Page images
PDF
EPUB

No. 32. MONDAY, APRIL 9.

Heu miserie elves! non hostem, inimicaque castra
Argivam; vestras spes uritis

VIRG.

I QUESTION not but the British ladies are very well pleased with the compliment I have paid them in the course of my

the most important part of our community. They ought, indeed, to resent the treatment they have met with from other authors, ubo bave never troubled their heads about them, but addressed all their arguments to the male half of their fellow-subjects, and taken it for granted, that if they could bring these into their measures, the females would of course follow their political mates. The arguments they have made use of, are like Huditras's spur, which he applied to one side of his horse, as not doubting but the other would keep pace with it. These writers seem to have regarded the fair sex but as the garniture of a nation; and when they consider them as parts of the commonwealth, it is only as they are of use to the consumption of our manufacture. Could we persuade our British women (says one of our eminent merchants in a letter to his friend in the country upon the subject of commerce) to clothe themselves in the comely apparel which might be made out of the wool of their own country; and instead of coffee, tea, and chocolate, to delight in those wholesome and palatable liquors which may be extracted from our British simples; they would be of great advantage to trade, and therein to the public weal.'

It is now, however, become necessary to treat our women as members of the body politic; since it is visible, that great numbers of them have of late eloped from their allegiance, and that they do not believe themselves obliged to draw with us, as yokefellows in the constitution. They will judge for themselves;

look into the state of the nation with their own eyes; and be no longer led blindfold by a male legislature. A friend of mine was lately complaining to me, that his wife had turned off one of the best cook-maids in England, because the wench had said something to her fellow-servants, which seemed to favour the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act..

When errors and prejudices are thus spread among the sex, it is the hardest thing in the world to root them out. Arguments, which are the only proper means for it, are of little use : they have a very short answer to all reasonings that turn against them,' make us believe that, if you can;' which is in Latin, if I may upon this occasion be allowed the pedantry of a quotation, non persuadebis, etiamsi persuaseris. I could not but smile at a young university disputant, who was complaining the other day of the unreasonableness of a lady with whom he was engaged in a point of controversy. Being left alone with her, he took the opportunity of pursuing an argument which had been before started in discourse, and put it to her in a syllogism : upon which, as he informed us with some heat, she granted him both the major and the minor, but denied him the conclusion.

The best method, therefore, that can be made use of with these polemical ladies, who are much more easy to be refuted than silenced, is to shew them the ridiculous side of their cause, and to make them laugh at their own politics. It is a kind of ill manners to offer objections to a fine woman ; and a man would be out of countenance that should gain the superiority in such a contest. A coquette logician may be rallied, but not contradicted. Those who would make use of solid arguments and strong reasonings to a reader or hearer of so delicate a turn, would be like that foolish people whom Ælian speaks of, that worshipped a fly, and sacrificed an ox to it.

The truth of it is, a man must be of a very disputatious tem. per, that enters into state-controversies with any of the fair sex. If the malignant be not beautiful, she cannot do much mischief; and if she is, her arguments will be so enforced by the charms of her person, that her antagonist may be in danger of betraying his own cause. Milton puts this confession into the mouth of our father Adam ; who, though he asserts his superiority of reason in his debates with the mother of mankind, adds,

-- Yet when I approach
Her loveliness, so absolute she seems,
And in herself complete; so well to know
Her own, that what she wills to do or say,
Seems wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best :
All higher knowledge in her presence falls
Degraded, wisdom in discourse with her
Loses, discountenanced, and like folly shews;
Authority and reason on her wait- -

If there is such a native loveliness in the sex, as to make them victorious even when they are in the wrong, how resistless is their power when they are on the side of truth! And, indeed, it is a peculiar good fortune to the government, that our fair malecontents are so much over-matched in beauty, as well as number, by those who are loyal to their king, and friends to their country.

Every paper, which I have hitherto addressed to our beautiful incendiaries, hath been filled with considerations of a different kind; by which means I have taken care that those, who are enemies to the sex, or to myself, may not accuse me of tautology, or pretend that I attack them with their own weapon. For this reason I shall here lay together a new set of remarks, and observe the several artifices by which the enemies to our establishment do raise such unaccountable passions and prejudices in the minds of our discontented females.

In the first place ; it is usual among the most cunning of our

[merged small][ocr errors]

adversaries, to represent all the rebels as very handsome men. If the name of a traitor be mentioned, they are very particular in describing his person; and when they are not able to extenuate his treason, commend his shape. This has so good an effect in one of our female audiences, that they represent to themselves a thousand poor, tall, innocent, fresh-coloured young gentlemen, who are dispersed among the several prisons of Great Britain ; and extend their generous compassion towards a multitude of agreeable fellows that never were in being.

Another artifice is, to instil jealousies into their minds, of de. signs upon the anvil to retrench the privileges of the sex. Some represent the whigs as enemies to Flanders' lace : others had spread a report, that in the late act of parliament for four shil. lings in the pound upon land, there would be inserted a clause for raising a tax upon pin-money. That the ladies may be the better upon their guard against suggestions of this nature, I shall beg leave to put them in mind of the story of Papirius, the son of a Roman senator. This young gentleman, after having been present in public debates, was usually teased by his mother to inform her of what had passed. In order to deliver himself from this importunity, he told her one day, upon his return from the senate-house, that there had been a motion made for a decree to allow every man two wives. The good lady said nothing; but managed matters so well among the Roman matrons, that the next day they met together in a body before the senate-house, and presented a petition to the fathers against so unreasonable a law. This groundless credulity raised so much raillery upon the petitioners, that we do not find the ladies offered to direct the lawgivers of their country ever after..

There has been another method lately made use of, which has been practised with extraordinary success ; I mean the spreading abroad reports of prodigies, which has wonderfully

gratified the curiosity, as well as the hopes, of our fair malignants. Their managers turn water into blood for them; frighten them with sea-monsters; make them see armies in the air ; and give them their word, the more to ingratiate themselves with them, that they signify nothing less than future staughter and desolation. The disloyal part of the sex immediately hug themselves at the news of the bloody fountain ; look upon these fish as their friends; have great expectations from the clouds; and are very angry with you, if you think they do not all portend ruin to their country.

Secret history and scandal have always had their allurements; and I have in other discourses shewn the great advantage that is made of them in the present ferment among the fair ones.

But the master engine, to overturn the minds of the female world, is the danger of the church. I am not so uncharitable as to think there is any thing in an observation made by several of the whigs, that there is scarce a woman in England who is troubled with the vapours, but is more or less affected with this cry: or, to remark with others, that it is not uttered in any part of the nation with so much bitterness of tongue and heart, as in the districts of Drury-lane. On the contrary, I believe there are many derout and honourable women who are deluded in this point by the artifice of designing men. To these, therefore, I would apply hyself, in a more serious manner, and desire them to consider how that laudable piety, which is natural to the sex, is apt to degenerate into a groundless and furious zeal, when it is not kept within the bounds of charity and reason. Female zeal, though proceeding from so good a principle, has been infinitely detrimental to society, and to religion itself. If we may believe the French historians, it often put a stop to the proceedings of their kings, which might have ended in a reformation. For, upon their breaking with the Pope, the queens frequently inter.

« PreviousContinue »