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in governing them : some pleaded their unspotted virginity ; others their numerous issue: some valued themselves as they were the mothers, and others as they were the daughters, of considerable persons. There was not a single accomplishment unmentioned, or unpractised. The whole congregation was full of singing, dancing, tossing, ogling, squeaking, smiling, sighing, fanning, frowning, and all those irresistible arts which women put in practice, to captivate the hearts of reasonable creatures. The goddess, to end this dispute, caused it to be proclaimed, that every one should take place according as she was more or. less beautiful.' This declaration gave great satisfaction to the whole assembly, which immediately bridled up, and appeared in all its beauties. Such as believed themselves graceful in their motion found an occasion of falling back, advancing forward, or making a false step, that they might show their persons in the most becoming air. Such as had fine necks and bosoms were wonderfully curious to look over the heads of the multitude, and observe the most distant parts of the assembly. Several clapt their hands on their foreheads, as helping their sight to look upon the glories that surrounded the goddess, but in reality to show fine hands and arms. The ladies were yet better pleased, when they heard that, in the decision of this great controversy, each of them should be her own judge, and take her place according to her own opinion of herself, when she consulted her lookingglass.'
The goddess then let down the mirror of truth by a golden chain, which appeared larger in proportion as it descended and approached nearer to the eyes of the beholders. It was the particular property of this looking-glass, to banish all false appearances, and show people what they are. The whole woman was
represented, without regard to the usual external features, which were made entirely conformable to their real characters. In short, the most accomplished, taking in the whole circle of female perfections, were the most beautiful ; and the most defective, the most deformed. The goddess so varied the motion of the glass, and placed it in so many different lights, that each had an opportunity of seeing herself in it.
It is impossible to describe the rage, the pleasure, or astonishment, that appeared in each face upon its representation in the mirror; multitudes started at their own form, and would have broke the glass if they could have reached it. Many saw their blooming features wither as they looked upon them, and their self-admiration turned into a loathing and abhorrence. The lady who was thought so agreeable in her anger, and was so often celebrated for a woman of fire and spirit, was frighted at her own image, and fancied she saw a Fury in the glass. The interested mistress beheld a Harpy, and the subtle jilt a Sphinx. I was very much troubled in my own heart to see such a destruction of fine faces; but, at the same time, had the pleasure of seeing several improved, which I had before looked upon as the greatest master-pieces of nature. I observed, that some few were so humble as to be surprized at their own charms, and that many a one, who had lived in the retirement and severity of a Vestal, shined forth in all the graces and attractions of a Siren. I was ravished at the sight of a particular image in the mirror, which I think the most beautiful object that my eyes ever beheld. There was something more than human in her countenance; her eyes were so full of light, that they seemed to beautify every thing they looked upon. Her face was enlivened with such a florid bloom, as did not so properly seem the mark of health, as of immortality.
Her shape, her stature, and her mien, were such as distinguished her even there, where the whole fair sex was assembled.
I was impatient to see the lady represented by so divine an image, whom I found to be the person that stood at my right hand, and in the same point of view with myself. This was a little old woman, who in her prime had been about five feet high, though at present shrunk to about three quarters of that measure. Her natural aspect was puckered up with wrinkles, and her head covered with gray hairs. I had observed all along an innocent cheerfulness in her face, which was now heightened into rapture, as she beheld herself in the glass. It was an odd circumstance in my dream, but I cannot forbear relating it, I conceived so great an inclination towards her, that I had thoughts of discoursing her upon the point of marriage, when on a sudden she was carried from me; for the word was now given, that all who were pleased with their own images should separate, and place themselves at the head of their sex. .
This detachment was afterwards divided into three bodies, consisting of maids, wives, and widows; the wives being placed in the middle, with the maids on the right, and widows on the left; though it was with difficulty that these two last bodies were hindered from falling into the centre. This separation of those who liked their real selves not having lessened the number of the main body so considerably as it might have been wished, the goddess, after having drawn up her mirror, thought fit to make new distinctions among those who did not like the figure which they saw in it. She made several wholesome edicts, which are slipped out of my mind; but there were two which dwelt upon me, as being very extraordinary in their kind, and executed with great severity. Their design was, to make an example of two extremes in the female world ; of those who are very severe on the conduct of others, and of those who are very regardless of their own. The first sentence, therefore, the goddess pronounced was, that all females addicted to censoriousness and detraction should lose the use of speech; a punishment which would be the most grievous to the offender, and, what should be the end of all punishments, effectual for rooting out the crime. Upon this edict, which was as soon executed as published, the noise of the assembly very considerably abated. It was a melancholy spectacle, to see so many who had the reputation of rigid virtue struck dumb. A lady who stood by me, and saw my concern, told me, she wondered how I could be concerned for such a pack of ' I found, by the shaking of her head, she was going to give me their characters; but, by her saying no more, I perceived she had lost the command of her tongue. This calamity fell very heavy upon that part of women who are distinguished by the name of Prudes, a courtly word for female hypocrites, who have a short way to being virtuous, by showing that others are vicious. The second sentence was then pronounced against the loose part of the sex, that all should immediately be pregnant, who in any part of their lives had ran the hazard of it. This produced a very goodly appearance, and revealed so many misconducts, that made those who were lately struck dumb repine more than ever at their want of utterance ; though at the same time, as afflictions seldom come single, many of the mutes were also seized with this new calamity. The ladies were now in such a condition, that they would have wanted room, had not the plain been large enough to let them divide their ground, and extend their lines on all sides. It was a sensible af.
fliction to me, to see such a multitude of fair ones, either dumb or big-bellied. But I was something more at ease, when I found that they agreed upon several regulations to cover such misfortunes. Among others, that it should be an established maxim in all nations, that a woman's first child might come into the world within six months after her acquaintance with her husband; and that grief might retard the birth of her last till fourteen months after his decease.
This vision lasted till my usual hour of waking, which I did with some surprize, to find myself alone, after having been engaged almost a whole night in so prodigious a multitude. I could not but reflect with wonder at the partiality and extravagance of my vi. sion ; which, according to my thoughts, has not done justice to the sex. If virtue in men is more venerable, it is in women more lovely ; which Milton has very finely expressed in his Paradise Lost, where Adam, speaking of Eve, after having asserted his own pre-eminence, as being first in creation and internal faculties, breaks out into the following rapture:
- Yet when I approach