Sunday, January 12, 2003

Man Superior to Woman - Dedication to the Ladies



If openly to attack so fair and favourite a part of human society, as you are, will seem a confident attempt; it will appear a much bolder one, to lay at your feet, for approbation, the very instrument of your pain, still warm and reeking from the wound it has given you. Methinks, I see some pretty Lady pouting with an indignation so amiable that a man would almost, for the sake of beholding, purposely study to pique her. What! says the charming, peevish thing, is not striking at our honour in every tender part, an injury great enough, unless the aggressor insult us with the very weapon which has just executed his cruel purpose? Must we not only feel the barbarous edge of his ungenerous satire but be taunted with a dedication of it?

And truly, I must own, if we are to judge of things by their first appearances, the angry fair-one's transport is not quite unreasonable. But still, Ladies, if you allow yourselves leisure to reflect, you will not only be far from considering me, with like passion, as an insolent enemy, but will look upon it as your common Interest to acknowledge me a generous friend. Examine but the nature of the operation I have performed and the disease which made it necessary, and you will consider me in the true character I act in, which is not that of a merciless assassin whose end is destruction; but that of an honourable surgeon, who makes no incision, but to let in a cure where it is wanting; as I have already hinted elsewhere.

As I have employed a good deal of time in the study of your fair beings, I could not help discovering, in several of you, many visible tumours, in mind and heart, which, like pimples on your faces, were injurious to your real charms, and obstructive of the rational delight you were born to receive and bestow. Nevertheless the same tender respect, which made me anxious in wishing you an effectual riddance of them, restrained me from attempting to remove them myself; I saw no probable means of succeeding to my wish but by such an operation as must give exquisite smart to some, however beneficial is was likely to prove to all. But when I saw a rash hand from among your fair selves, indiscreetly busied in clogging your evils, already too dangerous, with the more dangerous poultice of pride and ambition, I thought it high time to spare you the threatening gangrene, at the expense of some anguish, by applying where necessary the lancet of satire to let out those imposthumes, which the pretty, undefigning traitress was labouring to render incurable.

I would beg fair Sophia's pardon for giving her the title of traitress, if I did not think the epithet, undefigning, sufficient to dispense me from Apologies. I am far from imagining, she had the least sinister view in the work she has published: On the contrary, I am inwardly convinced, her intentions were excellent. For though I have not the honour of happiness to know the charming creature, however I wish for both; the noble sentiments and virtuous dispositions, she discovers in that ingenious essay, oblige me to consider her as another Angelica, at once her sex's noblest ornament, and liveliest reproach, as well as the most illustrious example their virtuous ambition can aspire to copy after. If all women were like her, we should have little danger to apprehend from coming into her Ladyship's notions; and I might have spared the pains of a desperate remedy to try to make them such. But as the case is quite otherwise, and their dangerous evils call for a dangerous cure; I flatter myself, lovely creatures, that she, and all such of you as are like her, will approve me for attempting one. How much more concerned I am for your happiness than my own safety must appear from my entering the lists against a Lady so formidable as Sophia must be, if the charms of her person are equal to those of her soul.

If my zeal for your felicity and safety has rendered me eager to rescue you from imminent misery; it has equally tempered that eagerness with a regard for your natural delicacy in the manner of doing it. So that wherever I found amputation necessary, without sparing proud flesh, I have been sparing of the quick. But if nevertheless I have not been able to pursue the honest end of my wishes, without giving pain to some of you, let your resentment be levelled, not at the instrument of your cure, but at the evils which called for it; not at the hand which directed it, but at that which provoked it. Instead then of frowning on me as an enemy who has a design on your honour and happiness; if you have either at heart, you will exert all your industry to show, how far you are from being incurable in your evils, by reaping the benefits of a cure offered you; and how little you are aversed to that cure, by receiving into your graces the person who has generously endeavoured to perform it at the risk of displeasing you.

Or otherwise, lovely creatures, if you are insensible of being, or unwilling to own yourselves, in need of a cure; let that natural love of change which is so bewitching in you justify my presenting to you this little lovegift in a different shape, by changing the allegory. The transition, however unconnected, is no impropriety in an address to such pretty variable things as you. Fancy then that it is a useful pocket-mirror I present you with. It is at least capable of answering the best ends of one, if consulted with the same attention as the glasses on your toilets. Indeed you will find it less flattering than most of those are; but perhaps it may prove the more useful for being so; and therefore ought to be, at least, equally agreeable to you. By showing you to yourselves in a true light, it will, I hope, enable you to improve the real excellencies, and to remove out of sight all the blemishes you may discover in yourselves. And as patches and paint will be useless to hide the defects which this will point you out, it may possibly set you on finding out better expedients to prevent the ill effects of them than the daubing disguise of affectation.

Accept then this little token of my regard for you, in the light I propose it in, and I am confident you cannot be out of temper with the donor. For should any of you chance to see yourselves in a Salacia, an Uberia, a Pavonia, or some other as little pleasing figure, 'tis not the truth of the representation, but yourselves you must fall out with for being so like what you are so unwilling to be thought like. And such of you, as may applaud yourselves in the merit of an Angelica, can have no reason to be angry with me for placing you in company, which can only serve to see your charms in a more conspicuous light.

If I have not represented all women in that amiable character, it is not my fault, but theirs, who refute or neglect to assume it, that I have not placed you all in as lovely light as some of you deserve to be, and all are capable of being. For if you are not all Angelicas, you all have the power to be such. And therefore, if, notwithstanding all I have said, you are still resolved to consider me as an enemy, for exposing the deformity of some of you, you have a fair opportunity of glutting an honourable revenge by unanimously assuming Angelica's character.

By this means you will condemn me to the infamy of a scandalous libeller, and make all I have advanced, to the disgrace of your sex in general, be branded by future ages with the ignominious title of impudent falshood. And should this undertaking be happy enough to provoke you to such a noble resentment, I shall think my labour amply rewarded by the fruit it produces. For such is the ardent zeal I have for your real felicity, that I would gladly fall a sacrifice to the worst effects of your indignation, to have the merit of contributing towards the making you the perfect beings, in your kind, I wish to see you, as Lovely Creatures
Your disinterested Votary