A Father’s Legacy to His Daughters

By John Gregory

Edited and abridged by Jack Lynch

A quick-and-dirty E-text. This abridgment is just a little bit more than half of the original (available here). I’ve silently corrected some typos. The paragraph numbers are my own.


[1] That the subsequent letters were written by a tender father, in a declining state of health, for the instruction of his daughters, and not intended for the public, is a circumstance which will recommend them to every one who considers them in the light of admonition and advice. In such domestic intercourse, no sacrifices are made to prejudices, to customs, to fashionable opinions. Paternal love, paternal care, speak their genuine sentiments, undisguised and unrestrained. A father’s zeal for his daughters’ improvement, in whatever can make a woman amiable, with a father’s quick apprehension of the dangers that too often arise, even from the attainment of that very point suggest his admonitions, and render him attentive to a thousand little graces and little decorums, which would escape the nicest moralist who should undertake the subject on uninterested speculation. Every faculty is on the alarm, when the objects of such tender affection are concerned.

[2] In the writer of these letters paternal tenderness and vigilance were doubled, as he was at that time sole parent, death having before deprived the young ladies of their excellent mother. His own precarious state of health inspired him with the most tender solicitude for their future welfare; and though he might have concluded that the impression made by his instruction and uniform example could never be effaced from the memory of his children, yet his anxiety for their orphan condition suggested to him this method of continuing to them those advantages.

[3] The Editor is encouraged to offer this treatise to the public, by the very favourable reception which the rest of his father’s works have met with. The comparative view of the state of man and other animals, and the essay on the office and duties of a physician, have been very generally read; and, if he is not deceived by the partiality of his friends, he has reason to believe they have met with general approbation.

[4] In some of those tracts the author’s object was to improve the taste and understanding of his reader; in others, to mend his heart; in others to point out to him the proper use of philosophy, by shewing its application to the duties of common life. In all his writings his chief view was the good of his fellow creatures; and as those among his friends, in whose taste and judgment he most confided, think the publication of this work will contribute to that general design, and at the same time do honor to his memory, the editor can no longer hesitate to comply with their advice in communicating it to the public.


[5] My Dear Girls,

[6] You had the misfortune to be deprived of your mother, at a time of life when you were insensible of your loss, and could receive little benefit, either from her instruction, or her example. Before this comes to your hands, you will likewise have lost your father.

[7] I have had many melancholy reflections on the forlorn and helpless situation you must be in, if it should please God to remove me from you, before you arrive at that period of life, when you will be able to think and act for yourselves. I know mankind too well. I know their falsehoods, their dissipations, their coldness to all the duties of friendship and humanity. I know the little attention paid to helpless infancy. You will meet with few friends disinterested enough to do you good offices, when you are incapable of making them any return, by contributing to their interest, or their pleasure, or even to the gratification of their vanity.

[8] I have been supported. under the gloom naturally arising from these reflections, by a reliance on the goodness of that providence which hath hitherto preserved you, and given me the most pleasing prospect of the goodness of your dispositions; and by the secret hope that your mother’s virtues will entail a blessing on her children.

[9] The anxiety I have for your happiness has made me resolve to throw together my sentiments relating to your future conduct in life. If I live for some years, you will receive them with much greater advantage, suited to your different geniuses and dispositions. If I die sooner, you must receive them in this very imperfect manner — the last proof of my affection.

[10] You will all remember your father’s fondness, when perhaps every other circumstance relating to him is forgotten; this remembrance, I hope, will induce you to give a serious attention to the advices I am now going to leave you. I can request this attention with the greater confidence, as my sentiments on the most interesting points that regard life and manners, were entirely correspondent to your mother’s, whose judgment and taste I trusted much more than my own.

[11] You must expect that the advices which I shall give you will be very imperfect, as there are many nameless delicacies, in female manners, of which none but a woman can judge — You will have one advantage by attending to what I am going to leave with you; you will hear, at least for once in your lives, the genuine sentiments of a man who has no interest in flattering or deceiving you. I shall throw my reflections together, without any studied order, and shall only, to avoid confusion, range them under a few general heads.

[12] You will see, in a little treatise of mine just published, in what an honorable point of view I have considered your sex; not as domestic drudges, or the slaves of our pleasures, but as our companions and equals; as designed to soften our hearts and polish our manners; and as Thompson finely says,

“To raise the virtues, animate the bliss,
“And sweeten all the toils of human life.”

[13] I shall not repeat what I have there said on this subject, and shall only observe, that from the view I have given of your natural character and place in society, there arises a certain propriety of conduct peculiar to your sex. It is this peculiar propriety of manners of which I intend to give you my sentiments, without touching on these general rules of conduct, by which men and women are equally bound.

[14] While I explain to you that system of conduct which I think will tend most to your honour and happiness, I shall, at the same time, endeavour to point out those virtues and accomplishments which render you most respectable and most amiable in the eyes of my own sex.


[15] Though the duties of religion, strictly speaking, are equally binding on both sexes, yet certain differences, in their natural character and education, render some vices in your sex particularly odious. The natural hardness of our hearts, and strength of our passions inflamed by the uncontrouled license we are too often indulged with in our youth, are apt to render our manners dissolute, and make us less susceptible of the finer feelings of the heart. Your superior delicacy, your modesty, and the usual severity of your education, preserve you in a measure from any temptation to those vices to which we are most subjected. The natural softness and sensibility of your dispositions particularly fit you for the practice of those duties where the heart is chiefly concerned. And this along with the natural warmth of your imagination, renders you peculiarly susceptible to the feelings of devotion.

[16] There are many circumstances in your situation that peculiarly require the support of religion to enable you to act in them with spirit and propriety. Your whole life is often a life of suffering. You cannot plunge into business, or dissipate yourself in pleasure and riot, as men too often do, when under the pressure of misfortunes. You must bear your sorrows in silence, unknown and unpitied. You must often put on a face of serenity and cheerfulness, when your hearts are torn with anguish, or sinking in despair. Then your only resource is in the consolations of religion. It is chiefly owing to these, that you bear domestic misfortunes better than we do.

[17] But you are sometimes in very different circumstances, that equally require the restraints of religion. The natural vivacity, and perhaps the natural vanity of your sex, is very apt to lead you into a dissipated state of life that deceives you, under the appearance of innocent pleasure, but which in reality wastes your spirits, impairs your health, weakens all the superior faculties of your minds, and often sullies your reputations. Religion, by checking this dissipation and rage for pleasure, enables you to draw more happiness, even from those very sources of amusement, which, when too frequently applied to, are often productive of satiety and disgust.

[18] Religion is rather a matter of sentiment than reasoning. The important and interesting articles of faith are sufficiently plain. Fix your attention on these, and do not meddle with controversy. If you get into that, you plunge into a chaos, from which you will never be able to extricate yourselves. It spoils the temper, and I suspect, has no good effect on the heart.

[19] Avoid all books, and all conversation, that tend to shake your faith on those great points of religion which should serve to regulate your conduct, and on which your hopes of future and eternal happiness depend.

[20] Never indulge yourselves in ridicule on religious subjects; nor give countenance to it in others, by seeming diverted with what they say. This, to people of good breeding, will be a sufficient check.

[21] I wish you to go no farther than the scriptures for your religious opinions. Embrace those you find clearly revealed. Never perplex yourselves about such as you do not understand, but treat them with silent and becoming reverence. I would advise you to read only such religious books as are addressed to the heart, such as inspire pious and devout affections, such as are proper to direct you in your conduct, and not such as tend to entangle you in the endless maze of opinions and systems.


[33] One of the chief beauties in a female character, is that modest reserve, that retiring delicacy, which avoids the public eye, and is disconcerted even at the gaze of admiration. I do not wish you to be insensible to applause. If you were, you must become, if not worse, at least less amiable women. But you may avoid being dazzled by that admiration, which yet rejoices your hearts.

[34] When a girl ceases to blush, she has lost the most powerful charm of beauty. That extreme sensibility which it indicates, may be a weakness and incumbrance in our sex, as I have too often felt; but in yours it is peculiarly engaging. Pedants who think themselves philosophers, ask why a woman should blush when she is conscious of no crime? It is a sufficient answer. that Nature has made you to blush when you are guilty of no fault, and has forced us to love you because you do so. Blushing is so far from being necessarily an attendant on guilt, that it is the usual companion of innocence.

[35] This modesty, which I think so essential in your sex, will naturally dispose you to be rather silent in company, especially in a large one. People of sense and discernment will never mistake such silence for dulness. One may take a share in conversation without uttering a syllable. The expression in the countenance shews it, and this never escapes an observing eye.

[38] Wit is the most dangerous talent you can possess. It must be guarded with great discretion and good nature, otherwise it will create you many enemies. Wit is perfectly consistent with softness and delicacy; yet they are seldom found united. Wit is so flattering to vanity, that they who possess it become intoxicated and lose all self command.

[39] Humour is a different quality — It will make your company much solicited; but be cautious how you indulge it. It is a great enemy to delicacy, and still a greater one to dignity of a character. It may sometimes gain you applause, but will never procure you respect.

[40] Be even cautious in displaying your good sense. It will be thought you assume a superiority over the rest of the company. But if you happen to have any learning, keep it a profound secret, especially from the men, who generally look with a jealous and malignant eye on a woman of great parts, and a cultivated understanding.

[41] A man of real genius and candour is far superior to this meanness. But such a one will seldom fall in your way, and if by accident he should, do not be anxious to shew the full extent of your knowledge. If he has any opportunities of seeing you, he will soon discover it himself; and if you have any advantages of person or manner, and keep your own secret, he will probably give you credit for a great deal more than you possess. The great art of pleasing in conversation consists in making the company pleased with themselves. You will more readily hear them talk yourselves into their good graces.

[42] Beware of detraction, especially where your own sex are concerned. You are generally accused of being particularly addicted to this vice; I think unjustly. Men are full as guilty of it when their interests interfere. As your interests more frequently clash, and as your feelings are quicker than ours, your temptations to it are more frequent. For this reason, be particularly tender of the reputation of your own sex, especially when they happen to rival you in our regards. We look on this as the strongest proof of dignity and true greatness of mind.

[43] Shew a compassionate sympathy to unfortunate women, especially to those who are rendered so by the villainy of men. Indulge a secret pleasure, I may say pride, in being the friends and refuge of the unhappy, but without the vanity of shewing it.

[44] Consider every species of indelicacy in conversation as shameful in itself, and as highly disgusting to us. All double entendre is of this sort. — The dissolution of men’s education allows them to be diverted with a kind of wit, which yet they have delicacy enough to be shocked at, when it comes from your mouths, or even when you hear it without pain and contempt. Virgin purity is of that delicate nature, that it cannot hear certain things without contamination. It is always in your power to avoid these. No man, but a brute, or a fool would insult a woman with conversation which he sees gives her pain; nor will he dare to do it, if she resent the injury with a becoming spirit. There is a dignity in conscious virtue which is able to awe the most shameless and abandoned of men.

[45] You will be reproached perhaps with prudery. By prudery is generally meant an affectation of delicacy. Now I do not wish you to affect delicacy, I wish you to possess it. At any rate it is better to run the risk of being thought ridiculous than disgusting.

[46] The men will complain of your reserve. They will assure you that a franker behavior would make you more amiable. But trust me, they are not sincere, when they tell you so. I acknowledge, that on some occasions it might render you more agreeable as companions, but it would make you less amiable as women: An important distinction, which many of your sex are not aware of. After all, I wish you to have great ease and openness in your conversation. I only point out some considerations which ought to regulate your behavior in that respect.

[50] Every one who remembers a few years back, is sensible of a very striking change in the attention and respect formerly paid by the gentlemen to the ladies. Their drawing rooms are deserted; and after dinner and supper, the gentlemen are impatient till they retire. How they came to lose this respect, which nature and politeness so well entitled them to, I shall not here particularly enquire. The revolutions of manners in any country depend on causes very various and complicated. I shall only observe, that the behavior of the ladies in the last age was very reserved and stately. It would now be reckoned ridiculous and formal. Whatever it was, it had certainly the effect of making them more respected.

[51] A fine woman, like other fine things in nature, has her proper point of view, from which she may be seen to most advantage. To fix this point, requires great judgment, and an intimate knowledge of the human heart. By the present mode of female manners, the ladies seem to expect that they shall regain their ascendency over us, by the fullest display of their personal charms, by being always in our eye at public places, by conversing with us with the same unreserved freedom as we do with one another; in short, by resembling us as nearly as they possibly can. But a little time and experience will shew the folly of this expectation and conduct.

[52] The power of a fine woman over the hearts of men, of men of the finest parts, is even beyond what she conceives. They are sensible of the pleasing illusions, but they cannot, nor do they wish to dissolve it. But if she is determined to dispel the charm, it certainly is in her power; she may soon reduce the angel to a very ordinary girl.

[53] There is a native dignity in ingenuous modesty to be expected in your sex, which is your natural protection from the familiarities of the men, and which you should feel previous to the reflections that it is your interest to keep yourselves sacred from all personal freedoms. The many nameless charms and endearments of beauty should be reserved to bless the arms of the happy man to whom you give your heart, but who, if he has the least delicacy, will despise them if he knows that they have been prostituted to fifty men before him. The sentiment, that a woman may allow all innocent freedoms, provided her virtue is secure, is both grossly indelicate and dangerous, and has proved fatal to many of your sex.


[62] The domestic economy of a family is entirely a woman’s province, and furnishes a variety of subjects for the exertion both of good sense and good taste. If you ever come to have the charge of a family, it ought to engage much of your time and attention; nor can you be excused from this by any extent of fortune, though with a narrow one the ruin that follows the neglect of it may be more immediate.

[63] I am at the greatest loss what to advise you in regard to books; there is no impropriety in your reading history or cultivating any art or science to which genius or accident lead you. The whole volume of Nature lies open to your eye, and furnishes an infinite variety of entertainment. If I was sure that Nature had given you such strong principles of taste and sentiment, as would remain with you, and influence your future conduct, with the utmost pleasure would I endeavour to direct your reading in such a way as might form that taste to the utmost perfection of truth and elegance — But when I reflect how easy it is to warm a girl’s imagination, and how difficult deeply and permanently to affect her heart; how readily she enters into every refinement of sentiment, and how easy she can sacrifice them to vanity or convenience; I think I may very probably do you an injury by artificially creating a taste, which, if Nature never gave it you, would only serve to embarrass your future conduct. I do not want to make you any thing; I want to know what Nature has made you, and to perfect you on her plan. I do not wish you to have sentiments that might perplex you: I wish you to have sentiments that may uniformly and steadily guide you, and such as your hearts so thoroughly approve, that you would not forego them for any consideration this world may offer.

[64] Dress is an important article in female life — The love of dress is natural to you, and therefore it is proper and reasonable. Good sense will regulate your expense in it; and good taste will direct you to dress in such a way, as to conceal any blemishes, and set off your beauties, if you have any, to the greatest advantage. But much delicacy and judgment are required in the application of this rule. A fine woman shews her charms to most advantage, when she seems most to conceal them. The finest bosom in nature is not so fine as what imagination forms. The most perfect elegance of dress appears always the most easy, and the least studied.

[65] Do not confine your attention to dress, to your public appearance. Accustom yourselves to an habitual neatness, so that in the most careless undress, in your most unguarded hours, you may have no reason to be ashamed of your appearance. You will not easily believe how much we consider your dress as expressive of your characters. Vanity, levity, slovenliness, folly, appear through it. And an elegant simplicity is an equal proof of taste and delicacy.

[66] In dancing, the principal points you are to attend to are ease and grace. I would have you dance with spirit; but never allow yourselves to be so far transported with mirth, as to forget the delicacy of your sex. Many a girl dancing in the gaiety and innocence of her heart, is thought to discover a spirit she little dreams of.

[69] I need say little about gaming, the ladies in this country being as yet almost strangers to it. — It is a ruinous and incurable vice; and as it leads to all the selfish and turbulent passions, is peculiarly odious in your sex. I have no objection to your playing a little at any kind of game, as a variety in your amusements, provided that what you can possibly lose is such a trifle as can neither interest you, nor hurt you.


[73] If you have the good fortune to meet with any who deserve the name of friends, unbosom yourselves to them with the most unsuspicious confidence. It is one of the world’s maxims, never to trust any person with a secret, the discovery of which could give you any pain; but it is the maxim of a little mind and a cold heart, unless where it is the effect of frequent disappointments and bad usage. An open temper, if restrained by tolerable prudence, will make you, on the whole, much happier than a reserved, suspicious one, although you may sometimes suffer by it. Coldness and distrust are but two certain consequences of age and experience; but they are unpleasant feelings and need not be anticipated before their time.

[74] But however open you may be in talking of your own affairs, never disclose the secrets of one friend to another. These are sacred deposits, which do not belong to you, nor have you any right to make use of them.

[75] There is another case in which I suspect it is proper to be secret, not so much from motives of prudence as delicacy; I mean in love matters. Though a woman has no reason to be ashamed of an attachment to a man of merit, yet Nature, whose authority is superior to philosophy, has annexed a sense of shame to it. It is even long before a woman of delicacy dares avow to her own heart that she loves; and when all the subterfuges of ingenuity to conceal it from herself fail, she feels a violence done both to her pride and to her modesty. This I should imagine, must always be the case when she is not sure of a return to her attachment.

[76] In such a situation, to lay the heart open to any person whatever, does not appear to me consistent with the perfection of female delicacy. But perhaps I am wrong. At the same time I must tell you, that in point of prudence it concerns you to attend well to the consequences of such a discovery. These secrets, however important in your own estimation, may appear very trifling to your friend, who possibly will not enter into your feelings, but may rather consider them as a subject of pleasantry. for this reason, love secrets are of all others the worst kept. But the consequences to you may be very serious, as no man of spirit and delicacy ever valued a heart much hackneyed in the ways of love.

[81] The temper and dispositions of the heart in your sex make you enter more readily and warmly into friendships than men. — Your natural propensity to it is so strong, that you often run into intimacies which you soon have sufficient cause to repent of; and this makes your friendships so very fluctuating.

[82] Another great obstacle to the sincerity as well as steadiness of your friendship, is the great clashing of your interests in the pursuits of love, ambition or vanity. For these reasons, it would appear at first view more eligible for you to contract your friendships with the men. Among other obvious advantages of an easy intercourse between the two sexes, it occasions an emulation and exertion in each to excel and be agreeable: Hence their respective excellences are mutually communicated and blended. As their interests in no degree interfere, there can be no foundation for jealousy or superstition of rivalship. The friendship of a man for a woman is always blended with a tenderness, which he never feels for one of his own sex, even where love is in no degree concerned. Besides, we are conscious of a natural title you have to our protection and good offices, and therefore we feel an additional obligation of honour to serve you, and to observe an inviolable secrecy, whenever you confide in us.

[89] A man of taste and delicacy marries a woman because he loves her more than any other. A woman of equal taste and delicacy marries him because she esteems him, and because he gives her that preference. But if a man unfortunately becomes attached to a woman whose heart is secretly preengaged, his attachment, instead of obtaining a suitable return, is particularly offensive; and if he persists to tease her, he makes himself equally the object of her scorn and aversion.

[93] When you observe in a gentleman’s behavior these marks which I have described above, reflect seriously what you are to do. If his attachment is agreeable to you, I leave you to do as nature, good sense, and delicacy shall direct you. If you love him, let me advise you never to discover to him the full extent of your love, no not although you marry him. That sufficiently shews your preference, which is all he is entitled to know. If he has delicacy, he will ask no stronger proof of your affection for your sake; if he has sense he will not ask it for his own. This is an unpleasant truth, but it is my duty to let you know it. Violent love cannot subsist, at least cannot be expressed, for any time together on both sides; otherwise the certain consequence, however concealed, is satiety and disgust. Nature in this case, has laid the reserve on you.

[94] If you see evident proofs of a gentleman’s attachment, and are determined to shut your heart against him, as you ever hope to be used with generosity by the person who may engage your own heart, treat him honorably and humanely. Do not let him linger in a miserable suspense, but be anxious to let him know your sentiments with regard to him.

[95] However people’s hearts may deceive them, there is scarcely a person that can love for any time without at least some distant hope of success. If you really wish to undeceive a lover, you may do it in a variety of ways. There is a certain species of easy familiarity in your behavior, which may satisfy him, if he has any discernment left, that he has nothing to hope for. But perhaps your particular temper may not admit of this. You may easily shew that you want to avoid his company; but if he is a man whose friendship you wish to preserve, you may not choose this method, because then you lose him in every capacity. You may get a common friend to explain matters to him, or fall on many other devices, if you are seriously anxious to put him out of suspense.

[97] There is a case where a woman may coquet justifiably to the utmost verge which her conscience will allow. It is where a gentleman purposely declines to make his addresses, till such time as he thinks himself perfectly sure of her consent. This at the bottom is intended to force a woman to give up the undoubted privilege of her sex, the privilege of refusing; it is intended to force her to explain herself, in effect, before the gentleman deigns to do it, and by this means oblige her to violate the modesty and delicacy of her sex, and to invert the clearest order of nature.

[98] All this sacrifice is proposed to be made, merely to gratify a most despicable vanity, in a man who would degrade the very woman whom he wishes to make his wife.

[104] Male coquetry is much more inexcusable than female, as well as more pernicious; but it is rare in this country. Very few men will give themselves the trouble to gain or retain any woman’s affections, unless they have views on them, either of an honorable or dishonorable kind. Men employed in the pursuit of business, ambition, or pleasure, will not give themselves the trouble to engage a woman’s affections merely from the vanity of conquest, and of triumphing over the heart of an innocent and defenceless girl. Besides people never value much what is entirely in their power. A man of parts, sentiment, and address, if he lays aside all regard to truth and humanity, may engage the hearts of fifty women at the same time, and may likewise conduct his coquetry with so much art, as to put it out of the power of any of them to specify a single expression which could be said to be directly expressive of love. This ambiguity of behavior, this art of keeping one in suspense, is the greatest secret of coquetry in both sexes. It is the more cruel in us, because we can carry it to what length we please, without your being so much at liberty to complain or expostulate; whereas we can break our chain, and force you to explain, whenever we become impatient of our situation.

[105] I have insisted the more particularly on this subject of courtship, because it may most readily happen to you, at that early period of life, when you can have little experience or knowledge of the world; when your passions are warm, and your judgments not arrived at such full maturity as to be able to correct them; — I wish you to possess such high principles of honour and generosity, as will render you incapable of deceiving, and at the same time to possess that acute discernment which may secure you against being deceived.

[106] A woman, in this country, may easily prevent the first impressions of love; and every motive of prudence and delicacy should make her guard her heart against them, till such time as she has received the most convincing proofs of the attachment of a man of such merit, as will justify a reciprocal regard. Your hearts, indeed, may be shut inflexibly and permanently, against all the merit a man can possess. That may be your misfortune, but cannot be your fault. In such a situation, you would be equally unjust to yourself and your lover, if you gave him your hand when your heart revolted against him. But miserable will be your fate, if you allow an attachment to steal on you before you are sure of return; or, what is infinitely worse, where there are wanting those qualities which alone can ensure happiness in a married state.

[107] I know nothing that renders a woman more despicable than her thinking it essential to happiness to be married. Besides the gross indelicacy of the sentiment, it is a false one, as thousands of women have experienced. But if it was true, the belief that it is so, and the consequent impatience to be married, is the most effectual way to prevent it.

[108] You must not think from this, that I do not wish you to marry. On the contrary, I am of opinion, that you may attain a superior degree of happiness in a married state, to what you can possibly find in any other. I know the forlorn and unprotected situation of an old maid, the chagrin and peevishness which are apt to infect their tempers, and the great difficulty of making a transition with dignity and chearfulness, from the period of youth, beauty, admiration and respect, into the calm, silent, unnoticed retreat of declining years.

[111] In short, I am of opinion, that a married state, if entered into from proper motives of esteem and affection, will be the happiest for yourselves, make you most respectable in the eyes of the world, and the most useful members of society. But I confess I am not enough of a patriot to wish you to marry for the good of the public. I wish you to marry for no other reason but to make yourselves happy. When I am so particular in my advices about your conduct, I own my heart beats with the fond hope of making you worthy the attachment of men who will deserve you, and be sensible of your merit. But Heaven forbid you should ever relinquish the ease and independence of a single life, to become the slaves of a fool or a tyrant’s caprice.

[112] As these have always been my sentiments, I shall do but justice, when I leave you in such independent circumstances as may lay you under no temptation to do from necessity what you would never do from choice. — This will likewise save you from that cruel mortification to a woman of spirit, the suspicion that a gentleman thinks he does you an honor or a favor when he asks you for his wife.

[116] There is one advice I shall leave you, to which I beg your particular attention. Before your affections come to be in the least engaged to any man, examine your tempers, your tastes and your hearts, very severely, and settle in your own minds what are the requisites to your happiness in a married state; and as it is almost impossible that you should get every thing you wish, come to a steady determination what you are to consider as essential, and what may be sacrificed.

[117] If you have hearts disposed by Nature for love and friendship, and possess those feelings which enable you to enter into all the refinements and delicacies of these attachments, consider well, for Heaven’s sake, and as you value your future happiness, before you give them any indulgence. If you have the misfortune (for a very great misfortune it commonly is to your sex) to have such a temper and such sentiments deeply rooted in you — if you have spirit and resolution to resist the solicitations of vanity, the persecutions of friends, (for you will have lost the only friend that would never persecute you) and can support the prospect of the many inconveniences attending the state of an old maid, which I formerly pointed out, then you may indulge yourselves in that kind of sentimental reading and conversation, which is most correspondent to your feelings.

[118] But if you find on a strict self examination, that marriage is absolutely essential to your happiness, keep the secret inviolable in your own bosoms, for the reason I formerly mentioned; but shun, as you would do the most fatal poison, all that species of reading and conversation which warms the imagination, which engages and softens the heart, and raises the taste above the level of common life. If you do otherwise, consider the terrible conflict of passions this may afterwards raise in your breasts.

[119] If this refinement once takes deep root in your minds, and you do not obey its dictates, but marry from vulgar and mercenary views, you may never be able to eradicate it entirely, and then it will embitter all your married days. Instead of meeting with sense, delicacy, tenderness, a lover, a friend, an equal companion, in a husband, you may be tired with insipidity and dullness; shocked with indelicacy, or mortified by indifference. You will find none to compassionate, or even understand your sufferings; for your husbands may not use you cruelly, and may give you as much money for your clothes, personal expense and domestic necessaries, as is suitable to their fortunes. The world would therefore look on you as unreasonable women, and who did not deserve to be happy, if you were not so. — To avoid these complicated evils, if you are determined at all events to marry, I would advise you to make all your reading and amusements of such a kind as do not affect the heart, nor the imagination, except in the way of wit and humour.

[123] From what I have said, you will easily see, that I could never pretend to advise whom you should marry; but I can with great confidence advise whom you should not marry.

[124] Avoid a companion that may entail any hereditary disease on your posterity, particularly (that most dreadful of all human calamities) madness. It is the height of imprudence to run into such a danger, and, in my opinion, highly criminal.

[125] Do not marry a fool; he is the most untractable of all animals; he is led by his passions and caprices, and is incapable of hearing the voice of reason. It may probably, too, hurt your vanity to have husbands for whom you have reason to blush and tremble every time they open their lips in company. But the worst circumstance that attends a fool, is, his constant jealousy of his wife being the thought to govern him. This renders it impossible to lead him; and he is continually doing absurd and disagreeable things, for no other reason but to shew he dares to do them.

[126] A rake is always a suspicious husband, because he has only known the most worthless of your sex. He likewise entails the worst of diseases on his wife and children, if he has the misfortune to have any.

[127] If you have a sense of religion yourselves, do not think of husbands who have none. If they have tolerable understandings they will be glad that you have religion, for their own sakes, and for the sakes of their families; but it will sink you in their esteem. If they are weak men, they will be continually teazing and shocking you about your principles. — If you have children, you will suffer the most bitter distress, in seeing all your endeavours to form their minds to virtue and piety, all your endeavours to secure their present and eternal happiness frustrated, and turned into ridicule.

[128] As I look on your choice of a husband to be of the greatest consequence to your happiness, I hope you will make it with the utmost circumspection. Do not give way to a sudden sally of passion, and dignify it with the name of love. — Genuine love is not founded in caprice; it is sounded in nature, on honorable views, on virtue, on similarity of tastes and sympathy of souls.

[129] If you have these sentiments, you will never marry any one, when you are not in that situation, in point of fortune, which is necessary to the happiness of either of you.

[130] What that competency may be, can only be determined by your own tastes. It would be ungenerous in you to take advantage of a lover’s attachment, to plunge him into distress; and if he has any honor, no personal gratification will ever tempt him to enter into any connexion which will render you unhappy. If you have as much between you as to satisfy all your demands, it is sufficient.

[131] I shall conclude with endeavouring to remove a difficulty which must naturally occur to any woman of reflection on the subject of marriage. What is to become of all these refinements of delicacy, that dignity of manners, which checked all familiarities, and suspended desire in respectful and awful admiration? In answer to this, I shall only observe, that if motives of interest or vanity have had any share in your resolutions to marry, none of these chimerical notions will give you any pain; nay, they will very quickly appear as ridiculous in your own eyes, as they probably always did in the eyes of your husbands. They have been sentiments which have floated in your imaginations, but have never reached your hearts. But if these sentiments have been truly genuine, and if you have had the singular happy fate to attach those who understood them, you have no reason to be afraid.

[132] Marriage, indeed, will at once dispel the enchantment raised by external beauty; but the virtues and graces that first warmed the heart, that reserve and delicacy which always left the lover something farther to wish, and often made him doubtful of your sensibility or attachment, may and ought ever to remain. The tumult of passion will necessarily subside; but it will be succeeded by an endearment that affects the heart in a more equal, more sensible, and tender manner. — But I must check myself, and not indulge in descriptions that may mislead you, and that too sensibly awake the remembrance of my happier days, which, perhaps, it were better for me to forget forever.

[133] I have thus given you my opinion on some of the most important articles of your future life, chiefly calculated for that period when you are just entering the world. I have endeavoured to avoid some peculiarities of opinion, which, from their contradiction to the general practice of the world, I might reasonably have suspected were not so well founded. But in writing to you, I am afraid my heart has been too full, and too warmly interested, to allow me to keep this resolution. This may have produced some embarrassment, and some seeming contradiction. What I have written has been the amusement of some solitary hours, and has served to divert some melancholy reflections. — I am conscious I undertook a task to which I was very unequal; but I have discharged a part of my duty. — You will at least be pleased with it, as the least mark of your father’s love and attention.