Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

to the

for he obliged the young women to perform the same exercises as the young men; to appear in public, on certain days, ftark naked, and to dance with the men, who were likewise naked. Was not this the way to make them very impudent ? And are we to wonder, alter this, that the Lacedæmonian young women had so bad a character? Plutarch, though in other respects very much inclined to justify Lycurgus in this article, allows, that the licentiousness in which he indulged the Lacedæmonian maidens, exposed them to the lash of poetical fatire; and he confelles, ingcnuously, that the laws of Numa Pompilius were more favourable to modefty.'.

Marriagcable maidens," says Plutarch, “ according to " the ordinances of Numa, were kept more strictly, and in

a manner more becoming the honour of the fair sex ; those “ of Lycurgus being too free and licentious, gave occasion

poets to take notice of them, and to give them ap“ pellations which are not very de ent; Ibycus calling them « Phanomerides, i. e. Bare-thighs, and Andromanes, i.e. Men“ mad; and Euripides says also of them,

Too wanton girls, who leave their fathers houses,
To roam with boys. Gay girls, who shew their thighs,

Thotheir lie petticoats.. I know not,' continues Bayle, whether Lycurgus reafoned justly, when he aflerted that these practices would prompt young persons to marry. We learn from Plutarch, that the only reason why young lalles were permitted to go naked, was, that they might get husbands; for the instant they did fo, they were not allowed to appear naked. Lycurgus, perhaps considered, that the number of handsome women is, every where, very small, in comparison of those who are otherwile'; and that it frequently happens, that those who are not very pretty, receive from nature a singular compensation, in those parts of the body that are concealed. He therefore thought it necessary to give all the lasses an opportunity of displaying the utmost force of their charms, imagining, very probably, that such as could not allure by a beautiful face, would reveal other attractions to gain the heart of some young man; and, on the other hand, that those young fellows, whole form was not very inviting, might, by the same means, strike the heart of some female spectator, and make a compl te conquest of it, without the aslistance of the stars, notw.shstanding what Juvenal says:

Fatum eft et partibus illis
Quas sinus ab!condit, nam fi tibi fidera certent
Nii faciet, &c.

In this manner a remedy was found against ugliness; and no one could escape the shafts of love, or have cause to complain of being wronged in his bargain, or purchase, by not being allowed to have a sight of the goods before-hand. But was not this introducing, into a society where virtue ought to flourish, the pretended advantages of brothels, which Horace has highly celebrated ? Was not this inspiring young girls with the impudence of the eye, which is worse than the impudence of the ear? And was it not also the way to blunt the edge of curiosity, which is exceedingly strong?

• A modern author has undertaken to apologize for the nakedness of the Lacedemonian maidens, but his apology does not appear to me to be founded upon solid reasons. His words are these, -" It was the custom for the Spartan maidens, to dance naked in public; and few persons think, that this was a modeft fight.” I nevertheless imagine, that the Lacedæmonians had their reasons for this practice; and that, as it was so very common among them, it did not make any dangerous; or criminal, impressions upon their minds. A familiarity is contracted between the eye and the object, which disposes the mind for intensibility, and banishes all lascivious desires from the imagination. The emotion arises only from the novelty of the ipectacle. A perpetual custom is more distasteful than tempting to the eye: and if we do but consider the integrity of the Spartan manners, we shall be obliged to acknowlege the truth of the following saying: The Spartan maidens were not naked, public decency scrving as a veil to them. I will not fay, that, in general, their excuse would be one for us ; however, there are several countries in North America, in which the women appear always as naked as those who danced in Sparta; and yet we are affured by travellers, that not so much as the shadow of guilt arises from it. I perceive, that I should never be able to make you entertain a favourable opinion of the modesty of the Spartan women, though I should plead ten years for it. You would much sooner give credit to the sharp satires of the Athenians, and even that of Aristotle; who, though a Macedonian, had lived fo long in Athens, that he could not but contract the contagious hatred which prevailed there against the Spartans. Here follows what he says of the Lacedemonians, in the second book of his politicks. When Lycurgus endeavoured to introduce resolution and patience in Spar. ta, it is plain that he succeeded with respect to the men ; but he was more negligent with regard to the women, they leading, in general, an effeminate and dissolute life. Nn 2

What

• What we are here told, concerning this familiarity between the eye and the object, which inclines the mind to infenfibility, is, in general, just and folid. But how folid and reasonable soever the doctrine inay be, I know not whether it can be applied to the prefent subject, since the Lacedemonian young women did not appear naked, but on certain grand days, and at all other times wore cloaths which shewed only their thighs. This was adapted to excite concupifcence, without inclining the mind to infenfibility by a perpetual cuftom. Farther, there is a wide difference between the Spartans, and so many favage nations, where it is tħe custom to go naked. The latter appeared in that manner in all ages ; but Lycurgus introduced the custom of going naked into a city, where it: was not known; and at a time when all the neighbouring nations observed the rules of decency: no apology therefore can be made for him. In fine, the virtue of the Americans, if what travellers relate concerning it be true, is of no use to justify this legislator; for the event fhewed, that Lacedemon was not a place where such innovations could be introduced with innocence. It is to no purpose to attempt to weaken Aristotle's teftimony. Nothing can be graver and more judi. cious than the book in which that philosopher speaks to disadvantageously of the Spartan women. A spirit of partiality does not appear in this work, and therefore, instead of saying, that the calumnies of the poets made an impression on this phiJosopher's mind; it should be laid, that the authority of this philosopher justifies the reproaches of the poets.

It were an easy matter to criticise the laws of Lycurgus in other respects; but there is one thing wherein he seams to de erve greater commendation than Numa, viz. his 16t allowing young women to marry till they were of a proper age, and capable of fupporting the pains of child-bearing. Numa, on the contrary, allowed them to marry at twelve years

of

age, and under. Aristotle gives some very judicious precepts on this head. He would not have young women inarried till eighteen years of age, nor the men till thirty-seven. He obferves, that the inhabitants of all the countries, where persons are married too young, are infirm, and little in ftature; and that inmature marriages make many women die in child-bed. He adds, that thote children who are not much younger than

heir parents, have little regard, or veneration for them, which occasions nunberless domestic feuds and diffenfions.'

I shall now translate the hort article concerning the Mammillarians : it is as follows--- The Namınillarians were a fect among the Anabaptists, " I cannot be politive as to the

[ocr errors]

ro

time when this new schism formed itself: but the city of Haerlem is reckoned the native place of this sub-division.. It owes its origin to the liberty a young man took of putting his hand in the breast of a young woman whom he loved, and intended to marry. The affair reached the ears of the church, who thereupon consulted about the punishment which the delinquent ought to suffer. Some were for excommunicating him, others for a more moderate punishment. The debate

grew hot, that the contending parties came to a total rupture. Those who appeared favourable to the young man, were called Mam. millarians.

• This, in one respect, does honour to the Anabaptists, as it is a proof, that they carry the severity of their morais farther than any other Christian society. I know, that the most moderate calúists, the Sanchez, and the Escobars, would condemn this action of the young man ; they agree, that the touching of breasts is an impurity, a branch of lewdness, and one of the feven mortal fins; but if I am not mistaken, they do not impole upon the guilty a very fevere penance; and in many countries of Europe they are obliged to consider it among the Peccadilloes, which they call Qucidianæ incurfionis. We are so accustomed, in these countries, to that wicked practice, and it is so common a thing, even in the public streets, that the Casuists have abated of their severity, and are persuaded, that its being so common effaces half the guilt of it. It is for this rcalon that they pass slightly over this article of confesfion. I do not believe, that any Jansenist, upon such an account, ever deferred the absolution of his penitent, not even in those climates where this fort of toying is the least in use, and passes for one of those liberties which the fair sex ought seriously to resent. Thus the Anabaptifts are the most rigid of all the Christian moralists, since they excommunicate a man for touching the breasts of a mistress whom he courts for his wife, and break their church communion with those who are against excommunicating such a spark.

I shall here relate a story which is told of the Sieur Labadie. All who have heard of this person know, that he recommended to the devotees of both sexes some spiritual exercises, and trained them up to internal recollection, and mental prayer. They say that he once gave out a point of meditation to one of his female pupils, and having strongly recommended it to her to apply herself entirely, for some hours, to such an important object, he went up to her, when he believed her to be at the heighth of her recollection, and put his hand into her breast. She gave him a halty repulfe, and ex

prefled

Nn 3

[ocr errors]

pressed a great deal of surprize at that proceeding, and was preparing to rebuke him; when he, without being in the least a sconcerted, and with a devout air, prevented her thus: “I “ see plainly, my Child, that you are still at a great distance “ from perfection. Acknowlege your weakness with an hum“ ble spirit. Ask forgiveness of God, for your having given « so little attention to the mysteries upon which you ought to Es have meditated. Had you bestowed all neceffary attention upon

those things, you would not have been sensible of what was doing about your breaft. I wanted to try whether your " fervency in prayer had raised you above the material world, $6 and united you with the Sovereign Being, the living source " of immortality, and a spiritual state ; and I fee, to my great “ grief, that you have made very small progress, and that you * only creep on the ground: may this, my Child, make you « ashamed, and move you, for the future, to perform the fa, 46 cred duties of mental

prayer
better than

you

have hitherto 46 done."

They say, that the young Lady, who had as much good fenfe as virtue, was no less provoked at these words, than at the bold action of Labadie; and that she could never after bear the name of this holy Father. I will not vouch for the certainty of all these facts, though I think them very probable, and am inclined to believe, that most fpiritual directors abuse these pretended spiritual exercises, in order to seduce their fair disciples. This is what the Molinifts are aceused of. In neral, there is nothing more dangerous for the foul, than acts of devotion too mystical and refined; the body to be sure runs some risques in them, and a great many are pleased with the deceit.'

The third volume of this work contains an account of the various fystems and opinions of some of the antient philosophers, víz. Thales, Diogenes, Anaxagoras, Critias, Xenophanes, Zeno, Democritus, Pythagoras, Epicurus, Bion, &c. with several particulars concerning their lives and characters, which render it both instructive and entertaining. In the article of Xenophanes, Bayle enquireś, pretty largely, into the proportions of moral and physical good and evil in the world, and affirms, that the virtuous actions of mankind are not as ten to ten thousand, in comparison of their vices, A translation of what he fays upon this subject, which is both curious and important, will not, I presume, be unacceptable to your Readers. What he has advanced, is reduced to two heads of enquiry; the first is, whether moral good, or moral evil, preponderates in the world?

How

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »