A serious proposal to the Ladies, for the advancement of their true and greatest interest (In Two Parts)
Advancement of their
True and Greatest
In two Parts.
By a Lover of her SEX.
Printed for Richard Wilkin at the King’s-Head
in St. Paul’s Church-Yard, 1697.2
Since the Profitable Adventuresthat have gone abroad in theWorld have met with so great Encouragement,tho’ the highest advantagethey can propose, is an uncertainLot for such matters as Opinion,not real worth, gives a valueto; things which if obtain’d areas flitting and fickle as that Chancewhich is to dispose of them; Itherefore persuade my self, you willnot be less kind to a Propositionthat comes attended with more certain4and substantial Gain; whoseonly design is to improve yourCharms and heighten your Value,by suffering you no longer to becheap and contemptible. Its aim isto fix that Beauty, to make it lastingand permanent, which Naturewith all the helps of Art cannot secure,and to place it out of the reachof Sickness and Old Age, by transferringit from a corruptible Bodyto an immortal Mind. An obligingDesign, which wou’d procure theminward Beauty, to whom Naturehas unkindly denied the outward, andnot permit those Ladies who havecomely Bodies, to tarnish their Glorywith deformed Souls. Wou’d haveyou all be wits, or what is better,Wise. Raise you above the Vulgarby something more truly illustrious,than a sounding Title or a greatEstate. Wou’d excite in you a generousEmulation to excel in thebest things, and not in such Triflesas every mean person who has but5Money enough may purchase aswell as you. Not suffer you to takeup with the low thought of distinguishingyour selves by any thingthat is not truly valuable, and procureyou such Ornaments as all theTreasures of the Indies are not ableto purchase. Wou’d help you tosurpass the Men as much in Vertueand Ingenuity, as you do in Beauty;that you may not only be as lovely,but as wise as Angels. Exaltand Establish your Fame, morethan the best wrought Poems andloudest Panegyricks, by ennoblingyour Minds with such Graces asreally deserve it. And instead ofthe Fustian Complements and FulsomeFlatteries of your Admirers,obtain for you the Plaudit of GoodMen and Angels, and the approbationof Him who cannot err. Ina word, render you the Glory andBlessing of the present Age, and theAdmiration and Pattern of thenext.6
And sure, I shall not need manywords to persuade you to closewith this Proposal. The very offeris a sufficient inducement, nor doesit need the set-offs of Rhetorick torecommend it, were I capable,which yet I am not, of applyingthem with the greatest force. Sinceyou can’t be so unkind to yourselves, as to refuse your real Interest,I only entreat you to be so wise asto examine wherein it consists; fornothing is of worse consequencethan to be deceiv’d in a matter ofso great concern. ’Tis as littlebeneath your Grandeur as your Prudence,to examine curiously whatis in this case offer’d you, and totake care that cheating Huckstersdon’t impose upon you with deceitfulWare. This is a Matter infinitelymore worthy your Debates,than what Colours are most agreeable,or what’s the Dress becomesyou best. Your Glass will not doyou half so much service as a serious7reflection on your own Minds,which will discover Irregularitiesmore worthy your Correction, andkeep you from being either toomuch elated or depress’d by the representationsof the other. ’Twillnot be near so advantageous to consultwith your Dancing-Master aswith your own Thoughts, howyou may with greatest exactnesstread in the Paths of Vertue, whichhas certainly the most attractiveAir, and Wisdom the most gracefuland becoming Mien: Let theseattend you and your Carriage willbe always well compos’d, and ev’rything you do will carry its Charmwith it. No solicitude in the adornationof your selves is discommended,provided you employ your careabout that which is really your self;and do not neglect that particle ofDivinity within you, which mustsurvive, and may (if you please)be happy and perfect, when it’s unsuitableand much inferiour Companion8is mouldring into Dust.Neither will any pleasure be deniedyou, who are only desir’d not tocatch at the Shadow and let theSubstance go. You may be as ambitiousas you please, so you aspireto the best things; and contendwith your Neighbours as much asyou can, that they may not out doyou in any commendable Quality.Let it never be said, That they towhom pre-eminence is so very agreeable,can be tamely contentthat others shou’d surpass them inthis, and precede them in a betterWorld! Remember, I pray you,the famous Women of former Ages,the Orinda’s of late, and the moreModern Heroins, and blush tothink how much, is now, and willhereafter be said of them, whenyou your selves (as great a Figureas you make) must be buried insilence and forgetfulness! Shallyour Emulation fail there onlywhere ’tis commendable? Why9are you so preposterously humble,as not to contend for one of thehighest Mansions in the Court ofHeav’n? Believe me, Ladies, thisis the only Place worth contendingfor; you are neither better norworse in your selves for going before,or coming after now; but youare really so much the better, byhow much the higher your stationis in an Orb of Glory. How canyou be content to be in the Worldlike Tulips in a Garden, to make afine shew and be good for nothing;have all your Glories set in theGrave, or perhaps much sooner!What your own sentiments are Iknow not, but I can’t without pityand resentment reflect, that thoseGlorious Temples on which yourkind Creator has bestow’d such exquisiteworkmanship, shou’d enshrineno better than ÆgyptianDeities; be like a garnish’d Sepulchre,which for all its glittering,has nothing within but emptiness10or putrefaction! What a pity it is,that whilst your Beauty casts alustre all around you, your Soulswhich are infinitely more brightand radiant, (of which if you hadbut a clear Idea, as lovely as it is,and as much as you now value it,you wou’d then despise and neglectthe mean Case that encloses it)shou’d be suffer’d to over-run withWeeds, lie fallow and neglected, unadorn’dwith any Grace! Altho’ theBeauty of the mind is necessary tosecure those Conquests which yourEyes have gain’d, and Time thatmortal Enemy to handsome Faces,has no influence on a lovely Soul,but to better and improve it. Forshame let’s abandon that Old, andtherefore one wou’d think, unfashionableemployment of pursuingButter-flies and Trifles! Nolonger drudge on in the dull beatenroad of Vanity and Folly, whichso many have gone before us, butdare to break the enchanted Circle11that custom has plac’d us in, andscorn the vulgar way of imitatingall the Impertinencies of our Neighbours.Let us learn to pride ourselves in something more excellentthan the invention of a Fashion;And not entertain such a degradingthought of our own worth, as toimagine that our Souls were givenus only for the service of our Bodies,and that the best improvement wecan make of these, is to attract theEyes of Men. We value them toomuch, and our selves too little, ifwe place any part of our desert intheir Opinion; and don’t think ourselves capable of Nobler Thingsthan the pitiful Conquest of someworthless heart. She who has opportunitiesof making an interestin Heaven, of obtaining the loveand admiration of GOD and Angels,is too prodigal of her Time,and injurious to her Charms, tothrow them away on vain insignificantmen. She need not make12her self so cheap, as to descend tocourt their Applauses; for at thegreater distance she keeps, andthe more she is above them, themore effectually she secures their esteemand wonder. Be so generousthen, Ladies, as to do nothing unworthyof you; so true to yourInterest, as not to lessen your Empireand depreciate your Charms.Let not your Thoughts be whollybusied in observing what respect ispaid you, but a part of them atleast, in studying to deserve it. Andafter all, remember that Goodnessis the truest Greatness; to be wisefor your selves the greatest Wit;and that Beauty the most desirablewhich will endure to Eternity.
Pardon me the seeming rudenessof this Proposal, which goes upon asupposition that there’s somethingamiss in you, which it is intendedto amend. My design is not to expose,but to rectifie your Failures.To be exempt from mistake, is a13privilege few can pretend to, thegreatest is to be past Conviction andtoo obstinate to reform. Even theMen, as exact as they wou’d seem,and as much as they divert themselveswith our Miscarriages, arevery often guilty of greater faults,and such, as considering the advantagesthey enjoy, are much moreinexcusable. But I will not pretendto correct their Errors, whoeither are, or at least think themselvestoo wise to receive Instructionfrom a Womans Pen. Myearnest desire is, That you Ladies,would be as perfect and happy as’tis possible to be in this imperfectstate; for I love you too well toendure a spot upon your Beauties,if I can by any means remove andwipe it off. I would have you live upto the dignity of your Nature, andexpress your thankfulness to GODfor the benefits you enjoy by a dueimprovement of them: As I knowvery many of you do, who countenance14that Piety which the mendecry, and are the brightest Patternsof Religion that the Age affords;’tis my grief that all the restof our Sex do not imitate such IllustriousExamples, and therefore Iwould have them encreas’d and render’dmore conspicuous, that Vicebeing put out of countenance, (becauseVertue is the only thing infashion) may sneak out of theWorld, and its darkness be dispell’dby the confluence of so many shiningGraces. The Men perhapswill cry out that I teach you falseDoctrine, for because by theirseductions some amongst us are becomevery mean and contemptible,they would fain persuade the rest tobe as despicable and forlorn as they.We’re indeed oblig’d to them fortheir management, in endeavouringto make us so, who use all the artificethey can to spoil, and denyus the means of improvement. Sothat instead of inquiring why all15Women are not wise and good, wehave reason to wonder that there areany so. Were the Men as much neglected,and as little care takento cultivate and improve them, perhapsthey wou’d be so far from surpassingthose whom they now despise,that they themselves wou’dsink into the greatest stupidityand brutality. The preposterousreturns that the most of them make,to all the care and pains that is bestow’don them, renders this no uncharitable,nor improbable Conjecture.One wou’d therefore almostthink, that the wise disposer of allthings, foreseeing how unjustly Womenare denied opportunities of improvementfrom without has thereforeby way of compensation endow’dthem with greater propensionsto Vertue and a natural goodnessof Temper within, whichif duly manag’d, would raise themto the most eminent pitch of heroickVertue. Hither, Ladies, I desire16you wou’d aspire, ’tis a nobleand becoming Ambition, and toremove such Obstacles as lie in yourway is the design of this Paper. Wewill therefore enquire what it isthat stops your flight, that keepsyou groveling here below, likeDomitian catching Flies when youshould be busied in obtaining Empires.
Altho’ it has been said by Menof more Wit than Wisdom, andperhaps of more malice than either,that Women are naturally incapableof acting Prudently, or thatthey are necessarily determined tofolly, I must by no means grant it;that Hypothesis would render myendeavours impertinent, for then itwould be in vain to advise the one,or endeavour the Reformation of theother. Besides, there are Examplesin all Ages, which sufficiently confutethe Ignorance and Malice ofthis Assertion.
The Incapacity, if there be any,17is acquired not natural; and noneof their Follies are so necessary, butthat they might avoid them if theypleas’d themselves. Some disadvantagesindeed they labour under,and what these are we shall see byand by and endeavour to surmount;but Women need not take up withmean things, since (if they are notwanting to themselves) they arecapable of the best. Neither Godnor Nature have excluded themfrom being Ornaments to their Familiesand useful in their Generation;there is therefore no reasonthey should be content to be Cyphersin the World, useless at thebest, and in a little time a burdenand nuisance to all about them.And ’tis very great pity that theywho are so apt to over-rate themselvesin smaller Matters, shou’d,where it most concerns them toknow and stand upon their Value,be so insensible of their own worth.The Cause therefore of the defects18we labour under is, if not wholly,yet