Lady Mary Wortley Montague eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 370 pages of information about Lady Mary Wortley Montague.
concert with other women of quality, whose birth and leisure only serve to render them the most useless and most worthless part of the creation.  There is hardly a character in the world more despicable, or more liable to universal ridicule, than that of a learned woman; those words imply, according to the received sense, a talking, impertinent, vain, and conceited creature.  I believe nobody will deny that learning may have this effect, but it must be a very superficial degree of it.  Erasmus was certainly a man of great learning, and good sense, and he seems to have my opinion of it, when he says Foemina qui [sic] vere sapit, non videtur sibi sapere; contra, quae cum nihil sapiat sibi videtur sapere, ea demum bis stulta est.  The Abbe Bellegarde gives a right reason for women’s talking overmuch:  they know nothing, and every outward object strikes their imagination, and produces a multitude of thoughts, which, if they knew more, they would know not worth their thinking of.  I am not now arguing for an equality of the two sexes.  I do not doubt God and nature have thrown us into an inferior rank, we are a lower part of the creation, we owe obedience and submission to the superior sex, and any woman who suffers her vanity and folly to deny this, rebels against the law of the Creator, and indisputable order of nature; but there is a worse effect than this, which follows the careless education given to women of quality, its being so easy for any man of sense, that finds it either his interest or his pleasure, to corrupt them.  The common method is, to begin by attacking their religion:  they bring them a thousand fallacious arguments, which their excessive ignorance hinders them from refuting:  and I speak now from my own knowledge and conversation among them, there are more atheists among the fine ladies than the loosest sort of rakes; and the same ignorance that generally works out into excess of superstition, exposes them to the snares of any who have a fancy to carry them to t’other extreme.  I have made my excuses already too long, and will conclude in the words of Erasmus:—­Vulgus sentit quod lingua Latina, non convenit foeminis, quia parum facit ad tuendam illarum pundicitiam, quoniam rarum et insolitum est foeminam scire Latinam; attamen consuetudo omnium malarum rerum magistra.  Decorum est foeminam in Germania nata [sic] discere Gallice, ut loquatur cum his qui sciunt Gallice; cur igitur habetur indecorum discere Latine, ut quotidie confabuletur cum tot autoribus tam facundis, tam eruditis, tam sapientibus, tam fides consultoribus.  Certe mihi quantulumcunque cerebri est, malim in bonis studiis consumere, quam in precibus sine mente dictis, in pernoctibus conviviis, in exhauriendis, capacibus pateris, &c."

This was not the sort of letter that in the opening years of the eighteenth century even Bishops received from young ladies of rank, who usually took their pleasure in other and lighter ways.  Lady Mary, however, loved to exercise her pen.  She later composed some imitations of Ovid, and tried her hand at one or two romances in the French manner.  She thus acquired a facility of expression that stood her in good stead when she came to write those letters that constitute her principal claim to fame.

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Lady Mary Wortley Montague from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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