« VorigeDoorgaan »
the descriptions of gallant hunts in which tigers turned tail and lions turned pale before the potent eye of their human pursuer ! Some such an effect will, I fear, follow when women come to fill the chair of moral anatomy; a different view will then be taken and given of some of the leviathans of fame, from Milton to Montgomery! How little was the conduct of the great Napoleon to Madame de Stael ; and as for the aristocratic poet and the politic statesman, they are dearer to fancy and finesse than to truth and integrity. What subjects for the professorship I have just named has the new Poor Law Act brought forward ? What is the .moral to be drawn from that chapter of human history? That man will play the tyrant so long as he may play it with impunity, and that he is but half human, half civilized, so long as he is opposed to the equality of the other sex.
We have a people who recognise this equitable principle. William Howitt tells us that the great founder of his sect placed women on a footing of social equality with man, and gave them, in his society, meetings of civil discipline of their own, where they transacted their own affairs of association, and learned to rely on their own intellectual and moral resources.'
What have been the effects of this system? Hear it in the words in which William Howitt speaks of his own people :
* Among all the various society I have mingled in, I have nowhere seen a greater purity of life and sentiment; a more enviable preservation of youth-like tenderness of conscience; a deeper sense of the obligations of justice; of the beauty of punctuality; or so sweet a maintenance of the domesticities of life.'
This has been the result, if it were not the object, of George Fox's policy: he acted, probably, more from justice than foresight, and the sequel shows how well justice consists with the truest interests of man. The effect of female influence does not appear among Friends, as it does elsewhere, now and then, as an epigrammatic moral to a story; it pervades the whole economy of the sect; it emanates from all their proceedings; it is infused into the moral atmosphere of the community, as perfectly as the harmonies of nature are blended, of which it is impossible to point out the one which completes the universal diapason.
A quakeress, on her missions of moral and religious business, goes 10 various parts of the world and to different scenes of life with no protection but her purpose and her purity-secure in her common sense and right feeling, and her power of appeal to these in others. What an antithesis is presented in the woman who cannot walk out unattended by a footman, and Elizabeth Fry, the friend and counsellor of felons, who turned, with her bright benevolent face, to them, whom all others turned from! Who that contemplates the mere nonentities of fashion and sentiment can forbear to exclaim,
“Ye would be dupes and slaves,
And so ye are.' I despise, let me rather say deplore, the intrigante no less than the writer on • Women of Business.' But he looks only at effects; if he must condemn, be it the cause. It is discipline that makes the soldier, not the soldier the discipline. Women cannot come openly forward in the affairs of life, and finesse must gain that which freedom should give. As for his assertion that there never was a female politician but looked to the loaves and fishes,' I will ask him how often do male politicians stand acquitted of the charge? Verily, let him who hath no sin cast the first stone !
Women will soon appear, and I speak with a prophetic confidence in their inherent power, who will war like angels of dread with lightning, and others who will win their way like angels of love in sunshine. The one will be more beautiful than the other; but perhaps both may be essential. The lightning is necessary to pierce the thundercloud; if the cloud come upon human destiny, the lightning must rend and scatter it; but if there be a clear sky, with only here and there scudding vapours, then for the sunburst! that will banish partial darkness by perfect light. Upon a fair field, the heart of man, far more the heart of woman, will open its bland and beautiful treasure, and say unto all human creatures, “Take what wealth I have, let me join it to the general stock, and, without any drawback for selfishness, increase the riches of sociality.'
All that is custom now was innovation once;' all that is innovation now will be custom by-and-by. But the enemies of change feel a sort of cockney wonder, and sensibility to the ludi. crous, at anything which is new to them. To such the idea of a woman speaking in the House of Commons is almost as surprising as the idea of themselves speaking there, and nearly as laughable. But I will ask the thinking, the informed, the liberal man,- he who has felt his heart throb and his brain beat in behalf of human nature, whether a woman, so armed and animated, though a new, would be a ridiculous sight in Parliament, or in a nobler assembly still, that of the enlightened of all classes of her country people? If nature has endowed her with eloquence, and study possessed her with knowledge to serve the cause of her country, should she be declared incompetent, because she were wrapped in a silken shawl instead of a senator's robe ? because she spoke with a voice of silver instead of brass ?
As regards the guardianship of the poor, and the regulation of public morals, the least reflection is sufficient to show that the united agency of the sexes must be more efficient than the agency of either alone.
In every parish there are women, elderly and old, who yet in the vigour of their health and intelleet, might bestow on general interests those powers which their grown-up families no longer tax. How much more might, and would, a female overseer of the poor do in acting for the poor, than any of that kind of superintendents have ever yet done. If she were applied to in the case of a lying-in woman, she would not order dry bread, as was done on a recent occasion. She who had been herself a mother, and given a mother’s nourishment to a child, could appreciate the necessities and the sufferings of the creature who, in such a case, appealed to her. Was there a female police, acting in conjunction, and under wise regulation, with male officers, the young victim of folly might find a friend and an adviser, where she now only finds a further betrayer. Women once invested, by education, opinion, and custom, with the power of exerting heart and mind in behalf of their fellowcreatures, instead of shrinking from the miserable prostitute, would pause and speak to her, and might, perhaps, often turn the sinner from her way of sorrow.
If an estimate could be made of all the dormant moral and mental power which sits with dowagers at fire-sides, or as mere lookers-on at midnight parties,-power which might be brought to bear beneficially on the best interests of all,—the very welkin would ring again with laughter at human folly. Women are allowed to le guides and directors in all that adds polish and grace to social life; he is only a bear, who has not been modified into a beau by the agency of belles. This is only one form of a power, which, so far from being confined to drawing-rooms, should be extended to school-rooms, lecture-rooms, workhouserooms, cottage-rooms, and prison-rooms, and then, if the world were not the better for this accession of power from female hearts and minds, then let woman bear the brand of inferiority, upon proof, and not upon presumption.
There is one point which is remarkably neglected by all the writers upon women, even by Mrs. Jameson, whose delightful work on Shakspeare's Women should have won for her a diadem, if crowning the head could add consecration to the brow of genius. She says, in speaking of the character of Miranda, that it resolves itself into the very elements of womanhood. She is beautiful, modest, and tender, and these only. Mrs. Jameson's poetic temperament invests her views with a veil, which may be worn when we are companioned by ideality, but must be put aside when we encounter reality. The rank which beauty holds, poetry has conferred, but philosophy has not confirmed. My spirits sadden when I think how many, beautiful at heart, are wounded by this overweening, this exclusive homage to the beauty of form.
But that which I would principally remark is, that the female character is always considered such as it exists in youth, though, like the male character, it becomes modified and altered with advancing age. Abstractly considered, woman is always beautiful and young,-beauty, modesty, and tenderness are her elements. This has its source in the one principle which is the base of female degradation.
Let it not be imagined that I am so unwise as to undervalue beauty,--so unsexed as to deny the yet greater value of modesty,
so cold as to be insensible to the charm of tenderness. But these qualities need to be combined with others; and at different stages of life wear and exert a different aspect and power. The modesty and tenderness of the girl, united with immature and untried power, and with utter inexperience, makes her a shrinking, sensitive being, needing aid, not yielding it; but this creature, advanced to be an aged matron, though the same in principle, is very different in her powers and their application. Instead of blushing behind the silver shield of modesty, she walks forth, and bears it along with her: instead of pressing the urn of feeling secretly and silently to her own heart, she carries it forth, and pours it into the hearts of others.
When the upholder of things as they are is beat out of every other hold, then he says it is tenderness which shelters women from the rude encounters of the world, which any attention to general interests would necessitate her meeting. What a fallacy is this! How is this plan kept in the letter, and violated in spirit! Many a woman, in the unregarded walks of common life, bears the brunt of more than our men in authority have ever faced. If, without lacerating private feeling, the biography of the King's Bench, for instance, could be written, we should behold many of those who are ostensibly so carefully sheltered from the gusty storms of public life, buffeting the huge waves of a sea of private sorrow. Truly, man and woman have walked through life
very much like the giant and the dwarf in the fable,—he has got all the honours, and she all the blows.
Men have been misled by their overweening estimate of physical strength,—it is a force which in its blind action may do much evil, but no good; it is the direction of intelligence that gives it value, and intelligence finds that it may now be left to rank, like the fossil mammoth, with the distinctions of past ages, -such huge masses are no longer necessary to overcome the inertia and resistance of chaotic matter. As society refines, man transfers labour to machinery, and works himself by mental, not by manual, power. The principle of physical superiority might place the muscular coachman above his nervous master, though the one was only fit to drive coach horses, and the other capable to direct the state team.
The benefactors of society, if some power could burst the cerements of the grave, and call them in
present in their ranks few Ajaxes, and no Hectors; the majority have been little men with large minds, and unboastful and unpresuming in proportion to their merit. Yet if this idea were indeed realized, these pale apparitions would make men blush, as
many among them might say, ' And I have then no monument!' while the ghosts of melodramatic heroes would glance away behind the shelter of the tomb, conscious that it presented a nobler piece of work than they had themselves ever done.
There is a tide running in my heart that would carry this paper too far out. I will conclude with William Howitt's words:
A day is certainly coming upon us when many old prejudices shall be thrown down; when we shall work with purer hands and simpler views; when we shall feel it necessary to regard all men as brothers, really made of one flesh, and ordained to one salvation, -not as mere machines to grow rich upon; when it becomes a bounden duty to spread abroad better views of war and oaths,—to inspire more elevated and just views of the character, offices, and duties of Women.'
M. L. G.
A POLITICAL ORATORIO. BY THE AUTHOR OF SPIRIT OF PEERS AND PEOPLE." (A little book, under the title of Spirit of Peers and People,' was published some ten or twelve months since, which neither Radicals, Tories, (except Christopher North, who, for a wonder, very wisely held his tongue,) or Whigs, seemed rightly to understand. The author, simple man, thought it was plane enough in all conscience. The following Political Oratorio is an extract from a continuation of the same work, and the writer offers no apology to the readers of the Repository for its insertion, as they will find no difficulty at all in apprehending his full meaning. The Oratorio is supposed to be from the bat of Poet Clinker, a cricket player, who is characterised in the book already before the public, as the manful author of Corn-law Ninetails.']
Enter Mr. CLINKER, as Prologue; he is dressed as a cricketer, with a
large bat over his shoulder. You see before you one of humble station, Clinker by name, poet by avocation; I speak with many voices of the nation. Pardon this boast, my friends, for I have been An old political tourist, and have seen Sights of extensive want and misery, And heard men groaning like the hungry sea. I come to call your serious fix'd attention To much reality and small invention; For you shall trace, in chorus long and short, Fac-similes of Satan at his sport With suffering humanity, and see, Whether in surplice black or white chant he, Mitre, or coronet, or herald's coat, That labour's not considered worth a groat ; And, in plain fact, a man who's robb’d of all Cannot be worth a coin, however small, And worth, moreover, chang'd in name should be: Riches coin man's respectability.
* Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange.