6. There is another reason why those, especially who are women of quality, should apply themselves to letters, namely, because their husbands are generally strangers to them. It is great pity there should by no knowledge in a family. For my own part, I am concerned when I go into a great house, where perhaps there is not a single person that can spell, unless it be by chance the butler, or one of the foot-men. What a figure is the young heir likely to make, who is a dunce both by father and mother’s side?
7. If we look into the histories of famous women, we find many eminent philosophers of this sex. Nay, we find that several females have distinguished themselves in those sects of philosophy which seem almost repugnant to their natures. There have been famous female Pythagorians, notwithstanding most of that philosophy consisted in keeping a secret, and that the disciple was to hold her tongue five years together.
8. Learning and knowledge are perfections in us, not as we are men, but as we are reasonable creatures, in which order of beings the female world is upon the same level with the male. We ought to consider in this particular, not what is the sex, but what is the species to which they belong. At least I believe every one will allow me, that a female philosopher is not so absurd a character, and so opposite to the sex, as a female gamester; and that it is more irrational for a woman to pass away half a dozen hours at cards or dice, than in getting up stores of useful learning.
9. This, therefore, is another reason why I would recommend the studies of knowledge to the female world, that they may not be at a loss how to employ those hours that lie heavy upon their hands.
10. I might also add this motive to my fair readers, that several of their sex, who have improved their minds by books and literature, have raised themselves to the highest posts of honour and fortune. A neighbouring nation may at this time furnish us with a very remarkable instance of this kind: but I shall conclude this head with the history of Athenais, which is a very signal example to my present purpose.
11. The Emperor Theodosius being about the age of one-and-twenty, and designing to take a wife, desired his sister Pulcheria and his friend Paulinus to search his whole empire for a woman of the most exquisite beauty and highest accomplishments. In the midst of this search, Athenais, a Grecian virgin, accidentally offered herself. Her father, who was an eminent philosopher of Athens, and had bred her up in all the learning of that place, at his death left her but a very small portion, in which also she suffered great hardships from the injustice of her two brothers.
12. This forced her upon a journey to Constantinople, where she had a relation who represented her case to Pulcheria, in order to obtain some redress from the emperor. By this means that religious princess became acquainted with Athenais; whom she found the most beautiful woman of her age, and educated under a long course of philosophy, in the strictest virtue and most unspotted innocence.