And now I was much amused to perceive with what frequency eyes were turned upon the dial-plate, through all the day so little regarded. Watches were drawn out, compared, and pronounced too slow. With some difficulty, one was found that had outrun its fellows, and, determined to be right, gave permission to the company to disperse, little more than twelve hours from the time of their assembling, to recover, as I supposed, during the other twelve, dressing and undressing included, the effect of their mental and bodily exertions.
"So!" I exclaimed, as soon as I found myself alone, "twelve times round yonder dial-plate those little hands have stolen, and twelve times more they may now go round unheeded. They who are gone to rest, have a day less to live, and record has been made in heaven of that day's use. Will He who gave, ask no reckoning for his gifts? The time, the thoughts, the talents; the improvement we might have made, and made not; the good we might have done, and did not; the health, and strength, and intellect, that may not be our's to-morrow, and have not been used to-day; will not conscience whisper of it ere they sleep to-night? The days of man were shortened upon earth by reason of the wickedness the Creator saw. Threescore years and ten are now his portion, and often not half the number. They pause not; they loiter not: the hours strike on, and they may even go, for it seems they are all too much."
The young, with minds as yet unstored, full of error, full of ignorance in all that it behooves them most to know, unfit alike as yet for earth or heaven—the old, whose sum of life is almost told, and but a brief space remaining to repair their mistakes and redeem the time they have lost—the simple and ungifted, who, having from nature but little, need the more assiduity to fulfill their measure of usefulness, and make that little do the most it may—the clever and highly talented, who have an almost appalling account to render for the much received—they all have time to waste. But let them remember, time is not their own; not a moment of it; but is the grant of Heaven; and Heaven gives nothing without a purpose and an end. Every hour that is wasted, fails of that purpose; and in so far as it is wasted or ill-spent, the gift of Heaven is misused, and the misuse is to be answered for. Methinks I would be allowed to whisper nightly in the ears of my young friends as they lie down to rest, "How many minutes have you lost to-day, that might have been employed in your own improvement, in our Maker's service, or for your fellow-creature's good?"
Novel-reading produces a morbid appetite for excitement. The object of the novelist, generally, is to produce the highest possible degree of excitement, both of the mind and the passions. The object is very similar to that of intoxicating liquors on the body: hence, the confirmed novel-reader becomes a kind of literary inebriate, to whom the things of entity have no attractions, and whose thirst cannot be slaked, even with the water of life. And as intoxication enfeebles the body, and engenders indolent habits, so this unnatural stimulus enfeebles the intellectual powers, induces mental indolence, and unfits the mind for vigorous efforts. Nothing less stimulating than its accustomed aliment can rouse such a mind to action, or call forth its energies; and then, being under the influence of mental intoxication, which dethrones reason and destroys the power of self-control, they are always misdirected.
It also promotes a sickly sensibility. Dr. Brigham, speaking of the too powerful excitement of the female mind, says: "In them the nervous system naturally predominates. They are endowed with quicker sensibility and far more active imagination than men. Their emotions are more intense, and their senses alive to more delicate impressions. They therefore require great attention, lest this exquisite sensibility—which, when properly and naturally developed, constitutes the greatest excellence of woman—should either become excessive by too strong excitement, or suppressed by misdirected education." Novel-reading produces just the kind of excitement calculated to develop this excessive and diseased sensibility; and the effect is, to fill the mind with imaginary fears, and produce excessive alarm and agitation at the prospect of danger, the sight of distress, or the presence of unpleasant objects; while no place is found for the exercise of genuine sympathy for real objects of compassion. That sensibility which weeps over imaginary woes of imaginary beings, calls forth but imaginary sympathy. It is too refined to be excited by the vulgar objects of compassion presented in real life, or too excitable to be of any avail in the relief of real distress. It may faint at the sight of blood, but it will shrink back from binding up the wound. If you wish to become weak-headed, nervous, and good for nothing, read novels. I have seen an account of a young lady, who had become so nervous and excitable, in consequence of reading novels, that her head would be turned by the least appearance of danger, real or imaginary. As she was riding in a carriage over a bridge, in company with her mother and sister, she became frightened at some fancied danger, caught hold of the reins, and backed the carriage off the bridge, down a precipice, dashing them to pieces.
This excessive sensibility renders its possessor exquisitely alive to all those influences which are unfriendly to human happiness, while it diminishes the power of endurance. Extreme sensibility, especially in a female, is a great misfortune, rendering the ills of life insupportable. Great care should therefore be taken that, while genuine sensibility is cherished, its extremes should be avoided, and the mind fortified by strengthening the higher powers.
Novel-reading strengthens the passions, weakens the virtues, and diminishes the power of self-control. Multitudes may date their ruin from the commencement of this kind of reading; and many more, who have been rescued from the snare, will regret, to the end of their days, its influence in the early formation of their character.
It is, too, a great waste of time. Few will pretend that they read novels with any higher end in view than mere amusement; while, by the strong excitement they produce, they impose a heavier tax on both mind and body than any other species of mental effort. If any thing valuable is to be derived from them, it can be obtained with far less expense of time, and with safety to the morals, from other sources. No Christian, who feels the obligation of "redeeming the time, because the days are evil," will fail to feel the force of this remark. We have no more right to squander our time and waste our energies in frivolous pursuits, than we have to waste our money in extravagant expenditures. We are as much the stewards of God in respect to the one as the other.
Most women are inclined to be romantic. This tendency is not confined to the young or to the beautiful, to the intellectual or to the refined. Every woman, capable of strong feeling, is susceptible of romance; and, though its degree may depend on external circumstances, or education, or station, or excitement, it generally exists, and requires only a stimulus for its development.
Romance indeed contributes much to the charm of the female character. Without some degree of it, no woman can be interesting; and, though its excess is a weakness, and one which receives but little indulgence, there is nothing truly generous and disinterested which does not imply its existence. It is that poetry of sentiment which imparts to character or incident something of the beautiful or the sublime; which elevates us to a higher sphere; which gives an ardor to affection, a life to thought, a glow to imagination; and which lends so warm and sunny a hue to the portraiture of life, that it ceases to appear the vulgar, and cold, and dull, and monotonous reality, which common sense alone would make it.
But it is this opposition, between romance and sobriety, that excites so strong a prejudice against the former: it is associated, in the minds of many, with folly alone. A romantic, silly girl, is the object of their contempt; and they so recoil from this personification of sentiment, that their chief object seems to be to divest themselves altogether of its delusion. Life is to them a mere calculation; expediency is their maxim; propriety their rule; profit, ease, or comfort their aim; and they have at least this advantage, that while minds of higher tone and hearts of superior sensibility are often harassed and wounded, and even withered, in their passage through life, they proceed in their less adventurous career, neither chilled by the coldness, nor sickened by the meanness, nor disappointed by the selfishness of the world. They virtually admit, though they often theoretically deny, the baseness of human nature; and, strangers to disinterestedness themselves, they do not expect to meet with it in others. They are content with a low degree of enjoyment, and are thus exempted from much poignant suffering; and it is only when the casualties of life interfere with their individual ease, that we can perceive that they are not altogether insensible.
A good deal of this phlegmatic disposition exists in many who are capable of higher feeling. Such persons are so afraid of sensibility, that they repress in themselves every thing that savors of it; and, though we may occasionally detect it in the mounting flush, or in the glistening tear, or in the half-stifled sigh, it is in vain that we endeavor to elicit any more explicit avowal. They are ashamed even of what they do betray; and one would imagine that the imputation of sensibility were almost a reflection on their character. They must not feel, or, at least, they must not allow that they feel; for feeling has led so many persons wrong, that decorum can be preserved, they think, only by indifference. And they end in being really as callous as they wish to appear, and stifle emotion so successfully, that at length it ceases to give them uneasiness.
Such is often the case with many who pass through life with great decorum; and though women have naturally more sensibility than the other sex, they, too, sometimes consider its indulgence altogether wrong. Yet, if its excess is foolish, it is surely a mistake to attempt to suppress it altogether; for such attempt will either produce a dangerous revulsion, or, if successful, will spoil the character. One would rather almost that a woman were ever so romantic, than that she always thought, and felt, and spoke by rule; and should deem it preferable that her sensibility brought upon her occasional distress, than that she always calculated the degree of her feeling.
Life has its romance, and to this it owes much of its charm. It is not that every woman is a heroine and every individual history a novel; but there are scenes and incidents in real life so peculiar, and so poetic, that we need not be indebted to fiction for the development of romance. Christians will trace such scenes and incidents immediately to Providence, and they do so with affectionate and confiding hearts; and the more affecting or remarkable these may be, the more clearly do they recognize the Divine interference. They regard them as remembrances of Heaven, to recall to them their connection with it, and remind them that whatever there may be to interest or excite their feelings here, there is infinitely more to affect and warm their hearts in the glorious prospects beyond.
It is natural that women should be very susceptible to such impressions; that they should view life with almost a poetic eye; and that they should be peculiarly sensitive to its vicissitudes. And though a Quixotic quest after adventures is as silly as it is vain, and to invest every trifle with importance, or to see something marvelous in every incident, is equally absurd; there is no reason why the imagination should not grasp whatever is picturesque, and the mind dwell upon whatever is impressive, and the heart warm with whatever is affecting, in the changes and the chances of our pilgrimage. There is indeed a great deal of what is mean and low in all that is connected with this world; quite enough to sully the most glowing picture; but let us sometimes view life with its golden tints; let us sometimes taste its ambrosial dews; let us sometimes breathe its more ethereal atmosphere; and let us do so, not as satisfied with any thing it can afford—not as entranced by any of its illusions—but as those who catch, even in this dull mirror, a shadowy delineation of a brighter world, and who pant for what is pure, celestial, and eternal. This is surely better than clipping the wings of imagination, or restraining the impulses of feeling, or reducing all our joys and sorrows to mere matters of calculation or of sense.
They are indeed to be pitied who are in the opposite extreme—whose happiness or misery is entirely ideal; but we have within us such a capacity for both, independent of all outward circumstances, and such a power of extracting either from every circumstance, that it is surely more wise to discipline such a faculty, than to disallow its influence.
Youth is of course the season for romance. Its buoyant spirit must soar till weighed down by earthly care. It is in youth that the feelings are warm and the fancy fresh, and that there has been no blight to chill the one or to wither the other. And it is in youth that hope lends its cheering ray, and love its genial influence; that our friends smile upon us, our companions do not cross us, and our parents are still at hand to cherish us in their bosoms, and sympathize in all our young and ardent feelings. It is then that the world seems so fair, and our fellow-beings so kind, that we charge with spleen any who would prepare us for disappointment, and accuse those of misanthropy who would warn our too-confiding hearts. And though, in maturer life, we may smile at the romance of youth, and lament, perhaps, its aberrations, yet we shall not regret the depth of our young emotions, the disinterestedness of our young affections, and that enthusiasm of purpose, which, alas! we soon grow too wise to cherish.
BEHAVIOR TO GENTLEMEN.
What a pity it is that the thousandth chance of a gentleman's becoming your lover should deprive you of the pleasure of a free, unembarrassed, intellectual intercourse with all the single men of your acquaintance! Yet, such is too commonly the case with young ladies who have read a great many novels and romances, and whose heads are always running on love and lovers.
Where, as in this country, there is a fair chance of every woman's being married who wishes it, the more things are left to their natural course the better. Where girls are brought up to be good daughters and sisters, to consider the development of their own intellectual and moral natures as the great business of life, and to view matrimony as a good, only when it comes unsought, and marked by such a fitness of things, inward and outward, as shows it to be one of the appointments of God, they will fully enjoy their years of single life, free from all anxiety about being established, and will generally be the first sought in marriage by the wise and good of the other sex; whereas those who are brought up to think the great business of life is to get married, and who spend their lives in plans and manoeuvres to bring it about, are the very ones who remain single, or, what is worse, make unhappy matches.
Very young girls are apt to suppose, from what they observe in older ones, that there is some peculiar manner to be put on in talking to gentlemen, and not knowing exactly what it is, they are embarrassed and reserved; others observe certain airs and looks, used by their elders in this intercourse, and try to imitate them as a necessary part of company behavior, and so become affected, and lose that first of charms—simplicity, naturalness. To such I would say, your companions are in error; it requires no peculiar manner, nothing to be put on, in order to converse with gentlemen any more than with ladies; and the more pure and elevated your sentiments are, and the better cultivated your intellect is, the easier will you find it to converse pleasantly with all. If, however, you happen to have no facility in expressing yourself, and you find it very difficult to converse with persons whom you do not know well, you can still be an intelligent and agreeable listener, and you can show by your ready smile of sympathy that you would be sociable if you could. There is no reason in the world why any one, who is not unhappy, should sit in the midst of gay companions with a face so solemn and unmoved, that she should seem not to belong to the company; that she should look so glum and forbidding that strangers should feel repulsed, and her best friends disappointed. If you cannot look entertained and pleasant, you had better stay away, for politeness requires some expression of sympathy in the countenance, as much as a civil answer on the tongue.
Never condescend to use any little arts or manoeuvres to secure a pleasant beau at a party, or during an excursion; remember that a woman must always wait to be chosen, and "not unsought be won," even for an hour. When you are so fortunate as to be attended by the most agreeable gentleman present, do not make any effort to keep him entirely to yourself; that flatters him too much, and exposes you to be joked about.
How strange a thing it is, in the constitution of English and American society, that the subject, of all others the most important and the most delicate, should be that on which every body is most given to joke and banter their friends! Much mischief has been done by this coarse interference of the world, in what ought to be the most private and sacred of our earthly concerns; and every refined, delicate, and high-minded girl should set her face against it, and, by scrupulously refraining from such jokes herself, give no one a right to indulge in them at her expense.
As soon as young ladies go into general society, they are liable to receive attentions that indicate a particular regard, and, long before they are really old enough to form any such ties, they often receive matrimonial overtures; it is therefore highly necessary to know how to treat them. The offer of a man's heart and hand is the greatest compliment he can pay you, and, however undesirable to you those gifts may be, they should be courteously and kindly declined; and since a refusal is, to most men, not only a disappointment, but a mortification, it should always be prevented, if possible. Men have various ways of cherishing and declaring their attachment; those who indicate the bias of their feelings in many intelligible ways, before they make a direct offer, can generally be spared the pain of a refusal. If you do not mean to accept a gentleman who is paying you very marked attentions, you should avoid receiving him whenever you can; you should not allow him to escort you; you should show your displeasure when joked about him; and, if sounded by a mutual friend, let your want of reciprocal feelings be very apparent.
You may, however, be taken entirely by surprise, because there are men who are so secret in these matters that they do not let even the object of their affections suspect their preference, until they suddenly declare themselves lovers and suitors. In such a case as that, you will need all your presence of mind, or the hesitation produced by surprise may give rise to false hopes. If you have any doubt upon the matter, you may fairly ask time to consider of it, on the grounds of your never having thought of the gentleman in the light of a lover before; but, if you are resolved against the suit, endeavor to make your answer so decided as to finish the affair at once. Inexperienced girls sometimes feel so much the pain they are inflicting, that they use phrases which feed a lover's hopes; but this is mistaken tenderness; your answer should be as decided as it is courteous.
Whenever an offer is made in writing, you should reply to it as soon as possible; and, having in this case none of the embarrassment of a personal interview, you can make such a careful selection of words as will best convey your meaning. If the person is estimable, you should express your sense of his merit, and your gratitude for his preference, in strong terms; and put your refusal of his hand on the score of your not feeling for him that peculiar preference necessary to the union he seeks. This makes a refusal as little painful as possible, and soothes the feelings you are obliged to wound. The gentleman's letter should be returned in your reply, and your lips should be closed upon the subject for ever afterwards. It is his secret, and you have no right to tell it to any one; but, if your parents are your confidential friends on all other occasions, he will not blame you for telling them.
Never think the less of a man because he has been refused, even if it be by a lady whom you do not highly value. It is nothing to his disadvantage. In exercising their prerogative of making the first advances, the wisest will occasionally make great mistakes, and the best will often be drawn into an affair of this sort against their better judgment, and both are but too happy if they escape with only the pain of being refused. So far from its being any reason for not accepting a wise and good man when he offers himself to you, it should only increase your thankfulness to the overruling providence of God, which reserved him for you, through whose instrumentality he is still free to choose.
There is no sure remedy for disappointed affection but vital religion; that giving of the heart to God which enables a disciple to say, "Whom have I in heaven but Thee, and there is none on earth that I desire in comparison of Thee." The cure for a wounded heart, which piety affords, is so complete, that it makes it possible for the tenderest and most constant natures to love again. When a character is thus disciplined and matured, its sympathies will be called forth only by superior minds; and, if a kindred spirit presents itself as a partner for life, and is accepted, the union is likely to be such as to make the lady rejoice that her former predilection was overruled.
Some young persons indulge a fastidiousness of feeling in relation to this subject, as though it were indelicate to speak of it. Others make it the principal subject of their thoughts and conversation; yet they seem to think it must never be mentioned but in jest. Both these extremes should be avoided. Marriage is an ordinance of God, and therefore a proper subject of thought and discussion, with reference to personal duty. It is a matter of great importance, having a direct bearing upon the glory of God and the happiness of individuals. It should, therefore, never be approached with levity. But, as it requires no more attention than what is necessary in order to understand present duty, it would be foolish to make it a subject of constant thought, and silly to make it a common topic of conversation. It is a matter which should be weighed deliberately and seriously by every young person. It was ordained by the Lord at the creation, as suited to the state of man as a social being, and necessary to the design for which he was created. There is a sweetness and comfort in the bosom of one's own family which can be enjoyed no where else. In early life this is supplied by our youthful companions, who feel in unison with us. But as a person who remains single, advances in life, the friends of his youth form new attachments, in which he is incapable of participating. Their feelings undergo a change, of which he knows nothing. He is gradually left alone. No heart beats in unison with his own. His social feelings wither for want of an object. As he feels not in unison with those around him, his habits also become peculiar, and perhaps repulsive, so that his company is not desired; hence arises the whimsical attachments of such persons to domestic animals, or to other objects that can be enjoyed in solitude. As the dreary winter of age advances, the solitude of this condition becomes still more chilling. Nothing but that sweet resignation to the will of God, which religion gives, under all circumstances, can render such a situation tolerable. But religion does not annihilate the social affections; it only regulates them. It is evident, then, by a lawful and proper exercise of these affections, both our happiness and usefulness may be greatly increased.
On the other hand, do not consider marriage as absolutely essential. Although it is an ordinance of God, yet he has not absolutely enjoined it upon all. You may, therefore, be in the way of duty while neglecting it. And the apostle Paul intimates that there may be, with those who enter this state, a greater tendency of heart toward earthly objects. There is also an increase of care. "The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy, both in body and spirit; but she that is married, careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband." But much more has been made of this than the apostle intended. It has been greatly perverted and abused by the church of Rome. It must be observed that, in the same chapter, he advises that "every man have his own wife and every woman her own husband." And, whatever may be our condition in life, if we seek it with earnestness and perseverance, God will give us grace sufficient for the day. But, he says, though it is no sin to marry, nevertheless, "such shall have trouble in the flesh." It is undoubtedly true that the enjoyments of conjugal life have their corresponding difficulties and trials; and if these are enhanced by an unhappy connection, the situation is insufferable. For this reason, I would have you avoid the conclusion that marriage is indispensable to happiness. Single life is certainly to be preferred to a connection with a person who will diminish instead of increase your happiness. However, the remark of the apostle, "such shall have trouble in the flesh," doubtless had reference chiefly to the peculiar troubles of the times, when Christians were exposed to persecutions, the loss of goods, and even of life itself, for Christ's sake; the trials of which would be much greater in married than in single life.
Not for the summer hour alone, When skies resplendent shine, And youth and pleasure fill the throne, Our hearts and hands we join;
But for those stern and wintry days Of sorrow, pain, and fear, When Heaven's wise discipline doth make Our earthly journey drear.
Not for this span of life alone, Which like a blast doth fly, And, as the transient flower of grass, Just blossom—droop, and die;
But for a being without end, This vow of love we take; Grant us, O God! one home at last, For our Redeemer's sake.
Writers of fiction have not unfrequently selected this topic as the theme for poetry and romance; they have extolled woman as the being whose eloquence was to soften all the asperities of man, and polish the naturally rugged surface of his character; charming away his sternness by her grace; refining his coarseness by her elegance and purity; and offering in her smiles a reward sufficient to compensate for the hazards of any enterprise. But while the self-complacency and vanity of many of our sex have been nourished by such idle praise, how few have been awakened to a just sense of the deep responsibility which rests upon us, for the faithful improvement of this talent, and our consequent accountability for its neglect or perversion!
It were not a little amusing, if it were not so melancholy, to listen to the reasoning employed by many ladies, in evading any charges of non-improvement of this trust. She who perhaps but a moment before may have listened with the utmost self-complacency to the flattering strains of the poet, who had invested her sex with every charm calculated to render them ministering angels to ruder and sterner man, no sooner finds herself addressed as the possessor of a talent, implying responsibility, and imposing self-exertion and self-denial in its exercise, than she instantly disclaims, with capricious diffidence, all pretensions to influence over others. But we cannot avert accountability by disclaiming its existence; neither will the disavowal of the possession of a talent alter the constitution of our nature, which God has so formed and so fitted to produce impressions in, and receive them from, kindred minds, that it is impossible for us to exist without exerting a continual and daily influence over others; either of a pernicious or salutary character.
"Woman," to use the words of an accomplished living writer, "has been sent on a higher mission than man; it may be a more arduous, a more difficult one. It is to manifest and bring to a full development certain attributes which belong, it is true, to our common nature, but which, owing to man's peculiar relation to the external world, he could not so well bring to perfection. Man is sent forth to subdue the earth, to obtain command over the elements, to form political communities; and to him, therefore, belong the more hardy and austere virtues; and as they are made subservient to the relief of our physical wants, and as their results are more obvious to the senses, it is not surprising that they have acquired in his eyes an importance which does not in strictness belong to them. But humility, meekness, gentleness, love, are also important attributes of our nature, and it would present a sad and melancholy aspect without them. But let us ask, will man, with his present characteristic propensities, thrown much more than woman, by his immediate duties, upon material things; obliged to be conversant with objects of sense, and exposed to the rude conflicts which this leads to; will he bring out these virtues in their full beauty and strength? We think not—even with the assistance which religion promises. These principles, with many others linked with them, have been placed more particularly in the keeping of woman; her social condition being evidently more favorable to their full development."
Let us ever remember that every aggregate number, however great, is composed of units; and of course, were each American female but faithful to her God, to her family, and to her country, then would a mighty, sanctified influence go forth through the wide extent of our beloved land, diffusing moral health and vigor through every part, and strengthening it for the endurance of greater trials than have as yet menaced its existence. A spirit of insubordination and rebellion to lawful authority pervades our land; and where are these foes effectually to be checked, if not at their fountain head—in the nursery? Oh! if every American mother had but labored faithfully in that sacred inclosure, from the period of our revolutionary struggle, by teaching her children the great lesson of practical obedience to parental authority; then would submission to constituted authority, as well as to the will of God, have been far more prevalent in our land, and the whole aspect of her affairs would have been widely different.
How much more honorable to woman is such a position, than that in which some modern reformers have endeavored to place her, or rather force her. Instead of seeking hopelessly, and in direct opposition to the delicacy of her sex, to obtain for her political privileges; instead of bringing her forward as the competitor of man in the public arena; we would mark out for her a sphere of duty that is widely different. In the domestic circle, "her station should be at man's side, to comfort, to encourage, to assist;" while, in the Christian temple, we would assign her an ennobling, but a feminine part,—to be the guardian of the sacred and spiritual fire, which is ever to be kept alive in its purity and brilliancy on the altar of God. She should be the vestal virgin in the Christian temple—the priestess, as it were, of a shrine more hallowed and honorable than that of Delphos.
A DIFFICULT QUESTION.
I remember, many years ago, to have occupied the corner of a window-seat, in a small but very elegant house in Montague-square, during a morning visit—more interesting than such visits usually are, because there was something to talk about. The ladies who met, had each a child, I believe an only girl, just of the age when mothers begin to ask every body, and tell every body, how their children are to be educated. The daughter of the house, the little Jemima, was sitting by my side; a delicate little creature, with something very remarkable in her expression. The broad projecting brow seemed too heavy for its underwork; and by its depression, gave a look of sadness to the countenance, till excited animation raised the eye, beaming vivacity and strength. The sallow paleness of the complexion was so entirely in unison with the features, and the stiff dark locks which surrounded them, it was difficult to say whether it was, or was not, improved by the color that came and went every time she was looked at or spoken of. I was, on this occasion, a very attentive listener: for, being not yet a woman, it was very essential to me to learn what sort of a one I had better be; and many, indeed, were my counter-resolutions, as the following debate proceeded:
"You are going to send your daughter to school I hear?" said Mrs. A., after some discourse of other matters.
Mrs. W. replied, "Really, I have not quite determined; I scarcely know what to do for the best. I am only anxious that she should grow up like other girls; for of all things in the world, I have the greatest horror of a woman of talent. I had never thought to part from her, and am still averse to sending her from home; but she is so excessively fond of books, I can get her to do nothing else but learn; she is as grave and sensible as a little woman. I think, if she were among other girls, she would perhaps get fond of play, and be more like a child. I wish her to grow up a quiet, domestic girl, and not too fond of learning. I mean her to be accomplished; but, at present, I cannot make her distinguish one tune from another."
Mrs. A. answered, "Indeed! we differ much in this respect. I am determined to make Fanny a superior woman, whatever it may cost me. Her father is of the same mind; he has a perfect horror of silly, empty-headed women; all our family are literary; Fanny will have little fortune, but we can afford to give her every advantage in her education, the best portion we can leave her. I would rather see her distinguished for talents, than for birth or riches. We have acted upon this intention from her birth. She already reads well, but I am sorry to say she hates it, and never will open a book unless she is obliged; she shows no taste for any thing but making doll's clothes and spinning a top."
At this moment a hearty laugh from little Fanny, who had set herself to play behind the curtain, drew my attention towards her. She was twice as big as my companion on the window-seat, though but a few months older; her broad, flat face, showed like the moon in its zenith, set in thin, silky hair: and with eyes as pretty as they could be, expressing neither thought nor feeling, but abundance of mirth and good-humor. The coloring of her cheek was beautiful; but one wished it gone sometimes, were it only for the pleasure of seeing it come again. The increasing seriousness of the conversation recalled my attention.
"I am surprised," Mrs. W. was saying, "at your wishes on the subject. I am persuaded a woman of great talent is neither so happy, so useful, nor so much beloved, as one or more ordinary powers."
"I should like to know why you think this," rejoined her friend; "it appears to me she should be much more so."
"My view of it is this," Mrs. W. replied: "a woman's sphere of usefulness, of happiness, and of affection, is a domestic circle; and even beyond it, all her task of life is to please and to be useful."
"In this we are quite agreed," said Mrs. A.; "but, since we are well set for an argument, let us have a little method in it. You would have your child useful, happy, and beloved, and so would I; but you think the means to this end, is to leave her mind uncultivated, narrow, and empty, and consequently weak."
"This, is not my meaning," replied Mrs. W.; "there are many steps between stupidity and talent, ignorance and learning. I will suppose my child what I wish her to be, about as much taught as women in general, who are esteemed clever, well-mannered, and well-accomplished. I think it is all that can contribute to her happiness. If her mind is occupied, as you will say, with little things, those little things are sufficient to its enjoyment, and much more likely to be within her reach than the greater matters that fill greater minds. My less accomplished character will enjoy herself where your superior woman would go to sleep, or hopelessly wish she might. In short, she will find fellowship and reciprocation in every little mind she meets with, while yours is left to pine in the solitude of her own greatness."
At the close of this speech, I felt quite determined that I would not be such a woman.
Mrs. A. rejoined, "You have left my genius in a doleful condition, though I question whether you will persuade her to come down. I will admit, however, for I am afraid I must, that the woman of talent is less likely to find reciprocation, or to receive enjoyment from ordinary people and ordinary circumstances; but then she is like the camel that traverses the desert safely where others perish, because it carries its sustenance in its own bosom. I never remember to have heard a really sensible and cultivated woman complain of ennui, under any circumstances—no small balance on the side of enjoyment positive, is misery escaped. But, to leave jesting, admitting that the woman of more elevated mind derives less pleasure from the adventitious circumstances that surround her, from what money can purchase, and a tranquil mind enjoy, and activity gather, of the passing flowers of life—she has enjoyments, independent of them, in the treasures of her own intellect. Where she finds reciprocation, it is a delight of which the measure compensates the rareness; and where she finds nothing else to enjoy, she can herself. And when the peopled walks of life become a wilderness; and the assiduities of friendship rest unclaimed; and sensible gratifications are withered before the blight of poverty; and the foot is too weary, and the eye is too dim, to go after what no one remembers to bring; still are her resources untouched. Poverty cannot diminish her revenue, or friendlessness leave her unaccompanied, or privation of every external incitement consign her to the void of unoccupied powers. She will traverse the desert, for her store is with her; and if, as you have suggested, she be doomed to supply others what no one pays her back, there is One who has said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
At this point of the discussion, I made up my mind to be a very sensible woman.
Mrs. W. resumed: "You will allow, of course, that selfish enjoyment is not the object of existence; and I think, on the score of usefulness, I shall carry my poor, dependent house-wife, far above yours. And for this very reason: The duties which Providence has assigned to woman, do not require extraordinary intellect. She can manage her husband's household, and economize his substance; and if she cannot entertain his friends with her talents, she can at least give them a welcome; and be his nurse in sickness, and his watchful companion in health, if not capable of sharing his more intellectual occupations. She can be the support and comfort of her parents in the decline of life, or of her children in their helplessness, according as her situation may be. And out of her house she may be the benefactress and example of a whole neighborhood; she may comfort the afflicted, and clothe and feed the poor, and visit the sick, and advise the ignorant; while, by the domestic industry, and peaceful, unaspiring habits, with which she plods, as you may please to call it, through the duties of her station, whether higher or lower, she is a perpetual example to those beneath her, to like sober assiduity in their own, and to her children's children to follow in the path in which she leads them. She may be superintending the household occupations, or actually performing them; giving employment by her wealth to others' ingenuity, or supplying the want of it by her own, according as her station is, but still she will make many happy.
"I am not so prejudiced as to say that your woman of talent will refuse these duties; of course, if she have principle, she will not. But literary pursuits must at least divide her attention, if not unfit her altogether for the tasks the order of Providence has assigned her; she will distaste such duties, if she does not refuse them; while the distance at which her attainments place her from ordinary minds, forbid all attempts to imitate or follow her."
"You have drawn a picture," answered Mrs. A., "which would convert half the world, if they were not of your mind already, as I believe they are. It is a picture so beautiful, I would not blot it with the shadow of my finger. I concede that talent is not necessary to usefulness, and a woman may fulfill every duty of her station without it. But our question is of comparative usefulness; and there I have something to say. It is an axiom that knowledge is power; and, if it is, the greater the knowledge, the greater should be the power of doing good. To men, superior intelligence gives power to dispose, control, and govern the fortunes of others. To women, it gives influence over their minds. The greater knowledge which she has acquired of the human heart, gives her access to it in all its subtleties; while her acknowledged superiority secures that deference to her counsels, which weakness ever pays to strength.
"If the circumstances of her condition require it, I believe the greater will suffice the less, and she will fulfill equally well the duties you have enumerated; shedding as bright a light upon her household, as if it bounded her horizon. Nay, more, there may be minds in her household that need the reciprocation of an equal mind, or the support of a superior one; there may be spirits in her family that will receive from the influence of intellect, what they would not from simple and good intention. There may be other wants in her neighborhood than hunger and nakedness, and other defaulters than the ignorant and the poor. Whether she writes, speaks, or acts, the effect is not bounded by time, nor limited by space. That is worth telling of her, and is repeated from mouth to mouth, which, in an ordinary person, none would notice. Her acknowledged superiority gives her a title, as well as a capacity to speak, where others must be silent, and carry counsel and consolation where commoner characters might not intrude.
"The mass of human misery, and human need, and human corruption, is not confined to the poor, the simple minded, and the child. The husband's and the parent's cares are not confined to their external commodities, nor the children's to the well-being of their physical estate. The mind that could illumine its own solitude, can cheer another's destitution; the strength that can support itself, can stay another's falling; the wealth may be unlocked, and supply another's poverty. Those who in prosperity seek amusement from superior talent, will seek it in difficulty or advice, and in adversity for support."
Here I made up my mind to have a great deal of intellect.
"If I granted your position on the subject of utility," said Mrs. W., "I am afraid I should prove the world very ungrateful by the remainder of my argument; which goes, you know, to prove the woman of distinguished talent less beloved than those who walk the ordinary paths of female duty. I must take the risk, however; for, of all women in the world, your women of genius are those I love the least; and I believe, just or unjust, it is a very common feeling. We are not disposed to love our superiors in any thing; but least of all, in intellect; one has always the feeling of playing an equal game, without being sure that no advantage will be taken of your simplicity. A woman who has the reputation of talent, is, in this respect, the most unfortunate being on earth. She stands in society, like a European before a horde of savages, vainly endeavoring to signify his good intentions. If he approaches them, they run away; if he recedes, they send their arrows after him. Every one is afraid to address her, lest they expose to her penetration their own deficiencies. If she talks, she is supposed to display her powers; if she holds her tongue, it is attributed to contempt for the company. I know that talent is often combined with every amiable quality, and renders the character really the more lovely; but not therefore the more beloved. It would, if known; but it seldom is known, because seldom approached near enough to be examined.
"The simple-minded fear what they do not understand; the double-minded envy what they cannot reach. For my good, simple housewife, every body loves her who knows her; and nobody, who does not know her, troubles themselves about her. But place a woman on an eminence, and every body thinks they are obliged to like or dislike her; and, being too tenacious to do the one without good reason, they do the other without any reason at all. Before we can love each other, there must be sympathy, assimilation, and, if not equality, at least such an approach to it as may enable us to understand each other. When any one is much superior to us, our humility shrinks from the proffers of her love, and our pride revolts from offering her our own. Real talent is always modest, and fears often to make advances towards affection, lest it should seem, in doing so, to presume upon itself; but, having rarely the credit of timidity, this caution is attributable to pride. Your superior woman, therefore, will not be generally known or beloved by her own sex, among whom she may have many admirers, but few equals.
"I say nothing of marriage, because I am not speculating upon it for my child, as upon the chances of a well-played game; but it is certain that the greater number of men are not highly intellectual, and therefore could not wisely choose a highly intellectual wife, lest they place themselves in the condition in which a husband should not be—of mental inferiority."
"Mrs. W.," answered her friend, "I am aware this is your strongest post; but I must not give ground without a battle. A great deal I shall yield you. I shall give up quantity, and stand upon the value of the remainder. Be it granted, then, that of any twenty people assembled in society, every one of whom will pronounce your common-place woman to be very amiable, very good, and very pleasing, ten shall pronounce my friend too intellectual for their taste, eight shall find her not so clever as they expected, and, of the other two, one at least shall not be sure whether they like her or not. Be it granted that, of every five ladies assembled to gossip freely, and tell out their small cares and feelings to the sympathizing kindness of your friend, four shall become silent as wax-work on the entrance of mine. And be it granted that, of any ten gentlemen to whom yours would be a very proper wife, not more than one could wisely propose himself to mine. But have I therefore lost the field? Perhaps she would tell you no; the two in twenty, the one in five or ten, are of more value, in her estimation, than all the number else.
"Things are not apt to be valued by their abundance. On the jeweler's stall, many a brilliant trinket will disappear, ere the high-priced gem be asked for; but is it, therefore, the less valued, or the less cared for? When beloved at all, she is loved permanently; for, in the lapse of time, that withers the charm of beauty, and blights the simplicity of youth, her ornaments grow but the brighter for wearing. In proportion to the depth of the intellect, I believe, is the depth of every thing; feelings, affections, pleasures, pains, or whatever else the enlarged capacity conceives. It is difficult perhaps for an inferior mind to estimate what a superior mind enjoys in the reciprocation of affection. Attachment, with ordinary persons, is enjoyed to-day, and regretted to-morrow, and the next day replaced and forgotten; but with these it never can be forgotten, because it can never be replaced."
As the argument, thus terminated, converted neither party, it is needless to say it left me in suspense. Mrs. W. was still determined her child should not be a superior woman. Mrs. A. was still resolved her child should be, at all ventures; and I was still undetermined whether I would endeavor to be a learned woman or not. The little Fanny laughed aloud, opened her large round eyes, and shouted, "So I will, mamma!" The little Jemima colored to the ends of her fingers, and lowered still farther the lashes that veiled her eyes.
I was walking with some friends in a retired part of the country. It had rained for fourteen days before, and I believed it rained then; but there was a belief among the ladies of that country that it is better to walk in all weather. The lane was wide enough to pass in file, with chilly droppings from the boughs above, and rude re-action of the briers beneath. The clay upon our shoes showed a troublesome affinity to the clay upon the road. Umbrellas we could not hold up because of the wind. But it was better to walk than stay at home, so at least my companions assured me, for exercise and an appetite. After pursuing them, with hopeless assiduity, for more than a mile, without sight of egress or sign of termination, finding I had already enough of the one, and doubting how far the other might be off, I lagged behind, and began to think how I might amuse myself till their return.
By one of those fortunate incidents, which they tell me never happen to any body but a listener, I heard the sound of voices over the hedge. This was delightful. In this occupation I forgot both mud and rain, exercise and appetite. The hedge was too thick to see through, and all that appeared above it was a low chimney, from which I concluded it concealed a cottage garden.
"What in the name of wonder, James, can you be doing?" said a voice, significant of neither youth nor gentleness.
"I war'nt ye know what I am about," said another, more rudely than unkindly.
"I'm not sure of that," rejoined the first; "you've been hacking and hewing at them trees this four hours, and I do not see, for my part, as you're like to mend them."
"Why, mother," said the lad, "you see we have but two trees in all the garden, and I've been thinking they'd match better if they were alike; so I've tied up to a pole the boughs of the gooseberry-bush, that used to spread themselves about the ground, to make it look more like this thorn; and now I'm going to cut down the thorn to make it look more like the gooseberry-bush."
"And what's the good of that?" rejoined the mother; "has not the tree sheltered us many a stormy night, when the wind would have beaten the old casement about our ears? and many a scorching noon-tide, hasn't your father eaten his dinner in its shade? And now, to be sure, because you are the master, you think you can mend it!"
"We shall see," said the youth, renewing his strokes. "It's no use as it is; I dare say you'd like to see it bear gooseberries."
"No use!" exclaimed the mother; "don't the birds go to roost on the branches, and the poultry get shelter under it from the rain? and after all your cutting, I don't see as you're likely to turn a thorn-tree into a gooseberry-bush!"
"I don't see why I should not," replied the sage artificer, with a tone of reflectiveness; "the leaf is near about the same, and there are thorns on both; if I make that taller and this shorter, and they grow the same shape, I don't suppose you know why one should bear gooseberries any more than the other, as wise as you are."
"Why, to be sure, James," the old woman answered, in a moderate voice, "I can't say that I do; but I have lived almost through my threescore years and ten, and I have never heard of gooseberries growing on a thorn."
"Haven't you, though?" said James; "but then I have, or something pretty much like it; for I saw the gardener, over yonder, cutting off the head of a young pear-tree, and he told me he was going to make it bear apples."
"Well," said the mother, seemingly reconciled, "I know nothing of your new-fangled ways. I only know it was the finest thorn in the parish; but, to be sure, now they are more match-like and regular."
I left a story half told. This may seem to be another, but it is in fact the same. James, in the Sussex-lane, and my friends in Montague-square, were engaged in the same task, and the result of the one would pretty fairly measure the successes of the other; both were contravening the order of nature, and pursuing their own purpose, without consulting the appointments of Providence.
Fanny was a girl of common understanding; such indeed as suitable cultivation might have matured into simple good sense; but from which her parents' scheme of education could produce nothing but pretension that could not be supported, and an affectation of what could never be attained. Conscious of the want of all perceptible talent in her child, Mrs. A. from the first told the stories of talent opening late, and the untimely blighting of premature intellect; and, to the last, maintained the omnipotence of cultivation.
On every new proof of the smallness of her mind, another science was added to enlarge it. Languages, dead and living, were to be to her the keys of knowledge; but they unlocked nothing to Fanny but their own grammars and vocabularies, which she learned assiduously, without so much as wondering what they meant. The more dull she proved, the more earnestly she was plied. She was sent to school to try the spur of emulation; and brought home again for the advantage of more exclusive attention. And, as still the progress lagged, all feminine employ and childlike recreations were prohibited, to gain more time for study. It cannot be said that Fannny's health was injured by the over action of her mind; for, having none, it could not be easily acted upon; but, by perpetual dronish application, and sacrifice of all external things for the furtherance of this scheme of mental cultivation, her physical energies were suppressed, and she became heavy, awkward, and inactive.
Fanny had no pleasure in reading, but she had a pride in having read; and listened, with no small satisfaction, to her mother's detail of the authors she was conversant with; beyond her age, and, as some untalented ventured to suggest, not always suited to her years of innocence. The arcana of their pages were safe, however, and quite guiltless of her mind's corruption. Fanny never thought, whatever she might read; what was in the book, was nothing to her; all her business was to have read it. Meantime, while the powers he had not were solicited in vain, the talents she had were neglected and suppressed. Her good-humored enjoyment of ordinary things, her real taste for domestic arrangement, and open simplicity of heart, were derided as vulgar and unintellectual. Her talent for music was thought not worth cultivating; time could not be spared. Some little capacity she had for drawing, as an imitative art, was baffled by the determination to teach it her scientifically, thus rendering it as impossible as every thing else. In short—for why need I prolong my sketch?—Fanny was prepared by nature to be the beau ideal of Mrs. W.'s amiable woman.
Constitutionally active and benevolent, judicious culture might have made her sensible, and, in common life, intelligent, pleasing, useful, happy. Nay, I need only refer to the picture of my former paper, to say what Fanny, well educated, was calculated to become. But this was what her parents were determined she should not be; and they spent twenty years, and no small amount of cash, to make her a woman of superior mind and distinguished literary attainments.
I saw the result; for I saw Fanny at twenty, the most unlovely, useless, and unhappy being I ever met with. The very docility of a mind, not strong enough to choose its own part, and resist the influence of circumstances, hastened forward the catastrophe. She had learned to think herself what she could not be, and to despise what in reality she was; she could not otherwise than do so, for she had been imbued with it from her cradle.
She was accustomed from her infancy to intellectual society; kept up to listen, when she should have been in bed; she counted the spots on the carpet, heard nothing that was said, and prided herself on being one of such company. A little later, she was encouraged to talk to every body, and give her opinion upon every thing, in order to improve and exercise her mind. Her mind remained unexercised, because she talked without thinking; but she learned to chatter, to repeat other people's opinions, and fancy her own were of immense importance.
She was unlovely, because she sought only to please by means she had not, and to please those who were quite beyond her reach; others she had been accustomed to neglect as unfit for her companionship. She was useless, because what she might have done well, she was unaccustomed to do at all, and what she attempted, she was incapable of. And she was unhappy, because all her natural tastes had been thwarted, and her natural feelings suppressed; and of her acquired habits and high-sounding pursuits she had no capacity for enjoyment. Her love of classic and scientific lore, her delight in libraries, and museums, and choice intellects, and literary circles, was a fiction; they gratified nothing but her vanity. Her small, narrow, weak, and dependent mind, was a reality, and placed her within reach of mortification and disappointment, from the merest and meanest trifles.
Jemima—my little friend Jemima—I lived to see her a woman too. From her infancy she had never evinced the tastes and feelings of a child. Intense reflection, keen and impatient sensibility and an unlimited desire to know, marked her from the earliest years as a very extraordinary child; dislike to the plays and exercises of childhood made her unpleasing to her companions, and, to superficial observers, melancholy; but this was amply contradicted by the eager vivacity of her intellect and feeling, when called forth by things beyond the usual compass of her age. Every thing in Jemima gave promise of extraordinary talent and distinguished character. This her parents saw, and were determined to counteract. They had made up their minds what a woman should be, and were determined Jemima should be nothing else. Every thing calculated to call forth her powers was kept out of her way, and childish occupations forced on her in their stead. The favorite maxim was, to occupy her mind with common things; she was made to romp, and to dance and to play; to read story books, and make dolls' clothes. Her physical powers were thus occupied; but where was her mind the while? Feeding itself with fancies, for want of truths; drawing false conclusions, forming wrong judgments, and brooding over its own mistakes, for want of a judicious occupation of its activities.
Another maxim was, to keep Jemima ignorant of her own capacity, lest she should set up for a genius, and be undomesticated. She was told she had none, and was left in ignorance of what she was capable, and for what she was responsible. Made to believe that her fine feelings were oddities, her expansive thoughts absurdities, and her love of knowledge unfeminine and ungraceful, she kept them to herself, and became reserved, timid, and artificial.
Nobody could prevent Jemima's acquiring knowledge; she saw every thing, reflected upon every thing, and learned from every thing; but without guide, and without discretion, she gathered the honey and the gall together, and knew not which was which. She was sent to school that she might learn to play, and fetched home that she might learn to be useful. In the former place she was shunned as an oddity, because she preferred to learn; and, finding herself disliked without deserving it, encouraged herself to independence by disliking every body. In the latter, she sewed her work awry, while she made a couplet to the moon, and unpicked it while she made another; and being told she did every thing ill, believed it, and became indolent and careless to do any thing. Consumed, meanwhile, by the restless workings of her mind, and tasked to exercise for which its delicate frame-work was unfit, her person became faded, worn, and feeble.
To be brief, her parents succeeded in baffling nature's promise, but failed of the fulfillment of their own. At twenty, Jemima was a puzzle to every body, and a weariness to herself. Conscious of her powers, but not knowing how to spend them, she gave in to every imaginable caprice. Having made the discovery of her superiority, she despised the opinions of others, while her own were too ill-formed to be her guide. Proud of possessing talent, and yet ashamed to show it; unaccustomed to explain herself; certain of being misunderstood, and least of all understanding herself; ignorant, in the midst of knowledge, and incapable with unlimited capacity; tasteless for every thing she did, and ignorant how to do what she had a taste for, her mind was a luxuriant wilderness, inaccessible to others, and utterly unproductive to its possessor. Unpleasing and unfitted in the sphere she was in, and yet unfitted by habit and timidity for any other, weariness and disgust were her daily portion; her fine sensibilities, her deep feelings, her expansive thoughts, remained; but only to be wounded, to irritate, to mislead her.
Where is the moral of my tale, and what the use of telling it? I have told it because I see that God has his purposes in every thing that he has done; and man has his own, and disregards them. And every day I hear it disputed, with acrimony and much unkindness, what faculties and characters it is better to have or not to have, without any consideration of what God has given or withheld; and standards are set up, by which all must be measured, though, alas! they cannot take from or add one cubit to their statures. "There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another star in glory." Why do we not censure the sun for outshining the stars, and the pale moon for having no light but what she borrows?
Instead of settling for others what they ought to be, and choosing for ourselves what we will be, would it not be better to examine the condition in which we are actually placed, and the faculties actually committed to us? and consider what was the purpose of Heaven in the former, and what the demand of Heaven in the occupation of the latter? If we have much, we are not at liberty to put it aside, and say we should be better without it; if we have little, we are not at liberty to be dissatisfied, and aspiring after more. And surely we are not at liberty to say that another has too much, or too little, of what God has given! We may have our preferences, but we must not mistake them for standards of right.
Every character has beauties peculiar to itself, and dangers to which it is peculiarly exposed; and there are duties, pertaining to each, apart from the circumstances in which they may be placed. Nothing, therefore, can be more contrary to the manifest order and disposition of Providence, than to endeavor to be, or do, whatever we admire in another, or to force ourselves to be and do whatever we admire in ourselves. Which character, of the endless variety that surrounds us, is the most happy, the most useful, and most deserving to be beloved, it were impossible, I believe, to decide; and, if we could, we have gained little by the decision; for we could neither give it to our children, nor to ourselves. But of this we may be certain: that individual, of whatever intellectual character, is the happiest, the most useful, and the most beloved of God, if not of men, who has best subserved the purposes of Heaven in her creation and endowment; who has most carefully turned to good the faculties she has; most cautiously guarded against the evils to which her propensities incline; most justly estimated, and conscientiously fulfilled, the duties appropriate to her circumstance and character.
INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIANITY ON WOMAN.
The abject condition of the female sex, in all, out of Christian countries, is universally known and admitted. In all savage and pagan tribes, the severest burdens of physical toil are laid upon their shoulders; they are chiefly valued for the same reason that men value their most useful animals, or as objects of their sensual and selfish desires. Even in the learned and dignified forms of Eastern paganism, "the wife," says one who has spent seventeen years among them, "is the slave, rather than the companion of her husband. She is not allowed to walk with him, she must walk behind him; not to eat with him, she must eat after him, and eat of what he leaves. She must not sleep until he is asleep, nor remain asleep after he is awake. If she is sitting, and he comes in, she should rise up. She should, say their sacred books, have no other god on earth than her husband. Him she should worship while he lives, and, when he dies, she should be burnt with him. As the widow, in case she is not burnt, is not allowed to marry again, is often considered little better than an outcast, and not unfrequently sinks into gross vice, her life can scarcely be considered a blessing."
The same author remarks, that "there is little social intercourse between the sexes; little or no acquaintance of the parties before marriage, and consequently little mutual attachment; and as there is an absolute vacuity and darkness in the minds of the females, who are not allowed even to learn to read, there is no solid foundation laid for domestic happiness."
If we pass into the dominions of the crescent, we find the condition of females, in some respects, rather worse, it would seem, than better. For, in pagan India, debased and abused as woman is, she is still allowed some interest in religion, and some common expectations with the other sex, concerning the future state. But in Mohammedan countries, even this is nearly or quite denied her. "It is a popular tradition among the Mohammedans, which obtains to this day, that woman shall not enter Paradise;" and it requires some effort of the imagination to conceive how debased and wretched must be the condition of the female sex, to originate and sustain such a horrible and blasphemous tradition.
Even in the refined and shining ages of Egypt, Greece, and Rome, where the cultivation of letters, the graces of finished style, the charms of poetry and eloquence, the elegances of architecture, sculpture, painting, and embroidery, the glory of conquest, and the pride of national distinction, were unsurpassed by any people before or since—even then and there, what was the woman but the abject slave of man? the object of his ambition, or his avarice, or his lust, or his power? the alternate victim of his pleasures, his disgust, or his cruelty? the creature of his caprice? and, what is worse, the menial slave of her own mental darkness, moral debasement, and vicious indulgences? If history is not false, the answer is decisive. This, and only this, was she!
But how entirely has our religion reversed all this, and rendered her life a blessing to herself and to society. And as Christianity has done so much for woman, she ought in return to do much for Christianity. Every thing that can render life desirable, she owes to Christ. Think for one moment of the hole of the pit from which Christ has taken you! Think of what would be your present condition, had it not been for the Christian religion! You might have been with the debased and wretched victims of pagan oppression, cruelty, and lust; burning alive upon the funeral pile; or sacrificed by hands of violence or pollution; or cast out, and neglected, to pine in solitary and hopeless grief. Or, with the female followers of the false prophet, or, in more refined but unchristian nations, you might have been little else than the slave or the convenience of man, and left to doubt whether any inheritance awaits you beyond the grave.
From these depths of debasement and wretchedness, Christianity has taken you, and placed you on high, to move, and shine, and rejoice, in the sphere for which the Creator designed you. Not only has it made your condition as good as that of man, but, in a moral view, in some respects superior to it. How much, then, do you owe to Christ! To turn away from him with indifference or neglect, what ingratitude is this! How preposterous, how base, how unlovely, is female impiety! There was much sense in a remark made by an intelligent gentleman, who, although not pious himself, said: "I cannot look with any complacency upon a woman who does not manifest gratitude and love to Jesus Christ. Above all things, I hate to see so unnatural an object as an irreligious woman."
Such being the constitution and circumstances of woman, it is the manifest intention of God that she should be pre-eminent in moral excellence; and, through the influence of this, take a glorious lead in the renovation of the world. This she has to some extent ever done. Let all females of Christian lands consider well their high calling, their solemn responsibility, and their glorious privilege. While many of their sex have proved recreant to their trust, and wasted life in vanity and in vice, others—an illustrious constellation, the holy and the good of ancient time, the mothers and the sisters in Israel, "the chief women, not a few," of apostolic times, the bright throng, that have since continued to come out from the world, and tread in the steps of Jesus, and lead on their fellow-beings to the kingdom of purity and joy—have proved to us that, as woman was first to fall, so she is first to rise.
Yes; though it is not hers to amass wealth; to aspire to secular office and power; to shine in camps and armies; to hurl the thunders of our navies, and gather laurels from the ocean, or to receive the vain incense offered to public and popular eloquence: yet, hers it is, to be robed with the beauty of Christ; to shine in the honors of goodness; to shed over the world the sweet and holy influences of peace, virtue, and religion; to be adorned with those essential and imperishable beauties, those unearthly stars and diadems, whose lustre will survive, with ever-increasing brightness, when all earthly glory will fade and be forgotten. Come, then; come to your high duty, your glorious privilege—come, and be blessed for ever!
IMPORTANCE OF RELIGION TO WOMAN.
There is nothing so adapted to the wants of woman as religion. She has many trials, and she therefore peculiarly needs support; religion is her asylum, not only in heavy afflictions, but in petty disquietudes. These, as they are more frequent, are perhaps almost as harassing; at least, they equally need a sedative influence, and religion is the anodyne. For it is religion which, by placing before her a better and more enduring happiness than this world can offer, reconciles her to temporary privations; and, by acquainting her with the love of God, leads her to rest securely upon his providence in present disappointment. It inspires her with that true content, which not only endures distress, but is cheerful under it.
Resignation is not, as we are too apt to portray her, beauty bowered in willows, and bending over a sepulchral urn; neither is she a tragic queen, pathetic only in her weeds. She is an active, as well as passive virtue; an habitual, not an occasional sentiment. She should be as familiar to woman as her daily cross; for acquiescence in the detail of Providence is as much a duty, as submission to its result; and equanimity amid domestic irritations equally implies religious principle, as fortitude under severer trials. It was the remark of one, who certainly was not disposed to care for trifles, that "it required as much grace to bear the breaking of a china cup, as any of the graver distresses of life."
Minor cares are indeed the province of woman; minor annoyances her burden. Dullness, bad temper, mal-adroitness, are to her the cause of a thousand petty rubs, which too often spoil the euphony of a silver voice, and discompose the symmetry of fair features. But the confidence which reposes on divine affection, and the charity which covers human frailty, are the only specifics for impatience.
And, if religion is such a blessing in the ordinary trials of life, what a soothing balm it is in graver sorrows! From these, woman is by no means exempt; on the contrary, as her susceptibility is great, afflictions press on her with peculiar heaviness. There is sometimes a stillness in her grief which argues only its intensity, and it is this rankling wound which piety alone can heal. Nothing, perhaps, is more affecting than woman's chastened sorrow. Her ties may be severed, her fond hopes withered, her young affections blighted, yet peace may be in her breast, and heaven in her eye. If the business and turmoil of life brush away the tears of manly sorrows, and scarcely leave time even for the indulgence of sympathy, woman gathers strength in her solitary chamber, to encounter and subdue her grief. There she learns to look her sorrow in the face; there she becomes familiar with its features; there she communes with it, as with a celestial messenger; till at length she can almost welcome its presence, and hail it as the harbinger of a brighter world.
Religion is her only elevating principle. It identifies itself with the movements of her heart and with the actions of her life, spiritualizing the one and ennobling the other. Duties, however subordinate, are to the religious woman never degrading; their principle is their apology. She does not live amidst the clouds, or abandon herself to mystic excitement; she is raised above the sordidness, but not above the concerns, of earth; above its disquietudes, but not above its cares.
Religion is just what woman needs. Without it, she is ever restless and unhappy; ever wishing to be relieved from duty or from time. She is either ambitious of display, or greedy of pleasure, or sinks into a listless apathy, useless to others and unworthy of herself. But when the light from heaven shines upon her path, it invests every object with a reflected radiance. Duties, occupations, nay, even trials, are seen through a bright medium; and the sunshine which gilds her course on earth, is but the dawning of a far clearer day.
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The following words were inconsistently hyphenated:
house-wife / housewife time-piece / timepiece
Original Page 11 Missing period after 'other' ....each other "Familiarity," says.... 72 Missing period after 'it' ....could not help it She sang to Nurse.... 124 extra 'n' in the name Fanny ....cannot be said that Fannny's health....