« PreviousContinue »
master's screw, or the shafts of a Hansom cab. see, however, that you have quite enough of your heart left to catalogue, and make much of the various gentlemen you have met, to the minutest point of detail in their appearance and demeanour. You describe them to me -now in a graphic, now in a sarcastic, now in an enthusiastic manner. Bless you, my girl! you have your mother's discrimination and-though I say it-appreciation of humour. But you should be chary of enthusiasm. Remember what wise Prince Talleyrand said : Point de Zèle. I don't want you to be cold or indifferent, but you should not be fervent. Haven't you seen people in the stalls of the Opera let Bosio's most delicious morceau in the Traviata go by without clapping their hands ? A languid inclination of the head, a “ Brava !” simpered between the teeth, a transient agitation of the fan, will be sufficient. You have heard poor dear Bosio, child ! I have heard Pasta! These ears have listened to Malibran ; this sense has hung, spell-bound, on the accents of the delicious Giulia Grisi in the morning of her fame. It was considered ill-breeding at the King's Theatre to applaud. We shrugged our shoulders and shook our furbelows, in approbation, and left the Pit and Gallery to make the noise.
'Tis a safe way of getting through life. When amateurs showed Sir Joshua their pencil drawings, he murmured, “Pretty, pretty!” When stage-struck heroes recited before John Kemble, he wagged his head, and made a chuckling noise. So, dispraising nobody, these great and eminently respectable artists offended nobody, without praising anybody. Ask Smirkly, the reviewer, if there be any good in savagely cutting up people's books or pictures, and making five hundred enemies to earn five pounds. You needn't praise or abuse the thing. Say "pretty, pretty," in print; spare all the parts that deserve animadversion, but don't say
a word of the things that merit eulogium, and the book or the picture will fall by itself, without impairing one whit your character, Smirkly, of being the best-natured of mortals. Smirkly, who is going out to St. Kitt's, shortly, as Treasurer to the Banjo Department, one of the few sinecures remaining in the gift of the Colonial Secretary, used to dine with poor Sir Charles often.
It has been said that the noblest study of mankind is man, and some facetious philosopher has added a gloss to the saying, and read it us—that man's noblest study is woman. This is true enough, I dare say, if men would only act on the advice given to them ; but for my part I doubt whether men study women, in their persons or their characters, half so much as they should do. There is still, I take it, a fine brutishness and obtuse dulness about those overrated creatures, rendering them unconscious and careless of the feminities going on around them. They have passions, my love, often quite unreasoning and swinish; mere appetites for a woman's voice, or for the tunes she plays, or the curries and puddings she makes; and when these passions are aroused, they pursue and vanquish, or are foiled. The hobbledehoy, on his promotion from his crammers to an Indian cadetship, the ensign in his first tunic, the lad just gone up to the university, may be taken with very simple bait—a neat boot and a well-drawn stocking on a wet day, the way in which Charlotte cuts bread and butter, or the girl in the refreshmentroom pours out the lemonade—and their simple hearts are led captive in a moment. I have known youths of the most honourable families bring home wives without shoes and stockings, or a second frock; or write to their mammas to say, with their dutiful love, that they have married Molly Mogg, the alehouse-keeper's daughter. The boys do this at seventeen, and the old men do it at seventy-two; and there.
as they would take twice pie or more suprême,
throw themselves away it is not for appetite :
much real love at the one age as at the other. is about They have simply indulged an appetite in making fools of and they wake up the next morning after the dinner or the honeymoon, repentant and ashamed.
When that is often the last thing which enters their silly little
more through a mistaken enthusiasm, a heads. sentimental conclusion based on false deductions, an accumulation of antecedents that do not, and should not, and cannot, although they seem to make you have read Dr. Watts's logic—a consequent. Then, with wailing and bitter tears, they discover that they have been deceived. Even foolish old maids who abandon their hands and fortunes to swindlers and rascals, are, when not blinded by mere vanity—in which state of cecity all women are hopelessusually led into error
by the false assumption of the existence of some noble or estimable quality in the rascals they wed, and give them credit for generosity or talent which the knaves do not possess. The only incorrigibly unconscionable women, in matters of wedlock, are mature widows, too old for sentiment and too old for the resignation of solitude, who almost offer themselves for sale; who fling themselves, their dividends, and their houses full of furniture, at the head of the first man they meet at a theatre, a lecture-room, or a boarding-house dinner-table, and who, I believe, would marry Mephistophiles himself if he rolled up his tail out of sight, and brought a curly wig well down over his horns. These are the widows who are picked up off the carpet, as it were, by scoundrels whose profession is bigamy; who make love with the deaf and dumb alphabet from second-floor windows, and bribe the butcher-boy to deliver billet-doux with the mutton chops. The men they wed generally mingle swindling with
treachery, and the wind up of the lamentable drama of the “Widow Bewitched” is an éclaircissement at Bow Street, when Captain de Montmouncy turns out to be Jack Higgins the ticket-of-leave man, and his four wives are present, three anxious to prove that the others are not married women, and the fourth or first, the real wife, only wishing that somebody had come before her, too, and that she had not gone to church with the Wretch.
I have treated, designedly, of so many exceptional cases among our sex; for I wish to maintain that the very great majority of sensible, well-conducted young women invert the poetical counsel I have noted, and make of Man their noblest study. Men are too ignorant, vain, pre-occupied by matters of money or ambition, and moreover they are too shy, to study woman properly, or to put the result of their experience into practice.
You know I always except les passionnés, who run at a woman's heart like a bull at a gate, and tear and trample it down with hoof and horn, in the persistence of their mad but fixed desire; and again, I make exception for those endowed with that curious mental and physical organisation possessed by the Lauzuns, the Richelieus, the Count Horns, the Lord Lytteltons of history; the Lovelaces, the Faublas, the Don Juans of fiction ; and especially by that famous Colonel Aaron Burr, of mingled fiction and romance, who is the sub-hero of prudish Mrs. Stowe's last romance, the “ Minister's Wooing,” and who in sober reality, an American friend tells me, used to say that he considered the systematic seduction of a woman a thing more to be desiderated, and more to be gloried in when accomplished, than the winning of the greatest battle of Cæsar or Napoleon. To such men-demons as these every woman is a fortress that is be circumvallated, undermined, trenched, bombarded, starved or betrayed into surrender if