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[111] affections of the heart than of the powers of the mind, and it is for this reason that ladies commonly excel us in epistolary writing. I know of no reading more dry and uninteresting than the letters of great men; I mean particularly among the moderns, for those of Cicero and Pliny I never read, and of course pretend not to judge of their merit. I am not so gallant as to acknowledge that females possess a superiority of intellect, nor so illiberal as to deny them an equality; but in all the requisites necessary to the attainment of a pleasing and interesting style of letter-writing they are far above us.


This was not a bit of dulcet flattery, for it was addressed to a man. It was founded on an observation that we all may make. We listen to the reading of letters from some foreign country, perhaps. If they are written by a man, they may be very good, perhaps brilliant; but if so, it is probably because the man himself is known as brilliant; we are rarely surprised by finding a man's letters much better than we should have expected of him. With women, on the other hand, the surprise is constant; we may almost say that every woman writes better letters than we should expect of her; that a third-rate woman writes better than any but a first-rate man. Whence is this difference?

1 “Life and letters,” p. 14.

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M. T. Cicero (1)
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