The Rights of Woman

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AN OCCASIONAL ADDRESS SPOKEN BY MISS FONTENELLE

ON HER BENEFIT NIGHT,

Nov. 26, 1792.

[Miss Fontenelle was one of the actresses whom Williamson, the
manager, brought for several seasons to Dumfries: she was young and
pretty, indulged in little levities of speech, and rumour added,
perhaps maliciously, levities of action. The Rights of Man had been
advocated by Paine, the Rights of Woman by Mary Wolstonecroft, and
nought was talked of, but the moral and political regeneration of the
world. The line

"But truce with kings and truce with constitutions,"

got an uncivil twist in recitation, from some of the audience. The
words were eagerly caught up, and had some hisses bestowed on them.]


While Europe's eye is fix'd on mighty things,
The fate of empires and the fall of kings;
While quacks of state must each produce his plan,
And even children lisp the Rights of Man;
Amid this mighty fuss just let me mention,
The Rights of Woman merit some attention.

First on the sexes' intermix'd connexion,
One sacred Right of Woman is protection.
The tender flower that lifts its head, elate,
Helpless, must fall before the blasts of fate,
Sunk on the earth, defac'd its lovely form,
Unless your shelter ward th' impending storm.

Our second Right--but needless here is caution,
To keep that right inviolate's the fashion,
Each man of sense has it so full before him,
He'd die before he'd wrong it--'tis decorum.--
There was, indeed, in far less polish'd days,
A time, when rough, rude man had haughty ways;
Would swagger, swear, get drunk, kick up a riot,
Nay, even thus invade a lady's quiet.

Now, thank our stars! these Gothic times are fled;
Now, well-bred men--and you are all well-bred--
Most justly think (and we are much the gainers)
Such conduct neither spirit, wit, nor manners.

For Right the third, our last, our best, our dearest,
That right to fluttering female hearts the nearest,
Which even the Rights of Kings in low prostration
Most humbly own--'tis dear, dear admiration!
In that blest sphere alone we live and move;
There taste that life of life--immortal love.--
Smiles, glances, sighs, tears, fits, flirtations, airs,
'Gainst such an host what flinty savage dares--
When awful Beauty joins with all her charms,
Who is so rash as rise in rebel arms?

But truce with kings and truce with constitutions,
With bloody armaments and revolutions,
Let majesty your first attention summon,
Ah! ša ira! the majesty of woman!



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