Emilia Bassano-Lanier’s Preface explains her motivations - Paul Kauffman 25 April 2018

Often have I heard that it is the property of some women not only to emulate the virtues and perfections of the rest,

but also by all their powers of ill-speaking to eclipse the brightness of their deserved fame; now contrary to this custom,

which men I hope unjustly lay to their charge, I have written this small volume for the general use of all virtuous ladies and gentlewomen of this kingdom and in commendation of some particular persons of our own sex, such as are so well known that I dare undertake fame dares not to call any better.

And this I have done to make known to the world that all women deserve not to be blamed, though some forgetting they are women themselves, and in danger to be condemned by the words of their own mouths, fall into so great an error, as to speak unadvisedly against the rest of their sex, which if it be true, I am persuaded they can show their own imperfection in nothing more;

and therefore could wish (for their own ease, modesties and credit) they would refer such points of folly to be practised by evil-disposed men, who-forgetting they were born of woman, nourished of women, and that if it were not by the means of women they would be quite extinguished out of the world, and a final end of them all, do like vipers deface the wombs wherein they were bred, only to give way and utterance to their want of discretion and goodness. Such as these were they that dishonoured Christ, his apostles and prophets, putting them to shameful deaths.

Therefore we are not to regard any imputations, that they undeservedly lay upon us, nor otherwise than to make use of them to our own benefits, as spurs to virtue, making us fly all occasions that may colour their unjust speeches to pass current, especially as they have tempted the patience of God himself, who gave power to wise and virtuous women to bring down their pride and arrogance.

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