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Elizabeth Tollet

            Elizabeth Tollet's Hypatia touches on several controversial gender-related issues. Although the poem was published in 1724, much of its content is still very relevant today not only to young women, but to all people. .
             In lines 31-40 Tollet speaks of the tragedy of lost "wit" due to neglect. By "wit" Tollet means intellect, or the potential for intellectual thought. During Tollet's time, women were mostly regarded as ornaments to their men. They were condemned to a life of servitude to their husbands. Although she refuses to believe that women are not competent of abstract thought and relevant intellectual speculation, she does however recognize that if women continue to let this potential go unused they are domed to be robbed of it altogether. However, if not this path, then there is only one other way to go: When thought is left to ferment in the mind of a human, and for ages this person is only able to entertain this thought, and constantly mull over it, but never actually act on it, this thought is bound to become saturated in over-analysis.
             Wit unemployed become a dang"rous thing,.
             As waters stagnate and defile their spring.
             The cultivated mind, a fertile soil,.
             With rich increase rewards the useful toil:.
             But fallow left, an hateful crop succeeds.
             Of tangling brambles and pernicious weeds;.
             "Tis endless labour then the ground to clear, .
             And trust the doubtful earnest of the year. (31-38).
             In lines 35-38 of this passage Tollet describes the ramifications of this "unemployed wit,"- the compounding of ignorance through generations of stagnant intellectual activity. If women continue to allow this stereotype to define them, they will never be able to dig themselves out of the hole they have co-created. After all these untruths and misinterpreted ideas of women's mental complexities have settles in, i.e. after "the tangling of brambles and pernicious weeds," it will be difficult to clear the name after so much damage has already been done.

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