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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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A Letter from one Lady to another, condemning Artificial-beauty.

Madam,

YOU are so absolute in the endowments of your mind and perfections of body, that I cannot but honour you; having formerly experienced your love to me particularly, and the greatness of your Wit to all; I hope you will excuse this rudeness if I desire your opinion concerning borrowed beauty from art; and whether it may be lawfully used by such as profess Religion and a good Conscience? I must confess my own judgment is much unsetled; nevertheless, I have been informed by many learned and godly men, that it is a great sin, and undoubtedly inconsistent with a Christian, and a good Conscience. I do find that washing and painting is condemned in holy Writ, as the practise | | 238 of loose licentious and lascivious Women; who with the deforming of their Souls, and polluting their Consciences, do use the Art for embellishing their Counternances. The new Testament affirms we cannot make one hair of our head white or black; and if we have neither the complexion of our hairs, then much less the complexion of our Cheeks and Faces. It argueth besides, ingratitude to the Almighty, when we are not content with what He hath made; and the higheest presumption in thinking or daring to mend it. St. Paul, and St. Peter prescribed desly, shamefastness and sobriety, and not with gorgeous apparel, or with braided Hair, God or Pearls; and if these things were forbidden, how much more is washing or painting the Face, which is suitable (some think( to none but light vanity of their conversation. So that this Artificial beauty may appear to be divinely forbidden as an enemy to Truth, which needeth none but its own native complexion; and is so far from being beholding to Art for any addition to enliven her colour, or to put a blush upon it, that she converteth even Deformities and Decays into advantages and Perfections. Besides, that this adding of colour and complexion proceeds from Pride, is without controversie; and should it not reflect on wantonness, yet it doth on arrogance to borrow, and then challenge that beauty to be ours, which is not but by an adventitious wealth. Moreover, this self- conceit is an enemy to humility | | 239 and grace, and would degrees over-top al virtue. And now grant it were neither scandalously sinful, nor absolutely unlawful, yet the offence it giveth to the true and strict Professors of Piety is a sufficient argument, that it ought not to be practised. Although many things may be permitted in themselves, yet they become evil and are to be forborn, when others are offended at them. Neither is this all; for the very name of a painted face is enought to destroy the reputation of her that useth it, and exposeth her to all manner of reproaches. We are taught to follow things of a good report, that we may not only be good but that in all things we may preserve the reputation of a good name. If the light of Scriptures were not so clear & full against all artificial beauty, yet the light of Nature doth seem to discover an uncomeliness therein. There is none but may conclude, if God threatens to punish strange apparel, he will not spare to punish strange faces.

Madam, pardon the tediousness of my letter, which I have extended almost to the length of a Treatise; I was the more large, because I would be the more fully satisfied in your answer, which in a labouring-expectation I attend; if your Ladiship will deign me this favour, you will infinitely oblige her, who is

Madam, Your most humble and affectionate Servant