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Of him that just carried a halbert;
That a dunce of no letters
Should hector his betters,
Let's be broke ev'ry one,
Nor be so ill serv'd
To be left to be starv'd,
For your own and our ease, "To relieve us without hesitation,
For the grievances told
Are as frequent and old, As any besides in the nation.
And chuse a committee,
Our request do not spurn,
Nor vote it to burn With a nemine contradicente.
19. To this if you yield,
Our mouths shall be fill'd With encomiums of your piety;
Whose excellent fame
We will loudly proclaim, And worship next that of the Deity.
20. When thus you remove
What we disapprove, We all, down to Z from the letter A,
By night and by day,
Will fervently pray, As in duty bound, &c. a.
Ladies of London and Westminster,
HONOURABLE HOUSE FOR HUSBANDS. London : Printed for Mary Want-man, the Fore-maid of the Petitioners; and sold by A. Roper, in Fleet-street, 1693. Quarto, containing four pages.
We know you are harrassed with petitions from all quarters of
the nation ; for to whom shonld the miserable subject apply himself for a redress of his just grievances, but to this awful assembly? At present you have no less than the safety of all Europe, and that of England in particular, depending upon your supplies and assistance; yet, you sometimes condescend to entertain yourselves with things of far less importance. Give us leave, therefore, to lay our lamentable condition before you, and to expect a relief from your generous appearing in our behalf. We demand nothing but what is highly reasonable and advantageous to the state, nothing but what the laws of God, nature, and the end of our creation plead for, and, next to what immediately employs your counsels at this juncture, we offer a matter of the highest consequence that ever came within your walls.
You need not be reminded with what scorn and contempt the holy state of matrimony has of late years been treated: every nasty scribbler of the town has pelted it in his wretched lampoons ; it has been persecuted in sonnet, ridiculed at court, exposed on the theatre, and that so often, that the subject is now exhausted and barren; so that, if no new efforts have been lately made against our sex's charter, we are not to ascribe it either to the good goodnáture, or conversion of the men, but only to the want of fresh matter and argument. What afflicts us most, is to find persons of good sense and gravity, considerable for their estates and fortunes, so shamefully laid aside from their duty by the feeble sophistry of these little unthinking rhjming creatures; and to see that a scurrilous
to the tune of a Dog with a bottle,' shall make a greater impression upon them than all the wholesome precepts of the apostles put together.
One, forsooth, is mortally afraid lest his head should ach within a fortnight, or so, after marriage ;- and yet makes no conscience of filling his carcass every night with filthy stummed wine, which in all piobability will sooner give him a fever, than a wife confer a pair of horns upon him. A second professes he has an invincible avere sion to the squalling of children, and rocking of cradles, though the sot can sit a whole day at Wills, amidst the eternal quarrel of the no-wits, and the endless disputes of the no-politicians. A third is apprehensive of the thing called curtain-lectures, as the nauseous fellows love to talk; and yet suffer themselves to be tamely rid by common, ungrateful Hackney-prostitutes
. A fourth bas a great respect to his own dear person, and thinks that a wife will drain him to mere skin and bones, who for all that so manages himself as to have occasion to visit Dr. * Wall twice a quarter.
Lastly, the graver sort exclaim at the caudles, the pins, the midwives, the nurses, and other concomitants of wedlock; they pretend the taxes run high, and that a spouse is an expensive animal ; little considering that they throw away more upon their dearly beloved vanities than would maintain a wife and half a dozen children.
These are the common topicks against matrimony; and yet, to behold the vanity of these pretences, they immediately disappear and vanish, as soon as a good fortune comes in their way.
Shew the sparks but a rich heiress, or an old griping alderman's daughter, and they soon forget curtain-lectures and cuckoldom, consumptions and skeletons, pins and caudles, impertinence and confinement, with the rest of their terrible objections. Then you hear not a syllable of liberty; but, oh! what a blessed, what a comfortable thing is a wife ! nay, a widow, though past fifty, and as ugly as one of the witches in Macbeth, if she has but store of money, shall
go down as glibly with them as the new oaths for preferment at court, without the least wry face or remorse of conscience; and the vain coxcombs think themselves as happy, as if they had got both the Indies for their possession.
But though the laity, not to mince matters, have almost uni. versally degenerated in this wicked age; yet we bless Heaven, that our sex has still found the benefit of the clergy, and that the churchmen have been our surest and best friends all along. Had not these pious gentlemen taken pity of our condition, how many superan. . nuated chambermaids had lain neglected, how many languishing farmers' daughters gone the way of all flesh without propagating their kind ? Whatever prevarications they have made in other parts of the Bible, we have, to our unspeakable comfort, found that they have kept constant to the text, Increase and multiply; and indeed it was but reasonable, that these people, who are every moment trumping their Jure Divino upon the world, should by their own example support and countenance that sort of life, which is as much Jure Divino as the priesthood.
We never questioned, notwithstanding the unwearied attempts of our adversaries to render marriage contemptible, both in their writings and conversation, but that nature, mere nature, without any endeavours of our own, would have reduced the men long since to a true sense of their duty, had it not been for the two following impediments. The first is wine, which we that are maids have as
much reason to complain of as those that are married. It is a burning shame, and it highly concerns the wisdom of the nation to prevent it, that the young fellows of the town should so scandalously abandon themselves to the bottle. They ply their glasses too warmly to think of any thing else; and, if the liquor happens to inspire them with any kind inclinations, the next street furnishes them with store of conveniences to relieve their appetite. And this leads us to the second block in our way, which is the intolerable multitude of mistresses, who, to the great prejudice of the publick, divert the course of those streams, which would otherwise run in the regular channel of matrimony. As long as these contraband commodities are encouraged or connived at, it can not be expected that virtuous women should bear a good market-price, or that marriage should flourish.
It would look like affectation or vanity in those of our sex, whom the malicious world supposes to be conversant in nothing else but books of receipts and romances, to acquaint so experienced and learned a body as yours is, how highly marriage was reverenced, and how industriously cultivated by the wisest governments in the world. The examples of Athens and Sparta are too, notorious to be long insisted upon. Those were glorious places for us, poor women, to live in; a man there could neither be church-warden or constable, nay, nor be concerned in the meanest, most scoundrel parish offices, unless he was married. An old musty batchelor was pointed at like a monster; they looked upon such a one to be disaffected to the state, and therefore as constantly indicted him every quarter-sessions for letting his talent lie unemployed, as now we do Jacobites, and false retailers of news. The same policy was observed at Rome, where the Jus Trium Liberorum, the privilege of those that had got three children, was one of the greatest favours; the
emperor could bestow upon a subject, and was courted with as, vigorous an application as a knighthood is now-a-days. By this means that victorious city arrived to the empire of the world ; and we, if we would beat the French into better manners, must follow the same conduct : but it grieves our hearts to consider, that in a christian, and much more in a protestant country, we are forced to stir up the charity of well-disposed persons by citing pagan examples.
We therefore humbly petition you, that, for the increase of their ; majesties liege people, in whom the power and strength of a nation consists, and for the utter discouragement of celibacy, and all its wicked works, you would be pleased to enact,
First, That all men, of what quality and degree soever, should be obliged to marry as soon as they are one and twenty; and that those persons, who decline so doing, shall, for their liberty, as they are pleased to miscall it, pay yearly to the state, which we leave to your discretion to make as great or as little as you shall think fit, one moiety whereof shall go to the king, towards the payment of his army in Flanders, and the rest be distributed amongst poor housekeepers, that have not sufficient to maintain their wives and respec
tive families, by such married officers as you shall nominate and appoint.
Secondly, That no excuse shall be admitted, but only that of natural frigidity or impotence ; which, that it may not be pretended when there is no just occasion for it, and likewise that impotent persons may not, to the disappointment of their spouses, enter into the holy state of matrimony, there shall be erected, in every county in England, a court of judicature, composed of half a score experienced matrons or midwives, who, by a writ of De maritali supellectile inspicienda, may summon, or cause to be summoned, all such people as pretend the above-mentioned excuse, or are justly sus, pected thereof.
Thirdly, Since it is found by experience, that the generality of young men are such idolaters of the bottle, and that wine is the most powerful rival which the ladies have reason to be jealous of, that no person whatsoever shall be privileged to enter a tavern who is not married, under pain of having his wig and gilt snuff-box confiscated Toties quoties.
Fourthly, That every poet, or pretender to be a poet, or any one that has hired a poet to write any play, satyr, lampoon, or song, to the derogation of the matrimonial state, shall be obliged to marry before Lady-day next ensuing, and to make a solemn recantation of all, and every wicked thing by him uttered in any play, satyr, song, or lampoon, to the derogation of the matrimonial state; that all such disaffected papers shall be called in, and publickly burnt by the hands of twelve city clergymen's wives, on next St. Valentine's day.
Lastly, That to prevent the grievous multitudes of, and frequent resorts to misses and harlots, every person of quality pretending to keep a miss, after the commencing of this act, shall be enjoined, in order to his farther punishment, to keep a regiment of foot for his majesty's service upon the Rhine; or, in case he chuses to disband her, to dispose of her in marriage to his footman and groom, and allow them wherewith to set up a coffee-house. And, as for the inferior harlots, all justices of peace and constables shall execute the laws against them.
Having thus, most noble patriots, laid open our grievances before you, we doubt not but you will take effectual care to redress them. Could you condescend so low, as to debate about making the rivers Wye and Lug navigable; and will you not endeavour, as much as in you lies, to unite the male-streams with the female ? Could you think it worth the while to take care of the propagation of woods, the draining of the fens, and the converting of pastures into arable land; and will you not much more encourage the propagation of mankind, the draining of the superfluous humours of the body politick, and provide, that so many longing young ladies shall not lie unploughed, unharrowed, and uncultivated ? Besides, there was never a fitter occasion for such a bill, than what offers itself at present: the mighty numbers of men that our wars carry off in Flanders, with the little or no increase at home to balance the