Imágenes de páginas

tented ourselves with sometimes interweaving into our text, the names and sentiments of such authors as have more peculiarly eloci. ! dated the subjects we were inveftigating ." We have not vanity enough to recommend our work to the

learned; they must have met with every anecdore related in it; but as the generality of the fair sex, whose reading is more confined, now ípend many of their idle hours in poring over novels and romances, which greatly tend to mislead the undertanding and corrupt the heart, we cannot help expressing a wish, that they would spare a part of this time to look into the history of their own Sex; a hillory, which we fiatter ourselves will afford then no irrational amusement, and which will more 'gratify the curiosity of the female mind in whatever relates to themselves, than any thing that has hitherto been published.

• We do not mean by this to praise ourselves; we submit with the utmroit diffidence to the judgment of the Public. If we have any ms rit, it is only in collecting together, and presenting in one view, a i variety of anecdotes concerning the sex, which lay scattered in a great number of authors, ancient and modern, and not within the reading of the Sex themselves; recourse to larger libraries might bave made these anecdotes more numerous, and better judgments 'would have selected them more judiciously; on these accounts, none can be more sensible of che imperfections of the Work than we are, but we hope our candid Readers will make fome allowances for our having trod a path which has never been attempted before ; and the Ladies, we flatter ourselves, will treat us wich fome indulgence, when we affure them, that we have exerted our utmost abilities to put their history into the most engaging dress, and to mingle pleasure with instruction.'

That the Doctor has exerted his utmost abilities, we readily believe; and we hope and trust, for the credit and honour of our sex, that every man, who undertakes to give pleasure to the ladies, will do the same. We question much, however, 'whether ladies of taste and genius will be satisfied with this Gentleman's exertions, or entertain any high opinion of his abilities; he neither has, indeed, the fuaviter in modo, nor the fortiter in re, which all ladies expect from those who enter into 'their service. It is really surprising that it should not have occurred to the Doctor, that such ladies as are likely to have an opportunity of looking into his history are tolerable judges of composition; that they expect some degree of elegance both of sentiment and diction in such works as are designed either for their amusement or their instruction; and that they must neceffarily be shocked with the frequent mention of the very gross and indelicate customs which prevailed in nations that were either only energing from barbarism, or very little advanced in civili. zation. Of what use, of what importance, can it possibly be to the British fair, to be informed how the Massagetæ, the Aufi, the Lydians, the Scythians, the Bactrians, the Phænicians, the Ægyptians, &c. &c. treated their women? or to be made ac


quainted with the customs and ceremonies which prevailed among them?

The sketches our Author gives of the character of the American, African, and Asiatic women, he allows to be imperfect; the vicious and the disagreeable, he tells us, are too frequently predominant in it; and almost the whole of their character, he acknowledges, may be comprized in unremitted endeavours to satisfy a voluptuous appetite. If this be the case, can it poflibly tend either to the instruction or the amusement of the fair' sex to dwell so long as our Historian does on such disagreeable subjects ?

But we now proceed to lay before our Readers a few extracts from this work, that they may be enabled to judge whether the censure, which, in justice to them, we have thought ourselves obliged to pass upon it, be too severe or not.

In his first chapter, the Doctor gives a short sketch of the Anfediluvian History of Women; and here we meet with the following very instructive note :

• Various and ridiculous are the fables related by oriental writers concerning the creation of the first pair. We shall only mention a few of those propagated by the Jewish Rabbies, whose ancient le. gends equal, if not surpass, in absurdity, even those of more modern ages. -God, say they, at first created Adam with a long tail; but afterward, on confidering him attentively, he thought he would look better without it: resolving, however, not to lose any thing that he bad made, he cut it off, and formed it into a woman : and hence she sex derive their low and inferior nature. Others of them tell us, that the first human being was created double, of both sexes, and joined side to side: that God improving on his original plan, separated the male from the female part, where they had been joined together, and made them into two distinct beings; and that from hence arose the perpetual inclination of the sexes to join themselves together again.'

It mult, undoubtedly, be very edifying and amusing to a fair reader, of taste and delicacy, to be informed, especially by an old, nasty Jewish Rabbi, that Adam was at first created with a lony tail; and very comfortable, to be sure, to be told that God Almighty himlelf cut it off, in order to make Adam look the better. We leave the ladies, who are, certainly, very competent judges of the beauty of the human figure, to make their own strictures on this passage.

The Doctor proceeds, very methodically, in his second chap. ter, to treat of female education ; and here he confiders the obstructions to education in the early ages-the fource of educa. tion-the progress of education and arts.--He talks about the Ægyptians, the Phænicians, the Babylonians, the antient state of Europe, the Greek women, the Roman women, the women


of the northern nations, the French ladies, the education of the Eastern women, of the African women, the American woment, the effects of chivalry, &c.—All this, gentle Reader, in one chapter.

Where such a varicty of dishes are served up at once, the temperate guest will probably be satisfied with one or two; we wilh they were better dressed, but we are not answerable for the

cookery. . • After the discovery and conquest of America, says our Historias, immense treasures had been constantly imported from thence into Europe. From the trade carried on to the East and West Indies, to Africa, and other parts of the globe, perhaps fill greater wealth bad been accumulated ; these at last beginning to operate, turned the minds of the greatest part of Europe from that sober and economical plan of life, to which their poverty and imperfect knowledge of trade and agriculture had subjected them; and fubftituted in its place, gaiety, expence, and parade. Numbers of people, who perhaps, not in the most rigid paths of justice, had acquired immenso fortunes in the East, transported themselves back to Europe, bringe ing along with them all the arrogance of wealth, effeminacy of manners, and love of pageantry and now, for which the eastern na. tions have ever been remarkable. These, and several other causes combining together, totally changed the manners of Europe ; and instead of sober frugality, and other domestic virtues of the women, introduced luxury and dislipacion ; with a talte for all the tinsel glare of unsubstantial trifles.

The French, who have always been remarkably distinguished for vivacity and show, took the lead in this new mode of life, and foon diffeminated it all over Europe ; which, for at least these two centoturies past, bas aukwardly imitated every light fashion and frippery of that volatile people, with little better success than a Bear dances a hora pipe, or a Monkey puts on the gravity of an alderman.

• In France, were women firft introduced to court; their educa. tion, which before chat introduction consisted in reading their own language, in learning needle-work, and the offices of domeitic life, was then by degrees changed to vocal and instrumental music, draw. ing, dancing, and dressing in the most fashionable manner; to which we may add, the art of captivating and governing their men, This Aimsy pattern was copied by every other nation : fome ftrokes of improvement were from time to time added by the French; till at last almost every thing useful was boldly struck out from the plan of female education ; and the women of the present age thereby sobbed of more than half their native excellence, and rendered objects more fought after to divert a melancholy hour, or satisfy a lawless pafhon, than to become the social partners of a life directed by reason and religion. We must, however, allow, that the French ladies are not all so much devoted to fashion and pleasure, as to neglect every thing else. France has produced several women difioguished for their judgment and learning; and even in the present disli pated age, while female coveries commonly meet for diversion, or for gaming, there are in Paris focieties of women, which meet at fated times to


determine the merit of every new work; and happy is the author who meets their approbation; the French being too polite to set themselves in open opposition to the judgment of their ladies, whether they may tbink it right or wrong.

• Should this imperfect attempt, to write the History of the Fair, furvive the present, and be read in any future generation, when this . frivolous mode of female education Mall have given place to a better,

that our Readers may then have some idea of what it was towards the close of the eighteenth century, we fall just sketch the outlines of it as now practised in the politelt countries of Europe. Among the first le Tons, which a mother teaches her daughter, is that innportant article, according to the modern phrase, of holding up her head, and learning a proper carriage : this begins to be inculcated at the age of three or four at latest ; and is strenuously infifted on for many years afterward. When the young lady has learned imper. feally to read her own language, and sometimes even sooner, the is sent to a boarding-school, where she is instructed in the most Aimsy and useless parts of needle-work; while of those, which she must need, if ever the enters into domestic life, she is left entirely ignorant. While the is here, some part of her time is also allotted to learning to read either her own language, or the languages of some of the neighbouring kingdoms; all of which are too frequently taught wichour a proper attention to Grammar or Orthography. Writing, and Arithmetic, likewise employ a part of her time; but there, particularly the last, are only considered as auxiliary accomplishments, which are not to be carried into life, and consequently deserve but little attention ; the grand effort is generally made to teach the girl what the woman will relinquish; such as drawing, music, and dancing; these, as they are arts agreeable to youthful sprightliness, oftea engage the young lady so much, as to make her neglect, or forget every thing else. To these are added, the modes of dresling in fashion, the pun&ilios of behaving in company; and we are sorry to say, that into some schools have been introduced masters to teach the fashionable games at cards; a diflipation, if not a vice, which already prevails too much among both sexes, and may perhaps still gain ground by this early initiation.

• Such, in general, is the education of female boarding-schools; in fome, indeed, there may be a few other things taught besides those we have mentioned ; but whatever be taught, or however they be conducted, it is too true, that the girl, after having been there some years, comes home to her parents quite a modern fine lady ; with her head full of scraps of French, names of great people, and quotations from romances and plays; and quite disgusted at the anriquated virtues of sober frugality, order, or economy. We cannot cait our eyes on the picture we have now drawn, without a secret wilh, that it were less just ; nor shall we drop the curtain before it, without mentioning with pleasure, that some parents adopt a better plan; and that some young ladies, even thús educated, have had understanding enough to lay aside the greatest part of the abovementioned frippery, and cultivate such knowledge, and such virtues, as are ornamental to society, and useful to themselves.' Rev. Dec. 1779.



Such, with a few trifing variations, our Author says, is the common course of European education.-We thall not anticipate the observations which every well-informed reader must necessarily make upon what the Doctor advances, but proceed to thew in what a philosophical and ingenious manner he treats the following very curious subject:

• From the earliest ages, says he, dancing appears to have been either a religious or an imitative exercise; David danced before the ark of the Lord, the Philistines danced before Dagon, many of the contemporary na:ions frequently danced at their folemn meetings, in their groves, and on their high places; the Greeks did the fame at fome of the festivals celebrated in honour of their gods; and the travellers of our own times give us numberless accounts of the dancings of the favages before their idols. So different, however, are the ideas we have formed of religion, that we are apt to consider dancing as altogether inconfiltent with its solemnity; but, perhaps, those who thought o herwise, introduced it as a sign of gratitude and thankfulneis, for healih, vigour, and agility; and, to Thew the gods, that they were cheerful and happy in the enjoyment of their biellings, and under the administration of their government; and proceeding from such sentiments in the worshippers, it could not be to the gods an unacceptable service. It has likewise been much used in an imitative or symbolical manner. The Indians dance their war. dance, to fhew the ftrength, the agility, and ferocity they can exert ir battle; and the women we have mentioned indecently dance. · what may be called their love-dance, to fhew how well they are qua. lified for the rap: urous enjoyments of that passion ; and it is only in the polite countries of Europe that we dance purely for the sake of dancing. If rude and barbarous nations make their dances exprer. five of their employments and their feelings; it is worth confidering, whether we might not improve on the plan, and add sentiment and expression to what we at present only look upon as frolic and amuse. ment.'

In speaking of the Grecian women, he makes the following fage obfervation, -- that though the Greeks were eminent in arts, though they were illustrious in arms, in politeness, and elegance of manners, the highest pitch to which they ever arrived, was only a few degrees above favage barbarity. ---Now, how a people could be eminent in arts, illustrious in arms, in politeness, and elegance of manners, and yet be only a few degrees above savage barbarity, we own, far exceeds our comprehension.-His general idea of the Greeks, in another part of his work, is as follows:

• Of this so much distinguished, so much admired people, who, for many ages, shone so illustrious in arts and arms, and whose panegyric has been founded so loud in ancient and in modern history : we sincerely with that a regard for truth did not oblige us to give lo indifferent a character. But when we have said that they shone in arts and arms, we have completed their eulogium. When we con.

« AnteriorContinuar »