All that I mean is, do not so crowd your life with outside work or social engagements as to have no time to spare for this daily or at least bi-weekly letter to the boys at school. Bear in mind that the most important work you can do for the world is the formation of noble character, building it up stone by stone as you alone can do. Do not be too busy to make yourself your boy's friend and throw yourself heartily into all that interests him. I have known philanthropic mothers to whom cricket was nothing but an unmeaning scurrying backwards and forwards, and who scarcely knew the stern of a boat from its bows!
And what a liberal education a mother's home-letters to her boys at school might be made! The stirring incident in the newspapers, the fine passage in the book, a verse or two of a noble poem, as well as all the loving thought and prayer that is for ever flying like homing birds to the dear absent lads, and the inculcation of all things lovely and pure and manly, brightened by home jokes and the health of the last cherished pet—all these things might go to make up the home letters. Above all, what an opportunity it would give for pleading the cause of the little chaps who, by some strange insanity working in the brain of the British parent, are sent into the rough world of a large school when they are fitter for the nursery, and whom you might appeal to your boys to look after and protect, so far as they are able; and not only these, but to side with every boy who is being bullied for acting up to his conscience or because he has not the pluck to stand up for himself.
In conclusion, I would earnestly ask you to believe in your own power when united to the knowledge which is necessary to direct it. "A man is what a woman makes him," says the old saw. Look back upon the men you have known who have been touched to finest issues, and you will find, with few exceptions, that they are the shaping of a noble woman's hands—a noble mother, a noble wife, a noble sister. Doubt not, but earnestly believe that with those wonderful shaping hands of yours you can mould that boy of yours into the manhood of Sir Galahad, "whose strength was as the strength of ten because his heart was pure"; that you can send him forth into the world like King Arthur, of whom our own poet, Spenser, says, that the poorest, the most unprotected girl could feel that
"All the while he by his side her bore She was as safe as in a sanctuary."
Nay, may I not go further still and say that by the grace of God you can send him forth "made of a woman" in the image of the strong and tender Manhood of Jesus Christ, to Whom even the poor lost girls out of the street could come and know that here was a Man who would not drag them down, but lift them up; believing in Whom, clinging to Whom, trusting in Whom, they grew no longer lost and degraded, but splendid saints of the Christian Church.
[Footnote 11: Morality in Public Schools, by Dr. Butler, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, and late Head-Master of Harrow.]
[Footnote 12: The Preservation of Health, by Clement Dukes, M.D., M.R.C.S., Howard Medallist, Statistical Society of London, p. 150.]
[Footnote 13: Ibid., p. 157.]
[Footnote 14: A Confidential Talk with the Boys of America, by J.M. Dick. Fleming H. Revell Co.]
[Footnote 15: See Appendix.]
[Footnote 16: See Parents' Review, No. 5, July, 1895, p. 351.]
[Footnote 17: have quoted here from The Ascent of Man by Professor Drummond, pp. 292, 293; but any standard work on botany will give you the method of the fertilization of plants in greater detail.]
[Footnote 18: Ibid., p. 310.]
[Footnote 19: Erroneously called neuter, as in reality it is an imperfectly developed female, and is only capable of producing males.]
[Footnote 20: I owe my first clear apprehension of the gradual evolution of the preservative and altruistic elements in nature, arising from the struggle for existence, to a sermon of Dr. Abbott's called The Manifestation of the Son of God, now, I fear, out of print. Of course Darwin recognized these factors as a necessary complement to the survival of the fittest, else had there been no fittest to survive; but the exigencies of proving his theory of the origin of species necessitated his dwelling on the destructive and weeding-out elements of Nature—"Nature red in tooth and claw," rather than the equally pervasive Nature of the brooding wing and the flowing breast. Had not Professor Drummond unfortunately mixed it up with a good deal of extraneous sentiment, his main thesis would scarcely have been impugned.]
[Footnote 21: In case this method of teaching should seem to some mothers too difficult, I intend to embody it in a simple "Mother's Talk on Life and Birth," which a mother can read with her boys.]
[Footnote 22: See a White Cross paper of mine called My Little Sister. Wells Gardner, Darton and Co., London.]
[Footnote 23: Twice since the wreck of the Birkenhead has the same true manhood been evinced on the high seas in the face of almost certain death—once in the wreck of the troopship, the Warren Hastings, and again by the crew and the civilian passengers of the Stella. Perfect order was maintained, and though, ultimately all the men were saved, not a man stirred hand or foot to save himself till the women and children had first been safely got on shore.]
[Footnote 24: French and English, by Philip Hamerton, p. 44.]
[Footnote 25: The British Zulu. Wells Gardner, Darton and Co., London.]
If, in the words of the great educator I have already quoted, the chief moral teaching and moral trend of the character must be given in the schoolboy days, yet early manhood presents its own fruitful field for the influence of a mother on the side of whatsoever things are pure and lovely. The methods of exerting this influence must change as your son grows from a boy into a man; the inevitable reticence, the exquisite reserve of sex, must interfere with the old boyish confidences and with your own freedom of speech. Other barriers, too, will most likely spring up as your son goes forth into the world and mixes freely with other young men of his own standing. Whether it be at college, or in the army, or in business, he will inevitably be influenced by the views of the men he associates with, which he will enlarge into the opinion of the world in general, and will probably come home, if not to contradict his mother, at least to patronize her and go his own way, smiling at her with an air of manly superiority and with a lofty consciousness that he knows a thing or two which lie beyond a woman's ken. Probably enough he takes up with views on religion, or politics, or social questions which are emphatically not yours, and which make you feel left very far behind, instead of the old familiar "walking together" which was so sweet. Worse still, he may evince for a time a cynical indifference to all great questions, and all your teaching may seem to be lost in a desert flat. The days of the latch-key and the independent life have come, and you often seem to stand outside the walls which once admitted you into their dearest recesses, left with but little clue as to what is going on within.
But have patience. Early teaching and influence, though it may pass for a time into abeyance, is the one thing that leaves an indelible impress which will in the end make itself felt, only waiting for those eternal springs which well up sooner or later in every life to burst into upward growth; it may be a pure attachment, it may be a great sorrow, it may be a sickness almost unto death, it may be some awakening to spiritual realities. I often think of that pathetic yet joyful resurrection cry, "This is our God, we have waited for Him"—waited for Him, possibly through such long years of disappointment and heart hunger—only to cry at the last, "This is our God, we have waited for Him, and He has saved us."
But it is not all waiting. If with early manhood the "old order" has to give place to new, and old methods and instruments have to be laid aside as no longer fitted for their task, God puts into the hands of the mother new instruments, new methods of appeal, which in some ways are more powerful than the old. In early manhood she can appeal to the thought of the future wife. I believe that this appeal is one of the strongest that you can bring to bear upon young men.
I once had to make it myself under circumstances of unparalleled difficulty; and I was struck with the profound response that it evoked. It was on the occasion of the inaugural White Cross address to the students of the Edinburgh University, now one of the first medical schools in the world. The date of the address had been fixed, the hall taken, when an unforeseen difficulty arose. Eminent man after eminent man was asked to give the address, but all with one consent began to make excuse. Spirit and flesh quailed before so difficult and rowdy an audience on so difficult and perilous a subject. At last the professor who was chiefly interested implored me to give the address myself, or the whole thing would go by default. Under these circumstances I had no choice but to do so. But as I sat in the committee room while the order of the meeting was being arranged, and heard my audience shouting, singing, crowing like cocks, whistling like parrots, caterwauling like cats, and keeping up a continuous uproar, I thought to myself, "I have got to go into that, and control it somehow so as to be heard"; I confess I did feel wrecked upon God. Professor Maclagan, who took the chair, agreed that a prayer was impossible, a hymn was equally out of the question. The only thing was to push me at once to the front; and almost immediately after a few very brief words from the distinguished chairman I found myself face to face with an audience that evidently meant mischief. By some instinct I told them at once about James Hinton, whom, of course, they knew by name as the first aurist of his day; how, with all that this life could give him, he had died of a broken heart, a heart broken over the lost and degraded womanhood of England, the hosts of young girls slain in body and soul whom he met with at night in our terrible streets. This seemed to strike and sober them, that a man should actually die over a thing which to all of them was so familiar and to many had been only the subject of a coarse jest. Fortunately, there is a stage of nervous terror which rounds again on desperate courage, and having once got hold of my audience, I determined to use the occasion to the uttermost and venture on the most perilous ground. In the course of my address I asked them to take notice of a great silent change that was taking place all round them in the position of women, the full significance of which they might not have grasped. Everywhere women were leaving the seclusion of their homes and were quietly coming forward and taking their place by their side in the great work of the world. I thanked them for the generous welcome that they had accorded them. But had they seized the full meaning, the ulterior bearings of this changed attitude in women, and the wider knowledge of the world that it brought with it? Not so long ago it was an understood thing that women should know nothing of the darker side of life; and there was nothing dishonorable in a man keeping the woman he loved in ignorance of the darker side of his own past, if such there were. But in the greater knowledge that has come to women, and the anguish some of them feel over the misery and degradation of their lost sisters, can this attitude any longer be maintained without conscious deception? "What would you say," I asked, "if the woman you loved with the whole strength of your soul passed herself off as an undamaged article upon you, and let you worship her as the very embodiment of all that is white and pure, when something unspeakably sad and sinful had happened in her past life? You know you would be half mad at the wrong done to you if after marriage you found it out. And what are you going to do, I ask some of you who are so careless as to the life you lead, are you going to pass yourself off as an undamaged article on the woman who loves and worships you, and who gives herself so unreservedly to you that she loses her very name and takes yours? Is it fair, is it honorable, is it even manly? No, I see by your faces you are saying, 'I don't think it is, I should have to confess.' Well, that is better than basing your life on a dishonorable lie. But, alas! it is no way out of the misery. At the very moment when you would give all you possess to be worthy of that great love she gives you, you have to prove that you are unworthy; and the whole of the only last gleam of Eden that is left to this poor life of yours, the pure love of a man to a pure woman, is blotted out with bitter and jealous tears; the trail of the serpent is over it all. I know well that women can love, and love passionately, impure men; but every woman will tell you that there is a love that a woman can only give to a man who has been faithful to her before marriage as well as after; and for ever and for ever there will be a shut door at the very heart of your Eden of which you have flung away the key, a love that might have been yours had you kept yourself worthy of it. There is but one way out of the difficulty, now that in the changed position of women you can no longer honorably keep them in the dark—to make up your mind that you will come to the woman you love in the glory of your unfallen manhood, as you expect her to come to you in the beauty of her spotless maidenhood."
I did not know for one moment whether they would not break out into cooing like doves; but, on the contrary, they listened to me with profound attention, and I could see that none of my words went so home to them as those. When I had finished my address a member of the committee said to one of the professors, "I think if she had asked them to go off and storm Edinburgh Castle they would have marched off in a body and done it." So great is the power of a woman pleading for women.
If I could use this sacred plea with effect under circumstances of—I think you will allow—such unspeakable difficulty, must it not be possible to you, the mother from whom such an appeal would come so naturally, to use this same influence, and in the quiet Sunday walk through the fields and woods where Nature herself seems to breathe of the sanctity of life in every leaf and flower, or in the quiet talk over the winter fireside before he leaves home, to plead with your son to keep himself faithful to his future wife, so that when he meets the woman he can love and make his wife, he may have no shameful secrets to confess, or, worse still, to conceal from her, no base tendencies to hand down to his unborn children after him? Thank God! how many an American and English wife and mother can speak here from personal experience of the perfect love and perfect trust which have been bred of a pure life before marriage, and a knowledge that the sacraments of love and life had never been desecrated or defiled, so that no shadow of distrust or suspicion can ever darken the path of her married happiness. How powerful the pleading of such a mother may become with her son, to give his future wife the same perfect trust and unclouded happiness in her husband's love!
I remember in a series of allegorical pictures by an old master in the Baptistery at Florence, how, with the divine instinct of poets and artists, in the beautiful symbolic figure of Hope, the painter has placed a lily in her hands. Cannot we teach our sons that if they are to realize their dearest hope in life, that divine hope must ever bear a lily in her hand as the only wand that can open to them the paradise of the ideal, the divine vision which is "the master light of all our seeing," the deepest and most sacred joys of our life?
He safely walks in darkest ways Whose youth is lighted from above, Where, through the senses' silvery haze, Dawns the veiled moon of nuptial love.
"Who is the happy husband? He Who, scanning his unwedded life, Thanks God, with all his conscience free, 'Twas faithful to his future wife."
Again, could we not give our boys a little more teaching about the true nature and sacredness of fatherhood? It always strikes me that the true ethics of fatherhood are not yet born. Were the true nature, the sacredness, and the immense responsibilities of fatherhood really and duly recognized, men could not look with the appalling lightness with which they do on providing some substitute for marriage, when they have not the means to marry in early life, and are under the very prevalent illusion that continent men who marry late run the risk of a childless marriage—a notion which so great an authority as Acton pronounces to be absolutely false physiologically, and without foundation in fact. To bring a child into the world to whom he can perform no one of the duties of a father, and to whom he deliberately gives a mother with a tarnished name—a mother who, from the initial wrong done to her and the stigma which deprives her of the society of women, will only too probably not stay her feet at the first wrong step, but be drawn down that dread winding stair which ends in the despair of a lost soul—this, I urge, would be utterly abhorrent to every even fairly right-thinking man, instead of the very common thing it is. Did we see it truly, it would be a not venial sin, but an unpardonable crime.
Now, surely mothers can supply some teaching here which must be wanting for public opinion to be what it is. A quiet talk about the high nature, the duties and responsibilities of fatherhood cannot present any great difficulties.
I remember many years ago hearing Canon Knox Little preach a sermon in York Cathedral to a large mixed congregation, in which he touched on this subject. At this distance of time I can only give the freest rendering of his words, the more so as I have so often used them in my own meetings that I may have unconsciously moulded them after my own fashion. "Look," he said, "at that dying father—dying in the faith, having fought the good fight, and all heaven now opening before his dying gaze. Yet he withdraws his thoughts from that great hereafter to centre them upon the little lad who stands at his bedside. His hands wander over the golden head with
"'The vast sad tenderness of dying men.'
He triumphs over pain and weakness that he may plot and plan every detail of the young life which he can no longer live to guide and direct. And when at length he seems to have passed into the last darkness, and they hold up the child to see if he will yet recognize him, suddenly the spirit seems to sweep back again over the dark river which it has almost crossed, and an ineffable light illumines the dying face as his lips meet the lips of his little son in one last supreme kiss—the father's love for one moment vanquishing death itself. And what, I ask," said the preacher, in tones that thrilled that vast audience, "must be the sin of desecrating and defiling such a function as this, this function of fatherhood in which man seems to touch upon God Himself and become the representative of the Father in heaven—what must be the guilt of turning it into a subject of filthy jests and a source of unclean actions?"
The friend with whom I was staying had brought with her her Bible class of Industrial School lads, and when the next day she asked what had struck them most in the sermon, they answered promptly, "What he said about fathers," Let us go and teach likewise.
But perhaps the most precious sphere of influence is that which comes to a mother last and latest of all—too late, unless the moral training of all preceding years has been made one long disciplinary preparation in self-mastery and pureness of living, for the higher and more difficult self-control, the far sterner discipline, of true marriage pure and undefiled. But if through her training and influence "the white flower of a blameless life" has been worn
"Through all the years of passion in the blood,"
then this is the time when her long patient sowing comes to its golden fruitage. It is to his mother that a young man turns as his confidant in his engagement; it is to her that he necessarily turns for counsel and advice with regard to his young wife in the early years of his marriage. A young man in love is a man who can receive divine truth even of the hardest, for love is of God, and its very nature is self-giving.
"Love took up the harp of life, and smote upon its chords with might— Smote the chord of self, that trembling passed in music out of sight."
A pure affection is an almost awful revelation in itself to a young man of the true nature of sensual sin. He would gladly die for the woman he loves. And we look, therefore, to you mothers to bring into the world that Christian ideal of marriage which at present is practically shut up between the covers of our Bibles, that the man is to love the woman, the husband the wife, "as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it"; not our ideal of the self-sacrificing woman—our patient Griseldas and Enids and all the rest of it—but the self-sacrificing man, who is but poorly represented in our literature at all,—the man who loves the woman and gives himself for her, holding all the strongest forces and passions of his nature for her good, to crown her with perfect wifehood and perfect motherhood.
This Christian ideal was doubtless intended to fulfil those restrictions of the Levitical Law which were to safeguard the health of the wife and secure the best conditions for the unborn child; laws and regulations to the observance of which the Jew doubtless owes his splendid physique and his still more splendid mental endowments, which, though he is the fewest of all peoples, bring him everywhere to the forefront,—in finance, in literature, in music, in general capacity,—and to which, I should be inclined to add, he owes his comparatively slow rate of increase, else it is difficult to understand the small numerical strength of this extraordinary race; but I know that this is a disputed point. No jot or tittle of these laws and regulations can pass away until they are fulfilled in some larger truth; for ignore them or not, they are founded on physiological laws; and it is on mothers' recognizing this larger truth in the advice they give, and on their bringing in the Christian ideal, that the future of marriage mainly depends, and its being made more consonant with the higher and more independent position of women than it at present is.
Whilst the sight is so familiar of wives with health broken down and life made a burden, possibly even premature death incurred, by their being given no rest from the sacred duties of motherhood, to say nothing of the health of the hapless child born under such circumstances, can we wonder that the modern woman often shows a marked distaste to marriage and looks upon it as something low and sensual? Or can we wonder that married men, with so sensual an ideal of so holy a state, should, alas! so largely minister to the existence of an outcast class of women?
On the other hand, the remedy resorted to is often worse than the disease. I confess I have stood aghast at the advice given by Christian mothers, often backed up by a doctor whom they affirm to be a Christian man, in order to save the health of the wife or limit the increase of the family. The heads of the profession, in England, I believe, are sound on this point, a conference having been held some years ago by our leading medical men to denounce all such "fruits of philosophy" as physically injurious and morally lowering.
But if we want to know what their practical results are, the moral gangrene they are to the national life when once they have firmly taken hold of a nation, we have only to look across the channel at France—France with her immense wealth, but rapidly declining population, which in less than a century will reduce her from a first-rate to a second-or third-rate power, so that her statesmen have actually debated the expediency of offering a premium on illegitimacy in the shape of free nurture to all illegitimate children,—illegitimate citizens being better in their estimation than no citizens at all.
Would we have the Anglo-Saxon race enter on this downward grade? If not, then let us women silently band together to preserve the sanctity of the family, of the home, and sternly to bar out the entrance of all that defileth—all that sensualizes her men and enfeebles their self-mastery, all that renders the heart of her women too craven to encounter the burdens of being the mothers of a mighty race, flowing out into all the lands to civilize and Christianize, and "bear the white man's burthen."
One word more, a sad and painful one, but one which comes from my inmost heart. Do not pass by the sadder aspects of this great moral question and refuse "to open thy mouth for the dumb," for those "who are appointed unto destruction."
You cannot keep your son in ignorance of the facts; the state of our miserable streets, every time he walks out in the evening in any of our large towns, absolutely forbids that possibility. But you can place him in the right attitude to meet those facts whether in the streets or among his own companions. It is by fighting the evils without that we can best fight the evils within. It is in dragging them down that we are lifted up. A noble passion for the wronged, the weak, the sinful, and the lost is the best means for casting out the ignoble passions which would destroy another in order to have a good time one's self. At present the stock phrase of a virtuous young man is, "I know how to take care of myself." You have to put into his lips and heart a stronger and a nobler utterance than that: "I know how to take care of the weakest woman that comes in my path." Surely it is requiring no impossible moral attitude in our sons, rather mere common manliness, to expect that when spoken to by some poor wanderer, he should make answer in his heart if not with his lips, "My girl, I have got a sister, and it would break my heart to see her in your place, and I would rather die than have any part in your degradation." One mother I know, who had been much engaged in rescue work, and into whose heart the misery and degradation of our outcast girls had entered like iron, taught her young son always to take off his hat before passsing on, whenever he was accosted. He told a friend of mine that he had scarcely ever known it to fail. Either the poor girl would say, "Sir, I am very sorry I spoke to you"; or more frequently still that little mark of human respect would prove too much, and she would silently turn away and burst into tears. If our sons cannot bare their heads before that bowed and ignoble object on whom the sins of us all seem to have met—the wild passions of men, as well as the self-righteousness of the Church—then our young men are not what I take them to be,—nay, thank God! what I know them to be, sound of head and sound of heart. They get hold of facts by the wrong end; they cut into the middle of a chain, and look upon the woman as the aggressor, and contemplate her as an unclean bird of prey. They do not in the least realize the slight and morally trivial things that cast too many of our working-class girls down into the pit of hell that skirts their daily path—often as mere children who know not what they do, often from hunger and desperation, often tricked and drugged, and always heavily bribed. But let them know the facts, let them read a little paper such as the Black Anchor, the Ride of Death, or My Little Sister, and they will feel the whole thing to be, in their own rough but expressive words, "a beastly shame," and fight it both in themselves and in others, for our sakes as well as their own. For the misery as things are is this:—that men divide us into two classes—we pure women for whom nothing is too good; and those others, whom they never associate with us, for whom nothing is too bad. And what we have to teach them is this—that our womanhood is ONE that a sin against them is a sin against us, and so to link the thought of us to them that for the sake of their own mothers, for the sake of their own sisters, above all, for the sake of the future wife, they cannot wrong or degrade a woman or keep up a degraded class of women.
I am aware that, besides the suggestions I have made, young men require a plain, emphatic warning as to the physical dangers of licentiousness and of the possibility of contracting a taint which medical science is now pronouncing to be ineradicable and which they will transmit in some form or other to their children after them. We want a strong cord made up of every strand we can lay hold of, and one of these strands is doubtless self-preservation, though in impulsive youth I do not think it the strongest. But to give these warnings is manifestly the father's duty, and not the mother's; and I hope and believe that the number of fathers who are beginning to recognize their duty in this matter, as moral teachers of their boys, is steadily increasing. In the case of widowed mothers, or where the father absolutely refuses to say anything, perhaps the paper I have already mentioned, Medical Testimony, would be the best substitute for the father's living voice.
And now let me conclude this chapter, as I concluded the last, with a few scattered practical suggestions which may prove of use. My experience has been that the vast majority of our young men go wrong not from any vicious tendencies, but from want of thought, want of knowledge, and a consequent yielding to the low moral tone of so-called men of the world, and the fear of being chaffed as "an innocent." See that your boy is guarded from this want of thought and want of knowledge. When your son is a Sixth Form boy—it is impossible to give the age more definitely, as it must depend upon the character of the boy—place in his hands the White Cross paper, True Manliness which will give him the facts about his own manhood. This paper was carefully revised by the late Bishop of Durham, Dr. Lightfoot, whose specialty was young men; and upwards of a million copies have been sold, which in itself guarantees it as a safe paper. Nor need you as a mother of sons fear to read over any of the White Cross papers, since they concern themselves, as their name denotes, with purity and a high ideal of life—not with the sewer, but with the fountain of sweet waters.
Should your boys be so inclined, you might suggest their joining that band of modern knights, the White Cross Society. It is a great thing to give a young man a high ideal to act up to, and the White Cross would certainly give him this, as well as save him, with its definite obligations, from evil that is incurred from sheer thoughtlessness and animal spirits, enforcing a respectful and chivalrous treatment of women, even when by their fast ways those women show that they have no respect for themselves. But more especially is this the case with regard to the second obligation, to discountenance coarse jests and allusions and the by no means nice sort of talk that often goes on in smoking-rooms, and by which, I am convinced, more than by any other agency the mind and conscience of young men is gradually deadened and defiled, but in which they are apt to join from sheer thoughtlessness and sense of fun. Their White Cross obligation might screw up their moral courage to utter some such pointed rebuke as Dr. Jowett's to a lot of young men in a smoking-room, "I don't want to make myself out better than you are, but is there not more dirt than wit in that story?" or that other still more public rebuke which he administered at his own dinner-table when, the gentlemen having been left to their wine, a well-known diplomat began telling some very unsavory stories, till the still, small, high-pitched voice of the Master made itself heard, saying, "Had we not better adjourn this conversation till we join the ladies in the drawing-room?" At least they can keep silence and a grave face; and silence and a grave face are often the best damper to coarse wit. Why, I ask, should men when they get together be one whit coarser than women? It is simply an evil fashion, and as an evil fashion can and will be put down as "bad form."
I think also that joining the White Cross will make young men more active in trying to influence other young men and to guard and help their younger brothers, with all the other priceless work that they can, if they will, do for our womanhood among men, but which, from shyness and reserve and the dread of being looked upon as moral prigs, they are apt to let go by default.
But whether you agree with me or not with regard to your sons' joining an organization, see that they assume their rightful attitude of guardians of the purity of the home. We women cannot know anything about the inner secrets of men's lives, or know whom to exclude and whom to admit to the society of our girls. This ought to be the part of the brothers. God knows we do not want to make a pariah class of men on the same lines as are meted out to women. The young man who wants to do better we are bound to help, and no better work can be done in our large cities than to open our homes to young men in business or in Government offices, etc. But men who are deliberately leading a fast life and who are deeply stained with the degradation of our own womanhood, with no wish to rise out of their moral slough, these must be to us as moral lepers, to be gilded by no wealth, to be cloaked by no insignia of noble birth, or we stand betrayed as hypocrites and charlatans in our own cause. If our position in society is such as obliges us to receive such men, we all know the moral uses of ice, and under the guise of the most frigid politeness we can make them feel their absolute exclusion from the inner circle of our friends and intimates. There need be no discussion between you and your son—just the hint: "Oh, mother, I would not ask that fellow if I were you," and you will know what is meant.
Much may also be done by keeping up the general high tone of the home. One mother of eight sons, who all turned out men of high, pure life, if ever they used in her presence such expressions as "a well-groomed woman," or commended their last partner at a ball as "a pretty little filly," would instantly interrupt them and ask incisively, "Are you talking of a horse or a woman? If you are talking of a woman, you will be pleased to remember that you are speaking in the presence of your mother and your sisters." And if any scandal about a woman was mooted, the conversation was at once quietly turned into another and more profitable channel.
A word of homely advice from you to your sons with regard to our streets at night: never to loiter, but to trudge on quickly, when they would be rarely molested, may be advisable and useful.
As to absolute watchfulness with regard to the young maid-servants in your house, this is so obvious a point that it scarcely needs mentioning; though at the same time I have known the most culpably careless arrangements made when the family are away for their summer holidays, young maid-servants being left alone in the house while the young men are still going backwards and forwards to their business; or the whole family going out and no older woman being left in charge of the young domestics. What can one expect but that, having sown moral carelessness, we shall reap corruption?
But even with no such culpable neglect of our responsibilities, I do wish we would cultivate more human relations with our servants, and so get them to work more consciously with us in maintaining a high Christian tone in our homes. If we would but take a more individual interest in them and their belongings, as we should do with those we count our friends; getting a good situation for the younger sister who is just coming on, possibly giving her a few weeks of good training in our own household; giving the delicate child of the family change of air and good food, even taking in a baby to enable a sick mother to go for a short time into a hospital. All these things I have found possible in my own household. And surely such thought and care for those they hold dear would form a living bond between mistress and servant. If we would take the same thought and care for pleasant breaks in the monotony of our young servants' lives as we do for our own girls, would the servant difficulty press upon us to the same degree? Nay, if we could set going a weekly or fortnightly working party with our own servants in some cause which would interest us both, reading out some interesting narrative in connection with it, could we not even in this small way establish a bond of common service and make us feel that we were all working together for the same Master, so that our servants might become our helpers, and not, as they sometimes are, our hinderers, in bringing up our children in a high and pure moral atmosphere?
But when all things are said and done, I know that with every mother worthy the name there must be moments of deep discouragement and sense of failure—a sense of mistakes made with some difficult nature to which her own gives her but little clue; a sense of difficulties in vain grappled with, of shortcomings in vain striven against. Which of us have not had such moments of despondency in the face of a great task? In such moments I have often called to mind one of those parables of Nature which are everywhere around us, unseen and unheeded, like those exquisite fresco angels of the old masters, in dim corners of ancient churches, blowing silent trumpets of praise and adoration and touching mute viols into mystic melodies which are lost to us. So thin has the material veil grown under the touch of modern science that everywhere the spiritual breaks through. Often in that nameless discouragement before unfinished tasks, unfulfilled aims, and broken efforts, I have thought of how the creative Word has fashioned the opal, made it of the same stuff as desert sands, mere silica—not a crystallized stone like a diamond, but rather a stone with a broken heart, traversed by hundreds of small fissures which let in the air, the breath, as the Spirit is called in the Greek of our New Testament; and through these two transparent mediums of such different density it is enabled to refract the light and reflect every lovely hue of heaven, while at its heart burns a mysterious spot of fire. When we feel, therefore, as I have often done, nothing but cracks and desert dust, we can say, "So God maketh his precious opal." Our very sense of brokenness and failure makes room for the Spirit to enter in, and through His strength made perfect in human weakness we are made able to reflect every tender hue of the eternal Loveliness and break up the white light of His truth into those rays which are fittest for different natures; while that hidden lamp of the sanctuary will burn in your heart of hearts for ever a guide to your boy's feet in the devious ways of life.
In conclusion, I should like to record an incident full of encouragement to mothers. A young fellow of eighteen or nineteen, whom his widowed mother had brought up on the principles which I have been advocating, said to her one day, "Mother, you know that men don't always think like you about poor girls." "Alas!" she replied, "I know that but too well; but what makes you say so?" "Well, mother, I was with a lot of college fellows yesterday, and they were giving one another the best addresses in the West End to go to." "But didn't you say anything?" "No, I only kept silence. Had I said anything, they would only have called me a confounded prig. There were three other fellows who kept silence, and I could see they did not approve, but we none of us spoke up." "Oh, my son," exclaimed his mother in great distress, "how are we to help you young fellows? Do you think if the clergy were more faithful, they could help you more than they do?" "I don't think they would listen to what a parson says." "Then if doctors were to warn you more plainly than they do?" "I don't think it would be of much use; they would not heed; and then a fellow generally goes to a doctor too late." "Then what can we do, what can we do?" "Well, I think there is only one person who can really help, and that's a fellow's mother—she can save him, if she would only try."
Doubt not, but earnestly believe. "In every man's breast is to be found a lotus-blossom," says the pretty old Indian saying, and, watered by your prayers and your tears, be sure it will blossom into "the white flower of a blameless life."
[Footnote 26: Coventry Patmore.]
[Footnote 27: The word in Greek is the same for woman and wife.]
[Footnote 28: White Cross Publications, E.P. Dutton & Co., 31 West Twenty Third Street, New York.]
[Footnote 29: Office of White Cross league, 7 Dean's Yard, Westminster Abbey, London.]
[Footnote 30: THE WHITE CROSS OBLIGATIONS. I. To treat all women with respect, and endeavor to protect them from wrong and degradation.
II. To endeavor to put down all indecent language and coarse jests.
III. To maintain the law of purity as equally binding upon men and women.
IV. To endeavor to spread these principles among my companions, and to try and help my younger brothers.
V. To use every possible means to fulfil the command,
"Keep thyself pure."]
THE INFLUENCE OF SISTERS
Hitherto I have dealt exclusively with the moral training of boys and young men, but I am aware that I have left out one of the great shaping influences of a boy's life, which certainly comes next to the mother's where it exists—the influence of sisters. The childish hand that he clasps in his is the hand that unconsciously moulds him to higher ends or the reverse. For if the man is the director, the ruler, and defender, "the builder of the house" as he is called in the grand old word husband, the woman is the shaping and moulding influence of life; and if God has placed her in the power of the man, both through the weakness of her frame and the strength of her affections, on the other hand He has given into her hands the keys of his being, and according as he fulfils or abuses his trust towards her, she opens or closes the door of higher life to him.
I often wonder whether we women sufficiently realize this truth for ourselves or our girls. Walter Bagehot used to say in his blind, masculine way, "It's a horrid scrape to be a woman,"—a sentiment which, I fear, will find some echo in the hearts of a good many women themselves. But is it so? If to the man chiefly belongs power in all its forms, does not the woman wield as her portion that far more potent but wholly silent, and often unnoticed thing, influence? Not the storm, or the earthquake, or the strong wind, but the still, small voice: the benediction of dews and gentle rains, the mute beatitudes of still waters flowing through sun-parched lands and transforming them into "fruitful fields that the Lord hath blest"; the silent but irresistible influence of the sunlight, which in the baby palm of a little leaf becomes a golden key to unlock the secret treasures of the air and build up great oaks out of its invisible elements; the still, small voice of the moral sense, so still, so small, so powerless to enforce its dictates, but before which all the forces of the man do bow and obey, choosing death rather than disobedience—are not all these silent influences emblems of the supreme, shaping, moulding influence that is given to the woman as the "mother of all living," coming without observation, but making far more strongly than any external power for the kingdom of love and light? Truly we have a goodly heritage if only we had eyes to see it. Alas! that we should have made so little comparative use of it in these great moral questions. Alas! that we should have to acknowledge the truth and justice of the poet's words:
Ah, wasteful woman! she who may On her sweet self set her own price, Knowing he cannot choose but pay— How has she cheapen'd Paradise, How given for nought her priceless gift, How spoiled the bread and spilt the wine, Which, spent with due respective thrift, Had made brutes men, and men divine!"
But even here is there not place for a hopeful thought, that if women have made so little comparative use of their well-nigh irresistible influence in setting a high standard and shaping men to a diviner and less animal type, it has been, as I have already said, chiefly owing to ignorance? The whole of one of the darkest sides of life has been sedulously kept from us. Educated mothers, till lately, have been profoundly ignorant of the moral evils of schools, and have never dreamt that that young, frank, fresh-faced lad of theirs had any temptations of the kind. Their moral influence, which the poet blames them so strongly for misusing, has been largely, at least with good women, not so much a misused as an undirected force, and we know not, therefore, what that force may accomplish when a larger and truer knowledge enables it to be persistently directed to a conscious aim. This fact, at least, has been stamped into my inmost being, that men will rise to any moral standard which women choose to set them.
I ask, therefore, cannot we get our girls to help us here more than we do, without being crippled by the fear of initiating them too much in the evil of the world or destroying that unconscious virginal purity which is, even as things are, so strong and pathetic an influence for good over young men?
In the addresses that I have given to large numbers of educated girls, I used often to begin by quoting a passage from the Jewish Prayer-Book. In a general thanksgiving for the mercies of life, the men say: "We thank Thee, O Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast not made us a woman." One a little wonders how the poor women could join in this thanksgiving. But in one corner of the page there is a little rubric in very small print which directs, "Here shall the women say: 'We thank Thee, O Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast made us according unto Thy will!'" And, looking upon that bed of spring flowers before me, I used to tell them that it made me feel what a fair and gracious and beautiful thing it was to be made according unto God's will, to be made a woman.
Now, in the first place, could we not get them to realize this great truth a little more than they do, and not in their heart of hearts to wish that they were men? Could we not get them to realize a little more the divine possibilities of their womanhood, and instead of making it their ambition to figure as a weaker form of man, and become lawyers, stockbrokers, and other queer things the modern woman is striving after, to make it their ambition to become stronger and truer women?
But how is this to be done? I remember on one occasion, when I was going in the evening to address a mass meeting of working-class girls, a stout, middle-aged lady bustling up to me in a morning conference we were holding, and exclaiming: "And what are you going to say to them? What can you say to them, except to tell them to take care of themselves and keep the men at arm's length?"
Now, this old-fashioned method, which we have adopted in dealing with the girls of the poor, I contend traverses the central and most fundamental facts of a woman's being. A woman will never find salvation in being told to take care of herself, and least of all for the purpose of keeping the man, for whom she was created to be a helpmate, at arm's length. Gospels of self-culture may take seeming root here and there in the exotic woman; but even in her, at some moment of swift passion or strong emotion, they will crumple up and fall off from her like a withered leaf. James Hinton knew a woman's nature but too well when he said that she would respond to the appeal "Lay down your life" more readily and more surely than to the appeal "Take up your rights." She certainly has a most divine power of flinging herself away, whether nobly or ignobly, which forms both her strength and her weakness. But I have never yet known a woman who would not, at any rate to some degree, respond to an appeal to save, not herself, but another: "Do not let him do this wrong thing, for his sake. You can do anything you like with a man who loves you. God has given him body and soul into your hands, and you can lift him up into something of His image and make a true man of him; or you can let his love for you sink him into a selfish beast of prey. Do not let him do anything that will for ever lower his manhood, but use your power over him to keep him true to all that is best and highest in him." I have never yet known the woman who will not be moved by such an appeal as this. In other words, the central motive force of a woman's nature, the key of her whole being, is, and must ever be, the mother in her, that divine motherhood which is at the heart of every woman worthy of the name, married or unmarried. It is this divine motherhood, which all evolution, the whole "process of the suns," has gone to strengthen, and which Christianity has enshrined at her very heart—it is this that makes her for ever the Christ factor in the world, the supreme expression of the redeeming Love—that care of the strong for the weak which even in Nature comes trembling into existence beneath the tender wing of the nesting bird, or forces itself into notice in the fierce lioness's care for her whelps, and which we believe will work out the ultimate consummation of the "whole creation that groaneth and travaileth in pain until now." And I contend that if we are to have in the future such women as Lady Augusta Stanley, round whose lifeless form were united in one common sorrow the Queen on her throne and the poorest of the poor, such women as Browning's wife and Browning's mother, of whom he used to say, with a slight tremor in his voice, "She was a divine woman," it will be by strengthening and appealing to this element of divine motherhood in a woman's nature.
What I would, therefore, teach the girls is this: that they have got to mother the boys, that they are the guardians of all that is best and highest in them, of all that makes for the chivalrous American gentleman, and that their womanhood should therefore be to them a fountain of fine manners, of high thoughts, and noble actions. I would rub into their very bones, if I could, the old saw I have already quoted: "A man is what a woman makes him"; that if there were more high womanhood there would be less low manhood; and that if the boys are rude and rough and slangy, and loutish in their manner to women, the blame lies with their sisters who, in their foolish fondness and indulgence, or in their boyish camaraderie, have allowed them to slouch up into a slovenly manhood. The man at most is the fine prose of life, but the woman ought to be its poetry and inspiration. It is her hand that sets its key, whether
"To feed the high tradition of the world,"
or add to its low discords. Surely Ruskin's noble words apply here: "It is the type of an eternal truth that the soul's armor is never well set to the heart unless a woman's hand has braced it; and it is only when she has braced it loosely that the honor of manhood fails"; or those other still stronger and nobler words of Frederick Robertson's: "There are two rocks in a man's life on which he must either anchor or split: God and Woman."
And could we not appeal to our girls to make their womanhood a rock which bears a light to all in peril on the rough sea of life—a light to save from moral shipwreck and lead to the safe haven beneath the Rock of Ages? Surely we might appeal to them, in the name of their own brothers and others with whom they are intimately thrown, to work out these higher possibilities of their own womanhood; not to lower it by picking up slang words from their brothers—a woman ought to be above coarsening and vulgarizing God's great gift of speech—not to engage in games or romps that involve a rude rough-and-tumble with boys, which may develop a healthy hoyden, but is utterly destructive of the gracious dignity of the true woman; not to adopt fast ways of either dress or bearing which lead to young men making remarks behind their backs which they ought not to make on any woman; above all, never in girlish flightiness, or, worse still, in order to boast of the number of offers they have received, to flirt or trifle in any way with a man's affections; but to remember that to every man they have to make a woman only the other name for truth and constancy. God only knows the number of young men who have received their first downward bent from what to a young girl, in the wilfulness of her high spirits and her ignorance of life, has been only a bit of fun, but which to the young man has been the first fatal break in his faith in woman—that faith which in his soul dwells so hard by his faith in the Divine that in making shipwreck of the one is only too likely to make shipwreck of the other.
As to the mothers who send out their young girls into society the victims of their fashionable dressmakers, to be a fountain, not of high, pure thoughts to young men, but a spring of low temptations and impure suggestions, I do not blame the young girls here; but surely the severest blame is due to the criminal folly, or worse, of their mothers, who must know what the consequences of immodest dressing necessarily are to the inflammable mind of youth.
But that that unlovely phenomenon "the girl of the period," is also deeply to blame for the lowered traditions of English society, and consequently of English manhood, I have only too sorrowfully to acknowledge. I remember Mrs. Herbert of Vauxhall telling a very fashionable audience how on one occasion she had to rebuke a young man moving in the first London society for using some contemptuous expression with regard to women, and was led to appeal very earnestly to him to reverence all women for his mother's sake. He turned upon her with a sort of divine rage and said: "I long to reverence women, but the girls I meet with in society won't let me. They like me to make free with them; they like me to talk to them about doubtful subjects, and they make me"—and he ground his teeth as he said it—"what I just hate myself for being." Alas! alas! can sadder words knell in a woman's ears than these?
But side by side with this desecrating womanhood there rises up before me the vision of a young girl, not English, nor American, but French—now a mature woman, with girls and boys of her own, but who in her young days was the very embodiment of all that I have been urging that our girls might become to their brothers. She was a daughter of the great French preacher, Frederick Monod, and had an only brother who was all in all to her. She knew enough of the evil of the world to know that a medical student in Paris was exposed to great temptations; and she was resolved, so far as she could, to make her womanhood a crystal shield between him and them. She entered into all his pursuits; she took an interest in all his friends and companions; she had always leisure for sympathy and counsel in his difficulties and troubles. She had a little room of her own to which she used to get him to come every evening and talk over the day with her, so that she might keep herself heart to heart with him in all that concerned him. She even overcame her girlish reserve, and would get him to kneel down by her side and pour out her sweet girlish heart in prayer that God would guide him in all his ways, and keep him unspotted from the world. Years after, when he was a married man, with boys of his own, he said to her: "You little know all that you were to me as a young man. My temptations were so maddening that I used sometimes to think that I must yield to them and do as other young men did all round me. But then a vision of you used to rise up before me, and I used to say to myself: 'No; if I do this thing, I can never go and sit with her in her own little room; I can never look into her dear face again.'" And the thought of that young girl, the angel of her presence in the midst of the furnace, kept that young man unspotted from the world through all the gutters of Paris life. Could not our sweet English and American girls be to their brothers what that young French girl was to hers?
But perhaps some pessimistic mother will exclaim, "What is the use of making these old-fashioned appeals to our modern girls? They are so taken up with the delights of their freedom, so absorbed in the pleasure of cycling and athletic games, so full of manly ambitions, so persuaded that the proper cultivated attitude is to be an agnostic, and to look at God and the universe through a sceptical and somewhat supercilious eyeglass, that if we did make an appeal to them such as you suggest they would only laugh at such old-fashioned notions." I can only say that I have not found it so. I can bear the highest testimony at least to our English girls, of whom I have addressed thousands, all over the three kingdoms. Occasionally it has happened that maturer women have left me stranded, stretching out hands of vain appeal to them; but my girls, my dear girls, never once failed me. Not only could I see by the expression of their faces how deeply they responded to my appeal to work out the latent possibilities of their womanhood, and be the uplifting influence to their brothers, and other young men with whom they were thrown, that a true woman can be; but they came forward in troops to take up the position I assigned to them in our woman's movement towards a higher and purer life. Nobly did those young girls respond, joining a movement for opening club-rooms and classes for working girls, a movement initiated not by me, but by educated girls like themselves, and which has since spread all over England and Scotland.
And if this is true of our English girls, still more would it be true of the American girl, who has a unique position and influence of her own, and is dowered with that peculiar capacity and graciousness which seem to belong by divine right to the American woman.
I cannot but think that if we were to teach our girls less in religious phraseology and more from the great realities of life; if they were taught that Christianity is only human life rightly seen and divinely ordered, that the Cross is only the uncovering of what is going on all round us, though hidden to a careless gaze,—the sin, the pain, the misery, which are forever crucifying and forever calling forth that great passion of redeeming Love to which, through the motherhood that is in us, "one touch of nature makes us kin"; and that the central truth of Christianity is not, as we have too often taught, saving our own souls, but a life poured out for the good of others, and personal salvation as a means for having a life to pour forth—I cannot but think that much fashionable girlish agnosticism would disappear, and the true woman would reach forth to that divine humanity to which she belongs.
[Footnote 31: Husband is derived from two words—"house" and the Saxon word to "build," German bauen.]
[Footnote 32: See a little White Cross paper called My Little Sister, which I wish mothers would get into the hands of their sons just entering into manhood to read, mark, learn, digest. (Wells Gardner, Darton and Co.)]
[Footnote 33: Coventry Patmore.]
THE MODERN WOMAN AND HER FUTURE
Up to this point I have dealt only with the great shaping and moulding principles of life, with indirect influence rather than direct. How far direct teaching on matters of sex should be given to our girls has been a far greater perplexity to me than in the case of boys. In the present state of our schools and our streets our boys must get to know evil. Hitherto it was possible to say that our girls might get to know evil, and between that "must" and "might" lay a great and perplexing chasm. We do not want our garden lilies to smell of anything but pure dews and rains and sun-warmed fragrance. But is this ideal possible any longer, except in a few secluded country homes, where, hidden like Keats's nightingale "among the leaves," they may remain innocent and ignorant of the world's evil?
But with the ordinary conditions of the present day, with the greater freedom accorded to women, the wider range of education, involving a wider range of reading, with modern newspapers left about, I ask, How is it possible for a mother to keep her girls in ignorance and unconscious innocence? A volume of short stories comes into the house from the circulating library; they are clever and apparently absolutely harmless. Yet embedded in the heart of one such volume, which shall be nameless, I came upon a story almost as vile as anything in a French novel, and conveying the most corrupt knowledge. How, I ask, can a busy mother read through every book of short stories before letting it fall into the hands of her girls; or how, if they are to read Latin and Greek, or even carefully to study our own old literature, is she to guard them from a knowledge of evil conveyed in classical allusions, or in the coarse plainness of speech of an earlier age? I know as a fact, whether we recognize it or not, that behind our mature backs our girls are discussing these moral problems with quite an alarming amount of freedom, and some at least, guided by no teaching, and with no practical knowledge of the great laws of human life, are coming to quite startling conclusions, which would make their mothers' hair stand on end. And one most undesirable, and I may add unnatural, result noticeable among the more advanced section is a certain distaste for marriage, a tendency to look upon it as something low and animal, which strikes me as simply a fatal attitude for women to take up.
Have we not, therefore, got clearly to recognize that the old order has changed, giving place to new, and requiring, therefore, new methods. We may or we may not like the new order, but it is there. Under the changed conditions of modern life it is inevitable; therefore it must be in the providence of God; it cannot be wholly bad, and if we will work in with it loyally, and not thrust it aside for some old order of our own, it may be, nay, it will be, wholly for good. Let us remember that the two most conservative organic forms, the two that have most resisted progressive evolution, are the donkey and the goose. To ignore the new order, to cling to the old views and methods, is to court moral extinction as a living force. As well think to find safety in escaping from the advance of an express engine by adopting the stately pace of our grandmothers, which was perfectly adapted for getting out of the way of a lumbering stage-coach. May not He
"Whose large plan ripens slowly to a whole"
be working out a progressive ideal such as we trace in the great spiritual records of our race? The Bible, thank God! neither begins nor ends with sin; but it begins with a sinless garden, it ends with a strong city of God, with evil known and recognized, but cast out beyond its walls. May He not be leading us to form a wiser, deeper, stronger ideal; to aim for our girls not so much at Innocence, with her fading wreath of flowers—fading, as, alas! they must ever fade in a world like this—but to aim at Virtue, with her victor's crown of gold, tried in the fire? May it not be that His divine providence is constraining us to take as our ideal for our womanhood, not the old sheltered garden, but a strong city of God, having foundations, whose very gates are made of pearl, through which nothing that defileth is suffered to enter, and whose common ways are paved with pure gold, gold of no earthly temper, but pure and clear as crystal;—a city of refuge for all who are oppressed with wrong, and from which all foul forms of evil are banned by the one word "Without"? Sure I am that if we will accept this deeper and larger ideal, and endeavor, however imperfectly, to work it out on the earth, in the midst of it, as in the old garden ideal, will be found the tree of life; but then its very leaves will be for the healing of the nations.
But whether you go with me as far as this or not, I think you will agree with me that we must not leave our girls to their own crude notions on the deepest matters of life. Still less must we leave them to get their teaching on marriage and matters of sex from some modern novels, which I can only characterize as tuberculosis of the moral sense, but from which, as I have already pointed out, we cannot always guard them. We must give them direct teaching of some kind.
First, I think our girls, as well as our boys, need far more direct teaching than has been customary as to the sanctity of the body. This is especially true of girls who are sent to boarding-schools, as some of the moral evils of boys' schools are not, I am sorry to say, altogether unknown in girls' schools, though, as far as I can ascertain, the evil is much less in extent, and in some is non-existent. Still, all girls need to be taught that the body is the temple of the Lord and Giver of life, and that from the crown of their heads to the sole of their feet those bodies belong to Christ.
Secondly, I think that they ought to have some such teaching about life and birth as that which I have already recommended for boys, that they may see how through the marital tie and the consequent rise of the parental relation, a world of blind mechanical force gradually developed into a world of life and beauty, and at last crowned itself with a conscious love in an indissoluble union, which makes marriage the very type of the union of the soul with God, of Christ with His Church.
Thirdly, they need to be taught that much in their own physical constitution, which they rebel against as handicapping them in the struggle of life, is Nature's provision for them that no merely physical function should press upon them as we see it do in the animal creation at certain periods of the year, but that they should be free to serve God, whether in the married or in the unmarried state, in quietness and godly living.
Fourthly, above all they need definite teaching on the true nature, the sanctity, and the beauty of marriage. It appears that the line of progress is always a spiral, and it would seem as if we were in the backward sweep of the spiral which looks like retrogression, but will doubtless bring us out further up in the end. The masculine view that marriage is the one aim and end of a woman's existence, adopted also by some careful mothers, is now exploded. Young men are no longer led to look upon every girl that they meet as furtively, to use a vulgarism, "setting her cap for him," and only too ready to fling herself at his feet. So far so good. But have we not suffered our girls to drift into the opposite extreme? In the heyday of their bright young life, with so many new interests and amusements open to them, in the pride of their freedom and independence, they are no longer so inclined to marry, and are even apt to look down upon the married state. They form so high an ideal of the man to whom they would surrender their independence—an ideal which they fortunately do not apply to their fathers and brothers, whom they find it quite possible to love on a far lower and more human level—that because a man does not fulfil this ideal, and is not a fairy prince dowered with every possible gift, they refuse men who, though not angels, would have made them happy as wife and mother. Would not a little sound, sensible teaching be of great good here? Could we not point out that, though in so vital and complex a union as the family there must be some seat of ultimate authority, some court of final appeal somewhere, and that the woman herself would not wish it to rest anywhere else than in the man, if she is to respect him; yet there is no subservience on the part of the wife in the obedience she renders, but rather in South's grand words, "It is that of a queen to her king, who both owns a subjection and remains a majesty"? Cannot we contend against this falsehood of the age which seems so to underlie our modern life, and which inclines us to look upon all obedience as a slavish thing—that obedience which "doth preserve the stars from wrong," and through which "the most ancient heavens are fresh and strong"; that obedience which when absolute and implicit to the Divine will is "a service of perfect freedom"? It is the profession which exacts unquestionable obedience that forms the finest school for character, as I have already pointed out. We do not hear of a Wellington or a Roberts refusing to enter the service because they could not give up their independence. Our military heroes at least know that it is through discipline and obedience that they gain their real independence—the independence of a strong character.
Again, our girls need to be taught not only that there is nothing derogatory in the married relation to the freest and fullest independence of character, but surely in these days of open advocacy by some popular writers of "les unions libres" and a freedom of divorce that comes to much the same thing, they need to be taught the sanctity of marriage—those first principles which hitherto we have taken for granted, but which now, like everything else, is thrown into the crucible and brought into question. They need definite teaching as to the true nature of marriage; that it is no mere contract to be broken or kept according to the individual contractor's convenience—I never yet heard of a contract for bringing into existence, not a successful machine, but a moral and spiritual being with infinite possibilities of weal or woe, of heaven or hell—but a sacramental union of love and life, with sacramental grace given to those who will seek it to live happily and endure nobly within its sacred bounds—a union so deep and mystical that even on its physical side our great physiologists are wholly at a loss to account for some of its effects; a union of which permanence is the very essence, as on its permanence rests the permanence and stability of the whole fabric of our life. It can never be treated on an individualistic basis, though that is always the tendency with every man and woman who has ever loved. In Mrs. Humphry Ward's words:
"That is always the way; each man imagines the matter is still for his deciding, and he can no more decide it than he can tamper with the fact that fire burns or water drowns. All these centuries the human animal has fought with the human soul. And step by step the soul has registered her victories. She has won them only by feeling for the law and finding it—uncovering, bringing into light the firm rocks beneath her feet. And on these rocks she rears her landmarks—marriage, the family, the State, the Church. Neglect them and you sink into the quagmire from which the soul of the race has been for generations struggling to save you."
Fall on this rock, stumble into unhappiness and discontent, as so many do in marriage, and you will be broken. But be faithful to it and to the high traditions which generations of suffering men and women have worked out for you, and you will be broken as the bud is broken into the blossom, as the acorn is broken into the oak—broken into a higher and stronger life. On the other hand rebel against it, attempt to drag it down or cast it from its place, and it will crush you, and grind some part of your higher nature to powder. How strangely and sadly is this shown in the case of one of our greatest writers, who thought that the influence of her writings would far outweigh the influence of her example, but whose name and example are now constantly used by bad men to overcome the virtue of young educated girls struggling alone in London, and often half starving on the miserable pittance which is all they can earn. But still more is it shown in the life of the nation which tampers with the laws of marriage and admits freedom of divorce. Either such suits must be heard in camera without the shame of exposure, when divorce is so facilitated that the family and the State rest rather on a superstructure of rickety boards than on a rock; or they must be heard in public court and form a moral sewer laid on to the whole nation, poisoning the deepest springs of its life, and through that polluted life producing far more individual misery than it endeavors to remedy in dissolving an unhappy marriage. God only knows what I suffered when a cause celebre came on, and I felt that the whole nation was being provided with something worse and more vitally mischievous than the most corrupt French novel.
Deeply do I regret—and in this I think most thoughtful minds will agree with me—that the Reformers in their inevitable rebound from the superstitions of Rome, rejected her teaching of the sacramental nature of marriage, which has made so many Protestant nations tend to that freedom of divorce which is carried to so great an extent in some parts of America, and is spreading, alas! to many of our own colonies—a laxity fatally undermining the sanctity and stability of the family. If marriage be not a sacrament, an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual life and grace, I ask what is?
I would therefore earnestly beseech you to oppose your direct teaching to the whole tendency of modern life, and to much of the direct teaching of modern fiction—even of so great a novelist as George Meredith—which inculcates the subordination of the marriage bond to what is called the higher law of love, or rather, passion. In teaching your sons, and especially your girls, who are far more likely to be led astray by this specious doctrine, base marriage not on emotion, not on sentiment, but on duty. To build upon emotion, with the unruly wills and affections of sinful men, is to build, not upon the sand, but upon the wind. There is but one immovable rock on which steadfast character, steadfast relations, steadfast subordination of the lower and personal desires, to the higher and immutable obligations and trusts and responsibilities of life can be built—duty. When this rock has been faithfully clung to, when in the midst of disillusionment and shattered ideals the noble resolution has been clung to never to base personal happiness on a broken trust or another's pain, I have over and over again known the, most imperfect marriage prove in the end to be happy and contented. Here again I quote some words of Mrs. Humphry Ward, which she puts into the mouth of her hero: "No," he said with deep emphasis—"No; I have come to think the most disappointing and hopeless marriage, nobly borne, to be better worth having than what people call an 'ideal passion'—if the ideal passion must be enjoyed at the expense of one of those fundamental rules which poor human nature has worked out, with such infinite difficulty and pain, for the protection and help of its own weakness," I am aware that neither Mr. Grant Allen with his "hill-top" novels, nor Mrs. Mona Caird need be taken too seriously, but when the latter says, "There is something pathetically absurd in this sacrifice to their children of generation after generation of grown people," I would suggest that it would be still more pathetically absurd to see the whole upward-striving past, the whole noble future of the human race, sacrificed to their unruly wills and affections, their passions and desires. If as Goldwin Smith says in his rough, incisive way, "There is not much union of heart in marriage, I do not see that there would be any more union of heart in adultery."
I have dwelt thus earnestly upon this point because the sooner we realize for ourselves and our girls that any relaxation of the marriage bond will in its disastrous consequences fall upon us, and not upon men, the better. It is the woman who first grows old and loses her personal attractions, while a man often preserves his beauty into extreme old age. It is the burdened mother of a family who cannot compete in companionship with the highly cultured young unmarried lady, with the leisure to post herself up in the last interesting book or the newest political movement. It is the man who is the more variable in his affections than the woman; more constant as she is by nature, as well as firmly anchored down by the strength of her maternal love. It is therefore on the woman that any loosening of the permanence of the marriage tie will chiefly fall in untold suffering. "Le mariage c'est la justice," say the French, who have had experience enough of "les unions libres"—justice to the wife and mother, securing her the stability of her right to her husband's affections, the stability to her right of maintenance after she has given up her means of support, above all, the stability of her right to the care of her own children. If we want to study the innate misery to women arising from the relaxation of the married tie, or transient unions, we had better read Professor Dowden's Life of Shelley—misery not the result of public stigma, for there was no such stigma in the circle in which Shelley moved, but misery brought about by the facts themselves, and producing state of things which Matthew Arnold could only characterize by the untranslatable French word "sale." But nearer home, one of your most brilliant writers, Mr. Henry James, has given us an equally profitable study in his novelette, What Maisie Knew, which I presume is intended as a satire on freedom of divorce, but which again can only be characterized by the French word "sale."
I confess it does fill me with sardonic laughter to find this oldest and stalest of all experiments, this oldest and flattest of failures, paraded as a brand new and original panacea for all the woes of our family life,—woes which, if nobly borne, at least make "perfect through suffering."
There is but one great rock-hewn dam successfully reared against the lawless passions of men and women, and that is Christian marriage. It has at least given us the Christian home, and pure family life. And sometimes it fills me with despair to see enlightened nations, like America and Australia, whittling away and slowly undermining this great bulwark against the devastating sea of human passion. If only I could feel that any poor words of mine could in any faint measure rouse American women to set themselves against what must in the end affect the depth and steadfastness of those family affections on which the beauty and solidity of the national character mainly rest, I should feel indeed I had not lived in vain.
At least I can claim that one of your greatest women, Frances Willard, was heart and soul with me on this point.
And now to descend to lower levels. Could we not do a little more to save our young girls from sacrificing their happiness to false ideals by opportunely obtruding a little mature common-sense into their day visions and their inexperienced way of looking at things? It is all very well in the heyday of life, when existence is full of delight and home affection, to refuse a man who could make them happy, because they don't quite like the shape of his nose, or because he is a little untidy in his dress, or simply because they are waiting for some impossible demigod to whom alone they could surrender their independence. But could we not mildly point out that darker days must come, when life will not be all enjoyment, and that a lonely old age, with only too possible penury to be encountered, must be taken into consideration?
God knows I am no advocate for loveless, and least of all for mercenary marriages, but I think we want some via media between the French mariage de convenance and our English and American method of leaving so grave a question as marriage entirely to the whimsies and romantic fancies of young girls. We need not go back to the old fallacy that marriage is the aim and end of a woman's existence, and absolutely necessary for her happiness. Some women are doubtless called to be mothers of the race, and to do the social work which is so necessary to our complex civilization. Some women may feel themselves called to some literary or artistic pursuit, or some other profession, for which they require the freedom of unmarried life. But I think I shall carry most women with me in saying that for the ordinary woman marriage is the happiest state, and that she rarely realizes the deepest and highest in her nature except in wifehood and motherhood. Rarely, indeed, can any public work that she can do for the world equal the value of that priceless work of building up, stone by stone, the temple of a good man's character which falls to the lot of his mother. Truly is she called the wife, the weaver, since day and night, without hasting and without resting, she is weaving the temple hangings, wrought about with pomegranates and lilies, of the very shrine of his being. And if our girls could be led to see this, at least it would overcome that adverseness to marriage which many are now so curiously showing, and which inevitably makes them more fastidious and fanciful in their choice, And, on the other hand, without falling back into the old match-making mamma, exposing her wares in the marriage market to be knocked down to the highest bidder, might not parents recognize a little more than they do how incumbent on them it is to make every effort to give their daughters that free and healthy intercourse with young men which would yield them a wider choice, and which forms the best method for insuring a happy marriage?
At least, let us open our eyes to the fact that we are face to face with some terrible problems with regard to the future of our girls. With safe investments yielding less and less interest, it must become more and more difficult to make a provision for the unmarried daughters; and if the money is spent instead on training them to earn their own bread, we are still met by the problem of the early superannuation of women's labor, which rests on physical causes, and cannot therefore be removed. This at least is no time to despise marriage, or for women of strong and independent character to adopt an attitude which deprives the nation of many of its noblest mothers.
But if we are to facilitate marriage, which must form, at any rate, the main solution of the problems of the near future to which I have alluded, if we are to prevent, or even lessen, the degradation of women, if we are to extinguish this pit of destruction in our midst, into which so many a fair and promising young life disappears, and which perpetually threatens the moral and physical welfare of our own sons, if we are to stay the seeds of moral decay in our own nation, we must be content to revolutionize much in the order of our own life, and adopt a lower and simpler standard of living. It is we, and not men, who set the standard; it is we who have been guilty of the vulgar ambition of following the last social fashion, and doing as our richer neighbors do, until in England we have made our girls such expensive articles that many young men simply dare not indulge in them, and are led to seek in their luxurious clubs the comfort which they should find in a home of their own, with all that relaxation of moral fibre which comes from club life. Do we seriously think that we are likely successfully to contend against the degradation of women by our Rescue Societies and our Refuges when we are deliberately bringing about a social condition that ministers to it? "Oh, of course," said a near relative of my own, "no girl can marry comfortably and live in London with less than a thousand a year." All I can answer is that if this be so, it means the degradation of women writ large.
And have we even secured the happiness of our own daughters by this high standard of living which prevents so many of them from marrying at all? These unmarried girls, with no worthy object in life to call out the noble energies that lie dormant within them, "lasting" rather than "living,"—are they really happy? Is not Robert Louis Stevenson right when he says that "the ideal of the stalled ox is the one ideal that will never satisfy either man or woman"? Were not the hardships of a smaller income and a larger life—a life that would at least satisfy a woman's worst foe, heart hunger,—more adapted to their true nature, their true happiness?
And to what further admirable results have we attained by this high standard of comfort and luxury? Nature has carefully provided for the equality of the sexes by sending rather more boys than girls into the world, since fewer boys are reared; but we have managed to derange this order. We have sent our boys out into the world, but we have kept our girls at home, refusing to allow them to rough it with husbands and brothers or to endure the least hardness. The consequence is that we have nearly a million of surplus women in the old country, while in America, and in our own colonies, we have a corresponding surplus of men, with all the evil moral consequences that belong to a disproportion between the sexes. Truly we may congratulate ourselves!
I would therefore urge that if we are really to grapple with these moral evils, we should simplify our standard of living, and educate our girls very differently to what, at least in England, we are doing. Culture is good, and the more we have of it the better; it gives a woman a wider sphere of influence, as well as more enlightened methods of using that influence. But if dead languages are to take the place of living service; if high mathematics are to work out a low plane of cooking and household management; if a first class in moral science is to involve third class performance of the moral duties involved in family life, then I deliberately say it were better that, like Tennyson's mother, we should be
"Not learned save in gracious household ways."
I protest with the uttermost earnestness against the care of human life, of human health, and of human comfort being considered a lower thing and of less importance than good scholarship; or that, when we recognize that months and even years will have to be devoted to the attainment of the one, the arts by which we can fulfil those great human trusts which devolve more or less upon every woman can be practised without ever having been learnt at all.
Do not misunderstand me. Do not think I am decrying a classical education; and, as the daughter of a great mathematician, it is not likely that I should underrate mathematics as a mental discipline. I am only urging that they should be subordinated to higher and more practical issues.
I am thankfully aware that these remarks do not apply to American women to the same degree in which they apply to our English girls. The paucity of domestic servants, and the consequent pressure of necessity, have saved you from the fine lady ideal which we have adopted for our girls and the exclusively book education into which we have almost unconsciously drifted. You have been constrained to choose some nobler type on which to mould your scheme of female education than that of the tadpole, which is all head, no hands, a much active and frivolous tail. Your girls are brought up not to consider it beneath them to take part in the work of the house; and something of the all round capability of American women which so strikes us is doubtless owing to their not having incurred "this Nemesis of disproportion," and therefore to their combining intellectual culture with practical efficiency.
Why we should have taken this fine lady ideal for our girls, when we take such a much more practical standard for our boys, has always puzzled me. If an excellent opening offered itself to one of our sons at a bank, we should agree with his father in expecting him to take it, though it would involve the drudgery of sitting in a cramped attitude on a tall stool for hours and hours every day. Why should we accept life's necessary drudgery for our boys and refuse it for our girls? No life worth living can be had without drudgery,—the most brilliant as well as the dullest. Darwin spent eight of the best years of his life in an exhaustive investigation into the organization of a barnacle—labor accompanied, as all intellectual work was with him, by a constant sense of physical nausea from which he suffered, till, from sheer weariness and disgust at the drudgery, he ends his researches in his emphatic way with the exclamation, "D—— the barnacles!" At least a woman's household drudgery does not end in a barnacle, or in dead coin, but in a living and loved personality whose comfort and health it secures. Blessed is drudgery, the homely mother of Patience, "that young and rose-lipped cherubim," of quiet endurance, of persistency in well-doing, of all the stablest elements of character.