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Emory Women Writers Resource Project

The Gentlewomans Companion, an electronic edition. Edited with an introduction by Katherine Ellison

by Anonymous

date: 1673
source publisher: Printed by A. Maxwell for Dorman Newman
collection: Early Modern through the 18th Century

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What qualifications best become and are most suitable to a Gentlewoman

I Have already endeavoured to prove, that though Nature hath differ'd Mankind into Sexes, yet she never intended any great difference in the Intellect. This will evidently appear not only from those many arguments learned Cornelius Agrippa hath laid down in a particular Treatise for the Vindication of the Excellency of the Female Sex28 , but likewise from the many learned and incomparable Writings of Famous Women, ancient and modern, particularly Anna Commena who wrote the Eastern History in Greek 29 , a large Folio. Nor can we without great ingratitude, forget the memory of that most ingenious Dutch Lady Anna Maria Schurman 30 , who was so much admired by the greatest Scholars in Europe for her unparallel'd, natural and acquired parts, that there were very few (as the great Salmasius 31 , & c. ) who did not frequently correspond with her by Letters. Her Opuscela or smaller Works are now extant, printed in Holland in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, in which there is a small Tract, proving that a Womans capacity is no way inferior to Mans in the reception of any sort of Learning; and therefore exhorts all Parents who are not much necessitated, not to let their Children spin away their precious time, or pore on a Sampler32 , till they have prickt out the date of their life; but rather instruct them in the Principles of those Learned Tongues, whereby they may at pleasure pick-lock the Treasuries of knowledg contained in those Languages, and adapt them for the conversation and discourse of most Nations.

I need not go out of our Native Country to produce you Examples enough of our own Sex for your imitation and incouragement in treading the paths of Learning; I shall forbear to speak of the incomparable worth and pregnant parts of some Gentlewomen, lately deceased as Mrs. Philips the ingenious Translatress of Pompey33 , & c. since what is extant of hers, or her | | 9 Comtemporaries, will more at large express their matchless merit; nor shall I eulogize or praise the living, nominating any person, lest I be thought one partially addicted to flattery. Yet give me leave to say, I could instance not a few, who (to the glory of our Sex, and the place of their Nativity, if occasion modestly required ) would not blush to answer a Capricious Virtuoso in three of the most useful Tongues spoken or understood, that is, Latin, French, and Italian.

I desire not to hyperbolize; it is probable they may not be so expert in the anatomizing an Insect, or the discovery of some monstrous production; as these Epidemial34 Wits are; yet for ought I know, may find out many monstrosities in their brain, whist they are subtilly plumming the depth of their self-admired understanding.

Now since it may hence appear, Ladies, that you have no Pygmean Souls35 , but as capable of Gygantick growth as of your Male opponents; apply your self to your Grammar by time, and let your endeavours be indefatigable, and not to be tired in apprehending the first Principles of the Latin Tongue. I shall forbear to give you Rules for attaining the perfect knowledg thereof, but leave you to that Method your Tutor or skilful Governess shall propound for your Observation.

I need not tell you the vast advantages that will accrue hereby, your own experience will better inform you hereafter. However, I shall hint some, as first, your understanding the Latin Tongue will inable you to write and speak true and good English, next it will accommodate you with an eloquent stile in speaking, and afford you matter for any discourse; lastly, you will be freed from the fear of encountring such who make it their business to ransack a New World of Words to find out what are long and obscure, not regarding how insignificant, if they carry a rattling found with them. Thus these Fops of Rhetorick, spawns of non-intelligency, will venture the spraining of the Tongues, and splay-footing their own Mouths, if they can but cramp a young Gentlewomans intellect.

Our English Tongue is of late very much refined, by borrowing many Words from the Latin, only altering the termination, these you will never perfectly understand without the knowledg of the Latin, but rather misapply or displace them to your great discredit, although you should consult the English Interpreters that were ever extant.

And as our Mother Tongue hath finished her expressions with the Roman Dialect; so to make them the more spruce and complacent, she hath borrowed some choice words from other Nations, more specially the neighbouring French, whose Tongue you must in no sort be ignorant of, if you intend to speak with the air of the Court, or like the quaint Oratresses of the Court air.

It is no small benefit which will accrue to you by learning the Italian; for by reason of our Gentries travelling into foreign parts, occasioned by our late unhappy and inhumane home-bred distractions, these two Languages are generally spoken in England; insomuch that a Court-Lady will not be induced to esteem a Friend, or entertain a Servant, who cannot speak one of them at least: and that you may not despair of a competent knowledg of either, or both, without going into those Countries, where they are naturally spoken, know there are many excellent Masters who teach here in London those Languages, but more especially that sober and learned natural | | 10 Italian Seignor Torriano 36 ; and that unimitable Master of the French Tongue, Monsieur Mauger 37 , both which have publisht their Gramars; the first a large and useful Italian Dictionary also. Both these Countrys have been happy and may be justly proud in producing so many learned and ingenious Men; so many, should I nominate them with their deserved Encomiums38 , this small Treatise would swell into Volumes; I shall therefore pass them over, but would not have you their Writings, where you shall find plenty of every thing, which shall either tickle your fancy, or furnish your understanding. Having thus adapted you for conversation, let me next show you your deportment therein.


Page 8 - 28. Cornelius Agrippa's Declamation on the Nobility and Preeminence of the Female Sex, delivered at the University of Dôle in 1509, argues that women are equal to men in both the private and the public spheres and questions why women are excluded from education (Rabil 3). Rather than turn to catalogs of virtuous, intelligent women as Boccaccio did, Agrippa "overturn[s] the misogynistic interpretations of the female body in Greek medicine, the Bible, Roman and canon law, theology and moral philosophy, and politics" (4). Agrippa is also well-known for his skepticism of knowledge, and became the model for Christopher Marlowe's The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus (10).

Page 8 - 29. The author or printer misspells the historian's last name, which should read Anna Comnena. Comnena was a Byzantine historian and daughter of the emperor Alexius I Comnenus. She is remembered for her Alexiad, a history of the life and reign of her father, which became a valuable source as a pro-Byzantine account of the early Crusades.

Page 8 - 30. Anna Maria Schurman, also referred to as Anna Maria van Schurmann, wrote the influential The Learned Maid, or Whether a Maid may be a Scholar, which was translated into English in 1659. Schurmann, hailed by today's scholars as the first woman to enter the debate on female education, argues for the development of female institutions of learning that follow the same model as male grammar schools and universities (Hobby 198). Like Wolley, however, as Elaine Hobby points out, Schurmann directs her argument to women of the leisure classes, and her goal is not to introduce education to all women, but only to those who are prone to "tedious idleness" due to their "decorative" task in life (198).

Page 8 - 31. Salmasius, the discoverer of the Palatine manuscript of the Greek Anthology, was well known for his immense knowledge of philology. Like Schurmann, he was well versed in a number of languages, including Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, Persian, and Coptic, as well as Greek and Latin, and he was invited to teach at several universities. In 1631 he became professor at Leiden, where he taught continuously except for a year-long appointment with the Swedish court in 1650-51. It was during this time of his life that Salmasius apparently conversed, by letter, with Schurmann, though little is written about their discourse. Salmasius's writings are mainly political, including a "Defense of the Reign of Charles I" and a condemnation of the English Parliament.

Page 8 - 32. 'Sampler': a beginner's exercise in embroidery.

Page 8 - 33. The author is here referring to Katherine Philips, poet and translator of Corneille's play, Pompey, performed in 1662 and 1663. Philips' Pompey is famous for its many literary firsts: it is the first play written by a woman and performed in the professional British theater; the first known play to entertain audiences in Dublin's Smock Alley Theater; and the first Corneille play to be translated into heroic couplets (Mambretti 244). Philips is most well-known for her friendship poems, in which she manipulates courtly love traditions and writes in the persona of Orinda. Philips is also often cited as one of the first neoclassical writers (Loscocco 260).

Page 9 - 34. 'Epidemial': able to spread or multiply quickly; epidemic.

Page 9 - 35. 'Pygmean Souls': underdeveloped or stunted.

Page 10 - 36. Giovanni Torriano first published his Vocabolario Italiano & Inglese, or Dictionary of Italian and English, in 1659. Built from compilations by John Florio and printed by T. Warren for Joseph Martin, James Allestry, and Thomas Dicas, the dictionary also contains proverbs and instructions. Throughout the mid- and late-seventeenth century, Torriano continued to publish numerous textbooks for students of Italian grammar, including The Italian tutor or A new and most Compleat Italian grammer (1640) and The Italian reviv'd (1689). Both are available on microform in the English Short Title Catalog.

Page 10 - 37. Claude Mauger's French Grammar was first printed about 1658 but returned in countless editions throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In addition to dialogues and information for travelers, Mauger's book also contains information on the contemporary ecclesiastical, military, and civil issues of mid-seventeenth century France.

Page 10 - 38. 'Encomiums': eulogies or lofty expressions of praise.

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