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Title: The Girl of the Period and Other Social Essays, Vol. II (of 2)
Author: Linton, Eliza Lynn
Language: English
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    VOL. II.

    [REPRINTED, _by permission, from the_ SATURDAY REVIEW]




    Social Essays





    VOL. II.


    Publishers in Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen

    [_All rights reserved_]



    GUSHING MEN                      1

    SWEET SEVENTEEN                  9

    THE HABIT OF FEAR               19

    OLD LADIES                      28

    VOICES                          37

    BURNT FINGERS                   46

    DÉSOEUVREMENT                   55


    OTHERWISE-MINDED                72

    LIMP PEOPLE                     82

    THE ART OF RETICENCE            91

    MEN'S FAVOURITES               100

    WOMANLINESS                    109

    SOMETHING TO WORRY             119

    SWEETS OF MARRIED LIFE         127

    SOCIAL NOMADS                  136

    GREAT GIRLS                    145

    SHUNTED DOWAGERS               155

    PRIVILEGED PERSONS             164

    MODERN MAN-HATERS              173

    VAGUE PEOPLE                   181

    ARCADIA                        190

    STRANGERS AT CHURCH            199

    IN SICKNESS                    208

    ON A VISIT                     217


    THE EPICENE SEX                235

    WOMEN'S MEN                    243

    HOTEL LIFE IN ENGLAND          252

    OUR MASKS                      261

    HEROES AT HOME                 268

    SEINE-FISHING                  276



    OLD FRIENDS                    302

    POPULAR WOMEN                  310

    CHOOSING OR FINDING            319

    LOCAL FÊTES                    327





The picture of a gushing creature all heart and no brains, all impulse
and no ballast, is familiar to most of us; and we know her, either by
repute or by personal acquaintance, as well as we know our alphabet.
But we are not so familiar with the idea of the gushing man. Yet
gushing men exist, if not in such numbers as their sisters, still in
quite sufficient force to constitute a distinct type. The gushing man
is the furthest possible removed from the ordinary manly ideal, as
women create it out of their own imaginations. Women like to picture
men as inexorably just, yet tender; calm, grave, restrained, yet full
of passion well mastered; Greathearts with an eye cast Mercywards if
you will, else unapproachable by all the world; Goethes with one weak
corner left for Bettina, where love may queen it over wisdom, but in
all save love strong as Titans, powerful as gods, unchangeable as
fate. They forgive anything in a man who is manly according to their
own pattern and ideas. Even harshness amounting to brutality is
condoned if the hero have a jaw of sufficient squareness, and mighty
passions just within the limits of control--as witness _Jane Eyre's_
Rochester and his long line of unpleasant followers. But this
harshness must be accompanied by love. Like the Russian wife who wept
for want of her customary thrashing, taking immunity from the stick to
mean indifference, these women would rather have brutality with love
than no love at all.

But a gushing man, as judged by men among men, is a being so foreign
to the womanly ideal that very few understand him when they do see
him. And they do not call him gushing. He is frank, enthusiastic,
unworldly, aspiring; perhaps he is labelled with that word of power,
'high-souled;' but he is not gushing, save when spoken of by men who
despise him. For men have an intense contempt for him. A woman who has
no ballast, and whose self-restraint goes to the winds on every
occasion, is accepted for what she is worth, and but little
disappointment and less annoyance is felt for what is wanting. Indeed,
men in general expect so little from women that their follies count as
of course and only what might be looked for. They are like marriage,
or the English climate, or a lottery ticket, or a dark horse heavily
backed, and have to be taken for better or worse as they may turn out,
with the violent probability that the chances are all on the side of
the worse.

But the gushing man is inexcusable. He is a nuisance or a
laughing-stock; and as either he is resented. In his club, at the
mess-table, in the city, at home, wherever he may be and whatever he
may be about, he is always plunging headlong into difficulties and
dragging his friends with him; always quarrelling for a straw; putting
himself grossly in the wrong and vehemently apologizing afterwards;
hitting wild at one moment and down on his knees the next, and as
absurd in the one attitude as he is abject in the other. He falls in
love at first sight and makes a fool of himself on unknown ground
while with men he is ready to swear eternal friendship or undying
enmity before he has had time to know anything whatever about the
object of his regard or his dislike. In consequence he is being
perpetually associated with shaky names and brought into questionable
positions. He is full of confidence in himself on every occasion, and
is given to making the most positive assertions on things he knows
nothing about; when afterwards he is obliged to retract and to own
himself mistaken. But he is just as full of self-abasement when, like
vaulting ambition, he has overleaped himself and fallen into mistakes
and failures unawares. He makes rash bets about things of which he has
the best information; so he says; and will not be staved off by those
who know what folly he is committing, but insists on writing himself
down after Dogberry at the cost of just so much. He backs the worst
player at billiards on the strength of a chance hazard, and bets on
the losing hand at whist. He goes into wild speculations in the city,
where he is certain to land a pot of money according to his own
account and whence he comes with empty pockets, as you foretold and
warned. He takes up with all manner of doubtful schemes and yet more
doubtful promoters; but he will not be advised. Is he not gushing? and
does not the quality of gushingness include an Arcadian belief in the
virtue of all the world?

The gushing man is the very pabulum of sharks and sharpers; and it is
he whose impressibility and gullible good-nature supply wind for the
sails of half the rotten schemes afloat. Full of faith in his fellows,
and of belief in a brilliant future to be had by good luck and not by
hard work, he cannot bring himself to doubt either men or measures;
unless indeed his gushingness takes the form of suspicion, and then he
goes about delivering himself of accusations not one of which he can
substantiate by the weakest bulwark of fact, and doubting the
soundness of investments as safe as the Three per Cents.

In manner the gushing man is familiar and caressing. He may be
patronizing or playful according to the bent of his own nature. If the
first, he will call his superior, My dear boy, and pat him on the back
encouragingly; if the second, he will put his arm schoolboy fashion
round the neck of any man of note who has the misfortune of his
intimacy, and call him Old fellow, or Governor, or _rex meus_, as he
is inclined. With women his familiarity is excessively offensive. He
gives them pet names, or calls to them by their Christian names from one
end of the room to the other, and pats and paws them in all fraternal
affectionateness, after about the same length of acquaintanceship
as would bring other men from the bowing stage to that of shaking
hands. His manners throughout are enough to compromise the toughest
reputation; and one of the worst misfortunes that can befall a
woman whose circumstances lay her specially open to slander and
misrepresentation is to include among her friends a gushing man of
energetic tendencies, on the look-out to do her a good turn if he can,
and anxious to let people see on what familiar terms he stands with
her. He means nothing in the least degree improper when he puts his
arm round her waist, calls her My dear and even Darling in a loud
voice for all the world to hear; or when he seats himself at her table
before folk to write her private messages, which he makes believe to
be of so much importance that they must not be spoken aloud, and which
are of no importance at all. He is only familiar and gushing; and he
would be the first to cry out against the evil imagination of the
world which saw harm in what he does with such innocent intent.

The gushing man has one grave defect--he is not safe nor secret. From
no bad motive, but just from the blind propulsion of gushingness, he
cannot keep a secret, and he is sure to let out sooner or later all
he knows. He holds back nothing of his friends nor of his own--not
even when his honour is engaged in the trust; being essentially
loose-lipped, and with his emotional life always bubbling up through
the thin crust of conventional reserve. Not that he means to be
dishonourable; he is only gushing and unrestrained. Hence every friend
he has knows all about him. His latest lover learns the roll-call of
all his previous loves; and there is not a man in his club, with whom
he is on speaking terms, who does not know as much. Women who trust
themselves to gushing men simply trust themselves to broken reeds; and
they might as well look for a sieve that will hold water as expect a
man of the sieve nature to keep their secret, whatever it may cost
them and him to divulge it.

As a theorist the gushing man is for ever advocating untenable
opinions and taking up with extreme doctrines, which he announces
confidently and out of which he can be argued by the first opponent he
encounters. The facility with which he can be bowled over on any
ground--he calls it being converted--is in fact one of his most
striking characteristics; and a gushing man rushes from the school of
one professor to that of another, his zeal unabated, no matter how
many his reconversions. He is always finding the truth, which he never
retains; and the loudest and most active in damning a cast-off
doctrine is the gushing man who has once followed it. As a leader, he
is irresistible to both boys and women. His enthusiastic,
unreflecting, unballasted character finds a ready response in the
youthful and feminine nature; and he is the idol of a small knot of
ardent worshippers, who believe in him as the logical and
well-balanced man is never believed in. He takes them captive by a
community of imagination, of impulsiveness, of exaggeration; and is
followed just in proportion to his unfitness to lead.

This is the kind of man who writes sentimental novels, with a good
deal of love laced with a vague form of pantheism or of weak
evangelical religion, to suit all tastes; or he is great in a certain
kind of indefinite poetry which no one has yet been found to
understand, save perhaps, a special Soul Sister, which is the subdued
version among us of the more suggestive Spiritual Wife. He adores the
feminine virtues, which he places far beyond all the masculine ones;
and expatiates on the beauty of the female character which he thinks
is to be the rule of the future. Perhaps though, he goes off into
panegyrics on the Vikings and the Berserkers; or else plunges boldly
into the mists of the Arthurian era, and gushes in obsolete English
about chivalry and the Round Table, Sir Launcelot and the Holy Graal,
to the bewilderment of his entranced audience to whom he does not
supply a glossary. In religion he is generally a mystic and always in
extremes. He can never be pinned down to logic, to facts, to reason;
and to his mind the golden mean is the sin for which the Laodicean
Church was cursed. Feeling and emotion and imagination do all the
work of the world according to him; and when he is asked to reason and
to demonstrate, he answers, with the lofty air of one secure of the
better way, that he Loves, and that Love sees further and more clearly
than reason.

As the strong-minded woman is a mistake among women, so is the gushing
man among men. Fluid, unstable, without curb to govern or rein to
guide, he brings into the masculine world all the mental frailties of
the feminine, and adds to them the force of his own organization as a
man. Whatever he may be he is a disaster; and at all times is
associated with failure. He is the revolutionary leader who gets up
abortive risings--the schemer whose plans run into sand--the poet
whose books are read only by schoolgirls, or lie on the publisher's
shelves uncut, as his gushingness bubbles over into twaddle or exhales
itself in the smoke of obscurity--the fanatic whose faith is more
madness than philosophy--the man of society who is the butt of his
male companions and the terror of his lady acquaintances--the father
of a family which he does his best, unintentionally, to ruin by
neglect, which he calls nature, or by eccentricity of training, which
he calls faith--and the husband of a woman who either worships him in
blind belief, or who laughs at him in secret, as heart or head
preponderates in her character. In any case he is a man who never
finds the fitting time or place; and who dies as he has lived, with
everything about him incomplete.


A vast amount of poetry has always been thrown round that special time
of a woman's life when,

    Standing with reluctant feet
    Where the brook and river meet,

she is no longer a child and yet not quite a woman--that transition
time between the closed bud and the full-blown flower which we in
England express by the term, among others, of Sweet Seventeen. Without
meaning to be sentimental, or to envelope things in a golden haze
wrought by the imagination only and nowhere to be found in fact, we
cannot deny the peculiar charm which belongs to a girl of this age, if
she is nice, and neither pert nor silly. Besides, it is not only what
she is that interests us, but what she will be; for this is the time
when the character is settling into its permanent form, so that the
great thought of every one connected with her is, How will she turn
out? Into what kind of woman will the girl develop? and, What kind of
life will she make for herself?

Certainly Sweet Seventeen may be a most unlovely creature, and in
fact she often is; a creature hard and forward, having lost the
innocence and obedience of childhood and having gained nothing yet of
the tact and grace of womanhood; a creature whose hopes and thoughts
are all centred on the time when she shall be brought out and have her
fling of flirting and fine dresses with the rest. Or she may be only a
gauche and giggling schoolgirl, with a mind as narrow as her life,
given up to the small intrigues and scandals of the dormitory and the
playground--a girl who scamps her lessons and cheats her masters;
whose highest efforts of intellect are shown in the cleverness with
which she can break the rules of the establishment without being found
out; who thinks talking at forbidden times, peeping through forbidden
windows, giving silly nicknames to her companions and teachers, and
telling silly secrets with less truth than ingenuity in them, the
greatest fun imaginable, and all the greater because of the spice of
rebellion and perversity with which her folly is dashed. Or she may be
a mere tomboy, regretting her sex and despising its restraints;
cultivating schoolboy slang and aping schoolboy habits; ridiculing her
sisters and disliked by her companions, while thinking girlhood a bore
and womanhood a mistake in exact proportion to its feminality. Or she
may be a budding miss, shy and awkward, with no harm in her and as
little good--a mere sketch of a girl, without a leading line as yet
made out or the dominant colour so much as indicated.

Sometimes she is awkward in another way, being studious and
preoccupied--when she passes for odd and original, and is partly
feared, partly disliked, and wholly misunderstood by her own young
world; and sometimes she has a cynical contempt for men and beauty and
pleasure and dress, when she will make herself ridiculous by her
revolt against all the canons of good taste and conventionality. But
after her _début_ in tattered garments of severe colours and ungainly
cut, she will probably end her days as a frantic Fashionable, the
salvation of whose soul depends on the faultless propriety of her
wardrobe. The eccentricities of Sweet Seventeen not unfrequently
revenge themselves by an exactly opposite extravagance of maturity.
But though there are enough and to spare of girls according to all
these patterns, the Sweet Seventeen of one's affections is none of
them. And yet she is not always the same, but has her different
presentations, her varying facets, which give her variety of charm and

The best and loveliest thing about Sweet Seventeen is her sense of
duty--for the most part a new sense. She no longer needs to be told
what to do; she has not to be kept to her tasks by the fear of
authority nor the submissive grace of obedience; but of her own free
will, because understanding that it is her duty and that duty is a
holier thing than self-will, she conscientiously does what she does
not like to do, and cheerfully gives up what she desires without being
driven or exhorted. She has generally before her mind some favourite
heroine in a girl's novel, who goes through much painful discipline
and comes out all the brighter for it in the end; and she makes noble
resolves of living as worthily as her model. She comforts her soul
too, with passages from Longfellow and Tennyson and the 'Christian
Year,' and learns long extracts from 'Evangeline' and the 'Idyls;'
poetry having an almost magical influence over her, nearly as powerful
as the Sunday sermons to which she listens so devoutly and tries so
patiently to understand. For the first time she wakes to a dim sense
of her own individuality, and confesses to herself that she has a life
of her own, apart from and extraneous to her mere family membership.
She is not only the sister or the daughter living with and for her
parents or her brothers and sisters, but she is also herself, with a
future of her own not to be shared with them, not to be touched by
them. And she begins to have vague dreams of this future and its
hero--dreams that are as much of fairyland as if they were of the
young prince coming over the sea in a golden boat to find the princess
in a tower of brass waiting for him.

Quite impersonal, and with a hero only in the clouds, nevertheless
these dreams are suggested by the special circumstances of her life,
by her favourite books or the style of society in which she has been
placed. The young prince is either a beautiful and high-souled
clergyman--not unlike the young vicar or the new curate, but
infinitely more beautiful--an apostle in the standing collar and
single-breasted coat of the nineteenth century; or he is an artist in
a velvet blouse and with flowing hair, living in a world of beauty
such as no Philistine can imagine; or he is a gallant sailor, with
blue eyes and a loose necktie, looking up to heaven in a gale, and
thinking of his mother and sisters at home and of the one still more
beloved, when he certainly ought to be thinking of tarry ropes and
coarse sailcloth; or he is a magnificent young officer heading his men
at a charge, and looking supremely well got up and handsome. This is
the kind of _futur_ she dreams of when she dreams at all, which is not
often. The reality of her mature life is perhaps a stolid square-set
squire, or a prosaic city merchant without the thinnest thread of
romance in his composition; while her own life, which was to be such a
lovely poem of graceful usefulness and heroic beauty, sinks into the
prosaic routine of housekeeping and society, the sigh after the
vanished ideal growing fainter and fainter as the weight of fact grows

Married men are all sacred to Sweet Seventeen when she is a good girl;
so are engaged men. For the matter of that, she believes that nothing
could induce her to marry either a widower or one who had been already
engaged, as nothing could induce her to marry any man under five foot
eleven, or with a snub nose or sandy whiskers. Sweet Seventeen has in
general the most profound aversion for boys. To be sure she may have
her favourites--very few and very seldom; but she mostly thinks them
stupid or conceited, and impartially resents either their awkward
attentions to herself or their assumptions of superiority. An
abnormally clever boy--the Poet-Laureate or George Stephenson of his
generation--is her detestation, because he is odd and unlike every one
else; while the one that she dislikes least among them is the school
hero, who is first in the sports and takes all the prizes, and who
goes through life loved by every one and never famous.

For her several brothers she has a range of entirely different
feelings. Her younger schoolboy brothers she regards as the torments
of her existence, whose unkempt hair, dirty boots and rude manners are
her special crosses, to be borne with patience, tempered by an active
endeavour after reform. But the more advanced, and those who are older
than herself, are her loves for whom she has an enthusiastic
admiration, and whose future she believes in as something specially
brilliant and successful. If only slightly older or younger than
herself, she impresses them powerfully with the sentiment of her
superiority, and patronizes them--kindly enough; but she makes them
feel the ineffable supremacy of her sex, and how that she by virtue of
her womanhood is a glorified creature beside them--an Ariel to their

Now too, she begins to speak to her mother on more equal terms; to
criticize her dress, and to make her understand that she considers her
old-fashioned and inclined to be dowdy. She ties her bonnet-strings
for her; arranges her cap; smartens up her old dress and compels her
to buy a new one; and, while considering her immeasurably ancient,
likes her to look nice, and thinks her in her own way beautiful.
Sometimes she opposes and quarrels with her, if the mother has less
tact than arbitrariness. But this is not her natural state; for one of
the characteristics of Sweet Seventeen is her love for her mother and
her need of better counsel and guidance; so that if she comes into
opposition with her it is only through extreme pain, and the bitter
teaching of tyranny and injustice. This is just the age indeed, when
the mother's influence is everything to a girl; and when a silly, an
unjust, or an unprincipled woman is the very ruin of her life. But
with a low or evil-natured mother we seldom see a Sweet Seventeen
worth the trouble of writing about: which shows at least one
thing--the importance of the womanly influence at such a time, and how
so much that we blame in our modern girls lies to the account of their

Great tact is required with Sweet Seventeen in such society as is
allowed her; care to bring her out a little without obtruding her on
the world, without making her forward and consequential, and without
attracting too much attention to her. She is no longer a child to be
shut away in the nursery, but she is not yet entitled to the place and
consideration of a member of society. And yet it would be cruel to
debar her wholly from all that is going on in the house. To be sure
there is the governess, as well as mamma, to look after her manners
and to give her rope enough and not too much; but by the time a girl
is seventeen a governess has ceased to be the autocrat _ex officio_,
and she obeys her or not according to their respective strengths.
Still, the governess or mamma is for the most part at her elbow; and
Sweet Seventeen, if well brought up, is left very little to her own
guidance, and sees the world only through half-opened doors.

Girls of this age are often wonderfully sad, and full of a kind of
wondering despair at the sin and misery they are beginning to learn.
They take up extreme views in religion and talk largely on the
nothingness of pleasure and the emptiness of the world; and many fair
young creatures whom their elders, laden with sorrowful experience,
think full of hope and joy, are ready to give up all the pleasure of
life, and to lay down life itself, for very disgust of that of which
they know nothing. They delight in sorrowful lamentations and
sentimental regrets put into rhyme; and one of the funniest things in
the world is to see a girl dancing with the merriest in the evening,
and to hear her talking broken-hearted pessimism in the morning. It is
merely an example of the old proverb about the meeting of extremes;
vacuity leading to the same results as experience.

But however she takes this unknown life, it is always in an unreal and
romantic aspect. Some of more robust mind delight in the bolder
stories of Greece and Rome, and wish they had played a part in the
sensational heroism of those grand old times; while others go to
Venice, and make pictures for themselves out of the gliding gondolas
and the mysterious Council of Ten, the lovely ladies with grim old
fathers and high-handed brothers acting as gaolers, and the handsome
cavaliers serenading them in the moonlight. That is their idea of
love. They have no perception of anything warmer. It is all romance
and poetry, and tender glances from afar, and long and patient wooing
under difficulties and a little danger, with scarce a word spoken, and
nothing more expressive than a flower furtively given, or a fleeting
pressure of the finger tips. They know nothing else and expect nothing
else. Their cherry is without stone, their bird without bone, their
orange without rind, as in the old song; and they imagine a love as
unreal as all the rest.

When thrown into actualities, though--say when left motherless, and
the eldest girl of perhaps a large family with a father to comfort and
a young brood to see after--Sweet Seventeen is often very beautiful in
her degree, and rises grandly to her position. Sometimes the burden of
her responsibilities is too much for her tender shoulders, and she is
overweighted, and fails. Sometimes too she is tyrannical and selfish
in such a position, and uses her power ill; and sometimes she is
careless and good-humoured, when they all scramble up together,
through confusion, dirt and disorder, till the close time is over, and
they scatter themselves abroad. Sometimes she is a martyr, and makes
herself and every one else uncomfortable by the perpetual
demonstration of her martyrdom, and how she considers herself
sacrificed and put upon. Indeed she is not unfrequently a martyr from
other causes than heavy duties, being fond of adopting unworkable
views which cannot run in the family groove anyhow. If she falls upon
this rock she is in her glory; youth being marvellously proud of
voluntary crucifixion, and thinking itself especially ill-used because
it must be made conformable and is prevented from making itself

But Sweet Seventeen is intolerant of all moral differences. What she
holds to be right is the absolute, the one sole and only just law; and
she thinks it tampering with sin to allow that any one else has an
equal right with herself to a contrary opinion. But on the whole she
is a pleasant, loveable interesting creature; and one's greatest
regret about her is that she is so often in the hands of unsuitable
guides, and that her powers and noble impulses get so stunted and
shadowed by the commonplace training which is her general lot, and the
low aims of life which are the only ones held out to her.


The mind, like the body, contracts tricks and habits which in time
become automatic and involuntary--habits of association, tricks of
repetition, of which the excess is monomania, but which, without
attaining to quite that extreme, become more or less masters of the
brain and directors of the thoughts. And, of all these tricks of the
mind, the habit of fear is the most insidious and persistent. It is
seldom that any one who has once given in to it is able to clear
himself of it again. However unreasonable it may be, the trick clings,
and it would take an exceptionally strong intellect to be convinced of
its folly and learn the courage of common-sense. But this is just the
intellect which does not allow itself to contract the habit in the
beginning; a coward being for the most part a washy, weak kind of
being, with very little backbone anyhow. We do not mean by this fear
that which is physical and personal only, though this is generally the
sole idea which people have of the word; but moral and mental
cowardice as well. Personal fear indeed, is common enough, and as
pitiable as it is common; and we are ashamed to say that it is not
confined to women, though naturally it is more predominant with them
than with men.

As for women, the tyranny of fear lies very heavy on them, taking the
flavour out of many a life which else would be perfectly happy; being
often the only bitter drop in a cup full of sweetness. But how bitter
that drop is!--bitter enough to destroy all the sweetness of the rest.
Some women live in the perpetual presence of dread, both mental and
personal. It surrounds them like an atmosphere; it clothes them like a
garment; day by day, and from night to morning, it dogs their steps
and sits like a nightmare on their hearts; it is their very root work
of sensation, and they could as soon live without food as live without

Ludicrous as many of their terrors are, we still cannot help pitying
these poor self-made martyrs of imaginary danger. Take that most
familiar of all forms of fear among women, the fear of burglars, and
let us imagine for a moment the horror of the life which is haunted by
a nightly dread--by a terror that comes with as unfailing regularity
as the darkness--and measure, if we can, the amount of anguish that
must be endured before death comes to take off the torture. There are
many women to whom night is simply this time of torture, never
varying, never relieved. They dare not lock their doors, because then
they would be at the mercy of the man who sooner or later is to come
in at the window; and if they hear the boards creak or the furniture
crack they are in agonies because of the man who they are sure is in
the house, and who will come in at the door. They cannot sleep if they
have not looked all about the room--under the bed, behind the
curtains, into the closet, where perhaps a dress hanging a little
fantastically gives them a nervous start that lasts for the night.

But though they search so diligently they would probably faint on the
spot if they so much as saw the heels of the housebreaker they are
looking for. Yet you cannot reason with these poor creatures. You
cannot deny the fact that burglars have been found before now secreted
in bedrooms; and you cannot pooh-pooh the murders and housebreakings
which are reported in the newspapers; so you have nothing to say to
their argument that things which have happened once may happen again,
and that there is no reason why they specially should be exempt from a
misfortune to which others have been subjected. But you feel that
their terrors are just so much pith and substance taken out of their
strength; and that if they could banish the fear of burglars from
their minds they would be so much the more valuable members of
society, while the exorcism of their dismal demon would be so much the
better for themselves.

It is the same in everything. If they are living in the country, and
go up to London lodgings, they take the ground floor for fear of fire
and being burnt alive in their beds. If they go from London to the
country they see an escaped convict or a murderer in every ragged
reaper asking for work, or every tramp that begs for broken victuals
at the door. The country to them is full of dangers. In the shooting
season they are sure they will be shot if they go near a wood or a
turnip-field. They think they will be gored to death if they meet a
meek-eyed cow going placidly through the lane to her milking; and you
might as well try to march them up to the cannon's mouth as induce
them to cross a field where cattle are grazing. If they are driving,
and the horses are going at full trot, they say they are running away
and clutch the driver's arm nervously. As travellers they are in a
state of not wholly unreasonable apprehension the whole time the
railway journey lasts. They wait at Folkestone for days for a smooth
crossing; and when they are on board they call a breeze a gale, and
make sure they are bound for the bottom if the sea chops enough to
rock the boat so much as a cradle. If they go over a Swiss pass they
say their prayers and shut their eyes till it is over; and they are
horribly afraid of banditti on every foot of Italian ground, besides
firmly believing in the complicity with brigands of all the innkeepers
and _vetturini_.

Their fear extends to all who belong to them, for whom they conjure up
scenes of deadly disaster so soon as they are out of sight. Their
fancy is faceted, like the eyes of a fly, and they worry themselves
and every one else by exaggerating every chance of danger into a
certainty of destruction. When an epidemic is abroad, they are sure
all the children will take it; and if they have taken it, they are
sure they will never get over it. In illness indeed, those people who
have allowed themselves to fall into the habit of fear are especially
full of foreboding; not because they are more loving, more sympathetic
than others, but because they are more timid and less hopeful. If you
believe them, no one will recover who is in any way seriously
attacked; and the smallest ailment in themselves or their friends is
the sure forerunner of a mortal sickness. They make no allowance for
the elastic power of human nature; and they dislike hope and courage
in others, thinking you unfeeling in exact proportion to your

Morally this same habit of fear deteriorates, because it weakens and
narrows, the whole nature. So far from following Luther's famous
advice--Sin boldly and leave the rest to God--their sin is their very
fear, their unconquerable distrust. These are the people who regard
our affections as snares and all forms of pleasure as so many waymarks
on the road to perdition--who would narrow the circle of human life to
the smallest point both of feeling and action, because of the sin in
which, according to them, the whole world is steeped. They see guilt
everywhere, but innocence not at all. Their minds are set to the trick
of terror; and fear of the power of the devil and the anger of God
weighs on them like an iron chain from which there is no release.
This is not so much from delicacy of conscience as from simple moral
cowardice; for you seldom find these very timid people lofty-minded or
capable of any great act of heroism. On the contrary, they are
generally peevish and always selfish; self-consideration being the
tap-root of their fears, though the cause is assigned to all sorts of
pretty things, such as acute sensibilities, keen imagination, bad
health, tender conscience, delicate nerves--to anything in fact but
the real cause, a cowardly habit of fear produced by continual moral
selfishness, by incessant thought of and regard for themselves.

Nothing is so depressing as the society of a timid person, and nothing
is so infectious as fear. Live with any one given up to an eternal
dread of possible dangers and disasters, and you can scarcely escape
the contagion, nor, however brave you may be, maintain your
cheerfulness and faculty of faith. Indeed, as timid folks crave for
sympathy in their terrors--that very craving being part of their
malady of fear--you cannot show them a cheerful countenance under pain
of offence, and seeming to be brutal in your disregard of what so
tortures them. Their fears may be simply absurd and irrational, yet
you must sympathize with them if you wish even to soothe; argument or
common-sense demonstration of their futility being so much mental
ingenuity thrown away.

Fear breeds suspicion too, and timid people are always suspecting ill
of some one. The deepest old diplomatist who has probed the folly and
evil of the world from end to end, and who has sharpened his wits at
the expense of his trust, is not more full of suspicion of his kind
than a timid, superstitious, world-withdrawn man or woman given up to
the tyranny of fear. Every one is suspected more or less, but chiefly
lawyers, servants and all strangers. Any demonstration of kindness or
interest at all different from the ordinary jogtrot of society fills
them with undefined suspicion and dread; and, fear being in some
degree the product of a diseased imagination, the 'probable' causes
for anything they do not quite understand would make the fortune of a
novel-writer if given him for plots. If any one wants to hear
thrilling romances in course of actual enactment, let him go down
among remote and quiet-living country people, and listen to what they
have to say of the chance strangers who may have established
themselves in the neighbourhood, and who, having brought no letters of
introduction, are not known by the aborigines. The Newgate Calendar or
Dumas' novels would scarcely match the stories which fear and
ignorance have set afoot.

Fearful folk are always on the brink of ruin. They cannot wait to see
how things will turn before they despair; and they cannot hope for the
best in a bad pass. They are engulfed in abysses which never open, and
they die a thousand deaths before the supreme moment actually arrives.
The smallest difficulties are to them like the straws placed
crosswise over which no witch could pass; the beneficent action of
time, either as a healer of sorrow or a revealer of hidden mercies, is
a word of comfort they cannot accept for themselves, how true soever
it may be for others; the doctrine that chances are equal for good as
well as for bad is what they will not understand; and they know of no
power that can avert the disaster, which perhaps is simply a
possibility not even probable, and which their own fears only have
arranged. If they are professional men, having to make their way, they
are for ever anticipating failure for to-day and absolute destruction
for to-morrow; and they bemoan the fate of the wife and children sure
to be left to poverty by their untimely decease, when the chances are
ten to one in favour of the apportioned threescore and ten years. Life
is a place of suffering here and a place of torment hereafter; yet
they often wish to die, reversing Hamlet's decision by thinking the
mystery of unknown ills preferable to the reality of those they have
on hand.

Over such minds as these the vaticinations of such a prophet as Dr.
Cumming have peculiar power; and they accept his gloomy
interpretations of the Apocalypse with a faith as unquestioning as
that with which they accept the Gospels. They have a predilection
indeed for all terrifying prophecies, and cast the horoscope of the
earth and foretell the destruction of the universe with marvellous
exactitude. Their minds are set to the trick of foreboding, and they
live in the habit of fear, as others live in the habit of hope, of
resignation, or of careless good-humour and indifference. There is
nothing to be done with them. Like drinking, or palsy, or a nervous
headache, or a congenital deformity, the habit is hopeless when once
established; and those who have begun by fear and suspicion and
foreboding will live to the end in the atmosphere they have created
for themselves. The man or woman whose mind is once haunted by the
nightly fear of a secreted burglar will go on looking for his heels so
long as eyesight and the power of locomotion continue; and no failure
in past Apocalyptic interpretations will shake the believer's faith in
those of which the time for fulfilment has not yet arrived. It is a
trick which has rooted, a habit that has crystallized by use into a
formation; and there it must be left, as something beyond the power of
reason to remedy or of experience to destroy.


The world is notoriously unjust to its veterans, and above all it is
unjust to its ancient females. Everywhere, and from all time, an old
woman has been taken to express the last stage of uselessness and
exhaustion; and while a meeting of bearded dotards goes by the name of
a council of sages, and its deliberations are respected accordingly, a
congregation of grey-haired matrons is nothing but a congregation of
old women, whose thoughts and opinions on any subject whatsoever have
no more value than the chattering of so many magpies. In fact the poor
old ladies have a hard time of it; and if we look at it in its right
light, perhaps nothing proves more thoroughly the coarse flavour of
the world's esteem respecting women than this disdain which they
excite when they are old. And yet what charming old ladies one has
known at times!--women quite as charming in their own way at seventy
as their grand-daughters are at seventeen, and all the more so because
they have no design now to be charming, because they have given up the
attempt to please for the reaction of praise, and long since have
consented to become old though they have never drifted into
unpersonableness nor neglect. While retaining the intellectual
vivacity and active sympathies of maturity, they have added the
softness, the mellowness, the tempering got only from experience and
advancing age. They are women who have seen and known and read a great
deal; and who have suffered much; but whose sorrows have neither
hardened nor soured them--but rather have made them even more
sympathetic with the sorrows of others, and pitiful for all the young.
They have lived through and lived down all their own trials, and have
come out into peace on the other side; but they remember the trials of
the fiery passage, and they feel for those who have still to bear the
pressure of the pain they have overcome. These are not women much met
with in society; they are of the kind which mostly stays at home and
lets the world come to them. They have done with the hurry and glitter
of life, and they no longer care to carry their grey hairs abroad.
They retain their hold on the affections of their kind; they take an
interest in the history, the science, the progress of the day; but
they rest tranquil and content by their own fireside, and they sit to
receive, and do not go out to gather.

The fashionable old lady who haunts the theatres and drawing-rooms,
bewigged, befrizzled, painted, ghastly in her vain attempts to appear
young, hideous in her frenzied clutch at the pleasures melting from
her grasp, desperate in her wild hold on a life that is passing away
from her so rapidly, knows nothing of the quiet dignity and happiness
of her ancient sister who has been wise enough to renounce before she
lost. In her own house, where gather a small knot of men of mind and
women of character, where the young bring their perplexities and the
mature their deeper thoughts, the dear old lady of ripe experience,
loving sympathies and cultivated intellect holds a better court than
is known to any of those miserable old creatures who prowl about the
gay places of the world, and wrestle with the young for their crowns
and garlands--those wretched simulacra of womanhood who will not grow
old and who cannot become wise. She is the best kind of old lady
extant, answering to the matron of classic times--to the Mother in
Israel before whom the tribes made obeisance in token of respect; the
woman whose book of life has been well studied and closely read, and
kept clean in all its pages. She has been no prude however, and no
mere idealist. She must have been wife, mother and widow; that is, she
must have known many things of joy and grief and have had the
fountains of life unsealed. However wise and good she may be, as a
spinster she has had only half a life; and it is the best half which
has been denied her. How can she tell others, when they come to her in
their troubles, how time and a healthy will have wrought with her, if
she has never passed through the same circumstances? Theoretic comfort
is all very well, but one word of experience goes beyond volumes of
counsel based on general principles and a lively imagination.

One type of old lady, growing yearly scarcer, is the old lady whose
religious and political theories are based on the doctrines of
Voltaire and Paine's _Rights of Man_--the old lady who remembers Hunt
and Thistlewood and the Birmingham riots; who talks of the French
Revolution as if it were yesterday; and who has heard so often of the
Porteus mob from poor papa that one would think she had assisted at
the hanging herself. She is an infinitely old woman, for the most part
birdlike, chirrupy, and wonderfully alive. She has never gone beyond
her early teaching, but is a fossil radical of the old school; and she
thinks the Gods departed when Hunt and his set died out. She is an
irreligious old creature, and scoffs with more cleverness than grace
at everything new or earnest. She would as lief see Romanism rampant
at once as this newfangled mummery they call Ritualism; and Romanism
is her version of the unchaining of Satan. As for science--well, it is
all very wonderful, but more wonderful she thinks than true; and she
cannot quite make up her mind about the spectroscope or protoplasm. Of
the two, protoplasm commends itself most to her imagination, for
private reasons of her own connected with the Pentateuch; but these
things are not so much in her way as Voltaire and Diderot, Volney and
Tom Paine, and she is content to abide by her ancient cairns and to
leave the leaping-poles of science to younger and stronger hands.
This type of old lady is for the most part an ancient spinster, whose
life has worn itself away in the arid deserts of mental doubt and
emotional negation. If she ever loved it was in secret, some
thin-lipped embodied Idea long years ago. Most likely she did not get
even to this unsatisfactory length, but contented herself with books
and discussions only. If she had ever honestly loved and been loved,
perhaps she would have gone beyond Voltaire, and have learned
something truer than a scoff.

The old lady of strong instinctive affections, who never reflects and
never attempts to restrain her kindly weaknesses, stands at the other
end of the scale. She is the grandmother _par excellence_, and spends
her life in spoiling the little ones, cramming them with sugar-plums
and rich cake whenever she has the chance, and nullifying mamma's
punishments by surreptitious gifts and goodies. She is the dearly
beloved of our childish recollections; and to the last days of our
life we cherish the remembrance of the kind old lady with her beaming
smile, taking out of her large black reticule, or the more mysterious
recesses of her unfathomable pocket, wonderful little screws of paper
which her withered hands thrust into our chubby fists; but we can
understand now what an awful nuisance she must have been to the
authorities, and how impossible she made it to preserve anything like
discipline and the terrors of domestic law in the family.

The old lady who remains a mere child to the end; who looks very much
like a faded old wax doll with her scanty hair blown out into
transparent ringlets, and her jaunty cap bedecked with flowers and
gay-coloured bows; who cannot rise into the dignity of true
womanliness; who knows nothing useful; can give no wise advice: has no
sentiment of protection, but on the contrary demands all sorts of care
and protection for herself--she, simpering and giggling as if she were
fifteen, is by no means an old lady of the finest type. But she is
better than the leering old lady who says coarse things, and who, like
Béranger's immortal creation, passes her time in regretting her plump
arms and her well-turned ankle and the lost time that can never be
recalled, and who is altogether a most unedifying old person and by no
means nice company for the young.

Then there is the irascible old lady, who rates her servants and is
free with full-flavoured epithets against sluts in general; who is
like a tigress over her last unmarried daughter, and, when crippled
and disabled, still insists on keeping the keys, which she delivers up
when wanted only with a snarl and a suspicious caution. She has been
one of the race of active housekeepers, and has prided herself on her
exceptional ability that way for so long that she cannot bear to
yield, even when she can no longer do any good; so she sits in her
easy chair, like old Pope and Pagan in _Pilgrim's Progress_, and gnaws
her fingers at the younger world which passes her by. She is an
infliction to her daughter for all the years of her life, and to the
last keeps her in leading-strings, tied up as tight as the sinewy old
hands can knot them; treating her always as an irresponsible young
thing who needs both guidance and control, though the girl has passed
into the middle-aged woman by now, shuffling through life a poor
spiritless creature who has faded before she has fully blossomed, and
who dies like a fruit that has dropped from the tree before it has

Twin sister to this kind is the grim female become ancient; the gaunt
old lady with a stiff backbone, who sits upright and walks with a firm
tread like a man; a leathery old lady, who despises all your weak
slips of girls that have nerves and headaches and cannot walk their
paltry mile without fatigue; a desiccated old lady, large-boned and
lean, without an ounce of superfluous fat about her, with keen eyes
yet, with which she boasts that she can thread a needle and read small
print by candlelight; an indestructible old lady, who looks as if
nothing short of an earthquake would put an end to her. The friend of
her youth is now a stout, soft, helpless old lady, much bedraped in
woollen shawls, given to frequent sippings of brandy and water, and
ensconced in the chimney corner like a huge clay figure set to dry.
For her the indestructible old lady has the supremest contempt,
heightened in intensity by a vivid remembrance of the time when they
were friends and rivals. Ah, poor Laura, she says, straightening
herself; she was always a poor creature, and see what she is now! To
those who wait long enough the wheel always comes round, she thinks;
and the days when Laura bore away the bell from her for grace and
sweetness and loveableness generally are avenged now, when the one is
a mere mollusc and the other has a serviceable backbone that will last
for many a year yet.

Then there is the musical old lady, who is fond of playing small
anonymous pieces of a jiggy character full of queer turns and shakes,
music that seems all written in demi-semi-quavers, and that she gives
in a tripping, catching way, as if the keys of the piano were hot.
Sometimes she will sing, as a great favour, old-world songs which are
almost pathetic for the thin and broken voice that chirrups out the
sentiment with which they abound; and sometimes, as a still greater
favour, she will stand up in the dance, and do the poor uncertain
ghosts of what were once steps, in the days when dancing was dancing
and not the graceless lounge it is now. But her dancing-days are over,
she says, after half-a-dozen turns; though, indeed, sometimes she
takes a frisky fit and goes in for the whole quadrille:--and pays for
it the next day.

The very dress of old ladies is in itself a study and a revelation of
character. There are the beautiful old women who make themselves like
old pictures by a profusion of soft lace and tender greys; and the
stately old ladies who affect rich rustling silks and sombre velvet;
and there are the original and individual old ladies, who dress
themselves after their own kind, like Mrs. Basil Montagu, Miss Jane
Porter, and dear Mrs. Duncan Stewart, and have a _cachet_ of their own
with which fashion has nothing to do. And there are the old women who
wear rusty black stuffs and ugly helmet-like caps; and those who
affect uniformity and going with the stream, when the fashion has
become national--and these have been much exercised of late with the
strait skirts and the new bonnets. But Providence is liberal and
milliners are fertile in resources. In fact, in this as in all other
sections of humanity, there are those who are beautiful and wise, and
those who are foolish and unlovely; those who make the best of things
as they are, and those who make the worst, by treating them as what
they are not; those who extract honey, and those who find only poison.
For in old age, as in youth, are to be found beauty, use, grace and
value, but in different aspects and on another platform. And the folly
is when this difference is not allowed for, or when the possibility of
these graces is denied and their utility ignored.


Far before the eyes or the mouth or the habitual gesture, as a
revelation of character, is the quality of the voice and the manner of
using it. It is the first thing that strikes us in a new acquaintance,
and it is one of the most unerring tests of breeding and education.
There are voices which have a certain truthful ring about them--a
certain something, unforced and spontaneous, that no training can
give. Training can do much in the way of making a voice, but it can
never compass more than a bad imitation of this quality; for the very
fact of its being an imitation, however accurate, betrays itself like
rouge on a woman's cheeks, or a wig, or dyed hair. On the other hand,
there are voices which have the jar of falsehood in every tone, and
which are as full of warning as the croak of the raven or the hiss of
the serpent. These are in general the naturally hard voices which make
themselves caressing, thinking by that to appear sympathetic; but the
fundamental quality strikes up through the overlay, and a person must
be very dull indeed who cannot detect the pretence in that slow,
drawling, would-be affectionate voice, with its harsh undertone and
sharp accent whenever it forgets itself.

But without being false or hypocritical, there are voices which puzzle
as well as disappoint us, because so entirely inharmonious with the
appearance of the speaker. For instance, there is that thin treble
squeak which we sometimes hear from the mouth of a well-grown portly
man, when we expected the fine rolling utterance which would have been
in unison with his outward seeming. And, on the other side of the
scale, where we looked for a shrill head-voice or a tender musical
cadence, we get that hoarse chest-voice with which young and pretty
girls sometimes startle us. This voice is in fact one of the
characteristics of the modern girl of a certain type; just as the
habitual use of slang is characteristic of her, or that peculiar
rounding of the elbows and turning out of the wrists--which gestures,
like the chest-voice, instinctively belong to men only and have to be
learned before they can be practised by women.

Nothing betrays feeling so much as the voice, save perhaps the eyes;
and these can be lowered, and so far their expression hidden. In
moments of emotion no skill can hide the fact of disturbed feeling by
the voice; though a strong will and the habit of self-control can
steady it when else it would be failing and tremulous. But not the
strongest will, nor the largest amount of self-control, can keep it
natural as well as steady. It is deadened, veiled, compressed, like a
wild creature tightly bound and unnaturally still. One feels that it
is done by an effort, and that if the strain were relaxed for a moment
the wild creature would burst loose in rage or despair--and that the
voice would break into the scream of passion or quiver down into the
falter of pathos. And this very effort is as eloquent as if there had
been no holding down at all, and the voice had been left to its own
impulse unchecked.

Again, in fun and humour, is it not the voice even more than the face
that is expressive? The twinkle of the eye, the hollow in the under
lip, the dimples about the mouth, the play of the eyebrow, are all
aids certainly; but the voice! The mellow tone that comes into the
utterance of one man; the surprised accents of another; the fatuous
simplicity of a third; the philosophical acquiescence of a fourth when
relating the most outrageous impossibilities--a voice and manner
peculiarly Transatlantic, and indeed one of the American forms of
fun--do we not know all these varieties by heart? have we not veteran
actors whose main point lies in one or other of these varieties? and
what would be the drollest anecdote if told in a voice which had
neither play nor significance? Pathos too--who feels it, however
beautifully expressed so far as words may go, if uttered in a dead and
wooden voice without sympathy? But the poorest attempts at pathos will
strike home to the heart if given tenderly and harmoniously. And just
as certain popular airs of mean association can be made into church
music by slow time and stately modulation, so can dead-level
literature be lifted into passion or softened into sentiment by the
voice alone.

We all know the effect, irritating or soothing, which certain voices
have over us; and we have all experienced that strange impulse of
attraction or repulsion which comes from the sound of the voice alone.
And generally, if not absolutely always, the impulse is a true one,
and any modification which increased knowledge may produce is never
quite satisfactory. Certain voices grate on our nerves and set our
teeth on edge; and others are just as calming as these are irritating,
quieting us like a composing draught, and setting vague images of
beauty and pleasantness afloat in our brains.

A good voice, calm in tone and musical in quality, is one of the
essentials for a physician--the 'bedside voice' which is nothing if
not sympathetic by constitution. Not false, not made up, not sickly,
but tender in itself, of a rather low pitch, well modulated and
distinctly harmonious in its notes, it is the very opposite of the
orator's voice, which is artificial in its management and a made
voice. Whatever its original quality may be, the orator's voice bears
the unmistakeable stamp of art and is artificial. It may be admirable;
telling in a crowd; impressive in an address; but it is overwhelming
and chilling at home, partly because it is always conscious and never

An orator's voice, with its careful intonation and accurate accent,
would be as much out of place by a sick-bed as Court trains and
brocaded silk for the nurse. There are certain men who do a good deal
by a hearty, jovial, fox-hunting kind of voice--a voice a little
thrown up for all that it is a chest-voice--a voice with a certain
undefined rollick and devil-may-care sound in it, and eloquent of a
large volume of vitality and physical health. That, too, is a good
property for a medical man. It gives the sick a certain fillip, and
reminds them pleasantly of health and vigour. It may have a mesmeric
kind of effect upon them--who knows?--so that it induces in them
something of its own state, provided it be not overpowering. But a
voice of this kind has a tendency to become insolent in its assertion
of vigour, swaggering and boisterous; and then it is too much for
invalided nerves, just as mountain-winds or sea-breezes would be too
much, and the scent of flowers or of a hayfield oppressive.

The clerical voice again, is a class-voice--that neat, careful,
precise voice, neither wholly made nor yet natural--that voice which
never strikes one as hearty nor as having a really genuine utterance,
but which is not entirely unpleasant if one does not require too much
spontaneity. The clerical voice, with its mixture of familiarity and
oratory as that of one used to talk to old women in private and to
hold forth to a congregation in public, is as distinct in its own way
as the mathematician's handwriting; and any one can pick out blindfold
his man from a knot of talkers, without waiting to see the square-cut
collar and close white tie. The legal voice is different again; but
this is rather a variety of the orator's than a distinct species--a
variety standing midway between that and the clerical, and affording
more scope than either.

The voice is much more indicative of the state of the mind than many
people know of or allow. One of the first symptoms of failing brain
power is in the indistinct or confused utterance; no idiot has a clear
nor melodious voice; the harsh scream of mania is proverbial; and no
person of prompt and decisive thought was ever known to hesitate nor
to stutter. A thick, loose, fluffy voice too, does not belong to the
crisp character of mind which does the best active work; and when we
meet with a keen-witted man who drawls, and lets his words drip
instead of bringing them out in the sharp incisive way that should be
natural to him, we may be sure there is a flaw somewhere, and that he
is not 'clear grit' all through.

We all have our company voices, as we all have our company manners;
and, after a time, we get to know the company voices of our friends,
and to understand them as we understand their best dresses and state
service. The person whose voice absolutely refuses to put itself into
company tone startles us as much as if he came to a state dinner in a
shooting-jacket. This is a different thing from the insincere and
flattering voice, which is never laid aside while it has its object to
gain, and which affects to be one thing when it means another. The
company voice is only a little bit of finery, quite in its place if
not carried into the home, where however, silly men and women think
they can impose on their house-mates by assumptions which cannot stand
the test of domestic ease. The lover's voice is of course _sui
generis_; but there is another kind of voice which one sometimes hears
that is quite as enchanting--the rich, full, melodious voice which
irresistibly suggests sunshine and flowers, and heavy bunches of
purple grapes, and a wealth of physical beauty at all four corners.
Such a voice is Alboni's; such a voice we can conceive Anacreon's to
have been; with less lusciousness and more stateliness, such a voice
was Walter Savage Landor's. His was not an English voice; it was too
rich and accurate; yet it was clear and apparently thoroughly
unstudied, and was the very perfection of art. There was no greater
treat of its kind than to hear Landor read Milton or Homer.

Though one of the essentials of a good voice is its clearness, there
are certain lisps and catches which are pretty, though never
dignified; but most of them are painful to the ear. It is the same
with accents. A dash of brogue; the faintest suspicion of the Scotch
twang; even a little American accent--but very little, like red-pepper
to be sparingly used, as indeed we may say with the others--gives a
certain piquancy to the voice. So does a Continental accent generally;
few of us being able to distinguish the French accent from the German,
the Polish from the Italian, or the Russian from the Spanish, but
lumping them all together as 'a foreign accent' broadly. Of all the
European voices the French is perhaps the most unpleasant in its
quality, and the Italian the most delightful. The Italian voice is a
song in itself; not the sing-song voice of an English parish
schoolboy, but an unnoted bit of harmony. The French voice is thin,
apt to become wiry and metallic; a head-voice for the most part, and
eminently unsympathetic; a nervous, irritable voice, that seems more
fit for complaint than for love-making; and yet how laughing, how
bewitching it can make itself!--never with the Italian roundness, but
_câlinante_ in its own half-pettish way, provoking, enticing,
arousing. There are some voices which send you to sleep and others
which stir you up; and the French voice is of the latter kind when
setting itself to do mischief and work its own will.

Of all the differences lying between Calais and Dover, perhaps nothing
strikes the traveller more than the difference in the national voice
and manner of speech. The sharp, high-pitched, stridulous voice of the
French, with its clear accent and neat intonation, is exchanged for
the loose, fluffy utterance of England, where clear enunciation is
considered pedantic; where brave men cultivate a drawl and pretty
women a deep chest-voice; where well-educated people think it no shame
to run all their words into each other, and to let consonants and
vowels drip out like so many drops of water, with not much more
distinction between them; and where no one knows how to educate his
organ artistically, without going into artificiality and affectation.
And yet the cultivation of the voice is an art, and ought to be made
as much a matter of education as a good carriage or a legible
handwriting. We teach our children to sing, but we never teach them to
speak, beyond correcting a glaring piece of mispronunciation or so. In
consequence of which we have all sorts of odd voices among us--short
yelping voices like dogs; purring voices like cats; croakings and
lispings and quackings and chatterings; a very menagerie in fact, to
be heard in a room ten feet square, where a little rational
cultivation would have reduced the whole of that vocal chaos to order
and harmony, and would have made what is now painful and distasteful
beautiful and seductive.


An old proverb says that a burnt child dreads the fire. If so, the
child must be uncommonly astute, and with a power of reasoning by
analogy in excess of impulsive desire rarely found either in children
or adults. As a matter of fact, experience goes a very little way
towards directing folks wisely. People often say how much they would
like to live their lives over again with their present experience.
That means, they would avoid certain specific mistakes of the past, of
which they have seen and suffered from the issue. But if they retained
the same nature as now, though they might avoid a few special
blunders, they would fall into the same class of errors quite as
readily as before, the gravitation of character towards circumstance
being always absolute in its direction.

Our blunders in life are not due to ignorance so much as to
temperament; and only the exceptionally wise among us learn to correct
the excesses of temperament by the lessons of experience. To the mass
of mankind these lessons are for the time only, and prophesy nothing
of the future. They hold them to have been mistakes of method, not of
principle, and they think that the same lines more carefully laid
would lead to a better superstructure in the future, not seeing that
the fault was organic and in those very initial lines themselves. No
impulsive nor wildly hopeful person, for instance, ever learns by
experience, so long as his physical condition remains the same. No one
with a large faculty of faith--that is, credulous and easily imposed
on--becomes suspicious or critical by mere experience. How much soever
people of this kind have been taken in, in times past, they are just
as ready to become the prey of the spoiler in times to come; and it
would be sad, if it were not so silly, to watch how inevitably one
half of the world gives itself up as food whereon the roguery of the
other half may wax fat.

The person of facile confidence, whose secrets have been blazed abroad
more than once by trusted friends, makes yet another and another safe
confidant--quite safe this time; one of whose fidelity there is no
doubt--and learns when too late that one _panier percé_ is very like
another _panier percé_. The speculating man, without business faculty
or knowledge, who has burnt his fingers bare to the bone with handling
scrip and stock, thrusts them into the fire again so soon as he has
the chance. The gambler blows his fingers just cool enough to shuffle
the cards for this once only, sure that this time hope will tell no
flattering tale, that ravelled ends will knit themselves up into a
close and seemly garment, and heaven itself work a miracle in his
favour against the law of mathematical certainty. In fact we are all
gamblers in this way, and play our hazards for the stakes of faith and
hope. We all burn our fingers again and again at some fire or another;
but experience teaches us nothing; save perhaps a more hopeless,
helpless resignation towards that confounded ill-luck of ours, and a
weary feeling of having known it all before when things fall out amiss
and we are blistered in the old flames.

In great matters this persistency of endeavour is sublime, and gets a
wealth of laurel crowns and blue ribands; but in little things it is
obstinacy, want of ability to profit by experience, denseness of
perception as to what can and what cannot be done; and the apologue of
Bruce's spider gets tiresome if too often repeated. The most
hopelessly inapt people at learning why they burnt their fingers last
time, and how they will burn them again, are those who, whatever their
profession, are blessed or cursed with what is called the artistic
temperament. A man will ruin himself for love of a particular place;
for dislike of a certain kind of necessary work; for the prosecution
of a certain hobby. Is he not artistic? and must he not have all the
conditions of his life exactly square with his desires? else how can
he do good work? So he goes on burning his fingers through
self-indulgence, and persists in his unwisdom to the end of his life.
He will paint his unsaleable pictures or write his unreadable books;
his path is one in which the money-paying public will not follow; but
though his very existence depends on the following of that paying
public, he will not stir an inch to meet it, but keeps where he is
because he likes the particular run of his hedgerows; and spends his
days in thrusting his hand into the fire of what he chooses to call
the ideal, and his nights in abusing the Philistinism of the world
which lets him be burnt.

And what does any amount of experience do for us in the matter of
friendship or love? As the world goes round, and our credulous morning
darkens into a more sceptical twilight, we believe as a general
principle--a mere abstraction--that all new friends are just so much
gilt gingerbread; and that a very little close holding and hard
rubbing brings off the gilt, and leaves nothing but a slimy, sticky
mess of little worth as food and of none as ornament. And yet, if of
the kind to whom friendship is necessary for happiness, we rush as
eagerly into the new affection as if we had never philosophized on the
emptiness of the old, and believe as firmly in the solid gold of our
latest cake as if we had never smeared our hands with one of the same
pattern before. So with love. A man sees his comrades fluttering like
enchanted moths about some stately man-slayer, some fair and shining
light set like a false beacon on a dangerous cliff to lure men to
their destruction. He sees how they singe and burn in the flame of her
beauty, but he is not warned. If one's own experience teaches one
little or nothing, the experience of others goes for even less, and no
man yet was ever warned off the destructive fire of love because his
companions had burnt their fingers there before him and his own are
sure to follow.

It is the same with women; and in a greater degree. They know all
about Don Juan well enough. They are perfectly well aware how he
treated A. and B. and C. and D. But when it comes to their own turn,
they think that this time surely, and to them, things will be
different and he will be in earnest. So they slide down into the
alluring flame, and burn their fingers for life by playing with
forbidden fire. But have we not all the secret belief that we shall
escape the snares and pitfalls into which others have dropped and
among which we choose to walk? that fire will not burn our fingers, at
least so very badly, when we thrust them into it? and that, by some
legerdemain of Providence, we shall be delivered from the consequences
of our own folly, and that two and two may be made to count five in
our behalf? Who is taught by the experience of an unhappy marriage,
say? No sooner has a man got himself free from the pressure of one
chain and bullet, than he hastens to fasten on another, quite sure
that this chain will be no heavier than the daintiest little thread of
gold, and this bullet as light and sweet as a cowslip-ball. Everything
that had gone wrong before will come right this time; and the hot bars
of close association with an uncomfortable temper and unaccommodating
habits will be only like a juggling trick, and will burn no one's
heart or hands.

People too, who burn their fingers in giving good advice unasked,
seldom learn to hold them back. With an honest intention, and a strong
desire to see right done, it is difficult to avoid putting our hands
into fires with which we have no business. While we are young and
ardent, it seems to us as if we have distinct business with all fraud,
injustice, folly, wilfulness, which we believe a few honest words of
ours will control and annul; but nine times out of ten we only burn
our own hands, while we do not in the least strengthen those of the
right nor weaken those of the wrong. We may say the same of
good-natured people. There was never a row of chestnuts roasting at
the fire for which your good-natured oaf will not stretch out his hand
at the bidding and for the advantage of a friend. Experience teaches
the poor oaf nothing; not even that fire burns. To put his name at the
back of a bill, just as a mere form; to lend his money, just for a few
days; or to do any other sort of self-immolating folly, on the
faithful promise that the fire will not burn nor the knife cut--it all
comes as easy to men of the good-natured sort as their alphabet.
Indeed it is their alphabet, out of which they spell their own ruin;
but so long as the impressionable temperament lasts--so long as the
liking to do a good-natured action is greater than caution, suspicion,
or the power of analogical reasoning--so long will the oaf make
himself the catspaw of the knave, till at last he has left himself no
fingers wherewith to pluck out the chestnuts for himself or another.

The first doubt of young people is always a source of intense
suffering. Hitherto they have believed what they saw and all they
heard; and they have not troubled themselves with motives nor facts
beyond those given to them and lying on the surface. But when they
find out for themselves that seeming is not necessarily being, and
that all people are not as good throughout as they thought them, then
they suffer a moral shock which often leads them into a state of
practical atheism and despair. Many young people give up altogether
when they first open the book of humanity and begin to read beyond the
title-page; and, because they have found specks in the cleanest parts,
they believe that nothing is left pure. They are as much bewildered as
horror-struck, and cannot understand how any one they have loved and
respected should have done this or that misdeed. Having done it, there
is nothing left to love nor respect further. It is only by degrees
that they learn to adjust and apportion, and to understand that the
whole creature is not necessarily corrupt because there are a few
unhealthy places here and there. But in the beginning this first
scorching by the fire of experience is very painful and bad to bear.
Then they begin to think the knowledge of the world, as got from
books, so wonderful, so profound; and they look on it as a science to
be learned by much studying of aphorisms. They little know that not
the most affluent amount of phrase knowledge can ever regulate that
class of action which springs from a man's inherent disposition; and
that it is not facts which teach but self-control which prevents.

After very early youth we all have enough theoretical knowledge to
keep us straight; but theoretical knowledge does nothing without
self-knowledge, or its corollary, self-control. The world has never
yet got beyond the wisdom of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes; and Solomon's
advice to the Israelitish youth lounging round the gates of the Temple
is quite as applicable to young Hopeful coming up to London chambers
as it was to them. Teaching of any kind, by books or events, is the
mere brute weapon; but self-control is the intelligent hand to wield
it. To burn one's fingers once in a lifetime tells nothing against a
man's common-sense nor dignity; but to go on burning them is the act
of a fool, and we cannot pity the wounds, however sore they may be.
The Arcadian virtues of unlimited trust and hope and love are very
sweet and lovely; but they are the graces of childhood, not the
qualities of manhood. They are charming little finalities, which do
not admit of modification nor of expansion; and in a naughty world, to
go about with one's heart on one's sleeve, believing every one and
accepting everything to be just as it presents itself, is offering
bowls of milk to tigers, and meeting armed men with a tin sword. Such
universal trust can only result in a perpetual burning of one's
fingers; and a life spent in pulling out hot chestnuts from the fire
for another's eating is by no means the most useful nor the most
dignified to which a man can devote himself.


Perhaps we ought to apologize for using a foreign label, but there is
no one English word which gives the full meaning of _désoeuvrement_.
Only paraphrases and accumulations would convey the many subtle shades
contained in it; and paraphrases and accumulations are inconvenient as
headings. But if we have not the word, we have a great deal of the
thing; for _désoeuvrement_ is an evil unfortunately not confined to
one country nor to one class; and even we, with all our boasted
Anglo-Saxon energy, have people among us as unoccupied and purposeless
as are to be found elsewhere. Certainly we have nothing like the
Neapolitan lazzaroni who pass their lives in dozing in the sun; but
that is more because of our climate than our condition, and if our
_désoeuvrés_ do not doze out of doors, it by no means follows that
they are wide awake within.

No state is more unfortunate than this listless want of purpose which
has nothing to do, which is interested in nothing, and which has no
serious object in life; and the drifting, aimless temperament, which
merely waits and does not even watch, is the most disastrous that a
man or woman can possess. Feverish energy, wearing itself out on
comparative nothings, is better than the indolence which folds its
hands and makes neither work nor pleasure; and the most microscopic
and restless perception is more healthful than the dull blindness
which goes from Dan to Beersheba, and finds all barren.

If even death itself is only a transmutation of forces--an active and
energizing change--what can we say of this worse than mental death?
How can we characterize a state which is simply stagnation? Not all of
us have our work cut out and laid ready for us to do; very many of us
have to seek for objects of interest and to create our own employment;
and were it not for the energy which makes work by its own force, the
world would still be lying in barbarism, content with the skins of
beasts for clothing and with wild fruits and roots for food. But the
_désoeuvrés_ know nothing of the pleasures of energy; consequently
none of the luxuries of idleness--only its tedium and monotony. Life
is a dull round to them of alternate vacancy and mechanical routine; a
blank so dead that active pain and positive sorrow would be better for
them than the passionless negation of their existence. They love
nothing; they hope for nothing; they work for nothing; to-morrow will
be as to-day, and to-day is as yesterday was; it is the mere passing
of time which they call living--a moral and mental hybernation broken
up by no springtime waking.

Though by no means confined to women only, this disastrous state is
nevertheless more frequently found with them than with men. It is
comparatively rare that a man--at least an Englishman--is born with so
little of the activity which characterizes manhood as to rest content
without some kind of object for his life, either in work or in
pleasure, in study or in vice. But many women are satisfied to remain
in an unending _désoeuvrement_, a listless supineness that has not
even sufficient active energy to fret at its own dullness.

We see this kind of thing especially in the families of the poorer
class of gentry in the country. If we except the Sunday school and
district visiting, neither of which commends itself as a pleasant
occupation to all minds--both in fact needing a little more active
energy than we find in the purely _désoeuvré_ class--what is there for
the unmarried daughters of a family to do? There is no question of a
profession for any of them. Ideas travel slowly in country places, and
root themselves still more slowly, even yet; and the idea of woman's
work for ladies is utterly inadmissible by the English gentleman who
can leave a modest sufficiency to his daughters--just enough to live
on in the old house and in the old way, without a margin for luxuries,
but above anything like positive want. There is no possibility then of
an active career in art or literature; of going out as a governess, as
a hospital nurse, or as a Sister. There is only home, with the
possible and not very probable chance of marriage as the vision of
hope in the distant future. And that chance is very small and very
remote; for the simple reason--there is no one to marry.

There are the young collegians who come down in reading parties; the
group of Bohemian artists, if the place be picturesque and not too far
from London; the curate; and the new doctor, fresh from the hospitals,
who has to make his practice out of the poorer and more outlying
_clientèle_ of the old and established practitioners of the place. But
collegians do not marry, and long engagements are proverbially
hazardous; Bohemian artists are even less likely than they to trouble
the surrogate; and the curate and the doctor can at the best marry
only one apiece of the many who are waiting. The family keeps neither
carriages nor horses, so that the longest tether to which life can be
carried, with the house for the stake, is simply the three or four
miles which the girls can walk out and back. And the visiting list is
necessarily comprised within this circle. There is then, absolutely
nothing to occupy nor to interest. The whole day is spent in playing
over old music, in needlework, in a little desultory reading, such as
is supplied by the local book society; all without other object than
that of passing the time. The girls have had nothing like a thorough
education in anything; they are not specially gifted, and what brains
they have are dormant and uncultivated. There is not even enough
housework to occupy their time, unless they were to send away the
servants. Besides, domestic work of an active kind is vulgar, and
gentlemen and gentlewomen do not allow their daughters to do it. They
may help in the housekeeping; which means merely giving out the week's
supplies on Monday and ordering the dinner on other days, and which is
not an hour's occupation in the week; and they can do a little amateur
spudding and raking among the flower-beds when the weather is fine, if
they care for the garden; and they can do a great deal of walking if
they are strong; and this is all that they can do. There they are,
four or five well-looking girls perhaps, of marriageable age, fairly
healthy and amiable, and with just so much active power as would carry
them creditably through any work that was given them to do, but with
not enough originative energy to make them create work for themselves
out of nothing.

In their quiet uneventful sphere, with the circumscribed radius and
the short tether, it would be very difficult for any women but those
few who are gifted with unusual energy to create a sufficient human
interest; to ordinary young ladies it is impossible. They can but
make-believe, even if they try--and they don't try. They can but raise
up shadows which they would fain accept as living creatures if they
give themselves the trouble to evoke anything at all, and they don't
give themselves the trouble. They simply live on from day to day in a
state of mental somnolency--hopeless, _désoeuvrées_, inactive; just
drifting down the smooth slow current of time, with not a ripple nor
an eddy by the way.

Quiet families in towns, people who keep no society and live in a
self-made desert apart though in the midst of the very vortex of life,
are alike in the matter of _désoeuvrement_; and we find exactly the
same history with them as we find with their country cousins, though
apparently their circumstances are so different. They cannot work and
they may not play; the utmost dissipation allowed them is to look at
the outside of things--to make one of the fringe of spectators lining
the streets and windows on a show day, and this but seldom; or to go
once or twice a year to the theatre or a concert. So they too just
lounge through their life, and pass from girlhood to old age in utter
_désoeuvrement_ and want of object. Year by year the lines about their
eyes deepen, their smile gets sadder, their cheeks grow paler; while
the cherished secret romance which even the dullest life contains gets
a colour of its own by age, and a firmness of outline by continual
dwelling on, which it had not in the beginning. Perhaps it was a dream
built on a tone, a look, a word--may be it was only a half-evolved
fancy without any basis whatever--but the imagination of the poor
_désoeuvrée_ has clung to the dream, and the uninteresting dullness of
her life has given it a mock vitality which real activity would have

This want of healthy occupation is the cause of half the hysterical
reveries which it is a pretty flattery to call constancy and an
enduring regret; and we find it as absolutely as that heat follows
from flame, that the mischievous habit of bewailing an irrevocable
past is part of the _désoeuvrée_ condition in the present. People who
have real work to do cannot find time for unhealthy regrets, and
_désoeuvrement_ is the most fertile source of sentimentality to be

The _désoeuvrée_ woman of means and middle age, grown grey in her want
of purpose and suddenly taken out of her accustomed groove, is perhaps
more at sea than any others. She has been so long accustomed to the
daily flow of certain lines that she cannot break new ground and take
up with anything fresh, even if it be only a fresh way of being idle.
Her daughter is married; her husband is dead; her friend who was her
right hand and manager-in-chief has gone away; she is thrown on her
own resources, and her own resources will not carry her through. She
generally falls a prey to her maid, who tyrannizes over her, and a
phlegmatic kind of despair, which darkens the remainder of her life
without destroying it. She loses even her power of enjoyment, and gets
tired before the end of the rubber which is the sole amusement in
which she indulges. For _désoeuvrement_ has that fatal reflex action
which everything bad possesses, and its strength is in exact ratio
with its duration.

Women of this class want taking in hand by the stronger and more
energetic. Many even of those who seem to do pretty well as
independent workers, men and women alike, would be all the better for
being farmed out; and _désoeuvrées_ women especially want extraneous
guidance, and to be set to such work as they can do, but cannot make.
An establishment which would utilize their faculties, such as they
are, and give them occupation in harmony with their powers, would be a
real salvation to many who would do better if they only knew how, and
would save them from stagnation and apathy. But society does not
recognize the existence of moral rickets, though the physical are
cared for; consequently it has not begun to provide for them as moral
rickets, and no Proudhon has yet managed to utilize the _désoeuvrés_
members of the State. When they do find a place of retreat and
adventitious support, it is under another name.

The retired man of business, utterly without object in his new
conditions, is another portrait that meets us in country places. He is
not fit for magisterial business; he cannot hunt nor shoot nor fish;
he has no literary tastes; he cannot create objects of interest for
himself foreign to the whole experience of his life. The idleness
which was so delicious when it was a brief season of rest in the midst
of his high-pressure work, and the country which was like Paradise
when seen in the summer only and at holiday time, make together just
so much blank dullness now that he has bound himself to the one and
fixed himself in the other. When he has spelt over every article in
the _Times_, pottered about his garden and his stables, and irritated
both gardener and groom by interfering in what he does not understand,
the day's work is at an end. He has nothing more to do but eat his
dinner and sip his wine, doze over the fire for a couple of hours, and
go to bed as the clock strikes ten.

This is the reality of that long dream of retirement which has been
the golden vision of hope to many a man during the heat and burden of
the day. The dream is only a dream. Retirement means _désoeuvrement_;
leisure is tedium; rest is want of occupation truly, but want of
interest, want of object, want of purpose as well; and the prosperous
man of business, who has retired with a fortune and broken energies,
is bored to death with his prosperity, and wishes himself back to his
desk or his counter--back to business and something to do. He wonders,
on retrospection, what there was in his activity that was distasteful
to him; and thinks with regret that perhaps, on the whole, it is
better to wear out than to rust out; that _désoeuvrement_ is a worse
state than work at high pressure; and that life with a purpose is a
nobler thing than one which has nothing in it but idleness:--whereof
the main object is how best to get rid of time.


We by no means put it forward as an original remark when we say that
Nature does her grandest works of construction in silence, and that
all great historical reforms have been brought about either by long
and quiet preparation, or by sudden and authoritative action. The
inference from which is, that no great good has ever been done by
shrieking; that much talking necessarily includes a good deal of
dilution; and that fuss is never an attribute of strength nor
coincident with concentration. Whenever there has been a very deep and
sincere desire on the part of a class or an individual to do a thing,
it has been done not talked about; where the desire is only
halfhearted, where the judgment or the conscience is not quite clear
as to the desirableness of the course proposed, where the chief
incentive is love of notoriety and not the intrinsic worth of the
action itself--personal _kudos_, and not the good of a cause nor the
advancement of humanity--then there has been talk; much talk;
hysterical excitement; a long and prolonged cackle; and heaven and
earth called to witness that an egg has been laid wherein lies the
germ of a future chick--after proper incubation.

Necessarily there must be much verbal agitation if any measure is to
be carried the fulcrum of which is public opinion. If you have to stir
the dry bones you must prophesy to them in a loud voice, and not leave
off till they have begun to shake. Things which can only be known by
teaching must be spoken of, but things which have to be done are
always better done the less the fuss made about them; and the more
steadfast the action, the less noisy the agent. Purpose is apt to
exhale itself in protestations, and strength is sure to exhaust itself
by a flux of words. But at the present day what Mr. Carlyle called the
Silences are the least honoured of all the minor gods, and the babble
of small beginnings threatens to become intolerable. We all 'think
outside our brains,' and the result is not conducive to mental vigour.
It is as if we were to set a plant to grow with its heels in the air,
and then look for roots, flowers and fruit, by the process of
excitation and disclosure.

One of our quarrels with the Advanced Women of our generation is the
hysterical parade they make about their wants and their intentions. It
never seems to occur to them that the best means of getting what they
want is to take it, when not forbidden by the law--to act, not to
talk; that all this running hither and thither over the face of the
earth, this feverish unrest and loud acclaim are but the dilution of
purpose through much speaking, and not the right way at all; and that
to hold their tongues and do would advance them by as many leagues as
babble puts them back. A small knot of women, 'terribly in earnest,'
could move multitudes by the silent force of example. One woman alone,
quietly taking her life in her own hands and working out the great
problem of self-help and independence practically, not merely stating
it theoretically, is worth a score of shrieking sisters frantically
calling on men and gods to see them make an effort to stand upright
without support, with interludes of reproach to men for the want of
help in their attempt. The silent woman who quietly calculates her
chances and measures her powers with her difficulties so as to avoid
the probability of a fiasco, and who therefore achieves a success
according to her endeavour, does more for the real emancipation of her
sex than any amount of pamphleteering, lecturing, or petitioning by
the shrieking sisterhood can do. Hers is deed not declamation; proof
not theory; and it carries with it the respect always accorded to

And really if we think of it dispassionately, and carefully dissect
the great mosaic of hindrances which women say makes up the pavement
of their lives, there is very little which they may not do if they
like--and can. They have already succeeded in reopening for themselves
the practice of medicine, for one thing; and this is an immense
opportunity if they know how to use it. A few pioneers, unhelped for
the most part, steadily and without shrieking, stormed the barricades
of the hospitals and dissecting-rooms; heroically bearing the shower
of hard-mouthed missiles with which they were pelted, and
successfully forcing their way notwithstanding. But the most
successful of them are those who held on with least excitement and who
strove more than they declaimed; while others, by constitution
belonging to the shrieking sisterhood, have comparatively failed, and
have mainly succeeded in making themselves ridiculous. After some
pressure but very little cackle--for here too the work was wanted, the
desire real, and the workers in earnest--female colleges on a liberal
and extended system of education have been established, and young
women have now an opportunity of showing what they can do in brain

It is no longer by the niggardliness of men and the fault of an
imperfect system if they prove intellectually inferior to the stronger
sex; they have their dynamometer set up for them, and all they have to
do is to register their relative strength--and abide the issue. All
commerce, outside the Stock Exchange, is open to them equally with
men; and there is nothing to prevent their becoming merchants, as they
are now petty traders, or setting up as bill-brokers, commission
agents, or even bankers--which last profession, according to a
contemporary, they have actually adopted in New York, some ladies
there having established a bank, which, so far as they have yet gone,
they are said to conduct with deftness and ready arithmetic.

In literature they have competitors in men, but no monopolists.
Indeed, they themselves have become almost the monopolists of the
whole section of light literature and fiction; while nothing but
absolute physical and mental incapacity prevents their taking the
charge of a journal, and working it with female editor, sub-editor,
manager, reporters, compositors, and even news-girls to sell the
second edition at omnibus doors and railway stations. If a set of
women chose to establish a newspaper and work it amongst themselves,
no law could be brought to bear against them; and if they made it as
philosophical as some, or as gushing as others, they might enter into
a formidable rivalry with the old-established. They would have a fair
hearing, or rather reading; they would not be 'nursed' nor hustled,
and they would get just as much success as they deserved. To be sure,
they do not yet sit on the Bench nor plead at the Bar. They are not in
Parliament, and they are not even voters; while, as married women with
unfriendly husbands and no protection-order, they have something to
complain of, and wrongs which are in a fair way of being righted if
the shrieking sisterhood does not frighten the world prematurely. But,
despite these restrictions, they have a very wide circle wherein they
can display their power, and witch the world with noble deeds, if they
choose--and as some have chosen.

Of the representative 'working-women' in England, we find none who
have shrieked on platforms nor made an hysterical parade of their
work. Quietly, and with the dignity which comes by self-respect and
the consciousness of strength, they have done what it was in their
hearts to do; leaving the world to find out the value of their
labours, and to applaud or deride their independence. Mrs. Somerville
asked no man's leave to study science and make herself a distinguished
name as the result; nor did she find the need of any more special
organization than what the best books, a free press and first-rate
available teaching offered. Miss Martineau dived with more or less
success into the forbidding depths of the 'dismal science,' at a time
when political economy was shirked by men and considered as
essentially unfeminine as top-boots and tobacco; and she was
confessedly an advanced Liberal when to be a high Tory was part of the
whole duty of woman. Miss Nightingale undertook the care of wounded
soldiers without any more publicity than was absolutely necessary for
the organization of her staff, and with not so much as one shriek.
Rosa Bonheur laughed at those who told her that animal painting was
unwomanly, and that she had better restrict herself to flowers and
heads, as became the _jeune demoiselle_ of conventional life; but she
did not publish her programme of independence, nor take the world into
her confidence and tell them of her difficulties and defiance. The
Lady Superintendents of our own various sisterhoods have organized
their communities and performed their works of charity with very faint
blare of trumpets indeed; and we might enumerate many more who have
quietly lived the life of action and independence of which others
have only raved, and who have done while their sisters shrieked. These
are the women to be respected, whether we sympathize with their line
of action or not; having shown themselves to be true workers, capable
of sustained effort, and therefore worthy of the honour which belongs
to strength and endurance.

Of one thing women may be very sure, though they invariably deny it;
the world is glad to take good work from any one who will supply it.
The most certain patent of success is to deserve it; and if women will
prove that they can do the world's work as well as men, they will
share with them in the labour and the reward; and if they do it better
they will distance them. The appropriation of fields of labour is not
so much a question of selfishness as of (hitherto) proved fitness; but
if, in times to come, women can show better harvesting than men, can
turn out more finished, more perfected, results of any kind, the
world's custom will flow to them by the force of natural law, and they
will have the most to do of that which they can do the best. If they
wish to educate public opinion to accept them as equals with men, they
can only do so by demonstration, not by shrieks. Even men, who are
supposed to inherit the earth and to possess all the good things of
life, have to do the same thing.

Every young man yet untried is only in the position of every woman;
and, granting that he has not the deadweight of precedent and
prejudice against him, he yet has to win his spurs before he can wear
them. But women want theirs given to them without winning; and
moreover, ask to be taught how to wear them when they have got them.
They want to be received as masters before they have served their
apprenticeship, and to be put into office without passing an
examination or submitting to competition. They scream out for a clear
stage and favour superadded; and they ask men to shackle their own
feet, like Lightfoot in the fairy tale, that they may then be
handicapped to a more equal running. They do not remember that their
very demand for help vitiates their claim to equality; and that if
they were what they assume to be, they would simply take without leave
asked or given, and work out their own social salvation by the
irrepressible force of a concentrated will and in the silence of
conscious strength.

While the shrieking sisterhood remains to the front, the world will
stop its ears; and for every hysterical advocate 'the cause' loses a
rational adherent and gains a disgusted opponent. It is our very
desire to see women happy, noble, fitly employed and well remunerated
for such work as they can do, which makes us so indignant with the
foolish among them who obscure the question they pretend to elucidate,
and put back the cause which they say they advance. The earnest and
practical workers among women are a very different class from the
shriekers; but we wish the world could dissociate them more clearly
than it does at present, and discriminate between them, both in its
censure and its praise.


Every now and then we receive from America a word or a phrase which
enriches the language without vulgarizing it--something, both
more subtle and more comprehensive than our own equivalent,
which we recognize at once as the better thing of the two. Thus
'otherwise-minded,' which some American writers use with such quaint
force, is quite beyond our old 'contradictious' expressing the full
meaning of contradictious and adding a great deal more. But if we have
not hitherto had the word we have the thing, which is more to the
purpose; and foremost among the powers which rule the world may be
placed 'otherwise-mindedness' in its various phases of active
opposition and passive immobility--the contradictiousness which must
fight on all points and which will not assent to any. At home,
otherwise-mindedness is an engine of tremendous power, ranking next to
sulks and tears in the defensive armoury of women; while men for the
most part use it in a more aggressive sense, and seldom content
themselves with the passive quietude of mere inertness.

An otherwise-minded person, if a man, is almost always a tyrant and a
bully, with decided opinions as to his right of making all about him
dance to his piping--his piping never giving one of their own
measures. If a woman, she is probably a superior being subjected to
domestic martyrdom while intended by nature for a higher intellectual
life,--doomed to the drudgery of housekeeping while yearning for the
æsthetic and panting after the ideal. She is generally dignified in
her bearing and of a cold, unappeasable discontent. She neither scolds
nor wrangles, though sometimes, no rule being without its exception,
she is peevish and captious and degenerates into the commonplace of
the _Naggleton_ type. But in the main she bounds herself to the
expression of her otherwise-mindedness in a stately if dogged manner,
and shows a serene disdain for her opponents, which is a trifle more
offensive than her undisguised satisfaction with herself. Nothing can
move her, nothing beat her off her holding; but then she offers no
points of attack. She is what she is on principle; and what can you
say to an opposition dictated by motives all out of reach of your own
miserable little groundling ideas? Where you advocate expediency, she
maintains abstract principles; if you are lenient to weaknesses, she
is stern to sin; if you would legislate for human nature as it is, she
will have nothing less than the standard of perfection; and when you
speak of the absolutism of facts, she argues on the necessity of
keeping the ideal intact, no matter whether any one was ever known to
attain to it or not. But if she finds herself in different company
from your own looser kind--say with Puritans of a strongly ascetic
caste--then she veers round to the other side, on the ground of
fairness; and for the benefit of fanatics propounds a slip-shod
easygoing morality which shuffles beyond your own lines. This she
calls keeping out of extremes and discouraging exaggeration. This
latter manifestation however, is not very frequently the case with
women: the otherwise-minded among them being almost always of the
rigid and ascetic class who despise the pleasant little vanities, the
graceful frivolities, the loveable frailties which make life easy and
humanity delightful, and who take their stand on the loftiest, the
most unelastic, not to say the grimmest, ethics. They have had it
borne in on them that they are to defy Baal and withstand;
consequently they do defy him, and they do withstand, at all four
corners stoutly.

To be otherwise-minded naturally implies having a mind; and of what
use is intellect if it cannot see all through and round a subject, and
pick the weak places into holes? Hence the otherwise-minded are
uncompromising critics and terrible fellows at scenting their prey. As
is the function of certain creatures--vultures, crows, flies, and
others--so is that of these children of Zoilus when dealing with
subjects not understood, or only guessed at with more or less
blundering in the process.

Take one of the class at a lecture on the higher branches of a science
of which he has not so much as thoroughly mastered the roots, and
wherein this higher analysis offers certain new and perhaps startling
results. It would seem that the sole thing possible to him who is
ignorant of the matter in hand is to listen and believe; but your
otherwise-minded critic is not content with the tame modesty of
humbleness. What if the subject be over his head, cannot he crane his
neck and look? has he not common-sense to guide him? and may he not
criticize in the block what he cannot dissect in detail? At the least
he can look grave, and say something about the danger of a little
knowledge; and fallen man's dangerous pride of intellect; and his
absolute and eternal ignorance; and the lecturer not making his
meaning clear--as how should he when he probably does not understand
his own subject nor what he wanted to say?--and what becomes of
accepted truths if such things are to be received? Be sure of this,
that otherwise-mindedness must sling its stone, whether it knows
exactly what it is aiming at or not. It not unfrequently happens that
the stone is after the pattern of a boomerang, and comes back on the
slinger's own pate with sounding effect, convicting him of ignorance
if of nothing worse, and a love of opposition so great that it
destroys both his power of perceiving truth and the sense of his own

But the otherwise-minded is nothing if not superior to his company;
and truth is after all relative as well as multiform, and needs
continual nice adjustment to make it balance fairly. The great
representative assembly of humanity must have its independent members
below the gangway who vote with no party; and if we were all on the
right side the devil's advocate would have no work to do; so that even
otherwise-mindedness on the wrong side has its uses, and must not be
wholly condemned. For the world would fare badly without its natural
borers and hole-pickers, its finders-out of weak places, its stone
walls to resist assertion and advance; and ants and worms make good
mould for garden flowers.

The constitutionally otherwise-minded are the worst partizans in the
world and never take up a cause heartily--never with more than one
hand, that they may leave the other free for a bit of intellectual
prestidigitation if need be, when their audience changes its character
and complexion. The only time when they are devoted adherents is if
their own family is decidedly in the opposite ranks, when they come
out from among them with scrip and spear, and go over to the enemy
without failing a single button of the uniform. This is specially true
of young people and of women; both of whom call their natural love of
opposition by the name of religious principle or moral duty. Youths
just fresh from the schools, bent on the regeneration of mankind and
thinking that they can do in a few years what society has been
painfully labouring to accomplish ever since the first savage clubbed
his neighbour for stealing his hoard of roots or carrying off his own
private squaw, are sure to be intensely otherwise-minded and to
understand nothing of harmonious working with the old plant. Red
Republicans under the family flag of purple and orange; free-thinkers
in the church where the paternal High and Dry holds forth on Sundays
on the principle of the divine inspiration of the English translation
bound in calf and lettered _cum privilegio_; Romanists worshipping
saints and relics in the very heart of the Peculiar People who put no
trust in man nor works--we know them all; ardent, enthusiastic,
uncompromising and horribly aggressive; with the down just shading
their smooth young chins, and the great book of human life barely
turned at the page of adolescence. Yet this is a form of
otherwise-mindedness which, though we laugh at and are often annoyed
by it, we must treat gently on the whole. We cannot be cruel to a
fervour, even when insolently expressed, which we know the world will
tame so soon, and which at the worst is often better than the dead
level of conformity; even though its zeal is not unmixed with conceit,
and a burning desire for the world's good is not free from a few
slumbering embers of self-laudation and the 'last infirmity.'

In a house inhabited by the otherwise-minded--and one member of a
family is enough to set the whole ruck awry--nothing is allowed to go
smoothly or by default; nothing can be done without endless
discussion; and all the well-oiled casters of compromise, good-nature,
'it does not signify,' &c., by which life runs easily in most places
are rusted or broken. At table there is an incessant cross-fire of
objections and of arguments, more or less intemperately conducted and
never coming to a satisfactory conclusion. There are so many places
too, which have been rubbed sore by this perpetual chafing, that a
stranger to the secrets of the domestic pathology is kept not only in
a fever of annoyance, but in an ague of dread, at the temper shown
about trifles, and the deadly offence that seems to lurk behind quite
ordinary topics of conversation. Not knowing all that has gone before,
he is not prepared for the present uncomfortable aspect of things, and
in fact is like a boy reading algebra, understanding nothing of what
he sees, though the symbolizing letters are familiar enough to him.
The family quarrel about everything; and when they do not quarrel they
argue. If one wants to do something that must be done in concert, the
others would die rather than unite; and days, seasons and wishes can
never be got to work themselves into harmonious coalition. When they
are out 'enjoying themselves'--language is arbitrary and the sense of
words not always clear--they cannot agree on anything; and you may
hear them fire off scornful squibs of otherwise-mindedness across the
rows of prize flowers or in the intervals of one of Beethoven's
sonatas. And if they cannot find cause for disagreement on the merits
of the subject before them, they find it in each other. For
otherwise-mindedness is like the ragged little princess in the German
fairy tale, who proved her royal blood by being unable to sleep on the
top of seven feather-beds--German feather-beds--beneath all of which
one single bean had been placed as the test of her sensibility. Give
it but the chance of a scuffle, the ghost of a coat-tail to tread on,
an imaginary chicken-bone among the down, and you may be sure that the
opportunity will not be lost. When we are on the look-out for beans we
shall find them beneath even seven feather-beds; and when shillelahs
abound there will never be wanting the trail of a coat-tail across the
path. So we find when we have to do with the otherwise-minded who will
not take things pleasantly, and can never be got to see either beauty
or value in their surroundings. Let one of these have a saint for a
wife, and he will tell you saints are bores and sinners the only
house-mates to be desired. Let him change his state, and this time
pick up the sinner in longing for whom he has so often vexed the poor
saint's soul, and he will find domestic happiness to consist in the
companionship of a seraph of the most exalted kind. If he has Zenobia,
he wants Griselda; if Semiramis, King Cophetua's beggar-maid. The dear
departed, who was such a millstone in times past, becomes the emblem
of all that is lovely in humanity when a shaft has to be thrown at the
partner of times present; and the marriage that was notoriously
ill-assorted is painted in gold and rose-colour throughout, and its
discords are mended up into a full score of harmony when the new wife
or the new husband has to be snubbed, for no other reason than the
otherwise-mindedness which cannot agree with what it has.

Children and servants come in for their share of this uncomfortable
temper which reverses the old adage about the absent, and which, so
far from making these in the wrong, transfers the burden of blame to
those present and conveniently forgets its former litany of complaint.
No one would be more surprised than those very absent if they heard
themselves upheld as possessors of all possible virtues when,
according to their memory, they had been little better than
concretions of wickedness and folly in the days of their subjection to
criticism. They need not flatter themselves. Could they return, or if
they do return, to the old place, they will be sure to return to the
old conditions; and the praise lavished on them when they are absent,
by way of rebuke to those unlucky ones on the spot, will be changed
for their benefit into the blame and the rebuke familiar to them. In
fact no circumstances whatever touch the central quality of the
otherwise-minded. They must have something to bite, to grumble at, to
rearrange, at least in wish, if not in deed. If only they had been
consulted, nothing would have gone wrong that has gone wrong; and 'I
told you so' is the shibboleth of their order. It is gall and wormwood
to them when they are obliged to agree, and when, for very decency's
sake, they must praise what indeed offers no points to condemn. But
even when they get caught in the trap of unanimity they contrive to
say something quite unnecessary about evils which no one was thinking
of, and which have nothing to do with the case in point. 'But' is
their mystic word, their truncated form of the Tetragrammaton which
rules the universe; and whatever their special private denomination,
they all belong in bulk to the

    Sect whose chief devotion lies
    In odd perverse antipathies;
    In falling out with that or this,
    And finding somewhat still amiss.


Vice is bad and malignant wickedness is worse, but beyond either in
evil results to mankind is weakness; which indeed is the pabulum by
which vice is fed and the agent by which malignity works. If every one
in this world had a backbone, there would not be so much misery nor
guilt as there is now; for we must give each individual of the 'cruel
strong' a large following of weaker victims; and it would be easy to
demonstrate that the progress of nations has always been in proportion
to the number of stiff backbones among them. Yet unfortunately limp
people abound, to the detriment of society and to their own certain
sorrow; molluscs, predestined to be the food of the stronger, with no
power of self-defence nor of self-support, but having to be protected
against outside dangers if they are to be preserved at all;--and
perhaps when you have done all that you can do, not safe even then,
and most likely not worth the trouble taken about them. Open the gates
for but a moment, and they are swept up by the first passer-by. Let
them loose from your own sustaining hand, and they fall abroad in a
mass of flabby helplessness, unable to work, to resist, to
retain--mere heaps of moral protoplasm, pitiable as well as
contemptible; perhaps pitiable because so contemptible. See one of
these poor creatures left a widow, if a woman--turned out of his
office, if a man--and then judge of the value of a backbone by the
miserable consequences of its absence. The widow is simply lost in the
wilderness of her domestic solitude, as much so as would be a child if
set in the midst of a pathless moor with no one to guide him to the
safe highway. She may have money and she may have relations, but she
is as poor as if she had nothing better than parish relief; and unless
some one will take her up and manage everything for her
conscientiously, she is as lonely as if she were an exile in a strange
land. She has been so long used to lean on the stronger arm of her
husband, that she cannot stand upright now that her support has been
taken from her. Her servants make her their prey; her children
tyrannize over her and ignore her authority; her boys go to the bad;
her girls get fast and loud; all her own meek little ideas of modesty
and virtue are rudely thrust to the wall; and she is obliged to submit
to a family disorder which she neither likes nor encourages, but which
she has not the strength to oppose nor the wisdom to direct. She may
be the incarnation of all saintly qualities in her own person, but by
mere want of strength she is the occasion by which a very pandemonium
is possible; and the worst house of a community is sure to be that of
a quiet, gentle, molluscous little widow, without one single vicious
proclivity but without the power to repress or even to rebuke vice in

A molluscous man too, suddenly ejected from his long-accustomed
groove, where, like a toad embedded in the rock, he had made his niche
exactly fitting to his own shape, presents just as wretched a picture
of helplessness and unshiftiness. In vain his friends suggest this or
that independent endeavour; he shakes his head, and says he can't--it
won't do. What he wants is a place where he is not obliged to depend
on himself; where he has to do a fixed amount of work for a fixed
amount of salary; and where his fibreless plasticity may find a mould
ready formed, into which it may run without the necessity of forging
shapes for itself. Many a man of respectable intellectual powers has
gone down into ruin, and died miserably, because of this limpness
which made it impossible for him to break new ground or to work at
anything whatsoever with the stimulus of hope only. He must be
bolstered up by certainty, supported by the walls of his groove, else
he can do nothing; and if he cannot get into this friendly groove, he
lets himself drift into destruction.

In no manner are limp people to be depended on; their very central
quality being fluidity, which is a bad thing to rest on. Take them in
their family quarrels--and they are always quarrelling among
themselves--you think they must have broken with each other for ever;
that surely they can never forget or forgive all the insolent
expressions, the hard words, the full-flavoured epithets which they
have flung at one another; but the next time you meet them they are
quite good friends again, and going on in the old fluid way as if no
fiery storms had lately troubled the domestic horizon. Perhaps they
have induced you to take sides; if so, you may look out, for you are
certain to be thrown over and to have the enmity of both parties
instead of only one. They are much given to this kind of thing, and
fond of making pellets for you to shoot; when, after the shot, they
disclaim and disown you. They speak against each other furiously, tell
you all the family secrets and make them worse and greater than they
really are. If you are credulous for your own part you take them
literally; and if highly moral, you probably act on their accusations
in a spirit of rhadamanthine justice, and the absolute need of
rewarding sin according to its sinfulness. Beware; their accusations
are baseless as the wind, and acting on them will lead to your certain
discomfiture. The only safe way with limp people is never to believe
what they say; or, if you are forced to believe, never to translate
your faith into deeds nor even words; never to commit yourself to
partizanship in any form whatever. They do not intend it, in all
probability, but by very force of their weakness limp people are
almost invariably untruthful and treacherous. By the force too, of
this same weakness, they are incapable of anything like true
friendship, and in fact make the most dangerous friends to be found.
They are so plastic that they take the shape of every hand which holds
them; and if you do not know them well, you may be deceived by their
softness of touch, and think them sympathetic because they are fluid.
They leave you full of promises to hold all you have told them sacred,
and before an hour is out they have repeated to your greatest enemy
every word you have said. They had not the faintest intention of doing
so when they left you, but they 'slop about,' as the Americans say;
and sloppy folk cannot hold secrets. The traitors of life are the
limp, much more than the wicked--people who let things be wormed out
of them rather than intentionally betray them. They repent likely
enough; Judas hanged himself; but of what good is their repentance
when the mischief is done? Not all the tears in the world can put out
the fire when once lighted, and to hang oneself because one has
betrayed another will make no difference save in the number of victims
which one's own weakness has created.

Limp men are invariably under petticoat government, and it all depends
on chance and the run of circumstance whose petticoat is dominant. The
mother's, for a long period; then the sisters'. If the wife's, there
is sure to be war in the camp belonging to the invertebrate commander;
for such a man creates infinitely more jealousy among his womankind
than the most discursive and the most unjust. He is a power, not to
act, but to be used; and the woman who can hold him with the firmest
grasp has necessarily the largest share of good things belonging. She
can close or draw his purse-strings at pleasure. She can use his name
and mask herself behind his authority at pleasure. He is the undying
Jorkins who is never without a Spenlow to set him well up in front;
and we can scarcely wonder that the various female Spenlows who shoot
with his bow and manipulate his circumstances are jealous of each
other to a frantic pitch--regarding his limpness, as they do, as so
much raw material from which they can spin out their own strength.

As the mollusc has to become the prey of some one, the question simply
resolves itself into whose? the new wife's or the old sisters'? Who
shall govern, sitting on his shoulders? and to whom shall he be
assigned captive? He generally inclines to his wife, if she is younger
than he and has a backbone of her own; and you may see a limp man of
this kind, with a fringe of old-rooted female epiphytes, gradually
drop one after another of the ancient stock, till at last his wife and
her relations take up all the space and are the only ones he supports.
His own kith and kin go bare while he clothes her and hers in purple
and fine linen; and the fatted calves in his stalls are liberally
slain for the prodigals on her side of the house, while the dutiful
sons on his own get nothing better than the husks.

Another characteristic of limp people is their curious ingratitude.
Give them nine-tenths of your substance, and they will turn against
you if you refuse them the remaining tenth. Lend them all the money
you can spare, and lend in utter hopelessness of any future day of
reckoning, but refrain once for your own imperative needs, and they
will leave your house open-mouthed at your stinginess. To be grateful
implies some kind of retentive faculty; and this is just what the limp
have not. Another characteristic of a different kind is the rashness
with which they throw themselves into circumstances which they
afterwards find they cannot bear. They never know how to calculate
their forces, and spend the latter half of their life in regretting
what they had spent the former half in endeavouring to attain, or to
get rid of, as it might chance. If they marry A. they wish they had
taken B. instead; as house-mistresses they turn away their servants at
short notice after long complaint, and then beg them to remain if by
any means they can bribe them to stay. They know nothing of that clear
incisive action which sets men and women at ease with themselves, and
enables them to bear consequences, be they good or ill, with dignity
and resignation.

A limp backboneless creature always falls foul of conditions, whatever
they may be; thinking the right side better than the left, and the
left so much nicer than the right, according to its own place of
standing for the moment; and what heads plan and hands execute, lips
are never weary of bemoaning. In fact the limp, like fretful babies,
do not know what they want, being unconscious that the whole mischief
lies in their having a vertebral column of gristle instead of one of
bone. They spread themselves abroad and take the world into their
confidence--weep in public and rave in private--and cry aloud to the
priest and the Levite passing by on the other side (maybe heavily
laden for their own share) to come over and help them, poor sprawling
molluscs, when no man but themselves can set them upright.

The confidences of the limp are told through a trumpet to all four
corners of the sky, and are as easy to get at, with the very gentlest
pressure, as the juice of an over-ripe grape. And no lessons of
experience will ever teach them reticence, or caution in their choice
of confidants.

Not difficult to press into the service of any cause whatever, they
are the very curse of all causes which they assume to serve. They
collapse at the first touch of persecution, of misunderstanding, of
harsh judgment, and fall abroad in hopeless panic at the mere tread of
the coming foe. Always convinced by the last speaker, facile to catch
and impossible to hold, they are the prizes, the decoy ducks, for
which contending parties fight, perpetually oscillating between the
maintenance of old abuses and the advocacy of dangerous reforms; but
the side to which they have pledged themselves on Monday they forsake
on Tuesday under the plea of reconversion. Neither can they carry out
any design of their own, if their friends take it in hand to
over-persuade them.

If a man of this stamp has painted a picture he can be induced to
change the whole key, the central circumstance and the principal
figure, at the suggestion of a confident critic who is only a pupil in
the art of which he is, at least technically, a master. If he is
preaching or lecturing, he thinks more of the people he is addressing
than of what he has to say; and, though impelled at times to use the
scalping-knife, hopes he doesn't wound. Vehement advocates at times,
these men's enthusiasm is merely temporary, and burns itself out by
its own energy of expression; and how fierce soever their aspect when
they ruffle their feathers and make believe to fight, one vigorous
peck from their opponent proves their anatomy as that of a creature
without vertebræ, pulpy, gristly, gelatinous, and limp. All things
have their uses and good issues; but what portion of the general good
the limp are designed to subserve is one of those mysteries not to be
revealed in time nor space.


Among other classifications we may divide the world into those who
live by impulse and the undirected flow of circumstance, and those who
map out their lives according to art and a definite design. These last
however, are rare; few people having capacity enough to construct any
persistent plan of life or to carry it through if even begun--it being
so much easier to follow nature than to work by rule and square, and
to drift with the stream than to build up even a beaver's dam. Now, in
the matter of reticence;--How few people understand this as an art,
and how almost entirely it is by the mere chance of temperament
whether a person is confidential or reticent--with his heart on his
sleeve or not to be got at by a pickaxe--irritatingly silent or
contemptibly loquacious. Sometimes indeed we do find one who, like
Talleyrand, has mastered the art of an eloquent reticence from alpha
to omega, and knows how to conceal everything without showing that he
conceals anything; but we find such a person very seldom, and we do
not always understand his value when we have him.

Any one not a born fool can resolve to keep silence on certain points,
but it takes a master-mind to be able to talk, and yet not tell.
Silence indeed, self-evident and without disguise, though a safe
method, is but a clumsy one, and to be tolerated only in very timid or
very young people. "Le silence est le parti plus sûr pour celui qui se
défie de soi-même," says Rochefoucauld. So is total abstinence for him
who cannot control himself. Yet we do not preach total abstinence as
the best order of life for a wise and disciplined person, any more
than we would put strong ankles into leg-irons, or forbid a rational
man to handle a sword. Besides, silence may be as expressive, as
tell-tale even, as speech; and at the best there is no science in
shutting one's lips and sitting mute; though indeed too few people
have got even so far as this in the art of reticence, but tell
everything they know so surely as water flows through a sieve, and are
safe just in proportion to their ignorance.

But there is art, the most consummate art, in appearing absolutely
frank, yet never telling anything which it is not wished should be
known; in being pleasantly chatty and conversational, yet never
committing oneself to a statement nor an opinion which might be used
against one afterwards--_ars celare artem_ being a true maxim in
keeping one's own counsel as well as in other things. It is only after
a long acquaintance with this kind of person that you find out he has
been substantially reticent throughout, though apparently so frank.
Caught by his easy manner, his genial talk, his ready sympathy, you
have confided to him not only all that you have of your own, but all
that you have of other people's; and it is only long after, when you
reflect quietly, undisturbed by the magnetism of his presence, that
you come to the knowledge of how reticent he has been in the midst of
his seeming frankness, and how little reciprocity there has been in
your confidences together. You know such people for years, and you
never really know more of them at the end than you did in the
beginning. You cannot lay your finger on a fact that would in any way
place them in your power; and though you did not notice it at the
time, and do not know how it has been done now, you feel that they
have never trusted you, and have all along carefully avoided anything
like confidence. But you are at their mercy by your own rashness, and
if they do not destroy you it is because they are reticent for you as
well as towards you; perhaps because they are good-natured; perhaps
because they despise you for your very frankness too much to hurt you;
but above all things not because they are unable. How you hate them
when you think of the skill with which they took all that was offered
to them, yet never let you see they gave back nothing for their own
part--rather by the jugglery of manner made you believe that they were
giving back as much as they were receiving! Perhaps it was a little
ungenerous; but they had the right to argue that if you could not
keep your own counsel you would not be likely to keep theirs, and it
was only kind at the time to let you hoodwink yourself so that you
might not be offended.

In manner genial, frank, conversational, sympathetic--in substance
absolutely secret, cautious, never taken off their guard, never
seduced into dangerous confidences, as careful for their friends as
they are for themselves, and careful even for strangers unknown to
them--these people are the salvation as they are the charm of society;
never making mischief, and, by their habitual reticence, raising up
barriers at which gossip halts and rumour dies. No slander is ever
traced to them, and what they know is as though it were not. Yet they
do not make the clumsy mistake of letting you see that they are better
informed than yourself on certain subjects, and know more about the
current scandals of the day than they choose to reveal. On the
contrary, they listen to your crude mistakes with a highly edified
air, and leave you elated with the idea that you have let them behind
the scenes and told them more than they knew before. If only they had
spoken, your elation would not have been very long-lived.

Of all personal qualities this art of reticence is the most important
and most valuable for a professional man to possess. Lawyer or
physician, he must be able to hold all and hear all without betraying
by word or look--by injudicious defence no more than by overt
treachery--by anger at a malicious accusation no more than by a smile
at an egregious mistake. His business is to be reticent, not
exculpatory; to maintain silence, not set up a defence nor yet
proclaim the truth. To do this well requires a rare combination of
good qualities--among which are tact and self-respect in about equal
amount--self-command and the power of hitting that fine line which
marks off reticence from deception. No man was ever thoroughly
successful as either a lawyer or physician who did not possess this
combination; and with it even a modest amount of technical skill can
be made to go a long way.

Valuable in society, at home the reticent are so many forms of living
death. Eyes have they and see not; ears and hear not; and the faculty
of speech seems to have been given them in vain. They go out and they
come home, and they tell you nothing of all they have seen. They have
heard all sorts of news and seen no end of pleasant things, but they
come down to breakfast the next morning as mute as fishes, and if you
want it you must dig out your own information bit by bit by
sequential, categorical questioning. Not that they are surly nor
ill-natured; they are only reticent. They are really disastrous to
those who are associated with them, and make the worst partners in the
world in business or marriage; for you never know what is going on,
nor where you are, and you must be content to walk blindfold if you
walk with them. They tell you nothing beyond what they are obliged to
tell; take you into no confidence; never consult you; never arrest
their own action for your concurrence; and the consequence is that you
live with them in the dark, for ever afraid of looming catastrophes,
and more like a captive bound to the car of their fortunes than like
the coadjutor with a voice in the manner of the driving and the right
to assist in the direction of the journey. This is the reticence of
temperament, and we see it in children from quite an early age--those
children who are trusted by the servants, and are their favourites in
consequence, because they tell no tales; but it is a disposition that
may become dangerous unless watched, and that is always liable to
degenerate into falsehood. For reticence is just on the boundary of
deception, and it needs but a very little step to take one over the

That obtrusive kind of reticence which parades itself--which makes
mysteries and lets you see there are mysteries--which keeps silence
and flaunts it in your face as an intentional silence brooding over
things you are not worthy to know--that silence which is as loud as
words, is one of the most irritating things in the world and can be
made one of the most insulting. If words are sharp arrows, this kind
of dumbness is paralysis, and all the worse to bear because it puts it
out of your power to complain. You cannot bring into court a list of
looks and shrugs, nor make it a grievance that a man held his tongue
while you raved, and to all appearance kept his temper when you lost
yours. Yet all of us who have had any experience that way know that
his holding his tongue was the very reason why you raved, and that if
he had spoken for his own share the worst of the tempest would have
been allayed. This is a common manner of tormenting with reticent
people who have a moral twist; and to fling stones at you from behind
the shield of silence by which they have sheltered themselves is a
pastime that hurts only one of the combatants. Reticence, though at
times one of the greatest social virtues we possess, is also at times
one of the most disastrous personal conditions.

Half our modern novels turn on the misery brought about by mistaken
reticence; and though novelists generally exaggerate the circumstances
they deal with, they are not wrong in their facts. If the waters of
strife have been let loose because of many words, there have been
broken hearts before now because of none. Old proverbs, to be sure,
inculcate the value of reticence, and the wisdom of keeping one's own
counsel. If speech is silvern, silence is golden, in popular
philosophy; and the youth is ever enjoined to be like the wise man,
and keep himself free from the peril of words. Yet for all that, next
to truth, on which society rests, mutual knowledge is the best working
virtue, and a state of reticent distrust is more prudent than noble.

Many people think it a fine thing to live with their most intimate
friends as if they would one day become their enemies, and never let
even their deepest affections strike root so far down as confidence.
They rearrange La Bruyère's famous maxim, 'L'on peut avoir la
confiance de quelqu'un sans en avoir le coeur,' and take it quite the
contrary way; but perhaps the heart which gives itself, divorced from
confidence, is not worth accepting; and reticence where there is love
sounds almost a contradiction in terms. Indeed, the certainty of
unlimited confidences where there is love is one of the strongest of
all the arguments in favour of general reticence. For in nine cases
out of ten you tell your secrets and open your heart, not only to your
friend, but to your friend's wife, or husband, or lover; and
secondhand confidence is rarely held sacred if it can be betrayed with

By an apparent contradiction, reticent people who tell nothing are
often the most charming letter-writers. Full of chit-chat, of
descriptions dashed off with a warm and flowing pen, giving all the
latest news well authenticated and not scandalous, and breathing just
the right amount of affection according to the circumstances of the
correspondents--a naturally eloquent person who has cultivated the art
of reticence writes letters unequalled for charm of manner. The first
impression of them is superb, enchanting, enthralling, like the
bouquet of old wine; but, on reconsideration, what have they said?
Absolutely nothing. This charming letter, apparently so full of
matter, is an answer to a great, good, honest outpour wherein you laid
bare that foolish heart of yours and delivered up your soul for
anatomical examination; and you looked for a reply based on the same
lines. At first delighted, you are soon chilled and depressed by such
a return, and you feel that you have made a fool of yourself, and that
your correspondent is laughing in his sleeve at your insane propensity
to gush. So must it be till that good time comes when man shall have
no need to defend himself against his fellows; when confidence shall
not bring sorrow nor trust betrayal; and when the art of reticence
shall be as obsolete as the art of fence, or the Socratic method.


We often hear women speak with a certain curious disdain of one of
themselves as a 'gentlemen's favourite;' generally adding that
gentlemen's favourites are never liked by their own sex, and giving
you to understand that they are minxes rather than otherwise, and
objectionable in proportion to their attractiveness. They never can
understand why they should be so attractive, they say; and hold it as
one of the unfathomable mysteries of men's bad taste--the girls to
whom no man addresses half a dozen words in the course of the evening
being far prettier and nicer than the favourite with whom everybody is
talking, and for whom all men are contending. Yet see how utterly they
are neglected, while she is surrounded with admirers. But then she is
an artful little flirt, they say, who lays herself out to attract,
while the others are content to stay quietly in the shade until they
are sought. And they speak as if to attract men's admiration was a
sin, and not one of the final causes of woman as well as one of her
chief social duties.

There is always war between the women who are gentlemen's favourites
and those who are not; and if the last dislike the first, the first
despise the last, and go out of their way to provoke them; a thing not
difficult to do when a woman gives her mind to it. A gentlemen's
favourite is generally attacked on the score of her morality, not to
speak of her manners, which are pronounced as bad as they can be;
while, how pretty soever men may think her, her own sex decry her, and
pick her to pieces with such effect that they do not leave her a
single charm. She is assumed to be incapable of anything like real
earnestness of feeling; of anything like true womanliness of
sentiment; to be ignorant of the higher rules of modesty; to be fast
or sly, according to her speciality of style; and if you listen to her
dissector you will find in time that she has every fault incidental to
a frail humanity, while her noblest virtue is in all probability a
'kind of good nature' which does not count for much. In return, the
favourite sneers at the wallflower, whom she calls stupid and
spiteful, and whom she rejoices to annoy by the excess of her
popularity; nothing pleasing her so much as to make herself look worse
than she is in the way of men's liking--except it be to carry off the
one tup lamb belonging to a wallflower, and brand him as of her own
multitudinous herd. The quarrel is a deadly one as regards the
combatants, but it has very little effect on the 'ring;' for,
notwithstanding the faults and frailties of which they hear so much,
the men flock round the one and make her the public favourite of the
set. But, as the valid result, probably the prize match of the circle
chooses a stupid wallflower for life; and the favourite who has
ridiculed the successful prizeholder scores of times, and who would
give ten years of her life to be in her place, has to swallow her
confusion as she best can, and accept her discomfiture as if she liked

If a men's favourite begins her career unmarried, she most frequently
remains unmarried to the end; fulfilling her mission of charming all
and fixing none till she comes to the age when her sex has no mission
at all. If she is married she has developed after the event; in her
nonage having been a shy if observant wallflower, quietly watching the
methods which later she has so ably applied, and taking lessons from
the very girls who queened it over her with that insolent supremacy
which, more than all else, she noted, envied and profited by. If she
marries while a favourite and in the full swing of her triumphs, she
probably gets pulled up by her husband (unless she is in India, or
wherever else women are at a premium and mistresses of the situation),
and subsides into the best and most domestic kind of 'brooding hen.'
However that may be, marriage, which is the great transforming agent
of a woman's character, seldom leaves her on the same lines as before;
though sometimes of course the foolish virgin developes into the
frisky matron, and the girl who begins life as a men's favourite ends
it as a mature siren.

There are two kinds of men's favourites--the bright women who amuse
them and the sympathetic ones who love them. But these last are of a
doubtful, what country people call 'chancy,' kind; women who show
their feelings too openly, who fall in love too seriously, or perhaps
unasked altogether, being more likely to irritate and repel than to
charm. But the bright, animated women who know how to talk and do not
preach; who say innocent things in an audacious way and audacious
things in an innocent way; who are clever without pedantry; frank
without impudence; quick to follow a lead when shown them; and who
know the difference between badinage and earnestness, flirting and
serious intentions--these are the women who are liked by men and whose
social success in no wise depends on their beauty.

Of one thing the clever woman who wants to be a men's favourite must
always be careful--to keep that half step in the rear which alone
reconciles men to her superiority of wit. She must not shine so much
by her own light as by contact with theirs; and her most brilliant
sallies ought to convey the impression of being struck out by them
rather than of being elaborated by herself alone--suggested by what
had gone before, if improved on for their advantage. Else she offends
masculine self-love, never slow to take fire, and gains an element of
hardness and self-assertion incompatible with her character of
favourite. Not that men dislike all kinds of self-assertion. The
irrepressible little woman with her trim waist and jaunty air, pert,
pretty, defiant, who laughs in the face of the burly policeman able to
crush her between his finger and thumb, and to whom ropes and barriers
are things to be skipped over or dived under, as the case may be--she
who is all cackle and self-assertion like a little bantam, is also
most frequently a men's favourite, and encouraged in her saucy

Then there is the graceful, fragile, swan-necked woman, who, a
generation ago, would have been one of the Della Cruscan school, all
poetry and music and fine feelings, and of a delicacy so refined that
broad-browed Nature herself had to be veiled and toned down to the
subdued key proper for the graceful creature to accept--but nowadays
this graceful creature plunges boldly into the midst of the most
tremendous realism, is an ardent advocate for woman's rights, and
perhaps goes out 'on the rampage,' on platforms and the like to
advocate doctrines as little in harmony with the kind of being she is
as would be a diet of horseflesh and brandy. She gets her following;
and men who do not agree with her delight to set her off on her
favourite topics, just as women like to see their little girls play
with their dolls and repeat to the harmless dummy the experiences
which have been real to themselves.

These two classes of self-assertion are mere plays which amuse men;
but when it comes to a reality, and is no longer a play--when a man is
made to feel small, useless, insignificant by the side of a woman--he
meets them with something he neither likes nor easily forgives; and if
such a woman had the beauty of Venus, she would not be a men's
favourite of the right sort; though some of course would admire her
and do their best to spoil and make a fool of her.

A men's favourite of the right sort must, among other things, be well
up in the accidence of flirting, and know how to take it at exactly
its proper value. She must be able to accept broad compliments, or
more subtle love-making, without either too serious an acceptance or
too grave a deprecation. This is a great art, and one that, more than
any other, puts men at their ease and sets the machinery of pleasant
intercourse in harmonious action. Never to show whether she is really
hit or not; never to give a fop occasion for a boast nor an enemy room
for a pitying sneer; to take everything in good part and to be as
quick in giving as in receiving; never to be off her guard; never to
throw away her arms; to conceal any number of foxes that may be
gnawing at her beneath her cloak--this kind of flirting, in which most
men's favourites are adepts, is an art that reaches almost the
dimensions of a science. And it is just that in which your very
intense, your very earnest and sincere, women are utter failures. They
know nothing of badinage, but take everything _au grand sérieux_; and
when you mean to be simply playful and complimentary, imagine you in
tragic earnest, and think themselves obliged to frown down a
compliment as a liberty; or else they accept it with a passionate
pleasure that shows how deeply it has struck.

These intense and very sincere women are not as a rule men's
favourites, unless they have other qualities of such a pleasant and
seductive kind as to excuse the enormous blunder they make of wearing
their hearts on their sleeves for drawing-room daws to peck at, and
the still greater blunder of confounding love-making with love. They
may be, and if they have nice manners and are good-tempered they
probably are, of the race of popular women; that is, liked by both men
and women; but they are not men's favourites _par excellence_, who
moreover are never liked by women at all.

Women are quite right in one thing, hard as it seems to say it:--men's
favourites, whom women dislike and distrust, are not usually good for
much morally. They are often false, insincere, superficial, and
possibly with a very low aim in life. And the men know all this, but
forgive it for the sake of the pleasantness and charm which is the
grace that shadows, or rather brightens, all the rest; having
oftentimes indeed a half-contemptuous tolerance for the sins of their
favourites as not expecting anything better from them. Grant that they
are false, that they sail perilously near the wind, are shifty and
untrustworthy--what of that? They are not favourites because of their
good qualities, only because of their pleasant ones; because of that
subtle _je ne sais quoi_ of old writers which stands one in such good
stead when one is at a loss for an analysis, and which is the only
term that expresses the strong yet indefinite charm which certain
women possess for men. It is not beauty; it is not necessarily
cleverness taken in the sense of education, though it must be a
keenness if not depth of intellect, and smartness if not the power of
reasoning; it certainly is not goodness; it is not always youth, nor
yet warmth of feeling--though all these things come in as
characteristics in their turn; but it is companionship and the power
of amusing. Still, what is it that creates this power, this
companionship? A smart, pert, flippant little minx, as women call her,
with a shrill voice and a saucy air, may be the men's favourite of one
set; a refined, graceful woman, speaking softly, and with pleading
eyes, may be the favourite of another; a third may be a blunt,
off-handed young person, given to speaking her mind so that there
shall be no mistake; a fourth may be a silent and seemingly a shy
woman, fond of sitting out in retired places, and with a reputation
for flirting of a quiet kind that sets the woman's fingers tingling.

There is no settled rule anyhow, and all kinds have their special
sphere of shining, according to circumstances. But whatever they may
be, they are useful in their generation and valuable for such work as
they have to do. Society is a miserably dull affair to men when there
are no favourites of any sort; where the womanhood in the room is of
the kind that herds together as if for protection, and looks askance
over its shoulder at the wolves in coats and beards who prowl about
the sheepfold of petticoats; where conversation is monosyllabic in
form and restricted in substance; where pleasant men who talk are
considered dangerous, and fascinating women who answer immoral; where
the matrons are grim and the maidens still in the bread-and-butter
stage of existence; and where young wives take matrimonial fidelity to
mean making themselves disagreeable to every man but their husband, on
the plea that one never knows what may happen, and that you cannot go
on with what you never begin.


There are certain words, suggestive rather than descriptive, the value
of which lies in their very vagueness and elasticity of
interpretation, by which each mind can write its own commentary, each
imagination sketch out its own illustration. And one of these is
Womanliness; a word infinitely more subtle in meaning, with more
possibilities of definition, more light and shade, more facets, more
phases, than the corresponding word manliness. This indeed must
necessarily be so, since the character of women is so much more varied
in colour and more delicate in its many shades than that of men.

We call it womanliness when a lady of refinement and culture overcomes
the natural shrinking of sense, and voluntarily enters into the
circumstances of sickness and poverty, that she may help the suffering
in their hour of need; when she can bravely go through some of the
most shocking experiences of humanity for the sake of the higher law
of charity; and we call it womanliness when she removes from herself
every suspicion of grossness, coarseness, or ugliness, and makes her
life as dainty as a picture, as lovely as a poem. She is womanly when
she asserts her own dignity; womanly when her highest pride is the
sweetest humility, the tenderest self-suppression; womanly when she
protects the weaker; womanly when she submits to the stronger. To bear
in silence and to act with vigour; to come to the front on some
occasions, to efface herself on others, are alike the characteristics
of true womanliness; as is also the power to be at once practical and
æsthetic, the careful worker-out of minute details and the upholder of
a sublime idealism--the house-mistress dispensing bread and the
priestess serving in the temple. In fact, it is a very Proteus of a
word, and means many things by turns; but it never means anything but
what is sweet, tender, gracious and beautiful. Yet, protean as it is
in form, its substance has hitherto been considered simple enough, and
its limits have been very exactly defined; and we used to think we
knew to a shade what was womanly and what was unwomanly--where, for
instance, the nobleness of dignity ended and the hardness of
self-assertion began; while no one could mistake the heroic sacrifice
of self for the indifference to pain and the grossness belonging to a
coarse nature:--which last is as essentially unwomanly as the first is
one of the finest manifestations of true womanliness. But if this
exactness of interpretation belonged to past times, the utmost
confusion prevails at present; and one of the points on which society
is now at issue in all directions is just this very question--What is
essentially unwomanly? and, what are the only rightful functions of
true womanliness? Men and tradition say one thing, certain women say
another thing; and if what these women say is to become the rule,
society will have to be reconstructed _ab initio_, and a new order of
human life must begin. We have no objection to this, provided the new
order is better than the old, and the modern phase of womanhood more
beautiful, more useful to the community at large, more elevating to
general morality than was the ancient. But the whole matter hangs on
this proviso; and until it can be shown for certain that the latter
phase is to be undeniably the better we will hold by the former.

There are certain old--superstitions must we call them?--in our ideas
of women, with which we should be loth to part. For instance, the
infinite importance of a mother's influence over her children, and the
joy that she herself took in their companionship--the pleasure that it
was to her to hold a baby in her arms--her delight and maternal pride
in the beauty, the innocence, the quaint ways, the odd remarks, the
half-embarrassing questions, the first faint dawnings of reason and
individuality, of the little creatures to whom she had given life and
who were part of her very being--that pleasure and maternal pride were
among the characteristics we used to ascribe to womanliness; as was
also the mother's power of forgetting herself for her children, of
merging herself in them as they grew older, and finding her own best
happiness in theirs. But among the advanced women who despise the
tame teachings of what was once meant by womanliness, maternity is
considered a bore rather than a blessing; the children are shunted to
the side when they come; and ignorant undisciplined nurses are
supposed to do well for wages what mothers will not do for love.

Also we held it as womanliness when women resolutely refused to admit
into their presence, to discuss or hear discussed before them, impure
subjects, or even doubtful ones; when they kept the standard of
delicacy, of purity, of modesty, at a high level, and made men
respect, even if they could not imitate. Now the running between them
and men whose delicacy has been rubbed off long ago by the intimate
contact of coarse life is very close; and some of them go even beyond
those men whose lives have been of a quiet and unexperimental kind.
Nothing indeed, is so startling to a man who has not lived in personal
and social familiarity with certain subjects, and who has retained the
old chivalrous superstitions about the modesty and innocent ignorance
of women, as the easy, unembarrassed coolness with which his fair
neighbour at a dinner-table will dash off into thorny paths, managing
between the soup and the grapes to run through the whole gamut of
improper subjects.

It was also an old notion that rest and quiet and peace were natural
characteristics of womanliness; and that life had been not unfairly
apportioned between the sexes, each having its own distinctive duties
as well as virtues, its own burdens as well as its own pleasures. Man
was to go out and do battle with many enemies; he was to fight with
many powers; to struggle for place, for existence, for natural rights;
to give and take hard blows; to lose perhaps this good impulse or that
noble quality in the fray--the battle-field of life not being that
wherein the highest virtues take root and grow. But he had always a
home where was one whose sweeter nature brought him back to his better
self; a place whence the din of battle was shut out; where he had time
for rest and spiritual reparation; where a woman's love and gentleness
and tender thought and unselfish care helped and refreshed him, and
made him feel that the prize was worth the struggle, that the home was
worth the fight to keep it. And surely it was not asking too much of
women that they should be beautiful and tender to the men whose whole
life out of doors was one of work for them--of vigorous toil that they
might be kept in safety and luxury. But to the advanced woman it seems
so; consequently the home as a place of rest for the man is becoming
daily more rare. Soon, it seems to us, there will be no such thing as
the old-fashioned home left in England. Women are swarming out at all
doors; running hither and thither among the men; clamouring for arms
that they may enter into the fray with them; anxious to lay aside
their tenderness, their modesty, their womanliness, that they may
become hard and fierce and self-asserting like them; thinking it a
far higher thing to leave the home and the family to take care of
themselves, or under the care of some incompetent hireling, while they
enter on the manly professions and make themselves the rivals of their
husbands and brothers.

Once it was considered an essential of womanliness that a woman should
be a good house-mistress, a judicious dispenser of the income, a
careful guide to her servants, a clever manager generally. Now
practical housekeeping is a degradation; and the free soul which
disdains the details of housekeeping yearns for the intellectual
employment of an actuary, of a law clerk, of a banker's clerk. Making
pills is held to be a nobler employment than making puddings; while,
to distinguish between the merits of Egyptians and Mexicans, the
Turkish loan and the Spanish, is considered a greater exercise of mind
than to know fresh salmon from stale and how to lay in household
stores with judgment. But the last is just as important as the first,
and even more so; for the occasional pill, however valuable, is not so
valuable as the daily pudding, and not all the accumulations made by
lucky speculation are of any use if the house-bag which holds them has
a hole in it.

Once women thought it no ill compliment that they should be considered
the depositaries of the highest moral sentiments. If they were not
held the wiser nor the more logical of the two sections of the human
race, they were held the more religious, the more angelic, the better
taught of God, and the nearer to the way of grace. Now they repudiate
the assumption as an insult, and call that the sign of their
humiliation which was once their distinguishing glory. They do not
want to be patient, self-sacrifice is only a euphemism for slavish
submission to manly tyranny; the quiet peace of home is miserable
monotony; and though they have not come to the length of renouncing
the Christian virtues theoretically, their theory makes but weak
practice, and the womanliness integral to Christianity is by no means
the rule of life of modern womanhood. But the oddest part of the
present odd state of things is the curious blindness of women to what
is most beautiful in themselves. Granting even that the world has
turned so far upside down that the one sex does not care to please the
other, still, there is a good of itself in beauty, which some of our
modern women seem to overlook. And of all kinds of beauty that which
is included in what we mean by womanliness is the greatest and the
most beautiful.

A womanly woman has neither vanity nor hardness. She may be
pretty--most likely she is--and she may know it; for, not being a
fool, she cannot help seeing it when she looks at herself in the
glass; but knowing the fact is not being conscious of the possession,
and a pretty woman, if of the right ring, is not vain, though she
prizes her beauty as she ought. And she is as little hard as vain. Her
soul is not given up to ribbons, but neither is she indifferent to
externals, dress among them. She knows that part of her natural
mission is to please and be charming, and she knows that dress sets
her off, and that men feel more enthusiastically towards her when she
is looking fresh and pretty than when she is a dowdy and a fright.
And, being womanly, she likes the admiration of men, and thinks their
love a better thing than their indifference. If she likes men she
loves children, and never shunts them as nuisances, nor frets when
forced to have them about her. She knows that she was designed by the
needs of the race and the law of nature to be a mother; sent into the
world for that purpose mainly; and she knows that rational maternity
means more than simply giving life and then leaving it to others to
preserve it. She has no newfangled notions about the animal character
of motherhood, nor about the degrading character of housekeeping. On
the contrary, she thinks a populous and happy nursery one of the
greatest blessings of her state; and she puts her pride in the perfect
ordering, the exquisite arrangements, the comfort, thoughtfulness and
beauty of her house. She is not above her _métier_ as a woman; and she
does not want to ape the manliness she can never possess.

She has always been taught that, as there are certain manly virtues,
so are there certain feminine ones; and that she is the most womanly
among women who has those virtues in greatest abundance and in the
highest perfection. She has taken it to heart that patience,
self-sacrifice, tenderness, quietness, with some others, of which
modesty is one, are the virtues more especially feminine; just as
courage, justice, fortitude, and the like, belong to men.

Passionate ambition, virile energy, the love of strong excitement,
self-assertion, fierceness, an undisciplined temper, are all qualities
which detract from her ideal of womanliness, and which make her less
beautiful than she was meant to be. Consequently she has cultivated
all the meek and tender affections, all the unselfishness and thought
for others which have hitherto been the distinctive property of her
sex, by the exercise of which they have done their best work and
earned their highest place. She thinks it no degradation that she
should take pains to please, to soothe, to comfort the man who, all
day long, has been doing irksome work that her home may be beautiful
and her life at ease. She does not think it incumbent on her, as a
woman of spirit, to fly out at an impatient word; to answer back a
momentary irritation with defiance; to give back a Roland to his
Oliver. Her womanliness inclines her to loving forbearance, to
patience under difficulties, to unwearied cheerfulness under such
portion of the inevitable burden as may have been laid on her. She
does not hold herself predestined by nature to receive only the best
of everything, and deem herself affronted where her own especial cross
is bound on her shoulders. Rather, she understands that she too must
take the rough with the smooth; but that, as her husband's way in
life is rougher than hers, his trials are greater, his burden is
heavier, it is her duty--and her privilege--to help him all she can
with her tenderness and her love; and to give back to him at home, if
in a different form, some of the care he has expended while abroad to
make her path smooth.

In a word, the womanly woman whom we all once loved and in whom we
have still a kind of traditional belief, is she who regards the wishes
of men as of some weight in female action; who holds to love rather
than opposition; to reverence, not defiance; who takes more pride in
the husband's fame than in her own; who glories in the protection of
his name, and in her state as wife; who feels the honour given to her
as wife and matron far dearer than any she may earn herself by
personal prowess; and who believes in her consecration as a helpmeet
for man, not in a rivalry which a few generations will ripen into a
coarse and bitter enmity.


A humane condescension to instinct has lately supplied ladies' lapdogs
with an ingenious instrument of mock torture, in the shape of an
india-rubber head which hops about the room on the smallest
persuasion, and squeaks shrilly when caught and worried. The animal
has thus the pleasure of mauling something which seems to suffer from
the process; while in reality it hurts nothing, but expends its
tormenting energy on a quite unfeeling creature, whose _raison d'être_
it is to be worried and made to squeak. It would be well for some of
us if those people who must have something to worry would be content
with a creature analogous to the lapdog's india-rubber head. It would
do just as well for them, and it would save us who feel a great deal
of real pain. Tippoo Sahib was a wise man when he caused his automaton
to be made, in which a tiger seemed to be tearing at the prostrate
figure of a wooden European, and the group gave out mingled growls and
groans at the turning of a handle in its side. It might have been a
dismal fancy perhaps; but the fancy was better than the reality, and
did quite as well for the purpose, which was that the monarch should
keep himself in good humour by the charm of something to worry.

There are few pains in life greater than the companionship of one of
those ill-conditioned people who must have something to worry, and who
are only happy with a grievance. No fortune, no fair possessions of
love nor beauty, nor what one would think must be the sources of
intense happiness, are spells to exorcise the worrying spirit--opiates
to allay the worrying fever. If in the midst of all they have to make
them blessed among the sons of men, there hops the squeaking ball, in
an instant every good thing belonging to them is forgotten, and there
is nothing in heaven and earth but that one obtruding grievance, that
one intolerable annoyance. Nothing is too small for them to make into
a gigantic evil and be offended at accordingly. They will not endure
with patience the minutest, nor the most inevitable, of the crosses of
life--things which every one has to bear alike; which no one can help;
and concerning which the only wisdom is to meet them with
cheerfulness, tiding over the bad time as quietly as possible till
things take a turn. Not they. They know the luxury of having something
to complain of; and they like to feel wronged. The wind is in the east
and they are personally injured; the rain has come on a pleasure day,
or has not come in a seed-sowing week, and they fret grimly and make
every one about them uncomfortable, as if the weather were a thing to
be arranged at will, and a disappointing day were the result of wilful
mismanagement. Life is a burden to them and all about them because the
climate is uncertain and the elements are out of human control. They
make themselves the most wretched of martyrs too, if they are in a
country they do not like; and they never do like the country they are
in. If down in a valley, they are suffocated; if in the plains or on a
table-land, they hate monotony and long for undulations; if they are
in a wooded district, they dread the damp and worry about the autumn
exhalations; if on a moor, who can live without green hills and
hedgerow birds? They are sorely exercised concerning clay and gravel;
and they find as many differences in the London climate within a
half-hour's walk as those who do not worry would find between St.
Andrews and Mentone. But they are no nearer the right thing wherever
they go; and the people belonging to them may as well bear the worry
at Brompton as at Hampstead, in Cumberland as in Cornwall, and so save
both trouble and expense.

These worrying folk never let a thing alone. If they have once found a
victim they keep him; crueller in this than cats and tigers which play
with their prey only for a time, but finally give the _coup de grâce_
and devour it, bones and all. But worrying folk never have done with
their prey, be it person or thing, and have an art of persistence--a
way of establishing a raw--that drives their poor victims into
temporary insanity. This persistency indeed, and the total
indifference to the maddening effect they produce, are the oddest
parts of the performance. They begin again for the twentieth time,
just where they left off; as fresh as if they had not done it all
before, and as eager as if you did not know exactly what was coming.
And it makes no kind of difference to them that their worrying has no
effect, and that things go on exactly as before--exactly as they would
have done had there been no fuss about them at all.

Granting however, that the old proverb about constant dropping and
inevitable wearing is fulfilled, and that worrying accomplishes its
end, it had better have been let alone; for no one was ever yet
worried into compliance with an uncongenial or abandonment of a
favourite habit, who did not make the worrier wish more than once that
he had let matters remain where he had found them. Imbued with the
unfortunate belief that all things and persons are to be ordered to
their liking, the worriers think themselves justified in flying at the
throat of everything they dislike, and in making their dislikes
peculiar grievances. The natural inclination of boys to tear their
clothes and begrime their hands, to climb up ladders at the peril of
their necks, and to make themselves personally unpleasant to every
sense, is a burden laid specially on them, if they chance to be the
parents of vigorous and robust youth. The cares of their family are
greater than the cares of any other family; and no one understands
what they go through, though every one is told pretty liberally. Hint
at the sufferings of others, and they think you unfeeling and
unsympathetic; try to cheer them, and you affront them; unless you
would offend them for life, you must listen patiently to the
repetition of their miseries continually twanged on one string, and
feign the commiseration you cannot feel.

It is impossible for these people to go through life in amity with all
men. They may be very good Christians theoretically; most likely they
are; according to the law of compensation by which theory and practice
so seldom go together; but the elementary doctrines of peace and
goodwill are beyond their power of translation into deeds. They have
always some one who is Mordecai to them; some one connected with them,
whose habits, nature, whose very being is a decided offence, and whom
therefore they worry without mercy. You never know these people to be
without a grievance. It may be husband or brother, friend or servant,
as it happens; but there is sure to be some one whose existence puts
them out of tune, and on whom therefore they revenge the discord by
continual worrying. Yet they would be miserable if their grievance
were withdrawn, leaving them for the time without a victim. It would
be only for a time indeed; for the exit of one would be the signal for
the entrance of another. The millennium to these people would be
intolerable dullness; and if they were translated into heaven itself,
they would of a certainty travesty the child's desire, and ask for a
little devil to worry, if not to play with. Women are sad sinners in
this way. Men who stay at home and potter about get like them, but
women, who are naturally nervous, and whose lives are spent in small
things, are generally more worrying than men; at least in daily life
and at home. Indeed, the woman who is more cheerful and hopeful than
easily depressed, and who does not worry any one, is the exception
rather than the rule, and to be prized as one would prize any other

Children come in for a good deal of domestic worrying; and under
pretence of good management and careful education are used as mamma's
squeaking heads, which lie ever handy for a chase. Any one who has
been in a family where the mother is of a naturally worrying temper,
and where a child has a peculiarity, can appreciate to the full what
the propensity is. With substantial love at heart, the mother leads
the wretched little creature a life worse than that of the typical
dog; and makes of its peculiarity, whatever that may be, a personal
offence which she is justified in resenting and never leaving alone.
And if it be so with her children, much more is it with her husband,
for whom her tenderness is naturally less. Though concerning him she
evidently does not know her own mind; for when she has worried into
his grave the man who all his life was such a trial to her, such a
cross, perhaps such a brute, she puts on widow's weeds of the deepest
hue, and worries her sons and daughters with her uncomfortable
reaction in favour of 'poor papa,' whose virtues come to the front
with a bound. Or may be she continues the old song in a different key,
substituting compassion and a sublime forgiveness in place of her
former annoyance, but harping all the same on the old strain and
rasping the old sores.

Infelicitous at home, these worrying people are almost more than flesh
and blood can bear as travelling companions abroad. Always sure that
the train is going to start and leave them behind; that their landlord
is a robber and in league with brigands; that they will be dashed down
the precipice which tens of thousands have passed in safety before;
worrying about the luggage; and where is that trunk? and are you
_sure_ you saw the portmanteau safe? and have you the keys? and the
custom-house officers will find that bottle of eau-de-cologne and
charge both fine and duty for it; and have you changed the money? and
are you sure you have enough? and what are the fares? and you have
been cheated; and what a bill for only one breakfast and one
night!--and so on.

The person who undertakes a journey with constitutional worriers ought
to have nerves of iron and a head of ice. They will leave nothing to
the care of ordinary rule, let nothing go by faith. The luggage is
always being lost, according to them; accidents are certain to happen
half a dozen times a day; and the beds are invariably damp. Their
mosquito bites are worse than any other person's; and no one is
plagued with small beasts as they are. They worry all through the
journey, till you wish yourself dead twenty times at least before the
month is out; and when they come home, they tell their friends they
would have enjoyed themselves immensely had they been allowed, but
they were so much annoyed and worried they lost half the pleasure of
the trip. So it will be to the end of time. As children, fretful; as
boys and girls, impatient and ill-tempered; as men and women,
worrying, interfering, restless; as old people, peevish and
exacting--they will die as they have lived; and the world about them
will draw a deep breath of relief when the day of their departure
comes, and will feel their atmosphere so much the lighter for their
loss. Poor creatures! They are conscious of not being loved as they
love, and as perhaps theoretically, they deserve to be loved; but it
would be impossible, even by a surgical operation, to make them
understand the reason why; and that it is their own habit of
incessantly worrying which has chilled the hearts of their friends,
and made them such a burden to others that their removal is a release
and their absence the promise of a life of peace.


Marriage, which most girls consider the sole aim of their existence
and the end of all their anxieties, is often the beginning of a set of
troubles which none among them expect, and which, when they come, very
few accept with the dignity of patience or the reasonableness of
common sense. Hitherto the man has been the suitor, the wooer. It has
been his _métier_ to make love; to utter extravagant professions; to
talk poetry and romance of an eminently unwearable kind; and to swear
that feelings, which by the very nature of things it is impossible to
maintain at their present state of fever heat, will be as lasting as
life itself and never know subsidence nor diminution. And girls
believe all that their lovers tell them. They believe in the
absorption of the man's whole life in the love which at the most
cannot be more than a part of his life; they believe that things will
go on for ever as they have begun, and that the fire and fervour of
passion will never cool down to the more manageable warmth of
friendship. And in this belief of theirs lies the rock on which not a
few make such pitiful shipwreck of their married happiness. They
expect their husbands to remain always lovers. Not lovers only in the
best sense, which of course all happy husbands are to the end of time,
but lovers as in the old fond, foolish, courting days. They expect a
continuance of the romance, the poetry, the exaggeration, the _petits
soins_, the microscopic attentions, the absorption of thought and
interest, the centralization of his happiness in her society, just as
in the days when she was still to be won, or, a little later, when,
being won, she was new in the wearing. And as we said before, a wife's
first trial, and her greatest, is when her husband begins to leave off
this kind of fervid love-making and settles down into the tranquil

As with children so is it in the nature of most women to require
continual assurances. Very few believe in a love which is not
frequently expressed; while the ability to trust in the vital warmth
of an affection that has lost its early feverishness is the mark of a
higher wisdom than most of them possess. To make them thoroughly happy
a man must be always at their feet; and they are jealous of
everything--even of his work--that takes him away from them, or gives
him occasion for thought and interest outside themselves. They are
rarely able to rise to the height of married friendship; and if they
belong to a reticent and quiet-going man--a man who says 'I love you'
once for all, and then contents himself with living a life of loyalty
and kindness and not talking about it--they fret at what they call
his coldness, and feel themselves shorn of half their glory and more
than half their dues. They refuse to believe in that which is not
daily repeated. They want the incense of flattery, the excitement of
love-making; and if these desires are not ministered to by their
husbands, the danger is that they will get some one else to
'understand' them and feed the sentimentality which dies of inanition
in the quiet serenity of home. Moonlights; a bouquet of the earliest
flowers carefully arranged and tenderly presented; the changing lights
on the mountain tops; the exquisite song of the nightingale at two
o'clock in the morning; all the rest of those vague and suggestive
delights which once made the meeting-places of souls, and furnished
occasion for delicious ravings, become by time and use and the wearing
realities of business and the crowding pressure of anxieties, puerile
and annoying to the ordinary Englishman, who is not a poet by nature.
When all the world was young by reason of his own youth, and the fever
of the love-making time was on him, he was quite as romantic as his
wife. But now he is sobering down; life is fast becoming a very
prosaic thing to him; work is taking the place of pleasure, ambition
of romance; he pooh-poohs her fond remembrances of bygone follies, and
prefers his pipe in the warm library to a station by the open window,
watching the sunset because it looks as it did on _that_ evening, and
shivering with incipient catarrh. All this is very dreadful to her;
women, unfortunately for themselves, remaining young and keeping hold
much longer than do men.

The first defection of this kind is a pang the young wife never
forgets. But she has many more and yet more bitter ones, when the
defection takes a personal shape, and some pretty little attention is
carelessly received without its due reward of loving thanks. Perhaps
some usual form of caress is omitted in the hurry of the morning's
work; or some gloomy anticipation of professional trouble makes him
oblivious of her presence; or, fretted by her importunate attentions,
he buries himself in a book, more to escape being spoken to than for
the book's own merits.

Many a woman has gone into her own room and had a 'good cry' because
her husband called her by her baptismal name, and not by some absurd
nickname invented in the days of their folly; or because, pressed for
time, he hurried out of the house without going through the
established formula of leave-taking. The lover has merged in the
husband; security has taken the place of wooing; and the woman does
not take kindly to the transformation. Sometimes she plays a dangerous
game, and tries what flirting with other men will do. If her scheme
does not answer, and her husband is not made jealous, she is revolted,
and holds herself that hardly-used being, a neglected wife. She cannot
accept as a compliment the quiet trust which certain cool-headed men
of a loyal kind place in their wives; and her husband's tolerance of
her flirting manner--which he takes to be manner only, with no evil in
it, and with which, though he may not especially like it, he does not
interfere--seems to her indifference rather than tolerance. Yet the
confidence implied in this forbearance is in point of fact a
compliment worth all the pretty nothings ever invented; though this
hearty faith is just the thing which annoys her, and which she
stigmatizes as neglect. If she were to go far enough she would find
out her mistake. But by that time she would have gone too far to
profit by her experience.

Nothing is more annoying than that display of affection which some
husbands and wives show to each other in society. That familiarity of
touch, those half-concealed caresses, those absurd names, that
prodigality of endearing epithets, that devoted attention which they
flaunt in the face of the public as a kind of challenge to the world
at large to come and admire their happiness, is always noticed and
laughed at; and sometimes more than laughed at. Yet to some women this
parade of love is the very essence of married happiness and part of
their dearest privileges. They believe themselves admired and envied
when they are ridiculed and scoffed at; and they think their husbands
are models for other men to copy when they are taken as examples for
all to avoid.

Men who have any real manliness however, do not give in to this kind
of thing; though there are some, as effeminate and gushing as women
themselves, who like this sloppy effusiveness of love and carry it on
into quite old age, fondling the ancient grandmother with grey hair as
lavishly as they had fondled the youthful bride, and seeing no want of
harmony in calling a withered old dame of sixty and upwards by the pet
names by which they had called her when she was a slip of a girl of
eighteen. The continuance of love from youth to old age is very
lovely, very cheering; but even 'John Anderson my Jo' would lose its
pathos if Mrs. Anderson had ignored the difference between the raven
locks and the snowy brow.

All that excess of flattering and petting of which women are so fond
becomes a bore to a man if required as part of the daily habit of
life. Out in the world as he is, harassed by anxieties of which she
knows nothing, home is emphatically his place of rest--where his wife
is his friend who knows his mind; where he may be himself without the
fear of offending, and relax the strain that must be kept up out of
doors; where he may feel himself safe, understood, at ease. And some
women, and these by no means the coldest nor the least loving, are
wise enough to understand this need of rest in the man's harder life,
and, accepting the quiet of security as part of the conditions of
marriage, content themselves with the undemonstrative love into which
the fever of passion has subsided. Others fret over it, and make
themselves and their husbands wretched because they cannot believe in
that which is not for ever paraded before their eyes.

Yet what kind of home is it for the man when he has to walk as if on
egg-shells, every moment afraid of wounding the susceptibilities of a
woman who will take nothing on trust, and who has to be continually
assured that he still loves her, before she will believe that to-day
is as yesterday? Of one thing she may be certain; no wife who
understands what is the best kind of marriage demands these continual
attentions, which, voluntary offerings of the lover, become enforced
tribute from the husband. She knows that as a wife, whom it is not
necessary to court nor flatter, she has a nobler place than that which
is expressed by the attentions paid to a mistress.

Wifehood, like all assured conditions, does not need to be buttressed
up; but a less certain position must be supported from the outside,
and an insecure self-respect, an uncertain holding, must be
perpetually strengthened and reassured. Women who cannot live happily
without being made love to are more like mistresses than wives, and
come but badly off in the great struggles of life and the cruel
handling of time. Placing all their happiness in things which cannot
continue, they let slip that which lies in their hands; and in their
desire to retain the romantic position of lovers lose the sweet
security of wives. Perhaps, if they had higher aims in life than those
with which they make shift to satisfy themselves, they would not let
themselves sink to the level of this folly, and would understand
better than they do now the worth of realities as contrasted with
appearances. And yet we cannot but pity the poor, weak, craving souls
who long so pitifully for the freshness of the morning to continue far
into the day and evening--who cling so tenaciously to the fleeting
romance of youth. They are taken by the glitter of things--love-making
among the rest; and the man who is showiest in his affection, who can
express it with most colour, and paint it, so to speak, with the
minutest touches, is the man whose love seems to them the most
trustworthy and the most intense. They make the mistake of confounding
this show with the substance, of trusting to pictorial expression
rather than to solid facts. And they make that other mistake of
cloying their husbands with half-childish caresses which were all very
well in the early days, but which become tiresome as time goes on and
the gravity of life deepens. And then, when the man either quietly
keeps them off or more brusquely repels them, they are hurt and
miserable, and think the whole happiness of their lives is dead, and
all that makes marriage beautiful at an end.

What is to be done to balance things evenly in this unequal world of
sex? What indeed, is to be done at any time to reconcile strength with
weakness, and to give each its due? One thing at least is sure. The
more thoroughly women learn the true nature of men, the fewer mistakes
they will make and the less unhappiness they will create for
themselves; and the more patient men are with the hysterical
excitability, the restless craving, which nature, for some purpose at
present unknown, has made the special temperament of women, the fewer
_femmes incomprises_ there will be in married homes and the larger the
chance of married happiness. All one's theories of domestic life come
down at last to the give-and-take system, to bearing and forbearing,
and meeting half way idiosyncrasies which one does not personally


As there are wandering tribes which neither build houses nor pitch
their tents in one place, so there are certain social nomads who never
seem to have a home of their own, and who do not make one for
themselves by remaining long in any other person's. They are always
moving about and are to be met everywhere; at all sea-side places; at
all show places; in Switzerland, France, Italy and Germany; where they
live chiefly in _pensions_ at moderate charges, or in meagre lodgings
affiliated to a populous _table d'hôte_ much frequented by the
English. For one characteristic of social nomads is the strange way in
which they congregate together, expatiating on the delights of life
abroad, while seeing nothing but the outside of things from the centre
of a dense Britannic circle.

Another characteristic is their chronic state of impecuniosity, and
the desire of looking like the best on a fixed income of slender
dimensions. Hence they are obliged to organize their expenditure on a
very narrow basis, and therefore live in boarding-houses, _pensions_,
or wherever good-sized rooms, a sufficient table, and a constant
current of society are to be had at small individual cost. As they
are people who travel much, they can speak two or three languages, but
only as those who have learnt by ear and not by book. They know
nothing of foreign literature, and but little of their own, save
novels and the class which goes by the name of 'light.' Indeed all the
reading they accomplish is confined to newspapers, magazines and
novels. But at home, and among those who have not been to Berlin, who
have never seen Venice, and to whom Paris is a dream still to be
realized, they assume an intimate acquaintance with both the
literature and the politics of the Continent--especially the
politics--and laugh at the English press for its blindness and
onesidedness. They happen to know beyond all doubt how this
Correspondent was bought over with so much money down; how that one is
in the toils of such or such a Minister's wife; why a third got his
appointment; how a fourth keeps his; and they could, if they chose,
give you chapter and verse for all they say.

If they chance to have been in India some twenty or thirty years ago,
they will tell you why the Mutiny took place, and how the change of
Government works; and they can put their fingers on all the sore
places of the Empire, beginning with the distribution of patronage and
ending with the deficiency of revenue, as aptly as if they were on the
spot and had the confidence of the ruling officials. But in spite of
these little foibles they are amusing companions as a rule, if
shallow and radically ill-informed; and as it is for their own
interest to be good company, they have cultivated the art of
conversation to the highest pitch of which they are capable, and can
entertain if not instruct. When they aim at instruction indeed, they
are pretty sure to miss the mark; and the social nomad who lays down
the law on foreign statesmen and politics, and who speaks from
personal knowledge, is just the one authority not to be accepted.

Always living in public, yet having to fight, each for his own hand,
the manners of social nomads in _pensions_ are generally a strange
mixture of suavity and selfishness; and the small intrigues and crafty
stratagems going on among them for the possession of the favourite
seat in the drawing-room, the special attention of the head-waiter at
table, the earliest attendance of the housemaid in the morning, is in
strange contrast with the ready smiles, the personal flatteries, the
affectation of sympathetic interest kept for show. But every social
nomad knows how to appraise this show at its just value, and can weigh
it in the balance to a grain. He does not much prize it; for he knows
one characteristic of these communities to be that everybody speaks
against everybody else, and that all concur in speaking against the

Still, life seems to go easily enough among them. They are all
well-dressed and for the most part have their tempers under control.
Some of the women play well, and some sing prettily. There are always
to be found a sufficient number of the middle-aged of either sex to
make up a whist-table, where the game is sound and sometimes
brilliant; and there are sure to be men who play billiards creditably
and with a crisp, clean stroke worth looking at. And there are very
often lively women who make amusement for the rest. But these are
smartly handled behind backs, though they are petted in public and
undeniably useful to the society at large.

The nomadic widow is by some odd fatality generally the widow of an
officer, naval or military, to whose rank she attaches an almost
superstitious value, thinking that when she can announce herself as
the relict of a major or an admiral she has given an unanswerable
guarantee and smoothed away all difficulties. She may have many
daughters, but more probably she has only one;--for where
olive-branches abound nomadism is more expensive than housekeeping,
and to live in one's own house is less costly than to live in a
boarding-house. But of this one daughter the nomadic widow makes much
to the community; and especially calls attention to her simplicity and
absolute ignorance of the evils so familiar to the girls of the
present day. And she looks as if she expects to be believed. Perhaps
credence is difficult; the young lady in question having been for some
years considerably in public, where she has learnt to take care of
herself with a skill which, how much soever it may be deserving of
praise, can scarcely claim to be called ingenuous. She has need of
this skill; for, apparently, she and her mother have no male relations
belonging to them, and if flirtations are common with the nomadic
tribe, marriages are rare. Poor souls; one cannot but pity them for
all their labour in vain, all their abortive hopes. For though there
is more society in the mode of life they have chosen than they would
have had if they had lived quietly down in the village where they were
known and respected, and where, who knows? the fairy prince might one
day have alighted--there are very few chances; and marriages among
'the inmates' are as rare as winter swallows.

The men who live in these places, whether as nomadic or permanent
guests, never have money enough to marry on; and the flirtations
always budding and blossoming by the piano or about the billiard-table
never by any chance fructify in marriage. But in spite of their
infertile experience you see the same mother and the same daughter
year after year, season after season, returning to the charge with
renewed vigour, and a hope which is the one indestructible thing about
them. Let us deal tenderly with them, poor impecunious nomads;
drifting like so much sea-wrack along the restless current of life;
and wish them some safe resting-place before it is too late.

A lady nomad of this kind, especially one with a daughter, is strictly
orthodox and cultivates with praiseworthy perseverance the society of
any clergyman who may have wandered into the community of which she is
a member. She is punctual in church-going; and the minister is
flattered by her evident appreciation of his sermons, and the
readiness with which she can remember certain points of last Sunday's
discourse. As a rule she is Evangelically inclined, and is as
intolerant of Romanism on the one hand as of Rationalism on the other.
She has seen the evils of both, she says, and quotes the state of Rome
and of Heidelberg in confirmation. She is as strict in morals as in
orthodoxy, and no woman who has got herself talked about, however
innocently, need hope for much mercy at her hands. Her Rhadamanthine
faculty has apparently ample occasion for exercise, for her list of
scandalous chronicles is extensive; and if she is to be believed, she
and her daughter are almost the sole examples of a pure and untainted
womanhood afloat. She is as rigid too, in all matters connected with
her social status; and brings up her daughter in the same way of
thinking. By virtue of the admiral or the major, at peace in his
grave, they are emphatically ladies; and, though nomadic, impecunious,
homeless, and _tant soit peu_ adventuresses, they class themselves as
of the cream of the cream, and despise those whose rank is of the
uncovenanted kind, and who are gentry, may be, by the grace of God
only without any Act of Parliament to help.

Sometimes the lady nomad is a spinster, not necessarily _passée_,
though obviously she cannot be in her first youth; still she may be
young enough to be attractive, and adventurous enough to care to
attract. Women of this kind, unmarried, nomadic and still young, work
themselves into every movement afoot. They even face the perils and
discomforts of war-time, and tell their friends at home that they are
going out as nurses to the wounded. That dash of the adventuress, of
which we have spoken before, runs through all this section of the
social nomads; and one wonders why some uncle or cousin, some aunt or
family friend, does not catch them up in time.

If not attractive nor passably young, these nomadic spinsters are sure
to be exceedingly odd. Constant friction with society in its most
selfish form, the absence of home-duties, the want of the sweetness
and sincerity of home love, and the habit of change, bring out all
that is worst in them and kill all that is best. They have nothing to
hope for from society and less to lose; it is wearisome to look
amiable and sweet-tempered when you feel bitter and disappointed; and
politeness is a farce where the fact of the day is a fight. So the
nomadic spinster who has lived so long in this rootless way that she
has ceased even to make such fleeting friendships as the mode of life
affords--has ceased even to wear the transparent mark of such thin
politeness as is required--becomes a 'character' notorious in
proportion to her candour. She never stays long in one establishment,
and generally leaves abruptly because of a misunderstanding with some
other lady, or maybe because some gentleman has unwittingly affronted
her. She and the officer's widow are always on peculiarly unfriendly
terms, for she resents the pretensions of the officer's daughter, and
calls her a bold minx or a sly puss almost within hearing; while she
throws grave doubts on the widow herself, and drops hints which the
rest of the community gather up like manna, and keep by them, to much
the same result as that of the wilderness. But the nomadic spinster
soon wanders away to another temporary resting-place; and before half
her life is done she becomes as well known to the heads of the various
establishments in her line as the taxgatherer himself, and dreaded
almost as much.

Nomads are generally remarkable for not leaving tracks behind them.
You see them here and there, and they are sure to turn up at
Baden-Baden or at Vichy, at Scarborough or at Dieppe, when you least
expect them; but you know nothing about them in the interim. They are
like those birds which hybernate at some place of retreat no one yet
ever found; or like those which migrate, who can tell where? They come
and they go. You meet and part and meet again in all manner of
unlikely places; and it seems to you that they have been over half the
world since you last met, you meanwhile having settled quietly to your
work, save for your summer holiday which you are now taking, and which
you are enjoying as the nomad cannot enjoy any change that falls to
his lot. He is sated with change; wearied of novelty; yet unable to
fix himself, however much he may wish it. He has got into the habit of
change; and the habit clings even when the desire has gone. Always
hoping to be at rest, always intending to settle as years flow on, he
never finds the exact place to suit him; only when he feels the end
approaching, and by reason of old age and infirmity is a nuisance in
the community where formerly he was an acquisition, and where too all
that once gave him pleasure has now become an insupportable burden and
weariness--only then does he creep away into some obscure and lonely
lodging, where he drags out his remaining days alone, and dies without
the touch of one loved hand to smooth his pillow, without the sound of
one dear voice to whisper to him courage, farewell, and hope. The home
he did not plant when he might is impossible to him now, and there is
no love that endures if there is no home in which to keep it. And so
all the class of social nomads find when dark days are on them, and
society, which cares only to be amused, deserts them in their hour of
greatest need.


Nothing is more distinctive among women than the difference of
relative age to be found between them. Two women of the same number of
years will be substantially of different epochs of life--the one faded
in person, wearied in mind, fossilized in sympathy; the other fresh
both in face and feeling, with sympathies as broad and keen as they
were when she was in her first youth; with a brain still as receptive,
as quick to learn, a temper still as easy to be amused, as ready to
love, as when she emerged from the school-room to the drawing-room.
The one you suspect of understating her age by half-a-dozen years or
more when she tells you she is not over forty; the other makes you
wonder if she has not overstated hers by just so much when she
laughingly confesses to the same age. The one is an old woman who
seems as if she had never been young, the other 'just a great girl
yet,' who seems as if she would never grow old; and nothing is equal
between them but the number of days each has lived.

This kind of woman, so fresh and active, so intellectually as well as
emotionally alive, is never anything but a girl; never loses some of
the sweetest characteristics of girlhood. You see her first as a young
wife and mother, and you imagine she has left the school-room for
about as many months as she has been married years. Her face has none
of that untranslatable expression, that look of robbed bloom, which
experience gives; in her manner is none of the preoccupation so
observable in most young mothers, whose attention never seems wholly
given to the thing on hand, and whose hearts seem always full of a
secret care or an unimparted joy. Brisk and airy, braving all
weathers, ready for any amusement, interested in the current questions
of history and society, by some wonderful faculty of organizing
seeming to have all her time to herself as if she had no house cares
and no nursery duties, yet these somehow not neglected, she is the
very ideal of a happy girl roving through life as through a daisy
field, on whom sorrow has not yet laid its hand and to whose lot has
fallen no Dead Sea apple. And when one hears her name and style for
the first time as a matron, and sees her with two or three sturdy
little fellows hanging about her slender neck and calling her mamma,
one feels as if nature had somehow made a mistake, and that our slim
and simple-mannered damsel had only made-believe to have taken up the
serious burdens of life, and was nothing but a great girl after all.

Grown older she is still the great girl she was ten years ago, if her
type of girlishness is a little changed and her gaiety of manner a
little less persistent. But even now, with a big boy at Eton and a
daughter whose presentation is not so far off, she is younger than her
staid and melancholy sister, her junior by many years, who has gone in
for the Immensities and the Worship of Sorrow, who thinks laughter the
sign of a vacant mind, and that to be interesting and picturesque a
woman must have unserviceable nerves and a defective digestion. Her
sister looks as if all that makes life worth living for lies behind
her, and only the grave is beyond; she, the great girl, with her
bright face and even temper, believes that her future will be as
joyous as her present, as innocent as her past, as full of love and as
purely happy. She has known some sorrows truly, and she has gained
such experience as comes only through the rending of the
heart-strings; but nothing that she has passed through has seared nor
soured her, and if it has taken off just the lighter edge of her
girlishness it has left the core as bright and cheery as ever.

In person she is generally of the style called 'elegant' and
wonderfully young in mere physical appearance. Perhaps sharp eyes
might spy out here and there a little silver thread among the soft
brown hair; and when fatigued or set in a cross light, lines not quite
belonging to the teens may be traced about her eyes and mouth; but in
favourable conditions, with her graceful figure advantageously draped
and her fair face flushed and animated, she looks just a great girl,
no more; and she feels as she looks. It is well for her if her husband
is a wise man, and more proud of her than he is jealous; for he must
submit to see her admired by all the men who know her, according to
their individual manner of expressing admiration. But as purity of
nature and singleness of heart belong to her qualification for great
girlishness, he has no cause for alarm, and she is as safe with Don
Juan as with St. Anthony.

These great girls, as middle-aged matrons, are often seen in the
country; and one of the things which most strikes a Londoner is the
abiding youthfulness of this kind of matron. She has a large family,
the elders of which are grown up, but she has lost none of the beauty
for which her youth was noted, though it is now a different kind of
beauty from what it was then; and she has still the air and manners of
a girl. She blushes easily, is shy, and sometimes apt to be a little
awkward, though always sweet and gentle; she knows very little of real
life and less of its vices; she is pitiful to sorrow, affectionate to
her friends who are few in number, and strongly attached to her own
family; she has no theological doubts, no scientific proclivities, and
the conditions of society and the family do not perplex her. She
thinks Darwinism and protoplasm dangerous innovations; and the
doctrine of Free Love with Mrs. Cady Staunton's development is
something too shocking for her to talk about. She lifts her calm clear
eyes in wonder at the wild proceedings of the shrieking sisterhood,
and cannot for the life of her make out what all this tumult means,
and what the women want. For herself, she has no doubts whatever, no
moral uncertainties. The path of duty is as plain to her as are the
words of the Bible, and she loves her husband too well to wish to be
his rival or to desire an individualized existence outside his. She is
his wife, she says; and that seems more satisfactory to her than to be
herself a Somebody in the full light of notoriety, with him in the
shade as her appendage.

If inclined to be intolerant to any one, it is to those who seek to
disturb the existing state of things, or whose speculations unsettle
men's minds; those who, as she thinks, entangle the sense of that
which is clear and straightforward enough if they would but leave it
alone, and who, by their love of iconoclasm, run the risk of
destroying more than idols. But she is intolerant only because she
believes that when men put forth false doctrines they put them forth
for a bad purpose, and to do intentional mischief. Had she not this
simple faith, which no philosophic questionings have either enlarged
or disturbed, she would not be the great girl she is; and what she
would have gained in catholicity she would have lost in freshness. For
herself, she has no self-asserting power, and would shrink from any
kind of public action; but she likes to visit the poor, and is
sedulous in the matter of tracts and flannel-petticoats, vexing the
souls of the sterner, if wiser, guardians and magistrates by her
generosity which they affirm only encourages idleness and creates
pauperism. She cannot see it in that light. Charity is one of the
cardinal virtues of Christianity; accordingly, charitable she will
be, in spite of all that political economists may say.

She belongs to her family, they do not belong to her; and you seldom
hear her say 'I went' or 'I did.' It is always 'we;' which, though a
small point, is a significant one, showing how little she holds to
anything like an isolated individuality, and how entirely she feels a
woman's life to belong to and be bound up in her home relations. She
is romantic too, and has her dreams and memories of early days; when
her eyes grow moist as she looks at her husband--the first and only
man she ever loved--and the past seems to be only part of the present.
The experience which she must needs have had has served only to make
her more gentle, more pitiful, than the ordinary girl, who is
naturally inclined to be a little hard; and of all her household she
is the kindest and the most intrinsically sympathetic. She keeps up
her youth for the children's sake she says; and they love her more
like an elder sister than the traditional mother. They never think of
her as old, for she is their constant companion and can do all that
they do. She is fond of exercise; is a good walker; an active climber;
a bold horsewoman; a great promoter of picnics and open-air
amusements. She looks almost as young as her eldest daughter
differentiated by a cap and covered shoulders; and her sons have a
certain playfulness in their love for her which makes them more her
brothers than her sons. Some of them are elderly men before she has
ceased to be a great girl; for she keeps her youth to the last by
virtue of a clear conscience, a pure mind and a loving nature. She is
wise in her generation and takes care of her health by means of active
habits, fresh air, cold water and a sparing use of medicines and
stimulants; and if the dear soul is proud of anything it is of her
figure, which she keeps trim and elastic to the last, and of the
clearness of her complexion, which no heated rooms have soddened, no
accustomed strong waters have clouded nor bloated.

Then there are great girls of another kind--women who, losing the
sweetness of youth, do not get in its stead the dignity of maturity;
who are fretful, impatient, undisciplined, knowing no more of
themselves nor human nature than they did when they were nineteen, yet
retaining nothing of that innocent simplicity, that single-hearted
freshness and joyousness of nature which one does not wish to see
disturbed even for the sake of a deeper knowledge. These are the women
who will not get old and who consequently do not keep young; who, when
they are fifty, dress themselves in gauze and rosebuds, and think to
conceal their years by a judicious use of many paint-pots and the
liberality of the hairdresser; who are jealous of their daughters,
whom they keep back as much and as long as they can, and terribly
aggrieved at their irrepressible six feet of sonship; women who have a
trick of putting up their fans before their faces as if they were
blushing; who give you the impression of flounces and ringlets, and
who flirt by means of much laughter and a long-sustained giggle; who
talk incessantly, yet have said nothing to the purpose when they have
done; and who simper and confess they are not strong-minded but only
'awfully silly little things,' when you try to lead the conversation
into anything graver than fashion and flirting. They are women who
never learn repose of mind nor dignity of manner; who never lose their
taste for mindless amusements, and never acquire one for nature nor
for quiet happiness; and who like to have lovers always hanging about
them--men for the most part younger than themselves, whom they call
naughty boys and tap playfully by way of rebuke. They are women unable
to give young girls good advice on prudence or conduct; mothers who
know nothing of children; mistresses ignorant of the alphabet of
housekeeping; wives whose husbands are merely the bankers, and most
probably the bugbears, of the establishment; women who think it
horrible to get old and to whom, when you talk of spiritual peace or
intellectual pleasures, you are as unintelligible as if you were
discoursing in the Hebrew tongue. As a class they are wonderfully
inept; and their hands are practically useless, save as ring-stands
and glove-stretchers. For they can do nothing with them, not even
frivolous fancy-work. They read only novels; and one of the marvels of
their existence is what they do with themselves in those hours when
they are not dressing, flirting, nor paying visits.

If they are of a querulous and nervous type, their children fly from
them to the furthest corners of the house; if they are molluscous and
good-natured, they let themselves be manipulated up to a certain
point, but always on the understanding that they are only a few years
older than their daughters; almost all these women, by some fatality
peculiar to themselves, having married when they were about ten years
old, and having given birth to progeny with the uncomfortable property
of looking at the least half a dozen years older than they are. This
accounts for the phenomenon of a girlish matron of this kind, dressed
to represent first youth, with a sturdy black-browed débutante by her
side, looking, you would swear to it, of full majority if a day. Her
only chance is to get that black-browed tell-tale married out of hand;
and this is the reason why so many daughters of great girls of this
type make such notoriously early--and bad--matches; and why, when once
married, they are never seen in society again.

Grandmaternity and girlishness scarcely fit in well together, and
rosebuds are a little out of place when a nursery of the second degree
is established. There are scores of women fluttering through society
at this moment whose elder daughters have been socially burked by the
friendly agency of a marriage almost as soon as, or even before, they
were introduced, and who are therefore, no longer witnesses against
the hairdresser and the paint-pots; and there are scores of these
same marriageable daughters eating out their hearts and spoiling their
pretty faces in the school-room a couple of years beyond their time,
that mamma may still believe the world takes her to be under thirty
yet--and young at that.


The typical mother-in-law is, as we all know, fair game for every
one's satire; and according to the odd notions which prevail on
certain points, a man is assumed to show his love for his wife by
systematic disrespect to her mother, and to think that her new
affections will be knit all the closer the more loosely he can induce
her to hold her old ones. The mother-in-law, according to this view of
things, has every fault. She interferes, and always at the wrong time
and on the wrong side; she makes a tiff into a quarrel and widens a
coolness into a breach; she is self-opinionated and does not go with
the times; she treats her daughter like a child and her son-in-law
like an appendage; she spoils the elder children and feeds the baby
with injudicious generosity; she spends too much on her dress,
wears too many rings, trumps her partner's best card and does not
attend to the 'call;'--and she is fat. But even the well abused
mother-in-law--the portly old dowager who has had her day and is no
longer pleasing in the eyes of men--even she has her wrongs like most
of us; and if she sometimes asserts her rights more aggressively than
patiently, she has to put up with many disagreeable rubs for her own
part; and female tempers over fifty are not notorious for humility.

Take the case of a widow with means, whose family is settled. Not a
daughter to chaperone, not a son to marry; all are so far happily off
her hands, and she is left alone. But what does her loneliness mean?
In the first place, while her grief for her husband is yet new--and we
will assume that she does grieve for him--she has to turn out of the
house where she has been queen and mistress for the best years of her
life; to abdicate state and style in favour of her son and her son's
wife whom she is sure not to like; and, however good her jointure may
be, she must necessarily find her new home one of second-rate
importance. Perhaps however, the family objects to her having a home
of her own. Dear mamma must give up housekeeping and divide her time
among them all; but specially among her daughters, being more likely
to get on well with their husbands than with her sons' wives.

Dear mamma has means, be it remembered. Perhaps she is a good natured
soul, a trifle weak and vain in proportion; who knows what
evil-disposed person may not get influence over her and exercise it to
the detriment of all concerned? She has the power of making her will,
and, granting that she is proof against the fascinations of some
fortune-hunting scamp twenty years at the least her junior--may be
forty, who knows? do not men continually marry their grandmothers if
they are well paid for it?--and though every daughter's mamma is of
course normally superior to weakness of this kind, yet accidents will
happen where least expected. And even if there is no possible fear of
the fascinating scamp on the look-out for a widow with a jointure,
there are artful companions and intriguing maids who worm themselves
into confidence and ultimate power; sly professors of faiths dependent
on filthy lucre for their proof of divinity; and on the whole, all
things considered, dear mamma's purse and person are safest in the
custody of her children. So the poor lady, who was once the head of a
place, gives up all title to a home of her own, and spends her time
among her married daughters, in whose houses she is neither guest nor
mistress. She is only mamma; one of the family without a voice in the
family arrangements; a member of a community without a recognized
status; shunted; set aside; and yet with dangers of the most delicate
kind besetting her path in all directions. Nothing can be much more
unsatisfactory than such a position; and none much more difficult to
steer through, without renouncing the natural right of self-assertion
on the one hand, or certainly rasping the exaggerated susceptibilities
of touchy people on the other.

In general the shunted dowager has as little indirect influence as
direct power; and her opinion is never asked nor desired as a matter
of graceful acknowledgment of her maturer judgment. If she is appealed
to, it is in some family dispute between her son and daughter, where
her partizanship is sought only as a makeweight for one or other of
the belligerents. But, so far as she individually is concerned, she is
given to understand that she is rococo, out of date, absurd; that,
since she was young and active, things have entered on a new phase
where she is nowhere, and that her past experience is not of the
slightest use as things are nowadays. If she has still energy enough
left, so that she likes to have her say and do her will, she has to
pass under a continual fire of opposition. If she is timid,
phlegmatic, indolent, or peaceable, and with no fight in her, she is
quietly sat upon and extinguished.

Dear mamma is the best creature in the world so long as she is the
mere pawn on the young folks' domestic chess-board, to be placed
without an opposing will or sentiment of her own. She is the 'greatest
comfort' to her daughter; and even her son-in-law assents to her
presence, so long as she takes the children when required to do so,
does her share of the tending and more than her share of the giving,
but never presuming to administer nor to correct; so long as she is
placidly ready to take off all the bores; listen to the interminable
story-tellers; play propriety for the young people; make conversation
for the helplessly stupid or nervous; so long in fact as she will make
herself generally useful to others, demand nothing on her own account,
and be content to stand on the siding while the younger world whisks
up and down at express speed at its pleasure. Let her do more than
this--let her sometimes attempt to manage and sometimes object to be
managed--let her have a will of her own and seek to impose it--and
then 'dear mamma is so trying, so fond of interfering, so unable to
understand things;' and nothing but mysterious 'considerations' induce
either daughter or son-in-law to keep her.

No one seems to understand the heartache it must have cost her, and
that it must be continually costing her, to see herself so suddenly
and completely shunted. Only a year ago and she had pretensions of all
kinds. Time had dealt with her leniently, and no moment had come when
she had suddenly leaped a gulf and passed from one age to another
without gradations. She had drifted almost imperceptibly through the
various stages into a long term of mature sirenhood, remaining always
young and pretty to her husband. But now her widow's cap marks an era
in her life, and the loss of her old home a new and descending step in
her career. She is plainly held to have done with the world and all
individual happiness--all personal importance; plainly told that she
is now only an interposing cushion to soften the shock or ease the
strain for others. But she does not quite see it for her own part, and
after having been so long first--first in her society, in her home,
with her husband, with her children--it is a little hard on her that
she should have to sink down all at once into a mere rootless waif, a
kind of family possession belonging to every one in turn and the
common property of all, but possessing nothing of herself.

Of course dear mamma can make herself bitterly disagreeable if she
likes. She can taunt instead of letting herself be snubbed. She can
interfere where she is not wanted; give unpalatable advice; make
unpleasant remarks; tell stinging truths; and in all ways act up to
the reputation of the typical mother-in-law. But in general that is
only when she has kept her life in her own hands; has still her place
and her own home; remains the centre of the family and its recognized
head; with the dreadful power of making innumerable codicils and
leaving munificent bequests. If she has gone into the Learism of
living about among her daughters, it is scarce likely that she has
character enough to be actively disagreeable or aggressive.

On a first visit to a country-house it is sometimes difficult to
rightly localize the old lady on the sofa who goes in and out of the
room apparently without purpose, and who seems to have privileges but
no rights. Whose property is she? What is she doing here? She is dear
mamma certainly; but is she a personage or a dependent? Is she on a
visit like the rest of us? Is she the maternal lodger whose income
helps not unhandsomely? or, has she no private fortune, and so lives
with her son-in-law because she cannot afford to keep house on her own
account? She is evidently shunted, whatever her circumstances, and has
no _locus standi_ save that given by sufferance, convenience, or
affection. Naturally she is the last of the dowagers visiting at the
house. She may come before the younger women, from the respect due to
age; but her place is at the rear of all her own contemporaries; not
for the graceful fiction of hospitality, but because she is one of the
family and therefore must give precedence to strangers.

She is the movable circumstance of the home life. The young wife, of
course, has her fixed place and settled duties; the master is the
master; the guests have their graduated rights; but the shunted
dowager is peripatetic and elastic as well as shunted, and to be used
according to general convenience. If a place is vacant, which there is
no one else to fill, dear mamma must please to take it; if the party
is larger than there are places, dear mamma must please stay away. She
is assumed to have got over the age when pleasure means pleasure, and
to know no more of disappointment than of skipping. In fact, she is
assumed to have got over all individuality of every kind, and to be
able to sacrifice or to restrain as she may be required by the rest.

Perhaps one of her greatest trials lies in the silence she is obliged
to keep, if she would keep peace. She must sit still and see things
done which are gall and wormwood to her. Say that she has been
specially punctilious in habits, suave in bearing, perhaps a trifling
humbugging and flattering--she has to make the best of her daughter's
brusqueries and uncontrolled tempers, of her son-in-law's dirty boots,
and the new religion of outspokenness which both profess. Say that she
has been accustomed to speak her mind with the uncompromising boldness
of a woman owning a place and stake in the county--she has to curb the
natural indignation of her soul when her young people, wiser in their
generation or not so securely planted, make friends with all sorts and
conditions, are universally sweet to everybody, hunt after popularity
with untiring zest, and live according to the doctrine of angels
unawares. The ways of the house are not her ways, and things are not
ordered as she used to order them. People are invited with whom she
would not have shaken hands, and others are left out whose
acquaintance she would have specially affected. All sorts of
subversive doctrines are afloat, and the old family traditions are
sure to be set aside. She abhors the Ritualistic tendencies of her
son-in-law, or she despises his Evangelical proclivities; his politics
are not sound and his vote fatally on the wrong side; and she laments
that her daughter, so differently brought up, should have been won
over as she has been to her husband's views. But what of that? She is
only a dowager shunted and laid on the shelf; and what she likes or
dislikes does not weigh a feather in the balance, so long as her purse
and person are safe in the family, and her will securely locked up in
the solicitor's iron safe, with no likelihood of secret codicils
upstairs. On the whole then, there is a word to be said even for the
dreadful mother-in-law of general scorn; and, as the shunted dowager,
the poor soul has her griefs of no slight weight and her daily
humiliations bitter enough to bear.


We all number among our acquaintances certain privileged persons;
people who make their own laws without regard to the received canons
of society, and who claim exemption from some of the moral and most of
the conventional obligations which are considered binding on others.
The privileged person may be male or female; but is more often the
latter; sundry restraining influences keeping men in check which are
inoperative with women. Women indeed, when they choose to fall out of
the ranks and follow an independent path of their own, care very
little for any influences at all, the restraining power which will
keep them in line being yet an unknown quantity. As a woman then, we
will first deal with the privileged person.

One embodiment of the privileged person is she whose forte lies in
saying unpleasant things with praiseworthy coolness. She aims at a
reputation for smartness or for honesty, according to the character of
her intellect, and she uses what she gets without stint or sparing. If
clever, she is noted for her sarcastic speeches and epigrammatic
brilliancy; and her good things are bandied about from one to the
other of her friends; with an uneasy sense however, in the laughter
they excite. For every one feels that he who laughs to-day may have
cause to wince to-morrow, and that dancing on one's own grave is by no
means an exhilarating exercise.

No one is safe with her--not even her nearest and dearest; and she
does not care how deeply she wounds when she is about it. But her
victims rarely retaliate; which is the oddest part of the business.
They resign themselves meekly enough to the scalpel, and comfort
themselves with the reflection that it is only pretty Fanny's way, and
that she is known to all the world as a privileged person who may say
what she likes. It falls hard though, on the uninitiated and
sensitive, when they are first introduced to a privileged person with
a talent for saying smart things and no pity to speak of. Perhaps they
have learned their manners too well to retort in kind, if even they
are able; and so feel themselves constrained to bear the unexpected
smart, as the Spartan boy bore his fox. One sees them at times endure
their humiliation before folk with a courageous kind of stoicism which
would do honour to a better cause. Perhaps they are too much taken
aback to be able to marshal their wits for a serviceable
counter-thrust; all they can do is to look confused and feel angry;
but sometimes, if seldom, the privileged person with a talent for
sarcastic sayings meets with her match and gets paid off in her own
coin--which greatly offends her, while it rejoices those of her
friends who have suffered many things at her hands before. If she is
rude in a more sledge-hammer kind of way--rude through what it pleases
her to call honesty and the privilege of speaking her mind--her
attacks are easier to meet, being more openly made and less dependent
on quickness or subtlety of intellect to parry.

Sometimes indeed, by their very coarseness they defeat themselves.
When a woman of this kind says in a loud voice, as her final argument
in a discussion, 'Then you must be a fool,' as we have known a woman
tell her hostess, she has blunted her own weapon and armed her
opponent. All her privileges cannot change the essential constitution
of things; and, rudeness being the boomerang of the drawing-room which
returns on the head of the thrower, the privileged person who prides
herself on her honesty, and who is not too squeamish as to its use,
finds herself discomfited by the very silence and forbearance of her
victim. In either case however, whether using the rapier or the
sledge-hammer, the person privileged in speech is partly a nuisance
and partly a stirrer-up of society. People gather round to hear her,
when she has grappled with a victim worthy of her steel, and is using
it with effect. Yet unless her social status is such that she can
command a following by reason of the flunkeyism inherent in human
nature, she is sure to find herself dropped before her appointed end
has come. People get afraid of her ill-nature for themselves, and
tired of hearing the same things repeated of others. For even a clever
woman has her intellectual limits, and is forced after a time to
double back on herself and re-open the old workings. It is all very
well, people think, to read sharp satires on society in the abstract,
and to fit the cap as one likes. Even if it fits oneself, one can bear
the fool's crown with some small degree of equanimity in the hope that
others will not discover the fact; but when it comes to a hand-to-hand
attack, with bystanders to witness, and oneself reduced to an
ignominious silence, it is another matter altogether; and, however
sparkling the gifts of one's privileged friend, one would rather not
put oneself in the way of their exercise. So she is gradually shunned
till she is finally abandoned; what was once the clever impertinence
of a pretty person, or the frank insolence of a cherubic hoyden,
having turned by time into the acrid humour of a grim female who keeps
no terms with any one, and with whom therefore, no terms are kept. The
pretty person given to smart sayings with a sting in them and the
cherubic hoyden who allows herself the use of the weapon of honesty,
would do well to ponder on the inevitable end, when the only real
patent of their privileges has run out, and they have no longer youth
and beauty to plead in condonation for their bad breeding.

Another exercise of peculiar privilege is to be found in the matter of
flirting. Some women are able to flirt with impunity to an extent
which would simply destroy any one else. They flirt with the most
delicious frankness, yet for all practical purposes keep their place
in society undisturbed and their repute intact. They have the art of
making the best of two worlds, the secret of which is all their own,
yet which causes the weak to stumble and the rash to fall. They ride
on two horses at once, with a skill as consummate as their daring; but
the feeble sisters who follow after them slip down between, and come
to grief and public disaster as their reward. It is in vain to try to
analyze the terms on which this kind of privilege is founded. Say that
one pretty person takes the tone of universal relationship--that she
has an illimitable fund of sisterliness always at command for a host
of 'dear boys' of her own age; or, when a little older and drawing
near to the borders of mature sirenhood, that she is a kind of
oecumenical aunt to a large congregation of well-looking nephews--she
may steer safely through the shallows of this dangerous coast and land
at last on the _terra firma_ of a respected old age; but let another
try it, and she goes to the bottom like a stone. And yet the first has
pushed her privileges as far as they will go, while the second has
only played with hers; but the one comes triumphantly into port with
all colours flying, and the other makes shipwreck and is lost.

And why the one escapes and the other goes down is a mystery given to
no one to fathom. But so it is; and every student of society is aware
of this strange elasticity of privilege with certain pretty friends,
and must have more than once wondered at Mrs. Grundy's leniency to the
flagrant sinner on the right side of the square, coupled with her
severity to the lesser naughtiness on the left. The flirting form of
privilege is the most partial in its limitations of all; and things
which one fair patentee may do with impunity, retaining her garlands,
will cause another to be stripped bare and chastised with scorpions;
and no one knows why nor how the difference is made.

Another self-granted privilege is the licence some give themselves in
the way of taking liberties, and the boldness with which they force
your barriers. Indeed there is no barrier that can stand against these
resolute invaders. You are not at home, say, to all the world, but the
privileged person is sure you will see him or her, and forthwith
mounts your stairs with a cheerful conscience, carrying his welcome
with him--so he says. Admitted into your penetralia, the privileges of
this bold sect increase, being of the same order as the traditional
ell on the grant of the inch. They drop in at all times, and are never
troubled with modest doubts. They elect themselves your 'casuals,' for
whom you are supposed to have always a place at your table; and you
are obliged to invite them into the dining-room when the servant
sounds the gong and the roast mutton makes itself evident. They hear
you are giving an evening, and they tell you they will come,
uninvited; taking for granted that you intended to ask them, and
would have been sorry if you had forgotten. They tack themselves on to
your party at a fête and air their privileges in public--when the man
whom of all others you would like best for a son-in-law is hovering
about, kept at bay by the privileged person's familiar manner towards
yourself and your daughter.

Your friend would laugh at you if you hinted to him that he might by
chance be misinterpreted. He argues that every one knows him and his
ways; and acts as if he held a talisman by which the truth could be
read through the thickest crust of appearances. It would be well
sometimes if he had this talisman, for his familiarity is a
bewildering kind of thing to strangers on their first introduction to
a house where he has privileges; and it takes time, and some
misapprehension, before it is rightly understood. We do not know how
to catalogue this man who is so wonderfully at ease with our new
friends. We know that he is not a relation, and yet he acts as one
bound by the closest ties. The girls are no longer children, but his
manner towards them would be a little too familiar if they were half a
dozen years younger than they are; and we come at last to the
conclusion that the father owes him money, or that the wife had
been--well, what?--in the days gone by; and that he is therefore
master of the situation and beyond the reach of rebuke. All things
considered, this kind of privilege is dangerous, and to be carefully
avoided by parents and guardians. Indeed, every form of this patent
is dangerous; the chances being that sooner or later familiarity will
degenerate into contempt and a bitter rupture take the place of the
former excessive intimacy.

The neglect of all ordinary social observances is another reading of
the patent of privilege which certain people grant themselves. These
are the people who never return your calls; who do not think
themselves obliged to answer your invitations; who do not keep their
appointments; and who forget their promises. It is useless to reproach
them, to expect from them the grace of punctuality, the politeness of
a reply, or the faintest stirrings of a social conscience in anything.
They are privileged to the observance of a general neglect, and you
must make your account with them as they are. If they are
good-natured, they will spend much time and energy in framing
apologies which may or may not tell. If women, graceful, and liking to
be liked without taking much trouble about it, they will profess a
thousand sorrows and shames the next time they see you, and play the
pretty hypocrite with more or less success. You must not mind what
they do, they say pleadingly; no one does; they are such notoriously
bad callers no one ever expects them to pay visits like other people;
or they are so lazy about writing, please don't mind if they don't
answer your letters nor even your invitations: they don't mean to be
rude, only they don't like writing; or they are so dreadfully busy
they cannot do half they ought and are sometimes obliged to break
their engagements; and so on. And you, probably for the twentieth
time, accept excuses which mean nothing but 'I am a privileged
person,' and go on again as before, hoping for better things against
all the lessons of past experience. How can you do otherwise with that
charming face looking so sweetly into yours, and the coquettish little
hypocrisies played off for your benefit? If that charming face were
old or ugly, things would be different; but so long as women possess
_la beauté du diable_ men can do nothing but treat them as angels.

And so we come round to the root of the matter once more. The
privileged person, whose patent society has endorsed, must be a young,
pretty, charming woman. Failing these conditions, she is a mere
adventuress whose discomfiture is not far off; with these, her patent
will last just so long as they do. And when they have gone, she will
degenerate into a 'horror,' at whom the bold will laugh, the timid
tremble, and whose company the wise will avoid.


Among the many odd social phenomena of the present day may be reckoned
the class of women who are professed despisers and contemners of men;
pretty misanthropes, doubtful alike of the wisdom of the past and the
distinctions of nature, but vigorously believing in a good time coming
when women are to take the lead and men to be as docile dogs in their
wake. To be sure, as if by way of keeping the balance even and
maintaining the sum of forces in the world in due equilibrium, a
purely useless and absurd kind of womanhood is more in fashion than it
used to be; but this does not affect either the accuracy or the
strangeness of our first statement; and the number of women now in
revolt against the natural, the supremacy of men is something
unparalleled in our history. Both before and during the first French
Revolution the _esprits forts_ in petticoats were agents of no small
account in the work of social reorganization going on; but hitherto
women, here in England, have been content to believe as they have been
taught, and to trust the men to whom they belong with a simple kind
of faith in their friendliness and good intentions, which reads now
like a tradition of the past.

With the advanced class of women, the modern man-haters, one of the
articles of their creed is to regard men as their natural enemies from
whom they must both protect themselves and be protected; and one of
their favourite exercises is to rail at them as both weak and wicked,
both moral cowards and personal bullies, with whom the best wisdom is
to have least intercourse, and on whom no woman who has either
common-sense or self-respect would rely. To those who get the
confidence of women many startling revelations are made; but one of
the most startling is the fierce kind of contempt for men, and the
unnatural revolt against anything like control or guidance, which
animates the class of modern man-haters. That husbands, fathers,
brothers should be thought by women to be tyrannical, severe, selfish,
or anything else expressive of the misuse of strength, is perhaps
natural and no doubt too often deserved; but we confess it seems an
odd inversion of relations when a pretty, frail, delicate woman, with
a narrow forehead, accuses her broad-shouldered, square-browed male
companions of the meaner and more cowardly class of faults hitherto
considered distinctively feminine. And when she says with a disdainful
toss of her small head, 'Men are so weak and unjust, I have no respect
for them!' we wonder where the strength and justice of the world can
have taken shelter, for, if we are to trust our senses, we can
scarcely credit her with having them in her keeping.

On the other hand, the man-hater ascribes to her own sex every good
quality under heaven; and, not content with taking the more patient
and negative virtues which have always been allowed to women, boldly
bestows on them the energetic and active as well, and robs men of
their inborn characteristics that she may deck her own sex with their
spoils. She grants, of course, that men are superior in physical
strength and courage; but she qualifies the admission by adding that
all they are good for is to push a way for her in a crowd, to protect
her at night against burglars, to take care of her on a journey, to
fight for her when occasion demands, to bear the heavy end of the
stick always, to work hard that she may enjoy and encounter dangers
that she may be safe. This is the only use of their lives, so far as
she is concerned. And to women of this way of thinking the earth is
neither the Lord's, nor yet man's, but woman's.

Apart from this mere brute strength which has been given to men mainly
for her advantage, she says they are nuisances and for the most part
shams; and she wonders with less surprise than disdain at those of her
sisters who have kept trust in them; who still honestly profess to
both love and respect them; and who are not ashamed to own that they
rely on men's better judgment in all important matters of life, and
look to them for counsel and protection generally. The modern
man-hater does none of these things. If she has a husband she holds
him as her enemy _ex officio_, and undertakes home-life as a state of
declared warfare where she must be in antagonism if she would not be
in slavery. Has she money? It must be tied up safe from his control;
not as a joint precaution against future misfortune, but as a personal
protection against his malice; for the modern theory is that a husband
will, if he can get it, squander his wife's money simply for cruelty
and to spite her, though in so doing he may ruin himself as well. It
is a new reading of the old saying about being revenged on one's face.
Has she friends whom he, in his quality of man of the world, knows to
be unsuitable companions for her, and such as he conscientiously
objects to receive into his house? His advice to her to drop them is
an unwarrantable interference with her most sacred affections, and she
stands by her undesirable acquaintances, for whom she has never
particularly cared until now, with the constancy of a martyr defending
her faith. If it would please her to rush into public life as the
noisy advocate of any nasty subject that may be on hand--his refusal
to have his name dragged through the mire at the instance of her folly
is coercion in its worst form--the coercion of her conscience, of her
mental liberty; and she complains bitterly to her friends among the
shrieking sisterhood of the harsh restrictions he places on her
freedom of action. Her heart is with them, she says; and perhaps she
gives them pecuniary and other aid in private; but she cannot follow
them on to the platform, nor sign her name to passionate manifestoes
as ignorant as they are unseemly; nor tout for signatures to petitions
on things of which she knows nothing, and the true bearing of which
she cannot understand; nor dabble in dirt till she has lost the sense
of its being dirt at all. And, not being able to disgrace her husband
that she may swell the ranks of the unsexed, she is quoted by the
shriekers as one among many examples of the subjection of women and
the odious tyranny under which they live.

As for the man, no hard words are too hard for him. It is only enmity
which animates him, only tyranny and oppression which govern him.
There is no intention of friendly guidance in his determination to
prevent his wife from making a gigantic blunder--feeling of kindly
protection in the authority which he uses to keep her from offering
herself as a mark for public ridicule and damaging discussion, wherein
the bloom of her name and nature would be swept away for ever. It is
all the base exercise of an unrighteous power; and the first crusade
to be undertaken in these latter days is the woman's crusade against
masculine supremacy.

Warm partizan however, as she is of her own sex, the modern man-hater
cannot forgive the woman we spoke of who still believes in
old-fashioned distinctions; who thinks that nature framed men for
power and women for tenderness, and that the fitting, because the
natural, division of things is protection on the one side and a
reasonable measure of--we will not mince the word--obedience on the
other. For indeed the one involves the other. Women of this kind,
whose sentiment of sex is natural and healthy, the modern man-hater
regards as traitors in the camp; or as slaves content with their
slavery, and therefore in more pitiable case than those who, like
herself, jangle their chains noisily and seek to break them by loud

But even worse than the women who honestly love and respect the men to
whom they belong, and who find their highest happiness in pleasing
them and their truest wisdom in self-surrender, are those who frankly
confess the shortcomings of their own sex, and think the best chance
of mending a fault is first to understand that it is a fault. With
these worse than traitors no terms are to be kept; and the man-haters
rise in a body and ostracize the offenders. To be known to have said
that women are weak; that their best place is at home; that filthy
matters are not for their handling; that the instinct of feminine
modesty is not a thing to be disregarded in the education of girls nor
the action of matrons; are sins for which these self-accusers are
accounted 'creatures' not fit for the recognition of the nobler-souled
man-hater. The gynecian war between these two sections of womanhood is
one of the oddest things belonging to this odd condition of affairs.

This sect of modern man-haters is recruited from three classes
mainly--those who have been cruelly treated by men, and whose faith
in one half of the human race cannot survive their own one sad
experience; those restless and ambitious persons who are less than
women, greedy of notoriety, indifferent to home life, holding home
duties in disdain, with strong passions rather than warm affections,
with perverted instincts in one direction and none worthy of the name
in another; and those who are the born vestals of nature, whose
organization fails in the sweeter sympathies of womanhood, and who are
unsexed by the atrophy of their instincts as the other class are by
the perversion and coarsening of theirs. By all these men are held to
be enemies and oppressors; and even love is ranked as a mere matter of
the senses, whereby women are first subjugated and then betrayed.

The crimes of which these modern man-haters accuse their hereditary
enemies are worthy of Munchausen. A great part of the sorry success
gained by the opposers of the famous Acts has been due to the
monstrous fictions which have been told of men's dealings with the
women under consideration. No brutality has been too gross to be
related as an absolute truth, of which the name, address, and all
possible verification could be given, if desired. And the women who
have taken the lead in this matter have not been afraid to ascribe to
some of the most honourable names in the opposite ranks words and
deeds which would have befouled a savage. Details of every apocryphal
crime have been passed from one credulous or malicious matron to the
other, over the five o'clock tea; and tender-natured women,
horror-stricken at what they heard, have accepted as proofs of the
ineradicable enmity of man to woman these unfounded fables which the
unsexed so positively asserted among themselves as facts.

The ease of conscience with which the man-hating propagandists have
accepted and propagated slanderous inventions in this matter has been
remarkable, to say the least of it; and were it not for the gravity of
the principles at stake, and the nastiness of the subject, the stories
of men's vileness in connexion with this matter, would make one of the
absurdest jest-books possible, illustrative of the credulity, the
falsehood, and the ingenious imagination of women. We do not say that
women have no just causes of complaint against men. They have; and
many. And so long as human nature is what it is, strength will at
times be brutal rather than protective, and weakness will avenge
itself with more craft than patience. But that is a very different
thing from the sectional enmity which the modern man-haters assert,
and the revolt which they make it their religion to preach. No good
will come of such a movement, which is in point of fact creating the
ill-feeling it has assumed. On the contrary, if women will but believe
that on the whole men wish to be their friends and to treat them with
fairness and generosity, they will find the work of self-protection
much easier and the reconcilement of opposing interests greatly


The core of society is compact enough, made up as it is of those real
doers of the world's work who are clear as to what they want and who
pursue a definite object with both meaning and method. But outside
this solid nucleus lies a floating population of vague people;
nebulous people; people without mental coherence or the power of
intellectual growth; people without purpose, without aim, who drift
with any current anywhere, making no attempt at conscious steering and
having no port to which they desire to steer; people who are
emphatically loose in their mental hinges, and who cannot be trusted
with any office requiring distinct perception or exact execution;
people to whom existence is something to be got through with as little
trouble and as much pleasure as may be, but who have not the faintest
idea that life contains a principle which each man ought to make clear
to himself and work out at any cost, and to which he ought to
subordinate and harmonize all his faculties and his efforts. These
vague people of nebulous minds compose the larger half of the world,
and count for just so much dead weight which impedes, or gives its
inert strength to the active agents, as it chances to be handled.
They are the majority who vote in committees and all assemblies as
they are influenced by the one or two clear-minded leaders who know
what they are about, and who drive them like sheep by the mere force
of a definite idea and a resolute will.

Yet if there is nothing on which vague people are clear, and if they
are not difficult to influence as the majority, there is much on which
they are positive as a matter of private conviction. In opposition to
the exhortation to be able to give a reason for the faith that is in
us, they can give no reason for anything they believe, or fancy they
believe. They are sure of the result; but the logical method by which
that result has been reached is beyond their power to remember or
understand. To argue with them is to spend labour and strength in
vain, like trying to make ropes out of sea-sand. Beaten off at every
point, they settle down again into the old vapoury, I believe; and it
is like fighting with ghosts to attempt to convince them of a better
way. They look at you helplessly; assent loosely to your propositions;
but when you come to the necessary deduction, they double back in a
vague assertion that they do not agree with you--they cannot prove you
wrong but they are sure that they are right; and you know then that
the collapse is hopeless. If this meant tenacity, it would be so far
respectable, even though the conviction were erroneous; but it is the
mere unimpressible fluidity of vagueness, the impossibility of giving
shape and coherence to a floating fog or a formless haze.

Vague as to the basis of their beliefs, they are vaguer still as to
their facts. These indeed are like a ladder of which half the rungs
are missing. They never remember a story and they cannot describe what
they have seen. Of the first they are sure to lose the point and to
entangle the thread; of the last they forget all the details and
confound both sequence and position. As to dates, they are as if lost
in a wood when you require definite centuries, years, months; but they
are great in the chronological generosity of 'about,' which is to them
what the Middle Ages and Classic Times are to uncertain historians. It
is as much as they can do to remember their own birthday; but they are
never sure of their children's; and generally mix up names and ages in
a manner that exasperates the young people like a personal insult.

With the best intentions in the world they do infinite mischief. They
detail what they think they have heard of their neighbours' sayings
and doings; but as they never detail anything exactly, nor twice
alike, by the time they have told the story to half a dozen friends
they have given currency to half a dozen different chimeras which
never existed save in their own woolly imaginations. No repute is safe
with them, even though they may be personally good-natured and anxious
not to do any one harm; for they are so vague that they are always
setting afloat exaggerations which are substantially falsehoods; and
if you tell them the most innocent fact of any one you would not
injure for worlds--say your daughter or your dearest friend--they are
sure to repeat it with additions and distortions, till they have made
it into a Frankenstein which no one now can subdue.

Beside this mental haziness, which neither sees nor shapes a fact
correctly, vague people are loose and unstable in their habits. They
know nothing of punctuality at home nor abroad; and you are never sure
that you will not stumble on them at meal-times at what time soever
you may call. But worse than this, your own meal-times, or any other
times, are never safe from them. They float into your house
uncertainly, vaguely, without purpose, with nothing to say and nothing
to do, and for no reason that you can discover. And when they come
they stay; and you cannot for the life of you find out what they want,
nor why they have come at all. They invade you at all times; in your
busy hours; on your sacred days; and sit there in a chaotic kind of
silence, or with vague talk which tires your brains to bring to a
focus. But they are too foggy to understand anything like a delicate
hint, and if you want to get rid of them, you must risk a quarrel and
effectively shoulder them out. They will be no loss. They are so much
driftweed in your life, and you can make no good of them for yourself
nor others.

Even when they undertake to help you, they do you more harm than good
by the hazy way in which they understand, and the inexactness with
which they carry out, your wishes. They volunteer to get you by
favour the thing you want and cannot find in the general way of
business--say, something of a peculiar shade of olive-green--and they
bring you in triumph a brilliant cobalt. They know the very animal you
are looking for, they say, with a confidence that impresses you, and
they send to your stable a grey horse to match your bay pony; and if
you trust to their uncontrolled action in your affairs, you find
yourself committed to responsibilities you cannot meet and whereby you
are brought to the verge of destruction.

They do all this mischief, not for want of goodwill but for want of
definiteness of perception; and are as sorry as you are when they make
'pie' and not a legible sheet. Their desire is good, but a vague
desire to help is equal to no help at all; or even worse--it is a
positive evil, and throws you wrong by just so much as it attempts to
set you straight. They are as unsatisfactory if you try to help them.
They are in evil case, and you are philanthropically anxious to assist
them. You think that one vigorous push would lift the car of their
fortunes out of the rut in which it has stuck; and you go to them with
the benevolent design of lending your shoulder as the lever. You
question them as to the central fact which they wish changed; for you
know that in most cases misfortunes crystallize round one such evil
centre, which, being removed, the rest would go well. But your vague
friends can tell you nothing. They point out this little superficial
inconvenience, that small remediable annoyance, as the utmost they can
do in the way of definiteness; but when you want to get to the core,
you find nothing but a cloudy complaint of general ill-will, or a
universal run of untoward circumstances with which you cannot grapple.
To cut off the hydra's heads was difficult enough; but could even
Hercules have decapitated the Djinn who rose in a volume of smoke from
the fisherman's jar?

It is the same in matters of health. Only medical men know to the full
the difficulty of dealing with vague people when it is necessary that
these should be precise. They can localize no pain, define no
sensations. If the doctor thinks he has caught hold of one leading
symptom, it fades away as he tries to examine it; and, probe as he
may, he comes to nothing more definite than a pervading sense of
discomfort, which he must resolve into its causes as he best can. So
with their suspicions; and vague people are often strangely suspicious
and distrustful. They tell you in a loose kind of way that such or
such a man is a rogue, such or such a woman no better than she should
be. You ask them for their data--they have none; you suggest that they
are mistaken, or at least that they should hold themselves as mistaken
until they can prove the contrary, and you offer your version of the
reputations aspersed--your vague friends listen to you amiably, then
go back on their charge and say, 'I am sure of it'--which ends the
conversation. They rely on their impression as other people rely on
known facts; and a foggy belief is to them what a mathematical
demonstration is to the exact.

In business matters they are simply maddening. They never have the
necessary papers; they do not answer letters; they confuse your
questions and reply at random or not at all; and they forget all dates
and details. When they go to their lawyer on business they leave
certificates and drafts behind them locked up where no one can get at
them; or if they send directions and the keys, they tell the servant
to look for an oblong blue envelope in the right-hand drawer, when
they ought to have said a square white parcel in the left. They give
you vague commissions to execute; and you have to find your way in the
fog to the best of your ability. They say they want something like
something else you have never seen, and they cannot give an address
more exact than 'somewhere in Oxford Street.' They think the man's
name is Baker, or something like that. Perhaps it is Flower; but the
suggestion of ideas ought to be intelligible to you, and is quite near
enough for them. They ask you to meet them when they come up to
London, but they do not give you either the station or the train. You
have to make a guess as near as you can; and when you reproach them,
they pay you the compliment of saying you are so clever, it was not
necessary for them to explain.

If they have any friends out in Australia or India, they inquire of
you, just returned, if you happened to meet them? When you ask, Where
were they stationed?--they say they do not know; and when you suggest
that Madras and Calcutta are not in the same Presidencies, that India
is a large place and Australia not quite like an English county, they
look helpless and bewildered, and drift away into the vague geography
familiar to them, 'somewhere in India,' 'somewhere in Australia,' and
'I thought you might have met them.' For geography, like history, is
one of the branches of the tree of knowledge they have never climbed,
and the fruits thereof are as though they were not.

But apart from the personal discomforts to which vague people subject
themselves, and the absurdities of which they are guilty, one cannot
help speculating on the spiritual state of folks to whom nothing is
precise, nothing definite, and no question of faith clearly thought
out. To be sure they may be great in the realm of conviction; but so
is the African savage when he hears the ghosts of his ancestors pass
howling in the woods; so is the Assassin of the Mountain, when he sees
heaven open as he throws himself on the spears of his enemies in an
ecstacy of faith, to be realized by slaughter and suicide. Convictions
based on imagination, unsupported by facts or proofs, are as worthless
in a moral as in a logical point of view; but the vague have nothing
better; and whether as politicians or as pietists, though they are
warm partizans they are but feeble advocates, fond of flourishing
about large generalities, but impossible to be pinned to any point and
unable to defend any position. To those who must have something
absolute and precise, however limited--one inch of firmly-laid
foundation on which to build up the superstructure--it is a matter of
more wonder than envy how the vague are content to live for ever in a
haze which has no clearness of outline, no definiteness of detail, and
how they can make themselves happy in a name--calling their fog faith,
and therewith counting themselves blessed.


Perhaps the largest amount of simple pleasure possible to adult life
is to be found in the first weeks of the summer's holiday, when the
hard-worked man of business leaves his office and all its anxieties
behind him, and goes off to the sea-side or the hills for a couple of
months' relaxation. Everything is so fresh to him, it is like the
renewal of his boyhood; and if he happens to have chosen a picturesque
place, where the houses stand well and make that ornate kind of
landscape to be found in show-places, he wonders how it is that people
who can stay here ever leave, or tire of the beauties that are so
delightful to him. Yet he hears of this comfortable mansion, with its
park and well-appointed grounds, waiting for an occupant; he is told
of that fairyland cottage, embowered in roses and jessamine, with a
garden gay and redolent with flowers, to be had for a mere song; and
he finds to his surprise that the owners of these choice corners of
Arcadia are only anxious to escape from what he would, if he could, be
only anxious to retain.

In his first days this restlessness, this discontent, is simply
inconceivable. What more do they want than what they have? Why, that
field lying there in the sunshine, dotted about with dun-coloured cows
which glow like glorified Cuyps in the evening red, and backed by rock
and tree and tumbling cascade, would be enough to make him happy. He
could never weary of such a lovely bit of home scenery; and if to this
he adds a view of the sea, or the crags and purple shadows of a
mountain, he has wherewith to make him blessed for the remainder of
his life. So he thinks while the smoke of London and the sulphur of
the Metropolitan still cling about his throat, and the roar of the
streets has not quite died out of his ears.

The woods are full of flowers and the rarer kind of insects, and he is
never sated with the sea. There is the trout stream as clear as
crystal, where he is sure of a rise if he waits long enough; the
moors, where he may shoot if he can put up a bird to shoot at, are
handy; and there is no end to the picturesque bits just made for his
sketch-book. Whatever his tastes may make him--naturalist, sailor,
sportsman, artist--he has ample scope for their exercise; and ten or
eleven months' disuse gives him a greater zest now that his playtime
has come round again. At every turn he falls upon little scenes which
give him an odd pleasure, as if they belonged to another life--things
he has seen in old paintings, or read of in quaint books, long ago.
Here go by two countrywomen, whose red and purple dresses are touched
by the sun with startling effect, as they wind up the grey hillside
road; there clatters past on horseback a group of market-girls with
flapping straw hats, and carrying their baskets on their arms as if
they were a set of Gainsborough's models come back to life, who turn
their dark eyes and fresh comely faces to the London man with frank
curiosity as they canter on and smother him with dust. Now he passes
through the midst of a village fair, where youths are dancing in a
barn to the sound of a cracked fiddle, and where, standing under an
ivied porch, a pretty young woman unconsciously makes a picture as she
bends down to fill a little child's held-up pinafore with sweets and
cakes. The idyl here is so complete that the contemplation of pence
given for the accommodation of the barn, or the calculation of
shillings to be spent in beer afterwards, or the likelihood that the
little one had brought a halfpenny in its chubby fist for the good
things its small soul coveted, does not enter his mind.

The idea of base pelf in a scene so pure and innocent would be a kind
of high treason to the poetic instinct; so the London man
instinctively feels, glad to recognize the ideal he is mainly
responsible for making. How can it be otherwise? A heron is fishing in
the river; a kingfisher flashes past; swallows skim the ground or dart
slanting above his head; white-sailed boats glide close inshore; a
dragon-fly suns itself on a tall plumed thistle; young birds rustle in
and out of the foliage; distant cattle low; cottage children laugh;
everywhere he finds quiet, peace, absolute social repose, the absence
of disturbing passions; and it seems to him that all who live here
must feel the same delightful influences as those which he is feeling
now, and be as innocent and virtuous as the place is beautiful and

But the charm does not last. Very few of us retain to the end of our
holidays the same enthusiastic delight in our Arcadia that we had in
the beginning. Constant change of Arcadias keeps up the illusion
better; and with it the excitement; but a long spell in one place,
however beautiful--unless indeed, it lasts so long that one becomes
personally fond of the place and interested in the people--is almost
sure to end in weariness. At first the modern pilgrim is savagely
disinclined to society and his kind. All the signs and circumstances
of the life he has left behind him are distasteful. He likes to watch
the fishing-boats, but he abhors the steamers which put into his
little harbour, and the excursionists who come by them he accounts as
heathens and accursed. Trains, like steamers, are signs of a reprobate
generation and made only for evildoers. He has no reverence for the
post, and his soul is not rejoiced at the sight of letters. Even his
daily paper is left unopened, and no change of Ministry counts as
equal in importance with the picturesque bits he wishes to sketch, or
the rare ferns and beetles to be found by long rambles and much
diligence. By degrees the novelty wears off. His soul yearns after
the life he has left, and he begins to look for the signs thereof with
interest, not to say pleasure. He watches the arrival of the boat, or
he strolls up to the railway station and speculates on the new comers
with benevolence. If he sees a casual acquaintance, he hails him with
enthusiastic cordiality; and in his extremity is reduced to fraternize
with men 'not in his way.' He becomes peevish at the lateness of the
mail, and he reads his _Times_ from beginning to end, taking in even
the agony column and the advertisements. He finds his idyllic pictures
to be pictures, and nothing more. His Arcadians are no better than
their neighbours; and, as for the absence of human passions--they are
merely dwarfed to the dimensions of the life, and are as relatively
strong here as elsewhere. The inhabitants of those flowery cottages
quarrel among each other for trifles which he would have thought only
children could have noticed; and they gossip to an extent of which he
in his larger metropolitan life has no experience.

If he stays a few weeks longer than is the custom of visitors, he is
as much an object of curiosity and surmise as if he were a man of
another hemisphere; and he may think himself fortunate if vague
reports do not get afloat touching his honesty, his morality, or his
sanity. Nine times out of ten, if a personage at home, he is nobody
here. He may be sure that, however great his name in art and
literature, it will not be accounted to him for honour--it will only
place him next to a well-conditioned mountebank; political fame,
patent to all the world, rank which no one can mistake, and money
which all may handle, alone going down in remote country places and
carrying esteem along with them. If a wise man, he will forgive the
uncharitable surmises and the contempt of which he is the object,
knowing the ignorance of life as well as the purposeless vacuity from
which they spring; but they are not the less unpleasant, and to
understand a cause is not therefore to rejoice in the effect.

As time goes on, he finds Arcadian poverty of circumstance gradually
becoming unbearable. He misses the familiar conveniences and orderly
arrangements of his London life. He has a raging tooth, and there is
no dentist for miles round; he falls sick, or sprains his ankle, and
the only doctor at hand is a half tipsy vet., or perhaps an old woman
skilled in herbs, or a bone-setter with a local reputation. His
letters go astray among the various hands to which they are entrusted;
his paper is irregular; _Punch_ and his illustrated weeklies come a
day late, with torn covers and greasy thumbmarks testifying to the
love of pictorial art which encountered them by the way. He finds that
he wants the excitement of professional life and the changeful action
of current history. He feels shunted here, out of the world, in a
corner, set aside, lost. The rest is still delicious; but he misses
the centralized interest of metropolitan life, and catches himself
hankering after the old intellectual fleshpots with the fervour of an
exile, counting the days of his further stay.

And then at last this rest, which has been so sweet, becomes monotony,
and palls on him. One trout is very like another trout, barring a few
ounces of weight. When he has expatiated on his first find of
moon-fern, and dug it up carefully by the roots for his own fernery at
Bayswater, he is slightly disgusted to come upon many tufts of
moon-fern, and to know that it is not so very rare hereabouts after
all, and that he cannot take away half he sees. Then too, he begins to
understand the true meaning of the pictures, Gainsborough and others,
which were so quaintly beautiful to him in the early days. The idyllic
youths dancing in the beerhouse barn are clumsy louts who are kept
from the commission of great offences mainly because they have no
opportunity for dramatic sins; but they indemnify themselves by petty
agricultural pilferings, and they get boozy on small beer. The pretty
market-girls cantering by, are much like other daughters of Eve
elsewhere, save that they have more familiarity with certain facts of
natural life than good girls in town possess, and are a trifle more
easy to dupe. On the whole, he finds human nature much the same in
essentials here as in London--Arcadia being the poorer of the two,
inasmuch as it wants the sharpness, the deftness, the refinement of
bearing given by much intercourse and the more intimate contact of

By the time his holidays are over, our London man goes back to his
work invigorated in body, but quite sufficiently sated in mind to
return with pleasure to his old pursuits. He walks into the office
decidedly stouter than when he left, much sunburnt, and unfeignedly
glad to see them all again. It pleases him to feel like MacGregor on
his native heath once more; though his native heath is only a dingy
office in the E.C. district, with a view of his rival's chimney-pots.
Still it is pleasant; and to know that he is recognized as Mr.
So-and-So of the City, a safe man and with a character to lose, is
more gratifying to his pride than to have his quality and standing
discussed in village back-parlours and tap-rooms, and the question
whether he is a man whom Arcadia may trust, gravely debated by boors
whose pence are not as his pounds. He speaks with rapture of his
delightful holiday, and extols the virtues of Arcadia and the
Arcadians as warmly as if he believed in them. Perhaps he grumbles
ostentatiously at his return to harness; but in his heart he knows it
to be the better life; for, delicious as it is to sit in the sun
eating lotuses, it is nobler to weed out tares and to plant corn.

The peace to which we are all looking is not to be had in a Highland
glen nor a Devonshire lane; and beautiful as are the retreats
and show-places to which men of business rush for rest and
refreshment--peaceful as they are to look at, and happy as it seems to
us their inhabitants must be--it is all only a matter of the eye. They
are Arcadias, if one likes to call them so; but while a man's powers
remain to him they are halting-places only, not homes; and he who
would make them his home before his legitimate time, would come to a
weariness which should cause him to regret bitterly and often the
collar which had once so galled him, and the work at the hardness of
which he had so often growled.


If nothing is sacred to a sapper, neither is anything sacred to
temper, ostentation, vanity; and church as little as any place else.
In those thronged show-places which have what is called a summer
season, church is the great Sunday entertainment; and when the service
is of an ornate kind, and the strangers' seats are chairs placed at
the west end, where in old times the village choir or the village
schoolboys used to be, a great deal of human life goes on among the
occupants; and there are certain displays of temper and feeling which
make you ask yourself whether these strangers think it a religious
service, or an operatic, at which they have come to assist, and
whether what you see about you is quite in consonance with the spirit
of the place or not. If the church is one that presents scenic
attractions in the manner in which the service is conducted, there is
a run on the front middle seats, as if the ceremonies to be performed
were so much legerdemain or theatrical spectacle, of which you must
have a good view if you are to have your money's worth; and the more
knowing of the strangers take care to be early in the field, and to
establish themselves comfortably before the laggards come up. And when
the best places are all filled, and the laggards do come up, then the
human comedy begins.

Here trip in a couple of giggling girls, greatly conscious of their
youth and good looks, but still more conscious of their bonnets. They
look with tittering dismay at the crowded seats all along the middle,
and when the verger makes them understand that they must go to the
back of the side aisle, where they can be seen by no one but will only
be able to hear the service and say their prayers, they hesitate and
whisper to each other before they finally go up, feeling that the
great object for which they came to church has failed them, and they
had better have stayed away and taken their chance on the parade. When
they speak of it afterwards, they say it was 'awfully slow sitting
there;' and they determine to be earlier another time.

There sweep in a triad of superbly dressed women with fans and
scent-bottles, who disdainfully decline the back places which the same
verger, with a fine sense of justice and beginning to fail a little in
temper, inexorably assigns them. They too confer together, but by no
means in whispers; and finally elect to stand in the middle aisle,
trusting to their magnificence and quiet determination to get 'nice
places' in the pewed sittings. They are fine ladies who look as if
they were performing an act of condescension by coming at all without
special privileges and separation from the vulgar; as if they had an
inherent right to worship God in a superior and aristocratic manner,
and were not to be confounded with the rest of the miserable sinners
who ask for mercy and forgiveness. They are accustomed to the front
seats everywhere; so why not in the place where they say sweetly they
are 'nothing of themselves,' and pray to be delivered 'from pride,
vainglory, and hypocrisy'? That old lady, rouged and dyed and dressed
to represent the heyday of youth, who also is supposed to come to
church to say her prayers and confess her sins, looks as if she would
be more at home at the green tables at Homburg than in an unpretending
chair of the strangers' quarter in the parish church. But she finds
her places in her Prayer-book, if after a time and with much seeking;
and when she nods during the sermon, she has the good-breeding not to
snore. She too, has the odd trick of looking like condescension when
she comes in, trailing her costly silks and laces behind her; and by
her manner she leaves on you the impression that she was a beauty in
her youth; has been always used to the deference and admiration of
men; to servants and a carriage and purple and fine linen; that all of
you, whom she has the pleasure of surveying through her double
eyeglass, are nobodies in comparison with her august self; and that
she is out of place among you. She makes her demonstration, like the
rest, when she finds that the best seats are already filled and that
no one offers to stir that she may be well placed; and if she is
ruthlessly relegated to the back, and stays there, as she does
sometimes, your devotions are rendered uncomfortable by the
unmistakable protest conveyed in her own. Only a few humble Christians
in fashionable attire take those back places contentedly, and find
they can say their prayers and sing their hymns with spiritual comfort
to themselves, whether they are shut out from a sight of the
decorations on the altar and the copes and stoles of the officiating
ministers, or are in full view of the same. But then humble Christians
in fashionable attire are rare; and the old difficulty about the camel
and the needle's eye, remains.

Again, in the manner of following the services you see the oddest
diversity among the strangers at church. The regular congregation has
by this time got pretty well in step together, and stands up or sits
down, speaks or keeps silence, with some kind of uniformity; even the
older men having come to tolerate innovations which at first split the
parish into factions. But the strangers, who have come from the north
and from the south, from the east and from the west, have brought
their own views and habits, and take a pride in making them manifest.
Say that the service is only moderately High--that is, conducted with
decency and solemnity but not going into extremes; your left-hand
neighbour evidently belongs to one of the ultra-Ritualistic
congregations, and disdains to conceal her affiliation. If she be a
tall woman, and therefore conspicuous, her genuflexions are more
profound than any other person's; and her sudden and automatic way of
dropping on her knees, and then getting up again as if she were worked
by wires, attracts the attention of all about her. She crosses herself
at various times; and ostentatiously forbears to use her book save at
certain congregational passages. She regards the service as an act of
priestly sacrifice and mediation, and her own attitude therefore is
one of acceptance, not participation.

Your neighbour on your right is a sturdy Low Churchman, who sticks to
the ways of his father and flings hard names at the new system. He
makes his protest against what he calls 'all this mummery' visibly, if
not audibly. He sits like a rock during the occasional intervals when
modern congregations rise; and he reads his Prayer-book with unshaken
fidelity from first to last, making the responses, which are intoned
by the choir and the bulk of the congregation, in a loud and level
voice, and even muttering _sotto voce_ the clergyman's part after him.
In the creed, when the Ritualistic lady bends both her knees and
almost touches the ground, he simply bobs his head, as if saluting
Robinson or Jones; and during the doxology, where she repeats the
obeisance, and looks as if she were speaking confidentially to the
matting, he holds up his chin and stares about him. She, the
pronounced Ritualist, knows all the hymns by heart and joins in them
like one well accustomed; but he, the Evangelist, stumbles over the
lines, with his _pince-nez_ slipping off his nose, satisfied if he
catches a word here and there so as to know something of his
whereabouts. She sings correctly all through; but he can do no more
than put in a fancy note on occasions, and perhaps come in with a
flourish at the end. There are many such songsters at church who think
they have done all that can be demanded of them in the way of
congregational harmony if they hit the last two notes fairly, and join
the pack at the Amen.

Sometimes the old-fashioned worshippers get put into the front row,
and there, without prayer-stool or chair-back against which to steady
themselves, find kneeling an impossibility; so they either sit with
their elbows on their knees, or betray associations with square pews
and comfortable corners at home, by turning their backs to the altar,
and burying their faces in their rush-bottomed seats. The Ritualist
would have knelt as straight as an arrow and without quivering once
all through.

People are generally supposed to go to church for devotion, but, if
they do, devotion and vanity are twin sisters. Look at the number of
pretty hands which find it absolutely necessary to take off their
gloves, and which are always wandering up to the face in becoming
gestures and with the right curve. Or, if the hands are only mediocre,
the rings are handsome; and diamonds sparkle as well in a church as
anywhere else. And though one vows to renounce the lusts of the world
as well as of the flesh, there is no use in having diamonds if one's
neighbours don't see them. Look too, at the pretty faces which know so
well the effect produced by a little paint and powder beneath a
softening mask of thin white lace. Is this their best confession of
sin? And again, those elaborate toilets in which women come to pray
for forgiveness and humility; are they for the honour of God? It
strikes us that the honour of God has very little to do with that
formidable, and may be unpaid, milliner's bill, but the admiration of
men and the envy of other women a great deal. The Pope is wise to make
all ladies go to his religious festivals without bonnets and in rigid
black. It narrows the margin of coquetry somewhat, if it does not
altogether remove it. But dress ever was, and ever will be, as webs
spread in the way of woman's righteousness; and we have no doubt that
Eve frilled her apron of fig-leaves before she had worn it a day.

All sorts of characters throng these strangers' seats; and some are
typical. There are the men of low stature and awkward bearing, with
stubbly chins, who stand in constrained positions and wear no gloves.
They look like grooms; they may be clerks; but they are the men on
whom _Punch_ has had his eye for many years now, when he portrays the
British snob and diversifies him with the more modern cad. Then there
are the well-dressed, well set-up gentlemen of military appearance,
who carry their umbrellas under their arms as if they were swords, and
are evidently accustomed to have their own will and command other
people's; and the men who look like portraits of Montague Tigg, in
cheap kid gloves and suspicious jewelry, who pray into their hats, or
make believe to pray, while their bold eyes rove all about, fixing
themselves most pertinaciously on the old lady with the diamonds and
the giggling young ones with the paint. There is the bride in a white
bonnet and light silk dress, who carries an ivory-backed Church
Service with the most transparent attempts at unconsciousness, and the
bridegroom who lounges after her and looks sheepish; sometimes it is
the bride who straggles bashfully, and the groom who boldly leads the
way. There is the young widow with new weeds; the sedate mother of
many daughters; paterfamilias, with his numerous olive-branches,
leading on his arm the exuberant wife of his bosom flushed with coming
up the hill; the walking tourist, whose respect for Sunday goes to the
length of a clean collar and a clothes-brush; and the female
traveller, economical of luggage, who wears her waterproof and
sea-side hat, and is independent and not ashamed. There are the people
who come for simple distraction, because Sunday is such a dull day in
a strange place, and there is nothing else to do; and those who come
because it is respectable and the right thing, and they are accustomed
to it; those who come to see and be seen; and those--the select few,
the simple yearning souls--who come because they do honestly feel the
church to be the very House of God, and that prayer with its
confession of sin helps them to live better lives. But, good or bad,
vain or simple, arrogant or humble, they all sweep out when the last
word is said, and the cottagers and small townsfolk stand at their
doors to see them pass--'the quality coming out of church' counting as
_their_ Sunday sight. The women get ideas in millinery from the show,
and discuss with each other what is worn this year, and how ever can
they turn their old gowns into garments that shall imitate the last
effort of a Court milliner's genius--the result of many sleepless
nights? Fine ladies ridicule these clumsy apings of their humble
sisters, and long for the old sumptuary laws to be in force on all
below them; but if Sunday is the field-day and church the
parade-ground of the strangers, we cannot wonder if the natives try to
participate in the amusement. If Lady Jane likes to confess her shame
and humiliation on a velvet cushion and in silk attire, can we
reasonably blame Joan that her soul hankers after a hassock of felt,
and a penance-sheet of homespun cut according to my lady's pattern?


Life not being holiday-making throughout, we have to allow for the bad
half-hours that must come to us; and, if we are wise, we make
provision to pass them with as little annoyance as possible. And of
all the bad half-hours to which we are destined, those to be spent in
sickness need the greatest amount of care to render them endurable.
Without going to the length of Michelet's favourite theory, which sees
in every woman nothing but an invalid more or less severely afflicted
according to individual temperament, but always under the influence of
diseased nerves and controlled by sickly fancies, there is no doubt
that women suffer very much more than men; while their patience under
physical ailments is one of the traditional graces with which they are
credited. Where men fume and fret at the interruption to their lives
brought about by a fit of illness, calculating anxiously the loss they
are sustaining during the forced inaction of their convalescence,
women submit resignedly, and make the best of the inevitable. With
that clear sense of Fate characteristic of them, they do not fight
against the evil which they know has to be borne, but wisely try to
lighten it by such wiles and arts as are open to them, and set
themselves to adorn the cross they must endure. One thing indeed,
makes invalidism less terrible to them than to men; and that is their
ability to perform their home duties, if not quite as efficiently as
when they are up and about, yet well enough for all practical purposes
in the conduct of the family. The woman who gives her mind to it can
keep her house in smooth working gear by dictation from her sick
couch; and what she cannot actively overlook she can arrange. So far
this removes the main cause of irritation with which the man must
battle in the best way he can, when his business comes to a
stand-still; or is given up into the hands of but a makeshift kind of
substitute taken at the best; while he is laid on his back undergoing
many things from doctors for the good of science and the final
settling of doubtful pathological points.

Another reason why women are more patient than men during sickness is
that they can amuse themselves better. One gets tired of reading all
day long with the aching eyes and weary brain of weakness; yet how few
things a man can do to amuse himself without too great an effort, and
without being dependent on others! But women have a thousand pretty
little devices for whiling away the heavy hours. They can vary their
finger-work almost infinitely, and they find real pleasure in a new
stitch or a stripe of a different colour and design from the last. In
the contempt in which needlework in all its forms is held by the
advanced class of women, its use during the period of convalescence,
when it helps the lagging time as nothing else can, is forgotten. Yet
it is no bad wisdom to remember that the day of sickness will probably
come some time to us all; and to lay in stores of potential interest
and cheerfulness against that day is a not unworthy use of power.
Certain it is that this greater diversity of small, unexciting,
unfatiguing occupations enables women to bear a tedious illness with
comparative patience, and helps to keep them more cheerful than men.

But when the time shall have come for the perfect development of the
androgynous creature, who is as yet only in the pupal state of her
existence, women will have lost these two great helps. Workers outside
the home like their husbands and brothers, like them they will fume
and fret when they are prevented from following their bread-winning
avocations; calculations of the actual money loss they are sustaining
coming in to aggravate their bodily pains. And, as the needle is
looked on as one of the many symbols of feminine degradation, in the
good time coming there will be none of that pretty trifling with silks
and ribbons which may be very absurd by the side of important work,
but which is invaluable as an invalid's pastime. Consequently, what
with the anguish of knowing that her profession is neglected, and what
with the unenlivened tedium of her days, sickness will be a formidable
thing to women of the androgynous type--and to the men belonging to

Again, care and tact are required to rob sickness of its more painful
features, and to render it not too distressing to the home companions.
A real woman, with her instincts properly developed--among them the
instinct of admiration--knows how to render even invalidism beautiful;
and indeed, with her power of improving occasions, she is never more
charming than as an invalid or a convalescent. There is a certain
refined beauty about her more seductive than the robuster bloom of
health. Her whole being seems purified. The coarser elements of
humanity are obscured, passions are at rest, and all those fretful,
anxious strivings, which probably afflict her when in the full swing
of society, are put away as if they had never been. She is forced to
let life glide, and her own mind follows the course of the quieter
flow. She knows too how to make herself bewitching by the art which is
not artifice so much as the highest point to which her natural
excellences can be brought. If the radiance of health has gone, she
has the sweeter, subtler loveliness of fragility; if her diamonds are
laid aside, and all that glory of dress which does so much for women
is perforce abandoned, the long, loose folds of falling drapery, with
their antique grace, perhaps suit her better, and the fresh flowers on
her table may be more suggestive and delightful than artificial ones
in her hair.

Many a drifting husband has been brought back to his first enthusiasm
by the illness of a wife who knew how to turn evil things into good,
and to extract a charm even out of suffering. It is a turn of the
kaleidoscope; a recombination of the same elements but in a new
pattern and with fresh loveliness; whereas the androgynous woman, with
her business worries and her honest, if impolitic, self-surrender to
hideous flannel wraps and all the uglinesses of a sick room crudely
pronounced, would have added a terror to disease which probably would
have quenched his waning love for ever. For the androgynous woman
despises every approach to coquetry, as she despises all the other
insignia of feminine servitude. It is not part of her life's duties to
make herself pleasing to men; and they must take her as they find her.
Where the true woman contrives a beauty and creates a grace out of her
very misfortune, the androgynous holds to the doctrine of spades and
the value of the unvarnished truth. Where the one gives a little
thought to the most becoming colour of her ribbon or the best
arrangement of her draperies, the other pushes the tangled locks off
her face anyhow, and makes herself an amorphous bundle of brown and
lemon colour. Her sole wish is to get the bad time over. How it would
be best got over does not trouble her; and to beautify the inherently
unlovely is beyond her skill to compass. Hence her hours of sickness
go by in ugliness and idle fretting; while the true woman finds
graceful work to do that enlivens their monotony, and in the
continuance of her home duties loses the galling sense of loss from
which the other suffers.

In sickness too, who but women can nurse? Men make good nurses enough
out in the bush, where nothing better can be had; and a Californian
'pardner' is tender enough in his uncouth way to his mate stricken
down with fever in the shanty, when he comes in at meal-times and
administers quinine and brick tea with horny hands bleeding from cuts
and begrimed with mud. But this is not nursing in the woman's sense.
To be sure the strength of men makes them often of value about an
invalid. They can lift and carry as women cannot; and the want of a
few nights' sleep does not make them hysterical. Still they are
nowhere as nurses, compared with women; and the best of them are not
up to the thoughtful cares and pleasant attentions which, as medical
men know, are half the battle in recovery. And this is work which
suits women. It appeals to their love of power and tenderness
combined; it gratifies the maternal instinct of protection and
self-sacrifice; and it pleasantly reverses the usual order of things,
and gives into their hands Hercules twirling a distaff the wrong way,
and fettered by the length of his skirts.

The bread-winning wife knows nothing of all this. To her, sickness in
her household would be only a degree less destructive than her own
disablement, if she were called on to nurse. She would not be able to
leave her office for such unremunerative employment as soothing her
children's feverish hours or helping her husband over his. She would
calculate, naturally enough, the difference of cost between hired help
and her own earnings; and economy as well as inclination would decide
the question. But the poor fellow left all day long to the
questionable services of a hired nurse, or to the clumsy honesty of
some domestic Phyllis less deft than faithful, would be a gainer by
his wife's presence--granting that she was a real woman and not an
androgyne--even if he lost the addition to their income which her work
might bring in; as he would rather, when he came home from his work to
her sick bed, find her patient and cheerful, making the best of things
from the woman's point of view and with the woman's power of
adaptation, than be met with anxious queries as to the progress of
business; with doubts, fears, perplexities; the office dragged into
the sick room, and unnecessary annoyance added to unavoidable pain.

There is a certain kind of woman, sweet always, who yet shows best
when she is invalided. Cleared for a while from the social tangles
which perplex and distress the sensitive, she is as if floated into a
quiet corner where she has time to think and leisure to be her true
self undisturbed; where she is able too, to give more to her friends,
if less to the world at large than at other times. And she is always
to be found. The invalid-couch is the rallying point of the household,
and even the little children learn to regard it as a place of
privilege dearer than the stately drawing-room of ordinary times. Her
friends drop in, sure to find her at home and pleased by their
coming; and her afternoon teas with her half-dozen chosen intimates
have a character of their own, æsthetic and delightful; partly owing
to the quiet and subdued tone that must perforce pervade them, partly
to the unselfishness that reigns on all sides. Every one exerts
himself to bring her things which may amuse her, and she is loaded
with presents of a graceful kind--new books, early fruit, and a wealth
of flowers to which even her poorest friend adds his bunch of violets,
if nothing else. She is the precious child of her circle, and but for
her innate sweetness would run a risk of being the spoilt one. Clever
men come and talk to her, give her cause of thought, and knowledge to
remember and be made glad by for all time; her lady friends keep her
abreast of the outside doings of the world and their own especial
coteries, contributing the dramatic element so dear to the feminine
mind; every one tells her all that is afloat on the sea of society,
but only all that is cheerful--no one brings her horrors, nor disturbs
the frail grace of her repose with petty jealousies and tempers. Her
atmosphere is pure and serene, and the dainty loveliness of her
surroundings lends its charm to the rest.

To her husband she is even more beautiful than in the early days; and
all men feel for her that chivalrous kind of tenderness and homage
which the true woman alone excites. The womanly invalid, gentle,
cheerful, full of interest for others, active in mind if prostrate in
body, sympathetic and patient, is for the time the queen of her
circle, loved and ministered to by all; and when she goes to Cannes or
San Remo to escape the cruelty of the English winter, she carries with
her a freight of good wishes and regrets, and leaves a blank which
nothing can fill up until she returns with the summer roses to take
her place once more as the popular woman of her society.


To most young people the social arrangement known as going on a visit
to friends at a distance is one of the most charming things possible.
Novelty being to them the very breath of life, and hope and
expectation their normal mental condition, the mere fact of change is
in itself delightful; unless it happens to be something so hopelessly
dull as a visit single-handed to an invalid grandmother, or the yearly
probation of a girl of the period, when obliged to put herself under
the charge of a wealthy maiden aunt with strict principles and no
games of any kind allowed on the lawn. If the young ladies out on a
visit are however, moderately cheerful, they can contrive to make
amusement for themselves out of anything short of such sober-tinted
extremes as these; and very often they effect more serious matters
than mere amusement, and their visit brings them a love-affair or a
marriage which changes the whole tenor of their lives. At the worst,
it has shown them a new part of the country; given them new patterns
of embroidery; new fashions of hairdressing; new songs and waltzes;
and afforded an occasion for a large supply of pretty dresses--which
last to most young women, or indeed to most women whether young or
old, is a very effectual source of pleasure.

The great charm and excitement of going on a visit belongs naturally
to the young of the middle classes; among those of higher condition it
is a different matter altogether. When people take their own servants
with them and live in exactly the same style as at home, they merely
change the furniture of their rooms and the view from the windows. The
same kind of thing goes on at Lord A.'s as at Lord B.'s, in the
Scottish Highlands or the Leicestershire wolds. The quality of the
hunting or shooting may be different, but the whole manner of living
is essentially repetition; and the dead level of civilization is not
broken up by any very startling innovations anywhere. But among the
middle classes there is greater variety; and the country clergyman's
daughter who goes on a visit to the London barrister's family, plunges
into a manner of life totally different from that of her own home; the
personal habits of town and country still remaining quite distinct,
and the possibilities of action being on two different plans

A London-bred woman goes down to the country on a visit to a hale,
hearty Hessian, her former school-fellow, who tucks up her woollen
gown midway to her knees, wears stout boots of masculine appearance,
and goes quite comfortably through mud and mire, across ploughed
field and undrained farmyards--taking cramped stiles and five-barred
gates in her way as obstacles of no more moment than was the mud or
the mire. Long years of use to this unfastidious mode of existence
have blinded her to the perception that a woman, without being an
invalid, may yet be unable to do all that is so easy to her. So the
London lady is taken for a walk, say of five or six miles, which to
the vigorous Hessian is a mere unsatisfying stroll, to be counted no
more as serious exercise than she would count a spoonful of
_vol-au-vent_ as serious eating. To be sure the walk includes a few
muddy corners and the like, and Bond Street boots do not bear the
strain of stiff clay clods too well; neither is a new gown of the
fashionable colour improved by being dragged through furze bushes and
bracken, and brushed against the wet heads of field cabbages.
Moreover, crossing meadows tenanted by cattle that toss their heads
and look--and looking, in horned cattle, is a great offence to our
town-bred woman--is a service of peril which alone would take all the
strength out of her nerves, and all the pleasure out of her walk; but
the hostess cannot imagine feelings which she herself does not share,
and the London lady is of course credited with courage, because to
doubt it would be to cast a slur on her whole moral character. The
Hessian minds the beasts no more than so many tree-stumps, but her
friend sees a raging bull in every milky mother that stares at her as
she passes, and thinks something dreadful is going to happen because
the flies make the heifers swish their tails and stamp. Then the dogs
bark furiously as they rush out of farmsteads and cottages; and the
newly dressed fields are not pleasant to cross nor skirt. The visitor
cares little for wild flowers, less for birds, and all trees are
pretty much alike to her; and this long rude walk, accentuated with
the true country emphasis, has been too much for her. Her host wonders
at her evening lassitude and low spirits, and fears that she finds it
dull; and the robust hostess anathematizes the demoralizing effects of
Kensington, and scornfully contrasts her present friend with her past,
when they were both schoolgirls together and on a par in strength and
endurance. 'She was like other people then,' says the well-trained
Hessian who has kept herself in condition by daily exercise of a
severe character; 'and now see what a poor creature she is! She can do
nothing but work at embroidery and crouch shivering over the fire.'

Sometimes however, it happens the other way, and the lady guest, even
though a Londoner, is the stronger of the two. The wife has been
broken down by family cares and the one inevitable child too many; the
guest comes fresh, unworn, unmarried, still young. The wife seldom
goes beyond the garden, never further than the village, and is knocked
up if she has done two miles; the guest can manage her six or eight
without fatigue. Hence she naturally becomes the husband's walking
companion during her visit, to his frank delight and as frank regrets
that his wife cannot do as much. And the wife, though good-breeding
and natural kindness prevent her objecting to these long walks, finds
them hard lines all things considered. Most probably she bitterly
regrets having invited her former friend, and mentally resolves never
to ask her again. She wanted her as a little amusement and relaxation
for herself. Her health is delicate and her life dull, and she thought
a female friend in the house would cheer her up and be a help. But
when she finds that she has invited one who, without in the least
intending it and only by the force of circumstances, sets her in
unfavourable contrast with her husband, we may be sure that it will
not take much argument to convince her that asking friends on a visit
is a ridiculous custom, and that people, especially young ladies fond
of long walks, are best at their own homes.

In London there are two kinds of guests from the country; the
insatiable, and the indifferent--those who wear out their hosts by
their activity and those who oppress them by their supineness. The
Londoner who has outlived all the excitement of the busy city life
wonders at the energy and enthusiasm of his friend. Everything must be
done, even to the Tower and the Whispering Gallery, Madame Tussaud's
and the Agricultural Hall. There is not a second-rate trumpery trifle
which has been in the shop windows for a year or more, that is not
pored over, and if possible, bought; and among the inflictions of the
host may be counted the crude taste of the guest, and the childish
flinging away of money on things absolutely worthless. Or it may be
that the guest has come up stored with many maxims of worldly wisdom
and vague suspicion, and, determined not to be taken in, attempts to
bargain in shops where a second price would be impossible, and where
the host is personally known.

With guests of superabundant energy a quiet evening is out of the
question. They go the round of all the theatres, and fill in the gaps
with the opera and concerts. They have come up not to stay with you,
but to see London; and they fulfil their intention liberally. Or they
are indifferent and supine, and not to be amused, do what you will.
They think everything a bore, or they are nervous and not up to the
mark. They beseech you not to ask any one to dinner, and not to take
them with you to any reception. They are listless at the theatre and
go to sleep at the opera. At the Royal Academy the only pictures they
notice are those landscapes taken from their own neighbourhood, or
perhaps one by a local artist known to them. All the finest works of
the year fall flat; and before you have seen half the exhibition, they
say they have had enough of it, and sit down, plaintively offering to
wait till you have done, in the tone of a Christian martyr.

These are the people who are always complaining of the dirt and smoke
of London and the stuffiness of the houses, as if they were personally
injured and you personally responsible. They show a very decided
scorn for all London produce, natural or artificial, and wonder how
people can live in such a place. They are sure to deride the
prevailing fashions, whatever they may be; while their own, of last
season, are exaggerated and excessive; but they refuse to have the
town touch laid on them during their stay, and heroically follow the
millinery gospel of their local Worth, and measure you by themselves.
They show real animation only when they are going away, and begin to
wonder how they shall find things at home, and whether Charles will
meet them at the station or send William instead. But when they write
to thank you for your hospitality, they tell you they never enjoyed
anything so much in their lives; leaving you in a state of perplexity,
as you remember their boredom, and peevish complainings, and evident
relief in leaving, and compare your remembrance with the warm
expressions of pleasure now before your eyes. All you can say is, that
if they were pleased they took an odd way of showing it.

There are people rash enough to have other people's children on a
visit; to take on themselves the responsibility of their health and
safety, when the young guests are almost sure to fall ill by the
change of diet and the unwonted amount of indulgence allowed, or to
come into some trouble by the relaxing of due supervision and control.
They get a touch of gastric fever, or they tumble into the pond; and
either bronchitis, or a fall from horseback, toppling over from a
ladder, or coming to grief on the swing, or some such accident, is
generally the result of an act which is either heroism or madness as
one may be inclined to regard it. For of all the inconveniences
attending visiting, those incidental to child-guests are the most
distressing. Yet there are philanthropic friends who run these risks
for the sake of giving pleasure to a few young people. Whether they
deserve canonization for their kindness or censure for their rashness
we leave an open question.

As for a certain disturbance in health, that generally comes to other
than children from being on a visit. Hours and style of food are sure
to be somewhat different from those of home; and the slight constraint
of the life, and the feverishness which this induces, add to the
disturbance. Occupations are interrupted both to the guest and the
host; and some hosts think it necessary to make company for the guest,
and some guests are heavy on hand. Some regard your house as a gaol
and you as the gaoler, and are afraid to initiate an independent
action or to call their souls their own; others treat you as a
landlord, and behave as if you kept an inn, making a convenience of
your household in the most unblushing manner. Some are fastidious, and
covertly snub your wines, your table, and your whole arrangements;
others embarrass you by the fervour of their admiration, as if they
had come out of a hovel and did not know the usages of civilized
homes. Some intrude themselves into every small household matter that
goes on before them, and offer advice that is neither wanted nor
desired; and others will not commit themselves to the most innocent
opinion, fearful lest they should be thought to interfere or take
sides. Some of the women dress at the husband; some of the men flirt
with the wife or make love to the daughters surreptitiously; some loaf
about or play billiards all day long till you are tired of the sound
of their footsteps and the click of the balls; other bury their heads
in a book and are no better than mummies lounging back in easy chairs;
some insist on going to the meet in a hard frost; others will shoot in
a downpour; and others again waste your whole day over the
chess-table, and will not stir out at all. Some are so sensitive and
fidgety that they will not stay above a day or two, and are gone
before you have got into the habit of seeing them, leaving you with
the feeling of a whirlwind having passed through your house; and
others, when they come, stick, and you begin to despair of dislodging

On the other hand, there are houses where you feel that you would wear
out your welcome after the third day, how long soever the distance you
have come; and there are others where you would offend your hosts for
life if you did not throw overboard every other duty and engagement to
remain for as many weeks as they desire. In fact, paying visits and
inviting guests are both risky matters, and need far more careful
consideration than they generally receive. But when it happens that
the thing is congenial on both sides, that the guest slips into a
vacant place as it were, and neither bores nor is bored, then paying a
visit is as delightful as the young imagination pictures it to be; and
the peculiar closeness and sweetness of intimacy it engenders is one
of the most enduring and charming circumstances incidental to
friendship. This however, is rare and exceptional; as are most of the
very good things of life.


In every coterie we find certain stray damsels unattached; young
ladies of personable appearance and showy accomplishments who go about
the world alone, and whose parents, never seen, are living in some
obscure lodgings where they pinch and screw to furnish their
daughter's bravery. Some one or two great ladies of the set patronize
these girls, take them about a good deal, and ask them to all their
drums and at-homes. They are useful in their degree; very
good-natured; always ready to fetch and carry in a confidential kind
of way; to sing and play when they are asked--and they sing and play
with almost professional skill; full of the small talk of the day, and
not likely to bore their companions with untimely discussions on
dangerous subjects, nor to startle them with enthusiasm about
anything. They serve to fill a vacant place when wanted; and they look
nice and keep up the ball so far as their own sphere extends. They are
safe, too; and, though lively and amusing, are never known to retail
gossip nor talk scandal in public.

Who are they? No one exactly knows. They are Miss A. and Miss B., and
they have collaterals of respectable name and standing; cousins in
Government offices; dead uncles of good military rank; perhaps a
father, dead or alive, with a quite unexceptionable position; but you
never see them with their natural belongings, and no one thinks of
visiting them at their own homes. They are sure to have a mother in
bad health, who never goes out and never sees any one; and if you
should by chance come across her, you find a shabby, painful, peevish
woman who seems at odds with life altogether, and who is as unlike her
showy daughter as a russet wren is unlike a humming-bird. The
drawing-room epiphyte introduces mamma, when necessary, with a
creditable effort at indifference, not to say content, with her
conditions; but if you can read signs, you know what she is feeling
about that suit of rusty black, and how little she enjoys the

Sometimes she has a brother, of whom she never speaks unless obliged,
and of whose occupation and whereabouts, when asked, she gives only
the vaguest account. He has an office in the City; or he has gone
abroad; or he is in the navy and she forgets the name of his ship;
but, whatever he is, you can get no clue more distinct than this. If
you should chance to see him, you get a greater surprise than you had
when you met the mother; and you wonder, with a deeper wonder, how
such a sister should have sprung from the same stock as that which
produced such a brother. Sometimes however, the brother is as
presentable as the sister; in which case he probably follows much the
same course as herself, and hangs on to the skirts of those of the
Upper Ten who recognize him--preferring to idle away his life and
energy as a well-dressed epiphyte of greatness rather than live the
life of a man in a lower social sphere. But, as a rule, stray damsels
have neither brothers nor sisters visible to the world, and only a
widowed mother in the background, whose health is bad and who does not
go out.

The ulterior object of the ladies who patronize these pretty epiphytes
is to get them married; partly from personal kindness, partly from the
pleasure all women have in bringing about a marriage that does not
interfere with themselves. But they seldom accomplish this object. Who
is to marry the epiphyte? The men of the society into which she has
been brought from the outside have their own ambitions to realize.
They want money, or land, or a good family connexion, to make the
sacrifice an equal bargain and to gild the yoke of matrimony with
becoming splendour. And the drawing room epiphyte has nothing to offer
as her contribution but a fine pair of eyes, a good-natured manner,
and a pretty taste for music. To marry well among the society in which
she finds herself is therefore almost impossible. And her tastes have
been so far formed as to render a marriage into lower circumstances
almost as impossible on the other side.

Besides, what could she do as the wife of a clergyman, say on three
hundred a year, with a poor parish to look after and an increasing
tribe of babies to feed and clothe? Her clear high notes, her splendid
register, her brilliant touch, will not help her then; and the taste
with which she makes up half-worn silk gowns, and transforms what was
a rag into an ornament, will not do much towards finding the necessary
boots and loaves which keep her sisters awake at night wondering how
they are to be got. She has been taught nothing of the art of home
life, if she has learnt much of that of the drawing-room. She cannot
cook, nor make a little go a long way by the cunning of good
management and a well-masked economy; she cannot do serviceable
needlework, though she may be great in fancy work, and quite a genius
in millinery; and the habit of having plenty of servants about her has
destroyed the habit of turning her hand to anything like energetic
self-help. Epiphyte as she is, penniless stray damsel more than half
maintained by the kindness of her grand friends, she has to keep up
the sham of appearances before those friends' domestics. And as
ladyhood in England is chiefly measured by a woman's uselessness, and
to do anything in the way of rational work would be a spot on her
ermine, the poor epiphyte of the drawing-room, with mamma in rusty
black in those shabby lodgings of theirs, learns in self-defence to
practise all the foolish helplessness of her superiors; and, to retain
the respect of the servants, loses her own.

What is she then but one of those misplaced beings who are neither of
one sphere nor of another? She is not of the _grandes dames_ on her
own account, yet she lives in their houses as one among them. She is
not a woman who can make the best of things; who, notable and
industrious, and by her clever contrivances of saving and substitution
is able to order a home comfortably on next to nothing; and yet she
has no solid claim to anything but the undercut of the middle classes,
and no right to expect more than the most ordinary marriage. She is
nothing. Ashamed and unable to work, she has to accept gratuities
which are not wages. Waiting on Providence and floated by her friends,
she wanders though society ever on the look-out for chances. Each new
acquaintance is a fresh hope, and every house that opens to her
contains the potentiality of final success. To be met everywhere is
the ultimate point of her ambition with respect to means; the end kept
steadily, if fruitlessly, in view, is that satisfying settlement which
shall take her out of the category of a hanger-on and give her a
_locus standi_ of her own. But it does not come.

Year by year we meet the drawing-room epiphyte in the old haunts--at
Brighton; at Ryde; at half-a-dozen good houses in London; on a visit
to the friends who make much of her one day and snub her the next--but
she does not 'go off.' She is pretty, she is agreeable, she is well
dressed, she is accomplished; but she does not find the husband for
whom all this is offered as the equivalent. Year by year she grows
fatter or thinner as her constitution expands into obesity or shrivels
into leanness; the lines about her fine eyes deepen; the powder is a
little thicker on her cheeks; and there are more than shrewd
suspicions of a touch of rouge or of antimony, with a judicious
application of patent hair-restorer to lift up the faded tints.
Fighting desperately with that old enemy Time, she disputes line by
line the tribute he claims; and succeeds so far as to continue a good
make-up for a year or two after other women of her own age have given
in and consented to look their years. But the drawing-room epiphyte is
nothing if she is not young--which is synonymous with power to
interest and amuse. Her friends, the great ladies who hold
drawing-rooms and gather society in shoals, want points of colour in
their rooms as well as serviceable foils. The apple-pie that was all
made of quinces was a failure, wanting the homely _couche_ from which
the savour of the more fragrant fruit might be thrown up. On the other
hand there are social meetings which are like apple-pies without any
quince at all; and then the epiphyte is invaluable, and her music
worth as much in its degree as if she were a prima donna, each of
whose notes ranked as gold. So that when she ceases to be young, when
she loses her high notes and has gout in her fingers, she fails in her
only _raison d'être_, and her occupation is gone. Hence her hard
struggles with the old enemy, and her half-heroic, half-tragic
determination not to give in while a shred of force remains.

On the day when she collapses into an old woman she is lost. She has
nothing for it then but to withdraw from the brilliant drawing-rooms
she has so long haunted into dingy lodgings in a back street, and live
as her mother lived before her. Forgotten by the world which she has
spent her life in waiting on, she has leisure to reflect on the
relative values of things, and to lament, as she probably will, that
she gave living grain for gilded husks; that she exchanged the
realities of love and home, which might have been hers had she been
contented to accept them on a lower social scale, for the barren
pleasures of the day and the delusive hope of marrying well in a
sphere where she had no solid foothold. She had her choice, like
others; but she chose to throw for high stakes at heavy odds, and in
so doing let slip what she originally held. The bird in the hand might
have been of a homely kind enough; still, it was always the bird;
while the two golden pheasants in the bush flew away unsalted, and
left her only their shadows to run after.

On the whole then, we incline to the belief that the drawing-room
epiphyte is a mistake, and that those stray damsels who wander about
society unattended by any natural protector and always more or less in
the character of adventuresses, would do better to keep to the sphere
determined by parental circumstances than to let themselves be taken
into one which does not belong to them and which they cannot hold.
And furthermore it seems to us that, irrespective of its present
instability and future fruitlessness, the position of a drawing-room
epiphyte is one which no woman of sense would accept, and to which no
woman of spirit would submit.


There has always been in the world a kind of women whom one scarcely
knows how to classify as to sex; men by their instincts, women by
their form, but neither men nor women as we regard either in the
ideal. In early times they were divided into two classes; the Amazons
who, donning helmet and cuirass, went to the wars that they might be
with their lovers, or perhaps only for an innate liking for rough
work; and the tribe of ancient women, so withered and so wild, who
should be women yet whose beards forbade men so to account them, and
for whom public opinion usually closed the controversy by declaring
that they were witches--that is, creatures so unlike the rightful
woman of nature that only the devil himself was supposed to be
answerable for them. These particular manifestations have long since
passed away, and we have nowadays neither Amazons learning the
goose-step in our barrack-yards, nor witches brewing hell-broth on
Scottish moors; but we have the Epicene Sex all the same--women who
would defy the acutest social Cuvier among us to classify, but who
are growing daily into more importance and making continually fresh
strides in their unwholesome way.

Possessed by a restless discontent with their appointed work, and
fired with a mad desire to dabble in all things unseemly, which they
call ambition; blasphemous to the sweetest virtues of their sex, which
until now have been accounted both their own pride and the safeguard
of society; holding it no honour to be reticent, unselfish, patient,
obedient, but swaggering to the front, ready to try conclusions in
aggression, in selfishness, in insolent disregard of duty, in cynical
abasement of modesty, with the hardest and least estimable of the men
they emulate;--these women of the doubtful gender have managed to drop
all their own special graces while unable to gather up any of the more
valuable virtues of men. They are no more philosophical than the most
inconsequent sister who judges all things according to her feelings,
and commends or condemns principles as she happens to like or dislike
the persons advocating them; and they are as hysterical and
intemperate in their political cries as if the whole world wagged by
impulse only. They are no more magnanimous under rebuke than the
stanchest advocate of the sacredness of sex, but resent all hostile
criticism as passionately, and from grounds as merely personal, as if
they were still shrouded from public blame by the safety of their
privacy; and they are as little useful in their blatant energy as when
they spent their days in working monstrous patterns in crude-coloured
wools, or found spiritual satisfaction in cutting holes in strips of
calico to sew up again with a new stitch. They have committed the
mistake of abandoning such work as they can do well, while trying to
manipulate things which they touch only to spoil; they have ceased to
be women and not learnt to be men; they have thrown aside beauty and
not put on strength.

The latest development of the impulses which animate the epicene sex
has taken its expression in after-dinner oratory. If we were as
malicious to women as those whose follies we rebuke would have the
world believe, we should encourage them to fight it out with womanly
modesty and the world's esteem on this line. Their worst enemies could
not wish to see them inflict on themselves a greater annoyance than
the obligation of getting on their legs after the cheese has been
removed, to turn on a stream of verbal insipidity for a quarter of an
hour at a stretch. Only men who have something to say on the subject
that may be on hand, and so are glad of every opportunity for
elucidation or advocacy, or men who are eaten up with vanity, take
pleasure in speechifying after dinner. Its uselessness is apparent;
its mock hilarity is ghastly; even at political 'banquets,' when words
are supposed to have some deep meaning, we get very little substance
in it; while all the funny part of the business is the dreariest
comedy, the unreality of which brings it close to tragedy.

If anything were wanting to show how much vanity prompts a certain
class of women in their ways and works, and how tremendous is their
passion for notoriety and personal display, it would be this
assumption of the functions of the post-prandial orator. Indeed they
have taken greatly of late to public speaking all round; and some
among them seem only easy when they are standing before a crowd, to be
admired if they are pretty, applauded if they are pert, and, in any
case, the centre of attraction for the moment. We do not look forward
with pleasure to the time when ladies will rise after their champagne
and port, with flushed cheeks and eyes more bright than beautiful,
steadying themselves adroitly against the back of their chairs, and
rolling out either those interminable periods with no nominatives and
no climax under which we have all so often suffered, or spasmodically
jerking forth a few unconnected sentences of which the sole merit is
their brevity. In the beginning of things, when the wedge has to be
introduced, only the best of its kind puts itself forward; and
doubtless the ladies who have already varied the usual dull routine of
after-dinner oratory by their livelier utterances have done the thing
comparatively well, and avoided a breakdown; but we own that we
tremble at the thought of the flood of feminine eloquence which will
be let loose if the fashion spreads.

Fancy the heavy British matron rearing her ample shoulders above the
board, as she lays down the law on the duties of men towards
women--especially sons-in-law--and the advantage to all concerned if
wives are liberally dealt with in the matter of housekeeping money,
and let to go their own way without marital hindrance. Or think of the
woman's-rights woman, with her hybrid costume and her hard face,
showing society how it can be saved from destruction only by throwing
the balance of power into the hands of women--by the nobler and
brighter instincts of the oppressed sex swamping that rude, rough,
masculine element which has so long mismanaged matters. Or even think
of the coquettish and alluring little woman getting up before a crowd
of men and firing off the neatest and smartest park of verbal
artillery possible, every shot of which tells and is applauded to the
echo. How will men take it all? For ourselves, having too sincere a
respect for women as they ought to be, and as nature meant them to be,
we do not wish to see them turned into social buffoons, the mark for
jeering comments and angry hisses when what they say displeases their
hearers, told to 'sit down,' and 'shut up,' with entreaties to some
strong man to 'take them out of that and carry them home to the
nursery,' by a hundred voices roughened with drink and shouting. But
if women expect that hostile feelings and opinions will be tamed or
altogether suppressed in their honour because they choose to thrust
themselves where they have no business, they will find out their
mistake, perhaps when too late. If they abandon their safe cover and
come out into the open, they must look to be hit like the rest. We
cannot too often repeat that if they will mingle in the specialities
of men's lives, they must put up with men's treatment and not cry out
when they are struck home. In deference to them plain-speaking has
been banished from the drawing rooms of society; but it is too much to
expect men to sit in their own places under heavy boredom or fatuous
gabble without wincing; and it is childish to ask us to make a
free-gift of our truth and time to women who outrage one and waste the
other. On the other hand the cheers which would follow if they hit the
humour of the hour, or if, being specially pretty or specially smart,
they afforded so much more than the ordinary excitement to the guests,
would to our minds be just as offensive as the rougher truth, and
perhaps more so. The leering approbation of men never over-nice in
thought and now heated with wine, such as are always to be found at
public dinners, is an infliction from which we should have imagined
any woman with purity or self-respect would have shrunk with shame and
dismay. But women who take to after-dinner speeches cannot be either
nervous or fastidious.

Perhaps it is expecting too much of women of this kind if we ask them
to consider themselves in relation to men's liking. They profess to
despise the masculine animal they are so fond of imitating, and to be
careless of his liking; holding it a matter of supreme indifference
whether they are to his taste or not. But it may be as well to say
plainly that the disgust which we may presume the normal healthy woman
feels for men who paint and pad and wear stays and work Berlin
work--men who give their minds to chignons and costumes; who spy after
their maids' love-letters, and watch their boys as cats watch
mice--men who occupy themselves with domestic details they should know
nothing about; who look after the baby's pap-boat and the cinders in
the dust-heap, and can call the various articles of household linen by
their proper names--the disgust which the womanly woman feels for them
is exactly that which the manly man feels for the epicene sex.

Hard, unblushing, unloving women whose ideal of happiness lies in
swagger and notoriety; who hate home life and despise home virtues;
who have no tender regard for men and no instinctive love for
children; who despise the modesty of sex as they deny its natural
fitness--these women have worse than no charm for men, and their place
in the human family seems altogether a mistake. If there were any
special work which they could do better than manly men or feminine
women, we could understand their economic uses, and accept them as
eminently unlovely outgrowths of a natural law, but at least as
necessary and natural. But they are not wanted. They simply disgust
men and mislead women; and those women whom they do not mislead in
their own they often influence too strongly in the other direction by
way of reaction, rendering them sickly in their sweetness, and weak
rather than womanly. If the interlacing margins of certain things are
lovely, as colours which blend together are more harmonious than those
which are crudely distinct, it is not so with the interlacing margin
of sex. Let men be men, and women women, sharply, unmistakably
defined; but to have an ambiguous sex which is neither the one nor the
other, possessing the coarser passions and instincts of men without
their strength or better judgment, and the position and privileges of
women without their tenderness, their sense of duty, or their modesty,
is a state of things that we should like to see abolished by public
opinion, which alone can touch it.


If songs are the expressions of a nation's political temper, novels
show the current of its social morality, and what the learned would
call its psychological condition. When French novelists devote half
their stories to the analysis of those feelings which end in breaking
the seventh commandment, and the other half to the gradual evolution
of the evidence which leads to the detection of a secret murderer, we
may safely assume, on the one hand, that the marriage law presses
heavily, and, on the other, that the national intellect is of that
ingenious kind which takes pleasure in puzzles, and is best
represented by the familiar examples of dovetailing and mosaic work.
When too, we see that their common feminine type is a creature given
over as a prey to nervous fancies and an exalted imagination, of a
feverish temperament and a general obscuration of plain morality in
favour of a subtilizing and misleading kind of thing which she calls
her _besoin d'âme_, we may be sure that this is the type most approved
by both writer and readers, and that anything else would be

The French novelist who should describe, as his central figure, a
self-disciplined, straightforward, healthy young woman, honestly in
love with her husband, rationally fond of her children, not given to
dangerous musings about the need of her soul for an elective affinity
outside her marriage bond, nor spending her hours in speculating on
the philosophy of necessity as represented by Léon or Alphonse; who
should make her absolutely impervious to the sickly sentimentalism of
the inevitable _célibat_, and neither palter with peril nor lament
that sin should be sinful when it is so pleasant; who should paint
domestic morality as we know it exists in France no less than in
England, and trust for his interest to the quiet pathos of unfriendly
but cleanly circumstances, would be hard put to it to make his heroine
attractive and his story popular; and his readers would not be counted
by tens of thousands, as were those who gloated over the sins of
_Madame Bovary_ and the prurience of _Fanny_. The Scandinavian type of
woman again, strong-armed, independent, athletic, practical, would not
go down with the French reading public; wherefore we may assume that
the _Parisienne_, as we know her in romance--feverish, subtil,
casuistic, self-deluding, and always ready to sacrifice duty to
sentiment--is the woman best liked by the people to whom she is
offered, and that the novelist but repeats and represents the wish of
his readers.

So, too, when our own novelists carry their stock puppets through the
nine hundred pages held to be necessary for the due display of their
follies and disasters, we may be sure that they are of the kind which
finds favour in the eyes of the ordinary English reader; that the
girls are the girls who please young men or do not alarm mothers, and
that the men are the men in whom women delight, and think the ideals
of their sex. If, as it is said, the delineation of her hero is the
touchstone of a woman's literary power, it must be confessed that the
touchstone discloses, for the most part, a very feeble amount of
literary power, and that the female mind has but a small perception of
all that relates to man's needs and nature.

It is the rarest thing possible to find a flesh-and-blood man in the
pages of a woman's novel; far rarer than to meet with a
flesh-and-blood young lady in the pages of a man's. They are all
either prigs, ruffians, or curled darlings; each of whom a man longs
to kick. They are goody men of such exalted morality that Sir Galahad
himself might take a lesson from them. Or they are brutes with the
well-worn square jaw and beetling brow, who translate into the milder
action of modern life the savage's method of wooing a woman by first
knocking her senseless and then carrying her off. Or they are
impossible light-weights, with small hands and artistic
tendencies--men who moon about a good deal, and are sure to love the
wrong woman in a helpless, drifting sort of way, as if it were quite
the right and manly thing to do to let themselves fall under the
dominion of a passion which a little resolution could overcome.
Sometimes, for a difference, these light-weights are men of tremendous
pluck and quality of muscle, able to thrash a burly bargee twice their
weight and development with as much ease as a steel sword can cut
through one of pith. The female crowd of present novel-writers repeat
these four types with undeviating constancy, so that we have learnt
them all by heart; and after the first outline indicative of their
attributes, we can tell who they are as certainly as we can tell
Minerva by her owl, St. Catharine by her wheel, Jupiter by his
thunderbolts, or St. Sebastian by his arrows. But in what form soever
they elect to portray their hero, they are sure to make his love for
woman his best and his dominant quality.

Few women know anything of the intricacies of a man's life and
emotion, save such as are connected with love. Yet, though love is
certainly the strongest passion in youth, it is by no means all
powerful in maturity and middle age. But the lady's hero of fifty and
upwards is as much under the influence of his erotic fancies as if he
were a boy of eighteen; and life holds nothing worth living for if he
does not get the woman with whom he has fallen in love. It seems
impossible for a woman to understand the loftier side of a man's
nature. She knows nothing, subjectively, of the political aims, the
love for abstract truth, the desire for human progress, which take him
out of the narrow domestic sphere, and make him comparatively
indifferent to the life of sense and emotion altogether. And when she
sees this she does not tolerate it. When Newton used his lady's little
finger for a tobacco-stopper, he dug his grave in the female garden of
the soul; and women rarely appreciate either Dr. Johnson or Dean
Swift, because of the absence in the one of anything like romantic
tenderness and its perversion in the other. All they care for is that
men shall be tender and true to them; idealizing as lovers; as
husbands constant and indulgent; and for this they will condone any
amount of crookedness or meanness which does not make its way into the
home. If he is complying and caressing there, he may be what fate and
the foul fiend like to make him elsewhere, so long as he is not openly
unfaithful and never gets drunk.

All the false glitter of the Corsair school is due solely to the
capacity for loving ascribed to the heroes thereof. Though a man's
name be 'linked with one virtue and a thousand crimes,' the one
virtue, being love, outweighs the thousand crimes in the estimation of
women and of the more effeminate kind of poets; and so long as the
'heart is framed for softness,' it may be 'warped to wrong' without
doing any Conrad much injury with them. The absolute rightness and
justness of a man count for little in comparison with his tenderness;
and we know of no woman whose ideal man would be one neither a saint
nor a lover.

The reason why the men of a softer civilization are in general so
successful with the women of the harder and more northerly countries
is because of the comparative softness of their manners and the larger
place which love and love-making hold among them. All who know France
know the Frenchman's jealous hatred of Italian men; which hatred we
share here in England, only we add the Frenchman to the list. We
affect to despise the arts by which the men succeed and the women are
gained over; but we cannot deny their potency, nor shut our eyes to
the esteem in which they are held by women. This is not saying that
the chivalrous habit of deference taught by civilization is not a good
thing in itself, but it is saying that it is not worth the stronger
and more essentially masculine qualities. But to women the art of
love-making is worth all the other virtues in a lump; indeed, it
comprises them all, and without it the best are valueless. It is the
crown and glory of life--the one thing to live for; and where it is
not, there is no life worthy of the name. Not that women are
insensible to the charms of public fame. If a man has made himself a
great reputation, he may throw the handkerchief where he likes, and he
will find plenty of women to pick it up. In this case they are not too
rigid in their requirements; and if his ways are a little hard and
cold, they hold themselves indemnified for the loss of personal
tenderness by the glory which surrounds a name which is now theirs. A
woman must be exceptionally silly if she cannot take comfort in her
husband's public repute for her disappointment in his private manners.
But this is only with recognized and fully successful heroes. As a
rule, no amount of manly virtues will excuse the want of the softer
graces; and the finest fellow that ever lived, the true _anax andrôn_
among men, must be content to be measured by women merely according to
his own estimate of them, and the power which the passion of love has
over him.

Nothing surprises men more than the odd ignorance of women concerning
them; and half the unhappiness in married life, at least in England,
springs from that ignorance. They cannot be made to understand the
differences between a man's nature and requirements and their own; and
they condemn all that they cannot understand. In those few rational
homes where men's sports and gatherings, undisturbed by the presence
of petticoats, are not made occasions for suspicion nor remonstrance,
the stock of love and happiness with which married life began is more
like the widow's cruse than elsewhere; but unfortunately for both
husbands and wives, these homes are rare; while those are common where
an extramural game of billiards in the evening is occasion for tears
or pouting, and deadly offence is taken at club dinners or a week's
shooting. The consequence of which is deceit or dissension; and
sometimes both.

The woman's ideal man has none of these erratic tendencies. His
business done, he comes home with the docility of a well-bred pointer
sent to heel, and finds energy enough after his hard day's work for a
variety of caressing cares which make him more precious in her eyes
than all the tact, the temper, the judgment, the uprightness he has
manifested in his dealings with the outside world. And the domesticity
which she claims from her husband she demands from her son. Latchkeys
are her abomination, and the 'gas left burning' is as a beacon-light
on the way of destruction. She has the profoundest suspicion of all
the men whom her boy calls his friends. She never knows into what
mischief they may lead him; but she is sure it is mischief if they
keep him away from his home in the evening. She would prescribe the
same social restraints and moral regimen for her son as for her
daughter, and she thinks the energies of masculine nature require no
wider field and no looser rein. But though she likes those tame and
tender men whom she can tie up close to her apron-strings and lovingly
imprison in the narrow domain of home, she succumbs without a struggle
to the square-jawed brute of the Rochester type, the man who dominates
her by the mere force of superior strength; and she is not too severe
on Don Juan, if only she can flatter herself that she is the best
loved--and the last. That these are the men most liked by women is
shown both by their own novels and by daily observation; and it seems
to us that, among the many subjects for extended study of late
proposed for women, a better acquaintance with men's minds, a higher
regard for the nobler kind of man and the ability to accept love as
only one of many qualities, and not always the strongest nor the most
praiseworthy of his impulses, would not be out of place.


If any one wants to see human nature stripped of certain conventional
disguises and reduced to some of its primitive elements, let him try a
boarding-house or family hotel for a while. If not always a
profitable, it is generally an amusing, exhibition of character; and
materials are never wanting to the student of human life. The
predominating quality of most people will be found to be selfishness.
There is a kind of fighting for self that goes on which is very funny,
because concentrated on such mean objects. Who shall have the most
comfortable chair, the best place at the window, the cosiest by the
fire--such are the favourite prizes to be gained by superior craft or
boldness; and the ladies chiefly interested have recourse to a series
of manoeuvres to circumvent their rivals, or steal a march on them
unprepared, more ingenious at times than well-bred. Then there is the
lady who appropriates the only footstool, and the lady who disputes
the appropriation and sometimes 'comes to words' on the same; the
couple who monopolize the bagatelle board, and the couple waiting
savagely for their turn, which comes only when the gong sounds for
dinner or the sky clears up for a walk. The quartet who settle
themselves to whist every evening as to a regular part of the business
of life, without caring to inquire whether others would like to cut in
or not, are more justified in their exclusiveness; else it may happen
that a Club man who can make his bad cards beat his opponent's good
ones is mated with a partner who inquires anxiously 'Is that the queen
to beat?' then, with the king in his hand, quietly drops the deuce,
and gives the adversaries the game. All these however, are regarded
with equally hostile feelings by the rest of the community; and sharp
sermons are administered on the sin of selfishness by the bolder sort,
with the application too evident to be misunderstood.

At meal times the same kind of odd fighting for self goes on. The
table is set as for a dinner party; but it is the hands of Esau and
the voice of Jacob. Instead of the silent waiting for one's turn, with
the quiet acceptance of fate in the shape of the butler and his
underlings, that belongs to a private dinner-table, here, at the
_table d'hôte_, there is an incessant call for this or that out of
time; an angry demand to be served sooner or better than one's
neighbours; a greedy 'taking care of number one' at the head of the
table that excites as greedy apprehensions in number two at the foot;
a running fire of criticism on the dishes--that does not help the
illusion of the private dinner-party; and, with people who live much
about in hotels, there is a continual comparison with this and that,
here and there, always to the disadvantage of the place and the thing
under present consideration.

Among the inmates are sure to be some who are fastidious and peevish
about their food; women who come down late and complain that things
are not as fresh as when first served up; men who always want fried
fish when the management has provided boiled, and boiled when the
_menu_ says fried; dyspeptic bodies who cannot eat bread unless it is
two days old, and bodies defiant of dyspepsia who will not eat it at
all unless it is hot from the oven; plain feeders who turn up their
noses at the made dishes, and dainty livers who call simple roast and
boiled coarse. And for all these societies the management has to cater
impartially; and probably miss the reward of thanks at the end.

The feelings of people are expressed with the same kind of defiant
individualism as are their tastes. There are the married people who
make love to each other in public, and the married people who make
anything but love; the women who sit and adore their husbands like
worshippers before a shrine, and who like the world to be conscious of
their devotion; the men who call their wives pet names for the benefit
of the whole table, and even indulge in playful little familiarities
which make the girls toss their heads and the young men laugh; and the
happy pair who quarrel without restraint, and say snappish and
disagreeable things to each other in audible voices, to the
embarrassment of all who hear them. There is the rakish Lothario who
neglects his own better half and devotes himself to some other man's,
with a lofty disregard of appearances; and there is the coquettish
little wife who treats her husband very much like a dog and very
little like her lord, and who carries on her flirtations in the most
audacious manner under his eyes, and apparently with his sanction.
And, having his sanction, she defies the world about her to take
umbrage at her proceedings.

As for flirtations indeed, these are always going on in hotel life.
Sometimes it is flirtation between a single man and a single woman,
against which no one has a word to say on the score of propriety,
though some think it will never come to anything and some think it
will, and all scan curiously the signs of progressive heating, or the
process of cooling off. Sometimes it is a more questionable matter;
the indiscreet behaviour of a young wife, unprotected by her husband,
who takes up furiously with some stranger met at the _table d'hôte_ by
chance, and of whose character or antecedents she is utterly ignorant.
This is the kind of things that sets the whole hotel by the ears. Prim
women ask severely, 'How long has Mrs. So-and-So known Major
Fourstars?' and their faces, when told, are a sufficient commentary on
the text. Others, in seeming innocence, call them by the same name,
and express intense surprise when informed they are not man and wife,
but acquaintances of only a week's standing. Others again say it is
shameful to see them, and wonder why some one does not write home to
the poor husband, and speak of doing that kind office themselves; and
others watch them with a cynical half-amused attention, interpreting
their actions by the broadest glossary, and carefully guarding their
wives or daughters from any association with either of the offenders.
Whatever else fails, this kind of vulgar hotel intrigue is always on
hand at sea-side places and the like; sometimes ending disastrously,
sometimes dying out in favour of a new flame, but always causing
discomfort while it lasts, and annoying every one connected therewith
save the sinners themselves.

The women who dress to excess are balanced by the women who do not
dress at all. The first are the walking advertisements of fashion, the
last might be mistaken for the canvassers of old clothes' shops. The
one class oppress by their magnificence, the other disgust by their
dowdiness; and each ridicules the other to the indifferent third
party, who, holding the scales of justice evenly, condemns both alike.
Then there are the ugly women who manifestly think themselves
attractive, and the pretty women who are too conscious of their
charms. To be sure there are also ugly women who are content to know
themselves unpersonable, as there are pretty women who are content to
know that they are pretty, just as they know that they are alive, but
who think no more about it, and never trouble themselves nor their
neighbours by their affectations. There are the dear motherly women
beyond middle age, scant of breath and incapable of exertion, who sit
in the drawing-room, placid and asthmatic, and to whom every one pays
an affectionate reverence; and there are the elderly women who chirrup
about like young things, and skip up and down steep places with
commendable agility, and who are by no means disposed to let old age
have the victory for many a year to come. There are the mothers who
make their lumpish children sick with a multiplicity of good things,
and the mothers who never give a moment's thought to the comfort nor
the well-being of theirs; the mothers who fidget their little ones and
every one else by their over-anxiety, their over caution, their
incessant preoccupation and fear, and the mothers who let theirs
wander, and who take it quite comfortably if they do not come in even
at night-fall; the mothers who prank their children out like Mayday
Jacks and Jills, and the mothers who let theirs go free in rags and
dirt, till you are puzzled to believe them better born than the
gutter. And with all this there is the plague of the children
themselves--the babies who cry all night; the two-year-olds who scream
all day; the rampaging boys who haunt the stairs and passages and who
will slide down the banisters on a wet afternoon; the clattering
little troop playing at horses before your bedroom door, while you are
lying down with a sick headache; and the irruption into the
drawing-room of the young barbarians who have no nursery of their

Quite recent widows with fluffy heads and no sign of their bereaved
state, come to the hotel flanked by those of a couple of years'
standing, still dressed in the deepest weeds, with the significant cap
cherished as a sacred symbol. Brisk young widows appeal to men's
admiration by their brightness, and languid young widows excite
sympathy by their despair. Pretty young widows of small endowment,
whose chances you would back at long odds, are handicapped against
plain-featured widows, whose desolation you know no one would ever ask
to relieve were it not for those Three per cents. with which they are
credited. And the widows of hotel life are always a feature worth
studying. There are many who do so study them;--chiefly the old
bachelor of well-preserved appearance and active habits, who has
constituted himself the squire of dames to the establishment, and who
takes up first with one and then another of the unprotected females as
they appear, and escorts them about the neighbourhood. He never makes
friends with men, but he is hand-in-glove with all the pretty women;
and his critical judgment on them on their first appearance is
considered final. As a rule he does not care to attach himself so
exclusively to one, be she maid, wife, or widow, as to get himself
talked about; but sometimes he falls into the clutches of a woman of
more tenacity than he has bargained for, and, man of irreproachable
respectability as he is, drifts into a flirtation which the hotel
takes to mean an offer or an intrigue, according to the state of the
lady concerned. As the hotel-life bachelor is generally a man of
profound selfishness, the discomfort that ensues does no great harm;
and it sometimes happens that it is diamond cut diamond, which is a
not unrighteous retribution.

For the most part the people haunting hotels and living at
_tables d'hôte_ are not specially charming, but among them may
sometimes be met men and women of broad views and liberal minds,
cultivated and thoughtful, whose association time ripens into
friendship. They stand out in bold relief among the vulgar people who
talk loud, stare hard, ask impertinent questions, and discuss the
dinners and the company in a broad provincial accent; among the silent
people who sit gloomily at table as if oppressed with debt or
assisting at a funeral; among the betting-men who flood the house at
race-time, making it echo with the jargon of the Turf and the stable;
among the quarrelsome people who snap and snarl at every subject
started, like dogs growling over a bone; among the religious people
who will testify in season and out of season, and the political people
who will argue; the stupid people who have not two ideas, and the
ignorant people who do not understand anything beyond the educational
range of a child or a peasant; the conventional people who oppress one
with their strained proprieties, and the doubtful people of whom no
one knows anything and every one suspects all. Among the _oi polloi_
of hotel life the really nice people shine conspicuous: and more than
one pleasant friendship which has lasted for life has been begun over
the soup and fish of a _table d'hôte_.


We should do badly, as things are ordered, if we went about the world
with our natural moral faces. Even stopping short of the extravagance
of betraying our most important secrets, as in a Palace of Truth, and
frankly telling men and women that we think them fools or bores, it is
difficult for the most honest person in society to do without
something of a mask in regard to minor matters. The old quarrel
between nature and art, and where the limits of each should extend,
has not yet got itself arranged; and it is doubtful whether it will
during the present dispensation. It may be put to rights in some
future state of human development, when the spiritualists will have it
all their own way and tell us exactly what we ought to do; but pending
this forecast of the millennium, we are obliged to have recourse to
art for the better concealment of our natural selves, and especially,
for the maintenance of that queer bundle of compromises and
conventions which we call society.

The oddest consequence of the artificial state in which we find
ourselves obliged to live is that nature looks like affectation, and
that the highest art is the most like nature of anything we know. It
is in drawing-rooms as on the stage. A thoroughly inartificial actor
would be a mere dummy, just as in the Greek theatre a man with his
natural face would have seemed mean and insignificant to the
spectators accustomed to fixed types of heroic size and set intention.
But he whose acting brings the house down because of its truth to
nature is he whose art has been the most profoundly studied, and with
whom the concealment of art has therefore been the most perfectly
attained. So in society. A man of thoroughly natural manners passes as
either morose or pert according to his mood--either stupid because
disinclined to exert himself, or obtrusive because in the humour to
talk. He means no offence, honest body! but he makes himself
disagreeable all the same. Such a man is the pest of his club, and the
nuisance of every drawing-room he enters. It matters little whether he
is constitutionally boorish or good-natured; he is natural; and his
naturalness comes like an ugly patch of frieze on the cloth of gold
with which the goddess of conventionality is draped.

Natural women too, may be found at times--women who demonstrate on
small occasions, sincerely no doubt, but excessively; women who skip
like young lambs when they are pleased and pout like naughty children
when they are displeased; who disdain all those little arts of dress
which conceal defects and heighten beauties, and who are always at war
with the fashions of the day; who despise those conventional graces
of manner which have come to be part of the religion of society,
contradicting point-blank, softening no refusal with the expression of
a regret they do not feel, yawning in the face of the bore, admiring
with the _naïveté_ of a savage whatever is new to them or pleasing.
Such women are not agreeable companions, however devoid of affectation
they may be, however stanch adherents to truth and things as they are,
according to their boast. The woman who has not a particle of
untrained spontaneity left in her and who has herself in hand on all
occasions, who gives herself to her company and is always collected,
graceful, and at ease, playing her part without a trip, but always
playing her part and never letting herself drop into uncontrolled
naturalness--this is the woman whom men agree to call, not only
charming, but thoroughly natural as well.

On the other hand, the untrained woman who speaks just as she thinks,
and who cares more to express her own sensations than to study those
of her companions, is sneered at as silly or underbred, as the current
sets; or perhaps as affected; her transparency, to which the world is
not accustomed and to which it does not wish to get accustomed,
puzzling the critics of their kind. Social naturalness, like perfect
theatrical representation, is everywhere the result of the best art;
that is, of the most careful training. It simulates self-forgetfulness
by the very perfection of its self-control, while untrained nature is
self-assertion at all corners, and is founded on the imperious
consciousness of personality.

All of us carry our masks into society. We offer an eidolon to our
fellow-creatures, showing our features but not expressing our mind;
and the one whose eidolon, while betraying least of the being within,
reflects most of the beings without, is the most popular and
considered the most self-revealed. We may take it as a certainty that
we never really know any one. We may know the broad outlines of
character; and we generally believe far more than we have warranty
for; but we rarely, if ever, penetrate the inner circle wherein the
man's real self hides. If our friend is a person of small curiosity
and large self-respect, we may trust him not to commit a base action;
if he has a calm temperament, with physical strength and without
imagination, he will not do a cowardly one; if he has the habit of
truth, he will not tell a lie on any paltry occasion; if he is
tenacious and secret, he will not betray his cause nor his friend. But
we know very little more than this. Even with one's most familiar
friend there is always one secret door in the casket which is never
opened; and those which are thrown wide apart are not those which lead
to the most cherished treasures. With the frankest or the shallowest
there are depths never sounded; what shall we say, then, of those who
have real profundity of character?

Who is not conscious of an ego that no man has seen? In praise or
blame we feel that we are not thoroughly known. There is something
infinitely pathetic in this dumb consciousness of an inner self, an
unrevealed truth, which bears us up through injustice and makes us
shrink from excessive praise. Our very lovers love us for the least
worthy part of us, or for fancied virtues which we do not possess; and
if our worst enemies knew us as we are, they would come round to the
other side and shake hands over the grave of their mistaken estimate.
The mask hides the reality in either case, for good or for ill; and we
know that if it could be removed, we should be judged differently. For
the matter of that it never can be removed. The most transparent are
judged according to the temper of the spectator; and the mind sees
what it brings in our judgment of our fellows as well as in other

But, apart from that inner nature, that hidden part which so few
people even imagine exists in each other, the masks we wear in society
cover histories, sufferings, feelings, which would set the world
aflame if betrayed. No one who gets below the smooth crust of
conventional life can be ignorant of the fierce lava flood that
sometimes flows and rages underneath. In those quiet drawing-rooms
where everything looks the embodiment of harmony, of tranquil
understanding, and where the absence of mystery is the first thing
felt, there are dramas at the very time enacting of which only the
exceptionally observant catch the right cue. Ruin faces some whose
ship of good fortune seems sailing steadily on a halcyon sea; a
hideous secret stands like a spectre in the doorway of another. The
domestic happiness which these covenant between themselves to show in
the full sunshine to the world is no better than a Dead Sea apple
displayed for pride, for policy, and of which those who eat alone know
the extreme bitterness. The grand repute which makes men honour the
name to the very echo, is a sham, and tottering to its fall. Here the
confessing religionist hides by the fervour of his amens the
scepticism which he dares not show by the honesty of his negation;
there the respectable moralist denounces in his mask the iniquities
which he practises daily when he lays it aside. To the right the masks
of two loving friends greet each other with smiles and large
expressions of affection, then part, to push the friendly falsehood
aside, and to whisper confidentially to the crowd what scoundrelism
they have mutually embraced; to the left another couple of unreasoning
foes want only to see each other in unmasked simplicity to become fast
allies for life. The world and all it disguises play sad mischief with
human affections as well as with truth.

Everything serves for a mask. A man's public character makes one which
is as impenetrable in its disguise as any. The world takes one or two
salient points and subordinates every other characteristic to these.
It ignores all those subtle intricacies which modify thought and
action at every turn, producing apparent inconsistency--but only
apparent; and it boldly blocks out a mask of one or two dominant
lines as the representative of a nature protean because complex. Any
quality that makes itself seen from behind this mask which popular
opinion has created out of a man's public character is voted as
inconsistent, or, it may be, insincere; and the richer the nature the
less it is understood. So it is with us all in our degree:--a thought
which might lead us to gentler judgments on each other than it is the
fashion to cultivate, knowing as we do that we each wear a mask which
hides our real self from the world; and that if this real self is less
beautiful than our admirers say, it is infinitely less hideous than
our enemies would make it to appear.


We may say what we like about the worthlessness of the world and the
solid charms of home, but the plain fact, stripped of oratorical
disguise, is that we mostly give society the best we have and keep the
worst of ourselves for our own. The hero at home is not half so fine a
fellow as the hero in public, and cares far less for his audience.
Indeed, when looked at under the domestic microscope, he is frequently
found to be eminently un-heroic--something of the nature of a botch
rather than nobility in undress and an ideal brought down to the line
of sight; which would be the case if he and all things else were what
they seem, and if heroism, like fine gold, was good all through. This
is not saying that the hero in public is a cheat. He has only turned
the best of his cloak outside, and hidden the seams and frays next his
skin. We know that every man's cloak must have its seams and frays;
and the vital question for each man's life is, Who ought to see most
of them, strangers or friends? We fear it must be owned that, whoever
ought, it is our friends who do get the worst of our wardrobe--the
people we love, and for whom we would willingly die if necessary;
whilst strangers, for whom we have no kind of affection, are treated
to the freshest of the velvet and the brightest of the embroidery. The
man, say, who is pre-eminently good company abroad, who keeps a
dinner-table alive with his quick wit and keen repartee, and who has
always on hand a store of unhackneyed anecdotes, the latest _on dits_,
and the newest information not known to Reuter, but who hangs up his
fiddle at his own fireside and in the bosom of his family is as silent
as the vocal Memnon at midnight, is not necessarily a cheat. He is an
actor without a part to play or a stage whereon to play it; a hero
without a flag; a bit of brute matter without an energizing force.

The excitement of applause, the good wine and the pleasant dishes, the
bright eyes of pretty women, the half-concealed jealousy of clever
men, the sensation of shining--all these things, which are spurs to
him abroad, are wanting at home; and he has not the originating
faculty which enables him to dispense with these incentives. He is a
first-class hero on his own ground; but it would be a tremendous
downfall to his reputation were his admirers to see him as he is off
parade, without the pomps and vanities to show him to advantage. He
has just been the social hero of a dinner; 'so bright, so lively, so
delightful,' says the hostess enthusiastically, with a side blow to
her own proprietor, who perhaps is pleasant enough by the domestic
hearth but only a dumb dog in public. The party has been 'made' by
him, rescued from universal dullness by his efforts alone; and every
woman admires him as he leaves in a polite blaze of glory, and only
wishes he could be secured for her own little affair next week. So he
takes his departure, a hero to the last, with a happy thought for
every one and a bright word all round. The hall-door closes on him,
and the hero sinks into the husband. He is as much transformed as soon
as he steps inside his brougham as was ever Cinderella after twelve,
with her state coach and footmen gone to pumpkin and green lizards. He
likes his wife well enough, as wives and liking go; but she does not
stir him up intellectually, and her applause is no whetstone for his
wit. Put the veriest chit of a girl as bodkin between them and he will
waken into life again, and become once more the conversational hero,
because he is no longer wholly at home. His wife probably does not
like it, and she laughs, as wives do, when she hears his praises from
those who know him only at his best, letting off his fireworks for the
applause of the crowd.

But then wives are proverbially unflattering in their estimates of
their husbands' heroics; and the Truth that used to live at the bottom
of a well has changed her name and abode in these later times, and has
come to mean the partner of your joys, who gives you her candid
opinion at home. Still, your good company abroad who sits like a mute
Memnon at home is not pleasant, though not necessarily a sham.
Certainly he is no hero all through, but he may be nothing worse than
one of those unfortunates whose intellect lives on drams and does not
take kindly to domestic pudding.

His wife does not approve of this hanging up of the fiddle by his own
fireside; yet she does the same thing on her side, and is as little a
heroine by the domestic hearth as he is a hero. What his talk is to
him her beauty is to her; and for whom, let us ask, does she make
herself loveliest? For her husband, or for a handful of fops and snobs
each one of whom individually is more indifferent to her than the
other? See her in society, a very Venus dressed by Worth and Bond
Street, if not by the Graces. Follow her home, and see her as her maid
sees her. The abundant _chevelure_, which is the admiration of the men
and the envy of the women who believe in it, is taken off and hung up
like her great-grandfather's wig, leaving her small round head covered
by a wisp of ragged ends broken and burnt by dyes and restorers; her
bloom of glycerine and powder is washed from her face, showing the
faded skin and betraying lines beneath; the antimony is rubbed off her
eyelids; the effects of belladonna leave her now contracting pupils;
her perfectly moulded form is laid aside with her dress; and the fair
queen of the _salon_--the heroine of gaslight loveliness--stands as a
lay-figure with bare tracts of possibilities whereon the artist may
work, but which tracts nature has forgotten or which she herself has
worked on so unmercifully as to have worn out. How many a heartache
would be healed if only the heroine, like the hero, could be followed
to the sanctuary of the dressing-room, and if the adored could appear
to the adorer as does the one to the maid the other to the valet!

The tender, sympathetic, moist-eyed woman who condoles so sweetly with
your little troubles, and whose affectionate compassion soothes you
like the trickling of sweet waters or the cooling breath of a pleasant
air, but who leaves her sick husband at home to get through the weary
hours as he best may, who bullies her servants and scolds her
children--she too, is a heroine of a class that does not look well
when closely studied. The pretty young mother, making play with her
pretty young children in the Park--a smiling picture of love and
loveliness--when followed home, turning into a fretful, self-indulgent
fine lady, flung wearily into an easy chair, sending the children up
to the nursery and probably seeing them no more until Park hour
to-morrow, when their beautiful little _têtes d'ange_ will enhance her
own loveliness in the eyes of men, and make her more beautiful because
making the picture more complete; Mrs. Jellaby given up to universal
philanthropy, refusing a crust to the beggar at her own gate, but full
of tearful pity for the misery she has undertaken to mitigate at
Borioboolagha; Croesus scattering showers of gold abroad, and
applauded to the echo when his name, with the donation following, is
read out at a public dinner, but looking after the cheese-parings at
home; the eloquent upholder of human equality in public, snubbing in
private all who are one degree below him in the social scale, and
treating his servants like dogs; the no less eloquent descanter on the
motto _Noblesse oblige_, when the house-door is shut between him and
the world, running honesty so fine that it is almost undistinguishable
from roguery--all these heroes abroad show but shabbily at home, and
make their heroism within the four walls literally a vanishing

People who live on the outside of the charmed circle of letters, but
who believe that the men and women that compose it are of a different
mould from the rest of mankind, and who long to be permitted to
penetrate the rose-hedge and learn the facts of Armida's garden for
themselves, sometimes learn them too clearly for their dreams to be
ever possible again. They have a favourite author--a poet, say, or a
novelist. If a poet, he is probably one whose songs are full of that
delicious melancholy which makes them so divinely sad; an æsthetic
poet; a blighted being; a creature walking in the moonlight among the
graves and watering their flowers with his tears:--if a novelist, he
is one whose sprightly fancy makes the dull world gay. A friend takes
the worshipper to the shrine where the idol is to be found; in other
words, they go to call on him at his own house. The melancholy poet
'hidden in the light of thought,' is a rubicund, rosy-gilled
gentleman, brisk, middle-aged, comfortable, respectable, particular as
to his wines, a connoisseur as to the merits of the _chef_, a _bon
vivant_ of the Horatian order, and in his talk prone to personal
gossip and feeble humour. The lively novelist, on the other hand, is a
taciturn, morose kind of person, afflicted with perennial catarrh,
ever ready with an unpleasant suggestion, given to start disagreeable
topics of a grave, not to say depressing, nature, perhaps a rabid
politician incapable of a give-and-take argument, or a pessimistic
economist, taking gloomy views of the currency and despondent about
our carrying trade.

As for the women, they never look the thing they are reputed to be,
save in fashion, and sometimes in beauty. A woman who goes to public
meetings and makes speeches on all kinds of subjects, tough as well as
doubtful, presents herself in society with the look of an old maid and
the address of a shy schoolgirl. A sour kind of essayist, who finds
everything wrong and nothing in its place, has a face like the full
moon and looks as if she fed on cream and butter. A novelist who sails
very near the wind, and on whom the critics are severe by principle,
is as quiet as a Quakeress in her conversation and as demure as a nun
in her bearing; while a writer of religious tracts has her gowns from
Paris and gives small suppers out of the proceeds. The public
character and the private being of almost every person in the world
differ widely from each other; and the hero of history who is also the
hero to his valet has yet to be found.

Some people call this difference inconsistency, and some
manysidedness; to some it argues unreality, to others it is but the
necessary consequence of a complex human nature, and a sign that the
mind needs the rest of alternation just as much as the body. We cannot
be always in the same groove, never changing our attitude nor object.
Is it inconsistency or supplement, contradiction or compensation? The
sterner moralists, and those whose minds dwell on tares, say the
former; those who look for wheat even on the stony ground and among
thorns assert the latter. Anyhow, it is certain that those who desire
ideals and who like to worship heroes would do well to content
themselves with adoration at a long range. Distance lends enchantment,
and ignorance is bliss in more cases than one. Heroism at home is
something like the delicacy of Brobdingnag, or the grandiosity of
Lilliput; and the undress of the domestic hearth is more favourable to
personal comfort than to public glory. To keep our ideals intact we
ought to keep them unknown. Our goddesses should not be seen eating
beefsteaks and drinking stout; our poets are their best in print, and
social small-talk does not come like truths divine mended from their
tongue; our sages and philanthropists gain nothing, and may lose much,
by being rashly followed to their firesides. Yet a man's good work and
brave word are, in any case, part of his real self, though they may
not be the whole; and even if he is not true metal all through, his
gold, so far as it goes, counts for more than its alloy, and his
public heroism overtops his private puerility.


Few braver or hardier men are to be found in England than the Cornish
fishermen. Their business, at all times hazardous, is doubly so on a
coast so dangerous as theirs, where the charm of scenery is bought at
the expense of security. Isolated rocks which are set up like teeth
close round the jagged cliffs and far out from shore, cropping up at
intervals anywhere between Penzance and Scilly; sunken rocks which are
more perilous because more treacherous; strong currents which on the
calmest day keep the sea where they flow in perpetual turmoil; a
singularly tumultuous and changeable sea, where the ground-swell of
the Atlantic sweeps on in long waves which break into a surf that
would swamp any boat put out, even when there is not a breath of
surface-wind stirring; for the most part a very narrow channel to the
coves, a mere water-path as one may call it, beset by rocks which
would break the boats to splinters if they were thrown against
them--all these circumstances make the trade of the Cornish fishermen
exceptionally dangerous; but they also make the men themselves
exceptionally resolute and daring. They are true fighters with nature
for food; and, like the miners, they feel when they set out to their
work that they may never come back from it alive.

No man can predict what the sea will be an hour or two hence. Its
character changes with each fluctuation of the tide; and a calm and
halcyon lake may have become fierce and angry and tempest-tossed when
the ebb turns and the flow sets in. There are times too, when a boat
caught by the wind and drifted into a current would be as helpless as
a cork in a mill-race; and when a whole fleet of fishing-boats might
be blown out to sea, with perhaps half their number capsized. But, as
a rule, having learnt caution with their hardihood from the very
magnitude of the dangers which surround them, these Cornish men suffer
as little by shipwreck as do the fishermen of safer bays; and though
each cove has its own sad story, and every rock its victim, the worst
cases of wreck have been those of larger vessels which have mistaken
lights, or steered too close in shore, or been lost in the fogs that
are so frequent about the Land's End. Or they may have been caught by
the wind and the tide and driven dead on to a lee shore; as so often
happens in the bay between Hartland and Padstow Points.

But the more cautious the men are the less money they make; and though
life is certainly more than meat, life without meat at all, or with
only an insufficient quantity, is rather a miserable affair. The
material well-being of the poor fellows who live in those picturesque
little coves which are the delight and the despair of artists is not
in a very satisfactory condition. By the law of aggregation,
unification, whatever we like to call it--the law of the present day
by which individuals are absorbed into bodies that work for wages for
one master, instead of each man working for himself for his own
hand--the independent fishermen are daily becoming fewer. Save at
Whitesand Bay, where there is a 'poor man's seine' and 'a rich man's
seine,' almost all the seine nets belong now to companies or
partnerships of rich men; and in very few have the men themselves any

Fishermen's seines are not well regarded by the wealthy leaseholders
of the cove and foreshore; and the leaseholder has very large legal
rights and powers which it would be idle to blame him for exercising.
The cots are his, and the capstan is his, and the right of landing is
his; thus he can put on the screw when he wants to have things his own
way, and can threaten evictions, and the withdrawal of the right to
the capstan and to the landing-place, if the men will not go on his
seine, but choose either a united one of their own or independent
drift or trawl nets. Some, it is said, even object to the men fishing
at all, at any rate during the seine season; some have raised the
annual rent per boat for cove rights to three or four times its old
rate; and some go through a round of surly suspicion and irritating
supervision during the 'bulking' days, and higgle jealously over the
small share allowed to the hands in the catch. So that, on the whole,
the Cornish fisherman of the smaller coves has not much to boast of
beside his courage and good heart, and a sturdy independence and
honesty specially noticeable.

We know of no more animated scene than seine-fishing. From the first
act to the last there is a quaint old-world flavour about it
inexpressibly charming to people used to the prosaic life of modern
cities. The 'huers' who stand on the hills watching for the first
appearance of the 'school,' and who make known what they see either by
signals or calling through a huge metal trumpet, the sound of which no
one who has once heard it can ever forget; the smartness of the men
dressing the seine-boats which carry the huge net with all its
appurtenances; their quiet but eager watching for the school to come
within practicable distance--that is, into sufficiently shoal water,
and where the bottom is fairly level (else the fish all escape from
under the net); the casting or shooting of the seine enclosing the
school, and then the 'tucking' or lifting the fish from the sea to the
boats--every stage is full of interest; but this last is the prettiest
of all.

Imagine a moonlight night--low water at midnight--when the tucking
begins. The boat cannot come up to the ordinary landing, which is only
a roughly-paved causeway dipping by a gradual descent into the sea; so
those who would share in the sport are fain to take the fisherman's
path along the cliff and drop into the boat off the rocks. These rocks
are never very safe. Even the men themselves, trained to them as they
are from boyhood, sometimes slip on their slanting, broken,
seaweed-covered surfaces, when, if they cannot swim and are not
helped, all is over for them in this life; and for strangers they are
difficult at the best of times. But on an obscurely lighted night, and
after heavy rain, they are doubly risky. The incoming wave lifts the
boat a few inches higher and nearer; and you must catch the exact
moment and make a spring before she drifts off again with the ebb. The
row across the little bay is beautiful. The grey cliffs look solemn
and majestic in the pale light of the moon; the shadows are deep and
unfathomable; everywhere you see black rocks standing out from the
steely sea, and little lines of breakers mark the place of the sunken
rocks. In the distance shine the magnificent Lizard Lights, and the
red and white revolving light of the terrible Wolf Rock flashes on the
horizon; the moon touches the sea with silver, and the waves as they
rise and fall seem like molten metal in the heavy sluggish rhythm of
their flow. Only round the foot of the cliffs and about the rocks they
break into spray that serves as high lights against the sombre grey
and black of the landscape. You pull across to the opposite point, and
then round into another smaller bay where the cliffs rise sheer, and
the seine net is cast. You come into a little fleet of fishing-boats
set round on the outside of a circle of corks, within which is the
master-boat, where all hands are assembled pulling at the net, to draw
it closer. It is a stirring sight. Some dozen or more stalwart fellows
are hauling on the lines with the sailors' cheery cry and the sailors'
exuberant goodwill. Every now and then the master's voice cries out
'Break! break my sons!' when they shorten hold and go over to the
other side of the boat, pulling themselves gradually aslant again,
till the same order of 'Break! break!' shows that their purchase is
too slack. At last the net is hauled up close enough, and then the fun

All the boats engaged form a close circle round the inner line of
corks, which is now a little sea of silver where the imprisoned
pilchards beat and flutter, producing a sound for which we have no
satisfactory onomatopoetic word. In moonlight this little sea is
silver; in torchlight it is of fire with varied colours flashing
through the redder gleams; and in the dark it is a sea of
phosphorescent light, each mesh of the net, each fish, each seaweed
illuminated as if traced in flame. Every one is now busy. The men dip
in baskets, or maunds, expressly made for this purpose, and ladle out
the quivering fish by hundreds into the boats. In a few moments they
are standing leg-deep in pilchards. Every one on the spot is pressed
into the service, and even a boat manned by nothing more stalwart than
one or two half-sick and half-frightened women receives its orders;
and 'Hold on ladies! all hands hold on to the boat,' serves to keep
one of the busiest of the tucking-boats in equilibrium.

The men, for all their hearty work, are like a party of schoolboys at
play. Their humour may be rough, but it is never meant to be rude;
their goodwill is sincere, for they have a share, however small, in
the success of the catch; and the more they tuck, the more they will
have for their wives and families to live on through the winter. It is
their harvest-time; and they are as jocund as harvesters proverbially
are. There is no stint of volunteer labour either. Men who have been
working hard all day on their own account go out at midnight to lend a
hand to their mates at the seine. Even though the take is for a
hard-fisted master who would count fins if he could, and who would
refuse his men a head apiece if he thought his orders would be carried
out, they are all honestly glad. They remember the time when a rich
school was the wealth of the whole cove, and when a string of fresh
pilchards would be given freely to any one coming to the cove at the
time of bulking, or, as we should call it, storing.

Still, whatever of economic value there may be in this exploitation of
labour, it has its mournful side in the loss of individual value which
it includes. And no one can help feeling this who listens to the talk
of the elder fishermen, sorrowfully comparing the old days of personal
independence and generous lordship with the present ones of wages and
a wide-awake lesseeship, conscious of its legal rights and determined
to act on them.

When all the fish have been tucked there is nothing for it but to row
home again in the freshening morning air. The tide is rising now, and
the moon is waning. The rocks look blacker, the grey moss-grown cliffs
more solemn, more mysterious, the white surf breaking about them is
higher and sharper than when you set out; and the boom of the sea
thundering through cave and channel has a sound in it that makes you
feel as if land and your own bed would be preferable to an open boat
at the mercy of the Atlantic surges. The tide has so far risen that
you can land nearer to the paved causeway than before; but even now
you have to wait for the flow of the wave, then make a spring on to
the black and slimy rocks, which would be creditable to trained
gymnastic powers. So you go home, under the first streaks of dawn, wet
through and scaly, and smelling abominably of fish dashed with a
streak of tar for a richer kind of compound.

The whole place however, will smell of fish to-morrow and for many
to-morrows. When the tucking-boats are brought in, then the women take
their turn, and pack the pilchards in the fish-cellars or
salting-houses. Here they are said to be in 'bulk,' all laid on their
sides with their noses pointing outwards; layers of salt alternating
with layers of fish. Their great market is Italy, where they serve as
favourite Lenten fare. The Italians believe them to be smoked, and
hence call them _fumados_. This word the dear thick-headed British
sailor has caught up, according to his wont, and translated into 'fair
maids;' and 'fair maids'--pronounced firmads--is the popular name of
salted pilchards all through Cornwall.

The pilchard fishery begins as early as June or July; but then it is
further out to sea, sometimes twenty miles out. According to the old

    When the corn is in the shock
    The fish are at the rock;

harvest-time, which means from August to the end of October, being the
main season for pilchard-fishing in shoal-water close at home. There
are some choice bits of picturesque life still left to us in faraway
places where the ordinary tourist has not penetrated; but nothing is
more picturesque than seine-fishing in one of the wilder Cornish
coves, when the tucking goes on at midnight, either by moonlight or
torchlight, or only by the phosphorescent illumination of the sea
itself. No artist that we can remember at this moment has yet painted
it; but it is a subject which would well repay careful study and
loving handling.


The discontented woman would seem to be becoming an unpleasantly
familiar type of character. A really contented woman, thoroughly well
pleased with her duties and her destiny, may almost be said to be the
exception rather than the rule in these days of tumultuous revolt
against all fixed conditions, and vagrant energies searching for
interest in new spheres of thought and action. It seems impossible to
satisfy the discontented woman by any means short of changing the
whole order of nature and society for her benefit. And even then the
chances are that she would get wearied of her new work, and, like
Alexander, would weep for more worlds to rearrange according to her
liking--with the power to take or to leave the duties she had
voluntarily assumed, as she claims now the power of discarding those
which have been hers from the beginning. As things are, nothing
contents her; and the keynote which shall put her in harmony with
existing conditions, or make her ready to bear the disagreeable
burdens which she has been obliged to carry from Eve's time downward,
has yet to be found. If she is unmarried, she is discontented at the
want of romance in her life; her main desire is to exchange her
father's house for a home of her own; her pride is pained at the
prospect of being left an old maid unsought by men; and her instincts
rebel at the thought that she may never know maternity, the strongest
desire of the average woman.

But if she is married, the causes of her discontent are multiplied
indefinitely, and where she was out of harmony with one circumstance
she is now in discord with twenty. She is discontented on all sides;
because her husband is not her lover, and marriage is not perpetual
courtship; because he is so irritable that life with him is like
walking among thorns if she makes the mistake of a hair's-breadth; or
because he is so imperturbably good-natured that he maddens her with
his stolidity, and cannot be made jealous even when she flirts before
his eyes. Or she is discontented because she has so many household
duties to perform--the dinner to order, the books to keep, the
servants to manage; because she has not enough liberty, or because she
has too much responsibility; because she has so few servants that she
has to work with her own hands, or because she has so many that she is
at her wit's end to find occupation for them all, not to speak of
discipline and good management.

As a mother, she is discontented at the loss of personal freedom
compelled by her condition; at the physical annoyances and mental
anxieties included in the list of her nursery grievances. She would
probably fret grievously if she had no children at all, but she frets
quite as much when they come. In the former case she is humiliated, in
the latter inconvenienced, and in both discontented. Indeed, the way
in which so many women deliver up their children to the supreme
control of hired nurses proves practically enough the depth of their
discontent with maternity when they have it.

If the discontented woman is rich, she speaks despondingly of the
difficulties included in the fit ordering of large means; if she is
poor, life has no joys worth having when frequent change of scene is
unattainable, and the milliner's bill is a domestic calamity that has
to be conscientiously staved off by rigorous curtailment. If she lives
in London, she laments the want of freedom and fresh air for the
children, and makes the unhappy father, toiling at his City office
from ten till seven, feel himself responsible for the pale cheeks and
attenuated legs which are probably to be referred to injudicious diet
and the frequency of juvenile dissipations. But if she is in the
country, then all the charm of existence is centred in London and its
thoroughfares, and not the finest scenery in the world is to be
compared with the attractions of the shops in Regent Street or the
crowds thronging Cheapside.

This question of country living is one that presses heavily on many a
female mind; but we must believe that, in spite of the plausible
reasons so often assigned, the chief causes of discontent are want of
employment and deadness of interest in the life that lies around. The
husband makes himself happy with his rod and gun, with his garden or
his books, with huntsmen or bricklayers, as his tastes lead him; but
the wife--we are speaking of the wife given over to disappointment and
discontent, for there are still, thank Heaven, bright, busy, happy
women both in country and in town--sits over the fire in winter and by
the empty hearth in summer, and finds all barren because she is
without an occupation or an interest within doors or without. Ask her
why she does not garden--if her circumstances are of the kind where
hands are scarce and even a lady's energies would do potent service
among the flower beds; and she will tell you it makes her back ache,
and she does not know a weed from a flower, and would be sure to pick
up the young seedlings for chickweed and groundsel. And if she is rich
and has hands about her who know their business and guard it
jealously, she takes shelter behind her inability to do actual manual
labour side by side with them.

Within doors active housekeeping is repulsive to her; and though her
servants may be quasi-savages, she prefers the dirt and discomfort of
idleness to the domestic pleasantness to be had by her own industry
and practical assistance. Unless she has a special call towards some
particular party in the Church, she does nothing in the parish, and
seems to think philanthropy and help to one's poorer neighbours part
of the ecclesiastical machinery of the country, devolving on the
Rectory alone. She gets bilious through inaction and heated rooms, and
then says the place disagrees with her and will be the death of her
before long. She cannot breathe among the mountains; the moor and
plain are too exposed; the sea gives her a fit of melancholy whenever
she looks at it, and she calls it cruel, crawling, hungry, with a
passion that sounds odd to those who love it; she hates the leafy
tameness of the woods and longs for the freer uplands, the vigorous
wolds, of her early days.

Wherever, in short, the discontented woman is, it is just where she
would rather not be; and she holds fate and her husband cruel beyond
words because she cannot be transplanted into the exact opposite of
her present position. But mainly and above all she desires to be
transplanted to London. If you were to get her confidence, she would
perhaps tell you she thinks the advice of that sister who counselled
the Lady of Groby to burn down the house, whereby her husband would be
compelled to take her to town, the wisest and most to the purpose that
one woman could give to another. So she mopes and moons through the
days, finding no pleasure anywhere, taking no interest in anything,
viewing herself as a wifely martyr and the oppressed victim of
circumstances; and then she wonders that her husband is always ready
to leave her company and that he evidently finds her more tiresome
than delightful. If she would cultivate a little content she might
probably change the aspect of things even to finding the mountains
beautiful and the sea sublime; but dissatisfaction with her condition
is the Nessus garment which clings to the unhappy creature like a
second self, destroying all her happiness and the chief part of her

Women of this class say that they want more to do, and a wider field
for their energies than any of those assigned to them by the natural
arrangement of personal and social duties. As administrators of the
fortune which man earns, and as mothers--that is, as the directors,
caretakers, and moulders of the future generation--they have as
important functions as those performed by vestrymen and surgeons. But
let that pass for the moment; the question is not where they ought to
find their fitting occupation and their dearest interests, but where
they profess a desire to do so. As it is, this desire for an enlarged
sphere is one form among many which their discontent takes; yet when
they are obliged to work, they bemoan their hardship in having to find
their own food, and think that men should either take care of them
gratuitously or make way for them chivalrously. In spite of Scripture,
they find that the battle is to the strong and the race to the swift;
and they do not like to be overcome by the one nor distanced by the
other. Their idea of a clear stage is one that includes favour to
their own side; yet they put on airs of indignation and profess
themselves humiliated when men pay the homage of strength to their
weakness and treat them as ladies rather than as equals.

Elsewhere they complain when they are thrust to the side by the
superior force of the ungodly sex; and think themselves ill-used if
fewer hours of labour--and that labour of what Mr. Carlyle called a
'slim' and superficial kind--cannot command the market and hold the
field against the better work and more continuous efforts of men.
There is nothing of which women speak with more bitterness than of the
lower rates of payment usually accorded to their work; nothing wherein
they seem to be so utterly incapable of judging of cause and effect;
or of taking to heart the unchangeable truth that the best must
necessarily win in the long run, and that the first condition of
equality of payment is equality in the worth of the work done. If
women would perfect themselves in those things which they do already
before carrying their efforts into new fields, we cannot but think it
would be better both for themselves and the world.

Life is a bewildering tangle at the best, but the discontented woman
is not the one to make it smoother. The craze for excitement and for
unfeminine publicity of life has possessed her, to the temporary
exclusion of many of the sweeter and more modest qualities which were
once distinctively her own. She must have movement, action, fame,
notoriety; and she must come to the front on public questions, no
matter what the subject, to ventilate her theories and show the
quality of her brain. She must be professional all the same as man,
with M.D. after her name; and perhaps, before long, she will want to
don a horsehair wig over her back hair, and address 'My Lud' on behalf
of some interesting criminal taken red-handed, or to follow the
tortuous windings of Chancery practice. When that time comes, and as
soon as the novelty has worn off, she will be sure to complain of the
hardness of the grind and the woes of competition; and the obscure
female apothecary struggling for patients in a poor neighbourhood--the
unemployed lady lawyer waiting in dingy chambers for the clients who
never come--will look back with envy and regret to the time when women
were cared for by men, protected and worked for, and had nothing more
arduous to do than attend to the house, spend the money they did not
earn and forbear to add to the anxieties they did not share. Could
they get all the plums and none of the suet it would be fine enough;
but we question whether they will find the battle of life as carried
on in the lower ranks of the hitherto masculine professions one whit
more ennobling or inspiriting than it is now in their own special
departments. Like the poor man who, being well, wished to be better,
and came to the grave as the result, they do not know when they are
well off; and in their search for excitement, and their discontent
with the monotony, undutifulness and inaction which they have created
for themselves, they run great danger of losing more than they can
gain, and of only changing the name, while leaving untouched the real
nature, of the disease under which they are suffering.


Those persons who object to the influence of the clergy in their
parishes at home, and who dislike the idea of being laid hold of by
the ecclesiastical crook and dragged perforce up steep ways and narrow
paths, ought to visit some of our little outlying settlements in
foreign parts. They might take a revengeful pleasure in seeing how the
tables there are turned against the tyrants here, and how weak in the
presence of his transmarine flock is the expatriated shepherd whose
rod at home is oftentimes a rod of iron, and his crook more compelling
than persuasive. Of all men the most to be pitied is surely the
clergyman of one of those small English settlements which are
scattered about France and Italy, Germany and Switzerland; and of all
men of education, and what is meant by the position of a gentleman, he
is the most in thraldom.

His very means of living depending on his congregation, he must first
of all please that congregation and keep it in good humour. So, it may
be said, must a clergyman in London whose income is from pew-rents and
whose congregation are not his parishioners. But London is large; the
tempers and thoughts of men are as numerous as the houses; there is
room for all, and lines of affinity for all. The Broad Churchman will
attract his hearers, and the Ritualist his, from out of the mass, as
magnets attract steel filings; and each church will be filled with
hearers who come there by preference. But in a small and stationary
society, in a congregation already made and not specially attracted,
yet by which he has to live, the clergyman finds himself more the
servant than the leader, less the pastor than the thrall. He must
'suit,' else he is nowhere, and his bread and butter are vanishing
points in his horizon; that is, he must preach and think, not
according to the truth that is in him, but according to the views of
the most influential of his hearers, and in attacking their souls he
must touch tenderly their tempers.

These tempers are for the most part lions in the way difficult to
propitiate. The elementary doctrines of Christianity must be preached
of course, and sin must be held up as the thing to avoid, while virtue
must be complimented as the thing to be followed, and a spiritual
state of mind must be discreetly advocated. These are safe
generalities; but the dangers of application are many. How to preach
of duties to a body of men and women who have thrown off every
national and local obligation?--who have left their estates to be
managed by agents, their houses to be filled by strangers, who have
given up their share of interest in the school and the village
reading-room, the poor and the parish generally--men and women who
have handed themselves over to indolence and pleasure-seeking, the
luxurious enjoyment of a fine climate, the pleasant increase of income
to be got by comparative cheapness of breadstuffs, and the abandonment
of all those outgoings roughly comprised under the head of local
duties and local obligations?--how, indeed? They have no duties to be
reminded of in those moral generalizations which touch all and offend
none; and the clergyman who should go into details affecting his
congregation personally, who should preach against sloth and slander,
pleasure-seeking and selfishness, would soon preach to empty pews and
be cut by his friends as an impertinent going beyond his office.

His congregation too, composed of educated ladies and gentlemen, is
sure to be critical, and therefore all but impossible to teach. If he
inclines a hair's breadth to the right or the left beyond the point at
which they themselves stand, he is held to be unsound. His sermons are
gravely canvassed in the afternoon conclaves which meet at each
other's houses to discuss the excitement of the Sunday morning in the
new arrivals or the new toilets. Has he dwelt on the humanity
underlying the Christian faith? He is drifting into Socinianism; and
those whose inclinations go for abstract dogmas well backed by
brimstone say that he does not preach the Gospel. Has he exalted the
functions of the minister, and tried to invest his office with a
spiritual dignity and power that would furnish a good leverage over
his flock? He is accused of sacerdotalism, and the free-citizen blood
of his listening Erastians is up and flaming. Does he, to avoid these
stumbling-blocks, wander into the deeper mysteries and discourse on
things which no man can either explain or understand? He is accused of
presumption and profanity, and is advised to stick to the Lord's
Prayer and the Sermon on the Mount. If he is earnest he is
impertinent; if he is level he is cold. Each member of his
congregation, subscribing a couple of guineas towards his support,
feels as if he or she had claims to that amount over the body and soul
and mind and powers of the poor parson in his or her pay; and the
claim is generally worked out in snippets, not individually dangerous
to life nor fortune, but inexpressibly aggravating, and as depressing
as annoying. For the most part, the unhappy man is safest when he
sticks to broad dogma, and leaves personal morality alone. And he is
almost sure to be warmly applauded when he has a shy at science, and
says that physicists are fools who assert more than they can prove,
because they cannot show why an acorn should produce an oak, nor how
the phenomena of thought are elaborated. This throwing of date-stones
is sure to strike no listening djinn. The mass of the congregations
sitting in the English Protestant churches built on foreign soil, know
little and care less about the physical sciences; but it gives them a
certain comfortable glow to think that they are so much better than
those sinful and presumptuous men who work at bacteria and the
spectroscope; and they hug themselves as they say, each man in his
own soul, how much nicer it is to be dogmatically safe than
intellectually learned.

Preaching personal morality indeed, with possible private application,
would be rather difficult in dealing with a congregation not
unfrequently made up of doubtful elements. Take that pretty young
woman and her handsome _roué_-looking husband, who have come no one
knows whence and are no one knows what, but who attend the services
with praiseworthy punctuality, spend any amount of money, and are
being gradually incorporated into the society of the place. The parson
may have had private hints conveyed to him from his friends at home
that, of the matrimonial conditions between the two, everything is
real save the assumed 'lines.' But how is he to say so? They have made
themselves valuable members of his congregation, and give larger
donations than any one else. They have got the good will of the
leading persons in the sacred community, and, having something to
hide, are naturally careful to please, and are consequently popular.
He can scarcely give form and substance to the hints he has had
conveyed to him; yet his conscience cries out on the one side, if his
weakness binds him to silence on the other. In any case, how can he
make himself the Nathan to this questionable David, and, holding forth
on the need of virtuous living, thunder out, 'Thou art the man!'? Let
him try the experiment, and he will find a hornet's nest nothing to

How too, can he preach honesty to men, perhaps his own churchwardens,
who have outrun the constable and outwitted their creditors at one and
the same time? How lecture women who flirt over the borders on the
week days, but pay handsomely for their sittings on Sundays, on the
crown with which Solomon endowed the lucky husband of the virtuous
woman? He may wish to do all this; but his wife and children, and the
supreme need of food and firing, step in between him and the higher
functions of his calling; and he owns himself forced to accept the
world as he finds it, sins and shortcomings with the rest, and to take
heed lest he be eaten up by over-zeal or carried into personal
darkness by his desire for his people's light.

Sometimes the poor man is in thrall to some one in particular rather
than to his flock as a body; and there are times when this dominant
power is a woman; in which case the many contrarieties besetting his
position may be multiplied _ad infinitum_. Nothing can exceed the
miserable subjection of a clergyman given over to the tender mercies
of a feminine despot. She knows everything, and she governs as much as
she knows. She makes herself the arbiter of his whole life, from his
conscience to his children's boots, and he can call neither his soul
nor his home his own. She prescribes his doctrine, and takes care to
let him know when he has transgressed the rules she has laid down for
his guidance. She treats the hymns as part of her personal
prerogative, and is violently offended if those having a ritualistic
tendency are sung, or if those are taken whereof the tunes are too
jaunty or the measure is too slow. The unfortunate man feels under her
eye during the whole of the service, like a schoolboy under the eye of
his preceptress; and he dare not even begin the opening sentences
until she has rustled up the aisle and has said her private prayer
quite comfortably. She holds over his head the terror of vague threats
and shadowy misfortunes should he cross her will; but at the same time
he does not find that running in her harness brings extra grist to his
mill, nor that his way is the smoother because he treads in the
footsteps she has marked out for him.

Sometimes she takes a craze against a voluntary; sometimes she objects
to any approach to chanting; and if certain recalcitrants of the
congregation, in possession of the harmonium, insist on their own
methods against hers, she writes home to the Society and complains of
the thin edge of the wedge and the Romanizing tendencies of her
spiritual adviser. In any case she is a fearful infliction; and a
church ruled by a female despot is about the most pitiable instance we
know of insolent tyranny and broken-backed dependence.

But the clergymen serving these transmarine stations are not often
themselves men of mark nor equal to their contemporaries at home. They
are often sickly, which means a low amount of vital energy; oftener
impecunious, which presupposes want of grip and precludes real
independence. They are men whose career has been somehow arrested; and
their natures have suffered in the blight that has befallen their
hopes. Their whole life is more or less a compromise, now with
conscience, now with character; and they have to wink at evils which
they ought to denounce, and bear with annoyances which they ought to
resent. In most cases they are obliged to eke out their scanty incomes
by taking pupils; and here again the millstone round their necks is
heavy, and they have to pay a large moral percentage on their
pecuniary gains. If their pupils are of the age when boys begin to
call themselves men, they have to keep a sharp look-out on them; and
they suffer many things on the score of responsibility when that
look-out is evaded, as it necessarily must be at times. As the
characteristic quality of small societies is gossip, and as gossip
always includes exaggeration, the peccadilloes of the young fellows
are magnified into serious sins, and then bound as a burden on the
back of the poor cleric in thrall to the idle imaginings of men and
the foolish fears of women. One black sheep in the pupilary flock will
do more damage to the reputation of the unhappy pastor who has them in
hand than a dozen shining lights will do him good. Morality is assumed
to be the free gift of the tutor to the pupil; and if the boy is bad
the man is to blame for not having made that free-gift betimes.

Look at it how we will, the clergyman in charge of these foreign
congregations has no very pleasant time of it. In a sense
expatriated; his home ties growing daily weaker; his hope of home
preferment reduced to _nil_; his liberty of conscience a dream of the
past; and all the mystical power of his office going down in the
conflict caused by the need of pew-rents, submission to tyrants, and
dependence on the Home Society, he lives from year to year bemoaning
the evil chances which have flung him on this barren, shifting,
desolate strand, and becoming less and less fitted for England and
English parochial work--that castle in the air, quiet and secure,
which he is destined never to inhabit. He is touched too in part by
the atmosphere of his surroundings; and to a congregation without
duties a clergyman with views more accommodating than severe comes
only too naturally as the appropriate pastor. The whole thing proves
that thraldom to the means of living, or rather to the persons
representing those means, damages all men alike--those in cassock and
gown as well as those in slop and blouse--and that lay influence can,
in certain circumstances, be just as tyrannical over the clerical
conscience as clerical influence is apt to be tyrannical over lay


We know all that can be said in laudation of old friends--the people
whose worth has been tried and their constancy proved--who have come
when you have called and danced when you have piped--been faithful in
sunshine and shadow alike--not envious of your prosperity nor
deserting you in your adversity--old friends who, like old wine, have
lost the crudity of newness, have mellowed by keeping, and have
blended the ripeness of age with the vigour of youth. It is all true
in certain circumstances and under certain conditions; but the old
friend of this ideal type is as hard to find as any other ideal; while
bad imitations abound, and life is rendered miserable by them.

There are old friends who make the fact of old friendship a basis for
every kind of unpleasantness. Their opinion is not asked, but they
volunteer it on all occasions, and are sure to give it in the manner
which galls you most and which you can least resent. They snub you
before your latest acquaintances--charming people of good status with
whom you especially desire to stand well; and break up your
pretensions of present superiority by that sledge-hammer of old
friendship which knows you down to the ground and will stand no
nonsense. The more formal and fastidious your company, the more they
will rasp your nerves by the coarse familiarity of their address; and
they know no greater pleasure than to put you in a false position by
pretending to keep you in your true place. They run in on you at all
times; and you have neither an hour undisturbed nor a pursuit
uninterrupted, still less a circumstance of your life kept sacred from
them. The strictest orders to your servant are ignored; and they push
past any amount of verbal barriers with the irresistible force of old
friendship to which nothing can be denied. Whatever you are doing you
can just see them, they say, smiling; and they have neither conscience
nor compassion when they come and eat up your time, which is your
money, for the gratification of hearing themselves talk and of
learning how you are getting on. They do not scruple to ask about your
affairs direct questions to which you must perforce give an answer;
silence or evasion betraying the truth as much as assent; and they
will make you a present of their mind on the matter, which, though to
the last degree condemnatory, you are expected to accept with becoming
gratitude and humility.

If you have known them in your early boyhood, when you were all
uncivilized hail-fellows together, they refuse to respect your maturer
dignity, and will Tom and Dick and Harry you to the end, though you
sit in a horsehair wig on the bench, while your old friend, once your
class-mate of the country grammar school where you both got your
rudiments, is only a city clerk, badly paid and married to his
landlady's daughter.

To women this kind of return from the grave of the past is a dreadful
infliction and oftentimes a danger. The playfellows of the romping
hoydenish days dash home, bearded and bronzed, from Australia or
California; stride into the calm circle of refined matronhood with the
old familiar manner and using the old familiar terms; ask Fan or Nell
if she remembers this or that adventure on the mountain-side? by the
lake? in the wood?--topping their query by a meaning laugh as if more
remained behind than was expedient to declare. They slap the dignified
husband on the back, and call him a d----d lucky dog; telling him
that they envy him his catch, and would gladly stand in his shoes if
they could. It was all that cross-cornered cursed fate of theirs which
sent them off to Australia or California; else he, the dignified
husband, would never have had the chance--hey, Fan? And they wink when
they say it, as if they had good grounds to go on. The wife is on
thorns all the time these hateful visits last. She wonders how she
could ever have been on romping terms with such a horror, even in her
youngest days; and feels that she shall hate her own name for ever,
after hearing it mouthed and bawled by her old friend with such
aggressive familiarity. The husband, if jealous by nature, begins to
look sullen and suspicious. Even if he is not jealous, but only
reserved and conventional, he does not like what he sees, still less
what he hears; and is more than half inclined to think he has made a
mistake, and that the Fan or Nell of his bosom would have been better
mated with the old friend from the backwoods than with him.

The old friends who turn up in this way at all corners of your life
are sure to be needy, and hold their old friendship as a claim on your
balance at the bank. They stick closer to you than a brother, and you
are expected to stick as close to them; and, as a sign thereof, to
provide for their necessities as so much interest on the old account
of affection still running. If you shrink from them and try to shunt
them quietly, they go about the world proclaiming your ingratitude,
and trumpeting forth their deserts and your demerits. They deride your
present success, which they call stuck-up and mushroom; telling all
the minor miseries of your past, when your father found it hard to
provide suitably for his large family, and their mother had more than
once to give yours a child's frock and pinafore in pity for your rags.
They generally contrive to make a division in your circle; and you
find some of your new friends look coldly on you because it is said
you have been ungrateful to your old. The whole story may be a myth,
the mere coinage of vanity and disappointment; but when did the world
stop to prove the truth before it condemned?

There is no circumstance so accidental, no kindness so trivial, that
it cannot be made to constitute a claim to friendship for life and
all that friendship includes--intimacy before the world; pecuniary
help when needed; no denial of time; no family secrets; unvarying
inclusion in all your entertainments; personal participation in all
your successes; liberty to say unpleasant things without offence and
to interfere in your arrangements; and the right to take at least one
corner of your soul, and that not a small one, which is not to be your
own but your old friends'. Have they, by the merest chance, introduced
you to your wife the beautiful heiress, to your husband the good
match?--the world echoes with the news, and the echoes are never
suffered to die out. It is told everywhere, and always as if your
happy marriage were the object they had had in view from the earliest
times--as if they had lived and worked for a consummation which in
reality came about by the purest accident. Have they been helpful and
friendly when your first child was born, or nursery sickness was in
your house?--you are bought for life, you and your offspring; unless
you have had the happy thought of making them sponsors, when they
learn the knack of disappearing from your immediate circle, and of
only turning up on those formal occasions which do not admit of making
presents. Did they introduce you to your first employer?--your
subsequent success is the work of their hands, and they bear your fame
on their shoulders like complacent Atlases balancing the world.

They go about cackling to every one who will listen to them how they
got your first essay into print; how they mentioned your name to the
Commissioners, and how, in consequence, the Commissioners gave you
that place whence dates your marvellous rise in life; how they advised
your father to send you to sea and so to make a man of you, and thus
were the indirect cause of your K.C.B.-ship. But for them you would
have been a mere nobody, grubbing in a dingy City office to this day.
They gave you your start, and you owe all you are to them. And if you
fail to honour their draft on your gratitude to the fullest amount,
they proclaim you a defaulter to the most sacred claims and the most
pious feelings of humanity. You point the moral of the base
ingratitude of man, and are a text on which they preach the sermon of
non-intervention in the affairs of others. Let drowning men sink; let
the weak go to the wall; and on no account let any one trouble himself
about the welfare of old friends, if this is to be the reward.
Henceforth, you are morally branded, and your old friend takes care
that the iron shall be hot. There is no service, however trifling, but
can be made a yoke to hang round your neck for life; and the more you
struggle against it the more it galls you. Your best plan of bearing
it is with the patience which laughs and lets things slide. If
however, you are resolute in repudiation, you must take the sure
result without wincing.

To these friends of your own add the friends of the family--those
uncomfortable adhesives who cling to you like so many octopods,
and are not to be shaken off by any means known to you. They claim
you as their own--something in which they have the rights of
part-proprietorship--because they knew you when you were in your
cradle, and had bored your parents as they want to bore you. It is of
no use to say that circumstances are of less weight than character.
You and they may stand at opposite poles in thought, in aspiration, in
social condition, in habits. Nevertheless they insist on it that the
bare fact of longtime acquaintance is to be of more value than all
these vital discrepancies; and you find yourself saddled with friends
who are utterly uncongenial to you in every respect, because your
father once lived next door to them in the country town where you were
born, and spent one evening a week in their society playing long whist
for threepenny points. You inherit your weak chest and your snub nose,
gout in your blood and a handful of ugly skeletons in your cupboard;
these are things you cannot get rid of; things which come as part of
the tangled yarn of your life and are the inalienable misfortunes of
inheritance; but it is too bad to add family friends whom of your own
accord you would never have known; and to have them seated as Old Men
of the Sea on your neck, never to be shaken off while they live.

In fact, this whole question of friendship wants revision. The general
tendency is to make it too stringent in its terms, and too
indissoluble in its fastenings. If the present should not make one
forget the past, neither should the past tyrannize over the present.
Old friends may have been pleasant enough in their day, but a day is
not for ever, and they are hurtful and unpleasant now, under new
conditions and in changed circumstances. They disturb the harmony of
our surroundings, and no one can feel happy in discord.

They themselves too, change; we all do, as life goes on and experience
increases; and it is simply absurd to bring the old fashions of early
days into the new relations of later times. We are not the Tom, Dick,
and Harry of our boyhood in any essential save identity of person;
neither are they the Bill and Jim they were. We have gone to the
right, they to the left; and the gap between us is wider and deeper
than that of mere time. Of what use then, to try to galvanize the dead
past into the semblance of vitality? Each knows in his heart that it
is dead; and the only one who wishes to galvanize it into simulated
life is the one who will somehow benefit by the discomfort and
abasement of the other. For our own part, we think one of the most
needful things to learn on our way through the world is, that the dead
are dead, and that silent burial is better than spasmodic galvanism.


The three chief causes of personal popularity among women are, the
admiration which is excited, the sympathy which is given, or the
pleasure that can be bestowed. We put out of court for our present
purpose the popularity which accompanies political power or
intellectual strength, this being due to condition, not quality, and
therefore not of the sort we mean. Besides, it belongs to men rather
than to women, who seldom have any direct power that can advance
others, and still seldomer intellectual strength enough to obtain a
public following because of their confessed supremacy. The popular
women we mean are simply those met with in society--women whose
natural place is the drawing-room and whose sphere is the well-dressed
world--women who are emphatically ladies, and who understand _les
convenances_ and obey them, even if they take up a cause, practise
philanthropy or preach philosophy. But the popular woman rarely does
take up a cause or make her philanthropy conspicuous and her
philosophy audible. Partizanship implies angles; and she has no
angles. If of the class of the admired, she is most popular who is
least obtrusive in her claims and most ingenuous in ignoring her
superiority. A pretty woman, however pretty, if affected, vain, or apt
to give herself airs, may be admired but is never popular. The men
whom she snubs sneer at her in private; the women whom she eclipses as
well as snubs do more than sneer; those only to whom she is gracious
find her beauty a thing of joy; but as she is distractingly eclectic
in her favouritism she counts as many foes as she has friends; and
though those who dislike her cannot call her ugly, they can call her
disagreeable, and do. But the pretty woman who wears her beauty to all
appearance unconsciously, never suffering it to be aggressive to other
women nor wilfully employing it for the destruction of men, who is
gracious in manner and of a pleasant temper, who is frank and
approachable, and does not seem to consider herself as something
sacred and set apart from the world because nature made her lovelier
than the rest--she is the woman whom all unite in admiring, the
popular person _par excellence_ of her set.

The popular pretty woman is one who, take her as a young wife (and she
must be married), honestly loves her husband, but does not thrust her
affection into the face of the world, and never flirts with him in
public. Indeed, she flirts with other men just enough to make time
pass pleasantly, and enjoys a rapid waltz or a lively conversation as
much as when she was seventeen and before she was appropriated. She
does not think it necessary to go about morally ticketed; nor does she
find it vital to her dignity nor to her virtue to fence herself round
with coldness or indifference to the multitude by way of proving her
loyalty to one. Still, as it is notorious that she does love her
husband, and as every one knows that he and she are perfectly content
with each other and therefore not on the look-out for supplements, the
men with whom she has those innocent little jokes, those transparent
secrets, those animated conversations, that confessed friendship and
good understanding, do not make mistakes; and the very women belonging
to them forget to be censorious, even though this other, this popular
woman, is so much admired.

This popular woman is a mother too, and a fond one. Hence she can
sympathize with other mothers, and expatiate on their common
experiences in the confidential chat over five o'clock tea, as all
fond mothers do and should. She keeps a well-managed house, and is
notorious for the amount of needlework she gets through; and of which
she is prettily proud; not being ashamed to tell you that the dress
you admire so much was made by her own hands, and she will give your
wife the pattern if she likes; while she boasts of even rougher
upholstery work which she and her maid and her sewing-machine have got
through with despatch and credit. She gives dinners with a _cachet_ of
their own--dinners which have evidently been planned with careful
thought and study; and she is not above her work as mistress and
organizer of her household. Yet she finds time to keep abreast with
the current literature of the day, and never has to confess to
ignorance of the ordinary topics of conversation. She is not a woman
of extreme views about anything. She has not signed improper papers
and she does not discuss improper questions; she does not go in for
woman's rights; she has a horror of facility of divorce; and she sets
up for nothing--being neither an Advanced Woman desirous of usurping
the possessions and privileges of men, nor a Griselda who thinks her
proper place is at the feet of men, to take their kicks with patience
and their caresses with gratitude, as is becoming in an inferior
creature. She does not dabble in politics; and though she likes to
make her dinners successful and her evenings brilliant, she by no
means assumes to be a leader of fashion nor to impose laws on her
circle. She likes to be admired, and she is always ready to let
herself be loved. She is always ready too, to do any good work that
comes in her way; and she finds time for the careful overlooking of a
few pet charities about which she makes no parade, just as she finds
time for her nursery and her needlework. And, truth to tell, she
enjoys these quiet hours, with only her children to love her and her
poor pensioners to admire her, quite as much as she enjoys the
brilliant receptions where she is among the most popular and the most

Her nature is gentle, her affections are large, her passions small.
She may have prejudices, but they are prejudices of a mild kind,
mainly on the side of modesty and tenderness and the quietude of true
womanhood. She is woman throughout, without the faintest dash of the
masculine element in mind or manners; and she aspires to be nothing
else. She carries with her an atmosphere of happiness, of content, of
spiritual completeness, of purity which is not prudery. Her life is
filled with a variety of interests; consequently she is never peevish
through monotony, nor yet, on the other hand, is she excited, hurried,
storm-driven, as those who give themselves up to 'objects,' and
perfect nothing because they attempt too much. She is popular, because
she is beautiful without being vain; loving without being sentimental;
happy in herself, yet not indifferent to others; because she
understands her drawing-room duties as well as her domestic ones, and
knows how to combine the home life with social splendour. This is the
best type of the popular pretty woman to whom is given admiration, and
against whom no one has a stone to fling nor a slander to whisper; and
this is the ideal woman of the English upper-class home, of whom we
still raise a few specimens, just to show what women may be if they
like, and what sweet and lovely creatures they are when they are
content to be as nature designed them.

Another kind of popular woman is the sympathetic woman, the woman who
gives instead of receiving. This kind is of variable conditions. She
may be old, she may be ugly; in fact, she is more often both than
neither; but she is a universal favourite notwithstanding, and no
woman is more sought after nor less wearied of, although few can say
why they like her. She may be married; but generally she is either a
widow or an old maid; for, if she be a wife, her sympathies for things
abroad are necessarily somewhat cramped by the pressure of those at
home;--and her sympathies are her claim to popularity. She is sincere
too, as well as sympathetic, and she is safe. She holds the secrets of
all her friends; but no one suspects that any before himself has
confided in her. She has the art, or rather the charm, of perpetual
spiritual freshness, and all her friends think in turn that the
fountain has been unsealed now for the first time. This is not
artifice; it is simply the property of deep and inexhaustible
sympathy. It is not necessary that she should be a wise adviser to be
popular. Her province is to listen and to sympathize; to gather the
sorrows and the joys of others into her own breast, so as to soften by
sharing or heighten by reduplication. Most frequently she is not over
rigid in her notions of moral prudence, and will let a lovesick girl
talk of her lover, even if the affair be hopeless and has been
forbidden; while she will do her best to soothe the man who has had
the misfortune to get crazed about his friend's wife. She has been
even known, under pressure, to convey a message or a hint; and of the
two she is decidedly more pitiful to sorrow than severe to
wrong-doing. She is in all the misfortunes and maladies of her
friends. No death takes place without her bearing part of the
mourning on her own soul; but then no marriage is considered complete
in which she has not a share. She is called on to help whenever there
is work to be done, if she be of the practical type; if of the mental,
she has merely to give up her own pleasures and her time that she may
look on and sympathize. Every one likes her; every one takes to her at
first sight; no one is jealous of her; and the law of her life is to
spend and be spent for others. It not rarely happens though, that she
who does so much for those others has to bear her own burden
unassisted; and that she sits at home surrounded by those spectres of
despair, those ghosts of sorrow, which she helps to dispel from the
homes of others. But she is not selfish; and while she trudges along
cheerfully enough under the heavy end of her friend's crosses, she
asks no one to lay so much as a finger on her own. In consequence of
which no one imagines that she ever suffers at all on her own account;
and most of her friends would take it as a personal affront were she
to turn the tables and ask for the smallest portion of that of which
she had given so much to others. She is the moral anodyne of her
circle; and when she ceases to soothe, she abdicates the function
assigned to her by nature and dies out of her allotted uses.

Another kind of popular person is the woman whose sympathies are more
superficial, but whose faculties are more brilliant; the woman who
makes herself agreeable, as it is called--that is, who can talk when
she is wanted to talk; listen when she is wanted to listen; take a
prominent part and some responsibility or keep her personality in the
background, according to circumstances and the need of the moment; who
is eminently a useful member of society, and popular just in
proportion to the pleasure she can shed around her. But she offends no
one, even though she is notoriously sought after and made much of; for
she is good-natured to all, and people are not jealous of those who do
not flaunt their successes and whom popularity does not make insolent.
The popular woman of this kind is always ready to help in the pleasure
of others. She is a fair-weather friend, and shrinks with the most
charming frankness from those on whom dark days have fallen. She is
really very sorry when any of her friends fall out from the ranks, and
are left behind to the tender mercies of those cruel camp-followers in
the march of life--sorrow or sickness; but she feels that her place is
not with them--rather with the singers and players who are stepping
along in front making things pleasant for the main body. But if she
cannot stop to smooth the pillows of a dying-bed, nor soothe the
troubles of an aching heart, she can organize delightful parties; set
young people to congenial games; take off bores on to her own
shoulders, and even utilize them for the neutralization of other
bores. She is good for the back seat or the front, as is most
convenient to others. She can shine at the state-dinner where you want
a serviceable show, or make a diversion in the quiet, not to say
stupid, conglomerate of fogies, where you want a lively element to
prevent universal stupor. She talks easily and well, and even
brilliantly when on her mettle, but not so as to excite men's envy;
and she has no decided opinions. She is a chameleon, an opal, changing
ever in changing lights, and no one was yet able to determine her
central quality. All that can be said of her is that she is
good-natured and amusing, clever, facile, and ever ready to assist at
all kinds of gatherings, which she has the knack of making go, and
which would have been slow without her; that she knows every game ever
invented, and is good for every sort of festivity; that she is always
well-dressed, even-tempered, and in (apparently) unwearied spirits and
superb health; but what she is at home, when the world is shut out,
never troubles the thoughts of any. She is to society what the
sympathetic woman is to the individual, and the reward is much the
same in both cases. But unless the socially useful woman has been able
to secure the interest of the sympathetic one, the chances are that,
popular as she is now, she will be relegated to the side when her time
of brilliancy has passed; and that, when her last hour comes, it will
find her without the comfort of a friend, forsaken and forgotten. She
is of the kind to whom _sic transit_ more especially applies; and if
her life's food has not been quite the husks, at all events it has not
been good meat nor fine meal.


The controversy as to which is the better of the two methods of
marrying one's daughter, in use in France and England respectively,
has not yet been decided by any preponderating evidence. Whether the
parents--especially the mother--ought to find a husband for the
daughter, or whether the girl, young and inexperienced as she is,
should seek one for herself, with the chance of not knowing her own
mind in the first place, and of not understanding the real nature of
the man she chooses in the second--these are the two principles
contended for by the rival methods; and the fight is still going on.
The truth is, the worst of either is so infinitely bad that there is
nothing to choose between them; and the same is true, inversely, of
the best. When things go well, the advocates of the particular system
involved sing their pæans, and show how wise they were; when they go
ill, the opponents howl their condemnation, and say: We told you so.

The French method is based on the theory that a woman's knowledge of
the world, and a mother's intimate acquaintance with her daughter's
special temper and requirements, are likely to be truer guides in the
choice of a husband than the callow fancy of a girl. It is assumed
that the former will be better able than the latter to separate the
reality from the appearance, to winnow the grain from the chaff. She
will appraise at its true value a fascinating manner with a shaky
moral character at its back; and a handsome face will go for little
when the family lawyer confesses the poverty of the family purse. To
the girl, a fluent tongue, flattering ways, a taking presence, would
have included everything in heaven and earth that a man should be; and
no dread of future poverty, no evidence of the bushels of wild oats
sown broadcast, would have convinced her that Don Juan was a _mauvais
parti_ and a scamp into the bargain. Again, the mother usually knows
her daughters' dispositions better than the daughters themselves, and
can distinguish between idiosyncrasies and needs as no young people
are able to do. Laura is romantic, sentimental, imaginative; but Laura
cannot mend a stocking nor make a shirt, nor do any kind of work
requiring strength of grasp or deftness of touch. She has no power of
endurance, no persistency of will, no executive ability; but she falls
in love with a younger son just setting out to seek his fortunes in
Australia; and, if allowed, she marries him, full of enthusiasm and
delight, and goes out with him. In a year's time she is
dead--literally killed by hardship; or, if she has vitality enough to
survive the hard experience of roughing it in the bush, she collapses
into a wretched, haggard, faded woman, prematurely old, hopeless and
dejected; the miserable victim of circumstances sinking under a burden
too heavy for her to bear.

Now a French mother would have foreseen all these dangers, and would
have provided against them. She would have known the unsubstantial
quality of Laura's romance, and the reality of her physical weakness
and incapacity. She would have kept her out of sight and hearing of
that fascinating younger son just off to Australia to dig out his
rough fortunes in the bush, and would have quietly assigned her to
some conventional well-endowed man of mature age--who might not have
been a soul's ideal, and whose rheumatism would have made him chary of
the moonlight--but who would have taken care of the poor little frail
body, dressed it in dainty gowns and luxurious furs, given it a soft
couch to lie on and a luxurious carriage to drive in, and provided it
with food convenient and ease unbroken. And in the end, Laura would
have found that mamma had known what was best for her; and that her
ordinary-looking, middle-aged caretaker was a better husband for her
than would have been that adventurous young Adonis, who could have
given her nothing better than a shakedown of dried leaves, a deal box
for an arm-chair, and a cup of brick tea for the sparkling wines of
her youth.

It may be a humiliating confession to make, but the old saying about
poverty coming in at the door and love flying out of the window holds
true in all cases where there is not strength enough to rough it; for
the body holds the spirit captive, and, however willing the one may
be, the weakness of the other conquers in the end.

On the other hand, Maria, square-set, defying, adventurous, brave, as
the wife of a rich man here in England, would be as one smothered in
rose leaves. The dull monotony of conventional life would half madden
her; and her uncompromising temper would break out in a thousand
eccentricities, and make her countless enemies. Let _her_ go to the
bush if you like. She is of the stamp which bears heroes; and her sons
will be a stalwart race fit for the work before them. The wise mother
who had it in hand to organize the future of her daughters would take
care to find her a man and a fortune that would utilize her energy and
courage; but Maria, if left to herself, might perhaps fall in love
with some cavalry officer of good family and expectations, whose
present dash would soon have to be exchanged for the stereotyped
conventionalities of the owner of a place, where, as his wife, her
utmost limit of physical action would be riding to hounds and taking
off the prize for archery.

Such well-fitting arrangements as these are the ideal of the French
system; just as the union of two hearts, the one soul finding its
companion soul and both living happily ever after, is the ideal of the
English system. Against the French lies the charge of the cruel sale,
for so much money, of a young creature who has not been allowed a
choice, scarcely even the right of rejection; against the English the
cruelty of suffering a girl's foolish fancy to destroy her whole life,
and the absurdity of treating such a fancy as a fact. For the French
there is the plea of the enormous power of instinct and habit, and
that really it signifies very little to a girl what man she marries;
provided only that he is kind to her and that she has not fallen in
love with any one else; seeing that she is sure to love the first
presented. For the English there is the counter plea of individual
needs and independent choice, and the theory that women do not love by
instinct but by sympathy. The French make great account of the
absolute virginity in heart of the young girl they marry; and few
Frenchmen would think they had got the kind of woman warranted if they
married one who had been engaged two or three times already--to whose
affianced lovers had been accorded the familiarities which we in
England hold innocent and as matters of course. The English, in
return, demand a more absolute fidelity after marriage, and are
generous enough to a few false starts before. To them the contract is
more a matter of free choice than it is in France; consequently
failure in carrying out the stipulations carries with it more
dishonour. The French, taking into consideration that the wife had
nothing to say to the bargain which gave her away, are inclined
to be more lenient when the theory of instinctive love fails to
work, and the individuality of the woman expresses itself in an
after-preference; always provided, of course, that the _bienséances_
are respected, and that no scandal is created.

Among the conflicting rights and wrongs of the two systems it is very
difficult to say which is the better, which the wiser. If it seems a
horrible thing to marry a young girl without her consent, or without
any more knowledge of the man with whom she is to pass her life than
can be got by seeing him once or twice in formal family conclave, it
seems quite as bad to let our women roam about the world at the age
when their instincts are strongest and their reason weakest--open to
the flatteries of fools and fops--the prey of professed
lady-killers--the objects of lover-like attentions by men who mean
absolutely nothing but the amusement of making love--the subjects for
erotic anatomists to study at their pleasure. Who among our girls
after twenty carries an absolutely untouched heart to the man she
marries? Her former predilection may have been a dream, a fancy--still
it was there; and there are few wives who, in their little tiffs and
moments of irritation, do not feel, 'If I had married my first love,
_he_ would not have treated me so.' Perhaps a wise man does not care
for a mere baseless thought; but all men are not wise, and to some a
spiritual condition is as real as a physical fact. Others however, do
not trouble themselves for what has gone before if they can but secure
what follows after; but we imagine that most men would rather not
know their wives' dreams; and _cet autre_, however shadowy, is a rival
not specially desired by the average husband.

If the independence of life and free intercourse between young men and
maidens is in its degree dangerous in England, what must it be in
America, where anything like chaperonage is unknown, and where girls
and boys flock together without a mamma or a guardian among them?
where engaged couples live under the same roof for months at a time,
also without a mamma or a guardian? and where the young men take the
young women about on night excursions alone, and no harm thought by
any one? Is human nature really different in America from what it is
in the Old World? Are Columbia's sons in truth like Erin's of old
time, so good or so cold? It is a saying hard of acceptance to us who
are accustomed to regard our daughters as precious things to be taken
care of--if not quite so frail as the French regard theirs, yet not
too secure, and certainly not to be left too much to themselves with
only young men for their guardians. They are our lambs, and we look
out for wolves. To be sure the comparative paucity of women in the
United States, and the conviction which every girl has that she may
pretty well make her own choice, help to keep matters straight. That
is easy to be understood. There is no temptation to eat green berries
in an orchard full of ripe fruit. But if this be true of America, then
the converse must be true of England, where the redundancy of women
is one of the most patent facts of the time, and where consequently
they cannot so well afford to indulge that pride of person which
hesitates among many before selecting one. In America this pride of
person of itself erects a barrier between the wolves and the lambs;
but where the very groundwork of it is wanting, as in England, it
behoves the natural guardians to be on the watch, and to take care of
those who cannot take care of themselves. Whether or not that care
should be carried to the extent to which French parents carry
theirs--and especially in the matter of making the marriage for the
daughter and not letting her make it for herself--we leave an open
question. Perhaps a little modification in the practice of both
nations would be the best for all concerned. Without trusting quite so
much to instinct as the French, we might profitably curtail a little
more than we do the independent choice of those who are too young and
too ignorant to know what they want, or what they have got when they
have chosen; and without letting their young girls run all abroad
without direction, the French might, in turn, allow them some kind of
human preference, and not treat them as mere animals bound to be
grateful to the hand that feeds them, and docile to the master who
governs them.


The efforts of country places in the matter of local fêtes and shows
are often beset with difficulties. The great people, who have seen the
best of everything in Paris and London, give their money sparsely and
their energies with languor; or it may be that certain of the more
good-natured kill the whole affair by their superabundant patronage,
as nurses stifle infants by over-care. The very poor can only
participate to the extent of pence when the thing is organized; they
can neither subscribe for the general expenses nor give time to the
arrangements; consequently the burden rests on the shoulders of the
middle class, which in a small country neighbourhood is represented by
the well-to-do tradesmen, the innkeepers, and the rival professionals.
Once a year or so the desire fastens on these people to get up a local
fête--say a flower-show, or games, or both combined--as an evidence of
local vitality; a claim on the county newspaper for two or three
columns of description with all the names in full flanked by a
generous application of adjectives; an occasion for mutual
self-laudation; and a pleasing impression of the eyes of England
being turned upon them. They find their work cut out for them when
they begin; and before the end most of them wish they had never been
bitten by the mania of parochial ambition, but had let the old place
lie in its wonted stagnation without attempting to stir it at the cost
of so much vexation and thankless trouble.

Jealousy and huffiness are the dominant characteristics of small
communities, as all people know who have had dealings therewith. The
question of precedence affects more than the choice of the First Lady
in an assembly where there are no ladies to be first, though there may
be plenty of honest women; and the men squabble for distinctive
offices and the recognition of services to the full as much as the
lawyer's wife squabbles with the doctor's, and both with the wholesale
grocer's, as to which of the three is to be first taken down to supper
and set at the head of the table with the master of the house. One
wants to be the secretary, that he may display his power of fine
writing when he asks the resident nobility and gentry for their
subscriptions, and draws up the final report for the press. Another
thinks he should be made chairman of the acting committee, because he
imagines he has the gift of eloquence, and he would like to use the
time of the association in airing his syntax. A third puts in his
claim to be elected one of the judges of things he does not
understand, because his son-in-law is to be an exhibitor, and he would
be glad to be able to say a good word for him; and all decline those
offices which have no outside show, where only work is to be done and
no credit gained. It requires a considerable amount of tact and
firmness to withstand these clamorous vanities, to put the right men
in the right places, and yet not make enmities which will last a
lifetime. But if the thing is to succeed at all, this is what must be
done; and the little committee must stick to its text of _pro bono
publico_ as steadfastly as if the flower-show were a conqueror's
triumph, and the rules and regulations for its fit management consular

When the eventful day arrives, every one feels that the eyes of
England are indeed turned hither-ward. If the great people are
languid, the meaner folks are jocund, and the stewards are as proud as
the proudest ædiles of old Rome. Their knots of coloured ribbon make
new men of them for the time, and justify the instinct which puts its
trust in regalia. They are sure to be on the ground from the earliest
hours in the morning; and though scoffers might perhaps question the
practical value of their zeal, no one can doubt its heartiness. If it
is fussy, it is genuine; and as every one is fussy alike, they cannot
complain of one another. A band has been lent by a neighbouring
regiment, and the men come radiant into the little town. It is
delightful to see the cordial condescension with which the trombone
and the cornet, the serpent and the drum shake hands with their
civilian friends; and how the fine fellows in scarlet accept drinks
quite fraternally from fustian and corderoy. For a full half-hour the
town is kept alive by the dazzle and resonance of these musical heroes
as they stand before the door of the 'public' which they have elected
to patronize, and lighten the pockets of the lieges by the successive
'go's' drained out of them. Then the church clock chimes the appointed
hour; the last flag is run up; the finishing touch is given to the
calico and the moss; the last award has been affixed; and the
policeman stationed at the gate to keep order among the little boys
has tightened his belt and drawn on his gloves ready for action. The
band marches through the town, drums beating and fifes playing, and
when the gates are opened as the clock is on the stroke of twelve,
they are all settled in their places with their music handy, ready to
salute the gentry with the overture from _Zampa_, taken in false time.
The imposing effect however, is rather marred by the friendly feelings
of the public; for when jolly farmers and small boys insist on sharing
the benches assigned to the red coats, the orchestra has necessarily a
patchwork kind of look that does not add to its dignity.

The great people do their duty as they ought, and come in their
carriages; which make a show and give an air of regality to the
affair. Many of them have had early high-priced tickets given to them
in consideration of their subscribed guineas; it being held the right
thing to do to give to those who can afford to pay, trusting to the
pence of the multitude for the rest. Nevertheless these great
creatures regard their presence there as a _corvée_ which they must
fulfil, but at the least cost possible to themselves; so they make up
parties to meet at a certain time, and endure the stewards, who talk
fine and are important, with the best philosophy granted them by
nature. When the second prices come, then the real fun of the fair
begins. The great people are uninterested. The indifferently grown
flowers which are offered for prizes do not call forth their
enthusiasm; but the smaller folk think them superb, and express their
admiration with unstinted delight. When the gardener of a neighbouring
lord exhibits a good specimen from his choicest plants, not for
competition but as a model for imitation, their enthusiasm knows no
bounds; and a fine alamanda or a richly-coloured dracæna receives
almost divine honours. As a rule, the flowers in these local shows are
poor enough; but the fruit is often good and the vegetables are
magnificent. The highest efforts of competition are usually devoted to
onions and beans; but potatoes come in for their due share, and the
summer celery is for the most part an instance of misdirected power.
The great houses carry off the first prizes--the poor little cottage
plots, cultivated at odd hours under difficulties, not touching them
in value. The gentlemen say they give their prizes to their gardeners;
but that does not help the cottagers who have spent time and money and
hope in this unequal struggle of pigmies with giants. In some places
they divide the classes, and give prizes to the gentlefolks apart, and
to the cottagers by themselves. In which case they fulfil the
Scriptures literally, and give most to those who already have most.

All the local oddities are sure to be at these fêtes. There is the
harmless imbecile, who wanders about the roads with a peacock's
feather in his battered old cap, and who talks to himself when he
cannot find another listener; and there is the stalwart lady
proprietor who farms her own land and knows as much about roots and
beasts as the best of them. She is reported to have thrashed her man
in her time, and is said to be a crack shot and the best roughrider
for miles round. There is the ruined yeoman who came into a good
property when he was a handsome young fellow with the ball at his
foot, but who has drunk himself from affluence to penury, and from
sturdy health to palsy and delirium tremens, yet who has always a
kindly word from his betters, having been no man's enemy but his own,
and even at his worst being a good fellow in a sort of way. There is
the farmer who is supposed capable of buying up all the leaner gentry
in a batch, but who, being a misogynist, lives by himself in his
rambling old ruined Hall, with a hind to do the scullery maid's work,
and never a petticoat about the place. There is the self-taught man of
science whose quantities are shaky when he tells you the names of his
treasures, but whose knowledge of local fossils, of rare plants, of
concealed antiquities, is true so far as it goes, if of too great
importance in his estimate of things; and side by side with him is the
self-made poet, whose verses are not always easy to scan and whose
thoughts are apt to express themselves mistily. These and more are
sure to be at the fête bringing; their peculiarities as their quota,
and giving that indescribable but pleasant local flavour which is half
the interest of the thing.

There is a great deal of practical democracy in these gatherings if
the grand people stay into the time of the second prices; which
however, they generally do not. If they do, then ragged coats jostle
the squire's glossy broadcloth, and rude boys crumple the fresh silks
and muslins of the ladies with the most communistic unconcern. The
shopgirl and farmer's daughters come out in gorgeous array, with
bonnets and skirts, streamers and furbelows, of wonderful
construction; and their sisters of more cultivated taste regard their
exaggerated toilets as moral crimes. But the poor things are happy in
their ugly finery; and, as millinery is by no means an exact science,
they may be pardoned if they adopt monstrosities on their own account
which a year or so ago had been sanctioned by fashion. Sometimes Punch
and Judy, 'as performed before the Queen and Prince Albert,' helps on
the enjoyment of the day, with the '----' softened out of respect for
the clergyman. Sometimes an acrobat lies down on the grass and twirls
a huge ball between his feet, which sets all the little boys to do the
like in imitation, and perhaps brings down many a maternal hand on
fleshy places as the result. In some localities a troop of little
girls in scarlet and white plait ribbons dance round a maypole and are
called inappropriately morris-dancers. Perhaps there are fireworks at
the end of all things; when the set pieces will not light
simultaneously in all their parts, the catherine-wheels have the
disastrous trick of sticking, and only the Roman candles and the
rockets succeed as they should. But the gaping crowd is vociferous and
good-natured, and holds the whole affair to have been splendid. There
is a great deal of coarse jollity among the men and women over the
failures and successes alike, and if the fête is in the North there is
sure to be more drink afloat than is desirable. Headaches are the rule
of the next morning, with perhaps some things lost which can never be
regained. Yet, in spite of the inevitable abuses, these local fêtes
are things worthy of encouragement; and perhaps if the great people
would enter into them more heartily, and remain on the ground longer,
the lower orders would behave themselves better all through, and there
would not be so much rowdyism at the end. It does not seem to us that
this would be an unendurable sacrifice of time and personal dignity
for the pleasure and morality of the neighbourhood where one lives.


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Transcriber's note:
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