Eliza. And how nicely she has done her hair! Look, Caroline—braided behind.
Lucy. There, she is putting down the sash. That chimney smokes, I know, with this wind.
Fanny. And there is that little figure, Martha Jones, come down now. Do look—as broad as she is long! What a little fright that child is, to be sure!
Mother. Pray, Fanny, was that remark useful or necessary?
Fanny. Oh, but mamma, I assure you, my tongue is quite well now.
Mother. I am sorry for it, my dear. Do you know, I should think it well worth while to bite my tongue every day if there were no other means of keeping it in order.
At this the girls laughed; but their mother, resuming her gravity, thus continued:
“My dear girls, I should before now have put a stop to this idle gossiping, if I had not hoped to convince you of the folly of it. It is no wonder, I confess, that at your age you should learn to imitate a style of remark which is but too prevalent in society. Nothing, indeed, is more contagious. But let me also tell you, that girls of your age, and of your advantages, are capable of seeing the meanness of it, and ought to despise it. It is the chief end of education to raise the minds of women above such trifling as this. But if a young person who has been taught to think, whose taste has been cultivated, and who might therefore possess internal resources, has as much idle curiosity about the affairs of her neighbors, and is as fond of retailing petty scandal concerning them, as an uneducated woman, it proves that her mind is incurably mean and vulgar, and that cultivation is lost upon her.
“This sort of gossiping, my dear girls, is the disgrace of our sex. The pursuits of women lie necessarily within a narrow sphere, and they naturally sink, unless raised by refinement, or by strong principle, into that littleness of character, for which even their own husbands and fathers (if they are men of sense) are tempted to despise them. The minds of men, from their engagements in business, necessarily take a larger range; and they are, in general, too much occupied with concerns comparatively important to enter into the minute details which amuse women. But women of education have no such plea to urge. When your father and I direct you to this or that pursuit, it is not so much for the sake of your possessing that particular branch of knowledge, but that by knowledge in general you may become intelligent and superior, and that you may be furnished with resources which will save you from the miserable necessity of seeking amusement from intercourse with your neighbors, and an acquaintance with their affairs.