessions which mere children were obliged
to make, and the questions asked by the holy men, I assert these facts
on good authority, were sufficient to impress a sexual character; and the
education of society was a school of coquetry and art.
At the age of ten or eleven; nay, often much sooner,
girls began to coquet, and talked, unreproved, of establishing themselves
in the world by marriage.
In short, they were treated like women, almost
from their very birth, and compliments were listened to instead of instruction.
These weakening the mind, Nature was supposed to have acted like a step-mother,
when she formed this afterthought of creation.
Not allowing them understanding, however, it was
but consistent to subject them to authority independent of reason; and
to prepare them for this subjection, he gives the following advice:
"Girls ought to be active
and diligent; nor is that all; they should also be early subjected to restraint.
This misfortune, if it really be one, is inseparable from their sex; nor
do they ever throw it off but to suffer more cruel evils.
"They must be subject, all their lives, to
the most constant and severe restraint, which is that of decorum: it is,
therefore, necessary to accustom them early to such confinement, that it
may not afterwards cost them too dear; and to the suppression of their
caprices, that they may the more readily submit to the will of others.
"If, indeed, they
be fond of being always at work, they should be sometimes compelled to
lay it aside. Dissipation, levity, and inconstancy, are faults that readily
spring up from their first propensities, when corrupted or perverted by
too much indulgence.
"To prevent this
abuse, we should teach them, above all things, to lay a due restraint on
"The life of a modest
woman is reduced, by our absurd institutions, to a perpetual conflict with
herself: not but it is just that this sex should partake of the sufferings
which arise from those evils it hath caused us."
And why is the life of a modest woman a perpetual
conflict? I should answer, that this very system of education makes it
Modesty, temperance, and self-denial, are the sober
offspring of reason; but when sensibility is nurtured at the expense of
the understanding, such weak beings must be restrained by arbitrary means,
and be subjected to continual conflicts; but give their activity of mind
a wider range, and nobler passions and motives will govern their appetites
"The common attachment
and regard of a mother, nay, mere habit, will make her beloved by her children,
if she do nothing to incur their hate. Even the constraint she lays them
under, if well directed, will increase their affection, instead of lessening
it; because a state of dependence being natural to the sex, they perceive
themselves formed for obedience."
This is begging the question; for servitude not
only debases the individual, but its effects seem to be transmitted to
posterity. Considering the length of time that women have been dependent,
is it surprising that some of them hunger in chains, and fawn like the
observes a naturalist, "at first kept their
ears erect; but custom has superseded nature, and a token of fear is become
"For the same reason,"
adds Rousseau, "women have, or ought to have,
but little liberty; they are apt to indulge themselves excessively in what
is allowed them.
"Addicted in everything
to extremes, they are even more transported at their diversions than boys."
The answer to this is very simple.
Slaves and mobs have always indulged themselves
in the same excesses, when once they broke loose from authority.
The bent bow recoils with violence, when the hand
is suddenly relaxed that forcibly held it; and sensibility, the plaything
of outward circumstances, must be subjected to authority, or moderated
he continues, "from this habitual restraint
a tractableness which women have occasion for during their whole lives,
as they constantly remain either under subjection to the men, or to the
opinions of mankind; and are never permitted to set themselves above those
"The first and
most important qualification in a woman is good nature or sweetness of
temper: formed to obey a being so imperfect as man, often full of vices,
and always full of faults, she ought to learn betimes even to suffer injustice,
and to bear the insults of a husband without complaint;
it is not for his sake, but her own, that she should be of a mild disposition.
and ill-nature of the women only serve to aggravate their own misfortunes,
and the misconduct of their husbands; they might plainly perceive that
such are not the arms by which they gain the superiority."
Formed to live with such an imperfect being as
man they ought to learn from the exercise of their faculties the necessity
of forbearance: but all the sacred rights of humanity are violated by insisting
on blind obedience; or, the most sacred rights belong only to man.
The being who patiently endures injustice, and
silently bears insults, will soon become unjust, or unable to discern right
Besides, I deny the fact, this is not the true way
to form or meliorate the temper; for, as a sex, men have better tempers
than women, because they are occupied by pursuits that interest the head
as well as the heart; and the steadiness of the head gives a healthy temperature
to the heart. People of sensibility have seldom good tempers. The formation
of the temper is the cool work of reason, when, as life advances, she mixes
with happy art, jarring elements.
I never knew a weak or ignorant person who had a good
temper, though that constitutional good humour, and that docility, which
fear stamps on the behaviour, often obtains the name. I say behaviour,
for genuine meekness never reached the heart or mind, unless as the effect
of reflection; and that simple restraint produces a number of peccant humours
in domestic life, many sensible men will allow, who find some of these
gentle irritable creatures, very troublesome companions.
he further argues, "should preserve its peculiar
tone and manner; a meek husband may make a wife impertinent; but mildness
of disposition on the woman's side will always bring a man back to reason,
at least if he be not absolutely a brute, and will sooner or later triumph
Perhaps the mildness of reason might sometimes
have this defect. but abject fear always inspires contempt; and tears
are only eloquent when they flow down fair cheeks.
Of what materials can that heart be composed, which
can melt when insulted, and instead of revolting at injustice, kiss the
It is unfair to infer that her virtue is built on
narrow views and selfishness, who can caress a man, with true feminine
softness, the very moment when he treats her tyrannically.
Nature never dictated such insincerity; and, though
prudence of this sort be termed a virtue, morality becomes vague when any
part is supposed to rest on falsehood. These are mere expedients, and expedients
are only useful for the moment.
Let the husband beware of trusting too implicitly
in this servile obedience; for if his wife can with winning sweetness,
caress him when angry, and when she ought to be angry, unless contempt
has stifled a natural effervescence, she may do the same after parting
with a lover.
These are all preparations for adultery; or, should
the fear of the world, or of hell, restrain her desire of pleasing other
men, when she can no longer please her husband, what substitute can be
found by a being who was only formed, by nature and art, to please man?
what can make her amends for this privation, or where is she to seek for
a fresh employment? where find sufficient strength of mind to determine
to begin the search, when her habits are fixed, and vanity has long ruled
her chaotic mind?
But this partial moralist recommends cunning systematically
"Daughters should be
always submissive; their mothers, however, should not be inexorable. To
make a young person tractable, she ought not to be made unhappy; to make
her modest she ought not to be rendered stupid.
"On the contrary, I should not be displeased
at her being permitted to use some art, not to elude punishment in case
of disobedience, but to exempt herself from the necessity of obeying.
"It is not necessary to make her dependence burdensome,
but only to let her feel it. Subtility is a talent natural to the sex;
and, as I am persuaded, all our natural inclinations are right and good
in themselves, I am of opinion this should be cultivated as well as the
others: it is requisite for us only to prevent its abuse."
"Whatever is, is right,"
he then proceeds triumphantly to infer. Granted; yet, perhaps, no aphorism
ever contained a more paradoxical assertion. It is a solemn truth with
respect to God. He, reverentially I speak, sees the whole at once, and
saw its just proportions in the womb of time; but man, who can only inspect
disjointed parts, finds many things wrong; and it is a part of the system,
and therefore, right, that he should endeavour to alter what appears to
him to be so, even while he bows to the wisdom of his Creator, and respects
the darkness he labours to disperse.
The inference that follows is just, supposing the
principle to be sound.
"The superiority of
address, peculiar to the female sex, is a very equitable indemnification
for their inferiority in point of strength: without this, woman would not
be the companion of marriage, but his slave; it is by her superior art
and ingenuity that she preserves her equality, and governs him while she
affects to obey.
"Woman has everything against her, as well our
faults, as her own timidity and weakness; she has nothing in her favour,
but her subtility and her beauty.
"Is it not very reasonable, therefore, she should
Greatness of mind can never dwell with cunning,
or address; for I shall not boggle about words, when their direct signification
is insincerity and falsehood, but content myself with observing, that if
any class of mankind be so created that it must necessarily be educated
by rules not strictly deducible from truth, virtue is an affair of convention.
How could Rousseau dare to assert, after giving this
advice, that in the grand end of existence the object of both sexes should
be the same, when he well knew that the mind, formed by its pursuits, is
expanded by great views swallowing up little ones, or that it becomes itself
Men have superior strength of body; but were it
not for mistaken notions of beauty, women would acquire sufficient to enable
them to earn their own subsistence, the true definition of independence;
and to bear those bodily inconveniences and exertions that are requisite
to strengthen the mind.
Let us then, by being allowed to take the same exercise
as boys, not only during infancy, but youth, arrive at perfection of body,
that we may know how far the natural superiority of man extends.
For what reason or virtue can be expected from a creature
when the seed-time of life is neglected?
None; did not the winds of heaven casually scatter
many useful seeds in fallow ground.
"Beauty cannot be acquired
by dress, and coquetry is an art not so early and speedily attained.
"While girls are
yet young, however, they are in a capacity to study agreeable gesture,
a pleasing modulation of voice, an easy carriage and behaviour; as well
as to take the advantage of gracefully looks and attitudes to time, place,
and occasion. Their application, therefore, should not be solely confined
to the arts of industry and the needle, when they come to display other
talents, whose utility is already apparent.
"For my part, I would
have a young Englishwoman cultivate her agreeable talents, in order to
please her future husband, with as much care and assiduity as a young Circassian
cultivates hers, to fit her for the harem of an Eastern bashaw."
To render women completely insignificant, he adds:
"The tongues of women
are very voluble; they speak earlier, more readily, and more agreeably,
than the men; they are accused also of speaking much more: but so it ought
to be, and I should be very ready to convert this reproach into a compliment;
their lips and eyes have the same activity, and for the same reason.
"A man speaks of
what he knows, a woman of what pleases her; the one requires knowledge,
the other taste; the principal object of a man's discourse should be what
is useful, that of a woman's what is agreeable. There ought to be nothing
in common between their different conversation but truth.
"We ought not, therefore,
to restrain the prattle of girls, in the same manner as we should that
of boys, with that severe question, To what purpose are you talking? but
by another, which is no less difficult to answer, How will your discourse
"In infancy, while
they are as yet incapable to discern good from evil, they ought to observe
it, as a law never to say anything disagreeable to those whom they are
"What will render
the practice of this rule also the more difficult is, that it must ever
be subordinate to the former, of never speaking falsely or telling an untruth."
To govern the tongue in this manner must require
great address indeed, and it is too much practised both by men and women.
Out of the abundance of the heart how few speak! So
few that I, who love simplicity, would gladly give up politeness for
a quarter of the virtue that has been sacrificed to an equivocal quality
which at best should only be the polish of virtue.
But, to complete the sketch.
"It is easy to be conceived,
that if male children be not in a capacity to form any true notions of
religion, those ideas must be greatly above the conception of the females:
it is for this very reason, I would begin to speak to them the earlier
on this subject; for if we were to wait till they were in a capacity to
discuss methodically such profound questions, we should run a risk of never
speaking to them on this subject as long as they lived.
"Reason in women
is a practical reason, capacitating them artfully to discover the means
of attaining a known end, but which would never enable them to discover
that end itself.
"The social relations
of the sexes are indeed truly admirable: from their union there results
a moral person, of which woman may be termed the eyes, and man the hand,
with this dependence on each other, that it is from the man that the woman
is to learn what she is to see, and it is of the woman that man is to learn
what he ought to do.
"If woman could
recur to the first principles of things as well as man, and man was capacitated
to enter into their minutiae as well as woman, always independent of each
other, they would live in perpetual discord, and their union could not
subsist. But in the present harmony which naturally subsists between them,
their different faculties tend to one common end: it is difficult to say
which of them conduces the most to it: each follows the impulse of the
other; each is obedient, and both are masters.
"As the conduct
of a woman is subservient to the public opinion, her faith in matters of
religion should, for that very reason, be subject to authority.
daughter ought to be of the same religion as her mother, and every wife
to be of the same religion as her husband: for, though such religion should
be false, that docility which induces the mother and daughter to submit
to the order of nature, takes away, in the sight of God, the criminality
of their error. 
"As they are
not in a capacity to judge for themselves, they ought to abide by the decision
of their fathers and husbands as confidently as by that of the Church.
"As authority ought
to regulate the religion of the women, it is not so needful to explain
to them the reasons for their belief, as to lay down precisely the tenets
they are to believe: for the creed, which presents only obscure ideas to
the mind, is the source of fanaticism; and that which presents absurdities,
leads to infidelity."
Absolute, uncontroverted authority, it seems, must
subsist somewhere: but is not this a direct and exclusive appropriation
The rights of humanity have been thus confined to
the male line from Adam downwards.
Rousseau would carry his male aristocracy still
further, he insinuates, that he should not blame those, who contend - leaving
woman in a state of the most profound ignorance, if it were not necessary
in order to preserve her chastity and justify the man's choice, in the
eyes of the world, to give her a little knowledge of men, and the customs
produced by human passions; else she might propagate at home without being
rendered less voluptuous and innocent by the exercise of her understanding:
excepting, indeed, during the first year of marriage, when she might employ
it to dress like Sophia.
"Her dress is extremely
modest in appearance, and yet very coquettish in fact: she does not make
a display of her charms, she conceals them; but in concealing them, she
knows how to affect your imagination.
"Everyone who sees her will say, There is a modest
and discreet girl; but while you are near her, your eyes and affections
wander all over her person, so that you cannot withdraw them; and you would
conclude, that every part of her dress, simple as it seems, was only put
in its proper order to be taken to pieces by the imagination."
Is this modesty? Is this a preparation for immortality?
Again, What opinion are we to form of a system of
education, when the author says of his heroine, "that
with her, doing things well, is but a secondary concern; her principal
concern is to do them neatly."
Secondary, in fact, are all her respecting religion,
he makes her accustomed to submission - "Your
husband will instruct you in good time."
After thus cramping a woman's mind, if, in order
to keep it fair, he have not made it quite reflect, that a reflecting man
may when he is tired of caressing her. What has she to reflect about who
must obey? And would it not be a refinement on cruelty only to open
her mind to make the darkness and misery of her fate visible?
Yet these are his sensible remarks; how consistent
with what I have already been obliged to quote, to give a fair view of
the subject, the reader may determine.
"They who pass their
whole lives in working for their daily bread, have no ideas beyond their
business or their interest, and all their understanding seems to lie in
their fingers' ends. This ignorance is neither prejudicial to their integrity
nor their morals; it is often of service to them.
"Sometimes, by means of reflection, we are led
to compound with our duty, and we conclude by substituting a jargon of
words in the room of things. Our own conscience is the most enlightened
philosopher. There is no need to be acquainted with Tully's offices, to
make a man of probity; and perhaps the most virtuous woman in the world
is the least acquainted with the definition of virtue.
"But it is no less true, that an improved understanding
only can render society agreeable; and it is a melancholy thing for a father
of a family, who is fond of home, to be obliged to be always wrapped up
in himself, and to have nobody about him to whom he can impart his sentiments.
"Besides, how should
a woman void of reflection be capable of educating her children? How should
she discern what is proper for them? How should she incline them to those
virtues she is unacquainted with, or to that merit of which she has no
idea? She can only soothe or chide them; render them insolent or timid;
she will make them formal coxcombs, or ignorant blockheads, but will never
make these sensible or amiable."
How indeed should she, when her husband is not
always at hand to lend her his reason? - when they both together make but
one moral being.
A blind will, "eyes without hands," would
go a very little way; and perchance his abstract reason, that should concentrate
the scattered beams of her practical reason, may be employed in judging
of the flavour of wine, descanting on the sauces most proper for turtle;
or, more profoundly intent at a card-table, he may be generalising his
ideas as he bets away his fortune, leaving all the minutiae of education
to his helpmate, or to chance.
But, granting that woman ought to be beautiful,
innocent, and silly, to render her a more alluring and indulgent companion
- what is her understanding sacrificed for?
And why is all this preparation necessary only, according
to Rousseau's own account, to make her the mistress of her husband, a very
For no man ever insisted more on the transient nature
of love. Thus speaks the philosopher, "Sensual
pleasures are transient. The habitual state of the affections always loses
by their gratification. The imagination, which decks the object of our
desires, is lost in fruition. Excepting the Supreme Being, who is self-existent,
there is nothing beautiful but what is ideal."
But he returns to his unintelligible paradoxes
again, when he thus addresses Sophia -
"Emilius, in becoming
your husband, is become your master, and claims your obedience. Such is
the order of nature. When a man is married, however, to such a wife as
Sophia, it is proper he should be directed by her. This is also agreeable
to the order of nature.
"It is, therefore, to give you as much authority
over his heart as his sex gives him over your person that I have made you
the arbiter of his pleasures.
"It may cost you, perhaps, some disagreeable
self-denial; but you will be certain of maintaining your empire over him,
if you can preserve it over shows me that this difficult attempt does not
surpass your courage.
"Would you have your
husband constantly at your feet, keep him at some distance from your person.
"You will long maintain the authority in love,
if you know but how to render your favours rare and valuable. It is thus
you may employ even the arts of coquetry in the service of virtue, and
those of love in that of reason."
I shall close my extracts with a just description
of a comfortable couple:
yet you must not imagine that even such management will always suffice.
Whatever precaution be taken, enjoyment will by degrees take off the edge
of passion. But when love hath lasted as long as possible, a pleasing habitude
supplies its place, and the attachment of a mutual confidence succeeds
to the transports of passion.
"Children often form a more agreeable and permanent
connection between married people then even love itself.
"When you cease to be the mistress of Emilius,
you will continue to be his wife and friend - you will be the mother of
his children." 
Children, he truly observes, form a much more permanent
connection between married people than love.
Beauty, he declares, will not be valued, or even seen,
after a couple have lived six months together; artificial graces and coquetry
will likewise pall on the senses. Why, then, does he say that a girl should
be educated for her husband with the same care as for an Eastern harem?
I now appeal from the reveries of fancy and refined
licentiousness to the good sense of mankind, whether, if the object of
education be to prepare women to become chaste wives and sensible mothers,
the method so plausibly recommended in the foregoing sketch be the one
best calculated to produce those ends?
Will it be allowed that the surest way to make a wife
chaste is to teach her to practise the wanton arts of a mistress, termed
virtuous coquetry, by the sensualist who can no longer relish the artless
charms of sincerity, or taste the pleasure arising from a tender intimacy,
when confidence is unchecked by suspicion, and rendered interesting by
The man who can be contented to live with a pretty,
useful companion, without a mind, has lost in voluptuous gratifications
a taste for more refined enjoyments; he has never felt the calm satisfaction
that refreshes the parched heart like the silent dew of heaven - of being
beloved by one who could understand him. In the society of his wife he
is still alone, unless when the man is sunk in the brute. "The
charm of life," says a grave philosophical reasoner, is "sympathy;
nothing pleases us more than to observe in other men a fellow-feeling with
all the emotions of our own breast."
But according to the tenor of reasoning by which
women are kept from the tree of knowledge, the important years of youth,
the usefulness of age, and the rational hopes of futurity, are all to be
sacrificed to render women an object of desire for a short time.
Besides, how could Rousseau expect them to be virtuous
and constant when reason is neither allowed to be the foundation of their
virtue, nor truth the object of their inquiries?
But all Rousseau's errors in reasoning arose from
sensibility, and sensibility to their charms women are very ready to forgive.
When he should have reasoned he became impassioned, and reflection inflamed
his imagination instead of enlightening his understanding. Even his virtues
also led him farther astray; for, born with a warm constitution and lively
fancy, nature carried him toward the other sex with such eager fondness
that he soon became lascivious.
Had he given way to these desires, the fire would
have extinguished itself in a natural manner, but virtue, and a romantic
kind of delicacy, made him practise self-denial; yet when fear, delicacy,
or virtue restrained him, he debauched his imagination, and reflecting
on the sensations to which fancy gave force, he traced them in the most
glowing colours, and sunk them deep into his soul.
He then sought for solitude, not to sleep with
the man of nature, or calmly investigate the causes of things under the
shade where Sir Isaac Newton indulged contemplation, but merely to indulge
And so warmly has he painted what he forcibly felt,
that interesting the heart and inflaming the imagination of his readers,
in proportion to the strength of their fancy, they imagine that their understanding
is convinced when they only sympathise with a poetic writer, who skilfully
exhibits the objects of sense most voluptuously shadowed or gracefully
veiled; and thus making us feel whilst dreaming that we reason, erroneous
conclusions are left in the mind.
Why was Rousseau's life divided between ecstasy
Can any other answer be given than this, that the
effervescence of his imagination produced both; but had his fancy been
allowed to cool, it is possible that he might have acquired more strength
Still, if the purpose of life be to educate the intellectual
part of man, all-with respect to him was right; yet had not death led to
a nobler scene of action, it is probable that he would have enjoyed more
equal happiness on earth, and have felt the calm sensations of the man
of nature, instead of being prepared for another stage of existence by
nourishing the passions which agitate the civilised man.
But peace to his manes! I war not with his ashes,
but his opinions. I war only with the sensibility that led him to degrade
woman by making her the slave of love.
"-- Cursed vassalage,
First idolised till love's hot fire be o'er,
Then slaves to those who courted us before."
The pernicious tendency of those books, in which
the writers insidiously degrade the sex whilst they are prostrate before
their personal charms, cannot be too often or too severely exposed.
Let us, my dear contemporaries, arise above such
narrow pr djudices. If wisdom be desirable on its own account, if virtue,
to deserve the name, must be founded on knowledge, let us endeavour to
strengthen our minds by reflection till our heads become a balance for
our hearts; let us not confine all our thoughts to the petty occurrences
of the day, or our knowledge to an acquaintance with our lovers' or husbands'
hearts, but let the practice of every duty be subordinate to the grand
one of improving our minds, and preparing our affections for a more exalted
Beware, then, my friends, of suffering the heart
to be moved by every trivial incident; the reed is shaken by a breeze,
and annually dies, but the oak stands firm, and for ages braves the storm.
Were we, indeed, only created to flutter our hour
out and die - why let us then indulge sensibility, and laugh at the severity
of reason. Yet, alas! even then we should want strength of body and mind,
and life would be lost in feverish pleasures or wearisome languor.
But the system of education, which I earnestly
wish to see exploded, seems to presuppose what ought never to be taken
for granted, that virtue shields us from the casualties of life; and that
Fortune, slipping off her bandage, will smile on a well-educated female,
and bring in her hand an Emilius or a Telemachus.
Whilst, on the contrary, the reward which Virtue promises
to her votaries is confined, it seems clear, to their own bosoms; and often
must they contend with the most vexatious worldly cares, and bear with
the vices and humours of relations for whom they can never feel a friendship.
There have been many women in the world who, instead
of being supported by the reason and virtue of their fathers and brothers,
have strengthened their own minds by struggling with their vices and follies;
yet have never met with a hero, in the shape of a husband; who, paying
the debt that mankind owed them, might chance to bring back their reason
to its natural dependent state, and restore the usurped prerogative, of
rising above opinion, to man.
 I have already inserted the passage, p. 44.
[WiiN Ed. Note: See Chapter
3, note 4] RETURN TO TEXT
 What nonsense! RETURN TO TEXT
 What is to the consequence, if the mother's
and husband's opinion should chance not to agree? An ignorant person cannot
be reasoned out of an error - and when persuaded to give up one prejudice
for another the mind is unsettled. Indeed, the husband may not have any
religion to teach her, though in such a situation she will be in great
want of a support to her virtue, independent of worldly considerations.
RETURN TO TEXT
 Rousseau's Emilius. RETURN TO TEXT
TO FOUR | | RETURN TO TOP |
| GO TO CHAP. FIVE-2 |