The Counsels of a Friend, Belinda, hear

First Line The Counsels of a Friend, Belinda, hear
Author George Lyttelton
Date 1733

Epistle [Women; Conduct, morality].

Transcribed from Lyttelton, George. Advice to a Lady, 1733. Eighteenth Century Collections Online, GALE|CW0113116747.



The Counsels of a Friend, Belinda, hear,

Too roughly kind to please a Lady's Ear,

Unlike the Flatt'ries of a Lover's Pen,

Such Truths as Women seldom learn from Men.

Nor think I praise you ill, when thus I show

What Female Vanity might fear to know:

Some Merit's mine, to dare to be sincere,

But greater your's, Sincerity to bear.


Hard is the Fortune that your Sex attends;

Women, like Princes, find no real Friends,

All who approach them their own Ends pursue,

Lovers and Ministers are never true.

Hence oft from Reason heedless Beauty strays,

And the most Trusted Guide the most Betrays:

Hence by fond Dreams of Fancy'd Pow'r amus'd,

When most you Tyrannize you're most Abus'd. 


What is your Sex's earliest, latest Care,

Your Heart's supreme Ambition? To be fair;

For this the Toilet every Thought employs,

Hence all the Toils of Dress, and all the Joys: 

For this Hands, Lips, and Eyes are put to School,

And each instructed Feature has its Rule;

And yet how few have learnt, when this is giv'n,

Not to disgrace the partial Boon of Heav'n.

How few with all their Pride of Form can move?

How few are lovely, Nature fram'd for Love?

Do you, my Fair, endeavour to possess

An Elegance of Mind as well as Dress;

Be that your Ornament, and know to please

By graceful Nature's unaffected Ease.


Nor make to dangerous Wit a vain Pretence,

But wisely rest content with modest Sense;

For Wit, like Wine, intoxicates the Brain,

Too strong for feeble Woman to sustain;

Of those who claim it, more than half have none,

And Half of those who have it, are undone.


Be still superior to your Sex's Arts,

Nor think Dishonesty a Proof of Parts;

For you the plainest is the wisest Rule,

A cunning Woman is a knavish Fool.


Be good yourself, nor think another's Shame

Can raise your Merit or adorn your Fame;

Prudes rail at Whores, as Statesmen in Disgrace

At Ministers, because they wish their Place.


Virtue is amiable, mild, serene,

Without, all Beauty, and all Peace within:

The Honour of a Prude is Rage and Storm,

'Tis Ugliness in its most frightful Form.

Fiercely it stands defying Gods and Men,

As fiery Monsters guard a Giant's Den.


Seek to be Good, but aim not to be Great,

A Woman's noblest Station is Retreat;

Her fairest Virtues fly from publick Sight,

Domestick Worth, that shuns too strong a Light.


To rougher Man Ambition's Task resign:

'Tis our's in Senates or in Courts to shine.

To labour for a sunk corrupted State,

Or dare the Rage of Envy, and be Great:

One only Care your gentle Breasts should move,

Th'important Business of your Life is Love;

To this great Point direct your constant Aim,

This makes your Happiness, and this your Fame.


Be never cool Reserve with Passion join'd;

Love not at all, or else be fondly kind;

In this Extreams alone can truly bless,

The Virtue of a Lover is Excess.


Contemn[sic] the little Pride of giving Pain,

Nor think that Conquest justifies Disdain;

Short is the Period of insulting Pow'r,

Offended Cupid finds his vengeful Hour,

Soon will resume the Empire which he gave,

And soon the Tyrant shall become the Slave.


Blest is the Maid, and worthy to be blest,

Whose Soul entire by him she loves possest,

Feels every Vanity, in Fondness lost,

And asks no Pow'r, but that of pleasing most:

Hers is the Bliss in sweet Return to prove

The honest Warmth of undissembled Love;

For her inconstant Man might cease to range,

And Gratitude forbid Desire to change.


Thus I, Belinda, would your Charms improve,

And form your Heart to all the Arts of Love.

The Task were harder to secure my own

Against the Pow'r of those already known;

For well you twist the secret Chains that bind

With gentle Force the captivated Mind,

Skill'd every soft Attraction to employ,

Each flatt'ring Hope, and each alluring Joy: 

I own your Genius, and from You receive

The Rules of pleasing, which to You I give.