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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 the guidance of a Ladies love and fancy.

I suppose you, virtuous Ladies and Gentlewomen to whom I direct this Discourse, yet know, that though you are victoriously seated in the Fort of Honour, yet Beauty cannot be there planted, but it must be attempted. However I would have you so constantly gracious in your resolves, that though it be assaulted, it can not be soiled; attempted but never attainted.

How incident and prone our whole Sex is to love, especially when young, my blushes will acknowledg without the assistance of my tongue; now since our inclination so generally tend to love and fancy, and knowing withal how much the last good or evil of our whole lives depend thereno, give me leave to trace them in all or most part of their | | 88 Meandirs, wherein you will find such suitable instructions as will give you for the future fate and found direction.

Fancy is an affection privily received in by the eye, and speedily convey'd to the heart; the eye is the Harbinger, but the heart is the Harbourer.

Look well before you like; love conceived at first sight seldom lasts long, therefore deliberate with your love, lest your love be misguided; for to love at first look makes an house of misrule.

Portion may wode at Wordling, Proportion a youthful Wanton, but it is Vertue which wins the heart of Discretion; admit he have the one to purchase your esteem, and the other to maintain your Estate, yet his breast is not so transparent as to know the badness of his disposition; if you then take his humour on trust, it may prove so perverse and peevish, that your expected Heaven of bliss may be converted into an Haven of insupportable croses. Themistockes being asked by a Noble-man, whether he had rather marry his Daughter to a vicious Rich man or an Honest poor man; return'd this answer, That he had rather have a man without money than money without a man. Whence it was that prudent Portia replied, being asked, When she would marry? Then said she, When I find one that seeks me, and not mine.

There is no time requires more modesty from a young Gentlewoman; than in wooing, time a shamefull red then best commends her, and is the most moving Orator that speaks in her behalf. | | 89 Like Ventur Silver-Dove she is ever brouzing on the Palm of Peace, while her Cheeks betray her love more than her tongue.

There is a pretty pleasing kind of wooing drawn from a conceived yet concealed fancy. Might they chose, they would converse with them freely, confort with them friendly, and impart their truest thoughts fully, yet would they not have their bashful loves find discovery.

Phillis, to willows, like a cunning Flyer
Flys, yet she fears her Shepherd should not spy her.

Whatever you do be not induced to marry one you have either abhorrency or loathing to; for it is neither affluence of estate, potency of friends, nor highness of discent can allay the insufferable grief of a loathed bed. Wherefore (Gentlewomen) to the inent you may shew your selves discreetest in that, which requires your discretion most, discuss with your selves the parity of love and the quality of your Lover, ever reflecting on those best endowments which render him worthy or unworthy of your greatest estimation. A discreet eye will not be taken only with a proportionable body,or smooth countenance; it is not the rind but the mind that is her Loadstone.

Justina a Roman Maid, no less nobly descended than notably accomplished, exclaimed much against her too rigid fate in being married to one more rich than wise: And good reason had she, being untimely made by his groundless jealousie a sad tragick spectacle of misery. | | 90 For the whiteness of her neck was an object which begot in him a slender argument of suspect, which he seconded with rash revenge.

Let deliberation then; be the Scale wherein you may weigh love with an equal poize. There are many high consequent-circumstances which a discreet Woman will not only discourse, but discuss, before she enter into that hazardous though honourable state of Marriage.Disparity in descent, fortunes, friends, do often beget a distraction in the mind. Disparity of years breeds dislike, obscurity of descent begets contempt, and inquality of fortunes discontent.

If you marry one very young, bear with his youth, till riper experience bring him to a better understanding. Let your usage be more easie than to wean him from what he effects by extremity. Youth will have his swinge; time will reclaim, and discretion will bring him home at last. So conform your self to him as to confirm your love in him, and undoubtedly this conjugal duty, mixt with affibility, will compleatly conquer the moroseness of his temper. If he be old, let his age beget in you the greater rever once; his words shall be as so many aged and time improved precepts to inform you; his aactions as so many directions to guide you; his kind rebukes as so many friendly admonitions to reclaim you his Bed you must so honour, as not to let an unchast thought defile it; his Counsel so keep, as not to trust it in any others breast; be a staff in his age to support him, and an hand upon all occasions to help him.

| | 91 If he be rich, this shall not or must not make you proud; but let your desire be that you both employ it to the best advantage. Communicate to the Needy, that your Wealth may make you truly happy. That is a miserable Wealth which starves the Owner. I have heard of one worth scores of thousands of pounds who bought billers not for fewel but luggage; not to burn them and so warm himself, but to carry them on a frosty morning up stairs and down, and so heat himself by that labouring exercise. Wherefore let me perswade you to enjoy your own, and so shun baseness; reserve a provident care for your own and so avoid profuseness.

Is your Husband fallen to poverty; let hhis poor condition make you rich; there is certainly no want, where there wants no content. It is a common saying, That as Poverty goes in at one door Love goes out at the other; and love without harbour falls into a cold and aguish distemper; let this never direct your thoughts, let your affection counterpoize all afflictions. No adversity should divide you from him, if your vowed faith hath individually tyed you to him.

Thus if you expostulate, your Christian constant resolves shall make you fortunate. If your fancy be on grounded deliberation, it will promise you such good success, as your Marriage-days shall never fear the bitter encounter of untimely repentance, nor the cureless anguish of an afflicted conscience.

Now as I would have you, entlewomen, to be slow in entertaining, so be most constant in retaining. Lovers or Favourites are not to be worn | | 92 like Favers; now near your bosom, or about your wrist, and presently out of all request. Which to prevent entertain none so near your heart, whom you observe to harbour in his breast somethng that may deserve your hate.

Carefully avoid the acquaintance of Strangers, and neither affect variety nor glory in the multiplicity of your Suitors. For there is no greater argument of mutability and lightness. Constant you cannot be where you profess, if change you do affect. Have a care; vows deliberately advised, and religiously grounded, are not to be slighted or dispensed with. Before any such things are made, sist him, if you can find any bran in him, task him, before you tye your self to take him. And when you desires are drawn to this period, become so taken with the love of your Choice, as to interpret all his actions in the best sense; this will make one Soul rule two hearts and one heart dwell in two bodies.

Before you arrive to this honourable condition all wanton fancy you must lay aside, for it will never promise you good success since the effect cannot be good where the object is evil. Wanton love hath a thousand devices to purchase a minutes penitential pleasure. Her eye looks, and by that the sense of her mind is averted; her ear hears, and by it the intention of the heart is perverted; her smell breaths, and by it her good thoughts are hindred; her mouth speaks, and by it others are deceived; by touch, her heat of desire upon every small occasion is stirred: never did Orlando rage more for his Angelica than | | 93 these Vtopian Lovers for their imaginary shadows.

These exorbitancies we must endeavour to remedy; and that therein we may use the method of art, we must first remove the cause, and the effect will follow. Let me then discover the effects arising from them, and lastly their cure or remedy.

The original grounds of this wanton fancy, or wandring phrenzie, are included in these two lines.

Sloth, Words, Books, Eyes, Consorts, and luscions fare,
The lures of lust, and stains of honour are.

For the first, sententious Seneoa faith, He had rather be exposed to the utmost extremities Fortune can inflict on him, than subject him self to Sloth and Sensuality. For it is this only which maketh of Men, Women; of Women, Beasts; and of Beasts Monsters.

Secondly, Words corrupt the Disposition they set on edg or gloss on depraved liberty; making that member offend most, when it should be imployed in profiting most.

Thirdly, Books treating of light Subjects are Nurseries of wantonness; remove them timely from you, if they ever had entertainment by you, lest like the Snake in the Fable, they annoy you.

Fourthly, Eyes are those windows by which death enters. Eve looked on the fruit before she coveted, coveting, she tasted; and tasting, | | 94 she perished; place them then on those objects whose real beauty make, take them, and not on such vanities which miserably taint them.

Fifthly, Consorts are thieves of time, which will rob you of many precious opportunities Chuse then such Consorts of whom you may have assured hope, that they will either better you or be better'd by you. Chuse such whom you may admire when you see and hear them; when you see their living Doctrine, and hear their wholsome instruction.

Lastly, Luscious fare is the fewel of inordinate desires, which you must abstain from, or be very temperate in, if you intend to have your understanding strengthned, virtue nourished, and a healthy bodily Constitution.

The next thing we are to insist upon, is the evil effects of this wanton fancy, many may be here inserted, might I not be taxed with prolixity, and terrifie the Reader with examples of too much horror and cruelty. But if you would understand them, our late Italian Stories will afford you variety, for the satisfaction of your curiosity; where indiscreet love closeth her doleful Scene with so miserable an Exit, as no Pencil can express any picture more to the life than an Historical line hath drawn out the web of their misfortunes.

Now to cure this desperate malady (though to you, Gentlewoman, I hope the cure is need, less, being void of all such violent distempers) the best and most soveraign Receipt, is to fortifie the weakness of your Sex with strength of resolution. Be not too liberal in the bestowing | | 95 your favours nor too familiar in publick converse.

Make a contract with your eyes not to wander abroad, less they be catcht in coming home. Treat not of love too freely, play no waggish tricks with the blind boy; he hath a dangerous aim, though he hath no eyes; sport not with him that may hurt you; play not with him that would play on you. Your sports will turn to an ill jell, when you are wounded in earnest; let the Sly be your Emblem.

So long the follish Fly plays with the flame,
Till her light wings are sindged in the same.

Be watchful; there are many snards which students in Loves mysteries have laid to entrap Female credulity: How many are there can tip their tongues with Rhetorical protestations, purposely to gull a believing creature, for the purchase of an unlawful pleasure; which no sooner obtained, than the person slighted and left alone to bemoan her irrecoverable lost honour? With more safety therefore ought you to suspect, than too rashly to affect; and be sure you check your wild fancy by time lest a remediless check attend your choice. Repentance comes too late at the Marriage- night.

And yet I cannot commend your extraordinary coolness in affection, slighting all, as if none were worthy of your choice. The extreams of these two indisposed fancies ought to be seasoned with an indiffernt temper.

Now the difference betwixt a wife and a wild love is this; The one ever deliberates | | 96 before it loves; and the other loves before it deliberates.

There are a sort of wild Girls who compute their riches by the quantity of their Suitors. I have heard of a couple of Maids of different tempers; who contending with one another, said the one, I have such and such vertuous and wealthy relations. I but replied the other) I have more Suiters than thou hast friends. More shamless you (Answered the other) unless you mean to set up an house of entertainment. Such an one as this, never cares for more than to be married, if she may but one Comical-day all her life: Yea, it is as well as can be expected from their hands, if they attain unto that srite without some apparent foil. Such as these I could wish, to prevent the worst, they were married betimes, lest they marry themselves before time,

To you then, kind-hearted Gentlewomen, am I to recommend some necessary cautions; the careful observation of which I hope will prevent that danger which threatens the goodness of your Sex and Natures. The Index of your hearts you carry in your eyes and tongues; for shame learn silence in the one, and secrecy in the other. Give not the power to an insulting Lover to triumph over your weakness; and which is worse, to work on the opportunity of your lightness. Rather dam up those portals which betray you to your enemy; and prevent his entry by your vigilancy. Keep home and straggle not, lest by gadding abroad you fall | | 97 into Dinah's danger and mishap. Let not a stray'd thought prove the Traytor to your Innocency. Check your roving fancy; and if it use resistance, curb it with greater restraint.

And now a word or two to you coy Ladies whom either coldness of nature hath benumb'd or coyness hath made subtil to dissemble it. You can look and like, and yet turn away your head from what you love most. No object of love can take you, till it overtake you. You may be modest, and spare a great deal of this coyness; yet so conceal and smoothly palliate your love, as your Lover may not despair of obtainingg it. Indifferent courtesies you may shew without lightness, and receive them too in lieu of thankfulness.

Have a special regard to your Honour, which is of an higher esteem than to be undervalued. Light occasions are often-times grounds of deep aspersions. Actions are to be seasoned with discretion, seconded by direction, strengthned with instruction, lest too much rashness bring the undertaker to destruction.

In the Labyrinth of this Life, many are our Cares, mighty are our Fears, strong our Assailants, weak our assistance; and therefore we had ned have the Brasen-wall within us, to fortifie us against these evil occurrents. The scene of your life is short; so live then that your noble actions may-preserve your memory long. It was the advice of Seneca to his Friend, Never to do any thing without imagining a Cato, a Scipio, or some other worthy Roman was present. To second his advice (which may confer | | 98 on your glorious actions eternal praise set always before your eyes, as an imitable mirrour, some good Woman or other, before whom you may live, as if the eyed and continually viewed you. There is no scarcity of Examples of such famous Women, who though weak in Sex and condition, yet parallels to Men for Charity, Chastity; Piety, Purity, and vertuous Conversation. It will not be amiss here in this place, to insert some few eminent patterns for your limitation.

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