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copia verborum, or plenty of words, it is pity they should not put it to some use.
If the female tongue will be in motion, why should it not be set to go right? Could they discourse about the spots in the sun, it might divert them from publishing the faults of their neighbours: could they talk of the different aspects and conjunctions of the planets, they need not be at the pains to comment upon oglings and clandestine marriages. In short, were they furnished with matters of fact, out of arts and sciences, it would now and then be of great ease to their invention.
There is another reason why those, especially who are women of quality, should apply themselves to letters; namely, because their husbands are generally strangers to them.
It is great pity there should be no knowledge in a family. For my own part, I am concerned when I go into a great house, where perhaps there is not a single person that can spell, unless it be by chance the butler, or one of the footmen. What a figure is the young heir likely to make, who is a dunce both by father and mother's side ?
If we look into the histories of famous women, we find many eminent philosophers of this sex. Nay, we find that several females have distinguished themselves in those sects of philosophy which seem almost repugnant to their natures. There have been famous female Pythagoreans, notwithstanding most of that philosophy consisted in keeping a secret, and that the disciple was to hold her tongue five years together. I need not mention Portia, who was a stoic in petticoats: nor Hipparchia, the famous she cynic, who arrived at such a perfection in her studies, that she conversed with her husband, or man-planter, in broad day-light, and in the open streets.
Learning and knowledge are perfections in us, not as we are men, but as we are reasonable creatures, in which order of beings the female world is upon the same level with the male. We ought to consider in Vol. IV.
this particular, not what is the sex, but what is the species to which they belong. At least, I believe every one will allow me, that a female philosopher is not so absurd a character, and so opposite to the sex, as a female gamester; and that it is more irrational for a woman to pass away half a dozen hours at cards or dice, than in getting up stores of useful learning. This therefore is another reason why I would recommend the studies of knowledge to the female world, that they may not be at a loss how to employ those hours that lie upon their hands.
I might also add this motive to my fair readers, that several of their sex, who have improved their minds by books and literature, have raised themselves to the highest posts of honour and fortune. A neighbouring nation may at this time furnish us with a very remarkable instance of this kind, but I shall conclude this head with the history of Athenais, which is a very signal example to my present purpose.
The Emperor Theodosius, being about the age of one and twenty, and designing to take a wife, desired his sister Pulcheria and his friend Paulinus to search his whole empire for a woman of the most exquisite beauty and highest accomplishments. In the midst of this search, Athenais, a Grecian virgin, accidentally offered herself. Her father, who was an eminent philosopher of Athens, and had bred her up in all the leårning of that place, at his death left her but a very small portion, in which also she suffered great hardships from the injustice of her two brothers. This forced her upon a journey to Constantinople, where she had a relation who represented her case to Pulcheria, in order to obtain some redress from the emperor. By this means, that religious princess became acquainted with Athenais, whom she found the most beautiful woman of her age, and educated under a long course of philosophy, in the strictest virtue, and most unspotted innocence. Pulcheria was charmed with her conversation, and immediately made her reports to the emperor, her brother Theodosius. The character she gave made such an impression on him, that he desired his sister to bring her away immediately to the lodgings of his friend Paulinus, where he found her beauty and her conversation beyond the highest idea he had framed of them. His friend Paulinus converted her to christianity, and gave her the name of Eudosia; after which the emperor publicly espoused her, and enjoyed all the happiness in his marriage which he promised himself from such a virtuous and learned bride. She not only forgave the injuries which her two brothers had done her, but raised them to great honours; and by several works of learning, as well as by an exemplary life, made herself so dear to the whole empire, that she had many statues erected to her memory, and is celebrated by the fathers of the church as the ornament of her sex.
No. 156. WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 9.
Magna formica laboris
usquam prorepit, et illis utitur ante
my last Saturday's paper, I supposed a mole-hill, inhabited by pismires or ants, to be a lively image of the earth, peopled by human creatures. sition will not appear too forced or strained to those who are acquainted with the natural history of these little insects, in order to which I shall present my reader with the extract of a letter upon this curious subject, as it was published by the members of the French academy, and since translated into English. I must confess I was never in my life better entertained than with this narrative, which is of undoubted credit and authority
“In a room, next to mine, which had been empty for a long time, there was upon a window a box full of earth, two foot deep, and fit to keep flowers in. That kind of parterre had been long uncultivated; and therefore it was covered with old plaister, and a great deal of rubbish that fell from the top of the house, and from the walls, which, together with the earth formerly imbibed with water, made a kind of dry and barren soil. That place,
That place, lying to the south, and out of the reach of the wind and rain, besides the neighbourhood of a granary, was a most delightful spot of ground for ants; and therefore they had made three nests there, without doubt for the same reason that men build cities in fruitful and convenient places, near springs and rivers.
Having a mind to cultivate some flowers, I took a view of that place, and removed a tulip out of the garden into that box; but casting my eyes upon the ants, continually taken up with a thousand cares, very inconsiderable with respect to us, but of the greatest importance for them, they appeared to me more worthy of my curiosity than all the flowers in the world. I quickly removed the tulip, to be the admirer and restorer of that little commonwealth. This was the only thing they wanted; for their policy, and the order observed among them, are more perfect than those of the wisest republics : and therefore they have nothing to fear, unless a new legislator should attempt to change the form of their government.
“ I made it my business to procure them all sorts of conveniences. I took out of the box every thing that might be troublesome to them, and frequently visited my ants, and studied all their actions. Being used to go to bed very late, I went to see them work in a moon-shiny night; and I did frequently get up in the night, to take a view of their labours. I always found some going up and down, and very busy: one would think that they never sleep. Every body knows that ants come out of their holes in the day time, and ex
pose to the sun the corn which they keep under ground in the night: those who have seen ant-hillocs, have easily perceived those small heaps of corn about their nests. What surprised me at first was, that my ants never brought out their corn, but in the night when the moon did shine, and kept it under ground in the day time; which was contrary to what I had seen, and saw still practised by those insects in other places. I quickly found out the reason of it; there was a pigeonhouse not far from thence: pigeons and birds would have eaten their corn, if they had brought it out in the day time: it is highly probable they knew it by experience; and I frequently found pigeons and birds in that place, when I went to it in a morning. I quickly delivered them from those robbers: I frighted the birds away with some pieces of paper tied to the end of a string over the window. As for the pigeons, I drove them away several times; and when they perceived that the place was more frequented than before, they never came to it again. What is most admirable, and what I could hardly believe, if I did not know it by experience, is, that those ants knew, some days after, that they had nothing to fear, and began to lay out their corn in the sun. However, I perceived they were not fully convinced of being out of all danger; for they durst not bring out their provisions all at once, but by degrees; first in a small quantity, and without any great order, that they might quickly carry them away in case of any misfortune, watching and looking every way. At last, being persuaded that they had nothing to fear, they brought out all their corn, almost every day, and in good order, and carried it in at night.
“There is a straight hole in every ants' nest, about half an inch deep; and then it goes down sloping into a place where they have their magazine; which I take to be a different place from that where they rest and eat.
For it is highly improbable that an ant, which is a very cleanly insect, and throws out of her nest all the small remains of the corn on which she feeds, as I