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But these modern ladies deny that there is any superiority in the matter, and are on the whole anxious to disclaim constancy as a womanly grace or instinct. They will have men understand that they must not hope to be beloved in the new era, beyond the moment when they are regarded as the highest ideal of excellence that has yet been encountered. At present,' says one, “a mistaken education, a narrow, uncultivated mind, and
many sexual prejudices, tend to make women more constant than men.' Margaret Fuller, in her cool account of Made. George Sands, who is notoriously not constant, says— She
needs no defence but only to be understood, for she has bravely acted out her nature, and always with good intentions. She * might have loved one man permanently, if she could have « found one contemporary with her, who could interest and
command her throughout her range; but there was hardly a • possibility of that for such a person. And we find it stated in Bertha,' we must love the highest representative of the • ideal that connes across our path, let the former loves be what they may. When Julia begins to detect that her lover's deepest heart is Bertha's, and sounds her on the subject, that sybil replies:
"" Ah, Julia, life is very mysterious. I wait patiently for God's truth in me., I would say to my lover, if there is one in the world to awaken a higher life in thee, any angel to breathe to thee a better revelation, go; God forbid that I should be a hindrance. I would send him on from angel to archangel if I could. It is true, I may hold back the throbs of my poor anguished heart lest it break. I may breathe softly lest the heart, strings rupturebut what then? I would give him a God-speed to the very gates of heaven, though I myself sink down into some dim valley, and shed unavailing tears--tears that would scorn to call him back. He has passed out of my sphere, just as I might have passed out of his.” '-16. pp. 240, 241, To say the least of it, a very unsettling theory, and, should this school gain ground, opening an alarming vista of uncertainty in the marriage relation, to all who have not the magnanimity to believe themselves the highest ideal. Nor, alas ! can we speak of these views as mere theory. Already in our own country, amongst the few, we trust, that hold them, they are bearing their natural fruits, as all theories on so vital a point must very soon do. One case of
defiance to the laws of God and man, notorious enough to have reached many of our readers, was begun and justified on the lady's part, and is persisted in by all concerned, on this identical train of reasoning. And as these several virtues are disowned, and many more in their train, such as obedience, meekness, humility, so certain womanly glories and privileges are rejected, as incompatible with the main end of emancipation. In claiming the larger sphere of the world as their own, these women willingly resign the lesser dominion of household and home, and disparage and invade with out scruple the wife's and mother's rights and office. One main end of the Vindication of the Rights of Women,' is to persuade them that the sentiment of warm, devoted, conjugal affection, all
exclusive affections,' prevent women fulfilling the duties of their station with dignity, by preoccupying and narrowing the mind, Bertha takes up her abode in the house of an old dependant of her family, though fully aware how disagreeable her presence is to his wife, whose existing and valued ‘rights' are thus summarily treated, while she is occupied in gaining others for her for which she had no taste or desire :
I spoke in this wise : “My dear Mrs. True, you mistake me altogether. I only wish to belp you in thought, as well as many ways. I am quite alone in the world, and could wish to pass the rest of my life with the only person whom I have found true in bis very soul, as is your busband, and he knows more of me than any person living, has been very faithful to me, and I am grateful to him beyond expression.”
"As I said this the tears came to my eyes, an unwonted thing for years. Defiance took up my unlucky words— Yes, and so you come here to make unhappiness between John and me."
«« Woman!” said I, but she went on,
• “ Yes, John thinks you're a saint on earth, though I've never seen you pray; and he thinks there's nobody like you under the sun; and so I, his lawful wife, am made to feel sneaking where you are. Oh! if it wasn't for my religion, I should die."
* The miserable petty thorn! I cried to myself. Will the world ever behold a race of women-true women, deserving the name? No wonder men are base and mischievous, nursed at such a fountain, If I could have my way, I would insist that women, now, at this moment, weak and ineffective as they are, should be admitted to all the burdens of legislative responsibility, that they might be brought to feel their lack of noble culture, and thus set themselves in earnest to amend. While these thoughts swept through my mind, and kept me silent, Defiance went on, in a sharp whining voice, uttering all sorts of absurdities.'-Ib. pp. 31, 32.
The sacred rights of maternity are in the same way invaded, and women are to exchange their control over their own children for a vote in the legislature,
• Bertha was right. The mother is not the best teacher to her children, in the present aspect of society. She is exhausted with the pangs of maternity. She is oppressed and servile with much bearing, as was Leah - her children fret and annoy her-whereas the teacher should be calm, cheerful, self-sustained. The child ceases to love the mother because of the perpetual interdict-the“ do not " of the household law. A few gene. rations of children, reared under the “ do thou” of the new covenant, would transform the whole social aspect.'-Ib. p. 46.
The rights, too, of the matron are infringed in the same way. She is denied authority over her sex. Young women are promoted over her head. Mere girls are assured that everything depends upon them; that they must look into the present laws concerning women, with a view to a truer union between husband and wife, because all points connected with this
subject are the legitimate interests of young women; it • depends on them to mould public opinion on this point.' (Remarks, p. 15.) We need not run through the other advantages renounced in the same cause: the tenderness which is the due of those who acknowledge dependence, the immunity from many of this world's most anxious troubles, the small pleasures, the light relaxations, and gentle amenities which make home cheerful, and for which there would be no time and no patience in the new order of things: all these are sacrificed without a thought, for the sake of fighting the noisy battle of life side by side with men-doing their work, joining in their occupations, sharing their rights.
We have said that our sympathies go rather with the American portion of the present movement than with our own, a sympathy, it need hardly be explained, which belongs not to their demands, but to their existing position. It may surprise those accustomed to regard America as the land of freedom, emancipated by its newness from old-world prescriptions and vested rights, to be told that in no country of the civilised world do women occupy so subordinate a place in the institutions of their country as in America ; in no country are social habits so much opposed to their legitimate influence. For ourselves, we hold that the women of America are to be pitied. In that land of absolute political equality, with the word • liberty for ever sounding in their ears, and where there are none of those subordinate degrees of power as in the old world, which teach all people, male and female, to be patient at exclusions of which every one has his share, they find themselves with no political existence, absolutely excluded from public affairs, their existence as part of the body politic ignored. In the perpetual pother of public interests and political agitation they keep silence; they have no voice, public or private; while 'every hearth' in England, we are told, ‘is a little parliament,' and each household here is keenly and warmly interested in public events. Mr. Emerson informs us that in America the female politician is unknown,' and Mr. Higginson makes the same admission :
• It is said that women are not now familiar with political affairs. Certainly they are not, for they have no stimulus to be. Give them the same motive for informing themselves, and the natural American appetite for newspapers will be developed as readily in women as in men.'-Woman and her Wishes, p. 19.
The history of America proper, it is true, does not include many generations, but it does great events. Surely it is the only history wherein women play no leading part, where they have no place, where they are not named. There are women distinguished for genius and for literature; there are women of qur day notorious for struggles against their insignificance of position, and for eccentric and often repulsive efforts to change this, to them, humiliating state of things; but there are no historical American women. There are no records of women exercising actual power, possessing popular acknowledged weight; and we much doubt if they are in the way to get it, whatever theorists and modern philosophers may say. For is not society in America too shifting and restless a scene for female influence? Are the men who are engaged in perpetual party struggles, every year, almost every day of their lives, immersed in the ups and downs of politics, and thrown together constantly for these purposes, in a state for the slow, gradual, insinuating influence of woman? Much is said of the superior education of American women, of the vast range of science which their teaching leads them through, of the literature with which they are early imbued, and the languages in which they become adepts. In all these points it is insinuated that they are not unfrequently superior to their husbands and their brothers. But mere acquirements, the learning that may be attained before sixteen or eighteen, bring no great moral weight with them; it is not learning only, but learning joined with something else, that brings influence. In some cireles in England (more especially the mercantile middle classes), the women devote more time to education, and are much more conversant with literature, than the men; but we do not see that their influence is greater in their own society or families for this difference in their favour. Such we apprehend to be the case in a wider sphere in America. The women read Dante and Goethe, and the men are occupied in business and politics, and trouble their heads with no language but their own. The attainments of their wives and daughters bring them no nearer to sharing this real power; there is no connexion between the two ideas. Some of them see this, and are willing to sacrifice accomplishments and elegancies for a place and a name.
It is this place which the women of America seem to want, and for the want of which they are to be pitied. Mary Wollstonecraft raved for a democracy, and attributed all the wrongs of her sex to an hereditary monarchy. She never made a greater mistake. Democracy is essentially against a woman's legitimate influence. The great comedian of Athens, in his most offensive plays, the Ecclesiazuse and Lysistrata, connects, truthfully enongh, the revolt of the Attic harem with the wildest periods of political anarchy. Woman's rule, wherever we see it in due exercise, is itself a little kingdom. She has dependants and obedient subjects for whom she makes laws, and in proportion as these are obeyed, and her rule acknowledged, does her kingdom prosper.' Whether Margaret Fuller knew it or not, ' here lies the reason of the differences she discovers between the women of her own day and those of the old monarchical times, while her country still owned King George's sway.
Women,' she says, ' are now taught at school all that men 'are; they run over, superficially, even more studies, without "being really taught anything. When they come to the business of life, they find themselves inferior, and all their studies have not given them that practical good sense, and mother wisdom and wit, which grew up with our grandmothers at the spinningr wheel.' These grandmothers ruled their households; but what kingdom has an American woman? where are her subjects ? She married early, probably, and perhaps began her conjugal life in a boarding-house-an effectual blow to the wife's domestic authority over her husband, her first subject. But if she takes house, where are her legitimate subjects, her servants, over whom, exercising a wise and beneficent control, --not labouring but directing-constantly acting in a superior capacity, she is learning the art of power? In America women are the victims of their servants, who disown the title, and with it the subjection. She has children, but from infancy the principles of democracy and restless liberty are at work to nullify the mother's authority, or at least to remove them prematurely from it, and the whole practice of society is to make children independent of their parents.
Let us illustrate and endeavour to prove these positions from various sources. We may appeal to some prejudiced ones, but they are matters of notoriety. The system of living in boardinghouses is taken for granted in all American pictures of manners. Mrs. Trollope thus expresses herself on the effect the custom has on the domestic influence of women ::- I can hardly imagine “a contrivance more effectual for ensuring the insignificance of
a woman than marrying her at seventeen, and placing her in • a boarding-house. Then follows a history of a day at one of these places, concluding with the comment:
It is not thus that the women can obtain that influence in society which is allowed to them in Europe, and to which both sages and men of the world have agreed in ascribing such salutary effects. It is vain that
collegiate institutes" are formed for young ladies, or that "academic degrees” are conferred upon them. It is after marriage, when these young attempts upon all the sciences are forgotten, that the lamentable insignificance of American women appears.'-Mrs. Trollope's America, vol. ii. p. 80.
This lady's lively strictures upon the little influence of women on society in America are probably in the memory of our