« PreviousContinue »
"Le donne son venule in eccellenza
E forse ascosi han lor debiti onori
L'invidia, o il non saper degli scrittori."—Ariosto.
In all ages woman may lament the ungallant silence of the historian. His pen is the record of sterner actions than are usually the vocation of the gentler sex, and it is only when fair individuals have been by extraneous circumstances thrown out, as it were, on the canvas of human affairs — when they
have been forced into a publicity little consistent with their natural sphere—that they have become his theme. Consequently those domestic virtues which are woman's greatest pride, those retiring characteristics which are her most becoming ornament, those gentle occupations which are her best employment, find no record on pages whose chief aim and end is the blazoning of manly heroism, of royal disputations, or of trumpet-stirring records. And if this is the case even with historians of enlightened times, who have the gallantry to allow woman to be a component part of creation, we can hardly wonder that in darker days she should be utterly and entirely overlooked.
Mohammed asserted that women had no souls; and moreover, that,setting aside the "divinerpart," there had only existed four of whom the mundane qualifications entitled them to any degree of approbation. Before him, Aristotle had asserted that Nature only formed women when and because she found that the imperfection of matter did not permit her to carry on the world without them.
This complimentary doctrine has not wanted supporters. "Des hommes tres sages ont ecrit que la Nature, dont Tintention etle dessein esttoujours de tendre a la perfection, ne produirait s'il etait possible, jamais que des hommes, et que quand il nait une femme c'est un monstre dans Tordre de ses productions, ne expressement contre sa volonte: ils ajoutent, que, comme on voit naitre un homme aveugle, boiteux, ou avec quelqu'autre defaut nature; et comme on voit a certain arbres des fruits qui ne meurissent jamais; ainsi Ton peut dire que la femme est un animal produit par accident et par le hasard."*
Without touching upon this extreme assertion that woman is but "un monstre," an animal produced by chance, we may observe briefly, that women have ever, with some few exceptions,! been considered as a degraded and humiliated race, until the promulgation of the Christian religion elevated them in society: and that this distinction still exists is evident from the difference at this moment exhibited between thecountries professing Mohammedanism and those professing Christianity.
Still, though in our happy country it is now pretty generally allowed that women are "des creatures humaines," it is no new remark that they are comparatively lightly thought of by the " nobler" gender. This is absolutely the case even in those countries where civilization and refinement have elevated the sex to a higher grade in society than they ever before reached. Women are courted, flattered, caressed, extolled; but still the difference is there, and the "lords of the creation" take care that it shall be understood. Their own pursuits—public,
* On aurait de la peine a se persuader qu'une pareille opinion eut e*t6 mise gravement en question dans un concile, et qu'on n'eut d€cid6 en faveur des femmes qu'apres un assez long examen. Cependant le fait est ties veritable, et ce fut dans le Concile de Macon.
Probleme sur les Femmes, oti Pon essaye de prouver que les femmes ne sont point des creatures humaines.—*4msterdam, 1744. f As, for instance, the ancient Germans, and their offshoots, the Saxons, &c.