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'Surely such a fact as this—I put it to general experience, whether it is not a fact?-indicates some great flaw in the carrying out of this large branch of women's work. How is it to be remedied? I believe, like all reformations, it must begin at the root—with the governesses themselves.
• Unless a woman has a decided pleasure and facility in teaching, an honest knowledge of everything she professes to impart, a liking for children, and above all, a strong moral sense of her responsibility towards them, for her to attempt to enrol herself in the scholastic order is absolute profanation. Better turn sliopwoman, needlewoman, lady's-maid-even become a decent housemaid, and learn how to sweep a floor, than belie her own soul, and peril many other souls, by entering upon what is, or ought to be, a female “ministry,” unconsecrated for, and incapable of the work.'
Our readers will remember that Mrs. Austin bears the same testimony as the “ Author of John Halifax' to the superiority of the technically 'uneducated' women. Our own observation goes to confirm it.
On the subject of Self-dependence in women, two anecdotes are given which are worth a thousand homilies :
* Two young women, well educated and refined, were left orphans, their father dying just when his business promised to realize a handsome provision for his family. It was essentially a man's business – in many points of view decidedly an unpleasant one. Of course friends thought "the girls” must give it up, go out as governesses, depend on relatives, or live in what genteel poverty the sale of the good-will might allow. But the “ girls” were wiser. They argued : “ If we bad been boys, it would have been all right; we should have carried on the business, and provided for our mother and the whole family. Being women, we'll try it still. It is nothing wrong ; it is simply disagreeable. It needs common sense, activity, diligence, and self-dependence. We have all these, and what we have not we will learn.” So these sensible and well-educated young women laid aside their pretty uselessness and pleasant idleness, and set to work. Happily, the trade was one that required no personal publicity ; but they had to keep the books, manage the stock, choose and superintend fit agents—to do things difficult, not to say distasteful, to most women, and resign enjoyments that, to women of their refinement, must have cost daily self-denial. Yet they did it; they filled their father's place, sustained their delicate mother in ease and luxury, never once compromising their womanhood by their work, but rather ennobling the work by their doing of it.
• Another case-different, and yet alike. A young girl, an elder sister, had to receiv: for stepmother a woman who ought never to have been any honest man's wife. Not waiting to be turned out of her father's house, she did a most daring and "improper" thing-she left it, taking with her the brothers and sisters, whom by this means only she believed she could save from harm. She settled them in a London lodging, and worked for them as a daily governess. “ Heaven helps those who help themselves.” From that day this girl never was dependent upon any human being ; while during a long life she has helped and protected more than I could count-pupils and pupils' children, friends and their children, besides brothers and sisters-in-law, nephews and nieces, down to the slenderest tie of blood, or even mere strangers. And yet she has never been anything but a poor governess, always independent, always able to assist others - because she never was and will be indebted to any one, except for love, while she lives, and for a grave when she dies. May she long possess the one and want the other !'
There is a tardiness in some persons to admit self-dependence and ample occupation in the world as rights and duties of women, because doubts spring up as to what a woman may or may not do, and keep her 'propriety.' The author's deliverance upon this matter is in her happiest vein.
Perhaps the line is most easily drawn, as in most difficulties, at that point where duty ends and pleasure begins. Thus, we should respect one who, on a mission of mercy or necessity, went through the lowest portions of St. Giles' or the Gallowgate ; we should be rather disgusted if she did it for mere amusement or bravado. All honour to the poor sempstress or governess who traverses London streets alone, at all hours of day or night, unguarded except by her own modesty ; but the strong-minded female who would venture on a solitary expedition to investigate the humours of Cremorne Gardens or Greenwich fair, though perfectly respectable, would be an exceedingly condemnable sort of personage. There are many things at which, as mere pleasures, a woman has a right to hesitate ; there is no single duty, whether or not it lies in the ordinary line of her sex, from which she ought to shrink, if it be plainly set before her.
“Those who are the strongest advocates for the passive character of our sex, its claims, proprieties, and restrictions, are, I have often noticed, if the most sensitive, not always the justest or most generous. I have seen ladies, no longer either young or pretty, shocked at the idea of traversing a street's length at night, yet never hesitate at being “fetched” by some female servant, who was both young and pretty, and to whom the danger of the expedition, or of the late return alone, was by far the greater of the two. I have known anxious mothers, who would not for worlds be guilty of the indecorum of sending their danghters unchaperoned to the theatre or a ball-and very right too !-yet send out some other woman's young daughter, at eleven P.M., to the stand for a cab, or to a public-house for a supply of beer. It never strikes them that the doctrine of female dependence extends beyond themselves, whom it suits so easily, and to whom it saves so much trouble ; that either every woman, be she servant or mistress, sempstress or fine lady, should receive the “ protection” suitable to her degree ; or that each ought to be educated into equal self-dependence. Let us, at least, hold the balance of justice even, por allow an over-consideration for the delicacy of one woman to trench on the rights, conveniences, and honest feelings of another.'
If women are to enter into business, another difficulty arises. They are the severest of political economists—the hardest, nay, the most unjust of bargainers and managers. This is frankly admitted :
'I am afraid it is from some natural deficiency in the constitution of our sex that it is so difficult to teach us justice. It certainly was a mistake to make that admirable virtue a female ; and even then the allegorist seems to have found it necessary to bandage lier eyes. No; kindliness, unselfishness, charity, come to us by nature ; but I wish I could see more of my sisters learning and practising what is far more difficult and far less attractive-common justice, especially towards one another.
'In dealing with men, there is little fear but that they will take care of themselves. That “first law of nature," self-preservation, is—doubtless, for wise purposes-imprinted pretty strongly on the mind of the male sex. It is in transactions between women and women that the difficulty lies. Therein I put the question to :he aggregate conscience of us all – is it not openly or secretly our chief aim to get the largest possible amount of labour for the smallest possible price ?
• We do not mean any harm ; we are only acting for the best-for our own benefit, and that of those nearest to us; and yet we are committing an act of injustice, the result of which fills slopsellers' doors with starving sem pstresses, and causes unlimited competition among incompetent milliners and dressmakers, while skilled labour in all these branches is lamentably scarce and extravagantly dear. Of course! so long as one continually hears ladies say : Oh, I got such and such a thing almost for half-price -such a bargain !" or,“ Do you know I have found out such a cheap dressmaker !” May I suggest to these the common-sense law of political economy, that neither labour nor material can possibly be got “cheaply, - that is, below its average acknowledged cost, with out somebody's being cheated ? Consequently, these devotees to cheapness, when not victims--which they frequently are in the long run-are very little better than genteel swindlers.
“There is another lesser consideration, and yet not small either. Labour, unfairly remunerated, of necessity deteriorates in quality, and thereby lowers the standard of appreciation. Every time I pay a low price for an ill-fitting gown or an ugly tawdry bonnet-cheapness is usually tawdry-I am wronging not merely myself, but my employée, by encouraging careless work and bad taste, and by thus going in direct opposition to a rule from whence springs so much that is eclectic and beautiful in the female character, that " whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well.” If, on the contrary, I knowingly pay below its value for really good work, I am, as aforesaid, neither more nor less than a dishonest appropriator of other people's property-a swindler-a thief.'
The practical philosophy of women's meanness is surely very simple. Women are mostly supported by men, and in a manner responsible to them as principals for the money they spend. Now it is always your middle-man who is your sweater,' whatever the walk in life, or the business in hand. Women are mostly go-betweens in their spendings: they have purses bounded by an understanding,' or perhaps formally limited. Men do what they please with their money, being wholly their own masters.
From the chapter upon the rights and duties of the “Mistress of a Family,' we shall take a longer passage :
“Therefore, in any disputed point, I, as being probably the more educated, older, if not wiser of the iwo, feel bound as much as possible to put myself in her place, to try and understand her feelings and character, before I judge her, or legislate for her. I try in all things to set her an example to follow, rather than abuse her for faults and failings which she has sense enough to see I am just as liable to as she. I would rather help her in the right way, than drive her into it, whip in hand, and take another road myself.
• A fine lady who can once be made to feel that, so far as any human soul can be made responsible to another, she is responsible for that of every domestic who enters her house, has gained one step from which slie is not likely ever to backslide. And if accountable for the soul – the better part—so also for the body. Since, with advanced knowledge, we are all now beginning to recognise-some with the stolid assent of naterialism, and some with the Christian's holy wonder at this human machine, made too wonderfully to be made for nothing, and by no onehow mysteriously soul and body act and re-act upon one another ; liow one half of the shortcomings of the spirit springs from mere bodily causes ; and how a healthy soul can stimulate even the poorest and most unsound dwelling-house of flesh and blood into soinething of its own beauty and divineness.
. And yet there is a saying that one sometimes hears, and sees silently in action perpetually—“Anything will do for the servants.” Kitchen and parlour are placed on quite a different footing; not only with regard to coarser food-reasonable enough sometimes, when the parlour has nice or sickly tastes, and the kitchen is blessed with the wholesome omnivorous appetite of hard work and an easy mind-but in the regular routine of daily life. “ Late to bed and early to rise,” yet still expected to be “both healthy and wise;" compelled to sleep in damp, heat, uncleanliness, or ill-ventilation -anything is good enough for a servants' bedroom; allowed no time for personal attention, sewing, or mending, yet required to be always “tidy;” kept at work constantly, without regard to how much and what sort of work each person's strength can bear; yet supposed to be capable of working on for ever, without that occasional intermixture of “play”- - not idleness, but wholesome amusement--without which every human being grows dull, dispirited, falls into ill-humour, and finally, into ill-health. Truly it often makes one's heart ache to think of the sort of life even well-meaning mistresses make their servants lead; and it would be curious, were it not so melancholy, to pause and consider, if in allfone's acquaintance there are half-a-dozen ladies under whom, did fate compel, one would choose to “ go into service.”
“My dear madam-who may be opening your eyes widely at this heterodox view of the question-you have no right to keep a servant at all unless you can keep her comfortable. You did not buy her, body and soul, like a negro slave ; you only took her on hired service, to fulfil certain duties, which you must exact from her kindly and firmly, for her good as well as yours; but you have no right to any more. Except so far as nature and education have instituted a difference between you, you are not justified in placing either her enjoyments or necessities on a lower level than your own. The same sanitary laws, of physical and mental well-being, apply to you both; and neither can break them, or be allowed to break them, with impunity.
• Moral laws, also. Mrs. Smith thinks it is against her that poor Sally Baines sinned in the matter of the bonnet. Foolish Mrs. Smith! Suppose you were to purchase at Swan and Edgar's that hundred-guinea Cashmere labelled “the Queen's choice"-whom would you harm, Her Majesty or yourself ? So, when your Emma or Betsy buys a silk-gown and a twelve-shilling parasol, she errs, and grievously, too; but it is against herself. She lowers her own self-respect by striving to maintain a false position; wastes in shabby showiness the money that she ought to lay up for sickness, old age, or marriage, and the happy duty of helping others; loses the simple neatness befitting the respectable maid-servant, and becomes ridiculous as the sham fine lady.'
We have not the least doubt that thousands of mistresses will be very much startled to hear that they have no right to keep servants unless they can keep them comfortable, look well after them, and set them good examples in all things. There is a numerical exaggeration in what follows, but we quote it for its important suggestions :
No one can have taken any interest in the working-classes without being aware how frightfully common among them is what they term “a misfortune”-how few young women come to the marriage-altar at all, or come there just a week or two before maternity: or having already had several children, often only half brothers and sisters, whom no ceremony has ever legalized. Whatever be the cause of this -and I merely skim over the surface of a state of things which the “ Times” and Sanitary Commissioners have plumbed to sickening depths—it undoubtedly exists; and no single woman who takes any thought of what is going on around her, no mistress or mother who requires constantly servants for her house, and nursemaids for her children, can or dare blind herself to the fact. It is easy for tenderly reared young females, who study human passions through Miss Austen or Miss Edgeworth, or the “ Loves of the Angels," to say, “How shocking! Oh, it can't be true!” But it is true; and they will not live many more years without finding it to be true. Better face truth at once, in all its bareness, than be swaddled up for ever in the folds of a silken falsehood.
• Another fact, stranger still to account for, is, that the women who thus fall are by no means the worst of their station. I have heard it affirmed by more than one lady-by one in particular, whose experience is as large as her benevolence that many of them are of the very best; refined, intelligent, truthful, and affectionate.
"" I don't know how it is,” she would say—“whether their very superiority makes them dissatisfied with their own rank-such brutes or clowns as labouring men often are!--so that they fall easier victims to the rank above them; or whether, though this theory will shock many people, other virtues can exist and flourish, entirely distinct from, and after the loss of, that which we are accustomed to believe the indispensable prime virtue of our sex-chastity. I can only say that it is so: that some of my most promising village girls have been the first to come to harm; and some of the best and most faithful servants I ever had, have been girls who have fallen into shame, and who, had I not gone to the rescue, and put them on the way to do well, would infallibly have become “ lost' women."
Mr. Arthur Helps has said substantially the same things in his Companions of my Solitude.' We commend the subject to mistresses in general, and especially to those who allow no followers,'-a class who do not escape the (too kindly and measured) censure of our author in the present volume. What earthly right has a mistress to shut up her servants from the society of male friends? It is the girl's misfortune that she has been forced to enter a position where she has no home and home circle, and it is the business of those for whose benefit she endures that misfortune to stand to her in loco parentis as far as they can. Jane in the kitchen has just as much right to see her sweetheart as Alice Maud Matilda in the parlour. “But the fellow eats my victuals, and takes up Jane's time!'. Dear Madam, you are bound to provide him the victuals, to spare him the time, and to overlook Jane's courtship as watchfully and tenderly as you possibly can, even at some sacrifice, if necessary, of your own comfort, wealth, health, and mental quietude. If you are selfish and unconscientious enough to deny this obligation, let those who can be mild with you—it is out of our power.
The · Author of John Halifax' is charmingly open on behalf of her own sex. She freely admits that women lack magnanimity, and the golden virtue of 'silence.' Every gentleman will recognise the truth of this :
* And here is one accusation which I must sorrowfully bring against women, as being much more guilty than men. We can keep a secret - ay, against all satire, I protest we can-while the confider remains our friend; but if that tie ceases, pop! out it comes! and in the bitterness of invective, the pang of wounded feeling, or afterwards in mere thoughtlessness, and easy forgetting of what is so easily healed, a thousand things are said and done for which nothing can ever atone. The lost friendship, which, once certain that it is past all revival, ought to be buried as solemnly and silently as a lost love, is cast out into the open street for all the snarling curs of society to gnaw at and mangle, and all the contemptuous misogynists who pass by to point the finger at—"See what your grand ideals all come to!”
• Good women--dear my sisters! be our friendships false or true, wise or foolish, living or dead-let us at least learn to keep them sacred! Men are far better than we in this. Rarely will a man voluntarily or thoughtlessly betray a friend's confidence, either at the time or afterwards. He will say, even to his own wife: “I can't tell you this I have no right to tell you;” and if she has the least spark of good feeling, she will honour and love him all the dearer for so saying. More rarely still will a man be heard, as women constantly are, speaking ill of some friend, who a little while before, while the friendship lasted, was all perfection What is necessary to be said he will say, but not a syllable more, leaving all the rest in that safe, still atmosphere, where all good fructifies and evil perishes—the atmosphere of silence.
* Ay, above all things, what women need to learn in their friendships is the sanctity of silence-silence in outward demonstration, silence under wrong, silence with regard to the outside world, and often a delicate silence between one another, About the greatest virtue a friend can have is to be able to hold her tongue ; and though this, like all virtues carried to extremity, may grow into a fault, and do great harm, still, it never can do so much harm as that horrible laxity and profligacy of speech which is at the root of half the quarrels, cruelties, and injustices of the world.'
Very special thanks are due to the author for the courageous tenderness with which she has touched the subject of Friendships between