By Mary Wollstonecraft
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Extra resources for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
Besides, nothing can be so prejudicial to the morals of the inhabitants of country towns as the occasional residence of a set of idle superﬁcial young men, whose only occupation is gallantry, and whose polished manners render vice more dangerous, by concealing its deformity under gay ornamental drapery. An air of fashion, which is but a badge of slavery, and proves that the soul has not a strong individual character, awes simple country people into an imitation of the vices, when they cannot catch the slippery graces, of politeness.
Weak, artiﬁcial beings, raised above the common wants and affections of their race, in a premature unnatural manner, undermine the very foundation of virtue, and spread corruption through the whole mass of society! — They only live to amuse themselves, and by the same law which in nature invariably produces certain effects, they soon only afford barren amusement. But as I purpose taking a separate view of the different ranks of society, and of the moral character of women, in each, this hint is, for the present, sufﬁcient; and I have only alluded to the subject, because it appears to me to be the very essence of an introduction to give a cursory account of the contents of the work it introduces.
Will they never cease to expect corn from tares, and ﬁgs from thistles? It is impossible for any man, when the most favourable circumstances concur, to acquire sufﬁcient knowledge and strength of mind to discharge the duties of a king, entrusted with uncontrolled power; how then must they be violated when his very elevation is an insuperable bar to the attainment of either wisdom or virtue; when all the feelings of a man are stiﬂed by ﬂattery, and reﬂection shut out by pleasure! Surely it is madness to make the fate of thousands depend on the caprice of a weak fellow creature, whose very station sinks him necessarily below the meanest of his subjects!