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sciences, and every thing that refines human nature, they were, in every
thing where gallantry was not concerned, rough and unpolished in their
manners and behavior. Their time was spent in drinking, war, gallantry,
and idleness. In their hours of relaxation, they were but little in
company with their women; and when they were, the indelicacies of the
carousal, or the cruelties of the field, were almost the only subjects
they had to talk of.
From the subversion of the Roman empire, to the fourteenth or fifteenth
century, women spent most of their time alone. They were almost entire
strangers to the joys of social life. They seldom went abroad, but to be
spectators of such public diversions and amusements as the fashion of
the times countenanced. Francis I. was the first monarch who introduced
them on public days to court.
Before his time, nothing was to be seen at any of the courts of Europe,
but long bearded politicians, plotting the destruction of the rights and
liberties of mankind; and warriors clad in complete armor, ready to put
their plots in execution.
In the eighth century, so slavish was the condition of women on the one
hand, and so much was beauty coveted on the other, that, for about two
hundred years, the kings of Austria were obliged to pay a tribute to the
Moors, of one hundred beautiful virgins per annum.
In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, elegance had scarcely any
existence, and even cleanliness was hardly considered as laudable. The
use of linen was not known; and the most delicate of the fair sex wore
In the time of Henry VIII. the peers of the realm carried their wives
behind them on horseback when they went to London; and, in the same
manner, took them back to their country seats, with hoods of waxed linen
over their heads, and wrapped in mantles of cloth, to secure them from
There was one misfortune of a singular nature, to which women were
liable in those days: they were in perpetual danger of being accused of
witchcraft, and suffering all the cruelties and indignities of a mob,
instigated by superstition and directed by enthusiasm; or of being
condemned by laws, which were at once a disgrace to humanity and to
sense. Even the bloom of youth and beauty could not secure them from
torture and from death. But when age and wrinkles attacked a woman, if
any thing uncommon happened in her neighborhood, she was almost sure of
atoning with her life for a crime it was impossible for her to commit.
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