JUDITH SARGENT MURRAY
writing in the Gleaner, Volume III, No. LXXXVIII
Amid the blaze of this auspicious day,
When science points the broad refulgent way,
Her iron sceptre prejudice reigns,
And sov’reign reason all resplendent shines.
The reader is requested to consider the four succeeding numbers as supplementary to an Essay, which made its appearance, some years since, in a particular publication of a miscellaneous nature. The particular paper to which I advert, was entitled, The Equality of the Sexes; and, however well I may think of that composition, as I do not conceive that the subject is exhausted, I have though proper, treading in the same path, to set about collecting a few hints, which may serve as additional, illustrative, or ornamental.
And, first, by way of exordium, I take leave to congratulate my fair country-women, on the happy revolution which the few past years has made in their favour; that in these infant republics, where, within my remembrance, the use of the needle was the principal attainment which was thought necessary for a woman, the lovely proficient is now permitted to appropriate a moiety of her time to studies of a more elevated and elevating nature. Female academies are every where establishing, and right pleasant is the appellation to my ear.
Yes, in this younger world, “the Rights of Women” begin to be understood; we seem, at length, determined to do justice to THE SEX; and, improving on the opinions of a Wollstonecraft, we are ready to contend for the quantity, as well as the quality, of mind. The younger part of the female world have now an inestimable prize put into their hands; and it depends on the rising generation to refute sentiment, which, still retaining its advocates, grounds its arguments on the incompatibility of the present enlarged plan of female education, with those necessary occupations, that must ever be considered as proper to the department and comprised in the duties of a judiciously instructed and elegant woman; and, if our daughters will combine their efforts, converts to the new regulations will every day multiply among us. To argue against facts, is indeed contending with both wind and tide; and, borne down by accumulating examples, conviction of the utility of the present plans will pervade the public mind, and not a dissenting voice will be heard.
I may be accused of enthusiasm; but such is my confidence in THE SEX, that I expect to see our young women forming a new era in female history. They will oppose themselves to every trivial and unworthy monopolizer of time; and it will be apparent, that the adorning their persons is not with them a primary object. They will know how to appreciate personal advantages; and, considering them as bestowed by Nature, or Nature’s God, they will hold them in due estimation: Yet, conscious that they confer no intrinsic excellence on the temporary possessor, their admeasurement of real virtue will be entirely divested of all those prepossessing ideas, which originate in a beautiful exterior. The noble expansion conferred by a liberal education will teach them humility; for it will give them a glance of those vast tracts of knowledge which they can never explore, until they are accommodated with far other powers than those at present assigned them; and they will contemplate their removal to a higher order of beings, as a desirable event.
Mild benignity, with all the modest virtues, and every sexual grace—these they will carefully cultivate; for they will have learned, that in no character they can so effectually charm, as that in which nature designed them the pre-eminence. They will accustom themselves to reflection; they will investigate accurately, and reason will point their conclusions: Yet they will not be assuming; the character trait will still remain; and retiring sweetness will insure them that consideration and respect, which they do not presume to demand. Thinking justly will not only enlarge their minds, and refine their ideas; but it will correct their dispositions, humanize their feelings, and present them the friends of their species. The beauteous bosom will no more become a lurking-place for invidious and rancorous passions; but the mild temperature of the soul will be evinced by the benign and equal tenour of their lives. Their manners will be unembarrassed; and, studious to shun even the semblance of pedantry, they will be careful to give to their most systematic arguments and deductions, an unaffected and natural appearance. They will rather question than assert; and they will make their communication supposition, that the point in discussion has rather escaped the memory of those with whom they converse, than it was never imprinted there.
It is true, that every faculty of their minds will be occasionally engrossed by the most momentous concerns; but as often as necessity or propriety shall render it incumbent on them, they will cheerfully accommodate themselves to the more humble duties which their situation imposes. When their sphere of action is enlarged, when they become wives and mothers, they will fill with honour the parts allotted them. Acquainted, theoretically, with the nature of their species, and experimentally with themselves, they will not expect to meet, in wedlock, with those faultless beings, who so frequently issue, armed at all points, from the teeming brain of the novelist. They will learn properly to estimate; they will look, with pity’s softest eye, on the natural frailties of those whom they elect as partners for life; and they will regard their virtues with that sweet complacency, which is ever an attendant on a predilection founded on love, and happily combining esteem. As mothers, they will assume with alacrity their arduous employment, and they will cheerfully bend to its various departments. They will be primarily solicitous to fulfil, in every instance, whatever can justly be denominated duty; and those intervals, which have heretofore been devoted to frivolity, will be appropriated to pursuits, calculated to inform, enlarge, and sublime the soul—to contemplations which will ameliorate the heart, unfold and illumine the understanding, and gradually render the human being an eligible candidate for the society of angels.
Such, I predict, will be the daughters of Columbia; and my gladdened spirit rejoices in the prospect. A sensible and informed woman—companionable and serious—possessing also a facility of temper, and united to a congenial mind—blest with competency—and rearing to maturity a promising family of children—Surely, the wide globe cannot produce a scene more truly interesting. See! the virtues are embodied—the domestic duties appear in their place, and they are all fulfilled—morality is systemized by religion, and sublimed by devotion—every movement is the offspring of elegance, and their manners have received the highest polish. A reciprocation of good offices, and a mutual desire to please, uniformly distinguishes the individuals of this enchanting society—their conversation, refined and elevated, partakes the fire of genius, while it is pointed by information; and they are ambitious of selecting subjects, which, by throwing around humanity, in its connexion, additional lustre, may implant a new motive for gratitude, and teach them to anticipate the rich fruition of that immortality which they boast. Such is the family of reason—of reason, cultivated and adorned by literature.
The idea of the incapability of women, is, we conceive, in this enlightened age, totally inadmissible; and we have concluded, that establishing the expediency of admitting them to share the blessings of equality, will remove every obstacle to their advancement. In proportion as nations have progressed in the arts of civilization, the value of THE SEX hath been understood, their rank in the scale of being ascertained, and their consequence in society acknowledged. But if prejudice still fortifies itself in the bosom of any; if it yet enlifteth its votaries against the said despot and its followers, we produce, instead of arguments, a number of well attested facts, which the student of female annals hath carefully compiled.
Women, circumscribed in their education within very narrow limits, and constantly depressed by their occupations, have, nevertheless, tinged the cheek of manhood with a guilty suffusion, with a pusillanimous capitulation with the enemies of their country. Quitting the loom and the distaff, they have beheld, with indignation, their husbands and their sons flee in battle: With clasped hands, and determined resolution, they have placed themselves in their paths, obstructing their passage, and insisting, with heroic firmness, on their immediate return to death or conquest! They have anxiously examined the dead bodies of their slaughtered sons; and if the fatal wounds were received in front, thus evincing that they have bravely faced the foe, the fond recollection of their valour has become a source of consolation, and they have sung a requiem to their sorrows! Women, in the heat of action, have mounted the rampart with undaunted courage, arrested the progress of the foe, and bravely rescued their besieged dwellings! They have successfully opposed themselves to tyranny and the galling yoke of oppression! Assembling in crowds, they have armed themselves for the combat—they have mingled amid the battling ranks—they have fought heroically—and their well-timed and well-concerted measures have emancipated their country! They have hazarded the stroke of death in its most frightful form; and they have submitted to bonds and imprisonment, for the redemption of their captive husbands!
The character of the Spartan woman is marked with uncommon firmness. At the shrine of patriotism they immolated nature. Undaunted bravery and unimpeached honour, was, in their estimation, far beyond affection. The name Citizen possessed, for them, greater charms than that of Mother; and so highly did they prize the warrior’s meed, that they are said to have shed tears of joy over the bleeding bodies of their wounded sons!
When Europe and Asia were infested by armed multitudes, who, emigrating for purposes of devastation and settlement, perpetrated the most ferocious acts, among all those various tribes of unprincipled invaders, no discriminating line seems to have marked the sexes; wives submitted to similar hardships with their husbands; equally they braved the impending danger; and their efforts and their sufferings were the same: Nor can their habits of endurance and patient fortitude admit a rational doubt.
The women of Hungary have rendered themselves astonishingly conspicuous in their wars against the Ottoman Empire—But proofs abound; and numerous actions might be produced to evince, that courage is by no means exclusively a masculine virtue. Women have frequently displayed an intrepidity, not to be surpassed by men—neither is their bravery the impulse of the moment. They not only, when trained by education, and inured by subsequent habit, rise superior to the fears of death; but, with unimpassioned and sedate composure, they can endure life—they can struggle with the fatigues and inconveniences—they can fulfil the duties, and they can support the irremediable calamities of war. They have achieved the most surprising adventures; indulgencies have been extended to them on the well-fought field; and they have expired with the weapons of death in their hands! Actuated by devotional zeal, and stimulated by the sublime expectation of an opening heaven, and a glorious immortality, they have rushed into the flames, have ascended the scaffold, have suffered the dismemberment of their bodies, have submitted to the tortures of dislocation, and to the most excruciating racks, in defense of truth! nor hath the voice of murmuring or complaint escaped their lips!
Women have publickly harangued on religion—they have presented themselves as disputants—they have boldly supported their tenets—they have been raised to the chair of philosophy, and of law—they have written fluently in Greek, and have read with great facility the Hebrew language. Youth and beauty, adorned with every feminine grace, and possessing eminently the powers of rhetoric, have pathetically conjured the mitred fathers and the Christian monarchs to arm themselves for the utter extirpation of the enemies of their holy religion.
In the days of knight-errantry, females, elevated by the importance with which they were invested, discriminated unerringly between the virtues and the vices, studiously cultivating the one, and endeavouring to exterminate the other; and their attainments equalled the heroism of their admirers; their bosoms glowed with sentiments as sublime as those they originated; generosity marked their elections; the impassioned feelings, the burst of tenderness, were invariably blended with honour; and every expression, every movement, was descriptive of the general enthusiasm. Pride, heroism, extravagant attachments; these were common to both sexes. Great enterprizes, bold adventures, incredible bravery—in every thing the women partook the colour of our times; and their taste and their judgment were exactly conformed. Thus the sexes are congenial; they are copyists of each other; and their opinions and their habits are elevated or degraded, animated or depressed, by precisely the same circumstances.
The Northern nations have generally been in the habit of venerating the Female Sex. Constantly employed in bending the bow, in exploring the haunts of those animals, who were the victims of their pleasures and their passions, or of urging against their species the missive shafts of death, they nevertheless banished their ferocity, and assumed the mildest manners, when associating with their mothers, their sisters, their mistresses, or their wives. In their ample forests, their athletic frames and sinewy arms were nerved for battle, while the smiles of some lovely woman were the meed of valour; and the hero who aspired to the approbation of the beautiful arbitress of his fate, authorized his wishes, and established his pretensions, by eminent virtue, and a long series of unbroken attentions.
A persuasion, that the common Father of the universe manifests himself more readily to females that to males, has, at one period or another, obtained, more or less, in every division of the globe. The Germans, the Britons, and the Scandinavians—from these the supposition received an easy credence. The Grecian women delivered oracles—the Romans venerated the Sibyls—among the people of God, the Jewish women prophesied—the predictions of the Egyptian matron were much respected—and we are assured, that the most barbarous nations referred to their females, whatever they fancied beyond the reach of human efforts: And hence we find women in possession of the mysteries of religion, the arcana of physic, and the ceremonies of incantation. Writers assert, that several nations have ascribed to women the gift of prescience, conceiving that they possessed qualities approximating to divinity; and the ferocious German, embosomed in his native woods, renders a kind of devotional reverence to the Female Sex.
Such is the character of those periods, when women were invested with undue elevation; and the reverse presents THE SEX in a state of humiliation, altogether unwarrantable. The females among the savages of our country, are represented as submitting to the most melancholy and distressing oppression; slaves to the ferocious passions and irregular appetites of those tyrannical usurpers, who brutally and cruelly outrage their feelings. They encounter for their support, incredible hardships and toils, insomuch that, weary of their own wretched existence, the women on the banks of the Oronoko, urged by compassion, not infrequently smother the female infant in the hour of its birth; and she who hath attained sufficient fortitude to perform this maternal act, esteems herself entitled to additional respect. Commodore Byron, in his account of the inhabitants of South-America, informs us, that the men exercise a most despotic authority over their wives, whom they consider in the same view they do any other part of their property, and dispose of them accordingly: Even their common treatment of them is cruel; for, although the toil and hazard of procuring food lies entirely on the women, yet they are not suffered to touch any part of it, till their imperious masters are satisfied, and then he assigns them their portion, which is generally very scanty, and such as he has not an appetite for, himself.
Thus have the Sex continued the sport of contingencies; unnaturally subjected to extremes; alternately in the mount of exaltation, and in the valley of unmerited degradation. Is it wonderful, then, that they evince so little stability of character? Rather, is it not astonishing, that their attainments are so numerous, and so considerable? Turning over the annals of different ages, we have selected a number of names, which we purpose, in our next Essay, to cite, as vouchers of THE SEX’S merit; nor can we doubt, that their united suffrages will, on a candid investigation, effectually establish the female right to that equality with their brethren, which, it is conceived, is assigned to them in the Order of Nature.
—the officers of death, bearing the body of her husband, while the headless trunk yet streamed with blood, met her on her passage—neither of them had completed their seventeenth year—she looked—she sighed—and then, reassuming her composed sedateness, desired her conductors to proceed—she mounted the scaffold with an accelerated step—she addressed the surrounding spectators—she committed the care of her person to her woman; and, with a countenance descriptive of serene dignity, bowed her head to the executioner. Thus perished a spotless victim of despotism and of bigotry in the bloom of youth and beauty, rich in innocence, and adorned with every literary accomplishment and sexual grace. Latest posterity will lament her fate, and many hearts will join to execrate the sanguinary measures which procured it. Under this head we produce but one more testimony.
Miss Anna Askew, a young lady of great merit, and possessed also of a beautiful exterior, lived during the tyranny of Henry VIII. of England; a despot, who seemed to conceive the female world created on purpose to administer to his pleasures, or to become the victims of his cruelty and implacability. Miss Askew was arraigned as a transgressor; her crime was a denial of the real presence in the eucharist; and for this atrocious offence, she was rigorously imprisoned, and subjected to a series of barbarities that would have disgraced even savage inhumanity. Yet, in a situation which involved trials, that in a succeeding reign proved too mighty for the resolution even of the virtuous Cranmer, her heroism and fortitude continued unshaken. With unyielding firmness she vindicated the truth of her opinion, and her hourly orisons were offered up to her Father God. The chancellor, a bigoted Catholic, sternly questioned her relative to her abettors; but she nobly disdained to present an accusation, the consequences of which she so rigorously experienced: Her unbending integrity furnished the pretence, and she was, without further delay, put to the torture; but still her fortitude receded not; and her heroic silence evinced her abundantly superior to their unmanly cruelties. The enraged chancellor, in whose presence she suffered, transported with diabolic zeal, grasping with his own hands the cords, violently stretched the rack, and almost tore her body asunder; while yet unappalled, her fortitude forsook her not, and her triumph over her barbarous tormentors was complete.
Her death-warrant was next made out, and she received the sentence which condemned her to the flames, as a emancipation from every evil. All her joints dislocated by the rack, she was borne to the place of execution; and there, after being bound to the stake, was offered her life on condition of retracting her supposed error; but she consistently rejected an existence to be purchased only by the forfeiture of that consciousness of rectitude, which the virtuous so well know how to prize; and as the flames that were her passport to regions of blessedness, enkindled around her, a song of thanksgiving was on her lips, and her exultation evidently augmented.
Fourthly, They are equally brave. Bravery is not a quality which figures gracefully in the list of female virtues, nor are we anxious it should take rank in the catalogue—far from it; we should rather lament to see it become a characteristic trait. We would have women support themselves with consistent firmness under the various exigencies of life, but we would not arm them with the weapons of death: Yet, when contending for equality of soil, it may be necessary to prove the capability of the female mind, to rear to perfection whatever seeds may be adventitiously implanted therein. We therefore proceed to produce a witness or two on this part of the question; and, consulting our records, we assign the precedence, all circumstances considered, to a young woman of Lemnos, an island in the Archipelago.
This magnanimous female beheld the streaming wounds of her expiring father, in the fatal moment in which he was slaughtered on the field of battle; and, instead of yielding to those tender sensibilities originating in nature, and generally associated with valour—instead of lamenting his fate by sighs and tears, or the wordy exclamations of clamorous sorrow, she undauntedly seized that sword and shield now rendered useless to the venerable warrior, and, arming herself therewith, reanimated the dispirited soldiers, led them once more to the charge; bravely opposed the Turks, who, having forced a gate, were rapidly advancing; and gloriously avenged the death of her father, by driving them back to the shore, and compelling them to take refuge in their vessels.
Jane of Flanders next presents: This lady, during the imprisonment of her husband, nobly supported the declining honours of her house: With her infant son in her arms, she met the assembling citizens, and pathetically deploring her misfortunes, she secured their exertions in her favour. She sustained with unyielding firmness the attacks of a vigilant and active foe. In the frequent sallies made by the garrison, she herself led on her warriors. At the head of three hundred horse, with her own hand she set fire to the tents and baggage of the besiegers, thus necessitating them to desist from the general assault which they were in the moment of commencing; and, although intercepted in her return to the citadel, she nevertheless fought her way through one quarter of the French camp, and rejoined her faithful friends in triumph!
Margaret of Anjou is a decisive proof that courage is not exclusively the property of man—Brave, indefatigable and persevering—fruitful in resources—supporting by her genius and her exertions a pusillanimous husband—repeatedly emancipating him from prison, and replacing him on a throne which he had lost by imbecility, and which he was unable to retain—and equal to every thing which depended on undaunted courage, she headed her armies in person; directed their arrangements; and proceeded from rank to rank, animating them by her undaunted intrepidity and judicious conduct; and, when borne down by misfortunes, and apparently destitute of every resource, suddenly she emerged, and, followed by numerous armies, again appeared in the field; nor did she submit to fate, until she had fought, as a general and a soldier, twelve decisive battles!!!
The French women—Charlotte Cordé—But our depositions unexpectedly multiplying, a recollection of our engagement can alone suppress their evidence.
arguments resulting from rectitude, were pointed by reason: And it will be conceived that her rhetorical powers must have been of the first rate, when it is remembered that the countenances of the tyrants betrayed sudden and evident tokens of that remorse which was then first enkindled in their bosoms; the hue of guilt pervaded their cheeks, and they hastily repealed the injurious decree. For the brow of Hortensia, fame prepared an immortal wealth: To the utmost gratitude of her contemporaries she was entitled: Her triumph was the triumph of virtue and of talents: She enkindled even in the callous breasts of assassins, the almost extinguished sparks of humanity; and she stands on the page of history, a pattern of dauntless courage, and an example of genuine eloquence.
Eighthly, They are as faithful and as persevering in their attachments. Here countless witnesses crowd on retention, and the greatest difficulty is in choosing judiciously. Repeatedly have I seen the faithfully attached female, firmly persevering in that affection which was first implanted in the soil of innocence, and fondly watching with tender anxiety every symptom of the diseased man: With patient assiduity she hath hung over the couch, and fought to mitigate the pangs of him whose licentious conduct had brought ruin on herself and her unoffending children! Had circumstances been reversed, divorce would have succeeded—a hospital must have sheltered the helpless woman; and, had she received from the man she had injured any trivial attention, the unmerited gratuity would have resounded through the circle of their connexions, been dwelt on with rapture, and echoed by every tongue. But when virtue is the basis; when acts of kindness cement the union, THE SEX in many instances have set no bound to that faithful attachment which their hearts have exultingly acknowledged. Filial duty—conjugal affection—persevering constancy—these receive in the female bosom the highest perfection of which they are, in the present state, susceptible.
The young Roman, supporting her imprisoned parent by the milk of her own chaste bosom, if unparalleled in history, would yet in like situation, obtain many imitators; and the feelings of a daughter would prompt, for the relief of the authors of her being, the noblest exertions. The celebrated Mrs. Roper, eldest daughter of Sir Thomas Moore, continued his affectionate solace during his imprisonment: With heart-affecting anguish she rushed through the guards to catch, from the illustrious martyr, a last embrace. Bending under a weight of calamity, she obtained permission to pay him sepulchral honours; and, regardless of the tyrant’s power, she purchased the venerable head of the meritorious sufferer: Yet, too noble to permit the consequences to fall upon another, with dauntless courage she became her own accuser; and, loaded with fetters for two crimes, “for having watched the head of her father as a relique, and for having preserved his books and writings,” appeared with unconcern before her judges—justified herself with that eloquence which virtue bestows on injured merit—commanding admiration and respect—and spent the remainder of her life in solitude, in sorrow, and in study.
But women, unable to support existence, when deprived of those with whom they have exchanged the nuptial vow, have mounted the funeral pile, and hastened to rejoin their deceased partners in other worlds. Portia, the daughter of Cato Uticensis, and wife of Brutus, hearing of the death of her husband, disdained to live; and when debarred access to the usual weapons of destruction, made her exit by resolutely swallowing burning coals of fire! Julia, the wife of Pompey, expired upon seeing his robe distained with the blood which she imagined had issued from his veins. Molsa Tarquinia, rendered illustrious by genius and literature, of unblemished virtue, and possessing, also, a beautiful exterior, although one of the brightest ornaments of the Court of Ferrara, and receiving from the people of Rome, that unprecedented honour, the freedom of their city, mourned, nevertheless, through a long life, until the hour of her dissolution, the husband of her youth. Artemisia, wife of Mausolus, rendered herself illustrious, and obtained immortality, by her devotion to the memory of her husband. The Mausoleum, which she reared in honour of him, was considered as one of the seven wonders of the world; and it gave name to all those succeeding monuments, which were distinguished by extraordinary marks of magnificence. Artemisia expired, the victim of inconsolable regret and tender sorrow, before the Mausoleum was completed. Victoria Colonna, Marchioness of Pescalra, ardently engaged in literary pursuits, while fame did ample justice to her productions; yet, separated by the stroke of death, in the morning of her days, from an illustrious and gallant husband, appropriated her remaining years to unceasing grief, lamenting, in her pathetic Essays, the long-lost hero. The celebrated Mrs. Rowe, equally conspicuous for genius and virtue, continued faithful and persevering in her attachment to her deceased husband; nor could a length of years abate her regrets.
Ninthly, they are capable of supporting, with equal honour, the toils of government. Semiramis appears to have associated all the virtues and vices which have received the masculine stamp—she extended her empire from Ethiopia to India, and subdued many nations—her buildings and gardens were also magnificent—and she governed, in many respects, judiciously. Artemisia, queen of Caria, and daughter of Lygdamis, possessing, during the minority of her son, sovereign authority, distinguished herself both by her counsels and her personal valour. Amalansuntha governed with the greatest justice, wisdom, and prudence. Julia Mammaea educated her son, Alexander Severus, implanting in his bosom the seeds of virtue, and adorning him with every princely accomplishment: He was worthy of the high rank to which he was raised, and disposed to become the father of his people: His mother presided in his councils; the era of their administration was tumultuous and hazardous, and its disastrous termination is one of the events which the student of history will not fail to deplore.
Zenobia united genius and valour—she was dignified by the title of Augusta. After the demise of her husband, the supreme authority devolving upon her, she governed with rectitude, firmness, and intrepidity. She preserved the provinces in their allegiance, and added Egypt to her dominions. Moreover, when led into captivity, she knew how to bring into subjection, her feelings; she endured misfortune with the heroism of a noble spirit, and found a solace for the loss of royalty, and the pageantry of a throne, in those rational pursuits, which solitude and freedom from care uninterruptedly permit. Longinus was her preceptor and friend; and she was worthy of his tuition and preferable attachment. Elizabeth of England was endowed with energetic talents; her reign was glorious for the people over which she presided; she was undoubtedly a great politician, and governed with uniform vigour; she is characterized as possessing much penetration, and an understanding fruitful of resources; her foreign negociations were conducted with propriety and dignity; her mind was opened and polished by all the aids of an extensive education, and adversity was among her preceptors. Christina, queen of Sweden, governed her subjects twenty-one years, with uniform wisdom and unimpeached prudence, when she magnanimously resigned her crown; thus giving a rare example of an elevation of intellect, which has not been surpassed.
Tenthly, and Lastly, They are equally susceptible of every literary acquirement. Corinna, it is said, triumphed a fifth time over the immortal Pindar, who had publickly challenged her to contend with him in the poetical line. Sappho, the Lesbian poetess, was admired by the ancients—she produced many poems, and was addressed as the tenth Muse. Sulpicia, a Roman lady, who lived under the reign of Domitian, was called the Roman Sappho. Hypatia, beautiful learned, and virtuous, the daughter of Theon, presided over the Platonic school at Alexandria, about the close of the fourth century; she was judged qualified to succeed her father in that distinguished and important office; her wisdom was held in universal esteem; and from her judgment no one thought proper to appeal: Persons cloathed in public authority, even the first magistrates, deliberated with her on the most urgent and important emergencies; this unavoidably drew around her succeeding circles of men; yet she maintained her intercourse with characters of various descriptions, without the shadow of an impeachment of her reputation, until basely traduced, in a single instance, by bigotted and interested calumniators. Cassandra, a Venetian lady, attained an accurate skill in languages, and made great proficiency in the learning of her times; she composed with facility, both in numbers and in prose, in the language of Homer, Virgil, and Dante; she was a proficient in the philosophy of her own and preceding ages; she rendered theology harmonious; she supported theses with brilliancy; she lectured publickly at Padua; she blended the fine arts with her serious studies; and the mild complacency of her manners constituted the completion of her character: She received homage from sovereign pontiffs, and sovereign princes; and she continued an ornament of her Sex, and of humanity, one hundred and two years.
The daughter of Sir Thomas Moore, Mrs. Roper, already cited under the eighth article, whose virtues were polished by literary attainments, corresponded in Latin with the celebrated Erasmus, and successfully appropriated many years of her life to study: Her daughter inherited her erudition, and her amiable qualifications. The Seymours, sisters, and nieces of a king, wrote elegantly in Latin. Isabella of Rosera, in Spain, by her substantial arguments, natural deductions, and able rhetoric, greatly augmented the number of believing Jews; the great church of Barcelona was open for the exertion of her pulpitorial abilities; and she acquired much honour by her commentaries upon the learned Scotus. France knew how to estimate the talents of the Dutchess of Retz; she pursued her studies amid the seducing pleasures of a court; and, although young and beautiful, spoke the ancient languages with propriety and elegance. Mary Stuart, queen of Scotland, possessing all the advantages of exterior, and every sexual grace, assiduously cultivated her mind: Her learning was as remarkable as her beauty; she could, we are informed, write and speak six languages; her numbers enchanted the Gallic car; and, at an early age, she pronounced before the French Court a Latin oration, calculated to convince her hearers, that literary pursuits are proper to the Female Sex. Beauty could not plead in vain; the lovely speaker exemplified, in her own character and attainments, the truth she inculcated; she was, herself, that happy combination, the practicability of which she laboured to impress; and conviction undoubtedly irradiated the minds of her audience.
In the thirteenth century, a young lady of Bologna, pursuing, with avidity, the study of the Latin language, and the legislative institutions of her country, was able, at the age of twenty-three, to deliver, in the great church of Bologna, a Latin oration, in praise of a deceased person, eminent for virtue; nor was she indebted for the admiration she received, to the indulgence granted to her youth, or Sex. At the age of twenty-six, she took the degree of a Doctor of Laws, and commenced her career in this line, by public expositions of the doctrines of Justinian: At the age of thirty, her extraordinary merit raised her to the chair, where she taught the law to an astonishing number of pupils, collected from various nations. She joined to her profound knowledge, sexual modesty, and every feminine accomplishment; yet her personal attractions were absorbed in the magnitude and splendor of her intellectual abilities; and the charms of her exterior only commanded attention, when she ceased to speak. The fourteenth century produced, in the same city, a like example; and the fifteenth continued, and acknowledged the pretensions of THE SEX, insomuch that a learned chair was appropriated to illustrious women.
Issotta Nogarolla was also an ornament of the fifteenth century, and Sarochisa of Naples was deemed worthy of a comparison with Tasso. Modesta Pozzo’s defence of her Sex did her honor; she was, herself, an example of excellence. Gabrielle, daughter of a king, found leisure to devote to her pen; and her literary pursuits contributed to her usefulness and her happiness. Mary de Gournai rendered herself famous by her learning. Guyon, by her writings and her sufferings, hath evinced the justice of her title to immortality. Anna Maria Schurman of Cologne, appears to have been mistress of all the useful and ornamental learning of the age which she adorned: She was born in 1607; her talents unfolded with extraordinary brilliancy: In the bud of her life, at the age of six years, she cut, with her scissors, the most striking resemblances of every figure which was presented to her view, and they were finished with astonishing neatness. At ten, she was but three hours in learning to embroider. She studied music, painting, sculpture and engraving, and made an admirable proficiency in all those arts. The Hebrew, Greek and Latin languages were familiar to her; and she made some progress in the oriented tongues. She perfectly understood French, English and Italian, and expressed herself eloquently in all those languages; and she appropriated a portion of her time, to the acquirement of an extensive acquaintance with geography, astronomy, philosophy, and the other sciences: Yet she possessed so much feminine delicacy, and retiring modesty, that her talents and acquirements had been consigned to oblivion, if Vassius, and other amateurs of literature, had not ushered her, in opposition to her wishes, upon the theatre of the world: But when she was once known, persons of erudition, of every description, corresponded with her; and those in the most elevated stations, assiduously sought opportunities of seeing and conversing with her.
Mademoiselle Scudery, stimulated by necessity, rendered herself eminent by her writings. Anna de Parthenay possessed great virtues, great talents, and great learning; she read, with facility and pleasure, authors in the Greek and Latin languages; she was a rational theologician; she was a perfect mistress of music; and was as remarkable for her vocal powers, as for her execution on the various instruments which she attempted. Catharine de Parthenay, niece to Anna, married to Renatus de Rohan, signalized herself by her attention to the education of her children; and her maternal cares were crowned with abundant success: Her eldest son was the illustrious Duke of Rohan, who obtained immortal honour by his zeal and exertions in the Protestant cause; and she was also mother to Anna de Rohan, who was as illustrious for her genius and piety, as for her birth. She was mistress of the Hebrew language; her numbers were beautifully elegant; and she supported, with heroic firmness, the calamities consequent upon the siege of Rochelle.
Mademoiselle le Fevre, celebrated in the literary world by the name of Madame Dacier, gave early testimonies of that fine genius which her father delighted to cultivate. Her edition of Callimachus was received with much applause. At the earnest request of the Duke of Montansier, she published an edition of Florus, for the use of the dauphin; she exchanged letters with Christina, queen of Sweden; she devoted herself to the education of her son and daughter, whose progress were proportioned to the abilities of their interested preceptress: Greek and Latin were familiar to heir; and she was often addressed in both those languages, by the literati of Europe. Her translation of the Iliad was much admired. She is said to have possessed great firmness, generosity, and equality of temper, and to have been remarkable for her piety. Maria de Sevigne appropriated her hours to the instruction of her son and daughter; she has enriched the world with eight volumes of letters, which will be read with pleasure by every critic in the French language. The character of Mary II.. Queen of England, and consort to William of Nassau, is transcendently amiable. She is delineated as a princess, endowed with uncommon powers of the mind, and beauty of person. She was extensively acquainted with history, was attached to poetry, and possessed a good taste in compositions of this kind. She had a considerable knowledge in architecture and gardening; and her dignified condescension, and consistent piety, were truly admirable and praiseworthy—Every reader of history, and lover of virtue, will lament on her early exit. The Countess of Pembroke translated from the French, a dramatic piece; she gave a metrical edition of the Book of Psalms, and supported an exalted character.
Anna Killigrew, and Anna Wharton, were eminent, both for poetry and painting; and their unblemished virtue, and exemplary piety, pointed and greatly enhanced the value of their other accomplishments. Catharine Phillips was, from early life, a lover of the Muses; she translated Corneille’s Tragedy of Pompey into English; and in this, as well as the poems which she published, she was successful. Lady Burleigh, Lady Bacon, Lady Russell, and Mrs. Killigrew, daughters of Sir Anthony Cook, received from their father a masculine education; and their prodigious improvement was an ample compensation for his paternal indulgence: They were eminent for genius and virtue, and obtained an accurate knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages. The writings of the Dutchess of Newcastle were voluminous; she is produced as the first English lady who attempted what has since been termed polite literature. Lady Halket was remarkable for her erudition; she was well skilled, both in physic and divinity. Lady Masham, and Mary Astell, reasoned accurately on the most abstract particulars in divinity, and in metaphysics. Lady Grace Gethin was happy in natural genius and a cultivated understanding; she was a woman of erudition; and we are informed that, at the age of twenty, “She treated of life and morals, with the discernment of Socrates, and the elegance Of Xenophon“—Mr. Congreve has done justice to her merit. Chudleigh Winchelsea, Monk, Bovey, Stella, Montague—these all possess their respective claims. Catharine Macauley wielded successfully the historic pen; nor were her exertions confined to this line—But we have already multiplied our witnesses far beyond our original design; and it is proper that we apologize to our readers, for a transgression of that brevity which we had authorized them to expect.