To the Reader


If any do read this book of mine, pray be not too severe in your censures. For first, I have no children to employ my care and attendance on, and1 my lord’s estate being taken away in those times when I writ this book, I2 had nothing for housewifery or thrifty industry to employ myself in, having no stock to work on. For housewifery is a discreet management, and ordering all in private and household affairs, seeing that nothing be3 spoiled or profusely spent, that every thing may have4 its proper place, and every servant his proper work, and every work may5 be done in its proper time, to be neat and cleanly, to have their house quiet from all disturbing noise. But thriftiness is something stricter; for good housewifery may be used in great expenses, but6 thriftiness signifies a saving or a getting, as to7 increase their stock or estate. For thrift weighs and measures out all expense. It is just as in poetry: for good husbandry in poetry is when there is great store of fancy well ordered, not only in fine language, but proper phrases and significant words. And thrift in poetry is when there is but little fancy, which is not only spun to the last thread, but the thread is drawn so small that8 it is scarce perceived. But I had9 nothing to spin or order, so that10 I became11 idle—I cannot say “in mine own house,” because I had12 none but what my mind was13 lodged in. Thirdly, you are to14 spare your severe censures, because I had15 not so many years of experience when I wrote this book as could16 make me a garland to crown my head; only I had17 so much time as to gather a little posy to stick upon my breast. Lastly, the time I have been writing them hath not been very long, but since I came into England, being eight years out and nine months in, and of these nine months, only some hours in the day, or rather in the night. For my rest being broke with discontented thoughts because I was from my lord and husband, knowing him to be in great wants, and myself in the same condition, to divert them, I strove to turn the stream, and18 shunning the muddy and foul ways of vice, I went to the well of Helicon, and by the wells side I did sit19 and wrote this work. It is not excellent, nor rare, but plain; yet it is harmless, modest, and honest. True, you20 may tax my indiscretion, being so fond of my book as to make it as if it were my child, and striving to show her21 to the world in hopes some may like her,22 and though they cannot admire her beauty,23 yet may praise her24 behavior, which is neither25 wanton nor rude. Wherefore I hope you will not put her26 out of countenance, which she is very apt to,27 being of bashful nature, and as ready to shed repentant tears if she28 think she hath29 committed a fault: wherefore pity her30 youth and tender growth, and rather tax the parent’s indiscretion than the child’s innocency. But my book coming out in this iron age, I fear I shall find hard hearts; yet I had rather she31 should find cruelty than scorn, and that my book32 should be torn rather than laughed at, for there is no such regret in nature as contempt. But I am resolved to set it at all hazards. If Fortune plays ambs-ace,33 I am gone; if sice cinque, I shall win a reputation of fancy; and if I lose, I lose34 but the opinion of wit. And where the gain will be more than the loss, who would not venture, when there are many in the world (which are accounted wise) that will venture life and honor for a petty interest, or out of envy, or for revenge’s35 sake. And why should not I venture, when nothing lies at stake but wit? Let it go—I shall not,36 nor cannot be much poorer. If fortune be my friend, then fame will be my gain, which may build me a pyramid of37 praise to my memory. I shall have no cause to fear it will be so high as Babel’s tower, to fall in the mid-way. Yet I am sorry it doth not touch the38 heaven, but my incapacity, fear, awe, and reverence kept me from that work. For it were too great a presumption to venture to discourse of that39 in my fancy which is not describable.40 For God and his heavenly mansions are to be admired and wondered at with astonishment,41 and not disputed on.

But at all other things let fancy fly,
And like a towering eagle mount the sky.
Or like the sun swiftly the world to round,
Or like pure gold, which in the earth is found.
But if a drossy wit, let’t buried be
Under the ruins of all memory.

  1. and] Next, 1664, 1668
  2. away in those times when I writ this book, I] away 1653
  3. that nothing be] nothing 1653, 1664
  4. may have] has 1653
  5. may] to 1653
  6. but] for 1664; for, 1668
  7. as to] to 1668
  8. that] as 1653, 1664
  9. had] have 1653
  10. that] as 1653, 1664
  11. became] become 1653
  12. had] have 1653
  13. was] is 1653
  14. to] desired to 1664, 1668
  15. because I had] I having 1653
  16. when I wrote this book as could] as will 1653
  17. had] have had 1653
  18. and] yet 1653
  19. did sit] have sat, 1653
  20. you] it 1653
  21. her] it 1664, 1668
  22. her,] it, 1664, 1668
  23. and though they cannot admire her beauty,] although no Beauty to Admire, 1653, 1664; and, though they cannot admire its Beauty, 1668
  24. her] its 1664, 1668
  25. which is neither] as not being 1653, 1664
  26. her] it 1664, 1668
  27. which she is very apt to,] which it is very apt to, 1664; to which it is very apt, 1668
  28. she] it 1664, 1668
  29. she hath] it have 1664, 1668
  30. her] its 1664, 1668
  31. she] it 1664, 1668
  32. my book] it 1664, 1668
  33. ambs-ace,] Aums Ace, 1653, 1664
  34. lose, I lose] loose, I loose 1653
  35. revenge’s] Revenge 1653, 1664, 1668
  36. shall not,] shall 1653, 1664
  37. of] a 1653, 1664
  38. the] at 1653
  39. of that] that 1653
  40. describable.] to be described: 1668
  41. and wondered at with astonishment,] wondred, and astonished at 1653; Wondred, and Astonished at 1664