« PředchozíPokračovat »
Tis granted, and no plainer truth appears,
PARADOXICAL as it may appear, we are at this moment assailed by vice under the guise of refinement, and the morals of the people are vitiated at their source by the improper education of females. It is the duty of every patriot to watch over the most amiable part of the human species, on whose virtue, the honour, safety, and happiness of the co munity so essentially depend; and to preserve them from the pestilential contagion of vice, which now blights the first bloom of their inental beauties. The following letter from an indulgent, but disappointed parent, will illustrate this fact.
I am a widower, and the chief pride and delight of my life would be my two daughters, were they endowed with discretion. Rut, alas! all my fond hopes have been blasted, by giving them a fashionable education.
Being an opulent merchant, I resolved to spare no cxpence in the instruction of my children. Accordingly when the eldest, whose name is Mary, had attained the age of ten years, and her sister Eliza, beth nine, I visited a distant female relation, who kept a boarding-school in a village adjacent to the metropolis, and proposed to place my daughters under her care.
Mrs. Marall assured me that the greatest pains should be taken to render them accomplished.
In a few days I accompanied my blooming cherubs to the boarding-school, and afterwards in my occasional visits I had reason to be pleased with their progress in the French language, music, and similar accomplishments, which are now considered as indispensible. I thought, however, that I perceived a mixture of levity in their manners, and expostulated with Mrs. Marall; but she lulled my apprehensions, by saying,
“ My dear sir, you may rely on my attention to the morals of your daughters--my
school has long been celebrated for de
· Tis true, I have several young ladies of distinction entrusted my care ; and you know, cousin, we must not be too austere with persons of quality, who allow themselves a greater latitude of action than would be proper for people of inferior rank.” “ Madam,” replied I, “ no station can sanction levity, and I request that my daughters may not be permitted to imitate the follies which you think pardonable in high life." " Cousin," rejoined she, in a soothing tone, “the morals of girls shall be preserved like jewels; they shall be consigned to their worthy father, pure as innocence itself.”
When my daughters had continued five years under the care of their preceptress, I reconducted
them home. Their education cost me upwards of a thousand pounds, and I was delighted with their proficiency in polite attainments. But though their gentility of deportment, and easiness of manners, were admirable, I looked in vain for that angelic smile of simplicity which once played on their lips, and glistened in their eyes; nay, Í remarked a passion for finery, which appeared to originate in pride; but I forbore expostulation during the first evening after their return home, lest they should be terrified at any appearance of austerity.
Next morning after breakfast I desired my footman to attend them when they should be disposed to walk. In the course of the morning I had occasion to pass through St. James's-park, where the fine weather had invited a numerous assemblage of polite pedestrians. Although I was delighted with the beauty and gaiety of several groups of young ladies, I could not suppress an emotion of pity, on observing the very indecent manner in which they were attired. But what appeared still more censurable was, their haughty demeanour, and the satisfaction with which they seemed to enjoy the homage of the men as they passed.
I entered into a conversation with a gent!e nan, and expressed my disapprobation of the licentiousness of fashion ; he replied, " Your observations are just, sir, but what can the poor girls do ? they must dress and behave like others, or they will be entirely neglected.” While we conversel, I beheld two young ladies approach, dressed in the light drapery of the ton, and attended by a servant. They stepped together with the most sprightly air, and often varied their posture to excite the attention of others. I contemplated the levity of these young creatures with secret pity; but what was my astonishment to find that they were my own daughters ! They blushed, appeared disconcerted at this unexpected meeting, and proposed to accompany me home. The gentleman with whom I had been conversing, with a significant smile, wished me a good morning, and I left the public walk, overwhelmed with shame and sorrow, at the indiscretion of my children.
I expostulated with my dear girls on the impropriety of their conduct. They assured me they had been taught to dress according to the fashion, and thought it no crime to appear like others. While I expatiated on the indelicacy of young virgins being habited like women of the town, and the folly or supposing that they would gain admirers by walking the streets half-naked, they appeared to feel the force of conviction. Their dress is now perfectly genteel, modest, and becoming ; yet I perceive, with infinite regret, that the seeds of levity sown by a boarding-school education will scarcely ever be eradicated. My lovely girls have, indeed, eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and, like Eve, have thereby lost their primitive simplicity.
I am, &c.
From the pernicious tendency of excessive retinement, as described by Prudentius, it is evident that
Our public seminaries are improperly conducted. Nor is the private education of females among the higher classes more productive of felicity. Even from her infancy, the young lady is habituated to the unrestrained gratification of her most capricious whims-pra:sed, idolized !-in this ungovernable state of petulance she proceeds with little advantage through the usual gradations of education. Masters attend to teach her different languages; she acquires a smattering of each; and like the swallow, just sips the surface of the stream, and flies off to some more alluring object. The lighter female accomplishments of dancing, music, and drawing, are the principal objects of her attention, and her personal charms are cultivated with such solicitude, that the very air of heaven is not suffered to visit her face tvo roughly.
When perfectly accomplished, this charming creature is introduced to the fashionable world, where her beauties emanate like the first rays of morning, to the delight of the admiring beaux, She enters the temple of Affectation with a palpitating bosom, but her fears soon subside, and she participates the varied pleasures of the ball, the fête, and the masquerade, with as much glee as the Duchess of G herself. Gratified by the fulsome flattery and flippant wit of the titled coxcomb, the beautiful turo feels an emulation to obtain universal admiration, and learns to wield the sonorous cymbals with all the agility and grace imaginable. Those brazen emblems of female modesty must be highly conducive to the harmony of polished society, and enable the fair perforiner to suppress the small