- Book: The Gentlewomans Companion
- Section: The Gentlewomans Mirrour, or Patterns for them imitation of such famous Women who have been emment in Piety and Learning
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The Gentlewomans Mirrour, or Patterns for them imitation of such famous Women who have been emment in Piety and Learning67
REvisit those ancient Families of Rome, and you shall find those Matrons made a Pagan State seem Morally Christian. Octavia, Portia, Cecilia, Cornelia 68 , were such, who though dead, their actions will make their memories live perpetually: Nor were Niostrata, Corvina and Sappho 69 , Women less famous for Learning, than the other for blameless-Living. Neither have our modern times less flourished with Feminine Worthies, as might be illustrated with several eminent instances, were there not already of them so many Panegyricks extant.
It is said of Dorcas70 , She was full of good works and alms which she did. Yea even the Coats and Garments which she made when living, were shown the Aposle as arguments of her industry, and memorials of her piety. Hence it was that Saint Jerome counselled the holy Virgin Demetrius 71 to eschew idleness, exhoring her when she had finished her Devotion, she should | | 22 work with her hands after the commendable example of Dorcas; so that by change of works the day might seem less tedious, and the assaults of the Devil less grievous. And know, that this Demetrius was not one whom poverty did enforce to such actions of necessity, but one honourably descended, richly endowed, powerfully friended.
Devout mention is made of zealous Anna 72 who made frequent recourse to the Temple. Of whom to her succeeding memory the Scripture recordeth, that after her tears devoutly shed, her prayers sincerely offer'd, her religious vows faithfully performed, she became fully satisfied: thus sighing she sought, seeking she obtain'd, and obtaining she retained a grateful memory of what she received.
Queen Esther 73 , with what servency and zeal did she make Gods cause the progress of her course, desiring nothing more than how to effect it, which was seconded with a successful conclusion? because begun, continued, and ended with, devotion.
Neither was Judith74 backward in zeal; Faith armed her with resolution, and constancy strengthened her against all opposition: Prayer was her armour, and holy desires her sole attendants. Nazianzen reporteth of his Sister Gorgonia75 , that by reason of the incessancy of her prayers; her knees seemed to cleave to the Earth. Gregory relates, that his Aunt Throstlla being dead, was found to have her Elbows as hard as horn, which became so by leaning to a Desk, at which she usually prayed. Such as these deserve your imitation, who prayed and obtain'd what they pray'd for, they liv'd and practic'd what they fought for; they dy'd and enjoy'd what they so long sighed for.
Should you consider what troops of furious and implacable enemies lie in Ambuscado76 for you; how many Soul-tempting Syrens are warbling notes of ruin to delude you; what fears within you, what foes without you, what furies all about you; you would not let one minute to pass undedicated to some good employment.
The commendable and admired Chastity of Penelope must not be forgot, which suffer'd a daily siege; and her conquest was no less victorious than those Peers of Greece, who made Troy their triumph. Estimation was her highest prize. Suiters she got; yet amidst these was not her Ulysses forgot. Long absence had not estranged her affection; youthful consorts could not move in her thoughts the least distraction; neither could opportunity induce her to give way to any light action. Well might famous Greece then esteem her Penelope of more lasting fame than any Pyramid that ever she erected. Her unblemished esteem was of purer stuff than any Ivory Statue that could be reared.77
Nor was Rome less beholden to her Lucretia, who set her honour at so high a price, that she held death too light to redeem such a prize.
Though force, fright, foes and furies gaz'd upon her,
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Those were no mounds but wonders to her honour. 78
The presence of a Prince no less amorous than victorious, could not win her; though with him, price, prayer and power, did jointly woo her. Well deserved such two modest Matrons the choice embraces of two such heroick Champions as might equal their constant loves with the tender of their dearest lives.
There were seven Milesian Virgins, who at such time as the Gauls raved and raged every- where, subjecting all to fire and faggot, deprived themselves of life, lest hostile force should deprive them of their honour. I have read of two Maidens living in Leucra, a Town in Boeotia, who having in their Fathers absence hospitably entertained two young men, by whom made drunk with Wine, they were deflowred that very night; the next morning conceiving a mutual sorrow for their lost Virginity, became resolute Actors in their own bloody Tragedy.
We may draw nearer home, and instance this Maiden-constancy in one of our own. It was not long since there lived within the Walls of London a notable spirited Girl, who notwithstanding the frequented places of publick concourse boldly, discoursed freely, expressed her self in all assays forwardly, yet so tender was she in the preservation of her honour, that being on a time highly courted by a spruce and sinical Gallant, who was as much taken with the height of her spirit, wherewith she was endowed, as he preferred it before the beauty of an amorous face, wherewith she was not meanly enriched. She presently apprehending the loosness of his desires, seemingly condescended; so that the business might be so secretly managed, as no occasion of suspition may be probably grounded. In order hereunto a Coach is provided, all things prepared, the place appointed where they shall meet, which for more privacy must be the Country. Time and place they observed; but before she would admit him to her imbraces, she told him (calling him aside) that she would never consent to any such thing with any man, unless she had first tried his valour in the field; and to that purpose she had furnished her self with a Sword, and therefore bid him draw; 79 but this Virago 80 , which was metal to the back, disarm'd him in an instant, and had like to have made this a bloody combat, instead of an amorous conflict. Our amazed Gallant not knowing what to think, say, or do, was at last compell'd to beg his life of her; in granting which, she bestow'd on him plentifully her Kicks, advising him ever after to be more wary in the attempting a Maidens Honour.
Excellent was the answer of the Lacedemonian Wives, who being courted and tempted to lewd and immodest actions, made this reply, Surely we should give way to this your request, but this you sue for, lies not in our power to grant; for when we were Maids, we were to be disposed of by our Parents; and now being Wives, by our Husbands.
Lastly, (that I may avoid prolixity) what singular mirrors of vidual continency and Matron- like modesty were, Cornelia, Vetruria, Livia, and Salvina 81 ? Now what may you | | 24 suppose did these Pagan Ladies hold to be the absolute end whereto this tender care of their reputation aspired chiefly, and wherein it most cheerfully rested? It was not riches, for these they contemned, so their honour might be preserved: Certainly there was implanted in them an innate desire of moral goodness, mixed with an honest ambition, so to advance their esteem during life, that they might become Examples to others of a good moral life, and perpetuate their memories after death.
Your ambition, Gentlewomen, must mount more high, because your Conversation is most heavenly. It is immortality you aspire to, a lower orb cannot hold you; nothing else may confine you. | | 25
Page 21 - 67. The author's choice to include a section that relates learning and piety is typical for both advice and conduct books as a genre and for Renaissance writing about women's education as a whole. As Deirdre Raftery points out, in "the corpus of Renaissance writing on female education, the formal debate inherited the association of female virtue with education" (27). "The virtue of the learned lady," Raftery also finds, "was related exclusively to piety and chastity" (27). On the other hand, other Renaissance writers fueled the opposite stereotype-that a woman's education masculinized her. The "masculine woman," or Hic Mulier, was attacked during the famous Pamphlet Wars that took place between 1542 and 1640 (27). "Publications which dealt with women's education," Raftery concludes, thus "indicate continued negotiations with the ideology of femininity and suggest as much about the writers who participated as they do about the ideology itself" (28).
Page 21 - 68. Octavia, the sister of Octavius (the early name of the Emperor Augustus), was first married to C. Claudius Marcellus. When her husband died in 40 B.C., Octavia was married to Marc Antony for political purposes, but the two were divorced only eight years later because of Antony's adulteress relationship with Cleopatra. Octavia is cited in the Companion because of she selflessly volunteered to raise Cleopatra's children after the queen's suicide, in addition to caring for her own five children. Portia is identified earlier, in footnote 17. Cecilia, generally known as a Christian martyr and patron saint of music, is cited in Bathsua Makin's An Essay to Revive the Antient Education of Gentlewomen. Makin notes that "Cecelia did strange things by her great Skill in Logic, particularly by solid Argument, she dissuaded Tiberutis Valerianus his Brother, from heathenish Idolatry to the Christian Faith" (9). Cecilia also appears as an important minor character in Walter Pater's Marius the Epicurean (1885). Cornelia is described previously, in note 16.
Page 21 - 69. Niostrata, usually spelled Nicostrata and sometimes referred to as Carmentis, is also referenced by Bathsua Makin in An Essay to Revive the Antient Education of Gentlewomen as an important learned woman who "helped to make up the Greek Alphabet, and made some addition to the Roman Letters" (9). Corvina may refer to Corrina, whom Bathsua Makin cites in her Essay. Makin actually identifies three important Corrinas in history. The first she does not identify by context but only states is famous as a poet. The second, Corinna Thespie, lived in the Augustan Age and is cited in works by Statius, an "ancient poet" (12). The third and most famous, Makin observes, is Corrina Thebana, who "was very dear to Ovid," is known as a scholar and because in "five set Contests she bore away the Palm from Pindar, Prince of the Lyric Poets" (12). Makin also reports that five books of epigrams have been published under Corrina Thebana's name. The last Corrina is most likely the woman referenced in The Companion, for in both this text and in another section of Makin's essay, the name is mentioned in connection with Sappho. Sappho is the most well known of the three women and famous for her Greek poetry. Sappho's nine books of lyric verse are written in the Lesbian vernacular, and the subject matter is predominantly concerned with family and friends.
Page 21 - 71. Demetrius, a Roman plebian who embraced virginity, is the subject of St. Jerome's 130th letter, "To Demetrius." In it, St. Jerome states that "[o]f all the subjects that I have treated from my youth up until now, either with my own pen or that of my secretaries I have dealt with none more difficult than that which now occupies me" (1). Continuing, he explains that "I am going to write to Demetrias a virgin of Christ and a lady whose birth and riches make her second to none in the Roman world" (1).
Page 23 - 78. Livy reports in his The History of Rome that Lucretia, the wife of Collatinus, is raped by Sextus Tarquin in 509 B.C. Lucretia reports the incident to her husband and then commits suicide. Her rape is cited by Livy as the impetus for the overthrow of the Roman monarchy and the beginning of the Roman Republic.
Page 23 - 79. In the 1982 edition of the Companion, an extra line appears between these two parts of the sentence: "he smilingly refus'd, as thinking she was in jest, but seeing by her home-passes how earnestly she prosecuted his life, he was constrained to draw."
Page 23 - 81. For a description of Cornelia, see note 16. Vetruria (usually spelled 'Veturia') is cited in Livy's The History of Rome as the mother of Coriolanus, who during fifth century B.C. famine in Rome became a foe to tribunitian power. Coriolanus, in his attemp to take power away from the tribunes, started the Volscian War. The war was ended by Veturia, who traveled to her son's camp and scolded him. Her lecture was successful, and the Coriolanus surrendered. Livia was forced to divorce her husband and marry Octavian (later the emperor Augustus) in 39 B.C. Rome. Livia is cited for her intelligence, dignity, beauty, and profound influence over Augustus. The fourth woman mentioned here, Salvina, a member of the imperial court and widow of Nebridius, is memorialized in the seventy-ninth letter of St. Jerome, written about 400 A. D. ("To Salvina" 1). In this letter, St. Jerome writes that: "For it is not of her purse that I am speaking but of the purity of her soul. I do not know her face but I am well acquainted with her virtues; for report speaks well of her and her youth makes her chastity all the more commendable" (1). St. Jerome continues, stating that "[b]y her grief for her young husband she has set an example to all wives; and by her resignation she has proved that she believes him not lost but gone before" (1). Though St. Jerome speaks highly of Salvina, his tone is noted for its is arrogance. The introduction to the letter, provided by editors Philip Schaff and Henry Wace of the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at Wheaton College, reports that Salvina became one of Chrysostom's deaconesses.
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