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Title: The Girl of the Period and Other Social Essays, Vol. I (of 2)
Author: Linton, Eliza Lynn
Language: English
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produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive/American Libraries.)



    THE
    GIRL OF THE PERIOD
    ETC.

    VOL. I.



    [REPRINTED, _by permission, from the_ SATURDAY REVIEW]



    THE
    GIRL OF THE PERIOD

    AND OTHER
    Social Essays

    BY
    E. LYNN LINTON

    AUTHOR OF 'THE ATONEMENT OF LEAM DUNDAS' 'UNDER WHICH LORD?'
    'THE REBEL OF THE FAMILY' 'IONE' ETC.

    IN TWO VOLUMES

    VOL. I.

[Illustration]

    LONDON
    RICHARD BENTLEY & SON, NEW BURLINGTON STREET
    Publishers in Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen

    1883

    [_All rights reserved_]



    LONDON: PRINTED BY
    SPOTTISWOODE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQUARE
    AND PARLIAMENT STREET



    Dedicated
    TO
    ALL GOOD GIRLS
    AND
    TRUE WOMEN



PREFACE.


So many false reports followed the appearance of these essays, that I
am grateful to the authorities of the _Saturday Review_ for their
present permission to republish them under my own name, even though
the best of the day has a little gone by, and other forms of folly
have been flying about since these were shot at. The essays hit
sharply enough at the time, and caused some ill-blood. 'The Girl of
the Period' was especially obnoxious to many to whom women were the
Sacred Sex above criticism and beyond rebuke; and I had to pay pretty
smartly in private life, by those who knew, for what they termed a
libel and an untruth. With these passionate repudiators on the one
hand, on the other were some who, trading on the enforced anonymity of
the paper, took spurious credit to themselves for the authorship. I
was twice introduced to the 'Writer of the "Girl of the Period."' The
first time he was a clergyman who had boldly told my friends that he
had written the paper; the second, she was a lady of rank well
known in London society, and to this hour believed by her own circle
to have written this and other of the articles included in the present
collection. I confess that, whether for praise or blame, I am glad to
be able at last to assume the full responsibility of my own work.

In re-reading these papers I am more than ever convinced that I have
struck the right chord of condemnation, and advocated the best virtues
and most valuable characteristics of women. I neither soften nor
retract a line of what I have said. One of the modern phases of
womanhood--hard, unloving, mercenary, ambitious, without domestic
faculty and devoid of healthy natural instincts--is still to me a
pitiable mistake and a grave national disaster. And I think now, as I
thought when I wrote these papers, that a public and professional life
for women is incompatible with the discharge of their highest duties
or the cultivation of their noblest qualities. I think now, as I
thought then, that the sphere of human action is determined by the
fact of sex, and that there does exist both natural limitation and
natural direction. This creed, which summarizes all that I have said
_in extenso_, I repeat with emphasis, and maintain with the conviction
of long years of experience.

    E. LYNN LINTON.

    1883.



CONTENTS OF THE FIRST VOLUME.


                                PAGE

    THE GIRL OF THE PERIOD         1

    MODERN MOTHERS (I.)           10

    MODERN MOTHERS (II.)          19

    PAYING ONE'S SHOT             27

    WHAT IS WOMAN'S WORK?         37

    LITTLE WOMEN                  48

    IDEAL WOMEN                   58

    PINCHBECK                     69

    AFFRONTED WOMANHOOD           79

    FEMININE AFFECTATIONS         88

    INTERFERENCE                  99

    THE FASHIONABLE WOMAN        109

    SLEEPING DOGS                119

    BEAUTY AND BRAINS            128

    NYMPHS                       137

    MÉSALLIANCES                 147

    WEAK SISTERS                 157

    PINCHING SHOES               167

    SUPERIOR BEINGS              176

    FEMININE AMENITIES           184

    GRIM FEMALES                 193

    MATURE SIRENS                203

    PUMPKINS                     213

    WIDOWS                       223

    DOLLS                        234

    CHARMING WOMEN               244

    APRON-STRINGS                254

    FINE FEELINGS                264

    SPHINXES                     273

    FLIRTING                     281

    SCRAMBLERS                   290

    FLATTERY                     299

    LA FEMME PASSÉE              309

    SPOILT WOMEN                 317

    DOVECOTS                     325

    BORED HUSBANDS               335



ESSAYS
UPON
SOCIAL SUBJECTS.



_THE GIRL OF THE PERIOD._


Time was when the 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, 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 his interests as identical with her own, 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 pass through; a tender mother, an industrious
housekeeper, 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 childlike 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--a creature whose
sole idea of life is fun; whose sole aim is unbounded luxury; and
whose dress is the chief object of such thought and intellect as
she possesses. Her main endeavour is to outvie her neighbours in the
extravagance of fashion. No matter if, in the time of crinolines, she
sacrifices decency; in the time of trains, cleanliness; in the time of
tied-back skirts, modesty; no matter either, if she makes herself a
nuisance and an inconvenience to every one she meets;--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 lives 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 healthily 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 negress or a maniac.

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 évidence_ 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 she
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 in deed
ought to be inseparable; and that no good girl can afford to appear
bad, under pain 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 honourable to herself or satisfactory to her friends. It
leads to slang, bold talk and general 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, 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 that 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 round 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 that 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 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 against 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 the prudent mother--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 wheel 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_, who marry for love, or put
the husband before the banker. But the Girl of the Period 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 readily take her
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 mothers' drawing-rooms, with their sisters and their
sisters' friends, they want something of quite a different flavour.
_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 honour 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 women 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 piquante 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 understand 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.



_MODERN MOTHERS._

I.


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 that 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 wonderfully 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 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 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 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 favour 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 honourable 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 possess.

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 schoolroom--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 labour.
And yet, side by side with this personal relinquishment of natural
duties, has grown up, perhaps as an instinctive compensation, an
amount of expensive management specially remarkable. There never was a
time when children were made of so much individual importance in the
family, yet were 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 the mothers; the increasing cost of education; the
fuss and turmoil generally made over them--all render children 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 pleasure. Even where there is no lack of money, the
unavoidable restraints of the condition, for at least some months,
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 take on themselves the labour and care which 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 such work; and the most
indolent housekeeper, whose superintendence of domestic matters takes
her just 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 the little ones grow older, she may
occasionally take them with her when she visits her more intimate
friends; but this is for her own pleasure, not their good; and
going with them to see that they are properly cared for has nothing to
do with the matter.

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 favour of her own, and is very sure that nothing
improper nor 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 not. 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 grim 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 when nurse had it all
her 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 self-preservation.

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 husbands' 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 colour and cut of the frocks and petticoats. And there is
always the same strain after show, and the same endeavour 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 on clothes in the tradesman class is a matter of
real amazement to those let into the secret. 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 whom 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 constantly breathing a
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.



_MODERN MOTHERS._

II.


There was once a superstition among us that mothers were of use in the
world; that they had their functions and duties, without which society
would not prosper nor hold together; and that much of the well-being
of humanity, present and future, depended on them. Mothers in those
bygone days were by no means effete personages or a worn-out
institution, but living powers exercising a real and pervading
influence; and they were credited with an authority which they did not
scruple to use when required.

One of the functions recognized as specially belonging to them was
that of guarding their young people from the consequences of their own
ignorance--keeping them from dangers both physical and moral until
wise enough to take care of themselves, and supplementing by their own
experience the want of it in their children. Another was that of
preserving the tone of society on a high level, and supplying the
antiseptic element by which the rest was kept pure; as, for example,
insisting that the language used and the subjects discussed
before them were such as should not offend the modesty of virtuous
women; that the people with whom they were required to associate
should be moderately honest and well conducted; and, in short, as
mothers, discountenancing everything in other men and women which they
would not like to see imitated by their own sons and daughters.

This was one of the fond superstitions of an elder time. For
ourselves, we boast of our freedom from superstition in these later
days; of our proud renunciation of restraints and habits which were
deemed beneficial by our forefathers; of our indifference to forms and
hatred of humbug; and of all that tends to fetter what is called
individualism. Hence we have found that we can go on without
safeguards for our young; that society does not want its matrons as
the preservative ingredient for keeping it pure; and that the world is
all the merrier for the loosening of bonds which once it was the duty
of women to draw closer. In fact, mothers have gone out, surviving
only in the form of chaperons.

More or less on the search for her own pleasure--if by any possibility
of artifice she can be taken for less than sixty, still ready for odd
snatches of flirting as she can find occasion--or, with her faculties
concentrated on the chance of winning the rubber by indifferent
play--the chaperon's charge is not a very onerous one; and her
daughters know as well as she does that her presence is a blind rather
than a protection. They are with mamma as a form of speech; but
they are left to themselves as a matter of fact. Anyone who is in the
confidence of young people of either sex knows a little of what goes
on in the dark corners and on the steps of the stairs--a favourite
anchorage for the loosely chaperoned in private houses where two
hundred are invited and only a hundred can find room. But then the
girls are 'with mamma,' and the young men are contented souls who take
what they can get without making wry faces. Mamma, occupied in her own
well-seasoned coquetries, or absorbed in the chances of her deep
'finesse' and the winning trick, lets the girls take care of
themselves, and would think it an intolerable impertinence should a
friend hint to her that her place of chaperon included vigilant
personal guardianship, and that she would do better to keep her
daughters in her own charge than leave them to themselves.

It is all very well for the advocates of youthful innocence to affect
to resent the slur supposed to be cast on girlhood by the advocacy of
this closer guardianship; or for those who do not know the world to
make their ignorance the measure of another's knowledge, and to deny
what they have not proved for themselves. Those who do know the world
know what they say when they deprecate the excessive freedom which is
too often granted to unmarried girls; and their warning is fully
justified by experience when they call mothers back to their duty
of stricter watchfulness. If indeed the young are capable of
self-protection, then we grant with them that mothers are a
mistake:--Let them abdicate without more ado. If license is more
desirable than modesty, and liberty better than reticence, the girls
may as well be left, as practically they are already, free from the
mother's guardianship; but if we have a doubt that way, we may as well
give it the benefit of consideration, and think a little on the
subject before going further on the present line.

From the first the mother, in the well-to-do classes, acts too much
the part of the hen ostrich with her eggs. She trusts to the kindly
influences of external circumstances rather than to her own care to
make the hatching successful. Nurses, governesses, schools, in turn
relieve her of the irksome duties of maternity. She sees her little
ones at their stated hour, and for the other twenty-three leaves them
to receive their first indelible impress from a class which she is
never tired of disparaging.

As the children grow older the women by whom they are moulded become
higher in the social and intellectual scale, but they are no more than
before subordinated to the mother's personal supervision. She, for her
part, cares only that her girls shall be taught the correct shibboleth
of their station; and for the rest, if she thinks at all, she cradles
herself in a generous trust in the goodness of human nature, or the
incorruptibility of her brood beyond that of any other woman's brood.
When they come under her own immediate hand, 'finished' and ready
to be introduced, she knows about as much of them as she knows of her
neighbours' girls in the next square; and in nine cases out of ten the
sole duties towards them which are undertaken by her are shirked when
possible, as a _corvée_ which she is too wise to bear unnecessarily.
When she can, she shuffles them off on some kind neighbourly hands,
and lets her daughters 'go about' with the first person who offers,
glad to have a little breathing time on her own side, and with always
that generous trust in providence and vicarious protection which has
marked her maternal career throughout.

In the lower half of the middle class the liberty allowed to young
girls grows yearly more and more unchecked. They walk alone, travel
alone, visit alone; and the gravest evils have been known to arise
from the habit which modern mothers have of sending their daughters of
sixteen and upwards unaccompanied in London to colleges and classes.
Mamma has grown stout and lazy, and has always some important matter
on hand that keeps her at home, half asleep in the easy-chair, while
the girls go to and fro, and take the exercise befitting their
youthful energies. Of course no harm can befall them. They are _her_
daughters, and the warnings given by the keener-eyed, who have had
experience, are mere inventions of the enemy and slanders against the
young. So they parade the streets, dressed in the most startling and
meretricious costumes of the period; and that fatal doctrine of
self-protection counts its victims by the score as the consequence.

The world is fond of throwing the blame of any misfortune that may
arise, now on the girl, now on the man concerned; but in honest fact
that blame really belongs to the mothers who let their daughters run
about the world without guide or guard. A work was given to them by
nature and love to do which they have neglected, a duty which they
have discarded. Whoever chooses may chaperon, accompany, mould their
daughters, so long as they are freed from the trouble; and their
dependence on the natural virtue of humanity and the beneficence of
circumstance runs exactly parallel with their own indolence and
neglect.

In preserving the tone of society pure the modern mother is as far
removed from the former ideal as she is in the duty of taking care of
her girls. Too often she is found making herself prominent in support
of the most objectionable movements; or, when doubtful questions are
discussed in mixed society, she forgets that regard for the purity of
her daughters should keep her silent, even if her own self-respect
were too weak to restrain her. When the conscienceless world, living
without a higher aim than that of success and what is known by getting
on, condones all kinds of moral obliquity for the sake of financial
prosperity and social position, do we find that, as a rule, mothers
and matrons protest against opening their houses to this gilded
rascality? If they did--if they made demerit and not poverty the
cause of exclusion, virtue and not success the title to
reception--there would be some check to the corruption which is so
insolently rampant now.

Women have this power in their own hands, more especially those women
who are mothers. If they would only set themselves to check the
inclination for loose talk and doubtful discussions which is
characteristic of the present moment, they could put an end to it
without delay. So also they might stop in less than a year the torrent
of slang with which Young England floods its daily speech; and by
setting themselves against the paint and dye and meretricious make-up
generally of the modern girl, they might bring next quarter's fashions
back to modesty and simplicity.

Women are apt to murmur at their lot as one without influence,
variety, stirring purpose, space for action. But it is, on the
contrary, a lot full of dignity and importance if properly regarded
and fitly undertaken. If they do not lead armies, they make the
characters of the men who lead and are led. If they are not State
Ministers nor Parliamentary orators, they raise by their nobleness or
degrade by their want of delicacy and refinement the souls and minds
of the men who are. If they are not in the throng and press of active
life, they can cheer others on to high aims, or basely reward the
baser methods of existence. As mothers they are the artificers who
give the initial touch that lasts for life; and as women they
complete what the mother began. Society is moulded mainly by them,
and they bring up their daughters on their own pattern.

It is surely weak and silly then to blame society for its ignoble
tone, or the young for their disorders. All men want the corrective
influence of social opinion, and it is chiefly women who create that
opinion. Youth, too, will ever be disorderly if it gets the chance,
and the race has not yet been born that carries old heads on young
shoulders. It is for the mothers to supplement by their own wisdom the
gaps left by the inexperience and ignorance of youth; it is for the
mothers to guide aright the steps that are apt, without that guidance,
to run astray, and to guard against passions, emotions, desires,
which, if left to themselves, bring only evil and disaster, but which,
guarded and directed, may be turned to the best ends. For ourselves,
we deeply regret to see the rapid extinction of motherhood in its best
sense, and decline to accept this modern loose-handed chaperon age as
its worthy substitute. We repudiate the plea of the insubordination of
the young so often put forward in defence of the new state of things,
for it is simply nonsense. The young are what the mothers make them,
just as society is what the matrons allow it to be; and if these
mothers and matrons did their duty, we should hear no more of the
wilfulness of the one or the shameless vagaries of the other. The
remedy for each lies in their own hands only.



_PAYING ONE'S SHOT._


It would save much useless striving and needless disappointment if the
necessity of paying one's shot were honestly accepted as absolute--if
it were understood, once for all, that society, like other
manifestations of humanity, is managed on the principle of exchange
and barter, and equivalents demanded for value received. The
benevolence which gives out of its own impulse, with no hope of reward
save in the well-being of the recipient, has no place in the
drawing-room code of morals. We may keep a useless creature from
starving at the cost of so much of our substance _per diem_, for the
sole remuneration of thanks and the consciousness of an equivocal act
of charity; but who among us opens his doors, or gives a seat at his
table, to drawing-room paupers unable to pay their shot? who cares to
cultivate the acquaintance of men or women who are unable to make him
any return? It is not necessary that this return should be in kind--a
dinner for a dinner, a champagne supper for a champagne supper, and
balls with waxed floors for balls with stretched linen; but shot
must be paid in some form, whether in kind or not, and the social
pauper who cannot pay his quota is Lazarus excluded from the feast.
This is a hard saying, but it is a true one. We often hear worthy
people who do not understand this law complain that they are
neglected--left out of wedding breakfasts--passed over in dinner
invitations--and that they find it difficult to keep acquaintances
when made. But the fact is, these poor creatures who know so much
about the cold-shoulder of society are simply those who cannot pay
their shot, according to the currency of the class to which they
aspire; and so by degrees they get winnowed through the meshes, and
fall to a level where their funds will suffice to meet all demands,
triumphantly. For the rejected of one level are not necessarily the
rejected of all, and the base metal of one currency is sound coinage
in another. People who would find it impossible to enter a
drawing-room in Grosvenor Square may have all Bloomsbury at their
command; and what was caviare to My Lord will be ambrosia to his
valet--all depending on the amount of the shot to be paid and the
relative value of coinage wherewith to pay it.

The most simple form of payment is of course by the elemental process
of reciprocity in kind; a dinner for a dinner and a supper for a
supper:--a form as purely instinctive as an eye for an eye and a tooth
for a tooth--the _lex talionis_ of early jurisprudence administered
among wine-cups instead of in the shambles. But there are other
modes of payment as efficient if less evident, and as imperative if
more subtle. For instance, women pay their shot--when they pay it
individually, and not through the vicarious merits of their masculine
relations--by dressing well and looking nice; some by being pretty;
some by being fashionable; a few by brilliant talk; while all ought to
add to their private speciality the generic virtue of pleasant
manners. If they are not pretty, pleasant, well-dressed nor
well-connected, and if they have no masculine pegs of power by which
they can be hooked on to the higher lines, they are let to drop
through the social meshes without an effort made to retain them, as
little fishes swim away unopposed through the loops which hold the
bigger ones. These things are their social duties--the final cause of
their drawing-room existence; and if they fail in them they fail in
the purpose for which they were created socially, and may die out as
soon as convenient. They have other duties, of course, and doubtless
of far higher moment and greater worth; but the question now is only
of their drawing-room duties--of the qualities which secure their
recognition in society--of the special coinage in which they must pay
their shot if they would assist at the great banquet of social life. A
dowdy, humdrum, well-principled woman, whose toilette looks as if it
had been made with the traditionary pitchfork, and whose powers of
conversation do not go beyond the strength of _Cobwebs to Catch
Flies_, or _Mangnall's Questions_, may be an admirable wife,
the painstaking mother of future honest citizens, invaluable by a
sick-bed, beyond price in the nursery, a pattern of all household
economies, a woman absolutely faultless in her sphere--and that sphere
a very sweet and lovely one. But her virtues are not those by which
she can pay her shot in society; and the motherly goodness, of so much
account in a dressing-jacket and list-slippers, is put out of court
when the fee to be paid is liveliness of manner or elegance of
appearance. Certainly, worthy women who dress ill and look ungraceful,
and whose conversation is about up to the mark of their children's
easy-spelling-books, are plentiful in society--unfortunately for those
bracketed with them for two hours' penance; but in most cases they
have their shot paid for them by the wealth, the importance, the
repute, or the desirableness of their relations. They may pay it
themselves by their own wealth and consequent liberal tariff of
reciprocity; but this is rare; the possession of personal superiority
of any kind for the most part acting as a moral stimulus with women
whom the superiority of their male belongings does not touch. And, by
the way, it is rather hard lines that so many celebrated men have such
dowdy wives. Artists, poets, self-made men of all kinds often fail in
this special article; and, while they themselves have caught the tone
of the circle to which they have risen, and pay their shot by manner
as well as by repute, their wives lag behind among the ashes of the
past, like Cinderellas before the advent of the fairy godmother.
How many of them are carried through society as clogs or excrescences
which a polite world is bound to tolerate with more or less
equanimity, according to the amount of sensitiveness bestowed by
nature and cultivated by art! Sometimes, however, self-made men and
their wives are wise in their generation and understand the terms on
which society receives its members; in which case the marital
Reputation goes to the front alone, and the conjugal Cinderella rests
tranquilly in the rear.

Notoriety of all kinds, short of murder or forgery, is one way of
paying one's shot, specially into the coffers of the Leo Hunters, of
whom there are many. It is shot paid to the general fund when one has
seen an accident--better still, if one has been in it. Many a man has
owed a rise in his scale of dinners to a railway smash; and to have
been nearly burnt to death, to have escaped by a miracle from
drowning, to have been set on by footpads or to have been visited by
burglars, is worth a round of At Homes, because of the ready cash of a
real adventure. To be connected more or less remotely with the
fashionable tragedy of the hour is paying one's shot handsomely. To
have been on speaking terms with the latest respectable scoundrel
unmasked, or to have had dealings, sufficiently remote to have
been cleanly, with the newest villainy, will be accepted as shot
while the public interest in the matter lasts. A chance visit to
ultra-grandees--grandees in ratio to the ordinary sphere--is shot
paid with an air. A bad illness, or the attendance on one, with the
apparently unconscious heroism of the details, comes in as part of the
social fine; especially if the person relating his or her experience
has the knack of epigram or exaggeration, while still keeping local
colour and verisimilitude intact. Interesting people who have been
abroad and seen things have good counters for a dinner-party; paying
their shot for themselves and their hosts too, who put them forward as
their contribution to the funds of the commonwealth, with certainty of
acceptance. Some pay their shot by their power of procuring orders and
free admissions. They know the manager of this theatre or the leading
actor of that; they are acquainted with the principal members of the
hanging committees, and are therefore great in private views; they are
always good for a gratuitous treat to folks who can afford to pay
twice the sum demanded for their day's pleasure. Such people may be
stupid, ungainly, not specially polished, in grain unpleasant; but
they circulate in society because they pay their shot and give back
equivalents for value received. A country-house, where there is a good
tennis-ground and a blushing bed of strawberries, is coinage that will
carry the possessor very far ahead through London society; and by the
same law you will find healthy, well-conditioned country folk tolerate
undeniable little snobs of low calibre because of that sixteen-roomed
house in Tyburnia, a visit to which represents so many concerts, so
many theatres, a given number of exhibitions, and a certain
quantity of operas and parties. Had those undeniable little snobs no
funds wherewith to pay their shot, they would have had no place kept
for them among the rose-trees and the strawberry-beds; but, bringing
their quota as they do, they take their seat with the rest and are
helped in their turn.

In fact, humiliating to our self-love as it may be, the truth is, we
are all valued socially, not for ourselves integrally, not for the
mere worth of the naked soul, but for the kind of shot that we
pay--for the advantage or amusement to others that we can bring--for
something in ourselves which renders us desirable as companions--or
for something belonging to our condition which makes us remunerative
as guests. If we have no special qualification, if we neither look
nice nor talk well, neither bring glory nor confer pleasure, we must
expect to be shunted to the side in favour of others who are up to the
right mark and who give as much as they receive. If this truth were
once fully established as a matter of social science, a great advance
would be made; for nothing helps people so much as to clear a subject
of what fog may lie about it. And as the tendency of the age is to
discover the fixed laws which regulate the mutable affairs of man, it
would be just as well to extend the inquiry from the jury-box to the
dinner-table, and from the blue-book to the visiting-list. Why is it
that some people struggle all their lives to get a footing in society,
yet die as they have lived--social Sisyphuses, never accomplishing
their perpetually-recurring task? There must be a reason for it,
seeing that nothing is ruled by blind chance, though much seems
to lie outside the independent will of the individual. Enlighten
these worthy people's minds on the unwritten laws of invitation, and
show them that--thoroughly honest souls and to be trusted with untold
gold or with their neighbour's pretty wife, which is perhaps a harder
test, as they may be--they are by no means to be trusted with the
amusement of a couple of companions at a dinner-table. Show them that,
how rich soever they may be in the rough gold of domestic morality,
they are bankrupts in the small-change which alone passes current in
society--and, if invited where they aspire to be, they would be taken
on as pauper cousins unable to pay their footing and good for neither
meat nor garnish. Let them learn how to pay their shot, and their
difficulties would vanish. They would leave off repeating the fable of
Sisyphus, and attain completion of endeavour. No one need say this is
a hard or a selfish doctrine, for we all follow it in practice. Among
the people we invite to our houses are some whom we do not specially
like, but whom we must ask because of shot paid in kind. There are
people who may be personally disagreeable, ill-educated,
uninteresting, ungainly, but whom we cannot cut because of the
relations in which we stand towards them, and who take their place by
right, because they pay their shot with punctuality. There are
others whom we ask because of liking or desirability, and shot paid in
some specific form of pleasantness, as in beauty, fashion, good
manner, notoriety; but there are none absolutely barren of all gifts
of pleasantness to the guests, of reflected honour to ourselves, and
of social small-change according to the currency. We do not go into
the byways and hedges to pick up drawing-room tatterdemalions who
bring nothing with them and are simply so much deadweight on the rest,
occupying so much valuable space and consuming so much vital energy.
The law of reciprocity may be hard on the strivers who are ignorant of
its inexorable provisions; but it is a wholesome law, like other rules
and enactments against remediable pauperism. And were we once
thoroughly to understand that, if we would sit securely at the table
we must put something of value into the pool--that we must possess
advantageous circumstances, or personal desirabilities, as the shot to
be paid for our place--the art of society would be better cultivated
than it is now, and the classification of guests would be carried out
with greater judgment. Surely, if the need of being gracious in
manner, sprightly in talk, and of pleasant appearance generally--all
cultivable qualities, and to be learned if not born in us by
nature--were accepted as an absolute necessity, without which we must
expect to be overlooked and excluded, drawing-rooms would be far
brighter and dinner-tables far pleasanter than they are at present; to
the advantage of all concerned! And, after all, society is a
great thing in human life. If not equal in importance to the family,
or to political virtue, it has its own special value; and whatever
adds to its better organization is a gain in every sense.



_WHAT IS WOMAN'S WORK?_


This is a question which one half the world is at this moment 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 labour, 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 might both save and improve in the
home; women whose lives 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 functional and social restrictions.

It is strange to see into what unreasonable disrepute active
housekeeping--first social 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 is an active
housekeeper, even with such an income, is an exception to the
rule; and the daughters who are 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, are rarer still. For things
are getting worse, not better, and our young women are less useful
even than were their mothers; while these last do not, as a rule, come
near the housekeeping ladies of olden times, who knew every secret of
domestic economy and made a wise and pleasant 'distribution of bread'
their grand point of honour. 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 be not very
indolent, and if she have 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 be sweet-tempered, or a harsh note of censure if she be 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 that personal
superintendence, so encouraging to servants when genially performed,
which renders 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 under this hasty generalship, when the
maids are mere scrubs who ought to go through years of training if
they are ever to be 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 stupid,
uncomfortable, as well as 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 would be if personal pains were taken--which is
always the best economy.

What is there in practical housekeeping less honourable 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
exaggerated Marthas occupied only with much serving, Nausicaas washing
linen, or 'wise Penelopes' spending their lives in needlework alone.
But, without undertaking anything unpleasant to her senses or
degrading to her condition, a lady might do hundreds of things which
are now left undone in a house, or are given up to the coarse handling
of servants; and domestic life would gain 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 feebly-developed gustativeness,
they affect to despise the stronger instinct in men, and think it low
and sensual if they are expected to give special attention to the
meals of the man who provides the meat. This contempt for good cooking
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 connexion between
food and virtue, food and thought, being a very close one. And the
sooner wives recognize this connexion 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 do we find a house where the
lady does look after the food of the family; 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 were
the requisite ability; but there is as little ability as there is
energy, and the plain cook with her savagery and the fourth-rate
confectioner with his rancid pastry, have it all their own way,
according as the election is for economy or ostentation. If by chance
we stumble on a household where the woman does not disdain housewifely
work, and specially does not disdain the practical superintendence of
the kitchen, there we are sure to 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-humoured. Perhaps it is the consciousness that she
is doing her duty--of itself a wonderful sweetener of the temper;
perhaps the greater amount of bodily exercise keeps her liver in good
case; 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 practical use; or, if they
are compelled by the exigencies of circumstances, they think
themselves 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 very hardly dealt
with if asked to do monotonous housework at home. Yet she does nothing
more elevating nor more advantageous. Novel-reading, fancy-work,
visiting and 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 for? Certainly some of the
more benevolent sort carry their energies out of doors, and leave such
prosaic matters as savoury dinners and fast shirt-buttons for
committees and charities, where they get excitement and _kudos_
together. Others give themselves 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 fore-going 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 labour 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 will not learn cooking,
and they will not 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 coincident with the endeavour, on the one
side, to approximate their pursuits.

A great demand is being made now for more work for woman and wider
fields for her labour. 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 perfectly
perform the duties which we may call instinctive to her sex before
claiming those hitherto held remote from her natural condition. Much
of this demand springs from restlessness and dissatisfaction; little,
if any, from higher aspirations or nobler energies unused. 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 that work. It is only the weak who cannot
raise their circumstances to the level of their thoughts; only the
poor in spirit who cannot enrich their deeds by their motives.

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
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 what we would urge on woman is the
value of a better system of life at home before laying claim to the
discharge of extra-domestic duties abroad.



_LITTLE WOMEN._


The conventional idea of a brave, energetic, or a supremely criminal,
woman has always been that of 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 debateable land, in fact, between the two
sexes, and almost as much the one as the other. Helen Macgregor, Lady
Macbeth, Catharine de Medici, Mrs. Manning, and the old-fashioned
murderesses in novels, were all of the muscular, black-brigand type,
with more or less of regal grace super-added according to
circumstances; and it would have been thought nothing but a puerile
fancy to have supposed the contrary of those whose personal
description was not already known. Crime, indeed, in art and fiction,
was generally painted in very nice proportion to the number of cubic
inches embodied and the depth of colour employed; though we are bound
to add that the public favour ran towards muscular heroines almost as
much as towards muscular murderesses, which to a certain extent
redressed 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
they have skill to design.

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 black-haired virago. 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,' and special delicacy
of feet and hands, we are booked for the companionship, through three
volumes, of a young person to whom Messalina or Lucrezia Borgia was 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 connexion 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 by her submissiveness. 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 going;
while, as for the conception or execution of any naughty piece of
self-assertion, she is as utterly incapable of either 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 order 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 she be a small and
fragile-looking woman. So that, if it be only a usurpation of places
specially masculine, she is allowed to retain what she has got, amid
the grave looks of the elders--not really displeased at the 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 contest 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-humoured 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 as makes you glad to escape from her,
no matter what spoils you leave in 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 she 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 stood
up against 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 devilry 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-coloured
complexions. As catalogued properties according to the ideal, they
would be placed in the list of the natural criminals and law-breakers,
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, in
audacity; the Israelitish Juno will go down before either of the small
Philistines, and the fallacy of weight and colour 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
Hera, 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 round
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 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 nor easy life of it,
if all we hear of them be true. To defend the farm and the homestead
during their husbands' absence, and to keep these and 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 of 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 which impede her progress; irresistible and irrepressible in
all circumstances and under any conditions.



_IDEAL WOMEN._


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
savour 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 who 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 besides 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, 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 public occasions for devotedness
occur, we 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 sacredness 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 be undeniably the
handsomest woman of his acquaintance, and holds himself blessed when
all men admire and all women envy. But he is blessed 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 be different, the kind is the
same. And so in minor proportions--from the most beautiful woman of
all, to simply beauty as a _sine quâ 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, be pretty or
ugly. Provided she is active and industrious, minds the house well,
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 colour or form, and can even be brought to tolerate a limp or a
squint. Given the broad foundations of an honourable 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 are facts; 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 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 amongst 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 will be his regard and
tenderness. To be the one sole teacher and protector of such a gentle
little creature seems to him the most delicious joy and the best
condition of married life; and he holds Milton's famous lines to be
expressive of the only fitting relations 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 no work complete which
has not been created by the one and perfected by the other. He sees
how women have helped on the leaders in troublous 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 and dormant in men's brains for more than half their
lifetime have suddenly wakened 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 on 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, he 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 distilled in a
sufficiently rich alembic leaving a residuum admitting no kind of
doubt. Venus herself without a dowry would be only a pretty seaside
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
piquancy. 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 he is not particular as to the strict
order or economy of the housekeeping, provided only his wife 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 order; 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 colour 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 be true of individuals, it is especially
true of nations, each of which has its own ideal 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 nor yet 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 which are as
good as revelations; without cool judgment but with the light of
burning passions which guide her just as well; thinking by her heart
and carrying the most refined metaphysics into her love; subtle;
incomprehensible by the coarser brains of men and women who are only
honest; 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 specially 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 late times was the ardent patriot, full of
active energy, of physical force, of 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 humour with her master,
economical in house-living to please the meanness, and gorgeous in
occasional attire to gratify 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 unduly neglect them, 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 men; 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, housekeeping 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 attitude 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 which they have begun--in that we could sympathize--but
it is 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
characterises 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.



_PINCHBECK._


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
niceness 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 by the aboriginal gentry of the place as more than a lucky
adventurer; 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 favour of reality, however poor and
barren; it was the condemnation of make-believe--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 fashions.

We are in the humour 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 stuccoed pillars are supposed to confer a quasi-palatial
dignity on a wretched jerry-built 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 and nothing for use, in which 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 honour 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 broad way 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 neighbours'; 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 noise 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 will 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
practising her scales unweariedly; water-pipes bursting in the frost;
walls streaming in the thaw; the lower offices reeking and green with
damp; the upper rooms too insecure for unrestricted movement--all
these, and more miseries of the same kind, a woman given over to the
worship of pinchbeck 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 show.

In dress it is the same thing. She must look like her neighbours, no
matter whether they can spend pounds to her shillings, so runs up a
milliner's bill beyond what she ought to afford for the whole family
expenses. If others 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, of glass, of vulcanite; she must break out into spangles
and beads and chains and _benoîtons_, which are cheap luxuries and, as
she thinks, effective decorations. 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 woman 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 nakedness.

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 substance is of the same quality;
that generals and admirals and lords and ladies are the common
elements of the special circle in which the family habitually moves;
that pinchbeck is good gold, and that 'composition' 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-colour 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's;
and we may be quite sure that all personal contact with grand folks so
expresses itself and perpetuates 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; consequently, for the most part it is
turned to this practical account. Whether the fashion 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 higher than the small pretences of which we have been
speaking--to women who have money, and so far have one reality, but
who have not, by their own birth or their husbands', the original
standing which would give them this social influence as of right. Some
make themselves notorious for their drawing-room patronage of artists,
which however does not include buying their pictures; others gather
round them scores of obscure authors, whose books they talk of but 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 to hinder; and their
patronage is just so much pinchbeck, not worth the trouble of
weighing.

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 like women of rank and fortune, and
who are ashamed of nothing so 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,
they are 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 sciences 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; 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, which endeavours so hard to hide its real estate and to pass
for what it is not and never can be.



_AFFRONTED WOMANHOOD._


Amongst other queer anomalies in human nature is the difference that
lies between sectarian sins and personal immoralities, between the
intellectual untruth of a man's creed and the spiritual evil of his
own nature. Rigid Calvinism, for instance, which narrows the issues of
divine grace and shuts up the avenues of salvation from all but a
select few, is a sour and illiberal faith; and yet a rigid Calvinist,
simply continuing to believe in predestination and election as he was
taught from the beginning, may be a generous, genial, large-hearted
man. An inventor scheming out the deadliest projectile that has yet
been devised is not necessarily indifferent to human life on his own
account; nor is every American who talks tall talk about the glorious
destinies of his country and the infinite superiority of his
countrymen, as conceited personally as he is vainglorious nationally.
In fact, he may be a very modest fellow by his own fireside; and
though in his quality of American he is of course able to whip
universal creation, in his mere quality of man he is quite ready to
take the lower seat at the table and to give honour where honour is
due.

This kind of distinction between the faults of the sect and the
person, the nature and the cause, is very noticeable in women; and
especially in all things relating to themselves. Individually, many
among them are meek and long-suffering enough, and would be as little
capable of resenting a wrong as of revenging it. Being used from the
cradle to a good deal of snubbing, they take to it kindly as part of
the inevitable order of things, and kiss the chastening rod with
edifying humility; but, collectively, they are the most impatient of
rebuke, the most arrogant in moral attitude, and the most restive of
all created things sought to be led or driven. The woman who will bear
to hear of her personal faults without offering a word in
self-defence, and who will even say peccavi quite humbly if hard
pressed, fires up into illimitable indignation when told that her
foibles are characteristic of her sex, and that she is no worse than
nature meant her to be. Personally she is willing to confess that she
is only a poor worm grovelling in the dust--perhaps an exceptionally
poor worm, if of the kind given to spiritual asceticism--but by her
class she claims to be considered next door to an angel, and arrogates
to her sex virtues which she would blush to claim on her own behalf.

Men, as men, are all sorts of bad things, as every one knows. They are
selfish, cruel, tyrannical, sensual, unjust, bloodthirsty--where does
the list end? and human nature in the abstract is a bad thing
too, given over to lies and various deadly lusts; but women, as women,
are exempt from any special share in the general iniquity, and only
come under the ban with universal nature--with lambs and doves and
other pretty creatures--not quite perfection, because of the Fall
which spoilt everything, and yet very near it. As children of the rash
parents who corrupted the race they certainly suffer from the general
infection of sin that followed, but, as daughters contrasted with the
sons, they are so far superior to those evil-minded brethren of theirs
that their comparative virtues by sex override their positive vices by
race. As individuals, they are worms; as human beings, they are poor
sinful souls; but by their womanhood they are above rebuke.

Women have been so long wrapped in this pleasant little delusion about
the sacredness of their sex, and the perfections belonging thereto by
nature, that any attempt to show them the truth and convince them that
they too are guilty of the mean faults and petty ways common to a
fallen humanity--whereof certain manifestations are special to
themselves--is met with the profound scorn or shrill cries of
affronted womanhood. A man who speaks of their faults as they appear
to him, and as he suffers by them, is illiberal and unmanly, and the
rage of the more hysterically indignant would not be very far below
that of the Thracian Mænads, could they lay hands on the offending
Orpheus of the moment; but a woman who speaks from knowledge, and
touches the weak places and the sore spots known best to the
initiated, is a traitress even baser than the rude man who perhaps
knows no better.

The whole life and being of womanhood must be held sacred from
censure, exalted as it is by a kind of sentimental apotheosis that
will not bear reasoning about, to something very near divinity. Even
the follies of fashion must be exempt from both ridicule and rebuke,
on the ground of man's utter ignorance of the merits of the question;
for how should a poor male body know anything about trains or
crinolines, or the pleasure that a woman feels in making herself
ridiculous or indecent in appearance and a nuisance to her neighbours?
while, for anything graver than the follies of fashion, it is in a
manner high treason against the supremacy of the sex to assume that
they deserve either ridicule or rebuke. Besides, it is indelicate.
Women are made to be worshipped, not criticized; to be reverenced as
something mystically holy and incomprehensible by the grosser
masculine faculties; and it is indiscreet, to say the least of it,
when vile man takes it on himself to test the idol by the hard
mechanical tests of truth and common-sense, and to show the world how
much alloy is mingled with the gold.

This is in ethics what the Oriental's reserve about his harem is in
domestic life. The sacredness of a Mohammedan's womankind must be so
complete that they are even nameless to the coarser sex; and not,
'How is your wife?' 'How are your daughters?' but, 'How is your
house?' is the only accepted form of words by which Ali may ask Hassan
about the health of his Fatimas and Zuliekas. In much the same way our
women must be kept behind the close gilded gratings of affected
perfectness, and, above all things, never publicly discussed--much
less publicly condemned.

It is by no means a proof of wisdom, or of the power of logically
reasoning out a position and its consequences, that women should thus
demand to be treated as things superior to the faults and follies of
humanity at large. They are clamouring loudly, and with some justice,
for an equal share in the world's work and wages, and it is
wonderfully stupid in them to stand on their womanly dignity and their
quasi-sacredness, when told of their faults and measured according to
their shortcomings, not their pretensions. If they come down into the
arena to fight, they must fight subject to the conditions of the
arena. They must not ask for special rules to be made in their
behalf--for blunted weapons on the one side and impregnable defences
on the other. If they demand either mystic reverence or chivalric
homage they must be content with their own narrow but safe enclosure,
where they have nothing to do but to look at the turmoil below, and
accept with gratitude such portions of the good things fought for as
the men to whom they belong see fit to bring them. They cannot at one
and the same time have the good of both positions--the courtesy
claimed by weakness and the honour paid to prowess. If they mingle in
the _mêlée_ they must expect as hard knocks as the rest, and must
submit to be bullied when they hit foul and to be struck home when
they hit wide. If they do not like these conditions, let them keep out
of the fray altogether; but if they choose to mingle in it, no
hysterics of affronted womanhood, however loud the shrieks, will keep
them safe from hard knocks and rough treatment.

Time out of mind women have been credited with all the graces and
virtues possible in a world which 'the trail of the serpent' has
defiled. To be sure they have been cursed as well, as the causes of
most of the miseries of society from Eve's time to Helen's, and later
still. _Teterrima causa._ But the praise alone sticks, so far as their
own self-belief is concerned, and men, who create the curses, may
arrange them to their own liking. The poet says they are 'ministering
angels;' the very name of mother is to some men almost as holy as that
of God, and the most solemn oath a Frenchman can take in a private way
is not by his own honour, but by the name or the head or the life of
his mother.

As wives--well, save in the old nursery doggrel which sets forth that
they are made of 'all that's good if well understood'--as wives
certainly they get not a few ungentle rubs. But then only a husband
knows where the shoe pinches, and if he blasphemes during the wearing
of it, on his own head be the guilt as is already the punishment.
As maidens they are confessedly the most sacred manifestation of
humanity, and to be approached with the reverence rightfully due to
the holiest thing we know; while in the new spiritualistic world we
are told to look for the time when the moral supremacy of woman shall
be the recognized law of human life and the reign of violence and
tears and all iniquity shall therefore be at an end. Thus the moral
loveliness of collective womanhood is a dogma which men are taught from
their boyhood as an article of faith if not a matter of experience,
and women naturally keep them up to the mark--theoretically, at all
events. Yet for all this lip-homage, of which so much account is
made, women are often ill-used and brutalized, and in spite of
their superior pretensions as often fall below men in every quality
but that of patience. And patience is eminently the virtue of
weakness, and therefore woman's cardinal grace; speaking broadly and
allowing for exceptions. But what women do not see is that all this
poetic flattery comes originally from the idealizing passion of men,
and that, left to themselves, with only each other for critics and
analyzers, they would soon find themselves stripped of their superfluous
moral finery and reduced to the bare core of uncompromising truth.
And this would be the best thing for them in the end. If they could
but rise superior to the weakness of flattery, they would rise
beyond the power of much that now degrades them. If they would but
honestly consider the question of their own shortcomings when told
where they fail, and what they cannot do, and what they will be sure
to make a mess of if they attempt, they would prove their title to
man's respect far more than they prove it now by the shrill cries and
indignant remonstrances of affronted womanhood.

This is the day of trial for many things--among others, for the
capacity of women for an enlarged sphere of action and more public
exercise of power. Do women think they show their fitness for nobler
duties than those already assigned them, by their impatience under
censure, which is, after all, but one mode of teaching? Are they
qualifying themselves to act in concert with men, by assuming an
absolute moral supremacy which it is a kind of sacrilege to deny? If
they think they are on the right road as at present followed, let them
go on in heaven's name. When they have wandered sufficiently far
perhaps they will have sense enough to turn back, and see for
themselves what mistakes they have made and might have avoided, had
they had the wisdom of self-knowledge in only a small degree.
Certainly, so long as womanhood is held to confer, _per se_, a special
and unassailable divinity, so long will women be rendered
comparatively incapable of the best work through vanity, through
ignorance, and through impatience of the teaching that comes by
rebuke. Nothing is so damaging in the long run as exaggerated
pretensions; for by-and-by, after a certain period of uncritical
homage, the world is sure to believe that the silver veil which it has
so long respected hides deformity, not divinity, and that what is too
sacred for public use is too poor for public honour. If the faults of
women are not to be discussed, nor their follies condemned, because
womanhood is a sacred thing and a man naturally respects his mother
and sisters, then women must be content to live in a moral harem,
where they will be safe from both the gaze and the censure of the
outside world; they must not come down into the battle-fields and the
workshops, where they forfeit all claim to protection and have to
accept the man's law of 'no favour.' It must be one thing or the
other. Either their merits must be weighed and their capacity assayed
in reference to the place they want to take--and in doing this their
faults must be boldly and distinctly discussed--or they must be
content with their present condition; and, with the mystic sanctity of
their womanhood, they must accept also its moral seclusion--belonging,
by their very nature, to things too sacred for criticism and too
perfect for censure. It rests with themselves to decide which it is to
be.



_FEMININE AFFECTATIONS._


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
vapours, 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 which 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 honourable
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 or Minerva, whom she was sure to call Phoebus or Pallas
Athene, as being the more poetical name of the two. Probably she had
dealings with Diana too--for this kind of woman does not in any age
affect the 'seaborn,' 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 are no dearer gaolers than any other;
and that household duties disgrace the aspiring soul mounting to the
empyrean. This was the Ethereal Being of 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 æsthetics and
culture, and horribly neglect their babies and the weekly bills.

A favourite 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 is most
probably internal disease, when not antimony. 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 truth.

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 the string nor fasten the 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 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 being.

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 this soft-mannered, large-eyed,
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 shirt-fronts, 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, throwing her
head well back, tosses off the whole at a draught--she would disdain
the lady-like 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 cork-screw, a gimlet, a big knife and a
small foot-rule; and in 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 endeavour 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 that which 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
colours 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 like kind of affectation very common among pretty
women; and this is the affectation of not knowing that they are
pretty, and not recognizing 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 which 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 practised 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 practise 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 practised.

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 befit middle
age counselling giddy youth, and that might by chance be dangerous
even then if the 'Indian summer' were specially bright and warm.

Then there is that 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 which 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 are
not quite certain of their company, and scarcely know if they are
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 self-enjoying life from end to end;
and the affectation of political fervour in those who would not give
up a ball or a new dress to save Europe from universal revolution.

Go where we will, the affectation of being something she is not meets
us in woman, like a ghost we cannot lay, a mist we cannot sweep away.
In the holiest and the most trivial things we find it penetrating
everywhere--even in church and at her prayers, when the pretty
penitent, rising from her lengthy orisons, lifts her eyes and
furtively looks about 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 heart's
core, and who would as little condescend to act a pretence as she
would dare to tell a lie.



_INTERFERENCE._


About the strongest propensity in human nature, apart from the purely
personal instincts, is the propensity to interfere. We do not mean
tyranny; that 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 it in hand to force
people to do what they dislike 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 most felt. Very many people spend their lives
in interfering with others--perpetually putting spokes into wheels
with the turning of which they have nothing to do, and thrusting their
fingers into pies about the baking of which they are in no 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, finnicking 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 other 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 that
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 favourite 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 so loftily
snubbed as sisters; while mothers nine times out of ten are 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 cigar
represents a battle, deepening in intensity according to the number.
The first may have been had with only a light skirmish--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 big guns thundering.
She could understand a man smoking one cigar 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 cigar herself, therefore does not understand the uses
nor the abuses of tobacco; but she holds herself pledged to interfere
so soon as she gets the chance; and she redeems that 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 nor 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 when he has gone beyond the range of her
own short tether, she trots after him remonstrating, and thinks
herself justified in interfering with his further 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,
sons, in about the same ratio as she coddles herself. They must
not go out without an overcoat; they must 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 given hour.

When such women as these have to do with men just on the boundary-line
between the last days of vigour and the first of old age, they put
forward the time of old age by many years. We see 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
and dread rather than desire the masculine comradeship which would
keep them up to the mark of virile independence; for 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 humour--one who calls a spade a spade, with no
circumlocution about an agricultural implement. According to the odd
law of compensation which regulates so much of human action, the wife
of such a man is generally one of the ultra-refined kind, who thinks
herself consecrated 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 so 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 be a man of free
speech and broad humour 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 nor 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 any kind can be begun, nor a blue ribbon worn
instead of a pink, 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 in houses where there
are large families of unmarried girls must have seen. The nudges, the
warning looks, the deprecating 'Amy's!' and 'Oh, Lucy's!' and 'Hush,
Rose's!' by which some seek to act as household police over the
others, are patent to all who use their senses. 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 practise 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 analyze 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 parlour, 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 little
vanities, when she herself will not be interfered with--though press
and pulpit both try to turn her out of her present path into the way
which all ages have thought the best for her and the one naturally
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 saviours 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 given as 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 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; then 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--and
that will hers. 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.



_THE FASHIONABLE WOMAN._


Among the many odd products of a mature civilization, the fashionable
woman is one of the oddest. From first to last she is an amazing
spectacle; and if we take human life in any earnestness at all,
whether individually, as the passage to an eternal existence the
condition of which depends on what we are here, or collectively, as
the highest thing we know, we can only look in blank astonishment at
the fashionable woman and her career. She is the one sole capable
member of the human family without duties and without useful
occupation; the one sole being who might be swept out of existence
altogether, without deranging the nice arrangement of things, or
upsetting the balance of inter-dependent forces. We know of no other
organic creation of which this could be said; but the fashionable
woman is not as other creatures, being, fortunately, _sui generis_,
and of a type not existing elsewhere. If we take the mere ordering of
her days and the employment of her time as the sign of her mental
state, we may perhaps measure to a certain extent, but not fully, the
depth of inanity into which she has fallen and the immensity of her
folly. Considering her as a being with the potentiality of
reason, of usefulness, of thought, the actual result is surely the
saddest and the strangest thing under heaven!

She goes to bed at dawn and does not attempt to rise till noon. For
the most part she breakfasts in bed, and then amuses herself with a
cursory glance at the morning paper, if she have sufficient energy for
so great a mental exertion; if she have not, she lies for another hour
or two in that half-slumberous state which is so destructive to mind
and body, weakening as it does both fibre and resolution, both muscle
and good principle. At last she languidly rises, to be dressed in time
for luncheon and her favoured intimates--the men who have the _entrée_
at sacred hours when the world in general is forbidden. Some time
later she dresses again for her drive--for the first part of the day's
serious business; for paying visits and leaving cards; for buying
jewelry and dresses, and ordering all sorts of unnecessary things at
her milliner's; for this grand lady's ordinary 'day,' and that grand
lady's extraordinary At Home; for her final slow parade in the Park,
where she sees her friends as in an open air drawing-room, makes
private appointments, carries on flirtations, and hears and retails
gossip and scandal of a full flavour. Then she goes home to dress for
tea in a 'lovely gown' of suggestive piquancy; to be followed by
dinner, the opera or a concert, a _soirée_, or perhaps a ball or two;
whence she returns towards morning, flushed with excitement or
worn out with fatigue, feverish or nervous, as she has had pleasure
and success or disappointment and annoyance.

This is her outside life; and this is no fancy picture and no
exaggeration. After a certain time of such an existence, can we wonder
if her complexion fades and her eyes grow dim? if that inexpressible
air of haggard weariness creeps over her, which ages even a young girl
and makes a mature woman substantially an old one? It is then that she
has recourse to those foul and fatal expedients of which we have heard
more than enough in these latter days. She will not try simplicity of
living, natural hours, wholesome occupation, unselfish endeavour, but
rushes off for help to paints and cosmetics, to stimulants and drugs,
and attempts to restore the tarnished freshness of her beauty by the
very means which further corrode it. Every now and then, for very
weariness when not for idleness, she feigns herself sick and has her
favourite physician to attend her. In fact the funniest thing about
her is the ease with which she takes to her bed on the slightest
provocation, and the strange pleasure she seems to find in what is a
penance to most women.

You meet her in a heated, crowded, noisy room, looking just as she
always looks, whatever her normal state of health may be; and in
answer to your inquiries she tells you she has only two hours ago left
her bed to come here, having been confined to her room for a week,
with Dr. Blank in close attendance. If you are an intimate female
friend she will whisper you the name of her malady, which is sure to
be something terrific, and which, if true, would have kept her a real
invalid for months instead of days; but if you are only a man she will
make herself out to have been very ill indeed in a more mysterious
way, and leave you to wonder at the extraordinary physique of
fashionable women, which enables them to live on the most friendly
touch-and-go terms with death, and to overcome mortal maladies by an
effort of the will and the delights of a ducal ball. The favourite
physician has a hard time of it with these ladies; and the more
popular he is the harder his work. It is well for his generation when
he is a man of honour and integrity, and knows how to add self-respect
and moral power to the qualities which have made him the general
favourite. For his influence over women is almost unlimited--like
nothing so much as that of the handsome Abbé of the Regency or the
fascinating Monsignore of Rome; and if he chooses to abuse it and turn
it to evil issues, he can. And, however great the merit in him that he
does not, it does not lessen the demerit of the woman that he could.

Sometimes the fashionable woman takes up with the clergyman instead of
the physician, and coquets with religious exercises rather than with
drugs; but neither clergyman nor physician can change her mode of life
nor give her truth nor common-sense. Sometimes there is a fluttering
show of art-patronage, and the fashionable woman has a handsome
painter or well-bred musician in her train, whom she pets publicly and
patronizes graciously. Sometimes it is a young poet or a rising
novelist, considerably honoured by the association, who dedicates his
next novel to her, or writes verses in her praise, with such fervency
of gratitude as sets the base Philistines on the scent of the
secret--perhaps guessing not far amiss. For the fashionable woman has
always some love-affair on hand, more or less platonic according to
her own temperament or the boldness of the man--a love-affair in which
the smallest ingredient is love; a love-affair which is vanity,
idleness, a dissolute imagination and contempt of such prosaic things
as morals; a love-affair not even to be excused by the tragic frenzy
of earnest passion, and which may be guilty and yet not true.

The physical effects of such a life as this are as bad as the mental,
and both are as bad as the worst can make them. A feverish,
overstrained condition of health either prevents the fashionable woman
from being a mother at all, or makes her the mother of nervous, sickly
children. Many a woman of high rank is at this moment paying bitterly
for the disappointment of which she herself, in her illimitable folly,
has been the sole and only cause. And, whether women like to hear it
or not, it is none the less a truth that part of the reason for their
being born at all is that they may in their turn bear children. The
unnatural feeling against maternity existing among fashionable
women is one of the worst mental signs of their state, as their
frequent inability to be mothers is one of the worst physical results.
This is a condition of things which no false modesty nor timid reserve
should keep in the background, for it is a question of national
importance, and will soon become one of national disaster unless
checked by a healthier current and more natural circumstances.

Dress, dissipation and flirting make up the questionable lines which
enclose the life of the fashionable woman, and which enclose nothing
useful, nothing good, nothing deep nor true nor holy. Her piety is a
pastime; her art the poorest pretence; her pleasure consists only in
hurry and excitement alternating with debasing sloth, in heartless
coquetry or in lawless indulgence, as nature made her more vain or
more sensual. As a wife she fulfils no wifely duty in any grand or
loving sense, for the most part regarding her husband only as a banker
or an adjunct, according to the terms of her marriage settlement; as a
mother she is a stranger to her children, to whom nurse and governess
supply her place and give such poor makeshift for maternal love as
they are enabled or inclined. In no domestic relation is she of the
smallest value, and of none in any social circumstance beside the
adorning of a room--if she be pretty--and the help she gives to trade
through her expenditure. She lives only in the gaslight, and her
nature at last becomes as artificial as her habits.

As years go on, and she changes from the acknowledged belle to
_la femme passée_, she goes through a period of frantic endeavour to
retain her youth; and even when time has clutched her with too firm a
hand to be shaken off, and she begins to feel the infirmities which
she still puts out all her strength to conceal, even then she grasps
at the departing shadow and fresh daubs the crumbling ruin, in the
belief that the world's eyes are dim and that stucco may pass for
marble for another year or two longer. Or she becomes a Belgravian
mother, with daughters to sell to the highest bidder; and then the aim
of her life is to secure the purchaser. Her daughters are never
objects of real love with the fashionable woman. They are essentially
her rivals, and the idea of carrying on her life in theirs, of
forgetting herself in them, occurs to her only as a forecast of death.
She shrinks even from her sons, as living evidences of the lapse of
time which she cannot deny, and awkward _memoria technica_ for fixing
dates; and there is not a home presided over by a fashionable woman
where the family is more than a mere name, a mere social convention
loosely held together by circumstances, not by love.

Closing such a life as this comes the unhonoured end, when the
miserable made-up old creature totters down into the grave where paint
and padding, and glossy plaits cut from some fresh young head, are of
no more avail; and where death, which makes all things real, reduces
her life of lies to the nothingness it has been from the beginning.
What does she leave behind her? A memory by which her children
may order their own lives in proud assurance that so they will order
them best for virtue and for honour? Or a memory which speaks to them
of time misused, of duties unfulfilled, of love discarded for
pleasure, and of a life-long sacrifice of all things good and pure for
selfishness?

We all know examples of the worldly old woman clinging batlike to the
last to the old roofs and rafters; and we all know how heartily we
despise her, and how we ridicule her in our hearts, if not by our
words. If the reigning queens of fashion, at present young and
beautiful, would but remember that they are only that worldly old
woman in embryo, and that in a very few years they will be her exact
likeness, unhappily repeated for the scorn of the world once more to
follow! The traditional skeleton at the feast had a wonderfully wise
meaning, crude and gross as it was in form. For though its _memento
mori_, too constantly before us, would either sadden or brutalize, as
we were thoughtful or licentious, yet it is good to see the end of
ourselves, and to study the meaning and lesson of our lives in those
of our prototypes and elder likenesses.

The pleasures of the world are, as we all know, very potent and very
alluring, but nothing can be more unsatisfying if taken as the main
purpose of life. While we are young, the mere stirring of the blood
stands instead of anything more real; but as we go on, and the pulse
flags and pleasurable occasions get rare and more rare, we find
that we have been like the Prodigal Son, and that our food and his
have been out of much the same trough, and come in the main to much
the same thing.

This is an age of extraordinary wealth and of corresponding
extraordinary luxury; of unparalleled restlessness, which is not the
same thing as activity or energy, but which is the kind of
restlessness that disdains all quiet and repose, as unendurable
stagnation. Hence the fashionable woman of the day is one of extremes
in her own line also; and the idleness, the heartlessness, the
self-indulgence, the want of high morality, and the insolent luxury at
all times characteristic of her were never displayed with more cynical
effrontery than at present, and never called for more severe
condemnation.

The fashionable women of Greece and Rome, of Italy and France, have
left behind them names which the world has made typical of the vices
naturally engendered by idleness and luxury. But do we wish that our
women should become subjects for an English Juvenal? that fashion
should create a race of Laïses and Messalinas, of Lucrezia Borgias and
Madame du Barrys, out of the stock which once gave us Lucy Hutchinson
and Elizabeth Fry? Once the name of Englishwoman carried with it a
grave and noble echo as the name of women known for their gentle
bearing and their blameless honour--of women who loved their husbands,
and brought up about their own knees the children they were not
reluctant to bear and not ashamed to love. Now, it too often means a
girl of the period, a frisky matron, a fashionable woman--a thing of
paints and pads, consorting with dealers of no doubtful calling for
the purchase of what she grimly calls 'beauty,' making pleasure her
only good and the world her highest god. It too often means a woman
who is not ashamed to supplement her husband with a lover, but who is
unwilling to become the honest mother of that husband's children. It
too often means a hybrid creature, perverted out of the natural way
altogether, affecting the license but ignorant of the strength of a
man; as girl or woman alike valueless so far as her highest natural
duties are concerned; and talking largely of liberty while showing at
every turn how much she fails in that co-essential of liberty--knowledge
how to use it.



_SLEEPING DOGS._


There is a capital old proverb, often quoted but not so often acted
on, called 'Let sleeping dogs lie;' a proverb which, if we were to
abide by its injunction, would keep us out of many a mess that we get
into now, because we cannot let well alone. Certainly we fall into
trouble sometimes, or rather we drift into it--we allow it to gather
round us--for want of a frank explanation to clear off small
misunderstandings. At least novelists say so, and then make a great
point of the anguish endured by Henry and Angelina for three mortal
volumes, because they were too stupid to ask the reason why the one
looked cold the other evening at the duchess's ball, and the other
looked shy the next morning in the park. But then novelists, poor
souls, are driven to such extravagant expedients for motives and
matter, that we can scarcely take them as rational exponents of real
life in any way; though the very meaning and final cause of their
profession is to depict human nature as it is, and to show the reflex
action of character and circumstances somewhat according to the
pattern set out in the actual world. But, leaving novelists
alone, on the whole we find in real life that if speech is silvern,
silence is essentially golden, and that more harm is done by saying
too much than by saying too little; above all, that infinite mischief
arises by not letting sleeping dogs lie.

People are so wonderfully anxious to stir up the dregs of everything,
they can never let things rest. Take a man or woman who has done
something queer that gets noised abroad, and who is coldly looked on
in consequence by those who believe the worst reports which arise as
interpretations. Now the wisest thing undoubtedly is to bear this
coldness as the righteous punishment of that folly, and to trust for
rehabilitation to the mysterious process called 'living it down.' If
there has been absolutely no sinfulness to speak of, nothing but a
little imprudence and a big glossary of scandalous explanation, a
little precipitancy and a great deal of ill-nature, by all means wake
up the sleeping dog and set him howling through the streets. He may do
good, seeing that truth would be your friend. But if there be a core
of ugly fact, even if it be not quite so ugly as the envelope which
rumour has wrapped round it, then fall back on the dignity of 'living
it down,' and let the dog lie sleeping and muzzled.

There is another, but an unsavoury saying, which advises against the
stirring up of evil odours; but this is just what imprudent,
high-spirited people will not understand. They will take their own way
in spite of society and all its laws; they will kick over the
traces when it suits them; they will do this and that of which the
world says authoritatively, 'No, you shall not do it;' and then, when
the day of wrath arrives, and down comes the whip on the offending
back, they shriek piteously and wake up all the dogs in the town in
the 'investigation of their case.' And a queer kennel enough they turn
out sometimes! They would have done better to put up with their social
thrashing than to have set the bloodhounds of 'investigation' on their
heels.

Actions for libel often do this kind of thing, as every one may read
for himself. Many a man who gets his farthing damages had better have
borne the surly growl of the only half-roused dog, than have
retaliated, and so waked him up. The farthing damages, representing
say a cuff on the head or a kick in the ribs, or a milder 'Lie down,
sir!' may be very pleasant to the feelings of the yelped-at, as so
much revenge exacted--Shylock's pound of flesh, without the blood. But
what about the consequences? what about the disclosure of your secret
follies and the uncovering of the foundations on which the libel
rested? The foundations remain immoveable to the end of time if the
superstructure be disroofed, and the sleeping dog is awakened, never
to be set at rest again while he has a tooth in his head that can
bite.

One of the arts of peaceful living at home is contained in the power
of letting sleeping dogs lie. Papa is surly--it is a way papas
have--or mamma is snappish, as even the best of mammas are at
times when the girls are tiresome and will flirt with ineligible
younger brothers, or when the boys, who must marry money, are paying
attention to dowerless beauty instead. Well, the family horizon is
overcast, and the black dog keeps the gate of the family mansion.
Better let it lie there asleep, if it will but remain so. It is not
pleasant to have it there certainly, but it would be worse to rouse it
into activity and to have a general yelping through the house.

Sometimes, indeed, in a family given to tears and caresses and easily
excited feelings, a frank challenge as to reasons why is answered by a
temporary storm, followed by a scene of effusion and _attendrissement_,
and the black dog is not awakened, but banished, by the rousing he has
got. This is a method that can be tried when you have perfect knowledge
and command of your material; else it is a dangerous, and nine times
out of ten would be an unsuccessful, experiment. It is nearly always
unsuccessful with husbands and wives, who often sulk, but rarely
for causes needing explanation. Angelina knows quite well that she
danced too often the other night with that fascinating young Lovelace
for whom her Henry has a special, and not quite groundless, aversion.
She may put on as many airs of injured innocence as she likes, and
affect to consider herself an ill-used wife suffering grievous things
because of her husband's displeasure and the black dog of sulks
accompanying; but she knows as well as her Henry himself where her sin
lies, and to kick at the black dog would only be to set him
loose upon her, and be well barked at if not worried for her pains.
The wiser course would be to muzzle him by ignoring his presence;
and so in almost all cases of domestic dog, however black.

A sleeping dog of another kind, which it would be well if women would
always leave at rest, is the potential passion of a man who is a
cherished friend but an impossible lover. Certain slow-going men are
able to maintain for life a strong but strictly platonic attachment
for certain women. If any warmer impulse or more powerful feeling give
threatening notice of arising, it is kept in due subjection and a
wholesome state of coolness, perhaps by its very hopelessness even if
returned, perhaps by the fear or the knowledge that it would be
ill-received, and that the only passport to the pleasant friendship so
delighted in is in this calm and sober platonism. This is all very
well so long as the woman minds what she is about; for the passionless
attachment of a man depends mainly on her desire to keep things in
their present place, and on her power of holding to the line to be
observed. If she oversteps this line, if she wakens up that sleeping
dog of passion, it is all over with her and platonism. What was once a
pleasant truth would now be a burning satire; for friendship routed by
love can never take service under its old banners again.

And yet this is what women are continually doing. They are always
complaining that men are not their friends, and that they are only
selfish and self-seeking in their relations with them; yet no sooner
do they possess a man friend who is nothing else than they try their
utmost to convert him into a lover, and are not too well pleased if
they do not succeed--which might by chance sometimes happen like any
other rare occurrence, but not often. And yet success ruins
everything. It takes away the friend and does not give an available
lover; it destroys the existing good and substitutes nothing better.
If the woman be of the fishpond type, whose heart Thackeray wanted to
'drag,' she simply turns round upon the unhappy victim with one of the
'looks that kill;' if she be more weak than vain and less designing
than impulsive, she regrets the momentary infatuation which has lost
her her friend; but in any case she has lost him--by her own folly,
not by inevitable misfortune.

Just as easy is it to rouse the sleeping dogs of hatred, of jealousy,
of envy. You have a tepid well-controlled dislike to some one; and you
know that he knows it. For feelings are eloquent, even when dumb, and
express themselves in a thousand ways independent of words. You do not
care much about your dislike--you do not nurse it nor feed it in any
way, and are rather content than not to let it lie dormant, and so far
harmless. But your unloved friend cannot let well alone. He will be
always treading on your corns and touching you on the raw. That
unlucky speculation you made; your play that was damned; the election
you lost; the decision that was given against you, with
costs--whenever you see him he is sure to introduce some topic that
rubs you the wrong way, till at last the sleeping dog gets fairly
roused, and what was merely a well-ordered dislike bursts out into a
frantic and ungovernable hatred. It has been his own doing. Just as in
the case of the platonic friend transformed into the passionate lover
by the woman's wiles, so the dislike that gave you no trouble--become
now the hatred which is a real curse to your existence--results from
your friend's incessant rousing up of sleeping passions.

Young people are much given to this kind of thing. There is an impish
tendency in most girls, and in all boys, that makes teazing a matter
of exquisite delight to them. If they know of any sleeping dog which
an elder carries about under his cloak, they are never so happy as
when they are rousing it to activity, though their own backs may get
bitten in the fray. Let a youngster into the secret of a weakness, a
sore, and if he can resist the temptation of torturing you as the
result of his knowledge he may lay claim to a virtue almost unknown in
boyish morals. But he sometimes pays dearly for his fun. More than one
life-long dislike, culminating in a disastrous codicil or total
omission from the body of the will, has been the return-blow for a
course of boyish teazings which a testy old uncle or huffish maiden
aunt has had to undergo. The punishment may be severe and unjust;
but the provocation was great; and revenge is a human, if
indefensible, instinct common to all classes.

Fathers and mothers themselves are not always sacred ground, nor are
their special dogs suffered to lie sleeping undisturbed; and perhaps
the favouritism and comparative coldness patent in almost every family
may be traced back to the propensity for soothing or for rousing those
parental beasts. For even fathers and mothers have personal feelings
in excess of their instincts, and they, no more than any one else,
like to be put through their paces by the impish vivacity of youth,
and made to dance according to the piping of an irreverent lad or
saucy girl. If they have dogs, they do not want their children to pry
into their kennels and whistle them out at their pleasure; and those
who do so most will naturally get worst off in the great division of
family love. 'Let sleeping dogs lie,' certainly, as a rule for private
life.

Historically, the saying does not hold good. For if the great leaders
of thought and reform had not roused up the sleeping dogs of their
day, and made them give tongue for all after ages to hear, we should
be but poorly off at this present time. Many of our liberties have
been got only by diligently prodding up that very sleepy dog, the
public, till he has been forced to show his teeth; and history is full
of instances of how much has been done, all the world over and in
every age, by the like means. Sometimes the prodded dog flies at the
wrong throat on the other side, as we have had a few notable
instances of late; and then it would have been wiser to leave him
quietly sleeping in the shade, whether at Mentana or elsewhere; to
rouse for rending being a poor amusement at the best, and an eminently
unprofitable use of leather.



_BEAUTY AND BRAINS._


That lovely woman fulfils only half her mission when she is
unpersonable instead of beautiful, all young men, and all pretty girls
secure in the consciousness of their own perfections, will agree.
Indeed, it is cruel to hear the way in which ingenuous youths despise
ugly girls, however clever, whose charm lies in their cleverness only,
with a counteraction in their plainness. To hear them, one would think
that hardness of feature was, like poverty, a crime voluntarily
perpetrated, and that contempt was a righteous retribution for the
offence. Yet their preference, though so cruelly expressed, is to a
certain extent the right thing. When we are young, the beauty of women
has a supreme attraction beyond all other possessions or qualities;
and there are self-evident reasons why it should be so. It is only as
we grow older that we know the value of brains, and, while still
admiring beauty--as indeed who does not?--admire it as one passing by
on the other side--as a grace to look at, but not to hold, unless
accompanied by something more lasting.

This is in the middle term of a man's life. Old age, perhaps with
the unconscious yearning of regret, goes back to the love of youth and
beauty for their own sake; extremes meeting here as in almost all
other circumstances. The danger is when a young man, obeying the
natural impulse of his age and state, marries beauty only, with
nothing more durable beneath. The mind sees what it brings, and we
love the ideal we create rather than the reality that exists. A pretty
face, the unworn nerves of youth, the freshness of hope that has not
yet been soured by disappointment nor chilled by experience, a neat
stroke at croquet and a merry laugh easily excited, make a girl a
goddess to a boy who is what he himself calls in love and his friends
'spoony.' She may be narrow, selfish, spoilt, unfit to bear the
burdens of life and unable to meet her trials patiently; she may be
utterly unpractical and silly--one of those who never mature but only
grow old--without judgment, forethought, common-sense or courage; but
he sees nothing of all this. To him she is perfect; the 'jolliest girl
in the world,' if he be slangy, or the 'dearest,' if he be
affectionate; and he neither sees nor heeds her potential faults.

It is only when she has stepped down from her pedestal to the level of
the home-threshold that he finds out she is but a woman after all, and
perhaps an exceptionally weak and peevish one. Then he knows that he
would have done better for himself had he married that plain
brave-hearted girl who would have had him to a dead certainty if he
had asked her, but whom he so unmercifully laughed at when he was
making love to his fascinating charmer. As years go on and reduce the
Hebe and Hecate of eighteen to much the same kind of woman at
forty--with perhaps the advantage on Hecate's side if of the sort that
ripens well and improves by keeping--the man feels that he has been a
fool after the manner of Bunyan's Passion; that he has eaten up his
present in the past, and had all his good things at once. If he had
but looked at the future and been able to wait! But in those days he
wanted beauty that does not last, and cared nothing for brains which
do; and so, having made his election he must abide by it, and eat
bitter bread from the yeast of his own brewing.

Many a man has cursed, his whole life long, the youthful infatuation
that made him marry a pretty fool. Take the case of a rising
politician whose fair-faced wife is either too stupid to care about
his position, or who imperils it by her folly. If amiable and
affectionate, and in her own silly little way ambitious, she does him
incalculable mischief by exaggeration, and by saying and doing exactly
the things which are most damaging to him; if stupid, she is just so
much deadweight that he has to carry with him while swimming up the
stream. She is very lovely certainly, and people crowd her
drawing-room to look at her; but a plain-featured, sensible, shrewd
woman, with no beauty to speak of but with tact and cleverness, would
have helped him in his career far better than does his brainless
Venus. He finds this out when it is too late to change M. for N.
in the marriage service.

The successful men of small beginnings are greatly liable to this
curse of wifely hindrance. A barrister once briefless and now in
silk--an artist once obscure and now famous--who in the days of
impecuniosity and Bohemianism married the landlady's pretty daughter
and towards the meridian of life find themselves in the front ranks of
_la haute volée_ with a wife who drops her h's and multiplies her s's,
know the full bitterness of the bread baked from that hasty brewing.
Each woman may have been beautiful in her youth, and each man may have
loved his own very passionately; but if she have nothing to supplement
her beauty--if she have no brains to fall back on, by which she can be
educated up to her husband's present social position as the wife of
his successful maturity--she is a mistake. Dickens was quite right to
kill off pretty childish Dora in 'David Copperfield.' If she had lived
she would have been like Flora in 'Bleak House,' who indeed was Dora
grown old but not matured; with all the grace and beauty of her youth
gone, and nothing else to take their place.

Men do not care for brains in excess in women. They like a sympathetic
intellect which can follow and seize their thoughts as quickly as they
are uttered; but they do not much care for any clear or specific
knowledge of facts. Even the most philosophic among them would rather
not be set right in a classical quotation, an astronomical
calculation, or the exact bearing of a political question by a
lovely being in tarlatane whom he was graciously unbending to
instruct. Neither do they want anything very strong-minded. To most
men, indeed, the feminine strong-mindedness that can discuss immoral
problems without blushing is a quality as unwomanly as a
well-developed biceps or a 'shoulder-of-mutton' fist. It is sympathy,
not antagonism--it is companionship, not rivalry, still less
supremacy, that they like in women; and some women with brains as well
as learning--for the two are not the same thing--understand this, and
keep their blue stockings well covered by their petticoats. Others,
enthusiasts for freedom of thought and intellectual rights, show
theirs defiantly; and meet with their reward. Men shrink from them.
Even clever men, able to meet them on their own ground, do not feel
drawn to them; while all but high-class minds are humiliated by their
learning and dwarfed by their moral courage. And no man likes to feel
humiliated or dwarfed in the presence of a woman, and because of her
superiority.

But the brains most useful to women, and most befitting their work in
life, are those which show themselves in common-sense, in good
judgment, and that kind of patient courage which enables them to bear
small crosses and great trials alike with dignity and good temper.
Mere intellectual culture, however valuable it may be in itself, does
not equal the worth of this kind of moral power; for as the true
domain of woman is the home, and her way of ordering her domestic
life the best test of her faculties, mere intellectual culture does
not help in this; and, in fact, is often a hindrance rather than a
help. What good is there in one's wife being an accomplished
mathematician, a sound scholar, a first-rate musician, a deeply-read
theologian, if she cannot keep the accounts square, knows nothing of
the management of children, lets herself be cheated by the servants
and the tradespeople, has not her eyes opened to dirt and disorder,
and gives way to a fretful temper on the smallest provocation?

The pretty fool who spends half her time in trying on new dresses and
studying the effect of colours, and who knows nothing beyond the last
new novel and the latest plate of fashions, is not a more disastrous
wife than the woman of profound learning whose education has taught
her nothing practical. They stand at the opposite ends of the same
scale, and neither end gives the true position of women. Indeed, if
one must have a fool in one's house, the pretty one would be the best,
as, at the least, pleasant to look at; which is something gained.

The intellectual fool, with her head always in books and 'questions,'
and her children dropping off like sheep for the want of womanly care,
is something more than flesh and blood can tolerate. The pretty fool
cannot help herself. If nature proved herself but a stepmother to her,
and left out the best part of her wits while taking such especial care
of her face, it is no fault of hers; but the intellectual fool is a
case of maladministration of powers, for which she alone is
responsible; and in this particular alternative between beauty and
brains, without a shadow of doubt we would go in for beauty.

Ball-rooms and dinner-tables are the two places where certain women
most shine. In the ball-room Hebe is the queen, and has it all her own
way without fear of rivals. A very few men who care for dancing for
its own sake will certainly dance with Hecate if she is light on hand,
keeps accurate time, and manages her feet with scientific precision;
but to the ruck of youths, Hebe, who jerks herself into step every
second round, but whose lovely face and perfect figure make up for
everything, is the partner they all besiege. Only to those exceptional
few who regard dancing as a serious art would she be a bore with her
three jumps and a hop; while Hecate, waltzing like an angel, would be
divine, in spite of her high cheek-bones and light green eyes _à fleur
de tête_. But at a dinner-table, where a man likes to talk between the
dishes, a sympathetic listener with pleasant manners, to whom he can
air his stalest stories and recount his personal experiences, is
preferable to the prettiest girl if a simpleton, only able to show her
small white teeth in a silly smile, and say 'yes' and 'indeed' in the
wrong places. The ball-room may be taken to represent youth; the
dinner-table maturity. The one is the apotheosis of mere beauty, in
clouds of millinery glory and a heaven of flirting; the other is solid
enjoyment, with brains to talk to by the side and beauty to look
at opposite, in just the disposition that makes life perfect. A
well-ordered dinner-table is a social microcosm; and, being so, this
is the blue riband of the arrangement.

Every woman is bound to make the best of herself. The strong-minded
women who hold themselves superior to the obligations of dress and
manner and all the pleasant little artificial graces belonging to an
artificial civilization, and who think any sacrifice made to
appearance just so much waste of power, are awful creatures, ignorant
of the real meaning of their sex--social Graiæ wanting in every charm
of womanhood, and to be diligently shunned by the wary.

This making the best of themselves is a very different thing from
making dress and personal vanity the first considerations in life.
Where women in general fail is in the exaggerations into which they
fall on this and on almost every other question. They are apt to be
either demireps or devotees; frights or flirts; fashionable to an
extent that lands them in illimitable folly and drags their husbands'
names through the mire, or they are so dowdy that they disgrace a
well-ordered drawing-room, and among nicely-dressed women stand out as
living sermons on slovenliness. If they are clever, they are too
commonly blue-stockings, and let the whole household go by the board
for the sake of their fruitless studies; and if they are domestic and
good managers they sink into mere servants, never opening a book save
their daily ledger, and having no thought beyond the cheesemonger's
bill and the butcher's prices. They want that fine balance, that
accurate self-measurement and knowledge of results, which goes by
the name of common-sense and is the best manifestation of brains
they can give, and the thing which men most prize. It is the most
valuable working form of intellectual power, and has most endurance
and vitality; and it is the form which helps a man on in life, when
he has found it in his wife, quite as much as money or a good connexion.

So that, on the whole, brains are before beauty in the solid things of
life. For admiration and personal love and youthful enjoyment, beauty
of course is supreme; but as we cannot be always young nor always apt
for pleasure, it is as well to provide for the days when the daughters
of music shall be brought low and the years draw nigh which have no
pleasure in them.



_NYMPHS._


Between the time of the raw school-girl and that of the finished young
lady is the short season of the nymph, when the physical enjoyment of
life is perhaps at its keenest, and a girl is not afraid to use her
limbs as nature meant her to use them, nor ashamed to take pleasure in
her youth and strength. This is the time when a sharp run down a steep
hill, with the chance of a tumble midway, is an exercise by no means
objected to; when clambering over gates, stiles, and even crabbed
stone-walls is not refused because of the undignified display of ankle
which the adventure involves; when leaping a ditch comes in as one of
the ordinary accidents of a marshland walk; and when the fun of riding
is infinitely enhanced if the horse be only half broken or barebacked.

The nymph--an out-of-door, breezy, healthy girl, more after the
pattern of the Greek Oread than the Amazon--is found only in the
country; and for the most part only in the remoter districts of the
country. In the town she degenerates into fastness, according to the
law which makes evil merely the misdirection of force, as dirt is
only matter in the wrong place. But among the mountains, in the
secluded midland villages, or out on the thinly-populated moorland
tracts, the nymph may be found in the full perfection of her nature.
And a very beautiful kind of nature it is; though it is to be feared
that certain ladies of the stricter sort would call her 'tomboy', and
that those of a still narrower way of thought, unable to distinguish
between unconventionality and vulgarity, would hold her to be
decidedly vulgar--which she is not--and would wonder at her mother for
'letting her go on so.'

You fall upon the nymph at all hours and in all seasons. Indeed, she
boasts that no weather ever keeps her indoors, and prefers a little
roughness of the elements to anything too luscious or sentimental. A
fresh wind, a sharp frost, a blinding fall of snow, or a pelting
shower of rain are all high jinks to the nymph, to whom it is rare fun
to come in like a water-dog, dripping from every hair, or shaking the
snow in masses from her hat and cloak. She prefers this kind of thing
to the suggestive beauty of the moonlight or the fervid heats of
summer; and thinks a long walk in the crisp sharp frost, with the
leaves crackling under her feet, worth all the nightingales in the
wood. And yet she loves the spring and summer too, for the sake of the
flowers and the birds and the beasts and the insects they bring forth;
for the nymph is almost always a naturalist of the perceptive and
self-taught kind, and has a marvellous faculty for finding out
nests and rare habitats, and for tracking unusual trails to the hidden
home.

There is no prettier sight among girls than the nymph when thoroughly
at her ease, and enjoying herself in her own peculiar way. That
wonderful grace of unconsciousness which belongs to savages and
animals belongs to her also, and she moves with a supple freedom which
affectation or shyness would equally destroy. To see her running down
a green field, with the sunlight falling on her; her light dress blown
into coloured clouds by the wind; her step a little too long for the
correct town-walk--but so firmly planted and yet so light, so swift,
so even!--her cheeks freshly flushed by exercise; her eyes bright and
fearless; her white teeth shown below her upper lip as she comes
forward with a ringing laugh, carrying a young bird which she has just
caught, or a sheaf of wild flowers for which she has been perilling
her neck, is to see a beautiful and gracious picture which you
remember with pleasure all your life after. Or you meet her quite
alone on a wide bleak moor, with her hat in her hand and her hair
blowing across her face, looking for plovers' eggs, or ferns and
orchids down in the damp hollows. She is by no means dressed according
to the canons of _Le Follet_, and yet she always manages to have
something picturesque about her--something that would delight an
artist's taste, and that is in perfect harmony with herself and her
surroundings--which she wears with profound ignorance as to how well
it suits her--or at most with only an instinctive knowledge that
it is the right thing for her. She may be shy as she meets you; if she
is passing out of the nymph state into that of conscious womanhood,
she will be shy; but if still a nymph with no disturbing influences at
work, she will probably look at you with a fixed, perplexing,
half-provoking look of frank curiosity which you can neither notice
nor take advantage of; the trammels of conventional life fettering one
side heavily, if not the other.

Shocking as it is to say, the nymph may sometimes be met on the top of
a haycart, and certainly in the hayfield, where she is engaged in
scattering the 'cocks,' if not in raising them; and where even the
haymakers themselves--and they are not a notably romantic race--do not
grumble at the extra trouble she gives them, because of her evident
delight in her misdeeds. Besides, she has a bright word for them as
she passes; for the nymph has democratic tendencies, and is frank and
'affable' to all classes alike. She needs to be a little looked after
in this direction, not for mischief but for manners; for, if not
judiciously checked, she may become in time coarse. There are seamy
sides to everything, and the nymph does not escape the general law.

If the nymph condescends to any game at all, it is croquet, at which
she is inexorably severe. She knows nothing of the little weakness
which makes her elder sisters overlook the patent spooning of the
favourite curate, even though he is opposed to them--nothing of
the tender favouritism which pushes on an awkward partner by deeds of
helping outside the law. The nymph, who has no weakness nor tenderness
of that kind, knows only the game; and the game has not elastic
boundaries. Therefore she is inflexible in her justice to one side and
the other. Is it not the game? she says when reproached with being
disagreeable and unamiable.

But even croquet is slow to the nymph, who has been known to handle a
bat not discreditably, and who is an adept at firing at a mark with
real powder and ball. If she lives near a lake, a river, or the sea,
she is first-rate at boating, can feather her oar and back water with
the skill of a veteran oarsman, and can reef a sail or steer close
without the slightest hesitation or nervousness. She is also a famous
swimmer, and takes the water like a duck; and at an ordinary summer
seaside resort, if by chance she ever profanes herself by showing off
there, she attracts a crowd of beach-loungers to watch her feats far
outside the safe barrier of the bathing-machines. She is a great
walker, wherever she lives. If a mountaineer, she is a clever
cragswoman, making it a point of honour to go to the top of the most
difficult and dangerous mountains in her neighbourhood, and coaxing
her brothers to let her join them and their friends in expeditions
which require both nerve and strength.

Her greatest sphere of social glory is a picnic, where she always
heads the exploring party, clambering up the rocks of the
waterfall, or diving down into the close-smelling caves, or scaling
the crumbling walls of the ruin before any one else can come up to
her. She is specially happy at old ruins, where she flits in and out
among the broken columns and under the mouldering arches, like a
spirit of the place unduly disturbed. Sometimes she climbs up by
unseen means, till she reaches a point where it makes one dizzy to see
her; and sometimes she startles her company by the sudden bleating of
a sheep, or the wild hoot of an owl. For she can imitate the sounds of
animals for the most part with wonderful accuracy; though she can also
sing simple ballads without music, with sweetness and correctness. She
is fond of all animals and fears none. She will pass through a field
thronged with wild-looking cattle without the least hesitation; and
makes friends even with the yelping farm-dogs which come snapping and
snarling at her heels. In winter she feeds the wood-birds by flocks,
and always takes care that the horses have a handful of corn or a
carrot when she goes to see them, and that the cows are the better for
her visit by a bunch of lucerne or a fat fresh cabbage-leaf. The
home-beasts show their pleasure when they hear her fleet footstep on
the paved yard; and her favourite pony whinnies to her in a peculiar
voice as she passes his stable door. These are her friends, and their
love for her is her reward.

In her early days the nymph was notorious for her dilapidated
attire, perplexing mother and nurse to mend, or to understand why or
how it had come about. But as her favourite hiding-place was in a
forked branch midway up an old tree in the shrubbery, or a natural
arbour which she had cut out for herself in the very heart of the
underwood, it was scarcely to be wondered at if cloth and cotton
testified to the severity of her retreats. She has still mysterious
rents in her skirts, got no one knows how; and her mother still
laments over her aptitude for rags, and wishes she could be brought to
see the beauty of unstained apparel. She is given to early rising--to
fits indeed of rising at some wild hour in the morning, for walks
before breakfast and the like innocent insanities. Sometimes she takes
it in hand to educate herself in certain stoicisms, and goes without
butter at breakfast or without breakfast altogether, if she thinks
that thereby she will grow stronger or less inclined to
self-indulgence. For drink she will never touch wine nor beer; but she
likes new milk, and is great in her capacity for water.

The nymph is almost always of the middle-classes. It is next to
impossible indeed that she should be found in the higher ranks, where
girls are not left to themselves, and where no one lives in far-away
country places out of the reach of public opinion and beyond the range
of public overlooking. Some years ago, before the railroads and
monster hotels had made the mountain districts like Hampstead or
Richmond on a Sunday afternoon, the nymph was to be found in
great abundance down in Cumberland and Westmoreland. By the more
remote lakes, like Buttermere and Hawes Water, and in the secluded
valleys running up from the larger lakes, you would come upon square
stuccoed houses, generally abominably ugly, where the nymph was
mistress of the situation. She might be met riding about alone in a
flapping straw hat, long before hats were fashionable headgear for
women, and in a blue baize skirt for all the riding-habit thought
necessary; or she might be encountered on the wild fell sides, or on
the mountain heights, or in her boat sculling among the lonely lake
islets, or gathering water-lilies in the bays. In the desolate stretch
of moorland country to the north of Skiddaw the whole female
population a few years ago was of the nymph kind; but railroads and
the penny-post, cheap trains, fashion and fine-ladyism have penetrated
even into the heart of the wild mountains, and now the nymph there is
only a transitional development--not, as formerly, a fixed type.

The nymph is the very reverse of a flirt. She has no inclination that
way, and looks shy and awkward at the men who pay her compliments or
attempt anything like sentimentality. But she is not superior to boys,
who are her chosen companions and favourites. A bold, brave boy, who
just overtops her in skill and daring, is her delight; but anything
over twenty is 'awfully old,' while forty and sixty are so remote that
the lines blur and blend together and have no distinction. By-and-by
the nymph becomes a staid young woman, and marries. If she goes
into a close town and has children, very often her vigorous health
gives way, and we see her in a few years nervous, emaciated,
consumptive, and with a pitiful yearning for 'home' more pathetic than
all the rest. But if she remains where she is, in the fresh pure air
of her native place, she retains her youth and strength long after the
age when ordinary women lose theirs, and her children are celebrated
as magnificent specimens of the future generation.

We often see in country places matrons of over forty who are still
like young women, both in looks and bearing, both in mental innocence
and physical power. They have the shy and innocent look of girls; they
blush like girls; they know less evil than almost any town-bred girl
of eighteen, mothers of stalwart youths though they may be; they can
walk and laugh and take pleasure in their lives like girls; and their
daughters find them as much sisters as mothers. It is not quite the
same thing if they do not marry; for among the saddest sights of
social life is that terrible fading and withering away of comely,
healthy, vigorous young country girls, who slowly pass from nymphs,
full of grace and beauty, of happiness and power, to antiquated
virgins, soured, useless, debilitated and out of nature. Of these,
too, there are plenty in country places; but perhaps some scheme will
be some day set afoot which shall redress the overweighted balance and
bring to the service of the future some of the healthiest and
best of our women. Meanwhile the fresh, innocent, breezy nymph is a
charming study; and may the time be far distant which shall see her
tamed and civilized out of existence altogether!



_MÉSALLIANCES._


The French system of parents arranging the marriage of their children
without the consent of the girl being even asked, but assumed as
granted, is not so wholly monstrous as many people in England believe.
It seems to be founded on the idea that, given a young girl who has
been kept shut up from all possibility of forming the most shadowy
attachment for any man whatsoever, and present to her as her husband a
sufficiently well-endowed and nice-looking man, with whom come
liberty, pretty dresses, balls, admiration and social standing, and
the chances are she will love him and live with him in tolerable
harmony to the end of the chapter. And this idea is by no means wholly
beside the truth, as we find it in practice. The parents, who are
better judges of character and circumstance than the daughter can
possibly be, are supposed to take care that their future son-in-law is
up to their standard, whatever that may be, and that the connexion is
not of a kind to bring discredit on their house; and on this and the
joint income, as the solid bases, they build the not very unreasonable
hypothesis that one man is as good as another for the satisfaction
of a quite untouched and virginal fancy, and that suitable external
conditions go further and last longer than passion. They trust to the
force of instinct to make all square with the affections, while they
themselves arrange for the smooth running of the social circumstances;
and they are not far out in their calculations.

The young people of the two lonely lighthouse islands, who made love
to each other through telescopes, are good examples of the way in
which instinct simulates the impulse which calls itself love when
there are two or three instead of one to look at. For we may be quite
sure that had the lighthouse island youth been John instead of James,
fair instead of dark, garrulous instead of reticent, short and fat
instead of tall and slender, the lighthouse island girl would have
loved him all the same, and would have quite believed that this man
was the only man she ever could have loved, and that her instinctive
gravitation was her free choice.

The French system of marriage, then, based on this accommodating
instinct, works well for women who are not strongly individual, not
inconstant by temperament, and not given to sentimentality. But,
seeing that all women are not merely negative, and that passions and
affections do sometimes assert themselves inconveniently, the system
has had the effect of making society lenient to the little follies of
married women, unless too strongly pronounced--partly because the
human heart insists on a certain amount of free-will, which fact
must be recognized--but partly, we must remember, because of the want
of the young-lady element in society. In England, where our girls are
let loose early, we have free-trade in flirting; consequently, we
think that all that sort of thing ought to be done before marriage,
and that, when once a woman has made her choice and put her neck under
the yoke, she ought to stick to her bargain and loyally fulfil her
self-imposed engagement.

One consequence of this free-trade in flirting and this large amount
of personal liberty is that love-marriages are more frequent with us
than with the French, with whom indeed, in the higher classes, they
are next to impossible; and, unfortunately, the corollary to this is
that love-marriages are too often _mésalliances_. There is of course
no question, ethically, between virtuous vulgarity and refined vice. A
groom who smells of the stable and speaks broad Somersetshire or
racier Cumberland, but who is brave, faithful, honest, incapable of a
lie or of meanness in any form, is a better man than the best-bred
gentleman whose life is as vicious as his bearing is unexceptionable.
The most undeniable taste in dress, and the most correct
pronunciation, would scarcely reconcile us to cruelty, falsehood, or
cowardice; and yet we do not know a father who would prefer to give
his girl to the groom, rather than the gentleman, and who would think
horny-handed virtue, dressed in fustian and smelling of the stable,
the fitter husband of the two.

If we take the same case out of our own time and circumstances, we
have no doubt as to the choice to be made. It seems to us a very
little matter that honest Charicles should tell his love to Aglaë in
the broad Doric tongue instead of in the polished Athenian accents to
which she was accustomed; that he should wear his chiton a hand's
breadth too long or a span too short; that his chlamys should be flung
across his brawny chest in a way which the young bloods of the time
thought ungraceful; or that, as he assisted at a symposium, he should
not hold the rhyton at quite the proper angle, but in a fashion at
which the refined Cleon laughed as he nudged his neighbour. Yet all
these conventional solecisms, of no account whatever now, would have
weighed heavily against poor Charicles when he went to demand Aglaë's
hand; and the balance would probably have gone down in favour of that
scampish Cleon, who was an Athenian of the Athenians, perfect in all
the graces of the age, but not to be compared to his rival in anything
that makes a man noble or respectable. We, who read only from a
distance, think that Aglaë's father made a mistake, and that the
honester man would have been the better choice of the two.

It is only when we bring the same circumstances home to ourselves that
we realize the immense importance of the social element; and how, in
this complex life of ours, we are unable to move in a single line
independent of all it touches. Imagine a fine old county family
with a son-in-law who ate peas with his knife, said 'you was' and
'they is,' and came down to dinner in a shooting-jacket and a blue
bird's-eye tied in a wisp about his throat! He might be the possessor
of all imaginable virtues, and, if occasion required, a very hero and
a _preux chevalier_, however rough; but occasions in which a man can
be a hero or a _preux chevalier_ are rare, whereas dinner comes every
day, and the senses are never shut. The core within a conventionally
ungainly envelope may be as sound as is possible to a corrupt
humanity, but social life requires manners as well as principles; and
though eating peas with a knife is not so bad as telling falsehoods,
still we should all agree in saying, Give us truth that does not eat
peas with its knife; let us have honesty in a dress coat and
pureheartedness in a clean shirt, seeing that there is no absolute
necessity why these several things should be disunited.

Love-marriages, made against the will of the parents before the
character is formed and while the obligations of society are still
unrealized, are generally _mésalliances_ founded on passion and fancy
only. A man and woman of mature age who know what they want may make a
_mésalliance_, but it is made with a full understanding and deliberate
choice; and, if the thing turns out badly, they can blame themselves
less for precipitancy than for wrong calculation. The man of fifty who
marries his cook knows what he most values in women. It is not manners
and it is not accomplishments; perhaps it is usefulness, perhaps
good-temper; at all events it is something that the cook has and that
the ladies of his acquaintance have not, and he is content to take the
disadvantages of his choice with its advantages. But the boy who runs
away with his mother's maid neither calculates nor sees any
disadvantages. He marries a pretty girl because her beauty has touched
his senses; or he is got hold of by an artful woman who has bamboozled
and seduced him. It is only when his passion has worn off that he
wakes to the full consequences of his mistake, and understands then
how right his parents were when they cashiered his pretty Jane so soon
as they became aware of what was going on, and sent that artful Sarah
to the right about--just a week too late.

It is the same with girls; but in a far greater extent. If a youth's
_mésalliance_ is a millstone round his neck for life, a girl's is
simply destruction. The natural instinct with all women is to marry
above themselves; and we know on what physiological basis this
instinct stands, and what useful racial ends it serves. And the
natural instinct is as true in its social as in its physiological
expression. A woman's honour is in her husband; her status, her social
life, are determined by his; and even the few women who, having made a
bad marriage, have nerve and character enough to set themselves free
from the personal association, are never able to thoroughly regain
their maiden place. There is always something about them which
clogs and fetters them; always a kind of doubtful and depressing aura
that surrounds and influences them. If they have not strength to free
themselves, they never cease to feel the mistake they have made, until
the old sad process of degeneration is accomplished, and the
'grossness of his nature' has had strength to drag her down. After a
time, if her ladyhood has been of a superficial kind only, a woman who
has married beneath herself may ease down into her groove and be like
the man she has married; if, however, she has sufficient force to
resist outside influences she will not sink, and she will never cease
to suffer. She has sinned against herself, her class and her natural
instincts; and has done substantially a worse thing than has the boy
who married his mother's maid. Society understands this, and not
unjustly if harshly punishes the one while it lets the other go
scot-free; so that the woman who makes a _mésalliance_ suffers on
every side, and destroys her life almost as much as the woman who goes
wrong.

All this is as evident to parents and elders as that the sun shines.
They understand the imperative needs of social life, and they know how
fleeting are the passions of youth and how they fade by time and use
and inharmonious conditions; and they feel that their first duty to
their children is to prevent a _mésalliance_ which has nothing, and
can have nothing, but passion for its basis. But novelists and poets
are against the hard dull dictates of worldly wisdom, and join in
the apotheosis of love at any cost--all for love and the world well
lost; love in a cottage, with nightingales and honeysuckles as the
chief means of paying the rent; Libussa and her ploughman; the
princess and the swineherd, &c. And the fathers who stand out against
the ruin of their girls by means of estimable men of inferior
condition and with not enough to live on, are stony-hearted and cruel,
while the daughters who take to cold poison in the back-garden, if
they cannot compass a secret honeymoon or an open flight, have all the
world's sympathy and none of its censure. The cruel parent is the
favourite whipping-boy of poetry and fiction; and yet which is likely
to be the better guide--reason or passion? experience or ignorance?
calculation or impulse? maturity which can judge or youth which can
only feel? There would be no hesitation in any other case than that of
love; but the love-instinct is generally considered to be superior to
every other consideration, and has to be obeyed as a divine voice, no
matter at what cost or consequence.

The ideal of life, according to some, is founded on early marriages.
But men are slower in the final setting of their character than women,
and one never knows how a young fellow of twenty or so will turn out.
If he is devout now, he may be an infidel at forty; if, under home
influences, he is temperate and pure, when these are withdrawn he may
become a rake of the fastest kind. His temper, morals, business
power, ability to resist temptation, all are as yet inchoate and
undefined; nothing is sure; and the girl's fancy that makes him
perfect in proportion to his good looks, is a mere instinct determined
by chance association.

A girl, too, has more character than she shows in her girlhood. Though
she sets sooner than men, she does not set unalterably, and marriage
and maternity bring out the depths of her nature as nothing else can.
It is only common-sense, then, to marry her to a man whose character
is already somewhat formed, rather than to one who is still fluid and
floating.

It is all very well to talk of fighting the battle of life together,
and welding together by time. Many a man has been ruined by these
metaphors. The theory, partly true and partly pretty, is good enough
in its degree; and, indeed, so far as the welding goes, we weld
together in almost all things by time. We wear our shoe till we wear
it into shape and it ceases to pinch us; but, in the process, we go
through a vast deal of pain, and are liable to make corns which last
long after the shoe itself fits easily. We do not advocate the French
system of marrying off our girls according to our own ideas of
suitableness, and without consulting them; but we not the less think
that, of all fatal social mistakes, _mésalliances_ are the most fatal,
and, in the case of women, to be avoided and prevented at any
cost short of a broken heart or a premature death. And even death
would sometimes be better than the life-long misery, the enduring
shame and humiliation, of certain _mésalliances_.



_WEAK SISTERS._


The line at which a virtue becomes a vice through excess can never be
exactly defined, being one of those uncertain conditions which each
mind must determine for itself. But there is a line, wheresoever we
may choose to set it; and it is just this fine dividing mark which
women are so apt to overrun. For women, as a rule, are nothing if not
extreme. Whether as saints or sinners, they carry a principle to its
outside limits; and of all partizans they are the most thoroughgoing,
whether it be to serve God or the devil, liberty or bigotry, Bible
Communism or Calvinistic Election. Sometimes they are just as extreme
in their absolute negation of force, and in the narrowness of the
limits within which they would confine all human expression either by
word or deed--and especially all expression of feminine life. These
are the women who carry womanly gentleness into the exaggeration of
self-abasement, and make themselves mere footstools for the stronger
creature to kick about at his pleasure; the weak sisters who think all
self-reliance unfeminine, and any originality of thought or character
an offence against the ordained inferiority of their sex. They
are the parasitic plants of the human family, living by and on the
strength of others; growths unable to stand alone, and, when deprived
of their adventitious support, falling to the ground in a ruin perhaps
worse than death.

It is sad to see one of these weak sisters when given up to herself
after she has lived on the strength of another. As a wife, she was
probably a docile, gentle kind of Medora--at least on the outside; for
we must not confound weakness with amiability--suffering many things
because of imperfect servants and unprofitable tradesmen, maybe
because of unruly children and encroaching friends, over none of whom
she had so much moral power as enabled her to hold them in check; but
on the whole drifting through her days peacefully enough, and, though
always in difficulties, never quite aground. She had a tower of
strength in her husband, on whom she leaned for assistance in all she
undertook, whether it were to give a dose of Dalby to the child, or a
scolding to the maid, or to pronounce upon the soundness of two rival
sects each touting for her soul. While he lived she obeyed his
counsel--not always without a futile echo of discontent in her own
heart--and copied his opinions with what amount of accuracy nature had
bestowed on her; though it must be confessed more often making a
travesty than a facsimile, according to the trick of inferior
translators, and not necessarily better pleased with his opinions than
with his counsels. For your weak sister is frequently peevish,
and though unable to originate is not always ready to obey cheerfully;
cheerfulness indeed being for the most part an attribute of power.

Still, there stood her tower of strength, and while it stood, she, the
parasite growing round it, did well enough, and flourished with a
pleasant semblance of individual life into the hollowness of which it
was no one's business to inquire. But when the tower fell, where was
the ivy? The husband taken away, what became of the wife?--he who had
been the life and she only the parasite. Abandoned to the poor
resources of her own judgment she is like one suddenly thrown into
deep water, not knowing how to swim. She has no judgment. She has been
so long accustomed to rely on the mind of another, that her will is
paralyzed for want of use. She is any one's tool, any one's echo, and
worse than that, if left to herself she is any one's victim. All she
wants is to be spared the hardship of self-reliance and to be directed
free of individual exertion. She is utterly helpless--helpless to act,
to direct, to decide; and it depends on the mere chance of
proprietorship whether her slavery shall be degradation or protection,
ruin or safety. For she will be a slave, whosoever may be her
proprietor; being the pabulum of which slaves and victims are
naturally formed. The old age of Medora is Mrs. Borradaile, who, if
her husband had lived, would have probably ended her life in an
honourable captivity and a well-directed subserviency.

We often see this kind of helpless weakness in the daughter of a man
of overbearing will, or of a termagant mother fond of managing and
impatient of opposition. During the plastic time of her life, when
education might perhaps have developed a sufficient amount of mental
muscle, and a course of judicious moulding might have fairly set her
up, she is snubbed and suppressed till all power is crushed out of
her. She is taught the virtue of self-abnegation till she has no self
to abnegate; and the backbone of her individuality is so incessantly
broken that at last there is no backbone left in her to break. She has
become a mere human mollusc which, when it loses its native shell,
drifts helplessly at the mercy of chance currents into the maw of any
stronger creature that may fancy it for his prey. One often sees these
poor things left orphans and friendless at forty or fifty years of
age. They have lived all their lives in leading-strings, and now are
utterly unable to walk alone. They are infants in all knowledge of the
world, of business, of human life; their youth is gone, and with it
such beauty and attractiveness as they might have had, so that men who
liked them when fresh and gentle at twenty do not care to accept their
wrinkled helplessness at forty. They have been kept in and kept down,
and so have made no friends of their own; and then, when the
strong-willed father dies and the termagant mother goes to the place
where the wicked cease from troubling, the mollusc these have hitherto
protected is left defenceless and alone. If she has money, her
chances of escape from the social sharks always on the look-out for
fat morsels are very small indeed. It is well if she falls into no
worse hands than those of legitimate priests of either section,
whether enthusiastic for chasubles or crazy for missions; and if her
money is put to no baser use than supplying church embroidery for some
Brother Ignatius at home, or blankets for converted Africans in the
tropics. It might go into Agapemones, into spiritual Athenæums, into
Bond Street back-parlours, where it certainly would do no good, take
it any way one would; for, as it must go into some side-channel dug by
stronger hands than hers, the question is, into which of the
innumerable conduits offered for the conveyance of superfluous means
shall it be directed?

This is the woman who is sure to go in for religious excess of one
kind or another, and for whom therefore, a convent with a sympathetic
director is a godsend past words to describe. She is unfit for the
life of the world outside. She has neither strength to protect
herself, nor beauty to win the loving protection of men; she cannot be
taken as a precious charge, but she will be made a pitiable victim;
and, though matins and vespers come frightfully often, surely the
narrow safety of a convent-cell is a better fate for her than the
publicity of the witness-box at the Old Bailey! As she must have a
master, her condition depends on what master she has; and the
whole line of her future is ruled according to the fact whether she is
directed or 'exploited,' and used to serve noble ends or base ones.

As a mother, the weak sister is even more unsatisfactory than as a
spinster left to herself with funds which she can manipulate at
pleasure. She is affectionate and devoted; but of what use are
affection and devotion without guiding sense or judgment? Even in the
nursery, and while the little ones need only physical care, she is
more obstructive than helpful, never having so much self-reliance nor
readiness of wit as to dare a remedy for one of those sudden maladies,
incidental to children, which are dangerous just in proportion to the
length of time they are allowed to run unchecked. And if she should by
chance remember anything of therapeutic value, she has no power to
make her children take what they don't like to take, nor do what they
don't like to do. In the horror of an accident she is lost. If her
child were to cut an artery, she would take it up into her lap
tenderly enough, but she would never dream of stopping the flow; if it
swallowed poison, she would send for the doctor who lives ten miles
away; and if it set itself on fire, she would probably rush with it
into the street, for the chance of assistance from a friendly
passer-by. She never has her senses under serviceable command; and her
action in a moment of danger generally consists in unavailing pity or
in obstructive terror, but never in useful service nor in valuable
suggestion.

But if useless in her nursery while her children are young, she is
even more helpless as they get older; and the family of a weak woman
grows up, unassisted by counsel or direction, just as the old Adam
wills and the natural bent inclines. Her girls may be loud and fast,
her sons idle and dissipated, but she is powerless to correct or to
influence. If her husband does not take the reins into his own hands,
or if she be a widow, the young people manage matters for themselves
under the perilous guidance of youthful passions and inexperience. And
nine times out of ten they give her but a rough corner for her own
share. They have no respect for her, and, unless more generously
compassionate than young people usually are, scarcely care to conceal
the contempt they cannot help feeling. What can she expect? If she was
not strong enough to root out the tares while still green and tender,
can she wonder at their luxuriant growth about her feet now? She, like
every one else, must learn the sad meaning of retribution, and how the
weakness which allowed evil to flourish unsubdued has to share in its
consequences and to suffer for its sin.

Unsatisfactory in her home, the weak sister does not do much better in
society. She is there the embodiment of restriction. She can bear
nothing that has any flavour or colour in it. Topics of broad human
interest are forbidden in her presence because they are vulgar,
improper, unfeminine. She takes her stand on her womanhood, and makes
that womanhood to be something apart from humanity in the gross.
There must be no cakes and ale for others if she be virtuous; and
spades are not to be called spades when she is by to hear. She is the
limit beyond which no one must go, under pain of such displeasure as
the weak sister can show. And, weak as she is in many things, she can
compass a certain strength of displeasure; she can condemn,
persistently if not passionately.

Nothing is more curious than the way in which the weak sister
exercises this power of condemnation, and nothing much more wide than
its scope. If incapable of yielding to certain temptations, because
incapable of feeling them, she has no pity for those who have not been
able to resist; yet, on the other hand, she cannot comprehend the
vigour of those who withstand such influences as conquer her. If she
be under the shadow of family protection, safe in the power of those
who know how to hold her in all honour and prosperity, she cannot
forgive the poor weak waif--no weaker than herself!--who has been
caught up in the outside desert of desolation, and made to subserve
evil ends. Yet, on the other hand, for the woman who is able to think
and act for herself she has a kind of superstitious horror; and she
shrinks from one who has made herself notorious, no matter what the
mode or method, as from something tainted, something unnatural and
unwomanly. She has even grave doubts respecting the lawfulness of
doing good if the manner of it gets into the papers and names are
mentioned as well as things; and though the fashion of the day favours
feminine notoriety in all directions, she holds by the instinct of her
temperament, and languidly maintains that woman is the cipher to which
man alone gives distinctive value. Griselda and Medora are the types
to her of womanly perfection; and the only strength she tolerates in
her own sex is the strength of endurance and the power of patience.
She has no doubt in her own mind that the ordained purpose of woman is
to be convenient for the high-handedness and brutality of man; and any
woman who objects to this theory, and demands a better place for
herself, is flying in the face of Providence and forfeiting one of the
distinctive privileges of her sex. For the weak sister thinks, like
some others, that it is better to be destroyed by orthodox means than
to be saved by heterodox ones; and that if good Christians uphold
moral suttee, they are only pagans and barbarians who would put out
the flames and save the victim from the burning. So far she is
respectable, in that she has a distinct theory about something; but it
is wonderfully eloquent of her state that it should only be the theory
of Griseldadom as womanly perfection, and the beauty to be found in
the moral of Cinderella sitting supinely among the ashes, and
forbidden to own even the glass-slipper that belonged to her.
Fortunately for the world, the weak sister and her theories do not
rule. Indeed we are in danger of going too much the other way in
these times, and the revolt of our women against undue slavery goes
very near to a revolt against wise submission. Still, women who are to
be the mothers of men ought to have some kind of power, if the men are
to be worth their place in the world; and if we want creatures with
backbones we must not give our strength to rearing a race of molluscs.



_PINCHING SHOES._


There are two ways of dealing with pinching shoes. The one is to wear
them till you get accustomed to the pressure, and so to wear them
easy; the other is to kick them off and have done with them
altogether. The one is founded on the accommodating principle of human
nature by which it is enabled to fit itself to circumstances, the
other is the high-handed masterfulness whereby the earth is subdued
and obstacles are removed; the one is emblematic of Christian
patience, the other of Pagan power. Both are good in certain states
and neither is absolutely the best for all conditions. There are some
shoes indeed, which, do what we will, we can never wear easy. We may
keep them well fixed on our feet all our life, loyally accepting the
pressure which fate and misfortune have imposed on us; but we go lame
and hobbled in consequence, and never know what it is to make a free
step, nor to walk on our way without discomfort. Examples abound; for
among all the pilgrims toiling more or less painfully through life to
death, there is not one whose shoes do not pinch him somewhere, how
easy soever they may look and how soft soever the material of which
they may be made. Even those proverbial possessors of roomy
shoes, the traditional King and Princess, have their own little
private bedroom slippers which pinch them, undetected by the gaping
multitude who measure happiness by lengths of velvet and weight of
gold embroidery; and the envied owners of the treasure which all seek
and none find might better stand as instances of sorrow than of
happiness--examples of how badly shod poor royalty is, and how, far
more than meaner folk, it suffers from the pinching of its regal
shoes.

The uncongeniality of a profession into which a man may have been
forced by the injudicious overruling of his friends, or by the
exigencies of family position and inherited rights, is one form of the
pinching shoe by no means rare to find. And here, again, poor royalty
comes in for a share of the grip on tender places, and the consequent
hobbling of its feet. For many an hereditary king was meant by nature
to be nothing but a plain country gentleman at the best--perhaps even
less; many, like poor 'Louis Capet,' would have gone to the end quite
happily and respectably if only they might have kicked off the
embroidered shoes of sovereignty and betaken themselves to the
highlows of the herd--if only they might have exchanged the sceptre
for the turning-lathe, the pen or the fowling-piece. 'Je déteste mon
métier de roi,' Victor Emmanuel is reported to have said to a
republican friend who sympathized with the monarch's well-known tastes
in other things beside his hatred of the kingly profession; and
history repeats this frank avowal in every page. But the purple is as
hard to be got rid of as Deianeira's robe; for the most part carrying
the skin along with it and trailed through a pool of blood in the act
of transfer--which is scarcely what royalty, oppressed with its own
greatness, and willing to rid itself of sceptre and shoes that it may
enjoy itself in list-slippers after a more bourgeoise fashion, would
find in accordance with its wishes.

Lower down in the social scale we find the same kind of misfit between
nature and position as a very frequent occurrence--pinching shoes,
productive of innumerable corns and tender places, being many where
the feet represent the temperament and the shoes are the profession.
How often we see a natural 'heavy' securely swathed in cassock and
bands, and set up in the pulpit of the family church, simply because
the tithes were large and the advowson was part of the family
inheritance. But that stiff rectorial shoe of his will never wear
easy. The man's secret soul goes out to the parade-ground and the
mess-table. The glitter and jingle and theatrical display of a
soldier's life seem to him the finest things in the whole round of
professions, and the quiet uneventful life of a village pastor is of
all the most abhorrent. He wants to act, not to teach. Yet there he
is, penned in beyond all power of breaking loose on this side the
grave; bound to drone out muddled sermons half an hour long and
eminently good for sleeping draughts, instead of shouting terse
and stirring words of command which set the blood on fire to hear;
bound to rout the shadowy enemy of souls with weapons he can neither
feel nor use, instead of prancing off at the head of his men, waving
his drawn sword above his head in a whirlwind of excitement and
martial glory, to rout the tangible enemies of his country's flag. He
loves his wife and takes a mild parsonic pleasure in his roses; he
energizes his schools and beats up recruits for his parish penny
readings; he lends his pulpit to missionary delegates and takes the
chair at the meeting for the conversion of Jews; he does his duty,
poor man, so far as he knows how and so far as nature gave him the
power; but his feet are in pinching shoes all his life long, and no
amount of walking on the clerical highway can ever make them pleasant
wearing. Or he may have a passionate love for the sea, and be mewed up
in a lawyer's musty office where his large limbs have not half enough
space for their natural activity; where he is perched for twelve hours
out of the twenty-four on a high stool against a desk instead of
climbing cat-like up the ropes; and where he is set to engross a
longwinded deed of conveyance, or to make a fair copy of a bill of
costs, instead of bearing a hand in a gale and saving his ship by
pluck and quickness. He could save a ship better than he can engross a
deed; while, as for law, he cannot get as much of that into his heavy
brain as would enable him to advise a client on the simplest case of
assault; but he knows all the differences of rig, and the whole
code of signals, and can tell you to a nicety about the flags of all
nations, and the name and position of every spar and stay and sheet,
and when to reef and when to set sail, with any other nautical
information to be had from books and a chance cruise as far as the
Nore. That pen behind his ear never ceases to gall and fret; his shoe
never ceases to pinch; and to the last day of his life the high stool
in the lawyer's office will be a place of penance and the sailor's
quarter-deck the lost heaven of his ambition.

No doubt, by the time the soldier wrongly labelled as a parson or the
sailor painfully working the legal treadmill, comes to the end of his
career, the old shoe which has pinched him so long will be worn
comparatively easy. The gradual decay of manly vigour, and the slow
but sure destruction of strong desires, reduce one's feet at last to
masses of accommodating pulp; but what suffering we go through before
this result can be attained!--what years of fruitless yearning, of
fierce despair, of pathetic self-suppression, of jarring discord
between work and fitness, pound all the life out of us before our
bones become like wax and pinching shoes are transformed to
easy-fitting slippers! For itself alone, not counting the beyond to
which the hope clings, it would scarcely seem that such a life were
worth the living.

Another pinching shoe is to be found in climate and locality. A man
hungering for the busy life of the city has to vegetate in the
rural districts, where the days drop one after the other like leaden
bullets, and time is only marked by an accession of dulness. Another,
thirsting for the repose of the country, has to jostle daily through
Cheapside. To one who thinks Canadian salmon-fishing the supreme of
earthly happiness, fate gives the chance of chasing butterflies in
Brazil; to another who holds 'the common objects of the seashore' of
more account than silver and gold, an adverse fortune assigns a
station in the middle of a plain as arid as if the world had been made
without water; and a third, who cares for nothing but the free
breathing of the open moors or the rugged beauty of the barren fells,
is dropped down into the heart of a narrow valley where he cannot see
the sun for the trees. At first this matter of locality seems to be
but a very small grip on the foot, not worth a second thought; but it
is one of a certain cumulative power impossible to describe, though
keen enough to him who suffers; and the pinching shoe of uncongenial
place is quite as hard to bear as that of uncongenial work.

Again, a man to whom intellectual companionship means more than it
does to many is thrown into a neighbourhood where he cannot hope to
meet with comprehension, still less with sympathy. He is a
Freethinker, and the neighbourhood goes in for the strictest Methodism
or the highest ultra-Ritualism; he is a Radical, and he is in the very
focus of county Toryism, where the doctrine of equality and the
rights of man is just so much seditious blasphemy, while the British
Constitution is held as a direct emanation from divine wisdom second
only to the Bible; or he is a Tory to the backbone--and his backbone
is a pretty stiff one--and he is in the midst of that blatant kind of
Radicalism which thinks gentlehood a remnant of the dark ages, and
confounds good breeding with servility, and loyalty to the Crown with
oppression of the people. Surrounded by his kind, he is as much alone
as if in the middle of a desert. An Englishman among Englishmen, he
has no more mental companionship than if he were in a foreign country
where he and his neighbour spoke different tongues, and each had a set
of signs with not two agreeing. And this kind of solitude makes a
pinching shoe to many minds; though to some of the more self-centred
or defying kind it is bearable enough--perhaps even giving a sense of
roominess which closer communion would destroy.

Of course one of the worst of our pinching shoes is matrimony, when
marriage means bondage and not union. The mismated wife or husband
never leaves off, willingly or unwillingly, squeezing the tender
places; and the more the pressure is objected to the worse the pain
becomes. And nothing can relieve it. A country gentleman, hating the
dust and noise of London, with all his interest in his county position
and all his pleasure in his place, and a wife whose love lies in
Queen's balls and opera-boxes, and to whom the country is simply a
slice out of Siberia wherever it may be; a hearty hospitable man,
liking to see his table well filled, and a wife with a weak digestion,
irritable nerves and a morbid horror of society; a pushing and
ambitious man, with a loud voice and an imposing presence, and a
shrinking fireside woman, who asks only to glide unnoticed through the
crowd and to creep noiselessly from her home to her grave--are not all
these shod with pinching shoes, which, do what they will, go on
pinching to the end, and which nothing short of death or the Sir James
Hannen of the time can remove? The pinching shoe of matrimony pinches
both sides equally--excepting indeed, one of the two is specially
phlegmatic or pachydermatous, and then the grip is harmless; but, as a
rule, the ring-fence of marriage doubles all conditions, and when A.
walks hobbled, B. falls lame, and both suffer from the same misfit.
However, the only thing to do is to bear and wear till the
upper-leather yields or till the foot takes the required shape; but
there is an eternity of pain to be gone through before either of these
desirable ends comes about; and the instinct which dreads pain, and
questions its necessity, is by no means a false one. For all that, we
must wear our pinching shoes of matrimony till death or the Divorce
Court pulls them from our feet; which points to the need of being more
careful than we usually are about the fit beforehand.

Poverty has a whole rack full of pinching shoes very hard to get
accustomed to, and as bad to dance in lightly as were the fiery
slippers of the naughty little girl in the German fairy-tale. Given a
large heart, generous instincts and an empty purse, and we have the
conditions of a real tragedy, both individual and social. For poverty
does not mean only that elemental want of food and clothing which we
generally associate with its name. Poverty may have two thousand a
year as well as only a mouldy crust and three shillings a week from
the parish; and poverty cursing its sore feet in a brougham is quite
as common as poverty, full of corns and callosities, blaspheming
behind a costermonger's barrow. The shoe may pinch horribly, though
there is no question of hunger or the 'twopenny rope;' for it is all a
matter of relative degree, and the means wherewith to meet wants. But
as poverty is not one of those fixed conditions of human life which no
human power can remove, we have not perhaps quite so much sympathy
with its grips and pinches as in other things less remediable. For
while there is work still undone in the world, there is gain still to
be had. The man whose energies stagnate now in a dry channel can, if
he will, turn them into one more fertile; and if he is making but a
poor business out of meal, it is his own fault if he does not try to
make a better out of malt. Where the shoe pinches hardest is in places
which we cannot protect and with a grip which we cannot prevent; but
we cannot say this of poverty as a necessary and inalienable
condition, and sympathy is so much waste when circumstances can be
changed by energy or will.



_SUPERIOR BEINGS._


Every now and then one comes across the path of a Superior Being--a
being who seems to imagine itself made out of a different kind of clay
from that which forms the coarser ruck of humanity, and whose presence
crushes us with a sense of our own inferiority, exasperating or
humiliating, according to the amount of natural pride bestowed upon
us. The superior being is of either sex and of all denominations; and
its superiority comes from many causes--being sometimes due to a wider
grasp of intellect, sometimes to a loftier standard of morals,
sometimes to better birth or a longer purse, and very often to the
simple conceit of itself which simulates superiority and believes in
its own apery. The chief characteristic of the superior being is that
exalted pity for inferiority which springs from the consciousness of
excellence. In fact, one of the main elements of superiority consists
in this sublime consciousness of private exaltation, and the immense
interval that separates it from the grosser condition it surveys.
Rivalry is essentially angry and contentious, but confessed
superiority can afford to be serene and compassionate. The little
people who live in that meagre sphere of theirs, mental and social,
with which not one point of its own extended circle comes in contact,
are deserving of all pity and are below anything like active
displeasure. That they should be content with such a meagre sphere
seems inconceivable to the superior being, as it contemplates its own
enlarged horizon with the complacency proper to a dweller in vastness.
Or it may be that its own world is narrow; and its superiority will
then be that it is high, safe, exclusive, while its pity will flow
down for those poor wayfarers who wander afield in broad latitudes,
and know nothing of the pleasure found in reserved places. In any case
the region in which a superior being dwells is better than the region
in which any other person dwells.

Take a superior being who has made up a private account with truth,
and who has, in his own mind at least, unlocked the gate of the great
mysteries of life, and got to the back of that eternal Why? for ever
confronting us. It does not in the least degree signify how the key is
labelled. It may be High Church or Low Church, Swedenborgianism or
Positivism. The name has nothing to do with the thing. It is the
contented certainty of having unlocked that great gate at which others
are hammering in vain which confers the superiority, and how the thing
has been done does not affect the result. Neither does it disturb the
equanimity of the superior being when he meets with opposing superior
beings who have also made up their private accounts with truth,
but in quite another handwriting and with a different sum-total at the
bottom of the page; who have also unlocked the gate of the great
mysteries, but with a key of contradictory wards, while the gate
itself is of another order of architecture altogether. But then
nothing ever does disturb the equanimity of the superior being; for,
as he is above all rivalry, so is he beyond all teaching. The meeting
of two superior beings of hostile creed is like the meeting of the two
blind kings in the story, each claiming the crown for his own and both
ignorant of the very existence of a rival. It may be that the superior
being has soared away into the cold region of spiritual negation,
whence he regards the praying and praising multitudes who go to church
and believe in Providence as grown people regard children who still
believe in ghosts and fairies. Or it may be that he has plunged into
the phosphorescent atmosphere of mysticism and an all-pervading
superstition; and then all who hold by scientific law, and who think
the test of common sense not absolutely valueless, are Sadducees who
know nothing of the glorious liberty of the light, but who prefer to
live in darkness and to make themselves the agents of the great Lord
of Lies.

Sometimes the superior being goes in for the doctrine of love and
impulse, as against reason or experience, holding the physiologist and
political economist as creatures absolutely devoid of feeling; and
sometimes his superiority is shown in the application of the
hardest material laws to the most subtle and delicate manifestations
of the mind. But on which side soever he ranks himself--as a
spiritualist to whom reason and matter are stumbling-blocks and
accursed, or as a materialist denying the existence of spiritual
influences at all--he is equally secure of his own superiority and
serene in his own conceit. That there should be two sides to any
question never seems to strike him; and that a man of another creed
should have as much right as himself to a hearing and consideration is
the one hard saying impossible for him to receive. With a light and
airy manner of playful contempt--sometimes with a heavy and Johnsonian
scorn that keeps no terms with an opponent--the superior being meets
all your arguments or batters down all your objections; sometimes,
indeed, he will not condescend even so far as this, but when you
express your adverse opinion just lifts up his eyebrows with a
good-humoured kind of surprise at your mental state, but lets you see
that he thinks you too hopeless, and himself too superior, to waste
powder and shot upon you. It is of the nature of things that there
should be moles and that there should be eagles; so much the worse for
the moles, who must be content to remain blind, not seeing things
patent to the nobler vision.

The superior being is sometimes a person who is above all the passions
and weaknesses of ordinary men; a philosopher, or an etherealized
woman dwelling on serene Olympian heights which no clouds obscure
and where no earth-fogs rise. The passions which shake the human soul,
as tempests shake the forest trees, and warp men's lives according to
the run of their own lines, are unknown to these Olympian personages
who cannot understand their power. They look on these tempestuous
souls with a curious analytical gaze, speculating on the geography of
their Gethsemane, and wondering why they cannot keep as calm and quiet
as they themselves are. They sit in scornful judgment on the
mysterious impulses regulating human nature--regulating and
disturbing--and think how perfect all things would be if only passions
and instincts were cut out of the great plan, and men and women were
left to the dominion of pure reason. But they do not take into account
the law of constitutional necessity, and they are utterly unable to
strike a balance between the good and evil wrought both by the
tempests of souls and by those of nature. They only know that storms
are inconvenient, and that for themselves they have no need of such
convulsions to clear off stagnant humours; nor are they made of
elements which kindle and explode at the contact of such or such
materials. And if they know nothing of all this, why then should
others? If they can sit on Olympian heights serene above all passion,
why should not the whole world sit with them, and fogs and fires,
earthquakes and deluges, be conditions unknown?

When this kind of superior being is a woman, there is something pretty
in the sublime assumption of her supremacy and the sweeping range
of her condemnation. Sheltered from temptation and secure from danger,
she looks out on life from the serene heights of her safe place, and
wonders how men can fail and women fall before the power of trials of
which she knows only the name. Her circulation is languid and her
temperament phlegmatic; and the burning desire of life which sends the
strong into danger, perhaps into sin, is as much unknown to her as is
the fever of the tropics to a Laplander crouching in his snow-hut. But
she judges none the less positively because of her ignorance; and, as
she looks into your quivering face with her untroubled eyes, lets you
see plainly enough how she despises all the human frailties under
which you may have tripped and stumbled. Sometimes she rebukes you
loftily. Your soul is sore with the consciousness of your sin, your
heart is weak with the pain of life; but the superior being tells you
that repentance cannot undo the evil that has been done, and that to
feel pain is weak.

The superiority which some women assume over men is very odd. It is
like the grave rebuke of a child, not knowing what it is that it
rebukes. When women take up their parable and censure men for the wild
or evil things they do, not understanding how or why it has come about
that they have done them, and knowing as little of the inner causes as
of the outer, they are in the position of superior beings talking
unmitigated rubbish. To be sure, it is very sweet and innocent
rubbish, and has a lofty air about it that redeems what else
would be mere presumption; but there is no more practical worth in
what they say than there is in the child's rebuke when its doll will
not stand upright on sawdust legs, nor eat a crumb of cake with waxen
lips. This is one reason why women of the order of superior beings
have so little influence over men; they judge without knowledge and
condemn without insight. If they could thoroughly fathom man's nature,
so as to understand his difficulties, they would then have moral power
if their aims were higher than his, their principles more lofty, their
practice more pure. As it is, they have next to none; and the very men
who seem to yield most go only so far as to conceal what the superior
being disapproves of; they do not change because of her greater weight
of doctrine.

Men show themselves as superior beings to women on another
count--intellectually, rather than morally. While women rebuke men for
their sins, men snub women for their follies; the one wields the
spiritual, the other the intellectual, weapon of castigation, and both
hold themselves superior, beyond all possibility of rivalry, according
to the chance of sex. The masculine view of a subject always imposes
itself on women as something unattainable by the feminine mind. Nine
times out of ten it brings them to a due sense of their own
inferiority, save in the case of the superior being, to whom of course
the masculine view counts for nothing against her own. But even when
women do not accept a man's opinions, they instinctively
recognize his greater value, his greater breadth and strength. Perhaps
they cry out against his hardness, if he is a political economist and
they are emotional; or against his lower morality if he goes in for
universal charity and philosophical latitudinarianism, and they are
enthusiasts with a clearly-defined faith and a belief in its
infallibility. These are wide tracts of difference between the two
minds, not to be settled by the _ipse dixit_ of even a superior being;
but in general the superiority of the man makes itself more felt than
the superiority of the woman. While one preaches, the other ridicules;
and snubbing does more than condemnation.



_FEMININE AMENITIES._


A man's foes are those of his own household, and the keenest enemies
of women are women themselves. No one can inflict such humiliation on
a woman as can a woman when she chooses; for if the art of high-handed
snubbing belongs to men, that of subtle wounding is peculiarly
feminine, and is practised by the best-bred of the sex. Women are
always more or less antagonistic to each other. They are gregarious in
fashions and emulative in follies, but they cannot combine; they never
support their weak sisters; they shrink from those who are stronger
than the average; and if they would speak the truth boldly, they would
confess to a radical contempt for each other's intellect--which
perhaps is the real reason why the sect of the 'emancipated' commands
so small a following.

Half a dozen ordinary men advocating 'emancipation' doctrines would do
more towards leavening the whole bulk of womankind than any number of
first-class women. Where these do stand by each other it is from
instinctive or personal affection rather than from class solidarity.
And this is one of the most striking distinctions of sex, and one
cause, among others, why men have the upper hand, and why they are
able to keep it. Certainly there are reasons, sufficiently good, why
women do not more readily coalesce; and one is the immense difference
between the two extremes--the silly being too silly to appreciate the
wise, and the weak too weak to bear the armour of the strong. There is
more difference between outsiders among women than there is among men;
the feminine characteristic of exaggeration making a gap which the
medium or average man fills. The ways of women with each other more
than all else show the great difference between their _morale_ and
that of men. They flatter and coax as men could not do, but they are
also more rude to each other than any man would be to his fellow. It
is amazing to see the things they can do and will bear--things which
no man would dream of standing and which no man would dare to attempt.
This is because they are not taught to respect each other, and because
they have no fear of consequences. If one woman is insulted by
another, she cannot demand satisfaction nor knock the offender down;
and it is unladylike to swear and call names. She must bear what she
can repay only in kind; but, to do her justice, she repays in a manner
undeniably effective and to the point.

There is nothing very pronounced about the feminine modes of
aggression and retaliation; and yet each is eloquent and sufficient
for its purpose. It may be only a stare, a shrug, a toss of the
head; but women can throw an intensity of disdain into the simplest
gesture which answers the end perfectly. The unabashed serenity and
unflinching constancy with which one woman can stare down another is
in itself an art that requires a certain amount of natural genius, as
well as careful cultivation. She puts up her eyeglass--not being
shortsighted--and surveys the enemy standing two feet from her, with a
sublime contempt for her whole condition, or with a still more sublime
ignoring of her sentient existence, that no words could give. If the
enemy be sensitive and unused to the kind of thing, she is absolutely
crushed, destroyed for the time, and reduced to the most pitiable
state of self-abasement. If she be of a tougher fibre, and has had
some experience of feminine warfare, she returns the stare with a
corresponding amount of contempt or of obliviousness; and from that
moment a contest is begun which never ceases and which continually
gains in bitterness. The stare is the weapon of offence most in use
among women, and is specially favoured by the experienced against the
younger and less seasoned. It is one of the instinctive arms native to
the sex; and we have only to watch the introduction of two girls to
each other to see this, and to learn how even in youth is begun the
exercise which time and use raise to such deadly perfection.

In the conversations of women with each other we again meet with
examples of their peculiar amenities to their own sex. They never
refrain from showing how much they are bored; they contradict
flatly, without the flimsiest veil of apology to hide their rudeness;
and they interrupt ruthlessly, whatever the subject in hand may be.
One lady was giving another a minute account of how the bride looked
yesterday when she was married to Mr. A., of somewhat formidable
boudoir repute, with whom her listener had had sundry tender passages
which made the mention of his marriage a notoriously sore subject.
'Ah! I see _you_ have taken that old silk which Madame Josephine
wanted to palm off on me last year,' said the tortured listener
brusquely breaking into the narrative without a lead of any kind. And
the speaker was silenced. In this case it was the interchange of
doubtful courtesies, wherein neither deserved pity; but to make a
disparaging remark about a gown, in revenge for turning the knife in a
wound, was a thoroughly feminine manner of retaliation, and one that
would not have touched a man. Such shafts fall blunted against the
rugged skin of the coarser creature; and the date or pattern of a bit
of cloth would not have told much against the loss of a lover. But as
most women passionately care for dress, their toilet is one of their
most vulnerable parts. Ashamed to be unfashionable, they tolerate
anything in each other rather than shabbiness or eccentricity, even
when picturesque; hence a sarcastic allusion to the age of a few yards
of silk as a set-off against a grossly cruel stab was a return wound
of considerable depth cleverly given.

The introduction of the womankind belonging to a favourite male
acquaintance of somewhat lower social condition affords a splendid
opportunity for the display of feminine amenity. The presentation
cannot be refused, yet it is resented as an intrusion. 'Another
daughter, Mr. C.! You must have a dozen daughters surely,' a peeress
said disdainfully to a commoner whom personally she liked, but whose
family she did not want to know. The poor man had but two; and this
was the introduction of the second.

Very painful to a high-spirited gentlewoman must be the way in which a
superior creature of this kind receives her, if not of the same set as
herself. The husband of the inferior creature may be adored, as men
are adored by fashionable women who love only themselves, and care
only for their own pleasures. Artist, man of letters, _beau sabreur_,
he is the passing idol, the temporary toy, of a certain circle; and
his wife has to be tolerated for his sake, and because she is a lady
and fit to be presented, though an outsider. So they patronize her
till the poor woman's blood is on fire; or they snub her till she has
no moral consistency left in her, and is reduced to a mere mass of
pulp. They keep her in another room while they talk to her husband
with their other intimates; or they admit her into their circle, where
she is made to feel like a Gentile among the faithful, for either they
leave her unnoticed altogether or else speak to her on subjects quite
apart from the general conversation, as if she were incapable of
understanding them on their own ground. They ask her to dinner without
her husband, and take care that there is no one to meet her whom she
would like to see; but they ask him when they are at their grandest,
and express their deep regret that his wife (uninvited) cannot
accompany him. They know every turn and twist that can humiliate her
if she has pretensions which they choose to demolish. They praise her
toilet for its good taste in simplicity, when she thinks she is one of
the finest on an occasion on which no one can be too fine. They tell
her that pattern of hers is perfect, and made just like the dear
duchess's famous dress last season, when she believes that she has
Madame Josephine's last, freshly imported from Paris. They celebrate
her dinner as the very perfection of a refined family dinner without
parade or cost, though it has all been had from the crack
confectioner's, and though the bill for the entertainment will cause
many a day of family pinching. These are the things which women say to
one another when they wish to pain and humiliate; things which pain
and humiliate some more than would a positive disgrace. For some women
are distressingly sensitive about these little matters. Their lives
are made up of trifles, and a failure in a trifle is a failure in
their object of life.

Women can do each other no end of despite in a small way in society,
not to speak of mischief of a graver kind. A hostess who has a grudge
against one of her more famous lady-guests can always ensure her
a disappointing evening under cover of doing her supreme honour and
paying her extra attention. If she sees the enemy engaged in a
pleasant conversation with one of the male stars, down she swoops, and
in the sweetest manner possible carries her off to another part of the
room, to introduce her to some school-girl who can only say yes or no
in the wrong places--'who is dying for the honour of talking to you,
my dear;' or to some unfledged stripling who blushes and grows hot and
cannot stammer out two consecutive sentences, but who is presented as
a rising genius and to be treated with the consideration due to his
future. As her persecution is done under the guise of extra
friendliness, the poor victim cannot cry out, nor yet resist; but she
knows that whenever she goes to Mrs. So and So's she will be seated
next the stupidest man at table, and prevented from talking to any one
she likes in the evening; and that every visit to that lady is made in
some occult manner unpleasant to her. And yet what has she to complain
of? She cannot complain in that her hostess trusts to her for help in
the success of her entertainment, and moves her about the room as a
perambulating attraction which she has to dispense fairly among her
guests, lest some should be jealous of the others. She may know that
the meaning is to annoy; but who can act on meaning as against manner?
How crooked soever the first may be, if the last is straight the case
falls to the ground, and there is no room for remonstrance.

Often women flirt as much to annoy other women as to attract men
or amuse themselves. If a wife has crossed swords with a friend, and
the husband is in any way endurable, let her look out for retaliation.
The woman she has offended will take her revenge by flirting more or
less openly with the husband, all the while loading the enemy with
flattery if she be afraid of her, or snubbing her without much
disguise if she feel herself the stronger. The wife cannot help
herself, unless things go too far for public patience. A jealous woman
without proof is the butt of her society, and brings the whole world
of women like a nest of wasps about her ears. If wise, she will ignore
what she cannot laugh at; if sensitive, she will fret; if vindictive,
she will repay. Nine times out of ten she does the last, and, may be,
with interest; and so goes on the duel, though all the time the
fighters appear to be intimate friends and on the best possible terms
together.

But the range of these feminine amenities is not confined to women; it
includes men as well; and women continually take advantage of their
position to insult the stronger sex by saying to them things which can
be neither answered nor resented. A woman can with the quietest face
and the gentlest voice imaginable insinuate that you have just cheated
at cards; she can give you the lie direct as coolly as if she were
correcting a misprint; and you cannot defend yourself. To brawl with
her would be unpardonable; to contradict her is useless; and the sense
of society does not allow you to show her any active displeasure.
In this instance the weaker creature is the stronger, and the more
defenceless is the safer. You have only the rather questionable
consolation of knowing that you are not singular in your discomfiture,
and that when she has made an end of you she will probably have a turn
with your betters, and make them too, dance to her piping, whether
they like the tune or not. At all events, if she humiliates you she
humiliates her sisters still more; and with the knowledge that, hardly
handled as you have been, others are yet more severely dealt with, you
must learn to be content, and to practise as much of that grim kind of
patience, which suffers keenly and bears silently, as your nature will
permit.



_GRIM FEMALES._


Almost all histories and mythologies embody the idea of a race of grim
females. Whether as fabulous and complex monsters, like the Sphinx and
the Harpies, or in the more human forms of the Fates and the Furies,
unsexed women have been universally recognized as forming part of the
system of nature and to be accepted among the stranger manifestations
of human life. Yet it is hard to understand why they should exist at
all. As moral 'sports,' they are so far interesting to the
psychologists; but, as women with definite duties and fixed functions,
nothing can be less admirable. They are even worse than effeminate
men--which is saying everything.

The grim female must be carefully distinguished from the masculine
woman; for they are by no means essentially the same, though the types
may run into each other, and sometimes do. But the masculine woman, if
not grim but only Amazonian, has often much that is fine and beautiful
in her, as we see in her great prototype Pallas Athene; but the grim
female _pur sang_ is never noble, never beautiful; and the only
meaning of her existence--the only mission she seems sent into the
world to fulfil--is that of serving as a warning to the young what to
avoid.

The grim female is not necessarily an old maid, as would appear likely
at first sight. We find her of all conditions indifferently--as maid,
wife, widow, as mother and childless alike--and we do not find that
her condition in any way affects her character. If born grim, she
remains grim to the end; and neither marriage nor motherhood modifies
her. The grim female of novelists is generally an old maid; but she is
a caricature, painted in the broadest lines and copied from the
outsides of things. She is emphatically an odd woman; odd in her
dress, her mode, her state. She wears a flapping cap, skimpy skirts
and rusty brown mittens on her bony hands. She has a passionate
aversion against men and matrimony; and she lives queerly behind a
barricaded house-door, with a small slavey, or an elderly female
afflicted with deafness, to do her work and bear the brunt of her
temper. But she is always odd, unmarried, unfashionable and unlike
everybody else, and could never be mistaken for an ordinary woman from
the first phrase which stamps her personality on the page to the last
paragraph of her fictitious existence.

Now the grim female of real life may be one of the most conventional
of her sex, and in fact, she generally is one of the most conventional
of her sex. She is one who rules her household with a rod of iron
carefully wrought after the pattern of her neighbours' rods, and to
whom a dish set awry, or the second-best china instead of the best,
counts for as great a moral delinquency in her servants as a breach of
all the Ten Commandments together. She is a woman who regards being
out of the fashion, or being foremost in the fashion, as equally
reprehensible, and to whom dress is among the most important matters
of life. Wherefore she is notorious for a certain grim grandeur of
style, as one who respects herself by her clothes, and is known among
other women as possessing handsome lace and costly velvet in
profusion. Are not lace and velvet _de rigueur_ for women of
condition? and what is the grim female but the embodiment of the
'rigour of the game' in all matters? Therefore she clothes herself
sumptuously, without elegance or taste; and would as soon be seen
abroad in her dressing-gown and slippers as without her characteristic
heavy velvet or rustling silk. But the artist's little wife, in her
fresh muslin and nice admixture of colours, sails round her for grace
and beauty at about one-twentieth part of what the grim female's
stately ugliness has cost.

One characteristic of the grim female is her want of womanly passion
for children. She may have so much maternal instinct, perverted, as to
be on friendly terms with a dog or two, a cat, or may be a cockatoo;
but she has no real affection for children, no comprehension of
child-nature, and the 'sublime nonsense' of the nursery is a thing
unknown to her from first to last. If she have children of her
own, she treats them in a hard wooden way that has nothing of the
ideal mother about it. She generally sees that they are properly cared
for, because she is a disciplinarian; but, though she is inexorable on
the score of cold baths and 'no trash,' she never condescends to the
weakness of love. If her little ones are sick, they are set aside and
dosed until they are well; if they are naughty, they are punished; but
they never know those moments of tender indulgence which help them
over a period of indisposition not severe enough for actual doctoring,
yet throwing them out of gear and inducing a spell of what ignorance
calls naughtiness. Rhadamanthus was a weakling compared to the grim
female in the nursery; and what she is in her nursery she continues to
be in the schoolroom, and the drawing-room to follow. Her children are
always causes of annoyance to the grim female, and the first stirrings
of individuality, the first half-unconscious trials of their young
strength, are offences she cannot away with. Children and inferiors
are they in her eyes, even when grown up and married; and she exacts
from them the humility and deference of their lower condition. Hence
she is one to whom the present generation is undeniably worse than the
past; one who groans over the follies and shortcomings of the times
and who thinks that good conduct died out with her own youth, and that
it is not likely, by the look of things, to be restored. In fact,
youth itself is the root and basis of offence; and if she coerces
children, she tyrannizes over girls and snubs young men, with
inexorable impartiality.

The grim female is not necessarily a strong-minded woman, nor a
learned woman, like those who wear spectacles, go to scientific
meetings and are great in the classics and the 'ologies. She may be of
the emancipated class; it all depends on chance; and a grim female,
when of the emancipated, is a very formidable person indeed. But she
is not necessarily one of these. On the contrary, part of her very
grimness comes from her intense conservatism and uncompromising
conventionality. Nothing is so abhorrent to her as innovation or
novelty in any shape. She does not hold with any one out of the
narrowest groove of respectable belief, in what direction soever the
diverging line may go. A Romanist or a Baptist, a Jew or an infidel,
it is all one to her; each is equally dreadful to her, and each is
eternally foredoomed. She is of the orthodox Church without fal-lals;
as far removed from Ritualism as she is from ranting, and demanding
for herself that infallibity of judgment and absolute possession of
the truth which she denies to the Pope and all his Cardinals. Beware
how you broach new doctrines in her presence. She has been known
before now to abjure her nearest relations for no greater moral lapse
than a weak belief in globules; while, as for anything like graver
aberrations, say on the ape theory or on the plurality of races, on
development in religions or on a republican form of government,
she has no toleration whatever. If the Smithfield fires existed at the
present day, the grim female would be the first to light the faggots.
It is all the same if she belongs to any Dissenting persuasion; part
of her grimness coming from her intolerance, and her own beliefs being
simply the springboard on which she stands.

Many causes produce the grim female. It may be that she is grim from
social pride as well as from natural hardness. If she has been used to
live with people whom, rightly or wrongly, she considers her
inferiors, she will probably queen it over them in a very
unmistakeable manner. The prelatic blood is renowned for this sort of
thing; and a bishop's daughter, or an archbishop's grand-daughter, or
Mrs. Proudie, prelatic by marriage only, if of the grim class, is one
of the grimmest of her class. The halo of sanctity round the mitre and
the crozier will be greater in her eyes than even the glitter of the
strawberry leaves; and she holds herself consecrated by her birth or
marriage to the understanding of every moral question, and specially
to the final settlement of every tough theological position. Or she
may be grim because of her isolation and meagre intercourse with the
world at large; such as she is found in the remoter districts. This
kind comes into the exceptional or novelist's class, and is often more
masculine than grim. These are the women who hunt and fish and shoot
like men, and who may be found in all weathers wandering alone
about the mountains in short petticoats and spatterdashes--women who
affect to be essentially mannish in person, habits and attire, and who
may be quite jolly easy-going fellows in their own way, or else grim
and trenchant, as nature or the fit takes them. This is a kind not at
all uncommon in country places among the higher class of resident
ladies--ladies who are so highly placed locally that they can afford
to disregard public opinion, and who are so independent by disposition
that they naturally go off to the manly side, and make themselves bad
imitations, as the best they can do.

The grim female tries her strength with all newcomers. She is like one
of the giants or black knights of old romance, who lived in castles or
caves, whence they pounced on all passers-by, and either wrung their
necks if they conquered or retreated howling if discomfited. This is
what the grim female does in her degree. She dashes on all who are
presented to her, and has a passage of arms as the first act of the
new drama. If her opponents yield out of timidity or good-breeding, or
perhaps from not understanding the warlike nature of the encounter,
she puts her foot on them forthwith, and ignominiously crushes them;
if they defy her, and give her back blow for blow, ten to one she cuts
them and becomes their enemy for ever after. For she has not breadth
enough to be magnanimous, and the one thing she never forgives is
successful opposition. Very grim is she in the presence of human
weakness, moral and physical. Woe to that unhappy maid of hers
who has slipped on the narrow path of prudence! She will be turned out
to perish with no more compunction than if she were a black-beetle to
be swept out of the way.

As a nurse the grim female is precise, punctual, obedient to orders,
but inexorable. She would give the patient a fit of nervous hysterics
which would throw him back for a week, rather than allow him five
minutes' grace in the matter of a painful operation or a nauseous
draught. Without variableness or weakness herself, she cannot endure
it in others, and whosoever comes under her hand must be content to
remain in shape, and to keep himself well braced up to the utmost
rigidity of duty. If she had to lose an arm or a leg, she would go to
her trouble like a Trojan; and why not others? She would merely
tighten her lips and hold her breath, and then would sit down to let
herself be hacked and mangled without a groan or a word. To judge by
the notice given of her in her sister's life, Emily Brontë was of the
grim class, and about the grimmest for her age and state that could
well be found. Had she lived, and lived unsoftened, she would have
been one unbroken mass of iron and granite, without a soft spot
anywhere. Her very love was fiercer than other women's hate; her
strength was more terrible than a man's anger; her passions were as
fiery as furnace flames. Of all the examples we could cite, she seems
about the fittest for our model.

A grim female has no mercy. She may be just, but if so, it is in a
hard uncompromizing way that makes her justice worse than others'
partiality. For justice can be sympathetic, even if unwavering; and
the grim female is never sympathetic, how painful soever the work on
hand and the sentence to be executed. Neither is she gay; for she is
not plastic enough to be either one or the other. She is run into an
iron mould, where her nature is compressed as in a vice; and she
allows of no expansion, no lipping over, no bursting of bonds anyhow.

What would become of us if all our women were like her? Without any of
the feminine little weaknesses at which we have our laugh yet which we
do not wholly dislike--without any of the pretty coaxing ways which we
know warp our better judgment and take us out of the strict course;
and yet how pleasant that warping process is!--without any even of the
transient petulances which give so much light and shade to a woman's
character, the grim female stands like an old-world Gorgon, turning
living flesh and blood to stone. When we look at her we are inclined
to forgive all the smallness and silliness which sometimes vex us in
the ordinary woman, and to think that there are worse things than the
love of dress for which we so often reproach our wives and daughters;
that flirting, which is reprehensible no doubt, might be exchanged for
something even more reprehensible; and that vanity, of the giggling,
coquettish kind, though to be steadily discouraged and sternly
reproved, is not quite the worst feminine thing after all. Surely not!
A grim female who cannot flirt nor giggle nor cry, nor yet kiss and
make up again when scolded, is far away a worse kind of thing than a
feather-headed little puss who is always doing wrong by reason of her
foolish brain, but who manages somehow to pull herself right because
of her loving heart. Weak women, vain women, affected women, and the
whole class of silly women, whatever the speciality of silliness
exhibited, are tiresome enough, heaven knows; but, unsatisfactory as
they are, they are better than the grim female--that woman of no sex,
born without softness or sympathy and living without pity and without
love.



_MATURE SIRENS._


Nothing is more incomprehensible to girls than the love and admiration
sometimes given to middle-aged women. They cannot understand it; and
nothing but experience will ever make them understand it. In their
eyes, a woman is out of the pale of personal affection altogether when
she has once lost that shining gloss of youth, that exquisite
freshness of skin and suppleness of limb, which to them, in the
insolent plenitude of their unfaded beauty, constitute the chief
claims to admiration of the one sex from the other. And yet they
cannot conceal from themselves that the pretty maid of eighteen is
often deserted for the handsome woman of forty, and that the patent
witchery of their own youth and brilliant colouring goes for nothing
against the mysterious charms of a mature siren. What can they say to
such an anomaly? There is no good in going about the world
disdainfully wondering how on earth a man could ever have taken up
with such an antiquated creature!--suggestively asking their male
friends what could he see in a woman of her age, old enough to be his
mother? There the fact stands; and facts are stubborn things. The
eligible suitor who has been coveted by more than one golden-haired
girl has married a woman twenty years her senior, and the middle-aged
siren has quietly carried off the prize which nymphs in their teens
have frantically desired to win. What is the secret? How is it done?
The world, even of silly girls, has got past any belief in spells and
talismans, such as Charlemagne's mistress wore, and yet the man's
fascination seems to them quite as miraculous and almost as unholy as
if it had been brought about by the black art. But if they had any
analytical power they would understand the _diablerie_ of the mature
siren clearly enough; for it is not so difficult to understand when
one puts one's mind to it.

In the first place, a woman of ripe age has a knowledge of the world,
and a certain suavity of manner and moral flexibility, wholly wanting
to the young. Young girls are for the most part all angles--harsh in
their judgments, stiff in their prejudices, narrow in their
sympathies. They are full of combativeness and self-assertion if they
belong to one type of young people, or they are stupid and shy if they
belong to another type. They are talkative with nothing to say, and
positive with nothing known; or they are monosyllabic dummies who
stammer out Yes or No at random, and whose brains become hopelessly
confused at the first sentence with which the stranger, to whom they
have just been introduced, attempts to open a conversation. They are
generally without pity; their want of experience making them hard
towards sorrows which they do not understand--let us charitably hope
also making them ignorant of the pain they inflict. That famous
article in the _Times_ on the cruelty of young girls, _àpropos_ of
Constance Kent's confession, though absurdly exaggerated, had in it
the core of truth which gives the sting to such papers, which makes
them stick, and which is the real cause of the outcry they create.

Girls are cruel; there is no question about it. If passive rather than
active, they are simply indifferent to the sufferings of others; if of
a more active temperament, they find a positive pleasure in giving
pain. A girl will say horribly cruel things to her dearest friend,
then laugh at her because she cries. Even her own mother she will hurt
and humiliate if she can; while, as for any unfortunate aspirant not
approved of, were he as tough-skinned as a rhinoceros she would find
means to make him wince. But all this acerbity is toned down in the
mature woman. Experience has enlarged her sympathies, and knowledge of
suffering has softened her heart to the sufferings of others. Her
lessons of life too, have taught her tact; and tact is one of the most
valuable lessons that a man or woman can learn. She sees at a glance
the weak points and sore places in her companion, and she avoids them;
or if she passes over them, it is with a hand so soft and tender, a
touch so soothing, that she calms instead of irritating. A girl would
have come down on those weak places heavily, and would have torn
off the bandages from the sore ones, jesting at scars because she
herself had never felt a wound, and deriding the sybaritism of
diachylon because ignorant of the anguish it conceals.

Furthermore, the mature siren is thoughtful for others. Girls are
self-asserting and aggressive. Life is so strong in them, and the
instinct which prompts them to try their strength with all comers and
to get the best of everything everywhere, is so irrepressible, that
they are often disagreeable because of that instinctive selfishness,
that craving, natural to the young, of taking all and giving back
nothing. But the mature siren knows better than this. She knows that
social success entirely depends on what each of us can throw into the
common fund of society; that the surest way to win consideration for
ourselves is to be considerate for others; that sympathy begets
liking, and self-suppression leads to exaltation; and that if we want
to gain love we must first show how well we can give it. Her tact
then, and her sympathy, her moral flexibility and quick comprehension
of character, her readiness to give herself to others, are some of the
reasons, among others, why the society of a cultivated agreeable woman
of a certain age is sought by those men to whom women are more than
mere mistresses or toys. Besides, she is a good conversationalist. She
has no pretensions to any special or deep learning--for, if pedantic,
she is spoilt as a siren at any age--but she knows a little about most
things; at all events, she knows enough to make her a pleasant
companion in a _tête-à-tête_ or at a dinner-table, and to enable her
to keep up the ball when thrown. And men like to talk to intelligent
women. They do not like to be taught nor corrected by them, but they
like that quick sympathetic intellect which follows them readily, and
that amount of knowledge which makes a comfortable cushion for their
own. And a mature siren who knows what she is about would never do
more than this, even if she could.

Though the mature siren rests her claims to admiration on more than
mere personal charms, and appeals to something beyond the senses, yet
she is personable and well preserved, and, in a favourable light,
looks nearly as young as ever. So the men say who knew her when she
was twenty; who loved her then, and have gone on loving her, with a
difference, despite the twenty years which lie between this and then.
Girls, indeed, despise her charms because she is no longer young; and
yet she may be even more beautiful than youth. She knows all the
little niceties of dress, and, without going into the vulgar trickery
of paint and dyes--which would make her hideous--is up to the best
arts of the toilet by which every point is made to tell and every
minor beauty is given its fullest value. For part of the art and
mystery of sirenhood is an accurate perception of times and
conditions, and a careful avoidance of that suicidal mistake of which
_la femme passée_ is so often guilty--namely, setting herself in
confessed rivalry with the young by trying to look like them, and
so losing the good of what she has retained, and betraying the ravages
of time by the contrast.

The mature siren is wiser than this. She knows exactly what she has
and what she can do; and before all things avoids whatever seems too
youthful for her years; and this is one reason why she is always
beautiful, because always in harmony. Besides, she has very many good
points, many positive charms still left. Her figure is still good--not
slim and slender certainly, but round and soft, and with that slower,
riper, lazier grace which, quite different from the antelope-like
elasticity of youth, is in its own way as lovely. If her hair has lost
its maiden luxuriance she makes up with crafty arrangements of lace,
which are more picturesque than the fashionable wisp of hay-like ends
tumbling half-way to the waist. She has still her white and shapely
hands with their pink filbert-like nails; still her pleasant smile and
square small teeth--those one or two new, matching so perfectly with
the old as to be undiscoverable! Her eyes are bright yet, and if the
upper muscles are a little shrunk, the consequent apparent enlargement
of the orbit only makes them more expressive; her lips are not yet
withered; her skin is not wrinkled. Undeniably, when well-dressed and
in a favourable light, the mature siren is as beautiful in her own way
as the girlish belle; and the world knows it and acknowledges it.

That mature sirens can be passionately loved, even when very
mature, history gives us more than one example; and the first name
that naturally occurs to one's mind is that of the too famous Ninon de
l'Enclos. And Ninon, if a trifle mythical, was yet a fact and an
example. But not going quite to Ninon's age, we often see women of
forty and upwards who are personally charming, and whom men love with
as much warmth and tenderness as if they were in the heyday of
life--women who count their admirers by dozens, and who end by making
a superb marriage, and having quite an Indian summer of romance and
happiness. The young laugh at this idea of the Indian summer for a
bride of forty-five; but it is true; for neither romance nor
happiness, neither love nor mental youth, is a matter of years; and
after all we are only as old as we feel, and certainly no older than
we look.

All women do not harden by time, nor wither, nor yet corrupt. Some
merely ripen and mellow and get enriched by the passage of the years,
retaining the most delicate womanliness--we had almost said
girlishness into quite old age, blushing as swiftly under their grey
hairs, while shrinking from anything coarse or vulgar or impure as
sensitively, as when they were girls. _La femme à quarante ans_ is the
French term for the opening of the great gulf beyond which love cannot
pass; but human history disproves this date, and shows that the heart
can remain fresh and the person lovely long after the age fixed for
the final adieu to admiration--that the mature siren can be adored
by her own contemporaries when the rising generation regard her
as nothing better than a chimney-corner fixture. Mr. Trollope
recognized the claims of the mature siren in his _Orley Farm_ and
_Miss Mackenzie_; and no one can deny the intense naturalness of the
characters and the interest of the stories.

Another point which tells with the mature woman is, that she is not
jealous nor exacting. She knows the world, and takes what comes with
that philosophy which springs from knowledge. If she be of an enjoying
nature--and she cannot be a siren else--she accepts such good as
floats to the top, neither looking too deep into the cup nor
speculating on the time when she shall have drained it to the dregs.
Men feel safe with her. If they have entered on a tender friendship
with her, they know that there will be no scene, no tears, no
upbraidings, when an inexorable fate comes in to end their pleasant
little drama, with the inevitable wife as the scene-shifter. The
mature siren knows so well that fate and the wife must break in
between her and her friend, that she is resigned from the first to
what is foredoomed, and thus accepts her bitter portion, when it
comes, with dignity and in silence. Where younger women would fall
into hysterics and make a scene, perhaps go about the world taking
their revenge in slander, the middle-aged woman holds out a friendly
hand and takes the back seat gallantly, never showing by word nor look
that she has felt her deposition. She becomes the best friend of the
new household; and if any one is jealous, ten to one it is the
husband who is jealous of her love for his wife. Of course it may be
the wife herself, who cannot see what her husband can find to admire
so much in Mrs. A., and who pouts at his extraordinary predilection for
her, though of course she would scorn to be jealous--as, indeed, she
has no cause. For even a mature siren, however delightful she may be,
is not likely to come before a young wife in the heart of a young
husband. Though the French paint the love of a woman of forty as
pathetic, because slightly ridiculous and certainly hopeless, yet they
arrange their theory of social life so that a youth is generally
supposed to make his first love of a married woman many years his
elder, while a mature siren finds her last love in a youth.

We have not come to this yet in England, either in theory or practice;
and it is to be hoped that we never shall come to it. Mature sirens
are all very well for men of their own age, and it is pleasant to see
them still loved and admired, and to recognize in them the claims of
women to something higher than mere personal passion; but the case
would be very different if they became ghoulish seducers of the young,
and kept up the habit of love by entangling boyish hearts and
blighting youthful lives. As they are now, they form a charming
element in society, and are of infinite use to the world. They are the
ripe fruit in the garden where else everything would be green and
immature--the last days of the golden summer set against the
disappointing backwardness of spring and before the chills of
autumn have come. They contain in themselves the advantages of two
distinct epochs, and while possessing as much personal charm as youth,
possess also the gains which come by experience and maturity. They
keep things together as the young could not do; and no gathering of
friends is perfect which has not one or two mature sirens to give the
tone, and prevent excesses. They soften the asperities of high-handed
boys and girls, which else would be too biting; and they set people at
ease, and make them in good humour with themselves, by the courtesy
with which they listen to them and the patience with which they bear
with them. Even the very girls who hate them fiercely as rivals love
them passing well as half maternal, half sisterly, companions; and the
first person to whom they would carry their sorrows would be a mature
siren, quite capable for her own part of having caused them.

It would be hard indeed if the loss of youth did not bring with it
some compensations; but the mature siren suffers less from that loss
than any other kind of woman. Indeed, she seems to have a private
elixir of her own which is not quite drained dry when she dies,
beloved and regretted, at threescore years and ten; leaving behind her
one or two old friends who were once her ardent lovers, and who still
cherish her memory as that of the finest and most fascinating woman
they ever knew--something which the present generation is utterly
incapable of repeating.



_PUMPKINS._


Pumpkins are among the most imposing of all groundling growths. They
have fine showy flowers, handsome leaves, roving stems, and they bear
solid-looking fruit of a goodly size and gorgeous colour. To see them
spreading over their domain with such rapid luxuriance, one would
imagine them among the best things growing; but a critical examination
proves their flesh to be about three parts water, while as for their
stalks, they are of so pithless a nature that they can only creep
along the earth, unable to stand upright without support;--which tells
something against the pumpkin's claim for extra consideration. Still,
their showy largeness attracts the eye, and not a few of us believe in
pumpkins, and admire both their mode of growth and the fruit
resulting. In like manner the human pumpkins--those beings of imposing
presence and loud self-assertion--get themselves believed in by the
simple; and, as occasions by which their watery and fibreless nature
is revealed do not arise every day, they are for the most part
accepted for the substantialities they assume to be, and the world is
deceived by appearances as it ever has been.

These human pumpkins abound everywhere. In all states and professions,
and in both sexes, we find them flourishing magnificently on the face
of the earth, taking the lead in their society and setting themselves
out as the finest fellows to be found in their respective gardens.
Among them are the men of the Bombastes type, so dear to the older
playwrights; braggadocios of the kill 'em and eat 'em school, who were
such terrible fellows to look at and listen to, though only pumpkins
of a singularly innocuous nature when stoutly squeezed and analyzed;
fire-eaters of the juggling kind, with special care taken that the
fire shall be harmless and that the danger shall lie only in the fear
of the spectators. Now that duelling has gone out of fashion, and
discharged captains who have signalized themselves in war are rare,
our old swashbuckler type of pumpkins has gone out both in fact and
fiction, on the stage and off it. To be sure we have a few travellers
of slightly apocryphal courage, and more than doubtful accuracy, whose
books of perilous adventure and breathless dangers are to us what
Bombastes and Bobadil were to our fathers; and we have Major
Wellington de Boots with his military swagger and his hare's heart.
But he is a very weak imitation of the old fire-eater; and, on the
whole, this special family of the pumpkins has dwindled into
insignificance, and their place knows them no more.

Then there is the pumpkin after the cut of the Prince Regent--the man
of deportment, big, handsome, showy, and specially noticeable for
a loud voice, a broad chest, and an indescribable air of superiority
and command; the man who has studied bowing as one of the fine arts,
who walks with a swagger, and even now tips his curly-brimmed hat
slightly to the side. This is the kind of man who influences women.
Bombastes frightens the nervous and inexperienced of his own sex, but
the man of deportment partly fascinates and partly overawes the other.
They take him at his own valuation, and have not skill enough to find
out the flaw in the summing up until perhaps it is too late, when they
have come so near to him that they are able to appraise him for
themselves, and have learnt by bitter experience of what unsound
materials he is made. And then let him look out. There is nothing
women resent so much as pumpkin manhood--nothing which humiliates them
more in their own esteem than to discover that they have been taken in
by appearances, and that what they had believed in as solid wood turns
out to be only squash.

Women like to rely on men, and dread nothing so much as weakness and
vacillation in their male protectors; save indeed those grim and bulky
females in whom Hood so much delighted, who take small men _vi et
armis_, and subjugate them body and soul, like two-legged poodles
trained to fetch and carry at the word of command. But these are
exceptions; the average woman prizing strength rather than poodle-like
docility. The pumpkin of the Prince Regent cut is generally
notorious for laying down the law on all points. His voice is so loud
and his manner of speech so dictatorial, that no one dreams of
doubting still less of contradicting him, but everybody takes him as
he represents himself to be--a man of prompt decision, of boundless
resources, a granitic tower of strength to be leant against in all
emergencies without the slightest fear of failure; a man who is not
only sufficient for himself but strong enough to bear the weaknesses
of others. He is famous for giving advice--advice of a vague, rapid,
sprawling kind, never quite exact to the circumstances, never quite
practical nor to the point--large advice, general in scope but
wonderfully positive in tone, and, until you analyze, grandly imposing
in effect. Nail him to the point; ask his advice seriously on any
question where the responsibility of counsel will rest with him; place
yourself in his hands where the consequences of failure will touch him
as well as you; and then see to what meagre dimensions your goodly
gourd will shrink. The confident assertion drops into a weak
hesitation; the arrogant dictum melts into a timid refusal to take
such a serious responsibility on himself; you have pricked your
windbag, bisected your pumpkin, and henceforth you know the precise
weight of substance remaining. Yet mankind sees him exactly where he
was before, and he will go about the world in his large, loud way,
saying to every one that if you had followed his advice you would have
succeeded--supposing you have failed; or, if you have succeeded,
he will take all the credit to himself, and say it was he who guided
you and showed you how to go in and win. For himself, and his own
affairs, he has no more moral stamina than he had leadership for you
and yours. The least reverse knocks him over. Care or sorrow, when it
touches him, shrivels him up as completely as frost shrivels up the
pumpkin. In every circumstance requiring promptitude, coolness, keen
perception, just decision, our swaggering man of froth fails
ignominiously; and one hour of real pressure proves incontestably that
he was only a pumpkin of imposing presence, good neither as meat nor
staff when the time of trial came.

Very often the pumpkin has a wife whose fibre is as close as his is
loose, and whose nature is as tough as his is soft; a hard-eyed,
thin-lipped, tenacious woman, who speaks little and boasts not at all,
but who does all she wishes to do, and whose iron will pins her
pumpkin to the wall as the spear of the Bushman pins the elephant or
the rhinoceros. It is very curious to see how a blatant blustering man
who is so loud and confident abroad, knocks under at home; and how the
high-crested deportment which carries things with such a lofty bearing
out of doors droops into the meek submission of the henpecked husband
so soon as the house-door closes on him, and he is subjected to the
pitiless analysis of home. There is no question of flourish then; and
if by chance the ambitious crest should make an effort to display
itself, the wife knows how to lower it by a few decisive words of a
keen-edged kind, and her pumpkin is made to feel sharply enough the
difference existing between fibre and pulp. It is almost melancholy to
see one of these fine flourishing fellows so subdued. Pumpkin as he
may be, it is not pleasant to see him so cut down in his pride; and
involuntarily one's sympathies go with him rather than with that
tenacious, hard-mouthed wife of his, who would be none the worse
perhaps for a little of her husband's essential softness and with less
than her own hardness.

How often too, these big fellows have no physical stamina as well as
but very shaky moral fibre! A small, wiry light-weight will do twice
as much as they; not, of course, where muscle only is wanted, but
where the question is of endurance. Large heavy men knock up far
sooner than the light-weights; and though size and weight count for
something at certain times and on occasions, fibre and tenacity go for
more in the long run. In the Crimea, the men who first dropped off
from exposure and privation were the magnificently-built
Guardsmen--men apparently bred and fed to the highest point of
physical perfection; while the undersized little liners, who had
nothing to be admired in them, stood the strain gamely, and were brisk
and serviceable when the others were either dead or in hospital. So
far as we have gone yet, we have not solved the problem of how to
combine toughness and bigness, solidity and size, but for the
most part fail in the one in proportion as we succeed in the other.

Many of the dark-skinned races are what we may call emotional
pumpkins. Their flashing black eyes and swarthy skins seem to be
instinct with passion; they look like living furnaces filled with
flames and molten metal, terrible fellows, dangerous to meddle with
and almost impossible to subdue. But nine times out of ten we find
them to be marvellously meek persons, timid, amenable to law, unable
to give offence and incapable of taking it--lambs masquerading in
tiger-skins. A fair-faced Anglo-Saxon, with his sensitive blush,
good-humoured smile and light blue eyes, has more pluck and pith in
him than a whole brigade of certain of these dark-skinned men. He has
less ferocity perhaps than they when they are thoroughly roused,
though our good-humoured Anglo-Saxon is by no means destitute of
ferocity on occasions when his blood is up; but his is ferocity of the
quarter-staff and bludgeon stand-up fight kind--the ferocity of
strength fairly put out against an adversary, not the tigerish cruelty
which is almost always found when moral weakness and physical
submission have a momentary triumph and reaction. Cowardly men are
like women in their revenge when once they get the upper hand; and
their revenge is more cruel than that of the habitually brave man who,
after a fair fight, overthrows his opponent. Some of the dark-skinned
races look the very ideal of the melodramatic ruffian--operatic
brigands painted with broad black lines, and up to any amount of
deeds of daring and of crime; but they are only pumpkins at the core.
We need not go so far as Calcutta to find them; we get examples nearer
home, both in Houndsditch and in Rome; for both Jews and Italians are
soft-cored men in spite of their passionate outsides, and both would
be better for an extra twist and toughness in their fibres.

Intellectual pumpkins are as common as those of the more specially
physical kind. You meet with philosophers and 'thinkers'--perhaps they
are poets, perhaps politicians--who flourish out a vague big
declamation which, when you reduce it to its essence, you find to be a
platitude worth nothing; whipped cream, without any foundation of
solid pudding. If they are of the philosophic sort, they quote you
Fichte and Hegel, to the bewilderment of your brains unless you have
gone into the metaphysical maze on your own account; but they might
have put all they have said into half a dozen words of three letters,
like a child's first reading lesson. The flourish imposes, and people
who cannot analyze take the whipped cream for solid pudding, and think
that platitudes dressed in the garb of Fichte and Hegel are utterances
worthy of deep respect and admiring wonder.

All the professions which talk, either by word of mouth or in print,
are specially given to this manifestation of pumpkinhood. Preachers
and authors sprawl and flourish over their small inheritance with a
tremendous assumption of vital force and vigorous growth; and
weak hands, with weaker heads, find support and shelter in their
foliage. Poets too, with a knack for turning out large moulds in which
they have run very small ideas, are pumpkins dear to the feminine
mind. Have we not our Tupper? had we not our 'Satan' Montgomery? and a
few others whom we might catalogue if we cared for the task, each with
his multifarious female following and his spiritual harem of ardent
admirers? All artists--that is, the men who create, or rather who
assume to create--are liable to be proved pumpkins when called on to
show themselves solid wood. They talk grandly enough, but when they
have to translate their words into deeds, too often the noble aims and
immortal efforts they have been advocating tail off into pulp and
water, and we have botches and pot-boilers instead of masterpieces and
high art. Perhaps we may take it as a rule that all doers who talk
much and boast grandly are of the pumpkin order, and that art, like
nature, elaborates best in silence.

Strong-visaged women are often pure pumpkins with a very rough and
corrugated outside. It is astonishing how soon they break down, and
for all their stern and powerful looks sink under burdens under which
a frail little creature, as light as thistledown, will glide along
quite easily. Women with black brows and harsh voices--brigandesses by
appearance, or like the typical Herodias of unimaginative artists--are
often the gentlest and most pithless of their sex, and may be seen
acting quite compassionately towards their infants, or vindicating
their womanhood by meekly sewing on their husbands' buttons and
weeping at their rebukes; while a fair, silver-tongued, languid lady,
as soft as if she were made of nothing harder than the traditional
cream and rose-leaves, will give up her babies as a prey to unfeeling
nurses and let her husband go buttonless and in rags, while she
lounges before the fire indifferent to his wrath and callous to his
wrongs. There is many a house mistress who looks as if she could use
her fists when annoyed, who is absolutely afraid of her servants; and
the maid is always the mistress when the one is fibre and the other
pulp.

Heaven be praised that the strong-visaged women are not 'clear grit'
all through. If they were as hard as they look, the world would go but
queerly, and society would have to make new laws for the protection of
its weaker male members. But nature is merciful as well as sportive,
and while she amuses herself by creating pumpkins of formidable
aspect, takes care that the core shall not always correspond to the
rind. Like the Athenian images of the satyr which enclosed a god, the
black-browed brigandesses and the men of magnificent deportment are
sometimes impostors of a quite amiable kind; and when you have once
learnt by heart the false analogies of form, you will cease to fear
your typical Herodias, to be impressed by your copy of the Prince
Regent, or to be influenced by your wordy Hegelian talking platitudes
in the philosophic dialect.



_WIDOWS._


There are widows and widows; there are those who are bereaved and
those who are released; those who lose their support and those whose
chains are broken; those who are sunk in desolation and those who wake
up into freedom. Of the first we will not speak. Theirs is a sorrow
too sacred to be publicly handled even with sympathy; but the second
demand no such respectful reticence. The widow who is no sooner
released from one husband than she plots for another, and the widow
who leaps into liberty over the grave of a gaoler, not a lover, are
fair game enough. They have always been favourite subjects whereon
authors may exercise their wits; and while men are what they
are--laughing animals apt to see the humour lying in incongruity, and
with a spice of the devil to sharpen that same laughter into
satire--they will remain favourite subjects, tragic as the state is
when widowhood is deeper than mere outward condition.

There are many varieties of the widow and all are not beautiful. For
one, there is the widow who is bent on re-marrying whether men like it
or not; that thing of prey who goes about the world seeking whom
she may devour; that awful creature who bears down on her victims with
a vigour in her assaults which puts to flight the popular fancy about
the weaker sex and the natural distribution of power. No hawk poised
over a brood of hedge birds, no shark cruising steadily towards a
shoal of small fry, no piratical craft sailing under a free flag and
accountable to no law save success, was ever more formidable to the
weaker things pursued than is the hawk widow to men when she is bent
on re-marrying. She knows so much!--there is not a manoeuvre by which
a victory can be stolen that she has not mastered and she is not
afraid of even the most desperate measures. When she has once struck,
he would be a clever man and a strong one who should escape her.
Generally left but meagrely provided for in worldly goods--else her
game would not be difficult--she makes up for her financial poverty by
her wealth of bold resources, and by the courage with which she takes
her own fortunes in hand and, with her own, those of her more eligible
masculine associates. She is a woman of purpose and lives for an end;
and that end is remarriage, with the most favourable settlement that
can be obtained by her lawyer from his. If fate has dealt hardly by
her--though, may be, compassionately by her successive spouses--and
has landed her in the widowed state twice or thrice, she is in nowise
daunted and as little abashed. She merely refits after a certain time
of anchorage, and goes out into the open again for a repetition
of her chance. She has no notion of a perpetuity of weeds, and, though
she may have cleared her half century with a margin besides, thinks
the suggestive orange-blossoms of the bride infinitely more desirable
than the fruitless heliotrope of the widow. If one husband is taken,
she remembers the old proverb, and reflects on the many, quite as
good, who are left potentially subject to her choice. And somehow she
manages. It has been said that any woman can marry any man if she
determines to do so, and follows on the line of her determination with
tenacity and common-sense.

The hawk widow exemplifies the truth of this saying. She determines
upon marriage; and she usually succeeds; the question being one of
victim only, not of sacrifice. One has to fall to her share; there is
no help for it; and the whole contest is, which shall it be? which is
strongest to break her bonds? which craftiest to slip out of them?
which most resolute not to bear them from the beginning? This the
straggling covey must settle among themselves the best way they can.
When the hawk pounces down upon its quarry, it is _sauve qui peut_!
But all cannot be saved. One has to be caught; and the choice is
determined partly by chance and partly by relative strength. When the
widow of experience and resolve bears down on _her_ prey, the result
is equally certain. Floundering avails nothing; struggling and
splashing are just as futile; one among the crowd has to come to the
slaughter, like Mrs. Bond's ducks, and to assist at his own
immolation. The best thing he can do is to make a handsome surrender,
and to let the world of men and brothers believe he rather likes his
position than not.

But there are pleasanter types of the re-marrying widow than this.
There is the widow of the Wadman kind, who has outlived her grief and
is not disinclined to a repetition of the matrimonial experiment, if
asked humbly by an experimenter after her own heart. But she must be
asked humbly that she may grant in a pretty, tender, womanly way--if
not quite so timidly as a girl, yet as becomingly in her degree, and
with that peculiar fascination which nothing but the combination of
experience and modesty can give. The widow of the Wadman kind is no
creature of prey, neither shark nor hawk; at the worst she is but a
cooing dove, making just the sweetest little noise in the world, the
tenderest little call to indicate her whereabouts, and to show that
she is lonely and feels a-cold. She sits close, waiting to be found,
and does not ramp and dash about like the hawk sisterhood; neither
does she pretend that she is unwilling to be found, still less deny
that a soft warm nest, well lined and snugly sheltered, is better than
a lonely branch stretching out comfortless and bare into the bleak
wide world. She, too, is almost sure to get what she wants, with the
advantage of being voluntarily chosen and not unwillingly submitted
to.

This is the kind of woman who is always mildly but thoroughly
happy in her married life; unless indeed her husband should be a
brute, which heaven forefend. She lives in peace and bland contentment
while the fates permit, and when he dies she buries him decently and
laments him decorously; but she thinks it folly to spend her life in
weeping by the side of his cold grave, when her tears can do no good
to either of them. Rather she thinks it a proof of her love for him,
and the evidence of how true was her happiness, that she should elect
to give him a successor. Her blessed experience in the past has made
her trustful of the future; and because she has found one man faithful
she thinks that all are Abdiels. As a rule, this type of woman does
find men pleasant; and by her own nature she ensures domestic
happiness. She is always tenderly, and never passionately, in love,
even with the husband she has loved the best. She gives in to no
excesses to the right nor to the left. Her temperament is of that
serene moonlight kind which does not fatigue others nor wear out its
possessor. Without ambition or the power to fling herself into any
absorbing occupation, she lives only to please and be pleased at home;
and if she be not a wife, wearing her light fetters lovingly and proud
that she is fettered, she is nothing. As some women are born mothers
and others are born nuns, so is the Wadman woman a born wife, and
shines in no other character nor capacity. But in this she excels; and
knowing this, she sticks to her _rôle_, how frequently so ever
the protagonist may be changed.

There are widows, however, who have no thought nor desire for
remaining anything but widows--who have gained the worth of the world
in their condition, 'Jeune, riche, et veuve--quel bonheur!' says the
French wife, eyeing 'mon mari' askance. Can the most exacting woman
ask for more? And truly such a one is in the most enviable position
possible to a woman, supposing always that she has not lost in her
husband the man she loved. If she has lost only the man who sat by
right at the same hearth with herself--perhaps the man who quarrelled
with her across the ashes--she has lost her burden and gained her
release.

The cross of matrimony lies heavy on many a woman who never takes the
world into her confidence, and who bears in absolute silence what she
has not the power to cast from her. Perhaps her husband has been a man
of note, a man of learning, of elevated station, a political or a
philanthropic power. She alone knew the fretfulness, the petty
tyranny, the miserable smallness at home of the man of large repute
whom his generation conspired to honour, and whose public life was a
mark for the future to date by. When he died the press wrote his
eulogy and his elegy; but his widow, when she put on her weeds, sang
softly in her own heart a pæan to the great King of Freedom, and
whispered to herself Laudamus with a sigh of unutterable relief.
To such a woman widowhood has no sentimental regrets. She has come
into possession of the goods for which perhaps she sold herself; she
is young enough to enjoy the present and to project a future; she has
the free choice of a maid and the free action of a matron, as no other
woman has. She may be courted and she need not be chaperoned, nor yet
forced to accept. Experience has mellowed and enriched her; for though
the asperities of her former condition were sharp while they lasted,
they have not permanently roughened nor embittered her. Then the sense
of relief gladdens, while the sense of propriety subdues, her; and the
delicate mixture of outside melancholy, tempered with internal warmth,
is wonderfully enticing. Few men know how to resist that gentle
sadness which does not preclude the sweetest sympathy with pleasures
in which she may not join--with happiness which is, alas! denied her.
It gives an air of such profound unselfishness; it asks so mutely, so
bewitchingly, for consolation!

Even a hard man is moved at the sight of a pretty young widow in the
funereal black of her first grief, sitting apart with a patient smile
and eyes cast meekly down, as one not of the world though in it. Her
loss is too recent to admit of any thought of reparation; and yet what
man does not think of that time of reparation? and if she be more than
usually charming in person and well dowered in purse, what man does
not think of himself as the best repairer she could take? Then, as
time goes on and she glides gracefully into the era of mitigated
grief, how beautiful is her whole manner, how tasteful her attire! The
most exquisite colours of the prismatic scale look garish beside her
dainty tints, and the untempered mirth of happy girls is coarse beside
her subdued admission of moral sunshine. Greys as tender as a dove's
breast; regal purples which have a glow behind their gloom; stately
silks of sombre black softly veiled by clouds of gauzy white or
brightened with the 'dark light' of sparkling jet--all speak of
passing time and the gradual blooming of the spring after the sadness
of the winter; all symbolize the flowers which are growing on the sod
that covers the dear departed; all hint at a melting of the funereal
gloom into the starlight of a possible bridal. She begins too to take
pleasure in the old familiar things of life. She steals into a quiet
back seat at the Opera; she just walks through a quadrille; she sees
no harm in a fête or flower-show, if properly companioned. Winter does
not last for ever; and a life-long mourning is a wearisome prospect.
So she goes through her degrees in accurate order, and comes out at
the end radiant.

For when the faint shadows cast by the era of mitigated grief fade
away, she is the widow _par excellence_--the blooming widow, young,
rich, gay, free; with the world on her side, her fortune in her hand,
the ball at her foot. She is the freest woman alive; freer even than
any old maid to be found. Freedom, indeed, comes to the old maid
when too late to enjoy it; at least in certain directions; for while
she is young she is necessarily in bondage, and when parents and
guardians leave her at liberty, the world and Mrs. Grundy take up the
reins and hold them pretty tight. But the widow is as thoroughly
emancipated from the conventional bonds which confine the free action
of a maid as she is from those which fetter the wife; and only she
herself knows what she has lost and gained. She bore her yoke well
while it pressed on her. It galled her but she did not wince; only
when it was removed, did she become fully conscious of how great had
been the burden, from her sense of infinite relief through her
freedom. The world never knew that she had passed under the harrow;
probably therefore it wonders at her cheerfulness, with the dear
departed scarce two years dead; and some say how sweetly resigned she
is, and others how unfeeling. She is neither. She is simply free after
having lived in bondage; and she is glad in consequence. But she is
dangerous. In fact, she is the most dangerous of all women to men's
peace of mind. She does not want to marry again--does not mean to
marry again for many years to come, if ever; granted; but this does
not say that she is indifferent to admiration or careless of men's
society. And being without serious intentions herself, she does not
reflect that she may possibly mislead and deceive others who have no
such cause as she has to beware of the pleasant folly of love and its
results.

In the exercise of her prerogative as a free woman, able to cultivate
the dearest friendships with men and fearlessly using her power, she
entangles many a poor fellow's heart which she never wished to engage
more than platonically, and crushes hopes which she had not the
slightest intention to raise. Why cannot men be her friends? she asks,
with a pretty, pleading look--a tender kind of despair at the
wrong-headedness of the stronger sex. But, tender as she is, she does
not easily yield even when she loves. The freedom she has gone through
so much to gain she does not rashly throw away; and if ever the day
comes when she gives it up into the keeping of another--and for all
her protestations it comes sometimes--the man to whom she succumbs may
congratulate himself on a victory more flattering to his vanity, and
more complete in its surrender of advantages, than he could have
gained over any other woman. Belle or heiress, of higher rank or of
greater fame than himself, no unmarried woman could have made such a
sacrifice in her marriage as did this widow of means and good looks,
when she laid her freedom, her joyous present and potential future, in
his hand. He will be lucky if he manages so well that he is never
reproached for that sacrifice--if his wife never looks back
regretfully to the time when she was a widow--if there are no longing
glances forward to possibilities ahead, mingled with sighs at the
difficulty of retracing a step when made. On the whole, if a woman can
live without love, or with nothing stronger than a tender
sentimental friendship, widowhood is the most blissful state she can
attain. But if she be of a loving nature and fond of home, finding her
own happiness in the happiness of others and indifferent to
freedom--thinking, indeed, that feminine freedom is only another word
for desolation--she will be miserable until she has doubled her
experience and carried on the old into the new.



_DOLLS._


The love of dolls is instinctive with girl children; and a nursery
without some of these silent simulacra for the amusement of the little
maids is a very lifeless affair. But outside the nursery door dolls
are stupid things enough; and, whether improvised of wisped-up bundles
of rags or made of the costliest kind of composition, they are at the
best mere pretences for the pastime of babies, not living creatures to
be loved nor artistic creations to be admired. Certainly they are
pretty in their own way, and some are made to simulate human actions
quite cleverly; and one of their charms with children is that they can
be treated like sentient beings without a chance of retaliation. They
can be scolded for being naughty; put to bed in broad daylight for a
punishment; seated in the corner with their impassive faces turned to
the wall, just as the little ones themselves are dealt with; the doll
all the time smiling exactly as it smiled before, its round blue beads
staring just as they stared before; neither scolding nor cornering
making more impression on its sawdust soul than do little missy's sobs
and tears when nurse is cross and dolly is her only friend. But
the child has had its hour of play and make-believe sentiment of
companionship and authority; and so, if the doll can do no good of
itself, it can at least be the occasion of pleasantness to others.

Now there are women who are dolls in all but the mere accident of
material. The doll proper is a simple structure of wax or wood, 'its
knees and elbows glued together;' and the human doll is a complex
machine of flesh and blood. But, saving such structural differences,
these women are as essentially dolls as those in the bazaar which open
and shut their eyes at the word of command enforced by a wire, and
squeak when you pinch them in the middle. There are women who seem
born into the world only as the playthings and make-believes of human
life. As impassive as the waxen creatures in the nursery, no
remonstrance touches them and no experience teaches them. Their final
cause seems to be to look pretty, to be always in perfect drawing-room
order, and to be the occasions by which their friends and companions
are taught patience and self-denial. And they perfectly fulfil their
destiny; which may be so much carried to their credit. A doll woman is
hopelessly useless and can do nothing with her brains or her hands. In
distress or sickness she can only sit by you and look as sorrowful as
her round smooth face will permit; but she has not a helping
suggestion to make, not a fraction of practical power to put forth.

When a man has married a doll wife he has assigned himself to absolute
loneliness or a double burden. He cannot live with his pretty toy in
any more reality of sympathy than does a child with her puppet. He can
tell her nothing of his affairs, nothing of his troubles nor of his
thoughts, because she can impart no new idea, even from the woman's
point of view, not from want of heart but from want of brains to
understand another's life. Is she not a doll? and does not the very
essence of her dollhood lie in this want of perceptive faculty both
for things and feelings? What are the hot flushes of passion, the
bitter tears of grief, the frenzy of despair, to her? She sees them;
and she wonders that people can be so silly as to make themselves and
her so uncomfortable; but of the depth of the anguish they express she
knows no more than does her waxen prototype when little missy sobs
over it in her arms and confides her sorrows to its deaf ears.
Whatever anxieties oppress her husband, he must keep them to himself,
he cannot share them with her; and the last shred of his credit, like
the last effort of his strength, must be employed in maintaining his
toy wife in the fool's paradise where alone she can make her
habitation. Many a man's back has broken under the strain of such a
burden; and many a ruined fortune might have been held together and
repaired when damaged, had it not been for the exigencies and
necessities of the living doll, who had to be spared all want or
inconvenience at the cost of everything else. How many men are
groaning in spirit at this moment over the infatuation that made them
sacrifice the whole worth of life for the sake of a pretty face and a
plastic manner!

The doll woman is as helpless practically as she is useless morally.
If she is in personal danger, she either faints or becomes dazed,
according to her physiological conditions. Sometimes she is hysterical
and frantic, and then she is actively troublesome. In general,
however, she is just so much dead weight on hand, to be thought for as
well as protected; a living corpse to be carried on the shoulders of
those who are struggling for their own lives. She can foresee no
possibilities, measure no distances, think of no means of escape.
Never quick nor ready, pressure paralyzes such wits as she possesses;
and it is not from selfishness so much as from pure incapacity to help
herself or to serve others that the poor doll falls down in a helpless
heap of self-surrender, and lets her very children perish before her
eyes without making an effort to protect them.

As a mother indeed, the doll woman is perhaps more unsatisfactory than
in any other character. She gives up her nursery into the absolute
keeping of her nurse, and does not attempt to control nor to
interfere. This again, is not from want of affection, but from want of
capacity. In her tepid way she has a heart, if only half-vitalized
like the rest of her being; and she is by no means cruel. Indeed, she
has not force enough to be cruel nor wicked anyhow; her worst
offence being a passive kind of selfishness, not from greed but from
inactivity, by which she is made simply useless for the general good.
As for her children, she understands neither their moral nature nor
their physical wants; and beyond a universal 'Oh, naughty!' if the
little ones express their lives in the rampant manner proper to young
things, or as a universal 'Oh, let them have it!' if there is a howl
over what is forbidden or unwise, she has no idea of discipline or
management. If they teaze her, they are sent away; if they are
naughty, they are whipped by papa or nurse; if they are ill, the
doctor is summoned and they have medicine as he directs; but none of
the finer and more intimate relations usual between mother and child
exist in the home of the doll mother. The children are the property of
the nurse only; unless indeed the father happens to be a specially
affectionate and a specially domestic man, and then he does the work
of the mother--at the best clumsily, but at the worst better than the
doll could have done it.

Very shocking and revolting are all the more tragic facts of human
life to the smooth-skinned easy-going doll. When it comes to her own
turn to bear pain, she wonders how a good God can permit her to
suffer. Had she brains enough to think, the great mystery of pain
would make her atheistical in her angry surprise that she should be so
hardly dealt with. As dolls have a constitutional immunity from
suffering, her first initiation into even a minor amount of
anguish is generally a tremendous affair; and though it may be pain of
a quite natural and universal character, she is none the less
indignant and astonished at her portion. She invariably thinks herself
worse treated than her sisters, and cannot be made to understand that
others suffer as much as, and more than, herself. As she has always
shrunk from witnessing trouble of any kind, and as what she may have
seen has passed over her mind without leaving any impression, she
comes to her own sorrows totally inexperienced; and one of the most
pitiable sights in the world is that of a poor doll woman writhing in
the grasp of physical agony, and broken down or rendered insanely
impatient by what other women can bear without a murmur.

When she is in the presence of the moral tragedies of life, she is as
lost and bewildered as she is with the physical. All sin and crime are
to her odd and inexplicable. She cannot pity the sinner, because she
cannot understand the temptation; and she cannot condemn from any
lofty standpoint, because she has not mind enough to see the full
meaning of iniquity. It is simply something out of the ordinary run of
her life, and the doll naturally dislikes disturbance, whether of
habit or of thought. Yet if a noted criminal came and sat down by her,
she would probably whisper to her next friend, 'How shocking!' but she
would simper when he spoke, and perhaps in her heart feel flattered by
the attention of even so doubtful a notoriety. If she be a doll
with a bias towards naughtiness, the utmost limit to which she can go
is a mild kind of curiosity about the outsides of things--the mere
husk and rind of the forbidden fruit--such as wondering how such and
such people look who have done such dreadful things; and what they
felt the next morning; and how could they ever come to think of such
horrors! She would be more interested in hearing about the dress and
hair and eyes of the female plaintiff or defendant in a famous cause
than many other women would be; but she would not give herself the
trouble to read the evidence, and she would take all her opinions
secondhand. But whether the colour of the lady's gown was brown or
blue, and whether she wore her hair wisped or plaited, would be
matters in which she would take as intense an interest as is possible
to her.

The utmost limit to which enthusiasm can be carried with her is in the
matter of dress and fashion; and the only subject that thoroughly
arouses her is the last new colour, or the latest eccentricity of
costume. Talk to her of books, and she will go to sleep; even novels,
her sole reading, she forgets half an hour after she has turned the
last page; while of any other kind of literature she is as profoundly
ignorant as she is of mathematics; but she can discuss the mysteries
of fashion with something like animation, these being to her what the
wire is to the eyes of the dolls in the bazaar. Else she has no power
of conversation. At the head of her own table she sits like a
pretty waxen dummy, and can only simper out a few commonplaces, or
simper without the commonplaces, satisfied if she is well appointed
and looks lovely, and if her husband seems tolerably contented with
the dinner. She is more in her element at a ball, where she is only
asked to dance and not wanted to talk; but her ball-room days do not
last for ever, and when they are over she has no available retreat.

If a rich doll woman is a mistake, a poor one who has been rich is
about the greatest infliction that can be laid on a suffering
household. Not all the teaching of experience can make wax and glue
into flesh and blood, and nothing can train the human doll into a
dignified or a capable womanhood. She still dresses in faded
finery--which she calls keeping up appearances; and still has
pretensions which no 'inexorable logic of facts' can destroy. She
spends her money on sweets and ribbons and ignores the family need for
meat and calico; and she sits by the fireside dozing over a trashy
novel, while her children are in rags and her house is given over to
disorder. But then she has a craze for the word 'lady-like,' and
thinks it synonymous with ignorance and helplessness. She abhors the
masculine-minded woman who helps her--sister, cousin, daughter--so far
as she can abhor anything; but she is glad to lean on her strength,
despite this abhorrence, and, while grumbling at her masculinity, does
not disdain to take advantage of her power. The doll is only passively
disagreeable though; and for all that she carps under her breath,
will remain in any position in which she is placed. She will not act,
but she will let you act unhindered; which is something gained when
you have to deal with fools.

This quiescence of hers passes with the world for plasticity and
amiability; it is neither; it is simply indolence and want of
originating force. While she is young, she is nice enough to those who
care only for a pretty face and a character founded on negatives; but
when a man's pride of life has gone, and he has come into the phase of
weakness, or under the harrow of affliction, or into the valley of the
shadow of death, then she becomes in sorrowful truth the chain and
bullet which make him a galley-slave for the remainder of his days,
and which sign him to drudgery and despair.

As an old woman the doll has not one charm. She has learned none of
that handiness, come to none of that grand maternal power of helping
others, which should accompany maturity and age and has still to be
thought for and protected, to the exclusion of the younger and
naturally more helpless, as when she was young herself, and beautiful
and fascinating, and men thought it a privilege to suffer for her
sake. Nine times out of ten she has lost her temper as well as her
complexion, and has become peevish and unreasonable. She gets fat and
rouges; but she will not consent to get old. She takes to false hair,
dyes, padded stays, arsenic or 'anti-fat,' and to artful contrivances
of every description; but alas! there is no 'dolly's hospital' for her
as there used to be for her battered old prototype in the nursery
lumber-closet; and, whether she likes it or not, she has to succumb to
the inevitable decree, and to become faded, worn out, unlovely, till
the final _coup de grâce_ is given and the poor doll is no more. Poor,
weak, frivolous doll! it requires some faith to believe
that she is of any good whatsoever in this overladen life of ours; but
doubtless she has her final uses, though it would puzzle a Sanhedrim
of wise men to discover them. Perhaps in the great readjustment of the
future she may have her place and her work assigned to her in some
inter-stellar Phalansterie; when the meaning of her helpless earthly
existence shall be made manifest and its absurd uselessness atoned for
by some kind of celestial 'charing.'



_CHARMING WOMEN._


There are certain women who are invariably spoken of as charming. We
never hear any other epithet applied to them. They are not said to be
pretty, nor amiable, nor clever, though they may be all three, but
simply charming; which we may take as a kind of verbal amalgam--the
concentration and concretion of all praise. The main feature about
these charming women is their intense feminality. There is no blurring
of the outlines here; no confusion of qualities admirable enough in
themselves but slightly out of place considering the sex; no Amazonian
virtues which leave one in doubt as to whether we have not before us
Achilles in petticoats rather than a true Pyrrha or a more tender
Deidamia.

A charming woman is woman all over--one who places her glory in being
a woman and has no desire to be anything else. She is a woman rather
than a human being, and a lady rather than a woman. One of her
characteristics is the exquisite grace of her manner which so sweetly
represents the tender nature within. She has not an angle anywhere. If
she were to be expressed geometrically, Hogarth's Line of Beauty
is the sole figure that could be used for her. She is flowing,
graceful, bending in mind as in body; she is neither self-asserting
nor aggressive, neither rigid nor narrow; she is a creature who glides
gracefully through life, and adjusts herself to her company and her
circumstances in a manner little less than marvellous; working her own
way without tumult or sharpness; creeping round the obstacles she
cannot overthrow, and quietly wearing down more friable opposition
with that gentle persistency which does so much more than turmoil and
disturbance.

Even if enthusiastic--which she is for art, either as music, as
painting, or yet as poetry--she is enthusiastic in such a sweet and
graceful way that no one can be offended by a fire which shines and
does not burn. There is no touch of scorn about her and no assumption
of superior knowledge. She speaks to you, poor ignorant Philistine,
with the most flattering conviction that you follow her in all her
flights; and when she comes out, quite naturally, with her pretty
little bits of recondite lore or professional technicalities, you
cannot be so boorish as to ask for an explanation of these trite
matters which she makes so sure you must understand. Are you not an
educated person with a soul to be saved? can you then be ignorant of
things with which every one of culture is familiar? She discourses
confidentially of musicians and painters unknown to fame, and speaks
as if she knew the secret doings of the Conservatoire and the R. A.
council-chamber alike. The models and the methods, the loves and
the hates, of the artistic world are to her things of every-day life,
and you cannot tell her that she is shooting her delicate shafts wide
of the mark, and that you know no more of what she means than if she
were talking in the choicest Arabic.

If she has been abroad--and she generally has been more or less--she
will pour out her tender little rhapsodies about palazzi and musei of
which you have never heard, but every room of which she assumes you
know by heart; and she will speak of out-of-the-way churches, and grim
old castles perched upon vine-clad mounts, as if you were as well
acquainted with them as with your native hamlet. She will bring into
her discourse all manner of Italian technicalities, as if you
understood the subject as well as she herself understands it; though
your learning is limited to a knowledge of how much has been done in
jute and tallow this last half year, or how many pockets of hops went
off in the market last week. If she has a liking for high life and
titles--and what charming woman has not?--she will mention the names
of all manner of counts and dukes and monsignori unknown to English
society, as though they were her brothers; but if you were to
interrupt the gentle ripple of her speech with such rude breakwaters
as 'who?' and 'what?' the charming woman would think you a horrid
bore--and no man would willingly face that humiliation. One may be a
rhinoceros in one's own haunts, but, as the fable tells us, even
rhinoceroses are ashamed of their parentage when among gazelles.

Never self-asserting, never contradictory, only sweetly and tenderly
putting you right when you blunder, the charming woman nevertheless
always makes you feel her superiority. True, she lays herself as it
were at your feet and gives you a thousand delicate flatteries--indeed
among her specialities is that of being able to set you on good terms
with yourself by her art of subtle flattery; but despite her own
self-abasement and your exaltation you cannot but feel her
superiority; and, although she is too charming to acknowledge what
would wound your pride, you know that she feels it too, and tries to
hide it. All of which has the effect of making you admire her still
more for her grace and tact.

The charming woman is generally notoriously in love with her husband,
who is almost always inferior to her in birth, acquirements, manner,
appearance. This Titania-like affection of hers only shows her
feminine qualities of sacrifice and wifely devotion to greater
advantage, and makes other men envy more ferociously the lucky fellow
who has drawn such a prize. The husband of a charming woman is indeed
lucky in the world's esteem; no man more so. Though he may be one of
the most ordinary, perhaps unpleasant, fellows you know, with a sour
face, an underbred air, and by no means famous in his special sphere,
his wife speaks of him enthusiastically as so good, so clever, so
delightful! No one knows how good he is, she says; though of
course he has his little peculiarities of temper and the rest of it,
and perhaps every one would not bear with them as she does. But then
she knows him, and knows his wonderful worth and value! If they are
not seen much together, that comes from causes over which they have no
control, not from anything like disinclination to each other's
society. Certainly, for so happy a marriage, it is a little surprising
how very seldom they are together; and how all her friends are hers
only and not his, and how much she goes into society without him. On
the whole, counting hours, they live very much more apart than united;
but that is the misfortune of his career, of his health, or of hers--a
misfortune due to any cause but that of diversity of tastes,
inharmoniousness of pursuits, or lack of love.

Full of home affection and the tenderest sentiment as she is, the
charming woman does sometimes the oddest-looking things, which a rough
little domestic creature without graceful pretensions would not dream
of doing. Her child is lying dangerously ill, perhaps dying, and she
appears at the grand ball of the season, subdued certainly--how well
that sweet melancholy becomes her!--but always graceful, always
thoughtful for others, and attentive to the minutest detail of her
social duties. And though indeed, she will tell you, she does not know
how she got dressed at all, because of the state of cruel anxiety in
which she is, yet she is undeniably the best dressed woman in the room
and the most carefully appointed. It is against her own will that
she is there, you may be sure; but she has been forced to sacrifice
herself, and tear herself away for an hour. The exigencies of society
are so merciless!--the world is such a terrible Juggernaut! she says,
raising her eyes with plaintive earnestness to yours in the
breathing-times of the waltz.

She has another trial if her husband is ordered out to Canada or the
West Indies. Dearly as she loves him, and though she is heart-broken
at the idea of the separation, yet her health cannot stand the
climate; and she must obey her doctor's orders. She is so delicate,
you know--all charming women are delicate--and the doctor tells her
she could not live six months either in Toronto or Port Royal. If her
lord and master had to go on diplomatic service to St. Petersburg or
Madrid, she might be able to stand the climate then; but that is
different. A dull station, without any of her favourite pleasures,
would be more than she could bear; so she remains behind, goes out
into society, and writes her husband tender and amusing letters once a
month.

The charming woman is the gentlest of her sex. She would not do a
cruel thing nor say an unkind word for the world. When she tells you
the unpleasant things which ill-natured people have said of your
friends or hers, she tells them in the sweetest and dearest way
imaginable. She is so sure there is not a syllable of truth in it all;
and what a shame it is that people should be so ill-natured! In the
gentle tone of sympathy and deprecation peculiar to her, she
gives you all the ugly and uncomfortable reports which have come to
her, and of which you have never heard a breath until this moment. Yet
it is you who are stupid, not she who is initiative, for she tells
them to you as if they were of patent notoriety to the whole world;
only she does not believe them, remember! She takes the most
scrupulous care to deny and defend as she retails, and you cannot
class her with the tribe of the ill-natured whom she censures,
setting, as she does, the whole strength of her gentle words and
generous disbelief in opposition to these ugly rumours. Yet you wish
she had not told you. Her disclaimers spring so evidently from the
affectionate amiability of her own mind, which cannot bear to think
evil, that they have not much effect upon you. The excuse dies away
from your memory, but the ill-savoured report roots; and you feel that
you have lost your respect for your former friends for ever; or, if
they were only hers, then, that nothing should tempt you to know them.
There is no smoke without some fire, you think; and the charming woman
cannot possibly have kindled the flame herself out of sticks and
leaves and rubbish of her own collecting. But how sweet and charitable
she was when she told you! how much you love her for her tenderness of
nature! what a guileless and delightful creature she is!

The charming woman is kind and graceful, but she does not command the
stronger virtues. She flatters sweetly, but, it must be
confessed, she fibs as sweetly. She sometimes owns to this, but only
to fibs that do more good than harm--fibs into the utterance of which
she is forced for the sake of peace and to avoid mischief. It is a
feminine privilege, she says; and men agree with her. Truth at all
times--bold, uncompromising, stern-faced truth--is coarse and
indelicate she says; a masculine quality as little fitted for women as
courage or great bodily strength. Her husband knows that she fibs; her
friends at times find her out too; but though the women throw it at
her as an accusation, the men accept it as a quality without which she
would be less the charming woman that she is; and not only forgive it,
but like her the better for the grace and tact and suppleness she
displays in the process of manufacture. Hers are not the severer
virtues, but the gentler, the more insinuating; and absolute
truth--truth at any price and on all occasions--does not come into the
list.

Charming women, with their plastic manners and non-aggressive force,
always have their own way in the end. They are the women who influence
by unseen methods and who shrink from any open display of power. They
know that their _métier_ is to soothe men, to put them on good terms
with themselves, and so to get the benefit of the good humour they
induce; and they dread nothing so much as a contest of wills. They
coax and flatter for their rights, and consequently they are given
privileges in excess of their rights; whereas the women who take
their rights, as things to which they are entitled without favour,
lose them and their privileges together. This art of self-abasement
for future exaltation is one which it is given only to few to carry to
perfection, but no woman is really charming without it. In fact it is
part of her power; and she knows it. Though charming women are
decidedly the favourites with men, they are careful to keep on good
terms with their own sex; and in society you may often see them almost
ostentatiously surrounded by women only, whom they take pains to
please or exert themselves to amuse, but whom they throw into the
shade in the most astonishing way.

Whatever these really charming women are, or do, or wear, is exactly
the right thing; and every other woman fails in proportion to the
distance she is removed from this model. When a charming woman is
dressed richly, the simpler costumes of her friends look poor and
mean; when she is _à la bergère_, the Court dresses about her are
vulgar; when she is gay, quietness is dullness; when she is quiet,
laughter is coarse. And there is no use in trying to imitate her. She
is the very Will-o'-the-wisp of her circle, and no sooner shows her
light here than she flits away there; she has no sooner set one
fashion, which her admiring friends have adopted with infinite pains
and trouble, than she has struck out a new one which renders all the
previous labour in vain. This is part of her very essence; and the
originality which is simply perfection that cannot be repeated, and
not eccentricity that no one will imitate, comes in as one of the
finest and most potent of her charms. When she lends her patterns to
her friends, or tells them this or that little secret, she laughs in
her heart, knowing that she has shown them a path they cannot possibly
follow and raised up a standard to which they cannot attain. And even
should they do either, then she knows that, by the time they have
begun to get up to her, she will be miles away, and that no art
whatever can approximate them to her as she is. What she was she
tosses among them as a worn-out garment; what she is they cannot be.
She remains still the unapproachable, the inimitable, the charming
woman _par excellence_ of her set, whom none can rival.



_APRON-STRINGS._


Among other classifications, the world of men and women may be divided
into those who wear aprons and those who are tied to the strings
thereof--those who determine the length of the tether and those who
are bound to browse within its circuit--those who hold the reins and
those who go bitted. All men and women are fond of power, but there is
a wide difference in the ways in which they use it. To men belong the
grave political tyrannies at which nations revolt and history is
outraged, to women the small conventional laws framed against
individual liberty by Mrs. Grundy and society; men rule with rods of
iron and drive with whips of steel, women shorten the tether and tie
up close to apron-strings; men coerce, women forbid. In fact, the
difference is just that which lies between action and negation,
compulsion and restraint; between the masculine jealousy of equality
and the feminine fear of excess. If men debar women from all entrance
into their larger sphere, women try to dwarf men's lives to their own
measure, and not a few hold themselves aggrieved when they fail. They
think that everything which is impossible to them should be
forbidden to others, and they maintain that to be a lamentable extreme
which is simply in excess of their own powers. Not content with
supremacy in the home which is their own undisputed domain, nor
satisfied with binding on men the various rules distinguishing life in
the drawing-room, the dining-room and the breakfast-parlour, they
would, if they could, carry their code outside, and sweep into its
narrow net the club-house and the mess-table, the billiard-room and
the race-course, and wherever else men congregate together--delivered
from the bondage of feminine conventionalities.

For almost all women have an uneasy feeling when their men are out of
sight, enjoying themselves in their own way. They fear on all
sides--both bodily harm and moral evil; and regard men's rougher
sports and freer thoughts as a hen regards her wilful ducklings when
they take to the water in which she would be drowned, and leave her
high and dry lamenting their danger and self-destruction. The man they
love best for his manliness they would, in their loving cowardice, do
their utmost to make effeminate; and, while adoring him for all that
makes him bold and strong in thought as well as in frame, they would
tie him up to their apron-strings, and keep him there till he became
as soft and narrow as themselves. Not that they would wish to do so;
if you asked them they would tell you quite the contrary. But this
would be the result if they had their own way, their love being
at all times more timid than confident.

To home-staying women, a brilliant husband courted by the world and
loving what courts him, is a painful cross to bear, however much he
may be beloved--the pain, in fact, being proportionate to the love.
Perhaps no life exemplifies this so much as Moore's. Poor "Bessy"
suffered many things because of the looseness of the apron-string by
which her roving husband was tied, and the length of the tether which
he allowed himself. _Farfallone amoroso_ as he was, his incessant
flutterings out of range and reach caused her many a sad hour; and in
after years she was often heard to say that the happiest time of her
life was when his mind had begun to fail, for then she had him all to
herself and no one came in between them--no great world swept him away
to be the idol of a _salon_, and left her alone at home casting up her
accounts with life and love, and quaking at the result that came out.
When the brilliancy and the idolatry came to an end, then her turn
began; and she tied up her dulled and faltering idol close to her side
for ever after, and was happier to have him there helpless,
affectionate, dependent and imbecile than when he was at his
brightest--and a rover.

Many a wife has felt the same when sickness has broken down the strong
man's power to a weakness below her own, and made her, so long the
inferior, now the more powerful of the two, and the supreme. She
gathers up the reins with that firm, tight hand peculiar to
women, and ties her master to her apron-string so that he cannot
escape. It is quite a matter of pride with her that she has got him
into such good order. He obeys her so implicitly about his medicines,
and going to bed early, and wrapping himself up, and avoidance of
draughts and night-air, that she feels all the reflected glory of one
who has conquered a hero. The Samson who used to defy the elements and
break her careful strings like bands of tow, has at last laid his head
in her lap and suffered himself to be covered by her apron. It is
worth while to have had the anxiety and loss of his illness for the
sake of the submission resulting; and she generally ends by gaining a
hold over him which he can never shake off again.

It is pitiful though, to see the stronger life thus dwarfed and bound.
But women like it; and while the need for it lasts men must submit.
The danger is lest the habit of the apron-string should become
permanent; for it is so perilously pleasant to be petted and made much
of by women, that few men can resist the temptation when it offers;
and many have been ruined for the remainder of their days by an
illness which gave them up into the keeping of wife and sisters--those
fireside Armidas who will coddle all the real manliness out of their
finest heroes, if they are let. If this kind of thing occurs at the
break of life, the _mezzo cammino_ between maturity and age, it is
doubly difficult to throw off; and many a man who had good years
of vigour and strength, before him if he had been kept up to the mark,
sinks all at once into senility because his womankind got frightened
at that last small attack of his, and thought the best way to preserve
him from another was to weaken him by over-care out of all wish for
dangerous exposure.

Perhaps the greatest misfortune that can befall a man is to have been
an only son brought up by a timid widow mother. It is easy to see at a
glance, among a crowd of boys, who has been educated under exclusively
feminine influence. The long curled shining hair, the fantastic
tunic--generally a kind of hybrid between a tunic and a frock--the
lavish use of embroidery, the soft pretty-behaved manner, the clean
unroughened hands, all mark the boy of whom his mother has so often
wished that he had been a girl, and whom she has made as much like a
girl as possible. His intellectual education has been as unboylike as
his daily breeding. Mothers' boys are taught to play the piano, to
amuse themselves with painting, or netting, or perhaps a little
woolwork in the evenings--anything to keep them quietly seated by the
family table, without an outbreak of boyish restlessness or
inconvenient energy; but they are never taught to ride, to hunt, to
shoot, to swim, to play at cricket, football, nor billiards, unless a
stalwart uncle happens to be about who takes the reins in his own hand
at times, and insists on having a word to say to his nephew's
education.

There is danger in all, and evil in some, of these things; and
women cannot bear that those they love should run the risk of either.
Wherefore their boys are modest and virtuous truly, but they are not
manly; and when they go out into the world, as they must sooner or
later, they are either laughed at for their priggishness, or they go
to the bad by the very force of reaction. The mother has allowed them
to learn nothing that will be of solid use to them, and they enter the
great arena wholly unprepared either to fight or to resist, to push
their own way or to take their own part. They have been kept tied up
to the apron-string to the last moment, and only when absolutely
forced by the necessity of events will she cut the knot and let them
go free. But she holds on to the last moment. Even when the time comes
for college-life and learning, she often goes with her darling, and
takes lodgings in the town, that she may be near at hand to watch over
his health and morals, and continue her careful labours for his
destruction.

The chances are that a youth so brought up never becomes a real man,
nor worth his salt anyhow. He is a prig if he is good, a debauchee of
the worst kind if he kicks over the traces at all. He is more likely
the first, carrying the mark of the apron-string round his wrist for
life. Like a tame falcon used to the hood and the perch and the lure
home, no matter what the temptation of the quarry afield, he is
essentially a domestic man, at ease only in the society of women; a
fussy man; a small-minded man; delicate in health; with a dread
of strong measures, physical, political, or intellectual; a crotchety
man given to passing quackeries; but not a man fit for man's society
nor for man's work. When there are many boys, instead of only one, in
a widow's family, the opposite of all this is the case. So soon as
they have escaped from the nursery, they have escaped from all control
whatsoever; and if one wants to realize a puerile pandemonium of dirt,
discomfort, noise and general disorganization, the best place in the
world is the household of a feeble-spirited mother of many sons where
there is no controlling masculine influence.

Daughters, who are naturally and necessarily tied up to the mother's
apron-string, suffer occasionally from too tight a strain; though
certainly it is not the fault of the present day that girls are too
closely fettered, too home-staying or subdued. Still, every now and
then one comes across a matron who has crushed all individuality out
of her family, and whose grown-up daughters are still children to her
in moral go-carts and intellectual leading-strings. They may be the
least attractive of their sex, but a mother of this kind has one fixed
delusion respecting them--namely, that the world is full of wolves
eager to devour her lambs, and that they are only safe when close to
the maternal apron and browsing within an inch of the tether stake.
These are the girls who become hopeless old maids. Men have an
instinctive dread of the maternal apron-string. They do not want to
marry a mother as well as a wife, and to live under a double
dominion and a reduplicated opposition.

It is all very well to say that a girl so brought up is broken in
already, and therefore more likely to make a good wife than many
others, seeing that it is only a transfer of obedience. That may do
for slaves who cannot be other than slaves whoever is the master; but
it does not do for women who, seeing their friends freer than
themselves, reflect with grief and longing that, had fate so ordered
it, they might have been free too. The chances here, as with the
mothers' boys, are, that the girl kept too close to the apron-string
during her spinsterhood goes all abroad so soon as she gets on the
free ground of matrimony, and lets her liberty run into license. Or
she keeps her old allegiance to her mother intact, and her husband is
never more than the younger branch at best. Most likely he is a
usurper, whom it is her duty to disobey in favour of the rightful
ruler when they chance to come into collision.

If women had their will, all national enterprise would be at an end.
There would be no Arctic Expeditions, no Alpine Clubs, no dangerous
experiments in science, no firearms at home, no volunteering--in their
own family at least. All the danger would be done by the husbands and
brothers and sons of other women, but each would guard her own. For
women cannot go beyond the individual; and the loss of one of their
own, by misadventure, weighs more with them than the necessity of
keeping up the courage and hardihood of the nation. Nor do they
see the difference between care and coddling, refinement and
effeminacy; consequently, men are obliged to resist their influence,
and many cut the apron-string altogether, because delicate fingers
will tie the knots too tight. They do not remember that the influence
to which men yield as a voluntary act of their own grace is a very
different thing from obedience to the open denial, the undisguised
interference and restraint, which some women like to show. Men respect
the higher standard of morality kept up by women; they obey the major
and the minor laws of refinement which are framed for home life and
for society; and they confess that, without woman's influence, they
would soon degenerate into mere savages and be no better than so many
Choctaws before a generation was over; but they do not like being
pulled up short, especially in public, and hounded into the safe
sheepfold for all the world to see them run. And they resent the
endeavour. And the world resents it too, and feels that something is
wrong when a woman shows that she has the whip hand, and that she can
treat her husband like a petted child or bully him like a refractory
one; that she has him tied to her apron-strings and tethered to the
stake of her will. But there is more of this kind of thing in families
than the world at large always knows of; and many a fine, stalwart
fellow who holds his own among men, who is looked up to at his
club and respected in his office for his courage, decision and
self-reliance, sinks into mere poodledom at home, where his wife has
somehow managed to get hold of the leading-strings, and has taught him
that the only way to peace is by submission and obedience.



_FINE FEELINGS._


There are people who pride themselves on the possession of what it
pleases them to call fine feelings. Perhaps, if we were all diligent
to call spades spades, these same fine feelings would come under a
less euphemistic heading; but, as things are, we may as well adopt the
softening gloze that is spread over the whole of our language, and
call them by a pretty name with the rest. People who possess fine
feelings are chiefly remarkable for the ease with which they take
offence; it being indeed impossible, even for the most wary of their
associates, to avoid giving umbrage in some shape, and generally when
least intended and most innocently minded. Nothing satisfies them. No
amount of attention, short of absolute devotion and giving them the
place of honour everywhere, sets them at ease with themselves or keeps
them in good-humour. If you ask them to your house, you must not dream
of mixing them up with the rest. Though you have done them an honour
in asking them at all, you must give them a marked position and bear
them on your hands for the evening. They must be singled out from the
herd and specially attended to; introduced to the nicest people;
made a fuss with and taken care of; else they are offended, and feel
they have been slighted--their sensitiveness or fine feelings being a
kind of Chat Moss which will swallow up any quantity of _petits soins_
that may be thrown in, and yet never be filled. If they are your
intimate friends, you have to ask them on every occasion on which you
receive. They make it a grievance if they hear that you have had even
a dinner party without inviting them, though your space is limited and
you had them at your last gathering. Still, if it comes to their ears
that you have had friends and did not include them, they will come
down on you to a dead certainty if they are of the franker kind, and
ask you seriously, perhaps pathetically, how they have offended you?
If they are of the sullen sort they will meet you coldly, or pass you
by without seeing you; and will either drift into a permanent
estrangement or come round after a time, according to the degree of
acidity in their blood and the amount of tenacity in their character.
They have lost their friends many times for no worse offence than
this.

They are as punctilious too, as they are exacting. They demand visit
for visit, invitation for invitation, letter for letter. Though you
may be overwhelmed with serious work, while they have no weightier
burden strapped to their shoulders than their social duties and social
fineries, yet you must render point for point with them, keeping an
exact tally with not a notch too many on their side, if you want
to retain their acquaintance at all. And they must be always invited
specially and individually, even to your open days; else they will not
come at all; and their fine feelings will be hurt. They suffer no
liberties to be taken with them and they take none with others;
counting all frock-coat friendliness as taking liberties, and holding
themselves refined and you coarse if you think that manners _sans
façon_ are pleasanter than those which put themselves eternally into
stays and stiff buckram, and are never in more undress than a Court
suit. They will not go into your house to wait for you, however
intimate they may be; and they would resent it as an intrusion,
perhaps an impertinence, if you went into theirs in their absence. If
you are at luncheon when they call, they stiffly leave their cards and
turn away; though you have the heartiest, jolliest manner of
housekeeping going, and keep a kind of open house for luncheon
casuals. They do not understand heartiness or a jolly manner of
housekeeping; open houses are not in their line and they will not be
luncheon casuals; so they turn away grimly, and if you want to see
them you have to send your servant panting down the street after them,
when, their dignity being satisfied, their sensitiveness smoothed down
and their fine feelings reassured, they will graciously turn back and
do what they might have done at first without all this fuss and fume.

When people who possess fine feelings are poor, their
sensitiveness is indeed a cross both for themselves and their friends
to bear. If you try to show them a kindness or do them a service, they
fly out at you for patronizing them, and say you humiliate them by
treating them as paupers. You may do to your rich acquaintances a
hundred things which you dare not attempt with your poor friends
cursed with fine feelings; and little offices of kindness, which pass
as current coin through society, are construed into insults with them.
Difficult to handle in every phase, they are in none more dangerous to
meddle with than when poor, though they are as bad if they have become
successful after a period of struggle. Then your attention to them is
time-serving, bowing to the rising sun, worshipping the golden calf,
&c. Else why did you not seek them out when they were poor? Why were
you not cap in hand when they went bare-headed? Why have you waited
until they were successful before you recognized their value?

It is funny to hear how bitter these sensitive folks are when they
have come out into the sunlight of success after the dark passage of
poverty; as if it had been possible to dig them out of their obscurity
when their name was still to make--as if the world could recognize its
prophets before they had spoken. But this admission into the
penetralia after success is a very delicate point with people of fine
feelings, supposing always the previous struggle to have been hard;
and even if there has been no struggle to speak of, then there are
doubts and misgivings as to whether they are liked for themselves
or not, and morbid speculations on the stability and absolute value of
the position they hold and the attentions they receive, and endless
surmises of what would be the result if they lost their fame or wealth
or political power or social standing--or whatever may be the hook
whereon their success hangs, and their fine feelings are impaled. The
act of wisdom most impossible to be performed by these self-torturers
is the philosophic acceptance of life as it is and of things as they
fall naturally to their share.

Women remarkable for fine feelings are also remarkable for that uneasy
distrust, that insatiable craving which continually requires
reassuring and allaying. As wives or lovers they never take a man's
love, once expressed and loyally acted on, as a certainty, unless
constantly repeated; hence they are always pouting or bemoaning their
loveless condition, getting up pathetic scenes of tender accusation or
sorrowful acceptance of coolness and desertion, which at the first may
have a certain charm to a man because flattering to his vanity, but
which pall on him after a short time, and end by annoying and
alienating him; thus bringing about the very catastrophe which was
deprecated before it existed.

Another characteristic with women of fine feelings is their inability
to bear the gentlest remonstrance, the most shadowy fault-finding. A
rebuke of any gravity throws them into hysterics on the spot; but even
a request to do what they have not been in the habit of doing, or to
abstain from doing that which they have used themselves to do, is
more than they can endure with dry-eyed equanimity. You have to live
with them in the fool's paradise of perfectness, or you are made to
feel yourself an unmitigated brute. You have before you the two
alternatives of suffering many things which are disagreeable and which
might easily be remedied, or of having your wife sobbing in her own
room and going about the house with red eyes and an expression of
exasperating patience under ill-treatment, far worse to bear than the
most passionate retaliation. Indeed women may be divided broadly into
those who cry and those who retort when they are found fault with;
which, with a side section of those wooden women who 'don't care,'
leaves a very small percentage indeed of those who can accept a rebuke
good-temperedly, and simply try to amend a failing or break off an
unpleasant habit, without parade of submission and sweet Griseldadom
unjustly chastised, but kissing the rod with aggravating meekness.

For there are women who can make their meekness a more potent weapon
of offence than any passion or violence could give. They do not cry,
neither do they complain, but they exaggerate their submission till
you are driven half mad under the slow torture they inflict. They look
at you so humbly; they speak to you in so subdued a voice, when they
speak to you at all, which is rarely and never unless first addressed;
they avoid you so pointedly, hurrying away if you are going to meet
them about the house, on the pretext of being hateful to your
sight and doing you a service by ridding you of their presence; they
are so ostentatiously careful that the thing of which you mildly
complained under some circumstances shall never happen again under any
circumstances, that you are forced at last out of your entrenchments,
and obliged to come to an explanation. You ask them what is amiss? or,
what do they mean by their absurd conduct? and they answer you
'Nothing,' with an injured air or affected surprise at your query.
What have they done that you should speak to them so harshly? They are
sure they have done all they could to please you, and they do not know
what right you have to be vexed with them again. They have kept out of
your way and not said a word to annoy you; they have only tried to
obey you and to do as you ordered, and yet you are not satisfied! What
can they do to please you? and why is it that they never can please
you whatever they do? You get no nearer your end by this kind of
thing; and the only way to bring your Griselda to reason is by having
a row; when she will cry bitterly, but finally end by kissing and
making up. You have to go through the process. Nothing else, save a
sudden disaster or an unexpected pleasure of large dimensions, will
save you from it; but as we cannot always command earthquakes nor
godsends, and as the first are dangerous and the last costly, the
short and easy method remaining is to have a decisive 'understanding,'
which means a scene and a domestic tempest with smooth sailing till
the next time.

Sometimes fine feelings are hurt by no greater barbarity than that
which is contained in a joke. People with fine feelings are seldom
able to take a joke; and you will hear them relating, with an injured
accent and as a serious accusation, the merest bit of nonsense you
flung off at random, with no more intention of wounding them than had
the merchant the intention of putting out the Efreet's eye when he
flung his date-stones in the desert. As you cannot deny what you have
said, they have the whip-hand of you for the moment; and all you can
hope for is that the friend to whom they detail their grievance will
see through them and it, and understand the joke if they cannot. Then
there are fine feelings which express themselves in exceeding
irritation at moral and intellectual differences of opinion--fine
feelings bound up in questions of faith and soundness of doctrine,
having taken certain moral and theological views under their especial
patronage and holding all diversity of judgment therefrom a personal
offence. The people thus afflicted are exceedingly uncomfortable folks
to deal with, and manage to make every one else uncomfortable too. You
hurt their feelings so continually and so unconsciously, that you
might as well be living in a region of steel-traps and spring-guns,
and set to walk blindfold among pitfalls and water-holes. You fling
your date-stone here too, quite carelessly and thinking no evil,
and up starts the Efreet who swears you have injured him intentionally.
You express an opinion without attaching any particular importance
to it, but you hurt the fine feelings which oppose it, and unless you
wish to have a quarrel you must retract or apologize. As the worst
temper always carries the day, and as fine feelings are only bad tempers
under another name, you very probably do apologize; and so the matter
ends.

Other people show their fineness of feeling by their impatience of
pain and the tremendous grievance they think it that they should
suffer as others--they say, so much more than others. These are the
people who are great on the theory of nervous differences, and who
maintain that their cowardice and impatience of suffering means an
organization like an Æolian harp for sensibility. The oddest part of
the business is the sublime contempt which these sensitives have for
other persons' patience and endurance, and how much more refined and
touching they think their own puerile sensibility. But this is a
characteristic of humanity all through; the masquerading of evil under
the name of good being one of the saddest facts of an imperfect nature
and a confused system of morals. If all things showed their faces
without disguise, we should have fine feelings placed in a different
category from that in which they stand at this moment, and the world
would be the richer by just so much addition of truth.



_SPHINXES._


There are people to whom mystery is the very breath of life and the
main element of their existence. Without it they are insignificant
nobodies; by its aid they are magnified into vague and perhaps awful
potentialities. They are the people who take the Sphinx for their
model, and like her, speak darkly and in parables; making secrets of
every-day matters which would be patent to the whole world in their
simplicity, but which, by the magic of enigmatic handling, become
riddles that the curious would give their lives to unravel.

Nothing with these people is confessed and above board, and nothing is
shown openly so that you may look at it all round and judge for
yourself what it is like and what it is worth. The utmost they do is
to uncover just a corner of something they keep back in the bulk,
tantalizing you with glimpses that bewilder and mislead; or they will
dangle before you the end of a clue which they want you to take up and
follow, making you believe that you will be guided thereby into the
very heart of a mystery, and that you will find a treasure hidden in
the centre of the maze which will abundantly repay you for the
trouble of hunting it out. Nine times out of ten you will find nothing
but a scarecrow of no more value than the rags of which it is
composed--if even you find that. They are the people who repeat to you
the most trivial things you may have said, and who remind you of the
most unimportant things you may have done, years ago, all of which you
have totally forgotten; but they will speak of them in a mysterious
manner, as if they had been matters of vital meaning at the
time--things which would open, if followed up, a page in your private
history that it were better should be forgotten. As it is a question
of memory, you cannot deny point-blank what they affirm; and as we all
have pages of private history which we would rather not hear read
aloud at the market-cross, you are obliged to accept their highly
suggestive recollections with a queer feeling of helplessness and
being somehow in their power--not knowing how much they are really
acquainted with your secret affairs, nor whether the signal they have
flashed before your eyes is a feint or a revelation.

Of the same sort, with a difference, are those who are always going to
tell you something some day--people burdened with a perennial mystery
which never sees the light. You are for ever tormented with these folks'
possibilities of knowledge. You turn over in your own mind every
circumstance that you think they could have got hold of; you cunningly
subject all your common friends to crafty cross-examination; you go,
link by link, through the whole chain connecting you with them; but
you can find nothing that leads to the mere outskirts of the mystery.
You can make nothing of it; and your sphinx goes on to the end promising
some day to tell you something which dies with him untold. Your only
consolation is the inner conviction that there was nothing to tell
after all.

Then there are sphinxes of a more personal kind--people who keep their
affairs a profound secret from every one, who wash all their dirty
linen scrupulously at home and double-lock the door of the cupboard
where the family skeleton lives. They are dungeons of silence,
unfathomable abysses of reserve. You never know more of them, mind nor
estate, than what you can learn from the merest outside of things.
Look back, and you cannot recollect that you have ever heard them
speak of their family or of their early days; and you are not
acquainted with a living soul with whom they are connected. You may
visit them for years without knowing that such and such a friend is
their cousin, or maybe their sister. If they are unmarried men, they
have no address save at their club; and neither you nor their most
intimate friends have an idea where they sleep. For all you know to
the contrary they may be married, with a fine flourishing family
snugly stowed away in some suburban villa, where perhaps they live
under another name, or with the omission or addition of a title that
effectually masks their real individuality. If this is their
special manifestation of sphinxhood, they take as many precautions
against being identified as a savage when out on a scouting
expedition. They obliterate all traces of themselves so soon as they
leave their office in the City, and take it as a terrible misfortune
if the truth is ever discovered; though there is nothing disgraceful
in their circumstances, and their wives and children are healthy and
presentable.

Most of us have been startled by the sudden discovery, in our own
circle of friends, of the wife and children of some member of our
society hitherto supposed to be a bachelor and unshackled. All the
time that we have been joking him on his celibacy and introducing him
to various young ladies likely to make good wives if properly taught,
he has been living in the holy estate a little way out of town, where
he is at last stumbled on by some OEdipus who tells the secret to all
the world and blows the mystery to the winds. We may be very sure that
the officious OEdipus in question gets no thanks for his pains, and
that the sphinx he has unmasked would rather have gone on living in
congenial secrecy with his unacknowledged family in that remote
suburban villa, than be forced into publicity and recognition. Leading
two lives and personating two men--the one as imagined by his friends,
the other as known to his belongings--was a kind of existence he liked
infinitely better than the commonplace respectability of being _en
évidence_ throughout.

With certain sphinxes, no one but the officials concerned ever
knows what they have done, where they have served, what laurels they
have gained. It comes out quite by accident that they were in the
Crimea, where, like Jack Poyntz in _School_, they were heroes in their
own way, though they don't talk about it; or that they performed
prodigies of valour in the Indian Mutiny and obtained the Victoria
Cross, which they never wear. This kind has at least the merit of
being unboastful; keeping their virtues hidden like the temple which
the real sphinx held between her paws, and to which only those had
access who knew the secret of the way. But though it is hateful to
hear a man blowing his own trumpet in season and out of season, yet it
is pleasant to know the good deeds of one's neighbours, and to have
the power of admiring what is worthy of admiration. Besides, modesty
and mystery are not the same things; and there is a mean to be found
between the secrecy of a sphinx making riddles of commonplace matters,
and the cackle of a hen when she has laid an egg for the family
breakfast.

The monetary or financial sphinx is one of the oddest of the whole
tribe and one of the most mysterious. There are people who live on
notoriously small incomes--such as the widows, say, of naval or
military men, whose pensions are printed in blue-books and of whose
yearly receipts the world can take exact cognizance--yet who dress in
velvet and satin, perpetually go about in cabs and hired carriages,
and are never without money to spend, though always complaining
of poverty. How these financial sphinxes manage surpasses the
understanding of every one; and by what royal road they arrive at the
power of making two do the work of four is hidden from the ordinary
believers in Cocker. You know their ostensible income; indeed, they
themselves put it at so much; but they keep up a magnificent
appearance on a less sum than that on which you would go shabby and
dilapidated. When you ask them how it is done, they answer, 'by
management.' Anything can be done by management, they say, by those
who have the gift; which you feel to be an utterance of the sphinx--a
dark saying the key to which has not yet been forged.

You calculate to the best of your ability, and you know that you are
sound in your arithmetic; but, do what you will, you can never come to
the rule by which five hundred a year can be made to compass the
expenditure of a thousand. If you whisper secret supplies, concealed
resources, your sphinx will not so much as wink her eyelid. How she
contrives to make her ostensible five hundred do the work of a
thousand--how she gets velvet and satin for the value of cotton and
stuff, and how, though always complaining of poverty, she keeps
unfailingly flush of cash--how all this is done is her secret, and she
holds it sacred. And you may be quite sure of one thing--it is a
secret she will never share with you nor any one else.

The rapidly-working _littérateur_ is another sphinx worth
studying as a curiosity--we might say, indeed, a living miracle. There
he stands, a jovial, self-indulgent, enjoying man, out in society
every night in the week; by no means abstinent from champagne, and as
little given to early rising as he is to consumption of the midnight
oil. But he gets through a mass of work which would be respectable in
a mere copyist, and which is little less than miraculous in an
original producer. How he thinks, when he finds time to make up his
plots, to work out his characters, even to correct his proofs, are
riddles unanswerable by all his friends. Taking the mere mechanical
act alone, he must write faster than any living man has ever been
known to write, to get through all that goes under his name. And when
is it done? Literary sphinxes of this kind go about unchallenged;
indeed, they are very much about, and to be beheld everywhere; and one
looks at them with respect, not knowing of what material they are
made, nor of what mysterious gifts they are the possessors. Novels,
plays, essays, poems, come pouring forth in never slackening supply.
The railway stations and all hoardings are made gorgeous by the
announcement of their feats set out in red and blue and yellow. No
sooner has one blaze of triumph burnt itself out than another blaze of
triumph flares up; and nothing but death or a rich inheritance seems
likely to stop their mysterious fecundity. How is it done? That is the
secret of the literary sphinx, to which the admiring and amazed
brotherhood is anxiously seeking some clue; but up to the present hour
it has been kept jealously guarded and no solution has been arrived
at.

There is another form of the literary sphinx in the Nobodies and Anons
who speak from out the darkness and let no man see whence the voice
proceeds. They are generally tracked to their lair sooner or later,
and the sphinx's head turns out to be only a pasteboard mask behind
which some well-known Apuleian hid himself for a while, working much
amazement among the wondering crowd while the clasps held good, but
losing something of that fervid worship when the reality became known.
Others, again, of these Anons have, like Junius, kept their true abode
hidden and their name a mystery still, though there be some who swear
they have traced the footsteps and know exactly where the sphinx
lives, and what is the name upon his frontlet, and of what race and
complexion he is without his mask. It may be so. But as every
discoverer has a track of his own, and as each swears that his sphinx
is the real one and no other, the choice among so many becomes a
service of difficulty; and perhaps the wisest thing to do is to
suspend judgment until the literary sphinx of the day chooses to
reveal himself by the prosaic means of a title-page, with his name as
author printed thereon and his place of abode jotted down at the foot
of the preface.



_FLIRTING._


There are certain things which can never be accurately
described--things so shadowy, so fitful, so dependent on the mood of
the moment, both in the audience and the actor, that analysis and
representation are equally at fault. And flirting is one of them. What
is flirting? Who can define or determine? It is more serious than
talking nonsense and not so serious as making love; it is not chaff
and it is not feeling; it means something more than indifference and
yet something less than affection; it binds no one; it commits no one
though it raises expectations in the individual and sets society on
the look-out for results; it is a plaything in the hands of the
experienced but a deadly weapon against the breast of the unwary; and
it is a thing so vague, so protean, that the most accurate measurer of
moral values would be puzzled to say where it exactly ends and where
serious intentions begin.

But again we ask: What is flirting? What constitutes its essence? What
makes the difference between it and chaff on the one hand, and it and
love-making on the other? Has it a cumulative power, and,
according to the old saying of many a pickle making a mickle, does a
long series of small flirtings make up a concrete whole of love? or is
it like an unmortared heap of bricks, potential utilities if
conditions were changed, but valueless as things are? The man who
would be able to reduce flirting to a definite science, who could
analyze its elements and codify its laws, would be doing infinite
service to his generation; but we fear that this is about as difficult
as finding the pot of gold under the end of a rainbow, or catching
small birds with a pinch of salt.

Every one has his or her ideas of what constitutes flirting;
consequently every one judges of that pleasant exercise according to
individual temperament and experience. Faded flowers, who see
impropriety in everything they are no longer able to enjoy, say with
more or less severity that Henry and Angelina are flirting if they are
laughing while whispering together in an alcove, probably the most
innocent nonsense in the world; but the fact that they are enjoying
themselves in their own way, albeit a silly one, is enough for the
faded flower to think they are after mischief, flirting being to her
mind about the worst bit of mischief that a fallen humanity can
perpetrate. The watchful mother, intent on chances, says that dancing
together oftener than is necessary for good breeding and just the
amount of attention demanded by circumstances, is flirting; timid
girls newly out, and not yet used to the odd ways of men, think
they are being flirted with outrageously if their partner fires off
the meekest little compliment at them, or looks at them more tenderly
than he would look at a cabbage; but bolder spirits of both sexes
think nothing worthy of the name which does not include a few
questionable familiarities, and an equivoke or two, more or less
risky. With some, flirting is nothing but the passing fun of the
moment; with others, it is the first lesson of the great unopened book
and means the beginning of the end; with some, it is not even angling
with intent; with others, it is deep-sea fishing with a broad,
boldly-made net, and taking all fish that come in as good for sport if
not for food.

Flirts are of many kinds as well as of all degrees. There are quiet
flirts and demonstrative flirts; flirts of the subtle sort whose
practice is made by the eyes alone, by the manner, by the tender
little sigh, by the bend of the head and the wave of the hand, to give
pathos and point to the otherwise harmless word; and flirts of the
open and rampant kind, who go up quite boldly towards the point, but
who never reach it, taking care to draw back in time before they
fairly cross the border. This is the kind which, as the flirt male,
does incalculable damage to the poor little fluttering dove to whom it
is as a bird of prey, handsome, bold, cruel; but this is the kind
which has unlimited success, using as it does that immense moral
leverage we call 'tantalizing'--for ever rousing hopes and exciting
expectations, and luring a woman on as an _ignis fatuus_ lures us
on across the marsh, in the vain belief that it will bring us to our
haven at last.

Akin to this kind are those male flirts who are great in the way in
which they manage to insinuate things without committing themselves to
positive statements. They generally contrive to give the impression of
some mysterious hindrance by which they are held back from full and
frank confession. They hint at fatal bonds, at unfortunate
attachments, at a past that has burnt them up or withered them up, at
any rate that has prevented their future from blossoming in the
direction in which they would fain have had it blossom and bear fruit.
They sketch out vaguely the outlines of some thrilling romance; a few,
of the Byronic breed, add the suspicion of some dark and melancholy
crime as a further romantic charm and personal obstacle; and when they
have got the girl's pity, and the love that is akin to pity, then they
cool down scientifically, never creating any scandal, never making any
rupture, never coming to a moment when awkward explanations can be
asked, but cooling nevertheless, till the thing drops of its own
accord and dies out from inanition; when they are free to carry their
sorrows and their mysteries elsewhere. Some men spend their lives in
this kind of thing, and find their pleasure in making all the women
they know madly or sentimentally in love with them; and if by chance
any poor moth who has burned her wings makes too loud an outcry,
the tables are turned against her dexterously, and she is held up to
public pity--contempt would be a better word--as one who has suffered
herself to love too well and by no means wisely, and who has run after
a Lothario by no means inclined to let himself be caught.

Then there are certain men who flirt only with married women, and
others who flirt only with girls; and the two pastimes are as
different as tropical sunlight and northern moonshine. And there are
some who are 'brothers,' and some who are 'fathers' to their young
friends--suspicious fathers on the whole, not unlike Little Red
Ridinghood's grandmother the wolf, with perilously bright eyes, and
not a little danger to Red Ridinghood in the relationship, how
delightful soever it may be to the wolf. Some are content with
cousinship only--which however breaks down quite sufficient fences;
and some are 'dearest friends,' no more, and find that an exceedingly
useful centre from which to work onward and outward. For, if any peg
will do on which to hang a discourse, so will any relationship or
adoption serve the ends of flirting, if it be so willed.

But what is flirting? Is sitting away in corners, talking in low
voices and looking personally affronted if any unlucky outsider comes
within earshot, flirting? Not necessarily. It is just possible that
Henry may be telling Angelina all about his admiration for her sister
Grace; or Angelina may be confessing to Henry what Charley said to
her last night;--which makes her lower her eyes as she is doing now,
and play with the fringe of her fan so nervously. May be, if not
likely. So that sitting away in corners and whispering together is not
necessarily flirting, though it may look like it. Is dancing all the
'round' dances together? This goes for decided flirting in the code of
the ball-room. But if the two keep well together? If they are really
fond of dancing, as one of the fine arts combining science and
enjoyment, they would dance with each other all night, though outside
the 'marble halls' they might be deadly enemies--Montagues and
Capulets, with no echo of Romeo and Juliet to soften their mutual
dislike. So that not even dancing together oftener than is absolutely
necessary is unmistakeable evidence, any more than is sitting away in
corners, seeing that equal skill and keeping well in step are reasons
enough for perpetual partnership, making all idea of flirtation
unnecessary. In fact, there is no outward sign nor symbol of flirting
which may not be mistaken and turned round, because flirting is so
entirely in the intention and not in the mere formula, that it becomes
a kind of phantasm, a Proteus, impossible to seize or to depict with
accuracy.

One thing however, we can say--taking gifts and attentions, offered
with evident design and accepted with tacit understanding, may be
certainly held as constituting an important element of flirting. But
this is flirting on the woman's side. And here you are being
continually taken in. Your flirt of the cunningly simple kind,
who smiles so sweetly and seems so flatteringly glad to see you when
you come, who takes all your presents and acted expressions of love
with the most bewitching gratitude and effusion, even she, so simple
as she seems to be, slips the thread and will not be caught if she
does not wish to be caught. At the decisive moment when you think you
have secured her, she makes a bound and is away; then turns round,
looks you in the face, and with many a tear and pretty asseveration
declares that she never understood you to mean what you say you have
meant all along; and that you are cruel to dispel her dream of a
pleasant and harmless friendship, and very wicked indeed because you
press her for a decision. Yes; you are cruel, because you have
believed her honest; cruel, because you did not see through the veil
of flattery and insincerity in which she clothed her selfishness;
cruel, because she was false. This is the flirt's logic when brought
to book, and forced to confess that her pretended love was only
flirting, and that she led you on to your destruction simply because
it pleased her vanity to make you her victim.

Then there are flirts of the open and rollicking kind, who let you go
far, very far indeed, when suddenly they pull up and assume an
offended air as if you had wilfully transgressed known and absolute
boundaries--girls and women who lead you on, all in the way of good
fellowship, to knock you over when you have got just far enough to
lose your balance. That is their form of the art. They like to
see how far they can make a man forget himself, and how much stronger
their own delusive enticements are than prudence, experience and
common-sense. And there are flirts of the artful and 'still waters'
kind, something like the male flirts spoken of just now; sentimental
little pusses--perhaps pretty young wives with uncomfortable husbands,
whose griefs have by no means soured nor scorched, but just mellowed
and refined, them. Or they may be of the sisterly class; creatures so
very frank, so very sisterly and confiding and unsuspicious of evil,
that really you scarcely know how to deal with them at all. And there
are flirts of the scientific kind; women who have studied the art
thoroughly; and who are adepts in the use of every weapon known--using
each according to circumstances and the nature of the victim, and
using each with deadly precision. From such may a kind Providence
deliver us! As the tender mercies of the wicked, so are the scientific
flirts--the women and the men who play at bowls with human hearts, for
the stakes of a whole life's happiness on the one side and a few weeks
of gratified vanity on the other.

It used to be an old schoolboy maxim that no real gentleman could be
refused by a lady, because no real gentleman could presume beyond his
line of encouragement. _À fortiori_, no lady would or could give more
encouragement than she meant. What are we to say then of our flirts if
this maxim be true? Are they really 'no gentlemen' and 'no ladies,'
according to the famous formula of the kitchen? Perhaps it would
be said so if gentlehood meant now, as it meant centuries ago, the
real worth and virtue of humanity. For flirting with intent is a
cruel, false, heartless amusement; and time was when cruelty and
falsehood were essentially sins which vitiated all claims to
gentlehood. And yet the world would be very dull without that innocent
kind of nonsense which often goes by the name of flirting--that
pleasant something which is more than mere acquaintanceship and less
than formal loverhood--that bright and animated intercourse which
makes the hours pass so easily, yet which leaves no bitter pang of
self-reproach--that indefinite and undefinable interest by which the
one man or the one woman becomes a kind of microcosm for the time, the
epitome of all that is pleasant and of all that is lovely. The only
caution to be observed is:--Do not go too far.



_SCRAMBLERS._


There are people who are never what Northern housewives call
'straight'--people who seem to have been born in a scramble, who live
in a scramble, and who, when their time comes, will die in a scramble,
just able to scrawl their signature to a will that ought to have been
made years ago, and that does not embody their real intentions now.
Emphatically the Unready, they are never prepared for anything,
whether expected or unexpected; they make no plans more stable than
good intentions; and they neither calculate nor foresee. Everything
with them is hurry and confusion; not because they have more to do
than other people, but because they do it more loosely and less
methodically--because they have not learnt the art of dovetailing nor
the mystery of packing. Consequently half their pleasures and more
than half their duties slip through their fingers for want of the
knack of compact holding; and their lives are passed in trying to pick
up what they have let drop and in frantic endeavours to remedy their
mistakes. For scramblers are always making mistakes and going through
an endless round of forgetting. They never remember their
engagements, but accept in the blandest and frankest way imaginable
two or more invitations for the same day and hour, and assure you
quite seriously when, taught by experience, you push them hard and
probe them deep, that they have no engagement whatever on hand and are
certain not to fail you. In an evil hour you trust to them. When the
day comes they suddenly wake to the fact that they had accepted Mrs.
So-and-So's invitation before yours; and all you get for your empty
place and your careful arrangements ruthlessly upset, is a hurried
note of apology which comes perhaps in the middle of dinner, perhaps
sometime next day, when too late to be of use.

If they forget their own engagements they also ignore yours, no matter
how distinctly you may have tabulated them; and are sure to come
rattling to your house on the day when you said emphatically you were
engaged and could not see them. If you keep to your programme and
refuse to admit them, more likely than not you affront them.
Engagements being in their eyes moveable feasts, which it does not in
the least degree signify whether they keep on the date set down or
not, they cannot understand your rigidity of purpose; and were it not
that as a tribe they are good-natured, and too fluid to hold even
annoyance for any length of time, you would in all probability have a
quarrel fastened on you because your scrambling friends chose to make
a calendar for themselves and to insist on your setting your diary by
it.

As they ignore your appointed hours, so do they forget your
street and number. They always stick to your first card, though you
may have moved many times since it was printed, duly apprizing them of
each change as it occurred. That does not help you, for they never
note the changes of their friends' addresses, but keep loyally to the
first. It all comes to the same in the end, they say, and the postman
is cleverer than they. But they do not often trouble their friends
with letters on their own account, for they have a speciality for not
answering such as are written to them. When they do by chance answer
them, they never reply to the questions asked nor give the news
demanded. They do not even reply to invitations like other people, but
leave you to infer from their silence the acceptance or rejection they
are meditating. When they in their turn invite you, they generally
puzzle you by mismatching the day of the week with the date of the
month, leaving you tormented with doubt which you are to go by; and
they forget to give you the hour. Besides this, they write an
illegible hand; and they are famous for the blots they make and the
Queen's heads they omit.

A scrambling wife is no light cross to a man who values order and
regularity as part of his home life. She may be, and probably is, the
best-tempered creature in the world--a peevish scrambler would be too
unendurable--but a fresh face, bright eyes and a merry laugh do not
atone for never-ending disorder and discomfort. This kind of thing
does not depend on income and is not to be remedied by riches. The
households where my lady has nothing to do but let her maid keep
her to the hours she herself has appointed are just as uncomfortable
in their way as poorer establishments, if my lady is a scrambler, and
cannot be taught method and the value of holding on by the forelock.
Sometimes my lady gets herself into such an inextricable coil of
promises and engagements, all crossing each other, that in despair she
takes to her bed and gives herself out as ill, and so cuts what she
cannot untie. People wonder at her sudden indisposition, looking as
she did only yesterday in the bloom of health; and they wonder at her
radiant reappearance in a day or two without a trace of even languor
upon her. They do not know that her retirement was simply a version of
the famous rope trick, and that, like the Brothers Davenport, she went
into the dark to shake herself free of the cords with which she had
suffered herself to be bound. It is a short and easy method certainly,
but it has rather too much of the echo of 'Wolf' in it to bear
frequent repetition.

In houses of a lower grade, where the lady is her own housekeeper, the
habit of scrambling of course leads to far greater and more manifest
confusion. The servants catch from the mistress the trick of
overstaying time; and punctuality at last comes to mean an elastic
margin, where fixed duties and their appointed times appear
cometically at irregular intervals. The cook is late with dinner; the
coachman begins to put-to a little after the hour he was ordered
to be at the door; but they know that, however late they are, the
chances are ten to one their mistress will not be ready for them, and
that in her heart she will be grateful to them for the shelter their
own unpunctuality affords her. This being so, they take their time and
dawdle at their pleasure; thus adding to the pressure which always
comes at the end of the scrambler's day, when everything is thrown
into a chaotic mass and nothing comes out straight or complete.

Did any one ever know a scrambling woman ready at the moment in her
own house? That she should be punctual to any appointment out of her
house is, of course, not to be thought of; but she makes an awkward
thing of it sometimes at home. Her guests are often all assembled, and
the dinner hour has struck, before she has torn off one gown and
dragged on another. What she cannot tie she pins; and her pins are
many and demonstrative. She wisps up her hair, not having left herself
time to braid it; and the consequence is that before she has been half
an hour in the room ends and tails are sure to stray playfully from
their fastenings and come tumbling about her ears. Her jewels are
mismatched, her colours ill-assorted, her belt is awry, her bouquet
falling to pieces. She rushes into the drawing-room in her morning
slippers, smiling and good-tempered, with a patch-work look about
her--something forgotten in her attire that makes her whole appearance
shaky and unfinished--fastening her last button or clasping on
her first bracelet. She is full of regrets and excuses delivered in
her joyous, buoyant manner, or in a voice so winning, an accent so
coaxing, that you cannot be annoyed. Besides, you leave the annoyance
to her husband, who is sure to have in reserve a pickle quite
sufficiently strong for the inevitable rod, as the poor scrambler
knows too well. All you can do is to accept her apologies with a good
grace, and to carry away with you a vivid recollection of an awkward
half-hour, a spoilt dinner, and a scrambling hostess all abroad and
out of time, sweeping through the room very heated, very
good-tempered, only half-dressed and chronically out of breath.

Scramblers can never learn the value of money, neither for themselves
nor for others. They are famous for borrowing small sums which they
forget to return; but, to do them justice, they are just as willing to
lend what they never dream of asking for again. Long ago they caught
hold of the fact that money is only a circulating medium, and they
have added an extra speed to the circulation at which slower folk
stand aghast. To be sure, the practical results of their theory are
not very satisfactory, and the confusion between the possessive
pronouns which distinguishes their financial catechism is apt to lead
to unpleasant issues.

Scrambling women are especially notorious for the way in which they
set themselves afloat without sufficient means to carry them on;
finding themselves stranded in mid-career because they have made
no calculations and have forgotten the rule of subtraction. They find
themselves at a small Italian town, say, where the virtues of the
British banking system are unknown, and where their letters of credit
and circular notes are not worth more than the value of the paper they
are written on. More than one British matron of respectable condition
and weak arithmetic has found herself in such a plight as this, with
her black-eyed landlord perfectly civil and well-bred, but as firm as
a rock in his resolution that the Signora shall not depart out of his
custody till his little account is paid--a plight out of which she has
to scramble the best way she can, with the loss perhaps of a little
dignity and of more repute--at least in the locality where her solid
scudi gave out and her precious paper could not be cashed. This is the
same woman who offers an omnibus conductor a sovereign for a
three-penny fare; who gives the village grocer a ten-pound note for a
shilling's-worth of sugar; and who, when she comes up to London for a
day's shopping, and has got her last parcel made up and ready to be
put into her cab, finds she has not left herself half enough money to
pay for it--with a shopman whose faith in human nature is by no means
lively, and who only last week was bitten by a lady swindler of
undeniable manners and appearance, and not very unlike herself. She
has been known too, to go into a confectioner's and, after having made
an excellent luncheon, to find to her dismay that she has left
her purse in the pocket of her other dress at home, and that she has
not six-pence about her. In fact there is not an equivocal position in
which forgetfulness, want of method, want of foresight, and all the
other characteristics which make up scrambling in the concrete, can
place her, in which she has not been at some time or other. But no
experience teaches her; the scrambler she was born, the scrambler she
will die, and to the last will tumble through her life, all her ends
flying and deprecating excuses on her lips.

Scramblers are notoriously great for making promises, and as notorious
for not performing what they promise. Kindhearted as they are in
general, and willing to do their friends a service--going out of their
way indeed to proffer kindnesses quite beyond your expectations and
the range of their duties towards you, and always undertaking works of
supererogation; which works in fact lead to more than half their
normal scramble--they forget the next hour the promise on which you
have based your dearest hopes. Or, if they do not forget it, they find
it is crowded out of time by a multitude of engagements and prior
promises, of all of which they were innocently oblivious when they
offered to do your business so frankly, and swore so confidently they
would set about it now at once and get it out of hand without delay.
The oath and the offer which you took to be as sure as the best
chain-cable, you will find on trial to be only a rope of sand that
could not bind so much as a bunch of tow together, still less
hold the anchor of a life; and many a heart, sick with hope deferred
and wrung with the disappointment which might have been so easily
prevented, has been half broken before now from the anguish that has
followed on the failure of the kindhearted scrambler to perform the
promise voluntarily made, and the service earnestly pressed on a
reluctant acceptor.

This is the tragic side of the scrambler's career, the shadow thrown
by almost every one of the class. For all the minor delinquencies of
hurry and unpunctuality in social affairs it is not difficult to find
full and ample forgiveness; but when it comes to untrustworthiness in
graver matters, then the scrambler becomes a scourge instead of only
an inconvenience. The only safe way of dealing with the class is to
take them when we can get hold of them, and to accept them for what
they are worth; but not to rely on them, and not to attempt any
mortising of our own affairs with their promises. They are the froth
and foam of society, pretty and pleasant enough in the sunlight as
they splash and splutter about the rocks; but they are not the deep
waters which bear the burden of our ships and by which the life of the
world is maintained.



_FLATTERY._


Nothing is so delightful as flattery. To hear and believe pleasant
fictions about oneself is a temptation too seductive for weak mortals
to resist, as the typical legends of all mythologies and the private
histories of most individuals show; in consequence of which, home
truths, to one used to ideal portraiture, come like draughts of
'bitter cup' to the dram-drinker. And flattery is dram-drinking; and
yet not quite without good uses to balance its undeniable evil, if it
be only exaggeration and not wholly falsehood; that is, if it assumes
as a matter of course the presence of virtues potential to your
character but not always active, and praises you for what you might be
if you chose to live up to your best. Many a weak brother and weaker
sister, and all children, can be heartened into goodness by a little
dash of judicious praise or flattery where ponderous exhortation and
grave reproof would fail; just as a heavily-laden horse can be coaxed
up-hill when the whip and spur would lead to untimely jibbing. If, on
the contrary, the flattery is of a kind that makes you believe
yourself an exceptionally fine fellow when you are only 'mean
trash'--a king of men when you are nothing better nor nobler than a
moral nigger--making you satisfied with yourself when at your
worst--then it is an unmitigated evil; for it then becomes
dram-drinking of a very poisonous kind, which sooner or later does for
your soul what unlimited blue ruin does for your body. But this is
what we generally mean when we speak of flattery; and this is the kind
which has such a deservedly bad name from moralists of all ages.

The flatteries of men to women, and those of women to men, are very
different in kind and direction. Men flatter women for what they
are--for their beauty, their grace, their sweetness, their
charmingness in general; while a woman will flatter a man for what he
does--for his speech in the House last night, of which she understands
little; for his book, of which she understands less; or for his
pleading, of which she understands nothing at all. Not that this
signifies much on either side. The most unintellectual little woman in
the world has brains enough to look up in your face sweetly, and
breathe out something that sounds like 'beautiful--charming--so
clever,' vaguely sketching the outline of a hymn of praise to which
your own vanity supplies the versicles. For you must have an
exceptionally strong head if you can rate the sketch at its real value
and see for yourself how utterly meaningless it is.

You may be the most mystical poet of the day, suggesting to your
acutest readers grave doubts as to your own power of comprehending
yourself; or you may be the most subtle metaphysician, to follow
whom in your labyrinth of reasoning requires perhaps the rarest
order of brains to be met with; but you will nevertheless believe
any narrow-browed, small-headed woman who tells you in a low sweet
voice, with a gentle uplifting of her eyes and a suggestive curve
of her lip, that she has found you both intelligible and charming,
and that she quite agrees with you and shares your every sentiment.
If she further tells you that all her life long she has thought in
exactly the same way but was wholly unable to express herself, and
that you have now supplied her want and translated into words her
vague ideas, and if she says this with a reverential kind of
effusiveness, you are done for, so far as your critical power goes;
and should some candid friend, whom she has not flattered, tell you
with brutal frankness that your bewitching little flatterer has
neither the brains nor the education to understand you, you will set
him down as a slanderer, spiteful and malignant, and call his candour
envy because he has not been so lucky as yourself.

The most subtle form of flattery is that which asks your advice with
the pretence of needing it--your advice, particularly--yours above
that of all other persons, as the wisest, best, most useful to be
obtained. This too is a form that belongs rather to women in their
relations with men than the converse; though sometimes men will
pretend to want a woman's advice about their love affairs, and
will perhaps make-believe to be guided by it. Not unfrequently,
however, asking one woman's opinion and advice about another is a
masked manner of love-making on its own account; though sometimes it
may be done for flattery only, when there are reasons. Of course not
all advice-asking is flattery; but when intended only to please and
not meant to be genuine, it is perhaps one of the most potent
instruments of the art to be met with.

But if seeking advice be the most subtle form of flattery, the most
intoxicating is that which pretends to moral elevation or reform by
your influence. The reformation of a rake is a work which no woman
alive could be found to resist if the rake offered it to her as his
last chance of salvation; and to lead a pretty sinner back to the ways
of picturesque virtue by his own influence only is a temptation to
self-reliance which no man could refuse--a flattery which not Diogenes
nor Zeno himself could see through. The pretensions of any one else
would be laughed at cruelly enough; but this is one of the things
where personal experience and critical judgment never go in harness
together--one of the manifestations of flattery which would overcome
the calmest and bewilder the wisest.

Priests of all denominations are especially open to this kind of
flattery; not only from pretty sinners who have gone openly out of the
right line, but from quite comely and respectable maids and matrons
who have lived blamelessly so far as the broad moral distinctions
go, yet who have not lived the Awakened Life until roused thereunto by
this peculiarly favoured minister. It is a tremendous trial of a man's
discernment when such flattery is offered to him. How much of this
pretended awakening is real? How much of this sudden spiritual insight
is true, and not a mere phrasing, artfully adopted for pleasantness
only? These are the cases where we most want that famous spear of
Ithuriel to help us to a right estimate, for they are beyond the power
of any ordinary man to determine.

But if priests are subject to these delusions of flattery on the one
hand, they know how to practise them on the other. Take away the
flattery which, mingled with occasional rebuke, forms the great
ministerial spur, and both Revivalism and Ritualism would flag like
flowers without 'the gentle dews.' Scolded for their faults in dress,
for their vanity, extravagance and other feminine vices, are not women
also flattered as the favourites of heaven and of the Church? Are they
not told that they are the lilies of the ecclesiastical garden? the
divinely appointed missionaries for the preservation of virtue and
godly truth in the world? without whom the coarser race of men would
be given over to inconceivable spiritual evil, to infidelity and all
immorality. We may be very sure of this, that if humanity, and
especially feminine humanity, were not flattered as well as chastened,
clerical influence would not last for a day.

There is one kind of flattery which is common to both men and women,
and that is the expressed preference of sex. Thus, when men want to
flatter women, they say how infinitely they prefer their society to
that of their own sex; and women will say the same to men. Or, if they
do not say it, they will act it. See a set of women congregated
together without the light of a manly countenance among them. They may
talk to each other certainly; and one or two will sit away together
and discuss their private affairs with animation; but the great mass
of them are only half vitalized while waiting the advent of the men to
rouse them into life and the desire to please. No man who goes up
first from the dinner-table, and earlier than he was expected, can
fail to see the change which comes over those wearied, limp,
indifferent-looking faces and figures so soon as he enters the room.
He is like the prince whose kiss woke up the Sleeping Beauty and all
her court; and can any one say that this is not flattery of the most
delightful kind? To be the Pygmalion even for a moment, and for the
weakest order of soul-giving, is about the greatest pleasure that a
man can know, if he be susceptible to the finer kinds of flattery.

Some women indeed, not only show their preference for men, but openly
confess it, and confess at the same time to a lofty contempt or
abhorrence for the society of women. These are generally women who
are, or have been, beauties; or who have literary and intellectual
pretensions; or who despise babies and contemn housekeeping, and
profess themselves unable to talk to other women because of their
narrowness and stupidity. But for the most part they are women who, by
their beauty or their position, have been used to receive extra
attention from men; and thus their preference is not flattery so much
as _exigence_. Women who have been in India, or wherever else they are
in the minority in society, are of this kind; and nothing is more
amazing to them when they first come home than the attentions which a
certain style of Englishwoman pays to men, instead of demanding and
receiving attentions from them.

There are also those sweet, humble, caressing women who flatter you
with every word and look, but whose flattery is nothing but a pretty
dress put on for show and taken off when the show is done with.
Anything serves for an occasion with these people. Why, the way in
which certain unmarried women will caress a child before you is an
implied flattery; and they know it. If only they would be careful to
carry these pretty ante-nuptial ways into the home where nothing is to
be gained by them but a humdrum husband's happiness! But too often the
woman whose whole attitude was one of flattering devotion before her
end was gained, gives up every shred of that which she had in such
profusion, when she has attained her object, and lets the home go bare
of that which was so beautiful and seductive in the ball-room and the
flirting corner.

Some men however, want more home flattery to keep them tolerably happy
and up to the mark than any woman with a soul to be saved by truth can
give. Poets and artists are of this kind--men who literally live on
praise, without which they droop and can do nothing. With them it is
absolutely necessary that the people with whom they are associated
should be of appreciative and sympathetic natures; but the burden
comes heavy when they want, as they generally do, so much more than
this. For, in truth, they want flattery in excess of sympathy; and if
they do not get it they hold themselves as the victims of an unkind
fate, and fill the world with the echo of their woes. This is
nine-tenths of the cause why great geniuses are so often unhappy in
married life. They demand more incessant flattery than can be kept up
by one woman, unless she has not only an exceptional power of love but
also an exceptional power of self-suppression. They think that by
virtue of their genius they are entitled to a Benjamin's mess of
devotion double that given to other men; and when they get only
Judah's share, they cry out that they are ill-used, and make the world
think them ill-used as well.

But though a little home flattery helps the home life immeasurably,
and greases the creaking domestic wheels more than anything else can,
a great deal is just the most pernicious thing that can be offered.
The belief prevalent in some families that all the very small and
commonplace members thereof are the world's wonders and greater
than any one else--that no one is so clever as Harry, no one so pretty
as Julia, that Amy's red hair is of a more brilliant gold than can be
found elsewhere, and Edward's mathematical abilities about equal to
Newton's--this belief, nourished and acted on, is sure to turn out an
insufferable collection of prigs and self-conceited damsels who have
to be brought down innumerable pegs before they find their own level.
But we often see this; especially in country places where there is not
much society to give a standard for comparative measurement; and we
know that those fond parents and doting relations are blindly and
diligently sowing seeds of bitterness for a future harvest of sorrow
for their darlings. These young people must be made to suffer if they
are to be of any good whatever in the world; and finding their level,
after the exalted position which they have been supposed to fill so
long, and being pelted with the unsavoury missiles of truth in
exchange for all the incense of flattery to which they have been used,
will be suffering enough. But it has to be gone through; this being
one of the penalties to which the unwisdom of love so often subjects
its objects.

The flattery met with in society is not often very harmful save to
coarse or specially simple natures. You must be either one or the
other to be able to believe it. Lady Morgan was perhaps the most
unblushing and excessive of the tribe of social flatterers; but that
was her engine, the ladder by which she did a good part of her
climbing. We must not confound with this kind of flattery the
impulsive expression of praise or love which certain outspoken people
indulge in to the last. You may as well try to dam up Niagara as to
make some folks reticent of their thoughts and feelings. And when one
of this kind sees anything that he or she likes, the praise has to
come out, with superlatives if the creature be prone to exaggeration.
But this is not flattery; it is merely a certain childlike
expansiveness which lasts with some into quite old age. Unfortunately,
very few understand this childlike expansiveness when they see it.
Hence it subjects its possessor to misrepresentation and unfriendly
jibes, so soon as his or her back is turned, and the explosion of
exaggerated but perfectly sincere praise is discussed critically by
the uninterested part of the audience.



_LA FEMME PASSÉE._


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 final cause, that when these
are gone many feel as if their whole career were at an end, and as if
nothing were 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 mature
sirens are 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. Hence they do not
attempt to find interest in things outside themselves, and independent
of the 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 She with her calm
face and soft 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 been no such struggle to make herself
an anachronism. Consequently she remains beautiful to the last--far
more beautiful than all the pastes 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 exaggerated sacrifice in this; it is
simply the fulfilment of woman's highest duty--the expression of that
grand maternal instinct which need not necessarily include the fact of
personal maternity, but which, with all women worthy of the name, must
find utterance in some line of unselfish action.

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 so many pounds a
year things which 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 of
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
the sister than the mother of her girls. 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 is
thickly streaked with white; the girlish firmness and transparency of
her skin have gone; the pearly clearness of her eye is clouded; 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 du diable_ of youth--she has gained in
character and expression; and by 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 women would but learn that truth--she is as beautiful now
as a matron of fifty, because in harmony with her years, 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 apart from 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 is 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 pupils
dilated by belladonna; 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 nor of gauze to conceal the breadth of her robust
maturity, to soften the dreadful shadows of her leanness--there she
stands, the wretched creature who will not consent to grow old, and
who still affects to be 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 honourable issue were as open to her as to her
young 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, even
if the reality be 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 association, for all that her standing in
society is undeniable, and not a door is shut against her.

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. 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 'kohl 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 do. Bad as the Girl of the Period 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
naturally have immense influence over younger ones, and if mothers
were resolutely to set their faces against the follies of the day,
daughters would and must give in. As it is, some 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 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 passed away.



_SPOILT WOMEN._


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 living under laws made specially for
them. 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; besides, even arbitrary men meet with opposition in
certain directions, and the most self-contented social autocrat knows
that his adherents criticize 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 ought to be exempt from
misfortunes and annoyances; as if his friends must never die, his
youth never fade, his circumstances run always smooth, protected by
the care of others from all untoward hitch; as if time and tide, which
wait for no one else, are bound to him as humble servants dutifully
observant of his wishes. 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, 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 æsthetic tastes and a turn for poetry; full of
highflown sentiment and morbid sympathies; a man almost as much woman
as man, who has no backbone of useful ambition in him, but who puts
his whole life into love, and who becomes at last emphatically not
worth his salt.

Bad as it is for men of the world to be kowtowed to 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 a certain extent he holds it 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 to ruining their young
charges 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
equation, 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 be 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.

The spoilt woman is impatient 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 lady-paramount that she cannot understand it if
any one steps in to share her honours and divide her throne. To praise
the beauty of any other woman, to find her charming, and 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 to 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 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, is
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 true 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 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 it is
not for love, and the amiable if weak pleasure of attracting the
notice of the beloved, but it is for the vanity of being a little
somebody for the moment, and of playing off the small regality
involved in the procedure, that she claims his attention. She would
not return that attention. Unlike the Eastern women, who wait on their
lords hand and foot, and who place their highest honour 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 of the _demi-monde_ 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 among burning ploughshares is easy-going. A length of
lace unstarched, a ribbon unsewed, a flower set awry, anything that
crumples 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 a bunch of thorns. If a dove were 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 criticize, doubt, or
contradict, is an intellectual Tower of Pisa under the shadow of which
it is not pleasant to live.



_DOVECOTS._


Times must be very bad indeed if a faithful few are not still left to
keep the sources of society sweet and wholesome. When corruption has
gone through the whole mass and all classes are bad alike, everything
comes to an end, and there is a general overthrow of national life;
but while some are left pure and unspotted, we are not quite undone,
and we may reasonably hope for better days in the future. In the midst
of the reign of the Girl of the Period, with her slang and her
boldness--of the fashionable woman, with her denial of duty and her
madness for pleasure--we come every now and then upon a group of good
girls of the real old English type; the faithful few growing up
silently among us, but none the less valuable because they are silent
and make no public display; doves who are content with life as they
have it in the dovecot, and have no desire to be either eagles
dwelling on romantic heights, or peacocks displaying their pride in
sunny courts. We find these faithful few in town and country alike;
but they are rifest in the country, where there is less temptation to
go wrong than there is in the large towns, and where life is
simpler and the moral tone undeniably higher. The leading feature of
these girls is their love of home and of their own family, and their
power of making occupation and happiness out of apparently meagre
materials. If they are the elders, they find amusement and interest in
their little brothers and sisters, whom they consider immensely funny
and to whom they are as much girl-mothers as sisters; if they are the
youngers, they idolize their baby nephews and nieces. For there is
always a baby going on somewhere about these houses--babies being the
great excitement of home-life, and the antiseptic element among women
which keeps everything else pure. They are passionately attached to
papa and mamma, whom they think the very king and queen of humanity,
yet whom they do not call by even endearing slang names. It has never
occurred to them to criticize them as ordinary mortals; and as they
have not been in the way of learning the prevailing accent of
disrespect, they have not shaken off that almost religious veneration
for their parents which all young people naturally feel, if they have
been well brought up and are not corrupted.

The yoke in most middle-class country-houses is one fitting very
loosely round all necks; and as they have all the freedom they desire
or could use, the girls are not fretted by undue pressure, and are
content to live in peace under such restraints as they have. They
adore their elder brothers who are from home just beginning the great
battle of life for themselves, and confidently believe them to be
the finest fellows going, and the future great men of the day if only
they care to put out those splendid talents of theirs, and take the
trouble of plucking the prizes within their reach. They may have a
slight reservation perhaps, in favour of the brother's friend, whom
they place on a pedestal of almost equal height. But they keep their
mental architecture a profound secret from every one, and do not
suffer it to grow into too solid a structure unless it has some surer
foundation than their own fancy. For, though doves are loving, they
are by no means lovesick, and are too healthy and natural and quietly
busy for unwholesome dreams. If one of them marries, they all unite in
loving the man who comes in among them. He is adopted as one of
themselves, and leaps into a family of idolizing sisters who pet him
as their brother--with just that subtle little difference in their
petting, in so much as it comes from sisters unaccustomed, and so has
the charm of novelty without the prurient excitement of naughtiness.
But this kind of thing is about the most dangerous to a man's moral
nature that can befall him. Though pretty to see and undeniably
pleasant to experience, and though perfectly innocent in every way,
still, nothing enervates him so much as this idolatrous submission of
a large family of women. In a widow's house, where there are many
daughters and no sons, and where the man who marries one marries the
whole family and is worshipped accordingly, the danger is of course
increased tenfold; but if there are brothers and a father, the
sister's husband, though affectionately cooed over, is not made quite
such a fuss with, and the association is all the less hurtful in
consequence.

These girls lead a by no means stupid life, though it is a quiet one,
and without any spasmodic events or tremendous cataclysms. They go a
great deal among the village poor, and they teach at the
Sunday-school, and attend the mothers' meetings and clothing-clubs and
the like, and learn to get interested in their humbler friends, who
after all are Christian sisters. They read their romances in real life
instead of in three-volume novels, and study human nature as it is--in
the rough certainly, but perhaps in more genuine form than if they
learnt it only in what is called society. Then they have their
pleasures, though they are of an unexciting kind and what fast girls
would call awfully slow. They have their horses and their croquet
parties, their lawn tennis and their archery meetings; they have
batches of new music, and a monthly box from Mudie's--and they know
the value of both; they go out to tea, and sometimes to dinner, in the
neighbourhood; and they enjoy the rare county balls with a zest
unknown to London girls who are out every night in the week. They have
their village flower-shows, which the great families patronize in a
free-and-easy kind of way, and which give occupation for weeks before
and subject for talk for weeks after; their school feasts, where the
pet parson of the district comes out with his best anecdotes, and
makes mild jokes at a long distance from Sydney Smith; their
periodical missionary meetings, where they have great guns from
London, and where they hear unctuous stories about the saintliness of
converted cannibals, and are required to believe in the power of
change of creed to produce an ethnological miracle; they have their
friends to stay with them--school-girl friends--with whom they
exchange deep confidences, and go back over the old days--so old to
their youth!--their brothers come down in the summer, and their
brothers' friends come with them, and do a little spooning in the
shrubbery. But there is more spooning done at picnics than anywhere
else; and more offers are made there under the shadow of the old ruin,
or in the quiet leafy nook by the river side, than at any other
gathering time of the country. And as we are all to a certain extent
what we are made by our environment, the doves take to these pleasures
quite kindly and gratefully, as being the only ones known to them, and
enjoy themselves in a simplicity of circumstances which would give no
pleasure at all to girls accustomed to more highly-spiced
entertainments.

Doves know very little of evil. They are not in the way of learning
it; and they do not care to learn it. The few villagers who are
supposed to lead ill lives are spoken of below the breath, and
carefully avoided without being critically studied. When the railway
is to be carried past their quiet nest, there is an immense
excitement as the report goes that a knot of strange men have been
seen scattering themselves over the fields with their little white
flags and theodolites, their measuring lines and levels. But when the
army of navvies follows after, the excitement is changed to
consternation, and a general sense of evil to come advancing
ruthlessly towards them. The clergy of the district organize special
services, and the scared doves keep religiously away from the place
where the navvies are hutted. They think them little better than the
savages about whom the Deputation tell them once or twice a year; and
they create almost as much terror as an encampment of gipsies. They
represent the lawless forces of the world and the unknown sins of
strong men; and the wildest story about them is not too wild to be
believed. The railway altogether is a great offence to the
neighbourhood, and the line is assumed to destroy the whole scenic
beauty of the place. There are lamentations over the cockneys it will
bring down; over the high prices it will create, the immorality it
will cause. Only the sons who are out in the world and have learnt how
life goes on outside the dovecot, advocate keeping pace with the
times; and a few of the stronger minded of the sisters listen to them
with a timid admiration of their breadth and boldness, and think there
may be two sides to the question after all. When the dashing captain
and his fast wife suddenly appear in the village--as often happens in
these remote districts--the doves are in a state of great moral
tribulation. They are scandalized by Mrs. Highflyer's costume and
complexion, and think her manners odd and doubtful; her slang shocks
them; and when they meet her in the lanes, talking so loudly and
laughing so shrilly with that horrid-looking man in a green cutaway,
they feel as fluttered as their namesakes when a hawk is hovering over
the farmyard. The dashing captain, who does not use a prayer-book at
church, who stares at all the girls so rudely, and who has even been
seen to wink at some of the prettier cottage girls, and his handsome
wife with her equivocal complexion and pronounced fashions, who makes
eyes at the curate, are never heartily adopted by the local magnates,
though vouched for by some far-away backer; and the doves always feel
them to be strange bodies among them, and out of their rightful
element somehow. If things go quietly without an explosion, well and
good; but if the truth bursts to the surface in the shape of a London
detective, and the Highflyers are found to be no better than they
should be, the consternation and half-awed wonderment at the existence
of so much effrontery and villany in their atmosphere create an
impression which no time effaces. The first clash of innocence with
evil is an event in the life of the innocent the effect of which
nothing ever destroys.

The dovecot is rather dull in the winter, and the doves are somewhat
moped; but even then they have the church to decorate, and the
sentiment of Christmas to enliven them. The absent ones of the
family too, return to the old hearth while they can; and as the great
joy of the dovecot lies in the family union that is kept up, and in
the family love which is so strong, the visits of those who no longer
live at home bring a moral summer as warm and cheering as the physical
sunshine. But they do not all assemble. For many of the doves marry
men whose work lies abroad; these quiet country-houses being the
favourite matrimonial hunting-grounds for colonists and Anglo-Indians.
So that some are always absent whose healths are drunk in the
traditional punch, while eyes grow moist as the names are given. Doves
are not disinclined to marry men who have to go abroad, for all the
passionate family love common to them. Travel is a golden dream to
them in their still homes; but travel properly companioned. For even
the most adventurous among them are not independent, as we mean when
we speak of independence in women. They are essentially home-girls,
family-girls, doves who cannot exist without a dovecot, however
humble. The family is everything to them; and they are utterly unfit
for the solitude which so many of our self-supporting women can accept
quite resignedly. Not that they are necessarily useless even as
breadwinners. They could work, if pushed to it; but it must be in a
quiet womanly way, with the mother, the sister, the husband as the
helper--with the home as the place of rest and the refuge. Their whole
lines are laid in love and quietness; not by any means in inaction,
but all centred within the home circle. If they marry, they find
the love of their husband enough for them, and have no desire for
other men's admiration. Their babies are all the world to them, and
they do not think maternity an infliction, as so many of the miserably
fashionable think it. They like the occupation of housekeeping, and
feel pride in their fine linen and clean service, in their
well-ordered table and neatly-balanced accounts. They are kind to
their servants, who generally come from the old home, and whose
families they therefore know; but they keep up a certain dignity and
tone of superiority towards them in the midst of all their kindness,
which very few town-bred mistresses can keep to town-bred maids. They
have always been the aristocracy in their native place; and they carry
through life the ineffaceable stamp which being 'the best' gives.

Doves are essentially mild and gentle women; not queens of society
even when they are pretty, because not caring for social success and
therefore not laying themselves out for it; for if they please at home
that is all they care for, holding love before admiration, and the
esteem of one higher than the praise of many. If a fault is to be
found with them it is that they have not perhaps quite enough salt for
the general taste, used as it is to such highly-seasoned social food;
but do we really want our women to have so very much character? Do not
our splendid passionate creatures lead madly wretched lives and make
miserably uncomfortable homes? and are not our glorious heroines
better in pictures and in fiction than seated by the domestic fire, or
checking the baker's bill? No doubt the quiet home-staying doves seem
tame enough when we think of the gorgeous beings made familiar to us
by romance, and history, which is more romantic still; but as our
daily lives run chiefly in prose, our doves are better fitted for
things as they are; and to men who want wives and not playthings, and
who care for the peace of family life and the dignity of home, they
are beyond price when they can be found and secured. So that, on the
whole, we can dispense with the splendid creatures of character and
the magnificent queens of society sooner than with the quiet and
unobtrusive doves. And though they do spoil men most monstrously, they
know where to draw the line, and while petting their own at home they
keep strangers abroad at a distance, and make themselves respected as
only modest and gentle women are respected by men.



_BORED HUSBANDS._


The curtain falls on joined hands when it does not descend on a
tragedy; and novels for the most part end with a wreath of
orange-blossoms and a pair of high-stepping greys, as the last act
that claims to be recorded. For both novelists and playwrights assume
that with marriage all the great events of life have ceased, and that,
once wedded to the beloved object, there is sure to be smooth sailing
and halcyon seas to the end of time. It sounds very cynical and
shocking to question this pretty belief; but unfortunately for us who
live in the world as it is and not as it is supposed to be, we find
that even a union with the beloved object does not always ensure
perfect contentment in the home, and that bored husbands are by no
means rare.

The ideal honeymoon is of course an Elysian time, during which nothing
works rusty nor gets out of joint; and the ideal marriage is only a
life-long honeymoon, where the happiness is more secure and the love
deeper, if more sober; but the prose reality of one and the other has
often a terrible dash of weariness in it, even under the most
favourable conditions. Boredom begins in the very honeymoon
itself. At first starting in married life there are many dangers to be
encountered, not a shadow of which was seen in the wooing. There are
odd freaks of temper turning up quite unexpectedly; there is the
sense, so painful to some men, of being tied for life, of never being
able to be alone again, never free and without responsibilities; there
are misunderstandings to-day and the struggle for mastery
to-morrow--the cloud, no bigger than a man's hand, which may prove to
be the tempest that will destroy all; there is the unrest of
travelling, and the awkwardness of unusual association, to help in the
general discomfort; or, if the happy pair have settled down in a vale
and a cottage for their month, there is the 'sad satiety' which all
men feel after a time when they have had one companion only, with no
outside diversion to cause a break. But the honeymoon at last draws to
a close, and the relieved bridegroom gets back to his old haunts, to
his work, his friends, and his club; and though he takes to all these
things again with a difference, still they are helps and additions.
This is the time of trial to a woman. If she gets over this pinch, and
is sensible enough to understand that human nature cannot be kept up
at high pressure, even in love, and that a man must sooner or later
come down from romance to work-a-day prose, from the passionate lover
to the cool and sober husband--if she can understand this, and settle
into his pace, without fretting on the one hand or casting about
for unhealthy distractions on the other--she will do well, and will
probably make a pleasant home, and thereby diminish the boredom of
life. But unfortunately, not every woman can do this; and it is just
during this time of the man's transition from the lover to the friend
that so many women begin to make shipwreck of their own happiness and
his. They think to keep him a romantic wooer still, by their tears at
his prosaic indifference to the little sentimentalities once so
eagerly accepted and offered; they try to hold him close by their
flattering but somewhat tiresome exactions; their jealousies--very
pretty perhaps, and quite as flattering--are infinite, and as baseless
as they are infinite; all of which is very nice up to a certain point
and in the beginning of things, but all of which gets wearisome as
time goes on, and a man wants both a little change and a little rest.
But women do not see this; or seeing it, they cannot accept it as a
necessary condition of things; wherefore they go on in their fatal
way, and by the very unwisdom of their own love bore their husband out
of his. Or they grow substantially cold because he is superficially
cooler, and think themselves justified in ceasing to love him
altogether because he takes their love for granted, and so has ceased
to woo it.

If they are jealous, or shy, or unsocial, as so many women are, they
make life very heavy by their exclusiveness, and the monastic
character they give the home. A man married to a woman of this
kind is, in fact, a house prisoner, whose only free spaces lie beyond
the four walls of home. His bachelor friends are shut out. They smoke;
or entice him to drink more than his wife thinks is good for him; or
they induce him to bet on the Derby; or to play for half-crowns at
whist or billiards; or they lead him in some other way of offence
abhorrent to women. So the bachelor friends are shouldered out; and
when the husband wants to entertain them, he must invite them to his
club--if he has one--and pay the penalty when he gets home. In a few
years' time his wife will be glad to encourage her sons' young friends
to the house, for the sake of the daughters on hand; but husbands and
sons are in a different category, and there are few fathers who do not
learn, as time goes on, how much the mother will allow that the wife
refused.

If bachelor friends are shouldered out of the house, all female
friends are forbidden anything like an intimate footing, save those
few whom the wife thinks specially devoted to herself and of whom she
is not jealous. And these are very few. There are perhaps no women in
the world so exclusive in their dealings with their husbands as are
Englishwomen. A husband is bound to one woman only, no doubt; but the
average wife thinks him also bound to have no affection whatever
outside her and perhaps her family. If he meets an intelligent woman,
pleasant to talk to, of agreeable manners and ready wit, and if
he talks to her in consequence with anything like persistency or
interest, he offends against the unwritten law; and his wife, whose
utmost power of conversation consists in putting in a yes or no with
tolerable accuracy of aim, thinks herself slighted and ill-used. She
may be young and pretty, and dearly loved for her own special
qualities; and her husband may not have a thought towards his new
friend, or any other woman, in the remotest degree trenching on his
allegiance to her; but the fact that he finds pleasure, though only of
an intellectual and æsthetic kind, in the society of any other woman,
that he feels an interest in her life, chooses her for his friend, or
finds community of pursuits or sympathy in ideas, makes his wife by
just so much a victim and aggrieved.

And yet what a miserably monotonous home is that to which she would
confine him! He is at his office all day, badgered and worried with
various business complications, and he comes home tired, perhaps
cross--even well-conducted husbands have that way sometimes. He finds
his wife tired and cross too; so that they begin the evening together
mutually at odds, she irritated by small cares and he disturbed by
large anxieties. Or he finds her preoccupied and absorbed in her own
pursuits, and quite disinclined to make any diversion for his sake. He
asks her for some music; she used to be ready enough to sing and play
to him in the old love-making days; but she refuses now. Either she
has some needlework to do, which might have been done during the
day when he was out, or baby is asleep in the nursery, and music in
the drawing-room would disturb him--at all events she cannot sing or
play to-night; and even if she does--he has heard all her pieces so
often! If he is not a reading-man, those long, dull, silent evenings
are very trying. She works, and drives him wild with the click of her
needle; or she reads the last new novel, and he hates novels, and gets
tired to death when she insists on telling him all about the story and
the characters; or she chooses the evening for letter-writing, and if
the noise of her pen scratching over the paper does not irritate him,
perhaps it sends him to sleep, when at least he is not bored. But
dull, objectless, and vacant as their evenings are, his wife would not
hear of any help from without to give just that little fillip which
would prevent boredom and not create ceremony. She would think her
life had gone to pieces, and that only desolation was before her, if
he hinted that his home was dull, and that though he loves her very
dearly and wants no other wife but her, yet that her society
only--_toujours perdrix_, without change or addition--is a little
stupid, however nice the partridge may be, and that things would be
bettered if Mrs. or Miss So-and-So came in sometimes, just to brighten
up the hours. And if he were to make a practice of bringing home his
men friends, she would probably let all parties concerned feel pretty
distinctly that she considered the home her special sanctuary, and
that guests whom she did not invite were intruders. She would
perhaps go willingly enough to a ball or crowded _soirée_, or she
might like to give one; but that intimate form of society, which is a
mere enlargement of the home life, she dreads as the supplementing of
deficiencies, and thinks her married happiness safer in boredom than
in any diversion from herself as the sole centre of her husband's
pleasure.

Home life stagnates in England; and in very few families is there any
mean between dissipation and this stagnation. We can scarcely wonder
that so many husbands think matrimony a mistake as we have it in our
insular arrangements; that they look back regretfully to the time when
they were unfettered and not bored; or that their free friends, who
watch them as wild birds watch their caged companions, curiously and
reflectively, share their opinion. Wife and home, after all, make up
but part of a man's life; they are not his all, and do not satisfy the
whole of his social instinct; nor is any one woman the concentration
of all womanhood to a man, leaving nothing that is beautiful, nor in
its own unconjugal way desirable, on the outside. Besides, when with
his wife a man is often as much isolated as when alone, for any real
companionship there is between them. Few women take a living interest
in the lives of men, and fewer still understand them. They expect the
husband to sympathize with them in the kitchen gossip and the nursery
chatter, the neighbours' doings and all the small household politics;
but they are utterly unable to comprehend his pleasures, his
thoughts, his duties, the responsibilities of his profession, or the
bearings of any public question in which he takes a part.

Even if this were not so, and granting that they could enter fully
into his life and sympathize with him as intelligent equals, not only
as compassionate saints or loving children, there would still be the
need of novelty, and still the certainty of boredom without it. For
human life, like all other forms of life, must have a due proportion
of fresh elements continually added to keep it sweet and growing, else
it becomes stagnant and stunted. And daily intercourse undeniably
exhausts the moral ground. After the close companionship of years no
one can remain mentally fresh to the other, unless indeed one or both
be of the rarest order of mind and of a practically inexhaustible
power of acquiring knowledge. Save these exceptional instances, we
must all of necessity get worn out by constant intercourse. We know
every thought, every opinion, and almost every square inch of
information possessed; we have heard the old stories again and again,
and know exactly what will lead up to them, and at what point they
will begin; we have measured the whole sweep of mind, and have probed
its depths; and though we may love and value what we have learnt, yet
we want something new--fresh food for interest, though not necessarily
a new love for the displacement of the old. But this is what very few
Englishwomen can understand or will allow. They hold so intensely
by the doctrine of unity that they are even jealous of a man's
pursuits, if they think these take up any place in his mind which
might also be theirs. They must be good for every part of his life;
and the poorest of them all must be his only source of interest,
suffering no other woman to share his admiration nor obtain his
friendship, though this would neither touch his love nor interfere
with their rights. Friendship is a hard saying to them, and one they
cannot receive. Wherefore they keep a tight grasp on the marital
collar, and suffer no relief of monotony by judicious loosening, nor
by generous faith in integral fidelity. The practical result of which
is that most men are horribly bored at home, and that the mass of them
really suffer from the domestic stagnation to which national customs
and the exclusiveness of women doom them so soon as they become family
men. It must however, in fairness be added, that in general they
obtain some kind of compensation; and that very few walk meekly in
their bonds without at times slipping them off, with or without the
concurrence of their wives.

    END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.

      S. & H.

    LONDON: PRINTED BY
    SPOTTISWOODE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQUARE
    AND PARLIAMENT STREET

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's note:
    Minor spelling and punctuation inconsistencies, mainly hyphenated
    words, have been harmonized. In this version, the oe ligature is
    represented by the separate characters oe, e.g. manoeuvre.





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