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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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Of a Gentlewomans civil Behaviour to all sorts of people in all places

A Painter of old being about a Draught39 of a most absolute Beauty, propounded for the accomplishment thereof half a dozen of the most exquisite and wonderful fair Maidens he could find, that he might steal from each those charms and features which he thought were most powerful; but I will assure you, a greater assistance is required in the framing and fashioning of a Woman, whose behaviour should be such as to please in all companies. Whatsoever Nature can afford, or good manners inform, come short of this purpose. In this Subject the fairest Ornaments are most necessary; among which what I have already exprest, are highly to be prized, which with the aggregation40 of all the best qualities can be desired, are the proper things, which as in their Center, must terminate in Conversation.

The first thing I judg most necessary, and do wish, with Socrates, were in you Ladies, as he desired in his Pupils, are Discretion, Silence and Modesty 41 . But this is too general; wherefore since Conversation (after the milk) is the first and chiefest thing, both Animal as well as Rational Creatures, do most desire and delight in, I shall first advise as to choice of Company; next, your Carriage therein, both in Gesture, Look, Speech and Habit.

No wonder all Mankind is so generally inclined to Conversation, since Life without Society is more insupportable than Death; it is Discourse makes us pass over our tedious hours and days with delight. What a Desart42 would this World seem without company! and how dangerous would it prove were we not cautious in our election! For example is more forcible than precept; thus by ill company you may gain a bad custom, which all good instructions shall never root out. But should you be so prudent as not to follow their evil example, yet by


associating your self, you will inevitably contract a suspicion of being as bad as they; this made the Philosopher say, Shew me thy Companion, and I will tell thee what thou art.

Be not easily induc'd to enter into discourse with strangers, for nothing argueth levity and indicretion more than that. Consort your self with your betters as near as you can, yet do not despise your equals, but in a most especial manner avoid all familiarity with your inferiors; if Female, in a little time they will thereby be drawn to slight you; if Male, they will be incouraged to attack your honour unlawfully, or subtilly insinuate themselves into your affection; whereby though you are as high in fortune, as honourable in Birth, you may stoop to so low a contract, that forgetting your self by the incessant importunities of their over-blown desires, you are overcome, and so become a grief to your friends, a shame to your selves, and a lamentable spectacle of reproach and sorrow to that worthy Family, from whence you had your Original.

Affect not the vanity of some, in being seen in publick too frequently. Thus many excellent Ladies have exposed themselves to the mercy of the Tempter, who otherwise had stood impregnable in the defence of their Chastities. You think, it may be, and intend no harm in your Promenades or Walks; but by so doing, you give too often occasion for licentious Amorists to meet with you, and may thereby be persuaded to throw off the vail of circumspection, to give attention to some wanton smutty story. Consult not too much with youthful blood and beauty, lest they prove too dangerous enemies to be your Privy-Councellors43 .

Be not guilty of the unpardonable faults of some, who never think they do better than when they speak most; uttring an Ocean of Words, without one drop of reason; talking much, expressing little: Much like that Woman D. Heylin 44 unhappily met withal, in his younger years, with whom he was constrained to travel a long Journey in a Coach: So indiscreetly reserved she was at first meeting, that tendring his devoir of a salute (as it is customary), she would not admit thereof; so speechless withal at first, as if a vow'd resolution had tied up her tongue to the strict observance of an everlasting silence, but the next day, she so far presumed on the slenderness of the acquaintance, that, though she was so silent before, she then opened upon their setting forward; and the continual click of her Tongue never ceast till the Sun was set; which the motion of her Tongue, and the Doctor's watch, kept exact time for eleven hours; and notwithstanding her seeming modesty in refusing a kiss, did now voluntarily prompt him to a close embrace.

As I would not advise you to be over-reserv'd, so give not too loose reins to liberty, making pleasure your vocation, as if you were created for no other end than to dedicate the first fruits of the morning to your Looking-glass, and the remainder thereof to the Exchange, or Play-house. Many of our Sex are to blame, who have no sooner ting'd their faces artificially, than some Attendant is dispatcht to know what Plays are to be acted that day; my Lady approveth of one which she is resolved to see, that she may be seen; being in the Pit or Box, she minds not how little she observeth in it, as how much to be observed at it. If the novelty or goodness of the Play invite them not, then what Lady Fashion-monger? or what Lord Beauty-hunter?

Shun all affectation in your behaviour, for Virtue admits of no such thing in her gesture or habit, but that which is proper, and not enforced; native or decent, and not what is apishly45 introduced. Therefore since nothing better befits you than what is your own, make known by your dress, how much you hate formality. To this end play not the Hypocrite with your Creator, in pretending to go to Church to serve him, whereas it is to serve your selves in the imitation of some new fashion. That which becometh another well, may ill become you. You deserve in your


preposterous imitation, suitable connection with the Ass in the Fable, who seeing the Spaniel fawningly to leap on his Master, thought that the like posture would alike become and oblige him; which he adventuring to put in practice, alarm'd the whole Family, and was soundly beaten for his unadvised folly. Affectation cannot be conceal'd, and the indecency of your deportment will quickly be discovered in publick Societies, wherefore behave your self so discreetly abroad, that you may confer no less a benefit on such as see your behaviour, than you profit such as shall observe your carriage at home: Express in publick such a well-becoming Garb, that every action may deserve the applause & imitation of all that are your company. Let your conceits be nimble and ready, & not temper'd or mixt with lightness; let your jests be innocent and seasonable, without the least capriciousness; let your discourse be free without niceness; your whole carriage delightful and agreeable, and flowing with a seeming carelessness. Thus much in general, let me now come to particulars.


Page 10 - 39. 'Draught': a sketch.

Page 10 - 40. 'aggregation': process of collecting parts into a whole.

Page 10 - 41. From Plato's Charmides.

Page 10 - 42. 'Desart': desert.

Page 11 - 43. 'Privy-Councellors': confidential advisors.

Page 11 - 44. I could find no reference to Dr. Heylin.

Page 11 - 45. 'apishly': with silly or ridiculous imitation.

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