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can have the patience to hear them, when they are disposed to mangle a play or novel, where the least word out of the common road is sure to disconcert them; and it is no wonder, when they are not so much as taught to spell in their childhood, nor can ever attain to it in their whole lives. I advise you therefore to read aloud, more or less, every day to your husband, if he will permit you, or to any other friend (but not a female one) who is able to set you right; and as for spelling, you may compass it in time by making collections from the books
I know very well, that those who are commonly called learned women, have lost all manner of credit by their impertinent talkativeness and conceit of themselves ; but there is an easy remedy for this, if you once consider, that after all the pains you may be at, you never can arrive in point of learning to the perfection of a schoolboy. The reading I would advise you to, is only for improvement of your own good sense, which will never fail of being mended by discretion. It is a wrong method, and ill choice of books, that makes those learned ladies just so much the worse for what they have read ; and therefore it shall be my care to direct you better, a task for which I take myself to be not illqualified ; because I have spent more time, and have had more opportunities, than many others, to observe and discover from what source the various follies of women are derived.
Pray observe, how insignificant things are the common race of ladies, when they have passed their youth and beauty; how contemptible they appear to the men, and yet more contemptible to the younger part of their own sex; and have no relief, but in passing their afternoons in visits, where they are never acceptable ; and their evenings at cards among each other; while the former part of the day is spent in spleen and envy, or in vain endeavours to repair by art and dress the ruins of time. Whereas I have known'ladies at sixty, to whom all the polite part of the court and town paid their addresses, without any farther view than that of enjoying the pleasure of their conversation.
I am ignorant of any one quality that is amiable in a man, which is not equally so in a woman : I do not except even modesty and gentleness of nature. Nor do I know one vice or folly, which is not equally detestable in both. There is indeed one infirmity which is generally allowed
I mean that of cowardice; yet there should seem to be something very capricious, that when women profess their admiration for a colonel or a captain, on account of his valour, they should fancy it a very graceful and becoming quality in themselves, to be afraid of their own shadows; to scream in a barge when the weather is calmest, or in a coach at a ring: to run from a cow at a hundred yards' distance; to fall into fits at the sight of a spider, an earwig, or a frog. At least, if cowardice be a sign of cruelty, (as it is generally granted,) I can hardly think it an accomplishment so deirable, as to be thought worth improving by affectation.
And as the same virtues equally become both sexes, so there is no quality whereby women endeavour to distinguish themselves from men, for which they are not just so much the worse, except that only of reservedness; which, however, as you generally manage it, is nothing else but affectation or hypocrisy. For, as you cannot too much discountenance those of our sex who
presume to take unbecoming liberties before you ; so you ought to be wholly unconstrained in the company of deserving men, when you have had sufficient experience of their discretion.
There is never wanting in this town a tribe of bold, swaggering, rattling ladies, whose talents pass among coxcombs for wit and humour; their excellency lies in rude shocking expressions, and what they call running a man down. If a gentleman in their company happens to have any blemish in his birth or person, if any misfortune has befallen his family or himself for which he is ashamed, they will be sure to give him broad hints of it. without any provocation. I would recommend you to the acquaintance of a common prostitute, rather than to that of such termagants as these. I have often thought, that no man is obliged to suppose such creatures to be women, but to treat them like insolent rascals disguised in female habits, who ought to be stripped and kicked down stairs.
I will add one thing, although it be a little out of place, which is to desire, that you will learn to value and esteem your husband for those good qualities, which he really possesses, and not to fancy others in him which he certainly has not. For, although this latter is generally understood to be a mark of love, yet it is indeed nothing but affectation or ill judgment. It is true, he wants so very few accomplishments, that you are in no great danger of erring on this side ; but my caution is occasioned by a lady of your acquaintance, married to a very valuable person, whom yet she is so unfortunate as to be always commending for those perfections to which he can least pretend.
I can give you no advice upon the article of expense;
only I think, you ought to be well informed how much your husband's revenue amounts to, and be so good a computer, as to keep within it in that part of the management which falls to your share; and not to put yourself in the number of those politic ladies, who think they gain a great point, when they have teazed their husbands to buy them a new equipage, a laced head, or a fine petticoat, without once considering what long score remained unpaid to the butcher.
I desire you will keep this letter in your cabinet, and often examine impartially your whole conduct by it: and so God bless you, and make you a fair example to your sex, and a perpetual comfort to your husband and your parent.* I am, with great truth and affection,
And humble servant.
* “ The reader of this letter may be allowed to doubt, whether Swift's opinion of female excellence ought implicitly to be admitted ; for if his general thoughts on women were such as he exhibits, a very little sense in a lady would enrapture, and a very little virtue would astonish him. Stella's supremacy, therefore, was perhaps only local. She was great, because her associates were little."-JOHNSON.
WHEN I COME TO BE OLD.*
WRITTEN IN 1699.
Not to marry a young woman.
Not to keep young company, unless they desire it. Not to be peevish, or morose, or suspicious.
Not to scorn present ways, or wits, or fashions, or men, or war, &c.
Not to be fond of children.
Not to tell the same story over and over to the same people.
Not to be covetous.
Not to neglect decency or cleanliness, for fear of falling into nastiness.
Not to be over severe with young people, but give allowances for their youthful follies and weaknesses.
* These resolutions form a melancholy chapter in Swift's Works, for they led to a breach with his old and faithful friend Dr Sheridan. He had charged his friend to remind him when he saw him about to slide into the habitual breach of any of his maxims.—Sheridan, with ill-judged fidelity, ventured under this warrant to hint to the Dean the extreme parsimony which he practised as his faculties began to decay :-"Doctor,” answered Swift, with an expressive look,“ do you remember the Bishop of Grenada, in Gil Blas?" Their cordiality ceased from that moment.