Poems & Short Stories: 4,435
Forum Members: 67,986
Forum Posts: 1,216,101
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
A LECTURE DELIVERED AT WINCHESTER, MARCH 17, 1869.
Ladies,--I have chosen for the title of this lecture a practical and prosaic word, because I intend the lecture itself to be as practical and prosaic as I can make it, without becoming altogether dull.
The question of the better or worse education of women is one far too important for vague sentiment, wild aspirations, or Utopian dreams.
It is a practical question, on which depends not merely money or comfort, but too often health and life, as the consequences of a good education, or disease and death--I know too well of what I speak--as the consequences of a bad one.
I beg you, therefore, to put out of your minds at the outset any fancy that I wish for a social revolution in the position of women; or that I wish to see them educated by exactly the same methods, and in exactly the same subjects, as men. British lads, on an average, are far too ill-taught still, in spite of all recent improvements, for me to wish that British girls should be taught in the same way.
Moreover, whatever defects there may have been--and defects there must be in all things human--in the past education of British women, it has been most certainly a splendid moral success. It has made, by the grace of God, British women the best wives, mothers, daughters, aunts, sisters, that the world, as far as I can discover, has yet seen.
Let those who will sneer at the women of England. We who have to do the work and to fight the battle of life know the inspiration which we derive from their virtue, their counsel, their tenderness, and--but too often--from their compassion and their forgiveness. There is, I doubt not, still left in England many a man with chivalry and patriotism enough to challenge the world to show so perfect a specimen of humanity as a cultivated British woman.
But just because a cultivated British woman is so perfect a personage; therefore I wish to see all British women cultivated. Because the womanhood of England is so precious a treasure; I wish to see none of it wasted. It is an invaluable capital, or material, out of which the greatest possible profit to the nation must be made. And that can only be done by thrift; and that, again, can only be attained by knowledge.
Consider that word thrift. If you will look at Dr. Johnson's Dictionary, or if you know your Shakespeare, you will see that thrift signified originally profits, gain, riches gotten--in a word, the marks of a man's thriving.
How, then, did the word thrift get to mean parsimony, frugality, the opposite of waste? Just in the same way as economy--which first, of course, meant the management of a household--got to mean also the opposite of waste.
It was found that in commerce, in husbandry, in any process, in fact, men throve in proportion as they saved their capital, their material, their force.
Now this is a great law which runs through life; one of those laws of nature--call them, rather, laws of God--which apply not merely to political economy, to commerce, and to mechanics; but to physiology, to society; to the intellect, to the heart, of every person in this room.
The secret of thriving is thrift; saving of force; to get as much work as possible done with the least expenditure of power, the least jar and obstruction, the least wear and tear.
And the secret of thrift is knowledge. In proportion as you know the laws and nature of a subject, you will be able to work at it easily, surely, rapidly, successfully; instead of wasting your money or your energies in mistaken schemes, irregular efforts, which end in disappointment and exhaustion.
The secret of thrift, I say, is knowledge. The more you know, the more you can save yourself and that which belongs to you; and can do more work with less effort.
A knowledge of the laws of commercial credit, we all know, saves capital, enabling a less capital to do the work of a greater. Knowledge of the electric telegraph saves time; knowledge of writing saves human speech and locomotion; knowledge of domestic economy saves income; knowledge of sanitary laws saves health and life; knowledge of the laws of the intellect saves wear and tear of brain; and knowledge of the laws of the spirit--what does it not save?
A well-educated moral sense, a well-regulated character, saves from idleness and ennui, alternating with sentimentality and excitement, those tenderer emotions, those deeper passions, those nobler aspirations of humanity, which are the heritage of the woman far more than of the man; and which are potent in her, for evil or for good, in proportion as they are left to run wild and undisciplined, or are trained and developed into graceful, harmonious, self-restraining strength, beautiful in themselves, and a blessing to all who come under their influence.
What, therefore, I recommend to ladies in this lecture is thrift; thrift of themselves and of their own powers: and knowledge as the parent of thrift.
And because it is well to begin with the lower applications of thrift, and to work up to the higher, I am much pleased to hear that the first course of the proposed lectures to women in this place will be one on domestic economy.
I presume that the learned gentleman who will deliver these lectures will be the last to mean by that term the mere saving of money; that he will tell you, as--being a German--he will have good reason to know, that the young lady who learns thrift in domestic economy is also learning thrift of the very highest faculties of her immortal spirit. He will tell you, I doubt not--for he must know--how you may see in Germany young ladies living in what we more luxurious British would consider something like poverty; cooking, waiting at table, and performing many a household office which would be here considered menial; and yet finding time for a cultivation of the intellect, which is, unfortunately, too rare in Great Britain.
The truth is, that we British are too wealthy. We make money, if not too rapidly for the good of the nation at large, yet too rapidly, I fear, for the good of the daughters of those who make it. Their temptation--I do not, of course, say they all yield to it--but their temptation is, to waste of the very simplest--I had almost said, if I may be pardoned the expression, of the most barbaric--kind; to an oriental waste of money, and waste of time; to a fondness for mere finery, pardonable enough, but still a waste; and to the mistaken fancy that it is the mark of a lady to sit idle and let servants do everything for her.
Such women may well take a lesson by contrast from the pure and noble, useful and cultivated thrift of an average German young lady--for ladies these German women are, in every possible sense of the word.
But it is not of this sort of waste of which I wish to speak to-day. I only mention the matter in passing, to show that high intellectual culture is not incompatible with the performance of homely household duties, and that the moral success of which I spoke just now need not be injured, any more than it is in Germany, by intellectual success likewise. I trust that these words may reassure those parents, if any such there be here, who may fear that these lectures will withdraw women from their existing sphere of interest and activity. That they should entertain such a fear is not surprising, after the extravagant opinions and schemes which have been lately broached in various quarters.
The programme to these lectures expressly disclaims any such intentions; and I, as a husband and a father, expressly disclaim any such intention likewise.
"To fit women for the more enlightened performance of their special duties;" to help them towards learning how to do better what we doubt not they are already doing well; is, I honestly believe, the only object of the promoters of this scheme.
Let us see now how some of these special duties can be better performed by help of a little enlightenment as to the laws which regulate them.
Now, no man will deny--certainly no man who is past forty-five, and whose digestion is beginning to quail before the lumps of beef and mutton which are the boast of a British kitchen, and to prefer, with Justice Shallow, and, I presume, Sir John Falstaff also, "any pretty little tiny kickshaws"--no man, I say, who has reached that age, but will feel it a practical comfort to him to know that the young ladies of his family are at all events good cooks; and understand, as the French do, thrift in the matter of food.
Neither will any parent who wishes, naturally enough, that his daughters should cost him as little as possible; and wishes, naturally enough also, that they should be as well dressed as possible, deny that it would be a good thing for them to be practical milliners and mantua-makers; and, by making their own clothes gracefully and well, exercise thrift in clothing.
But, beside this thrift in clothing, I am not alone, I believe, in wishing for some thrift in the energy which produces it. Labour misapplied, you will agree, is labour wasted; and as dress, I presume, is intended to adorn the person of the wearer, the making a dress which only disfigures her may be considered as a plain case of waste. It would be impertinent in me to go into any details: but it is impossible to walk about the streets now without passing young people who must be under a deep delusion as to the success of their own toilette. Instead of graceful and noble simplicity of form, instead of combinations of colour at once rich and delicate, because in accordance with the chromatic laws of nature, one meets with phenomena more and more painful to the eye, and startling to common sense, till one would be hardly more astonished, and certainly hardly more shocked, if in a year or two one should pass some one going about like a Chinese lady, with pinched feet, or like a savage of the Amazons, with a wooden bung through her lower lip. It is easy to complain of these monstrosities: but impossible to cure them, it seems to me, without an education of the taste, an education in those laws of nature which produce beauty in form and beauty in colour. For that the cause of these failures lies in want of education is patent. They are most common in--I had almost said they are confined to--those classes of well-to-do persons who are the least educated; who have no standard of taste of their own; and who do not acquire any from cultivated friends and relations: who, in consequence, dress themselves blindly according to what they conceive to be the Paris fashions, conveyed at third-hand through an equally uneducated dressmaker; in innocent ignorance of the fact--for fact I believe it to be--that Paris fashions are invented now not in the least for the sake of beauty, but for the sake of producing, through variety, increased expenditure, and thereby increased employment; according to the strange system which now prevails in France of compelling, if not prosperity, at least the signs of it; and like schoolboys before a holiday, nailing up the head of the weather glass to insure fine weather.
Let British ladies educate themselves in those laws of beauty which are as eternal as any other of nature's laws; which may be seen fulfilled, as Mr. Ruskin tells us, so eloquently in every flower and every leaf, in every sweeping down and rippling wave: and they will be able to invent graceful and economical dresses for themselves, without importing tawdry and expensive ugliness from France.
Let me now go a step further, and ask you to consider this.--There are in England now a vast number, and an increasing number, of young women who, from various circumstances which we all know, must in after life be either the mistresses of their own fortunes, or the earners of their own bread. And, to do that wisely and well, they must be more or less women of business; and to be women of business, they must know something of the meaning of the words capital, profit, price, value, labour, wages, and of the relation between those two last. In a word, they must know a little political economy. Nay, I sometimes think that the mistress of every household might find, not only thrift of money, but thrift of brain; freedom from mistakes, anxieties, worries of many kinds, all of which eat out the health as well as the heart, by a little sound knowledge of the principles of political economy.
When we consider that every mistress of a household is continually buying, if not selling; that she is continually hiring and employing labour in the form of servants; and very often, into the bargain, keeping her husband's accounts: I cannot but think that her hard-worked brain might be clearer, and her hard-tried desire to do her duty by every subject in her little kingdom, might be more easily satisfied, had she read something of what Mr. John Stuart Mill has written, especially on the duties of employer and employed. A capitalist, a commercialist, an employer of labour, and an accountant--every mistress of a household is all these, whether she likes it or not; and it would be surely well for her, in so very complicated a state of society as this, not to trust merely to that mother-wit, that intuitive sagacity and innate power of ruling her fellow-creatures, which carries women so nobly through their work in simpler and less civilised societies.
And here I stop to answer those who may say--as I have heard it said--That a woman's intellect is not fit for business; that when a woman takes to business, she is apt to do it ill, and unpleasantly likewise; to be more suspicious, more irritable, more grasping, more unreasonable, than regular men of business would be; that--as I have heard it put--"a woman does not fight fair." The answer is simple. That a woman's intellect is eminently fitted for business is proved by the enormous amount of business she gets through without any special training for it: but those faults in a woman of which some men complain are simply the results of her not having had a special training. She does not know the laws of business. She does not know the rules of the game she is playing; and therefore she is playing it in the dark, in fear and suspicion, apt to judge of questions on personal grounds, often offending those with whom she has to do, and oftener still making herself miserable over matters of law or of business, on which a little sound knowledge would set her head and her heart at rest.
When I have seen widows, having the care of children, of a great household, of a great estate, of a great business, struggling heroically, and yet often mistakenly; blamed severely for selfishness and ambition, while they were really sacrificing themselves with the divine instinct of a mother for their children's interest: I have stood by with mingled admiration and pity, and said to myself--"How nobly she is doing the work without teaching! How much more nobly would she have done it had she been taught! She is now doing the work at the most enormous waste of energy and of virtue: had she had knowledge, thrift would have followed it; she would have done more work with far less trouble. She will probably kill herself if she goes on: sound knowledge would have saved her health, saved her heart, saved her friends, and helped the very loved ones for whom she labours, not always with success."
A little political economy, therefore, will at least do no harm to a woman; especially if she have to take care of herself in after life; neither, I think, will she be much harmed by some sound knowledge of another subject, which I see promised in these lectures,--"Natural philosophy, in its various branches, such as the chemistry of common life, light, heat, electricity, &c., &c."
A little knowledge of the laws of light, for instance, would teach many women that by shutting themselves up day after day, week after week, in darkened rooms, they are as certainly committing a waste of health, destroying their vital energy, and diseasing their brains, as if they were taking so much poison the whole time.
A little knowledge of the laws of heat would teach women not to clothe themselves and their children after foolish and insufficient fashions, which in this climate sow the seeds of a dozen different diseases, and have to be atoned for by perpetual anxieties, and by perpetual doctors' bills; and as for a little knowledge of the laws of electricity, one thrift I am sure it would produce--thrift to us men, of having to answer continual inquiries as to what the weather is going to be, when a slight knowledge of the barometer, or of the form of the clouds and the direction of the wind, would enable many a lady to judge for herself, and not, after inquiry on inquiry, disregard all warnings, go out on the first appearance of a strip of blue sky, and come home wet through, with what she calls "only a chill," but which really means a nail driven into her coffin--a probable shortening, though it may be a very small one, of her mortal life; because the food of the next twenty-four hours, which should have gone to keep the vital heat at its normal standard, will have to be wasted in raising it up to that standard, from which it has fallen by a chill.
Ladies; these are subjects on which I must beg to speak a little more at length, premising them by one statement, which may seem jest, but is solemn earnest--that, if the medical men of this or any other city were what the world now calls "alive to their own interests"--that is, to the mere making of money; instead of being, what medical men are, the most generous, disinterested, and high-minded class in these realms, then they would oppose by all means in their power the delivery of lectures on natural philosophy to women. For if women act upon what they learn in those lectures--and having women's hearts, they will act upon it--there ought to follow a decrease of sickness and an increase of health, especially among children; a thrift of life, and a thrift of expense besides, which would very seriously affect the income of medical men.
For let me ask you, ladies, with all courtesy, but with all earnestness--Are you aware of certain facts, of which every one of those excellent medical men is too well aware? Are you aware that more human beings are killed in England every year by unnecessary and preventable diseases than were killed at Waterloo or at Sadowa? Are you aware that the great majority of those victims are children? Are you aware that the diseases which carry them off are for the most part such as ought to be specially under the control of the women who love them, pet them, educate them, and would in many cases, if need be, lay down their lives for them? Are you aware, again, of the vast amount of disease which, so both wise mothers and wise doctors assure me, is engendered in the sleeping-room from simple ignorance of the laws of ventilation, and in the school-room likewise, from simple ignorance of the laws of physiology? from an ignorance of which I shall mention no other case here save one--that too often from ignorance of signs of approaching disease, a child is punished for what is called idleness, listlessness, wilfulness, sulkiness; and punished, too, in the unwisest way--by an increase of tasks and confinement to the house, thus overtasking still more a brain already overtasked, and depressing still more, by robbing it of oxygen and of exercise, a system already depressed? Are you aware, I ask again, of all this? I speak earnestly upon this point, because I speak with experience. As a single instance: a medical man, a friend of mine, passing by his own school-room, heard one of his own little girls screaming and crying, and went in. The governess, an excellent woman, but wholly ignorant of the laws of physiology, complained that the child had of late become obstinate and would not learn; and that therefore she must punish her by keeping her indoors over the unlearnt lessons. The father, who knew that the child was usually a very good one, looked at her carefully for a little while; sent her out of the school-room; and then said, "That child must not open a book for a month." "If I had not acted so," he said to me, "I should have had that child dead of brain- disease within the year."
Now, in the face of such facts as these, is it too much to ask of mothers, sisters, aunts, nurses, governesses--all who may be occupied in the care of children, especially of girls--that they should study thrift of human health and human life, by studying somewhat the laws of life and health? There are books--I may say a whole literature of books--written by scientific doctors on these matters, which are in my mind far more important to the school-room than half the trashy accomplishments, so- called, which are expected to be known by governesses. But are they bought? Are they even to be bought, from most country booksellers? Ah, for a little knowledge of the laws to the neglect of which is owing so much fearful disease, which, if it does not produce immediate death, too often leaves the constitution impaired for years to come. Ah the waste of health and strength in the young; the waste, too, of anxiety and misery in those who love and tend them. How much of it might be saved by a little rational education in those laws of nature which are the will of God about the welfare of our bodies, and which, therefore, we are as much bound to know and to obey, as we are bound to know and obey the spiritual laws whereon depends the welfare of our souls.
Pardon me, ladies, if I have given a moment's pain to any one here: but I appeal to every medical man in the room whether I have not spoken the truth; and having such an opportunity as this, I felt that I must speak for the sake of children, and of women likewise, or else for ever hereafter hold my peace.
Let me pass on from this painful subject--for painful it has been to me for many years--to a question of intellectual thrift--by which I mean just now thrift of words; thrift of truth; restraint of the tongue; accuracy and modesty in statement.
Mothers complain to me that girls are apt to be--not intentionally untruthful--but exaggerative, prejudiced, incorrect, in repeating a conversation or describing an event; and that from this fault arise, as is to be expected, misunderstandings, quarrels, rumours, slanders, scandals, and what not.
Now, for this waste of words there is but one cure: and if I be told that it is a natural fault of women; that they cannot take the calm judicial view of matters which men boast, and often boast most wrongly, that they can take; that under the influence of hope, fear, delicate antipathy, honest moral indignation, they will let their eyes and ears be governed by their feelings; and see and hear only what they wish to see and hear: I answer, that it is not for me as a man to start such a theory; but that if it be true, it is an additional argument for some education which will correct this supposed natural defect. And I say deliberately that there is but one sort of education which will correct it; one which will teach young women to observe facts accurately, judge them calmly, and describe them carefully, without adding or distorting: and that is, some training in natural science.
I beg you not to be startled: but if you are, then test the truth of my theory by playing to-night at the game called "Russian Scandal;" in which a story, repeated in secret by one player to the other, comes out at the end of the game, owing to the inaccurate and--forgive me if I say it--uneducated brains through which it has passed, utterly unlike its original; not only ludicrously maimed and distorted, but often with the most fantastic additions of events, details, names, dates, places, which each player will aver that he received from the player before him. I am afraid that too much of the average gossip of every city, town, and village is little more than a game of "Russian Scandal;" with this difference, that while one is but a game, the other is but too mischievous earnest.
But now, if among your party there shall be an average lawyer, medical man, or man of science, you will find that he, and perhaps he alone, will be able to retail accurately the story which has been told him. And why? Simply because his mind has been trained to deal with facts; to ascertain exactly what he does see or hear, and to imprint its leading features strongly and clearly on his memory.
Now, you certainly cannot make young ladies barristers or attorneys; nor employ their brains in getting up cases, civil or criminal; and as for chemistry, they and their parents may have a reasonable antipathy to smells, blackened fingers, and occasional explosions and poisonings. But you may make them something of botanists, zoologists, geologists.
I could say much on this point: allow me at least to say this: I verily believe that any young lady who would employ some of her leisure time in collecting wild flowers, carefully examining them, verifying them, and arranging them; or who would in her summer trip to the sea-coast do the same by the common objects of the shore, instead of wasting her holiday, as one sees hundreds doing, in lounging on benches on the esplanade, reading worthless novels, and criticizing dresses--that such a young lady, I say, would not only open her own mind to a world of wonder, beauty, and wisdom, which, if it did not make her a more reverent and pious soul, she cannot be the woman which I take for granted she is; but would save herself from the habit--I had almost said the necessity--of gossip; because she would have things to think of and not merely persons; facts instead of fancies; while she would acquire something of accuracy, of patience, of methodical observation and judgment, which would stand her in good stead in the events of daily life, and increase her power of bridling her tongue and her imagination. "God is in heaven, and thou upon earth; therefore let thy words be few;" is the lesson which those are learning all day long who study the works of God with reverent accuracy, lest by misrepresenting them they should be tempted to say that God has done that which He has not; and in that wholesome discipline I long that women as well as men should share.
And now I come to a thrift of the highest kind, as contrasted with a waste the most deplorable and ruinous of all; thrift of those faculties which connect us with the unseen and spiritual world; with humanity, with Christ, with God; thrift of the immortal spirit. I am not going now to give you a sermon on duty. You hear such, I doubt not, in church every Sunday, far better than I can preach to you. I am going to speak rather of thrift of the heart, thrift of the emotions. How they are wasted in these days in reading what are called sensation novels, all know but too well; how British literature--all that the best hearts and intellects among our forefathers have bequeathed to us--is neglected for light fiction, the reading of which is, as a lady well said, "the worst form of intemperance--dram-drinking and opium-eating, intellectual and moral."
I know that the young will delight--they have delighted in all ages, and will to the end of time--in fictions which deal with that "oldest tale which is for ever new." Novels will be read: but that is all the more reason why women should be trained, by the perusal of a higher, broader, deeper literature, to distinguish the good novel from the bad, the moral from the immoral, the noble from the base, the true work of art from the sham which hides its shallowness and vulgarity under a tangled plot and melodramatic situations. She should learn--and that she can only learn by cultivation--to discern with joy, and drink in with reverence, the good, the beautiful, and the true; and to turn with the fine scorn of a pure and strong womanhood from the bad, the ugly, and the false.
And if any parent should be inclined to reply--"Why lay so much stress upon educating a girl in British literature? Is it not far more important to make our daughters read religious books?" I answer--Of course it is. I take for granted that that is done in a Christian land. But I beg you to recollect that there are books and books; and that in these days of a free press it is impossible, in the long run, to prevent girls reading books of very different shades of opinion, and very different religious worth. It may be, therefore, of the very highest importance to a girl to have her intellect, her taste, her emotions, her moral sense, in a word, her whole womanhood, so cultivated and regulated that she shall herself be able to discern the true from the false, the orthodox from the unorthodox, the truly devout from the merely sentimental, the Gospel from its counterfeits.
I should have thought that there never had been in Britain, since the Reformation, a crisis at which young Englishwomen required more careful cultivation on these matters; if at least they are to be saved from making themselves and their families miserable; and from ending--as I have known too many end--with broken hearts, broken brains, broken health, and an early grave.
Take warning by what you see abroad. In every country where the women are uneducated, unoccupied; where their only literature is French novels or translations of them--in every one of those countries the women, even to the highest, are the slaves of superstition, and the puppets of priests. In proportion as, in certain other countries--notably, I will say, in Scotland--the women are highly educated, family life and family secrets are sacred, and the woman owns allegiance and devotion to no confessor or director, but to her own husband or to her own family.
I say plainly, that if any parents wish their daughters to succumb at last to some quackery or superstition, whether calling itself scientific, or calling itself religious--and there are too many of both just now--they cannot more certainly effect their purpose than by allowing her to grow up ignorant, frivolous, luxurious, vain; with her emotions excited, but not satisfied, by the reading of foolish and even immoral novels.
In such a case the more delicate and graceful the organization, the more noble and earnest the nature, which has been neglected, the more certain it is--I know too well what I am saying--to go astray.
The time of depression, disappointment, vacuity, all but despair, must come. The immortal spirit, finding no healthy satisfaction for its highest aspirations, is but too likely to betake itself to an unhealthy and exciting superstition. Ashamed of its own long self-indulgence, it is but too likely to flee from itself into a morbid asceticism. Not having been taught its God-given and natural duties in the world, it is but too likely to betake itself, from the mere craving for action, to self-invented and unnatural duties out of the world. Ignorant of true science, yet craving to understand the wonders of nature and of spirit, it is but too likely to betake itself to nonscience--nonsense as it is usually called--whether of spirit-rapping and mesmerism, or of miraculous relics and winking pictures. Longing for guidance and teaching, and never having been taught to guide and teach itself, it is but too likely to deliver itself up in self-despair to the guidance and teaching of those who, whether they be quacks or fanatics, look on uneducated women as their natural prey.
You will see, I am sure, from what I have said, that it is not my wish that you should become mere learned women; mere female pedants, as useless and unpleasing as male pedants are wont to be. The education which I set before you is not to be got by mere hearing lectures or reading books: for it is an education of your whole character; a self- education; which really means a committing of yourself to God, that He may educate you. Hearing lectures is good, for it will teach you how much there is to be known, and how little you know. Reading books is good, for it will give you habits of regular and diligent study. And therefore I urge on you strongly private study, especially in case a library should be formed here of books on those most practical subjects of which I have been speaking. But, after all, both lectures and books are good, mainly in as far as they furnish matter for reflection: while the desire to reflect and the ability to reflect must come, as I believe, from above. The honest craving after light and power, after knowledge, wisdom, active usefulness, must come--and may it come to you--by the inspiration of the Spirit of God.
One word more, and I have done. Let me ask women to educate themselves, not for their own sakes merely, but for the sake of others. For, whether they will or not, they must educate others. I do not speak merely of those who may be engaged in the work of direct teaching; that they ought to be well taught themselves, who can doubt? I speak of those--and in so doing I speak of every woman, young and old--who exercises as wife, as mother, as aunt, as sister, or as friend, an influence, indirect it may be, and unconscious, but still potent and practical, on the minds and characters of those about them, especially of men. How potent and practical that influence is, those know best who know most of the world and most of human nature. There are those who consider--and I agree with them--that the education of boys under the age of twelve years ought to be entrusted as much as possible to women. Let me ask--of what period of youth and of manhood does not the same hold true? I pity the ignorance and conceit of the man who fancies that he has nothing left to learn from cultivated women. I should have thought that the very mission of woman was to be, in the highest sense, the educator of man from infancy to old age; that that was the work towards which all the God-given capacities of women pointed; for which they were to be educated to the highest pitch. I should have thought that it was the glory of woman that she was sent into the world to live for others, rather than for herself; and therefore I should say--Let her smallest rights be respected, her smallest wrongs redressed: but let her never be persuaded to forget that she is sent into the world to teach man--what, I believe, she has been teaching him all along, even in the savage state--namely, that there is something more necessary than the claiming of rights, and that is, the performing of duties; to teach him specially, in these so-called intellectual days, that there is something more than intellect, and that is--purity and virtue. Let her never be persuaded to forget that her calling is not the lower and more earthly one of self-assertion, but the higher and the diviner calling of self-sacrifice; and let her never desert that higher life, which lives in others and for others, like her Redeemer and her Lord.
And if any should answer that this doctrine would keep woman a dependant and a slave, I rejoin--Not so: it would keep her what she should be--the mistress of all around her, because mistress of herself. And more, I should express a fear that those who made that answer had not yet seen into the mystery of true greatness and true strength; that they did not yet understand the true magnanimity, the true royalty of that spirit, by which the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.
Surely that is woman's calling--to teach man: and to teach him what? To teach him, after all, that his calling is the same as hers, if he will but see the things which belong to his peace. To temper his fiercer, coarser, more self-assertive nature, by the contact of her gentleness, purity, self-sacrifice. To make him see that not by blare of trumpets, not by noise, wrath, greed, ambition, intrigue, puffery, is good and lasting work to be done on earth: but by wise self-distrust, by silent labour, by lofty self-control, by that charity which hopeth all things, believeth all things, endureth all things; by such an example, in short, as women now in tens of thousands set to those around them; such as they will show more and more, the more their whole womanhood is educated to employ its powers without waste and without haste in harmonious unity. Let the woman begin in girlhood, if such be her happy lot--to quote the words of a great poet, a great philosopher, and a great Churchman, William Wordsworth--let her begin, I say--
"With all things round about her drawn From May-time and the cheerful dawn; A dancing shape, an image gay, To haunt, to startle, and waylay."
Let her develop onwards--
"A spirit, yet a woman too, With household motions light and free, And steps of virgin liberty. A countenance in which shall meet Sweet records, promises as sweet; A creature not too bright and good For human nature's daily food; For transient sorrows, simple wiles, Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles.
But let her highest and her final development be that which not nature, but self-education alone can bring--that which makes her once and for ever--
"A being breathing thoughtful breath; A traveller betwixt life and death. With reason firm, with temperate will, Endurance, foresight, strength and skill. A perfect woman, nobly planned, To warn, to comfort and command. And yet a spirit still and bright With something of an angel light."
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.