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Full text of "The girl of the period : and other social essays"




THE 



GIEL OF THE PEEIOD 



VOL. I. 



► 



M 



[Repetnted, hy permission, from the Saturday Review] 



THE 



GIRL OF THE PERIOD 



AND OTHER 



^ociaf (&66ap0 



BY 



E. LYNN LINTON 



AUTHOR OF 'THE ATOXE.MEXT OF LEAJVI DUNDAS' ' UXDER WHICH LORD?' 
' THE REBEL OF THE PAMH^Y ' ' lONE ' ETC. 



IN TWO VOLUMES 

VOL. I. 




LONDON 
RICHARD BENTLEY & SON, NEW BURLINGTON STHEBT 

yublisbcrs in ^?rbinarn to Witt UTajcstg Ibc Qnten 
1883 



[All rights re.iprveil] 



LONDON : PRINTED UY 

-POTTISWOODE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQUAUK 

AND PARLIAXIF.XT STUEET 



TO 

ALL GOOD GIRLS 

AND 

TRUE WOMEN 






Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2009 with funding from 
Duke University Libraries 



http://www.archive.org/details/girlofperiodothe01lint 



PREFACE. 



So MANY false reports followed the appearance of 
these essays, that I am grateful to the authorities 
of the Saturday Review for their present permission 
to republish them under my own name, even though 
the best of the day has a little gone by, and other 
forms of folly have been flying about since these 
were shot at. The essays hit sharply enough at the 
time, and caused some ill-blood. ' The Girl of the 
Period ' was especially obnoxious to many to whom 
women were the Sacred Sex above criticism and 
beyond rebuke ; and I had to pay pretty smartly 
in private life, by those who knew, for what they 
termed a libel and an untruth. With these passion- 
ate repudiators on the one hand, on the other were 
some who, trading on the enforced anonymity of the 
paper, took spurious credit to themselves for the 
authorship. I was twice introduced to the 'Writer 
of the "Girl of the Period." ' The first time he was 
a clergyman who had boldly told my friends that he 
had written the paper ; the second, she was a lady of 
VOL. I. a 



viu PREFACE. 

rank well known in London society, and to this 
hour believed by her own circle to have written this 
and other of the articles included in the present 
collection. I confess that, whether for praise or 
blame, I am glad to be able at last to assume the 
full responsibility of my own work. 

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

E. Lynn Linton. 

1883. 



CONTENTS 



THE FIRST VOLUME 



PAGE 

THE GIRL OF THE PERIOD ....... 1 

MODERN MOTHERS (l.) . . . . . . . . 10 

MODERN MOTHERS (ll.) 19 

PAYING one's shot 27 

WHAT IS woman's WORKI 37 

little women 48 

IDEAL WOMEN 58 

PINCHBECK 69 

AFFRONTED W^OMANHOOD 79 

FEMININE AFFECTATIONS 88 

INTERFERENCE 99 

THE FASHIONABLE WOMAN 109 

SLEEPING DOGS 119 

BEAUTY AND BRAINS 128 

NYMPHS 137 

MESALLIANCES 147 



X CONTENTS OF THE FIRST VOLUME. 

PAGE 

WEAK SISTERS . .157 

PINCHING SHOES . . .» . . . . . . 167 

SUPERIOR BEINGS 17(3 

FEMININE AMENITIES 184 

GRIM FEMALES . . . . . . . . ,193 

MATURE SIRENS 203 

PUMPKINS . . . . . . . . . .213 

WIDOWS . 223 

DOLLS 234 

CHARMING WOMEN ' . . . 244 

APRON-STRINGS 254 

FINE FEELINGS 264 

SPHINXES 273 

FLIRTING . . . 281 

SCRAMBLERS . . . . . . . . . . 290 

FLATTERY .......... 299 

LA FEMME PASSEE 309 

SPOILT WOMEN 317 

DOVECOTS . ......... 325 

BORED HUSBANDS . . . , . . . . . 335 



ESSAYS 

UPON 

SOCIAL SUBJECTS. 



THE GIRL OF THE PERIOD. 

Time was when the phrase, ^a fair young English 
girl/ meant the ideal of womanhood ; to us, at least, 
of home birth and breedmg. It meant a creature 
generous, capable, modest ; something franker than a 
Frenchwoman, more to be trusted than an Italian, as 
brave as an American but more refined, as domestic 
as a German and more graceful. It meant a girl who 
could be trusted alone if need be, because of the 
innate purity and dignity of her nature, but who was 
neither bold in bearing nor masculme in mind ; a 
girl who, when she married, would be her husband's 
friend and companion, but never his rival ; one who 
would consider his interests as identical with her 
own, and not hold him as just so much fair game for 
spoil ; who would make his house his true home and 
place of rest, not a mere passage-place for vanity and 

VOL. I. B 



2 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

ostentation to pass through ; a tender mother, an 
industrious housekeeper, a judicious mistress. 

We prided ourselves as a nation on our women. 
We thought we had the pick of creation in this fair 
young English girl of ours, and envied no other 
men their own. We admired the languid grace and 
subtle fire of the South ; the docility and childlike 
aflPectionateness of the East seemed to us sweet and 
simple and restful ; the vivacious sparkle of the trim 
and sprightly Parisienne was a pleasant little excite- 
ment when we met with it in its own domain ; but 
our allegiance never wandered from our brown-haired 
girls at home, and our hearts were less vagrant than 
our fancies. This was in the old time, and when 
English girls were content to be what God and 
nature had made them. Of late years we have 
changed the pattern, and have given to the world a 
race of women as utterly unlike the old insular ideal 
as if we had created another nation altogether. The 
Girl of the Period, and the fair young English girl 
of the past, have nothing in common save ancestry 
and their mother- tongue ; and even of this last the 
modern version makes almost a new language, 
through the copious additions it has received from 
the current slang of the day. 

The Girl of the Period is a creature who dyes 
her hair and paints her face, as the first articles of her 
personal religion — a creature whose sole idea of life is 
fun; whose sole aim is unbounded luxury; and whose 
dress is the chief object of such thought and intellect 



THE GIRL OF THE PERIOD. 3 

as she possesses. Her main endeavour is to outvie 
her neighbours in the extravagance of fashion. No 
matter if, in the time of crinolines, she sacrifices 
decency ; in the time of trains, cleanliness ; in the 
time of tied-back skirts, modesty ; no matter either, 
if she makes herself a nuisance and an inconvenience 
to every one she meets ; — the Girl of the Period has 
done away with such moral muffishness as considera- 
tion for others, or regard for counsel and rebuke. It 
was all very well in old-fashioned times, when fathers 
and mothers had some authority and were treated 
with respect, to be tutored and made to obey, but 
she is far too fast and flourishing to be stopped in 
mid-career by these slow old morals ; and as she 
lives to please herself, she does not care if she dis- 
pleases every one else. 

Nothing is too extraordinary and nothing too 
exaggerated for her vitiated taste ; and things which 
in themselves would be useful reforms if let alone 
become monstrosities w^orse than those which they 
have displaced so soon as she begins to manipulate 
and improve. If a sensible fashion lifts the gown 
out of the mud, she raises hers midway to her knee. 
If the absurd structure of wire and buckram, once 
called a bonnet, is modified to something that shall 
protect the wearer's face without putting out the 
eyes of her companion, she cuts hers down to four 
straws and a rosebud, or a tag of lace and a bunch of 
glass beads. If there is a reaction against an excess 
of Rowland's Macassar, and hair shiny and sticky 

B 2 



4 SATUEDAY M0P.^^1S^GS. 

with grease is thought less nice than if left clean and 
healthily crisp, she dries and frizzes and sticks hers 
out on end like certam savages in Africa, or lets it 
wander down her back like Madge Wildfire's, and 
thmks herself all the more beautiful the nearer she 
approaches in look to a negress or a maniac. 

With purity of taste she has lost also that far 
more precious purity and delicacy of perception 
which sometimes mean more than appears on the 
surface. What the demi'inonde does in its frantic 
efforts to excite attention, she also does in imitation. 
If some fashionable devergondee en evidence is re- 
ported to have come out with her dress below her 
shoulder-blades, and a gold strap for all the sleeve 
thought necessary, the Girl of the Period follows 
suit next day ; and then she wonders that men some- 
times mistake her for her prototype, or that mothers 
of gh4s not quite so far gone as herself refuse her as 
a companion for their daughters. She has blunted 
the fine edges of feeling so much that she cannot 
understand why she should be condemned for an 
imitation of form which does not include imitation 
of fact. She cannot be made to see that modesty of 
appearance and virtue in deed ought to be inseparable; 
and that no good girl can afford to appear bad, 
under pain of receiving the contempt awarded to the 
bad. 

This imitation of the demi-monde in dress leads to 
something m manner and feeling, not quite so pro- 
nounced perhaps, but far too like to be honourable to 



THE GIRL OF THE PERIOD. 5 

herself or satisfactory to her friends. It leads to 
slang, bold talk and general fastness ; to the love of 
pleasure and indifference to duty ; to the desire of 
money before either love or happiness ; to useless- 
ness at home, dissatisfaction with the monotony of 
ordinary life, horror of all useful work ; in a word, 
to the worst forms of luxury and selfishness — to the 
most fatal effects arising from want of high principle 
and absence of tender feeling. 

The Girl of the Period envies the queens of the 
demi-monde far more than she abhors them. She 
sees them gorgeously attired and sumptuously ap- 
pointed, and she knows them to be flattered, feted, 
and courted with a certam disdainful admiration of 
which she catches only the admiration while she 
ignores the disdain. They have all that for which 
her soul is hungering ; and she never stops to 
reflect at what a price they have bought their gains, 
and what fearful moral penalties they pay for their 
sensuous pleasures. She sees only the coarse gild- 
ing on the base token, and shuts her eyes to the 
hideous figure in the midst and the foul legend 
written round the edge. It is this envy of the plea- 
sures, and indifference to the sins, of these women 
of the demi-monde which is doing such iufinite mis- 
chief to the modern girl. They brush too closely 
by each other, if not in actual deeds, yet in aims 
and feelings ; for the luxury which is bought by 
vice mth the one is that thing of aU in life most 
passionately desired by the other, though she is not 



6' SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

yet prepared to pay quite the same price. Un- 
fortunately, she has already paid too much — all that 
once gave her distinctive national character. 

No one can say of the modern English girl that 
she is tender, loving, retiring or domestic. The 
old fault so often found by keen- sighted French- 
women, that she was so fatally romanesqae^ so prone 
to sacrifice appearances and social advantages for 
love, will never be set against the Girl of the Period. 
Love indeed is the last thing she thinks of, and 
the least of the dano^ers besettino^ her. Love in a 
cottage — that seductive dream which used to vex 
the heart and disturb the calculations of the prudent 
mother — is now a myth of past ages. The legal 
barter of herself for so much money, representing 
so much dash, so much luxury and pleasure — that 
is her idea of marriage ; the only idea worth enter- 
taming. For all seriousness of thought respecting 
the duties or the consequences of marriage, she has 
not a trace. If children come, they find but a step- 
mother's cold welcome from her ; and if her husband 
thinks that he has married anything that is to belong 
to him — a tacens et placens uxor pledged to make him 
happy — the sooner he wakes from his hallucination 
and understands that he has simply married some one 
who will condescend to spend his money on herself, 
and who will shelter her indiscretions behind the shield 
of his name, the less severe will be his disappoint- 
ment. She has married his house, his carriage, his 
balance at the banker's, his title ; and he himself is 



THE GIRL OF THE PERIOD. 7 

just the inevitable condition clogging the wheel of 
her fortune ; at best an adjunct, to be tolerated with 
more or less patience as may chance. For it is only 
the old-fashioned sort, not Girls of the Period pur 
sang^ who marry for love, or put the husband before 
the banker. But the Girl of the Period does not 
marry easily. Men are afraid of her ; and with 
reason. They may amuse themselves with her for 
an evening, but they do not readily take her for life. 
Besides, after all her efforts, she is only a poor copy 
of the real thing ; and the real thing is far more 
amusing than the copy, because it is real. Men can 
get that whenever they like ; and when they go into 
their mothers' drawing-rooms, with their sisters and 
their sisters' friends, they want something of quite a 
different flavour. Toujours perdrix is bad providing 
all the world over ; but a continual weak imitation 
of toujours perdrix is worse. 

If we must have only one kind of thing, let us 
have it genuine, and the queens of St. John's Wood 
in their unblushing honesty rather than their imita- 
tors and make-believes in Bayswater and Belgravia. 
For, at whatever cost of shocked self-love or pained 
modesty it may be, it cannot be too plainly told to 
the modern English girl that the net result of her 
present manner of life is to assimilate her as nearly 
as possible to a class of women Avhom we must not 
call by their proper — or improper — name. And we 
are willing to believe that she has still some modesty 
of soul left hidden under all this effrontery of fashion. 



8 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

and that, if she could be made to see herself as she 
appears to the eyes of men, she would mend her ways 
before too late. 

It is terribly significant of the present state of 
things when men are free to write as they do of the 
women of their own nation. Every word of censure 
flung against them is two-edged, and wounds those 
who condemn as much as those who are condemned ; 
for surely it need hardly be said that men hold 
nothing so dear as the honour of their women, and 
that no one living would wilhngly lower the repute of 
his mother or his sisters. It is only when these have 
placed themselves beyond the pale of masculine re- 
spect that such things could be written as are written 
now. When women become again what they were 
once they mil gather round them the love and 
homage and chivalrous devotion which were then an 
Englishwoman's natural inheritance. 

The marvel in the present fashion of life among 
women is, how it holds its ground in spite of the 
disapprobation of men. It used to be an old-thne 
notion that the sexes were made for each other, and 
that it was only natural for them to please each 
other, and to set themselves out for that end. But 
the Girl of the Period does not please men. She 
pleases them as little as she elevates them ; and how 
little she does that, the class of women she has taken 
as her models of itself testifies. All men whose 
opinion is worth having prefer the simple and 
genuine girl of the past, with her tender little ways 



THE GIEL OF THE PERIOD. 9 

and pretty bashful modesties, to this loud and ram- 
pant modernization, with her false red hair and 
painted skin, talking slang as glibly as a man, and 
by preference leading the conversation to doubtful 
subjects. She thinks she is piquante and exciting 
when she thus makes herself the bad copy of a worse 
original ; and she will not see that though men laugh 
with her they do not respect her, though they flirt 
with her they do not marry her ; she will not believe 
that she is not the kind of thing they want, and that 
she is acting against nature and her own interests 
when she disregards their advice and offends theu' 
taste. We do not understand how she makes out her 
account, viewing her life from any side ; but all we 
can do is to wait patiently until the national madness 
has passed, and our women have come back again to 
the old English ideal, once the most beautiful, the 
most modest, the most essentially womanly in the 
world. 



10 SATURDAY MORNINGS, 



MODERN MOTHERS. 



No human aifection has been so passionately praised 
as maternal love, and none is supposed to be so holy 
or so strong. Even the poetic aspect of that instinct 
which inspires the young with their dearest dreams 
does not rank so high as this ; and neither lover's 
love nor conjugal love, neither filial affection nor 
fraternal, comes near the sanctity or grandeur of the 
maternal instinct. But all women are not equally 
rich in this great gift ; and, to judge by appearances, 
English women are at this moment wonderfully poor. 
It may seem a harsh thing to say, but it is none the 
less true : — society has put maternity out of fashion, 
and the nursery is nme times out of ten a place of 
punishment, not of pleasure, to the modern mother. 

Two points connected with this subject are of 
growing importance at this present time — the one is 
the increasing disinclination of married women to be 
mothers at all ; the other, the large number of those 
who, being mothers, will not, or cannot, nurse their 
own children. In the mad race after pleasure and 



MODERN MOTHERS. 11 

excitement now going on through English society 
the tender duties of motherhood have become simply 
disagreeable restraints, and the old feeling of the 
blessing attending the quiver fall is exchanged for 
one the very reverse. With some of the more intel- 
lectual and less instinctive sort, maternity is looked 
on as a kind of degradation ; and women of this 
stamp, sensible enough in everything else, talk im- 
patiently among themselves of the base necessities 
laid on them by men and nature, and how hateful to 
them is everything connected with their characteristic 
duties. 

This wild revolt against nature, and specially 
this abhorrence of maternity, is carried to a still 
greater extent by American women; with grave 
national consequences resulting ; but though we have 
not yet reached the Transatlantic limit, the state 
of feminine feeling and physical condition among 
ourselves will disastrously affect the future unless 
something can be done to bring our women back to a 
healthier tone of mind and body. No one can object 
to women declining marriage altogether in favour of 
a voluntary self-devotion to some project or idea ; 
but, when married, it is a monstrous doctrine to 
hold that they are in any way degraded by the con- 
sequences, and that natural functions are less honour- 
able than social excitements. The world can get on 
without balls and morning calls ; it can get on too 
without amateur art and incorrect music ; but not 
without wives and mothers : and those times in a 



12 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

nation's history when women have been social orna- 
ments rather than family home- stays have ever 
been times of national decadence and of moral 
failm'e. 

Part of this o^rowino: disinclination is due to the 
enormous expense incurred now by havmg children. 
As women have ceased to take any active share m 
their own housekeeping, whether in the kitchen or 
the nursery, the consequence is an additional cost for 
service, which is a serious item in the yearly accounts. 
Women who, if they lived a rational life, could and 
would nurse their children, now require a wet-nurse, 
or the services of an experienced woman who can 
' bring up by hand,' as the phrase is ; women 
who once would have had one nursemaid now have 
two ; and women who, had they lived a generation 
ago, would have had none at all, must in their turn 
have a wretched young creature without thought or 
knowledge, into whose questionable care they dehver 
what should be the most sacred obligation and the 
most jealously-guarded charge they possess. 

It is rare if, in any section of society where hired 
service can be had, mothers give more than a super- 
ficial personal superintendence to nursery or school- 
room — a superintendence about as thorough as their 
housekeeping, and as efficient. The one set of duties 
is quite as unfashionable as the other ; and money is 
held to relieve from the service of love as entirely as 
it relieves from the need of labour. And yet, side 
by side with this personal relinquishment of natural 



MODERN MOTHERS. ' 13 

duties, has grown up, perhaps as an instinctive com- 
pensation, an amount of expensive management 
specially remarkable. There never was a time when 
children were made of so much individual importance 
in the family, yet were in so little direct relation 
with the mother — never a time when maternity did 
so little and social organization so much. Juvenile 
parties ; the kind of moral obligation apparently felt 
by all parents to provide heated and unhealthy 
amusements for their boys and girls during the 
holidays ; extravagance in dress, following the same 
extravao^ance amono^ the mothers : the increasino* 
cost of education ; the fuss and turmoil generally 
made over them — all render children real burdens in 
a house where money is not too plentiful, and where 
every child that comes is not only an additional 
mouth to feed and an additional body to clothe, but 
a subtractor by just so much from the family fund of 
pleasure. Even where there is no lack of money, the 
unavoidable restraints of the condition, for at least 
some months, more than counterbalance any senti- 
mental delight to be found in maternity. For, before 
all other things in life, maternity demands unselfish- 
ness in women ; and this is just the one virtue of 
which women have least at this present time — 
just the one reason why motherhood is at a discount, 
and children are regarded as inflictions instead of 
blessings. 

Few middle-class women are content to bring up 
their children with the old-fashioned simplicity of 



14 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

former times, and to let them share and share alike 
in the family, with only so much difference in their 
treatment as is required by their difference of state ; 
fewer still are willing to take on themselves the 
labour and care which must come with children in 
the easiest-going household, and so to save in the 
expenses by their own work. The shabbiest little 
wife, with her two financial ends always gaping and 
never meeting, must have her still shabbier little 
drudge to wheel her perambulator, so as to give her 
an air of fine-ladyhood and being too good for such 
work ; and the most indolent housekeeper, whose 
superintendence of domestic matters takes her just 
half an hour, cannot find time to go into the gardens 
or the square with nurse and the children, so that 
she may watch over them herself and see that they 
are properly cared for. 

In France, where it is the fashion for mother 
and bonne to be together both out of doors and at 
home, at least the children are not neglected nor 
ill-treated, as is too often the case with us ; and 
if they are improperly managed, according to our 
ideas, the fault is in the system, not in the want of 
maternal supervision. Here it is a very rare case 
indeed when the mother accompanies the nurse and 
children ; and those days when she does are nursery 
gala-days to be talked of and remembered for weeks 
after. As the little ones grow older, she may occa- 
sionally take them with her when she visits her more 
intimate friends ) but this is for her own pleasure, 



MODERN MOTHERS. 15 

not their good ; and going with them to see that they 
are properly cared for has nothing to do with the 
matter. 

It is to be supposed that each mother has a 
profomid belief in her own nurse, and that when she 
condemns the neglect and harshness shown to other 
children by the servants in charge, she makes a 
mental reservation in favour of her own, and is very 
sure that nothing improper nor cruel takes iplace in 
her nursery. Her children do not comjDlam ; and she 
always tells them to come to her when anything is 
amiss. On which negative evidence she satisfies her 
soul, and makes sure that all is right because she is 
too neglectful to see if anything is wrong. She does 
not remember that her children do not complain 
because they dare not. Dear and beautiful as all 
mammas are to the small fry in the nursery, they are 
always in a certain sense Junos sitting on the top of 
Mount Olympus, making occasional gracious and 
benign descents, but practically too far removed for 
useful interference ; while nurse is an ever-present 
power, capable of sly pinches and secret raids, as well 
as of more open oppression — a power, therefore, to 
be propitiated, if only with the grim subservience of 
a Yezidi too much afraid of the Evil One to oppose 
him. Wherefore nurse is propitiated, failing the pro- 
tection of the glorified creature just gone to her grand 
dinner in a cloud of lace and a blaze of jewels ; and 
the first lesson taught the youthful Christian in short 
frocks or knickerbockers is not to carry tales down 



16 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

stairs, and by no means to let mamma know what 
nurse desires should be kept secret. 

A great deal of other evil, beside these sly begin- 
nings of deceit, is taught in the nursery ; a great 
deal of vulgar thought, of superstitious fear, of class 
coarseness. As, indeed, how must it not be when 
we think of the early habits and education of the 
women taken into the nursery to give the first strong 
indelible impressions to the young souls under their 
care? Many a man with a ruined constitution, and 
many a woman with shattered nerves, can trace back 
the beginning of their sorrow to those neglected 
childish days when nurse had it all her own way 
because mamma never looked below the surface, and 
w^as satisfied with what was said instead of seeing 
for herself what was done. It is an odd state of 
society which tolerates this transfer of a mother's 
holiest and most important duty into the hands of 
a mere stranger, hired by the month, and never 
thoroughly known. 

Where the organization of the family is of the 
patriarchal kind — old retainers marrying and multi- 
plying about the central home, and carrying on a 
warm personal attachment from generation to gene- 
ration — this transfer of maternal care has not such 
bad effects ; but in our present way of life, without 
love or real relationship between masters and ser- 
vants, and where service is rendered for just so much 
money down and for nothing more noble, it is a 
hideous system, and one that makes the modern 



MODERN MOTHERS. 17 

mother utterly inexplicable. We wonder where her 
mere instincts can be, not to speak of her reason, her 
love, her conscience, her pride. Pleasure and self- 
indulgence have indeed gained tremendous power, in 
these later days, when they can thus break down the 
force of the strono^est law of nature — a law strons!:er 
even than that of self-preservation. 

Folly is the true capillary attraction of the moral 
world, and penetrates every stratum of society ; and 
the folly of extravagant attire in the drawing-room is 
reproduced in the nursery. Not content with bewil- 
dering men's minds and emptying their husbands' 
purses for the enhancement of their own charms, 
women do the same by their children ; and the mother 
who leaves the health and mmd and temper and 
purity of her offspring in the keeping of a hired 
nurse takes especial care of the colour and cut of the 
frocks and petticoats. And there is always the same 
strain after show, and the same endeavour to make a 
little look a mickle. The children of five hundred a 
year must look like those of a thousand ; and those 
of a thousand must rival the tenue of little lords and 
ladies born in the purple ; while the amount of money 
spent on clothes in the tradesman class is a matter of 
real amazement to those let into the secret. Simplicity 
of diet, too, is going out with simplicity of dress, with 
simplicity of habits generally ; and stimulants and 
concentrated food are now the rule in the nursery, 
where they mar as many constitutions as they make. 
More than one child of whom we have had personal 

VOL. I. C 



18 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

knowledge has yielded to disease induced by too 
stimulating and too heating a diet ; but artificial 
habits demand corresponding artificiality of food, and 
so the candle burns at both ends instead of one. 

Again, as for the increasing inability of educated 
women to nurse their children, even if desirous of 
doing so, that also is a bodily condition brought 
about by an unwholesome and unnatural state of life. 
Late hours, high living, heated blood, and constantly 
breathing a vitiated atmosphere are the causes of this 
alarming physical defect. But it would be too much 
to expect that women should forego their pleasurable 
indulgences, or do anything disagreeable to their 
senses, for the sake of their ofi'spring. They are not 
famous for looking far ahead on any matter ; but to 
expect them to look beyond themselves, and their 
own present generation, is to expect the great miracle 
that never comes. 



19 



MODERN MOTHERS, 



IL 



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

One of the functions recognized as specially 
belonging to them was that of guarding their youno- 
people from the consequences of their own ignorance 
— keeping them from dangers both physical and moral 
until wise enough to take care of themselves, and 
supplementing by their own experience the want of it 
in their children. Another was that of preserving the 
tone of society on a high level, and supplying the 
antiseptic element by which the rest was kept pure ; 
as, for example, insisting that the language used and 



C 2 



20 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

the subjects discussed before them were such as 
should not offend the modesty of virtuous women ; 
that the people with whom they were required to 
associate should be moderately honest and well con- 
ducted ; and, in short, as mothers, discountenancing 
everything in other men and women which they 
would not like to see imitated by their own sons and 
daughters. 

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

More or less on the search for her own pleasure — 
if by any possibility of artifice she can be taken for 
less than sixty, still ready for odd snatches of flirting 
as she can find occasion — or, with her faculties con- 
centrated on the chance of winning the rubber by 
indifferent play — the chaperon's charge is not a very 
onerous one ; and her daughters know as well as she 
does that her presence is a blind rather than a pro- 



MODERN MOTHERS, 21 

tection. They are with mamma as a form of speech ; 
but they are left to themselves as a matter of fact. 
Any one who is in the confidence of young people of 
either sex knows a little of what goes on in the dark 
corners and on the steps of the stairs — a favourite 
anchorage for the loosely chaperoned in private houses 
where two hundred are invited and only a hundred 
can find room. But then the girls are ^ with mamma,' 
and the young men are contented souls who take 
what they can get without making wry faces. 
Mamma, occupied in her own well- seasoned co- 
quetries, or absorbed in the chances of her deep 
' finesse ' and the winning trick, lets the girls take 
care of themselves, and would think it an intolerable 
impertinence should a friend hint to her that her 
place of chaperon included vigilant personal guardian- 
ship, and that she would do better to keep her 
daughters in her own charge than leave them to 
themselves. 

It is all very well for the advocates of youthful 
innocence to affect to resent the slur supposed to 
be cast on girlhood by the advocacy of this closer 
guardianship ; or for those who do not know the 
world to make their ignorance the measure of 
another's knowledge, and to deny what they have 
not proved for themselves. Those who do know the 
world know what they say when they deprecate the 
excessive freedom which is too often granted to 
unmarried girls ; and their warning is fully justified 
by experience when they call mothers back to their 



22 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

duty of stricter watchfulness. If indeed the young 
are capable of self-j)rotection, then we grant with 
them that mothers are a mistake : — Let them abdicate 
without more ado. If license is more desirable than 
modesty, and liberty better than reticence, the girls 
may as well be left, as practically they are already, 
free from the mother's guardianship:* ; but if we have 
a doubt that way, we may as well give it the benefit 
of consideration, and think a little on the subject 
before going further on the present line. 

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

As the children grow older the women by whom 
they are moulded become higher in the social and 
intellectual scale, but they are no more than before 
subordinated to the mother's personal supervision. 
She, for h^r part, cares only that her girls shall 
be taught the correct shibboleth of their station ; 
and for the rest, if she thinks at all, she cradles 
herself in a generous trust in the goodness of human 
nature, or the incorruptibility of her brood beyond 
that of any other woman's brood. When they come 



MODERN MOTHERS. 23 

under her own immediate hand, ' finished ' and ready- 
to be introduced, she knows about as much of them 
as she knows of her neighbours' girls m the next 
square ; and in nme cases out of ten the sole duties 
towards them which are undertaken by her are shirked 
when possible, as a i:orvee which she is too wise to 
bear unnecessarily. When she can, she shuffles them 
off on some kind neighbourly hands, and lets her 
daughters ' go about ' with the first person who offers, 
glad to have a little breathing time on her own side, 
and with always that generous trust in providence 
and vicarious protection which has marked her 
maternal career throughout. 

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



24 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

period ; and that fatal doctrine of self-protection counts 
its victims by the score as the consequence. 

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

In preserving the tone of society pure the modern 
mother is as far removed from the for.mer ideal as she 
is i'Q the duty of takmg care of her girls. Too often 
she is found making herself prominent in support of 
the most objectionable movements ; or, when doubtful 
questions are discussed in mixed society, she forgets 
that regard for the purity of her daughters should 
keep her silent, even if her own self-respect were 
too weak to restrain her. When the conscienceless 
world, living without a higher aim than that of success 
and what is known by gettmg on, condones all kinds 
of moral obliquity for the sake of financial prosperity 
and social position, do Vv^e find that, as a rule, mothers 
and matrons protest against opening their houses to 
this gilded rascality ? If they did — if they made 



MODERN MOTHERS. 25 

demerit and not poverty the cause of exclusion, virtue 
and not success the title to reception— there would be 
some check to the corruption which is so insolently 
rampant now. 

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

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



26 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

what tlie mother began. Society is moulded mainly 
by tliem, and tbey bring up their daughters on their 
own pattern. 

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



27 



PAYING ONIJ'S SHOT. 

It Avould save mucli useless striving and needless dis- 
appointment if the necessity of paying one's shot 
were honestly accepted as absolute — if it were under- 
stood, once for all, that society, like other manifesta- 
tions of humanity, is managed on the principle of 
exchange and barter, and equivalents demanded for 
value received. The benevolence which gives out of 
its own impulse, with no hope of reward save in the 
wellbeing of the recipient, has no place in the drawing- 
room code of morals. We may keep a useless 
creatare from starving at the cost of so much of our 
substance ^9^r diem, for the sole remuneration of 
thanks and the consciousness of an equivocal act of 
charity ; but who among us opens his doors, or gives 
a seat at his table, to drawmg-room paupers unable 
to pay their shot ? who cares to cultivate the ac- 
quaintance of men or women who are unable to make 
him any return ? It is not necessary that this 
return should be in kind — a dinner for a dinner, a 
champagne supper for a champagne sapper, and balls 
with waxed floors for balls with stretched linen ; but 



28 SATURDAY MORNINGS, 

shot must be paid in some form, whether in kind or 
not, and the social pauper who cannot pay his quota 
is Lazarus excluded from the feast. This is a hard 
saying, but it is a true one. We often hear worthy 
people who do not understand this law complain that 
they are neglected — left out of wedding breakfasts — 
passed over in dinner invitations — and that they find 
it difficult to keep acquaintances when made. But 
the fact is, these poor creatures who know so much 
about the cold-shoulder of society are simply those 
who cannot pay their shot, according to the currency 
of the class to which they aspire ; and so by degrees 
they get winnowed through the meshes, and fall to a 
level where their funds will suffice to meet all de- 
mands, triumphantly. For the rejected of one level 
are not necessarily the rejected of all, and the base 
metal of one currency is sound coinage in another. 
People who would find it impossible to enter 
a drawing-room in Grosvenor Square may have 
all Bloom sbury at their command ; and what was 
caviare to My Lord will be ambrosia to his valet — 
all depending on the amount of the shot to be 
paid and the relative value of coinage wherewith to 
pay it. 

The most simple form of payment is of course by 
the elemental process of reciprocity in kmd ; a dinner 
for a dinner and a supper for a supper : — a form as 
purely instinctive as an eye for an eye and a tooth 
for a tooth — the lex talionis of early jurisprudence 
administered among wine- cups instead of in the 



PAYING ONES SHOT. 29 

sliambles. But there are other niodes of payment as 
efficient if less evident, and as imperative if more 
subtle. For instance, women pay their shot — when 
they pay it individually, and not through the 
vicarious merits of their masculine relations — by 
dressing well and looking nice ; some by being 
pretty ; some by being fashionable ; a few by brilliant 
talk ; while all ought to add to their private speciality 
the generic virtue of pleasant manners. If they are 
not pretty, pleasant, well-dressed nor well-connected, 
and if they have no masculine pegs of power by which 
they can be hooked on to the higher lines, they are let 
to drop through the social meshes without an effort 
made to retain them, as little fishes swim away un- 
opposed through the loops which hold the bigger ones. 
These things are their social duties — the final cause of 
their drawing-room existence ; and if they fail in them 
they fail in the purpose for which they were created 
socially, and may die out as soon as convenient. 
They have other duties, of course, and doubtless of 
far higher moment and greater worth ; but the 
question now is only of their drawing-room duties — 
of the qualities which secure their recognition in 
society — of the special coinage in which they must 
pay their shot if they would assist at the great 
banquet of social life. A dowdy, humdrum, well- 
principled woman, whose toilette looks as if it had 
been made with the traditionary pitchfork, and whose 
powers of conversation do not go beyond the 
strength of Cobwebs to Catch Flies, or MangnaWs 



30 SATURDAY MORNIXGS. 

Questions^ may be an admirable wife, the painstaking 
mother of future honest citizens, invaluable by a s^ick- 
bed, beyond price in the nursery, a pattern of all 
household economies, a woman absolutely faultless in 
her sphere — and that sphere a very sweet and lovely 
one. But her virtues are not those by which she 
can pay her shot in society ; and the motherly good- 
ness, of so much account in a dressing-jacket and 
list -slippers, is put out of court when the fee to be 
paid is liveliness of manner or elegance of appearance. 
Certainly, worthy women who dress ill and look 
ungraceful, and whose conversation is about up to 
the mark of their children's easy- spelling-books, are 
plentiful in society — unfortunately for those bracketed 
with them for two hours' penance ; but in most cases 
they have their shot paid for them by the wealth, the 
importance, the repute, or the desirableness of their 
relations. They may pay it themselves by their own 
wealth and consequent liberal tariff of reciprocity; 
but this is rare ; the possession of personal superiority 
of any kind for the most part acting as a moral 
stimulus with women whom the superiority of their 
male belongmgs does not touch. And, by the way, it 
is rather hard lines that so many celebrated men have 
such dowdy wives. Artists, poets, self-made men of 
all kinds often fail in this special article ; and, while 
they themselves have caught the tone of the circle to 
which they have risen, and pay their shot by manner 
as well as by repute, their wives lag behind among 
the ashes of the past, like Cinderellas before the advent 



PAYING ONES SHOT. 31 

of the fairy godmother. How many of them are 
carried through society as clogs or excrescences 
which a polite world is bound to tolerate with more 
or less equanimity, according to the amount of sen- 
sitiveness bestowed by nature and cultivated by art ! 
Sometimes, however, self-made men and their wives 
are wise in their generation and understand the 
terms on which society receives its members ; in 
which case the marital Reputation goes to the front 
alone, and the conjugal Cinderella rests tranquilly in 
the rear. 

Notoriety of all kinds, short of murder or forgery, 
is one way of paying one's shot, specially into the 
coffers of the Leo Hunters, of whom there are many. 
It is shot paid to the general fund when one has seen 
an accident— better still, if one has been in it. Many 
a man has owed a rise in his scale of dinners to a 
railway smash; and to have been nearly burnt to 
death, to have escaped by a miracle from drownino-, 
to have been set on by footpads or to have been 
visited by burglars, is worth a round of At Homes, 
because of the ready cash of a real adventure. To be 
connected more or less remotely with the fashionable 
tragedy of the hour is paying one's shot handsomely. 
To have been on speaking terms with the latest re- 
spectable scoundrel unmasked, or to have had dealings, 
sufficiently remote to have been cleanly, with the 
newest villainy, will be accepted as shot while the 
public interest in the matter lasts. A chance visit to 
ultra-grandees — grandees in ratio to the ordinary 



32 SATURDAY MOENINGS. 

sphere — is shot paid with an air. A bad illness, or 
the attendance on one, with the apparently unconscious 
heroism of the details, comes in as part of the social 
fine; especially if the person relating his or her expe- 
rience has the knack of epigram or exaggeration, while 
still keeping local colour and verisimilitude intact. 
Interesting people who have been abroad and seen 
things have good counters for a dinner-]3arty; paying 
their shot for themselves and their hosts too, who put 
them forward as their contribution to the funds of the 
commonwealth, with certainty of acceptance. Some 
pay their shot by their power of procuring orders 
and free admissions. They know the manager of 
this theatre or the leading actor of that; they are 
acquainted with the principal members of the hang- 
ing committees, and are therefore great in private 
views; they are always good for a gratuitous treat 
to folks who can afford to pay twice the sum de- 
manded for their day's pleasure. Such people may 
be stupid, ungainly, not specially polished, in grain 
unpleasant; but they circulate in society because 
they pay their shot and give back equivalents for 
value received. A country-house, where there is a 
good tennis-ground and a blushing bed of straw- 
berries, is coinage that will carry the possessor very 
far ahead through London society ; and by the same 
law you will find healthy, well-conditioned country 
folk tolerate undeniable little snobs of low calibre 
because of that sixteen-roomed house in Tyburnia, a 
visit to which represents so many concerts, so many 



PAYING ONE'S SHOT. 33 

theatres, a given number of exhibitions, and a cert am 
quantity of operas and parties. Had those un- 
deniable little snobs no funds wherewith to pay 
their shot, they would have had no place kept for 
them among the rose-trees and the strawberry- beds ; 
but, bringing their quota as they do, they take their 
seat with the rest and are helped in their turn. 

In fact, humiliating to our self-love as it may be, 
the truth is, we are all valued socially, not for our- 
selves integrally, not for the mere worth of the naked 
soul, but for the kind of shot that we pay — for the 
advantao;e or amusement to others that we can brino; 
— for something in ourselves which renders us de- 
sirable as companions — ^or for something belonging 
to our condition which makes us remunerative as 
guests. If we have no special qualification, if we 
neither look nice nor talk well, neither bring glory 
nor confer pleasure, we must expect to be shunted to 
the side in favour of others who are up to the right 
mark and who give as much as they receive. If this 
truth were once fully established as a matter of social 
science, a great advance would be made ; for nothmg 
helps people so much as to clear a subject of what fog 
may lie about it. And as the tendency of the age is 
to discover the fixed laws which regulate the mutable 
affairs of man, it would be just as well to extend the 
inquiry from the jury-box to the dinner-table, and 
from the blue-book to the visiting-list. Why is it 
that some people struggle all their lives to get a 
footing in society, yet die as they have lived — social 

VOL. I. D 



34 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

Sisyphuses, never accomplishing their perpetually- re- 
curring task ? There must be a reason for it, seeing 
that nothing is ruled by blind chance, though much 
seems to lie outside the independent will of the indi- 
vidual. Enlighten these worthy people's minds on 
the unwritten laws of invitation, and show them 
that — thoroughly honest souls and to be trusted 
with untold gold or with their neighbour's pretty 
wife, which is perhaps a harder test, as they may 
be — they are by no means to be trusted with the 
amusement of a couple of companions at a dinner- 
table. Show them that, how rich soever they may 
be in the rough gold of domestic morality, they are 
bankrupts in the small-change which alone passes 
current in society — and, if invited where they aspire 
to be, they would be taken on as pauper cousins 
unable to pay their footing and good for neither 
meat nor garnish. Let them learn how to pay 
their shot, and their difficulties would vanish. They 
would leave off repeating the fable of Sisyphus, and 
attain completion of endeavour. No one need say 
this is a hard or a selfish doctrine, for we all follow 
it in practice. Among the people we invite to our 
houses are some whom we do not specially like, but 
whom we must ask because of shot paid in kind. 
There are people who may be personally disagreeable, 
ill- educated, uninteresting, ungainly, but whom we 
cannot cut because of the relations in which we stand 
towards them, and who take their place by right, 
because they pay their shot with punctuality. There 



PAYING ONE'S SHOT. 35 

are others whom we ask because of liking or de- 
sirability, and shot paid in some specific form of 
pleasantness, as in beauty, fashion, good manner, 
notoriety ; but there are none absolutely barren of 
all gifts of pleasantness to the guests, of reflected 
honour to ourselves, and of social small-change 
according to the currency. We do not go mto the 
byways and hedges to pick up drawing-room tatter- 
demalions who bring nothing with them and are 
simply so much dead-weight on the rest, occupying 
so much valuable space and consuming so much vital 
energy. The law of reciprocity may be hard on 
the strivers who are ignorant of its inexorable pro- 
visions ; but it is a wholesome law, like other rules and 
enactments agamst remediable pauperism. And were 
we once thoroughly to understand that, if we would 
sit securely at the table we must put something of 
value into the pool — that we must possess advan- 
tageous circumstances, or personal desirabilities, as 
the shot to be paid for our place — the art of society 
would be better cultivated than it is now, and the 
classification of guests would be carried out with 
greater judgment. Surely, if the need of being 
gracious in manner, sprightly in talk, and of pleasant 
appearance generally — all cultivable qualities, and to 
be learned if not born in us by nature — were ac- 
cepted as an absolute necessity, without which we 
must expect to be overlooked and excluded, drawing- 
rooms would be far brighter and dinner- tables far 
pleasanter than they are at present ; to the advantage 



36 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

of all concerned! And, after all, society is a great 
thino; in human life. If not equal in importance to 
the family, or to political virtue, it has its own special 
value ; and whatever adds to its better organization 
is a gain in every sense. 



37 



WHAT IS WOMAJS^'S WORK? 

This is a question which one half the world is at 
this moment asking the other half ; with very wild 
answers as the result. Woman's work seems to be 
in these days everything that it was not in times 
past, and nothing that it was. Professions are 
undertaken and careers invaded which were formerly 
held sacred to men ; while things are left undone 
which, for all the generations that the world has 
lasted, have been naturally and instinctively assigned 
to women to do. From the savage squaw gathering 
fuel or drawing water for the wigwam, to the lady 
giving up the keys to her housekeeper, housekeeping 
has been considered one of the primary functions of 
women. The man to provide — the woman to dis- 
pense ; the man to do the rough initial work of 
bread-winnmg, whether as a half-naked barbarian 
hunting live meat or as a City clerk painfully 
scorino^ lines of ruo'o;ed fio'ures — the woman to 
cook the meat when got, and to lay out to the 
best advantage for the family the quarter's salary 
gained by casting up ledgers and writing advices 
and bills of lading. Take human society in any 



38 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

phase we like, we must come doT^Ti to these radical 
conditions ; and any system which ignores this 
division of labour, and confounds these separate 
functions, is of necessity imperfect and wrong. We 
have nothing whatever to say against the professional 
self-support of women who have no men to work for 
them, and who must therefore work for themselves 
in order to live. In what direction soever they can 
best make their way, let them take it. Brains and 
intellectual gifts are of no sex and no condition, and it 
is far more important that good work should be done 
than that it should be done by this or that particular 
set of workers. But we are speaking of the home 
duties of married women, and of those girls who 
have no need to earn their daily bread, and who are 
not so specially gifted as to be driven afield by the 
irrepressible power of genius. We are speaking of 
women who cannot help in the family income, but who 
might both save and improve in the home ; women 
whose lives are one long day of idleness, ennui and 
vagrant imagination, because they despise the activi- 
ties into which they were born, while seeking outlets 
for their energies impossible to them both by functional 
and social restrictions. 

It is strange to see into what unreasonable disre- 
pute active housekeeping — woman's first social duty 
—has fallen in England. Take a family with four 
or five hundred a year — and we know how small 
a sum that is for ' genteel humanity ' in these days — 
the wife who is an active housekeeper, even with 



WHAT IS WOMAN'S WOEK ? 39 

such an income, is an exception to the rule ; and the 
daughters who are anything more than drawing- 
room dolls waiting for husbands to transfer them to 
a home of their own, where they may be as useless 
as they are now, are rarer still. For things are 
getting worse, not better, and our young women are 
less useful even than were their mothers ; while these 
last do not, as a rule, come near the housekeeping 
ladies of olden times, who knew every secret of 
domestic economy and made a wise and pleasant 
' distribution of bread ' their grand point of honour. 
The usual method of London housekeeping, even in 
the second ranks of the middle- classes, is for the 
mistress to give her orders in the kitchen in the 
morning, leavmg the cook to pass them on to the 
tradespeople when they call. If she be not very 
indolent, and if she have a due regard for neatness 
and cleanliness, she may supplement her kitchen 
commands by going up stairs through some of the 
bedrooms ; but after a kmd word of advice to the 
housemaid if she be sweet-tempered, or a harsh note 
of censure if she be of the cross-grained type, her 
work in that department will be done, and her duties 
for the day are at an end. There is none of the clever 
marketing by which fifty per cent, is saved in the 
outlay, if a woman knows what she is about and 
how to buy ; none of that personal superintendence, 
so encouraging to servants when genially performed, 
which renders slighted work impossible ; none of that 
' seeing to things ' herself, or doing the finer parts 



40 SATURDAY M0ENING3. 

of the work with her own hands, which used to form 
part of a woman's unquestioned duty. She gives her 
orders, weighs out her supplies, then leaves the 
maids to do the best they know or the worst they 
will, according to the degree in which they are sup- 
plied with faculty or conscience. Many women boast 
that their housekeeping takes them perhaps an hour, 
perhaps half an hour, in the morning, and no more ; 
and they think themselves clever and commendable 
in proportion to the small amount of time given to 
their largest family duty. This is all very well where 
the income is such as to secure iirst-class servants — 
professors of certain specialities of knowledge and 
far in advance of the mistress ; but how about the 
comfort of the house under this hasty generalship, 
when the maids are mere scrubs who ought to go 
through years of training if they are ever to be worth 
their salt ? It may be very well too in large house- 
holds governed by general system, and not by in- 
dividual ruling ; but where the service is scant and 
poor, it is a stupid, uncomfortable, as well as wasteful 
way of housekeeping. It is analogous to English 
cookery — a revolting poverty of result with flaring 
prodigality of means ; all the pompous paraphernalia 
of tradespeople and their carts and their red-books 
for orders, with nothing worth the trouble of booking ; 
and everything of less quantity and lower quality 
than would be if personal pains were taken — which is 
always the best economy. 

What is there in practical housekeeping less 



^TIAT IS WOMAN'S WOEK ? 41 

honourable than the ordinary work of middle- class 
gentlewomen ? and why should women shrink from 
doing for utility, and for the general comfort of the 
family, what they would do at any time for vanity or 
idleness ? No one need go into extremes, and wish 
our nnddle-class o'entle women to become exao'o;erated 
Marthas occupied only with much serving, Nausicaas 
washing linen, or ' wise Penelopes ' spending their lives 
in needlework alone. But, without undertaking any- 
thing unpleasant to her senses or degrading to her 
condition, a lady might do hundreds of things which 
are now left undone in a house, or are given up to 
the coarse handling of servants ; and domestic hfe 
would gain in consequence. What degradation, for 
instance, is there in cookery ? and how much more 
home happiness would there not be if wives would 
take in hand that great cold-mutton question ? But 
women are both selfish and small on this point. Born 
for the most part with feebly- developed gustativeness, 
they affect to despise the stronger instinct in men, 
and think it low and sensual if they are expected to 
give special attention to the meals of the man who 
provides the meat. This contempt for good cooking 
is one cause of the io-norance there is amono; them of 
how to secure good livmg. Those horrible traditions 
of ' plain roast and boiled ' cling about them as 
articles of culinary faith ,- and because they have 
reached no higher knowledge for themselves, they 
decide that no one else shall go beyond them. For 
one middle-class gentlewoman who understands any- 



42 SATURDAY MORNINGS.* 

thing about cookery, or who really cares for it as a 
scientific art or domestic necessity, there are ten 
thousand who do not ; yet our mothers and grand- 
mothers were not ashamed to be known as deft pro- 
fessors, and homes were happier in proportion to the 
respect paid to the stewpan and the stockpot. And 
cookery is more interesting now than it was then, 
because more advanced, more scientific, and with 
improve! appliances ; and, at the same time, it is of 
confessedly more importance. 

It may seem humiliating, to those who go in for 
spirit pure and simple, to speak of the condition of 
the soul as in any way determined by beef and cab- 
bage ; but it is so, nevertheless ; the connexion 
between food and virtue, food and thought, being a 
very close one. And the sooner wives recognize this 
connexion the better for them and for their husbands. 
The clumsy savagery of a plain cook, or the vile 
messes of a fourth-rate confectioner, are absolute sins 
in a house where a woman has all her senses, and 
can, if she will, attend personally to the cooking. 
Many things pass for crimes which are really not so 
bad as this. But how seldom do we find a house 
where the lady does look after the food of the family ; 
where clean hands and educated brains are put to 
active service for the good of others ! The trouble 
would be too great in our fine-lady days, even if there 
were the requisite ability ; but there is as little ability 
as there is energy, and the plain cook with her 
savagery and the fourth-rate confectioner with his 



WHAT IS WOMAN'S WORK? 43 

rancid pastry, have it all tlieir own way, according 
as the election is for economy or ostentation. If by 
chance we stumble on a household where the woman 
does not disdain housewifely work, and specially 
does not disdain the practical superintendence of the 
kitchen, there we are sure to find cheerfulness and 
content. 

There seems to be something in the life of a 
practical housekeeper that answers to the needs of a 
woman's best nature, and that makes her pleasant and 
good-humoured. Perhaps it is the consciousness that 
she is doing her duty — of itself a wonderful sweetener 
of the temper ] perhaps the greater amount of bodily 
exercise keeps her liver in good case ; whatever the 
cause, sure it is that the homes of the active house- 
keepers are more harmonious than those of the feckless 
and do-nothing sort. Yet the snobbish half of the 
middle-classes holds housewifely work as degrading, 
save in the trumpery pretentiousness of ' giving 
orders.' A woman may sit in a dirty drawing-room 
which the slipshod maid has not had time to clean, 
but she must not take a duster in her hands and polish 
the leo:s of the chairs : — there is no disoTace in the 
dirt, only m the duster. She may do fancy-work of 
no earthly use, but she must not be caught making a 
gown. Indeed very few women could make one, and 
as few will do plain needlework. They will braid and 
embroider, ' cut holes, and sew them up again,' and 
spend any amount of time and money on beads and 
wools for messy draperies which no one wants. The 



44 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

end, being finery, sanctions the toil and refines it. 
But they will not do things of practical use ; or, if 
they are compelled by the exigencies of circumstances, 
they think themselves martyrs and badly used by 
the Fates. 

The whole scheme of woman's life at this present 
time is untenable and unfair. She wants to have all 
the pleasures and none of the disagreeables. Her 
husband goes to the City and does monotonous and 
unpleasant work there ; but his wife thinks herself very 
hardly dealt with if asked to do monotonous house- 
work at home. Yet she does nothing more elevating 
nor more advantageous. Novel-reading, fancy-work, 
visiting and letter- writing, sum up her ordmary occu- 
pations ; and' she considers these more to the point 
than practical housekeeping. In fact it becomes 
a serious question what women think themselves 
sent into the world for — what they hold themselves 
designed by God to be or to do. They grumble at 
having children and at the toil and anxiety which a 
family entails ; they thmk themselves degraded to 
the level of servants if they have to do any practical 
housework whatever ; they assert their equality with 
man, and express their envy of his life, yet show 
themselves incapable of learning the first lesson set 
to men — that of doing what, they do not like to do. 
What, then, do they want ? What do they hold 
themselves made for ? Certainly some of the more 
benevolent sort carry thsir energies out of doors, and 
leave such prosaic matters as savoury dinners and 



WHAT IS woman's WORK? 45 

fast shirt -buttons for coramittees and charities, where 
they get excitement and kudos together. Others give 
themselves to what they call keeping up society, 
which means being more at home in every person's 
house than their own ; and some do a little weak 
art, and others a little feeble literature ; but there 
are very few indeed who honestly buckle to the 
natural duties of their position, and who bear with 
the tedium of home-work as men bear wdth the 
tedium of office -work. 

The little royalty of home is the last place where 
a woman cares to shine, and the most uninterestino- 
of all the domains she seeks to govern. Fancy a 
high-souled creature, capable of aesthetics, giving her 
mind to soup or the right proportion of chutnee 
for the curry ! Fancy, too, a brilliant creature fore- 
going an evening's conversational glory abroad for 
the sake of a prosaic husband's more prosaic dinner ! 
He comes home tired from work, and desperately 
in need of a good dinner as a restorative ; but the 
plain cook gives him cold meat and pickles, or an 
abomination which she calls hash, and the brilliant 
creature, full of mind, thinks the desire for any- 
thing else rank sensuality. It seems a little hard, 
certainly, on the unhappy fellow who works at the 
mill for such a return ; but women believe that 
men are made only to work at the mill that they 
may receive the grist accruing, and be kept in idle- 
ness and uselessness all their lives. They have no 
idea of lightening the labour of that mill-round by 



46 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

doing tlieir own natural work cheerfully and dili- 
gently. They will do everything but what they 
ought to do. They will make themselves doctors, 
committee-women, printers, what not ; but they will 
not learn cooking, and they will not keep their own 
houses. There never was a time when women were 
less the helpmates of men than they are at present ; 
when there was such a wide division between the 
interests and the sympathies of the sexes coincident 
with the endeavour, on the one -side, to approximate 
their pursuits. 

A great demand is being made now for more 
work for woman and wider fields for her labour. 
We confess we should feel a deeper interest in the 
question if we saw more energy and conscience put 
into the work lying to her hand at home ; and we 
hold that she ought to perfectly perform the duties 
which we may call instinctive to her sex before 
claimino; those hitherto held remote from her natural 
condition. Much of this demand sj)rings from rest- 
lessness and dissatisfaction ; little, if any, from higher 
aspirations or nobler energies unused. Indeed, the 
nobler the woman the more thoroughly she will do 
her own proper work, in the spirit of old George 
Herbert's well-worn line ; and tlie less she will feel 
herself above that work. It is only the weak who 
cannot raise their circumstances to the level of their 
thoughts ; only the poor in spirit who cannot enrich 
their deeds by their motives. 
• That very much of this demand for more power 



WHAT IS woman's worvK? 47 

of work comes from necessity and the absolute need 
of bread, we know ; and that the demand will grow 
louder as marriage becomes scarcer, and there are 
more women adrift in the world without the pro- 
tection and help of men, we also know. But this 
belongs to another part of the subject. What we 
want to insist on now is the pitiable ignorance and 
shiftless indolence of most middle-class housekeepers ; 
and what we would urge on woman is the value of 
a better system of life at home before laying claim 
to the discharofe of extra- domestic duties abroad. 



48 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 



LITTLE WOMEN. 

The conventional idea of a brave, energetic, or a 
supremely criminal, woman has always been that of a 
tall, dark-hairecl, large-armed virago who might pass 
as the younger brother of her husband, and about 
whom nature seemed to have hesitated before deter- 
mining whether to make her a man or a woman : — 
a kind of debateable land, in fact, between the 
two sexes, and almost as much the one as the 
other. Helen Macgregor, Lady Macbeth, Catharine de 
Medici, Mrs. Manning, and the old-fashioned mur- 
deresses in novels, were all of the muscular, black- 
brigand type, with more or less of regal grace super- 
added according to circumstances ; and it would 
have been thought nothing but a puerile fancy to 
have supposed the contrary of those whose personal 
description was not already known. Crime, indeed, 
in art and fiction, was generally painted in very nice 
proportion to the number of cubic inches embodied 
and the depth of colour employed ; though we are 
bound to add that the public favour ran towards 
muscular heroines almost as much as towards 
muscular murderesses, which to a certain extent 



LITTLE WOMEN. 49 

redressed the overweighted balance. Oar later novel- 
ists, however, have altered the whole setting of the 
palette. Instead of five foot ten of black and brown, 
they have gone in for four foot nothing of pink and 
yellow. Instead of tumbled masses of raven hair, 
they have shining coils of purest gold. Instead of 
hollow caverns whence flash unfathomable e^^es elo- 
quent of every damnable passion, they have limpid 
lakes of heavenly blue ; and their worst sinners are 
in all respects fashioned as much after the outward 
semblance of the ideal saint as they have skill to 
design. 

The original notion was a very good one, and the 
revolution did not come before it was wanted ; but it 
has been a little overdone of late, and we are threat- 
ened with as great a surfeit of small-limbed yellow- 
headed criminals as we have had of the black -haired 
virago. One gets weary of the most perfect model in 
time, if too constantly repeated ; as now, when we 
have all begun to feel that the resources of the 
angeFs face and demon's soul ha\e been more heavily 
drawn on than is quite fair, and that, given ' heavy 
braids of golden hair,' ' bewildering blue eyes,' ' a 
small lithe frame,' and special delicacy of feet and 
hands, we are booked for the companionship, through 
three volumes, of a young person to whom Messalina 
or Lucretia Borgia was a mere novice. 

And yet there is a physiological truth in this 
association of energy with smallness — perhaps, also, 
with a certain tint of yellow hair, which, with a dash 

VOL. I. E 



50 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

of re J through it, is decidedly suggestive of nervous 
force. Suggestiveness, indeed, does not go very far 
in an argument ; but the frequent connexion of 
energy and smallness in women is a thing which all 
may verify in their own circles. In daily life, who 
is the really formidable woman to encounter ? — the 
black-browed, broad-shouldered giantess, with arms 
almost as big in the girth as a man's? or the pert, 
smart, trim little female, with ijo more biceps than a 
ladybird, and of just about equal strength with a 
sparrow? Nine times out of ten, the giantess with 
the heavy shoulders and broad black eyebrows is a 
timid, feeble-minded, good-tempered person, inca- 
pable of anything harsher than a mild remonstrance 
with her maid, or a gentle chastisement of her child- 
ren. Nine times out of ten her husband has her in 
hand in the most perfect working order, so that she 
would swear the moon shone at midday if it were his 
pleasure that she should make a fool of herself by 
her submissiveness. One of the most obedient and 
indolent of earth's daughters, she gives no trouble to 
any one, save the trouble of rousing, excitmg and 
settmg going ; while, as for the conception or execu- 
tion of any naughty piece of self-assertion, she is as 
utterly incapable of either as if she were a child un- 
born, and demands nothing better than to feel the 
pressure of the leading-strings, and to know exactly 
by their strain where she is desu'ed to go and what 
to do. 

But the little woman is irrepressible. Too fragile 



LITTLE WOMEN. 51 

to come into the fighting section of humanity — a 
puny creature whom one blow from a man's huge fist 
could annihilate — absolutely fearless, and insolent 
with the insolence which only those dare show who 
know that retribution cannot follow — what can be 
done with her ? She is afraid of nothing and to be 
controlled by no one. Sheltered behind her weak- 
ness as behind a triple shield of brass, the angriest 
man dare not touch her, while she provokes him to a 
combat in which his hands are tied. She gets her 
own way in everything and everywhere. At home 
and abroad she is equally dominant and irrepressible, 
equally free from obedience and from fear. Who 
breaks all the public order in sights and shows, and, 
in spite of King, Kaiser, or Policeman X, goes where 
it is expressly forbidden that she shall go ? Xot the 
large-boned, muscular woman, whatever her tem- 
perament ; unless, indeed, of the exceptionally 
haughty type in distinctly inferior surroundings — 
and then she can queen it royally enough and set 
everything at most lordly defiance. 

But in general the large-boned woman obeys the 
orders given, because, while near enough to man to be 
somewhat on a par with him, she is still undeniably 
his inferior. She is too strong to shelter herself 
behind her weakness, yet too weak to assert her 
strength and def}^ her master on equal grounds. She 
is like a flying fish — not one thing wholly ; and while 
capable of the inconveniences of two lives is incapable 
of the privileges of either. It is not she, for all her 

E 2 



52 SATURDAY MOENINGS. 

well-developed frame and formidable looks, but the 
little woman, who breaks the whole code of laws 
and defies all their defenders — the pert, smart, pretty 
little woman, who laughs in your face and goes 
straight ahead if you try to turn her to the right 
hand or to the left, receiving your remonstrances 
with the most sublime indifference, as if you were 
talking a foreign language she could not understand. 
She carries everything before her, wherever she is. 
You may see her stepping over barriers, slipping 
under ropes, penetrating to the green benches with a 
red ticket, taking the best places on the platform 
over the heads of their rightful owners, settling 
herself among the reserved seats without an inch of 
pasteboard to float her. You cannot turn her out 
by main force. British chivalry objects to the public 
laying on of hands in the case of a woman, even 
when most recalcitrant and disobedient ; more parti- 
cularly if she be a small and fragile-looking woman. 
So that, if it be only a usurpation of places specially 
masculine, she is allowed to retain what she has got, 
amid the grave looks of the elders — not really dis- 
pleased at the flutter of her ribbons among them — 
and the titters and nudges of the young fellows. 

If the battle is between her and another woman, 
they are left to fight it out as they best can, with 
the odds laid heavily on the little one. All this time 
there is nothing of the tumult of contest about her. 
Fiery and combative as she generally is, when break- 
ing the law in public places she is the very soul of 



LITTLE WOMEN. 53 

serene dariiig. She shows no heat, no passion, no tur- 
bulence ; she leaves these as extra weapons of defence 
to women who are assailable. For herself she re- 
quires no such aids. She knows her capabilities and 
the line of attack that best suits her, and she knows, 
too, that the fewer points of contest she exposes the 
more likely she is to slip into victory ; the more she 
assumes and the less she argues, the slighter the 
hold she gives her opponents. She is either per- 
fectly good-humoured or blankly innocent ; she either 
smiles you into indulgence or wearies you into com- 
pliance by the sheer hopelessness of making any im- 
pression on her. She may, indeed, if of the very voci- 
ferous and shrill-tongued kind, burst out into such a 
noisy demonstration as makes you glad to escape 
from her, no matter what spoils you leave in her 
hands ; just as a mastiff will slink away from a 
bantam hen all heckled feathers and screeching 
cackle and tremendous assumption of domg some- 
thing terrible if he does not look out. Any way the 
little woman is unconquerable ; and a tiny fragment 
of humanity at a public show, setting all rules and 
regulations at defiance, is only carrying out in the 
matter of benches the manner of life to which nature 
has dedicated her from the beo^inniner. 

As a rule, the little woman is brave. When the 
lymphatic giantess falls into a faint or goes off' into 
hysterics, she storms, or bustles about, or holds on 
like a game terrier, according to the work on hand. 
She will fly at any man who annoys her, and she bears 



54 SATURDAY MOHNINGS. 

» 

herself as equal to the biggest and strongest fellow 
of her acquaintance. In general she does it all by 
sheer pluck, and is not notorious for subtlety or craft. 
Had Delilah been a little woman she would never 
have taken the trouble to shear Samson's locks. She 
would have stood up against him with all his strength 
untouched on his head, and she would have overcome 
him too. Judith and Jael were both probably large 
women. The work they went about demanded a 
certain strenD;th of muscle and tous^hness of sinew : 
but who can say that Jezebel was not a small, 
freckled, auburn-haired Lady Audley of- her time, 
fall of the concentrated fire, the electric force, the 
passionate recklessness of her type ? Regan and 
Goneril might have been beautiful demons of the 
same pattern ; we have the example of the Mar- 
chioness de Brinvilliers as to what amount of spiritual 
devilry can exist with the face and manner of an 
angel direct from heaven ; and perhaps Cordelia was 
a tall dark -haired girl, with a pair of brown eyes, 
and a long nose sloping downwards. 

Look at modern Jewesses, with their flashing 
Oriental orbs, their night-black tresses and the 
dusky shadows of their olive -coloured complexions. 
As catalogued properties according to the ideal, they 
would be placed in the list of the natural criminals and 
law-breakers, while in reality they are about as meek 
and docile a set of women as are to be found within 
the four seas. Pit a fiery little Welsh woman or 
a petulant Parisienne against the most regal and 



LITTLE WOMEN. 55 

Junonic amongst them, and let them try conclusions 
in courage, in energy, in audacity ; the Israelitish 
Juno will go down before either of the small Philis- 
tines, and the fallacy of weight and colour in the 
generation of power will be shown without the 
possibility of denial. 

Even in those old days of long ago, when human 
characteristics were embodied and deified, we do not 
find that the white-armed laro:e-limbed Hera, thou^j^h 
queen by right of marriage, lorded it over her sister 
goddesses by any superior energy or force of nature. 
On the contrary, she was rather a heavy-going person, 
and, unless moved to anger by her husband's nume- 
rous infidelities, took her Olympian life placidly 
enough, and once or twice got cheated in a way that 
did no great credit to her sagacity. A little French- 
woman would have sailed round her easily ; and as 
it was, shrewish though she was in her speech when 
provoked, her husband not only deceived but chastised 
her, and reduced her to penitence and obedience as 
no little woman would have suffered herself to be 
reduced. 

There is one celebrated race of women who were 
probably the powerfully -built, large-limbed creatures 
they are assumed to have been, and as brave and 
energetic as they were strong and big — the Norse 
women of the sagas, who, for good or evil, seem to 
have been a very influential element in the old 
Northern life. Prophetesses ; physicians ; dreamers of 
dreams and accredited interpreters as well ; endowed 



56 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

with magic powers ; admitted to a share in the 
councils of men ; brave in war ; active in peace ; 
these fair-haired Scandinavian women were the fit 
comrades of their men, the fit wives and mothers of 
the Berserkers and the A^ikings. They had no tame 
nor easy life of it, if all we hear of them be true. To 
defend the farm and the homestead during their 
husbands' absence, and to keep these and themselves 
intact against all bold rovers to whom the Tenth 
Commandment was an unknown law ; to dazzle and 
bewilder by magic arts when they could not conquer 
by open strength ; to unite craft and courage, de- 
ception and daring, loyalty and independence, de- 
manded no small amount of opposing qualities. But 
the Steingerdas and Gudrunas were generally equal 
to any emergency of fate or fortune, and slashed 
their way through the history of their time more 
after the manner of men than of women ; supple- 
menting their downright blows by side thrusts of 
craftier cleverness when they had to meet power with 
skill and were fain to overthrow brutality by fraud. 
The Norse women were certainly as largely framed 
as they were mentally energetic, and as crafty as 
either ; but we know of no other women who unite 
the same characteristics and are at once cunning, 
strong, brave and true. 

On the whole, then, the little women have the 
best of it. More petted than their bigger sisters, 
and infinitely more powerful, they have their oAvn 
way in part because it really does not seem worth 



LITTLE WOMEN. 57 

while to contest a point with such little creatures. 
There is nothing that wounds a man's self-respect 
in any victory they may get or claim. Where there 
is absolute inequality of strength, there can be no 
humiliation in the self-imposed defeat of the stronger ; 
and as it is always more pleasant to have peace than 
war, and as big men for the most part rather like 
than not to put their necks under the tread of tiny 
feet, the little woman goes on her way triumphant 
to the end ; breaking all the laws she does not like 
and throwing down all the barriers which impede her 
progress ; irresistible and irrepressible in all circum- 
stances and under any conditions. 



58 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 



IDEAL WOMEN, 

It is often objected against fault-finders, writers 
or others, that they destroy but do not build up ; 
that while industriously blaming errors they take 
good care not to praise the counteracting virtues ; 
that in their zeal against the vermin of which they 
are seeking to sweep the house clean they forget the 
nobler creatures which do the good work of keeping 
thmgs sweet and wholesome. But it is impossible to 
be continually mtroducing the saving clause, ' all are 
not so bad as these.' The seven thousand righteous 
who have not bowed the knee to Baal are understood 
to exist in all communities ; and, vicious as any 
special section may be, there must always be the 
hidden salt and savour of the virtuous to keep the 
whole from falling into utter corruption. 

This is specially true of modern women. Cer- 
tainly some of them are as unsatisfactory as any of 
their kind who have ever appeared on earth before ; 
but it would be very queer logic to infer therefore that 
all are bad alike, and that our modern womanhood is 
as ill off as the Cities of the Plain, which could not 
be saved for want of the ten just men to save them. 



IDEAL WOMEN. 59 

Happily, we have noble women among us yet ; 
women who believe in something besides pleasure, and 
who do their work faithfully, wherever it may lie ; 
women who can and do sacrifice themselves for love 
and duty, and ^ho do not think they were sent into 
the world simply to run one mad life-long race for 
wealth, for dissipation, for distinction. But the life 
of such women is essentially in retirement ; and 
though the lesson they teach is beautiful, yet its 
influence is necessarily confined, because of the narrow 
sphere of the teacher. When public occasions for 
devotedness occur, we in some sort measure the 
extent to which the self-sacrifice of women can be 
carried ; but in general their noblest virtues come 
out only in the quiet sacredness of home, and the 
most heroic lives of patience and well-doing go on in 
seclusion, uncheered by sympathy and unrewarded 
by applause. 

Still, it is impossible to write of one absolute 
womanly ideal — one single type that shall satisfy 
every man's fancy ; for, naturally, what would be 
perfection to one is imperfection to another, accord- 
ing to the special bent of the individual mind. Thus 
one man's ideal of womanly perfection is in beauty, 
mere physical outside beauty ; and not all the virtues 
under heaven could warm him into love with red 
hair or a snub nose. He is entirely happy if his 
wife be undeniably the handsomest woman of his ac- 
quaintance, and holds himself blessed when all men 
admire and all women envy. But he is blessed for 



60 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

his own sake rather than for hers. Pleasant as her 
lovelmess is to look on, it is pleasanter to know that 
he is the possessor of it. The ' handsomest woman 
in the room' comes into the same category as the 
finest picture or the most thoroughbred horse within 
his sphere ; and if the degree of pride in his posses- 
sion be different, the kind is the same. And so in 
minor proportions — from the most beautiful woman 
'^ (of all, to simply beauty as a sine qua non^ whatever 
else may be wanting. One other thing only is as 
absolute as this beauty, and that is its undivided 
possession. 

Another man's ideal is a good housekeeper and a 
careful mother ; and he does not care a rush whether 
his wife, if she is these, be pretty or ugly. Provided 
she is active and industrious, minds the house 
well, brings up the children as they ought to be 
brought up, has good principles, is trustworthy and 
even-tempered, he is not particular as to colour or 
form, and can even be brought to tolerate a limp or 
a squint. Given the broad foundations of an honour- 
able home, and he will forego the lath and plaster of 
personal appearance which will not bear the wear 
and tear of years and their troubles. The soHd 
virtues stand. His balance at the banker's is a fact ; 
his good name and credit with the tradespeople are 
facts ; so is the comfort of his home ; so are the health, 
the morals, the education of his children. All these 
are the true realities of life to him ; but the beauty 
which changes to deformity by small-pox, which 



IDEAL WOMEN. 61 

fades under dyspepsia, grows stale by habit, and is 
worn threadbare by the end of twenty years, is only 
a skin-deep grace which he does not value. Per- 
haps he is right. Certainly, some of the happiest 
marriages amongst one's acquaintances are those 
where the wife has not one perceptible physical 
charm, and where the whole force of her magnetic 
value lies m what she is, not in how she looks. 

Another man wants a tender, adoring, fair-haired 
seraph, who will worship him as a demigod and 
accept him as her best revelation of strength and 
wisdom. The more dependent she is, the better he 
will love her ; the less of conscious thought, of 
active will, of originative power she has, the greater 
will be his regard and tenderness. To be the one 
sole teacher and protector of such a gentle little 
creature seems to him the most delicious joy and the 
best condition of married life ; and he holds Milton's 
famous lines to be expressive of the only fitting rela- 
tions between men and women. The adoring seraph 
is his ideal ; Griselda, Desdemona, Lucy Ashton, 
are his highest culminations of womanly grace ; and 
the qualities which appeal the most powerfully to 
his generosity are the patience which will not com- 
plam, the gentleness that cannot resent, and the love 
which nothing can chill. 

Another man wants a cultivated intelligence in 
his ideal. As an author, an artist, a student, a states- 
man, he would like his wife to be able to help him 
by the contact of bright wit and ready intellect. He 



62 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

believes in the sex of minds, and holds no work 
complete which has not been created by the one and 
perfected by the other. He sees how women have 
helped on the leaders in troublous times ; he knows 
that almost all great men have owed something of 
their o;reatness to the influence of a mother or a wife ; 
he remembers how thoughts which had lain dumb 
and dormant in men's brains for more than half then' 
lifetime have suddenly wakened up mto speech and 
activity by the influence of a woman great enough to 
call them forth. The adoring seraph would be an 
encumbrance and nothing better than a child on his 
hands ; and the soul which had to be awakened and 
directed by him would run great chance of remaining 
torpid and inactive all its days. He has his own life 
to lead and round off ; and, so far from wishing to 
influence another's, he wants to be helped for himself. 

Another man cares only for the birth and social 
position of the woman to whom he gives his name 
and affection. To another yellow gold stands higher 
than blue blood, and ' my wife's father ' may have 
been a rag-picker, so long as rag-picking had been 
distilled in a sufficiently rich alembic leaving a resi- 
duum admittmg no kind of doubt. Venus herself 
without a dowry would be only a pretty seaside girl 
with a Newtown pippin in her hand ; but Miss 
Kilmansegg would be something worth thinking of, 
if but little worth looking at. 

One man delights in a smart, vivacious little 
woman of the irrepressible kind. It makes no dif- 



IDEAL WOME?^. 63 

ference to him how petulant she is, how full of fire 
and fury ; the most passionate bursts of temper 
simply amuse him, like the anger of a canary-bird, 
and he holds it fine fun to watch the small virago in 
her tantrums, and to set her going again when he 
thinks she has been a long enough time in subsi- 
dence. His ideal of woman is an amusing little 
plaything, with a great facility for being put up, and 
a dash of viciousness to give it piquancy. Another 
wants a sweet and holy saint whose patient humility 
springs from principle rather than from fear ; another 
likes a blithe- tempered, healthy girl with no nonsense 
about her, full of fun and ready for everything, and he 
is not particular as to the strict order or economy of 
the housekeeping, provided only his wife is at all times 
willing to be his pleasant playmate and companion. 
Another delights in something very quiet, very silent, 
very home- staying. One must have first-rate music 
in his ideal woman; another, unimpeachable taste ; 
a third, strict order ; a fourth, Hberal breadth of 
nature ; and each has his own ideal, not only of 
nature but of person — to the exact shade of the hair 
the colour of the eyes and the oval of the face. But 
all agree in the great fandamental requirements of 
truth and modesty and love and unselfishness ; for 
though it is impossible to write of one womanly ideal 
as an absolute, it is very possible to detail the virtues 
which ought to belong to all alike. 

If this diversity of ideals be true of individuals, it 
is especially true of nations, each of which has its 



CA SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

own ideal woman varying according to what is called 
tlie genius of the country. To the Frenchman, if we 
are to believe Michelet and the novelists, it is a 
feverish little creature, full of nervous energy but 
without muscular force ; of frail health and feeble 
organization ; a prey to morbid fancies which she has 
no strength to control nor yet to resist ; now weeping 
away her life in the pain of finding that her husband — 
a man gross and material because husband — does not 
understand her, now sighing over her delicious sins 
in the arms of the lover w^ho does ; without reason- 
ing faculties but with divine intuitions w^hich are as 
o-ood as revelations; without cool judgment but with 
the lio-ht of burning passions which guide her just as 
well ; thinking by her heart and carrying the most 
refined metaphysics into her love ; subtle ; incompre- 
hensible by the coarser brains of men and women who 
are only honest ; a creature born to bewilder and to 
be misled, to love and to be adored, to madden men 
and to be destroyed by them. 

It does not much signify that the reality is a 
shrew^d, calculating, unromantic woman, with a hard 
face and keen eyes, wdio for the most part makes a 
good practical wife to her common- sense middle-aged 
husband, who thmks more of her social position than 
of her feelings, more of her children than of her 
lovers, more of her purse than of her heart, and whose 
oTcat object of life is a daily struggle for centimes. 
It pleases the French to idealize their eminently 
practical and worldly-wise women into this queer 



IDEAL WOMEN. 65 

compound of hysterics and adultery; and if it pleases 
tliem it need not displease us. To tlie German his 
ideal is of two kinds — one, his Martha, the domestic 
broad-faced Hausmutter^ who cooks good dinners at 
small cost, and mends the family linen as religiously 
as if this were the Eleventh Commandment specially 
appointed for feminine fingers to keep, the poetic 
culmination of whom is Charlotte cutting bread and 
butter ; the other, his Mary, his Bettina, full of mind 
and esthetics and heart-uplifting love, yearning after 
the infinite with holes in her stockings and her shoes 
down at heel. For what are coarse material mendino-s 
to the aesthetic soul yearning after the Infinite and 
worshipping at the feet of the prophet ? 

In Italy the ideal woman of late times was the 
ardent patriot, full of active energy, of physical force, 
of dauntless courage. In Poland it is the patriot 
too, but of a more refined and etherealized type, 
passively resentmg Tartar tyranny by the subtlest 
feminine scorn, and living in perpetual music and 
mourning. In Spain it is a woman beautiful and 
impassioned, with the slight drawback of needing a 
world of looking after, of which the men are undeni- 
ably capable. In Mohammedan countries generally 
it is a comely smooth- skinned Dudii, patient and sub- 
missive, always in good humour with her master, 
economical in house-living to please the meanness, 
and gorgeous in occasional attire to gratify the 
ostentation, of the genuine Oriental ; but by no 
means Dudii ever asleep and unoccupied. For, if 

VOL. I, F 



ee SATURDAY xMORNINGS. 

not allowed to take part in active outside life, the 
Eastern's wife or wives have their home duties and 
their maternal cares like all other women, and find 
to their cost that, if they unduly neglect them, they 
will have a bad time of it with Ali Ben Hassan when 
the question comes of piastres and sequms, and the 
dogs of Jews who demand payment, and the pigs 
of Christians who follow suit. 

The American ideal is of two kinds, like the Grer- 
man — the one, the clever manager, the woman with 
good executive faculty in the matters of buckwheat 
cakes and oyster gumbo, as is needed in a country 
so poorly provided with ' helps ; ' the other, the aspir- 
ing soul who puts her aspirations into deeds, and 
goes out into the world to do battle with the sins of 
society as editress, preacher, stump-orator and the 
like. It must be rather embarrassing to some men 
that this special manifestation of the ideal woman at 
times advocates miscegenation and free love ; but per- 
haps we of the narrow old conventional type are not 
up to the right mark yet, and have to wait until our 
own women are thoroughly emancipated before we 
can rightly appreciate these questions. At all events, 
if this kind of thing pleases the Americans, it is no 
more our busmess to interfere with them than with 
the French compound ; and if miscegenation and 
free love seem to them the right manner of life, let 
them follow it. 

In all countries, then, the ideal woman changes, 
chameleon-like, to suit the taste of men ; and the 



IDEAL WOMEN. 67 

great doctrine that her happiness does somewhat 
dejDend on his liking is part of the very foundation of 
her existence. According to his will she is bond or 
free, educated or ignorant, lax or strict, house-keep- 
ing or roving ; and though we advocate neither the 
bondage nor the ignorance, yet we do hold to the 
principle that, by the laws which regulate all human 
communities everywhere, she is bound to study the 
wishes of man and to mould her life in harmony 
with his liking. No society can get on in which 
there is total independence of sections and members, 
for society is built up on the mutual dependence of 
all its sections and all its members. Hence the 
defiant attitude which women have lately assumed, 
and their indifference to the wishes and remonstrances 
of men, cannot lead to any good results whatever. 
It is not the revolt of slaves against their tyrants 
which they have begun — in that we could sympa- 
thize — but it is a revolt against their duties. 

And this it is which makes the present state of 
things so deplorable. It is the vague restlessness, 
the fierce extravagance, the neglect of home, the 
indolent fine-ladyism, the passionate love of pleasure 
which characterises the modern woman, that saddens 
men and destroys in them that respect which their 
very pride prompts them to feel. And it is the pain- 
fid conviction that the ideal woman of truth and 
modesty and simple love and homely living has 
somehow faded away under the paint and tinsel of 
this modern reality which makes us speak out as we 

F 2 



68 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

have done, in the hope — perhaps a forlorn one — that 
if she could be made to thoroughly understand what 
men think of her, she would, by the very force of 
natural instinct and social necessity, order herself in 
some accordance with the lost ideal, and become 
agam what we once loved and what we all regret. 



69 



PINCHBECK. 

Not many years ago no really refined gentlewoman 
would have worn pinclibeck. False jewelry and 
imitation lace were touchstones with the sex, and the 
woman who would condescend to either was assumed, 
perhaps not quite without reason, to have lost some- 
thinof more than the mere niceness of technical taste. 
This feeling ran through the whole of society, 
and pinchbeck was considered as at once despicable 
and disreputable. The successful speculator, sprung 
from nothing, who had made his fortune during the 
war, might buy land, build himself a mansion and 
set up a magnificent establishment, but he was never 
looked on by the aboriginal gentry of the place as 
more than a lucky adventurer ; and the blue blood, 
perhaps nourishing itself on thin beer, turned up its 
nose disdainfully at the claret and Madeira which had 
been personally earned and not lineally inherited. 
This exclusiveness was narrow in spirit and hard 
in individual working ; and yet there was a whole- 
some sentiment underlying its pride \Yliicli made it 
valuable in social ethics, if immoral on the score 
of natural equality and human charity. It was the 
rejection of pretentiousness, however gilded and 



70 SATURDAY MORNIKGS. 

glittering, in favour of reality, however poor and 
barren ; it was the condemnation of make-believe — the 
repudiation of pinchbeck. It is not a generation since 
this was the normal attitude of society towards its 
nouveaiLX riches and Brummagem jewelry ; but time 
moves fast in these later days, and national senti- 
ments change as quickly as national fashions. 

We are in the humour to rehabilitate all things, 
and pinchbeck has now its turn with the rest. The 
lady of slender means who would refuse to wear 
imitation lace and false jewelry is as rare as the 
country society which would exclude the nouveaii 
riche because of his newness, and. not adopt him 
because of his riches. The whole anxiety now is, not 
what a thing is, but how it looks — not its quality, but 
its appearance. Every part of social and domestic 
life is dedicated to the apotheosis of pinchbeck. It 
meets us at the hall- door, where miserable stuccoed, 
pillars are supposed to confer a quasi-palatial dignity 
on a wretched jerry-built little villa run up without 
regard to one essential of home comfort or of archi- 
tectural truth. It goes with us into the cold, conven- 
tional drawing-room, where all is for show and nothing 
for use, in which no one lives, and which is just the 
mere pretence of a dwellmg-room, set out to deceive 
the world into the belief that its cheap finery is the 
expression of the every-day life and circumstances of 
the family. It sits with us at the table, which a 
confectioner out of a back street Las furnished and 
where everything, down to the very flowers, is hired 



PINCHBECK. 71 

for the occasion. It glitters in the brooches and 
bracelets of the women, in the studs and signet-rings 
of the men. It is in the hired broughams, the hired 
waiters, the pigmy page-boys, the faded paper flowers, 
the cheap champagne, and the affectation of social 
consideration that meet us at every turn. The whole 
of the lower section of the middle- classes is penetrated 
through and through with the worship of pinchbeck ; 
and for one family that holds itself in the honour and 
simplicity of truth, ten thousand lie, to the world 
and to themselves, in frippery and pretence. 

The iH'eatest sinners in this are women. Men are 
often ostentatious, often extravagant, and not un- 
frequently dishonest in that broad way of dishonesty 
which is called living beyond their means — sometimes 
making up the deficit by practices which end in the 
dock of the Old Bailey ; but, as a rule, they go in 
for the real thing in details, and their pinchbeck is at 
the core rather than on the surface. Women, on the 
contrary, give themselves up to a more general pre- 
tentioQsness, and, provided they can make a show, 
care very little about the means ; provided they can 
ring their metal on the counter, they ignore the want 
of the hall- stamp underneath. Locality, dress, their 
'visiting-list and domestic appearances are the four 
things which they demand shall be in accord with 
their neighbours' ; and for these four surfaces they 
will sacrifice the Avhole internal fabric. They will 
have a showy-looking house, encrusted with base 
ornamentation and false grandeur, though it lets in 



72 SATUKDAY MORNINGS. 

wind, rain and noise almost as if it were made 
of mild or canvas, rather than a plain and sub- 
stantial dwelling-place, with comfort instead of 
stucco, and moderately thick walls instead of porches 
and pilasters. Most of their time is necessarily 
passed at home, but they will undergo all manner of 
house discomfort resulting from this preference of 
cheap finery over solid structure, rather than forego 
their ' genteel locality ' and stereotyped ornamenta- 
tion. A family of daughters on the one side, diligent 
over the ' Battle of Prague ; ' a nursery full of crying 
babies on the other ; more Battles of Prague opposite, 
diversified by a future Lind practising her scales un- 
weariedly ; water-pipes bursting in the frost ; walls 
streaming in the thaw ; the lower offices reeking and 
green with damp ; the upper rooms too insecure 
for unrestricted movement — all these, and more 
miseries of the same kind, a woman given over to the 
worship of pinchbeck willingly encounters rather than 
shift into a locality relatively unfashionable to her 
sphere, but where she could have substantiality and 
comfort for the same rent that she pays now for flash 
and show. 

In dress it is the same thing". She must look like 
her neighbours, no matter whether they can spend 
pounds to her shillings, so runs up a milliner's bill 
beyond what she ought to afi'ord for the whole 
family expenses. If others can buy gold, she can 
manage pinchbeck. Glass that looks like jet, like 
filagree work, like anything else she fancies, is every 



PINCHBECK. 73 

bit to lier as good as the real thing ; and if she 
cannot compass Valenciennes and Mechlin, she can go 
to Nottingham and buy machine-made imitations that 
will make quite as fine a show. How poor soever 
she may be, she must hang herself about with orna- 
ments made of painted wood, of glass, of vulcanite ; 
she must break out into spangles and beads and chains 
and henoitons, which are cheap luxuries and, as she 
thinks, effective decorations. Flimsy silks make as rich 
a rustle to her ear as the stateliest brocade ; and cotton 
velvet delights the soul that cannot aspire to Genoa. 
The love of pinchbeck is so deeply ingramed in her 
that even if, in a momentary fit of aberration into 
good taste, she condescends to a simple material 
about which there can be neither disguise nor pre- 
tence, she must load it with that detestable cheap 
finery of hers till she makes herself as vulgar in a 
muslin as she was in a cotton velvet. The simjolex 
munditiis^ which used to be held as a canon of 
feminine good taste, is now abandoned altogether, 
and the more she can bedizen herself according to the 
j)attern of a Sandwich islander the more beautiful 
she thinks herself — the more certain the fascination of 
the men and the greater the jealousy of the women. 
This is the cause of all the tags and streamers, the 
bits of ribbon here and flying ends of laces there, the 
puffed-out chignons, and the trailing curls cut off 
some dead girl's head, wherewith the modern English- 
woman delights to make herself hideous. It is pinch- 
beck througho u t . 



74 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

But we fear woman is past praying for in the 
matter of fashion ; and that she is too far given over 
to the abomination of pretence to be called back to 
truth for any ethical reason whatsoever, or indeed by 
anything short of high examples. And then, if 
simplicity became the fashion, we should have our 
pinchbeck votaries translating that into extremes as 
they do now with ornamentation ; if my lady took 
to plainness, they would go to nakedness. 

Another bit of pinchbeck is the visiting-list — the 
cards of invitation stuck against the drawing-room 
glass — with the grandest names and largest fortunes 
put forward, irrespective of dates or tenses. The 
chance contact with the people represented may be 
quite out of the ordinary circumstances of life, but 
their names are paraded as if an accident, which has 
happened once and may never occur again, were in 
the daily order of events. They are brought to the 
front to make others believe that the whole social 
substance is of the same quality ; that generals and 
admirals and lords and ladies are the common 
elements of the special circle in which the family 
habitually moves ; that pinchbeck is good gold, and 
that ' composition ' means marble. Women are ex- 
ceedingly tenacious of these pasteboard appearances. 
In a house with its couple of female servants, where 
formal visitors are very rare and invitations, save 
by friendly word of mouth, rarer still, you may see 
a cracked china bowl or cheap mock patera on the 
hall table, to receive the cards which are assumed to 



PINCHBECK. 75 

come in the thick showers usual with high people 
who have hall- porters and a thousand names or more 
on their books. The pile gets horribly dusty to be 
sure, and the upper layer turns by degrees from 
cream -colour to brown ; but antiquity is not held to 
weaken the force of grandeur. The titled card left 
on a chance occasion more than a year ago still keeps 
the uppermost place, still represents a perpetual 
renewal of aristocratic visits and an unbroken suc- 
cession of social triumphs. Yellowed and soiled, it 
is none the less the trump -card of the list ; and 
while the outside world laughs and ridicules, the lady 
at home thinks that no one sees through this puerile 
pretence, and that the visiting-list is accepted accord- 
ding to the status of the fugleman at the head. She 
is very happy if she can say that the pattern of her 
dress, her cap, her bonnet, was taken from that of 
Lady So and So's ; and w^e may be quite sure that 
all personal contact with grand folks so expresses 
itself and perpetuates the memory of the event, by 
such imitation — at a distance. It is too good an 
occasion for the airing of pinchbeck to be disregarded ; 
consequently, for the most part it is turned to this 
practical account. Whether the fashion be suited to 
the material or to the other parts of the dress, is 
quite a secondary consideration ; it being of the essence 
of pinchbeck to despise both fitness and harmony. 

There is a large amount of pinchbeck in the 
appearance of social influence, much cultivated by 
women of a certain activity of mind and with more 



76 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

definite aims than all women have. This belongs to 
a grade higher than the small pretences of which we 
have been speaking — to women who have money, and 
so far have one reality, but who have not, by their 
own birth or their husbands', the orio;inal standmo; 
which would give them this social influence as of right. 
Some make themselves notorious for their drawino;. 
room patronage of artists, which however does not 
include buying their pictures ; others gather round 
them scores of obscure authors, whose books they talk 
of but do not read ; a few, a short time since, were 
centres of spiritualistic circles and got a queer kind 
of social influence thereby, so far as Philistine desire 
to witness the ' manifestations ' went ; and one or two 
are names of weight in the emancipated ranks, and 
take chiefly to what they call ' working women.' 
These are they who attend Ladies' Committees, where 
they talk bosh and pound away at utterly unmterest- 
ing subjects as diligently as if what they said had 
any point in it, and what they did any ultimate 
issue in probability or common sense. But beyond 
the fact of having a large house, where their several 
sets may assemble at stated periods, these would-be 
lady patronesses are utterly impotent to help or to 
hinder ; and their patronage is just so much pinch- 
beck, not worth the trouble of weiofhinof. 

In all this gaudy attempt at show, this restless 
dissatisfaction with what they are and ceaseless 
endeavour to a23pear something they are not, our 
middle-class ladies are doing themselves and society 



PINCHBECK. 77 

infinite mischief. Tbey set the tone to the world 
below them ; and the small tradespeople and the 
servants, when they copy the vices of their superiors, 
do not imitate her grace the duchess, but the doctor's 
wife over the way, and the lawyer's lady next door, 
and the young ladies everywhere, who all try to 
appear like women of rank and fortune, and who are 
ashamed of nothing so much as of industry, truth and 
simplicity. Hence the rage for cheap finery in the 
kitchen, just a trifle more ugly and debased than that 
worn in the drawing-room ; hence the miserable 
pretentiousness and pinchbeck fine-ladyism filtermg 
like poison through every pore of our society, to 
result God only knows in what grave moral cataclysm, 
unless women of mind and education will come to the 
front and endeavour to stay the plague already 
begun. Chains and brooches may seem but small 
material causes for important moral efi'ects, but they 
are symbols ; and, as "symbols, they are of deep 
national value. 

No good will be done till we get back some of our 
fine old horror of pinchbeck, and once more insist on 
Truth as the foundation of our national life. Educa- 
tion and refinement will be of no avail if they do not 
land us here ; and the progress of the arts and 
sciences must not be brought to mean chiefly the 
travesty of civilized ladies into the semblance of 
savages, by the cheap imitation of costly substances. 
Women are always rushing about the world eao-er 
after everything but their home business. Here is 



78 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

something for tliem to do — the regeneration of society 
by means of their own energies ; the bringing people 
back to the dignity of truth and the beauty of 
simphcity ; the substitution of that self-respect which 
is content to appear what it is, for the feeble pride 
which revels in pinchbeck because it cannot get 
gold, which endeavours so hard to hide its real estate 
and to pass for what it is not and never can be. 



AFFRONTED WOMANHOOD. 

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



80 SATURDAY MOEXIXGS. 

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

behalf. 

Men, as men, are all sorts of bad things, as 
every one knows. They are selfish, cruel, tyrannical, 
sensual, unjust, bloodthirsty — where does the list 
end ? and human nature in the abstract is a bad 



AFFRONTED WOMANHOOD. 81 

thing too, given over to lies and various deadly 
lusts ; but women, as women, are exempt from any 
special share in the general miquity, and only come 
under the ban with universal nature — with lambs and 
doves and other pretty creatures — not quite perfection, 
because of the Fall which spoilt everything, and yet 
very near it. As children of the rash parents who 
corrupted the race they certainly suffer from the 
general infection of sin that followed, but, as 
daughters contrasted with the sons, they are so far 
superior to those evil-minded brethren of theirs that 
their comparative virtues by sex override their posi- 
tive vices by race. As individuals, they are worms ; 
as human beings, they are poor smful souls ; but by 
their womanhood they are above rebuke. 

Women have been so long wrapped in this 
pleasant little delusion about the sacredness of their 
sex, and the perfections belonging thereto by nature, 
that any attem^jt to show them the truth and con- 
vince them that they too are guilty of the mean 
faults and petty ways common to a fallen humanity 
— whereof certain manifestations are special to them- 
selves — is met with the profound scorn or shrill cries 
of affronted womanhood. A man who sjDeaks of their 
faults as they appear to him, and as he suffers by 
them, is illiberal and unmanly, and the rage of the 
more hysterically indignant would not be very far 
below that of the Thracian MaBnads, could they lay 
hands on the offending Orpheus of the moment ; hut 
a woman who speaks from knowledge, and touches the 

VOL. I. G 



82 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

weak places and the sore spots known best to the 
initiated, is a traitress even baser than the rude man 
who perhaps knows no better. 

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

This is in ethics what the Oriental's reserve 
about his harem is in domestic life. The sacred- 
ness of a Mohammedan's womankind must be so 
complete that they are even nameless to the coarser 



AFFRONTED WOMANHOOD. 83 

sex ; and not, ' How ^.s your wife ? ' '■ How are your 
daughters ? ' but, ' How is your house ? ' is the only 
accepted form of words by which Ali may ask Hassan 
about the health of his Fatimas and Zuliekas. In 
much the same way our women must be kept behind 
the close gilded gratings of aiFected perfectness, and, 
above all things, never publicly discussed — much less 
publicly condemned. 

It is by no means a proof of wisdom, or of the 
power of logically reasoning out a position and its 
consequences, that women should thus demand to be 
treated as things superior to the faults and follies of 
humanity at large. They are clamouring loudly, and 
with some justice, for an equal share in the world's 
work and wages, and it is wonderfully stupid in them 
to stand on their womanly dignity and their quasi- 
sacredness, when told of their faults and measured 
according to their shortcomings, not their pretensions. 
If they come down into the arena to fight, they must 
fight subject to the conditions of the arena. They 
must not ask for special rules to be made in their 
behalf — for blunted weapons on the one side and 
impregnable defences on the other. If they demand 
either mystic reverence or chivalric homage they 
must be content with their own narrow but safe 
enclosure, where they have nothing to do but to look 
at the turmoil below, and accept with gratitude such 
portions of the good things fought for as the men to 
whom they belong see fit to bring them. They can- 
not at one and the same time have the good of both 

G 2 



84 SATURDAY M0R^'1^TTS 

positions — the courtesy claimed by weakness and tlie 
honour paid to prowess. If they mingle in the melee 
they mnst expect as hard knocks as the rest, and 
must submit to be bullied when they hit foul and to 
be struck home when they hit wide. If they do not 
like these conditions, let them keep out of the fray 
altogether ; but if they choose to mingle in it, no 
hysterics of affronted womanhood, however loud the 
shrieks, will keep them safe from hnrd knocks and 
rough treatment. 

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

As wives — well, save in the old nursery doggrel 
which sets forth that they are made of ' all that's 
good if well understood ' — as wives certamly they 
get not a few ungentle rubs. But then only a 
husband knows where the shoe pinches, and if he 
blasphemes during the wearing of it, on his own 



AFFRONTED WOMANHOOD. 85 

head be tlie guilt as is already the punishment. 
As maidens they are confessedly the most sacred 
manifestation of humanity, and to be approached 
with the reverence rightfully due to the holiest 
thing we know ; while in the new spiritualistic 
world we are told to look for the time when the 
moral supremacy of woman shall be the recognized 
law of human life and the reign of violence and 
tears and all iniquity shall therefore be at an end. 
Thus the moral loveliness of collective womanhood 
is a dogma which men are taught from their boyhood 
as an article of faith if not a matter of experience, 
and women naturally keep them up to the mark — 
theoretically, at all events. Yet for all this lip- 
homao^e, of which so much account is made, women 
are often ill-used and brutalized, and m spite of their 
superior pretensions as often fall below men m every 
quality but that of patience. And patience is emi- 
nently the virtue of weakness, and therefore woman's 
cardinal grace ; speaking broadly and allowing for 
exceptions. But what women do not see is that all 
this poetic flattery comes originally from the idealiz- 
ing passion of men, and that, left to themselves, with 
only each other for critics and analyzers, they would 
soon find themselves stripped of their superfluous 
moral finery and reduced to the bare core of un- 
compromising truth. And this would be the best 
thing for them in the end. If they could but rise 
superior to the weakness of flattery, chey would rise 
beyond the power of much that now degrades them. 



86 SATUEDAY MORNINGS. 

If they would bat honestly consider the question ot 
their own shortcomings when told where they fail, 
and what they cannot do, and what they will be 
sure to make a mess of if they attempt, they would 
prove their title to man's respect far more than they 
prove it now by the shrill cries and indignant remon- 
strances of affronted womanhood. 

This is the day of trial for many thmgs — among 
others, for the capacity of women for an enlarged 
sphere of action and more public exercise of power. 
Do women think they show their fitness for nobler 
duties than those already assigned them, by their im- 
patience under censure, which is, after all, but one 
mode of teachmg ? Are they qualifying themselves 
to act in concert with men, by assuming an absolute 
moral supremacy which it is a kmd of sacrilege to 
deny ? If they think they are on the right road as at 
present followed, let them go on in heaven's name. 
When they have wandered sufficiently far perhaps 
they will have sense enough to turn back, and see for 
themselves what mistakes they have made and might 
have avoided, had they had the wisdom of self-know- 
ledge in only a small degree. Certainly, so long as 
womanhood is held to confer, ^j>t'r sc, a special and un- 
assailable divinity, so long will women be rendered 
comparatively incapable of the best work through 
vanity, through ignorance^ and through impatience of 
the teaching that comes by rebuke. Nothing is so 
damaging in the long run as exaggerated pretensions ; 
for by-and-by, after a certain period of uncritical 



AFFRONTED WOMANHOOD. 87 

homage, the world is sure to believe that the silver 
veil which it has so long respected hides deformity, not 
divinity, and that what is too sacred for public use is 
too poor for public honour. If the faults of women are 
not to be discussed, nor their follies condemned, 
because womanhood is a sacred thing and a man 
naturally respects his mother and sisters, then women 
must be content to live in a moral harem, where they 
will be safe from both the gaze and the censure of the 
outside world ; they must not come down into the 
battle-fields and the workshops, where they forfeit all 
claim to protection and have to accept the man's law 
of ' no favour.' It must be one thing or the other. 
Either their merits must be weighed and their capacity 
assayed in reference to the place they want to take — 
and in doing this their faults must be boldly and dis- 
tmctly discussed — or they must be content with their 
present condition ; and, with the mystic sanctity of 
their womanhood, they must accept also its moral 
seclusion — belonging, by their very nature, to things 
too sacred for criticism and too perfect for censure. It 
rests with themselves to decide which it is to be. 



88 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 



FEMININE AFFECTATIONS, 

The old form of feminine affectation used to be that 
of a die-away fine lady afflicted with a mysterious 
malady known by the name of the vapours, or one, 
no less obscure, called the spleen. Sometimes it was 
an etherealized being who had no capacity for homely 
things, but who passed her life in an atmosphere of 
poetry and music, for the most part expressing her 
vague ideas in haltmg rhymes which gave more 
satisfaction to herself than to her friends. She was 
probably an Italian scholar and could quote Pet- 
rarch and Tasso, and did quote them pretty often ; 
she might even be a Delia Cruscan by honourable 
election, with her own peculiar wreath of laurel and 
her own silver lyre ; any way she was ' a sister of 
the Muses/ and had something to do with Apollo 
or Minerva, whom she was sure to call Phcebus or 
Pallas Athene, as being the more poetical name of the 
two. Probably she had dealings with Diana too — for 
this kind of woman does not in any age affect the 
^seaborn,' save in a hazy sentimental way that bears 
no fruits — a neatly-turned sonnet or a clever bit 
of counterpoint being to her worth all the manly 



FEMININE AFFECTATIONS. 89 

love or fireside home delio;hts that the world can 
give. What is the touch of babies' dimpled fingers 
or the rosy kisses of babies' lips compared to the 
pleasures of being a sister of the Muses and one of 
the beloved of Apollo ! The Delia Cruscan of 
former days, or her modern avatar, will tell you that 
music and poetry are godlike and bear the soul away 
to heaven, but that the nursery is a prison and babies 
are no dearer gaolers than any other ; and that 
household duties disgrace tlie aspiring soul mounting 
to the empyrean. This was the Ethereal Being of 
last generation — the Blue-stocking, as a poetess in 
white satin, with her eyes turned up to heaven and 
her hair in dishevelled cascades about her neck. She 
dropped her mantle as she finally departed ; and we 
still have the Delia Cruscan essence, if not in the 
precise form of earlier times. We still have ethereal 
beings who, as the practical outcome of their ether- 
ealization, rave about music and poetry and aesthetics 
and culture, and horribly neglect their babies and the 
weekly bills. 

A favourite form of feminine affectation among 
certain opposers of the prevalent fast type is in an 
intense womanliness — an aggravating intensity of 
womanliness — that makes one long for a little rough- 
ness, just to take ofi" the cloying excess of sweet- 
ness. This kind is generally found with large eyes, 
dark in the lids and hollow in the orbit, by which a 
certain spiritual expression is given to the face — a 
certain look of being consumed by the hidden fire of 



90 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

lofty thought, that is very effective. It does not 
destroy the effectiveness that the real cause of the 
darkened lids and cavernous orbits is most probably 
internal disease, when not antimony. Eyes of this 
sort stand for spirituality and loftiness of thought 
and intense womanliness of nature : and, as all men 
are neither chemists nor doctors, the simulation does 
quite as well as truth. 

The main characteristic of these women is self- 
consciousness. They live before a moral mirror, 
and pass their time in attitudinizing to what they 
think the best advantage. They can do nothing 
simply, nothing spontaneously and without the 
fullest consciousness as to how they do it, and 
how they look while they are doing it. In every 
action of their lives they see themselves as pic- 
tures, as characters in a novel, as impersonations of 
poetic images or thoughts. If they give you a glass 
of water, or take your cup from you, they are Youth 
and Beauty ministering to Strength or Age, as the 
case may be ; if they bring you a photographic 
album, they are Titian's Daughter carrying her 
casket, a trifle modernized ; if they hold a child in 
their arms, they are Madonnas, and look unutterable 
maternal love though they never saw the little crea- 
ture before, and care for it no more than for the 
puppy in the mews ; if they do any small personal 
office, or attempt to do it — making believe to tie a 
shoestring, comb out a curl, fasten a button — they 
are Charities in graceful attitudes, and expect you to 



FEMININE AFFECTATIONS. 91 

think them both charitable and graceful. Nine times 
out of ten they can neither tie the string nor fasten 
the button with ordinary deftness— for they have 
a trick of using only the ends of their fingers when 
they do anything with their hands, as being more 
graceful and fitting in better, than would a firmer 
grasp, wdth the delicate womanliness of the character ; 
and the less sweet and more commonplace woman 
who does not attitudinize morally and never parades 
her womanliness, beats them out of the field for real, 
helpfulness, and is the Charity which the other only 
plays at being. 

This kind too affects, in theory, wonderful sub- 
missiveness to man. It upholds Griselda as the 
type of feminine perfection, and — still in theory — 
between independence and being tyrannized over, 
goes in for the tyranny. ' I would rather my hus- 
band beat me than let me do too much as I liked,' 
said one before she married, who, after she was 
married, managed to get entire possession of the 
domestic reins and took good care that her nominal 
lord should be her practical slave. For, notwithstand- 
ing the sweet submissiveness of her theory, the 
intensely womanly woman has the most astonishing 
knack of getting her own way and imposing her ow^n 
will on others. The real tyrant among w^omen is 
not the one who flounces and splutters and de- 
clares that nothing shall make her obey, but this 
soft-mannered, large-eyed, intensely w^omanly person 
who says that Griselda is her ideal and that the 



92 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

whole duty of woman lies in unquestioning obedience 
to man. 

In contrast with this special affectation is the 
mannish woman — the woman vdio wears a double- 
breasted coat with big buttons, of which she flings 
back the lappels with an air, understanding the 
suggestiveness of a wide chest and the need of un- 
checked breathing ; who wears unmistakeiible shirt- 
fronts, linen collars, vests and plain ties, like a man ; 
who folds her arms or sets them akimbo, like a man ; 
who even nurses her feet and cradles her knees, in 
spite of her petticoats, and makes believe that the 
attitude is comfortable because it is manlike. If the 
excessively womanly woman is affected in her 
sickly sweetness, the mannish woman is affected in 
her breadth and roughness. She adores dogs and 
horses, which she places far above children of all 
ages. She boasts of how good a marksman she is — 
she does not call herself markswoman — and how she 
can hit right and left and brmg down both birds 
flying. When she drinks wine she holds the stem 
of the glass between her first two fingers, hollows 
her underlip, and, throwing her head well back, tosses 
off the whole at a draught — she would disdain the 
lady-like sip or the closer gesture of ordinary women. 
She is great in cheese and bitter-beer, in claret-cup 
and still champagne, but she despises the puerilities 
of sweets or of effervescing wines. She rounds her 
elbows a'nd turns her wrist outward, as men round 
their elbows and turn their wrists outward. She is 



FEMININE AFFECTATIONS. 93 

fond of carpentry, she says, and boasts of her powers 
with the plane and saw. For charms to her watch- 
chain she Avears a cork-screw, a gimlet, a big knife 
and a small foot-rule ; and in contrast with the 
intensely womanly woman, who uses the tips of her 
fingers only, the mannish woman when she does 
anything uses the whole hand, and if she had to 
thread a needle would thread it as much by her 
palm as by her fingers. All of which is aiFectation 
— from first to last affectation ; a mere assumption 
of virile fashions utterly inharmonious to the whole 
being, physical and mental, of a woman. 

Then there is the affectation of the woman who 
has taken propriety and orthodoxy under her special 
protection, and who regards it as a personal insult 
when her friends and acquaintances go beyond the 
exact limits of her mental sphere. This is the 
woman who assumes to be the antiseptic element in 
society ; who makes believe that without her the 
world and human nature would go to the dogs and 
plunge headlong into the abyss of sin and destruc- 
tion forthwith ; and that not all the grand heroism 
of man, not all his thought and energy and high 
endeavour and patient seeking after truth would 
serve his turn or the world's if she did not spread 
her own petty preserving nets, and mark out the 
boundary lines within which she would confine the 
range of thought and speculation. She knows that 
this assumption of spiritual beadledom is mere affec- 
tation, and that other mdnds have as much right to 



94 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

their own boundary lines as that which she daims 
for herself : but it seems to her pretty to assume 
that woman generally is the consecrated beadle of 
thought and morality, and that she, of all women, is 
most specially consecrated. As an offshoot of this 
kind stands the affectation of simplicity — the woman 
whose mental attitude is self- depreciation, and who 
poses herself as a mere nobody when the world is 
ringing with her praises. ' Is it possible that your 
Grace has ever heard of me ? ' said one of this class 
with prettily affected naivete at a time when all 
England was astir about her, and when colours and 
fashions went by her name to make them take with 
the public at large. Xo one knew better than the 
fair ingenue in question how far and wide her fame 
had spread ; but she thought it looked modest and 
simple to assume ignorance of her own value, and to 
declare that she was but a creeping worm when all 
the world knew that she was a soaring butterfly. 

There is a certain like kind of affectation very 
common among pretty women ; and this is the 
affectation of not knowing that they are pretty, and 
not recognizing the effect of their beauty on men. 
Take a w^oman with bewildering eyes, say, of a mad- 
dening size and shape and fringed with long lashes 
which distract you to look at ; the creature knows that 
her eyes are bewildering, as well as she knows that 
fire burns and that ice melts ; she knows the effect 
of that trick she has with them — the sudden uplift- 
ing of the heavy lid and the swift, full gaze that she 



FEMININE AFFECTATIONS. 95 

gives right into a man's eyes. She has practised it 
often in the glass, and knows to a mathematical 
nicety the exact height to which the lid must be 
raised and the exact fixity of the gaze. She knows 
the whole meaning of the look and the stirring of 
men's blood that it creates ; but if you speak to her 
of the effect of her trick, she puts on an air of 
extremest innocence, and protests her entire ignor- 
ance as to anything her eyes may say or mean ; and 
if you press her hard she will look at you in the 
same way for your own benefit, and deny at the 
very moment of offence. Various other tricks has 
she with those bewildering eyes of hers— each more 
perilous than the other to men's peace ; and all un- 
sparingly employed, no matter what the result. For 
this is the woman who flirts to the extreme limits, 
then suddenly draws up and says she meant nothing. 
Step by step she has led you on, with looks and 
smiles and pretty doubtful phrases always suscep- 
tible of two meanings —the one for the ear by mere 
word, the other for the heart by the accompaniments 
of look and manner, which are intangible ; step by 
step she has drawn yoa deeper and deeper into the 
maze where she has gone before as your decoy ; 
then, when she has you safe, she raises her eyes for 
the last time, complains that you have mistaken her 
cruelly and that she has meant nothing more than 
any one else might mean ; and what can she do to 
repair her mistake ? Love you ? marry you ? No ; 
she is engaged to your rival, who counts his thou- 



96 SATURDAY MOENINGS. 

sands to your hundreds ; and what a pity that you 
had not seen this all along and that you should have 
so misunderstood her ! Besides, what is there about 
her that you or any one should love ? 

Of all the many affectations of women, this affec- 
tation of their own harmlessness when beautiful, 
and of their innocence of design when they practise 
their arts for the discomfiture of men, is the most 
dane:erous and the most disastrous. But what can 
one say to them? The very fact that they are 
dangerous disarms a man's anger and blinds his 
perception until too late. That men love though 
they suffer is the woman's triumph, guilt and con- 
donation ; and so long as the trick succeeds it will 
be practised. 

Another affectation of the same family is the ex- 
treme friendliness and familiarity which some women 
adopt in their manners towards men. Young girls 
affect an almost maternal tone to boys of their own 
age, or a year or so older ; and they, too, when their 
wiser elders remonstrate, declare they mean nothing, 
and how hard it is that they may not be natural! 
This form of affectation, once begun, continues 
through life ; being too convenient to be lightly dis- 
carded ; and youthful matrons not long out of their 
teens assume a tone and ways that would befit middle 
age counselling giddy youth, and that might by chance 
be dangerous even then if the ' Indian summer ' 
were specially bright and warm. 

Then there is that affectation pure and simple 



FEmNINE AFFECTATIONS. 97 

which is the mere affectation of manner, such as is 
shown in the drawling voice, the mincing gait, the ex- 
treme gracefulness of attitude which by consciousness 
ceases to be grace, and the thousand little minaudeines 
and coquetries of the sex known to us all. And 
there is the affectation which people of a higher 
social sphere show Avhen they condescend to those of 
low estate, and talk and look as if they are not quite 
certain of their company, and scarcely know if they 
are Christian or heathen, savage or civilized. And 
there is the affectation of the maternal passion with 
women who are never by any chance seen with their 
children, but who speak of them as if they were never 
out of their sight ; the affectation of wifely adoration 
with women who are to be met about the world with 
every man of their acquaintance rather than with 
their lawful husbands ; the affectation of asceticism 
in women who lead a self- enjoying life from end 
to end ; and the affectation of political fervour in 
those who would not give up a ball or a new dress to 
save Europe from universal revolution. 

Go where we will, the affectation of being some- 
thing she is not meets us in woman, like a ghost we 
cannot lay, a mist we cannot sweep away. In the 
holiest and the most trivial things we find it pene- 
trating everywhere — even in church and at her 
prayers, when the pretty penitent, rising from her 
lengthy orisons, lifts her eyes and furtively looks 
about to see who has noticed her self-abasement and 
to whom her picturesque piety has commended itself. 
VOL. I. H 



98 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

All sorts and patterns of good girls and pleasant 
women are very dear and delightful ; but the pearl of 
great price is the thoroughly natural and unaffected 
woman — that is, the woman who is truthful to her 
heart's core, and who would as little condescend to 
act a pretence as she would dare to tell a lie. 



99 



INTERFERENCE. 

About the strongest propensity in human nature, 
apart from the purely personal instincts, is the pro- 
pensity to interfere. We do not mean tyranny ; that 
is another matter — tyranny being active while inter- 
ference is negative — the one standing as the mascu- 
line, the other as the feminine, form of the same 
principle. Besides, tyranny has generally some 
personal gain in view when it takes it in hand to force 
people to do what they dishke to do ; while inter- 
ference seeks no good for itself at all, but simply 
prevents the exercise of free-will for the mere 
pleasure to be had out of such prevention. 

Again, the idea of tyranny is political rather than 
domestic ; but the curse of interference is seen most 
distinctly within the four walls of home, where also 
it is most felt. Yery many people spend their lives 
in interfering with others — perpetually putting spokes 
into wheels with the turning of which they have 
nothing to do, and thrusting their fingers into pies 
about the baking of which they are in no way con- 
cerned ; and of these people we are bound to confess 
that women make up the larger number and are the 

H 2 



100 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

greater sinners. To be sure there are some men — 
small, fussy, finnicking fellows, with whom nature 
has made the irreparable blunder of sex — who are 
as troublesome in their endless interference as the 
narrowest-minded and most meddling women of their 
acquaintance ; but the feminine characteristics of men 
are so exceptional that we need not take them into 
serious calculation. For the most part, when men 
do interfere in any manly sense at all, it is with such 
things as they think they have a right to control — 
say, with the wife's low dresses or the daughter's 
too patent flirtations. They interfere and prevent 
because they are jealous of the repute, perhaps of the 
beauty, of their womankind ; and, knowing what 
other men say of such displays, or fearing their effect, 
they stand between folly and slander to the best of 
their ability. But this kmd of interference, noble or 
ignoble as the cause may be, comes mto another class 
of motives altogether and does not belong to that 
kind of interference of which we are speaking. 

Women, then, are the great interferers at home, 
both with each other and with men. They do not 
tell us what we are to do, beyond going to church 
and subscribing to their favourite mission, so much 
as they teU us what we are not to do. They do not 
command so much as they forbid. And, of all women, 
wives and daughters are the most given to handlmg 
these check-strings and putting on these drag-chains. 
Sisters, while young, are obliged to be less interfering, 
under pain of a perpetual round of bickering ; for 



INTERFERENCE. 101 

brothers are not apt to submit to the counsel of 
creatures for the most part so loftily snubbed as 
sisters ] while mothers nine times out of ten are laid 
aside for all but sentimental purposes, so soon as the 
son has ceased to be a boy and has learned to become 
a man. The queenhood, therefore, of personal and 
domestic interference lies with wives, and they know 
how to use the prerogative they assume. Take an 
unlucky man who smokes under protest — his wife not 
liking to forbid the pleasure entirely, but always 
grudging it and interfering with its exercise. Each 
cigar represents a battle, deepening in intensity ac- 
cording to the number. The first may have been had 
with only a Hght skirmish — perhaps a mere threaten- 
ing of an attack that passed away without coming to 
actual onslaught ; the second brings up the artillery ; 
while the third or fourth lets all the forces loose, and 
sets the big guns thundering. She could understand 
a man smoking one cigar in the day, she says, with a 
gracious condescension to masculine weakness; but 
when it comes to more she feels that she is called on 
to interfere, and to do her best towards checking such 
a reprehensible excess. It does not weaken her position 
that she knows nothing of what she is talking about. 
She never smoked a cigar herself, therefore does not 
understand the uses nor the abuses of tobacco ; but 
she holds herself pledged to interfere so soon as she 
gets the chance ; and she redeems that pledge with 
energy. 

The man too, who has the stomach of an ostrich 



102 SATURDAY MOENINGS. 

and an appetite to correspond, but about whom tbe 
home superstition is that he has a feeble digestion 
and must take care of his diet, has also to run the 
gauntlet of his wife's interfering forces. He never 
dines nor sups jollily with his friends without being 
plucked at and reminded that salmon always dis- 
agrees with him ; that champagne is sure to give 
him a headache to-morrow ; and, ' My dear ! when 
you know how bad salad is for you ! ' or, * How can 
you eat that horrid pastry ? You will be so ill in 
the night ! ' ' What ! more wine ? another glass of 
whisky ? how foolish you are ! how wrong ! ' The 
wife has a nervous organization which cannot bear 
stimulants ; the husband is a strong, large-framed 
man who can drink deep without feeling it ; but to 
the excitable woman her feeble hmit is her husband's 
measure, and when he has gone beyond the range of 
her own short tether, she trots after him remonstrat- 
ing, and thinks herself justified in interfering with 
his further progress. For women cannot be brought 
to understand the capacities of a man's life ; they 
cannot be made to understand that what is bad 
for themselves may not be bad for others, and that 
their weakness ought not to be the gauge of a man's 
strength. 

A pale, chilly woman, afflicted with chronic bron- 
chitis, who wears furs and velvets in May and fears 
the east wind as much as an East Indian fears a tiger, 
does her best to coddle her husband, father, sons, 
in about the same ratio as she coddles herself They 



INTERFERENCE. 103 

must not go out without an overcoat ; they must 
take an umbrella if the day is at all cloudy ; they 
must not walk too far nor ride too hard ; and they 
must be sure to be at home by a given hour. 

When such women as these have to do with men just 
on the boundary-line between the last days of vigour 
and the first of old age, they put forward the time of 
old age by many years. We see their men rapidly 
sink into the softness and incapacity of senility, when 
a more bracing life would have kept them good for 
half-a-dozen years longer. But women do not care 
for this. They like men to be their own companions 
and dread rather than desire the masculine comrade- 
ship which would keep them up to the mark of virile 
independence ; for most women — but not all — would 
rather have their husbands manly in a womanly way 
than in a manly one, as being more within the com- 
pass of their own sympathies and understanding. 

The same kind of interference is very common 
where the husband is a man of broad humour — one 
who calls a spade a spade, with no circumlocution 
about an agricultural implement. According to the 
odd law of compensation which regulates so much of 
human action, the wife of such a man is generally 
one of the ultra-refined kind, who thinks herself 
consecrated the enduring censor of her husband's 
speech. As this is an example most frequently to be 
found in middle life and where there are children 
belonging to the establishment, the word of warning 
is generally ' papa ! ' — said with reproach or resent- 



104 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

ment, according to circumstances — which has, of 
course, the effect of drawing the attention of the 
young people to the paternal breadth of speech, and 
of fixing that special breach of decorum on their 
memory. Sometimes the wife has sufficient self- 
restraint not to give the word of warning in public, 
but can nurse her displeasure for a more convenient 
season ; but so soon as they are alone the miser- 
able man has to pass under the harrow, as only 
husbands with wives of a chastising spirit can pass 
under it, and his life is made a burden to him 
because of that unlucky anecdote told with such 
verve a few hours ago, and received with such shouts 
of pleasant laughter. Perhaps the anecdote was just 
a trifle doubtful ; granted ; but what does the wife 
take by her remonstrance? Most probably a quarrel; 
possibly a good-natured jyeccavi for the sake of being 
let off the continuance of the sermon ; perhaps a 
yawn ; most certainly not reform. If the man be a 
man of free speech and broad humour by nature and 
liking, he will remain so to the end ; and what the 
censorship of society leaves untouched, the inter- 
ference of a wife will not control. 

Children come in for an enormous share of inter- 
ference, which is not direction nor discipline, but 
simple interference for its own sake. There are mothers 
who meddle with every expression of individuality 
in their young people, quite irrespective of moral 
tendency, or whether the occasion is trivial or impor- 
tant. In the fancies, the pleasures, the minor details 



INTERFERENCE. 105 

of dress in their children, there is always that intrud- 
ing maternal finger upsetting the arrangements of the 
poor little pie as vigorously as if thrones and altars 
depended on the result. Not a game of any kind 
can be begun, nor a blue ribbon worn instead of a 
pink, without maternal interference; so that the 
bloom is rubbed off every enjoyment, and life becomes 
reduced to a kind of goose-step, with mamma for the 
drill-sergeant prescribing the inches to be marked. 
Sisters, too, do a great deal of this kind of thing 
among each other ; as all those who are intimate in 
houses where there are large families of unmarried 
girls must have seen. The nudges, the warning 
looks, the deprecatmg ' Amy's ! ' and ' Oh, Lucy's 1 ' 
and ' Hush, Rose's ! ' by which some seek to act as 
household police over the others, are patent to all 
who use their senses. In some houses the younger 
sisters seem to have been born chiefly as training 
grounds for the elders, whereon they may exercise 
their powers of interference ; and a hard time they 
have of it. If Emma goes to her embroidery, Ellen 
tells her she ought to practise her singing ; if Jane is 
reading, Mary recommends sewmg as a more profit- 
able use of precious time ; if Amy is at her easel, Ada 
wants to turn her round to the piano. It is quite the 
exception where four or five sisters leave each other 
free to do as each likes, and do not take to drilHng 
and interference as part of the daily programme. 

Something of the reluctance to domestic service, 
so painfully apparent among the better class of 



106 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

working women, is due to this spirit of interference 
with women. The lady who wrote about the caps and 
gOAATis of servant-girls, and drew out a plan of dress, 
down to the very material of their gloves, was an 
instance of this spirit. For, when we come to analyze 
it, what does it really signify to us how our servants 
dress, so long as they are clean and decent and do 
not let their garments damage our goods ? Fashion 
is almost always ridiculous, and women, as a rule, 
care more for dress than they care for anything else ; 
and if the kitchen apes the parlour, and Phyllis gives 
as much thought to her new linsey as my lady gives 
to her new velvet, we cannot wonder at it, nor need 
we hold up our hands in horror at the depravity of 
the smaller person. Does one flight of stairs transpose 
morality ? If it does not, there is no real ethical reason 
why my lady should interfere with poor Phyllis' s 
enjoyment in her igly little vanities, when she herself 
will not be interfered with — though press and pulpit 
both try to turn her out of her present path into the 
way which all ages have thought the best for her and 
the one naturally appointed. It is a thing that will 
not bear reasoning on, being simply a form of the old 
^ who will guard the guardian ? ' Who will direct 
the directress ? and to whose interference will the 
interferer submit ? 

There are two causes for this excessive love of 
interference among women. The one is the narrow- 
ness of their lives and objects, by which insignificant 
things gain a disproportionate value in their eyes ; 



INTERFERENCE. 107 

the otlier, tlieir belief that they are the only saviours 
of society, and that without them man would become 
hopelessly corrupt. And to a certain extent this 
.belief is true ; but surely with restrictions ! Because 
the clearer moral sense and greater physical weakness 
of women restrain men's fiercer passions and force 
them to be gentle and considerate, women are not, 
therefore, the sole arbiters of masculine life into whose 
hands is given the paying out of just so much rope 
as they think fit for the occasion. They would do 
better to look to their own tackle before settling so 
exactly the run of others ; and if ever their desired 
time of equality is to come, it must come through 
mutual independence, not through womanly inter- 
ference, and as much liberality and breadth given 
as demanded: — which, so far as humanity has gone 
hitherto, has not been the feminine manner of squar- 
ing accounts. 

Grant that women are the salt of the earth and 
the great antiseptic element in society, still that does 
not reduce everything else to the verge of corruption 
which they alone prevent. Yet they evidently think 
that it is so, and that they are each and all the keepers 
of keys which give them a special entrance to the 
temple of morality, and by which they are able to 
exclude or admit the grosser body of men. Hence they 
interfere and restrict and pay out just so much rope, 
and measure off just so much gambolling ground, as 
they think fit ; then think vile man a horribly wicked 
invention when he takes things into his own hand 



108 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

and goes beyond their boundary -lines. It is all done 
in good if in a very narrow faith — that we admit 
wilhngly ; but we would call their attention to the 
difference there is between influence and interference ; 
which is just the difference between their ideal duty 
and their daily practice — between being the salt of 
the earth and the blister of the home. 

We think it only justice to put in a word for 
those poor henpecked fellows of husbands at a time 
when the whole cry is for Woman's Eights, which 
seems to mean chiefly her right of making man 
knuckle under on all occasions and of making one 
will serve for two lives — and that will hers. We 
assure her that she would get her own way in large 
matters much more easily if she would leave men 
more liberty in small ones, and not teaze them by 
interfering: in thino-s which do. not concern her and 
have only reference to themselves. 



109 



TEE FASHIONABLE WOMAN, 

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



110 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

Considering her as a being with the potentiality of 
reason, of usefulness, of thought, the actual result 
is surely the saddest and the strangest thing under 
heaven ! 

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



THE FASHIONABLE WOMAN. Ill 

morning, flushed with excitement or worn out with 
fatigue, feverish or nervous, as she has had pleasure 
and success or disappointment and annoyance. 

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

You meet her in a heated, crowded, noisy room, 
looking just as she always looks, whatever her 
normal state of health may be ; and in answer to 
your inquiries she tells you she has only two hours 
ago left her bed to come here, having been confined 
to her room for a week, with Dr. Blank in close 



112 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

attendance. If you are an intimate female friend she 
will whisper you the name of her malady, which is 
sure to be something terrific, and which, if true, 
would have kept her a real invalid for months instead 
of days ; but if you are only a man she will make 

herself out to have been verv ill indeed in a more 

t/ 

mysterious way, and leave you to wonder at the 
extraordinary physique of fashionable women, which 
enables them to live on the most friendly touch-and- 
go terms with death, and to overcome mortal maladies 
by an effort of the will and the delights of a ducal 
ball. The favourite physician has a hard time of it 
with these ladies ; and the more popular he is the 
harder his work. It is well for his generation when 
he is a man of honour and integrity, and knows how 
to add self-respect and moral power to the qualities 
which have made him the general favourite. For 
his influence over women is almost unlimited — like 
nothino; so much as that of the handsome Abbe of 
the Regency or the fascinating Monsignore of Rome ; 
and if he chooses to abuse it and turn it to evil 
issues, he can. And, however great the merit in him 
that he does not, it does not lessen the demerit of the 
woman that he could. 

Sometimes the fashionable woman takes up with 
the clergyman instead of the physician, and coquets 
with religious exercises rather than with drugs ; but 
neither clergyman nor physician can change her mode 
of hfe nor give her truth nor common- sense. Some- 
times there is a fluttering show of art- patronage. 



THE FASHIONABLE WOMAN. 113 

and the fashionable woman has a handsome painter 
or well-bred musician in her train, whom she pets 
publicly and patronizes graciously. Sometimes it 
is a young poet or a rising novelist, considerably 
honoured by the association, who dedicates his next 
novel to her, or writes verses in her praise, with such 
fervency of gratitude as sets the base Philistines on 
the scent of the secret — perhaps guessing not far 
amiss. For the fashionable woman has always some 
love-affair on hand, more or less platonic according to 
her own temperament or the boldness of the man — a 
love-aflPair in which the smallest ingredient is love ; a 
love-aflPair which is vanity, idleness, a dissolute imagi- 
nation and contempt of such prosaic things as 
morals ; a love- aif air not even to be excused by the 
tragic frenzy of earnest passion, and which may be 
guilty and yet not true. 

The physical effects of such a life as this are as 
bad as the mental, and both are as bad as the worst 
can make them. A feverish, overstrained condition of 
health either prevents the fashionable woman from 
being a mother at all, or makes her the mother of 
nervous, sickly children. Many a woman of high rank 
is at thi s moment paying bitterly for the disappoint- 
ment of which she herself, in her illimitable folly, has 
been the sole and only cause. And, whether women 
like to hear it or not, it is none the less a truth that 
part of the reason for their being born at all is that 
^hey may in their turn bear children. The unnatural 
feeling against maternity existing among fashionable 

VOL. I. I 



114 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

women is one of the worst mental signs of their state, 
as their frequent inability to be mothers is one of the 
worst physical results. This is a condition of things 
which no false modesty nor timid reserve should keep 
in the background, for it is a question of national 
importance, and will soon become one of national 
disaster unless checked by a healthier current and 
more natural circumstances. 

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

As years go on, and she changes from the acknow- 



THE FASHIONABLE WOMAN. 115 

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

Closing such a life as this comes the unhonoured 
end, when the miserable made-up old creature totters 
down into the grave where paint and padding, and 
glossy plaits cut from some fresh young head, are of no 
more avail ; and where death, which makes all things 
real, reduces her life of lies to the nothingness it 
has been from the beo'lnnms;. What does she leave 

I 2 



116 SATUKDAY MORNINGS. 

behind her ? A memory by which her children may 
order their own lives in proud assurance that so they 
will order them best for virtue and for honour ? Or a 
memory which speaks to them of time misused, of 
duties unfulfilled, of love discarded for pleasure, and 
of a life -long sacrifice of all things good and pure for 
selfishness ? 

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

The pleasures of the world are, as we all know, 
very potent and very alluring, but nothing can 
be more unsatisfymg if taken as the main purpose 
of life. While we are youno\ the mere stirrino- 
of the blood stands instead of anythmg more real ; 
but' as we go on, and the pulse flags and pleasur- 



THE FASHIONABLE WOMAN. 117 

able occasions get rare and more rare, we find that 
we have been like the Prodigal Son, and that our food 
and his have been out of much the same trough, and 
come in the main to much the same thing. 

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

The fashionable women of Greece and Rome, 
of Italy and France, have left behind them names 
which the world has made typical of the vices 
naturally engendered by idleness and luxury. But 
do we wish that our women should become sub- 
jects for an English Juvenal ? that fashion should 
create a race of Laises and Messalinas, of Lucrezia 
Borgias and Madame du Barrys, out of the stock 
which once gave us Lucy Hutchinson and Elizabeth 
Fry ? Once the name of Enghshwoman carried 
with it a grave and noble echo as the name of 
women known for their gentle bearing and their blame- 
less honour — of women who loved their husbands, 
and brought up about their own knees the children 



118 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

they were not reluctant to bear and not ashamed to 
love. Now, it too often means a girl of the period, a 
frisky matron, a fashionable woman — a thing of paints 
and pads, consorting with dealers of no doubtful 
calling for the purchase of what she grimly calls 
'beauty,' makmg pleasure her only good and the 
world her highest god. It too often means a woman 
who is not ashamed to supplement her husband with 
a lover, but who is unwilling to become the honest 
mother of that husband's children. It too often 
means a hybrid creature, perverted out of the natural 
way altogether, affecting the license but ignorant of 
the strength of a man ; as girl or woman alike value- 
less so far as her highest natural duties are concerned ; 
and talking largely of liberty while showing at every 
turn how much she fails in that co -essential of liberty 
— knowledge how to use it. 



119 



SLEEPING DOGS. 

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



120 " SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

alone, on the whole we find m real life that if speech 
is silvern, silence is essentially golden, and that more 
harm is done by saying too much than by saying too 
little ; above all, that infinite mischief arises by not 
letting sleeping dogs lie. 

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

There is another, but an unsavoury saying, which 
advises against the stirring up of evil odours ; but 
this is just what imprudent, high-spirited people will 
not understand. They will take their own way in 
spite of society and all its laws ; they will kick over 



SLEEPING DOGS. 121 

the traces when it suits them ; they will do this and 
that of which the world says authoritatively, ' Xo, 
you shall not do it ; ' and then, when the day of 
wrath arrives, and down conies the whip on the 
offending back, they shriek piteously and wake up 
all the dogs in the town in the ' investigation of their 
case.' And a queer kennel enough they turn out 
sometimes ! They would have done better to put 
up with their social thrashing than to have set the 
bloodhounds of ' investigation ' on their heels. 

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

One of the arts of peaceful living at home is 
contained in the power of letting sleepmg dogs lie. 
Papa is surly — it is a way papas have — or mamma is 



122 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

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

Sometimes, indeed, in a family given to tears 
and caresses and easily excited feelings, a frank 
challenge as to reasons why is answered by a tem- 
porary storm, followed by a scene of effusion and 
attendrissementj and the black dog is not awakened, 
but banished, by the rousing he has got. This is a 
method that can be tried when you have perfect 
knowledge and command of your material ; else it is 
a dangerous, and nine times out of ten would be an 
unsuccessful, experiment. It is nearly always unsuc- 
cessful with husbands and wives, who often sulk, but 
rarely for causes needing explanation. Angelina 
knows quite well that she danced too often the other 
night with that fascinating young Lovelace for whom 
her Henry has a special, and not quite groundless, 
aversion. She may put on as many airs of injured 
innocence as she likes, and affect to consider herself 
an ill-used wife suffering grievous things because of 
her husband's displeasure and the black dog of sulks 



SLEEPING DOGS. 123 

accompanying ; but she knows as well as her Henry 
himself where her sin lies, and to kick at the black 
dog would only be to set him loose upon her, and be 
well barked at if not worried for her pains. The 
wiser course would be to muzzle him by ignoring his 
presence ; and so in almost all cases of domestic dog, 
however black. 

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



124 SATURDAY MOENTNGS. 

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

Just as easy is it to rouse the sleeping dogs of 
hatred, of jealousy, of envy. You have a tepid well- 
controlled dislike to some one ; and you know that 
he knows it. For feelings are eloquent, even when 
dumb, and express themselves in a thousand ways 
independent of words. You do not care much about 
your dislike — you do not nurse it nor feed it in any 
way, and are rather content than not to let it lie 
dormant, and so far harmless. But your imloved 
friend cannot let well alone. He will be always 



SLEEPING DOGS. 125 

treading on your corns and touching you on the raw. 
That unhicky speculation you made ; your play that 
was damned ; the election you lost ; the decision 
that was given against you, with costs — whenever 
you see him he is sure to introduce some topic that 
rubs you the wrong way, till at last the sleeping dog 
gets fairly roused, and what was merely a well- 
ordered dislike bursts out into a frantic and unofo- 
vernable hatred. It has been his own doing. Just 
as in the case of the platonic friend transformed into 
the passionate lover by the woman's wiles, so the dis- 
like that gave you no trouble — become now the hatred 
which is a real curse to your existence — results from 
your friend's incessant rousing up of sleeping passions. 
Young people are much given to this kind of thing. 
There is an impish tendency in most girls, and in all 
boys, that makes teazing a matter of exquisite delight 
to them. If they know of any sleeping dog which an 
elder carries about under his cloak, they are never so 
happy as when they are rousing it to activity, though 
their own backs may get bitten in the fray. Let a 
youngster into the secret of a weakness, a sore, and 
if he can resist the temptation of torturing you as the 
result of his knowledge he may lay claim to a virtue 
almost unknown in boyish morals. But he some- 
times pays dearly for his fun. More than one life- 
long dislike, culminating in a disastrous codicil or 
total omission from the body of the will, has been the 
return-blow for a course of boyish teazings which a 
testy old uncle or huffish maiden aunt has had to 



126 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

undergo. The punishment may be severe and unjust ; 
but the provocation was great ; and revenge is a 
human, if indefensible, instinct common to all classes. 

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

Historically, the saying does not hold good. For 
if the great leaders of thought and reform had not 
roused up the sleeping dogs of their day, and made 
them give tongue for all after ages to hear, we should 
be but poorly off at this present time. Many of our 
liberties have been got only by diligently prodding 
up that very sleepy dog, the public, till he has been 
forced to show his teeth ; and history is full of 
instances of how much has been done, all the world 
over and m every age, by the like means. Sometimes 
the prodded dog flies at the wrong throat on the 



SLEEPING DOGS. 127 

other side, as we have had a few notable instances of 
late; and then it would have been wiser to leave 
him quietly sleeping in the shade, whether at 
Mentana or elsewhere ; to rouse for rending being 
a poor amusement at the best, and an eminently 
unprofitable use of leather. 



128 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 



BEAUTY AND BRAINS. 

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

This is in the middle term of a man's life. Old 



BEAUTY AND BRAINS. 129 

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

It is only when she has stepped down from her 
pedestal to the level of the home-threshold that he 
finds out she is but a woman after all, and perhaps an 
exceptionally weak and peevish one. Then he knows 
that he would have done better for himself had he 
married that plain brave-hearted girl who would have 
had him to a dead certainty if he had asked her, but 

VOL. I. K 



130 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

whom he so unmercifully laughed at when he was 
making love to his fascinating charmer. As years 
go on and reduce the Hebe and Hecate of eighteen to 
much the same kind of woman at forty — with perhaps 
the advantage on Hecate's side if of the sort that 
ripens well and improves by keeping — the man feels 
that he has been a fool after the manner of Bunyan's 
Passion ; that he has eaten up his present in the 
past, and had all his good things at once. If he had 
but looked at the future and been able to wait ! 
But in those days he wanted beauty that does not 
last, and cared nothing for brains which do ; and so, 
having made his election he must abide by it, and 
eat bitter bread from the yeast of his own brewing. 

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



BEAUTY AND BRAINS. 131 

when it is too late to change M. for N. in the mar- 
riage service. 

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

Men do not care for brains m excess in women. 
They like a sympathetic intellect which can follow 
and seize their thoughts as quickly as they are 
uttered ; but they do not much care for any clear or 
specific knowledge of facts. Even the most philo- 
sophic among them would rather not be set right in 
a classical quotation, an astronomical calculation, or 

K 2 



132 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

the exact bearing of a political question by a lovely 
being in tarlatane whom he was graciously unbending 
to instruct. Neither do they want anything very 
strong-minded. To most men, indeed, the feminine 
strono'-mindedness that can discuss immoral problems 
without blushing is a quality as unwomanly as a well- 
developed biceps or a ' shoulder- of-mutton ' fist. It is 
sympathy, not antagonism — it is companionship, not 
rivalry, still less supremacy, that they like in women ; 
and some women with brains as well as learning — for 
the two are not the same thing — understand this, 
and keep their blue stockings well covered by their 
petticoats. Others, enthusiasts for freedom of thought 
and intellectual rights, show theirs defiantly ; and 
meet with their reward. Men shrink from them. 
Even clever men, able to meet them on their own 
ground, do not feel drawn to them ; while all but 
hi o-h- class minds are humiliated by their learning and 
dwarfed by their moral courage. And no man likes 
to feel humiliated or dwarfed in the presence of a 
woman, and because of her superiority. 

But the brains most useful to women, and most 
befitting their work in life, are those which show 
themselves in common-sense, in good judgment, and 
that kind of patient courage which enables them to 
bear small crosses and great trials alike with dignity 
and good temper. Mere mtellectual culture, how- 
ever valuable it may be in itself, does not equal 
the worth of this kind of moral power ; for as the 
true domain of woman is the home, and her way of 



BEAUTY AND BRAINS. 133 

ordering her domestic life the best test of her facul- 
ties, mere intellectual culture does not help in this ; 
and, in fact, is often a hindrance rather than a help. 
What good is there in one's wife being an accom- 
plished mathematician, a sound scholar, a first-rate 
musician, a deeply-read theologian, if she cannot 
keep the accounts square, knows nothmg of the 
management of children, lets herself be cheated by 
the servants and the tradespeople, has not her eyes 
opened to dirt and disorder, and gives way to a 
fretful temper on the smallest provocation ? 

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

The intellectual fool, with her head always in 
books and ' questions,' and her children dropping ofi* 
like sheep for the want of womanly care, is something 
more than flesh and blood can tolerate. The pretty 
fool cannot help herself. If nature proved herself but 
a stepmother to her, and left out the best part of her 
wits while taking such especial care of her face, it is 
no fault of hers : but the intellectual fool is a case of 



134 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

maladministration of powers, for which she alone is 
responsible ; and in this particular alternative between 
beauty and brains, without a shadow of doubt we 
would go in for beauty. 

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



BEAUTY AND BRAINS. 135 

brains to talk to by the side and beauty to look at 
opposite, in just the disposition that makes life perfect. 
A well-ordered dinner-table is a social microcosm; 
and, being so, this is the blue riband of the arrange- 
ment. 

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

This making the best of themselves is a very dif- 
ferent thing from making dress and personal vanity 
the first considerations in life. Where women in 
general fail is in the exaggerations into which they 
fall on this and on almost every other question. They 
are apt to be either demireps or devotees ; frights or 
flirts ; fashionable to an extent that lands them in 
illimitable folly and drags their husbands' names 
through the mire, or they are so dowdy that they 
disgrace a well-ordered drawing-room, and among 
nicely-dressed women stand out as living sermons on 
slovenliness. If they are clever, they are too com- 
monly blue- stockings, and let the whole household 
go by the board for the sake of their fruitless studies ; 
and if they are domestic and good managers they sink 
into mere servants, never opening a book save their 



136 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

daily ledger, and having no thought beyond the 
cheesemonger's bill and the butcher's prices. They 
want that fine balance, that accurate self- measurement 
and knowledge of results, which goes by the name 
of common- sense and is the best manifestation of 
brains they can give, and the thing which men most 
prize. It is the most valuable working form of 
intellectual power, and has most endurance and 
vitality ; and it is the form which helps a man on in 
life, when he has found it in his wife, quite as much 
as money or a good connexion. 

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



137 



JSYMPHS, 

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

The nymph — an out-of-door, breezy, healthy girl, 
more after the pattern of the Greek Oread than the 
Amazon — is found only in the country ; and for 
the most part only in the remoter districts of the 
country. In the town she degenerates into fastness, 
according to the law which makes evil merely the 



138 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

misdirection of force, as dirt is only matter in the 
wrong place. But among the momitains, in the 
secluded midland villages, or out on the thinly- 
populated moorland tracts, the nymph may be found 
in the full perfection of her nature. And a very 
beautiful kind of nature it is ; though it is to be 
feared that certain ladies of the stricter sort would 
call her ' tomboy,' and that those of a still narrower 
way of thought, unable to distinguish between un- 
conventionality and vulgarity, would hold her to be 
decidedly vulgar — which she is not — and would 
wonder at her mother for ' lettino: her q:o on so.' 

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



NYMPHS. 139 

faculty for finding out nests and rare habitats, and 
for tracking unusual trails to the hidden home. 

There is no prettier sight among girls than the 
nj-mph when thoroughly at her ease, and enjoying 
herself in her own peculiar way. That wonderful 
grace of unconsciousness which belongs to savages 
and animals belongs to her also, and she moves with 
a supple freedom which affectation or shyness would 
equally destroy. To see her running down a green 
field, with the sunlight falling on her ; her light dress 
blown into coloured clouds by the wind; her step 

a little too long for the correct town-walk but 

so firmly planted and yet so light, so swift, so 
even!— her cheeks freshly flushed by exercise; her 
eyes bright and fearless; her white teeth shown 
below her upper lip as she comes forward with a 
rmging laugh, carrying a young bird which she has 
just caught, or a sheaf of wild flowers for which she 
has been periUing her neck, is to see a beautiful and 
gracious picture which you remember with pleasure 
all your life after. Or you meet her quite alone on a 
wide bleak moor, with her hat in her hand and her 
hair blowing across her face, looking for plovers' eggs, 
or ferns and orchids down in the damp hollows. She 
IS by no means dressed according to the canons of 
Le Follet, and yet she always manages to have some- 
thmg picturesque about her— something that would 
dehght an artist's taste, and that is in perfect har- 
mony with herself and her surroundings— which she 
wears with profound ignorance as to how well it 



140 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

suits her — or at most with only an instinctive know- 
ledge that it is the right thing for her. She may be 
shy as she meets you ; if she is passing out of the 
nymph state into that of conscious womanhood, she 
will be shy ; but if still a nymph with no disturbing 
influences at work, she will probably look at you 
with a fixed, perplexing, half-provoking look of 
fi:*ank curiosity which you can neither notice nor 
take advantage of ; the trammels of conventional life 
fettering one side heavily, if not the other. 

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

If the nymph condescends to any game at all, it 
is croquet, at which she is inexorably severe. She 
knows nothing of the little weakness which makes 
her elder sisters overlook the patent spooning of the 
favourite curate, even though he is opposed to them 



NYMPHS. ]41 

— nothing of the tender favouritism which pushes on 
an awkward partner by deeds of helping outside the 
law. The nymph, who has no weakness nor tender- 
ness of that kind, knows only the game ; and the 
game has not elastic boundaries. Therefore she is 
inflexible in her justice to one side and the other. Is 
it not the game ? she says when reproached with 
being disagreeable and unamiable. 

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

Her greatest sphere of social glory is a picnic, 
where she always heads the exploring party, clam- 



142 SATUKDAY MORNINGS. 

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

In her early days the nymph was notorious for 



NYMPHS. 143 

her dilapidated attire, perplexing mother and nurse to 
mend, or to understand why or how it had come about. 
But as her favourite hiding-place was in a forked 
branch midway up an old tree in the shrubbery, or 
a natural arbour which she had cut out for herself in 
the very heart of the underwood, it was scarcely to 
be wondered at if cloth and cotton testified to the 
severity of her retreats. She has still mysterious 
rents in her skirts, got no one knows how ; and her 
mother still laments over her aptitude for rags, and 
wishes she could be brought to see the beauty of 
unstained apparel. She is given to early rising — 
to fits indeed of rising at some wild hour in the 
morning, for walks before breakfast and the like 
innocent insanities. Sometimes she takes it in hand 
to educate herself in certain stoicisms, and goes 
without butter at breakfast or without breakfast 
altogether, if she thinks that thereby she will grow 
stronger or less inclined to self-indulgence. For 
drink she will never touch wine nor beer ; but she 
likes new milk, and is great in her capacity for water. 
The nymph is almost always of the middle -classes. 
It is next to impossible indeed that she should be 
found in the higher ranks, where girls are not left 
to themselves, and where no one lives in far-away 
country places out of the reach of public opinion and 
beyond the range of public overlooking. Some years 
ago, before the railroads and monster hotels had made 
the mountain districts like Hampstead or Richmond 
on a Sunday afternoon, the nymph was to be found in 



144 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

great abundance down in Cumberland and Westmore- 
land. By the more remote lakes, like Buttermere and 
Hawes Water, and in the secluded valleys running up 
from the larger lakes, you would come upon square 
stuccoed houses, generally abominably ugly, where 
the nymph was mistress of the situation. She might 
be met riding about alone in a flapping straw hat, long 
before hats were fashionable headgear for women, and 
in a blue baize skirt for all the riding-habit thought 
necessary ; or she might be encountered on the wild 
fell sides, or on the mountain heights, or in her boat 
sculling among the lonely lake islets, or gathering 
water-lilies in the bays. In the desolate stretch of 
moorland country to the north of Skiddaw the whole 
female population a few years ago was of the nymph 
kind ; but railroads and the penny-post, cheap trains, 
fashion and fine-ladyism have penetrated even into 
the heart of the wild mountains, and now the nymph 
there is only a transitional development — not, as 
formerly, a fixed type. 

The nymph is the very reverse of a flirt. She has 
no inclination that way, and looks shy and awkward 
at the men who pay her compliments or attempt any- 
thing like sentimentality. But she is not superior to 
boys, who are her chosen companions and favourites. 
A bold, brave boy, who just overtops her in skill and 
daring, is her delight ; but anything over twenty is 
^ awfully old,' while forty and sixty are so remote 
that the lines blur and blend together and have no 
distinction. By-and-by the nymph becomes a staid 



NYMPHS. 145 

young woman, and marries. If she goes into a close 
town and has children, very often her vigorous health 
gives way, and we see her in a few years nervous, 
emaciated, consumptive, and with a pitiful yearning 
for ' home ' more pathetic than all the rest. But if 
she remams where she is, in the fresh pure air of her 
native place, she retains her youth and strength long 
after the age when ordinary women lose theirs, and 
her children are celebrated as magnificent specimens 
of the future generation. 

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

VOL. I. L 



146 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

service of the future some of the healthiest and best 
of our women. Meanwhile the fresh, innocent, 
breez}^ nymph is a charming study ; and may the 
time be far distant which shall see her tamed and 
civilized out of existence altogether ! 



147 



MESALLIANCES. 

The French system of parents arranging the mar- 
riao'e of their children without the consent of the orirl 
being even asked, but assumed as granted, is not so 
wholly monstrous as many people in England believe. 
It seem.s to be founded on the idea that, given a 
young girl who has been kept shut up from all possi- 
bility of forming the most shadowy attachment for any 
man whatsoever, and present to her as her husband a 
sufficiently well-endowed and nice-looking man, with 
whom come hberty, pretty dresses, balls, admiration 
and social standing, and the chances are she will 
love him and live with him in tolerable harmony to 
the end of the chapter. And this idea is by no means 
wholly beside the truth, as we find it in practice. 
The parents, who are better judges of character and 
circumstance than the daughter can possibly be, are 
supposed to take care that their future son-in-law is 
up to their standard, whatever that may be, and that 
the connexion is not of a kind to bring discredit on 
their house ; and on this and the joint income, as 
the solid bases, they build the not very unreasonable 
hypothesis that one man is as good as another for 



148 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

the satisfaction of a quite untouched and virginal 
fancy, and that suitable external conditions go fur- 
ther and last longer than passion. They trust to 
the force of instinct to make all square with the affec- 
tions, while they themselves arrange for the smooth 
running of the social circumstances ; and they are 
not far out in their calculations. 

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

The French system of marriage, then, based on 
this accommodating instinct, works well for women 
who are not strongly individual, not inconstant by 
temperament, and not given to sentimentality. But, 
seeing that all women are not merely negative, and 
that passions and affections do sometimes assert 
themselves inconveniently, the system has had the 
effect of making society lenient to the little follies 
of married women, unless too strongly pronounced — 
partly because the human heart insists on a certain 



^lESALLIANCES. 149 

amount of free-will, which fact must be recognized — 
but partly, we must remember, because of the want 
of the young-lady element in society. In England, 
where our girls are let loose early, we have free- 
trade in flirting ; consequently, we think that all that 
sort of thing ought to be done before marriage, and 
that, when once a woman has made her choice and 
put her neck under the yoke, she ought to stick 
to her bargain and loyally fulfil her self-imposed 
engagement. 

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



150 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

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

It is only when we bring the same circumstances 
home to ourselves that we realize the immense im- 
portance of the social element ; and how, in this 
complex life of ours, we are unable to move in a 
single line independent of all it touches. Imagme a 



MESALLIANCES. 151 

fine old county family with a son-in-law who ate 
peas with his knife, said ' you was ' and ' they is,' 
and came down to dinner in a shooting-jacket and a 
blue bird's-eye tied in a wisp about his throat ! He 
might be the possessor of all imaginable virtues, and, 
if occasion required, a very hero and a preux cheva- 
lier, however rough ; but occasions in which a man 
can be a hero or a preua^ chevalier are rare, whereas 
dinner comes every day, and the senses are never 
shut. The core within a conventionally ungainly 
envelope may be as sound as is possible to a corrupt 
humanity, but social life requires manners as well as 
principles ; and though eating peas with a knife is 
not so bad as telling falsehoods, still we should all 
agree in saying. Give us truth that does not eat peas 
with its knife ; let us have honesty in a dress coat 
and pureheartedness in a clean shirt, seeing that 
there is no absolute necessity why these several 
things should be disunited. 

Love-marriages, made against the will of the 
parents before the character is formed and while the 
obligations of society are still unrealized, are gene- 
rally mesalliances founded on passion and fancy only. 
A man and woman of mature age who know what 
they want may make a mesalliance, but it is made 
with a full understanding and deliberate choice ; and, 
if the thing turns out badly, they can blame theui- 
selves less for precipitancy than for wrong calcula- 
tion. The man of fifty who marries his cook knows 
what he most values in women. It is not manners 



152 SATURDAY MOENINGS. 

and it is not accomplishments j perhaps it is useful- 
ness, perhaps good-temper ; at all events it is some- 
thing that the cook has and that the ladies of his 
acquaintance have not, and he is content to take the 
disadvantages of his choice with its advantages. But 
the boy who runs away with his mother's maid 
neither calculates nor sees any disadvantages. He 
marries a pretty girl because her beauty has touched 
his senses ; or he is got hold of by an artful woman 
who has bamboozled and seduced him. It is only 
when his passion has worn off that he wakes to the 
full consequences of his mistake, and understands 
then how right his parents were when they cashiered 
his pretty Jane so soon as they became aware of 
what was going on, and sent that artful Sarah to the 
right about — -just a week too late. 

It is the same with girls ; but in a far greater 
extent. If a youth's mesalliance is a millstone round 
his neck for life, a girl's is simply destruction. The 
natural instinct with all women is to marry above 
themselves; and we know on what physiological 
basis this instinct stands, and what useful racial ends 
it serves. And the natural instinct is as true in its 
social as in its physiological expression. A woman's 
honour is m her husband ; her status, her social life, 
are determined by his ; and even the few women 
who, having made a bad marriage, have nerve and 
character enough to set themselves free from the 
personal association, are never able to thoroughly 
regain their maiden place. There is always some- 



MESALLIANCES. 153 

thing about them which clogs and fetters them; always 
a kind of doubtful and depressing aura that sur- 
rounds and influences them. If they have not strength 
to free themselves, they never cease to feel the mis- 
take they have made, until the old sad process of 
deo-eneration is accomplished, and the ' grossness of 
his nature' has had strength to drag her down. 
After a time, if her ladyhood has been of a super- 
ficial kind only, a woman who has married beneath 
herself may ease down into her groove and be like 
the man she has married ; if, however, she has suffi- 
cient force to resist outside influences she will not 
sink, and she will never cease to sufi'er. She has 
sinned against herself, her class and her natural 
instincts ; and has done substantially a worse thing 
than has the boy who married his mother's maid. 
Society understands this, and not unjustly if harshly 
punishes the one while it lets the other go scot- 
free ; so that the woman who makes a mesalliance 
sufl'ers on every side, and destroys her life almost as 
much as the woman who goes wrong. 

AH this is as evident to parents and elders as 
that the sun shines. They understand the impera- 
tive needs of social life, and they know how fleeting 
are the passions of youth and how they fade by time 
and use and inharmonious conditions ; and they feel 
that their first duty to their children is to prevent a 
mesalliance which has nothing, and can have nothing, 
but passion for its basis. But novelists and poets 
are against the hard dull dictates of worldly wisdom, 



154 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

and join in the apotheosis of love at any cost — all for 
love and the world well lost ; love in a cottage, with 
nightingales and honeysuckles as the chief means of 
paying the rent ; Libussa and her ploughman ; the 
prmcess and the swineherd, &c. And the fathers 
who stand out against the ruin of their girls by 
means of estimable men of inferior condition and 
with not enough to hve on, are stony-hearted and 
cruel, while the daughters who take to cold poison in 
the back -garden, if they cannot compass a secret 
honeymoon or an open flight, have all the world's 
sympathy and none of its censure. The cruel parent 
is the favourite whipping-boy of poetry and fiction ; 
and yet which is likely to be the better guide — ■ 
reason or passion ? experience or ignorance ? calcula- 
tion or impulse? maturity which can judge or 
youth which can only feel ? There would be no 
hesitation in any other case than that of love ; but 
■^he love-instinct is generally considered to be supe- 
rior to every other consideration, and has to be 
obeyed as a divme voice, no matter at what cost or 
consequence. 

The ideal of life, accordmg to some, is founded on 
early marriages. But men are slower in the final 
setting of their character than women, and one never 
knows how a young fellow of twenty or so will turn 
out. If he is devout now, he may be an infidel at 
forty; if, under home influences, he is temperate 
and pure, when these are withdrawn he may become 



MESALLIANCES. 155 

a rake of the fastest kind. His temper, morals, busi- 
ness power, ability to resist temptation, all are as yet 
inchoate and undefined ; nothing is sure ; and the 
gu'l's fancy that makes him perfect in proportion to 
his good looks, is a mere instinct determined by 
chance association. 

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

It is all very weU to talk of fighting the battle 
of life together, and welding together by time. Many 
a man has been ruined by these metaphors. The 
theory, partly true and partly pretty, is good enough 
m its degree ; and, indeed, so far as the weldings 
goes, we weld together in almost all things by time. 
We wear our shoe till we wear it into shape and 
it ceases to pinch us ; but, in the process, we go 
through a vast deal of pain, and are liable to make 
corns which last long after the shoe itself fits easily. 
We do not advocate the French system of marrying 
ofl* our girls according to our own ideas of suitable- 
ness, and without consulting them ; but we not the 
less think that, of all fatal social mistakes, mesalliances 
are the most fatal, and, in the case of women, to be 



156 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

avoided and prevented at any cost short of a broken 
heart or a premature death. And even death would 
sometimes be better than the life-long misery, the 
enduring shame and humiliation, of certain mesalli' 
ances. 



157 



WEAK SISTERS. 

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



158 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

dained inferiority of their sex. They are the parasitic 
plants of the human family, living by and on the 
strength of others ; growths miable to stand alone, 
and, when deprived of their adventitious support, 
falling to the ground in a ruin perhaps worse than 
death. 

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



WEAK SISTERS. 159 

his counsels. For your weak sister is frequently 
peevish, and though unable to originate is not always 
ready to obey cheerfully ; cheerfulness indeed being 
for the most part an attribute of power. 

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



160 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

We often see this kind of helpless weakness in 
the daughter of a man of overbearing will, or of a 
termagant mother fond of managing and impatient of 
opposition. During the plastic time of her life, when 
education might perhaps have developed a sufficient 
amount of mental muscle, and a course of judicious 
moulding might have fairly set her up, she is snubbed 
and suppressed till all power is crushed out of her. 
She is taught the virtue of self-abnegation till she has 
no self to abnegate ; and the backbone of her in- 
dividuality is so incessantly broken that at last there 
is no backbone left m her to break. She has become 
a mere human mollusc which, when it loses its native 
shell, drifts helplessly at the mercy of chance currents 
into the maw of any stronger creature that may fancy 
it for his prey. One often sees these poor things 
left orphans and friendless at forty or fifty years of 
ao-e. They have lived all their lives in leading-strings, 
and now are utterly unable to walk alone. They are 
infants in all knowledge of the world, of business, of 
human life ; their youth is gone, and with it such 
beauty and attractiveness as they might have had, 
so that men who liked them when fresh and 
gentle at twenty do not care to accept their wrinkled 
helplessness at forty. They have been kept in and 
kept down, and so have made no friends of their 
own ; and then, when the strong willed father dies" 
and the termagant mother goes to the place where 
the wicked cease from troubling, the mollusc these 
have hitherto protected is left defenceless and alone. 



WEAK SISTERS. 161 

If she has money, her chances of escape from the 
social sharks always on the look-out for fat morsels 
are very small mdeed. It is well if she falls into no 
worse hands than those of legitimate priests of either 
section, whether enthusiastic for chasubles or crazy 
for missions ; and if her money is put to no baser 
use than supplying church embroidery for some 
Brother Ignatius at home, or blankets for converted 
Africans in the tropics. It might go into Agape= 
mones, into spiritual Athen^ums, into Bond Street 
back-parlours, where it certainly would do no good, 
take it any way one would ; for, as it must go into 
some side-channel dug by stronger hands than hers, 
the question is, into which of the innumerable con- 
duits oifered for the conveyance of superfluous means 
shall it be directed ? 

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

VOL. I. M 



162 SATUEDAY MORNINGS. 

she has ; and the whole line of her future is ruled 
accordinof to the fact whether she is directed or ' ex- 
ploited,' and used to serve noble ends or base ones. 

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



WEAK SISTERS. 163 

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

Unsatisfactory m her home, the weak sister does 
not do much better in society. She is there the 
embodiment of restriction. She can bear nothing 
that has any flavour or colour in it. Topics of 
broad human interest are forbidden in her presence 
because they are vulgar, improper, unfeminine. She 
takes her stand on her womanhood, and makes that 

M 2 



164 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

womanhood to be something apart from humanity in 
the gross. There must be no cakes and ale for 
others if she be virtuous ; and spades are not to be 
called spades when she is by to hear. She is the 
limit beyond which no one must go, under pam of 
such displeasure as the weak sister can show. And, 
weak as she is in many things, she can compass a 
certain strength of displeasure ; she can condemn, 
persistently if not passionately. 

Nothing is more curious than the way in which 
the weak sister exercises this power of condemnation, 
and nothing much more wide than its scope. If 
incapable of yielding to certain temptations, because 
incapable of feeling them, she has no pity for those 
who have not been able to resist ; yet, on the other 
hand, she cannot comprehend the vigour of those who 
withstand such influences as conquer her. If she 
be under the shadow of family protection, safe in 
the power of those who know how to hold her in all 
honour and prosperity, she cannot forgive the poor 
weak waif — no weaker than herself ! — who has 
been caught up in the outside desert of desolation, 
and made to subserve evil ends. Yet, on the other 
hand, fm^ the woman who is able to think and act 
for herself she has a kind of superstitious horror ; 
and she shrinks from one who has made herself 
notorious, no matter what the mode or method, as 
from something tainted, something unnatural and 
unwomanly. She has even grave doubts respect- 
"ng the lawfulness of doing good if the manner of 



WEAK SISTERS. 165 

it gets into the papers and names are mentioned as 
well as things ; and though the fashion of the day 
favours feminine notoriety in all directions, she holds 
by the mstinct of her temperament, and languidly 
maintams that woman is the cipher to which man 
alone gives distinctive value. Griselda and Medora 
are the types to her of womanly perfection ; and the 
only strength she tolerates in her own sex is the 
strength of endurance and the power of patience. 
She has no doubt in her own mind that the ordained 
purpose of woman is to be convenient for the high- 
handedness and brutality of man ; and any woman 
who objects to this theory, and demands a better 
place for herself, is flying in the face of Providence 
and forfeiting one of the distinctive privileges of her 
sex. For the weak sister thinks, like some others, 
that it is better to be destroyed by orthodox means 
than to be saved by heterodox ones ; and that if good 
Christians uphold moral suttee, they are only pagans 
and barbarians who would put out the flames and 
save the victim from the burning. So far she is 
respectable, in that she has a distinct theory about 
something ; but it is wonderfully eloquent of her 
state that it should only be the theory of Griseldadom 
as womanly perfection, and the beauty to be found 
in the moral of Cinderella sitting supmely among 
the ashes, and forbidden to own even the giass- 
pper that belonged to her. Fortunately for the 
world, the weak sister and her theories do not rule. 
Indeed we are in dano-er of o-oino; too much the 



166 SATUKDAY MOKNINGS. 

other way in these times, and the revolt of our 
women against undue slav^ery goes very near to a 
revolt against wise submission. Still, women who 
are to be the mothers of men ought to have some 
kind of power, if the men are to be worth their place 
in the world ; and if we want creatures with back- 
bones we must not give our strength to rearing a 
race of molluscs. 



167 



PINCHING SHOES, 

There are two ways of dealing with pinching shoes. 
The one is to wear them till you get accustomed to 
the pressure, and so to wear them easy ; the other is 
to kick them off and have done with them altoofether. 
The one is founded on the accommodating principle 
of human nature by which it is enabled to fit itself to 
circumstances, the other is the high-handed master- 
fulness whereby the earth is subdued and obstacles 
are removed ; the one is emblematic of Christian 
patience, the other of Pagan power. Both are good 
in certain states and neither is absolutely the best 
for all conditions. There are some shoes indeed, 
which, do what we will, we can never wear easy. 
We may keep them well fixed on our feet all our life, 
loyally accepting the pressure which fate and misfor- 
tune have imposed on us ; but we go lame and 
hobbled in consequence, and never know what it is 
to make a free step, nor to walk on our way without 
discomfort. Examples abound ; for among all the 
pilgrims toiling more or less painfully through life to 
death, there is not one whose shoes do not pinch him 
somewhere, how easy soever they m.ay look and how 
soft soever the material of which they may be made. 



168 SATURDAY MOENINGS. 

Even those proverbial possessors of roomy shoes, the 
traditional King and Princess, have their own little 
private bedroom slippers which pinch them, unde- 
tected by the gaping multitude who measure happi- 
ness by lengths of velvet and weight of gold em- 
broidery ; and the envied owners of the treasure 
which all seek and none find might better stand as 
instances of sorrow than of happiness — examples of 
how badly shod poor royalty is, and how, far more 
than meaner folk, it sufi*ers from the pinching of its 
regal shoes. 

The uncongeniality of a profession into which a 
man may have been forced by the injudicious over- 
ruling of his friends, or by the exigencies of family 
position and inherited rights, is one form of the 
pinchmg shoe by no means rare to find. And here, 
again, poor royalty comes in for a share of the grip on 
tender places, and the consequent hobbling of its feet. 
For many an hereditary king was meant by nature 
to be nothing but a plain country gentleman at the 
best — perhaps even less ; many, like poor ' Louis 
Capet,' would have gone to the end quite happily and 
respectably if only they might have kicked off the 
embroidered shoes of sovereignty and betaken them- 
selves to the highlows of the herd — if only they 
might have exchanged the sceptre for the turning- 
lathe, the pen or the fowling-piece. ' Je deteste mon 
metier de roi,' Victor Emmanuel is reported to have 
siad to a republican friend who sympathized with 
the monarch's well-known tastes in other thino-s 



PINCHING SHOES. 169 

beside his hatred of the kingly profession ; ^nd 
history repeats this frank avowal in every page. But 
the purple is as hard to be got rid of as Deianen-a's 
robe ; for the most part carrying the skin along with 
it and trailed through a pool of blood in the act of 
transfer — which is scarcely what royalty, oppressed 
with its own greatness, and willing to rid itself of 
sceptre and shoes that it may enjoy itself in list- 
slippers after a more bourgeoise fashion, would find 
in accordance with its wishes. 

Lower down in the social scale we find the 
same kind of misfit between nature and position 
as a very frequent occurrence — pinching shoes, 
productive of innumerable corns and tender places, 
being many where the feet represent the temperament 
and the shoes are the profession. How often we see 
a natural ' heavy ' securely swathed in cassock and 
bands, and set up in the pulpit of the family 
church, simply because the tithes were large and the 
advowson was part of the family inheritance. But 
that stiff rectorial shoe of his will never wear easy. 
The man's secret soul goes out to the parade- 
ground and the mess-table. The glitter and jingle 
and theatrical display of a soldier's life seem to 
him the finest thmgs in the whole round of pro- 
fessions, and the quiet uneventful life of a village 
pastor is of all the most abhorrent. He wants to act^ 
not to teach. Yet there he is, penned in beyond all 
power of breaking loose on this side the grave ; 
bound to drone out muddled sermons half an hour 
long and eminently good for sleeping draughts, instead 



170 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

of shouting terse and stirring words of command which 
set the blood on fire to hear ; bound to rout the 
shadowy enemy of souls with weapons he can neither 
feel nor use, instead of prancing off at the head of 
his men, waving his drawn sword above his head in 
a whirlwind of excitement and martial glory, to rout 
the tangible enemies of his country's flag. He loves 
his wife and takes a mild parsonic pleasure in his 
roses ; he energizes his schools and beats up recruits 
for his parish penny readings ; he lends his pulpit 
to missionary delegates and takes the chair at the 
meeting for the conversion of Jews ; he does his 
duty, poor man, so far as he knows how and so far 
as nature gave him the power ; but his feet are in 
pinching shoes all his life long, and no amount of 
walking on the clerical highway can ever make them 
pleasant wearing. Or he may have a passionate love 
for the sea, and be mewed up in a lawyer's musty 
office where his laro'e limbs have not half enouofh 
space for their natural activity ; where he is perched 
for twelve hours out of the twenty-four on a high stool 
against a desk instead of climbing cat-like up the 
ropes ; and where he is set to engross a longwinded 
deed of conveyance, or to make a fair copy of a bill 
of costs, instead of bearing a hand in a gale and 
saving his ship by pluck and quickness. He could 
save a ship better than he can engross a deed ; while, 
as for law, he cannot get as much of that into his 
heavy brain as would enable him to advise a client on 
the simplest case of assault ; but he knows all the 



PINCHING SHOES. 171 

cliiFerences of rig, and the whole code of signals, and 
can tell you to a nicety about the flags of all nations, 
and tlie name and position of every spar and stay and 
sheet, and when to reef and when to set sail, with any 
other nautical information to be had from books and 
a chance cruise as far as the Nore. That pen behind 
his ear never ceases to gall and fret ; his shoe never 
ceases to pinch ; and to the last day of his life the 
high stool in the lawyer's office will be a place of 
penance and the sailor's quarter-deck the lost heaven 
of his ambition. 

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

Another pinching shoe is to be found in climate 
and locality. A man hungering for the busy life of 



172 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

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

Again, a man to w liom intellectual companionship 
means more than it does to many is thrown into a 
neighbourhood wdiere he cannot- hope to meet with 
comprehension, still less with sympathy. He is a 
Freethinker, and the neighbourhood goes in for the 
strictest Methodism or the highest ultra-Ritualism ; 
he is a Radical, and he is in the very focus of county 
Toryism, where the doctrine of equality and the 



PINCHING SHOES. 173 

rights of man is just so much seditious blasphemy, 
while the British Constitution is held as a direct 
emanation from divine wisdom second only to the 
Bible ; or he is a Tory to the backbone — and his 
backbone is a pretty stiff one — and he is in the 
midst of that blatant kind of Radicalism which 
thinks gentlehood a remnant of the dark ages, and 
confounds good breeding with servility, and loyalty 
to the Crown with oppression of the people. Sur- 
rounded by his kind, he is as much alone as if in the 
middle of a desert. An Englishman among English- 
men, he has no more mental companionship than if 
he were in a foreign country where he and his neigh- 
bour spoke different tongues, and each had a set of 
signs with not two agreeing. And this kind of 
solitude makes a pinching shoe to many minds ; 
though to some of the more self-centred or defying kind 
it is bearable enough — perhaps even giving a sense 
of roominess which closer communion would destroy. 
Of course one of the worst of our pinching shoes 
is matrimony, when marriage means bondage and 
not union. The mismated wife or husband never 
leaves off, willingly or unwillingly, squeezing the 
tender places ; and the more the pressure is objected 
to the worse the pain becomes. And nothing can 
relieve it. A country gentleman, hating the dust 
and noise of London, with all his interest in his 
county position and all his pleasure in his place, and 
a wife whose love lies in Queen's balls and opera- 
boxes, and to whom the country is simply a slice 



174 SATURDAY MOR]SlNGS. 

out of Siberia wherever it may be ; a hearty hospit- 
able man, hking to see his table well filled, and a 
wife with a weak digestion, irritable nerves and a 
morbid horror of society ; a pushing and ambitious 
man, with a loud voice and an imposing presence, 
and a shrinking fireside woman, who asks only to 
glide unnoticed through the crowd and to creep 
noiselessly from her home to her grave — are not all 
these shod with pinching shoes, which, do what they 
will, go on pinching to the end, and which nothing 
short of death or the Sir James Hannen of the time 
can remove ? The pinching shoe of matrimony 
pinches both sides equally — excepting indeed, one 
of the two is specially phlegmatic or pachyder- 
matous, and then the grip is harmless ; but, as a 
rule, the ring-fence of marriage doubles all con- 
ditions, and when A. walks hobbled, B. falls lame, 
and both suffer from the same misfit. However, the 
only thing to do is to bear and wear till the upper- 
leather ^delds or till the foot takes the required 
shape ) but there is an eternity of pain to be gone 
throuo^h before either of these desirable ends comes 
about ; and the instinct which dreads pain, and 
questions its necessity, is by no means a false one. 
For all that, we must wear our pinching shoes of 
matrimony till death or the Divorce Court pulls 
them from our feet ; which points to the need of 
being more careful than we usually are about the fit 
beforehand. 

Poverty has a whole rack full of pinching shoes 
very hard to get accustomed to, and as bad to dance 



PINCHING SHOES. 175 

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



176 SATURDAY MOKNi:sGS. 



SUPERIOR BEIXGS, 

Every now and then one comes across the path of a 
Superior Being — a being who seems to imagine itself 
made out of a different kind of clay from that which 
forms the coarser ruck of humanity, and whose pre- 
sence crushes us with a sense of our own inferiority, 
exasperating or humiliating, according to the amount 
of natural pride bestowed upon us. The superior 
being is of either sex and of all denominations ; and 
its superiority comes from many causes — bemg some- 
times due to a wider grasp of intellect, sometimes 
to a loftier standard of morals, sometimes to better 
birth or a longer purse, and very often to the simple 
conceit of itself which simulates superiority and 
believes in its own apery. The chief characteristic 
of the superior being is that exalted pity for in- 
feriority which springs from the consciousness of 
excellence. In fact, one of the main elements of 
superiority consists in this sublime consciousness 
of private exaltation, and the immense interval that 
separates it from the grosser condition it surveys. 
Kivalry is essentially angry and contentious, but 
confessed superiority can afford to be serene and 



SUPERIOR BEINGS. 177 

compassionate. The little people who live in that 
meagre sphere of theirs, mental and social, with 
which not one point of its own extended circle 
comes in contact, are deserving of all pity and are 
below anything like active displeasure. That they 
should be content with such a meagre sphere seems 
inconceivable to the superior being, as it contem- 
plates its own enlarged horizon with the complacency 
j)roper to a dweller in vastness. Or it may be that 
its own world is narrow ; and its superiority will 
then be that it is high, safe, exclusive, while its pity 
will flow down for those poor wayfarers who wander 
afield in broad latitudes, and know nothing of the 
pleasure found in reserved places. In any case the 
region in which a superior bemg dwells is better 
than the region in which any other person dwells. 

Take a superior being who has made up a private 
account with truth, and who has, in his own mind at 
least, unlocked the gate of the great mysteries of life, 
and got to the back of that eternal Why ? for ever 
confrontmg us. It does not in the least degree sig- 
nify how the key is labelled. It may be High Church 
or Low Church, Swedenborgianism or Positivism. 
The name has nothing to do with the thino". It 
is the contented certainty of having unlocked that 
great gate at which others are hammering in vain 
which confers the superiority, and how the thino- has 
been done does not affect the result. Neither does 
it disturb the equanimity of the superior being when 
he meets with opposing superior beings who have 

VOL. I. X 



178 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

also made up their private accounts with truth, but 
in quite another handwriting and with a different 
sum-total at the bottom of the page ; who have also 
unlocked the gate of the great mysteries, but with a 
key of contradictory wards, while the gate itself is of 
another order of architecture altogether. But then 
nothing ever does disturb the equanimity of the 
superior being ; for, as he is above all rivalry, so is 
he beyond all teachuig. The meeting of two superior 
bemgs of hostile creed is like the meeting of the two 
blind kings in the story, each claiming the crown 
for his own and both ignorant of the very existence 
of a rival. It may be that the superior being has 
soared away into the cold region of spiritual negation, 
whence he regards the praying and praising multi- 
tudes who go to church and believe in Providence 
as grown people regard children who still believe in 
ghosts and fairies. Or it may be that he has plunged 
into the phosphorescent atmosphere of mysticism and 
an all -pervading superstition ; and then all who hold 
by scientific law, and who think the test of common 
sense not absolutely valueless, are Sadducees who 
know nothing of the glorious liberty of the light, 
but who prefer to live in darkness and to make them- 
selves the agents of the great Lord of Lies. 

Sometimes the superior being goes in for the 
doctrine of love and impulse, as against reason or 
experience, holding the physiologist and political 
economist as creatures absolutely devoid of feeling ; 
and sometimes his superiority is shown in the appli- 



SUPERIOR BEINGS. ' 179 

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

The superior being is sometimes a person who is 
above all the passions and weaknesses of ordinary 
men ; a philosopher, or an etherealized woman dwell- 
ing on serene Olympian heights which no clouds 



180 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

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

When this kind of superior being is a woman, 
there is something pretty in the sublime assumption of 



SUPERIOR BEINGS. 181 

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

The superiority which some women assume over 
men is very odd. It is like the grave rebuke of a 
child, not knowing what it is that it rebukes. When 
women take up their parable and censure men for 
the wild or evil things they do, not understanding 
how or why it has come about that they have done 
them, and knowing as little of the inner causes as of 
the outer, they are in the position of superior beings 
talking unmitigated rubbish. To be sure, it is very 
sweet and innocent rubbish, and has a lofty air about 



182 SATURDAY MOENI^'GS. 

it that redeems what else would be mere presump- 
tion ; but there is no more practical worth in what 
they say than there is in the child's rebuke when its 
doll will not stand upright on sawdust legs, nor eat a 
crumb of cake with waxen lips. This is one reason 
why women of the order of superior beings have so 
little influence over men ; they judge without know- 
ledge and condemn without insight. If they could 
thoroughly fathom man's nature, so as to understand 
his difficulties, they would then have moral power if 
their aims were higher than his, their principles more 
lofty, their practice more pure. As it is, they have 
next to none ; and the very men who seem to yield 
most go only so far as to conceal what the superior 
being disapproves of ; they do not change because of 
her greater weight of doctrine. 

Men show themselves as superior beings to women 
on another count — intellectually, rather than morally. 
While women rebuke men for their sins, men snub 
women for their follies ; the one wields the spiritual, 
the other the intellectual, weapon of castigation, and 
both hold themselves superior, beyond all possibility 
of rivalry, according to the chance of sex. The mas- 
culine view of a subject always imposes itself on 
women as something unattainable by the feminine 
mind. Nine times out of ten it brings them to a 
due sense of their own inferiority, save in the case 
of the superior being, to whom of course the mas- 
culine view counts for nothino; ao^ainst her own. But 
even when women do not accept a man's opinions, 



SUPERIOR BEINGS. 183 

tliey instinctively recognize his greater value, his 
greater breadth and strength. Perhaps they cry 
out against his hardness, if he is a political econo- 
mist and they are emotional ; or against his lower 
morality if he goes in for universal charity and philo- 
sophical latitudinarianism, and they are enthusiasts 
with a clearly-defined faith and a belief in its infal- 
libility. These are wide tracts of difference between 
the two minds, not to be settled by the ipse dixit of 
even a superior being ; but in general the superiority 
of the man makes itself more felt than the superiority 
of the woman. While one preaches, the other ridicules ; 
and snubljino; does more than condemnation. 



184 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 



FEMININE AMENITIES. 

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

Half a dozen ordinary men advocating ' emanci- 
pation' doctrines would do more towards leavening 
the whole bulk of womankind than any number 
of first-class women. Where these do stand by 
each other it is from instinctive or personal affec- 
tion rather than from class solidarity. And this is 



FEmNINE AMENITIES. 185 

one of the most striking distinctions of sex, and one 
cause, among others, why men have the upper hand, 
and why they are able to keep it. Certainly there are 
reasons, sufficiently good, why women do not more 
readily coalesce ; and one is the immense difference 
between the two extremes — the silly being too silly 
to appreciate the wise, and the weak too weak to 
bear the armour of the strong. There is more 
difference between outsiders among women than there 
is among men ; the feminine characteristic of ex- 
aggeration making a gap which the medium or 
average man fills. The ways of women with each 
other more than all else show the great difference 
between their morale and that of men. They flatter 
and coax as men could not do, but they are also more 
rude to each other than any man would be to his 
fellow. It is amazing to see the things they can do 
and will bear — things which no man would dream of 
standing and which no man would dare to attempt. 
This is because they are not taught to respect each 
other, and because they have no fear of consequences. 
If one woman is insulted by another, she cannot de- 
mand satisfaction nor knock the offender down ; and 
it is unladylike to swear and call names. She must 
bear what she can repay only in kmd ; but, to do her 
justice, she repays in a manner undeniably effective 
and to the point. 

There is nothing very pronounced about the 
feminine modes of aggression and retaliation ] and 
yet each is eloquent and sufficient for its purpose. It 



186 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

may be only a stare, a shrug, a toss of the head ; 
but women can throw an intensity of disdain into the 
simplest gesture which answers the end perfectly. 
The unabashed serenity and unflinching constancy 
with which one woman can stare down another is in 
itself an art that requires a certain amount of natural 
genius, as well as carefal cultivation. She puts up 
her eyeglass — not being shortsighted — and surveys 
the enemy standing two feet from her, with a sublime 
contempt for her whole condition, or with a still more 
sublime ignoring of her sentient existence, that no 
words could give. If the enemy be sensitive and 
unused to the kind of thing, she is absolutely crushed, 
destroyed for the time, and reduced to the most 
pitiable state of self-abasement. If she be of a tougher 
fibre, and has had some experience of feminine war- 
fare, she returns the stare with a corresponding 
amount of contempt or of obliviousness ; and from 
that moment a contest is begun which never ceases 
and which continually stains in bitterness. The stare 
is the weapon of offence most in use among women, 
and is specially favoured by the experienced against the 
younger and less seasoned. It is one of the instinc- 
tive arms native to the sex ; and we have only to watch 
the introduction of two girls to each other to see this, 
and to learn how even in youth is begun the exercise 
which time and use raise to such deadly perfection. 

In the conversations of women with each other we 
again meet with examples of their peculiar amenities 
to their own sex. They never refrain from showing 



FEMININE AMENITIES. 187 

how mucli they are bored ; they contradict flatly, 
without the flimsiest veil of apology to hide their 
rudeness ; and they interrupt ruthlessly, whatever 
the subject in hand may be. One lady was giving 
another a minute account of how the bride looked 
yesterday when she was married to Mr. A., of some- 
what formidable boudoir repute, with whom her 
listener had had sundry tender passages which made 
the mention of his marriage a notoriously sore subject. 
' Ah ! I see you have taken that old silk which Madame 
Josephine wanted to palm off on me last year,' said the 
tortured listener brusquely breakmg into the narra- 
tive without a lead of any kind. And the speaker 
was silenced. In this case it was the interchano^e of 
doubtful courtesies, wherein neither deserved pity ; 
but to make a disparaging remark about a gown, in 
revenge for turning the knife in a wound, was a 
thoroughly feminine manner of retaliation, and one 
that would not have touched a man. Such shafts 
fall blunted against the rugged skin of the coarser 
creature ; and the date or pattern of a bit of cloth 
would not have told much against the loss of a 
lover. But as most women passionately care for 
dress, their toilet is one of their most vulnerable parts. 
Ashamed to be unfashionable, they tolerate anything 
in each other rather than shabbiness or eccentricity, 
even when picturesque ; hence a sarcastic allusion to 
the age of a few yards of silk as a set-off against a 
grossly cruel stab was a return wound of considerable 
depth cleverly given. 



188 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

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

Yery painful to a high-spirited gentlewoman 
must be the way in which a superior creature of this 
kind receives her, if not of the same set as herself. 
The husband of the inferior creature may be adored, 
as men are adored by fashionable women who love 
only themselves, and care only for their own plea- 
sures. Artist, man of letters, beau sabreiir^ he is 
the passing idol, the temporary toy, of a certain 
circle ; and his wife has to be tolerated for his sake, 
and because she is a lady and fit to be presented, 
though an outsider. So they patronize her till the 
poor woman's blood is on fire ; or they snub her 
till she has no moral consistency left in her, and 
is reduced to a mere mass of pulp. They keep her in 
another room while they talk to her husband with 
their other intimates ; or they admit her into their 
circle, where she is made to feel like a Gentile among 
the faithful, for either they leave her unnoticed alto- 
gether or else speak to her on subjects quite apart 
from the general conversation, as if she were inca- 



FEMININE AMENITIES. 189 

pable of understanding them on their own ground. 
They ask her to dinner without her husband, and take 
care that there is no one to meet her whom she would 
like to see ; but they ask him when they are at their 
grandest, and express their deep regret that his wife 
(uninvited) cannot accompany him. They know 
every turn and twist that can humiliate her if she has 
pretensions which they choose to demolish. They 
praise her toilet for its good taste in simplicity, when 
she thinks she is one of the finest on an occasion on 
which no one can be too fine. They tell her that pat- 
tern of hers is perfect, and made just like the dear 
duchess's famous dress last season, when she believes 
that she has Madame Josephine's last, fi:-eshly im- 
ported from Paris. They celebrate her dinner as the 
very perfection of a refined family dinner without 
parade or cost, though it has all been had from the 
crack confectioner's, and though the bill for the en- 
tertainment will cause many a day of family pinching. 
These are the thmgs which women say to one another 
when they wish to pain and humiliate ; things which 
pain and humiliate some more than would a positive 
disgrace. For some women are distressingly sensitive 
about these little matters. Their lives are made up 
of trifles, and a failure m a trifle is a failure in their 
object of life. 

Women can do each other no end of despite in a 
small way in society, not to speak of mischief of a 
graver kind. A hostess who has a grudge against 
one of her more famous lady-guests can always ensure 



190 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

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

Often women flirt as much to annoy other women 



FEMININE AMENITIES. 191 

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

But the range of these feminine amenities is 
not confined to women ; it includes men as well ; 
and women continually take advantage of their posi- 
tion to insult the stronger sex by saying to them 
things which can be neither answered nor resented. 
A woman can with the quietest face and the gentlest 
voice imaginable insinuate that you have just 
cheated at cards ; she can give you the lie direct as 
coolly as if she were correcting a misprint ; and you 
cannot defend yourself. To brawl with her would be 
unpardonable ; to contradict her is useless ; and the 
sense of society does not allow you to show her any 



192 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

active displeasure. In this instance the weaker crea- 
ture is the stronger, and the more defenceless is the 
safer. You have only the rather questionable con- 
solation of knowing that you are not singular in your 
discomfiture, and that when she has made an end of 
you she will probably have a turn with your betters, 
and make them too, dance to her piping, whether 
they like the tune or not. At all events, if she 
humiliates you she humiliates her sisters still more ; 
and with the knowledge that, hardly handled as you 
have been, others are yet more severely dealt with, 
you must learn to be content, and to practise as much 
of that grim kind of patience, which suffers keenly 
and bears silently, as your nature will permit. 



GRIM FEMALES. 

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

The grim female must be carefully distinguished 
from the masculine woman ; for they are by no 
means essentially the same, though the types may 
run into each other, and sometimes do. But the 
masculine \^'oman, if not grim but only Amazonian, 
has often much that is fine and beautiful in her, 
as we see in her great prototype Pallas Athene ; 
but the grim female pur sang is never noble, never 
VOL. I. 



194 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

beautiful ; and the only meaning of her existence — 
the only mission she seems sent into the world to 
fulfil — is that of serving as a warning to the young 
what to avoid. 

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

Now the grim female of real life may be one of 
the most conventional of her sex, and in fact, she 
generally is one of the most conventional of her sex. 
She is one who rules her household with a rod of 



GRIM FEMALES. 195 

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

One characteristic of the grim female is her want 
of womanly passion for children. She may have so 
much maternal instinct, perverted, as to be on friendly 
terms with a dog or two, a cat, or may be a cock- 
atoo ; but she has no real affection for children, no 
comprehension of child-nature, and the ^ sublime 
nonsense ' of the nursery is a thing unknown to her 

2 



196 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

from first to last. If she have children of her own, 
she treats them in a hard wooden way that has 
nothing of the ideal mother about it. She generally 
sees that they are properly cared for, because she is 
a disciplinarian ; but, though she is mexorable on the 
score of cold baths and ' no trash,' she never con- 
descends to the weakness of love. If her little ones 
are sick, they are set aside and dosed until they are 
well ; if they are naughty, they are punished ; but 
they never know those moments of tender indulgence 
which help them over a period of indisposition not 
severe enough for actual doctoring, yet throwing 
them out of gear and inducing a spell of what 
ignorance calls naughtiness. Rhadamanthus was a 
weakling compared to the grim female in the nur- 
sery ; and what she is in her nursery she continues 
to be in the schoolroom, and the drawing-room to 
follow. Her children are always causes of amioyance 
to the grim female, and the first stirrings of indi- 
viduality, the first half- unconscious trials of their 
young strength, are ofi*ences she cannot away with. 
Children and inferiors are they in her eyes, even when 
grown up and married ; and she exacts from them 
the humility and deference of their lower condition. 
Hence she is one to whom the present generation is 
undeniably worse than the past ; one who groans 
over the follies and shortcomings of the times and 
who thinks that good conduct died out with her own 
youth, and that it is not likely, by the look of thmgs, 
to be restored. In fact, youth itself is the root and 



GRIM FEMALES. 197 

basis of offence ; and if she coerces children, she 
tyrannizes over girls and snubs young men, with 
inexorable impartiality. 

The grim female is not necessarily a strono-- 
minded woman, nor a learned woman, like those who 
wear spectacles, go to scientific meetings and are 
great in the classics and the 'ologies. She may be 
of the emancipated class ; it all depends on chance ; 
and a grim female, when of the emancipated, is a 
very formidable person indeed. But she is not 
necessarily one of these. On the contrary, part 
of her very grimness comes from her intense 
conservatism and uncompromising conventionality. 
Nothing is so abhorrent to her as innovation or 
novelty in any shape. She does not hold with any 
one out of the narrowest groove of respectable be- 
lief, in what direction soever the diverging line may 
go. A Romanist or a Baptist, a Jew or an infidel, 
it is all one to her ; each is equally dreadful to her, 
and each is eternally foredoomed. She is of the ortho- 
dox Church without fal-lals ; as far removed from 
Rituahsm as she is from rantino;, and demandinof for 
herself that infallibity of judgment and absolute pos- 
session of the truth which she denies to the Pope 
and all his Cardinals. Beware how you broach new 
doctrines in her presence. She has been known 
before now to abjure her nearest relations for no 
greater moral lapse than a weak belief in globules ; 
while, as for anything like graver aberrations, say on 
the ape theory or on the plurality of races, on develop- 



198 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

ment in religions or on a republican form of govern- 
ment, she has no toleration whatever. If the Smith- 
field fires existed at the present day, the grim female 
would be the first to light the faggots. It is all the 
same if she belongs to any Dissenting persuasion ; 
part of her grimness coming from her intolerance, 
and her own beliefs being simply the springboard on 
which she stands. 

Many causes produce the grim female. It may 
be that she is grim from social pride as well as from 
natural hardness. If she has been used to live with 
people whom, rightly or wrongly, she considers her 
inferiors, she will probably queen it over them in a 
very unmistakeable manner. The prelatic blood is 
renowned for this sort of thing ; and a bishop's 
daughter, or an archbishop's grand-daughter, or Mrs. 
Proudie, prelatic by marriage only, if of the grim class, 
is one of the grimmest of her class. The halo of sanc- 
tity round the mitre and the crozier will be greater in 
her eyes than even the glitter of the strawberry leaves; 
and she holds herself consecrated by her birth or 
marriage to the understanding of every moral ques- 
tion, and specially to the final settlement of every 
tough theological position. Or she may be grim be- 
cause of her isolation and meagre intercourse with the 
world at large ; such as she is found in the remoter 
districts. This kind comes into the exceptional or 
novelist's class, and is often more masculine than 
grim. These are the women who hunt and fish and 
shoot like men, and who may be found in all weathers 



GRIM FEMALES. 199 

wandering alone about the mountains in short petti- 
coats and spatterdashes — women who affect to be 
essentially mannish in person, habits and attire, and 
who may be quite jolly easy-going fellows in their 
own way, or else grim and trenchant, as nature or 
the fit takes them. This is a kind not at all un- 
common in country places among the higher class of 
resident ladies — ladies who are so highly placed 
locally that they can afford to disregard public 
opinion, and who are so independent by disposition 
that they naturally go off to the manly side, and make 
themselves bad imitations, as the best they can do. 

The grim female tries her strength with all new- 
comers. She is like one of the giants or black knights 
of old romance, who lived in castles or caves, whence 
they pounced on all passers-by, and either wrung 
their necks if they conquered or retreated howling 
if discomfited. This is what the grim female does 
in her degree. She dashes on all who are presented 
to her, and has a passage of arms as the first act of 
the new drama. If her oj^ponents yield out of timi- 
dity or good-breeding, or perhaps from not under- 
standing the warlike nature of the encounter, she 
puts her foot on them forthwith, and ignominiously 
crushes them ; if they defy her, and give her back 
blow for blow, ten to one she cuts them and becomes 
then' enemy for ever after. For she has not breadth 
enough to be magnanimous, and the one thing she 
never forgives is successful opposition. Yery grim 
is she in the presence of human weakness, moral and 



200 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

physical. Woe to that unhappy maid of hers who 
has slipped on the narrow path of prudence ! She 
will be turned out to perish with no more com- 
punction than if she were a black-beetle to be swept 
out of the way. 

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



GRBI FEMALES. 201 

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

What would become of us if all our women were 
like her ? Without any of the feminine little weak- 
nesses at which we have our laugh yet which we 
do not wholly dislike — without any of the pretty 
coaxing ways which we know warp our better 
judgment and take us out of the strict course ; and 
yet how pleasant that warping process is ! — without 
any even of the transient petulances which give so 
much light and shade to a woman's character, 
the grim female stands like an old-world Gorgon, 
turnino' livino; flesh and blood to stone. When 
we look at her we are inclined to forgive all the 
smallness and silliness which sometimes vex us in 
the ordinary woman, and to think that there are 
worse things than the love of dress for which we 
so often reproach our wives and daughters ; that 
flirting, which is reprehensible no doubt, might 
be exchanged for something even more repre- 
hensible ; and that vanity, of the giggling, coquettish 



202 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

kind, though to be steadily discouraged and sternly 
reproved, is not quite the worst femmine thing after 
all. Surely not ! A grim female who cannot flirt nor 
giggle nor cry, nor yet kiss and make up again when 
scolded, is far away a worse kind of thing than a 
feather-headed little puss who is always doing wrong 
by reason of her foolish brain, but who manages 
somehow to pull herself right because of her loving 
heart. Weak women, vain women, aflPected women, 
and the whole class of silly women, whatever the 
speciality of silliness exhibited, are tiresome enough, 
heaven knows ; but, unsatisfactory as they are, they 
are better than the grim female — that woman of no 
sex, born without softness or sympathy and living 
without pity and without love. 



20; 



MATURE SIRENS, 

Nothing is more incomprehensible to girls than the 
love and admiration sometimes given to middle-aged 
women. They cannot understand it ; and nothing 
but experience will ever make them understand it. 
In their eyes, a woman is out of the pale of personal 
alFection altogether when she has once lost that shin- 
ing gloss of youth, that exquisite freshness of skin 
and suppleness of limb, which to them, in the insolent 
plenitude of their unfaded beauty, constitute the 
chief claims to admiration of the one sex from the 
other. And yet they cannot conceal from themselves 
that the pretty maid of eighteen is often deserted for 
the handsome woman of forty, and that the patent 
witchery of their own youth and brilliant colouring 
goes for nothing against the mysterious charms of 
a mature siren. What can they say to such an 
anomaly ? There is no good in going about the 
world disdainfully wondering how on earth a man 
could ever have taken up with such an antiquated 
creature 1 — suggestively asking their male friends what 
could he see in a woman of her age, old enough to be 
his mother ? There the fact stands ; and facts are 



204 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

stubborn things. The eligible suitor who has been 
coveted by more than one golden-haired girl has 
married a woman twenty years her senior, and the 
middle-aged siren has quietly carried off the prize 
which nymphs in their teens have frantically desired 
to win. What is the secret ? How is it done ? The 
world, even of silly girls, has got past any belief in 
spells and talismans, such as Charlemagne's mistress 
wore, and yet the man's fascination seems to them 
quite as miraculous and almost as unholy as if it had 
been brought about by the black art. But if they 
had any analytical power they would understand the 
diablerie of the mature siren clearly enough ; for it is 
not so difficult to understand when one puts one's 
mind to it. 

In the first place, a woman of ripe age has a 
knowledge of the world, and a certain suavity of 
manner and moral flexibility, wholly wanting to the 
young. Young girls are for the most part all angles 
— harsh in their judgments, stiff in their prejudices, 
narrow in their sympathies. They are full of com- 
bativeness and self-assertion if they belong to one 
type of young people, or they are stupid and shy if 
they belong to another type. They are talkative with 
nothing to say, and positive with nothing known ; 
or they are monosyllabic dummies who stammer out 
Yes or No at random, and whose brains become hope- 
lessly confused at the first sentence with which the 
stranger, to whom they have just been introduced, 
attempts to open a conversation. They are generally 



MATURE SIEENS. 205 

without pity ; their want of experience making them 
hard towards sorrows which they do not miderstand 
— let us charitably hope also making them ignorant 
of the pain they inflict. That famous article in the 
Times on the cruelty of young girls, apropos of 
Constance Kent's confession, though absurdly exag- 
gerated, had in it the core of truth which gives the 
sting to such papers, which makes them stick, and 
which is the real cause of the outcry they create. 

Girls are cruel ; there is no question about it. 
If passive rather than active, they are simply in- 
different to the sufferings of others ; if of a more 
active temperament, they find a positive pleasure in 
giving pain. A girl will say horribly cruel things 
to her dearest friend, then laugh at her because 
she cries. Even her own mother she will hurt and 
humiliate if she can ; while, as for any unfortunate 
aspirant not apj^roved of, were he as tough- skinned 
as a rhmoceros she would find means to make 
hioi wince. But all this acerbity is toned down 
in the mature woman. Experience has enlarged her 
sympathies, and knowledge of suffering has softened 
her heart to the sufferings of others. Her lessons of 
life too, have taught her tact ; and tact is one of 
the most valuable lessons that a man or woman can 
learn. She sees at a glance the weak points and 
sore places in her companion, and she avoids them ; 
or if she passes over them, it is with a hand so soft 
and tender, a touch so soothing, that she calms m- 
stead of irritating. A girl would have come down 



206 SATUEDAY MOENINGS. 

on those weak places heavily, and would have torn 
off the bandages from the sore ones, jesting at scars 
because she herself had never felt a wound, and de- 
riding the sybaritism of diachylon because ignorant 
of the anguish it conceals. 

Furthermore, the mature siren is thoughtful for 
others. Girls are self- asserting and aggressive. Life 
is so strong in them, and the instinct which prompts 
them to try their strength with all comers and to get 
the best of everything everywhere, is so irre^Dressible, 
that they are often disagreeable because of that in- 
stinctive selfishness, that craving, natural to the 
young, of taking all and giving back nothing. But 
the mature siren knows better than this. She knows 
that social success entirely depends on what each of us 
can throw into the common fund of society ; that the 
surest way to win consideration for ourselves is to be 
considerate for others ; that sympathy begets liking, 
and self-suppression leads to exaltation ; and that if 
we want to gain love we must first show how well 
we can give it. Her tact then, and her sympathy, her 
moral flexibility and quick comprehension of character, 
her readiness to give herself to others, are some of the 
reasons, among others, why the society of a cultivated 
agreeable woman of a certain age is sought by those 
men to whom women are more than mere mistresses 
or toys. Besides, she is a good conversationalist. 
She has no pretensions to any special or deep learning 
■^for, if pedantic, she is spoilt as a siren at any age 
— but she knows a little about most things ; at all 



MATURE SIRENS. 207 

events, she knows enough to make her a pleasant 
companion in a tete-a-tete or at a dinner- table, and to 
enable her to keep up the ball when thrown. And 
men like to talk to intelligent women. They do not 
like to be taught nor corrected by them, but they 
like that quick sympathetic intellect which follows 
them readily, and that amount of knowledge which 
makes a comfortable cushion for their own. And a 
mature siren who knows what she is about would 
never do more than this, even if she could. 

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



208 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

with the young by trying to look hke them, and so 
losing the good of what she has retained, and betray- 
ing the ravages of time by the contrast. 

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

That mature sirens can be passionately loved. 



MATURE SIRENS. 209 

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

All women do not harden by time, nor wither, 
nor yet corrupt. Some merely ripen and mellow and 
get enriched by the passage of the years, retaining the 
most delicate womanliness — we had almost said girl- 
ishness — into quite old age, blushing as swiftly under 
their grey hairs, while shrinking from anything coarse 
or vulgar or impure as sensitively, as when they were 
girls. La femme a quaranfe ans is the French term for 
the opening of the great gulf beyond which love can- 
not pass ; but human history disproves this date, and 
shows that the heart can remain fresh and the person 
lovely long after the age fixed for the final adieu 
to admiration — that the mature siren can be adored 

VOL. I. P 



210 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

by her own contemporaries when the rismg genera- 
tion regard her as nothing better than a chimney- 
corner fixture. Mr. TroUope recognized the claims 
of the mature siren in his Orley Farm and il//.s6' 
Mackenzie ; and no one can deny the intense natural- 
ness of the characters and the interest of the stories. 

Another point which tells with the mature woman 
is, that she is not jealous nor exacting. She knows 
the world,, and takes what comes with that philosophy 
which springs from knowledge. If she be of an en- 
joying nature — and she cannot be a siren else — she 
accepts such good as floats to the top, neither look- 
ing too deep into the cup nor speculating on the time 
when she shall have drained it to the dregs. Men 
feel safe with her. If they have entered on a tender 
friendship with her, they know that there will be no 
scene, no tears, no upbraidings, when an inexorable 
fate comes in to end their pleasant little drama, with 
the inevitable wife as the scene -shifter. The mature 
siren knows so well that fate and the wife must break 
in between her and her friend, that she is resigned 
from the first to what is foredoomed, and thus accepts 
her bitter portion, when it comes, with dignity and in 
silence. Where younger women would fall into 
hysterics and make a scene, perhaps go about the 
world taking their revenge in slander, the middle- 
ao-ed woman holds out a friendly hand and takes the 
back seat gallantly, never showing by word nor look 
that she has felt her deposition. She becomes the 
best friend of the new household ; and if any one is 



MATURE SIRENS. 211 

jealous, ten to one it is the husband who is jealous of 
her love for his wife. Of course it may be the wife 
herself, who cannot see what her husband can find to 
admire so much m Mrs. A , and who pouts at his 
extraordinary predilection for her, though of course 
she would scorn to be jealous — as, indeed, she has no 
cause. For even a mature siren, however delightful 
she may be, is not likely to come before a young wife 
in the heart of a young husband. Though the French 
paint the love of a woman of forty as pathetic, be- 
cause slightly ridiculous and certainly hopeless, yet 
they arrange their theory of social life so that a 
youth is generally supposed to make his first love 
of a married woman many years his elder, while a 
mature siren finds her last love in a youth. 

We have not come to this yet in England, either 
in theory or practice ; and it is to be hoped that we 
never shall come to it. Mature sirens are all very 
well for men of their own age, and it is pleasant to 
see them still loved and admired, and to recognize in 
them the claims of women to something higher than 
mere personal passion ; bttt the case would be very 
difierent if they became ghoulish seducers of the 
young, and kept up the habit of love by entanglmg 
boyish hearts and blightmg youthful lives. As they 
are now, they form a charmmg element in society, 
and are of mtinite use to the world. They are the 
ripe fruit in the garden where else everything wotild 
be green and immature — the last days of the golden 
summer set against the disappointing backwardness 

p 2 



212 . SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

of spring and before the chills of autumn have come. 
They contain in themselves the advantages of two 
distinct epochs, and while possessing as much per- 
sonal charm as youth, possess also the gains which 
come by experience and maturity. They keep things 
together as the young could not do ; and no gather- 
ing of friends is perfect which has not one or two 
mature sirens to give the tone, and prevent ex- 
cesses. They soften the asj)erities of high-handed 
boys and girls, which else would be too biting ; and 
they set people at ease, and make them in good 
humour with themselves, by the courtesy with which 
they listen to them and the patience with which they 
bear with them. Even the very girls who hate them 
fiercely as rivals love them passing well as half 
maternal, half sisterly, companions ; and the first per- 
son to whom they would carry their sorrows would 
be a mature siren, quite capable for her own part of 
having caused them. 

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



213 



PUMPKINS. 

Pumpkins are among the most imposing of all ground- 
ling growths. They have fine showy flowers, hand- 
some leaves, roving stems, and they bear solid4ooking 
fruit of a goodly size and gorgeous colour. To see 
them spreading over their domain with such rapid 
luxuriance, one would imagine them among the best 
things growing ; but a critical examination proves 
their flesh to be about three parts water, while as for 
their stalks, they are of so pithless a nature that they 
can only creep along the earth, unable to stand upright 
without support ; — which tells somethmg against the 
pumpkin's claim for extra consideration. Still, their 
showy largeness attracts the eye, and not a few of us 
believe in pumpkins, and admire both their mode of 
growth and the fruit resulting. In like manner the 
liuman pumpkins — those beings of imposing presence 
and loud self-assertion — get themselves believed in 
by the simple ; and, as occasions by which their 
watery and fibreless nature is revealed do not arise 
every day, they are for the most part acce]3ted for 
the substantialities they assume to be, and the world 
is deceived by appearances as it ever has been. 



214 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

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

Then there is the pumpkin after the cut of the 
Prince Regent — the man of deportment, big, hand- 



PUMPKINS. 215 

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

Women like to rely on men, and dread nothing 
so much as weakness and vacillation in their male 
protectors ; save indeed those grim and bulky fe- 
males in whom Hood so much delighted, who take 
small men vi et armis, and subjugate them body and 
soul, like two-legged poodles trained to fetch and 
carry at the word of command. But these are excep- 
tions ; the average woman prizing strength rather 
than poodle-like docility. The pumpkin of the Prince 



216 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

Regent cut is generally notorious for laying down the 
law on all points. His voice is so loud and his manner 
of speech so dictatorial, that no one dreams of doubt- 
ing still less of contradicting him, but everybody 
takes him as he represents himself to be — a man of 
prompt decision, of boundless resources, a granitic 
tower of strength to be leant against in all emergen- 
cies without the slightest fear of failure ; a man who 
is not only sufficient for himself but strong enough 
to bear the weaknesses of others. He is famous for 
giving advice — advice of a vague, rapid, sprawling 
kmd, never quite exact to the circumstances, never 
quite practical nor to the point — large advice, general 
in scope but wonderfully positive in tone, and, until 
you analyze, grandly imposing in effect. Nail him 
to the point ; ask his advice seriously on any ques- 
tion where the responsibility of counsel will rest with 
him ; place yourself in his hands where the conse- 
quences of failure will touch him as well as you ; and 
then see to what meagre dimensions your goodly 
gourd will shrink. The confident assertion drops 
into a weak hesitation ; the arrogant dictum melts into 
a timid refusal to take such a serious responsibility 
on himself ; you have pricked your windbag, bisected 
your pumpkin, and henceforth you know the precise 
weight of substance remaining. Yet mankind sees 
him exactly where he was before, and he will go 
about the world in his large, loud way, saying to 
every one that if you had followed his advice you 
would have succeeded — supposing you have failed ; 



PUMPKINS. 217 

or, if you have succeeded, he will take all the credit 
to himself, and say it was he who guided you and 
showed you how to go in and win. For himself, and 
his own affairs, he has no more moral stamina than 
he had leadership for you and yours. The least re- 
verse knocks him over. Care or sorrow, when it 
touches him, shrivels him up as completely as frost 
shrivels up the pumpkin. In every circumstance re- 
quiring promptitude, coolness, keen perception, just 
decision, our swaggering man of froth fails ignomi- 
niously ; and one hour of real pressure proves incon- 
testably that he was only a pumpkin of imposing- 
presence, good neither as meat nor staff when the 
time of trial came. 

Yery often the pumpkin has a wife whose fibre is 
as close as his is loose, and whose nature is as tough 
as his is soft ; a hard -eyed, thin-lipped, tenacious 
woman, who speaks little and boasts not at all, but 
who does all she wishes to do, and whose iron will 
pins her pumpkin to the wall as the spear of the 
Bushman pins the elephant or the rhinoceros. It is 
very curious to see how a blatant blustering man 
who is so loud and confident abroad, knocks under 
at home ; and how the high- crested deportment 
which carries things with such a lofty bearing out of 
doors droops into the meek submission of the hen- 
pecked husband so soon as the house-door closes on 
him, and he is subjected to the pitiless analysis of 
home. There is no question of flourish then ; and if 
by chance the ambitious crest should make an effort 



218 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

to display itself, the wife knows how to lower it by 
a few decisive words of a keen-edged kind, and her 
pumpkin is made to feel sharply enough the difference 
existing between fibre and pulp. It is almost melan- 
choly to see one of these fine flourishing fellows so 
subdued. Pumpkin as he may be, it is not pleasant 
to see him so cut down in his pride ; and invo- 
luntarily one's sympathies go with him rather than 
with that tenacious, hard-mouthed wife of his, who 
would be none the worse perhaps for a little of her 
husband's essential softness and with less than her 
own hardness. 

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



PUMPKINS. 219 

the most part fail in the one in proportion as we snc- 
ceed in the other. 

Many of the dark-skinned races are what we may 
call emotional pumpkins. Their flashing black eyes 
and swarthy skins seem to be instinct with passion ; 
they look like living furnaces filled with flames and 
molten metal, terrible fellows, dangerous to meddle 
with and almost impossible to subdue. But nine times 
out of ten we find them to be marvellously meek 
persons, timid, amenable to law, unable to give of- 
fence and incapable of taking it — lambs masquerad- 
ing in tiger-skins. A fair-faced Anglo-Saxon, with 
his sensitive blush, good-humoured smile and light 
blue eyes, has more pluck and pith in him than a 
whole brigade of certain of these dark-skinned men. 
He has less ferocity perhaps than they when they are 
thoroughly roused, though our good-humoured An- 
glo-Saxon is by no means destitute of ferocity on 
occasions when his blood is up ; but his is ferocity of 
the quarter- stafl' and bludgeon stand-up fight kind — 
the ferocity of strength fairly put out against an adver- 
sary, not the tigerish cruelty which is almost always 
found when moral weakness and physical submission 
have a momentary trium23h and reaction. Cowardly 
men are like women in their revenge when once they 
get the upper hand ; and their revenge is more cruel 
than that of the habitually brave man who, after a 
fair fight, overthrows his opponent. Some of the 
dark-skinned races look the very ideal of the melo- 
dramatic ruffian — operatic brigands painted with 



220 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

broad black lines, and up to an}^ amount of deeds of 
daring and of crime ; but they are only pumpkins at 
the core. We need not go so far as Calcutta to find 
them ; we get examples nearer home, both m Hounds - 
ditch and in Rome ; for both Jews and Italians are 
soft-cored men in spite of their passionate outsides, 
and both would be better for an extra twist and 
toughness in their fibres. 

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

All the professions which talk, either by word of 
mouth or in print, are specially given to this mani- 
festation of pumpkinhood. Preachers and authors 
sprawl and flourish over their small inheritance with 
a tremendous assumption of vital force and vigorous 



PUMPKINS. 22l 

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

Strong-visaged women are often pure pumpkins 
with a very rough and corrugated outside. It is as- 
tonishing how soon they break down, and for all their 
stern and powerful looks sink under burdens under 
which a frail little creature, as light as thistledown, 
will glide along quite easily. Women with l)lack 
brows and harsh voices — brigandesses by appearance, 
or like the typical Herodias of unimaginative artists 
— are often the gentlest and most pithless of their 
sex, and may be seen acting quite compassionately 



222 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

towards their infants, or vindicating their womanhood 
by meekly sewing on their husbands' buttons and 
weepmg at their rebukes ; while a fair, silver-tongued, 
languid lady, as soft as if she were made of nothing 
harder than the traditional cream and rose-leaves, will 
give up her babies as a prey to unfeeling nurses and 
let her husband go buttonless and in rags, while she 
lounges before the fire indifferent to his wrath and 
callous to his wrongs. There is many a house mis- 
tress who looks as if she could use her fists when 
annoyed, who is absolutely afraid of her servants ; 
and the maid is always the mistress when the one is 
fibre and the other pulp. 

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



123 



WIDOWS, 

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

There are many varieties of the widow and all 
are not beautiful. For one, there is the widow who 
is bent on re-marrying whether men like it or not ; 



^24 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

that thing of prey who goes about the world seeking 
whom she may devour ; that awful creature who 
bears down on her victims with a vio-our in her 
assaults which puts to flight the popular fancy about 
the weaker sex and the natural distribution of power. 
No hawk poised over a brood of hedge birds, no 
shark cruising steadily towards a shoal of small fry, 
no piratical craft sailing under a free flag and account- 
able to no law save success, was ever more formidable 
to the weaker things pursued than is the hawk 
widow to men when she is bent on re-marrying. She 
knows so much ! — there is not a manoeuvre by which 
a victory can be stolen that she has not mastered and 
she is not afraid of even the most desperate measures. 
AVhen she has once struck, he would be a clever man 
and a strong one who should escape her. Generally 
left but meagrely provided for in worldly goods — else 
her game would not be difficult — she makes up for 
her financial poverty by her wealth of bold resources, 
and by the courage with which she takes her own 
fortunes in hand and, with her own, those of her 
more eligible masculme associates. She is a woman 
of purpose and lives for an end ; and that end is re- 
marriage, with the most favourable settlement that 
can be obtained by her lawyer from his. If fate has 
dealt hardly by her — though, may be, compassionately 
by her successive spouses — and has landed her in the 
widowed state twice or thrice, she is in nowise daunted 
and as little abashed. She merely refits after a certain 
time of anchorage, and goes out into the open again 



WIDOWS. 225 

for a repetition of her chance. She has no notion 
of a perpetuity of weeds, and, though she may have 
cleared her half century with a margin besides, thinks 
the suggestive orange-blossoms of the bride infinitely 
more desirable than the fruitless heliotrope of the 
widow. If one husband is taken, she remembers the 
old proverb, and reflects on the many, quite as good, 
who are left potentially subject to her choice. And 
somehow she manages. It has been said that any 
woman can marry any man if she determines to do 
so, and follows on the line of her determination with 
tenacity and common-sense. 

The hawk widow exemplifies the truth of this 
saying. She determines upon marriage ; and she 
usually succeeds ; the question being one of victim 
only, not of sacrifice. One has to fall to her share ; 
there is no help for it ; and the whole contest is, 
which shall it be ? which is strongest to break 
her bonds ? which craftiest to slip out of them ? 
which most resolute not to bear them from the 
beginning ? This the straggling covey must settle 
among themselves the best way they can. When 
the hawk pounces down upon its quarry, it is sauve 
qui pent \ But all cannot be saved. One has to be 
caught ; and the choice is determined partly by chance 
and partly by relative strength. When the widow 
of experience and resolve bears down on her prey, 
the result is equally certain. Floundering avails no- 
thing ; struggling and splashing are just as futile ; 
one among the crowd has to come to the slaughter, 
VOL. I. Q 



226 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

like Mrs. Bond's ducks, and to assist at his own 
immolation. The best thing he can do is to make 
a handsome surrender, and to let the world of men 
and brothers believe he rather likes his position than 
not. 

But there are pleasanter types of the re-marr3^ing 
widow than this. There is the widow of the Wad- 
man kind, who has outlived her grief and is not dis- 
inclined to a repetition of the matrimonial experiment, 
if asked humbly by an experimenter after her own 
heart. But she must be asked humbly that she may 
grant in a pretty, tender, womanly way — if not quite 
so timidly as a girl, yet as becomingly in her degree, 
and with that peculiar fascination which nothing but 
the combination of experience and modesty can give. 
The widow of the Wadman kind is no creature of 
prey, neither shark nor hawk ; at the worst she is but 
a cooing dove, making just the sweetest little noise 
in the world, the tenderest little call to indicate her 
whereabouts, and to show that she is lonely and feels 
a-cold. She sits close, waiting to be found, and does 
not ramp and dash about like the hawk sisterhood ; 
neitlier does she pretend that she is unwilling to be 
found, still less deny that a soft warm nest, well 
lined and snugly sheltered, is better than a lonely 
branch stretching out comfortless and bare into the 
bleak wide world. She, too, is almost sure to get 
what she wants, with the advantage of being volun- 
tarily chosen and not unwillingly submitted to. 

This is the kind of woman who is always mildly 



WIDOWS. 227 

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

d 2 



228 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

this, she sticks to her role^ how frequently so ever 
the protagonist may be changed. 

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

The cross of matrimony lies heavy on many a 
woman who never takes the world into her con- 
fidence, and who bears in absolute silence what she 
has not the power to cast from her. Perhaps her 
husband has been a man of note, a man of learn- 
ing, of elevated station, a political or a philanthropic 
power. She alone knew the fretfulness, the petty 
tyranny, the miserable smallness at home of the man 
of large repute whom his generation conspired to 
honour, and whose public life was a mark for the 
future to date by. When he died the press wrote 
his eulogy and his elegy ; but his widow, when 
she put on her weeds, sang softly in her own heart 
a paean to the great King of Freedom, and whis- 
pered to herself Laudamus with a sigh of unut- 



WIDOWS. 229 

terable relief. To such a woman widowhood has no 
sentimental regrets. She has come into possession 
of the goods for which perhaps she sold herself; 
she is young enough to enjoy the present and to pro- 
ject a future ; she has the free choice of a maid and 
the free action of a matron, as no other woman has. 
She may be courted and she need not be chaperoned, 
nor yet forced to accept. Experience has mellowed 
and enriched her ; for though the asperities of her 
former condition were sharp while they lasted, they 
have not permanently roughened nor embittered her. 
Then the sense of relief gladdens, while the sense of 
propriety subdues, her ; and the delicate mixture of 
outside melancholy, tempered with internal warmth, 
is wonderfully enticing. Few men know how to 
resist that gentle sadness which does not preclude 
the sweetest sympathy with pleasures in which she 
may not join — with happiness which is, alas ! denied 
her. It gives an air of such profound unselfishness ; 
it asks so mutely, so bewitchingly, for consolation ! 

Even a hard man is moved at the sight of a pretty 
young widow in the funereal black of her first grief, 
sitting apart with a patient smile and eyes cast meekly 
down, as one not of the world though in it. Her 
loss is too recent to admit of any thought of repara- 
tion ; and yet what man does not think of that time of 
reparation ? and if she be more than usually charm- 
ing in person and well dowered in purse, what man 
does not think of himself as the best repairer she 
could take ? Then, as time goes on and she glides 



230 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

gracefully into the era of mitigated grief, how beauti- 
ful is her whole manner, how tasteful her attire ! 
The most exquisite colours of the prismatic scale 
look garish beside her dainty tints, and the untem- 
pered mirth of happy girls is coarse beside her 
subdued admission of moral sunshine. Greys as 
tender as a dove's breast ; regal purples which have 
a glow behind their gloom ; stately silks of sombre 
black softly veiled by clouds of gauzy white or 
brightened with the ' dark light ' of sparkling jet — 
all speak of passing time and the gradual bloommg 
of the spring after the sadness of the winter ; all 
symbolize the flowers which are growing on the sod 
that covers the dear departed ; all hint at a melting 
of the funereal gloom into the starlight of a possible 
bridal. She begins too to take pleasure in the old 
familiar things of life. She steals into a quiet back 
seat at the Opera ; she just walks through a quad- 
rille ; she sees no harm in a fete or flower-show, if 
properly companioned. Winter does not last for 
ever ; and a life -long mourning is a wearisome pro- 
spect. So she goes through her degrees in accurate 
order, and comes out at the end radiant. 

For when the faint shadows cast by the era of 
mitigated grief fade away, she is the widow par 
excellence — the blooming widow, young, rich, gay, 
free ; with the world on her side, her fortune in 
her hand, the ball at her foot. She is the freest 
woman alive ; freer even than any old maid to be 
found. Freedom, indeed, comes to the old maid 



WIDOWS. 231 

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



232 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

In the exercise of her prerogative as a free woman, 
able to cultivate the dearest friendships with men and 
fearlessly using her power, she entangles many a 
poor fellow's heart which she never wished to engage 
more than platonically, and crushes hopes which she 
had not the sUghtest intention to raise. Why cannot 
men be her friends ? she asks, with a pretty, plead- 
ing look — a tender kind of despair at the wrong- 
headedness of the stronger sex. But, tender as she 
is, she does not easily yield even when she loves. 
The freedom she has gone through so much to gain 
she does not rashly throw away ; and if ever the day 
comes when she gives it up into the keeping of 
another — and for all her protestations it comes some- 
times — the man to whom she succumbs may con- 
gratulate himself on a victory more flattermg to his 
vanity, and more complete in its surrender of ad- 
vantages, than he could have gained over any other 
woman. Belle or heiress, of higher rank or of greater 
fame than himself, no unmarried woman could have 
made such a sacrifice in her marriage as did this 
widow of means and good looks, when she laid her 
freedom, her joyous present and potential future, in 
his hand. He will be lucky if he manages so well 
that he is never reproached for that sacrifice — if his 
wife never looks back regretfully to the time when 
she was a widow — if there are no longing glances 
forward to possibilities ahead, mingled with sighs 
at the difficulty of retracing a step when made. On 
the whole, if a woman can live without love, or with 



WIDOWS. 233 

nothing stronger than a tender sentimental friend- 
ship, widowhood is the most blissful state she can 
attain. But if she be of a loving nature and fond of 
home, finding her own happiness in the happiness of 
others and indiiFerent to freedom — thinking, indeed, 
that feminine freedom is only another word for deso- 
lation — she will be miserable until she has doubled 
her experience and carried on the old into the new. 



234 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 



DOLLS, 

The love of dolls is instinctive with girl children ; 
and a nursery without some of these silent simulacra 
for the amusement of the little maids is a very lifeless 
affair. But outside the nursery door dolls are stupid 
thmgs enough ; and, whether improvised of wisped- 
up bundles of rags or made of the costhest kind of 
composition, they are at the best mere pretences for 
the pastime of babies, not living creatures to be loved 
nor artistic creations to be admired. Certainly they 
are pretty in their own way, and some are made to 
simulate human actions quite cleverly; and one of 
thek charms with children is that they can be treated 
like sentient beings without a chance of retaliation. 
They can be scolded for being naughty ; put to bed 
in broad daylight for a punishment ; seated in the 
corner with their impassive faces turned to the wall, 
just as the little ones themselves are dealt with; 
the doll all the time smilmg exactly as it smiled 
before, its round blue beads staring just as they 
stared before ; neither scolding nor cornering making 
more impression on its sawdust soul than do little 
missy's sobs and tears when nurse is cross and 



DOLLS. 235 

dolly is her only friend. But the child has had its 
hour of play and make-believe sentiment of com- 
panionship and authority ; and so, if the doll can do 
no good of itself, it can at least be the occasion of 
pleasantness to others. 

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



236 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

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



DOLLS. 237 

else. How many men are groaning in spirit at this 
moment over the infatuation that made them sacrifice 
the whole worth of life for the sake of a pretty face 
and a plastic manner ! 

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

As a mother indeed, the doll woman is perhaps 
more unsatisfactory than in any other character. She 
gives up her nursery into the absolute keeping of her 
nurse, and does not attempt to control nor to interfere. 
This again, is not from want of affection, but from 
want of capacity. In her tepid way she has a heart, 
if only half- vitalized like the rest of her being ; and 
she is by no means cruel. Indeed, she has not force 
enough to be cruel nor wicked anyhow ; her worst 



238 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

offence being a passive kind of selfishness, not from 
greed but from inactivity, by which she is made 
simply useless for the general good. As for her 
children, she understands neither their moral nature 
nor their physical wants ; and beyond a universal 
' Oh, naughty ! ' if the little ones express their lives 
in the rampant manner proper to young things, or 
as a universal ' Oh, let them have it ! ' if there is a 
howl over what is forbidden or unwise, she has no 
idea of discipline or management. If they teaze her, 
they are sent away; if they are naughty, they are 
whipped by papa or nurse ; if they are ill, the doctor 
is summoned and they have medicine as he directs ; 
but none of the finer and more intimate relations 
usual between mother and child exist in the home of 
the doll mother. The children are the property of 
the nurse only ; unless indeed the father happens to 
be a specially afi*ectionate and a specially domestic 
man, and then he does the work of the mother — at 
the best clumsily, but at the worst better than the 
doll could have done it. 

Very shocking and revolting are all the more 
tragic facts of human life to the smooth- skinned easy- 
going doll. When it comes to her own turn to bear 
pain, she wonders how a good God can permit her 
to suffer. Had she brains enough to think, the great 
mystery of pain would make her atheistical in her 
angry surprise that she should be so hardly dealt 
with. As dolls have a constitutional immunity from 
suffering, her first initiation into even a minor amount 



DOLLS. 239 

of anguish is generally a tremendous affair; and 
though it may be pain of a quite natural and uni- 
versal character, she is none the less indignant and 
astonished at her portion. She invariably thinks 
herself worse treated than her sisters, and cannot be 
made to understand that others suffer as much as, 
and more than, herself As she has always shrunk 
from witnessing trouble of any kind, and as what 
she may have seen has passed over her mind without 
leaving any impression, she comes to her own sorrows 
totally inexperienced ; and one of the most pitiable 
sights in the world is that of a poor doll woman 
writhing in the grasp of physical agony, and broken 
down or rendered insanely impatient by what other 
women can bear without a murmur. 

When she is in the presence of the moral tra- 
gedies of life, she is as lost and bewildered as she 
is with the physical. All sin and crime are to her 
odd and inexplicable. She cannot j)ity the sinner, 
because she cannot understand the temptation ; and 
she cannot condemn from any lofty standpoint, 
because she has not mind enough to see the full 
meaning of iniquity. It is simply something out of 
the ordinary run of her life, and the doll naturally 
dislikes disturbance, whether of habit or of thought. 
Yet if a noted criminal came and sat down by her, 
she would probably whisper to her next friend, 
*How shocking!' but she would simper when he 
spoke, and perhaps in her heart feel flattered by the 
attention of even so doubtful a notoriety. If she be 



240 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

a doll with a bias towards naughtiness, the utmost 
limit to which she can go is a mild kind of curiosity 
about the outsides of things — the mere husk and 
rind of the forbidden fruit — such as wondering how 
such and such people look who have done such 
dreadful things ; and what they felt the next morn- 
ing ; and how could they ever come to think of such 
horrors ! She would be more interested in hearing 
about the dress and hair and eyes of the female 
plaintiff or defendant in a famous cause than many 
other women would be; but she would not give 
herself the trouble to read the evidence, and she 
would take all her opinions secondhand. But whether 
the colour of the lady's gown was brown or blue, 
and whether she wore her hair wisped or plaited, 
would be matters in which she would take as mtense 
an interest as is possible to her. 

The utmost limit to which enthusiasm can be 
carried with her is in the matter of dress and 
fashion ; and the only subject that thoroughly 
arouses her is the last new colour, or the latest 
eccentricity of costume. Talk to her of books, and 
she will go to sleep ; even novels, her sole reading, 
she forgets half an hour after she has turned the 
last page ; while of any other kind of literature she 
is as profoundly ignorant as she is of mathematics ; 
but she can discuss the mysteries of fashion with 
something like animation, these being to her what 
the wire is to the eyes of the dolls in the bazaar. 
Else she has no power of conversation. At the head 



DOLLS. 241 

of her own table she sits like a pretty waxen dummy, 
and can only simper out a few commonplaces, or 
simper without the commonplaces, satisfied if she is 
well appointed and looks lovely, and if her husband 
seems tolerably contented with the dinner. She is 
more in her element at a ball, where she is only asked 
to dance and not wanted to talk ; but her ball-room 
days do not last for ever, and when they are over 
she has no available retreat. 

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



242 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

though ; and for all that she carps under her breath, 
will rem am in any position in which she is placed. 
She will not act, but she will let you act unhindered ; 
which is something gained when you have to deal 
with fools. 

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

As an old woman the doll has not one charm. 
She has learned none of that handiness, come to none 
of that grand maternal power of helping others, which 
should accompany maturity and age and has still to 
be thought for and protected, to the exclusion of the 
younger and naturally more helpless, as when she 
was young herself, and beautiful and fascinating, and 
men thought it a privilege to suffer for her sake. 
Nine times out of ten she has lost her temper as well 
as her complexion, and has become peevish and un- 
reasonable. She gets fat and rouges ; but she will 
not consent to get old. She takes to false hair, dyes, 
padded stays, arsenic or ' anti-fat,' and to artful con- 



DOLLS. 243 

trivances of every description ; but alas ! there is no 
'dolly's hospital' for her as there used to be for her 
battered old prototype in the nursery lumber- closet ; 
and, whether she likes it or not, she has to succumb 
to the inevitable decree, and to become faded, worn 
out, unlovely, till the final coup de grace is given 
and the poor doll is no more. Poor, weak, frivolous 
doll ! it requires some faith to believe that she is of 
any good whatsoever in this overladen life of ours ; 
but doubtless she has her final uses, though it would 
puzzle a Sanhedrim of wise men to discover them. 
Perhaps in the great readjustment of the future she 
may have her place and her work assigned to her in 
some inter-stellar Phalansterie ; when the meaning of 
her helpless earthly existence shall be made manifest 
and its absurd uselessness atoned for by some kind of 
celestial ' charing.' 



R 2 



244 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 



CHARMING WOMEN. 

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

A charming woman is woman all over — one who 
places her glory in being a woman and has no desire 
to be anything else. She is a woman rather than a 
human being, and a lady rather than a woman. One 
of her characteristics is the exquisite grace of her 
manner which so sweetly represents the tender nature 
within. She has not an angle anywhere. If she were 
to be expressed geometrically, Hogarth's Line of 



CHARMING WOMEN. 245 

Beauty is the sole figure that could be used for her. 
She is flowing, graceful, bending in mind as in body ; 
she is neither self- asserting nor aggressive, neither 
rigid nor narrow ; she is a creature who glides grace- 
fully through life, and adjusts herself to her company 
and her circumstances in a manner little less than 
marvellous ; working her own way without tumult 
or sharpness ; creeping round the obstacles she can- 
not overthrow, and quietly wearing down more friable 
opposition with that gentle persistency which does so 
much more than turmoil and disturbance. 

Even if enthusiastic— which she is for art, either 
as music, as painting, or yet as poetry — she is en- 
thusiastic in such a sweet and graceful way that no 
one can be offended by a fire which shines and does 
not burn. There is no touch of scorn about her and 
no assumption of superior knowledge. She speaks to 
you, poor ignorant Philistine, with the most flattering 
conviction that you follow her in all her flights ; 
and when she comes out, quite naturally, with her 
pretty little bits of recondite lore or professional tech- 
nicalities, you cannot be so boorish as to ask for an 
explanation of these trite matters which she makes 
so sure you must understand. Are you not an 
educated person with a soul to be saved? can you 
then be ignorant of things with which every one of 
culture is familiar ? She discourses confidentially 
of musicians and painters unknown to fame, and 
speaks as if she knew the secret doings of the Con- 
servatoire and the R.A. council -chamber alike. The 



246 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

models and the methods, the loves and the hates, of 
the artistic world are to her things of everyday life, 
and you cannot tell her that she is shooting her 
delicate shafts wide of the mark, and that you know 
no more of what she means than if she were talking: 
in the choicest Arabic. 

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



CHARMING WOMEN. 247 

tells us, even rhinoceroses are ashamed of their 
parentage when among gazelles. 

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

The charming woman is generally notoriously in 
love with her husband, who is almost always inferior 
to her in birth, acquirements, manner, appearance. 
This TitaniaJike affection of hers only shows her 
feminine qualities of sacrifice and wifely devotion to 
greater advantage, and makes other men envy more 
ferociously the lucky fellow who has drawn such a 
prize. The husband of a charming woman is indeed 
lucky in the world's esteem ; no man more so. Though 
he may be one of the most ordinary, perhaps unplea- 
sant, fellows you know, with a sour face, an underbred 
air, and by no means famous in his special sphere, 
his wife speaks of him enthusiastically as so good, so 
clever, so delightful ! No one knows how good he 



248 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

is, she says ; though of course he has his little 
peculiarities of temper and the rest of it, and perhaps 
every one would not bear with them as she does. But 
then she knows him, and knows his wonderful worth 
and value ! If they are not seen much together, that 
comes from causes over which they have no control, 
not from anything like disinclination to each other's 
society. Certainly, for so happy a marriage, it is a 
little surprising how very seldom they are together ; 
and how all her friends are hers only and not his, and 
how much she goes into society without him. On 
the whole, counting hours, they live very much more 
apart than united ; but that is the misfortune of his 
career, of his health, or of hers — a misfortune due to 
any cause but that of diversity of tastes, inharmoni- 
ousness of pursuits, or lack of love. 

Full of home affection and the tenderest sentiment 
as she is, the charming woman does sometimes the 
oddest-looking things, which a rough little domestic 
creature without graceful pretensions would not dream 
of doing. Her child is lying dangerously ill, perhaps 
dying, and she appears at the grand ball of the season, 
subdued certainly — how well that sweet melancholy 
becomes her ! — but always graceful, always thought- 
ful for others, and attentive to the minutest detail 
of her social duties. And though indeed, she Avill 
tell you, she does not know how she got dressed 
at all, because of the state of cruel anxiety in which 
she is, yet she is undeniably the best dressed woman 
in the room and the most carefully appointed. It 



CHARMING WOMEN. 249 

is against her own will that she is there, you may 
be sure ; but she has been forced to sacrifice herself, 
and tear herself away for an hour. The exigencies of 
society are so merciless ! — the world is such a terrible 
Juggernaut ! she says, raising her eyes with plaintive 
earnestness to yours in the breathing- times of the 
waltz. 

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

The charming woman is the gentlest of her sex. 
She would not do a cruel tiling nor say an unkind word 
for the world. When she tells you the unpleasant 
things which ill-natured people have said of your 
friends or hers, she tells them in the sweetest and 
dearest way imaginable. She is so sure there is not a 
syllable of truth in it all ; and what a shame it is that 
people should be so ill-natured ! In the gentle tone 



250 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

of sympathy and deprecation peculiar to her, she gives 
you all the ugly and uncomfortable reports which have 
come to her, and of which you have never heard a 
breath until this moment. Yet it is you who are 
stupid, not she who is initiative, for she tells them 
to you as if they were of patent notoriety to the 
whole world ; only she does not believe them, re- 
member! She takes the most scrupulous care to 
deny and defend as she retails, and you cannot 
class her with the tribe of the ill-natured whom she 
censures, setting, as she does, the whole strength of 
her gentle words and generous disbelief in opposi- 
tion to these ugly rumours. Yet you wish she had 
not told you. Her disclaimers spring so evidently 
from the affectionate amiability of her own mind, 
which cannot bear to think evil, that they have not 
much effect upon you. The excuse dies away from 
your memory, but the ill- savoured report roots ; and 
you feel that you have lost your respect for your 
former friends for ever ; or, if they were only hers, 
then, that nothing should tempt you to know them. 
There is no smoke without some fire, you think ; and 
the charming woman cannot possibly have kindled the 
flame herself out of sticks and leaves and rubbish of 
her own collecting. But how sweet and charitable 
she was when she told you ! how much you love her 
for her tenderness of nature! what a guileless and 
delightful creature she is ! 

The charming woman is kind and graceful, but 
she does not command the stronger virtues. She 



CHARMING WOMEN. 251 

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

Charming women, with their plastic manners and 
non-aggressive force, always have their own way in 
the end. They are the women who influence by 
unseen methods and who shrink from any open dis- 
play of power. They know that their metier is to 
soothe men, to put them on good terms with them- 
selves, and so to get the benefit of the good humour 
they induce ; and they dread nothing so much as a 
contest of wills. They coax and flatter for their 
rights, and consequently they are given privileges in 
excess of their rio-hts ; whereas the women who take 



252 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

their rights, as things to which they are entitled 
without favour, lose them and their privileges together. 
This art of self-abasement for future exaltation is one 
which it is given only to few to carry to perfection, 
but no woman is really charming without it. In fact 
it is part of her power ; and she knows it. Though 
charming women are decidedly the favourites with 
men, they are careful to keep on good terms with 
their own sex ; and in society you may often see 
them almost ostentatiously surrounded by women 
only, whom they take pains to please or exert them- 
selves to amuse, but whom they throw into the shade 
in the most astonishing way. 

Whatever these really charming women are, or do, 
or wear, is exactly the right thing ; and every other 
woman fails in proportion to the distance she is 
removed from this model. When a charmino^ woman 
is dressed richly, the simpler costumes of her friends 
look poor and mean ; when she is a la bergere, the 
Court dresses about her are vulgar ; when she is gay, 
quietness is dullness ; when she is quiet, laughter is 
coarse. And there is no use in trying to imitate her. 
She is the very Will-o'-the-wisp of her circle, and no 
sooner shows her light here than she flits away there ; 
she has no sooner set one fashion, which her admiring 
friends have adopted with infinite pains and trouble, 
than she has struck out a new one which renders all 
the previous labour in vain. This is part of her very 
essence ; and the originality which is simply perfec- 
tion that cannot be repeated, and not eccentricity that 



CHARMING WOMEN. 253 

no one \vill imitate, comes in as one of the finest and 
most potent of her charms. When she lends her 
patterns to her friends, or tells them this or that little 
secret, she laughs in her heart, knowing that she has 
shown them a path they cannot possibly follow and 
raised up a standard to which they cannot attain. 
And even should they do either, then she knows that, 
by the time they have begun to get up to her, she will 
be miles away, and that no art whatever can approxi- 
mate them to her as she is. What she was she tosses 
among them as a worn-out garment ; what she is they 
cannot be. She remains still the unapproachable, the 
inimitable, the charming woman par excellence of her 
set, whom none can rival. 



254 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 



APRON-STRimS, 

Among other classifications, the world of men and 
women may be divided into those who wear aprons 
and those who are tied to the strings thereof — those 
who determine the length of the tether and those 
who are bound to browse within its circuit — those 
who hold the reins and those who go bitted. All 
men and women are fond of power, but there is a 
wide difference in the ways in which they use it. 
To men belong the grave political tyrannies at which 
nations revolt and history is outraged, to women the 
small conventional laws framed against individual 
liberty by Mrs. Grundy and society ; men rule with 
rods of iron and drive with whips of steel, women 
shorten the tether and tie up close to apron-strings ; 
men coerce, women forbid. In fact, the difference 
is just that which lies between action and negation, 
compulsion and restraint ; between the masculine 
jealousy of equality and the feminine fear of excess. 
If men debar women from all entrance into their 
larger sphere, women try to dwarf men's lives to 
their own measure, and not a few hold themselves 
aggrieved when they fail. They think that every- 



APRON-STRINGS. 255 

thing which is impossible to them should be forbidden 
to others, and they maintain that to be a lamentable 
extreme which is simply in excess of their own 
powers. Not content with supremacy in the home 
which is their own undisputed domain, nor satisfied 
with binding on men the various rules distinguishing 
life in the drawing-room, the dining-room and the 
breakfast-parlour, they would, if they could, carry 
their code outside, and sweep into its narrow net 
the club-house and the mess-table, the billiard-room 
and the race-course, and wherever else men congregate 
together — delivered from the bondage of feminine 
conventionalities . 

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



256 SATURDAY MOENINGS. 

result if they had their own way, their love being 
at all times more timid than confident. 

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

Many a wife has felt the same when sickness has 
broken down the strong man's power to a weakness 
below her own, and made her, so long the inferior, 
now the more powerful of the two, and the supreme. 
She gathers up the reins with that firm, tight hand 



APRON-STRINGS. 257 

peculiar to women, and ties her master to her apron- 
string so that he cannot escape. It is quite a matter 
of pride with her that she has got him into such good 
order. He obeys her so implicitly about his medi- 
cines, and going to bed early, and wrapping himself 
up, and avoidance of draughts and night-air, that 
she feels all the reflected glory of one who has con- 
quered a hero. The Samson who used to defy the 
elements and break her careful strings like bands of 
tow, has at last laid his head in her lap and suffered 
himself to be covered by her apron. It is worth 
while to have had the anxiety and loss of his illness 
for the sake of the submission resulting ; and she 
generally ends by gaining a hold over him which he 
can never shake off again. 

It is pitiful though, to see the stronger life thus 
dwarfed and bound. But women hke it ; and while 
the need for it lasts men must submit. The danger 
is lest the habit of the apron- string should become 
permanent ; for it is so perilously pleasant to be 
petted and made much of by women, that few 
men can resist the temptation when it offers ; and 
many have been rumed for the remainder of their 
days by an illness which gave them up into the 
keeping of wife and sisters — those fireside Armidas 
who wiU coddle all the real manliness out of their 
finest heroes, if they are let. If this kind of thing 
occurs at the break of life, the mezzo cammino 
between maturity and age, it is doubly difficult 
to throw off; and many a man who had good 
VOL. I. S 



258 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

years of vigour and strength before him if he had 
been kept up to the mark, sinks all at once into 
senility because his womankmd got frightened at that 
last small attack of his, and thought the best way to 
preserve him from another was to weaken him by 
over- care out of all wish for dangerous exposure. 

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

There is danger in all, and evil in some, of 



APRON-STRINGS. 259 

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

The chances are that a youth so brought up never 
becomes a real man, nor worth his salt anyhow. He 
is a prig if he is good, a debauchee of the worst kind 
if he kicks over the traces at all. He is more likely 
the first, carrying the mark of the apron- string round 
his wrist for life. Like a tame falcon used to the 
hood and the perch and the lure home, no matter 
what the temptation of the quarry afield, he is essen- 
tially a domestic man, at ease only in the society of 
women ; a fussy man ; a small-minded man ; delicate 

s 2 



260 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

in health; with a dread of strong measures, physical, 
political, or intellectual ; a crotchety man given to 
passing quackeries ; but not a man fit for man's 
society nor for man's work. When there are many 
boys, instead of only one, in a widow's family, the 
opposite of all this is the case. So soon as they have 
escaped from the nursery, they have escaped from all 
control whatsoever ; and if one wants to realize a 
puerile pandemonium of dirt, discomfort, noise and 
general disorganization, the best place in the world 
is the household of a feeble- spirited mother of many 
sons where there is no controlling masculine in- 
fluence. 

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



APRON-STBINGS. 261 

a mother as well as a wife, and to live under a 
double dominion and a reduplicated' opposition. 

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

If women had their will, aU national enterprise 
would be at an end. There would be no Arctic 
Expeditions, no Alpine Clubs, no dangerous experi- 
ments in science, no firearms at home, no volun- 
teering — in their own family at least. All the danger 
would be done by the husbands and brothers and 
sons of other women, but each would guard her own. 
For women cannot go beyond the mdividual ; and the 
loss of one of their own, by misadventure, weighs 
more with them than the necessity of keeping up 



262 SATURDAY I^[OflNINGS. 

the courage and hardihood of the nation. Nor do 
they see the diff^ence between care and coddling, 
refinement and effeminacy ; consequently, men are 
obliged to resist their influence, and many cut the 
apron- string altogether, because delicate fingers will 
tie the knots too tight. They do not remember that 
the influence to which men yield as a voluntary act 
of their own grace is a very different thmg from 
obedience to the open denial, the undisguised inter- 
ference and restramt, which some women like to show. 
Men respect the higher standard of morality kept up 
by women ; they obey the major and the minor laws 
of refinement which are framed for home life and 
for society ; and they confess that, without woman's 
influence, they would soon degenerate into mere 
savages and be no better than so many Choctaws 
before a generation was over ; but they do not like 
being pulled up short, especially in pubhc, and 
hounded into the safe sheepfold for all the world to 
see them run. And they resent the endeavour. And 
the world resents it too, and feels that something is 
wrong when a woman shows that she has the whip 
hand, and that she can treat her husband like a petted 
child or bully hun like a refractory one ; that she 
has him tied to her apron-strings and tethered to the 
stake of her will. But there is more of this kind of 
thing in families than the world at large always 
knows of; and many a fine, stalwart fellow who 
holds his own among men, who is looked up to at 



ApnoN-STRmGs. 263 

his club and respected in his office for his courage, 
decision and self-reliance, sinks into mere poodledom 
at home, where his wife has somehow managed to 
get hold of the leading-strings, and has taught him 
that the only way to peace is by submission and 
obedience. 



264 SATUEDAY MORNINGS. 



FINE FEELINGS. 

There are people who pride themselves on the pos- 
session of what it pleases them to call fine feelings. 
Perhaps, if we were all diligent to call spades spades, 
these same fine feelings would come under a less 
euphemistic heading ; but, as thmgs are, we may as 
well adopt the softening gloze that is spread over the 
whole of our language, and call them by a pretty 
name with the rest. People who possess fine feelings 
are chiefly remarkable for the ease with which they 
take oflPence ; it being indeed impossible, even for the 
most wary of their associates, to avoid giving umbrage 
in some shape, and generally when least intended and 
most innocently minded. Nothing satisfies them. 
No amount of attention, short of absolute devotion 
and giving them the place of honour everywhere, 
sets them at ease with themselves or keeps them in 
good-humour. If you ask them to your house, you 
must not dream of mixing them up with the rest. 
Though you have done them an honour in askmg 
them at all, you must give them a marked position 
and bear them on your hands for the evening. They 
must be singled out fi:om the herd and specially 



FINE FEELINGS. 2Qb 

attended to ; introduced to the nicest people ; made 
a fuss with and taken care of ; else they are offended, 
and feel they have been slighted — their sensitiveness 
or fine feelings being a kind of Chat Moss which will 
swallow up any quantity of petits soins that may be 
thrown in, and yet never be filled. If they are your 
intimate friends, you have to ask them on every 
occasion on which you receive. They make it a 
grievance if they hear that you have had even a 
dinner party without inviting them, though your 
space is limited and you had them at your last 
gathering. Still, if it comes to their ears that you 
have had friends and did not include them, they will 
come down on you to a dead certainty if they are 
of the franker kind, and ask you seriously, perhaps 
pathetically, how they have offended you ? If they 
are of the sullen sort they will meet you coldly, 
or pass you by without seeing you ; and will either 
drift into a permanent estrangement or come round 
after a time, according to the degree of acidity m their 
blood and the amount of tenacity in their character. 
They have lost their friends many times for no worse 
offence than this. 

They are as punctilious too, as they are exacting. 
They demand visit for visit, invitation for invitation, 
letter for letter. Though you may be overwhelmed 
with serious work, while they have no weightier 
burden strapped to their shoulders than their social 
duties and social fineries, yet you must render point 
for point with them, keeping an exact tally with not 



266 SATUKDAY- MOKNINGS. 

a notch too many on their side, if you want to retain 
their acquaintance at all. And they must be always 
invited s]Decially and individually, even to your 
open days ; else they will not come at all ; and their 
fine feelings will be hurt. They sufi*er no liberties 
to be taken with them and they take none with 
others ; counting all frock-coat friendliness as taking 
liberties, and holding themselves refined and you 
coarse if you think that manners sans facon are 
pleasanter than those which put themselves eternally 
into stays and stifi* buckram, and are never in more 
undress than a Court suit. They will not go into 
your house to wait for you, however intimate they 
may be ; and they would resent it as an intrusion, 
perhaps an impertinence, if you went into theirs in 
their absence. If you are at luncheon when they 
call, they stiffly leave thefr cards and turn away ; 
though you have the heartiest, j oiliest manner of 
housekeeping going, and keep a kind of open house 
for luncheon casuals. They do not understand 
heartiness or a jolly manner of housekeeping ; open 
houses are not in their line and they will not be 
luncheon casuals ; so they turn away grimly, and if 
you want to see them you have to send your servant 
panting down the street after them, when, their 
dignity being satisfied, their sensitiveness smoothed 
down and their fine feehngs reassured, they will 
graciously turn back and do what they might have 
done at first without all this fuss and fume. 

When people who possess fine feelings are poor, 



FINE FEELINGS. 267 

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

It is fiinny to hear how bitter these sensitive folks 
are when they have come out into the sunlight of 
success after the dark passage of poverty ; as if it had 
been possible to dig them out of their obscurity when 
their name was still to make — as if the world could 
recognize its prophets before they had spoken. But 
this admission into the penetralia after success is a 
very delicate point with people of fine feelings, sup- 
posing always the previous struggle to have been hard ; 
and even if there has been no struggle to speak of, then 
there are doubts and misgivings as to whether they are 



268 SATURDAY MOENINGS. 

liked for themselves or not, and morbid speculations on 
the stability and absolute value of the position they 
hold and the attentions they receive, and endless sur- 
mises of what would be the result if they lost their 
fame or wealth or political power or social standing — 
or whatever may be the hook whereon their success 
hangs, and their fine feelings are impaled. The act 
of wisdom most impossible to be performed by these 
self-torturers is the philosophic acceptance of life as it 
is and of things as they fall naturally to their share. 

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

Another characteristic with women of fine feelings 
is their inability to bear the gentlest remonstrance, 
the most shadowy fault-finding. A rebuke of any 
gravity throws them into hysterics on the spot ; but 
even a request to do what they have not been in 
the habit of doing, or to abstain from doing that 



FINE FEELINGS. 269 

which they have used themselves to do, is more 
than they can endure with dry-eyed equanimity. 
You have to live with them in the fool's paradise 
of perfectness, or you are made to feel yourself an 
unmitigated brute. You have before you the two 
alternatives of suffering many things which are dis- 
agreeable and which might easily be remedied, or 
of having your wife sobbing in her own room 
and going about the house with red eyes and an 
expression of exasperating patience under ill-treat- 
ment, far worse to bear than the most passionate 
retahation. Indeed women may be divided broadly 
into those who cry and those who retort when they 
are found fault with ; which, with a side section of those 
wooden women who ^ don't care,' leaves a very small 
percentage indeed of those who can accept a rebuke 
good-temperedly, and simply try to amend a failing 
or break off an unpleasant habit, without parade of 
submission and sweet Griseldadom unjustly chastised, 
but kissing the rod with aggravating meekness. 

For there are women who can make their meek- 
ness a more potent weapon of offence than any 
passion or violence could give. They do not cry, 
neither do they complain, but they exaggerate 
their submission till you are driven half mad under 
the slow torture they inflict. They look at you so 
humbly ; they speak to you in so subdued a voice, 
when they speak to you at all, which is rarely and 
never unless first addressed ; they avoid you so 
pointedly, hurrying away if you are going to meet 



270 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

them about the house, on the pretext of being hateful 
to your sight and doing you a service by ridding you 
of their presence ; they are so ostentatiously careftil 
that the thing of which you mildly complained under 
some circumstances shall never happen again imder 
any circumstances, that you are forced at last out 
of your entrenchments, and obliged to come to an 
explanation. You ask them what is amiss ? or, 
what do they mean by their absurd conduct ? and 
they answer you ' Nothing,' with an injured au' or 
affected suq^rise at your query. What have they 
done that you should speak to them so harshly ? 
They are sure they have done all they could to please 
you, and they do not know what right you have to 
be vexed with them agam. They have kept out of 
your way and not said a word to annoy you ; they 
have only tried to obey you and to do as you ordered, 
and yet you are not satisfied ! ^Tiat can they do to 
please you ? and why is it that they never can please 
yoti whatever they do ? You get no nearer your end 
by this kind of thing ; and the only way to bring 
your Griselda to reason is by having a row : when 
she will cry bittery, but finally end by kissing and 
making up. You have to go through the process. 
Xothing else, save a sudden disaster or an tmex- 
pected pleasure of large dimensions, will save you 
from it ; but as we cannot always command earth- 
quakes nor godsends, and as the first are dangerous 
and the last costly, the short and easy method 
remaining is to have a decisive * understanding,^ 



FINE FEELINGS. 271 

which means a scene and a domestic tempest with 
smooth sailing till the next time. 

Sometimes fine feelings are hurt by no greater 
barbarity than that which is contained in a joke. 
People with fine feelings are seldom able to take a 
joke ; and you will hear them relating, with an in- 
jured accent and as a serious accusation, the merest 
bit of nonsense you flung off at random, with no more 
intention of wounding them than had the merchant 
the intention of putting out the Efreet's eye when he 
flung his date-stones in the desert. As you cannot 
deny what you have said, they have the whip-hand 
of you for the moment ; and all you can hope for is 
that the friend to whom they detail their grievance 
will see through them and it, and understand the 
joke if they cannot. Then there are fine feelings 
which express themselves in exceeding irritation at 
moral and intellectual diff'erences of opinion — fine 
feelings bound up in questions of faith and sound- 
ness of doctrine, having taken certain moral and 
theological views under their especial patronage and 
holding all diversity of judgment therefrom a personal 
ofi'ence. The people thus afilicted are exceedingly 
uncomfortable folks to deal with, and manage to 
make every one else uncomfortable too. You hurt 
their feelings so continually and so unconsciously, 
that you might as well be living in a region of steel - 
traps and spring-guns, and set to walk blindfold 
among pitfalls and water-holes. You fling your 
date-stone here too, quite carelessly and thinking no 



272 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

e\al, and up starts the Efreet who swears you have 
injured him intentionally. You express an opinion 
without attaching any particular importance to it, 
but you hurt the fine feelings which oppose it, and 
unless you wish to have a quarrel you must retract 
or apologize. As the worst temper always carries 
the day, and as fine feelings are only bad tempers 
under another name, you very probably do apologize ; 
and so the matter ends. 

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



273 



SPHINXES. 

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

Nothing mth these people is confessed and above 
board, and nothing is shown openly so that you may 
look at it all round and judge for yourself what it is 
like and what it is worth. The utmost they do is to 
uncover just a corner of something they keep back m 
the bulk, tantalizing you with glimpses that bewilder 
and mislead ; or they will dangle before you the end 
of a clue which they want you to take up and follow, 
making you believe that you will be guided thereby 
into the very heart of a mystery, and that you will 
find a treasure hidden in the centre of the maze which 
VOL. I. T 



274 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

will abundantly repay you for the trouble of hunting it 
out. Nine times out of ten you will find nothing but a 
scarecrow of no more value than the rags of which it 
is composed — if even you find that. They are the 
people who repeat to you the most trivial things you 
may have said, and who remind you of the most 
unimportant thuigs you may have done, years ago, 
all of which you have totally forgotten; but they 
will speak of them in a mysterious manner, as if 
they had been matters of vital meanmg at the time 
— things which would open, if followed up, a page 
in your private history that it were better should be 
forgotten. As it is a question of memory, you can- 
not deny pomt- blank what they afiirm ; and as we 
all have pages of private history which we would 
rather not hear read aloud at the market-cross, you 
are obliged to accept their highly suggestive recol- 
lections with a queer feeling of helplessness and being 
somehow in their power — not knowing how much 
they are really acquainted with your secret afi*airs, 
nor whether the signal they have flashed before your 
eyes is a feint or a revelation. 

Of the same sort, with a difference, are those who 
are always going to tell you something some day — 
people burdened with a perennial mystery which 
never sees the light. You are for ever tormented 
with these folks' possibilities of knowledge. You 
turn over in your own mind every cu^cumstance that 
you think they could have got hold of; you cun- 
nino-ly subject all your common friends to crafty 



SPHINXES. 275 

cross-examination ; yon go, link by link, through 
the whole chain connecting you with them ; but you 
can find nothins; that leads to the mere outskirts of 
the mystery. You can make nothing of it ; and your 
sphinx goes on to the end promising some day to tell 
you something which dies with him untold. Your 
only consolation is the inner conviction that there 
was nothing to tell after all. 

Then there are sphinxes of a more personal kind — - 
people who keep their affairs a profound secret from 
every one, who wash all their dirty linen scru- 
pulously at home and double-lock the door of the 
cupboard where the fanaily skeleton lives. They are 
dungeons of silence, unfathomable abysses of reserve. 
You never know more of them, mind nor estate, than 
what you can learn from the merest outside of things. 
Look back, and you cannot recollect that you have 
ever heard them speak of their family or of their 
early days ; and you are not acquainted with a living 
soul with whom they are connected. You may visit 
them for years without knowing that such and such 
a friend is their cousin, or maybe their sister. If 
they are unmarried men, they have no address save 
at their club ; and neither you nor then* most inti- 
mate friends have an idea where they sleep. For 
all you know to the contrary they may be married, 
with a fine flourishing family snugly stowed away in 
some suburban villa, where perhaps they live under 
another name, or with the omission or addition of a 
title that effectually masks their real individuality. 

T 2 



276 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

If this is their special manifestation of sphinxhood, 
they take as many precautions against being identified 
as a savage when out on a scouting expedition. They 
obhterate all traces of themselves so soon as they 
leave their office in the City, and take it as a terrible 
misfortune if the truth is ever discovered; though 
there is nothing disgraceful in their circumstances, and 
their wives and children are healthy and presentable. 

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

With certain sphinxes, no one but the officials 



SPHINXES. 277 

concerned ever knows what they have done, where 
they have served, what laurels they have gained. It 
comes out quite by accident that they were in the 
Crimea, where, like Jack Poyntz in School^ they were 
heroes in their own way, though they don't talk 
about it ; or that they performed prodigies of valour 
in the Indian Mutiny and obtained the Victoria 
Cross, which they never wear. This kind has at 
least the merit of being unboastful ; keeping their 
virtues hidden like the temple which the real sphinx 
held between her paws, and to which only those had 
access who knew the secret of the way. But though 
it is hateful to hear a man blowing his own trumpet 
in season and out of season, yet it is pleasant to 
know the good deeds of one's neighbours, and to 
have the power of admiring what is worthy of admi- 
ration. Besides, modesty and mystery are not the 
same things ; and there is a mean to be found between 
the secrecy of a sphinx making riddles of common- 
place matters, and the cackle of a hen when she has 
laid an Qgg for the family breakfast. 

The monetary or financial sphmx is one of 
the oddest of the whole tribe and one of the most 
mysterious. There are people who live on noto- 
riously small incomes — such as the widows, say, of 
naval or military men, whose pensions are printed 
in blue-books and of whose yearly receipts the 
world can take exact cognizance — yet who dress in 
velvet and satin, perpetually go about in cabs and 
hired carriages, and are never without money to 



278 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

spend, though always complaining of poverty. How 
these financial sphinxes manage surpasses the under- 
standing of every one ; and by what royal road they 
arrive at the power of making two do the work of 
four is hidden from the ordinary believers in Cocker. 
You know their ostensible income ; indeed, they 
themselves put it at so much ; but they keep up a 
magnificent appearance on a less sum than that on 
which you would go shabby and dilapidated. When 
you ask them how it is done, they answer, ' by man- 
agement.' Anything can be done by management, 
they say, by those who have the gift ; which you feel 
to be an utterance of the sphinx — a dark saying 
the key to which has not yet been forged. 

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

The rapidly- working litlemteiir is another sphinx 



SPHINXES. 279 

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



280 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

amazed brotherhood is anxiously seeking some ckie ; 
but up to the present hour it has been kept jealously 
guarded and no solution has been arrived at. 

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



!81 



FLIRTING. 

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

But again we ask : What is flirting ? What con- 
stitutes its essence ? What makes the difference 
between it and chaff on the one hand, and it and 
love-making on the other ? Has it a cumulative 



282 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

power, and, according to tlie old saying of many a 
pickle making a mickle, does a long series of small 
flirtings make up a concrete whole of love ? or is 
it like an unmor tared heap of bricks, potential utilities 
if conditions were chano-ed, but valueless as thino-s 
are ? The man who would be able to reduce 
flirting to a definite science, who could analyze its 
elements and codify its laws, would be doing infinite 
service to his generation ; but we fear that this is 
about as difl&cult as finding the pot of gold under 
the end of a rainbow, or catching small birds with a 
pinch of salt. 

Every one has his or her ideas of what con- 
stitutes flirting ; consequently every one judges of 
that pleasant exercise according to individual tem- 
perament and experience. Faded flowers, who see 
impropriety in everything they are no longer able 
to enjoy, say with more or less severity that Henry 
and Angelina are flirting if they are laughing while 
whispering together in an alcove, probably the 
most innocent nonsense in the world ; but the fact 
that they are enjoying themselves in their own way, 
albeit a silly one, is enough for the faded flower to 
think they are after mischief, flirting being to her 
mind about the worst bit of mischief that a fallen 
humanity can perpetrate. The watchful mother, 
intent on chances, says that dancing together oftener 
than is necessary for good breeding and just the 
amount of attention demanded by circumstances, is 
flirting ; timid girls newly out, and not yet used to 



FLIRTING. 283 

the odd ways of men, think they are being flirted 
with outrageously if their partner fires off the 
meekest little compliment at them, or looks at them 
more tenderly than he would look at a cabbage ; but 
bolder spirits of both sexes think nothing worthy of 
the name which does not include a few questionable 
familiarities, and an equivoke or two, more or less 
risky. With some, flirting is nothing but the 
passing fun of the moment ; with others, it is the 
first lesson of the great unopened book and means 
the beginning of the end ; with some, it is not even 
angling with intent ; with others, it is deep-sea 
fishing with a broad, boldly-made net, and taking all 
fish that come in as good for sport if not for food. 

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



284 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

luring a woman on as an ignis fatuus lures us on 
across the marsh, in the vain belief that it will bring 
us to our haven at last. 

Akin to this kind are those male flirts who are 
great in the way in which they manage to insinuate 
things without committing themselves to positive 
statements. They generally contrive to give the 
impression of some mysterious hindrance by which 
they are held back from full and frank confession. 
They hint at fatal bonds, at unfortunate attachments, 
at a past that has burnt them up or withered them 
up, at any rate that has prevented their future from 
blossoming in the direction in which they would 
fain have had it blossom and bear fruit. They 
sketch out vaguely the outlines of some thrilling 
romance ; a few, of the Byronic breed, add the 
suspicion of some dark and melancholy crime as a 
further romantic charm and personal obstacle ; and 
when they have got the gu4's pity, and the love 
that is akin to pity, then they cool down scientifically, 
never creating any scandal, never making any ru|)- 
ture, never coming to a moment when awkward ex- 
planations can be asked, but cooling nevertheless, till 
the thing drops of its own accord and dies out 
from inanition ; when they are free to carry their 
sorrows and their mysteries elsewhere. Some men 
spend their lives in this kind of thing, and find 
their pleasure in making all the women they know 
madly or sentimentally in love with them ; and if by 
chance any poor moth who has burned her wings 



FLIRTING. 285 

makes too loud an outcry, the tables are turned 
against her dexterously, and she is held up to public 
pity — contempt would be a better word — as one who 
has suffered herself to love too well and by no means 
wisely, and who has run after a Lothario by no 
means inclined to let himself be caught. 

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

But what is flirting ? Is sittmg away in corners, 
talking in low voices and looking personally 
afl:ronted if any unlucky outsider comes withm 
earshot, flirting ? Xot necessarily. It is just pos- 
sible that Henry may be telling Angelina all about 
his admiration for her sister Grace ; or Angelina may 
be confessing to Henry what Charley said to her 



286 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

last night ; — which makes her lower her eyes as she 
is doing now, and play with the fringe of her fan so 
nervously. May be, if not likely. So that sittmg 
away in corners and whispering together is not 
necessarily flirting, though it may look like it. Is 
dancino' all the ' round ' dances too-ether ? This 
goes for decided flirting in the code of the ball-room. 
But if the two keep well together ? If they are 
really fond of dancing, as one of the fine arts com- 
bmmg science and enjoyment, they would dance with 
each other all night, though outside the ' marble 
halls ' they might be deadly enemies — Montagues and 
Capulets, with no echo of Komeo and Juliet to soften 
their mutual dislike. So that not even dancmg 
together oftener than is absolutely necessary is un- 
mistakeable evidence, any more than is sitting away 
in corners, seeing that equal skill and keeping well in 
step are reasons enough for perjDetual partnership, 
making all idea of flirtation unnecessary. In fact, 
there is no outward sign nor symbol of flirting which 
may not be mistaken and turned round, because 
flirting is so entirely in the intention and not in the 
mere formula, that it becomes a kind of phantasm, a 
Proteus, impossible to seize or to depict with accuracy. 
One thing however, we can say — taking gifts and 
attentions, oflered with evident design and accepted 
with tacit understanding, may be certainly held as 
constituting an important element of flirting. But 
this is flirting on the woman's side. And here you 
are being continually taken in. Your flirt of the 



FLIRTING. 287 

cunningly simple kind, who smiles so sweetly and 
seems so flatteringly glad to see you when you come, 
who takes all your presents and acted expressions of 
love with the most bewitchino- PTatitude and effusion, 
even she, so simple as she seems to be, slips the 
thread and will not be caught if she does not wish to 
be caught. At the decisive moment when you think 
you have secured her, she makes a bound and is 
away ; then turns round, looks you m the face, and 
with many a tear and pretty asseveration declares 
that she never understood you to mean what you say 
you have meant all along ; and that you are cruel to 
dispel her dream of a pleasant and harmless friend- 
ship, and very wicked indeed because you press her 
for a decision. Yes ; you are cruel, because you have 
believed her honest ; cruel, because you did not see 
through the veil of flattery and insincerity in which 
she clothed her selfishness ; cruel, because she was 
false. This is the flirt's logic when brought to book, 
and forced to confess that her pretended love was 
only flirting, and that she led you on to your de- 
struction simply because it pleased her vanity to make 
you her victim. 

Then there are flirts of the open and rollickmg 
kind, who let you go far, very far indeed, when sud- 
denly they pull up and assume an offended air as if 
you had wilfully transgressed known and absolute 
boundaries — girls and women who lead you on, all in 
the way of good fellowship, to knock you over when 
you have got just far enough to lose your balance. 



288 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

That is their form of the art. They like to see how 
far they can make a man forget himself, and how 
much stronger their own delusive enticements are 
than prudence, experience and common- sense. And 
there are flirts of the artful and ' still waters ' kind, 
somethmg like the male flirts spoken of just now ; 
sentimental little pusses — perhaps pretty young wives 
with uncomfortable husbands, whose griefs have by 
no means soured nor scorched, but just mellowed and 
refined, them. Or they may be of the sisterly class ; 
creatures so very frank, so very sisterly and confiding 
and unsuspicious of evil, that really you scarcely know 
how to deal with them at all. And there are flirts of 
the scientific kind ; women who have studied the art 
thoroughly ; and who are adepts in the use of every 
weapon known — using each according to circum- 
stances and the nature of the victim, and using each 
with deadly precision. From such may a kind Pro- 
vidence deliver us ! As the tender mercies of the 
wicked, so are the scientific flirts — the women and 
the men who play at bowls with human hearts, for 
the stakes of a whole life's happiness on the one side 
and a few weeks of gratified vanity on the other. 

It used to be an old schoolboy maxim that no 
real gentleman could be refused by a lady, because 
no real gentleman could presume beyond his line of 
encouragement. A fortiori^ no lady would or could 
give more encouragement than she meant. What are 
we to say then of our flirts if this maxim be true ? 
Are they really ' no gentlemen ' and ' no ladies,' 



FLIRTING. 289 

accordino; to the famous formula of the kitchen ? 
Perhaps it would be said so if gentlehood meant now, 
as it meant centuries ago, the real worth and virtue 
of humanity. For flirting with intent is a cruel, 
false, heartless amusement ; and time was when 
cruelty and falsehood were essentially sins which 
vitiated all claims to gentlehood. And yet the 
world would be very dull without that innocent kind 
of nonsense which often goes by the name of flirting 
— that pleasant something which is more than mere 
acquaintanceship and less than formal loverhood — 
that bright and animated intercourse which makes 
the hours pass so easily, yet which leaves no bitter 
pang of self-reproach — that indefinite and undefinable 
interest by which the one man or the one woman 
becomes a kind of microcosm for the time, the epi- 
tome of all that is pleasant and of all that is lovely. 
The only caution to be observed is : — Do not go too 
far. 



VOL. I. U 



290 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 



SCRAMBLERS, 

There are people who are never what Northern 
housewives call ' straight ' — people who seem to have 
been born in a scramble, who live in a scramble, and 
who, when their time comes, will die in a scramble, 
just able to scrawl their signature to a will that ought 
to have been made years ago, and that does not 
embody their real mtentions now. Emphatically the 
Unready, they are never prepared for anything, 
whether expected or unexpected ; they make no plans 
more stable than good intentions ; and they neither 
calculate nor foresee. Everything with them is hurry 
and confusion ; not because they have more to do than 
other people, but because they do it more loosely and 
less methodically — because they have not learnt the 
art of dovetailing nor the mystery of packing. Conse- 
quently half their pleasures and more than half their 
duties slip through their fingers for want of the knack 
of compact holding ; and their lives are passed in try- 
ing to pick up what they have let drop and in frantic 
endeavours to remedy their mistakes. For scramblers 
are always making mistakes and going through an 
endless round of forgetting. They never remember 



SCRAMBLERS. 291 

their engagements, but accept in the blandest and 
frankest way imaginable two or more invitations for 
the same day and hour, and assure you quite seriously 
when, taught by experience, you push them hard and 
probe them deep, that they have no engagement what- 
ever on hand and are certain not to fail you. In an 
evil hour you trust to them. When the day comes 
they suddenly wake to the fact that they had accepted 
Mrs. So-and-So's invitation before yours; and all you 
get for your empty place and your careful arrange- 
ments ruthlessly upset, is a hurried note of apology 
which comes perhaps in the middle of dinner, perhaps 
sometime next day, when too late to be of use. 

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

As they ignore your appointed hours, so do they 



TJ 2 



292 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

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

A scrambling wife is no light cross to a man who 
values order and regularity as part of his home life. 
She may be, and probably is, the best- tempered 
creature in the world — a peevish scrambler would be 
too unendurable — but a fresh face, bright eyes and a 
merry laugh do not atone for never-ending disorder 
and discomfort. This kind of thing does not depend 
on income and is not to be remedied by riches. The 



SCRAMBLERS. 293 

households w^iere my lady has nothing to do but let 
her maid keep her to the hours she herself has 
appointed are just as uncomfortable in their way as 
poorer establishments, if my lady is a scrambler, and 
cannot be tauo^ht method and the value of holdino^ on 
by the forelock. Sometimes my lady gets herself into . 
such an inextricable coil of promises and engage- 
ments, all crossing each other, that in despair she 
takes to her bed and gives herself out as ill, and so 
cuts what she cannot untie. People wonder at her 
sudden indisposition, looking as she did only yester- 
day in the bloom of health ; and they wonder at her 
radiant reappearance in a day or two without a trace 
of even languor upon her. They do not know that 
her retirement was simply a version of the famous 
rope trick, and that, like the Brothers Davenport, she 
went into the dark to shake herself free of the cords 
with which she had suffered herself to be bound. It 
is a short and easy method certainly, but it has rather 
too much of the echo of ' Wolf ' in it to bear frequent 
repetition. 

In houses of a lower grade, where the lady is 
her own housekeeper, the habit of scrambling of 
course leads to far greater and more manifest con- 
fusion. The servants catch from the mistress the 
trick of overstaying time ; and punctuality at last 
comes to mean an elastic margin, where fixed duties 
and their appointed times appear cometically at 
irregular intervals. The cook is late with dinner ; 
the coachman begins to put-to a little after the hour 



294 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

he was ordered to be at the door ; but they know 
that, however late they are, the chances are ten to one 
their mistress will not be ready for them, and that 
in her heart she will be grateful to them for the shelter 
their own unpunctuality affords her. This being so, 
they take their time and dawdle at their pleasure ; 
thus adding to the pressure which always comes at the 
end of the scrambler's day, when everything is thrown 
into a chaotic mass and nothins; comes out straio;ht 
or complete. 

Did any one ever know a scrambling woman 
ready at the moment in her own house ? That 
she should be punctual to any appointment out of 
her house is, of course, not to be thought of ; but 
she makes an awkward thing of it sometimes at 
home. Her guests are often all assembled, and the 
dinner hour has struck, before she has torn off one 
gown and dragged on another. What she cannot tie 
she pins ; and her pins are many and demonstrative. 
She wisps up her hair, not having left herself time to 
braid it ; and the consequence is that before she has 
been half an hour in the room ends and tails are sure 
to stray playfully from their fastenings and come 
tumbling about her ears. Her jewels are mis- 
matched, her colours ill-assorted, her belt is awry, 
her bouquet falling to pieces. She rushes into the 
drawing-room in her morning slippers, smiling and 
good-tempered, with a patch- work look about her — ■ 
something forgotten in her attire that makes her 
whole appearance shaky and unfinished — fastening 



SCBAMBLEES. 295 

her last button or clasping on her first bracelet. She 
is full of regrets and excuses delivered in her joyous, 
buoyant manner, or in a voice so winning, an accent 
so coaxing, that you cannot be annoyed. Besides, 
you leave the annoyance to her husband, who is sure 
to have in reserve a pickle quite sufficiently strong 
for the inevitable rod, as the poor scrambler knows 
too well. All you can do is to accept her apologies 
with a good grace, and to carry away with you a 
vivid recollection of an awkward half-hour, a spoilt 
dinner, and a scrambling hostess all abroad and out 
of time, sweeping through the room very heated, very 
good-tempered, only half-dressed and chronically out 
of breath. 

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

Scrambling women are especially notorious for 
the way in which they set themselves afloat with- 
out sufficient means to carry them on; finding 



296 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

themselves stranded in mid-career because they have 
made no calculations and have forgotten the rule 
of subtraction. They find themselves at a small 
Italian town, say, where the virtues of the British 
banking system are unknown, and where their 
letters of credit and circular notes are not worth 
more tlian the value of the paper they are written 
on. More than one British matron of respectable 
condition and weak arithmetic has found herself 
in such a plight as this, with her black -eyed land- 
lord perfectly civil and well-bred, but as firm as 
a rock in his resolution that the Signora shall not 
depart out of his custody till his little account is 
paid — a plight out of which she has to scramble the 
best way she can, with the loss perhaps of a little 
dignity and of more repute — at least in the locality 
where her solid scudi gave out and her precious paper 
could not be cashed. This is the same woman who 
offers an omnibus conductor a sovereign for a three- 
penny fare ; who gives the village grocer a ten-pound 
note for a shilling's-worth of sugar ; and who, when 
she comes up to London for a day's shopping, and has 
got her last parcel made up and ready to be put into 
her cab, finds she has not left herself half enough 
money to pay for it — with a shopman whose faith 
in human nature is by no means lively, and who only 
last week was bitten by a lady swindler of undeniable 
manners and appearance, and not very unlike herself. 
She has been known too, to go into a confectioner's 
and, after havino; made an excellent luncheon, to find 



SCRAMBLERS. 297 

to her dismay that she has left her purse in the pocket 
of her other dress at home, and that she has not six- 
pence about her. In fact there is not an equivocal 
position in which forgetfulness, want of method, want 
of foresight, and all the other characteristics which 
make up scrambling in the concrete, can place her, in 
which she has not been at some time or other. But 
no experience teaches her ; the scrambler she was 
born, the scrambler she will die, and to the last will 
tumble through her life, all her ends flying and 
deprecating excuses on her lips. 

Scramblers are notoriously great for making pro- 
mises, and as notorious for not performing what they 
promise. Kindhearted as they are in general, and 
willing to do their friends a service — going out of 
their way indeed to proiFer kindnesses quite beyond 
your expectations and the range of their duties to- 
wards you, and always undertaking works of super- 
erogation ; which works in fact lead to more than half 
their normal scramble — they forget the next hour the 
promise on which you have based your dearest hopes. 
Or, if they do not forget it, they find it is crowded 
out of time by a multitude of engagements and prior 
promises, of all of which they were innocently oblivi- 
ous when they offered to do your business so frankly, 
and swore so confidently they would set about it now 
at once and get it out of hand without delay. The 
oath and the off'er which you took to be as sure as 
the best chain-cable, you will find on trial to be only 
a rope of sand that could not bind so much as a 



298 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

bunch of tow together, still less hold the anchor of a 
life ; and many a heart, sick with hope deferred and 
wrung with the disappointment which might have' 
been so easily prevented, has been half broken before 
now from the anguish that has followed on the failure 
of the kindhearted scrambler to perform the promise 
voluntarily made, and the service earnestly pressed 
on a reluctant acceptor. 

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



299 



FLATTERY. 

Nothing is so delightful as flattery. To hear and 
believe pleasant fictions about oneself is a temptation 
too seductive for weak mortals to resist, as the 
typical legends of all mythologies and the private 
histories of most individuals show ; in consequence 
of which, home truths, to one used to ideal por- 
traiture, come like draughts of ' bitter cup ' to the 
dram-drinker. And flattery is dram-drinking ; and 
yet not quite without good uses to balance its un- 
deniable evil, if it be only exaggeration and not 
wholly falsehood ; that is, if it assumes as a matter of 
course the presence of virtues potential to your cha= 
racter but not always active, and praises you for what 
you might be if you chose to live up to your best. 
Many a weak brother and weaker sister, and all 
children, can be heartened into goodness by a little 
dash of judicious praise or flattery where ponderous 
exhortation and grave reproof would fail ; just as 
a heavily-laden horse can be coaxed up-hill when 
the whip and spur would lead to untimely jibbing. 
If, on the contrary, the flattery is of a kind that 
makes you believe yourself an exceptionally fine 



300 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

fellow when you are only ^ mean trash ' — a king of 
men when you are nothing better nor nobler than a 
moral nigger — making you satisfied with yourself 
when at your worst — then it is an unmitigated evil ; 
for it then becomes dram-drinking of a very poisonous 
kind, which sooner or later does for your soul what 
unlimited blue ruin does for your body. But this is 
what we generally mean when we speak of flattery ; 
and this is the kind which has such a deservedly bad 
name from moralists of all ages. 

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

You may be the most mystical poet of the day, 
suggesting to your acutest readers grave doubts as 



FLATTERY. 301 

to your own power of comprehending yourself , or 
you may be the most subtle metaphysician, to follow 
whom in your labyrinth of reasoning requires per- 
haps the rarest order of brains to be met with ; 
but you will nevertheless believe any narroAv- 
browed, small-headed woman who tells you in a 
low sweet voice, with a gentle uplifting of her eyes 
and a suggestive curve of her lip, that she has 
found you both intelligible and charm mg, and that 
she quite agrees with you and shares your every 
sentiment. If she further tells you that all her 
life long she has thought in exactly the same way 
but was wholly unable to express herself, and that 
you have now supplied her want and translated into 
words her vague ideas, and if she says this with a 
reverential kind of eiFusiveness, you are done for, so 
far as 3^our critical power goes ; and should some 
candid friend, whom she has not flattered, tell you 
with brutal frankness that your bewitching little 
flatterer has neither the brains nor the education to 
understand you, you will set him down as a slanderer, 
spiteful and malignant, and call his candour envy 
because he has not been so lucky as yourself. 

The most subtle form of flatter}^ is that which 
asks your advice with the pretence of needmg it — 
your advice, particularly — yours above that of all 
other persons, as the wisest, best, most useful to be 
obtamed. This too is a form that belongs rather 
to women in their relations with men than the con- 
verse ; though sometimes men will pretend to want 



302 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

a woman's advice about their love affairs, and will 
perhaps make-believe to be guided by it. Xot un- 
frequently, however, asking one woman's opinion and 
advice about another is a masked manner of love- 
making on its own account ; though sometimes it 
may be done for flattery only, when there are reasons. 
Of course not all advice-asking is flattery ; but when 
intended only to please and not meant to be genuine, 
it is perhaps one of the most potent instruments of 
the art to be met with. 

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

Priests of all denominations are especially open 
to this kind of flattery ; not only from pretty sinners 
who have gone openly out of the right line, but 
from quite comely and respectable maids and ma- 



FLATTERY. 303 

trons who have lived blamelessly so far as the 
broad moral distinctions go, yet who have not lived 
the Awakened Life until roused thereunto by this 
peculiarly favoured minister. It is a tremendous 
trial of a man's discernment when such flattery is 
offered to him. How much of this pretended awaken- 
ing is real ? How much of this sudden spiritual 
insight is true, and not a mere phrasing, artfully 
adopted for pleasantness only ? These are the cases 
where we most want that famous spear of Ithuriel 
to help us to a right estimate, for they are beyond 
the power of any ordinary man to determine. 

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



;-i04 SATURDAY IMORNINGS. 

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

Some women indeed, not only show their pre- 
ference for men, but openly confess it, and confess 
at the same time to a lofty contempt or abhorrence 
for the society of women. These are generally 
women who are, or have been, beauties ; or who 
have literary and intellectual pretensions ; or who 



FLATTERY. 305 

despise babies and contemn housekeeping, and profess 
themselves unable to talk to other women because 
of their narrowness and stupidity. But for the 
most part they are women who, by their beauty or 
their position, have been used to receive extra atten- 
tion from men ; and thus their preference is not flat- 
tery so much as exigence. Women who have been 
in India, or wherever else they are in the minority 
in society, are of this kind ; and nothing is more 
amazing to them when they first come home than 
tlie attentions which a certain style of Englishwoman 
pays to men, instead of demandmg and receiving 
attentions from them. 

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



306 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

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

But though a little home flattery helps the home 
life immeasurably, and greases the creaking domestic 
wheels more than anythmg else can, a great deal is 
just the most pernicious thing that can be offered. 
The belief prevalent m some families that all the 
very small and commonplace members thereof are the 



FLATTERY. 307 

world's wonders and greater than any one else — that 
no one is so clever as Harry, no one so pretty as Julia, 
that Amy's red hair is of a more brilliant gold than 
can be found elsewhere, and Edward's mathematical 
abilities about equal to iSTewton's — this belief, nou- 
rished and acted on, is sure to turn out an insufferable 
collection of prigs and self- conceited damsels who have 
to be brought down innumerable pegs before they 
find their own level. But we often see this ; espe- 
cially in country places where there is not much 
society to give a standard for comparative measure- 
ment ; and we know that those fond j)arents and 
doting relations are blindly and diligently sowing- 
seeds of bitterness for a future harvest of sorrow for 
their darlings. These young people must be made to 
suffer if they are to be of any good whatever in the 
world ; and finding their level, after the exalted posi- 
tion which they have been supposed to fill so long, 
and being pelted with the unsavoury missiles of truth 
in exchange for all the incense of flattery to which 
they have been used, will be suffermg enough. But 
it has to be gone through ; this being one of the 
penalties to which the unwisdom of love so often 
subjects its objects. 

The flattery met with in society is not often very 
harmful save to coarse or specially simple natures. 
You must be either one or the other to be able to 
believe it. Lady Morgan was perhaps the most un- 
blushing and excessive of the tribe of social flatterers; 
but that was her engine, the ladder by which she did 

X 2 



308 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

a good part of her climbing. We must not confound 
with this kind of flattery the impulsive expression of 
praise or love which certain outspoken people indulge 
m to the last. You may as well try to dam up 
Niagara as to make some folks reticent of then' 
thouoiits and feelino-s. And when one of this kind 
sees anything that he or she likes, the praise has 
to come out, with superlatives if the creature be 
prone to exaggeration. But this is not flattery; it 
is merely a certam childlike expansiveness which 
lasts with some into quite old age. Unfortunately, 
very few understand this childlike expansiveness 
when they see it. Hence it subjects its possessor 
to misrepresentation and unfriendly jibes, so soon as 
his or her back is turned, and the explosion of 
exaggerated but perfectly smcere praise is discussed 
critically by the uninterested part of the audience. 



309 



LA FEMME PASSES. 

Without doubt it is a time of trial to all women, 
more or less painful according to individual disposi- 
tion, when they first begin to grow old and lose 
their good looks. Youth and beauty make up so 
much of their personal value, so much of their 
natural final cause, that when these are gone many 
feel as if their whole career were at an end, and as if 
nothing were left to them now that they are no 
longer young enough to be loved as girls are loved, 
or pretty enough to be admired as mature sirens are 
admired. For \7omen of a certain position have so 
little wholesome occupation, and so little ambition 
for anything save indeed that miserable thmg called 
' getting on in society,' that they cannot change 
their way of life with advancing years. Hence they 
do not attempt to find interest in tilings outside 
themselves, and indej)endent of the personal attrac- 
tiveness which in youth constituted their whole 
pleasure of existence. 

This is essentially the case with fashionable 
women, who have staked their all on appearance, 
and to whom good looks are of more account than 



310 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

noble deeds ; and, accordingly, the struggle to re- 
main young is a frantic one with them, and as de- 
grading as it is frantic. 

With the ideal woman of middle age-^that 
pleasant She with her calm face and soft manner, 
who unites the charms of both epochs, retaining the 
ready responsiveness of youth while adding the wider 
sympathies of experience — ^with her there has been no 
such struo^o^le to make herself an anachronism. Con- 
sequently she remams beautiful to the last — far more 
beautiful than all the pastes and washes in Madame 
Rachel's shop could make her. Sometimes, if rarely 
in these latter days, we meet her in society, where 
she carries with her an atmosphere of her own — an 
atmosphere of honest, wholesome truth and love, 
which makes every one who enters it better and 
purer for the time. All children and all young 
persons love her, because she understands and loves 
them. For she is essentially a mother — that is, a 
woman who can forget herself; who can give without 
asking to receive ; and who, without losing any of 
the individualism which belongs to self-respect, can 
yet live for and in the lives of others, and find her 
best joy in the well-being of those about her. There 
is no exaggerated sacrifice in this ; it is simply the 
fulfilment of woman's highest duty — the expression 
of that grand maternal instinct which need not 
necessarily include the fact of personal maternity, 
but which, with all women worthy of the name, must 
find utterance in some line of unselfish action. 



LA FEMME PASSIVE. 311 

The ideal woman of middle age understands the 
young because she has lived with them. If a mother, 
she has performed her maternal duties with cheer- 
fulness and love. There has been no giving up 
her nursery to the care of a hired servant who is 
expected to do for so many pounds a year things 
which the tremendous instinct of a mother's love 
could not find strength to do. When she had 
children, she attended to them in great part herself, 
and learnt all about their tempers, their maladies, 
and the best methods of management. As they grew 
up she was still the best friend they had — the Provi- 
dence of their young lives who gave them both care 
and justice, both love and guidance. Such a manner 
of life has forced her to forget herself. When her 
child lay ill, perhaps dpng, she had no heart and no 
time to think of her own appearance, and whether 
this dressing-gown was more becoming than tliat ; 
and what did the doctor thmk of her with her hair 
pushed back from her face ? — and what a fright she 
must have looked in the morning light after her 
sleepless night of watching ! The world and all its 
petty pleasures and paltry pains faded away in the 
presence of the stern tragedy of the hour ; and not 
th^ finest ball of the season seemed to be worth a 
thought compared to the all-absorbing question of 
whether her child slept after his draught and whe- 
ther he ate his food with better appetite. And such 
a life, in spite of all its cares, has kept her young as 
well as unselfish ; we should rather say, young be- 



312 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

cause unselfish. As she comes into the room with 
her daughters, her kindly face unpolluted by paint, 
her dress picturesque or fashionable according to her 
taste, but decent in form and consistent in tone with 
her age, it is often remarked that she looks more like 
the sister than the mother of her girls. This is 
because she is in harmony with her age, and has not 
therefore put herself in rivalry with them ; and har- 
mony is the very keystone of beauty. Her hair is 
thickly streaked with white ; the girlish firmness and 
transparency of her skin have gone ] the pearly clear- 
ness of her eye is clouded ; the slender grace of line 
is lost — but for all that she is beautiful, and she is 
intrinsically young. What she has lost in outside 
material charm — in that mere heaute du diahle of 
youth — she has gained in character and expression ; 
and by not attempting to simulate the attractiveness 
of a girl, she keeps what nature gave her — the attrac- 
tiveness of middle age. And as every epoch has its 
own beauty — if women would but learn that truth — 
she is as beautiful now as a matron of fifty, because 
in harmony with her years, as she was when a 
maiden of sixteen. 

This is the ideal woman of middle age, met with 
even yet at tijnes in society — the woman whom all 
men respect ; whom all women envy, and wonder 
how she does it ; and whom all the young adore, and 
wish they had for an elder sister or an aunt. And 
the secret of it all lies in truth, in love, in purity, 
and in unselfishness. 



LA FEMME PASSEE. 313 

Standing far apart from this sweet and wholesome 
idealization is la femme ijctssee of to-day — the reality 
as we meet with it at balls and fetes and afternoon 
At Homes, ever foremost in the mad chase after 
pleasure, for which alone she seems to think she has 
been sent into the world. Dressed m the extreme 
of youthful fashion ; her thinnmg hair dyed and 
crimped and fired till it is more like red- brown tow 
than hair ; her flaccid cheeks ruddled ; her throat 
whitened ; her bust displayed with unflinching 
generosity— as if beauty is to be measured by cubic 
inches ; her lustreless eyes blackened round the lids, 
to give the semblance of limpidity to the tarnished 
whites ; perhaps the pupils dilated by belladonna ; 
perhaps a false and fatal brilliancy for the moment 
given by opium, or by eau de cologne, of which she 
has a store in her carriage, and drinks as she passes 
from ball to ball ; no kindly drapery of lace nor of 
gauze to conceal the breadth of her robust maturity, 
to soften the dreadful shadows of her leanness — there 
she stands, the wretched creature who will not con- 
sent to grow old, and who still aiFects to be a fresh 
coquettish girl when she is nothing but la femme 
passee — la femme passee et ridicule into the bargain. 

There is not a folly for which even the thought- 
lessness of youth is but a poor excuse into which 
she, in all the plenitude of her abundant expe- 
rience, does not plunge. Wife and mother as she 
may be, she flirts and makes love as if an honourable 
issue were as open to her as to her young daughter ; 



314 SATURDAY MOENINGS. 

or as if she did not know to what end (lirting and 
making love lead in all ages. If we watch the career 
of such a woman, we see how, by slow but very sure 
degrees, she is obliged to lower the standard of her 
adorers, and to take up at last with men of inferior 
social position, who are content to buy her patronage 
by their devotion. To the best men of her own 
class she can give nothing that they value ; so she 
barters with snobs, who go into the transaction with 
their eyes open, and take the whole affair as a matter 
of exchange, and quid ijro quo rigidly exacted. Or 
she does really dazzle some very young and low-born 
man who is weak as well as ambitious, and who 
thinks the fugitive regard of a middle-aged woman of 
high rank something to be proud of and boasted 
about. That she is as old as his own mother — at 
this moment selling tapes behind a village counter, 
or gathering up the eggs in a country farm — tells 
nothing against the association with him ; and the 
woman who began her career of flirtation with the 
son of a duke ends it with the son of a shopkeeper, 
having between these two terms spanned all the 
several degrees of degradation which lie between 
givmg and buying. She cannot help herself ; for it 
is part of the insignia of her artificial youth to have 
the reputation of a love-affair, or the pretence of one, 
even if the reality be a mere delusion. When such a 
woman as this is one of the matrons, and conse- 
quently one of the leaders of society, what can we 
expect from the girls? What worse example could" 



LA FEMME PASSES. 315 

be given to the young ? When we see her with her 
own daughters we feel instinctively that she is the 
most disastrous adviser they could have ; and when 
in the company of girls or young married women 
not belonging to her, we doubt whether we ought 
not to warn their natural guardians against allowing 
such association, for all that her standing in society 
is undeniable, and not a door is shut against her. 

What good in life does this kind of woman do ? 
All her time is taken up, first in trying to make 
herself look twenty or thirty years younger than she 
is, and then in trymg to make others believe the 
same. She has neither thought nor energy to spare 
from this, to her, far more important work than is 
feeding the hungry or nursing the sick, rescuing 
the fallen or soothing the sorrowful. The final 
cause of her existence seems to be the impetus she 
has given to a certain branch of trade manufacture — 
unless we add to this, the corruption of society. For 
whom, but for her, are the ' little secrets ' which are 
contmually being advertised as woman's social salva- 
tion — regardless of grammar ? The ' eaux noire, 
brun, et chatain, which dyes the hair any shade in 
one minute ; ' the ' kohhl for the eyelids ; ' the 
' blanc de perle,' and 'rouge de Lubin ' — which does 
not wash off ; the ' bleu pour les veines ; ' the ' rouge 
of eight shades/ and ' the sympathetic blush,' which 
are cynically offered for the use and adoption of our 
mothers and daughters, find their chief patroness in 
the femme passee who makes herself up — the middle- 



316 SA.TURDAY MOENINGS. 

aged matron engaged in her frantic struggle against 
time, and obstinately refusing to grow old in spite of 
all that nature may say or do. Bad as the Girl of 
the Period is, this horrible travesty of her vices 
in the modern matron is even worse. Indeed, were 
it not for her, the girls would never have gone to 
such lengths as those to which they have gone ; for 
elder women naturally have immense mfluence over 
younger ones, and if mothers were resolutely to set 
their faces against the follies of the day, daughters 
would and must give in. As it is, some go even 
ahead of the young, and, by example on the one hand 
and rivalry on the other, sow the curse of corruption 
broadcast where they were meant to have only a pure 
influence and to set a wise example. Were it not for 
those who still remain faithful — women who regard 
themselves as the trustees for humanity and virtue — 
the world would go to ruin forthwith ; but so long 
as the five righteous are left we have hope and a 
certain amount of security for the future, when the 
present disgraceful madness of society shall have 
passed away. 



sn 



SPOILT WOMEN. 

Like cliildren and all soft things, women are soon 
spoilt if subjected to an wholesome conditions. Some- 
times the spoilmg comes from over-harshness, some- 
times from over-indulgence ; what we are speaking 
of to-day is the latter condition — the spoiling which 
comes from being petted and given way to and 
indulged, till they think themselves better than 
everybody else, and living under laws made spe- 
cially for them. Men get spoilt too in the same 
manner ; but for the most part there is a tougher 
fibre in them which resists the flabby influences of 
flattery and exaggerated attention better than can the 
morale of the weaker sex ; besides, even arbitrary 
men meet with opposition in certain directions, and 
the most self- contented social autocrat knows that 
his adherents criticize though they dare not oppose. 

A man who has been spoilt by success and a 
gratified ambition, so that he thmks himself a small 
Alexander in his own way and able to conquer any 
obstacles which may present themselves, has a certain 
high-handed activity of will about him that does not 
interfere with his duties in life ; he is not made fretful 



318 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

and impatient and exigeant as a woman is — as if he 
alone of all mankind ought to be exempt from mis- 
fortunes and annoyances ; as if his friends must never 
die, his youth never fade, his circumstances run always 
smooth, protected by the care of others from all un- 
toward hitch; as if time and tide, which wait for 
no one else, are bound to him as humble servants 
dutifully observant of his wishes. The useful art of 
finding his level, which he learnt at school and in 
his youth generally, keeps him from any very weak 
manifestation of being spoilt ; save indeed, when he 
has been spoilt by women at home, nursed up by an 
adoring wife and a large circle of wife's sisters almost 
as adormg, to all of whom his smallest wishes are 
religious obligations and his faintest virtues godly 
graces, and who vie with each other which of them 
shall wait upon him most servilely, flatter him most 
outrageously, coax and coddle him most entirely, and 
so do him the largest amount of spiritual damage, 
and unfit him most thoroughly for the worth and 
work of masculine life. A man subjected to this 
insidious injury is simply ruined so far as any real 
manlmess of nature goes. He is made into that 
sickening creature, ' a sweet being,' as the women 
call him — a woman's man with sesthetic tastes and a 
turn for poetry ; full of highflown sentiment and 
morbid sympathies ; a man almost as much woman 
as man, who has no backbone of useful ambition in 
him, but who puts his whole life into love, and who 
becomes at last emphatically not worth his salt. 



SPOILT WOMEN. 319 

Bad as it is for men of the world to be kow- 
towed to by men, it is not so bad, because not so 
weakening, as the domestic idolatry which sometimes 
goes on when one man is the centre of a large family 
of women, and the only object upon which the natural 
feminine instinct can expend itself. No greater damage 
can be done to a man than is done by this kind of 
domestic idolatry. But, in truth, the evil is too 
pleasant to be resisted ; and there is scarcely a man 
so far master of himself as to withstand the subtle 
intoxication, the sweet and penetrating poison, of 
woman's tender flattery and loving submission. To 
a certain extent he holds it so entirely the right 
thing, because it is natural and instinctive, that it 
is difficult to draw the line and map out exactly the 
division between right and wrong, pleasantness and 
harmfulness, and where loving submission ends and 
debasing slavishness begins. 

Spoilt women are spoilt mauily from a like cause : 
over- attention from men. A few certainly are to 
be found, as pampered daughters, with indulgent 
mammas and subservient aunts given up to ruining 
their young charges with the utmost despatch pos- 
sible ; but this is comparatively a rare form of the 
disease, and one which a little wholesome matrimonial 
discipline would soon cure. For it is seldom that a 
petted daughter becomes a spoilt wife — human affairs 
havino- that marvellous power of equation, that in- 
evitable tendency to readjust the balance, which pre- 
vents the continuance of a like excess under different 



320 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

forms. Besides, a spoilt daughter generally makes 
such a supremely unpleasant wife that the husband 
has no inducement to continue the mistake, and there- 
fore either lowers her tone by a judicious exhibition 
of snubbing, or, if she be aggressive as well as un- 
pleasant, leaves her to fight with her shadows in the 
best way she can, glad for his own part to escape the 
strife she will not forego. 

The spoilt woman is impatient of anything like 
rivalry. She never has a female friend — certainly not 
one of her own degree, and not one at all in the true 
sense of the word. Friendship presupposes equality ; 
and a spoilt woman knowns no equality. She has been 
so long accustomed to consider herself as lady-para- 
mount that she cannot iniderstand it if any one steps in 
to share her honours and divide her throne. To praise 
the l)eauty of any other woman, to find her charming, 
and to pay her the attention due to a charming woman, 
is to msult our spoilt darling, and to slight her past 
forgiveness. If there is only one good thing, it must 
be given to her — the first seat, the softest cushion, the 
most protected situation ; and she looks for the best 
of all things as if naturally consecrated from her birth 
to the sunshine of life, and as if the ' cold shade ' which 
may do for others were by no means the portion 
allotted to her. 

It is almost impossible to make the spoilt woman 
understand the grace or the glory of sacrifice. By 
rare good fortune she may sometimes be found to 
possess an indestructible germ of conscience which 



SPOILT WOMEN. 321 

sorrow and necessity can develope into active good ; 
but only sometimes. The spoilt woman j^ar excellence 
understands only her own value, only her own merits 
and the absolutism of her own requirements ; and 
sacrifice, self-abnegation, and the whole class of virtues 
belonging to unselfishness, are as much unknown 
to her as is the Decalogue m the original, or the 
squaring of the circle. The spoilt woman, as the 
wife of an unsuccessful husband or the mother of 
sickly children, is a pitiable spectacle. If obhged 
to sacrifice her usual luxuries, to make an old gown 
serve when a new one is desired, to sit up all night 
watching by the sick-bed, to witness the painful details 
of illness, perhaps of death, to meet hardship face to 
face and to bend her back to the burden of sorrow, 
she is at the first absolutely lost. Not the tiling to 
be done, but her own discomfort in doing it, is the one 
master idea — not others' needs, but her own pain in 
supplying them, is the great grief of the moment. 
Many are the hard lessons set us by life and fate, but 
the hardest of all is that given to the spoilt woman 
when she is made to think for others rather than for 
herself, and is forced by the exigencies of circum- 
stances to sacrifice her own ease for the greater 
necessities of her kind. 

All that large part of the true woman's nature 
which expresses itself in serving is an unknown 
function to the spoilt woman. She must be waited 
on, but she cannot in her turn serve even the one she 
loves. She is the woman who calls her husband from 

VOL. T. ' Y 



322 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

one end of the room to the other to put down her cup, 
rather than reach out her arm and put it down for 
herself; who, however weary he may be, will bid him 
get up and ring the bell, though it is close to her 
own hand, and her longest walk during the day has 
been from the dining-room to the drawmg-room. It 
is not that she cannot do these small offices for her- 
self, but that she likes the feeling of bemg waited 
on ; and it is not for love, and the amiable if weak 
pleasure of attracting the notice of the beloved, but 
it is for the vanity of being a little somebody for the 
moment, and of pla3mig off the small regality involved 
in the procedure, that she claims his attention. She 
would not return that attention. Unlike the Eastern 
women, who wait on their lords hand and foot, and 
who place their highest honour in their lowliest ser- 
vice, the spoilt woman of Western life knows notliing 
of the natural grace of womanly serving for love, for 
grace, or for gratitude. 

This kind of thing is peculiarly strong among the 
demi-monde of the higher class, and among women 
who are of the demi-monde by nature. The respect 
they cannot command by their virtues they demand 
in the simulation of manner ; and perhaps no women 
are more tenacious of the outward forms of deference 
than those who have lost their claim to the vital 
reality. It is very striking to see the difference be- 
tween the women of this type, the petites mattresses 
ayIio require the utmost attention and almost ser- 
vility from man, and the noble dignity of service 



SPOILT WOMEN. 323 

wliich the pure woman can afford to give — which 
she finds indeed, that it belongs to the very purity 
and nobleness of her womanhood to give. It is the 
old story of the ill- assured position which is afraid of 
its own weakness, and the security which can afford 
to descend — the rule holding good for other things 
besides mere social place. 

Another characteristic of the spoilt woman is the 
changeableness and excitability of her temper. All 
suavity and gentleness and delightful gaiety and 
perfect manners when everything goes right, she 
startles you by her outburst of petulance when the 
first cross comes. If no man is a hero to liis valet, 
neither is a spoilt woman a heroine to her maid ; and 
the lady who has just been the charm of the drawing- 
room, upstairs in her boudoir makes her maid go 
through spiritual exercises to which walking among 
burning ploughshares is easy-going. A length of 
lace unstarched, a ribbon unsewed, a flower set awry, 
anything that crumples one of the myriad rose-leaves 
on which she lies, and the spoilt woman raves as 
much as if each particular leaf had become suddenly 
a bunch of thorns. If a dove were to be trans- 
formed to a hawk the change would not be more 
complete, more startling, than that which occurs when 
the spoilt woman of well-bred company manners puts 
ofi* her mask to her maid, and shows her temper over 
trifles. Whoever else may sufi'er the grievances of 
life, she cannot understand that she also must be at 
times one of the sufferers with the rest; and if by 

T 2 



324 SATUEDAY MOHNINGS. 

chance the bad moment comes, the person accom- 
panying it has a hard time of it. 

There are spoilt women also who have their 
peculiar exercises in thought and opinion, and who 
cannot suffer that any one should think differently 
from themselves, or find those things sacred which 
to them are accursed. They will hear nothing but 
what is in harmony with themselves ; and they take 
it as a personal insult when men or women attempt 
to reason with them, or even hold then' own without 
flinching. This kind is to be found specially among 
the more intellectual of a family or a circle — women 
who are pronounced clever by their friends, and who 
have been so long accustomed to think themselves 
clever that they have become spoilt mentally as others 
are personally, and fancy that minds and thoughts 
must follow m their direction, just as eyes and 
hands must follow and attend their sisters. The 
spoilt woman of the mental kind is a horrid nuisance 
generally. She is greatly given to large discourse. 
But discourse of a kind that leans all to one side, 
and that denies the right of any one to criticize, 
doubt, or contradict, is an intellectual Tower of Pisa 
under the shadow of which it is not pleasant to live. 



;25 



DOVECOTS. 

Times must be very bad indeed if a faithful few are 
not still left to keep the sources of society sweet and 
wholesome. When corruption has gone through the 
whole mass and all classes are bad alike, everything 
comes to an end, and there is a general overthrow of 
national life ; but while some are left pure and un- 
spotted, we are not quite undone, and we may rea- 
sonably hope for better days in the future. In the 
midst of the reign of the Girl of the Period, with her 
slang and her boldness — of the fashionable woman, 
with her denial of duty and her madness for plea- 
sure — we come every now and then upon a group of 
good girls of the real old English type ; the faithful 
few growing up silently among us, but none the less 
valuable because they are silent and make no public 
display ; doves who are content with life as they 
have it in the dovecot, and have no desire to be either 
eagles dwelling on romantic heights, or peacocks dis- 
playing their pride in sunny courts. We find these 
faithful few in town and country alike ; but they are 
rifest in the country, where there is less temptation 
to go wrong than there is in the large towns, and 



326 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

where life is simpler and the moral tone undeniably 
higher. The leading feature of these girls is their 
love of home and of their own family, and their power 
of making occupation and happiness out of apparently 
meagre materials. If they are the elders, they find 
amusement and interest in their little brothers and 
sisters, whom they consider immensely funny and 
to whom they are as much girl-mothers as sisters ; if 
they are the youngers, they idolize their baby nephews 
and nieces. For there is always a baby going on some- 
where about these houses — babies being the great ex- 
citement of home-life, and the antiseptic element among 
women which keeps everything else pure. They are 
passionately attached to papa and mamma, whom they 
think the very king and queen of humanity, yet whom 
they do not call by even endearing slang names. It 
has never occurred to them to criticize them as ordi- 
nary mortals ; and as they have not been in the way 
of learning the prevailing accent of disrespect, they 
have not shaken off that almost religious veneration 
for their parents which all young people naturally 
feel, if they have been well brought up and are not 
corrupted. 

The yoke in most middle class country-houses is 
one fitting very loosely round all necks ; and as they 
have all the freedom they desire or could use, the 
girls are not fretted by undue pressure, and are con- 
tent to live m peace under such restraints as they 
have. They adore their elder brothers who are from 
home just beginning the great battle of life for them- 



DOVECOTS. 327 

selves, and confidently believe them to be the finest 
fellows going, and the future great men of the day if 
only they care to put out those splendid talents of 
theirs, and take the trouble of plucking the prizes 
within then' reach. They may have a slight reserva- 
tion perhaps, in favour of the brother's friend, whom 
they place on a pedestal of almost equal height. But 
they keep their mental architecture a profound secret 
from every one, and do not suffer it to grow into too 
sohd a structure unless it has some surer foundation 
than their own fancy. For, though doves are loving, 
they are by no means lovesick, and are too healthy 
and natural and quietly busy for unwholesome dreams. 
If one of them marries, they all unite in loving the 
man who comes in among them. He is adopted as 
one of themselves, and leaps into a family of idolizing 
sisters who pet liim as their brother — with just that 
subtle little difference in their petting, in so much 
as it comes from sisters unaccustomed, and so has the 
charm of novelty without the prurient excitement of 
naughtiness. But this kind of thing is about the 
most dangerous to a man's moral nature that can 
befall him. Though pretty to see and undeniably 
pleasant to experience, and though perfectly innocent 
in every way, still, nothing enervates him so much as 
this idolatrous submission of a large family of women. 
In a widow's house, where there are many daughters 
and no sons, and where the man who marries one 
marries the whole family and is worshipped accord- 
ingly, the danger is of course increased tenfold ; but 



328 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

if there are brothers and a father, the sister's hus- 
band, though affectionately cooed over, is not made 
quite such a fuss with, and the association is all the 
less hurtful in consequence. 

These girls lead a by no means stupid life, though 
it is a quiet one, -and without any spasmodic events 
or tremendous cataclysms. They go a great deal 
among the village poor, and they teach at the 
Sunday-school, and attend the mothers' meetings and 
clothing- clubs and the like, and learn to get interested 
in their humbler friends, who after all are Christian 
sisters. They read their romances in real life instead 
of in three-volume novels, and study human nature 
as it is — in the. rough certainly, but perhaps in more 
genuine form than if they learnt it only in what is 
called society. Then they have their pleasures, 
though they are of an unexciting kmd and what fast 
girls would call awfully slow. They have their 
horses and their croquet parties, their lawn tennis 
and their archery meetings ; they have batches of 
new music, and a monthly box from Mudie's — and 
they know the value of both ; they go out to tea, 
and sometimes to dinner, in the neighbourhood ; and 
they enjoy the rare county balls with a zest un- 
known to London girls who are out every night 
in the week. They have their village flower-shows, 
which the great families patronize in a free-and-easy 
kind of way, and which give occupation for weeks 
before and subject for talk for weeks after ; their 
school feasts, where the pet parson of the district 



DOVECOTS. 329 

comes out with his best anecdotes, and makes mild 
jokes at a long distance from Sydney Smith ; their 
periodical missionary meetings, where they have 
great guns from London, and where they hear 
unctuous stories about the saintliness of converted 
cannibals, and are required to believe m the power of 
change of creed to produce an ethnological miracle ; 
they have their friends to stay with them — school- 
girl friends — with whom they exchange deep con- 
fidences, and go back over the old days — so old 
to their youth ! — their brothers come down in the 
summer, and their brothers' friends come with them, 
and do a little spooning in the shrubbery. But there 
is more spooning done at picnics than anywhere else ; 
and more offers are made there under the shadow of 
the old ruin, or in the quiet leafy nook by the river 
side, than at any other gathering time of the country. 
And as we are all to a certain extent what we are 
made by our environment, the doves take to these 
pleasures quite kindly and gratefully, as being the 
only ones known to them, and enjoy themselves in a 
simplicity of circumstances which would give no 
pleasure at all to girls accustomed to more highly- 
spiced entertainments. 

Doves know very little of evil. They are not in 
the way of learning it ; and they do not care to 
learn it. The few villagers who are supposed to lead 
ill lives are spoken of below the breath, and carefully 
avoided without being critically studied. When the 
railway is to be carried past their quiet nest, there is an 



330 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

immense excitement as tlie report goes that a knot of 
strange men have been seen scattering themselves over 
the fields with their little white flags and theodolites, 
their measuring lines and levels. But when the army 
of navvies follows after, the excitement is changed to 
consternation, and a general sense of evil to come 
advancing ruthlessly towards them. The clergy of 
the district organize special services, and the scared 
doves keep religiously away from the place where the 
navvies are hutted. They think them little better 
than the savages about whom the Deputation tell 
them once or twice a year ; and they create almost as 
much terror as an encampment of gipsies. They 
represent the lawless forces of the world and the 
unknown sins of strong men ; and the wildest story 
about them is not too wild to be believed. The 
railway altogether is a great offence to the neighbour- 
hood, and the line is assumed to destroy the whole 
scenic beauty of the place. There are lamentations 
over the cockneys it will bring down ; over the high 
prices it will create, the immorality it will cause. 
Only the sons who are out in the world and have 
learnt how life goes on outside the dovecot, advocate 
keeping pace with the tunes ; and a few of the stronger 
minded of the sisters listen to them with a timid 
admiration of their breadth and boldness, and think 
there may be two sides to the question after all. 
When the dashing captain and his fast wife suddenly 
appear in the village — as often happens in these 
remote districts — the doves are in a state of great 



DOVECOTS. 66 i 

moral tribulation. They are scandalized by Mrs. 
Highflyer's costume and complexion, and think her 
manners odd and doubtful ; her slang shocks them ; 
and when they meet her in the lanes, talking so 
loudly and laughing so shrilly with that horrid- 
looking man in a green cutaway, they feel as fluttered 
as their namesakes when a hawk is hovering over the 
farmyard. The dashing captain, who does not use 
a prayer-book at church, who stares at all the girls 
so rudely, and who has even been seen to wink at 
some of the prettier cottage girls, and his handsome 
wife with her equivocal comj)lexion and pronounced 
fashions, who makes eyes at the curate, are never 
heartily adopted by the local magnates, though 
vouched for by some far-away backer ; and the doves 
always feel them to be strange bodies among them, 
and out of their rightful element somehow. If things 
go quietly without an explosion, well and good ; but 
if the truth bursts to the surface in the shape of a 
London detective, and the Highflyers are found to be 
no better than they should be, the consternation and 
half- awed wonderment at the existence of so much 
efi*rontery and villany in their atmosphere create an 
impression which no time efl*aces. The first clash of 
innocence with evil is an event in the life of the 
innocent the efi*ect of which nothing ever destroys. 

The dovecot is rather dull in the winter, and the 
doves are somewhat moped ; but even then they 
have the church to decorate, and the sentiment of 
Christmas to enliven them. The absent ones of the 



332 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

family too, return to the old heartln while they can ; 
and as the great joy of the dovecot lies in the family 
union that is kept up, and in the family love which 
is so strong, the visits of those who no longer live at 
home bring a moral summer as warm and cheering as 
the physical sunshine. But they do not all assemble. 
For many of the doves marry men whose work lies 
abroad ; these quiet country-houses being the favourite 
matrimonial hunting-grounds for colonists and Anglo- 
Indians. So that some are always absent whose 
healths are drunk in the traditional punch, while 
eyes grow moist as the names are given. Doves are 
not disinclined to marry men who have to go abroad, 
for all the passionate family love common to them. 
Travel is a golden dream to them in their still homes ; 
but travel properly companioned. For even the 
most adventurous among them are not independent, 
as we mean when we speak of independence in 
women. They are essentially home-girls, family- 
girls, doves who cannot exist without a dovecot, 
however humble. The family is everything to them ; 
and they are utterly unfit for the solitude which so 
many of our self-supporting women can accept quite 
resignedly. Not that they are necessarily useless even 
as breadwmners. They could work, if pushed to it ; 
but it must be in a quiet womanly way, with the 
mother, the sister, the husband as the helper — with 
the home as the place of rest and the refuge. Their 
whole lines are laid in love and quietness ; not by 
any means in inaction, but all centred within the 



DOVECOTS. 333 

home circle. If they marry, they find the love of 
their husband enough for them, and have no desire 
for other men's admiration. Their babies are all the 
world to them, and they do not think maternity an 
infliction, as so many of the miserably fashionable 
thuik it. They like the occupation of housekeeping, 
and feel pride in their fine linen and clean service, in 
their well-ordered table and neatly-balanced accounts. 
They are kind to their servants, who generally come 
from the old home, and whose families they therefore 
know ; but they keep up a certain dignity and tone 
of superiority towards them in the midst of all their 
kindness, which veiy few town-bred mistresses can 
keep to town-bred maids. They have always been 
the aristocracy in their native place ; and they carry 
thi'ough life the meffaceable stamp wliich being ' the 
best ' gives. 

Doves are essentially mild and gentle women ; 
not queens of society even when they are pretty, 
because not caring for social success and therefore 
not laying themselves out for it ; for if they please 
at home that is all they care for, holdmg love before 
admiration, and the esteem of one higher than the 
praise of many. If a fault is to be found with them 
it is that they have not perhaps quite enough 
salt for the general taste, used as it is to such 
highly-seasoned social food ; but do we really want 
our women to have so very much character ? Do 
not our splendid passionate creatures lead madly 
wretched lives and make miserably uncomfortable 



334 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

homes ? and are not our glorious heroines better in 
pictures and in fiction than seated by the domestic fire, 
or checking the baker's bill ? No doubt the quiet 
home -staying doves seem tame enough when we 
think of the gorgeous beings made fiimiliar to us by 
romance, and history, which is more romantic still ; 
but as our daily lives run chiefly in prose, our doves 
are better fitted fi)r things as they are ; and to men 
who want wives and not playthings, and who care for 
the jDcace of family life and the dignity of home, they 
are beyond price when they can be fomid and secured. 
So that, on the whole, we can dispense with the 
sj)lendid creatures of character and the magnificent 
queens of society sooner than with the quiet and unob- 
trusive doves. And though they do spoil men most 
monstrously, they know where to draw the line, and 
while petting their own at home they keep strangers 
abroad at a distance, and make themselves respected 
as only modest and gentle women are respected by 
men. 



335 



BORED HUSBANDS, 

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

The ideal honeymoon is of course an Elysian 
time, during which nothing works rusty nor gets out 
of joint; and the ideal marriage is only a life-long 
honeymoon, where the happiness is more secure and 
the love deeper, if more sober ; but the prose reality 
of one and the other has often a terrible dash of 
weariness in it, even under the most favourable con- 



336 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

clitions. Boredom begins in the very honeymoon 
itself. At first starting in married life there are many 
dangers to be encountered, not a shadow of which 
was seen in the wooing. There are odd freaks of 
temper turmng up quite unexpectedly ; there is the 
sense, so painful to some men, of being tied for life, 
of never being able to be alone again, never free and 
without responsibilities ; there are misunderstandings 
to-day and the struggle for mastery to-morrow^ — 
the cloud, no bigger than a man's hand, which may 
prove to be the tempest that will destroy all ; there 
is the unrest of travelling, and the awkwardness of 
unusual association, to help in the general discom- 
fort ; or, if the happy pair have settled down in a 
vale and a cottage for their month, there is the ' sad 
satiety ' which all men feel after a time when they 
have had one companion only, with no outside diver- 
sion to cause a break. Bat the honeymoon at last 
draws to a close, and the relieved bridegroom gets 
back to his old haunts, to his work, his friends, and 
his club ; and though he takes to all these things 
again with a difference, still they are helps and 
additions. This is the time of trial to a woman. If 
she gets over this pinch, and is sensible enough to 
understand that human nature cannot be kept up at 
high pressure, even in love, and that a man must 
sooner or later come down from romance to work-a- 
day prose, from the passionate lover to the cool and 
sober husband — if she can understand this, and 
settle into his pace, without fretting on the one hand 



BOEED HUSBANDS. 337 

or casting about for unliealtliy distractions on the 
other — she will do well, and will probably make a 
pleasant home, and thereby diminish the boredom of 
life. But unfortunately, not every woman can do 
this ; and it is just during this time of the man's 
transition from the lover to the friend that so many 
women begin to make shipwreck of their own happi- 
ness and his. They think to keep him a romantic 
wooer still, by their tears at his prosaic indifference 
to the little sentimentalities once so eagerly accepted 
and offered ; they try to hold him close by their 
flattering but somewhat tiresome exactions ; their 
jealousies — very pretty perhaps, and quite as 
flattermg — are infinite, and as baseless as they are 
infinite ; all of which is very nice up to a certain 
point and in the beginning of things, but all of 
which gets wearisome as tune goes on, and a man 
wants both a little change and a little rest. But 
women do not see this ] or seeing it, they cannot 
accept it as a necessary condition of things ; where- 
fore they go on in their fatal way, and by the very 
unwisdom of their own love bore their husband out 
of his. Or they grow substantially cold because 
he is superficially cooler, and thmk themselves 
justified in ceasing to love him altogether because 
he takes their love for granted, and so has ceased to 
woo it. 

If they are jealous, or shy, or unsocial, as so 
many women are, they make life very heavy by their 
exclusiveness, and the monastic character they give 

VOL. I. Z 



338 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

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

If bachelor friends are shouldered out of the house, 
all female friends are forbidden anything like an 
intimate footing, save those few whom the wife 
thinks specially devoted to herself and of whom she 
is not jealous. And these are very few. There are 
perhaps no women in the world so exclusive in their 
dealinf^rs with their husbands as are Eno;lishwomen. 
A husband is bound to- one woman only, no doubt ; 
but the average wife thinks him also bound to have 
no affection whatever outside her and perhaps her 
family. If he meets an intelligent woman, pleasant 
to talk to, of agreeable manners and ready wit, and 



BORED HUSBANDS. oo'J 

if he talks to her in consequence with anything like 
persistency or interest, he offends against the un- 
written law ; and his wife, whose utmost power of 
conversation consists in putting in a yes or no with 
tolerable accuracy of aim, thinks herself slighted and 
ill-used. She may be young and pretty, and dearly 
loved for her own special qualities ; and her husband 
may not have a thought towards his new friend, or 
any other woman, in the remotest degree trenching 
on his allegiance to her ; but the fact that he finds 
pleasure, though only of an intellectual and aesthetic 
kind, in the society of any other woman, that he feels 
an mterest in her life, chooses her for his friend, or 
finds community of pursuits or sympathy in ideas, 
makes his wife by just so much a victim and aggrieved. 
And yet what a miserably monotonous home is 
that to which she would confine him ! He is at his 
office all day, badgered and worried with various 
business complications, and he comes home tired, 
perhaps cross — even well-conducted husbands have 
that way sometimes. He finds his wife tired and 
cross too ; so that they begin the evening together 
mutually at odds, she irritated by small cares and 
he disturbed by large anxieties. Or he finds her 
preoccupied and absorbed in her own pursuits, and 
quite disinclined to make any diversion for his sake. 
He asks her for some music ; she used to be ready 
enough to smg and play to him in the old love- 
making days ; but she refuses now. Either she has 
some needlework to do, which might have been done 



340 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

during the day when he was out, or baby is asleep in 
the nursery, and music in the drawing-room would 
disturb him — at all events she cannot sing or play 
to-night ; and even if she does — he has heard all her 
pieces so often ! If he is not a reading-man, those 
long, dull, silent evenings are very trying. She 
works, and drives him wild with the click of her 
needle ; or she reads the last new novel, and he 
hates novels, and gets tired to death when she 
insists on telling him all about the story and the 
characters ; or she chooses the evening for letter- 
writing, and if the noise of her pen scratching over 
the paper does not irritate him, perhaps it sends him 
to sleep, when at least he is not bored. But dull, 
objectless, and vacant as their evenings are, his wife 
would not hear of any help from without to give just 
that little fillip which would prevent boredom and 
not create ceremony. She would think her life had 
gone to pieces, and that only desolation was before 
her, if he hinted that his home was dull, and that 
though he loves her very dearly and wants no other 
wife but her, yet that her society onl}; — toujours 
Ijerdrix^ without change or addition — is a Uttle 
stupid, however nice the partridge may be, and that 
things would be bettered if Mrs. or Miss So-and-So 
came m sometimes, just to brighten up the hours. 
And if he were to make a practice of bringing home 
his men friends, she would probably let all parties 
concerned feel pretty distinctly that she considered 
the home her special sanctuary, and that guests 



BOKED HUSBANDS. 341 

whom she did not mvite were intruders. She would 
perhaps go willingly enough to a ball or crowded 
soiree^ or she might like to give one ; but that 
intimate form of society, which is a mere enlarge- 
ment of the home life, she dreads as the supplement- 
ing of deficiencies, and thinks her married happiness 
safer in boredom than in any diversion from herself 
as the sole centre of her husband's pleasure. 

Home life stagnates in England ; and in very 
few families is there any mean between dissipation 
and this stagnation. We can scarcely wonder that 
so many husbands think matrimony a mistake as we 
have it in our insular arrangements ; that they look 
back regretfully to the time when they were unfet- 
tered and not bored ; or that their free friends, who 
watch them as wild birds watch their caged com- 
panions, curiously and reflectively, share their 
opinion. Wife and home, after all, make up but 
part of a man's life ; they are not his all, and do not 
satisfy the whole of his social instinct ; nor is any one 
woman the concentration of all womanhood to a man, 
leaving nothmg that is beautiful, nor in its own un- 
conjugal way desirable, on the outside. Besides, when 
with his wife a man is often as much isolated as when 
alone, for any real companionship there is between 
them. Few women take a living interest in the lives 
of men, and fewer still understand them. They expect 
the husband to sympathize with them in the kitchen 
gossip and the nursery chatter, the neighbours' doings 
and all the small household politics ; but they are 



342 SATURDAY MORNINGS. 

utterly unable to comprehend his pleasures, his 
thoughts, his duties, the responsibilities of his pro- 
fession, or the bearings of any public question in 
which he takes a part. 

Even if this were not so, and granting that they 
could enter fully into his life and sympathize with 
him as intelligent equals, not only as compassionate 
saints .or loving children, there would still be the 
need of novelty, and still the certainty of boredom 
without it. For human life, like all other forms of 
life, must have a due proportion of fresh elements 
continually added to keep it sweet and growing, else 
it becomes stagnant and stunted. And daily inter- 
course undeniably exhausts the moral ground. After 
the close companionship of years no one can remain 
mentally fresh to the other, unless indeed one or both 
be of the rarest order of mind and of a practically 
inexhaustible power of acquiring knowledge. Save 
these exceptional instances, we must all of necessity 
get worn out by constant intercourse. We know 
every tiiought, every opinion, and almost every 
square inch of information possessed ; we have heard 
the old stories again and again, and know exactly 
what will lead up to them, and at what point they 
will begin ; we have measured the whole sweep of 
mind, and have probed its depths ; and though we 
may love and value what we have learnt, yet we want 
something new — fresh food for interest, though not 
necessarily a new love for the displacement of the old. 
But this is what very few Englishwomen can under- 



BORED HUSBANDS. 343 

stand or will allow. They hold so intensely by the 
doctrine of unity that they are even jealous of a man's 
pursuits, if they think these take up any place in his 
mind which might also be theirs. They must be 
good for every part of his life ; and the poorest of 
them all must be his only source of interest, suffering 
no other woman to share his admiration nor obtain 
his friendship, though this would neither touch his 
love nor interfere with their rights. Friendship is a 
hard saymg to them, and one they cannot receive. 
Wherefore they keep a tight grasp on the marital 
collar, and suffer no relief of monotony by judicious 
loosening, nor by generous faith in integral fidelity. 
The practical result of which is that most men are 
horribly bored at home, and that the mass of them 
really suffer from the domestic stagnation to which 
national customs and the exclusiveness of women 
doom them so soon as they become family men. It 
mast however, in fairness be added, that in general 
they obtain some kind of compensation j and that 
very few walk meekly in their bonds without at 
times slipping them off, with or without the con- 
currence of their wives. 



END OF THE FIRST VOLUME. 



S. & H, 



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