- Book: The Gentlewomans Companion
- Introduction: The Introduction
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THe right Education of the Female Sex, as it is in a manner everywhere neglected, so it ought to be generally lamented. Most in this depraved later Age think a Woman learned and wife enough, if she can distinguish her Husbands Bed from anothers. Certainly Mans Soul cannot boast of a more sublime Original than ours, they had equally their efflux13 from the same eternal Immensity, and therefore capable of the same Improvement by good Education. Vain Man is apt to think we were meerly intended for the Worlds propagation, and to keep its humane Inhabitants sweet and clean; but, by their leaves, had we the same Literature, he would find our brains as fruitful as our bodies. Hence I am induced to believe, we are debar'd from the knowledg of Humane Learning, lest our pregnant Wits should rival towring conceits of our insulting Lords and Masters.
Pardon the Severity of this Expression, since I intend not thereby to infuse bitter rebellion into the sweet blood of Females; for know, I would have all such as are enter'd into the Honourable State of Matrimony to be loyal and loving Subjects to their lawful (though lording) Husbands. I cannot but complain of, and must condemn the great negligence of Parents14 , in letting the fertile ground of their Daughters lie sallow, yet send the barren Noddles15 of their Sons to the University. Where they stay for no other purpose than to fill their empty Sconces16 with idel Notions to make a noise in the Country.
Pagans of old may teach our Christian Parents a new lesson. Edesia an Infidel, taught her Daughters Learning and Morality. Cornelia, hers (with the Greek Tongue) Piety. Portia, hers (with the learning of the Egyptians) the exemplary Grounds of Chastity, Sulpitia, hers (with the knowledg of several Languages) the precepts of Conjugal Unity17 . These, though Ethnicks, were excellent informers of Youth; so that their Children were more bound to them for their Breeding than Bearing, Nurturing than Nursing. Emulation of Goodness is most commendable; and though you cannot hang up the Pictures of these worthy Persons, so that their Memories may live with you; however, imitate their Virtues, that their memories may live fresher in you. All memorials being Materials, be they never so durable, are subject to frailty; on the precious Monuments of Vertue survive time, and breath Eternity. | | 4
Thus as ye take good Example from others, be ye Mother Patterns of Vertue to your Daughters: Let your living actions be lines of their direction. While they are under your command, the error is yours not theirs, if they go astray. Their honour should be one of the chiefest things you are to tender, neither can it be blemish'd without some soil to your own credit.
I have known some inconsiderate Mothers, and those none of the lowest rank and quality, who either out of the confidence of their Daughters good carriage, or drawn with the hopes of some rich Suitors to advance their Marriage, have usually given too free way to opportunity, which brought upon their Daughters name a spreading infamy. Suffer not then those who partake of your image, to lose their best beauty. Look then to your own actions, these must inform them; look to your own examples, these must confirm them: Without you, they cannot perish; with you they may. What will you do with the rest that is left, when you see a part of your self lost.
There is no instruction more moving, than the example of your living. By that line of yours they are to conform their own. Take heed then lest the damp of your own life extinguish the light of your Childrens. As you are a kind Mother to them be a careful Monitor about them; and if your business will permit, teach them your self, with their Letters, good Manners. For there is an in-bred, filial fear in Children to their Parents, which will beget in them more attention in hearing, and retention in holding what they hear. But if it be inconsistent with your conveniency, and that you must commit the Tutelage18 and Education of your Children to a Governess, give me leave to inform you what she ought to be. | | 5
Page 3 - 14. The author's condemnation of parents, here, is consistent with other arguments in favor of female education. In her A Serious Proposal for the Ladies (1694), for example, Mary Astell states "that Parents shou'd take all possible care of their Childrens Education, not only for their sakes, but even for their own" (6). Astell continues, remarking that "to introduce poor Children into the World and neglect to fence them against the temptations of it, and so leave them expos'd to temporal and eternal Miseries, is a wickedness for which I want a Name" (7).
Page 3 - 17. Edesia is an obscure reference, identified as a goddess of food in a questionable source cited on the internet. See bibliography under Sulla, Marcus. Cornelia lived in second century BC Rome and was both the daughter of Scipio Africanus and the mother of twelve children, including Tiberius and Gaius. Famous as a model of the ideal matron, Cornelia devoted herself to the management and education of her children after the death of her husband, Ti. Sempronius Gracchus. Portia was the daughter of Cato the Younger and member of prominent family that opposed Julius Caesar in first century AD Rome. All of the male members of Portia's family died during this opposition. Bathsua Makin refers to Portia (spelled 'Pertia' in her text) in An Essay to Revive the Antient Education of Gentlewomen as "the best Philosopher in her Time" (10). Portia, married to Brutus, is most well known as a character in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. Sulpitia was a writer of elegies in first century BC Rome. Six of Sulpitia's elegies have been passed down within the corpus of Albius Tibullus's love elegies. Sulpitia's elegies describe her love for Cerinthus, which is a pseudonym.
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