Into this error men have, probably, been led by viewing education in a false light; not considering it as the first step to form a being advancing gradually towards perfection;* but only as a preparation for life. On this sensual error, for I must call it so, has the false system of female manners been reared, which robs the whole sex of its dignity, and classes the brown and fair with the smiling flowers that only adorn the land. This has ever been the language of men, and the fear of departing from a supposed sexual character, has made even women of superiour sense adopt the same sentiments.** Thus understanding, strictly speaking, has been denied to woman; and instinct, sublimated into wit and cunning, for the purposes of life, has been substituted in its stead.
** 'Pleasure's the potion of th' inferior kind;
But glory, virtue, Heaven for man design'd.'
After writing these lines, how could Mrs. Barbauld write the following ignoble comparison?
'To a Lady, with some painted flowers. 'Flowers to the fair: to you these flowers I bring, And strive to greet you with an earlier spring. Flowers SWEET, and gay, and DELICATE LIKE YOU; Emblems of innocence, and beauty too. With flowers the Graces bind their yellow hair, And flowery wreaths consenting lovers wear. Flowers, the sole luxury which nature knew, In Eden's pure and guiltless garden grew. To loftier forms are rougher tasks assign'd; The sheltering oak resists the stormy wind, The tougher yew repels invading foes, And the tall pine for future navies grows; But this soft family, to cares unknown, Were born for pleasure and delight ALONE. Gay without toil, and lovely without art, They spring to CHEER the sense, and GLAD the heart. Nor blush, my fair, to own you copy these; Your BEST, your SWEETEST empire is -- TO PLEASE.' So the men tell us; but virtue, says reason, must be acquired by rough toils, and useful struggles with worldly cares.