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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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The Answer of an ingenious Lady.

| | 240 Madam,

YOU have been pleas'd to impose a great task upon me, which I am resolved to discharge, not so much to shew any wit or knowledg in my self, as your power over me, by my obedience to your commands; what I shall say on this subject in the defence thereof, I shall be obliged thereunto by the rules of Reason, and not the liberty of practice. I cannot deny but that several reverend and learned persons are of a judgment opposite to mine which have prevailed on the credulity of many your Ladies, and did at first upon muy own, until I began to examine the grounds of their opinions, and to value more the weight of their reasons than the gravity and number of their persons. I do not find that these persons can produce out of Scripture any reasons of fforce which expresly forbid the using any Art in the imbellishing the Countenance: The opinions of men are not of any power to charge the Soul with sin in things of outward use and custom, neither in this particular are the Divines themselves all of one mind; for I know many excellent persons, who wisely forbear to condemn the use of these things as sin, that are innocently helpful to the beauties of modest women; for indeed they are as far form sin,or not from sin, as the minds of those that use them are disposed either to a modest decency, or to pride and vanity. Now where it is objected, that Jezabel was devoured by Dogs, because she painted | | 241 her eyes; if your Ladiship be pleased to look again on the History, you shall find that the painting of her face or eyes was thirteen or fourteen years before the Prophet Elisha presaged her ruin; and it was no more a cause of her dreadful death than the dressing her head, or her looking out at the Window, which was at one and the same time, and one of them as innocent as the other. If all that Jezabel did is to be avoided as a sin, we may not call a solemn assembly, or keep a Fast, because she did so, as appeareth by the same History: We may not embrace or kiss a friend, because Joah did so when he killed Abner; and Judas, when he betray'd his Master. And as for Herodias dancing, which was the cause of John Baptists death, you shall find in the Gospel that she danced alone, which is allowed by our austerest Divines, and by the precise Matrons in the education of their Children. She danced not with Herod, but before him; and it was not the decent motion of her feet, but the disorderly motions of her heart, and the perversness of her spirit to the Doctrine of St. John, that was the cause of his murther. And as for those places in the Prophets, from whence scrupulous and censorious persons do infer that the painting of the face is a sin; we may truly answer, it is not therefore unlawful because we find it there sometimes condemned as unreasonable; or because vain and loose Women do practise it, therefore the modest must altogether disclaim it. Believe me, Madam, in the whole Scripture there is not any Moral command to be found that doth expresly forbid this artificial adorning | | 242 the fact. We may read that Queen Esther made use of sweet perfumes, of gorgeous habiliments, and beautiful colours; nay, whatsoever was then in fashion, the more to attract the eyes and affections of the King unto her; and this was in her so far from a sin, that it had been almost a sin in her not to have done it. We find that Rebeccah almost in the infancy of the world, received ornaments for her hands, her neck and ears, and certainly she thought it no disparagement to her modesty or her piety to wear them. Neither is it any new invention for Ladies to use artificial helps for the advancement of their beauties; it is as general as ancient, and there is no Nation but doth practise it without any reproach of vanity or pride. And although in this Nation a commendable discretion is used in powdering, curling, and gumming the hair, and quickning the complexion; yet in forreign parts it is every-where frequently done, and as freely owned. It is (strange methinks that supplies should be allowed of for bodily defects and deformities; the Shoo-maker is imployed and commended for making the body higher; and the Taylor for making it straighter, and must we account it a sin or scandal to advance the beauty of the face? Much more might be alledged to prove the truth hereof, but I have been already too tedious, and have punished your expectation with the length of my Letter, which not withstanding the innocence of the subject, is a sin or fault in her, who I,

Madam, Tour most devoted Servant, etc.