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A Letter to the Women of England, Edited by Adriana Craciun, Anna Irmen Close, Megan Musgrave, and Orianne Smith
[Author's Explanatory Notes]

Page 2. The writer of this letter, though avowedly of the same school, disdains the drudgery of servile imitation. The same subject may be argued in a variety of ways; and though this letter may not display the philosophical reasoning with which "The Rights of Woman" abounded; it is not less suited to the purpose. For it requires a legion of Wollstonecrafts to undermine the poisons of prejudice and malevolence.

Page 4. The ancient Romans were more liberal, even during the reigns of their most atrocious tyrants: and it is to be presumed that the intellectual powers of British women, were they properly expanded, are, at least, equal to those of the Roman ladies.

Page 13. The Mahometans are said to be of opinion that WOMEN have no souls! Some British husbands would wish to evince that they have no SENSES, or at least not the privilege of using them: for a modern wife, I mean to say that which is denominated a good one, should neither hear, see, speak, nor feel, if she would wish to enjoy any tolerable portion of tranquillity.

Page 25. The fate of Miss Broderick is still recent in the memory of those who either condemned her rashness, or commiserated her misfortunes.

Page 28. The Demoiselles FERNIG, who followed, and shared the perils of Dumourier's army.

Page 29. An historical writer in his account of Russia, speaking of the Czarina Elizabeth, says "her reign was most uncommonly glorious. She abolished all capital punishments, and introduced a species of lenity in the operations of government, before unknown in Russia."

Page 30. About a century and half ago.

Page 30. It was reserved for modern Englishmen to question their capability.

Page 32. Cornificia, happily, did not live in Britain, where learning, and even moderate mental expansion, are not thought necessary to female education; at least in the eighteenth century!

Page 34. The fear that emulation may, in some instances, produce superiority, probably occasions that illiberal neglect of female genius, and that perseverance in affording British women the contracted and trivial educations which stigmatize the present era. Yet were the youth of the eighteenth century committed to the care of some living females, both manners and morals would greatly be benefited.

Page 35. Men of modern education suppose that women are only worthy of receiving billet doux, because the extent of their own literary acquirements is that of writing them. And it is to be lamented, that our classical scholars, and men of extensive observation, scarcely condescend to acknowledge that there can be such a thing as a WOMAN of genius.

Page 36. If the great men of the present day paid more attention to the genius and good sense of some British women, they would be considerable gainers by the experiment.

Page 36. Query. Might not the society of some living English women, if properly appreciated, tend to the reformation of certain gothic eccentricities; as well as, by comparison, produce more masculine energies? Men would be shamed out of their effeminate foibles, when they beheld the masculine virtues dignifying the mind of woman.

Page 37. This was at a period when English women, (excepting those devoted to celibacy), were rarely taught either to read or write. It cannot be therefore a matter of surprize, that their minds were enervated by the monkish superstition; the origin of those idle tales respecting ghosts, witches, &c.

Page 40. A Cassandra in the universities of England, at the present period, would be considered as one of those literary bugbears, a female philosopher, and would consequently be treated with ridicule and contempt.

Page 41. Our English sovereign Elizabeth, gave similar proofs of learning on several occasions.

Page 41. Read this, ye English fathers and husbands, and retract your erroneous opinions, respecting female education.

Page 43 A memorable instance of genuine and invincible attachment appeared in the conduct of the misguided and unfortunate Sophia Pringle: and though justice condemned her crime, pity will never refuse a sigh to the memory of her heroic affection.

Page 44. Hannah Snell, and several others, equally brave and romantic.

Page 44. Shakespeare.

Page 45. The late General Burgoyne.

Page 53. The writer of this letter once knew General Gates, and believes him capable of every thing liberal and humane, which General Burgoyne's statement attributes to his character.

Page 54. The enlightened and liberal writer of this pathetic story, confesses, that the subject of it was not masculinely educated. Yet she displayed the glorious energy of Roman constancy, mingled with affections the most pure, and sentiments the most exalted! An ARRIA or a PORTIA could have done no more.

Page 58. I believe Lady Mary Wortley Montague, the same WOMAN, whose name should be immortalized, for having first introduced to Europe the blessing of INOCULATION.

Page 63. Salmon.

Page 65. Lady Hamilton, and Helen Maria Williams, are existing proofs, that an English woman, like a prophet, is never valued in her own country. In Britain they were neglected, and scarcely known; on the continent, they have been nearly IDOLIZED!

Page 68. Should modern preceptors object to the classics through fear that the minds of English women would be corrupted by the writings of an Ovid, a Martial, or a Tibullus: let them recollect, that there lived also a Virgil, a Terence, a Lucan, and a Propertius. They should also remember that their native language presents the works of Wycherly, Vanbrugg, Prior, and Rochester; and that they cannot so contaminate, as those of Shakespeare, Denham, Steel, Cowley, Waller, Addison, Shenstone, and many more, can purify.

Page 69. We have some British sposos who already advance half way in this liberal system of participation, stepping somewhat beyond the polished track of Italian cecisbeos: it may be said of such husbands as it was of Cataline, that he was alieni appetens, sui profusus: greedy after the goods of others, and lavish of his own.

Page 71. We have a living proof of this observation in the person of Madame D'Eon . When this extraordinary female filled the arduous occupations of a soldier and an embassador, her talents, enterprize, and resolution, procured for her distinguished honours. But alas! when she was discovered to be a WOMAN, the highest terms of praise were converted into, "eccentricity, absurd and masculine temerity, at once ridiculous and disgusting."

Page 85. Monsieur Tourriel, author of an Examination whether it was wisely done to abolish that law of the Romans, by which women were kept under the power of guardianship all their lives.

Page 86. If this remark were true, it is to be lamented that they do not grow liberal and unprejudiced also.

Page 87. The mind of woman, in proportion as it is expanded by education, will become refined. Mental emulation would be the best safeguard against the vanity of sensual conquest.

Page 89. A husband infers from this conduct, that he permits his wife to act like a mad-woman, but he does not allow her to think like a wise one.

Page 89. Many of the American tribes admit women into their public councils, and allow them the privileges of giving their opinions, first, on every subject of deliberation. The ancient Britons allowed the female sex the same right: but in modern Britain women are scarcely allowed to express any opinions at all!

Page 90. This elegant and estimable female, is represented headless; --- and I believe almost the only female in the kingdom universally allowed to be a good woman.

Page 92. Pætus being commanded by the emperor Nero, to die by his own hands, his wife, an illustrious Roman woman, was permitted to take leave of him. She felt the impossibility of surviving him, and plunging the poniard into her bosom, exclaimed "Pætus it is not much," and instantly expired. This anecdote I relate for the information of my unlearned readers.

Page 94. By Philosophy, the writer of this Letter means rational wisdom; neither the flimsy cobwebs of pretended metaphysical and logical mysteries; nor the unbridled liberty which would lead to the boldness of licentious usurpation. A truly enlightened woman never will forget that conscious dignity of character which ennobles and sustains, but never can DEBASE her.

Page 99. In order to escape the imputation of partiality, the names are arranged alphabetically.

Published @ RC

May 1998

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