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Title: The Girl of the Period and Other Social Essays, Vol. II (of 2)

Author: Eliza Lynn Linton

Release Date: December 30, 2012 [EBook #41736]

Language: English

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The picture of a gushing creature all heart and no brains, all impulse and no ballast, is familiar to most of us; and we know her, either by repute or by personal acquaintance, as well as we know our alphabet. But we are not so familiar with the idea of the gushing man. Yet gushing men exist, if not in such numbers as their sisters, still in quite sufficient force to constitute a distinct type. The gushing man is the furthest possible removed from the ordinary manly ideal, as women create it out of their own imaginations. Women like to picture men as inexorably just, yet tender; calm, grave, restrained, yet full of passion well mastered; Greathearts with an eye cast Mercywards if you will, else unapproachable by all the world; Goethes with one weak corner left for Bettina, where love may queen it over wisdom, but 2 in all save love strong as Titans, powerful as gods, unchangeable as fate. They forgive anything in a man who is manly according to their own pattern and ideas. Even harshness amounting to brutality is condoned if the hero have a jaw of sufficient squareness, and mighty passions just within the limits of control—as witness Jane Eyre's Rochester and his long line of unpleasant followers. But this harshness must be accompanied by love. Like the Russian wife who wept for want of her customary thrashing, taking immunity from the stick to mean indifference, these women would rather have brutality with love than no love at all.

But a gushing man, as judged by men among men, is a being so foreign to the womanly ideal that very few understand him when they do see him. And they do not call him gushing. He is frank, enthusiastic, unworldly, aspiring; perhaps he is labelled with that word of power, 'high-souled;' but he is not gushing, save when spoken of by men who despise him. For men have an intense contempt for him. A woman who has no ballast, and whose self-restraint goes to the winds on every occasion, is accepted for what she is worth, and but little disappointment and less annoyance is felt for what is wanting. Indeed, men in general expect so little from women that their follies count as of course and only what might be looked for. They are like marriage, or the English climate, or a lottery ticket, or a dark horse heavily backed, and have to be taken for better or worse as they may turn out, with the 3 violent probability that the chances are all on the side of the worse.

But the gushing man is inexcusable. He is a nuisance or a laughing-stock; and as either he is resented. In his club, at the mess-table, in the city, at home, wherever he may be and whatever he may be about, he is always plunging headlong into difficulties and dragging his friends with him; always quarrelling for a straw; putting himself grossly in the wrong and vehemently apologizing afterwards; hitting wild at one moment and down on his knees the next, and as absurd in the one attitude as he is abject in the other. He falls in love at first sight and makes a fool of himself on unknown ground while with men he is ready to swear eternal friendship or undying enmity before he has had time to know anything whatever about the object of his regard or his dislike. In consequence he is being perpetually associated with shaky names and brought into questionable positions. He is full of confidence in himself on every occasion, and is given to making the most positive assertions on things he knows nothing about; when afterwards he is obliged to retract and to own himself mistaken. But he is just as full of self-abasement when, like vaulting ambition, he has overleaped himself and fallen into mistakes and failures unawares. He makes rash bets about things of which he has the best information; so he says; and will not be staved off by those who know what folly he is committing, but 4 insists on writing himself down after Dogberry at the cost of just so much. He backs the worst player at billiards on the strength of a chance hazard, and bets on the losing hand at whist. He goes into wild speculations in the city, where he is certain to land a pot of money according to his own account and whence he comes with empty pockets, as you foretold and warned. He takes up with all manner of doubtful schemes and yet more doubtful promoters; but he will not be advised. Is he not gushing? and does not the quality of gushingness include an Arcadian belief in the virtue of all the world?

The gushing man is the very pabulum of sharks and sharpers; and it is he whose impressibility and gullible good-nature supply wind for the sails of half the rotten schemes afloat. Full of faith in his fellows, and of belief in a brilliant future to be had by good luck and not by hard work, he cannot bring himself to doubt either men or measures; unless indeed his gushingness takes the form of suspicion, and then he goes about delivering himself of accusations not one of which he can substantiate by the weakest bulwark of fact, and doubting the soundness of investments as safe as the Three per Cents.

In manner the gushing man is familiar and caressing. He may be patronizing or playful according to the bent of his own nature. If the first, he will call his superior, My dear boy, and pat him on the back encouragingly; if the second, he will put his arm schoolboy fashion round the neck of any man of note who has the misfortune of his intimacy, and 5 call him Old fellow, or Governor, or rex meus, as he is inclined. With women his familiarity is excessively offensive. He gives them pet names, or calls to them by their Christian names from one end of the room to the other, and pats and paws them in all fraternal affectionateness, after about the same length of acquaintanceship as would bring other men from the bowing stage to that of shaking hands. His manners throughout are enough to compromise the toughest reputation; and one of the worst misfortunes that can befall a woman whose circumstances lay her specially open to slander and misrepresentation is to include among her friends a gushing man of energetic tendencies, on the look-out to do her a good turn if he can, and anxious to let people see on what familiar terms he stands with her. He means nothing in the least degree improper when he puts his arm round her waist, calls her My dear and even Darling in a loud voice for all the world to hear; or when he seats himself at her table before folk to write her private messages, which he makes believe to be of so much importance that they must not be spoken aloud, and which are of no importance at all. He is only familiar and gushing; and he would be the first to cry out against the evil imagination of the world which saw harm in what he does with such innocent intent.

The gushing man has one grave defect—he is not safe nor secret. From no bad motive, but just from the blind propulsion of gushingness, he cannot keep a secret, and he is sure to let out sooner or later all 6 he knows. He holds back nothing of his friends nor of his own—not even when his honour is engaged in the trust; being essentially loose-lipped, and with his emotional life always bubbling up through the thin crust of conventional reserve. Not that he means to be dishonourable; he is only gushing and unrestrained. Hence every friend he has knows all about him. His latest lover learns the roll-call of all his previous loves; and there is not a man in his club, with whom he is on speaking terms, who does not know as much. Women who trust themselves to gushing men simply trust themselves to broken reeds; and they might as well look for a sieve that will hold water as expect a man of the sieve nature to keep their secret, whatever it may cost them and him to divulge it.

As a theorist the gushing man is for ever advocating untenable opinions and taking up with extreme doctrines, which he announces confidently and out of which he can be argued by the first opponent he encounters. The facility with which he can be bowled over on any ground—he calls it being converted—is in fact one of his most striking characteristics; and a gushing man rushes from the school of one professor to that of another, his zeal unabated, no matter how many his reconversions. He is always finding the truth, which he never retains; and the loudest and most active in damning a cast-off doctrine is the gushing man who has once followed it. As a leader, he is irresistible to both boys and women. 7 His enthusiastic, unreflecting, unballasted character finds a ready response in the youthful and feminine nature; and he is the idol of a small knot of ardent worshippers, who believe in him as the logical and well-balanced man is never believed in. He takes them captive by a community of imagination, of impulsiveness, of exaggeration; and is followed just in proportion to his unfitness to lead.

This is the kind of man who writes sentimental novels, with a good deal of love laced with a vague form of pantheism or of weak evangelical religion, to suit all tastes; or he is great in a certain kind of indefinite poetry which no one has yet been found to understand, save perhaps, a special Soul Sister, which is the subdued version among us of the more suggestive Spiritual Wife. He adores the feminine virtues, which he places far beyond all the masculine ones; and expatiates on the beauty of the female character which he thinks is to be the rule of the future. Perhaps though, he goes off into panegyrics on the Vikings and the Berserkers; or else plunges boldly into the mists of the Arthurian era, and gushes in obsolete English about chivalry and the Round Table, Sir Launcelot and the Holy Graal, to the bewilderment of his entranced audience to whom he does not supply a glossary. In religion he is generally a mystic and always in extremes. He can never be pinned down to logic, to facts, to reason; and to his mind the golden mean is the sin for which the Laodicean Church was cursed. Feeling and emotion and imagination 8 do all the work of the world according to him; and when he is asked to reason and to demonstrate, he answers, with the lofty air of one secure of the better way, that he Loves, and that Love sees further and more clearly than reason.

As the strong-minded woman is a mistake among women, so is the gushing man among men. Fluid, unstable, without curb to govern or rein to guide, he brings into the masculine world all the mental frailties of the feminine, and adds to them the force of his own organization as a man. Whatever he may be he is a disaster; and at all times is associated with failure. He is the revolutionary leader who gets up abortive risings—the schemer whose plans run into sand—the poet whose books are read only by schoolgirls, or lie on the publisher's shelves uncut, as his gushingness bubbles over into twaddle or exhales itself in the smoke of obscurity—the fanatic whose faith is more madness than philosophy—the man of society who is the butt of his male companions and the terror of his lady acquaintances—the father of a family which he does his best, unintentionally, to ruin by neglect, which he calls nature, or by eccentricity of training, which he calls faith—and the husband of a woman who either worships him in blind belief, or who laughs at him in secret, as heart or head preponderates in her character. In any case he is a man who never finds the fitting time or place; and who dies as he has lived, with everything about him incomplete.



A vast amount of poetry has always been thrown round that special time of a woman's life when,

Standing with reluctant feet
Where the brook and river meet,

she is no longer a child and yet not quite a woman—that transition time between the closed bud and the full-blown flower which we in England express by the term, among others, of Sweet Seventeen. Without meaning to be sentimental, or to envelope things in a golden haze wrought by the imagination only and nowhere to be found in fact, we cannot deny the peculiar charm which belongs to a girl of this age, if she is nice, and neither pert nor silly. Besides, it is not only what she is that interests us, but what she will be; for this is the time when the character is settling into its permanent form, so that the great thought of every one connected with her is, How will she turn out? Into what kind of woman will the girl develop? and, What kind of life will she make for herself?

Certainly Sweet Seventeen may be a most unlovely 10 creature, and in fact she often is; a creature hard and forward, having lost the innocence and obedience of childhood and having gained nothing yet of the tact and grace of womanhood; a creature whose hopes and thoughts are all centred on the time when she shall be brought out and have her fling of flirting and fine dresses with the rest. Or she may be only a gauche and giggling schoolgirl, with a mind as narrow as her life, given up to the small intrigues and scandals of the dormitory and the playground—a girl who scamps her lessons and cheats her masters; whose highest efforts of intellect are shown in the cleverness with which she can break the rules of the establishment without being found out; who thinks talking at forbidden times, peeping through forbidden windows, giving silly nicknames to her companions and teachers, and telling silly secrets with less truth than ingenuity in them, the greatest fun imaginable, and all the greater because of the spice of rebellion and perversity with which her folly is dashed. Or she may be a mere tomboy, regretting her sex and despising its restraints; cultivating schoolboy slang and aping schoolboy habits; ridiculing her sisters and disliked by her companions, while thinking girlhood a bore and womanhood a mistake in exact proportion to its feminality. Or she may be a budding miss, shy and awkward, with no harm in her and as little good—a mere sketch of a girl, without a leading line as yet made out or the dominant colour so much as indicated.

11 Sometimes she is awkward in another way, being studious and preoccupied—when she passes for odd and original, and is partly feared, partly disliked, and wholly misunderstood by her own young world; and sometimes she has a cynical contempt for men and beauty and pleasure and dress, when she will make herself ridiculous by her revolt against all the canons of good taste and conventionality. But after her début in tattered garments of severe colours and ungainly cut, she will probably end her days as a frantic Fashionable, the salvation of whose soul depends on the faultless propriety of her wardrobe. The eccentricities of Sweet Seventeen not unfrequently revenge themselves by an exactly opposite extravagance of maturity. But though there are enough and to spare of girls according to all these patterns, the Sweet Seventeen of one's affections is none of them. And yet she is not always the same, but has her different presentations, her varying facets, which give her variety of charm and beauty.

The best and loveliest thing about Sweet Seventeen is her sense of duty—for the most part a new sense. She no longer needs to be told what to do; she has not to be kept to her tasks by the fear of authority nor the submissive grace of obedience; but of her own free will, because understanding that it is her duty and that duty is a holier thing than self-will, she conscientiously does what she does not like to do, and cheerfully gives up what she desires without being driven or exhorted. She has generally 12 before her mind some favourite heroine in a girl's novel, who goes through much painful discipline and comes out all the brighter for it in the end; and she makes noble resolves of living as worthily as her model. She comforts her soul too, with passages from Longfellow and Tennyson and the 'Christian Year,' and learns long extracts from 'Evangeline' and the 'Idyls;' poetry having an almost magical influence over her, nearly as powerful as the Sunday sermons to which she listens so devoutly and tries so patiently to understand. For the first time she wakes to a dim sense of her own individuality, and confesses to herself that she has a life of her own, apart from and extraneous to her mere family membership. She is not only the sister or the daughter living with and for her parents or her brothers and sisters, but she is also herself, with a future of her own not to be shared with them, not to be touched by them. And she begins to have vague dreams of this future and its hero—dreams that are as much of fairyland as if they were of the young prince coming over the sea in a golden boat to find the princess in a tower of brass waiting for him.

Quite impersonal, and with a hero only in the clouds, nevertheless these dreams are suggested by the special circumstances of her life, by her favourite books or the style of society in which she has been placed. The young prince is either a beautiful and high-souled clergyman—not unlike the young vicar or the new curate, but infinitely more beautiful—an 13 apostle in the standing collar and single-breasted coat of the nineteenth century; or he is an artist in a velvet blouse and with flowing hair, living in a world of beauty such as no Philistine can imagine; or he is a gallant sailor, with blue eyes and a loose necktie, looking up to heaven in a gale, and thinking of his mother and sisters at home and of the one still more beloved, when he certainly ought to be thinking of tarry ropes and coarse sailcloth; or he is a magnificent young officer heading his men at a charge, and looking supremely well got up and handsome. This is the kind of futur she dreams of when she dreams at all, which is not often. The reality of her mature life is perhaps a stolid square-set squire, or a prosaic city merchant without the thinnest thread of romance in his composition; while her own life, which was to be such a lovely poem of graceful usefulness and heroic beauty, sinks into the prosaic routine of housekeeping and society, the sigh after the vanished ideal growing fainter and fainter as the weight of fact grows heavier.

Married men are all sacred to Sweet Seventeen when she is a good girl; so are engaged men. For the matter of that, she believes that nothing could induce her to marry either a widower or one who had been already engaged, as nothing could induce her to marry any man under five foot eleven, or with a snub nose or sandy whiskers. Sweet Seventeen has in general the most profound aversion for boys. To be sure she may have her favourites—very few and 14 very seldom; but she mostly thinks them stupid or conceited, and impartially resents either their awkward attentions to herself or their assumptions of superiority. An abnormally clever boy—the Poet-Laureate or George Stephenson of his generation—is her detestation, because he is odd and unlike every one else; while the one that she dislikes least among them is the school hero, who is first in the sports and takes all the prizes, and who goes through life loved by every one and never famous.

For her several brothers she has a range of entirely different feelings. Her younger schoolboy brothers she regards as the torments of her existence, whose unkempt hair, dirty boots and rude manners are her special crosses, to be borne with patience, tempered by an active endeavour after reform. But the more advanced, and those who are older than herself, are her loves for whom she has an enthusiastic admiration, and whose future she believes in as something specially brilliant and successful. If only slightly older or younger than herself, she impresses them powerfully with the sentiment of her superiority, and patronizes them—kindly enough; but she makes them feel the ineffable supremacy of her sex, and how that she by virtue of her womanhood is a glorified creature beside them—an Ariel to their Caliban.

Now too, she begins to speak to her mother on more equal terms; to criticize her dress, and to make her understand that she considers her old-fashioned and inclined to be dowdy. She ties her bonnet-strings for 15 her; arranges her cap; smartens up her old dress and compels her to buy a new one; and, while considering her immeasurably ancient, likes her to look nice, and thinks her in her own way beautiful. Sometimes she opposes and quarrels with her, if the mother has less tact than arbitrariness. But this is not her natural state; for one of the characteristics of Sweet Seventeen is her love for her mother and her need of better counsel and guidance; so that if she comes into opposition with her it is only through extreme pain, and the bitter teaching of tyranny and injustice. This is just the age indeed, when the mother's influence is everything to a girl; and when a silly, an unjust, or an unprincipled woman is the very ruin of her life. But with a low or evil-natured mother we seldom see a Sweet Seventeen worth the trouble of writing about: which shows at least one thing—the importance of the womanly influence at such a time, and how so much that we blame in our modern girls lies to the account of their mothers.

Great tact is required with Sweet Seventeen in such society as is allowed her; care to bring her out a little without obtruding her on the world, without making her forward and consequential, and without attracting too much attention to her. She is no longer a child to be shut away in the nursery, but she is not yet entitled to the place and consideration of a member of society. And yet it would be cruel to debar her wholly from all that is going on in the house. To be sure there is the governess, as well as mamma, to 16 look after her manners and to give her rope enough and not too much; but by the time a girl is seventeen a governess has ceased to be the autocrat ex officio, and she obeys her or not according to their respective strengths. Still, the governess or mamma is for the most part at her elbow; and Sweet Seventeen, if well brought up, is left very little to her own guidance, and sees the world only through half-opened doors.

Girls of this age are often wonderfully sad, and full of a kind of wondering despair at the sin and misery they are beginning to learn. They take up extreme views in religion and talk largely on the nothingness of pleasure and the emptiness of the world; and many fair young creatures whom their elders, laden with sorrowful experience, think full of hope and joy, are ready to give up all the pleasure of life, and to lay down life itself, for very disgust of that of which they know nothing. They delight in sorrowful lamentations and sentimental regrets put into rhyme; and one of the funniest things in the world is to see a girl dancing with the merriest in the evening, and to hear her talking broken-hearted pessimism in the morning. It is merely an example of the old proverb about the meeting of extremes; vacuity leading to the same results as experience.

But however she takes this unknown life, it is always in an unreal and romantic aspect. Some of more robust mind delight in the bolder stories of Greece and Rome, and wish they had played a part in the sensational heroism of those grand old times; 17 while others go to Venice, and make pictures for themselves out of the gliding gondolas and the mysterious Council of Ten, the lovely ladies with grim old fathers and high-handed brothers acting as gaolers, and the handsome cavaliers serenading them in the moonlight. That is their idea of love. They have no perception of anything warmer. It is all romance and poetry, and tender glances from afar, and long and patient wooing under difficulties and a little danger, with scarce a word spoken, and nothing more expressive than a flower furtively given, or a fleeting pressure of the finger tips. They know nothing else and expect nothing else. Their cherry is without stone, their bird without bone, their orange without rind, as in the old song; and they imagine a love as unreal as all the rest.

When thrown into actualities, though—say when left motherless, and the eldest girl of perhaps a large family with a father to comfort and a young brood to see after—Sweet Seventeen is often very beautiful in her degree, and rises grandly to her position. Sometimes the burden of her responsibilities is too much for her tender shoulders, and she is overweighted, and fails. Sometimes too she is tyrannical and selfish in such a position, and uses her power ill; and sometimes she is careless and good-humoured, when they all scramble up together, through confusion, dirt and disorder, till the close time is over, and they scatter themselves abroad. Sometimes she is a martyr, and makes herself and every one else 18 uncomfortable by the perpetual demonstration of her martyrdom, and how she considers herself sacrificed and put upon. Indeed she is not unfrequently a martyr from other causes than heavy duties, being fond of adopting unworkable views which cannot run in the family groove anyhow. If she falls upon this rock she is in her glory; youth being marvellously proud of voluntary crucifixion, and thinking itself especially ill-used because it must be made conformable and is prevented from making itself ridiculous.

But Sweet Seventeen is intolerant of all moral differences. What she holds to be right is the absolute, the one sole and only just law; and she thinks it tampering with sin to allow that any one else has an equal right with herself to a contrary opinion. But on the whole she is a pleasant, loveable interesting creature; and one's greatest regret about her is that she is so often in the hands of unsuitable guides, and that her powers and noble impulses get so stunted and shadowed by the commonplace training which is her general lot, and the low aims of life which are the only ones held out to her.



The mind, like the body, contracts tricks and habits which in time become automatic and involuntary—habits of association, tricks of repetition, of which the excess is monomania, but which, without attaining to quite that extreme, become more or less masters of the brain and directors of the thoughts. And, of all these tricks of the mind, the habit of fear is the most insidious and persistent. It is seldom that any one who has once given in to it is able to clear himself of it again. However unreasonable it may be, the trick clings, and it would take an exceptionally strong intellect to be convinced of its folly and learn the courage of common-sense. But this is just the intellect which does not allow itself to contract the habit in the beginning; a coward being for the most part a washy, weak kind of being, with very little backbone anyhow. We do not mean by this fear that which is physical and personal only, though this is generally the sole idea which people have of the word; but moral and mental cowardice as well. Personal fear indeed, is common enough, and as pitiable as it is common; and we are ashamed to 20 say that it is not confined to women, though naturally it is more predominant with them than with men.

As for women, the tyranny of fear lies very heavy on them, taking the flavour out of many a life which else would be perfectly happy; being often the only bitter drop in a cup full of sweetness. But how bitter that drop is!—bitter enough to destroy all the sweetness of the rest. Some women live in the perpetual presence of dread, both mental and personal. It surrounds them like an atmosphere; it clothes them like a garment; day by day, and from night to morning, it dogs their steps and sits like a nightmare on their hearts; it is their very root work of sensation, and they could as soon live without food as live without fear.

Ludicrous as many of their terrors are, we still cannot help pitying these poor self-made martyrs of imaginary danger. Take that most familiar of all forms of fear among women, the fear of burglars, and let us imagine for a moment the horror of the life which is haunted by a nightly dread—by a terror that comes with as unfailing regularity as the darkness—and measure, if we can, the amount of anguish that must be endured before death comes to take off the torture. There are many women to whom night is simply this time of torture, never varying, never relieved. They dare not lock their doors, because then they would be at the mercy of the man who sooner or later is to come in at the window; and if they hear the boards creak or the 21 furniture crack they are in agonies because of the man who they are sure is in the house, and who will come in at the door. They cannot sleep if they have not looked all about the room—under the bed, behind the curtains, into the closet, where perhaps a dress hanging a little fantastically gives them a nervous start that lasts for the night.

But though they search so diligently they would probably faint on the spot if they so much as saw the heels of the housebreaker they are looking for. Yet you cannot reason with these poor creatures. You cannot deny the fact that burglars have been found before now secreted in bedrooms; and you cannot pooh-pooh the murders and housebreakings which are reported in the newspapers; so you have nothing to say to their argument that things which have happened once may happen again, and that there is no reason why they specially should be exempt from a misfortune to which others have been subjected. But you feel that their terrors are just so much pith and substance taken out of their strength; and that if they could banish the fear of burglars from their minds they would be so much the more valuable members of society, while the exorcism of their dismal demon would be so much the better for themselves.

It is the same in everything. If they are living in the country, and go up to London lodgings, they take the ground floor for fear of fire and being burnt alive in their beds. If they go from London to 22 the country they see an escaped convict or a murderer in every ragged reaper asking for work, or every tramp that begs for broken victuals at the door. The country to them is full of dangers. In the shooting season they are sure they will be shot if they go near a wood or a turnip-field. They think they will be gored to death if they meet a meek-eyed cow going placidly through the lane to her milking; and you might as well try to march them up to the cannon's mouth as induce them to cross a field where cattle are grazing. If they are driving, and the horses are going at full trot, they say they are running away and clutch the driver's arm nervously. As travellers they are in a state of not wholly unreasonable apprehension the whole time the railway journey lasts. They wait at Folkestone for days for a smooth crossing; and when they are on board they call a breeze a gale, and make sure they are bound for the bottom if the sea chops enough to rock the boat so much as a cradle. If they go over a Swiss pass they say their prayers and shut their eyes till it is over; and they are horribly afraid of banditti on every foot of Italian ground, besides firmly believing in the complicity with brigands of all the innkeepers and vetturini.

Their fear extends to all who belong to them, for whom they conjure up scenes of deadly disaster so soon as they are out of sight. Their fancy is faceted, like the eyes of a fly, and they worry themselves and every one else by exaggerating every 23 chance of danger into a certainty of destruction. When an epidemic is abroad, they are sure all the children will take it; and if they have taken it, they are sure they will never get over it. In illness indeed, those people who have allowed themselves to fall into the habit of fear are especially full of foreboding; not because they are more loving, more sympathetic than others, but because they are more timid and less hopeful. If you believe them, no one will recover who is in any way seriously attacked; and the smallest ailment in themselves or their friends is the sure forerunner of a mortal sickness. They make no allowance for the elastic power of human nature; and they dislike hope and courage in others, thinking you unfeeling in exact proportion to your cheerfulness.

Morally this same habit of fear deteriorates, because it weakens and narrows, the whole nature. So far from following Luther's famous advice—Sin boldly and leave the rest to God—their sin is their very fear, their unconquerable distrust. These are the people who regard our affections as snares and all forms of pleasure as so many waymarks on the road to perdition—who would narrow the circle of human life to the smallest point both of feeling and action, because of the sin in which, according to them, the whole world is steeped. They see guilt everywhere, but innocence not at all. Their minds are set to the trick of terror; and fear of the power of the devil and the anger of God weighs on them 24 like an iron chain from which there is no release. This is not so much from delicacy of conscience as from simple moral cowardice; for you seldom find these very timid people lofty-minded or capable of any great act of heroism. On the contrary, they are generally peevish and always selfish; self-consideration being the tap-root of their fears, though the cause is assigned to all sorts of pretty things, such as acute sensibilities, keen imagination, bad health, tender conscience, delicate nerves—to anything in fact but the real cause, a cowardly habit of fear produced by continual moral selfishness, by incessant thought of and regard for themselves.

Nothing is so depressing as the society of a timid person, and nothing is so infectious as fear. Live with any one given up to an eternal dread of possible dangers and disasters, and you can scarcely escape the contagion, nor, however brave you may be, maintain your cheerfulness and faculty of faith. Indeed, as timid folks crave for sympathy in their terrors—that very craving being part of their malady of fear—you cannot show them a cheerful countenance under pain of offence, and seeming to be brutal in your disregard of what so tortures them. Their fears may be simply absurd and irrational, yet you must sympathize with them if you wish even to soothe; argument or common-sense demonstration of their futility being so much mental ingenuity thrown away.

Fear breeds suspicion too, and timid people are 25 always suspecting ill of some one. The deepest old diplomatist who has probed the folly and evil of the world from end to end, and who has sharpened his wits at the expense of his trust, is not more full of suspicion of his kind than a timid, superstitious, world-withdrawn man or woman given up to the tyranny of fear. Every one is suspected more or less, but chiefly lawyers, servants and all strangers. Any demonstration of kindness or interest at all different from the ordinary jogtrot of society fills them with undefined suspicion and dread; and, fear being in some degree the product of a diseased imagination, the 'probable' causes for anything they do not quite understand would make the fortune of a novel-writer if given him for plots. If any one wants to hear thrilling romances in course of actual enactment, let him go down among remote and quiet-living country people, and listen to what they have to say of the chance strangers who may have established themselves in the neighbourhood, and who, having brought no letters of introduction, are not known by the aborigines. The Newgate Calendar or Dumas' novels would scarcely match the stories which fear and ignorance have set afoot.

Fearful folk are always on the brink of ruin. They cannot wait to see how things will turn before they despair; and they cannot hope for the best in a bad pass. They are engulfed in abysses which never open, and they die a thousand deaths before the supreme moment actually arrives. The smallest 26 difficulties are to them like the straws placed crosswise over which no witch could pass; the beneficent action of time, either as a healer of sorrow or a revealer of hidden mercies, is a word of comfort they cannot accept for themselves, how true soever it may be for others; the doctrine that chances are equal for good as well as for bad is what they will not understand; and they know of no power that can avert the disaster, which perhaps is simply a possibility not even probable, and which their own fears only have arranged. If they are professional men, having to make their way, they are for ever anticipating failure for to-day and absolute destruction for to-morrow; and they bemoan the fate of the wife and children sure to be left to poverty by their untimely decease, when the chances are ten to one in favour of the apportioned threescore and ten years. Life is a place of suffering here and a place of torment hereafter; yet they often wish to die, reversing Hamlet's decision by thinking the mystery of unknown ills preferable to the reality of those they have on hand.

Over such minds as these the vaticinations of such a prophet as Dr. Cumming have peculiar power; and they accept his gloomy interpretations of the Apocalypse with a faith as unquestioning as that with which they accept the Gospels. They have a predilection indeed for all terrifying prophecies, and cast the horoscope of the earth and foretell the destruction of the universe with marvellous exactitude. Their minds are set to the trick of foreboding, and 27 they live in the habit of fear, as others live in the habit of hope, of resignation, or of careless good-humour and indifference. There is nothing to be done with them. Like drinking, or palsy, or a nervous headache, or a congenital deformity, the habit is hopeless when once established; and those who have begun by fear and suspicion and foreboding will live to the end in the atmosphere they have created for themselves. The man or woman whose mind is once haunted by the nightly fear of a secreted burglar will go on looking for his heels so long as eyesight and the power of locomotion continue; and no failure in past Apocalyptic interpretations will shake the believer's faith in those of which the time for fulfilment has not yet arrived. It is a trick which has rooted, a habit that has crystallized by use into a formation; and there it must be left, as something beyond the power of reason to remedy or of experience to destroy.



The world is notoriously unjust to its veterans, and above all it is unjust to its ancient females. Everywhere, and from all time, an old woman has been taken to express the last stage of uselessness and exhaustion; and while a meeting of bearded dotards goes by the name of a council of sages, and its deliberations are respected accordingly, a congregation of grey-haired matrons is nothing but a congregation of old women, whose thoughts and opinions on any subject whatsoever have no more value than the chattering of so many magpies. In fact the poor old ladies have a hard time of it; and if we look at it in its right light, perhaps nothing proves more thoroughly the coarse flavour of the world's esteem respecting women than this disdain which they excite when they are old. And yet what charming old ladies one has known at times!—women quite as charming in their own way at seventy as their grand-daughters are at seventeen, and all the more so because they have no design now to be charming, because they have given up the attempt to please for the reaction of praise, and long 29 since have consented to become old though they have never drifted into unpersonableness nor neglect. While retaining the intellectual vivacity and active sympathies of maturity, they have added the softness, the mellowness, the tempering got only from experience and advancing age. They are women who have seen and known and read a great deal; and who have suffered much; but whose sorrows have neither hardened nor soured them—but rather have made them even more sympathetic with the sorrows of others, and pitiful for all the young. They have lived through and lived down all their own trials, and have come out into peace on the other side; but they remember the trials of the fiery passage, and they feel for those who have still to bear the pressure of the pain they have overcome. These are not women much met with in society; they are of the kind which mostly stays at home and lets the world come to them. They have done with the hurry and glitter of life, and they no longer care to carry their grey hairs abroad. They retain their hold on the affections of their kind; they take an interest in the history, the science, the progress of the day; but they rest tranquil and content by their own fireside, and they sit to receive, and do not go out to gather.

The fashionable old lady who haunts the theatres and drawing-rooms, bewigged, befrizzled, painted, ghastly in her vain attempts to appear young, hideous in her frenzied clutch at the pleasures melting from her grasp, desperate in her wild hold on a life that is 30 passing away from her so rapidly, knows nothing of the quiet dignity and happiness of her ancient sister who has been wise enough to renounce before she lost. In her own house, where gather a small knot of men of mind and women of character, where the young bring their perplexities and the mature their deeper thoughts, the dear old lady of ripe experience, loving sympathies and cultivated intellect holds a better court than is known to any of those miserable old creatures who prowl about the gay places of the world, and wrestle with the young for their crowns and garlands—those wretched simulacra of womanhood who will not grow old and who cannot become wise. She is the best kind of old lady extant, answering to the matron of classic times—to the Mother in Israel before whom the tribes made obeisance in token of respect; the woman whose book of life has been well studied and closely read, and kept clean in all its pages. She has been no prude however, and no mere idealist. She must have been wife, mother and widow; that is, she must have known many things of joy and grief and have had the fountains of life unsealed. However wise and good she may be, as a spinster she has had only half a life; and it is the best half which has been denied her. How can she tell others, when they come to her in their troubles, how time and a healthy will have wrought with her, if she has never passed through the same circumstances? Theoretic comfort is all very well, but one word of experience 31 goes beyond volumes of counsel based on general principles and a lively imagination.

One type of old lady, growing yearly scarcer, is the old lady whose religious and political theories are based on the doctrines of Voltaire and Paine's Rights of Man—the old lady who remembers Hunt and Thistlewood and the Birmingham riots; who talks of the French Revolution as if it were yesterday; and who has heard so often of the Porteus mob from poor papa that one would think she had assisted at the hanging herself. She is an infinitely old woman, for the most part birdlike, chirrupy, and wonderfully alive. She has never gone beyond her early teaching, but is a fossil radical of the old school; and she thinks the Gods departed when Hunt and his set died out. She is an irreligious old creature, and scoffs with more cleverness than grace at everything new or earnest. She would as lief see Romanism rampant at once as this newfangled mummery they call Ritualism; and Romanism is her version of the unchaining of Satan. As for science—well, it is all very wonderful, but more wonderful she thinks than true; and she cannot quite make up her mind about the spectroscope or protoplasm. Of the two, protoplasm commends itself most to her imagination, for private reasons of her own connected with the Pentateuch; but these things are not so much in her way as Voltaire and Diderot, Volney and Tom Paine, and she is content to abide by her ancient cairns and to leave the leaping-poles of science to younger and 32 stronger hands. This type of old lady is for the most part an ancient spinster, whose life has worn itself away in the arid deserts of mental doubt and emotional negation. If she ever loved it was in secret, some thin-lipped embodied Idea long years ago. Most likely she did not get even to this unsatisfactory length, but contented herself with books and discussions only. If she had ever honestly loved and been loved, perhaps she would have gone beyond Voltaire, and have learned something truer than a scoff.

The old lady of strong instinctive affections, who never reflects and never attempts to restrain her kindly weaknesses, stands at the other end of the scale. She is the grandmother par excellence, and spends her life in spoiling the little ones, cramming them with sugar-plums and rich cake whenever she has the chance, and nullifying mamma's punishments by surreptitious gifts and goodies. She is the dearly beloved of our childish recollections; and to the last days of our life we cherish the remembrance of the kind old lady with her beaming smile, taking out of her large black reticule, or the more mysterious recesses of her unfathomable pocket, wonderful little screws of paper which her withered hands thrust into our chubby fists; but we can understand now what an awful nuisance she must have been to the authorities, and how impossible she made it to preserve anything like discipline and the terrors of domestic law in the family.

33 The old lady who remains a mere child to the end; who looks very much like a faded old wax doll with her scanty hair blown out into transparent ringlets, and her jaunty cap bedecked with flowers and gay-coloured bows; who cannot rise into the dignity of true womanliness; who knows nothing useful; can give no wise advice: has no sentiment of protection, but on the contrary demands all sorts of care and protection for herself—she, simpering and giggling as if she were fifteen, is by no means an old lady of the finest type. But she is better than the leering old lady who says coarse things, and who, like Béranger's immortal creation, passes her time in regretting her plump arms and her well-turned ankle and the lost time that can never be recalled, and who is altogether a most unedifying old person and by no means nice company for the young.

Then there is the irascible old lady, who rates her servants and is free with full-flavoured epithets against sluts in general; who is like a tigress over her last unmarried daughter, and, when crippled and disabled, still insists on keeping the keys, which she delivers up when wanted only with a snarl and a suspicious caution. She has been one of the race of active housekeepers, and has prided herself on her exceptional ability that way for so long that she cannot bear to yield, even when she can no longer do any good; so she sits in her easy chair, like old Pope and Pagan in Pilgrim's Progress, and gnaws her fingers at the younger world 34 which passes her by. She is an infliction to her daughter for all the years of her life, and to the last keeps her in leading-strings, tied up as tight as the sinewy old hands can knot them; treating her always as an irresponsible young thing who needs both guidance and control, though the girl has passed into the middle-aged woman by now, shuffling through life a poor spiritless creature who has faded before she has fully blossomed, and who dies like a fruit that has dropped from the tree before it has ripened.

Twin sister to this kind is the grim female become ancient; the gaunt old lady with a stiff backbone, who sits upright and walks with a firm tread like a man; a leathery old lady, who despises all your weak slips of girls that have nerves and headaches and cannot walk their paltry mile without fatigue; a desiccated old lady, large-boned and lean, without an ounce of superfluous fat about her, with keen eyes yet, with which she boasts that she can thread a needle and read small print by candlelight; an indestructible old lady, who looks as if nothing short of an earthquake would put an end to her. The friend of her youth is now a stout, soft, helpless old lady, much bedraped in woollen shawls, given to frequent sippings of brandy and water, and ensconced in the chimney corner like a huge clay figure set to dry. For her the indestructible old lady has the supremest contempt, heightened in intensity by a vivid remembrance of the time when they were friends and rivals. Ah, poor Laura, she says, straightening herself; she 35 was always a poor creature, and see what she is now! To those who wait long enough the wheel always comes round, she thinks; and the days when Laura bore away the bell from her for grace and sweetness and loveableness generally are avenged now, when the one is a mere mollusc and the other has a serviceable backbone that will last for many a year yet.

Then there is the musical old lady, who is fond of playing small anonymous pieces of a jiggy character full of queer turns and shakes, music that seems all written in demi-semi-quavers, and that she gives in a tripping, catching way, as if the keys of the piano were hot. Sometimes she will sing, as a great favour, old-world songs which are almost pathetic for the thin and broken voice that chirrups out the sentiment with which they abound; and sometimes, as a still greater favour, she will stand up in the dance, and do the poor uncertain ghosts of what were once steps, in the days when dancing was dancing and not the graceless lounge it is now. But her dancing-days are over, she says, after half-a-dozen turns; though, indeed, sometimes she takes a frisky fit and goes in for the whole quadrille:—and pays for it the next day.

The very dress of old ladies is in itself a study and a revelation of character. There are the beautiful old women who make themselves like old pictures by a profusion of soft lace and tender greys; and the stately old ladies who affect rich rustling silks and sombre velvet; and there are the original and individual 36 old ladies, who dress themselves after their own kind, like Mrs. Basil Montagu, Miss Jane Porter, and dear Mrs. Duncan Stewart, and have a cachet of their own with which fashion has nothing to do. And there are the old women who wear rusty black stuffs and ugly helmet-like caps; and those who affect uniformity and going with the stream, when the fashion has become national—and these have been much exercised of late with the strait skirts and the new bonnets. But Providence is liberal and milliners are fertile in resources. In fact, in this as in all other sections of humanity, there are those who are beautiful and wise, and those who are foolish and unlovely; those who make the best of things as they are, and those who make the worst, by treating them as what they are not; those who extract honey, and those who find only poison. For in old age, as in youth, are to be found beauty, use, grace and value, but in different aspects and on another platform. And the folly is when this difference is not allowed for, or when the possibility of these graces is denied and their utility ignored.



Far before the eyes or the mouth or the habitual gesture, as a revelation of character, is the quality of the voice and the manner of using it. It is the first thing that strikes us in a new acquaintance, and it is one of the most unerring tests of breeding and education. There are voices which have a certain truthful ring about them—a certain something, unforced and spontaneous, that no training can give. Training can do much in the way of making a voice, but it can never compass more than a bad imitation of this quality; for the very fact of its being an imitation, however accurate, betrays itself like rouge on a woman's cheeks, or a wig, or dyed hair. On the other hand, there are voices which have the jar of falsehood in every tone, and which are as full of warning as the croak of the raven or the hiss of the serpent. These are in general the naturally hard voices which make themselves caressing, thinking by that to appear sympathetic; but the fundamental quality strikes up through the overlay, and a person must be very dull indeed who cannot detect the pretence in that slow, drawling, would-be affectionate 38 voice, with its harsh undertone and sharp accent whenever it forgets itself.

But without being false or hypocritical, there are voices which puzzle as well as disappoint us, because so entirely inharmonious with the appearance of the speaker. For instance, there is that thin treble squeak which we sometimes hear from the mouth of a well-grown portly man, when we expected the fine rolling utterance which would have been in unison with his outward seeming. And, on the other side of the scale, where we looked for a shrill head-voice or a tender musical cadence, we get that hoarse chest-voice with which young and pretty girls sometimes startle us. This voice is in fact one of the characteristics of the modern girl of a certain type; just as the habitual use of slang is characteristic of her, or that peculiar rounding of the elbows and turning out of the wrists—which gestures, like the chest-voice, instinctively belong to men only and have to be learned before they can be practised by women.

Nothing betrays feeling so much as the voice, save perhaps the eyes; and these can be lowered, and so far their expression hidden. In moments of emotion no skill can hide the fact of disturbed feeling by the voice; though a strong will and the habit of self-control can steady it when else it would be failing and tremulous. But not the strongest will, nor the largest amount of self-control, can keep it natural as well as steady. It is deadened, veiled, compressed, like a wild creature tightly bound and unnaturally 39 still. One feels that it is done by an effort, and that if the strain were relaxed for a moment the wild creature would burst loose in rage or despair—and that the voice would break into the scream of passion or quiver down into the falter of pathos. And this very effort is as eloquent as if there had been no holding down at all, and the voice had been left to its own impulse unchecked.

Again, in fun and humour, is it not the voice even more than the face that is expressive? The twinkle of the eye, the hollow in the under lip, the dimples about the mouth, the play of the eyebrow, are all aids certainly; but the voice! The mellow tone that comes into the utterance of one man; the surprised accents of another; the fatuous simplicity of a third; the philosophical acquiescence of a fourth when relating the most outrageous impossibilities—a voice and manner peculiarly Transatlantic, and indeed one of the American forms of fun—do we not know all these varieties by heart? have we not veteran actors whose main point lies in one or other of these varieties? and what would be the drollest anecdote if told in a voice which had neither play nor significance? Pathos too—who feels it, however beautifully expressed so far as words may go, if uttered in a dead and wooden voice without sympathy? But the poorest attempts at pathos will strike home to the heart if given tenderly and harmoniously. And just as certain popular airs of mean association can be made into church music by slow 40 time and stately modulation, so can dead-level literature be lifted into passion or softened into sentiment by the voice alone.

We all know the effect, irritating or soothing, which certain voices have over us; and we have all experienced that strange impulse of attraction or repulsion which comes from the sound of the voice alone. And generally, if not absolutely always, the impulse is a true one, and any modification which increased knowledge may produce is never quite satisfactory. Certain voices grate on our nerves and set our teeth on edge; and others are just as calming as these are irritating, quieting us like a composing draught, and setting vague images of beauty and pleasantness afloat in our brains.

A good voice, calm in tone and musical in quality, is one of the essentials for a physician—the 'bedside voice' which is nothing if not sympathetic by constitution. Not false, not made up, not sickly, but tender in itself, of a rather low pitch, well modulated and distinctly harmonious in its notes, it is the very opposite of the orator's voice, which is artificial in its management and a made voice. Whatever its original quality may be, the orator's voice bears the unmistakeable stamp of art and is artificial. It may be admirable; telling in a crowd; impressive in an address; but it is overwhelming and chilling at home, partly because it is always conscious and never self-forgetting.

An orator's voice, with its careful intonation and 41 accurate accent, would be as much out of place by a sick-bed as Court trains and brocaded silk for the nurse. There are certain men who do a good deal by a hearty, jovial, fox-hunting kind of voice—a voice a little thrown up for all that it is a chest-voice—a voice with a certain undefined rollick and devil-may-care sound in it, and eloquent of a large volume of vitality and physical health. That, too, is a good property for a medical man. It gives the sick a certain fillip, and reminds them pleasantly of health and vigour. It may have a mesmeric kind of effect upon them—who knows?—so that it induces in them something of its own state, provided it be not overpowering. But a voice of this kind has a tendency to become insolent in its assertion of vigour, swaggering and boisterous; and then it is too much for invalided nerves, just as mountain-winds or sea-breezes would be too much, and the scent of flowers or of a hayfield oppressive.

The clerical voice again, is a class-voice—that neat, careful, precise voice, neither wholly made nor yet natural—that voice which never strikes one as hearty nor as having a really genuine utterance, but which is not entirely unpleasant if one does not require too much spontaneity. The clerical voice, with its mixture of familiarity and oratory as that of one used to talk to old women in private and to hold forth to a congregation in public, is as distinct in its own way as the mathematician's handwriting; and any one can pick out blindfold his man from a knot of 42 talkers, without waiting to see the square-cut collar and close white tie. The legal voice is different again; but this is rather a variety of the orator's than a distinct species—a variety standing midway between that and the clerical, and affording more scope than either.

The voice is much more indicative of the state of the mind than many people know of or allow. One of the first symptoms of failing brain power is in the indistinct or confused utterance; no idiot has a clear nor melodious voice; the harsh scream of mania is proverbial; and no person of prompt and decisive thought was ever known to hesitate nor to stutter. A thick, loose, fluffy voice too, does not belong to the crisp character of mind which does the best active work; and when we meet with a keen-witted man who drawls, and lets his words drip instead of bringing them out in the sharp incisive way that should be natural to him, we may be sure there is a flaw somewhere, and that he is not 'clear grit' all through.

We all have our company voices, as we all have our company manners; and, after a time, we get to know the company voices of our friends, and to understand them as we understand their best dresses and state service. The person whose voice absolutely refuses to put itself into company tone startles us as much as if he came to a state dinner in a shooting-jacket. This is a different thing from the insincere and flattering voice, which is never laid aside while it has its object to gain, and which affects to be one 43 thing when it means another. The company voice is only a little bit of finery, quite in its place if not carried into the home, where however, silly men and women think they can impose on their house-mates by assumptions which cannot stand the test of domestic ease. The lover's voice is of course sui generis; but there is another kind of voice which one sometimes hears that is quite as enchanting—the rich, full, melodious voice which irresistibly suggests sunshine and flowers, and heavy bunches of purple grapes, and a wealth of physical beauty at all four corners. Such a voice is Alboni's; such a voice we can conceive Anacreon's to have been; with less lusciousness and more stateliness, such a voice was Walter Savage Landor's. His was not an English voice; it was too rich and accurate; yet it was clear and apparently thoroughly unstudied, and was the very perfection of art. There was no greater treat of its kind than to hear Landor read Milton or Homer.

Though one of the essentials of a good voice is its clearness, there are certain lisps and catches which are pretty, though never dignified; but most of them are painful to the ear. It is the same with accents. A dash of brogue; the faintest suspicion of the Scotch twang; even a little American accent—but very little, like red-pepper to be sparingly used, as indeed we may say with the others—gives a certain piquancy to the voice. So does a Continental accent generally; few of us being able to distinguish the French accent from the German, the Polish from the Italian, or the 44 Russian from the Spanish, but lumping them all together as 'a foreign accent' broadly. Of all the European voices the French is perhaps the most unpleasant in its quality, and the Italian the most delightful. The Italian voice is a song in itself; not the sing-song voice of an English parish schoolboy, but an unnoted bit of harmony. The French voice is thin, apt to become wiry and metallic; a head-voice for the most part, and eminently unsympathetic; a nervous, irritable voice, that seems more fit for complaint than for love-making; and yet how laughing, how bewitching it can make itself!—never with the Italian roundness, but câlinante in its own half-pettish way, provoking, enticing, arousing. There are some voices which send you to sleep and others which stir you up; and the French voice is of the latter kind when setting itself to do mischief and work its own will.

Of all the differences lying between Calais and Dover, perhaps nothing strikes the traveller more than the difference in the national voice and manner of speech. The sharp, high-pitched, stridulous voice of the French, with its clear accent and neat intonation, is exchanged for the loose, fluffy utterance of England, where clear enunciation is considered pedantic; where brave men cultivate a drawl and pretty women a deep chest-voice; where well-educated people think it no shame to run all their words into each other, and to let consonants and vowels drip out like so many drops of water, with not much more distinction 45 between them; and where no one knows how to educate his organ artistically, without going into artificiality and affectation. And yet the cultivation of the voice is an art, and ought to be made as much a matter of education as a good carriage or a legible handwriting. We teach our children to sing, but we never teach them to speak, beyond correcting a glaring piece of mispronunciation or so. In consequence of which we have all sorts of odd voices among us—short yelping voices like dogs; purring voices like cats; croakings and lispings and quackings and chatterings; a very menagerie in fact, to be heard in a room ten feet square, where a little rational cultivation would have reduced the whole of that vocal chaos to order and harmony, and would have made what is now painful and distasteful beautiful and seductive.



An old proverb says that a burnt child dreads the fire. If so, the child must be uncommonly astute, and with a power of reasoning by analogy in excess of impulsive desire rarely found either in children or adults. As a matter of fact, experience goes a very little way towards directing folks wisely. People often say how much they would like to live their lives over again with their present experience. That means, they would avoid certain specific mistakes of the past, of which they have seen and suffered from the issue. But if they retained the same nature as now, though they might avoid a few special blunders, they would fall into the same class of errors quite as readily as before, the gravitation of character towards circumstance being always absolute in its direction.

Our blunders in life are not due to ignorance so much as to temperament; and only the exceptionally wise among us learn to correct the excesses of temperament by the lessons of experience. To the mass of mankind these lessons are for the time only, and prophesy nothing of the future. They hold them to have been mistakes of method, not of principle, and 47 they think that the same lines more carefully laid would lead to a better superstructure in the future, not seeing that the fault was organic and in those very initial lines themselves. No impulsive nor wildly hopeful person, for instance, ever learns by experience, so long as his physical condition remains the same. No one with a large faculty of faith—that is, credulous and easily imposed on—becomes suspicious or critical by mere experience. How much soever people of this kind have been taken in, in times past, they are just as ready to become the prey of the spoiler in times to come; and it would be sad, if it were not so silly, to watch how inevitably one half of the world gives itself up as food whereon the roguery of the other half may wax fat.

The person of facile confidence, whose secrets have been blazed abroad more than once by trusted friends, makes yet another and another safe confidant—quite safe this time; one of whose fidelity there is no doubt—and learns when too late that one panier percé is very like another panier percé. The speculating man, without business faculty or knowledge, who has burnt his fingers bare to the bone with handling scrip and stock, thrusts them into the fire again so soon as he has the chance. The gambler blows his fingers just cool enough to shuffle the cards for this once only, sure that this time hope will tell no flattering tale, that ravelled ends will knit themselves up into a close and seemly garment, and heaven itself work a miracle in his favour against the 48 law of mathematical certainty. In fact we are all gamblers in this way, and play our hazards for the stakes of faith and hope. We all burn our fingers again and again at some fire or another; but experience teaches us nothing; save perhaps a more hopeless, helpless resignation towards that confounded ill-luck of ours, and a weary feeling of having known it all before when things fall out amiss and we are blistered in the old flames.

In great matters this persistency of endeavour is sublime, and gets a wealth of laurel crowns and blue ribands; but in little things it is obstinacy, want of ability to profit by experience, denseness of perception as to what can and what cannot be done; and the apologue of Bruce's spider gets tiresome if too often repeated. The most hopelessly inapt people at learning why they burnt their fingers last time, and how they will burn them again, are those who, whatever their profession, are blessed or cursed with what is called the artistic temperament. A man will ruin himself for love of a particular place; for dislike of a certain kind of necessary work; for the prosecution of a certain hobby. Is he not artistic? and must he not have all the conditions of his life exactly square with his desires? else how can he do good work? So he goes on burning his fingers through self-indulgence, and persists in his unwisdom to the end of his life. He will paint his unsaleable pictures or write his unreadable books; his path is one in which the money-paying public will not follow; but though his 49 very existence depends on the following of that paying public, he will not stir an inch to meet it, but keeps where he is because he likes the particular run of his hedgerows; and spends his days in thrusting his hand into the fire of what he chooses to call the ideal, and his nights in abusing the Philistinism of the world which lets him be burnt.

And what does any amount of experience do for us in the matter of friendship or love? As the world goes round, and our credulous morning darkens into a more sceptical twilight, we believe as a general principle—a mere abstraction—that all new friends are just so much gilt gingerbread; and that a very little close holding and hard rubbing brings off the gilt, and leaves nothing but a slimy, sticky mess of little worth as food and of none as ornament. And yet, if of the kind to whom friendship is necessary for happiness, we rush as eagerly into the new affection as if we had never philosophized on the emptiness of the old, and believe as firmly in the solid gold of our latest cake as if we had never smeared our hands with one of the same pattern before. So with love. A man sees his comrades fluttering like enchanted moths about some stately man-slayer, some fair and shining light set like a false beacon on a dangerous cliff to lure men to their destruction. He sees how they singe and burn in the flame of her beauty, but he is not warned. If one's own experience teaches one little or nothing, the experience of others goes for even less, and no man yet was 50 ever warned off the destructive fire of love because his companions had burnt their fingers there before him and his own are sure to follow.

It is the same with women; and in a greater degree. They know all about Don Juan well enough. They are perfectly well aware how he treated A. and B. and C. and D. But when it comes to their own turn, they think that this time surely, and to them, things will be different and he will be in earnest. So they slide down into the alluring flame, and burn their fingers for life by playing with forbidden fire. But have we not all the secret belief that we shall escape the snares and pitfalls into which others have dropped and among which we choose to walk? that fire will not burn our fingers, at least so very badly, when we thrust them into it? and that, by some legerdemain of Providence, we shall be delivered from the consequences of our own folly, and that two and two may be made to count five in our behalf? Who is taught by the experience of an unhappy marriage, say? No sooner has a man got himself free from the pressure of one chain and bullet, than he hastens to fasten on another, quite sure that this chain will be no heavier than the daintiest little thread of gold, and this bullet as light and sweet as a cowslip-ball. Everything that had gone wrong before will come right this time; and the hot bars of close association with an uncomfortable temper and unaccommodating habits will be only like a juggling trick, and will burn no one's heart or hands.

51 People too, who burn their fingers in giving good advice unasked, seldom learn to hold them back. With an honest intention, and a strong desire to see right done, it is difficult to avoid putting our hands into fires with which we have no business. While we are young and ardent, it seems to us as if we have distinct business with all fraud, injustice, folly, wilfulness, which we believe a few honest words of ours will control and annul; but nine times out of ten we only burn our own hands, while we do not in the least strengthen those of the right nor weaken those of the wrong. We may say the same of good-natured people. There was never a row of chestnuts roasting at the fire for which your good-natured oaf will not stretch out his hand at the bidding and for the advantage of a friend. Experience teaches the poor oaf nothing; not even that fire burns. To put his name at the back of a bill, just as a mere form; to lend his money, just for a few days; or to do any other sort of self-immolating folly, on the faithful promise that the fire will not burn nor the knife cut—it all comes as easy to men of the good-natured sort as their alphabet. Indeed it is their alphabet, out of which they spell their own ruin; but so long as the impressionable temperament lasts—so long as the liking to do a good-natured action is greater than caution, suspicion, or the power of analogical reasoning—so long will the oaf make himself the catspaw of the knave, till at last he has left himself no fingers 52 wherewith to pluck out the chestnuts for himself or another.

The first doubt of young people is always a source of intense suffering. Hitherto they have believed what they saw and all they heard; and they have not troubled themselves with motives nor facts beyond those given to them and lying on the surface. But when they find out for themselves that seeming is not necessarily being, and that all people are not as good throughout as they thought them, then they suffer a moral shock which often leads them into a state of practical atheism and despair. Many young people give up altogether when they first open the book of humanity and begin to read beyond the title-page; and, because they have found specks in the cleanest parts, they believe that nothing is left pure. They are as much bewildered as horror-struck, and cannot understand how any one they have loved and respected should have done this or that misdeed. Having done it, there is nothing left to love nor respect further. It is only by degrees that they learn to adjust and apportion, and to understand that the whole creature is not necessarily corrupt because there are a few unhealthy places here and there. But in the beginning this first scorching by the fire of experience is very painful and bad to bear. Then they begin to think the knowledge of the world, as got from books, so wonderful, so profound; and they look on it as a science to be learned by much studying of aphorisms. 53 They little know that not the most affluent amount of phrase knowledge can ever regulate that class of action which springs from a man's inherent disposition; and that it is not facts which teach but self-control which prevents.

After very early youth we all have enough theoretical knowledge to keep us straight; but theoretical knowledge does nothing without self-knowledge, or its corollary, self-control. The world has never yet got beyond the wisdom of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes; and Solomon's advice to the Israelitish youth lounging round the gates of the Temple is quite as applicable to young Hopeful coming up to London chambers as it was to them. Teaching of any kind, by books or events, is the mere brute weapon; but self-control is the intelligent hand to wield it. To burn one's fingers once in a lifetime tells nothing against a man's common-sense nor dignity; but to go on burning them is the act of a fool, and we cannot pity the wounds, however sore they may be. The Arcadian virtues of unlimited trust and hope and love are very sweet and lovely; but they are the graces of childhood, not the qualities of manhood. They are charming little finalities, which do not admit of modification nor of expansion; and in a naughty world, to go about with one's heart on one's sleeve, believing every one and accepting everything to be just as it presents itself, is offering bowls of milk to tigers, and meeting armed men with 54 a tin sword. Such universal trust can only result in a perpetual burning of one's fingers; and a life spent in pulling out hot chestnuts from the fire for another's eating is by no means the most useful nor the most dignified to which a man can devote himself.



Perhaps we ought to apologize for using a foreign label, but there is no one English word which gives the full meaning of désœuvrement. Only paraphrases and accumulations would convey the many subtle shades contained in it; and paraphrases and accumulations are inconvenient as headings. But if we have not the word, we have a great deal of the thing; for désœuvrement is an evil unfortunately not confined to one country nor to one class; and even we, with all our boasted Anglo-Saxon energy, have people among us as unoccupied and purposeless as are to be found elsewhere. Certainly we have nothing like the Neapolitan lazzaroni who pass their lives in dozing in the sun; but that is more because of our climate than our condition, and if our désœuvrés do not doze out of doors, it by no means follows that they are wide awake within.

No state is more unfortunate than this listless want of purpose which has nothing to do, which is interested in nothing, and which has no serious object in life; and the drifting, aimless temperament, which merely waits and does not even watch, is the most 56 disastrous that a man or woman can possess. Feverish energy, wearing itself out on comparative nothings, is better than the indolence which folds its hands and makes neither work nor pleasure; and the most microscopic and restless perception is more healthful than the dull blindness which goes from Dan to Beersheba, and finds all barren.

If even death itself is only a transmutation of forces—an active and energizing change—what can we say of this worse than mental death? How can we characterize a state which is simply stagnation? Not all of us have our work cut out and laid ready for us to do; very many of us have to seek for objects of interest and to create our own employment; and were it not for the energy which makes work by its own force, the world would still be lying in barbarism, content with the skins of beasts for clothing and with wild fruits and roots for food. But the désœuvrés know nothing of the pleasures of energy; consequently none of the luxuries of idleness—only its tedium and monotony. Life is a dull round to them of alternate vacancy and mechanical routine; a blank so dead that active pain and positive sorrow would be better for them than the passionless negation of their existence. They love nothing; they hope for nothing; they work for nothing; to-morrow will be as to-day, and to-day is as yesterday was; it is the mere passing of time which they call living—a moral and mental hybernation broken up by no springtime waking.

57 Though by no means confined to women only, this disastrous state is nevertheless more frequently found with them than with men. It is comparatively rare that a man—at least an Englishman—is born with so little of the activity which characterizes manhood as to rest content without some kind of object for his life, either in work or in pleasure, in study or in vice. But many women are satisfied to remain in an unending désœuvrement, a listless supineness that has not even sufficient active energy to fret at its own dullness.

We see this kind of thing especially in the families of the poorer class of gentry in the country. If we except the Sunday school and district visiting, neither of which commends itself as a pleasant occupation to all minds—both in fact needing a little more active energy than we find in the purely désœuvré class—what is there for the unmarried daughters of a family to do? There is no question of a profession for any of them. Ideas travel slowly in country places, and root themselves still more slowly, even yet; and the idea of woman's work for ladies is utterly inadmissible by the English gentleman who can leave a modest sufficiency to his daughters—just enough to live on in the old house and in the old way, without a margin for luxuries, but above anything like positive want. There is no possibility then of an active career in art or literature; of going out as a governess, as a hospital nurse, or as a Sister. There is only home, with the possible and not very probable chance 58 of marriage as the vision of hope in the distant future. And that chance is very small and very remote; for the simple reason—there is no one to marry.

There are the young collegians who come down in reading parties; the group of Bohemian artists, if the place be picturesque and not too far from London; the curate; and the new doctor, fresh from the hospitals, who has to make his practice out of the poorer and more outlying clientèle of the old and established practitioners of the place. But collegians do not marry, and long engagements are proverbially hazardous; Bohemian artists are even less likely than they to trouble the surrogate; and the curate and the doctor can at the best marry only one apiece of the many who are waiting. The family keeps neither carriages nor horses, so that the longest tether to which life can be carried, with the house for the stake, is simply the three or four miles which the girls can walk out and back. And the visiting list is necessarily comprised within this circle. There is then, absolutely nothing to occupy nor to interest. The whole day is spent in playing over old music, in needlework, in a little desultory reading, such as is supplied by the local book society; all without other object than that of passing the time. The girls have had nothing like a thorough education in anything; they are not specially gifted, and what brains they have are dormant and uncultivated. There is not even enough housework to occupy their time, unless they were to send away the servants. Besides, domestic work of 59 an active kind is vulgar, and gentlemen and gentlewomen do not allow their daughters to do it. They may help in the housekeeping; which means merely giving out the week's supplies on Monday and ordering the dinner on other days, and which is not an hour's occupation in the week; and they can do a little amateur spudding and raking among the flower-beds when the weather is fine, if they care for the garden; and they can do a great deal of walking if they are strong; and this is all that they can do. There they are, four or five well-looking girls perhaps, of marriageable age, fairly healthy and amiable, and with just so much active power as would carry them creditably through any work that was given them to do, but with not enough originative energy to make them create work for themselves out of nothing.

In their quiet uneventful sphere, with the circumscribed radius and the short tether, it would be very difficult for any women but those few who are gifted with unusual energy to create a sufficient human interest; to ordinary young ladies it is impossible. They can but make-believe, even if they try—and they don't try. They can but raise up shadows which they would fain accept as living creatures if they give themselves the trouble to evoke anything at all, and they don't give themselves the trouble. They simply live on from day to day in a state of mental somnolency—hopeless, désœuvrées, inactive; just drifting down the smooth slow current of time, with not a ripple nor an eddy by the way.

60 Quiet families in towns, people who keep no society and live in a self-made desert apart though in the midst of the very vortex of life, are alike in the matter of désœuvrement; and we find exactly the same history with them as we find with their country cousins, though apparently their circumstances are so different. They cannot work and they may not play; the utmost dissipation allowed them is to look at the outside of things—to make one of the fringe of spectators lining the streets and windows on a show day, and this but seldom; or to go once or twice a year to the theatre or a concert. So they too just lounge through their life, and pass from girlhood to old age in utter désœuvrement and want of object. Year by year the lines about their eyes deepen, their smile gets sadder, their cheeks grow paler; while the cherished secret romance which even the dullest life contains gets a colour of its own by age, and a firmness of outline by continual dwelling on, which it had not in the beginning. Perhaps it was a dream built on a tone, a look, a word—may be it was only a half-evolved fancy without any basis whatever—but the imagination of the poor désœuvrée has clung to the dream, and the uninteresting dullness of her life has given it a mock vitality which real activity would have destroyed.

This want of healthy occupation is the cause of half the hysterical reveries which it is a pretty flattery to call constancy and an enduring regret; and we find it as absolutely as that heat follows from flame, 61 that the mischievous habit of bewailing an irrevocable past is part of the désœuvrée condition in the present. People who have real work to do cannot find time for unhealthy regrets, and désœuvrement is the most fertile source of sentimentality to be found.

The désœuvrée woman of means and middle age, grown grey in her want of purpose and suddenly taken out of her accustomed groove, is perhaps more at sea than any others. She has been so long accustomed to the daily flow of certain lines that she cannot break new ground and take up with anything fresh, even if it be only a fresh way of being idle. Her daughter is married; her husband is dead; her friend who was her right hand and manager-in-chief has gone away; she is thrown on her own resources, and her own resources will not carry her through. She generally falls a prey to her maid, who tyrannizes over her, and a phlegmatic kind of despair, which darkens the remainder of her life without destroying it. She loses even her power of enjoyment, and gets tired before the end of the rubber which is the sole amusement in which she indulges. For désœuvrement has that fatal reflex action which everything bad possesses, and its strength is in exact ratio with its duration.

Women of this class want taking in hand by the stronger and more energetic. Many even of those who seem to do pretty well as independent workers, men and women alike, would be all the better for being farmed out; and désœuvrées women especially 62 want extraneous guidance, and to be set to such work as they can do, but cannot make. An establishment which would utilize their faculties, such as they are, and give them occupation in harmony with their powers, would be a real salvation to many who would do better if they only knew how, and would save them from stagnation and apathy. But society does not recognize the existence of moral rickets, though the physical are cared for; consequently it has not begun to provide for them as moral rickets, and no Proudhon has yet managed to utilize the désœuvrés members of the State. When they do find a place of retreat and adventitious support, it is under another name.

The retired man of business, utterly without object in his new conditions, is another portrait that meets us in country places. He is not fit for magisterial business; he cannot hunt nor shoot nor fish; he has no literary tastes; he cannot create objects of interest for himself foreign to the whole experience of his life. The idleness which was so delicious when it was a brief season of rest in the midst of his high-pressure work, and the country which was like Paradise when seen in the summer only and at holiday time, make together just so much blank dullness now that he has bound himself to the one and fixed himself in the other. When he has spelt over every article in the Times, pottered about his garden and his stables, and irritated both gardener and groom by interfering in what he does not understand, the day's work is at 63 an end. He has nothing more to do but eat his dinner and sip his wine, doze over the fire for a couple of hours, and go to bed as the clock strikes ten.

This is the reality of that long dream of retirement which has been the golden vision of hope to many a man during the heat and burden of the day. The dream is only a dream. Retirement means désœuvrement; leisure is tedium; rest is want of occupation truly, but want of interest, want of object, want of purpose as well; and the prosperous man of business, who has retired with a fortune and broken energies, is bored to death with his prosperity, and wishes himself back to his desk or his counter—back to business and something to do. He wonders, on retrospection, what there was in his activity that was distasteful to him; and thinks with regret that perhaps, on the whole, it is better to wear out than to rust out; that désœuvrement is a worse state than work at high pressure; and that life with a purpose is a nobler thing than one which has nothing in it but idleness:—whereof the main object is how best to get rid of time.



We by no means put it forward as an original remark when we say that Nature does her grandest works of construction in silence, and that all great historical reforms have been brought about either by long and quiet preparation, or by sudden and authoritative action. The inference from which is, that no great good has ever been done by shrieking; that much talking necessarily includes a good deal of dilution; and that fuss is never an attribute of strength nor coincident with concentration. Whenever there has been a very deep and sincere desire on the part of a class or an individual to do a thing, it has been done not talked about; where the desire is only halfhearted, where the judgment or the conscience is not quite clear as to the desirableness of the course proposed, where the chief incentive is love of notoriety and not the intrinsic worth of the action itself—personal kudos, and not the good of a cause nor the advancement of humanity—then there has been talk; much talk; hysterical excitement; a long and prolonged cackle; and heaven and earth called to witness that an egg has been laid wherein lies the germ of a future chick—after proper incubation.

65 Necessarily there must be much verbal agitation if any measure is to be carried the fulcrum of which is public opinion. If you have to stir the dry bones you must prophesy to them in a loud voice, and not leave off till they have begun to shake. Things which can only be known by teaching must be spoken of, but things which have to be done are always better done the less the fuss made about them; and the more steadfast the action, the less noisy the agent. Purpose is apt to exhale itself in protestations, and strength is sure to exhaust itself by a flux of words. But at the present day what Mr. Carlyle called the Silences are the least honoured of all the minor gods, and the babble of small beginnings threatens to become intolerable. We all 'think outside our brains,' and the result is not conducive to mental vigour. It is as if we were to set a plant to grow with its heels in the air, and then look for roots, flowers and fruit, by the process of excitation and disclosure.

One of our quarrels with the Advanced Women of our generation is the hysterical parade they make about their wants and their intentions. It never seems to occur to them that the best means of getting what they want is to take it, when not forbidden by the law—to act, not to talk; that all this running hither and thither over the face of the earth, this feverish unrest and loud acclaim are but the dilution of purpose through much speaking, and not the right way at all; and that to hold their tongues and do would advance them by as many leagues as babble 66 puts them back. A small knot of women, 'terribly in earnest,' could move multitudes by the silent force of example. One woman alone, quietly taking her life in her own hands and working out the great problem of self-help and independence practically, not merely stating it theoretically, is worth a score of shrieking sisters frantically calling on men and gods to see them make an effort to stand upright without support, with interludes of reproach to men for the want of help in their attempt. The silent woman who quietly calculates her chances and measures her powers with her difficulties so as to avoid the probability of a fiasco, and who therefore achieves a success according to her endeavour, does more for the real emancipation of her sex than any amount of pamphleteering, lecturing, or petitioning by the shrieking sisterhood can do. Hers is deed not declamation; proof not theory; and it carries with it the respect always accorded to success.

And really if we think of it dispassionately, and carefully dissect the great mosaic of hindrances which women say makes up the pavement of their lives, there is very little which they may not do if they like—and can. They have already succeeded in reopening for themselves the practice of medicine, for one thing; and this is an immense opportunity if they know how to use it. A few pioneers, unhelped for the most part, steadily and without shrieking, stormed the barricades of the hospitals and dissecting-rooms; heroically bearing the shower of hard-mouthed missiles 67 with which they were pelted, and successfully forcing their way notwithstanding. But the most successful of them are those who held on with least excitement and who strove more than they declaimed; while others, by constitution belonging to the shrieking sisterhood, have comparatively failed, and have mainly succeeded in making themselves ridiculous. After some pressure but very little cackle—for here too the work was wanted, the desire real, and the workers in earnest—female colleges on a liberal and extended system of education have been established, and young women have now an opportunity of showing what they can do in brain work.

It is no longer by the niggardliness of men and the fault of an imperfect system if they prove intellectually inferior to the stronger sex; they have their dynamometer set up for them, and all they have to do is to register their relative strength—and abide the issue. All commerce, outside the Stock Exchange, is open to them equally with men; and there is nothing to prevent their becoming merchants, as they are now petty traders, or setting up as bill-brokers, commission agents, or even bankers—which last profession, according to a contemporary, they have actually adopted in New York, some ladies there having established a bank, which, so far as they have yet gone, they are said to conduct with deftness and ready arithmetic.

In literature they have competitors in men, but no monopolists. Indeed, they themselves have become 68 almost the monopolists of the whole section of light literature and fiction; while nothing but absolute physical and mental incapacity prevents their taking the charge of a journal, and working it with female editor, sub-editor, manager, reporters, compositors, and even news-girls to sell the second edition at omnibus doors and railway stations. If a set of women chose to establish a newspaper and work it amongst themselves, no law could be brought to bear against them; and if they made it as philosophical as some, or as gushing as others, they might enter into a formidable rivalry with the old-established. They would have a fair hearing, or rather reading; they would not be 'nursed' nor hustled, and they would get just as much success as they deserved. To be sure, they do not yet sit on the Bench nor plead at the Bar. They are not in Parliament, and they are not even voters; while, as married women with unfriendly husbands and no protection-order, they have something to complain of, and wrongs which are in a fair way of being righted if the shrieking sisterhood does not frighten the world prematurely. But, despite these restrictions, they have a very wide circle wherein they can display their power, and witch the world with noble deeds, if they choose—and as some have chosen.

Of the representative 'working-women' in England, we find none who have shrieked on platforms nor made an hysterical parade of their work. Quietly, and with the dignity which comes by self-respect and 69 the consciousness of strength, they have done what it was in their hearts to do; leaving the world to find out the value of their labours, and to applaud or deride their independence. Mrs. Somerville asked no man's leave to study science and make herself a distinguished name as the result; nor did she find the need of any more special organization than what the best books, a free press and first-rate available teaching offered. Miss Martineau dived with more or less success into the forbidding depths of the 'dismal science,' at a time when political economy was shirked by men and considered as essentially unfeminine as top-boots and tobacco; and she was confessedly an advanced Liberal when to be a high Tory was part of the whole duty of woman. Miss Nightingale undertook the care of wounded soldiers without any more publicity than was absolutely necessary for the organization of her staff, and with not so much as one shriek. Rosa Bonheur laughed at those who told her that animal painting was unwomanly, and that she had better restrict herself to flowers and heads, as became the jeune demoiselle of conventional life; but she did not publish her programme of independence, nor take the world into her confidence and tell them of her difficulties and defiance. The Lady Superintendents of our own various sisterhoods have organized their communities and performed their works of charity with very faint blare of trumpets indeed; and we might enumerate many more who have quietly lived the life of action 70 and independence of which others have only raved, and who have done while their sisters shrieked. These are the women to be respected, whether we sympathize with their line of action or not; having shown themselves to be true workers, capable of sustained effort, and therefore worthy of the honour which belongs to strength and endurance.

Of one thing women may be very sure, though they invariably deny it; the world is glad to take good work from any one who will supply it. The most certain patent of success is to deserve it; and if women will prove that they can do the world's work as well as men, they will share with them in the labour and the reward; and if they do it better they will distance them. The appropriation of fields of labour is not so much a question of selfishness as of (hitherto) proved fitness; but if, in times to come, women can show better harvesting than men, can turn out more finished, more perfected, results of any kind, the world's custom will flow to them by the force of natural law, and they will have the most to do of that which they can do the best. If they wish to educate public opinion to accept them as equals with men, they can only do so by demonstration, not by shrieks. Even men, who are supposed to inherit the earth and to possess all the good things of life, have to do the same thing.

Every young man yet untried is only in the position of every woman; and, granting that he has not the deadweight of precedent and prejudice against 71 him, he yet has to win his spurs before he can wear them. But women want theirs given to them without winning; and moreover, ask to be taught how to wear them when they have got them. They want to be received as masters before they have served their apprenticeship, and to be put into office without passing an examination or submitting to competition. They scream out for a clear stage and favour superadded; and they ask men to shackle their own feet, like Lightfoot in the fairy tale, that they may then be handicapped to a more equal running. They do not remember that their very demand for help vitiates their claim to equality; and that if they were what they assume to be, they would simply take without leave asked or given, and work out their own social salvation by the irrepressible force of a concentrated will and in the silence of conscious strength.

While the shrieking sisterhood remains to the front, the world will stop its ears; and for every hysterical advocate 'the cause' loses a rational adherent and gains a disgusted opponent. It is our very desire to see women happy, noble, fitly employed and well remunerated for such work as they can do, which makes us so indignant with the foolish among them who obscure the question they pretend to elucidate, and put back the cause which they say they advance. The earnest and practical workers among women are a very different class from the shriekers; but we wish the world could dissociate them more clearly than it does at present, and discriminate between them, both in its censure and its praise.



Every now and then we receive from America a word or a phrase which enriches the language without vulgarizing it—something, both more subtle and more comprehensive than our own equivalent, which we recognize at once as the better thing of the two. Thus 'otherwise-minded,' which some American writers use with such quaint force, is quite beyond our old 'contradictious' expressing the full meaning of contradictious and adding a great deal more. But if we have not hitherto had the word we have the thing, which is more to the purpose; and foremost among the powers which rule the world may be placed 'otherwise-mindedness' in its various phases of active opposition and passive immobility—the contradictiousness which must fight on all points and which will not assent to any. At home, otherwise-mindedness is an engine of tremendous power, ranking next to sulks and tears in the defensive armoury of women; while men for the most part use it in a more aggressive sense, and seldom content themselves with the passive quietude of mere inertness.

An otherwise-minded person, if a man, is almost 73 always a tyrant and a bully, with decided opinions as to his right of making all about him dance to his piping—his piping never giving one of their own measures. If a woman, she is probably a superior being subjected to domestic martyrdom while intended by nature for a higher intellectual life,—doomed to the drudgery of housekeeping while yearning for the æsthetic and panting after the ideal. She is generally dignified in her bearing and of a cold, unappeasable discontent. She neither scolds nor wrangles, though sometimes, no rule being without its exception, she is peevish and captious and degenerates into the commonplace of the Naggleton type. But in the main she bounds herself to the expression of her otherwise-mindedness in a stately if dogged manner, and shows a serene disdain for her opponents, which is a trifle more offensive than her undisguised satisfaction with herself. Nothing can move her, nothing beat her off her holding; but then she offers no points of attack. She is what she is on principle; and what can you say to an opposition dictated by motives all out of reach of your own miserable little groundling ideas? Where you advocate expediency, she maintains abstract principles; if you are lenient to weaknesses, she is stern to sin; if you would legislate for human nature as it is, she will have nothing less than the standard of perfection; and when you speak of the absolutism of facts, she argues on the necessity of keeping the ideal intact, no matter whether any one was ever known to 74 attain to it or not. But if she finds herself in different company from your own looser kind—say with Puritans of a strongly ascetic caste—then she veers round to the other side, on the ground of fairness; and for the benefit of fanatics propounds a slip-shod easygoing morality which shuffles beyond your own lines. This she calls keeping out of extremes and discouraging exaggeration. This latter manifestation however, is not very frequently the case with women: the otherwise-minded among them being almost always of the rigid and ascetic class who despise the pleasant little vanities, the graceful frivolities, the loveable frailties which make life easy and humanity delightful, and who take their stand on the loftiest, the most unelastic, not to say the grimmest, ethics. They have had it borne in on them that they are to defy Baal and withstand; consequently they do defy him, and they do withstand, at all four corners stoutly.

To be otherwise-minded naturally implies having a mind; and of what use is intellect if it cannot see all through and round a subject, and pick the weak places into holes? Hence the otherwise-minded are uncompromising critics and terrible fellows at scenting their prey. As is the function of certain creatures—vultures, crows, flies, and others—so is that of these children of Zoilus when dealing with subjects not understood, or only guessed at with more or less blundering in the process.

Take one of the class at a lecture on the higher branches of a science of which he has not so much 75 as thoroughly mastered the roots, and wherein this higher analysis offers certain new and perhaps startling results. It would seem that the sole thing possible to him who is ignorant of the matter in hand is to listen and believe; but your otherwise-minded critic is not content with the tame modesty of humbleness. What if the subject be over his head, cannot he crane his neck and look? has he not common-sense to guide him? and may he not criticize in the block what he cannot dissect in detail? At the least he can look grave, and say something about the danger of a little knowledge; and fallen man's dangerous pride of intellect; and his absolute and eternal ignorance; and the lecturer not making his meaning clear—as how should he when he probably does not understand his own subject nor what he wanted to say?—and what becomes of accepted truths if such things are to be received? Be sure of this, that otherwise-mindedness must sling its stone, whether it knows exactly what it is aiming at or not. It not unfrequently happens that the stone is after the pattern of a boomerang, and comes back on the slinger's own pate with sounding effect, convicting him of ignorance if of nothing worse, and a love of opposition so great that it destroys both his power of perceiving truth and the sense of his own incapacity.

But the otherwise-minded is nothing if not superior to his company; and truth is after all relative as well as multiform, and needs continual nice 76 adjustment to make it balance fairly. The great representative assembly of humanity must have its independent members below the gangway who vote with no party; and if we were all on the right side the devil's advocate would have no work to do; so that even otherwise-mindedness on the wrong side has its uses, and must not be wholly condemned. For the world would fare badly without its natural borers and hole-pickers, its finders-out of weak places, its stone walls to resist assertion and advance; and ants and worms make good mould for garden flowers.

The constitutionally otherwise-minded are the worst partizans in the world and never take up a cause heartily—never with more than one hand, that they may leave the other free for a bit of intellectual prestidigitation if need be, when their audience changes its character and complexion. The only time when they are devoted adherents is if their own family is decidedly in the opposite ranks, when they come out from among them with scrip and spear, and go over to the enemy without failing a single button of the uniform. This is specially true of young people and of women; both of whom call their natural love of opposition by the name of religious principle or moral duty. Youths just fresh from the schools, bent on the regeneration of mankind and thinking that they can do in a few years what society has been painfully labouring to accomplish ever since the first savage clubbed his neighbour for stealing his hoard of roots or carrying off his own private squaw, 77 are sure to be intensely otherwise-minded and to understand nothing of harmonious working with the old plant. Red Republicans under the family flag of purple and orange; free-thinkers in the church where the paternal High and Dry holds forth on Sundays on the principle of the divine inspiration of the English translation bound in calf and lettered cum privilegio; Romanists worshipping saints and relics in the very heart of the Peculiar People who put no trust in man nor works—we know them all; ardent, enthusiastic, uncompromising and horribly aggressive; with the down just shading their smooth young chins, and the great book of human life barely turned at the page of adolescence. Yet this is a form of otherwise-mindedness which, though we laugh at and are often annoyed by it, we must treat gently on the whole. We cannot be cruel to a fervour, even when insolently expressed, which we know the world will tame so soon, and which at the worst is often better than the dead level of conformity; even though its zeal is not unmixed with conceit, and a burning desire for the world's good is not free from a few slumbering embers of self-laudation and the 'last infirmity.'

In a house inhabited by the otherwise-minded—and one member of a family is enough to set the whole ruck awry—nothing is allowed to go smoothly or by default; nothing can be done without endless discussion; and all the well-oiled casters of compromise, good-nature, 'it does not signify,' &c., by 78 which life runs easily in most places are rusted or broken. At table there is an incessant cross-fire of objections and of arguments, more or less intemperately conducted and never coming to a satisfactory conclusion. There are so many places too, which have been rubbed sore by this perpetual chafing, that a stranger to the secrets of the domestic pathology is kept not only in a fever of annoyance, but in an ague of dread, at the temper shown about trifles, and the deadly offence that seems to lurk behind quite ordinary topics of conversation. Not knowing all that has gone before, he is not prepared for the present uncomfortable aspect of things, and in fact is like a boy reading algebra, understanding nothing of what he sees, though the symbolizing letters are familiar enough to him. The family quarrel about everything; and when they do not quarrel they argue. If one wants to do something that must be done in concert, the others would die rather than unite; and days, seasons and wishes can never be got to work themselves into harmonious coalition. When they are out 'enjoying themselves'—language is arbitrary and the sense of words not always clear—they cannot agree on anything; and you may hear them fire off scornful squibs of otherwise-mindedness across the rows of prize flowers or in the intervals of one of Beethoven's sonatas. And if they cannot find cause for disagreement on the merits of the subject before them, they find it in each other. For otherwise-mindedness is like the ragged little 79 princess in the German fairy tale, who proved her royal blood by being unable to sleep on the top of seven feather-beds—German feather-beds—beneath all of which one single bean had been placed as the test of her sensibility. Give it but the chance of a scuffle, the ghost of a coat-tail to tread on, an imaginary chicken-bone among the down, and you may be sure that the opportunity will not be lost. When we are on the look-out for beans we shall find them beneath even seven feather-beds; and when shillelahs abound there will never be wanting the trail of a coat-tail across the path. So we find when we have to do with the otherwise-minded who will not take things pleasantly, and can never be got to see either beauty or value in their surroundings. Let one of these have a saint for a wife, and he will tell you saints are bores and sinners the only house-mates to be desired. Let him change his state, and this time pick up the sinner in longing for whom he has so often vexed the poor saint's soul, and he will find domestic happiness to consist in the companionship of a seraph of the most exalted kind. If he has Zenobia, he wants Griselda; if Semiramis, King Cophetua's beggar-maid. The dear departed, who was such a millstone in times past, becomes the emblem of all that is lovely in humanity when a shaft has to be thrown at the partner of times present; and the marriage that was notoriously ill-assorted is painted in gold and rose-colour throughout, and its discords are mended up into a full score of harmony 80 when the new wife or the new husband has to be snubbed, for no other reason than the otherwise-mindedness which cannot agree with what it has.

Children and servants come in for their share of this uncomfortable temper which reverses the old adage about the absent, and which, so far from making these in the wrong, transfers the burden of blame to those present and conveniently forgets its former litany of complaint. No one would be more surprised than those very absent if they heard themselves upheld as possessors of all possible virtues when, according to their memory, they had been little better than concretions of wickedness and folly in the days of their subjection to criticism. They need not flatter themselves. Could they return, or if they do return, to the old place, they will be sure to return to the old conditions; and the praise lavished on them when they are absent, by way of rebuke to those unlucky ones on the spot, will be changed for their benefit into the blame and the rebuke familiar to them. In fact no circumstances whatever touch the central quality of the otherwise-minded. They must have something to bite, to grumble at, to rearrange, at least in wish, if not in deed. If only they had been consulted, nothing would have gone wrong that has gone wrong; and 'I told you so' is the shibboleth of their order. It is gall and wormwood to them when they are obliged to agree, and when, for very decency's sake, they must praise what indeed offers no points to condemn. But even when 81 they get caught in the trap of unanimity they contrive to say something quite unnecessary about evils which no one was thinking of, and which have nothing to do with the case in point. 'But' is their mystic word, their truncated form of the Tetragrammaton which rules the universe; and whatever their special private denomination, they all belong in bulk to the

Sect whose chief devotion lies
In odd perverse antipathies;
In falling out with that or this,
And finding somewhat still amiss.



Vice is bad and malignant wickedness is worse, but beyond either in evil results to mankind is weakness; which indeed is the pabulum by which vice is fed and the agent by which malignity works. If every one in this world had a backbone, there would not be so much misery nor guilt as there is now; for we must give each individual of the 'cruel strong' a large following of weaker victims; and it would be easy to demonstrate that the progress of nations has always been in proportion to the number of stiff backbones among them. Yet unfortunately limp people abound, to the detriment of society and to their own certain sorrow; molluscs, predestined to be the food of the stronger, with no power of self-defence nor of self-support, but having to be protected against outside dangers if they are to be preserved at all;—and perhaps when you have done all that you can do, not safe even then, and most likely not worth the trouble taken about them. Open the gates for but a moment, and they are swept up by the first passer-by. Let them loose from your own sustaining hand, and they fall abroad in a mass of flabby helplessness, 83 unable to work, to resist, to retain—mere heaps of moral protoplasm, pitiable as well as contemptible; perhaps pitiable because so contemptible. See one of these poor creatures left a widow, if a woman—turned out of his office, if a man—and then judge of the value of a backbone by the miserable consequences of its absence. The widow is simply lost in the wilderness of her domestic solitude, as much so as would be a child if set in the midst of a pathless moor with no one to guide him to the safe highway. She may have money and she may have relations, but she is as poor as if she had nothing better than parish relief; and unless some one will take her up and manage everything for her conscientiously, she is as lonely as if she were an exile in a strange land. She has been so long used to lean on the stronger arm of her husband, that she cannot stand upright now that her support has been taken from her. Her servants make her their prey; her children tyrannize over her and ignore her authority; her boys go to the bad; her girls get fast and loud; all her own meek little ideas of modesty and virtue are rudely thrust to the wall; and she is obliged to submit to a family disorder which she neither likes nor encourages, but which she has not the strength to oppose nor the wisdom to direct. She may be the incarnation of all saintly qualities in her own person, but by mere want of strength she is the occasion by which a very pandemonium is possible; and the worst house of a 84 community is sure to be that of a quiet, gentle, molluscous little widow, without one single vicious proclivity but without the power to repress or even to rebuke vice in others.

A molluscous man too, suddenly ejected from his long-accustomed groove, where, like a toad embedded in the rock, he had made his niche exactly fitting to his own shape, presents just as wretched a picture of helplessness and unshiftiness. In vain his friends suggest this or that independent endeavour; he shakes his head, and says he can't—it won't do. What he wants is a place where he is not obliged to depend on himself; where he has to do a fixed amount of work for a fixed amount of salary; and where his fibreless plasticity may find a mould ready formed, into which it may run without the necessity of forging shapes for itself. Many a man of respectable intellectual powers has gone down into ruin, and died miserably, because of this limpness which made it impossible for him to break new ground or to work at anything whatsoever with the stimulus of hope only. He must be bolstered up by certainty, supported by the walls of his groove, else he can do nothing; and if he cannot get into this friendly groove, he lets himself drift into destruction.

In no manner are limp people to be depended on; their very central quality being fluidity, which is a bad thing to rest on. Take them in their family quarrels—and they are always quarrelling among themselves—you think they must have broken with 85 each other for ever; that surely they can never forget or forgive all the insolent expressions, the hard words, the full-flavoured epithets which they have flung at one another; but the next time you meet them they are quite good friends again, and going on in the old fluid way as if no fiery storms had lately troubled the domestic horizon. Perhaps they have induced you to take sides; if so, you may look out, for you are certain to be thrown over and to have the enmity of both parties instead of only one. They are much given to this kind of thing, and fond of making pellets for you to shoot; when, after the shot, they disclaim and disown you. They speak against each other furiously, tell you all the family secrets and make them worse and greater than they really are. If you are credulous for your own part you take them literally; and if highly moral, you probably act on their accusations in a spirit of rhadamanthine justice, and the absolute need of rewarding sin according to its sinfulness. Beware; their accusations are baseless as the wind, and acting on them will lead to your certain discomfiture. The only safe way with limp people is never to believe what they say; or, if you are forced to believe, never to translate your faith into deeds nor even words; never to commit yourself to partizanship in any form whatever. They do not intend it, in all probability, but by very force of their weakness limp people are almost invariably untruthful and treacherous. By the force too, of this same weakness, they are incapable 86 of anything like true friendship, and in fact make the most dangerous friends to be found. They are so plastic that they take the shape of every hand which holds them; and if you do not know them well, you may be deceived by their softness of touch, and think them sympathetic because they are fluid. They leave you full of promises to hold all you have told them sacred, and before an hour is out they have repeated to your greatest enemy every word you have said. They had not the faintest intention of doing so when they left you, but they 'slop about,' as the Americans say; and sloppy folk cannot hold secrets. The traitors of life are the limp, much more than the wicked—people who let things be wormed out of them rather than intentionally betray them. They repent likely enough; Judas hanged himself; but of what good is their repentance when the mischief is done? Not all the tears in the world can put out the fire when once lighted, and to hang oneself because one has betrayed another will make no difference save in the number of victims which one's own weakness has created.

Limp men are invariably under petticoat government, and it all depends on chance and the run of circumstance whose petticoat is dominant. The mother's, for a long period; then the sisters'. If the wife's, there is sure to be war in the camp belonging to the invertebrate commander; for such a man creates infinitely more jealousy among his womankind than the most discursive and the most unjust. 87 He is a power, not to act, but to be used; and the woman who can hold him with the firmest grasp has necessarily the largest share of good things belonging. She can close or draw his purse-strings at pleasure. She can use his name and mask herself behind his authority at pleasure. He is the undying Jorkins who is never without a Spenlow to set him well up in front; and we can scarcely wonder that the various female Spenlows who shoot with his bow and manipulate his circumstances are jealous of each other to a frantic pitch—regarding his limpness, as they do, as so much raw material from which they can spin out their own strength.

As the mollusc has to become the prey of some one, the question simply resolves itself into whose? the new wife's or the old sisters'? Who shall govern, sitting on his shoulders? and to whom shall he be assigned captive? He generally inclines to his wife, if she is younger than he and has a backbone of her own; and you may see a limp man of this kind, with a fringe of old-rooted female epiphytes, gradually drop one after another of the ancient stock, till at last his wife and her relations take up all the space and are the only ones he supports. His own kith and kin go bare while he clothes her and hers in purple and fine linen; and the fatted calves in his stalls are liberally slain for the prodigals on her side of the house, while the dutiful sons on his own get nothing better than the husks.

Another characteristic of limp people is their 88 curious ingratitude. Give them nine-tenths of your substance, and they will turn against you if you refuse them the remaining tenth. Lend them all the money you can spare, and lend in utter hopelessness of any future day of reckoning, but refrain once for your own imperative needs, and they will leave your house open-mouthed at your stinginess. To be grateful implies some kind of retentive faculty; and this is just what the limp have not. Another characteristic of a different kind is the rashness with which they throw themselves into circumstances which they afterwards find they cannot bear. They never know how to calculate their forces, and spend the latter half of their life in regretting what they had spent the former half in endeavouring to attain, or to get rid of, as it might chance. If they marry A. they wish they had taken B. instead; as house-mistresses they turn away their servants at short notice after long complaint, and then beg them to remain if by any means they can bribe them to stay. They know nothing of that clear incisive action which sets men and women at ease with themselves, and enables them to bear consequences, be they good or ill, with dignity and resignation.

A limp backboneless creature always falls foul of conditions, whatever they may be; thinking the right side better than the left, and the left so much nicer than the right, according to its own place of standing for the moment; and what heads plan and hands execute, lips are never weary of 89 bemoaning. In fact the limp, like fretful babies, do not know what they want, being unconscious that the whole mischief lies in their having a vertebral column of gristle instead of one of bone. They spread themselves abroad and take the world into their confidence—weep in public and rave in private—and cry aloud to the priest and the Levite passing by on the other side (maybe heavily laden for their own share) to come over and help them, poor sprawling molluscs, when no man but themselves can set them upright.

The confidences of the limp are told through a trumpet to all four corners of the sky, and are as easy to get at, with the very gentlest pressure, as the juice of an over-ripe grape. And no lessons of experience will ever teach them reticence, or caution in their choice of confidants.

Not difficult to press into the service of any cause whatever, they are the very curse of all causes which they assume to serve. They collapse at the first touch of persecution, of misunderstanding, of harsh judgment, and fall abroad in hopeless panic at the mere tread of the coming foe. Always convinced by the last speaker, facile to catch and impossible to hold, they are the prizes, the decoy ducks, for which contending parties fight, perpetually oscillating between the maintenance of old abuses and the advocacy of dangerous reforms; but the side to which they have pledged themselves on Monday they forsake on Tuesday under the plea of reconversion. 90 Neither can they carry out any design of their own, if their friends take it in hand to over-persuade them.

If a man of this stamp has painted a picture he can be induced to change the whole key, the central circumstance and the principal figure, at the suggestion of a confident critic who is only a pupil in the art of which he is, at least technically, a master. If he is preaching or lecturing, he thinks more of the people he is addressing than of what he has to say; and, though impelled at times to use the scalping-knife, hopes he doesn't wound. Vehement advocates at times, these men's enthusiasm is merely temporary, and burns itself out by its own energy of expression; and how fierce soever their aspect when they ruffle their feathers and make believe to fight, one vigorous peck from their opponent proves their anatomy as that of a creature without vertebræ, pulpy, gristly, gelatinous, and limp. All things have their uses and good issues; but what portion of the general good the limp are designed to subserve is one of those mysteries not to be revealed in time nor space.



Among other classifications we may divide the world into those who live by impulse and the undirected flow of circumstance, and those who map out their lives according to art and a definite design. These last however, are rare; few people having capacity enough to construct any persistent plan of life or to carry it through if even begun—it being so much easier to follow nature than to work by rule and square, and to drift with the stream than to build up even a beaver's dam. Now, in the matter of reticence;—How few people understand this as an art, and how almost entirely it is by the mere chance of temperament whether a person is confidential or reticent—with his heart on his sleeve or not to be got at by a pickaxe—irritatingly silent or contemptibly loquacious. Sometimes indeed we do find one who, like Talleyrand, has mastered the art of an eloquent reticence from alpha to omega, and knows how to conceal everything without showing that he conceals anything; but we find such a person very seldom, and we do not always understand his value when we have him.

92 Any one not a born fool can resolve to keep silence on certain points, but it takes a master-mind to be able to talk, and yet not tell. Silence indeed, self-evident and without disguise, though a safe method, is but a clumsy one, and to be tolerated only in very timid or very young people. "Le silence est le parti plus sûr pour celui qui se défie de soi-même," says Rochefoucauld. So is total abstinence for him who cannot control himself. Yet we do not preach total abstinence as the best order of life for a wise and disciplined person, any more than we would put strong ankles into leg-irons, or forbid a rational man to handle a sword. Besides, silence may be as expressive, as tell-tale even, as speech; and at the best there is no science in shutting one's lips and sitting mute; though indeed too few people have got even so far as this in the art of reticence, but tell everything they know so surely as water flows through a sieve, and are safe just in proportion to their ignorance.

But there is art, the most consummate art, in appearing absolutely frank, yet never telling anything which it is not wished should be known; in being pleasantly chatty and conversational, yet never committing oneself to a statement nor an opinion which might be used against one afterwards—ars celare artem being a true maxim in keeping one's own counsel as well as in other things. It is only after a long acquaintance with this kind of person that you find out he has been substantially reticent throughout, 93 though apparently so frank. Caught by his easy manner, his genial talk, his ready sympathy, you have confided to him not only all that you have of your own, but all that you have of other people's; and it is only long after, when you reflect quietly, undisturbed by the magnetism of his presence, that you come to the knowledge of how reticent he has been in the midst of his seeming frankness, and how little reciprocity there has been in your confidences together. You know such people for years, and you never really know more of them at the end than you did in the beginning. You cannot lay your finger on a fact that would in any way place them in your power; and though you did not notice it at the time, and do not know how it has been done now, you feel that they have never trusted you, and have all along carefully avoided anything like confidence. But you are at their mercy by your own rashness, and if they do not destroy you it is because they are reticent for you as well as towards you; perhaps because they are good-natured; perhaps because they despise you for your very frankness too much to hurt you; but above all things not because they are unable. How you hate them when you think of the skill with which they took all that was offered to them, yet never let you see they gave back nothing for their own part—rather by the jugglery of manner made you believe that they were giving back as much as they were receiving! Perhaps it was a little ungenerous; but they had the right to argue that if 94 you could not keep your own counsel you would not be likely to keep theirs, and it was only kind at the time to let you hoodwink yourself so that you might not be offended.

In manner genial, frank, conversational, sympathetic—in substance absolutely secret, cautious, never taken off their guard, never seduced into dangerous confidences, as careful for their friends as they are for themselves, and careful even for strangers unknown to them—these people are the salvation as they are the charm of society; never making mischief, and, by their habitual reticence, raising up barriers at which gossip halts and rumour dies. No slander is ever traced to them, and what they know is as though it were not. Yet they do not make the clumsy mistake of letting you see that they are better informed than yourself on certain subjects, and know more about the current scandals of the day than they choose to reveal. On the contrary, they listen to your crude mistakes with a highly edified air, and leave you elated with the idea that you have let them behind the scenes and told them more than they knew before. If only they had spoken, your elation would not have been very long-lived.

Of all personal qualities this art of reticence is the most important and most valuable for a professional man to possess. Lawyer or physician, he must be able to hold all and hear all without betraying by word or look—by injudicious defence no more than by overt treachery—by anger at a malicious accusation 95 no more than by a smile at an egregious mistake. His business is to be reticent, not exculpatory; to maintain silence, not set up a defence nor yet proclaim the truth. To do this well requires a rare combination of good qualities—among which are tact and self-respect in about equal amount—self-command and the power of hitting that fine line which marks off reticence from deception. No man was ever thoroughly successful as either a lawyer or physician who did not possess this combination; and with it even a modest amount of technical skill can be made to go a long way.

Valuable in society, at home the reticent are so many forms of living death. Eyes have they and see not; ears and hear not; and the faculty of speech seems to have been given them in vain. They go out and they come home, and they tell you nothing of all they have seen. They have heard all sorts of news and seen no end of pleasant things, but they come down to breakfast the next morning as mute as fishes, and if you want it you must dig out your own information bit by bit by sequential, categorical questioning. Not that they are surly nor ill-natured; they are only reticent. They are really disastrous to those who are associated with them, and make the worst partners in the world in business or marriage; for you never know what is going on, nor where you are, and you must be content to walk blindfold if you walk with them. They tell you nothing beyond what they are obliged to tell; take 96 you into no confidence; never consult you; never arrest their own action for your concurrence; and the consequence is that you live with them in the dark, for ever afraid of looming catastrophes, and more like a captive bound to the car of their fortunes than like the coadjutor with a voice in the manner of the driving and the right to assist in the direction of the journey. This is the reticence of temperament, and we see it in children from quite an early age—those children who are trusted by the servants, and are their favourites in consequence, because they tell no tales; but it is a disposition that may become dangerous unless watched, and that is always liable to degenerate into falsehood. For reticence is just on the boundary of deception, and it needs but a very little step to take one over the border.

That obtrusive kind of reticence which parades itself—which makes mysteries and lets you see there are mysteries—which keeps silence and flaunts it in your face as an intentional silence brooding over things you are not worthy to know—that silence which is as loud as words, is one of the most irritating things in the world and can be made one of the most insulting. If words are sharp arrows, this kind of dumbness is paralysis, and all the worse to bear because it puts it out of your power to complain. You cannot bring into court a list of looks and shrugs, nor make it a grievance that a man held his tongue while you raved, and to all appearance kept his temper when you lost yours. Yet all of us who 97 have had any experience that way know that his holding his tongue was the very reason why you raved, and that if he had spoken for his own share the worst of the tempest would have been allayed. This is a common manner of tormenting with reticent people who have a moral twist; and to fling stones at you from behind the shield of silence by which they have sheltered themselves is a pastime that hurts only one of the combatants. Reticence, though at times one of the greatest social virtues we possess, is also at times one of the most disastrous personal conditions.

Half our modern novels turn on the misery brought about by mistaken reticence; and though novelists generally exaggerate the circumstances they deal with, they are not wrong in their facts. If the waters of strife have been let loose because of many words, there have been broken hearts before now because of none. Old proverbs, to be sure, inculcate the value of reticence, and the wisdom of keeping one's own counsel. If speech is silvern, silence is golden, in popular philosophy; and the youth is ever enjoined to be like the wise man, and keep himself free from the peril of words. Yet for all that, next to truth, on which society rests, mutual knowledge is the best working virtue, and a state of reticent distrust is more prudent than noble.

Many people think it a fine thing to live with their most intimate friends as if they would one day become their enemies, and never let even their 98 deepest affections strike root so far down as confidence. They rearrange La Bruyère's famous maxim, 'L'on peut avoir la confiance de quelqu'un sans en avoir le cœur,' and take it quite the contrary way; but perhaps the heart which gives itself, divorced from confidence, is not worth accepting; and reticence where there is love sounds almost a contradiction in terms. Indeed, the certainty of unlimited confidences where there is love is one of the strongest of all the arguments in favour of general reticence. For in nine cases out of ten you tell your secrets and open your heart, not only to your friend, but to your friend's wife, or husband, or lover; and secondhand confidence is rarely held sacred if it can be betrayed with impunity.

By an apparent contradiction, reticent people who tell nothing are often the most charming letter-writers. Full of chit-chat, of descriptions dashed off with a warm and flowing pen, giving all the latest news well authenticated and not scandalous, and breathing just the right amount of affection according to the circumstances of the correspondents—a naturally eloquent person who has cultivated the art of reticence writes letters unequalled for charm of manner. The first impression of them is superb, enchanting, enthralling, like the bouquet of old wine; but, on reconsideration, what have they said? Absolutely nothing. This charming letter, apparently so full of matter, is an answer to a great, good, honest outpour wherein you laid bare that 99 foolish heart of yours and delivered up your soul for anatomical examination; and you looked for a reply based on the same lines. At first delighted, you are soon chilled and depressed by such a return, and you feel that you have made a fool of yourself, and that your correspondent is laughing in his sleeve at your insane propensity to gush. So must it be till that good time comes when man shall have no need to defend himself against his fellows; when confidence shall not bring sorrow nor trust betrayal; and when the art of reticence shall be as obsolete as the art of fence, or the Socratic method.



We often hear women speak with a certain curious disdain of one of themselves as a 'gentlemen's favourite;' generally adding that gentlemen's favourites are never liked by their own sex, and giving you to understand that they are minxes rather than otherwise, and objectionable in proportion to their attractiveness. They never can understand why they should be so attractive, they say; and hold it as one of the unfathomable mysteries of men's bad taste—the girls to whom no man addresses half a dozen words in the course of the evening being far prettier and nicer than the favourite with whom everybody is talking, and for whom all men are contending. Yet see how utterly they are neglected, while she is surrounded with admirers. But then she is an artful little flirt, they say, who lays herself out to attract, while the others are content to stay quietly in the shade until they are sought. And they speak as if to attract men's admiration was a sin, and not one of the final causes of woman as well as one of her chief social duties.

There is always war between the women who are 101 gentlemen's favourites and those who are not; and if the last dislike the first, the first despise the last, and go out of their way to provoke them; a thing not difficult to do when a woman gives her mind to it. A gentlemen's favourite is generally attacked on the score of her morality, not to speak of her manners, which are pronounced as bad as they can be; while, how pretty soever men may think her, her own sex decry her, and pick her to pieces with such effect that they do not leave her a single charm. She is assumed to be incapable of anything like real earnestness of feeling; of anything like true womanliness of sentiment; to be ignorant of the higher rules of modesty; to be fast or sly, according to her speciality of style; and if you listen to her dissector you will find in time that she has every fault incidental to a frail humanity, while her noblest virtue is in all probability a 'kind of good nature' which does not count for much. In return, the favourite sneers at the wallflower, whom she calls stupid and spiteful, and whom she rejoices to annoy by the excess of her popularity; nothing pleasing her so much as to make herself look worse than she is in the way of men's liking—except it be to carry off the one tup lamb belonging to a wallflower, and brand him as of her own multitudinous herd. The quarrel is a deadly one as regards the combatants, but it has very little effect on the 'ring;' for, notwithstanding the faults and frailties of which they hear so much, the men flock round the one and make her the public 102 favourite of the set. But, as the valid result, probably the prize match of the circle chooses a stupid wallflower for life; and the favourite who has ridiculed the successful prizeholder scores of times, and who would give ten years of her life to be in her place, has to swallow her confusion as she best can, and accept her discomfiture as if she liked it.

If a men's favourite begins her career unmarried, she most frequently remains unmarried to the end; fulfilling her mission of charming all and fixing none till she comes to the age when her sex has no mission at all. If she is married she has developed after the event; in her nonage having been a shy if observant wallflower, quietly watching the methods which later she has so ably applied, and taking lessons from the very girls who queened it over her with that insolent supremacy which, more than all else, she noted, envied and profited by. If she marries while a favourite and in the full swing of her triumphs, she probably gets pulled up by her husband (unless she is in India, or wherever else women are at a premium and mistresses of the situation), and subsides into the best and most domestic kind of 'brooding hen.' However that may be, marriage, which is the great transforming agent of a woman's character, seldom leaves her on the same lines as before; though sometimes of course the foolish virgin developes into the frisky matron, and the girl who begins life as a men's favourite ends it as a mature siren.

103 There are two kinds of men's favourites—the bright women who amuse them and the sympathetic ones who love them. But these last are of a doubtful, what country people call 'chancy,' kind; women who show their feelings too openly, who fall in love too seriously, or perhaps unasked altogether, being more likely to irritate and repel than to charm. But the bright, animated women who know how to talk and do not preach; who say innocent things in an audacious way and audacious things in an innocent way; who are clever without pedantry; frank without impudence; quick to follow a lead when shown them; and who know the difference between badinage and earnestness, flirting and serious intentions—these are the women who are liked by men and whose social success in no wise depends on their beauty.

Of one thing the clever woman who wants to be a men's favourite must always be careful—to keep that half step in the rear which alone reconciles men to her superiority of wit. She must not shine so much by her own light as by contact with theirs; and her most brilliant sallies ought to convey the impression of being struck out by them rather than of being elaborated by herself alone—suggested by what had gone before, if improved on for their advantage. Else she offends masculine self-love, never slow to take fire, and gains an element of hardness and self-assertion incompatible with her character of favourite. Not that men dislike all kinds of self-assertion. The irrepressible little woman with her 104 trim waist and jaunty air, pert, pretty, defiant, who laughs in the face of the burly policeman able to crush her between his finger and thumb, and to whom ropes and barriers are things to be skipped over or dived under, as the case may be—she who is all cackle and self-assertion like a little bantam, is also most frequently a men's favourite, and encouraged in her saucy forwardness.

Then there is the graceful, fragile, swan-necked woman, who, a generation ago, would have been one of the Della Cruscan school, all poetry and music and fine feelings, and of a delicacy so refined that broad-browed Nature herself had to be veiled and toned down to the subdued key proper for the graceful creature to accept—but nowadays this graceful creature plunges boldly into the midst of the most tremendous realism, is an ardent advocate for woman's rights, and perhaps goes out 'on the rampage,' on platforms and the like to advocate doctrines as little in harmony with the kind of being she is as would be a diet of horseflesh and brandy. She gets her following; and men who do not agree with her delight to set her off on her favourite topics, just as women like to see their little girls play with their dolls and repeat to the harmless dummy the experiences which have been real to themselves.

These two classes of self-assertion are mere plays which amuse men; but when it comes to a reality, and is no longer a play—when a man is made to feel small, useless, insignificant by the side of a woman—he 105 meets them with something he neither likes nor easily forgives; and if such a woman had the beauty of Venus, she would not be a men's favourite of the right sort; though some of course would admire her and do their best to spoil and make a fool of her.

A men's favourite of the right sort must, among other things, be well up in the accidence of flirting, and know how to take it at exactly its proper value. She must be able to accept broad compliments, or more subtle love-making, without either too serious an acceptance or too grave a deprecation. This is a great art, and one that, more than any other, puts men at their ease and sets the machinery of pleasant intercourse in harmonious action. Never to show whether she is really hit or not; never to give a fop occasion for a boast nor an enemy room for a pitying sneer; to take everything in good part and to be as quick in giving as in receiving; never to be off her guard; never to throw away her arms; to conceal any number of foxes that may be gnawing at her beneath her cloak—this kind of flirting, in which most men's favourites are adepts, is an art that reaches almost the dimensions of a science. And it is just that in which your very intense, your very earnest and sincere, women are utter failures. They know nothing of badinage, but take everything au grand sérieux; and when you mean to be simply playful and complimentary, imagine you in tragic earnest, and think themselves obliged to frown down a compliment as a liberty; or else they accept it with 106 a passionate pleasure that shows how deeply it has struck.

These intense and very sincere women are not as a rule men's favourites, unless they have other qualities of such a pleasant and seductive kind as to excuse the enormous blunder they make of wearing their hearts on their sleeves for drawing-room daws to peck at, and the still greater blunder of confounding love-making with love. They may be, and if they have nice manners and are good-tempered they probably are, of the race of popular women; that is, liked by both men and women; but they are not men's favourites par excellence, who moreover are never liked by women at all.

Women are quite right in one thing, hard as it seems to say it:—men's favourites, whom women dislike and distrust, are not usually good for much morally. They are often false, insincere, superficial, and possibly with a very low aim in life. And the men know all this, but forgive it for the sake of the pleasantness and charm which is the grace that shadows, or rather brightens, all the rest; having oftentimes indeed a half-contemptuous tolerance for the sins of their favourites as not expecting anything better from them. Grant that they are false, that they sail perilously near the wind, are shifty and untrustworthy—what of that? They are not favourites because of their good qualities, only because of their pleasant ones; because of that subtle je ne sais quoi of old writers which stands one in 107 such good stead when one is at a loss for an analysis, and which is the only term that expresses the strong yet indefinite charm which certain women possess for men. It is not beauty; it is not necessarily cleverness taken in the sense of education, though it must be a keenness if not depth of intellect, and smartness if not the power of reasoning; it certainly is not goodness; it is not always youth, nor yet warmth of feeling—though all these things come in as characteristics in their turn; but it is companionship and the power of amusing. Still, what is it that creates this power, this companionship? A smart, pert, flippant little minx, as women call her, with a shrill voice and a saucy air, may be the men's favourite of one set; a refined, graceful woman, speaking softly, and with pleading eyes, may be the favourite of another; a third may be a blunt, off-handed young person, given to speaking her mind so that there shall be no mistake; a fourth may be a silent and seemingly a shy woman, fond of sitting out in retired places, and with a reputation for flirting of a quiet kind that sets the woman's fingers tingling.

There is no settled rule anyhow, and all kinds have their special sphere of shining, according to circumstances. But whatever they may be, they are useful in their generation and valuable for such work as they have to do. Society is a miserably dull affair to men when there are no favourites of any sort; where the womanhood in the room is of the 108 kind that herds together as if for protection, and looks askance over its shoulder at the wolves in coats and beards who prowl about the sheepfold of petticoats; where conversation is monosyllabic in form and restricted in substance; where pleasant men who talk are considered dangerous, and fascinating women who answer immoral; where the matrons are grim and the maidens still in the bread-and-butter stage of existence; and where young wives take matrimonial fidelity to mean making themselves disagreeable to every man but their husband, on the plea that one never knows what may happen, and that you cannot go on with what you never begin.



There are certain words, suggestive rather than descriptive, the value of which lies in their very vagueness and elasticity of interpretation, by which each mind can write its own commentary, each imagination sketch out its own illustration. And one of these is Womanliness; a word infinitely more subtle in meaning, with more possibilities of definition, more light and shade, more facets, more phases, than the corresponding word manliness. This indeed must necessarily be so, since the character of women is so much more varied in colour and more delicate in its many shades than that of men.

We call it womanliness when a lady of refinement and culture overcomes the natural shrinking of sense, and voluntarily enters into the circumstances of sickness and poverty, that she may help the suffering in their hour of need; when she can bravely go through some of the most shocking experiences of humanity for the sake of the higher law of charity; and we call it womanliness when she removes from herself every suspicion of grossness, coarseness, or ugliness, and makes her life as dainty as a picture, as lovely as 110 a poem. She is womanly when she asserts her own dignity; womanly when her highest pride is the sweetest humility, the tenderest self-suppression; womanly when she protects the weaker; womanly when she submits to the stronger. To bear in silence and to act with vigour; to come to the front on some occasions, to efface herself on others, are alike the characteristics of true womanliness; as is also the power to be at once practical and æsthetic, the careful worker-out of minute details and the upholder of a sublime idealism—the house-mistress dispensing bread and the priestess serving in the temple. In fact, it is a very Proteus of a word, and means many things by turns; but it never means anything but what is sweet, tender, gracious and beautiful. Yet, protean as it is in form, its substance has hitherto been considered simple enough, and its limits have been very exactly defined; and we used to think we knew to a shade what was womanly and what was unwomanly—where, for instance, the nobleness of dignity ended and the hardness of self-assertion began; while no one could mistake the heroic sacrifice of self for the indifference to pain and the grossness belonging to a coarse nature:—which last is as essentially unwomanly as the first is one of the finest manifestations of true womanliness. But if this exactness of interpretation belonged to past times, the utmost confusion prevails at present; and one of the points on which society is now at issue in all directions is just this very question—What is essentially unwomanly? and, what are 111 the only rightful functions of true womanliness? Men and tradition say one thing, certain women say another thing; and if what these women say is to become the rule, society will have to be reconstructed ab initio, and a new order of human life must begin. We have no objection to this, provided the new order is better than the old, and the modern phase of womanhood more beautiful, more useful to the community at large, more elevating to general morality than was the ancient. But the whole matter hangs on this proviso; and until it can be shown for certain that the latter phase is to be undeniably the better we will hold by the former.

There are certain old—superstitions must we call them?—in our ideas of women, with which we should be loth to part. For instance, the infinite importance of a mother's influence over her children, and the joy that she herself took in their companionship—the pleasure that it was to her to hold a baby in her arms—her delight and maternal pride in the beauty, the innocence, the quaint ways, the odd remarks, the half-embarrassing questions, the first faint dawnings of reason and individuality, of the little creatures to whom she had given life and who were part of her very being—that pleasure and maternal pride were among the characteristics we used to ascribe to womanliness; as was also the mother's power of forgetting herself for her children, of merging herself in them as they grew older, and finding her own best happiness in theirs. But 112 among the advanced women who despise the tame teachings of what was once meant by womanliness, maternity is considered a bore rather than a blessing; the children are shunted to the side when they come; and ignorant undisciplined nurses are supposed to do well for wages what mothers will not do for love.

Also we held it as womanliness when women resolutely refused to admit into their presence, to discuss or hear discussed before them, impure subjects, or even doubtful ones; when they kept the standard of delicacy, of purity, of modesty, at a high level, and made men respect, even if they could not imitate. Now the running between them and men whose delicacy has been rubbed off long ago by the intimate contact of coarse life is very close; and some of them go even beyond those men whose lives have been of a quiet and unexperimental kind. Nothing indeed, is so startling to a man who has not lived in personal and social familiarity with certain subjects, and who has retained the old chivalrous superstitions about the modesty and innocent ignorance of women, as the easy, unembarrassed coolness with which his fair neighbour at a dinner-table will dash off into thorny paths, managing between the soup and the grapes to run through the whole gamut of improper subjects.

It was also an old notion that rest and quiet and peace were natural characteristics of womanliness; and that life had been not unfairly apportioned between the sexes, each having its own distinctive duties as well as virtues, its own burdens as well as 113 its own pleasures. Man was to go out and do battle with many enemies; he was to fight with many powers; to struggle for place, for existence, for natural rights; to give and take hard blows; to lose perhaps this good impulse or that noble quality in the fray—the battle-field of life not being that wherein the highest virtues take root and grow. But he had always a home where was one whose sweeter nature brought him back to his better self; a place whence the din of battle was shut out; where he had time for rest and spiritual reparation; where a woman's love and gentleness and tender thought and unselfish care helped and refreshed him, and made him feel that the prize was worth the struggle, that the home was worth the fight to keep it. And surely it was not asking too much of women that they should be beautiful and tender to the men whose whole life out of doors was one of work for them—of vigorous toil that they might be kept in safety and luxury. But to the advanced woman it seems so; consequently the home as a place of rest for the man is becoming daily more rare. Soon, it seems to us, there will be no such thing as the old-fashioned home left in England. Women are swarming out at all doors; running hither and thither among the men; clamouring for arms that they may enter into the fray with them; anxious to lay aside their tenderness, their modesty, their womanliness, that they may become hard and fierce and self-asserting like them; thinking it a far 114 higher thing to leave the home and the family to take care of themselves, or under the care of some incompetent hireling, while they enter on the manly professions and make themselves the rivals of their husbands and brothers.

Once it was considered an essential of womanliness that a woman should be a good house-mistress, a judicious dispenser of the income, a careful guide to her servants, a clever manager generally. Now practical housekeeping is a degradation; and the free soul which disdains the details of housekeeping yearns for the intellectual employment of an actuary, of a law clerk, of a banker's clerk. Making pills is held to be a nobler employment than making puddings; while, to distinguish between the merits of Egyptians and Mexicans, the Turkish loan and the Spanish, is considered a greater exercise of mind than to know fresh salmon from stale and how to lay in household stores with judgment. But the last is just as important as the first, and even more so; for the occasional pill, however valuable, is not so valuable as the daily pudding, and not all the accumulations made by lucky speculation are of any use if the house-bag which holds them has a hole in it.

Once women thought it no ill compliment that they should be considered the depositaries of the highest moral sentiments. If they were not held the wiser nor the more logical of the two sections of the human race, they were held the more religious, 115 the more angelic, the better taught of God, and the nearer to the way of grace. Now they repudiate the assumption as an insult, and call that the sign of their humiliation which was once their distinguishing glory. They do not want to be patient, self-sacrifice is only a euphemism for slavish submission to manly tyranny; the quiet peace of home is miserable monotony; and though they have not come to the length of renouncing the Christian virtues theoretically, their theory makes but weak practice, and the womanliness integral to Christianity is by no means the rule of life of modern womanhood. But the oddest part of the present odd state of things is the curious blindness of women to what is most beautiful in themselves. Granting even that the world has turned so far upside down that the one sex does not care to please the other, still, there is a good of itself in beauty, which some of our modern women seem to overlook. And of all kinds of beauty that which is included in what we mean by womanliness is the greatest and the most beautiful.

A womanly woman has neither vanity nor hardness. She may be pretty—most likely she is—and she may know it; for, not being a fool, she cannot help seeing it when she looks at herself in the glass; but knowing the fact is not being conscious of the possession, and a pretty woman, if of the right ring, is not vain, though she prizes her beauty as she ought. And she is as little hard as vain. Her soul is not given up to ribbons, but neither is she indifferent to 116 externals, dress among them. She knows that part of her natural mission is to please and be charming, and she knows that dress sets her off, and that men feel more enthusiastically towards her when she is looking fresh and pretty than when she is a dowdy and a fright. And, being womanly, she likes the admiration of men, and thinks their love a better thing than their indifference. If she likes men she loves children, and never shunts them as nuisances, nor frets when forced to have them about her. She knows that she was designed by the needs of the race and the law of nature to be a mother; sent into the world for that purpose mainly; and she knows that rational maternity means more than simply giving life and then leaving it to others to preserve it. She has no newfangled notions about the animal character of motherhood, nor about the degrading character of housekeeping. On the contrary, she thinks a populous and happy nursery one of the greatest blessings of her state; and she puts her pride in the perfect ordering, the exquisite arrangements, the comfort, thoughtfulness and beauty of her house. She is not above her métier as a woman; and she does not want to ape the manliness she can never possess.

She has always been taught that, as there are certain manly virtues, so are there certain feminine ones; and that she is the most womanly among women who has those virtues in greatest abundance and in the highest perfection. She has taken it to 117 heart that patience, self-sacrifice, tenderness, quietness, with some others, of which modesty is one, are the virtues more especially feminine; just as courage, justice, fortitude, and the like, belong to men.

Passionate ambition, virile energy, the love of strong excitement, self-assertion, fierceness, an undisciplined temper, are all qualities which detract from her ideal of womanliness, and which make her less beautiful than she was meant to be. Consequently she has cultivated all the meek and tender affections, all the unselfishness and thought for others which have hitherto been the distinctive property of her sex, by the exercise of which they have done their best work and earned their highest place. She thinks it no degradation that she should take pains to please, to soothe, to comfort the man who, all day long, has been doing irksome work that her home may be beautiful and her life at ease. She does not think it incumbent on her, as a woman of spirit, to fly out at an impatient word; to answer back a momentary irritation with defiance; to give back a Roland to his Oliver. Her womanliness inclines her to loving forbearance, to patience under difficulties, to unwearied cheerfulness under such portion of the inevitable burden as may have been laid on her. She does not hold herself predestined by nature to receive only the best of everything, and deem herself affronted where her own especial cross is bound on her shoulders. Rather, she understands that she too must take the rough with the smooth; but that, as 118 her husband's way in life is rougher than hers, his trials are greater, his burden is heavier, it is her duty—and her privilege—to help him all she can with her tenderness and her love; and to give back to him at home, if in a different form, some of the care he has expended while abroad to make her path smooth.

In a word, the womanly woman whom we all once loved and in whom we have still a kind of traditional belief, is she who regards the wishes of men as of some weight in female action; who holds to love rather than opposition; to reverence, not defiance; who takes more pride in the husband's fame than in her own; who glories in the protection of his name, and in her state as wife; who feels the honour given to her as wife and matron far dearer than any she may earn herself by personal prowess; and who believes in her consecration as a helpmeet for man, not in a rivalry which a few generations will ripen into a coarse and bitter enmity.



A humane condescension to instinct has lately supplied ladies' lapdogs with an ingenious instrument of mock torture, in the shape of an india-rubber head which hops about the room on the smallest persuasion, and squeaks shrilly when caught and worried. The animal has thus the pleasure of mauling something which seems to suffer from the process; while in reality it hurts nothing, but expends its tormenting energy on a quite unfeeling creature, whose raison d'être it is to be worried and made to squeak. It would be well for some of us if those people who must have something to worry would be content with a creature analogous to the lapdog's india-rubber head. It would do just as well for them, and it would save us who feel a great deal of real pain. Tippoo Sahib was a wise man when he caused his automaton to be made, in which a tiger seemed to be tearing at the prostrate figure of a wooden European, and the group gave out mingled growls and groans at the turning of a handle in its side. It might have been a dismal fancy perhaps; but the fancy was better than the reality, and did quite as well for the 120 purpose, which was that the monarch should keep himself in good humour by the charm of something to worry.

There are few pains in life greater than the companionship of one of those ill-conditioned people who must have something to worry, and who are only happy with a grievance. No fortune, no fair possessions of love nor beauty, nor what one would think must be the sources of intense happiness, are spells to exorcise the worrying spirit—opiates to allay the worrying fever. If in the midst of all they have to make them blessed among the sons of men, there hops the squeaking ball, in an instant every good thing belonging to them is forgotten, and there is nothing in heaven and earth but that one obtruding grievance, that one intolerable annoyance. Nothing is too small for them to make into a gigantic evil and be offended at accordingly. They will not endure with patience the minutest, nor the most inevitable, of the crosses of life—things which every one has to bear alike; which no one can help; and concerning which the only wisdom is to meet them with cheerfulness, tiding over the bad time as quietly as possible till things take a turn. Not they. They know the luxury of having something to complain of; and they like to feel wronged. The wind is in the east and they are personally injured; the rain has come on a pleasure day, or has not come in a seed-sowing week, and they fret grimly and make every one about them uncomfortable, as if the weather 121 were a thing to be arranged at will, and a disappointing day were the result of wilful mismanagement. Life is a burden to them and all about them because the climate is uncertain and the elements are out of human control. They make themselves the most wretched of martyrs too, if they are in a country they do not like; and they never do like the country they are in. If down in a valley, they are suffocated; if in the plains or on a table-land, they hate monotony and long for undulations; if they are in a wooded district, they dread the damp and worry about the autumn exhalations; if on a moor, who can live without green hills and hedgerow birds? They are sorely exercised concerning clay and gravel; and they find as many differences in the London climate within a half-hour's walk as those who do not worry would find between St. Andrews and Mentone. But they are no nearer the right thing wherever they go; and the people belonging to them may as well bear the worry at Brompton as at Hampstead, in Cumberland as in Cornwall, and so save both trouble and expense.

These worrying folk never let a thing alone. If they have once found a victim they keep him; crueller in this than cats and tigers which play with their prey only for a time, but finally give the coup de grâce and devour it, bones and all. But worrying folk never have done with their prey, be it person or thing, and have an art of persistence—a way of establishing a raw—that drives their poor victims 122 into temporary insanity. This persistency indeed, and the total indifference to the maddening effect they produce, are the oddest parts of the performance. They begin again for the twentieth time, just where they left off; as fresh as if they had not done it all before, and as eager as if you did not know exactly what was coming. And it makes no kind of difference to them that their worrying has no effect, and that things go on exactly as before—exactly as they would have done had there been no fuss about them at all.

Granting however, that the old proverb about constant dropping and inevitable wearing is fulfilled, and that worrying accomplishes its end, it had better have been let alone; for no one was ever yet worried into compliance with an uncongenial or abandonment of a favourite habit, who did not make the worrier wish more than once that he had let matters remain where he had found them. Imbued with the unfortunate belief that all things and persons are to be ordered to their liking, the worriers think themselves justified in flying at the throat of everything they dislike, and in making their dislikes peculiar grievances. The natural inclination of boys to tear their clothes and begrime their hands, to climb up ladders at the peril of their necks, and to make themselves personally unpleasant to every sense, is a burden laid specially on them, if they chance to be the parents of vigorous and robust youth. The cares of their family are greater than the cares of any 123 other family; and no one understands what they go through, though every one is told pretty liberally. Hint at the sufferings of others, and they think you unfeeling and unsympathetic; try to cheer them, and you affront them; unless you would offend them for life, you must listen patiently to the repetition of their miseries continually twanged on one string, and feign the commiseration you cannot feel.

It is impossible for these people to go through life in amity with all men. They may be very good Christians theoretically; most likely they are; according to the law of compensation by which theory and practice so seldom go together; but the elementary doctrines of peace and goodwill are beyond their power of translation into deeds. They have always some one who is Mordecai to them; some one connected with them, whose habits, nature, whose very being is a decided offence, and whom therefore they worry without mercy. You never know these people to be without a grievance. It may be husband or brother, friend or servant, as it happens; but there is sure to be some one whose existence puts them out of tune, and on whom therefore they revenge the discord by continual worrying. Yet they would be miserable if their grievance were withdrawn, leaving them for the time without a victim. It would be only for a time indeed; for the exit of one would be the signal for the entrance of another. The millennium to these people would be intolerable dullness; and if they were translated into heaven itself, they 124 would of a certainty travesty the child's desire, and ask for a little devil to worry, if not to play with. Women are sad sinners in this way. Men who stay at home and potter about get like them, but women, who are naturally nervous, and whose lives are spent in small things, are generally more worrying than men; at least in daily life and at home. Indeed, the woman who is more cheerful and hopeful than easily depressed, and who does not worry any one, is the exception rather than the rule, and to be prized as one would prize any other rarity.

Children come in for a good deal of domestic worrying; and under pretence of good management and careful education are used as mamma's squeaking heads, which lie ever handy for a chase. Any one who has been in a family where the mother is of a naturally worrying temper, and where a child has a peculiarity, can appreciate to the full what the propensity is. With substantial love at heart, the mother leads the wretched little creature a life worse than that of the typical dog; and makes of its peculiarity, whatever that may be, a personal offence which she is justified in resenting and never leaving alone. And if it be so with her children, much more is it with her husband, for whom her tenderness is naturally less. Though concerning him she evidently does not know her own mind; for when she has worried into his grave the man who all his life was such a trial to her, such a cross, perhaps such a brute, she puts on widow's weeds of the 125 deepest hue, and worries her sons and daughters with her uncomfortable reaction in favour of 'poor papa,' whose virtues come to the front with a bound. Or may be she continues the old song in a different key, substituting compassion and a sublime forgiveness in place of her former annoyance, but harping all the same on the old strain and rasping the old sores.

Infelicitous at home, these worrying people are almost more than flesh and blood can bear as travelling companions abroad. Always sure that the train is going to start and leave them behind; that their landlord is a robber and in league with brigands; that they will be dashed down the precipice which tens of thousands have passed in safety before; worrying about the luggage; and where is that trunk? and are you sure you saw the portmanteau safe? and have you the keys? and the custom-house officers will find that bottle of eau-de-cologne and charge both fine and duty for it; and have you changed the money? and are you sure you have enough? and what are the fares? and you have been cheated; and what a bill for only one breakfast and one night!—and so on.

The person who undertakes a journey with constitutional worriers ought to have nerves of iron and a head of ice. They will leave nothing to the care of ordinary rule, let nothing go by faith. The luggage is always being lost, according to them; accidents are certain to happen half a dozen times a 126 day; and the beds are invariably damp. Their mosquito bites are worse than any other person's; and no one is plagued with small beasts as they are. They worry all through the journey, till you wish yourself dead twenty times at least before the month is out; and when they come home, they tell their friends they would have enjoyed themselves immensely had they been allowed, but they were so much annoyed and worried they lost half the pleasure of the trip. So it will be to the end of time. As children, fretful; as boys and girls, impatient and ill-tempered; as men and women, worrying, interfering, restless; as old people, peevish and exacting—they will die as they have lived; and the world about them will draw a deep breath of relief when the day of their departure comes, and will feel their atmosphere so much the lighter for their loss. Poor creatures! They are conscious of not being loved as they love, and as perhaps theoretically, they deserve to be loved; but it would be impossible, even by a surgical operation, to make them understand the reason why; and that it is their own habit of incessantly worrying which has chilled the hearts of their friends, and made them such a burden to others that their removal is a release and their absence the promise of a life of peace.



Marriage, which most girls consider the sole aim of their existence and the end of all their anxieties, is often the beginning of a set of troubles which none among them expect, and which, when they come, very few accept with the dignity of patience or the reasonableness of common sense. Hitherto the man has been the suitor, the wooer. It has been his métier to make love; to utter extravagant professions; to talk poetry and romance of an eminently unwearable kind; and to swear that feelings, which by the very nature of things it is impossible to maintain at their present state of fever heat, will be as lasting as life itself and never know subsidence nor diminution. And girls believe all that their lovers tell them. They believe in the absorption of the man's whole life in the love which at the most cannot be more than a part of his life; they believe that things will go on for ever as they have begun, and that the fire and fervour of passion will never cool down to the more manageable warmth of friendship. And in this belief of theirs lies the rock on which not a few make such pitiful shipwreck of their married happiness. 128 They expect their husbands to remain always lovers. Not lovers only in the best sense, which of course all happy husbands are to the end of time, but lovers as in the old fond, foolish, courting days. They expect a continuance of the romance, the poetry, the exaggeration, the petits soins, the microscopic attentions, the absorption of thought and interest, the centralization of his happiness in her society, just as in the days when she was still to be won, or, a little later, when, being won, she was new in the wearing. And as we said before, a wife's first trial, and her greatest, is when her husband begins to leave off this kind of fervid love-making and settles down into the tranquil friend.

As with children so is it in the nature of most women to require continual assurances. Very few believe in a love which is not frequently expressed; while the ability to trust in the vital warmth of an affection that has lost its early feverishness is the mark of a higher wisdom than most of them possess. To make them thoroughly happy a man must be always at their feet; and they are jealous of everything—even of his work—that takes him away from them, or gives him occasion for thought and interest outside themselves. They are rarely able to rise to the height of married friendship; and if they belong to a reticent and quiet-going man—a man who says 'I love you' once for all, and then contents himself with living a life of loyalty and kindness and not talking about 129 it—they fret at what they call his coldness, and feel themselves shorn of half their glory and more than half their dues. They refuse to believe in that which is not daily repeated. They want the incense of flattery, the excitement of love-making; and if these desires are not ministered to by their husbands, the danger is that they will get some one else to 'understand' them and feed the sentimentality which dies of inanition in the quiet serenity of home. Moonlights; a bouquet of the earliest flowers carefully arranged and tenderly presented; the changing lights on the mountain tops; the exquisite song of the nightingale at two o'clock in the morning; all the rest of those vague and suggestive delights which once made the meeting-places of souls, and furnished occasion for delicious ravings, become by time and use and the wearing realities of business and the crowding pressure of anxieties, puerile and annoying to the ordinary Englishman, who is not a poet by nature. When all the world was young by reason of his own youth, and the fever of the love-making time was on him, he was quite as romantic as his wife. But now he is sobering down; life is fast becoming a very prosaic thing to him; work is taking the place of pleasure, ambition of romance; he pooh-poohs her fond remembrances of bygone follies, and prefers his pipe in the warm library to a station by the open window, watching the sunset because it looks as it did on that evening, and shivering with incipient catarrh. 130 All this is very dreadful to her; women, unfortunately for themselves, remaining young and keeping hold much longer than do men.

The first defection of this kind is a pang the young wife never forgets. But she has many more and yet more bitter ones, when the defection takes a personal shape, and some pretty little attention is carelessly received without its due reward of loving thanks. Perhaps some usual form of caress is omitted in the hurry of the morning's work; or some gloomy anticipation of professional trouble makes him oblivious of her presence; or, fretted by her importunate attentions, he buries himself in a book, more to escape being spoken to than for the book's own merits.

Many a woman has gone into her own room and had a 'good cry' because her husband called her by her baptismal name, and not by some absurd nickname invented in the days of their folly; or because, pressed for time, he hurried out of the house without going through the established formula of leave-taking. The lover has merged in the husband; security has taken the place of wooing; and the woman does not take kindly to the transformation. Sometimes she plays a dangerous game, and tries what flirting with other men will do. If her scheme does not answer, and her husband is not made jealous, she is revolted, and holds herself that hardly-used being, a neglected wife. She cannot accept as a compliment the quiet trust which certain cool-headed men of a loyal kind 131 place in their wives; and her husband's tolerance of her flirting manner—which he takes to be manner only, with no evil in it, and with which, though he may not especially like it, he does not interfere—seems to her indifference rather than tolerance. Yet the confidence implied in this forbearance is in point of fact a compliment worth all the pretty nothings ever invented; though this hearty faith is just the thing which annoys her, and which she stigmatizes as neglect. If she were to go far enough she would find out her mistake. But by that time she would have gone too far to profit by her experience.

Nothing is more annoying than that display of affection which some husbands and wives show to each other in society. That familiarity of touch, those half-concealed caresses, those absurd names, that prodigality of endearing epithets, that devoted attention which they flaunt in the face of the public as a kind of challenge to the world at large to come and admire their happiness, is always noticed and laughed at; and sometimes more than laughed at. Yet to some women this parade of love is the very essence of married happiness and part of their dearest privileges. They believe themselves admired and envied when they are ridiculed and scoffed at; and they think their husbands are models for other men to copy when they are taken as examples for all to avoid.

Men who have any real manliness however, do not give in to this kind of thing; though there are 132 some, as effeminate and gushing as women themselves, who like this sloppy effusiveness of love and carry it on into quite old age, fondling the ancient grandmother with grey hair as lavishly as they had fondled the youthful bride, and seeing no want of harmony in calling a withered old dame of sixty and upwards by the pet names by which they had called her when she was a slip of a girl of eighteen. The continuance of love from youth to old age is very lovely, very cheering; but even 'John Anderson my Jo' would lose its pathos if Mrs. Anderson had ignored the difference between the raven locks and the snowy brow.

All that excess of flattering and petting of which women are so fond becomes a bore to a man if required as part of the daily habit of life. Out in the world as he is, harassed by anxieties of which she knows nothing, home is emphatically his place of rest—where his wife is his friend who knows his mind; where he may be himself without the fear of offending, and relax the strain that must be kept up out of doors; where he may feel himself safe, understood, at ease. And some women, and these by no means the coldest nor the least loving, are wise enough to understand this need of rest in the man's harder life, and, accepting the quiet of security as part of the conditions of marriage, content themselves with the undemonstrative love into which the fever of passion has subsided. Others fret over it, and make themselves and their husbands wretched because they 133 cannot believe in that which is not for ever paraded before their eyes.

Yet what kind of home is it for the man when he has to walk as if on egg-shells, every moment afraid of wounding the susceptibilities of a woman who will take nothing on trust, and who has to be continually assured that he still loves her, before she will believe that to-day is as yesterday? Of one thing she may be certain; no wife who understands what is the best kind of marriage demands these continual attentions, which, voluntary offerings of the lover, become enforced tribute from the husband. She knows that as a wife, whom it is not necessary to court nor flatter, she has a nobler place than that which is expressed by the attentions paid to a mistress.

Wifehood, like all assured conditions, does not need to be buttressed up; but a less certain position must be supported from the outside, and an insecure self-respect, an uncertain holding, must be perpetually strengthened and reassured. Women who cannot live happily without being made love to are more like mistresses than wives, and come but badly off in the great struggles of life and the cruel handling of time. Placing all their happiness in things which cannot continue, they let slip that which lies in their hands; and in their desire to retain the romantic position of lovers lose the sweet security of wives. Perhaps, if they had higher aims in life than those with which they make shift to satisfy themselves, they would not let themselves sink to the level of 134 this folly, and would understand better than they do now the worth of realities as contrasted with appearances. And yet we cannot but pity the poor, weak, craving souls who long so pitifully for the freshness of the morning to continue far into the day and evening—who cling so tenaciously to the fleeting romance of youth. They are taken by the glitter of things—love-making among the rest; and the man who is showiest in his affection, who can express it with most colour, and paint it, so to speak, with the minutest touches, is the man whose love seems to them the most trustworthy and the most intense. They make the mistake of confounding this show with the substance, of trusting to pictorial expression rather than to solid facts. And they make that other mistake of cloying their husbands with half-childish caresses which were all very well in the early days, but which become tiresome as time goes on and the gravity of life deepens. And then, when the man either quietly keeps them off or more brusquely repels them, they are hurt and miserable, and think the whole happiness of their lives is dead, and all that makes marriage beautiful at an end.

What is to be done to balance things evenly in this unequal world of sex? What indeed, is to be done at any time to reconcile strength with weakness, and to give each its due? One thing at least is sure. The more thoroughly women learn the true nature of men, the fewer mistakes they will make and the less unhappiness they will create for themselves; and the 135 more patient men are with the hysterical excitability, the restless craving, which nature, for some purpose at present unknown, has made the special temperament of women, the fewer femmes incomprises there will be in married homes and the larger the chance of married happiness. All one's theories of domestic life come down at last to the give-and-take system, to bearing and forbearing, and meeting half way idiosyncrasies which one does not personally share.



As there are wandering tribes which neither build houses nor pitch their tents in one place, so there are certain social nomads who never seem to have a home of their own, and who do not make one for themselves by remaining long in any other person's. They are always moving about and are to be met everywhere; at all sea-side places; at all show places; in Switzerland, France, Italy and Germany; where they live chiefly in pensions at moderate charges, or in meagre lodgings affiliated to a populous table d'hôte much frequented by the English. For one characteristic of social nomads is the strange way in which they congregate together, expatiating on the delights of life abroad, while seeing nothing but the outside of things from the centre of a dense Britannic circle.

Another characteristic is their chronic state of impecuniosity, and the desire of looking like the best on a fixed income of slender dimensions. Hence they are obliged to organize their expenditure on a very narrow basis, and therefore live in boarding-houses, pensions, or wherever good-sized rooms, a sufficient table, and a constant current of society are 137 to be had at small individual cost. As they are people who travel much, they can speak two or three languages, but only as those who have learnt by ear and not by book. They know nothing of foreign literature, and but little of their own, save novels and the class which goes by the name of 'light.' Indeed all the reading they accomplish is confined to newspapers, magazines and novels. But at home, and among those who have not been to Berlin, who have never seen Venice, and to whom Paris is a dream still to be realized, they assume an intimate acquaintance with both the literature and the politics of the Continent—especially the politics—and laugh at the English press for its blindness and onesidedness. They happen to know beyond all doubt how this Correspondent was bought over with so much money down; how that one is in the toils of such or such a Minister's wife; why a third got his appointment; how a fourth keeps his; and they could, if they chose, give you chapter and verse for all they say.

If they chance to have been in India some twenty or thirty years ago, they will tell you why the Mutiny took place, and how the change of Government works; and they can put their fingers on all the sore places of the Empire, beginning with the distribution of patronage and ending with the deficiency of revenue, as aptly as if they were on the spot and had the confidence of the ruling officials. But in spite of these little foibles they are amusing 138 companions as a rule, if shallow and radically ill-informed; and as it is for their own interest to be good company, they have cultivated the art of conversation to the highest pitch of which they are capable, and can entertain if not instruct. When they aim at instruction indeed, they are pretty sure to miss the mark; and the social nomad who lays down the law on foreign statesmen and politics, and who speaks from personal knowledge, is just the one authority not to be accepted.

Always living in public, yet having to fight, each for his own hand, the manners of social nomads in pensions are generally a strange mixture of suavity and selfishness; and the small intrigues and crafty stratagems going on among them for the possession of the favourite seat in the drawing-room, the special attention of the head-waiter at table, the earliest attendance of the housemaid in the morning, is in strange contrast with the ready smiles, the personal flatteries, the affectation of sympathetic interest kept for show. But every social nomad knows how to appraise this show at its just value, and can weigh it in the balance to a grain. He does not much prize it; for he knows one characteristic of these communities to be that everybody speaks against everybody else, and that all concur in speaking against the management.

Still, life seems to go easily enough among them. They are all well-dressed and for the most part have their tempers under control. Some of the women 139 play well, and some sing prettily. There are always to be found a sufficient number of the middle-aged of either sex to make up a whist-table, where the game is sound and sometimes brilliant; and there are sure to be men who play billiards creditably and with a crisp, clean stroke worth looking at. And there are very often lively women who make amusement for the rest. But these are smartly handled behind backs, though they are petted in public and undeniably useful to the society at large.

The nomadic widow is by some odd fatality generally the widow of an officer, naval or military, to whose rank she attaches an almost superstitious value, thinking that when she can announce herself as the relict of a major or an admiral she has given an unanswerable guarantee and smoothed away all difficulties. She may have many daughters, but more probably she has only one;—for where olive-branches abound nomadism is more expensive than housekeeping, and to live in one's own house is less costly than to live in a boarding-house. But of this one daughter the nomadic widow makes much to the community; and especially calls attention to her simplicity and absolute ignorance of the evils so familiar to the girls of the present day. And she looks as if she expects to be believed. Perhaps credence is difficult; the young lady in question having been for some years considerably in public, where she has learnt to take care of herself with a skill which, how much soever it may be deserving of 140 praise, can scarcely claim to be called ingenuous. She has need of this skill; for, apparently, she and her mother have no male relations belonging to them, and if flirtations are common with the nomadic tribe, marriages are rare. Poor souls; one cannot but pity them for all their labour in vain, all their abortive hopes. For though there is more society in the mode of life they have chosen than they would have had if they had lived quietly down in the village where they were known and respected, and where, who knows? the fairy prince might one day have alighted—there are very few chances; and marriages among 'the inmates' are as rare as winter swallows.

The men who live in these places, whether as nomadic or permanent guests, never have money enough to marry on; and the flirtations always budding and blossoming by the piano or about the billiard-table never by any chance fructify in marriage. But in spite of their infertile experience you see the same mother and the same daughter year after year, season after season, returning to the charge with renewed vigour, and a hope which is the one indestructible thing about them. Let us deal tenderly with them, poor impecunious nomads; drifting like so much sea-wrack along the restless current of life; and wish them some safe resting-place before it is too late.

A lady nomad of this kind, especially one with a daughter, is strictly orthodox and cultivates with 141 praiseworthy perseverance the society of any clergyman who may have wandered into the community of which she is a member. She is punctual in church-going; and the minister is flattered by her evident appreciation of his sermons, and the readiness with which she can remember certain points of last Sunday's discourse. As a rule she is Evangelically inclined, and is as intolerant of Romanism on the one hand as of Rationalism on the other. She has seen the evils of both, she says, and quotes the state of Rome and of Heidelberg in confirmation. She is as strict in morals as in orthodoxy, and no woman who has got herself talked about, however innocently, need hope for much mercy at her hands. Her Rhadamanthine faculty has apparently ample occasion for exercise, for her list of scandalous chronicles is extensive; and if she is to be believed, she and her daughter are almost the sole examples of a pure and untainted womanhood afloat. She is as rigid too, in all matters connected with her social status; and brings up her daughter in the same way of thinking. By virtue of the admiral or the major, at peace in his grave, they are emphatically ladies; and, though nomadic, impecunious, homeless, and tant soit peu adventuresses, they class themselves as of the cream of the cream, and despise those whose rank is of the uncovenanted kind, and who are gentry, may be, by the grace of God only without any Act of Parliament to help.

Sometimes the lady nomad is a spinster, not 142 necessarily passée, though obviously she cannot be in her first youth; still she may be young enough to be attractive, and adventurous enough to care to attract. Women of this kind, unmarried, nomadic and still young, work themselves into every movement afoot. They even face the perils and discomforts of war-time, and tell their friends at home that they are going out as nurses to the wounded. That dash of the adventuress, of which we have spoken before, runs through all this section of the social nomads; and one wonders why some uncle or cousin, some aunt or family friend, does not catch them up in time.

If not attractive nor passably young, these nomadic spinsters are sure to be exceedingly odd. Constant friction with society in its most selfish form, the absence of home-duties, the want of the sweetness and sincerity of home love, and the habit of change, bring out all that is worst in them and kill all that is best. They have nothing to hope for from society and less to lose; it is wearisome to look amiable and sweet-tempered when you feel bitter and disappointed; and politeness is a farce where the fact of the day is a fight. So the nomadic spinster who has lived so long in this rootless way that she has ceased even to make such fleeting friendships as the mode of life affords—has ceased even to wear the transparent mark of such thin politeness as is required—becomes a 'character' notorious in proportion to her candour. She never stays long in one 143 establishment, and generally leaves abruptly because of a misunderstanding with some other lady, or maybe because some gentleman has unwittingly affronted her. She and the officer's widow are always on peculiarly unfriendly terms, for she resents the pretensions of the officer's daughter, and calls her a bold minx or a sly puss almost within hearing; while she throws grave doubts on the widow herself, and drops hints which the rest of the community gather up like manna, and keep by them, to much the same result as that of the wilderness. But the nomadic spinster soon wanders away to another temporary resting-place; and before half her life is done she becomes as well known to the heads of the various establishments in her line as the taxgatherer himself, and dreaded almost as much.

Nomads are generally remarkable for not leaving tracks behind them. You see them here and there, and they are sure to turn up at Baden-Baden or at Vichy, at Scarborough or at Dieppe, when you least expect them; but you know nothing about them in the interim. They are like those birds which hybernate at some place of retreat no one yet ever found; or like those which migrate, who can tell where? They come and they go. You meet and part and meet again in all manner of unlikely places; and it seems to you that they have been over half the world since you last met, you meanwhile having settled quietly to your work, save for your summer holiday which you are now taking, and which you are enjoying 144 as the nomad cannot enjoy any change that falls to his lot. He is sated with change; wearied of novelty; yet unable to fix himself, however much he may wish it. He has got into the habit of change; and the habit clings even when the desire has gone. Always hoping to be at rest, always intending to settle as years flow on, he never finds the exact place to suit him; only when he feels the end approaching, and by reason of old age and infirmity is a nuisance in the community where formerly he was an acquisition, and where too all that once gave him pleasure has now become an insupportable burden and weariness—only then does he creep away into some obscure and lonely lodging, where he drags out his remaining days alone, and dies without the touch of one loved hand to smooth his pillow, without the sound of one dear voice to whisper to him courage, farewell, and hope. The home he did not plant when he might is impossible to him now, and there is no love that endures if there is no home in which to keep it. And so all the class of social nomads find when dark days are on them, and society, which cares only to be amused, deserts them in their hour of greatest need.



Nothing is more distinctive among women than the difference of relative age to be found between them. Two women of the same number of years will be substantially of different epochs of life—the one faded in person, wearied in mind, fossilized in sympathy; the other fresh both in face and feeling, with sympathies as broad and keen as they were when she was in her first youth; with a brain still as receptive, as quick to learn, a temper still as easy to be amused, as ready to love, as when she emerged from the school-room to the drawing-room. The one you suspect of understating her age by half-a-dozen years or more when she tells you she is not over forty; the other makes you wonder if she has not overstated hers by just so much when she laughingly confesses to the same age. The one is an old woman who seems as if she had never been young, the other 'just a great girl yet,' who seems as if she would never grow old; and nothing is equal between them but the number of days each has lived.

This kind of woman, so fresh and active, so intellectually as well as emotionally alive, is never anything 146 but a girl; never loses some of the sweetest characteristics of girlhood. You see her first as a young wife and mother, and you imagine she has left the school-room for about as many months as she has been married years. Her face has none of that untranslatable expression, that look of robbed bloom, which experience gives; in her manner is none of the preoccupation so observable in most young mothers, whose attention never seems wholly given to the thing on hand, and whose hearts seem always full of a secret care or an unimparted joy. Brisk and airy, braving all weathers, ready for any amusement, interested in the current questions of history and society, by some wonderful faculty of organizing seeming to have all her time to herself as if she had no house cares and no nursery duties, yet these somehow not neglected, she is the very ideal of a happy girl roving through life as through a daisy field, on whom sorrow has not yet laid its hand and to whose lot has fallen no Dead Sea apple. And when one hears her name and style for the first time as a matron, and sees her with two or three sturdy little fellows hanging about her slender neck and calling her mamma, one feels as if nature had somehow made a mistake, and that our slim and simple-mannered damsel had only made-believe to have taken up the serious burdens of life, and was nothing but a great girl after all.

Grown older she is still the great girl she was ten years ago, if her type of girlishness is a little changed and her gaiety of manner a little less persistent. But 147 even now, with a big boy at Eton and a daughter whose presentation is not so far off, she is younger than her staid and melancholy sister, her junior by many years, who has gone in for the Immensities and the Worship of Sorrow, who thinks laughter the sign of a vacant mind, and that to be interesting and picturesque a woman must have unserviceable nerves and a defective digestion. Her sister looks as if all that makes life worth living for lies behind her, and only the grave is beyond; she, the great girl, with her bright face and even temper, believes that her future will be as joyous as her present, as innocent as her past, as full of love and as purely happy. She has known some sorrows truly, and she has gained such experience as comes only through the rending of the heart-strings; but nothing that she has passed through has seared nor soured her, and if it has taken off just the lighter edge of her girlishness it has left the core as bright and cheery as ever.

In person she is generally of the style called 'elegant' and wonderfully young in mere physical appearance. Perhaps sharp eyes might spy out here and there a little silver thread among the soft brown hair; and when fatigued or set in a cross light, lines not quite belonging to the teens may be traced about her eyes and mouth; but in favourable conditions, with her graceful figure advantageously draped and her fair face flushed and animated, she looks just a great girl, no more; and she feels as she looks. It is well for her if her husband is a wise man, and more 148 proud of her than he is jealous; for he must submit to see her admired by all the men who know her, according to their individual manner of expressing admiration. But as purity of nature and singleness of heart belong to her qualification for great girlishness, he has no cause for alarm, and she is as safe with Don Juan as with St. Anthony.

These great girls, as middle-aged matrons, are often seen in the country; and one of the things which most strikes a Londoner is the abiding youthfulness of this kind of matron. She has a large family, the elders of which are grown up, but she has lost none of the beauty for which her youth was noted, though it is now a different kind of beauty from what it was then; and she has still the air and manners of a girl. She blushes easily, is shy, and sometimes apt to be a little awkward, though always sweet and gentle; she knows very little of real life and less of its vices; she is pitiful to sorrow, affectionate to her friends who are few in number, and strongly attached to her own family; she has no theological doubts, no scientific proclivities, and the conditions of society and the family do not perplex her. She thinks Darwinism and protoplasm dangerous innovations; and the doctrine of Free Love with Mrs. Cady Staunton's development is something too shocking for her to talk about. She lifts her calm clear eyes in wonder at the wild proceedings of the shrieking sisterhood, and cannot for the life of her make out what all this tumult means, and what the 149 women want. For herself, she has no doubts whatever, no moral uncertainties. The path of duty is as plain to her as are the words of the Bible, and she loves her husband too well to wish to be his rival or to desire an individualized existence outside his. She is his wife, she says; and that seems more satisfactory to her than to be herself a Somebody in the full light of notoriety, with him in the shade as her appendage.

If inclined to be intolerant to any one, it is to those who seek to disturb the existing state of things, or whose speculations unsettle men's minds; those who, as she thinks, entangle the sense of that which is clear and straightforward enough if they would but leave it alone, and who, by their love of iconoclasm, run the risk of destroying more than idols. But she is intolerant only because she believes that when men put forth false doctrines they put them forth for a bad purpose, and to do intentional mischief. Had she not this simple faith, which no philosophic questionings have either enlarged or disturbed, she would not be the great girl she is; and what she would have gained in catholicity she would have lost in freshness. For herself, she has no self-asserting power, and would shrink from any kind of public action; but she likes to visit the poor, and is sedulous in the matter of tracts and flannel-petticoats, vexing the souls of the sterner, if wiser, guardians and magistrates by her generosity which they affirm only encourages idleness and creates pauperism. She cannot see it in that light. Charity is one of the cardinal virtues of 150 Christianity; accordingly, charitable she will be, in spite of all that political economists may say.

She belongs to her family, they do not belong to her; and you seldom hear her say 'I went' or 'I did.' It is always 'we;' which, though a small point, is a significant one, showing how little she holds to anything like an isolated individuality, and how entirely she feels a woman's life to belong to and be bound up in her home relations. She is romantic too, and has her dreams and memories of early days; when her eyes grow moist as she looks at her husband—the first and only man she ever loved—and the past seems to be only part of the present. The experience which she must needs have had has served only to make her more gentle, more pitiful, than the ordinary girl, who is naturally inclined to be a little hard; and of all her household she is the kindest and the most intrinsically sympathetic. She keeps up her youth for the children's sake she says; and they love her more like an elder sister than the traditional mother. They never think of her as old, for she is their constant companion and can do all that they do. She is fond of exercise; is a good walker; an active climber; a bold horsewoman; a great promoter of picnics and open-air amusements. She looks almost as young as her eldest daughter differentiated by a cap and covered shoulders; and her sons have a certain playfulness in their love for her which makes them more her brothers than her sons. Some of them are elderly men before she has ceased to be a great girl; for she keeps her 151 youth to the last by virtue of a clear conscience, a pure mind and a loving nature. She is wise in her generation and takes care of her health by means of active habits, fresh air, cold water and a sparing use of medicines and stimulants; and if the dear soul is proud of anything it is of her figure, which she keeps trim and elastic to the last, and of the clearness of her complexion, which no heated rooms have soddened, no accustomed strong waters have clouded nor bloated.

Then there are great girls of another kind—women who, losing the sweetness of youth, do not get in its stead the dignity of maturity; who are fretful, impatient, undisciplined, knowing no more of themselves nor human nature than they did when they were nineteen, yet retaining nothing of that innocent simplicity, that single-hearted freshness and joyousness of nature which one does not wish to see disturbed even for the sake of a deeper knowledge. These are the women who will not get old and who consequently do not keep young; who, when they are fifty, dress themselves in gauze and rosebuds, and think to conceal their years by a judicious use of many paint-pots and the liberality of the hairdresser; who are jealous of their daughters, whom they keep back as much and as long as they can, and terribly aggrieved at their irrepressible six feet of sonship; women who have a trick of putting up their fans before their faces as if they were blushing; who give you the impression of flounces and ringlets, 152 and who flirt by means of much laughter and a long-sustained giggle; who talk incessantly, yet have said nothing to the purpose when they have done; and who simper and confess they are not strong-minded but only 'awfully silly little things,' when you try to lead the conversation into anything graver than fashion and flirting. They are women who never learn repose of mind nor dignity of manner; who never lose their taste for mindless amusements, and never acquire one for nature nor for quiet happiness; and who like to have lovers always hanging about them—men for the most part younger than themselves, whom they call naughty boys and tap playfully by way of rebuke. They are women unable to give young girls good advice on prudence or conduct; mothers who know nothing of children; mistresses ignorant of the alphabet of housekeeping; wives whose husbands are merely the bankers, and most probably the bugbears, of the establishment; women who think it horrible to get old and to whom, when you talk of spiritual peace or intellectual pleasures, you are as unintelligible as if you were discoursing in the Hebrew tongue. As a class they are wonderfully inept; and their hands are practically useless, save as ring-stands and glove-stretchers. For they can do nothing with them, not even frivolous fancy-work. They read only novels; and one of the marvels of their existence is what they do with themselves in those hours when they are not dressing, flirting, nor paying visits.

153 If they are of a querulous and nervous type, their children fly from them to the furthest corners of the house; if they are molluscous and good-natured, they let themselves be manipulated up to a certain point, but always on the understanding that they are only a few years older than their daughters; almost all these women, by some fatality peculiar to themselves, having married when they were about ten years old, and having given birth to progeny with the uncomfortable property of looking at the least half a dozen years older than they are. This accounts for the phenomenon of a girlish matron of this kind, dressed to represent first youth, with a sturdy black-browed débutante by her side, looking, you would swear to it, of full majority if a day. Her only chance is to get that black-browed tell-tale married out of hand; and this is the reason why so many daughters of great girls of this type make such notoriously early—and bad—matches; and why, when once married, they are never seen in society again.

Grandmaternity and girlishness scarcely fit in well together, and rosebuds are a little out of place when a nursery of the second degree is established. There are scores of women fluttering through society at this moment whose elder daughters have been socially burked by the friendly agency of a marriage almost as soon as, or even before, they were introduced, and who are therefore, no longer witnesses against the hairdresser and the paint-pots; and 154 there are scores of these same marriageable daughters eating out their hearts and spoiling their pretty faces in the school-room a couple of years beyond their time, that mamma may still believe the world takes her to be under thirty yet—and young at that.



The typical mother-in-law is, as we all know, fair game for every one's satire; and according to the odd notions which prevail on certain points, a man is assumed to show his love for his wife by systematic disrespect to her mother, and to think that her new affections will be knit all the closer the more loosely he can induce her to hold her old ones. The mother-in-law, according to this view of things, has every fault. She interferes, and always at the wrong time and on the wrong side; she makes a tiff into a quarrel and widens a coolness into a breach; she is self-opinionated and does not go with the times; she treats her daughter like a child and her son-in-law like an appendage; she spoils the elder children and feeds the baby with injudicious generosity; she spends too much on her dress, wears too many rings, trumps her partner's best card and does not attend to the 'call;'—and she is fat. But even the well abused mother-in-law—the portly old dowager who has had her day and is no longer pleasing in the eyes of men—even she has her wrongs like most of us; and if she sometimes asserts her rights more aggressively than patiently, she has to put up with many 156 disagreeable rubs for her own part; and female tempers over fifty are not notorious for humility.

Take the case of a widow with means, whose family is settled. Not a daughter to chaperone, not a son to marry; all are so far happily off her hands, and she is left alone. But what does her loneliness mean? In the first place, while her grief for her husband is yet new—and we will assume that she does grieve for him—she has to turn out of the house where she has been queen and mistress for the best years of her life; to abdicate state and style in favour of her son and her son's wife whom she is sure not to like; and, however good her jointure may be, she must necessarily find her new home one of second-rate importance. Perhaps however, the family objects to her having a home of her own. Dear mamma must give up housekeeping and divide her time among them all; but specially among her daughters, being more likely to get on well with their husbands than with her sons' wives.

Dear mamma has means, be it remembered. Perhaps she is a good natured soul, a trifle weak and vain in proportion; who knows what evil-disposed person may not get influence over her and exercise it to the detriment of all concerned? She has the power of making her will, and, granting that she is proof against the fascinations of some fortune-hunting scamp twenty years at the least her junior—may be forty, who knows? do not men continually marry their grandmothers if they are well paid for 157 it?—and though every daughter's mamma is of course normally superior to weakness of this kind, yet accidents will happen where least expected. And even if there is no possible fear of the fascinating scamp on the look-out for a widow with a jointure, there are artful companions and intriguing maids who worm themselves into confidence and ultimate power; sly professors of faiths dependent on filthy lucre for their proof of divinity; and on the whole, all things considered, dear mamma's purse and person are safest in the custody of her children. So the poor lady, who was once the head of a place, gives up all title to a home of her own, and spends her time among her married daughters, in whose houses she is neither guest nor mistress. She is only mamma; one of the family without a voice in the family arrangements; a member of a community without a recognized status; shunted; set aside; and yet with dangers of the most delicate kind besetting her path in all directions. Nothing can be much more unsatisfactory than such a position; and none much more difficult to steer through, without renouncing the natural right of self-assertion on the one hand, or certainly rasping the exaggerated susceptibilities of touchy people on the other.

In general the shunted dowager has as little indirect influence as direct power; and her opinion is never asked nor desired as a matter of graceful acknowledgment of her maturer judgment. If she is appealed to, it is in some family dispute between her 158 son and daughter, where her partizanship is sought only as a makeweight for one or other of the belligerents. But, so far as she individually is concerned, she is given to understand that she is rococo, out of date, absurd; that, since she was young and active, things have entered on a new phase where she is nowhere, and that her past experience is not of the slightest use as things are nowadays. If she has still energy enough left, so that she likes to have her say and do her will, she has to pass under a continual fire of opposition. If she is timid, phlegmatic, indolent, or peaceable, and with no fight in her, she is quietly sat upon and extinguished.

Dear mamma is the best creature in the world so long as she is the mere pawn on the young folks' domestic chess-board, to be placed without an opposing will or sentiment of her own. She is the 'greatest comfort' to her daughter; and even her son-in-law assents to her presence, so long as she takes the children when required to do so, does her share of the tending and more than her share of the giving, but never presuming to administer nor to correct; so long as she is placidly ready to take off all the bores; listen to the interminable story-tellers; play propriety for the young people; make conversation for the helplessly stupid or nervous; so long in fact as she will make herself generally useful to others, demand nothing on her own account, and be content to stand on the siding while the younger world whisks up and down at express speed at its 159 pleasure. Let her do more than this—let her sometimes attempt to manage and sometimes object to be managed—let her have a will of her own and seek to impose it—and then 'dear mamma is so trying, so fond of interfering, so unable to understand things;' and nothing but mysterious 'considerations' induce either daughter or son-in-law to keep her.

No one seems to understand the heartache it must have cost her, and that it must be continually costing her, to see herself so suddenly and completely shunted. Only a year ago and she had pretensions of all kinds. Time had dealt with her leniently, and no moment had come when she had suddenly leaped a gulf and passed from one age to another without gradations. She had drifted almost imperceptibly through the various stages into a long term of mature sirenhood, remaining always young and pretty to her husband. But now her widow's cap marks an era in her life, and the loss of her old home a new and descending step in her career. She is plainly held to have done with the world and all individual happiness—all personal importance; plainly told that she is now only an interposing cushion to soften the shock or ease the strain for others. But she does not quite see it for her own part, and after having been so long first—first in her society, in her home, with her husband, with her children—it is a little hard on her that she should have to sink down all at once into a mere rootless waif, a kind of family possession belonging to every one in turn and the 160 common property of all, but possessing nothing of herself.

Of course dear mamma can make herself bitterly disagreeable if she likes. She can taunt instead of letting herself be snubbed. She can interfere where she is not wanted; give unpalatable advice; make unpleasant remarks; tell stinging truths; and in all ways act up to the reputation of the typical mother-in-law. But in general that is only when she has kept her life in her own hands; has still her place and her own home; remains the centre of the family and its recognized head; with the dreadful power of making innumerable codicils and leaving munificent bequests. If she has gone into the Learism of living about among her daughters, it is scarce likely that she has character enough to be actively disagreeable or aggressive.

On a first visit to a country-house it is sometimes difficult to rightly localize the old lady on the sofa who goes in and out of the room apparently without purpose, and who seems to have privileges but no rights. Whose property is she? What is she doing here? She is dear mamma certainly; but is she a personage or a dependent? Is she on a visit like the rest of us? Is she the maternal lodger whose income helps not unhandsomely? or, has she no private fortune, and so lives with her son-in-law because she cannot afford to keep house on her own account? She is evidently shunted, whatever her circumstances, and has no locus standi save that given by 161 sufferance, convenience, or affection. Naturally she is the last of the dowagers visiting at the house. She may come before the younger women, from the respect due to age; but her place is at the rear of all her own contemporaries; not for the graceful fiction of hospitality, but because she is one of the family and therefore must give precedence to strangers.

She is the movable circumstance of the home life. The young wife, of course, has her fixed place and settled duties; the master is the master; the guests have their graduated rights; but the shunted dowager is peripatetic and elastic as well as shunted, and to be used according to general convenience. If a place is vacant, which there is no one else to fill, dear mamma must please to take it; if the party is larger than there are places, dear mamma must please stay away. She is assumed to have got over the age when pleasure means pleasure, and to know no more of disappointment than of skipping. In fact, she is assumed to have got over all individuality of every kind, and to be able to sacrifice or to restrain as she may be required by the rest.

Perhaps one of her greatest trials lies in the silence she is obliged to keep, if she would keep peace. She must sit still and see things done which are gall and wormwood to her. Say that she has been specially punctilious in habits, suave in bearing, 162 perhaps a trifling humbugging and flattering—she has to make the best of her daughter's brusqueries and uncontrolled tempers, of her son-in-law's dirty boots, and the new religion of outspokenness which both profess. Say that she has been accustomed to speak her mind with the uncompromising boldness of a woman owning a place and stake in the county—she has to curb the natural indignation of her soul when her young people, wiser in their generation or not so securely planted, make friends with all sorts and conditions, are universally sweet to everybody, hunt after popularity with untiring zest, and live according to the doctrine of angels unawares. The ways of the house are not her ways, and things are not ordered as she used to order them. People are invited with whom she would not have shaken hands, and others are left out whose acquaintance she would have specially affected. All sorts of subversive doctrines are afloat, and the old family traditions are sure to be set aside. She abhors the Ritualistic tendencies of her son-in-law, or she despises his Evangelical proclivities; his politics are not sound and his vote fatally on the wrong side; and she laments that her daughter, so differently brought up, should have been won over as she has been to her husband's views. But what of that? She is only a dowager shunted and laid on the shelf; and what she likes or dislikes does not weigh a feather in the balance, so long as her purse and person are safe in the family, and her will securely 163 locked up in the solicitor's iron safe, with no likelihood of secret codicils upstairs. On the whole then, there is a word to be said even for the dreadful mother-in-law of general scorn; and, as the shunted dowager, the poor soul has her griefs of no slight weight and her daily humiliations bitter enough to bear.



We all number among our acquaintances certain privileged persons; people who make their own laws without regard to the received canons of society, and who claim exemption from some of the moral and most of the conventional obligations which are considered binding on others. The privileged person may be male or female; but is more often the latter; sundry restraining influences keeping men in check which are inoperative with women. Women indeed, when they choose to fall out of the ranks and follow an independent path of their own, care very little for any influences at all, the restraining power which will keep them in line being yet an unknown quantity. As a woman then, we will first deal with the privileged person.

One embodiment of the privileged person is she whose forte lies in saying unpleasant things with praiseworthy coolness. She aims at a reputation for smartness or for honesty, according to the character of her intellect, and she uses what she gets without stint or sparing. If clever, she is noted for her sarcastic speeches and epigrammatic brilliancy; and 165 her good things are bandied about from one to the other of her friends; with an uneasy sense however, in the laughter they excite. For every one feels that he who laughs to-day may have cause to wince to-morrow, and that dancing on one's own grave is by no means an exhilarating exercise.

No one is safe with her—not even her nearest and dearest; and she does not care how deeply she wounds when she is about it. But her victims rarely retaliate; which is the oddest part of the business. They resign themselves meekly enough to the scalpel, and comfort themselves with the reflection that it is only pretty Fanny's way, and that she is known to all the world as a privileged person who may say what she likes. It falls hard though, on the uninitiated and sensitive, when they are first introduced to a privileged person with a talent for saying smart things and no pity to speak of. Perhaps they have learned their manners too well to retort in kind, if even they are able; and so feel themselves constrained to bear the unexpected smart, as the Spartan boy bore his fox. One sees them at times endure their humiliation before folk with a courageous kind of stoicism which would do honour to a better cause. Perhaps they are too much taken aback to be able to marshal their wits for a serviceable counter-thrust; all they can do is to look confused and feel angry; but sometimes, if seldom, the privileged person with a talent for sarcastic sayings meets with her match and gets paid 166 off in her own coin—which greatly offends her, while it rejoices those of her friends who have suffered many things at her hands before. If she is rude in a more sledge-hammer kind of way—rude through what it pleases her to call honesty and the privilege of speaking her mind—her attacks are easier to meet, being more openly made and less dependent on quickness or subtlety of intellect to parry.

Sometimes indeed, by their very coarseness they defeat themselves. When a woman of this kind says in a loud voice, as her final argument in a discussion, 'Then you must be a fool,' as we have known a woman tell her hostess, she has blunted her own weapon and armed her opponent. All her privileges cannot change the essential constitution of things; and, rudeness being the boomerang of the drawing-room which returns on the head of the thrower, the privileged person who prides herself on her honesty, and who is not too squeamish as to its use, finds herself discomfited by the very silence and forbearance of her victim. In either case however, whether using the rapier or the sledge-hammer, the person privileged in speech is partly a nuisance and partly a stirrer-up of society. People gather round to hear her, when she has grappled with a victim worthy of her steel, and is using it with effect. Yet unless her social status is such that she can command a following by reason of the flunkeyism inherent in human nature, she is sure to find herself dropped before her appointed end has come. People get afraid of her 167 ill-nature for themselves, and tired of hearing the same things repeated of others. For even a clever woman has her intellectual limits, and is forced after a time to double back on herself and re-open the old workings. It is all very well, people think, to read sharp satires on society in the abstract, and to fit the cap as one likes. Even if it fits oneself, one can bear the fool's crown with some small degree of equanimity in the hope that others will not discover the fact; but when it comes to a hand-to-hand attack, with bystanders to witness, and oneself reduced to an ignominious silence, it is another matter altogether; and, however sparkling the gifts of one's privileged friend, one would rather not put oneself in the way of their exercise. So she is gradually shunned till she is finally abandoned; what was once the clever impertinence of a pretty person, or the frank insolence of a cherubic hoyden, having turned by time into the acrid humour of a grim female who keeps no terms with any one, and with whom therefore, no terms are kept. The pretty person given to smart sayings with a sting in them and the cherubic hoyden who allows herself the use of the weapon of honesty, would do well to ponder on the inevitable end, when the only real patent of their privileges has run out, and they have no longer youth and beauty to plead in condonation for their bad breeding.

Another exercise of peculiar privilege is to be found in the matter of flirting. Some women are able to flirt with impunity to an extent which would 168 simply destroy any one else. They flirt with the most delicious frankness, yet for all practical purposes keep their place in society undisturbed and their repute intact. They have the art of making the best of two worlds, the secret of which is all their own, yet which causes the weak to stumble and the rash to fall. They ride on two horses at once, with a skill as consummate as their daring; but the feeble sisters who follow after them slip down between, and come to grief and public disaster as their reward. It is in vain to try to analyze the terms on which this kind of privilege is founded. Say that one pretty person takes the tone of universal relationship—that she has an illimitable fund of sisterliness always at command for a host of 'dear boys' of her own age; or, when a little older and drawing near to the borders of mature sirenhood, that she is a kind of œcumenical aunt to a large congregation of well-looking nephews—she may steer safely through the shallows of this dangerous coast and land at last on the terra firma of a respected old age; but let another try it, and she goes to the bottom like a stone. And yet the first has pushed her privileges as far as they will go, while the second has only played with hers; but the one comes triumphantly into port with all colours flying, and the other makes shipwreck and is lost.

And why the one escapes and the other goes down is a mystery given to no one to fathom. But so it is; and every student of society is aware of this 169 strange elasticity of privilege with certain pretty friends, and must have more than once wondered at Mrs. Grundy's leniency to the flagrant sinner on the right side of the square, coupled with her severity to the lesser naughtiness on the left. The flirting form of privilege is the most partial in its limitations of all; and things which one fair patentee may do with impunity, retaining her garlands, will cause another to be stripped bare and chastised with scorpions; and no one knows why nor how the difference is made.

Another self-granted privilege is the licence some give themselves in the way of taking liberties, and the boldness with which they force your barriers. Indeed there is no barrier that can stand against these resolute invaders. You are not at home, say, to all the world, but the privileged person is sure you will see him or her, and forthwith mounts your stairs with a cheerful conscience, carrying his welcome with him—so he says. Admitted into your penetralia, the privileges of this bold sect increase, being of the same order as the traditional ell on the grant of the inch. They drop in at all times, and are never troubled with modest doubts. They elect themselves your 'casuals,' for whom you are supposed to have always a place at your table; and you are obliged to invite them into the dining-room when the servant sounds the gong and the roast mutton makes itself evident. They hear you are giving an evening, and they tell you they will come, uninvited; taking for granted that you intended to ask them, 170 and would have been sorry if you had forgotten. They tack themselves on to your party at a fête and air their privileges in public—when the man whom of all others you would like best for a son-in-law is hovering about, kept at bay by the privileged person's familiar manner towards yourself and your daughter.

Your friend would laugh at you if you hinted to him that he might by chance be misinterpreted. He argues that every one knows him and his ways; and acts as if he held a talisman by which the truth could be read through the thickest crust of appearances. It would be well sometimes if he had this talisman, for his familiarity is a bewildering kind of thing to strangers on their first introduction to a house where he has privileges; and it takes time, and some misapprehension, before it is rightly understood. We do not know how to catalogue this man who is so wonderfully at ease with our new friends. We know that he is not a relation, and yet he acts as one bound by the closest ties. The girls are no longer children, but his manner towards them would be a little too familiar if they were half a dozen years younger than they are; and we come at last to the conclusion that the father owes him money, or that the wife had been—well, what?—in the days gone by; and that he is therefore master of the situation and beyond the reach of rebuke. All things considered, this kind of privilege is dangerous, and to be carefully avoided by parents and guardians. Indeed, 171 every form of this patent is dangerous; the chances being that sooner or later familiarity will degenerate into contempt and a bitter rupture take the place of the former excessive intimacy.

The neglect of all ordinary social observances is another reading of the patent of privilege which certain people grant themselves. These are the people who never return your calls; who do not think themselves obliged to answer your invitations; who do not keep their appointments; and who forget their promises. It is useless to reproach them, to expect from them the grace of punctuality, the politeness of a reply, or the faintest stirrings of a social conscience in anything. They are privileged to the observance of a general neglect, and you must make your account with them as they are. If they are good-natured, they will spend much time and energy in framing apologies which may or may not tell. If women, graceful, and liking to be liked without taking much trouble about it, they will profess a thousand sorrows and shames the next time they see you, and play the pretty hypocrite with more or less success. You must not mind what they do, they say pleadingly; no one does; they are such notoriously bad callers no one ever expects them to pay visits like other people; or they are so lazy about writing, please don't mind if they don't answer your letters nor even your invitations: they don't mean to be rude, only they don't like writing; or they are so dreadfully busy they cannot do half they ought and are 172 sometimes obliged to break their engagements; and so on. And you, probably for the twentieth time, accept excuses which mean nothing but 'I am a privileged person,' and go on again as before, hoping for better things against all the lessons of past experience. How can you do otherwise with that charming face looking so sweetly into yours, and the coquettish little hypocrisies played off for your benefit? If that charming face were old or ugly, things would be different; but so long as women possess la beauté du diable men can do nothing but treat them as angels.

And so we come round to the root of the matter once more. The privileged person, whose patent society has endorsed, must be a young, pretty, charming woman. Failing these conditions, she is a mere adventuress whose discomfiture is not far off; with these, her patent will last just so long as they do. And when they have gone, she will degenerate into a 'horror,' at whom the bold will laugh, the timid tremble, and whose company the wise will avoid.



Among the many odd social phenomena of the present day may be reckoned the class of women who are professed despisers and contemners of men; pretty misanthropes, doubtful alike of the wisdom of the past and the distinctions of nature, but vigorously believing in a good time coming when women are to take the lead and men to be as docile dogs in their wake. To be sure, as if by way of keeping the balance even and maintaining the sum of forces in the world in due equilibrium, a purely useless and absurd kind of womanhood is more in fashion than it used to be; but this does not affect either the accuracy or the strangeness of our first statement; and the number of women now in revolt against the natural, the supremacy of men is something unparalleled in our history. Both before and during the first French Revolution the esprits forts in petticoats were agents of no small account in the work of social reorganization going on; but hitherto women, here in England, have been content to believe as they have been taught, and to trust the men to whom 174 they belong with a simple kind of faith in their friendliness and good intentions, which reads now like a tradition of the past.

With the advanced class of women, the modern man-haters, one of the articles of their creed is to regard men as their natural enemies from whom they must both protect themselves and be protected; and one of their favourite exercises is to rail at them as both weak and wicked, both moral cowards and personal bullies, with whom the best wisdom is to have least intercourse, and on whom no woman who has either common-sense or self-respect would rely. To those who get the confidence of women many startling revelations are made; but one of the most startling is the fierce kind of contempt for men, and the unnatural revolt against anything like control or guidance, which animates the class of modern man-haters. That husbands, fathers, brothers should be thought by women to be tyrannical, severe, selfish, or anything else expressive of the misuse of strength, is perhaps natural and no doubt too often deserved; but we confess it seems an odd inversion of relations when a pretty, frail, delicate woman, with a narrow forehead, accuses her broad-shouldered, square-browed male companions of the meaner and more cowardly class of faults hitherto considered distinctively feminine. And when she says with a disdainful toss of her small head, 'Men are so weak and unjust, I have no respect for them!' we wonder where the strength and justice of the world can have taken shelter, for, if 175 we are to trust our senses, we can scarcely credit her with having them in her keeping.

On the other hand, the man-hater ascribes to her own sex every good quality under heaven; and, not content with taking the more patient and negative virtues which have always been allowed to women, boldly bestows on them the energetic and active as well, and robs men of their inborn characteristics that she may deck her own sex with their spoils. She grants, of course, that men are superior in physical strength and courage; but she qualifies the admission by adding that all they are good for is to push a way for her in a crowd, to protect her at night against burglars, to take care of her on a journey, to fight for her when occasion demands, to bear the heavy end of the stick always, to work hard that she may enjoy and encounter dangers that she may be safe. This is the only use of their lives, so far as she is concerned. And to women of this way of thinking the earth is neither the Lord's, nor yet man's, but woman's.

Apart from this mere brute strength which has been given to men mainly for her advantage, she says they are nuisances and for the most part shams; and she wonders with less surprise than disdain at those of her sisters who have kept trust in them; who still honestly profess to both love and respect them; and who are not ashamed to own that they rely on men's better judgment in all important matters of life, and look to them for counsel and protection 176 generally. The modern man-hater does none of these things. If she has a husband she holds him as her enemy ex officio, and undertakes home-life as a state of declared warfare where she must be in antagonism if she would not be in slavery. Has she money? It must be tied up safe from his control; not as a joint precaution against future misfortune, but as a personal protection against his malice; for the modern theory is that a husband will, if he can get it, squander his wife's money simply for cruelty and to spite her, though in so doing he may ruin himself as well. It is a new reading of the old saying about being revenged on one's face. Has she friends whom he, in his quality of man of the world, knows to be unsuitable companions for her, and such as he conscientiously objects to receive into his house? His advice to her to drop them is an unwarrantable interference with her most sacred affections, and she stands by her undesirable acquaintances, for whom she has never particularly cared until now, with the constancy of a martyr defending her faith. If it would please her to rush into public life as the noisy advocate of any nasty subject that may be on hand—his refusal to have his name dragged through the mire at the instance of her folly is coercion in its worst form—the coercion of her conscience, of her mental liberty; and she complains bitterly to her friends among the shrieking sisterhood of the harsh restrictions he places on her freedom of action. Her heart is with them, she says; and perhaps she gives 177 them pecuniary and other aid in private; but she cannot follow them on to the platform, nor sign her name to passionate manifestoes as ignorant as they are unseemly; nor tout for signatures to petitions on things of which she knows nothing, and the true bearing of which she cannot understand; nor dabble in dirt till she has lost the sense of its being dirt at all. And, not being able to disgrace her husband that she may swell the ranks of the unsexed, she is quoted by the shriekers as one among many examples of the subjection of women and the odious tyranny under which they live.

As for the man, no hard words are too hard for him. It is only enmity which animates him, only tyranny and oppression which govern him. There is no intention of friendly guidance in his determination to prevent his wife from making a gigantic blunder—feeling of kindly protection in the authority which he uses to keep her from offering herself as a mark for public ridicule and damaging discussion, wherein the bloom of her name and nature would be swept away for ever. It is all the base exercise of an unrighteous power; and the first crusade to be undertaken in these latter days is the woman's crusade against masculine supremacy.

Warm partizan however, as she is of her own sex, the modern man-hater cannot forgive the woman we spoke of who still believes in old-fashioned distinctions; who thinks that nature framed men for power and women for tenderness, and that the fitting, 178 because the natural, division of things is protection on the one side and a reasonable measure of—we will not mince the word—obedience on the other. For indeed the one involves the other. Women of this kind, whose sentiment of sex is natural and healthy, the modern man-hater regards as traitors in the camp; or as slaves content with their slavery, and therefore in more pitiable case than those who, like herself, jangle their chains noisily and seek to break them by loud uproar.

But even worse than the women who honestly love and respect the men to whom they belong, and who find their highest happiness in pleasing them and their truest wisdom in self-surrender, are those who frankly confess the shortcomings of their own sex, and think the best chance of mending a fault is first to understand that it is a fault. With these worse than traitors no terms are to be kept; and the man-haters rise in a body and ostracize the offenders. To be known to have said that women are weak; that their best place is at home; that filthy matters are not for their handling; that the instinct of feminine modesty is not a thing to be disregarded in the education of girls nor the action of matrons; are sins for which these self-accusers are accounted 'creatures' not fit for the recognition of the nobler-souled man-hater. The gynecian war between these two sections of womanhood is one of the oddest things belonging to this odd condition of affairs.

This sect of modern man-haters is recruited from three classes mainly—those who have been cruelly 179 treated by men, and whose faith in one half of the human race cannot survive their own one sad experience; those restless and ambitious persons who are less than women, greedy of notoriety, indifferent to home life, holding home duties in disdain, with strong passions rather than warm affections, with perverted instincts in one direction and none worthy of the name in another; and those who are the born vestals of nature, whose organization fails in the sweeter sympathies of womanhood, and who are unsexed by the atrophy of their instincts as the other class are by the perversion and coarsening of theirs. By all these men are held to be enemies and oppressors; and even love is ranked as a mere matter of the senses, whereby women are first subjugated and then betrayed.

The crimes of which these modern man-haters accuse their hereditary enemies are worthy of Munchausen. A great part of the sorry success gained by the opposers of the famous Acts has been due to the monstrous fictions which have been told of men's dealings with the women under consideration. No brutality has been too gross to be related as an absolute truth, of which the name, address, and all possible verification could be given, if desired. And the women who have taken the lead in this matter have not been afraid to ascribe to some of the most honourable names in the opposite ranks words and deeds which would have befouled a savage. Details of every apocryphal crime have been passed 180 from one credulous or malicious matron to the other, over the five o'clock tea; and tender-natured women, horror-stricken at what they heard, have accepted as proofs of the ineradicable enmity of man to woman these unfounded fables which the unsexed so positively asserted among themselves as facts.

The ease of conscience with which the man-hating propagandists have accepted and propagated slanderous inventions in this matter has been remarkable, to say the least of it; and were it not for the gravity of the principles at stake, and the nastiness of the subject, the stories of men's vileness in connexion with this matter, would make one of the absurdest jest-books possible, illustrative of the credulity, the falsehood, and the ingenious imagination of women. We do not say that women have no just causes of complaint against men. They have; and many. And so long as human nature is what it is, strength will at times be brutal rather than protective, and weakness will avenge itself with more craft than patience. But that is a very different thing from the sectional enmity which the modern man-haters assert, and the revolt which they make it their religion to preach. No good will come of such a movement, which is in point of fact creating the ill-feeling it has assumed. On the contrary, if women will but believe that on the whole men wish to be their friends and to treat them with fairness and generosity, they will find the work of self-protection much easier and the reconcilement of opposing interests greatly simplified.



The core of society is compact enough, made up as it is of those real doers of the world's work who are clear as to what they want and who pursue a definite object with both meaning and method. But outside this solid nucleus lies a floating population of vague people; nebulous people; people without mental coherence or the power of intellectual growth; people without purpose, without aim, who drift with any current anywhere, making no attempt at conscious steering and having no port to which they desire to steer; people who are emphatically loose in their mental hinges, and who cannot be trusted with any office requiring distinct perception or exact execution; people to whom existence is something to be got through with as little trouble and as much pleasure as may be, but who have not the faintest idea that life contains a principle which each man ought to make clear to himself and work out at any cost, and to which he ought to subordinate and harmonize all his faculties and his efforts. These vague people of nebulous minds compose the larger half of the world, and count for just so much dead weight which impedes, or gives its inert strength to 182 the active agents, as it chances to be handled. They are the majority who vote in committees and all assemblies as they are influenced by the one or two clear-minded leaders who know what they are about, and who drive them like sheep by the mere force of a definite idea and a resolute will.

Yet if there is nothing on which vague people are clear, and if they are not difficult to influence as the majority, there is much on which they are positive as a matter of private conviction. In opposition to the exhortation to be able to give a reason for the faith that is in us, they can give no reason for anything they believe, or fancy they believe. They are sure of the result; but the logical method by which that result has been reached is beyond their power to remember or understand. To argue with them is to spend labour and strength in vain, like trying to make ropes out of sea-sand. Beaten off at every point, they settle down again into the old vapoury, I believe; and it is like fighting with ghosts to attempt to convince them of a better way. They look at you helplessly; assent loosely to your propositions; but when you come to the necessary deduction, they double back in a vague assertion that they do not agree with you—they cannot prove you wrong but they are sure that they are right; and you know then that the collapse is hopeless. If this meant tenacity, it would be so far respectable, even though the conviction were erroneous; but it is the mere unimpressible fluidity of vagueness, the impossibility 183 of giving shape and coherence to a floating fog or a formless haze.

Vague as to the basis of their beliefs, they are vaguer still as to their facts. These indeed are like a ladder of which half the rungs are missing. They never remember a story and they cannot describe what they have seen. Of the first they are sure to lose the point and to entangle the thread; of the last they forget all the details and confound both sequence and position. As to dates, they are as if lost in a wood when you require definite centuries, years, months; but they are great in the chronological generosity of 'about,' which is to them what the Middle Ages and Classic Times are to uncertain historians. It is as much as they can do to remember their own birthday; but they are never sure of their children's; and generally mix up names and ages in a manner that exasperates the young people like a personal insult.

With the best intentions in the world they do infinite mischief. They detail what they think they have heard of their neighbours' sayings and doings; but as they never detail anything exactly, nor twice alike, by the time they have told the story to half a dozen friends they have given currency to half a dozen different chimeras which never existed save in their own woolly imaginations. No repute is safe with them, even though they may be personally good-natured and anxious not to do any one harm; for they are so vague that they are always setting afloat exaggerations which are substantially falsehoods; 184 and if you tell them the most innocent fact of any one you would not injure for worlds—say your daughter or your dearest friend—they are sure to repeat it with additions and distortions, till they have made it into a Frankenstein which no one now can subdue.

Beside this mental haziness, which neither sees nor shapes a fact correctly, vague people are loose and unstable in their habits. They know nothing of punctuality at home nor abroad; and you are never sure that you will not stumble on them at meal-times at what time soever you may call. But worse than this, your own meal-times, or any other times, are never safe from them. They float into your house uncertainly, vaguely, without purpose, with nothing to say and nothing to do, and for no reason that you can discover. And when they come they stay; and you cannot for the life of you find out what they want, nor why they have come at all. They invade you at all times; in your busy hours; on your sacred days; and sit there in a chaotic kind of silence, or with vague talk which tires your brains to bring to a focus. But they are too foggy to understand anything like a delicate hint, and if you want to get rid of them, you must risk a quarrel and effectively shoulder them out. They will be no loss. They are so much driftweed in your life, and you can make no good of them for yourself nor others.

Even when they undertake to help you, they do you more harm than good by the hazy way in which they understand, and the inexactness with which 185 they carry out, your wishes. They volunteer to get you by favour the thing you want and cannot find in the general way of business—say, something of a peculiar shade of olive-green—and they bring you in triumph a brilliant cobalt. They know the very animal you are looking for, they say, with a confidence that impresses you, and they send to your stable a grey horse to match your bay pony; and if you trust to their uncontrolled action in your affairs, you find yourself committed to responsibilities you cannot meet and whereby you are brought to the verge of destruction.

They do all this mischief, not for want of goodwill but for want of definiteness of perception; and are as sorry as you are when they make 'pie' and not a legible sheet. Their desire is good, but a vague desire to help is equal to no help at all; or even worse—it is a positive evil, and throws you wrong by just so much as it attempts to set you straight. They are as unsatisfactory if you try to help them. They are in evil case, and you are philanthropically anxious to assist them. You think that one vigorous push would lift the car of their fortunes out of the rut in which it has stuck; and you go to them with the benevolent design of lending your shoulder as the lever. You question them as to the central fact which they wish changed; for you know that in most cases misfortunes crystallize round one such evil centre, which, being removed, the rest would go well. But your vague friends can tell you nothing. 186 They point out this little superficial inconvenience, that small remediable annoyance, as the utmost they can do in the way of definiteness; but when you want to get to the core, you find nothing but a cloudy complaint of general ill-will, or a universal run of untoward circumstances with which you cannot grapple. To cut off the hydra's heads was difficult enough; but could even Hercules have decapitated the Djinn who rose in a volume of smoke from the fisherman's jar?

It is the same in matters of health. Only medical men know to the full the difficulty of dealing with vague people when it is necessary that these should be precise. They can localize no pain, define no sensations. If the doctor thinks he has caught hold of one leading symptom, it fades away as he tries to examine it; and, probe as he may, he comes to nothing more definite than a pervading sense of discomfort, which he must resolve into its causes as he best can. So with their suspicions; and vague people are often strangely suspicious and distrustful. They tell you in a loose kind of way that such or such a man is a rogue, such or such a woman no better than she should be. You ask them for their data—they have none; you suggest that they are mistaken, or at least that they should hold themselves as mistaken until they can prove the contrary, and you offer your version of the reputations aspersed—your vague friends listen to you amiably, then go back on their charge and say, 'I am sure of it'—which ends the 187 conversation. They rely on their impression as other people rely on known facts; and a foggy belief is to them what a mathematical demonstration is to the exact.

In business matters they are simply maddening. They never have the necessary papers; they do not answer letters; they confuse your questions and reply at random or not at all; and they forget all dates and details. When they go to their lawyer on business they leave certificates and drafts behind them locked up where no one can get at them; or if they send directions and the keys, they tell the servant to look for an oblong blue envelope in the right-hand drawer, when they ought to have said a square white parcel in the left. They give you vague commissions to execute; and you have to find your way in the fog to the best of your ability. They say they want something like something else you have never seen, and they cannot give an address more exact than 'somewhere in Oxford Street.' They think the man's name is Baker, or something like that. Perhaps it is Flower; but the suggestion of ideas ought to be intelligible to you, and is quite near enough for them. They ask you to meet them when they come up to London, but they do not give you either the station or the train. You have to make a guess as near as you can; and when you reproach them, they pay you the compliment of saying you are so clever, it was not necessary for them to explain.

188 If they have any friends out in Australia or India, they inquire of you, just returned, if you happened to meet them? When you ask, Where were they stationed?—they say they do not know; and when you suggest that Madras and Calcutta are not in the same Presidencies, that India is a large place and Australia not quite like an English county, they look helpless and bewildered, and drift away into the vague geography familiar to them, 'somewhere in India,' 'somewhere in Australia,' and 'I thought you might have met them.' For geography, like history, is one of the branches of the tree of knowledge they have never climbed, and the fruits thereof are as though they were not.

But apart from the personal discomforts to which vague people subject themselves, and the absurdities of which they are guilty, one cannot help speculating on the spiritual state of folks to whom nothing is precise, nothing definite, and no question of faith clearly thought out. To be sure they may be great in the realm of conviction; but so is the African savage when he hears the ghosts of his ancestors pass howling in the woods; so is the Assassin of the Mountain, when he sees heaven open as he throws himself on the spears of his enemies in an ecstacy of faith, to be realized by slaughter and suicide. Convictions based on imagination, unsupported by facts or proofs, are as worthless in a moral as in a logical point of view; but the vague have nothing better; and whether as politicians or as pietists, though they 189 are warm partizans they are but feeble advocates, fond of flourishing about large generalities, but impossible to be pinned to any point and unable to defend any position. To those who must have something absolute and precise, however limited—one inch of firmly-laid foundation on which to build up the superstructure—it is a matter of more wonder than envy how the vague are content to live for ever in a haze which has no clearness of outline, no definiteness of detail, and how they can make themselves happy in a name—calling their fog faith, and therewith counting themselves blessed.



Perhaps the largest amount of simple pleasure possible to adult life is to be found in the first weeks of the summer's holiday, when the hard-worked man of business leaves his office and all its anxieties behind him, and goes off to the sea-side or the hills for a couple of months' relaxation. Everything is so fresh to him, it is like the renewal of his boyhood; and if he happens to have chosen a picturesque place, where the houses stand well and make that ornate kind of landscape to be found in show-places, he wonders how it is that people who can stay here ever leave, or tire of the beauties that are so delightful to him. Yet he hears of this comfortable mansion, with its park and well-appointed grounds, waiting for an occupant; he is told of that fairyland cottage, embowered in roses and jessamine, with a garden gay and redolent with flowers, to be had for a mere song; and he finds to his surprise that the owners of these choice corners of Arcadia are only anxious to escape from what he would, if he could, be only anxious to retain.

In his first days this restlessness, this discontent, 191 is simply inconceivable. What more do they want than what they have? Why, that field lying there in the sunshine, dotted about with dun-coloured cows which glow like glorified Cuyps in the evening red, and backed by rock and tree and tumbling cascade, would be enough to make him happy. He could never weary of such a lovely bit of home scenery; and if to this he adds a view of the sea, or the crags and purple shadows of a mountain, he has wherewith to make him blessed for the remainder of his life. So he thinks while the smoke of London and the sulphur of the Metropolitan still cling about his throat, and the roar of the streets has not quite died out of his ears.

The woods are full of flowers and the rarer kind of insects, and he is never sated with the sea. There is the trout stream as clear as crystal, where he is sure of a rise if he waits long enough; the moors, where he may shoot if he can put up a bird to shoot at, are handy; and there is no end to the picturesque bits just made for his sketch-book. Whatever his tastes may make him—naturalist, sailor, sportsman, artist—he has ample scope for their exercise; and ten or eleven months' disuse gives him a greater zest now that his playtime has come round again. At every turn he falls upon little scenes which give him an odd pleasure, as if they belonged to another life—things he has seen in old paintings, or read of in quaint books, long ago. Here go by two countrywomen, whose red and purple dresses are touched by the sun 192 with startling effect, as they wind up the grey hillside road; there clatters past on horseback a group of market-girls with flapping straw hats, and carrying their baskets on their arms as if they were a set of Gainsborough's models come back to life, who turn their dark eyes and fresh comely faces to the London man with frank curiosity as they canter on and smother him with dust. Now he passes through the midst of a village fair, where youths are dancing in a barn to the sound of a cracked fiddle, and where, standing under an ivied porch, a pretty young woman unconsciously makes a picture as she bends down to fill a little child's held-up pinafore with sweets and cakes. The idyl here is so complete that the contemplation of pence given for the accommodation of the barn, or the calculation of shillings to be spent in beer afterwards, or the likelihood that the little one had brought a halfpenny in its chubby fist for the good things its small soul coveted, does not enter his mind.

The idea of base pelf in a scene so pure and innocent would be a kind of high treason to the poetic instinct; so the London man instinctively feels, glad to recognize the ideal he is mainly responsible for making. How can it be otherwise? A heron is fishing in the river; a kingfisher flashes past; swallows skim the ground or dart slanting above his head; white-sailed boats glide close inshore; a dragon-fly suns itself on a tall plumed thistle; young birds rustle in and out of the foliage; distant cattle 193 low; cottage children laugh; everywhere he finds quiet, peace, absolute social repose, the absence of disturbing passions; and it seems to him that all who live here must feel the same delightful influences as those which he is feeling now, and be as innocent and virtuous as the place is beautiful and quiet.

But the charm does not last. Very few of us retain to the end of our holidays the same enthusiastic delight in our Arcadia that we had in the beginning. Constant change of Arcadias keeps up the illusion better; and with it the excitement; but a long spell in one place, however beautiful—unless indeed, it lasts so long that one becomes personally fond of the place and interested in the people—is almost sure to end in weariness. At first the modern pilgrim is savagely disinclined to society and his kind. All the signs and circumstances of the life he has left behind him are distasteful. He likes to watch the fishing-boats, but he abhors the steamers which put into his little harbour, and the excursionists who come by them he accounts as heathens and accursed. Trains, like steamers, are signs of a reprobate generation and made only for evildoers. He has no reverence for the post, and his soul is not rejoiced at the sight of letters. Even his daily paper is left unopened, and no change of Ministry counts as equal in importance with the picturesque bits he wishes to sketch, or the rare ferns and beetles to be found by long rambles and much diligence. By degrees the novelty wears off. His soul yearns 194 after the life he has left, and he begins to look for the signs thereof with interest, not to say pleasure. He watches the arrival of the boat, or he strolls up to the railway station and speculates on the new comers with benevolence. If he sees a casual acquaintance, he hails him with enthusiastic cordiality; and in his extremity is reduced to fraternize with men 'not in his way.' He becomes peevish at the lateness of the mail, and he reads his Times from beginning to end, taking in even the agony column and the advertisements. He finds his idyllic pictures to be pictures, and nothing more. His Arcadians are no better than their neighbours; and, as for the absence of human passions—they are merely dwarfed to the dimensions of the life, and are as relatively strong here as elsewhere. The inhabitants of those flowery cottages quarrel among each other for trifles which he would have thought only children could have noticed; and they gossip to an extent of which he in his larger metropolitan life has no experience.

If he stays a few weeks longer than is the custom of visitors, he is as much an object of curiosity and surmise as if he were a man of another hemisphere; and he may think himself fortunate if vague reports do not get afloat touching his honesty, his morality, or his sanity. Nine times out of ten, if a personage at home, he is nobody here. He may be sure that, however great his name in art and literature, it will not be accounted to him for honour—it will only place him next to a well-conditioned mountebank; political fame, patent to all the world, 195 rank which no one can mistake, and money which all may handle, alone going down in remote country places and carrying esteem along with them. If a wise man, he will forgive the uncharitable surmises and the contempt of which he is the object, knowing the ignorance of life as well as the purposeless vacuity from which they spring; but they are not the less unpleasant, and to understand a cause is not therefore to rejoice in the effect.

As time goes on, he finds Arcadian poverty of circumstance gradually becoming unbearable. He misses the familiar conveniences and orderly arrangements of his London life. He has a raging tooth, and there is no dentist for miles round; he falls sick, or sprains his ankle, and the only doctor at hand is a half tipsy vet., or perhaps an old woman skilled in herbs, or a bone-setter with a local reputation. His letters go astray among the various hands to which they are entrusted; his paper is irregular; Punch and his illustrated weeklies come a day late, with torn covers and greasy thumbmarks testifying to the love of pictorial art which encountered them by the way. He finds that he wants the excitement of professional life and the changeful action of current history. He feels shunted here, out of the world, in a corner, set aside, lost. The rest is still delicious; but he misses the centralized interest of metropolitan life, and catches himself hankering after the old intellectual fleshpots with the fervour of an exile, counting the days of his further stay.

196 And then at last this rest, which has been so sweet, becomes monotony, and palls on him. One trout is very like another trout, barring a few ounces of weight. When he has expatiated on his first find of moon-fern, and dug it up carefully by the roots for his own fernery at Bayswater, he is slightly disgusted to come upon many tufts of moon-fern, and to know that it is not so very rare hereabouts after all, and that he cannot take away half he sees. Then too, he begins to understand the true meaning of the pictures, Gainsborough and others, which were so quaintly beautiful to him in the early days. The idyllic youths dancing in the beerhouse barn are clumsy louts who are kept from the commission of great offences mainly because they have no opportunity for dramatic sins; but they indemnify themselves by petty agricultural pilferings, and they get boozy on small beer. The pretty market-girls cantering by, are much like other daughters of Eve elsewhere, save that they have more familiarity with certain facts of natural life than good girls in town possess, and are a trifle more easy to dupe. On the whole, he finds human nature much the same in essentials here as in London—Arcadia being the poorer of the two, inasmuch as it wants the sharpness, the deftness, the refinement of bearing given by much intercourse and the more intimate contact of classes.

By the time his holidays are over, our London man goes back to his work invigorated in body, but 197 quite sufficiently sated in mind to return with pleasure to his old pursuits. He walks into the office decidedly stouter than when he left, much sunburnt, and unfeignedly glad to see them all again. It pleases him to feel like MacGregor on his native heath once more; though his native heath is only a dingy office in the E.C. district, with a view of his rival's chimney-pots. Still it is pleasant; and to know that he is recognized as Mr. So-and-So of the City, a safe man and with a character to lose, is more gratifying to his pride than to have his quality and standing discussed in village back-parlours and tap-rooms, and the question whether he is a man whom Arcadia may trust, gravely debated by boors whose pence are not as his pounds. He speaks with rapture of his delightful holiday, and extols the virtues of Arcadia and the Arcadians as warmly as if he believed in them. Perhaps he grumbles ostentatiously at his return to harness; but in his heart he knows it to be the better life; for, delicious as it is to sit in the sun eating lotuses, it is nobler to weed out tares and to plant corn.

The peace to which we are all looking is not to be had in a Highland glen nor a Devonshire lane; and beautiful as are the retreats and show-places to which men of business rush for rest and refreshment—peaceful as they are to look at, and happy as it seems to us their inhabitants must be—it is all only a matter of the eye. They are Arcadias, if one likes to call them so; but while a man's powers remain to 198 him they are halting-places only, not homes; and he who would make them his home before his legitimate time, would come to a weariness which should cause him to regret bitterly and often the collar which had once so galled him, and the work at the hardness of which he had so often growled.



If nothing is sacred to a sapper, neither is anything sacred to temper, ostentation, vanity; and church as little as any place else. In those thronged show-places which have what is called a summer season, church is the great Sunday entertainment; and when the service is of an ornate kind, and the strangers' seats are chairs placed at the west end, where in old times the village choir or the village schoolboys used to be, a great deal of human life goes on among the occupants; and there are certain displays of temper and feeling which make you ask yourself whether these strangers think it a religious service, or an operatic, at which they have come to assist, and whether what you see about you is quite in consonance with the spirit of the place or not. If the church is one that presents scenic attractions in the manner in which the service is conducted, there is a run on the front middle seats, as if the ceremonies to be performed were so much legerdemain or theatrical spectacle, of which you must have a good view if you are to have your money's worth; and the more knowing of the strangers take care to be early in the field, and to 200 establish themselves comfortably before the laggards come up. And when the best places are all filled, and the laggards do come up, then the human comedy begins.

Here trip in a couple of giggling girls, greatly conscious of their youth and good looks, but still more conscious of their bonnets. They look with tittering dismay at the crowded seats all along the middle, and when the verger makes them understand that they must go to the back of the side aisle, where they can be seen by no one but will only be able to hear the service and say their prayers, they hesitate and whisper to each other before they finally go up, feeling that the great object for which they came to church has failed them, and they had better have stayed away and taken their chance on the parade. When they speak of it afterwards, they say it was 'awfully slow sitting there;' and they determine to be earlier another time.

There sweep in a triad of superbly dressed women with fans and scent-bottles, who disdainfully decline the back places which the same verger, with a fine sense of justice and beginning to fail a little in temper, inexorably assigns them. They too confer together, but by no means in whispers; and finally elect to stand in the middle aisle, trusting to their magnificence and quiet determination to get 'nice places' in the pewed sittings. They are fine ladies who look as if they were performing an act of condescension by coming at all without special privileges 201 and separation from the vulgar; as if they had an inherent right to worship God in a superior and aristocratic manner, and were not to be confounded with the rest of the miserable sinners who ask for mercy and forgiveness. They are accustomed to the front seats everywhere; so why not in the place where they say sweetly they are 'nothing of themselves,' and pray to be delivered 'from pride, vainglory, and hypocrisy'? That old lady, rouged and dyed and dressed to represent the heyday of youth, who also is supposed to come to church to say her prayers and confess her sins, looks as if she would be more at home at the green tables at Homburg than in an unpretending chair of the strangers' quarter in the parish church. But she finds her places in her Prayer-book, if after a time and with much seeking; and when she nods during the sermon, she has the good-breeding not to snore. She too, has the odd trick of looking like condescension when she comes in, trailing her costly silks and laces behind her; and by her manner she leaves on you the impression that she was a beauty in her youth; has been always used to the deference and admiration of men; to servants and a carriage and purple and fine linen; that all of you, whom she has the pleasure of surveying through her double eyeglass, are nobodies in comparison with her august self; and that she is out of place among you. She makes her demonstration, like the rest, when she finds that the best seats are already filled and that no one 202 offers to stir that she may be well placed; and if she is ruthlessly relegated to the back, and stays there, as she does sometimes, your devotions are rendered uncomfortable by the unmistakable protest conveyed in her own. Only a few humble Christians in fashionable attire take those back places contentedly, and find they can say their prayers and sing their hymns with spiritual comfort to themselves, whether they are shut out from a sight of the decorations on the altar and the copes and stoles of the officiating ministers, or are in full view of the same. But then humble Christians in fashionable attire are rare; and the old difficulty about the camel and the needle's eye, remains.

Again, in the manner of following the services you see the oddest diversity among the strangers at church. The regular congregation has by this time got pretty well in step together, and stands up or sits down, speaks or keeps silence, with some kind of uniformity; even the older men having come to tolerate innovations which at first split the parish into factions. But the strangers, who have come from the north and from the south, from the east and from the west, have brought their own views and habits, and take a pride in making them manifest. Say that the service is only moderately High—that is, conducted with decency and solemnity but not going into extremes; your left-hand neighbour evidently belongs to one of the ultra-Ritualistic congregations, and disdains to conceal her affiliation. If she be a 203 tall woman, and therefore conspicuous, her genuflexions are more profound than any other person's; and her sudden and automatic way of dropping on her knees, and then getting up again as if she were worked by wires, attracts the attention of all about her. She crosses herself at various times; and ostentatiously forbears to use her book save at certain congregational passages. She regards the service as an act of priestly sacrifice and mediation, and her own attitude therefore is one of acceptance, not participation.

Your neighbour on your right is a sturdy Low Churchman, who sticks to the ways of his father and flings hard names at the new system. He makes his protest against what he calls 'all this mummery' visibly, if not audibly. He sits like a rock during the occasional intervals when modern congregations rise; and he reads his Prayer-book with unshaken fidelity from first to last, making the responses, which are intoned by the choir and the bulk of the congregation, in a loud and level voice, and even muttering sotto voce the clergyman's part after him. In the creed, when the Ritualistic lady bends both her knees and almost touches the ground, he simply bobs his head, as if saluting Robinson or Jones; and during the doxology, where she repeats the obeisance, and looks as if she were speaking confidentially to the matting, he holds up his chin and stares about him. She, the pronounced Ritualist, knows all the hymns by heart and joins in them 204 like one well accustomed; but he, the Evangelist, stumbles over the lines, with his pince-nez slipping off his nose, satisfied if he catches a word here and there so as to know something of his whereabouts. She sings correctly all through; but he can do no more than put in a fancy note on occasions, and perhaps come in with a flourish at the end. There are many such songsters at church who think they have done all that can be demanded of them in the way of congregational harmony if they hit the last two notes fairly, and join the pack at the Amen.

Sometimes the old-fashioned worshippers get put into the front row, and there, without prayer-stool or chair-back against which to steady themselves, find kneeling an impossibility; so they either sit with their elbows on their knees, or betray associations with square pews and comfortable corners at home, by turning their backs to the altar, and burying their faces in their rush-bottomed seats. The Ritualist would have knelt as straight as an arrow and without quivering once all through.

People are generally supposed to go to church for devotion, but, if they do, devotion and vanity are twin sisters. Look at the number of pretty hands which find it absolutely necessary to take off their gloves, and which are always wandering up to the face in becoming gestures and with the right curve. Or, if the hands are only mediocre, the rings are handsome; and diamonds sparkle as well in a church as anywhere else. And though one vows 205 to renounce the lusts of the world as well as of the flesh, there is no use in having diamonds if one's neighbours don't see them. Look too, at the pretty faces which know so well the effect produced by a little paint and powder beneath a softening mask of thin white lace. Is this their best confession of sin? And again, those elaborate toilets in which women come to pray for forgiveness and humility; are they for the honour of God? It strikes us that the honour of God has very little to do with that formidable, and may be unpaid, milliner's bill, but the admiration of men and the envy of other women a great deal. The Pope is wise to make all ladies go to his religious festivals without bonnets and in rigid black. It narrows the margin of coquetry somewhat, if it does not altogether remove it. But dress ever was, and ever will be, as webs spread in the way of woman's righteousness; and we have no doubt that Eve frilled her apron of fig-leaves before she had worn it a day.

All sorts of characters throng these strangers' seats; and some are typical. There are the men of low stature and awkward bearing, with stubbly chins, who stand in constrained positions and wear no gloves. They look like grooms; they may be clerks; but they are the men on whom Punch has had his eye for many years now, when he portrays the British snob and diversifies him with the more modern cad. Then there are the well-dressed, well set-up gentlemen of military appearance, who carry their umbrellas under their arms as if they were swords, and are 206 evidently accustomed to have their own will and command other people's; and the men who look like portraits of Montague Tigg, in cheap kid gloves and suspicious jewelry, who pray into their hats, or make believe to pray, while their bold eyes rove all about, fixing themselves most pertinaciously on the old lady with the diamonds and the giggling young ones with the paint. There is the bride in a white bonnet and light silk dress, who carries an ivory-backed Church Service with the most transparent attempts at unconsciousness, and the bridegroom who lounges after her and looks sheepish; sometimes it is the bride who straggles bashfully, and the groom who boldly leads the way. There is the young widow with new weeds; the sedate mother of many daughters; paterfamilias, with his numerous olive-branches, leading on his arm the exuberant wife of his bosom flushed with coming up the hill; the walking tourist, whose respect for Sunday goes to the length of a clean collar and a clothes-brush; and the female traveller, economical of luggage, who wears her waterproof and sea-side hat, and is independent and not ashamed. There are the people who come for simple distraction, because Sunday is such a dull day in a strange place, and there is nothing else to do; and those who come because it is respectable and the right thing, and they are accustomed to it; those who come to see and be seen; and those—the select few, the simple yearning souls—who come because they do honestly feel the church to be the very House of God, and that prayer 207 with its confession of sin helps them to live better lives. But, good or bad, vain or simple, arrogant or humble, they all sweep out when the last word is said, and the cottagers and small townsfolk stand at their doors to see them pass—'the quality coming out of church' counting as their Sunday sight. The women get ideas in millinery from the show, and discuss with each other what is worn this year, and how ever can they turn their old gowns into garments that shall imitate the last effort of a Court milliner's genius—the result of many sleepless nights? Fine ladies ridicule these clumsy apings of their humble sisters, and long for the old sumptuary laws to be in force on all below them; but if Sunday is the field-day and church the parade-ground of the strangers, we cannot wonder if the natives try to participate in the amusement. If Lady Jane likes to confess her shame and humiliation on a velvet cushion and in silk attire, can we reasonably blame Joan that her soul hankers after a hassock of felt, and a penance-sheet of homespun cut according to my lady's pattern?



Life not being holiday-making throughout, we have to allow for the bad half-hours that must come to us; and, if we are wise, we make provision to pass them with as little annoyance as possible. And of all the bad half-hours to which we are destined, those to be spent in sickness need the greatest amount of care to render them endurable. Without going to the length of Michelet's favourite theory, which sees in every woman nothing but an invalid more or less severely afflicted according to individual temperament, but always under the influence of diseased nerves and controlled by sickly fancies, there is no doubt that women suffer very much more than men; while their patience under physical ailments is one of the traditional graces with which they are credited. Where men fume and fret at the interruption to their lives brought about by a fit of illness, calculating anxiously the loss they are sustaining during the forced inaction of their convalescence, women submit resignedly, and make the best of the inevitable. With that clear sense of Fate characteristic of them, they do not fight against the evil which they know has to be borne, 209 but wisely try to lighten it by such wiles and arts as are open to them, and set themselves to adorn the cross they must endure. One thing indeed, makes invalidism less terrible to them than to men; and that is their ability to perform their home duties, if not quite as efficiently as when they are up and about, yet well enough for all practical purposes in the conduct of the family. The woman who gives her mind to it can keep her house in smooth working gear by dictation from her sick couch; and what she cannot actively overlook she can arrange. So far this removes the main cause of irritation with which the man must battle in the best way he can, when his business comes to a stand-still; or is given up into the hands of but a makeshift kind of substitute taken at the best; while he is laid on his back undergoing many things from doctors for the good of science and the final settling of doubtful pathological points.

Another reason why women are more patient than men during sickness is that they can amuse themselves better. One gets tired of reading all day long with the aching eyes and weary brain of weakness; yet how few things a man can do to amuse himself without too great an effort, and without being dependent on others! But women have a thousand pretty little devices for whiling away the heavy hours. They can vary their finger-work almost infinitely, and they find real pleasure in a new stitch or a stripe of a different colour and design from the last. In the contempt in which needlework in all its forms 210 is held by the advanced class of women, its use during the period of convalescence, when it helps the lagging time as nothing else can, is forgotten. Yet it is no bad wisdom to remember that the day of sickness will probably come some time to us all; and to lay in stores of potential interest and cheerfulness against that day is a not unworthy use of power. Certain it is that this greater diversity of small, unexciting, unfatiguing occupations enables women to bear a tedious illness with comparative patience, and helps to keep them more cheerful than men.

But when the time shall have come for the perfect development of the androgynous creature, who is as yet only in the pupal state of her existence, women will have lost these two great helps. Workers outside the home like their husbands and brothers, like them they will fume and fret when they are prevented from following their bread-winning avocations; calculations of the actual money loss they are sustaining coming in to aggravate their bodily pains. And, as the needle is looked on as one of the many symbols of feminine degradation, in the good time coming there will be none of that pretty trifling with silks and ribbons which may be very absurd by the side of important work, but which is invaluable as an invalid's pastime. Consequently, what with the anguish of knowing that her profession is neglected, and what with the unenlivened tedium of her days, sickness will be a formidable thing to women of the androgynous type—and to the men belonging to them.

211 Again, care and tact are required to rob sickness of its more painful features, and to render it not too distressing to the home companions. A real woman, with her instincts properly developed—among them the instinct of admiration—knows how to render even invalidism beautiful; and indeed, with her power of improving occasions, she is never more charming than as an invalid or a convalescent. There is a certain refined beauty about her more seductive than the robuster bloom of health. Her whole being seems purified. The coarser elements of humanity are obscured, passions are at rest, and all those fretful, anxious strivings, which probably afflict her when in the full swing of society, are put away as if they had never been. She is forced to let life glide, and her own mind follows the course of the quieter flow. She knows too how to make herself bewitching by the art which is not artifice so much as the highest point to which her natural excellences can be brought. If the radiance of health has gone, she has the sweeter, subtler loveliness of fragility; if her diamonds are laid aside, and all that glory of dress which does so much for women is perforce abandoned, the long, loose folds of falling drapery, with their antique grace, perhaps suit her better, and the fresh flowers on her table may be more suggestive and delightful than artificial ones in her hair.

Many a drifting husband has been brought back to his first enthusiasm by the illness of a wife who knew how to turn evil things into good, and to 212 extract a charm even out of suffering. It is a turn of the kaleidoscope; a recombination of the same elements but in a new pattern and with fresh loveliness; whereas the androgynous woman, with her business worries and her honest, if impolitic, self-surrender to hideous flannel wraps and all the uglinesses of a sick room crudely pronounced, would have added a terror to disease which probably would have quenched his waning love for ever. For the androgynous woman despises every approach to coquetry, as she despises all the other insignia of feminine servitude. It is not part of her life's duties to make herself pleasing to men; and they must take her as they find her. Where the true woman contrives a beauty and creates a grace out of her very misfortune, the androgynous holds to the doctrine of spades and the value of the unvarnished truth. Where the one gives a little thought to the most becoming colour of her ribbon or the best arrangement of her draperies, the other pushes the tangled locks off her face anyhow, and makes herself an amorphous bundle of brown and lemon colour. Her sole wish is to get the bad time over. How it would be best got over does not trouble her; and to beautify the inherently unlovely is beyond her skill to compass. Hence her hours of sickness go by in ugliness and idle fretting; while the true woman finds graceful work to do that enlivens their monotony, and in the continuance of her home duties loses the galling sense of loss from which the other suffers.

213 In sickness too, who but women can nurse? Men make good nurses enough out in the bush, where nothing better can be had; and a Californian 'pardner' is tender enough in his uncouth way to his mate stricken down with fever in the shanty, when he comes in at meal-times and administers quinine and brick tea with horny hands bleeding from cuts and begrimed with mud. But this is not nursing in the woman's sense. To be sure the strength of men makes them often of value about an invalid. They can lift and carry as women cannot; and the want of a few nights' sleep does not make them hysterical. Still they are nowhere as nurses, compared with women; and the best of them are not up to the thoughtful cares and pleasant attentions which, as medical men know, are half the battle in recovery. And this is work which suits women. It appeals to their love of power and tenderness combined; it gratifies the maternal instinct of protection and self-sacrifice; and it pleasantly reverses the usual order of things, and gives into their hands Hercules twirling a distaff the wrong way, and fettered by the length of his skirts.

The bread-winning wife knows nothing of all this. To her, sickness in her household would be only a degree less destructive than her own disablement, if she were called on to nurse. She would not be able to leave her office for such unremunerative employment as soothing her children's feverish hours or helping her husband over his. She would 214 calculate, naturally enough, the difference of cost between hired help and her own earnings; and economy as well as inclination would decide the question. But the poor fellow left all day long to the questionable services of a hired nurse, or to the clumsy honesty of some domestic Phyllis less deft than faithful, would be a gainer by his wife's presence—granting that she was a real woman and not an androgyne—even if he lost the addition to their income which her work might bring in; as he would rather, when he came home from his work to her sick bed, find her patient and cheerful, making the best of things from the woman's point of view and with the woman's power of adaptation, than be met with anxious queries as to the progress of business; with doubts, fears, perplexities; the office dragged into the sick room, and unnecessary annoyance added to unavoidable pain.

There is a certain kind of woman, sweet always, who yet shows best when she is invalided. Cleared for a while from the social tangles which perplex and distress the sensitive, she is as if floated into a quiet corner where she has time to think and leisure to be her true self undisturbed; where she is able too, to give more to her friends, if less to the world at large than at other times. And she is always to be found. The invalid-couch is the rallying point of the household, and even the little children learn to regard it as a place of privilege dearer than the stately drawing-room of ordinary times. Her friends drop in, sure 215 to find her at home and pleased by their coming; and her afternoon teas with her half-dozen chosen intimates have a character of their own, æsthetic and delightful; partly owing to the quiet and subdued tone that must perforce pervade them, partly to the unselfishness that reigns on all sides. Every one exerts himself to bring her things which may amuse her, and she is loaded with presents of a graceful kind—new books, early fruit, and a wealth of flowers to which even her poorest friend adds his bunch of violets, if nothing else. She is the precious child of her circle, and but for her innate sweetness would run a risk of being the spoilt one. Clever men come and talk to her, give her cause of thought, and knowledge to remember and be made glad by for all time; her lady friends keep her abreast of the outside doings of the world and their own especial coteries, contributing the dramatic element so dear to the feminine mind; every one tells her all that is afloat on the sea of society, but only all that is cheerful—no one brings her horrors, nor disturbs the frail grace of her repose with petty jealousies and tempers. Her atmosphere is pure and serene, and the dainty loveliness of her surroundings lends its charm to the rest.

To her husband she is even more beautiful than in the early days; and all men feel for her that chivalrous kind of tenderness and homage which the true woman alone excites. The womanly invalid, gentle, cheerful, full of interest for others, active in 216 mind if prostrate in body, sympathetic and patient, is for the time the queen of her circle, loved and ministered to by all; and when she goes to Cannes or San Remo to escape the cruelty of the English winter, she carries with her a freight of good wishes and regrets, and leaves a blank which nothing can fill up until she returns with the summer roses to take her place once more as the popular woman of her society.



To most young people the social arrangement known as going on a visit to friends at a distance is one of the most charming things possible. Novelty being to them the very breath of life, and hope and expectation their normal mental condition, the mere fact of change is in itself delightful; unless it happens to be something so hopelessly dull as a visit single-handed to an invalid grandmother, or the yearly probation of a girl of the period, when obliged to put herself under the charge of a wealthy maiden aunt with strict principles and no games of any kind allowed on the lawn. If the young ladies out on a visit are however, moderately cheerful, they can contrive to make amusement for themselves out of anything short of such sober-tinted extremes as these; and very often they effect more serious matters than mere amusement, and their visit brings them a love-affair or a marriage which changes the whole tenor of their lives. At the worst, it has shown them a new part of the country; given them new patterns of embroidery; new fashions of hairdressing; new songs and waltzes; and afforded an 218 occasion for a large supply of pretty dresses—which last to most young women, or indeed to most women whether young or old, is a very effectual source of pleasure.

The great charm and excitement of going on a visit belongs naturally to the young of the middle classes; among those of higher condition it is a different matter altogether. When people take their own servants with them and live in exactly the same style as at home, they merely change the furniture of their rooms and the view from the windows. The same kind of thing goes on at Lord A.'s as at Lord B.'s, in the Scottish Highlands or the Leicestershire wolds. The quality of the hunting or shooting may be different, but the whole manner of living is essentially repetition; and the dead level of civilization is not broken up by any very startling innovations anywhere. But among the middle classes there is greater variety; and the country clergyman's daughter who goes on a visit to the London barrister's family, plunges into a manner of life totally different from that of her own home; the personal habits of town and country still remaining quite distinct, and the possibilities of action being on two different plans altogether.

A London-bred woman goes down to the country on a visit to a hale, hearty Hessian, her former school-fellow, who tucks up her woollen gown midway to her knees, wears stout boots of masculine appearance, and goes quite comfortably through mud and mire, 219 across ploughed field and undrained farmyards—taking cramped stiles and five-barred gates in her way as obstacles of no more moment than was the mud or the mire. Long years of use to this unfastidious mode of existence have blinded her to the perception that a woman, without being an invalid, may yet be unable to do all that is so easy to her. So the London lady is taken for a walk, say of five or six miles, which to the vigorous Hessian is a mere unsatisfying stroll, to be counted no more as serious exercise than she would count a spoonful of vol-au-vent as serious eating. To be sure the walk includes a few muddy corners and the like, and Bond Street boots do not bear the strain of stiff clay clods too well; neither is a new gown of the fashionable colour improved by being dragged through furze bushes and bracken, and brushed against the wet heads of field cabbages. Moreover, crossing meadows tenanted by cattle that toss their heads and look—and looking, in horned cattle, is a great offence to our town-bred woman—is a service of peril which alone would take all the strength out of her nerves, and all the pleasure out of her walk; but the hostess cannot imagine feelings which she herself does not share, and the London lady is of course credited with courage, because to doubt it would be to cast a slur on her whole moral character. The Hessian minds the beasts no more than so many tree-stumps, but her friend sees a raging bull in every milky mother that stares at her as she 220 passes, and thinks something dreadful is going to happen because the flies make the heifers swish their tails and stamp. Then the dogs bark furiously as they rush out of farmsteads and cottages; and the newly dressed fields are not pleasant to cross nor skirt. The visitor cares little for wild flowers, less for birds, and all trees are pretty much alike to her; and this long rude walk, accentuated with the true country emphasis, has been too much for her. Her host wonders at her evening lassitude and low spirits, and fears that she finds it dull; and the robust hostess anathematizes the demoralizing effects of Kensington, and scornfully contrasts her present friend with her past, when they were both schoolgirls together and on a par in strength and endurance. 'She was like other people then,' says the well-trained Hessian who has kept herself in condition by daily exercise of a severe character; 'and now see what a poor creature she is! She can do nothing but work at embroidery and crouch shivering over the fire.'

Sometimes however, it happens the other way, and the lady guest, even though a Londoner, is the stronger of the two. The wife has been broken down by family cares and the one inevitable child too many; the guest comes fresh, unworn, unmarried, still young. The wife seldom goes beyond the garden, never further than the village, and is knocked up if she has done two miles; the guest can manage her six or eight without fatigue. Hence she naturally becomes the husband's walking companion during her visit, to 221 his frank delight and as frank regrets that his wife cannot do as much. And the wife, though good-breeding and natural kindness prevent her objecting to these long walks, finds them hard lines all things considered. Most probably she bitterly regrets having invited her former friend, and mentally resolves never to ask her again. She wanted her as a little amusement and relaxation for herself. Her health is delicate and her life dull, and she thought a female friend in the house would cheer her up and be a help. But when she finds that she has invited one who, without in the least intending it and only by the force of circumstances, sets her in unfavourable contrast with her husband, we may be sure that it will not take much argument to convince her that asking friends on a visit is a ridiculous custom, and that people, especially young ladies fond of long walks, are best at their own homes.

In London there are two kinds of guests from the country; the insatiable, and the indifferent—those who wear out their hosts by their activity and those who oppress them by their supineness. The Londoner who has outlived all the excitement of the busy city life wonders at the energy and enthusiasm of his friend. Everything must be done, even to the Tower and the Whispering Gallery, Madame Tussaud's and the Agricultural Hall. There is not a second-rate trumpery trifle which has been in the shop windows for a year or more, that is not pored over, and if possible, bought; and among the inflictions of the 222 host may be counted the crude taste of the guest, and the childish flinging away of money on things absolutely worthless. Or it may be that the guest has come up stored with many maxims of worldly wisdom and vague suspicion, and, determined not to be taken in, attempts to bargain in shops where a second price would be impossible, and where the host is personally known.

With guests of superabundant energy a quiet evening is out of the question. They go the round of all the theatres, and fill in the gaps with the opera and concerts. They have come up not to stay with you, but to see London; and they fulfil their intention liberally. Or they are indifferent and supine, and not to be amused, do what you will. They think everything a bore, or they are nervous and not up to the mark. They beseech you not to ask any one to dinner, and not to take them with you to any reception. They are listless at the theatre and go to sleep at the opera. At the Royal Academy the only pictures they notice are those landscapes taken from their own neighbourhood, or perhaps one by a local artist known to them. All the finest works of the year fall flat; and before you have seen half the exhibition, they say they have had enough of it, and sit down, plaintively offering to wait till you have done, in the tone of a Christian martyr.

These are the people who are always complaining of the dirt and smoke of London and the stuffiness of the houses, as if they were personally injured and 223 you personally responsible. They show a very decided scorn for all London produce, natural or artificial, and wonder how people can live in such a place. They are sure to deride the prevailing fashions, whatever they may be; while their own, of last season, are exaggerated and excessive; but they refuse to have the town touch laid on them during their stay, and heroically follow the millinery gospel of their local Worth, and measure you by themselves. They show real animation only when they are going away, and begin to wonder how they shall find things at home, and whether Charles will meet them at the station or send William instead. But when they write to thank you for your hospitality, they tell you they never enjoyed anything so much in their lives; leaving you in a state of perplexity, as you remember their boredom, and peevish complainings, and evident relief in leaving, and compare your remembrance with the warm expressions of pleasure now before your eyes. All you can say is, that if they were pleased they took an odd way of showing it.

There are people rash enough to have other people's children on a visit; to take on themselves the responsibility of their health and safety, when the young guests are almost sure to fall ill by the change of diet and the unwonted amount of indulgence allowed, or to come into some trouble by the relaxing of due supervision and control. They get a touch of gastric fever, or they tumble into the pond; and either bronchitis, or a fall from horseback, toppling 224 over from a ladder, or coming to grief on the swing, or some such accident, is generally the result of an act which is either heroism or madness as one may be inclined to regard it. For of all the inconveniences attending visiting, those incidental to child-guests are the most distressing. Yet there are philanthropic friends who run these risks for the sake of giving pleasure to a few young people. Whether they deserve canonization for their kindness or censure for their rashness we leave an open question.

As for a certain disturbance in health, that generally comes to other than children from being on a visit. Hours and style of food are sure to be somewhat different from those of home; and the slight constraint of the life, and the feverishness which this induces, add to the disturbance. Occupations are interrupted both to the guest and the host; and some hosts think it necessary to make company for the guest, and some guests are heavy on hand. Some regard your house as a gaol and you as the gaoler, and are afraid to initiate an independent action or to call their souls their own; others treat you as a landlord, and behave as if you kept an inn, making a convenience of your household in the most unblushing manner. Some are fastidious, and covertly snub your wines, your table, and your whole arrangements; others embarrass you by the fervour of their admiration, as if they had come out of a hovel and did not know the usages of civilized homes. Some intrude themselves into every small household matter 225 that goes on before them, and offer advice that is neither wanted nor desired; and others will not commit themselves to the most innocent opinion, fearful lest they should be thought to interfere or take sides. Some of the women dress at the husband; some of the men flirt with the wife or make love to the daughters surreptitiously; some loaf about or play billiards all day long till you are tired of the sound of their footsteps and the click of the balls; other bury their heads in a book and are no better than mummies lounging back in easy chairs; some insist on going to the meet in a hard frost; others will shoot in a downpour; and others again waste your whole day over the chess-table, and will not stir out at all. Some are so sensitive and fidgety that they will not stay above a day or two, and are gone before you have got into the habit of seeing them, leaving you with the feeling of a whirlwind having passed through your house; and others, when they come, stick, and you begin to despair of dislodging them.

On the other hand, there are houses where you feel that you would wear out your welcome after the third day, how long soever the distance you have come; and there are others where you would offend your hosts for life if you did not throw overboard every other duty and engagement to remain for as many weeks as they desire. In fact, paying visits and inviting guests are both risky matters, and need far more careful consideration than they generally 226 receive. But when it happens that the thing is congenial on both sides, that the guest slips into a vacant place as it were, and neither bores nor is bored, then paying a visit is as delightful as the young imagination pictures it to be; and the peculiar closeness and sweetness of intimacy it engenders is one of the most enduring and charming circumstances incidental to friendship. This however, is rare and exceptional; as are most of the very good things of life.



In every coterie we find certain stray damsels unattached; young ladies of personable appearance and showy accomplishments who go about the world alone, and whose parents, never seen, are living in some obscure lodgings where they pinch and screw to furnish their daughter's bravery. Some one or two great ladies of the set patronize these girls, take them about a good deal, and ask them to all their drums and at-homes. They are useful in their degree; very good-natured; always ready to fetch and carry in a confidential kind of way; to sing and play when they are asked—and they sing and play with almost professional skill; full of the small talk of the day, and not likely to bore their companions with untimely discussions on dangerous subjects, nor to startle them with enthusiasm about anything. They serve to fill a vacant place when wanted; and they look nice and keep up the ball so far as their own sphere extends. They are safe, too; and, though lively and amusing, are never known to retail gossip nor talk scandal in public.

228 Who are they? No one exactly knows. They are Miss A. and Miss B., and they have collaterals of respectable name and standing; cousins in Government offices; dead uncles of good military rank; perhaps a father, dead or alive, with a quite unexceptionable position; but you never see them with their natural belongings, and no one thinks of visiting them at their own homes. They are sure to have a mother in bad health, who never goes out and never sees any one; and if you should by chance come across her, you find a shabby, painful, peevish woman who seems at odds with life altogether, and who is as unlike her showy daughter as a russet wren is unlike a humming-bird. The drawing-room epiphyte introduces mamma, when necessary, with a creditable effort at indifference, not to say content, with her conditions; but if you can read signs, you know what she is feeling about that suit of rusty black, and how little she enjoys the rencounter.

Sometimes she has a brother, of whom she never speaks unless obliged, and of whose occupation and whereabouts, when asked, she gives only the vaguest account. He has an office in the City; or he has gone abroad; or he is in the navy and she forgets the name of his ship; but, whatever he is, you can get no clue more distinct than this. If you should chance to see him, you get a greater surprise than you had when you met the mother; and you wonder, with a deeper wonder, how such a sister should have sprung from the same stock as that which produced such a brother. 229 Sometimes however, the brother is as presentable as the sister; in which case he probably follows much the same course as herself, and hangs on to the skirts of those of the Upper Ten who recognize him—preferring to idle away his life and energy as a well-dressed epiphyte of greatness rather than live the life of a man in a lower social sphere. But, as a rule, stray damsels have neither brothers nor sisters visible to the world, and only a widowed mother in the background, whose health is bad and who does not go out.

The ulterior object of the ladies who patronize these pretty epiphytes is to get them married; partly from personal kindness, partly from the pleasure all women have in bringing about a marriage that does not interfere with themselves. But they seldom accomplish this object. Who is to marry the epiphyte? The men of the society into which she has been brought from the outside have their own ambitions to realize. They want money, or land, or a good family connexion, to make the sacrifice an equal bargain and to gild the yoke of matrimony with becoming splendour. And the drawing room epiphyte has nothing to offer as her contribution but a fine pair of eyes, a good-natured manner, and a pretty taste for music. To marry well among the society in which she finds herself is therefore almost impossible. And her tastes have been so far formed as to render a marriage into lower circumstances almost as impossible on the other side.

230 Besides, what could she do as the wife of a clergyman, say on three hundred a year, with a poor parish to look after and an increasing tribe of babies to feed and clothe? Her clear high notes, her splendid register, her brilliant touch, will not help her then; and the taste with which she makes up half-worn silk gowns, and transforms what was a rag into an ornament, will not do much towards finding the necessary boots and loaves which keep her sisters awake at night wondering how they are to be got. She has been taught nothing of the art of home life, if she has learnt much of that of the drawing-room. She cannot cook, nor make a little go a long way by the cunning of good management and a well-masked economy; she cannot do serviceable needlework, though she may be great in fancy work, and quite a genius in millinery; and the habit of having plenty of servants about her has destroyed the habit of turning her hand to anything like energetic self-help. Epiphyte as she is, penniless stray damsel more than half maintained by the kindness of her grand friends, she has to keep up the sham of appearances before those friends' domestics. And as ladyhood in England is chiefly measured by a woman's uselessness, and to do anything in the way of rational work would be a spot on her ermine, the poor epiphyte of the drawing-room, with mamma in rusty black in those shabby lodgings of theirs, learns in self-defence to practise all the foolish helplessness of her superiors; and, to retain the respect of the servants, loses her own.

231 What is she then but one of those misplaced beings who are neither of one sphere nor of another? She is not of the grandes dames on her own account, yet she lives in their houses as one among them. She is not a woman who can make the best of things; who, notable and industrious, and by her clever contrivances of saving and substitution is able to order a home comfortably on next to nothing; and yet she has no solid claim to anything but the undercut of the middle classes, and no right to expect more than the most ordinary marriage. She is nothing. Ashamed and unable to work, she has to accept gratuities which are not wages. Waiting on Providence and floated by her friends, she wanders though society ever on the look-out for chances. Each new acquaintance is a fresh hope, and every house that opens to her contains the potentiality of final success. To be met everywhere is the ultimate point of her ambition with respect to means; the end kept steadily, if fruitlessly, in view, is that satisfying settlement which shall take her out of the category of a hanger-on and give her a locus standi of her own. But it does not come.

Year by year we meet the drawing-room epiphyte in the old haunts—at Brighton; at Ryde; at half-a-dozen good houses in London; on a visit to the friends who make much of her one day and snub her the next—but she does not 'go off.' She is pretty, she is agreeable, she is well dressed, she is accomplished; but she does not find the husband for whom all this 232 is offered as the equivalent. Year by year she grows fatter or thinner as her constitution expands into obesity or shrivels into leanness; the lines about her fine eyes deepen; the powder is a little thicker on her cheeks; and there are more than shrewd suspicions of a touch of rouge or of antimony, with a judicious application of patent hair-restorer to lift up the faded tints. Fighting desperately with that old enemy Time, she disputes line by line the tribute he claims; and succeeds so far as to continue a good make-up for a year or two after other women of her own age have given in and consented to look their years. But the drawing-room epiphyte is nothing if she is not young—which is synonymous with power to interest and amuse. Her friends, the great ladies who hold drawing-rooms and gather society in shoals, want points of colour in their rooms as well as serviceable foils. The apple-pie that was all made of quinces was a failure, wanting the homely couche from which the savour of the more fragrant fruit might be thrown up. On the other hand there are social meetings which are like apple-pies without any quince at all; and then the epiphyte is invaluable, and her music worth as much in its degree as if she were a prima donna, each of whose notes ranked as gold. So that when she ceases to be young, when she loses her high notes and has gout in her fingers, she fails in her only raison d'être, and her occupation is gone. Hence her hard struggles with the old enemy, and her half-heroic, half-tragic determination 233 not to give in while a shred of force remains.

On the day when she collapses into an old woman she is lost. She has nothing for it then but to withdraw from the brilliant drawing-rooms she has so long haunted into dingy lodgings in a back street, and live as her mother lived before her. Forgotten by the world which she has spent her life in waiting on, she has leisure to reflect on the relative values of things, and to lament, as she probably will, that she gave living grain for gilded husks; that she exchanged the realities of love and home, which might have been hers had she been contented to accept them on a lower social scale, for the barren pleasures of the day and the delusive hope of marrying well in a sphere where she had no solid foothold. She had her choice, like others; but she chose to throw for high stakes at heavy odds, and in so doing let slip what she originally held. The bird in the hand might have been of a homely kind enough; still, it was always the bird; while the two golden pheasants in the bush flew away unsalted, and left her only their shadows to run after.

On the whole then, we incline to the belief that the drawing-room epiphyte is a mistake, and that those stray damsels who wander about society unattended by any natural protector and always more or less in the character of adventuresses, would do better to keep to the sphere determined by parental circumstances than to let themselves be taken into one which 234 does not belong to them and which they cannot hold. And furthermore it seems to us that, irrespective of its present instability and future fruitlessness, the position of a drawing-room epiphyte is one which no woman of sense would accept, and to which no woman of spirit would submit.



There has always been in the world a kind of women whom one scarcely knows how to classify as to sex; men by their instincts, women by their form, but neither men nor women as we regard either in the ideal. In early times they were divided into two classes; the Amazons who, donning helmet and cuirass, went to the wars that they might be with their lovers, or perhaps only for an innate liking for rough work; and the tribe of ancient women, so withered and so wild, who should be women yet whose beards forbade men so to account them, and for whom public opinion usually closed the controversy by declaring that they were witches—that is, creatures so unlike the rightful woman of nature that only the devil himself was supposed to be answerable for them. These particular manifestations have long since passed away, and we have nowadays neither Amazons learning the goose-step in our barrack-yards, nor witches brewing hell-broth on Scottish moors; but we have the Epicene Sex all the same—women who would defy the acutest social 236 Cuvier among us to classify, but who are growing daily into more importance and making continually fresh strides in their unwholesome way.

Possessed by a restless discontent with their appointed work, and fired with a mad desire to dabble in all things unseemly, which they call ambition; blasphemous to the sweetest virtues of their sex, which until now have been accounted both their own pride and the safeguard of society; holding it no honour to be reticent, unselfish, patient, obedient, but swaggering to the front, ready to try conclusions in aggression, in selfishness, in insolent disregard of duty, in cynical abasement of modesty, with the hardest and least estimable of the men they emulate;—these women of the doubtful gender have managed to drop all their own special graces while unable to gather up any of the more valuable virtues of men. They are no more philosophical than the most inconsequent sister who judges all things according to her feelings, and commends or condemns principles as she happens to like or dislike the persons advocating them; and they are as hysterical and intemperate in their political cries as if the whole world wagged by impulse only. They are no more magnanimous under rebuke than the stanchest advocate of the sacredness of sex, but resent all hostile criticism as passionately, and from grounds as merely personal, as if they were still shrouded from public blame by the safety of their privacy; and they are as little useful in their blatant energy as when they 237 spent their days in working monstrous patterns in crude-coloured wools, or found spiritual satisfaction in cutting holes in strips of calico to sew up again with a new stitch. They have committed the mistake of abandoning such work as they can do well, while trying to manipulate things which they touch only to spoil; they have ceased to be women and not learnt to be men; they have thrown aside beauty and not put on strength.

The latest development of the impulses which animate the epicene sex has taken its expression in after-dinner oratory. If we were as malicious to women as those whose follies we rebuke would have the world believe, we should encourage them to fight it out with womanly modesty and the world's esteem on this line. Their worst enemies could not wish to see them inflict on themselves a greater annoyance than the obligation of getting on their legs after the cheese has been removed, to turn on a stream of verbal insipidity for a quarter of an hour at a stretch. Only men who have something to say on the subject that may be on hand, and so are glad of every opportunity for elucidation or advocacy, or men who are eaten up with vanity, take pleasure in speechifying after dinner. Its uselessness is apparent; its mock hilarity is ghastly; even at political 'banquets,' when words are supposed to have some deep meaning, we get very little substance in it; while all the funny part of the business is the 238 dreariest comedy, the unreality of which brings it close to tragedy.

If anything were wanting to show how much vanity prompts a certain class of women in their ways and works, and how tremendous is their passion for notoriety and personal display, it would be this assumption of the functions of the post-prandial orator. Indeed they have taken greatly of late to public speaking all round; and some among them seem only easy when they are standing before a crowd, to be admired if they are pretty, applauded if they are pert, and, in any case, the centre of attraction for the moment. We do not look forward with pleasure to the time when ladies will rise after their champagne and port, with flushed cheeks and eyes more bright than beautiful, steadying themselves adroitly against the back of their chairs, and rolling out either those interminable periods with no nominatives and no climax under which we have all so often suffered, or spasmodically jerking forth a few unconnected sentences of which the sole merit is their brevity. In the beginning of things, when the wedge has to be introduced, only the best of its kind puts itself forward; and doubtless the ladies who have already varied the usual dull routine of after-dinner oratory by their livelier utterances have done the thing comparatively well, and avoided a breakdown; but we own that we tremble at the thought of the flood of feminine eloquence which will be let loose if the fashion spreads.

239 Fancy the heavy British matron rearing her ample shoulders above the board, as she lays down the law on the duties of men towards women—especially sons-in-law—and the advantage to all concerned if wives are liberally dealt with in the matter of housekeeping money, and let to go their own way without marital hindrance. Or think of the woman's-rights woman, with her hybrid costume and her hard face, showing society how it can be saved from destruction only by throwing the balance of power into the hands of women—by the nobler and brighter instincts of the oppressed sex swamping that rude, rough, masculine element which has so long mismanaged matters. Or even think of the coquettish and alluring little woman getting up before a crowd of men and firing off the neatest and smartest park of verbal artillery possible, every shot of which tells and is applauded to the echo. How will men take it all? For ourselves, having too sincere a respect for women as they ought to be, and as nature meant them to be, we do not wish to see them turned into social buffoons, the mark for jeering comments and angry hisses when what they say displeases their hearers, told to 'sit down,' and 'shut up,' with entreaties to some strong man to 'take them out of that and carry them home to the nursery,' by a hundred voices roughened with drink and shouting. But if women expect that hostile feelings and opinions will be tamed or altogether suppressed in their honour because they choose to 240 thrust themselves where they have no business, they will find out their mistake, perhaps when too late. If they abandon their safe cover and come out into the open, they must look to be hit like the rest. We cannot too often repeat that if they will mingle in the specialities of men's lives, they must put up with men's treatment and not cry out when they are struck home. In deference to them plain-speaking has been banished from the drawing rooms of society; but it is too much to expect men to sit in their own places under heavy boredom or fatuous gabble without wincing; and it is childish to ask us to make a free-gift of our truth and time to women who outrage one and waste the other. On the other hand the cheers which would follow if they hit the humour of the hour, or if, being specially pretty or specially smart, they afforded so much more than the ordinary excitement to the guests, would to our minds be just as offensive as the rougher truth, and perhaps more so. The leering approbation of men never over-nice in thought and now heated with wine, such as are always to be found at public dinners, is an infliction from which we should have imagined any woman with purity or self-respect would have shrunk with shame and dismay. But women who take to after-dinner speeches cannot be either nervous or fastidious.

Perhaps it is expecting too much of women of this kind if we ask them to consider themselves in relation to men's liking. They profess to despise 241 the masculine animal they are so fond of imitating, and to be careless of his liking; holding it a matter of supreme indifference whether they are to his taste or not. But it may be as well to say plainly that the disgust which we may presume the normal healthy woman feels for men who paint and pad and wear stays and work Berlin work—men who give their minds to chignons and costumes; who spy after their maids' love-letters, and watch their boys as cats watch mice—men who occupy themselves with domestic details they should know nothing about; who look after the baby's pap-boat and the cinders in the dust-heap, and can call the various articles of household linen by their proper names—the disgust which the womanly woman feels for them is exactly that which the manly man feels for the epicene sex.

Hard, unblushing, unloving women whose ideal of happiness lies in swagger and notoriety; who hate home life and despise home virtues; who have no tender regard for men and no instinctive love for children; who despise the modesty of sex as they deny its natural fitness—these women have worse than no charm for men, and their place in the human family seems altogether a mistake. If there were any special work which they could do better than manly men or feminine women, we could understand their economic uses, and accept them as eminently unlovely outgrowths of a natural law, but at least as necessary and natural. But they are not wanted. They simply disgust men and mislead women; and 242 those women whom they do not mislead in their own they often influence too strongly in the other direction by way of reaction, rendering them sickly in their sweetness, and weak rather than womanly. If the interlacing margins of certain things are lovely, as colours which blend together are more harmonious than those which are crudely distinct, it is not so with the interlacing margin of sex. Let men be men, and women women, sharply, unmistakably defined; but to have an ambiguous sex which is neither the one nor the other, possessing the coarser passions and instincts of men without their strength or better judgment, and the position and privileges of women without their tenderness, their sense of duty, or their modesty, is a state of things that we should like to see abolished by public opinion, which alone can touch it.



If songs are the expressions of a nation's political temper, novels show the current of its social morality, and what the learned would call its psychological condition. When French novelists devote half their stories to the analysis of those feelings which end in breaking the seventh commandment, and the other half to the gradual evolution of the evidence which leads to the detection of a secret murderer, we may safely assume, on the one hand, that the marriage law presses heavily, and, on the other, that the national intellect is of that ingenious kind which takes pleasure in puzzles, and is best represented by the familiar examples of dovetailing and mosaic work. When too, we see that their common feminine type is a creature given over as a prey to nervous fancies and an exalted imagination, of a feverish temperament and a general obscuration of plain morality in favour of a subtilizing and misleading kind of thing which she calls her besoin d'âme, we may be sure that this is the type most approved by both writer and readers, and that anything else would be unwelcome.

244 The French novelist who should describe, as his central figure, a self-disciplined, straightforward, healthy young woman, honestly in love with her husband, rationally fond of her children, not given to dangerous musings about the need of her soul for an elective affinity outside her marriage bond, nor spending her hours in speculating on the philosophy of necessity as represented by Léon or Alphonse; who should make her absolutely impervious to the sickly sentimentalism of the inevitable célibat, and neither palter with peril nor lament that sin should be sinful when it is so pleasant; who should paint domestic morality as we know it exists in France no less than in England, and trust for his interest to the quiet pathos of unfriendly but cleanly circumstances, would be hard put to it to make his heroine attractive and his story popular; and his readers would not be counted by tens of thousands, as were those who gloated over the sins of Madame Bovary and the prurience of Fanny. The Scandinavian type of woman again, strong-armed, independent, athletic, practical, would not go down with the French reading public; wherefore we may assume that the Parisienne, as we know her in romance—feverish, subtil, casuistic, self-deluding, and always ready to sacrifice duty to sentiment—is the woman best liked by the people to whom she is offered, and that the novelist but repeats and represents the wish of his readers.

So, too, when our own novelists carry their stock puppets through the nine hundred pages held 245 to be necessary for the due display of their follies and disasters, we may be sure that they are of the kind which finds favour in the eyes of the ordinary English reader; that the girls are the girls who please young men or do not alarm mothers, and that the men are the men in whom women delight, and think the ideals of their sex. If, as it is said, the delineation of her hero is the touchstone of a woman's literary power, it must be confessed that the touchstone discloses, for the most part, a very feeble amount of literary power, and that the female mind has but a small perception of all that relates to man's needs and nature.

It is the rarest thing possible to find a flesh-and-blood man in the pages of a woman's novel; far rarer than to meet with a flesh-and-blood young lady in the pages of a man's. They are all either prigs, ruffians, or curled darlings; each of whom a man longs to kick. They are goody men of such exalted morality that Sir Galahad himself might take a lesson from them. Or they are brutes with the well-worn square jaw and beetling brow, who translate into the milder action of modern life the savage's method of wooing a woman by first knocking her senseless and then carrying her off. Or they are impossible light-weights, with small hands and artistic tendencies—men who moon about a good deal, and are sure to love the wrong woman in a helpless, drifting sort of way, as if it were quite the right and manly thing to do to let themselves fall under the dominion of a 246 passion which a little resolution could overcome. Sometimes, for a difference, these light-weights are men of tremendous pluck and quality of muscle, able to thrash a burly bargee twice their weight and development with as much ease as a steel sword can cut through one of pith. The female crowd of present novel-writers repeat these four types with undeviating constancy, so that we have learnt them all by heart; and after the first outline indicative of their attributes, we can tell who they are as certainly as we can tell Minerva by her owl, St. Catharine by her wheel, Jupiter by his thunderbolts, or St. Sebastian by his arrows. But in what form soever they elect to portray their hero, they are sure to make his love for woman his best and his dominant quality.

Few women know anything of the intricacies of a man's life and emotion, save such as are connected with love. Yet, though love is certainly the strongest passion in youth, it is by no means all powerful in maturity and middle age. But the lady's hero of fifty and upwards is as much under the influence of his erotic fancies as if he were a boy of eighteen; and life holds nothing worth living for if he does not get the woman with whom he has fallen in love. It seems impossible for a woman to understand the loftier side of a man's nature. She knows nothing, subjectively, of the political aims, the love for abstract truth, the desire for human progress, which take him out of the narrow domestic sphere, and make him comparatively 247 indifferent to the life of sense and emotion altogether. And when she sees this she does not tolerate it. When Newton used his lady's little finger for a tobacco-stopper, he dug his grave in the female garden of the soul; and women rarely appreciate either Dr. Johnson or Dean Swift, because of the absence in the one of anything like romantic tenderness and its perversion in the other. All they care for is that men shall be tender and true to them; idealizing as lovers; as husbands constant and indulgent; and for this they will condone any amount of crookedness or meanness which does not make its way into the home. If he is complying and caressing there, he may be what fate and the foul fiend like to make him elsewhere, so long as he is not openly unfaithful and never gets drunk.

All the false glitter of the Corsair school is due solely to the capacity for loving ascribed to the heroes thereof. Though a man's name be 'linked with one virtue and a thousand crimes,' the one virtue, being love, outweighs the thousand crimes in the estimation of women and of the more effeminate kind of poets; and so long as the 'heart is framed for softness,' it may be 'warped to wrong' without doing any Conrad much injury with them. The absolute rightness and justness of a man count for little in comparison with his tenderness; and we know of no woman whose ideal man would be one neither a saint nor a lover.

The reason why the men of a softer civilization are 248 in general so successful with the women of the harder and more northerly countries is because of the comparative softness of their manners and the larger place which love and love-making hold among them. All who know France know the Frenchman's jealous hatred of Italian men; which hatred we share here in England, only we add the Frenchman to the list. We affect to despise the arts by which the men succeed and the women are gained over; but we cannot deny their potency, nor shut our eyes to the esteem in which they are held by women. This is not saying that the chivalrous habit of deference taught by civilization is not a good thing in itself, but it is saying that it is not worth the stronger and more essentially masculine qualities. But to women the art of love-making is worth all the other virtues in a lump; indeed, it comprises them all, and without it the best are valueless. It is the crown and glory of life—the one thing to live for; and where it is not, there is no life worthy of the name. Not that women are insensible to the charms of public fame. If a man has made himself a great reputation, he may throw the handkerchief where he likes, and he will find plenty of women to pick it up. In this case they are not too rigid in their requirements; and if his ways are a little hard and cold, they hold themselves indemnified for the loss of personal tenderness by the glory which surrounds a name which is now theirs. A woman must be exceptionally silly if she cannot take comfort in 249 her husband's public repute for her disappointment in his private manners. But this is only with recognized and fully successful heroes. As a rule, no amount of manly virtues will excuse the want of the softer graces; and the finest fellow that ever lived, the true anax andrôn among men, must be content to be measured by women merely according to his own estimate of them, and the power which the passion of love has over him.

Nothing surprises men more than the odd ignorance of women concerning them; and half the unhappiness in married life, at least in England, springs from that ignorance. They cannot be made to understand the differences between a man's nature and requirements and their own; and they condemn all that they cannot understand. In those few rational homes where men's sports and gatherings, undisturbed by the presence of petticoats, are not made occasions for suspicion nor remonstrance, the stock of love and happiness with which married life began is more like the widow's cruse than elsewhere; but unfortunately for both husbands and wives, these homes are rare; while those are common where an extramural game of billiards in the evening is occasion for tears or pouting, and deadly offence is taken at club dinners or a week's shooting. The consequence of which is deceit or dissension; and sometimes both.

The woman's ideal man has none of these erratic tendencies. His business done, he comes home with 250 the docility of a well-bred pointer sent to heel, and finds energy enough after his hard day's work for a variety of caressing cares which make him more precious in her eyes than all the tact, the temper, the judgment, the uprightness he has manifested in his dealings with the outside world. And the domesticity which she claims from her husband she demands from her son. Latchkeys are her abomination, and the 'gas left burning' is as a beacon-light on the way of destruction. She has the profoundest suspicion of all the men whom her boy calls his friends. She never knows into what mischief they may lead him; but she is sure it is mischief if they keep him away from his home in the evening. She would prescribe the same social restraints and moral regimen for her son as for her daughter, and she thinks the energies of masculine nature require no wider field and no looser rein. But though she likes those tame and tender men whom she can tie up close to her apron-strings and lovingly imprison in the narrow domain of home, she succumbs without a struggle to the square-jawed brute of the Rochester type, the man who dominates her by the mere force of superior strength; and she is not too severe on Don Juan, if only she can flatter herself that she is the best loved—and the last. That these are the men most liked by women is shown both by their own novels and by daily observation; and it seems to us that, among the many subjects for extended study of late proposed for women, a better acquaintance with men's 251 minds, a higher regard for the nobler kind of man and the ability to accept love as only one of many qualities, and not always the strongest nor the most praiseworthy of his impulses, would not be out of place.



If any one wants to see human nature stripped of certain conventional disguises and reduced to some of its primitive elements, let him try a boarding-house or family hotel for a while. If not always a profitable, it is generally an amusing, exhibition of character; and materials are never wanting to the student of human life. The predominating quality of most people will be found to be selfishness. There is a kind of fighting for self that goes on which is very funny, because concentrated on such mean objects. Who shall have the most comfortable chair, the best place at the window, the cosiest by the fire—such are the favourite prizes to be gained by superior craft or boldness; and the ladies chiefly interested have recourse to a series of manœuvres to circumvent their rivals, or steal a march on them unprepared, more ingenious at times than well-bred. Then there is the lady who appropriates the only footstool, and the lady who disputes the appropriation and sometimes 'comes to words' on the same; the couple who monopolize the bagatelle board, and the couple waiting savagely for their turn, which comes only 253 when the gong sounds for dinner or the sky clears up for a walk. The quartet who settle themselves to whist every evening as to a regular part of the business of life, without caring to inquire whether others would like to cut in or not, are more justified in their exclusiveness; else it may happen that a Club man who can make his bad cards beat his opponent's good ones is mated with a partner who inquires anxiously 'Is that the queen to beat?' then, with the king in his hand, quietly drops the deuce, and gives the adversaries the game. All these however, are regarded with equally hostile feelings by the rest of the community; and sharp sermons are administered on the sin of selfishness by the bolder sort, with the application too evident to be misunderstood.

At meal times the same kind of odd fighting for self goes on. The table is set as for a dinner party; but it is the hands of Esau and the voice of Jacob. Instead of the silent waiting for one's turn, with the quiet acceptance of fate in the shape of the butler and his underlings, that belongs to a private dinner-table, here, at the table d'hôte, there is an incessant call for this or that out of time; an angry demand to be served sooner or better than one's neighbours; a greedy 'taking care of number one' at the head of the table that excites as greedy apprehensions in number two at the foot; a running fire of criticism on the dishes—that does not help the illusion of the private dinner-party; and, with people who live much about in hotels, there is a continual comparison 254 with this and that, here and there, always to the disadvantage of the place and the thing under present consideration.

Among the inmates are sure to be some who are fastidious and peevish about their food; women who come down late and complain that things are not as fresh as when first served up; men who always want fried fish when the management has provided boiled, and boiled when the menu says fried; dyspeptic bodies who cannot eat bread unless it is two days old, and bodies defiant of dyspepsia who will not eat it at all unless it is hot from the oven; plain feeders who turn up their noses at the made dishes, and dainty livers who call simple roast and boiled coarse. And for all these societies the management has to cater impartially; and probably miss the reward of thanks at the end.

The feelings of people are expressed with the same kind of defiant individualism as are their tastes. There are the married people who make love to each other in public, and the married people who make anything but love; the women who sit and adore their husbands like worshippers before a shrine, and who like the world to be conscious of their devotion; the men who call their wives pet names for the benefit of the whole table, and even indulge in playful little familiarities which make the girls toss their heads and the young men laugh; and the happy pair who quarrel without restraint, and say snappish and disagreeable things to each other in audible voices, to 255 the embarrassment of all who hear them. There is the rakish Lothario who neglects his own better half and devotes himself to some other man's, with a lofty disregard of appearances; and there is the coquettish little wife who treats her husband very much like a dog and very little like her lord, and who carries on her flirtations in the most audacious manner under his eyes, and apparently with his sanction. And, having his sanction, she defies the world about her to take umbrage at her proceedings.

As for flirtations indeed, these are always going on in hotel life. Sometimes it is flirtation between a single man and a single woman, against which no one has a word to say on the score of propriety, though some think it will never come to anything and some think it will, and all scan curiously the signs of progressive heating, or the process of cooling off. Sometimes it is a more questionable matter; the indiscreet behaviour of a young wife, unprotected by her husband, who takes up furiously with some stranger met at the table d'hôte by chance, and of whose character or antecedents she is utterly ignorant. This is the kind of things that sets the whole hotel by the ears. Prim women ask severely, 'How long has Mrs. So-and-So known Major Fourstars?' and their faces, when told, are a sufficient commentary on the text. Others, in seeming innocence, call them by the same name, and express intense surprise when informed they are not man and wife, but acquaintances of only a week's standing. Others again 256 say it is shameful to see them, and wonder why some one does not write home to the poor husband, and speak of doing that kind office themselves; and others watch them with a cynical half-amused attention, interpreting their actions by the broadest glossary, and carefully guarding their wives or daughters from any association with either of the offenders. Whatever else fails, this kind of vulgar hotel intrigue is always on hand at sea-side places and the like; sometimes ending disastrously, sometimes dying out in favour of a new flame, but always causing discomfort while it lasts, and annoying every one connected therewith save the sinners themselves.

The women who dress to excess are balanced by the women who do not dress at all. The first are the walking advertisements of fashion, the last might be mistaken for the canvassers of old clothes' shops. The one class oppress by their magnificence, the other disgust by their dowdiness; and each ridicules the other to the indifferent third party, who, holding the scales of justice evenly, condemns both alike. Then there are the ugly women who manifestly think themselves attractive, and the pretty women who are too conscious of their charms. To be sure there are also ugly women who are content to know themselves unpersonable, as there are pretty women who are content to know that they are pretty, just as they know that they are alive, but who think no more about it, and never trouble themselves nor their neighbours by their affectations. There are the dear 257 motherly women beyond middle age, scant of breath and incapable of exertion, who sit in the drawing-room, placid and asthmatic, and to whom every one pays an affectionate reverence; and there are the elderly women who chirrup about like young things, and skip up and down steep places with commendable agility, and who are by no means disposed to let old age have the victory for many a year to come. There are the mothers who make their lumpish children sick with a multiplicity of good things, and the mothers who never give a moment's thought to the comfort nor the well-being of theirs; the mothers who fidget their little ones and every one else by their over-anxiety, their over caution, their incessant preoccupation and fear, and the mothers who let theirs wander, and who take it quite comfortably if they do not come in even at night-fall; the mothers who prank their children out like Mayday Jacks and Jills, and the mothers who let theirs go free in rags and dirt, till you are puzzled to believe them better born than the gutter. And with all this there is the plague of the children themselves—the babies who cry all night; the two-year-olds who scream all day; the rampaging boys who haunt the stairs and passages and who will slide down the banisters on a wet afternoon; the clattering little troop playing at horses before your bedroom door, while you are lying down with a sick headache; and the irruption into the drawing-room of the young barbarians who have no nursery of their own.

258 Quite recent widows with fluffy heads and no sign of their bereaved state, come to the hotel flanked by those of a couple of years' standing, still dressed in the deepest weeds, with the significant cap cherished as a sacred symbol. Brisk young widows appeal to men's admiration by their brightness, and languid young widows excite sympathy by their despair. Pretty young widows of small endowment, whose chances you would back at long odds, are handicapped against plain-featured widows, whose desolation you know no one would ever ask to relieve were it not for those Three per cents. with which they are credited. And the widows of hotel life are always a feature worth studying. There are many who do so study them;—chiefly the old bachelor of well-preserved appearance and active habits, who has constituted himself the squire of dames to the establishment, and who takes up first with one and then another of the unprotected females as they appear, and escorts them about the neighbourhood. He never makes friends with men, but he is hand-in-glove with all the pretty women; and his critical judgment on them on their first appearance is considered final. As a rule he does not care to attach himself so exclusively to one, be she maid, wife, or widow, as to get himself talked about; but sometimes he falls into the clutches of a woman of more tenacity than he has bargained for, and, man of irreproachable respectability as he is, drifts into a flirtation which the hotel 259 takes to mean an offer or an intrigue, according to the state of the lady concerned. As the hotel-life bachelor is generally a man of profound selfishness, the discomfort that ensues does no great harm; and it sometimes happens that it is diamond cut diamond, which is a not unrighteous retribution.

For the most part the people haunting hotels and living at tables d'hôte are not specially charming, but among them may sometimes be met men and women of broad views and liberal minds, cultivated and thoughtful, whose association time ripens into friendship. They stand out in bold relief among the vulgar people who talk loud, stare hard, ask impertinent questions, and discuss the dinners and the company in a broad provincial accent; among the silent people who sit gloomily at table as if oppressed with debt or assisting at a funeral; among the betting-men who flood the house at race-time, making it echo with the jargon of the Turf and the stable; among the quarrelsome people who snap and snarl at every subject started, like dogs growling over a bone; among the religious people who will testify in season and out of season, and the political people who will argue; the stupid people who have not two ideas, and the ignorant people who do not understand anything beyond the educational range of a child or a peasant; the conventional people who oppress one with their strained proprieties, and the doubtful people of whom no one knows anything and every 260 one suspects all. Among the oi polloi of hotel life the really nice people shine conspicuous: and more than one pleasant friendship which has lasted for life has been begun over the soup and fish of a table d'hôte.



We should do badly, as things are ordered, if we went about the world with our natural moral faces. Even stopping short of the extravagance of betraying our most important secrets, as in a Palace of Truth, and frankly telling men and women that we think them fools or bores, it is difficult for the most honest person in society to do without something of a mask in regard to minor matters. The old quarrel between nature and art, and where the limits of each should extend, has not yet got itself arranged; and it is doubtful whether it will during the present dispensation. It may be put to rights in some future state of human development, when the spiritualists will have it all their own way and tell us exactly what we ought to do; but pending this forecast of the millennium, we are obliged to have recourse to art for the better concealment of our natural selves, and especially, for the maintenance of that queer bundle of compromises and conventions which we call society.

The oddest consequence of the artificial state in which we find ourselves obliged to live is that nature looks like affectation, and that the highest art is the most like nature of anything we know. It is in 262 drawing-rooms as on the stage. A thoroughly inartificial actor would be a mere dummy, just as in the Greek theatre a man with his natural face would have seemed mean and insignificant to the spectators accustomed to fixed types of heroic size and set intention. But he whose acting brings the house down because of its truth to nature is he whose art has been the most profoundly studied, and with whom the concealment of art has therefore been the most perfectly attained. So in society. A man of thoroughly natural manners passes as either morose or pert according to his mood—either stupid because disinclined to exert himself, or obtrusive because in the humour to talk. He means no offence, honest body! but he makes himself disagreeable all the same. Such a man is the pest of his club, and the nuisance of every drawing-room he enters. It matters little whether he is constitutionally boorish or good-natured; he is natural; and his naturalness comes like an ugly patch of frieze on the cloth of gold with which the goddess of conventionality is draped.

Natural women too, may be found at times—women who demonstrate on small occasions, sincerely no doubt, but excessively; women who skip like young lambs when they are pleased and pout like naughty children when they are displeased; who disdain all those little arts of dress which conceal defects and heighten beauties, and who are always at war with the fashions of the day; who despise those 263 conventional graces of manner which have come to be part of the religion of society, contradicting point-blank, softening no refusal with the expression of a regret they do not feel, yawning in the face of the bore, admiring with the naïveté of a savage whatever is new to them or pleasing. Such women are not agreeable companions, however devoid of affectation they may be, however stanch adherents to truth and things as they are, according to their boast. The woman who has not a particle of untrained spontaneity left in her and who has herself in hand on all occasions, who gives herself to her company and is always collected, graceful, and at ease, playing her part without a trip, but always playing her part and never letting herself drop into uncontrolled naturalness—this is the woman whom men agree to call, not only charming, but thoroughly natural as well.

On the other hand, the untrained woman who speaks just as she thinks, and who cares more to express her own sensations than to study those of her companions, is sneered at as silly or underbred, as the current sets; or perhaps as affected; her transparency, to which the world is not accustomed and to which it does not wish to get accustomed, puzzling the critics of their kind. Social naturalness, like perfect theatrical representation, is everywhere the result of the best art; that is, of the most careful training. It simulates self-forgetfulness by the very perfection of its self-control, while untrained nature 264 is self-assertion at all corners, and is founded on the imperious consciousness of personality.

All of us carry our masks into society. We offer an eidolon to our fellow-creatures, showing our features but not expressing our mind; and the one whose eidolon, while betraying least of the being within, reflects most of the beings without, is the most popular and considered the most self-revealed. We may take it as a certainty that we never really know any one. We may know the broad outlines of character; and we generally believe far more than we have warranty for; but we rarely, if ever, penetrate the inner circle wherein the man's real self hides. If our friend is a person of small curiosity and large self-respect, we may trust him not to commit a base action; if he has a calm temperament, with physical strength and without imagination, he will not do a cowardly one; if he has the habit of truth, he will not tell a lie on any paltry occasion; if he is tenacious and secret, he will not betray his cause nor his friend. But we know very little more than this. Even with one's most familiar friend there is always one secret door in the casket which is never opened; and those which are thrown wide apart are not those which lead to the most cherished treasures. With the frankest or the shallowest there are depths never sounded; what shall we say, then, of those who have real profundity of character?

Who is not conscious of an ego that no man has seen? In praise or blame we feel that we are not 265 thoroughly known. There is something infinitely pathetic in this dumb consciousness of an inner self, an unrevealed truth, which bears us up through injustice and makes us shrink from excessive praise. Our very lovers love us for the least worthy part of us, or for fancied virtues which we do not possess; and if our worst enemies knew us as we are, they would come round to the other side and shake hands over the grave of their mistaken estimate. The mask hides the reality in either case, for good or for ill; and we know that if it could be removed, we should be judged differently. For the matter of that it never can be removed. The most transparent are judged according to the temper of the spectator; and the mind sees what it brings in our judgment of our fellows as well as in other things.

But, apart from that inner nature, that hidden part which so few people even imagine exists in each other, the masks we wear in society cover histories, sufferings, feelings, which would set the world aflame if betrayed. No one who gets below the smooth crust of conventional life can be ignorant of the fierce lava flood that sometimes flows and rages underneath. In those quiet drawing-rooms where everything looks the embodiment of harmony, of tranquil understanding, and where the absence of mystery is the first thing felt, there are dramas at the very time enacting of which only the exceptionally observant catch the right cue. Ruin faces some whose ship of good fortune seems sailing steadily on 266 a halcyon sea; a hideous secret stands like a spectre in the doorway of another. The domestic happiness which these covenant between themselves to show in the full sunshine to the world is no better than a Dead Sea apple displayed for pride, for policy, and of which those who eat alone know the extreme bitterness. The grand repute which makes men honour the name to the very echo, is a sham, and tottering to its fall. Here the confessing religionist hides by the fervour of his amens the scepticism which he dares not show by the honesty of his negation; there the respectable moralist denounces in his mask the iniquities which he practises daily when he lays it aside. To the right the masks of two loving friends greet each other with smiles and large expressions of affection, then part, to push the friendly falsehood aside, and to whisper confidentially to the crowd what scoundrelism they have mutually embraced; to the left another couple of unreasoning foes want only to see each other in unmasked simplicity to become fast allies for life. The world and all it disguises play sad mischief with human affections as well as with truth.

Everything serves for a mask. A man's public character makes one which is as impenetrable in its disguise as any. The world takes one or two salient points and subordinates every other characteristic to these. It ignores all those subtle intricacies which modify thought and action at every turn, producing apparent inconsistency—but only apparent; and it 267 boldly blocks out a mask of one or two dominant lines as the representative of a nature protean because complex. Any quality that makes itself seen from behind this mask which popular opinion has created out of a man's public character is voted as inconsistent, or, it may be, insincere; and the richer the nature the less it is understood. So it is with us all in our degree:—a thought which might lead us to gentler judgments on each other than it is the fashion to cultivate, knowing as we do that we each wear a mask which hides our real self from the world; and that if this real self is less beautiful than our admirers say, it is infinitely less hideous than our enemies would make it to appear.



We may say what we like about the worthlessness of the world and the solid charms of home, but the plain fact, stripped of oratorical disguise, is that we mostly give society the best we have and keep the worst of ourselves for our own. The hero at home is not half so fine a fellow as the hero in public, and cares far less for his audience. Indeed, when looked at under the domestic microscope, he is frequently found to be eminently un-heroic—something of the nature of a botch rather than nobility in undress and an ideal brought down to the line of sight; which would be the case if he and all things else were what they seem, and if heroism, like fine gold, was good all through. This is not saying that the hero in public is a cheat. He has only turned the best of his cloak outside, and hidden the seams and frays next his skin. We know that every man's cloak must have its seams and frays; and the vital question for each man's life is, Who ought to see most of them, strangers or friends? We fear it must be owned that, whoever ought, it is our friends who do get the worst of our wardrobe—the people we love, and for 269 whom we would willingly die if necessary; whilst strangers, for whom we have no kind of affection, are treated to the freshest of the velvet and the brightest of the embroidery. The man, say, who is pre-eminently good company abroad, who keeps a dinner-table alive with his quick wit and keen repartee, and who has always on hand a store of unhackneyed anecdotes, the latest on dits, and the newest information not known to Reuter, but who hangs up his fiddle at his own fireside and in the bosom of his family is as silent as the vocal Memnon at midnight, is not necessarily a cheat. He is an actor without a part to play or a stage whereon to play it; a hero without a flag; a bit of brute matter without an energizing force.

The excitement of applause, the good wine and the pleasant dishes, the bright eyes of pretty women, the half-concealed jealousy of clever men, the sensation of shining—all these things, which are spurs to him abroad, are wanting at home; and he has not the originating faculty which enables him to dispense with these incentives. He is a first-class hero on his own ground; but it would be a tremendous downfall to his reputation were his admirers to see him as he is off parade, without the pomps and vanities to show him to advantage. He has just been the social hero of a dinner; 'so bright, so lively, so delightful,' says the hostess enthusiastically, with a side blow to her own proprietor, who perhaps is pleasant enough by the domestic hearth but only a dumb dog in public. 270 The party has been 'made' by him, rescued from universal dullness by his efforts alone; and every woman admires him as he leaves in a polite blaze of glory, and only wishes he could be secured for her own little affair next week. So he takes his departure, a hero to the last, with a happy thought for every one and a bright word all round. The hall-door closes on him, and the hero sinks into the husband. He is as much transformed as soon as he steps inside his brougham as was ever Cinderella after twelve, with her state coach and footmen gone to pumpkin and green lizards. He likes his wife well enough, as wives and liking go; but she does not stir him up intellectually, and her applause is no whetstone for his wit. Put the veriest chit of a girl as bodkin between them and he will waken into life again, and become once more the conversational hero, because he is no longer wholly at home. His wife probably does not like it, and she laughs, as wives do, when she hears his praises from those who know him only at his best, letting off his fireworks for the applause of the crowd.

But then wives are proverbially unflattering in their estimates of their husbands' heroics; and the Truth that used to live at the bottom of a well has changed her name and abode in these later times, and has come to mean the partner of your joys, who gives you her candid opinion at home. Still, your good company abroad who sits like a mute Memnon at home is not pleasant, though not necessarily a 271 sham. Certainly he is no hero all through, but he may be nothing worse than one of those unfortunates whose intellect lives on drams and does not take kindly to domestic pudding.

His wife does not approve of this hanging up of the fiddle by his own fireside; yet she does the same thing on her side, and is as little a heroine by the domestic hearth as he is a hero. What his talk is to him her beauty is to her; and for whom, let us ask, does she make herself loveliest? For her husband, or for a handful of fops and snobs each one of whom individually is more indifferent to her than the other? See her in society, a very Venus dressed by Worth and Bond Street, if not by the Graces. Follow her home, and see her as her maid sees her. The abundant chevelure, which is the admiration of the men and the envy of the women who believe in it, is taken off and hung up like her great-grandfather's wig, leaving her small round head covered by a wisp of ragged ends broken and burnt by dyes and restorers; her bloom of glycerine and powder is washed from her face, showing the faded skin and betraying lines beneath; the antimony is rubbed off her eyelids; the effects of belladonna leave her now contracting pupils; her perfectly moulded form is laid aside with her dress; and the fair queen of the salon—the heroine of gaslight loveliness—stands as a lay-figure with bare tracts of possibilities whereon the artist may work, but which tracts nature has forgotten or which she herself has worked on so unmercifully as to have worn out. 272 How many a heartache would be healed if only the heroine, like the hero, could be followed to the sanctuary of the dressing-room, and if the adored could appear to the adorer as does the one to the maid the other to the valet!

The tender, sympathetic, moist-eyed woman who condoles so sweetly with your little troubles, and whose affectionate compassion soothes you like the trickling of sweet waters or the cooling breath of a pleasant air, but who leaves her sick husband at home to get through the weary hours as he best may, who bullies her servants and scolds her children—she too, is a heroine of a class that does not look well when closely studied. The pretty young mother, making play with her pretty young children in the Park—a smiling picture of love and loveliness—when followed home, turning into a fretful, self-indulgent fine lady, flung wearily into an easy chair, sending the children up to the nursery and probably seeing them no more until Park hour to-morrow, when their beautiful little têtes d'ange will enhance her own loveliness in the eyes of men, and make her more beautiful because making the picture more complete; Mrs. Jellaby given up to universal philanthropy, refusing a crust to the beggar at her own gate, but full of tearful pity for the misery she has undertaken to mitigate at Borioboolagha; Crœsus scattering showers of gold abroad, and applauded to the echo when his name, with the donation following, is read out at a public dinner, but looking after the cheese-parings at home; the eloquent upholder of human 273 equality in public, snubbing in private all who are one degree below him in the social scale, and treating his servants like dogs; the no less eloquent descanter on the motto Noblesse oblige, when the house-door is shut between him and the world, running honesty so fine that it is almost undistinguishable from roguery—all these heroes abroad show but shabbily at home, and make their heroism within the four walls literally a vanishing quantity.

People who live on the outside of the charmed circle of letters, but who believe that the men and women that compose it are of a different mould from the rest of mankind, and who long to be permitted to penetrate the rose-hedge and learn the facts of Armida's garden for themselves, sometimes learn them too clearly for their dreams to be ever possible again. They have a favourite author—a poet, say, or a novelist. If a poet, he is probably one whose songs are full of that delicious melancholy which makes them so divinely sad; an æsthetic poet; a blighted being; a creature walking in the moonlight among the graves and watering their flowers with his tears:—if a novelist, he is one whose sprightly fancy makes the dull world gay. A friend takes the worshipper to the shrine where the idol is to be found; in other words, they go to call on him at his own house. The melancholy poet 'hidden in the light of thought,' is a rubicund, rosy-gilled gentleman, brisk, middle-aged, comfortable, respectable, particular as to his wines, a connoisseur as to the merits of the chef, a 274 bon vivant of the Horatian order, and in his talk prone to personal gossip and feeble humour. The lively novelist, on the other hand, is a taciturn, morose kind of person, afflicted with perennial catarrh, ever ready with an unpleasant suggestion, given to start disagreeable topics of a grave, not to say depressing, nature, perhaps a rabid politician incapable of a give-and-take argument, or a pessimistic economist, taking gloomy views of the currency and despondent about our carrying trade.

As for the women, they never look the thing they are reputed to be, save in fashion, and sometimes in beauty. A woman who goes to public meetings and makes speeches on all kinds of subjects, tough as well as doubtful, presents herself in society with the look of an old maid and the address of a shy schoolgirl. A sour kind of essayist, who finds everything wrong and nothing in its place, has a face like the full moon and looks as if she fed on cream and butter. A novelist who sails very near the wind, and on whom the critics are severe by principle, is as quiet as a Quakeress in her conversation and as demure as a nun in her bearing; while a writer of religious tracts has her gowns from Paris and gives small suppers out of the proceeds. The public character and the private being of almost every person in the world differ widely from each other; and the hero of history who is also the hero to his valet has yet to be found.

Some people call this difference inconsistency, and some manysidedness; to some it argues unreality, 275 to others it is but the necessary consequence of a complex human nature, and a sign that the mind needs the rest of alternation just as much as the body. We cannot be always in the same groove, never changing our attitude nor object. Is it inconsistency or supplement, contradiction or compensation? The sterner moralists, and those whose minds dwell on tares, say the former; those who look for wheat even on the stony ground and among thorns assert the latter. Anyhow, it is certain that those who desire ideals and who like to worship heroes would do well to content themselves with adoration at a long range. Distance lends enchantment, and ignorance is bliss in more cases than one. Heroism at home is something like the delicacy of Brobdingnag, or the grandiosity of Lilliput; and the undress of the domestic hearth is more favourable to personal comfort than to public glory. To keep our ideals intact we ought to keep them unknown. Our goddesses should not be seen eating beefsteaks and drinking stout; our poets are their best in print, and social small-talk does not come like truths divine mended from their tongue; our sages and philanthropists gain nothing, and may lose much, by being rashly followed to their firesides. Yet a man's good work and brave word are, in any case, part of his real self, though they may not be the whole; and even if he is not true metal all through, his gold, so far as it goes, counts for more than its alloy, and his public heroism overtops his private puerility.



Few braver or hardier men are to be found in England than the Cornish fishermen. Their business, at all times hazardous, is doubly so on a coast so dangerous as theirs, where the charm of scenery is bought at the expense of security. Isolated rocks which are set up like teeth close round the jagged cliffs and far out from shore, cropping up at intervals anywhere between Penzance and Scilly; sunken rocks which are more perilous because more treacherous; strong currents which on the calmest day keep the sea where they flow in perpetual turmoil; a singularly tumultuous and changeable sea, where the ground-swell of the Atlantic sweeps on in long waves which break into a surf that would swamp any boat put out, even when there is not a breath of surface-wind stirring; for the most part a very narrow channel to the coves, a mere water-path as one may call it, beset by rocks which would break the boats to splinters if they were thrown against them—all these circumstances make the trade of the Cornish fishermen exceptionally dangerous; but they also make the men themselves exceptionally resolute 277 and daring. They are true fighters with nature for food; and, like the miners, they feel when they set out to their work that they may never come back from it alive.

No man can predict what the sea will be an hour or two hence. Its character changes with each fluctuation of the tide; and a calm and halcyon lake may have become fierce and angry and tempest-tossed when the ebb turns and the flow sets in. There are times too, when a boat caught by the wind and drifted into a current would be as helpless as a cork in a mill-race; and when a whole fleet of fishing-boats might be blown out to sea, with perhaps half their number capsized. But, as a rule, having learnt caution with their hardihood from the very magnitude of the dangers which surround them, these Cornish men suffer as little by shipwreck as do the fishermen of safer bays; and though each cove has its own sad story, and every rock its victim, the worst cases of wreck have been those of larger vessels which have mistaken lights, or steered too close in shore, or been lost in the fogs that are so frequent about the Land's End. Or they may have been caught by the wind and the tide and driven dead on to a lee shore; as so often happens in the bay between Hartland and Padstow Points.

But the more cautious the men are the less money they make; and though life is certainly more than meat, life without meat at all, or with only an insufficient quantity, is rather a miserable affair. 278 The material well-being of the poor fellows who live in those picturesque little coves which are the delight and the despair of artists is not in a very satisfactory condition. By the law of aggregation, unification, whatever we like to call it—the law of the present day by which individuals are absorbed into bodies that work for wages for one master, instead of each man working for himself for his own hand—the independent fishermen are daily becoming fewer. Save at Whitesand Bay, where there is a 'poor man's seine' and 'a rich man's seine,' almost all the seine nets belong now to companies or partnerships of rich men; and in very few have the men themselves any share.

Fishermen's seines are not well regarded by the wealthy leaseholders of the cove and foreshore; and the leaseholder has very large legal rights and powers which it would be idle to blame him for exercising. The cots are his, and the capstan is his, and the right of landing is his; thus he can put on the screw when he wants to have things his own way, and can threaten evictions, and the withdrawal of the right to the capstan and to the landing-place, if the men will not go on his seine, but choose either a united one of their own or independent drift or trawl nets. Some, it is said, even object to the men fishing at all, at any rate during the seine season; some have raised the annual rent per boat for cove rights to three or four times its old rate; and some go through a round of surly suspicion and irritating supervision during 279 the 'bulking' days, and higgle jealously over the small share allowed to the hands in the catch. So that, on the whole, the Cornish fisherman of the smaller coves has not much to boast of beside his courage and good heart, and a sturdy independence and honesty specially noticeable.

We know of no more animated scene than seine-fishing. From the first act to the last there is a quaint old-world flavour about it inexpressibly charming to people used to the prosaic life of modern cities. The 'huers' who stand on the hills watching for the first appearance of the 'school,' and who make known what they see either by signals or calling through a huge metal trumpet, the sound of which no one who has once heard it can ever forget; the smartness of the men dressing the seine-boats which carry the huge net with all its appurtenances; their quiet but eager watching for the school to come within practicable distance—that is, into sufficiently shoal water, and where the bottom is fairly level (else the fish all escape from under the net); the casting or shooting of the seine enclosing the school, and then the 'tucking' or lifting the fish from the sea to the boats—every stage is full of interest; but this last is the prettiest of all.

Imagine a moonlight night—low water at midnight—when the tucking begins. The boat cannot come up to the ordinary landing, which is only a roughly-paved causeway dipping by a gradual descent into the sea; so those who would share in the 280 sport are fain to take the fisherman's path along the cliff and drop into the boat off the rocks. These rocks are never very safe. Even the men themselves, trained to them as they are from boyhood, sometimes slip on their slanting, broken, seaweed-covered surfaces, when, if they cannot swim and are not helped, all is over for them in this life; and for strangers they are difficult at the best of times. But on an obscurely lighted night, and after heavy rain, they are doubly risky. The incoming wave lifts the boat a few inches higher and nearer; and you must catch the exact moment and make a spring before she drifts off again with the ebb. The row across the little bay is beautiful. The grey cliffs look solemn and majestic in the pale light of the moon; the shadows are deep and unfathomable; everywhere you see black rocks standing out from the steely sea, and little lines of breakers mark the place of the sunken rocks. In the distance shine the magnificent Lizard Lights, and the red and white revolving light of the terrible Wolf Rock flashes on the horizon; the moon touches the sea with silver, and the waves as they rise and fall seem like molten metal in the heavy sluggish rhythm of their flow. Only round the foot of the cliffs and about the rocks they break into spray that serves as high lights against the sombre grey and black of the landscape. You pull across to the opposite point, and then round into another smaller bay where the cliffs rise sheer, and the seine net is cast. You come into a little fleet of fishing-boats 281 set round on the outside of a circle of corks, within which is the master-boat, where all hands are assembled pulling at the net, to draw it closer. It is a stirring sight. Some dozen or more stalwart fellows are hauling on the lines with the sailors' cheery cry and the sailors' exuberant goodwill. Every now and then the master's voice cries out 'Break! break my sons!' when they shorten hold and go over to the other side of the boat, pulling themselves gradually aslant again, till the same order of 'Break! break!' shows that their purchase is too slack. At last the net is hauled up close enough, and then the fun begins.

All the boats engaged form a close circle round the inner line of corks, which is now a little sea of silver where the imprisoned pilchards beat and flutter, producing a sound for which we have no satisfactory onomatopoetic word. In moonlight this little sea is silver; in torchlight it is of fire with varied colours flashing through the redder gleams; and in the dark it is a sea of phosphorescent light, each mesh of the net, each fish, each seaweed illuminated as if traced in flame. Every one is now busy. The men dip in baskets, or maunds, expressly made for this purpose, and ladle out the quivering fish by hundreds into the boats. In a few moments they are standing leg-deep in pilchards. Every one on the spot is pressed into the service, and even a boat manned by nothing more stalwart than one or two half-sick and half-frightened women receives its 282 orders; and 'Hold on ladies! all hands hold on to the boat,' serves to keep one of the busiest of the tucking-boats in equilibrium.

The men, for all their hearty work, are like a party of schoolboys at play. Their humour may be rough, but it is never meant to be rude; their goodwill is sincere, for they have a share, however small, in the success of the catch; and the more they tuck, the more they will have for their wives and families to live on through the winter. It is their harvest-time; and they are as jocund as harvesters proverbially are. There is no stint of volunteer labour either. Men who have been working hard all day on their own account go out at midnight to lend a hand to their mates at the seine. Even though the take is for a hard-fisted master who would count fins if he could, and who would refuse his men a head apiece if he thought his orders would be carried out, they are all honestly glad. They remember the time when a rich school was the wealth of the whole cove, and when a string of fresh pilchards would be given freely to any one coming to the cove at the time of bulking, or, as we should call it, storing.

Still, whatever of economic value there may be in this exploitation of labour, it has its mournful side in the loss of individual value which it includes. And no one can help feeling this who listens to the talk of the elder fishermen, sorrowfully comparing the old days of personal independence and generous lordship with the present ones of wages and a wide-awake 283 lesseeship, conscious of its legal rights and determined to act on them.

When all the fish have been tucked there is nothing for it but to row home again in the freshening morning air. The tide is rising now, and the moon is waning. The rocks look blacker, the grey moss-grown cliffs more solemn, more mysterious, the white surf breaking about them is higher and sharper than when you set out; and the boom of the sea thundering through cave and channel has a sound in it that makes you feel as if land and your own bed would be preferable to an open boat at the mercy of the Atlantic surges. The tide has so far risen that you can land nearer to the paved causeway than before; but even now you have to wait for the flow of the wave, then make a spring on to the black and slimy rocks, which would be creditable to trained gymnastic powers. So you go home, under the first streaks of dawn, wet through and scaly, and smelling abominably of fish dashed with a streak of tar for a richer kind of compound.

The whole place however, will smell of fish to-morrow and for many to-morrows. When the tucking-boats are brought in, then the women take their turn, and pack the pilchards in the fish-cellars or salting-houses. Here they are said to be in 'bulk,' all laid on their sides with their noses pointing outwards; layers of salt alternating with layers of fish. Their great market is Italy, where they serve as favourite Lenten fare. The Italians believe them to 284 be smoked, and hence call them fumados. This word the dear thick-headed British sailor has caught up, according to his wont, and translated into 'fair maids;' and 'fair maids'—pronounced firmads—is the popular name of salted pilchards all through Cornwall.

The pilchard fishery begins as early as June or July; but then it is further out to sea, sometimes twenty miles out. According to the old saying,

When the corn is in the shock
The fish are at the rock;

harvest-time, which means from August to the end of October, being the main season for pilchard-fishing in shoal-water close at home. There are some choice bits of picturesque life still left to us in faraway places where the ordinary tourist has not penetrated; but nothing is more picturesque than seine-fishing in one of the wilder Cornish coves, when the tucking goes on at midnight, either by moonlight or torchlight, or only by the phosphorescent illumination of the sea itself. No artist that we can remember at this moment has yet painted it; but it is a subject which would well repay careful study and loving handling.



The discontented woman would seem to be becoming an unpleasantly familiar type of character. A really contented woman, thoroughly well pleased with her duties and her destiny, may almost be said to be the exception rather than the rule in these days of tumultuous revolt against all fixed conditions, and vagrant energies searching for interest in new spheres of thought and action. It seems impossible to satisfy the discontented woman by any means short of changing the whole order of nature and society for her benefit. And even then the chances are that she would get wearied of her new work, and, like Alexander, would weep for more worlds to rearrange according to her liking—with the power to take or to leave the duties she had voluntarily assumed, as she claims now the power of discarding those which have been hers from the beginning. As things are, nothing contents her; and the keynote which shall put her in harmony with existing conditions, or make her ready to bear the disagreeable burdens which she has been obliged to carry from Eve's time downward, has yet to be found. If she is unmarried, she is discontented at the 286 want of romance in her life; her main desire is to exchange her father's house for a home of her own; her pride is pained at the prospect of being left an old maid unsought by men; and her instincts rebel at the thought that she may never know maternity, the strongest desire of the average woman.

But if she is married, the causes of her discontent are multiplied indefinitely, and where she was out of harmony with one circumstance she is now in discord with twenty. She is discontented on all sides; because her husband is not her lover, and marriage is not perpetual courtship; because he is so irritable that life with him is like walking among thorns if she makes the mistake of a hair's-breadth; or because he is so imperturbably good-natured that he maddens her with his stolidity, and cannot be made jealous even when she flirts before his eyes. Or she is discontented because she has so many household duties to perform—the dinner to order, the books to keep, the servants to manage; because she has not enough liberty, or because she has too much responsibility; because she has so few servants that she has to work with her own hands, or because she has so many that she is at her wit's end to find occupation for them all, not to speak of discipline and good management.

As a mother, she is discontented at the loss of personal freedom compelled by her condition; at the physical annoyances and mental anxieties included in the list of her nursery grievances. She would probably fret grievously if she had no children at all, 287 but she frets quite as much when they come. In the former case she is humiliated, in the latter inconvenienced, and in both discontented. Indeed, the way in which so many women deliver up their children to the supreme control of hired nurses proves practically enough the depth of their discontent with maternity when they have it.

If the discontented woman is rich, she speaks despondingly of the difficulties included in the fit ordering of large means; if she is poor, life has no joys worth having when frequent change of scene is unattainable, and the milliner's bill is a domestic calamity that has to be conscientiously staved off by rigorous curtailment. If she lives in London, she laments the want of freedom and fresh air for the children, and makes the unhappy father, toiling at his City office from ten till seven, feel himself responsible for the pale cheeks and attenuated legs which are probably to be referred to injudicious diet and the frequency of juvenile dissipations. But if she is in the country, then all the charm of existence is centred in London and its thoroughfares, and not the finest scenery in the world is to be compared with the attractions of the shops in Regent Street or the crowds thronging Cheapside.

This question of country living is one that presses heavily on many a female mind; but we must believe that, in spite of the plausible reasons so often assigned, the chief causes of discontent are want of employment and deadness of interest in the life that lies around. The husband makes himself happy with 288 his rod and gun, with his garden or his books, with huntsmen or bricklayers, as his tastes lead him; but the wife—we are speaking of the wife given over to disappointment and discontent, for there are still, thank Heaven, bright, busy, happy women both in country and in town—sits over the fire in winter and by the empty hearth in summer, and finds all barren because she is without an occupation or an interest within doors or without. Ask her why she does not garden—if her circumstances are of the kind where hands are scarce and even a lady's energies would do potent service among the flower beds; and she will tell you it makes her back ache, and she does not know a weed from a flower, and would be sure to pick up the young seedlings for chickweed and groundsel. And if she is rich and has hands about her who know their business and guard it jealously, she takes shelter behind her inability to do actual manual labour side by side with them.

Within doors active housekeeping is repulsive to her; and though her servants may be quasi-savages, she prefers the dirt and discomfort of idleness to the domestic pleasantness to be had by her own industry and practical assistance. Unless she has a special call towards some particular party in the Church, she does nothing in the parish, and seems to think philanthropy and help to one's poorer neighbours part of the ecclesiastical machinery of the country, devolving on the Rectory alone. She gets bilious through inaction and heated rooms, and then says the 289 place disagrees with her and will be the death of her before long. She cannot breathe among the mountains; the moor and plain are too exposed; the sea gives her a fit of melancholy whenever she looks at it, and she calls it cruel, crawling, hungry, with a passion that sounds odd to those who love it; she hates the leafy tameness of the woods and longs for the freer uplands, the vigorous wolds, of her early days.

Wherever, in short, the discontented woman is, it is just where she would rather not be; and she holds fate and her husband cruel beyond words because she cannot be transplanted into the exact opposite of her present position. But mainly and above all she desires to be transplanted to London. If you were to get her confidence, she would perhaps tell you she thinks the advice of that sister who counselled the Lady of Groby to burn down the house, whereby her husband would be compelled to take her to town, the wisest and most to the purpose that one woman could give to another. So she mopes and moons through the days, finding no pleasure anywhere, taking no interest in anything, viewing herself as a wifely martyr and the oppressed victim of circumstances; and then she wonders that her husband is always ready to leave her company and that he evidently finds her more tiresome than delightful. If she would cultivate a little content she might probably change the aspect of things even to finding the mountains beautiful and the sea sublime; but dissatisfaction 290 with her condition is the Nessus garment which clings to the unhappy creature like a second self, destroying all her happiness and the chief part of her usefulness.

Women of this class say that they want more to do, and a wider field for their energies than any of those assigned to them by the natural arrangement of personal and social duties. As administrators of the fortune which man earns, and as mothers—that is, as the directors, caretakers, and moulders of the future generation—they have as important functions as those performed by vestrymen and surgeons. But let that pass for the moment; the question is not where they ought to find their fitting occupation and their dearest interests, but where they profess a desire to do so. As it is, this desire for an enlarged sphere is one form among many which their discontent takes; yet when they are obliged to work, they bemoan their hardship in having to find their own food, and think that men should either take care of them gratuitously or make way for them chivalrously. In spite of Scripture, they find that the battle is to the strong and the race to the swift; and they do not like to be overcome by the one nor distanced by the other. Their idea of a clear stage is one that includes favour to their own side; yet they put on airs of indignation and profess themselves humiliated when men pay the homage of strength to their weakness and treat them as ladies rather than as equals.

Elsewhere they complain when they are thrust to 291 the side by the superior force of the ungodly sex; and think themselves ill-used if fewer hours of labour—and that labour of what Mr. Carlyle called a 'slim' and superficial kind—cannot command the market and hold the field against the better work and more continuous efforts of men. There is nothing of which women speak with more bitterness than of the lower rates of payment usually accorded to their work; nothing wherein they seem to be so utterly incapable of judging of cause and effect; or of taking to heart the unchangeable truth that the best must necessarily win in the long run, and that the first condition of equality of payment is equality in the worth of the work done. If women would perfect themselves in those things which they do already before carrying their efforts into new fields, we cannot but think it would be better both for themselves and the world.

Life is a bewildering tangle at the best, but the discontented woman is not the one to make it smoother. The craze for excitement and for unfeminine publicity of life has possessed her, to the temporary exclusion of many of the sweeter and more modest qualities which were once distinctively her own. She must have movement, action, fame, notoriety; and she must come to the front on public questions, no matter what the subject, to ventilate her theories and show the quality of her brain. She must be professional all the same as man, with M.D. after her name; and perhaps, before long, she will want to 292 don a horsehair wig over her back hair, and address 'My Lud' on behalf of some interesting criminal taken red-handed, or to follow the tortuous windings of Chancery practice. When that time comes, and as soon as the novelty has worn off, she will be sure to complain of the hardness of the grind and the woes of competition; and the obscure female apothecary struggling for patients in a poor neighbourhood—the unemployed lady lawyer waiting in dingy chambers for the clients who never come—will look back with envy and regret to the time when women were cared for by men, protected and worked for, and had nothing more arduous to do than attend to the house, spend the money they did not earn and forbear to add to the anxieties they did not share. Could they get all the plums and none of the suet it would be fine enough; but we question whether they will find the battle of life as carried on in the lower ranks of the hitherto masculine professions one whit more ennobling or inspiriting than it is now in their own special departments. Like the poor man who, being well, wished to be better, and came to the grave as the result, they do not know when they are well off; and in their search for excitement, and their discontent with the monotony, undutifulness and inaction which they have created for themselves, they run great danger of losing more than they can gain, and of only changing the name, while leaving untouched the real nature, of the disease under which they are suffering.



Those persons who object to the influence of the clergy in their parishes at home, and who dislike the idea of being laid hold of by the ecclesiastical crook and dragged perforce up steep ways and narrow paths, ought to visit some of our little outlying settlements in foreign parts. They might take a revengeful pleasure in seeing how the tables there are turned against the tyrants here, and how weak in the presence of his transmarine flock is the expatriated shepherd whose rod at home is oftentimes a rod of iron, and his crook more compelling than persuasive. Of all men the most to be pitied is surely the clergyman of one of those small English settlements which are scattered about France and Italy, Germany and Switzerland; and of all men of education, and what is meant by the position of a gentleman, he is the most in thraldom.

His very means of living depending on his congregation, he must first of all please that congregation and keep it in good humour. So, it may be said, must a clergyman in London whose income is from pew-rents and whose congregation are not his parishioners. But London is large; the tempers and 294 thoughts of men are as numerous as the houses; there is room for all, and lines of affinity for all. The Broad Churchman will attract his hearers, and the Ritualist his, from out of the mass, as magnets attract steel filings; and each church will be filled with hearers who come there by preference. But in a small and stationary society, in a congregation already made and not specially attracted, yet by which he has to live, the clergyman finds himself more the servant than the leader, less the pastor than the thrall. He must 'suit,' else he is nowhere, and his bread and butter are vanishing points in his horizon; that is, he must preach and think, not according to the truth that is in him, but according to the views of the most influential of his hearers, and in attacking their souls he must touch tenderly their tempers.

These tempers are for the most part lions in the way difficult to propitiate. The elementary doctrines of Christianity must be preached of course, and sin must be held up as the thing to avoid, while virtue must be complimented as the thing to be followed, and a spiritual state of mind must be discreetly advocated. These are safe generalities; but the dangers of application are many. How to preach of duties to a body of men and women who have thrown off every national and local obligation?—who have left their estates to be managed by agents, their houses to be filled by strangers, who have given up their share of interest in the school and the village reading-room, the poor and the parish generally—men and women 295 who have handed themselves over to indolence and pleasure-seeking, the luxurious enjoyment of a fine climate, the pleasant increase of income to be got by comparative cheapness of breadstuffs, and the abandonment of all those outgoings roughly comprised under the head of local duties and local obligations?—how, indeed? They have no duties to be reminded of in those moral generalizations which touch all and offend none; and the clergyman who should go into details affecting his congregation personally, who should preach against sloth and slander, pleasure-seeking and selfishness, would soon preach to empty pews and be cut by his friends as an impertinent going beyond his office.

His congregation too, composed of educated ladies and gentlemen, is sure to be critical, and therefore all but impossible to teach. If he inclines a hair's breadth to the right or the left beyond the point at which they themselves stand, he is held to be unsound. His sermons are gravely canvassed in the afternoon conclaves which meet at each other's houses to discuss the excitement of the Sunday morning in the new arrivals or the new toilets. Has he dwelt on the humanity underlying the Christian faith? He is drifting into Socinianism; and those whose inclinations go for abstract dogmas well backed by brimstone say that he does not preach the Gospel. Has he exalted the functions of the minister, and tried to invest his office with a spiritual dignity and power that would furnish a good leverage over his flock? He is accused of 296 sacerdotalism, and the free-citizen blood of his listening Erastians is up and flaming. Does he, to avoid these stumbling-blocks, wander into the deeper mysteries and discourse on things which no man can either explain or understand? He is accused of presumption and profanity, and is advised to stick to the Lord's Prayer and the Sermon on the Mount. If he is earnest he is impertinent; if he is level he is cold. Each member of his congregation, subscribing a couple of guineas towards his support, feels as if he or she had claims to that amount over the body and soul and mind and powers of the poor parson in his or her pay; and the claim is generally worked out in snippets, not individually dangerous to life nor fortune, but inexpressibly aggravating, and as depressing as annoying. For the most part, the unhappy man is safest when he sticks to broad dogma, and leaves personal morality alone. And he is almost sure to be warmly applauded when he has a shy at science, and says that physicists are fools who assert more than they can prove, because they cannot show why an acorn should produce an oak, nor how the phenomena of thought are elaborated. This throwing of date-stones is sure to strike no listening djinn. The mass of the congregations sitting in the English Protestant churches built on foreign soil, know little and care less about the physical sciences; but it gives them a certain comfortable glow to think that they are so much better than those sinful and presumptuous men who work at bacteria and the spectroscope; 297 and they hug themselves as they say, each man in his own soul, how much nicer it is to be dogmatically safe than intellectually learned.

Preaching personal morality indeed, with possible private application, would be rather difficult in dealing with a congregation not unfrequently made up of doubtful elements. Take that pretty young woman and her handsome roué-looking husband, who have come no one knows whence and are no one knows what, but who attend the services with praiseworthy punctuality, spend any amount of money, and are being gradually incorporated into the society of the place. The parson may have had private hints conveyed to him from his friends at home that, of the matrimonial conditions between the two, everything is real save the assumed 'lines.' But how is he to say so? They have made themselves valuable members of his congregation, and give larger donations than any one else. They have got the good will of the leading persons in the sacred community, and, having something to hide, are naturally careful to please, and are consequently popular. He can scarcely give form and substance to the hints he has had conveyed to him; yet his conscience cries out on the one side, if his weakness binds him to silence on the other. In any case, how can he make himself the Nathan to this questionable David, and, holding forth on the need of virtuous living, thunder out, 'Thou art the man!'? Let him try the experiment, and he will find a hornet's nest nothing to it.

298 How too, can he preach honesty to men, perhaps his own churchwardens, who have outrun the constable and outwitted their creditors at one and the same time? How lecture women who flirt over the borders on the week days, but pay handsomely for their sittings on Sundays, on the crown with which Solomon endowed the lucky husband of the virtuous woman? He may wish to do all this; but his wife and children, and the supreme need of food and firing, step in between him and the higher functions of his calling; and he owns himself forced to accept the world as he finds it, sins and shortcomings with the rest, and to take heed lest he be eaten up by over-zeal or carried into personal darkness by his desire for his people's light.

Sometimes the poor man is in thrall to some one in particular rather than to his flock as a body; and there are times when this dominant power is a woman; in which case the many contrarieties besetting his position may be multiplied ad infinitum. Nothing can exceed the miserable subjection of a clergyman given over to the tender mercies of a feminine despot. She knows everything, and she governs as much as she knows. She makes herself the arbiter of his whole life, from his conscience to his children's boots, and he can call neither his soul nor his home his own. She prescribes his doctrine, and takes care to let him know when he has transgressed the rules she has laid down for his guidance. She treats the hymns as part of her personal prerogative, and is 299 violently offended if those having a ritualistic tendency are sung, or if those are taken whereof the tunes are too jaunty or the measure is too slow. The unfortunate man feels under her eye during the whole of the service, like a schoolboy under the eye of his preceptress; and he dare not even begin the opening sentences until she has rustled up the aisle and has said her private prayer quite comfortably. She holds over his head the terror of vague threats and shadowy misfortunes should he cross her will; but at the same time he does not find that running in her harness brings extra grist to his mill, nor that his way is the smoother because he treads in the footsteps she has marked out for him.

Sometimes she takes a craze against a voluntary; sometimes she objects to any approach to chanting; and if certain recalcitrants of the congregation, in possession of the harmonium, insist on their own methods against hers, she writes home to the Society and complains of the thin edge of the wedge and the Romanizing tendencies of her spiritual adviser. In any case she is a fearful infliction; and a church ruled by a female despot is about the most pitiable instance we know of insolent tyranny and broken-backed dependence.

But the clergymen serving these transmarine stations are not often themselves men of mark nor equal to their contemporaries at home. They are often sickly, which means a low amount of vital energy; oftener impecunious, which presupposes want of 300 grip and precludes real independence. They are men whose career has been somehow arrested; and their natures have suffered in the blight that has befallen their hopes. Their whole life is more or less a compromise, now with conscience, now with character; and they have to wink at evils which they ought to denounce, and bear with annoyances which they ought to resent. In most cases they are obliged to eke out their scanty incomes by taking pupils; and here again the millstone round their necks is heavy, and they have to pay a large moral percentage on their pecuniary gains. If their pupils are of the age when boys begin to call themselves men, they have to keep a sharp look-out on them; and they suffer many things on the score of responsibility when that look-out is evaded, as it necessarily must be at times. As the characteristic quality of small societies is gossip, and as gossip always includes exaggeration, the peccadilloes of the young fellows are magnified into serious sins, and then bound as a burden on the back of the poor cleric in thrall to the idle imaginings of men and the foolish fears of women. One black sheep in the pupilary flock will do more damage to the reputation of the unhappy pastor who has them in hand than a dozen shining lights will do him good. Morality is assumed to be the free gift of the tutor to the pupil; and if the boy is bad the man is to blame for not having made that free-gift betimes.

Look at it how we will, the clergyman in charge of these foreign congregations has no very pleasant 301 time of it. In a sense expatriated; his home ties growing daily weaker; his hope of home preferment reduced to nil; his liberty of conscience a dream of the past; and all the mystical power of his office going down in the conflict caused by the need of pew-rents, submission to tyrants, and dependence on the Home Society, he lives from year to year bemoaning the evil chances which have flung him on this barren, shifting, desolate strand, and becoming less and less fitted for England and English parochial work—that castle in the air, quiet and secure, which he is destined never to inhabit. He is touched too in part by the atmosphere of his surroundings; and to a congregation without duties a clergyman with views more accommodating than severe comes only too naturally as the appropriate pastor. The whole thing proves that thraldom to the means of living, or rather to the persons representing those means, damages all men alike—those in cassock and gown as well as those in slop and blouse—and that lay influence can, in certain circumstances, be just as tyrannical over the clerical conscience as clerical influence is apt to be tyrannical over lay living.



We know all that can be said in laudation of old friends—the people whose worth has been tried and their constancy proved—who have come when you have called and danced when you have piped—been faithful in sunshine and shadow alike—not envious of your prosperity nor deserting you in your adversity—old friends who, like old wine, have lost the crudity of newness, have mellowed by keeping, and have blended the ripeness of age with the vigour of youth. It is all true in certain circumstances and under certain conditions; but the old friend of this ideal type is as hard to find as any other ideal; while bad imitations abound, and life is rendered miserable by them.

There are old friends who make the fact of old friendship a basis for every kind of unpleasantness. Their opinion is not asked, but they volunteer it on all occasions, and are sure to give it in the manner which galls you most and which you can least resent. They snub you before your latest acquaintances—charming people of good status with whom you especially desire to stand well; and break up your pretensions of present superiority by that sledge-hammer of old friendship which knows you down to 303 the ground and will stand no nonsense. The more formal and fastidious your company, the more they will rasp your nerves by the coarse familiarity of their address; and they know no greater pleasure than to put you in a false position by pretending to keep you in your true place. They run in on you at all times; and you have neither an hour undisturbed nor a pursuit uninterrupted, still less a circumstance of your life kept sacred from them. The strictest orders to your servant are ignored; and they push past any amount of verbal barriers with the irresistible force of old friendship to which nothing can be denied. Whatever you are doing you can just see them, they say, smiling; and they have neither conscience nor compassion when they come and eat up your time, which is your money, for the gratification of hearing themselves talk and of learning how you are getting on. They do not scruple to ask about your affairs direct questions to which you must perforce give an answer; silence or evasion betraying the truth as much as assent; and they will make you a present of their mind on the matter, which, though to the last degree condemnatory, you are expected to accept with becoming gratitude and humility.

If you have known them in your early boyhood, when you were all uncivilized hail-fellows together, they refuse to respect your maturer dignity, and will Tom and Dick and Harry you to the end, though you sit in a horsehair wig on the bench, while your 304 old friend, once your class-mate of the country grammar school where you both got your rudiments, is only a city clerk, badly paid and married to his landlady's daughter.

To women this kind of return from the grave of the past is a dreadful infliction and oftentimes a danger. The playfellows of the romping hoydenish days dash home, bearded and bronzed, from Australia or California; stride into the calm circle of refined matronhood with the old familiar manner and using the old familiar terms; ask Fan or Nell if she remembers this or that adventure on the mountain-side? by the lake? in the wood?—topping their query by a meaning laugh as if more remained behind than was expedient to declare. They slap the dignified husband on the back, and call him a d——d lucky dog; telling him that they envy him his catch, and would gladly stand in his shoes if they could. It was all that cross-cornered cursed fate of theirs which sent them off to Australia or California; else he, the dignified husband, would never have had the chance—hey, Fan? And they wink when they say it, as if they had good grounds to go on. The wife is on thorns all the time these hateful visits last. She wonders how she could ever have been on romping terms with such a horror, even in her youngest days; and feels that she shall hate her own name for ever, after hearing it mouthed and bawled by her old friend with such aggressive familiarity. The husband, if jealous by nature, begins to look sullen and suspicious. Even if he is not 305 jealous, but only reserved and conventional, he does not like what he sees, still less what he hears; and is more than half inclined to think he has made a mistake, and that the Fan or Nell of his bosom would have been better mated with the old friend from the backwoods than with him.

The old friends who turn up in this way at all corners of your life are sure to be needy, and hold their old friendship as a claim on your balance at the bank. They stick closer to you than a brother, and you are expected to stick as close to them; and, as a sign thereof, to provide for their necessities as so much interest on the old account of affection still running. If you shrink from them and try to shunt them quietly, they go about the world proclaiming your ingratitude, and trumpeting forth their deserts and your demerits. They deride your present success, which they call stuck-up and mushroom; telling all the minor miseries of your past, when your father found it hard to provide suitably for his large family, and their mother had more than once to give yours a child's frock and pinafore in pity for your rags. They generally contrive to make a division in your circle; and you find some of your new friends look coldly on you because it is said you have been ungrateful to your old. The whole story may be a myth, the mere coinage of vanity and disappointment; but when did the world stop to prove the truth before it condemned?

There is no circumstance so accidental, no kindness so trivial, that it cannot be made to constitute 306 a claim to friendship for life and all that friendship includes—intimacy before the world; pecuniary help when needed; no denial of time; no family secrets; unvarying inclusion in all your entertainments; personal participation in all your successes; liberty to say unpleasant things without offence and to interfere in your arrangements; and the right to take at least one corner of your soul, and that not a small one, which is not to be your own but your old friends'. Have they, by the merest chance, introduced you to your wife the beautiful heiress, to your husband the good match?—the world echoes with the news, and the echoes are never suffered to die out. It is told everywhere, and always as if your happy marriage were the object they had had in view from the earliest times—as if they had lived and worked for a consummation which in reality came about by the purest accident. Have they been helpful and friendly when your first child was born, or nursery sickness was in your house?—you are bought for life, you and your offspring; unless you have had the happy thought of making them sponsors, when they learn the knack of disappearing from your immediate circle, and of only turning up on those formal occasions which do not admit of making presents. Did they introduce you to your first employer?—your subsequent success is the work of their hands, and they bear your fame on their shoulders like complacent Atlases balancing the world.

They go about cackling to every one who will 307 listen to them how they got your first essay into print; how they mentioned your name to the Commissioners, and how, in consequence, the Commissioners gave you that place whence dates your marvellous rise in life; how they advised your father to send you to sea and so to make a man of you, and thus were the indirect cause of your K.C.B.-ship. But for them you would have been a mere nobody, grubbing in a dingy City office to this day. They gave you your start, and you owe all you are to them. And if you fail to honour their draft on your gratitude to the fullest amount, they proclaim you a defaulter to the most sacred claims and the most pious feelings of humanity. You point the moral of the base ingratitude of man, and are a text on which they preach the sermon of non-intervention in the affairs of others. Let drowning men sink; let the weak go to the wall; and on no account let any one trouble himself about the welfare of old friends, if this is to be the reward. Henceforth, you are morally branded, and your old friend takes care that the iron shall be hot. There is no service, however trifling, but can be made a yoke to hang round your neck for life; and the more you struggle against it the more it galls you. Your best plan of bearing it is with the patience which laughs and lets things slide. If however, you are resolute in repudiation, you must take the sure result without wincing.

To these friends of your own add the friends of the family—those uncomfortable adhesives who cling 308 to you like so many octopods, and are not to be shaken off by any means known to you. They claim you as their own—something in which they have the rights of part-proprietorship—because they knew you when you were in your cradle, and had bored your parents as they want to bore you. It is of no use to say that circumstances are of less weight than character. You and they may stand at opposite poles in thought, in aspiration, in social condition, in habits. Nevertheless they insist on it that the bare fact of longtime acquaintance is to be of more value than all these vital discrepancies; and you find yourself saddled with friends who are utterly uncongenial to you in every respect, because your father once lived next door to them in the country town where you were born, and spent one evening a week in their society playing long whist for threepenny points. You inherit your weak chest and your snub nose, gout in your blood and a handful of ugly skeletons in your cupboard; these are things you cannot get rid of; things which come as part of the tangled yarn of your life and are the inalienable misfortunes of inheritance; but it is too bad to add family friends whom of your own accord you would never have known; and to have them seated as Old Men of the Sea on your neck, never to be shaken off while they live.

In fact, this whole question of friendship wants revision. The general tendency is to make it too stringent in its terms, and too indissoluble in its 309 fastenings. If the present should not make one forget the past, neither should the past tyrannize over the present. Old friends may have been pleasant enough in their day, but a day is not for ever, and they are hurtful and unpleasant now, under new conditions and in changed circumstances. They disturb the harmony of our surroundings, and no one can feel happy in discord.

They themselves too, change; we all do, as life goes on and experience increases; and it is simply absurd to bring the old fashions of early days into the new relations of later times. We are not the Tom, Dick, and Harry of our boyhood in any essential save identity of person; neither are they the Bill and Jim they were. We have gone to the right, they to the left; and the gap between us is wider and deeper than that of mere time. Of what use then, to try to galvanize the dead past into the semblance of vitality? Each knows in his heart that it is dead; and the only one who wishes to galvanize it into simulated life is the one who will somehow benefit by the discomfort and abasement of the other. For our own part, we think one of the most needful things to learn on our way through the world is, that the dead are dead, and that silent burial is better than spasmodic galvanism.



The three chief causes of personal popularity among women are, the admiration which is excited, the sympathy which is given, or the pleasure that can be bestowed. We put out of court for our present purpose the popularity which accompanies political power or intellectual strength, this being due to condition, not quality, and therefore not of the sort we mean. Besides, it belongs to men rather than to women, who seldom have any direct power that can advance others, and still seldomer intellectual strength enough to obtain a public following because of their confessed supremacy. The popular women we mean are simply those met with in society—women whose natural place is the drawing-room and whose sphere is the well-dressed world—women who are emphatically ladies, and who understand les convenances and obey them, even if they take up a cause, practise philanthropy or preach philosophy. But the popular woman rarely does take up a cause or make her philanthropy conspicuous and her philosophy audible. Partizanship implies angles; and she has no angles. If of the class of the admired, she is most popular who is least obtrusive in her claims and most ingenuous 311 in ignoring her superiority. A pretty woman, however pretty, if affected, vain, or apt to give herself airs, may be admired but is never popular. The men whom she snubs sneer at her in private; the women whom she eclipses as well as snubs do more than sneer; those only to whom she is gracious find her beauty a thing of joy; but as she is distractingly eclectic in her favouritism she counts as many foes as she has friends; and though those who dislike her cannot call her ugly, they can call her disagreeable, and do. But the pretty woman who wears her beauty to all appearance unconsciously, never suffering it to be aggressive to other women nor wilfully employing it for the destruction of men, who is gracious in manner and of a pleasant temper, who is frank and approachable, and does not seem to consider herself as something sacred and set apart from the world because nature made her lovelier than the rest—she is the woman whom all unite in admiring, the popular person par excellence of her set.

The popular pretty woman is one who, take her as a young wife (and she must be married), honestly loves her husband, but does not thrust her affection into the face of the world, and never flirts with him in public. Indeed, she flirts with other men just enough to make time pass pleasantly, and enjoys a rapid waltz or a lively conversation as much as when she was seventeen and before she was appropriated. She does not think it necessary to go about morally ticketed; nor does she find it vital to her 312 dignity nor to her virtue to fence herself round with coldness or indifference to the multitude by way of proving her loyalty to one. Still, as it is notorious that she does love her husband, and as every one knows that he and she are perfectly content with each other and therefore not on the look-out for supplements, the men with whom she has those innocent little jokes, those transparent secrets, those animated conversations, that confessed friendship and good understanding, do not make mistakes; and the very women belonging to them forget to be censorious, even though this other, this popular woman, is so much admired.

This popular woman is a mother too, and a fond one. Hence she can sympathize with other mothers, and expatiate on their common experiences in the confidential chat over five o'clock tea, as all fond mothers do and should. She keeps a well-managed house, and is notorious for the amount of needlework she gets through; and of which she is prettily proud; not being ashamed to tell you that the dress you admire so much was made by her own hands, and she will give your wife the pattern if she likes; while she boasts of even rougher upholstery work which she and her maid and her sewing-machine have got through with despatch and credit. She gives dinners with a cachet of their own—dinners which have evidently been planned with careful thought and study; and she is not above her work as mistress and organizer of her household. Yet she 313 finds time to keep abreast with the current literature of the day, and never has to confess to ignorance of the ordinary topics of conversation. She is not a woman of extreme views about anything. She has not signed improper papers and she does not discuss improper questions; she does not go in for woman's rights; she has a horror of facility of divorce; and she sets up for nothing—being neither an Advanced Woman desirous of usurping the possessions and privileges of men, nor a Griselda who thinks her proper place is at the feet of men, to take their kicks with patience and their caresses with gratitude, as is becoming in an inferior creature. She does not dabble in politics; and though she likes to make her dinners successful and her evenings brilliant, she by no means assumes to be a leader of fashion nor to impose laws on her circle. She likes to be admired, and she is always ready to let herself be loved. She is always ready too, to do any good work that comes in her way; and she finds time for the careful overlooking of a few pet charities about which she makes no parade, just as she finds time for her nursery and her needlework. And, truth to tell, she enjoys these quiet hours, with only her children to love her and her poor pensioners to admire her, quite as much as she enjoys the brilliant receptions where she is among the most popular and the most beautiful.

Her nature is gentle, her affections are large, her passions small. She may have prejudices, but they are prejudices of a mild kind, mainly on the side of modesty 314 and tenderness and the quietude of true womanhood. She is woman throughout, without the faintest dash of the masculine element in mind or manners; and she aspires to be nothing else. She carries with her an atmosphere of happiness, of content, of spiritual completeness, of purity which is not prudery. Her life is filled with a variety of interests; consequently she is never peevish through monotony, nor yet, on the other hand, is she excited, hurried, storm-driven, as those who give themselves up to 'objects,' and perfect nothing because they attempt too much. She is popular, because she is beautiful without being vain; loving without being sentimental; happy in herself, yet not indifferent to others; because she understands her drawing-room duties as well as her domestic ones, and knows how to combine the home life with social splendour. This is the best type of the popular pretty woman to whom is given admiration, and against whom no one has a stone to fling nor a slander to whisper; and this is the ideal woman of the English upper-class home, of whom we still raise a few specimens, just to show what women may be if they like, and what sweet and lovely creatures they are when they are content to be as nature designed them.

Another kind of popular woman is the sympathetic woman, the woman who gives instead of receiving. This kind is of variable conditions. She may be old, she may be ugly; in fact, she is more often both than neither; but she is a universal 315 favourite notwithstanding, and no woman is more sought after nor less wearied of, although few can say why they like her. She may be married; but generally she is either a widow or an old maid; for, if she be a wife, her sympathies for things abroad are necessarily somewhat cramped by the pressure of those at home;—and her sympathies are her claim to popularity. She is sincere too, as well as sympathetic, and she is safe. She holds the secrets of all her friends; but no one suspects that any before himself has confided in her. She has the art, or rather the charm, of perpetual spiritual freshness, and all her friends think in turn that the fountain has been unsealed now for the first time. This is not artifice; it is simply the property of deep and inexhaustible sympathy. It is not necessary that she should be a wise adviser to be popular. Her province is to listen and to sympathize; to gather the sorrows and the joys of others into her own breast, so as to soften by sharing or heighten by reduplication. Most frequently she is not over rigid in her notions of moral prudence, and will let a lovesick girl talk of her lover, even if the affair be hopeless and has been forbidden; while she will do her best to soothe the man who has had the misfortune to get crazed about his friend's wife. She has been even known, under pressure, to convey a message or a hint; and of the two she is decidedly more pitiful to sorrow than severe to wrong-doing. She is in all the misfortunes and maladies of her friends. No death takes 316 place without her bearing part of the mourning on her own soul; but then no marriage is considered complete in which she has not a share. She is called on to help whenever there is work to be done, if she be of the practical type; if of the mental, she has merely to give up her own pleasures and her time that she may look on and sympathize. Every one likes her; every one takes to her at first sight; no one is jealous of her; and the law of her life is to spend and be spent for others. It not rarely happens though, that she who does so much for those others has to bear her own burden unassisted; and that she sits at home surrounded by those spectres of despair, those ghosts of sorrow, which she helps to dispel from the homes of others. But she is not selfish; and while she trudges along cheerfully enough under the heavy end of her friend's crosses, she asks no one to lay so much as a finger on her own. In consequence of which no one imagines that she ever suffers at all on her own account; and most of her friends would take it as a personal affront were she to turn the tables and ask for the smallest portion of that of which she had given so much to others. She is the moral anodyne of her circle; and when she ceases to soothe, she abdicates the function assigned to her by nature and dies out of her allotted uses.

Another kind of popular person is the woman whose sympathies are more superficial, but whose faculties are more brilliant; the woman who makes herself agreeable, as it is called—that is, who can 317 talk when she is wanted to talk; listen when she is wanted to listen; take a prominent part and some responsibility or keep her personality in the background, according to circumstances and the need of the moment; who is eminently a useful member of society, and popular just in proportion to the pleasure she can shed around her. But she offends no one, even though she is notoriously sought after and made much of; for she is good-natured to all, and people are not jealous of those who do not flaunt their successes and whom popularity does not make insolent. The popular woman of this kind is always ready to help in the pleasure of others. She is a fair-weather friend, and shrinks with the most charming frankness from those on whom dark days have fallen. She is really very sorry when any of her friends fall out from the ranks, and are left behind to the tender mercies of those cruel camp-followers in the march of life—sorrow or sickness; but she feels that her place is not with them—rather with the singers and players who are stepping along in front making things pleasant for the main body. But if she cannot stop to smooth the pillows of a dying-bed, nor soothe the troubles of an aching heart, she can organize delightful parties; set young people to congenial games; take off bores on to her own shoulders, and even utilize them for the neutralization of other bores. She is good for the back seat or the front, as is most convenient to others. She can shine at the state-dinner where you want a serviceable show, or 318 make a diversion in the quiet, not to say stupid, conglomerate of fogies, where you want a lively element to prevent universal stupor. She talks easily and well, and even brilliantly when on her mettle, but not so as to excite men's envy; and she has no decided opinions. She is a chameleon, an opal, changing ever in changing lights, and no one was yet able to determine her central quality. All that can be said of her is that she is good-natured and amusing, clever, facile, and ever ready to assist at all kinds of gatherings, which she has the knack of making go, and which would have been slow without her; that she knows every game ever invented, and is good for every sort of festivity; that she is always well-dressed, even-tempered, and in (apparently) unwearied spirits and superb health; but what she is at home, when the world is shut out, never troubles the thoughts of any. She is to society what the sympathetic woman is to the individual, and the reward is much the same in both cases. But unless the socially useful woman has been able to secure the interest of the sympathetic one, the chances are that, popular as she is now, she will be relegated to the side when her time of brilliancy has passed; and that, when her last hour comes, it will find her without the comfort of a friend, forsaken and forgotten. She is of the kind to whom sic transit more especially applies; and if her life's food has not been quite the husks, at all events it has not been good meat nor fine meal.



The controversy as to which is the better of the two methods of marrying one's daughter, in use in France and England respectively, has not yet been decided by any preponderating evidence. Whether the parents—especially the mother—ought to find a husband for the daughter, or whether the girl, young and inexperienced as she is, should seek one for herself, with the chance of not knowing her own mind in the first place, and of not understanding the real nature of the man she chooses in the second—these are the two principles contended for by the rival methods; and the fight is still going on. The truth is, the worst of either is so infinitely bad that there is nothing to choose between them; and the same is true, inversely, of the best. When things go well, the advocates of the particular system involved sing their pæans, and show how wise they were; when they go ill, the opponents howl their condemnation, and say: We told you so.

The French method is based on the theory that a woman's knowledge of the world, and a mother's intimate acquaintance with her daughter's special 320 temper and requirements, are likely to be truer guides in the choice of a husband than the callow fancy of a girl. It is assumed that the former will be better able than the latter to separate the reality from the appearance, to winnow the grain from the chaff. She will appraise at its true value a fascinating manner with a shaky moral character at its back; and a handsome face will go for little when the family lawyer confesses the poverty of the family purse. To the girl, a fluent tongue, flattering ways, a taking presence, would have included everything in heaven and earth that a man should be; and no dread of future poverty, no evidence of the bushels of wild oats sown broadcast, would have convinced her that Don Juan was a mauvais parti and a scamp into the bargain. Again, the mother usually knows her daughters' dispositions better than the daughters themselves, and can distinguish between idiosyncrasies and needs as no young people are able to do. Laura is romantic, sentimental, imaginative; but Laura cannot mend a stocking nor make a shirt, nor do any kind of work requiring strength of grasp or deftness of touch. She has no power of endurance, no persistency of will, no executive ability; but she falls in love with a younger son just setting out to seek his fortunes in Australia; and, if allowed, she marries him, full of enthusiasm and delight, and goes out with him. In a year's time she is dead—literally killed by hardship; or, if she has vitality enough to survive the hard experience of roughing it in the bush, she collapses into a wretched, haggard, faded 321 woman, prematurely old, hopeless and dejected; the miserable victim of circumstances sinking under a burden too heavy for her to bear.

Now a French mother would have foreseen all these dangers, and would have provided against them. She would have known the unsubstantial quality of Laura's romance, and the reality of her physical weakness and incapacity. She would have kept her out of sight and hearing of that fascinating younger son just off to Australia to dig out his rough fortunes in the bush, and would have quietly assigned her to some conventional well-endowed man of mature age—who might not have been a soul's ideal, and whose rheumatism would have made him chary of the moonlight—but who would have taken care of the poor little frail body, dressed it in dainty gowns and luxurious furs, given it a soft couch to lie on and a luxurious carriage to drive in, and provided it with food convenient and ease unbroken. And in the end, Laura would have found that mamma had known what was best for her; and that her ordinary-looking, middle-aged caretaker was a better husband for her than would have been that adventurous young Adonis, who could have given her nothing better than a shakedown of dried leaves, a deal box for an arm-chair, and a cup of brick tea for the sparkling wines of her youth.

It may be a humiliating confession to make, but the old saying about poverty coming in at the door and love flying out of the window holds true in all 322 cases where there is not strength enough to rough it; for the body holds the spirit captive, and, however willing the one may be, the weakness of the other conquers in the end.

On the other hand, Maria, square-set, defying, adventurous, brave, as the wife of a rich man here in England, would be as one smothered in rose leaves. The dull monotony of conventional life would half madden her; and her uncompromising temper would break out in a thousand eccentricities, and make her countless enemies. Let her go to the bush if you like. She is of the stamp which bears heroes; and her sons will be a stalwart race fit for the work before them. The wise mother who had it in hand to organize the future of her daughters would take care to find her a man and a fortune that would utilize her energy and courage; but Maria, if left to herself, might perhaps fall in love with some cavalry officer of good family and expectations, whose present dash would soon have to be exchanged for the stereotyped conventionalities of the owner of a place, where, as his wife, her utmost limit of physical action would be riding to hounds and taking off the prize for archery.

Such well-fitting arrangements as these are the ideal of the French system; just as the union of two hearts, the one soul finding its companion soul and both living happily ever after, is the ideal of the English system. Against the French lies the charge of the cruel sale, for so much money, of a young creature who has not been allowed a choice, scarcely 323 even the right of rejection; against the English the cruelty of suffering a girl's foolish fancy to destroy her whole life, and the absurdity of treating such a fancy as a fact. For the French there is the plea of the enormous power of instinct and habit, and that really it signifies very little to a girl what man she marries; provided only that he is kind to her and that she has not fallen in love with any one else; seeing that she is sure to love the first presented. For the English there is the counter plea of individual needs and independent choice, and the theory that women do not love by instinct but by sympathy. The French make great account of the absolute virginity in heart of the young girl they marry; and few Frenchmen would think they had got the kind of woman warranted if they married one who had been engaged two or three times already—to whose affianced lovers had been accorded the familiarities which we in England hold innocent and as matters of course. The English, in return, demand a more absolute fidelity after marriage, and are generous enough to a few false starts before. To them the contract is more a matter of free choice than it is in France; consequently failure in carrying out the stipulations carries with it more dishonour. The French, taking into consideration that the wife had nothing to say to the bargain which gave her away, are inclined to be more lenient when the theory of instinctive love fails to work, and the individuality 324 of the woman expresses itself in an after-preference; always provided, of course, that the bienséances are respected, and that no scandal is created.

Among the conflicting rights and wrongs of the two systems it is very difficult to say which is the better, which the wiser. If it seems a horrible thing to marry a young girl without her consent, or without any more knowledge of the man with whom she is to pass her life than can be got by seeing him once or twice in formal family conclave, it seems quite as bad to let our women roam about the world at the age when their instincts are strongest and their reason weakest—open to the flatteries of fools and fops—the prey of professed lady-killers—the objects of lover-like attentions by men who mean absolutely nothing but the amusement of making love—the subjects for erotic anatomists to study at their pleasure. Who among our girls after twenty carries an absolutely untouched heart to the man she marries? Her former predilection may have been a dream, a fancy—still it was there; and there are few wives who, in their little tiffs and moments of irritation, do not feel, 'If I had married my first love, he would not have treated me so.' Perhaps a wise man does not care for a mere baseless thought; but all men are not wise, and to some a spiritual condition is as real as a physical fact. Others however, do not trouble themselves for what has gone before if they can but secure what follows after; but we imagine that most 325 men would rather not know their wives' dreams; and cet autre, however shadowy, is a rival not specially desired by the average husband.

If the independence of life and free intercourse between young men and maidens is in its degree dangerous in England, what must it be in America, where anything like chaperonage is unknown, and where girls and boys flock together without a mamma or a guardian among them? where engaged couples live under the same roof for months at a time, also without a mamma or a guardian? and where the young men take the young women about on night excursions alone, and no harm thought by any one? Is human nature really different in America from what it is in the Old World? Are Columbia's sons in truth like Erin's of old time, so good or so cold? It is a saying hard of acceptance to us who are accustomed to regard our daughters as precious things to be taken care of—if not quite so frail as the French regard theirs, yet not too secure, and certainly not to be left too much to themselves with only young men for their guardians. They are our lambs, and we look out for wolves. To be sure the comparative paucity of women in the United States, and the conviction which every girl has that she may pretty well make her own choice, help to keep matters straight. That is easy to be understood. There is no temptation to eat green berries in an orchard full of ripe fruit. But if this be true of America, then the converse must be true of England, where the redundancy 326 of women is one of the most patent facts of the time, and where consequently they cannot so well afford to indulge that pride of person which hesitates among many before selecting one. In America this pride of person of itself erects a barrier between the wolves and the lambs; but where the very groundwork of it is wanting, as in England, it behoves the natural guardians to be on the watch, and to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. Whether or not that care should be carried to the extent to which French parents carry theirs—and especially in the matter of making the marriage for the daughter and not letting her make it for herself—we leave an open question. Perhaps a little modification in the practice of both nations would be the best for all concerned. Without trusting quite so much to instinct as the French, we might profitably curtail a little more than we do the independent choice of those who are too young and too ignorant to know what they want, or what they have got when they have chosen; and without letting their young girls run all abroad without direction, the French might, in turn, allow them some kind of human preference, and not treat them as mere animals bound to be grateful to the hand that feeds them, and docile to the master who governs them.



The efforts of country places in the matter of local fêtes and shows are often beset with difficulties. The great people, who have seen the best of everything in Paris and London, give their money sparsely and their energies with languor; or it may be that certain of the more good-natured kill the whole affair by their superabundant patronage, as nurses stifle infants by over-care. The very poor can only participate to the extent of pence when the thing is organized; they can neither subscribe for the general expenses nor give time to the arrangements; consequently the burden rests on the shoulders of the middle class, which in a small country neighbourhood is represented by the well-to-do tradesmen, the innkeepers, and the rival professionals. Once a year or so the desire fastens on these people to get up a local fête—say a flower-show, or games, or both combined—as an evidence of local vitality; a claim on the county newspaper for two or three columns of description with all the names in full flanked by a generous application of adjectives; an occasion for mutual self-laudation; and a pleasing impression of 328 the eyes of England being turned upon them. They find their work cut out for them when they begin; and before the end most of them wish they had never been bitten by the mania of parochial ambition, but had let the old place lie in its wonted stagnation without attempting to stir it at the cost of so much vexation and thankless trouble.

Jealousy and huffiness are the dominant characteristics of small communities, as all people know who have had dealings therewith. The question of precedence affects more than the choice of the First Lady in an assembly where there are no ladies to be first, though there may be plenty of honest women; and the men squabble for distinctive offices and the recognition of services to the full as much as the lawyer's wife squabbles with the doctor's, and both with the wholesale grocer's, as to which of the three is to be first taken down to supper and set at the head of the table with the master of the house. One wants to be the secretary, that he may display his power of fine writing when he asks the resident nobility and gentry for their subscriptions, and draws up the final report for the press. Another thinks he should be made chairman of the acting committee, because he imagines he has the gift of eloquence, and he would like to use the time of the association in airing his syntax. A third puts in his claim to be elected one of the judges of things he does not understand, because his son-in-law is to be an exhibitor, and he would be glad to be able to say a good word for him; and all decline 329 those offices which have no outside show, where only work is to be done and no credit gained. It requires a considerable amount of tact and firmness to withstand these clamorous vanities, to put the right men in the right places, and yet not make enmities which will last a lifetime. But if the thing is to succeed at all, this is what must be done; and the little committee must stick to its text of pro bono publico as steadfastly as if the flower-show were a conqueror's triumph, and the rules and regulations for its fit management consular decrees.

When the eventful day arrives, every one feels that the eyes of England are indeed turned hither-ward. If the great people are languid, the meaner folks are jocund, and the stewards are as proud as the proudest ædiles of old Rome. Their knots of coloured ribbon make new men of them for the time, and justify the instinct which puts its trust in regalia. They are sure to be on the ground from the earliest hours in the morning; and though scoffers might perhaps question the practical value of their zeal, no one can doubt its heartiness. If it is fussy, it is genuine; and as every one is fussy alike, they cannot complain of one another. A band has been lent by a neighbouring regiment, and the men come radiant into the little town. It is delightful to see the cordial condescension with which the trombone and the cornet, the serpent and the drum shake hands with their civilian friends; and how the fine fellows in scarlet accept drinks quite fraternally from 330 fustian and corderoy. For a full half-hour the town is kept alive by the dazzle and resonance of these musical heroes as they stand before the door of the 'public' which they have elected to patronize, and lighten the pockets of the lieges by the successive 'go's' drained out of them. Then the church clock chimes the appointed hour; the last flag is run up; the finishing touch is given to the calico and the moss; the last award has been affixed; and the policeman stationed at the gate to keep order among the little boys has tightened his belt and drawn on his gloves ready for action. The band marches through the town, drums beating and fifes playing, and when the gates are opened as the clock is on the stroke of twelve, they are all settled in their places with their music handy, ready to salute the gentry with the overture from Zampa, taken in false time. The imposing effect however, is rather marred by the friendly feelings of the public; for when jolly farmers and small boys insist on sharing the benches assigned to the red coats, the orchestra has necessarily a patchwork kind of look that does not add to its dignity.

The great people do their duty as they ought, and come in their carriages; which make a show and give an air of regality to the affair. Many of them have had early high-priced tickets given to them in consideration of their subscribed guineas; it being held the right thing to do to give to those who can afford to pay, trusting to the pence of the multitude 331 for the rest. Nevertheless these great creatures regard their presence there as a corvée which they must fulfil, but at the least cost possible to themselves; so they make up parties to meet at a certain time, and endure the stewards, who talk fine and are important, with the best philosophy granted them by nature. When the second prices come, then the real fun of the fair begins. The great people are uninterested. The indifferently grown flowers which are offered for prizes do not call forth their enthusiasm; but the smaller folk think them superb, and express their admiration with unstinted delight. When the gardener of a neighbouring lord exhibits a good specimen from his choicest plants, not for competition but as a model for imitation, their enthusiasm knows no bounds; and a fine alamanda or a richly-coloured dracæna receives almost divine honours. As a rule, the flowers in these local shows are poor enough; but the fruit is often good and the vegetables are magnificent. The highest efforts of competition are usually devoted to onions and beans; but potatoes come in for their due share, and the summer celery is for the most part an instance of misdirected power. The great houses carry off the first prizes—the poor little cottage plots, cultivated at odd hours under difficulties, not touching them in value. The gentlemen say they give their prizes to their gardeners; but that does not help the cottagers who have spent time and money and hope in this unequal struggle of pigmies with giants. In some 332 places they divide the classes, and give prizes to the gentlefolks apart, and to the cottagers by themselves. In which case they fulfil the Scriptures literally, and give most to those who already have most.

All the local oddities are sure to be at these fêtes. There is the harmless imbecile, who wanders about the roads with a peacock's feather in his battered old cap, and who talks to himself when he cannot find another listener; and there is the stalwart lady proprietor who farms her own land and knows as much about roots and beasts as the best of them. She is reported to have thrashed her man in her time, and is said to be a crack shot and the best roughrider for miles round. There is the ruined yeoman who came into a good property when he was a handsome young fellow with the ball at his foot, but who has drunk himself from affluence to penury, and from sturdy health to palsy and delirium tremens, yet who has always a kindly word from his betters, having been no man's enemy but his own, and even at his worst being a good fellow in a sort of way. There is the farmer who is supposed capable of buying up all the leaner gentry in a batch, but who, being a misogynist, lives by himself in his rambling old ruined Hall, with a hind to do the scullery maid's work, and never a petticoat about the place. There is the self-taught man of science whose quantities are shaky when he tells you the names of his treasures, but whose knowledge of local fossils, of rare plants, of concealed antiquities, is true so far as it goes, if of 333 too great importance in his estimate of things; and side by side with him is the self-made poet, whose verses are not always easy to scan and whose thoughts are apt to express themselves mistily. These and more are sure to be at the fête bringing; their peculiarities as their quota, and giving that indescribable but pleasant local flavour which is half the interest of the thing.

There is a great deal of practical democracy in these gatherings if the grand people stay into the time of the second prices; which however, they generally do not. If they do, then ragged coats jostle the squire's glossy broadcloth, and rude boys crumple the fresh silks and muslins of the ladies with the most communistic unconcern. The shopgirl and farmer's daughters come out in gorgeous array, with bonnets and skirts, streamers and furbelows, of wonderful construction; and their sisters of more cultivated taste regard their exaggerated toilets as moral crimes. But the poor things are happy in their ugly finery; and, as millinery is by no means an exact science, they may be pardoned if they adopt monstrosities on their own account which a year or so ago had been sanctioned by fashion. Sometimes Punch and Judy, 'as performed before the Queen and Prince Albert,' helps on the enjoyment of the day, with the '——' softened out of respect for the clergyman. Sometimes an acrobat lies down on the grass and twirls a huge ball between his feet, which sets all the little boys to do the like in imitation, and perhaps brings down 334 many a maternal hand on fleshy places as the result. In some localities a troop of little girls in scarlet and white plait ribbons dance round a maypole and are called inappropriately morris-dancers. Perhaps there are fireworks at the end of all things; when the set pieces will not light simultaneously in all their parts, the catherine-wheels have the disastrous trick of sticking, and only the Roman candles and the rockets succeed as they should. But the gaping crowd is vociferous and good-natured, and holds the whole affair to have been splendid. There is a great deal of coarse jollity among the men and women over the failures and successes alike, and if the fête is in the North there is sure to be more drink afloat than is desirable. Headaches are the rule of the next morning, with perhaps some things lost which can never be regained. Yet, in spite of the inevitable abuses, these local fêtes are things worthy of encouragement; and perhaps if the great people would enter into them more heartily, and remain on the ground longer, the lower orders would behave themselves better all through, and there would not be so much rowdyism at the end. It does not seem to us that this would be an unendurable sacrifice of time and personal dignity for the pleasure and morality of the neighbourhood where one lives.


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