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affairs too mean for their notice; that they might be able hereafter to manage their own house, and not be directed, imposed upon, and perhaps ridiculed by their own servants.
They were initiated early in the science of the needle, and were bred up skilful in all the plain and flowery arts of it; but it was never made a task nor a toil to them, nor did they waste their hours in those nice and tedious works, which cost our female ancestors seven years of their life, and stitches without number. To render this exercise pleasant, one of them always entertained the company with some useful author, while the rest were at work; every one had freedom and encouragement to start what question she pleased, and to make any remarks on the present subject; that reading, working, and conversation, might fill up the hour with variety and delight. Thus while their hands were making garments for themselves, or for the poor, their minds were enriched with treasures of human and divine knowledge.
At proper seasons the young ladies were instructed in the gayer accomplishments of their age; but they were taught to esteem the song and the dance some of their meanest talents, because they are often forgotten in advanced years, and add but little to the virtue, the honour, or the happiness of life.
Phronissa herself was sprightly and active, and she abhorred a slothful and lazy humour; therefore she constantly found out some inviting and agreeable employment for her daughters, that they might hate idleness as a mischievous vice, and be trained up to an active and useful life. Yet she perpetually insinuated the superior delights of the closet, and tempted them, by all divine methods, to the love of devout retirement. Whensoever she seemed to distinguish them by any peculiar favours, it was generally upon some new indication of early piety, or some young practice of a self-denying virtue.
They were taught to receive visits in form, agreeable to the age ; and though they knew the modes of dress suffiB b 2
ciently to secure them from any thing awkward or unfashionable, yet their minds were so well furnished with richer variety, that they had no need to run to those poor and trivial topics, to exclude silence and dullness from the drawing-room. They would not give such an affront to the understandings of the ladies their visitants, as to treat them with such meanness and impertinence; therefore all this sort of conversation was reserved, almost entirely, for the minutes appointed to the milliner and the tire-woman.
Here I must publish it to their honour, to provoke the sex to imitation, that though they comported with the fashion in all their ornaments, so far as the fashion was modest, and could approve itself to reason or religion, yet Phronissa would not suffer their young judgements so far to be imposed on by custom, as that the mode should be entirely the measure of all decency to them. She knew there is such a thing as natural harinony and agreeableness; in the beauties of colour and figure, her delicacy of taste was exquisite: and where the mode run counter to nature, though she indulged her daughters to follow it in some innocent instances, because she loved not to be remarkably singular in things of indifference, yet she took care always to teach them to distinguish gay folly and affected extravagance from natural decencies, both in furniture and in dress : Their rank in the world was eminent, but they never appeared the first nor the highest in any new-fangled forms of attire. By her wise example and instructions she had so formed their minds, as to be able to see garments more gaudy, and even more modish than their own, without envy or wishes. They could bear to find a trimming set on a little awry, or the plait of a garment ill disposed, without making the whole house and the day uneasy, and the sun and heavens smile upon them in vain.
Phronissa taught them the happy art of managing a visit, with some useful improvement of the hour, and without offence. If a word of scandal occurred in company, it was soon diverted or suppressed. The children were charged
to speak well of their neighbours as far as truth would ad mit, and to be silent as to any thing further : but when the poor or the deformed were mentioned in discourse, the aged, the lame, or the blind, those objects were handled with the utmost tenderness : nothing could displease Phronissa more than to hear a jest thrown upon natural infirmities : she thought there was something sacred in misery, and it was not to be touched with a rude hand. All reproach and satire of this kind was for ever banished where she came ; and if ever raillery was indulged, vice and wilful folly were the constant subjects of it.
Persons of distinguished characters she always distinguished in her respect, and trained up her family to pay the same civilities. Whensoever she named her own parents, it was with high veneration and love, and thereby she naturally led her children to give due honour to all their superior relatives.
Though it is the fashion of the age to laugh at the priesto hood in all forms, and to teach every boy to scoff at a minister, Phronissa paid double honours to them who labour: ed in the word and doctrine, where their personal behaviour üpheld the dignity of their office ; for she was persuaded St Paul was a better director than the gay gentlemen of the mode, 1 Tim. v. 17. Besides, she wisely considered, that a contempt of their persons would necessarily bring with it a contempt of all their ministrations ; and then she might carry her daughters to the church as much as she pleased; but preaching and praying, and all sacred things, would grow despicable and useless, when they had first learned to make a jest of the preacher.
But are these young ladies always confined at home? Are they never suffered to see the world? Yes, and sometimes without the guard of a mother too ; though Phronissa is so well beloved by her children, that they would very seldom choose to go without her. Their souls are inlaid bea times with the principles of virtue and prudence ; these are their constant guard ; nor do they ever wish to make a visit where their mother has reason to suspect their safety.
They have freedom given them in all the common affairs of life to choose for themselves, but they take pleasure, for the most part, in referring the choice back again to their elders. Phronissa has managed the restraint of their younger years with so much reason and love, that they have seemed all their lives to know nothing but liberty; an admonition of their parents meets with cheerful compliance, and is never debated. A wish or desire has the same power over them now, as a command had in their infancy and childhood; for the command was ever dressed in the softest language of authority, and this made every act of obedience a delight, till it became an habitual pleasure.
In short, they have been educated with such discretion, tenderness, and piety, as have "laid a foundation to make them happy and useful in the rising age : their parents with pleasure view the growing prospect, and return daily thanks to almighty God, whose blessing has attended their watchful cares, and has thus far answered their most fervent devotions.