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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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Of Speech and Complement.

The Eye entertains it self not with more Objects than the Invention furnisheth the Tongue with Subjects; and as without Speech, no Society can subsist; so by it we express what we are; as Vessels discover themselves best by the found. Let Discretion make Opportunity her Anvil, whereon to fashion a seasonable Discourse; otherwise, though you speak much, you discourse little.

| | 42 It is true (Ladies) your tongues are held your defensive armour, but you never detract more from your honourthan when you give too much liberty to that slippery glib member. That Ivory guard or garrison, which impales your tongue, doth caution and instruct you, to put a restraint on your Speech. In much talk you must of necessity commit much error, as least it leaves some tincture of vain-glory, which proclaims the proud heart from whence it proceeded, or some taste of scurrility, which displays the wanton heart from whence it streamed.

A well disposed mind will not deliver any thing tilll, it hath rightly conceived; but its expressions are always prepared by a well-season'd deliberation. Think not I would have you altogether silent (Ladies) in company, for that is a misbecoming error on the otehr side; but I would have you when you do speak, to do it knowingly and opportunely.

A saying of a Philosopher will not be unworthy of your commemoration, who seeing a silent guest at a publick Feast, used these words, If thou beest wife, thou are a fool; if a fool, thou art wise in holding thy peace. For as propriety of Speech affords no less profit than delight to the Hearer, so it argues discretion in the Speaker.

By the way, let me advise you never to tye your self to strictly to elegancy, or ornament; as by outward trimming, the internal worth of right understanding should be altogether forgotten, and so your expressions favour of some absurd impertinency. This were to prefer the rind before the pith, and the sound of words before solid reason.

| | 43 That excellent precept of Ecclestasticus, though it was spoken in general yet I know not to whom it is more particularly useful than to young Women. Thou that art young, speak, if need be, and yet scarecely when thou art twice asked. Comprehend much in few words; in many; be as one that is ignorant; be as one that understandeth, and yet hold thy tongue.

Volubility of tongue in these, argues either rudeness of breeding, or boldness of expression. Gentlewomen, it will best become ye, whoose generous education hath estranged ye from the first, and whose modest disposition hath weaned ye from the last, in publick Society to observe, rather than discourse; especially among elderly Matrons to whom you owe a civil reverence, and therefore ought to tip your tongue with silence.

Silence in a Woman is a moving-rhetorick, winning most, when in words it woeth least. If opportunity give your Sex argument of discourse, let it neither taste of affectation, for that were servile; nor touch upon any wanton relation, for that were uncivil; nor any thing above the Sphere of your proper concern, for that were unequal. This will make your Discourse generally acceptable, and free you from prejudicate censure.

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