When thus every part of the situation was contrived as well as might be for discovery, and to render intriguing dangerous, I would have no guards, no eyes, no spies set over the ladies, but shall expect them to be tried by the principles of honour and strict virtue.

And if I am asked why, I must ask pardon of my own sex for giving this reason for it:

I am so much in charity with women, and so well acquainted with men, that it is my opinion there needs no other care to prevent intriguing than to keep the men effectually away. For though inclination, which we prettily call love, does sometimes move a little too visibly in the sex, and frailty often follows, yet I think verily custom, which we miscall modesty, has so far the ascendant over the sex that solicitation always goes before it.

"Custom with women, 'stead of virtue, rules; It leads the wisest, and commands the fools; For this alone, when inclinations reign, Though virtue's fled, will acts of vice restrain. Only by custom 'tis that virtue lives, And love requires to be asked before it gives. For that which we call modesty is pride: They scorn to ask, and hate to be denied. 'Tis custom thus prevails upon their want; They'll never beg what, asked, they easily grant. And when the needless ceremony's over, Themselves the weakness of the sex discover. If, then, desires are strong, and nature free, Keep from her men and opportunity. Else 'twill be vain to curb her by restraint; But keep the question off, you keep the saint."

In short, let a woman have never such a coming principle, she will let you ask before she complies--at least, if she be a woman of any honour.

Upon this ground I am persuaded such measures might be taken that the ladies might have all the freedom in the world within their own walls, and yet no intriguing, no indecencies, nor scandalous affairs happen; and in order to this, the following customs and laws should be observed in the colleges, of which I would propose one at least in every county in England, and about ten for the city of London.

After the regulation of the form of the building as before;

1. All the ladies who enter into the house should set their hands to the orders of the house, to signify their consent to submit to them.

2. As no woman should be received but who declared herself willing, and that it was the act of her choice to enter herself, so no person should be confined to continue there a moment longer than the same voluntary choice inclined her.

3. The charges of the house being to be paid by the ladies, every one that entered should have only this incumbrance--that she should pay for the whole year, though her mind should change as to her continuance.

4. An Act of Parliament should make it felony, without clergy, for any man to enter by force or fraud into the house, or to solicit any woman, though it were to marry, while she was in the house. And this law would by no means be severe, because any woman who was willing to receive the addresses of a man might discharge herself of the house when she pleased; and, on the contrary, any woman who had occasion might discharge herself of the impertinent addresses of any person she had an aversion to by entering into the house.

In this house the persons who enter should be taught all sorts of breeding suitable to both their genius and their quality, and, in particular, music and dancing, which it would be cruelty to bar the sex of, because they are their darlings; but, besides this, they should be taught languages, as particularly French and Italian; and I would venture the injury of giving a woman more tongues than one.

They should, as a particular study, be taught all the graces of speech, and all the necessary air of conversation, which our common education is so defective in that I need not expose it. They should be brought to read books, and especially history, and so to read as to make them understand the world, and be able to know and judge of things when they hear of them.

To such whose genius would lead them to it I would deny no sort of learning: but the chief thing in general is to cultivate the understandings of the sex, that they may be capable of all sorts of conversation; that, their parts and judgments being improved, they may be as profitable in their conversation as they are pleasant.

An Essay Upon Projects Page 60

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