True, indeed

The young ladies being seated, this morning, their preceptress addressed
them as follows.

“Writing is productive both of pleasure and improvement. It is a source
of entertainment which enlarges the mental powers more, perhaps, than
any other. The mind is obliged to exertion for materials to supply the
pen. Hence it collects new stores of knowledge, and is enriched by its
own labors. It imperceptibly treasures up the ideas, which the hand
impresses. An opportunity is furnished of reviewing our sentiments
before they are exposed; and we have the privilege of correcting or
expunging such as are erroneous. For this purpose, you will find it a
good method to collect and write your thoughts upon any subject that
occurs; for by repeatedly arranging and revising your expressions and
opinions, you may daily improve them, and learn to think and reason
properly on every occasion. By this mean you may likewise provide
yourselves with a fund of matter for future use, which, without this
assistance, the memory would not retain. It will be of great service to
note down in your commonplace book such particulars as you may judge
worth remembering, with your own observations upon them. This will be a
kind of amusement which will exercise your thinking powers at the time,
and by recurring to it afterwards, it may afford you many useful hints.

“The frequent use of the pen is calculated to refine and enlarge your
understandings. Have you any talent at composition? it will be increased
by cultivation.

“Neglect no opportunity, therefore, which your leisure affords, of
delighting your friends, and accomplishing yourselves by the exercise of
your genius in this way.

“Thrice blessed are we, the happy daughters of this land of liberty,
where the female mind is unshackled by the restraints of tyrannical
custom, which in many other regions confines the exertions of genius to
the usurped powers of lordly man! Here virtue, merit, and abilities are
properly estimated under whatever form they appear. Here the widely
extended fields of literature court attention; and the American fair are
invited to cull the flowers, and cultivate the expanding laurel.

“But the species of writing, which is open to every capacity, and
ornamental to every station, is the epistolary. This, between particular
friends, is highly agreeable and interesting. It is a method of
interchanging sentiments, and of enjoying intercourse with those from
whom you are far removed, which is a happy substitute for personal
conversation. In a correspondence of this sort, all affectation,
formality, and bombast should be laid aside.

“Ease, frankness, simplicity, and sincerity should be its leading
traits. Yet let not your letters be composed of mere sounding terms, and
verbose egotism; but intermix sentiment with expression, in such a
manner as may be improving as well as pleasing. Letters of friendship
should conduce no less to the advantage than entertainment of the person
addressed; and mere cursory letters, of general acquaintance, must, at
least, be written with propriety and accuracy. The formation of the
characters, the spelling, the punctuation, as well as the style and
sense, must be attended to.

“Never omit noticing the receipt of letters, unless you mean to affront
the writers. Not to answer a letter, without being able to assign some
special reason for the neglect is equally unpardonable as to keep
silence when conversation is addressed to you in person.

“By habituating yourselves to writing, what may, at first, appear a
task, will become extremely pleasant. Refuse not, then, to improve this
part of your education, especially by your frequent and dutifully
affectionate epistles to your parents, when absent from them. Express
your gratitude for their care, and convince them it has not been lost
upon you.

“Always employ your pens upon something useful and refined. Let no light
or loose compositions occupy your time and thoughts; but remember that
what you utter in this way is in some measure the picture of your
hearts. Virtue forbid, that this favorite employment should be disgraced
by impurity, indelicacy, or the communication of vicious and ignoble
sentiments!

“One of the sages of antiquity being asked why he was so long in writing
his opinion, replied, ‘I am writing for futurity.’

“Your characters during life, and even when you shall sleep in the dust,
may rest on the efforts of your pens. Beware then how you employ them.
Let not the merit of your attainments in this noble art be degraded by
improper subjects for its exercise. Suffer not the expectation of
secresy to induce you to indulge your pens upon subjects, which you
would blush to have exposed. In this way your characters may be injured,
and your happiness destroyed.

“Celia and Cecilia were companions at a boarding school. When separated,
they commenced an epistolary correspondence, on which each valued
herself. Their former intimacy which they termed friendship, prompted
them to write with unlimited confidence; and, without the least reserve,
to reveal every dictate of levity and thoughtless folly. They imagined
themselves perfectly secure from the censure of the critic. Their
education had not taught them, that a virtuous mind should shrink even
from ideal indelicacy. Celia was courted by Silvander, a young man of
whom she was passionately fond; but she had art and resolution enough to
conceal her letters from his inspection, though he often solicited a
communication of her correspondence. At length he became impatient for a
perusal of letters which appeared so pleasing and interesting to the
parties, and suspicious that some particular cause directed their
privacy. Influenced by these motives, Silvander bribed a market-boy, who
came from the village where Cecilia lived, and always conveyed the
letters to and from her, to give them first into his hand. How
astonished was he to find the lightness of mind exemplified in them!
Purity of sentiment, delicacy of thought, and refinement of taste were
entirely laid aside; and illiberal wit, frothy jests, double entendres,
and ridiculous love-tales were substituted in their place. His name was
used with so much freedom, and every circumstance relative to his
intercourse, and proposed connexion with Celia, was bandied with such
familiarity, that he was mortified, disgusted, and chagrined, in the
extreme. He had the policy, however, to conceal the discovery till he
had copied a considerable number of Celia’s letters, leaving out
whatever had reference to his own affairs. He then revenged himself by
disclosing his knowledge to her, avowing his indignation at her
weakness, duplicity and folly, and taking an immediate and final leave.
Not content with this, he even circulated her letters among his
acquaintance. This fixed the stamp of ignominy on the correspondents;
and their names and characters were rendered as ridiculous as scandal
and malicious wit could desire.

“Celia was almost distracted at the loss of her lover; but when she
found the method he had taken to punish her indiscretion, and that her
reputation was thus materially injured, she secluded herself, in a great
measure, from society. Her sensibility received a wound which could
never be healed; and she lived and died in melancholy, regret, and
obscurity.

“However censurable the unjust and ungenerous conduct of Silvander may
be deemed, yet no adequate excuse can be offered for the young ladies,
who dishonored their pens and their talents by a most improper and
unbecoming use of both.

“Next to writing, arithmetic usually claims attention. This is
absolutely necessary in every department, and in every stage of life

Even in youth, the proper arrangement of your expenses will conduce
greatly to your advantage; and when placed at the head of families, it
will be very friendly to the order and economy of your domestic affairs.
But, leaving your matronal conduct to future admonition, many benefits
result from keeping regular accounts in a single state. Your parents
allow you a certain sum for your own private use. Fashion and folly are
always busy in creating innumerable imaginary wants, which must exceed
your finances, if you do not attend to an exact adjustment of your
expenditures. For this purpose, always calculate your immediate and most
necessary demands. Let these be first supplied, and then if your funds
be not exhausted, more superfluous ones may occupy your thoughts. There
is one claim, however, which must not be neglected, and that is CHARITY.
You will, therefore, manage your expenses in such a manner as to reserve
some portion of your income for the necessitous. Should you think your
allowance insufficient to admit the children of want to a share, let
your benevolence plead for the retrenchment of some trifling article
which you may dispense with, without much inconvenience; and the
exquisite pleasure resulting from the bestowment, will more than
counterbalance the sacrifice. In these, and many other particulars, a
knowledge of arithmetic will enable you to conduct the affairs of youth
with ease, advantage, and usefulness. And, perhaps, as you advance in
years, and are called to fill more important stations, you may find it
of still greater utility.

“The father of Lucinda was in easy circumstances, while he could perform
the duties and enjoy the profits of a lucrative business. He was the
affectionate parent of a numerous family, to whose education and
improvement he attended with unwearied diligence and pleasure; till
repeated losses in trade, and disappointments in his worldly
expectations embarrassed his affairs, depressed his spirits, and
impaired his health. In the midst of these difficulties, his amiable and
beloved wife was removed by death. This trial was greater than he could
support. He sunk under the affliction, and lost his reason. Lucinda was
the eldest of six children, the care of whom, with the melancholy task
of attending and ministering to the necessities of her unhappy father,
devolved on her. She looked upon the wo-fraught scene, and wept. Her
heart was sinking under the weight of grief; and hope, the best soother
of the unfortunate, had nearly abandoned her. She advised with her
friends, who proposed to relieve the family by means of a subscription.
Lucinda thanked them for their proffered kindness, and returned to her
disconsolate habitation. She deliberated on the projected measure; which
she considered must be slow, uncertain, and, at any rate, inadequate to
their future exigences. She could not reconcile herself to the idea of
her father’s depending on charity for subsistence. Yet what could be
done? One resource only remained;—her own exertions. By these she
flattered herself, that she might save the family from suffering want,
and discharge the obligations she owed to her revered parent. Her
education, by which, among other branches of learning, she had been well
instructed in arithmetic, (that being her father’s favorite study)
qualified her for this undertaking. She therefore devoted herself to the
business without delay; examined her father’s accounts, collected
whatever remained that was valuable; sold the superfluous moveables, and
purchased a small stock for trade. All who knew her motives and merit
frequented her shop, and encouraged her by their custom and kindness. By
this mean, together with her judicious management, and engaging
behavior, she increased her business to such a degree, as to support the
family with ease and reputation.

“Her discreet and dutiful conduct to her father, soon restored him to
his reason.

“When he found how prudently and affectionately Lucinda had exerted
herself in his behalf, he exclaimed, ‘Many daughters have done
virtuously, but thou excellest them all!’

“He resumed his former business, and lived to see his children all well
provided for, and happily settled around him.”

Her pupils having taken their places, Mrs. Williams proceeded.

“In music and dancing you have made such proficiency that your
performances must be very pleasing to your friends, before whom you
occasionally exhibit.

“As dancing is an accomplishment merely external, let not the vanity of
excellence in it betray itself in an air of conscious superiority, when
you shine at the ball, and perceive yourselves to have attracted the
attention and applause of the gay assembly. But in the midst of hilarity
and mirth, remember that modesty, diffidence, discretion, and humility
are indispensable appendages of virtue and decency.

“Music is a talent which nature has bestowed, and which your application
has considerably improved. It has a powerful influence over the heart;
wonderfully soothes and humanizes the passions, and is a source of
refined pleasure to a mind capable of tasting its charms.

“Never refuse gratifying your friends by the exertion of your abilities
in performing, unless for some very special reason. Though I would not
have you vain of your skill, and officiously forward to display it; yet
the affectation of uncommon modesty, and ignorance, is truly ridiculous.
To plead inability to exercise powers, which you are conscious of
possessing, and for which you wish to be esteemed and honored by others,
is false delicacy, and will never gain admission to the breast where
that which is genuine resides. How perfectly absurd it is for a young
lady, who is politely requested to entertain a company with her musical
talents, to declare them so small that she is really ashamed to expose
herself before such good judges; or that she has neglected playing, or
singing, for some time, and cannot immediately revive her dormant skill;
or that she has forgotten her tunes, or songs; or that she has a bad
cold; (which none but herself perceives,) and is unable to sing; or that
she is loath to begin this amusement, and must insist upon some other
lady’s setting the example; which other lady has, in her turn, an equal
number of excuses! Thus the time of the company is engrossed, and their
pleasure suspended, till a long train of arguments, entreaties, and
compliments are run through, and her vanity fully gratified by the most
flattering and importunate solicitations.

“Then, elate with pride and self importance, she condescends to grant
their request; not considering how far she has derogated from her own
merit by the futile artifice she has employed; an artifice unworthy of
an ingenuous mind, and disgraceful to any lady who has arrived to years
of discretion.

“Let us view this evasive manner of seeking compliments a little nearer.
When a person is known to be mistress of this delightful art, what can
be her motive for delaying the gratification of her friends by its
exercise, and refusing a compliance with their wishes, till their
patience is exhausted? I believe that excuses, in this case, are very
seldom sincere. The youthful mind is not insensible to praise, nor
indifferent to the means of obtaining it.

“Why then should it not be received and increased by a ready and
obliging compliance? A desire to please is usually attended with
success; and for what reason should the power and disposition be
artfully concealed?

“Always preserve a frankness and sincerity in your actions and designs.
These will add dignity to your condescensions, and gracefulness to your
deportment.

“Rise superior to those little arts which bespeak the finesse of a
childish folly, or a narrow mind. Do honor to this, as well as to every
other part of your education, by acting conformably to the precepts
which have been given you, the knowledge which you have acquired, and
the opportunities with which you may be furnished for the purpose.

“Music and dancing, though polite and elegant accomplishments, are,
perhaps, the most fascinating, and, of course, the most dangerous of any
that fall under that description. When indulged to excess, beside
engrossing much time which ought to be employed in the execution of more
necessary and useful designs, they sometimes allure their fond votaries
from that purity and rectitude which are the chief embellishments of the
female character. They lay the mind open to many temptations, and, by
nourishing a frivolous vanity, benumb the nobler powers both of
reflection and action.

“Levitia was endowed, by the joint influence of nature and art, with
these pleasing charms. Symmetry was perfected in her form; and her voice
was melody itself. Her parents were not in affluent circumstances; yet
their taste led them to distinguish those graces and talents in their
daughter, which they injudiciously flattered themselves might, one day,
raise her to affluence and fame. Hence they spared no pains nor expense,
in their power to bestow, to assist her inclination and gratify her
wishes. As she advanced in years, she assiduously cultivated and
diligently improved those endowments which she had been erroneously
encouraged, and even taught, to consider most valuable. To adorn her
person, regulate her movements, and practise her music, was all her
care. Nor had she a wish beyond the pleasures, which she fancied they
could yield. Her mind resembled a garden, in which the useful plants
were overrun and choked by noxious weeds. Here and there, a gaudy flower
rears its brilliant head, and proudly dares to arrest the eye; while the
delicate and useful lie buried and concealed in the surrounding waste!

“Flattery was pleasing to her ear, in whatever form it was presented.
The gay and licentious sought her society; and vanity with its attendant
train of follies led her imagination far from the sphere of life which
Providence had assigned her. Her parents saw their own mistake, and were
alarmed at her’s: but, alas! too late were their endeavors to prevent
the mischiefs which impended. They could not supply her unbounded wants;
and therefore to gratify her ruling passion, she deemed means of her own
invention indispensable. Among her admirers was a foreigner, who,
failing of success in his own country, sought a subsistence in ours,
from the stage. He knew Levitia’s talents. These might give her the palm
of applause, and in his way of life, render her conspicuous. This plan
he communicated to her, insidiously offering to become her guardian, and
to put her under the protection of such friends as should defend her
honor, and ensure her success. She was pleased with the project. Wholly
unacquainted with the world, and unsuspicious of the subtle arts of the
deluding libertine, she scrupled not his veracity, but listened to his
insinuating declarations of love and friendship. She was deceived by the
vanity of appearing where her fancied merit would meet with the
encouragement and reward it deserved; and vainly imagining that her
beauty might secure her elevation and affluence, she readily consented
to the fatal experiment, eloped from her father’s house, and became a
professed actress.

“Her parents were overwhelmed with grief and anxiety, at the discovery;
but to no purpose were all their exertions to reclaim her. She had left
them, no more to return; left them, too, with the heart-rending
reflection, that they themselves had heedlessly contributed to her
disgrace and ruin. But bitter indeed were the fruits of her disobedience
and folly!

“She made her appearance on the stage. She sung and danced, for which
she was caressed, flattered, and paid. A licentious mode of life
quadrating with the levity of her heart, soon left her a prey to
seduction. Her gaiety and beauty gained her many votaries, and she
became a complete courtezan.

“In the midst of this career, her mother died of a broken heart,
evidently occasioned by her undutiful and vicious conduct. A sense of
her ingratitude to her parents, and her shameless manner of life struck
her mind, not naturally unfeeling, with such force, as to throw her into
a fever which undermined her constitution, deprived her of her beauty,
ruined her voice, and left her without means of support. Her pretended
lover, finding she could no longer be useful to him, perfidiously
abandoned her to poverty and shame. She returned, like the prodigal, to
her unhappy father, who received, but could not assist her. Her
behavior, with its consequences in the death of her mother, had impaired
his health, depressed his spirits, and rendered him incapable of
providing for himself.

“She is now despised and avoided by all her former acquaintance, and
must inevitably spend the remainder of her days in wretchedness.

“Let us turn from this disgusting picture, and behold its contrast in
the amiable Florella. To beauty of person she superadds delicacy,
sensibility, and every noble quality of the mind. Respectful to her
superiors, affable, cheerful, and polite to her equals, and
condescendingly kind to her inferiors, Florella is universally esteemed,
beloved and admired. Of the pleasing accomplishments of music and
dancing she is a consummate mistress. Yet she is superior to the vain
arts of flattery, while the dignity of conscious virtue raises her far
above the affectation of false modesty and diffidence. To please and
oblige those friends who are interested in her happiness, and gratified
by her performances, is her delight. Nor does she think it necessary, by
feigned excuses, to delay the pleasure, which she is able to afford; but
willingly enhances that pleasure by a ready and cheerful compliance.
This she thinks the best return she can make for their kind attention.
Though delighted with these amusements herself, she, nevertheless,
considers them as amusements only; and assiduously cultivates the more
solid branches of her education. These, she is wont to say, may render
me useful and happy, when the voice of music shall be brought low, and
when the sprightly limbs shall become languid and inactive.

“How happy her parents in her filial duty and affection! How rich the
reward of their care and expense in contributing to her improvements!
How happy Florella in their complacency and love, and in the
consciousness of deserving them!

“She was, not long since, addressed by a gentleman, who was pleasing to
her fancy; but, determined never to indulge a sentiment of partiality
without the entire approbation of her parents, she referred him to their
decision. For particular reasons, they disapproved of his suit. She
acquiesced without reserve, and immediately dismissed him. Who would not
rather be a resembler of Florella, than a vain, imprudent, and ruined
Levitia?

“True, indeed, the acquirements and graces of Florella are not
attainable by every one; but the virtues of discretion, modesty, and
kindness are within the reach of the humblest sphere, and the most
moderate abilities.”