Advice to Young Ladies on
Their Duties and Conduct in Life
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1849
Right Views of Life
Entering upon Life
Habits of Order and Neatness
Domestic and Culinary Affairs
Improvement of the Mind
Gossiping and Evil-speaking
Conduct Towards Parents
Equality of the Sexes
Conduct Towards Men
Character of the Men Who Are Received as Visitors
Receiving Attentions from Men
The Year after Marriage
A Common Mistake
Right modes of thinking are the basis of all correct action. This is just as true of one gender as the other. Woman is a rational being, and must, in all the various relations in life, come under the guidance of right reason. It is from this cause that we shall, in addressing our young friends on their duties and conduct in life, appeal at once to their rational faculty. Specific forms and rules of action, to be observed on certain occasions, are very well as far as they go; but a mere formulary of good manners and right conduct is a poor substitute for that enlightened reason, by which a woman can at once determine for herself how she should speak and act under any and all circumstances.
In society, as well as in books, we constantly hear it said that a young lady should act thus and thus in a specified case; but a sound reason why she should thus act, is too rarely given. She is expected to take the mere dictum of those more experienced than herself, whether the reasonableness of the thing is apparent to her own mind or not. The consequence is, that what parents and friends see and declare to be right — a young lady too often thinks an indifferent matter, and, led on by her inclinations or peculiar temperament, sees no harm in acting directly in opposition to the views and wishes of those older and wiser than herself. Many fatal errors have arisen from this cause. The advice thus given is, in most cases, good; but, being unaccompanied by a comprehensible reason — it is not regarded when it opposes a strong inclination to act differently.
Right modes of thinking are the basis of all correct action. This we repeat, as a most important truism, and one which every young lady should regard as the foundation upon which her whole character should be laid. If she does not think right — then how can she act right? To learn to think right, is, therefore, a matter of primary concern. If there are right modes of thinking — then right actions will follow as a natural consequence. To aid in the attainment of this most desirable state, is one of the objects which will be kept in view by the writer, who will seek rather to give principles of action, than rules of conduct; although the latter will not be entirely neglected.
False views of life everywhere prevail. We meet with them in our daily fellowship, in the social circle, and in books. From these flow many and various errors in life, the effects of which are often felt when it is too late to remedy them. And too frequently it happens that the sad experiences of a whole lifetime fail to correct the original error, or give the ability to guard, by right precepts, the young and inexperienced. It is from this reason, that, in giving advice, many people, who have attained an advanced age, urge the opposite extreme of their own early life as the true mode of conduct.
The foundation of all error, in regard to life, lies in a single misconception — that of imagining self to be the center, instead of clearly understanding that each individual is only a part of a great whole, a member of a common body. This is a truth so essential to the well-being of society, and to the happiness of each individual, that it will be kept prominent throughout this volume. It is a truth as essential to a woman's, as to a man's happiness.
Feeling and perception are the peculiar distinguishing features of a woman's mind; and by these, more than by a process of reasoning on a subject — does she ordinarily arrive at conclusions, and determine her actions. By virtue of this her peculiar form of mind, she is able, in most cases, to determine a question of right and wrong correctly; but this she cannot always do. Her reason must, after all, be, in the main, a guide to her perceptions; and this reason, to be an unfailing guide — must be enlightened by truth. There must be true modes of thinking, or there cannot be uniform, correct action. The one is absolutely essential to the other.
Our fair young friends will see, by these few introductory remarks, that we shall, as already said, address their reason. It is the highest gift bestowed upon them by God. It is, in fact, that which makes a man or a woman distinctively human. For a woman to think in her sphere, is as essential as for a man to think in his; and the more truths she has from which to think, the more accurate will be her conclusions. Still, there is a very great difference between the mind of a woman and the mind of a man — a difference that all should clearly see, and which we shall set forth in its proper place.
RIGHT VIEWS OF LIFE
A Religious view of life ought to be taken, in the beginning, by every woman. What is meant here by a religious view, is simply the forming of a correct idea of the true relation of man to man, and of man to his Creator. Such a relation does exist, and it is essential to the well-being of everyone to understand it. Blindly to shut all this out, and to press forward in thoughtless uncertainty, is surely not the course which a wise man or a wise woman would take. As we are created beings, there must be an orderly relation in which we stand to God and to each other, and any violation of this order by us, either through ignorance or design, must produce unhappiness. In fact, all the unhappiness that exists in the world is produced from this cause. How essential, then, is it for everyone, in starting out in life, to have right views on so important a subject!
The first thing to be considered, in the effort to arrive at correct ideas here, is man's origin, and the fact of his having fallen from his original state of purity. Man, in the order of his creation, did not love himself supremely. His love flowed out and sought objects of affection. Supremely he loved God; and next to this love, was the love of his fellow-man. That this was so, is plain from the statement made in the Bible, that man was created in the image and likeness of God.
Now, God is love; not self-love, but a love of making others outside of himself happy. Such being his nature, the beings created by his hand, in his image and likeness, must have been, in their original state, lovers of others more than themselves, and seekers of the happiness of others.
How different is all now! Man not only loves himself supremely — but seeks his own good with an almost total disregard to the good of his neighbor! Nay, his love of self is so strong, that hatred to others too often takes possession of his mind. The fall of man, in which he lost the image and likeness of his Creator, consisted in his ceasing to love God and his neighbor — and becoming a lover of self and the world. True religion is nothing more nor less than the returning of man to this true order, and the restoration of the lost image and likeness of God in his mind. Perfect happiness resulted from this true order; and misery has accompanied, and will continue to accompany, its loss. To love self, and to seek for the gratification of selfish ends — never has, and never will, produce happiness; for it is in direct contrariety to the original law of our being. It is opposed to the very nature of things.
How important, then, is it, that every young woman, when she first begins to think, should think correctly on this subject, so vital to her happiness! But it is one thing to think right, and another thing to be able to bring right thoughts down into correct actions in our ordinary life in the world. To do this is a great achievement; it is, in fact, true Religion.
There is a great deal said about religion; and numerous enough are those who profess to have what they call religion. But, at this day, there is very little of true religion in the world. There are external forms of sanctimoniousness and acts of piety; but these do not make religion, and too often serve only as cloaks for covering up the most direful and soul-destroying selfishness. It is no hard matter, however, to distinguish the true coin from the base counterfeit. There is a test by which the quality of all may be known, and this test must be applied to their every-day living, not to their Sunday life. Do they love God — or self, the neighbor — or the world, most? Look at their conduct in all that pertains to their business and social fellowship with the world — not at what they say or profess — and you will soon be able to decide the question. The tree is easily known by its fruits, the quality of the fountain is known by the water it sends forth.
To be religious is not to be an ascetic, nor is it necessary to give up any of the pleasures or orderly enjoyments of life. The world, not the cloister, is the place where religion can alone find a permanent abiding-place — a real growth. What is called the religion of the cloister, is not true religion at all, but mere selfishness — a retiring from actual duty in the world, into an imaginary state of sanctimoniousness. It is only in life's actualities, in the real every-day business and social contact of man with man, that there can be any genuine religious growth; for religion is love to the neighbor; and all love, to be genuine, must have an actual existence in deeds, as well as in words. Real religion comes into exercise in the every-day affairs of life. It is an easy matter for any one to sit in his closet and imagine that he feels a love for all mankind; but let him go into the world, and meet his fellow-man as he is, and feel the encroachments and rude contact of his selfish spirit — and he will find something rising in his bosom that he would not like to call love.
The true spirit of religion is a love of being useful to others; and a religious life is the seeking, in all we do, the good of others — at the same time that we fully acknowledge that the ability to do so is not our own, but comes from God, who is the source and giver of all good. Everyone, to be happy, must lead such a life; and this is the reason why we urge the considerations now presented, upon the attention of those for whose particular benefit we write.
A just regard for the good of others, will not require a woman to neglect any home duty — but will prompt to its more perfect and faithful discharge. Her charity will consist in doing all that her hands find to do, with cheerfulness and alacrity, for the sake of others. The comfort and happiness of others are always in her hands, and every act of her life either adds to or diminishes the comfort and happiness of one or many.
In the beginning, let a young woman remember, that, as she cannot live for herself alone, it will be true wisdom for her to seek to live for others. Every day of her life, she will find herself placed in circumstances that, if improved, will enable her to give pleasure to, or perform some useful thing for, another; and her reward for so doing will be a delight sweeter far that can possibly spring from any selfish gratification.
Two young ladies sat reading, when a child entered the room, in trouble about his playthings. Something had gone wrong, which he could not remedy. He came up to one of them with his useless toy, and asked her to fix it right for him; but she gently pushed him away with her hand, saying, "Go away, now; I cannot attend to you." He then went to the other, who laid aside her book with a smile, and repaired the toy. It was the work of only a minute — but it was a great matter for the child. His thanks were expressed in his brightening face. The musical ringing of his happy voice, as he bounded from the room, echoed back from the heart of the maiden. In blessing — she was herself blessed.
"Let me wait upon the table, mother," said a daughter, as the family were assembling for tea. "Your head has ached all day, and you are not well this evening." The mother gave up her place at the head of the table, with a feeling of pleasure, at the affectionate consideration of her daughter, that sensibly diminished the pain of her aching head. It was a little matter, seemingly, this act of the daughter's — but much was involved in it. The mother was happier, and the daughter felt a glow of internal satisfaction warming through her bosom. While the former was made happier for the moment, the latter was made better permanently.
"Don't go away, sister," said a poor little invalid, lifting his large brown eyes to the face of his sister, a young girl in her sixteenth year, who had just come into his room with her bonnet and shawl on. "I want you to stay with me." "Sister must go, dear," spoke up the mother. "She has been invited out, and has promised herself much pleasure in going. I will stay with you." "I want sister to stay too," replied the child. "I don't want her to go away." The sister stood thoughtful for a few moments, and then, whispering something in her mother's ear, took off her bonnet and shawl, and sat down by the bedside of her sick brother, whose eyes brightened up, and almost sparkled with pleasure.
First she told him a story, and then, holding one of his hands in hers, she sang to him a little song. "Sing another, dear sister," said the child. The sister sang another and another song, her voice falling into a lower and more soothing tone. Presently she ceased, and looked up into the face of her mother with a smile. The dear little sufferer was asleep. The maiden bent down over the bed, and tenderly kissed the slumberer's cheek; then rising up quickly, she replaced her bonnet and shawl, and glided lightly from the room. Never in her life had she enjoyed herself so well among her young companions, as she did during that evening. Need we tell our readers the cause?
We might go on and instance a hundred different ways in which a young girl may be called on to practice self-denial for the good of others. If she has younger brothers and sisters, these calls will be made daily, and almost hourly. But, in obeying them, she will always find a higher and purer pleasure, than in disregarding them.
The true spirit of religion, we have said, is the love of being useful to others. This love, no one has naturally. We are all lovers of ourselves — more than lovers of God; and lovers of the world — more than lovers of our neighbor; and it is hard for us to conceive how there is any real pleasure to be found in denying our own selfish desires in order to seek the good of another. A very little experience, however, will make us plainly see that the inward delight arising from the consciousness of having done good to another, is the sweetest of all delights we have ever known.
But this love of being useful to others, does not easily take the place of our natural selfishness. And it never does, unless we oppose, vigorously, and from a religious ground, our natural propensity to regard only our own selves. What is here meant by a religious ground, is, a regard to God and an obedience to his laws, as the duty of a creature made by his hands and sustained by him every moment. These laws teach us to regard the good of others; and when we seek the good of others, because to do so is to live in obedience to the laws of God — we act from a religious principle. Every effort made in this spirit, is an efficient one, and actually produces a change in the inward mind, causing a love of others — to take the place of a love of self. To sin, is to act in opposition to these laws of God. In every instance, therefore, in which we neglect the good of another, in seeking some selfish gratification — we commit sin; for the law of God, in common society, is, for each to regard the good of the whole.
A right view of life, then, which all should take at the outset, is the one we have presented. Let every young lady seriously reflect upon this subject. Let her remember that she is not designed by her Creator to live for herself alone — but has a higher and nobler destiny — that of doing good to others — of making others happy!
The little world of self is not the limit that is to confine all her actions. Her love was not destined to waste its fires in the narrow chamber of a single human heart; no, a broader sphere of action is hers — a more expansive benevolence. The light and heat of her love are to be seen and felt far and wide. Who would not rather thus live a true life — than sit shivering over the smouldering embers of self-love? Happy is that maiden who seeks to live this true life! As time passes on, her own character will be elevated and purified. Gradually will she return towards that order of her being, which was lost in the declension of mankind from that original state of excellence in which they were created. She will become, more and more — a true woman; will grow wiser, and better, and happier. Her path through the world will be as a shining light, and all who know her will call her blessed. Who would not wish to lead such a life? Who does not desire to return from disorder and misery — to order and happiness?
ENTERING UPON LIFE
The first important era in the life of a young maiden, is when she finally leaves school. This is the time when she begins to think for herself, and is left in more than ordinary freedom to act for herself. Up to this period, she has lived in obedience to her parents, guardians, or teachers, in all things. She has gone to school, and pursued her studies there under the entire direction of others, submitting her will and her judgment to the will and judgment of others, as older and wiser than herself. For years, her mind has been fully occupied with the various branches of knowledge which it has been deemed by others right that she should acquire. But now, books of instruction are laid aside; the strict rules of the classroom are no longer observed; the mind that has been for a long time active in the pursuits of knowledge, sinks into repose.
This, which we have called the first important era in a woman's life, may, with justice, be rather called the most important era in her life; for her whole future life will be affected by whatever is right or wrong in her conduct, and mode of thinking and living, at this period. The habits of order and study which existed while at school — were not properly her own, for they were merely the result of obedience to laws prescribed by others; but now, acting in freedom, whatever she does is from herself, and stamps itself permanently upon the impressible substance of her forming character. If she, from natural indolence, sinks into idleness and self-indulgence — she will be in danger of forming a habit that will go with her through life; but if, from a sense of duty to herself and others, she still occupies all her time, and all the powers of her mind, in doing or acquiring something — she will gradually gain strength and force of character, as her mind expands, and takes, as a woman, in a few years, a woman's true position of active use in her appropriate sphere.
Up to the time of her leaving school, a young girl may be excused for acting from either impulse or obedience. But now she must begin to think, and her wisest thoughts will be on the subject of life and its requirements. If she does not think now, and act from an enlightened reason, let her be well-assured that the time will come when she will be compelled to think; but alas! when thought will avail but little in correcting some fatal error committed for lack of thought, the effects of which will run parallel with her whole life.
First of then, let education and its design form the subject if a young girl's sober reflections, after leaving school and returning into the bosom of her family. She will not be long in arriving at this most important conclusion, that the use of the education she has received, is to enable her to perform well the various duties of life, although she may not be able to see how all the branches to which she has applied herself can be made available to this end. By a very natural transition of thought, she will be led to consider the present, and to ask herself if she has not something to do in the present. The result of this will be the discovery, that, as much as she has learned, her education is very far from being complete, and that, to fit her for a life of active usefulness — the only true and only happy life — she has much yet to learn in the process of bringing down her skill and information into every-day uses and pursuits; nay, more, that she has new knowledge to gain, and new skill to acquire, which call for continued patience, industry, and perseverance. But in all she will find this difference — Before, there was abstract acquirement for the sake of the skill and the knowledge; but now, both skill and knowledge are ever flowing out into effects. She has not only the task of acquiring — but the delight of doing — and this is life's highest delight.
But we will be more particular and familiar. On leaving school, where all has been order, promptness, and industry — a young lady will find herself, as we have said, in great danger of sinking into indolence and inactivity. She will find, at first, little or nothing to do. Her mother has been so long in the regular routine of domestic duties, that she does not think of assigning any portion of them to her daughter. She continues to rise early and sit up late, while her daughter remains late in bed, and, wearied with a day of tiresome inactivity, retires early at night. It too often happens, in cases of this kind, that the daughter is either too indolent, or indifferent towards her mother, to step forward and lighten her care and labor by taking a portion of it upon herself. Or it may be, that her neglect to do so arises from lack of proper reflection. Her duty, however, is a very plain one, and needs only to be hinted at, to cause every right-feeling daughter not only to see it — but at once to enter upon its due performance.
There are several reasons why a young lady should, on leaving school, engage actively is domestic duties. One has already been stated. Another reason is to be found in the fact, that, sooner or later, she will, in all probability — be at the head of a family, when the health, comfort, and happiness of those best beloved by her, will depend upon her knowledge of household and domestic economy. This knowledge can only be gained by practical experience.
A man, when he marries, is expected to be master of some business, trade, or profession, by which he can earn sufficient money to maintain his wife and family in comfort; and a woman, when she marries, is expected to be able to take charge of her husband's household, and do her part with as much skill and industry as he does his. That this latter is not always the case, is much to be regretted. But few, very few young ladies, at the time of their marriage, know anything about domestic economy. Not one in ten can bake a loaf of good bread, or cook a dinner. In fact, their ignorance on these subjects is a matter, ordinarily, more of pride than shame. We have over and over again heard young ladies boast of their deficiencies on these points, in a way to make it plainly apparent that such deficiency was considered by them as meritorious, instead of censurable! If to be useful; if to be able to make our best and dearest friends comfortable and happy, is disgraceful — then we can understand why such ignorance is a matter of pride — but on no other supposition.
A singular error prevails to a very great extent, that there is something degrading in useful domestic employments. Some young ladies would almost rather be detected in a falsehood — as discovered by their young acquaintances in the performance of any household duty. It is no unusual thing to see them with ornamental needle-work in their hands; but you can never find them making a garment, or doing any work that is really needed in the family. The former is a pleasing pastime — but the latter is something useful, and the useful is esteemed vulgar and common, and, if engaged in at all, must be done so secretly that no one will have a suspicion of the fact.
Besides engaging in, and becoming thoroughly conversant with, domestic affairs — there is another matter which every young woman should seriously consider, be her condition in life what it may. In this country, more than in any other, mutability is stamped upon the form and features of society. The rich man of today — is the poor man of tomorrow; and the poor man of today — is the rich man of tomorrow. There is no permanence, no stability. A man may count his thousands — may lay his hand firmly upon his wealth, and be sure of holding it in a firm grasp; but in a few years his gold has all melted away like snow-wreaths in the sunshine! Why this is so, is not the question now to be discussed. The fact is the thing that demands most serious consideration. No woman can know at what period of her life, reverses may overtake those upon whom she is dependent for all her external comforts. Her father may become poor, while she yet lingers in the old homestead; or her husband may be reduced from affluence to poverty, at a time when children are springing up around her with their thousand needs, few of which can now be supplied. And worse than all this, death often comes in and strikes down the very prop and support of life — leaving the widow and mother, friendless and penniless.
"Why should I think of these things now?" asks a light-hearted maiden. "If I am to have trouble like this, it will be bad enough when it comes. I will be happy while I can."
That such trouble, if it should ever come to you, may be lighter and more easily borne — is the reason why it is alluded to now. The sailor, when he puts forth to sea, does not know that he will encounter a storm. But he knows that storms do frequently occur, and that many ships have been lost. With wise forethought, he provides himself with life-boats, in case his ship should be wrecked; he has all his rigging in such perfect order, that his sails can be furled at a moment's warning, on the approach of a storm, so that nothing but spars and ropes can be exposed to its fury. By such wise precautions, he is able, if a tempest arises, in most cases, to save his ship and the lives of all in it.
Life is a voyage, and to most of us, it is a rough and stormy one. In commencing this voyage, let each one emulate the wisdom, prudence, and forethought of the sailor. The weaker we are, and the less able to endure the shock of a tempest — the more careful should we be that everything is right before we push off from the shore.
It is clear, then, that, in the beginning of life, a woman who has less ability to contend in the world, and is more exposed to evils and hardships, should reverses come — ought to furnish herself thoroughly with the means of self-sustenance and self-protection. This she can only do by acquiring some useful knowledge or skill, the exercise of which will enable her to supply not only her own needs — but the needs of all who may be dependent upon her. There is no time in which this can be done so well, as in the few years which follow the period of a young lady's final withdrawal from school. These years ought to be employed by all, no matter how high their station — in thoroughly mastering some branch of knowledge, or in acquiring some skill, from the exercise of which, as a regular employment, should necessity ever require it to be done — a livelihood may be obtained.
Those young ladies who have had the advantages of a liberal education will find it only necessary to take up some one of the branches to which they have been giving attention, and perfect themselves in that. To some, music will present the best means of obtaining the desired end — to others, the languages, and particularly the French language. A good French teacher can always obtain a fair salary; and one well-skilled in the principles and practice of musical science, will find no difficulty in making her skill available, should necessity require her to do so.
To those who have not enjoyed these advantages, or who have not sufficient taste for music to enable them to acquire much skill, or for the languages to give hope of great proficiency in mastering them thoroughly — some trade, such as dress or bonnet-making, ought, by all means, to be learned. Six months or a year's devotion to one or the other of these may give the ability, long afterwards, to live in independence, or to keep a parent or children above the pressure of poverty. A case in point may give force to what we are trying to impress upon the minds of our readers.
Some years ago, a merchant, who had experienced one or two vicissitudes, and who had seen a good deal of the rising and falling of families around him, was led to think of this subject by seeing the wife of a mercantile friend suddenly widowed, and left without a dollar in the world. She had been raised in affluence and luxury, and had lived in the same way until the death of her husband, whose estate proved to be bankrupt. Poverty found her without any resources in herself. She had three children dependent upon her for sustenance and education; but she could do nothing to sustain and educate them. The consequence was, that they were all separated from her — a distant relative took one, a friend of her husband's another, and the third, a boy thirteen years of age, was apprenticed to a trade; while the mother, almost broken-hearted, sought refuge from poverty in the family of a poor cousin!
This merchant had three daughters. The two oldest had just left school, and were preparing to come out upon the world's stage, and take their places as women. He possessed considerable wealth, and was doing a large, and, he believed, a safe business. But he had seen enough of life to be satisfied of the uncertainty of all things, and of the wisdom of making every possible provision for the future.
"Jane," he said to his oldest daughter, one day, "I have been thinking a good deal about you and Edith lately, and have at last come to a conclusion that may surprise you. It is seriously my opinion that you ought to qualify yourselves fully for gaining your own livelihoods, in case any reverse should meet you in after life."
Jane was the daughter of a rich man, and had all her life been so far removed from anything like poverty, that the idea of ever being in the situation supposed by her father, had not once entered her mind. His remark might well occasion surprise, as it did. Jane looked doubtingly into her father's face for a few moments, and then said —
"Is there any danger of such a reverse, father?"
"There is nothing certain in this life, Jane. Out of every ten families raised in affluence, at least one half, perhaps two thirds, are reduced to poverty, often even before the younger members have attained their majority. Do you see that young woman who has just rung the bell at the house opposite?"
"Yes, sir; she is a seamstress, and works for Mrs. Blanchard"
"Do you know who she is?"
"That poor girl, Jane, who now goes out to sew for her living, is the daughter of a man who was once considered among the richest of our merchants. But he lost all he possessed, and died penniless."
"Yes, Jane. And I could point you to more than a dozen such instances. The tenure by which wealth is held in this country, is a very uncertain one. Industry, enterprise, and sagacity in business, are almost sure to make a man rich; but they do not always prove sufficient for the retention of wealth. It sometimes happens that a man goes on, year after year, successful in everything. Whatever he touches turns, to use a common saying, into gold. Then a change comes. Everything goes wrong. Men to whom he has sold goods for years, and who have always paid him promptly, fail. He sends a business adventure to sea, and meets a heavy loss. Prices fall, while he has a large stock of goods on hand. Thus his wealth diminishes as rapidly as it had accumulated, and, in the course of one or two years, the rich man is poor! Still, the instances in which men retain their wealth throughout life are not rare. Many large fortunes are divided among children at the death of their parents. But the instances are rare, indeed, in which these children retain the wealth they have inherited, longer than a few years."
"Can this be really so?" inquired the daughter, with much surprise.
"It is a truth known to all who have lived long enough to make any observations on the state of society around them," replied the father. "It is only a few days ago, since I noticed this remark in one of the newspapers, founded upon the very fact to which I have just alluded — 'Nothing, after all, is the best legacy a man can leave his children in this country.'"
"Why nothing, father?"
"Because a man with nothing feels the necessity of exertion, and wealth is the result of intelligent, unremitting exertion. But a young man who inherits wealth does not feel this necessity. He rarely makes a sagacious, enterprising, business man, and is almost sure to lose all he has, in a very few years. Usually, such a one marries into a rich family, and obtains thereby, a good addition to his wealth. But the more he gets in this way — the more extended, generally, become his business operations, and the more certain his ultimate ruin."
"The picture you draw is not a very encouraging one, at least," said the daughter, half smiling, half serious.
"But you may depend upon its being a true one," replied her father. "All that I describe I have seen over and over again, in real life."
"Then we are in as much danger of being reduced to poverty as any around us."
"Just as much, Jane. Twice I have lost every dollar I possessed in the world. Years and severe experience have made me more wary and prudent than I was earlier in life, and the chances of my retaining what I now have, are quite in my favor. But I shall pass away, long, it may be, before you, and you will receive and commit into the hands of another, the portion of my property that will fall to your share. As I have been unfortunate, so may he; and from ease and affluence — you may sink into poverty. God grant that it may not be so," the father said with emotion, "but the chances are greatly in favor of its occurrence. Warned in time, my child, as you now are, if you are wise — you will prepare yourself, while you can, for meeting even such a sad reverse of fortune. You have abilities of some kind, that may be so improved as to be to you a means of subsistence, should all external sources fail. Wisely improve them while you can. The very act of doing so, will give you more real pleasure than you now suppose."
This wise counsel was not lost. Both Jane and her sister Edith had the good sense to understand their father, and the decision to act fully up to the spirit of his advice. To one of them he recommended the thorough study of French, Spanish, and Italian, and to the other music; but the tastes of neither of them seemed to lie much in this way. Somewhat to the disappointment of their father, and the utter astonishment of their mirthful young friends — Jane commenced learning the millinery, and Edith the dress-making business; and they persevered steadily for a year in what they had undertaken, going four days in each week to the work-rooms of a fashionable milliner and dress-maker, and gaining a knowledge of the art and mystery they sought to acquire by actual labor with their hands.
Five years had not elapsed from this period, before, in one of the periodical commercial declines to which this country is subjected, the father lost every dollar he possessed. This misfortune was followed by one still more severe and afflicting; a stroke of the palsy deprived him of all physical power, and shut him up, a permanent invalid, in his chamber.
Soon after the occurrence of these unlooked for and saddening events, Jane and Edith issued circulars, announcing their intention to commence the millinery and dress-making business, and had them distributed among their old and fashionable acquaintances. The two girls had always been remarked for their exquisite taste in dress: this fact, added to the two others, their reverses, and their practical knowledge of the business they had undertaken, at once brought them as much as their hands could do, and, in a very short time, so filled their rooms with work, that they were obliged to employ from fifteen to twenty assistants. It was not long before their establishment was the largest and most fashionable in the city, because their taste was good, and their skill was equal to their taste. The result need hardly be stated. Neither poverty nor privation, except such as were imposed by sickness, visited the parent, for whom they had a most tender affection. Their household was not broken up, nor were any of the advantages of a liberal education withheld from the younger members of the family. The income from the sisters' business was ample for all their needs, and it was dispensed with the most unselfish freedom.
Can any young lady, no matter how morbidly sensitive she may be about the false opinions of fashionable acquaintances, feel otherwise than proud of such representatives of her gender as Jane and Edith? Did they not act well and wisely? If every young lady, be her station as high as it may, would qualify herself for gaining a livelihood in some useful calling or pursuit, as they did, the yearly reverses which visit so many families would bring far less of suffering, both bodily and mental, than now result from these causes.
A man without a trade or profession, who is thrown suddenly upon his own resources, finds it a very hard matter to keep his head fairly above the water. A woman reduced to the same condition is, in every respect, far more helpless. But we need urge this point no further. If, from what has already been presented, heed will not be taken by the young — nothing further that we could say, would be of any avail.
To be useful is the highest achievement of our lives, and the only certain means of becoming happy. If every young woman could be made to comprehend this vital truth — there would be far less of doubt hanging over her future. Fewer disappointments, and more of life's blessings, would be in store for her. If, instead of seeking for pleasure, as the chief object in view — she would seek to be useful in her sphere of life — then she would lay up in her mind the basis of a true character; that active virtue would build up into a beautiful, harmonious, and ever-to-be-loved and admired superstructure of moral excellence and beauty. Wherever her path through the world might lead her, blessings would attend her way; and, in blessing others, she would herself be doubly blessed.
HABITS OF ORDER AND NEATNESS
The habits of early life are those that remain with us longest. In fact, it is almost impossible, afterwards, fully to correct them, if bad. Habits of order are among the most important that can be formed; for, without them, every effort made through life to accomplish anything, will be hindered by defects. In seeking to form these habits, if a disposition to be orderly does not exist, a young lady should begin by having in her own room, a place for everything; and next she should be very careful always to have everything in its place. This will require a little thoughtful arrangement at first, and afterwards call for only a moderate degree of resolution and watchfulness. The fact of being in a hurry should never be admitted as an excuse for breaking through this rule. The time gained by throwing a thing down upon the bed, a chair, or a table — instead of restoring it to its appropriate place in the drawer, or closet, is so small that it is not worth considering. Fifteen or twenty seconds, or a minute at most, are always sufficient for this purpose.
A proper regard for time is a thing of great importance, and absolutely necessary to the formation of an orderly habit of doing things. Some people will waste one hour, and then crowd into the next hour, the duties of both. Of course, the duties are discharged imperfectly. It could not be otherwise. This habit is the parent of much disorder. How often is it the case that a young lady has an engagement to pay some visits with a friend, for whom she is to call at a certain hour. The friend is ready precisely at the time appointed — but the young lady does not make her appearance for thirty or forty minutes. "O dear!" she exclaims, coming in all out of breath, and exhibiting sundry defects in her dressing arrangements, "I hope I haven't kept you waiting. I got so interested in a book, that I entirely forgot the time, until I heard the clock strike the hour at which I was to be here. I have had almost to throw my clothes on, and no doubt look like a perfect fright!" Again, the same young lady is making a visit, and becomes so much interested in her companions that she lets the hour at which she is to take her lesson in French or music go by, leaving her teacher to wait impatiently for her, and neglecting a matter of real importance, for the enjoyment, it may be, of a little frivolous chit-chat. There is a time for all things, as well as a place for everything — and the doing of things at proper times, and the keeping of things in their proper places, are essential to the orderly and efficient discharge of life's most serious as well as most trivial duties!
The importance of orderly habits is never fully understood by the young who have family to care for them and supply their needs. But there comes a time in life when duties, various and pressing, meet a woman at every turn — duties which it will be impossible for her to discharge well, unless all is done in an orderly series. If thus done, they will rarely seem burdensome. It is the conflict of duties which frets the mind, not the number of them; and there is always this conflict, where there is no habit of order.
One of the strongest reasons for urging upon the young the formation of habits of order, is the indisputable fact, that at the time in life when such habits are most needed, it is almost, if not quite, impossible to form them — the opposite habit of disorder having become, by long indulgence, too fixed for eradication.
Lack of order in a woman is not a defect, the evils of which are visited upon herself alone. Every woman, as well as every man, must lead an active life, in some sphere or other. Nearly everything that we do, has reference to and affects others. There is scarcely a single action that is not felt, with the good or evil that appertains to it, by others. If, from any cause, we perform our allotted offices in the world defectively — we do others a wrong; and defect must attend every effort, which is not made and continued in an orderly way. If the mother has no habits of order — will not her children suffer in consequence? If the wife has similar defects — will they not be felt by her husband Such must be the inevitable result, not only in these instances — but in everything that pertains to a woman's domestic and social relations.
Order, then, is the essential prerequisite of every truly efficient action. Without it, nothing can be done well; with it, there is no duty in life that may not be rightly performed. Without it, the lightest task is burdensome; with it, that which to look at seems almost herculean, becomes a matter of easy accomplishment.
But let it not be forgotten that the habit of orderliness must be formed in early years. When life's most serious duties press upon the mind, and demand the exercise of all its energies — there is no time to think about systems of order, and little inclination to attempt doing so.
Neatnessalmost invariably accompanies order; indeed, the one is nearly inseparable from the other. When we see a neat person, we expect to find one who is orderly in all her habits, and we are rarely mistaken. Neatness in dress should be regarded as much as neatness in everything that is done. A lack of neatness, as well as a lack of order — shows a defect in the mind, the correction of which, is essential to happiness.
The only way to correct any such defect — is to act in opposition to it. Into every action there must come down, as its principle of life, some power or faculty of the mind. If, instead of doing everything carelessly, and letting all things around us fall into confusion, we compel ourselves to act with order and neatness — an orderly principle of the mind comes into activity, in an orderly form of ultimate life; and the disorderly principle, finding no form in the ultimate life for its activity, lies dormant on the circumference of the mind, and, unless there he a relapse into disorderly action, will lie there forever dormant.
We would urge upon our young readers most earnestly to reflect upon what we have just said, and to endeavor, before passing on, to fully understand it; for the last paragraph we have written contains the most simple, and, at the same time, the only true philosophy of reformation. It is applicable as well to the whole life, and all that appertains to it, as to the particular thing to which we have applied it. It is only by compelling ourselves to act right, that we can do anything towards correcting the inherited disorders of our minds. We may have right thoughts — but if we only think right, and make no effort to do right — we do not advance a single step in the work of reformation.
This is the reason why we so often meet with people who seem fully to understand the theory of right living — but who actually live in a manner very different from the ideal perfection which they presented with so much vividness and beauty. We remember once hearing a lady discourse with great eloquence on the use and power of order in all domestic arrangements. She spoke of its effects upon children, and drew a most glowing picture of a family in which order reigned supreme in all things. Some months afterwards, on becoming more intimately acquainted with this lady, who was a woman of some literary attainments, we accepted an invitation to take tea and spend an evening with her. The conversation alluded to was still fresh in our recollection, and we fully expected to see a family-model of neatness and order. But we were sadly disappointed. Worse behaved children, or a more disorderly household — we have never seen! The mother was a capital thinker — but that was all.
DOMESTIC AND CULINARY AFFAIRS
A brief allusion has already been made to domestic duties. But their importance requires some more particular reference. At the outset, it may be as well to notice a singular — but very prevalent error, which has, strangely enough, crept into the minds of a great many, especially those who have acquired some literary taste, and have imbibed the modes of thinking of a certain philosophical school of literary ladies. This error lies in the notion that there is something in domestic duties, that, if not actually degrading to a refined and intelligent woman, is rather below the plane of her true social sphere. The consequence is, that to housekeepers, and nurses, and cooks, are given up, not only the actual doing of all that pertains to the household economy; but their intelligence, such as it is, and their government, pervade the whole — instead of the intelligence and government of the true mistress and head of the family.
Men who not only see — but deeply feel, the evils arising from this error, and who strongly condemn it, are accused of wishing to degrade woman into the condition of a mere household drudge. But this is altogether a false issue. A household drudge, and a woman who rightly governs in her own family — are very different. But it is not to be concealed that no woman can properly govern in her family — and lead a life of idleness. The one is incompatible with the other. She can no more do it than a man can carry on his business successfully, without industry and attention. To prepare himself to do this, a man has, early in life, to spend years in attaining to a full and practical knowledge of that calling in life by which he expects to sustain himself and all who may be dependent on him; and the same must be true of every woman. Her sphere of use is in the domestic and home circle, and she must pass through a like course of preparation, or she will be no more able to discharge her duties efficiently, when the time comes for her to assume them — than he would be to discharge his duties, if he were alike neglectful.
The simplest mode of viewing this matter may be, perhaps, in a comparison of what a man has to do in business, and a woman at home — and to decide whether the one is more burdensome and less honorable than the other. We will take a storekeeper, for instance — a grocer or a dry goods dealer. He has served, in the first place, an apprenticeship at the business, industriously working with his hands, as well as with his mind, for one, two, three, or four years. At length, he goes into business for himself, and, after a few years, takes a wife, and makes her the mistress of his household. His business, we will suppose to be successful. This being the case, we know that he must diligently attend to it, and give it the strength of his very best thoughts. Early in the morning, he goes to his store, and there he remains through the day, except when called out on business, or during a brief intermission of his duties for dinner. He stands at his counter, and serves out his goods to his customers; he looks over his accounts, and sees that all is done correctly; he carefully watches the markets, in order to buy with safety. In fact, all the powers of his mind and body are devoted to his business. He knows that there is no other way of success. If he were to pause to take his ease, or to think about the drudgery of his life — he knows too well that all would be in danger — that he would be unable to secure, for those best beloved by him, the comforts he now brings into his household.
Now, is it requiring too much of the wife of such a man — is it degrading her into a household drudge — to ask her to see that, when he comes home wearied from his store, his meals are in time, and well and healthily cooked? — to ask her to think of his comfort, and to even work some with her hands to secure for him this comfort, if it can be done in no other way? Does she degrade herself by consulting his appetite, for instance, and seeking to gratify him by having something on the table that she knows will please him? or by seeing that order and comfort are in all parts of her household? We cannot believe that any woman truly loves her husband, who leaves all these matters to the cook or the housekeeper. What do they know of his peculiar tastes, or, knowing, care about them? They do their part for hire; but she should do her part for love — and love is ever seeking some new mode of blessing its object.
How there is anything more degrading in making up and baking a loaf of bread, for instance, or in thinking about and making a dinner — than in selling goods over the counter — is something inconceivable to us. False, indeed, are her ideas of life, who can see any degrading distinctions here. In matters of this kind, our modern ladies have reached a degree of refinement far in advance of the ladies of former times, whose chief pride consisted in their being thoroughly acquainted with every branch of household economy. Nor were they less intelligent than those of the present day, who eschew these things as below them.
In order that she may be qualified to act well her part in life, a young lady should acquire a thorough knowledge of all domestic and culinary affairs, so that, even if she should never be required by circumstances to go into the kitchen to cook a dinner, she will yet be able to give directions how to do it, and know when it is properly done. No one knows what a day may bring forth. Life is a scene of perpetual changes. We have known ladies who have been raised in entire freedom from labor, suddenly reduced to poverty, and compelled, for a time, to do what might well be called household drudgery, or see their husbands and children subjected to the severest privations. And even where no such reverse — but only a change from one section of the country to another, has taken place, the necessity for a practical knowledge of everything pertaining to housekeeping is frequently found to exist.
A very beautiful and delicately-raised girl was married, not long ago, to a young man on the eve of his departure, with a stock of goods, to a small but thriving town in the west. Her parents were in moderate circumstances; but she was their only daughter, and they had raised her most tenderly. Every dollar that could be spared, was expended on her education. The highest accomplishments were sought for her. At the time of her marriage, she was a young, slender, graceful creature, who looked as if time had never showered anything but blossoms on her head. She could dance with the grace of a fairy, perform with great skill upon the piano, harp, or guitar, and sing exquisitely. But she knew as little about housekeeping as a boy just let loose from school.
A few weeks after their marriage, the young couple started for their new home in the west. On arriving there, they found a little village of three or four hundred inhabitants, in which was a tavern, kept by a drunken Irishman. At this house they were compelled to stay for two or three weeks, until their furniture arrived. There was no other boarding-place in the village. By the time their furniture was received, they had rented the only vacant house there was. This was a small frame tenement, containing four rooms, two below and two above. It stood alone, on the outskirts of the village. Outside, all was cheerless enough. The yard contained about an eighth of an acre, and was enclosed by a post and rail fence. There was upon it no tree nor shrub; but plenty of rubbish from the house, which had just been built. Inside, everything was as meager and common as could well be. There were windows — but no shutters; rooms — but no closets; walls — but no paper — not even whitewash. All was as brown and coarse as when it came from the hands of the builder. The young bride shed many tears in prospect of being compelled to occupy so miserable and lonely a place, and the young husband was made to feel as wretched as could well be, in consequence.
At length their furniture arrived; but there were no upholsterers to make and put down the carpets. Nor could anybody, with the ability to ply a needle, be obtained, in the village, to do the work. After various efforts and inquiries on the subject, the bride was coolly told by a plain-spoken matron, that she guessed she would have to make her carpet herself, adding, "People in these parts, have to help themselves." The making and putting down of carpets was more serious work than she had been used to, or ever thought of doing. But it was out of the question to think of living on bare floors; so, after taking a good hearty cry to herself, she went to work, and, after a time of steady application, got the carpets made and tacked down. It is not to be denied that some of the figures were a long ways from matching, and that a number of rough places in the seams attested the young lady's lack of skill in such matters. But the work was done, after a fashion, and that was a good deal. The bedsteads were then put up, the furniture arranged, and the young couple took possession of their new home.
But here a new and undreamed-of difficulty arose. A servant could not be had for love nor money. There was not a woman in the village who had any help, unless she were fortunate enough to have a grown-up daughter, a niece, or an unmarried sister living with her.
"What am I to do?" asked the bride in despair, after she fully understood the disabilities with which housekeeping was to be attended. "I can't cook and do all the work about the house. I never cooked a meal in my life!"
"We can go back to the tavern and continue boarding, I suppose," said the young husband, uttering what he did with great reluctance; for the accommodations at the tavern were little better than no accommodations at all.
"I wouldn't be paid to stay another night in that place," was the quick reply. "The worst fare we can have here, will be better than going back to that wretched place!"
"I fully agree with you," said the husband. "Bread and water here, would be preferable to the richest food there. Try and do the best you can, and I will help you all I know how. It would be a pity, it seems to me, if two young people, with health, and the means of living as we have — could not take care of themselves."
So it seemed to the young wife; but, then, how was she to do it all? She could make a cup of tea — but that was about the most she could do. As to baking a loaf of bread, she knew no more about doing it than if she had never heard of bread; and the cooking of meat, or the making of pies or puddings, were mysteries of the culinary art far beyond her comprehension.
The attempt to buy bread for the first meal proved unavailing. There was no baker yet in the village. The effort to beg or borrow was more successful. The young man called in at the house of their nearest neighbor, and frankly stated his difficulty. The woman to whom he applied understood the position of the young couple in a moment. She was of the better sort, and not only supplied them with a couple of large fresh loaves of good bread — but promised to step over in the morning, and give the inexperienced bride some little instruction in household affairs. She was as good as her word, and her young scholar was quite an apt one. The situation in which the latter found herself so unexpectedly placed, caused her to reflect upon and to be ashamed of her deficiencies. She had spent years in the acquirement of various branches of information, many of them little better than useless; but not one of them was now available in this her first attempt in life. Her education had been confined almost entirely to the ornamental — while the useful had been totally neglected. She had married, and commenced the world with her husband. He was fully prepared to do his part — but she was entirely deficient in ability to do hers. But she had the merit of possessing a fair proportion of common sense; had some quickness of perception; and, being willing to do the best she could, was not long, under the kind instruction of her neighbor, in acquiring a very fair knowledge of housekeeping. For six months, she did all her own cooking, baking, washing, and ironing. There was no help for her; unless she did it — it would have to remain undone. After that, she was fortunate enough to obtain a good servant, brought from the East by her husband, when he went there to purchase goods.
A little previous instruction in housekeeping affairs would have saved this person from a good deal of mortification, trouble, and perplexity!
A friend of ours, remarkable for his strong good sense, married a very accomplished and fashionable young lady — attracted more by her beauty and accomplishments than by anything else. In this, it must be owned that his strong good sense did not seem very apparent. His wife, however, proved to be a very excellent companion, and was deeply attached to him, though she still loved company, and spent more time abroad than he exactly approved. But, as his income was good, and his house furnished with a full supply of servants, he was not aware of any abridgments of comfort on this account, and he therefore made no objection to it.
One day, some few months after his marriage, our friend, on coming home to dinner, saw no appearance of his usual meal — but found his wife in great trouble instead.
"What's the matter?" he asked.
"Nancy went off at ten o'clock this morning," replied his wife, "and the chamber-maid knows no more about cooking a dinner than the man in the moon!"
"Couldn't she have done it under your direction?" inquired the husband, very coolly.
"Under my direction? Goodness! I would like to see a dinner cooked under my direction!"
"Why so?" asked the husband in surprise. "You certainly do not mean that you cannot cook a dinner."
"I certainly do," replied his wife. "How would I know anything about cooking?"
The husband was silent — but his look of astonishment perplexed and worried his wife.
"You look very much surprised," she said, after a moment or two had elapsed.
"And so I am," he answered, "as much surprised as I would be at finding the captain of one of my ships unacquainted with navigation! Don't know how to cook, and the mistress of a family! Jane, if there is a cooking school anywhere in the city, go to it, and complete your education, for it is deficient in a very important particular!"
The wife was hurt and offended at the words and manner of her husband; but she soon got over this. The next time the cook went away, there was no trouble about the dinner.
Under ordinary circumstances, a woman whose husband enjoys a moderate income has no need to do much in the way of cooking; but as most of the servants to be obtained, know very little about this very important branch of household economy, it is absolutely necessary that the mistress of a family should herself be able to give the most particular directions on the subject — should, in fact, know how to cook every dish ordinarily served upon the table.
But there are occasions when to no second hand should be delegated the task of preparing certain articles of food. We now allude to sickness. No hand but the hand of a wife should prepare the food of her husband when he is sick; and no hand but the hand of a mother, the food of her child. A remembrance of the badly-prepared, tasteless food, which almost every woman has had served to her, in sickness, from her own cook, will be felt as a sufficient reason for this declaration. To cook for the sick requires an experienced hand. A woman who knows nothing at all about cooking will fail entirely in the attempt, and if her husband is sick, he will be fortunate, indeed, if he can take more than a few spoonfuls of the tea, or a few morsels of the toast, which is brought to his bedside as he begins to convalesce.
If for no other purpose — a young lady should learn the art of cooking, in order that she may be able to prepare the food of her parents, her brother, her sister; or, at some future time, the food of her husband, when sick. This may seem a little matter. But no one who has been sick will think it so.
This subject is one that admits of a great deal more being said on it, than we have brought forward. Enough to cause every thinking young woman to reflect seriously on its importance, has, however, been introduced. It must not be inferred that we would shut every woman up, a prisoner in her house, and cause her to devote every hour of her time to domestic duties. All we contend for is, that a woman should govern in her household — as fully as a man governs in his store, office, counting-room, manufactory, or workshop; and that, in order to do this, she should qualify herself beforehand for her particular duties, as he has to qualify himself for his.
IMPROVEMENT OF THE MIND
We often find two people, who have been equally well educated at school, one of whom is greatly in advance of the other, in point of intelligence. This does not always arise from the superior ability of one — but because one of them had read, thought, and observed, more than the other. What we gain at school is only the means of becoming wise and useful. If we let it lie inactive in our minds — it will do us no good. How quickly does a young lady lose her power over the piano, if she neglects the instrument! How soon is a language forgotten, if we do not attempt to speak or write it! And this is true of nearly everything that is acquired at school. It lies merely in the outer court of the memory, and does not enter and make any permanent impression upon the mind, until it is practiced and made useful in every-day life.
We often hear it said of a woman, in society, that she is a well-educated woman; and the inference usually drawn is, that she has received a liberal education at school. But the remark means something more; it means that she is a reading, observing, and reflecting woman. Hundreds have their memories crowded with the rudiments of an education, which lie there as inactive as food in the stomach of a dyspeptic; and they imagine themselves to be well educated; but it is all imagination. To be well educated is something very different from this.
All real improvement of the mind commences at the time we first begin to think for ourselves; and this is after we have left school. At school, we merely acquire the means to be used in that true and higher order of education which every one must gain for himself. It matters not how many studies a young lady may have pursued at school, nor how thoroughly she may have mastered all she attempted to learn; if, after leaving school, she does not read, observe, and think — she will never make an intelligent woman.
In every company a young lady will find two classes of people, distinctly separated from each other. If she mingles with those of one class, she will find their conversation to consist almost entirely of light and frivolous remarks on people's habits, dress, and manners, with the occasional introduction of a graver theme, that is quickly set aside, or treated with a levity entirely at variance with its merits. But if she mingles with those of the other class, she will find herself at once upon a higher plane, and be impressed with the pleasing consciousness that she has a mind that can think and feel interested in subjects of general and more weighty interest. An hour spent with the one class leaves her mind obscure and vacant; while an hour spent with the other class elevates, expands, and strengthens its powers, and causes it to see in a clearer atmosphere.
With one or the other of these classes, a young lady is almost sure to identify herself, and rise into an intelligent woman — or remain nearly upon the level she at first occupied. We need not say how important it is for her to identify herself with the right class. Of course, her own tastes and preferences will have much to do in this matter. But, if she inclines towards the unthinking and frivolous, she will be wise if she resists such an inclination, and compels herself, for a time, to mingle with those who look upon life with the eye of rational intelligence, and seek to live to some good purpose. The mental food received during the time she thus compels herself to mingle with them, will create an appetite that unsubstantial gossip and frothy chit-chat can no longer satisfy.
The importance and necessity of reading need hardly be affirmed. Its use is fully understood and admitted. But there is great danger of enervating the mind by improper reading. For a young girl to indulge much in novel-reading is a very serious evil. Few of the popular novels of the day are fit to go into the hands of a young and imaginative girl. Apart from the false views of life which they present, and the false philosophy which they too often inculcate — they lift an inexperienced reader entirely above the real world, from whence she has too little inclination to come down; and whenever she does come down, she is unhappy, because she finds none of the ideal perfections around her, with which her imagination has become filled — but is forever coming into rude contact with something that shocks her over-refined sensibilities. Her own condition in life, she will be in great danger of contrasting with that of some favorite heroine of romance. If she does this, she will be almost sure to make herself miserable. A young lady who indulges much in novel-reading never becomes a woman of true intelligence. She may be able to converse fluently, and to make herself at times a very agreeable companion, even to those who are greatly her superiors; but she has no strength of intellect, nor has she right views of life.
All works of fiction, however, are not bad. Where the author's aim is to give right views of life, and to teach true principles, if he possesses the requisite ability to execute his design well — he may do great good. The reading of works of this kind forms not only a healthy mental recreation — but creates a true sympathy in the mind for virtuous actions, and inspires to emulation in good deeds. It is by means of this kind of writing, that the broadest contrasts between right and wrong are made, and so presented to the reader, that he cannot but love the one while he abhors the other. Who can read one of Miss Sedgwick's admirable little books — "The Poor Rich Man and the Rich Poor Man," "Live and Let Live," or "Home," — without rising from its perusal with healthier views of life, and a more earnest desire in all things to do justly and to love mercy. Of this class of books there are a great many. The novels and tales of Miss Edgeworth, Miss Bremer, Mrs. Howitt, and Mrs. Opie, are good, and may be read with not only pleasure — but profit, by every young lady. The time spent in their perusal will not be lost. Indeed, some portion of the time occupied in reading just such books, is necessary to a well-balanced mind.
In reading history, we sympathize only with masses of people, or admire some powerful leader; books of philosophy lift the mind up into an abstract region of thought; and poetry warms, inspires, and delights the imagination, while it purifies and refines the taste. All these are necessary to right intellectual culture; they form the very groundwork, solid walls, and inward garniture of a well-educated mind. But if reading is confined to these alone, there is danger of becoming cold and unsympathizing — of living in an intellectual world, more than in a real world of people, with like thoughts and like affections with ourselves.
It is here that well-wrought fiction comes in with a humanizing tendency; giving to man a love for his fellow-man, and inspiring him with a wish to do good. In history, travels, and biography, we see man on the outside, as it were, and regard him at a distance, as a thinking and effective being; but in fiction, we perceive that he is fashioned in all things as we are; that he has like hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, and like aspirations after the good and the true, and we are gradually led to feel with and for him as a brother — we hold him by the hand, we look in his face, we see the very pulsations of his heart. All this is good — all this is necessary to the true formation of character. But for a young lady to limit her reading to this order of books, or even to spend a large part of the time allotted to reading to their perusal, will hinder her advancement in mental improvement. She will be very apt, also, to sink into the mere waste of sympathy toward idealistic personages, without seeing in them types of real classes that are in the world, and all around her.
All right improvement of the mind will depend upon the leading motive which a young lady has in view, when she reads, thinks, or observes, with a careful eye, what passes around her. If her end be to acquire the power of conversing intelligently on various topics, and of exhibiting an acquaintance with books, in order to appear well in society, or to gain the reputation of being an intellectual and well-read woman, her advancement will not be as real as she supposes.
All knowledge has its appropriate sphere of action, and that is in the doing of something useful; and until it comes into this — its true sphere, it never rises into intelligence. If therefore, a woman reads and thinks merely with an end to be thought wise, she never becomes more than a mere academic, who betrays, on all occasions, the shallowness of her pretensions; but if she uses the truth she acquires in seeking to advance the cause of truth for the sake of the power it gives to do good — then is she in the way of becoming intelligent and wise.
A woman of true intelligence is a blessing at home, in her circle of friends, and in society. Wherever she goes, she carries with her a health-giving influence. There is a beautiful harmony about her character, that at once inspires a respect which soon warms into love. The influence of such a woman upon society is of the most beneficial kind. She strengthens right principles in the virtuous, incites the selfish and indifferent to good actions, and gives to even the light and frivolous a taste for food more substantial than the frothy gossip with which they seek to recreate their minds.
To give particular rules for self-improvement, and to specify the books to be read, and the order of reading them, is a thing not easily done. Indeed, what would be a right order for one to pursue — would not suit another; and therefore we shall not attempt to lay down any rules on this subject. Extensive reading is all very good; but right thinking on what we read, even if the amount is small, is far better. The only sound advice we are prepared to give is, for a young lady to allow herself to be attracted towards the class of intelligent people which she will always find in society, and to which we have alluded in this chapter. If she permit herself to become interested in the subjects that interest them, and be guided by what they mainly approve, she will find no difficulty in the choice of books. And if she seeks improvement more from a love of truth than to be thought intelligent — she will soon be able to see truth so clearly in the light of her own understanding, as to be at no loss in making right discriminations on nearly all subjects that are presented to her mind.
The lines of distinction, on account of external condition, are more clearly drawn in reference to women than men, and they are also much more difficult to pass. A poor young girl, without the advantages of education, finds it very difficult to rise above her original condition — while lads in the same circumstances, if they possess quickness and intelligence, are almost sure, when they become men, to take a higher place in society, than they seemed at first destined to occupy.
Not one cause alone — but many causes combined, go to produce this result. There is much of actual disability to rise far above her condition, which tends to keep a young girl down, resulting from lack of education, refined and intelligent companionship, and the almost invariable necessity for constant and wearying labor with her hands. These all unite to hinder mental improvement, a cultivation of the taste, refinement of manner, and the attainment of those accomplishments so indispensable to a woman, and without which a poor girl cannot rise above her first estate in life. But all these combined need not hinder her elevation if she will but look up, and strive after the attainment of real virtue, intelligence, and grace of mind and body. It is not so much the condition into which a young woman is born, which excludes her from familiar fellowship with the intelligent and refined of her own and the other gender — as it is her lack of that intelligence and refinement which is in itself the social bond of union among them. Pride in those above her is not so strong to keep her down, as disabilities and unfitnesses in herself. These, at first, are her misfortunes; but, afterwards, they may become her faults.
The mere introduction of one, born and educated in a low condition in life, into the society of those who are born into, or have been elevated into, a higher, more intelligent, and refined condition — would be rather an injury than a benefit, if she were not at the same time gifted with some portion of a corresponding intelligence and refinement. She could neither give nor receive anything — could add nothing to the general good and general enjoyment, nor receive any genuine good or true enjoyment in return. The wish to be thus introduced into refined society, without the requisite qualifications for such an introduction, has its origin in pride — as much as the wish to keep out from the benefits of refined society, those who are in an humble condition, because they are poor and humble, has its origin in pride. Among the poor, uneducated, and humble, there exists the same natural ability to be refined and intelligent, as among those born to a better condition: the difference lies in the difference of means available to each, arising from the peculiarity of external circumstances.
While it is possible for a poor, uneducated girl to become a highly-accomplished and intelligent woman, yet, from the very nature of the disabilities surrounding her, this is a very difficult matter, and a thing but rarely attained. The chief end we have in view in particularly introducing this subject now, is to show that a certain degree of intelligence and refinement, while it adds to the happiness and means of doing good — is attainable by all, no matter how low their original condition, and should be striven after by all.
The influence of an ignorant, vulgar-minded woman is necessarily bad, whether it is felt by her companions, relatives, husband, or children. As a maiden, she inspires no virtuous resolves in those with whom she associates. As a wife, she does not elevate the mind of her husband, and make him love what is really excellent, because personified in her. As a mother, she does not implant in the minds of her children that love of truth by which, in after life, they may be raised from the baseness and disorder of their natural condition. From this simple fact, it is at once seen, that upon the elevation of woman, depends the elevation of the lower classes of society. Everyone should bear this in mind, and especially woman herself — woman in a humble as well as in a high condition.
A young girl who is poor, and unblessed by the advantages of a good education — will find little to awaken a desire for improvement, refinement, and self-elevation. Nearly all that surrounds her, tends to hold her just where she is. Obeying the social law of her being, she seeks companions; and these are young people of her own age, and in a like condition. Too rarely does she find among them a desire for self-improvement, and too often a love of what is base and vulgar. The time she passes with them is frequently spent in the most senseless frivolities, or in conversation about dress and beaux, and such matters as tend to give false views of life, and excite the lowest passions. Of the excellence of virtue, the love of being useful to others, the beauty of a modest deportment — she hears little, if anything at all, in this thoughtless circle. There is little to elevate her, little to awaken in her mind an earnest aspiration after the truly good and beautiful; but everything to hold her where she is, or to drag her down lower.
Everyone thus situated, however, who really desires to elevate herself above the low position in which she finds herself placed, will always meet with some one or more among her associates of a better class than the rest. If she makes these, rather than the others, her companions — she will find much to aid, encourage, and strengthen her. Once in the upward movement, and self-elevation will be, comparatively, an easy thing.
To sketch briefly the history of one thus situated, and to show how she elevated herself, will make a stronger impression upon the mind than any mere declaration of the means by which such an elevation is to be gained. This we shall attempt to do.
Ann Liston was the daughter of a poor mechanic, who had a large family and a small income. The father was industrious, and so was his wife; but the income was so small, and the needs so many, that, with all their industry and efforts to save, they could not get ahead. As soon as Ann was old enough to do anything useful, she was under the necessity of assisting her mother. She was not over nine years of age when first obliged to work about the house, or to nurse the baby. But she was handy and willing, and this made her very useful to her mother, notwithstanding she was so young. The condition of Ann necessarily excluded her from the advantages of a good education. She went to school only a few quarters, and merely learned to read and to write a little, besides gaining some small acquaintance with numbers. There was nothing at home to excite a taste for reading, and few books within her reach to gratify that taste, had it been excited. The whole family library consisted of the Bible, Prayer Book, Pilgrim's Progress, and one or two old books of history and travel. The father was not a reading man, nor was the mother at all inclined to books. But both were members of the church, and on Sunday read their Bible, and regularly attended worship with their children, teaching them to fear God and reverence sacred things.
At the age of fourteen, Ann went from home to learn the trade of dress-making. Up to this period, her home duties had been so constant and engrossing, as to allow her but little time to mingle with young girls of her own age and condition. Her habits, feelings, and tastes were not, as may be supposed, at all refined, nor was there more than a rough polish to her manners. Five years of pretty constant and pretty hard labor about the house, had taken from her limbs and movements the natural grace of childhood, and left her somewhat clumsy and awkward. To counterbalance these defects of habit and education, Ann had an honest mind, and possessed a natural independence of thought and action, with some shrewdness, and a good deal of common sense. Thus furnished, she left her father's house, and went forth to gain an independent livelihood in the world.
Her first experiences were rather painful. She found herself in the midst of some ten or fifteen young girls, from her own age up to twenty, all engaged, like herself, in acquiring a knowledge of the business she had come to learn. Some of these, who had been blessed with advantages greater than hers, or who had seen more of the world, were not backward in ridiculing the unpolished girl for her defects of speech, dress, and manner. Ann was sensitive, and these things hurt her; but the result was good, for it caused her to think of the defects pointed out so rudely, and to make an effort to correct them. It likewise caused her to be retiring and observant — to think of her words, her manners, and her conduct.
Many months did not pass, before there was a change in her external appearance, and in her manners, that was very apparent — a change that had been so gradual as not to attract sudden attention. She had also learned to think, and to contrast the good principles she had been taught at home — with what she saw and heard. Early impressed with a regard for the truth, to her great surprise she too often found it violated by those around her; and she was no less surprised to find in many of the young girls in the work-room, a total disregard to the interests of the person with whom they were learning their trade.
Among her fellow-apprentices was one named Florence, to whom Ann early attached herself. She was the daughter of a widow, suddenly reduced from comfortable to needy circumstances, and was acquiring a knowledge of dress-making as a means of adding to their small and insufficient income. This girl had received an excellent education, and had moved in very good society. She was intelligent, polished in her manners, and possessed a finely-cultivated taste. The loss of friends, and a change in external circumstances, had subdued her whole character, and made her thoughtful. There was something about Ann, that caused her to respect the poor girl. Instead of ridiculing her for her deficiencies, she gently sought to correct them. This evidence of good-will touched the feelings of Ann, who hearkened to all her suggestions, and sought to correct every little defect of manner, or roughness of speech, that was kindly pointed out to her.
The ease, grace, and womanly dignity of Florence were beautiful in the eyes of the humble-minded girl. She saw in them something really true and excellent, when contrasted with the crudeness and bold vulgarity of others in the work-room. Her whole character was a model of excellence in her eyes — a standard of emulation.
We first begin to rise towards excellence of any kind — when we first begin to admire and love it. So it was with Ann Liston. She no sooner began to admire and love the whole character of Florence, than she began to form her own character, as far as she could do so, after a like model. In her leisure moments, she read such books as were placed in her hands by Florence. These were not the popular and exciting novels of the day, that were read by too many of her young companions; but books that made her think truly of life, and her own duties and responsibilities.
By the time Ann had finished learning her trade, she was very much changed for the better. The whole expression of her face was altered. Her step was more graceful, her speech more polished, and her mind more enlightened. Contrasted with several of those who had ridiculed her for her deficiencies, when she first left her home — the difference was quite as strong as before; but now it was in her favor. The achievement of this much was not without passing through many temptations from some of the vulgar, low-minded girls around her. Several of these had their beaux, whom they used frequently to meet and walk with in the evening; and they often persuaded Ann to join them. Once or twice she did do so; but the young men she met were even more vulgar minded than her companions, who were, as it seemed to her, most unblushingly familiar with the young men. Shocked and disgusted with all this, she ventured no more into such company, contenting herself with reading alone, when not at work, or in congenial fellowship with Florence, and one or two others more like her than the rest.
After having learned her trade, the next business of Ann was to go out and sew for her living. Modest in her deportment, quiet, and what might now be called lady-like in her manners, industrious and capable — Ann soon had as much, and more than she could do in families of good standing, in all of which she was respected and treated as she deserved. She continued in this capacity for about three years, during which time both mind and person steadily improved, until she became a really interesting and quite intelligent young woman. But, withal, she was exceedingly modest and retiring.
A very fine young man, a clerk in the store of the husband of one of the ladies for whom she worked, had noticed Ann for more than a year. Her appearance, manner, and conversation, whenever he did hear her speak, which was seldom, pleased him very much. At last, encouraged by the lady just alluded to, who spoke in the highest praise of Ann, he formally addressed her, and was, after a time, fortunate enough to gain her consent to be married. She made him a frugal, industrious wife, and an excellent companion. About five years afterwards, he went into business on a small capital, which they had saved from his salary, and was quite successful. He did not become, it is true, a very rich man, nor his wife a great lady; but they were in good circumstances, and able to give their children every advantage of education, and the means of usefulness and advancement in the world.
Out of ten young girls in the work-room where Ann learned her trade, all with no better advantages than she had possessed, seven married men of base minds and vulgar habits, and never rose above their original condition. Two were more like Ann, and they were sought by young men of a better class. One of them did not marry at all.
No matter how many and great may be the disadvantages under which a young girl may labor — she may yet rise, if she will, very much above the external condition from which she started in life. And in proportion as she thus rises, will she find a higher degree of happiness, and be able to do far more good than otherwise would be possible to her.
Everything that tends to elevate the lower classes of the community above what is crude, ignorant, and vulgar, adds to their happiness, because it makes them better and wiser; but this crudeness, ignorance, and vulgarity will prevail just so long as woman is kept down by the pressure of circumstances; for, in her influence upon the other gender — but mainly upon her children, lies the all-potent principle of social reformation. Let every young woman, if her lot is humble, and her advantages few, remember that she has a duty to perform to society as well as herself, and wisely seek to fulfill the obligations which rest upon her. At the same time, every young woman, who is blessed with the superior advantages of education and refinement, should as earnestly seek to lift up those below her, and inspire them with a love of what is useful, refined, and truly good.
Those whose external condition is very different from what we have been describing, who are blessed with all the comforts, luxuries, and advantages attainable by wealth — are in some danger of entertaining false notions in regard to themselves, and of valuing themselves more on account of their exterior condition in life — than for the virtues they possess. This is of course a false evaluation; and whoever makes it commits an error that will lead to unhappiness sooner or later.
Wealth affords great advantages — but it makes no one any the better. Gold never purchases virtue nor excellence of character; it is possessed alike by the good and the bad; and whoever values himself, as a man, on account of his wealth, shows himself to be a very weak man. A young girl, who has all the advantages that wealth affords, will be very apt to feel that she is superior to those in a lower condition, simply because she is surrounded with more of the elegances of life than they are, and moves in what is called a higher circle. But this feeling she should strive against as ignoble; for what have the elegances of life with which others have surrounded her, and the circle of friends into which a happy concurrence of circumstances has introduced her, to do with her real worth? Nothing whatever! One far below her in the reception and enjoyment of these external blessings, may really be far above her in all that goes to make up the true woman. Let her, then, make virtue the standard of excellence, and let her seek to do some good with the ability and superior advantages that God has given her, instead of sitting idly down in the vain imagination of her own superiority!
GOSSIPING AND EVIL SPEAKING
These are faults into which the young and thoughtless are very apt to be betrayed, and to indulge in to a most unjustifiable and sometimes pernicious extent, whereby the most trivial failing of a companion is magnified into a very serious offence against propriety; or an unguarded word made to do an injury never intended by the one who uttered it.
A young lady should be very guarded, indeed, about speaking evil of anyone, and equally so how she repeats the disparaging remarks of another. Much of this evil speaking arises from thoughtless misjudgments of those who happen not to be very much liked. Whatever they do or say, is seen through a false medium, which gives to it an unnatural distortion, or an improper coloring. Of the injustice of this, nothing need be said, for all can see and acknowledge it. The difficulty is, to make each one who indulges this evil practice, conscious that she is really guilty of doing so, and therefore a wrong-doer to others.
A disposition to see the faults and defects of others, instead of what is good in them — is one of our most common failings; and what we see, or think we see, is what we are most apt to speak of. This is the reason why we generally hear more evil than good spoken of, as appertaining to other people.
The very common habit of making the sayings and doings of our acquaintances the principal subjects of conversation, is by no means a good one, and should be avoided as much as possible, for the reason that such conversation is rarely profitable, and very apt to betray us into allusions to their defects, as much more prominent than their excellencies. And as it does us no good to think of the faults of our friends, nor them any good for us to speak about them — the least said on such matters, the better. It is not possible, however, always to avoid allusions to what has been said and done by our friends, or to the appearance made by them on certain occasions.
Two young ladies, for instance, will meet on the day after a fashionable party, and one of them will allude to the dress, appearance, or manners of some one or more, who either exhibited a sad lack of taste, or whose conduct attracted attention for its freedom and lack of delicacy. Such things always occur, and always cause disparaging remarks. The other young lady, even though she does not ordinarily take pleasure in noticing the faults of her acquaintances, cannot help assenting to what is said, and the temptation to express herself freely on the subject will be very strong. She should guard herself, however, and avoid magnifying what did really occur, and should seek to change the subject as quickly as possible. Something like the following mode of reply, in such cases, should be adopted —
"Did you ever see such horrid taste as Miss Parker displayed?" remarks one young friend to another. "She looked like a stage-dancer."
"She certainly was very much over-dressed."
"Over-dressed! Goodness! She was dressed to death. Everybody remarked it. How silly it is for a girl like her to render herself so conspicuous!"
"You noticed Miss Larson, did you not?"
"O, yes! Wasn't she dressed sweetly? I think I never saw her look so beautiful in my life."
"Miss Larson is a girl of good taste."
"And, you may add, good temper and good sense. Did you notice how Sarah Gifford flirted with young Smith? She is a terrible flirt! I had my eye on her all the evening. Although she doesn't care the snap of a finger for Smith, she makes him believe that his company is most agreeable to her."
"She is very wrong to do so. Truth and honesty should ever distinguish a young lady's conduct. Such a charge, I am sure, cannot be made against Ellen Green."
"No, you may well say that. She is the very soul of truth and honor. If all were like her, society would present far more beautiful and attractive features than it now does. There was another at the party who resembled her — Flora Bannister."
"Truly said. I love Flora as tenderly as I do my own sister. How exquisitely do good taste, good feelings, and good principles blend in her character! You never hear her speak of another unless in praise. I always feel that I am better after spending an hour with Flora."
"And so do I. I often wish that I was like her."
"All of us may become like her, if we endeavor to act from the same good principles that govern in her whole life and conduct."
"I don't know. Were I to try ever so hard, I do not think I could become like Flora. I feel that there is as much difference between her character and mine, as between mine and Sarah Gifford's."
"Should not such thoughts and such a consciousness make us very careful how we judge the defects of others too severely? Some people are naturally deficient in true taste, and others have had their taste perverted by a bad education; some are naturally of an amiable temper, while others have much that is perverse to contend with. In all, there is some good; let us magnify that, rather than the evil we see."
"I believe you are right," was the reply to this. "We are all too apt to see that in our friends which calls for censure, rather than praise."
How much better is it thus to lead away the thoughts of a young friend, disposed to be critical and fault-finding — to the contemplation of excellencies in others!
A great deal of unhappiness is created, and a great deal of harm done, by indulgence in the bad habit we are now condemning. Numerous instances might be given in illustration of this. We shall introduce but one, and this with the hope of making the fault appear in its truly odious light.
Ellen Benoit was much given to the use of disparaging remarks in reference to her companions. Like most others who indulged in this reprehensible practice, she did not always confine herself strictly to the truth. Not that she designedly, and with evil intent, uttered falsehoods. She only embellished a little too highly, without seeing that, in doing this, she was magnifying foibles into faults, and perverting language from the true meaning it was intended to convey.
"Your friend, Emily Rawson, seems to be a very fine girl," said a lady to her one day, after having spent her first half hour with the person referred to.
"Yes," replied Ellen; "she is certainly a fine girl — but, like all the rest of us, she has her faults."
"Not very serious ones, I hope," said the lady.
"Why, that will depend pretty much upon how you view them. She has one fault that I call a pretty serious one."
"What is that?"
"A disposition to tattle."
"Indeed! That is bad."
"Not so bad as some other faults — but still bad enough. Whenever I am with her, I consider it necessary to be guarded in what I say; for, in consequence of her having once repeated some remark of mine, she involved me in a very unpleasant difficulty with a friend, and created a difference that has not been reconciled to this day."
"With such a person, I am sure I should want as little to do as possible," replied the lady. "I am sorry to hear what you say, for I had formed a very good opinion of Emily, and felt like adding her to the number of my friends. But there is no telling what people are. As for her, the last fault I would have supposed her to be guilty of, is the one you mention."
"I did not mean to convey quite so strong an impression to your mind," said Ellen Benoit, perceiving that she had really injured Emily. "I would not have you understand that Emily is a common tattler and busybody in other people's matters, for she is not. I only meant to put you on your guard, in case you became well acquainted with her. Myself a sufferer from having a thoughtless remark repeated by her, it seemed to me only right that I should warn a friend in time."
"Perfectly right, Ellen, and I thank you for what you have done. As to Emily Rawson, I believe I shall not follow up the acquaintance. I have a large circle of intimate friends, with whom I can be unreserved, without fear of having my confidence betrayed, or my unguarded words repeated to my own and the injury of others."
In this decision the lady was firm. When she again met Emily, she was coldly polite to her, and that was all. The young girl, who had been pleased with her character, and strongly drawn towards her, felt this change severely. It was an unexpected repulse from one whose principles she had approved, and whose character had been presented to her as one of no common loveliness. That there was some cause for this change she knew; but of its nature she had not even a remote idea.
Months passed, during which period Emily was thrown several times into the company of this lady, who always maintained towards her a coldness and reserve entirely at variance with the cordiality of manner exhibited on the occasion of their introduction to each other. This unaccountable difference caused Emily much pain of mind.
It was, perhaps, a year subsequent to the time this lady had received her impression of Emily's character, and after her marked coldness towards the latter had caused her to omit the usual word or nod of recognition on meeting, that a friend made some casual remarks about Emily.
"I know very little about her," the lady replied, indifferently, "and that little has not prejudiced me much in her favor."
"That's strange," returned the friend; "for a person with fewer faults, and more sterling qualities of mind and heart, than Emily Rawson, is rarely met."
"She has one fault that overshadows many good qualities," said the lady, coldly.
"What is that?" was asked.
"The fault of being a tattler!"
"If she is freer from any one fault more than from another, it is that one you name!"
"Perhaps you don't know her," said the lady.
"Don't know Emily Rawson! If that was the case, I would almost begin to think I didn't know myself. We have been like sisters for years."
"Then you ought to know her."
"I think so; and I know that she is not a tattler; and I must again express my wonder that you should have formed such an erroneous opinion in regard to her. From whom did you obtain it?"
"From a very good source, I believe. Ellen Benoit warned me to be on my guard, and stated that she was herself a sufferer on account of Emily's tattling propensities."
"Yes. My first impression of Emily's character was good; but when I learned this, I thought it as well to have nothing to do with her, for I think a tattler a very despicable person."
"I believe I understand it all, now," said the friend, after musing a while. "Ellen is herself a little given to the very thing she charges upon an innocent person. On one occasion, she repeated something she had heard alleged against a young girl, and considerably embellished her narrative. Emily was present. The impression made was very unfavorable to the individual alluded to. Of all who heard these unfavorable remarks, made to the great disparagement of an absent companion, Emily was the only one who was honest enough to go to her and apprize her of what had been said to her real injury, in order that, if innocent, she might vindicate her character. The allegations were at once pronounced false, and the author of them demanded. Ellen Benoit was named by Emily, who volunteered to go to her in company with the aggrieved person, in order to ascertain from her the source of the injurious charge. Ellen was very angry with Emily for what she had done, and refused at first to give any authority for what she had said. But Emily mildly argued with her on the folly of this, and, in extenuation of what she had done, assured her, that, if she herself had been the subject of the remarks in question, she would have felt it to be equally her duty to apprize her of the injury she was suffering. But Ellen could not see the matter in any better light than as a betrayal of confidence on the part of Emily.
The result was, that, on tracing the charge made to the person given as her authority by Ellen, more than half of the averments of Ellen were denied, and a very different version of the whole story given, by which it was clear that she had added nearly all of the offensive matter; not as sheer fabrications — but as inferences from what had been said. It seems she has not forgiven Emily for honestly putting it into the power of an innocent person to vindicate herself from injurious charges — but has as grossly misrepresented and injured her, as she did the person whom Emily warned of the evil things said against her. You can now judge how far Emily Rawson is to be condemned as a tattler on the testimony of Ellen Benoit."
"Clearly enough," replied the lady, with some warmth of manner. "I must at once renew my acquaintance with Emily. As for the other, on some suitable occasion I shall refer to the subject, and endeavor to make her see that she has been guilty of a very serious fault. I feel strongly tempted to drop her altogether; but as I committed an error in doing this with Emily Rawson, I will seek rather to correct her faults and strengthen her good qualities, than to decline all friendly fellowship."
This is the way in which false impressions about almost everyone are propagated. The slightest fault, or peculiarity, is magnified into something serious, and the censorious whisper goes round, while the subject of it remains in entire ignorance of the detriment she suffers. Let every young lady set her face against this as a serious evil. Let her place a bridle upon her tongue, and upon her thoughts, lest she is betrayed, in an unguarded moment, into saying something against her young friend that may injure her in the estimation of others.
The surest way to avoid this fault, is to look more at the good in our friends, than the evil. We are all perverse enough, all have evil tendencies enough, and are all frequently enough betrayed into acts and words that are wrong — to prompt us to be charitable towards others; and such reflections, if no others, should make us thoughtful and prudent in this matter.
On this subject we do not feel competent to give any particular directions. In matters of female attire, a woman's taste is, as a general thing, always superior to a man's. Still, we see a great many badly-dressed women, where the defect does not arise from any lack of the means to dress — but from bad taste. The fault of overdressing is the most common, and this is almost always attended with an unharmonious arrangement of colors.
All that pertains to the particular modes of dress, and to the harmony of colors, has been so fully set forth in the various books prepared for and accessible to young ladies, that for us to attempt anything of the kind here would be entirely useless, even if we had given sufficient attention to the subject to be able clearly to set the matter forth, which we confess that we have not. We can tell when we see a lady dressed in good taste — but we cannot tell a lady exactly how she should dress to be in good taste. It is much easier to detect a fault, than to produce a harmonious arrangement. And it is much easier for a man to see faults in a lady's dress, than to give directions for dressing faultlessly.
As we have just said, we do not feel competent to give particular directions here, and therefore shall not attempt to do so. We refer to dress, in this place, merely for the purpose of making one or two rather general remarks on the subject.
As in almost everything else in this world, people are very apt to run into opposite extremes in the matter of dress. While we have one class of people who seem to think of nothing else but dress, and who load themselves with mirthful clothing and ornaments until they appear ridiculous in the eyes of sensible people, there is another class that as unwisely reject all ornaments, and array themselves in garments of the dullest hue. In this, as in all other things, the happy medium is the true one. In order to attain this happy medium, some attention must be paid to the end for which dress is regarded. If a love of admiration, and a mere fondness for appearing in mirthful attire, alone prompts a woman to give attention to dress, she will be almost sure to overstep the bounds of good sense and good taste. The hand of either pride or vanity always shows itself in a woman's dress, in spite of every effort to hide it!
To dress with neatness, taste, and propriety, is the duty of every young lady; and she should give just as much thought and attention to the subject as will enable her to do it, and no more. Unless she does give to it both thought and attention, however, she will not be able to dress with taste and propriety. Occasionally we meet with instances where young ladies affect, or really feel, indifference in regard to dress. Everything like ornament is eschewed as beneath the dignity of an intelligent being. The higher colors never appear in any of their garments, and ribbons are used with a degree of caution that is quite amusing. All this might be tolerated if good taste accompanied their simplicity of attire; but, unfortunately, a lack of good taste is, in most cases, the primary cause of the indifference they manifest. But, as there exists in woman a natural fondness for dress, the opposite extreme to this is the one into which young girls most frequently run, unless they are guided and controlled, as is usually the case, by the sounder and purer taste of a mother, an elder sister, or some judicious friend.
In order to keep herself from running into this extreme, a young lady should guard against the common fault of dressing for the purpose of attracting attention. If she has a fondness for mirthful colors, let her use them — but not to excess; on the contrary, if her taste lead her to select those more subdued and less attractive, let her taste be her guide.
In regard to ornaments, they are proper to be used, and, when worn by a person of good taste in their selection and arrangement, add very much to a woman's appearance.
An idea prevails very generally, among some people, that all attention to dress, or the following of the fashions, as they usually term it — is a useless waste of money and time, and an actual injury to the moral state of the person who thus pays a regard to dress. There is no doubt that following the fashions to an excess, and thinking about little else than dress, is just as great an evil as it is here alleged to be. But it is one thing to do this, and another thing to have such a regard for external order, beauty, and propriety, as shall make our appearance pleasing to our friends, and our presence welcome in circles of taste and refinement. If we dress with a singularity because of a weak prejudice against the prevailing fashions, or outrage all true taste by incongruities of attire, our presence cannot be pleasing to our friends, nor welcome in refined and intelligent circles.
The true standard of dress for a young lady is that which happens to prevail in the present; but, in adopting it, she should carefully avoid its extremes. If it trenches upon modesty, or endangers her health — let her so far not follow it. These extremes she can easily avoid, and yet not appear singular.
The highest degree of happiness and usefulness attainable in this world is not to be had by anyone who does not possess a sound mind in a sound body. Attention to health, therefore, is one of the first duties we owe to ourselves and society, because without a healthy body we cannot have a sound mind, nor efficiently perform our duties in life. This is so plain a proposition that all can at once comprehend it.
Young ladies are proverbial for being careless in regard to health; and this, strangely enough, is particularly the case with those who have the most delicate constitutions. The hundreds who die annually of pulmonary problems, owe, in two cases out of every three, their early death to unwise and unnecessary exposure of themselves, thinly clad, in cold and damp weather. The warnings of physicians and friends seem alike unavailing; and their earnest representation of the real danger that threatens them is treated as a chimera, conjured up by over-anxiety, to frighten them. Even the fearfully rapid encroachments of a deadly disease do not, in too many instances, give the requisite prudence; and the unhappy victim sinks speedily into the grave, with little less than the crime of self-murder upon her head. These things are sad to think about; and their frequency and familiarity make them none the less painful subjects of reflection. But, as the only hope of reformation here lies in continued precept, we deem it a solemn duty, whenever an opportunity offers, to add our voice to the general voice of warning heard everywhere on this subject.
The doing of anything that requires self-denial, or more than ordinary care, is dependent upon an adequate motive. One would think that there were motives strong enough to prompt every young lady to be careful of her health; and so there are; the difficulty is, that she cannot be made to feel that what she does, or omits to do, really injures her, because the ill effects do not become immediately apparent.
That such is really the fact, the sad results of just such an abuse of health are to be seen all around us — results that all intelligent physicians, and all people of observation and common sense, know must flow from the causes just set forth. Surely, then, an adequate motive for prudence and care in these things is to be found in the fact, that, if no regard is paid to them, the health will be undermined, or destroyed altogether.
Strict regard should also be had to the food that is eaten, and to the manner of eating it. The diet should be nutritious — but not stimulating, and the quantity of food taken ought never to be so great as to oppress the system. A good digestion, however, does not always depend upon the quality of the food taken; the best food in the world will be rendered indigestible if it be not sufficiently masticated, or is eaten too fast.
If any of our young readers can see the importance of the subject, viewed in this light, they cannot but feel more deeply than ever the duty that rests upon them to preserve their health for the sake of the happiness of others, and the general well-being of society. The consequences arising from abuse of health does not always rest with an individual; and a knowledge of this, if no other motive be strong enough, should prompt every one to seek its preservation.
Every young girl knows that she will, in a few years, have to take her place in society as a woman. Let her look at her mother and her mother's friends, and see how much the well-being and happiness of others are dependent upon the retention of their lives and the preservation of their health. In a few years, she will, in all probability, stand in the same relation to society as her mother now does, and have as many duties to perform, involving the comfort and happiness of others. If, when this time comes, through her youthful folly and indiscretion, her health is gone, her lot will be a sad one indeed. Pain and disability will attend the performance of even the most trifling duty, and she will be a burden to herself, and the source of anxiety and grief to her nearest and best friends; and, it may be, just as the tenderest ties that can bind a woman to earth are formed, death will rudely break them asunder.
What other considerations can we urge upon our fair young friends to induce them to regard the admonitions of those who love them, and are wiser than they are? The means of preserving health are accessible to all. There is not so much ignorance on this subject as disinclination to make a temporary sacrifice of present desires, in order to secure a great and lasting good. Such being the case, we have sought rather to present motives for the preservation of health, than rules for attaining the so much desired object. Where a disposition to take proper care of the health exists, a knowledge of the means necessary to be used are easily attained.
Older brothers are not usually as attentive to their younger sisters, as the latter would feel to be agreeable. The little girls that were so long known as children, with the foibles, faults, and caprices of children, although now grown up into tall young ladies, who have left or are about leaving school, are still felt to be children, or but a little advanced beyond childhood, by the young men who have had some three or four years' experience in the world. With these older brothers, there will not usually be, arising from this cause, much confidential and unreserved fellowship; at least, not until the sisters have added two or three years more to their ages, and assumed more of the quiet dignity of womanhood.
Upon these older brothers, therefore, the conduct of sisters cannot, usually, have much effect. They are removed to a point chiefly beyond the circle of their influence. But upon brothers near about their own age, and younger than themselves, the influence of sisters may be brought to bear with the most beneficial results.
The temptations to which young men are exposed, when first they come in contact with the world, are many, and full of the strongest allurements. Their virtuous principles are assailed in a thousand ways; sometimes boldly, and sometimes by the most insidious arts of the wicked and evil-minded. All, therefore, that can make virtue lovely in their eyes, and vice hideous — they need to strengthen the good principles stored up, from childhood, in their minds. For their sakes, home should be made as attractive as possible, in order to induce them frequently to spend their evenings in the place where, of all others, they will be safest. To do this, a young lady must consult the tastes of her brothers, and endeavor to take sufficient interest in the pursuits that interest them, as to make herself companionable. If they are fond of music, one of the strongest incentives she can have for attaining the highest possible skill in performing upon the piano, will be the hope of making home, thereby, the most attractive place where they can spend their evenings. If they are fond of reading, let her read, as far as she can, the books that interest them, in order that she may take part in their conversations; and let her, in every other possible way, furnish herself with the means of making home agreeable.
There is no surer way for a sister to gain an influence with her brother, than to cultivate all exterior graces and accomplishments, and improve her mind by reading, thinking, and observation. By these means she not only becomes his intelligent companion — but "inspires him with a feeling of generous pride towards her, that, more than anything else, impresses her image upon his mind, brings her at all times nearer to him, and gives her a double power over him for good.
The indifference felt by brothers towards their sisters, when it does exist, often arises from the fact that their sisters are inferior, in almost everything, to the women they are in the habit of meeting abroad. Where this is the case, such indifference is not so much to be wondered at.
Sisters should always endeavor to gain, as much as possible, the confidence of their brothers, and to give them their confidence in return. Mutual good offices will result from this, and attachments that could only produce unhappiness, may be prevented. A man sees more of men than a woman does, and the same is true in regard to the other gender. This being so, a brother has it in his power at once to guard his sister against the advances of an unprincipled man, or a man whose habits he knows to be bad; and a sister has it in her power to reveal to her brother traits of character in a woman, for whom he is about forming an attachment, which would repel rather than attract him.
Towards her younger brother a sister should be particularly considerate. In allusion to this subject, Mrs. Farrar has written so well that we cannot repress our wish to quote her. "If your brothers are younger than you, encourage them to be perfectly confidential with you; win their friendship by your sympathy in all their concerns, and let them see that their interests and their pleasures are liberally provided for in the family arrangements. Never disclose their little secrets, however unimportant they may seem to you; never repress their feelings by ridicule; but be their tenderest friend — and then you may become their ablest adviser. If separated from them by the course of school and college education, make a point of keeping up your intimacy by full, free, and affectionate correspondence; and when they return to the paternal roof, at that awkward age between youth and manhood, when reserve creeps over the mind like an impenetrable veil, allow it not to interpose between you and your brothers. Cultivate their friendship and intimacy with all the address and tenderness you possess; for it is of unspeakable importance to them that their sisters should be their confidential friends. Consider the loss of a ball or party, for the sake of making the evening pass pleasantly to your brothers at home, as a small sacrifice — one you should unhesitatingly make. If they go into company with you, see that they are introduced to the most desirable acquaintances, and show them that you are interested in their conducting themselves well."
Having quoted so much from the "Young Lady's Friend," we feel inclined to give a few passages more from the author's admirable remarks on the relation of brother and sister.
"So many temptations beset young men, of which young women know nothing, that it is of the utmost importance that your brothers' evenings should be happily passed at home; that their friends should be your friends; that their engagements should be the same as yours; and that various innocent amusements should be provided for them in the family circle. Music is an accomplishment usually valuable as a home enjoyment, as rallying round the piano the various members of a family, and harmonizing their hearts, as well as their voices, particularly in devotional strains. I know no more agreeable and interesting spectacle than that of brothers and sisters playing and singing together those elevated compositions in music and poetry which gratify the taste and purify the heart, while their parents sit delighted by. I have seen and heard an elder sister thus leading the family choir, who was the soul of harmony to the whole household, and whose life was a perfect example of those virtues which I am here endeavoring to inculcate. Let no one say, in reading this chapter, that too much is here required of sisters; that no one can be expected to lead such a self-sacrificing life; for the sainted one to whom I refer, was all that I would ask my sister to be; and a happier person never lived. 'To do good and make others happy,' was the rule of her life; and in this she found the art of making herself so."
"Brothers will generally be found strongly opposed to the slightest indecorum in sisters. Their fellowship with all sorts of men enables them to judge of the construction put upon certain actions, and modes of dress and speech, much better than women can; and you will do well to take their advice on all such points."
"I have been told by men, who had passed unharmed through the temptations of youth, that they owed their escape from many dangers to the intimate companionship of affectionate and pure-minded sisters. They have been saved from a hazardous meeting with idle company by some home engagement, of which their sisters were the charm; they have refrained from mixing with the impure, because they would not bring home thoughts and feelings which they could not share with those trusting and loving friends; they have put aside the wine-cup, because they would not profane with their fumes the holy kiss, with which they were accustomed to bid their sisters good-night."
CONDUCT TOWARDS PARENTS
It often happens that a daughter possesses greatly superior advantages to those enjoyed, in early years, by either her father or mother. She is not compelled to labor as hard as they were obliged to labor when young; and she is blessed with the means of education far beyond what they had. Her associations, too, are of a different order, all tending to elevate her views of life, to refine her tastes, and to give her admission into a higher grade of society than they were fitted to move in.
Unless very watchful of herself and very thoughtful of her parents, a daughter so situated will be led at times to draw comparisons between her own cultivated intellect and taste — and the lack of such cultivation in her parents, and to think indifferently of them, as really inferior, because not so well educated and accomplished as she is. A distrust of their judgment and a disrespect of their opinions will follow, as a natural consequence, if these thoughts and feelings are indulged. This result often takes place with thoughtless, weak-minded girls; and is followed by what is worse, a disregard to their feelings, wishes, and express commands.
A sensible daughter, who loves her parents, will hardly forget to whom she is indebted for all the superior advantages she enjoys. She will also readily perceive that the experience which her parents have acquired, and their natural strength of mind, give them a real and great superiority over her, and make their judgment, in all matters of life, far more to be depended upon, than hers could possibly be. It may be that her mother has never learned to play upon the piano, has never been to a dancing-school, has never had anything beyond the merest rudiments of an education; but she has good sense, prudence, industry, economy; understands and practices all the virtues of domestic life; has a clear, discriminating judgment; has been her husband's faithful friend and adviser for some twenty or thirty years; and has safely guarded and guided her children up to mature years. These evidences of a mother's title to her respect and fullest confidence cannot long be absent from a daughter's mind, and will prevent her acting in direct opposition to her judgment. Thoughtless indeed must be that child who can permit an emotion of disrespect towards her parents to dwell in her bosom for more than a single moment!
Respect and love towards parents are absolutely necessary to the proper formation of the character, upon that true basis which will bring into just order and subordination all the powers of the mind. Without this order and subordination, there can be no true happiness. A child loves and respects his parents, because from them he derived his being, and from them receives every blessing and comfort. To them, and to them alone, does his mind turn as the authors of all the good gifts he possesses. As a mere child, it is right for him thus to regard his parents as the authors of his being, and the originators of all his blessings. But as reason gains strength and he sees more deeply into the nature and causes of things, which only takes place as the child approaches the years of maturity, it is then seen that the parents were only the agents through which life, and all the blessings accompanying it, came from God, the great Father of all.
If the parents have been loved with a truly filial love, then the mind has been suitably opened and prepared for love towards God, and an obedience to his divine laws — without which there can be no true happiness. When this new and higher truth takes possession of the child's mind, it in no way diminishes his respect for his earthly parents — but increases it. He no longer obeys them because they command obedience — but he regards the truth of their precepts, and in that truth hears the voice of God speaking to him. More than ever is he now careful to listen to their wise counsels, because he perceives in them the authority of reason, which is the authority of God.
Most young ladies, on attaining the age of responsibility, will perceive a difference in the manner of their parents. Instead of opposing them, as heretofore, with authority — they will oppose them with reason, where opposition is deemed necessary. The mother, instead of saying, when she disapproves anything, "No, my child, you cannot do it;" or, "No, you must not go, dear;" will say, "I would rather not have you do so;" or, "I do not approve of your going." If you ask her reasons, she will state them, and endeavor to make you comprehend their force. It is far too often the case, that the daughter's desire to do what her mother disapproves is so active, that neither her mother's objections nor reasons are strong enough to counteract her wishes, and she follows her own inclinations instead of being guided by her mother's better judgment. In these instances, she almost always does wrong, and suffers therefrom either bodily or mental pain.
Obedience in childhood, is that by which we are led and guided into right actions. When we become men and women, reason takes the place of obedience; but, like a young bird just fluttering from its nest, reason at first has not much strength of wing; and we should therefore allow the reason of those who love us, like the mother-bird, to bear us up in our earlier efforts, lest we fall bruised and wounded to the ground. To whose reason should a young girl look to strengthen her own, so soon as to her mother's, guided as it is by love? But it too often happens that, under the first impulses of conscious freedom — no voice is regarded but the voice of inclination and passion. The mother may oppose, and warn, and urge the most serious considerations — but the daughter turns a deaf ear to all. She thinks that she knows best. Let us give a case in point.
"You are not going tonight, Mary?" said a mother, coming into her daughter's room, and finding her dressing for a ball. She had been rather seriously indisposed, for some days, with a cold that had fallen upon her throat and chest, which was weak — but was now somewhat better.
"I think I will, mother, for I am much better than I was yesterday, and have improved since morning. I have promised myself so much pleasure at this ball, that I cannot think of being disappointed."
The mother shook her head.
"Mary," she replied, "you are not well enough to go out. The air is damp, and you will inevitably take more cold. Think how badly your throat has been inflamed."
"I don't think it has been so very bad, mother."
"The doctor told me it was badly inflamed, and said you would have to be very careful of yourself, or it might prove serious."
"That was some days ago. It is a great deal better now."
"But the least exposure may cause it to return."
"I will be very careful not to expose myself. I will wrap up warm and go in a carriage. I am sure there is not the least danger, mother."
"While I am sure that there is very great danger. You cannot pass from the door to the carriage without the damp air striking upon your face, and pressing into your lungs."
"But I must not always exclude myself from the air, mother. Air and exercise, you know, the doctor says, are indispensable to health."
"Dry, not damp air. This makes the difference. But you must act for yourself, Mary. You are now a woman, and must freely act in the light of that reason which God has given you. Because I love you, and desire your welfare, I thus seek to convince you that it is wrong to expose your health tonight. Your great desire to go blinds you to the real danger, which I can fully see."
"You are over-anxious, mother," urged Mary. "I know how I feel, much better than you possibly can, and I know I am well enough to go."
"I have nothing more to say, my child," returned the mother. "I wish you to act freely — but wisely. Wisely I am sure you will not act if you go tonight. A temporary illness may not alone be the consequence; your health may receive a shock from which it will never recover."
"Mother wishes to frighten me," said Mary to herself, after her mother had left the room. "But I am not to be so easily frightened. I am sorry she makes such a serious matter about my going, for I never like to do anything that is not agreeable to her feelings. But I must go to this ball. William is to call for me at eight, and he would be as much disappointed as myself if I were not to go. As to taking more cold, what of that? I would willingly pay the penalty of a pretty severe cold, rather than miss the ball."
Against all her mother's earnestly urged objections, Mary went with her friend to the ball. She came home, at one o'clock, with a sharp pain through her chest, red spots on her cheeks, oppression of the chest, and considerable fever. On the next morning she was unable to rise from her bed. When the doctor, who was sent for, came in, he looked grave, and asked if there had been any exposure by which a fresh cold could be taken.
"She was at the ball last night," replied the mother.
"Not with your approval, madam!" he said quickly, looking with a stern expression into the mother's face.
"No, doctor. I urged her not to go; but Mary thought she knew best. She did not believe there was any danger."
A strong expression rose to the doctor's lips — but he repressed it, lest he should needlessly alarm the patient. On retiring from her chamber, he declared the case to be a very critical one; and so it proved to be. Mary did not leave her room for some months; and when she did, it was with a constitution so impaired that she could not endure the slightest fatigue, nor bear the least exposure. Neither change of climate nor medicine availed anything towards restoring her to health. In this feeble state, she married, about twelve months afterwards, the young man who had accompanied her to the ball. One year from the period at which that happy event took place, she died, leaving to stranger hands a babe that needed all her tenderest care, and a husband almost broken-hearted at his loss.
This is not merely a picture from the imagination, and highly colored. It is from nature, and every line is drawn with the pencil of truth. Hundreds of young women yearly sink into the grave, whose friends can trace to some similar act of imprudence, committed in direct opposition to the earnest persuasions of parents or friends, the cause of their premature decay and death. And too often other, and sometimes even worse, consequences than death, follow a disregard of the mother's voice of warning.
Let no young lady, then, consider herself free to follow the impulse of her own feelings, because she is no longer under the authority of her parents. Let her remember that she is still to live in the strictest obedience — obedience to reason — and that, at her tender age, her own reason is not sufficiently matured — but must be strengthened and guided towards sound conclusions by the experience of others. To her parents she must, therefore, still look; and she is as much bound to obey the voice of reason speaking through them, as she was before bound to obey the voice of authority. If heedless of this voice of reason thus speaking — then she must not wonder if she commits serious errors, that may entail upon her years, it may be a lifetime, of suffering and repentance.
From what has been said, let it not be supposed that a young lady should not cultivate the habit of thinking for herself, nor seek the guidance of her own reason, properly enlightened. No; this is essential to the moral health and true well-being of every individual. All that is meant is, that every young lady should willingly receive the aid of others' reason and experience, to enable her to decide in her own mind what is right for her to do under certain circumstances. So much inclined will she be to act from feeling and impulse, that she will find all such aids of the first importance; and she will be in much more danger of acting from her own impulses and passions, and thus acting wrong, than she will be of acting blindly from the advice of parents or friends.
EQUALITY OF THE SEXES
Singularly enough, we have in this day a class of intellectual ladies, who boldly contend for the absolute equality of the sexes, and who write books for the purpose of proving this doctrine, and spreading it throughout society. As far as we are able to understand what they do believe, we infer that they hold the only radical difference that exists between a man and a woman to be the difference of physical difference — the social difference that is seen everywhere, arising from man's superior physical power, by which he is able to keep woman in subjection.
Some of the books written by advocates of these doctrines contain views of a most pernicious character, striking still more deeply at the very foundations of social well-being. As might be supposed, few of their writers understand or teach what is true in regard to marriage. And this is no matter of wonder; for how can anyone, who is not able to see the true difference between the sexes, teach what is true in regard to their union?
In order to guard our young friends against the false reasonings, and equally false conclusions, of these advocates of the equality of the sexes, we will, in as plain and comprehensive a way as possible, set forth what is the true relation of one gender to the other; and in doing this we must explain the radical difference.
As to equality in itself, this, no doubt, exists; but it is in the equal right of both to be useful and happy in the particular spheres for which God created them. The main point of equality which is contended for, and upon which all the rest is made to depend, is intellectual equality; and here the great error is committed, and it is committed by "intellectual" or "masculine" women, who hold the same false relation to their gender, that "effeminate" men hold to theirs. It is a little curious that the first use made, by these intellectual women, of their great mental powers, is to lead their followers into a most dangerous error!
That there does exist as great a difference between the mental as between the physical structure of the sexes, is clear, from common perception, to almost everyone. That it must be so, will be seen from this: Every physical form that we see in nature is the outbirth of some spiritual and invisible cause; and the peculiarity of its form and quality depends solely upon the peculiarity of its cause. The cause that produces a rose is different from that which produces a lily, and ever remains different. The cause that produces a lion is different from that which produces a lamb. It is not circumstances, the peculiarity of education, nor any other external thing, that makes this difference, for it is radical. And as this is true in the broader, so is it true in all the minuter — shades of difference that exist in the world of nature. If there be any difference in form, there is a corresponding difference, be it ever so minute, in the producing cause.
Keeping this in view, it may readily be seen, that what makes man a man, and woman a woman, is not the body — but the mind; and, as the body is formed from, by, or through the mind as a cause, the mind of a man must be different from the mind of a woman, because he has a different external conformation. This difference is not a slight one; it is a difference that pervades every part of the body.
The question now comes — "In what does this difference specifically consist?" Before attempting to answer this fully, let it be remarked, that this difference is a uniting difference, not a separating one; and that inherent in the two sexes is an instinct that tends to a union of one with the other. This union, let it be further stated, is necessary to the formation of a perfect being: until it does take place, both the man and the woman must be, in a certain sense, imperfect — he only a thinking person, and she only a loving person. But when it is effected, then both unite to form one truly perfect person, with thought and affection in their fullest power.
As clearly as it is possible for us to do it, will we now endeavor to show in what the difference of the sexes consists. The mind is composed of two faculties, Will and Understanding; the one the seat of affection, and the other the seat of thought. The brain is that organ by which the mind acts, and is marked by two grand divisions, the cerebrum and the cerebellum. The cerebrum occupies the highest and anterior part of the skull, while the cerebellum, or little brain, as it is sometimes called, occupies the lower and posterior part of the skull. It is by means of the cerebellum that the will acts, and by means of the cerebrum that the understanding acts. By the will, affections are excited; and by the understanding, thoughts. The will feels, or loves; the understanding thinks. The understanding is the agent of the will, and bodies forth or gives forms to its peculiar affections. The will is a person's life or love, and the understanding is only the means by which the life or love of a person comes into activity, and thence into power.
By keeping this division in the mind, the difference between the sexes, when stated, will be clearly apparent. A man has will and understanding, and a cerebellum and cerebrum by which they act; and so has a woman. In this they are alike. But in man the understanding predominates, and in woman the will; and here they are different. If this is so, we may, of course, expect to find a larger development of the cerebrum, or upper brain, in man, and a larger development of the cerebellum, or lower brain, in woman; and this is so. A man's head is higher, and fuller in front, than a woman's; while a woman's head is broader and larger posterior than a man's.
From this it will be seen that man has a will and an understanding; and so has a woman; that both are thinking and loving beings — but that in one the understanding or intellect preponderates, and in the other the will or affections; and therefore to claim mental equality is absurd. A man is not equal to a woman, nor a woman equal to a man. As to the question of superiority, we leave that for others to decide; merely stating, however, that the will has reference to good, and the understanding to truth; the affections regarding quality or good, and the understanding being merely the discriminating power by which truth is perceived. Some think good higher than truth; and this is our own opinion. Good is, in fact, the essence, and truth the form, of a thing.
The true difference between the sexes, is that which we have just stated. Now, let any sensible woman reflect upon the nature of this difference, and she will at once see that the claim of equality which is set up is altogether an erroneous one, and that the attempt to make woman equal in the way some contend that she should be, would be to do the greatest possible wrong, both to herself and society. That she has not the strong intellectual power that man possesses, no woman — but one blinded by her own pride and self-love, will for a moment attempt to maintain. There are men of weak intellect, and women of strong intellect; but take the whole mass of women and the whole mass of men, and everyone can see that there is an immense preponderance of intellect in the one over the other. By intellect do not understand us to say mind: we are only speaking of a faculty of the mind by which man is peculiarly distinguished. Love, the sweeter, purer, stronger quality of mind, is womanly.
In the beginning, God made man male and female. There is a deep significance in this peculiar language. It is said in the Bible, speaking of a man and his wife, that the two shall be one flesh. And the common perception of mankind, brought down into common language, is, that "a man and his wife are one." This is not a mere figure of speech, a beautiful idealism. It is the truth. A man and his wife, truly so, are one.
Now, how can two things, precisely alike, become one? A man and a man are alike, and so are a woman and a woman; but they cannot become one. There needs to be a uniting difference; and this we have in the preponderance of intellect in man, and affection in woman; and their union, mystical and holy, is needed to make one truly perfect, effective person.
Of the nature of this mystical union we had thought of speaking here at some length; but the subject is rather difficult of comprehension, and hardly in place in a work like this.
It follows, from what has been said, that marriage is essential to human perfection. This we firmly believe; and we also believe that where marriage is opposed from principle, (it never is from any other than a selfish principle,) the mind becomes perverted from its true order, and the intellect weakened.
It may seem to some, that to say equality of the sexes is not the true mode of speaking, as a denial of this equality, leaves on the mind an idea of inferiority of one to the other. To some, the terms used will doubtless convey this meaning. The difficulty of choosing terms that express with perfect exactness what we desire to convey, is often very great, especially as to the same set of terms different people attach peculiar, and sometimes very important, shades of difference. By equal, as used in this chapter, is meant being alike as to mental conformation and mental power — which is denied. As to which is highest or lowest, superior or inferior — that is another matter. Here we believe woman to be the equal of man; not born to obedience — but to be his intelligent and loving companion.
Let no young woman be deceived by the class of reformers, to which we made allusion in the commencement of this chapter. Some of them, stepping out of the sphere for which God and their own peculiar mental qualities designed them, speak with scoffing of the holy state of wedlock. No good, in any case, has ever arisen — but much evil, from the promulgation of their pernicious doctrines. Man, they are too much in the habit of representing as a selfish tyrant, and woman as his plaything or slave; and they are full of intemperate appeals to their gender to throw off the yoke that man has placed upon their necks. That there are men who are selfish tyrants, and make slaves of their wives — is not to be denied; but just as many women tyrannize over their husbands. These form the exceptions, not the rule; and to judge of all, by these exceptions, shows either a weak head or a bad heart.
As far as we have observed these social reformers, we find that the great evil complained of, the head and front of all the wrong they suffer — lies in the necessity there is for the female gender to attend to domestic duties, while man steps abroad into the world, and makes himself a name and a place therein. They complain that every avenue to wealth, place, and preferment, is blocked up by men, and that a woman is not permitted, by the absurd customs of society, to contend for honors and wealth — but must meekly withdraw into her little circle at home, and be content with her husband's honor, or the portion of his wealth he may choose to dole out to her.
With this idea set steadily before their minds, at the same time that they are profoundly ignorant of what really makes the difference between man and woman, they see nothing but wrong and oppression in the usages of society, and charge upon man the authorship of what is only the legitimate result of a law impressed by the hand of God upon the human mind.
In thus speaking, it is not meant to deny that many evils exist in society, and that women do not suffer sorely from these evils. This, alas! we know too well. But that which is pointed out by the people we allude to, as the cause, is not the true one.
There is something really so absurd and revolting in the idea of taking woman out of her present sphere, and her present high and holy uses in society, and placing her side by side with man in the world's rough arena, and in contest with him for honor, and fame, and wealth, that we cannot seriously argue against it. We have deemed it sufficient to show that, in the very nature of things, such can never be the case.
CONDUCT TOWARDS MEN
There are two extremes which we constantly see among young women on first going into company, and coming into the society of men. The one is a simpering bashfulness, which looks and is very silly; while the other is exhibited in a bold, free air, that is even more offensive to good sense and propriety. A little more confidence will correct the one — and a little more modesty the other. Both are exceedingly unpleasant to meet with, though the former is much more tolerable to men of true feeling and discernment than the latter. These latter will always find plenty of young men ready to gossip, and flirt, and take liberties of speech with them — which the self-respect of any modest girl would cause her at once to repel; but the crowd they gather around them is far from being a crowd of real admirers; or, if weak enough to admire, they are far from being such admirers as a true woman would wish to have. They are mostly silly boys, or men who have lost all true respect for woman.
On first going into company, a pure-minded, truly modest, inexperienced girl, will naturally feel a degree of reserve and embarrassment, especially on meeting with and being introduced to strange young men. This feeling of reserve she should not seek to throw off, unless the men have received their introduction to her through her father or brother, or some particular friend of the family, in whom her parents evidently place great confidence. When this is the case, politeness requires that she should endeavor to make herself agreeable and entertaining to the person so introduced, by joining in conversation with him upon some general topic, instead of merely replying in monosyllables to every remark he may offer — a custom that is very annoying to a person who is politely endeavoring to entertain another. Don't say that you cannot do it — that you don't know what to say. Compose your mind, and think, and thought will soon dictate what you ought to say. If, however, the person who is seeking your acquaintance, has been introduced, without your consent, by someone other than your father, brother, or your parents' particular friend, you cannot be too reserved towards him. You have no guaranty for his character or his principles, and therefore you should not let him be upon easy and familiar terms with you.
In regard to her acquaintances of the other gender, a young lady cannot be too particular. It is no proof that a young man is worthy to be numbered among her friends, because he is well dressed, good looking, converses intelligently, and visits at the house, or attends the parties given by this, that, or the other respectable person. The error of believing this is a too common — but a very dangerous one. Unfortunately, such evidences are no proofs of true respectability and virtue. As society is now constituted, the worst class of young men, as well as the best, are equally free to mingle in fashionable circles: all that is needed to give them access are family, education, and good manners. The most depraved, alike with the most virtuous — may possess these external advantages.
How often is it the case that we see a young man, whose habits are as bad as a depraved heart can make them, in close and friendly conversation, and, it may be, impiously venturing to touch the hand of a pure-minded, innocent girl, who, if the quality of his mind could be made apparent to her, would shrink from him with horror! It is, we regret to say, an almost every-day occurrence. To prevent this as far as possible, a young lady should decline all proposed introductions, unless made by her nearest and best friends — those whom she knows to be discriminating, and who have her welfare deeply at heart.
If introductions are forced upon her without her consent, she can do no less than treat the person so introduced with politeness; but she should limit the acquaintance to the particular occasion. Afterwards she should be careful to treat the individual as a stranger. If he, however, taking advantage of his introduction, should force himself upon her, she should not treat him with rudeness — no lady will do that — but with a degree of coldness that will sooner or later cause him to feel that his acquaintance is not agreeable.
Reserve like this, is absolutely necessary to the protection of a pure-hearted maiden, in a society constituted as ours at present is. The semblances of all that is honorable and noble-minded are so perfect, that even mature age, with all its penetration, cannot sometimes see through the veil which hides corruption and moral deformity, much less the eyes of a young and inexperienced girl.
Treated by the other gender as a woman, a maiden of seventeen, eighteen, or even twenty, is apt to forget that she knows little or nothing of the world, and that her knowledge of character is very limited. All around her, it seems as if a book were laid open, and she has but to read and obtain the fullest information on whatever appertains to life. But she has yet to learn that she sees only the appearances of things — and that realities are hidden beneath them, and cannot be seen by her except through the eyes of those who are older and more experienced.
If she will believe this, it will make her modest and reserved; modesty and reserve will make her thoughtful; thinking is the mind's seeing power, and by it, and it alone, will a young lady be able to see for herself what is right, and form her own judgment of the world into which she has been introduced, and where she has an important part to act as a woman. The men with whom she comes in contact are often from two to three, and sometimes from six to seven, years older than herself. They have seen more and thought more than she has. The first deceitful appearances of life have passed away with them, and they can see beneath the surface.
When in company with men, therefore, a young lady should seek rather to follow than lead in the conversation; for, by doing this, she will gain much useful information and many desirable hints in regard to manners, character, social usages, books, and various other matters useful to be known.
If, as will not infrequently be the case, young men begin some trifling chit-chat about fashion, or idle gossip, or calls attention to some peculiarity of dress, person, or manner in individuals present — a young lady should as adroitly as possible change the subject, and endeavor to lead her companion into a conversation on topics of more interest and importance. If she fails in doing this, she should maintain a rigid silence on the subjects introduced; they are unworthy of her, and their introduction should be felt as no compliment.
It may be, that her companion is not able to talk about anything more sensible; if that is the case, the quicker he seeks to entertain those like him, the better, and a young lady of good sense will think stooping to gossip with him too dear a price to pay for his favorable opinion.
Never converse with young men about your own private and personal matters, nor of the concerns of your family. They are merely your acquaintances — not your confidential friends, and never should be admitted to that distinction.
Some young men will take a dishonorable advantage of such things, and repeat what you have said in order to make it appear that you entertain for them a particular preference. If what you have really said is not sufficient to give that construction to it, they will add a little coloring, so as to make it suit their purpose. Many a young lady, could she hear her own words repeated, with a certain construction placed upon them by young men, would weep with shame and mortification. It is impossible for you to be too guarded in this particular. If you could but once hear, as the writer has dozens of times heard, young men, after spending an evening in free, social fellowship with young ladies, relate what this, that, and the other one said to them, and the manner of saying it, with the construction placed upon both words and manner — you would almost be tempted to seal your lips in silence when again in company. In matters like this, the vanity of some young men causes them to see far more than ever existed.
Be modest, thoughtful, and rather reserved — than free in your manner; repel with coldness and silence, all familiarity; take but little part in romantic conversations, if introduced, and repress any free expression of admiration for poetry, starlight, and moonshine, no matter how strong you may feel it. Be careful how you compliment a young man's appearance, his manners, or his talents; and, above all, let your intentions and thoughts be right, and you need not fear any serious misjudgment of your feelings or character.
Among the errors which young ladies are very prone to commit is one that all men notice, and which some men feel to be very annoying, especially as the error, in too many cases, is one that mature years does not seem to correct. In this country, politeness, deference, and attention to ladies, are considered cardinal virtues among well-bred men. The best places at table, the most comfortable seats in public conveyances, the most delicate and choice viands at a meal — in fact, everything that is most comfortable, or that can at all be a matter of preference — is generously yielded by gentlemen to ladies, not as their right — but from feelings of kindness, or from the dictate of that genuine politeness that always prefers another.
So habitual is this to gentlemen, that a young lady meeting with deference and attention everywhere, is apt to fall into the error of supposing that it belongs to her gender as a right, instead of being yielded by good feeling. We can suppose no other to be the reason why so many ladies, instead of waiting for these preferences to be shown, boldly claim them; or, when shown, never seem to imagine that a polite acknowledgment of the kindness is the smallest return they can make.
How often do we see a lady at a concert, or other public place, walk deliberately up to a gentleman who has come much earlier than she has, in order to secure a good seat, and stand in front of him, with a look or manner that says, as plain as words, "Come, sir! give place. I wish to have that seat." The same rudeness and lack of respect to the rights of the other gender, are daily seen by those who ride in the omnibuses. The coach is stopped, and a lady of this class comes to the door for the purpose of entering, and finds every seat taken. Instead of at once retiring, she coolly waits for the gentleman nearest the door to get out of the vehicle, in order that she may get in; and it most generally happens that, for the sake of appearances alone, some one of them yields his place — no matter whether he is too much indisposed to walk without great fatigue, or be in haste on important business — and the lady gets in, perfectly unconscious of the fact that every one of her male fellow-passengers feels that she has trespassed upon their good feelings as men. The true lady, the moment she discovers that the coach is full, retires; but it is very rarely that she is not immediately recalled by someone, who says he has but a short distance farther to go, or who will stand outside, or who professes to be in no hurry, and would just as soon walk as ride. When pains are thus taken to make room for a lady, she should, in most cases, accept the offered seat with an expression of thanks, as, by so doing, she will afford the person who offers it far more pleasure than if she were to decline the politeness.
There is often more lady-like feeling displayed in accepting an offered kindness, than in declining it. It is not a little curious to see how these very ladies, who expect so much from gentlemen, seem to forget that anything is due from themselves. Who has not come to the door of an omnibus, one side of which had its complement of six, while upon the other side four ladies had spread themselves out, from end to end of the seat, not one of whom would move an inch to make place for another, who had an absolute right to a part they were ungenerously occupying? It is usually a matter of indifference whether the new passenger are a lady or a gentleman; no offer of a seat is made, and the passenger has to retire, while the owners of the vehicle are wronged out of a portion of their profits.
All these things are noticed in a moment by gentlemen, and form subjects of remark among them. Some, with more independent firmness than others, make it a rule never to yield their rights to any woman who thus rudely demands a deference to her convenience; while to a true lady, they voluntarily render every attention, and yield every preference.
Young ladies should, on entering society, learn to think correctly, that they may act correctly, in all matters relating to their fellowship with gentlemen. By always remembering that they have no real title to a preference in everything, they will be sure to receive with a proper feeling, and a proper acknowledgment of the kindness, all polite attentions and preferences that are accorded to them by the other gender.
Instead of expecting to be always receiving attentions from gentlemen, there should be an effort made to reciprocate kind offices in every possible and proper way. The preference yielded, the attention offered, the generous self-denial made for your comfort, at the same time that it is accepted, should always be retained with an air that shows that you feel it to be a favor, and not a right to which you are entitled.
Character of the Men Who Are Received as Visitors
A young lady always has it in her power to limit her visiting acquaintances to those whose characters she fully approves. And this she owes it to herself to do.
In forming an estimate of character, a young lady will always find some difficulty, because she must be ignorant of a young man's habits, if bad, except so far as a knowledge of them happens to come to her through common report. To a very considerable extent, however, the instinctive perceptions of a virtuous young woman will materially aid her in forming an estimate of the young men into whose society she is thrown. If, from the first, the presence of anyone is repugnant to her, she will do well to avoid the society of that person, no matter how perseveringly he may seek to gain her good opinion. Around the mind of everyone is a sphere of its quality, as certainly as fragrance surrounds a flower; and this quality is perceived in attractions or repulsions, by all who are similar or dissimilar. The good are instinctively drawn towards each other — and so are the evil, without the real cause coming into the mind's consciousness.
The quality of the affections, likewise, whether good or evil, are expressed in the eye and on the face; and although we have no key to their interpretation, and cannot say, except in certain cases, what the mind's true quality is, from what it stamps upon the face, yet we have an instinctive perception of it as good or evil, and are repelled or attracted involuntarily. To her first impressions of character, it will, therefore, always be well for a young lady to pay great respect, and always admit with caution, anyone who was at first repugnant to a friendly relation. She who will keep her mind pure, and carefully observe and be guided by her first impressions of character, will not be in much danger of making the acquaintance of young men of bad moral principles.
But this test is not always practical, and, from many causes not necessary to be explained here, not always to be relied upon. Nor will the dislikes and prejudices of a young lady, as they will be called, always be considered by her friends as sufficient reasons for her declining the visits of certain young men who to them seem very unexceptionable.
If she has brothers, their unfavorable opinion of a young man, even if no allegations are made against him, should generally be considered by a young lady, as a sufficient reason for keeping him at a distance. Her brothers have opportunities of knowing more about young men than she possibly has; for among young men, the habits and principles of each other are pretty well known. If she is in doubt, let her ask her mother's opinion; and sufficient evidence to warrant a young man's encouragement or repulsion as a visitor, will, in most cases, be soon furnished.
When the character of a young man is known to be bad — if he has betrayed innocence, or been guilty of any dishonorable act — let him not, on any consideration, be admitted to a visiting acquaintance, nor, even in public assemblies, noticed, except with coldness and formality. His family connections, his education, manners, polish, intelligence, or ability to entertain — should be considered as nothing when put in the scale against his evil principles, and the irreparable wrong he has done in society.
It has always been a matter of surprise and regret to the writer to see so different a custom from this prevailing in society; and he has often been led to question the purity of mind of those young girls who seemed so eager to gain the notice and return the attentions of certain young men, notorious for their lack of virtue. Until women themselves mark with appropriate condemnation, the known wicked conduct of young men, and rigidly exclude all such from intimate fellowship with them, they allow the moral atmosphere around them to remain in an unhealthy state; and its respiration, as a natural consequence, is detrimental to all who breathe it.
One reason, and a most important one, why a young lady should not admit to a friendly acquaintance any young man whom she has not the very best reasons for believing to be virtuous and honorable, is this: The highest and best, and therefore the happiest, social relation is that of marriage. A young lady cannot visit young men for the purpose of making a selection of a husband; she has to remain at home and wait until someone chooses her out from all the rest, and asks her to become his partner through life. This is a matter in which, although she must remain passive, she is deeply and vitally interested; and she cannot but desire that her hand may be sought by one who has every virtue written upon his heart. To accept or reject an offer of marriage is always in her power, and this right she should exercise with deliberation, wisdom, and firmness.
It will almost always follow, that he who seeks her hand will be of those who have been for a time her visiting friends, and with whom she has been on terms of more unrestrained fellowship than with any others. Viewed in this light, the importance of not admitting any but men of known excellence of character as visiting friends, will be clearly seen; for it may happen, that, if this rule is not followed, the most unsuitable, because the most unprincipled of all — may be the one who makes the offer of marriage; and the young woman thus addressed may be led, from being flattered by the preference, and dazzled by a specious exterior — to forget or disbelieve the common estimation in which he is everywhere held, and accept an offer which may entail upon her a lifetime of regrets, and perhaps of misery!
It will, likewise, almost always happen that a young lady will be judged of by the company she keeps. A man of strict integrity and virtue, will be very apt to think lightly of any one at whose house he meets a person that he knows to be bad, especially if he seems to be on good terms there; and he will also be very apt to visit less frequently than would otherwise be the case. Thus, for lack of sufficient firmness, it may be, to repel the advances of a bad man — a young lady may have to give up the benefits of the society of a good man — a consequence that she should be most careful to avoid.
In selecting from her casual acquaintances those that she feels willing and desirous of admitting to the privilege of visiting her on terms of social intimacy, a young lady should be careful that brilliant qualities of mind, a cultivated taste, and superior conversational powers — do not overcome her virtuous repugnance to base principles and a depraved life; or cause her to forget that these may exist under the most polished exterior!
Those who possess sterling qualities of virtue, are not always as highly gifted as some others, and often, at first, seem very dull and very uninteresting people. Their silent and close observation of all that is passing around them, is frequently mistaken for dullness, when, at the very time this false estimation of them has been formed, they have read thoroughly, and without mistaking a letter, the whole characters of those who had misjudged them. No matter how well educated a young man may be, nor how varied may be his powers of entertainment — no young lady should permit him to visit her familiarly, if she has undoubted evidence of his moral depravity. There is pollution in the very atmosphere that surrounds him. The more attractive his exterior — the more dangerous he is as a companion for a young and inexperienced girl, and the more likely to dazzle and bewilder her mind, and give her false estimates of things, where true estimates are of the very first importance.
A young lady who admits to her acquaintance a well-educated, polished, accomplished — but cold-hearted, unprincipled man of the world, has placed herself in a dangerous position. She is no equal for such a one. He can, with a subtlety almost beyond the power of her detection, change her ordinary views of things, confuse her judgment, and destroy her rational confidence in the discriminating powers of her own mind. At the same time that, by the most judicious and delicately-offered flattery — he keeps her always in a good opinion of herself. All this may be done without his having any particular design in view. He is fond of the company of ladies, and, while with them, from the abundance of his heart, will utterance come forth.
In choosing her acquaintances, then, let a young lady look to good sense, good taste, and good principles — rather than to brilliancy of exterior without these. In doing so, she will find more upon which to base a true, improving, elevating, and refining companionship, than if she selects from a different but more imposing class.
RECEIVING ATTENTIONS FROM MEN
As there is always danger of misunderstanding what is meant by the particular attentions of young men, it is best to attach no particular meaning to them whatever — but to hold the mind in a state of rational equilibrium. If a young girl does not think about marriage and a lover, she will not be in much danger of misinterpreting either the words or manner of her male acquaintances — nor will they be in much danger of making mistakes as to the character of her regard for them.
In the free, social fellowship of a young lady with her friends of the other gender, the idea of love, or a particular preference of one over the other, should never be permitted to enter her mind. She should look upon them as her intelligent friends, and feel that their association was for mutual advantage in elevating the mind, improving the taste, and strengthening the moral principles.
It will frequently happen, however, that some of her acquaintances will be more marked in their attentions than the rest, and, from the privilege of being occasional visitors, seek to establish a still more familiar and unreserved fellowship. This will be shown, it may be, in the offer of presents, and in invitations to attend balls, the theater, a concert, or some other place of public resort.
In regard to presents, a lady of much good sense and true discernment has thus written: "Accepting presents from gentlemen is a dangerous thing. Some men conclude from your taking one gift, that you will accept another — and think themselves encouraged by it to offer their hearts to you; but, even when no misapprehension of this kind follows, it is better to avoid every such obligation; and, if you make it a general rule never to accept a present from a gentleman, you will avoid hurting any one's feelings, and save yourself from all further perplexity. Where ladies are known to be in the habit of refusing presents, and yet are objects of great admiration and devotion, they will often receive anonymous gifts, which it is impossible to elude. When this is the case, it is a good way to put them aside, out of sight, and never to mention them. The pleasure of seeing them on your table, and hearing them talked about, and the donor's name speculated upon, is often sufficient to induce a repetition of the anonymous deed, or an acknowledgment of it, which is very embarrassing, as you must either break your rule, or hurt the feelings of the donor.
Of all the votive offerings made to the young and the fair, flowers are the most beautiful and most acceptable. Where it is the fashion for gentlemen to present bouquets to their female friends, so many are given that it seems more like a tribute to the gender, than a mark of particular regard, and their perishable nature exempts them from the ban put upon more enduring memorials. You can accept and wear flowers without committing yourself, and to refuse them would be unnecessary rigor. If any peculiar circumstance makes you desirous of distancing a gentleman, you can take the flowers without wearing them."
In regard to invitations from young men to go with them to places of public amusement, we think, as a general rule, they should be declined. And this for several reasons. We do not believe any young lady should appear at a ball, the theater, or concert, except in company with her parents, brother, cousin, or some very intimate friend of the family — unless she is under engagement of marriage, and then her lover becomes her legitimate protector and companion.
In the first place, to accept of such attentions would be for a young lady to lay herself under an obligation that might, at some after period, be very embarrassing, or so interfere with her feelings of independence, as to make it difficult for her to act towards an individual, who had thus sought to gratify her, as both feeling and judgment dictated. And in the second place, her thus appearing in public with a young man known not to be an intimate friend of the family, would naturally give rise to the belief that she entertained for him a preference which did not exist, and thus place her in a false light in the eyes of her acquaintances; and this would more certainly be the case, if some other friend, whose invitation she felt compelled to decline, were to offer a like attention.
If a young lady is fond of riding on horseback, and among her male acquaintances are those who are equally fond of the healthful exercise, there will be no impropriety in her accepting an invitation to ride, if one or more young ladies are to be of the company. But, in doing so, she should make it a rule always to have the horse she is to ride ordered from the stable by a servant, at her own or father's expense. It may so happen that the circumstances of a young lady's family are such, that the hire of a horse, even occasionally, is a matter of outlay that cannot be afforded. Where this is the case, she ought by all means to deny herself the gratification of riding out, rather than permit any young man, not her accepted lover, to bear the expense.
We need hardly refer to the outrageous lack of all decent respect for herself, which would prompt a young lady to invite, by adroit references to an approaching concert, or to her extreme fondness for horseback exercise, a young man to be at the cost of gratifying the desire she feels to participate in these, or in any other pleasures. And yet such things are of too frequent occurrence, and among those who ought to have much better sense, and more modesty, than to even desire to be the companions of young men not entitled to the privilege, on such occasions. Those who do it, gain the pleasure of present gratification — at the expense of diminished respect in the eyes of the very men who seemed to take so much delight in obliging them. But little flattered would a young lady, who had been guilty of so flagrant a violation of good sense, good manners, and politeness, feel, to overhear a conversation like this:
"Didn't I see you at Hertz's concert with Caroline Thompson?"
"How in the world did you come to have that honor?"
The young man addressed shrugs his shoulders and arches his eyebrows — but makes no reply.
"How was it, Harry? Tell me! I had no idea of your being particularly taken in that quarter."
"Nor am I very much taken. The fact is, I couldn't help myself."
"No, the gypsy asked me to take her, and I couldn't refuse, of course."
"O, no, Harry! That can't be. Caroline Thompson would hardly do that."
"She could — and she did. Not, it is true, in so many words; but she talked about Hertz's concert in such a way that she left me no alternative but to ask her if I could not have the pleasure of accompanying her to his concert. I was in hopes she would have the good taste, on reflection, to decline; but no, she took me up on the spot! And I was compelled to go with her, and leave my sister Jane, who is almost dying to hear this great performer, at home."
"Is it possible! Why, I never heard of such a thing. The girl cannot have a particle of respect for herself."
"If she has, it is a very strange kind of respect. I wonder whom she will get to take her to Sivori's concert. She alluded to him two or three times — but couldn't make me understand her. Suppose you invite her to go."
"O, no, thank you. I'd rather be excused. I'm not at all ambitious of the honor."
"Nor I. The next time I am in her company, and any allusion is made to an approaching concert, I will change the subject!"
But little flattered, we repeat, would any young lady feel to overhear a conversation like this, of which she was the subject; and yet this is precisely the light in which conduct such as we now allude to is viewed, and young men do not hesitate to speak of it, among each other, in even stronger terms than we have given.
Before a young lady reaches the age of twenty years, she should, as a general rule, discourage all particular attentions from young men, and endeavor to hold her mind as balanced and independent in regard to all her male acquaintances as possible. The subject of marriage, except as an abstract question upon which certain opinions are held, should never be allowed to come up when thinking of, or in company with, her young friends and acquaintances.
To have a lover before she is twenty, is, in most cases, a misfortune for a young girl. In nine cases out of ten, this lover is not the one that would be accepted if the affections were free at twenty or twenty-one. The love of boys and girls is never founded upon a true basis — but is merely the offspring of blind passion. It may turn out well. The parties, when their minds expand, and they become men and women — may be exactly suited to each other; but the chances are altogether against it. Nor is the love of a man, whose mind has attained maturity, for a girl who is still too young to wisely accept an offer of marriage — a love that promises happiness as the fruit. He cannot know her as a man ought to know the woman who becomes his wife — nor can she possibly know him as a woman ought to know the man she marries. Viewing the matter, then, in any light you please, the acceptance of a lover before twenty involves a great risk.
If to accept a lover before this age is, then, a hazardous thing — then the permission of any marked attentions from any particular young man is unwise. Better treat all alike, and endeavor to feel for all alike; that is, as nearly as it can be done. Of course there must and will be preferences; but let these be the preferences of your taste and judgment, not of your heart. Thus, holding your affections free at this most important age, when the mind is first looking out intelligently upon the world, you will acquire a clearness of mental vision, a power of discrimination, and an insight into character — otherwise unattainable.
But, if you permit yourself to fall in love, the balance of your mind is gone; you see nothing, you hear nothing, you feel nothing, that does not in some way connect itself with the object of your affections. All improvement of the mind ceases; the judgment, not yet arrived at its full stature, ceases to grow, and hardens into a diminutive form; your powers of discrimination expand no farther. You stop where you are, and rarely, if ever, make a woman whose influence in society is beneficially perceived. This is blind love — a very different thing from the strong, deep, intelligent affection of a true woman. How any man can be satisfied with the immature love of a silly young girl is beyond our conception. Indeed, we do not believe, as a general thing, that a man who is thus satisfied — is worthy of the affections he seeks to gain.
On the subject of early marriages, a diversity of opinions prevails; and they generally swing, like the pendulum of a clock, from one extreme to the other. A young lady will hear someone strongly advocate early marriages today, and tomorrow hear an opposite opinion advanced and vigorously maintained. It is but rarely the case, that those who enter into these discussions really understand the subject of marriage, and therefore cannot declare what is absolutely true on this disputed question. And, besides, what one means by early marriage is a different thing from what another means. In most cases, these opinions are based upon the evil or good that has happened to result from what are considered early marriages, in instances which have fallen under the notice of those who advocate or condemn, instead of flowing from a knowledge of the true laws that ought to govern in marriage.
The writer is an advocate of early marriages between men and women — not between boys and girls. That which makes man truly a man, and woman truly a woman, is rationality — not the legal age. Freedom from the restraints of youth, and an acquirement of the legal rights of majority, are very far from giving this. It comes from experience, to which have been added thinking and observation.
Nothing is seen in its true aspect, when we first enter upon life; and it is only after our judgments have been matured by a few years of experience, that we can really see things around us in their true relation one to the other. A few years, too, makes us see not only deeper into what is outside of us — but also into what is within us; and scarcely a month of this period passes without our being led to correct some error or misconception into which we had fallen. If, during this period, mistakes are constantly made in matters of trivial importance — then what security is there that a mistake will not be made in that most important of all the acts of a woman's life — marriage? There is none, and the fact that the saddest possible mistakes are made almost every day, ought to warn, if proper reflection will not — a young lady against the error of permitting her affections to be drawn out before at least two years have passed from the time of her leaving school as a young woman. Usually, she has it in her power to do this.
Marriage from the age of twenty to twenty-two or three, we think an early marriage for a woman, and believe that evils almost always arise from an earlier consummation of a marriage contract. Mr. Combe is of opinion, "that many young people of both sexes fall as sacrifices to early marriages, who might have withstood the ordinary risks of life, and lived together in happiness, if they had delayed their union for a few years, and allowed time for the consolidation of their constitutions." And this must strike every reflecting mind as true, without the necessity of looking around to see the hundreds of young mothers with shattered constitutions, lingering over the grave, or sinking down into its chilling precincts. Neither physical nor mental health can follow a marriage that takes place too early. It is almost impossible to make a right choice, and the constitution is not well enough formed to bear the great physical changes that usually occur.
If young ladies would learn to think above the fact of marriage, and not consider it a state in which they were merely to find the highest possible delight attainable on earth — but a state in which they could be most useful, and impart blessings and dispense happiness to others — they would not rush so thoughtlessly into this important relation — but would be very sure that what they loved in another was really worth loving, and that they were loved in return for their mental and moral qualities, and not merely for their external beauty.
True love — that which abides — has its foundation in a knowledge and appreciation of moral qualities. These cannot be known without the power of discerning them, and this power is not sufficiently developed, in very young people, to enable them to decide upon the fitness of another to become a wife or a husband. Family connections, talents, beauty of person, and exterior grace, may all be decided upon; but other qualifications are required — without which marriage is only an external union — that call for a deeper discrimination than anyone possesses in the first years of his or her majority.
Too early marriages, from the causes briefly alluded to here, are productive of much unhappiness. From their bewildering dream, a young couple, who have unwisely rushed into marriage before either of them was old enough really to understand what love meant, not infrequently awake, in the course of a very short time, to the painful consciousness that they have wedded unwisely. If in the mind of each is a groundwork of good sense and good feeling, the consequences may not be so very bad, although through life there will be times when each will deeply and sadly regret their early act of folly.
But in most cases, either in one or the other, there exists a peculiarity of temperament that entirely mars the happiness of both. Open disagreements or secret bickerings turn the holy and happy state of marriage — into a condition of inexpressible misery, the larger share of which usually falls upon the head of the one least able to bear it — the wife. Or actual hatred of one towards the other is engendered, and they are driven asunder, and stand in society as the disfigured and disfiguring mementos of the folly of a too hasty marriage!
When, however, a young lady has reached the age we have named, and a man, known to be virtuous and honorable, has formally offered her his hand, and been accepted — the marriage ought not long to be delayed, if no impediment exist, such as inability on the part of the young man to support a wife.
Among the reasons that have been urged against a young lady's contracting marriage immediately, is the following by Mrs. Farrar, which is well worth considering. She says, "The married school-girl deprives herself of a most delightful and useful stage in her existence — that of a grown-up daughter, maturing under the eye of a mother, and the influence of a home circle, with time enough for mental culture, and a useful experience of domestic affairs — without the care which belongs to the mistress of a family. She loses all the varied pleasures of a young lady, and skips at once from childhood to married life. Early marriage also prevents the literary education of a girl being carried far enough for it to go forward easily amid the cares of a family, and therefore it often ceases altogether; in a few years, she loses what little she acquired at school, and degenerates into a mere housekeeper and nurse." "I would gladly believe that I am writing for a class of ladies too young to need much advice upon love and marriage; and though I occasionally hear of school-girls who forfeit the privileges and pleasures of being grown-up young ladies, and jump at once into the cares of married life, I trust that increased knowledge and wisdom, on the part of the young and old, will prevent such immature marriages, and give women an opportunity of being more fully developed in body and mind, before they subject either to the severe trials which belong to wives and mothers."
This is a subject upon which a great deal has been written and a great deal thought — but the world is yet very slow in perceiving and adopting what is true in relation to it; and such will continue to be the case until this important law is clearly understood and acknowledged, namely: that the end for which a thing is done — gives quality to the act. Whoever marries without having just ideas of so important a relation, runs great danger of committing an error which will render all the well-springs of her happiness, muddy for life. This being the case, we ask of our fair young friends to consider deeply what we shall say in this chapter, and endeavor to comprehend it fully.
The law just stated — that the end for which a thing is done, qualifies the act — is one that applies with particular force to marriage. Marriage is a divine institution, ordained for the highest purposes; and a marriage contract between two people is the most important and solemn act of their whole lives; for it not only effects a change in things outward — but also in things appertaining to the spirit, for it brings into a relationship the most intimate possible two minds, that, if they do not harmonize — must act upon and react against each other with a disturbing force that necessarily precludes the soul's true development and perfection.
Now, unless the end for which a marriage contract is formed be a right end — the marriage cannot be a happy one; and just in the degree that the end has been selfish, and has regarded things external, as wealth, connections, beauty, or other mere personal attractions — so far will unhappiness be the result.
To make this plainly apparent, let us suppose that a young lady is attracted by the brilliant talents of the man who addresses her; and that he is more attracted by her beauty of person, or the wealth she inherits, than by her virtues. Now, both of these reasons for loving (we should rather say for a preference, for there is no love in the question) are merely selfish. The lady does not desire a union with the man because she loves the moral perfections of his character, and seeks to become one with him; but her pride, overshadowing all such holy considerations, seeks to unite her name with his that she may stand higher in the world's estimation. That this is so, will be plain to anyone who will think calmly on the subject.
On the other hand, the man does not seek a union with her because he regards marriage with a high and sacred regard, as a means whereby a pure, virtuous, and loving spirit may become blended as one with his own, and both be more perfected by the union; he does not love her because she embodies the very virtues and perfections that seem purest and best in his eyes. No! He wants more money than he has yet been able to possess, and, loving money better than anything else, he takes her because she has enough of this valuable commodity to satisfy to some extent his cupidity. Or, having an admiration for beauty, and vanity enough to consider the acclaim attached to a beautiful wife as something desirable — he is guided in his choice by beauty alone, unregardful of the more important qualifications necessary to make a woman his true and loving companion.
Here, it will be seen that the end which each had in view has given quality to the act of each. The choice has been made to rest on external considerations alone — and must be productive of disappointment and consequent unhappiness. It will take but a short time for the lady to make the sad discovery — that the brilliant reputation of her husband is no compensation for a morose temper, a love of dissipation, indifference to his wife, fault-finding, lack of principle, or, even worse, infidelity! Nor will it take him long to tire of her beauty, or to discover that, now that he has full possession of her property — her person is of little value!
This is presenting an extreme case; yet such are every day occurring. In most cases of marriage, even when selfish considerations like these are predominant, there is yet in the parties sufficient good sense to be aware that indifference to purity and qualities of mind is an error that might prove fatal to happiness; and therefore they are careful to see that in those who possess the main prerequisites, there are no faults or peculiarities of character which could not well be borne. These marriages prove unhappy just in the degree that the leading end was of a selfish and external character; but the good sense that prompted some regard to qualities of mind, shows itself afterwards in an effort to make the very best of a bad bargain. Although the parties never know, by experience, what true felicity flows from a true marriage, they, nevertheless, in most cases, manage to get along as comfortably as possible, and avoid, as far as it can be done, all bickerings and collisions, for the sake of peace, their reputation, or their children.
But, where qualities of mind are considered the first essential of marriage, and where it is entered into with all external things regarded as subordinate, from a pure love of the moral beauty of the one with whom a union is about to be formed — then happiness must flow as a natural consequence.
This sure result, however, cannot follow, unless both are influenced by right ends; and it is, therefore, of as much consequence to a young lady, that he who seeks her hand should do so from right motives — as that she should accept him from right motives. To be as well assured of the purity of her lover's ends as her own — she will find to be a matter of some difficulty. But, until all reasonable doubts on the subject are removed, she should hesitate about accepting his offer of marriage; for to do so would be running a risk greater than any young lady should incur!
If, from evidence not to be questioned, a young lady is fully satisfied that only for her wealth, connections, beauty, accomplishments, or personal attractions, and not for something within her which is loved independent of these — her hand is sought in marriage — then she should reject the overture at no matter what cost of feeling to herself; for this will be a slight thing indeed, compared to the life-long suffering which such a marriage might entail upon her.
All these external things are unstable attractions; but qualities of mind are enduring, and grow brighter and increase in power with the lapse of years. And besides, what woman of right feeling would think of accepting a man who did not love her — but was only induced to offer his heartless hand in marriage, in order that he might gain something from the union more desirable to his sordid feelings, than the devotion of a pure and loving heart?
In many of the high-wrought and unnatural fiction books of the day, which are the offspring of perverted and impure minds, or of such as are really ignorant of what love is in its essence and true activity — we often find an innocent and pure-minded woman represented as loving, with a devotion little less than idolatry, a man whose heart teems with evil passions, and whose life is little else than one act after another of vice, brutality, and crime. All his neglect, outrage, and passion — she bears with meek endurance, loving on with a deeper and more fervent love; and she is, in most cases, at last rewarded by a union with one from whom such a woman as she is said to be, would shrink in disgust and horror. This union is represented as the high reward of her devotion, and the writer generally has the unblushing effrontery to tell us that she is supremely happy. As well could an angel be happy in the arms of a demon from the bottomless pit! It is all false! Such things never take place as represented.
A woman may love, with the wild passions of an impure heart, a bold, bad man, whose brilliant qualities have dazzled her imagination, and caused it to gloss over his evils and magnify what she is pleased to call his generous qualities; she may be true to him, amid neglect, outrage, and wrong, and she may at last receive her reward, and become his wife. But we can neither admire her fidelity nor rejoice in her reward, for we know that happiness will not result from her marriage — but that her last days will be the most wretched of her life! A right-minded woman — one with a pure heart and a clear head — would rather shrink from, than be attracted by such a man!
These pictures, set forth often in the most brilliant and attractive colors, do much to mislead the young, and give them false views on a subject in regard to which, everything depends upon their having the clearest perceptions. The heroine is admired, and her constancy and devotion believed to be virtues of the highest order, and worthy of imitation — when she is but too often the mere false creation of a corrupt mind, and has no counterpart in real life, because she cannot have. From this fault, even our best novelists are not wholly free.
True love is not a wild, strong, fiery, impetuous passion. It is, on the contrary, calm, deep, and clear-seeing. It is attracted by moral qualities alone, and in search of these, it looks through all that is merely external; at the same time that it sees in external things — the images of things internal. There may be faults of character, there may be external defects, there may be much lacking, to give perfection to its object; but if the ruling ends are right, and if there is nothing in external things to mar and destroy the true development of what is within, and if, in addition to all this, there is that mysterious attraction of heart for heart which comes from above, and guides all aright who will wait for and be guided by its heavenly influences, then it finds its blessed fruition — but not till then. It is mere passion which loves blindly and irrationally; but true love is wise and discriminating, and its devotion more real and lasting.
Marriage without such love is no marriage at all. It is merely an external union, from external grounds, and cannot be expected to, as it never does, yield any true happiness. Where no sizeably bad qualities exist in those who have contracted marriage from mere external considerations, it not infrequently happens, that the parties lead quiet and orderly lives, and seem to enjoy themselves very well, and imagine that they have all the pleasures attainable in the marital state. But they are more in error than they imagine.
In the chapter on the "Equality of the Sexes," something of the real difference between man and woman was shown; and we there called that difference a "uniting difference." In the original creation of the sexes, God designed that a union should take place between them, and so organized them, spiritually, that such a union must take place — or both would be imperfect, and consequently unhappy; and the existence of the human race itself was made to depend upon this union. Marriage is, therefore, of divine ordination, and can never be entered into properly, except from the purest and the highest motives.
But enough has been said, we would gladly believe, to make any young lady see the importance of being governed by right ends in a matter involving so deeply as this does, her best and dearest interests.
As to the giving of any particular rules by which a young lady is to square her conduct in matters of the heart, we neither feel inclined to the task, nor competent to perform it. Our leading object is, to give such general principles as will enable each one for herself to decide upon a right course of action in a matter that is fraught with consequences of such vital importance. If a young lady has correct views on the subject of marriage — she will not be in much danger of committing any serious error. We would, however, say, that in all cases the mother ought to be fully advised of the state of her daughter's affections. This is due to her relation, her experience, and her deep and unselfish love for her child. Many a young girl, who has fully confided everything to her mother, has been saved from blindly loving one who had been able to mislead her as to his true character — but could not deceive the mother.
When an offer of marriage is made, whether it comes unexpectedly or not, it should neither be accepted nor rejected by a young lady without time for reflection, and a reference of the matter to her parents, or, if they are not living, to some friend whose age and experience give her the position of a sound adviser. If the person who makes the offer is not considered by the young lady as a suitable partner, let her firmly decline him, no matter how strongly her parents or friends urge a different course. If, on the contrary, she approves and they object, let her seriously consider the ground of their objections, and if they stand against his moral character, and are undoubtedly true — let her, as she values hers and their happiness, respect their objections.
But if they are merely external objections, and do not touch his character and personal fitness to make her happy, and she is calmly and deeply conscious of loving him with a pure, fervent, and undying love, which has its origin in a knowledge and regard for his moral excellencies, let her not reject his offer. The objections of her parents will be a good reason for her not at once accepting the offer; but this reason she should state to her lover, and both should be content to wait patiently, if it be even as long as one or two years, in the hope of overcoming the prejudices that exist, before determining to marry against the wishes of her friends. This deference to their objections may have the effect of overcoming them, and the marriage be allowed to take place with their fullest sanction, without which, no matter how much she may love her husband, nor how worthy he may be of her love — a wife can never be truly happy.
As to runaway matches, they usually turn out the worst! Of course, there are many exceptions to this; but, as a general thing, where parents positively forbid their daughter to keep company with a young man, there are pretty good reasons for it; and if the daughter is mad enough, in a moment of passion, to run away with and marry him, she generally has cause, in a few years — to bitterly to repent her folly. It is much better to wait a long time, in the hope of overcoming objections, than to take this rash and generally imprudent step.
The position of an heiress is almost always a difficult and dangerous one. There are a great many unprincipled men in the world, who seek to better their fortunes by marriage, and who are constantly on the look-out for some rich young girl, whose affections they can win, and thus acquire a fortune without the labor of making it themselves. Some of these people cultivate every exterior grace of body and mind, with no other end than to make themselves attractive in the eyes of the other gender, and render more certain any conquest that may seem to them worth making. To fall a victim to the heartless enticements of such a man, would be, for any right-minded young woman, a sad misfortune; for happiness could not follow her union with him.
And it is not to be concealed, that her danger is very great. Money is so convenient and desirable a thing, and the attainment of it by marriage, so much easier than earning it, that in a day when there is so little true appreciation of marriage as a divine and holy ordinance, instituted for the highest purposes by the Creator, as there is at present — the temptation for young men to seek for wealth in a union with someone who possesses it, is very great. The utterly unprincipled are not alone, those whose regard for a young girl is greatly biased by the amount of her father's fortune, or the income she may hold in her own right. So absorbing is the universal desire for money, and so much in the habit is almost everyone of looking at it as the greatest good, and of seeking it rather as an end, than as a means of usefulness, that even those who, in the ordinary matters of life, are governed by the best of motives, are apt to think of money as a virtue indispensable in a wife, and allow themselves to be influenced in their choice by the groveling and disgraceful consideration of dollars and cents.
As the end for which marriage is contracted will inevitably qualify the union, and bring unhappiness just in the degree that the end selfishly regards external things — it is not difficult to perceive that, if a young lady's money has been the principal virtue in the eyes of her lover, a marriage with him must result in disappointment, and, perhaps, in the most heartfelt misery! One, therefore, who has the misfortune (shall we say?) to inherit riches, needs to be more watchful than any other, lest her hand be yielded to one who thinks more of her wealth than of her person and virtues. She will be in less danger from accepting the hand of one, born, like herself, to the possession of wealth, if he is virtuous, high-minded, and actively engaged in some useful employment as a professional man, or merchant — than in accepting the hand of one whose external condition is unequal to her own. In the former case, tastes, habits, and social relations, will be more equal, and the chances of happiness much more in her favor. But, if she believes herself to be sincerely loved for herself alone, by one who possesses intelligence, manly virtue, and tastes which harmonize with her own, and she truly and sincerely loves him in return — let her accept the offer of his hand, even if he has not a tenth of the wealth that has fallen to her lot.
In marriage there should always exist a harmonizing equality in intellect, education, taste, and habits of thinking. No woman should ever accept the hand of a man of weaker intellect and grosser tastes than herself; for a union with him would be an unnatural one. Man, as we have shown, is characterized by intellect and woman by affection; and a true marriage never takes place, unless where a woman can love the moral wisdom of her husband; and this she cannot do if his intelligence and moral perceptions are inferior to her own. This is self-evident.
We often see a woman of fine mind married to a man who is altogether her inferior in education, taste, refinement, good sense, and strength of intellect; and in such cases we always perceive sad evidences enough that by both, the union is felt to be an unequal one; and often the yoke that binds her to her companion is plainly enough seen to be deeply galling. Men of inferior minds are usually attracted by a woman of brilliant talents; and, strangely enough, women of this class are too apt to unite their fortunes with them — in too many instances, it is feared, on account of the mere external advantages that such a union will give them. But dearly enough do they usually pay for their unnatural folly.
All genuine love is founded upon respect. No woman can have the kind of respect for a man who is inferior to herself upon grounds which love is founded — and therefore no woman can truly love a man who is her inferior in mental and moral endowments. If she cannot truly love him — she cannot be happy with him; and to marry him can only be an act of folly and madness!
Similarity of religious faith should also be considered indispensable. Where there is a regard for religion, it forms the central idea in the mind; and a difference on a matter of so much importance cannot fail, at some time or other, to produce a jar of discord. It may not come until the interests of children are to be regarded, when one or the other will have to yield in a matter involving principles felt to be of the most vital importance. Who shall yield? Can the mother, in conscience, consent to have her children instructed in doctrines that she believes will lead them far away into the mazes of error, and endanger their best and highest interests? Can the father believe a system of religion to be true, and not teach it to his children? Will he not be deeply culpable, if he neglects to do so? Here there can be no neutral ground, no yielding on the part of either, if both are equally well convinced of the importance of giving their children early religious instruction. Painfully embarrassing, indeed, is the condition of parents thus situated, and sad are the results that too often flow therefrom.
If what we have alleged in regard to marriage is really so, as we certainly believe it to be — then true internal marriage cannot take place between those who think differently in matters of religion. A man is truly a man by virtue of his ability to grow wise; and the true internal union which takes place between a husband and wife, is in her love of his wisdom and his love of her, because she is the love of his wisdom; or of those things that his intellect sees to be wisdom, and which he, by a life corresponding thereto, acquires to himself.
By wisdom is not here meant mere knowledge of things, as of natural sciences. A man may possess the most extended knowledge — and yet not be truly wise. A wise man is a just man, and regards the good of all. He not only sees what is true — but he conforms his life to the truth. He seeks to gain all knowledge within his ability to acquire, in order that he may be useful to his fellow-man. Now, it is this kind of wisdom in a man, which a woman truly loves in a true marriage relation; and this is what conjoins them — this is what makes their union an internal one. And, if this is so, how is it possible for a woman to love her husband's wisdom, if, at the very outset, she cannot believe with him in the most vital thing that concerns them — religion? Instead of internal union — there must exist internal discord. How can she respect his intelligence, when in a matter so plain to her, he cannot see anything but error? How can he love the reflection of his own intelligence and wisdom in her — when no such reflection is given?
If this is not plain to anyone, let her consider well what has been said in regard to the religious education of children, and see in that a sufficient reason for making a similarity of faith an indispensable thing in the man she consents to marry.
Much more could be said on the very important subject of marriage; but the limit of this work will not admit of our dwelling upon it any longer. From what we have set forth, almost anyone may deduce rules of action for her own government; and by strictly obeying them, she will save herself from the wretchedness of a marriage based upon false instead of true principles.
THE YEAR AFTER MARRIAGE
Happy beyond expression in finding herself the wedded wife of the man in whom are centered, she would gladly believe, all the virtues of his gender — a young woman is apt to forget that the new position in which she is placed is not without its trials. But she must remember that neither herself nor her husband is perfect. Both are young and inexperienced, with characters not yet fully developed, and the hereditary taint of selfishness uncorrected.
The first year after marriage is that which usually tries most severely the young wife, and awakens her to realities that sometimes, for a brief season, deeply sadden her spirit. It is by no means improbable that her husband suffers equally with herself. The cause lies in the fact that neither the one nor the other is faultless. Both, by nature, are selfish. They have this selfishness by hereditary transmission from their parents; and it cannot be removed until they have attained mature age, and then resist its perverting influences as evil. All their education from childhood up, with all the good principles taught them by parents and teachers, becomes means in their hands whereby they are to resist their natural tendencies to evil, and overcome them. But this is not the work of a moment — but of a whole lifetime.
At the period when marriage usually takes place — but little progress has been made in overcoming the natural evil inclinations. From pride, selfishness, a love of reputation, or other causes, they are concealed from view; but whatever they are, they will inevitably show themselves to the young wife or young husband, before much time passes beyond the honeymoon. The selfishness of one or both, in some little or great matter, will inevitably exhibit itself, to the surprise and grief of the other!
The young man has been, we will suppose, his own master for some two or three years. He has been in the habit of thinking for himself, and consulting his own reason and inclinations in everything. He has been in perfect freedom. But now he finds that he can no longer do this; he is no longer free. Another has come into so close a relationship with him, that he can scarcely think without in some way affecting her! There is another will, also, whose promptings have to be regarded. It is hardly to be supposed that he will at once be able to see his duty to his young wife — and do it at the sacrifice of feeling and inclination!
Another source of unhappiness will arise from this fact: During the period of courtship, the young man consults the tastes, wishes, inclinations, and preferences of the young lady, and makes them his own. In everything, he defers to her. It is his highest delight to make her happy, and to effect this, he is ready for almost any sacrifice. After marriage, the bride still expects this entire devotion to her, and the same deference. But before long, she finds that the husband is less assiduous than the lover, and is unreasonable enough to have a will of his own, tastes of his own, inclinations and preferences of his own; and, what is worse, disposed to consult them where they differ from hers, instead of yielding all, as before.
It may be, that, in the first excitement of the moment, on discovering this, she will set her will in opposition to her husband's, and endeavor to put him down. Usually, this experiment proves a difficult one, and causes her to shed many bitter tears. She may become angry, and bring accusations of lack of affection, and selfishness, and all that, against her husband; and he, surprised and confounded at this unexpected turn of affairs, may act and speak in a very unreasonable, and perhaps unkind manner.
All this had better be avoided, if possible, and might be avoided, if each party were more given to reflection than young couples usually are; but it is not so very serious a matter, nor so much to be wondered at, and will work its own cure — but not until, by being made very unhappy a good many times, the young wife perceives her error, and the young husband is conscious that he is a little too self-willed.
It is not a trifling thing for two minds to come into such close contact and relationship with each other as marriage effects. And when we reflect that each inherits a tendency to love self supremely, and that each has indulged and given strength to this tendency, it is not at all to be wondered at, that there should at first be some strings of discord jarred. It would be stranger still were it otherwise; for every selfish affection, when it becomes active, seeks its own ends, regardless of the good of another.
From these causes, the first year after marriage will usually be found the most trying and difficult one that a young couple has to pass. During that period, however, they will begin to understand themselves and each other better, and mutually correct the faults that produced unhappiness.
It does not always happen that the young wife sets her will against that of her husband; but it almost always happens that she finds him much more disposed to consult his own tastes and inclinations, than he was previous to marriage; and she will, very naturally, feel disappointed at this, and be led to think that he does not love her as much as she was led to believe that he did.
The perfections with which young lovers are apt to invest the objects of their choice, are usually about as much in imagination as reality! Faultlessness appertains to no human being. All have defects, and all are born evil. These evils, or the tendencies to them, cannot, as has before been said, be removed, except by each individual for himself. At the time when marriage takes place — but little has been done towards the removal of these evils, and their existence must therefore affect, in some measure, all who come into the very intimate relationship of man and wife.
If, instead of being surprised and made unhappy, on feeling these effects, every young wife would seek to correct what was selfish and evil in her own heart — she would so far enable her husband to do the same, and so far really help to make him what, in the fond idolatry of her young heart, she at first was inclined to believe him.
Let every young wife remember, that, to be truly happy, both herself and her husband must be governed by religious principles in all their conduct towards each other and society. If they give themselves up to a mere life of pleasure, they will commit a great mistake; for pleasure, sought as an end, always defeats itself. To do this, is to act from mere selfishness — a motive entirely unworthy of the human mind.
The majority of young people who marry do not seem to have any idea of the true importance of the relation they have assumed. It does not seem to strike them as a very serious matter, or as involving duties and responsibilities of the most weighty character. They love, and, in simply attaining the object of their love, believe that they have arrived at the summit of happiness — and that happiness must continue to be theirs so long as this object is in possession. But, there being in this so much of mere selfishness, it is no wonder that, in a very short time, the scales fall from their eyes, and they are made sensibly to feel that something more is required of them, than idly to rest in the supreme felicity of loving and being beloved.
It usually takes as long a period as a year to correct the misconceptions of a young married couple; and during this time, they often feel the jarring of discordant strings both in themselves and each other. Then they begin to see with a more purified vision, and to enter more seriously upon their duties in life, which call for earnestness of purpose, and a mutual looking to the same end. The very pressure of external circumstances brings them into a more intimate nearness to each other; and the effort to do right, in the various relations which they hold to each other and society, hides more and more the faults of each, and brings forth into a clearer view the excellencies that form the true groundwork of their characters.
A COMMON MISTAKE
A common mistake which most young couples commit, is that of commencing the world in too imposing a manner. The desire to make an appearance is usually quite strong; and it often happens that the young husband is more disposed for a "dash," than the wife, especially if she has always been used to a good style of living in her father's house. Pride will not permit him to place her in a lower external position than the one she left when she became his wife. Nor is he always content with this. A little more elegance and style is often assumed, and a rate of expenditure adopted that is frequently entirely out of all fair proportion to the income. It matters little whether this income is five thousand or five hundred dollars per annum; in the outset, the temptation to draw too heavily, or even to go beyond it, is very great.
It most generally happens that the young wife never thinks of inquiring how far the means of her husband will warrant the rate of expenditure at which they are living. She naturally enough supposes that he will not go beyond his ability. Deceived by the freedom with which he spends his money, she is often led into extravagances of dress entirely at variance with their real condition in life, and remains utterly unconscious of the fact that she is an object of remark and censure to those who are much better acquainted with the real circumstances of her husband than she is. The consequences of errors of this kind are often very severely felt. Many a young couple's fair prospects in life have been blighted by early extravagance, the result of weak pride on the part of the husband, and thoughtlessness and pride on the part of the wife.
After marriage, the interests of a young couple become one, and the feeling of delicacy which prevents the wife from inquiring into her husband's affairs, and becoming thoroughly acquainted with them, should be laid aside. All reserve on this subject ought now to cease, and the fullest confidence begin. The style of living adopted should be that which the judgments of both determine to be right, after clearly understanding the real or probable amount of their income; and it should be a matter of fixed principle never to go beyond — but always to keep within, this income. It will be much easier to begin right — than to get right after having made a wrong beginning!
The error of young married people beginning the world in the style of those who have been ten, twenty, or thirty years in acquiring the means whereby to live in elegance or luxury — is a very common one. In order to support this style, they often expend every dollar of income, and too frequently are tempted to go beyond this, involving themselves in debt, and creating financial troubles which are never entirely gotten over.
It will almost always be in the power of a young wife to prevent this. By assuming a modest style of living, and exercising economy in everything, in the first few years of married life, when all expenditures for real needs are never large, enough may always be saved to meet the increasing demands of later years. The pleasure of spending money uselessly never compensates for its lack — but rather embitters the privations that such need entails.
If the husband's means of supporting the style in which he wishes to see his wife live, and in which he proposes that she shall live, are really insufficient — then he cannot be wholly unaware of the fact, and will not feel inclined to oppose her strongly, if she voluntarily suggests that it may be better for them to assume a less expensive style. That she may have some distinct idea, in the outset, and before an error is committed, of how they ought to live — a young bride should always consult her parents on the subject. They know pretty nearly the extent of her husband's income, how much he ought to spend, and what style it will be best for them to live in. Having this information, she will be able to act the part of a true wife, and wisely restrain her husband, if he should be disposed to run into extravagance, from beginning the world in a style of expenditure that cannot be long supported.
A little prudence and economy in the outset, will go far towards preventing the financial reverses which so frequently overtake us in this life; for the modes of living with which we start, usually become habits with us. If these are extravagant, it will be a difficult matter ever afterwards to overcome them entirely; but if they are prudent and economical, they will not only save us from going beyond our means in the outset — but prove a guaranty of our success in the future.
It would have been an easy matter to have said much more than we have said on each of the topics discussed in this book, and to have introduced other topics. But if, in matters of primary interest, we have correct views, these will guide us in all things subordinate. Right thinking, as we stated in the outset, is the basis of all right action; and it is therefore much better to learn to think right — than to burden the memory with modes of action in which no principle of right is clearly perceived.
In the beginning, we called especial attention to the necessity of acting from a religious principle, as the only means of becoming truly useful and truly happy. We showed in the chapter on marriage, that the end gives quality to the act. This is as true of one act as of another. The dictates of common politeness prompt to a regard for the comfort and pleasure of others; but the end that governs in mere politeness is a selfish one — for it is grounded in a love of reputation, or a wish to be thought well-bred, and does not flow from a desire for the good of another. But a religious principle is a sincere desire for another's good, based upon a denial of mere selfish feelings, because they are seen to be evil, and opposed to the divine laws which were originally written upon the heart, and which prompted everyone to seek the good of his neighbor. To act, therefore, from religious principles, is to act from the highest, purest, and best end that can influence a human being — an end that will surely lead to true usefulness and happiness.
Where religious principles govern anyone, the danger of committing important errors is very small; for selfishness, which always blinds and deceives, is subordinate — and the wish to do good to others uppermost in the mind. Every act is then well considered, lest its effect be injurious to another, or entails disabilities upon the actor which will prevent him from discharging, at some future period, his duties to others, which would be to wrong them.
To one who is inexperienced in life, and who feels that the most desirable thing in the world is the gratification of her own wishes and the seeking freely her own pleasures — there is nothing attractive in the idea of regarding the good of others in all she does. This seems to her like giving up everything that makes life desirable. But she has yet to learn the meaning of this divine law, that "it is more blessed to give, than to receive." She has yet to have her mind opened to the higher truth, that in seeking to make others happy — there is a delight inconceivably beyond what is to be found in any mere selfish and exclusive regard for our own happiness. Indeed, happiness is a thing that, when sought for as an end in itself, never comes. It is not something that the mind can seek for and find — but a consequence that flows from good actions. Idle pleasure-seeking is, therefore, a vain and worse than useless employment. It disappoints the expectations, and leaves the mind restless and dissatisfied. But a diligent and faithful performance, every day, of what the hands and intellect find to do, brings with it a heartfelt reward, a deep satisfaction. Thus, to diligently perform our every-day duties, because to neglect them would be to injure others, at the same time that we look to the Giver of all good for ability to enable us faithfully to do what is right — is to act from a religious, because an unselfish, principle.
That which separates us from God, and produces all the mental disorders under which we labor, is selfishness. There is no means of returning to God, and to true order, except by denying self; and this we do when we seek, in all the various relations of life, to discharge our duties for the sake of good to others. Of ourselves, we cannot act from this high motive; it comes from God, who alone is good, and from whom all good flows. But we can shun the evil of selfishness, by denying it the gratification of its inordinate desires, and compelling ourselves faithfully to do whatever useful thing comes in our way; and then the love of doing good will flow into our minds, and we shall feel a higher delight than ever before thrilled through our bosoms.
A woman, from the time she steps forth upon the stage of life, is surrounded by the means of being useful to, and doing good to others. She need not go out of her way to seek for objects to benefit. She need not lay down plans of usefulness that extend beyond the circle of her every-day domestic life. All around her are clustered the means of doing good to others; and one would think that a harder struggle were required to turn from them, than to enter diligently into the use of these means.
How much good may not a sister do among her brothers and sisters! There is not a day, nor an hour in the day, that she may not, by some kind act or word, do a lasting good. In the divine providence she is thus placed, with ability, in the midst of those who need the exercise of her ability to do them good. She is thus placed, in order that she may do them good. In like circumstances, Providence provided those who could guide and instruct her, and minister to her needs.
If, instead of faithfully performing her duty, she seeks rather her own pleasures — she acts from a selfish and debasing end, that, while it does wrong to others, leaves her own mind unsatisfied or positively unhappy. But if, from a love of these little ones, or a sense of her duty to them, she supply their needs, and does all in her power to elevate their thoughts and affections, and lead them to good — she will experience an inward peace and satisfaction, that will be felt as a sufficient reward.
To her mother — the grown-up, unmarried daughter may, if she will, prove a comfort and a blessing. She can lighten her cares by assuming many of them herself; she can become her sympathizing friend and companion, and warm her heart with the sweet consciousness of being loved by her child with that genuine affection which ever seeks to bless its object. It is a painful sight to see a daughter manifesting indifference towards her mother, and seeming to think of her only when she wants some service. The unselfishness of a mother's love — its untiring devotion — its anxious care — merit a better reward. If love does not prompt a young lady to think of her mother and seek to do her good — then let a sense of duty compel her to act with due consideration towards her, and she will soon find that to be a pleasure, which at first seemed irksome, and wonder at the selfishness of her heart that could have made her indifferent towards one who has so many claims upon her love and gratitude.
Whenever we compel ourselves to do right, we come into new and better states, and are then enabled to persevere in well-doing from the warmth of a genuine affection, rather than from a coercive sense of duty. This truth should be laid up in the memory of every young lady; it will encourage her to well-doing even under the disheartening sense of a lack of high and generous motives, which we all sometimes feel.
To her companions, every young lady has a duty to perform, which she will fail to do, unless governed by a religious principle. It is a very easy thing, in our associations with others, to think only of ourselves. To this we are all naturally inclined. But to do so, is to be unjust; for when we think only of our own pleasures and our own interests — we are sure to seek them at the expense of the pleasures and interests of others. This is the inevitable result of all selfish action.
It is impossible for us to act in society without in some way affecting others, and according to the ends which govern us — will be the quality of our acts. If we have a generous regard for others in what we do — we shall be sure to make others happy; but if only a regard for ourselves — we shall as certainly, in something, trespass upon the rights or feelings of others.
In the society of her light-hearted friends, a young lady will often find herself tempted to say, or respond affirmatively to, a disparaging word of an absent one; or she will feel disposed, from not wishing to disturb the self-delight of a friend, to hear unfavorable things said of another that she knows are untrue, and which a single remark from her can correct; or she may have an eager desire to secure some good to herself, at the expense of bitter disappointment in one less able to bear it than herself. In fact, there are a hundred ways in which the well-being, good name, or happiness of another is placed in her hands — and which she will be tempted to sacrifice. We need not say what her duty is under such circumstances. The higher and better perceptions of everyone will point to that.
As year after year passes by, a young lady will be brought into circumstances of closer and closer relationship with others, until at length she finds herself occupying the important position of a wife and mother, in which every act of her life, and almost every thought and word, must necessarily have either a good or a bad effect upon others. Self-denial and regard for the good of others, she is now more than ever called upon to exercise; and in their exercise, she can alone find true peace of mind. All turning of thought inward upon self as an object of primary consideration, all looking to the attainment of selfish ends and selfish gratification — will react upon her with a disturbing force; for she cannot do this without interfering in some way with the comfort or happiness of those in whose comfort and happiness her own is inextricably involved.
The mother who neglects her child in the eager pursuit of some phantom of pleasure, or for the attainment of ease, will make that child unhappy, and herself doubly so; for she can no more expel from her mind a consciousness of having wronged that child, than she can prevent being disturbed by the evidences of her neglect. The same will be true if she thinks more of her own ease and pleasure — than she does of her husband's comfort. He cannot but feel this lack of true consideration for him both in mind and person; and he will certainly exhibit what he feels in a way to disturb the self-delight of his wife, even though his regard for her may be so strong as to make him careful not to do so intentionally.
Thus, in any and all positions where a woman is placed, she will find that only in a faithful discharge of life's varied duties, from a regard to the good of others, is there any true happiness; for this is to act from a religious principle. To act thus, brings more than an earthly reward; by such a life, she is prepared for heavenly felicities, which consist alone in the delight that springs from doing good. In Heaven no one thinks of self, nor seeks his own gratification; but all, from genuine love, seek the good of others, and their happiness consists in the delight which springs from the attainment of their ends. If we wish to come into a heavenly society at death — we must act from heavenly principles here. There is no other way. This is the straight and narrow path that leads to eternal felicity, and all who wish to gain that desirable state, must walk therein.
And now, in conclusion, we beg of our fair young friends to lay deeply to heart the matters contained in this book, and to strive in all things to act from those godlike principles of love to others that were at first written on the human heart by the Creator. Every act of our lives affects someone — either for good or for evil. We are constantly lending an impulse to the great effort in human society to return to true order and happiness, or retarding its movements. Of course, the effects of our actions are not limited to the individuals who first feel them, nor to the time in which we live. Our act is felt and reproduced with a greater or diminished force by the one who receives it.
If we help others in the development of good principles — we give them power to do good that may effect beneficially hundreds, yes, thousands. There is no telling where the widening circle of influence may stop. And the same is true, when by our acts we strengthen or force into activity, the evil qualities which anyone has inherited.
From this it may be seen how great is the responsibility resting upon each one of us, and how much good or evil we may do in our way through life.