Imágenes de páginas

the law to them, and that nature in them will as little resist the imitation of that easy familiar boldness for which the dames of higher rank are so much distinguished.

Chastity, and particularly matrimonial chastity, is laid down as the unvaried duty and ornament of the sex. In some of the nations of America, chastity is no way reputable in the unmarried fair, but commences its obligation only when they assume a selfish partner, who surlily refuses to let any one sup out of the same dish with him; or, from the same overweening selfishness, will not rear up any brat but what springs from his own blessed loins. But the probability is, that if left to themselves,

and what is natural to them can only be determined from their own free operations, the sex would find as little propriety and duty in the chastity of the married bed as of the single one. The manners of the Otaheitean dames, if we may credit the accounts of Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander, who certainly carried abroad with them very


fashionable notions of chastity, overturn all the moral theory of female virtues. Whether a different fashion ever prevailed with them, or whether they might be capable of receiving a different fashion, is uncertain. But undoubtedly Messrs. Banks and Solander were very improper missionaries in the cause of chastity; John Wesley and his delegates would bid fairer for trying the experiment with success, unless so far as regards the rights of mother church. I do wonder, however, that our sober moralists should have made such a rout about the licentiousness of this Cyprian island, as the inhabitants thereof do not appear to have carried the power of fashion over female modesty greatly further than the Christian countries of France and Italy. In these, if travellers be not by profession a pack of liars, but particularly in the former, the fashion for some years past has been just the reverse of those American nations we alluded to; for to offend against chastity is infamous in a spinster, and to adhere to it in a married


woman. Yet in the romantic days of chivalry, nothing was more sacred, even in these coun. tries, than the honour of a married dame, If the true support of any system be experiment, how powerful is the reasoning from these experiments !' When we find the rule of female morals to be totally opposite in different nations, and even in the same nation at different periods ; what other principle can account for such opposition of sentiment, but fashion; and what other line of female character and conduct can we find but this? France, which has not more am, bition of giving the law in fashion than in arms, has subdued those countries to her manners, which her valour never could penetrate. The power of fashion could soften the antipathy of English minds, and bend them to the taste, the morals, the religion, of the gay and reputable court of Lewis the Fourteenth. But whether it be that our çolder climate gives a greater stability to any manners, we have imbibed, it is confessed that we do not run with such pre


cipitancy into the varying fashions of morals, nor so easily part with the lessons of our fathers and mothers. It is not yet absolutely infamous in a woman to be chaste, though it is nearly so in a man: but our dames of higher rank have exhibited some striking resemblances to their politer neighbours; and infamy little, if at all, in their circle, follows the violation of female chastity.

There is but one considérable objection to this system, and that consists in the following question: Whence did this stock of ideas, sentiments, and determinations, which are transplanted from one mind to another, come originally to exist; since it is not at all derived to any individual mind from its conversation with the material world, but transferred by imitation from a stock ala ready existing in kindred minds? This is a very pert question, and the only difficulty which is left us to encounter. Now as naa tural philosophers suppose, that at the creation a certain stock of matter was generated,



and that this stock forever exists, though subject to a continual fluctuation and succession of forms; so it is but to suppose that the first progenitor of the human race was furnished ab origine, by the universal Mind, the great patron of all imitation, with a certain stock of intellectual and moral

which stock has been divided like any other patrimony amongst his children, in various degrees, according to the different capacities of the imitative faculty in each. That the original stock, like that of nature, cannot possibly have received any addition, though it may have suffered a diminution through inattention in the immediate descendents of Adam, or a real deficiency in their imitative powers ; in which case the loss can never be repaired unless by a renewed communication from the same fountain of all. Such loss, and perhaps in a great degree, the human kind appear to have sustained even in the very first succession from their great parent: for this I presume is all that is meant by the conse


« AnteriorContinuar »