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jects of the muse, the lyre, the pencil, and the chisel, that their pictures and statues furnished the most consummate models of Grecian art; — if, I say, the accomplished females of our day are panting for similar renown, let their modesty chastise their ambition, by recollecting that these celelebrated women are not to be found among the chaste wives and the virtuous daughters of the Aristideses, the Agises, and the Phocions; but that they are to be looked for among the Phrynes, the Laises, the Aspasias, and the Glyceras. I am persuaded the truly Christian female, whatever be her taste or her talents, will renounce the desire of any celebrity when attached to impurity of character, with the same noble indignation with which the virtuous biographer of the abovenamed heroes renounced any kind of fame which might be dishonestly attained, by exclaiming, “I had rather it should be said there never was a Plutarch, than that they should say Plutarch was malignant, unjust, or envious.” *
And while this corruption, brought on by an excessive cultivation of the arts, has contributed its full share to the decline of states, it has always furnished an infallible symptom of their impending fall. The satires of the most penetrating and judicious of the Roman poets, corroborating the testimonies of the most accurate of their historians, abound with invectives against the general de
* No censure is levelled at the exertions of real genius, which is as valuable as it is rare; but at the absurdity of that System which is erecting the whole sex into artists.
pravity of manners, introduced by the corrupt habits of female education. The bitterness and gross indelicacy of some of these satirists (too gross to be either quoted or referred to) make little against their authority in these points; for how shocking must those corruptions have been, and how obviously offensive their causes, which could have appeared so highly disgusting to minds so coarse, as not likely to be scandalised by slight deviations from decency! The famous ode of Horace, attributing the vices and disasters of his degenerate country to the same cause, might, were it quite free from the above objections, be produced, I will not presume to say as an exact picture of the existing manners, of this country,
I not venture to say, as a prophecy, the fulfilment of which cannot be very remote ? It may, however, be observed, that the modesty of the Roman matron, and the chaste demeanour of her virgin daughters, which amidst the stern virtues of the state were as immaculate and pure as the honour of the Roman citizen, fell a sacrifice to the luxurious dissipation brought in by their Asiatic conquest; after which the females were soon taught a complete change of character. They were instructed to accommodate their talents of pleasing to the more vitiated tastes of the other sex; and began to study every grace and every art which might captivate the exhausted hearts, and excite the wearied and capricious inclinations of the men ; till by a rapid and at length complete enervation, the Roman character lost its signature, and through a quick succession of slavery, effeminacy, and vice, sunk into that degeneracy of which some of the modern Italian states now serve to furnish a too just specimen.
It is of the essence of human things that the same objects which are highly useful in their season, measure, and degree, become mischievous in their excess, at other periods, and under other circumstances. In a state of barbarism, the arts are among the best reformers; and they go on to be improved themselves, and improving those who cultivate them, till, having reached a certain point, those very arts which were the instruments of civilisation and refinement, become instruments of corruption and decay; enervating and depraving, in the second instance, by the excess and universality of their cultivation, as certainly as they refined in the first. They become agents of voluptuousness. They excite the imagination; and the imagination thus excited, and no longer under the government of strict principle, becomes the most dangerous stimulant of the passions ; promotes a too keen relish for pleasure, teaching how to multiply its sources, and inventing new and pernicious modes of artificial gratification.
May we not rank among the present corrupt consequences of this unbounded cultivation, the unchaste costume, the impure style of dress, and that indelicate statue-like exhibition of the female figure, which by its artfully disposed folds, its seemingly wet and adhesive drapery, so defines the form as to prevent covering itself from becoming a veil ? This licentious mode, as the acute Montesquieu observed on the dances of the Spartan virgins, has taught us “ to strip chastity itself of modesty."
May the author be allowed to address to our own country and our own circumstances, to both of which they seem peculiarly applicable, the spirit of that beautiful apostrophe of the most polished poet of antiquity to the most victorious nation? “ Let us leave to the inbabitants of conquered countries the praise of carrying to the very highest degree of perfection sculpture and the sister arts; but let this country direct her own exertions to the art of governing mankind in equity and peace, of showing mercy to the submissive, and of abasing the proud among surrounding nation.” *
* Let me not be suspected of bringing into any sort of comparison the gentleness of British government with the rapacity of Roman conquests, or the tyrannical principles of Roman dominion. To spoil, to butcher, and to commit every kind of violence, they call, says one of the ablest of their historians, by the lying name of government, and when they have spread a general desolation they call it peace. +
With such dictatorial, or as we might now read, directorial inquisitors, we can have no point of contact; and if I have applied the servile flattery of a delightful poet to the purpose of English happiness, it was only to show wherein true national grandeur consists, and that every country pays too dear a price for those arts and embellishments of society, which endanger the loss of its morals and manners.
+ Tacitus's Life of Agricola, speech of Galgacus to his soldiers.
Let me not, however, be misunderstood. The customs which fashion has established, when they are not in opposition to what is right, when they are not hostile to virtue, should unquestionably be pursued in the education of ladies. Piety maintains no natural war with elegance, and Christianity would be no gainer by making her disciples unamiable. Religion does not forbid that the exterior be made to a certain degree the object of attention. But the admiration bestowed, the sums expended, and the time lavished on arts, which add little to the intrinsic value of life, should have limitations. While these arts should be admired, let them not be admired above their just value; while they are practised, let it not be to the exclusion of higher employments; while they are cultivated, let it be to amuse leisure, not to engross life.
But it happens unfortunately, that to ordinary observers, the girl who is really receiving the worst instruction often makes the best figure; while in the more correct but less ostensible education, the deep and sure foundations, to which the edifice will owe its strength and stability, lie out of sight. The outward accomplishments have the dangerous advantage of addressing themselves more im