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she did not seem deeply versed in the calculations of Newton, or Freret, but went on about Apollonius Rhodius, whose poem she had been reading, but did not say whether in the original, or in Fawkes's translation, leaving us to infer that she had read the author in Greek. By the way, was it not Rogers, or some other incorrigible punster, who, when some Scotch people were extolling M'Adam's roads, and exclaiming, that had he lived in one of the ancient republics, public honours would have been decreed to him, slily remarked; “Yes, they would have called him Apollonius of Rhodes."
When I got home, I swore (the oath is registered in heaven) that I would never again sit down with a Blue Woman. It may be difficult, I said, to get a camel through the eye of a needle, but it shall be just as difficult to get me into Threadneedle Street again. My girls, who had watched the symptoms of disgust and wearisomeness which I had brought back with me, asked me how I could be insensible to the charms of Mrs. _'s conversation? I felt the subject at my heart. They had been well educated within
the range of female acquirements. I trembled lest their sound and unperverted understandings should be tinged with the fainted hues of bluism ;that, tempted by such examples, they should overleap the decent boundary that reason, custom, and good taste have prescribed to the intellectual aspirings of their sex. Mrs.
therefore, served me for a sort of clinical lecture.
“I am not surprised," I said, “ that your inexperience should have led you to imagine the homage she apparently receives, to be the tribute justly levied by her genius and learning. I shall shock you by saying, that she is deficient in both. In her youth, she had a natural smartness, like Miss Never-out's in Swift's Polite Conversations. But that is all. It must have been some demon that whispered to her, 'Set up for a belle-esprit. Her reading is slight and desultory. You know not yet the facility with which false literary pretences pass off. A dashing off-hand habit of interposing an opinion on every topic, a promptitude in gathering up the odds and ends of other people's remarks, and hazarding them as her own-this went a great way to establish her. No one questions female pretensions; they are conceded by your sex through ignorance, and from gallantry by ours. She has, indeed, some dexterity in escaping out of her almost perpetual blunders, and Mrs. Malapropisms; yet, what but the grossest flattery should have cradled her in these strange literary illusions, and seduced her into her ridiculous and insane conviction of her own erudition? I am out of patience. Whip me these accursed flatterers !
“Yet, if she had had certificates from every university in Europe, I should be slow to admit her proud pretensions to taste and genius; for she has no heart, unless that cold, withered part of her anatomy be called one, which throbs but for herself ; which is stone-dead to every other affection; which never knew a charity, but that which both begins and ends at home, nor ever beat one pulsation the quicker for sufferings that did not affect herself. Is it a paradox, that good feeling and genius are inseparable ? No: to divorce them is so far forth to repeal the ordinances of
"I hate the pedantry of definition, and who yet has defined what genius is? But what is it, or why was it given, if it remains a bleak, barren waste, where the social charities wither and will not grow; if it does not instinctively propel us to concur in the grand harmony which results from mutual love, mutual sympathy, mutual pity—the golden cords that connect us with Heaven? And what is woman, when the kindly affections have not their accustomed altar in her bosom? What is she under the feverish influence of a false ambition, mingling in pursuits, and emulous of a fame alike alien from her destination, and her duty ? What even are her triumphs, but those of a deserter, who has stolen away from his lawful camp, and whose victories are his disgraces ? What does she aspire after ? Has not Providence benignantly planted her in the smiling paradise of domestic love, transmuting, by a precious alchemy, even her labours and her sufferings into delights ?
The fit was on me, and I should have proceeded, but I perceived a fair dissentient ready to cut short my tirade, by reminding me of many females of our day, high in letters, and in virtue. I explained. Such women as those she men
tioned were not to be confounded with the coxcombs in sarcenet, who enter into discussions they do not understand, handle words they cannot pronounce, and talk of books, of which they have read no more than the titles. The late venerable Mrs. Barbauld, Lady Dacre, Mrs. Tighe, Mrs. Hemans — to these distinguished women, he must be a blind stickler for male prerogative, who would deny their undoubted superiority. I have been in the society of each. They entered with ease and unaffected grace into the casual conversation of the moment; made their remarks with simplicity, and said nothing for the sake of effect; showing the utmost tolerance to others, and with sweet and encouraging smiles helping on the young and the diffident. Real knowledge fed the thoughts and the fancies of these ladies. They were never like Mrs. driven to the desperate resource of reading in the morning, and then forcing on the topic in the evening. Here ended my lecture.
But if the above be the character of many of the literary meetings of the day, it will not apply to all ; for no doubt there are Clubs thus styled