Letter to Miss E. B. on Marriage
Mary Savage

How oft my dearest friend we find,
Precepts to mend all woman kind:
For every He that writes will say,
‘Tis his, to mark the surest way,
To form the tender virgin’s mind,
And teach the wife, a path to find;
In which she may as easy walk,
As blind horse, in a mill may stalk:
Provided she will but attend,
To what he says; who is her friend:
And were he blest but with a wife,
Would best of husbands make for life.

     First take says he—a man of sense,
Who neither breeding wants, nor pence,
Then (mind your part,) to him allow,
Obedience, as you’re bound by vow;
No secrets have, nor in your mind,
Let jealous thoughts a harbour find;
Be always chearful, neat, and tight,
Nor ever soar above your height;
But keep within the female sphere,
And always think his judgment clear;
If passion in his eye should roll,
Or pow’r of wine his sense controul;
Answer him mild, upbraid him not,
But kindly let it be forgot:
His friends with chearfulness receive,
Each character he draws, believe,
Let home and children be your care,
For every wish should center there.

     To each fair female, blest with sense,
Here’s nought advanc’d to give offence.
For you (I doubt not) understand,
That love had first the greatest hand,
In bringing these good folks together,
Else rules would be more light than feather;
Which passion’s blast, would puff away,
And in their place, disgust would stay.

     But is it all our debt to pay,
And have we nothing left to say?
Must every she, that’s in the state,
Submission find for self and mate?
And would it be a sin ‘gainst heav’n,
To say the sex’s faults are even?
And beg, (our errors clearly shown,)
They’d condescend to mend their own,
And mind the maxims of their schools,
Example teaches more than rules;
But here ‘tis fit, I should make known,
Altho’ I write to you alone,
That what I say, is not confin’d,
To one; but meant to all mankind;
No single character I draw,
Nor dare to think my words a law,
But observation oft will teach,
What wisdom’s pow’r may fail to reach.

     Mankind should hope in wedlock’s state,
A friend to find as well as mate:
And e’er the charms of person fails,
Enquire what merit there remains,
That by the help of their wise pate,
Be taught thro’ life to bless the state;
And oft they’d find by their own fire,
What they in others so admire.
But as ‘tis law, that each good wife,
Should true submission, show for life;
What’s right at home they often slight,
What’s right abroad, shines very bright.

     Each female would have regal pow’r,
But every male wants something more;
And that same balsam to the mind,
Which both would in compliance find,
Is to this very time, and hour,
Miscall’d by them, the want of pow’r,
Then right of privilege they claim,
For every fair, to vow a flame,
Which we are bound, with partial eye,
To find of true platonick dye;
For they’ve so fix’d the certain rule,
How far with ladies they may fool,
That ‘tis impossible they can,
Go wrong—tho’ not a man,
Among them all would patience find,
If lady-wife should be inclin’d,
To praise each swain, whose face or wit,
Might chance her sprightly mind to hit.

     Then there’s a something in the mind,
That is not only just—but kind;
That’s fix’d to neither taste, nor sense,
Nor to be taught by eloquence;
But yet is that which gives a grace,
To every feature of the face;
And is the surest chance for ease,
I mean a strong desire to please.
But own I must, (tho’ tis with shame,)
Both parties are in this to blame;
They take great pains to come together,
Then squabble for a straw, or feather;
And oft I fear a spark of pride,
Prevails too much on either side.

     Then hear my girl—if ‘tis your lot
To marry, be not this forgot;
That neither sex must think to find,
Perfection in the human kind;
Each has a fools cap—and a bell—
And what is worse, can’t always tell,
(While they have got it on their head,)
How far astray they may be led.
Let it be then your mutual care,
That never both at once may wear,
This fatal mark of reason’s loss,
That whirlwind like the soul does toss.
Obtain this point, and friendship’s pow’r,
Will rise and bless each future hour.

From Mary Savage, Poems on Various Subjects and Occasions, Vol. 2 (London, 1777), 4-12.

Source: Eighteenth Century Collections Online