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To the Editor of the Bee.
On female Education.
I AM the Sophia who troubled you fome time ago with a fummary of my history under the title of a fortunate daughter of idleness, and fome further thoughts on female education.
I have good reason to confider education, when properly conducted, as the panacea of the moral difpenfary; and as it has in general been miferably neglected in all ages and all countries with respect to my fex, I have little doubt of your female readers paying fome attention to my method of educating my daughter Alathea, as it was undertaken in confequence of my own experience, fet forth in my remarks on the differtation on the art of idleness, and may be particularly useful to those who are still in doubt with respect to the propriety of treating us women as rational creatures.
In the fixth year of my fecond marriage, I found myself poffeffed of three daughters, all of whom I had fuckled myself, and I had no other children; fo that I began to grow uneafy about the future fortunes of a great fleece of mifles, that my foreboding difpofition led me to expect, I imparted my uneafinefs to my dear Eugenius: We were walking out together in a lovely fummer evening, and we stopped to look at fone fwallows teaching their little brood to fly, forcing them from the eves of a houfe where they neftled; the parents twittering and fluttering, and banging with their wings, and the little ones chirping and returning to the nest.
O my dear friend, faid 1, would that we were like fwallows; but how do you think we fhall ever be able to manage our children this way? I fear I fhall never be able to teach my little hen fwallows to catch flies and shift for themselves when they become too big for the nest.
My husband then cafting upon me a look of inexpreffible fenfe and benevolence, and gently iqueezing my hand faid to me, my dearest Sophia, you have performed hitherto the part of the old hen fo exactly according to nature, that you have only to go on by her inftructions and all will be well; hereafter you will teach your young fwallows to be independent, and to catch flies for themfelves. Continuing our delightful walk, our converfation was fixed on the subject of female education: My dear Sophia, faid Eugenius, it is difficult indeed for us to teach that which we ourfelves have not been taught either by experience or inftitution; but you have been taught by the first and the beft, and difregarding the prejudices of fociety, you will form the minds of your daughters to virtue, industry, rational curiofity, refpectable employment, to happiness and heaven. You know very well, that the foibles which we men afcribe to the fex, are not inherent, but artificial; they have sprung from the vicious nature of civil governments, from our jealoufies, and from our careleff ness to remove them ;'I might say from our difpofition to fofter and increase them for our glory and your abafement. Women, it is faid, from the relaxed and feeble nature of their conftitution, are incapable of high mental attainments; they are cowardly, revengeful, obftinate, inquifitive, fenfual, diffipated and idle, fond of dress and show, of change of place, of admiration of their perfonal charms only. The poet has fatirically faid,
"Some men to business, fome to pleasure take,
All these defects and vices, supposing them to be true in their utmost extent with respect to women, are to be traced to neglect, or vicious education.
All weak creatures not provided with natural defence, must be cowardly; cowardice begets revenge, and cunning devises the way to bring it to bear. Obftinacy and ignorance must ever be infeparable in men as well as women. Curiofity is an inherent principle, and when divested of knowledge and prudence, and unfupported by science, it must be foolish, troublesome, and violent. Senfual pleasure is a real good, the defire of it is inherent in our nature, and it must remain our chief good till we find a better, and that better cannot be attained but by philofophy and intellectual refinement. Appetite predominates in all children, in savages, and in all ill educated men as well as women. As to diffipation, idlenefs, love of fhow, of dress, change of place, and every kind of amusement, these are the neceffary confequences of the whetting and refining of appetite, without being poffeffed of the powers of higher enjoyment; and as to the defire of admiration for perfonal charms, how should it be otherwife, when all other ambition is induftriously excluded by the nature of your education, or by the prepofterous prejudices of fociety.
My dear Sophia, educate your daughters on principles oppofite to these foibles and vices, and make them like yourfelf. You will then establish a foundation for the happiness of the men who fhall have them for wives or mothers; and if they shall never be married, they will become refpectable useful women, and indifferent about the old curfe of leading apes on the other fide of the Styx.
O my dearest Eugenius, faid I, you have lifted me up into the third heaven; I will endeavour to fulfil your flattering defire.
My eldest daughter Alathea had now completed her fifth year; healthy, beautiful and good natured, but without any extraordinary appearance of capacity. I fet myself to confider the moft effectual way of teachVOL. III. L1
ing the lovely" young ideas how to fhoot" in the mind of my daughter.
I confidered with the excellent Dr. Beattie, that the mental faculties of children ftand as much in need of improvement, and confequently of excercife, as their bodily powers: That it is of high importance to devife some mode of difcipline to fix their attention; and that, when this is not done, they become thoughtless and diffipated to a degree, that generally unfits them for the bufinefs of life.
I adopted the inherent and ftrong principle of curiofity, as the bafis of my power, and influence over the mind of my pupil. I did not trouble her with maxims and lectures, but infufed knowledge in proportion to the defire of it, which I took every poffible way to excite.
The defire I had to keep a genteel good table for my husband at a moderate expence, made me particularly attentive to the garden, dairy, and poultry, and all those advantages which are furnished to a good housewife in the country. Alathea and her fifter (for the youngest was quite an infant) generally attended me in these occupations, and they produced thousands of little questions, all of which I anfwered in a manner fuited to their capacities, drawing from them inferences in the fame manner, that were perfectly understood, and afforded infinite pleasure.
Mamma, faid Alathea one day, what is the reason that my pretty crested hen has forgotten her chickens that fhe was fo fond of long ago, and is going along like a fool with the ducklings. My dear, I will tell you how this happens; the henwife cheated her, and put the duck's eggs into her neft, and the thought the eggs were. her own, and hatched them; by and bye the ducks will take the water, and the hen will forfake them. A hen would not do this if he were at home and had learnt to fhift for herself in the fields by gathering feeds and corn, but we have brought hens about the house, and
by having every thing done for them by the fervants, they have become filly and helpless. O mamma, what a terrible thing is this; will you teach me how to do every thing for myself? Yes, my dear, I will with all my heart, &c. &c.
Thus I initiated my Alathea in the hiftory of nature, and in general politics, beginning with her at five years old, and her fister soon after became a novice in the fame Icience. I found one day Alathea in tears for the loss of one of her garters; I condoled with her, but told her, that one of my own garters was worn through, fo that I wanted one as well as herself, but that I was bufy making another in its ftead. I took out of my pocket a worsted garter half wrought upon quills, and began to knit, faying, it fhould not be long before I cured my misfortune. O mamma, will you teach me to make garters? I fet Alathea immediately to work; and in the course of a day or two, I teach her to knit in this fimple manner; and in the course of a fortnight or three weeks, she comes in transports with a pair of garters of her own handy-work. She then proposes to work a pair for me in return for my having taught her the art, and then a pair for her fifter Isabella; all goes on charmingly; the habits of industry and independence are established; he is as playful and happy as ever, but she never tires in the intervals. Bye and bye Isabella imitates her example; and I see the fruits of my fyf. tem forming in the tree that I had planted. In this way I trained my daughters to all feminine employments; and at the fame time continually cultivated their understandings, and regulated the ftrength of their imaginations.
Alathea feeing the cook one day puzzled about the affairs of the kitchen, and coming to confult me, was furprised to find me looking into a book, and turning over the pages, instead of returning an answer. O mamma! why don't you tell poor Mary what he is to do? I am locking here, my dear, to be able to inftruct her. I