"When an old woman begins to dote, and grow chargeable to a parish, she is generally turned into a witch, and fills the whole country with extravagant fancies, imaginary distempers, and terrifying dreams. In the meantime the poor wretch that is the innocent occasion of so many evils, begins to be frighted at herself, and sometimes confesses secret commerces and familiarities that her imagination forms in a delirious old age. This frequently cuts off charity from the greatest objects of compassion, and inspires people with a malevolence towards those poor decrepit parts of our species in whom human nature is defaced by infirmity and dotage."
That's from an essay by Joseph Addison (1672-1719) writing in The Spectator, the paper he founded with Sir Richard Steele in 1711. I've mentioned both of them before; I think of them often because of Starbucks; they used to hang out at the 17th-18th century equivalent, the coffee shops that became so popular after coffee from the New World began to replace, or at least compete with, tea. Addison wrote his essays in a more accessible style, different from the literature of the day. In a way, you could say he was a blogger. Anyway, I was looking him up because I've been thinking about older women and witches. Over the centuries they've had bad press. I'm pleased to see that Addison understood where it was coming from.
Because I've begun to write elder tales, not fairy tales but elder tales: stories with sometimes a hint of the supernatural and sometimes a hint of the fey (dotty?) qualities of older women. I'm giving them the names of flowers. Have you ever noticed how women (in the past) were given flower names? Daisy, Iris, Hyacinth (Cynthia), Lily, Rose, Clover, Petunia, Pansy, and so on. I think I want to write about an old woman named Bougainvillea. but it can wait.
Oh, dear. I have so many ideas and so little time left. Some other life. Anon, anon.