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Medicine and western civilization

Medical History
Cambridge University Press
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  • Psychology


Book Reviews heart. Margaret was not left in doubt about the risks, benefits and responsibilities of the rational, male education she was receiving. Her learning was to be of purely private benefit. She was warned not to pursue her academic interests to the detriment of those domestic duties for which nature had providentially formed her, or to reveal the extent of her learning to female friends or "ignorant foplings". Revelation invited the stigma attached to the character of female virtuosi or pedants. Like other contemporary experts on female conduct, Monro promoted the traditional virtues of a passive and amiable character. He seems aware, however, of the physical and psychological risks of female subjugation. One even suspects that he at times viewed his daughter's prospective lot in life as something like the proverbial dirty job that someone had to do. There are strong words on the value of female courage and the importance of independent judgement. He placed a high value on the freedom to choose who, or even whether, to marry and he promised his daughter that the income from her inheritance would make it unnecessary that financial considerations should play any role in these decisions. Like one famous predecessor in this genre, Sir George Savile (Lord Halifax), Monro also depicts a version of the worst possible scenario-a colourful gallery of such debauched and profligate potential suitors as the "whore-master", "gallant", "drunkard" and "gamester", whom any prudent woman must immediately reject. After reading his harrowing account of the snares and pitfalls of courtship and marriage, one is relieved to discover that Margaret avoided all of these as well as the less venal, "ninnies" and "frothy coxcombs". She married at the age of thirty, a respectable judge, nine years her senior. P A G Monro's edition of Primus's Essay is a welcome addition to the literature on women's conduct in the eighteenth century. His Introduction and discussion of the manuscript's provenance are both interesting a

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