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jluler . 

A W©!RQAIi^*S T[Kl©y©!HlT^S A[B©Ilinr ^©IRfO [E!i^a, 





&c. &c. 

" He that good thinketh, good may do, 
And God will help him thereunto : 
For was never good work wrought 
"Without beginning of good thought." 




Richard Clay & Sons, 


afid Bread Street Hill, Lon.ion. 


These "Thoughts," a portion of which 
originally appeared in " Chambers' Jour- 
nal," are, I wish distinctly to state, only 
Thoughts. They do not pretend to solve 
any problems, to lay down any laws, to 
decide out of one life's experience and 
within the limits of one volume, any of 
those great questions which have puzzled 
generations, and will probably puzzle gene- 
rations more. They lift the banner of no 
party ; and assert the opinions of no clique. 
They do not even attempt an originality, 


whicli, in treating of a subject like the pre- 
sent, would be either dangerous or impos- 

In this book, therefore, many women will 
find simply the expression of what they 
have themselves, consciously or uncon- 
sciously, oftentimes thought ; and the more 
deeply, perhaps, because it has never 
come to the surface in words or writing. 
Those w^ho do the most, often talk — 
sometimes think — the least: yet thinkers, 
talkers, and doers, being in earnest, 
achieve their appointed end. The thinkers 
put wisdom into the mouth of the 
speakers, and both strive together to ani- 
mate and counsel the doers. Thus all 
work harmoniously together; and verily 

" Was never good work wrought, 
Without beginning of good thought." 


In the motto which I have chosen for 
its title-page, Kes at once the purpose 
and preface of this my book. Had it not 
been planned and completed, honestly, 
carefully, solemnly, even fearfully, with a 
keen sense of all it might do, or leave 
undone ; and did not I believe it to be 
in some degree a good book, likely to 
effect some good, I would never have 
written or published it. How much good 
it may do, or how Httle, is not mine 
either to know, to speculate, or to decide. 

I have written it, I hope, as humbly 
as conscientiously; and thus I leave it. 























S0nutl]ing t0 Jrjof* 

I PREMISE that these thoughts do not concern 
married wonien_, for whom there are always plenty 
to think, and who have generally quite enough 
to think of for themselves and those belong- 
ing to them. They have cast their lot for 
good or ill, have realised in greater or less 
degree the natural destiny of our sex. They 
must find out its comforts, cares, and responsi- 
bilities, and make the best of all. It is the 


single women, belonging to those supeniume- 
rary ranks, which, political economists tell us, 
are yearly increasing, who most need thinking 

First, in their early estate, when they have so 
much in their possession — youth, bloom, and 
health giving them that temporary influence over 
the other sex which may result, and is meant to 
result, in a permanent one. Secondly, when this 
sovereignty is passing away, the chance of mar- 
riage lessening, or wholly ended, or voluntarily 
set aside, and the individual making up her mind 
to that which, respect for Grandfather Adam 
and Grandmother Eve must compel us to admit, 
is an unnatural condition of being. 

Why this undue proportion of single women 
should almost always result from over- civilisa- 
tion, and whether, since society^s advance is 
usually indicated by the advance, morally and 
intellectually, of its women — this progress, by 
raising women^s ideal standa/d of the '' holy es- 


tate/' will not necessarily cause a decline in tlie 
very unholy estate which it is most frequently 
made — are questions too wide to be entered upon 
here. We have only to deal with facts — with a 
certain acknowledged state of things, perhaps in- 
capable of remedy, but by no means incapable 
of amelioration. 

But, granted these facts, and leaving to wiser 
heads the explanation of them — if indeed there 
be any — it seems advisable, or at least allowable, 
that any woman who has thought a good deal 
about the matter, should not fear to express in 
word — or deed, which is better, — any conclu- 
sions, which out of her own observation and expe- 
rience she may have arrived at. And looking 
around upon the middle classes, which form the 
staple stock of the community, it appears to me 
that the chief canker at the root of women's 
lives is the want of something to do. 

Herein I refer, as this chapter must be under- 
stood especially to refer, not to those whom ill or 


good fortune — quenj, is it not often the latter? 
— has forced to earn their bread ; but "to young 
ladies," who have never been brought up to do 
anything. Tom, Dick, and Harry, their brothers, 
has each had it knocked into him from school- 
days that he is to do something, to be somebody. 
Counting-house, shop, or college, afford him a 
clear future on which to concentrate all his 
energies and aims. He has got the grand pabulum 
of the human soul — occupation. If any inherent 
want in his character, any unlucky combination 
of circumstances, nullifies this, what a poor crea- 
ture the man becomes ! — what a dawdling, moping, 
sitting-over-the-fire, thumb-twiddling, lazy, ill- 
tempered animal ! And why ? " Oh, poor fellow ! 
' tis because he has got nothing to do ! " 

Yet this is precisely the condition of women 
for a third, a half, often the whole of their ex- 

That Providence ordained it so — made men to 
>vork, and women to be idle — is a doctrine that 


few will be bold enough to assert openly. Tacitly 
they do, when they preach up lovely uselessness, 
fascinating frivolity, delicious helplessness — all 
those polite impertinences and poetical degrada- 
tions to which the foolish, lazy, or selfish of our 
sex are prone to incline an ear, but which any 
woman of common sense must repudiate as 
insulting not only her womanhood but her 

Equally blasphemous, and perhaps even more 
harmful, is the outcry about " the equality of the 
sexes ; " the frantic attempt to force women, many 
of whom are either ignorant of or unequal 
for their own duties — into the position and 
duties of men. A pretty state of matters would 
ensue ! Who that ever listened for two hours to 
the verbose confused inanities of a ladies' com- 
mittee, would immediately go and give his vote 
for a female House of Commons ? or who, on the 
receipt of a lady's letter of business — I speak of 
the average — would henceforth desire to have our 


courts of justice stocked witli matronly lawyers, 
and our colleges thronged by 

** Sweet girl-graduates with their golden hair?" 

As for finance, in its various branches — if you 
pause to consider the extreme difficulty there 
always is in balancing Mrs. Smithes housekeep- 
ing-book, or Miss Smith's quarterly allowance, I 
think, my dear Paternal Smith, you need not be 
much afraid lest this loud acclaim for " women's 
rights'^ should ever end in pushing you from 
your stools, in counting-house, college, or else- 

No ; eqnulity of the sexes is not in the nature 
of things. ].\Ian and woman were made for, and 
not like one another. One only ^^ right ^' we 
have to assert in common with mankind — and 
that is as much in our own hands as theirs — 
the right of having something to do. 

That both sexes were meant to labour, one 
" by the sweat of his brow^^' the other " in sor- 


row to bring forth" — and bring up — ^^ children" 
— cannot, I fancy, be questioned. Nor, when 
the gradual changes of the civilised world, or 
some special destiny, chosen or compelled, have 
prevented that first, highest, and in earlier times 
almost universal lot, does this accidental fate ic 
any way abrogate the necessity, moral, physical, 
and mental, for a woman to have occupation in 
other forms. 

But how few parents ever consider this ? Tom, 
Dick, and Harry, aforesaid, leave school and 
plunge into life ; '' the girls " likewise finish their 
education, come home, and stay at home. That 
is enough. Nobody thinks it needful to waste 
a care upon them. Bless them, pretty dears, 
how sweet they are ! papa's nosegay of beauty to 
adorn his drawing-room. He delights to give 
them all they can desire — clothes, amusements, 
society ; he and mamma together take every do- 
mestic care off their hands ; they have abundance 
of time and nothing to occupy it; plenty of 


monevj and little use for it ; pleasure wittout end, 
but not one definite object of interest or employ- 
ment; flatteiy and flummery enough, but no 
solid food whatever to satisfy mind or heart — 
if they happen to possess either — at the very 
emptiest and most craving season of both. They 
have literally nothing whatever to do, except to 
fall in love ; which they accordingly do, the most 
of them, as fast as ever they can. 

" ]\Iany think they are in love, when in fact 
they are only idle'^ — is one of the truest sayings 
of that great wise bore, Imlac, in Rasselas, and 
it has been proved by many a shipwrecked life, 
of girls especially. This "falling in love '^ being 
usually a mere delusion of the fancy, and not the 
real thing at all, the object is generally unattain- 
able or unworthy. Papa is displeased, mamma 
somewhat shocked and scandalised; it is a "foolish 
affair," and no matrimonial results ensue. There 
only ensues — what ? 

A long, dreary season, of pain, real or ima- 


ginary, yet not the less real because it is 
imaginary ; of anger and mortification^ of impo- 
tent struggle — against unjust parents^ the girl 
believes^ or, if romantically inclined, against 
cruel destiny. Gradually this mood wears out ; 
she learns to regard " love " as folly, and turns 
her whole hope and aim to — matrimony ! Matri- 
mony in the abstract ; not the man, but any man 
— any person who will snatch her out of the 
dulness of her life, and give her something really 
to live for, something to fill up the hopeless 
blank of idleness into which her days are 
gradually sinking. 

Well, the man may come, or he may not. If 
the latter melancholy result occurs, the poor girl 
passes into her third stage of young-ladyhood, 
fritters or mopes away her existence, sullenly 
bears it, or dashes herself blindfold against its 
restrictions; is unhappy, and makes her family 
unhappy; perhaps herself cruelly conscious of 
all this, yet unable to find the true root of bitter- 


ness in her heart : not knowing exactly what she 
wants, yet aware of a morbid^ perpetual want of 
something. What is it ? 

Alas ! the boys only have had the benefit of 
that well-known juvenile apophthegm, that 

*' Satan finds some mischief still 
For idle hands to do :" 

it has never crossed the parents' minds that the 
rhyme could apply to the delicate digital extre- 
mities of the daughters. 

And so their whole energies are devoted to the 
massacre of old Time. They prick him to death 
with crochet and embroidery needles ; strum him 
deaf wdth piano and harp playing — not music; 
cut him up with morning-visitors, or leave his 
carcass in ten-minute parcels at every ^^ friend's'^ 
house they can think of. Finally, they dance 
him defunct at all soil of unnatural hours; and 
then, rejoicing in the excellent excuse, smother 
him in sleep for a third of the following day. 


Tims lie dies, a slow, inoffensive, perfectly natural 
death ; and they will never recognise his murder 
till, on the confines of this world, or from the 
unknowTi shores of the next, the question meets 
them : " What have you done with Time ? " — 
Time, the only mortal gift bestowed equally on 
eveiy living soul, and, excepting the soul, the 
only mortal loss which is totally irretrievable. 

Yet this great sin, this irredeemable loss, in 
many women arises from pure ignorance. ]\Ien 
are taught as a matter of business to recognise 
the value of time, to apportion and employ it : 
women rarely or never. The most of them have 
no definite appreciation of the article as a tan- 
gible divisible commodity at all. They would 
laugh at a mantua-maker who cut up a dress- 
length into trimmings, and then expected to 
make out of two yards of silk a full skirt. Yet 
that the same laws of proportion should ap])ly 
to time and its measurements — that you cannot 
dawdle away a whole forenoon, and then attempt 


to cram into the afternoon the entire business of 
the day — that every minute's unpunctuality con- 
stitutes a debt or a theft (lucky, indeed, if you 
yourself are the only party robbed or made cre- 
ditor thereof !) : these slight facts rarely seem to 
cross the feminine imasrination. 


It is not their fault ; they have never been 
"accustomed to business/^ They hear that 
with men "time is money;" but it never strikes 
them that the same commodity, equally theirs, is 
to them not money, perhaps, but life — life in 
its highest form and noblest uses — life bestowed 
upon every human being, distinctly and individ- 
ually, without reference to any other being, and 
for which eveiy one of us, married or unmarried, 
woman as well as man, will assuredly be held ac- 
countable before God. 

My young-lady friends, of from seventeen 
upwards, your time, and the use of it, is as essen- 
tial to you as to any father or brother of you all. 
Yoa are accountable for it just as much as he 


is. If you waste it^ you waste not only your sub- 
stance, but your very souls — not that which is 
your own, but your Maker's. 

Ay, there the core of the matter lies. From 
the hour that honest Adam and Eve were put 
into the garden, not — as I once heard some 
sensible preacher observe — "not to be idle in it, 
but to dress it and to keep it,^^ the Father of 
all has never put one man or one woman into 
this world without giving each something to do 
there, in it and for it : some visible, tangible 
work, to be left behind them when they die. 

Young ladies, 'tis worth a grave thought — 
what, if called away at eighteen, twenty, or thirty, 
the most of you would leave behind you when 
you die ? Much embroidery, doubtless ; various 
pleasant, kindly, illegible letters ; a moderate 
store of good deeds; and a cart-load of good 
intentions. Nothing else — save your name on 
a tombstone, or lingering for a few more years 
in family or friendly memory. " Poor dear 


! what a nice lively girl she was!" For 

any benefit accruing through you to your gene- 
ration, you might as well never have lived 
at all. 

But ^''what am I to do with my life?" as 
once asked me one girl out of the numbers who 
begin to feel aware that, whether marrying or 
not, each possesses an individual life, to spend, 
to use, or to lose. And herein lies the momentous 

The diff'erence between man's vocation and 
woman's seems naturally to be this — one is 
abroad, the other at home : one external, the 
other internal : one active, the other passive. 
He has to go and seek out his path ; hers usually 
lies close under her feet. Yet each is as distinct, 
as honourable, as difficult ; and whatever custom 
may urge to the contrary — if the life is meant 
to be a worthy or a happy one — each must re- 
solutely and unshrinkingly be trod. But — how ? 

A definite answer to this question is simply 


impossible. So diverse are characters, tastes, 
capabilities, and circumstances, tliat to lay down 
a distinct line of occupation for any six women 
of one^s own acquaintance, would be the merest 

" Herein the pat'ent must minister to herself." 

To few is the choice so easy, the field of duty 
so wide, that she need puzzle very long over 
what she ought to do. Generally — and this 
is the best and safest guide — she will find 
her work lying very near at hand : some de- 
sultory tastes to condense into regular studies, 
some faulty household quietly to remodel, some 
child to teach, or parent to watch over. All 
these being needless or unattainable, she may 
extend her service out of the home into the 
world, which perhaps never at any time so mucli 
needed the help of us women. And hardly one 
of its charities and duties can be done so 
thoroughly as by a wise and tender woman's hand. 


Here occurs another of those plain rules which 
are the only guidance possible in the matter — a 
Bible rule, too — " Whatsoever thy hand findeth 
to do, do it with thy might .'^ Question it not, 
philosophise not over it — do it! — only do it! 
Thoroughly and completely, never satisfied with 
less than perfectness. Be it ever so great or 
so small, from the founding of a village-school 
to the making of a collar — do it "with thy 
might j^'' and never lay it aside till it is done. 

Each day's account ought to leave this balance 
— of something done. Something beyond mere 
pleasure, one's own or another's — though both 
are good and sweet in their way. Let the 
superstructure of life be enjoyment, but let its 
foundation be in solid work — daily, regular, 
conscientious work : in its essence and results 
as distinct as any ''business" of men. What 
they expend for wealth and ambition, shall not 
we offer for duty and love — the love of our 
fellow-creatures, or, far higher, the love of God ? 


" Labour is worship/^ says the proverb : also 
— nav, necessarily so — labour is happiness. 
Only let us turn from the dreaiy^ colourless 
lives of the women^ old and young, who have 
nothing to do, to those of their sisters who are 
always busy doing something ; who, believing 
and accepting the universal law, that pleasure 
is the mere accident of our being, and wcrk 
its natural and most holy necessity, have set 
themselves steadily to seek out and fulfil theirs. 

These are they who are little spoken of in 
the world at large. I do not include among 
them those whose labour should spring from 
an irresistible impulse, and become an absolute 
vocation, or it is not worth following at all — 
namely, the professional women, writers, painters, 
musicians, and the like. I mean those women 
who lead active, intelligent, industrious lives : 
lives complete in themselves, and therefore not 
giving half the trouble to their friends th-it 
the idle and foolish virgins do — no, not even 



in love-affairs. If love comes to them accident- 
ally, (or rather providentially,) and happily, so 
much the better ! — they will not make the 
worse wives for having been busy maidens. 
But the "tender passion^' is not to them the 
one grand necessity that it is to aimless lives; 
they are in no haste to wed : their time is 
duly filled up ; and if never married, still 
the habitual faculty of usefulness gives them 
in themselves and with others that obvious value, 
that fixed standing in society, which will for 
ever prevent their being drifted away, like most 
old maids, down the current of the new gene- 
ration, even as dead ]May-flies down a stream. 
They have made for themselves a place in 
the world : the harsh, practical, yet not ill- 
meaning world, where all find their level soon 
or late, and where a frivolous young maid sunk 
into a helpless old one, can no more expect 
to keep her pristine position than a last yearns 
leaf to flutter upon a spring bough. But an 


old maid who deserves well of this same world. 

by her ceaseless work therein, having won her 
position, keeps it to the end. 

Not an ill position either, or unkindly; often 
higher and more honourable than that of many 
a mother of ten sons. In households, where 
'^Auntie" is the universal referee, nurse, play- 
mate, comforter, and counsellor : in society, 
where "that nice Miss So-and-so," though nei- 
ther clever, handsome, nor young, is yet such a 
person as can neither be omitted nor overlooked: 
in charitable works, where she is " such a prac- 
tical body — always knows exactly what to do, 
and how to do it : " or perhaps, in her own 
house, solitary indeed, as every single woman^s 
home must be, yet neither dull nor unhappy in 
itself, and the nucleus of cheerfulness aud hap- 
piness to many another home besides. 

She has not married. Under Heaven, her 
home, her life, her lot, are all of her own making. 
Bitter or sweet they may have been — it is not 


ours to meddle with them, but we can any- 
day see their results. Wide or narrow as her 
circle of influence appears, she has exercised 
her power to the uttermost, and for good. 
Whether great or small her talents, she has 
not let one of them rust for want of use. What- 
ever the current of her existence may have been, 
and in whatever circumstances it has placed her, 
she has voluntarily wasted no portion of it — 
not a year, not a month, not a day. 

Published or unpublished, this woman^s life 
is a goodly chronicle, the title-page of w^hich 
you may read in her quiet countenance; her 
manner, settled, cheerful, and at ease; her un- 
failing interest in all things and all people. 
You will rarely find she thinks much about 
herself; she has never had time for it. And 
this her life-chronicle, which, out of its very 
fulness, has taught her that the more one 
does, the more one finds to do — she will never 
flourish in your face, or the face of Heaven, 


as something uncommonly virtuous and extra- 
ordinary. She knows that, after all, she has 
simply done what it was her duty to do. 

But — and when her place is vacant on earth, 
this will be said of her assuredly, both here 
and Otherwhere — " She hath done what she 



''If you want a thing done, go yourself; if 
not, send/^ 

This pithy axiom, of which most men know 
the full value, is by no means so well appreci- 
ated by women. One of the very last things 
we learn, often through a course of miserable 
helplessness, heart-burnings, difficulties, contu- 
melies, and pain, is the lesson, taught to boys 
from their school-days, of self-dependence. 

Its opposite, either plainly or impliedly, has 
been preached to us all our lives. ^'^An inde- 
pendent young lady" — "a woman who can 
take care of herself" — and such -like phrases, 
have become tacitly suggestive of hoydenish- 


ness, coarseness, strong-mindedness, down to the 
lowest depth of bloomerism, cigarette-smoking, 
and talking slang. 

And there are many good reasons, ingrained 
in the very tenderest core of woman^s nature, 
why this should be. We are "the weaker 
vess(d^^ — whether acknowledging it or not, most 
of us feel this : it becomes man^s duty and de- 
light to show us honour accordingly. And this 
honour, dear as it may be to him to give, is 
still dearer to us to receive. 

Dependence is in itself an easy and pleasant 
thing : dependence upon one we love being per- 
haps the very sweetest thing in the world. To 
resign one's self totally and contentedly into the 
hands of another; to have no longer any need 
of asserting one's rights or one's personality, 
knowing that both are as precious to that other 
as they ever were to ourselves; to cease taking 
thought about one's self at all, and rest safe, 
at ease, assured that in great things and small we 


shall be guided and clierislied, guarded and 
helped — in fact^ thoroughly ^^ taken care of" — 
how delicious is all this ! So delicious, that it 
seems granted to very few of us, and to fewer 
still as a permanent condition of being. 

AVere it our ordinary lot, were eveiy woman 
living to have either father, brother, or husband, 
to watch over and protect her, then, indeed, 
the harsh but salutaiy doctrine of self-depend- 
ence need never be heard of. But it is not so. 
In spite of the pretty ideals of poets, the 
easy taken - for - granted truths of old-fashioned 
educators of female youth, this fact remains 
patent to any person of common sense and ex- 
perience, that in the present day, whether volun- 
tarily or not, one-half of our women are obliged 
to take care of themselves — obliged to look solely 
to themselves for maintenance, position, occupa- 
tion, amusement, reputation, life. 

Of course I refer to the large class for which 
these Thoughts are meant — the single women; 



who, while most needing the exercise of self-de- 
pendence, are usually the veiy last in w^hom it is 
inculcated, or even permitted. From babyhood 
they are given to understand that helplessness is 
feminine and beautiful; helpfulness, — except in 
certain received forms of manifestation — un- 
womanly and ugly. The boys may do a thousand 
things which are '' not proper for little girls.^"* 

And herein, I think, lies the great mistake at 
the root of most women^s education, that the law 
of their existence is held to be, not Right, but 
Propriety; a certain received notion of woman- 
hood, which has descended from certain excellent 
great-grandmothers, admirably suited for some 
sorts of their descendants, but totally ignoring 
the fact that each sex is composed of indivi- 
duals, differing in character almost as much 
from one another as from the opposite sex. For 
do we not continually find womanish men and 
masculine women ? and some of the finest types 
of character we have know^n among both sexes. 


are they not often those who combine the quali- 
ties of both ? Therefore,, there must be somewhere 
a standard of abstract right, including manhood 
and womanhood, and yet superior to either. 
One of the first of its common laws, or common 
duties, is this of self-dependence. 

We women are, no less than men, each of us a 
distinct existence. In two out of the three great 
facts of our life we are certainly independent 
agents, and all our life long we are accountable 
only, in the highest sense, to our own souls, and 
the Maker of them. Is it natural, is it right 
even, that we should be expected — and be ready 
enough, too, for it is much the easiest way — to 
hang our consciences, duties, actions, opinions, 
upon some one else — some individual, or some 
aggregate of individuals yclept Society ? Is this 
Society to draw up a code of regulations as to 
what is proper for us to do, and what not ? 
Which latter is supposed to be done for us ; if 
not done, or there happens to be no one to do 


it, is it to be left undone ? Alack, most fre- 
quently, whether or not it ought to be, it is ! 

Every one^s experience may furnish dozens of 
cases of poor women suddenly thrown adrift — 
widows with families, orphan girls, reduced gen- 
tlewomen — clinging helplessly to every male 
relative or friend they have, year after year, sink- 
ing deeper in poverty or debt, eating the bitter 
bread of charity, or compelled to bow an honest 
pride to the cruellest humiliations, eveiy one of 
which might have been spared them by the early 
practice of self-dependence. 

I once heard a lady say — a tenderly-reared and 
tender-hearted woman — that if her riches made 
themselves wings, as in these times riches will, 
she did not know anything in the world that she 
could turn her hand to, to keep herself from 
starving. A more pitiable, and, in some sense, 
humbling confession, could hardly have been 
made; yet it is that not of hundreds, but of 
thousands, in England. 


Sometimes exceptions arise : liere is one : — 
Two young women, well educated and refined, 
were left orphans, their father dying just when 
his business promised to realise a handsome pro- 
vision for his family. It was essentially a man's 
business — in many points of view", decidedly an 
unpleasant one. Of course friends thought " the 
girls " must give it up, go out as governesses, 
depend on relatives, or live in what genteel 
poverty the sale of the good-will might allow. 
But the "girls" were wiser. They argued : "If we 
had been boys, it would have been all right ; we 
should have carried on the business, and provided 
for our mother and the whole family. Being 
women, we ^11 try it still. It is nothing wrong; 
it is simply disagreeable. It needs common sense, 
activity, diligence, and self-dependence. We 
have all these; and what we have not, we will 
leam." So these sensible and well-educated 
young women laid aside their pretty useless- 
ness and pleasant idleness, and set to work. 


Happily, the trade was one that required no 
personal publicity; but they had to keep the 
books, manage the stock, choose and superintend 
fit agents — to do things difficult, not to say dis- 
tasteful, to most women, and resign enjoyments 
that, to women of their refinement, must have 
cost daily self-denial. Yet they did it ; they filled 
their father's place, sustained their delicate 
mother in ease and luxury, never once compro- 
mising their womanhood by their work, but 
rather ennobling the work by their doing of it. 
Another case — difi'erent, and yet alike. A 
young girl, an elder sister, had to receive for 
step-mother a woman who ought never to have 
been any honest man's wife. Not waiting to 
be turned out of her father's house, she did a 
most daring and '^^ improper" thing — she left it, 
taking with her the brothers and sisters, whom by 
this means only she believed she could save from 
harm. She settled them in a London lodging, and 
worked for them as a daily governess. " Heaven 


helps those who help themselves." Trom that day 
this girl never was dependent upon any human 
being; while during a long life she has helped 
and protected more than I could count — pupils 
and pupils' children, friends and their children, 
besides brothers and sisters-in-law, nephews and 
nieces, down to the slenderest tie of blood, or 
even mere strangers. And yet she has never 
been anything but a poor governess, always in- 
dependent, always able to assist others — because 
she never was and never will be indebted to 
any one, except for love while she lives, and 
for a grave when she dies. May she long possess 
the one and want the other ! 

And herein is answered the " cwz bono?^' of 
self-dependence, that its advantages end not with 
the original possessor. In this much- suffering 
world, a woman who can take care of herself 
can always take care of other people. She not 
only ceases to be an unprotected female, a nui- 
sance and a drag upon society, but her working- 


value therein is doubled and trebled, and society 
respects her accordingly. Even her kindly male 
friends, no longer afraid that when the charm to 
their vanity of " being of use to a lady ^^ has died 
out, they shall be saddled with a perpetual 
claimant for all manner of advice and assistance ; 
the hrst not always followed, and the second 
often accepted without gratitude — even they 
yield an involuntary consideration to a lady 
who gives them no more trouble than she can 
avoid, and is always capable of thinking and 
acting for herself, so far as the natural restric- 
tions and decorums of her sex allow. True, these 
have their limits, which it would be folly, if 
not worse, for her to attempt to pass ; but a 
certain fine instinct, which, we flatter ourselves, 
is native to us women, will generally indicate 
the division between brave self-reliance and bold 

Perhaps the line is most easily drawn, as in 
most difficulties, at that point where duty ends 


and pleasure begins. Thus, we should respect one 
who, on a mission of mercy or necessity, went 
through the lowest portions of St. Giles^ or the 
Gallowgate ; we should be rather disgusted if she 
did it for mere amusement or bravado. All honour 
to the poor sempstress or governess who traverses 
London streets alone, at all hours of day or 
night, unguarded except by her own modesty ; 
but the strong-minded female who would ven- 
ture on a solitary expedition to investigate the 
humours of Cremorne Gardens or Greenwich 
fair, though perfectly "respectable,^' would be 
an exceedingly condemnable sort of personage. 
There are many things at which, as mere plea- 
sures, a woman has a right to hesitate; there 
is no single duty, whether or not it lies in the 
ordinary line of her sex, from which she ought 
to shrink, if it be plainly set before her. 

Those who are the strongest advocates for 
the passive character of our sex, its claims, 
proprieties, and restrictions, are, I have often 


noticed, if tlie most sensitive, not always the 
justest or most generous. I have seen ladies, 
no longer either young or pretty, shocked at 
the idea of traversing a street^s length at night, 
yet never hesitate at being " fetched " by some 
female servant, who was both young and pretty, 
and to whom the danger of the expedition, or 
of the late return alone, was by far the greater 
of the two. I have known anxious mothers, who 
would not for w^orlds be guilty of the indecorum 
of sending their daughters unchaperoned to the 
theatre or a ball — and very right, too! — yet 
send out some other woman^s young daughter, 
at eleven p. m., to the stand for a cab, or to 
the public-house for a supply for beer. It never 
strikes them that the doctrine of female depend* 
ence extends beyond themselves, whom it suits so 
easily, and to whom it saves so much trouble; 
that either every woman, be she servant or 
mistress, sempstress or fine lady, should receive 
the " protection '^ suitable to her degree ; or that 



each ouglit to be educated into equal self-depend- 
ence. Let usj at leasts hold the balance of justice 
even^, nor allow an over- consideration for the deli- 
cacy of one woman to trench on the rights, con- 
veniences, and honest feelings of another. 

We must help ourselves. In this curious phase 
of social history, when marriage is apparently 
ceasing to become the common lot, and a happy 
marriage the most uncommon lot of all, we 
must educate our maidens into what is far better 
than any blind clamour for ill-defined "rights'^ — 
into what ought always to be the foundation of 
rights — duties. And there is one, the silent 
practice of which will secure to them almost 
every right they can fairly need — the duty of self- 
dependence. Not after any Amazonian fashion; 
no mutilating of fair womanhood in order to 
assume the unnatural armour of men ; but 
simply by the full exercise of eveiy faculty, 
physical, moral, and intellectual, with which 
Heaven has endowed us all, severally and col- 


lectlvely, in different degrees; allowing no one 
to rust or lie idle_, merely because their owner 
is a woman. And^ above all^ let us lay tbe foun- 
dation of all real womanliness by teaching our 
girls from their cradle that the priceless pearl 
of decorous beauty, chastity of mind as well as 
body, exists in themselves alone; that a single- 
hearted and pure-minded woman may go through 
the world, like Spenser's Una, suffering, indeed, 
but never defenceless; foot-sore and smirched, 
but never tainted; exposed, doubtless, to many 
trials, yet never either degraded or humiliated, 
unless by her own act she humiliates herself. 

For heaven's sake — for the sake of "woman- 
hede,'' the most heavenly thing next angelhood, 
(as men tell us when they are courting us, and 
which it depends upon ourselves to make them 
believe in all their lives) — young girls, trust 
yourselves ; rely on yourselves ! Be assured that 
no outward circumstances will harm you while 
you keep the jeA'cl of purity in your boscnij 


and are ever ready with the steadfast^ clean 
right hand, of which, till you use it, you never 
know the strength, though it be only a woman's 

Fear not the world : it is often juster to us 
than we are to ourselves. If in its harsh jost- 
lings the "weaker goes to the walP' — as so 
many allege is sure to happen to a woman — you 
will almost always find that this is not merely 
because of her sex, but from some inherent quali- 
ties in herself, which, existing either in woman 
or man, would produce just the same result, 
pitiful and blameable, but usually more pitiful 
than blameable. The world is hard enough, for 
two-thirds of it are struggling for the dear life 
— " each for himself, and de'il tak the hind- 
most ;'' but it has a rough sense of moral justice 
after all. And whosoever denies that, spite of all 
hindi-ances from individual wickedness, the right 
shall not ultimately prevail, impugns not alone 
human justice, but the justice of God. 


The age of chivalry, with all its benefits and 
harmfulnesses, is gone by, for us women. We 
cannot now have men for our knights-errant, ex- 
pending blood and life for our sake, while we 
have nothing to do but sit idle on balconies, 
and drop flowers on half-dead victors at tilt 
and tourney. Nor, on the other hand, arc we 
dressed-up dolls, pretty playthings, to be fought 
and scrambled for — petted, caressed, or flung 
out of window, as our several lords and masters 
may please. Life is much more equally divided 
between us and them. We are neither goddesses 
nor slaves; they are neither heroes nor semi- 
demons : we just plod on together, men and 
women alike, on the same road, where daily 
experience illustrates Hudibras's keen truth, 

** The value of a thing 
Is just as much as it will bring." 

And our value is — exactly what we choose to 
make it. 


Perhaps at no age since Eve^s were women 
rated so exclusively at tlieir own personal worth, 
apart from poetic flattery or tyrannical depre- 
ciation; at no time in the world^s history 
judged so entirely by their individual merits, 
and respected according to the respect which 
ihey earn for themselves. And shall we value 
ourselves so meanly as to consider this un- 
just ? Shall we not rather accept our posi- 
tion, difficult indeed, and requiring from us 
more than the world ever required before, 
but from its very difficulty rendered the more 
honourable ? 

Let us not be afraid of men; for that, I 
suppose, lies at the root of all these amiable 
hesitations. " Gentlemen don^t like such and 
such things.'" ^' Gentlemen fancy so and so 
unfeminine.^^ My dear little foolish cowards, 
do you think a man — a good man, in any re- 
lation of life, ever loves a woman the more for 
reverencing her the less ? or likes her better for 


transferring all her burdens to his shoulders, 
and pinning her conscience to his sleeve? Or, 
even supposing he did like it, is a woman's divi- 
nity to be man — or God ? 

And here, piercing to the Foundation of all 
truth — I think we may find the truth concern- 
ing self-dependence, which is only real and only 
valuable when its root is not in self at all ; when 
its strength is drawn not from man, but from 
that Higher and Diviner Source whence every 
individual soul proceeds, and to which alone it 
is accountable. As soon as any woman, old or 
young, once feels that, not as a vague sentimental 
belief, but as a tangible, practical law of life, all 
weakness ends, all doubt departs : she recognises 
the glory, honour, and beauty of her existence; 
she is no longer afraid of its pains; she desires 
not to shift one atom of its responsibilities to 
another. She is content to take it just as it 
is, from the hands of the All-Father; her only 
care being so to fulfil it, that while the world 


at large may recognise and profit by her self- 
dependence, she herself, knowing that the 
utmost strength lies in the deepest humility, 
recognises, solely and above all, her dependence 
upon God. 



Granted the necessity of sometliing to do_, and 
the self-dependence required for its achievement, 
we may go on to the very obvious question — 
what is a woman to do? 

A qriestion more easily asked than answered; 
and the numerous replies to which, now current 
in book, pamphlet, newspaper, and review, sug- 
gesting everything possible and impossible, from 
compulsoiy wifehood in Australia to voluntary 
watchmaking at home, do at present rather con- 
fuse the matter than othenvise. No doubt, out 
of these " many words,^^ which " darken speech,'^ 
some plain word or two will one day take shape 


in action, so as to evolve a practical good. In 
the meantime, it does no harm to have the 
muddy pond stirred up a little ; any disturbance 
is better than stagnation. 

These Thoughts — hovrever desultory and un- 
satisfactory, seeing the great need there is for 
deeds rather than words — are those of a '^ work- 
ing^' woman, who has been such all her life, 
having opportunities of comparing the experi- 
ence of other working women with her own : she, 
therefore, at least escapes the folly of talking 
of what she knows nothing about. 

Female professions, as distinct from what may 
be termed female handicrafts, which merit sepa- 
rate classification and discussion, may, I think, be 
thus divided : the instruction of youth ; paint- 
ing or art; literature ; and the vocation of public 
entertainment — including actresses, singers, mu- 
sicians, and the like. 

The first of these, being a calling universally 
wanted, and the easiest in which to win, at all 


events, daily bread, is tlie great chasm into 
wLich the helpless and penniless of our sex 
generally plunge ; and this indiscriminate Quintus 
Curtiusism, so far from filling up the gulf, 
widens it eveiy hour. It must be so, while 
young women of all classes and all degrees of 
capability rush into governessing, as many young 
men enter the church, — because they think it a 
^' respectable^^ profession to get on in, and are 
fit for nothing else. Thus the most important 
of ours, and the highest of all men^s vocations, 
are both degraded — in so far as they can be 
degraded — by the unworthiness and incom- 
petency of their professors. 

If, in the most solemn sense, not one woman 
in five thousand is fit to be a mother, we may 
safely say that not two out of that number are 
fit to be governesses. Consider all that the office 
implies : very many of a mother's duties, with 
the addition of considerable mental attainments, 
firmness of character, good sense, good temper, 


good breeding; patience, gentleness, loving-kind- 
ness. In short, every quality that goes to make 
a perfect woman, is required of her who pre- 
sumes to undertake the education of one single 
little child. 

Does any one pause to reflect what a '^little 
child" is ? Not sentimentally, as a creature to 
be philosophised upon, painted and poetised ; nor 
selfishly, as a kis sable, scoldable, sugar-plum- 
feedable plaything ; but as a human soul and 
body, to be moulded, instructed, and influenced, 
in order that it in its turn may mould, instruct, 
and influence unborn generations. And yet, in 
face of this awful responsibility, wherein each 
deed and word of hers may bear fruit, good or 
ill, to indefinite ages, does nearly every educated 
gentlewoman thrown upon her own resources, 
nearly eveiy half-educated "young person" who 
wishes by that means to step out of her own 
sphere into the one above it^ enter upon the 
vocation of a governess. 


Whetlier it really is her vocation^ she never 
stops to think ; and yet, perhaps,, in no calling 
is a personal bias more indispensable. For know- 
ledge, and the power of imparting it intelligibly, 
are two distinct and often opposite qualities ; 
the best student by no means necessarily makes 
the best teacher : nay, when both faculties are 
combined, they are sometimes neutralised by 
some fault of disposition, such as want of temper 
or of will. And allowing all these, granting 
every possible intellectual and practical com- 
petency, there remams still doubtful the moral 
influence, which, according to the source from 
which it springs, may ennoble or corrupt a child 
for life. 

All these are facts so trite and so patent, 
that one would almost feel it superfluous to state 
them, did we not see how utterly they are ignored 
day by day by even sensible people ; how parents 
go on lavishing expense on their house, dress, 
and entertainments — everything but the edu- 


cation of their cliildren; sending their boys to 
clieap boarding-scliools^ and engaging for their 
daughters governesses at 20/. a year, or daily 
tuition at sixpence an hour; and how, as a 
natural result, thousands of incapable girls, and 
ill-informed, unscrupulous women, go on profess- 
ing to teach everything under the sun, adding 
lie upon lie, and meanness upon meanness — 
often through no voluntaiy wickedness, but sheer 
helplessness, because they must either do that 
or starve ! 

Yet, all the while we expect our rising gene- 
ration to turn out perfection ; instead of which 
we find it — what? 

I do solemnly aver, having seen more than 
one generation of young girls grow up into 
womanhood — that the fairest and best specimens 
of our sex that I have ever known have been 
among those who have never gone to school, or 
scarcely ever had a regular governess. 

Surely such a fact as this — I put it to general 


experience^ wlietlier it is not a fact ? — indicates 
some great flaw in tlie canying out of this large 
branch of women^s work. How is it to be re- 
medied ? I believe^ like all reformations^ it must 
begin at the root — with the governesses them- 

Unless a woman has a decided pleasure and 
facility in teaching_, an honest knowledge of 
everything she professes to impart^ a liking for 
children^ and above all^ a strong moral sense 
of her responsibility towards them_, for her to 
attempt to enrol herself in the scholastic order 
is absolute profanation. Better turn shopwoman^ 
needlewoman, lady^s - maid — even become a 
decent housemaid, and learn how to sweep a 
floor, than behe her own soul, and peril many 
other souls, by entering upon what is, or ought 
to be, a female ^'' ministry,^^ unconsecrated for, 
and incapable of the work. 

" But," say they, " work we must have. 
Competition is so great, that if we did not 


profess to do everything, it would be sup- 
posed we could do nothing : and so we should 

Yet, what is competition ? A number of 
people attempting to do what most of them can 
only half do, and some cannot do at all — thereby 
" cutting one another's throats," as the saying 
is, so long as their incapacity is concealed ; when 
it is found out, starving. There may be excep- 
tions from exceeding misfortune and the like — 
but in the long run, I believe it will be found 
that few women, really competent to what they 
undertake, be it small or great, starve for want 
of work to do. So, in this case, no influence is 
so deeply felt in a house, or so anxiously re- 
tained, if only from self-interest, as the influence 
of a good governess over the children j among 
the innumerable throng of teachers, there is 
nothing more difficult to find — or more valuable 
when found, to judge by the high terms asked 
and obtained by many ^professors — than a lady 


who can teacli only a single thing, solidly, 
conscientiously, and well. 

In this, as in most social questions, where to 
theorise is easy and to practise very difficult, it 
-v^-ill often be found that the silent undermining 
of an evil is safer than the loud outciy against it. 
If every governess, so far as her power extends, 
would strive to elevate the character of her pro- 
fession by elevating its members, many of the 
unquestionable wrongs and miseries of governess- 
ship would gi-adually right themselves. A higher 
standard of capability would weed out much 
cumbersome mediocrity; and, competition lessened, 
the value of labour would rise. I say " the value 
of labour,^' because, when we women do work, 
we must learn to rate ourselves at no ideal 
and picturesque value, but simply as labourers 
— fair and honest competitors in the field of 
the world ; and our wares as mere merchandise, 
where money's worth alone brings money, or 
has any right to expect it. 


This applies equally to the two next professions, 
art and literature. I put art firsts as being the 
most difficult — perhaps^ in its highest form, 
almost impossible to women. There are many- 
reasons for this ; in the course of education 
necessaiy for a painter, in the not unnatural 
repugnance that is felt to women's drawing 
from '^ the life," attending anatomical dissections, 
and so on — all which studies are indispensable to 
one who would plumb the depths and scale the 
heights of the most arduous of the liberal artd. 
\Yhether any woman will ever do this, remains 
yet to be proved. Meantime, many lower and 
yet honourable positions are open to female 
handlers of the brush. 

But in Hterature we own no such boundaries; 
there we meet men on level ground — and, shall 
I say it ? — we do often beat them in their own 
field. We are acute and accurate historians, 
clear explanators of science, especially successful 
in imaginative works, and within the last year 


Aurora Lei(j/t, has proved tliat we can ^Tite 
as great a poem as any man among them all. 
Any publisher's list, any handful of weekly or 
monthly periodicals, can testify to our power 
of entering boldly on the literary profession, 
and pursuing it wholly, self-devotedly, and self- 
reliantly, thwarted by no hardships, and content 
with no height short of the highest. 

So much for the best of us — women whose 
work will float down the ages, safe and sui-e ; 
there is no need to speak of it or them. But 
there is another sec^ondary class among us, 
neither " geniuses " nor ordinary women — 
aspiring to both destinies, and usually achieving 
neither: of these it is necessary to say a 

In any profession, there is nothing, short of 
being absolutely evil, which is so injurious, so 
fatal, as mediocrity. To the amateur who writes 
" sweetly '^ or paints "prettily,'^ her work is 
mere recreation ; and though it may be less 


improving for tlie mind to do small tilings on 
your own account, than to be satisfied with 
appreciating the greater doings of other people, 
still, it is harmless enough, if it stops there. 
But all who leave domestic criticism to plunge 
into the open arena of art — I use the word 
in its widest sense — must abide by art's severest 
canons. One of these is, that eveiy person who 
paints a common -place picture, or writes a 
mediocre book, contributes temporarily — happily, 
only temporarily — to lower the standard of 
public taste, fills unworthily some better com- 
petitor's place, and without achieving any private 
good, does a positive wrong to the community 
at large. 

One is often tempted to beheve, in the great 
influx of small talents which now deluges us, 
that if half the books wi-itten, and pictures 
painted, were made into one great bonfire, it 
would be their shortest, easiest, and safest way 
of illuminating the world. 


Tlierefore, le^ men do as they will — and 
trul}^ they are often ten times vainer and more 
ambitious than we! — but I would advise every 
woman to examine herself and judge herself, 
morally and intellectually, by the sharpest tests 
of criticism, before she attempts art or hterature, 
either for abstract fame or as a means of live- 
lihood. Let her take to heart, humbly, the 
telling truth, that 

** Fools rush in where angels fear to tread," 

and be satisfied that the smallest perfect achieve- 
ment is nobler than the grandest failure. But 
having, after mature deliberation, chosen her 
calling, and conscientiously believing it is her 
calling — that in which she shall do most good, 
and best caiTy out the aim of her existence — 
let her fulfil to the last iota its solemn rcquh'e- 

These entail more, much more, than flighty 
young genius or easily-satisfied mediocrity ever 


dreams of; labour incessant, courage inexliaustible, 
sustained under difficulties, misfortunes, and re- 
buffs of every conceivable kind — added tbereto^ 
not unfrequently, tbe temperament to whicb these 
things come hardest. Le gtnie c'est la patience ; 
and though there is a truth beyond it — since all 
the patience in the world will not serve as a 
substitute for genius, — still, never was a truer 
saying than this of old Buffon's. Especially 
as applied to women, when engaged in a pro- 
fession which demands from them, no less than 
from men, the fervent application, and sometimes 
the total devotion of a lifetime. 

For, high as the calling is, it is not always, 
in the human sense, a happy one; it often results 
in, if it does not spring from, great sacrifices; 
^nd is full of a thousand misconstructions, 
annoyances, and temptations. Nay, since ambi- 
tion is a quality far oftener deficient in us than 
in the other sex, its very successes are less sweet 
to women than to men. Many a " celebrated 


authoress" or "exquisite paintress" must have 
felt the heart-trutli in Aurora Leigh : 

** I might have been a common woman, now, 
And happier, less known and less left alone, 
Perhaps a better woman after all — 
With chubby children hanging round my neck, 
To keep me low and wise. Ah me ! the vines 
That bear such fruit are proud to stoop with it — 
The palm stands upright in a realm of sand." 

And, setting aside botli these opposite poles of 
the female character and lot, it remains yet 
doubtful whether the maiden-aunt who goes 
from house to house, pei-petually busy and useful 
— the maiden house-mother, who keeps to- 
gether an orphan family, having all the cares, 
and only half the joys of maternity or mistress- 
ship — even the active, bustling " old maid," 
determined on setting everybody to rights, and 
having a finger in every pie that needs her, 
and a few that don't — I question whether each 
of these women has not a more natural, and 
therefore, probably, a happier existence, than any 


''woman of genius" that ever enlightened the 

But happiness is not the first nor the only 
thing on earth. Whosoever has entered upon 
this vocation in the right spirit, let her keep 
to it, neither afraid nor ashamed. The days 
of blue-stockings are over : it is a notable fact, 
that the best housekeepers, the neatest needle- 
women, the most discreet managers of their 
own and others' affairs, are ladies whose names 
the world cons over in libraiy hsts and exhibition 
catalogues. I could give them now — except 
that the world has no possible business with 
them, except to read their books and look at 
their pictures. It must imply something deficient 
in the women themselves, if the rude curiosity 
of this said well-meaning but often impertinent 
public is ever allowed to break in upon that 
dearest right of every woman — the inviolable 
sanctity of her home. 

Without — in these books and by these pictures 


— let it always be a fair figlit^ and no quarter. 
To exact consideration merely on account of her 
sex, is in any woman the poorest cowardice. 
She has entered the neutral realm of pure in- 
tellect — has donned brain-armour, and must 
carry on with lawful^ consecrated w^eapons a 
combat, of which the least reward in her eyes, 
in which she never can freeze up or burn out 
either the woman-tears or woman-smiles, will be 
that public acknowdedgment called Fame. 

This fame, as gained in art or literature, is 
certainly of a purer and safer kind than that 
w^hich falls to the lot of the female artiste. 

Most people will grant that no great gift is 
given to be hid under a bushel; that a Sarah 
Siddons, a Rachel, or a Jenny Lind, being created, 
was certainly not created for nothing. There seems 
no reason why a great actress or vocalist should 
not exercise her talents to the utmost for the 
world's benefit, and her own; nor that any 
genius, boiling and bursting up to find ex- 


pression, should be pent down, cruelly and 
dangerously, because it refuses to run in the 
ordinary channel of feminine development. But 
the last profession of the four which I have 
enumerated as the only paths at present open 
to women, is the one which is the most full of 
perils and difficulties, on account of the per- 
sonality involved in its exercise. 

We may paint scores of pictures, write shelves- 
ful of books — the eiTant children of our brain 
may be familiar half over the known world, 
and yet we ourselves sit as quiet by our chimney- 
corner, live a life as simple and peaceful as 
any happy ^'common woman" of them all. But 
with the artiste it is very different; she needs 
to be constantly before the public, not only 
mentally, but physically : the general eye becomes 
familiar, not merely with her genius, but her 
corporeality; and eveiy comment of admiration 
or blame awarded to her, is necessarily an 
immediate personal criticism. This of itself 


is a position contrary to tlie instinctive something 
— call it reticence_, modesty^ shyness^ what you 
will — which is inherent in every one of Eve^s 
daughters. Any young girl_, standing before a 
large party in her first tableau vivant — any sing- 
ing-pupil at a public examination — any boy-lover 
of some adorable actress^ at the moment when 
he first thinks of that goddess as his wife, will 
understand what I mean. 

But that is by no means the chief objection; 
for the feeling of personal shyness dies out^ and 
in the true artiste becomes altogether merged 
in the love and inspiration of her art — the 
inexplicable fascination of which turns the many- 
eyed gazing mass into a mere '^ public/^ of whose 
individuality the performer is no more conscious 
than was the Pythoness of her curled and scented 
Greek audience, when she felt on her tripod the 
afflatus of the unconquerable, inevitable god. 
The saddest phase of artiste-life — which is, 
doubtless, the natural result of this constant 


appearance before tlie public eye, tbis incessant 
struggle for tbe public's personal verdict — is 
its intense involuntary egotism. 

No one can bave seen anytbing of tbeatrical or 
musical circles witbout noticing tbis — tbe in- 
cessant recurrence to ''my part/' "my song/' 
" wbat tbe public tbink of me/' In tbe band-to- 
band struggle for tbe capricious public's favour, 
tbis sad selfisbness is apparently inevitable. 
"Eacb for bimself" seems implanted in mas- 
culine nature, for its own preservation ; but wben 
it comes to '^eacb for herself — wben you see tbe 
fairest Sbakspeare beroines turn red or pale at tbe 
mention of a rival impersonator — wben Miss Tbis 
cannot be asked to a party for fear of meeting 
Madame Tbat, or if tbey do meet, tbrougb all 
tbeir smibng civility you perceive tbeir backs are 
up, like two strange cats meeting at a parlour- 
door — I say, tbis is tbe most lamentable of all 
results, not absolutely vicious, wbicb tbe world, 
and tbe necessity of working in it, effect on w^omen. 


And for tliis reason tlie profession of public 
entertainment^ in all its gradation^ from tlie in- 
spired tragedienne to the poor cliorus-singer_, is, 
above any profession I know_, to be marked with 
a spiritual Humane Society^s pole, '^ Dangerous.'^ 
Not after the vulgar notion : we have among us 
too many chaste, matronly actresses^ and charm- 
ing maiden- vocalists, to enter now into the old 
question about the " respectability •'-' of the 
stage; but on account of the great danger to 
temperament, character, and mode of thought, 
to w^hich such a life peculiarly exposes its 

But, if a woman has chosen it — I repeat in 
this as in any other — let her not forego it ; for 
in every occupation the worthiness, like the 
" readiness," " is all." Never let her be moulded 
by her calling, but mould her calling to herself; 
being, as every woman ought to be, the woman 
first, the artiste afterwards. And, doubtless, so 
are many; doubtless one could find, not oniv 


among the higher ranks of this profession^ where 
genius itself acts as a purifying and refining 
fire, but in its lower degrees^ many who_, under 
the glare of the footlights and the din of popular 
applause, have kept their freshness and single- 
ness of character unfaded to the end. Ay, even 
among poor ballet-dancers, capering with set 
rouged smiles and leaden hearts — coarse scream- 
ing concert-singers, doing sham pathos at a 
guinea a-night — flaunting actresses-of-all-work, 
firmly believing themselves the best Juliet or 
Lady Macbeth extant, and yet condescending to 
take ever so small a part — even the big-headed 
'' jjrijicess ^' of an Easter extravaganza, for the 
sake of the old parents, or the fiddler-husband 
and the sickly babies at home. No doubt, 
many of them live — let us rather say, en- 
dure — a life as pure, as patient, as self-denying, 
as that of hundreds of timid, daintily pro- 
tected girls, and would-be correct matrons, 
who shrink in safe privacy from the very 


thought of these. But Heaven counts and 
cares for all. 

Therefore, in this perilous road, double honour 
be unto those who walk upright, double pity unto 
those who fall ! 

Conning over again this desultoiy chapter, 
it seems to me it all comes to neither more nor 
less than this : that since a woman, by choosing 
a definite profession, must necessarily quit the 
kindly shelter and safe negativeness of a private 
life, and assume a substantive position, it is her 
duty not hastily to decide, and before deciding, in 
every way to count the cost. But having chosen, 
let her fulfil her lot. Let there be no hesita- 
tions, no regrets, no compromises — they are at 
once cowardly and vain. She may have missed 
or foregone much; — I repeat, our natural and 
happiest life is when we lose ourselves in the ex- 
quisite absorption of home, the delicious retire- 
ment of dependent love; but what she has, she 
has, and nothing can ever take it from her. Nor 


is it, after all, a small thing for any woman — 
be she governess, painter, author, or artiste — 
to feel that, higher or lower, according to her 
degree, she ranks among that crowned band who, 
whether or not they are the happy ones, are 
elected to the heaven-given honour of being the 
Workers of the world. 



While planning this chapter I chanced to read, 
in a late number of the North British Quarter!?/, 
a paper headed '' Employment of Women/^ which 
expressed many of my ideas in forms so much 
clearer and better than an}^ into which I can cast 
them, that I long hesitated whether it were worth 
while attempting to set them down here at all; 
but afterwards, seeing that these Thoughts aim 
less at originality than usefulness — nay, that since 
they are but the repetition in one woman's written 
words of what must already have occurred to the 
minds of hundreds of other women, — if they were 
startlingly original, they would probably cease 



to be useful^ — I determined to say my say. It 
matters little when, or liow, or by bow many, 
truth is spoken, if only it be truth. 

Taking up the question of female handicrafts, 
in contradistinction to female professions, the 
first thing that strikes one is the largeness of the 
subject, and how veiy little one practically knows 
about it. Of necessity, it has not much to say 
for itself; it lives by its fingers rather than its 
brains; it cannot put its life into print. Sometimes 
a poet does this for it, and thrills millions with a 
Song of the Shirt ; or a novelist presents us with 
some imaginary portrait — some Lettice Arnold, 
Susan Hopley, or Ruth, idealised more or less, it 
may be, yet sufficiently true to nature to give us 
a passing interest in our shop-girls, sempstresses, 
and maid-servants, abstractedly, as a class. But 
of the individuals, of their modes of existence, 
feeling, and thought — of their sorrows and plea- 
sures, accomplishments and defects — we "ladies^' 
of the middle and upper ranks, especially those 


who reside in great towns, know essentially 

The whole working class is a silent class ; and 
this division of it being a degree above the cottage 
visitations of ladies Bountiful, or the legislation 
of Ten- Hours^ -Bill Committees in an enlightened 
British Parliament, is the most silent of all. Yet 
it includes so many grades — from the West-end 
milliner, who dresses in silk every day, and is 
almost (often quite) a " lady/' down to the 
wretched lodging-house '^ slavey,^' who seems to 
be less a woman than a mere working animal 
— that, viewing it, one shrinks back in awe of 
its vastness. What an enormous influence it 
must unconsciously exercise on society, this dumb 
multitude, which, behind counters, in work-rooms, 
garrets, and bazaars, or in service at fashionable, 
respectable, or barely decent houses, goes toiling, 
toiling on, from morning till night — often from 
night till morning — at anything and everything^ 
just for daily bread and honesty t 


NoWj Society recognises this fact — gets up 
early-closing movements^ makes eloquent speeches 
in lawn sleeves or peers^ broadcloth at Hanover 
Square Rooms, or writes a letter to the Times, 
enlarging on the virtue of ordering court-dresses 
in time_, so that one portion of Queen Victoria's 
female subjects may not be hurried into disease 
or deaths or worse, in order that another portion 
may shine out brilliant and beautiful at Her 
Majesty's balls and drawing-rooms. All this is 
good; but it is only a drop in the bucket — a 
little oil cast on the top of the stream. The great 
tide of struggle and suffering flows on just tlie 
same ; the surface may be slightly troubled, but 
the undercurrent seems to be in a state which 
it is impossible to change. 

Did I say ^^ impossible ?'' No; I do not 
believe there is anything under heaven to which 
we have a right to apply that word. 

Apparently, one of the chief elements of 
wrong in the class which I have distinguished 


as handicraftswomen, is the great and invidious 
distinction drawn between it and that of profes- 
sional women. ^lany may repudiate this in 
theory; yet, practically, I ask lady-mothers 
whether they would not rather take for daugh- 
ter-in-law the poorest governess, the most penni- 
less dependant, than a "person in business ^^ — 
milliner, dressmaker, shop -woman, &c. ? As for 
a domestic servant — a cook, or even a lady^s- 
maid — I am afraid a young man^s choice of such 
an one for his wife would ruin him for ever in 
the eyes of Society. 

Society — begging her pardon ! — is often 
a great fool. Why should it be less credit- 
able to make good dresses than bad books ? In 
what is it better to be at night a singing servant 
to an applauding or capriciously contemptuous 
public, than to wait on the said public in the day- 
time from behind the counter of shop or bazaar ? 
I confess, I cannot see the mighty difference; 
when the question, as must be distinctly under 


stood, concerns not personal merit or endow- 
ments, but external calling. 

And here comes in tlie old warfare, wliicli began 
worthily enough, in the respect due to mind over 
matter, head-work over hand-work, but has dete- 
riorated by custom into a ridiculous and con- 
temptible tyranny — the battle between profes- 
sions and trades. I shall not enter into it here. 
Happily, men are now slowly waking up — women 
more slowly still — to a perception of the truth, 
that honour is an intrinsic and not extrinsic pos- 
session ; that one means of livelihood is not of 
itself one whit more "respectable" than another; 
that credit or discredit can attach in no degree 
to the work done, but to the manner of doing 
it, and to the individual who does it. 

Bui, *n the other hand, any class that, as a 
class, lacks honour, has usually, some time or other, 
fallen short in desert of it. Thus, among handi- 
craftswomen, who bear to professional women 
Ihe same relation as tradesmen to gentlemen. 


one often finds great self-assertion and equivalent 
want of self-respect, painful servility or pitiable 
impertinence — in short, many of those faults 
which arise in a transition state of partial educa- 
tion, and accidental semi-refinement. Also, since 
a certain amount of both refinement and education 
is necessaiy to create a standard of moral con- 
scientiousness, this order of women is much more 
deficient than the one above it in that stern, 
steady uprightness which constitutes what we call 
elevation of character. Through the want of pride 
in their calling, and laxity or slovenliness of 
principle in pursuing it, they are at war with 
the class above them ; which justly complains of 
those unconquerable faults and deficiencies that 
make patience the only virtue it can practise 
towards its inferiors. 

How amend this lamentable state of things ? 
How lessen the infinite wrongs, errors, and suf- 
ferings of this mass of womanhood, out of which 
are glutted our churchyards, hospitals, prisons. 


penitentiaries ; from which, more than from any 
other section of society, is taken that pest and 
anguish of our streets, the 

*' Eighty thousand women in one smile, 
Who only smile at night beneath the gas." 

]\Iany writers of both sexes are now striving to 
answer this question ; and many others, working 
more by their lives than their pens, are practically 
tiying to solve the problem. All honour and 
success attend both workers and writers ! Each 
in their vocation will spur on society to bestir 
itself, and, by the combination of popular feeling, 
to achieve in some large form a solid social 

But in these Thoughts I would fain address 
individuals. I want to speak, not to society at 
large, for as we well know, ^^ everybody's 
business '^ is often "nobody's business," bat to 
each woman separately, appealing to her in her 
personal character as employer or employed. 

And, first, as employers 


I am afraid it is from some natural deficiency 
in the constitution of our sex that it is so difficult 
to teach us justice. It certainly was a mistake 
to make that admirable virtue a female; and even 
then the allegorist seems to have found it neces- 
saiy to bandage her eyes. No ; kindliness_, un- 
selfishness, charity, come to us by nature : but I 
wish I could see more of my sisters learning and 
practising what is far more difficult and far less 
attractive — common justice^ especially towards 
one another. 

In dealing with men, there is little fear but 
that they will take care of themselves. That 
" first law of nature,^^ self-preservation, is — 
doubtless, for wise purposes — imprinted pretty 
strongly on the mind of the male sex. It is in 
transactions between women and women that the 
difficulty lies. Therein — I put the question to tbe 
aggregate conscience of us all — is it not, openly or 
secretly, our chief aim to get the largest possible 
amount of labour for the smallest possible price ? 


We do not mean any harm ; we are only acting 
for tlie best — for our own benefit, and that of 
those nearest to us ; and yet we are committing 
an act of injustice, the result of which fills slop- 
sellers^ doors with starving sempstresses, and 
causes unlimited competition among incompetent 
milliners and dressmakers, while skilled labour 
in all these branches is lamentably scarce and 
extravagantly dear. Of course ! so long as one 
continually hears ladies say : " Oh, I got such 
and such a thing almost for half-price — such 
a bargain \'^ or : " Do you know I have found 
out such a cheap dressmaker ! " May I suggest 
to these the common-sense law of political 
economy, that neither labour nor material can 
possibly be got "cheaply" — that is, below its 
average acknowledged cost, without somebody's 
being cheated ? Consequently, these devotees to 
cheapness, when not victims — which they fre- 
quently are in the long run — are very little 
better than genteel swindlers. 


There is another lesser consideration, and yet 
not small either. Labour, unfairly remunerated, 
of necessity deteriorates in quality, and thereby 
lowers the standard of appreciation. Every time 
I pay a low price for an ill-litting gown or an 
ugly tawdry bonnet — cheapness is usually tawdry 
— I am wronging not merely myself, but my 
emploijte, by encouraging careless work and bad 
taste, and by thus going in direct opposition to 
a rule from whence springs so much that is 
eclectic and beautiful in the female character, 
that "whatever is worth domg at all is worth 
doing well.-" If, on the contrary, I knowingly 
pay below its value for really good work, I am, 
as aforesaid, neither more nor less than a dis- 
honest appropriator of other people^s property — 
a swindler — a thief. 

Humiliating as the confession may be, it must 
be owned that, on the whole, men are less prone 
to this petty vice than we are. You rarely find 
a gentleman beating down his tailor, cheapening 


his hosier, or hagghng with his groom over a few 
shillings of wages. Either his wider experience 
has enlarged his mind, or he has less time for 
bargaining, or he will not take the trouble. It 
is among us, alas ! that you see most instances 
of "stinginess'' — not the noble economy which 
can and does lessen its personal wants to the 
narrowest rational limit, but the mean parsimony 
which tries to satisfy them below cost-price, and 
consequently always at somebody else's expense 
rather than its own. Against this crying sin — none 
the less a sin because often masked as a virtue, 
and even corrupted from an original virtue — 
it becomes our bounden duty, as women, to 
protest with all our power. More especially, be- 
cause it is a temptation peculiar to ourselves ; en- 
gendered by many a cruel domestic narrowness, 
many a grinding struggle to "make ends 
meet,'' of which the sharpness always falls to 
the woman's lot, to a degree that men, in their 
grand picturesque pride and reckless indifference 


to expense, can rarely either feel or appre- 

I do not here advance the argument^ usually 
enforced by experience, tliat cheapness always 
comes dearest in the end, and that only a wealthy 
person can afford to make "bargains;" because 
I wish to open the question — and leave it — on 
the far higher ground of moral justice. The 
celebrated sentiment of Benjamin Franklin, 
"Honesty is the best policy," appears rather a 
mean and unchristian mode of inculcating the 
said virtue. 

Another injustice, less patent, but equally 
harmful, is constantly committed by ladies — 
namely, the conducting of business relations in 
an unbusiness-like manner. Carelessness, irre- 
gularity, or delay in giving orders ; needless 
absorption of time, which is money; and, above 
all, want of explicitness and decision, are faults 
which no one dare complain of in a customer, 
but yet which result in the most cruel wrong. 


Perhaps the first quality in an employer is to know 
her own mind ; the second, to be able to state it 
clearly, so as to avoid the possibility of mistake ; 
and no error caused by a blunder or irresolution 
on her part should ever be visited upon the 
person employed. 

There is one injustice which I hardly need 
refer to, so nearly does it approach to actual 
dishonesty. Any lady who wilfully postpones pay- 
ment beyond a reasonable time, or in any careless 
way prefers her convenience to her duty, her 
pleasure to her sense of right — who for one single 
day keeps one single person waiting for a debt 
which at all lies within her power to discharge — 
is a creature so far below the level of true woman- 
hood that I would rather not speak of her. 

And now, as to the class of the employed. It 
resolves itself into so many branches that I shall 
attempt only to generalise, nor refer to distinctive 
occupations, which are dividing, subdividing, and 
extending from year to year. The world is slowly 


discovering that women are capable of far more 
crafts than was supposed_, if only they are properly 
educated for them : that^ here and abroad, they 
are good accountants, shopkeepers, drapers' assist- 
ants, telegraph clerks, watch-makers : and doubt- 
less would be better, if the ordinaiy training which 
almost every young man has a chance of getting, 
and which in any case he is supposed to have, 
were thought equally indispensable to young 
women. And well, indeed, if it were so : for there 
is no possible condition of life where business 
habits are not of the greatest value to any 

I have heard the outcry raised, that this edu- 
cating of one sex to do the work and press into 
the place of the other lessens the value of labour, 
and so depreciates the chances of matrimony, to 
the manifest injury of both. Charming theory ! 
which pays us the double-edged compliment of 
being so evidently afraid of our competitive 
powers, and so complacently satisfied, that the 


sole purpose and use of our existence is to be 
married ! 

But Nature, wiser tlian sucli theorists, con- 
tradicts tliein without any argument of ours. 
She has sufficiently limited our phj-sique to 
prevent our being very fatal rivals in manual 
labom' ; she has given us instincts that will rarely 
make us prefer masculine occupations to sweep- 
ing the hearth and rocking the cradle — when such 
duties are possible. And if it were not so, would 
the case be any better? There is a certain 
amount of work to be done, and somebody must 
do it : a certain community to be fed, and it must 
be fed somehow. Would it benefit the male por- 
tion thereof to have all the burthen on their own 
shoulders? Would it raise the value of their 
labour to depreciate ours ? or advantage them to 
keep us, forcibly, in idleness, ignorance, and 
incapacity ? I trow not. Rather let each sex 
have a fair chance : let women, and single women 
above all, be taught to do all they can, and do 


it as well as they can. Little fear that there 
will not remain a sufficiently wide field open to 
competent men^ and only men_, in every handi- 
craft : little fear that the natural mttier of most 
women will not always be the cherished labours 
of the fireside. 

One trade in all its branches, domestic or 
otherwise, is likely to remain principally our 
own — the use of the needle. 

^Yho amongst us has not a great reverence 
for that little dainty tool; such a wonderful 
brightener and consoler; our weapon of defence 
against slothfulness, weariness, and sad thoughts; 
our thrifty helper in poverty, our pleasant friend 
at all times ? From the first '"'■ cobbled-up ^' doll's 
frock — the first neat stitching for mother, or 
hemmmg of father's pocket-handkerchief — the 
first bit of sewing shyly done for some one who is 
to own the hand and all its duties — most of all, 
the first strange, delicious fairy work, sewed at 
diligently, in solemn faith and tender love, for 



the 'my creature as yet unknown and unseen — 
truly, no one but ourselves can tell what tlie 
aecdlc is to us women. 

Wjth all due respect for brains, I tbink women 
cannot be too early taught to respect likewise 
1beir own ten fingers. 

It is a grand thing to be a good needlewoman, 
even in what is called in England "plain sew- 
ing," and in Scotland, a " white seam -/' and 
any one who ever tried to make a dress knows 
well enough that skill, patience, and ingenuity, 
nay, a certain kind of genius, is necessary to 
achieve any good result. Of all artificers, the 
poor dressmaker is the last who ought to be 
gnidged good payment. Instead of depreciating, 
we should rather try to inspire her with a sincere 
following of her art as an art — even a pleasant 
pride in it. 

" The labour we delight in physics pain ;" 

and it may be doubted whether any branch of 
labour can be worthily pursued unless the labourer 


take an interest in it beyond the mere hire. 1 
know a dressmaker who evidently feels personally 
aggrieved when you decline to yield to her taste in 
costume; who never spares pains or patience to 
adorn her customers to the very best of her skill ; 
and who, by her serious and simple belief in 
her own business, would half persuade you that 
the destinies of the whole civilised world hung 
on the noble but neglected art of mantua-making. 
One cannot but respect that woman ! 

Much has been said concerning justice fronc 
the employer to the employed, and as much 
might be said in behalf of the opposite side. For 
a person to undertake more work than she can 
finish, to break her promises, tell white lies, be 
wasteful, unpunctual, is to be scarcely less dis- 
honest to her employer than if she directly 
robbed her. The want of conscientiousness, 
which is only too general among the lower order 
of shopkeepers and people in business, does more 
to brand upon trade the old stigma which the 


present generation is wisely endeavouring to 
efface, and to blacken and broaden the line, 
now fast vanishing, between tradesfolk and 
gentlefolk — more, tenfold, than all the narrow- 
minded pride of the most prejudiced aristocracy. 
I should like to see working women — handi- 
craftswomen — take up their pride, and wield it 
with sense and courage; I should like to see them 
educating themselves, for education is the grand 
motive power in the advancement of all classes. 
I do not allude to mere book-learning, but that 
combination of mental, moral, and manual attain- 
ments, the mere desire for and appreciation of 
which give a higher tone to the whole being. 
And there are few conditions of life, whether it 
be passed at the counter or over the needle, in 
the work-room or at home, where an intelligent 
young woman has not some opportunity of gain- 
ing information ; little enough it may be — from 
a book snatched up at rare intervals, a print-shop 
w'ndoT glanced at, as she passes along the street 


— a silent observation and imitation of whatever 
seems most pleasant and refined in tliose of lier 
superiors with whom she may be thrown into 
contact. However small her progress may be, 
yet if she have a genuine wish for mental improve- 
mentj the true thirst after what is good and 
beautiful — the good being always the beautiful — 
for its own sake, there is little fear but that she 
will gradually attain her end. 

There is one class which, from its daily and 
hourly familiarity with that above it, has perhaps 
more opportunities than any for this gradual 
self-cultivation — I mean the class of domestic 
servants; but these, though belonging to the 
ranks of women who live by hand-labour, form a 
body in so many points distinct, that they must 
form the subject of a separate chapter. 

Cannot some one suggest a slight amendment 
on the usual cry of elevating the working classes 
— whether it be not possible to arouse in them 
the desire to elevate themselves ? Every growth of 


nature begins less in the external force applied 
than the vital principle asserting itself within. 
It is the undercuiTcnt that helps to break up the 
ice ; the sap, as well as the sunshine^ that brings 
out the green leaves of spring. I doubt if any- 
class can be successfully elevated unless it has 
indicated the power to raise itself; and the first 
thing to make it worthy of respect is, to teach 
it to respect itself. 

" In all labour there is profit '' — ay, and 
honour too, if the toilers could but recognise it ; 
if the large talk now current about " the dignity 
of labour ^^ could only be reduced to practice; 
if, to begin at the beginning, we could but each 
persuade the handful of young persons imme- 
diately around us and under our influence, that 
to make an elegant dress or pretty bonnet — 
nay, even to cook a good dinner, or take pride 
in a neatly kept house, is a right creditable, 
womanly thing in itself, quite distinct from the 
profit accruing from it. Also, since hope is the 


mainspring of excellence, as well as liappiness, 
in any calling, let it be impressed on eveiy one 
that her future advancement lies, spiritually as 
well as literally, in her own hands. 

Seldom, with the commonest chance to start 
with, will a real good worker fail to find em- 
ployment ; seldomer still, with diligence, in- 
dustry, civility, and punctuality, w411 a person 
of even moderate skill lack customers. Worth 
of any kind is rare enough in the world for 
most people to be thankful to get it — and keep 
it, too. In these days, the chief difficulty seems 
to consist, not in the acknowledgment of merit, 
but the finding of any merit that is worth ac- 
knowledging — above all, any merit that has the 
sense and consistency to acknowledge and have 
faith in itself, and to trust in its own power of up- 
holding itself afloat in the very stormiest billows 
of the tempestuous world; assured with worthy 
old Milton, that 

'* If virtue feeble were 
Heaven itself would stoop to her." 


But I am pulled down from this Utopia of 
female handicrafts hy the distant half-smothered 
laughter of my two maid-servants, going cheerily 
to their bed through the silent house; and by 
the recollection that I myself must be up early, 
as my new sempstress is coming to-morrow. 
Well, she shall be kindly treated, have plenty of 
food and drink, light and fire; and though I 
shall be stem and remorseless as fate respecting 
the quality of her work, I shall give her plenty 
of time to do it in. No more will be expected 
from her than her capabilities seem to allow and 
her word promised ; still, there will be no bating 
an inch of that: it would be unfair both to 
herself and me. In fact, the very reason I took 
her was from her honest look and downright 
sayings : — '' ^la'am, if you can^t wait, or know 
anybody better, don't employ me; but, ma'am, 
when I say I'll come, I always do." — {P.S. She 
didn't ! !) 

Honest woman ! If she turns out fairlv, so 


much the better for us both, in the future, as to 
gowns and crown-pieces. If she does not, I 
shall at least enjoy the satisfaction of having 
done unto her as, in her place, I would like 
others to do unto me — which simple axiom 
expresses and includes all I have been writing 
on this subject. 



J'mak §erljants» 

Though female servants come under the cate^'orv 
of liandicraftswomen, yet they form a distinct 
class^ very important in itself, and essential to 
the welfare of the community. 

A faithful servant — next best blessing, and 
next rarest, after a faithful friend ! — who 
among us has not had, or wanted, such an one ? 
Some inestimable follower of the family, who 
has known all the family changes, sorrows, and 
joys; is always at hand to look after the petty 
necessities and indescribably small nothings 
which, in the aggregate, make up the sum of 
one^s daily comfort; whom one can trust in 


sight and out of sight — call upon for help in 
season and out of season ; rely on in absence, 
or sickness, or trouble, to " keep the house 
going,^^ and upon whom one can at all times, 
and under all circumstances, depend for that 
conscientious fidelity of service which money can 
never purchase, nor repay. 

And this, what domestic servants ought to 
be, might be, they are — alas, how seldom! 

Looking round on the various households we 
know, I fear we shall find that this relation of 
master (or mistress) and servant — a relation so 
necessary, as to have been instituted from the 
foundation of the world, and since so hallowed 
by both biblical and secular chronicles, as to 
be, next to ties of blood and friendship, the 
most sacred bond that can exist between man 
and man — is, on the whole, as badly fulfilled 
as any under the sun. 

Whose fault is this? — the superior's, who, 
in the march of intellect and education around 

93 ri:MALE servants. 

him, losing somewliat the distinction of mere 
rank, yet tnes to enforce it hy instituting ex- 
ternal distinctions impossible to be maintained 
between himself and his dependants? — or the 
inferior's, who, sufficiently advanced to detect 
the weaknesses of the class above him, though 
not to cure his own, abjures the blind re- 
verence and obedience of ancient times, without 
attaining to the higher spirit of this our day — 
when the law of servitude has been remodelled, 
elevated, and consecrated by Christianity itself, 
in the person of its Divine Founder ? '^ He 
that is greatest among you, let him be your 

This recognition of the sanctity of service, 
through the total and sublime equality on which, 
in one sense, are thus placed the server and 
the served, seems the point whereon all minor 
points ought to turn, and which, in the solemn 
responsibility it imposes on both parties, ought 
never to be absent from the mind of either; 


yet it is usually one of the very last tilings 
likely to enter there. 

To tell Mrs. Jones — who yesterday engaged 
her cook Betty for fourteen pounds a -year, 
having beaten her down from fourteen guineas 
by a compromise about the beer; and who, 
after various squabbles, finally turned out pretty 
Susan, the housemaid, into the ghastly Vanity- 
fair of London, for gossiping on area steps with 
divers ^^ followers ^^ — or the honourable Mrs. 
Browne Browne, who keeps Victorine sitting 
up till daylight just to undo her mistresses gown, 
and last week threatened, though she did not 
dare, to dismiss the fine upper-nurse, because, 
during the brief minute or two after dessert, 
when Master Baby appeared, mamma, who 
rarely sees him at any other time, and never 
meddles with his education, physical or moral, 
was shocked to hear from his rosy lips a " naughty 
word^e — to say to these " ladies e-* that the 
''women" they employ are of the same feminine 


flesh and bloody would of course meet nominal 
assent. But to attempt to get them to carry 
that truth out practically — to own that they 
and their servants are of like passions and feel- 
ings^ capable of similar elevation or deterioration 
of character, and amenable to the same moral 
laws — in fact, all "sisters" together, account- 
able both to themselves and to the other sex 
for the influence they mutually exercise over 
one another, would, I fear, be held simply 
ridiculous. ^' Sisters" indeed ! Certainly not, 
under any circumstances — except when Death, the 
great Leveller, having permanently interposed, we 
may safely, over a few spadefuls of earth, venture 
to acknowledge " our dear sister here departed.^^ 
I have gone up and down the world a good 
deal, yet I have scarcely found one household, 
rich or poor, hard or benevolent. Christian or 
worldly, aristocratic or democratic, which, how- 
ever correct in outward practice, could be brought 
to own as a guiding principle this, which is 


apparently the New-Testament principle with 
regard to service and servants. 

This by no means implies or commands 
equality; of all shams, there is none so vain as 
the assertion of that which does not, and cannot 
exist in this world, and which the highest religious 
and social legislation never supposes possible. 

For instance, my cook prepares and sends up 
dinner. From long practice, she does it a hun- 
dred times better than I could do ; nay, even 
takes a pleasure and pride in it, for which I 
am truly thankful, and sincerely indebted to 
her, too : for a good cook is a household blessing, 
and no small contributor to health, temper, and 
enjoyment. Accordingly, I treat her with con- 
sideration, and even enter her domains with a 
certain respectful awe. But I do not invite her 
to eat her own dinner, or mingle in the society 
which to me is its most piquant sauce. She 
was not born to it, nor brought up for it. Good 
old soul ! she would gape at the finest bon-mot. 


and doze over the most intellectual conversa- 
tion. She is better left in peace by her 
kitchen -fire. 

AlsOj though it is a real pleasure to me to 
watch my neat parlour-maid in and out of the 
drawing-room^ to see by her bright intelligent 
face that she understands much of whatever 
talk is going on, and may learn something by 
it too sometimes; still, I should never think 
of asking her to take a seat among the guests. 
Poor little lass ! she would be as unhappy and 
out of place here as I should be in the noisy 
Christmas party below-stairs, of which she is 
the very centre of attraction, getting more com- 
pliments and mistletoe-kisses than I ever got, 
or wished for, in my whole lifetime. And, by 
the same rule, though I like to see her prettily 
dressed, and never scruple to tell her when she 
sets my teeth on edge by a blue bow on a green- 
cotton gown, I do not deem it necessary, when 
she helps me on with my silk one, to condole 


with her over the said cotton, or to offer her 
the use of my toilet and my chaperonage at 
the conversazione to which I am going, where, 
in the scores I meet, there may be scarcely any 
face more pleasant, more kindly, or more neces- 
sary to me than her own. 

Nevertheless, each is in her station. Provi- 
dence fixed both where they are ; and while they 
there remain, unless either individual is qualified 
to change, neither has the smallest right to 
overstep the barrier between them; recognised, 
perhaps, better tacitly than openly by either, 
but never by any ridiculous assumption of equality 
denied or set aside. Yet one meeting-point there 
is — far below, or above, all external barriers — 
the common womanhood in which all share. If 
anything were to happen to my little maid — if 
I caught her crying over "father's" letter, or 
running in, laughing and rosy, after shutting 
the back gate on — somebody, I am afraid my 
heart would warm to her just as much as, though 



I never left my card at Buckingham Palace, 
it is prone to do to a certain Lady there,, who 
takes early walks, and goes rides with her little 
children — apparently a better woman, wife, and 
mother than nine-tenths of her subjects. Is it 
not here, then, that true equality lies — in 
this recognition of a common nature; to the 
divinely-appointed law of which all external 
practice is to be referred? Would that both 
mistresses and servants could be brought to 
recognise this equality — not as a mere senti- 
mental theory, but as a practical fact, the 
foundation and starting-point of all relations 
between them ! 

It concerns maids just as much as mistresses ; 
and to them I wish to speak, in the earnest 
hope that every household which reads this 
book will do what is a practice, useful and 
excellent in itself, with all family books, — 
send it down of quiet evenings, Sundays and 
hohdays, to be read in the kitchen, when work 


is done. For^ work being done, no mental 
improvement that is compptible with the duties 
of his or her calhng oughc to be forbidden 
any human being. 

I should like, first, to impress upon all women- 
servants how very much society depends upon 
them for its well-being, physical and moral. And 
this, with no fear of thereby increasing their self- 
conceit : it is not responsibility, but the want 
or loss of it, which degrades character. To 
feel that you can or might be something, 
is often the first step towards becoming it ; and 
it is safest, on the whole, to treat people as 
better than they are, il, perchance, conscience 
may shame them into being what they are be- 
lieved, than to check all hope, paralyse all as- 
piration, and irritate them, by the slow pressure 
of contemptuous incredulity, into becoming actu- 
ally as bad as they are supposed to be. Thus, 
if the young women to whom has fallen the 
lot of domestic service^ of making homes comfort- 


able, and especially of taking care of children, 
could once be made to feel their own importance 
as a class — their infinite means of usefulness — 
I think it would stimulate them into a far higher 
feeling of self-respect and true respectability, 
and make them of double value to the community 
at large. 

What do you ''go to semce'' for? — Wages, 
of course : the object being how much money you 
can earn, and how easy a place you can get for 
it. Character is likewise indispensable to you; 
so you seek out good families, and keep in them 
for a certain length of time. Meanwhile, the 
most energetic and sensible among you try to 
learn as much as lies in your way — but only as 
a means of bettering yourselves. '' To better 
yourself," is usually held a satisfactoiy reason 
for quitting the most satisfactory place and the 
kindest of mistresses. 

On the whole, the bond between you and 
" missis" is a mere bargain — a matter of pounds, 


shillings, and pence; you do just as much as 
she exacts, or as you consider your wages justify 
her in expecting from you — not a particle more. 
As to rights, privileges, and perquisites, it is not 
unfrequently either a daily battle or a sort of 
armed treaty between kitchen and parlour. The 
latter takes no interest in the former, except 
to see that you do your work and keep your 
place j w^hile you on your part, except for gossip 
or curiosity, are comfortably indifferent to "the 
family." You leave or stay just as it suits them, 
or yourself, get through a prescribed round of 
work, are tolerably well-behaved, civil, honest — 
at least in great matters — and tell no lies, or 
only as many white ones as w^ill answer your 
purposes. And so you go on, passing from 
" place ^' to "place," resting nowhere, responsible 
nowhere ; sometimes marrying, and dropping 
into a totally different sphere, but oftener still 
continuing in the same course from year to 
year, laying by little enough, either in wages 


or attachment ; yet doing very wcll^ in your 
own sense of the term, till sickness or old age 
overtakes you, and tlien — where are you ? 

I have read somewhere that in our hospitals 
and lunatic asylums there is, next to governesses, 
no class so numerous as that of female domestic 

E-emember, I am referring not to the lower 
degrees, but to the respectable among you — 
those who can always command decent wages 
and good situations, so long as they are capable 
of taking them. Of the meaner class, ignorant, 
stupid, drifted from household to household, 
from pure incapacity to do or to learn anything, 
or expelled disgracefully thence for want of (poor 
^vretches ! were they ever taught it ?) a sense of 
the common moral necessities of society, which 
objects to the open breach of at least the sixth, 
seventh, eighth, and ninth commandments — of 
these unhappy dregs of your sisterhood, I cannot 
now venture to speak. I speak of those, born 


of respectable parents, starting in service with 
good prospects, able, generally, to read and write, 
and gifted with sufficient education and intel- 
ligence to make them a blessing to themselves 
and all about them, if their intelligence were 
not so often degraded into mere "sharpness,'^ 
for want of that quality — rare in all classes, but 
rarest in yours — moral conscientiousness. 

Why is it that, especially in large towns, a 
" clever " servant is almost sure to turn out 
badly ? Why do mistresses complain that, while 
one can get a decent servant, a good-natured 
servant, a servant who ^' does her work pretty 
well, with plenty of looking after,^^ a con- 
scientious servant is with difficulty, if at all, 
to be found ? 

By conscientious, I mean one who does her 
duty — that is, the general business of her call- 
ing — not merely for wages or a character, or 
even for the higher motive of '^ pleasing missis,'' 
but for the highest of all motives — becaase it 


is her duty. Because^ to cook a dinner, with 
care and without waste; to keep a house clean 
and orderly in every corner^ seen or not seen; 
to be scrupulously honest and truthful, in the 
smallest as in the greatest things; to abstain 
from pert answers in the parlour, squabbles in 
the kitchen, and ill-natured tittle-tattle about 
her fellow- servants or the family — concern not 
merely her position as a servant, but her conduct 
and character as a human being, accountable 
to God as much as the greatest woman that 
ever was born. 

''Oh, that^s fine talking'/' you may say; 
'' but what can / do ? what can be expected 
of me — only a poor servant ?'' 

Only a poor servant ! Only a person whom 
a whole household is obliged to trust, more or 
less, with its comfort, order, property, respect- 
ability, peace, health — I was going to add, life; 
who, in times of sickness or trouble, knows more 
of its secrets than nearest acquaintance; wlio 


is aware of all its domestic weaknesses, faults, 
and vexations; to whom tlie "skeleton" said 
to be in eveiy house must necessarily be a thing 
guessed at, if not only too familiar; on whom 
master, mistress, children, or friend must be 
daily dependent for numerous small comforts 
and attentions, scarcely known, perhaps, until 
they are missed. Only a poor servant ! Why, 
no living creature has more opportunity of doing 
good or evil, and becoming to others either a 
blessing or a curse, than a " poor servant ! " 

Not if she is a mere bird of passage, flitting 
from roof to roof, indifferent to everything save 
what she may pick up to feather her nest with 
by the way. Not if she starts with the notion 
that "missis" and she are to be always at war, 
or on the alert against mutual encroachments, 
anxious only which can get the most out of the 
other. Not if she takes to fawning and flatter- 
ing, humouring her mistress's weak points, and 
laughing at her behind her back; betraying the 


follies or misfortunes of one liouseliold into an- 
other; canying on a regular system of double- 
faced hypocrisy, and fancying she is getting her 
revenge, and degrading her injurers, when, in 
fact, she more, much more, degrades herself. 

These are the things which make servants 
despised; not because they are servants, but 
because the most of them, if they assume any 
moral standard at all, hold one so far below 
that of the class above them, that this class 
learns to regard and treat them as an inferior 
order of beings. 

" What can you expect from a servant V said 
to me a lady with whom I often used to argue 
the matter — a good and noble-minded woman, 
too, among whose few prejudices was this, fixed 
and immutable, against the whole race of 

What do I expect from a servant ? Why, 
precisely what I exact from myself — the same 
honesty of word and act, the same chastity and 


decency of behaviour, self-government in temper 
and speech, and propriety of di*ess and manner 
according to our respective stations. 

Therefore, in any disputed point, I, as being 
probably the more educated, older, if not wiser 
of the two, feel bound as much as possible to 
put myself in her place, to tiy and understand 
her feelings and character, before I judge her, 
or legislate for her. I try in all things to set her 
an example to follow, rather than abuse her for 
faults and failings which she has sense enough 
to see I am just as liable to as she. I would 
rather help her in the right way, than drive her 
into it, whip in hand, and take another road 
myself. Ucprove, I ought, and will, as often 
as she requires it; but reproof is one thing, scold- 
ing another : she should never see that I find 
fault merely from bad temper, or for the pleasure 
(?) of scolding. Authority I must have: it is 
for her good as well as mine that there should 
be only one mistress in the house, to whom 


obedience must be implicitly rendered, and whose 
domestic regulations will admit of no idleness, 
carelessness, or irregularity; but I would scorn 
to use my authority unjustly, or wantonly, or 
unkindly, simply for the sake of asserting it. If 
it is worth anything in itself, she will soon learn 
that it is not to be disputed. 

And generally, rule, order, and even fair re- 
proof, are among the last things that servants 
complain of. Selfishness, stinginess, want of 
consideration for others, are much oftener the 
fruitful source of all kinds of domestic rebellion, 
or the distrust which is worse than any open 
fight — the sense of gnawing injustice, which de- 
stroys all respect and attachment between "up- 
stairs ^^ and " down-stairs." 

And yet the servant is often very unjust, too. 
Cook, who has only to dress the dinner, and 
neither to work for it nor pay for it, turns up 
her nose at missises " meanness," i. e. displeasure 
at waste or extravagance — cook, who, if any 


crash came, has only to look out for another 
place; while missis has her five childi-en, whose 
little mouths must be filled, and little bodies 
must be clothed, and ^^ master/' whom it breaks 
her heart to see coming in from the City, hag- 
gard, tired, and cross — a crossness he cannot 
help, poor man! — or sitting down with a piti- 
ful patience, sick and sad, almost wishing, save 
for her and the children, that he could lay his 
head on her shoulder and die ! What does cook 
in the kitchen, fat and comfortable, know of all 
these things — of the agonised struggle for posi- 
tion and character — nay, mere bread — which 
makes the days and nights of thousands of the 
professional classes one long battle for life ? 

Also, the pretty housemaid, who has her re- 
gular work and periodical holiday, with her 
"young man'' coming faithfully on Sundays, 
about whom, should he turn out false, she rarely 
makes a fuss, but quickly takes up with another ; 
she being essentially practical, and mental suf- 


fering being happily out of her line. Little she 
guesses of all the conflicts, torments, and en- 
durances which fall to the lot of natures whom a 
different cultivation, if not a finer organisation, 
has rendered more alive to another sort of 
trouble — that anguish of spirit which is worse 
than any bodily pain. Little she knows, when 
she comes in singing to dust the parlour, of many 
a cruel scene transacted there; or of many an 
hour of mortal agony, bitter as death, yet shar- 
pened by the full consciousness of youth and 
life, which has been spent in the pretty room, 
outside which she grumbles so, because " miss 
will keep her door locked, and it ^11 be dinner 
time afore ever a body can get the beds made.'^ 
Servants should make allowance for these 
things, and many more which they neither know 
nor understand. They should respect, not out 
of blind subseiTience, but mere common sense, 
the great difference which their narrower edu- 
cation and mode of thought often places between 


them and " the family/'' in its pleasures, tastes, 
and necessities, and, above all, in its sufferings. 
This difference must exist : in the happiest homes, 
cares and anxieties must be for ever arising-, like 
sea-waves, to be breasted or avoided, or daslied 
against and broken, as may be ; and against 
these the servant must bear her part as well 
as the mistress. But it is, and ought to be, 
something to know how often a word or look 
of respectful sympathy, a quiet little attention, 
an unofficious observance of one^s comfort in 
trifles, will, in times of trouble, go direct to 
the mistress's heart, with a soothing influence 
of which the servant has not the slightest idea, 
and which is never afterwards forgotten. 

"Better is a friend that is near than a bro- 
ther afar off;'' and better, many a time, is the 
silent kindness of some domestic, who, from long 
familiarity, understands one's peculiarities, than 
the sympathy of many an outside friend, who 
only rubs against one's angles, sharpened by 


sickness or pain, and often, unintentionally, 
hurts more by futile comforting than by total 

A word on one branch of female service, un- 
deniably the most important of all — the care and 
management of children. 

I have always, from fond experience, held that 
child to be the happiest who never had a nursery- 
maid — only a mother. But this lot is too feli- 
citous to fall to many, and perhaps, after all, 
would not be in reality so Utopian as in idea — 
particularly to the mothers. So let us grant 
hired nurses to be a natural necessity of 

Poor things ! they certainly need considera- 
tion, for they have much to bear. Children 
are charming — in the abstract; but one some- 
times sees the petted cherubs of the drawing- 
room the little fiends of the nursery, exhibiting, 
almost before they can speak, passions which 
would tempt one to believe in original sin, did 


not education commence with existence. Yet 
whatever the mysterious law of sin may be that 
Adam made us hable for^ it is possible to bring 
even infants under the dominion of that law of 
love — given by the Second Adam — to Whom 
little children came. And how ? By practising 
it ourselves. 

Ay ; making allowance for the necessary short- 
comings of all young things_, just entered on 
the experience of life, from kittens to boys, the 
former bemg much the least troublesome of 
the two, I never once knew or heard of a case 
of irredeemably '^ naughty ■'' children, in regard 
to whom parents or nurses, or both, w^ere not 
originally and principally to blame. I never saw 
a fretful, sullen girl, who had not been made 
so by selfishness and ill-humour on the part of 
others, or by tantalising restrictions and com- 
pelled submission, hard enough at any age, but 
especially in childhood. I never knew a revenge- 
ful boy, who had not first had the Cain-like 



spirit put into him by some taunting voice or 
uplifted hand — not a baby-hand; teaching him 
that what others did he might do_, and that the 
blow he smarted from was exactly the same sort 
of pain, and dealt in the same spirit, as that 
he delighted to inflict on nurse or brother, feeling 
out of his fierce little heart that this was the 
sole consolation left him for his half-understood 
but intolerable wrongs. 

Does ever any man or woman remember the 
feeling of being "whipped" — as a child — the 
fierce anger, the insupportable ignominy, tlie 
longing for revenge, which blotted out all thought 
of contrition for the fault in rebellion against 
the punishment ? With this recollection on their 
own parts, I can hardly suppose any parents ven- 
turing to inflict it — certainly not allowing its 
infliction by another, under any circumstances 
whatever. A nurse-maid or domestic of any sort, 
once discovered to have lifted up her hand 
against a child, ought to meet instant severe 


rebuke, andj on a repetition of the ofFence, instant 

A firm will tlie nurse must have — which the 
child wall obey, knowing it must be obeyed; but 
it should be with her no less than wdth the 
parents, a loving wall always. I will not suppose 
any young w^oman so mean and cowardly as U- 
wreak her whims and tempers, or thoie ui ner 
mistress, on the helpless little sinner, w^ho, how- 
ever annoying, is after all such a very small 
sinner. I cannot believe she will find it so 
veiy hard to love the said sinner, w^ho clings 
about her helplessly night and day, in the total 
dependence that of itself produces love. And 
surely, ^-'^membering her own childhood and its 
events — such nothings now, of such vast mo- 
ment then, its unjust punishments, unremedied 
wrongs, and harshly-exacted sacrifices — things 
which in their results may have afi'ected her 
temper for years, and even yet are unforgotten — 
she will strive as much as possible to put herself 


in her nursling's place, to look at tlie world from 
his point of view^ and never, as people often do, 
to expect from him a degree of perfection which 
one rarely finds even in a grown person; ahove 
all, never to expect from him anything that she 
does not practise herself. 

It will be seen that I hold this law of kindness 
as the Alpha and Omega of education. I once 
asked one — in his own house a father in every- 
thing but the name, his authority unquestioned, 
his least word held in reverence, his smallest wish 
obeyed — " How did you ever manage to bring up 
\hese children ?'' He said: "By love.'^ 

That is the question. It is because people 
have so little love in them, so little purity and 
truth, self-control and self-denial, that they make 
such frightful errors in the bringing up of 
children. A^Tien I go from home to home of the 
middle classes, and see the sort of rule or misrule 
there, the countless evil influences, physical and 
spiritual, against which children have to struggle, 


I declare I often wonder that in the rising 
generation there should be any good men and 
women. And when I glance down the Times 
column of " Want Places," and speculate how 
few of these "nurses," upper and under "girls," 
and "nursery-maids," have the smallest know- 
ledge of their responsibility, or care about ful- 
filling it, my wonder is, that the new generation 
should grow up to manhood and womanhood at 

This responsibility — if the nurse ever reflects 
on it — how awful it is ! To think that whatever 
the man may become, learned and great, worldly 
or wicked, he is at present only the child, 
courtinor her smile and comins: to her for kisses, 
or hiding from her frown and sobbing on her 
neck, " I will be good, I will be good ! " That, 
be she old or young, clever or ignorant, ugly or 
pretty, she has, next to the mother — sometimes 
before the mother, though that is a sad thing 
to see — this all-powerful influence over him, 


stronger than any lie will afterwards allow or own. 
That it rests with herself how she uses it, whether 
wisely and tenderly, for the guidance and soften- 
ing of his nature, or harshly and capriciously, 
after a fashion which may harden and brutalise 
him, and make him virtually disbelieve in love 
and goodness for the remainder of his existence. 

Truly, in this hard world, which they must 
only too soon he thrust into, it is more essential 
even for boys than girls that, in the dawn of life, 
while women solely have the management of 
them, they should be accustomed to this law 
of love — love paramount and never ceasing, 
clearly discernible in the midst of restraint, re- 
proof, and even punishment — love that tries to 
be always as just as it is tender, and never exer- 
cises one of its rights for its own pleasure and 
good, but for the child^s. To the nurse, unto 
whom it does not come by instinct, as it does to 
parents, the practice of it may be difficult — very 
difficult — but God forbid it should be impossible. 


And wliat a reward there is in this, beyond 
any form of service — to a woman! Respect and 
gratitude of parents; consideration from all in 
the house; affection,, fresh, full, and free, and 
sweet as only a child's love can be. Trying as 
the nurse-maid's life is, countless as are her vex- 
ations and pains, how many a childless wdfe or 
solitaiy old maid has envied her, playing at 
romps for kisses, deafened with ever- sounding 
rills of delicious laughter all day, and lying down 
at night with a soft sleepy thing breathing at her 
side, or wakened of a morning with two little 
arms tight round her neck, smotheringly express- 
ing a wealth of love that kingdoms could not 

And when she grows an old woman, if, as 
often happens to domestic servants, she does 
not marry, but remains in service all her life, 
it must be her own fault if nurse's position is 
not an exceedingly happy and honoured one. 
Not perhaps, in our modern times, after the 


fashion of her order in novels and plays — from 
Juliet's nurse downwards — but still abounding 
in comfort and respect. !Most likely, she still 
lives in the family — anyhow, it will be strange 
if her grown-up ^^ children '' do not now and 
then come and see her, to gossip over those old 
times, which grow the more precious the further 
we leave them behind. In time these child- 
ren's children— -with their other parent, who 
knew not nurse, and whom nurse still views with 
rather suspicious curiosity — come and chatter 
to her, eager to hear all about "pa^^ or "ma;" 
how "ma^' looked when she was a little baby; 
whether "pa'' was a good boy or a naughty 
boy, some thirty odd years ago. And — a re- 
markable moral fact ! — the chances are that 
" pa " will gravely confess to the latter ; while 
old nurse, seeing all things through the soft- 
ening glass of time, will protest that neither 
he nor any of the children ever gave her the 
least trouble since they were born ! 


I have said a good deal^ and yet it seems as 
if I had ahnost left the subject where 1 found 
it, it is so wide. Let me end it in words which, 
coming into my mind now, transcend all mine, 
and yet, I trust, have been made the foundation 
of them ; in which case I need not fear. Words 
open alike to master and servant — studied by 
how few, yet in which lies the only law of life 
for all : — 

" Servants, obey in all tldiigs your masters 
according to the flesh; not ivith eye-service, as 
men-pie a sej^s ; hut in singleness of hearty fearing 
God: and whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as 
to the Lord, aiid not unto men ; knowing that 
of the L'/rd ye shall receive the Reward." 



The house-mother f what a beautiful, comprehen- 
sive word it is ! how suggestive of all that is 
wise and kindly, comfortable and good ! Surely, 
whether the lot comes to her naturally, in the 
happy gradations of wifehood and motherhood — 
or as the maiden-mistress of an adopted family, 
— or, as one could find many instances in this 
our modern England, when the possession of a 
large fortune, received or earned, gives her, with 
all the cares and duties, many of the advantages 
of matronhood — every such woman must ac- 
knowledge that it is a solemn as well as a happy 
thing to be the mistress of a family. 


Easy, pleasant, and beautiful as it is to obey, 
development of character is not complete when 
the person is fitted only to obey. There comes 
a time in most women's lives when they have 
to learn how to govern — first, themselves, then 
those about them. I say, to learn; because it has 
to be learnt. Love of arbitrary power may come 
by instinct; as in the very youngest children you 
may see one fierce little spirit to which all the 
rest, whether older or younger, succumb : but to 
domineer and to rule are two distinct arts, pro- 
ceeding often from totally opposite characters. 

The most of women are, in their youth at 
least, by both habit and temperament, as I once 
heard it expressed by a very acute thinker — 
decidedly "adjective.'-' Few of them have ever 
had the chance of becoming a "noun substan- 
tive '' — (whether or not that be a natural or 
enviable position). They have been accustomed 
all their lives hitherto to be governed, if not 
guarded; protected or unprotected, as may be; 


but rarely placed in circumstances where they 
had actively to assume the guardianship or rule 
of others. This then, if it falls to their lot_, they 
have to acquire, difficultly, painfully : often with 
no preparation, or with what is worse than none, 
a complete ignorance that there is anything to 
be acquired ! They expect all is to come quite 
naturally — the due arrangement and superin- 
tendence of a house — the regulation of an in- 
come — the guidance and control of servants. 

And yet, every family is a little kingdom in 
itself: the members and followers of which are 
often as hard to manage as any of the turbulent 
governments whose discords convulse our world. 
"Woe to thee, land, when thy king is a 
child !^^ And woe to thee, household, when 
thy mistress is — worse than a child — a foolish, 
ignorant, and incapable woman. 

With families, as with kingdoms, one of the 
principal evidences of misgovernment is at the 
working root of the little community — the 


servants. AVhy is it that in one half of the 
families one knows, the grand burden of com- 
plaint is — servants ? Is the fault altogether on 
one side? — which side, either party being left 
to decide : or is it a natural consequence of their 
relative positions, as ruler and ruled ? a state of 
things equally hateful and inevitable, for which 
nobody is to blame? 

Let us see — taking at random the most pro- 
minent specimens of mistresses of families, which 
present themselves to every one's notice who is 
at all familiar with middle-class society. These, 
I must distinctly state, are in every case gene- 
ralisations of a class, and of no personal ap- 
plication; which, indeed, would mar the whole 
moral of these imaginary portraits, by giving 
results and unfairly omitting causes. 

Eor instance, there is Mrs. Smith. You will 
never once enter that lady's house without hear- 
ing of a change in its domestic arrangements; 
you will hardly knock at the door four successive 


weeks, without its being opened by a strange 
damsel. To count the number of servants Mrs. 
Smitb has bad since her marriage, would puzzle 
her eldest boy, even though he is just going into 
his multiplication-table. Out of some scores, 
surely all could not have been so bad; yet, to 
hear her, no imps of Satan in female form could 
be worse than those with which her house has 
been haunted — cooks who sold the dripping, 
and gave the roast-meat to the policeman ; house- 
maids who could only scrub and scour, and 
wait at table and clean plate, and keep tidy 
to answer the door, and who actually had never 
learned to sew neatly, or to get up fine linen ! 
Nurses wickedly pretty, or thinking themselves 
so, who had the atrocious impudence to buy a 
bonnet "just like my last new one,^^ wdth flowers 
inside ! Poor Mrs. Smith ! Her whole soul 
is engrossed in the servant-question. Her whole 
life is a domestic battle — of the mean, scratch- 
and-snap, spit-and-snarl kind. She has a hand- 


Bome house; she gives good wages — that is^ her 
liberal husband does — but not a servant will 
stay with her. 

And why ? Because she is not fitted to be a 
mistress. She cannot rule — she can only order 
about; she cannot reprove — she can only scold. 
Possessing no real dignity^ she is always trying 
to assert its semblance ; having little or no edu- 
cation, she is the hardest of all judges upon 
ignorance. Though so tenacious of her prero- 
gative, that she dismissed Sally Baines for imi- 
tating missis's bonnet — (Heaven forgive you, 
Mrs. Smith ! but do you know where you might 
find that poor pretty sixteen-year old child now ?) 
— still, the more intelligent of her servants soon 
find out that she is "not a lady;^-' that, in fact, 
if one were to strip off her satin gowns, and sell 
her carriage, and make her inhabit the basement- 
story instead of the drawing-room of her hand- 
some house, Mrs. Smith would be not one whit 
superior to her own cook. Her quick-witted 


parlour-maid is really her superior, and fully 
aware of it too, as you may see from the way 
in which she contrives to wind missis round her 
little finger, get her own way entirely, and 
rule the ho use- arrangements from attic to cellar. 
This being not unprofitable, she will probably 
outstay many of the other servants — not because 
she is any better than the rest, but merely 

Miss Brown's household is on quite a difi'erent 
plan. You will never hear the small domestic 
"rows" — the petty squabbles between mistress 
and maid, injustice on one side and imperti- 
nence on the other. Miss Brown would never 
dream of quarrelling with "a servant," any more 
than with her dog or cat, or some other inferior 
animal. She strictly fulfils her duty as mistress ; 
gives regular wages, — very moderate, certainly, for 
her income is much below both her birth and 
her breeding ; exacts no extra service ; and is 
rigidly particular in allowing her servants the 


due holidays — namely, to church every other 
Sunday, and a day out once a-month. Her 
housekeeping is economical without being stingy ; 
everything is expected to go on like clock-work ; 
if otherwise, immediate dismissal follows, for 
Miss Brown dislikes to have to find fault, even 
in her own lofty and distant way. She is a 
conscientious, honourable lady, who exacts no 
more than she performs; and her servants re- 
spect her. But they stand in awe of her ; they 
do not love her. There is a wide gulf between 
their humanity and hers — you never would be- 
lieve that they and she shared the same flesh 
and blood of womanhood, and would end in 
the same dust and ashes. She is well served, 
well obeyed, and justly; but — and that is justice, 
too — she is neither sympathised with nor con- 
fided in. Perhaps this truth may have struck 
home to her sometimes; as when her maid, 
who had been ill unnoticed for months, in wait- 
ing on her one morning dropped down, and — 


died that night; or when^ the day there came 
news of the battle of Inkermann, she sat hour 
after hour with the Times in her lap, in her 
gloomy, lonely dining-room, and not a soul 
came nigh her to ask or learn from her speech- 
less looks "what of young Captain Brown?" 

In the Joneses highly respectable family are 
most respectable servants, clever, quick, attentive, 
and fully conscious of their own value and 
capabilities. They dress quite as finely as " the 
family," go out with parasols on Sundays, and 
have their letters directed " Miss." They guard 
with jealousy all their perquisites and privileges 
— from the tradesmen's Christmas-boxes, and 
the talk outside the nearly-closed front-door with 
unlimited " followers," to the dearly-prized right 
of a pert answer to missis when she ventures to 
complain. And missis — a kind, easy soul — is 
rather afraid of so doing ; and endures many an 
annoyance, together with a few real wrongs, 
rather than sweep her house with the besom 


of righteous destruction, and annihilate in their 
sprouting evils that will soon grow up like 
rampant weeds. This is no slight regret to 
Mrs. Jones's friends, who see that a little judicious 
authority, steadily and unvaiyingly asserted — 
a little quiet exercise of will, instead of fidgety 
or nervous fault-finding and needless sus- 
piciousness, would make matters all straight, 
and reduce this excellent and liberal establish- 
ment, from the butler down to the little kitchen- 
maid, to the safe level of a limited monarchy. 
Instead of which there is a loose sway, which 
often borders upon that most dangerous of all 
governments — domestic republicanism. 

This last is the government at IMrs. Robin- 
son's. She has long let the reins go — leaned 
back, and slumbered. Where her household 
will di'ive to, Heaven only knows ! The house 
altogether takes care of itself. The mistress 
is too gentle to blame anybody for anything 
— too lazy to do anything herself, or show 


anybody else how to do it. I suppose she has 
eyes, yet you might write your name in dust- 
tracks on every bit of furniture in her house. 
She doubtless likes to wear a clean face and 
a decent gown, for she has tastes not unrefined; 
yet in Betty, her maid-of-all-work, both these 
advantages are apparently impossible luxuries. 
Mrs. Robinson can^t, or believes she can^t, afford 
what is called a ^^good^^ servant — that is, an 
efficient, responsible woman, who requires equi- 
valent w^ages for valuable services ; therefore 
she does with poor Betty, a very well-meaning 
girl, though quite incompetent for the duties 
she undertakes, and never likely to be instructed 
therein. For it never seems to strike Betty, 
or her mistress either, that though poverty may 
be inevitable, dirt and tatters are not — that a 
girl, if ever so ignorant, can generally be taught 
— a house, if ever so small and ill-furnished, 
can at least be clean — a dinner, if ever so plain, 
nay, scanty, may be well cooked and well 


arranged; and however the servants fall short, 
every mistress has always her own intelligent 
brain^ and has, at the worst, her own pair of 
active hands. Did you ever consider that last 
possibility, my good Mrs. Robinson? Would 
Betty honour you less if, eveiy morning, she 
saw you dust a chair or two, or hunt out 
lurking ambushes of spiders — shaming her into 
knowledge and industry by the conviction, that 
what she left undone her mistress would certainly 
do? Would you be less amiable in your hus- 
band^ s eyes by the discovery, that it was you 
yourself who cooked, and then taught Betty to 
cook, his comfortable dinner? Would he have 
less pleasure in petting your dainty fingers for 
seeing on them a few needle-marks, caused by 
the sewing of tidy chair-covers, or the mending 
of clean threadbare carpets, so as to make the 
best of his plain, quiet home, where Heaven has 
at once denied the blessing and spared the re- 
sponsibility of children? But you may be as 


ignorant as Betty herself. I am afraid you are. 
Let me give you a golden rule — " Never expect 
a servant to do tliat which you cannot do, or, 
if necessary, will learn to do, yourself. ^^ 

Mrs. Johnson, now, will be a very good 
illustration of this. I doubt if she is any richer 
than Mrs. Robinson; for a few years after her 
marriage, I know it was very u})hill-work indeed 
with the young couple; especially for the wife, 
who, married at nineteen, was as ignorant as any 
school-girl. She and her cook are reported to 
have studied Mrs. Glass together. To this day, 
I fancy the praise of any special dinner would 
be modestly received as conjointly due to '^ missis 
and me.^^ So, doubtless would any grand effect 
in household arrangements, though, where all 
goes on so smoothly and orderly, that the most 
sudden visitor would only necessitate an extra 
knife and fork, and a clean pair of sheets in 
the spare room, there is not much opportunity 
for any coup d'etat in the housemaid- line. As 


for the nursery-staff but since her boys could 

walk alone, Mrs. Johnson has abolished the 
nursery altogether. If she has no more children, 
these two lads will have the infinite blessing of 
never being " managed '' by any womenkind save 
their mother. Of course it is a busy, and often 
hard life for her ; and her handmaidens know it. 
They see her employed from morning to night, 
happy and merry enough, but always employed. 
They themselves would be ashamed to be lazy ; 
they would do anything in the world to lighten 
things to missis. If little delicate Fred is ailing, 
Jane will sit up half the night with him, and 
still get up at five next morning. Mary, the 
cook, does not grumble at any accidental waiting, 
if missis, in her sewing, has the slightest need 
of Jane. Both would work their fingers to the 
bone any day to save her the least trouble or 
pain. Not a cloud comes across her path — not 
a day of illness — her own or her little ones' 
— shadows her bright looks, but is felt as an 


absolute grief in tlie kitchen. Jane's face, as 
she opens the front door, is a sufficient indication 
to all friends as how things are with "the 
family/' and if you, being very intimate, make 
any chance inquiiy of Mary in the street, ten 
to one she will tell you everything Mrs. Johnson 
has done, and exactly how she has looked, for 
a week past, ending with a grave, respectful 
remark, ventured in right of her own ten years 
of eldership, that she " is afraid missis is wearing 
herself out, and would you please to come and 
see her?'' 

And missis, on her side, returns the kindly 
interest. She likes to hear anything and every- 
thing that her damsels may have to tell, from 
the buying of a new gown to the birth of a 
new nephew. Any relatives of theirs who may 
appear in the kitchen, she generally goes to speak 
to, and welcomes always kindly. She is glad 
to encourage family affection, believing it to be 
quite as necessary and as beautiful in a poor 


housemaid as in a sentimental lady. Love^ also. 
She has not the smallest objection to let that 
young baker come in to tea on Sundays_, entering 
honestly at the front-door^ T,'ithout need of sneak- 
ing behind area-railings. And if, on such Sun- 
days^ Jane is rather absent and awkward, with 
a tendency to forget the spoons, and put hot 
plates where cold should be, her mistress pardons 
all, and tempers master^s indignation by remind- 
ing him of a certain summer, not ten years back 

when -, &c. Upon which he kisses his little 

wife, and grows mild. 

Thus the family have no dread of " followers,^' 
no visions of burglarious sweethearts introduced 
by the kitchen-window, or tribes of locust 
" cousins ^^ creating a famine in the larder. 
Having always won confidence, ]\Irs. Johnson 
has little fear of being deceived. "When pretty 
Jane can make up her mind, doubtless there 
will occur that most creditable event to both 
parties — the maid being married from her mis- 


tress's house. Of course, Jane would be a great 
loss, or Mary eitlier; but Mary is growing 
middle-aged, and is often seen secretly petting 
Master Fred, as only old maid-servants do pet 
the children of "the family/' Freddy says, 
she has promised never to leave him; and her 
mistress, who probably knows as much of Mary's 
affairs as anybody, does not think it hkely she 
ever mlL 

The Johnson household is the best example I 
know of the proper relation between kitchen 
and parlour. True, Jane and Maiy are esti- 
mable women — might have been such in any 
"place;'' but I will do human nature the justice 
to believe, that the class of domestic servants 
contains many possible Janes and Marys, if only 
their good qualities could be ehcited by a few 
more Mrs. Johnsons. 

It is an obvious law, that any movement for 
social advancement must necessarily commence 
in the higher class, and gradually influence the 


lower. By higher and lower, I mean simply 
as regards moral and intellectual cultivation, 
which, continued through generations and be- 
come a habit of life, makes, and is the only thing 
that does or ought to make, the difference be- 
tween master and servant, patrician and plebeian. 
Mrs. Thomson, descended from the clan Robert- 
son, a very superior family, has a great deal 
more chance of being a lady than Peg Thompson 
her nursery-maid, whose father, gi-andfather, &c., 
have been farm-labourers. But if, by any of 
her not rare freaks. Dame Nature should have 
placed in Peg^s uncouth body the soul of a 
gentlewoman, together with that rare quality of 
rismg, which, in spite of circumstances, enables 
many refined minds to reach their natural level 
— if so, Mrs. Thomson should not have the 
slightest objection to assist that desirable end 
in eveiy possible way. Nay, finally, it might 
be rather a pleasure to her some day to sit at 
table with Miss Margaret Thompson ; and she 


should altogether scorn the behaviour of that fine 
gentleman who once '^'cut^^ honest Dodsley the 
publisher-footman — of whom the meek old fellow 
only observed : '^ Yes, he knows me ; I used 
to wait behind his chair." 

But since the laws of nature and of circum- 
stance have made some to be mistresses and 
others servants — giving to the one incalculably 
more chances of superiority than the other, would 
it not be as well if more ladies would try to 
prove this superiority instead of resting content 
in the mere assertion thereof? The proverb 
asserts, "A good mistress will make a good 
servant." Whether this is possible or not, all 
will agree that the best servant in the world 
cannot make a good mistress. 

The refoi-matory process must necessarily com- 
mence with the superior. 

Also the root of all improvement must be the 
mistress's own conviction, religious and sincere, 
of the truth, more than once already urged here, 


but wliicli cannot be too often referred to^ that 
she and her servants share one common woman- 
hood : alike in its mental and physical weaknesses; 
in its capabilities of advancement and deteriora- 
tion ; in its tempers, passions, and prejudices : 
with aims, hopes, or interests distinctly defined, 
and pursued with equal eagerness; with a life 
here, meant as a school for the nexc life ; with an 
immortal soul. 

A lady who can once be made to feel that, so 
far as any human soul can be made responsible 
for another, she is responsible for that of every 
domestic who enters her house, has gained one 
step from which she is not likely ever to back- 
slide- And if accountable for the soul — the 
better part, — so also for the body. Since, with 
advanced knowledge, we are all now beginning 
to recognise — some with the stolid assent of 
materialism, and some with the Christian's 
holy wonder at this human machine, made 
too wonderfully to be made for nothing, and 


by no one, — how mysteriously soul and body 
act and react upon one another; how one 
half of the shortcomings of the spirit springs 
from mere bodily causes; and how a healthy 
soul can stimulate even the poorest and most 
unsound dwelling-house of flesh and blood into 
something of its own beauty and divineness. 

And yet there is a saying that one sometimes 
hears, and sees silently in action perpetually — 
" Anything will do for the servants.'^ Kitchen 
and parlour are placed on quite a difi'erent foot- 
ing; not only with regard to coarser food — rea- 
sonable enough sometimes^ when the parlour has 
nice or sickly tastes, and the kitchen is blessed 
with the wholesome omnivorous appetite of hard 
work and an easy mind — but in the regular 
routine of daily life. " Late to bed and early to 
rise/' yet still expected to be " both healthy and 
wise;'' compelled to sleep in damp_, heat, un- 
cleanliness, or ill-ventilation — anything is good 
enough for a ^'servant's bedi'oom; allowed no 


time for personal attention, serving, or mending, 
yet required to be always "tidy;^' kept at work 
constantly, without regard to how mucli and 
what sort of work each person^s strength can 
bear; yet supposed to be capable of working 
on for ever, without that occasional inteiinixture 
of " play,^' — not idleness, but wholesome amuse- 
ment — without which every human being grows 
dull, dispirited, falls into ill-huniour, and, finally 
into ill-health. Truly it often makes one's heart 
ache to think of the sort of life even well-mean- 
ing mistresses make their servants lead ; and it 
would be curious, were it not so melancholy, to 
pause and consider, if in all one^s acquaintance 
there are half-a-dozen ladies under whom, did fate 
compel, one would choose to ^^go into service/* 
My dear madam — who may be opening your 
eyes widely at this heterodox view of the ques- 
tion — you have no right to keep a servant at all 
unless you can keep her comfortable. You did 
not buy her, body and soul, like a negro slave; 


you only took her on hired service, to fulfil ceiiain 
duties, whicli you must exact from her kindly 
and firmly, for her good as well as yours : but 
you have no right to any more. Except so far 
as nature and education have instituted a differ- 
ence between you, you are not justified in placing 
either her enjoyments or necessities on a lower 
level than your own. The same sanitary laws, 
of physical and mental well-being, apply to you 
both ; and neither can break them, or be allowed 
to break them, with impunity. 

Moral laws, also. ]\Irs. Smith thinks it is 
against her that poor Sally Baines sinned in the 
matter of the bonnet. Foolish Mrs. Smith ! 
Suppose you were to purchase at Swan and 
Edgar^s that hundred-guinea Cachemire labelled 
" the Queen^s choice '^ — whom would you harm, 
her Majesty or yourself? So, when your Emma 
or Betsy buys a silk gown and a twelve-shilling 
parasol, she errs, and grievously, too : but it is 
against herself. She lowers her own self-respect 



by striving to maintain a false position ; wastes 
in shabby showiness the money that she ought 
to lay up for sickness, old age, or marriage, and 
the happy duty of helping others; loses the 
simple neatness befitting the respectable maid- 
seiTant, and becomes ridiculous as the sham 

But in this complaint, only too general, of ser- 
vants " dressing above their place,^^ the mistress's 
own example is the best warning and reproof: a 
thing, my poor Mrs. Smith, which it would be 
vain to look for from you. Equally vain in 
another matter, which applies as stringently to 
that wretched Sally Baines — whom, if she now 
came dmnk and flaunting to your area-gate, you 
would hustle away in charge of X 25 — as to 
your own little daughter, whom you hope one 
day to see Mrs. Somebody, and will take all 
available maternal means to that desirable end. 

You do not think it, but the kitchen is 
made of flesh and blood as well as the parlour. 



However you may insist upon "No followers 
allowed/' Emma will meet her sweetheart round 
the corner, and cook will startle your nerves 
after five years' service with " Please suit yourself 
marm, as I'm a-going to be married." Happy 
for you if no worse occurs than this. For you 
are exacting an injustice — an impossibility: you 
are instituting a state of things which, from its 
veiy unnatm-alness, gives a premium to deceit and 
immorality. Love — na}^, I beg your pardon; 
you don't understand what that word means — 
but courting, which looks so pretty in the draw- 
ing-room, you treat as a crime in the kitchen; 
and therefore it is very likely to become such. 
An honest lover — as much Emma's right as your 
own when you took up with Mr. Smith — you 
degi-ade into a "follower/' who has to sneak 
about areas, hide in coal-cellars, and be gossiped 
with behind doors. Consequently, there can be no 
inquiiy into his character, no open acknowledg- 
ment of an honourable attachment, which neither 


mistress nor maid need ever be ashamed of; 
eveiything goes on underhand, and if discovered 
at all, is generally in such a miserable form as 
to make prudent Mrs. Smiths firmer than ever 
in their impossible edict, never obeyed. Whilst 
other women, accustomed to regard love and 
marriage according to the standard of the better 
classes, are shocked at the low tone of thought 
on such subjects, which inevitably results in that 
low tone of morals almost universally prevalent 
among the ranks from which female servants 
are recruited. 

It is worth while tiying whether — since dark 
deeds and ill feelings can only be conquered by 
being brought to the light — mistresses should 
not make the experiment of saying, as every mo- 
ther ought to say to her daughters — (alas, how 
few do ! and what a train of horrible evils often 
results from that want of confidence between 
mother and child !) — " Be honest with me. I 
don't expect from you more than human nature 


is capable of. I expect you to fall in love and 
be married : all I desire is that you should love 
worthily, and many wisely. Only be honest. 
No falsehoods_, no concealments of any kind. 
Let everything be plain, open, and above-board ; 
tell the truth, and don^t be afraid.^' 

Perhaps, then we should have less of these 
frightful cases of shame and sorrow, or those 
hasty marriages, of which one so often hears 
— when a decent, respectable girl, after a few 
months' wedlock, comes back to her old mistress, 
ragged and destitute, with a husband in jail 
for bigamy, or against whom she has to swear 
the peace, for that brutal ill-usage which makes 
us English disgraced abroad as " the nation that 
beats its wives .^' 

In households as in states there must be one 
ruling head — and there ought to be but one. 
Eveiy person knows what sort of system that 
is, which I have called domestic republicanism. 
Whether or not it is best for kingdoms, in 


families the ooly safe form of government is 

And the autocrat should decidedly be the lady^ 
the mistress. The master^ be he father, husband, 
or brother, has quite enough to do without -doors. 
He is the bread- wanner ; the woman, the bread- 
keeper, server, and expender. Nature as well 
as custom has — save in very exceptional cases 
— instituted this habit of life, and any alteration 
of it, making mamma attend the law-courts and 
Exchange, or drive about on a series of medical 
visits, while papa stays at home to cook the 
dinner and nurse the babies, would assuredly 
be very bad, if not for himself, for the dinn3r 
and the babies. 

No. We of the ^^ softer^' sex, though not by 
any means really so soft as we are complimented 
and coaxed into appearing, have no call, and, 
mostly, no desire to force ourselves into the 
province of men. Wc feel that we are not fitted 
for it. Female doctors - though all honour be 


to those heroic^ self-sacrificing women, who are 
capable of undertaking such a profession — 
female missionaries, travellers, and life -long de- 
votees to science, art, or philanthropy, are and 
always will be rare and peculiar cases, not to be 
judged by ordinary i-ules. The average number 
of us are content to leave to men their own 
proper place : but none the less resolutely ought 
we to keep our own — one of the first "rights" 
of which is, the supreme i*ule in all domestic 

A man has no business to meddle in the 
management of the house. No business, except 
through hard necessity, or the saddest incom- 
petency on the part of others, to poke over the 
weekly bills, and insist on knowing what candles 
are per pound, whether the washing is done at 
home or abroad, and what he is going to have 
eveiy day for dinner. He who voluntarily and 
habitually interferes in these things must be a 
rather small-minded gentleman, uncommonly in- 


convenient to his family and servants. Perhaps 
to more than they : since a man who is always 
" muddling about ^^ at home is rarely a great 
acquisition to the world outside. 

I once heard a married lady say, with great 

glee and satisfaction : " Oh, Mr. saves 

me all trouble in housekeeping; he orders dinner, 
and goes to the butcher^s to choose it, too : pays 
aU the bills, and keeps the weekly accounts : 
he never wants me to do anything.^^ Thought 
I privatel}^, " ]\Iy dear, if I were you I should 
be very much ashamed both of myself and 
Mr. ." 

When a house boasts both master and mistress, 
each should leave to the other the appointed 
work, and both qualify themselves rightly to 
fidiil the same, abstaining as much as possible 
from mutual interference. A man who can trust 
his wife or his housekeeper should no more 
meddle with her home concerns than she should 
pester him with questions about his business. 


No doubt, countless occasions will arise vfheA 
he will be thankful and glad to take counsel 
with her in worldly cares ; while she may have 
to remember all her life long, and nsver think 
of without a gush of gratitude and love, some 
season of sickness or affliction, when he filled 
his own place and hers too, ashamed of no 
womanish task, and neither irritated nor hu- 
miliated by ever such mean household cares. 

A lady of my acquaintance gives it as her 
sine qua non of domestic felicity, that the '' men 
of the family" should always be absent at least 
six hours in the day. And truly a mistress of 
a family, however strong her affection for the 
male members of it, cannot but acknowledge 
that this is a great boon. A house where 
'^papa'' or "the boys'' are always "pottering 
about,'' popping in and out at all hours, ever- 
lastingly wanting something, or finding fault with 
something else, is a considerable trial to even 
feminine patience. And I beg to ask my sex 


generally — in confidence, of course — if it is not 
the greatest comfort possible wlien_, the masculine 
half of the family being cleared out for the day, 
the house settles do^^^l into regular work and 
orderly quietness until evening? 

Also, it is good for them, as well as for us, 
to have all the inevitable petty domestic 
"bothers" got over in their absence; to effect 
which ought to be one of the principal aims 
of the mistress of a family. Let them, if possible, 
return to a quiet smiling home, with all its 
small annoyances brushed away like the dust 
and cinders from the grate — which, en passant , 
is ODC of the first requisites to make a fireside 
look comfortable. It might be as well, too, if 
the master himself could contrive to leave the 
w^orldly mud of the day at the scraper outside 
his door; however, as these chapters do not 
presume to lecture the lords of creation, I have 
nothing more to say on that score. 

But she who, the minute an ud fortunate man 


comes home, fastens upon him with a long tale 
of domestic grievances, real or imagined — how 
the butcher will never bring the meat in time, 
and the baker keeps a false account of loaves 
— how she is sure cook is given to drink, and 
that Mary's " cousin '^ had his dinner off " our'' 
mutton yesterday; — why, such a lady deserves 
all she gets : cold looks, sharp speeches, hasty 
plunges into the convenient newspaper; per- 
haps an angry cigar — a walk, with no invi- 
tation for her company — or the club. Poor 
little woman ! sitting crying over her lonely fire, 
not owning that she is wrong, but only that 
she is very unhappy, and very much ill-used, 
might one recommend to her notice one golden 
rule? — ^^ Never pester a man with things that 
he cannot remedy and does not understand." 
Also, for her own benefit as well as his, a harm- 
less rhyme, true enough of minor vexations, 
whatever it may be of the greater griefs it so 
philosophically disposes of: — 


" For every evil under the sun 

There is a remedy — or there's none 
If there is one, try and find it ; 
If there isn't, never mind it." 

And wlien he comes in again^ honest man ! 
perhaps a little repentant_, too, there is but one 
course of conduct which I recommend to all 
sensible women, viz. to put her arms round 
his neck, and — hold her tongue. 

But the house-mother has her troubles; ay, 
be she ever so gifted with that blessed quality 
of taking them lightly and cheerfully; weigh- 
ing them at their just value and no more; 
never tormenting herself and eveiybody else 
by that peculiarity of selfish and narrow minds, 
which makes the breaking of a plate as terri- 
ble a calamity as the crash of an empire. No 
one can hold the reins of family government 
for ever so brief a time, without feeling what 
a difficult position it is : how great its daily 
need of self-control, as the veiy first means of 
controlling others; of incessant individual acti- 


vity, and a personal carrying out of all regu- 
lations instituted for the ordering of the esta- 
blishment^ which^ unless faithfully observed by 
the mistress — the eye and heart of the house 
— are no more than a dead letter to the rest 
of the establishment. 

No doubt this entails considerable self-sacri- 
fice. It is not pleasant for lazy ladies to get 
breakfast over at that regular early hour, which 
alone sets a household fairly a-going for the 
day : nor for un arithmetical ladies, who have al- 
ways reckoned their accounts by sixpences, to 
put down each item, and persevere in balancing 
periodically receipts and expenditure : nor for 
weakly, nervous, self-engrossed ladies, to rouse 
themselves sufficiently to put their house in 
order, and keep it so; not by occasional spas- 
modic " setting to rights,^' but by a general 
methodical overlooking of all that is going on 
therein. Yet, unless all this is done, it is in 
vain to insist on early rising, or grumble about 


waste_, or lecture upon neatness^ cleanliness, and 
order. The servants get to learn that "missis 
is never in time;^^ and laugh at her com- 
plaints of their unpunctuality. They see no 
use in good management^ or avoidance of 
waste; — " Missis never knows about anything/-' 
She may lecture till she is weary about neat- 
ness and cleanliness; — " Just put your head into 
her room and see V' For all moral qualities_, 
good temper, truth, kindliness, and, above all, 
conscientiousness, if these are deficient in the mis- 
tress, it is idle to expect them from servants, or 
children, or any members of the family cu'cle. 
Yet this fact, so trite that readers may smile 
at its being urged at all, is the last to be ge- 
nerally acted upon. Mistresses blame all per- 
sons about them, and Providence above them; 
— for does it not often virtually mean that ? 
every thing and every body except themselves. 
They will not see, that until a woman has 
done all that is in her power to do^ striving 


with antagonistic circumstances^ great and small, 
and chiefly with her own self, her errors of 
character, and weaknesses of temperament — 
until then she has no right to begin blaming 
anybody. It is vain to attempt showing them, 
what is plain enough to any unbiassed student 
of life in the abstract — and this ought to 
strike solemnly upon the mind of every woman 
who feels that where much is given much is 
required — that, however fatally the conduct of 
the master may affect the external fortunes of 
a family, there are very few families whose 
internal mismanagement and domestic unhap- 
piness are not mainly the fault of the mistress. 
The house-mother! where could she find a 
nobler title, a more sacred charge? All these 
souls, given into her hand to be cared for, both 
in great things and small — if anything can 
be called small on which rests the comfort of 
a family; and that to a degree which can 
never be too much appreciated. For instance. 


good temper is with many people dependent 
upon good healtlij good health upon good 
digestion ; good digestion upon wholesome, well- 
prepared food, eaten in peace and pleasantness. 
Ill-cooked, untidy meals, are as great a cause 
of bad temper as many a moral wrong; and 
a person of sensitive physique may be nursed 
into settled hypochondria by living in close 
rooms, where the sweet fresh air and sunshine 
are determinedly shut out, and the foul air as 
determinedly shut in. While those nervous, 
irritable temperaments, which, either from the 
slow deterioration of our race, or our modem 
en-or of cultivating the mind at the expense of 
the body, are getting so common now-a-days, 
are often driven almost into madness by the 
non-observance of those ordinary sanitary rules, 
ignorance or neglect of which, bad enough in 
anybody, is in the mistress of a family scarcely 
less than a crime. 

Yet most of these short-comings in women. 


on whom this responsibility has fallen, are l)y 
no means intentional. A girl marries early, 
thinking only how pleasant it is to have a 
house of one's own^ and never once how diffi- 
cult it is to manage it : perhaps she makes a 
pride, and her young husband a joke, of her 
charming ignorance in common things — a la 
David and Dora Copperfield — pretty enough 
while it lasts. But only picture these poor little 
silly Doras living, instead of, happily, dying ! 
Drifting on to middle age — helpless, burden- 
some wives — lazy, feeble, many-childed mothers; 
meaning well enough, but incapable of acting 
upon their good intentions; either sinking into 
a hopeless indifference, which is not content, 
or wearing themselves out with w^eak com- 
plainings, which never result in any amend- 
ment. Poor dear women ! we may pity and 
pardon, acknowledging their many gentle and 
estimable qualities; but all the passive sweet- 
ness in the world will not make up for active 


goodness; and there is many a ^^ most amiable 
womau/^ wlio^ whatever she might have been 
in an inferior position^ when unhappily she is 
mistress of a family^ by her over-kindness, lazy 
laxity_, and general laissez-faire, does as much 
harm as the greatest shrew who ever embittered 
the peace of a household. 

Power, of whatsoever kind and degree, so 
that it is just and lawful, is a glorious thing 
to have, a noble thing to use. But what 
shall be said for the woman who has had it 
and thrown it away, or retained it only to mis- 
use it ? Woe betide both her and all connected 
with her ! for she has ceased to injure herself 
alone. Evei*y life that was given her in charge 
for health of body and mind, peace, comfort, 
and enjoyment, will assuredly one day rise up 
in judgment against her. We can imagine 
such an one, suddenly waking up to the con- 
sciousness of all she has done and h-tt un- 
done — what those belonging to her aiu, and 



what she might, under God, have made them 
— crying out in her agony, " Would that I 
had never been born !" 

At present, the happiest thing for her — 
if there can be any happiness in a self-decep- 
tion — is, that she really is unaware of her own 
position — that most humiliating position of a 
woman who is not mistress in her own family; 
whose servants disobey or despise her, whose 
children rule her, whose husband snubs her 
or neglects her, whose friends and neighbours 
criticise, compassionate, or laugh at her. Who, 
though anything but a bad woman, will slip 
tnrough existence without dignity, effecting little 
or no real good : at best only patiently borne 
with and kindly treated while she lives, and 
her place filled up, some few regretting awhile, 
but none really missing her, as soon as ever 
she dies. 

What a contrast to that portrait — standing 
out as true a photograph of nature in this our 


modem day, as it did in those ancient days, 
under the glowing sun of the East, '' the words 
of King Lemuel,'' that "his mother taught him/' 

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far 
above rubies. 

The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that 
she shall have no need of spoil. 

She will do him good and not evil all the days of her 

She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth 
her arms. 

She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold 
the distaff. 

She stretcheth out her hand to the poor ; yea, she reacheth 
forth her hands to the needy. 

Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth 
among the elders of the land. 

Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall 
rejoice in time to come. 

She openeth her mouth with wisdom ; and in her tongue 
is the law of kindness. 

She looketh well to the ways of her household, and 
eateth not the bread of idleness. 


Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband 
also, and he praiseth her. 

Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest 
them aU. 

Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain ; but a woman 
that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. 

Give her of the fruit of her hands ; and let her own 
works praise her in the gates." 



" And what is Friendsliip but a name, 
A charm that lulls to sleep, 
A shade that follows wealth and fame, 
And leaves the wretch to weep ? " 

This remark, expressed too tersely and intel- 
ligibly to be considered '^poetry^^ now-a-days, 
must apply to the nobler sex. Few observant 
persons will allege against ours, that even in 
its lowest form our friendsliip is deceitful. Fickle 
it may be, weak, exaggerated, sentimental — the 
mere lath-and-plaster imitation of a palace great 
enough for a demigod to dwell in — but it is 
rarely false, parasitical, or diplomatic. The 
countless secondary motives which many men 


are mean enough to have — nay, to own — are 
all but impossible to us; impossible from the 
very faults of our nature — our frivolity, irra- 
tionality, and incapacity to seize on more than 
one idea at the same time. In truth, a sad 
proportion of us are too empty-headed to be 
double-minded, too shallow to be insincere. 
Nay, even the worst of us being more direct and 
simple of character than men are, our lightest 
friendship — the merest passing liking that we 
decorate with that name — is, while it lasts, 
more true than the generality of the so-called 
'^ friendships^^ of mankind. 

But — and this "but^^ will, I am aware, raise 
a whole nest of hornets — from our very pecu- 
liarities of temperament, women^s friendships are 
rarely or never so firm, so just, or so enduring, 
as those of men — when you can find them. 
Damon and Pythias, Orestes and Pylades, Brutus 
and Cassius — last and loveliest, David and Jona- 
than, are pictures unmatched by any from our 


sex, do\Yia even to the far-famed ladies of Llan- 
gollen. When such a bond really does exist, 
from its exception to general masculine idiosyn- 
crasies — especially the enormous absorption in 
and devotion to Number One — from its total 
absence of sentimentality, its undemonstrative- 
ness, depth, and power, a friendship between 
two men is a higher thing than between any 
two women — nay, one of the highest and noblest 
sights in the whole world. Precisely as, were 
comparisons not as foolish as they are odious, 
a truly good man, from the larger capacities 
of male nature both for virtue and vice, is, in 
one sense, more good than any good woman. 
But this question I leave to controversialists, who 
enjoy breaking their own heads, or one another's, 
over a bone contention which is usually not 
worth picking after all. 

Yet, though dissenting from much of the 
romance talked about female friendships, believing 
that two-thirds of them spring from mere idle- 


ness^ or from that besoin d'aimer which, for 
want of natural domestic ties, makes this one 
a temporary substitute, Heaven forbid I should 
so malign my sex as to say they are incapable 
of an emotion which, in its right form and place, 
constitutes the strength, help, and sweetness of 
many, many lives; and the more so because 
it is one of the first sweetnesses we know. 

Probably there are few women who have not 
had some first friendship, as delicious and almost 
as passionate as first love. It may not last — 
it seldom does ; but at the time it is one of 
the purest, most self-forgetful and self-denying 
attachments that the human heart can experience : 
with many, the nearest approximation to that 
feeling called love — I mean love in its highest 
form, apart from all selfishnesses and sensuous- 
nesses — which in all their after-life they will ever 
know. This girlish friendship, however fleeting 
in its character, and romantic, even silly, in its 
manifestations, let us take heed how we make 


light of, lest we be mocking at things more 
sacred than we are aware. 

And yet, it is not the real thing — not friend- 
ship, but rather a kind of foreshadowing of love ; 
as jealous, as exacting, as unreasoning — as wildly- 
happy and supremely miserable; ridiculously so 
to a looker-on, but to the parties concerned, as 
vivid and sincere as any after-passion into which 
the girl may fall; for the time being, perhaps 
long after, colouring all her world. Yet it is 
but a dream, to melt away like a dream when 
love appears ; or if it then wishes to keep up 
its vitality at all, it must change its character, 
temper its exactions, resign its rights : in short, 
be buried and come to life again in a totally 
different form. Afterwards, should Laura and 
Matilda, with a house to mind and a husband 
to fuss over, find themselves actually kissing the 
babies instead of one another — and managing 
to exist for a j^ear without meeting, or a month 
without letter-writing, yet feel life no blank, 


and affection a reality still — then their attach- 
ment has taken its true shape as friendship, 
shown itself capable of friendship's distinguishing 
feature — namely, tenderness without appropria- 
tion; and the women, young or old, will love 
one another faithfully to the end of their lives. 
Perhaps this, which is the test of the senti- 
ment, explains why we thus seldom attain to 
it, in its highest phase, because nature has made 
us in all our feelings so intensely personal. We 
have instincts, passions, domestic affections, but 
friendship is, strictly speaking, none of the three. 
It is — to borrow the phrase so misused by that 
arch m-moralist, that high-priest of intellectual 
self- worship, Goethe — an elective affinity, based 
upon the spiritual consanguinity, which, though 
frequently co-existent with, is different from any 
tie of instinct or blood-relationship. Therefore, 
neither the sanctities nor weaknesses of these 
rightly appertain to it; its duties, immunities, 
benefits and pains, belong to a distinct sphere. 


of which the vital atmosphere is perfect liberty. 
A bond, not of nature but of choice, it should 
exist and be maintained calm, free, and clear, 
having neither rights nor jealousies ; at once the 
firmest and most independent of all human ties. 
" Enough,^^ said Rasselas to Imlac ; " you 
convince me that no man can ever be a poet/^ 
And truly, reviewing friendship in its purest 
essence, one is prone to think that, in this 
imperfect world of ours, no man — certainly no 
woman — ever can be a friend. And yet we all 
own some dozens ; from Mrs. Granville Jones, 
who invites "a few friends ^^ — say two hundred 
— to pass with her a "social evening ^^ — to 
the poor costermonger, who shouts after the 
little pugilistic sweep the familiar tragico-comic 
saying : " Hit him hard ; he's got no friends ! ^' 
And who that is not an utter misanthrope would 
refuse to those of his or her acquaintance that 
persist in claiming it, the kindly title, and the 
pleasant social charities which belong thereto ? 


** Love is sweet, 
Given or returned ;" 

and so is friendsliip ; when^ be it ever so infini- 
tesimal in quantity, its quality is unadulterated 
springing, as, I repeat_, women's friendsliip almost 
always does spring, out of that one-idea'd im- 
pulsiveness, often wrong-headed, but rarely evil- 
hearted, which makes us at once so charming 
and so troublesome, and which, I fear, never will 
be got out of us till we cease to be women, and 
become what men sometimes call us — and they 
well know they give us but too much need to be 
— angels. 

Yes, with all our folly, we are not false : not 
even when Lavinia Smith adores with all her 
innocent soul the condescending Cdestina Jones, 
though meeting twenty years after as fat Mrs. 
Bro\\Ti and vulgar Mrs. Green, they may with 
difficulty remember one another's Christian 
names : not when Bessy Thompson, blessed with 
three particularly nice brothers, owns likewise 


three times three " dearest" friends, who honestly 
persuade themselves and her that they come 
only to see dear Bessy; nevertheless, the fond- 
ness is real enough to outlast many bothers 
caused by said brothers, or even a cantanke- 
rous sister-in-law to end with. Nay, when 
Miss Hopkins, that middle-aged and strong- 
minded " young lady" of blighted aiFections, 
and Mrs. Jenkins, that woman of sublime as- 
pirations, who has unluckily " mated with a 
clown," coalesce against the opposite sex, fall 
into one another^s arms and vow eternal friend- 
ship — for a year; after which, for five more, 
they make all their acquaintances uncomfort- 
able by their eternal enmity — -even in this 
lamentable phase of the sentiment, it is more 
respectable than the time-serving, place-hunt- 
ing, dinner-seeking devotion which Messrs. Tape 
and Tadpole choose to denominate " friend- 

Men may laugh at us, and we deserve it: 


we are often egregious fools^ but we are honest 
fools; and our folly^ at least m this matter, 
usually ends where theirs begins — with middle 
life, or marriage. 

It is the unmarried, the solitary, who are 
most prone to that sort of " sentimental'^ 
friendship with their own or the opposite sex, 
which, though often most noble, unselfish, and 
true, is in some forms ludicrous, in others 
dangerous. For two women, past earliest girl- 
hood, to be completely absorbed in one an- 
other, and make public demonstration of the 
fact, by caresses or quarrels, is so repugnant 
to common sense, that where it ceases to be 
silly it becomes actually wrong. But to see 
two women, whom Providence has denied nearer 
ties, by a wise substitution making the best 
of fate, loving, sustaining, and comforting one 
another, with a tenderness often closer than 
that of sisters, because it has all the novelty 
of election which belongs to the conjugal tie 


itself — tliisj I sajj is an honourable and lovely 

Not less so the friendship — rare, I grant, 
yet quite possible — which subsists between a 
man and woman whom circumstances, or their 
own idiosyncrasies, preclude from the slightest 
chance of ever " falling in love/' That such 
friendships can exist, especially between per- 
sons of a certain temperament and order of 
mind, and remain for a lifetime, utterly pure, 
interfering with no rights, and transgressing 
no law of morals or society, most people's ob- 
servation of hfe will testify; and he must take 
a very low view of human nature who dares to 
say that these attachments, satiiically termed 
" Platonic,'' are impossible. But, at the same 
time, common sense must allow that they are 
rare to find, and not the happiest always, when 
found; because in some degree they are con- 
trary to nature. Nature's law undoubtedly is. 


that our nearest ties should be those of blood 
— father or brother, sister or mother — until 
comes the closer one of marriage; and it is 
always, if not wrong, rather pitiful, when any 
extraneous bond comes in between to forestall 
the entire affection that a young man ought 
to bring to his future wife, a young woman 
to her husband. I say ought — God knows if 
they ever do ! But, however fate, or folly, or 
wickedness may interfere to prevent it, not the 
less true is the undoubted fact, that happy 
above all must be that marriage where neither 
husband nor wife ever had a friend so dear 
as one another. 

After marriage, for either party to have or 
to desire a dearer or closer friend than the 
other, is a state of things so inconceivably de- 
plorable — the more erring, the more deplor- 
able — that it will not bear discussion. Such 
cases there are; but lie who in the mystery 


of man-iage prefigured a greater mystery still, 
alone can judge them, for He only knows tlieir 
miseries, their temptations, and their wrongs. 

T\Tiile allowing that a treaty of friendship, 
"pure and simple,^^ can exist between a man 
and woman — under peculiar circumstances, even 
between a young man and a young woman — it 
must also be allowed that the experiment is dif- 
ficult, often dangerous; so dangerous, that the 
matter-of-fact half of the world will not believe 
in it at all. Parents and guardians veiy natu- 
rally object to a gentleman^s "hanging up his 
hat " in their houses, or taking sentimental twi- 
light rambles with their fair young daughters. 
They insist, and justly, that he ought to 

" Come with a good will, or come not at all;" 

namely, as a mere acquaintance, a pleasant friend 
of the family — the whole family, or as a declared 
suitor. And though this may fall rather hard 
upon the young man, who has just a hundred 


a-year, and, with every disposition towards flirt- 
ing, a strong horror of matrimony — still, it is 
wisest and best. It may save both parties from 
frittering away, in a score of false sentimental 
likings, the love that ought to belong but to 
one; or still worse, from committing or suffer- 
ing what, beginning blamelessly on either side, 
frequently ends in incurable pain, irremediable 

Therefore it is, generally speaking, those 
further on in life, with whom the love-phase 
is past, or for whom it never existed, who may 
best use the right, which every pure and inde- 
pendent heart undoubtedly has, of saying: "I 
take this man or woman for my friend : only 
a friend — never either more or less — whom as 
such I mean to keep to the end of my days/' 
And if more of these, who really know what 
friendship is, would have the moral courage to 
assert its dignity against the sneers of society, 
Vvhich is loath to believe in anything higher 

fe:male rEiE>'Dsnips. 179 

and purer than itself, I think it would be all 
the better for the world. 

"Women's friendships with one another are of 
course free from all these perils, and yet they 
have their own. The wonderful law of sex — 
which exists spiritually as well as materially, and 
often independent of matter altogether ; since vre 
see many a man who is much more of a w^oman, 
and many a woman w^ho would certainly be the 
"better-half" of any man who cared for her — 
this law can rarely be withstood with impunity. 
In most friends whose attachment is specially 
deep and lasting, we can usually trace a dif- 
ference — of strong or weak, gay or grave, bril- 
liant or solid — answering in some measure to 
the difference of sex. Otherwise, a close, all- 
engrossing friendship between two women would 
seldom last long; or if it did, by their mutual 
feminine weaknesses acting and reacting upon one 
another, would most likely narrow the sympa- 
thies and deteriorate the character of both. 


Herein lies the distinction — marked and in- 
alienable — between friendship and love. The 
I'ltter, being a natural neces^sity, requires but the 
one, whom it absorbs and assimilates till the two 
diverse, and often opposite characters^ become a 
safe unity — according to divine ordinance, "one 
flesh/^ But friendship, to be friendship at all, 
must have an independent self-existence, capable 
of gradations and varieties; for though we can 
have but one dearest friend, it would argue 
small power of either appreciating or loving to 
have only one friend. 

On the other hand, the "hare with many 
friends ^' has passed into a proverb. Such a con- 
dition is manifestly impossible. The gentleman 
who, in answer to his servant^ s request to be 
allowed to go and " see a friend/' cries : — 

** Fetch me my coat, John ! Though the night be raw, 
I'll see him too — the first I ever saw :" 

this cynic^ poor wretch ! speaks wiser than he is 


ware of. One simple fact explains and limits 
the wliole question — that those only can find 
tiTie friends who have in themselves the will and 
capacity to be such. 

A friend. Not perhaps tintil later life, until 
the follies, passions, and selfishnesses of j^outh 
have died out, do we — I mean especially M^e 
women — recognise the inestimable blessing, the 
responsibility awful as sweet, of possessing or of 
being a friend. And though, not willing to run 
counter to the world^s kindly custom, we may 
give that solemn title to many who do not ex- 
actly own it ; though year by year the fierce ex- 
perience of life, through death, circumstance, or 
change, narrows the circle of those who do own 
it ; still that man or woman must have been veiy 
unfortunate — perhaps, as there can be no result 
without a cause, worse than unfortunate — who, 
looking back on thirty, forty, or fifty years of 
■existence, cannot say from the heart, ^^I thank 
God for my friends.'' 


People rarely long keep what they do not 
deserv'e. If you find any who_, in the dechne of 
life_, have few " auld acquaintance," and those few 
"never brought to mind/^ but in their stead a 
lengthy list of friends who are such no more, who 
have " ill-treated " them, or with whom they have 
had a " slight coolness ; " if they are always find- 
ing fault with the friends viey now have, and ac- 
cusing them of ingratitude or neglect ; if they 
tell you these friends' secrets, and expect you in 
return to tell them all your friends' secrets, and 
your own — beware of these people! They may 
have many good qualities; you may like them 
veiy much, and keep them as most pleasant so- 
ciety ; but as for resting your heart upon them, 
you might as well rest it upon a burning rock or 
a broken reed. 

But if you find people who through all life's 
vicissitudes and pangs have preserved a handful 
of real '^^ friends" — exclusive of you, for it takes 
years to judge the value of friendship towards 


ourselves — if on the whole they complain little 
either of these friends or of the world, which 
rarely misuses a good man or woman for ever ; if 
they bestow no extravagant devotion on you, nor 
expect from you one whit more than you freely 
give; if they never, under any excuse, however 
personally flattering, talk to you about a third 
party, as you would shrink from their talking to 
any third party about you — then, be satisfied; 

** Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried ; 
Grapple them to thy soul with hooks of steel ! " 

Never let them go; sujffer no changing tide of 
fortune to sweep them from you — no later friend- 
ships to usurp their place. Be very patient with 
them ; bear their little faults as they must bear 
yours; make allowance for the countless unin- 
tentional slights, neglects, or ofi'ences, that we 
all in the whirl of life must both endure and 
commit towards those who form not a part, but 
an adjunct of our existence — remembering, as 


I said before^ that the very element in which 
true friendship hves, and out of which it can- 
not live at all_, is perfect liberty. 

Friendship once conceived should, like love, in 
one sense last for ever. That it does not ; that 
in the workVs harsh wear and tear many a very 
sincere attachment is slowly obliterated, or both 
parties grow out of it and cast it, like a snake his 
last yearns skin — though that implies something 
of the snake-nature, I fear — are facts too mourn- 
fully common to be denied. But there is a third 
fact, as mournfully wTicommon, which needs to be 
remembered likewise : we may lose the friend — 
the friendship we never can or ought to lose. 
Actively, it may exist no more ; but passively, it 
is just as binding as the first moment when we 
pledged it, as we believed, for ever. Its duties, 
like its delights, may have become a dead-letter ; 
but none of its claims or confidences have we 
ever afterwards the smallest right to abjure or to 


And here is one accusation whicli I must 
sorrowfully bring against women, as being mucli 
more guilty than men. We can keep a secret — 
ay, against all satire, I protest we can — while the 
confider remains our friend ; but if that tie ceases, 
pop ! out it comes ! and in the bitterness of in- 
vective, the pang of wounded feeling, or after- 
wards in mere thoughtlessness, and easy forgetting 
of what is so easily healed, a thousand things are 
said and done for which nothing can ever atone. 
The lost friendship, w^hich, once certain that it is 
past all revival, ought to be buried as solemnly 
and silently as a lost love, is cast out into the 
open street for all the snarling curs of society to 
gnaw at and mangle, and all the contemptuous 
misogynists who pass by to point the finger at — 
" See what your grand ideals all come to ! '' 

Good women — dear my sisters ! be our friend- 
ships false or true, wise or foolish, living or dead 
— let us at least learn to keep them sacred ! Men 
are far better than we in this. Rarely will a man 


voluntarily or thouglitlessly betray a friend's con- 
fidence, either at the time or afterwards. He 
will say, even to his own wife : " I can't tell you 
this — I have no right tell you:" and if she has 
the least spark of good feeling, she will honour 
and love him all the dearer for so saying. More 
rarely still will a man be heard, as women con- 
stantly are, speaking ill of some friend who a 
little while before, while the friendship lasted, 
was all perfection. What is necessary to be said 
he will say, but not a syllable more, leaving all 
the rest in that safe, still atmosphere, where all 
good fructifies and evil perishes — the atmosphere 
of silence. 

Ay, above all things, what women need to learn 
in their friendships is the sanctity of silence — 
silence in outward demonstration, silence under 
wrong, silence with regard to the outside world, 
and often a delicate silence between one another. 
About the greatest virtue a friend can have, is to 
be able to hold her tongue; and though this. 


like all virtues carried to extremity^ may grow 
into a fault,, and do great harm^ stilly it never 
can do so much harm as that horrible laxity 
and profligacy of speech which is at the root 
of half the quarrels^ cruelties, and injustices of 
the world. 

And let eveiy woman, old or young, in com- 
mencing a friendship, be careful that it is 
to the right thing she has given the right 
name. If so, let her enter upon it thoughtfully, 
earnestly, advisedly, as upon an engagement 
made for life, which in truth it is; since, whether 
its duration be brief or long, it is a tangible 
reality, and, as such, must have its influence on 
the total chronicle of existence, wherein no line 
can ever be quite blotted out. Let her, with 
the strength and comfort of it, prepare to take 
the burden ; determined, whatever the other may 
do, to fulfil her own part, and act up to her 
own duty, absolutely and conscientiously, to the 


end. For truly, the greatest of all external bless- 
ings is it to be able to lean your heart against 
another heart, faithful, tender, true, and tried, 
and record with a thankfulness that years deepen 
instead of diminishing, " I have got a friend ! " 

GOSSIP. 189 


One of tlie wisest and best among our English 
ethical writers, the author of Companions of my 
Solitude, says, apropos of gossip, that one half 
of the evil- speaking of the world arises, not 
from malice prepense, but from mere want of 
amusement. And I think we may even grant 
that in the other half, constituted small of mind 
or selfish in disposition, it is seldom worse than 
the natural falling back from large abstract 
interests, which they cannot understand, upon 
those which they can — alas ! only the narrow, 
commonplace, and personal. 

190 GOSSIP. 

Yet they mean no barm ; are often under 
the delusion that they both mean and do a 
great deal of good, take a benevolent watch 
over their fellow-creatures, and so forth. They 
would not say an untrue word, or do an unkind 
action — not they ! The most barefaced slan- 
derer always tells her story with a good motive, 
or thinks she does; begins with a harmless 
"bit of gossip," just to pass the time away 
— the time which hangs so heavy ! and ends 
by becoming the most arrant and mischievous 
tale-bearer under the sun. 

Ex gratia — Let me put on record the de- 
cline and fall, voluntarily confessed, of two friends 
of mine, certainly the last persons likely to take 
to tittle-tattle ; being neither young nor elderly ; 
on the whole, perhaps rather " bright '* than 
stupid; having plenty to do and to think of 
— too much, indeed, since they came on an en- 
forced holiday out of that vortex in which London 
whirls her professional classes round and round, 


year by year, till at last often notliing but a 
handful of diy bones is cast on shore. They 

came to lodge at the village of X , let 

me call it, as being an "unknown quantity," 
which the reader will vainly attempt to find 
out, since it is just like some hundred other 
villages — has its church and rector, great house 
and squire, doctor and lawyer (alas ! poor village, 
T fear its two doctors and two lawyers) ; also 
its small select society, where eveiybody knows 
everybody — that is, their afi'airs ; for themselves, 
one half the parish resolutely declines "know- 
ing" the other half — sometimes pretermittently, 
sometimes permanently. Of course, not a single 
soul would have ventured to know Bob and 
Maria — as I shall call the strangers — had they 
not brought an introduction to one family, under 
the shelter of whose respectability they meekly 
placed their own. A very worthy family it was, 
which showed them all hospitality, asked them 
to tea continually, and there, in the shadow of 

192 GOSSIP. 

the pleasant drawing-room, whicli overlooked tlie 
street, indoctrinated tliem into all tlie mysteries 

of X _, something in this wise : 

^^ Dear me ! there^s Mrs. Smith ; she has on 
that identical yellow bonnet which has been so 
long in !Miss !Miffin^s shop-window. Got it 
cheap, no doubt : Mr. Smith does keep the poor 
thing so close ! Annabella, child, make haste ; 
just tell me whether that isnH the same young 
man who called on the Joneses three times last 
week ! Red whiskers and moustaches. One of 
those horrid officers, no doubt. My dear Miss 
Maria, I never do like to say a word against 
my neighbours ; but before I would let my 
Annabella go about like the Jones's girls .... 
Bless my life ! there's that cab at the corner 
house again — and her husband out ! Well, if 
I ever could have believed it, even of silly, flirty 
Mrs. Green ! whom people do say old Mr. Green 
married out of a London hosier^ s, where he went 
in to buy a pair of gloves. "What a shocking 

GOSSIP. 193 

place London must be .... ! But I beg your 
pardon^ my dear , , . ," And so on, and so 

This, slightly varied, was tbe stock conversa- 
tion, which seemed amply sufficient to fill the 
minds and hours of the whole family, and, 
indeed, of every family at X . 

Maria and Bob used to go home laughinir, 
and thanking their stars that they did live in 
that shocking place London. Bob made harm- 
less jokes at the expense of the unconscious 
household who, 

** Pinnacled dim in the intense inane," 

could drop down, hawk-like, upon reputations, 
bonnets, and beaus. Maria gave vent to a 
majestic but indignant pityj and both hugged 
themselves in the belief that never, under any 
circumstances, could they sink to such a dead- 
level of folly, vacuity, spite. 

Weeks passed — rather slowly, especially when, 

194 GOSSIP. 

of autumn evenings, they found themselves minus 
books, piano, theatre, concerts, society — in fact, 
in precisely the position of the inhabitants of 

X all year round. So, as daylight was 

less dull than candlelight, they used to rise at 
unearthly hours ; dine — shall I betray the Goths? 
— at 11.30 A.M., take tea at 4 p.m., and go to 
bed as soon after dark as they could for shame. 
At last, from very dulness, ]\Iaria got into 
the habit of sitting at the window and telling 
Bob what was passing in the street, interspersed 
with little illustrative anecdotes she had caught 
up, "just as bits of human nature.^^ One, the 
stock scandal of the place, interested them both 
so much, that they watched for the heroine's 
carriage every day for a week ; and when at last 
Maria cried, "There it is!^' Bob jumped up 
with all the eagerness of Annabella herself, and 
missing the sight, retired grumbhng : " What 
nonsense ! I declare you're getting just as bad 
a gossip as anybody here ! " {N,B. — The mas- 

GOSSIP. 195 

culine mmdj in an accusative form, always pre- 
fers the second person of tlie verb.) 

"Well/' observed Maria, "shall I give np 
telling you any news I happen to hear?'' 

" Oh, no ! You may tell what you like. As 
the man said when his wife beat him — it amuses 
you, and it doesn't harm me." 

Finally — I have it from Maria's own con- 
fession— -coming in one afternoon absorbed in 
cogitations as to what possible motive Mrs. 
Green could have in telling Mrs. Elizabeth Jones 
she wished to call on her, Maria; and what 
on earth would be done if Annabella, whose 
mamma wouldn't allow her even to bow to Mrs. 
Green, should happen to call at the same time 
— she was quite startled by Bob's springing up 
from the sofa to meet her, with an air of great 

" So you're back at last ! Well, who did you 
see, and what did they say to you? Do sit 
down, and let's hear all the gossip going." 

1£6 GOSSIP. 

"Gossip!" And meeting one another's eyes, 
they both burst into a hearty fit of laughter, 
declaring they never again would pride them- 
selves on being a bit better than their neighbours. 

Ay, fatal and vile as her progeny may be, 
'^tbe mother of mischief," says the proverb, 
"is no bigger than a midge's wing." Nay, 
as many a vice can be traced back to an ex- 
aggerated virtue, this hateful propensity to tittle- 
tattle springs from the same peculiarity which, 
rightly guided, constitutes womanhood's chiefest 
strength and charm ; blesses many a woi-thless 
man with a poor, fond, faithful wife, who loves 
him for nothing that he is or does, but merely 
because he is himself; forgives to many a scape- 
grace son or brother a hundred sins, and follows 
him to the grave or the scafi"old, blind to every- 
thing except the fact that he is her own. Per- 
sonal interests, personal attachments, personal 
prejudices, are, whether we own it or not, the 
ruling bias of us women : it is better to own it 

GOSSIP. 107 

at once, govera^ con-ect, and modify it, than to 
deny it in name, and betray it in every circum- 
stance of our lives. 

j\Ien, whose habits of thought and action are 
at once more selfish and less personal than ours, 
are veiy seldom given to gossiping. They will 
take a vast interest in the misgovernment of 
India, or the ill-cooking of their otvti dinners ; 
but any topic betwLxt these two — such as the 
mismanagement of their neighbour's house, or 
the extravagance of their partner's wife — is a 
matter of very minor importrmce. They " canna 
be fashed" with trifles that don't immediately 
concern themselves. It is the women — always 
the women — who poke about with undefended 
farthing candles in the choke-damp passages of 
this dangerous world ; who put their feeble 
ignorant hands to the Archimedean lever that, 
slight as it seems, can shake society to its 
lowest foundations. For, though it irks me to 
wound with strong language the delicate sensi- 


bilities of my silver-tongued sisters^ I would just 
remind them of what they may hear^ certainly 
one Sunday in the year, concerning that same 
dainty little member, which is said to be '' a 
fire, a world of iniquity . . . and it is set on 
fire of hell" 

Verily, the ''Silent Woman ^^ — a lady without 
a head, who officiates as sign to many a country 
inn — had need to be so depicted. But it is not 
''the gift of the gab," the habit of using a 
dozen words where one would answer the pur- 
pose, which may arise from want of education, 
nervousness, or surplus but honest energy and 
earnest feeling — it is not that which does the 
harm; it is the lamentable fact, that whether 
from a superabundance of the imaginative faculty, 
carelessness of phrase, or a readiness to jump 
at conclusions, and represent facts not as they 
are but as they appear to the representors, very 
few women are absolutely and invariably vera- 
cious. Men lie wilfully, deliberately, on prin- 

GOSSIP. 199 

ciple, as it were ; but women quite involuntarily. 
Nay, they would start witli horror from the 
bare thought of such a thing. They love truth 
in their hearts, and yet — and yet — they are 
constantly giving to things a slight colouring 
cast by their own individuality; twisting facts 
a little, a very little, according as their tastes, 
affections, or convenience indicate: never per- 
haps telling a direct lie, but mei'ely a deformed 
or prevaricated truth. 

And this makes the fatal danger of gossip. 
If all people spoke the absolute truth about their 
neighbours, or held their tongues, which is 
always a possible alternative, it would not so 
much matter. At the worst, there would be a 
few periodical social thunder-storms, and then 
the air would be clear. But the generality of 
people do not speak the truth : they speak what 
they see, or think, or believe, or wish. Few 
observant characters can have lived long in the 
world without learning to receive every fact 

200 GOSSIP. 

comiminicated second-hand with reservations — 
reservations that do not necessarily stamp the 
communicator as a liar, but merely make allow- 
ance for certain inevitable variations, like the 
variations of the compass, which every circum- 
navigator must calculate upon as a natural 

Thus, Miss A., in the weary small-talk of a 
morning call, not quite knowing what she says, 
or glad to say anything for the sake of talking, 
lets drop to Mrs. B. that she heard ]\Irs. C. 
say : " She would take care to keep her boys 
out of the way of the little B's'^ — a very harm- 
less remark, since, when it was uttered, the little 
B's were just recovering from the measles. But 
INIiss A., an absent sort of woman, repeats it 
three months afterwards, forgetting all about the 
measles ; indeed, she has persuaded herself that 
it referred to the rudeness of the B. lads, who 
are her own private terror, and she thinks it 
may probably do some good to give their over- 

GOSSIP. 201 

indulgent mamma a liint on the subject. Mrs. 
B., too well-bred to reply more than "Indeed !^' 
is yet mortally offended; declines the next 
dinner-party at the C^s, and confides her private 
reason for doing so to Miss D., a good-natured 
chatterbox, who, with the laudable intention of 
getting to the bottom of the matter, and re- 
conciling the belligerents, immediately communi- 
cates the same. "What have I done?^^ ex- 
claims the hapless Mrs. C. "I never said any 
such thing ! '^ " Oh, but Miss A. protests she 
Jieard you say it." Again Mrs. C, warmly de- 
nies ; which denial goes back directly to Miss A. 
and Mrs. B., imparting to both them and Miss 
D. a very unpleasant feeling as to the lady's 
veracity. A few days after, thinking it over, 
she suddenly recollects that she really did say 
the identical words, with reference solely to the 
measles; bursts into a hearty fit of laughter, 
and congratulates herself that it is all right. 
But not so: the mountain cannot so quickly 

202 GOSSIP. 

shrink into its original mole-liill. Mrs. B., 
whose weak point is her children, receives the 
explanation with considerable dignity and re- 
serve ; is " sorry that Mrs. C. should have 
troubled herself about such a trifle;^' shakes 
hands, and professes herself quite satisfied. 
Nevertheless, in her own inmost mind she thinks 
— and her countenance shows it — "I believe 
you said it, for aU that.^^ A slight coolness 
ensues, which everybody notices, discusses, and 
gives a separate version of; all which versions 
somehow or other come to the ears of the parties 
concerned, who, without clearly knowing why, 
feel vexed and aggrieved each at the other. The 
end of it all is a total estrangement. 

Is not a little episode like this at the root of 
nearly all the family feuds, lost friendships, 
"cut'^ acquaintanceships, so pitifully rife in the 
world? Rarely any great matter, a point of 
principle or a violated pledge, an act of justice or 
dishonesty ; it is almost always some petty action 

GOSSIP. 203 

misinterpreted, some idle word repeated — or a 
succession of both these^ gathering and gathering 
like the shingle on a sea-beach, something fresh 
being left behind by eveiy day's tide. Not the 
men's doing — the fathers, husbands, or brothers, 
who have no time to bother themselves about 
such trifles, and who, if they see fit to quarrel 
over their two grand causa belli, religion and 
politics, generally do it outright, and either 
abuse one another like pickpockets in newspaper 
columns, or, in revenge for any moral poaching 
on one another's property, take a horsewhip or 
a pair of pistols and so end the matter. 

No. It is the women who are at the bottom 
of it all, who, in the narrowness or blankness 
of their daily lives, are glad to catch at any straw 
of interest — especially the unmarried, the idle, 
the richj and the childless. As says the author 
I have before referred to : '' People not otherwise 
ill-natured are pleased with the misfortunes of 
their neighbours, solely because it gives them 

20^! GOSSIP. 

sometliing to think about, sometlilng to talk 
about. They imagine how the principal actors 
and sufferers will bear it ; what they will do ; 
how they will look ; and so the dull bystander 
forms a sort of drama for himself." 

And what a drama ! Such a petty plot — such 
small heroes and heroines — such a harmless vil- 
lain ! "When we think of the contemptible no- 
things that form the daily scandal-dish of most 
villages, towns, cities, or communities, and then 
look up at the stariy heaven which overshines 
them all, dropping its rain upon the just and the 
unjust — or look abroad on the world, of whose 
wide interests, miseries, joys, duties, they form 
such an infinitesimal part, one is tempted to 
blush for one's species. Strange, that while 
hundreds and thousands in this Britain hav 
not a crust to eat, Mrs. E. should become the 
town's talk for three days, because, owing a 
dinner-party to the F's, G's, H's, and J's, she 
clears accounts at a cheaper rate by giving a 

GOSSIP. 205 

{general tea-party instead. " So mean ! and with 
Mr. E.^s large income, too \'' — That while mil- 
lions are living and dying without God in the 
world, despising Him, forgetting Him, or never 
having even heard His name, Miss K., a really 
exemplary woman, should not only refuse, even 
for charitable purposes, to associate with the 
L^s, an equally irreproachable family, as to morals 
and benevolence, but should actually forbid her 
district poor to receive their teaching or their 
Bibles, because they refuse to add thereto the 
Church of England Catechism. As to visiting 
them — ''^ Quite impossible; they are Dissenters, 
you know.^^ 

The gossip of opposing religionism — I will 
not even call it religion, though religion itself 
is often very far from pure " godliness ^^ — is at 
once the most virulent and the saddest phase 
of the disease; and our sex, it must be con- 
fessed, are the more liable to it, especially in 
the provinces. There, the parish curate may 

206 GOSSIP. 

at times be seen walking with the Unitarian or 
Independent minister^ if they happen to be well- 
educated young men of a social turn ; even the 
rector, worthy man ! will occasionally have the 
sense to join with other worthy men of every 
denomination in matters of local improvement. 
But oh ! the talk that this gives rise to among 
the female population ! till the reverend objects 
of it, who in their daily duties have usually 
more to do with women than with men — another 
involuntary tribute to those virtues which form 
the bright under-side of every fault that can 
be alleged against us — are often driven to give 
in to the force of public opinion, to that inces- 
sant babble of silvery waters which wears through 
the rockiest soil. 

The next grand source of gossip — and this, 
too, curiously indicates how true must be the 
instinct of womanhood, even in its lowest forms 
so evidently a corruption from the highest — is 
love, and with or without that preliminary, ma- 

GOSSIP. 207 

trimony. What on earth should we do if we had 
no matches to make, or mar; no "unfortunate 
attachments '' to shake our heads over; no flirta- 
tions to speculate about and comment upon with 
knowing smiles; no engagements "on^^ or ^'off^' 
to speak our minds about, nosing out every little 
circumstance, and ferreting our game to their 
very hole, as if all their affairs, their hopes, trials, 
faults, or wTongs, were being transacted for our 
own private and peculiar entertainment ! Of all 
forms of gossip — I speak of mere gossip, as dis- 
tinguished from the carrion-crow and dunghill- 
fly system of scandal-mongering — this tittle-tattle 
about love-affairs is the most general, the most 
odious, and the most dangerous. 

Every one of us must have known within our 
own experience many an instance of dawning 
loves checked, unhappy loves made cruelly public, 
happy loves embittered, warm, honest loves turned 
cold, by this horrible system of gossiping about 
young or unmarried people — "evening^' to one 

208 GOSSIP. 

another folk who have not the slightest mutual 
inclination, or if they had,, such an idea put into 
their heads would effectually smother it ; setting 
down every harmless free liking as "a case/' or 
'^ a flirtation ;'' and if anything '^ serious '^ does 
turn up, pouncing on it, hunting it down, and 
never letting it go till dismembered and ground 
to the bone. Should it ever come to a marriage 
— and the wonder is, considering all these things, 
that any love-affair ever does come to that climax 
at all, or that any honest-hearted, delicate-minded 
young people, ever have the courage to indulge 
the world by an open attachment or engagement 
— heavens and earth ! how it is talked about ! 
How one learns every single item of what " he " 
said and "she'' said, and what all the relations 
said, and how it came about, and how it never 
would have come about at all but for So-and so, 
and what they have to live upon, and how capable 
or incapable they are of living upon it, and how 
very much better both parties would have done if 


they had only each left the choosing of the other 
to about four-and-twenty anxious friends_, all of 
which were quite certain the affianced pair never 
would suit one another^ but would have exactly 
suited somebody else, &c. &c., ad libitum and 
ad infinitum. 

!Many women, otherwise kindly and generous, 
have in this matter no more consideration towards 
their own sex or the other, no more sense of the 
sanctity and silence due to the relation between 
them, than if the divinely instituted bond of mar- 
riage were no higher or purer than the natural 
instincts of the beasts that perish. It is most 
sad, nay, it is sickening, to see the way in which, 
from the age of fourteen upwards, a young woman, 
on this one subject of her possible or probable 
matrimonial arrangements, is quizzed, talked over, 
commented upon, advised, condoled T\dth, lec- 
tured, interrogated — until, if she has happily 
never had cause to blush for herself, not a 
week passes that she does not blush for her 

210 GOSSIP. 

sex_, out of utter contempt, disgust, and indig- 

Surely all right-minded women ought to set 
their faces resolutely against this desecration of 
feelings, to maintain the sanctity of which is the 
only preservative of our influence — that is, our 
rightful and holy influence, over men. Not that, 
after the school of Mesdames Barbauld, Hannah 
More, and other excellent but exceedingly prosy 
personages, love should be exorcised out of young 
women's lives and conversations — query, ?/ pos- 
sible? — but let it be treated of delicately, ear- 
nestly, rationally, as a matter which, if they have 
any business with it at all, is undoubtedly the 
most serious business of their lives. There can 
be — there ought to be — no medium course ; a 
love-affair is either sober earnest or contemptible 
folly, if not wickedness : to gossip about it is, in 
the first instance, intrusive, unkind, or dangerous; 
in the second, simply silly. Practical people may 
choose between the two alternatives. 

GOSSIP. 211 

Gossip, public, private, social — to figlit against 
it either by word or pen seems, after all, like 
fighting with shadows. Everybody laughs at it, 
protests against it, blames and despises it; yet 
everybody does it, or at least encourages others 
in it : quite innocently, unconsciously, in such a 
small, harmless fashion — yet, we do it. We 
must talk about something, and it is not all of 
us who can find a rational topic of conversation, 
or discuss it when found. Many, too, who in 
their hearts hate the very thought of tattle and 
tale-bearing, are shy of lifting up their voices 
against it, lest they should be ridiculed for 
Quixotism, or thought to set themselves up as 
more virtuous than their neighbours. Others, 
like our lamented friends, Maria and Bob, from 
mere idleness and indifference, long kept hover- 
ing over the unclean stream, at last drop into 
it, and are drifted away by it. Where does it 
land them ? Ay, where ? 

If I, or any one, were to unfold on this subject 

213 GOSSIP. 

only our own experience and observation — not 
a tittle more — what a volume it w^ould make ! 

Families set by the ears, parents against child- 
reUj brothers against brothers — not to mention 
brothers and sisters-in-law, w^ho seem generally to 
assume, Avith the legal title, the legal right of 
interminably squabbling. Friendships sundered, 
betrothals broken, marriages annulled — in the 
spirit, at least, while in the letter kept outwardly, 
to be a daily torment, temptation, and despair. 
Acquaintances that would othenvise have main- 
tained a safe and not unkindly indifference, 
forced into absolute dislike — originating how 
they know not; but there it is. Old com- 
panions, that w^ould have borne each other^s 
little foibles, have forgiven and forgotten little 
annoyances, and kept up an honest affection till 
death, driven at last into open rupture, or frozen 
into a coldness more hopeless still, w^hich no 
after-warmth wall ever have power to thaw. 

Truly, from the smallest Little Peddhngton 

Gossjp. 213 

that carries on, year bv year, its bloodless 
wars, its harmless scandals, its daily chronicle 
of interminable nothings, to the great metro- 
politan world, fashionable, intellectual, noble, or 
royal, the blight and curse of civilised life is 

How is it to be removed ? How are scores 
of well-meaning women, who in their hearts 
really like and respect one another — who, did 
trouble come to any one of them, would be ready 
with countless mutual kindnesses, small and 
great, and among whom the sudden advent of 
death would subdue every idle tongue to honest 
praise, and silence, at once and for ever, every 
bitter word against the neighbour departed — 
how are they to be taught to be eveiy day as 
generous, considerate, liberal-minded — in short, 
womanly, as they would assuredly be in any 
exceptionable day of adversity ? How are they 
to be made to feel the littleness, the ineffably 
pitiful littleness, of raking up and criticising 

214 fiossii-. 

every slight peculiarity of manner^ habits, tem- 
per, cliaracter, word, action, motive — household, 
children, servants, living, furniture, and dress 
thus constituting themselves the amateur rag- 
pickers, chiffonnihes — I was going to say, sca- 
vengers, but they do not leave the streets clean 
— of all the blind alleys and foul by-ways of 
society; while the whole world lies free and 
open before them, to do their work and choose 
their innocent pleasure therein — this busy, 
bright, beautiful world ? 

Such a revolution is, I doubt, quite hopeless 
on this side Paradise. But every woman has it 
in her power personally to withstand the spread 
of this great plague of tongues, since it lies 
within her own volition what she will do with 
her own, 

" All the king's horses and all the king's men" 

cannot make us either use or bridle that little 
member. It is our never-failing weapon, double- 

Gossir. 215 

edged, delicate, bright, keen; a weapon not ne- 
cessarily either lethal or vile, but taking its cha- 
racter solely from the manner in which we use it. 
First, let eveiy one of us cultivate, in every 
word that issues from her mouth, absolute truth. 
I say cultivate, because to very few people — as 
may be noticed of most young children — does 
truth, this rigid, literal veracity, come by nature. 
To many, even who love it and prize it dearly in 
others, it comes only after the self-control, watch- 
fulness, and bitter experience of years. Let no one 
conscious of needing this care be afraid to begin 
it from the very beguming ; or in her daily life and 
conversation fear to confess : " Stay, I said a little 
more than I meant " — "I think I was not quite 
correct about such a thing '' — '^^Thus it was; at 
least, thus it seemed to me personally,^' &c. &c. 
Even in the simplest, most everyday statements, 
we cannot be too guarded or too exact. The 
"hundred cats'' that the httle lad saw "fij^htinj^ 
on our back-waiy and which uftci-wards dwindled 

216 GOSSIP. 

down to "oar cat and another/^ is a case in 
point, not near so foolish as it seems. 

" Believe only half of what you see, and nothing 
that you hear/' is a cynical saying, and yet less 
bitter than at first appears. It does not argue 
that human nature is false, hut simply that it is 
human nature. How can any fallible human be- 
ing with two eyes, two ears, one judgment, and 
one brain — all more or less limited in their ap- 
prehensions of things external, and biased by a 
thousand internal impressions, purely individual 
— how can we possibly decide on even the plainest 
actions of another, to say nothing of the words, 
which may have gone through half-a-dozen 
different translations and modifications, or the 
motives, which can only be known to the 
Omniscient Himself? 

In His name, therefore, let us "judge not, 
that we be not judged.^' Let us be " quick to 
hear, slow to speak;'' slowest of all to speak 
any evil, or to listen to it. about anybody. The 

GOSSIP. 2\7 

good we need be less careful over; we are not 
likely ever to hear too much of that. 

"But/^ say some — very excellent people^ too 
— "are we never to open our mouths? — never 
to mention the ill things we see or hear; never 
to stand up for the rights by proclaiming, or by 
warning and testifying against the wrong?" 

Against wrong — in the abstract, yes: but 
against individuals — doubtful. All the gossip 
in the world, or the dread of it, will never turn 
one domestic tyrant into a decent husband or 
father; one light woman into a matron leal and 
wise. Do your neighbour good by all means 
in your power, moral as well as physical — by 
kindness, by patience, by unflinching resistance 
against every outward evil — by the silent preach- 
ing of your own contrary life. But if the only 
good you can do him is by talking at him or 
about him — nay, even to him, if it be in a self- 
satisfied, super- virtuous, style — such as I ear- 
nestly hope the present writer is not doing — 

218 GOSSIP. 

you had mucli better leave him alone. If he 
be foolish, soon or late he will reap the fruit of 
his folly; if wicked, be sure his sin will find him 
out. If he has wronged you, you will neither 
lessen the wrong nor increase his repentance by 
parading it. And if — since there are two sides 
to every subject, and it takes two to make a 
quarrel — you have wronged bim, surely you 
will not right him or yourself by abusing him. 
In Heaven's name, let him alone. 



mum 0f tl]e M^rlJr. 

The \\'orld ! It is a word capable of as diverse 
interpretations or misinterpretations as the thing 
itself — a thing by various people supposed to 
belong to heaven_, man, or the devil, or alter- 
nately to all three. But this is not the place to 
argue the pros and cons of that doctrinal theology 
which views as totally evil the same world which 
its Creator pronounced to be ^^ very good," the 
same world in and for which its Redeemer lived 
as well as died; nor, taking it at its present 
worst, a sinful, miserable, mysterious, yet neither 
wholly comfortless, hopeless, nor godless world, 
shall I refer further to that strange Manichseanism 


which believes that anything earth possesses of 
good can have sprung from any other source 
than the All-good, that any happiness in it could 
exist for a moment, unless derived from Infinite 

" k. woman of the world" — " Quite a woman 
of the world" — ''A mere woman of the world" 
— with how many modifications of tone and 
emphasis do we hear the phrase; which seems 
inherently to imply a contradiction. Nature 
herself has apparently decided for women, physic- 
ally as well as mentally, that their natural destiny 
should be not of the world. In the earlier ages 
of Judaism and Islamism, nobody ever seems to 
have ventured a doubt of this. Christianity 
alone raised the woman to her rightful and 
original place, as man^s one help-meet, bone of 
his bone and flesh of his flesh, his equal in all 
points of vital moment, yet made suited to him 
by an harmonious something which is less in- 
feriority than difference. And this difference 


will for ever exist. Volumes written on female 
progress; speeches interminable, delivered from 
the public rostrum in female treble, which from 
that veiy publicity and bravado would convert 
the most obvious '' rights" into something very 
like a wrong; biographies numberless of great 
women — ay, and good — who, stepping out of 
their natural sphere, have done service in courts, 
camps, or diplomatic bureaus : all these ex- 
ceptional cases will never set aside the universal 
law, that woman's proper place is home. Not 

*' To suckle fools and chronicle small-beer," 

— Shakspeare, who knew us well, would never 
have made any but an lac/o say so — but to go 
hand-in-hand with man on their distinct yet 
parallel roads, to be within-doors what he has 
to be in the world without — sole influence and 
authority in the limited monarchy of home. 
Thus, to be a '' woman of the world,'' though 


not essentially a criminal accusation^ implies a 
state of being not natural, and therefore not 
happy. "Without any sentimental heroics against 
the hollowness of such an existence, and putting 
aside the religious view of it altogether, I believe 
most people will admit that no woman living 
entirely in and for the world ever was, ever 
could be, a happy woman; that is, according to 
the definition of happiness, which supposes it to 
consist in having our highest faculties most 
highly developed, and in use to their fullest 
extent. Any other sort of happiness, eiiher 
dependent on externally favourable circumstances, 
or resting on safe negations of ill, we must be 
considered to possess in common with the oyster ; 
indeed, that easy-tempered and steadfast mollusk, 
if not " in love," probably has it in much greater 
perfection than we. 

Starting with the proposition that a woman of 
the world is not a happy woman; that if she had 
been, most likely she never would have become 


what she is — I do uot think it necessaiy to nail 
her up, poor painted jay, as a "shocking ex- 
ample ^^ over Society^s barn-door, around which 
strut and crow a great many fowls quite as mean 
and not half so attractive. For she is very 
charming in her way — that is, the principal and 
best type of her class; she wears a merveille that 
beautiful mask said to be " the homage paid by 
vice to virtue." And since the successful imita- 
tion of an article argues a certain acquaintance 
with the original, she may once upon a time have 
actually believed in many of those things which 
she now so cleverly impersonates — virtue, 
heroism, truth, love, friendship, honour, and 
fidelity. She is like certain stamped-out bronze 
ornaments, an admirable imitation of real woman- 
hood — till you walk round her to the other side. 
The woman of the world is rarely a very young 
woman. It stands to reason, she could not be. 
To young people, the world is always a paradise 
— a fooPs paradise, devoutly believed in : it is not 


till they have found out its shams that they are 
able to assume them. By that time, however, 
they have ceased to be fools : it takes a certain 
amount of undoubted cleverness to make any 
success, or take any rule in the world. 

By the world, I do not mean the aristocratic 
Vanity-fair — let those preach of it who move 
up and down or keep stalls therein — but the 
world of the middle classes; the " society ^^ into 
which drift the homeless, thoughtless, ambitious, 
pleasure-loving among them; those who have no 
purpose in life except to get through it somehow, 
and those who never had any interest in it except 
their own beloved selves. 

A woman of the sort I write of may in one 
sense be placed at the lowest deep of womanhood, 
because her centre of existence is undoubtedly 
herself. You may trace this before you have 
been introduced to her five minutes : in the 
sweet manner which so well simulates a universal 
benevolence, being exactly the same to everybody 


— namely, everybody worth knowing; in tlie 
air of interest with which she asks a dozen polite 
or kindly questions, of which she never waits for 
the answer ; in the instinctive consciousness you 
have that all the while she is talking agreeably 
to you, or flatteringly listening to your talented 
conversation, her attention is on the qui vive 
after eveiy body and eveiy thing throughout the 
room — that is, everything that concerns herself. 
As for yourself, from the moment you have 
passed out of her sight, or ceased to minister to 
her amusement or convenience, you may be quite 
certain you will have as completely slipped out 
of her memory as if you had vanished into 
another sphere. Her own sphere cannot contain 
you ; for though it seems so large, it has no real 
existence : it is merely a reflection of so much of 
the outer world as can be received into the one 
small drop of not over-clear water, which cod- 
stitutes this woman's soul. 

Yet waste not your wrath upon her— she is 


as much to be pitied as blamed. Do not grow 
savage at hearing her^ in that softly-pitched voice 
of hers, talk sentiment by the yard, while you 
know she snubs horribly in private every unlucky 
relative she has ; whose only hours of quiet are 
when they joyfully deck her and send her out 
to adorn society. Do not laugh when she 
criticises pictures, and goes into raptures over 
books, which you are morally certain she has 
never either seen or read; or if she had, from 
the very character of her mind, could no more 
understand them than your cat can appreciate 
Shakspeare. Contemn her not, for her state 
might not have been always thus ; you know not 
the causes which produced it; and — stay till 
you see her end. 

There is a class of worldly women which, to 
my mind, is much worse than this ; because their 
shams are less cleverly sustained, and their ideal 
of good (for every human being must have one — 
the conqueror his crown, and the sot his gin- 


bottle) is far lower and more contemptible. The 
brilliant woman of society has usually her pet 
pliilanthropies_, her literary, learned, or political 
penchants, in which the good she thirsts after, 
though unreal, is the imitation of a vital reality; 
and as such is often, in some degree, useful to 
others. But this pseudo-woman of the world has 
no ideal beyond fine dresses, houses, carriages, 
acquaintances ; and even these she does not 
value for their own sakes, only because they 
are superior to her neighbour's. 

You will find her chiefly among the half- 
educated nouveaux riches of the professional 
classes, vainly striving to attain to their level — 
the highest point visible on her horizon. And 
this is no happy altitude of learning, or in- 
telligence, or refinement ; but merely a certain 
" position '^ — a place at a dinner-party, or a 
house in a square. 

While the first kind of woman always has a 
degree of sway in society, this one is society's 


most prostrate slave. She dares not furnish her 
house, choose her servants, eat her food, pay her 
visits, or even put the gown on her back and the 
bonnet on her head, save by rule and precedent. 
She will worry herself and you about the veriest 
trifles of convenance — such as whether it is most 
genteel to leave one card with the corner turned 
down, or to expend a separate card upon each 
member of the family. To find herself at a 
full-dress soiree in demi-toilette would make this 
poor lady miserable for a month ; and if by any 
chance you omitted paying her the proper visit 
of inquiry after an entertainment, she would 
consider you meant a personal insult, and, if 
she dared — only she seldom ventures on any 
decisive proceedings — w^ould cut your acquaint- 
ance immediately. 

The celebrated Mrs. Grundy keeps her in a 
state of mortal servitude. Even in London, 
which to a lady of medium age, established 
character, and decent behaviour, is the most 


independent place in the world; where, as I 
once heard said: ^*^My dear, be assured you are 
not of the least importance to anybody — may go 
anywhere, dress anyhow, and, in short, do any- 
thing you like except stand on your head'' — 
even here she is for ever pursued by a host of 
vague adjectives, "proper,'' "correct," "gen- 
teel," which hunt her to death like a pack of 
rabid hounds. 

True, the world, like its master, is by no means 
so black as it is sometimes painted : it often has 
a foundation of good sense and right feeling 
under its most ridiculous and wearisome foims ; 
but this woman sees only the forms, among 
which she blunders like one of those quack- 
artists who pretend to draw the human figure 
without the smallest knowledge of anatomv. 
Utterly ignorant of the framework on which 
society moves, she is perpetually straining at 
gnats and swallowing camels, both in manners 
and morals. To her, laborious politeness stands 


in the stead of kindliness ; show, of hospitality ; 
etiquette, of decorum. Les hienseances, which 
are only valuahle as being the index and offer- 
ing of a gentle, generous, and benevolent heart, 
are to this unfortunate woman the brazen altar 
upon which she immolates her own comfort and 
that of everybody connected with her. 

How often do we hear the phrases, — "VtTiat 
will the world say?'' — "Perhaps; but, then, we 
live in the world/' — "A good soul enough, 
but totally ignorant of the world." — It is worth 
while pausing a momen'. to consider of what 
this "world" really consists, that women seem 
at once so eagerly to run after, and to be so 
terribly afraid of. 

Not the moral world, which judges their sins 
' — with, alas, how short-sighted and unevenly 
balanced a judgment, often ! — but the perpetually 
changing world of custom, which regulates their 
clothes, furniture, houses, manner of living, say- 
ings, doings, and sufferings. Take it to pieces, 


and wliat is it? Nothing but a floating atmo- 
sphere of common-place people surrounding cer- 
tain congeries of people a little less ordinary, 
the nucleus of which is generally one person 
decidedly extra-ordinaiy, who, by force of will, 
position, intellect, or character, or by some un- 
questionable magnitude of wtue or vice, stands 
out distinctly from the average multitude, and 
rules it according to his or her individual 
choice. All the rest are, as I said, a mere at- 
mosphere of nobodies ; which atmospherf can 
be cloven any day — one sees it done continually 
— by a single flesh-and-blood arm : yet in it the 
woman of the world allows herself to sit and 
sufi'ocatej dare not dress comfortably, act and 
speak straightforwardly^ live natui-ally, or some- 
times even honestly. For will she not rather run 
in debt for a bonnet, than wear her old one a year 
behind the mode? give a ball and stint the family 
dinner for a month after? take a large house, 
and furnish handsome reception-rooms, while her 


houseliold huddle together anyhow in untidy attic 
bed-chambers, and her servants swelter on shake- 
downs beside the kitchen fire ? She prefers this 
a hundred times to stating plainly, by word or 
manner: ^^ My income is so much a-year — 1 
donH care who knows it — it will not allow me to 
live beyond a certain rate, it will not keep com- 
fortably both my family and acquaintance ; there- 
fore, excuse my preferring the comfort of my 
family to the entertainment of my acquaintance. 
And, Society, if you choose to look in upon us, 
you must just take us as we are, without any 
pretences of any kind ; or you may shut the 
door, and — good by ! '' 

And Society, in the aggregate, is no fool. It is 
astonishing what an amount of " eccentricity '^ it 
will stand from anybody who takes the bull by 
the horns, too fearless or too indifferent to think 
of consequences. How respectfully it will follow 
a clever woman who is superior to the weakness 
of washing her hands or combing her hair pro- 


perly, whose milliner and dress-maker must evi- 
dently have lived in the last century, and ^vho, 
in her manners and conversation, often breaks 
through every inile of even the commonest civility! 
How the same thoroughly respectable set, which 
would be shocked to let its young daughters take 
a moraing shopping in Regent Street unpro- 
tected by a tall footman, will carry them at night 
to a soiree given by a Lady Somebody, of rather 
more than doubtful reputation, till some rich 
marriage, which in its utter lovelcssness and hy- 
pocrisy may have been, in the sight of Heaven, 
the foulest of all her sins, in the sight of man 
obliterated every one of them at once ! 

Yet this " world ^^ which, when we come to 
look at it, seems nothing — less than nothing — 
a chimera that no honest heai-t need quail at for a 
moment — is at once the idol and the htte noire 
of a large portion of women-kind during their 
whole existence. Ay, from the day when baby^s 
first wardrobe must be of the most extravagant 


description, costing in lace, braiding, and embroi- 
dery almost as mucb as mammals marriage outfit 
— which was a deal too fine for her station — 
when all the while unfortunate baby would be 
quite as pretty and twice as comfortable in plain 
muslin and lawn; down to the last day of our 
subjugation to fashion, v/hen we must needs be 
carried to our permanent repose under a proper 
amount of feathers, and followed by a customary 
number of mourning coaches — after being coaxed 
to it — useless luxuiy ! by a satin-lined coffin, 
stuffed pillow, and ornamented shroud. 

In the intermediate stage, marriage, we are 
worse off still, because the world's iron hand is 
upon us at a time and under circumstances when 
we can most keenly feel its grinding weight. 

^' Do you think," said a young lady once to 
me, ^Hhat Heniy and I ought to marry upon 
less than four hundred a-year?" 

'^ No certainly, my dear; because you marry for 
so many people's benefit besides your own. How, 


for iustance_, could your acquaintauce bear to see 
moreen curtains^ instead of tlie blue- and- silver 
damask you were talking of ! x\nd how could you 
give those charming little dinner-parties which, 
you say, are indispensable to one in your position, 
without three servants, or a boy in buttons as 
well ? Nay, if you went into society at all, of the 
kind you now keep, a fifth of Henrj^'s annual 
income would melt away in dresses, bouquets, and 
white kid- gloves. No, my dear girl, I can by no 
means advise you to marry upon less than four 
hundred a-year.'^ 

My young friend looked up, a little doubtful if 
I were in jest or earnest ; and ]Mr. Henry gave 
vent to an impatient sigh. I thought — ''^Poor 
things ! ^^ for they were honestly in love, and 
there was no earthly reason why they should not 
many. How many hundreds more are thus wast- 
ing the best years of their life, the best hopes of 
their youth, love, home, usefulness, energy — and 
God only knows how much besides — and for 


what ? Evening-parties, dresses, and gloves, a 
fine house, and blue- and- silver curtains ! 

Yet a woman of the world would have said that 
this couple were quite right; that if they had 
married and lived afterwards with the careful pru- 
dence that alone would have been possible to a 
young man of Mr. Henry's independent character, 
they must infallibly have gone down in society, 
have dropped out of their natural circle, to begin 
life — as their parents did, — as most middle- 
class parents have done, — narrowly and humbly. 
Though without much fear of positive starvation, 
they must have given up many luxuries, have had 
to leani and practise many domestic economies 
which probably never had come into the head of 
either the lady or the gentleman ; and yet love 
might have taught them, as it teaches the most 
ignorant. They would undoubtedly have had to 
live, for the next few years at least, not for 
society at large, but for their o^vn two selves and 
their immediate connexions. 

WOMEN OF THE wor.LD. 237 

And very likely Henry would have done it, for 
a young fellow in love will do mightily heroic 
things; some^ especially hard-worked professional 
men, being weak enough to believe that a snug 
fire-side, where a cheerful-faced little wife has 
warmed his slippers and sits pouring out bis 
tea — even if obliged to make sundry inter- 
mediate rushes up-stairs to quiet something which 
obstinately refuses to go to sleep — is preferable 
to a handsome solitary clab-dinner, a wine-and- 
cigar party, or a ball, at which he revels till 
3 A.M. in the smiles of a tarlatane angel, whom 
he may ask to waltz ad libitum, but dare not for 
his life — or his honour, which is dearer — ask 
any other question, until he has got grey hairs 
and a thousand a-year. Dares not, for the worldly 
fathers, the still more worldly mothers, nay, the 
young daughters themselves, whose hearts, under 
their innocent muslins, are slowly hardening into 
those of premature women of the world, would 
stand aghast at the idea; " Love in a cottaije'' — 


such an out-of-date, absurdly romantic, prepos- 
terous thing ! \^Tiich it decidedly is — for people 
who bring to the said cottage the expectations 
and necessities of Hyde Park Gardens or Bel- 
grave Square. 

Yet, on the other hand, it is hardly possible to 
over-calculate the evils accruing to individuals and 
to society in general from this custom, gradually 
increasing, of late and ultra-prudent marriages. 
Parents bring up their daughters in luxurious 
homes, expecting and exacting that the home to 
which they transfer them should be of almost equal 
ease; forgetting how next to impossible it is for 
such a home to be offered by any young man of 
the present generation, who has to work his way 
like his father before him. Daughters, accustomed 
to a life of ease and laziness, are early taught to 
check every tendency towards " a romantic attach- 
ment'' — the insane folly of loving a man for what 
he is, rather than for what he has got ; of being 
content to fight the worldly battle hand-in- 


hand — with a hand that is worth clasping, rather 
than settle down in comfoitable sloth_, protected 
and provided for in all external things. Young 
men . . . But words fail to trace the lot of en- 
forced bachelorhood,, hardest when its hard- 
ship ceases to be consciously felt. An unmarried 
woman^ if a good woman, can always make 
herself happy ; find innumerable duties, interests, 
amusements; live a pure, cheerful, and useful 
life. So can some men — but very, very few. 

Scarcely any sight is more pitiable than a 
young man who has drifted on to past thirty, 
without home or near kindred ; with just income 
enough to keep him respectably in the position 
which he supposes himself bound to maintain, 
and to supply him with the various small luxuries 
— such as thirty guineas per annum in cigars, 
&c. — which have become habitual to him. Like 
his fellow-mortals, he is liable enough to the un- 
lucky weakness of falling in love, now and then ; 
but he somehow manages to extinguish the passion 


before it gets fairly alight; knowing lie can no 
more venture to ask a girl in his own sphere to 
many him, or be engaged to him, than he can 
coax the planet Venus out of her golden west into 
the dirty, gloomy, two-pair-back w^here his laun- 
dress cheats him, and his landlady abuses him: 
whence, perhaps, he occasionally emerges glo- 
riously, all studs and white necktie — to assist at 
some young beauty^s wedding, where he feels in 
his heart he might once have been the happy 
bridegroom — if from his silence she had not been 
driven to go desperately and sell herself to the 
old fool opposite, and is fast becoming, nay, is 
already become, a fool's clever mate — a mere 
woman of the world. And he — what a noble 
ideal he has gained of our sex, from this and 
other similar experiences ! with what truth of 
emotion will he repeat, as he gives the toast of 
" The bridemaids,'^ the hackneyed quotation 
about pain and sorrow wi'inging the brow, and 
smile half - adoringly, half- pathetically, at the 


" ministering angels '' who titter around him. 
They, charming innocents ! will doubtless go 
home avouching " What a delightful person is 
Mr. So-and-so. I wonder he never gets mar- 
ried.^^ While Mr. So-and-So also goes home, sar- 
donically minded^ to his duU lodgings, his book 
and his cigar, or — he best knows where. And 
in the slow process of inevitable deterioration, 
by forty he learns to think matrimony a decided 
humbug; and hugs himself in the conclusion 
that a virtuous, high-minded, and disinterested 
woman, if existing at all, exists as a mere lusus 
natures — not to be met with by mortal man now- 
a-days. Relieving his feelings with a grunt — 
half-sigh, half-sneer — he dresses and goes to the 
opera — or the ballet, at all events — or settles 
himself on the sofa to a French novel, and ends 
by firmly believing us women to be — what we 
are painted there ! 

Good God! — the exclamation is too solemn to 
probe fane — if this state of things be true, and it 



is true, and I have barely touched the outer sur- 
face of its unfathomably horrible tnith — what 
will the next generation come to? What will 
they be — those unborn millions who are to grow 
up into our men and our women ? The possible 
result, even in a practical, to say nothing of a 
moral light, is awful to thnik upon. 

Can it not be averted? Can we not — since, 
while the power of the world is with men, the 
influence lies with women — can we not bring 
up our girls more usefully and less showily — 
less dependent on luxury and wealth? Can we 
not teach them from babyhood that to labour 
is a higher thing than merely to enjoy; that even 
enjoyment itself is never so sweet as when it has 
been earned ? Can we not put into their minds, 
whatever be their station, principles of truth, sim- 
plicity of taste, helpfulness, hatred of waste ; and, 
these being firmly rooted, trust to their blossom- 
ing up in whatever destiny the young maiden 
may be called to ? We should not then have to 


witness the terrors that beset dying beds when a 
family of girls will be left unprovided for; nor 
the angry shame when some thoughtless young 
pair commit matrimony, and rush ignorantly into 
debt, poverty, and disgrace, from v^hich -—facilis 
descensus Averni — all the efforts of too-late com- 
passionate relatives can never altogether raise 

Nevertheless— and I risk this declaration 
without fear of its causing a general rush to 
the register-offices, or the publication, at every 
out-of-the-way church in the three kingdoms, 
of surreptitious bans between all the under- 
aged simpletons who choose to fly in the face 
of Providence by marrying upon 

** Nothing a week, and that uncertain — very i " 

—nevertheless, taking life as a whole, believing 
that it consists not in what we have, but in our 
power of enjo;ing the same; that there are in 
it things nobler and dearer than ease, plenty, or 


freedom from care — nay, even than existence 
itself; surely it is not Quixotism, but common- 
sense and Christianity, to protest that love is 
better than outside show, labour than indolence, 
virtue than mere respectability. Truly, in this 
present day — putting aside those cases where 
duty and justice have claims higher than either 
love or happiness — there is many an instance of 
cowardly selfishness, weakness and falsehood, 
committed by young people of both sexes, under 
the names of prudence, honourable feeling, or 
obedience to parents; there is many an act, 
petted under the name of a virtue, which is a 
much blacker crime before God, and of far more 
fatal result to society at large, than the worst of 
these so-called improvident marriages. 

Strange how much people will sacrifice — ay, 
even women will — to this Moloch of the world ! 
It reminds me of an infantile w )rship, which a 
certain friend of mine confessed to have insti- 
tuted, and officiated as high-priestess of, at the 


age of tliree-and-a-half. She used to collect 
from her own store, and le\y from unwillin<^ co- 
idolaters, all sorts of childish dainties, to^-ether 
with turnips, apple-parings, &c., and lay them in 
a remote comer of the farmyard, as an offering 
to a mysterious invisible being called Dor, who 
came in the night and feasted thereon — at least, 
the sacrifice was always gone the next morning. 
A pious relative, finding her out, stopped with 
great horror the proceedings of this earnest 
little heathen; but for years after, nothing 
would have persuaded my deluded young friend 
that the awful Dor was, in fact, only a chance- 
wind, a hen and her chickens, or a hungiy old 
sow. So, often, it is not till half a life-time 
has been expended on this thankless service, 
that we come to find out — if we ever do find 
out — that the invisible Daimon who swallows 
up the best of our good things — time, ease, 
wealth, money, comfort, peace, and well if no 
more than these — is, after all, a combination 


of the merest accidents, or perhaps one indivi- 
dual brute beast. 

Yet, there is a fascination, hard to account for, 
but idle to gainsay, in this miserable Eleuslnia, 
this blind worship of a self-invented god. Who 
does not know the story of the wise old nanny- 
goat, which painted to her dear daughter that 
horrible wild beast, the leopard, giving him every 
conceivable ugliness, a ghastly wide mouth and 
fiery eyes ; so that when the fair Miss Kid saw 
a beautiful animal with shiny spotted skin and 
graceful motions, sporting innocently after his 
own tail in the forest shadow, how could she 
ever identify him with the portrait her mother 
drew? What could she do, but approach, and 
wonder, and admire, then fall right into his 
clutches, and have her poor little bones crunched 
between his dazzling jaws? Would not many 
a mother do well in laying to heart this old 
fable ? 

Yes, the world is doubtless very pleasant in its 


way. Delicious^ almost to deliriousness, is a young 
girPs first step into the enchanted ch'cle called 
" good society ; " to feel herself in her best attire 
and best looks, chaiTaing and charmed, for the 
behoof of the entire company ; or, as it usually 
soon comes to, poor little fool ! for the sake of 
one particular person therein. And for a long 
time after, though the first magic of the cup is 
gone, though it intoxicates rather than exhila- 
rates, it is by no means the poison-cup that 
frigid moralists would make us believe. It has 
a little of the narcotic; and the young woman 
begins to take it as such, feeling rather ashamed 
of herself for so doing ; and, like all opiates, it 
leaves a slight bitterness in the mouth. But 
what of that ? 

Now and then our young lady wonders, during 
" slow '' evening-parties and prosy morning-calls, 
whether her whistle is worth quite as much as 
she has daily to pay for it — whether the agree 
able circles in which she moves are not, if the) 


A'ould but avow it, for the chief part of the time 
^hat they spend together, a very great bore to 
themselves and to one another — whether, after 
all, one handful of the salt of common-sense 
would not purify society as well as a bushel of 
idle ceremonies, and one ounce of kind feeling, 
tact, and thoughtfulness for others, be worth a 
cart-load of ponderous etiquette. And perhaps 
she sets to work on this grand, new, and original 
system of hers, which every young heart thinks it 
is the very lirst to discover and practise — 

" Like one who tries in little boat 
To tug to him the ship afloat." 

Most likely she fails — fails totally, angrily, 
miserably; only gets herself misjudged and 
laughed at, and resolves no more to remodel 
the world — which may be a wise determination; 
or settles into stolid indifference, and believes 
that, after all, right and wrong do not much 
matter; it will all be the same a hundred years 


hence : so drops slowly into tlie cuiTcnt^ and is 
drifted \vitli the rest, along, along — whither? 

Or else, having just penetration enough left to 
distinguish a truth from its eidolon, its doppel- 
gdnger, which almost always walks alongside of 
it, and mimics it, in this strange world of ours, 
she gradually perceives the sense, beauty, and 
fitness which may be traced under the most 
exaggerated of forms and customs. She sees 
also that these 

" Nice customs courtesy to great kings,'* 

as saith Ileniy of England when he kisses his 
French Kathcrine ; and that any woman is un- 
worthy of the just empery of her sex when 
she gives up to either fashion or ceremony her 
common-sense, comfort, or good taste : when, for 
instance, she condescends to make of herself a 
silk-draped walking butter-tub, or a female 

" Whose head 
Does grow beneath her shoulders ;" 


when she suffers lierself to waste hour after hour, 
day after day, year after year, in the company of 
frivolous folk, whom she can do no good to, and 
receive no good from, and whom, she is fully 
aware, if she dropped out of their smiling circle 
to-morrow, to die in a ditch, in the hospital close 
by, or were even to create a temporary sensation 
by jumping from Waterloo Bridge, would merely 
remark : " Dear me, how shocking ! Who would 
have thought it? — Well, as I was saying ....■" 
No doubt, this conviction, when it fairly breaks 
upon her, strikes her poor weakened eyes with a 
pamful glare, which throws into harder outline 
than is natural the cruel angles of this would-be 
palace — that for a time seems to her little better 
than a grim dungeon, from which she only seeks 
to escape — 

" Anywhere, anywhere, out of the world." 

This is the crisis of her life. She either ends 
by a tacit, hopeless acquiescence in what she 


both despises and disbelieves, or herself sinking 
to their level, accepts them as realities after all. 
Or else, by a desperate struggle, she creeps from 
chaos into order, from darkness into clear day, 
learns slowly and temperately to distinguish 
things, and people, in their true colours and 
natural forms ; taking them just as they are, no 
better and no worse, and trying to make the best 
of them : to use the world, in short, as its Maker 
doth — after the example of Him who himself 
said that the tares and wheat must '^ grow to- 
gether until the harvest.''^ 

Such an one — and I ask those of my sex who 
read this page, if I have not painted her accord- 
ing to nature ? if many weaiy, dissatisfied hearts, 
beating heavily with pulses they do not under- 
stand, will not confess, that in some poor way 
1 have spoken out their already half-recognised 
feelings? — such an one will escape that end to 
which all must come who fix their pleasures 
alone in this life: the woman of fashion, after 


the pattern of Mrs. Skeiuton and Lady Kew : 
the woman of "mind/' fluttej-mg her faded 
plumage in the face of a new generation, which 
recognises her not, or recognises only to make 
game of her: or the ordinary woman of the 

This latter — in her day of decline, who has 
not encountered her some time or another? 
Dependent on the pity of those who remember 
what she was, or might have been; invited out, 
because there is a certain agreeableness about her 
still, and because, "poor thing, she likes a little 
society j '' yet made irritable by a perpetual need 
of excitement, which drives her to prefer any- 
body's company to her own. Painfully jealous 
over every fragment of the affection which she 
herself has never disinterestedly shown to any- 
body, but has spread it, like school bread and 
butter, over so wide a surface, that tastelessness 
is the natural consequence of its extreme tenuity. 

Friendships she has none : she never either 


desired or deserved them. In all her long career, 
she has never been able to take root in any 
human heart. As for the Heart Divine, the 
chances are that she has never once sought it, 
or believed in it. She has believed in a cushioned 
pew, in a velvet prayer-book with a gilt cross 
on the back; in certain religious thoughts, 
words, and deeds, proper for Sundays and holi- 
days, and possibly suitable for that "convenient 
season ^^ when she means to "make her peace 
with Heaven,^' as the judge tells the criminal 
who is "turned off" to seek in another exist- 
ence that hope which man denies. But for all 
else her soul — contradisting-uished from her 
intellect, which may be vivid and brilliant still 
— is a blank, a darkness, a death in life. 

And yet the woman of the world will one 
day have to die! 

We can but leave her to Infinite Mercy then. 



3HU ^^^^ itiljups Wmtix. 

I GIVE fair warning that this is likely to be a 
'^ sentimental^ chapter. Those who object to the 
same, and complain that these " Thoughts ^^ are 
'^ not practical/' had better pass it over at once ; 
since it treats of things essentially unpractical, 
impossible to be weighed and measured, handled 
and analysed, yet as real in themselves as the 
air we breathe and the sunshine we delight in 
— things wholly intangible, yet the very essence 
and necessity of our lives. 

Happiness ! Can any human being undertake 
to define it for another ? Various last-century 


poets have indulged in " Odes^^ to it^ and good 
Hannah More wrote a " Search ^^ after it — a 
most correct^ elegantly phrased, and genteel little 
drama, which, tlie dramatis persona being all 
females, and not a bit of love in the whole, is, 
I believe, still acted in old-fashioned boarding- 
schools, with great eclat. The plot, if I re- 
member right, consists of an elderly lady's lead- 
ing four or five younger ones on the immemorial 
search, through a good many very long speeches; 
but whether they ever found happiness, or what 
it was like when found, I really have not the 
least recollection. 

Let us hope that excellent Hannah More is 
one of the veiy few who dare venture upon 
even the primary question — What is Happiness ? 
Perhaps, poor dear woman ! she is better able 
to answer it now. 

I fear, the inevitable conclusion we must all 
come to is, that in this world happiness is quite 
indefinable. We can no more grasp it than we 


can grasp the sun in the sky or the moon in the 
water. We can feel it interpenetrating our whole 
being with warmth and strength ; w^e can see it 
in a pale reflection shining elsewhere ; or in its 
total absence, we, walking in darkness, learn to 
appreciate what it is by what it is not. But I 
doubt whether any woman ever craved for it, 
philosophised over it, or — pardon, shade of 
Barbauld ! — commenced the systematic search 
after it, and ever attained her end. For 
happiness is not an end — it is only a means, 
an adjunct, a consequence. The Omnipotent 
Himself could never be supposed by any, save 
those who out of their own human selfishness 
construct the attributes of Divinity, to be ab- 
sorbed throughout eternity in the contemplation 
of His own ineffable bhss, were it not identical 
with His ineffable goodness and love. 

Therefore, whosoever starts with "to be happy'' 
as the summum bonum of existence, will assuredly 
find out she has made as great a mistake as when 


in her babyhood she cried, as most of us do, for 
the moon, which we cannot get for all our crying. 
And yet it is a very good moon, notwithstanding : 
a real moon, too, who will help us to many a 
poetical dream, light us in many a lovers^ walk, 
till she shine over the grass of our graves 
upon a new generation ready to follow upon the 
immemorial quest. Which, like the quest of 
the Sangreal, is only possible to pure hearts, 
although the very purest can never fully attain 
it, except, like Sir Galahad, through the gates of 
the Holy City — the New Jerusalem. 

Happy and unhappy w^omen — the adjectives 
being applied less with reference to circumstances 
than character, which is the only mode of judg- 
ment possible — to judge them and discourse of 
them is a very difficult matter at best. Yet I am 
afraid it cannot be doubted that there is a large 
average of unhappiness existent among women : 
not merely unhappiness of circumstances, but 
unhappiness of soul — a state of being often as 



unaccountable as it is irrational,, finding vent in 
those innumerable faults of temper and dis- 
position which arise from no inherent vice, but 
merely because the individual is not happy. 

Possibly, women more than men are liable to 
this dreary mental eclipse — neither daylight nor 
darkness. A man will go poetically wretched 
or morbidly misanthropic, or any great mis- 
fortune will overthrow him entirely, drive him 
to insanity, lure him to slip out of life through 
the terrible by-road of suicide; but he rarely 
drags on existence from year to year, with 
'^nerves," "low spirits,'^ and the various maladies 
of mind and temper that make many women a 
torment to themselves, and a burden to all con- 
nected with them. 

Why is this ? and is it inevitable ? Any one 
who could in the smallest degree answer this 
question, would be doing something to the 
lessening of a great evil — greater than many 
other evils which^ being social and practical. 


show more largely on tlie aggregate census of 
female woe. 

Most assuredly_, however unpoetical may be 
such a view of the matter, the origin of a great 
dealof unhappinessis physical disease; or rather, 
the loss of that healthy condition of body, which 
in the present state of civilisation, so far removeo 
from a state of nature, can only be kept up ir> 
any individual by the knowledge and practice of 
the ordinary laws of hygiene — generally the very 
last knowledge that women seem to have. The 
daily necessities of water, fresh air, proper cloth- 
ing, food, and sleep, with the due regulation of 
each of these, without which no human being 
can expect to live healthily or happily, are matters 
m which the only excuse for lamentable neglect 
is still more lamentable ignorance. 

An ignorance the worse, because it is generally 
quite unacknowledged. If you tell a young girl 
that water, the colder the better, is essential to 
eveiy pore of her delicate skin every morning; 


that moderate out-door exercise, and regularity in 
eating, sleeping, employment, and amusement, 
are to her a daily necessity ; that she should 
make it a part of her education to acquire a 
certain amount of current information on sanitary 
science, and especially on the laws of her own 
being, physical and mental : tell her this, and 
the chances are she will stare at you uncom- 
prehendingly, or be shocked, as if you were 
saying to her something " improper,^' or answer 
flippantly : " Oh, yes ; I know all that/^ 

But of what use is the knowledge ? — when 
she lies in bed till ten o^ the clock, and sits up 
till any hour the next morning ; eats all manner 
of food at all manner of irregular intervals ; is 
horrified at leaving her bed-room window two 
inches open, or at being caught in a slight 
shower; yet will cower all day over the fire in 
a high woollen dress, and put on a low muslin 
one m. the evening. When she wears all winter 
thm boots, gossamer stockmgs. a gown open at 


the clicst and arms^ and a loose mantle that eveiy 
wind blows under, yet wonders that she always 
has a cold ! — and weighs herself dow^n in summer- 
time with four petticoats heaped one over the 
other, yet is quite astonished that she gets hot 
and tired so soon ! Truly any sensible, old- 
fashioned body, who knows how much the health, 
happiness, and general well-being of this gene- 
ration — and, alas! not this generation alone — 
depend upon these charming, lovable, fascinating 
young fools, cannot fail to be '' aggravated '' by 
them every day. 

However humiliating the fact may be to those 
poetical theorists who, in spite of all the laws of 
nature, wdsh to make the soul entirely inde- 
pendent of the body — forgetting, that if so, its 
temporary probation in the body at all, w^ould 
have been quite unnecessary — I repeat, there 
can be no really sanitary state of mind without 
a similar condition of body ; and that one of 
the first requisites of happiness is good health. 


But as this is not meant to be an essay on 
domestic hygiene^ I had better here leave the 

Its corresponding phase opens a gate of misery 
so wide that one almost shrinks from entering it. 
Infinite, past human counting or judging, are 
the causes of mental unhappiness. ]\Iany of 
them spring from a real foundation, of sorrows 
varied beyond all measuring or reasoning upon : 
of these, I do not attempt to speak, for words 
would be idle and presumptuous; I only speak 
of that frame of mind — sometimes left behind by 
a great trouble, sometimes arising from troubles 
purely imaginary — which is called "an unhappy 

Its root of pain is manifold ; but, with women, 
undoubtedly can be oftenest traced to something 
connected with the affections : not merely the 
passion called jo«r excellence love, but the entire 
range of personal sympathies and attachments, 
out of which we draw the sweetness and bitterness 


of the best part of our lives. If otherwise — if, 
as the phrase goes, an individual happens to have 
''more head than heart," she may be a very- 
clever, agreeable personage, but she is not properly 
a woman — not the creature who, with all her 
imperfections, is nearer to heaven than man, in 
one particular — she 'Hoves much." And loving 
is so frequently, nay, inevitably, identical with 
suffering, either with, or for, or from, the object 
beloved, that we need not go further to find the 
cause of the many anxious, soured faces, and 
irritable tempers, that we meet with among women. 
Charity cannot too deeply or too frequently 
call to mind how very difficult it is to be good, or 
amiable, or even commonly agreeable, when one 
is inwardly miserable. This fact is not enough 
recognised by those very worthy people who take 
such a world of pains to make other people vir- 
tuous, and so very little to make them happy. 
They sow good seed, are everlastingly weeding 
and watering, give it every care and advantage 


under the sun — except sunshine — and then they 
wonder that it does not flower ! 

One may see many a young woman who has^ 
outwardly speaking, " everything she can possibly 
want/^ absolutely withering in the atmosphere 
of a loveless home, exposed to those small ill- 
humours by which people mean no harm — only 
do it ; chilled by reserve, wounded by neglect, or 
worried by anxiety over some thoughtless one, 
who might so easily have spared her it all ; safe 
from either misfortune or ill-treatment, yet ha- 
rassed daily by petty pains and unconscious 
cruelties, which a stranger might laugh at; and 
she laughs herself, when she counts them up, 
they are so very small — yet they are there. 

" I can bear anything,'' said to me a woman, 
no longer very young or very fascinating, or par- 
ticularly clever, who had gone through seas of 
sorrow, yet whose blue eyes still kept the dewi- 
ness and cheerfulness of their youth; "I can 
bear anything, except unkindness.'^ 


She was right. There are numberless cases 
wliere gentle creatures^ who would have endured 
bravely any amount of real trouble, have their 
lives frozen up by those small unkindnesses which 
copy-books avouch to be "a great offence;" 
where an avalanche of worldly benefits, an act of 
undoubted generosity, or the most conscientious 
administering of a friendly rebuke, has had its 
good effects wholly neutralised by the manner in 
\\ hich it was done. It is vain to preach to peojjle 
unless you also love them — Christianly love 
them; it is not the smallest use to try to make 
people good^ unless you try at the same time — 
and they feel that you are trying — to make 
them happy. And you rarely can make another 
happy, unless you are happy yourself. 

Naming the affections as the chief source of 
unhappiness among our sex, it would be wrong to 
pass over one phase of them, which must never- 
theless be touched tenderly and delicately, as one 
that women instinctively hide out of sight and 


comment — I mean what is usually termed ^^a 
disappointment." Alas! — as if there were no 
disappointments but those of love ! and yet, 
until men and women are made differently from 
what God made them, it must always be, from 
its very secretness and inwardness, the sharpest 
of all pangs, save that of conscience. 

A lost love. Deny it who will, ridicule it, 
treat it as mere imagination and sentiment, the 
thing is and will be ; and women do suffer there- 
from, in all its infinite varieties : loss by death, 
by faithlessness or unworthiness, and by mistaken 
or unrequited affection. Of these, the second is 
beyond all question the worst. There is in 
death a consecration which lulls the sharpest 
personal anguish into comparative calm ; and in 
time there comes, to all pure and religious 
natures, that sense of total possession of tbe 
objects beloved, which death alone gives — 
that faith, which is content to see them safe 
landed out of the troubles of this changeful 


life^ into the life everlasting. And an attacliment 
which has always been on one side only, has 
a certain incompleteness which prevents its ever 
knowing the full agony of having and losing, 
while at the same time it preserves to the 
last a dreamy sanctity which sweetens half its 
pain. But to have loved and lost^ either by that 
total disenchantment which leaves compassion as 
the sole substitute for love which can exist no 
more, or by the slow torment which is obliged to 
let go day by day all that constitutes the diviner 
part of love — namely, reverence, belief, and trust, 
yet clings desperately to the only thing left it, a 
long-suffering apologetic tenderness — this lot is 
probably the hardest any woman can have to bear. 

♦' What is good for a bootless bene ? — 

And she made answer, Endless sorrow." 

No. There is no sorrow under heaven which 
is, or ought to be, endless. To believe or to 
make it so, is an insult to Heaven itself. Eacli 
of us must have known more than one instance 


when a saintly or heroic life has been developed 
from what at first seemed a stroke like death it- 
self; a life full of the calmest and truest hap- 
piness — because it has bent itself to the Divine 
will, and learned the best of all lessons_, to endure. 
But how that lesson is learned, through what 
bitter teaching, hard to be understood or obeyed, 
till the hand of the Great Teacher is recognised 
clearly through it all, is a subject too sacred to 
be entered upon here. 

It is a curious truth — and yet a truth 
forced upon us by daily obseiwation — that it is 
not the women who have suffered most who are 
the unhappy women. A state of permanent un- 
happiness — not the morbid, half-cherished me- 
lancholy of youth, which generally wears off with 
wiser years, but that settled, incurable discontent 
and dissatisfaction with all things and all people, 
which we see in some women, is, with very rare 
exceptions, at once the index and the exponent of 
a thoroughly selfish character. Nor can it be 


too early impressed upon eveiy girl that this con- 
dition of mental mal-aise, whatever be its origin, 
is neither a poetical nor a beautiful thing, bur 
a mere disease, and as such ought to be combated 
and medicined with all remedies in her powTr, 
practical, corporeal, and spiritual. For though 
it is folly to suppose that happiness is a matter of 
volition, and that w^e can make ourselves content 
and cheerful whenever we choose — a theory that 
many poor hypochondriacs are taunted wdth 
till they are nigh driven mad — yet, on the other 
hand, no sane mind is ever left without the 
power of self-discipline and self-control, in a 
measure, which measure increases in proportion 
as it is exercised. 

Let any sufferer be once convinced that she 
has this powder — that it is possible by careful 
w^atch, or, better, by substitution of subjects and 
occupations, to abstract her mind from dwelling 
on some predominant idea, which otherwise runs 
in and out of the chambers of the brain like a 


haunting devil^ at last growing into the mono- 
mania which^ philosophy says, every human 
being is affected with, on some one particular 
point — only, happily, he does not know it; only 
let her try if she has not, with regard to her 
mental constitution, the same faculty which 
would prevent her from dancing with a sprained 
ankle, or imagining that there is an earthquake 
because her owti head is spinning with fever, 
and she will have at least taken the first steps 
towards cure. As many a man sits wearying his 
soul out by trying to remedy some grand flaw in 
the plan of society, or the problem of the uni- 
verse, when perhaps the chief thing wrong is his 
own liver, or overtasked brain ; so many a woman 
will pine away to the brink of the grave with an 
imaginary broken heart, or sour to the very 
essence of vinegar on account of everybody's 
supposed ill-usage of her, when it is her own 
restless, dissatisfied, selfish heart, which makes 
her at war with everybody. 


Would that women — and men, too, but that 
their busier and more active lives save most of 
them from it — could be taught from their child- 
hood to recognise as an evil spirit this spirit of 
causeless melancholy — this demon which dwells 
among the tombs^ and yet, which first shows 
itself in such a channing and picturesque form, 
that we hug it to our innocent breasts, and never 
suspect that it may enter in and dwell there 
till we are actually '' possessed ; " cease almost 
to be accountable beings, and are fitter for a 
lunatic asylum than for the home-circle, which, 
be it ever so bright and happy, has always, from 
the inevitable misfortunes of life, only too much 
need of sunshine rather than shadow, or per- 
manent gloom. 

Oh, if such women did but know what comfort 
there is in a cheerful spirit ! how the heart leaps 
up to meet a sunshiny face, a merry tongue, an 
even temper, and a heart which either naturally, 
or, what is better, from conscientious principle. 


has learned to take all things on their bright 
side, believing that the Giver of life being all- 
perfect Love, the best offering we can make to 
Him is to enjoy to the full what He sends of 
good, and bear what He allows of evil! — like a 
child who, when once it thoroughly believes in 
its father, believes in all his dealings with it, 
whether it understands them or not. 

And here, if the subject were not too solemn 
to be more than touched upon, — yet no one dare 
avoid it who believes that there are no such 
distinctions as '' secular" and "religious," but 
that the whole earth with all therein is, not 
only on Sundays, but all days, continually " the 
LoRD^s" — I will put it to most people^s ex- 
perience, which is better than a hundred homilies, 
whether, though they may have known sincere 
Christians who, from various causes, were not 
altogether happy, they ever knew one hapjiy 
person, man or woman, who, whatever his or 
her form of creed might be, was not in hearty 


and speech, and daily life, emphatically a follower 
of Christ — a Christian? 

Among the many secondary influences which 
can he employed either by or upon a naturally 
anxious or morbid temperament, there is none so 
ready to hand, or so wholesome, as that one 
incessantly referred to in the course of these 
pages, — constant employment. A very large 
number of women, particularly young women, 
are by nature constituted so exceedingly rest- 
less of mind, or with such a strong physical 
tendency to nervous depression, that they can by 
no possibility keep themselves in a state of even 
tolerable cheerfulness, except by being conti- 
nually occupied. At what, matters little; even 
apparently useless work is far better for them 
than no work at all. To such I cannot too 
strongly recommend the case of 

" Honest John Tomkins, the hedger and ditcher, 
Who, though lie was poor, didn't want to be richer," 

but always managed to keep in a state of sub* 

274j happy and unhappy women. 

lime content and superabundant gaiety; and 
how ? 

** He always had something or other to do, 
If not for himself — for his neighbour." 

And that work for our neighbour is perhaps 
the most useful and satisfactory of the two, 
because it takes us out of ourselves; which, to 
a person who has not a happy self to rest in, 
is one good thing achieved: this, quite apart 
from the abstract question of benevolence, or 
the notion of keeping a balance-sheet with Heaven 
for work done to our fellow-creatui'es — certainly 
a very fruitless recipe for happiness. 

The sufferer, on waking in the morning — that 
cruel moment when any incurable pain wakes up 
too, sharply, so sharply ! and the burden of a 
monotonous life falls down upon us, or rises like 
a dead blank wall before us, making us turn 
round on the pillow longing for another night, 
instead of an insupportable day — should rouse 
herself with the thought : " Now, what have I 


got to do to-day?^' (Mark, not to enjoy or to 
suffer, only to do.) She should never lie down 
at night without counting up, with a resolute, 
uncompromising, unexcusing veracity, ^^ How 
much have I done to-day ?^^ "I can^t be 
happy," she may ponder wearily; "^tis useless 
trying — so we^ll not think about it: but how 
much have I done this day? how much can I do 
to-morrow ?'' And if she has strength steadily 
to fulfil this manner of life, it will be strange 
if, some day, the faint, involuntary thrill that 
we call ^^ feeling happy" — something like that 
with which we stop to see a daisy at our feet in 
January — does not come and startle into vague, 
mysterious hope, the poor wondering heart. 

Another element of happiness, incalculable in 
its influence over those of sensitive and delicate 
physical organisation, is Order. Any one who has 
just quitted a disorderly household, where the 
rooms are untidy and "littery," where meals 
take place at any hour and in any fashion. 


where there is a general atmosphere of noise, 
confusion, and irregularity; of doing things at 
all times and seasons, or not doing anything in 
particular all day over; who, emerging from 
this, drops into a quiet, busy, regular family, 
w^here each has an appointed task, and does it; 
where the day moves on smoothly, subdivided by 
proper seasons of labour, leisure, food, and sleep 
— oh, what a Paradise it seems ! How the rest- 
less or anxious spirit nestles down in it, and, 
almost without volition, falls into its cheerful 
round, recovering tone, and calm, and strength. 

*' Order is Heaven's first law," 

and a mind without order can by no possibility 
be either a healthy or a happy mind. Therefore, 
beyond all sentimental sympathy, or contemptu- 
ous blame, should be impressed upon all women 
inclined to melancholy, or weighed down with 
any irremediable grief, this simple advice — to 
make their daily round of hfe as harmoniously 


methodical as they possibly can ; leaving no odd 
hours, scarcely an odd ten minutes, to be idle and 
dreary in ; and by means of orderly-arranged, 
light, airy rooms, neat dress, and every pleasant 
external influence that is attainable, to leave 
untried none of these secondary means which 
are in the power of every one of us, for our own 
benefit or that of others, and the importance of 
which we never know until we have proved them. 
There is another maxim — easy to give, and 
hard to practise — Accustom yourself always to 
look at the bright side of things, and never make 
a fuss about trifles. It is pitiful to see what mere 
nothings some women will worry and fret over — 
lamenting as much over an ill-made gown as 
others do over a lost fortune; how some people 
we can always depend upon for making the best, 
instead of the worst, of whatever happens, thus 
greatly lessening our anxieties for themselves in 
their troubles ; and, oh ! how infinitely comfort- 
ing when we bring to them any of our own. 


For we all of us have — wretched, indeed, if we 
have not ! — some friends, or friend, to whom 
we instinctively carry eveiy one of our griefs or 
vexations, assured that, if any one can help us, 
they can and will ; while with others we as in- 
stinctively " keep ourselves to ourselves,^^ whe- 
ther sorrowing or rejoicing; and many more 
there are whom we should never dream of bur- 
dening with our cares at all, any more than we 
would think of putting a butterfly in harness. 

The disposition which can bear trouble; which, 
while passing over the lesser annoyances of life, 
as unworthy to be measured in life's whole sum, 
can yet meet real affliction steadily, struggle with 
it while resistance is possible; conquered, sit 
down patiently, to let the storms sweep over; 
and on their passing, if they pass, rise up, and 
go on its way, looking up to that region of blue 
calm which is never long invisible to the pure of 
heart — this is the blessedest possession that any 
woman can have. Better than a house full of 


silver and gold, better than beauty, or high 
fortunes, or prosperous and satisfied love. 

Wbile, on the other hand, of all characters not 
radically bad, there is none more useless to her- 
self and evei-ybody else, who inflicts more pain, 
anxiety, and gloom on those around her, than the 
one who is often deprecatingly or apologetically 
described as being " of an unhappy tempera- 
ment.''^ You may know her at once by her 
dull or vinegar aspect, her fidgety ways, her 
proneness to take the hard or ill-natured view 
of things and people. Possibly she is unmar- 
ried, and her mocking acquaintance insult 
womanhood by setting down that as the cause 
of her disagreeableness. Most wicked libel ! 
There never was an unhappy old maid yet who 
would not have been equally unhappy as a wife — 
and more guilty, for she would have made two 
people miserable instead of one. It needs only 
to count up all the unhappy women one knows — 
women whom one would not change lots with for 


the riches of the Queen of Sheba — to see that 
most of them are those whom fate has apparently 
loaded with benefits, love, home, ease, luxury, 
leisure; and denied only the vague fine some- 
thing, as indescribable as it is unattainable, — 
the capacity to enjoy them all. 

Unfortunate ones 1 You see by their coun- 
tenances that they never know what it is to 
enjoy. That thrill of thankful gladness, oftenest 
caused by little things — a lovely bit of nature, a 
holiday after long toil, a sudden piece of good 
news, an imexpected face, or a letter that warms 
one's inmost heart — to them is altogether incom- 
prehensible. To hear one of them in her ram- 
pant phase, you would suppose the whole ma- 
chinery of the universe, down even to the weather, 
was in league against her small individuality; 
that everything everybody did, or said, or thought 
was with one sole purpose — her personal injury. 
And when she sinks to the melancholy mood, 
though your heart may bleed for her, aware how 


horribly real are her self-created sufferings, still 
your tenderness sits uneasily, more as a duty 
than a pleasure; and you often feel, and are 
shocked at feeling, that her presence acts upon 
you like the proverbial wet-blanket, and her 
absence gives you an involuntary sense of 

For, though we may pity the unhappy ever so 
lovingly and sincerely, and strive with all our 
power to lift them out of their grief, — when they 
hug it, and refuse to be lifted out of it, patience 
sometimes fails. Human life is so full of pain, 
that once past the youthful delusion that a sad 
countenance is interesting, and an incurable woe 
the most delightful thing possible, the mind 
instinctively turns where it can get rest, and 
cheer, and sunshine. And the friend who can 
bring to it the largest portion of these is, of a 
natural necessity, the most useful, the most 
welcome, and the most dear. 

The "happy woman" — in this our world. 


which is apparently meant to be the road to 
perfection, never its goal — you will find too 
few specimens to be ever likely to mistake her. 
But you will recognise her presence the moment 
she crosses your path. Not by her extreme live- 
liness — lively people are rarely either happy or 
able to diffuse happiness ; but by a sense of 
brightness and cheerfulness that enters with her 
— as an evening sunbeam across your parlour 
wall. Like the fairy Order in the nurseiy tale, 
she takes up the tangled threads of your mind, 
and reduces them to regularity, till you distin- 
guish a clear pattern through the ugly maze. 
She may be neither handsome, nor clever, nor 
entertaining, yet somehow she makes you feel 
" comfortable," because she is so comfortable her- 
self. She shames you out of your complainings, 
for she makes none. Yet, mayhap, since it is 
the divine law that we should all, like our Mas- 
ter, be ^^made perfect through suffering," you 
are fully aware that she has had far more sor- 


row than ever you had ; that her daily path, had 
you to tread it, would he to you as gloomy and 
full of pitfalls as to her it is safe and bright. 
She may have even less than the medium lot 
of earthly blessings, yet all she has she enjoys 
to the full; and it is so pleasant to see any one 
enjoy ! For her sorrows, she neither hypocriti- 
cally denies, nor proudly smothers them — she 
simply bears them ; therefore they come to her, 
as sorrows were meant to come, naturally and 
wholesomely, and passing over, leave her full of 
compassion for all who may have to endure 
the same. 

Thus, whatever her fate may be, married or 
single, rich or poor, in health or sickness — 
though a cheerful spirit has twice as much 
chance of health as a melancholy one — she will 
be all her days a living justification of the 
ways of Providence, "Who makes the light as 
well as the darkness, nay, makes the light out 
of the darkness. For not only in the creation of 


a world, but in that wliicli is equally marvellous, 
the birth and development of every human soul, 
there is a divine verity symbolised by the one 
line, — 

•' And God said, Let there be light I and there was light.** 



I ENTER on this subject witli a hesitation strong 
enough to have prevented my entering on it at 
allj did I not beheve that to write for or con- 
cerning women, and avoid entirely that deplor- 
able phase of womanhood which, in country 
cottages as in city streets, in books, newspapers, 
and daily talk, meets us so continually that 
no young girl can long be kept ignorant of 
it, is to give a one-sided and garbled view 
of life, which, however pretty and pleasant, 
would be false, and being false, useless. We 
have not to construct human nature afresh, but 
to take it as we find it, and make the best of 


it : we have no right, not ev3n the most sensi- 
tive of us women, mercifully constituted with 
less temptation to evil than men, to treat as 
impure what God has not made impure, or to 
shrink with sanctimonious ultra- delicacy from 
the barest mention of things which, though 
happy circumstances of temperament or educa- 
tion have shielded us from ever being touched 
or banned thereby, we must know to exist. If 
we do not know it, our ignorance — quite a 
different thing from innocence — is at once both 
helpless and dangerous : narrows our judgment, 
exposes us to a thousand painful mistakes, and 
greatly limits our power of usefulness in the 

On the other hand, a woman who is for ever 
paddling needlessly in the filthy puddles of hu- 
man nature, just as a child delights in walking 
up a dirty gutter when there is a clean pave- 
ment alongside, deserves, like the child, what- 
ever mud she gets. And there is even a 


worse kind of woman stilly only too common 
among respectable matrons, talkative old maids, 
and even worldly, fascinating young ones, who 
is ready to rake up every scandalous tale, and 
titter over every vile double entendre, who de- 
grades the most solemn mysteries of holy 
Nature into vehicles for disgraceful jokes, whose 
mind, instead of being a decent dwelhng-house, 
is a perfect Augean stable of uncleanness. 
Such a one cannot be too fiercely reprobated, 
too utterly despised. However intact her re- 
putation, she is as great a slur upon woman- 
hood, as great a bane to all true modesty, as 
the most unchaste Messalina who ever dis- 
graced her sex. 

I beg to warn these foul grubbers in the 
dark places of the earth — not for purposes of 
cleansing, but merely because it amuses them 
— that they will not find anything entertaining 
in this article. They will only find one wo- 
man's indignant protest against a tone of 


thought and conversation which, as their con- 
sciences will tell them, many other women 
think it no shame to pursue when among their 
own sex ; and which, did the other sex know it, 
would be as harmful, as fatal, as any open vice, 
by making men disbelieve in virtue — disbelieve 
in us. For its vileness in the sight of Heaven 
— truly, if we think of that, many a well-re- 
puted British lady is as much a "lost" woman 
as any poor, seduced creature whose child is 
born in a workhouse, or strangled at a ditch- 

It is to the latter class, who have fallen out 
of the ranks of honest women, without sinking 
to a lower depth still, that I chiefly refer: be- 
cause with them, those for whom this book 
is meant — namely, the ordinary middle ranks 
of unmarried females — are more likely to have 
to do. That other class, awful in its extent 
and universality, of women who make a trade 
of sin, whom philanthropists and political eco- 


nomists are for ever discussing, and can come 
to no conclusion about — I leave to the wise 
and generous of both sexes who devote their 
lives to the subject; to the examination and 
amelioration of a fact so terrible that_, were 
it not a fact, one would hardly be justified 
in alluding to it here. Wretched ones ! whom 
even to think of turns any woman's heart 
cold, with shame for her own sex, and horror 
at the other: outcasts to whom happiness and 
love are things unknown, God and heaven 
mere words to swear with, and to whom this 
earth must be a daily hell: 

"Non ragionam di lor, ma guarda, e passa." 

But the others cross our path continually. 
No one can have taken any interest in the 
working-classes without being aware how fright- 
fully common among them is what they term 
"a misfortune '^ — how few young women come 
to the marriage- altar at all, or come there just 


2VjO lost women. 

a week or two before maternity; or having 
already had several children, often only half 
brothers and sisters, whom no ceremony has 
ever legalised. Whatever be the causes of 
this — and I merely skim over the surface of 
a state of things which the Times and Sanitary 
Commissioners have plumbed to sickening depths 
— it undoubtedly exists; and no single woman 
who takes any thought of what is going on 
around her, no mistress or mother who requiroi 
constantly servants for her house, and nurse- 
maids for her children, can or dare blind her- 
self to the fact. It is easy for tenderly reared 
young ladies, who study human passions through 
Miss Austen or Miss Edgeworth, or the Loves 
of the Angels, to say : *^ How shocking ! Oh, 
it lian^t be true!'' But it is true; and they 
will not live many more years without finding 
it to be true. Better face truth at once, in all 
its bareness, than be swaddled up for ever in 
the folds of a silken f>ilsehood. 


Another fact, stranger still to account foi-, 
is, that the women who thus fall are by no 
means the worst of their station. I have heard 
it affii-med by more than one lady — by one in 
particular, whose experience is as large as her 
benevolence — that many of them are of th( 
very best; refined, intelligent, truthful, and 

" I don't know how it is,'^ she would sav 
— '' whether their vei-y superiority makes them 
dissatisfied wdth their own rank — ^uch brutes 
or clowns as labouring men often are ! — so 
that they fall easier \ictims to the rank above 
them; or whether, though this theory will 
shock many people, other virtues can exist and 
flourish, entirely distinct from, and after the 
loss of, that which we are accustomed to be- 
lieve the indispensable prime virtue of our sex 
— chastity. I cannot explain it; I can only 
say that it is so : that some of my most pro- 
mising village-gills have been the fir?.t to come 


to liarm; and some of tlie best and most faith- 
ful servants I ever had^ have been girls who 
have fallen into shame, and who, had I not 
gone to the rescue, and put them on the way 
to do well, would infallibly have become ^ lost' 

There, perhaps, is one clue caught. Had she 
not " come to the rescue/^ Rescue, then, is pos- 
sible; and they were capable of being rescued. 

I read lately an essay, and from a pure and 
good woman's pen, too, arguing, what licen- 
tious materialists are now-a-days unblushingly 
asserting, that chastity is not indispensable in 
our sex; that the old chivalrous boast of fa- 
milies — '^ all their men were brave, and all 
their women virtuous^' — was, to say the least, 
a mistake, which led people into worse ills 
than it remedied, by causing an extravagant 
terror at the loss of these good qualities, and 
a corresponding indifference to evil ones much 
more important. 


"While widely differing from this writer — for 
God forbid that our Englishwomen should ever 
come to regard with less hon-or than now the 
loss of personal chastity ! — I think it cannot be 
doubted that even this loss does not indicate 
total corruption or entail permanent degrada- 
tion; that after it, and in spite of it, many 
estimable and womanly qualities may be found 
existing, not only in our picturesque Nell 
Gwynnes and Peg Woffingtons, but our poor 
every-day sinners : the servant obliged to be 
dismissed without a character and w4th a baby ; 
the sempstress quitting starvation for elegant 
infamy; the illiterate village lass, who thinks it 
so grand to be made a lady of — so much better 
to be a rich man^s mistress than a working- 
man's ill-used wife, or rather slave. 

Till we allow that no one sin, not even this sin, 
necessarily corrupts the entire character, we shall 
scarcely be able to judge it with that fairness 
which gives hope of our remedying it, or trying 


to lessen in ever so minute a degree, by our 
individual dealing with any individual case that 
comes in our way, the enormous aggregate of 
miseiy that it entails. This it behoves us to 
do, even on selfish grounds, for it touches us 
closer than many of us are aware — ay, in our 
hearths and homes — in the sons and brothers 
that we have to send out to struggle in a world 
of which we at the fireside know absolutely 
nothing ; if we marry, in the fathers wc give to 
our innocent children, the sei*vants we tmst their 
infancy to, and the influences to which we are 
obliged to expose them daily and hourly, unless 
we were to bring them up in a sort of domestic 
Happy Valley, which their first efi'ort would be to 
get out of as fast as ever they could. And sup- 
posing we are saved from all this ; that our 
position is one peculiarly exempt from evil ; that 
if pollution in any form comes nigh us, we just 
sweep it hastily and noiselessly away from our 
doors, and think we are all right and safe. Alas ! 


we forget that a refuse-heap outside her gate may 
breed a plague even in a queen^s palace. 

One word, before continuing this subject. 
Many of us will not investigate it because 
they are afraid : afraid, not so much of being, 
as of being thought to be, especially by the 
other sex, incorrect, indelicate, unfeminine; of 
being supposed to know more than they ought 
to know, or than the present refinement of so- 
ciety — a good and beautiful thing when real — 
concludes that they do know. 

women ! women ! why have you not more 
faith in yourselves— in that strong inner purity 
which alone can make a woman brave ! which, 
if she knows herself to be clean in heart and 
desire, in body and soul, loving cleanness for 
its own sake, and not for the credit that it 
brings,' will give her a freedom of action and 
a fearlessness of consequences which are to her 
a greater safeguard than any external decorum. 


To be, and not to seem, is the amulet of her 

Young women, who look forward to mar- 
riage and motherhood, in all its peace and dig- 
nity, as your natural lot, have you ever thought 
for a moment what it must be to feel that you 
have lost innocence, that no power on earth 
can ever make you innocent any more, or give 
you back that jewel of glory and strength^ 
having which, as the old superstition says, 

" Even the lion will turn and flee 
From a maid in the pride of her purity ?" 

That, whether the world knows it or not, you 
know yourself to be — not this? The free, 
happy ignorance of maidenhood is gone for 
ever; the sacred dignity and honour of matron- 
hood is not, and never can be attained. * Surely 
this consciousness alone must be the most 
awful punishment to any woman; and from it 

LOST WOMiiN. 297 

no kindness, no sympathy, no concealment of 
shame, or even restoration to good repute, can 
entirely free her. She must bear her burden, 
lighter or heavier as it may seem at different 
times, and she must bear it to the day of her 
death. I think this fact alone is enough to 
make a chaste woman's lirst feeling towards an 
unchaste that of unqualified, unmitigated pity. 
This, not in the form of exaggerated senti- 
mentalism, with which it has of late been the 
fashion to treat such subjects, laying all the 
blame upon the seducer, and exalting the se- 
duced into a paragon of injured simplicity, 
whom society ought to pet, and soothe, and 
treat with far more interest and consideration 
than those who have not erred. Never, as 
it seems to me, was there a greater mistake 
than that into which some writers have fallen, 
in fact and fiction, but especially in fiction, 
through their generous over-eagerness to re- 
deem the lost. These are painted — one heroine 


I call to mind now — as such patterns of ex- 
cellence^ that we wonder, first, how they ever 
could have been led astray, and secondly, 
whether this exceeding helplessness and sim- 
plicity of theirs did not make the sin so venial, 
that it seems as wrong to blame them for it 
as to scold a child for tumbling into an open 
well. Consequently, their penitence becomes 
uunecessaiy and unnatural; their suffering dis- 
proportionably unjust. You close the book, in- 
clined to arraign society, morality, and, what is 
worse. Providence ; but for all else, feeling that 
the question is left much as you found it ; that 
angelic sinners such as these, if they do exist, 
are such exceptions to the generaKty of their 
class, that their example is of very little practi- 
cal service to the rest. 

To refine away error till it is hardly error 
at all. to place vice under such extenuating 
circumstances that we cannot condemn it for 
sheer pity, is a fault so dangerous that Charity 


herself ouglit to steel her heart against it. Far 
better and safer to call Crime by its right name, 
and paint it in its true colours — treating it 
even as the Ragged Schools did the young 
vagabonds of our streets — not by persuading 
them and society that they were clean, respect- 
able, ill-used, and maligned individuals; or by 
waiting for them to grow decent before they 
dealt with them at all, but by simply saying: 
" Come, just as you are — ragged, dirty, dis- 
honest. Only come, and we will do our best 
to make you what you ought to be.^' 

Allowing the pity, which, as I said, ought 
to be a woman^s primaiy sentiment towards 
her lost sisterhood, what is the next thing to 
be done? Surely there must be some light 
beyond that of mere compassion to guide her 
in her after-conduct towards them ? 

Where shall we find this light? In the 
world and its ordinary code of social morality, 
suited to social convenience ? I fear not. The 


general opinion, even among good men, seems 
to be that this great question is a very sad 
thing, but a sort of unconquerable necessity; 
there is no use in talking about it, and indeed 
the less it is talked of the better. Good wo- 
men are much of the same mind. The laxer- 
principled of both sexes treat the matter with 
philosophical indifference, or with the kind of 
laugh that makes the blood boil in any truly 
virtuous heart. 

Then, where are we to look ? — 

" I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repent- 

" Neither do I condemn thee : go and sin no more.'* 
** Herein*, which are many, are forgiven ; because she loved 
much. ' ' 

These words, thus quoted here, may raise a 
sneer on the lips of some, and shock others 
who are accustomed to put on religion with 
their Sunday clothes, and take it off on Mon- 
day, as quite too fine, maybe too useless for 


every -day wear. But I must write them, 
because I believe them. I believe there is 
no other light on this difficult question than 
that given by the New Testament. Thei'e, 
clear and plain, and everywhere repeated, 
shines the doctrine — of which, until then, 
there was little or no trace, either in external 
or revealed religion — that for every crime, 
being repented of and forsaken, there is for- 
giveness with Heaven ; and if with Heaven, 
there ought to be with men. This, without 
entering at all into the doctrinal question of 
atonement, but simply taking the basis of 
Christian morality, is, pardon, fuU and free, 
for all transgressors, on condition that they "sin 
no more." 

All who have had any experience among 
criminals — from the poor little ^' black sheep " 
of the family, who is always getting into 
trouble, and is told continually by everybody 
that, strive as he will, he never can be a good 


boy, like brother Tommy, down to the lowest, 
most reprobate convict, who is shipped off to 
the colonies because the mother-country can-< 
not exactly hang him, and does not know what 
else to do with him — unite in stating that, 
when you shut the door of hope on any human 
soul, you may at once give up all chance of its 
reformation. As w^ll bid a man eat without 
food, see without light, or breathe without air, 
as bid him mend his ways, while at the same 
time you tell him that, however he amends, 
he will be in just the same position — the 
same hopelessly degraded, unpardoned, miserable 

Yet this is practically the language used to 
fallen women, and chiefly by their own sex : 
'^ God may forgive you, but we never can ! '' — 
a declaration which, however common, in spirit 
if not iu substance, is, when one comes to 
analyse it, unparalleled in its arrogance of 


Tiiat for a single offence, however grave, a 
whole life should be blasted, is a doctrine re- 
pugnant even to Nature^s own dealings in the 
visible world. There, her voice clearly says — 
" Let all these wonderful powers of vital renewal 
have free play: let the foul flesh slough itself 
away; lop off the gangrened limb; enter into 
life maimed, if it must be : ^' but never, till the 
last moment of total dissolution, does she say : 
" Thou shalt not enter into life at alV 

Therefore, once let a woman feel that, in 
moral as in physical disease, '^ while there is 
life there is hope^' — dependent on the one only 
condition that she shall sin no more, and what 
a future you open for her ! what a weight you 
lift off from her poor miserable spirit, which 
might otherwise be crushed down to the lowest 
deep, to that which is fa».' worse than any bodily 
pollution, ineradicable corruption of soul ! 

The next thing to be set before her is cou- 
rage. That intolei-able Ji'cad of shame, v'hich 


is the last token of departing modesty,, to wLat 
will it not drive some women ! To what self- 
control and ingenuity, what resistance of weak- 
ness and endurance of bodily pain, which, in 
another cause, would be called heroic — blunt- 
ing every natural instinct, and goading them 
on the last refuge of mortal fear — infanticide. 
Surely, even by this means, many a woman 
might be saved, if there were any one to save 
her, any one to say plainly : " What are you 
afraid of — God or man ? your sin or its re- 
sults ?'' Alas! it will be found almost invari- 
ably the latter: loss of position, of character, 
and consequently of the means of livelihood. 
Respectability shuts the door upon her; mothers 
will not let their young folks come into contact 
with her; mistresses will not take her as a 
servant. Nor can one wonder at this, even 
while believing that in many cases the fear is 
much more selfish than virtuous, and continued 
long after its cause has entirely ceased to exist. 


It is one of the few cases in whicli — at least 
at first — the sufi"erevs cannot help themselves; 
they must sufi*er for a season : they must bear 
patiently the working out of that immutable law 
which makes sin, sooner or later, its own Nemesis. 
But not for ever — and it is worth while, 
in considering this insane terror of worldly opi- 
nion, to ask : " Which half of the world are 
you afraid of, the good or the bad?^' For it 
may often be noticed, the less virtuous people 
are, the more they shrink away from the slightest 
whiff of the odour of un-sanctity. The good 
are ever the most charitable, the pure are the most 
brave. I believe there are hundreds and thou- 
sands of Englishwomen who would willingly 
throw the shelter of their stainless repute around 
any poor creature who came to them and said 
honestly: "I have sinned — help me that I 
may sin no more." But the unfortunates will 
not believe this. They are like the poor In- 
dians, who think it necessary to pacify the e\-il 


principle by a greater worship tlian that which 
they offer to the Good Spirit; because, they 
say, the Bad Spirit is the stronger. Have we 
not, even in this Britain, far too many such 
tacit devil-worbhippers ? 

Given a chance, the smallest chance, and a 
woman's redemption lies in her own hands. 
She cannot be too strongly impressed with this 
fact, or too soon. No human power could have 
degraded her against her will; no human power 
can keep her in degradation unless by her will. 
Granted the sin, howsoever incm-red, wilfully 
or blindly, or under circumstances of desperate 
temptation ; capable of some palliations, or with 
no palliation at all — take it just as it stands, 
in its whole enormity, and — there leave it. 
Set it aside, at once and altogether, and begin 
anew. Better beg, or hunger, or die in a ditch — 
except that the people who die in ditches are 
not usually the best of even this world's child- 
ren — than live a day in voluntary un chastity. 


This may sound fine and romantic — far too 
romantic, forsooth^ to be applied to any of the 
cases that we are likely to meet with. And yet 
it is the plain truth : as tnie of a king^s mistress 
as of a ruined servant-maid. No help from 
without can rescue either, unless she wishes to 
save herself. 

She has more power to do this than at first 
appears; but it must be by the prime agent, 

After the first false step, the principal cause of 
women's further downfall is their being afraid of 
truth — truth, which must of necessity be the 
beginning and end of all attempts at restoration 
to honour. For the wretched girl, who, in 
terror of losing a place, or of being turned from 
an angry father's door, fabricates tale after tale, 
denies and denies till she can deny no longer, 
till all ends in a jail and a charge of child-murder ; 
for the fashionable lady whose life is a long deceit, 
exposed to constant fear lest a breath should tear 


her flimsy reputation to rags; and for all the 
innumerable cases between these two poles oi 
society, there is but one warning — No virtue 
ever was founded on a lie. 

The truth, then, at all risks and costs — the 
truth from the beginning. Make a clean breast 
to whomsoever you need to make it, and then — 
face the world. 

This must be terrible enough — no denying 
that ; but it must be done : there is no help for 
it. Perhaps, in many a case, if it were done at 
once, it would save much after-misery, especially 
the perpetual dread and danger of exposure, 
which makes the sin itself quite a secondary 
consideration compared with the fear of its dis- 
covery. This once over, wath all its paralysing 
effects, the worst has come to the w^orst, and 
there is a chance of hope. 

Begin again. Put the whole past life aside 
as if it had never been, and try %vhat you can 
do with the tutu re. This, I think, should be 


tlie counsel given to all eiTing women not irre- 
trievably '' lost/' 

It would be a blessed thing if our honourable 
women, mothers and matrons, would consider a 
little more what could be done with such per- 
sons : any openings for useful employment ; any 
positions sufficiently guarded to be safe, and 
yet free enough to afford trial, without drawing 
too harshly the line — always harsh enough — 
between these, and those who are of unblemished 
reputation. Reformatories, Magdalen Institu 
tions, and the like, are admirable in their way; 
but there are numberless cases in which indi- 
vidual judgment and help alone are possible. 
It is this — the train of thought that shall result 
in act, and which I desire to suggest to individual 
minds, in the hope of arousing that imperceptibly 
small influence of the many, which forms the 
strongest lever of universal opinion. 

I said in a former paper, that the only way 
to make people good, is to make them happy. 


Strange that this truth should apply to circum- 
stances like these now written of! and yet it 
does ; and it would he vain to deny it. Bid 
a woman lift up her head and live ; tell her that 
she can and ought to live, and you must give her 
something to hve for. You must put into her 
poor sore hearty if you can, a little more than 
peace — comfort. And where is she to find it? 

Heterodox as the doctrine may appear to some, 
it seems to me that Heaven always leaves its 
sign of hope and redemption on any woman 
when she is left with a child. Some taste of the 
ineffable joy, the solemn consecration of ma- 
ternity, must come even to the most wretched 
and guilty creature thmking of the double life 
she bears, or the helpless life to which she has 
given birth — that life for which she is as re- 
sponsible to God, to itself, and to the world, as 
any married mother of them all. 

And the sense of responsibility alone conveys 
a certain amount of comfort and hope. One can 


imagine many a sinful mother, who, for the very- 
child's sake, would learn to hate the sin, and to 
make to the poor innocent the only atonement 
possible, by giving it what is better even than 
stainless birth — a virtuous bringing-up. One 
can conceive such a woman taking her baby in 
her arms, and starting afresh to face the world — 
made bold by a love which has no taint in it, and 
cheered by the knowledge that no human being 
can take from her either this love, or its duties^ 
or its rewards. 

For it rests with herself alone, the comfort she 
may derive from, and the honour in which she 
may be held by, her child. A mother's sub- 
sequent conduct and character might give a son 
as much pride in her, and in the nameless 
parentage which he owes her, as in any long 
lawful line 

" Whose ignoble blood 
Has crept through scoundrels ever since the flood." 

Even a daughter might live to say : " ^Mother, 


do not grieve ; I had rather have had you, just 
as you are, than any mother I know. It has 
been better, for me at least, than if you had 
married my father.^' 

I have written thus much, and yet, after all, 
it seems but " words, words, words." Every- 
where around us we see women falling, fallen, 
and we cannot help them; we cannot make them 
feel the hideousness of sin, the peace and strength 
of that cleanness of soul which is not afraid of 
anything in earth or heaven ; we cannot force 
upon their minds the possibility of return, after 
ever so long wanderings, to those pleasant paths 
out of which there is no peace and no strength 
for either man or woman ; and in order to this 
return is needed — for both alike — not so much 
outside help, as inward repentance. 

All I can do — all, I fear, tliat any one can do by 
mere speech — is to impress upon every woman, 
and chiefly on those who, reared innocently 
in safe homes, view the wicked world without. 


somevvliat like gazers at a show or spectators at 
a battle — shocked, wondering, perhaps pitying a 
little, but not understanding at all — that this 
repentance is possible. Also, that once having 
returned to a chaste life, a woman's former life 
should never once be "cast up^^ against her; 
that she should be allowed to resume, if not her 
pristine position, at least one that is full of use- 
fulness, pleasantness, and respect — a res23ect, the 
amount of which must be determined by her own 
daily conduct. She should be judged — as, in- 
deed, human wisdom alone has a right to judge, 
in all cases — solely by what she is now, and not 
by what she has been. That judgment may be, 
ought to be, stern and fixed as justice itself with 
regard to her present, and even her past, so far 
as concerns the crime committed; but it ought 
never to take the law into its own hands towards 
the criminal, who, for all it knows, may have 
long since become less a criminal than a sufferer. 
Virtue degrades herself, and loses every vestige of 


her power, when her dealings with Vice sink into 
a mere matter of individual opinion, personal 
dislike, or selfish fear of harm. For all offences, 
punishment, retributive and inevitable, must come; 
but punishment is one thing, revenge is another. 
One only, who is Omniscient as well as Omni- 
potent, can declare^ "Vengeance is Mine," 



intaing ©lb. 

'* ' Do ye think of the days that are gone, Jeanie, 
As ye sit by your fire at night ? 
Do ye wish that the morn would bring back the time, 
When your heart and your step were so light ? ' 
♦ I think of the days that are gone, Robin, 
And of all that I joyed in then ; 
But the brightest that ever arose on me, 
I have never wished back again.' " 

Growing old! A time we talk of^ and jest or 
moralise over^ but find almost impossible to re- 
alise — at least to ourselves. In others, we can 
see its approach clearer : yet even then we are 
slow to recognise it. "What, IMiss So-and-so 
looking old, did you say ? Impossible ! she is 


quite a young person : only a year older than I — 
and that would make her just .... Bless me ! 
I am forgetting how time goes on. Yes," — with 
a faint deprecation which truth forbids you to 
contradict, and politeness to notice, — "I suppose 
we are neither of us so young as we used to be.'^ 
Without doubt, it is a trying crisis in a wo- 
man^s life — a single woman's particularly — when 
she begins to suspect she is " not so young as she 
used to be;" that, after crying "Wolf" ever 
since the respectable maturity of seventeen — as 
some young ladies are fond of doing, to the ex- 
treme amusement of their friends — the grim wolf, 
old age, is actually showing his teeth in the dis- 
tance j and no courteous blindness on the part of 
these said friends, no alarmed indifference on her 
own, can neutralise the fact that he is, if still far 
off, in sight. And, however charmingly poetical 
he may appear to sweet foui'teen-and-a-half, who 
writes melancholy verses about " I wish I were 
again a child," or merry three-and-twenty, who 


preserves in silver paper " my first grey hair/^ old 
age, viewed as a near approaching reality, is — 
quite another thing. 

To feel that you have had your fair half at 
least of the ordinary terms of years allotted to 
mortals ; that you have no right to expect to he 
any handsomer, or stronger, or happier than you 
are now; that you have climbed to the summit of 
life, whence the next step must necessarily be 
decadence ; — ay, though you do not feel it, 
though the air may be as fresh, and the view as 
grand — still, you know that it is so. Slower or 
faster, you are going down-hill. To those who 
go ^^ hand-in -ban d,^^ 

" And sleep tliegither at the foot," 

it may be a safer and sweeter descent ; but I am 
writing for those who have to make the descent 

It is not a pleasant descent at the beginning. 
Allien you find at parties that you are not asked 


to dance as mucli as formerly, and your partners 
are chiefly stout, middle-aged gentlemen, and slim 
lads, who blush terribly and require a great deal 
of drawing out; — when you are " dear^'-ed and 
patronised by stylish young chits, who were in 
their cradles when you were a grown woman ; or 
when some boy, who was your plaything in 
petticoats, has the impertinence to look over your 
head, bearded and grand, or even to consult you 
on his love-affairs; — when you find your ac- 
quaintance delicately abstaining from the term 
"old maid" in your presence, or immediately 
qualifying it by an eager panegyric on the 
solitary sisterhood; — when servants address you 
as ''"Ma'am," instead of ^^Miss;" and if you 
are at all stout and comfortable-looking, strange 
shopkeepers persist in making out your bills to 
" Mrs. Blank," and pressing upon your notice 
toys and perambulators. 

Rather trying, too, when, in speaking of your- 
self as a " girl" — which, from long habit, you un- 


wittingly do — you detect a covert smile on tlie face 
of your interlocutor ; or, led by chance excitement 
to deport yourself in an ultra-youthful manner, 
some instinct warns you that you are making 
y our seK ridiculous. Or catching in some strange 
looking-glass the face that you are too famihar 
with to notice much, ordinarily, you suddenly 
become aware that it is not a young face ; that 
it will never be a young face again; that it 
will gradually alter and alter, until the known 
face of your girlhood, whether plain or pretty, 
loved or disliked, admired or despised, will have 
altogether vanished — nay, is vanished : look as 
you will, you cannot see it any more. 

There is no denying the fact, and it ought 
to silence many an ill-natm-ed remark upon 
those unlucky ones who insist on remaining 
"young ladies of a certain age,^^ — that with most 
people the passing from maturity to middle age 
is so gradual, as to be almost imperceptible to 
the individual concerned. It is very difficult 


for a woman to recognise that she is growing 
old; and to many — nay, to all, more or less — 
this recognition cannot but be fraught with con- 
siderable pain. Even the most frivolous are 
somewhat to be pitied, when, not conducting 
themselves as passees, because they really do not 
think it, they expose themselves to all manner 
of misconstructions by still determinedly grasping 
that fair sceptre of youth, which they never 
suspect is now the merest " rag of sovereignty'* 
— sovereignty deposed. 

Nor can the most sensible woman fairly put 
aside her youth, with all it has enjoyed, or lost, 
or missed ; its hopes and interests, omissions and 
commissions, doings and sufferings; satisfied 
that it is henceforth to be considered entirely 
as a thing gone by — without a momentary spasm 
of the heart. Young people forget this as com- 
pletely as they forget that they themselves may 
one day experience the same, or they would not 
be so ready to laugh at even the foolishest of those 


foolisli old virgins who deems herself juvenile long 
after everybody else has ceased to share in the 
pleasing delusion, and thereby makes both useless 
and ridiculous that season of early autumn which 
ought to be the most peaceful, abundant, safe, 
and sacred time in a woman's whole existence. 
They would not, with the proverbial harsh judg- 
ment of youth, scorn so cruelly those poor little 
absurdities, of which the unlucky person who 
indulges therein is probably quite unaware — 
merely dresses as she has always done, and 
carries on the harmless coquetries and minau- 
deries of her teens, unconscious how exceedingly 
ludicrous they appear in a lady of — say forty! 
Yet in this sort of exhibition, which society too 
often sees and enjoys, any honest heart cannot 
but often feel, that of all the actors engaged in it 
the one who plays the least objectionable and 
disgraceful part is she who only makes a fool 
of herself, 

Alas ! why should she do it ? WTiy cling so 



desperately to the youth that will not stay? 
and which, after all, is not such a very precious 
or even a happy thing. Why give herself such 
a world of trouble to deny or conceal her exact 
age, when half her acquaintance must either 
know it or guess it, or be supremely indifferent 
about it? Why appear dressed — wwdressed, 
cynics would say — after the pattern of her niece, 
the belle of the ball; annoying the eye with 
beauty either half withered or long overblown, 
and which in its prime would have been all the 
lovelier for more concealment ? 

In this matter of dress, a word or two. There 
are two styles of costume which ladies past their 
premiere jeunesse are most prone to fall into : 
one hardly knows which is the worst. Perhaps, 
though, it is the ultra-juvenile — such as the 
insane juxtaposition of a yellow skin and white 
tarlatane, or the anomalous adorning of grey 
hair with artificial flowers. It may be ques- 
tioned whether at any age beyond twenty a 


ball- costume is really becoming; but after thirty, 
it is the very last sort of attire that a lady can 
assume with impunity. It is said that you can 
only make yourself look younger by dressing 
a little older than you really are; and truly I 
have seen many a woman look withered and old 
in the customary evening-dress which, being 
unmarried, she thinks necessary to shiver in, 
who would have appeared fair as a sunshiny 
October day if she would only have done Natui'e 
the justice to assume, in her autumn time, an 
autumnal livery. If she would only have the 
sense to believe that grey hair was meant to 
soften wrinkles and brighten faded cheeks, giving 
the same effect for which our youthful grand- 
mothers wore powder ; that flimsy, light-coloured 
dresses, fripperied over with trimmings, only suit 
airy figures and active motions; that a sober- 
tinted substantial gown and a pretty cap will 
any day take away ten years from a lady's ap- 
pearance; — above all, if she would observe this 


one grand rule of the toilet, always advisable/ 
but after youth indispensable — that though good 
personal "points" are by no means a warrant 
for undue exhibition thereof, no point that is 
positively unbeautiful ought ever, by any pre- 
tence of fashion or custom, to be shown. 

The other sort of dress, which, it must be 
owned, is less frequent, is the dowdy style. 
People say — though not very soon — "Oh, I 
am not a young w^oman now ; it does not signify 
what I wear.'' Whether they quite believe it 
is another question ; but they say it — and act 
upon it when laziness or indifference prompts. 
Foolish women ! they forget, that if we have 
reason at any time more than another to mind 
our "looks," it is when our looks are departing 
from us. Youth can do almost anything in the 
toilet — middle-age cannot ; yet is none the less 
bound to present to her friends and society the 
most pleasing exterior she can. Easy is it to 
do this when we have those about us who love 


usj and take notice of what we wear, and in 
whose eyes we would like to appear gracious 
and lovely to the last, so far as nature allows: 
not easy when things are otherwise. This, 
perhaps, is the reason why we see so many 
unmarried women grow careless and " old- 
fashioned " in their dress — '^ ^Yhat does it 
signify ? — nobody cares/' 

I think a woman ought to care a little — a 
very little — for herself. Without preaching up 
vanity, or undue waste of time over that most 
thankless duty of adorning one's self for no- 
body's pleasure in particular — is it not still 
a right and becoming feeling to have some 
respect for that personality which, as well as our 
soul. Heaven gave us to make the best of ? 
And is it not our duty — considering the great 
number of uncomely people there are in the 
world — to lessen it by each of us making 
herself as little uncomely as she can ? 


Because a lady ceases to dress youthfully, she 
has no excuse for dressing untidily ; and though 
having found out that one general style suits 
both her person, her taste, and her convenience, 
she keeps to it, and generally prefers moulding 
the fashion to herself, rather than herself to the 
fashion, — still, that is no reason why she should 
try the risible nerves of one generation by 
showing up to them the out-of-date costume of 
another. Neatness invariable; hues carefully 
harmonised, and as time advances, subsiding into 
a general unity of tone, softening and darkening 
in colour, until black, white, and grey alone 
remain, as the suitable garb for old age : these 
things are every woman^s bounden duty to 
observe as long as she lives. No poverty, grief, 
sickness, or loneliness — those mental causes 
which act so strongly upon the external life — 
can justify any one (to use a phrase probably 
soon to be obsolete, when charity and common- 


sense have left the rising generation no Fifth 
of November) in thus voluntarily " making a 
Guy of herself." 

That slow, fine, and yet perceptible change 
of mien and behaviour, natural and proper to 
advancing years, is scarcely reducible to rule at 
all. It is but the outer reflection of an inward 
process of the mind. We only discover its full 
importance by the absence of it, as noticeable in a 
person "who has such very ^ young^ manners,'' 
who falls into raptures of enthusiasm, and ex- 
presses loudly every emotion of her nature. 
Such a character, when real, is unobjectionable, 
nay, charming, in extreme youth ; but the great 
improbability of its being real makes it rather 
ludicrous, if not disagreeable, in mature age, 
when the passions die out or are quieted down, 
the sense of happiness itself is calm, and the 
fullest, tenderest tide of which the loving heart 
is capable, may be described by those " still 
waters'' which "run deep." 


To " grow old gracefully/^ as one, who truly 
has exemplified her theory, has written and ex- 
pressed itj is a good and beautiful thing ; to 
grow old worthily, a better. And the first effort 
to that end is not only to recognise, but to 
become personally reconciled to the fact of 
youth^s departure; to see, or, if not seeing, to 
have faith in, the wisdom of that which we call 
change, yet which is in truth progression; to 
follow openly and fearlessly, in ourselves and 
our daily life, the same law which makes spring 
pass into summer, summer into autumn, autumn 
into winter, preserving an especial beauty and 
fitness in each of the four. 

Yes, if women could only believe it, there is 
a wonderful beauty even in growing old. The 
charm of expression arising from softened temper 
or ripened intellect, often amply atones for the 
loss of form and colouring; and, consequently, 
to those who never could boast either of these 
latter, years give more much than they take away. 


A sensitive person often requires half a lifetime 
to get thoroughly used to this corporeal machine^ 
to attain a wholesome indifference both to its 
defects and perfections, and to learn at last^ 
what nobody would acquire from any teacher 
but experience, that it is the mind alone which 
is of any consequence ; that with a good 
temper, sincerity, and a moderate stock of brains 
— or even the two former only — any sort of 
body can in time be made useful, respectable, 
and agreeable, as a travelling-dress for the soul. 
Many a one, who was absolutely plain in youth, 
thus grows pleasant and well-looking in declin- 
ing years. You will hardly ever find anybody, 
not ugly in mind, who is repulsively ugly in 
person after middle life. 

So with the character. If a woman is ever to 
be wise or sensible, the chances are that she will 
have become so somewhere between thirty and 
forty. Her natural good quahties will have de- 


veloped ; her evil ones will have either been partly 
subdued, or have overgrown her like rampant 
weeds ; for, however we may talk about people 
being "not a whit altered" — "just the same 
as ever" — not one of us is, or can be, for long 
together, exactly the same; no more than that 
the body we carry with us is the identical body 
we were bom with, or the one we supposed ours 
seven years ago. Therein, as in our spiritual 
self which inhabits it, goes on a perpetual change 
and renewal : if this ceased, the result would be, 
not permanence, but corruption. In moral and 
mental, as well as physical growth, it is im- 
possible to remain stationary; if we do not 
advance, we retrograde. Talk of " too late to 
improve" — " too old to learn," &c. ! Idle 
words ! A human being should be improving 
with every day of a lifetime ; and will probably 
have to go on learning throughout all the ages 
of immortality. 


And this brings me to one among the number 
of what I may term ^^ the pleasm-es of growing 

At our outset, " to love^' is the verb we are 
most prone to conjugate; afterwards we discover, 
that though the first, it is by no means the sole 
verb in the grammar of hfe, or even the only one 
that implies [vide Lennie or Murray) " to be, 
to do, or to sufi'er/' To know — that is, to 
acquire, to find out, to be able to trace and ap- 
preciate the causes of things, gradually becomes 
a necessity, an exquisite delight. We begin to 
taste the full meaning of that promise which 
describes the other world as a place where '' we 
shall know even as we are known. ^^ Nay, even 
this world, with all its burdens and pains, 
presents itself in a phase of abstract interest 
entirely apart from ourselves and our small lot 
therein, whether joyful or soiTOwful. We take 
pleasure in tracing the large workings of all 
things — more clearly apprehended as we cease 


to expect, or conduct ourselves as if we expected, 
that Providence will appear as Deus ex mnchind 
for our own private benefit. "We are able to 
pass out of our own small daily sphere, and take 
interest in the marvellous government of the 
universe; to see the grand workings of cause 
and efi'ect, the educing of good out of apparent 
evil, the clearing away of the knots in tangled 
destinies, general or individual, the wonderful 
agency of time, change and progress in our- 
selves, in those surrounding us, and in the world 
at large. We have lived just long enough to 
catch a faint tone or two of the large harmonies 
of nature and fate — to trace the apparent plot 
and purpose of our own life and that of others, 
sufficiently to make us content to sit still and see 
the play played out. As I once heard said, " We 
feel we should like to go on living, were it only 
out of curiosity." 

In small minds, this feeling expends itself in 
meddling, gossiping, scandal-mongeriug ; but 


such are only the abortive developments of a 
right noble quality, which, properly guided, 
results in benefits incalculable to the individual 
and to society. For, undoubtedly, the after- 
half of life is the best working-time. Beautiful 
is youth's enthusiasm, and grand are its achieve- 
ments; but the most solid and permanent good 
is done by the persistent strength and wide 
experience of middle age. 

A principal agent in this is a blessing which 
rarely comes till then — contentment : not mere 
resignation, a passive acquiescence in what can- 
not be removed, but active contentment ; bought, 
and cheaply, too, by a personal share in that 
daily account of joy and pain, which the longer 
one lives the more one sees is pretty equally 
balanced in all lives. Young people are happy — 
enjoy ecstatically, either in prospect or fruition, 
'^ the top of life ;" but they are very seldom 
contented. It is not possible. Not till the 
cloudy maze is half travelled through, and we 


begin to see the object and purpose of it, can 
we be really content. 

One great element in this — nor let us think 
shame to grant that which God and nature also 
allow — consists in the doubtful question, "To 
marry or not to marry?" being by this time 
generally settled; the world^s idle curiosity or 
impertinent meddling therewith having come to 
an endj which alone is a great boon to any 
woman. Her relations with the other sex im- 
perceptibly change their character, or slowly 
decline. Though there are exceptions, of old 
lovers who have become friends, and friends 
whom no new love could make swerve from 
the fealty of years, still it usually happens so. 
If a woman wishes to retain her sway over 
mankind — not an unnatural wish, even in the 
good and amiable, who have been long used 
to attention and admiration in society — she 
must do it by means quite different from any 
she has hitherto employed. Even then, be 


her wit ever so sparkling^, her influence ever 
so pure and true^ she will often find her listener 
preferring bright eyes to intellectual conver- 
sation, and the satisfaction of his heart to the 
improvement of his mind. And who can blame 

Pleasant as men's society undoubtedly is ; 
honourable, well-informed gentlemen, who meet 
a lady on the easy neutral ground of mutual 
esteem, and take more pains to be agreeable 
to her than, unfortunately, her own sex fre- 
quently do; they are, after all, but men. Not 
one of them is really necessary to a woman's 
happiness, except the one whom, by this time, 
she has probably either met, or lost, or found. 
Therefore, however uncomplimentary this may 
sound to those charming and devoted creatures, 
which of course they always are in ladies' — 
young ladies' — society, a lady past her youth may 
be well content to let them go before they depart 


of their own accord. I fear tlie waning coquette, 
the ancient beauty, as well as the ordinary 
woman, who has had her fair share of both love 
and liking, must learn and show by her demean- 
our she has learned that the only way to presei*ve 
the unfeigned respect of the opposite sex, is by 
letting them see that she can do without either 
their attention or their admiration. 

Another source of contentment, which in 
youth's fierce self-dependence it would be vain 
to look for — is the recognition of one's own 
comparative unimportance and helplessness in 
the scale of fate. We begin by thinking we 
can do everything, and that everything rests 
with us to do ; the merest trifle frets and disturbs 
us ; the restless heart wearies itself with anxieties 
over its own future, the tender one over the 
futures of those dear to it. Many a young face 
do I see wearing the indescribable Martha-look 
— "troubled about many things'' — whom I 


would fain remind of the anecdote of the am- 
bassador in China. To him^ tossing sleepless 
on his bed, his old servant said : 

" Sir_, may I put to you, and will you answer, 
three questions? First, did not the Almighty 
govern this world very well before you came 
into it?'' 

^' Of course/' 

" And will He not also do the same when you 
are gone out of it ? " 

" I know that." 

" Then, do you not think, sir, that He is able 
to govern it while you are in it ? " 

The ambassador smiled assent, turned round, 
and slept calmly. 

Alas ! it is the slowest and most painful lesson 
that Faith has to learn — Faith, not Indifference 
— to do steadfastly and patiently all that lies to 
her hand; and there leave it, believing that the 
Almighty is able to govern His own world. 

It is said that we suffer less as we grow older 


that pain, like joy, becomes dulled by repetition, 
or by the callousness that comes with years. In 
one sense this is true. If there is no joy like the 
joy of youth, the rapture of a first love, the thrill 
of a first ambition, God's great mercy has also 
granted that there is no anguish like youth's 
pain; so total, so hopeless, blotting out earth 
and heaven, falling down upon the whole being 
like a stone. This never comes in after-life, 
because the sufi'erer, if he or she have lived to 
any purpose at all, has learned that God never 
meant any human being to be crushed under any 
calamity like a blindworm imder a stone. 

For lesser evils, the fact that our interests 
gradually take a wider range, allows more scope 
for the healing power of compensation. Also 
our strongest idiosyncrasies, our loves, hates, 
sympathies, and prejudices, having assumed a 
more rational and softened shape, we do not 
present so many angles for the rough attrition 
of the world. Likewise, with the eye of that 


Faith already referred to, we have eome to yie,v 
life in its entirety, instead of agonisingly puzzling 
over its disjointed parts, vvhieh are not, and were 
never meant to be. made wholly elear to mortal 
eye. And that calm twilight, which by nature's 
kindly law so soon begins to creep over the past, 
throws over all things a softened colouring which 
altogether transcends and forbids regret. I 
suppose there is hardly any woman with a good 
heart and a clear conscience, who does not feel, 
on the whole, the infinite truth of the verses at 
the head of this paper, and of the other two 
verses which I here add -partly because a 
pleasant rhyme is a wholesome thing to cling 
about the memory, and partly in the hope that 
some one may own or claim this anonymous 


' Do ye think of the hopes that are gone, Jeanie, 
As ye sit by your fire at night .•» 
Do ye gather them up as they faded fast 
Like buds with an early bli^^ht ? ' 


* I think of the hopes that are gone, Robin, 

And I mourn not their stay was fleet ; 
For they fell as the leaves of the red rose fall, 
And were even in falling, sweet.' 

♦ Do ye think of the friends that are gone, Jeanie, 

As ye sit by your fire at night ? 
Do ye wish they were round you again once more 

By the hearth that they made so bright ? ' 
' I think of the friends that are gone, Robin, 

They are dear to my heart as then : 
But the best and the dearest among them ail 

I have never wished back again ! ' " * 

Added to all these reasons^ contentment^ faith, 
cheerfulness, and the natural calming down of 
both passions and emotions, which give a woman 
greater capacity for usefulness in middle life 
than in any previous portion of her existence, is 
another — her greater independence. By the 
time she has arrived at the half of those three- 
score-years-and-ten which form the largest avail- 
able limit of active life, she will generally have 
become, in the best sense of the term, her own 

mistress. I do not mean as regards exemption 

* I b»ve since learnt that this poem is by Dora Greenwell. 

GllOWIXG OLD. 341 

from family ties and restrictions, for this sort of 
liberty is sadder than bondage, but she will be 
mistress over herself — she will have learned to 
understand herself, mentally and bodily. Nor 
is this last a small advantage, for it often takes 
years to comprehend, and act upon when com- 
prehended, the physical peculiarities of one's own 
constitution. !Much valetudinarianism among 
women arises from ignorance or neglect of the 
commonest sanitary laws ; and indifference to 
that grand preservative of a healthy body, a 
well -controlled, healthy mind. Both of these 
are more attainable in middle age than youth; 
and, therefore, the sort of happiness they bring 
— a solid, useful, available happiness — is more 
in her power then, than at any earlier period. 
And why ? Because she has ceased to think 
principally of herself and her own pleasures ; 
because, as I tried to show in a fonner chapter, 
happiness itself has become to her an accidental 
thing, which the good God may give or withhold 


as He sees most fit for her — most adapted to 
the work for which He means to use her in her 
generation. This conviction of being at once an 
active and a passive agent — self-working_, worked 
through^ and worked upon — is surely conse- 
cration enough to form the peace, nay, the hap- 
piness, of any good woman's life : enough, be it 
ever so solitary, to sustain it until the end. 

In what manner such a conviction should be 
carried out, no one individual can venture to 
advise. Women's work is, in this age, if un- 
defined, almost unlimited, when the woman her- 
self so chooses. She alone can be a law unto 
herself; deciding, acting according to the cir- 
cumstances in which her lot is placed. 

And have we not many who do so act ? 
Women of property, whose name is a proverb 
for generous and wise charities — whose riches, 
carefally guided, flow into innumerable channels, 
freshening the whole land. Women of rank and 
influence, who use both, or lay aside both, in the 


simplest humility, for labours of love wliich level^ 
or rather raise, all classes to one common sphere 
of womanhood. And many others, of whom the 
world knows nothing, who have taken the wisest 
course that any unmarried woman can take, and 
made for themselves a home and a position : 
some, as the ladies Bountiful of a country neigh- 
bourhood; some, as elder sisters, on whom has 
fallen the bringing up of whole families, and to 
whom has tacitly been accorded the headship of 
the same, by the love and respect of more than 
one generation thereof; and some as writers, 
painters, and professional women generally, who 
make the most of the special gift apparently 
allotted to them, believing that, be it great or 
small, it is not theirs either to lose or to waste, 
but that they must one day render up to the 
Master His own, with usury. 

Would that, instead of educating our young 
girls with the notion that they are to be wives, 
or nothing — matrons, with an acknowledged 

344j growing old. 

position and duties, or witli no position and duties 
at all — we could instil into them the principle 
that, above and before all, they are to be women — 
women, whose character is of their own making, 
and whose lot lies in their own hands. Not 
through any foolish independence of mankind, 
or adventurous misogamy : let people prate as 
they will, the woman was never born yet who 
would not cheerfully and proudly give herself 
and her whole destiny into a worthy hand, at the 
right time, and under fitting circumstances — 
that is, when her whole heart and conscience 
accompanied and sanctified the gift. But mar- 
riage ought always to be a question not of 
necessity, but choice. Every girl ought to be 
taught that a hasty, loveless union, stamps upon 
her as foul dishonour as one of those connexions 
which omit the legal ceremony altogether ; and 
that, however pale, dreary, and toilsome a single 
life may be, unhappy married life must be tenfold 
worse — an ever-haunting temptation, an incur- 


able regret^ a torment from which there is no 
escape but death. There is many a bridal- 
chamber over which ought to be placed no 
other inscription than that well-known one over 
the gate of Dante^s hell : 

" Lasciate ogni speranza, voi clii entrate." 

God forbid that any woman^ in whose heart is 
any sense of real marriage, with all its sanctity, 
beauty, and glory, should ever be driven to enter 
such an accursed door ! 

But after the season of growing old, there 
comes, to a few, the time of old age ; the withered 
face, the failing strength, the bodily powers 
gradually sinking into incapacity for both use- 
fulness and enjoyment. I will not say but that 
this season has its sad aspect to a woman who 
has never married; and who, as her own gene- 
ration dies out, probably has long since died out, 
retains no longer, nor can expect to retain, any 
ilcsh-and-blood claim upon a single human being. 


When all tlie downward ties wbicli give to tlie 
decline of life a rightful comfort, and the interest 
in the new generation which brightens it with a 
perpetual hope, are to her either unknown, or 
indulged in chiefly on one side. Of course there 
are exceptions ; where an aunt has been almost 
like a mother, and a loving and loveable great- 
aunt is as important a personage as any grand- 
mother. But I speak of things in general. It 
is a condition to which a single woman must 
make up her mind, that the close of her days 
will be more or less solitary. 

Yet there is a solitude which old age feels to 
be as natural and satisfying as that rest whicli 
seems such an irksomeness to youth, but which 
gradually grows into the best blessing of our 
lives; and there is another solitude, so full of 
peace and hope, that it is like Jacobus sleep 
in the wilderness, at the foot of the ladder of 

" All things are less dreadful than they seem." 


And it may be that the extreme loneliness which, 
viewed afar off, appears to an unmarried woman 
as (me of the saddest of the inevitable results 
of her lot, shall by that time have lost all its 
pain, and be regarded but as the quiet, dreamy 
hour '^between the lights;'' when the day's 
work is done, and we lean back, closing our eyes, 
to think it all over before we finally go to rest, 
or to look forward, in faith and hope, unto the 
Coming IMorning. 

A finished life — a life which has made the 
best of all the materials granted to it, and 
through which, be its web dark or bright, its 
pattern clear or clouded, can now be traced 
plainly the hand of the Great Designer ; surely 
this is worth living for ? And though at its 
end it may be somewhat lonely ; though a 
servant's and not a daughter's arm may guide 
the failing step ; though most likely it will be 
strangers only who come about the dying bed, 
close the eyes that no husband ever kissed, and 


draw the shroud kindly over the poor withered 
breast where no child^s head has ever lain ; still, 
such a life is not to be pitied, for it is a com- 
pleted life. It has fulfilled its appointed course, 
and returns to the Giver of all breath, pure as He 
gave it. Nor will He forget it when He counteth 
up His jewels. 

On earth, too, for as much and as long as the 
happy dead, to whom all things have long been 
made equal, need remembering, such a life will 
not have been lived in vain: 

" Only the memory of the just 

Smells sweet, and blossoms in the dust." 





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