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A young gentleman, who, from his correct manner of speaking, I suppose practised the law, and who had hitherto listened with great attention, then took upon him to be our sex's advocate, and was proceeding to shew (in a very sensible manner, as I thought) the little danger that was to be feared, and the great advantage that might be reaped, from a young lady's appropriating a considerable part of her time to reading, provided her studies were properly directed; when the arrival of some ceremonious visitors put an end to the conversation; and the company sat down to cards. When I came home, I could not help reflecting, with a good deal of uneasiness, on what I had heard. For if there is really no such thing as mental accom. plishments rendering a young lady more amiable, or if reading is to be of no real service to us, I have certainly employed a great part of my past life to very little purpose. I was brought up in the country, where reading was not only my greatest amusement, but I was always told, that by that, and making proper reflections on what I read, I should become contented with myself, and be beloved and respected by all who knew me; and by these improvements alone could hope to equal my sister, who is a great deal handsomer than I, but who could seldom be persuaded to open a book.
But the conversation above mentioned, which happened very soon after I came to town, has raised . many doubts in my mind as to the real importance of my former studies. I have mentioned my unea. siness to several of my female companions, who are all (especially such as are not handsome very much interested in it, and would be very happy to see a MIRROR on this subject, though they were much surprised at my courage in proposing to write ta you; which, indeed, I never could have done, had
I been able to find any other way to communicate
'If you think this letter worthy your attention, I intreat you to give us, as soon as possible, your opinion as to what sort of accomplishments a young lady ought to be most anxious to acquire, and whether there is not some real advantage to be derived from reading ; for I would fain think the young gentleman was in the right; though I am sorry I have never seen him since, to hear what he had farther to say on the subject.
But if, on the contrary, you convince me, that I either cannot, or need not, aim at any mental ac, complishments, I shall lay by my book, and proceed to finish some ornamental pieces of work, which have hitherto advanced very slowly, as I was always more solicitous to improve my mind, than to adorn my person.
I am, Sir,
It were hard, indeed, if the word accomplishment, when applied to a woman, excluded the idea of such mental embellishments as Emilia seems particularly to have studied. In the Author of the MIRROR, she has chosen a partial umpire ; for he will fairly own, that he addresses many of his papers chiefly to the ladies, and feels a high degree of pleasure when he is told that any one of them has been lucky enough to interest or to please the fair part of his Readers. Such a paper he sets down as one à bonnes fortunes, and grows vain upon it accordingly. It must, however, be confessed, on the other hand, that the lesser order of accomplishments mentioned by Emilia, are very necessary attendants on that higher sort, which reading and reflection confer.
They are necessary even to the men ; for without them learning grows pedantry, and wit becomes rudeness. But, in women, a certain softness of ad. dress and grace of manner are so indispensable, that no talents or acquirements can possibly please with out them. To give that softness, to confer that grace, reading and reflection will not suffice alone; to impart them in the highest degree, no other accomplishments will suffice, without reading and reflection. Emilia's harpsichord will settle the matter. Let us take treble for the first sort of accomplishments, and bass for the latter ; strike with the right hand—'tis music, but without strength; with the left-'tis harsh, and wants softness ; touch it with both hands, and the instrument is quite as it should be.
It is not from the possession of knowledge, but from the display of it, that a woman ceases to be feminine. To lecture with authority, to argue with violence, to dispute with obstinacy, are qualifications purely masculine. It were too much to say that to be in the right, is a male quality ; but to feel one's self in the right, or rather to shew that feeling, is not delicately female. The musical de. partment will furnish us with another illustration. Emilia has heard of that sort of singing below the full powers of the performer's voice, which the Italians call singing sotto-voce ; now, let a woman's understanding be ever so strong, let her mind be ever so accomplished, it should always be delivered sotto-voce.
To the Author of the MIRROR. SIR, I am just going to commence business as a Mil. liner, and am resolved to bestow more than common pains in furnishing out as elegant a shop-list as possible ; being of opinion, that much of the employment a shopkeeper gets, is owing to the attraction of a happy-fancied sign, advertisement, or shop-bill. In executing this intention, I have met with several difficulties : and therefore am induced to trouble you for a solution of them. A friend of mine, whom I consulted (because, as he was often reading, I imagined him to be a wise and learned man), advised me to look into a book called Johnson's Dictionary, which he said would spell, explain, and describe to me, any thing I was at a loss about. Accordingly, after some difficulty, I procured a sight of this book from a relation, who was acquainted with a bookseller. But as this same Johnson explains his words in a foreign language, I am as much at a loss as ever ; because I am totally ignorant what language it is, and, therefore, can. not judge, whether what he says be such a de. scription of my commodities as will bring me customers. Upon my looking, for instance, at his explanation of net-work, I find it to be, any thing
reticulated or decussated with interstices betwixt the intersections. Now, Mr. MIRROR, I beg the favour of you to tell me what language this is. You certainly can easily do it, when you have obtained such a character in town for wisdom and learning. If it should be French, be so good as translate it to me; and if it proves to be such a description as I think suits the net-work I have on hand, I shall most gladly insert it in my bill. But if it should turn out to be Latin, Greek, Hebrew, or Dutch, or any other Heathen language, I would not meddle with it for all the world; for no person then would come near my shop. I am advised by all my friends to put as much French into my bills and advertisements as possible ; and, indeed, I believe the ad. vice is good; for I have a relation, a Perruquier, as he calls himself, who has told me, that he believed he owed almost all his business (and a great deal he had) to an advertisement in the newspapers interlarded with French words. It began thus, for I copied it letter for letter : • Perruques au dernier 'gout made to fit the head, avec une air bien degagé, to be had,” &c. This wigmaker informed me, that there was scarcely a young beau in town who wore a wig, that could resist his advertisement.
I should beg pardon for the freedom I am using, in thus taking
up your time about a matter which must appear so trilling to you ; but if you are a bene. volent man (and such I have heard you are), it will readily occur to you, that, though my request appears of a trivial nature, yet it treats of an affair of very great consequence to me. This consideration has emboldened me to apply to you; and, if you take the trouble to give me your assistance on this occasion, I promise you to take in your Mirror to my shop for the amusement of my customers ; though, upon second thoughts, Í am doubtful whether it may not rather hurt my business. A mirror is as necessary to a milliner's shop, as the goods that are in it; but then it must be a mirror for the body. Now yours
is one for the mind;
best customers, in all probability, will consist of a set of ladies who seldom or never look into their minds at all; for those ladies, Mr. MIRROR, who decorate their persons in the highest extravagance of the fashion, and who,of consequence, are the best customers to the milliners, are generally