Several Discourses and Characters address'd to the Ladies of the Age. Wherein the Vanities of the Modish Women are discovered.

BOYLE Francis, Viscount Shannon (1689.)

£3750.00  [First Edition]

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Written at the Request of a Lady, by a Person of Honour.


First Edition. 8vo (172 x 110mm). [16], 199pp., with the initial imprimatur leaf. Slightly browned at the edges but otherwise very clean, small repair to the blank fore-corner of the imprimatur leaf and a small paper-flaw to the upper corner of C6 (touching a couple of lines of text but not obscuring the meaning). Modern calf-backed marbled boards, red leather spine label, old red sprinkled edges.


London: for Christopher Wilkinson, at the Black Boy, 

ESTC records two settings of the title-page, the present and another with "and are to be sold by Thomas Salusbury..." in the imprint. ESTC seems to be confused by the two title-pages and records duplicate copies. Copies are held at BL, National Library of Ireland, Bodley and Hull in the UK; Folger, Harvard, Huntington, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Newberry, Illinois and University of Pennsylvania, Clark Library UCLCA and Chicago in the USA.


Re-published (with additions) in 1696 as part 1 of Discourses and essays useful for the vain modish ladies and their gallants with Boyle given as the author on the title-page and dedicated to Elizabeth Percy, Countess of Northumberland (1646-90). The last copy recorded on Rare Book Hub was sold at Sotheby's in 1988.


A vicious misogynistic attack on the supposed offences of "modish" women lambasting their pride, vanity and inconstancy and the "vain idleness" of their leisure time. Intended to be dedicated to the Countess of Northumberland and written anonymously by Francis Boyle who had himself been cuckolded by Charles II.


In his "Epistle to the Modish Ladies of the Age", the author, Francis Boyle, 1st Viscount Shannon (1623-1699), writes that having abandoned, "the idle follies, and pastimes of a vain London life" and "being displaced from my Military Command", he decided to write a guide for women (and men) on the supposed vanities, pride and inconstancy of women. Boyle sets out in twelve chapters his thoughts on men marrying "young handsome ladies", the problems of female power, "the inconstancy of most ladies, especially such as are cried up Beauties", issues surrounding marriage, the selection of an appropriate wife (for both men and the families of men who wish to arrange a marriage), the "inequality of many marriages", his belief that widows should not marry, the follies of female fashion and his objections to men keeping mistresses. Despite his deeply misogynistic views, Boyle writes with a very distinctive style and repeatedly uses metaphor to describe his point - he describes how, "one Inch of the Worlds Map serves to set out all Englands confines, but a hundred sheets of Paper cannot half describe the extraordinary bounds of Womens usurping power" (p.22), or describes how, " rare and strange a thing is this thing call'd Wife obedience, as many believe 'tis only to be found at John Tredeskins [John Tradescant (1608-1662), English antiquary and naturalist), among his Collections of Antiquities" [which would later form the basis of the Ashmolean Museum] (p.40).


Boyle writes of women:


"I cannot deny but that young Womens Company may be very advantageous, as well as agreeable to young Men, as being very useful to whet their wit, to Civilize their behaviour, and to Polish their Discourses; but yet they ought still to remember, that the Conversation of these vain young gay Ladies, is to be us'd but like Sawce [sauce] to Meat, good to quicken the Stomack, but bad to make a meal on, being to be taken like strong Cordials, not too much, not too often, and therefore to make their visits so moderate, as not to keep longer in their Company than just to refresh and fit their minds for better employment. ..." (p.42)


He warns men to carefully select a wife: "there are of Wives, as of most other things, two sorts, the good and the bad, the good presents the Husband with much happiness, and great Content; and the bad creates as much misery and dissatisfaction." (p.52)


Boyle is particularly concerned with the problem of husbands and wives being of different ages:


"... for an old Man is to his young Wifes Bed, but like juice of Orange to her Stomack; it may create in her an Appetite, but of it self can never satisfie it; such an old Man being not only unsuitable, undecent but unwholesom too. ..." (p.73)


He continues:


"Therefore I shall advise all such Women, to be so prudent as to yield to the seasons of Age, as they must to that of the Year, and not hope to turn Winter into Summer, or Autumn into Spring; but instead of striving for what's impossible, yield to what's reasonable, and submit to these true Measures, That Eighteen is the gay sprightly blossom age that a young Womans Life shines out of its brightest splendor and beauty; That Thirty is the stale year of a Maid, and the worst age of a Wife, (I mean that's an ill one,) because a Wife at Thirty is old enough to be ugly and young enough to live long; but a Woman that is so far advanced in years as the frigid Zone of Sixty, ought in all reason to banish all vain Love thoughts, as to the youthful pleasures of this world, and to fix them on the other, so as to live only in order to die. ..." (p.77-8)


The work ends with a section attacking the way that women spend their free time:


"So many hours for Dressing, so many hours for receiving and returning Visits, so many for the Play, and the Park, so many hours for Dining at this friends house, Supping with that, and playing late at Cards at t'others, or being at a publick Ball or Dancing at anothers, so many hours to sleep a Bed to satisfie Nature, so many more to lie a Bed, to continue their full Face, and good Looks; besides hours for going to Court, to see new fashions, and ransacking Shops, to buy new-fashioned Silks and fineries, besides other times of vain idleness and prodigality of excess and folly; as such a great part of the Year for a pretended Disease, or rather diversion at the Bath, such a season for an infirmity, or recreation at the Wells of Tunbridge, or Epsom, to raffle away it may be our time and money, to be profuse, and game at publick Lotteries. ..." (p.178)


Boyle also attacks the reading of Romances and watching plays:


"Indeed the vain flashy Wit of Plays and romances, is but like sweet Flowers, or a fine delightful Voice; they can only for a little time, recreate and refresh the Senses, but can never benefit the Soul, or satisfie the neccessities of the Body. ..." (p.127)


Boyle's obvious anger and resentment which he clearly feels towards women may well be due to his wife, Elizabeth Killigrew (sister of Thomas Killigrew) having had an illegitimate daughter (Charlotte Jemima FitzRoy) with Charles II. 


Boyle writes in his opening epistle that he was moved to write this book, 


"... by the Importunities of a Lady, to whom I had some time ago presented some of these Discourses, as they were indeed justly due to her, whose discourse of your vanities (Ladies) gave the first birth to this unhappy off-spring, and was the occasion of my rambling thoughts upon this Subject, never design'd by me to appear abroad, had not this Lady first, unknown to me, sent a Copy to the Printer, of which afterwards giving me some kind of Inclination, I was obliged, (in my own right) to review the Original, and so to publish it under the Character that you now receive it, since I found, that I could not call it in (as I designed) wholly to suppress it. .." (A4r-v). 


Boyle explains to the Countess of Northumberland in the preface to the 1696 edition of this book why her name was not included, "in the front of this little Book, when it was Printed some few Years before, without any Name to it at all" (Discourse and essays, useful for the vain modish ladies and their gallants, 1696)


"... When my Lady P-- acquainted me you desired to see it [the book], she in a Rallying manner, bid me send it you with a fine Epistle Dedicatory; and I, in a like Rallying manner, told her I would; and presently writ thus far of this Letter; but upon my word, Madam, without any thought or design, that it should ever come to your sight, much less to publick view: For as soon as I had writ it, I resolved never to shew it, or look on it more: but being to buy the second part [Moral essays and discourses (1690)] of this Book to send a Friend, whose Servant stay'd purposely for it, after I had given it him, and he was gone, talking with the Book-Binder, he told me, he had very near sold all my Books; upon which I promised him one, but it seems I had unfortunately forgot that I had left this Letter in the Book which I ordered to be carried to him; and he finding this Letter dedicated to your Ladyship, knowing the high Honour and great Esteem all have for you, concluded, That your name in the Front of this book, must needs stamp a Value on it, and breed a Curiosity in many for it, and so Printed this Letter and placed my Name to it, considering only his own profit by Printing it, not your trouble in reading it, or my discredit in owning it. As soon as I heard of it, I went immediately much troubled and surpris'd, to the Book-binder, who desired me not to be so much concern'd, for there were very few if any, of the Books were sold that had this Letter Dedicatory to your Ladyship Printed to them, they being just come out of the Press, and that for paying his Charges for Printing them, he would deliver them all, which I readily consented to, and came a few days after to receive them; but this Book-binder was gone out of the World, and by his Death my book was dispersed in it, past all possibility of recalling it."

Stock Code: 247360

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