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Title: Modern Women and What is Said of Them - A Reprint of A Series of Articles in the Saturday Review (1868)
Author: Linton, E. Lynn (Elizabeth Lynn), 1822-1898
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                             MODERN WOMEN


                         WHAT IS SAID OF THEM

                             A REPRINT OF

                     A SERIES OF ARTICLES IN THE

                           SATURDAY REVIEW

                       WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY

                      MRS. LUCIA GILBERT CALHOUN

                               NEW YORK
                     _J. S. REDFIELD, PUBLISHER_
                          140 FULTON STREET

      Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1868, by

                           J. S. REDFIELD,

In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the
                    Eastern District of New York.

                          EDWARD O. JENKINS,
                      _PRINTER AND STEREOTYPER_,
                       No. 20 North William St.


The following papers on Woman were originally published in the columns
of the London SATURDAY REVIEW. Some of them have already been reprinted
in the literary and daily journals of this country, and they have
excited no little discussion and comment among readers of both sexes.

Whether agreeing or not with the writer, it is impossible not to concede
the eminent ability with which the various subjects are handled. No
series of essays has appeared in the English language for many years
which has been so extensively reprinted and so generally read.

The authorship of these papers has been attributed to different
individuals, male and female; but it is more than probable that the
writers whose names have been mentioned in this connection are precisely
those who have had nothing whatever to do with them. It is not unlikely
that, in due time, the publisher of this volume may be in possession of
authentic information on this head, and that the name of the author may
then appear on the title-page.


           INTRODUCTION,                                 5

       I.--THE GIRL OF THE PERIOD,                      25

      II.--FOOLISH VIRGINS,                             34

     III.--LITTLE WOMEN,                                43

      IV.--PINCHBECK,                                   52

       V.--PUSHING WOMEN,                               61

      VI.--FEMININE AFFECTATIONS,                       73

     VII.--IDEAL WOMEN,                                 83

    VIII.--WOMAN AND THE WORLD,                         93

      IX.--UNEQUAL MARRIAGES,                          101

       X.--HUSBAND-HUNTING,                            109

      XI.--PERILS OF "PAYING ATTENTION,"               118

     XII.--WOMEN'S HEROINES,                           128

    XIII.--INTERFERENCE,                               138

     XIV.--PLAIN GIRLS,                                148

      XV.--A WORD FOR FEMALE VANITY,                   157

     XVI.--THE ABUSE OF MATCH-MAKING,                  167

    XVII.--FEMININE INFLUENCE,                         177

   XVIII.--PIGEONS,                                    188

     XIX.--AMBITIOUS WIVES,                            198

      XX.--PLATONIC WOMAN,                             206

     XXI.--MAN AND HIS MASTER,                         215

    XXII.--THE GOOSE AND THE GANDER,                   225

   XXIII.--ENGAGEMENTS,                                235

    XXIV.--WOMAN IN ORDERS,                            243

     XXV.--WOMAN AND HER CRITICS,                      253


   XXVII.--ÆSTHETIC WOMAN,                             272

  XXVIII.--WHAT IS WOMAN'S WORK?                       281

    XXIX.--PAPAL WOMAN,                                291

     XXX.--MODERN MOTHERS,                             300

    XXXI.--PRIESTHOOD OF WOMAN,                        309

   XXXII.--THE FUTURE OF WOMAN,                        319

  XXXIII.--COSTUME AND ITS MORALS,                     329

   XXXIV.--THE FADING FLOWER,                          339

    XXXV.--LA FEMME PASSÉE,                            347

   XXXVI.--PRETTY PREACHERS,                           355

  XXXVII.--SPOILT WOMEN,                               364


The "Woman Question" will not be put to silence. It demands an answer of
Western legislators. It besets college faculties. It pursues veteran
politicians to the fastnesses of so-called National Conventions. Under
the sacred sounding-boards of New England pulpits has its voice been
heard, and its unexpected ally, the London SATURDAY REVIEW, introduces
it to the good society of English drawing-rooms. That this introduction
comes in the form of diatribe and denunciation is a matter of the least
moment. Judgment will finally rest, not on the conclusions of the
special pleader, but on the strength of the case of the accused.

Something, clearly, is wrong with fashionable women. They accept the
thinnest gilt, the poorest pinchbeck, for gold. They care more for a
dreary social pre-eminence than for home and children. They find in
extravagance of living and a vulgar costliness of dress their only
expression of a vague desire for the beauty and elegance of life. Is
it, therefore, to be inferred that the race of noble women is dying out?
St. Paul was hardly less severe than the London SATURDAY, if less
explicit, in his condemnation of the fashionable women of his day, yet
we look upon that day as heroic. Certainly neither London nor New York
can rival the luxury of a rich Roman matron, yet it was not the luxury
of her women which destroyed the empire, and Brutus's Portia was quite
as truly a representative woman as the superb Messalina. John Knox
thought that things were as bad as they could possibly be when he
thundered at vice in high places; and if there had been a John Knox in
the court of Charles the Second, he would have sighed for a return of
the innocent days of his great-grandfather.

On the whole, that hope which springs eternal suggests that the
fashionable women of the reign of Victoria, and of our seventeenth
President, are not essentially more discouraging than all the
generations of the thoughtless fair who danced idly down forgotten
pasts. Nay, we may even hope that they are better. If they will not
actually think, yet the fatal contagion of the newspaper and the modern
novel communicates to them an intellectual irritation which might
almost stand for a mental process. If they have not ideas, they have
notions of things, and however inexact and absurd these may be, they are
better than emptiness.

"Worse, decidedly worse," says our implacable critic; "when women were
content with looking pretty before marriage, and with good housekeeping
after, they were uninteresting certainly, but they were respectable. Now
they dabble in all things; are weakly æsthetic, weakly scientific,
weakly controversial, and wholly prosy, and contemptible." Dabbling is
pitiful, certainly, and weakness has few allies, but let us do justice
even to the weak dabblers. Æsthetic, or scientific, or controversial
training has but recently been made possible to women. Their previous
range of study had been very narrow. It is not strange that the least
attainments should seem to them very profound and satisfactory, and the
most manifest deductions pass for original conclusions. It is natural
that their undisciplined faculties should grapple feebly with
difficulties, and be quite unequal to argument. This is no reason for
flinging the baffling volumes at their heads; better so educate their
heads that the volumes shall no longer baffle.

Scolded because they have not an idea beyond dress, laughed at when
they try to think of something better, a word may certainly be said for
the good temper and the patience even of the fashionable women, who
would be wiser if they could.

The fault is, we are assured, that these women take up books only to
enhance their matrimonial value, and with no thought of the worth of
study. Let us be just. What business or the professions are to most men,
marriage is to most women. Men qualify themselves, if they can, for that
competitive examination which is always going on, and which insures
clients to the best lawyers, and business to the best merchant, and
parishes to the best preacher. Women, compelled to wait at home for the
wooing which changes their destiny, qualify themselves with attractions
for that competitive examination which all marriageable young women feel
that they undergo from every marriageable young man. Each has an eye to
business. One does not feel that the motive in the one case is any
higher than in the other.

It is very bad, of course, that marriage should be a matter of business.
It is, perhaps, the most tragic of all perversions. But, evidently, the
evil is not to be abated by jeremiads, nor by lectures to young women,
no, nor even by brilliant editorials. So long as women believe that
inglorious ease is better than work, so long as they are taught that
they are born to be the gentle dependents of a stronger being, so long
as courage and capacity are held to be "strong-minded," so long as the
range of employments for women is narrow, and the standard of wages
lower than men's, so long they will seek in marriage a home, a larger
liberty of action, an establishment, a servant who shall supply them
with money and insure them ease without effort of their own.

Men take the business opening which seems most congenial and most
profitable. Women do the same thing, and their choice naturally falls
upon marriage as altogether the most promising speculation of their very
small list. The remedy seems to be to give women as thorough mental
training as men receive, to make their training tend as directly to the
business of earning their bread and their pretty feminine adornments,
and for the same work to pay them the same wages. If it be objected that
fashionable women will not work, let it be answered that work itself
would be fashionable if it were held to be a dignity, and not a
drudgery, and that the really fine and thoughtful leaders of society
could easily establish the new order of things. In an aristocratic
country, where labor is the badge of caste, it would be difficult to
make it honorable. In a democracy like our own, it is the most
contemptible snobbishness which frowns on the honest earning of money.

The accusation of prodigal and senseless expenditure in dress must stand
unrefuted. Sums which would adorn our cities with pleasure-gardens, with
libraries, with galleries of art, are spent on perishable gauds that
have not even beauty to commend them. Charities might be founded, lives
be enriched with travel, all lands laid under contribution with the
money that every year flows into Stewart's drawers, and the strong-boxes
of fashionable dress-makers. But the jewelled prodigals who spend it are
not more selfish, perhaps, than we plain folks who carp.

Again, it is a mistake. They have the money. They mean to secure all the
pleasure that money can buy. They have that feminine sensuousness which
delights in color, and odor, and richness of fabric. Their sense of
beauty is untaught. A little lower in the scale of civilization they
would pierce their noses, and dye their finger-nails, and wear strings
of glass beads. A little higher, they would sacrifice the splendid shawl
to a rare marble, banish the chromo-lithograph, and turn the solitaire
ear-drops into a lovely picture, and build a conservatory with the price
of lace flounces. A little higher still, and we might have model
lodging-houses, and foundling hospitals, and music in the squares given
us by kindly women who had saved the money from milliner, and jeweller,
and silk-mercer.

But standing just where they are, clothes seem to these same undeveloped
women the best things money can buy; and a lack of culture confuses them
as to the attributes of clothes. Just now our fashionable women are
bitterly reprehended for copying the dress of the "Anonymas," who
establish the very pronounced fashions of Paris. Half of them do not
know what model they have taken. The other half accept the various and
tasteless costumes, not because they are devised by "Anonyma," but
because they are striking. There is something in the commonplaceness of
fashionable life which smothers all originality of thought, of action,
even of device in costume; and the women who give most time and money to
dress, to whom one would look for perfection in that mixed art, are
almost invariably the women who are exact reproductions of their
neighbors in this regard, as in their house-furnishing, their equipages,
and their manners.

Upon these splendidly monotonous fine ladies flashes the vision of
"Anonyma," with her meretricious beauty, and her daring toilettes.
Amenable to no social Mrs. Grundy, her love of dress develops itself in
bold contrasts of color, in bizarre and showy ornaments, in picturesque,
and often in grotesque and tawdry effects. But whatever the details, the
whole is always striking. Our women longing for the new, accept the
absurd; desiring the picturesque, take the bizarre, and eager for the
elegant, content themselves with the costly.

Nor does the fact that our present fashionable evening costume is
immodest, of necessity impugn the modesty of the women who wear it. That
they are wanting in fineness of perception must be admitted. But women
of fashion accept without question the dictum of their modistes. La
Belle Hamilton, the famous beauty of the reign of Charles the Second, so
delicately modest and pure that she passed unbreathed upon by scandal
through that most dissolute court, is painted in a costume that the
fastest of New York belles would not venture to wear at the most
fashionable of receptions. The gracious and self-sacrificing and womanly
women of our revolution, wore dresses cut lower than those of their
great-grand-daughters, as any portrait-gallery will show. The dress is
indefensible, but let us not be too ready to condemn the wearer for
worse sins than thoughtlessness and vanity.

One doubts if there is a single Becky Sharp the less, (poor Becky!)
since Thackeray gave such terrible immortality to their great prototype.
The satirist is not the reformer. The satirized do not see themselves in
the exaggerated type. They go their way, and thank God that they are not
as these others. The critic of the London SATURDAY, beginning, perhaps,
with the intention of telling sad and sober truth about a class, has
ended with a list of the follies and faults of individuals, and these
are set down with the keen and unconvincing clearness of the satirist.

It is a good thing indeed, that any aspect of the "woman question"
should claim place, week after week, in a leading English journal. It is
a good thing that it has been thought wise to reprint these essays here.
All this talk about the wrong ways of women suggests that there is a
right way, as yet very much involved in the dust of discussion and the
fogs of speculation. All these accusations against her folly imply a
proportionate tribute to her possible wisdom, if once she can get a fair
chance to be wise.

What the reviewer urges against the effect of fashionable life on the
intellect, cannot be gainsayed. But in America, at least, the injury to
the young men is greater apparently than to the young women. At any
evening party in New York, at any "Hop" in Newport or Saratoga, the
faces of the men are of a lower type, their talk is more inane, their
manners are more vulgar. The girls are empty enough, heaven knows! but
they seem capable of better things, most of them. And they are not so
wholly spoiled in character. I have found very fashionable girls capable
of large sacrifices for love, or kindred, or obedience to some divine
voice. This proves that they have only to be taught that there is
something better than being very fashionable, to take it thankfully. But
the men seemed sordid and selfish, and grown worldly-wise before their

Yet it might make us both more just and more generous to remember that
during our time of peril as a nation, these very ranks of purposeless
men furnished us soldiers and money, and a cheerful faith in the cause,
just as these very legions of idle women gave us workers and nurses.

There is this cheer for American readers of these pages: What we have
been told is our national sin of extravagance, the too pronounced
character of our social life, the frivolity and ignorance of our women,
the lack of a universal and high-toned society, we find not to be inborn
defects peculiar to our system of government, and hopeless of change,
but vices, also, of an old and cultivated and dignified nation.

A cheerful optimist may well believe that we are in a transition state;
that women, impatient of the old life which was without thought and
culture and motive, in the blind struggle to something better have
fallen for the time on something worse; that with the movement of the
age toward mutual helpfulness, man to man, women will move not less
steadily, if more slowly, and come gradually into truer relations with
each other and with men. It will not hurt woman to be criticised. She
has too long been assured of her angelhood, and denied her womanhood. It
will not help her very greatly to be criticised as if she were being
tomahawked. If they who come to scoff would but remain to teach! There
has been much ungentle judgment of men by women, of women by men.
Thoreau said, "Man is continually saying to Woman, 'Why are you not more
wise?' Woman is continually saying to Man, 'Why are you not more
loving?' Unless each is both wise and loving there can be no real

                                                         L. G. C.




Time was when the stereotyped phrase, "a fair young English girl," meant
the ideal of womanhood; to us, at least, of home birth and breeding. It
meant a creature generous, capable, and modest; something franker than a
Frenchwoman, more to be trusted than an Italian, as brave as an
American, but more refined, as domestic as a German and more graceful.
It meant a girl who could be trusted alone if need be, because of the
innate purity and dignity of her nature, but who was neither bold in
bearing nor masculine in mind; a girl who, when she married, would be
her husband's friend and companion, but never his rival; one who would
consider their interests identical, and not hold him as just so much
fair game for spoil; who would make his house his true home and place of
rest, not a mere passage-place for vanity and ostentation to go through;
a tender mother, an industrious house-keeper, a judicious mistress. We
prided ourselves as a nation on our women. We thought we had the pick
of creation in this fair young English girl of ours, and envied no other
men their own.

We admired the languid grace and subtle fire of the South; the docility
and affectionateness of the East seemed to us sweet and simple and
restful; the vivacious sparkle of the trim and sprightly Parisienne was
a pleasant little excitement when we met with it in its own domain; but
our allegiance never wandered from our brown-haired girls at home, and
our hearts were less vagrant than our fancies. This was in the old time,
and when English girls were content to be what God and nature had made
them. Of late years we have changed the pattern, and have given to the
world a race of women as utterly unlike the old insular ideal as if we
had created another nation altogether. The girl of the period, and the
fair young English girl of the past, have nothing in common save
ancestry and their mother-tongue: and even of this last the modern
version makes almost a new language through the copious additions it has
received from the current slang of the day.

The girl of the period is a creature who dyes her hair and paints her
face, as the first articles of her personal religion; whose sole idea of
life is plenty of fun and luxury; and whose dress is the object of such
thought and intellect as she possesses. Her main endeavor in this is to
outvie her neighbors in the extravagance of fashion. No matter whether,
as in the time of crinolines, she sacrificed decency, or, as now in the
time of trains, she sacrifices cleanliness; no matter either, whether
she makes herself a nuisance and an inconvenience to every one she

The girl of the period has done away with such moral muffishness as
consideration for others, or regard for counsel and rebuke. It was all
very well in old-fashioned times, when fathers and mothers had some
authority and were treated with respect, to be tutored and made to obey,
but she is far too fast and flourishing to be stopped in mid-career by
these slow old morals; and as she dresses to please herself, she does
not care if she displeases every one else. Nothing is too extraordinary
and nothing too exaggerated for her vitiated taste; and things which in
themselves would be useful reforms if let alone become monstrosities
worse than those which they have displaced so soon as she begins to
manipulate and improve. If a sensible fashion lifts the gown out of the
mud, she raises hers midway to her knee. If the absurd structure of wire
and buckram, once called a bonnet, is modified to something that shall
protect the wearer's face without putting out the eyes of her companion,
she cuts hers down to four straws and a rosebud, or a tag of lace and a
bunch of glass beads.

If there is a reaction against an excess of Rowland's Macassar, and hair
shiny and sticky with grease is thought less nice than if left clean and
healthy crisp, she dries and frizzes and sticks hers out on end like
certain savages in Africa, or lets it wander down her back like Madge
Wildfire's, and thinks herself all the more beautiful the nearer she
approaches in look to a maniac or a negress. With purity of taste she
has lost also that far more precious purity and delicacy of perception
which sometimes mean more than appears on the surface. What the
_demi-monde_ does in its frantic efforts to excite attention, she also
does in imitation. If some fashionable _dévergondée en evidence_ is
reported to have come out with her dress below her shoulder-blades, and
a gold strap for all the sleeve thought necessary, the girl of the
period follows suit next day; and then wonders that men sometimes
mistake her for her prototype, or that mothers of girls not quite so far
gone as herself refuse her as a companion for their daughters. She has
blunted the fine edges of feeling so much that she cannot understand why
she should be condemned for an imitation of form which does not include
imitation of fact; she cannot be made to see that modesty of appearance
and virtue ought to be inseparable, and that no good girl can afford to
appear bad, under penalty of receiving the contempt awarded to the bad.

This imitation of the _demi-monde_ in dress leads to something in manner
and feeling, not quite so pronounced, perhaps, but far too like to be
honorable to herself or satisfactory to her friends. It leads to slang,
bold talk, and fastness; to the love of pleasure and indifference to
duty; to the desire of money before either love or happiness; to
uselessness at home, dissatisfaction with the monotony of ordinary life,
and horror of all useful work; in a word, to the worst forms of luxury
and selfishness, to the most fatal effects arising from want of high
principle and absence of tender feeling.

The girl of the period envies the queens of the _demi-monde_ far more
than she abhors them. She sees them gorgeously attired and sumptuously
appointed, and she knows them to be flattered, fêted, and courted with a
certain disdainful admiration of which she catches only the admiration
while she ignores the disdain. They have all for which her soul is
hungering, and she never stops to reflect at what a price they have
bought their gains, and what fearful moral penalties they pay for their
sensuous pleasures. She sees only the coarse gilding on the base token,
and shuts her eyes to the hideous figure in the midst, and the foul
legend written around the edge.

It is this envy of the pleasures, and indifference to the sins, of these
women of the _demi-monde_ which is doing such infinite mischief to the
modern girl. They brush too closely by each other, if not in actual
deeds, yet in aims and feelings; for the luxury which is bought by vice
with the one is the thing of all in life most passionately desired by
the other, though she is not yet prepared to pay quite the same price.
Unfortunately, she has already paid too much, all, indeed, that once
gave her distinctive national character. No one can say of the modern
English girl that she is tender, loving, retiring, or domestic. The old
fault so often found by keen-sighted Frenchwomen, that, she was so
fatally _romanesque_, so prone to sacrifice appearances and social
advantages for love, will never be set down to the girl of the period.
Love, indeed, is the last thing she thinks of, and the least of the
dangers besetting her. Love in a cottage, that seductive dream which
used to vex the heart and disturb the calculations of prudent mothers,
is now a myth of past ages. The legal barter of herself for so much
money, representing so much dash, so much luxury and pleasure; that is
her idea of marriage; the only idea worth entertaining.

For all seriousness of thought respecting the duties or the consequences
of marriage, she has not a trace. If children come, they find but a
stepmother's cold welcome from her; and if her husband thinks that he
has married anything that is to belong to him--a _tacens et placens
uxor_ pledged to make him happy--the sooner he wakes from his
hallucination and understands that he has simply married some one who
will condescend to spend his money on herself, and who will shelter her
indiscretions behind the shield of his name, the less severe will be his
disappointment. She has married his house, his carriage, his balance at
the banker's, his title; and he himself is just the inevitable condition
clogging the wheels of her fortune; at best an adjunct, to be tolerated
with more or less patience as may chance. For it is only the
old-fashioned sort, not girls of the period _pur sang_, that marry for
love, or put the husband before the banker.

But she does not marry easily. Men are afraid of her; and with reason.
They may amuse themselves with her for an evening, but they do not take
her readily for life. Besides, after all her efforts, she is only a
poor copy of the real thing; and the real thing is far more amusing than
the copy, because it is real. Men can get that whenever they like; and
when they go into their mother's drawing-rooms, to see their sisters and
their sisters' friends, they want something of quite different flavor.
_Toujours perdrix_ is bad providing all the world over; but a continual
weak imitation of _toujours perdrix_ is worse. If we must have only one
kind of thing, let us have it genuine; and the queens of St. John's Wood
in their unblushing honesty, rather than their imitators and
make-believes in Bayswater and Belgravia. For, at whatever cost of
shocked self-love or pained modesty it may be, it cannot be too plainly
told to the modern English girl that the net result of her present
manner of life is to assimilate her as nearly as possible to a class of
women whom we must not call by their proper--or improper--name. And we
are willing to believe that she has still some modesty of soul left
hidden under all this effrontery of fashion, and that, if she could be
made to see herself as she appears to the eyes of men, she would mend
her ways before too late.

It is terribly significant of the present state of things when men are
free to write as they do of the women of their own nation. Every word of
censure flung against them is two-edged, and wounds those who condemn as
much as those who are condemned; for surely it need hardly be said that
men hold nothing so dear as the honor of their women, and that no one
living would willingly lower the repute of his mother or his sisters. It
is only when these have placed themselves beyond the pale of masculine
respect that such things could be written as are written now; when they
become again what they were once they will gather round them the love
and homage and chivalrous devotion which were then an Englishwoman's
natural inheritance. The marvel, in the present fashion of life among
women, is how it holds its ground in spite of the disapprobation of men.
It used to be an old-time notion that the sexes were made for each
other, and that it was only natural for them to please each other, and
to set themselves out for that end. But the girl of the period does not
please men. She pleases them as little as she elevates them; and how
little she does that, the class of women she has taken as her models of
itself testifies.

All men whose opinion is worth having prefer the simple and genuine girl
of the past, with her tender little ways and pretty bashful modesties,
to this loud and rampant modernization, with her false red hair and
painted skin, talking slang as glibly as a man, and by preference
leading the conversation to doubtful subjects. She thinks she is piquant
and exciting when she thus makes herself the bad copy of a worse
original; and she will not see that though men laugh with her they do
not respect her, though they flirt with her they do not marry her; she
will not believe that she is not the kind of thing they want, and that
she is acting against nature and her own interests when she disregards
their advice and offends their taste. We do not see how she makes out
her account, viewing her life from any side; but all we can do is to
wait patiently until the national madness has passed, and our women have
come back again to the old English ideal, once the most beautiful, the
most modest, the most essentially womanly in the world.


The heroines of the London season--the fillies, we mean, who have been
entered for the great matrimonial stakes, and have been mentioned in the
betting--have by this time exchanged the fast pleasures of the town for
the vapid pastimes of the country. We do not of course concern ourselves
with those poor simple girls who only repeat the lives and morals of
old-fashioned English homes, and who are too respectable and too modest
to be pointed at as the girls of the season. We speak of the fast
sisterhood only. After three months of egregious dissipation they enter
duly upon the next stage of their regular yearly alternations. Three
months of headlong folly are succeeded by three months of deadly
_ennui_. Action and reaction are always equal. The pains and weariness
of moral crapulousness arise in nice proportion to the passion of the
debauch. It is a dismal hour when we look on the withered leaves of last
night's garland.

The lovely and unlovely beings who are now living depressed days far
from Belgravia and the Row have, it is true, but joyless orgies to look
back upon. Their pleasures gave but a pinchbeck joviality after all,
were but a thin lacker spread over mercenary cares and heart-aching
jealousies--not the jealousies of passion, but the nipping vulgar
vexation with which a shopkeeper trembles lest a customer should go to
his rival over the way. Still there was excitement--the excitement of
outdoing a rival in shamelessness of apparel, in reckless abandonment of
manner, in the unblushing tolerance of impudent speech, in all the other
elements of ignoble casino-emulation. Above all, there was the tickling
excitement of knowing that all this was in some sort clandestine; that
ostensibly, and on the surface, things looked as if they were all
exhibiting human nature at its stateliest, most dignified, and most
refined pitch. The consciousness that the thin surface only conceals
some of the worst elements of character in full force and activity must
give a pleasantly stinging sensation to an acutely cynical woman.
However, this is all over for a time.

For a time the half-dressed young Mænads of the season will be found
clothed and in their right minds. And what sort of a right mind is it?
We know the kind of preparation which they have had for the business of
the season--for flirting, husband-hunting, waltzing, dressing so as to
escape the regulations of the police, and the rest. For this their
training has been perfect. But wise men agree that education should
comprehend training for all the parts of life equally--for pleasure not
less than for business, for hours of relaxation as well as for hours of
strain and pressure, for leisure just as much as for active occupation.
Education is supposed to arm us at every point. Nobody in this world was
ever perfectly educated. Everybody has at least one side on which he is
weak--one quarter where temptations are either not irresistible, or else
are not recognised as alluring to what is wrong. But we all know that
training, though never perfect, can make the difference between a
decently right and happy life and a bad, corrupt half-life or no life.
What does training do for the nimble-footed young beauties of the London
ball-room? It makes them nimble-footed, we admit. And what else?

The root-idea of the training of girls of the uppermost class in this
country is perhaps the most absolutely shameless that ever existed
anywhere out of Circassia or Georgia. It puts clean out of sight the
notion that women are rational beings as well as animals, or that they
are destined to be the companions of men who are, or ought to be, also
something more than animals. It takes the mind into account only as an
occasionally useful accident of body. The mind ought to be developed a
little, and in such a way as to make the body more piquant and
attractive. Like the candle inside a Chinese lantern, it may serve to
light up and show to advantage the pretty devices outside. But the
outside is the important thing, and the inside only incidental.
Insipidity of mind is perhaps a trifle objectionable, because there are
a few young men of property who dislike insipidity, and who therefore
might be lost from the toils in consequence. It is a crotchet and an
eccentricity in a man to desire a wife with a bright mind, but since
there are such persons, it is just as well to pay a slight attention to
the mind in odd moments when one is not engaged upon the more urgent
business of the body. You don't know what may happen, and it is possible
that the most eligible _parti_ of a season may dislike the idea of
taking a female idiot to wife. Still it would be absurd to change the
entire system of up-bringing for our girls merely because here and there
a man has a distaste for a fool.

The majority of men are incapable of gauging power of intellect and
fineness of character. But the veriest blockhead and simpleton who ever
lounged in a doorway or lisped in Pall Mall can tell a fine woman when
he sees her, and is probably able to find pleasure and hope in the
spectacle. It is these blockheads and simpletons who thus set the mode.
They fix the standard of fashionable female education. Education, or the
astounding modern conception of it, means preparation of girls for the
marriage market. If a girl does not get well married, it were better for
her and for her mother also if she had never been born, or had been cast
with a millstone round her neck into the sea. Whom she marries--whether
a man old enough to be her father, whether a pattern of imbecility,
whether a man of a notoriously debauched character--this matters not a
jot. Only let him have money. This being the conception of marriage, and
marriage being the aim of all sagacious up-bringing, as most men
unhappily are more surely taken on their animal than on their rational
side, it is perfectly natural that you should strive to bring up a
worthy family of attractive young animals. And let us pause upon this.

If the idea which, even at its best, would be so deplorably imperfect,
were rationally carried out, still it would not be so absolutely
pestilent and debasing as it is. Physical education, rightly practiced,
is a fine and indispensable process in right living. If the system had
for its end the rearing of really robust and healthy creatures, it would
mean something. On the contrary, however, anybody who makes a tour
through fashionable rooms in the season may see that, in a vast quantity
of cases, the heroines of the night are just as sorrily off in bodily
stamina as they are for intellectual ideas and interests. Here we again
encounter the fundamental blunder, that it is only the outside about
which we need concern ourselves. Let a woman be well dressed (or
judiciously undressed), have bright eyes, a whitish skin, rounded
outlines, and that suffices. All this a wise English mother will
certainly secure, just as a wise Chinese woman will take care to have
tiny feet, plucked eyebrows, and black finger-nails.

If you go into a nursery you will see the process already at work. The
little girl, who would fain exercise her young limbs by manifold rude
sprawlings and rushing hither and thither, and single combats with her
brothers, is tricked out in ribbons and gay frocks, and bid sit still in
solemn decorum. With every year of her growth this principle of
attention to outside trickeries and fineries is more rigidly pursued.
Less and less every year are the nerves and muscles, the restless
activities of arms and legs, exercised and made to purvey new vigor to
the life. The blood is allowed to grow stagnant. The life of the woman,
even as mere animal, becomes poor and morbid and artificial. By dint of
much attention and many devices, the outside of the body is maintained
comely in the eyes of people whose notions of comeliness are thoroughly
artificial and sophisticated. But how can there be any health with high
eating, little exercise, above all, with the mind left absolutely vacant
of all interests? The Belgravian mother does not even understand the
miserable trade she has chosen. She is as poor a physical trainer as she
is poor morally and intellectually.

The truth is that in a human being, even from the physical point of
view, it is rather a dangerous thing to ignore the intellect and the
emotions. Nature resents being ignored. If you do not cultivate her, she
will assuredly avenge herself. If you do not get wheat out of your piece
of ground, she will abundantly give you tares. And there can be no other
rule expressly invented for the benefit of fashionable young women.
Their moral nature, if nobody ever taught them to keep an eager eye upon
it, is soon overgrown, either with flaunting poison plants, or at best
with dull gray moss. The parent dreams that the daughter's mind is all
swept and garnished. Lo, there are seven or any other number of devils
that have entered in and taken possession, more or less permanently. The
human creature who has never been taught to take an interest in what is
right and wholesome will, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, take an
interest in what is wrong and unwholesome. You cannot keep minds in a
state of vacuum. A girl, like anybody else, will obey the bent of the
character which has been given either by the education of design or the
more usual education of mere accidental experience. Everything depends,
in the ordinary course of things, upon the general view of the aims and
objects of life which you succeed, deliberately or by hazard, in

A girl is not taught that marriage has grave, moral and rational
purposes, itself being no more than a means. On the contrary, it is
always figured in her eyes as an end, and as an end scarcely at all
connected with a moral and rational companionship. It is, she fancies,
the gate to some sort of paradise whose mysterious joys are not to be
analysed. She forgets that there are no such swift-coming spontaneous
paradises in this world, where the future can never be anything more
than the child of the present, indelibly stamped with every feature and
line of its parent. This castle-building, however, is harmless. If it
does not strengthen, still it does not absolutely impoverish or corrupt,
characters. Of some castle-building one cannot say so much. Character
_is_ assuredly corrupted by avaricious dreams of marriage as a road to
material opulence and luxury. There is, indeed, no end to the depraved
broodings which may come to an empty and undirected mind. If the
emotions and the intellect are not tended and trained, they will run to
an evil and evil-propagating seed. Rooted and incurable frivolty is the
best that can come of it; corruption is the worst.

People madly suppose that going to church, or giving an occasional
blanket to a sick old woman, will suffice to implant a worthy conception
of the aims of life. At this moment, some mothers are, perhaps,
believing that the dull virtue of the country will in a few days redress
the balance which had been too much discomposed by the rush and whirl of
the town. As if one strong set of silly interests and emotions could be
effaced at will by simple change of scene, without substitution of new
interests and emotions. Excess of frivolous excitement is not repaired
or undone by excess of mere blankness and nothingness. The dreariness of
the virtue of the _villeggiatura_ is as noxious as the whirl of the
mercenary and little virtuous period of the season. Teach young women
from their childhood upwards that marriage is their single career, and
it is inevitable that they should look upon every hour which is not
spent in promoting this sublime end and aim as so much subtracted from
life. Penetrated with unwholesome excitement in one part of their
existence, they are penetrated with killing _ennui_ in the next.

If mothers would only add to their account of marriage as the end of a
woman's existence--which may be right or it may not--a definition of
marriage as an association with a reasonable and reflective being, they
would speedily effect a revolution in the present miserable system. To
the business of finding a husband a young lady would then add the not
less important business of making herself a rational person, instead of
a more or less tastefully decorated doll with a passion for a great
deal of money. She might awaken to the fact, which would at first
startle her very much no doubt, that there is a great portion of a
universe outside her own circle and her own mind. This simple discovery
would of itself effect a revolution that might transform her from being
an insipid idiot into a tolerably rational being. As it is, the universe
to her is only a collection of rich bachelors in search of wives, and of
odious rivals who are contending with her for one or more of these too
wary prizes. All high social aims, fine broad humanizing ways of
surveying life, are unknown to her, or else appear in her eyes as the
worship of Mumbo Jumbo appears in the eyes of the philosopher. She
thinks of nothing except her private affairs. She is indifferent to
politics, to literature--in a word, to anything that requires thought.
She reads novels of a kind, because novels are all about love, and love
had once something to do with marriage, her own peculiar and absorbing
business. Beyond this her mind does not stir. Any more positively gross
state one cannot imagine. There are women who are by accident more
degraded physically. _Mutatis mutandis_, there are none more degraded,
morally and intellectually, than those whose minds are constantly bent
upon marriage at any cost, and with anybody, however decrepit, however
silly, and however evil, who can make a settlement.


The conventional idea of a brave, an energetic, or a supremely criminal
woman is a tall, dark-haired, large-armed virago, who might pass as the
younger brother of her husband, and about whom nature seemed to have
hesitated before determining whether to make her a man or a woman--a
kind of debatable land, in fact, between the two sexes, and almost as
much one as the other. Helen Macgregor, Lady Macbeth, Catharine de'
Medici, Mrs. Manning, and the old-fashioned murderesses in novels, are
all of the muscular, black-brigand type, with more or less of regal
grace superadded according to circumstances; and it would be thought
nothing but a puerile fancy to suppose the contrary of those whose
personal description is not already known. Crime, indeed, especially in
art and fiction, has generally been painted in very nice proportion to
the number of cubic inches embodied, and the depth of color employed;
though we are bound to add that the public favor runs towards muscular
heroines almost as much as towards muscular murderesses, which to a
certain extent redresses the overweighted balance.

Our later novelists, however, have altered the whole setting of the
palette. Instead of five foot ten of black and brown, they have gone in
for four foot nothing of pink and yellow; instead of tumbled masses of
raven hair, they have shining coils of purest gold; instead of hollow
caverns whence flash unfathomable eyes eloquent of every damnable
passion, they have limpid lakes of heavenly blue; and their worst
sinners are in all respects fashioned as much after the outward
semblance of the ideal saint as can well be managed. The original notion
was a very good one, and the revolution did not come before it was
wanted; but it has been a little overdone of late, and we are threatened
with as great a surfeit of small-limbed, yellow-headed criminals as we
have had of the man-like black. One gets weary of the most perfect model
in time, if too constantly repeated; as now, when we have all begun to
feel that the resources of the angel's face and demon's soul have been
more heavily drawn on than is quite fair, and that, given "heavy braids
of golden hair," "bewildering blue eyes," "a small lithe frame," "a
special delicacy of feet and hands," and we are booked for the
companionship, through three volumes, of a young person to whom
Messalina or Lucretia Borgia would be a mere novice.

And yet there is a physiological truth in this association of energy
with smallness; perhaps, also, with a certain tint of yellow hair,
which, with a dash of red through it, is decidedly suggestive of nervous
force. Suggestiveness, indeed, does not go very far in an argument; but
the frequent connection of energy and smallness in women is a thing
which all may verify in their own circles. In daily life, who is the
really formidable woman to encounter?--the black-browed,
broad-shouldered giantess, with arms almost as big in the girth as a
man's? or the pert, smart, trim little female, with no more biceps than
a ladybird, and of just about equal strength with a sparrow? Nine times
out of ten, the giantess with the heavy shoulders and broad black
eyebrows is a timid, feeble-minded, good tempered person, incapable of
anything harsher than a mild remonstrance with her maid, or a gentle
chastisement of her children. Nine times out of ten her husband has her
in hand in the most perfect working order, so that she would swear the
moon shone at midday if it were his pleasure that she should make a fool
of herself in that direction. One of the most obedient and indolent of
earth's daughters, she gives no trouble to any one, save the trouble of
rousing, exciting, and setting her agoing; while, as for the conception
or execution of any naughty piece of self-assertion, she is as utterly
incapable as if she were a child unborn, and demands nothing better than
to feel the pressure of the leading-strings, and to know exactly by
their strain where she is desired to go and what to do.

But the little woman is irrepressible. Too fragile to come into the
fighting section of humanity, a puny creature whom one blow from a man's
huge fist could annihilate, absolutely fearless, and insolent with the
insolence which only those dare show who know that retribution cannot
follow--what can be done with her? She is afraid of nothing, and to be
controlled by no one. Sheltered behind her weakness as behind a triple
shield of brass, the angriest man dare not touch her, while she provokes
him to a combat in which his hands are tied. She gets her own way in
everything, and everywhere. At home and abroad she is equally dominant
and irrepressible, equally free from obedience and from fear. Who breaks
all the public orders in sights and shows, and, in spite of king,
kaiser, or policeman X, goes where it is expressly forbidden that she
shall go? Not the large-boned, muscular woman, whatever her temperament;
unless, indeed, of the exceptionally haughty type in distinctly inferior
surroundings, and then she can queen it royally enough, and set
everything at most lordly defiance. But in general the large-boned woman
obeys the orders given, because, while near enough to man to be somewhat
on a par with him, she is still undeniably his inferior. She is too
strong to shelter herself behind her weakness, yet too weak to assert
her strength and defy her master on equal grounds. She is like a
flying-fish, not one thing wholly; and while capable of the
inconveniences of two lives, is incapable of the privileges of either.

It is not she, for all her well-developed frame and formidable looks,
but the little woman, who breaks the whole code of laws and defies all
their defenders--the pert, smart, pretty little woman, who laughs in
your face, and goes straight ahead if you try to turn her to the right
hand or to the left, receiving your remonstrances with the most sublime
indifference, as if you were talking a foreign language she could not
understand. She carries everything before her, wherever she is. You may
see her stepping over barriers, slipping under ropes, penetrating to the
green benches with a red ticket, taking the best places on the platform
over the heads of their rightful owners, settling herself among the
reserved seats without an inch of pasteboard to float her. You cannot
turn her out by main force. British chivalry objects to the public
laying on of hands in the case of a woman, even when most recalcitrant
and disobedient; more particularly if a small and fragile-looking woman.
So that, if it is only a usurpation of places especially masculine, she
is allowed to retain what she has got amid the grave looks of the
elders--not really displeased though at a flutter of her ribbons among
them--and the titters and nudges of the young fellows.

If the battle is between her and another woman, they are left to fight
it out as they best can, with the odds laid heavily on the little one.
All this time there is nothing of the tumult of contest about her. Fiery
and combative as she generally is, when breaking the law in public
places she is the very soul of serene daring. She shows no heat, no
passion, no turbulence; she leaves these as extra weapons of defence to
women who are assailable. For herself she requires no such aids. She
knows her capabilities and the line of attack that best suits her, and
she knows, too, that the fewer points of contact she exposes the more
likely she is to slip into victory; the more she assumes, and the less
she argues, the slighter the hold she gives her opponents. She is
either perfectly good-humored or blankly innocent; she either smiles you
into indulgence or wearies you into compliance by the sheer hopelessness
of making any impression on her. She may, indeed, if of the very
vociferous and shrill-tongued kind, burst out into such a noisy
demonstration that you are glad to escape from her, no matter what
spoils you leave on her hands; just as a mastiff will slink away from a
bantam hen all heckled feathers and screeching cackle, and tremendous
assumption of doing something terrible if he does not look out. Any way
the little woman is unconquerable; and a tiny fragment of humanity at a
public show, setting all rules and regulations at defiance, is only
carrying out in the matter of benches the manner of life to which nature
has dedicated her from the beginning.

As a rule, the little woman is brave. When the lymphatic giantess falls
into a faint or goes off into hysterics, she storms, or bustles about,
or holds on like a game terrier, according to the work on hand. She will
fly at any man who annoys her, and bears herself as equal to the biggest
and strongest fellow of her acquaintance. In general she does it all by
sheer pluck, and is not notorious for subtlety or craft. Had Delilah
been a little woman she would never have taken the trouble to shear
Samson's locks. She would have defied him with all his strength
untouched on his head, and she would have overcome him too. Judith and
Jael were both probably large women. The work they went about demanded a
certain strength of muscle and toughness of sinew; but who can say that
Jezebel was not a small, freckled, auburn-haired Lady Audley of her
time, full of the concentrated fire, the electric force, the passionate
recklessness of her type? Regan and Goneril might have been beautiful
demons of the same pattern; we have the example of the Marchioness de
Brinvilliers as to what amount of spiritual deviltry can exist with the
face and manner of an angel direct from heaven; and perhaps Cordelia was
a tall dark-haired girl, with a pair of brown eyes, and a long nose
sloping downwards.

Look at modern Jewesses, with their flashing Oriental orbs, their
night-black tresses, and the dusky shadows of their olive-colored
complexions; as catalogued properties according to the ideal, they would
be placed in the list of the natural criminals and lawbreakers, while in
reality they are about as meek and docile a set of women as are to be
found within the four seas. Pit a fiery little Welsh woman or a petulant
Parisienne against the most regal and Junonic amongst them, and let them
try conclusions in courage, in energy, or in audacity; the Israelitish
Juno will go down before either of the small Philistines, and the
fallacy of weight and color in the generation of power will be shown
without the possibility of denial. Even in those old days of long ago,
when human characteristics were embodied and deified, we do not find
that the white-armed, large-limbed Here, though queen by right of
marriage, lorded it over her sister goddesses by any superior energy or
force of nature. On the contrary, she was rather a heavy-going person,
and, unless moved to anger by her husband's numerous infidelities, took
her Olympian life placidly enough, and once or twice got cheated in a
way that did no great credit to her sagacity. A little Frenchwoman would
have sailed around her easily; and as it was, shrewish though she was in
her speech when provoked, her husband not only deceived but chastised
her, and reduced her to penitence and obedience as no little woman would
have suffered herself to be reduced.

There is one celebrated race of women who were probably the
powerfully-built, large-limbed creatures they are assumed to have been,
and as brave and energetic as they were strong and big--the Norse women
of the sagas, who, for good or evil, seem to have been a very
influential element in the old Northern life. Prophetesses, physicians,
dreamers of dreams and the accredited interpreters as well, endowed with
magic powers, admitted to a share in the councils of men, brave in war,
active in peace, these fair-haired Scandinavian women were the fit
comrades of their men, the fit wives and mothers of the Berserkers and
the Vikings. They had no tame or easy life of it, if all we hear of them
is true. To defend the farm and the homestead during their husbands'
absence, and to keep themselves intact against all bold rovers to whom
the Tenth Commandment was an unknown law; to dazzle and bewilder by
magic arts when they could not conquer by open strength; to unite craft
and courage, deception and daring, loyalty and independence, demanded
no small amount of opposing qualities. But the Steingerdas and Gudrunas
were generally equal to any emergency of fate or fortune, and slashed
their way through the history of their time more after the manner of men
than women; supplementing their downright blows by side thrusts of
craftier cleverness when they had to meet power with skill, and were
fain to overthrow brutality by fraud. The Norse women were certainly as
largely framed as they were mentally energetic, and as crafty as either;
but we know of no other women who unite the same characteristics, and
are at once cunning, strong, brave and true.

On the whole, then, the little women have the best of it. More petted
than their bigger sisters, and infinitely more powerful, they have their
own way in part because it really does not seem worth while to contest a
point with such little creatures. There is nothing that wounds a man's
self-respect in any victory they may get or claim. Where there is
absolute inequality of strength, there can be no humiliation in the
self-imposed defeat of the stronger; and as it is always more pleasant
to have peace than war, and as big men for the most part rather like
than not to put their necks under the tread of tiny feet, the little
woman goes on her way triumphant to the end, breaking all the laws she
does not like, and throwing down all the barriers that impede her
progress, perfectly irresistible and irrepressible in all circumstances
and under any condition.


Not many years ago no really refined gentlewoman would have worn
pinchbeck. False jewelry and imitation lace were touchstones with the
sex, and the woman who would condescend to either was assumed, perhaps
not quite without reason, to have lost something more than the mere
perception of technical taste. This feeling ran through the whole of
society, and pinchbeck was considered as at once despicable and
disreputable. The successful speculator, sprung from nothing, who had
made his fortune during the war, might buy land, build himself a
mansion, and set up a magnificent establishment, but he was never looked
on as more than a lucky adventurer by the aboriginal gentry of the
place; and the blue blood, perhaps nourishing itself on thin beer,
turned up its nose disdainfully at the claret and madeira which had been
personally earned and not lineally inherited. This exclusiveness was
narrow in spirit, and hard in individual working; and yet there was a
wholesome sentiment underlying its pride which made it valuable in
social ethics, if immoral on the score of natural equality and human
charity. It was the rejection of pretentiousness, however gilded and
glittering, in favor of reality, however poor and barren; it was the
condemnation of make-believes--the repudiation of pinchbeck. It is not a
generation since this was the normal attitude of society towards its
_nouveaux riches_ and Brummagem jewelry; but time moves fast in these
later days, and national sentiments change as quickly as national

We are in the humor to rehabilitate all things, and pinchbeck has now
its turn with the rest. The lady of slender means who would refuse to
wear imitation lace and false jewelry is as rare as the country society
which would exclude the _nouveau riche_ because of his newness, and not
adopt him because of his riches. The whole anxiety now is, not what a
thing is, but how it looks--not its quality, but its appearance. Every
part of social and domestic life is dedicated to the apotheosis of
pinchbeck. It meets us at the hall door, where miserable make-believes
of stuccoed pillars are supposed to confer a quasi-palatial dignity on a
wretched little villa, run up without regard to one essential of home
comfort or of architectural truth. It goes with us into the cold,
conventional drawing-room, where all is for show, nothing for use, where
no one lives, and which is just the mere pretence of a dwelling-room,
set out to deceive the world into the belief that its cheap finery is
the expression of the every-day life and circumstances of the family. It
sits with us at the table, which a confectioner out of a back street has
furnished, and where everything, down to the very flowers, is hired for
the occasion. It glitters in the brooches and bracelets of the women, in
the studs and signet-rings of the men; it is in the hired broughams,
the hired waiters, the pigmy page-boys, the faded paper flowers, the
cheap champagne, and the affectation of social consideration that meet
us at every turn. The whole of the lower section of the middle classes
is penetrated through and through with the worship of pinchbeck, and for
one family that holds itself in the honor and simplicity of truth, ten
thousand lie, to the world and to themselves, in frippery and pretence.

The greatest sinners in this are women. Men are often ostentatious,
often extravagant, and not unfrequently dishonest in that broadway of
dishonesty which is called living beyond their means--sometimes making
up the deficit by practices which end in the dock of the Old Bailey;
but, as a rule, they go in for the real thing in details, and their
pinchbeck is at the core rather than on the surface. Women, on the
contrary, give themselves up to a more general pretentiousness, and,
provided they can make a show, care very little about the means;
provided they can ring their metal on the counter, they ignore the want
of the hall-stamp underneath. Locality, dress, their visiting-list, and
domestic appearances are the four things which they demand shall be in
accord with their neighbor's; and for these four surfaces they will
sacrifice the whole internal fabric. They will have a showy-looking
house, encrusted with base ornamentation and false grandeur, though it
lets in wind, rain, and sound almost as if it were made of mud or
canvas, rather than a plain and substantial dwelling-place, with comfort
instead of stucco, and moderately thick walls instead of porches and
pilasters. Most of their time is necessarily passed at home, but they
undergo all manner of house discomfort resulting from this preference of
cheap finery over solid structure, rather than forego their "genteel
locality" and stereotyped ornamentation. A family of daughters on the
one side, diligent over the "Battle of Prague;" a nursery full of crying
babies on the other; more Battles of Prague opposite, diversified by a
future Lind practicing her scales unweariedly; water-pipes bursting in
the frost, walls streaming in the thaw, the lower offices reeking and
green with damp, and the upper rooms too insecure for unrestricted
movement--all these, and more miseries of the same kind, she willingly
encounters rather than shift into a locality relatively unfashionable to
her sphere, but where she could have substantiality and comfort for the
same rent that she pays now for flash and pinchbeck.

In dress it is the same thing. She must look like her neighbors, no
matter whether they can spend pounds to her shillings, and run up a
milliner's bill beyond what she can afford for the whole family living.
If they can buy gold, she can manage pinchbeck; glass that looks like
jet, like filagree work, like anything else she fancies, is every bit to
her as good as the real thing; and if she cannot compass Valenciennes
and Mechlin, she can go to Nottingham and buy machine-made imitations
that will make quite as fine a show. How poor soever she may be, she
must hang herself about with ornaments made of painted wood, glass, or
vulcanite; she must break out into spangles and beads and chains and
_benoîtons_, which are cheap luxuries, and, as she thinks, effective.
Flimsy silks make as rich a rustle to her ear as the stateliest brocade,
and cotton-velvet delights the soul that cannot aspire to Genoa. The
love of pinchbeck is so deeply ingrained in her that even if, in a
momentary fit of aberration into good taste, she condescends to a simple
material about which there can be neither disguise nor pretence, she
must load it with that detestable cheap finery of hers till she makes
herself as vulgar in a muslin as she was in a cotton velvet.

The _simplex munditiis_, which used to be held as a canon of feminine
good taste, is now abandoned altogether, and the more she can bedizen
herself according to the pattern of a Sandwich islander the more
beautiful she thinks herself, the more certain the fascination of the
men, and the greater the jealousy of the women. This is the cause of all
the tags and streamers, the bits of ribbon here and flying ends of laces
there, the puffed-out chignons, and the trailing curls cut off some dead
girl's head, wherewith the modern Englishwoman delights to make herself
hideous. It is pinchbeck throughout. But we fear she is past praying for
in the matter of fashion, and that she is too far given over to the
abomination of pretence to be called back to truth for any ethical
reason whatsoever, or indeed by anything short of high examples. And
then, if simplicity became the fashion, we should have our pinchbeck
votaries translating that into extremes as they do now with
ornamentation; if my lady took to plainness, they would go to

Another bit of pinchbeck is the visiting-list--the cards of invitation
stuck against the drawing-room glass--with the grandest names and
largest fortunes put forward, irrespective of dates or tenses. The
chance contact with the people represented may be quite out of the
ordinary circumstances of life, but their names are paraded as if an
accident, which has happened once and may never occur again, were in the
daily order of events. They are brought to the front to make others
believe that the whole social thickness is of the same quality; that
generals and admirals and sirs and ladies are the common elements of the
special circle in which the family habitually moves; that pinchbeck is
good gold, and that stucco means marble. Women are exceedingly tenacious
of these pasteboard appearances.

In a house with its couple of female servants, where formal visitors are
very rare, and invitations, save by friendly word of mouth, rarer still,
you may see a cracked china bowl or cheap mock _patera_ on the hall
table, to receive the cards which are assumed to come in the thick
showers usual with high people who have hall-porters, and a thousand
names or more on their books. The pile gets horribly dusty to be sure,
and the upper layer turns by degrees from cream-color to brown; but
antiquity is not held to weaken the force of grandeur. The titled card
left on a chance occasion more than a year ago still keeps the uppermost
place, still represents a perpetual renewal of aristocratic visits, and
an unbroken succession of social triumphs. Yellowed and soiled, it is
none the less the trump-card of the list; and while the outside world
laughs and ridicules, the lady at home thinks that no one sees through
this puerile pretence, and that the visiting-list is accepted according
to the status of the fugleman at the head. She is very happy if she can
say that the pattern of her dress, her cap, her bonnet, was taken from
that of Lady So and So; and we may be quite sure that all personal
contact with grand folks does so express itself, and perpetuate the
memory of the event, by such imitation--at a distance. It is too good an
occasion for the airing of pinchbeck to be disregarded, and,
consequently, for the most part is turned to this practical account.
Whether the fashion will be suited to the material, or to the other
parts of the dress, is quite a secondary consideration, it being of the
essence of pinchbeck to despise both fitness and harmony.

There is a large amount of pinchbeck in the appearance of social
influence, much cultivated by women of a certain activity of mind, and
with more definite aims than all women have. This belongs to a grade one
step higher than the small pretences we have been speaking of--to women
who have money, and so far have one reality, but who have not, by their
own birth or their husband's, the original standing which would give
them this influence as of right. Some make themselves notorious for
their drawing-room patronage of artists, which, however, does not often
include buying their pictures; others gather around them scores of
obscure authors, whose books they talk of, if they do not read; a few, a
short time since, were centres of spiritualistic circles, and got a
queer kind of social influence thereby, so far as Philistine desire to
witness the "manifestations" went; and one or two are names of weight in
the emancipated ranks, and take chiefly to what they call "working
women." These are they who attend Ladies' Committees, where they talk
bosh, and pound away at utterly uninteresting subjects, as diligently as
if what they said had any point in it, and what they did any ultimate
issue in probability or common sense. But beyond the fact of having a
large house, where their several sets may assemble at stated periods,
these would-be lady patronesses are utterly impotent to help or hinder;
and their patronage is just so much pinchbeck, not worth the trouble of

In all this gaudy attempt at show, this restless dissatisfaction with
what they are, and ceaseless endeavour to appear something they are not,
our middle-class ladies are doing themselves and society infinite
mischief. They set the tone to the world below them, and the small
tradespeople and the servants, when they copy the vices of their
superiors, do not imitate her grace the duchess, but the doctor's wife
over the way, and the lawyer's lady next door, and the young ladies
everywhere, who all try to appear women of rank and fortune, and who are
ashamed of nothing as much as of industry, truth and simplicity. Hence
the rage for cheap finery in the kitchen, just a trifle more ugly and
debased than that worn in the drawing-room; hence the miserable
pretentiousness, and pinchbeck fine-ladyism, filtering like poison
through every pore of our society, to result God only knows in what
grave moral cataclysm, unless women of mind and education will come to
the front, and endeavour to stay the plague already begun.

Chains and brooches may seem but small material causes for important
moral effects, but they are symbols; and, as symbols, of deep national
value. No good will be done till we get back some of our fine old horror
of pinchbeck, and once more insist on truth as the foundation of our
national life. Education and refinement will be of no avail if they do
not land us here; and the progress of the arts and society must not be
brought to mean chiefly the travesty of civilized ladies into the
semblance of savages, by the cheap imitation of costly substances. Women
are always rushing about the world eager after everything but their home
business. Here is something for them to do--the regeneration of society
by means of their own energies; the bringing people back to the dignity
of truth and the beauty of simplicity; and the substitution of that
self-respect which is content to appear what it is, for the feeble pride
which revels in pinchbeck because it cannot get gold, and which
endeavors so hard to hide its real estate, and to pass for what it is
not and never could be.


The achievements of Anglo-Saxon energy present a rich mine of material
to the bookmaker. We are justly proud of our self-made men--of our
Chancellors who have risen from the barber's-shop to the Woolsack, of
our low-born inventors who have fought their way to scientific
recognition, of our merchant princes who have begun life with a capital
of one half-crown. The story of the man who has raised himself to
eminence by his own exertions, in the face of overwhelming disadvantages
and obstacles, is a thrice-told tale, thanks to Mr. Smiles and other
biographers. But our admiration has been almost exclusively drawn to
these signal examples of pushing _men_. The analogous exploits of the
fair sex remain comparatively unchronicled. No one has hitherto
published a book about Self-made Women. Yet this branch of the subject
would be very interesting, and even instructive. Of course the
opportunity for the display of energy in pushing is, in the case of
woman, much more limited. She cannot push at the Bar or in the Church,
or in business. Her sphere for pushing is practically narrowed down to
one department of human life--society. But within the limits of that
sphere she exhibits very remarkable proofs of this peculiar form of
activity. Moreover, pushing is a feature so peculiarly characteristic of
the English, as distinct from the Continental _salon_, that no attempt
to place a picture of the Englishwoman in her totality before her
foreign critics would be complete without it.

There are three periods in the career of a pushing woman. The first is
that in which she emerges from obscurity, or, worse perhaps, from the
notoriety of commercial antecedents, and carried, by a vigorous push,
the outworks of fashionable society. The wife of a successful speculator
in cotton or guano, who is also the mistress of a comfortable mansion in
Bloomsbury, gradually becomes restless and dissatisfied with her
surroundings. It would be curious to trace the growth of this
discontent. Ambition is deeply rooted in the female bosom. Even
housemaids are actuated by an impulse to better themselves, and village
school-mistresses yearn for a larger sphere. Perhaps it is this instinct
to rise, so creditable to the sex, which compels a lady with a long
purse, and a name well known in the city, to enter the lists as an
aspirant to fashion. Perhaps her career is developed by a more gradual
process. Climbing social Alps is like climbing material Alps--for a time
the intervening heights shut out from view the grander peaks. It is not
till one has topped Peckham or Hackney that a more extended horizon
bursts on the eye, and one catches sight of the glittering summits of
Belgravia. Account for it as we may, the phenomenon of a woman in the
enjoyment of every comfort and luxury that wealth can give, but ready
to barter it all for a few crumbs of contemptuous notice from persons of
rank, is by no means uncommon. Probably the fashionable newspaper is a
great stimulus to pushing.

The rich vulgarian pores over _Court Circulars_ and catalogues of
aristocratic names till the fascination becomes irresistible, and the
desire to see her own name, purged of cotton or guano, figuring in the
same sheet grows to a monomania. But how is this to be done? Fortunately
for the purpose which she has in view, there exist in these latter days
amphibious beings, half trader, half fop, with one set of relations with
the world of commerce and another set of relations with the world of
fashion. The dandy, driven into the city by the stress of his fiscal
exigencies, forms a link between the East-end and the West. Among his
other functions is that of giving aid and counsel, not exactly gratis,
to any fair outsider who wants to "get into" society. For every
applicant he has but one bit of advice. She must spend money.

For a woman who is neither clever nor beautiful nor high-born, there is
but one way to proceed. She must bribe right and left. No rotten borough
absorbs more cash than the fashionable world. Its recognition is merely
a question of money. All its distinctions have their price. It exacts
from the pushing woman a thumping entrance-fee in the shape of a
sumptuous concert or ball. Nor is it only the first push which costs.
Every subsequent advance is as much a matter of purchase as a step in
the army.

There is a tariff of its honors, and any Belgravian actuary can
calculate to a nicety the price of a stare from a great lady, or a card
from a leader of fashion. This is the philosophy expounded by the
amphibious dandy to his civic pupil. The upshot is, that she must give
an entertainment, or a series of entertainments, on a scale of great
splendor. Of course the house in Bloomsbury must be exchanged for
another in a fashionable quarter. A more profuse style of living must be
adopted. Her equipages must be gorgeous, her flunkeys numerous and well
powdered. Above all, she must at once and for ever make a clean sweep of
all her old friends. Upon these conditions, and in consideration of a
_douceur_ for himself, he agrees to be her friend, and help her to push.
Then follows a delicate negotiation with one of those dowagers who
rather pique themselves on their good nature in standing sponsors to
pushing nobodies. She, too, makes her conditions. For the sake of the
elderly pet to whom she is indebted for her daily supply of scandal, she
consents to countenance his _protegée_. But she declines to ask her to
her own house. She will dine with her, provided the dinner is exquisite,
and two or three of her own cronies are included in the invitation. Last
and crowning condescension, she will ask the company for the proposed
concert or ball, provided the thing is done regardless of expense. It
would be hard to say which a cynic would think most charming--the
readiness to accept, or the inclination to impose, such conditions.

At last the great occasion arrives. Planted at the top of her staircase,
under the wing of her fashionable allies, the nominal giver of the
entertainment is duly stared at and glared at by a supercilious crowd,
who examine her with the same sort of languid interest which they devote
to a new animal at the Zoological. The greater number are "going on" to
another party. But the next morning brings balm for every mortification.
Her ball is blazoned in the fashionable journals, and the well-bred
reporter, while elaborately complimentary to the exotics, is discreetly
silent as to the supercilious stares. She does not exactly awake to find
herself famous, but at least she is no longer outside the Pale. At a
considerable outlay, she has got into what a connoisseur in shades of
fashion would call tenth-rate society. This is not much; still, it is a
beginning, and a beginning is everything to a pushing woman.

In the pushing woman of the transition period we behold a lady who has
got a certain footing in society, but who is straining every nerve, in
season and out of season, by hook and by crook, to improve her position.
Society within the Pale is divided into a great many "zones" or "sets."
It is like a target, with outer, middle, inner, and innermost circles.
The exterior circle, corresponding to "the black" in archery, consists
of persona, for the most part, with limited means and moderate ambition.
People who try to combine fashion with economy stick here, and advance
no further. Carpet-dances and champagneless suppers are typical of this
circle. Here mothers and daughters prey upon the inexperienced youth of
the Universities and green young officers, who are deluded for one
season by their pretensions to fashion, but who cut them the next.
Here, too, may be found persons whose social progress has been retarded
by foolish scruples about cutting their old friends. Between this band
of prowlers upon the outskirts of fashion and "the best set"--the golden
ring in the centre of the shield--are many intermediate circles, each
representing a different stage of distinction and exclusiveness. It is
the multiplicity of these invisible lines of demarcation which makes
pushing so laborious.

The world of fashion is not one homogeneous camp, but it is parcelled
out into a number of cliques and coteries. Into one after another of
these a pushing woman effects her entrance. She is always edging her way
into a new and better set. At every step there are obstacles to be
encountered, rivals to be jostled, fierce snubs to be endured. There is
something almost sublime in the spectacle of this untiring activity of
shoulder and elbow. The mere shoving--_vis consilî expers_--would never
bring her near to her goal. An adept in the art of pushing does not rely
on sheer impudence alone. She has recourse to artificial aids and
appliances. A great deal of ingenuity is exhibited in the selection of
her self-propelling machinery. It is a good plan to acquire a name for
some one social speciality.

Private theatricals, for instance, or similar entertainments, may be
turned to excellent account. Exhibitions of this kind pique curiosity,
and people who come to stare remain to supper, and possibly return to
drop a card on the following afternoon. But, if you go in for this sort
of thing, you must resign yourself to certain inconveniences. Your
pretty drawing-room will be like Park Lane in a state of chronic
obstruction. The carpenter's work will interfere somewhat with your
comfort, and it is tiresome to be perpetually unhinging your doors and
pulling your windows out of their frames. The jealousies and bickerings
among the performers are another source of vexation. Miss A. declines to
sit as Rowena to Miss B.'s Rebecca; and the drawing-room Roscius
invariably objects to the part for which he is cast. Altogether, unless
you have a positive taste for carpentry and green-room squabbles, it is
better to steer clear of private theatricals.

Then there is the musical dodge. In skillful hands there is no better
leverage for pushing operations than drawing-room music. Every one knows
Lady Tweedledum and her amateur concerts. The fuss she makes about them
is prodigious. They are a cheap sort of entertainment, but they cost the
thrifty patroness of art a vast deal of trouble. She is always
organizing practices, arranging rehearsals, drawing up programmes, or
scouring London for musical recruits. She has been known to invade dingy
Government offices for a tenor, and to run a soprano to earth in distant
Bloomsbury. After all, her "music" is only so-so. You may hear better
any night at Even's or the Oxford. One has heard "Dal tuo stellato
soglio" before, and Niedermeyer insipidities are a little _fadé_.
Sometimes, to complete the imposture, the names of Mendelssohn and
Mozart are invoked, and, under cover of doing honor to an immortal
composer, a chorus of young people assemble for periodical flirtation.
On the whole, it is wise not to attempt too much. Miss Quaver, with her
staccato notes and semi-professional _minauderies_, is not exactly a
queen of song. Nor does it give one any exquisite delight to hear Sir
Raucisonous Trombone give tongue in a French romance. The talented band
of the Piccadilly Troubadours, floundering through the overture to
_Zampa_, hardly satisfies a refined musical ear. But, however
indifferent in a musical point of view, from the point of view of the
fair projector the thing is a success. It serves as a trap to catch
duchesses, a device for putting salt on the tails of the popinjays of
fashion. One fine day Lady Tweedledum's pretended zeal for music
receives its crowning reward. The noise of it reaches august ears. An
act of gracious condescension follows. Her Ladyship has the supreme
delight of leading a scion of Royalty to a chair of state in her
drawing-room, to hear Sir Raucisonous bleat and Miss Quaver trill.

There are subtler means of pushing than amateur concerts and private
theatricals. There is the push vertical, as in the case of the
commercial lady; and there is also the push lateral. A good example of
the latter style of operation is afforded by the dowager who is
fortunate enough to have an eldest son to use as a pushing machine.
Handled with tact, a young heir, not yet cut adrift from the maternal
apron-string, may be turned to excellent account. There is, or was, a
sentimental ballad entitled, "I'll kiss him for his mother." One might
reverse the sentiment in the case of _Madame Mère_. Of her the dowagers
with daughters to marry sing in chorus, "I'll visit her for her son."
Civility to the mother is access to the son. A sharp tactician sees her
advantage, and works the precious relationship for her own private ends.
It is a mine of invitations of an eligible kind. By aid of it she
springs over barriers which it would otherwise take her years to
surmount, and is lifted into circles which by their unassisted efforts
she and her daughters would never reach. Scheming dowagers are glad to
have her at their balls when there is a chance of young Hopeful
following in her train, and her five o'clock tea is delightful when
there is a young millionaire to sip it with. Deprived of her decoy duck
she would soon lose ground, and be left to push her way in society with
uncomfortably reduced momentum.

Another capital instrument for pushing is a country-house. The mistress
of a fine old hall and a cypher of a husband is apt to take a peculiar
view of the duties of property. One might expect her to be content with
so dignified and enviable a lot, and to pass tranquil days in coddling
the cottagers, patronizing the rector's wife, and impressing her
crotchet on the national school. But no--she is bitten with the
tarantula of social success. She wants to "get on" in society. She must
push as vigorously as any trumpery adventuress in May Fair. A good old
name is dragged into the dirt inseparable from pushing. The family
portraits look disdainfully from their frames, and the ancestral oaks
hang their heads in shame. The company reflects the peculiar ambition of
the hostess. The neighboring squires are conspicuous by their absence.
The local small fry are of course ignored, though to the great lady of
the county, who cuts her in town, she is cringingly obsequious. The
visitors consist mainly of relays of youths, fast, foolish, and
fashionable, with now and then a stray politician or journalist thrown
in to give the party a _soupçon_ of intellect. The principle of
invitation is very simple. No one is asked who will not be of use in
town. Any brainless little fop, any effete dandy, is sure of a welcome,
provided he is known to certain circles and can help her to scramble
into a little more vogue.

One more instance of lateral pushing. A connection with literature may
be very effectively worked. The wives of poets, novelists, and
historians have great facilities for pushing if they care to use them.
Even the sleek parasite who fattens on a literature which he has done
nothing to adorn, and conceals his emptiness under the airs of Sir
Oracle, has been known to hoist his female belongings into the high
levels of society.

The last period in the career of a pushing woman is the triumphant. This
is when she has achieved fashion, and has virtually done pushing. There
is nothing left to push for. The Belgravian citadel has fairly
capitulated. Like Alexander weeping that there are no more worlds to
conquer, she may indulge a transient regret that there are no more
_salons_ left to penetrate. But rest is welcome after so harassing a
struggle. And with rest comes a sensible improvement in her character
and manners. The last stage of a pushing woman is emphatically better
than the first. It is curious to notice what a change for the better is
produced in her by the partial recovery of her self-respect. One might
almost call her a pleasant person. She can at last afford to be civil,
occasionally even good-natured. And this is only natural. In the thick
of a struggle which taxes her energies to the uttermost, there is no
time for courtesies and amenities. The better instincts of her nature
necessarily remain in abeyance. But they reassert themselves, unless she
be irretrievably spoilt, when the struggle is over.

At last she can afford to speak her true thoughts, consult her own
tastes, and receive her own friends, not another's, like a lady to the
manner born. And if this emancipation from a self-imposed thraldom is
not too long deferred, if it finds her at sixty with a relish for gaiety
still unslaked, she may yet be able to enjoy society herself and to
render it enjoyable to others. How many women there are of whom one
says, How pleasant they will be when they have done pushing! or have
pushed enough to allow themselves and others a little rest! One longs
for the time to arrive when they shall have kicked down the ladders by
which they have mounted, and effaced the trace of the rebuffs which they
have encountered. One longs to see them cleansed from the stains with
which their toilsome struggle has bespattered them, enjoying the ease
and tranquillity of the after-push. If "getting on in society" must
continue to be an object of female ambition, would it not be wise to
abate the nuisance by rendering the process somewhat more easy? Might
not some central authority be established to grant diplomas to pushing
women, which would admit them _per saltum_ to those select circles which
they go through so much dirt to reach?


The old form of feminine affectation used to be that of a die-away fine
lady afflicted with a mysterious malady known by the name of the vapors,
or one, no less obscure, called the spleen. Sometimes it was an
etherealized being who had no capacity for homely things, but who passed
her life in an atmosphere of poetry and music, for the most part
expressing her vague ideas in halting rhymes that gave more satisfaction
to herself than to her friends. She was probably an Italian scholar, and
could quote Petrarch and Tasso, and did quote them pretty often; she
might even be a Della Cruscan by honorable election, with her own
peculiar wreath of laurel and her own silver lyre; any way she was "a
sister of the Muses," and had something to do with Apollo and Minerva,
whom she was sure to call Pallas, as being more poetical. Probably she
had dealings with Diana too, for this kind of woman does not in any age
affect the "sea-born," save in a hazy sentimental way that bears no
fruits; a neatly-turned sonnet or a clever bit of counterpoint being to
her worth all the manly love or fireside home delights that the world
can give.

What is the touch of babies' dimpled fingers or the rosy kisses of
babies' lips compared to the pleasures of being a sister of the Muses,
and one of the beloved of Apollo? The Della Cruscan of former days, or
her modern avatar, will tell you that music and poetry are godlike and
bear the soul away to heaven, but that the nursery is a prison, and
babies no dearer gaolers than any other, and that household duties
disgrace the aspiring soul mounting to the empyrean. This was the
Ethereal Being of the last generation--the Blue-stocking, as a poetess
in white satin, with her eyes turned up to heaven, and her hair in
dishevelled cascades about her neck. She dropped her mantle as she
finally departed; and we still have the Della Cruscan essence, if not in
the precise form of earlier times. We still have ethereal beings who, as
the practical outcome of their etherealization, rave about music and
poetry, and Hallé and Ruskin, and horribly neglect their babies and the
weekly bills.

A favorite form of feminine affectation among certain opposers of the
prevalent fast type is in an intense womanliness, an aggravating
intensity of womanliness, that makes one long for a little roughness,
just to take off the cloying excess of sweetness. This kind is generally
found with large eyes, dark in the lids and hollow in the orbit, by
which a certain spiritual expression is given to the face, a certain
look of being consumed by the hidden fire of lofty thought, that is very
effective. It does not destroy the effectiveness that the real cause of
the darkened lids and cavernous orbits, when not antimony, is most
probably internal disease; eyes of this sort stand for spirituality and
loftiness of thought and intense womanliness of nature, and, as all men
are neither chemists nor doctors, the simulation does quite as well as

The main characteristic of these women is self-consciousness. They live
before a moral mirror, and pass their time in attitudinizing to what
they think the best advantage. They can do nothing simply, nothing
spontaneously and without the fullest consciousness as to how they do
it, and how they look while they are doing it. In every action of their
lives they see themselves as pictures, as characters in a novel, as
impersonations of poetic images or thoughts. If they give you a glass of
water, or take your cup from you, they are Youth and Beauty ministering
to Strength or Age, as the case may be; if they bring you a photographic
album, they are Titian's Daughter carrying her casket, a trifle
modernized; if they hold a child in their arms, they are Madonnas, and
look unutterable maternal love, though they never saw the little
creature before, and care for it no more than for the puppy in the mews;
if they do any small personal office, or attempt to do it, making
believe to tie a shoestring, comb out a curl, fasten a button, they are
Charities in graceful attitudes, and expect you to think them both
charitable and graceful. Nine times out of ten they can neither tie a
string nor fasten a button with ordinary deftness, for they have a trick
of using only the ends of their fingers when they do anything with their
hands, as being more graceful, and altogether fitting in better than
would a firmer grasp with the delicate womanliness of the character;
and the less sweet and more commonplace woman who does not attitudinize
morally, and never parades her womanliness, beats them out of the field
for real helpfulness, and is the Charity which the other only plays at

This kind, too, affects, in theory, wonderful submissiveness to man. It
upholds Griselda as the type of feminine perfection, and--still in
theory--between independence and being tyrannized over, goes in for the
tyranny. "I would rather my husband beat me than let me do too much as I
liked," said one before she married, who, after she was married, managed
to get entire possession of the domestic reins, and took good care that
her nominal lord should be her practical slave. For, notwithstanding the
sweet submissiveness of her theory, the intensely womanly woman has the
most astonishing knack of getting her own way and imposing her own will
on others. The real tyrant among women is not the one who flounces and
splutters, and declares that nothing shall make her obey, but the
self-mannered, large-eyed, and intensely womanly person, who says that
Griselda is her ideal, and that the whole duty of woman lies in
unquestioning obedience to man.

In contrast with this special affectation is the mannish woman--the
woman who wears a double-breasted coat with big buttons, of which she
flings back the lappels with an air, understanding the suggestiveness of
a wide chest and the need of unchecked breathing; who wears
unmistakeable shirtfronts, linen collars, vests, and plain ties, like a
man; who folds her arms or sets them akimbo, like a man; who even
nurses her feet and cradles her knees, in spite of her petticoats, and
makes believe that the attitude is comfortable because it is manlike. If
the excessively womanly woman is affected in her sickly sweetness, the
mannish woman is affected in her breadth and roughness. She adores dogs
and horses, which she places far above children of all ages. She boasts
of how good a marksman she is--she does not call herself markswoman--and
how she can hit right and left, and bring down both birds flying. When
she drinks wine she holds the stem of the glass between her first two
fingers, hollows her underlip, and tosses it off, throwing her head well
back--she would disdain the ladylike sip or the closer gesture of
ordinary women. She is great in cheese and bitter beer, in claret cup
and still champagne, but she despises the puerilities of sweets or of
effervescing wines. She rounds her elbows and turns her wrist outward,
as men round their elbows and turn their wrists outward. She is fond of
carpentry, she says, and boasts of her powers with the plane and saw;
for charms to her watch-chain she wears a corkscrew, a gimlet, a big
knife, and a small foot-rule; and in entire contrast with the intensely
womanly woman, who uses the tips of her fingers only, the mannish woman
when she does anything uses the whole hand, and if she had to thread a
needle would thread it as much by her palm as by her fingers. All of
which is affectation--from first to last affectation; a mere assumption
of virile fashions utterly inharmonious to the whole being, physical
and mental, of a woman.

Then there is the affectation of the woman who has taken propriety and
orthodoxy under her special protection, and who regards it as a personal
insult when her friends and acquaintances go beyond the exact limits of
her mental sphere. This is the woman who assumes to be the antiseptic
element in society, who makes believe that without her the world and
human nature would go to the dogs, and plunge headlong into the abyss of
sin and destruction forthwith; and that not all the grand heroism of
man, not all his thought and energy and high endeavor and patient
seeking after truth, would serve his turn or the world's if she did not
spread her own petty preserving nets, and mark out the boundary lines
within which she would confine the range of thought and speculation. She
knows that this assumption of spiritual beadledom is mere affectation,
and that other minds have as much right to their own boundary lines as
she claims for herself; but it seems to her pretty to assume that woman
generally is the consecrated beadle of thought and morality, and that
she, of all women, is most specially consecrated.

As an offshoot of this kind stands the affectation of simplicity--the
woman whose mental attitude is self-depreciation, and who poses herself
as a mere nobody when the world is ringing with her praises. "Is it
possible that your Grace has ever heard of _me_?" said one of this class
with prettily affected _naïveté_ at a time when all England was astir
about her, and when colors and fashions went by her name to make them
take with the public at large. No one knew better than the fair
_ingénue_ in question how far and wide her fame had spread, but she
thought it looked modest and simple to assume ignorance of her own
value, and to declare that she was but a creeping worm when all the
world knew that she was a soaring butterfly.

There is a certain little kind of affectation very common among pretty
women; and this is the affectation of not knowing that they are pretty,
and not recognising the effect of their beauty on men. Take a woman with
bewildering eyes, say, of a maddening size and shape, and fringed with
long lashes that distract you to look at; the creature knows that her
eyes are bewildering, as well as she knows that fire burns and that ice
melts; she knows the effect of that trick she has with them--the sudden
uplifting of the heavy lid, and the swift, full gaze that she gives
right into a man's eyes. She has practiced it often in the glass, and
knows to a mathematical nicety the exact height to which the lid must be
raised, and the exact fixity of the gaze. She knows the whole meaning of
the look, and the stirring of men's blood that it creates; but if you
speak to her of the effect of her trick, she puts on an air of extremest
innocence, and protests her entire ignorance as to anything her eyes may
say or mean: and if you press her hard she will look at you in the same
way for your own benefit, and deny at the very moment of offence.

Various other tricks has she with those bewildering eyes of hers--each
more perilous than the other to men's peace; and all unsparingly
employed, no matter what the result. For this is the woman who flirts to
the extreme limits, then suddenly draws up and says she meant nothing.
Step by step she has led you on, with looks and smiles, and pretty
doubtful phrases always susceptible of two meanings, the one for the ear
by mere word, the other for the heart by the accompaniments of look and
manner, which are intangible; step by step she has drawn you deeper and
deeper into the maze where she has gone before as your decoy; then, when
she has you safe, she raises her eyes for the last time, complains that
you have mistaken her cruelly, and that she has meant nothing more than
any one else might mean; and what can she do to repair her mistake? Love
you? marry you? No; she is engaged to your rival, who counts his
thousands to your hundreds; and what a pity that you had not seen this
all along, and that you should have so misunderstood her! Besides, what
is there about her that you or any one should love?

Of all the many affectations of women, this affectation of their own
harmlessness when beautiful, and of their innocence of design when they
practice their arts for the discomfiture of men, is the most dangerous
and the most disastrous. But what can one say to them? The very fact
that they are dangerous disarms a man's anger and blinds his perception
until too late. That men love though they suffer is the woman's triumph,
guilt, and condonation; and so long as the trick succeeds it will be

Another affectation of the same family is the extreme friendliness and
familiarity which some women adopt in their manners towards men. Young
girls affect an almost maternal tone to boys of their own age, or a year
or so older; and they, too, when their wiser elders remonstrate, declare
they mean nothing, and how hard it is that they may not be natural. This
form of affectation, once begun, continues through life, being too
convenient to be lightly discarded; and youthful matrons not long out of
their teens assume a tone and ways that would about befit middle age
counselling giddy youth, and that might by chance be dangerous even then
if the "Indian summer" was specially bright and warm.

Then there is the affectation pure and simple, which is the mere
affectation of manner, such as is shown in the drawling voice, the
mincing gait, the extreme gracefulness of attitude that by consciousness
ceases to be grace, and the thousand little _minauderies_ and coquetries
of the sex known to us all. And there is the affectation which people of
a higher social sphere show when they condescend to those of low estate,
and talk and look as if they were not quite certain of their company,
and scarcely knew if they were Christian or heathen, savage or
civilized. And there is the affectation of the maternal passion with
women who are never by any chance seen with their children, but who
speak of them as if they were never out of their sight; the affectation
of wifely adoration with women who are to be met about the world with
every man of their acquaintance rather than with their lawful husbands;
the affectation of asceticism in women who lead a thoroughly
self-enjoying life from end to end; and the affectation of political
fervor in those who would not give up a ball or a new dress to save
Europe from universal revolution.

Go where we will, affectation of being something she is not meets us in
woman, like a ghost we cannot lay or a mist we cannot sweep away. In the
holiest and the most trivial things alike we find it penetrating
everywhere--even in church, and at her prayers, when the pretty
penitent, rising from her lengthy orison, lifts her eyes and looks about
her furtively to see who has noticed her self-abasement and to whom her
picturesque piety has commended itself.

All sorts and patterns of good girls and pleasant women are very dear
and delightful; but the pearl of great price is the thoroughly natural
and unaffected woman--that is, the woman who is truthful to her core,
and who would as little condescend to act a pretence as she would dare
to tell a lie.


It is often objected against fault-finders, writers or others, that they
destroy but do not build up, that while industriously blaming errors
they take good care not to praise the counteracting virtues, that in
their zeal against the vermin of which they are seeking to sweep the
house clean they forget the nobler creatures which do the good work of
keeping things sweet and wholesome. But it is impossible to be
continually introducing the saving clause, "all are not so bad as
these." The seven thousand righteous who have not bowed the knee to Baal
are understood to exist in all communities; and, vicious as any special
section may be, there must always be the hidden salt and savor of the
virtuous to keep the whole from falling into utter corruption. This is
specially true of modern women. Certainly, some of them are as
unsatisfactory as any of their kind that have ever appeared on earth
before, but it would be very queer logic to infer, therefore, that all
are bad alike, and that our modern womanhood is as ill off as the Cities
of the Plain which could not be saved for want of the ten just men to
save them.

Happily, we have noble women among us yet; women who believe in
something beside pleasure, and who do their work faithfully, wherever
it may lie; women who can and do sacrifice themselves for love and duty,
and who do not think they were sent into the world simply to run one mad
life-long race for wealth, for dissipation, or for distinction. But the
life of such women is essentially in retirement; and though the lesson
they teach is beautiful, yet its influence is necessarily confined,
because of the narrow sphere of the teacher. When such public occasions
for devotedness as the Crimean war occur, we can in some sort measure
the extent to which the self-sacrifice of women can be carried; but in
general their noblest virtues come out only in the quiet and secresy of
home, and the most heroic lives of patience and well-doing go on in
seclusion, uncheered by sympathy and unrewarded by applause.

Still, it is impossible to write of one absolute womanly ideal--one
single type that shall satisfy every man's fancy; for, naturally, what
would be perfection to one is imperfection to another, according to the
special bent of the individual mind. Thus one man's ideal of womanly
perfection is in beauty, mere physical outside beauty; and not all the
virtues under heaven could warm him into love with red hair or a snub
nose. He is entirely happy if his wife is undeniably the handsomest
woman of his acquaintance, and holds himself blessed when all men admire
and all women envy. But for his own sake rather than for hers. Pleasant
as her loveliness is to look on, it is pleasanter to know that he is the
possessor of it. The "handsomest woman in the room" comes into the same
category as the finest picture or the most thoroughbred horse within his
sphere, and if the degree of pride in his possession is different, the
kind is the same. And so in minor proportions, from the most beautiful
woman of all, to simply beauty as a _sine qua non_, whatever else may be
wanting. One other thing only is as absolute as this beauty, and that is
its undivided possession.

Another man's ideal is a good housekeeper and a careful mother, and he
does not care a rush whether his wife, if she is these, is pretty or
ugly. Provided she is active and industrious, minds the house well, and
brings up the children as they ought to be brought up, has good
principles, is trustworthy, and even-tempered, he is not particular as
to color or form, and can even be brought to tolerate a limp or a
squint. Given the great foundations of an honorable home, and he will
forego the lath and plaster of personal appearance which will not bear
the wear and tear of years and their troubles. The solid virtues stand.
His balance at the banker's is a fact; his good name and credit with the
tradespeople is a fact; so is the comfort of his home; so are the
health, the morals, the education of his children. All these are the
true realities of life to him; but the beauty which changes to deformity
by the small-pox, which fades under dyspepsia, grows stale by habit, and
is worn threadbare by the end of twenty years, is only a skin-deep grace
which he does not value. Perhaps he is right. Certainly, some of the
happiest marriages among one's acquaintances are those where the wife
has not one perceptible physical charm, and where the whole force of her
magnetic value lies in what she is, not in how she looks.

Another man wants a tender, adoring, fair-haired seraph, who will
worship him as a demigod, and accept him as her best revelation of
strength and wisdom. The more dependent she is, the better he will love
her; the less of conscious thought, of active will, of originative power
she has, the greater his regard and tenderness. To be the one sole
teacher and protector of such a gentle little creature seems to him the
most delicious and the best condition of married life; and he holds
Milton's famous lines to be expressive of the only fitting relation
between men and women. The adoring seraph is his ideal; Griselda,
Desdemona, Lucy Ashton, are his highest culminations of womanly grace;
and the qualities which appeal the most powerfully to his generosity are
the patience which will not complain, the gentleness that cannot resent,
and the love which nothing can chill.

Another man wants a cultivated intelligence in his ideal. As an author,
an artist, a student, a statesman, he would like his wife to be able to
help him by the contact of bright wit and ready intellect. He believes
in the sex of minds, and holds only that work complete which has been
created by the one and perfected by the other. He sees how women have
helped on the leaders in troubled times; he knows that almost all great
men have owed something of their greatness to the influence of a mother
or a wife; he remembers how thoughts which had lain dumb in men's
brains for more than half their lifetime suddenly woke up into speech
and activity by the influence of a woman great enough to call them
forth. The adoring seraph would be an encumbrance, and nothing better
than a child upon his hands; and the soul which had to be awakened and
directed by him would run great chance of remaining torpid and inactive
all its days. He has his own life to lead and round off, and so far from
wishing to influence another's, wants to be helped for himself.

Another man cares only for the birth and social position of the woman to
whom he gives his name and affection; to another yellow gold stands
higher than blue blood, and "my wife's father" may have been a
rag-picker, so long as rag-picking had been a sufficiently rich alembic
with a residuum admitting of no kind of doubt. Venus herself without a
dowry would be only a pretty sea-side girl with a Newtown pippin in her
hand; but Miss Kilmansegg would be something worth thinking of, if but
little worth looking at. One man delights in a smart, vivacious little
woman of the irrepressible kind. It makes no difference to him how
petulant she is, how full of fire and fury; the most passionate bursts
of temper simply amuse him, like the anger of a canary-bird, and he
holds it fine fun to watch the small virago in her tantrums, and to set
her going again when he thinks she has been a long enough time in
subsidence. His ideal of woman is an amusing little plaything, with a
great facility for being put up, and a dash of viciousness to give it

Another wants a sweet and holy saint whose patient humility springs
from principle rather than from fear; another likes a blithe-tempered,
healthy girl with no nonsense about her, full of fun and ready for
everything, and is not particular as to the strict order or economy of
the housekeeping, provided only she is at all times willing to be his
pleasant playmate and companion. Another delights in something very
quiet, very silent, very home-staying. One must have first-rate music in
his ideal woman; another unimpeachable taste; a third, strict orders; a
fourth, liberal breadth of nature; and each has his own ideal, not only
of nature but of person--to the exact shade of the hair, the color of
the eyes, and the oval of the face. But all agree in the great
fundamental requirements of truth, and modesty, and love, and
unselfishness; for though it is impossible to write of one womanly ideal
as an absolute, it is very possible to detail the virtues which ought to
belong to all alike.

If this diversity of ideals is true of individuals, it is especially
true of nations, each of which has its own ideal of woman varying
according to what is called the genius of the country. To the Frenchman,
if we are to believe Michelet and the novelists, it is a feverish little
creature, full of nervous energy, but without muscular force; of frail
health and feeble organization; a prey to morbid fancies which she has
no strength to control or to resist; now weeping away her life in the
pain of finding that her husband, a man gross and material because
husband, does not understand her; now sighing over her delicious sins
in the arms of the lover who does; without reasoning faculties, but
with divine intuitions that are as good as revelations; without cool
judgment, but with the light of burning passions that guide her just as
well; thinking by her heart, yet carrying the most refined metaphysics
into her love; subtle; incomprehensible by the coarser brain of man; a
creature born to bewilder and to be misled, to love and to be adored, to
madden men and to be destroyed by them.

It does not much signify that the reality is a shrewd, calculating,
unromantic woman, with a hard face and keen eyes, who for the most part
makes a good practical wife to her common-sense middle-aged husband, who
thinks more of her social position than of her feelings, more of her
children than of her lovers, more of her purse than of her heart, and
whose great object of life is a daily struggle for centimes. It pleases
the French to idealize their eminently practical and worldly-wise women
into this queer compound of hysterics and adultery; and if it pleases
them it need not displease us.

To the German his ideal is of two kinds--one, his Martha, the domestic
broad-faced _Hausmutter_, who cooks good dinners at small cost, and
mends the family linen as religiously as if this were the Eleventh
Commandment especially appointed for feminine fingers to keep, the
poetic culmination of whom is Charlotte cutting bread and butter; the
other, his Mary, his Bettina, full of mind and æsthetics, and
heart-uplifting love, yearning after the infinite with holes in her
stockings and her shoes down at heel. For what are coarse material
mendings to the æsthetic soul yearning after the infinite, and
worshipping at the feet of the prophet?

In Italy the ideal woman of modern times is the ardent patriot, full of
active energy, or physical force, and dauntless courage.

In Poland it is the patriot too, but of a more refined and etherealized
type, passively resenting Tartar tyranny by the subtlest feminine scorn,
and living in perpetual music and mourning.

In Spain it is a woman beautiful and impassioned, with the slight
drawback of needing a world of looking after, of which the men are
undeniably capable.

In Mohammedan countries generally it is a comely smooth-skinned Dudù,
patient and submissive, always in good humor with her master, economical
in house-living to suit the meanness, and gorgeous in occasional attire
to suit the ostentation, of the genuine Oriental; but by no means Dudù
ever asleep and unoccupied; for, if not allowed to take part in active
outside life, the Eastern's wife or wives have their home duties and
their maternal cares like all other women, and find to their cost that,
if they neglect them unduly, they will have a bad time of it with Ali
Ben Hassan when the question comes of piastres and sequins, and the dogs
of Jews who demand payment, and the pigs of Christians who follow suit.

The American ideal is of two kinds, like the German--the one, the clever
manager, the woman with good executive faculty in the matters of
buckwheat cakes and oyster gumbo, as is needed in a country so poorly
provided with "helps;" the other, the aspiring soul who puts her
aspirations into deeds, and goes out into the world to do battle with
the sins of society as editress, preacher, stump orator, and the like.
It must be rather embarrassing to some men that this special
manifestation of the ideal woman at times advocates miscegenation and
free love; but perhaps we of the narrow old conventional type are not up
to the right mark yet, and have to wait until our own women are
thoroughly emancipated before we can rightly appreciate these questions.
At all events, if this kind of thing pleases the Americans, it is no
more our business to interfere with them than with the French compound;
and if miscegenation and free love seem to them the right manner of
life, let them follow it.

In all countries, then, the ideal woman changes, chameleon-like, to suit
the taste of man; and the great doctrine that her happiness does
somewhat depend on his liking is part of the very foundation of her
existence. According to his will she is bond or free, educated or
ignorant, lax or strict, house-keeping or roving; and though we advocate
neither the bondage nor the ignorance, yet we do hold to the principle
that, by the laws which regulate all human communities everywhere, she
is bound to study the wishes of man, and to mould her life in harmony
with his liking. No society can get on in which there is total
independence of sections and members, for society is built up on the
mutual dependence of all its sections and all its members. Hence the
defiant attitudes which women have lately assumed, and their
indifference to the wishes and remonstrances of men, cannot lead to any
good results whatever. It is not the revolt of slaves against their
tyrants--in that we could sympathize--which they have begun, but a
revolt against their duties. And this it is which makes the present
state of things so deplorable. It is the vague restlessness, the fierce
extravagance, the neglect of home, the indolent fine-ladyism, the
passionate love of pleasure which characterise the modern woman, that
saddens men, and destroys in them that respect which their very pride
prompts them to feel. And it is the painful conviction that the ideal
woman of truth and modesty and simple love and homely living has somehow
faded away under the paint and tinsel of this modern reality which makes
us speak out as we have done, in the hope, perhaps a forlorn one, that
if she could be made to thoroughly understand what men think of her, she
would, by the very force of natural instinct and social necessity, order
herself in some accordance with the lost ideal, and become again what we
once loved and what we all regret.


This, we are told in a tone of pathetic resignation, is a day of hard
sayings for women. It is, we will venture to add, a day when women have
to meet hard sayings with replies a little less superficial than the
conventional stare of outraged womanhood or the trivial retort on the
follies of men. Grant that woman's censors are as cynical and
hollow-hearted as you will, there can be no doubt that their criticisms
are simply the expression of a general uneasiness, and that that
uneasiness has some ground to go upon. It is possible that observers
across the water may be cynical in denouncing the "magnificent
indecency" of the heroines of New York. It is possible that the
schoolmasters of Berlin may be cynical in calling public opinion to
their aid against the degrading exhibitions of the Prussian capital. It
is possible that the thunders of the Vatican are merely an instance of
Papal cynicism. It is possible that the protest of the Bishop of Orleans
is as hollow-hearted as the protests of censors nearer home. But such a
world-wide outbreak of cynicism without a cause is a somewhat improbable
event, and the improbability is increased when we remark the silent
acquiescence of the women of America and the Continent in the justice of
these censures.

It is only the British mother who ventures to protest. Now, we
Englishmen have always felt a sort of national pride in the British
mother. It has been a part of our patriotic self-satisfaction to pique
ourselves on her icy decorum, on the merciless severity of her virtue.
Colorless, uninteresting, limited as Continental critics pronounced her
to be, we cherished her the more as something specially our own, and
regarded the Channel as a barrier providentially invented for the
isolation of her spotless prudery. It was peculiarly gratifying to
suppose that on the other side of it there were no British homes, no
British maidens, no British mothers. And it must be owned that the
British mother took her cue admirably. She owned, with a sigh of
complacency, that she was not as other women. She shuddered at foreign
morals, and tabooed French novels. She shook all life and individuality
out of her girls as un-English and Continental. She denounced all
aspirations after higher and larger spheres of effort as unfeminine.
Such a type of woman was naturally dull enough, but it fairly came up to
its own standard; and if its respectability was prudery, it still
earned, and had a right to claim, man's respect. The amusing thing is
the persistence in the claim when the type has passed away.

The British spouse has bloomed into the semi-detached wife, with a
husband always conveniently in the distance, and a cicisbeo as
conveniently in the corner. The British mother has died into the faded
matrimonial schemer, contemptuous of younger sons. The innocent simper
of the British maiden has developed into the loud laugh and the horsey
slang of the girl of the season. But maiden and matron are still on one
point faithful to the traditions of their grandmothers, and front all
censorious comers with a shrug of their shoulder-straps and a flutter of
indignant womanhood. And maiden and matron still claim their insular
exemption from the foibles of their sex. The Pope may do what he will
with the women of Italy, and Monseigneur of Orleans may deal stern
justice out to the women of France; Continental immorality is in the
nature of things; but there is something else that is in the nature of
things too, and before the impeccable majesty of British womanhood every
critic must stand abashed.

Unfortunately, we are no sooner awed with the marble silence of our
Hermione than Hermione descends from her pedestal and falls a-talking
like other people. Woman, in a word, protests; and protests are often
very dangerous things to the protesters. Nothing, for instance, can seem
more simple or more effective than the _tu quoque_ retort, and as it is
familiar to feminine disputants, we are favored with it in every
possible form. If the girl of the period is fast and frivolous, is the
young man of the period any better? No sketch can be more telling than
the picture which she is ready to draw of his lounging ways, his
epicurean indolence, his boredom at home, his foppery abroad, the
vacancy of his stare, the inanity of his talk, his incredible conceit,
his life vibrating between the Club and the stable. She hits off with a
charming vivacity the list of his accomplishments--his skill at
flirtation, his matchless ability at croquet, his assiduity over _Bell's
Life_, the cleverness of his book on the Derby. No sensible or
well-informed girl, she tells us, can talk for ten minutes to this
creature without weariness and disgust at his ignorance, his narrowness,
his triviality; no modestly-dressed or decently-mannered girl can win
the slightest share of his attentions. Married, he is as frivolous as
before marriage; he selects the toilette of the _demi-monde_ as an
agreeable topic of domestic conversation, he resents affection and
proclaims home a bore, he grudges the birth of children as an additional
expense, he stunts and degrades the education of his girls, he is the
despot of his household and the dread of his family.

The sketch is powerful enough in its way, but the conclusion which the
fair artist draws is at least an odd one. We prepare ourselves to hear
that woman has resolved to extirpate such a monster as this, or that she
will remain an obstinate vestal till a nobler breed of wooers arises.
What woman owns that she really does is to mould herself as much on the
monster's model as she can. According to her own account, she puts
nature's picture of herself into the hands of this imbecile, invites him
to blur it as he will, and lets him write under the daub "_Ego feci._"
As he cannot talk sense, she stoops to bandy chaff and slang. As he
refuses to be attracted by modesty of dress and manner, she apes the
dress and manner of the _demi-monde_. His indolence, his triviality, his
worldliness become her own. As he finds home a bore, she too plunges
into her round of dissipation; as he objects to children, she declines
to be a mother; as he wishes to get the girls off his hands, she flings
them at the head of the first comer.

Now, if such a defence as this at all adequately represents the facts of
the case, we can only say that the girl of the period must be a far
lower creature than we have ever asserted her to be. A sensible girl
stooping to slang, a modest girl flinging aside modesty, simply to
conquer a fool and a fop, is a satire upon woman which none but a woman
could have invented, and which we must confess to be utterly incredible
to men. But the assumption upon which the whole of this mimetic theory
is based is one well worthy of a little graver consideration.

"Tell me how to improve the youth of France," said Napoleon one day to
Madame de Campan. "Give them good mothers," was the reply. There are
some things which even a Napoleon may be pardoned for feeling a little
puzzled in undertaking, and Madame de Campan would no doubt have added
much to the weight of her reply by a few practical words as to the
machinery requisite for the supply of the article she recommended. But
her request is now the cry of the world. The general uneasiness of which
we have spoken before arises simply from the conviction that woman is
becoming more and more indifferent to her actual post in the social
economy of the world, and the criticisms in which it takes form, whether
grave or gay, could all be summed up in Madame de Campan's request,
"Give us good mothers."

After all protests against limiting the sphere of the sex to a single
function of their existence, public opinion still regards woman
primarily in her relation to the generation to come. If it censures the
sensible girl who stoops to slang, or the modest girl who stoops to
indecency, it is because the sense and the modesty which they abandon is
not theirs to hold or to fling away, but the heritage of the human race.
But this seems to be less and less the feeling of woman herself. For
good or for evil, or, perhaps more truly, for both good and evil, woman
is becoming conscious every day of new powers, and longing for an
independent sphere in which she can exert them. Marriage is aimed at
with a passionate ardor unknown before, not as a means of gratifying
affection, but as a means of securing independence.

To the unmarried girl life is a sheer bondage, and there is no sacrifice
too great to be left untried if it only promises a chance of
deliverance. She learns to despise the sense, the information, the
womanly reserve which fail to attract the deliverer. She has to sell
herself to purchase her freedom; and she will take very strong measures
to secure a purchaser. The fop, the fool, little knows the keen scrutiny
with which the gay creature behind her fan is taking stock of his feeble
preferences, is preparing to play upon his feebler aversions. Pitiful as
he is, it is for him that she arranges her artillery on the
toilette-table, the "little secrets," the powder bloom, the rouge
"precipitated from the damask rose-leaf," the Styrian lotion that gives
"beauty and freshness to the complexion, plumpness to the figure,
clearness and softness to the skin." He has a faint flicker of liking
for brunettes; she lays her triumphant fingers on her "walnut stain,"
and darkens into the favorite tint. He loves plumpness, and her "Sinai
Manna" is at hand to secure _embonpoint_. Belladonna flashes on him from
her eyes, Kohl and antimony deepen the blackness of her eyebrows, "bloom
of roses" blushes from her lips. She stoops to conquer, and it is no
wonder that the fop and the fool go down.

The freedom she covets comes with marriage, but it is a freedom
threatened by a thousand accidents, and threatened, above all, by
maternity. It is of little use to have bowed to slang and
shoulder-straps, if it be only to tie oneself to a cradle. The nursery
stands sadly in the way of the free development of woman; it clips her
social enjoyment, it curtails her bonnet bills. "The slavery of nursing
a child," one fair protester tells us, "only a mother knows." And so she
invents a pretty theory about the damage done to modern constitutions by
our port-drinking forefathers, and ceases to nurse at all. But even this
is only partial independence; she pants for perfect freedom from the
cares of maternity. Her tone becomes the tone of the household, and the
spouse she has won growls over each new arrival. She is quite ready to
welcome the growl. "Nature," a mother informs us, "turns restive after
the birth of two or three children," and mothers turn restive with
nature. "Whatever else you may do," she adds, "you will never persuade
us into liking to have children," and, if we did, we should not greatly
value the conversion. And so woman wins her liberty, and bows her
emphatic reply to the world's appeal, "Give us good mothers," by
declining to be a mother at all.

By the sacrifice of womanliness, by the sacrifice of modesty, by
flattering her wooer's base preferences before marriage, by encouraging
his baser selfishness afterwards, by hunting her husband to the club and
restricting her maternal energies to a couple of infants, woman has at
last bought her freedom. She is no slave to a husband as her mother was,
she is not buried beneath the cares of a family like her grandmother.
She has changed all that, and the old world of home and domestic
tenderness and parental self-sacrifice lies in ruins at her feet. She
has her liberty; what will she do with it? As yet, freedom means simply
more slang, more jewelry, more selfish extravagance, less modesty. As we
meet her on the stairs, as we see the profuse display of her charms, as
we listen to the flippant, vapid chatter, we turn a little sickened from
woman stripped of all that is womanly, and cry to Heaven, as Madame de
Campan cried to the Emperor--"Give us good mothers."


Acute ladies who concern themselves much with the superficial social
currents of the time are beginning to perceive, or at least to think
that they perceive, a fatal and growing tendency to _mésalliances_ on
the part of men who ought to know better. They complain not merely of
the doting old gentleman who has been a bachelor long enough to lose his
wits, and so marries his cook or his housemaid, nor of the debauched
young simpleton who takes a wife from a casino or the bar of a
night-_café_. Actions of this sort are as common at one time as at
another. Old fools and young fools maintain a pretty steady average.
Their silly exploits are the issue, not of the tendencies of the age,
but of their own individual and particular lack of wits. They do not
affect the general direction of social feeling, nor have we any right to
argue up from their preposterous connexions to the influences and
conditions of the society of which they are only the abnormal and
irregular growths. What people mean, when they talk of an increase in
the number of men who marry beneath them, is that men otherwise sensible
and respectable and sober-minded perpetrate the irregularity in
something like cold blood, and with a measure of deliberation. Whether
observers who have formed this opinion are right, or are only
anticipating their own apprehensions and alarms, is difficult to
ascertain. A good deal depends on the accidental range of the observer's
own acquaintances, and still more on their candor or discreet reticence.

Besides, how are we to know how far one generation is worse than
generations which have gone before it? Men are, after due time, forgiven
for this defiance of social usage, and women who were barely presentable
in youth become presentable enough by the time they reach middle age.
People may seem to us to be very equally and justly mated who
five-and-twenty years ago were the town's talk. It is practically
impossible, therefore, to compare the actual number of unequal marriages
in our day with those of a generation back. People may have their ideas,
but verification is not to be had. All we can do is to estimate the
increase in the conditions which are likely to make men find wives in a
rank below their own. If we look at these, there may be a good many
reasons for believing that the apprehensions of the shrewd and alarmed
observers are not without justification.

When a wise man with a living or a name to make, or both, looks for a
wife, he certainly does not desire a person who shall be troublesome and
an impediment to him. He wants a cheerful, sensible, and decently
thrifty person. He probably has no inclination for a bluestocking, nor
for a lady with aggressive views on points of theology, nor for one who
can beat him in political discussion. Strong intellectual power he can
most heartily dispense with. But then, on the other hand, he has no
fancy for sitting day after day at table with a vapid, flippant,
frivolous, empty soul who can neither talk nor listen, who takes no
interest in things herself, and cannot understand why other people
should take interest in them, who is penetrated with feeble little
egoisms. An aggressive woman with opinions about prevenient grace, or
the advantages of female emigration, or the functions of the deaconess,
would be far preferable to this. She would irritate, but she would not
fill the soul with everlasting despair, as the pretty vapid creature
does. To discuss predestination and election over dinner is not nice,
but still less is it nice to have to make talk with a fool, and to be
obliged to answer her according to her folly.

As the education of modern girls of fashion chiefly aims at making them
either very fast or very slow, it is not to be wondered at that men find
it hard to realize their ideals among their equals in position. It is
not merely that so many marriageable young ladies are ignorant. They are
this, but they are more. They are exacting and pretentious, and
uneducated in the worst sense, for they are ignorant how ignorant they
are, or even that they are ignorant at all.

Then there is a still more obvious, palpable, and impressive
circumstance. A man with ordinary means looks with alarm on the too
visible and too unbounded extravagance of the ladies from among whom he
is expected to take a partner. The thought of the apparel, of the
luxuries, of the attendants, of the restless moving about, to which they
have been accustomed, fills him with deep consternation. He might
perhaps deceive himself into thinking that he could get on very well
with an empty-minded woman, but he cannot forget the stern facts of
arithmetic, nor hoodwink himself as to what would be left out of his
income after he had paid for dresses, servants, household charges,
carriages, parties, opera-boxes, traveling, and all the rest.

Besides the flippancy of so many women, and the extravagance of most
women, arising from their inexperience of the trouble with which money
is made and of the importance of keeping it after it has been made,
there is something in the characteristics of modern social intercourse
which makes men of a certain temper intensely anxious to avoid a sort of
marriage which would, among other things, have the effect of committing
them more deeply to this kind of intercourse. Such men shrink with
affright from giving hostages to society for a more faithful compliance
with its most dismal exactions. To them there is nothing more
unendurable than the monotonous round of general hospitalities and
ceremonials, ludicrously misnamed pleasure. A detestation of wearisome
formalities does not imply any clownish or misanthropic reluctance to
remember that those who feel it live in a world with other people, and
that a thoroughly social life is the only just and full life.

But there is all the difference between a really social life and a
hollow phantasmic imitation of it. A person may have the pleasantest
possible circle of friends, and may like their society above all things.
This is one thing. But to have to mix much with numbers of thoroughly
indifferent people, and in a superficial, hollow way, is a very
different thing. Of course, men who take life just as it comes, who are
not very sedulous about making the most of it in their own way, and are
quite willing to do all that their neighbors do just because their
neighbors do it, find no annoyance in this. Men cast in another mould
find not only annoyance but absolute misery. They know also that
marriage with a woman who is in the full tide of society means an
infinite augmentation of this round of tiresome and thoroughly useless
ceremonies. Add this consideration to the two other considerations of
elaborate vapidness and unfathomable extravagance, and you have three
tolerably good arguments why a man with large discourse of reason,
looking before and after, should be slow to fasten upon himself bonds
which threaten to prove so leaden.

The faults of the women of his own position, however, are a very poor
reason why he should marry a woman beneath his own position. A man must
be very weak to believe that, because fine ladies are often inane and
extravagant, therefore women who are not fine ladies must be wise,
clever, prudent, and everything else that belongs to the type of
companionable womanhood. The fact of the mistress being a blank does not
prove that the maid would be a prize. It may be wise to avoid the one,
but it is certainly folly to seek the other. Granting that the
housemaid or the cook or the daughter of the coachman is virtuous,
high-minded, refined, thoughtful, thrifty, and everything else that is
desirable under the sun, all will fail to counterbalance the drawbacks
that flow from the first inequality of position.

The misguided husband believes that he is going to live a plain
unsophisticated life, according to nature and common sense, in company
with one whom the hollowness and trickishness of society has never
infected. He is not long in finding out his irreparable blunder. The
lady is not received. People do not visit her, and although one of his
motives in choosing a sort of wife whom people do not visit was the
express desire of avoiding visits, yet he no sooner gets what he wished
than his success begins to make him miserable. What he expected to
please him as a relief mortifies him as a slight. Even if he be
unsympathetic enough in nature not to care much for the disapproval of
his fellows, he will rapidly find that his wife is a good deal less of a
philosopher in these points, and that, though he may relish his escape
from the miseries of society, she will vigorously resent her exclusion
from its supposed delights.

Again, from another point of view, he is tolerably sure to find that the
common opinion of society about unequal unions is not so unsound as he
used scornfully to suppose it to be. The vapidity of a polite woman is
bad, but the vapidity of a woman who is not polite is decidedly worse. A
simpering unthinking woman with good manners is decidedly better than
an unthinking woman with imperfect manners; and if polish can spoil
nature among one set of people, certainly among another set nature may
be as much spoilt by lack of polish. It does not follow, from a person
being indifferently well-bred, that therefore she is profoundly wise and
thoughtful and poetic, and capable of estimating the things of this
world at their worth. Boys at college indulge in this too generous
fallacy. For grown-up men there is less excuse. They ought to know that
obscure uneducated women are all the more likely on that account to fall
short of magnanimity, self-control, self-containing composure, than
girls who have grown up with a background of bright and gracious
tradition, however little their education may have done to stimulate
them to make the foreground like it. To have a common past is the first
secret of happy association--a past common in ideas, sentiments, and
growth, if not common in external incidents.

One reason why a cultivated man is wretched with a vapid woman is that
she has not traveled over a yard of that ground of knowledge and feeling
which has in truth made his nature what it is. But a woman in his own
station is more likely to have shared a past of this sort than a woman
of lower station. Mere community of general circumstances and
surrounding does something. The obscure woman taken from inferior place
has not the common past of culture, nor of circumstance either. The
foolish man who has married away from his class trusts that somehow or
other nature will repair this. He assumes, in a real paroxysm of folly,
that obscurity is the fostering condition of a richness of character
which could not be got by culture. He pays the price of his blindness.
Untended nature is more likely to produce weeds than choice fruits, and
the chances in such cases as this are beyond calculation in favor of his
having got a weed--in other words, having wedded himself to a life of
wrangling, gloom, and swift deterioration of character. This result may
not be invariable, but it must be more usual than not.

In the exceptional cases where a man does not repent of an unequal match
of this sort, you will mostly find that the match was unequal only in
externals, and that his character had been a very fit counterpart for
that of a vulgar and uneducated woman before he made her his wife. This
may lead one to think that there is something to be said for the woman
in morganatic marriages. The men who do these things are not always, not
even generally, philosophic men in search of an unsophisticated life,
but unamiable, defiant persons, who only hate society either because it
has failed to appreciate their qualities, or because they cannot be at
the trouble to go through the ordinary amount of polite usage.


What we have said in another place about the odium which attaches to
"match-making" naturally applies in a far greater degree to
"husband-hunting." Practically the two words mean much the same thing,
since the successful result of a husband-hunt is of course a match, and
match-making, in the common acceptation of the term, involves a
husband-hunt. This latter fact is somewhat curious. There is no reason
in the nature of things why the word match-making should be associated
only with the pursuit of the unmarried male. On the contrary, the theory
of marriage has always been that it is the woman who has to be hunted
down. It is curious to note under what completely different
circumstances, and occasionally in what grotesque forms, the same theory
has been found all over the world, both in civilized and savage life.
Sometimes the bride is carried away bodily from her home, as if nothing
short of physical force could make a woman quit her maiden state.
Sometimes the panting bridegroom has to run her down--no slight task if
the adorer happens to be stout, and the adored one coquettish and fleet
of foot. In marriage, this custom prevails only, we believe, among the
savages, but visitors to the Crystal Palace may see how modern
civilization has adapted it to courtship in the popular pastime of

We have read of a savage tribe in which the bride is thought no better
than she should be, if, on the day after the wedding, the bridegroom
does not show signs of having been vigorously pinched and scratched.
This custom, again, is perhaps represented in civilized life by the
kissing and struggling which are supposed every Christmas to go on under
the mistletoe. It is not unworthy of remark, as regards these two points
of comparison between civilization and barbarism, that, as the woman
gets more civilized, she seems more disposed to meet her pursuer
halfway. In the game of kiss-in-the-ring, for instance, although the
lady does not run after the gentleman, but, on the contrary, shows her
maiden modesty by giving him as hard a chase as she can, she still
delicately paves the way for osculation by throwing the
pocket-handkerchief. And, in the Christmas fights under the mistletoe
(if we may take Mr. Dickens as an authority), slapping, and even
pinching in moderation, are considered allowable--perhaps we ought to
say proper--on the lady's part; but scratching--serious scratching, we
mean, which would make her admirer's face look next morning as if he had
been taking liberties with a savage bird or a cat--is thought not merely
unnecessary, but unfair.

The difference between civilized and savage woman may perhaps help to
indicate the reason why, now-a-days, match-making should, as a matter of
fact, be associated with husband-hunting in spite of the theory that it
is the woman who has to be hunted, not the man. Popular phraseology has
an awkward trick of making people unconsciously countenance the theories
against which they most vehemently protest. Husband-hunting is a far
more generally obnoxious word than even the much-injured match-making,
simply because it flies in the face of the pet theory which we have
described. But, if the theory really hold good in modern practice, why
should man, not woman, be recognised as the professional match-maker's
victim and legitimate game? Why does not wife-hunting, the word which
this theory entitles us to expect, take its proper place in society?
Heiress-hunting, indeed, is well known, but this can scarcely be
considered a form of wife-hunting, for it is not the woman who is the
object of pursuit, but her money-bags. We have the word heiress-hunting
for the very obvious reason that heiresses are recognised game. The word
husband-hunting exists for the same reason.

Are we to infer from the non-existence, or at any rate the
non-appearance in good society, of the word wife-hunting, that the
practice is anything but common--that, since a hunt necessarily implies
pursuit on one side and flight on the other, a man cannot well be said
to hunt a woman who is either engaged in hunting him, or else only too
ready to meet him halfway? Are we gradually tending towards an advanced
stage of civilization in which woman will be formally recognized as the
pursuer, and man as the pursued? We are not bold enough to take under
our protection a view so glaringly heterodox, but still we think it
only common justice to point out that there are difficult problems in
the present state of society which the view helps materially to solve.
We fear, for instance, there can be no doubt that there is a good deal
of truth in the Belgravian mother's lament that marriage is gradually
ceasing to be considered "the thing" among the young men of the present
day; that girls of good families and even good looks are taking to
sisterhoods, and nursing-institutes, and new-fangled abominations,
simply because there is no one to marry them.

It is not merely that the young men are getting every day rarer; though,
unless there is some system, like Pharaoh's, for putting male infants to
death, what can become of them all is a mystery. India and the colonies
may absorb a good many, though these places also do duty in the
absorption of spinsterhood. But this will not account for the alarming
fact, that in almost every ball-room, no matter whether in the country
or in town, there are usually at least three crinolines to one
tail-coat, and that dancing bachelors are becoming so scarce that it is
a question whether hostesses ought not, for their own peace of mind, to
connive at the introduction of the Oriental nautch. Yet even the
alarming scarcity of marriageable men is not so serious an evil as their
growing disinclination to marry.

With the causes of this disinclination we are not now concerned. Some
attribute it to the increase of luxurious and expensive habits among
bachelors--habits specially fostered by "those hateful clubs;" some to
the "snobbishness" which makes a woman consider it beneath her dignity
to marry into an establishment less stylish than that which it has
perhaps taken her father all his life to secure; some to the
_demi-monde_--an explanation very like the theory that small-pox is
caused by pustules. But, whatever may be the causes of the
disinclination, there can be but little doubt that it exists, and the
worst part of the matter is, that it is found among rich men no less
than among poor. That really poor men should not wish to marry is, even
the Belgravian mother must admit, an admirable arrangement of nature.
But it is too bad that so many men-about-town should seem rich enough
for yachting, or racing, or opera-boxes, or even diamond necklaces--for
anything, in short, but a wife. The fact is, that in the eyes of poor
men a wife is associated chiefly with handsome carriages, showy dresses,
fine furniture, and other forbidden luxuries; and, inasmuch as there is
not one law of association for the rich and another for the poor, this
view spreads, until even rich men consider whether it is not possible to
secure the luxuries without the wife.

Now, since marriage is, on the whole, an institution with which society
cannot very well dispense--at any rate not until some good substitute
has been found for it--it is clear that rich men ought not to be allowed
to treat it in this way. If modern civilization tends to beget a
disinclination to marry, it ought also, on the principle of
compensation, to provide some means for counteracting this tendency, or
keeping it under control. Is the increase of husband-hunting--we ask the
question in a respectful and, we trust, purely philosophical spirit of
inquiry--calculated to supply this great and obvious want? What are its
merits, in this respect, as compared with the old-fashioned theory that
woman should be wooed, not woo? Even the most inveterate hater of
husband-hunting must admit that, so far as the great end of matrimony is
concerned, the two sexes nowadays stand to each other in a most
unnatural relation. It is alike the mission of both to marry, but
whereas women are honorably anxious to fulfill this mission, men, as we
have already seen, are too ready to shirk it. Yet, by a strange
inversion of the usual order of things, to the very sex which evades the
mission is its furtherance and chief control entrusted.

Besides, not only does woman take more kindly to the duty of matrimony
than man--or at least nineteenth-century man--but she has comparatively
nothing else to think about. A dozen occupations are open to him, but
her one object in life, her whole being's end and aim, is to marry.
Surely, if the art of marriage requires cultivation, it ought, like
everything else, to be entrusted to those who can give their whole time
to it, not to those who have so much else to do. Even when a bachelor is
in a position to marry, and not unwilling to make the experiment, he is
still far less fitted for the furtherance of matrimony than a woman. He,
perhaps, meets a nice girl at a ball, is taken with her, and after a
mild flirtation thinks, as he walks home in the moonlight, that she
would make a charming wife. He dreams about her, and next morning at
breakfast, as he pensively eats a pound of steak, resolves that on the
same afternoon, or the next at the very latest, he will contrive an
accidental meeting, or even find some excuse for a call. But then comes
office-work, or the _Times_, or some other distraction, and later on
perhaps a visit from some matter-of-fact friend with an unromantic taste
for "bitter," or a weakness for the Burlington Arcade. One day slips
away, and by the next the image of the evening's idol has waxed
comparatively faint. At least it is not sufficiently vivid to inspire
him with courage enough for a call, or a too suspicious-looking
rencontre. In a week he bows to the image, as it is driven by, as coolly
as if he had never had a thought of making his heart its shrine; and
thus a golden opportunity for bringing together two young people, in
whose auspicious union the whole community has an interest, has been
cruelly thrown away.

How different might the case have been if fashion had allowed the lady
to take the initiative, instead of compelling her to sit idly at home!
She has no office-work, nor _Times_, nor any business but that of
bringing last night's flirtation to a practical issue. Assuming her to
be satisfied as to the eligibility of her partner, there is nothing to
prevent her giving her whole time and attention to his capture. She is
as little likely to throw away any chance of an interview calculated to
help in bringing about this result as he is to neglect an opportunity
for winning the lawn sleeves or silk gown. Marriage is of as much
importance to her as either of these to him. It is, perhaps, not
impossible that the mere notion of a woman's thus taking the initiative
in courtship may to some appear outrageously immodest. But with this
point we have nothing to do, as we have been discussing the theory of
husband-hunting, not with any reference to its modesty, but solely and
exclusively in its connexion with the great question, how marriage is to
be carried on. We put together the three facts that nineteenth-century
civilization makes men indisposed to marry, that it gives women no
object in life but marriage, and yet that it assigns the furtherance of
marriage, which we assume to be an institution deserving of careful
cultivation, not to those whose interest it is to promote it, but to
those who are comparatively averse to it. Modest or immodest,
husband-hunting obviously tends to remedy this misdirection and waste of

We take this to be the right explanation--and we have endeavored to make
it an impartial one--of the charge not uncommonly brought against the
young ladies of the present day, that, as compared with their mothers
and grandmothers, they are rather forward and fast, and that
husband-hunting in their hands, is gradually being developed to an
extent scarcely compatible with the old-fashioned theories about
maidenly modesty and reserve. The change may be considered the effort of
modern civilization to remedy an evil of its own creation. The tide
advances in one direction because it recedes in another. If the men
will not come forward, the women must. It is all very well for satirists
to call this immodest, but even modesty could be more easily dispensed
with than marriage. Besides, without quitting our position as impartial
observers, we may point out that it is only fair to the professor of
husband-hunting to remember that there are two kinds of immodesty, and
that some actions are immodest merely because it is the custom to
consider them so. It would, no doubt, be immodest for a young lady to
ride through Hyde Park in man's fashion. Yet what is there in the nature
of things to make a side-saddle more modest than any other? The Amazons
were positive prudes, and would never have even spoken to man if they
could have contrived to carry on society without him; yet they rode
astraddle. And if fashion could make this practice feminine, why should
it not some day do as much for husband-hunting?


We have elsewhere asserted that the art of match-making requires
cultivation. We are told, however, that, on the contrary, match-making
is so zealously studied and skillfully pursued that it bids fair to be
the great social evil of nineteenth-century civilization. The growing
difficulty of procuring sons-in-law has called forth a corresponding
increase in the skill required for capturing them, just as the wits of
the detective are sharpened to keep pace with the expertness which the
general spread of useful knowledge has conferred upon the thief.
Eligible bachelors complain that scarcity of marrying men has much the
same effect upon the match-making mother as scarcity of food upon the
wolf. It makes her at once more ferocious and more cunning. Her
invitations to croquet-parties and little dinners are so constant and so
pressing that it is scarcely possible for her destined prey to refuse
them all without manifest rudeness, and yet it is equally hard for him
to go without being judiciously manoeuvred into "paying attention" to
the one young lady who has been selected to make him happy for life.

This chivalrous and graceful synonym for courtship in itself speaks
volumes for the serious nature of the risk which he runs. The truly
gallant assumption which underlies it, that an Englishman only "pays
attention" to a woman when he has a solid businesslike offer of marriage
to make her, not only puts a formidable weapon into the hands of the
match-maker, but also leaves her victim without a most effectual means
of protection. The national gallantry towards women upon which a
Frenchman so plumes himself may be, as your true Briton declares, a poor
sort of quality enough; a mere grimace and trick of the lips--not
genuine stuff from the heart; having much the same relation to true
chivalry that his _bière_ has to beer, or his _potage_ to soup. But at
any rate it has this advantage, that it enables him to pay any amount of
flowery compliments to a woman without risk of committing himself, or of
being misunderstood.

If an Englishman asks a young lady after her sore throat, or her invalid
grandmother, and throws into his voice that tone of eager interest or
tender sympathy which a polite Frenchman would assume as a matter of
course, he is at once suspected of matrimonial designs upon her. He is
obliged to be as formal and businesslike in his mode of address as the
lawyer's clerk who added at the end of a too ardent love-letter the
saving clause "without prejudice." We have heard of a young lady who
confided to her bosom friend that she that morning expected a proposal,
and, when closely pressed for her reasons, blushingly confessed that the
night before a gentleman had twice asked her whether she was fond of
poetry, and four times whether she would like to go into the

We do not mean to say that this tendency to look upon every "attention"
as a preliminary step to an offer is entirely, or even principally, due
to British want of gallantry. Our national theory of courtship and
marriage has probably much more to do with it. We say "theory"
advisedly, for our practice approaches every day nearer to that of the
Continental nations whose mercenary view of the holy estate of matrimony
we righteously abjure. Our system is, in fact, gradually becoming a
clumsy compromise between the _mariage de convenance_ and the _mariage
d'amour_, with most of the disadvantages, and very few of the
advantages, of either. Theoretically, English girls are allowed to marry
for love, and to choose whichever they like best of all the admiring
swains whom they fascinate at croquet-parties or balls. Practically, the
majority marry for an establishment, and only flirt for love. They leave
the school-room, no doubt, with an unimpeachably romantic conception of
a youthful bridegroom who combines good looks, great intellect, and
fervent piety with a modest four thousand a year, paid quarterly.

But they are not very long in finding out that the men whom they like
best, as being about their own age or still young enough to sympathise
with their tastes and enter heartily into all their notions of fun, are
rarely such as are pronounced by parents and guardians to be eligible;
and so, after one or two attacks, more or less serious, of love-fever,
they tranquilly look out for an admirer who can place the proper number
of servants and horses at their disposal, while they in return
magnanimously decline to make discourteously minute inquiries as to the
condition of his hair or teeth. A marriage made in this spirit, even
where no pressure is put upon the young lady by parents or friends, and
she is allowed full liberty of action, is open to all the charges
ordinarily brought against the Continental _mariage de convenance_. Yet,
on the other hand, it has not the advantage of being formally arranged
beforehand by a couple of elderly people, who are in no hurry, and who
have seen enough of the world to know thoroughly what they are about;
nor, we may add, does it usually take place in time to avert some one or
more of those troublesome flirtations with handsome, but penniless,
ball-room heroes which are not always calculated to improve either
temper or character.

Still, whatever our practice may be, we nevertheless do homage to the
theory that, in this favored country, young ladies choose whatever
husbands they like best, and marry for love; and although this theory is
in some respects a serious obstacle to marriage, and often stands
cruelly in the way of people with weak nerves, it places a powerful
weapon in the hands of the dauntless and determined match-maker. If
young people are to marry for love, they must obviously have every
facility afforded them for meeting and fascinating each other. It is
this consideration which reconciles the philosopher to some of our least
entertaining entertainments, although, at the same time, it makes so
much of our hospitality an organized hypocrisy.

It is, indeed, a hard fate to be obliged to leave your after-dinner
cigar and George Eliot's last novel in order to drive four miles through
wind and snow to a party which your hostess has given, not because she
has good fare, or good music, or agreeable guests, or anything, in
short, really calculated to amuse you, but simply and solely because she
has a tribe of daughters who somehow must be disposed of. Yet even a man
of the Sir Cornewall Lewis stamp, who thinks that this world would be a
very tolerable place but for its amusements, may forgive her when he
reflects that business, not pleasure, is at the bottom of the
invitation. If marriage is to be kept up, we must either abandon our
theory that young ladies are allowed to choose husbands for themselves,
or we must give them every possible facility for exercising the choice.
Bachelors must be dragged, on every available pretext, and without the
slightest reference to the nominal ends of amusement or hospitality,
from the novel or cigar, and made to run the gauntlet of female charms.

From the Sir Cornewall Lewis point of view, with which nearly all
Englishmen over thirty more or less sympathise, it is the only sound
defence of many of our so-called entertainments that they are virtually
daughter-shows--genteel auctions, without which a sufficiently brisk
trade in matrimony could not possibly be carried on. The consciousness
of this is doubtless in one way somewhat of an obstacle to flirtation,
and gives the frisky matron a cruel advantage over her unmarried rival.
A man must have oak and triple brass round his heart who can flirt
perfectly at his ease when he knows that his "attentions" are not
merely watched by vigilant chaperons, but are actually reduced to a
matter of numerical calculation--that a certain number of dances, or
calls, or polite speeches will justify a stern father or big brother in
asking his "intentions."

This application of arithmetic is, in some respects, as dangerous to
courtship as to the Pentateuch. But, nevertheless, it gives the clever
and courageous match-maker an advantage of which the eligible bachelor
complains that she makes the most pitiless use. He finds himself
manoeuvred into "paying the attentions" which society considers the
usual prelude to a marriage, with a dexterity which it is all but
impossible to evade. The lady is played into his hands with much the
same sort of skill that a conjuror exhibits in forcing a card. There are
perhaps a number of other ladies present, in promiscuous flirtation with
whom he sees, at first glance, an obvious means of escape. But this hope
speedily turns out a delusion. One lady is vigilantly guarded by a
jealous betrothed; a second is a poor relation, or humble friend, who
knows that she would never get another invitation to the house if she
once interfered with her patron's plans; a third is too plain to be
approached on any ordinary calculation of probabilities; a fourth is
hopelessly dull; the rest are married, and if not actually themselves in
the conspiracy--which, however, is as likely as not--are still carefully
chosen for their freedom from the flirting propensities of the frisky
matron. The destined victim finds, in short, that he must either
deliberately resign himself to be bored to death, or boldly face the
peril in store for him, and take his chance of evading or breaking the
net. Nine men out of ten naturally choose the latter alternative, too
often in that presumptuous spirit of self-confidence which is the
match-maker's best ally.

A bachelor is perhaps never in so great danger of being caught as when
he has come to the conclusion that he sees perfectly through the
mother's little game and merely means to amuse himself by carrying on a
strictly guarded flirtation with the daughter. We mean, of course, on
the assumption that the daughter is either a pretty or clever girl, with
whom any sort of flirtation is in itself perilous. His danger is all the
greater if it happens--and it is only fair to young-ladydom to admit
that it often does happen--that the daughter has sufficient spirit and
self-respect to repudiate all share in the maternal plot. Many a man has
been half surprised, half piqued, into serious courtship by finding
himself vigorously snubbed and rebuffed where he had been led to imagine
that his slightest advances would be only too eagerly received. But, in
any case, the match-maker knows that, if she can only bring the two
people whom she wishes to marry sufficiently often into each other's
society, the battle is half won. According to Lord Lytton, whom every
one will admit to be an authority on the philosophy of flirtation,
"proximity is the soul of love." And eligible bachelors complain that it
becomes every day harder to avoid this perilous proximity, and the duty
of "paying attention" which it implies, without being positively rude.

We have not much consolation to offer the sufferers who prefer this
complaint. As regards our own statement that the art of match-making
requires cultivation, we did not mean by it to imply that match-making
is not vigorously carried on. So long as there are mothers left with
daughters to be married, so long will match-making continue to be
pursued; and it must obviously be pursued all the more energetically to
keep pace with the growing disinclination of bachelors among the upper
and middle classes to face the responsibilities of married life. We
meant that match-making does not receive the sort of cultivation which
it seems to us fairly to deserve, when we consider the paramount
importance of the object which it at least professes to have in view,
and the delicate nature of the instruments and experiments with which it
is concerned.

We have not yet mustered up courage for the attempt to show what should
be its proper cultivation; but we may safely say that so long as it is
left in the hands of those who are influenced by merely mercenary or
interested motives, and who watch the "attentions" of a bachelor, not in
the spirit of a philosopher or a philanthropist, but in that of a
Belgravian mother, it cannot be cultivated as a fine art. It can only be
rescued from the unmerited odium into which it has fallen by being taken
under the patronage of those who are in a position to practice it on
purely artistic and disinterested grounds. In their hands, the now
perilous process of "paying attention" would be studied and criticized
in a new spirit. It might still, indeed, be treated arithmetically, as
perhaps the most promising way of reducing it to the precision and
certainty of an exact science. But still the problem would be to
determine, not what is the least possible number of dances, calls, or
compliments which may justify the intervention of a big brother or heavy
father, but what number warrants the assumption that the flirtation has
passed out of the frivolous into the serious stage. Three dances, for
instance, may expose a man to being asked what are his "intentions,"
where six dances need not imply that he really has any. The mercenary
match-maker considers only the first point; our ideal match-maker would
lay far more stress upon the second. But still, in any case, this
growing tendency to treat the practice of "paying attention" in the
spirit of exact science offers at least one ray of hope to those who
complain that, do what they will, they cannot escape having to pay this
dangerous tribute. The tendency must sooner or later bear fruit in a
generally recognised code of courtship (whether written or unwritten
does not much matter), prescribing the precise number and character of
the "attentions"--in their adaptation to dancing, croquet-playing,
cracker-pulling, and other conventional pretexts for flirtation--which
virtually amount to an offer of marriage. This scheme, we may mention,
is not wholly imaginary. There is somewhere or other a stratum of
English society in which such a code already exists. At least we have
seen a book of etiquette in which, among similar ordinances, it was laid
down that to hand anything--say a flower or a muffin--to a lady with
the left hand was equivalent to a proposal. The general introduction of
a system of this kind, although it might shorten the lives of timid or
forgetful men, would obviously confer an unspeakable boon upon the
majority of the match-maker's present victims. They would not only know
exactly how far to go with safety, but also how at once to recede. To
offer, for instance, two pieces of muffin firmly and decidedly with the
right hand would probably make up for offering one flower with the left,
at least if there were no guardian or chaperon on the spot to take
instant advantage of the first overture. But it would now perhaps be
premature to enter into the details of a system which it may take a
generation or so more of match-making to introduce.


A vigorous and pertinacious effort has of late years been made to
persuade mankind that beauty in women is a matter of very little moment.
As long as literature was more or less a man's vocation, an opposite
tendency prevailed; and a successful novelist would as soon have thought
of flying as of driving a team of ugly heroines through three volumes.
The rapid and portentous increase of authoresses changed the current of
affairs. As a rule, authoresses do not care much about lovely women; and
they must naturally despise the miserable masculine weakness which is
led captive by a pretty face, even if it be only upon paper. They can
have no patience with such feebleness, and it may well seem to them to
be a high and important mission to help to put it down.

It became, accordingly, the fashion at one time among the feminine
writers of fiction to make all their fascinating heroines plain girls
with plenty of soul, and to show, by a series of thrilling love
adventures, how completely in the long run the plain girls had the best
of it. There is a regular type of ideal young lady in women's novels, to
which we have at last become accustomed. She is not at all a perfect
beauty. Her features are not as finely chiseled as a Greek statue; she
is taller, we are invariably told, than the model height, her nose is
_retroussé_; and "in some lights" an unfavorable critic might affirm
that her hair was positively tawny. But there is a well of feeling in
her big brown eyes, which, when united to genius, invariably bowls over
the hero of the book. And the passion she excites is of that stirring
kind which eclipses all others.

Through the first two volumes the predestined lover flirts with the
beauties who despise her, dances with them under her eye, and wears
their colors in her presence. But at the end of the third an expressive
glance tells her that all is right, and that big eyes and a big soul
have won the race in a canter. Jane Eyre was perhaps the first
triumphant success of this particular school of art. And Jane Eyre
certainly opened the door to a long train of imitators. For many years
every woman's novel had got in it some dear and noble creature,
generally underrated, and as often as not in embarrassed circumstances,
who used to capture her husband by sheer force of genius, and by
pretending not to notice him when he came into the room. Some pleasant
womanly enthusiasts even went further, and invented heroines with
tangled hair and inky fingers. We do not feel perfectly certain that
Miss Yonge, for instance, has not married her inky Minervas to nicer and
more pious husbands, as a rule, than her uninky ones. The advantage of
the view that ugly heroines are the most charming is obvious, if only
the world could be brought to adopt it. It is a well-meant protest in
favor of what may be called, in these days of political excitement, the
"rights" of plain girls. It is very hard to think that a few more
freckles or a quarter of an inch of extra chin should make all the
difference in life to women, and those of them who are intellectually
fitted to play a shining part in society or literature may be excused
for rebelling against the masculine heresy of believing in beauty only.

Whenever such women write, the constant moral they preach to us is that
beauty is a delusion and a snare. This is the moral of Hetty in _Adam
Bede_, and it is in the unsympathetic and cold way in which Hetty is
described that one catches glimpses of the sex of the consummate author
of the story. She is quite alive to Hetty's plump arms and pretty
cheeks. She likes to pat her and watch her, as if Hetty were a cat, or
some other sleek and supple animal. But we feel that the writer of _Adam
Bede_ is eyeing Hetty all over from the beginning to the end, and
considering in herself the while what fools men are. It would be unjust
and untrue to say that George Eliot in all her works does not do ample
justice, in a noble and generous way, to the power of female beauty. The
heroines of _Romola_ and _Felix Holt_ prove distinctly that she does.
But one may fairly doubt whether a man could have painted Hetty. When
one sees the picture, one understands its truth; but men who draw pretty
faces usually do so with more enthusiasm.

A similar sort of protest may be found lurking in a great many women's
novels against the popular opinion that man is the more powerful animal,
and that a wife is at best a domestic appanage of the husband.
Authoresses are never weary of attempts to set this right. They like to
prove, what is continually true, that feminine charms are the lever that
moves the world, and that the ideal woman keeps her husband and all
about her straight. In religious novels woman's task is to exercise the
happiest influence on the man's theological opinions. Owing to the
errors he has imbibed from the study of a false and shallow philosophy,
he sees no good in going to church twice on Sundays, or feels that he
cannot heartily adopt all the expressions in the Athanasian creed. It is
the heroine's mission to cure this mental malady; to point out to him,
from the impartial point of view of those who have never committed the
folly of studying Kant or Hegel, how thoroughly superficial Kant and
Hegel are; and to remind him by moonlight, and in the course of
spiritual flirtation on a balcony, of the unutterable truths in theology
which only a woman can naturally discern. We are far from wishing to
intimate that there is not a good deal of usefulness in such feminine
points of view. The _argumentum ad sexum_, if not a logical, is often no
doubt a practical one, and women are right to employ it whenever they
can make it tell. And as it would be impossible to develop it to any
considerable extent in a dry controversial work, authoresses have no
other place to work it in except in a romance. What they do for religion
in pious novels, they do for other things in productions of a more
strictly secular kind.

There is, for instance, a popular and prevalent fallacy that women ought
to be submissive to, and governed by, their lords and masters. In
feminine fiction we see a very wholesome reaction against this mistaken
supposition. The hero of the female tale is often a poor, frivolous,
easily led person. When he can escape from his wife's eye, he speculates
heavily on Stock Exchange, goes in under the influence of evil advisers
for any sort of polite swindling, and forgets, or is ill-tempered
towards, the inestimable treasure he has at home. On such occasions the
heroine of the feminine novel shines out in all her majesty. She is kind
and patient to her husband's faults, except that when he is more than
usually idiotic her eyes flash, and her nostrils dilate with a sort of
grand scorn, while her knowledge of life and business is displayed at
critical moments to save him from ruin. When every one else deserts him,
she takes a cab into the city, and employs some clever friend, who has
always been hopelessly in love with her--and for whom she entertains,
unknown to her husband, a Platonic brotherly regard--to intervene in the
nick of time, and to arrest her husband's fall.

In a story called _Sowing the Wind_, which has recently been published,
the authoress (for we assume, in spite of the ambiguous assertion on the
title-page, that the pen which wrote it was not really a man's) goes to
very great lengths. The hero, St. John Aylott, is always snubbing and
lecturing Isola, whom he married when she was half a child, and whom he
treats as a child long after she has become a great and glorious woman.
He administers the doctrine of conjugal authority to her in season and
out of season, and his object is to convert her into a loving feminine
slave. Against this revolting theory her nature rebels. Though she
preserves her wifely attachment to a man whom she has once thought
worthy of better things, her respect dies away, and at last she openly
defies him when he wants her, in contravention of her plain duty, not to
adopt as her son a deserted orphan-boy. At this point her character
stands out in noble contrast to his. She does adopt the boy, and brings
him to live with her in spite of all; and when St. John is unnaturally
peevish at its childish squalling, Isola bears his fretful
animadversions with a patient dignity that touches the hearts of all
about her.

Any husband who can go on preaching about conjugal obedience through
three volumes to a splendid creature who is his wife, must have
something wrong about his mind. And something wrong about St. John's
mind there ultimately proves to be. It flashes across Isola that this is
the case, and before long her worst suspicions are confirmed. At last
St. John breaks out into open lunacy, and dies deranged--a fate which is
partly the cause, and partly the consequence, of his continual
indulgence in such wild theories about the relations of man and wife. It
is not every day that we have the valuable lesson of the rights of wives
so plainly or so practically put before us, but when it is put before
us, we recognize the service that may be conferred on literature and
society by lady authors. To assert the great cause of the independence
of the female sex is one of the ends of feminine fiction, just as the
assertion of the rights of plain girls is another. Authoresses do not
ask for what Mr. Mill wishes them to have--a vote for the borough, or
perhaps a seat in Parliament. They do ask that young women should have a
fair matrimonial chance, independently of such trivial considerations as
good looks, and that after marriage they should have the right to
despise their husbands whenever duty and common sense tell them it is
proper to do so.

The odd thing is that the heroines of whom authoresses are so fond in
novels, are not the heroines whom other women like in real life. Even
the popular authoresses of the day, who are always producing some lovely
pantheress in their stories, and making her achieve an endless series of
impossible exploits, would not care much about a lovely pantheress in a
drawing-room or a country-house; and are not perhaps in the habit of
meeting any. The fact is that the vast majority of women who write
novels do not draw upon their observation for their characters so much
as upon their imagination. In some respects this is curious enough, for
when women observe, they observe acutely and to a good deal of purpose.
Those of them, however, who take to the manufacture of fiction have
generally done so because at some portion of their career they have been
thrown back upon themselves. They began perhaps to write when
circumstances made them feel isolated from the rest of their little
world, and in a spirit of sickly concentration upon their own thoughts.

A woman with a turn for literary work who notices that she is distanced,
as far as success or admiration goes, by rivals inferior in mental
capacity to herself, flies eagerly to the society of her own fancies,
and makes her pen her greatest friend. It is the lot of many girls to
pass their childhood or youth in a somewhat monotonous round of domestic
duties, and frequently in a narrow domestic circle, with which, except
from natural affection, they may have no great intellectual sympathy.
The stage of intellectual fever through which able men have passed when
they were young is replaced, in the case of girls of talent, by a stage
of moral morbidity. At first this finds vent in hymns, and it turns in
the end to novels. Few clever young ladies have not written religious
poetry at one period or other of their history, and few that have done
so, stop there without going further. It is a great temptation to
console oneself for the shortcomings of the social life around, by
building up an imaginary picture of social life as it might be, full of
romantic adventures and pleasant conquests.

In manufacturing her heroines, the young recluse author puts on paper
what she would herself like to be, and what she thinks she might be if
only her eyes were bluer, her purse longer, or men more wise and
discerning. In painting the slights offered to her favorite ideal, she
conceives the slights that might possibly be offered to herself, and the
triumphant way in which she would (under somewhat more auspicious
circumstances) delight to live them down and trample them under foot.
The vexations and the annoyances she describes with considerable spirit
and accuracy. The triumph is the representation of her own delicious
dreams. The grand character of the imaginary victim is but a species of
phantom of her ownself, taken, like the German's camel, from the depths
of her own self-consciousness, and projected into cloudland. This is the
reason why authoresses enjoy dressing up a heroine who is ill-used. They
know the sensation of social martyrdom, and it is a gentle sort of
revenge upon the world to publish a novel about an underrated martyr,
whose merits are recognised in the end, either before or after her
decease. They are probably not conscious of the precise work they are
performing. They are not aware that their heroine represents what they
believe they themselves would prove to be under impossible
circumstances, provided they had only golden hair and a wider sphere of

This is but another and a larger phase of a phenomenon which all of us
have become familiar with who have ever had a large acquaintance with
young ladies' poems. They all write about death with a pertinacity that
is positively astounding. It is not that the young people actually want
to die. But they like the idea that their family circle will find out,
when it is too late, all the mistakes and injustices it has committed
towards them, and that this world will perceive that it has been
entertaining unawares an angel, just as the angel has taken flight
upwards to another. The juvenile aspirant commences with revenging her
wrongs in heaven, but it occurs to her before long that she can with
equal facility have them revenged upon earth. Poetry gives way to prose,
and hymnology to fiction. The element of self-consciousness, unknown to
herself, still continues to prevail, and to color the character of the
heroines she turns out. Of course great authoresses shake themselves
free from it. Real genius is independent of sex, and first-rate writers,
whether they are men or women, are not morbidly in love with an
idealized portrait of themselves.

But the poorer or less worthy class of feminine novelists seldom escape
from the fatal influence of egotism. Women's heroines, except in the
case of the best artists, are conceptions borrowed, not from without,
but from within. The consequence is that there is a sameness about them
which becomes at last distasteful. The conception of the injured wife or
the glorified governess is one which was a novelty fifteen or twenty
years ago, while it cannot be said any longer to be lively or
entertaining. As literature has grown to be a woman's occupation, we are
afraid that glorified governesses in fiction will, like the poor, be
always with us, and continue to the end to run their bright course of
universal victory. The most, perhaps, that can be hoped is that they
will in the long run take the wind out of the sails of the glorified
adulteresses and murderesses which at present seem the latest and most
successful efforts of feminine art.


About the strongest propensity in human nature, apart from the purely
personal instincts, is the propensity to interfere. Not tyranny, which
is another matter--tyranny being active while interference is negative;
the one standing as the masculine, the other as the feminine, form of
the same principle. Besides, tyranny has generally some personal gain in
view when it takes in hand to force people to do what they do not like
to do; while interference seeks no good for itself at all, but simply
prevents the exercise of free will for the mere pleasure to be had out
of such prevention. Again, the idea of tyranny is political rather than
domestic, but the curse of interference is seen most distinctly within
the four walls of home, where also it is felt the most. Very many people
spend their lives in interfering with others--perpetually putting spokes
into wheels with which they have really nothing to do, and thrusting
their fingers into pies about the baking of which they are not in any
way concerned; and of these people we are bound to confess that women
make up the larger number and are the greater sinners.

To be sure there are some men--small, fussy, finicking fellows, with
whom nature has made the irreparable blunder of sex--who are as
troublesome in their endless interference as the narrowest-minded and
most meddling women of their acquaintance; but the feminine
characteristics of men are so exceptional that we need not take them
into serious calculation. For the most part, when men do interfere in
any manly sense at all, it is with such things as they think they have a
right to control--say, with the wife's low dresses, or the daughter's
too patent flirtations. They interfere and prevent because they are
jealous of the repute, perhaps of the beauty, of their womankind; and
knowing what men say of such displays, or fearing their effect, they
stand between folly and slander to the best of their ability. But this
kind of interference, noble or ignoble as the cause may be, comes into
another class of motives altogether, and does not belong to the kind of
interference of which we are speaking.

Women, then, are the great interferers at home, both with each other and
with men. They do not tell us what we are to do, beyond going to church
and subscribing to their favorite mission, so much as they tell us what
we are not to do; they do not command so much as they forbid; and, of
all women, wives and daughters are the most given to handling these
check-strings and putting on these drag-chains. Sisters, while young,
are obliged to be less interfering, under pain of a perpetual round of
bickering; for brothers are not apt to submit to the counsel of
creatures for the most part as loftily snubbed as sisters are; while
mothers are nine times out of ten laid aside for all but sentimental
purposes, so soon as the son has ceased to be a boy and has learned to
become a man. The queenhood, therefore, of personal and domestic
interference lies with wives, and they know how to use the prerogative
they assume.

Take an unlucky man who smokes under protest, his wife not liking to
forbid the pleasure entirely, but always grudging it, and interfering
with its exercise. Each segar represents a battle, deepening in
intensity according to the number. The first may have been had with only
a light skirmish perhaps, perhaps a mere threatening of an attack that
passed away without coming to actual onslaught; the second brings up the
artillery; while the third or fourth lets all the forces loose, and sets
the biggest guns thundering. She could understand a man smoking one
segar in the day, she says, with a gracious condescension to masculine
weakness; but when it comes to more she feels that she is called on to
interfere, and to do her best towards checking such a reprehensible
excess. It does not weaken her position that she knows nothing of what
she is talking about. She never smoked a segar herself, and therefore
does not understand the uses or the abuses of tobacco; but she holds
herself pledged to interfere as soon as she gets the chance, and she
redeems the pledge with energy.

The man too, who has the stomach of an ostrich and an appetite to
correspond, but about whom the home superstition is that he has a feeble
digestion and must take care of his diet, has also to run the gauntlet
of his wife's interfering forces. He never dines or sups jollily with
his friends without being plucked at and reminded that salmon always
disagrees with him; that champagne is sure to give him a headache
to-morrow; and "My dear! when you know how bad salad is for you!" or,
"How can you eat that horrid pastry! You will be so ill in the night!"
"What! more wine? another glass of whisky? how foolish you are! how
wrong!" The wife has a nervous organization which cannot bear
stimulants; the husband is a strong large-framed man who can drink deep
without feeling it; but to the excitable woman her feeble limit is her
husband's measure, and as soon as he has gone beyond the range of her
own short tether, she trots after him remonstrating, and thinks herself
justified in interfering with his progress. For women cannot be brought
to understand the capacities of a man's life; they cannot be made to
understand that what is bad for themselves may not be bad for others,
and that their weakness ought not to be the gauge of a man's strength.

A pale chilly woman afflicted with chronic bronchitis, who wears furs
and velvets in May and fears the east wind as much as an East-Indian
fears a tiger, does her best to coddle her husband, father, and sons in
about the same ratio as she coddles herself. They must not go out
without an overcoat; they must be sure to take an umbrella if the day is
at all cloudy; they must not walk too far, nor ride too hard, and they
must be sure to be at home by a certain hour. When such women as these
have to do with men just on the boundary-line between the last days of
vigor and the first of old age, they put forward the time of old age by
many years. One sees their men rapidly sink into the softness and
incapacity of senility, when a more bracing life would have kept them
good for half-a-dozen years longer. But women do not care for this. They
like men to be their own companions more than they care for any manly
comradeship among each other; and most women--but not all--would rather
have their husbands manly in a womanly way than in a manly one, as being
more within the compass of their own sympathies and understanding.

The same kind of interference is very common where the husband is a man
of broad humor--one who calls a spade a spade, with no circumlocution
about an agricultural implement. The wife of such a man is generally one
of the ultra-refined kind, according to the odd law of compensation
which regulates so much of human action, and thinks herself obliged to
stand as the enduring censor of her husband's speech. As this is an
example most frequently to be found in middle life, and where there are
children belonging to the establishment, the word of warning is
generally "papa!"--said with reproach or resentment, according to
circumstances--which has, of course, the effect of drawing the attention
of the young people to the paternal breadth of speech, and of fixing
that special breach of decorum on their memory. Sometimes the wife has
sufficient self-restraint not to give the word of warning in public, but
can nurse her displeasure for a more convenient season; but as soon as
they are alone, the miserable man has to pass under the harrow, as only
husbands with wives of a chastising spirit can pass under it, and his
life is made a burden to him because of that unlucky anecdote told with
such verve a few hours ago, and received with such shouts of pleasant
laughter. Perhaps the anecdote was just a trifle doubtful; granted; but
what does the wife take by her remonstrance? Most probably a quarrel;
possibly a good-natured _peccavi_ for the sake of being let off the
continuance of the sermon; perhaps a yawn; most certainly not reform. If
the man is a man of free speech and broad humor by nature and liking, he
will remain so to the end; and what the censorship of society leaves
untouched, the interference of a wife will not control.

Children come in for an enormous share of interference, which is not
direction, not discipline, but simple interference for its own sake.
There are mothers who meddle with every expression of individuality in
their young people, quite irrespective of moral tendency, or whether the
occasion is trivial or important. In the fancies, the pleasures, the
minor details of dress in their children, there is always that intruding
maternal finger upsetting the arrangements of the poor little pie as
vigorously as if thrones and altars depended on the result. Not a game
of croquet can be begun, nor a blue ribbon worn instead of a pink one,
without maternal interference; so that the bloom is rubbed off every
enjoyment, and life becomes reduced to a kind of goose-step, with mamma
for the drill-sergeant prescribing the inches to be marked. Sisters,
too, do a great deal of this kind of thing among each other; as all
those who are intimate where there are large families of unmarried girls
must have seen. The nudges, the warning looks, the deprecating "Amies!"
and "Oh Lucies!" and "Hush Roses!" by which some seek to act as
household police over the others, are patent to all who use their

In some houses the younger sisters seem to have been born chiefly as
training grounds for the elders, whereon they may exercise their powers
of interference; and a hard time they have of it. If Emma goes to her
embroidery, Ellen tells her she ought to practice her singing; if Jane
is reading, Mary recommends sewing as a more profitable use of precious
time; if Amy is at her easel, Ada wants to turn her round to the piano.
It is quite the exception where four or five sisters leave each other
free to do as each likes, and do not take to drilling and interference
as part of the daily programme. Something of the reluctance to domestic
service so painfully apparent among the better class of working women is
due to this spirit of interference with women. The lady who wrote about
the caps and gowns of servant-girls, and drew out a plan of dress, down
to the very material of their gloves, was an instance of this spirit.
For, when we come to analyse it, what does it really signify to us how
our servants dress, so long as they are clean and decent, and do not let
their garments damage our goods? Fashion is almost always ridiculous,
and women as a rule care more for dress than they care for anything
else; and if the kitchen apes the parlor, and Phyllis gives as much
thought to her new linsey as my lady gives to her new velvet, we cannot
wonder at it, nor need we hold up our hands in horror at the depravity
of the smaller person. Does one flight of stairs transpose morality? If
it does not, there is no real ethical reason why my lady should
interfere with poor Phyllis's enjoyment in her ugly vanities, when she
herself will not be interfered with, though press and pulpit both try to
turn her out of her present path into one that all ages have thought the
best for her, and the one divinely appointed. It is a thing that will
not bear reasoning on, being simply a form of the old "who will guard
the guardian?" Who will direct the directress? and to whose interference
will the interferer submit?

There are two causes for this excessive love of interference among
women. The one is the narrowness of their lives and objects, by which
insignificant things gain a disproportionate value in their eyes; the
other, their belief that they are the only saviors of society, and that
without them man would become hopelessly corrupt. And to a certain
extent this belief is true, but surely with restrictions. Because the
clearer moral sense and greater physical weakness of women restrain
men's fiercer passions, and force them to be gentle and considerate,
women are not, therefore, the sole arbiters of masculine life, into
whose hands is given the paying out of just so much rope as they think
fit for the occasion. They would do better to look to their own tackle
before settling so exactly the run of others'; and if ever their desired
time of equality is to come, it must come through mutual independence,
not through womanly interference, and as much liberality and breadth
must be given as is demanded--which, so far as humanity has gone
hitherto, has not been the feminine manner of squaring accounts.

Grant that women are the salt of the earth, and the great antiseptic
element in society, still that does not reduce everything else to the
verge of corruption which they alone prevent. Yet by their lives they
evidently think that it is so, and that they are each and all the
keepers of keys which give them a special entrance to the temple of
morality, and by which they are able to exclude or admit the grosser
body of men. Hence they interfere and restrict and pay out just so much
rope, and measure off just so much gambolling ground, as they think fit;
they think vile man a horribly wicked invention when he takes things
into his own hand, and goes beyond their boundary-lines. It is all done
in good if in a very narrow faith--that we admit willingly; but we would
call their attention to the difference there is between influence and
interference, which is just the difference between their ideal duty and
their daily practice--between being the salt of the earth and the
blister of the home. We think it only justice to put in a word for those
poor henpecked fellows of husbands at a time when the whole cry is for
Woman's Rights, which seems to mean chiefly her right of making man
knuckle under on all occasions, and of making one will serve for two
lives. We assure her that she would get her own way in large matters
much more easily if she would leave men more liberty in small ones, and
not teaze them by interfering in things which do not concern her, and
have only reference to themselves.


It is beyond all question the tendency of modern society to regard
marriage as the great end and justification of a woman's life. This is
perhaps the single point on which practical and romantic people, who
differ in so many things, invariably agree. Poets, novelists, natural
philosophers, fashionable and unfashionable mothers, meet one another on
the broad common ground of approving universal matrimony; and women from
their earliest years are dedicated to the cultivation of those feminine
accomplishments which are supposed either to be most seductive before
marriage in a drawing-room, or most valuable after marriage in the
kitchen and housekeeper's-room.

It is admitted to be a sort of half necessity in any interesting work of
fiction that its plots, its adventures, and its catastrophes should all
lead up to the marriage of the principal young lady. Sometimes, as in
the case of the celebrated Lilly Dale, the public tolerates a bold
exception to the ordinary rule, on account of the extreme piquancy of
the thing; but no wise novelist ventures habitually to disregard the
prevalent opinion that the heroine's mission is to become a wife before
the end of the third volume. The one ideal, accordingly, which romance
has to offer woman is marriage; and most novels thus make life end with
what really is only its threshold and beginning. The Bible no doubt says
that it is not good for man to live alone. What the Bible says of man,
public opinion as unhesitatingly asserts of woman; and a text that it is
not good for woman to live alone either, though not canonical, is
silently added by all domestic commentators to the Scriptural original.

Those who pretend to be best acquainted with the order of nature and the
mysterious designs of Providence assure us with confidence that all this
is as it should be; that woman is not meant to grow and flourish singly,
but to hang on man, and to depend on him, like the vine upon the elm. If
we remember right, M. Comte entertains opinions which really come to
pretty much the same thing. Woman is to be maintained in ease and luxury
by the rougher male animal, it being her duty in return to keep his
spiritual nature up to the mark, to quicken and to purify his
affections, to be a sort of drawing-room religion in the middle of
every-day life, to serve as an object of devotion to the religious
Comtist, and to lead him through love of herself up to the love of
humanity in the abstract.

One difficulty presented by this matrimonial view of woman's destiny is
to know what, under the present conditions in which society finds itself
placed, is to become of plain girls. Their mission is a subject which no
philosopher as yet has adequately handled. If marriage is the object of
all feminine endeavors and ambitions, it certainly seems rather hard
that Providence should have condemned plain girls to start in the race
at such an obvious disadvantage. Even under M. Comte's system, which
provides for almost everything, and which, in its far-sightedness and
thoughtfulness for our good, appears almost more benevolent than
Providence, it would seem as if hardly sufficient provision had been
made for them.

It must be difficult for any one except a really advanced Comtist to
give himself up to the worship of a thoroughly plain girl. Filial
instinct might enable us to worship her as a mother, but even the
noblest desire to serve humanity would scarcely be enough to keep a
husband or a lover up to his daily devotions in the case of a plain girl
with sandy hair and a freckled complexion. The boldest effort to rectify
the inequalities of the position of plain girls has been made of late
years by a courageous school of female writers of fiction. Everything
has been done that could be done to persuade mankind that plain girls
are in reality by far the most attractive of the lot. The clever
authoress of "Jane Eyre" nearly succeeded in the forlorn attempt for a
few years; and plain girls, with volumes of intellect speaking through
their deep eyes and from their massive foreheads, seemed for a while, on
paper at least, to be carrying everything before them.

The only difficulty was to get the male sex to follow out in practice
what they so completely admired in Miss Bronté's three-volume novels.
Unhappily, the male sex, being very imperfect and frail, could not be
brought to do it. They recognized the beauty of the conception about
plain girls, they were very glad to see them married off in scores to
heroic village doctors, and they quite admitted that occasional young
noblemen might be represented in fiction as becoming violently attached
to young creatures with inky fingers and remarkable minds.

But no real change was brought about in ordinary life. Man, sinful man,
read with pleasure about the triumphs of the sandy-haired girls, but
still kept on dancing with and proposing to the pretty ones. And at last
authoresses were driven back on the old standard of beauty. At present,
in the productions both of masculine and feminine workmanship, the
former view of plain girls has been resumed. They are allowed, if
thoroughly excellent in other ways, to pair off with country curates and
with devoted missionaries; but the prizes of fiction, as well as the
prizes of reality, fall to the lot of their fairer and more fortunate

Champions of plain girls are not, however, wanting who boldly take the
difficulty by the horns, and deny _in toto_ the fact that in matrimony
and love the race is usually to the beautiful. Look about you, they tell
us, in the world, and you will as often as not find beauties fading on
their stalks, and plain girls marrying on every side of them. And no
doubt plain girls do marry very frequently. Nobody, for instance, with
half an eye can fail to be familiar with the phenomenon, in his own
circle, of astonishingly ugly married women. It does not, however,
follow that plain girls are not terribly weighted in the race.

There are several reasons why women who rely on their beauty remain
unmarried at the last, but the reason that their beauty gives them no
advantage is certainly not one. The first reason perhaps is that
beauties are inclined to be fastidious and capricious. They have no
notion of following the advice of Mrs. Hannah More, and being contented
with the first good, sensible, Christian lover who falls in their way;
and they run, in consequence, no slight risk of overstaying their
market. They go in for a more splendid sort of matrimonial success, and
think they can afford to play the more daring game.

Plain girls are providentially preserved from these temptations. At the
close of a well-spent life they can conscientiously look back on a
career in which no reasonable opportunity was neglected, and say that
they have not broken many hearts, or been sinfully and distractingly
particular. And there is the further consideration to be remembered in
the case of plain girls, that fortune and rank are nearly as valuable
articles as beauty, and lead to a fair number of matrimonial alliances.
The system of Providence is full of kindly compensations, and it is a
proof of the universal benevolence we see about us that so many
heiresses should be plain. Plain girls have a right to be cheered and
comforted by the thought. It teaches them the happy lesson that beauty,
as compared with a settled income, is skin-deep and valueless; and that
what man looks for in the companion of his life is not so much a bright
cheek or a blue eye, as a substantial and useful amount of this world's

Plain girls again expect less, and are prepared to accept less, in a
lover. Everybody knows the sort of useful, admirable, practical man who
sets himself to marry a plain girl. He is not a man of great rank, great
promise, or great expectations. Had it been otherwise, he might possibly
have flown at higher game, and set his heart on marrying female
loveliness rather than homely excellence. His choice, if it is nothing
else, is an index of a contented and modest disposition. He is not vain
enough to compete in the great race for beauties. What he looks for is
some one who will be the mother of his children, who will order his
servants duly, and keep his household bills; and whose good sense will
teach her to recognise the sterling qualities of her husband, and not
object to his dining daily in his slippers. This is the sort of partner
that plain girls may rationally hope to secure, and who can say that
they ought not to be cheerful and happy in their lot? For a character of
this undeniable sobriety there is indeed a positive advantage in a plain
girl as a wife. It should never be forgotten that the man who marries a
plain girl never need be jealous. He is in the Arcadian and fortunate
condition of a lover who has no rivals. A sensible unambitious nature
will recognize in this a solid benefit. Plain girls rarely turn into
frisky matrons, and this fact renders them peculiarly adapted to be the
wives of dull and steady mediocrity.

Lest it should be supposed that the above calculation of what plain
girls may do leaves some of their power and success still unaccounted
for, it is quite right and proper to add that the story of plain girls,
if it were carefully written, would contain many instances, not merely
of moderate good fortunes, but of splendid and exceptional triumph. Like
_prima donnas_, opera-dancers, and lovely milliners, plain girls have
been known to make extraordinary hits, and to awaken illustrious
passions. Somebody ought to take up the subject in a book, and tell us
how they did it.

This is the age of Golden Treasuries. We have Golden Treasuries of
English poets, of French poets, of great lawyers, of famous battles, of
notable beauties, of English heroes, of successful merchants, and of
almost every sort of character and celebrity that can be conceived. What
is wanted is a Golden Treasury containing the narrative of the most
successful plain girls. This book might be called the Book of Ugliness,
and we see no reason why, to give reality to the story, the portraits of
some of the most remarkable might not be appended. Of course, if ever
such a volume is compiled, it will be proved to demonstration that plain
girls have before now arrived at great matrimonial honor and renown.

There is, for example, the sort of plain girl who nurses her hero
(perhaps in the Crimea) through a dangerous attack of illness, and
marries him afterwards. There is the class of those who have been
married simply from a sense of duty. There is the class that
distinguishes itself by profuse kindness to poor cottagers, and by
reading the Bible to blind old women; an occupation which as we know,
from the most ordinary works of fiction, leads directly to the
promptest and speediest attachments on the part of the young men who
happen to drop in casually at the time. The catalogue of such is perhaps
long and famous. Yet, allowing for all these, allowing for everything
else that can be adduced in their favor, we cannot help returning to the
position that plain girls have an up-hill battle to fight. No doubt it
ought not to be so.

Cynics tell us that six months after a man is married it makes very
little difference to him whether his wife's nose is Roman, aquiline, or
retroussé; and this may be so. The unfortunate thing is that most men
persist in marrying for the sake of the illusion of the first six
months, and under the influence of the ante-nuptial and not the
post-nuptial sentiments; and as the first six months with a plain girl
are confessedly inferior in attraction, the inference is clear that they
do in effect attract less. Plainness or loveliness apart, a very large
number of womankind have no reason to expect any very happy chance in
married life; and if marriage is to be set before all women as the one
ideal, a number of feminine lives will always turn out to have been

It may be said that it is hopeless to attempt on this point to alter the
sentiments of the female sex, or indeed the general verdict of society.
We do not quite see the hopelessness. A considerable amount of the
matrimonial ideas of young women are purely the result of their
education, and of the atmosphere in which they have been brought up;
and, by giving a new direction to their early training, it might not be
altogether so quixotical to believe that we should alter all that is the
result of the training. At any rate it has become essential for the
welfare of women that they should, as far as possible, be taught that
they may have a career open to them even if they never marry; and it is
the duty of society to try to open to them as many careers of the sort
as are not incompatible with the distinctive peculiarities of a woman's
physical capacity.

It may well be that society's present instincts as regards woman are at
bottom selfish. The notion of feminine dependence on man, of the want of
refinement in a woman who undertakes any active business or profession,
and of the first importance of woman's domestic position, when carried
to an extreme, are perhaps better suited to the caprice and fanciful
fastidiousness of men than to the real requirements, in the present age,
of the other sex. The throng of semi-educated authoresses who are now
flocking about the world of letters is a wholesome protest against such
exclusive jealousy. The real objection to literary women is that women,
with a few notable exceptions, are not yet properly educated to write
well, or to criticise well what others write. Remove this objection by
improving the curriculum of feminine education, and there is hardly any
other. There is none certainly of sufficient consequence to outweigh the
real need which is felt of giving those women something to live for
(apart from and above ordinary domestic and philanthropic duties), whose
good or evil fortune it is not to be marked out by Heaven for a married


If any human weakness has a right to complain of the ingratitude with
which the world treats it, it is certainly vanity. It gets through more
good work, and yet comes in for more hearty abuse, than all our other
weaknesses put together. Preachers and moralists are always having hits
at it, and in that philosophical study and scientific vivisection of
character which two friends are always so ready to practice at the
expense of a third, and which weak-minded people confound with scandal,
to no foible is the knife so pitilessly applied as to vanity. What makes
this rigor seem all the more cruel and unnatural is that vanity never
gets so little quarter as from those who ought, one would think, to be
on the best possible terms with her. She is never justified of her
children, and, like Byron's unhappy eagle, "nurses the pinion that
impels the steel" against her. Yet it is difficult to see how the world
could get on without the weakness thus universally assailed, and what
preachers and moralists would do if they had their own way.

In the more important--or, we should rather say, in the larger--concerns
of life vanity could perhaps be dispensed with. Where there is much at
stake, other agencies come into play to keep the machinery of the world
in motion, though, even as regards these, it is a question how many
great poems, great speeches, great actions, which have profoundly
influenced the destinies of mankind, would have been lost to the world
if there had been none but great motives at work to produce them. Great
motives usually get the credit--that is, when we are dealing with
historical characters, not dissecting a friend, in whose case it is
necessary to guard against our natural proneness to partiality; but
little motives often do the largest share of the work. It is proper, for
instance, and due to our own dignity and self-respect to say, that the
world owes _Childe Harold_ to a great poet's inspired yearning for
immortality. Still, we fear, there is room for a doubt whether the world
would ever have seen _Childe Harold_ if the great poet had not happened
to be also a morbidly vain and, in some respects, remarkably small man.
But even if we assume that the big affairs of life may be left to big
motives, and do not require such a little motive as vanity to help them,
these are, after all, few and far between.

For one action that may safely be left to yearnings for immortality, or
ambition, or love, or something equally lofty and grand, there are
thousands which society must get done somehow, and which it gets done
pleasantly and comfortably only because, by a charmingly convenient
illusion, the vanity of each agent makes him attach a peculiar
importance to them. There is no act so trivial, or to all appearance so
unworthy of a rational being, that the magic of vanity cannot throw a
halo of dignity over it, and persuade the agent that it is mainly by his
exertions that society is kept together, as Molière's dancing-master
reasoned that the secret of good government is the secret of good
dancing--namely, how to avoid false steps. And it is this genial
promoter of human happiness, this all-powerful diffuser of social
harmony, this lubricating oil without which the vast and complex
machinery of life could never work, that man, in his ignorant
ingratitude, dares to denounce.

We should like to ask one of these thoughtless revilers of vanity
whether it has ever been his misfortune to meet a woman without it. He
would probably try to escape by declaring that a woman without vanity is
a purely imaginary being, if not a contradiction in terms; and we admit
that there is something to be said in favor of this view. Nothing is
more astonishing to the male philosopher than the odd way in which, from
some stray corner of character where he would have least thought of
looking for it, female vanity now and then suddenly pops out upon him.
He fancied that he knew a woman well, that he had studied her character
and mastered all its strong and weak points, when, by some accident or
at some unguarded moment, he suddenly strikes a rich, deep, vein of
vanity of the existence of which he never had the remotest suspicion. He
may perhaps have known that she was not without vanity on certain
points, but for these he had discovered, or had fancied he had
discovered, some sort of reason. We do not necessarily mean, by reason,
any cause that seemed to justify or, on any consistent principle, to
account for the fact. As we have already remarked, it is the peculiarity
of vanity that it often flourishes most vigorously, and puts forth a
plentiful crop, where there does not seem to be even a layer of soil for

Both men and women are occasionally most vain of their weakest points,
perhaps by a merciful provision of nature similar to that by which a sow
always takes most kindly to the weakest pig in the litter. Lord
Chesterfield, when paternally admonishing his son as to the proper
management of women, lays down as a general indisputable axiom that they
are all, as a matter of course, to be flattered to the top of their
bent; but he adds, as a special rule, that a very pretty or a very ugly
woman should be flattered, not about her personal charms, but about her
mental powers. It is only in the case of a moderately good-looking woman
that the former should be singled out for praise. A very pretty woman
takes her beauty as a matter of course, and would rather be flattered
about the possession of some advantage to which her claim is not so
clear, while a very ugly woman distrusts the sincerity of flattery about
her person.

It is not without the profoundest diffidence that we venture to dispute
the opinion of such an authority on such a subject as Lord Chesterfield,
but still we think that no woman is so hideous that she may not, if her
vanity happens to take this turn, be told with perfect safety that she
is a beauty. Her vanity is, indeed, not so likely to take this turn as
it would be if she were really pretty. She will probably plume herself
upon her abilities or accomplishments, and therefore Chesterfield's
excellent fatherly advice was, on the whole, tolerably safe. But still,
if any hereditary bias or unlucky accident--such, for instance, as that
of being brought up among people with whom brains are nothing, and
beauty everything--does give an ugly woman's vanity an impulse in the
direction of good looks, no excess of hideousness makes it unsafe to
extol her beauty. On the contrary, she is more likely to be imposed upon
than a moderately good-looking woman, from her greater eagerness to
clutch at every straw that may help to keep up the darling delusion. No
philosopher is, accordingly, surprised at finding that a woman is vain
where he can discover not the slightest rational foundation even for
female vanity.

But it certainly is surprising, now and then, to find how long the most
intense female vanity will lie, in some out-of-the-way corner of
character, hidden from the eye. Perhaps we ought to say, the male eye,
for women seem to discover each other's weak points by a power of
intuition that amounts almost to instinct. But a man is amazed to find
that a woman whose vanity he believed himself to have tracked into all
its channels has it, after all, most strongly in some channel of which
he previously knew nothing. He has perhaps considered her a sensible
matter-of-fact woman, vain perhaps, though not unpardonably, of her
capacity for business and knowledge of the world, but singularly free
from the not uncommon female tendency to believe that every man who sees
her is in love with her; and he unexpectedly discovers that she has for
years considered herself the object of a desperate passion on the part
of the parish rector, a prosaic middle-aged gentleman of ample waistcoat
and large family, and is a little uneasy about being left alone in the
same room with the butler.

Unexpected discoveries of some such kind as this not unnaturally
popularize the theory already mentioned, that such a being as a woman
without vanity does not exist--that, no matter how securely the weakness
may lie hidden from observation, it does somewhere or other exist, and
some day will out. But we are inclined, notwithstanding, to hold that,
here and there, but happily very seldom, there are to be found women
really without vanity; and most unpleasant women they seem to us, as a
rule, to be. They get on tolerably well with their own sex, for they are
rarely pretty or affected, and they have usually certain solid,
serviceable qualities which make up for not being attractive by standing
wear and tear. But in their relations with men--as soon, that is, as
they have secured a husband, and fascination has therefore ceased to be
a matter of business, a practical question of bread-and-butter, to be
grappled with in the spirit in which they would, if necessary, go out
charing, or keep a mangle--they are painfully devoid of that eagerness
to please and that readiness to be pleased which, in the present
imperfect state of civilization, are among woman's chief charms.

Even men cannot, as a rule, get on very well without these qualities;
but still to please is not man's mission in the sense in which it is
generally considered to be woman's, and probably will continue to be
considered, until Dr. Mary Walkers are not the exception, but the rule.
One now and then has the misfortune to come upon a specimen of
womanhood, good and solid enough perhaps, making a most exemplary and
respectable wife and mother, but nevertheless dull, heavy, and
unattractive to an extent that fills the wretched man who takes it in to
dinner with desperation. And then to think that one ounce of vanity
might have leavened this lump, and converted it, as by magic, into a
pleasant, palatable, convivial compound, good everywhere, but especially
good at the dinner-table! For, where vanity exists at all, it can
scarcely fail to influence the natural desire of one sex to please the
other; and a woman must be singularly devoid of all charms, physical and
mental, if she fails when she is really anxious to please. That women
should be fascinating, as they sometimes are, in spite of some
positively painful deformity, is a proof of what such anxiety can alone

We must admit that we have to postulate, on behalf of the female vanity
whose cause we are espousing, that it should not derive its inspiration
solely from self-love. However anxious a woman may be to please, if her
anxiety is on her own account, and simply to secure admiration, she must
be a very Helen if her vanity continues attractive. She is lucky if it
does not take the most odious of all forms, and, from always revolving
round self and dwelling upon selfish considerations, degenerate into a
habit of perpetual postures and stage tricks to gain applause. And this
tendency naturally connects itself with the wish to please the opposite
sex, its success being in inverse proportion to its strength. Just as
one occasionally meets with men who are perfectly unaffected and
sensible fellows in men's society, but whose whole demeanor becomes
absurdly changed if any woman, though it be only the housemaid with a
coal-scuttle, enters the room, so there are, more commonly, to be found
women whose whole character seems to vary, as if by magic, according to
the sex of the person whom they find themselves with. Before their own
sex they are natural enough; before men they are eternally
attitudinizing. We should be sorry to say that this repulsive form of
vanity always takes its root in excessive self-love, but still a tinge
of unselfishness seems to us the best antidote against it.

It is marvellous with how much vanity, and that too of a tolerably
ostentatious kind, a woman may be thoroughly agreeable even to her own
sex, if her eagerness to please is accompanied by genuine kindliness, or
is free from excessive selfishness. It may be easy enough to see that
all her little courtesies and attentions are at bottom really
attributable to vanity; that, when she does a kind act, she is thinking
less of its effect upon your comfort and happiness than of its effect
upon your estimate of her character. She would perhaps rather you got
half the advantage with her aid than the whole advantage without it. Her
motive is, primarily, vanity--clearly not kindness--however amicably
they may in general work together. But still it is the kindness that
makes the vanity flow into pleasant, friendly forms. In a selfish woman
the very same vanity would degenerate into posturing or dressing. And,
odd as it may seem, and as much as it may reflect upon the common sense
of poor humanity, we believe that kind acts done out of genuine,
unadulterated benevolence are less appreciated by the recipient than
kind acts done out of benevolence stimulated by vanity. The latter are
pleasant because they spring out of the desire to please, and soothe our
self-love, whereas the former appeal to our self-interest.

There are few things in this world more charming than the kindly
courtesy of a pretty woman, not ungracefully conscious of her power to
please, and showing courtesy because she enjoys the exercise of this
power. Strictly speaking, she is acting less in your interest than in
her own. Although she feels at once the pleasure of pleasing and the
pleasure of doing a kindly action, the second is quite subordinate to
the first, and is perhaps, more or less, sacrificed to it. Yet who is
strong-minded enough to wish that the kindliness of a pretty woman
should be dictated by simple benevolence, untinged by vanity? If we knew
that her kindliness arose rather from a wish to benefit us than to
conciliate our good opinion, it is perhaps possible that we should
esteem her more, but we fear it is quite certain that we should like her

Before we conclude, we ought perhaps to make one more postulate on
behalf of female vanity, not less important than our postulate that it
should be pleasantly tinged by unselfishness. To be agreeable, it must
have fair foundation. A woman may be forgiven for over-estimating her
charms, but there is no forgiveness on this side of the grave for a
woman who recklessly credits herself with charms that do not exist. All
the lavish cheques she draws upon her male neighbor's admiration are
silently dishonored, and in half an hour after the moment they sit down
to table together she is a hopeless bankrupt in his estimation, even
though he may have courtesy and skill enough to conceal the collapse.

As there are few, if any, pleasanter objects than a pretty woman,
gracefully conscious of her beauty, and radiantly fulfilling its
legitimate end, the power of pleasing, so are there few, if any, more
unpleasant objects than a vain woman, ungracefully conscious of
imaginary charms, and secretly disgusting those she strives to attract.
An ugly woman who gives herself the airs of a beauty, or a silly woman
who believes herself a genius, is not a spectacle upon which a man of
healthy imagination and appetite likes to dwell. It is perhaps only in
accordance with the theory that this life is a state of trial and
probation that the tastes can be explained. Happily, it is not very
common. Most women know their strong from their weak points, and marshal
them on the whole well in the encounter with their lawful oppressor and
great enemy, man. And until they have won the victory to which Dr. Mary
Walker is now leading them on, may they never lack the female vanity
which makes it one of their great objects in life to please!


It is a pity that when, by some train of ill-luck, a word of respectable
parentage, and well brought up, is led astray, it cannot adopt
Goldsmith's recipe and die. It has not even the more prosaic alternative
of being made an honest word by marriage, and escaping the name under
which it stooped to folly, and was betrayed. It drags on a dishonored
life, with little or no chance of recovering its character, inflicting
cruel disgrace upon the unlucky family of ideas, no matter what their
own innocence and respectability, to which it happens to belong. Thus
Casuistry, if not a very useful, was at least a perfectly harmless,
member of society, and moved in the best circles, until in an evil hour
she became too intimate with the unpopular Jesuits.

A few years ago, when high feeding and sermonizing proved too much for
the virtue of garotters, and, waxing fat, they not only kicked society,
but danced hornpipes in hobnailed boots upon its head and stomach, even
Philanthropy, at once the most fashionable and popular word of this
century, was all but compromised by Sir Joshua Jebb and Sir George Grey.
Baron Bramwell fortunately came to the rescue, and saved it from
permanent loss of character. But still to this day the word is sometimes
used in a sense by no means complimentary. If the battue-system
continues long enough, "good sport" will become a synonym for
cold-blooded clumsy butchery, and thus all sport whatsoever will be more
or less discredited. The _faux pas_ of one member disgraces the whole
family. A few men may be the lords of language, but the great majority
are its slaves. They can no more disconnect the innocent idea from the
soiled word that accompanies it than they can see a blue landscape
through green glass. Let us hope that one of the first acts of Mr.
Bright's millennial Parliament will be the establishment of a tribunal
empowered to take a word when it arrives at this pitiable condition, and
either in mercy knock it on the head altogether, or else formally
readmit it into good society, and give it all the advantages of a fresh

We take an early opportunity of inviting their special attention to the
much-injured word "Match-making." The practice which it describes is not
only harmless, but, in the present state of society, highly useful and
meritorious. Yet there can be no doubt, that there is a powerful
prejudice against it. Although all women--or rather, perhaps, as
Thackeray said, all good women--are at heart match-makers, there are
very few who own the soft impeachment. Many repudiate it with
indignation. It is on the whole about as safe to charge a lady with
Fenianism as facetiously to point out a young couple in her
drawing-room, whose flirtation has a suspicious businesslike look about
it, and to hint that she has deliberately brought them together with a
view to matrimony. It may be true that she has no selfish interest
whatever in the matter. The criminal conspiracy in which she so
strenuously repudiates any concern is, after all, nothing worse than the
attempt to make two people whom she likes, and who she thinks will suit
each other, happy for life. By any other name such an action ought, one
would think, to smell sweet in the nostrils of gods and men.

But, whatever the gods think of it, men cannot forget that the practice,
whether harmless or not, goes by the objectionable name of match-making.
So the lady replies, not, perhaps, without the energy of conscious
guilt, that "things of this sort are best left to themselves," and
piously begs you to remember that marriages are made in Heaven, not in
her drawing-room. The melancholy truth is that the gentle craft of
match-making has been so vulgarized by course and clumsy professors, and
its very name has in consequence been brought into such disrepute, that
few respectable women have the courage openly to recognise it. They are
haunted by visions of the typical match-maker who does work for
fashionable novels and social satires, and who is a truly awful
personage. To her alone of mortals is it given to inspire, like the
Harpies, at once contempt and fear. Keen-eyed and hook-nosed, like a
bird of prey, she glowers from the corner of crowded ball-rooms upon the
unconscious heir, hunts him untiringly from house to house, marries him
remorselessly to her eldest daughter, and then never loses sight of him
till his spirit is broken, his old friends discarded, and his segar-case
thrown away.

It is scarcely necessary to say that this fearful being exists only in
fiction. In real life she has not only to marry her daughters, but also,
like other human beings, to eat, drink, sleep, and otherwise dispose of
the twenty-four hours of the day. She cannot therefore very well devote
herself, from morning to night, to the one occupation of heir-hunting,
with the precision of a machine, or one of Bunyan's walking vices. But
still there must be some truth even in a caricature, and a man sometimes
finds a girl "thrown at his head," as the process is forcibly termed,
with a coarse-mindedness quite worthy of the typical match-maker, though
also with a clumsiness which she would heartily despise.

He goes as a stranger to some place, and is astonished to find himself
at once taken to the bosom and innermost confidence of people whose very
name he never heard before, as if he were their oldest and most familiar
friend. He is asked to dinner one day, to breakfast the next, and warmly
assured that a place is always kept for him at lunch. Charmed and
flattered to find his many merits so quickly discovered and thoroughly
appreciated by strangers, he votes them the cleverest, most genial, most
hospitable people he ever met; and everything goes on delightfully until
he begins to think it odd that he should be constantly left alone with,
and now and then delicately chaffed about, some _passée_, ill-favored
woman, whom he no more connects with any thought of marriage than he
would a female rhinoceros. And then slowly dawns upon him the cruel
truth that his kind hosts have had their appreciation of his merits
considerably sharpened by the fact that there is an ugly daughter or
sister-in-law in the house whom they are sick to death of, whom they are
always imploring "to marry or do something," and who, having for years
ogled and angled for every marriageable pair of whiskers and pantoloons
within ten miles, has gradually become so well known in the neighborhood
that her one forlorn hope is to carry off some innocent stranger with a

"_Quere peregrinum, vicinia rauca reclamat;_" and if the _peregrinus_
happens to be young and verdant, and, having just been given a good
appointment, feels, with the Vicar of Wakefield, that one of the three
greatest characters on earth is the father of a family, he is possibly
hooked securely before he discovers his danger. He discovers it to find
himself tied for life to a woman with whom he has not a sympathy in
common, and for whom every day increases his disgust. And the people who
have ruined his life have not even the sorry excuse that they wished to
better hers. Their one thought was to get rid of her as speedily as
possible, no matter to whom; and they would rather have had Bluebeard at
a two-months' engagement than any other man at one of six. There is
something so coarse and revolting, so brutal, in the notion of bringing
two people together into such a relation as that of marriage on purely
selfish grounds, and without the slightest regard to their future
happiness, that any one who has seen the snare laid for himself or his
friends may well shudder at the mere sound of match-making. Mezentius
was more merciful, for of the two bodies which he chained together only
one had life.

The clumsy match-maker is a scarcely less dangerous, though a far more
respectable, enemy to the gentle craft than the coarse one. She makes it
ridiculous, while the latter makes it odious, and it is ridicule that
kills. She is, perhaps, a well-meaning woman, who would be sorry to
marry two people unless she thought them suited to each other; but the
moment she has made up her mind that they ought to marry, she sets to
work with a vigor which, unless she has a very young man to deal with,
is almost sure to spoil her plans. This would not be surprising in a
silly woman; but it is odd that the more energetic, and, in some
respects, the more able a woman is, the more likely sometimes she is to
fall into this error.

A woman may be the life and soul of a dozen societies, write admirable
letters, get half her male relatives into Government offices, and yet be
the laughing-stock of the neighborhood for the absurd way in which she
goes husband-hunting for her daughters. The very energy and ability
which fit her for other pursuits disqualify her for match-making. She is
too impatient and too fond of action to adopt the purely passive
expectant attitude, the masterly inactivity, which is here the great
secret of success. She is always feeling that something should be said
or done to help on the business, and prematurely scares the shy or
suspicious bird. Many a promising love-affair has been nipped in the bud
simply because the too eager mother has drawn public attention to it
before it was robust enough to face publicity, by throwing the two
lovers conspicuously together, or by some unguarded remark.

When one thinks of all that a man has to go through in the course of a
love-affair--especially in a small society where everybody knows
everybody--of all the chaffing and grinning, and significant interchange
of glances when he picks up the daughter's fan, or hands the mother to
her carriage, or laughs convulsively at the old jokes of the father, one
is almost inclined to wonder how a Briton, of the average British
stiffness and shyness, ever gets married at all. The explanation
probably is, that he falls in love before he exactly knows what he is
about, and, once in love, is of course gloriously blind and deaf to all
obstacles between him and the adored one. But to subject a man to this
trying ordeal, as the too eager match-maker does, before he is
sufficiently in love to be proof against it, is like sending him into a
snow-storm without a great-coat.

The romantic match-maker is, in her way, as mischievous as the coarse or
the clumsy one. She is usually a good sort of woman, but with decidedly
more heart than head. She gets her notions of political economy from Mr.
Dickens' novels, and holds that, whenever two nice young people of
opposite sexes like each other, it is their business then and there to
marry. If Providence cannot always, like Mr. Dickens, provide a rich
aunt or uncle, it at least never sends mouths without hands to feed
them. Let every good citizen help the young people to marry as fast as
they can, and let there be lots of chubby cheeks and lots of Sunday
plum-pudding to fill them. There is no arguing with a woman of this
kind, and she is perhaps the most dangerous of all match-makers,
inasmuch as she is usually herself a warm-hearted pleasant woman, and
there is a courage and disinterestedness about her views very
captivating to young heads. There is no safety but in flight. Even a
bachelor of fair prudence and knowledge of the world is not safe in her
hands. We mean on the assumption that he is not in a position to marry.
If he is "an eligible," he cannot, of course, be considered safe
anywhere. But otherwise he knows that match-makers of the unromantic
worldly type will be only too glad to leave him alone.

And having, perhaps, been accustomed on this account to feel that he may
flirt in moderation with impunity, as a man with whom marriage is
altogether out of the question, he is quite unprepared for the new and
startling unconventional view which the romantic match-maker takes of
him. He is horrified to find that, ignoring the usual considerations as
to the length of his purse, she has discovered that he and the pretty
girl with whom he danced three consecutive dances last night must have
been made expressly for each other, and that she has somehow contrived,
by the exercise of that freemasonry in love-affairs which is peculiar to
women, to put the same ridiculous notion into the young lady's head. In
fact, he suddenly finds to his astonishment that he must either
propose--which is out of the question--or be considered a cold-blooded
trifler with female hearts. And so he has nothing to do but pack up his
portmanteau and beat an ignominious retreat, with an uncomfortable
consciousness that his amiable hostess and pretty partner have a very
poor opinion of him.

It is rather hard, however, that these and other abuses, which we have
not space to enumerate, of the great art of match-making should bring
the art itself into odium and contempt. In all of them there is a
violation of some one or more of what we take to be its three chief
canons. First, the objects to be experimented upon should be pecuniarily
in a position to marry. Secondly, care should be taken that they seem on
the whole not unlikely to suit each other. Thirdly, the artist should be
content, like a photographer, to bring the objects together, and leave
the rest of the work mainly to nature. We confess that we feel painfully
the unscientific vagueness of this last axiom, since so much turns upon
the way in which the objects are brought together. But, as we only
undertook to treat of the abuse of match-making, the reader must
consider these maxims for its proper use to be thrown into the bargain
_gratis_, and not therefore to be scrutinized severely. Some other day,
if we can muster up courage enough for so delicate and arduous a task,
we may perhaps attempt to show that, in the present state of society,
the art of match-making deserves and requires cultivation, and how, in
our humble opinion, this cultivation should be carried on.


All English ladies who are warmly devoted to the great cause of feminine
authority have got their eyes just now upon the Empress of the French.
It is understood in English domestic circles that the Empress has
decided to go to Rome, and that the Emperor has decided on her staying
at home, and the interest of the situation is generally thought to be
intense. The ocean race between the yachts was nothing to it. Every
woman of spirit has been betting heavily this Christmas upon the
Empress, and praying mentally for the defeat of the Emperor, and every
new telegram that bears upon the subject of the difficult controversy is
scanned by hundreds of dovelike eyes every morning with indescribable

M. Reuter, who is a man probably, if he is not a joint-stock company, is
believed not to be altogether an impartial historian; and it is felt in
many drawing-rooms that what is wanted on this occasion, at the
telegraph offices, is a sound and resolute Madame Reuter, to correct the
deviations of M. Reuter's compass. In default of all trustworthy
telegraphic intelligence, Englishwomen are compelled to fall back on
their vivid imagination, and to construct a picture of what is
happening from the depths of their own moral consciousness. And several
things their moral consciousness tells them are clear and certain. The
first is, that the Empress Eugénie is an injured and interesting victim.
She has made a vow, under the very touching circumstances of measles in
the Imperial nursery, to pay a visit to the Pope; and Cabinet Ministers
like M. Lavalette, who throw suspicion on the binding nature of such a
holy maternal obligation, are worse than "S. G. O." In the second place,
she has set her heart upon going. Even if a vow were not binding, this
is. It is mere nonsense to say that her pilgrimage would interfere with
politics. A woman's fine tact is often of considerable use in politics,
and the sight of the Prince Imperial in his mother's arms might exercise
the most beneficial influence on the Pope's mind.

Pio Nono has held out hitherto in the most inexplicable manner against
the Prince Imperial's photograph, but he never could resist a sight of
the original. And, thirdly, if a wife and a mother may not have her own
way about going to see the Head of her own Church, when is she ever to
have her way at all, and where is the line to be drawn? The next
downward step in a husband's declension will be to prevent her from
frequenting all religious exercises, or, still worse, from selecting her
own balls and evening parties. This is what English ladies feel, and
feel keenly. It is some consolation to them to learn that, if the
Empress Eugénie is discomfited, she will not have been discomfited
without a struggle. Of course there will be no evening reception on the
New Year at the Tuileries. No lady with a proper sense of what was due
to her own dignity would receive under such circumstances. But till the
most authentic news arrive, it will still be possible to hope and to
believe that victory will eventually, and in spite of all appearances,
declare itself upon the side of right and of propriety, and that her
Majesty will not be interfered with merely to satisfy the idle caprices
of a Foreign Office.

The question of the proper limits of feminine influence is one which
such universal enthusiasm forces naturally on one's notice. Not even the
most rigid cynic can deny that women ought to have some influence on the
mind and judgment of the opposite sex, and the only difficulty is to
know how far that influence ought to go. Every one will be ready to
concede that sound reasoning is worth hearing, whether it comes from a
woman or a man; and that, so far as a lady argues well, she has as much
claim on our attention as Diotima had on the attention of Socrates.
This, however, is not precisely the point which is so difficult to
settle. The problem is to know how much influence a woman ought to have
when she does not argue well; and further, what are the matters on which
her opinion, whether it be based on argument or instinct, is of value.

One of the most important subjects on which women have some, and always
want to have a great deal of power, is religion. This is one part of the
supposed mission of the Empress upon which feminine observers look with
especial sympathy, and on which experienced masculine observers, on the
other hand, look with some awe. The correspondents of the daily papers,
whose pleasure and privilege it is to be able to instruct us in all the
secrets of high life, have given us recently to understand that, for
some time back, Her Majesty has been hard at work on the Emperor's soul.
Every thoughtful woman likes to be at work on her husband's soul. Young
ladies enjoy the prospect before they are married, and no novel is so
thoroughly popular among them as one in which beauty is the instrument
in the hands of Providence for the conversion of unbelief. And it is
partly because the Empress Eugénie is discharging this high missionary
duty, that she is an object of particular admiration just at this
moment. When Englishwomen hear that she is very active in favor of the
Pope, and couple this news with the fact that the Emperor's soul is
uneasy, they sniff--if we may be forgiven the expression--the battle
from afar. Their education in respect of theology and religious opinion
is very different from that of men.

They have been brought up to believe strongly and heartily what they
have been told, and they do not understand the half-sceptical way of
regarding such things which is the result of larger views and more
liberal education. It appears to them a terrible thing that the men they
care for should be hesitating and doubtful about subjects where they
themselves have been trained only to believe one view possible. And they
set to work in the true temper of missionaries, with profound eagerness
and energy, and narrowness of grasp. Many genuine prayers and tears are
worthily spent in the effort to tether some truant husband or a son to a
family theological peg, and to prevent him from roving. And, up to a
certain point, men continually give in. They find it easier and more
comfortable to lower their arms, and not always to be maintaining a
barren controversy. They have not the slightest wish to convince their
affectionate feminine disputant, to take from her the sincere and
positive dogmas on which her happiness is built, and to substitute for
these a phase of doubt and difficulty for which her past intellectual
life has not fitted her. Accordingly, they indulge in a thousand little
hypocrisies of a more or less harmless kind.

So long as women's education continues to differ from that of men as
widely as it does in England, this flexibility on the part of the latter
under the influence of the former is not always amiss. It is better that
the husband should be yielding than that he should hold aloof from all
that interests and moves the wife, as is the case in countries where the
one sex may be seen professing to believe in nothing, while the other as
implicitly believes in everything. It is, however, easy to conceive of
cases in which this feminine influence that seems so innocent, is in
reality injurious. It may perhaps be the business of the husband to take
a public part in the affairs of his time. Conscience tells him that he
should be sincere, uncompromising, logical, even to the point of
disputing conclusions which good and pious people consider essential
and important. Or he may be a religious preacher, or a religious
reformer of his day, bound, in virtue of character, to maintain truth at
the risk of being unpopular; or, it may be, to prosecute inquiries and
reforms at the risk of shocking weaker brethren.

There are many who could tell us from their experience how terribly at
such a time they have been perplexed and hampered in their duty by the
affectionate ignorance, the tears, and the piety of women. Protestant
clergymen in particular are sometimes taunted with their conservative
tendencies, their indifference to the new lights of science, or of
history, and their disinclination to embark on perilous voyages in quest
of truth. Part of their conservatism arises from the fact that their
practical business is generally to teach what they do know, rather than
to inquire into what they do not know. Part of it comes, as we suspect,
from the fact that they are married. A wife is a sort of theological
drag. It serves no doubt to keep some of us from rolling too rapidly
down hill. It impedes equally the progress of others over ordinarily
level ground.

The importance of a social position to women is a thing which affects
their influence upon men no less materially than does their religious
sensibility. As a rule, they have no other means of measuring the
consideration in which they are held by the world, or the success in
life of those to whose fortunes they are linked, than by using a trivial
and worthless social standard. Men, whose training is wider, estimate
both their male and their female friends pretty fairly according to
their merits. But the majority of women, from their youth up, seldom
think of anybody without contrasting his or her social status with their
own. Success signifies to them introduction to this or that feminine
circle, admission to friendships from which they have been as yet
excluded, and visiting cards of a more distinguished appearance than
those which at present lie upon their table. They are unable to enjoy
even the ordinary intercourse of society without an _arrière pensée_ as
to their chance of landing themselves a step higher on the social
ladder. From such absurdities the best and most refined women of course
are free, but the mass of Englishwomen seldom meet without wondering who
on earth each of the others is, and to which county family she belongs.

Humorous as is the spectacle of a crowd of English ladies, each of whom
is employed in eyeing the lady next her and asking who she is, and
comical as the point of view appears to any one who reflects on the
shortness of human life and the littleness of human character, the
effect of these feminine weaknesses is one which no one can be sure of
escaping. We are afraid that half of the Englishmen who are snobs are
made so by Englishwomen. It is impossible for the female portion of any
domestic circle to be perpetually dwelling on their own social
aspirations without communicating the infection to, or even forcing it
upon the male. Wives and daughters become dissatisfied with their
husbands' or their fathers' friends. They want to meet and to associate
with people whom it is a social credit to know, and who in turn may
help them to know somebody beyond. Every fresh acquaintance of
distinction, or of fashion, is a sort of milestone, showing the ground
that has been travelled over by the family in the direction of their
hopes. This sort of fever is very catching. But though men often catch
it, they generally catch it from the other sex. And even when they are
not impregnated with it themselves, the effect of feminine influence
upon them is that they accept their lot with placidity, and acquiesce in
the social struggle through which they are dragged.

No man in his senses can wish or hope to order the social life of his
belongings according to his own sober judgment. He is compelled to allow
them a free rein in the matter, and to abstain from even expressing the
astonishment he inwardly feels. Perhaps the world of women is a new
world to him, and he feels incapable of regulating any of its movements;
or perhaps, if he is wise, he is content with the reflection that little
foibles do not altogether spoil real nobility of nature, and takes the
bad side of a woman's education with the good. But there are innumerable
matters in respect of which he cannot withdraw himself from the feminine
influence about him. By degrees he comes to sympathize with the little
social disappointments of his family group, and to take pleasure in
their little social triumphs, which appear to be so productive of
satisfaction and enjoyment to those to whom they fall. But the effect on
his character is not usually wholesome. His eye is no longer single.
Feminine influence has engrafted on his nature the defects of feminine
character, without engrafting on it also its many virtues.

Women usually fail in communicating to men their self-devotion, their
gentleness, their piety; all that they manage to communicate amounts to
little more than a respect for the observances of religion, and a
nervous sensibility to social distinctions.

While the mental development of women continues to be so little studied,
it is not surprising that the intellectual influence of the sex should
be almost _nil_, or that such a modicum of it as they possess should be
exerted within a very narrow sphere. It is the fault, no doubt, of our
systems of female education that the mental power of the cleverest women
really comes in England to very little. In its highest form it amounts
to a capacity for conversation on indifferent matters, a genius for
music or some other fine art, a turn for talking about the poets of the
day, and perhaps for imitating their style with ease, coupled, in
exceptional cases, with a talent for guessing double acrostics. To be
able to do all this, and to be charming and religious too, is the whole
duty of young women.

It would be difficult possibly to fit out an English young lady with the
various practical accomplishments that are of use in matrimony, and to
make her at the same time an intellectual equal of the other sex. But it
would surely be possible to train her to understand more of the general
current of the world's ideas, even if she could not devote herself to
studying them in detail. What woman has now any notion of the broad
outline of history of human thought? All philosophy is a sealed book to
her. It is the same with theology and politics. She has not the wildest
conception, as a rule, of the grounds on which people think who think
differently from herself; and all through life she is content to play
the part of a partisan or a devotee with perfect equanimity.

While, however, feminine influence in intellectual subjects is, as it
deserves to be, infinitesimal, in practice and in action women are proud
of being recognized as useful and sound advisers. As outsiders and
spectators they see a good deal of the game, have leisure to watch
narrowly all that is going on about them, and a subtle instinct teaches
them to tread delicately over all dangerous ground. It is curious how
many enemies women make amongst themselves, and yet how many enemies
they prevent men from making. They seem to have less of self-control or
prudence as far as their own strong feelings and fortunes are concerned,
than they have of tact and temper in managing the fortunes and
enterprises of others.

There can, for example, be no doubt whatever that the parson who aims at
being a bishop before he dies ought to marry early. The great strokes of
policy which bring him preferment or popularity are pretty sure to have
been devised in moments of happy inspiration, or perhaps during the
watches of the night, by a feminine brain. Good mothers make saints and
heroes, says the proverb, and beyond a doubt wise wives make bishops.
Their influence is not the less real because, unlike that of Mrs.
Proudie, it is exerted chiefly behind the scenes. It is possibly because
the influence possessed by women is so intangible, depending as it does
less on the reason than on the sentiment, affection, and convenience of
the other sex, that women are so jealous to assert and to protect it.


Every now and then, as the fashionable season comes round, in some
corner of its space the daily press records a wholesale slaughter of the
pigeon species. The world is informed of a series of sweepstakes, in
which guardsmen and peers and foreigners of distinction take part. So
many birds are shot at, so many are killed, so many get away. The
quality of the birds and the skill of the shooters is specified. As the
minutest details of the sport are interesting, we are even told who
supplies the birds, and whether the day of their massacre was bright or
cloudy. This is quite as it should be. The British public can never hear
too much of the doings of its gilded youth. Sweet to it is sporting
news, but "aristocratic sporting news" is sweeter still.

And apart from this twofold source of interest, an element of deeper
satisfaction mingles in the complacency with which it gloats over these
pigeon holocausts. It is something to know that, in the last resort, we
have these high-born and fashionable marksmen to protect our hearths and
homes from the French invader and the irrepressible Beales. The nervous
householder sleeps in his bed with a greater sense of security after
reading of the awful havoc which Captain A. and the Earl of B. are
making of the feathery tribe. In the accuracy of their aim he sees a
guarantee of order, and of the maintenance of his glorious Constitution.
Foreign menace and internal discord lose something of their terrors for
him as often as his eyes light upon the significant little paragraph to
which we have referred. Here is an item of intelligence for the haughty
Prussian and the dashing Zouave to ponder. Here is something for the
mole-like Fenian and the blatant Leaguesman to put in their pipes and

The fate of the pigeons awaits all who would violate our shores, or
light up the flame of sedition in the land. If, as some philosophers
aver, the pigeon does not all die, but in some tranquil limbo flutters
on in an eternity of innocent cooing, it must console the poor bird to
reflect that, however cheap he may be held, he has not perished
altogether in vain. To serve a useful purpose is the great economy of
things, to point a warning, at the cost of one's heart's blood, to
England's foes and traitors--to the plotter in Munster as well as the
safer conspirator of the Parks--might content even a greater ambition
than that which animates the gentle bosom of a fantail.

But suppose some vindictive pouter to survive his less lucky comrades,
and, escaping among the birds who are duly chronicled as "getting away,"
to perch, full of resentment at the probable extinction of his species,
in the fashionable quarter of London. He would there witness a grand act
of retaliation. He would learn how Belgravia avenges Hornsey and
Shepherd's Bush. He would see the very men from whom his relatives had
received their quietus flying to their clubs for shelter, and calling on
their goddesses of the _demi-monde_ to cover them. He would perceive, by
an unerring instinct, that a contest was afoot in which the conditions
of that suburban sweepstakes at which he had involuntarily assisted were
exactly reversed. He would see those self-same sportsmen converted into
the target, the flutterers of the dovecot themselves in a flutter. And
he would be more than pigeon if he could repress a thrill of savage glee
at the spectacle of the enemies of his race realizing by experience all
the difference between shooting and being shot at.

Suppose, further, that curious to watch the operations of "aristocratic
sport," the intelligent bird, following the precedent of Edgar Poe's
Raven, should alight, unseen and uninvited, on some object of art in a
fashionable ballroom. Here he would find himself at once in the thick of
the brilliant competition. He would see a row of lovely archers, backed
by a second row of older and more experienced markswomen. And in the
human pigeons now cowering before their combined artillery he would
recognise the heroes so lately engaged in dispatching thousands of the
feathered branch of the family to oblivion. At first sight it might
strike an animal of his well-known gallantry that there was nothing so
very terrible in their impending fate. To fall slain by bright eyes, and
with the strains of Coote and Tinney lingering on the ear, to sigh out
one's soul over a draught of seltzer and champagne or the sweet poison
of a strawberry ice, might seem to the winged spectator a blissful

The doorway of the perfumed saloon might seem but the portal of a
Mahomedan paradise, in which young and beautiful houris are deporting
themselves under the guardian eye of the older and less beautiful
houris. To the denizen of the air all, save the want of oxygen, might
appear divine. But when he surveyed more closely that sexual row of
sportswomen, he would know at once that he beheld the true avengers of
his race. In their stony glare, in the cold glitter of their diamonds,
in the ample proportions of their well-developed shoulders, in their
sliding scale of manners, now adjusted to a sugary smile and now to a
stare of annihilation, he would read a deadly purpose. Nor would the
diversities of skill which this fringe of amazons exhibited in the use
of their weapons escape his notice. He would see some whom success had
made affable, and others whom failure had made desperate; some who
covered their victim with an aim of pitiless precision, and others who
spoilt their chances by bungling audacity. Conspicuous among them he
would observe a giddy sexagenarian, whose random attempts to share in
the sport made her the laughing-stock of the circle.

And as he surveyed the _battue_ he would gradually discern its tactics.
The beautiful beings in tulle he would feel, by instinct, were a lure
and a decoy. Once within reach of their victims, these lovely
skirmishers would be seen to inflict on them a sudden wound, leaving
them to be despatched by the heavy reserve in _moire_ and lace. As he
watched the terror which these formidable beings inspired, and the
business-like manner in which they addressed themselves to their task,
as he noticed the jaunty destroyers of his race succumbing one by one to
fate, or ignominiously attempting to "get away," he would feel that the
"irony of the situation" was complete. In a vague way he would grasp the
fact--hitherto undreamt of in his dove's philosophy--that, if the pigeon
is preyed upon by man, man in his turn is preyed upon by the dowager.

There is, however, this difference between the fate of the pigeon and
his human analogue, that, whereas the former is slain outright, the
latter is often subjected to the prolonged agony of being plucked
feather by feather. Not that he thinks it agony; on the contrary, he
decidedly likes it, which is a wonderful proof of his simplicity, and
the difference in people's tastes. But in order to pluck a human pigeon
at leisure, you must first catch him. May is a good month for this
operation. About now he begins to resort to the Opera and the park, and
in the purlieus of either a fine specimen may be flashed. A clever
sportswoman will get the earliest possible information about his
movements. Much depends on forestalling her competitors.

A youthful pigeon, just emerging from his minority, or freshly alighted
from the grand tour, is easily captured. There are two principal
contrivances for catching human pigeons. The first is the matrimonial
snare. This is worked by the dowager, in concert with her daughter,
somewhat on the following plan. The daughter throws herself, as if by
chance, in the pigeon's way. The brilliancy of her charms naturally
attracts him. Small-talk ensues, in which an extraordinary similarity
between her tastes and his is casually revealed. The simple pigeon,
suspecting nothing, is delighted to find so congenial a soul. Is he
musical? she adores the divine art. A gourmand? she owns to the
possession of a cookery-book. Ritualistic? it was but the other day that
she was at St. Alban's. Turfy? He must throw his eyes over her book for
the Derby. Even if his pet pastime, like the Emperor Domitian's, were
killing flies, she would profess her readiness to join him in it. Or she
tries another dodge, and, putting on the airs of a pretty monitress,
asks him with tender interest to confide in her.

The great point is never to lose sight of him; to follow him to balls,
concerts, or races, to cleave to him like his shadow. Then, when he is
fairly caught in the toils of her encircling sympathy, the elder and
more experienced ally appears on the scene. Her task is to cut off his
retreat. Upon her firmness and accuracy in calculating the resisting
power of her pigeon, success depends. Seizing an opportunity when he is
least prepared, she sternly informs him that the time for dalliance is
over, that he has said and done things of a very marked kind, and that
there is only one course open to him as a pigeon of honor. And under
this sort of compulsion the simple creature, with his rent-roll,
Consols, family diamonds, and all, hops with a fairly good grace into
the matrimonial toils.

The second contrivance to which he is apt to fall a victim is the
infatuation trap. This is a much more elaborate machine, and is worked
by one of those semi-attached couples who might sit to a new Hogarth for
a new edition of _Marriage á la Mode_. The husband's part is very
simple. It is to be as little in the way as possible, and to afford his
sprightlier half every facility for pursuing her little game. The chief
business devolves on the lady. It is her task to make the pigeon fall
madly in love with her, and to keep him so, without overstepping the
bounds of conventional propriety. Happily this can be managed nowadays
without either elopement or scandal. Among the improvements of this
mechanical age, it has been found possible to enlarge the limits of
wedlock so as to include a third person.

A life-long _tête-á-tête_, which was the old conception of marriage, is
quite obsolete. It has given way to the triangular theory, by which a
new element, in the shape of a parasitical adorer, has been introduced
into the holy state. Matrimony, as reconstituted by fashionable
scholiasts, comprises husband, wife, and, to relieve the tedium of the
situation, a good-looking appendage of the male sex, who is an agreeable
companion of the one and the devoted slave of the other. Each
contributes to the harmony of the arrangement--the husband, a
background; the wife, the charms of her presence; the adorer, cash.
Whatever other experience it brings, marriage generally sharpens the
appreciation of the value of money; sentiment is sweet, but it is an
article of confectionery, for which its fair dispensers in the married
ranks exact an equivalent.

In trapping her victim, therefore, a sharp young matron is careful to
let her choice fall on a plump specimen of the pigeon species--a pigeon
with a long purse and little brains. Once reduced to a state of
infatuation, almost anything may be done with him. The luxury of
plucking him will employ her delicate fingers for a long time to come.
He may be sponged upon to any extent. The one thing he can do really
well is to pay. His yacht, his drag, his brougham, his riding-horses,
his shooting-box, all are at her disposal. At his expense she dines at
Greenwich; at his expense she views the Derby; at his expense she enjoys
an opera-box. And in return for all this she has only to smile and
murmur "_so_ nice," for the soft simpleton to fancy himself amply
repaid. Then she exacts a great many costly presents, to say nothing of
gloves, trinkets, and _bouquets_. It is curious to note how the code of
propriety has altered in this particular.

In old-fashioned novels the stereotyped dodge for compromising a lady's
reputation is to force a present or a loan of money on her. Nowadays
Lovelace's anxiety is just the other way--to keep the acquisitive
propensity of his liege lady within tolerable bounds. It would be a
great mistake to suppose that a woman can play this game without special
gifts and aptitudes for it. It requires peculiar talents, and peculiar
antecedents. First and foremost, she must have married a man whom she
both dislikes and despises. And, further, she must be proof against the
weakness which some of her sex exhibit, of growing fond of husbands who,
without being Admirable Crichtons, treat them kindly and with
forbearance. Next, she must have thrown overboard all the twaddle about
domestic duties and responsibilities. If her child sickens of the
measles just as she is starting for her bivouac in Norway, or a course
of dinners in the Palais Royal, her duty is to call in the doctor and
go. Weeks afterwards you will find the little darling picking up flesh,
in mamma's absence, at some obscure watering-place. Then her temperament
must be cool, calculating, and passionless in no ordinary degree, and
this character is written in the hard lines of her mouth and the cold
light of her fine eyes.

Lastly, she must have, not a superstitious, but an intelligent regard
for the world's opinion, or rather for the opinion of the influential
part of it. No one has a nicer perception of the difference in the
relative importance of stupid country gossip and ostracism from certain
great houses in London. No one takes more pains to study appearances so
long as they don't clash with her amusements. Indeed, you will generally
find that her dear friend is a young lady of great simplicity and
irreproachable principles, whom she admits just enough, but not too far,
into her confidence, and who finds it worth while to enact the part, now
of a blind, and now of a foil.

If any one asserts that this treatment of the human pigeon is cruel, we
can only reply, with a correspondent of the _Times_ who writes to rebuke
the humanitarians who would rob a poor boa of his squealing rabbit--away
with such cant! Is a married woman to be stinted of her "small
pleasures" because prudes affect to think the means by which they are
obtained unfeminine? As well might they think it unfeline in pussy to
play with her mouse.

The walking pigeon is as much intended for the prey of a stronger
species as the pigeon that flies. The plucking which he receives at the
hands of his fair manipulator is nothing to what he would get at the
hands of his own sex, in the army, on the turf, or in the city. If the
pigeon has reason to think himself lucky in faring no worse, the
non-pigeon section of society has no less reason to be grateful for a
new illustration of female character. Not that the mercenary development
in some of our young matrons is altogether new. It is only an old
domestic virtue, carried to an extreme--thrift, running into an engaging


The recent death of Mrs. Proudie, who was so well known and so little
loved by the readers of Mr. Trollope's novels, is one of those occasions
which ought not to be allowed to pass away without being improved. To
many men it will suggest many things. She was a type. As a type ought to
be, she was perfect and full-blown. But her characteristics enter into
other women in varying degrees, and with all sorts of minor colors. The
Proudie element in wives and women is one of those unrecognised yet
potent conditions of life which master us all, and yet are admitted and
taken into calculation and account by none. It is in the nature of
things that such an element should exist, and should be powerful in this
peculiar and oblique way. We deny women the direct exercise of their
capacities, and the immediate gratification of an overt ambition. The
natural result is that they run to artifice, and that a good-natured
husband is made the conductor between an ambitious wife and the outer
world where the prizes of ambition are scrambled for. He is the wretched
buffer through which the impetuous forces of his wife impinge upon his
neighbors. That is to say, he leads an uneasy life between two ever
colliding bodies, being equally misunderstood and equally reviled by

This is the evil result of a state of things in which natural
distinctions and conventional distinctions are a very long way from
coinciding. The theory is that women are peaceful domestic beings, with
no object beyond household cares, no wish nor will outside the objects
of the man and his children, no active opinion or concern in the larger
affairs of the State. Every man, on the other hand, is supposed to have
views and principles about public topics, and to be anxious to make more
or less of a figure in the enforcement of his views, to exercise in some
shape an influence among his fellows, and to win renown of one sort or
another. Of course if this division of the male and female natures
covered the whole ground, society would be in a very well-balanced
state, and things would go on very smoothly in consequence of the
perfect equilibrium established by the exceeding contentedness of women
and the constant activity and ambition of men.

But a very small observation of life is quite enough to disclose how ill
the facts correspond with the accepted hypothesis about them. We are
constantly being told of some aspiring man that he is, in truth, no more
than the representative of an aspiring wife. He would fain live his life
in dignified or undignified serenity, and cares not a jot for a seat in
the House of Commons, or for being made a bishop, or for any of those
other objects which allure men out of a tranquil and independent
existence. But he has a wife who does care for these things. She cannot
be a member of Parliament or a bishop in her own person, but it is
something to be the wife of somebody who can be these things.

A part of the glory of the man is reflected upon the head of the woman.
She receives her reward in a second-hand way, but still it is glory of
its own sort. She becomes a leading lady in a provincial town, and
during the season in town she is asked out to houses which she is very
eager to get into, and of which she can talk with easily assumed
familiarity when she returns to the provinces again. She is presented at
Court too, and this makes her descend to the provincial plain with an
aroma of Celestial dignity like that of Venus when she descended from
Olympus. A bishop's wife is still more amply rewarded. Without being so
imperious as the late Mrs. Proudie was, she has still a thousand of
those opportunities for displaying power which are so dear to people who
are fictitiously supposed to be too weak to care for power. Minor
canons, incumbents, curates, and all their wives, pay her profound
deference; or, if they do not, she can "put the screw on" in a gushing
manner which is exceedingly effective.

There are women, it is true, with souls above these light social
matters. They do not particularly value the privilege of figuring as
lady-patroness of a ball or bazaar, or the delights of trampling on a
curate, or of being distantly adored by the wife of a minor canon. But
they really have an interest in politics, or in some one or two special
departments of that comprehensive subject. They would like to pass an
Act of Parliament making it a capital offence for any guardian of the
poor or relieving-officer to refuse to give the paupers as much as they
should choose to ask for. Drainage is the strong point of some women.
Sewage with them is the key to civilization.

Perhaps most political women are actively interested in public affairs
simply because they perceive that this is the most openly recognised
sphere of influence and power; and what they yearn after is to be
influential, and to stand on something higher than the ordinary level in
the world, for no other reason than that it is higher than the ordinary
level. Nobody has any right to find fault with this temper, provided the
ladies who are possessed by it do not mistake mere domineering for the
extraordinary elevation after which they aspire. It is through this
temper, whether in one sex or the other, that the world is made better.
If a certain number of men and women were not ambitious, what would
become of the rest of us who possess our souls in patience and

The only question is whether what we may call vicarious ambition, or
aspirations by proxy, are particularly desirable forms of a confessedly
useful and desirable sentiment. For the peace of mind of the man who is
not ambitious, but is only pretending to be so, we may be pretty sure
that the domestic stimulus has some drawbacks. We do not mean drawbacks
after the manner of Mrs. Caudle. These show a coarse and vulgar
conception of the goads which a man may have applied to him in his inner
circle. There are moral and unheard reproofs. There is a consciousness
in the mind of a man that his wife thinks him (with all possible
affection and tenderness) rather a poor creature for not taking his
position in the world. And if he happens to be a man of anything like
fine sensibility, this will make him exceedingly uneasy.

The uneasiness may then become sufficiently decided to make him willing
to undergo any amount of labor and outlay, rather than endure the
presence of this æthereal skeleton in the family closet. He is quite
right. He could barely preserve his self-respect otherwise. But he is
mistaken if he fancies that a single step or a single series of steps
will demolish the skeleton entirely. One compliance with the ambition of
his wife will speedily beget the necessity for another. It is notorious
that a thoroughly aspiring man is never content without the prospect of
scaling new heights. No more is an aspiring woman. Whether you are
directly ambitious, as a man is, and for yourself, or indirectly and for
somebody else, as a woman is, in either case the law is the same. New
summits ever glitter in the distance. You have got your husband into the
House of Commons. That glory suffices for a month.

At the end of two months it seems a very dim glory indeed, and having
long been at an end, it by this time sinks into the second place of a
means. The sacrificial calf must next be made to speak. He must acquire
a reputation. Here in a good many cases, we suspect, the process finally
stops. A man may be got into the House, but the coveted exaltation of
that atmosphere does not convert a quiet, peaceable, dull man into an
orator. It does not give him ideas and the faculty of articulate speech.
At this point, if he be wise, he draws the line. He endures the skeleton
as best he may, or else his wife, quenching her ambition, resigns
herself to incurable destiny, and learns to be content with the limits
set by the fates to her lord's capacities. There are still certain
fields open to her own powers, irrespective of what he is able to do.

For example, she may open a _salon_, and there may exert unspeakable
influence over all kinds of important people. This is not at present
particularly congenial to English ground. As yet, the most vigorous
intellectual people seem to have felt an active social life as something
beneath them, and the highly social people have not been conspicuous for
the activity of their intellectual life. The people who go so greatly to
parties do not care for what they sum up, with an admirably
comprehensive vagueness, as "intellect;" while, on the other hand,
scholars and thinkers are wont to look on time given to society as
something very like time absolutely wasted. In such a state of feeling,
it is difficult for a clever woman to exercise much power.

But, as other things improve, this unsocial feeling will dissolve.
Clever men will see that a couple of hours spent with other clever men
are not wasted just because a lady is of the party. Nobody would
seriously maintain that this is so even now, but people are very often
strongly under the influence of vague notions which they would never
dream of seriously maintaining. When women get their rights, the
_salon_ will become an institution. It will create a very fine field for
the cultivation of their talents. And in proportion as it allows a woman
to make a career for herself, it will bring relief to many excellent
husbands who will then no longer have to make careers for them at the
expense of overstraining their own too slender powers.

It is possible, however, that even then the husband of an ambitious wife
may not be fully contented. For people with any degree of weakness or
incapacity in them are always more prone than their neighbors to
littlenesses and meannesses, and a man who is not able to win much
renown on his own account may possibly not be too well pleased to see
his Wife surrounded by his intellectual betters. Indeed, he may even, if
he is of a very mean nature indeed, resent the spectacle of her own
predominance. It is some comfort to think that in such case the man's
own temper will be his severest punishment.

As a rule, however, it is pleasant to think that with ambition in women,
which is not their peculiarity, is yoked tact, which is their
peculiarity emphatically. Hence, therefore, wives who are ambitious for
their lords have often the discretion to conceal their mood. They may
rule with a hand of iron, but the hand is sagely concealed in a glove of
velvet. A man may be the creature of his wife's lofty projects, and yet
dream all the time that he is altogether chalking out his own course.

George II. used to be humored in this way by Queen Caroline. Bishop
Proudie, on the other hand, was ruled by his wife, and knew that he was
a mere weapon in her hands; and, what was even worse than all, knew that
the rest of mankind knew this. This must be uncommonly unpleasant, we
should suppose. The middle position of the husband who only now and then
suspects in a dreamy way that he is being prompted and urged on and
directed by an ambitious wife, and has sense enough not to inflame
himself with chimerical notions about the superiority and grandeur of
the male sex--this perhaps is not so bad. If the tide of ambition runs
rather sluggish in yourself, it is a plain advantage to have somebody at
your side with enthusiasm enough to atone for the deficiency.

It is impossible to tell how much good the world gets, which otherwise
it would miss, simply out of the fact that women are discontented with
their position. Now and then, it is understood, the husband who is thus
made a mere conductor for the mental electricity of a wife who is too
clever for him may feel a little bored, and almost wish that he had
married a girl instead. But enthusiasm spreads, and in a general way the
fervor of the wife who aspires to distinction proves catching to the
husband. Some ladies are found to prefer this position to any other.
They are full of power, and have abundance of room for energy, and yet
they have no responsibility. They get their ample share of the spoil,
and yet they do not bear the public heat and burden of the day. It is
only the more martial souls among them for whom this is not enough.


In the wearier hours of life, when the season is over, and the boredom
of country visits is beginning to tell on the hardy constitutions that
have weathered out crush and ball-room, there is usually a moment when
the heroine of twenty summers bemoans the hardships of her lot. Her
brother snuffed her out yesterday when she tried politics, and the
clerical uncle who comes in with the vacation extinguished a well-meant
attempt at theology by a vague but severe reference to the Fathers. If
the afternoon is particularly rainy, and Mudie's box is exhausted, the
sufferer possibly goes further, and rises into eloquent revolt against
the decorums of life.

There is indeed one career left to woman, but a general looseness of
grammar, and a conscious insecurity in the matter of spelling, stand in
the way of literary expression of the burning thoughts within her. All
she can do is to moan over her lot and to take refuge in the works of
Miss Hominy. There she learns the great theory of the equality of the
sexes, the advancement of woman and the tyranny of man. If her head
doesn't ache, and holds out for a few pages more, she is comforted to
find that her aspirations have a philosophic character. She is able to
tell the heavy Guardsman who takes her down to dinner and parries her
observations with a joke that they have the sanction of the deepest of
Athenian thinkers.

It is, we suppose, necessary that woman should have her philosopher, but
it must be owned that she has made an odd choice in Plato. No one would
be more astonished than the severe dialectician of the Academy at the
feminine conception of a sage of dreamy and poetic temperament, who
spends half his time in asserting woman's rights, and half in inventing
a peculiar species of flirtation. Platonic attachments, whatever their
real origin may be, will scarcely be traced in the pages of Plato; and
the rights of woman, as they are advocated in the Republic, are sadly
deficient in the essential points of free love and elective affinity.

The appearance of a real Platonic woman in the midst of a caucus of such
female agitators as those who were lately engaged in stumping with
singular ill success the American States of the West would, we imagine,
give a somewhat novel turn to the discussion, and strip of a good deal
of adoring admiration the philosopher in whom strong-minded woman has of
late found a patron and friend. Plato is a little too logical and too
fond of stating plain facts in plain words to suit the Miss Hominys who
would put the legs of every pianoforte in petticoats, and if the
Platonic woman were to prove as outspoken as her inventor, the
conference would, we fear, come abruptly to an end. But if once the
difficulty of decorum could be got over, some instruction and no little
amusement might be derived from the inquiry which the discussion would
open, as to how far the modern attitude of woman fulfils the dreams of
her favorite philosopher.

The institution of Ladies' Colleges is a sufficient proof that woman has
arrived at Plato's conception of an identity of education for the two
sexes. Professors, lecturers, class-rooms, note-books, the whole
machinery of University teaching, is at her disposal. Logic and the
long-envied classics are in the curriculum. Governesses are abolished,
and the fair girl-graduates may listen to the sterner teachings of
academical tutors. It is amusing to see how utterly discomfited the new
Professor generally is when he comes in sight of his class. He feels
that he must be interesting, but he is haunted above all with the sense
that he must be proper. He remembers that when, in reply to the
lady-principal's inquiry how he liked his class, he answered, with the
strictest intellectual reference, that they were "charming," the stern
matron suggested that another adjective would perhaps be more
appropriate. He felt his whole moral sense as a teacher ebbing away.

In the case of men he would insist on a thorough treatment of his
subject, and would avoid sentiment and personal details as insults to
their intelligence; but what is he to do with rows of pretty faces that
grow black as he touches upon the dialect of Socrates, but kindle into
life and animation when he depicts the sage's snub nose? Anecdotes,
pretty stories, snatches of poetical quotation, slip in more and more
as the students perceive and exercise their power. Men, too, are either
intelligent or unintelligent, but the unhappy Professor at a Ladies'
College soon perceives that he has to deal with a class of minds which
are both at once. A luckless gentleman, after lecturing for forty
minutes, found that the lecture had been most carefully listened to and
reproduced in the note-books, but with the trifling substitution in
every instance of the word "Phoenician" for "Venetian." Above all, he
is puzzled with the profuse employment of these note-books.

To the Platonic girl her note-book takes the place of the old-fashioned
diary. It is scribbled down roughly at the lecture and copied out fairly
at night. It used to be a frightful thought that every evening, before
retiring to rest, the girl with whom one had been chatting intended
seriously to probe the state of her heart and set down her affections in
black and white; but it is hardly less formidable to imagine her
refusing to lay her head on her pillow before she has finished her fair
copy of the battle of Salamis. The universality of female studies, too,
astounds the teacher who is fresh from the world of man; he stands
aghast before a girl who is learning four languages at once, besides
attending courses on logic, music, and the use of the globes. This
omnivorous appetite for knowledge he finds to co-exist with a great
weakness in the minor matters of spelling, and a profound indifference
to the simplest rules of grammar. We do not wonder then at Professors
being a little shy of Ladies' Colleges; nor is it less easy to see why
the Platonic theory of education has taken so little with the girls
themselves. After all, the grievance of which they complain has its

The worst of bores is restrained by courtesy from boring you if you give
him no cue for further conversation, and the plea of utter ignorance
which an English girl can commonly advance on any subject is at any rate
a defence against the worst pests of society. On the other hand, the
ingenuous confession that she really knows nothing about it can be
turned by a smile into a prelude to the most engaging conversation, and
into an implied flattery of the neatest kind to the favored being whose
superiority is acknowledged. Ignorance, in fact, of this winsome order
is one of the stock weapons of the feminine armory.

The man who looks philosophically back after marriage to discover why on
earth he is married at all will generally find that the mischief began
in the _naïve_ confession on the part of his future wife of a total
ignorance which asked humbly for enlightenment. One of the grandest
_coups_ we ever knew made in this way was effected by a desire on the
part of a faded beauty to know the pedigree of a horse. The pride of her
next neighbor at finding himself the possessor of knowledge on any
subject on earth took the form of the most practical gratitude a man can
show. But it is not before marriage only that woman finds her ignorance
act as a charm. Husbands find pleasure in talking politics to their
wives simply because, as they stand on the hearthrug, they are
displaying their own mental superiority. An Englishman likes to be
master of his own house, but he dearly loves to be schoolmaster.

A Platonic woman as well-informed as her husband would deprive him of
this daily source of domestic enjoyment; his lecture would be reduced to
discussion, and to discussion in which he might be defeated. To rob him
of his oracular infallibility might greatly improve the husband, but it
would revolutionize the character of the home.

It is difficult to see at first sight any analogy between the
Puritanical form of flirtation which calls itself a Platonic attachment,
and the provisions by which Plato excluded all peculiar love or
matrimonial choice from his commonwealth. The likeness is really to be
found in the resolve on which both are based to obtain all the
advantages of social intercourse between the sexes without the
interference of passion. In a well-regulated State, no doubt, passion is
a bore, and this is just the aspect which it takes to a highly regulated
woman. An outburst of affection on the part of her numerous admirers
would break up a very pleasant circle, and put an end to some charming
conversations. On the other hand, the quiet sense of some special
relationship, the faint odor of a passion carefully sealed up, gives a
piquancy and flavor to social friendship which mere association wants.
Very frequently such a relation forms an admirable retreat from stormier
experiences in the past, and the tender grace of a day that is dead
hangs pleasantly enough over the days that remain.

But the Platonic woman proper, in this sense, is the spinster of
five-and-thirty. She is clever enough to know that the day for inspiring
grand passions is gone by, but that there is still nothing ridiculous in
mingling a little sentiment with her friendly relations. She moves in
maiden meditation fancy free, but the vestal flame of her life is none
the more sullied for a slight tinge of earthly color. It is a connection
that is at once interesting, undefined, and perfectly safe. It throws a
little poetry over life to know that one being is cherishing a perfectly
moral and carefully toned-down attachment for another, which will last
for years, but never exceed the bounds of a smile and a squeeze of the

Animals in the lowest scale of life are notoriously the hardest to kill,
and it is just this low vitality, as it were, of Platonic attachment
that makes it so perfectly indestructible. Its real use is in keeping up
a sort of minute irrigation of a good deal of human ground which would
be barren without it. These little tricklings of affection, so small as
not to disturb one's sleep or to drive one to compose a single sonnet,
keep up a certain consciousness of attraction, and beget a corresponding
return of kindliness and good temper towards the world around. A woman
who has once given up the hope of being loved is a nuisance to
everybody. But the Platonic woman need never give up her hope of being
loved; she has reduced affection to a minimum, but from its very
minuteness there is little or no motive to snap the bond, and with time
habit makes it indestructible.

One Christian body, we believe--the Moravians--still carries out the
principle of Plato's ideal state in giving woman no choice in the
selection of a spouse. The elders arrange their matches as the wise men
of the Republic were wont to do. A friend of ours once met six young
women going out to some Northern settlement of the Moravians with a view
to marriage. "What is your husband's name?" he asked one. "I don't know;
I shall find out when I see him," she answered. But we have heard of
only one State which realizes Plato's theory as to the equal
participation of woman in man's responsibilities as well as in his
privileges, and that is the kingdom of Dahomey. If women were to learn
and govern like men, Plato argued, women must fight like men, and the
Amazons of Dahomey fight like very terrible men indeed.

But we have as yet heard of no military grievance on the part of injured
woman. She has not yet discovered the hardship of being deprived of a
commission, or denied the Victoria Cross. No Miss Faithful has
challenged woman's right to glory by the creation of a corps of
riflewomen. Even Dr. Mary Walker, though she could boast of having gone
through the American war, went through it with a scalpel, and not with a
sword. We are far from attributing this peaceful attitude of modern
woman, inferior though it be to the Platonic ideal, to any undue
physical sensitiveness to danger, or to inability for deeds of daring;
we attribute it simply to a sense that there is a warfare which she is
discharging already, and with the carrying on of which any more public
exertions would interfere.

Woman alone keeps up the private family warfare which in the earlier
stages of society required all the energies of man. It is a field from
which man has completely retired, and which would be left wholly vacant
were it not occupied by woman. The stir, the jostling, the squabbling of
social life, are all her own. We owe it to her that the family existence
of England does not rot in mere inaction and peace. The guerilla warfare
of house with house, the fierce rivalry of social circle with social
circle, the struggle for precedence, the jealousies and envyings and
rancors of every day--these are things which no man will take a proper
interest in, and which it is lucky that woman can undertake for him. The
Platonic woman of to-day may not march to the field or storm the breach,
but she is unequalled in outmanoeuvring a rival, in forcing an
entrance into society, in massacring an enemy's reputation, in carrying
off matrimonial spoil. In war, then, as in education and the affections,
modern woman has developed the spirit without copying the form of the
Platonic ideal. After all superficial contrasts have been exhausted, she
may still claim the patronage of the philosopher of Academe.


There are, it must be owned, few things on earth of less interest at
first sight than a girl in her teens. She is a mere bundle of pale
colorless virtues, a little shy, slightly studious, passively obedient,
tamely religious. Her tastes are "simple"--she has no particular
preference, that is, for anything; her aims incline mildly towards a
future of balls to come; her rule of life is an hourly reference to
"mamma." She is without even the charm of variety; she has been
hot-pressed in the most approved finishing establishments, and is turned
out the exact double of her sister or her cousin or her friend, with the
same stereotyped manner, the same smattering of accomplishments, the
same contribution to society of her little sum of superficial
information. We wonder how it is that any one can take an interest in a
creature of this sort, just as we wonder how any one can take an
interest in the _Court Circular_. And yet there are few sentiments more
pardonable, as there are none more national, than our interest in that
marvellous document.

A people which chooses to be governed by kings and queens has a right to
realize the fact that kings and queens are human beings, that they
shoot, drive, take the air like the subjects whom they govern. And if in
some coming day we are to toss up our hats and shout ourselves hoarse
for a sovereign who is still in his cradle, it is wise as well as
natural that we should cultivate an interest in his babyhood, that we
should hang on the vicissitudes of his teeth and his measles, that we
should be curious as to the title of his spelling-book, and the exact
score of his last game at cricket.

It is precisely the same interest which attaches us to the loosely-tied
bundle of virtues and accomplishments which we call a girl. We recognise
in her our future ruler. The shy, modest creature who has no thought but
a dance, and no will but mamma's, will in a few years be our master,
changing our habits, moulding our tastes, bending our characters to her
own. In the midst of our own drawing-room, in our pet easy-chair, we
shall see that retiring figure quietly established, with downcast eyes,
and hands busy with their crochet-needles, what Knox called, in days
before a higher knowledge had dawned, "the Monstrous Regimen of Women."

We are far from sharing the sentiments of the Scotch Reformer, and if we
attempt here to seize a few of the characteristics of the rule against
which he revolted, we hope to avoid his bitterness as carefully as his
prolixity. What was a new thing in his day has become old in ours, and
man learns perhaps somewhat too easily to acquiesce in "established
facts." It is without a dream of revolt, and simply in a philosophical
spirit, that we approach the subject. Indeed, it is a feeling of
admiration rather than of rebellion which seizes us when we begin to
reflect on the character of woman's sway, and on the simplicity of the
means by which she creates and establishes it. A little love, a little
listening, a little patience, a little persistence, and the game is won.

How charmingly natural and unobjectionable, for instance, is the very
first move in it--what we may venture to call, since we have to create
the very terminology of our subject, the Isolation of Man. When Brown
meets us in the street and hopes that his approaching marriage will make
no difference in our friendship, and that we shall see as much of one
another as before, we know that the phrases simply mean that our
intimacy is at an end. There will be no more pleasant lounges in the
morning, no more strolls in the park, no more evenings at the club.
Woman has succeeded in so completely establishing this cessation of
former friendships as a condition of the new married life that hardly
any one dreams of thinking what an enormous sacrifice it is. There are
very few men, after all, who are not dependent on their little group of
intimates for the general drift of their opinions, the general temper of
their mind and character of their lives. Their mutual advice, support,
praise or dispraise, enthusiasm, abhorrence, likings, dislikings,
constitute the atmosphere in which one lives.

A good deal of real modesty lingers about an unmarried man; he feels far
more confident in his own opinion if he knows it is Smith's opinion
too, and his conception of life acquires all its definiteness from its
being shared with half a dozen fairly reasonable fellows. It is no
slight triumph that woman should not only have succeeded in enforcing
the dissolution of this social tie as the first condition of married
life, but that she has invested that dissolution with the air of an
axiom which nobody dreams of disputing. The triumph is, as we said, won
by the simplest agency--by nothing, in short, but a dexterous double
appeal to human conceit. She is so weak, so frail, so helpless, so
strange to this new world into which she has plunged from the realms of
innocent girlhood, so utterly dependent on her husband, that a man sees
at once that he has not a moment left for any one else.

There is pleasure in the thought of all that delicate weakness appealing
to our strength, of that innocent ignorance looking up to us for
guidance through the wilderness of the world. Of course it will soon be
over, and when the dear dependent has learnt to walk alone a little we
can go back to the old faces and take our segar as before. But somehow
the return never comes, or, if it does come, the old faces have grown
far less enchanting to us. The truth is, we have tasted the second
pleasure of married life--the pleasure of being an authority. All that
shy appeal to us, all that confession of ignorance, has taught us what
wonderfully wise fellows we are. We are far less inclined to wait for
Smith's approval, or to take our tone from the group at the club-window.
It is, to say the least, far pleasanter to be an authority at home.
Gradually we find ourselves becoming oracular, having opinions on every
subject that a leading article can give us one upon, correcting the
Chancellor of the Exchequer on the Malt-tax and censuring Lord Stanley's
policy towards the King of Ashantee. Life takes a new interest when we
can put it so volubly into words. At the same time we feel that the
interest is hardly shared by the world.

Our old associates apparently fail to appreciate the change in us, or to
listen to our disquisitions any more than they did of old; it is a
comfort to feel that we have a home to retreat to, and that there is one
there who will. To the subtle flattery, in short, of weakness and of
ignorance, woman has now added the flattery of listening. To say little,
to contribute hardly more than a cue now and then, but to be attentive,
to be interested, to brighten at the proper moment, to laugh at the
proper joke, to suggest the exact amount of difficulties which you
require to make your oratorical triumph complete, and to join with an
unreserved assent in its conclusion, that is the simple secret of the
power of ninety-nine wives out of a hundred. It is a power which is far
from being confined to the home. The most brilliant salons have always
been created by dexterous listeners.

A pleasant house is not a house where one is especially talked to, but
where one discovers that one talks more easily than elsewhere. The tact
is certainly invaluable which enables a woman to know the strong points
of her guests, to lead up to their subjects, to supply points for
conversation, and then to leave it quietly alone. But it is only a
display on the grand scale of that particular faculty of silence which
wins its quiet triumphs on every hearth-rug.

The faculty, however, has other triumphs to win besides those in which
it figures as a delicate administration of flattery to the vanity of
men. It is the force which woman holds in reserve for the hour of
revolt. For it must be owned that, pleasant as the tyranny is, men
sometimes wake up to the fact that it is a tyranny, that in the most
seductive way in the world they are being wheedled out of associations
that are really dear to them, that their life is being cramped and
confined, that their aims are being lowered. Then the newly-found
eloquence exhausts itself in a declaration of revolt.

Things cannot go on in this way, life cannot be ruined for caprices. It
is needless, perhaps, to repeat the rhetoric of rebellion, and all the
more needless because it shares the fate of all rhetoric in producing
not the slightest impression on the mind to which it is addressed. The
wife simply listens as before, though the listening is now far from
encouraging to eloquence. She is perfectly patient, patient in her
refusal to continue an irritating discussion, patient in bearing your
little spurts of vexation; she listens quietly to-day, with the air of
one who is perfectly prepared to listen quietly to-morrow. But even
rhetoric has its limits, and now that the cues have ceased, a husband
finds it a little difficult to keep up a discussion where he has to
supply both arguments and replies.

Moreover, the tact which managed in former days to place him in a highly
pleasant position by the confession of weakness, now, by the very same
silent avowal, places him in a decidedly unpleasant one. If a woman's
air simply says at the end of it all, "I can't answer you, but I know I
am right," a man has a lurking sense that his copious rhetoric has had a
smack of the cowardly as well as of the tyrannical about it. And so,
after a vigorous denunciation of some particular thing which his wife
has done, a husband commonly finds himself no further than before; and
the very instant that, from sheer weariness, he ceases, the wife usually
steals out and does it again.

There is something feline about this combination of perfect patience
with quiet persistence--a combination which the Jesuits on a larger
scale have turned into the characteristic of their order. It is
especially remarkable when it breaks the bonds of silence, and takes the
form of what in vulgar language is called "nagging." No form of torture
which has as yet been invented, save, perhaps, the slow dropping of
water on some highly sensitive part of the frame, can afford a parallel
to this ingenious application of the principle of persistence.

The absolute certainty that, when snub or scolding or refusal have died
into silence, the word will be said again; the certainty that it will be
said year after year, month after month, week after week; the
irritation of expecting it, the irritation of hearing it, the irritation
of expecting it again, tell on the firmest will in the world. In the
long run the wife wins. The son goes to Harrow, though reason has proved
a dozen times over that we can only afford the expense of Marlborough;
the family gets its Alpine tour, though logic and unpaid bills
imperatively dictate the choice of a quiet watering place. You yield,
and you see that every one in the house knew that you would yield. There
wasn't a servant who didn't know every turn of the domestic screw, or
who took your resistance for more than the usual routine of the
operation. "Time and I," said Philip of Spain, "against any two." It is
no wonder if, fighting alone for prudence and economy, one is beaten by
time and one's wife.

We have no wish to dispute the enormous benefits to man of woman's
supremacy, but we may fairly leave the statement of them to the numerous
troup of poets who dispute with Mr. Tupper the theme of the affections.
For ourselves, we may undertake, perhaps, the humbler task of pointing
out very briefly some of the disadvantages which, as in all human
things, counterbalance these benefits. In the first place, feminine rule
is certainly not favorable to anything like largeness of mind or breadth
of view. It creates, as we have seen, an excessive self-conceit and
opinionativeness, and then it directs these qualities to very small ends
indeed. Woman lives from her childhood in a world of petty details, of
minute household and other cares, of bargains where the price of every
yard ends in some fraction of a penny. The habit of mind which is formed
by these and similar influences becomes the spirit of the house, a
spirit admirable no doubt in many ways, but excessively small.

The quarrels of a woman's life, her social warfare, her battles about
precedence, her upward progress from set to set, have all the same stamp
of Lilliput on them. But it is to these small details, these little
pleasures and little anxieties and little disappointments and little
ambitions, that a wife generally manages to bend the temper of her
spouse. He gets gradually to share her indifference to large interests,
to broad public questions. He imbibes little by little the most fatal of
all kinds of selfishness, the selfishness of the home. It would be
difficult, perhaps, to say how much of the patriotism of the Old World
was owing to the inferior position of woman; but it is certain that the
influence of woman tells fatally against any self-sacrificing devotion
to those larger public virtues of which patriotism is one of the chief.
Whether from innate narrowness of mind, or from defective training, or
from the excessive development of the affections, family interests far
outweigh, in the feminine estimation, any larger national or human

If ever the suffrage is given to woman, it will be necessary to punish
bribery with the treadmill, for no "person" will regard it as a crime to
barter away her vote for a year's schooling for Johnny or a new frock
for Maud. Nothing tells more plainly the difference between the Old
World and the New than the constant returns home during war. We can
hardly conceive Pericles or even Alcibiades applying for leave of
absence on the ground of "private affairs." But then Pericles and
Alcibiades had no home that they could set above the interests of the

Lastly, from this narrow view bounded strictly by the limits and
interests of the home comes, it may be feared, a vast deal of social and
political bitterness and intolerance. Her very nature, her "deductive
spirit," as Mr. Buckle puts it prettily for her, makes woman essentially
a dogmatist. She has none of the larger intercourse with other minds and
adverse circumstances which often creates the form, if not the spirit,
of tolerance in the narrowest of men. Her very excellence and faith make
her exactly what they made Queen Mary--a conscientious and therefore
merciless persecutor.

It is just this feminine narrowness, this feminine conscientiousness, in
the clergy which unfits them for any position where justice or
moderation is requisite. Justice is a quality unknown to woman, and
against which she wages a fierce battle in the house and in the world.
There are few husbands who have been made more just, more tolerant, more
large-hearted and large-headed, by their wives; for justice lives in a
drier light than that of the affections, and dry light is not a very
popular mode of illumination under "the monstrous regimen of women."


Proverbs, as a rule, are believed to contain amongst them somehow or
other a quantity of truth. There is scarcely one proverb which has not
got another proverb that flatly contradicts it, and between the two it
would be very odd if there was not a great deal of sound sense
somewhere. There is, however, one of the number which, as every candid
critic must allow, is based on an egregious falsehood--the proverb,
namely, which affirms, against all experience, that whatever is good for
the goose is good for the gander. Viewing the goose as the type of
woman, and the gander as the type of man, no adage could be more
preposterous or untenable. Such a maxim flies dead in the very face of
society, and is calculated to introduce disturbance into the orderly
sequence and subordination of the sexes. Who first invented it, it is
difficult to conceive, unless it was some rustic Mrs. Poyser, full of
the consciousness of domestic power, and anxious to reverse in daily
life the law of priority which obtained--as she must have seen--even in
her own poultry-yard.

There is one way of reading the proverb which perhaps renders it less
monstrous; and if we confine ourselves to the view that "sauce" for the
goose is also "sauce" for the gander, we escape from any of the
philosophical difficulties in which the other version involves us. No
doubt, when they are dead, goose and gander are alike, even in the way
they are dressed, and there is no superiority on the part of either.
Death makes all genders epicene. Except for one solitary text about
silence in heaven for half an hour, which some cynical commentators have
explained as indicating a temporary banishment from Paradise of one of
the sexes, distinctions of this sort need not be supposed to continue
after the present life. If we are to take the former reading, and to
test it by what we know of life, nothing can be more unfounded, or more
calculated to give a wrong impression as to the facts. Were it not too
late, the proverb ought to be altered; and perhaps it is not absolutely
hopeless to persuade Mr. Tupper to see to it.

"What is good for the goose is bad for the gander," or "what is bad for
the goose is good for the gander;" or, perhaps, "what is a sin in the
goose is only the gander's way," would read quite as well, would not be
so diametrically at variance with the ordinary rules of social life,
and, accordingly, would be infinitely truer and more moral. Even Mr.
Mill, who is the advocate of female emancipation and female suffrage,
never has gone so far as to say that all women, as well as all men, are
brothers. The female suffrage, as we know, is merely a question of time.
Before very long, no doubt, there will be a feminine Reform Bill, during
the course of which Mr. Disraeli will explain that the feminine
franchise has always been the one idea of the Conservative party, and in
which the compound housekeeper will occupy as prominent a position as
the compound householder ever could have done. Nobody, however, has as
yet absolutely asserted, we do not say the equality, for equality is an
invidious term, but the indifference of the sexes. And this being so, it
is strange that a proverb should be retained which is so opposed to
every notion that passes current in the world.

As the legislation of the world has hitherto been uniformly in the hands
of men, it is not astonishing that it has always proceeded on the
assumption of the absolute dependence of the weaker upon the stronger
sex. Several thousand years of intellectual and political supremacy must
have altered the type imperceptibly, and made the difference between the
ordinary run of men and women far more marked than nature intended it
originally to be. All theology, whether Christian or pagan, has been in
the habit of representing woman as designed chiefly to be a sort of
ornament and appendage to man; and the allegory of the creation of Eve,
though Oriental in its tone, does nevertheless correspond to a vague
feeling among even civilized nations that woman's mission is to fill up
a gap in man's daily life.

Nor are they merely the opinions and laws of the world which have
moulded themselves on this basis. The whole imagination of the race has
been fed upon the notion, until the relations between the two sexes have
become the one thing on which fancy, sentiment, and hope are taught from
childhood to dwell. It is not an extravagant inference to suppose that
centuries of this imaginative and sentimental habit have ended by
affecting the brain and the physical nature of humanity. Man has become
a woman-caressing animal. The life of the two sexes is made to centre
round the once fictitious, but now universal, idea that they cannot
exist without one another.

Goose and gander have lost their primitive conception of an individual
and independent career, and are never happy unless they are permitted to
go in pairs. Under less complex social conditions such interdependence
led to no very intolerable results. Men and women formed a sort of
convenient partnership, each contributing their quota of daily
conveniences to the common fund. The chief protected his squaw--or, if
he was a patriarch, his squaws--while the squaws ministered to his
pleasures, cooked his food, milked--if Mr. Max Müller's idea of the
Sanscrit is correct--his cows, and carried his babies on their backs.
The husband found the venison and the maize, while his wife dressed it
and helped to eat it. This mutual arrangement had at any rate the
advantage of being accommodated to the physical differences of strength
between the two halves of society.

A little tyranny is the natural consequence of an unequal distribution
of physical strength in all rude and barbarous states, and it was
inevitable that woman should at such times have more than her share of
labor and of patience imposed upon her. But it is evident that, as
civilization has increased with the growth of population and of
industrial interests, women no longer derive the same benefit from the
social partnership as formerly. Some social philosophers still
maintain, with M. Comte, that it is man's business to maintain woman,
and to relieve her from the necessity of providing for her natural
wants. But this theory seems Utopian and impracticable when we try to
think of applying it to the world in which we live. Wealth is no longer
distributed with the least reference to industrious and sober habits.

The principle of accumulation has been admitted, and social bodies have
encouraged and sanctioned it by allowing property to descend from one
generation to another intact, the result of which is that the industry
of the father is able to insure the perpetual idleness of his posterity.
Large multitudes of poor producers are occupied in earning their own
necessary sustenance, and cannot take on themselves without enormous
difficulty the burden of supporting womankind, a burden which the richer
classes scarcely feel. As by far the majority of women belong to the
impoverished and laborious class, it is obvious they must either enter
the labor-market themselves, or purchase support from the rich by
sacrifices which are inconsistent with their personal dignity and the
morality of the social body. As the imagination of humanity has been
long since given up to sentiment and passion, it is only too clear that
the more vicious alternative is the one oftenest embraced. Society,
then, has come to this--that woman must still depend on man, while man
no longer, except on his own terms, fulfills his part of the tacit
bargain by maintaining woman.

The first thing to be considered is what the public gains by keeping up
the sentimental notion about woman's mission. It is her business, most
of us think, to charm and to attract, partly in order that she may do
man real good, and partly that she may add to the luxury, the
refinement, and the happiness of life. With this view, society is very
solicitous to keep her at a distance from everything that may spoil or
destroy the bloom of her character and tastes. Few people go so far as
to say that she ought not to work for her livelihood, if her
circumstances render the effort necessary and prudent. As a fact, we see
at once that such a proposition cannot be broadly supported, and that
any attempt to enforce it would lead to endless misery and mischief.
Poor women, for example, must work hard, or else their children and
themselves will come to utter degradation.

But though society abstains from committing itself to the doctrine of
the enforced idleness of women, it takes refuge in a species of half
measure, and restricts, as far as it can, by its legislative enactments
or its own social code, the labors which women are to perform to the
narrowest possible compass. A woman may work, but she must do nothing
which is called unfeminine. She may get up linen, ply her needle, keep
weaving-machines in motion, knit, sew, and in higher spheres in life
teach music, French, and English grammar. She may be a governess, or a
sempstress, or even within certain limits may enter the literary market
and write books. This is the extreme boundary of her liberty, and
somewhere about this point society begins to draw a rigid line.

It earnestly discourages her from commercial occupations, except under
the patronage of a husband who is to benefit by her exertions; she is
not to be a counting-house clerk, or a doctor, or a lawyer, or a parson.
The great active avocations, all those that lead either to fame or
fortune, are monopolized by men. Strong-minded women occasionally bore
the public by complaining of and protesting against such restrictions;
but, on the whole, the public is satisfied that it is convenient that
they should be upheld. If we look at the matter from the point of view
of the educated, or even the well-to-do classes, such a conclusion seems
so reasonable that most of us can hardly induce ourselves to doubt its
correctness. Women do a certain tangible amount of good to the world by
being kept as a luxury and exotic. The most energetic and rebellious of
them may feel angry to be told so, but it is the truth that it suits men
in general to keep up a kind of hothouse bloom upon the characters of
women. The society of soft, affectionate, unselfish creatures is
decidedly good for man. It elevates his nature, it gives him a belief in
what is pure and genuine, it alleviates the dust and turmoil of a busy
career, and it enables him for so many hours of the day to refresh
himself with the company of a being who is in some things a mediæval
saint, and in some, a child.

Whenever one contemplates the effect of more coarse experience of the
world, more knowledge, and more rough and hard work on such a nature,
one is invariably tempted to acquiesce in the view that it is good for
man to have her in the state she is. One feels disposed to object to
notions of female emancipation as profane. Education and science,
thought and philosophy, like the winds of heaven, should never visit her
cheek too roughly. The great thing is, to preserve in her that sort of
luxurious unworldliness which represents the religious and refined
element in the household to which she belongs. And a hundred things may
be and have often been said about the advantage of making pure sentiment
the foundation of all the relations that obtain between her and man.

As Plato thought, man elevates himself by elevating and sentimentalizing
his affections. All poetry and most literature is given up to this
sentimentalizing or refining process. Nor can it be denied that the
effect is to increase very much the capacity of happiness in all people
who are born to be happy or to enjoy life. What would youth be without
its imaginative emotions? We all know, and are taught to believe, that
it would be something much poorer than it is.

There is another side to the picture, and it is as well to contemplate
it seriously, before we make up our minds to treat with undisguised
contempt all the vagaries of those who wish definitely to alter the
social condition of women. At present women are beautiful and delicate
adjuncts of life. As Prometheus said of horses, they are the ornaments
of wealth and luxury. They add perfume and refinement to existence. But,
after all, it is an important question whether the conversion of women
into this sort of drawing-room delicacy is not sacrificing the welfare
of the many to the intellectual and social comfort of the few.

The world pays a heavy price for having its imagination sentimentalized.
One of the items in the bill is the disappointment of the thousands
whose sensibilities are never destined to be satisfied. For every woman
who marries happily, a large percentage never marry at all, or marry in
haste and repent at leisure. It remains to be proved that it is wise to
teach and train the sex to fix all their views in life and to stake all
their fortunes on the chance of the one rare thing--a lucky matrimonial
choice. If one could succeed in de-sentimentalizing society, one would
take from a few the chief pleasure of living, but it is far from certain
that the material welfare of the majority would not be proportionately
increased. Half-measures would of course be of very little use.

It would be a poor exchange to take from women all their reserve and
innocence and refinement, without giving them free play in the world.
They would be only coarse and wicked caricatures of what they are now.
The change, to be tolerable, would have to be effectual and thorough. It
would be necessary to change the whole current of their ideas, and the
whole view of man about them also; to persuade the human race to fix its
mind less on the difference of sexes, and to become less imaginative
upon the subject. If so sweeping an alteration could be completely
effected, perhaps it might be worth while to consider whether woman's
absolute independence would not strengthen her character, and add
permanently to the world's natural wealth.

One thing is certain, that if woman is to continue for ever in her
present condition, the moral and social condition of large numbers of
human beings must remain hopeless. Their future appears dreary in the
extreme. It is Utopian to expect that men and women will grow less and
less self-indulgent, so long as the education they undergo from their
earliest years renders them prone to every species of temptation. There
are some things which make social philosophers hopeful and confident,
but no social philosopher can ever do anything but despair of real
progress if he is to take for granted that women are always to play the
part in life which they at present play. The emancipation of the goose
is an experiment, but it is not surprising that many enthusiasts should
believe it to be an experiment well deserving of a trial.


A great writer has pathetically described the last days of a man under
sentence of death. He has found appropriate expression for every phase
of the protracted agony with characteristic richness and variety of
language; we are made to taste each drop in the bitter cup--the remorse
and the awful expectation, and the desperate clinging to deceitful
straws of hope. Indeed it scarcely requires the eloquence of a
first-rate writer to impress upon us the fact that it is very unpleasant
to expect to be hanged. Every man's imagination is sufficient to realize
some of the unpleasant consequences of such a state of mind; for though
the number of persons who have encountered this particular experience is
inconsiderable, most of us have gone through something more or less
analogous--we have been significantly told to wait after school, or have
paid visits to dentists, or have been candidates at competitive
examinations, or have been engaged to be married. These and many other
situations, though varying in the intrinsic pain or pleasure of the
anticipated event, have thus much in common, that they are all states of
abnormal suspense. The nerves are kept in a state of equal tension by
the uncomfortable feeling that we are in for it, whatever the "it" may
turn out to be.

The first impression is simple; it resembles that felt by a man who has
just slipped upon the side of a mountain, and knows that he is
inevitably going to the bottom. He has not time to think whether he will
fall upon snow or rocks, whether he will have merely a pleasant slide or
be dashed into a thousand fragments; he does not make up his mind to be
heroic or to be frightened; the one thought that flashes across his mind
is that here at last is the situation which he has so often feebly
pictured to himself; he will know all about it before he has time to
reflect upon its pains or pleasures. People who have escaped drowning
sometimes assert that they have remembered their whole lives in a few
instants, though it does not quite appear how they can remember that
they remembered the series of incidents without remembering the
incidents themselves. But, so far as we have been able to collect
evidence, the general rule in any sudden catastrophe is that which we
have described. There is nothing but a dazzling flash of surprise, which
almost excludes any decided judgment as to the painfulness or otherwise
of the situation.

If, then, we may venture to conjecture the frame of mind in which a lady
or gentleman first enters upon an engagement, we should say that it was
this sense of startled suspense. They feel as Guy Faux would have felt
after lighting the train of gunpowder--that they have done something
which they may probably never repeat in their lifetime, and every other
emotion will be for the moment absorbed. But as engagements are
generally more protracted than most of the critical situations we have
mentioned, the surprise dies away, and the victims have time to look
about them, and analyze more closely the emotions produced by their
position. To do any justice to the complicated and varying frame of mind
into which even an average lover may be thrown in the course of a few
weeks would of course require the pen, not of men, but of angels. It
would involve a condensation of a large fraction of all the poetry that
has been written in the world, and no small part of the cynical
criticism by which it has been opposed. But, taking for granted the mass
of commonplaces which has been accumulated in the course of centuries,
there are a few special modifications of the position under our present
social arrangements which are more fitted for remark. The state of mind
known as being in love is confined to no particular race or period, but
the position of the engaged persons may vary indefinitely. In a good
simple state of society, the gentleman pays down his money or his sheep
or his oxen, and takes away the lady without any superfluous sentiment.
Even in more civilized states, a marriage may be substantially a bargain
carried out in a business-like spirit. However unsatisfactory such a
mode of proceeding may be from certain points of view, it is at any rate
intelligible; all parties to the contract understand their relative
positions, and have a plain line of conduct traced for them.

But in a modern English engagement the form is necessarily different,
even when the substance of the arrangement is identical. For once in
his experience a man feels called upon to accept that view of life for
which novelists are unjustly condemned. We say unjustly, for it is
inevitable that a novelist should frequently represent marriage as being
the one great crisis of a man's history. It is not his function to give
a complete theory of life, but to describe such scenes as are most
interesting and most dramatic. He is quite justified in often writing as
though two lovers should really think about nothing under heaven except
their chances of union, and should be dismissed, when the happy event
has once taken place, in a certainty of living very happily ever
afterwards. He has no concern with the lover's briefs or sermons or
operations on the Stock Exchange, which may really take up by far the
greater part of the man's waking thoughts; and it would spoil the unity
of his work if he were to dwell upon them proportionately. It would be
as absurd to mistake the novelist's views for a complete one as to
condemn it because it is incomplete. In novels which depend, as
ninety-nine out of a hundred must depend, upon a love story, the
importance of marriage, or at least the degree in which it occupies the
thoughts of the characters, will necessarily be overstated. The engaged
persons, however, find that, in the eyes of their friends, if not in
their own, they are temporarily accepting the novelist's ideal. For the
time they are considered exclusively as persons about to marry, and all
their other relations in life retire into the background.

The difficulty of the position depends upon the extent to which this
conventional assumption diverges from the true facts of the case. The
lady, for example, suffers less than the gentleman, because, in spite of
Dr. Mary Walker and other martyrs to the cause of woman's rights, it is
still true that marriage fills a larger space in her life than in that
of the other sex. She can take up the character with a certain triumph,
as of one who has more or less fulfilled her mission and passed from the
ranks of the aspirants to those of the successful candidates for
matrimony. At any rate, even if she takes a loftier view of feminine
duties, there is nothing ridiculous about her position. She may busy
herself about trousseaux or wedding-dresses or marriage-presents, with
perfect satisfaction to herself and to the envy of her female friends.
But her unfortunate accomplice, especially if he is of mature age, is in
a far more uncomfortable position.

Few men who have become immersed in any profession or business can act
the character without an unpleasantly strong sense of being in a false
position. There is nothing indeed intrinsically ludicrous about it; the
chances are that the lover is doing a very sensible thing, and that his
wisest friends approve of his conduct. Still it is undeniable that he
moves about, to his own apprehension at least, in a universal atmosphere
of ridicule. He feels that he is really a quiet hard-working young man,
full of law it may be, or of plans for improving his parish, or of
Parliamentary notices of motion. He can talk about his own topics with
interest and intelligence, and may possibly be an authority in a small
way. He is quite conscious, too, that there are many sides to his
character which do not come out in his ordinary every-day business.
Unluckily that is just the fact which his friends are apt to ignore.

We soon learn to associate our acquaintance with the positions in which
we have been accustomed to see them, and forget that they may have
sentiments and faculties of which we know nothing. Consequently an
engagement seems to imply an entire metamorphosis. Our friend, or his
image in our minds, was a comparatively simple compound of two or three
characters at most; whereas men generally have a far more complex
organization. In business hours, perhaps, he was simply a machine for
grinding out law, and at other times a lively talker and a good
whist-player. No process of transmutation will convert either of those
into the conventional lover, who can think of nothing but the object of
his affections; the apparent incongruity is too violent not to produce a
sense of the ludicrous; and our friend is bound in decency to make it as
violent as possible. From which it follows that we laugh, and that he
knows that we are laughing, at him. Intensely awkward congratulations
are exchanged, according to two or three formulas which have been handed
down from distant generations. If the congratulator is a married man, he
hopes that his friend may enjoy as much happiness as he has found
himself in the married state; if a bachelor, he assures him that,
although unable hitherto to act up to his principles, he has always
thought marriage the right thing. There are persons who can repeat one
of these common forms with all the air of making an original
observation, as there are men who can begin an oration by asserting that
they are unaccustomed to public speaking; but, as a rule, it is said in
such a way as to imply that the speaker, whilst admitting the absurdity
of connecting the ideas of his friend and marriage, is willing to pay
the necessary compliments, if he may do it as cheaply as possible.

In short, until a man is engaged to be married, he scarcely knows how
narrow a view his friends take of his character, and how easily they are
amused at what is after all rather a commonplace proceeding. When his
own friends look upon him so distinctly in the light of a joke, he of
course cannot expect much quarter from the friends of the lady. He has a
painful impression that he is coming out in a part for which he has had
no practice, under the eyes of hostile critics. Every man thinks it only
due to himself to criticise a friend's new purchases of horses or
pictures or wines; if he did not find fault with them he would miss an
opportunity of establishing his superior acumen. And of course the
principle extends to lovers. There is probably a narrow circle who are
bound officially to approve; but the unfortunate victim feels that,
outside of it, every acquaintance of the lady will take pleasure in a
keen observation of his defects, and he trembles accordingly. It is said
(rather unfairly, perhaps) that shyness is a form of conceit; but the
least self-conscious of mankind can hardly fail to feel uncomfortable
when he is called upon to perform such a highflown part under so severe
a scrutiny.

Of course the torment is far greater in the case of a middle-aged
professional gentleman, who is habitually employed upon some incongruous
work, than to a youth in whom any sort of folly is graceful; but there
can be few persons to whom the position is not to a certain extent
irksome. When a man is married, or when he is a bachelor, he is allowed
to be a rational being, taking rational views of life. He feels it
rather hard that in the interval society insists upon his being in a
state of temporary insanity, and then laughs at him because it doesn't
look natural. He begins to long even for that climax of misery when, if
the custom be not already dead, he will have to commit one of the most
absurd actions of which a human being can be guilty--namely, making a
speech in the morning, at an anomalous and dreary meal, exactly when his
shamefacedness is at its highest pitch. That so many people survive
engagements without any perceptible sourness of temper is some proof of
the goodness of human nature, or of the fact that there are
compensations in the state of being in love which go to neutralize the
discomfort of being engaged.


There is, no doubt, something extremely flattering to our insular
conceit in the mystery which hangs about the institutions which we prize
as specially national. We feel that a Briton is still equal to three
Frenchmen, so long as the three Frenchmen confess with a shrug that the
Briton is wholly unintelligible. The blunders of Dr. Döllinger, the
baffled wonderment with which every foreigner retires from the study of
it, only endear to us the more the Church of England. This was perhaps
the reason, besides the inherent marvel of the matter, why we passed so
lightly over M. Esquiroz and his late ecclesiastical researches. It was
humiliating to English pride to have to confess that a Frenchman had
unveiled to the world of Paris the hitherto sacred mysteries of the
perpetual curate and of the tithe rent-charge.

The enemy was clearly at the gates of the central fortress of British
insularism; even an American bishop was tempted to strive to understand
Westminster Abbey; and a dismal rumor prevailed that nothing hindered
the Ecclesiastical Commissioners from revealing the nature and purpose
of their existence but the fact that, after prolonged inquiry, they
found it impossible to understand them themselves. It was time, we felt,
to abandon these mere outposts of the unintelligible to the aggressions
of an impertinent curiosity, and to retire to the citadel. There,
happily, we are safe. Even the unhallowed inquisitiveness of M. Esquiroz
recoils baffled from the parson's wife. Disdainful of all artificial
adjuncts of mystery, to all appearance a woman like other women, packing
her little sick-baskets, balancing the coal-club accounts, teaching in
her Sunday-school, the centre of religion, of charity, and of
tittle-tattle, woman in orders fronts calmly the inquirer, a being
fearfully and wonderfully English, unknowable and unknown.

No one who saw for the first time the calm, colorless serenity of the
parson's wife would discover in her existence the result of a life-long
disappointment. But the parson on whose arm she leans commonly
represents to his spouse simply the descent from the ideal to the real,
the step from the sublime to the prosaic, if not the ridiculous. There
was a moment in her life when the vestry-door closed upon a world of
hallowed wonder, when the being who appeared in white robes, "mystic,
wonderful," was a being not as other men are, a being whose hours were
spent in study, in meditation, in charity, a being of beautiful sermons
and spotless neckties. The flirtation with him, so impatiently longed
for, was not as other men's flirtations; there was a tinge of sacredness
about his very frivolity, and a soft touch of piety in his sentiment. To
share such a life, to commune hourly with a spirit so semi-angelic,
seemed an almost religious ambition. The spirit of a Crusader,
half-heaven, half-earth, fired the gentle breast of the besieger till
Jerusalem was won.

Then came the hour of disenchantment. The mysterious object of
adoration, seen on his own hearth-rug, melted into the mass of men. The
spiritual idealist was cross over an ill-cooked dinner, and as
commonplace at breakfast as his _Times_. The discourses, so lately
utterances from heaven, dwindled into copies or compilations from other
heavenly utterers. The life of a Lady Bountiful turned out a dull
routine of mothers' meetings and Sunday-schools. The ideal poor,
grateful and resigned, proved cross and greedy old harridans. The world
of peace, of nobleness, of serenity, died into a parish of bustle and
scandal and worry. Out of this wreck of hope arises the parson's wife.
Disillusionment is her ordination for a clerical position none the less
real that it is without parallel in the ecclesiastical history of the

She takes her part with all the decision of genius. Her first step is to
restore the Temple she has broken down, to set up again the Dagon who
lies across the threshold. If not for herself, at any rate for the world
and for her children, she re-creates the priest she once dreamt of in
the commonplace parson whom she has actually wedded. Conscious as she is
of the inner nature of the idling apartment where he lounges through the
morning, she impresses on the household the necessity of quiet while its
master is in his "study." By the daily addition of skillful but minute
touches, she paints him to the world as an ideal of piety and of
learning. She takes bills and letters off his hands, that his mind may
not be disturbed from more serious subjects. She enforces a sacred
silence throughout the house during the solemn hours while the sermon is
being compiled. She sews the sacred sheets together, and listens while
the discourse is recited for her approval. She listens again with an
interest as fresh as ever when it is preached. She marks the text in her
Bible, and sees that the children mark it too.

As the first subject of his theological realm, she sets an example which
other subjects are to follow. They, like her, mingle their contempt for
the parson's business abilities and voluble talk with a hushed reverence
for his esoteric knowledge of subjects inaccessible to common men. They,
like her, manage to combine a perfect readiness to snub him and his
opinions on all earthly topics, with an equal readiness to listen to
him, as to a divine oracle, on the topics of grace and free-will.
Insensibly the subtle distinction tells on the parson himself. He is
conscious, perhaps pleasantly conscious, that he is seen through the
glass of his wife, and seen therefore darkly. He retires within the
domestic veil. He learns to avoid common subjects--subjects, that is,
where the world holds itself at liberty to criticise him. He retires to
fields where he is above criticism. He believes at last in the vamped-up
sermons in which his wife persists in believing. He accepts the position
of an oracle on sacred topics which his wife has made for him. In a
word, the parson's wife has created the British parson.

It is hard to say how far the creator believes in her own creation. In
persuading others, she probably succeeds to a great extent in persuading
herself. At any rate she accepts willingly enough the consequences of a
position which leaves her the master of the parish. In the bulk of cases
the parson is simply the Mikado, the nominal ruler, lapped in soft ease,
and exempt from the worry of the world about him. Woman is the parochial
Tycoon, the constitutional premier who does not rule, but governs. She
is the hidden centre and force of the whole parochial machinery--the
organist, the chief tract distributor, the president of the Dorcas
society, the despot of the penny bank and the coal-club, the head of the
sewing-class, the supervisor of district-visitors, the universal referee
as to the character of mendicant Joneses and Browns. In other words, the
parson's wife has revived an Apostolic Order which but for her would
have died away; she has restored the primitive Diaconate.

Woman is the true parochial deacon, and not the bashful young gentleman
fresh from Oxford, who wears his stole over one shoulder rather than
over two. It is the parson's wife who "serves tables" nowadays; and the
results on parochial activity are in some ways remarkable enough. In the
first place, men are fairly driven from the field. If a layman wishes to
help in a parish he finds himself lost in a world of women. It is only
those semi-clerical beings who seem to unite with a singular grace all
the weaknesses of both the sexes who persist in the attempt. Then, too,
all the ideas of the parochial world become feminine; the parish buzzes
with woman's hatred of the Poor-laws, and contempt for economic
principles and hard-hearted statisticians.

Mendicancy flies from the workhouse and the stone-yard to entrench
itself against Guardians and relieving-officers among the soup-kitchens
and the coal-tickets of feminine almsgiving. The parson, after a faint
protest of common sense, surrenders at discretion, and flings all
experience to the winds. One wife turns her husband into a fount of
begging letters. Another forces him to set up manufactories for all the
lucifer-match girls of the parish. Woman's imaginativeness, woman's
fancy, woman's indifference to fact exhausts itself in "sensational
cases," and revels in starvation and death. But we must turn to a
brighter side of her activity. Ritualism is the great modern result of
the parson's wife, though, with a base ingratitude to the rock from
which they were hewn, Ritualists hoist the standard of clerical
celibacy. Woman has long since made her parson; now (as of old with her
doll) her pleasure is to dress him. A new religious atmosphere surrounds
her life when the very work of her hands becomes hallowed in its
purpose. The old crotchet and insertion--we use words to us more
mysterious than intelligible--become flat, stale, and unprofitable by
the side of the book-marker and the colored stole; and a flutter of
excitement stirs even the stillness of a life which is sometimes
offensively still at the sight of the new chasuble with "aunt's real
lace, you know, dear," sewn about it.

However gray an existence may be, and the tones of a life like this are
naturally subdued, it still cherishes within a warmth and poetry of its
own; and the poetry of the parson's wife breaks out in vestments and
decorations. Nothing brings out more vividly the fact that Mrs. Proudie
_is_ the Church of England than that her reaction against the prose of
existence is shaking--so the Protestant Alliance tells us--the Church of
England to its foundations. The real disturber of the Church peace, the
real assertor of Catholic principles, or (for those who prefer a middle
phrase to either of these contending statements) the real defendant in
the Court of Arches, is not Mr. Mackonochie, but the parson's wife.

Mrs. Proudie, we repeat, is the Church of England; but if it is
difficult to estimate the results of her position upon the spouse of her
bosom and the parish which she rules, it is still harder to estimate its
results upon herself. Her outer manner seems, indeed, to reflect what we
have ventured to call the gray tones of her life, and a certain
weariness of routine breaks out even in the mechanical precision of her
existence. Power, in the parochial as in the domestic circle, is bought
by her at the cost of a perpetual self-abnegation, and it is a little
hard to be always hiding the hand that pulls the strings. We may excuse
a little forgetfulness in a wife when her daily sacrifice is wholly
forgotten in the silver teapot and the emblazoned memorial which
proclaim the borrowed glories of her spouse.

Sometimes there may be a little justification for the complaint of the
British priestess that the priest alone should be crowned with laurel.
But, if she is ecclesiastically forgotten, it must be remembered that
her position receives a shy and timid recognition from society. She is
credited with a quasi-clerical character, and regarded as having
received a sort of semi-ordination. The Church, indeed, assigns her no
parochial precedence; but public opinion, if it sets her beneath her
husband, places her above all other ecclesiastical agencies. Tacitly she
is allowed to have the right to speak of "_our_ curates." Then, again,
society assigns her a sort of mediatorial position between the Church
and the world; she is the point of transition between the clergy and
their flocks. It is through her that the incense of congregational
flattery is suffered to mount up to the idol who may not personally
inhale it; and it is through her that the parson can intimate his
opinion, and scatter his hints on a number of social subjects too
trivial for his personal intervention.

It is impossible, indeed, to express in words the delicate shades of her
social position, or, what is yet more remarkable, the relation to her
sister-world of woman. There can be no doubt that, taken all in all,
women are a little proud of the parson's wife. She is, as it were, the
tithe of their sex, taken and consecrated for the rest. The dignity of
her position in close proximity to the very priesthood itself extends,
by the subtle gradation of sisters of mercy, district-visitors, and
tract-distributors, to women in the mass. Her influence is a quiet
protest against the injustice of the present religions of the world in
excluding woman from those ministerial functions with which Paganism
invested her. It is an odd transition from the quiet parson's wife to
the priestess of Delphi; but while the parson's wife exists there is at
any rate a persistence in the claim of woman's right to resume her
tripod again.

It is the quiet consciousness of this, of her spiritual headship of her
sex, of her mystic and unexpressed but real ecclesiastical position,
quite as much as the weariness of her daily routine, which displays
itself in the bearing of the parson's wife. She is not quite as other
women are, any more than he is as other men. Her dress is--at any rate,
in theory it ought to be--a shade quieter, her bonnets a little less
modern, her manner a trifle more reserved, her mirth hardly as
unrestrained as those of the rest of her sex. Her talk, without being
clerical, takes a quiet clerical tinge. She has her little scandal about
the archdeacon and her womanly abhorrence of that horrid Colenso. She
knows Early English from Middle Pointed, and interprets Ritualistic
phrases into intelligible vocables. Like the curate, she dances only in
family circles, and then dances after a discreet and ecclesiastical
sort. She has no objection to cards, but she plays only for love. She
sings solos from the _Messiah_ and _St. Paul_.

An existence simple, kindly enough in its way, penetrating society no
doubt with a thousand good influences, but yet, we must own, hardly very
interesting to the priestess who lives it. Altogether, when we get
beyond the purple and gold of our rulers, we congratulate ourselves on
being free from the tedium and weariness and perpetual self-restraint of
their lofty position. And even the curate who has lately raised his
faint protest against what he calls "feminine domination" may remember
in charity that while croquet and flirtation remain to him, his
existence, slavery though he deem it, is a slavery far freer, blither,
and more lively than that of the curate's wife.


We men boast, as Homer said, to be braver than our fathers; but, as a
sort of compensation, our women are far more sensitive than their
grandmothers. Phyllis has ceased to laugh at Mr. Spectator's criticisms
on her fan and her patches; but then it may be doubted whether Phyllis
ever did laugh very heartily at Mr. Spectator. Women have run through
all the list of moral and intellectual qualities in their time, but we
do not remember an instance of a really humorous woman. Witty women
there have been, and no doubt are still in plenty, but the world has
still to welcome its feminine Addison.

The higher a man's nature, the keener seems his enjoyment of his own
irony and mockery of his own foibles; but did any woman ever seriously
sit down to write a "Roundabout Paper?" Women, we are generally told,
are "especially self-conscious;" in fact, the whole theory of women,
philosophically stated, from the shyness of the miss in her 'teens to
the audacious flirtation of a heroine of the season, rests wholly on the
assumed basis of "self-consciousness." But it is self-consciousness of a
very peculiar and feminine sort--a consciousness, not of themselves in
themselves, but of the reflection of themselves, in others, of the
impression they make on the world around. Woman, we suspect, lives
always before her glass, and makes a mirror of existence. But for
downright self-analysis, we repeat, she has little or no taste. A female
Montaigne, a female Thackeray, would be a sheer impossibility.

We have been led, as the _Spectator_ would have said, into these
reflections by the chorus of shrill indignation with which the world of
woman encounters the slightest comment of extraneous critics. The censor
is at once told flatly that he knows nothing of woman. He is a bachelor,
he is blighted in love, he is envious, spiteful; he is blind, deaf,
dumb. All this goes without saying, as the French have it, but he is
certainly ignorant. The truth is, it is woman who knows nothing of
herself. It is only self-analysis which reveals to us our inner
anomalies, our ridiculous self-contrasts; it is humor which recognises
and amuses itself with their existence. But it is just the absence of
this sense of anomaly in her nature or her life that is the charm of

Christmas has been bringing us, among its other festivities, a few of
those delightful amusements called private theatricals; and in private
theatricals all are agreed with Becky Sharpe, that woman reigns supreme.
We were present the other day at an entertaining little comedy of this
kind, where the whole interest of the piece was absorbed by a
fascinating widow and an intriguing attorney, and where both these parts
were sustained with singular ability and success. The amateur who played
the lawyer seized the general idea of his _rôle_ with perfect accuracy;
in four minutes it was admirably rendered to his audience, but in four
minutes it was exhausted. The preliminary cough, the constant angularity
of attitude in the midst of perpetual fidget, the indicative finger from
which the legal remarks seemed to pop off as from a pocket-pistol, were
grasped at once, and remained unvaried, undeveloped to the close. The
very ability with which the actor rendered the inner unity of legal
existence, the very fidelity with which he represented the lawyer as a
class, denied to him the subtle charm of the only unity which life as a
representation exhibits--the charm of a unity of outer impression
arising out of perpetual inner variety.

His feminine rival won her laurels just because she made no attempt to
grasp any general idea at all, but abandoned herself freely to the
phases of the character as it encountered the various other characters
of the piece. Whether as the frivolous widow or the daring coquette, as
the practical woman of business or the unprotected female, as the flirt
in her wildest extravagance or the wife in her most melting moods, she
aimed at no artistic unity beyond the general unity of sex. She remained
simply woman, and all this prodigious versatility was, as the audience
observed, "so charmingly natural," just because it is woman's life. "On
the stage," if we may venture to apply the lines about Garrick:--

     On the stage she is natural, simple, affecting--
     It is only that when she is off she is acting.

In actual fact she is acting whether off the boards or on, but the mere
existence in outer impressions, in the unity of a constant admiration,
which critics applaud as natural on the stage, they are unreasonably
hard upon in general society.

A man on the boards is doing an unusual and exceptional thing, and as a
rule the very effort he makes to do it only enhances his failure; but a
woman on the boards is only doing, under very favorable circumstances,
what she does every day with less notice and applause. There can be no
wonder if she is "charmingly natural," but this naturalness depends, as
we have seen, on the entire absence of what in men is called
self-consciousness--that is, the sense of anomaly. When a critic then
ventures to open this inner existence, and to give woman a peep at
herself, we cannot be astonished at the scream of indignation which
greets his efforts. But we may be permitted to repeat that the scream
proves, not that he knows nothing of woman, but that woman knows nothing
of herself.

We are afraid, however, that all this feminine resentment points to a
radical defect in the mind of woman, which she is alternately proud to
acknowledge and resolute to deny. Frenchmen of the Thiers sort have a
trick to which they give the amusing name of logic; they present their
reader with a couple of alternatives which they assert divide the
universe, and bid you choose "of these two one." But any ordinary woman
presents to the observer a hundred distinct alternatives, and defies him
to choose any one in particular. There is no special reason, then, for
astonishment at the coolness with which she sets herself up one moment
as a "deductive creature," as one who attains the highest flights of
knowledge by intuition rather than by reason, and the next poses herself
as the one specially rational being in her household, and waits
patiently till her husband is reasonable too.

We are sometimes afraid that neither one nor the other of these theories
will hold water, and feel inclined to agree with one of the most
brilliant of her sex that, if woman loves with her head, she thinks with
her heart. As a rule, certainly, she judges through her affections. She
does not praise nor blame; she loves or hates. The one thing she cannot
understand is a purely intellectual criticism, the sort of morbid
anatomy of the mind which treats its subject as a mere dead thing simply
useful for demonstration. Very naturally, she attributes the same spirit
of affectional intelligence to her critics as to herself; and when they
unravel a few of her inconsistencies, amuse themselves with a few
follies, or even venture to point out a few faults, she brands them as
"hating" or "despising" woman. Point, too, is given to the charge by the
fact that these affections through which she lives are from their very
nature incapable of dealing with qualities, and naturally transform them
into persons. A woman does not love her lover's courage or truth or
honor; she loves her lover. If she prizes his qualities at all it is
simply because they are inherent in him, and so she gives herself very
little trouble to distinguish between his bad qualities and his good
ones. She considers herself bound to defend his characteristics in the
mass, and if she seem to give up his extravagance or his rakishness, it
is only with a secret determination that this concession to the world
shall be balanced by an increase of adoration at home.

As she deals with mankind, so she expects mankind, and especially the
mankind of criticism, to deal with her. It is in vain that her censor
replies that he only blamed her bonnet-strings or attacked the color of
her shoe-tie. Woman's answer is that he has attacked woman. This folly,
that absurdity, are in woman's mind herself, and their assailant is her
own personal antagonist. "Love me all in all or not at all" is a woman's
song, not in Mr. Tennyson's _Idyl_ only, but all the world over. The
discriminating admiration, the constitutional obedience which still
claims to preserve a certain reticence and caution in its loyalty, are
more alien to woman's feelings than the refusal of all worship, all
obedience whatever. "Picking her to pieces" is the phrase in which she
describes the critical process against which she revolts, and it is a
phrase which, in a woman's mouth, is the prelude to the bitterest

There is a more amiable, if a hardly more intelligent, trait in woman's
character which renders her singularly averse to all criticism. Men can
hardly be described as loyal to men. Whether it be their exaggerated
self-esteem, their individuality, or their reason, it is certain that
they do not imagine the honor of their sex to be concerned in the
conduct of each particular member of it. The lawyer laughs over a
little gentle fun when it is poked at his neighbor the vicar, and the
parson has his amusement out of the exposure of the foibles of his
friend the attorney. What they never dream of is the flinging over each
other's defects the general cloak of manhood, and rallying at every
smile of criticism under the general banner of the sex.

But woman, in front of the enemy, piques herself on her _solidarité_.
Flirt or prude, prim or gay, foolish or wise, woman, once criticised,
cries to her sisters, and is recognised and defended as woman. All
feminine comment, all internal censure, is hushed before the foe. The
tittle-tattle of the gossips, the social intrigues of the dowager, are
adopted as frankly as the self-devotion of a Miss Nightingale. The door
of refuge is flung open as widely for the foolish virgins as for the
wise. All distinctions of age, of conduct, of intelligence, of rank are
annihilated or forgotten in the presence of the enemy. Every fault is to
be defended, every weakness to be held stoutly against his attacks. "No
surrender" is the order of the day. It is only when the criticism of the
outer world withdraws that woman's internal criticism recommences. This
is, indeed, half the offence of outer assailants, that they suspend and
injure the working of that inner discipline which woman exerts over
woman. Mrs. Proudie, it has been said, is the Church.

Women certainly present the only analogy in the present day to that
claim of internal jurisdiction for which the Church struggled so
gallantly in the middle ages. No one who sees the serried ranks with
which she encounters all investigation from without would imagine the
severity with which she administers justice within. Like the Westphalian
Vehm-gericht, the mystery of feminine courts is only equalled by their
terrible sentences. Mrs. Grundy on the seat of justice is a Rhadamanthus
to whom criticism may fairly leave an erring sister. But all this in
nowise weakens the firmness of woman's attitude before an outer foe. She
claims absolute right to all hanging, drawing, and quartering on her
domains. Like a feudal baron, she will yield to no man her stocks and
her gallows. But to judge from the prim front of her squares, the
cordial grasp of hand-in-hand with which they form to resist all
masculine charges, no one would imagine the ruthless severity with which
woman was breaking some poor drummer-boy inside.

We are bound, however, to add, that in all our remarks we have only been
nibbling at the outer rind of a great difficulty. Woman has
characteristically fallen back on a grand principle, and has asserted
her absolute immunity from all criticism whatever. It is not merely that
this critic is deaf or that critic malignant, that one censor is
ignorant and another basely envious of woman. All this special pleading
is totally flung aside, and the defence stands on a basis of the most
uncompromising sort. No man, it is asserted, can judge woman, because no
man can understand her. She is the Sphinx of modern investigation, and
man is not fated to be her OEdipus. We can conceive of few
announcements more welcome, if it be only true.

In an age when everything seems pretty well discovered, when one cannot
preserve even a shred of mystery to cloak the bareness of one's life,
when the very surface of the globe is all mapped out, and the mysterious
griffins of untraversed deserts are vanishing from the map, it is an
amazing relief to know that an unsolved, nay more, that an insoluble,
mystery is standing on one's very hearth-rug. No wonder great
philosophers have spent their lives in vain in looking for the riddle of
existence, when they never dreamt of looking for it at home. Why woman
is so peculiarly mysterious, why the laws of her nature are so specially
unintelligible to a common world, we have not yet been informed. What is
asserted is simply the fact of this mystery, and before that great fact
criticism retires.

All that remains for it is to pray and to wait, to hope for a revelation
from within, since it is forbidden any exploration from without. Some
prophetess, no doubt a veiled prophetess herself, will arise to lift the
veil of her sex. Woman, let us hope, will at last unriddle woman. Smit
by the sunbeams, or rather by the moonbeams, of self-discovery, the
Sphinx of modern times will reveal in weird and superhuman music the
mystery of her existence.


No one with a soul to appreciate the extra-judicial utterances of Mr.
Samuel Warren can have forgotten the memorable lament over the decline
and fall of the fine old English maid-servant with which, some years
ago, he introduced some cases of petty larceny to the notice of the
grand-jurors of Hull. The alarm sounded with such touching eloquence
from the judgment-seat was taken up last autumn, if we remember, by a
venerable Countess, who, in an address to an assemblage of Cumbrian
lasses, aspirants to the kitchen and the dairy, took occasion to read
them a lecture on the duty of dressing with the simplicity befitting
their station. Both the learned Recorder and the venerable Countess were
animated by the best intentions. Their advice was excellent, and we
sincerely trust that it may have induced the neat-handed Phyllis of the
North to curb her immoderate taste for finery. These sporadic warnings
seem likely to ripen at last into action.

From a letter lately inserted in the _Pall Mall Gazette_, we learn that
a "Clergyman's Wife" has long been brooding in silent indignation over
"the present disgraceful style of dress among female servants." Her
disgust finds vent in a manifesto to the mistresses of Great Britain,
in which, after painting the evil in the darkest possible colors, she
ends by suggesting a remedy for it. Dress, we are told, among "the lower
orders of females," has arrived at a pitch which has wholly changed the
aspect and character of our towns and country villages. Neither
preachers nor good books can avail to stop it. Bad women are fearfully
increased in number, good wives and mothers are getting rare. In
consequence of the reckless expenditure of women upon their dress,
husbands become drunkards, and murder too commonly follows. The remedy
for this terrible state of things is to be found in the following
"proposition:"--The ladies of England are to form an association,
pledging themselves to adopt, each family for themselves, a uniform for
their female servants, and to admit none into their service who refuse
to wear it.

The uniform is not to be old-fashioned or disfiguring, but merely neat,
simple, and consequently becoming. The following ornaments are to be
absolutely prohibited--"feathers, flowers, brooches, buckles or clasps,
earrings, lockets, neck-ribbons and velvets, kid-gloves, parasols,
sashes, jackets, Garibaldis, all trimming on dresses, crinoline, or
steel of any kind." No dress to touch the ground. No pads, frisettes, no
chignons, no hair-ribbons. Having swept away by a stroke of the pen all
this mass of finery, a "Clergyman's Wife" goes on to make some
"suggestions," which we quote for the edification of our lady readers:--

"Morning dress: Lilac print, calico apron, linen collar. Afternoon
dress: Some lighter print, muslin apron, linen collar and cuffs.
Sundays: a neat alpaca dress, linen collar and cuffs, or frill tacked
into the neck of the dress, a black apron, a black shawl, a medium straw
bonnet with ribbons and strings of the same color, a bow of the same
inside, and a slight cap across the forehead, thread or cotton gloves, a
small cotton or alpaca umbrella to keep off sun and rain. The winter
Sunday dress: Linsey dress, shepherd's plaid shawl, black straw bonnet.
A plain brown or black turndown straw hat with a rosette of the same
color, and fastened on with elastic, should be possessed by all servants
for common use, and is indispensable for nursemaids walking out with
children. Should servants be in mourning, the same neat style must be
observed--no bugles, or beads, or crape flowers allowed."

The first thing that strikes us in connection with this glib project is
the enormous difficulty of carrying it into execution. It is easy, we
all know, to call spirits from the vasty deep, but exceedingly difficult
to induce them to obey the summons. It is easy, and to feminine
ingenuity rather pleasant than otherwise, to devise sumptuary laws for
the kitchen. But it is quite another thing to try to enforce them. By
what coercive machinery is Betsy Jane to be forced into the detested
uniform? We know how deeply the Anglo-Saxon mind resents any social
"ticketing." Does a "Clergyman's Wife" suppose that the British
housemaid is exempt from this little weakness common to her race? At any
rate, we are convinced that she would never subside into a "lilac
print" or a "neat alpaca" without a tremendous struggle. Her first
weapon of defence would infallibly be a strike. It is absurd to suppose
that she would cling to her flowers and parasol with less tenacity than
cabby to his right of running over people in the dark.

Now, is a "Clergyman's Wife" prepared to face the consequences of such a
strike? Is she ready for an indefinite time to cook her own dinner, mend
her own dresses, dust her own rooms, manage her own nursery? What if the
vengeance of the housemaid menaced by the imposition of a "calico apron"
or a "medium straw bonnet" should assume a darker form, and a system of
domestic "rattening" should spread terror through the tranquil
parsonages of England? Is she prepared to brave the system of
intimidation by which a union of vindictive cooks and nursery-maids
might assert their inherent rights to lockets and earrings? Has she the
nerve to crush the secret plots of kitchen Fenianism? Ultimately, no
doubt, her efforts might be crowned with success. When that happy time
arrived, when "her suggestions were generally adopted," and the
"requirements of ladies, especially those of fortune, were generally
known" to comprise a uniform for the maid-servant, she might succeed in
closing the market of domestic service to the flaunting abigail whose
audacious finery renders her to the outward eye indistinguishable from
her own daughters.

But as that time would be long in coming, and probably would never
arrive in her lifetime, she would have to face the discomforts of a
long period of transition, during which she would have to rely on
herself and her daughters for the discharge of the various operations of
the household. Meantime we beg to suggest another way of effecting her
purpose quite as easy, and much more effectual. Why not go in for an Act
of Parliament, having for its object the total suppression of the
instinct of vanity in the female bosom? Let it be enacted that, on and
after the 1st of next April (the date would be appropriate), feathers,
flowers, and the other abominations which she seeks to proscribe, shall
be for ever abjured and disused by the fair sex. As the prelude to that
full entry on her social and political rights which is nowadays claimed
for woman, a proposal of this magnitude would commend itself, no doubt,
to the philosophic section of the House of Commons.

There is another feature in the manifesto of a "Clergyman's Wife" which
calls for observation. She lays particular stress on securing the
adhesion to her plan of "families of wealth and distinction," "ladies of
position and fortune"--of the leaders of fashion, in short, wherever
those mysterious but potent decoy-ducks are to be found. Its success
depends on "making it fashionable to adopt the uniform," on making
simplicity of dress among maid-servants the sole avenue to the "best
situations." Now, as it is conceded that the "present disgraceful style
of dress among servant girls" is the result of their ambition to imitate
their superiors, it is worth while, in order to estimate both the amount
of their responsibility for the said disgrace and the chances of
success of the proposed reform, to glance from the style of dress in
vogue in the kitchen to the style of dress in vogue in the drawing-room.

Oddly enough, on the very day on which a "Clergyman's Wife" was
permitted to ventilate her project in the _Pall Mall Gazette_, the
public was favored with the latest intelligence on this point, in the
columns of a fashionable contemporary. Paris, we all know, is the
sovereign arbiter of dress to all "ladies of position and fortune" in
this country, the center of an authority on all matters relating to the
toilette, which radiates, through "families of distinction and wealth,"
to those calm retreats where clergymen's wives, in chastely severe
attire, exchange hospitalities with their neighbors. What is the
fashionable style of dress in Paris at the present moment? The
correspondent of our contemporary shall speak for himself. "We are
living," he says, "in an age which seems to be reviving the classical
period in the history of drapery. You see pretty nearly as much of the
female _torso_ now as the Athenians did when the bas-reliefs of the
Parthenon copied the modes of the Greeks so many hundred years ago, and
when the multitude did not worship the drapery of the goddess only."

After some piquant remarks on the style of dress in the theatres, he
goes on to inform us how "in the more refined and virtuous society" the
ladies are dressing this winter. "At a _fête_ graced by all that is
elegant, refined, and aristocratic in Paris," he observed the duchess,
the countess, and the baroness imitating the costly toilettes of the
_demi-monde_, arrayed like one of them precisely, in the very height of
fashion. We are favored with a minute account of one representative
toilette in the room:--

"The lady is of a noble Hungarian family, fair, with that dark brown
reddish hair which is just going to begin to be golden, but never shines
out. Pale oval face, heavy eyebrows, bright bronze eyes. Small festoons
of hair over the brow, imprisoned by a golden metal band. Behind a
Bismarck chignon. A mass of twisted hair, in a sort of Laocoon agony,
was decorated with small insects (of course I don't mean anything
impossible), glittering gem-like beetles from the Brazils. Three long
curls hang from the imposing mass, and could be worn before or behind,
and be made to perform--as I witnessed--all sorts of coquettish
tricks. . . . Now for the dress. Well, there is nothing to describe till
you get very nearly down to the waist. A pretty bit of lace on a band
wanders over the shoulder; the back is bare very low down, and more of
the bust is seen than even last year's fashions permitted. . . . You
may, as far as I could observe, dress or half-dress just as you like;
caprice has taken the place of uniform fashion. As the panorama of
_grandes dames_ floats before my mind's eye, I come to the conclusion
that I have seen more of those ladies than one could have hoped or
expected in so brief a space of time."

This, then, is, or shortly will be, in a tasteless and exaggerated form,
the style of dress among those "ladies of distinction" whose
co-operation a "Clergyman's Wife" fondly hopes to enlist in her scheme
for purging the kitchen of its "disgraceful" finery. It is just possible
that she has not heard of these things. Perhaps in the retirement of the
parsonage, with her eyes intently fixed on the moral havoc which dress
is causing among "the lower orders of females," she has assumed that the
dress of the higher orders of females is irreproachably modest and
correct. If so, we are sorry to have to dispel an illusion which would
go far to justify the self-complacent tone of her lecture. But unless
she is blissfully ignorant of contemporary fashions in any sphere more
elevated than the kitchen, we are struck with astonishment at the
hardihood of an appeal at the present moment to ladies of fashion.

Is a being whose avowed object is to imitate as exactly as possible the
cosmetic tricks of the _demi-monde_ likely to prove an influential ally
in a crusade against cheap finery? Is a mistress whose head-gear
resembles the art-trophy of an eccentric hair-dresser, and whose
clothing is described as nothing to speak of "until you get very nearly
down to the waist," the person to be especially selected to preach
propriety of dress to her maid? Or is it that a "Clergyman's Wife"
objects to overdress only, and not to underdress; and that, while she
would repress with severity any attempt on the part of "females of the
lower order" to adorn their persons, she looks with a tolerant eye,
among "ladies of position and fortune," upon the nude? We are curious to
know at what point in the social scale she would draw the line above
which an unblushing exhibition of the female _torso_ is decent, and
below which earrings and a parasol are immoral.

As a matter of fact, so far from discouraging the passion for dress
among their female dependents, ladies of position and fortune are apt to
insist on their dressing smartly. They like to see some of their own
lustre reflected on their attendants. A dowdy in sad-colored print or
linsey is by no means to their taste. This has been well pointed out in
a letter in which a "Maid-servant" replied, through the _Pall Mall
Gazette_, to the project of reform proposed by a "Clergyman's Wife."
Looking at the question from her own point of view, she described in
plain words how, when she first went into service, she had wished to
dress simply, but was quickly made to understand that she must either
spend more of her wages on dress, or seek another situation. We believe
that her experience would be endorsed by the great majority of her
class. If a "Clergyman's Wife" would take the pains to inquire into the
facts of the case, she would not be long in ascertaining from what
quarter the signal for unbecoming finery among "females of the lower
orders" really comes.

The plain truth of the matter is, that a reform in the dress of "lower
class females," and maid-servants in particular, can only be brought
about in one way. The reaction in favor of a neat and simple style must
come from above, and not from below; in the way of example, not of
precept. When "ladies of position and fortune" cease to lavish their
thousands on millinery, their copyists in the nursery and kitchen will
cease to spend their wages on a similar object. When every one above the
rank of a governess dresses in a manner suitable to her station,
complaints will be no longer heard about "unbecoming" finery below
stairs. The chief incentive to showy dress among the "lower orders of
females" is unquestionably a desire to ape the extravagance of their
betters. Remove that incentive, and the evil which a "Clergyman's Wife"
so forcibly deplores will soon cure itself.

We hope that she may be induced to turn her reforming zeal into another
direction. Instead of indulging in childish projects for putting the
Sunday-school, and the church singers, and maid-servants, and the lower
orders of females generally into uniforms, let her attack the mischief
at its root, and persuade the fine ladies of the earth to curtail their
monstrous prodigality and immodest vagaries in dress. Let her add her
warning voice to that of the Head of Latin Christianity, who has
recently denounced this scandal of the age with the same perennial vigor
that characterizes his anathemas on the Subalpine Government.


It is the peculiar triumph of woman in this nineteenth century that she
has made the conquest of Art. Our grandmothers lived in the kitchen, and
debased their finer faculties to the creation of puddings and pies. They
spun, they knitted, they mended, they darned, they kept the accounts of
the household, and scolded the maids. From this underground existence of
barbaric ages woman has at last come forth into the full sunshine of
artistic day; she has mounted from the kitchen to the studio, the
sketching-desk has superseded the pudding-board, sonatas have banished
the knitting-needle, poetry has exterminated weekly accounts. Woman, in
a word, has realized her mission; it is her characteristic, she tells us
through a chorus of musical voices, to represent the artistic element of
the world, to be pre-eminently the æsthetic creature.

Nature educates her, as Wordsworth sang long ago, into a being of her
own, sensitive above all to beauty of thought and color, and sound and
form. Delicate perceptions of evanescent shades and tones, lost to the
coarser eye and ear of man, exquisite refinements of spiritual
appreciation, subtle powers of detecting latent harmonics between the
outer and the inner world of nature and the soul, blend themselves like
the colors of the prism in the pure white light of woman's organization.
And so the host of Woman, as it marches to the conquest of this world,
flaunts over its legions the banner of art.

In one of the occasional passages of real poetic power with which Walt
Whitman now and then condescends to break the full tide of rhapsody over
the eternities and the last patent drill, he describes himself as seeing
two armies in succession go forth to the civil war. First passed the
legions of Grant and M'Clellan, flushed with patriotic enthusiasm and
hope of victory, and cheered onward by the shouts of adoring multitudes.
Behind, silent and innumerable, march the army of the dead. Something,
we must own, of the same contrast strikes us as we stand humbly aside to
watch the æsthetic progress of woman.

It is impossible not to feel a certain glow of enthusiastic sympathy as
the vanguard passes by--women earnest in aim and effort, artists,
nursing-sisters, poetesses, doctors, wives, musicians, novelists,
mathematicians, political economists, in somewhat motley uniform and
ill-dressed ranks, but full of resolve, independence, and
self-sacrifice. If we were fighting folk we confess we should be half
inclined to shout for the rights of woman, and to fall manfully into the
rank. As it is, we wait patiently for the army behind, for the main
body--woman herself. Woman fronts us as noisy, demonstrative, exacting
in her æsthetic claims. Nothing can surpass the adroitness with which
she uses her bluer sisters on ahead to clear the way for her gayer
legions; nothing, at any rate, but the contempt with which she dismisses
them when their work is done. Their office is to level the stubborn
incredulity, to set straight the crooked criticisms, of sceptical man,
and then to disappear. Woman herself takes their place. Art is
everywhere throughout her host--for music, the highest of arts, is the
art of all.

The singers go before, the minstrels follow after, in the midst are the
damsels playing on the timbrels. The sister Arts have their own
representatives within the mass. Sketching boasts its thousands, and
poetry its tens of thousands. A demure band of maidens blend piety with
art around the standard of Church decoration. Perhaps it is his very
regard for the first host--for its earnestness, for its real
womanhood--that makes the critic so cynical over the second; perhaps it
is his very love for art that turns to quiet bitterness as he sees art
dragged at the heels of foolish virgins. For art _is_ dragged at their
heels. Woman will have man love her for her own sake; but she loves art
for the sake of man. Very truly, if with an almost sublime effrontery,
she re-christens for her own special purposes the great studies that
fired Raffaelle or Beethoven. She pursues them, she pays for them, not
as arts, but as accomplishments. Their cultivation is the last touch
added at her finishing school ere she makes her bow to the world. She
orders her new duet as she orders her new bonnet, and the two purchases
have precisely the same significance. She drops her piano and her
paint-brush as she drops her coquetries and flirtations, when the fish
is landed and she can throw the bait away. Or, what is worse, she keeps
them alive as little social enjoyments, as reliefs to the tedium of
domestic life, as something which fills up the weary hours when she is
fated to the boredom of rural existence.

A woman of business is counted a strange and remarkable being, we hardly
know why. Looking coolly at the matter, it seems to us that all women
are women of business; that their life is spent over the counter; that
there is nothing in earth or heaven too sacred for their traffic and
their barter. Love, youth, beauty, a British mother reckons them up on
her fingers, and tells you to a fraction their value in the market. And
the pale sentimental being at her side, after flooring one big fellow
with a bit of Chopin, and another with a highly unintelligible verse of
Robert Browning, poses herself shyly and asks through appealing eyes,
"Am I not an æsthetic creature?"

The answer to this question is best read, perhaps, in the musical aspect
of woman. Bold as the assumption sounds, it is quietly assumed that
every woman is naturally musical. Music is the great accomplishment, and
the logic of her schools proves to demonstration that every girl has
fingers and an ear. In a wonderful number of cases the same logic proves
that girls have a voice. Anyhow, the assumption moulds the very course
of female existence. The morning is spent in practicing, and the evening
in airing the results of the practice. There are country-houses where
one only rushes away from the elaborate Thalberg of midnight to be
roused up at dawn by the Battle of Prague on the piano in the
school-room over-head. Still we all reconcile ourselves to this
perpetual rattle, because we know that a musical being has to be
educated into existence, and that a woman is necessarily a musical
being. A glance, indeed, at what we may call the life of the piano
explains the necessity.

Music is pre-eminently the social art; no art draws people so
conveniently together, no art so lends itself to conversation, no art is
in a maidenly sense at once so agreeable, so easy to acquire, and so
eminently useful. A flirtation is never conducted under greater
advantages than amid the deafening thunders of a grand finale; the
victim doomed to the bondage of turning over is chained to the
fascination of fine arms and delicate hands. Talk, too, may be conducted
without much trouble over music on the small principles of female
criticism. "Pretty" and "exquisite" go a great way with the Italian and
the Romantic schools; "sublime" does pretty universally for the German.
The opera is, of course, the crown and sum of things, the most charming
and social of lounges, the readiest of conversational topics. It must be
a very happy Guardsman indeed who cannot kindle over the Flower-song or
the Jewel-scene. And it is at the opera that woman is supreme. The
strange mingling of eye and ear, the confused appeal to every sensuous
faculty, the littleness as well as the greatness of it all, echo the
conclusion within woman herself.

Moreover there is no boredom--no absolute appeal to thought or deeper
feeling. It is in good taste to drop in after the first act, and to
leave before the last. It is true that an opera is supposed to be the
great creation of a great artist, and an artist's work is presumed to
have a certain order and unity of its own; but woman is the Queen of
Art, and it is hard if she may not display her royalty by docking the
Fidelio of its head and its tail. But, if woman is obliged to content
herself with mutilating art in the opera or the concert-room, she is
able to create art itself over her piano. A host of Claribels and
Rosalies exist simply because woman is a musical creature. We turn over
the heap of rubbish on the piano with a sense of wonder, and ask,
without hope of an answer, why nine-tenths of our modern songs are
written at all, or why, being written, they can find a publisher.

But the answer is a simple one, after all; it is merely that æsthetic
creatures, that queens of art and of song, cannot play good music and
can play bad.

There is not a publisher in London who would not tell us that the
patronage of musical women is simply a patronage of trash. The fact is
that woman is a very practical being, and she has learned by experience
that trash pays better than good music for her own special purposes; and
when these purposes are attained she throws good music and bad music
aside with a perfect impartiality. It is with a certain feeling of
equity, as well as of content, that the betrothed one resigns her sway
over the keys. She has played and won, and now she holds it hardly fair
that she should interfere with other people's game. So she lounges into
a corner, and leaves her Broadwood to those who have practical work to
do. Her _rôle_ in life has no need of accomplishments, and as for the
serious study of music as an art, as to any real love of it or loyalty
to it, that is the business of "professional people," and not of British
mothers. Only she would have her girls remember that nothing is in
better taste than for young people to show themselves artistic.

Music only displays on the grand scale the laws which in less obtrusive
form govern the whole æsthetic life of woman. Painting, for instance,
dwindles in her hands into the "sketch;" the brown sands in the
foreground, the blue wash of the sea, and the dab of rock behind. Not a
very lofty or amusing thing, one would say at first sight; but, if one
thinks of it, an eminently practical thing, rapid and easy of execution,
not mewing the artist up in solitary studio, but lending itself
gracefully to picnics and groups of a picturesque sort on cliff and
boulder, and whispered criticism from faces peeping over one's shoulder.
Serious painting woman can leave comfortably to Academicians and
rough-bearded creatures of the Philip Firmin type, though even here she
feels, as she glances round the walls of the Academy, that she is
creating art as she is creating music. She dwells complacently on the
home tendencies of modern painting, on the wonderful succession of
squares of domestic canvas, on the nursemaid carrying children up
stairs in one picture, on the nursemaid carrying children down stairs in
the next. She has her little crow of triumph over the great artist who
started with a lofty ideal, and has come down to painting the red
stockings of little girls in green-baize pews, or the wonderful
counterpanes and marvellous bed-curtains of sleeping innocents. She
knows that the men who are forced to paint these things growl contempt
over their own creations, but the very growl is a tribute to woman's
supremacy. It is a great thing when woman can wring from an artist a
hundred "pot-boilers," while man can only give him an order for a single
"Light of the World."

One field of art, indeed, woman claims for her own. Man may build
churches as long as he leaves woman to decorate them. A crowning
demonstration of her æsthetic faculties meet us on every festival in
wreath and text and monogram, in exquisitely moulded pillars turned into
grotesque corkscrews, in tracery broken by strips of greenery, in paper
flowers and every variety of gilt gingerbread. But it may be questioned
whether art is the sole aim of the ecclesiastical picnic out of which
decorations spring. The chatty groups dotted over the aisle, the
constant appeals to the curate, the dainty little screams and giggles as
the ladder shakes beneath those artistic feet, the criticism of cousins
who have looked in quite accidentally for a peep, the half-consecrated
flirtations in the vestry, ally art even here to those practical
purposes which æsthetic woman never forgets. Were she, indeed, once to
forget them, she might become a Dr. Mary Walker; she might even become a
George Sand. In other words, she might find herself an artist, loving
and studying art for its own sake, solitary, despised, eccentric, and
blue. From such a destiny æsthetic woman turns scornfully away.


This is a question which one half the world is asking the other half,
with very wild answers as the result. Woman's work seems to be in these
days everything that it was not in times past, and nothing that it was.
Professions are undertaken and careers invaded which were formerly held
sacred to men, while things are left undone which, for all the
generations that the world has lasted, have been naturally and
instinctively assigned to women to do. From the savage squaw gathering
fuel or drawing water for the wigwam, to the lady giving up the keys to
her housekeeper, housekeeping has been considered one of the primary
functions of women. The man to provide, the woman to dispense; the man
to do the rough initial work of bread-winning, whether as a half-naked
barbarian hunting live meat, or as a city clerk painfully scoring lines
of rugged figures, the woman to cook the meat when got, and to lay out
to the best advantage for the family the quarter's salary gained by
casting up ledgers, and writing advices and bills of lading.

Take human society in any phase we like, we must come down to these
radical conditions; and any system which ignores this division of labor,
and confounds these separate functions, is of necessity imperfect and
wrong. We have nothing whatever to say against the professional
self-support of women who have no men to work for them, and who must
therefore work for themselves in order to live. In what direction soever
they can best make their way, let them take it. Brains and intellectual
gifts are of no sex and no condition, and it is far more important that
good work should be done than that it should be done by this or that
particular set of workers.

But we are speaking of the home duties of married women, and of those
girls who have no need to earn their daily bread, and who are not so
specially gifted as to be driven afield by the irrepressible power of
genius. We are speaking of women who cannot help in the family income,
but who can both save and improve in the home; women whose lives now are
one long day of idleness, _ennui_, and vagrant imagination, because they
despise the activities into which they were born, while seeking outlets
for their energies impossible to them both by nature and social

It is strange to see into what unreasonable disrepute active
housekeeping--woman's first natural duty--has fallen in England. Take a
family with four or five hundred a year--and we know how small a sum
that is for "genteel humanity" in these days--the wife who will be an
active housekeeper, even with such an income, will be an exception to
the rule; and the daughters who will be anything more than drawing-room
dolls waiting for husbands to transfer them to a home of their own,
where they may be as useless as they are now, will be rarer still. For
things are getting worse, not better, and our young women are less
useful even than their mothers; while these last do not, as a rule, come
near the good housekeeping ladies of olden times, who knew every secret
of domestic economy, and made a point of honor of a wise and pleasant
"distribution of bread."

The usual method of London housekeeping, even in the second ranks of the
middle-classes, is for the mistress to give her orders in the kitchen in
the morning, leaving the cook to pass them on to the tradespeople when
they call. If she is not very indolent, and if she has a due regard for
neatness and cleanliness, she may supplement her kitchen commands by
going up stairs through some of the bedrooms; but after a kind word of
advice to the housemaid if she is sweet-tempered, or a harsh word of
censure if she is of the cross-grained type, her work in that department
will be done, and her duties for the day are at an end. There is none of
the clever marketing by which fifty per cent. is saved in the outlay if
a woman knows what she is about, and how to buy; none of the personal
superintendence so encouraging to servants when genially performed, and
rendering slighted work impossible; none of that "seeing to things"
herself, or doing the finer parts of the work with her own hands, which
used to form part of a woman's unquestioned duty. She gives her orders,
weighs out her supplies, then leaves the maids to do the best they know
or the worst they will, according to the degree in which they are
supplied with faculty or conscience. Many women boast that their
housekeeping takes them perhaps an hour, perhaps half an hour, in the
morning, and no more; and they think themselves clever and commendable
in proportion to the small amount of time given to their largest family
duty. This is all very well where the income is such as to secure
first-class servants--professors of certain specialities of knowledge,
and far in advance of the mistress; but how about the comfort of the
house with this hasty generalship, when the maids are mere scrubs who
would have to go through years of training before they were worth their
salt? It may be very well too in large households governed by general
system, and not by individual ruling; but where the service is scant and
poor, it is a stupidly uncomfortable as well as a wasteful way of
housekeeping. It is analogous to English cookery--a revolting poverty of
result with flaring prodigality of means; all the pompous paraphernalia
of tradespeople, and their carts, and their red-books for orders, with
nothing worth the trouble of booking, and everything of less quantity
and lower quality than might be if personal pains were taken, which is
always the best economy practicable.

What is there in practical housekeeping less honorable than the ordinary
work of middle-class gentlewomen? and why should women shrink from doing
for utility, and for the general comfort of the family, what they would
do at any time for vanity or idleness? No one need go into extremes, and
wish our middle-class gentlewomen to become Cinderellas sitting among
the kitchen ashes, Nausicaäs washing linen, or Penelopes spending their
lives in needlework only. But, without undertaking anything unpleasant
to her senses or degrading to her condition, a lady might do hundreds of
things that are now left undone in a house altogether, or are given up
to the coarse handling of servants, and domestic life would gain
infinitely in consequence.

What degradation, for instance, is there in cookery? and how much more
home happiness would there not be if wives would take in hand that great
cold-mutton question! But women are both selfish and small on this
point. Born for the most part with very feebly developed gustativeness,
they affect to despise the stronger instinct in men, and think it low
and sensual if they are expected to give any special attention to the
meals of the man who provides the meat. This contempt for good living is
one cause of the ignorance there is among them of how to secure good
living. Those horrible traditions of "plain roast and boiled" cling
about them as articles of culinary faith; and because they have reached
no higher knowledge for themselves, they decide that no one else shall
go beyond them.

For one middle-class gentlewoman who understands anything about cookery,
or who really cares for it as a scientific art or domestic necessity,
there are ten thousand who do not; yet our mothers and grandmothers were
not ashamed to be known as deft professors, and homes were happier in
proportion to the respect paid to the stewpan and the stockpot. And
cookery is more interesting now than it was then, because more advanced,
more scientific, and with improved appliances; and, at the same time, it
is of confessedly more importance. It may seem humiliating, to those who
go in for spirit pure and simple, to speak of the condition of the soul
as in any way determined by beef and cabbage; but it is so,
nevertheless, the connection between food and virtue, food and thought,
being a very close one; and the sooner wives recognise this connection
the better for them and for their husbands.

The clumsy savagery of a plain cook, or the vile messes of a fourth-rate
confectioner, are absolute sins in a house where a woman has all her
senses, and can, if she will, attend personally to the cooking. Many
things pass for crimes which are really not so bad as this. But how
seldom now do we find a house where the lady does look after the
cooking, where clean hands and educated brains are put to active service
for the good of others! The trouble would be too great in our fine-lady
days, even if there was the requisite ability; but there is as little
ability as there is energy, and the plain cook with her savagery, or the
fourth-rate confectioner with his rancid pastry, have it all their own
way, according to the election of economy or ostentation.

If by chance one stumbles on a household where the woman does not
disdain housewifely work, and specially the practical superintendence of
the kitchen, there we may be sure we shall find cheerfulness and
content. There seems to be something in the life of a practical
housekeeper that answers to the needs of a woman's best nature, and that
makes her pleasant and good-tempered. Perhaps it is the consciousness
that she is doing her duty--of itself a wonderful sweetener of the
nature; perhaps the greater amount of bodily exercise keeps the liver in
good tone; whatever the cause, sure it is that the homes of the active
housekeepers are more harmonious than those of the feckless and
do-nothing sort. Yet the snobbish half of the middle-classes holds
housewifely work as degrading, save in the trumpery pretentiousness of
"giving orders."

A woman may sit in a dirty drawing-room which the slipshod maid has not
had time to clean, but she must not take a duster in her hands and
polish the legs of the chairs; there is no disgrace in the dirt, only in
the duster. She may do fancy work of no earthly use, but she must not be
caught making a gown. Indeed very few women could make one, and as few
will do plain needlework. They will braid and embroider, "cut holes, and
sew them up again," and spend any amount of time and money on beads and
wools for messy draperies which no one wants; the end, being finery,
sanctions the toil and refines it; but they will not do things of any
practical use, or if they are compelled by the exigencies of
circumstances, they think themselves petty martyrs, and badly used by
the fates.

The whole scheme of woman's life at this present time is untenable and
unfair. She wants to have all the pleasures and none of the
disagreeables. Her husband goes to the city, and does monotonous and
unpleasant work there; but his wife thinks herself in very evil case if
asked to do monotonous housework at home. Yet she does nothing more
elevating or more advantageous. Novel-reading, fancy-work, visiting,
letter-writing, sum up her ordinary occupations; and she considers these
more to the point than practical housekeeping. In fact it becomes a
serious question what women think themselves sent into the world for,
what they hold themselves designed by God to be or to do. They grumble
at having children, and at the toil and anxiety which a family entails;
they think themselves degraded to the level of servants if they have to
do any practical housework whatever; they assert their equality with
man, and express their envy of his life, yet show themselves incapable
of learning the first lesson set to men, that of doing what they do not
like to do. What, then, do they want? What do they hold themselves made

Certainly some of the more benevolent sort carry their energies out of
doors, and leave such prosaic matters as savory dinners and fast
shirt-buttons for committees and charities, where they get excitement
and _kudos_ together. Others give themselves up to what they call
keeping up society, which means being more at home in every person's
house than their own; and some do a little weak art, and others a little
feeble literature; but there are very few indeed who honestly buckle to
the natural duties of their position, and who bear with the tedium of
home work as men bear with the tedium of office work. The little
royalty of home is the last place where a woman cares to shine, and the
most uninteresting of all the domains she seeks to govern. Fancy a
high-souled creature, capable of æsthetics, giving her mind to soup or
the right proportion of chutnee for the curry! Fancy, too, a brilliant
creature foregoing an evening's conversational glory abroad for the sake
of a prosaic husband's more prosaic dinner! He comes home tired from
work, and desperately in need of a good dinner as a restorative; but the
plain cook gives him cold meat and pickles, or an abomination which she
calls hash, and the brilliant creature, full of mind, thinks the desire
for anything else rank sensuality.

It seems a little hard, certainly, on the unhappy fellow who works at
the mill for such a return; but women believe that men are made only to
work at the mill that they may receive the grist accruing, and be kept
in idleness and uselessness all their lives. They have no idea of
lightening the labor of that mill-round by doing their own natural work
cheerfully and diligently. They will do everything but what they ought
to do; they will make themselves doctors, committee-women, printers,
what not, but they won't learn cooking, and they won't keep their own
houses. There never was a time when women were less the helpmates of men
than they are at present; when there was such a wide division between
the interests and the sympathies of the sexes in the endeavor, on the
one side, to approximate their pursuits.

There is a great demand made now for more work for woman, and wider
fields for her labor. We confess we should feel a deeper interest in the
question if we saw more energy and conscience put into the work lying to
her hand at home, and we hold that she ought to perform perfectly the
duties instinctive to her sex before claiming those hitherto held remote
from her natural condition. Much of this demand, too, springs from
restlessness and dissatisfaction; little, if any, from higher
aspirations or nobler unused energies. Indeed, the nobler the woman the
more thoroughly she will do her own proper work, in the spirit of old
George Herbert's well-worn line, and the less she will feel herself
above her work. It is only the weak who cannot raise their circumstances
to the level of their thoughts; only the poor who cannot enrich their
deeds by their thoughts.

That very much of this demand for more power of work comes from
necessity and the absolute need of bread, we know; and that the demand
will grow louder as marriage becomes scarcer, and there are more women
left adrift in the world without the protection and help of men, we also
know. But this belongs to another part of the subject. What we want to
insist on now is the pitiable ignorance and shiftless indolence of most
middle-class housekeepers; and we would urge on woman the value of a
better system of life at home, before laying claim to the discharge of
extra-domestic duties abroad.


The wonderful instinct which has always guided the Papacy in
distinguishing between forces that it may safely oppose and forces
before which it must surrender, has just received a startling
illustration in a scene reported to have taken place at the Vatican a
few days ago. Rome may refuse all compromise with Italy, but even Rome
shrinks from encountering the hostility of woman. The Brief of October
last sounded, indeed, marvellously like a declaration of war; even in a
Pope it argued no little resolution to denounce the "license of the
female toilet," the "fantastic character of woman's head-dress," and the
"scandalous indecency" of woman's attire. More worldly critics would
hardly have ventured to describe a piquant chignon or a suggestive
boddice as "a propaganda of the devil;" it will be long, at any rate,
before censors of this class will meet with the reward of a deputation
and a testimonial from the fair objects of their criticism.

St. Peter, however, we are adroitly reminded, after his miraculous
delivery from prison by an angel, found an asylum among women; and,
fresh from his troubles with the red-shirts of Monte Rotondo, the
successor of St. Peter seems to have found himself wonderfully at home
among the flounces that thronged the other day to his public audience at
the Vatican. A hundred ladies--the presence amongst whom of a number of
English Catholics gives us a national interest in the scene--came
forward to express their gratitude for the censures of the Papal Briefs,
and the adhesion of their sex to the orthodox doctrines of the toilet.
The speech in which one of the fair deputation expressed the sentiments
of her fellows has been unfortunately suppressed, but the letter of Pope
Pius to the Bishop of Orleans explains the secret of this dramatic
reconciliation, and the terms of the Concordat which has been arranged
between Woman and the Papacy.

A common danger has driven the two Powers to this fresh alliance. If
Garabaldi threatens the supremacy of the Holy See, the educational
reforms of M. Duruy menace the domestic tyranny of woman. Woman sees
herself in peril of deposition at home by the same spirit of democratic
and intellectual equality which would drive the Pope from the Vatican.
In presence of such a peril, mutual concession becomes easy, and the
fair votaries pardon all references to their "propaganda of the devil"
in consideration of a Papal assault on the "cynical writers who are
desirous of attacking woman."

The motive of the Papacy, in opposing a system of education which
emancipates woman from the intellectual control of the priesthood and
plunges her into the midst of the doubts and questionings of sceptical
man, is of course plain enough. We feel no particular surprise when the
attendance of girls at the public classes of a Professor is denounced as
tending to "despoil woman of her native modesty, to drag her before the
public, to turn her from domestic life and duties, to puff her up with
vain and false science." It is the adhesion of woman to this view of the
case which puzzles us a little at first. We recall her aspirations after
a higher training, and her bitter contempt for the unhappy censors who
venture to remind her of certain primary truths respecting puddings and

But the same problem meets us in other halls than those of the Vatican.
Everywhere woman poses herself as a social martyr, as the victim of
conventional bonds, as reduced to intellectual torpor by the refusal of
intellectual facilities and intellectual distinctions, as excluded by
sheer masculine tyranny from the larger sphere of thought and action
which the world presents, as chained, like Prometheus, to the rock of
home by necessity and force. It is only when some amiable enthusiast is
taken in by all this admirable acting, and ventures to propose a plan
for her deliverance, that one finds how wonderfully contented, after
all, woman is with her bonds and her prison-house.

The philosopher who comes forward with his pet theory of the
enfranchisement of woman, who recognizes the necessity for loosening the
matrimonial tie, for securing to woman her property and its
responsibilities, for levelling all educational differences and
abolishing all social distinctions between the sexes, only finds himself
snubbed for his pains. He is calmly assured that home is the sphere of
woman, and the care of a family the first of woman's duties; the
domestic martyr of yesterday proves from Proverbs and the _Princess_
that marriage is the completion of woman, and that her office is but to
wed the "noble music" of her feminine nature to the "noble words" of the
nature of her spouse.

In a word, woman knows her own business a great deal better than her
friends. She does not believe in the intellectual equality which she is
always preaching about, and when M. Duruy offers it, a shriek of horror
goes up from half the mothers of France. What she does believe is that,
in seeking the educational Will-o'-the-Wisp, she may lose the solid
pudding of domestic supremacy, and domestic supremacy is worth all the
sciences in the world. Her position, as the Vatican suggests, is a
religious, not an intellectual one, and her policy lies in an alliance
with the priesthood, whose position is one with her own. So woman makes
her submission to the Papacy, and the Pope snubs M. Duruy.

It is amusing to see how limited, after all, a man's power, the power
even of the stoutest of men, is in his own house, and to watch the
simple process by which woman establishes the limitation. It consists
simply in asserting a specially religious character for her sex. She is
never tired of telling us that the sentiments and sympathies of the
feminine breast have a greater affinity for divine things than the
rougher masculine nature; that her instincts are purer, more poetic,
more refined; that her moral nature has a certain bloom upon it which
contact with the world has brushed off from ours; that while we coarser
creatures are driven to reason out our spiritual conclusions, she
arrives at them by an intuitive process reserved for the angelic nature
and her own.

And on the whole man accepts the claim. He is bribed perhaps into
allowing it by his own desire to have something at home better and purer
than himself. It is a startling thing perhaps to say, but in ninety-nine
homes out of a hundred real humility of heart is to be found in the
husband, not in the wife. The husband has very little belief in his own
religion, in his unworldliness and spirituality; but he has an immense
belief in the spirituality and the devotion of the being who fronts him
over the breakfast-table. He does not profess to understand the
character of her piety, her lore of sermons, the severity with which she
visits the household after family prayers, or the extreme interest with
which she peruses the geographical chapters of the Book of Joshua. But
his incapacity to understand it is mixed with a certain awe. He never
ventures to disturb, by "shadowed hint" of his own thoughts about the
matter, the "simple views" of his spouse. He adroitly diverts the
conversation of his dinner-table when it drifts near to the fatal
pigeons of Colenso.

Sometimes he bends to a little gentle deceit, and wins a smile of
approval by turning up at an early Litany, or by bringing home the
newest photograph of a colonial metropolitan. In one way or another he
practically acknowledges, like King Cnut, that there is a bound to his
empire. Over bonnet bills and butchers' bills he may exercise a certain
nominal control. It is possible that years of struggle might enable him
to alter by half an inch the length of his wife's skirt, if fashion had
not shortened it in the interval. But over the whole domain of moral and
religious thought and action he is absolutely powerless. Woman meets
him, if he attempts any interference, as Christian martyrs have always
met their persecutors, with outstretched neck and on her knees. She
prays for his return to better thoughts, and the whole household knows
she is praying for him. She listens to all his remonstrances, professes
obedience on every point but the one he wants, and keeps her finger all
the time on the particular page of Thomas à Kempis at which the
remonstrance found her. Before such an adversary, there is no shame in a

It is not that on all points of moral or religious life woman professes
herself above criticism; to the criticisms of her religious teachers,
for instance, we have seen her singularly obsequious. Woman and the
priesthood in fact understand one another perfectly, and a tacit
convention forces woman to submit to censures so long as those censures
are reserved for one topic alone. To religion woman makes the sacrifice
of her dress. It is not that she seriously intends to make the slightest
amendments, or to withdraw before the exhortations of her spiritual
guide into poke bonnets and print muslins. It is a sufficient mark of
self-sacrifice if she listens patiently to a diatribe against butterfly
bonnets, trains, or crinolines, or even thanks her pastor for
describing evening costume as a "propaganda of the devil." The very
minuteness, in fact, of censures such as these, is a flattering proof of
the spiritual importance of even the most trivial details in the life of

When Father Ignatius informed mankind that the angels bent down from
heaven to weep over the flirtations of Rotten Row, the smallest child on
her pony felt her ride, and her chatter over her palings, invested with
certain celestial importance. Criticisms, too, so strictly reserved for
the outside of the platter, are an immense compliment to the inside, and
it is something to listen to half an hour of spiritual reproof, and to
be able to pass oneself triumphantly as a "Fair Soul" after all. There
is nothing revolutionary in a mere border-skirmish, which leaves the
field of woman's sway not an inch the narrower. It is another matter
when M. Duruy calls on Hermione to come down from her pedestal of
worship, and in the long run to abdicate. For equality of education
would, of course, even if it did nothing else, make mince-meat of the
spiritual pretensions of woman. It would be impossible to preserve a
domestic Papacy with a more than papal weakness for dogmatism and
infallibility, if woman is to come down into school and share the common
training of men.

If women are to be educated precisely as men are educated, they will
share the reasonings, the scepticisms, the critical doubts of men. There
will be no refuge for praying sisters in that world of "simple views"
from which they come forth at present furnished with a social and
domestic decalogue whose sacredness it is impious to doubt or to
dispute. In other words, the power which woman now exercises will simply
crumble to dust. Whether she might gain a power higher and more
beneficial to the world and to herself, is a matter which we are not now
discussing. What is perfectly certain is that such a power would not be
the power she exercises now. The moral censorship of woman over woman,
for example, would at once pass away. It rests on the belief that women
have higher moral faculties than other beings, and that their treason to
this higher form of moral humanity which is exhibited in womanhood is a
treason of deeper dye than an offence against morality itself.

An erring sister sins against something greater than goodness--she sins
against the theory of woman, against the faith that woman is a creature
who soars high above the weaknesses of man and the common nature of man.
Long ages of self-assertion have penetrated woman with the conviction of
her worth; she is the object of her own especial worship, and the sharp
stinging justice she deals out to social offenders is not merely a proof
of the spiritual nature of her rule, but the vindication of her
self-idolatry. Again, she would forfeit the peculiar influence which she
is every day exerting in a greater degree on the course of religion and
the Church. The hypothesis of a superior spiritual nature in woman lies
at the root, for instance, of the great modern institution of
sisterhoods, and of the peculiar relation which is slowly attaching his
Paula and his Eustochium to every Jerome of our day.

But the main loss of power would lie in the family itself. It would be
no longer possible to front the political dogmatist of the hearth-rug
with a social and religious dogmatism as brusque and unreasonable as his
own. The balance of power which woman has slowly built up in home would
be roughly disturbed, and new forms of social and domestic life would
emerge from the chaos of such a revolution. From sweeping changes of
this sort the very temper of woman, her innate conservatism, her want of
originative power, turns her away. It is more comfortable to bask in the
glow of Papal sunshine, to figure in Allocutions from the Vatican as
"the pure and shining light of the house, the glory of her husband, the
education of her family, a bond of peace, an emblem of piety;" and to
let Monsieur Duruy and his insidious Professors alone.


No human affection has been so passionately praised as maternal love,
and none is supposed to be so holy or so strong. Even the poetic aspect
of the instinct which inspires the young with their dearest dreams does
not rank so high as this, and neither lover's love nor conjugal love,
neither filial affection nor fraternal, comes near the sanctity or
grandeur of the maternal instinct. But all women are not equally rich in
this great gift; and, to judge by appearances, English women are at this
moment particularly poor. It may seem a harsh thing to say, but it is
none the less true--society has put maternity out of fashion, and the
nursery is nine times out of ten a place of punishment, not of pleasure,
to the modern mother.

Two points connected with this subject are of growing importance at this
present time--the one is the increasing disinclination of married women
to be mothers at all; the other, the large number of those who, being
mothers, will not, or cannot, nurse their own children. In the mad race
after pleasure and excitement now going on all through English society
the tender duties of motherhood have become simply disagreeable
restraints, and the old feeling of the blessing attending the quiver
full is exchanged for one expressive of the very reverse. With some of
the more intellectual and less instinctive sort, maternity is looked on
as a kind of degradation; and women of this stamp, sensible enough in
everything else, talk impatiently among themselves of the base
necessities laid on them by men and nature, and how hateful to them is
everything connected with their characteristic duties.

This wild revolt against nature, and specially this abhorrence of
maternity, is carried to a still greater extent by American women, with
grave national consequences resulting; but though we have not yet
reached the Transatlantic limit, the state of the feminine feeling and
physical condition among ourselves will disastrously affect the future
unless something can be done to bring our women back to a healthier tone
of mind and body. No one can object to women declining marriage
altogether in favor of a voluntary self-devotion to some project or
idea; but, when married, it is a monstrous doctrine to hold that they
are in any way degraded by the consequences, and that natural functions
are less honorable than social excitements. The world can get on without
balls and morning calls, it can get on too without amateur art and
incorrect music, but not without wives and mothers; and those times in a
nation's history when women have been social ornaments rather than
family home-stays have ever been times of national decadence and of
moral failure.

Part of this growing disinclination is due to the enormous expense
incurred now by having children. As women have ceased to take any
active share in their own housekeeping, whether in the kitchen or the
nursery, the consequence is an additional cost for service, which is a
serious item in the yearly accounts. Women who, if they lived a rational
life, could and would nurse their children, now require a wet-nurse, or
the services of an experienced woman who can "bring up by hand," as the
phrase is; women who once would have had one nursemaid now have two; and
women who, had they lived a generation ago, would have had none at all,
must in their turn have a wretched young creature without thought or
knowledge, into whose questionable care they deliver what should be the
most sacred obligation and the most jealously-guarded charge they

It is rare if, in any section of society where hired service can be had,
mothers give more than a superficial personal superintendence to nursery
or school-room--a superintendence about as thorough as their
housekeeping, and as efficient. The one set of duties is quite as
unfashionable as the other, and money is held to relieve from the
service of love as entirely as it relieves from the need of labor. And
yet, side by side with this personal relinquishment of natural duties,
has grown up, perhaps as an instinctive compensation, an amount of
attention and expensive management specially remarkable. There never was
a time when children were made of so much individual importance in the
family, yet in so little direct relation with the mother--never a time
when maternity did so little and social organization so much.

Juvenile parties; the kind of moral obligation apparently felt by all
parents to provide heated and unhealthy amusements for their boys and
girls during the holidays; extravagance in dress, following the same
extravagance among their mothers; the increasing cost of education; the
fuss and turmoil generally made over them--all render them real burdens
in a house where money is not too plentiful, and where every child that
comes is not only an additional mouth to feed and an additional body to
clothe, but a subtractor by just so much from the family fund of

Even where there is no lack of money, the unavoidable restraints of the
condition, for at least some months in the year, more than
counterbalance any sentimental delight to be found in maternity. For,
before all other things in life, maternity demands unselfishness in
women; and this is just the one virtue of which women have least at this
present time--just the one reason why motherhood is at a discount, and
children are regarded as inflictions instead of blessings.

Few middle-class women are content to bring up their children with the
old-fashioned simplicity of former times, and to let them share and
share alike in the family, with only so much difference in their
treatment as is required by their difference of state; fewer still are
willing to share in the labor and care that must come with children in
the easiest-going household, and so to save in the expenses by their own
work. The shabbiest little wife, with her two financial ends always
gaping and never meeting, must have her still shabbier little drudge to
wheel her perambulator, so as to give her an air of fine-ladyhood and
being too good for work; and the most indolent housekeeper, whose work
is done in half an hour, cannot find time to go into the gardens or the
square with nurse and the children, so that she may watch over them
herself and see that they are properly cared for.

In France, where it is the fashion for mother and _bonne_ to be together
both out of doors and at home, at least the children are not neglected
nor ill-treated, as is too often the case with us; and if they are
improperly managed, according to our ideas, the fault is in the system,
not in the want of maternal supervision. Here it is a very rare case
indeed when the mother accompanies the nurse and children; and those
days when she does are nursery gala-days, to be talked of and remembered
for weeks after. As they grow older, she may take them occasionally when
she visits her more intimate friends; but this is for her own pleasure,
not their good, and is quite beside the question of going with them to
see that they are properly cared for.

It is to be supposed that each mother has a profound belief in her own
nurse, and that when she condemns the neglect and harshness shown to
other children by the servants in charge, she makes a mental reservation
in favor of her own, and is very sure that nothing improper or cruel
takes place in _her_ nursery. Her children do not complain, and she
always tells them to come to her when anything is amiss; on which
negative evidence she satisfies her soul, and makes sure that all is
right, because she is too neglectful to see if anything is wrong. She
does not remember that her children do not complain because they dare

Dear and beautiful as all mammas are to the small fry in the nursery,
they are always in a certain sense Junos sitting on the top of Mount
Olympus, making occasional gracious and benign descents, but practically
too far removed for useful interference; while nurse is an ever-present
power, capable of sly pinches and secret raids, as well as of more open
oppression--a power, therefore, to be propitiated, if only with the
subservience of a Yezidi, too much afraid of the Evil One to oppose him.
Wherefore nurse is propitiated, failing the protection of the glorified
creature just gone to her grand dinner in a cloud of lace and a blaze of
jewels; and the first lesson taught the youthful Christian in short
frocks or knickerbockers is not to carry tales down stairs, and by no
means to let mamma know what nurse desires should be kept secret.

A great deal of other evil, beside these sly beginnings of deceit, is
taught in the nursery; a great deal of vulgar thought, of superstitious
fear, of class coarseness. As, indeed, how must it not be when we think
of the early habits and education of the women taken into the nursery to
give the first strong indelible impressions to the young souls under
their care. Many a man with a ruined constitution, and many a woman
with shattered nerves, can trace back the beginning of their sorrow to
those neglected childish days of theirs when nurses had it all their own
way because mamma never looked below the surface, and was satisfied with
what was said instead of seeing for herself what was done. It is an odd
state of society which tolerates this transfer of a mother's holiest and
most important duty into the hands of a mere stranger, hired by the
month, and never thoroughly known.

Where the organization of the family is of the patriarchal kind--old
retainers marrying and multiplying about the central home, and carrying
on a warm personal attachment from generation to generation--this
transfer of maternal care has not such bad effects; but in our present
way of life, without love or real relationship between masters and
servants, and where service is rendered for just so much money down, and
for nothing more noble, it is a hideous system, and one that makes the
modern mother utterly inexplicable. We wonder where her mere instincts
can be, not to speak of her reason, her love, her conscience, her pride.
Pleasure and self-indulgence have indeed gained tremendous power, in
these later days, when they can thus break down the force of the
strongest law of nature, a law stronger even than that of

Folly is the true capillary attraction of the moral world, and
penetrates every stratum of society; and the folly of extravagant attire
in the drawing-room is reproduced in the nursery. Not content with
bewildering men's minds, and emptying their husband's purses for the
enhancement of their own charms, women do the same by their children,
and the mother who leaves the health, and mind, and temper, and purity
of her offspring in the keeping of a hired nurse takes especial care of
the color and cut of the frocks and petticoats; and always with the same
strain after show, and the same endeavor to make a little look a mickle.
The children of five hundred a year must look like those of a thousand;
and those of a thousand must rival the _tenue_ of little lords and
ladies born in the purple; while the amount of money spent in the
tradesman-class is a matter of real amazement to those let into the

Simplicity of diet, too, is going out with simplicity of dress, with
simplicity of habits generally; and stimulants and concentrated food are
now the rule in the nursery, where they mar as many constitutions as
they make. More than one child of which we have had personal knowledge
has yielded to disease induced by too stimulating and too heating a
diet; but artificial habits demand corresponding artificiality of food,
and so the candle burns at both ends instead of one. Again, as for the
increasing inability of educated women to nurse their children, even if
desirous of doing so, that also is a bodily condition brought about by
an unwholesome and unnatural state of life. Late hours, high living,
heated blood, and vitiated atmosphere are the causes of this alarming
physical defect. But it would be too much to expect that women should
forego their pleasurable indulgences, or do anything disagreeable to
their senses, for the sake of their offspring. They are not famous for
looking far ahead on any matter, but to expect them to look beyond
themselves, and their own present generation, is to expect the great
miracle that never comes.


If the female philosophers who plead for the emancipation of their sex
would stoop from the sublimer heights of Woman's Rights to arguments of
mere human expediency, we fancy they might find some of their critics
disposed to listen in a more compliant mood. We can imagine a very good
point being made out of the simple fact of waste, by some feminine
advocate who would point out in a businesslike way how much more work
the world might get through if only woman had fair play. Waste is always
a pitiful and disagreeable thing, and the waste of whatever reserved
power may lie at present unused in the breasts of half a million of old
maids, for instance, is a thought which, with so much to be done around
us, it is somewhat uncomfortable to dwell much upon. The argument, too,
might be neatly enforced, just at present, by illustrations from a
somewhat unexpected quarter.

The Papacy seems determined to carry out its concordat with Woman. If we
are to credit the latest rumors from the Vatican, Rome has grown
impatient of the class who now present themselves at her doors as
candidates for canonization, and has fallen back from the obscure
Italian beggars and Cochin Chinese martyrs whom she has recently
delighted to honor on the more illustrious names of Christopher Columbus
and Joan of Arc. A little courage must have been needed for this retreat
upon the past, for neither the great navigator nor the heroine found
much support or appreciation in the prelates of their day; and the
somewhat uncomfortable fact might be urged by the devil's advocate, in
the case of the latter, that if Joan was sent to the martyr's stake, it
was by a spiritual tribunal.

On the other hand, there is the obvious desirableness of showing how
perfectly at one the Papacy is with the spirit of the age in this double
compliment to the two primary forces of modern civilization--the
democratic force of the New World, and the feminine force of the Old.
The beatification of the Maid of Orleans in its most simple aspect is
the official recognition, by the Papacy, of the claims of her sex to a
far larger sphere of human action than has as yet been accorded to them.
Woman may fairly meet the domestic admonitions of Papal briefs by this
newly discovered instance of extra-domestic holiness, and may front the
taunts of cynical objectors with a saintly patron who was the first to
break through the outer conventionalities of womanhood.

But the figure of Joan of Arc is far more than a convenient answer to
objections such as these; it is, as we have said, in itself a cogent
argument for a better use of feminine energies. No life gives one such a
notion as hers of the vast forces which lie hidden, and as it would seem
wasted, in the present mass of women. It is impossible to be content
with little projects of utilization such as those which throw open to
her the telegraph-office or the printing-press, or even with the more
ambitious claims for her admission to the Bench or the dissecting-room,
when one gets a glimpse such as this of energies latent within the
female breast which are strong enough to change the face of the world.

It is difficult to suppose that the woman of our day is less energetic
than the woman of the fifteenth century, or that her piano and her
workbag sum up the whole of her possibilities any more than her
spinning-wheel or her sheep-tending exhausted those of the Maid of
Domremy. The ordinary occupations of woman strike us in this light as
mere jets of vapor, useful indeed as a relief to the volcanic pressure
within, but insufficient to remove the peril of an eruption. There must
be some truth in the spasmodic utterances of the fevered sibyls who
occasionally bare the female heart to us in three-volume novels, and the
gaiety and frivolity of the life of woman is a mere mask for the wild,
tossing emotions within. It is a standing danger, we own; and besides
the danger there is, as we have said, the waste and the pity of it.

A little closer examination, however, may suggest some doubt whether
this waste of power is not more apparent than real. In the physical
world, Mr. Grove has told us that the apparent destruction of a force is
only its transformation into a force which is correlative to it; that
motion, for instance, when lost is again detected in the new form of
heat, and heat in that of light. But the theory is far from being true
of the physical world only, and, had we space here, nothing would be
easier than to trace the same correlation of forces through the moral
nature of man. For waste, then, in the particular instance which is
before us, we may perhaps substitute transformation.

Professing herself the most rigid of conservatives, woman gives vent to
this heroic energy for which the times offer no natural outlet in the
radical modifications which she is continually introducing into modern
society. We overlook the manifold ways in which she is acting on and
changing the state of things around us, just because we are deceived by
the apparent unity with which the whole sex advances toward marriage. We
forget the large margin of those who fail in attaining their end, and we
act as if the great mass of unmarried women simply represented a waste
and lost force. And yet it is just this waste force which tells on
society more powerfully than all.

The energies which fail in finding a human object of domestic adoration
become the devotional energies of the world. The force which would have
made the home makes the Church. It is really amazing to watch, if we
look back through the ages, the silent steady working of this feminine
impulse, and to see how bit by bit it has recovered the ground of which
Christianity robbed Woman. We wonder that no woman poet has ever turned,
like Schiller, to the gods of old.

In every heathen religion of the Western world woman occupied a
prominent place. Priestess or prophetess, she stood in all ministerial
offices on an equality with man. It was only the irruption of religions
from the East, the faiths of Isis or Mithras, which swept woman from the
temple. Christianity shared the Oriental antipathy to the ministerial
service of woman; it banished her from altar and from choir; in darker
times it drove her to the very porch of its shrines. The Church of after
ages dealt with woman as the Empire dealt with its Cæsars; it was ready
to grant her apotheosis, but only when she was safely out of the world.
It gave her canonization, and it gives it to her still, but not the
priesthood. No rout could seem more complete, but woman is never greater
than when she is routed.

The newly-instituted parson of to-day, brimming over with apostolic
texts which forbid woman to speak in church, no sooner arrives at his
parish than he finds himself in a spiritual world whose impulse and
guidance is wholly in the hands of woman. Expel woman as you will,
_tamen usque recurrit_. Woman is, in fact, the parish. Within, in her
lowest spiritual form, as the parson's wife, she inspires and sometimes
writes his sermons. Without, as the bulk of his congregation, she
watches over his orthodoxy, verifies his texts, visits his schools, and
harasses his sick. "Ah, Betsy!" said a sick woman to a wealthier sister
the other day, "it's of some use being well off; you won't be obliged
when you die to have a district-lady worriting you with a chapter." But
the district-lady has others to "worrit" in life besides the sick.

Mrs. Hannah More tells us exultantly in her journal how successful were
her raids upon the parsons, and in what dread all unspiritual ministers
stood of her visitations. And the same rigid censorship prevails in many
quarters still. The preacher who thunders so defiantly against spiritual
foes is trembling all the time beneath the critical eye that is watching
him from the dim recesses of an unworldly bonnet, and the critical
finger which follows him with so merciless an accuracy in his texts.
Impelled, guided, censured by woman, we can hardly wonder if in nine
cases out of ten the parson turns woman himself, and if the usurpation
of woman's rights in the services of religion has been deftly avenged by
the subjugation of the usurpers. Expelled from the Temple, woman has
simply put her priesthood into commission, and discharges her
ministerial duties by deputy.

It was impossible for woman to remain permanently content with a
position like this; but it is only of late that a favorable conjuncture
of affairs has enabled her to quit it for a more obtrusive one. The
great Church movement which the _Apologia_ has made so familiar to us in
its earlier progress came some ten years ago to a stand. Some of its
most eminent leaders had seceded to another communion, it had been
weakened by the Gorham decision, and by its own internal dissensions.
Whether on the side of dogma or ritual, it seemed to have lost for the
moment its old impulse--to have lost heart and life.

It was in this emergency that woman came to the front. She claimed to
revive the old religious position which had been assigned to her by the
monasticism of the middle ages, but to revive it under different
conditions and with a different end. The mediæval Church had, indeed,
glorified, as much as words could glorify, the devotion of woman; but
once become a devotee, it had locked her in the cloister. As far as
action on the world without was concerned, the veil served simply as a
species of suicide, and the impulses of woman, after all the crowns and
pretty speeches of her religious counsellors, found themselves bottled
up within stout stone walls and as inactive as before. From this strait,
woman, at the time we speak of, delivered herself by the organization of

In lines of a certain beauty, though somewhat difficult in their
grammatical construction, she has been described as a ministering angel
when pain and anguish wring the brow; and it was in her capacity of
ministering angel that she now placed herself at the Church movement and
advanced upon the world. It was impossible to lock these beneficent
beings up, for the whole scope of their existence lay in the outer
world; but every day, as it developed their ecclesiastical position,
made even their admirers recognise the wise discretion of the middle
ages. Long before the Ritualists themselves, they, with a feminine
instinct, had discerned the value of costume. The district visitor, whom
nobody had paid the smallest attention to in the common vestments of the
world, became a sacred being as she donned the crape and hideous bonnet
of the "Sister."

Within the new establishment there was all the excitement of a perfectly
novel existence, of time broken up as women like it to be broken up in
perpetual services and minute obligation of rules, the dramatic change
of name, and the romantic self-abnegation of obedience. The "Mother
Superior" took the place of the tyrant of another sex who had hitherto
claimed the submission of woman, but she was something more to her
"children" than the husband or father whom they had left in the world
without. In all matters, ecclesiastical as well as civil, she claimed
within her dominions to be supreme. The quasi-sacerdotal dignity, the
pure religious ministration which ages have stolen from her, was quietly
reassumed. She received confessions, she imposed penances, she drew up
offices of devotion. Wherever the community settled, it settled as a new
spiritual power.

If the clergyman of the parish ventured on advice or suggestion, he was
told that the Sisterhood must preserve its own independence of action,
and was snubbed home again for his pains. The Mother Superior, in fact,
soon towered into a greatness far beyond the reach of ordinary parsons.
She kept her own tame chaplain, and she kept him in very edifying
subjection. From a realm completely her own, the influence of woman
began now to tell upon the world without. Little colonies of Sisters
planted here and there annexed parish after parish. Sometimes the
parson was worried into submission by incessant calls of the most
justifiable nature on his time and patience. Sometimes he was bribed
into submission by the removal from his shoulders of the burden of alms.
It was only when he was thoroughly tamed that he was rewarded by pretty
stoles and gorgeous vestments.

Astonished congregations saw their church blossom in purple and red, and
frontal and hanging told of the silent energy of the group of Sisters.
The parson found himself nowhere in his own parish; every detail managed
for him, every care removed, and all independence gone. If it suited the
ministering angels to make a legal splash, he found himself landed in
the Law Courts. If they took it into their heads to seek another fold,
every one assumed, as a matter of course, that their pastor would go
too. At such a rate of progress the great object of woman's ambition
must soon come in view, and the silent control over the priest will
merge in the open claim to the priesthood.

It may be in silent preparation for such a claim that the ecclesiastical
hierarchy are taking, year by year, a more feminine position. The Houses
of Convocation, for instance, present us with a lively image of what the
bitterest censor of woman would be delighted to predict as the result of
her admission to senatorial honors. There is the same interminable flow
of mellifluous talk, the same utter inability to devise or to understand
an argument, the same bitterness and hard words, the same skill in
little tricks and diplomacies, the same practical incompetence, which
have been denounced as characteristics of woman. The caution, the
finesse, the sly decorum, the inability to take a large view of any
question, the patience, the masterly inaction, the vicious outbreaks of
temper which now and then break the inaction of a Bishop, may sometimes
lead us to ask whether the Episcopal office is not one admirably suited
for the genius of woman.

But she must stoop to conquer heights like these, and it is probable
with a view to a slow ascent towards them through the ages to come that
she is now moulding the mind of the curate at her will. He, we have been
told, is commonly the first lady of the parish; and what he now is in
theory, a century hence may find him in fact. It would be difficult even
now to detect any difference of sex in the triviality of purpose, the
love of gossip, the petty interests, the feeble talk, the ignorance, the
vanity, the love of personal display, the white hand dangled over the
pulpit, the becoming vestment and the embroidered stole, which we are
learning gradually to look upon as attributes of the British curate. So
perfect, indeed, is the imitation that the excellence of her work may
perhaps defeat its own purpose; and the lacquered imitation of woman,
"dilettante, delicate-handed," as Tennyson saw and sang of him, may
satisfy the world, and for long ages prevent any anxious inquiry after
the real feminine Brummagem.


Woman is a thing of accident and spoilt in the making says the greatest
of the schoolmen, but we are far from denying her right to vindicate
something more than an accidental place in the world. After all that can
be urged as to the glory of self-sacrifice, the greatness of silent
devotion, or the compensations for her want of outer influence in the
inner power which she exerts through the medium of the family and the
home, there remains an odd sort of sympathy with the woman who asserts
that she is every bit as good as her master, and that there is no reason
why she should retire behind the domestic veil. Partly, of course, this
arises from our natural sympathy with pluck of any sort; partly, too,
there is the pleasure we feel in a situation which may be absurd, but
which, at any rate, is novel and piquant; partly, there is an impatience
with woman as she is, and a sort of lingering hope that something better
is in store for her.

The most sceptical, in fact, of woman's censors cannot help feeling a
suspicion that, after all, strong-minded women may be in the right. As
one walks home in the cool night-air it seems impossible to believe
that girls are to go on for ever chattering the frivolous nonsense they
do chatter, or living the absolutely frivolous lives they do live. And,
of course, the impression that a good time is coming for them is
immensely strengthened if one happens to have fallen in love. One's eyes
have got a little sharpened to see the real human soul that stirs
beneath all that sham life of idleness and vanity, but the vanity and
the idleness vexes more than ever. If we come across Miss Hominy at such
moments, we are extremely likely to find her a great deal less
ridiculous than we fancied her, and to listen with a certain gravity to
her plea for the enfranchisement of women.

It is not that we go all lengths with her; we stare a little perhaps at
the logical consequences on which she piques herself, and at the
panorama of woman as she is to be which she spreads before us, at the
consulting barrister waiting in her chambers and the lady advocate
flourishing her maiden brief; our pulse throbs a little awkwardly at the
thought of being tested by medical fingers and thumbs of such a delicate
order, and we hum a few lines of the _Princess_ as Miss Hominy poses
herself for a Lady Professor. Still we cannot help a half conviction
that even this would be better than the present style of thing, the
pretty face that kindles over the news of a fresh opera and gives you
the latest odds on the Derby, the creature of head-achy mornings, of
afternoons frittered on lounges, and bonnet-strings, of nights whirled
away in hot rooms and chatter on stairs. There are moments, we repeat,
when, looking at woman as she is, we could almost wish to wake the next
morning into a world where all women were Miss Hominys.

But when we do wake we find the world much what it was before, and
pretty faces just as indolent and as provoking as they were, and a sort
of ugly after-question cropping up in our minds whether we had exactly
realized the meaning of our wish, or conceived the nature of a world in
which all women were Miss Hominys. There is always a little difficulty
in fancying the world other than we find it; but it is really worth a
little trouble, before we enfranchise woman, to try to imagine the
results of her enfranchisement, the Future of Woman. In the first place,
it would amazingly reduce the variety of the world. As it is, we live in
a double world, and enjoy the advantages of a couple of hemispheres. It
is an immense luxury for men, when they are tired out with the worry and
seriousness of life, to be able to walk into a totally different
atmosphere, where nothing is looked at or thought about or spoken of in
exactly the same way as in their own.

When Mr. Gladstone, for instance, unbends (if he ever does unbend), and,
weary of the Irish question, asks his pretty neighbor what she thinks of
it, he gets into a new world at once. Her vague idea of the Irish
question, founded on a passing acquaintance with Moore's Melodies and a
wild regret after Donnybrook fair, may not be exactly adequate to the
magnitude of the interests involved, but it is at any rate novel and
amusing. It is not a House of Commons view of the subject, but then the
great statesman is only too glad to be rid of the House of Commons.
Thoughtful politicians may deplore that the sentimental beauty of
Charles I. and the pencil of Vandyke have made every English girl a
Malignant; but after one has got bored with Rushworth and Clarendon,
there is a certain pleasure at finding a great constitutional question
summarily settled by the height of a sovereign's brow.

It is a relief too, now and then, to get out of the world of morals into
the world of woman; out of the hard sphere of right and wrong into a
world like Mr. Swinburne's, where judgment goes by the beautiful, and
where red hair makes all the difference between Elizabeth and Mary of
Scotland. Above all, there is the delightful consciousness of
superiority. The happiness of the blessed in the next world consists,
according to Sir John Mandeville, in their being able to behold the
agonies of the lost; and half the satisfaction men have in their own
sense and vigor and success would be lost if they could not enjoy the
delicious view of the world where sense and energy go for nothing.

Whether all this would be worth sacrificing simply to acquire a woman
who could sympathize with, and support, a man in the stress and battle
of life, is a question we do not pretend to decide; but it is certain
that the enfranchisement of woman would be the passing of a social Act
of Uniformity, and the loss of half the grace and variety of life. Here,
as elsewhere, "the low sun makes the color," and the very excellences of
Miss Hominy carry her aloft into regions of white light, where our
eyes, even if dazzled, get a little tired with the monotony of the
intellectual Haze.

The result of such a change on woman herself would be something far
greater and more revolutionary. It is not merely that, as in the case of
men, she would lose the sense and comfort of another world of thought
and action, and of its contrast with the world in which she lives; it is
that she would lose her own world altogether. Conceive, for instance,
woman obliged to take life in earnest, to study as men study, to work as
men work. The change would be no mere modification, but the utter
abolition of her whole present existence. The whole theory of woman's
life is framed on the hypothesis of sheer indolence. She is often
charming, but she is always idle. There is an immense ingenuity and a
perfect grace about her idleness; the efforts, in fact, of generations
of cultivated women have been directed, and successfully directed, to
this special object of securing absolute indolence without either the
inner tedium or the outer contempt which indolence is supposed to bring
in its train.

Woman can always say with Titus, "I have wasted a day," but the
confession wears an air of triumph rather than regret. A world of
trivial occupations, a whole system of social life, has been laboriously
invented that the day might be wasted gracefully and without boredom. A
little riding, a little reading, a little dabbling with the paint-brush,
a little strumming on the piano, a little visiting, a little shopping,
a little dancing, and a general trivial chat scattered over the whole,
make up the day of an English girl in town. Transplant her into the
country, and the task of frittering away existence, though it becomes
more difficult, is faced just as gallantly as before. Mudie comes to the
rescue with the back novels which she was too busy to get through in the
season; there is the scamper from one country house to another, there
are the flirtations to keep her hand in, the pets to be fed, the cousins
to extemporize a mimic theatre, the curate--if worst comes to worst--to
try a little ritualism upon. With these helps a country day, what with
going to bed early and getting up late, may be frittered away as
aimlessly as a day in town.

Woman may fairly object, we think, to abolish at one fell swoop such an
ingenious fabric of idleness as this. A revolution in the whole system
of social life, in the whole conception and drift of feminine existence,
is a little too much to ask. As it is, woman wraps herself in her
indolence, and is perfectly satisfied with her lot. She assumes, and the
world has at least granted the assumption, that her little hands were
never made to do anything which any rougher hands can do for them. Man
has got accustomed to serve as her hewer of wood and drawer of water,
and to expect nothing from her but poetry and refinement. It is a little
too much to ask her to go back to the position of the squaw, and to do
any work for herself. But it is worse to ask her to remodel the world
around her, on the understanding that henceforth duty and toil and
self-respect are to take the place of frivolity and indolence and

The great passion which knits the two sexes together presents a yet
stronger difficulty. To men, busy with the work of the world, there is
no doubt that, however delightful, love takes the form of a mere
interruption of their real life. They allow themselves the interval of
its indulgence, as they allow themselves any other holiday, simply as
something in itself temporary and accidental; as life, indeed, grows
more complex, there is an increasing tendency to reduce the amount of
time and attention which men devote to their affections. Already the
great philosopher of the age has pronounced that the passion of love
plays far too important a part in human existence, and that it is a
terrible obstacle to human progress.

The general temper of the times echoes the sentence of Mr. Mill. The
enthusiastic votary who has been pouring his vows at the feet of his
mistress consoles himself, as he leaves her, with the thought that
engagements cannot last for ever, and that he shall soon be able to get
back to the real world of business and of life. He presses his beloved
one, with all the eloquence of passion, to fix an early day for their
union, but the eloquence has a very practical bearing. While Corydon is
piping to Phyllis, he is anxious about the engagements he is missing,
and the distance he is losing in the race for life. But Phyllis remains
the nymph of passion and poetry and romance.

Time has no meaning for her; she is not neglecting any work; she is
only idle, as she always is idle. But love throws a new glory and a new
interest around her indolence. The endless little notes with which she
worries the Post-Office and her friends become suddenly sacred and
mysterious. The silly little prattle hushes into confidential whispers.
Every crush through the season, becomes the scene of a reunion of two
hearts which have been parted for the eternity of twenty-four hours.
Love, in fact, does not in the least change woman's life, or give it new
earnestness or a fresh direction; but it makes it infinitely more
interesting, and it heightens the enjoyment of wasting a day by a new
sense of power. For that brief space of triumph Phyllis is able to make
Corydon waste his day too. The more he writhes and wriggles under the
compulsion, the more lingering looks he casts back on the work he has
quitted, the greater her victory.

He cannot decently confess that he is tired of the little comedy in
which he takes so romantic a part, and certainly his fellow actress will
not help him to the confession. By dint of acting it, indeed, she comes
at last to a certain belief in her _rôle_. She really imagines herself
to be very busy, to have sacrificed her leisure as well as her heart to
the object of her devotion. She scolds him for his backwardness in not
more thoroughly sacrificing his leisure to her. Work may be very
important to him, but it is of less importance to the self-sacrificing
being who hasn't had one moment to finish the third volume of the last
sensational novel since she plighted her troth to this monster of
ingratitude! Of course a man likes to be flattered, and does as much as
he can in the way of believing in the little comedy too; in fact, it is
all amazingly graceful and entertaining on the one side and on the
other. Our only doubt is whether this graceful and entertaining mode of
interrupting all the serious business of life will not be treated rather
mercilessly by enfranchised woman. How will the enchantment of passion
survive when the object of our adoration can only spare us an hour from
her medical cases, or defers an interview because she is choked with
fresh briefs? One of two results must clearly follow. Either the great
Westminster philosopher is right, and love will play a far less
important part than it has done in human affairs, or else it will
concentrate itself, and take a far more intense and passionate character
than it exhibits now.

We can quite conceive that the very difficulty of the new relations may
give them a new fire and vigor, and that the women of the future,
looking back on the old months of indolent coquetry, may feel a certain
contempt for souls which can fritter away the grandeur of passion as
they fritter away the grandeur of life. But even the gain of passion
will hardly compensate us for the loss of variety. All this playing with
love has a certain pretty independence about it, and leaves woman's
individuality where it found it. Passion must of necessity whirl both
beings, in the unity of a common desire, into one. And so we get back to
the old problem of the monotony of life. But it is just this monotonous
identity to which civilization, politics, and society are all visibly
tending. Railways will tunnel Alps for us, democracy will extinguish
heroes, and raise mankind to a general level of commonplace
respectability; woman's enfranchisement will level the social world, and
leave between sex and sex the difference--even if it leaves that--of a


Nothing is more decisively indicative of the real value or necessity of
a thing than the fact that, while its presence is hardly noticeable, it
is immediately missed and asked for when it disappears; and it is thus
that the paramount importance of clothing asserts itself by the
conspicuousness of its absence. Of course the first purpose of dress is,
or should be, decency, and for this, quantity rather than quality is
looked for. But, as with the little cloud no larger than a man's hand,
so from the primary fig-leaf or first element of dress, how great things
have arisen! In respect of amplification, dress may be said to have
attained its maximum when men wore ruffs which nearly concealed their
heads, and shoes a quarter of a yard longer than their feet; but
"fashion" has its day, and now dress threatens to dwindle into something
not far from its original or fig-leaf dimensions.

Another perfectly legitimate object of dress is attractiveness, so that
by its aid our persons may be set off to the best advantage; dress
should also be individual and symbolic, so as to indicate clearly the
position and character which we desire to obtain and hold. It is not of
men's attire that we have now to speak; that has been settled for them
by the tailors' strike, which practically ordained that he that was
shabby should be shabby, or even shabbier still, and he that had allowed
himself to be thrust into the straitened trousers and scanty coatee of
last year should continue to exhibit his proportions long after the
grotesqueness of his figure had been recognised even by himself.

But it is of the dress of our women that we are compelled to testify,
and it can hardly be denied that at the present moment it offends
grievously in three particulars. It is inadequate for decency; it lacks
that truthfulness which is, and should be, the base of all that is
attractive and beautiful; and in its symbolism it is in the highest
degree objectionable, for it not only aims at what is unreal and false,
but it simulates that which is positively hateful and meretricious, so
that it is difficult now for even a practised eye to distinguish the
high-born maiden or matron of Belgravia from the Anonymas who haunt the
drive and fill our streets.

This indictment is, it may be said, a severe one; but if we examine, so
far as male critics may venture to do, the costume of a fashionable
woman of the day, it can hardly be said to be unjust. The apparent
object of modern female dress is to assimilate its wearers as nearly as
possible in appearance to women of a certain class--the class to which
it was formerly hardly practicable to allude, and yet be intelligible to
young ladies; but all that is changed, and the habits and customs of the
women of the _demi-monde_ are now studied as if they were indeed
curious, but exceptionally admirable also, and thus a study unseemly and
unprofitable has begotten a spirit of imitation which has achieved a
degrading success.

"Our modest matrons meet," not "to stare the strumpet down," but to
compare notes, to get hints, and to engage in a kind of friendly
rivalry--in short, to pay that homage to Vice, and in a very direct way
too, which Vice is said formerly to have paid to Virtue. Paint and
powder are of course the first requisites for the end in view, and these
adjuncts have to be laid on with such skill as the _débutante_ or her
toilette-maid possesses, which is sometimes so small as to leave their
handiwork disgustingly coarse and apparent.

There are pearl-powder, violet-powder, rouge, bistre for the eyelids,
belladonna for the eyes, whitelead and blacklead, yellow dye and mineral
acids for the hair--all tending to the utter destruction of both hair
and skin. The effect of this "diaphanous" complexion and "aurified" hair
(we borrow the expressions) in a person intended by nature to be dark,
or swarthy, is most comical; sometimes the whitelead is used so
unsparingly that it has quite a blue tint, which glistens until the face
looks more like a death's head anointed with phosphorus and oil for
theatrical purposes than the head of a Christian gentlewoman. It may be
interesting to know, and we have the information from high, because
_soi-disant_ fashionable authority, that the reign of golden locks and
blue-white visages is drawing to a close, and that it is to be followed
by bronze complexions and blue-black hair--_à l'Africaine_ we presume.

When fashionable Madame has, to her own satisfaction, painted and
varnished her face, she then proceeds, like Jezebel, to tire her head,
and, whether she has much hair or little, she fixes on to the back of it
a huge nest of coarse hair generally well baked in order to free it from
the parasites with which it abounded when it first adorned the person of
some Russian or North-German peasant girl. Of course this gives an
unnaturally large and heavy appearance to the cerebellar region; but
nature is not exactly what is aimed at, still less refinement.

If this style be not approved of, there is yet another fashion--namely,
to cut the hair short in a crop, _créper_ it, curl it, frizzle it,
bleach it, burn it, and otherwise torture it until it has about as much
life in it as last year's hay; and then to shampoo it, rumple it, and
tousle it, until the effect is to produce the aspect of a madwoman in
one of her worst fits. This method, less troublesome and costly than the
other, may be considered even more striking, so that it is largely
adopted by a number of persons who are rather disreputable, and poor. As
is well known, not all of the asinine tribe wear asses' ears;
nevertheless some of these votaries of dress find their ears too long,
or too large, or ill-placed, or, what comes to the same thing,
inconveniently placed, but a prettier or better-shaped pair are easily
purchased, admirably moulded in gutta-percha or some other plastic
material; they are delicately colored, fitted up with earrings and a
spring apparatus, and they are then adjusted on to the head, the
despised natural ears being of course carefully hidden from view.

It is long enough since a bonnet meant shelter to the face or protection
to the head; that fragment of a bonnet which at present represents the
head-gear, and which was some years ago worn on the back of the head and
nape of the neck, is now poised on the front, and ornamented with birds,
portions of beasts, reptiles, and insects. We have seen a bonnet
composed of a rose and a couple of feathers, another of two or three
butterflies or as many beads and a bit of lace, and a third represented
by five green leaves joined at the stalks. A white or spotted veil is
thrown over the visage, in order that the adjuncts that properly belong
to the theatre may not be immediately detected in the glare of daylight;
and thus, with diaphanous tinted face, large painted eyes, and
stereotyped smile, the lady goes forth looking much more as if she had
stepped out of the green room of a theatre, or from a Haymarket saloon,
than from an English home.

But it is in evening costume that our women have reached the minimum of
dress and the maximum of brass. We remember a venerable old lady whose
ideas of decorum were such that in her speech all above the foot was
ankle, and all below the chin was chest; but now the female bosom is
less the subject of a revelation than the feature of an exposition, and
charms that were once reserved are now made the common property of every
looker on. A costume which has been described as consisting of a smock,
a waistband, and a frill seems to exceed the bounds of honest
liberality, and resembles most perhaps the attire mentioned by Rabelais,
"nothing before and nothing behind, with sleeves of the same." Not very
long ago two gentlemen were standing together at the Opera. "Did you
ever see anything like that?" inquired one, with a significant glance,
directing the eyes of his companion to the uncovered bust of a lady
immediately below. "Not since I was weaned," was the suggestive reply.
We are not aware whether the speaker was consciously or unconsciously
reproducing a well-known archiepiscopal _mot_.

Though our neighbors are not strait-laced, so far as bathing-costume is
concerned, they are less tolerant of the nude than we are in this
highly-favored land. There was lately a story in one of the French
papers that at a certain ball a lady was requested to leave the room
because a chain of wrought gold, suspended from shoulder to shoulder,
was the sole protection which it seemed to her well to wear on her
bosom. To have made the toilette correspond throughout, the dress should
have consisted of a crinoline skirt, which, though not so ornamental,
would have been not less admirable and more effective.

Of course there are women to whom nature has been niggardly in the
matter of roundness of form, but even these need not despair; if they
cannot show their own busts, they can show something nearly as good,
since we read the following, which we forbear to translate:--"Autre
excentricité. C'est l'invention des _poitrines adhérentes_ à l'usage
des dames trop éthérées. Il s'agit d'un système en caoutchouc rose, qui
s'adapte à la place vide comme une ventouse à, la peau, et qui suit les
mouvements de la respiration avec une précision mathématique et

Of those limbs which it is still forbidden to expose absolutely, the
form and contour can at least be put in relief by insisting on the
skirts being gored and straightened to the utmost; indeed, some of the
riding-habits we have seen worn are in this respect so contrived that,
when viewed from behind, especially when the wearer is not of too
fairy-like proportions, they resemble a pair of tight trousers rather
than the full flowing robe which we remember as so graceful and becoming
to a woman. It will be observed that the general aim of all these
adventitious aids is to give an impression of earth and the fullness
thereof, to appear to have a bigger cerebellum, a more sensuous
development of limb, and a greater abundance of flesh than can be either
natural or true; but we are almost at a loss how to express the next
point of ambition with which the female mind has become inspired.

The women who are not as those who love their lords wish to be--indeed,
as we have heard, those who have no lords of their own to love--have
conceived the notion that, by simulating an "interesting condition" (we
select the phrase accepted as the most delicate), they will add to their
attractions; and for this purpose an article of toilet--an india-rubber
anterior bustle--called the _demi-temps_, has been invented, and is worn
beneath the dress, nominally to make the folds fall properly, but in
reality, as the name betrays, to give the appearance of a woman advanced
in pregnancy.

No person will be found to say that the particular condition, when real,
is unseemly or ridiculous. What it is when assumed, and for such a
purpose--whether it is not all that and something worse--we leave our
readers to decide for themselves. It is said that one distinguished
personage first employed crinoline in order to render more graceful her
appearance while in this situation; but these ladies with their
ridiculous _demi-temps_, without excuse as without shame, travesty
nature in their own persons in a way which a low-comedy actress would be
ashamed to do in a tenth-rate theatre. The name is French, let us hope
the idea is also; and this reminds us of the title of a little piece
lately played in Paris by amateurs for some charitable purpose--_Il n'y
a plus d'enfants._ No; in France they may indeed say, "It is true _il
n'y a plus d'enfants_, but then have we not invented the _demi-temps_?"

And if each separate point of female attire and decoration is a sham, so
the whole is often a deception and a fraud. It is not true that by
taking thought one cannot add a cubit to one's stature, for ladies, by
taking thought about it, do add, if not a cubit, at least considerably,
to their height, which, like almost everything about them, is often
unreal. With high heels, _toupé_, and hat, we may calculate that about
four or five inches are altogether borrowed for the occasion. Thus it
comes to be a grave matter of doubt, when a man marries, how much is
real of the woman who has become his wife, or how much of her is her own
only in the sense that she has bought, and possibly may have paid for
it. To use the words of an old writer, "As with rich furred conies,
their cases are far better than their bodies; and, like the bark of a
cinnamon-tree, which is dearer than the whole bulk, their outward
accoutrements are far more precious than their inward endowments."

Of the wife elect, her bones, her debts, and her caprices may be the
only realities which she can bestow on her husband. All the rest--hair,
teeth, complexion, ears, bosom, figure, including the _demi-temps_--are
alike an imposition and a falsehood. In such case we should recommend,
for the sake of both parties, that during at least the wedding-tour, the
same precautions should be observed as when Louis XV. travelled with
"the unblushing Chateauroux with her bandboxes and rougepots at his
side, so that at every new station a wooden gallery had to be run up
between their lodgings."

It may be said that in all this we are ungenerous and ungrateful, and
that in discussing the costume of women we are touching on a question
which pertains to women more than to men. But is that so? Are we not by
thus exposing what is false, filthy, and meretricious, seeking to lead
what was once dignified by the name of "the fair sex" from a course
alike unbecoming and undignified to one more worthy of the sex and its
attributes? Most men like to please women, and most women like to please
men. For, as has been well said, "Pour plaire aux femmes il faut être
considéré des hommes, et pour être considéré des hommes il faut savoir
plaire aux femmes."

We have a right to suppose that women do not adopt a fashion or a
costume unless they suppose that it will add to their attractions in
general, and possibly also please men in particular. This being so, it
may be well to observe that these fashions do not please or attract men,
for we know they are but the inventions of some vulgar, selfish
_perruquier_ or _modiste_. We may add that if we want to study the nude
we can do so in the sculpture galleries, or among the Tableaux Vivants,
at our ease; and that for well-bred or well-educated and well-born
women, or even for only fashionable and fast women, to approximate in
their manners, habits, and dress to the members of the _demi-monde_ is a
mistake, and a grievous one, if they wish to be really and adequately
appreciated by men whose good opinion, if not more, they would desire to


If there is any part of man's conduct which proves more conclusively
than another the baseness of his ingratitude, it is his indifference to
the Fading Flower. Woman may well wonder at the charm which prostrates
the heavy Guardsman at the feet of the belle of the season. Even the
most ardent of worshippers at such a shrine must, one would think,
desire in their deity a little more sweetness and light. But the beauty
of eighteen summers is trained to look on worship as simply her due, and
to regard amiability as a mere superfluity. She knows she can summon an
adorer by one beckon of her fan, and dismiss him by another. A bow will
repay the most finished of pretty speeches, and conversation can be
conducted at the least possible expense by the slight trouble of
recollecting who was at Lady A.'s ball, and the yet slighter trouble of
guessing who is likely to be at Lady C.'s.

It is utterly needless to bestow any labor on society when society takes
it as a crowning favor to be suffered simply to adore. There is a
certain grandeur, therefore, of immobility about the English beauty, a
statuesque perfection which no doubt has great merits of its own. But it
must be owned that it is not amusing, and that it is only the intensity
of our worship which saves us from feeling it to be dull. Beauty is apt
to be a little heavy on the stairs. A shade of distress flits over the
loveliest of faces if we stray for a moment beyond the happy
hunting-grounds of the ball-room or the Opera, the last Academy or the
next Horticultural. Beautiful beings are made, they feel, not to amuse,
but to be amused. The one object of their enthusiasm is the "funny
Bishop" who turns a great debate into a jest for the entertainment of
his fair friends in the Ladies' Gallery. The object of their social
preference is the young wit who lounges up to tell his last little
story, and then, without boring them for a reply, lounges away again.
The debt which they owe to society is simply the morning ride which
keeps them blooming through the season. The debt which society owes to
them is that eternal succession of gay nothings which keeps London in a
whirl till the grouse are ready for the sacrifice. In a word, woman in
her earlier stages is simply receptive.

Light and sweetness come in with the Fading Flower. It is when the shy
retreat of the elder sons makes way for the shyer approach of their
younger brothers that woman becomes fragrant and intelligent. The old
indifference quickens into a subdued vivacity; Hermione descends from
her pedestal and warms into flesh and blood. She turns chatty, and her
chat insensibly deepens into conversation. She discovers a new interest
in life and in the last novel of the season. She ventures on the
confines of poetry, and if she does not read Mr. Tennyson's _Lucretius_,
she keeps his photograph in her album. She flings herself with a far
greater ardor into the mysteries of croquet. She has been known to
garden. As petal after petal floats down to earth she becomes artistic.
She reads, she talks Mr. Ruskin. She has her own views on Venice and its
Doges, her enthusiasm over Alps and artisans. The slow approach of
autumn brings her to politics. She is deep in Mr. Disraeli's novels, and
quotes Mr. Gladstone's Homer. She speculates on Charlie's chances for
the county. She knows why the Home Secretary was absent from the last
division. The drop of another petal warns her further afield. She is
manly now; she comes in at breakfast with her hair about her ears, and a
tale of the gallop she has had across country. She takes you over the
farm, and laughs at your ignorance of pigs. She peeps into the
odoriferous sanctum upstairs, and owns to a taste for cigarettes. She is
slightly horsey, and knows to a pound the value of her mare. Another
season, and she is interested in Church questions, and inquires what is
the next "new thing" at St. Andrew's. She adores Lord Shaftesbury, or
works frontals for St. Gogmagog. She collects for the Irish missions, or
misses an _entrée_ on Eves. It is only as woman fades that we realize
the versatility, the inexhaustible resources, of woman.

The one scene, however, where the Fading Flower is perhaps seen at her
best is the County Archæological Meeting. Of all rural delusions this is
perhaps the pleasantest, and if the name is forbidding, the Fading
Flower knows how little there is in a name. About half a dozen old
gentlemen, of course, take the thing in grand earnest. It is beyond
measure amusing to peep over the learned Secretary's shoulder, to see
the gray heads wagging and the spectacles in full play over the list of
promised papers, to watch the carefully planned details, the solemn
array of morning meetings, the grave excursions from abbey to castle,
from castle to church, the graver soirées where Dryasdust revels amidst
armor and knicknackery. It is even more amusing to see the Fading Flower
step in at the close of this learned preparation, and with a woman's
alchemy turn all this dust to gold. A little happy audacity converts the
morning meetings into convenient gatherings for the groups of the day,
the excursion resolves itself into a refined picnic, the learned soirée
becomes a buzzing conversazione.

Those who look forward with interest to woman's entrance into our
Universities may gather something of the results to be expected from
such a step in the fields of rural archæology. Her very presence at the
meeting throws an air of gentle absurdity over the whole affair. It is
difficult for the driest of antiquaries to read a paper on Roman roads
in the teeth of a charming being who sleeps to the close, and then
awakes only to assure him it was "very romantic." But it must be
confessed that the charming being has very little trouble with the
antiquaries. Half the fun of the thing lies in the ease and grace of her
taming of Dryasdust; the learned Professor dies at her touch into "a
dear delightful old thing," and fetches and carries all day with a
perfect obedience. It is a delightful change from town, a sort of
glorified afternoon in a pastoral Zoological, this junketing among the
queer unclubbable animals of science and history. There is a noble
disdain of rheumatism in the ardor with which they plunge into the dark
and mysterious vaults where their willful student insists, with Mr.
Froude, that those poor monks snatched their damp and difficult slumber;
and there is a noble disdain of truth in their suppression of the
treacherous and unsentimental "beer-cellar" which trembles on their

Woman, in fact, carries her atmosphere of romantic credulity into the
gray and arid scepticism of a groping archæology. She frowns down any
suggestion of the improbability of a pretty story, she believes in the
poison-sucking devotion of Queen Eleanor, she shrugs her shoulders
impatiently at a whisper of Queen Mary's wig. Every kitchen becomes a
torture-chamber, every drain a subterranean passage. But resolute as she
is on this point of the poetry of the past, on all other questions she
is the most docile of pupils. Her interest, her listening power, her
curiosity, is inexhaustible. If she has a passion, indeed, it is for
Early English. But she has a proper awe for Romanesque, and a singular
interest in Third Pointed. She is ruthless in insisting on her victim's
spelling out every word of a brass in Latin that she cannot understand,
and which he cannot translate. She collects little fragments of Roman
brick, and wraps them up in tissue-paper for preservation at home like
bride-cake. She is severe on restoration, and merciless on whitewash.
She plunges, in fact, gallantly into the spirit of the thing, but she
gracefully denudes it of its bareness and pedantry. Her bugle sings
truce at midday for luncheon. She couches in the deep grass of the abbey
ruins, and gathers in picturesque groups beneath castle walls. A flutter
of silks, a ripple of feminine laughter, distract the audience from
graver disquisitions. It is difficult to discuss the exact date of a
moulding when soda-water bottles are popping beneath one's antiquarian

After all, archæologists are men, and sandwiches are sandwiches. It is
at that moment perhaps that the Fading Flower is at her best. Her waning
attractions are heightened artistically by the background of old fogies.
Her sentiment blends with the poetry of the ruins around. The young
squire, the young parson, who have been yawning under the prose of
Dryasdust, find refreshment in the gay prattle of archæological woman.
The sun too is overpowering, and a pretty woman leaning on one's arm in
the leafy recesses of a ruined castle is sometimes more overpowering
than the sun. There is much in the romance of the occasion. There is a
little perhaps in the champagne. At any rate the Fading Flower blooms
often into matronly life under the kindly influences of archæological
meetings, and antiquarian studies flourish gaily under the patronage of

There is a certain melancholy in tracing further the career of the
Fading Flower. We long to arrest it at each of these picturesque stages,
as we long to arrest the sunset in its lovelier moments of violet and
gold. But the sunset dies into the gray of eve, and woman sets with the
same fatal persistency. The evanescent tints fade into the gray. Woman
becomes hard, angular, colorless. Her floating sentiment, so graceful in
its mobility, curdles into opinions. Her conversation, so charmingly
impalpable, solidifies into discussion. Her character, like her face,
becomes rigid and osseous. She entrenches herself in the 'ologies. She
works pinafores for New-Zealanders in the May Meetings, and appears in
wondrous bonnets at the Church Congress. She adores Mr. Kingsley because
he is earnest, and groans over the triviality of the literature of the
day. She takes up the grievances of her sex, and badgers the puzzled
overseer who has omitted to place her name on the register. She
pronounces old men fogies, and young men intolerable. She throws out
dark hints of her intention to compose a great work which shall settle
everything. Then she bursts into poetry, and pens poems of so fiery a
passion that her family are in consternation lest she should elope with
the half-pay officer who meets her by moonlight on the pier. Then she
plunges into science, and cuts her hair short to be in proper trim for
Professor Huxley's lectures.

For awhile she startles her next neighbor at dinner with speculations on
molluscs, and questions as to the precise names of the twelve hundred
new species of fish that Professor Agassiz has caught in the river
Orinoco. There is a more terrible stage when she becomes heretical,
subscribes to the support of Mr. Tonneson and pities the poor Bishop of
Natal. But from this she is commonly saved by the deepening of eve.
Little by little all this restless striving against the monotony of her
existence dies down into calm. The gray of life hushes the Fading Flower
into the kindly aunt, the patient nurse, the gentle friend of the poor.
It is hard to recognise the proud beauty, the vivacious flirt, the
sentimental poetess of days gone by in the practical little woman who
watches by Harry's sick-bed or hurries off with blankets and broth down
the lane. In some such peace the Fading Flower commonly finds her
rest--a peace unromantic, utilitarian, and yet not perhaps unbeautiful.
She has found--as she tells us--her work at last; and yet in the life
that seems so profitless she has been doing a work after all. She has at
any rate vindicated her sex against the charge of what Mr. Arnold calls
Hebraism. She has displayed in Hellenic roundness the completeness of
the nature of woman.

Compared with the quick transitions, with the endless variety of her
life, the life of man seems narrow and poor. There is hardly a phase of
human thought, of human action, which she has not touched, and she has
never touched but to adorn. If she has faded, she has revealed a new
power and beauty and fragrance at each stage in her decay. Nothing in
her life has proved so becoming as her leaving it. The song of
ingenuity, of triumph, of defence, which has run along the course of her
decline, softens at its close into a swan-song of peace and gentleness
and true womanhood.


Without doubt it is a time of trial to all women, more or less painful
according to individual disposition, when they first begin to grow old
and lose their good looks. Youth and beauty make up so much of their
personal value, so much of their natural _raison d'être_, that when
these are gone many feel as if their whole career was at an end, and as
if nothing was left to them now that they are no longer young enough to
be loved as girls are loved, or pretty enough to be admired as once they
were admired. For women of a certain position have so little wholesome
occupation, and so little ambition for anything, save, indeed, that
miserable thing called "getting on in society," that they cannot change
their way of life with advancing years; they do not attempt to find
interest in things outside themselves, and independent of the mere
personal attractiveness which in youth constituted their whole pleasure
of existence. This is essentially the case with fashionable women, who
have staked their all on appearance, and to whom good looks are of more
account than noble deeds; and, accordingly, the struggle to remain young
is a frantic one with them, and as degrading as it is frantic.

With the ideal woman of middle age--that pleasant woman, with her happy
face and softened manner, who unites the charms of both epochs,
retaining the ready responsiveness of youth while adding the wider
sympathies of experience--with her there has never been any such
struggle to make herself an anachronism. Consequently she remains
beautiful to the last, far more beautiful than all the paste and washes
in Madame Rachel's shop could make her. Sometimes, if rarely in these
latter days, we meet her in society, where she carries with her an
atmosphere of her own--an atmosphere of honest, wholesome truth and
love, which makes every one who enters it better and purer for the time.
All children and all young persons love her, because she understands and
loves them. For she is essentially a mother--that is, a woman who can
forget herself, who can give without asking to receive, and who, without
losing any of the individualism which belongs to self-respect, can yet
live for and in the lives of others, and find her best joy in the
well-being of those about her. There is no servility, no exaggerated
sacrifice in this; it is simply the fulfillment of woman's highest
duty--the expression of that grand maternal instinct which need not
necessarily include the fact of personal maternity, but which must find
utterance in some line of unselfish action with all women worthy of the

The ideal woman of middle age understands the young because she has
lived with them. If a mother, she has performed her maternal duties with
cheerfulness and love. There has been no giving up her nursery to the
care of a hired servant who is expected to do for twenty pounds a year
what the tremendous instinct of a mother's love could not find strength
to do. When she had children, she attended to them in great part
herself, and learnt all about their tempers, their maladies, and the
best methods of management; as they grew up she was still the best
friend they had, the Providence of their young lives who gave them both
care and justice, both love and guidance. Such a manner of life has
forced her to forget herself. When her child lay ill, perhaps dying, she
had no heart and no time to think of her own appearance, and whether
this dressing-gown was more becoming than that; and what did the doctor
think of her with her hair pushed back from her face; and what a fright
she must have looked in the morning light after her sleepless night of
watching. The world and all its petty pleasures and paltry pains faded
away in the presence of the stern tragedy of the hour; and not the
finest ball of the season seemed to be worth a thought compared to the
all-absorbing question whether her child slept after his draught and
whether he ate his food with better appetite.

And such a life, in spite of all its cares, has kept her young as well
as unselfish; we should rather say, young because unselfish. As she
comes into the room with her daughters, her kindly face unpolluted by
paint, her dress picturesque or fashionable according to her taste, but
decent in form and consistent in tone with her age, it is often
remarked that she looks more like their sister than their mother. This
is because she is in harmony with her age, and has not, therefore, put
herself in rivalry with them; and harmony is the very keystone of
beauty. Her hair may be streaked with white, the girlish firmness and
transparency of her skin has gone, the pearly clearness of her eye is
clouded, and the slender grace of line is lost, but for all that she is
beautiful, and she is intrinsically young. What she has lost in outside
material charm--in that mere _beauté da diable_ of youth--she has gained
in character and expression; and, not attempting to simulate the
attractiveness of a girl, she keeps what nature gave her--the
attractiveness of middle age. And as every epoch has its own beauty, if
woman would but learn that truth, she is as beautiful now as a matron of
fifty, because in harmony with her years, and because her beauty has
been carried on from matter to spirit, as she was when a maiden of
sixteen. This is the ideal woman of middle age, met with even yet at
times in society--the woman whom all men respect, whom all women envy,
and wonder how she does it, and whom all the young adore, and wish they
had for an elder sister or an aunt. And the secret of it all lies in
truth, in love, in purity, and in unselfishness.

Standing far in front of this sweet and wholesome idealization is _la
femme passée_ of to-day--the reality as we meet with it at balls and
fêtes and afternoon at homes, ever foremost in the mad chase after
pleasure, for which alone she seems to think she has been sent into the
world. Dressed in the extreme of youthful fashion, her thinning hair
dyed and crimped and fired till it is more like red-brown tow than hair,
her flaccid cheeks ruddled, her throat whitened, her bust displayed with
unflinching generosity, as if beauty was to be measured by cubic inches,
her lustreless eyes blackened round the lids, to give the semblance of
limpidity to the tarnished whites--perhaps the pupil dilated by
belladonna, or perhaps a false and fatal brilliancy for the moment given
by opium, or by eau de cologne, of which she has a store in her
carriage, and drinks as she passes from ball to ball; no kindly drapery
of lace or gauze to conceal the breadth of her robust maturity, or to
soften the dreadful shadows of her leanness--there she stands, the
wretched creature who will not consent to grow old, and who will still
affect to be like a fresh coquettish girl when she is nothing but _la
femme passée, la femme passée et ridicule_ into the bargain.

There is not a folly for which even the thoughtlessness of youth is but
a poor excuse into which she, in all the plenitude of her abundant
experience, does not plunge. Wife and mother as she may be, she flirts
and makes love as if an honorable issue was as open to her as to her
daughter, or as if she did not know to what end flirting and making love
lead in all ages. If we watch the career of such a woman, we see how, by
slow but very sure degrees, she is obliged to lower the standard of her
adorers, and to take up at last with men of inferior social position,
who are content to buy her patronage by their devotion. To the best men
of her own class she can give nothing that they value; so she barters
with snobs, who go into the transaction with their eyes open, and take
the whole affair as a matter of exchange, and _quid pro quo_ rigidly
exacted. Or she does really dazzle some very young and low born man who
is weak as well as ambitious, and who thinks the fugitive regard of a
middle-aged woman of high rank something to be proud of and boasted
about. That she is as old as his own mother--at this moment selling
tapes behind a village counter, or gathering up the eggs in a country
farm--tells nothing against the association with him; and the woman who
began her career of flirtation with the son of a duke ends it with the
son of a shopkeeper, having between these two terms spanned all the
several degrees of degradation which lie between giving and buying.

She cannot help herself; for it is part of the insignia of her
artificial youth to have the reputation of a love affair, or the
pretence of one, if even the reality is a mere delusion. When such a
woman as this is one of the matrons, and consequently one of the leaders
of society, what can we expect from the girls? What worse example could
be given to the young? When we see her with her own daughters we feel
instinctively that she is the most disastrous adviser they could have;
and when in the company of girls or young married women not belonging to
her, we doubt whether we ought not to warn their natural guardians
against allowing such associations, for all that her standing in society
is undeniable, and not a door is shut against her. We may have no
absolutely tangible reason to give for our distaste beyond the
self-evident facts that she paints her face and dyes her hair, dresses
in a very _decolleté_ style, and affects a girlish manner that is out of
harmony with her age and condition. But though we cannot formularize
reasons, we have instincts; and sometimes instinct sees more clearly
than reason.

What good in life does this kind of woman do? All her time is taken up,
first, in trying to make herself look twenty or thirty years younger
than she is, and then in trying to make others believe the same; and she
has neither thought nor energy to spare from this, to her, far more
important work than is feeding the hungry or nursing the sick, rescuing
the fallen or soothing the sorrowful. The final cause of her existence
seems to be the impetus she has given to a certain branch of trade
manufacture--unless we add to this, the corruption of society. For whom,
but for her, are the "little secrets" which are continually being
advertised as woman's social salvation--regardless of grammar! The "eaux
noire, brun, et châtain, which dyes the hair any shade in one minute;"
the "kohhl for the eyelids;" the "blanc de perle," and "rouge de
Lubin"--which does not wash off; the "bleu pour les veines;" the "rouge
of eight shades," and "the sympathetic blush," which are cynically
offered for the use and adoption of our mothers and daughters, find
their chief patroness in the _femme passée_ who makes herself up--the
middle-aged matron engaged in her frantic struggle against time, and
obstinately refusing to grow old in spite of all that nature may say or

Bad as the girl of the period often is, this horrible travesty of her
vices in the modern matron is even worse. Indeed, were it not for her,
the girls would never have gone to such lengths as those to which they
have gone; for elder women have naturally immense influence over younger
ones, and if mothers were to set their faces resolutely against the
follies of the day, daughters would and must give in. As it is, they go
even ahead of the young, and by example on the one hand and rivalry on
the other, sow the curse of corruption broadcast where they were meant
to have only a pure influence and to set a wise example. Were it not for
those who still remain faithful, women who regard themselves as
appointed by God the trustees for humanity and virtue, the world would
go to ruin forthwith; but so long as the five righteous are left we have
hope, and a certain amount of security for the future, when the present
disgraceful madness of society shall have subsided.


To beings of the rougher sex--let us honestly confess it--one of the
most charming of those ever-recurrent surprises which the commonest
incidents of the holidays never fail to afford is the surprise of
finding themselves at church. Whatever the cause may be, whether we owe
our new access of devotion to the early breakfast and the boredom of a
bachelor morning, or to the moral compulsion of the cunning display of
prayer-books and hymnals in the hall, or to the temptation of that
chattiest and gayest of all walks--the walk to church--or to an uneasy
conscience that spurs us to set a good example to the coachman, or to a
sheer impulse of courtesy to the rector, certain it is that a week after
we have been lounging at the club-window, and wondering how all the good
people get through their Sunday morning, we find ourselves safely boxed
in the family pew, and chorusing the family "Amen!"

No doubt much of our new temper springs simply from the change of scene,
and if the first week in the country were a time for self-analysis we
might amuse ourselves with observing what a sudden simplicity of taste
may be gained simply by a rush from town. There is a pleasant irony in
being denounced from pulpit and platform as jaded voluptuaries, and
then finding ourselves able to trample through coppices and plunge into
cowsheds as if we had never seen a cowshed or a coppice before. But
there is more than the pleasure of surprise in the peculiar rural
development of attendance at church. Piety brings its own reward. We
find ourselves invested with a new domestic interest, and brought into
far closer and warmer domestic relations. Mamma looks a great deal more
benignant than usual, and the girls lean on one's arm with a more
trustful confidence and a deeper sympathy.

A new bond of family union has been found in that victory of the pew
over the club-window. But earthly pleasure is always dashed with a
little disappointment, and one drop of bitterness lingers in the cup of
joy. If only Charlie and papa would remain awake during the sermon! They
are so good in the Psalms, so attentive through the Lessons, so sternly
responsive to each Commandment, that it is sad to see them edging
towards the comfortable corners with the text, and fast asleep under the
application. Then, too, there is so little hope of reform, not merely
because on this point men are utterly obdurate, but because it is
impossible for their reformers even to understand their obduracy. For
with both the whole question is a pure question of sympathy. Men sleep
under sermons because the whole temper of their minds, as they grow into
a larger culture, drifts further and further from the very notion of
preaching. Inquiry, quiet play of thought, a somewhat indolent
appreciation of the various sides of every subject, an appetite for
novelty, a certain shrinking from the definite, a certain pleasure in
the vague--these characteristics of modern minds are hardly
characteristics of the pulpit. There are, of course, your drawing-room
spouters, who can reel off an artistic or poetic or critical discourse
of any length on the rug. But, as a rule, men neither like to pump upon
their kind nor to be pumped upon. They like a quiet, genial talk which
turns over everything and settles nothing. They like to put their case,
to put their objection, but they like both to be brief and tentative. As
a rule they talk with their guard up, and say nothing about their deeper
thoughts or feelings. They vote a man who airs his emotions to be as
great a bore as the man with a dogma, or the man with a hobby. A sermon,
therefore, from the very necessities of its structure, is the very type
of the sort of talk that revolts men most.

On the other hand, women really enjoy preaching. Mamma's reply to the
natural inquiry as to the goodness of the sermon--"My dear, all sermons
are good"--is something more than a matronly snub, it is the inner
conviction of woman. She likes, not merely a talk, but a good long talk.
She likes being abused. She likes being dogmatized over and
intellectually trampled on. In fact, she has very little belief in the
intellect. But then she has an immense faith in the heart. She lives in
a world of affections and sympathies. She has her little tale of passion
in the past that she tells over to herself in the dusk of the autumn
evening. She believes that the world at large is moved by those impulses
of love and dislike that play so great a part in her own. And then, too,
she has her practical house-keeping side, and likes her religion done up
in neat little parcels of "heads" and "considerations" and
"applications," and handed over the counter for immediate use. And so
while papa quarrels with the rector's forty minutes, his indiscriminate
censure of a world utterly unknown to him, his declamation against Pusey
or Colenso, or while Charlie laughs over his rhetoric and his sentiment,
woman listens a little sadly and wearily, and longs for a golden age
when husbands will love sermons and men understand clergymen.

It is just from this theological deadlock that we are freed by the
Pretty Preacher. If the world laughs at the Reverend Olympia Brown, it
is not because she preaches, but because she prisons herself in a
pulpit. The sure evidence that woman is to become the preacher of the
future is that woman is the only preacher men listen to. It is hard to
imagine any bribe short of the National Debt that would have induced us
to listen through the dog-days of the last few weeks to the panting
rhetoric of Mr. Spurgeon. But it is harder to imagine the bribe that
would have roused us to flight as we lay beneath the plane-tree, and
listened to the cool ripple of the Pretty Preacher. Of course it is a
mere phase in the life of woman, a short interval between the dawn and
the night. There is an exquisite piquancy in the raw, shy epigrams of
the abrupt little dogmatist who is just out of her teens. Her very want
of training and science gives a novelty to her hits that makes her
formidable in the ring. No doubt, too, as we have owned before, there is
a faint and delicate attraction about the Fading Flower of later years
that at certain times and places makes it not impossible to sit under

But the sphere of the Pretty Preacher lies really between these
extremes. She is not at war with mankind, like the nymph of bread and
butter; nor does mankind suspect her of subtle designs in her discourse
as it suspects the elder homilist. Her talk is just as easy and graceful
and natural as herself, and, moreover, it is always in season. She never
suffers a serious reflection to interfere with the whirl of town. She
quite sees the absurdity of a sermon at a five o'clock tea. No one is
freer from the boredom of a long talk when there is a chance of a boat
or a ride. But there are moments when one is too hot, or too tired, or
too lazy for chat or exertion, and such moments are the moments of the
Pretty Preacher. The first week of the holidays is especially her own.
There is a physical pleasure in doing, thinking, saying nothing. The
highest reach of human effort consists in disentangling a skein of silk
for her, or turning over Doré's hideous sketches for the Idyls. At such
a moment there is a freshness as of cool waters in the accents of the
Pretty Preacher. She does not plunge into the deepest themes at once.
She leads her listener gently on, up the slopes of art or letters or
politics, to the higher peaks where her purely dogmatic mission begins.
She is artistic, and she labors to wake the idler at her feet to higher
views of beauty and art. She points out the tinting of the distant
hills, she quotes Ruskin, she criticizes Millais. She crushes her
auditor with a sense of his ignorance, of the base unpoetic view of
things with which he lounged through the last Academy. What she longs
for in English art is nobleness of purpose, and we smile bitter scorn in
the sunshine at the ignoble artist who suffers a thought of his
butcher's bills to penetrate into the studio. If we could only stretch
the Royal Academicians beside us on the grass, what a thrill and an
emotion would run through those elderly gentlemen as they listened to
the indignation of the Pretty Preacher.

But art shades off into literature, and literature into poetry. We are
driven into a confession that we enjoy the frivolous articles that those
horrid papers have devoted to her sex. Is there nothing, the Pretty
Preacher asks us solemnly, to be said against our own? And the sun is
hot, and we are speechless. It was shameful of us to put down the
_Spanish Gipsy_, and let it return unfinished to Mudie's! Never did
rebuke so fill us with shame at our want of imagination and of poesy.
But already the Preacher has passed to politics, and is deep in Mr.
Mill's prophecies of coming events. She is severe on the triviality of
the House, or the quarrelsome debates of the past Session. She passes by
our murmured excuse of the weather, and dwells with a temperate
enthusiasm on the fact that the next will be a social Parliament. Do we
know anything about the Poor-laws or Education or Trades'-societies?
Have we subscribed to Mr. Mill's election? We plead poverty, but the
miserable plea dies away on the contemptuous air.

What our Pretty Preacher would like above all things would be to meet
that dear Mr. Shaw Lefevre, and thank him for his efforts to protect
woman. But she knows we are utterly heretical on the subject; she doubts
very much whether we take in the _Victoria Magazine_. We listen as the
Tory Mayor of Birmingham listened to Mr. Bright at his banquet. The
politics are not ours, and the literature is not ours, and the art is
not ours; but it is pleasant to lie in the sunshine and hear it all so
charmingly put by the Pretty Preacher. We own that sermons have a little
to say for themselves; above all, that the impossibility of replying to
them has its advantages in a case like this. It would be absurd to
discuss these matters with the Pretty Preacher, but it is delightful to
look up and see the kindling little face and listen to the sermon.

It is, however, as the theologian proper, as the moralist and divine,
that we love her most. She arrives at this peak at last. As a rule, she
chooses the tritest topics, but she gives them a novelty and grace of
her own. Even Thackeray's old "Vanity of Vanities" wakes into new life
as she dexterously couples it with the dances of the last season. We nod
our applause from the grass as she denounces the worthlessness and
frivolity of the life we lead. If the weather were cool enough we should
at once vow, as she exhorts us, to be earnest and great and good. Above
all, let us be noble. The Pretty Preacher is great on self-sacrifice.
She sent two of her spoilt dresses to those poor people in the East-end,
after listening to a whole sermon on their sufferings. The congregation
at her feet feels a twinge of remorse at the thought of his inhumanity,
and swears he will put down his segars and devote the proceeds to the
emigration fund. Does he ever read Keble? There is a slight struggle in
the unconverted mind, and a faint whisper that he now and then reads
Tupper; but it is too hot to be flippant, or to do more than swear
eternal allegiance to the _Christian Year_.

The evening deepens, and the sermon deepens with it. It is one of the
most disgusting points about the divine in the pulpit that he is always
boasting of himself as a man like as we are, and of the sins he
denounces as sins of his own. It is the special charm of the fair divine
above us that she is eminently a being not as we are, but one serene,
angelic, pure. It is the very vagueness of her condemnation that tells
on us--the utter ignorance of what is so familiar to us that the
vagueness betrays, the utter unskillfulness of the hits, and the purity
that makes them so unskillful. It is only when she descends to
particulars that we can turn round on the Pretty Preacher--only when a
burning and impassioned invective against Cider Cellars suddenly softens
into the plaintive inquiry, "But, oh, Charlie, dear, what _are_ the
Cider Cellars?" So long as the preacher keeps in the sphere of the
indefinite, we lie at her mercy, and hear the soft thunders roll
resistlessly overhead.

But then they are soft thunders. We feel almost encouraged, like Luther,
to "sin boldly" when the absolving fingers brush lightly over our
cousinly hair. Our censor, too, has faith in us, in our capacity and
will for better things, and it is amazingly pleasant to have the
assurance confirmed by a squeeze from the gentle theologian's hand. And
so night comes down, and preacher and penitent stroll pleasantly home
together, and mamma wonders where both can have been; and the Pretty
Preacher lays her head on her pillow with the sweet satisfaction that
her mission is accomplished, and that a reprobate soul--the soul, too,
of such a gentlemanly and agreeable reprobate--is won.


Like children and all soft things, women are soon spoilt if subjected to
unwholesome conditions. Sometimes the spoiling comes from
over-harshness, sometimes from over-indulgence; what we are speaking of
to-day is the latter condition--the spoiling which comes from being
petted and given way to and indulged, till they think themselves better
than everybody else, and as if living under laws made specially for them
alone. Men get spoilt too in the same manner; but for the most part
there is a tougher fibre in them, which resists the flabby influences of
flattery and exaggerated attention better than can the morale of the
weaker sex; and, besides, even arbitrary men meet with opposition in
certain directions, and the most self-contented social autocrat knows
that his humblest adherents criticise though they dare not oppose.

A man who has been spoilt by success and a gratified ambition, so that
he thinks himself a small Alexander in his own way, and able to conquer
any obstacles which may present themselves, has a certain high-handed
activity of will about him that does not interfere with his duties in
life; he is not made fretful and impatient and exigeant as a woman
is--as if he alone of all mankind is to be exempt from misfortune and
annoyances; as if his friends must never die, his youth never fade, his
circumstances run always smoothly, protected by the care of others from
all untoward hitch; and as if time and tide, which wait for no one else,
are to be bound to him as humble servants dutifully observant of his

The useful art of "finding his level," which he learnt at school and in
his youth generally, keeps him from any very weak manifestation of being
spoilt; save, indeed, when he has been spoilt by women at home, nursed
up by an adoring wife, and a large circle of wife's sisters almost as
adoring, to all of whom his smallest wishes are religious obligations,
and his faintest virtues godly graces, and who vie with each other which
of them shall wait upon him most servilely, flatter him most
outrageously, pet and coax and coddle him most entirely, and so do him
the largest amount of spiritual damage, and unfit him most thoroughly
for the worth and work of masculine life. A man subjected to this
insidious injury is simply ruined so far as any real manliness of nature
goes. He is made into that sickening creature, "a sweet being," as the
women call him--a woman's man, with flowing hair and a turn for poetry,
full of highflown sentiment, and morbidly excited sympathies; a man
almost as much woman as man, who has no backbone of ambition in him, but
who puts his whole life into love, just as women do, and who becomes at
last emphatically not worth his salt.

Bad as it is for a man to be _kowtowed_ by men, it is not so bad,
because not so weakening, as the domestic idolatry which sometimes goes
on when one man is the centre of a large family of women, and the only
object upon which the natural feminine instinct can expend itself. No
greater damage can be done to a man than is done by this kind of
domestic idolatry. But, in truth, the evil is too pleasant to be
resisted; and there is scarcely a man so far master of himself as to
withstand the subtle intoxication, the sweet and penetrating poison, of
woman's tender flattery and loving submission. To at certain extent it
is so entirely the right thing, because it is natural and instinctive,
that it is difficult to draw the line and map out exactly the division
between right and wrong, pleasantness and harmfulness, and where loving
submission ends and debasing slavishness begins.

Spoilt women are spoilt mainly from a like cause--over-attention from
men. A few certainly are to be found, as pampered daughters, with
indulgent mammas and subservient aunts given up wholly to ruining their
young charge with the utmost despatch possible; but this is
comparatively a rare form of the disease, and one which a little
wholesome matrimonial discipline would soon cure. For it is seldom that
a petted daughter becomes a spoilt wife, human affairs having that
marvellous power of compensation, that inevitable tendency to readjust
the balance, which prevents the continuance of a like excess under
different forms.

Besides, a spoilt daughter generally makes such a supremely unpleasant
wife that the husband has no inducement to continue the mistake, and
therefore either lowers her tone by a judicious exhibition of snubbing,
or, if she is aggressive as well as unpleasant, leaves her to fight with
her shadows in the best way she can, glad for his own part to escape the
strife she will not forego. One characteristic of the spoilt woman is
her impatience of anything like rivalry. She never has a female
friend--certainly not one of her own degree, and not one at all in the
true sense of the word. Friendship presupposes equality, and a spoilt
woman knows no equality. She has been so long accustomed to consider
herself as the lady-paramount that she cannot understand it if any one
steps in to share her honors and divide her throne.

To praise the beauty of any other woman, to find her charming, or to pay
her the attention due to a charming woman, is to insult our spoilt
darling, and to slight her past forgiveness. If there is only one good
thing, it must be given to her--the first seat, the softest cushion, the
most protected situation; and she looks for the best of all things as if
naturally consecrated from her birth into the sunshine of life, and as
if the "cold shade" which may do for others were by no means the portion
allotted to her. It is almost impossible to make the spoilt woman
understand the grace or the glory of sacrifice. By rare good fortune she
may sometimes be found to possess an indestructible germ of conscience
which sorrow and necessity can develop into active good; but only
sometimes. The spoilt woman _par excellence_ understands only her own
value, only her own merits and the absolutism of her own requirements;
and sacrifice, self-abnegation, and the whole class of virtues belonging
to unselfishness are as much unknown to her as is the Decalogue in the
original, or the squaring of the circle.

The spoilt woman as the wife of an unsuccessful husband or the mother of
sickly children is a pitiable spectacle. If it comes to her to be
obliged to sacrifice her usual luxuries, to make an old gown serve when
a new one is desired, to sit up all night watching by the sick bed, to
witness the painful details of illness, perhaps of death, to meet
hardship face to face, and to bend her back to the burden of sorrow, she
is at the first absolutely lost. Not the thing to be done, but her own
discomfort in doing it, is the one master idea--not others' needs, but
her own pain in supplying them, the great grief of the moment. Many are
the hard lessons set us by life and fate, but the hardest of all is that
given to the spoilt woman when she is made to think for others rather
than for herself, and is forced by the exigencies of circumstances to
sacrifice her own ease for the greater necessities of her kind.

All that large part of the perfect woman's nature which expresses itself
in serving is an unknown function to the spoilt woman. She must be
waited on, but she cannot in her turn serve even the one or two she
loves. She is the woman who calls her husband from one end of the room
to the other to put down her cup, rather than reach out her arm and put
it down for herself; who, however weary he may be, will bid him get up
and ring the bell, though it is close to her own hand, and her longest
walk during the day has been from the dining-room to the drawing-room.
It is not that she cannot do these small offices for herself, but that
she likes the feeling of being waited on and attended to; and it is not
for love--and the amiable if weak pleasure of attracting the notice of
the beloved--it is just for the vanity of being a little somebody for
the moment, and of playing off the small regality involved in the
procedure. She would not return the attention.

Unlike the Eastern women, who wait on their lords, hand and foot, and
who place their highest honor in their lowliest service, the spoilt
woman of Western life knows nothing of the natural grace of womanly
serving for love, for grace, or for gratitude. This kind of thing is
peculiarly strong among the _demi-monde_ of the higher class, and among
women who are not of the _demi-monde_ by station, but by nature. The
respect they cannot command by their virtues they demand in the
simulation of manner; and perhaps no women are more tenacious of the
outward forms of deference than those who have lost their claim to the
vital reality.

It is very striking to see the difference between the women of this
type, the _petites maîtresses_ who require the utmost attention and
almost servility from man, and the noble dignity of service which the
pure woman can afford to give--which she finds, indeed, that it belongs
to the very purity and nobleness of her womanhood to give. It is the old
story of the ill-assured position which is afraid of its own weakness,
and the security which can afford to descend--the rule holding good for
other things besides mere social place.

Another characteristic of the spoilt woman is the changeableness and
excitability of her temper. All suavity and gentleness and delightful
gaiety and perfect manners when everything goes right, she startles you
by her outburst of petulance when the first cross comes. If no man is a
hero to his valet, neither is a spoilt woman a heroine to her maid; and
the lady who has just been the charm of the drawing-room, upstairs in
her boudoir makes her maid go through spiritual exercises to which
walking on burning ploughshares is the only fit analogy. A length of
lace unstarched, a ribbon unsewed, a flower set awry, anything that
crumples only one of the myriad rose-leaves on which she lies, and the
spoilt woman raves as much as if each particular leaf had become
suddenly beset with thorns.

If a dove was to be transformed to a hawk the change would not be more
complete, more startling, than that which occurs when the spoilt woman
of well-bred company manners puts off her mask to her maid, and shows
her temper over trifles. Whoever else may suffer the grievances of life,
she cannot understand that she also must be at times one of the
sufferers with the rest; and if by chance the bad moment comes, the
person accompanying it has a hard time of it. There are spoilt women
also who have their peculiar exercises in thought and opinion, and who
cannot suffer that any one should think differently from themselves, or
find those things sacred which to them are accursed. They will hear
nothing but what is in harmony with themselves, and they take it as a
personal insult when men or women attempt to reason with them, or even
hold their own without flinching.

This kind is to be found specially among the more intellectual of a
family or a circle; women who are pronounced "clever" by their friends,
and who have been so long accustomed to think themselves clever that
they have become spoilt mentally as others are personally, and fancy
that minds and thoughts must follow in their direction, just as eyes and
hands must follow and attend their sisters. The spoilt woman of the
mental kind is a horrid nuisance generally. She is greatly given to
large discourse; but discourse of a kind that leans all to one side, and
that denies the right of any one to criticise, doubt, or contradict, is
an intellectual Tower of Pisa under the shadow of which it is not
pleasant to live.


Words in italics in the original are surrounded by _underscores_.

The following words appear with and without hyphens. They have been left
as in the original.

     ball-room         ballroom
     business-like     businesslike
     hearth-rug        hearthrug
     house-keeper      housekeeper
     house-keeping     housekeeping
     man-like          manlike
     now-a-days        nowadays
     over-head         overhead

Variations in spelling have been left as in the original. Examples
include the following:


The following corrections have been made to the text:

     Page xi: INTRODUCTION, 13[original has 5]

     Page 48: slink away from a bantam[original has bantum] hen

     Page 67: you[original has vou] go in for this sort

     Page 129: sheer force of genius[original has genuis]

     Page 161: some out-of-the-way[original has out-of-the way]

     Page 220: exhausts itself in a declaration[original has
     delaration] of revolt

     Page 269: ignorant of contemporary[original is split across
     lines after con but hyphen is missing] fashions

     Page 303: following the [original has the the] same

     Page 332: torture it until it[original has is] has about as
     much life

The following words use an oe ligature in the original:


In the phrase, "white-armed, large-limbed Here", the original has
macrons over both of the vowels in "Here".

Ellipses match the original.

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