Sunday, August 30, 2009

Department of Quotation #2

Sunday, August 30, 2009
HannahWoolley Susan reports:


Battling quotes from London, 1673. In this corner:

Hannah Woolley (shown, left, from the frontispiece), author of The Gentlewoman's Companion; or, a Guide to the Female Sex:

"The right Education of the Female Sex, as it is in a manner every where neglected, so it ought to be generally lamented. Most in this depraved later Age think a Woman learned and wife enough if she can distinguish her Husband’s Bed from another’s. . . .Vain Man is apt to think we were merely intended for the World’s propagation, and to keep its human inhabitants sweet and clean; but, by their leave, had we the same Literature, he would find our brains as fruitful as our bodies."

Aaaand in this corner. . . .200px-JohnEvelyn1687

Here's what Mrs. Woolley was up against –– an opinion from her (male) contemporary, the much-respected diarist/horticulturalist John Evelyn (shown right):

"Women were not born to read Authors and censure the learned. . . . All time borrowed from Family duties is misspent. The care of Children’s education, observing a Husband’s commands, assisting the sick, relieving the poore and being serviceable to our friends, are of sufficient weight to employ the most improved capacities among them."

7 comments:

Vanessa Kelly said...

You go, Hannah! That is a masterful quote - sharp, to the point, and funny.

John Evelyn, I'm sorry to say, is being dull and pedantic. And I always liked old John - read his diaries in grad school.

LorettaChase said...

Evelyn, sadly, is typical. Over and over again we come upon these stunningly misogynistic remarks from brilliant men, artists, great leaders. Makes me love John Stuart Mill all the more. It also makes me admire and appreciate the guts of the women who dared to argue the other side.

Susan Holloway Scott said...

What's strange about Evelyn is that his own wife (and he loved her dearly) was very well educated, fluent in several languages, and his daughters, too, were educated far beyond the standards he espouses here, one even writing a book of her own. I don't know enough about him to venture whether this is a case of good-enough-for-others-but-I-want-more or if this was written to fit with prevailing attitudes -- anyone else (Vanessa?) who may know more is welcome to comment!

OTOH, he loathed every one of my heroines, in print and for posterity, so maybe I shouldn't be cutting him any slack....

Vanessa Kelly said...

Honestly, Susan, I can't remember any details re: his attitude toward women. I just remember how beautifully his diaries were written. But if he loathed your heroines, well, we won't cut him any slack!

Margaret Evans Porter said...

This is a very interesting comment, considering how well Evelyn educated his own girls. I think it was Mary (?), the one who died, who was such a writer herself and whom he eulogised as being intelligent and learned and so very perfect.

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Margaret, is Mary the one who eloped against her father's will, caught smallpox, and died before she could be reconciled with her parents? I remember the story because it was so impossibly tragic -- though, naturally, I can't remember which daughter it was. Hopeless, am I....

But yes, Vanessa, on the whole John is a wonderful, thoughtful writer, and in most things, very forward -- he believed in eating "sallets", and wrote one of the earliest warnings against air pollution. I have the latest bio of him waiting there in my TBR pile, so perhaps in the future I'll be able to report more...

Margaret Evans Porter said...

No, Mary was not the runaway bride. I looked up the entry he wrote at her death, not many weeks after Charles II died. It's a very long passage in which she comes across as the perfect daughter--but so very much of his praise is of her intellect and historical/classical reading and musical accomplishments (and of course, being Evelyn her piety and modesty and unwillingness to go to the licentious royal Court as a maid of honour!)

 
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