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Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Emory Women Writers Resource Project

The Gentlewoman's Companion: or, A Guide to the Female Sex, an electronic edition

by Hannah Woolley [Woolley, Hannah, fl. 1670]

date: 1675
source publisher: Printed by A. Maxwell for Edward Thomas
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 differèd 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-Sex, 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, a large Follo. Nor can we without great ingratitude forget the memory of that most ingenious Dutch Lady Anna Marica Schurman, who was so much admired by the greatest Scholars in Europe for her unparallelèd, natural and acquired parts, that there were very few ( as the great Salmasius, & c. ) who did not frequently correspond with her by Letters. Her Opusuela 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 sping away their precious time, or pore on a Sampler, till they have prickt out the date of their life; but rather instruct them in the principles | | 30 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 information and encouragement 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 Pompey, or since what is extant of hers or her Comtemporaries will more at large express their matchless merit; nor shall I eulogize or prise the living, nominating any person, left 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 trutful Tongues spoken or understood, that is Latin, French, and Italian.

I desire not to hyperbolize; it is probably they may not be so expert in the anatomizing an insect or the discovery of some monstrous production; as these Academical 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 Souls, but as capable of Gygantick growth as of your Male oppornents; apply your self to your Grammar by time, and let your | | 31 endeavours be indefutigable, 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 betterinform 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 rencounting, 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 ratling found with them. Thus there 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 itermination, these you will never perfectly understand without the knowledg of the Latin, but rather misapply or displace them to you 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 | | 32 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 Counries 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 Italian Seignnior Torriano; and that unimitable Master of the French Tongue, Monsreur Mauger; both which have publisht their Grammars; 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 deferved Encomiums, 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.

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