THE LEARNED WOMEN.
What! Sister, you will give up the sweet and enchanting title of
maiden? You can entertain thoughts of marrying! This vulgar wish can
enter your head!HEN.
Ah! Who can bear that "yes"? Can anyone hear it without
feelings of disgust?HEN.
What is there in marriage which can oblige you, sister, to….ARM.
Fie! I tell you. Can you not conceive what offence the very mention
of such a word presents to the imagination, and what a repulsive
image it offers to the thoughts? Do you not shudder before it? And
can you bring yourself to accept all the consequences which this word
When I consider all the consequences which this word implies, I only
have offered to my thoughts a husband, children, and a home; and I
see nothing in all this to defile the imagination, or to make one
O heavens! Can such ties have charms for you?HEN.
And what at my age can I do better than take a husband who loves me,
and whom I love, and through such a tender union secure the delights
of an innocent life? If there be conformity of tastes, do you see no
attraction in such a bond?ARM.
Ah! heavens! What a grovelling disposition! What a poor part you act
in the world, to confine yourself to family affairs, and to think of
no more soul-stirring pleasures than those offered by an idol of a
husband and by brats of children! Leave these base pleasures to the
low and vulgar. Raise your thoughts to more exalted objects;
endeavour to cultivate a taste for nobler pursuits; and treating
sense and matter with contempt, give yourself, as we do, wholly to
the cultivation of your mind. You have for an example our mother, who
is everywhere honoured with the name of learned. Try, as we do, to
prove yourself her daughter; aspire to the enlightened
intellectuality which is found in our family, and acquire a taste for
the rapturous pleasures which the love of study brings to the heart
and mind. Instead of being in bondage to the will of a man, marry
yourself, sister, to philosophy, for it alone raises you above the
rest of mankind, gives sovereign empire to reason, and submits to its
laws the animal part, with those grovelling desires which lower us to
the level of the brute. These are the gentle flames, the sweet ties,
which should fill every moment of life. And the cares to which I see
so many women given up, appear to me pitiable frivolities.HEN.
Heaven, whose will is supreme, forms us at our birth to fill
different spheres; and it is not every mind which is composed of
materials fit to make a philosopher. If your mind is created to soar
to those heights which are attained by the speculations of learned
men, mine is fitted, sister, to take a meaner flight and to centre
its weakness on the petty cares of the world. Let us not interfere
with the just decrees of Heaven; but let each of us follow our
different instincts. You, borne on the wings of a great and noble
genius, will inhabit the lofty regions of philosophy; I, remaining
here below, will taste the terrestrial charms of matrimony. Thus, in
our several paths, we shall still imitate our mother: you, in her
mind and its noble longings; I, in her grosser senses and coarser
pleasures; you, in the productions of genius and light, and I,
sister, in productions more material.ARM.
When we wish to take a person for a model, it is the nobler side we
should imitate; and it is not taking our mother for a model, sister,
to cough and spit like her.HEN.
But you would not have been what you boast yourself to be if our
mother had had only her nobler qualities; and well it is for you that
her lofty genius did not always devote itself to philosophy. Pray,
leave me to those littlenesses to which you owe life, and do not, by
wishing me to imitate you, deny some little savant entrance into the
I see that you cannot be cured of the foolish infatuation of taking a
husband to yourself. But, pray, let us know whom you intend to marry;
I suppose that you do not aim at Clitandre?HEN.
And why should I not? Does he lack merit? Is it a low choice I have
Certainly not; but it would not be honest to take away the conquest
of another; and it is a fact not unknown to the world that Clitandre
has publicly sighed for me.HEN.
Yes; but all those sighs are mere vanities for you; you do not share
human weaknesses; your mind has for ever renounced matrimony, and
philosophy has all your love. Thus, having in your heart no
pretensions to Clitandre, what does it matter to you if another has
The empire which reason holds over the senses does not call upon us
to renounce the pleasure of adulation; and we may refuse for a
husband a man of merit whom we would willingly see swell the number
of our admirers.HEN.
I have not prevented him from continuing his worship, but have only
received the homage of his passion when you had rejected it.ARM.
But do you find entire safety, tell me, in the vows of a rejected
lover? Do you think his passion for you so great that all love for me
can be dead in his heart?HEN.
He tells me so, sister, and I trust him.ARM.
Do not, sister, be so ready to trust him; and be sure that, when he
says he gives me up and loves you, he really does not mean it, but
I cannot say; but if you wish it, it will be easy for us to discover
the true state of things. I see him coming, and on this point he will
be sure to give us full information.SCENE
II.—CLITANDRE, ARMANDE, HENRIETTE.HEN.
Clitandre, deliver me from a doubt my sister has raised in me. Pray
open your heart to us; tell us the truth, and let us know which of us
has a claim upon your love.ARM.
No, no; I will not force upon your love the hardship of an
explanation. I have too much respect for others, and know how
perplexing it is to make an open avowal before witnesses.CLI.
No; my heart cannot dissemble, and it is no hardship to me to speak
openly. Such a step in no way perplexes me, and I acknowledge before
all, freely and openly, that the tender chains which bind me
HENRIETTE), my homage and my love, are all on this side. Such a
confession can cause you no surprise, for you wished things to be
thus. I was touched by your attractions, and my tender sighs told you
enough of my ardent desires; my heart offered you an immortal love,
but you did not think the conquest which your eyes had made noble
enough. I have suffered many slights, for you reigned over my heart
like a tyrant; but weary at last with so much pain, I looked
elsewhere for a conqueror more gentle, and for chains less cruel.
HENRIETTE) I have met with them here, and my bonds will forever be
precious to me. These eyes have looked upon me with compassion, and
have dried my tears. They have not despised what you had refused.
Such kindness has captivated me, and there is nothing which would now
break my chains. Therefore I beseech you, Madam, never to make an
attempt to regain a heart which has resolved to die in this gentle
Bless me, Sir, who told you that I had such a desire, and, in short,
that I cared so much for you? I think it tolerably ridiculous that
you should imagine such a thing, and very impertinent in you to
declare it to me.HEN.
Ah! gently, sister. Where is now that moral sense which has so much
power over that which is merely animal in us, and which can restrain
the madness of anger?ARM.
And you, who speak to me, what moral sense have you when you respond
to a love which is offered to you before you have received leave from
those who have given you birth? Know that duty subjects you to their
laws, and that you may love only in accordance with their choice; for
they have a supreme authority over your heart, and it is criminal in
you to dispose of it yourself.HEN.
I thank you for the great kindness you show me in teaching me my
duty. My heart intends to follow the line of conduct you have traced;
and to show you that I profit by your advice, pray, Clitandre, see
that your love is strengthened by the consent of those from whom I
have received birth. Acquire thus a right over my wishes, and for me
the power of loving you without a crime.CLI.
I will do so with all diligence. I only waited for this kind
permission from you.ARM.
You triumph, sister, and seem to fancy that you thereby give me pain.HEN.
I, sister? By no means. I know that the laws of reason will always
have full power over your senses, and that, through the lessons you
derive from wisdom, you are altogether above such weakness. Far from
thinking you moved by any vexation, I believe that you will use your
influence to help me, will second his demand of my hand, and will by
your approbation hasten the happy day of our marriage. I beseech you
to do so; and in order to secure this end….ARM.
Your little mind thinks it grand to resort to raillery, and you seem
wonderfully proud of a heart which I abandon to you.HEN.
Abandoned it may be; yet this heart, sister, is not so disliked by
you but that, if you could regain it by stooping, you would even
condescend to do so.ARM.
I scorn to answer such foolish prating.HEN.
You do well; and you show us inconceivable moderation.