Aemilia Lanyer

(1569-1645 / England)

To The Vertuous Reader


Often haue I heard that it is the property of some wo-
men, not only to emulate the virtues and perfections
of the rest, but also by all their powers of ill speaking,
to ecclipse the brightness of their deserved fame: now
contrary to this custome, which men I hope uniustly lay to
their charge, I haue written this small volume, or little booke,
for the generall vse of all virtuous Ladies and Gentlewomen
of this kingdome; and in commendation of some particular
persons of our owne sexe, such as for the most part, are so well
knowne to my selfe, and others, that I dare undertake Fame
dares not to call any better. And this haue I done, to make
knowne to the world, that all women deserue not to be blamed
though some forgetting they are women themselues, and in
danger to be condemned by the words of their owne mouthes,
fall into so great an errour, as to speake vnaduisedly against
the rest of their sexe; which if it be true, I am persuaded they
can shew their owne imperfection in nothing more: and there-
fore could wish (for their owne ease, modesties, and credit) they
would referre such points of folly, to be practised by euell dispo-
sed men, who forgetting they were borne of women, nourished
of women, and that if it were not by the means of women, they
would be quite extinguished out of the world: and a finall ende
of them all, doe like Vipers deface the wombes wherein they
were bred, onely to giue way and vtterance to their want of
discretion and goodnesse. Such as these, were they that disho-
noured Christ his Apostles and Prophets, putting them to
shamefull deaths. Therefore, we are not to regard any imputa-
tions that they vndeseruedly lay upon us, no otherwise than
to make vse of them to our owne benefits, as spurres to ver-
tue, making vs flie all occasions that may colour their uniust
speeches to passe currant. Especially considering that they haue
tempted euen the patience of God himselfe, who gaue power to
wise and virtuous women, to bring downe their pride and ar-
rogancie. As was cruell Cesarus by the discreet counsell of no-
ble Deborah, Iudge and Prophetesse of Israel: and resolution
of Jael wife of Heber the Kenite: wicket Haman, by the di-
uine prayers and prudent proceedings of beautiful Hester:
blasphemous Holofernes, by the inuincible courage, rare wis-
dome, and confident carriage of Iudeth: & the vniust Iudges,
by the innocency of chast Susanna: with infinite others, which
for breuitie sake I will omit. As also in respect it pleased our
Lord and Sauiour Iesus Christ, without the assistance of man,
beeing free from originall and all other sinnes, from the time
of his conception, till the houre of his death, to be begotten of a
woman, borne of a woman, nourished of a woman, obedient to a
woman; and that he healed woman, pardoned women, comfor-
ted women: yea, euen when he was in his greatest agonie and
bloodie sweat, going to be crucified, and also in the last houre
of his death, tooke care to dispose of a woman: after his resur-
rection, appeared first to a woman, sent a woman to declare his
most glorious resurrection to the rest of his Disciples. Many
other examples I could alledge of diuers faithfull and virtu-
ous women, who haue in all ages, not onely beene Confessors,
but also indured most cruel martyrdome for their faith in Ie-
sus Christ. All which is sufficient to inforce all good Christi-
ans and honourable minded men to speake reuerently of our
sexe, and especially of all virtuous and good women. To the
modest sensures of both which, I refer these my imperfect in-
deauours, knowing that according to their owne excellent di-
spositions, they will rather, cherish, nourish, and increase the
least sparke of virtue where they find it, by their fauourable
and beste interpretations, than quench it by wrong constructi-
ons. To whom I wish all increase of virtue, and desire their
best opinions.

Submitted: Wednesday, September 29, 2010

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