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It is a singular injustice which is often exercised towards women, first to give them a very defective education, and then to expect from them the most undeviating purity of conduct; - to train them in such a manner as shall lay them open to the most dangerous faults, and then to censure them for not proving faultless. Is it not unreasonable and unjust, to express disappointment if our daughters should, in their subsequent lives, turn out precisely that very kind of character for which it would be evident to an unprejudiced by-stander that the whole scope and tenour of their instruction had been systematically preparing them?
Some reflections on the present erroneous system are here with great deference submitted to public consideration. The author is apprehensive that she shall be accused of betraying the interests of her sex by laying open their defects; but surely an earnest wish to turn their attention to objects calculated to promote their true dignity, is not the office of an enemy. So to expose the weakness of the land, as to suggest the necessity of internal improvement, and to point out the means of effectual defence, is not treachery, but patriotism.
Again, it may be objected to this little work, that many errors are here ascribed to women which by no means belong to them exclusively, and that it seems to confine to the sex those faults which are common to the species: but this is in some measure unavoidable. In speaking on the qualities of one sex, the moralist is somewhat in the situation of the Geographer, who is treating on the nature of one country : the air, soil, and produce of the land which he is describing, cannot fail in many essential points to resemble those of other countries under the same parallel; yet it is his business to descant on the one without adverting to the other; and though in drawing his map he may happen to introduce some of the neighbouring coast, yet his principal attention must be confined to that country which he proposes to describe, without taking into account the resembling circumstances of the adjacent shores.
It may be also objected, that the opinion here suggested on the state of manners among the higher classes of our countrywomen, may seem to controvert the just encomiums of modern travellers, who generally concur in ascribing a decided superiority to the ladies of this country over those of every other.
But such is, in general, the state of foreign manners, that the comparative praise is almost an injury to English women. то be flattered for excelling those whose standard of excellence is very low, is but a degrading kind of commendation; for the value of all praise derived from superiority, depends on the worth of the competitor. The character of British ladies, with all the unparalleled advantages they possess, must never be determined by a comparison with the women of other nations, but by comparing them with what they themselves might be if all their talents and unrivalled opportunities were turned to the best account.
Again, it may be said, that the author is less disposed to expatiate on excellence than error ; but the office of the historian of human manners is delineation rather than panegyric. Were the end in view eulogium, and not improvement, eulogium would have been far more gratifying, nor would just objects for praise have been difficult to find. Even in her own limited sphere of observation, the author is acquainted with much excellence in the class of which she treats; with women who, possessing learning which would be thought extensive in the other sex, set an example of deep humility to their own; — women who, distinguished for wit and genius, are eminent for domestic qualities; who, excelling in the fine arts, have carefully enriched their understandings; — who, enjoying great affluence, devote it to the glory of God; who, possessing elevated rank, think their noblest style and title is that of a Christian.
That there is also much worth which is little known, she is persuaded; for it is the modest nature of goodness to exert itself quietly, while a few characters of the opposite cast seem, by the