Concerning the virtues of women.

Concerning the virtues of women, O Clea, I am not of the same mind with Thucydides. For he would prove that she is the best woman concerning whom there is the least discourse made by people abroad, either to her praise or dispraise; judging that, as the person, so the very name of a good woman ought to be retired and not gad abroad. But to us Gorgias seems more accurate,who requires that not only the face but the fame of a woman should be known to many. For the Roman law seems exceeding good, which permits due praises to be given publicly both to men and women after death. Wherefore when Leontis, a most excellent woman, departed this life, immediately we made a long oration to thee about her, and truly not devoid of philosophical consolation; and now (as thou didst desire) I send thee in writing the rest of my speech and conversation, carrying with it an historical demonstration that the virtue of a man and woman is one and the same. And although it be not composed for the tickling of the ear, yet if there be jucundity in the nature of an example to him that is persuaded of the truth of it, my narration fails riot of that grace which works conviction; neither is it ashamed of commixing the Graces with the Muses in the sweetest harmony (as Euripides saith), while it engageth confidence especially through that part of the soul which is studious of grace and beauty. For surely, if, whilst we asserted the art of painting to be the same, whether performed [p. 341] by men or women, we produced the same sort of draughts wrought by women which Apelles, Zeuxis, or Nicomachus hath left, is there any one who would reprehend us as attempting rather to humor and cajole men than to convince them? Verily I do not think it. Moreover, if, whilst we go to make appear that the poetic or comic art is not one thing in men and another in women, we compare Sappho's verses with Anacreon's, or the Sibylline oracles with those of Bacis, can any one justly blame this way of argumentation, because it insinuates a credence into the pleased and delighted hearers? No one surely would say this. Neither can a man truly any waybetter learn the resemblance and the difference between feminine and virile virtue than by comparing together lives with lives, exploits with exploits, as the products of some great art; duly considering whether the magnanimity of Semiramis carries with it the same character and impression with that of Sesostris, or the cunning of Tanaquil the same with that of King Servius, or the discretion of Porcia the same with that of Brutus, or that of Pelopidas with Timoclea,— regarding that quality of these virtues wherein lie their chiefest point and force. Moreover, virtues do admit some other differences, like peculiar colors, by reason of men's dispositions, and are assimilated to the manners and temperaments of the bodies wherein they are, yea, to the education and manner of diet. Achilles was courageous in one manner, Ajax in another; the subtlety of Ulysses was not like that of Nestor, neither were Cato and Agesilaus just after the same manner; neither was Eirene a lover of her husband as Alcestis was; neither was Cornelia magnanimous in the same way with Olympias. But, for all this, we do not say that there are many kinds of fortitude, prudence, and justice specifically distinct, so long as their individual dissimilitudes exclude none of them from the specific definitions.

[p. 342] Those things now which are very commonly discoursed of, and of which I know thou hast had the exact history and knowledge from solid books, I will at present omit, unless there be some public and recorded matters worth your hearing, which have escaped the historians of former times.

And seeing that many worthy things, both public and private, have been done by women, it is not amiss to give a brief historical account of those that are public, in the first place.

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