|Drake, Judith (fl. 1696-1723)|
An Essay in defence of the female sex. In which are inserted the characters of a pedant, a squire, a beau, a vertuoso, a poetaster, a city-critick, &c. In a letter to a lady. Written by a lady.
London : printed for A. Roper and E. Wilkinson at the Black Boy, and R. Clavel at the Peacock, in Fleetstreet, 1696
Octavo: 17.4 x 10.8 cm. , 148,  pp., plate. Collation: A8, B4, B-K8, L4
With an engraved frontispiece "The Compleat Beau" bound opposite the printed title page. This copy is bound in contemporary red morocco, paneled and ruled in gold with tulip, leaf, and floral ornaments. The binding is in excellent condition with minor wear and some expert -almost imperceptible- restorations to the corners and head of the spine.
Internally, this copy is in very good condition with minor but persistent foxing to the contents and a small, light stain to the title. The engraved frontispiece has been cut a bit close, as is almost always the case, the text at the lower margin of the image just shaved by the binder's knife. A short, clean tear has been mended at the foot, with no loss of image. Aside from these minor faults, an excellent, large copy in a beautiful contemporary binding.
|Location of Origin: Europe|
|Dimensions: Octavo: 17.4 x 10.8 cm.|
|Primary Classification: Antique Books, Manuscripts, and Maps : Other Books for Sale|
|Secondary Classification: Antique Books, Manuscripts, and Maps : Antiques Books and Historical Books|
|'An Essay in Defence of the Female Sex" (1696) was one of the most significant English contributions to the early modern debate concerning women. Attributed to Judith Drake (c. 1670- post 1723), who wrote it in the form of a letter to a female friend following 'a private conversation, between some gentlemen and ladies', the tract vigorously and wittily vindicated female intellectual abilities and character. Drake drew upon John Locke's 'An Essay Concerning Human Understanding' (1690) to construct a rationalist framework upon which to argue that it was custom and language that engendered the belief that women were intellectually inferior to men. Drake then proceeded to reject the cult of the ancients and, in their place, championed the work of 'modern' learning and the value of informal education for women. Additionally, Drake contended that men shared the character faults of which women were usually accused. She accentuated masculine follies by sketching satiric portraits of various male types, such as the 'Pedant', a 'Country Squire', a 'News-monger', a 'Bully', a 'City Critick', and a 'Beau', and she promoted the idea that that polite socialization with ladies could help transform men into gentlemen.|
"Drake's welding of rationalist epistemology to 'feminist' argument was of particular originality within the context of early modern pro-women writings. Only two 'feminist' texts had previously employed such a methodology as a foundation for their discussion, and only one of those had been English. The earliest was "The Woman as Good as the Man" (1677), a translation of François Poulain de Barre's Cartesian analysis of how gender is culturally constructed. Two decades later, another Cartesian-inspired tract joined the debate, Mary Astell's 'A Serious Proposal to the Ladies' (1694/7) Since Drake's treatise was published two years after Astell's, she has been relegated to the position of being a disciple of Astell's. Indeed, owing to confusion over the authorship of the anonymously published 'Essay', the work has been credited to Astell. […]
"Drake's wholehearted espousal of rationalist argument is one of the defining notes of her work. She relied upon rationalism to formulate and justify her ideas concerning the intellectual and moral worth of women. Drake's foremost intellectual debt was undoubtedly to Locke's 'Essay'. 'The greatest Difficulty we struggled with', she wrote, 'was the Want of a good Art of Reasoning, which we had not…til that defect was supply'd by the greatest Master of that Art, Mr. Locke.' Drawing upon Locke she stated that 'there are no innate Ideas, but the Notions we have are derived from our external Senses, either immediately or by Reflection.' If human knowledge was based upon experience, men and women therefore had the capacity to become intellectual equals. Additionally, the intellectual equality of the sexes could be demonstrated by knowledge which drew upon experience.
"Although Drake satirized the seemingly more bizarre activities of enthusiasts for the 'new sciences' in the 'Essay', in general she was a warm supporter of the cause and approved of the work of the Royal Society. Drake called upon 'the new science' to prove her case. She related how physicians had informed her that 'there is no Difference in the Organization of those parts which have any Relation to, or Influence over, the Minds.' Likewise, careful observation from nature could demonstrate this equality too. Drake noted that the behavior of animals showed that 'there is no difference betwixt Male and Female in point of Sagacity.' Drake drew a similar conclusion from studying the behavior of those most bereft of literate influences, the rural poor. 'The condition of the two Sexes is more level, than amongst Gentlemen, City-Traders or rich Yeomen', she remarked. Drake's belief in the ability of the female intellect led her to speculate further that the inferior bodily strength of women suggested that they were created for thinking, whereas men were built for action. Consequently, she proposed that women could perform intellectual tasks in business, such as accounting, whilst men should carry out jobs requiring physical labor.
Drake also believed that 'all Souls are equal, and alike'. Thus, for Drake, there were no rational grounds for contending that women were intellectually inferior to men. Such a belief was only sustained through 'the Usurpation of Men, and the Tyranny of Custom'." (Dr. Hannah Smith, "English 'Feminist' Writings and Judith Drake's 'An Essay in Defence of the Female Sex (1696)", The Historical Journal, 44 (2001), pp. 27-47.)
Wing D 2125A (formerly Wing A 4058, under Astell); Halkett & Laing, "Dictionary of Anonymous and Pseudonymous English Literature", Vol. 2; Additional reading: Brenda Tooley, "'Like a False Renegade': The Ends and Means of Feminist Apologetics in 'A Dialogue concerning Women and An Essay in Defence of the Female Sex'", The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, 36.2 (1995): pp. 157-177.
|Provenance: With the contemporary ownership inscription of "Rebecca Hamilton" to the title page.|
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