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This essay appeared in the September 1794 edition of the Massachusetts Magazine
under the name "Constantia." In it, Judith discusses curiosity, especially in females, as an admirable trait.
The Repository. No. XVV.
CURIOSITY is undoubtedly one of the most active principles of the soul. What degree of curiosity is compatible with sound philosophy, may be a question, but that it is of general utility, must, I think, remain indisputable. Curiosity is said to predominate in a superior degree in the female bosom. I know that curiosity is not ascribed to us as a virtue; no, by no means; it is rather pointed out as a reprehensible excresence. But with all due deference to those who are fond of searching out, and of reporting the supposed blemish, I take leave to say, that if curiosity was confined to us, then would the lords of the creation be indebted to us, for all those improvements of which humanity hath been found susceptible; we should then become the source of information, and by consequence it is we who must be invested with the honorary bays. -- Suppose the principle of curiosity had been from the beginning dormant in the soul; suppose the human being wholly incurious, altogether averse from investigation -- in what profound ignorance would mankind have been wrapped? -- Where would have been all the astonishing discoveries which we owe to the sublime genius of a Newton? Void of this stimulative, his researches would have been at an end; or rather they would never have commenced; and it is, therefore, to this noble incitement, that the world is indebted for the pleasing knowledge of the great balance of nature, the idea of gravitation, the order of the planets, with many other useful, delightful, and elevating speculations, which once were latent. Suspend for a time the operation of this same curiosity, and, during such suspension, science is at a stand, genius hath lost its prime movement, and the progress of every improvement is effectually arrested. Thus it is a fact, that those who so lavishly attribute curiosity, in so large a proportion to the Sex, very evidently, although perhaps they are not aware thereof, ascribe to females a superior degree of that noble incentive, which is the origin of every mental acquisition. Let then curiosity, female curiosity, cease to be considered a term of reproach; and let the levellers of female abilities, take a more certain aim at that worth, which they assay to prostrate.
2007 © Bonnie Hurd Smith
Independent scholar and author Bonnie Hurd Smith is the president and CEO of History Smiths
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