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A certain Abbot paying a Visit to a Lady, finds her reading Greek and Latin Authors. A Dispute arises, whence Pleasantness of Life proceeds: viz. Not from external Enjoyments, but from the Study of Wisdom. An ignorant Abbot will by no Means have his Monks to be learned; nor has he himself so much as a single Book in his Closet. Pious Women in old Times gave their Minds to the Study of the Scriptures; but Monks that hate Learning, and give themselves up to Luxury, Idleness, and Hunting, are provok'd to apply themselves to other Kinds of Studies, more becoming their Profession.


Ant. What Sort of Houshold-Stuff do I see?

Mag. Is it not that which is neat?

Ant. How neat it is, I can't tell, but I'm sure, it is not very becoming, either a Maid or a Matron.

Mag. Why so?

Ant. Because here's Books lying about every where.

Mag. What have you liv'd to this Age, and are both an Abbot and a Courtier, and never saw any Books in a Lady's Apartment?

Ant. Yes, I have seen Books, but they were French; but here I see Greek and Latin ones.

Mag. Why, are there no other Books but French ones that teach Wisdom?

Ant. But it becomes Ladies to have something that is diverting, to pass away their leisure Hours.

Mag. Must none but Ladies be wise, and live pleasantly?

Ant. You very improperly connect being wise, and living pleasantly together: Women have nothing to do with Wisdom; Pleasure is Ladies Business.

Mag. Ought not every one to live well?

Ant. I am of Opinion, they ought so to do.

Mag. Well, can any Body live a pleasant Life, that does not live a good Life.

Ant. Nay, rather, how can any Body live a pleasant Life, that does live a good Life?

Mag. Why then, do you approve of living illy, if it be but pleasantly?

Ant. I am of the Opinion, that they live a good Life, that live a pleasant Life.

Mag. Well, but from whence does that Pleasure proceed? From outward Things, or from the Mind?

Ant. From outward Things.

Mag. O subtle Abbot, but thick-skull'd Philosopher! Pray tell me in what you suppose a pleasant Life to consist?

Ant. Why, in Sleeping, and Feasting, and Liberty of doing what you please, in Wealth, and in Honours.

Mag. But suppose to all these Things God should add Wisdom, should you live pleasantly then?

Ant. What is it that you call by the Name of Wisdom?

Mag. This is Wisdom, to know that a Man is only happy by the Goods of the Mind. That Wealth, Honour, and Descent, neither make a Man happier or better.

Ant. If that be Wisdom, fare it well for me.

Mag. Suppose now that I take more Pleasure in reading a good Author, than you do in Hunting, Drinking, or Gaming; won't you think I live pleasantly?

Ant. I would not live that Sort of Life.

Mag. I don't enquire what you take most Delight in; but what is it that ought to be most delighted in?

Ant. I would not have my Monks mind Books much.

Mag. But my Husband approves very well of it. But what Reason have you, why you would not have your Monks bookish?

Ant. Because I find they are not so obedient; they answer again out of the Decrees and Decretals of Peter and Paul.

Mag. Why then do you command them the contrary to what Peter and Paul did?

Ant. I can't tell what they teach; but I can't endure a Monk that answers again: Nor would I have any of my Monks wiser than I am myself.

Mag. You might prevent that well enough, if you did but lay yourself out, to get as much Wisdom as you can.

Ant. I han't Leisure.

Mag. Why so?

Ant. Because I han't Time.

Mag. What, not at Leisure to be wise?

Ant. No.

Mag. Pray what hinders you?

Ant. Long Prayers, the Affairs of my Houshold, Hunting, looking after my Horses, attending at Court.

Mag. Well, and do you think these Things are better than Wisdom?

Ant. Custom has made it so.

Mag. Well, but now answer me this one Thing: Suppose God should grant you this Power, to be able to turn yourself and your Monks into any Sort of Animal that you had a Mind: Would you turn them into Hogs, and yourself into a Horse?

Ant. No, by no Means.

Mag. By doing so you might prevent any of them from being wiser than yourself?

Ant. It is not much Matter to me what Sort of Animals my Monks are, if I am but a Man myself.

Mag. Well, and do you look upon him to be a Man that neither has Wisdom, nor desires to have it?

Ant. I am wise enough for myself.

Mag. And so are Hogs wise enough for themselves.

Ant. You seem to be a Sophistress, you argue so smartly.

Mag. I won't tell you what you seem to me to be. But why does this Houshold-Stuff displease you?

Ant. Because a Spinning-Wheel is a Woman's Weapon.

Mag. Is it not a Woman's Business to mind the Affairs of her Family, and to instruct her Children?

Ant. Yes, it is.

Mag. And do you think so weighty an Office can be executed without Wisdom?

Ant. I believe not.

Mag. This Wisdom I learn from Books.

Ant. I have threescore and two Monks in my Cloister, and you will not see one Book in my Chamber.

Mag. The Monks are finely look'd after all this While.

Ant. I could dispense with Books; but I can't bear Latin Books.

Mag. Why so?

Ant. Because that Tongue is not fit for a Woman.

Mag. I want to know the Reason.

Ant. Because it contributes nothing towards the Defence of their Chastity.

Mag. Why then do French Books that are stuff'd with the most trifling Novels, contribute to Chastity?

Ant. But there is another Reason.

Mag. Let it be what it will, tell me it plainly.

Ant. They are more secure from the Priests, if they don't understand Latin.

Mag. Nay, there's the least Danger from that Quarter according to your Way of Working; because you take all the Pains you can not to know any Thing of Latin.

Ant. The common People are of my Mind, because it is such a rare unusual Thing for a Woman to understand Latin.

Mag. What do you tell me of the common People for, who are the worst Examples in the World that can be follow'd. What have I to do with Custom, that is the Mistress of all evil Practices? We ought to accustom ourselves to the best Things: And by that Means, that which was uncustomary would become habitual, and that which was unpleasant would become pleasant; and that which seemed unbecoming would look graceful.

Ant. I hear you.

Mag. Is it becoming a German Woman to learn to speak French.

Ant. Yes it is.

Mag. Why is it?

Ant. Because then she will be able to converse with those that speak French.

Mag. And why then is it unbecoming in me to learn Latin, that I may be able daily to have Conversation with so many eloquent, learned and wise Authors, and faithful Counsellors?

Ant. Books destroy Women's Brains, who have little enough of themselves.

Mag. What Quantity of Brains you have left I cannot tell: And as for myself, let me have never so little, I had rather spend them in Study, than in Prayers mumbled over without the Heart going along with them, or sitting whole Nights in quaffing off Bumpers.

Ant. Bookishness makes Folks mad.

Mag. And does not the Rattle of your Pot-Companions, your Banterers, and Drolls, make you mad?

Ant. No, they pass the Time away.

Mag. How can it be then, that such pleasant Companions should make me mad?

Ant. That's the common Saying.

Mag. But I by Experience find quite the contrary. How many more do we see grow mad by hard drinking, unseasonable feasting, and sitting up all Night tippling, which destroys the Constitution and Senses, and has made People mad?

Ant. By my Faith, I would not have a learned Wife.

Mag. But I bless myself, that I have gotten a Husband that is not like yourself. Learning both endears him to me, and me to him.

Ant. Learning costs a great Deal of Pains to get, and after all we must die.

Mag. Notable Sir, pray tell me, suppose you were to die to-Morrow, had you rather die a Fool or a wise Man?

Ant. Why, a wise Man, if I could come at it without taking Pains.

Mag. But there is nothing to be attained in this Life without Pains; and yet, let us get what we will, and what Pains soever we are at to attain it, we must leave it behind us: Why then should we think much to be at some Pains for the most precious Thing of all, the Fruit of which will bear us Company unto another Life.

Ant. I have often heard it said, that a wise Woman is twice a Fool.

Mag. That indeed has been often said; but it was by Fools. A Woman that is truly wise does not think herself so: But on the contrary, one that knows nothing, thinks her self to be wise, and that is being twice a Fool.

Ant. I can't well tell how it is, that as Panniers don't become an Ox, so neither does Learning become a Woman.

Mag. But, I suppose, you can't deny but Panniers will look better upon an Ox, than a Mitre upon an Ass or a Sow. What think you of the Virgin Mary?

Ant. Very highly.

Mag. Was not she bookish?

Ant. Yes; but not as to such Books as these.

Mag. What Books did she read?

Ant. The canonical Hours.

Mag. For the Use of whom?

Ant. Of the Order of Benedictines.

Mag. Indeed? What did Paula and Eustochium do? Did not they converse with the holy Scriptures?

Ant. Ay, but this is a rare Thing now.

Mag. So was a blockheaded Abbot in old Time; but now nothing is more common. In old Times Princes and Emperors were as eminent for Learning as for their Governments: And after all, it is not so great a Rarity as you think it. There are both in Spain and Italy not a few Women, that are able to vye with the Men, and there are the Morites in England, and the Bilibald-duks and Blaureticks in Germany. So that unless you take Care of yourselves it will come to that Pass, that we shall be Divinity-Professors in the Schools, and preach in the Churches, and take Possession of your Mitres.

Ant. God forbid.

Mag. Nay it is your Business to forbid it. For if you hold on as you have begun, even Geese themselves will preach before they'll endure you a Parcel of dumb Teachers. You see the World is turn'd up-Side down, and you must either lay aside your Dress, or perform your Part.

Ant. How came I to fall into this Woman's Company? If you'll come to see me, I'll treat you more pleasantly.

Mag. After what Manner?

Ant. Why, we'll dance, and drink heartily, and hunt and play, and laugh.

Mag. I can hardly forbear laughing now.

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