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the ladies never think it their business to partake in what passes, but in a separate club entertain each other with the price and choice of lace and silk, and what dresses they liked or disapproved at the church or the playhouse. And when you are among yourselves, how naturally after the first compliments do you apply your hands to each other's lappets, and ruffles, and mantuas! as if the whole business of your lives and the public concern of the world depended upon the eut or color of your dress. As divines say,
that some people take more pains to be damned than it would cost them to be saved ; so your sex employ more thought, memory, and application to be fools than would serve to make them wise and useful. When I reflect on this I cannot conceive you to be human creatures, but a certain sort of species hardly a degree above a monkey; who has more diverting tricks than any of you, is an animal less mischievous and expensive, might in time be a tolerable critic in velvet and brocade, and for aught I know, would equally become them. I would have you look upon finery as a necessar
folly, which all great ladies did whom I have ever known: I do not desire you to be out of the fashion, but to be the last and least in it. I expect that
your dress shall be one degree lower than your fortune can afford; and in your own heart I would wish you to be an utter contemner of all distinctions which a finer petticoat can give you; because it will neither make you richer, handsomer, younger,
better natured, more virtuous or wise than if it hung upon a peg.
If you are in company with men of learning, though they happen to discourse of arts and sciences out of your compass, yet you will gather more advantage by listening to them than from all the nonsense and frippery of your own sex; but if they be men of breeding as well as learning, they will seldom engage in any conversation where you ought not to be a hearer, and in time have your part. If they talk of the manners and customs of the several kingdoms of Europe, of travels into remoter nations, of the state of your own country, or of the great men and actions of Greece and Rome; if they give their judgment upon English and French writers either in verse or prose, or of the nature and limits of virtue and vice; it is a shame for an English lady not to relish such discourses, not to improve by them, and endeavor by reading and information to have her share in those entertainments, rather than turn aside, as it is the usual custom, and consult with the woman who sits next her about a new cargo of fans.
It is a little hard that not one gentleman's daughter in a thousand
should be brought to read or understand her own natural tongue, or to be judge of the easiest books that are written in it; as any one may find who can have the patience to hear them, when they are disposed to mangle a play or novel, where the least word out of the common road is sure to disconcert them; and it is no wonder, when they are not so much as taught to spell in their childhood, nor can ever attain to it in their whole lives. I advise you therefore to read aloud, more or less, every day to your husband, if he will permit you, or to any other friend (but not a female one) who is able to set you right; and as for spelling, you may compass it in time by making collections from the books
read. I know very well that those who are commonly called learned women have lost all manner of credit by their impertinent talkativeness and conceit of themselves; but there is an easy remedy for this, if you once consider, that after all the pains you may be at you never can arrive in point of learning to the perfection of a school-boy. The reading I would advise you to is only for improvement of your own good sense, which will never fail of being mended by discretion. It is a wrong method and ill choice of books that makes those learned ladies just so much the worse for what they have read, and therefore it shall be my care to direct you better, a task for which I take myself to be not ill-qualified, because I have spent more time and have had more opportunities than many others to observe and discover from what source the various follies of women are derived.
Pray, observe how insignificant things are the common race of ladies when they have passed their youth and beauty, how contemptible they appear to the men, and yet more contemptible to the younger part of their own sex, and have no relief, but in passing their afternoons in visits, where they are never acceptable, and their evenings at cards among each other, while the former part of the day is spent in spleen and envy, or in vain endeavors to repair by art and dress the ruins of time. Whereas I have known ladies at sixty, to whom all the polite part of the court and town paid their addresses, without any further view than that of enjoying the pleasure of their conversation.
I am ignorant of any one quality that is amiable in a man which is not equally so in a woman: I do not except even modesty and gentleness of nature. Nor do I know one vice or folly which is not equally detestable in both. There is indeed one infirmity which is generally allowed you, I mean that of cowardice; yet there should
seem to be something very capricious, that when women profess their admiration for a colonel or a captain, on account of his valor, they should fancy it a very graceful and becoming quality in themselves, to be afraid of their own shadows; to scream in a barge when the weather is calmest, or in a coach at a ring: to run from a cow at a hundred yards distance, to fall into fits at the sight of a spider, an earwig, or a frog. At least, if cowardice be a sign of cruelty, (as it is generally granted,) I can hardly think it an accomplishment so desirable as to be thought worth improving by affectation.
And as the same virtues equally become both sexes, so there is no quality whereby women endeavor to distinguish themselves from men for which they are not just so much the worst, except that only of reservedness; which, however, as you generally manage it, is nothing else but affectation or hypocrisy. For, as you cannot too much discountenance those of our sex who presume to take unbecoming liberties before you; so you ought to be wholly unconstrained in the company of deserving men, when you have had sufficient experience of their discretion.
There is never wanting in this town a tribe of bold, swaggering, rattling ladies, whose talents pass among coxcombs for wit and humor; their excellency lies in rude, shocking expressions, and what they call running a man down. If a gentleman in their company happens to have any blemish in his birth or person, if
misfortune has befallen his family or himself for which he is ashamed, they will be sure to give him broad hints of it without any provocation. I would recommend you to the acquaintance of a common prostitute rather than to that of such termagants as these. I have often thought that no man is obliged to suppose such creatures to be women, but to treat them like insolent rascals disguised in female habits, who ought to be stripped and kicked down stairs.
I will add one thing, although it be a little out of place, which is to desire that you will learn to value and esteem your husband for those good qualities which he really possesses, and not to fancy others in him which he certainly has not. For, although this latter is generally understood to be a mark of love, yet it is indeed nothing but affectation or ill judgment. It is true, he wants so very few accomplishments, that you are in no great danger of erring on this side; but my caution is occasioned by a lady of your acquaintance, married to a very valuable person, whom yet she is so unfortunate as to be always commending for those perfections to which he can least pretend.
RESOLUTIONS WII EN I COME TO BE OLD.
I can give you no advice upon the article of expense; only I think you ought to be well informed how much your husband's revenue amounts to, and be so good a computer as to keep within it in that part of the management which falls to your share; and not to put yourself in the number of those politic ladies, who think they gain a great point when they have teased their husbands to buy them a new equipage, a laced head, or a fine petticoat, without once considering what long score remained unpaid to the butcher.
I desire you will keep this letter in your cabinet, and often examine impartially your whole couduct by it: and so God bless you, and make you a fair example to your sex, and a perpetual comfort to your husband and your parent.
I am, with great truth and affection, Madam, your most faithful friend and humble servant.
RESOLUTIONS WHEN I COME TO BE OLD.
WRITTEN IN 1699.
In compliance with the dean's own request, and agreeably to one of these resolutions, Dr. Sheridan faithfully admonished Swift of his parsimonious disposition as his faculties began to fail. “Doctor,” answered Swift, with an expressive look, “ do you remember the bishop of Grenada in Gil Blas ?" Their cordiality ceased from that moment.
Not to marry a young woman.
Not to neglect decency or cleanliness, for fear of falling into nastiness.
Not to be over-severe with young people, but give allowances for their youthful follies and weaknesses.
1" The reader of this letter may be allowed to doubt whether Swift's opinion of female excellence ought implicitly to be admitted; for if his general thoughts on women were such as he exhibits, a very little sense in a lady would enrapture, and a very little virtue would astonish him. Stella's supremacy, therefore, was per. haps only local. She was great because her associates were little."
Not to be influenced by, or give ear to, knavish tattling servants, or others.
Not to be too free of advice, or trouble any but those who desire it.
To desire some good friend to inform me which of these resolutions I break or neglect, and wherein, and reform accordingly.
Not to talk much, nor of myself.
Not to boast of my former beauty, or strength, or favor with ladies, &c.
Not to hearken to flatteries, nor conceive I can be beloved by a young woman; et eos qui hæreditatem captant, odisse ac vitare.
Not to be positive or opinionative.
THOUGHTS ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS,
MORAL AND DIVERTING.1
We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love, one another.
Reflect on things past, as wars, negotiations, factions, &c., we enter so little into those interests that we wonder how men could possibly be so busy and concerned for things so transitory; look on the present times, we find the same humor, yet wonder not at all.
A wise man endeavors, by considering all circumstances, to make conjectures, and form conclusions; but the smallest accident intervening, (and in the course of affairs it is impossible to foresee all,) does often produce such turns and changes, that at last he is just as much in doubt of events as the most ignorant and unexperienced person.
Positiveness is a good quality for preachers and orators, because he that would obtrude his thoughts and reasons upon a multitude, will convince others the more as he appears convinced himself.
How is it possible to expect that mankind will take advice, when they will not so much as take warning ?
I forget whether advice be among the lost things, which Ariosto
Mr. Pope and dean Swift, being in the country, agreed to write down such involuntary thoughts as occurred to them during their walks; and these are such as belong to the dean.