When John Milton portrayed, in Paradise Lost, Adam and Raphael deep in learned conversation, he contrived to get rid of Eve as soon as Adam was “Ent’ring on studious thoughts abstruse” (Book 8: 47), but somewhat mitigated the implicit judgement (more clearly expressed in ll. 548 - 52), adding,
Yet went she as not with such discourse
Delighted or not capable her ear
Of what was high: such pleasure she reserved,
Adam relating, she sole auditress (Book 8: 48-51).
Milton’s description gives us a precise, almost visual, representation of the stage the debate over women’s education had reached. In the second half of the seventeenth century and throughout the first …