The Enquirer into Nature

The Enquirer into Nature  (1802) 
by Unknown

An 1802 engraving condemning women's study of pregnancy and sexuality.


In days of Yore, when modesty reign'd here,
    Virgins were bashful, Matrons were severe;
    None knew then what it was to chat with Men,
    Or in smart Billets-doux to use the pen.
    Sermons and Psalm-Books much employ'd their time,
    Nor, save the latter, read they ought in Rhime.
    If e'er they wrote, 'twas when some choice Receipt[1]
    Was found to cure a Cough, or toss up Meat;
    Such th' Assiduous House-wife sought with Care,
    And in her Books preserv'd as Treasure rare.
    Each Woman then, the Glory of her Spouse,
    Look'd to his Wealth, and constant kept his House.
    Decent her Garb; her Language true and plain;
    She heightened ev'ry Joy, and softened ev'ry Pain.

    In our politer times, the Female Race
    An easier mode of Living far embrace.
    No more such arduous Methods Women try,
    But with the Men in thirst of Pleasure vie:
    Like them, they Ride, they Walk, nay Rake and Drink,
    And seldom say their Prayers, or deign to Think.
    Thus rub thro' Life, forgetful of its End;
    By none Befriended, and to none a Friend;
    Wild without Wit, from Spleen -- not Judgment -- grave;
    Despising Faith, but to her Lusts a Slave.
    Each courtly Wanton wanders thro' her Time,
    And feels Declension ere she reach her Prime.

    But of all Follies, sure the last and worst
    Is that with which our learned Age is curs'd.
    This bawdy Itch of knowing secret Things,
    And tracing human Nature to its Springs;
    Exploring in the sight of all the world
    The dark Receptacle from whence we're hurl'd.
    O famous wax-work! Where our fair ones come,
    Like female Neros made to see a womb,
    To hear fine Lectures, read on Generation,
    And all the Arts explain'd of Procreation.

    That Rake, in time to come, when he convenes,
    What copious Drury sends, and Wild-street gleans,
    He may have Bawds in Bibs, and Midwives in their teens.

    What Vices Greek and Roman Dames defil'd,
    How they on Slaves and Fencers often smil'd,
    Rode, Drink, and Danced, we're by old Sat'rists told;
    But of no Thais of our modern Mold --
    Who ere for Wedlock ripe is wild to see
    What must its Joys, and what its Pains must be;
    How in the Womb the Foetus is reclin'd;
    What Passage thence by Nature is design'd;
    With ev'ry other Circumstance beside,
    That may inform her ere she be a Bride,
    And make her wiser than the Dame who bore
    This prying Wench, -- or Grandmother before,
    Who liv'd when Innocence sway'd here of Yore.

    O might the shocking Scene so strike the Mind,
    As that true Sense from this strange sight they'd find:
    Learn to believe themselves but frail, tho' fair;
    And make their Souls what they deserve -- their Care;
    Live to those Ends for which their Lives were given,
    To bless Mankind, and make this World a Heaven.
    The Wax-work then -- should be deem'd worthy Fame,
    Not be, as now, all its Spectators' Shame.


  1. recipe

This work was published before January 1, 1927, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.