Page images

suė the road of free inquiry, and pres ties of women are far inferior to those serve a mind, not only open to com- of men. But in the few instances viction, brut favourable for making where a contrary mode of treatment discoveries and enlarging the bounda. has been pursued, where fair play has ries of religious knowledge.

been given to the faculties, even withW.J. out much assistance, what has almost

invariably been the result ? Has it

not been evident that the female mind, On Female Education.

though in many respects differently Norwich, November, 1822.

constituted from that of man, may be

well brought into comparison with discussing the subject

she wants object to inquire whether the natural perseverance in what she does under powers of women be equal to those of take ; for his ambition, she has a men, as to shew the expediency of thirst for knowledge; and for his ready giving proper scope and employment perception, she has unwearied applia to the powers which they do possess. cation. it may be as well, notwithstanding,

It is proof sufficient to my mind, to inquire whether the difference be as that there is no natural deficiency of great as is generally supposed between power, that, unless proper objects are the mental structure of men and of supplied to women to employ their women.

faculties, their energies are exerted • Doubtless the formation of the mind

improperly, Some aim they must must depend in a great degree on the have, and if no good one is presented structure of the body. From this to them, they must seek for a bad cause the strength of mind observable

ode. in men is supposed to arise ; and the We

may find evidence in abundance delicacy of the female mind is thought of this truth in the condition of woto be in agreement with the bodily men before the introduction of Chrisframe. But it is impossible to ascer- tianity. tain how much may depend on early Before the revelation of this blessed education; nor can we solve our religion, (doubly blessed to the female doubts on this head by turning our sex,) what was their situation? They view to savage countries, where, if the were either sunk almost to the level bodily strength be nearly equal in the of the brutes in mental darkness, butwo seses, their minds are alike sunk ried in their own homes, the slaves inin ignorance and darkness. In our own stead of the companions of their huscountry, we find that as long as the bands, only to be preserved from vice studies of children of both sexes con- by being excluded from the world, or, tinue the same, the progress they not being able to endure these remake is equal. After the rudiments straints, employing their restless of knowledge have been obtained, in powers and turbulent passions in the the cultivated ranks of society, (of pursuit of vicious pleasures and senwhich alone I mean to speak,) the boy sual gratifications. And we cannot goes on continually increasing his wonder that this was the case, when stock of information, it being his only they were gifted with faculties which employment to store and exercise his they were not permitted to exercise, mind for future years ; while the girl and were compelled to vegetate from is probably confined to low pursuits, year to year, with no object in life and her aspirings after knowledge are sub- no hope in death. Observe what an dued, she is taught to believe that immediate change was wrought by the solid information is unbecoming her introduction of Christianity. Mark sex, almost her whole time is expend- the zeal, directed by knowledge, of ed on light accomplishments, and thus the female converts, of so many of before she is sensible of her powers, whom St. Paul makes honourable they are checked in their growth, mention as his friends, on account of chained down to mean objects, to rise their exertions in the great cause. An no more; and when the natural con- object was held out for them to obsequences of this mode of treatment cain, and their powers were bent to arise, all mankind agree that the abili. the attaininent of it, instead of being engaged in vice and folly. The female an active mind will feel a dismal vacharacter has been observed to im- cuity, a craving after something nobler prove since that time, in proportion and better to employ the thoughts in as the treasures of useful knowledge the intervals of idleness which must have been placed within the reach of occur when these calls of duty are anthe sex.

swered, and if nothing nobler and I wish to imply by what I have said, better is presented to it, it will waste not that great stores of information its energies in the pursuit of folly, if are as necessary to women as to men, not of vice, and thus continually perbut that as much care should be taken petuate the faults of the sex. of the formation of their minds. Their Some will perhaps say,

“ if houseattainments cannot in general be so hold occupations are insufficient to great, because they have their own exercise the mind, the wide field of appropriate duties and peculiar em- charity is open to the employment of ployments, the neglect of which no- its energies." It is so. But how in. thing can excuse; but I contend that efficient is benevolence when not dithese duties will be better performed rected by knowledge! And how comif the powers be rationally employed. paratively faint will be the exertions If the whole mind be exercised and in the cause, when the views are strengthened, it will bring more vigour bounded, the motives narrow and even to the performance of its duties in any selfish, (for ignorance is the mother of particular province.

selfishness,), and charity pursued more The first great objection which is as a present employment, than with made to enlightening the female mind the desire of doing permanent good to is, that if engaged in the pursuit of the objects of this shallow benevoknowledge, women neglect their ap- lence ! How different is this from the propriate duties and peculiar employ- charity of an enlightened mind, of a ments.

mind which, enlarged by knowledge, 2nd. That the greatest advances that can comprehend extensive views, can the female mind can make in know. design not only the present relief of ledge, must still fall far short of the misery, but can look forward to the attainments of the other sex.

permanent improvement of its kind; 3rd. That the vanity so universally which, understanding the workings of ascribed to the sex is apt to be inflated the mind, and able to profit by the by any degree of proficiency in know- experience of others, can choose the ledge, and that women therefore be- best means for the attainment of cercome forgetful of the subordinate sta- tain ends, and thus by uniting knowtion assigned them by law, natural and ledge and judgment with benevolence, divine.

can make its efforts doubly efficient ! To the first objection I answer, that But even if the calls of charity be ansuch a pursuit of knowledge as shall swered, and feminine duties performed, lead women to neglect their peculiar yet much leisure remains for other duties, is not that cultivation of mind pursuits : and what should these purfor the utility of wbich I am contend- suits be? Surely, such as will make ing. Bụt these duties may be well social intercourse more delightful, performed without engaging the whole such as will furnish innocent recreatime and attention. If “great thoughts tion at home, such as will cheer the constitute great minds,” what can be hours of dulness, and furnish pleasant expected from a woinan whose whole subjects for the thoughts to turn to in intellect is employed on the trifling times of sickness or of sorrow. cares and comparatiyely mean occupa- It must be allowed by all, that one tions, to which the advocates for fe- of woman's first duties is to qualify male ignorance would condemn her? herself for being a companion to her These cares and these occupations husband, or to those with whom her were allotted to women to enable lot in life is cast. She was formed to them to smooth our way through life; be a domestic companion, and such an they were designed as a means to this one as shall give to home its charms, end, and should never be pursued as as shall furnish such entertainment the end itself. The knowledge of these that her hụsband need not be driven necessary acts is so easily acquired, abroad for amusement. This is one and they are so easily performed that of the first duties required from a wo

man, and no time can be misemployed 'wisdom, and who would make the which is applied to the purpose of first sentiments of their souls noble snaking her such a companion, and I and enlarged, who would take in at contend that a friend like this cannot one comprehensive view all that was be found among women of unculti- to be done to render them what they vated minds. If their thoughts are ought to be, and who would render continually occupied by the vanities of their first instructions subservient to the world, if that time which is not the objects to be afterwards pursued ! required for the fulfilment of house. If such were to be the foundation of hold duties, is spent in folly, or even character, what might not the superin harmless trifles in which the hus- structure be! -band has no interest, how are the It may be said that many minds powers of pleasing to be perpetuated, have been great, capable of conceiving how is she to find interesting subjects and executing noble designs, without for social converse ? Surely these any advantages of education. It is desirable objects are best promoted by certainly true, but these minds have the hours of leisure being devoted to been too aspiring to be chained down the acquirement of useful knowledge, by the fetters of ignorance ; they have such knowledge as may excite the re- become great in spite of disadvantages,

flective powers, enlarge and steady the and not in consequence of them; and -mind, and raise it, nearly at least, to had their poivers been cultivated, their the level of the other sex. Thus there efforts would probably have been betmay be companionship between the 'ter directed and doubly successful. sexes, and surely no woman who as- But the best proof, that all the usefulpires to and labours for this end can ness and all the feminine qualities of be accused of neglecting her peculiar women may remain unimpaired, notduties. But for this object to be com- withstanding the acquisition of knowpletely gained, the work must be be- ledge, may be gained by referring to gun, early. The powers should be our own observation and experience. cultivated from infancy, and the mind I have known young women whose taught to feel pleasure in seeking for whole time was occupied by the care information, always in subservience to of a numerous family of brothers and more important avocations. If the sisters, stealing a few minutes daily soul be early contracted by too great from their breakfast hour, to study the an attention to trifles, if it be taught Greek tongue, for the purpose of readthat ignorance is to be its portion, no ing the Testament in the original lanlater endeavours will be of any avail 'guage; and in no degree did this purto enpoble it.

suit interfere with their active duties ; If we consider woman as the guar- so little so, that it was even unknown dian and instructress of infancy, her by most of their own family. They claims to cultivation of mind become attained their object, and enjoyed the doubly urgent. It is evident that if satisfaction of settling their religious the soul of the teacher is narrow and belief for themselves, without any dicontracted, that of the pupil cannot minution of their usefulness as women. be enlarged. If we consider that the I do not mean by this that I would first years of childhood exert an influ. have all women instructed in the learnence over the whole future life, we ed languages. This would be needless, cannot be too careful to preserve our and for those of inferior talents the children from the effects of ignorance time would be wasted. I only wish to and prejudice on their young minds. shew that even such deep knowledge It has been frequently and justly ob- 'as these ladies possessed, did not lead served, that almost all men, remarka. them to appropriate their time too ble for talents or virtue, have had ex- much to selfish purposes. I have also cellent mothers, to the early influence known a young lady, who, notwithof whose noble qualities, the future standing the disadvantages of a defec. superiority of their children was main- tive early education, has made won

ly to be ascribed. If this be true, derful progress in knowledge of yariwhat might not be hoped from the la- ous kinds, especially in the study of - bours of a race of enlightened mothers, the human mind : and yet she super

who would early impress on their intends a large domestic establishment, children's minds lessons of piety and has founded a school, which is sup

[ocr errors]

ported entirely by her exertions, and women from the evils mentioned as
she is ever ready with her fund of sex- following in the train of ignorance, I
sible, unassuming and natural conver- answer that much must depend on na-
sation to answer the calls of those who tural talent, fortune and station ; but
depend much on her for their enter- no Englishwounan, above the lower
tainment in the domestic circle. I ranks of life, ought to be ignorant of
have known another lady, blest with the Evidences and Principles of her
aftluence, employing the powers of religious belief, of Saered History, of
her well-exercised mind in the further- the outline at least of General History,
ance of projects of extensive benevo- of the Elements of the Philosophy of
lence; projects which would often Nature, and of the Human Mind;
have failed, had they not been executed and to these should be added the know-
by one early accustomed to give her ledge of such living languages, and the
time to enlightened industry, to exer- acquirement of such accomplishments,
cise her reason, and to feed her mind as situation and circumstances may
with useful knowledge. Benevolent direct.
dispositions, regulated by such a judg- With respect to the third objection,
ment, and supported by motives of viz., that the vanity so universally
piety, have been productive of an im- ascribed to the sex is apt to be inflated
mense sum of good; and I may men by any degree of proficiency in know-
tion in favour of my argument, that ledge, and that women, therefore, be-
her powers of usefulness have been come forgetful of the subordinate sta-
much employed in teaching the poor tion assigned them by law, natural
the arts of household economy, of and divine : the most important part
which this lady is a perfect mistrese. of education, the implanting of reli-
Many other instances could I bring, if gious principles must be in part ne-
my limits would permit, but I trust glected, if the share of knowledge
that what I have said will convince which women may appropriate, should
others as well as myself, that the acqui- be suffered to inflate their vanity, or
sition of knowledge does not necessa- exeite feelings of pride. Christian
rily lead to the neglect of woman's ap- humility should be one of the first
propriate duties.

requisites in female education, and till With respect to the second objec. it is attained every acquirement of tion, viz., That the greatest advances every kind will become a cause of which the female mind can make in self-exaltation, and those accomplishknowledge must fall far short of the ments which are the most rare, will attaininents of the other sex,

--1 allow of course be looked upon with the that the acquirements of women can most' self-complacency. But if the seldom equal those of men, and it is taste for knowledge were more genenot desirable that they should. I do rally infuscl, and if proficiency in the not wish to excite a spirit of rivalry attainments I have mentioned were between the sexes; I do not desire more common, there would be much that many females should seek for less pedantry than there is at present; fame as authors. I only wish that for when acquirements of this kind their powers should be so employed are no longer remarkable, they cease that they should not be obliged to seek to afford a subject for pride. I supamuseinents beneath them, and injuri, pose, when knowledge was rare among ous to them. I wish them to be com- men, many of those who had made panions to men, instead of playthings some proficiency were as pedantic as or servants, one of which an ignorant the blue-stockings of the present woman must commonly be. If they day. As the spread of information exare called to be wives, a sensible mind tended there was less cause for conis an essential qualification for the do- ceit, and the case would be the same mestic character; if they remain sin. with the female sex, This is a fact, gle, liberal pursuits are absolutely which is proved from year to year, for necessary to preserve them from the female education is rapidly improving, faults so generally attributed to that and the odious pedantry to which it state, and so justly, and inevitably, at first gave rise is less observable, while the mind is buried in darkness. and will, ere long, I hope, be more a

If it be asked what kind and degree name than a reality. of knowledge is necessary to preserve Let woman then be taught that her

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

Feb. 3,

powers of mind were given her to be anticipate. See what has already been improved. Let her be taught that she done. In the present age, and in our is to be a rational companion to those own country, we can reckon among of the other sex among whom her lot those who have rendered important in life is cast, that her proper sphere services to society at large, as well as is home-that there she is to provide, to their own circle of friends, the not only for the bodily comfort of names of More, Barbauld, Hamilton, man, but that she is to enter also into Edgeworth, Carter, Talbot, Elizabeth community of mind with him ; that Smith, Chapone, Grant, Aikin and she is to strengthen him in the hour Cappe. Most of these ladies have of trial; to cheer him in times of written on the noblest subjects which despondence; to exert herself for his can exercise the human mind, religion improvement and her own; to encou- and morality, and have thus proved rage him in rational pursuits, both by that the cultivation of the powers of her example and sympathy; that she the female mind is favourable instead is to be the participator in his happi- of injurious to these important inness, the consoler of his sorrows, the terests. support of his weakness, and his I cannot better conclude than with friend under all circumstances. For the hope, that these examples of what this purpose she must exert her own may be done may excite a noble emu. faculties, store her mind, strengthen lation in their own sex, and in ours her reason, and so far enrich her na such a conviction of the value of the tural powers by cultivation, as to be female mind, as shall overcome our capable of performing the important long-cherished prejudices, and induce duties which fall to her lot. Let her us to give our earnest endeavours to preserve her natural simplicity, her the promotion of woman's best intefeminine gentleness, her perfect inno rests. cence. Let her become mistress of

DISCIPULUS. all the little arts, of all the important tribes, (if I may so express myself,) SIR,

1823. which reader home a scene of com

LTHOUGH I have not seen the fort; but let not these be made the


edition of the “New Testaend instead of the means. Like our ment;”, which Cantabrigiensis de attendant planet, let her, while she is scribes, * I flatter myself that I can the constant companion of man, bor- give him some information as to the row sufficient light from the sun of editor, “The Rev. Mr. John Lindsay," knowledge to cheer him in his hours whose name occurs more than once of darkness, and he will find that the in a publication abounding with noprogress she makes towards this great tices of the lives and writings of clerluminary will not interfere with the gymen. , companionship she owes to him. The elder Mr. Bowyer's' corrector When this is done, when woman is of the press, was usually a nonjuring allowed to claim her privileges as an teacher; to which class of episcopaintellectual being, the folly, the frivo- lians the worthy printer himself be lity, and all the mean vices and faults longed. In the Historia Typographowhich have hitherto been the reproach rum, 8c., we find an allusion to one of the sex, will gradually disappear. of the persons so employed by him; As she finds nobler objects presented “either," says Nichols, “Mr. John to her grasp, and that her rank in the Blackburne, or Mr. John Lindsay." scale of being is elevated, she will Among the papers that issued from engraft the vigorous qualities of the the same press, during the year 1725, mind of man on her own blooming are enumerated “ Proposals for printvirtues, and insinuate into his mind ing by subscription, A Vindication of those softer graces and milder beau: the Church of England and the lawful ties, which will smooth the ruggedness Ministry, thereof, &c. Written by of his character.

Francis Mason, B.D., &c., and now Surely this is the natural state of things, and to this perfection will they arrive, if the improvement of the fe- * Mon. Repos. XVII, 530. male mind proceeds with the same + Nichols Liter. Anecd., &c. rapidity which we have now reason to | Maittaire's



« PreviousContinue »