A Lecture to the Ladies by a Disobliged Admirer of the Fair Sex (1726)

Group at Tea

Group at Tea.

Pencil on paper by Marcellus Laroon, 1729.

Reproduced with permission from National Galleries Scotland.

   Allan Ramsay's works are noted for demonstrating an esteem for women, in their capacity as "aesthetic" and "moral" arbiters, that anticipates later Enlightenment thinking (Newman 2002, 302). In his 1720 "The Scriblers Lashed," one of his chief criticisms against hack writers is their disrespect for women (1802, 113-16). Pennecuik seems to be more of his time in this regard. Women appear mostly as various kinds of archetypes throughout his poetry. He makes frequent allusions to Eve. David Nash and Anne-Marie Kilday note two of Pennecuik's probable poems as examples of public hostility towards Maggie Dickson (2010, 207 71n, 75n), who survived hanging for infanticide, although the evidence against her was "slim and circumstantial" (54). However, Pennecuik's attitude towards women varies. He shows sympathy for put-upon wives in "Old-Reekie's Loud and Joyful Acclamation" (1725). "A Lady Comforting Her Self the Best Way She Can, after Losing her Maiden-Head" is mischievous, but not mean-spirited, and, couched in a woman's voice, offers a rather modern attitude towards the concept of virginity (1750, 56). Pennecuik also dedicated a poem of extravagant praise to the Fair Intellectual Club (1720). Founded in Edinburgh in 1717, the Fair Intellectual Club is, according to Derya Gurses Tarbuck, "the earliest female intellectual [club] on record in Britain in the eighteenth century" (2015, 375). The Club was intended to be secret, but was obliged to make a case for its own existence in a publication of 1720 (377). Tarbuck cites Pennecuik as the only contemporary figure to respond in such a manner. 

   If it is not satirical, the poem below represents Pennecuik in a misogynistic mood. The National Library of Scotland describes this broadside as "playful," as it may well be, but it might also be entirely serious in its attitude towards the morality of tea-drinking. The Quaker John Sutcliffe of Clitheroe (1677–1726) objected to tea on some of the grounds covered by Pennecuik. Sutcliffe composed a narrative poem, of which none but a manuscript copy now exists, wherein the devil schemes to corrupt Quaker society by tempting women with tea, as he did with Eve and the apple (Pickering 2013, 246-47). The tea party is depicted as a scene of extreme moral danger (250-51). In the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, a "discourse of moderation and excess in tea drinking" was directed at women, especially of lower socioeconomic status (Cusack 2014, 10). As the "fairer sex," women were thought to be "especially susceptible" to the stimulating effects of tea (3).  If the poem is in earnest, it infringes on a new and meaningful practice for women - the tea party allowed women an occasion to socialise on their own terms in a way that was generally regarded as respectable (Buchan 2012, 16-17). Line 20, which suggests that tea "sends our lewd lascivious Songs abroad" may hint at Pennecuik's motivation - he seems, in this line at least, to be aiming at Ramsay's The Tea-Table Miscellany (1723).



By a disobliged Admirer of the Fair Sex.

SATAN, to ruin Mankind in the Root,             
The universal Queen,[1] betray'd with Fruit;
A single Apple forfeits Adam's Crown;
The Curse of GOD went with the Apple down.
E'er since, that Sex, tho' fair, with charming Shapes,                                                 5
Are Sodom's Apples, and Gommorrah's Grapes;[2]
They have Apple's ruddy Cheek and Skin:
But ah! the Serpent hides himself within.
Was't not enough to taste the damning Tree,
But you must guzzle down that cursed Tea;                                                            10
A Plant which in the Devil's Garden grew,
By which a second Time he poisons you.
It's numerous Trains of Mischief who can tell;
Tea hath dispatch'd a thousand Souls to Hell.
From whence doth starting of the Nerves proceed?                                                  15
Whence comes the paraletick Hand and Head?
Whence does our Sloth and Idleness arise?
What hatches all our Calumnies and Lies?
What makes backbiting to be Alamode?[3]                
What spreads our lewd lascivious Songs abroad?                                                     20
What makes our Pride and poverty increase?
What busks[4] the Ladies in the Harlot's Dress?
What makes the Tollet[5] overspread with Cards?          
What makes our Daughters Whores, and ruins Lairds?
What keeps the Whig and Tory in a Battle?                                                              25
What dwindles down good Sense to tittle tattle?                     
What Makes young Miss lisp Oaths with English Air?
What makes the Matron loll in Elbow-Chair;
Forget her BIBLE for her China Ware?        
What blows, the Coal, and kindles all our Strife?                                                      30
What gives a Husband Horns,[6] and damns the Wife?
If whence these Mallieures[7] flow, you do not see,
Believe my Word, The Fountain-head is TEA.


1 Eve.
2 Sodom and Gomorrah are the two sinful cities destroyed by God in Genesis.
3 Fashionable.
4 Scots (v.): dresses.
5 Scots: table-cloth.
6 Cuckold horns - a cuckold is a man whose wife has been unfaithful.
7 Perhaps malheurs: misfortunes. 



Buchan, James. 2012. Capital of the Mind: How Edinburgh Changed the World. Edinburgh: Birlinn. 

Cusack, Tricia. 2014. "Regulation and excess: women and tea-drinking in nineteenth-century Britain." Paper presented at Dublin Gastronomy Symposium: Cravings/Desire, June. https://arrow.dit.ie/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.ca/&httpsredir=1&article=1050&context=dgs.

Nash, David, and Anne-Marie Kilday. 2010. "The Shame and Fame of 'Half-Hangit Maggie': Attitudes to the Child Murderer in Early Modern Scotland." In Culture of Shame: Exploring Crime and Morality in Britain 1600-1900. 47-67. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Newman, Steve. 2002. "The Scots Songs of Allan Ramsay: 'Lyric' Transformation, Popular Culture, and the Boundaries of the Scottish Enlightenment." Modern Language Quarterly 63, no. 3: 277-314. https://read-dukeupress-edu.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/modern-language-quarterly/article/63/3/277-314/19304.

Pennecuik, Alexander. 1720. "To the Nine Muses, Members of the Fair Intellectual-Club." In Streams from Helicon: or, Poems on Various Subjects. In Three Parts.2nd ed. 143-46. London: the author. http://find.galegroup.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/ecco/infomark.do?&source=gale&prodId=ECCO&userGroupName=sfu_z39&tabID=T001&docId=CW3315698866&type=multipage&contentSet=ECCOArticles&version=1.0&docLevel=FASCIMILE.

---. [1725?] "Old-Reekie's Loud and Joyful Acclamation, for Sir John Barleycorn his Restoration." English Poetry, Second Edition. http://gateway.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/openurl?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2003&xri:pqil:res_ver=0.2&res_id=xri:ilcs-us&rft_id=xri:ilcs:ft:ep2:Z300460158:3.

---. 1726. "A Lecture to the Ladies by a Disobliged Admirer of the Fair Sex." The Word on the Street. National Library of Scotland. https://digital.nls.uk/broadsides/broadside.cfm/id/15807/transcript/1.

---. 1750. "A Lady Comforting Her Self the Best Way She Can, after Losing her Maiden-Head."  A Compleat Collection Of All The Poems Wrote by That Famous and Learned Poet Alexander Pennecuik. To Which is Annexed Some Curious Poems by Other Worthy Hands. 56. Edinburgh: R. Drummond. English Poetry, Second Edition. http://collections.chadwyck.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/searchFulltext.do?id=Z300460157&divLevel=3&queryId=../session/1523773503_19675&trailId=1622D7BAEA3&area=ep2&forward=textsFT&warn=Yes&size=2Kb. 

Pickering, Oliver. 2013. "'The Quakers Tea Table Overturned': An Eighteenth-Century Moral Satire." Quaker Studies 17, no. 2: 244-64. https://online.liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/doi/pdf/10.3828/quaker.17.2.244. 

Ramsay, Allan. 1802. "The Scriblers Lashed." In The Poems of Allan Ramsay. Vol. 1. 112-119. Edinburgh: J. Robertson.  https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nyp.33433112025451;view=1up;seq=125.

Tarbuck, Derya Gurses. 2015. "Exercises in Women's Intellectual Sociability in the Eighteenth Century: The Fair Intellectual Club." History of European Ideas 41, no. 3: 375-386. https://www-tandfonline-com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/doi/pdf/10.1080/01916599.2014.964004?needAccess=true.

A Lecture to the Ladies