Caroline’s Reviews of “Most Recent Discoveries” and “He shall rule over thee”

Caroline’s Reviews of “The Most Recent Discoveries in the Realm of Women and Girls” and “And he shall rule over thee. Genesis 3:16” [*]

Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1798) 223 (Monday, 23 July 1798) 166–68:

(1.) With the alleged place of publication Gynäkopolis and at the expense of the German Union of Brethren: Neueste Entdeckungen im Reiche der Weiber und Mädchen. Durch eine Reise veranlasst. Vol. 1. 1797. XII and 170 pages. 8vo. (14 gr.), and

(2.) No place of publication: Und er soll dein Herr sein. I Mos. 3,16. Ein Beytrag zur Berichtigung neuer Missverständnisse und zur Abstellung alter Missbräuche. 1797. VIII and 558 pages. 8vo. (6 gr.).

Number 1 is dedicated first of all to the ladies and girls of Leipzig, and the discoveries, though not new, do indeed seem to refer to a specific locale. The accompanying universally valid remarks, however, are also the best, such as, e.g., the accurate remarks concerning reading material, concerning mothers’ delight in having comely daughters, etc. In the narrative or dramatic part, the author shows himself from a far less cultivated side. Hence one cannot really know how much useful service he himself is thereby capable of performing. Be the tone among women ever so refined, be it the tone of a genuinely large town — which one can by no means, as does the author, consider Leipzig — as soon as vacuity, idleness, and depravity enter, even the trivial portrayals of the ordinary can well apply to them, and indeed they will perhaps even recognize themselves with all the more horror there.

Yet certain things are indeed admixed here that can be aimed only at the lower classes, and which thus had to be kept at a distance when wishing to keep the company of the upper. Among women, this aristocracy must be spared as long as such things can be improved thus from the outset, otherwise one risks simultaneously insulting the delicatesse of the well-raised and the prejudices of those who yet must be raised. Silliness and passivity are, moreover, more serious enemies of the female sex than prurience, un-Platonic sentimentality, etc. Since the author has not entirely overlooked this, we would wish all the more that in the future he might battle against such with more adroit and effective weapons.

Number 2 has been inspired by a more philosophical feeling for the dignity of women, dignity the author considers nothing less than that of human beings as such. From this perspective he tries to refute an essay by Herr Bendavid in the Berlinische Monatsschrift (October 1796), in which those particular initial words — “and he shall rule over thee” — are to be modified in a humane fashion. He notes quite rightly that such artificial modifications often do more to perpetuate abuse than do literal interpretations. He declares his opposition to that law and, unlike Bendavid, examines it not as a dictum of the Eternal, but as merely human words. His argument is quite simple, occasionally a bit rough, but full of healthy truths. Let us adduce the following as proof (page 44):

What would be desirable is that we be less galant and courteous and kindly toward women, and instead all the more just, so that we not honor them as beautiful but weak creatures merely for the sake of appearance and jest, or out of a sense of magnanimous consideration, but instead, in all seriousness and from a sense of acknowledged obligation, that we respect their rights as human beings of equal dignity. For precisely that is the pernicious and corruptive maxim of despotism, namely, to view as a free, beneficent gift — a gift one might grant or withhold just as one pleases — that which one in fact owes to others by virtue of God and what is just, — a maxim one finds applied in other relationships of human life as well etc.


[*] Approx. titles: (1) “The most recent discoveries in the realm of women and girls: prompted by a journey”; (2) “And he shall rule over thee. Genesis 3:16; a contribution toward correcting some recent misunderstandings and eliminating old abuses.”

The familiar passage from Genesis is found in the account of the creation of Adam and Eve (Christoph Weigel, Biblia Ectypa: Bildnussen auß Heiliger Schrifft dess Alt- und Neuen Testaments, in welchen Alle Geschichte und Erscheinungen deutlich und schrifftmäßig zu Gottes Ehre und Andächtiger Seelen erbaulicher beschauung vorgestellet werden [Augsburg 1695]):



Translation © 2012 Doug Stott