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loss; and, what ought to be no small argument with you, the few unmarried sparks that tarry behind, are of late grown so imperious and proud in their demands, that nothing will go down with them now but an heiress. Here are an infinite number of advocates to incline you to be kind to our cause : wit and youth; beauty and good-nature, besides the publick advantage, and the protestant religion plead for us; but, what cannot fail to move even hearts of marble, this very petition is subscribed by ten thousand green-sick. ness maidens.
That single consideration, we know, will prevail with you to espouse our quarrel, to restore matrimony to its primitive splendor; and, lastly, to destroy celibacy as effectually as you have done popery. Which will oblige your petitioners,
As, in duty hound, ever to pray, &c. This petition is subscribed by threescore thousand hands, and never a cracked maidenhead or widow amongst them.
PETITION OF THE WIDOWS, In and about London and Westminster, for a Redress of their Grievances. London, Printed for the use of the Wide---o's, 1693.
Quarto, containing Four Pages. By the same Sollicitor that drew up the Petition for the Ladies. LAST week a petition subscribed by the unmarried ladies came
before you, and what reception it found yourselves know best. It is true we wondered to find an army of maids, from whom the world usually expects modesty and silence, so emboldened on the sudden as to petition for husbands, and that in the face of the world. Widows indeed, who lie under no such restrictions, are allowed in all countries to speak for themselves; and it is but reasonable we should, for few besides will submit to the trouble. It is our privilege to be obstreperous, when we are not heard; and there is one of our predecessors upon record in the New Testament, who by virtue of her everlasting clack, forced an old musty gentleman of the long robe at last to grant her request.
Now heaven be praised, we are not unacquainted with mankind, which the maids, we suppose, will not pretend to; and therefore may appeal to them without infringing the rules of decency: we have seen them in their best and weakest intervals. We know what weapons they carry about them, and how often they can discharge in an engagement. We have in our times had very severe conflicts with them, and sometimes they were uppermost, and then they fell on like thunder and lightning; but for all that your petitioners obliged them soon to quit the field, and leave part of their ammuni. tion behind them. Give us leave, good gentlemen, to talk of these our combates; for we always fought upon the square, and therefore have no reason to be ashamed of a recital. As we hinted to you before, we have been concerned in several fierce engagements, and the men played their sharps against us, when we could only produce flats on our side ; and, besides, they drew their heavy cannon upon us, while we were forced to lie by and receive their shot. After all, though we were so disadyantageously set upon, and the blood-shed, that happened on these occasions, was always on our part; yet when the fortune of the battle began to change, and declare herself in favour of us, we never treated them otherwise than christians; we never nailed up their cannon when we had it in our possession, so to render it unserviceable for the future, but
gave them time to recover breath again, and furnish themselves with a new train of artillery. Is not this a generous and honourable way of treating an enemy? In short, the devil take that word short, for your petitioners mortally hate it; but in fine, we have been intimate with the men, and the men have been no less intimate with us; but what is the chief errand that sent us here, we have every woman of us buried her respective man,
Not that we value ourselves upon that score, for God forbid we should ; but widows will speak the truth, let the consequence be what it will, and should you make ten thousand acts, to oblige us to hold our tongues, it would signify just nothing, we should break them all in a moment, and that with as much alacrity as the vintners in town daily break the adultery act. Well then we have all of us buried her respective man, which we mention not, heaven knows our hearts, out of ostentation, but with due grief and sorrow. We know a man's value too well, not to regret the loss of so serviceable a creature. We had all of us good husbands, at least we will say so now they are gone ; and though perhaps we had some reason to complain of them when they were alive, yet we forgive them all their faults and infirmities, for that single good-natured act of dying, and leaving us once more to ourselves.
The foolish people of Athens, after they had lost a good king, would have no more of the kind, forsooth, lest a bad one should succeed him.' But your petitioners are not such a scrupulous sort of people : we, that have had good husbands, are encouraged to try once more, out of hopes of meeting the same success; and we, that have had had ones, are not for all that deterred from matrimony, but hope to mend our hands in a second bargain. After all, should we be deceived in our expectations, the first may afford to undergo a little penance, since they were so happy before; and the latter, being accustomed of old to bear burdens, are therefore the better enabled to support themselves under them:
The body of your petitioners, for after so much preface it is high time to come to business, consists of four several classes; viz. the old widows, the young or middle-aged widows, the rich widows, and the poor widows, and each of them presents you with a different, petition.
To begin then with the old widows, and that prebeminence is due to them upon the score of their age and experience, they humbly supplicate that you would be pleased to take their miserable condition into consideration. Old people according to the proverb are twice children; what wonder is it then if they still have a hankering after childish play-things, and long to have their gums rubbed with coral? Pray do not mistake them, good gentlemen, they mean it in a lawful, matrimonial sense, and hope you will not censure or think the worse of them for using this freedom. They appeal to all the world who it is that most stand in want of warm, comfortable things, the young or the old : that it is the greatest charity to relieve the last, needs no formal proof, all the hospitals in the kingdom speak as much; but alas ! in this uncharitable age they do not expect to meet with many friends., Upon this consideration they intirely submit themselves to the mercy of the house, not presuming to carry their petition so high as to request you to force people io marry them; but only that you would recommend their case to the benevolence of those persons, who, having lived wickedly and at large all their life-time, are willing to compound for their sins, and do acts of supererogation, in the last scene of it. Nor are they difficult in their choice, they will sit down content with any thing; and cripples with wooden legs will be chearfully entertained, if they have received no damage in the distinguishing part.
Next to these come the rich widows; and they earnesty beg of your honourable house that you would make it felony, without be. nefit of the clergy, for any one to make court to them before the mournful twelve month is expired. They are so perpetually pestered with suitors of all complexions, that they can neither eat, nor sleep, nor pray for them. A new favourite has not more humble servants in a morning at his levee, nor the commissioners of the pay office a greater croud of surly, grumbling seamen than they have. Nay, some of their passionate admirers have had the impudence to accost them upon this chapter, as they have been following their husband's corpse to the grave, in the very heighth of their sorrow, and in the midst of the funeral pomp. If you think it too severe to make it felony in persons so offending, they desire you to commute the punishment, and oblige every person trespassing after that manner to marry some widow as fancy inclines him : which is all the favour that the poor widows beg at your hands.
And now comes up the main body of the young and middle-aged widows, who, as they are by far the most numerous, especially since the wars bave made such havock among the husbands, so they crave leave to lay their petitions at your feet. But, before they do that, they think it convenient to remove all those popular slanders and objections, which ill-natured people have been long accustomed to level against widows in general; and, because their adversaries shall have no reason to complain that their arguments are mangled, they will urge them as home as either themselves, or their best adm vocates, could do it for them.
It is in the first place pretended, that widows want several of those recommendations that set off their sex, and particularly a maidenhead, without which no wife, they say, can be acceptable; that they are still trumping up stories of their former husbands, purposely to confront their new ones, and so excessively talkative, that nothing but deafness is an antidote against the noise ; that marrying a widow is like splitting upon a rock where others have been shipwrecked before. After this, they run the metaphor into Longlane, second-hand gloves, cloaths of another's wearing, and the Lord knows what impertinent stuff. But we shall answer them all in order.
To begin then with the loss of a maiden-head, about which they make so horrid a clamour, we could tell them sad stories of several of their betters, that on the wedding-night have fancied they have dug up this same chimerical treasure, though it was stolen many months before; nay, we have a hundred and more of our company here, that, if occasion were, could attest this upon their own personal knowledge. So certain it is, that the nicest criticks among the men may be as easily imposed upon in this affair, as your pretenders to antiquity in counterfeit medals. But, if no woman can please them without this imaginary wealth, and indeed it is no more, for most people take it upon trust, we see no reason why a young widow may not be as capable of obliging them as the best. virgin in the world. It is but using a few astringents before, and, at the critical minute, crying out, Fie, sir, pray, sir, will you split
me up. Will you murder me alive? Can you take any pleasure ' in what is so painful to another?' And the sparks are satisfied they have made a real sacrifice, though, in truth, no more blood was shed in the encounter than we see upon the stage when one actor kills another. If this is their dear diversion, and, by the bye, it is a sure sign of their ill nature, that they cannot be pleased but at the expence of the party, whom they pretend to love so dearly, rather than lose them, we promise them to howl, and sigh, and roar every night in the year, as heartily as an ox, when he's led to the slaughter-house, and so entertain them still with the ceremony, at least, of their dearly beloved maiden-head. . In the next place, why should we not be permitted to refresh the memory of a dull, lazy husband, with the noble performances of his predecessors ? The men, in King Charles the Second's reign, took the liberty to talk of the glorious conquests of our former fighting monarchs, and yet, for all that, thought themselves as good subjects as any in the kingdom. If the reproof is just, where a God's name lies the harm : and surely the wife must be allowed to be the best judge of that affair. • Oh no, say they, it is not the horse, but the man, that best knows whether he rides easy. Content. But does not the horse likewise know, whether his rider carries true horse'man's weight, and whether he sits even in the saddle. If not, why would Bucephalus suffer himself to be backed by none but Alexander the Great ?
But then we are excesssive talkative.' So are they, and so are most of our sex, but especially the longing maids, and under cor
rection, if it is a sin, we are of opinion it sits better upon us than upon them. This is not all
, marrying a widow is like splitting upon a rock where others have been shipwrecked. Well, we are glad however it is like something. But, since one simily is best drove out by another, why not, like drinking in a room where some honest gentleman has made merry before? Since nothing will go down with these squeamish creatures in the matrimonial way
but spick and span new virgin, we wonder why they do not keep up the frolick in every thing else; why, as often as they drink, they do not call still for a virgin glass; why they do not every meal call for a virgin plate : why they do not still pull out a virgin snuff-box, lie in virgin-sheets, talk politicks in a virgin-coffee-house, and pursue their
dearly beloved variety to the end of the chapter. Lastly, their indignation rises at the thoughts of Long-lane, and all secondhand things whatever. If the sparks are resolved to be true to their argument, we are well satisfied they must even say good-night to all thinking, and writing, and talking: for at present they think at second-hand, and write and talk at second-hand; and this objection, as terrible as it looks, is a thread-bare weather-beaten secondhand objection with a witness.
A late monarch, of happy memory, who was inferior to none but Solomon in natural philosophy, and chiefly in what relates to our sex, was often heard to say, that getting of a maiden-head was a drudgery fit for none but porters. We save all that labour and pains, for there needs no great trouble to enter a city when a breach is once made in the walls, and our husbands have that satisfaction, as to see their ground ploughed up ready to their hands. To conclude all, a widow is a tried gun, and carries the tower mark upon her; now who knows but a maid may split in the proving ?
Having thus justified the state of widowhood against all the objections that are used to be made against it, we have nothing more to add, but that you would be pleased to give your consent to the three following articles :
First, That all persons, who are not of known parts and abilities, may not only be rendered uncapable of marrying maids, or such as are reputed maids, but confined to the choice of widows only. This we request not so much for our own advantage, as for the ease of the men; for you know several people can make a shift to keep the king's highway, that are not able to leap a ditch, or break open a quickset.
Secondly, That all persons resolving to marry before the age of twenty-one, if they have made no natural experiments before that time, shall be likewise obliged to take a widow, as they do pilots, in difficult or unknown places. It is an ancient but well grounded complaint, that, where two maiden-heads meet, they produce nothing but mere butter-prints, addle-pated fops, and dull senseless, sleepy boobies. Now, if you pass this into an act, in all probability it will contribute much to the improving of our present degenerate race, and certainly, if ever we wanted solid heads, it is at this con. juncture,
Thirdly and Lastly, That all widows, during their widowhood,