"No solicitude in the adornation of your selves is discommended, provided you employ your care about that which is really your self; and do not neglect that particle of Divinity within you, which must survive, and may (if you please) be happy and perfect when it’s unsuitable and much inferiour Companion is mouldring into Dust."

— Astell, Mary (1666–1731)


Place of Publication
London
Publisher
Printed for R. Wilkin
Date
1694
Metaphor
"No solicitude in the adornation of your selves is discommended, provided you employ your care about that which is really your self; and do not neglect that particle of Divinity within you, which must survive, and may (if you please) be happy and perfect when it’s unsuitable and much inferiour Companion is mouldring into Dust."
Metaphor in Context
And sure, I shall not need many words to persuade you to close with this Proposal. The very offer is a sufficient inducement; nor does it need the set-off's of Rhetorick to recommend it, were I capable, which yet I am not, of applying them with the greatest force. Since you cannot be so unkind to your selves, as to refuse your real Interest; I only entreat you to be so wise as to examine wherein it consists; for nothing is of worser consequence than to be deceiv'd in a matter of so great concern. 'Tis as little beneath your Grandeur as your Prudence, to examine curiously what is in this case offer'd you; and to take care that cheating Hucksters don't impose upon you with deceitful Ware. This is a matter infinitely more worthy your Debates, than what Colours are most agreeable, or whats the Dress becomes you best? Your Glass will not do you half so much service as a serious reflection on your own Minds; which will discover Irregularities more worthy your Correction, and keep you from being either too much elated or depress'd by the representations of the other. 'Twill not be near so advantagious to consult with your Dancing-master as with your own Thoughts, how you may with greatest exactness tread in the Paths of Vertue, which has certainly the most attractive Air, and Wisdom the most graceful and becoming Meen: Let these attend you, and your Carriage will be always well compos'd, and ev'ry thing you do will carry its Charm with it. No solicitude in the adornation of your selves is discommended, provided you employ your care about that which is really your self; and do not neglect that particle of Divinity within you, which must survive, and may (if you please) be happy and perfect when it's unsuitable and much inferiour Companion is mouldring into Dust. Neither will any pleasure be denied you, who are only desir'd not to catch at the Shadow and let the Substance go. You may be as ambitious as you please, so you aspire to the best things; and contend with your Neighbours as much as you can, that they may not out-do you in any commendable Quality. Let it never be said, that they to whom preeminence is so very agreeable, can be tamely content that others shou'd surpass them in this, and precede them in a better World! Remember, I pray you, the famous Women of former Ages, the Orinda's of late, and the more Modern D'acier and others, and blush to think how much is now, and will hereafter be said of them, when you your selves (as great a Figure as you make) must be buried in silence and forgetfulness! Shall your Emulation fail there only where it is commendable? Why are you so preposterously humble, as not to contend for one of the highest Mansions in the Court of Heav'n? Believe me Ladies, this is the only Place worth contending for; you are neither better nor worse in your selves for going before, or coming after now; but you are really so much the better, by how much the higher your station is in an Orb of Glory. How can you be content to be in the world like Tulips in a Garden, to make a fine shew and be good for nothing; have all your Glories set in the grave, or perhaps much sooner? What your own sentiments are, I know not, but I cannot without pity and resentment reflect, that those Glorious Temples on which your kind Creator has bestow'd such exquisite workmanship, shou'd enshrine no better than Egyptian Deities; be like a garnish'd Sepulchre, which for all it's glittering, has nothing within but Emptiness or Putrifaction! What a pity it is, that whilst your Beauty casts a lustre round about, your Souls which are infinitely more bright and radiant (of which if you had but a clear Idea, as lovely as it is, and as much as you now value it, you wou'd then despise and neglect the mean Case that encloses it) shou'd be suffer'd to overrun with Weeds, lye fallow and neglected, unadorn'd with any Grace! Altho the Beauty of the Mind is necessary to secure those Conquests which your Eyes have gain'd; and Time that mortal Enemy to handsome Faces, has no influence on a lovely Soul, but to better and improve it. For shame, let us abandon that Old, and therefore one wou'd think, unfashionable employment of pursuing Butterflies and Trifles! No longer drudge on in the dull beaten road of Vanity and Folly, which so many have gone, before us; but dare to break the enchanted Circle that custom has plac'd us in, and scorn the vulgar way of imitating all the Impertinencies of our Neighbours. Let us learn to pride our selves in something more excellent than the invention of a Fashion: And not entertain such a degrading thought of our own worth, as to imagin that our Souls were given us only for the service of our Bodies, and that the best improvement we can make of these, is to attract the eyes of men. We value them too much, and our selves too little, if we place any part of our worth in their Opinion; and do not think our selves capable of Nobler Things than the pitiful Conquest of some worthless heart. She who has opportunities of making an interest in Heav'n, of obtaining the love and admiration of God and Angels, is too prodigal of her Time, and injurious to her Charms, to throw them away on vain insignificant men. She need not make her self so cheap, as to descend to Court their Applauses; for at the greater distance she keeps, and the more she is above them, the more effectually she secures their esteem and wonder. Be so generous then Ladies, as to do nothing unworthy of you; so true to your Interest as not to lessen your Empire, and depreciate your Charms. Let not your Thoughts be wholly busied in observing what respect is paid you, but a part of them at least, in studying to deserve it. And after all, remember, that Goodness is the truest Greatness, to be wise for your selves, the greatest Wit, and that Beauty the most desirable, which will endure to Eternity.
(pp. 6-16)
Provenance
Reading
Citation
Mary Astell, A Serious Proposal to the Ladies (London: Printed for R. Wilkin, 1694). <Link to WWO>
Date of Entry
02/10/2011

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.