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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 wanton Songs, and idle Ballads.

Let your prudence renounce a little pleasure for a great deal of danger. To take delight in an idle vain Song without flaining your self with the obscenity of it, is a thing in my mind almost impossible; for wickeness enters insensibly by the ear into the Soul, and what care soever we take to guard and defend our selves, yet still it is a difficult task not to be tainted with the pleasing and alluring poyson thereof.

Physicians endeavour to perswade the wiser sort of men, as well as ignorant and credulous women, That a Mother fixing stedfastly her eye on a Picture, she will secretly convey the Complexion, or some other mark on the Infant; from hence we may be induced to believe, That the lascivious and wanton expressions contain'd in some Songs and Ballads may have The same effect in our imagination, and do most frequently leave behind them some foul impressions in our spirits.

The reading these wanton things do heat by little and little; it insensibly takes away the horrour and repugnancy you ought to have to evil; by this means you acquaint your self so thorowly with the image of Vice, that afterwards you fear it not though you meet with Vice it self.

Licentiousness is not bred in a moment, at one | | 76 and the same instant; so the contagion of loose Songs seizeth by degrees on the heart; they may be said to work on the minds of youth as seed in the ground, it first appears only above the surface of the Earth, but every day afterwards adds to its growth till it be fit for the sickle.

Nay more, these Songs of wantonness will breed in you a more than fitting boldness, which will put you on the confidence of practising what you read or sing. Assure your self, if you admit of a familiarity with these things, your innocency will be in daily danger.

You may easily believe this to be truth, if you consider the mmultiplicity of vanity and trumpery which stuff these Ballads; how an amorous or rather foolishly-fond Virgin forsook Kindred and Country, to run after a stranger and her Lover. In another you find how crafily two Lovers had plotted their private meetings to prosecute their unlawful enjoyments; and Letters that pass between for the continuation of their affection; which straight-ways makes the Reader up to the ears in Love. In the one is exprest the Constancy of two Fools one to the other; in the other, what trouble, what hazard, and what not, they run into, to ruin themselves, distract their Parents, and leave a stain on their own reputations, never to be washt out.

These are the things which contain curring Lessons to learn the younger sort to sin more wittily; and therefore no judicious person can comprehend with what reason these dangerous Songs and Sonnets can be justified.

The Lacedemonians prohibited Plays, because | | 77 Adulteries were exhibited; then why should such Pamphlets be permitted where such dishonest actions, lascivious examples, and extravagant passions are maintained? Shall it be said, that Christians have less love for Virtue than Infidels?

Ladies, accuse me not of too much severity, in endeavouring to take away this too much accustomed delight in singing wanton, though witty Sonnets: I say excuse me rahter, since I aim at nothing more than your welfare. I know your inclinations, as you are young and youthful, tend rather to these things, than what is more serious; and are apt to read those Books which rahter corrupt and deprave good manners than teach them.

Some may be so vain as to delight more in a Comedy than a Sermon, and had rather hear a Jack-pudding than a preacher: This made a sober Philosopher complain, he had fewer Scholars than such a one of meaner parts, and greater Libertine; because there are more who haunt the School of Voluptiousness, than that of Virtue; and we love them better who flatter and make us merry, than those who tell us the truth, and the danger, if we follow not her precepts.

Wherefore I cannot allow of any sort of Poetry, though it be ever so ingenious, if Vice lurk therein to do you harm; and wheresoever you find Vice, let it be your intention and strong resolution to fight against it, and throw aside all those instruments and implements, which will but learn you to sin with the greater dexterity.

| | 78 This is one vanity the younger sort incline to, and there are a great many more which our Sex (and to their shame) are prone to follow, take a brief account of them.

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