This charming epistle on the horror that is a woman choosing to better herself through education comes from The Modern World Disrob’d (1708), by satirical writer Ned Ward. I’m particularly taken with the idea that the more languages a lady speaks, the more varied the opportunities for scolding her husband with them. Her poor unfortunate husband will find that “she pelts his Ears all Dinner-time with her Latin Scraps” and – even worse – her perceived superiority means that she might feel compelled to “gratify her Revenge by hornifying her Husband”. Because ladies what read books also like to sleep around. Obviously. Good old Ned.
The description begins without any mincing of words:
Unhappy he that’s doom’d to wear
The Matrimonial Collar,
With her who is not only fair,
But fancies she’s a Schollar.
Puff’d up with Pride and vain Conceit,
She’ll soar above her Station,
And think she has, by Dint of Wit,
The Right of Domination.
What, tho’ she scolds in French or Dutch,
Or chatters in the Roman,
One Tongue is always found too much
For a contentious Woman.
If with more Languages she’s hung,
Than taught her by her Mother,
Whene’er you bid her hold on Tongue,
She’ll plague you with another.
Therefore let none select a Wife,
For having sundry Speeches;
The more she has, the greater Strife
Will rise about the Breeches.
Nor let the youthful Novice chuse
A Woman for her Learning;
For Wives turn greater Jilts of Shrews,
The more they are discerning.
Therefore, I say, beware, my Friend,
Of learned Dame or Gammar,
Who will with Tongue and Broom, contend
About the Rules of Grammar.
The prattling Shrew, in Spite of Art,
Will prove a head-strong Creature;
And thro’ her cursed Pride, invert
The very Laws of Nature.
Nothing like a bit of light misogyny on a Wednesday evening!
‘The Studious Beauty’ (c.1778) – Probably a slapper