An essay in defence of the female sex In which are inserted the characters of a pedant, a squire, a beau, a vertuoso, a poetaster, a city-critick, &c. in a letter to a lady.
The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.
This vain gay thing sets unfor man, But seemt fate attends him
The powd’ring Barber first began, The Barber Surgeon endst.
In Defence of the
To Her Royal Highness the Princess Anne of Denmark.
If in adventuring to lay this littlePiece at your Highnesses Feet, andhumbly beg your Royal Protectionof it, I have presum’d too far, be pleas’dto impute it to your own, most graciousGoodness, the knowledge of whichencourag’d me. Our Sex are by Naturetender of their own Off-spring,and may be allow’d to have morefondness for those of the Brain, thenany other; because they are so few,and meet with so many Enemies attheir first appearance in the World.I hope therefore to find pardon, if likean indulgent Parent, I have endeavour’dto advance my first Born, byentering it very early into your HighnessesService.
I have not presum’d to approachyour Highness out of any Confidencein the merits of this Essay, but of theCause which it pleads, wherein theHonour of the whole Sex seem’d toexact of me no less a Patronage thanthat of the Best, as well as Greatestamong ’em, whom they are all ambitiousto see at their head. I haveonly endeavour’d to reduce the Sexesto a Level, and by Arguments toraise Ours to an Equallity at mostwith the Men: But your Highnessby Illustrious Example daily convincesthe World of our Superiority,and we see with wonder, Vertues inyou, Madam, greater than your Birth.In this I am peculiarly happy, that Iam exempted from the common Taskof other Dedicators, who lie underan Obligation of publishing to theWorld those Excellencies of theirPatrons, which perhaps appear nowhere but in their Epistles. In meit were as great folly, to pretend tomake known the Illustrious Quallitiesof your Highness, as it wou’d beto go about to demonstrate by Argument,that the Sun shin’d, to aCrowd that are warm’d by the Influenceof it.
I had attempted the Character ofa consummate Woman, could I, tho’but faintly have shaddow’d the inimitableGraces of you Highness; butthe impossibillity of that Task forc’dme to desist. It were easy here tolanch into those glorious particulars,which affirmed of any other thanyour Royal Highness, would havebeen extravagance of Flattery; butto you Injustice, and in me the highestpresumption, to attempt with myfeeble Hand those Perfections, whichthe ablest must fall infinitely shortof. The lustre of your Royal Vertues,Madam, like the Sun, gives uswarmth and light, and while at amodest distance we admire it, improvesour sight, which too bold aview confounds, yet the meanest andmost ignorant see those Glories,which the most exquisite Artist cannever express. The World thereforewill rather justify than comdemn myconduct, if I do not wrong so brightan Original with a dark obscure Copy.
Madam, Tho’ the world may condemnmy performance, it must applaudmy choice in this Address, andown that had I known as well how toArgue, as to Instance, I must infalliblyhave Triumph’d over all Opposition.It may be easie to evade, orbaffle the force of my Arguments,but it is impossible without the utmostStupidity, and Injustice to denythe manifest Advantages of thoseIllustrious Graces, which raise yourHighness so far above theirs as wellas your own Sex. In this I have imitatedthe conduct of prudent Generals,who, when they doubt thesufficiency of their strength, retireto some strong Fort, and rest secureThere is yet another Reason, Madam,which tho’ the least justifiable, wasnevertheless most prevalent with meto devote this Essay to your Highness.My Ambition to shew the profoundRespects I have always had for yourHighness, would not suffer me to letslip any occasion of expressing it, eventho I blush for the meanes of it.Thus I find my self reduc’d by myZeal, to the condition of poor Tenants,who must expose their Poverty,to shew their Affection to theirLord in a worthless Present. I amsensible of the rashness of my Ambitionin aspiring to the Patronage ofYour Highness, and the need I haveof an Apology; but were I able tomake one as I ought, I should havetaken care to have had less occasionfor it. Yet I doubt not from YourGoodness that Indulgence, which Icannot expect from Your Justice,nor but that you will (like Heaven,whose more immediate Images Princesare) accept my unprofitable Service,for the sincerity with which itis tender’d. If my unfeign’d Submissionmay procure pardon for myPresumption, that Your Happinessmay equal Your illustrious Vertues,and Your Royal Person be as farout of the reach of Fortune, as yourFame and Honour of Detraction,shall ever be the prayers of
Prefaces to most Books, are like Prolocutorsto Puppet-Shows, theycome first to tell you what Figures areto be presented, and what Tricks theyare to play. According therefore toancient and laudable Custom, I havethought fit to let you know by way of Preface,or Advertisement, (call it which youplease) that here are many fine Figureswithin to be seen, as well worth yourcuriosity, as any in Smithfield at BartholomewTide. I will not deny, Reader,but that you may have seen someof ’em there already; to those that have,I have little more to say, than that ifthey have a mind to see them again inEffigie, they may do it here. What isit you wou’d have? Here are St.George’s, Batemans, John Dories,Punchinello’s, and the Creation of theWorld, or what’s as good; here’s theGerman Artist too, or one that canshow more Tricks than he: If all thiswill not invite you, y’are grown moresqueamish of late, Gentlemen, than youus’d to be, and the poor Bookseller willmake but an indifferent Market of you.Well, let the worst come to the worst,’tis but shifting the scene to Smithfield,and making an Interest in half a dozenVizor-Masks to be sure of your Company:But he, good Man, is desirous toplease you at first hand, and thereforehas put a fine Picture in the front toinvite you in, so like some of you (ashe protests) that you ought never lookin a Glass again, if it offends you. Formy part, I declare, he has acted clearagainst my Opinion in this case, and sohe has been told; for many a poor Manhas lost the showing of his Monster, bygratifying the curiosity of the gapingCrowd with too exact a picture withoutdoors. Besides, there’s an unluckyRogue of a left-handed Barber, thatlooks like an ill Omen in the beginning.He was told too, that if he wou’d pleasemost of you, he ought to take exampleby your Glasses and flatter you. Yethe continued obstinate and unmoveableto all these weighty Reasons, and is sofondly bent for his Picture, that he resolv’dagainst all advice to have it.Nay, and he wou’d have Rhimes underneathit too, which, he says, weighmore with you, than all the Reason inthe world. I thought fit to let youknow this, that the Bookseller mightnot lose the credit of his Fancy, if ittakes with you, as he is perswaded itwill. For you must know, I am a greatlover of strict Justice, and thereforewould by no means Rob, or Defraudhim of the Glory of his Invention, orby any sinister way sullie, or diminishthe Honour, or Reputation of his Partsand Ingenuity. For the same Reasonlikewise I must acquaint you, that theRhimes are none of mine neither; andnow my Hand is in, I don’t much careif I tell you, that I am not very goodat that ingenious Recreation, calledCrambo, from which some rise to bevery considerable Rhimers. This nowis more then I was oblig’d to tell you,and therefore I hope no body will deny,but that I deal ingenuously at leastwith you.
This one would think were Prefacesufficient; but there are some Men soimpertinently curious, that they mustneeds have a Reason for every thing,that is done in the World, tho’ it werein their favour (for which perhaps itwere hard to give a good one) whenit were their Interest to be satisfied,and thankful without further enquiry.To comply therefore in some measurewith the humour of these People, if anysuch think fit to peruse this Book, Imust tell ’em very freely, that I was sofar from aiming to oblige, or disoblige’em by it, that it was never intendedfor their View. It was occasion’d by aprivate Conversation, between someGentlemen and Ladies, and written atthe request, and for the Diversion ofone Lady more particularly, by whomwith my consent it was communicatedto two or three more of both Sexes,my Friends likewise.
By them I was with abundance ofComplements importun’d to make itpublick; now tho’ I do with good Reasonattribute much more, of what wassaid to me upon this Occasion, to theirgood Breeding and Friendship, than totheir real Opinions of my Performance;yet I have so much satisfaction in theirSincerity, and Friendship as to be confidentthey would not suffer, much lessperswade me to expose to the world anything, of which they doubted so far,as to think it would not be tollerablyacceptable. Nor have I less assuranceof their Judgment and Skill in thingsof this nature, beside that I have beeninform’d by some of ’em, that it hasbeen seen, and favourably receiv’d bysome Gentlemen, whom the world thinksno incompetent Judges. After all thisEncouragement, I suppose, I shall notbe thought vain, if, as I pretend notto the applause, so I fear not the contemptof the world: Yet I presume notso far upon the Merits of what I havewritten, as to make my Name publickwith it. I have elsewhere held,that Vanity was almost the universalmover of all our Actions, and consequentlyof mine, as well as of others;yet it is not strongenough in me, to induceme to bring my Name upon thepublick stage of the World.
There are many Reasons, that obligeme to this cautious, reserv’d wayof procedure; tho’ I might otherwisebe very ambitious of appearing in thedefence of my Sex, cou’d I perswademy self, that I was able to write anything sutable to the dignity of theSubject, which I am not vain enoughto think. This indeed is one Reason,because I am sensible it might havebeen much better defended by ablerPens; such as many among our own Sexare; though I believe scarce thus muchwou’d have been expected from me, bythose that know me. There is likewiseanother Reason, which was yetmore prevalent with me, and