Beck Center English Dept. University Libraries Emory University
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

Table of Contents

<< Section Section >>

Display page layout

The Gentlewomans Mirrour, or Patterns for them imitation of such famous Women who have been emment in Piety and Learning.

Revisit those ancient Families of Rome, and you shall find those Matrons made a Pagan State seem Morally Christian. Octavia, Portia, Cecilia, Cornelia, were such, who though dead, their actions will make their memories live perpetually: Nor were Niostrata, Corvina and Sappbo, Women less famous for Learning, than the other for blameless-Living. Neither have our modern times less flourished with Femininne Worthies, as might be illustrated with several eminent instances, were there not already of them so many Panegyricks extant.

It is said of Dorcas, She ws 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 | | 99 Demetrius to eschew idleness, exhoring her when she had finished her Devotion, she should 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 Demetrias 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 who made frequent recourse to the Temple. Of whom to her succeeding memory the Scripture recordeth, that after her tears devoutly shed, her prayers fincerely 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, 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 Judith 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 Gorgonia, 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 | | 100 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 signed for.

Should you consider what troops of surious and immplacable enemies lie in Ambuscado for you; how many Soul-tempting Syrens are warbling notes of ruine to delude you; what fears within you, what foes without you, what furies all about you; you would not let one minute pass undedicated to some good employment.

The commendable and admired Chassity 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.

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,
Those were no mounds but wonders to her honour.

| | 101 The presence of a Prince no less amordus 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 essays 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; | | 102 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; he smilingly refus'd, as thinking she was in jest, but feeing by her home-passes how earnestly she prosecuted his life, he was constrained to draw: But this Virago, 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 may 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 | | 103 mirrors of vidual Continency and Matron- like modesty were, Cornelia, Vetruria, Livia, and Salvina? Now what may you 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 Convensation is most heavenly. It is immortality you aspire to, a lower orb cannot hold you; nothing else may confine you.

<< Section Section >>