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"An Effay in Defence of the Female Sex." Written by a Lady, and Published in 8vo. 1696.

Shall not enter into any difpute, whether men, or women be generally more ingenious, or learned; that point must be given up to the advantages men have over us by their education, freedom of converfe, and variety of business and company. But when any comparifon is made between them, great allowances must be made for the difparity of thofe circumstances. Neither fhall I conteft about the preeminence of our virtues; I know there are too many vicious, and I hope there are a great many virtuous of both fexes. Yet this I may fay, that whatever vices are found amongst us, have in general both their fource, and encouragement from them.

The queftion I fhall at present handle is, whether the time an ingenious gentleman fpends in the company of women, may juftly be faid to be mifemployed, or not? I put the queftion in general terms; becaufe whoever holds the affirmative mult maintain it fo, or the fex is no way concerned to oppose him. On the other fide I fhall not maintain the negative, but with some restrictions and limitations; becaufe I will not be bound to juftifie those woinen, whofe vices and ill conduct expose them defervedly to the cenfure of the other fex, as well as of their own. The queftion being thus ftated, let us confider the end and purposes, for which converfation was at first instituted, and is yet defirable; and then we shall fee, whether they may not all be found in the company of women. Thefe ends, I take it, are the fame with thofe we aim at in all our other actions, in general only two, profit or pleasure. Thefe are divided into those of the mind, and thofe of the body. Of the latter I fhall take no further notice,

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notice, as having no relation to the present fubject; but fhall confine myself wholly to the mind, the profit of which is the improvement of the understanding; and the pleasure is the diverfion, and relaxation of its cares and paffions. Now if either of these ends be attainable by the fociety of women, I have gained my point. However, I hope to make it appear, that they are not only both to be met with in the converfation of women, but one of them more generally, and in greater measure than in men's.

Our company is generally by our adverfaries reprefented as unprofitable and irkfome to men of fenfe, and by fome of the most vehement sticklers against us, as criminal. These imputations as they are unjuft, efpecially the latter, fo they favour ftrongly of the malice, arrogance, and fottishness of thofe, that most frequently urge them; who are commonly either conceited fops, whofe fuccefs in their pretences to the favour of our fex has been no greater than their merit, and fallen very far fhort of their vanity and prefumption, or a fort of morofe ill-bred, unthinking fellows, who appear to be men only by their habit and beards, and are fcarce diftinguishable from brutes but by their figure and rifibility. But I fhall wave these reflections at prefent, however just, and come closer to our argument. If women are not qualified for the converfation of ingenious men, or, to go yet further, their friendship, it must be because they want fome one condition, or more, neceffarily requifite to either. The neceffary conditions of thefe are fenfe, and good nature, to which must be added, for friendship, fidelity and integrity. Now if any of these be wanting to our fex, it must be either because nature has not been fo liberal as to bestow them upon us; or because due care has not been taken to cultivate those gifts to a competent measure in us.

The first of these causes is that, which is moft generally urged against us, whether it be in raillery, or fpight. I might eafily cut this part of the controverfy fhort by an irrefragable argument, which is, that the exprefs intent, and reafon for which woman was created, was to be a companion and help meet to man; and that confequently those, that


deny them to be fo, muft argue a mistake in providence, and think themselves wifer than their creator. But these gentlemen are generally fuch paffionate admirers of themfelves, and have fuch a profound value and reverence for their own parts, that they are ready at any time to facrifice their religion to the reputation of their wit, and rather than lofe their point, deny the truth of the hiftory. There are others, that though they allow the story, yet affirm, that the propagation, and continuance of mankind, was the only reafon for which we were made; as if the wisdom that firft made man, could not without trouble have continued that fpecies by the fame or any other method, had not this been moft conducive to his happiness, which was the gracious and only end of his creation. But these fuperficial gentlemen wear their understandings like their clothes, always fet and formal, and would no more talk than drefs out of fashion; beaux that, rather than any part of their outward figure should be damaged, would wipe the dirt off their fhoes with their handkercher, and that value themselves infinitely more upon modifh nonfenfe, than upon the beft fenfe against the fashion. But fince I do not intend to make this a religious argument, Ifhall leave all further confiderations of this nature to the divines, whofe more immediate bufinefs and study it is to affert the wifdom of providence in the order, and diftribution of this world, against all that shall oppofe it.

To proceed therefore, if we be naturally defective, the defect must be either in foul or body. In the foul it can't be, if what I have heard fome learned men maintain, be true, that all fouls are equal, and alike, and that confequently there is no fuch distinction, as male and female fouls; that there are no innate ideas, but that all the notions we have, are derived from our external fenfes, either immediately, or by reflection. These metaphyfical fpeculations, I must own require much more learning and a ftronger head, than I can pretend to be mistress of, to be confidered as they ought Yet fo bold I may be, as to undertake the defence of these opinions, when any of our jingling opponents think fit to refute them.

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Neither can it be in the body, (if I may credit the report of learned phyficians) for there is no difference in the organization of thofe parts, which have any relation to, or influence over the minds; but the brain, and all other parts (which I am not anatomist enough to name) are contrived as well for the plentiful conveyance of fpirits, which are held to be the immediate inftruments of fenfation, in women, as men. I fee therefore no natural impediment in the ftructure of our bodies; nor does experience, or obfervation argue any: We use all our natural faculties as well as men, nay and our rational too, deducting only for the advantages before mentioned.

Let us appeal yet further to experience, and obferve thofe creatures that deviate leaft from fimple nature, and fee if we can find any difference in fenfe, or understanding between males and females. In these we may fee nature plaineft, who lie under no constraint of cuftom or laws, but those of paffion or appetite, which are natures, and know no difference of education, nor receive any byafs by prejudice. We fee great diftance in degrees of understanding, wit, cunning, and docility, (call them what you please) between the feveral species of brutes. An ape, a dog, a fox, are by daily obfervation found to be more docile, and more fubtle than an ox, a fwine, or a fheep. But a fhe ape is as full of, and as ready at imitation as a he; a bitch will learn as many tricks in as fhort a time as a dog; a female fox has as many wiles as a male. A thousand inftances of this kind might be produced; but I think thefe are fo plain, that to inftance more were a fuperfluous labour; I fhall only once more take notice, that in brutes and other animals there is no difference betwixt male and female in point of fagacity, notwithstanding there is the fame diftinction of fexes, that is between men and women. I have read, that fome philofophers have held brutes to be no more than meer machines, a fort of divine clockwork, that act only by the force of nice unfeen springs without fenfation, and cry out without feeling pain, eat without hunger, drink without thirft, fawn upon their keepers without feeing them, hunt hares without fmelling, &c.' Here

Here is cover for our antagonists against the last argument fo thick, that there is no beating them out. For my part, I fhall not envy them their refuge, let them lie like the wild Irish fecure within their boggs; the field is at least ours, fo long as they keep to their faftneffes. I fhall only add that if the learnedeft he of them all can convince me of the truth of this opinion, he will very much stagger my faith; for hitherto I have been able to obferve no difference between our knowledge and theirs, but a gradual one; and depend upon revelation alone, that our fouls are immortal, and theirs not.

But if an argument from brutes and other animals fhall not be allowed as conclufive, (though I can't see why fuch an inference should not be valid, fince the parity of reason is the fame on both fides in this cafe,) I fhall defire those, that hold against us to obferve the country people, I mean the inferior fort of them, fuch as not having stocks to follow hufbandry upon their own fcore, fubfift upon their daily labour. For amongst these, though not fo equal as that of brutes, yet the condition of the two fexes is more level, than amongst gentlemen, city traders, or rich yeomen. Examine them in their feveral bufineffes, and their capacities will appear equal; but talk to them of things indifferent, and out of the road of their conftant employment, and the ballance will fall on our fide, the women will be found the more ready and polite. Let us look a little further, and view our fex in a ftate of more improvement, amongst our neighbours the Dutch. There we fhall find them managing not only the domestick affairs of the family, but making, and receiving all payments as well great as fmall, keeping the books, ballancing the accounts, and doing all the business, even the niceft of merchants, with as much dexterity and exactness as their, or our men can do. And I have often hear'd fome of our confiderable merchants blame the conduct of our country-men in this point; that they breed our women fo ignorant of bufinefs; whereas were they taught arithmetick, and other arts which require not much bodily ftrength, they might fupply the places of abundance of lufty men now employed in fedentary business; which would be a mighty profit


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