Tuesday, May 1, 1711.
… Aliquando bonus dormitat Homerus.
My Correspondents grow so numerous, that I cannot avoid frequently inserting their Applications to me.
‘I am glad I can inform you, that your Endeavours to adorn that Sex, which is the fairest Part of the visible Creation, are well received, and like to prove not unsuccessful. The Triumph of Daphne over her Sister Letitia has been the Subject of Conversation at Several Tea-Tables where I have been present; and I have observed the fair Circle not a little pleased to find you considering them as reasonable Creatures, and endeavouring to banish that Mahometan Custom which had too much prevailed even in this Island, of treating Women as if they had no Souls. I must do them the Justice to say, that there seems to be nothing wanting to the finishing of these lovely Pieces of Human Nature, besides the turning and applying their Ambition properly, and the keeping them up to a Sense of what is their true Merit. Epictetus, that plain honest Philosopher, as little as he had of Gallantry, appears to have understood them, as well as the polite St. Evremont, and has hit this Point very luckily. When young Women, says he, arrive at a certain Age, they hear themselves called Mistresses, and are made to believe that their only Business is to please the Men; they immediately begin to dress, and place all their Hopes in the adorning of their Persons; it is therefore, continues he, worth the while to endeavour by all means to make them sensible that the Honour paid to them is only, upon account of their cotiducting themselves with Virtue, Modesty, and Discretion.
‘Now to pursue the Matter yet further, and to render your Cares for the Improvement of the Fair Ones more effectual, I would propose a new method, like those Applications which are said to convey their virtues by Sympathy; and that is, in order to embellish the Mistress, you should give a new Education to the Lover, and teach the Men not to be any longer dazzled by false Charms and unreal Beauty. I cannot but think that if our Sex knew always how to place their Esteem justly, the other would not be so often wanting to themselves in deserving it. For as the being enamoured with a Woman of Sense and Virtue is an Improvement to a Man’s Understanding and Morals, and the Passion is ennobled by the Object which inspires it; so on the other side, the appearing amiable to a Man of a wise and elegant Mind, carries in it self no small Degree of Merit and Accomplishment. I conclude therefore, that one way to make the Women yet more agreeable is, to make the Men more virtuous.
I am, SIR,
Your most humble Servant,
‘Yours of Saturday last I read, not without some Resentment; but I will suppose when you say you expect an Inundation of Ribbons and Brocades, and to see many new Vanities which the Women will fall into upon a Peace with France, that you intend only the unthinking Part of our Sex: And what Methods can reduce them to Reason is hard to imagine.
But, Sir, there are others yet, that your Instructions might be of great Use to, who, after their best Endeavours, are sometimes at a loss to acquit themselves to a Censorious World: I am far from thinking you can altogether disapprove of Conversation between Ladies and Gentlemen, regulated by the Rules of Honour and Prudence; and have thought it an Observation not ill made, that where that was wholly denied, the Women lost their Wit, and the Men their Good-manners. ‘Tis sure, from those improper Liberties you mentioned, that a sort of undistinguishing People shall banish from their Drawing-Rooms the best-bred Men in the World, and condemn those that do not. Your stating this Point might, I think, be of good use, as well as much oblige,