It may at first sight appear absurd to address the following pages in behalf of women, to the men of Great Britain; whose apparent interest it perhaps is, in common with that of all other men, that things should remain on the footing they are. But as the men of Great Britain, to whom in particular I chuse to appeal, have to their everlasting honor, always been remarkable for an ardent love of liberty, and high in their pretensions to justice with regard to themselves; it is not to be believed, if the subject of the present work were taken into their serious consideration, but that the same sentiments would be freely and generously extended to that class of beings, in whose cause I though unworthy appear. A class, upon whom the Almighty has stamped to sublime, so unequivocal marks of [ii] dignity and importance, that it is difficult to conceive why men should wish to counteract the benevolent designs of Providence in their favour; by leading in chains, too often galling to their sensible and tender natures, those, whom heaven having in its wisdom formed the equals, could never surely, save in its wrath, doom to be the slaves of man.
To man then, to him alone who of all created beings challenges equality, nay more, who challenges superiority over the injured party, is this little work seriously recommended. If it were equal to the fervent wishes of the author to render it worthy of whom it is addressed, and of the public in general, oh how perfect! how interesting would it be! But as it is, with all its imperfections on its head, if the writer indulges no romantic hopes, neither does she suffer any abject fears. “Dans les pays de servitude, le bien des homes est méprisé & le citoyen qui les aime y gemit & fe tait. Mas dans le féjour de la liberté, on est fûr de l’estime publique si l’on travaille à leur bonheur. [iii] On vous fait gré du désir & de la tentative, même infructueuse; & c’est là que l’étranger lui-même doint verser fes lumìeres.” – In Britain then, in the favorite above of liberty, shall a daughter of the ‘sea-girt isle’ tremble to appear before the tribunal of her brethren?
No! with a cause in hand so interesting to every individual, I come forward on the contrary with confidence, and to you fathers, brothers, husbands, sons, and lovers, I submit the following pages. By all those tender ties may you be led to consider of what importance it is to society, to improve the understandings, the talents, and the hearts of those, who must one way or other, ill or well, act such principal parts on the stage of life. The consequences of this attention to their improvement, however good, however happy for them, are I apprehend equally interesting for you, which I flatter myself that I shall be able to prove; if, not alarmed or disgusted by the pretensions already hinted at, you will deign to peruse the [iv] following attempt to restore female character to its dignity and independence; though I trust, neither at the expence of the peace, the happiness, or the self-importance of man.
May I be permitted to introduce my defence of the female sex by that of an obscure individual, who wishes not to be thought even the anonymous circulator of opinions, which however just in themselves, might in their tendency breed animosities, where peace and mutual confidence had before been only known. The reader may smile at these consequential fears, and account the danger not very alarming; but, few indeed, and little, are the talents required, to do real and lasting mischief.
‘Picciloa è l’ape, e fa col picciol morse,
Pur gravi, e pur moleste le ferrite.’
I must therefore repeat it, that the fear, the possibility of doing harm, would certainly prevent me from making even my sentiments on the subject public, did not the complaints and dissatisfactions [v] of the sexs [sic] against each other sufficiently prove, that they are, generally speaking, far from being on that footing, where danger is to be apprehended from reasoning on the subject; or on that footing of which thinking and rational beings may be supposed capable. And surely at a period when the pulpit, the press, and the stage, teem with reflections on the vices of the one sex, and the follies of both; it cannot be deemed impertinent nor unnecessary, to submit to candid and cool examination some simple though unacknowledged truths, which if seriously taken into consideration, might have a tendency to promote the equality, and the consequent peace and happiness of the sexes.
Know, however, that I come not in the garb of an Amazon, to dispute the field right or wrong; but rather in the humble attire of a petitioner, willing to submit the cause, to him who is both judge and party. Not as a fury flinging the torch of discord and revenge amongst the daughters of eve; but as a friend and companion bearing a little taper to lead [vi] them to the paths of truth, of virtue, and of liberty. Or if it lead not to these, may it be utterly extinguished. “If the arguments here advanced appear chimerical, unfounded, or irrational; let it perish, let it be obliterated, let no memorial of it remain.”