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Maria or the Wrongs of Woman

Chapter 11
"A GENTLEMAN of large fortune and of polished manners, had lately visited very
frequently at our house, and treated me, if possible, with more respect than Mr.
Venables paid him; my pregnancy was not yet visible, his society was a great
relief to me, as I had for some time past, to avoid expence, confined myself very
much at home. I ever disdained unnecessary, perhaps even prudent
concealments; and my husband, with great ease, discovered the amount of my
uncle's parting present. A copy of a writ was the stale pretext to extort it from me;
and I had soon reason to believe that it was fabricated for the purpose. I
acknowledge my folly in thus suffering myself to be continually imposed on. I had
adhered to my resolution not to apply to my uncle, on the part of my husband,
any more; yet, when I had received a sum sufficient to supply my own wants, and
to enable me to pursue a plan I had in view, to settle my younger brother in a
respectable employment, I allowed myself to be duped by Mr. Venables' shallow
pretences, and hypocritical professions.
"Thus did he pillage me and my family, thus frustrate all my plans of
usefulness. Yet this was the man I was bound to respect and esteem: as if
respect and esteem depended on an arbitrary will of our own! But a wife being as
much a man's property as his horse, or his ass, she has nothing she can call her
own. He may use any means to get at what the law considers as his, the moment
his wife is in possession of it, even to the forcing of a lock, as Mr. Venables did,
to search for notes in my writing-desk--and all this is done with a show of equity,
because, forsooth, he is responsible for her maintenance.
"The tender mother cannot _lawfully_ snatch from the gripe of the gambling
spendthrift, or beastly drunkard, unmindful of his offspring, the fortune which falls
to her by chance; or (so flagrant is the injustice) what she earns by her own
exertions. No; he can rob her with impunity, even to waste publicly on a
courtezan; and the laws of her country--if women have a country--afford her no
protection or redress from the oppressor, unless she have the plea of bodily fear;
yet how many ways are there of goading the soul almost to madness, equally
unmanly, though not so mean? When such laws were framed, should not
impartial lawgivers have first decreed, in the style of a great assembly, who
recognized the existence of an _etre_ _supreme_, to fix the national belief, that
the husband should always be wiser and more virtuous than his wife, in order to
entitle him, with a show of justice, to keep this idiot, or perpetual minor, for ever
in bondage. But I must have done-- on this subject, my indignation continually
runs away with me.
"The company of the gentleman I have already mentioned, who had a general
acquaintance with literature and subjects of taste, was grateful to me; my
countenance brightened up as he approached, and I unaffectedly expressed the
pleasure I felt. The amusement his conversation afforded me, made it easy to
comply with my husband's request, to endeavour to render our house agreeable
to him.
 
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