Three Rivers
Hudson~Mohawk~Schoharie
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

Fenelon's Treatise
on the
Education of Daughters;
Translanted from the French and Adapted to English Readers
With an Original Chapter, "On Religious Studies."
By the Rev. T. F. Dibdin, B. A. F. A. S
Albany; printed and published by Backus and Whiting, 1806.

Chapter IX.
Remarks on Ordinary Defects Among Girls.

WE are now to speak of the care and attention which are requisite to preserve girls from many defects to which they are too commonly addicted.- They are oftentimes brought up in so ; effeminate and timid a manner, as to be rendered incapable of a firm and regular conduct. At first there is much affectation, which afterwards become habitual, in those ill-founded tears, and in those tears, which are so cheaply and plentifully bestowed. A contempt of such affectations would operate greatly in correcting them ; as they are in a considerable degree the offspring of vanity.

They should also be repressed in the indulgence of too violent friendships, little jealousies, excessive compliments, and flatteries : all these things spoil them, and accustom them to imagine that dryness and austerity belongs to every thing which is serious and grave. We should strive to effect this, so that their common mode of parlance be short and precise. A good understanding consists in retrenching all superfluous discourse, and in saying much in few words :- whereas, the greater part of women say little in many words. They mistake facility of utterance and vivacity of imagination for good sense : they make no selection of their thoughts : they observe no order in regard to the things they have to explain : they are passionate in every thing they utter, and passion produces loquacity.- Nothing very excellent can be expected of a woman, if she is not obliged to reflect on consequences, to examine her thoughts, to explain them in a precise manner, and afterwards to be silent.

Another circumstance which greatly contributes to the loquacity of women, is, that they are naturally artificial, and use a found-about manner to arrive at the proper end. They are fond of finesse : and how is it possible they should be otherwise, when they are ignorant of a more prudent method -and when it is usually the first thing which example has taught them ? They have a soft and ductile nature which enables them easily to play a part in every thing : tears cost them nothing : their passions are lively, and their knowledge limited :- hence it is that they neglect nothing to come off successful--and that they admire certain methods, which to a serious and prudent woman would appear very exceptionable : they seldom stop to enquire whether such a thing is desirable, but are anxious and indefatigable only in obtaining it.- Add to this, they are timid and full of what is called " mauvais honte ;"- which is another source of dissimulation. The method of preventing so great an evil, is, never to put them under a necessity of finessing, but accustom them to declare ingenuously their sentiments upon every lawful topic.- Let them be at liberty to express their enniu whenever they feel it: and let them never be subjected to feign an admiration of certain persons or certain books, which in reality displease them.

Sometimes a mother is prejudiced against a governess, and undertakes the management of the child herself, while the daughter cunningly acts contrary to her taste. When children are so wretched that they are under the necessity of disguising their sentiments, the way of extricating them from such a dilemma, is, to instruct them solidly in the maxims of true prudence-as one perceives that the method of correcting a taste for novels and romances, is, by exciting a turn for useful and agreeable histories. If you do not encourage a rational curiosity, they will entertain an irrational one-in like manner, if you do not form their minds on the principles of true prudence, they will become attached to falsehood, which is, in fact, finesse.

Shew them, by examples, how one is able, without duplicity, to be discreet, foresighted, and attached to legitimate means of succeeding. Tell them that prudence consists chiefly in speaking little--in entertaining a greater distrust of oneself than of others, and not in uttering false sentiments, and playing a deceitful part. An upright conduct, and a general reputation for integrity, begets more confidence and esteem, and, in the tend, even more temporal advantages, than perverse and suspicious habits. How much does this judicious rectitude of conduct distinguish a person, and render her fit for the most important undertakings !

But add, how base and contemptible is premeditated finesse ! it is either 6n account of some trifle which one is ashamed to mention, or it must be considered as a pernicious passion.- When one wishes for that which it is lawful to wish for, the request is made openly- and it is sought for in a direct and proper method, with moderation. What is there more delightful and agreeable, than to be sincere ? always tranquil-always content-having nothing to fear or to feign ? On the contrary, a dissimulating character is always in agitation"--remorse--and danger-and under the deplorable necessity of covering one finesse by substituting an hundred others.

With all these shameful disquietudes, artificial characters never escape that misery from which they are constantly flying-sooner or later their real character will appear. If the world has been their dupe in some single action, it will not continue so during the whole of their lives : oftentimes they are the dupes of those whom they wished to deceive ; for there is sometimes an appearance of being dazzled by them, and they think themselves beloved-at the very moment, perhaps, when they are despised. At least they cannot prevent suspicion and can any thing be more contrary to the rational interests of a prudent woman, than to see herself always suspected ? Unfold these things by degrees-according as opportunity, necessity, or the bent of your pupil's intellect, may suggest.

Observe, however, that cunning (or finesse) is always the offspring of a base heart and narrow-minded spirit. In proportion as we wish to conceal our views we become cunning-being convinced that we are not as we ought to be - or, that, seeking for lawful objects, we adopt unworthy means of obtaining them-which arises from our ignorance in seeking such objects. Make children remark the impertinence of certain artifices that they see practised--the contempt which it draws on those practising them-and lastly, make them ashamed of themselves when you detect them in some dissimulation. As they grow up, deprive them of what they love, when they wish to obtain it by artifice-but declare, that they shall possess it when they ask openly : do not be afraid even of indulging their little weaknesses, in order to give them an opportunity and the courage of shewing them. False shame is the most dangerous of evils and the most difficult to cure ; and this too, if great care be not taken, will render all others irremediable.

Paint, in their proper colours, those infamous artifices by which they would wish to deceive their neighbour without having the reproach of deceiving him : there is more perfidy and knavery in these refinements, than in common artifices. Some people, one may say, boldly practice deception- but wretches of the preceding description, add novelty and disguise to authorise it. Tell a child that God is truth itself--that it is mocking him when we jest at truth in our discourse which should be precise and correct, and should consist in few words, that truth be not violated.

Be on your guard not to imitate those who applaud children, when they have discovered sharpness of intellect by some finesse. Far from supposing these tricks pretty and diverting, check them severely-and manage it so, that all their artifice may end unsuccessfully, and experience at last may disgust them with it. In praising them for such and such faults, we, in fact, persuade them that -ability and deception are one and the same thing.

Copyright 1998, -- 2003. Berry Enterprises. All rights reserved. All items on the site are copyrighted. While we welcome you to use the information provided on this web site by copying it, or downloading it; this information is copyrighted and not to be reproduced for distribution, sale, or profit.

Contents Introduction Links Home