Throughout the 18th century, we see gender as a site of much anxiety. At this time, women were emerging as key contributors to both political and popular writing, through works such as Oroonoko, by Aphra Behn, and A Vindication of the Rights of Man, by Mary Wollenstonecraft Godwin. This feminine input had a mixed reception from the existing intelligentsia. Some, like Edmund Burke reacted with horror, fearing the end of their romantic view of civil decency and respect. Burke's opinion of women, especially educated women seems truly offensive from a contempory standpoint, especially the opinions expressed in his letter to a Parisian gentleman;
[...] The main character Belinda is a woman of extradinary beauty who is desired by all; Fair Nymphs, and well- dressed Youths around her shone, But every Eye was fixed on her alone. Belinda's guardian, Ariel, advises her that to reach, and keep her perfect beauty, she must remain chaste and pure, and as a reward she will be adored and worshiped, and have the sylphs to protect and care for her; Know farther yet; Whoever fair and chaste Rejects mankind, is by some Sylphs embraced. [...]
[...] It seems as if Wilmot is warning woman such as the poetess Katherine Philips, not to bask in their popularity, and to be ware of the criticism they put themselves in line for, Cursed, if you fail, and scorned, though you succeed. Another example of the loss of innocence, and therefore beauty is in the etchings by William Hogath entitled A Harlot's Progress. Here we see a pretty country maiden, Moll Hackabout, arrive in London, looking for work. She is approached by a brothel owner, with foreboding pox marks on her skin. [...]
[...] Footnotes: 1. p.10 Todd p.7 Todd " " 4. Encyclopedia 5. p.53 Todd p.1137 Anthology, More 7. " " " 8. " " " 9. p.1136 Anthology, More 10. " " " 11. " " " 12. " " " 13. p.1139 [...]
[...] Cupid's flame This coldness is also represented by Belinda's continued connection to the sun which, in Renaissance art was a popular metaphor for dazzling brilliance, (especially used to portray Elizabeth see The Rainbow Portrait by Issac Oliver) underlaid with coldness, as Andrew Graham Dixon puts it ' . frigidy and eros . ' There is another somewhat negative image of Belinda at the end of the poem, one which links her not just to coldness, but to evil itself. When Belinda is restored, she is compared to a magnificent comet, A sudden star, it shot through liquid air, And drew behind a radiant Trail of Hair. [...]
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