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Title: A Word to Women
Author: Humphry, Mrs. C. E.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Word to Women" ***




Author of "Manners for Women," "Manners for Men," etc.

James Bowden
10, Henrietta Street,
Covent Garden, W.C.

      *      *      *      *      *


_And Uniform with this Volume._

  1. Manners for Men.
                (_Thirty-sixth Thousand._)

  2. Manners for Women.
                (_Twentieth Thousand._)

One Shilling each.


      *      *      *      *      *


My book "Manners for Women" has met with such a kindly reception that I am
encouraged to follow it up with the present little volume. Of a less
practical character than the former, it yet follows out the same line of
thought, and is the fruit of many years' observation of my countrywomen in
that home life for which England is distinguished among nations.


_London, 1898._



  MOTHER AND DAUGHTER               9

  OUR SCHOOL-GIRLS                 18

  WHAT ABOUT SEWING?               25

  MOTHERS AND SONS                 32

  OUR CLEVER CHILDREN              38

  ULTRA-TIDINESS                   46

  GOOD MANNERS AT HOME             51

  ARE WOMEN COWARDS?               57

  A GLASS OF WINE                  64

  SOME OLD PROVERBS                70


  GOLDEN SILENCE                   81

  A SOCIAL CONSCIENCE              88

  OUR DEBTS                        94

  THE DOMESTIC GIRL               102

  THE GIRL-BACHELOR               108


  LIGHTHEARTEDNESS                117


  DEADLY DULNESS                  129


  GROWING OLD                     145



[Sidenote: The golden mean.]

There is a happy medium between narrowness and latitude; between the
exiguity which confines the mind between canal-like borders and the broad,
expansive amplitude which allows it to flow with the freedom of a great
river, though within certain definite limits. The tendency of the moment
is towards breadth and the enlarging of borders, the setting back of
frontier lines, and even to ignoring them. "One must move with the times"
is a phrase constantly heard and read. It is true enough. One would not
willingly be left stranded on the shores of the past; but then, in the
effort to avoid this, one need not shape a wild and devious course. There
is always the golden mean attainable, though occasionally it needs some
seeking to find it.

[Sidenote: Some modern daughters.]

In nothing so much as the relations between mother and daughter is this
modern tendency prolific of difficulty. For some generations the rule of
severity that began with the Puritans has been gradually relaxing more and
more, and now the spectacle of a harsh-voiced, domineering young woman,
ordering her mother about, is by no means an infrequent one, detestable as
it is. Nor does she always content herself by merely ordering. Sometimes
she scolds as well! If the mother, in these revolutionary times, has any
chance of maintaining her own position as the elder and the wiser of the
two, she must keep her eyes open to the successive grooves of change down
which the world is spinning. The daughter must not be permitted to suspect
her of old-fashioned notions. That would be fatal!

[Sidenote: The bicycling craze.]

When the bicycle craze began many mothers disapproved of the exercise for
their girls. But with doctors recommending it, and the girls themselves
looking radiantly bright and healthy after a few preliminary trials, what
remained for the mother but to overcome her first dislike and do all she
could to persuade the father to buy bicycles for all the girls? The next
step was, often, to learn to ride herself, and to benefit enormously
thereby. The mother who failed to follow her daughters' lead in this
particular, as in others, proved that she was too narrow to accept new
ideas; just the sort of thing to give the daughters a lead in these
century-end days. And of that one must beware! The poor mothers must not
give a single inch, or they will find themselves mulcted in many an ell.

[Sidenote: About Chaperons and Chaperonage.]

The old, strait-laced ideas about chaperons are now decidedly behind the
times, and the parents and guardians who try to maintain them in all their
rigid integrity will only find that the too-tightly-drawn bow will soon
snap. Far better to accept changes as they come, taking the wide, enlarged
view, and allowing the young creatures as much freedom of action as may be
consistent with the social laws. The old parallel of the hen-mother and
the young ducks would come in most usefully here, were it not so
hackneyed. But think what sad deprivations of the _joie de vivre_ the
ducks would have suffered had it been in the power of the hen to enforce
her objections. Think of this, oh ye nineteenth century mothers! What
trepidations, what anxieties, what feverish fears, assail us when the
young ones escape from the restrictions that bound ourselves when we were
girls! The father laughs at our tremors, and proves, by doing so, what
needs no proof, that the sense of responsibility is always deeper and
keener in the mother, and that, therefore, she is more bound than he to
exercise due caution. To combine the two with wide views is not always

[Sidenote: "The evils that never arrive."]

"These affectionate women," said Sir Andrew Clarke, the eminent physician,
"they make themselves miserable about things that may happen, and wear
themselves out in anxieties for which there is little or no foundation."
And Jefferson says: "How much have cost us the evils that never happened!"
True, indeed. But, also, how much have they cost to the objects of our
care? Can any one reckon up that difficult sum? The timid, fearful mother
has often ruined her boys out of pure anxiety to do her very (mistaken)
best for them. And as to girls, they are not allowed to do the very things
that would teach them self-reliance, make them vigorous in mind and body,
and teach them that lore, not in any girls' school curriculum, which is
best expressed in the French idiom, "_savoir faire_."

[Sidenote: Want of width.]

And all for want of width! What sort of life would a little chicken lead
if it were for ever under the good old hen's wing? Yet that is what some
of us would prefer for the bright young things, whose very life is in
change, variety, excitement, fun, laughter, and exercise of all kinds.
Small wonder that some of them rebel, feeling tethered, with the
inevitable longing for escape. Led with a silken string in wide ways of
the great world, they would be contented and happy enough.

[Sidenote: Mothers and daughters.]

Every girl is a queen to some one at some time in her life. Was there ever
a girl whom nobody loved? What would English homes be without their girls?
Mothers of sons are proud indeed, but they often long for a daughter. The
tie between girl and mother is a wonderfully close one. They almost share
each others' thoughts, and the home life together becomes, as the girl
grows up, a delicious duet. Sons, however affectionate and gentle, have
always some part of their nature veiled away. They cannot tell all to a
mother as a daughter can, with perfect open-mindedness, so that the page
lies clear to the eye of affection, like a book in good, large print. And
more particularly is this the case with an only daughter. Have you ever,
dear reader, noticed how the tendrils of the growing vines twine round
each other, at last becoming so inextricably close that they cannot be
separated without breaking them? That is the way that many a mother and
daughter whose lives are closely woven in with each other, forming a bond
of strength that, with the flowing of the years, increases in power and

[Sidenote: The inevitable man.]

And then comes some charming young man, with pretty eyes and a gentle
manner, and oh! the loneliness of the poor mother when he carries off her
girl to be the sunshine of his home, leaving hers in deepest shadow!

But mothers are unselfish and love to know their daughters happy,
fulfilling their destiny in the good old womanly way as wife and mother.
And the best way to make a girl a good wife is to train her to be a
first-rate daughter.

[Sidenote: A girl's idea of usefulness.]

[Sidenote: The ideal daughter.]

A girl's thoughts of usefulness sometimes begin a very long way off. They
appear to her at a distance, as if she were looking through the small end
of a telescope. "The thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts," and the
girl's idea of usefulness is to nurse the sick and wounded in war-time, to
go out as a missionary among the heathen, to write books with great
thoughts in them, to do noble deeds of tremendous self-sacrifice, to take
up some great life-work. She looks so far afield that she cannot see the
little duties lying to her hand, in the performance of which lies her best
training for great and worthy deeds. Many a girl dreams of such an ideal
as Florence Nightingale, and nevertheless shrieks and runs out of the room
when her little brother cuts his hand with the carving-knife. What a
scared, helpless creature she would be in a hospital! Another girl
pictures herself a heroine of self-denial, giving up "all" for some one,
while she is too lazy to run upstairs to fetch her mother's gloves, or too
self-indulgent to read the money article in _The Times_ to her father. She
is not "faithful in small things," though she fully intends to excel in
great. The ideal daughter is the unselfish, active, intelligent, and
good-tempered girl, who thinks out what she can do to help her mother, to
make life pleasanter for her father, and home happier for her brothers.

[Sidenote: True self-culture.]

Many girls think self-culture the first and greatest duty of all, but in
thinking so, and in acting on the thought, they turn their backs upon real
self-culture. Doing something for others, when we would rather be doing
something for ourselves, goes further towards self-culture, in its highest
and best sense, than reading the cleverest book ever written, or
practising the most difficult music. There have been girls who, thinking
it their duty, have refused to leave their parents, even to marry the man
they love. This is usually a mistaken notion of "_fais ce que dois_," for
it throws on the father and mother a terrible weight of obligation, never
to be paid off, and even if they know nothing of the sacrifice at the time
it is made, it is certain to come home to them sooner or later. Is it not
Ruskin who declares that self-denial, when it is carried beyond the
boundary of common sense, becomes an actual injury against those for whom
it is practised? There is a deep truth in this.

[Sidenote: About unselfishness.]

Youth is not naturally self-denying. Human nature is strongly selfish, and
when girls are young they have had little chance to oppose the strength of
this inherent quality. Some girls, however, are much less selfish than
others, while some are utterly spoilt! A doting mother is nothing more nor
less than a selfish mother, who, _to please herself_, allows her
daughter's faults to grow up unchecked. She fears to be firm, lest she
should lose some of the affection she prizes. Could she only know that the
child, at a very early age, is distinctly aware of this weakness and
despises it, she would plainly see the awful mistake she is making.
Children love best the mothers who are both firm and gentle. By a sort of
instinct the young ones seem to be aware of the true selflessness that
actuates the parent who battles with their early faults. It is not the
foolishly indulgent mothers who win the warmest love from their girls. It
is those who can temper justice with love. Girls soon know whether the
mother is swayed by selfishness or actuated by principle, and, with very
few exceptions, they follow in her steps.

[Sidenote: The home training.]

Could some of the happy lovers and happy husbands look back through the
years at the long and patient training, the loving care, that has
resulted in the complete realisation of their brightest dreams--"My queen!
my queen!"--they would find in them a guarantee for the future. Girls who
have not been spoiled by over-indulgence, and who have been taught to take
a sane, calm, rational view of all life's circumstances, are the best
helpmeets that man can have. Such an one is a delightful companion, with
her cultivated mind and her ready sympathies. She can enter into his
outside troubles in the battle of life, and there is a fibre of strength
in her on which he may safely lean in the day of disaster, should it


[Sidenote: Growing Girls.]

Mothers of growing girls have many an anxious hour. The young things feel
so bright, so strong, so full of energy, that it is difficult for them to
listen to the voice of prudent counsel which bids them take care of
themselves, and mothers often give in when a word of warning is received
with laughing heedlessness. And how frequently they have to regret the
giving in! When girls are growing very fast, even if they keep up their
strength and look strong and well, there is much risk in any over-fatigue.
The heart is sometimes outpaced by the rest of the frame, and if care be
not taken there is a possibility of inducing strain, which may result in
permanent mischief. Girls want to run, play sett after sett of tennis, or
go on pulling a boat on the river when they are already hot and tired, and
it is only natural that they should fancy that their capacity for
enjoyment is as inexhaustible as their taste for it.

[Sidenote: Over-exertion.]

But the doctors will tell mothers to restrain the young creatures from
damaging their health by over-exertion, and if we fail to do so we may
some day feel agonies of remorse. It is easy enough to manage this so long
as they are quite young and under our own eyes all day, but when
school-time begins matters are very different. The spirit of emulation
awakes, and the keenest anxiety to equal other girls in progress spurs on
the young spirit. Teachers are anxious, too, and the mother often has to
do battle on behalf of her daughter, not only with the school authorities,
but with the girl herself. Firmness with both is the only method, and this
in face of protests on one side and tears and expostulations on the other.
The teachers think the mother "ridiculously fussy," and condole with the
girl, stirring her up to rebellion in a most injudicious way; but after
all the mother is in the right and must be firm. What is the use of class
successes if they are won at the expense of health? And though
scholarships are very pleasant things in more ways than one, they may cost
too dear. If the money they save has to go in doctors' fees, of what
earthly use are they?

[Sidenote: Too much study.]

At the same time mothers must not sacrifice the young ones to nervous or
morbid fears, as some are inclined to do. The only way to be sure that
precautions are really necessary is to have advice from a doctor, and if a
girl is growing very quickly he is almost sure to say that she must not do
too much. As a rule girls spend far too many hours a day in study.
School-days come just when they are very busy growing, and it is also the
time when habits are formed. With all these contradictory considerations
influencing the mother, she is often afraid to trust her own judgment as
to whether this or that course shall be pursued. If the girl is worked too
hard she may become nervous or anæmic, and if she is allowed to rest too
much she may grow up lazy and self-indulgent. So what is one to do? With
our limited powers all we can do is to watch the growing daughters from
day to day, and if they show any signs of failing energies, or of
weakening health, at once take steps to lessen the number of hours devoted
to study. At each succeeding term the school programme should be carefully
gone through, with a view to seeing if the lessons that follow
consecutively may not be too trying, and, if so, arrangements should be
made with the head of the school to spare the girl a long run of
monotonous subjects.

[Sidenote: Meal hours.]

The school authorities, naturally enough, arrange the hours to suit
themselves and their teachers, and sometimes with the result that a girl
has to rush back to school after a hasty meal, her food actually doing her
harm instead of good in consequence. It is in cases like this that the
mother comes in--not always, you may be very sure, to the unmitigated
delight of the teachers, or even of the girl herself! In fact, the poor
mother often gets blamed all round. The members of her own family are
profuse in criticism, as a rule, of everything that she does in connection
with her children. The best thing she can do is to ignore their opinion
completely, for, whatever she does, she is sure to be blamed. If two
diametrically opposite courses are open before her, whichever she chooses
is sure to be condemned by somebody. It is the old story of the old man
and his donkey. When it carried him the people found fault, and when he
carried it they were as censorious as ever. We must just go the way our
conscience points out, and present a stoical front to criticism. The
philosophy embodied in the good old French motto comes to our aid: "_Fais
ce que dois advienne que pourra_."

[Sidenote: The best way to rest.]

[Sidenote: Expressing thanks.]

It does wonders for a girl to lie down for even half an hour a day. But to
lie sideways or crumpled up in the extraordinary fashion beloved of girls
is of no use whatever. The shoulders must be flat, and the head not much
raised. If a book is read the while it must be held so that the eyes are
wide open in reading; the feet should be stretched out to their full
length, so as to give as much rest to the muscles as possible. Girls run
so tall nowadays that they need extra care, and it is the mothers who must
see to it that they get it. On free mornings an extra half hour in bed
will do no harm, but rather good; and it should be always understood that
this is an indulgence to be accepted as a boon for which gratitude is to
be felt and expressed. To encourage young people to express gratitude is
good for them. It is strange, but true, that human nature is averse to
express thanks with cordiality, and it is one of the marks of the
well-bred girl that her thanks follow as naturally upon the act that
elicits them as if the two were cause and effect.

[Sidenote: Dangers of High Schools.]

Some of the high schools offer so many facilities in the various
departments of education that the danger is of tremendously overworking
the girls. One of whom I knew was at work from nine a.m. till half-past
eight at night five days in the week, and from nine till two on Saturdays.
The only exercise that she had was in her daily walk to and from
school--once in the morning and again after lunch--and her only recreation
was an occasional romp with her small brothers and sisters in the nursery.
The girl broke down, as any one might safely have predicted that she
would, and her costly education was entirely thrown away, for by the time
that she was well enough to resume study she had forgotten all that she
had learned.

[Sidenote: Bad training.]

There is another danger connected with overdoing study in the time of
girlhood that must not be overlooked. It is that of wearying young people
with books, and so tiring them that they never want to open one on a
serious subject after they have left school-days behind them. To do this
is to lose for them one of the greatest pleasures of life. Education,
rightly understood, is a drawing out, not a crowding in. The best
education consists in developing the powers and eliciting the bent of the
mind, and laying a foundation for future culture. To speak of any girl's
education as being "finished" is tantamount to speaking of a scaffolding
as being finished, preparatory to the real work being begun. In after life
comes the true work, and circumstances have much to do in guiding it.
There is, therefore, no reason that growing girls should be overburdened
with ologies and isms. French and German they must learn; drawing, if they
have a special taste for it, and the piano, on the same terms. It is utter
waste to teach some girls to play on the piano, and the idea that it is a
necessary part of polite education is now rapidly disappearing from the
cultured classes of society. Simplification in every branch is one of the
safest rules of life, and this applies as much to the programme of a
girl's existence as to that of her mother.

[Sidenote: Hygiene and sanitation.]

There is no doubt that, in a great degree, the improvement in the physique
of English girls is largely due to the enlightened ideas of their parents
on subjects connected with hygiene and sanitation. The nation is
wonderfully improved on these matters, during the last fifteen years, and
it is at last beginning to be understood that a perfectly sound body is
necessary to a perfectly healthy and capable mind. If girls are encouraged
to place the culture of the mind not only before, but in opposition to,
that of the body, they must be consequent sufferers--if not in girlhood,
at some later period; and may bequeath suffering to others. So, mothers,
be advised in time, and let girlhood be the healthy, happy, sunny time
that Nature intended it to be. Our girls are young but once, and it is not
for long. The cares of life will soon enough cloud over their brightness.
Do not allow overwork or long hours to shadow the irrecoverable


[Sidenote: The prejudice against sewing.]

[Sidenote: A word in its favour.]

Some of the very advanced and extremely superior women of the present day
are strenuously opposed to the teaching of needlework in girls' schools
and colleges. A mere handicraft should be beneath the notice of highly
intellectual human beings, and should be left to those whose intelligence
is of a lower order. That is their creed. I am glad to see that one of the
cleverest and most learned women of the time, Mrs. Bryant, D.Sc.,
advocates, though in a half-hearted and semi-apologetic fashion, the
teaching of needlework to girls receiving the higher education. She thinks
that, just as a man is a somewhat incomplete person if he cannot make
himself useful with a hammer, a plane, and a saw, a woman who cannot sew
is equally an anomaly. The man who wants a rent in his glove stitched
would be likely to regard her as much more so. But I must not, from this,
be understood as advocating the accomplishment of sewing merely with a
view to the repair of men's sartorial damages. This would be to invoke
indeed the wrath of the superior woman, who thinks it degradation to stoop
to all the sweet, old-fashioned, housewifely uses and despises her gentler
sisters who delight in making home comfortable and life smooth for those
who dwell with her.

[Sidenote: The training it involves.]

[Sidenote: Its moral value.]

One of the best and foremost reasons for teaching sewing to girls is the
training it involves. Our wonderful finger-tips have within them
possibilities which oftentimes lie dormant throughout a whole lifetime for
the want of education. The Great Genius who made them gave them a capacity
of delicate, sensitive touch, which is blurred and lost when not
encouraged and promoted. The hands that can wield a needle with celerity
and skill have necessarily received a training that tells for them in many
another way besides mere sewing. The servant who sews well is the one who
breaks fewest things. She has learned to use her finger-tips. The clumsy
woman who uses brute force in dealing with the most delicate articles, and
is constantly smashing and damaging something or other is she who has
never been taught to sew, or in some way had manual training. The value of
this development of finger-training is greater than at first sight might
be imagined. Through the hands the mind and character are influenced.
Patience progresses while the diligent little fingers of the child are at
work, conquering difficulties gradually and achieving skill day after day
with a continued progression towards perfection. The lesson in
perseverance is a fine one, and no less valuable is the necessary exertion
in self-control, which soon becomes a habit and works wonders in producing
repose of manner. This last may not be a particularly valuable quality,
but it is a delightful one in this restless age, when few people seem able
to settle down for more than half an hour at a time, even to the agreeable
occupation of reading.

[Sidenote: And mental effect.]

It may seem exaggerated to attribute so much to the mere learning to sew;
but a little examination into the matter will prove to the thoughtful that
there is something in it. Any man, for instance, who has learned even a
little carpentering, will admit that the effect on his mind and character
of perfecting himself in any one of the necessary processes was distinctly
good. It promotes clearness of thought, banishing that vague slovenliness
of ideas which is analogous to the ragged edges of a frayed garment. To
many an uneducated worker the acquirement of skill in some handicraft has
brought with it an upward influence that has led him far in the direction
of self-improvement.

[Sidenote: Moderation.]

[Sidenote: Harriet Martineau on overdoing it.]

But there must be moderation in it. Many an intellectual life has been
killed by intemperate sewing. It was the creed of our grandmothers that
everything else for girls was idling. Long seams were regarded as the
business of young lives, and to be unable to sew well as a disgrace.
Harriet Martineau tells us all about it in her "Household Education." She
says, "I believe it is now generally agreed, among those who know best,
that the practice of sewing has been carried much too far for health, even
in houses where there is no poverty or pressure of any kind. No one can
well be more fond of sewing than I am; and few, except professional
sempstresses, have done more of it; and my testimony is that it is a most
hurtful occupation, except where great moderation is observed. I think it
is not so much the sitting and stooping posture as the incessant
monotonous action and position of the arms that causes such wear and tear.
Whatever it may be, there is something in prolonged sewing which is
remarkably exhausting to the strength, and irritating beyond endurance to
the nerves. The censorious gossip, during sewing, which was the bane of
our youth," she adds, "wasted more of our precious youthful powers and
dispositions than any repentance and amendment in after life could

[Sidenote: Those barbarous samplers.]

[Sidenote: Poor Araminta.]

In the exhibition of "Fair Children," held at the Grafton Gallery some
seasons since, there was a whole case full of cruel samplers, which must
have made many a young child miserable. Because, you know, it is not only
the work that is visible that went into them! There were the tedious and
endless unpickings when mistakes were made, causing bitter tears of woe to
rise in childish eyes. "You shall stay in, Araminta, until you get it
right." And outside was the sun shining, the birds were singing, the
meadows full of hay, and the other children romping and shouting. Poor
Araminta! There was her name embroidered on one of the most barbarous of
those dreadful samplers; one with a double border, the outer one in
circles, the inner in vandykes. The stitches in each had to be counted,
and every one crossed in the same direction. And Araminta was aged seven!
There it was, at the end of her sampler, "Araminta Paget. Her sampler.
Aged seven." Composition ambiguous, but meaning clear. Well, perhaps
Araminta learned to love her fine marking, and passed many a happy hour
singing to herself over her embroidery frame; but it is good to remember
that the old tyranny of the needle is past and gone. The invention of the
sewing-machine has been to women one of the very greatest blessings of our
dear Queen's most beneficent reign. I am not sure that it was not the real
means of introducing many others, legal and educational.

[Sidenote: Berlin woolwork.]

When Caddy Jellaby remarked, "Africa's a beast!" she was but
unconsciously paraphrasing an expression of opinion familiar enough to her
contemporaries. How many thousands of girls in those old days have
declared, "Berlin wool's a bother!" And so, indeed, it was. To be able to
do what was then called "fancy work" was almost sufficient accomplishment
for the young women of the middle classes of those days. Cushions, chair
furniture, slippers, and even pictures were produced in this despotic
cross-stitch, varied occasionally by a finer and more difficult variety
called tent-stitch; and so far from employing fancy or imagination, every
row had to be diligently counted--so many brown stitches, so many green,
so many red, &c. I have seen hearthrugs worked in this way with Berlin
wool in impossibly huge flowers, and the fender-stool was a great
favourite in those old days, often made prickly with white beads, in which
recumbent lilies were delineated. Fire screens of the hanging banner
pattern were esteemed as great ornaments, and I believe I once heard of a
carpet worked in sections by an ambitious party of ladies, and afterwards
joined together.

[Sidenote: Waste of time.]

[Sidenote: The policy and sentiment of the matter.]

But who wastes time over fancy work now? Only a small minority of women, I
fancy. There is a market for beautiful sewing and for fine embroideries,
but as for futile and inartistic chairbacks and their tribe, their day is
done. The exquisite Church embroideries bring in fair incomes to those
skilled in that class of work; but there is no longer any demand for the
home-made lace that occupied half the waking hours of many a woman's life
in the sixties and seventies. That nightmare is over. But let us hope that
skill with the needle will never be despised among gentlewomen. To put it
on the very lowest ground, it is a marvellous economy to be able to sew.
If one had to pay for every little repair in one's garments, as men have,
it would cost a large sum of money in every year, for our dresses are not
so durable as men's coats. And even the richest of women can never be
absolutely certain that she will not one day be poor. "Nothing is certain
except that nothing is certain," and the changes of this troublesome world
are capable of anything. But, apart from motives of policy, the
accomplishment of sewing is a part of refined femininity. And think of the
pleasure that women would lose without it. Think of the thoughts sewn into
the beautiful little garments fashioned for the babies--the hopes and
fears, the love and tenderness, and the far outlook into the future that
comes with mother-love. All these are stitched in with the flying needle;
and who would be without these long, long thoughts? To be able to sew is
utilitarian. It is also conducive to happiness.


[Sidenote: On spoiling boys.]

A "Public Schoolman" once said, "If a mother would only harden her boys a
little, send them away to a private school at ten and afterwards to a
public school, there would then be no complaints of being teased." There
is no doubt that mothers do often err on the side of softness, as any one
of us can see by the number of spoiled children we meet in any given
twenty-four hours. Widows' sons are only too often intolerably conceited,
spoilt with indulgence, and apt to repay their mother's tenderness by
breaking her heart. She makes life so smooth for them that they can never
refuse themselves anything, and sometimes their whole lives are spoiled by
their mother's weakness, which, in its turn, is only a form of
self-indulgence. Such a boy, on entering a public school, meets with no
mercy, but the discipline is just what he needs to knock the nonsense out
of him and make him a man, not a namby-pamby noodle.

[Sidenote: First days at school.]

But, having acknowledged that the mother is often to blame, let us look
at the other side of the shield. The boy of ten who is sent away from
home to a private school finds that he has to take absolutely new views of
life in almost every particular. Perplexed by the new horizon, the novel
atmosphere, and with his young heart aching for home tenderness and
affection, he is assisted in adjusting himself to his altered
circumstances by bullying and sneers. The treatment is on all fours with
that of "hitting a man when he is down," a practice which is supposed to
be repugnant to all British notions of honour and fair play. When a horse
falls under a heavy load in the slippery streets, and the driver whips,
slashes, and swears at the poor brute, a murmur of indignation goes up
from the spectators. But no one sympathises with the boy, who dare not
give the faintest sign of the suffering he feels. The injustice of it all
is often what rankles most deeply. There are many mothers who train their
boys to a fine sense of honour, derived from a much higher source than
that which seems to inspire the average schoolboy, and the ordinary man of
the world into whom the boy develops. His attitude to his fellow-creatures
is one of comradeship, and kindly feeling, when he leaves his mother's
side. Who shall say what storms of rancorous hate and bitter loathing pass
over the young soul in the boy's first term at school? His sense of
injustice becomes distorted for life, under such a system as that
described in the following.

[Sidenote: By a "fag."]

"The old _régime_ when 'kids' blacked boots, cooked potatoes and pies,
made coffee or cocoa for the bigger boys, when we had to 'fag' at the
fives' courts and cricket nets, and got 'fives batted,' or 'cricket
stumped,' if we stopped the balls badly. We enjoyed the pleasures of being
tossed in a blanket, or having our faces blackened with the bottom of a
saucepan taken off the fire, and of having our trousers rolled above our
knees and our calves roasted before the fire. We learnt by experience
that, although the cricket ball chastised us with whips, W.'s hands
chastised us with scorpions, and that W.'s little finger was thicker than
the cricket ball. We played the old-fashioned Rugby: 'hacked' a fellow
over instead of 'collaring' him when he ran, and, instead of 'working out'
the ball in the scrimmage, we 'hacked' each other's shins in what was then
called the 'gutter.' Two or three days before the match we used to get the
shoemaker to put new soles on our boots, and to make the toe points of the
soles project, so that we might make our 'hacks' all the more stinging."

This is a picture of public schools which must make many a mother's heart
ache for her boy. And are not mothers meant for softness and tenderness?
That they sometimes let themselves fall into the extreme of weak and
backboneless indulgence does not prove that mothers are not meant for
gentleness and sympathy in the lives of their sons. They know well that
school life is the only way of hardening boys against the time when they
have to do battle with the world. But the hardening process need not, and
should not, imply the coarsening and toughening of all that is meant to be
delicately sensitive, sympathetic, and generously responsive.

[Sidenote: The worst side of fagging.]

It is true that some splendid men are turned out by public schools. The
system is a good one, but it has been carried to a dangerous extreme. The
fine fellows who have emerged unharmed are fine fellows in spite of all
that was dangerous, not because of it. How many fine fellows has it
ruined? Such treatment is destructive of candour, sincerity, frankness,
generosity, simplicity, and often of truthfulness itself. The principle
that might is right is dead against the law of the land, but it seems to
rule in our public schools, where the big bully--usually a coward at
heart--makes the lives of young boys wretched. The love of cruelty innate
in such despotic natures is developed to the utmost degree by such
favourable circumstances, and those over whom he tyrannises become sly,
secretive, and hypocritical.

[Sidenote: The shadow that may not pass.]

The old adage says that if there were no women in the world the men would
all be brutes; and if there were no men the women would all be fools. The
mother's ideal school might be very far indeed from a perfect one, but, as
things are, one of the bitterest of her griefs is when she has to send her
gentle, affectionate, pure-minded and open-souled little lad to school.
She knows well that he will have to struggle alone through the dark days
of initiation into school life, its cheap and shallow cynicism, its
endless injustices, and its darker shadows than any that have been
referred to. The mother knows she is losing her boy. She will never again
read his thoughts as an open book. She casts her bread upon the waters,
and may, or may not, receive it after many days. Her boy may never again
be the candid, gentle, bright-spirited being whose companionship was
delightful to her. His confidence may never again be hers, and she knows
better than to force it, or even invite it with loving insistence. If he
ever again opens his mind to her it will be as naturally as the dove
returned to the ark. But the cloud of school life must come between them
first And it is often a black one.

[Sidenote: The spiritual life.]

This is supposed to be a Christian land; but at how many public schools in
England does a small boy dare to kneel and say his nightly prayer as he
did at home? Sometimes a strong and earnest spirit among the bigger boys
succeeds in living the higher life, even at school, where all traditions
are dead against active religion, as the small boy who essays such a
course soon finds to his cost. The mother's ideal school would be one in
which the young spirit might be free to lay some of the burden of school
life at the feet of the Great Friend. But "cant," as any sign of religious
feeling is called at school, is regarded as a thing to be driven out by
sneers and gibes, flickings with a damp towel, and--worse than
all--hideous references to holy things and to the mother who taught them.
Everything that is pure and true seems to be sullied and robbed of truth
and goodness, and there appears to be nothing left for the boy to cling to
while his universe is in a whirl, the things he held sacred desecrated,
and a stream of lurid light thrown upon the seamy side of life so
carefully concealed from him at home.


[Sidenote: What is genius?]

[Sidenote: Sir Walter Scott.]

Mr. Andrew Lang disputes Dr. Johnson's definition of genius as "an
infinite capacity for taking pains," and seem to make out a good case for
doing so. Mr. Lang's own definition is "an unmeasured capacity for doing
things without taking pains." What a width of worlds lies between the two
conceptions! I suppose the real truth is that genius is indefinable, and
so varied in character as to escape all attempts at classification. But
there it is, to be reckoned with, and when the mother goes into the
nursery and looks round at all the dear little people there, she can no
more guess if any of them is going to be a genius than she can tell what
Destiny has in store for them in the way of aches and pains and accidents.
Some of the stupid ones are as likely to turn out geniuses as the bright
and clever. Sir Walter Scott was a dull boy at school. There were things
he could never learn. He loathed figures, and it is pathetic to remember
what a hideous part they played in his hard-worked life. As to his
attempts at poetry, they were very much in the rough at this early age,
but he loved other people's poetry so much that his mind was compact of
it. He could reel it off by the furlong. He was always lovable, and his
laugh was so hearty that it could often be heard long before the laugher
came in sight.

[Sidenote: "If I had only known."]

[Sidenote: The loneliness of genius.]

But genius is not always lovable. In this way it is frequently a terrible
trial to its possessor, especially in the days of childhood, when
subjugation to the domestic powers often involves a considerable amount of
real suffering. Read Hans Andersen's "Ugly Duckling" in this sense, and
you have some idea of the intense loneliness of a brilliant mind in early
days, when no one understands it, and when every effort towards expression
is checked and thwarted, every attempt at development coerced. Later on,
when genius will out, and shines resplendent, seen and recognised of all
men, what agonies of self-reproach do parents feel! What would they not
give to have the time over again wherein they might, with comprehension
added, soothe and sustain the tried young spirit, solacing it with
kindness and giving it the balm of sympathy and tenderness. "If I had only
known," say the mothers, who treated the absorption and aloofness of their
clever children as sullenness and bad-temper, and allowed themselves to
grow apart from the lonely young spirit, which needed more than most the
loving kindness of home and friends. For genius is essentially solitary.
There are depths and heights in the inner consciousness of many a child of
seven that are far beyond the view of millions of educated adults.
Shallowness is the rule; a comfortable shallowness, which, unknowing of
better things, measures all other minds with its own limited plummet line,
and can conceive of no deeper depth. How could it? And hence those
solitudes in which the spirit wanders lonely, yet longing for
companionship. A thirst is ever on it for a comprehending sympathy, and
when the young soul looks appealingly out at us, through wistful eyes, it
has no plainer language. It asks for bread, and we give it a stone.

[Sidenote: Misunderstood!]

And we put it all down to sulks!--unguessing of the tumult going on within
the teeming brain and the starved heart. Mothers, be gentle with young
ones you cannot understand. You little know what a dagger lies hidden in
the sentence so often heard: "Well, you _are_ queer. I can't understand
you." And you would be astonished if you could know how early some souls
realise their own loneliness. A child of tender years soon learns its
reticences. It almost intuitively feels the lack of response in others,
and expression is soon checked of all that lies behind the mere
commonplaces of existence.

[Sidenote: "No common language."]

What does Thackeray say? "To what mortal ear could I tell all, if I had a
mind? Or who could understand all?" And another writer expresses a similar
idea: "There are natures which ever must be silent to other natures,
because there is no common language between them. In the same house, at
the same board, sharing the same pillow, even, are those for ever
strangers and foreigners, whose whole stock of intercourse is limited to a
few brief phrases on the commonest material wants of life, and who, as
soon as they try to go further, have no words that are mutually

And again Thackeray, this time in "Vanity Fair," as before in "Pendennis":
"To how many people can any one tell all? Who will be open when there is
no sympathy, or has call to speak to those who never can understand?"

[Sidenote: Conscious aloofness.]

[Sidenote: Recognising our limitations.]

If mothers would only understand that this conscious aloofness begins
early in some natures--almost incredibly early--they would be happier in
their clever children and would make them happier too. There comes a
moment when the young mind that has lain clear and open as a book before
one's eyes enwraps itself in a misty veil, and enters into the silent
solitude which every human being finds within his own nature. And the
mother, unguessing, is hurt and repelled, though she should be well aware
that the time must come when the youthful soul must enter upon its
inheritance of individuality, and separate itself and stand apart. It is
at this momentous time that affection is most deeply needed, with a
craving and a yearning that cannot be expressed; and yet this is the
moment when the mother too often turns away, disappointed and chilled by
the unwonted reticence her child displays. She has yet to learn that human
affection is a wingless thing, and cannot follow the far flights of the
untrammelled spirit. It is well for mothers to recognise their
limitations, and to realise that there may be far more in her child's mind
than was ever dreamed of by herself. If she fails to do this, she will
chill back the love that lies, warm as ever, behind the incomprehensible
reserve wherewith the youthful spirit wraps itself while it learns what
all this inner tumult means. It is a trying time for both parent and son
or daughter, and the only thing to keep firm hold of is the love that
holds the two together. It is more important than ever at this parting of
the ways, though it may seem to be disregarded. There will surely be a
call upon it when the inner solitudes are found immeasurable, and when
the spirit, almost affrighted at its own illimitable possibilities, turns
back to the dear human hand and the loving glance and word that sufficed
it always until now.

[Sidenote: The need of patience.]

Mothers must play a waiting game in these matters. Expostulation is worse
than useless, only puzzling. Demands for explanation are worse than
purposeless. Both tend to still further harass a perplexed mind. Only
patience is recommendable, and always love, and plenty of it, for the
young sons and daughters. They may not seem to need it, and may even
appear to be indifferent to it; but it is good for them to know that when
they want it, as they very surely will, it is there for them. These doves
that return to the ark are often very weary, and long for rest and
comfort. Too often they find coldness and repulsion.

[Sidenote: The young genius.]

[Sidenote: About gentleness.]

Mr. Andrew Lang says that the future genius is often violent, ferocious,
fond of solitude, disagreeable in society. And how is the mother to divine
from these qualities a budding poet or a master of men? For there are
crowds of disagreeable, rude boys to be found on every hand. Intuitive
knowledge would be desirable on this point, but we cannot have it, and
without it the only thing to do is to correct faults vigorously, but never
to discontinue affection. Many parents are good at one or other, but it
is the few who can manage both. Gentleness is such a delightful quality
that it is often encouraged and applauded at the expense of firmness; and
the moral courage necessary for exercising the latter remains untrained,
and soon dies out for want of care. For this kind of courage only needs
practice, like patience and the piano, and, fortunately, each effort makes
it easier. Great, rough boys are wonderfully amenable to gentleness when
they know that firmness lies behind it. Lacking that, it is regarded as
"softness," and played upon for their own purposes. It is deplorable to
see the way the boys are treated in some families. They are noisy and
ill-mannered, it is true; but they would improve if they could only be
gently borne with, instead of being made to feel as if they were nuisances
and interlopers. They may never be geniuses, but for all that they have a
right to consideration in the only home they know. And they do not always
get it. Listen to the lament of one of them:--

[Sidenote: The Boy's Lament.]

  "What can a boy do, and where can a boy stay,
  If he always is told to get out of the way?
  He cannot sit here, and he mustn't stand there,
  The cushions that cover that gaily-decked chair
  Were put there, of course, to be seen and admired;
  A boy has no business to feel a bit tired.
  The beautiful carpets with blossom and bloom
  On the floor of the tempting and light-shaded room,
  Are not made to be walked on--at least, not by boys.
  The house is no place, anyway, for their noise.

  There's a place for the boys. They will find it somewhere,
  And if our own homes are too daintily fair
  For the touch of their fingers, the tread of their feet,
  They'll find it, and find it, alas! in the street,
  'Mid the gildings of sin and the glitter of vice;
  And with heartaches and longings we pay a dear price
  For the getting of gain that our lifetime employs
  If we fail in providing a place for our boys.

  Though our souls may be vexed with the problems of life,
  And worn with besetments and toiling and strife,
  Our hearts will keep younger--your tired heart and mine--
  If we give them a place in our innermost shrine;
  And till life's latest hour 'twill be one of our joys
  That we keep a small corner--a place for the boys."


[Sidenote: The vicious side of tidiness.]

[Sidenote: Tyrannical cleanliness.]

We have all heard of the fortunate lady whose "very failings leaned to
virtue's side." Is there a converse to her? Do none of our virtues lean to
vice's side? I think I could enumerate a few, but for the moment the
vicious side of tidiness is so strongly borne in upon me that I need go no
further afield. Tidiness is delightful, meritorious, indispensable,
admirable, estimable, praiseworthy, politic, and most precious. Untidiness
is execrable, reprehensible, unseemly, and quite detestable. It is first
cousin to uncleanliness, and is the mother of much domestic warfare.
Tidiness is a virtue, indeed, but when carried to an extreme it becomes
actually a disagreeable quality. My first impression to that effect was
imbibed at the early age of nine, when I was sent to a boarding school.
Separated from home and all familiar faces, I had a miserable heart-ache,
even in the reception-room, but the sight of the awful tidiness of the
dormitory chilled me to the very soul. The white walls, white beds,
boarded floor, with its strips of carpet in a sad monotone of tint, gave
me my first definite sensation of the meaning of the word "bleak." And
ever after, when returned to school from the holidays, I dreaded the
moment of entering that long dormitory, where tidiness and cleanliness
reigned rampant, like tyrants, instead of inviting, like the friendly,
comfortable things they really are.

[Sidenote: Selfish neatness.]

I know a mother who will not allow her children to have toys, "because
they are always lying about." Well, toys are a very good means of teaching
children tidiness; but the true mother-heart must be lacking when the
young ones are robbed of their childish joys for so selfish a reason.
Childhood lasts so short a time, and can be so happy. Why curtail its
little blisses? Just a few toys are more productive of pleasure than the
plethora which so many nurseries display nowadays. And why should tidiness
forbid a few?

For my part I like to see a battered old doll knocking about in the
drawing-room of my friends. Generally armless, sometimes legless,
occasionally headless, that doll becomes an enchanted spring of poetry
when its small proprietress comes in and takes it up, loving it deeply and
warmly in spite of its painful ugliness, its damaged condition, and
general want of charm. Is not that what love does for us all? Ignoring
our faults, it throws its glamour over us, and gives us what enriches the
donor as well as the recipient--the most precious thing on earth.

[Sidenote: About dolly.]

The mother who deprives her small daughter of a doll sacrifices more than
she knows to the demon of tidiness, and she robs herself of much delight.
The consultations about dolly's health are often funny enough. The
discussions about the wax and bran-stuffed thing's temper and naughtiness
give many a peep into those departments of the child's own nature, afford
many a clue to the best method of treating them, and are, besides, amusing
beyond expression. And where is poor Tommy, among boys, without his gun,
his sword, and pistol? He is despised of his peers, and almost despises
himself in consequence. It is bad for Tommy, very bad. Yes; tidiness can
be very selfish. One can scarcely pardon the mothers who allow it to
interfere with home joys.

[Sidenote: "Those messy flowers."]

I know people who object to flowers in the house because "they are so
messy." They droop and die indeed. 'Tis a true indictment, but they are
worth some trouble, are they not? Ultra-tidiness would banish them, and
some of us would willingly be banished with them from the realms so ruled.
Flowers do not last nearly so long when housed by persons of this sort as
with those who love them, tend them daily, cherish them with warmest care,
anticipate their needs, as only love can do, and attract from them some
subtle, scarcely comprehensible, sympathy that prolongs the existence of
these exquisite, innocent things, whose companionship means so much to

[Sidenote: "Tone."]

[Sidenote: The grateful shade of the æsthete.]

The æsthetes in their day revelled in untidiness. They made a cult of it,
and in their worship included a leaning towards dirt, which they canonised
under the name of "Tone." Many of them permitted even their faces to
acquire tone by this means, which was carrying the thing too far. But they
did much for succeeding generations in banishing a too pronounced neatness
from dress and the home. Has not the influence of the æsthete delivered us
from the terrible propriety of chairs ranged along the wall, piano to
match, and the centre-table, with its unalterable rigidity of central
ornament and rim of book and vase in conic sectional immutability?

[Sidenote: A word to the wise.]

Oh, it was all most beautifully tidy, but do, for a moment, recall it and
compare it with the drawing-room of to-day. I do not mean the dusty litter
of dilapidated draperies and orgie of over-crowded ornament to be found in
some houses, but to the sane, yet artistic arrangement of table and lamp,
piano and pottery, palm and vase, clustering fern and glowing blossom or
snowy flower, to be seen in thousands of English homes at the present
hour. Here tidiness is not absent, but its rigours are avoided. Its
essence is extracted, while its needless extremes--its suburbs, as it
were--are totally ignored. We have learned how to be clean, yet
decorative, in our homes and our costume, to distinguish between severity
and simplicity, and, so far, good. But the point is that tidiness should
not overcome us to the hurt of others, and consequently our own. If
husbands persist in leaving a trail of newspapers all over the house,
something after the fashion of the "hare" in a paper-chase, let us calmly
fold them and assuage our inner revolt as best we may. If the children
scatter their toys about, we can make them put them tidily away, and that
is more than we can manage with their fathers! But to be too acutely tidy
leads to friction and the development of that "incompatibility of temper"
which seems to be quite a modern disease, to judge from the very numerous
instances of it that come before the public notice.


[Sidenote: Woman's influence in the home.]

It is usually the wife and mother who sets the key of behaviour in the
home. If she is loud and rough, her servants and her children will follow
suit. If she is gentle, kindly, and patient, her example will exercise a
subtle influence on even the noisest of her domestics. Sometimes, when a
man has married beneath him, his first disillusionment, after the glamour
of his love is past, is caused by the _brusquerie_ of the uneducated and
ill-trained wife. And, on the other hand, when a girl or woman has married
beneath her own class--run away with a handsome groom or become the wife
of a good-looking jockey--her domestic experiences are calculated to be
her severest punishment. A relative of one such misguided girl, having
visited her in her married home, said afterwards to a friend: "His manners
at table, my dear, are simply frightful, but they compare agreeably with
his behaviour anywhere else, for he neither talks nor swears when he is
eating." What a life-companion for a well-bred girl! Should the husband
have any gentleness or goodness stowed away within him, he is sure to
improve as time goes on. His wife is an education to him, but at such a
tremendous cost to herself as to be absolutely incalculable.

[Sidenote: Where manners are absent.]

In ordinary cases, however, it is the wife who is responsible for the home
manners. And, oh! what a difference they make! In some families there is a
constant jar and fret of sulks and little tempers. Politeness among the
members is wholly ignored. Each one says the first disagreeable thing that
occurs to him, and the others warmly follow suit. The habit grows on all,
and the result is a state of things that makes the gentle-minded among the
inmates of the home long for peace and rest, and seize the first
opportunity of leaving it. And it is so easy, after all, to initiate a far
different and more agreeable state of things. The young ones can be
trained to gentleness and good manners, to self-control under provocation,
and to the daily practice of those small acts of self-denial,
self-control, and true courtesy, which do so much towards building up
conditions of home happiness.

[Sidenote: Churlish natures.]

[Sidenote: Their rampant egotism.]

There are, of course, churlish natures which nothing could ever influence
in the direction of true politeness, which always means self-effacement to
a certain extent. It is of such as these that a student of human nature
has said, "_Grattez le Russe, et vous trouvez le Tartare_." Would that
such beings were confined to Russia! How happy would other countries be in
their absence! The smallest touch to their vanity, their enormously
developed self-love, their triumphant self-conceit, robs them in a moment
of any surface polish they may ever have acquired. As a breath upon a
mirror dulls its brightness, and renders it useless for the purposes for
which it is made, so does the merest suggestion or shadow of a shade of
blame or criticism dull the touchy human subject, for a day, for a week,
perhaps longer, rendering him or her unfit for ordinary social intercourse
The egotism of such an one is ever rampant. It pervades his atmosphere, so
that one can touch and hurt it from afar, with the most genuine absence of
any intention to do so.

[Sidenote: Their presence a blight.]

Oh, how disagreeable they are! What cloudy blackness they spread over the
home! How they kill the little joys and blisses that might otherwise
surround the domestic hearth, giving human creatures solace for much
suffering! And, worse still, how completely they destroy the affection
that might be theirs, if only they could unwrap themselves from the
envelope of self in which they are enshrouded. No love, not even the
strongest, can sustain itself against years of brutal roughness,
intermittent it is true, but ever imminent. For who can tell how
innocently or unconsciously one may wound the outrageous self-conceit of
one of these? Martyrs in their own idea, they offer a spectacle to gods
and men which, could they but see it with clearness in its true aspect,
would be so mortifying and humiliating that it would convey a highly
salutary lesson. But they can never see anything in its true light that is
connected with themselves. If love is blind, what on earth is self-love?

[Sidenote: A brighter picture.]

But fortunately these dreadful people are comparatively rare; and the
majority of English homes--thousands and thousands of them, thank
God!--are abodes of peace and love, refuges from the cares of business and
the coldness of the outer world. The gentle courtesies of look and manner
are not reserved for strangers, but freely dispensed in the domestic
circle. The smile, the word of sympathy spoken in season, whether in the
happiness or troubles of the others, the thoughtfulness translated into
actions of kindly care for the well-being of all within the house; all
these are of almost angelic import in daily life. One is inclined to deify
gentleness and the sweet humility that is never exacting when one realises
how immensely they act and re-act on home-life. It is, perhaps, possible
to rate them too highly; but there are moments in which they appear to be
virtues of the very first order.

[Sidenote: The mother's duty to her children.]

It is the mother's duty to teach children to behave well at home and
elsewhere. Too often she fails in it, and the young ones are unruly. The
great lesson of obedience has not been learned; not even begun. And yet it
means so much that is beyond and above mere obedience! It is the beginning
of moral training. It is like the mastering of the clefs and notes in
music. That done, the learner may teach himself. Left undone, there is
nothing but discord to be evolved from his best efforts.

[Sidenote: Tyrants of Nursery-land.]

Fathers have not the same chance of spoiling the children. When they do,
they chiefly incline to pet the girls. Mothers prefer, as a rule, to spoil
the boys; and many a wife owes half her married misery to the injudicious
years of misrule in which her husband's boyhood was passed. Even now the
girls are taught in many a nursery to give up at once anything that the
boys may wish for. Is it not true? And, being true, is it surprising that
the age of chivalry is fading, fading? And often, in Nursery-land, there
is a tyrant girl. That tyrant girl, generally the eldest child, rules the
little ones with a rod of iron, supplies the lacking discipline of parents
with a terrorism which is founded on no principles of order or of
justice, and nourishes in infant breasts a like sentiment of tyranny to
her own, that of the trampled slave who waits only for opportunity to be
tyrant in his turn. That is what the carelessness of elders does in the

[Sidenote: The home of the ideal house-ruler.]

But the gentle firmness of the ideal house-ruler is as genially expansive
as the warm southern airs that come in April, and make us forget, in a
moment, the long bitterness of winter. If every one is not happy in the
homes where it is to be found, at least every one has a chance of
happiness. There is a wonderful solace in even the superficial sweetness
of politeness in such a home. The stranger within its gates is at once
aware of a balmy moral atmosphere, from which harsh words, frowning looks,
recriminations, scowls, sulks, and all their kin are wholly banished, and
where the amenities of life are at least as much studied as its more
substantial needs. Has not Solomon himself given us a precedent for
according more importance to the former than to the latter? Has he not
told us that--"Better is the dinner of herbs where love is than the
stalled ox and hatred therewith"?


[Sidenote: The old, old story.]

Has any one ever met, in real life, the woman who screams and jumps on a
chair at the sight of a mouse? I have never heard of her out of the
servants' hall, where ladies' maids appear to carry on the traditions of
sensibility kept up by their betters two or three generations since, when
nerves, swoonings, and burnt feathers played a prominent part in the lives
of fashionable women. A little mouse has nothing terrible about it, vermin
though it be in strict classification. Now, if it had been a rat! Or a
blackbeetle! A large, long-legged, rattling cockroach! Truly, these are
awesome things, and even the strongest-minded of women hate the sight of
them. Very few women, I take it, are afraid of mice. And yet, as the world
rolls on, that little story of a small grey mouse and screeching women
will reappear again and again, dressed up in fresh fancy costumes, when
news is scarce and a corner of the paper has to be filled up.

[Sidenote: Are we moral cowards?]

[Sidenote: The children.]

[Sidenote: One need not fear to be brave.]

But though we can watch with interest and amusement, and a sort of kindly
feeling, the actions of a mouse, we are sad cowards all the same. Some of
us are physically cowardly, though by no means all; but very few of us are
morally brave. I heard a sermon not long ago on moral cowardice as shown
in the home. And who shall deny that it is very, very difficult to obey
the old dictum: "_Fais ce que dois, advienne que pourra_," and to deal
faithfully with the members of the home circle, from paterfamilias himself
down to the little maid in the basement territory? The responsibility of
the whole matter lies with the wife and mother, involving many a hard
task, many a battle fought against the secret shrinking from giving pain,
or causing disappointment, or rousing temper. How difficult it is to
refuse some pleasure to the children we love, because it is injudicious
for them, and how fatally easy to give in weakly, and prove ourselves
cowardly! And sometimes the punishment comes quickly: "Oh, if I had only
been firm, all this might have been prevented!" we cry in pain and sorrow
when all the evil consequences we had dimly foreseen have become actual
fact. Some of us are so afraid that the children will love us less if we
interfere with their childish joys and pleasures. But, after all, this
need not be taken into account, for the youngsters possess a divining
crystal in their own clear thoughts, and know well when Love is at the
helm. They can discern in a moment whether an arbitrary self-will dictates
the course of things or that single-minded affection that seeks the truest
good of those who are in its charge. They will not love us less, but more,
as time goes on.

Besides, it is ignoble to be influenced by consequences that may result to
ourselves, even possible loss of affection, the only earthly thing that is
worth living for. "_Advienne que pourra_" are the grand old words.

[Sidenote: A difficult task.]

A friend of mine, whose husband became a drunkard, told me that the most
difficult thing she had ever done in her life was to remonstrate with him
when he first began to drink too much. It was a clear duty, and she did
it, but it required the summoning up of all her fortitude, as some who
read these words may know but too well from their own experience. "When I
began," she told me, "my knees trembled, and at last I shook as if I had
been in an ague. It was quite dreadful to me to speak to him, and yet he
took it as though I were out of temper, and merely shrewish." "And did it
do any good?" I asked, and she told me that he was better for a few weeks,
and seemed to be struggling against the love of drink, but that after a
couple of months things were as bad as ever again.

[Sidenote: Cowardice with friends.]

I do not know any one possessed of sufficient moral courage to deal
faithfully with their friends and relatives on the subject of
objectionable little ways in eating or drinking, or in the hundred and one
little actions of daily life. We endure silently the sight of excessively
disagreeable habits rather than risk giving mortal offence. In fact, we
are sad cowards. "How dreadful it is to sit opposite So-and-so when he is
eating," says one member of the family to another. "He ought to be told
about it." "Oh, I couldn't! I simply could not," is the instant reply, and
the other echoes, "Nor I. Not for worlds!" And So-and-so goes on in his
ugly ways, throwing food into his mouth as though the latter were a cave
without a door, and everywhere he goes this lack of good manners makes
people take a dislike to him. He certainly ought to be told of it; but who
is to tell him?

[Sidenote: A penalty of eminence.]

If it is difficult in the home, what must it be in the case of the high
ones of the earth, to whom all the world turns a courtier face? Some time
ago I was asked to meet at luncheon a very great lady, one whom in my
thoughts I had placed on a sort of pedestal on account of her beauty, her
high place in the world, and her many sorrows. I was delighted, and
eagerly accepted the invitation. The lady was beautiful still, in spite of
her grey hair, but all her charm is spoiled by a habit of almost
incessant snorting--no less vivid word will express it! At the luncheon
table it was not only excessively pronounced, but additionally
disagreeable. Romance had shone like a star in all my thoughts about this
great lady until then, but the radiance died away on the instant and has
never again returned--"_Alles ist weg!_" And such a trifle, too, after
all! If only some one had dared to deal faithfully with that great lady
there would be nothing to disgust or offend about her.

[Sidenote: Glass houses?]

We know ourselves so little that we should carefully cherish an acute
distrust, and be ready to suspect in our own persons the existence of some
flaw or imperfection for every one we detect in others. Perhaps it is an
inward consciousness that we live in a glass house that makes us fear to
throw stones.

[Sidenote: Correcting the maids.]

[Sidenote: A recipe for fault-finding.]

It is with a quaking heart that the mistress of a household remonstrates
with her maids on any point in which they have failed in duty. It needs
considerable moral courage to discharge oneself of this necessary task.
One puts off the evil moment as long as possible, and meditates in the
night watches as to the most feasible plan of getting it done. And very
often the point is weakly abandoned. We cannot risk exposing ourselves to
the "tongue-thrashing" in which some of the basement ladies are such
gifted performers. The safest way is always to mingle praise with blame,
just as we hide a powder in jam. "You are always so very neat, Mary, that
I am sure this cannot be neglect, but just a little bit of forgetfulness."
Or, "Your soups are generally so excellent, cook, that," &c. This is a
good recipe for fault-finding, and it works well, too, with our equals,
though, of course, one has to be doubly careful in dealing courteously
with so sensitive a class as servants.

[Sidenote: Cowards all!]

The fact is, we are cowards all, in face of any duty that threatens to
affect the sunshiny atmosphere of home. We dread the clouds with a mortal
fear, and are prone to sacrifice far more than we ought on the altar of
Peace and Love. They are good and beautiful things, but they may be too
dearly bought. And, above all, we must beware of indulging ourselves in
them to the detriment of the best interests of others.

The Duchess of Teck, with all her _bonhomie_ and graciousness of manner,
was one of the most dignified of women. She could administer a rebuke,
too, without uttering a word. I shall never forget her look when, on a
semi-public, outdoor occasion, an individual of the civic kind approached
her with his hat on his head. He had taken it off on his approach, but
calmly replaced it as he stood before the Duchess and her husband. A
gleam of fun shone in the Duke's eyes as he watched the episode. The
Duchess, meanwhile, in dead silence, simply looked at the hat. The look
was enough. Those large grey eyes of hers were eloquent. They said, as
plainly as if the words had been spoken, "My good man, you are guilty of a
very flagrant breach of etiquette. What a very ignorant person you must

The wearer of the hat looked puzzled for a single instant as he marked the
eyes of the Duchess fixed firmly on his head-gear. In another moment his
hat was in his hand, and his face, ears, and neck were suffused with a
most painful scarlet. He was all one abject apology. The Duchess, then,
with a significant glance, quietly proceeded with the matter in hand.


[Sidenote: Manly abstention.]

I am no advocate of total abstinence. Quite the contrary! I am sorry for
the man who has to bind himself down by oaths and vows to refrain from
drink, because he knows that he cannot leave off when he has had enough.
But if he abstains, not from any knowledge of inward weakness, but from
the same motive that urged St. Paul to say: "I would not eat meat while
the world lasts, lest I make my brother to offend," then I honour him with
all my heart. And this is honestly the principle on which many become
total abstainers, women as well as men.

[Sidenote: Why should we have wine?]

But what I want to get at is the ordinary everyday practice of drinking
wine, which most of us follow in some degree or other. I do not refer to
excessive drinking, inebriety, or anything of that kind, but merely the
customary glass or two of wine at lunch, and two or three glasses at
dinner. This can in no possible way be regarded as a bad habit. It is, in
fact, the usual thing in polite society, and girls are brought up to it,
and when they marry, and perhaps find that among other expensive habits
this one has to be given up, they miss their glass of wine rather badly at
first. Why should we have wine? That is the real question. There is no
very particular reason why those who can afford it should _not_ drink
wine; but why should they do it? I think I could give a better set of
reasons _contra_ than _pro_ in this matter.

[Sidenote: Reasons against the habits.]

First comes the one already referred to: that circumstances may not always
admit of their indulging themselves in this rather expensive habit. Good
wine costs money, and cheap wine is often highly injurious.

Another good reason for not drinking wine habitually at table is that when
the health is impaired by illness or low vitality arising from any cause,
the invigorating effect of good wine is quite lost, owing to the system
having become accustomed to it. This prevents it from acting upon the
nerves and tissues as it would do most beneficially if there were any
novelty about it.

A third reason for not doing it is that for patients who have made a
continual practice of wine-drinking at meals, doctors are obliged, in
quite nine cases out of ten, to forbid it, especially to women. And almost
always they order whiskey instead. How often one hears people say
nowadays--both men and women--"My doctor won't let me drink wine. He says
I must have whiskey and water, _if I drink anything_."

[Sidenote: Sir Henry Thompson's verdict.]

[Sidenote: "A dietetic error."]

No doubt the doctor would generally prefer that his patients should not
drink even the whiskey, but he knows very well that the habit of a
lifetime is not to be overcome without an amount of resolution which is by
no means always forthcoming. Sir Henry Thompson, in his admirable book,
"Food and Feeding," gives it as his opinion that "the _habitual_ use of
wine, beer, or spirits is a dietetic error." He adds to this very straight
and direct pronouncement: "In other words, the great majority of people,
at any age or of either sex, will enjoy better health, both of body and
mind, and will live longer, without alcoholic drinks whatever than with
habitual indulgence in their use, even though such use be what is
popularly understood as moderate. But I do not aver that any particular
harm results from the habit of now and then enjoying a glass of really
fine, pure wine, just as one may occasionally enjoy a particularly choice
dish; neither the one nor the other, perhaps, being sufficiently innocuous
or digestible for frequent, much less habitual, use." And there is much
more to practically the same effect. So that this eminent authority
regards the habit of daily drinking wine as one that is likely to produce
more or less injurious results upon the body, and possibly upon the mind
as well.

[Sidenote: The greatest danger.]

And I have kept to the last another reason, and perhaps the strongest of
any, against it. That is, the ever-present danger of learning to like wine
too well, and of falling into the awful fault of drunkenness. I will add
no word to this argument, for the miseries, degradation, and horrors of
this kind of thing are only too well known.

[Sidenote: A telling example.]

Madame Sarah Bernhardt, who is as healthy, vigorous, and charming a woman
of her age (I won't mention what it is!) as it would be possible to find,
and who has preserved in a marvellous manner her dramatic powers,
attributes her condition of blithe well-being to her life-long habit of
abstinence from drinking wine or alcoholic beverages of any kind. It is
not that she never touches them. Not at all! The _Grande Sarah_ can enjoy
a glass of champagne or Burgundy as well as any one--better, in fact, than
most, since she has never accustomed herself to their constant use. She
likes milk, and if any woman wants to keep her complexion at its best she
should take to this unsophisticated beverage at once and abide by it.

[Sidenote: The habitual use only deprecated.]

There is no reason whatever that we should not enjoy wine at
dinner-parties. I am so afraid of being misunderstood that I must run
some risk of repeating myself. It is only with the habitual daily use of
wine at lunch and dinner that I am finding fault. It serves no good end.
But, on occasion, let it be enjoyed like other good gifts of a kindly
Providence. Because some misuse it and abuse it there is no compulsion to
avoid it upon those who do neither. If every one of the moderate drinkers
in England were to become teetotallers there would be just the same number
of drunkards left in the land, pursuing their own courses. They would not
be affected by the abstinence of others.

[Sidenote: A mournful dinner-party.]

A dinner-party without wine is rather a mournful business. I was at one
once. It was several years ago, but I have never forgotten it. It was the
first occasion on which I ever tasted a frightful temperance drink called
"gooseberry champagne." It is also likely to be the last! Oh, no! Do not
let us have wineless dinner-parties! The very point of my argument is that
if we refrain from the habit of drinking it daily our enjoyment of it on
such social occasions is very greatly enhanced. But what are we to drink?
I fully admit that the perfect drink has yet to be invented. Water would
be good enough for most of us if we could only get it pure. But this is
difficult indeed. And even if our water supply were to be immaculate we
should lack faith in its perfection! Could we have our glass jugs filled
at some far-off mountain rill, miles away from London smoke and its
infected atmosphere, we should have to look no further for a delicious
drink, pure, invigorating, and of so simple a character as leaves the
flavours of food unimpaired for the palate.

[Sidenote: A substitute.]

Sweet drinks are not recommended as accompaniments to solid food. But
there is no lack of good aërated waters, sparkling and most inviting of
aspect, as well as pleasant to the palate for those who have not spoiled
it by the constant use of wine.

Now, I wonder if any single reader of this will give up even one glass of
wine daily, or keep her young sons and daughters from falling into the
habit of constantly taking it at meals? I can assure the doubtful that
there is nothing unusual in dispensing with it. The question asked by
one's host or hostess at a restaurant: "What wine do you like?" is often,
and more especially at luncheon, answered by: "None, thanks; I like
apollinaris, distilled water," &c. The experiment of doing without wine is
worth trying.


[Sidenote: "Discreet women have neither eyes nor ears."]

In an old book that is one of my treasures, having been published in the
year 1737, I find much wisdom that is applicable to our conduct in
everyday life. It purports to be a "Compleat Collection of English
Proverbs; also the most celebrated Proverbs of the Scotch, Italian,
French, and Other Languages." Very early in the volume comes the saying
that "Discreet women have neither eyes nor ears." Have we not all to
practise this kind of discretion in our home dealings? In vulgar parlance,
we "wink at" much that goes on in the kitchen, and profit largely in the
matter of peace and quiet by doing so. Should we hear the servants
disagree, a convenient deafness seizes us; for we know very well that if
we were to inquire into the bearings of the business a slightly boisterous
wind would very soon develop into a hurricane. And does not the exercise
of tact in many cases compel us to shut our eyes to the traces of tears on
dear faces when we know that any reference to the cause would upset
composure and bring with it the feeling of humiliation that follows loss
of self-control before others. The happiest homes are those in which
"discreet women have neither eyes nor ears," except when vigilance is
thoroughly in season.

[Sidenote: "A great dowry is a bed of brambles."]

From the Spanish comes the proverb, "A great dowry is a bed full of
brabbles." Was there ever an heiress yet who did not find it so? Who did
not, at least once in her life, long to be rid of the riches that made
life so difficult for her, obscuring true love, and making the parting of
the ways so impossibly difficult of choice? And even when the
disinterested lover is chosen there are many, many unhappy hours caused by
the miserable money. A man loves his pride far more than he loves any
woman, and often sacrifices home happiness to it. There is no lack of
"brabbles" (brambles) in any woman's life who possesses wealth. Riches
might be supposed to be a great easement to existence, but if the poorly
endowed could but realise their immunity from cares of a heavy kind they
would, like the psalmist, choose "neither riches nor poverty." Even a
small dowry serves to bring the sharks round a girl, and she is far safer
without more than the merest competence. To have to do some work in the
world is good for her, and many a devoted parent who works hard to leave
his girls well provided for would have done far better for them if he had
equipped them with the means of earning their own living. There would be
fewer "brabbles" in their path. There are thousands and thousands of
discontented women in England now who are weighted with their own idle and
selfish lives, and owe it all to the selfless affection of a father who
worked himself into his grave in order to place them beyond the reach of

Oh! The waste of beautiful things in this weary world! The bootless love
that blindly strives for the welfare of the loved ones! The endless pains
and self-denial that elicit nothing but ingratitude! Who has not read
"Père Goriot"? Have any of us forgotten King Lear? Fathers, do not burden
your daughters with great dowries. Life is hard enough on women without
adding the penalty of great riches to the weird they have to dree.

[Sidenote: "The best mirror is an old friend."]

"The best mirror is an old friend." Most truly 'tis so. There are we safe
from flattery. We sometimes see in our looking-glasses rather what we wish
to see than what is really reflected. Du Maurier had once in _Punch_ a
portrait of Mrs. Somebody as she really was, another sketch of the lady as
she appeared to herself, and a third as her husband saw her. The husband
represented the "old friend" in this instance, and his idea of his wife
was far from flattering. It is so with many husbands; but not with all.
Quite recently there was published a sonnet, written by an eminent man on
seeing his wife's portrait when she was well on into middle age. The
expression of surprise in discovering that any one could see an elderly
woman in the wife of his youth, in whom he saw always, when he looked at
her, her own young face, was exquisitely put, and the whole sonnet most
touchingly conveyed the truth that some "old friends" see dear but faded
faces through a glamour of affection, that equals that of even vanity

[Sidenote: "An hungry man is an angry man."]

"An hungry man an angry man." Well! Here is good guidance for us.
_Punch's_ immortal "Feed the brute!" endorses it with a note of modernity,
and the far-off echo from the early days of the eighteenth century proves
that human nature is not much altered in this respect. Is it not a good
recommendation for punctuality with meals? But how many men will approve
of the following: "Dry bread at home is better than roast meat abroad." In
these days of restaurant lunches and dinners all that kind of thing might
be supposed to have altered; but, even now, many a man prefers a chop at
home to mock turtle in the city. Home food does him more good, he thinks.
Is there anything in it beyond imaginings?

[Sidenote: "Life is half spent before we know what it is."]

[Sidenote: "God has His plan for every man."]

"Life is half spent before we know what it is." How often we wish we
could have our time over again, and how differently we should spend it,
with the light of experience to guide us! It was our tragic ignorance that
misled us, we think. We had no chart to show us where the quicksands lay.
We could so easily have avoided them, or so we believe. If we had only
taken the other turning, we say. It was at that parting of the roads that
we lost our way. There were no finger-posts for our understanding, and the
experience of friends we rejected as unsuitable to our own case. And, oh!
how "full of brabbles" have we found the path. We missed the smooth, broad
highway, and met many an ugly fence and trudged many a weary foot in muddy
lanes and across ploughed fields. If we had only known! The sweetness of
the might-have-been smiles upon us from its infinite distance, far, far
beyond our reach, with the light upon it that never was on land or sea.
_Si jeunesse savait!_ But, then, if it did, it would no longer be youth.
And, after all, we were not meant to walk firmly and safely and wisely at
the first trial, any more than the baby who totters and sways and balances
himself, only to totter again, and suddenly collapse with the deep and
solemn gravity of babyhood, under the laughing, tender eyes of the
watchful mother. Are there not wise and loving eyes watching our
wanderings and noting our sad mistakes? And cannot good come out of evil?
Thank God, it can, and many a life that looks like failure here on earth
may be one of God's successes.

Remember the good old Swiss proverb:--

  "God has His plan
  For every man."


[Sidenote: The brutality of some qualities of candour.]

Why is it that members of some households consider themselves at liberty
to make the rudest remarks to each other on subjects that ought to be
sacred ground? We all know the old saying which tells us that fools rush
in where angels fear to tread, and when we find strangers from without the
home circle inter-meddling with the bitter griefs of its members, we are
full of condemnation. For instance, when a callous question was asked of a
girl in mourning as to whom she was wearing it for, the indignation of
those in hearing of it knew no bounds. But there are other griefs than
bereavement, and sometimes they are even harder to bear. If perfect
freedom of remark is habitually indulged in, the habit grows, and grows,
and the operator at last becomes so hardened to the sight of the pain she
inflicts that it makes no impression on her--no more than a hedgehog's
prickles make on their proprietor.

[Sidenote: The painfully frank person not always a model of justice.]

There is far too much candour in family life! Like all perversions of
good qualities, it is more aggravating than many wholly bad ones. The
possessor can always make out such a good case for herself. "I always say
what I think," is one of the favourite expressions of these candid folk.
"I never flatter any one," is another of their pet sayings, but I have
always observed that a painfully frank person is by no means rigidly "true
and just in all her dealings," as the Catechism puts it. Quite the
contrary, in fact. Such persons seem to use up all their stock of candour
in dealing round heart-aches and planting roots of bitterness wherever
they find an opportunity. They have none left for occasions when it is
obviously against their own interests to be very honest and open.
Double-dealing often lurks behind an exaggerated appearance of frankness.

[Sidenote: Politeness need not mean stiffness.]

The cultivation of politeness in the home averts much of this element of
_brusquerie_ and unnecessary candour with their consequences of ill-will
and wounded spirits. Politeness need not mean stiffness, as some folk seem
to fancy that it does. It is only when it is but occasionally donned and
not habitually worn that it becomes inseparable from a feeling of _gêne_.
"Company manners" should not be very different from those of everyday
life, but those of every day are often lamentably insufficient.

[Sidenote: "A prophet is not honoured."]

[Sidenote: The alchemy of noble natures.]

The reason that so many wounds can be dealt to those at home by the
wielders of the weapon of candour is that we are known with all our faults
to the members of the home circle. Our weaknesses cannot expect to escape
the notice of those who see us every day, and it is only after long
practice that we learn to receive the thrusts of the over-candid with a
patient forbearance. Sometimes we are fain to acknowledge that we have
profited by the sound and wholesome home-truths conveyed to us by their
means, but it needs a noble nature to accept in this way what was meant as
a dagger-thrust. There are cases where some natural defect is made the
butt of sneers and rude remarks, as when a sister remarks to a brother,
"Pity you're so short, Jack!" when she knows very well that poor Jack
would willingly give a finger to be the length of it taller. These nasty
little jests are not forgotten, and when the day comes that the sister
might exert a beneficent influence over Jack, she finds that he is armed
against her by the memory of her own words.

[Sidenote: Revealing family secrets.]

A very hateful form of candour is that which impels people to reveal
family secrets, which have for some very good reason been kept from some
of the members. "They think it only right that he should know," and
straightway proceed to inform him, whoever he may be, without even giving
the unfortunate relatives the chance of telling him themselves. Such a
case occurred once in a family with which I had some acquaintance. A
woman, who was not even a relative, revealed a carefully-guarded secret to
a boy who was still too young to realise the importance of keeping it to
himself. Consequently it soon became public property, and when, after an
interval, the truth was discovered as to how the boy came to know the
facts, the person who had told him was heard to express surprise that she
was never invited to the So-and-so's now! It would have been more
surprising if she had been! There are officious people of this sort to be
found in every circle, and it is always safer to keep them at a distance.
Two such are enough to set a whole city by the ears.

[Sidenote: Candour and cold water.]

[Sidenote: That delightful word "Tact"!]

Candour is a delightful and a refreshing quality; of that there can be not
the smallest doubt. And cold water is refreshing! It is nice to have a
little drink or a pleasant bath, but no one likes his head held under the
pump, for all that! Nor do we enjoy being forced to drink cold water when
we are not thirsty, do we? But that is analogous to what the over-candid
people make us do. Hypocrisy is hateful enough, but we all know it for
what it is, and sometimes a small dose of it is really preferable to a
draught of candour, administered without compunction, the operator holding
the nose of the victim, as it were.

[Sidenote: "To be administered in small doses."]

[Sidenote: La peau de chagrin.]

It is, at least, not a commodity to be laid in in large quantities, is it?
And even when we feel very well supplied, we need not be lavish with it.
No one will be much poorer if we keep our stores untouched, and we
ourselves shall certainly be richer. For does not unnecessary
outspokenness rob us of the affection and sympathy of those without whom
the world would be an empty and a dreary place? We want all the love we
can get to help us through the world, and when we favour others with a
burst of candour we sadly diminish our share of goodwill. It is like the
_peau de chagrin_ in Balzac's famous story, which contracted whenever the
owner used up any of the joys of life, and when it shrank into nothingness
he had to die. So it is with our unkind speeches. They lose us the only
life worth living, that which is in the thoughts and affections of our
friends. And it is extraordinary how long they are remembered. They stick
like burrs long after the pleasant, kindly words of praise and
appreciation are forgotten.


  "What did the Colonel's lady think?
      Nobody never knew.
  Somebody asked the Sergeant's wife,
      An' she told 'em true!
  When you get to a man in the case,
      They're like as a row of pins,
  For the Colonel's lady an' Judy O'Grady
      Are sisters under their skins!"


[Sidenote: The reticence of the Colonel's lady.]

[Sidenote: A delightful social quality.]

[Sidenote: Unintentional slights.]

"Under their skins." Perhaps. But note the reticence of the Colonel's
lady. "Nobody never knew" what she thought about it all, and what would
the world be if the typical gentlewoman did not exercise self-control? If
every woman were to be as outspoken as Judy O'Grady, society would rapidly
fall to pieces. The lesson of quiet composure has to be learned soon or
late, and it is generally soon in the higher classes of society. In fact
the quality of reticence, and even stoicism, is so early implanted in the
daughters of the cultivated classes that a rather trying monotony is
sometimes the result. After a while the girls outgrow it, learning how to
exercise the acquired habit of self-control without losing the charm of
individuality. When maturity is reached, one of the most useful and
delightful of social qualities is sometimes attained--not always--that of
silently passing over much that, if noticed, would make for discord. Truth
to tell, there is often far too much talking going on. A little incident
occurs over which some one feels slighted or offended. Perhaps the slight
or offence was most unintentional, but as we all know, there are many
"sensitive" women who are ever ready to make a molehill into a mountain.
This is the moment for a judicious and golden silence. The wise woman will
not imitate Judy O'Grady and make her moan to every one she meets about
the rudeness of that ill-bred Mrs. So-and-so. This is the very best means
of magnifying the affair. Let it rest. An explanation is sure, or almost
sure, to be given, but if, in the meanwhile, any quantity of talk has been
going on, the explanation which was perfectly adequate to the original
occasion, seems remarkably incomplete and lacking in spontaneity.

[Sidenote: How the "Colonel's lady" would treat the matter.]

Suppose that an omission has been made of some particular acquaintance in
sending out invitations to a ball. The lady who is left out in the cold,
unless she happens to be one of the "sensitive" contingent, immediately
comes to the conclusion that there is a mistake somewhere, that a note
has been lost in the post, or delivered at the wrong address, or something
of that kind. She keeps quiet about it, saying no unnecessary word on the
subject, except, perhaps, to a very intimate friend of her own, who also
knows the giver of the ball well, and who may be able to throw some light
on the matter. The chances are that the mistake will be cleared up. But
the "sensitive" beings whose feelings are always "trailing their coats,"
like the stage Irishman, make such a hubbub and to-do that they render it
difficult for the hostess of the occasion to remedy any oversight that may
have been made, without the appearance of having been forced into it.

[Sidenote: "The Sergeant's wife."]

Sometimes a whole "snowball" of scandal is collected by some one starting
the merest flake, so to speak. "I wonder if Mrs. Such-an-one is all
right," is quite enough to set the matter going. The person to whom this
remark has been made says to some one else, "Lady Blank thinks Mrs.
Such-an-one is a bad lot," and still more colour is given to the next
remark, so that the simile of the snowball justifies itself. Is not this a
case when silence proves itself to be golden indeed? And not only in the
interests of charity is this so, but sometimes for reasons of pure policy
as well. A lady who had permitted her expressions about a certain person
of her acquaintance to pass the bounds of discretion was, a few seasons
since, called to account by the husband of the libelled individual, and a
most unpleasant scene ensued. It was quite right that she should have had
to undergo some unpleasantness, for she had made at least one woman most
undeservedly miserable, and had almost caused a separation between her and
her husband. Had this really resulted no one would have believed in the
innocence of the unfortunate wife. A complete recantation and full apology
followed, and the perpetrator of the scandal disappeared for many months
from amid her circle of acquaintances.

[Sidenote: The little leaven in the home.]

[Sidenote: Blessed are the peacemakers.]

And is not silence golden in the home? If there is even one member who is
kindly and charitable, and who makes allowances for small failings,
looking for the good in everybody and taking a lenient view of other
people's shortcomings, the effect is surprising. The little leaven
leaveneth the whole lump in time, and the "soft answer" becomes the
fashion of the household. "How very rude Edith was this morning at the
breakfast table!" says some one, feeling aggrieved by the harshness of
some rebuke administered by one who had neither right nor reason to find
fault. If the interlocutor replies, "Yes, shameful; I wouldn't stand it; I
should tell her of it, if I were you," then the flame is fanned, and may
result in a general conflagration, in which friendliness, goodwill, and
serenity are consumed to ashes. But if a discreet silence on all
aggravating circumstances is observed the affair may blow over very
quietly. Suppose that some such reply as the following is made: "Oh, well,
you know what Edith is. She is easily put out, and she had just had a very
annoying letter. You may be sure she is very sorry by this time for the
way she spoke to you." At once the calming effect of gentleness and
reticence is felt, and when the belligerents next meet it is only to find
that peace is concluded, war at an end.

Blessed are the peacemakers!

[Sidenote: Family amenities.]

A perfectly frightful amount of talking goes on in some families. Each
member is picked to pieces, as it were, motives found for her conduct that
would astonish her indeed if she heard them attributed to her, and her
kindest and most disinterested actions are distorted to suit the narrow
minds and selfish ideas of those who are discussing her. Incapable of
magnanimity themselves, such people translate kindheartedness and
single-mindedness by the dim little light that is within their own petty
minds, and the result is just what might be expected from the process.
Light becomes darkness, purity foulness, goodness evil. There are
women--not at all the worst in the world, but a silly, selfish,
empty-headed class of unconscious mischief-makers--who, when they talk
together, produce a kind of brew like that of the Witches in "Macbeth."

  "Fillet of a fenny snake
  In the cauldron boil and bake;
  Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
  Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
  Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing,
  Adder's fork, and blindworm's sting,
    For a charm of powerful trouble
    Let the hell-broth boil and bubble."

[Sidenote: The confidential whisperers.]

Many a little fault, deeply repented, would pass and be forgotten, except
in the sorrowing penitence of the faulty one, if only a stream of talk had
not flowed around and about it, bitter as the waters of Marah. Often and
often when friends look coldly on each other, each wondering why the other
should seem estranged, the cause may be found to lie in a "long talk," in
which some one has indulged, with the result that actions are
misrepresented, hasty words exaggerated, and charged with meaning they
were never meant to carry, and remarks repeated in a manner that gives
them an unkind bearing they were never intended to convey. "I wonder why
Mary did not stop for a word or two, as she always does when we meet? She
looked rather stiff, I thought." "Oh, I suppose ... has been talking to
her and making mischief. You know what she is!"

Yes; that's how it's done. It is only what might be expected from poor
Judy O'Grady; but the Colonel's lady is not always above the level of the
"whisperer" who "separates chief friends."

I say again--

  "Blessed are the peacemakers."


[Sidenote: Conscience classes.]

[Sidenote: The hat-pin terror.]

Consciences can be cultivated, like voices, and it would do the world no
harm if there were professors who would give courses of lessons on their
cultivation. The young woman whose hat-pin pierced the eye of a young man
who was unfortunate enough to sit next to her on the top of a Liverpool
omnibus stood in need of a few lessons. If hat-pins are a necessity--and I
admit that they are--it should also be necessary to exercise care in their
disposition. It is quite possible to render them effectual and yet
harmless by pushing them slightly back after having thrust them through
the crown of the hat. And any one in whom a social conscience is properly
developed will see to it that her hat-pins are not unnecessarily long. For
instance, a six-inch hat crown cannot possibly require a ten-inch pin. It
is terrible to see the armoury of sharp-pointed pins that jut out at the
sides of some women's heads.

[Sidenote: Umbrellas as weapons of offence.]

Another point in which the members of our sex show a total absence of
social conscience is the manner in which they carry a sunshade or
umbrella. The latter is often, when open, held down over the head of a
rather short woman in a way that is certainly protective of herself and
her headgear, but which is extremely inconvenient, and sometimes even
dangerous, to those who share the footpath or pavement with her. The
points of her umbrella catch in the hair or dress, and sometimes threaten
the eyes of passers-by.

When closed, the sunshade or umbrella often becomes equally a weapon of
offence, being carried in the arms with the knob or crook of the handle
protruding. A smart blow is often administered to the unwary passer in
this way, and among the dangers of the streets, numerous enough without,
may now be catalogued the shouldered sunshade of our sex.

[Sidenote: Male injustices.]

It is not often that we imitate the equally dangerous method in which some
men carry sticks and umbrellas, viz., under the arm, with the ferule
protruding at the back, a danger to the eyes of those behind; nor do we,
as a rule, prod the pavement with our parasols, as so many men do with
their sticks or umbrellas, letting them drag after them, so that those who
come behind are apt to fall over them. But, on the other hand, our
husbands are free from the offence of opening sunshades in a crowd, with
an upward scrape of all the points.

[Sidenote: The matinée hat.]

And then there is the matinée hat! Oh, sisters, where is the social
conscience of those among us who of malice aforethought attend the theatre
with all-impeding and obstructive headgear? A knowledge of the sentiments
we excite in the bosoms of those behind us might help some of us to be a
little unselfish in the matter. Positive, if temporary, detestation is the
principal emotion entertained towards the wearer of a matinée hat, and the
hatred is not unmingled with contempt; for who can help despising a girl
or woman who is openly and avowedly careless of the inconvenience and
disappointment she is causing? Man's ideal of woman depicts her as so
exactly the opposite of this that he cannot fail to resent the

[Sidenote: Calls on wrong days.]

Of all the forms of social lack of conscience, one of the most irritating
is the way some women have of making calls on the off days, other than
those on which the callee announces herself to be "at home." Especially is
this annoying if the person called on happens to be a busy woman. She has
probably arranged her "day" in self-defence from intrusion on all others,
but to do so is no safeguard against the unconscionable acquaintance who
prefers to suit her own convenience rather than that of her friends. And
if sometimes she comes in in very wet garments and flounces down on one's
velvet-covered couch, why, she may be described as adding injury to

It is really almost insulting to call on an off day, for it means either
that one's caller hopes to find one absent or else that she intends to
monopolise one's attention after having flagrantly disregarded one's

[Sidenote: Travelling sans conscience.]

There are fine opportunities for the display of "no conscience" in
travelling. It is so pleasant, for instance, to share a railway carriage
with a person who insists on keeping the windows closed. And, without
going into detail, I may refer to travellers by sea who make an inferno of
the ladies' cabin, when the weather is rough, simply for lack of
consideration for others.

[Sidenote: Some minor failings.]

There are minor ways in which this form of thoughtlessness may be
displayed. In doing up postal packets one may consider the postman, and
refrain from tying up half a dozen newspapers in one bundle just for the
sake of saving oneself the trouble of writing the address three or four
times. In an omnibus it is unnecessary to point the stick of one's
umbrella outwards, so that every one who enters is in danger of falling
over it. Yet many women do this. There are those, too, who lounge
sideways in a crowded omnibus, while their neighbours are screwed up
uncomfortably closely for lack of the inches that should be theirs, but
which the lounger has appropriated.

[Sidenote: Those poor servants!]

[Sidenote: And tradespeople!]

[Sidenote: The unpunctual woman.]

And who shall say that conscience is perfectly developed in the woman who
keeps her coachman and footman waiting for hours in the cold of a winter's
night while she is warmly housed and indifferent? Or in her whose maid has
to sit up for her till the small hours, and yet has to fetch her her cup
of tea bright and early the next morning? And what shall be said of her
who goes to her dressmaker and orders a gown at the very last moment?
Where is her social conscience? Does she not know that weary girls who
have worked hard all day must be kept late to complete her dress? Does she
know? Does she care? And what of her who omits to pay her milliner, her
dressmaker, her florist, and all others who supply her with the luxuries
of life? Her conscience must be of the most diminutive order. In things
great and small the lack of social conscience shows itself. As compared
with a few particulars I have mentioned, the want of punctuality is a
trifle, but it is sometimes productive of the most aggravating effects.
And there are women who almost appear to take pains to be unpunctual, so
invariably are they just too late for everything. What they cost their
housemates in time and temper can never be computed. They are themselves
serene. "I'm the most unpunctual of human beings," one such will be heard
to say. She keeps people fuming on a platform watching train after train
start for Henley, Ascot, Sandown, or Hurlingham, and comes up smiling and
saying, "I'm afraid all you dear people are very cross with me." At
mealtimes she is equally exasperating, but she never seems to be aware
that her consistent unpunctuality makes her a terrible trial to all her
acquaintances. She is destitute of social conscience. And I might cite a
hundred other instances of this destitution were it necessary!


[Sidenote: "If there were no credit system!"]

It would be a lovely world if there were no credit system. Think of the
millstones some of us hang round our necks in the shape of debts, all on
account of this temptation. In one of Mr. Howell's books, he makes the
father of a family say to his children: "Don't spend money if you haven't
got any." The advice seems superfluous, and would be so if we had to pay
ready money for everything we buy. But it is, in existing circumstances,
only too easy to spend money that we have not got; from the dealings in
the Stock Exchange down to the fishmonger's round the corner.

[Sidenote: Two points of view.]

[Sidenote: "Facilis est descensus."]

There are two ways of looking at the matter--one from the purchaser's
point of view, the other from the seller's. I intend to take the
purchaser's first, having long thought the credit system highly
demoralising to many who might have thriven and prospered bravely had not
its insinuating temptations been thrown in their way. It is so fatally
easy to order a quantity of nice things, to be paid for in a nebulous
future, which always seem a long way off. And then, when the grip of it
all begins to be felt, we are afraid _not_ to go on ordering, lest our
creditor should be offended and dun us for his "little account." And so we
get deeper and deeper in debt, and soon begin to lose our footing in the
financial whirlpool. Oh, the misery of it! The long, sleepless nights of
worry and despair, the irritable frame of mind thereby engendered, the
loss of self-respect, the inability to make the most of our income while
in debt, and the consequent hopelessness of ever extricating
ourselves--all, all might be avoided if we were forced to pay on the spot
for every purchase.

[Sidenote: The young wife's initial error.]

[Sidenote: An odious characteristic.]

That the credit system has its advantages is more than possible; but I am
not looking for them just at this moment. I want to sketch a gloomy
picture, with the hope of inducing all who look upon it to abandon the
habit of running long accounts, with its often ruinous results. The
inexperienced young wife, unaccustomed to deal with large sums of money,
often cripples her hard-working husband by falling most unconsciously into
the snares of the system as it exists. In her desire to have everything
comfortable, inviting, and agreeable for him in the home in his hours of
leisure, she launches out in "ordering" all that she thinks would aid her
in this unquestionably excellent object. Money always promises to do a
great deal more than it ever actually accomplishes. It is one of its most
odious characteristics, and the novice never dreams but that the incoming
sums will cover all her outlay. Then comes the tug-of-war, and if she has
no moral courage she struggles on without laying the whole matter before
her husband, and is soon in a network of difficulties. He has to know,
soon or late, and the resultant rift within the lute is by no means
little. It is a very bad start! And when the wife would like to dress her
little ones daintily and prettily, she finds herself unable to spend upon
them anything beyond what may pay for absolute necessaries. If her
punishment had not begun before, it very certainly commences then.

[Sidenote: The poor husband.]

And is not the poor husband to be pitied? He had, no doubt, the idea that
all women, after their schooldays, are apt housewives, and entrusted to
his young wife the entire management of the household. It is hard on him
when he finds that all is chaos in the exchequer, and that he has to deny
himself for years in many ways in order to pay debts that should never
have been contracted.

[Sidenote: If "trust" were not.]

Think of the delightful difference there might have been in the little
family were there no such thing as "trust" in trade, the children
beautifully dressed and the pride of a happy mother; the father in good
humour and gaiety of heart, enjoying his home as a man ought, who works to
maintain it; and the sunshine of prosperity pervading every room of it!

Thousands and thousands of homes have been ruined by the credit system.
The only means of averting such disaster is the exercise of strength of
mind in resisting the temptation. This involves a splendid, but extremely
costly, education in moral fortitude, to those who possess but little of
such strength and have to acquire it by long and sad experience.

[Sidenote: The meanness of it.]

It might help some to resist running long accounts if they were to realise
that doing so is really borrowing money from their tradespeople. Yes,
madam! That £5 you owe your laundress is just so much borrowed of the poor
woman, and without interest, too. And can you bear to think of the anxiety
of mind it costs her, poor, hard-working creature; for how can she tell
that you will ever pay her? There is your dressmaker, too. How much have
you compulsorily borrowed of her? You owe her £100, perhaps. And for how
long has it been owing? You pay £10 or so off it, and order another gown;
and so it has been going on for years and years. You don't see why you
should have to pay your dressmaker money down when your husband never
thinks of paying his tailor under three or four years.

[Sidenote: "Two wrongs."]

Well, two wrongs never yet made a right, and the fact that men of fashion
never pay their tailors until they have been dunned over and over again
for the money is only another item in the indictment against the credit

It is undignified to owe money to any one, and more particularly to one's
social inferiors, but this view of the subject is too seldom taken. Can
any one dispute it, however? We badly want it to be made plain to the eyes
of the whole community.

[Sidenote: Increased prices.]

One disagreeable result of the credit system is the raising of the market
price of commodities in order to cover the losses resultant to the trader.
Not only do bad debts occur, which have to be written off the books, but
being "out of one's money" for years means loss of interest. Those who pay
ready money are sometimes, and should always be, allowed discount off all
payments, but even when this is done it does not suffice to meet the
claims of absolute justice in the matter, the scales of prices having been
adjusted to cover losses owing to the credit system.

[Sidenote: The sufferers.]

Tradesmen have to charge high rates or they could not keep on their
business, and the hard part of it is that the very persons who enable them
to keep going by paying their accounts weekly are those who suffer most
from the system, paying a fifth or so more than they need were all
transactions "money down."

[Sidenote: The other side.]

And now for the other side of the question. It has often been said that
tradesmen like customers to run long accounts. Let any one who believes
this buy a few of the trade papers, and see what they have to say on the
subject. Let them visit a few of the West End Court milliners and ask them
what their opinion of the matter is. Let them interview the managers of
large drapery houses. They will soon find that the tradesman has a
distinct grievance in the credit system. Here is what one dressmaker says,
and she is only one of a very numerous class, every member of which is in
exactly similar circumstances.

[Sidenote: A dressmaker's opinion.]

[Sidenote: A case in point.]

She is a clever and enterprising woman who had opened an establishment for
the sale of all kinds of articles for ladies' wear, and complains bitterly
that, though she is doing a good trade, all her money has become "buried
in her books." She is making money with her extending business, "but," she
says, "I really have less command of cash than at any time in my life. The
fact is my savings are all lent to rich people." Asked for an example,
she said: "The last bill I receipted this morning will do. Ten months ago
a lady came into the shop, talked pleasantly on Church matters, in which I
am interested, bought nearly £30 worth of goods, after very sharp
bargaining, that reduced my profits to the narrowest margin, and went
away. To have suggested payment during these ten months would have been
regarded as an insult, and I should have lost her custom for ever. I have
often been in need of the money. She is the wife of a very high
ecclesiastical dignitary, is regarded as philanthropic, talks about
self-help among women, and very likely visited my shop in that spirit; yet
though she is undoubtedly rich she borrowed £30 of my capital for ten
months without paying any interest."

[Sidenote: A second opinion.]

"If I could only get a little money in from my customers," said a
hard-worked West End milliner to me one day during a very hot and
exhausting May, "I could run off to the seaside or to Scotland for a week,
and take my poor old mother, who needs a change even more than I do. But I
can't get any of my ladies to pay." "Write and tell them how it is," I
suggested. "Oh, no! That would never do," was the reply. "I should offend
them terribly, and they would not only never come back themselves, but
would pass the word round among their friends that I am given to

[Sidenote: One result of the system.]

One of these ladies owed her £800, and probably still owes some of it,
though that was three or four seasons since; for her way of paying off is
to order a thirty-guinea gown or two, and pay in £50 or £100 to her
credit. The truth is that the system is chiefly responsible for the
enormous cost of fashionable dress nowadays, since the only means the
purveyors can adopt to secure themselves against loss is to charge
exorbitant prices. When their customers practically borrow all their money
of them, they are well justified in charging interest on it in some form
or other. This naturally results in raising the market value of well-cut
and skilfully-constructed dresses, &c., and bears very hardly on those who
pay their way with ready-money.

[Sidenote: A "ready-money" association.]

Would it not be an excellent idea to form a society of women in
aristocratic circles who would bind themselves to pay ready-money for all
articles purchased? They could demand, and would certainly obtain, a
substantial discount on all such payments, and with the thin edge of the
wedge thus inserted the reform would soon be well on its way to permanent


[Sidenote: Not necessarily a dowdy.]

Do not for a moment imagine that the domestic girl cannot be smart. She
can turn herself out as bewitchingly as anybody, and the same cleverness
that goes into her delicious _entrées_, capital sauces, and truly lovely
afternoon tea-cakes concerns itself with the ripples of her coiffure, the
correct tilt of her hat, and the deft fall of her skirt. The domestic girl
need be neither plain nor dowdy. Plenty of exercise and the feeling that
she is of use in the world brighten her eyes, keep her complexion clear,
and give her that air of lightheartedness that should, but does not
always, characterise a girl. How middle-aged is the expression that some
of them wear! Both boys and girls in their early twenties have
occasionally this elderly look.

[Sidenote: Very much domesticated.]

Of course there is always the extreme domestic girl, who has not a soul
above puddings, whose fingers show generally a trace of flour, and whose
favourite light reading is recipes. She has been sketched for us

  "She isn't versed in Latin, she doesn't paint on satin,
    She doesn't understand the artful witchery of eyes;
  But, oh! sure, 'tis true and certain she is very pat and pert in
    Arranging the component parts of luscious pumpkin pies.

  She cannot solve or twist 'em, viz., the planetary system;
    She cannot tell a Venus from a Saturn in the skies;
  But you ought to see her grapple with the fruit that's known as apple,
    And arrive at quick conclusions when she tackles toothsome pies.

  She could not write a sonnet, and she couldn't trim a bonnet,
    She isn't very bookish in her letter of replies;
  But she's much at home--oh, very--when she takes the juicy berry
    And manipulates quite skilfully symposia in pies."

She is well appreciated at meal-times, that girl, but she is not the
liveliest of companions. Like the German girl, who is trained to
housewifery and little else from her earliest years, she has a dough-like
heaviness about her when other topics are started. But why should she ever
be domestic only?--and with all the world before her whence to choose
delightsome studies and pursuits.

[Sidenote: The Blue Stocking.]

Then there is the girl at the other end of the scale. Here is her

    "She can talk on evolution;
    She can proffer a solution
  For each problem that besets the modern brain.
    She can punish old Beethoven,
    Or she dallies with De Koven,
  Till the neighbours file petitions and complain.

    She can paint a crimson cowboy,
    Or a purple madder ploughboy
  That you do not comprehend, but must admire.
    And in exercise athletic
    It is really quite pathetic
  To behold the young men round her droop and tire.

    She is up in mathematics,
    Engineering, hydrostatics,
  In debate with her for quarter you will beg.
    She has every trait that's charming,
    With an intellect alarming;
  Yet she cannot, oh, she cannot, fry an egg!"

[Sidenote: Royal cooks and millinors.]

And let no maiden think that to be domestic is a _bourgeois_
characteristic. Far from it. It is the daughters of the moneyed
_bourgeoisie_ who are the idlest and most empty-minded. They think it
smart to be able to do nothing. How little they know about it! Were not
our Queen's daughters taught to cook and sew, and make themselves useful?
Did not the Princesses of Wales learn scientific dress-cutting? And was
not a Royal Princess, not very long ago, initiated into the mysteries of
hair-dressing? There is no better judge of needlework in the kingdom than
Princess Christian. Many of the designs used in the Royal School of Art
Needlework are from the clever pencil of Princess Louise, Marchioness of
Lorne. Princess Alice, mother of the present Empress of Russia, used to
cut out her children's clothes and trim their hats in the far-back days
when she was Grand Duchess of Hesse, and was surrounded by the little
ones. Princess Henry of Battenberg is a skilful embroidress, besides being
an artist and musician. Domesticity has not proved a bar to culture in the
case of any of these highly-placed women. The Empress Frederick of
Germany, our Princess Royal, is one of the most intellectual and
cultivated women in the world, but she is also an adept in the domestic
arts. She is a sculptress, and can cleverly wield the brush, as well as
her sister, the Marchioness of Lorne. So here is a shining example in high

[Sidenote: Homely noblewomen.]

And if we take a step down to Duchesses, Marchionesses, &c., we shall find
that blue blood is usually associated with a taste for true British
domesticity. The Duchess of Abercorn can sew beautifully. The Duchess of
Sutherland can cook and make a gown. She often designs her own dresses.
The Marchioness of Londonderry, one of our most famous beauties, is a
utilitarian of the first water. She is one of the first authorities on
lace, is a philanthropist to her pretty finger-tips, and has often taught
the wives of her husband's miners how to cook the family dinner, besides
instructing them in the much neglected laws of hygiene. I might multiply
examples, but these might surely suffice to show that domesticity is far
from being _bourgeois_ and by no means incompatible with ineffable

[Sidenote: Sensible millionaires.]

The aristocracy of wealth imitates that of birth in such matters; but, in
order to do so, it has to be at least a generation old in riches. The
_nouveaux riches_ have quite other notions, and think it far beneath the
dignity of their daughters to know anything about the domestic arts. But a
well-known family of millionaires, which has enjoyed the companionship of
our best society for fifty or sixty years, shares its idiosyncrasies on
the subject of useful education for its girls. Every one of them has been
brought up as if she were obliged to earn her own living. It is left to
the purse-proud and the vulgar to bring up their daughters as "fine
ladies." It is a grand mistake, in more ways than one, for idle people are
never happy people.

[Sidenote: The ideal girl.]

The ideal girl is she who combines with high culture a love of the
domestic and a desire to please. This last should not be so excessive as
to degenerate into vanity and conceit, but should be sufficiently powerful
to induce its possessor to dress attractively, keep her pretty hair at
its glossiest, and be as smart and neat and up-to-date in all matters
pertaining to the toilette as any of her less-useful sisters; besides
cultivating those social graces that do so much to brighten life and
sweeten it by making smooth the rough ways and rendering home intercourse
as agreeable and pleasant as it should be. There are girls who keep all
their prettinesses for the outside world, and are anything but attractive
within the home. They are by no means the ideal girls.


[Sidenote: A clever nest builder.]

The girl-bachelor is often a comfortable creature. She can make a home out
of the most unpromising materials. A dreary little flat, consisting of
three tiny rooms, with hardly any chance of sunshine getting into any of
them for more than three minutes in the afternoon, has been known to be
metamorphosed into a most inviting little nest by the exercise of taste
and skill, and at a minimum of cost. Two rooms on the second floor of a
dull house in a bleak street have often been transformed, by the same
means, into a cheery dwellingplace. Much merry contriving goes to this
result and serves to make, like quotations and patchwork, "our poverty our
pride," and, indeed, there is a keen pleasure in the cutting of our coat
according to our cloth; in making ends meet with just a little pulling,
and in devising ways and means of adjusting our expenditure to the very
limited contents of our exchequer.

[Sidenote: "Sweet are the uses of adversity."]

What a mistake it is to fall into an abyss of discontent just because we
are poor! Poverty may become the cause of a thousand unsuspected joys; as
it certainly is an education in ever so many ways. Some of us would hardly
know ourselves if we never had been poor. Did not poverty teach us to
cook, to sew, to make our dresses, to trim our hats, to cover our chairs,
to drape our windows, to use a dust-pan and brush and to find out at first
hand the charms of active cleanliness, that may be evoked with the aid of
a humble duster? And was it not poverty that taught us to appreciate the
day of little things, to enjoy the scores of small pleasures that, like
wild flowers, are too often passed carelessly over? It has its hardships,
truly, and some of them are bitter enough, but many who now are rich
enough look back to the days of "puirtith cauld," and recognise how good
it was and how much it brought out of undivined capacity; yes, and looking
back, can remember the actual pleasures of poverty!

[Sidenote: The retrospect.]

Is there not a pleasure in conquering circumstances--in fighting poverty
and making it yield to economy, contrivance, and industry? The fight is
often hard and long-continued; and there are sad cases in which it ends in
failure and disaster. But when courage and endurance have resulted in
victory, and firm footing has been won on the steep hill of success, it
is not unpleasant to look back and scan the long years of struggle,
endeavouring to compute what they have done for us; how they have
enriched, like the snows of winter, ground that might otherwise have
remained for ever arid and unprofitable.

[Sidenote: Bargain hunting.]

[Sidenote: "The little grocer's shop."]

There is a wonderful cheap world to be found in London, like an _entresol_
between a palatial shop and a magnificent first floor. Into this curious
world the girl-bachelor soon finds her way. She knows exactly the
twopenny-halfpenny little shop where she can get art-muslin at a
penny-three-farthings a yard. Most of it is hideous, but she is clever at
picking out the few pretty pieces. She sometimes purchases a quite
beautiful bit of colour for the brightening of her rooms in the shape of
pottery vases for a couple of pence. No one better than the girl-bachelor
knows that the best value for her money is to be found at the little
grocer's shop in a poor neighbourhood. The poor are, naturally, intent on
getting at least a shillingsworth for every shilling they lay out, and no
tradesman can make a living in such localities unless he purveys the best
provisions at fair prices. It is notorious that customers who buy in small
quantities, as the poor are obliged to do, living from hand to mouth with
their few shillings a week, are more profitable than those who can afford
to buy largely, and the tradesman who conscientiously provides good wares
at a moderate profit flourishes comfortably in such circumstances. Here
the girl-bachelor gets her stores. Not for her are the plate-glass windows
of the great West End "establishments," which have to pay high rentals and
the cost of horses and carts and extra men to send round daily for the
convenience of their customers. The little shop in the back street is good
enough for her.

[Sidenote: Her thrift.]

[Sidenote: A splendid training.]

And how expert does she become in her marketing! Such a thing as waste is
absolutely unknown in the tiny sphere of home of which she is the centre
and the sun. The bones from her miniature joints of beef and mutton are
not cast away until they are white and smooth from boiling and reboiling,
the stock they yield being skilfully made up into tempting soups and
savoury dishes of macaroni. There is splendid training for the future
housewife in all this; not only in the matter of food itself, but in the
diligent industry needed to combine its preparation with the day's work,
and the practical knowledge of what such work of preparation involves. The
kindest and most considerate mistresses are those who know exactly how
much time and trouble it takes to produce certain results.

[Sidenote: Unfortunate man.]

Contrast the girl-bachelor with her peer of the helpless sex. Look at the
dingy lodging-house breakfast-table of the poor clerk. Do you see the
crushed and soiled tablecloth, the cup and saucer rather wiped than
washed, the fork with suspicious lack of clear outline along its prongs,
hatefully reminiscent of previous meals, the knife powdered with brown
from recent contact with the knifeboard, and the food itself untempting to
the palate and not very nutritious to the system.

[Sidenote: "Cooking comes by nature."]

Cooking comes almost by nature to the bachelor-girl. With a good
stove-lamp, a frying-pan, a chafing-dish, and a boilerette, with a
saucepan or two and a kettle, she has an all-sufficing _batterie de
cuisine_. The wonders she can work with these are known to many of her
friends, and even those with comfortable establishments of their own are
often fain to confess that her cookery invites them as the achievements of
the queen of their kitchen often fail to do.

[Sidenote: "How it strikes a contemporary."]

And in many other essentials the girl-bachelor has the advantage of the
ordinary young man. Hear what a contemporary has to say:--"The average
youth, from the time he leaves school, wants unlimited tobacco for his
pipes and cigarettes, and often runs to several cigars a day; he seldom
passes many hours without a glass of something--wine, spirits, or beer,
according to his tastes or company, and he wants a good deal of amusement
of the sing-song or cheap music-hall kind, to say nothing of much more
expensive meals. Tobacco would not cost him much if he were content with a
little smoke when the day's work was over, instead of indulging in
perpetual cigarettes. The girl has none of these expenses; she often
economises, and gives herself healthy exercise by walking at least part of
the way to her occupation in fine weather; she does not smoke; she rarely
eats or drinks between meals, though she may nibble a bit of chocolate,
which, after all, is wholesome food; her mid-day meal seldom costs more
than sixpence, and she is glad after working hours to get home, where she
enjoys the welcome change of reading a book and making and mending her
clothes, concocting a new hat, and so forth."

It is a healthy, happy, often a merry, cheery life; and if the
girl-bachelor often sighs to be rich, the wish is not allowed to generate
discontent, but serves to arouse a wholesome ambition which may lead, in
time, to the realisation of the wish. And who so happy, then, as the
matured and cultured woman who reaps where she has sown, and finds, in the
fullest development of her faculties the real meaning of the highest
happiness, viz., living upward and outward to the whole height and breadth
and depth of her innate possibilities.


[Sidenote: The miseries of the chaperon.]

[Sidenote: Draughts.]

[Sidenote: The charge who cannot dance.]

Many are the miseries of the middle-aged chaperon! Is it not enough, think
you, to see one's lost youth reflected in the blithesome scene, to
remember the waltzes of long ago, to recall the partners of the past, and
the pleasant homage no longer forthcoming, and to feel within a response
to the music and the rhythm of the dance, ridiculously incongruous with an
elderly exterior, without suffering any added woes? And yet they are
manifold. There are the draughts! Windows opened for the relief of heated
dancers, pour down cold airs on the uncovered shoulders of chilly
chaperons. What cared they for draughts in the long-ago, when all the
world was young? But now a draught is a fearsome thing. But worse, far
worse, is the girl who cannot dance, who treads on her partners' toes, and
knocks against their knees, and is returned with a scowl to her wretched
chaperon. "I know you are going to the Mumpshire ball," says some one.
"Would you mind taking my girl with you?" If she is a bad performer she is
returned with astonishing alacrity and punctuality at the end of each
dance; and quite perceptibly to her temporary guardian's practised eye is
the word passed round among the young men to avoid her as they would
the--something. After a few dances, a sense of vicarious guilt seizes upon
the chaperon. She knows the shortcomings of her charge are to be visited
partly upon herself, and she anticipates the angry glare with which each
man returns the young woman, and retreats in haste, malevolently eyeing
the chaperon.

[Sidenote: The reward.]

And the reward? The reward is to be treated with great stiffness by the
girl's mother, and to hear that she said: "I shall never ask Mrs.
What's-her-name to take my girl to a ball again. Her own daughters danced
every dance, while my poor child was left out in the cold. I think they
might have introduced their partners to her."

[Sidenote: Romance.]

[Sidenote: And Death.]

Such are the small gnat-like stings of the present moment, while the poor
chaperon is remembering the dances of long ago, the dark-eyed partner who
waltzed so exquisitely, and whose grave is in the dismal African swamp so
far away; the lively, laughing, joking boy who would put his name down for
half a dozen dances, only to have it promptly scratched out again with
many scoldings. He is now a very fat man with a disagreeable habit of
snorting in cold weather. How gladly the chaperon's thoughts fly away from
him, living, substantial, commonplace, to the poor fellow who died at sea
on his way home from that horrid war in Afghanistan. How strangely true it
is that were it not for grisly Death, and pain and grief, there would be
no true romance in all the world. If every life were an epic, or an idyll,
would not both be commonplace?


[Sidenote: Lightheartedness and animal spirits.]

[Sidenote: Cheerfulness.]

Oh! what a delightful quality it is, both to the possessor and his
friends. Lightheartedness is sometimes confused with "animal spirits," but
it is not at all the same thing. The latter we share with the young lambs
in the meadows, the young goats on the rocky hillsides, the merry
schoolboy in the days of his irresponsible youth, and the madcap
schoolgirl who thinks those hours lost that are not spent in laughing.
Light-heartedness is ingrained in the very nature of those who enjoy it;
while animal spirits are merely one of the exterior circumstances,
incident to youth and health in a world that was created happy, and will
never lose traces of that original Divine intention. Cheerfulness, again,
is distinct from both. Men are always telling women that it is the duty of
the less-burdened sex to meet their lords and masters with cheerful faces;
and if any doubt were felt as to the value of the acquirement--for
cheerfulness often has to be acquired and cultivated like any other
marketable accomplishment--shall we not find a mass of evidence
in the advertisement columns of the daily papers? Do not all the
lady-housekeepers and companions describe themselves as "cheerful"? Lone,
lorn women could scarcely be successes in either capacity, and
cheerfulness is a distinct qualification for either post. A sort of
feminine Mark Tapleyism must occasionally be needed to produce it, and
keep it in full bloom.

[Sidenote: In trouble and work.]

Well, 'tis our duty to be cheerful, and those of us that are lighthearted
have no difficulty about it. The quality survives troubles of every sort,
and lifts its possessor over many a Slough of Despond, into which the
heavy-hearted would sink and be overwhelmed. And what a boon is
lightheartedness when there is work to do! The man who whistles over his
carpentering is happy, and his work is all the better for it. The mother
who is chirpy in the nursery finds it an easy matter to manage the
youngsters. They adore her bright face. And there are women who keep up
this delightful sunniness of disposition well on to seventy years.

  "The world that knows itself too sad
  Is proud to keep some faces glad,"

says Owen Meredith, and it is good to see the happy twinkle in some aged

[Sidenote: With advancing years.]

[Sidenote: The humours of life.]

In married life there comes a time when the romance of love, like a
glorious "rose of dawn," softening down into the steady light of noonday,
becomes transmuted into a comfortable, serviceable, everyday friendship
and comradeship. In the same way the animal spirits of youth often fade
with maturity into a seriousness which is admirable in its way, a serenity
which keeps a dead level of commonplace. If there is no natural
lightheartedness to fall back upon, there then arises the everyday man or
woman, with countenance composed to the varied businesses of life, and
never a gleam of fun or humour to be found in eyes or lips. They go to the
play on purpose to laugh, and enjoy themselves hugely in the unwonted
exercise of facial muscles; but for weeks between whiles they seem
unconscious of the infinite possibilities of humorous enjoyment that lie
about them. It needs the joyous temperament to extract amusement from
these. If that is absent the fields of fun lie fallow. At a recent
entertainment for children a boy employed in selling chocolate creams
cried his wares in such a lugubrious tone of voice as to be highly
inconsistent with their inviting character. "Chocklits!" "Chocklits!" he
groaned on the lower G, as though he had been vending poison for immediate
use. Only two of the children present saw the fun of this. And so it is
with these endless unrehearsed effects of daily life. The lighthearted
seize them and make of them food for joy. And lightheartedness is of every
age, from seven to seventy-seven and perhaps beyond it. Was there not once
a blithe old lady who lived to the age of 110, and died of a fall from a
cherry tree then?

The joyous natures have their sorrows:--

  "The heart that is earliest awake to the flowers
  Is always the first to be touched by the thorns."

[Sidenote: "The merry heart."]

They have their hardships, their weary times, their trials of every sort,
but the inexhaustible vivacity inherent in them acts as wings to bear them
lightly over the bad places, where wayfarers of the ordinary sort must be
broadly shod to pass without being engulfed. It is practically
inextinguishable, and it makes existence comparatively easy.

  "The merry heart goes all the day,
  The sad tires in a mile-a."

[Sidenote: The enemy.]

The chief enemy of lightheartedness is the constant companionship of the
grim, the glum, the gloomy, and the grumpy, the solemn and the
pragmatical. Who shall compute what bright natures suffer in an
environment like this? Day after day, to sit at table opposite a
countenance made rigid with a practised frown, now deeply carved upon the
furrowed brow; to long for sunshine and blue skies, and be for ever in
the shadow of a heavy cloud; to feel that every little blossom of
joyfulness that grows by the wayside is nipped and shrivelled by the east
wind of a gloomy nature; this, if it last long enough, can subdue even
lightheartedness itself; can, like some malarial mist, blot out the very
sun in the heavens from the ken of those within its influence.

[Sidenote: The cultivation of humour.]

More pains should be taken to develop the sense of fun and the
possibilities of humorous perception of girls and boys. They should be
taught to look at the amusing side of things. But teachers are so afraid
of "letting themselves down," of losing dignity (especially those who have
none to lose!), that they cannot condescend to the study of the humorous.
Oh, the pity of it! For it tends to the life-long impoverishment of their


[Sidenote: A useful verb.]

[Sidenote: The love of simple pleasures.]

[Sidenote: On human and other songsters.]

The French have a verb for which we English have no equivalent. It is
"_savourer_," which in one dictionary is translated "To relish; enjoy." It
sounds rather a greedy word, and would indeed be so if it applied only to
the pleasures of the table. But fortunately there are for most of us other
delights in life than those connected with the gustatory organs, and it is
these that we would fain _savourer_, as Linnæus did when he fell on his
knees on first seeing gorse in bloom, and thanked God. "How gross,"
remarks a character in a modern novel, "to give thanks for beef and
pudding, but none for Carpaccio, Bellini, Titian!" Just so. And apart from
the deep appreciation of genius, have we not a thousand daily joys for
which we might give thanks, if only we could attain to the realisation of
them? We let them pass us by, and but vaguely recognise them as bits of
happiness which, if duly woven into the woof of life, would brighten it
as no jewels ever could. It is good to encourage the love of simple
pleasures. It is the way to keep our souls from shrinking. For some of us
the song of the lark is as exquisite a pleasure as any to be found in the
crowded concert-room. Both are delights, but the compass of the spirit may
not always be great enough to embrace the two. To listen to the voice of a
Patti is not possible to us all, even only once in a lifetime, and alas!
there is but one Patti! Du Maurier says a lovely thing about her singing:
"Her voice still stirs me to the depths, with vague remembrance of fresh
girlish innocence turned into sound." With other singers the critical
spirit of the audience is apt to awake and spoil everything. Music must be
perfect, to be perfectly enjoyed. And how often do we find perfection in
the concert-room? With how many singers can we let ourselves float far
from reality into the region of the ideal, secure from jar of false note,
or twisted phrase to suit the singer? And have we not often to shut our
eyes because the frame in which the golden voice is bodied is in
dissonance with its beauty? With the lark we are safe, and the nightingale
sings no false note. The robin is plump, but never fat and shiny! The
plaintive cry of the plover is not spoiled for us by a vision of some
thirty teeth and pink parterres of gum. Our enjoyment of the blackbird's
mellow whistle is not marred by a little printed notice to the effect that
he craves the indulgence of the audience as he has been attacked by
hoarseness; and the flute-like melody of the thrush has not its romance
eliminated by a stumpy figure or want of taste in dress. Do I not remember
a great contralto singing to us some stirring strains and wearing the
while an agony in yellow and grass-green? And did not even S---- himself
alter the last mournful phrase of "The Harp that once" into a wild
top-yell in order to suit his voice? No! With nature's choristers we are

[Sidenote: Our ungrateful folly.]

But do we half appreciate them? Not half, I am very sure. Do we give
thanks for the blue of the skies, the green of the trees, the sweet air
that we breathe, the glowing sunset, and the starlit heavens? It is true
philosophy to _savourer bien_ these inexpensive joys; and, oddly enough,
the more we do so the less we shall feel inclined to grumble and feel
discontented when a pall of dingy fog hides away the blue and dims the
green and gives us sulphur to breathe instead of the lovely air that
invigorates and rejoices.

[Sidenote: Things to be thankful for.]

We owe an enormous debt to the writers of books, and especially to
biographers of interesting lives, to novelists, travellers who write of
what they have seen and thus share their experiences with us, poets who
sing down to us of the sunny heights of the ideal life, and those
photographic storytellers who delineate for us the workers of our world,
of whose lives we should otherwise know so little. It almost rises to the
height of epicurean philosophy to increase the joys of life by realising
them to the full as they deserve to be realised. An hour spent with some
delightful author may seem a little thing, but it is well worth saying
grace for.

[Sidenote: Gratefulness indeed!]

I forget who was the good man who, having been engaged to the girl of his
heart for ten long years, made up his mind one day to ask her to allow him
to kiss her, and who fervently said grace both before and after the
operation. He was a philosopher! To possess a grateful spirit is to
increase the happiness of life. Nature is so liberal with her good gifts
that we take them too much as a matter of course. "How blessings brighten
as they take their flight!" If sudden blindness were to fall upon us we
should then find out too late how many pleasures come to us through the

[Sidenote: Appreciating everyday pleasures.]

"Must our cedars fall around us ere we see the light behind?" It is good
to teach young people to appreciate the infinite, everyday pleasures that
surround them. It adds immensely to their happiness, and their natural
animal spirits will not be apt to disappear with youth as they too often
do. There is a sort of cultivation for them in appreciation of the
pleasures of art and science, apart from the mere knowledge they pick up.
They can see the sunlight through the cedars and the moonlight through the
waving branches of the pines. And what a feast life may be for the young
in these days, when literature, art, and science are all brought within
reach of the people. To hear one of Sir Robert Ball's lectures on
astronomy is an introduction to a new world, a world that is immeasurable
by any mere mortal thought. Pictures, sculpture, and the modern marvels of
photography "come not in single spies, but in battalions." The heirs of
all the ages are wealthy indeed. They can never count their riches, and
usually neglect them because they cost nothing. Free libraries and public
picture galleries all over the land are caviare to the general, though
some find manna and nectar in them, and human working bees find honey.

[Sidenote: Another secret of happiness.]

Another secret of happiness in daily life is the appreciation of the
friendship and affection which we are inclined to hold but lightly until
we are threatened with their loss. To awake to a full sense of its value
is to learn to appreciate it as we never did before. The young mother
with her children about her is apt to let small worries cloud over the
happiest time of her life. When she looks back at it, when the young ones
have all grown up and gone from her, she wonders at herself for having
ignored home joys. Children are troublesome, no doubt, and they are noisy
little creatures and anxieties to boot. "A child in a house is a
wellspring of pleasure," says Martin Farquhar Tupper, a writer already
forgotten, but one who said many a true thing. A child in a house is also
a wellspring of worry, many a mother might add, but would she be without
it? Not for worlds. She is happier far than she knows. If she would only
realise it she would be less likely to be sharp-tempered to the little
troublesome darlings that crowd about her when she is busy, a sharpness
that brings sometimes a sting of terrible remorse in its train.

  "If we knew the baby fingers,
    Pressed against the window pane,
  Would be cold and stiff to-morrow--
    Never trouble us again--

  Would the bright eyes of our darling
    Catch the frown upon our brow?--
  Would the prints of rosy fingers
    Vex us then as they do now?"

[Sidenote: The sunny side.]

And with friends we have little estrangements that are not in the least
worth while, if we would only realise it. Life is so short that there
should be no room for squabbles! To walk on the sunny side of the way is
wisdom, but how many of us are wise? There are some who diligently gather
up the thorns and fix their gaze upon the clouds. Far better store the
sunbeams and enjoy the roses!

  "Strange we never prize the music
    Till the sweet-voiced bird has flown;
  Strange that we should slight the violets
    Till the lovely flowers are gone.

  Strange that summer skies and sunshine
    Never seem one-half so fair,
  As when winter's snowy pinions
    Shake their white down in the air!"


    "We sit with our feet in a muddy pool, and every day of it we grow
    more fond."--RUSSIAN POET.

[Sidenote: The apathetic majority.]

Ninety out of every hundred women bury their minds alive. They do not
live, they merely exist. After girlhood, with its fun and laughter and
lightheartedness, they settle down into a sort of mental apathy, and
satisfy themselves, as best they can, with superficialities--dress, for
instance. There are thousands of women who live for dress. Without it the
world for them would be an empty, barren place. Dress fills their
thoughts, is dearer to them than their children; yes, even dearer than
their pet dogs! What could heaven itself offer to such a woman? She would
be miserable where there were no shops, no chiffons. The shining raiment
of the spiritual world would not attract her, for she could not
differentiate her own from that of others. And when beauty goes, and the
prime of life with its capacity for enjoyment is long over, what remains
to her? Nothing but deadly dulness, the miserable apathy that seizes on
the mind neglected.

[Sidenote: Mental neglect.]

For it is pure neglect! To every one of us has been given what would
suffice to us of spiritual life, but most of us bury it in the body,
swathe it round with wrappings of sloth and indolence, and live the narrow
life of the surface only. Scratching like hens, instead of digging and
delving like real men and women, our true life becomes a shadow in a
dream. Look at the stolid faces, the empty expression, the dull eyes, the
heavy figures of all such! Do they not tell the tale of deadly dulness
with its sickly narrative of murdered powers, buried talents, aspirations
nipped in the bud, longings for better things suffocated under the weight
of the earthly life?

[Sidenote: Merely domestic.]

We were never meant to narrow down to the circle of the home, in our
thoughts at least. Yet this is what most of us do. To be domestic is right
and good, but to be domestic only is a sinful waste of good material.
Remember, oh massive matron! the days of girlish outlook into what seemed
a rosy world. Think back to the days when it thrilled you to hear of high
and noble deeds, when your cheeks flushed and your eyes brightened in
reading of Sir Galahad and his quest, of the peerless Arthur and the olden
days of chivalry, when deeds of "derring-do" on battlefield or in the
humble arena of life set the pulses throbbing with quick appreciation.

[Sidenote: The way out.]

Is it all lost? All gone? Dead and buried? Is the spirit for ever
outweighed by its fleshly envelope, the body? The earthly part of us is
apt to grow overwhelming as the years roll on. But it can be fought
against. We need not limit ourselves, as we so often do, to the daily
round, the common task. There are wings somewhere about us, but if we
never use them we shall soon forget we have them. What dwindled souls we
have after a long life, some of us! "Whom the gods love die young," with
all their splendid possibilities undamaged by the weight of the flesh. But
we can avert the awful apathy of the spirit if we will. We can live full
lives, if only sloth will let us. Indolence is the enemy who steals our
best and brightest part, and opens the door to the dulness that settles
down upon us, brooding over the middle-aged, and suffocating the mental

[Sidenote: Cultivating wider sympathies.]

How many of us women read the newspapers, for instance? The great world
and its doings go on unheeded by us, in our absorption in matters
infinitesimally small. We fish for minnows and neglect our coral reefs.
"We deem the cackle of our burg the murmur of the world." It fills our
ears to the exclusion of what is beyond. And yet the news of the
universe, the latest discoveries in science, the newest tales of
searchings among the stars, to say nothing of the doings of our own fellow
creatures in the life of every day, should be of interest. But we think
more of the party over the way, and the wedding round the corner. Is it
not true, oh sisters?

[Sidenote: A fatal error.]

The more we stay at home, the less desire we have to go out and about, to
freshen our thoughts, enlarge the borders of our experiences, and widen
our sympathies. It is fatal. We sink deeper daily in the slough of dire
despond. But it should be struggled against. There are lives in which the
duly recurrent meal-times are absolutely the chief events. Think of it! Is
such a life ignoble? At least, it contains no element of the noble, the
high, the exalted.

  "My sheathed emotions in me rust,
  And lie disused in endless dust."

So sings a poet of the day, and he expresses for us what we must all feel
in moments of partial emancipation from the corroding dulness that
threatens to make us all body, with no animating spirit.

To associate freely with our fellow creatures may not be a complete
panacea for this dreaded ill, but it at least will take us out of our
narrow selves to some degree.

"A body's sel's the sairest weicht," when it is unillumined by a bright
spirit. And every spirit would be bright with use if we but gave it a fair

  "Thou didst create me swift and bright,
  Of hearing exquisite, and sight.
  Look on Thy creature muffled, furled,
  That sees no glory in Thy world."

[Sidenote: Provincialism.]

Perhaps we are too comfortable in our apathy and ignorance, in our cosy
homes and pretty rooms, by our bright fires, and surrounded by the endless
trivialities of life, to look beyond. We are "provincial" in our thoughts,
circumscribed, cabined, cribbed, confined, for want of being thrust forth
to achieve our own seed time and harvest, that inner garnering with the
real labour of which no stranger intermeddleth, save to encourage from
without, or the deeper to enslave the mind in deadly dulness.

[Sidenote: "Comfortable couples."]

There are "comfortable couples" who live together for half their lives,
and in mutual sympathy help to deaden in each other every wish for higher
things. An unhappy marriage is better than this accord in common things,
this levelling down of the spirit to the commonplaces of existence.

[Sidenote: Novel-reading.]

Novel-reading is a considerable factor in flattening and deadening the
mind. Fiction, to those who do not misuse it, is the most delightful
recreation, an escape from the material to the airy realms of fantasy.
But there are girls and women who spend hours of every day in reading
novels. "Three a week," one girl confessed to not long since. The mind
soon gets clogged with overmuch fiction for food. It should never be
allowed to supersede general reading. In this case it is idleness, nothing
more, and tends to the encouragement of that mental indolence which soon
enslaves the soul.

[Sidenote: Remedies worse than the disease.]

[Sidenote: The penalty of cowardice.]

[Sidenote: Possibilities.]

Women who have the command of money, and who might turn it to such noble
uses in a world of suffering and sadness, spend enormous sums in playing
games of chance or backing horses to win. When they lose, their
irritability is a source of discomfort to all around them--and they
generally lose! Others play cards, risking high sums of money, and
endeavour to create by this means, some interest in life. They little know
what stores they have within them, lying ignored and neglected--almost
forgotten. The more numerous our sources of pleasure the fuller and wider
will be our lives. Even pain and suffering play their part in life, in
living, and it is cowardice to shirk our full development for fear that it
may entail some sorrow and deep-felt pang of sympathy that is helpless to
assuage the sadness of a troubled world. Anything is better than deadly
dulness, which rusts our faculties, benumbs our feeling, dulls our
appreciativeness of all that is above and beyond us, and lowers us to the
level of inanimate creation. Who would choose the existence of a cabbage
when she might disperse her thoughts among the stars? Who would be content
with the comfortable hearthrug-life of a pet dog or tame cat when she
might explore the recesses of science in company with masterminds, soar to
heaven's gate in spirit, and expand in intelligence until she felt herself
a part of infinity? Contentment is ignominious, when it deprives us of our
birthright. Let us, rather, be disconsolate till we attain it. Till then,
Divine is Discontent.


[Sidenote: Youth and middle age.]

In some lives middle age is far happier than youth, with its tumults, its
restlessness, its perpetual effervescence, its endless emotions. Youth
looked back upon from the vantage ground of middle age is as a railway
journey compared with a summer day's boating on a broad, calm river. There
was more excitement and enjoyment attached to the railway journey, but the
serene and peaceful quiet of the pleasant drifting and the gentle rowing
are by no means to be despised.

[Sidenote: Crossing the half-way ground.]

When youth first departs a poignant regret is felt. So much that is
delightful goes with it, especially for a woman. About thirty years of
age, an unmarried woman feels that she has outlived her social _raison
d'étre_, and the feeling is a bitter one, bringing with it almost a sense
of shame, even guilt. But ten years later, this, in its turn, has passed,
and a fresh phase of experience is entered on. One has become hardened to
the gradual waning of youth, and the loss of whatever meed of
attractiveness may have accompanied it. New interests spring up,
especially for the married woman, with home and husband and children. The
girls are marrying and settling down in their new homes, and the sons are
taking to themselves wives, or establishing themselves in bachelor
quarters, where they may live their own lives according to their own plan.

[Sidenote: The period of adjustment.]

The loss of the young ones is acutely felt at first, but after a while the
fresh voices and gay laughter are less missed in the home, and the sense
of loneliness begins to pass away. The sons who called or wrote so
frequently at first, missing the father's companionship and the mother's
tenderness, begin to fall off a little in their attentions, and are
sometimes not seen for weeks at a time. The daughters become more and more
absorbed in their own home lives, and though they seldom fall off in duty
to the father and mother as sons do, their heart is less and less in the
matter. It is inevitable! There is sadness in it, but no deep grief, as a
rule. As the ties slacken, one by one, to be only now and then pulled
taut, when occasion for sympathy in joy or sorrow arises, the process is
so gradual and so natural that it is robbed of suffering. And as one of
Nature's decrees is that which causes us to adjust ourselves to altered
surroundings after change or loss, we accept the altered circumstances,
and allow our thoughts and feelings to grow round what is left to us.

[Sidenote: The aftermath.]

[Sidenote: Compensations.]

And then comes a strange and beautiful aftermath, when there is a harvest
of intellectual pleasures and the revival of a joy in life. Many and many
a project, formed in younger days, but forgotten or submerged in the
fulness of existence during intermediate years, is carried out during this
late Indian summer, when health and spirits, energy and capacity, seemed
to have renewed themselves like the eagle. Music, long neglected, begins
again to play a happy part in the lives of some. In others, the brush is
taken up after long years of abstinence, and the alchemy of art transforms
into beautiful fruitfulness what else might have been a barren desert, now
blossoming like a rose; or, journeys into far lands, longed for all
through life, are at last undertaken, with an eagerness of delighted
anticipation that would not disgrace youth itself. This wonderful world is
explored with keenest curiosity, with results of strange and unexpected
enrichment of heart and brain. Is it not true that the more we see of
human nature the more lovable we find it? Contrast the broad views and
generous charity of those who have travelled far and wide with the
censorious and critical attitude of the women who measure themselves by
themselves and compare themselves with themselves. A wider outlook and a
broader grasp of circumstances are among the consequences of living a
fuller life.

[Sidenote: Insular natures.]

There are, it is true, women who, though they may stay at home through all
their lives, are incapable of the carping criticism, the inexhaustible
reprobation, and the endless hard judgments in which so many of the
members of our sex indulge when youth is past and they begin to be
embittered. Even these might be cured of lack of charity by a more
comprehensive knowledge of the world and its inhabitants; by freeing
themselves from insular prejudices and a sort of provincialism of opinion
that is the outcome of narrow and limited experience. Some of them, at
least, might benefit in this way; but it is to be feared that there are a
few in whose nature harshness is inherent, and whose leisure will always
be spent in deriding the motes they so distinctly see in their neighbours'
eyes. They have scarcely sufficient kindliness to try to get them out.

[Sidenote: Dormant talents.]

[Sidenote: New occupations.]

There have been cases in which some unsuspected talent has been developed
in middle age. It has lain dormant through all the years when domestic
life has claimed the finest and best of a woman's energies, and with
leisure has come the opportunity for displaying itself, and making for
something in the life of its possessor. Women of middle age are now being
appointed to various posts of a semi-public character, such as inspectors
of workrooms under the Factory Act, washhouses and laundries, and Poor Law
guardians. In almost every case the appointments have proved satisfactory,
conscientious care being bestowed upon the duties and a praiseworthy
diligence being exhibited. But in some instances a peculiar and not too
common gift of organisation has been evolved in discharging such offices,
surprising the individual herself as much as those who are associated with
her. No promise of it appeared in youth, but here it is in middle age, a
quality that would for ever have remained unguessed and unutilised had
life been accepted with folded hands as so many accept it, alternating
between dining-room and drawing-room and daily drive, with no greater
interest than the affairs of neighbours.

[Sidenote: After the storm and stress!]

[Sidenote: The joy of the harvest.]

[Sidenote: In praise of mellowing years.]

[Sidenote: "Hope springs immortal."]

Youth is delightful, glorious, a splendid gift from the gods, but half
realised while we have it, only fully appreciated when it is gone for
ever. But let no young creature imagine that all is gone when youth is
gone! Sunsets have charms as well as sunrise; and incomparable as is "the
wild freshness of morning," there is often a beautiful light in the late
afternoon. The storm and stress are past, and the levels are reached,
after the long climb to the uplands. We still feel the bruises we
sustained in the long ascent, but the activity of pain has passed, and we
have learned the lesson of patience, and know by our own experience what
youth can never be induced to believe--that Time heals everything. We can
cull the harvest of a quiet eye, and our hearts are at leisure from
themselves. Cheerfulness, and even brightness, replace the wild spirits of
girlhood, and our interests, once bound within the narrow channel of a
girl's hopes and wishes, and then broadening only sufficiently to take in
the area of home, are now dispersed in a far wider life. Philanthropy
finds thousands of recruits among middle-aged women, and many of such
beginners rise to the rank of generals and commander-in-chief. Youth is
always looked back upon with a sentiment of longing, but middle age does
not deserve to be decried. One, at least, who has attained it, can testify
that at no other period of her life could she more intensely enjoy the
lark's song, the freshness of the spring meadows, the beauty of the summer
fields and woods, the pleasures of music and painting and oratory, and of
new scenes and fresh experiences in a world that seems inexhaustibly novel
the more we know of it. There are long, monotonous days in girlhood when
one ardently wishes for something to happen to make a change; but in
middle age life is full of interests, and days seem far too short for all
that we should like to pack into them. There is no monotony in middle age
if health is good and the energies are kept alive by congenial work. Nor
is the exultant joy in mere living quite dead within the heart of middle
age. It breaks out now and then on a bright spring day when the sun is
shining and the lark is singing, and when perennial hope points to yet
brighter days to come. For hope sings songs even to the grey-haired,
difficult as the young may find it to believe it. We were surely meant to
be happy, we humans, so indomitable is the inclination towards joyfulness
under circumstances the most adverse. It is easy enough in youth, and even
the sceptic, the pessimist, the cynic, if they live long enough, will find
that it is not so very difficult in middle age, when scepticism,
pessimism, and cynicism are apt to be outgrown. There lies the true secret
of the matter. There is a joy in growth, and we must see to it that we do
not cheat ourselves of it. Stunted natures are seldom happy ones, and
their middle age is merely mental shrinkage, with a narrowing of the heart
and a corresponding drought in all the sources of joy.

[Sidenote: The gist of the matter.]

In one of Christina Rossetti's loveliest songs, she refers to the meeting
in a better world of two who loved and were parted here. And in the last
line she wistfully and pathetically asks: "_But shall we be young and
together?_" There lies the whole gist of the matter. If we are to be young
again, what boots it if the loved faces of long ago are lacking? Could
happiness be indeed happiness without these?

[Sidenote: "After many years."]

[Sidenote: Memory's magic.]

Sometimes two who have loved each other in their youth meet again when
middle age has come to both. Such a meeting can never be commonplace to
either. Nor do the two see each other as they are visible to ordinary
acquaintances. In the eyes of memory, the grey hair is replaced by the
sunny locks of youth; the saddened eyes are bright again and eagerly
out-looking into a world of abundant promise; the worn and furrowed brow
becomes smooth and white, the pale cheeks touched with youthful bloom; and
with a delicious sense of reciprocity each knows that the lost youth of
both is present to the mind of either. Neither says inwardly of the other,
"Oh, what a change!" as is the case with ordinary acquaintances. Oh, no!
For each of these two the other is young again. They are both young again,
and together. The gentle wraiths of past joys take them by the hand and
lead them back to youth's enchanted land, to the days when love touched
everything with a radiant finger, turning the world and the future
celestial rosy red.

[Sidenote: "Fed on minors."]

What middle-aged women regret is the well-remembered friends that were
their companions in the old days, "when morning souls did leap and run."
And now they are "fed on minors" when they pause and listen to their
thoughts and the rhythm that they make. "The world's book now reads
drily," except, indeed, for such as are enwrapped and mummified in the
garments of the reiterant daily commonplace.

[Sidenote: The wider view.]

The only way to subdue regrets is to take the wider view, looking out on
the great world as might a mouse from the granary door, over hill and dale
and stream and distant town, blue sky and far green sea, realising how
infinitesimally small a part of the whole is each individual life. There
is a kind of comfort, after all, in insignificance. And can anything be
more redolent of that quality than middle age?

  "What is it all but a trouble of gnats
  In the gleam of a million million of worlds?"


[Sidenote: The common lot.]

To grow old is tragic, especially for women. Men feel it, too, there is
small doubt. I once spoke on the subject with one of the best-known men of
up-to-date journalism, and we exchanged condolences on the passing of
youth and the wild freshness of morning. We both agreed that at times we
felt as bright and blithe, as merry and as full of fun, as in the days of
our fleeting teens, though at times the world weighs heavily, and its
burdens are duly felt.

[Sidenote: In the eyes of the others.]

We had each undergone an experience which, to thousands of others must be
a landmark in the years. It was not the first grey hair! That means
nothing nowadays. Nor was it a touch of rheumatism. Do not babies of nine
or ten experience that cramping ill? No! It was merely seeing ourselves as
reflected from the mind of another. My companion had heard himself, in
some legal proceedings, in which he had been a witness, described as a
middle-aged man. With a shock of surprise he had realised that this
really applied to him! To every one of us comes this horrid moment of
recognition. Feeling young, and with daily sight of ourselves unrealising
the marks that Time indites upon our faces, we go on from year to year
with a vague idea that we are always as we were, or nearly so. And then
comes the rough quarter of an hour in which enlightenment arrives. It is
good and salutary, but very unpleasant!

[Sidenote: The inevitable moment.]

One of the most beautiful women I know, whose hair is prematurely white,
with an exquisitely picturesque effect of snowiness above the pink of soft
cheeks, and the youthful light of deep grey eyes, was a little over forty
when, talking one day with a comparatively new acquaintance, she was
astonished to hear her say, "My husband says you are a dear old lady."
"Old lady!" The husband was, himself, her elder. The remark rankled for a
long time, though I tried to convince her that only the most superficial
and careless of observers would ever connect the idea of age with her.

[Sidenote: Time, the thief.]

The reason that women feel growing old so much more than men is that they
know very well that they are more or less failures if they are not
ornamental. Even the plainest of women can be decorative in her home
surroundings so long as she has the bright eyes, fresh cheeks, and the
rounded, yet slight contours of youth. But after awhile Time begins
"throwing white roses at us" instead of red, and every passing year puts
into his laden wallet a little light from the eyes, a little bloom and
softness from the cheeks, a little gloss and colour from the hair, a
little lightness from the step, a little blitheness from the smile, and
bestows upon us, in their stead, a varied assortment of odds and ends,
which are, as to value, exactly what we choose to make them. It needs a
little moral alchemy to turn them to gold and diamonds, pearls and opals;
and, failing this transforming touch, Time's exchanges seem sorry enough.


[Sidenote: The best way.]

[Sidenote: Growing old in thought.]

[Sidenote: Regions to be conquered.]

There are three ways of growing old. In two of them there lies a
possibility of benefiting by the New Year's gifts of the old man with the
scythe. The best way is to face things, and deliberately accept the
situation, stepping out briskly to climb that steep bit of hill, and enter
the shadows that lie beyond the crest. It is a good time to be optimistic.
Like Mark Tapley's cheerfulness, it is most valuable in moments of
depression. To believe, with Browning, that--

  "God's in His heaven! All's well with the world,"

is the best restorative for sinking spirits that see the best and
brightest part of life behind them, and shrink from the bleakness of old
age that lies before them. To feel young in one's own thoughts and
emotions is not always a consolation. The young ones have interests of
their own, apart from ours. They may be too kind and gentle to let us
perceive it, but there is almost always some _gêne_ or constraint upon
them in the presence of the middle-aged. They enjoy themselves more when
in the society of their contemporaries. The expression of their faces,
bright and sunny, tells us that. It clouds over with seriousness, if not
with gloom, when they leave the young ones and share the companionship of
the elders. The latter, if young at heart, feel this with many a recurrent
pang; but if they are elderly in their thoughts it gives them no trouble.
They accept it calmly, as in the natural course of things. But with some
of us it seems most unnatural that we should grow old. The whole being
cries out against it, almost as urgently rebellious as we feel against an
injustice. But all this emotion has to be conquered, and we have only to
take ourselves in hand, once for all, and the thing is done. Let the young
ones be happy in their own way. We had our day! Let them have theirs. It
will, at best, be sadly brief. Let them make the most of it.


[Sidenote: Too easy submission.]

[Sidenote: Middle age and dress.]

[Sidenote: Good sense.]

[Sidenote: A crushing conspiracy.]

But there is a way of too freely submitting to grow old. A friend of mine
sometimes says, "If you will insist on making yourself into a doormat you
need not feel surprised if people wipe their boots on you." Quite so.
Well, if we women lie down and regard friendly old Time as an inimical
Juggernaut there is nothing to prevent us from sinking into dreary
dowdiness, from wearing prunella shoes, and filling our husbands with the
consternation that is inseparable from this elderly kind of footgear and
false fronts. We need not too literally accept the warnings of
disinterested friends, who think we should be told that we "dress too
young," or that the fashion of our coiffure is inappropriate to advancing
years. Far better is it to dress too young than too old; to keep our heads
in consonance with the coiffures of the day than to date ourselves in any
conspicuous way. The women of our upper classes are sensible in this
matter. So long as they can cover their heads with hair they do not wear
caps. Not until seventy or so do they envelop themselves in the cumbrous
mantles that once were devised especially for middle age, a period of life
which, after all, is not adapted to weight-carrying. In travelling they
wear hats or toques, and for everyday costume the tailor-made suit is
generally adopted; while for afternoon wear handsome and elaborate dresses
are prepared. There is no reason why elderly women should carry weight for
age when the latter becomes a disability instead of an advantage. And yet,
in the fashion journals, as well as in the shops, all the heaviest and
ugliest gowns, and all the least attractive of the mantles, to say nothing
of the most hopelessly hideous bonnets, are presented to the elderly
customer for her choice.

[Sidenote: Shining examples.]

And with regard to other things, middle-aged women make themselves into
doormats for Time to tread upon. Because no enterprise or variety in life
is expected of them, they never dream of originating any. There is no
thought of foreign travel, of seeing all the interesting places where
history is made, of keeping alive and awake and intent. It is only
exceptional women, like the Duchess of Cleveland, Lord Rosebery's
wonderful mother, who go round the world at seventy, and begin to write a
book involving a visit to the eastern lands, where Lady Esther Stanhope,
her great aunt, lived such a romantic life. Our Queen began to learn
Hindustani when nearly seventy years of age. These shining examples are
the ones to follow!


[Sidenote: Defying time.]

The third way of growing old is to attempt to defy Time--regard him as an
enemy to be thwarted, and endeavour to hide his detested ravages under a
false array of cosmetics, dyes, and other appliances. It is a despicable
and silly way, but one cannot refuse a meed of compassion to those who
practise it. They are generally women who have been beautiful, and it is
so hard to let beauty go without an attempt to detain her. It is a great
gift, and to lose it is, to those who have possessed it, a terrible thing.
Small wonder that they hug its remnants close, and wrap its rags about
them. And, after all, the day must come when the tawdry imitations stand
revealed for the useless things they are, even to those who pinned their
faith upon them.

[Sidenote: "The best is yet to be."]

But time gives us all something in return; a growing patience which brings
sweetness and gentleness in its train; a wider outlook on the world and a
deeper insight into the hearts of friends; a tender sympathy with those
who suffer, and a truer sense of comradeship with our fellow-travellers on
life's road. And all these things write themselves clearly enough on the
ageing faces, sometimes beautifying what once was almost destitute of
charm; and sometimes spiritualising what once was beautiful in form and
colour, but lacked the loveliness that results from an equal balance of
mind and heart.


_Uniform with this Volume:_

_Long 8vo, cloth, round corners, ONE SHILLING._





_The Daily Telegraph_ says:--"In the knowledge of the etiquette of society
as it concerns her sex Mrs. Humphry is not surpassed by any writer of the
day. No one knows better than she how girls ought to behave in 'company,'
and here she gives them most useful information and excellent advice....
Mrs. Humphry knows as much about dinners as about dress, and is competent
to tell her fair reader what to provide as well as what to wear."

_The Court Journal_ says:--"Full of valuable points and sound common

_The Star_ says:--"'Manners for Women' gives us some help we can heartily
appreciate. Just what to do at all times is let drop while we are carried
along by each interesting chapter. The friend you would like to ask, but
are afraid to, about a simple little matter on which you have some doubt
is here ready to speak from out the pages of a book."

_Truth_ says:--"Upon such a subject neither sex could have a better
'guide, philosopher, and friend' than 'Madge.'"

_The Morning Leader_ says:--"Written with sound judgment and in excellent
taste, therein differing from the usual handbook on Manners; it forms an
admirable guide on points on etiquette."

_The Manchester Courier_ says:--"The book is another proof of the theory
that good feeling and good sense are the basis of good manners, and its
information is given with a tact, freshness, and vigour that cannot fail
to commend themselves."

_The Gentlewoman_ says:--"Anxious mothers will find Mrs. Humphry's advice
of much help in the turmoil of wedding arrangements, and her menus will be
of assistance to hostesses undecided what to set before their guests."

_Uniform with this Volume:_





Long 8vo, cloth, round corners, ONE SHILLING.

"Always in most excellent taste as well as astonishingly complete.
Certainly the world would be a very much pleasanter place to live in if
all men did read and practise her admirable precepts."--_Saturday Review._

"It is a charmingly-written code of true manners." _Leeds Mercury._

"Very welcome will be this little book, written sensibly and
brightly."--_Daily Telegraph._

"Mrs. Humphry's book will be worth more than its weight in gold....
Excellent, robust common sense, tempered by genuine goodness of heart, is
a characteristic of everything she writes."--_The Queen._

"A very dainty and instructive epitome of all that we ought to be.... To a
shy young man this tactful volume should be invaluable."--_To-Day._

"This admirable little book may well be commended to the notice of
ill-mannered young men, as well as to that of the shy youth about to take
his first plunge into society. The versatile 'Madge' may be heartily
congratulated on the faultless manner in which she has performed her
task."--_The Lady._

"A little volume for which there was need. Many a young man will be
relieved from doubt and difficulty by perusing its pages."--_Army and Navy

"Mrs. Humphry has accomplished a difficult task with infinite tact and
discretion.... A book which every young man of to-day should read, mark,
learn, and inwardly digest."--_Gentlewoman._

"Mrs. Humphry discourses with knowledge, judgment, and good

"'Manners for Men' is written with so much humour and good sense that a
ticklish theme is robbed of all its farcical aspect, and presented to us
with a convincing authority."--_The Sketch._


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