Infomotions, Inc.The Young Lady's Mentor A Guide to the Formation of Character. In a Series of Letters to Her Unknown Friends / Lady, An English

Author: Lady, An English
Title: The Young Lady's Mentor A Guide to the Formation of Character. In a Series of Letters to Her Unknown Friends
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): ellen; life; formation; god; time; english; friends; marriage; character; guide; mentor; mind; lady; unknown; letters
Contributor(s): Marriage, Ellen [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 77,913 words (short) Grade range: 16-19 (graduate school) Readability score: 38 (difficult)
Identifier: etext15490
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Title: The Young Lady's Mentor
       A Guide to the Formation of Character. In a Series of Letters to Her Unknown Friends

Author: A Lady

Release Date: March 28, 2005  [eBook #15490]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


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A Guide to the Formation of Character.
In a Series of Letters to Her Unknown Friends



H.C. Peck & Theo. Bliss.



The work which forms the basis of the present volume is one of the most
original and striking which has fallen under the notice of the editor.
The advice which it gives shows a remarkable knowledge of human
character, and insists on a very high standard of female excellence.
Instead of addressing herself indiscriminately to all young ladies, the
writer addresses herself to those whom she calls her "Unknown Friends,"
that is to say, a class who, by natural disposition and education, are
prepared to be benefited by the advice which she offers. "Unless a
peculiarity of intellectual nature and habits constituted them friends,"
she says in her preface, "though unknown ones, of the writer, most of
the observations contained in the following pages would be
uninteresting, many of them altogether unintelligible."

She continues: "That advice is useless which is not founded upon a
knowledge of the character of those to whom it is addressed: even were
the attempt made to follow such advice, it could not be successful."

"The writer has therefore neither hope nor wish of exercising any
influence over the minds of those who are not her 'Unknown Friends.'
There may, indeed, be a variety in the character of these friends; for
almost all the following Letters are addressed to different persons; but
the general intellectual features are always supposed to be the same,
however the moral ones may differ."

"One word more must be added. All of the rules and systems recommended
in these Letters have borne the test of long-tried and extensive
experience. There is nothing new about them but their publication."

The plan of the writer of the Letters enables her to give specific and
practical advice, applicable to particular cases, and entering into
lively details; whereas, a more general work would have compelled her to
confine herself to vague generalities, as inoperative as they are

The intelligent reader will readily appreciate and cordially approve of
the writer's plan, as well as the happy style in which it is executed.

To the "Letters to Unknown Friends" which are inserted entire, the
editor has added, as a suitable pendant, copious extracts from that
excellent work, "Woman's Mission," and some able papers by Lord Jeffrey,
the late accomplished editor of the Edinburgh Review.

Thus composed, the editor submits the work to the fair readers of
America, trusting that it will be found a useful and unexceptionable
"Young Lady's Mentor."


Contentment                                   7

Temper                                       31

Falsehood and Truthfulness                   52

Envy                                         61

Selfishness and Unselfishness                74

Self-Control                                 93

Economy                                     117

The Cultivation of the Mind                 137, 164

Amusements                                  193

The Influence of Women on Society           218

The Sphere of Woman's Influence             227

Education of Women                          233

Love--Marriage                              244

Literary Capabilities of Women              256

Ennui, and the Desire to be Fashionable     267

The Influence of Personal Character         270

On the Means of Securing Personal Influence 276



It is, perhaps, only the young who can be very hopefully addressed on
the present subject. A few years hence, and your habits of mind will be
unalterably formed; a few years hence, and your struggle against a
discontented spirit, even should you be given grace to attempt it, would
be a perpetually wearisome and discouraging one. The penalty of past sin
will pursue you until the end, not only in the pain caused by a
discontented habit of mind, but also in the consciousness of its
exceeding sinfulness.

Every thought that rebels against the law of God involves its own
punishment in itself, by contributing to the establishment of habits
that increase tenfold the difficulties to which a sinful nature exposes

Discontent is in this, perhaps, more dangerous than many other sins,
being far less tangible: unless we are in the constant habit of
exercising strict watchfulness over our thoughts, it is almost
insensibly that they acquire an habitual tendency to murmuring and

This is particularly to be feared in a person of your disposition. Many
of your volatile, thoughtless, worldly-minded companions, destitute of
all your holier feelings, living without object or purpose in life, and
never referring to the law of God as a guide for thought or action, may
nevertheless manifest a much more contented disposition than your own,
and be apparently more submissive to the decision of your Creator as to
the station of life in which you have each been placed.

To account for their apparent superiority over you on this point, it
must be remembered that it is one of the dangerous responsibilities
attendant on the best gifts of God,--that if not employed according to
his will, they turn to the disadvantage of the possessor.

Your powers of reflection, your memory, your imagination, all calculated
to provide you with rich sources of gratification if exercised in proper
directions, will turn into curses instead of blessings if you do not
watchfully restrain that exercise within the sphere of duty. The natural
tendency of these faculties is, to employ themselves on forbidden
ground, for "every imagination of man's heart is evil continually." It
is thus that your powers of reflection may only serve to give you a
deeper and keener insight into the disadvantages of your position in
life; and trivial circumstances, unpleasant probabilities, never dwelt
on for a moment by the gay and thoughtless, will with you acquire a
serious and fatal importance, if you direct towards them those powers of
reasoning and concentrated thought which were given to you for far
different purposes.

And while, on the one hand, your memory, if you allow it to acquire the
bad habits against which I am now warning you, will be perpetually
refreshing in your mind vivid pictures of past sorrows, wrongs, and
annoyances: your imagination, at the same time, will continually present
to you, under the most exaggerated forms, and in the most striking
colours, every possible unpleasantness that is likely to occur in the
future. You may thus create for yourself a life apart, quite distinct
from the real one, depriving yourself by wilful self-injury of the power
of enjoying whatever advantages, successes, and pleasures, your heavenly
Father may think it safe for you to possess.

Happiness, as far as it can be obtained in the path of duty, is a duty
in itself, and an important one: without that degree of happiness which
most people may secure for themselves, independent of external
circumstances, neither health, nor energy, nor cheerfulness can be
forthcoming to help us through the task of our daily duties.

It is indeed true, that, under the most favourable circumstances, the
thoughtful will never enjoy so much as others of that which is now
generally understood by the word happiness. Anxieties must intrude upon
them which others know nothing of: the necessary business of life, to be
as well executed as they ought to execute it, must at times force down
their thoughts to much that is painful for the present and anxious for
the future. They cannot forget the past, as the light-hearted do, or
life would bring them no improvement; but the same difficulties and
dangers would be rushed into heedlessly to-morrow, that were experienced
yesterday, and forgotten to-day; and not only past difficulties and
dangers are remembered, but sorrows too: these they cannot, for they
would not, forget.

In the contemplation of the future also, they must exercise their
imagination as well as their reason, for the discovery of those evils
and dangers which such foresight may enable them to guard against: all
this kind of thoughtfulness is their wisdom as well as their instinct;
which makes it more difficult for them than it is for others to fulfil
the reverse side of the duty, and to "be careful for nothing."[1]

To your strong mind, however, a difficulty will be a thing to be
overcome, and you may, if you only will it, be prudent and sagacious,
far-sighted and provident, without dwelling for a moment longer than
such duties require on the unpleasantnesses, past, present, and future,
of your lot in life.

Having thus seen in what respects your superiority of mind is likely to
detract from your happiness, in the point of the colouring given by your
thoughts to your life, let us, on the other hand, consider how this same
superiority may be so directed as to make your thoughts contribute to
your happiness, instead of detracting from it.

I spoke first of your reasoning powers. Let them not be exercised only
in discovering the dangers and disadvantages likely to attend your
peculiar position in life; let them rather be directed to discover the
advantages of those very features of your lot which are most opposed to
your natural inclinations. Consider, in the first place, what there may
be to reconcile you to the secluded life you so unwillingly lead.
Withdrawn, indeed, you are from society,--from the delightful
intercourse of refined and intellectual minds: you hear of such
enjoyments at a distance; you hear of their being freely granted to
those who cannot appreciate them as you could, (safely granted to them
for perhaps this very reason.) You have no opportunity of forming those
friendships, so earnestly desired by a young and enthusiastic mind; of
admiring, even at a reverential distance, "emperors of thought and
hand." But then, as a compensation, you ought to consider that you are,
at the same time, freed from those intrusions which wear away the time,
and the spirits, and the very powers of enjoyment, of those who are
placed in a more public position than your own. When you do, at rare
intervals, enjoy any intercourse with congenial minds, it has for you a
pleasurable excitement, a freshness of delight, which those who mix much
and habitually in literary and intellectual society have long ceased to
enjoy: while the powers of your own mind are preserving all that
originality and energy for which no intellectual experience can
compensate, you are saved the otherwise perhaps inevitable danger of
adopting, parrot-like, the tastes and opinions of others who may indeed
be your superiors, but who, in a copy, become wretchedly inferior to
your real self. Time you have, too, to cultivate your mind in such a
manner, and to such a degree, as may fit you to grace any society of
the kind I have described; while those who are early and constantly
engaged in this society are often obliged, from mere want of this
precious possession, to copy others, and resign all identity and
individuality. To you, nobly free as you are from the vice of envy, I
may venture to suggest another consideration, viz. the far greater
influence you possess in your present small sphere of intellectual
intercourse, than if you were mixed up with a crowd of others, most of
them your equals, many your superiors.

If you have few opportunities of forming friendships, those few are
tenfold more valuable than many acquaintance, among a crowd of whom,
whatever merits you or they might possess, little time could be spared
to discover, or experimentally appreciate them. The one or two friends
whom you now love, and know yourself beloved by, might, in more exciting
and busy scenes, have gone on meeting you for years without discovering
the many bonds of sympathy which now unite you. In the seclusion you so
much deplore, they and you have been given time to "deliberate, choose,
and fix:" the conclusion of the poet will probably be equally
applicable,--you will "then abide till death."[2] Such friends are
possessions rare and valuable enough to make amends to you for any
sacrifices by which they have been acquired.

Another of your grievances, one which presses the more heavily on those
of graceful tastes, refined habits, and generous impulses, is the very
small proportion of this world's goods which has fallen to your lot.
You are perpetually obliged to deny yourself in matters of taste, of
self-improvement, of charity. You cannot procure the books, the
paintings, you wish for--the instruction which you so earnestly desire,
and would so probably profit by. Above all, your eyes are pained by the
sight of distress you cannot relieve; and you are thus constantly
compelled to control and subdue the kindest and warmest impulses of your
generous nature. The moral benefits of this peculiar species of trial
belong to another part of my subject: the present object is to find out
the most favourable point of view in which to contemplate the
unpleasantness of your lot, merely with relation to your temporal
happiness. Look, then, around you; and, even in your own limited sphere
of observation, it cannot but strike you, that those who derive most
enjoyment from objects of taste, from books, paintings, &c., are exactly
those who are situated as you are, who cannot procure them at will. It
is certain that there is something in the difficulty of attainment which
adds much to the preciousness of the objects we desire; much, too, in
the rareness of their bestowal. When, after long waiting, and by means
of prudent management, it is at last within your power to make some
long-desired object your own, does it not bestow much greater pleasure
than it does on those who have only to wish and to have?

In matters of charity this is still more strikingly true--the pleasure
of bestowing ease and comfort on the poor and distressed is enhanced
tenfold by the consciousness of having made some personal sacrifice for
its attainment. The rich, those who give of their superfluities, can
never fully appreciate what the pleasures of almsgiving really are.

Experience teaches that the necessity of scrupulous economy is the very
best school in which those who are afterwards to be rich can be
educated. Riches always bring their own peculiar claims along with them;
and unless a correct estimate is early formed of the value of money and
the manner in which it can be laid out to the best advantage, you will
never enjoy the comforts and tranquillity which well-managed riches can
bestow. It is much to be doubted whether any one can skilfully manage
large possessions, unless, at some period or other of life, they have
forced themselves, or been forced, to exercise self-denial, and
resolutely given up all those expenses the indulgence of which would
have been imprudent. Those who indiscriminately gratify every taste for
expense the moment it is excited, can never experience the comforts of
competency, though they may have the name of wealth and the reality of
its accompanying cares.

Still further, let your memory and imagination be here exercised to
assist in reconciling you to your present lot. Can you not remember a
time when you wanted money still more than you do now?--when you had a
still greater difficulty in obtaining the things you reasonably desire?
To those who have acquired the art of contentment, the present will
always seem to have some compensating advantage over the past, however
brighter that past may appear to others. This valuable art will bring
every hidden object gradually into light, as the dawning day seems to
waken into existence those objects which had before been unnoticed in
the darkness.

Lastly, your imagination, well employed, will make use of your partial
knowledge of other people's affairs to picture to you how much worse off
many of those are,--how much worse off you might yourself be. You, for
instance, can still accomplish much by the aid of self-denial; while
many, with hearts as warm in charities, as overflowing as your own, have
not more to give than the "cup of cold water," that word of mercy and

You may still further, perhaps, complain that you have no object of
exciting interest to engage your attention, and develop your powers of
labour, and endurance, and cleverness. Never has this trial been more
vividly described than in the well-remembered lines of a modern poet:--

    "She was active, stirring, all fire--
    Could not rest, could not tire--
    To a stone she had given life!
    --For a shepherd's, miner's, huntsman's wife,
    Never in all the world such a one!
    And here was plenty to be done,
    And she that could do it, great or small,
    She was to do nothing at all."[3]

This wish for occupation, for influence, for power even, is not only
right in itself, but the unvarying accompaniment of the consciousness of
high capabilities. It may, however, be intended that these cravings
should be satisfied in a different way, and at a different time, from
that which your earthly thoughts are now desiring. It may be that the
very excellence of the office for which you are finally destined
requires a greater length of preparation than that needful for ordinary
duties and ordinary trials. At present, you are resting in peace,
without any anxious cares or difficult responsibilities, but you know
not how soon the time may come that will call forth and strain to the
utmost your energies of both mind and body. You should anxiously make
use of the present interval of repose for preparation, by maturing your
prudence, strengthening your decision, acquiring control over your own
temper and your own feelings, and thus fitting yourself to control

Or are you, on the contrary, wasting the precious present time in vain
repinings, in murmurings that weaken both mind and body, so that when
the hour of trial comes you will be entirely unfitted to realize the
beautiful ideal of the poet?--

    "A perfect woman, nobly plann'd
    To warn, to counsel, to command:
    The reason firm, the temperate will,
    Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill."[4]

Then, again, I would ask you to make use of your powers of reflection
and memory. Reflect what trials and difficulties are, in the common
course of events, likely to assail you; remember former difficulties,
former days or weeks of trial, when all your now dormant energies were
developed and strained to the utmost. You felt then the need of much
greater powers of mind and body than those which you now complain are
lying dormant and useless. Further imagine the future cases that may
occur in which every natural and acquired faculty may be employed for
the great advantage of those who are dear to you, and when you will
experience that this long interval of repose and preparation was
altogether needful.

Such reflections, memories, and imaginations must, however, be carefully
guarded, lest, instead of reconciling you to the apparent uselessness of
your present life, they should contribute to increase your discontent.
This they might easily do, even though such reflections and memories
related only to trials and difficulties, instead of contemplating the
pleasures and the importance of responsibilities. To an ardent nature
like yours, trials themselves, even severe ones, which would exercise
the powers of your mind and the energies of your character, would be
more welcome than the tame, uniform life you at present lead.

The considerations above recommended can, therefore, be only safely
indulged in connection with, and secondary to, a most vigilant and
conscientious examination into the truth of one of your principal
complaints, viz. that you have to do, like the Duke's wife, "nothing at
all."[5] You may be "seeking great things" to do, and consequently
neglecting those small charities which "soothe, and heal, and bless."
Listen to the words of a great teacher of our own day: "The situation
that has not duty, its _ideal_, was never yet occupied by man. Yes,
here, in this poor, miserable, pampered, despised actual, wherein thou
even now standest, here, or nowhere, is thy _ideal_; work it out,
therefore, and, working, believe, live, be free. Fool! the ideal is in
thyself; the impediment, too, is in thyself: thy condition is but the
stuff thou art to shape that same ideal out of--what matters whether the
stuff be of this sort or of that, so the form thou give it be heroic, be
poetic? O thou that pinest in the imprisonment of the actual, and criest
bitterly to the gods for a kingdom wherein to rule and create, know this
of a truth,--the thing thou seekest is already with thee, 'here, or
nowhere,' couldst thou only see."

When you examine the above assertions by the light of Scripture, can you
contradict their truth?

Let us, however, ascend to a still higher point of view. Have we not
all, under every imaginable circumstance, a work mighty and difficult
enough to develope our strongest energies, to engage our deepest
interests? Have we not all to "work out our own salvation with fear and
trembling?"[6] Professing to believe, as we do, that the discipline of
every day is ordered by Infinite Love and Infinite Wisdom, so as best to
assist us in this awfully important task, can we justly complain of any
mental void, of any inadequacy of occupation, in any of the situations
of life?

The only work that can fully satisfy an immortal spirit's cravings for
excitement is the work appointed for each of us. It is one, too, that
has no intervals of repose, far less of languor or _ennui_; the labour
it demands ought never to cease, the intense and engrossing interest it
excites can never vary or lessen in importance. The alternative is a
more awful one than human mind can yet conceive: those who have not
fulfilled their appointed work, those who have not, through the merits
of Christ, obtained the "holiness without which no man shall see the
Lord,"[7] "must depart into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and
his angels."[8]

With a hell to avoid, and a heaven to obtain, do you murmur for want of
interest, of occupation!

In the words of the old story, "Look below on the earth, and then above
in heaven:" remember that your only business here is to get there; then,
instead of repining, you will be thankful that no great temporal work is
given you to do which might, as too often happens, distract your
attention and your labours from the attainment of life eternal. Having
been once convinced of the awful and engrossing importance of this "one
thing" we have to "do,"[9] you will see more easily how many minor
duties may be appointed you to fulfil, on a path that before seemed a
useless as well as an uninteresting one. For you would have now learned
to estimate the small details of daily life, not according to their
insignificance, not as they may influence your worldly fate, but as they
may have a tendency to mould your spirit into closer conformity to the
image of the Son.[10] You will now no longer inquire whether you have
any work to do which you might yourself consider suitable to your
capabilities and energies; but whether there is within your reach any,
the smallest, humblest work of love, contemned or unobserved before,
when you were more proud and less vigilant.

Look, then, with prayer and watchfulness into all the details of your
daily life, and you will assuredly find much formerly-unnoticed "stuff,"
out of which "your ideal" may be wrought.

You may, for instance, have no opportunity of teaching on an enlarged
scale, or even of taking a class at a Sunday-school, or of instructing
any of your poor neighbours in reading or in the word of God. Such
labours of love may, it is possible, though not probable, be shut out of
your reach: if, however, you are on the watch for opportunities, (and we
are best made quick-sighted to their occurrence in the course of the
day, by the morning's earnest prayer for their being granted to us,) you
may be able to help your fellow-pilgrims Zion-ward in a variety of small
ways. "A word in season, how good is it!" the mere expression of
religious sympathy has often cheered and refreshed the weary traveller
on his perhaps difficult and lonely way. A verse of Scripture, a hymn
taught to a child, only the visitor of a day, has often been blessed by
God to the great spiritual profit of the child so taught. Are not even
such small works of love within your reach?

Again, with respect to family duties, I know that in some cases, when
there are many to fulfil such duties, it is a more necessary and often a
more difficult task to refrain altogether from interfering in them. They
ought to be allowed to serve as a safety-valve for the energies of those
members of the family who have no other occupations: of these there will
always be some in a large domestic circle. Without, however,
interfering actively and habitually, which it may not be your duty to
do, are you always ready to help when you are asked, and to take trouble
willingly upon yourself, when the excitement and the credit of the
arrangement will belong exclusively to others? This is a good sign of
the humility and lovingness of your spirit: how is the test borne?

Further, you may complain that your conversation is not valued, and that
therefore you have no excitement to exertion for the amusement of
others; that your cheerfulness and good temper under sorrows and
annoyances are of no consequence, as you are not considered of
sufficient importance for any display of feeling to attract attention.
When I hear such complaints, and they are not unfrequent from the
younger members of large families, I have little doubt that the sting in
all these murmurs is infixed by their pride. They assure me, at the same
time, that if there was any one to care much about it, to watch
anxiously whether they were vexed or pleased, they would be able to
exercise the strictest control over their feelings and temper,--and I
believe it, for here their pride and their affection would both come to
the assistance of duty. What God requires of us, however, is its
fulfilment when all these things are against us. The effort to control
grief, to conceal depression, to conquer ill-temper, will be a far more
acceptable offering in his eyes, when they alone are expected to witness
it. That which now his eyes alone see will one day be proclaimed upon
the housetop.[11]

I must, besides, remind you that your proud spirit may deceive you when
it suggests, that because your sadness or your ill-humour attracts no
expressed notice or excites no efforts to remove it, it does not
therefore affect those around you. This is not the case; even the gloom
and ill-humour of a servant, who only remains a few minutes in
attendance, will be depressing and annoying to the most unobservant
master and mistress, though they might make no efforts to remove it. How
much more, then, may your want of cheerfulness and sweet temper affect,
though it may be insensibly, the peace of your family circle. Here you
are again seeking great things for yourself, and neglecting your
appointed work, because it does not to you appear sufficiently worthy of
your high capabilities. Your proud spirit needs being humbled, and
therefore, probably, it is that you will not be allowed to do great
things. No, you must first learn the less agreeable task of doing small
things, of doing what would perhaps be called easy things by those who
have never tried them. To wear a contented look when you know that,
perhaps, the effort will not be observed, certainly not appreciated,--to
take submissively the humblest part in the conversation, and still bear
cheerfully that part,--to bear with patience every hasty word that may
be spoken, and so to forget it that your future conduct may be
uninfluenced by it,--to remove every difficulty, the removal of which is
within your reach, without expecting that the part you have taken will
be acknowledged or even observed,--to be always ready with your
sympathy, encouragement, and counsel, however scornfully they may have
before been rejected; these are all acts of self-renunciation which are
peculiarly fitted to a woman's sphere of duty, and have a direct
tendency to cherish the difficult and excellent grace of humility; they
may, however, help to foster rather than to subdue a spirit of
discontent, if they are performed from a motive of obtaining any, even
the most exalted, human approbation. They must be done to God alone, and
then the promise is sure, "thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward
thee openly."[12] Thus, too, the art of contentment may be much more
easily learnt. Disappointment will surely sour your temper if you look
forward to human appreciation of a self-denying habit of life; but when
the approbation of God is the object sought for, no neglect from others
can excite discontent or much regret. For here there can be no
disappointment: that which comes to us through the day has all been
decreed by him, and as it must therefore give us opportunities of
fulfilling his will, and gaining his approbation, we must necessarily
"be content."

It must, indeed, be always owing to some deficiency in religious
principle, that one discontented thought is suffered to dwell in the
mind. If our heart and our treasure were in heaven,[13] should we be
easily excited to regret and irritation about the inconveniences of our
position on earth? If we sought "first the kingdom of God and his
righteousness,"[14] should we have so much energy remaining to waste on
petty worldly annoyances? If we obeyed the injunction, "have faith in
God," should we daily and hourly, by our sinful murmuring, imply such
doubts of the divine attributes of wisdom, love, and power? This is a
want of faith you do not manifest towards men. You would trust yourself
fearlessly to the care of some earthly physician; you would believe that
he understood how to adapt his strengthening or lowering remedies to
each varying feature of your case; you would even provide yourself with
remedies, which, on the faith of his skill, you would trustingly use to
meet every symptom that might arise on future occasions. But when the
Great Physician manifests a still greater watchfulness to adapt his
daily discipline to your varying temper and the different stages of your
Christian growth, you murmur--you believe not in his wisdom as you do in
that of the sons of earth.

Do not, then, take his wisdom on faith alone; you must indeed believe,
you must believe or perish; but it may be as yet too difficult a lesson
for you to believe against sense, against feeling. What I would urge
upon you is, to strengthen your weak faith by the lessons of experience,
to seek anxiously, and to pray to be enabled to see distinctly, the
peculiar manner in which each trial of your daily lot is adapted to your
own individual case.

I do not speak now of great trials, of such afflictions as crush the
sufferer in the dust. When the hand of God is so plainly seen, it is
comparatively easy to submit, and his Holy Spirit, ever fulfilling the
promise "as thy day is, so shall thy strength be,"[15] sometimes makes
the riven heart strong to bear that which, in prospective, it dares not
even contemplate. You, however, have had no trial of this nature; yours
are the petty irritations, the small vexations which "smart more because
they hold in Holy Writ no place."[16] Even at more peaceful times, when
you can contemplate with resignation the general features of your lot in
life, you cannot subdue your spirit to patience under the hourly varying
annoyances and temptations with which you are beset. The peculiar
sensitiveness of your disposition, your affectionate, generous nature,
your refinement of mind, and quick tact, all expose you to suffer more
severely than others from the selfishness, the coarse-mindedness, the
bluntness of perception of those around you. You often say, in the
bitterness of your heart, Any other trial but this I could have borne;
every other chastisement would have been light in comparison. But why
have you so little faith? Why do you not see that it is because all
these petty trials are so severe to you, therefore are they sent? All
these amiable qualities that I have enumerated, and the love which they
win for you, would make you admire and value yourself too much, unless
your system were reduced, so to speak, by a series of petty but
continued annoyances. As I said before, you must seek to strengthen your
faith by tracing the close connection between these annoyances and the
"needs be" for them. It is probably exactly at the time when you are too
much elated by praise and admiration that you are sent some
counterbalancing annoyance, or perhaps suffered to fall into some fault
of temper which will lessen you in your own eyes, as well as in those of
others. You are often troubled by some annoyance, too, when you have
blamed others for being too easily overcome by an annoyance of the very
same kind. "Stand upon" an anxious "watch," and you will see how
constantly severe judgments of others are punished by falling ourselves
into temptations similar to those which we had treated as light ones
when sitting in judgment upon others. If you would acquire the habit of
exercising faith with respect to the smallest details of your every-day
life, by such faith the light itself might be won, and your eyes be
opened to see how wondrously all things, even those which appear the
most needlessly worrying, are made to work together for your good.[17]
These are, however, but the first lessons in the school of faith, the
first steps on the road which leads to "rest in God."

Severer trials are hastening onward, for which your present petty trials
are serving as a preparatory discipline. According to the manner in
which these are met and supported, will be your patience in the hour of
deep darkness and bitter desolation. Waste not one of your present petty
sorrows: let them all, by the help of prayer, and watchfulness, and
self-control, work their appointed work in your soul. Let them lead you
each day more and more trustingly to "cast all your care upon Him who
careth for you."[18] In the present hours of tranquillity and calm, let
the light and infrequent storms, the passing clouds that disturb your
peace, serve as warnings to you to find a sure refuge before the clouds
of affliction become so heavy, and its storms so violent, that there
will be no power of seeking a haven of security. That must be sought and
found in seasons of comparative peace. Though the agonized soul may
finally, through the waves of sorrow, make its way into the ark, its
long previous struggles, and its after harrowing doubts and fears, will
shatter it nearly to pieces before it finds a final refuge. It may,
indeed, by the free grace of God, be saved at the last, but during the
remainder of its earthly pilgrimage there is no hope for it of joy and
peace in believing.

But when the hour of earthly desolation comes to those who have long
acknowledged the special providence of God in "all the dreary
intercourse of daily life," "they knew in whom they have believed,"[19]
and no storms can shake that faith. They know from experience that all
things work together for good to them that love God. In the loving,
child-like confidence of long-tried and now perfecting faith, they are
enabled to say from the depths of their heart, "It is the Lord, let him
do what seemeth him good."[20] They seek not now to ascertain the "needs
be" for this particular trial. It might harrow up their human heart too
much to trace the details of sorrows such as these, in the manner in
which they formerly examined into the details of those of daily life.
"It is the Lord;" these words alone not only still all complaining, but
fill the soul with a depth of peace never experienced by the believer
until all happiness is withdrawn but that which comes direct from God.
"It is the Lord," who died that we might live, and can we murmur even
if we dared? No; the love of Christ constrains us to cast ourselves at
his feet, not only in submission, but in grateful adoration. It is
through his redeeming love that "our light affliction, which is but for
a moment, will work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of

Even the very depth of mystery which may attend the sorrowful
dispensation, will only draw forth a stronger manifestation of the
Christian's faith and love. She will be enabled to rejoice that God does
not allow her to see even one reason for the stroke that lays low all
her earthly happiness; as thus only, perhaps, can she experience all the
fulness of peace that accompanies an unquestioning trust in the wisdom
and love of his decrees. For such unquestioning trust, however, there
must be a long and diligent preparation: it is not the growth of days or
weeks; yet, unless it is begun even this very day, it may never be begun
at all. The practice of daily contentment is the only means of finally
attaining to Christian resignation.

I do not appeal to you for the necessity of immediate action, because
this day may be your last. I do not exhort you "to live as if this day
were the whole of life, and not a part or section of it,"[21] because it
may, in fact, be the whole of life to you. It may be so, but it is not
probable, and when you have certainties to guide you, they are better
excitements to immediate action than the most solemn possibilities.

The certainty to which I now appeal is, that every duty I have been
urging upon you will be much easier to you to-day than it would be, even
so soon as to-morrow. One hour's longer indulgence of a discontented
spirit, of rebellious and murmuring thoughts, will stamp on your mind an
impression, which, however slight it may be, will entail upon you a
lifelong struggle against it. Every indulged thought becomes a part of
ourselves: you have the awful freedom of will to make yourself what you
will to be. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,"[22] "Quench"
the Spirit[23] and the holy flame will never be rekindled. Kneel, then,
before God, even now, to pray that you may be enabled to will aright.

Before you opened these pages, some of your daily irritations were
probably preying on your mind. You have often, perhaps, recurred to the
annoyance, whatever it may be, while you read on and on. Make this
annoyance your first opportunity of victory, the first step in the path
of contentment. Pray to an ever-present God, that he may open your eyes
to see how large may have been the portion of blame to yourself in the
annoyance you complain of,--in how far it may be the due and inevitable
chastisement of some former sin; how, finally, it may turn to your
present profit, by giving you a keener insight into the evils of your
own heart, and a more indulgent view of the often imaginary wrongs of
others towards you.

Let not this trial be lost to you; by faith and prayer, this cloud may
rain down blessings upon you. The annoyance from which you are suffering
may be a small one, casting but a temporary shadow, even like the

    "Cloud passing over the moon;
    'Tis passing, and 'twill pass full soon."[24]

But ere that shadow has passed away, your fate may be as decided as that
of the renegade in poetic fiction. During the time this cloud has rested
upon you, the first link of an interminable chain of habits, for good or
for ill, may have been fastened around you. Who can tell what "Now" it
is that "is the accepted time?" We know from Scripture that there is
this awful period, and your present temptation to murmuring and
rebellion against the will of God (for it is still his will, though it
may be manifested through a created instrument) may be to you that
"Now." Pray earnestly before you decide what use you will make of it.


[1] Phil. iv. 6.

[2] Young's Night Thoughts.

[3] "The Flight of the Duchess." Browning.

[4] Wordsworth.

[5] See page 15.

[6] Phil. ii. 12.

[7] Heb. xii. 14.

[8] Matt. xxv. 41.

[9] Phil. iii. 13.

[10] Rom. viii. 29.

[11] Luke xii. 3.

[12] Matt. vi. 18.

[13] Matt. vi. 20, 21.

[14] Matt. vi. 33.

[15] Deut. xxxiii. 25.

[16] Lyra Apostolica.

[17] Rom. viii. 28.

[18] 1 Pet. v. 7.

[19] 2 Tim. i. 12.

[20] 1 Sam. iii. 18.

[21] Jean Paul Richter.

[22] 1 Pet. v. 8, 9.

[23] Thess. v. 19.

[24] The Siege of Corinth.



The subject proposed for consideration in the following letter has been
already treated of in perhaps all the different modes of which it
appears susceptible. Every religious and moral motive has been urged
upon the victim of ill-temper, and it is scarcely necessary to add that
each has, in its turn, been urged in vain. This failing of the character
comes gradually to be considered as one over which the rational will has
no control; it is even supposed possible that a Christian may grow in
grace and in the knowledge of the Saviour while the vice of ill-temper
is still flourishing triumphantly.

It is, indeed, a certain fact that, unless the temper itself is
specially controlled, and specially watched over, it may deteriorate
even when the character in other respects improves; for the habit of
defeat weakens the exercise of the will in this particular direction,
and gradually diminishes the hope or the effort of acquiring a victory
over the indulged failing. It is a melancholy consideration, if it be,
as I believe, really the case, that a Christian may increase in love to
God and man, while at the same time perpetually inflicting severe wounds
on the peace and happiness of those who are nearest and dearest to her.
Worse than all, she is, by such conduct, wounding the Saviour "in the
house of his friends,"[25] bringing disgrace and ridicule upon the Holy
Name by which she is called.

In the compatibility which is often tacitly inferred between a bad
temper and a religious course of life, there seems to be an instinctive
recognition of this peculiar vice being so much the necessary result of
physical organization, that the motives proving effectual against other
sins are ineffectual for the extirpation of this. Perhaps, if this
recognition were distinct, and the details of it better understood, a
new and more successful means might be made use of to effect the cure of

As an encouragement to this undertaking, there can be no doubt, from
some striking instances within your own knowledge, that there are
certain means by which, if they could only be discovered, the vice in
question may be completely subdued. Even among heathen nations, we know
that the art of self-control was so well understood, and so successfully
practised, that Plato, Socrates, and other philosophers were able to
bring their naturally fiery and violent tempers into complete subjection
to their will. Can it be that this secret has been lost along with the
other mysteries of those distant times, that the mode of controlling the
temper is now as undiscoverable as the manner of preparing the Tyrian
dye and other forgotten arts? It is surely a disgrace to those cowardly
Christians who, having in addition to all the natural powers of the
heathen moralist the freely-offered grace of God to work with them and
in them, should still walk so unworthy of the high vocation wherewith
they are called, as to shrink hopelessly from a moral competition with
the ignorant worshippers of old.

My sister, these things ought not so to be; you feel they ought not, yet
day after day you break through the resolutions formed in your calmer
moments, and repeat, probably increase, your manifestations of
uncontrolled ill-temper. This is not yet, however, in your case, a
wilful sin; you still mourn bitterly over the shame to yourself and the
annoyance to others caused by the indulgence of your ill-temper. You are
also painfully alive to the doubts which your conduct excites in the
mind of your more worldly associates as to the reality of a vital and
transforming efficacy in religion. You feel that you are not only
disobeying God yourself, but that you are providing others with excuses
for disobeying him, and with examples of disobedience. You mourn over
these considerations in bitterness of heart; you even pray for strength
to resist this, your besetting sin, and then--you leave your room, and
fall into the same sin on the very first opportunity.

If, however, prayer itself does not prove an effectual safeguard from
persistence in sin, you will ask what other means can be hopefully
employed. None--none whatever; that from which real prayer cannot
preserve us is an inevitable misfortune. But think you that any kind of
sin can be among those misfortunes that cannot be avoided? No, my
friend: "He is able to succour them that are tempted;"[26] and we are
also assured that He is willing. Cease, then, from accusing the
All-merciful, even by implication, of being the cause of your continuing
in sin, and examine carefully into the nature of those prayers which you
complain have never been answered. The Scripture reason for such
disappointments is clearly and distinctly given: "Ye ask and receive
not, because ye ask amiss."[27] Examine, then, in the first place,
whether you yourself are asking "amiss?" What is your primary motive for
desiring the removal of this besetting sin? Is it the consideration of
its being so hateful in the sight of God, of its being injurious to the
cause of religion? or is it not rather because you feel that it makes
you unloveable to those around you, and inflicts pain on those who are
very dear to you, at the same time lessening your own dignity and
wounding your self-respect? These are all proper and allowable motives
of action while kept in their subordinate place; but if they become the
primary actuating principle, instead of a conscientious hatred of sin
because it is the abominable thing that God hates,[28] if pleasing man
be your chief object, you have no reason to complain that your prayers
are unanswered. The word of God has told you that it must be so. You
have asked "amiss." There is also a secondary sense in which we may "ask
amiss:" when we pray without corresponding effort. Some worthy people
think that prayer alone is to obtain for them all the benefits they can
desire, and that the influences of the Holy Spirit will, unassisted by
human effort, produce a transforming change in the temper and the
conduct. This they call magnifying the grace of God, as if it could be
supposed that his gracious help would ever be granted for the purpose of
slackening, instead of encouraging and exciting, our own exertions. Do
not the Scriptures abound in exhortations, warnings, and threatenings on
the subject of individual watchfulness, diligence, and unceasing
conflicts? "To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according
to this word, it is because there is no light in them."[29] Perhaps you
have prayed under the mental delusion I have above described; you have
expected the work should be done _for_ you, instead of _with_ you; that
the constraining love of Christ would constrain you necessarily to
abandon your sinful habits, while, in fact, its efficacy consists in
constraining you to carry on a perpetual struggle against them.

Look through the day that is past, or watch yourself through that which
is to come, and observe whether any violent conflict takes place in your
mind whenever you are tempted to sin. I fear, on the contrary, that you
expect the efficacy of your prayers to be displayed in preserving you
from any painful conflict whatever. It is strange, most strange, how
generally this perversion of mind appears practically to exist.
Notwithstanding all the opposing assertions of the Bible, people imagine
that the Christian's life, after conversion, is to be one of freedom
from temptation and from all internal struggles. The contrary fact is,
that they only really begin when we ourselves begin the Christian course
with earnestness and sincerity.

If you would possess the safety of preparation, you must look out for
and expect constant temptations and perpetual conflicts. By such means
alone can your character be gradually forming into "a meetness for the
inheritance of the saints in light."[30] Whenever your conflicts cease,
you will enter into your glorious rest. You will not be kept in a world
of sin and sorrow one moment after that in which you have attained to
sufficient Christian perfection to qualify you for a safe freedom from
trials and temptations: but as long as you remain in a temporal school
of discipline, "your only safety is to feel the stretch and energy of a
continual strife."[31]

If I have been at all successful in my endeavours to alter your views of
the _manner_ in which you are first to set about acquiring a permanent
victory over your besetting sin, you will be the more inclined to bestow
your attention on the means which I am now going to recommend for your
consequent adoption. They have been often tried and proved effectual:
experience is their chief recommendation. They may indeed startle some
pious minds, as seeming to encroach too far on what they think ought to
be the unassisted work of the Spirit upon the human character; but you
are too intelligent to allow such assertions, unfounded as they are on
Scripture, to prove much longer a stumbling-block in your way. I would
first of all recommend to you a very strict inquiry into the nature of
the things that affect your temper, so that you may be for the future on
your guard to avoid them, as far as lies in your power. Avoidance is
always the safest plan when it involves no deviation from the
straightforward path of duty; and there will be enough of inevitable
conflicts left, to keep up the habits of self-control and watchfulness.
Indeed, the avoidance which I recommend to you involves in itself the
necessity of so much vigilance, that it will help to prepare you for
measures of more active resistance. On this principle, then, you will
shrink from every species of discussion, on either practical or abstract
subjects, which is likely to excite you beyond control, and disable you
from bearing with gentleness and calmness the triumph, either real or
imaginary, of your opponent. The time will come, I trust, when no
subject need be forbidden to you on these grounds, but at present you
must submit to an invalid regimen, and shun every thing that has even a
tendency to excitement.

This system of avoidance is of the more importance, because every time
your ill-temper acquires the mastery over you, its strength is tenfold
increased for the next conflict, at the same time that your hopes of the
power of resistance, afforded either by your own will or by the
assisting grace of God, are of course weakened. You find, at each fall
before the power of sin, a greater difficulty in exercising faith in
either human or divine means of improvement. You do not, indeed, doubt
the power of God, but a disbelief steals over you which has equally
fatal tendencies. You allow yourself to indulge vague doubts of his
willingness to help you, or a suspicion insinuates itself that the God
whom you so anxiously try to please would not allow you to fall so
constantly into error, if this error were of a very heinous nature. You
should be careful to shun any course of conduct possibly suggestive of
such dangerous doubts. You should seek to establish in your mind the
habitual conviction that, victory being placed by God within your reach,
you must conquer or perish! None but those who by obedience prove
themselves children of God, shall inherit the kingdom prepared for them
from the foundation of the world.[32]

I have spoken of the vigilance and self-control required for the
avoidance of every discussion on exciting subjects; but this difficulty
is small indeed when compared with those unexpected assaults on the
temper which we are exposed to at every hour of the day. It is to meet
these with Christian heroism that the constant exertion of all our
inherent and imparted powers is perpetually required. Every device that
ingenuity can suggest, every practice that others have by experience
found successful, is at least worth the trial. One plan of resistance
suits one turn of mind; an entirely opposite one proves more useful for
another. To you I should more especially recommend the habitual
consideration that every trial of temper throughout the day is an
opportunity for conflict and for victory. Think, then, of every such
trial as an occasion of triumphing over your animal nature, and of
increasing the dominion of your rational will over the opposing
temptations of "the world, the flesh, and the devil." Consider each
vexatious annoyance as coming, through human instruments, from the hand
of God himself, and as an opportunity offered by his love and his wisdom
for strengthening your character and bringing your will into closer
conformity with his. You should cultivate the general habit of
considering every trial in this peculiar point of view; thinking over
the subject in your quiet hours especially, that you may thus have your
spirit prepared for moments of unexpected excitement.

To a person of your reflective turn of mind, the prudent management of
the thoughts is one of the principal means towards the proper government
of the temper. As some insects assume the colour of the plant they feed
on, so do the thoughts on which the mind habitually nourishes itself
impart their own peculiar colouring to the mental and moral
constitution. On your thoughts, when you are alone, when you wander
through the fields, or by the roadside, or sit at your work in useful
hours of solitude, depends very much the spirit you are of when you
again enter into society. If, for instance, you think over the trials of
temper which you are inevitably exposed to during the day as indications
of the unkindness of your fellow-creatures, you will not fail to
exaggerate mere trifles into serious offences, and will prepare a sore
place, as it were, in your mind, to which the slightest touch must give
pain. On the contrary, if you forcibly withdraw yourself from any
thought respecting the human instrument that has inflicted the wounds
from which you suffer or are likely to suffer,--if you look upon the
annoyance only as an opportunity of improvement and a message of mercy
from God himself,--you will then gradually get rid of all mental
irritation, and feel nothing but pity for your tormentors, feeling that
you have in reality been benefited instead of injured. When you have
acquired greater power of controlling your thoughts, it will be
serviceable to you to think over all the details of the annoyance from
which you are suffering, and to consider all the extenuating
circumstances of the case; to imagine (this will be good use to make of
your vivid imagination) what painful chord you may have unconsciously
struck, what circumstances may possibly have led the person who annoys
you to suppose that the provocation originated with yourself instead of
with her. It may be possible that some innocent words of yours may have
appeared to her as cutting insinuations or taunts, referring to some
former painful circumstance, forgotten or unknown by you, but
sorrowfully remembered by her, or a wilful contradiction of her known
opinion and known wishes, for mere contradiction's sake.

By the time you have turned over in your mind all these possible or
probable circumstances, you will generally see that the person offending
may really be not so much (if at all) to blame; and then the candid and
generous feelings of your nature will convert your anger into regret for
the pain you have unintentionally inflicted. I do not, however,
recommend you to venture upon this practice _yet_. Under present
circumstances, any indulged reflection upon the minute features of the
offence, and the possible feelings of the offender, will be more likely
to increase your irritation than to subdue it; you will not be able to
view your own case through an unprejudiced medium, until you have
acquired the power of compelling your thoughts to dwell on those
features only of an annoyance which may tend to soften your feelings,
while you avoid all such as may irritate them.

A much lower stage of self-control, and one in which you may immediately
begin to exercise yourself, is the prevention of your thoughts from
dwelling for one moment on any offence against you, looking upon such
offence in this point of view alone, that it is one of those
divinely-sent opportunities of Christian warfare without which you could
make no advance in the spiritual life. The consideration of the subject
of temper, as connected with habits of thought, on which I have dwelt so
long and in so much detail, is of the greatest importance. It is
absolutely impossible that you can exercise control over your temper, or
charitable and forgiving feelings toward those around you, if you suffer
your mind to dwell on what you consider their faults and your own
injuries. Are you, however, really aware that you are in the habit of
indulging such thoughts? I doubt it. Few people observe the direction in
which their thoughts are habitually exercised until they have practised
for some little time strict watchfulness over those shadowy and fleeting
things upon which most of the realities of life depend. Watch yourself,
therefore, I entreat you, even during this one day. I ask only for one
day, because I know that, in a character like yours, such an
examination, once begun in all earnestness, will only cease with life.
It is of sins of ignorance and carelessness alone that I accuse you; not
of wilfully harbouring malicious and revengeful thoughts. You have
never, probably, observed their existence: how, then, could you be aware
of their tendency? Perhaps the following illustration may serve to
suggest to you proofs of the danger of the practice I have been warning
you against. If one of your acquaintance had offended another, you would
feel no doubt as to the sinfulness and the cruelty to both of dwelling
on all the aggravating circumstances of the offence, until the temper of
the offended one was thoroughly roused and exasperated, though, before
the interference of a third person, the subject may have been passed
over unnoticed. Is not this the very process you are continually
carrying on in your own mind, to your own injury, indeed, far more than
to any one else's? These habits of thought must be altered, or no other
measures of self-control can prosper with you, though, in connection
with this primary one, many others must be adopted.

One practice that has been found beneficial is that of offering up a
short prayer, even as your hand is upon the door which is to admit you
into family intercourse, an intercourse which, more than any other,
involves duties and responsibilities as well as privileges and
pleasures. This practice could insure your never entering upon a scene
of trial, without having the subject of difficulty brought vividly
before your mind. David's prayer--"Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth;
keep the door of my lips"[33]--would be very well suited to such
occasions as these. This prayer would, at the same time, bring you down
help from Heaven, and, by putting you on your guard, rouse your own
energies to brave any temptation that may await you.

There is another plan which has often been tried with success,--that of
repeating the Lord's prayer deliberately through to oneself, before
venturing to utter one word aloud on any occasion that excites the
temper. The spirit of this practice is highly commendable, as, there
being no direct petition against the sin of ill-temper, it is
principally by elevating the spirit "into a higher moral atmosphere,"
that the experiment is expected to be successful. You will find that a
scrupulous politeness towards the members of your family, and towards
servants, will be a great help in preserving your temper through the
trials of domestic intercourse. You are very seldom even tempted to
indulge in irritable answers, impatient interruptions, abrupt
contradictions, while in the society of strangers. The reason of this is
that the indulgence of your temper on such occasions would oblige you to
break through the chains of early and confirmed habits From infancy
those habits have been forming, and they impel you almost unconsciously
to subdue even the very tones of your voice, while strangers are
present. Have you not sometimes in the middle of an irritable
observation caught yourself changing and softening the harsh
uncontrolled tones of your voice, or the roughness of your manner, when
you have discovered the unexpected presence of a stranger in the family
circle? You have still enough of self-respect to feel deep shame when
such things have happened; and the very moment when you are suffering
from these feelings of shame is that in which you ought to form, and
begin to execute, resolutions of future amendment. While under the
influence of regretful excitement, you will have the more strength to
break through the chains of your old habits, and to begin to form new
ones. If the same courtesy, which until now you have only observed
towards strangers, were habitually exercised towards the members of your
domestic circle, it would, in time, become as difficult to break through
the forms of politeness by indulging ill-temper towards them, as towards
strangers or mere acquaintance.

This is a point I wish to urge on you, even more strongly with regard to
servants. There is great meanness in any display of ill-temper towards
those who will probably lose their place and their character, if they
are tempted by your provocation (and without your restraints of
good-breeding and good education) to the same display of ill-temper that
you yourself are guilty of. On the other hand, there is no better
evidence of dignity, self-respect, and refined generosity of
disposition, than a scrupulous politeness in requiring and requiting
those services for which the low-minded imagine that their money is a
sufficient payment. You will not alone receive as a recompense the love
and the grateful respect of those who serve you, but you will also be
forming habits which will offer a powerful resistance to the temptations
of ill-humour.

You will not surely object to any of the precautions or the practices
recommended above, that they are too trifling or too troublesome; you
have suffered so much from your besetting sin, that I can suppose you
willing to try every possible means of cure.

You should, however, to strengthen your desire of resistance and of
victory, look much further than the unpleasant consequences of
ill-temper in your own case alone. You are still young, life has gone
prosperously with you, the present is fair and smiling, and the future
full of bright hopes; you have, comparatively speaking, few occasions
for irritation or despondency. A naturally warm temper is seen in you
under the least forbidding aspect, combined, as it is, with gay animal
spirits, strong affections, and ready good nature. You need only to look
around, however, to see the probability of things being quite different
with you some years hence, unless a thorough present change is effected.
Look at those cases (only too numerous and too apparent) in which
indulged habits of ill-temper have become stronger by the lapse of time,
and are not now softened in their aspect by the modifying influences of
youth, of hope, of health. See those victims to habitual ill-humour, who
are weighed down by the cares of a family, by broken health, by
disappointed hopes, by the inevitably accumulating sorrows of life. Do
you not know that they bestow wretchedness instead of happiness, even on
those who are dearest and nearest to them? Do you not know that their
voice is dreaded and unwelcome, as it sounds through their home,
deprived through them of the lovely peace of home? Is not their step
shunned in the passage, or on the stairs, in the certainty of no kind or
cheerful greeting? Do you not observe that every subject but the most
indifferent is avoided in their presence, or kept concealed from their
knowledge, in the vain hope of keeping away food for their excitement of
temper? Deprived of confidence, deprived of respect, their society
shunned even by the few who still love them, the unfortunate victims of
confirmed ill-temper may at last make some feeble efforts to shake off
their voluntarily imposed yoke.

But, alas! it is too late; in feeble health, in advanced years, in
depressed spirits, their powers of "working together with God" are
altogether broken. They may be finally saved indeed, but in this life
they can never experience the peace that religion bestows on its
faithful self-controlling followers. They can never bestow happiness,
but always discomfort on those whom they best love; they can never
glorify God by bringing forth the fruits of "a meek and quiet spirit."
This is sad, very sad, but it is not the less true. Strange also it is,
in some respects, that when sin is deeply mourned over and anxiously
prayed against, its power cannot be more effectually weakened. This is,
however, an invariable feature throughout all the dispensations of God,
and you would do well to examine carefully into it, that you may add
experience to your faith in the Scripture assertion, "What a man soweth,
that shall he also reap."[34] May you be given grace to sow such present
seed as may bring forth a harvest of peace to yourself, and peace to
your friends!

I must not forget to make some observations with respect to those
physical influences which affect the temper and spirits. It is true that
these are, at some times, and for a short period, altogether
irresistible. This is, however, only in the case of those whose
character was not originally of sufficient force and strength to require
much habitual self-control, as long as they possessed good health and
spirits. When this original good health is altered in any way that
alters their natural temper, (all diseases, however, have not this
effect,) not having had any previous practice in resisting the new and
unaccustomed evil, they yield to it as hopelessly as they would do to
the pain attending the gout and the rheumatism. If, however, such
persons as those above described are sincere in their desire to glorify
God, and to avoid disturbing the peace of those around them, they will
soon learn to make use of all the means within their reach to remove the
moral disease, as assiduously and as vigorously as they would labour to
remove the physical one. Their newly-acquired self-control will be blest
to them in more ways than one, for the grace of God is always given in
proportion to the need of those who are willing to work themselves, and
who have not incurred the evil they now struggle against, by wilful and
deliberate sin. I have spoken of only a few cases of ill-temper being
irresistible, and even these few only to be considered so at first,
before proper means of cure and prevention are used. Under other
circumstances, though the ill-temper mourned over may be strongly
influenced by physical causes, the sin must still remain the same as if
the causes were strictly moral ones. For instance, if you know that by
sitting up at night an hour or two later than usual, or by not taking
regular exercise, or by eating of indigestible food, you will put it out
of your power to avoid being ill-tempered and disagreeable on the
following day, the failure is surely a moral one. That the immediate
causes of your ill-humour may be physical ones, does not at all affect
the matter, seeing that such causes are, in this case, completely under
your own control. From this it follows that it must be a duty to watch
carefully the effects produced on your temper by every habit of your
life. If you do not abandon such of these as produce undesirable
effects, you deserve to experience the consequences in the gradual
diminution of the respect and affection of those who surround you.

Should the habits producing irritation of temper be such as you cannot
abandon without loss or detriment to yourself or others, the object in
view will be equally attained by exercising a more vigilant self-control
while you are exposed to a dangerous influence. For instance, you have
often heard it remarked, and have perhaps observed in your own case,
that poetry and works of fiction excite and irritate the temper. You may
know some people who exhibit this influence so strongly that no one will
venture to make them a request or even to apply to them about necessary
business, while they are engaged in the perusal of any thing
interesting. I know more than one excellent person, who, in consequence
of observing the effect produced on their temper, by novels, &c., have
given up this style of reading altogether. So far as the sacrifice was
made from a conscientious motive, they doubtless have their reward. From
the consequences, however, I should be rather inclined to think that
they were in many cases not only mistaken in the nature of the
precautions they adopted, but also in their motives for adopting them.
Such persons too frequently seem to have no more control over their
temper when exposed to other and entirely inevitable temptations, than
they had before the cultivation of their imagination was given up. They
do not, in short, seem to exercise, under circumstances that cannot be
escaped, that vigilant self-control which would be the only safe test
of the conscientiousness of their intellectual sacrifice.

For you, I should consider any sacrifice of the foregoing kind
especially inexpedient. Your deep thoughtfulness of mind, and your
habitual delicacy of health, make it impossible for you to give up light
literature with any degree of safety; even were it right that you should
abandon that species of mental cultivation which is effected by this
most important branch of study. People who never read difficult books,
and who are not of reflective habits of mind, can little understand the
necessity that at times exists for entire repose to the higher powers of
the mind--a repose which can be by no means so effectually procured as
by an interesting work of fiction. A drive in a pretty country, a
friendly visit, an hour's work in the garden, any of these may indeed
effect the same purpose, and on some occasions in a safer way than a
novel or a poem. The former, however, are means which are not always
within one's reach, which are impossible at seasons when entire rest to
the mind is most required,--viz. during days and weeks of confinement to
a sick and infected room. At such periods, it is true that the more idle
the mind can be kept the better; even the most trifling story may excite
a dangerous exertion of its nervous action; at times, however, when it
is sufficiently strong and disengaged to feel a craving for active
employment, it is of great importance that the employment should be such
as would involve no exercise of the higher intellectual faculties. I
have known serious evils result to both mind and body from an imprudent
engagement in intellectual pursuits during temporary, and as it may
often appear trifling, illness. Whenever the body is weak, the mind also
should be allowed to rest, if the invalid be a person of thought and
reflection; otherwise Butler's Analogy itself would not do her any harm.
It is _only_ "Lorsqu'il y a vie, il y a danger." This is a long
digression, but one necessary to my subject; for I feel the importance
of impressing on your mind that it can never be your duty to give up
that which is otherwise expedient for you, on the grounds of its being a
cause of excitement. You must only, under such circumstances, exercise a
double vigilance over your temper. Thus you must try to avoid speaking
in an irritated tone when you are interrupted; you must be always ready
to help another, if it be otherwise expedient, however deep may be the
interest of the book in which you are engaged; and, finally, if you are
obliged to refuse your assistance, you should make a point of expressing
your refusal with gentleness and courtesy.

You should show others, as well as be convinced of it yourself, that the
refusal to oblige is altogether irrespective of any effect produced on
your temper by the studies in which you are engaged. Perhaps during the
course of even this one day, you may have an opportunity of experiencing
both the difficulty and advantage of attending to the foregoing

In conclusion, I would remind you, that it may, some time or other, be
the will of God to afflict you with heavy and permanent sickness,
habitually affecting your temper, generating despondency, impatience,
and irritation, and making the whole mind, as it were, one vast sore,
shrinking in agony from every touch. If such a trial should ever be
allotted to you, (and it may be sent as a punishment for the neglect of
your present powers of self-control,) how will you be able to avoid
becoming a torment to all around you, and at the same time bringing
doubt and ridicule on your profession of religion?

If, during your present enjoyment of mental and bodily health, you do
not acquire a mastery over your temper, it will be almost impossible to
do so when the effects of disease are added to the influences of nature
and habit. On the other hand, from Galen down to Sir Henry Halford,
there is high medical authority for the important fact that self-control
acquired in health may be successfully exercised to subdue every
external sign, at least, of the irritation and depression often
considered inevitably attendant on many peculiar maladies. There are few
greater temporal rewards of obedience than the consciousness, under such
trying circumstances, of still possessing the power of procuring peace
for oneself, love from one's neighbour, and glory to God.

Remember, finally, that every day and every hour you pause and hesitate
about beginning to control your temper, may probably expose you to years
of more severe future conflict. "Now is the accepted time, now is the
day of salvation," is fully as true when asserted of the beginning of
the slow moral process by which our own conformity "to the image of the
Son" is effected, as of the saving moment in which we "arise and go to
our Father."[35]


[25] Zach. xiii. 6.

[26] Heb. ii. 18.

[27] James iv. 3.

[28] Jer. xliv. 4.

[29] Isa. viii. 20.

[30] Col. i. 12.

[31] Archdeacon Manning.

[32] Matt. xxv. 24.

[33] Ps. cxli. 3.

[34] Gal. vi. 7.

[35] Luke xv.



I do not accuse you of being a liar--far from it; on the contrary, I
believe that if truth and falsehood were distinctly placed before you,
and the opportunity of a deliberate choice afforded you, you would
rather expose yourself to serious injury than submit to the guilt of
falsehood. It is, therefore, with the more regret that your
conscientious friends observe a daily-growing disregard of absolute
truth in your statement of indifferent things, and, _a plus forte
raison_, in your statement of your own side of the question as opposed
to that of another. There are, unfortunately, a thousand opportunities
and temptations to the exaggerated mode of expression for which I blame
you; and these temptations are generally of so trifling a nature, that
the whole energies of the conscience are never awakened to resist them,
as might be the case were the evil to others and the disgrace to
yourself more strikingly manifest. Few people seem to be at all aware of
the difficulties that really attend speaking the _exact_ truth, or they
would shrink from indulging in any habits that immeasurably increase
these difficulties,--increase it, indeed, to such a degree, that some
minds appear to have lost the very power of perceiving truth; so that,
even when they are extremely anxious to be correct in their statement,
there is a total incapacity of transmitting a story to another in the
way that they themselves received it. This is one of the most striking
temporal punishments of sin,--one of those that are the inevitable
consequences of the sin itself, and quite independent of the other
punishments which the revealed will of God attaches to it. The persons
of whom I speak must sooner or later perceive that no dependence is
placed on their statements, that even when respect and affection for
their other good qualities may prevent a clear recognition of the
falsehood of their character, yet that they are now never applied to for
information on any matters of importance. Perhaps, to those who have any
sensitiveness of observation, such doubts are even the more painful the
more vaguely they are implied. For myself, I have long acquired the
habit of translating the assertions and the stories of the persons of
whom I speak into the language in which I judge they originally existed.
By the aid of a small degree of ingenuity, it is not very difficult to
ascertain, from the nature of the refracting medium, the degree and the
direction of the change that has taken place in the pure ray of truth.

Yet such people as these often deserve pity as much as blame: they are,
perhaps, unconscious of the degree in which habit has made them
insensible to the perversion of truth in their statements; and even now
they scarcely believe that what seems to them so true should appear and
really be false to others. The intellectual effects of such habits are
equally injurious with the moral ones. All natural clearness and
distinctness of intellect becomes gradually obscured; the memory becomes
perplexed; the very style of writing acquires the taint of the
perverted mind. Truth is impressed upon every line of Dr. Arnold's
vigorous diction, while other writers of equal, perhaps, but less
respectable eminence, betray, even in their mode of expression, the
habitual want of honesty in their character and in their statements.

In your case, none of the habits of which I have spoken are, as yet,
firmly implanted. A warm temper, ardent feelings, and a vivid
imagination are, as yet, the only causes of your errors. You have still
time and power to struggle against them, as the chains of habit have not
been added to those of nature. But, before the struggle begins, you must
be convinced of its necessity; and this is probably the point on which
you are entirely incredulous. Listen to me, then, while I help you to
discover the hidden mysteries of a heart that "is deceitful above all
things," and let the self-examination I urge upon you be prompt, be
immediate. Let it be exercised through the day that is coming; watch the
manner in which you express yourself on every subject; observe,
especially those temptations which will assail you to venture upon
greater deviations from truth than those which you think you may
harmlessly indulge in, under the sanction of vivid imagination, poetic
fancy, &c. This latter part of the examination may throw great light on
the subject: people are not assailed frequently and strongly by
temptations that have never, at any former time, been yielded to.

I have reason to believe that, as one of the preparations for such
self-examination, you entertain a deep sense of the exceeding sinfulness
of sin, and feel an anxious desire to approve yourself as a faithful
servant to your heavenly Master. I do not, therefore, suppose that at
present any temptation would induce you to incur the guilt of a
deliberate falsehood. The perception of moral evil may, however, be so
blunted by habits of mere carelessness, that I should have no dependence
on your adhering for many future years to even this degree of plain,
downright truth, unless those habits are decidedly broken through. But
do not, from this, imagine that I consider a distinct, decided falsehood
more, but rather less, dangerous for the future of your character than
those lighter errors of which I have spoken. Though you may sink so far,
in course of time, as to consider even a direct lie a very small
transgression of the law of God, you will never be able to persuade
yourself that it is entirely free from sin. The injury, too, to our
neighbour, of a direct lie, can be so much more easily guarded against,
that, for the sake of others, I am far more earnest in warning you
against equivocation than against decided falsehood. It is sadly
difficult for the injured person to ward off the effects of a deceitful
glance, a misleading action, an artful insinuation. No earthly defence
is of any avail here, as the sorrows of many a wounded heart can
testify; but for such injured ones there is a sure, though it may be a
long-suffering, Defender. He is the Judge of all the earth; and even in
this world he will visit, with a punishment inevitably involved in the
consequences of their crime, those who have in any manner deceived their
neighbour to his hurt.

I do not, however, accuse you of exaggerating or equivocating from
malice alone: no,--more frequently it is for the sake of mere
amusement, or, at the worst, in cowardly self-defence; that is, you
prefer throwing the blame by insinuation upon an innocent person to
bearing courageously what you deserve yourself. In most cases, indeed,
you can plead in excuse that the blame is not of any serious nature;
that the insinuated accusation is slight enough to be entirely harmless:
so it may appear to you, but so it frequently happens not to be. This
insinuated accusation, appearing to you so unimportant, may have some
peculiar relations that make it more injurious to the slandered one than
the original blame could have been to yourself. It may be the means of
separating her from her chief friend, or shaking her influence in
quarters where perhaps it was of great importance to her that it should
be preserved unimpaired. When we lay sinful hands on the complicated
machinery of God's providence, it is impossible for us to see how far
the derangement may extend.

You may, during the course of this coming day, have an opportunity of
giving your own version of a matter in which another was concerned with
you, and in which, if the blame is thrown on her, she will have no
opportunity of defending herself. Be on your guard, then; have a noble
courage; fear nothing but the meanness and the wickedness of accusing
the absent and the defenceless. The opportunity offered you to-day of
speaking conscientiously, however trifling it may in itself appear, may
possibly be the turning point of your life; may lead you on to future
habits of cowardice and deceit, or may impart to you new vigilance and
energy for future victories over temptation.

You may, also, during the course of this day, be strongly tempted as to
the mode of repeating what another has said in conversation: the
slightest turn in the expression of the sentence, the insertion or
omission of one little word, the change of a weaker to a stronger
expression, may exactly adapt to your purpose the sentence you are
tempted to repeat. You may also often be able to say to yourself that
you are giving the impression of the real meaning of the speaker, only
withheld by herself because she had not courage to express it.
Opportunities such as these are continually offering themselves to you,
and you have ingenuity enough to make the desired change in the repeated
sentence so effectual, that there will be no danger of contradiction,
even if the betrayed person should discover that she is called upon to
defend herself. I have heard this so cleverly done, that the success was
complete, and the poor slandered one lost, in consequence, her admirer
or her friend, or at least much of her influence over them. You, too,
may in like manner succeed: but what is the loss of others in comparison
of the penalty of your success? The punishment of successful sin is not
to be escaped.

In any of the cases I here bring forward as illustrations, as helps to
your self-examination, I am not supposing that there is any tangible,
positive, wilful deceit in your heart, or that you deliberately
contemplate any very serious injury being inflicted on the persons whose
conversations and actions you misrepresent. On the contrary, I know that
you are not thus hardened in sin. With regard, however, to the deceit
not assuming any tangible form in your own eyes, you ought to remember
the solemn words, "Thou, O God I seest me;" and what is sin in his eyes
can only fail to be so in ours from the neglect of strict
self-examination and prayer that the Spirit of the Lord may search the
very depths of the heart. Sins of ignorance seem to assume even a deeper
dye than others, when the ignorance only arises from wilful neglect of
the means of knowledge so abundantly and freely bestowed. When you once
begin in right earnest to try to speak the truth from your heart, in the
smallest as well as in the greatest things, you will be surprised to
find how difficult it is. Carelessness, false shame, a desire for
admiration, a vanity that leads you to disclaim any interest in that
which you cannot obtain,--these are all temptations that beset your
path, and ought to terrify you against adding the chains of habit to so
many other difficulties.

There is one more point of view in which I wish you to consider this
subject; that, namely, of "honesty being the best policy." There is no
falsehood that is not found out in the end, and so turned to the shame
of the person who is guilty of it. You may perpetually dread, even at
present, the eye of the discriminating observer; she can see through
you, even at the very moment of your committal of sin; she quickly
discovers that it is your habit to depreciate people or things, only
because you are not in your turn valued by them, or because you cannot
obtain them; she can see, in a few minutes' conversation, that it is
your habit to say that you are admired and loved, that your society is
eagerly sought for by such and such people, whether it be the case or
not. Quick observers discover in a first interview what others will not
fail to discover after a time. They will then cease to depend upon you
for information on any subject in which your own interest or your vanity
is concerned. They will turn up their eyes in wonder, from habit and
politeness, not from belief. They will always suspect some hidden motive
for your words, instead of the one you put forward; nay, your giving one
reason for your actions will, by itself alone, set them on the search to
discover a different one. All this, perhaps, will in many cases take
place without their accusing you, even in their secret thoughts, of
being a liar. They have only a vague consciousness that you are, it may
be involuntarily, quite incapable of giving correct information.

The habitual, the known truth-speaker, occupies a proud position. Alas!
that it should be so rare. Alas! that, even among professedly religious
people, there should be so few who speak the truth from the heart; so
few to whom one can turn with a fearless confidence to ask for
information on any points of personal interest. I need not to be told
that it is during childhood that the formation of strict habits of
truthfulness is at once most sure and most easy. The difficulty is
indeed increased ten thousandfold, when the neglect of parents has
suffered even careless habits on this point to be contracted. The
difficulties, however, though great, are not insuperable to those who
seek the freely-offered grace of God to help them in the conflict. The
resistance to temptation, the self-control, will indeed be more
difficult when the effort begins later in life; but the victory will be
also the more glorious, and the general effects on the character more
permanent and beneficial. Not that this serves as any excuse for the
cruel neglect of parents, for they can have no certainty that future
repentance will be granted for those habits of sin, the formation of
which they might have prevented.

Dwelling, however, even in thought, on the neglect of our parents can
only lead to vain murmurings and complainings, and prevent the
concentration of all our energies and interest upon the extirpation of
the dangerous root of evil.

In this case, as in all others, though the sin of the parent is surely
visited on the children, the very visitation is turned into a blessing
for those who love God. To such blessed ones it becomes the means of
imparting greater strength and vigour to the character, from the
perpetual conflicts to which it is exposed in its efforts to overcome
early habits of evil.

Thus even sin itself is not excepted from the "all things" that "work
together for good to them that love God."[36]


[36] Rom. viii. 28.



It is, perhaps, an "unknown friend" only who would venture to address a
remonstrance to you on that particular sin which forms the subject of
the following pages; for it seems equally acknowledged by those who are
guilty of it, and those who are entirely free from its taint, that there
is no bad quality meaner, more degrading, than that of envy. Who,
therefore, could venture openly to accuse another of such a failing,
however kind and disinterested the motive, and still be admitted to rank
as her friend?

There is, besides, a strong impression that, where this failing does
exist, it is so closely interwoven with the whole texture of the
character, that it can never be separated from it while life and this
body of sin remain. This is undoubtedly thus far true, that its
ramifications are more minute, and more universally pervading, than
those of any other moral defect; so that, on the one hand, while even an
anxious and diligent self-examination cannot always detect their
existence, so, on the other, it is scarcely possible for its victims to
be excited by an emotion of any nature with which envy will not, in some
manner or other, connect itself. It is still further true, that no vice
can be more difficult of extirpation, the form it assumes being seldom
sufficiently tangible to allow of the whole weight of religious and
moral motives being brought to bear upon it. But the greatest
difficulty of all is, in my mind, the inadequate conception of the
exceeding evil of this disposition, of the misery it entails on
ourselves, the danger and the constant annoyance to which it exposes all
connected with us. Few would recognise their own picture, however strong
the likeness in fact might be, in the following vivid description of
Lavater's:--"Lorsque je cherche a representer Satan, je me figure une
personne que les bonnes qualites d'autrui font souffrir, et qui se
rejouit des fautes et des malheurs du prochain."

Analyze strictly, however, during even this one day, the feelings that
have given you the most annoyance, and the contemplated or executed
measures of deed or word to which those feelings have prompted you, and
you must plead guilty to the heinous charge of "rejoicing at your
brother's faults and misfortunes." It is not so much, indeed, with
relation to important matters that this feeling is excited within you.
If you hear of your friends being left large fortunes, or forming
connections calculated to promote their happiness, you are not annoyed
or grieved: you may even, perhaps, experience some sensations of
pleasure. If, however, the circumstances of good fortune are brought
more home to yourself, perhaps into collision with yourself, by being of
a more trifling nature, you often experience a regret or annoyance at
the success or the happiness of others, which would be ludicrous, if it
were not so wicked. Neither is there any vice which displays itself so
readily to the keen eye of observation: even when the guarded tongue
restrains the disclosure, the expression of the lip and eye is
unmistakeable, and gradually impresses a character on the countenance
which remains at times when the feeling itself is quite dormant. Only
contemplate your case in this point of view: is it not, when
dispassionately considered, shocking to think, that when a stranger
hopes to gratify you by the praise, the judicious and well-merited
praise, of your dearest friend, a pang is inflicted on you by the very
words that ought to sound as pleasant music in your ears? I have even
heard some persons so incautious, under such circumstances, as to
qualify the praise that gives them pain, by detracting from the merits
of the person under discussion, though that person be their particular
friend. This is done in a variety of ways: her merits and advantages may
be accounted for by the peculiarly favouring circumstances in which she
has been placed; or different disparaging opinions entertained of her,
by other people better qualified to judge, may also be mentioned. Now,
many persons thus imprudent are by no means utterly foolish at other
times; yet, in the moment of temptation from their besetting sin, they
do not observe how inevitable it is that the stranger so replied to
should immediately detect their unamiable motives, and estimate them

You will not, perhaps, fall into so open a snare, for you have
sufficient tact and quickness of perception to know that, under such
circumstances, you must, on your own account, bury in your bosom those
emotions of pain which I much fear you will generally feel. It is not,
however, the outward expression of such emotions, but their inward
experience, which is the real question we are considering, both as
regards your present happiness and your eternal interest. Ask yourself
whether it is a pleasurable sensation, or the contrary, when those you
love (I am still putting a strong case) are admired and appreciated, ire
held up as examples of excellence? If you love truly, if you are free
from envy, such praise will be far sweeter to your ears than any
bestowed on yourself could ever be. Indeed, it might be considered a
sufficient punishment for this vice, to be deprived of the deep and
virtuous sensation of delight experienced by the loving heart when
admiration is warmly expressed for the objects of their affection.

There has been a time when I should have scornfully rejected the
supposition that such a failing as envy could exist in companionship
with aught that was loveable or amiable. More observation of character
has, however, given me the unpleasant conviction that it occasionally
may be found in the close neighbourhood of contrasting excellences.
Alas! instead of being concealed or gradually overgrown by them, it, on
the contrary, spreads its deadly blight over any noble features that may
have originally existed in the character. Nothing but the severest
discipline, external and internal, can arrest this, its natural course.

When you were younger, the feelings which I now warn you against were
called jealousy, and even now some indulgent friends may continue to
give them this false name. Do not you suffer the dangerous delusion!
Have the courage to place your feelings in all their natural deformity
before you, and this sight will give you energy to pursue any regimen,
however severe, that may be required to subdue them.

I do really believe that it is the false name of jealousy that prevents
many an early struggle against the real vice of envy. I have heard young
women even boast of the jealousy of their disposition, insinuating that
it was to be considered as a proof of warm feelings and an affectionate
heart. Perhaps genuine jealousy may deserve to be so considered: the
anxious watching over even imaginary diminution of affection or esteem
in those we love and respect, the vigilance to detect the slightest
external manifestation of any diminution in their tenderness and regard,
though proving a deficiency in that noble faith which is the surest
safeguard and the firmest foundation of love and friendship, may, in
some cases, be an evidence of affection and warmth in the disposition
and the heart. So close, however, is the connection between envy and
jealousy, that the latter in one moment may change into the former. The
most watchful circumspection, therefore, is required, lest that which
is, even in its best form, a weakness and an instrument of misery to
ourselves and others, should still further degenerate into a meanness
and a vice;--as, for instance, when you fear that the person you love
may be induced, by seeing the excellences of another, to withdraw from
you some of the time, admiration, and affection you wish to be
exclusively bestowed upon yourself. In this case, there is a strong
temptation to display the failings of the dreaded rival, or, at the
best, to feel no regret at their chance display. Under such
circumstances, even the excusable jealousy of affection passes over into
the vice of envy. The connection between them is, indeed, dangerously
close; but it is easy to trace the boundary line, if we are inclined to
do so. Jealousy is contented with the affection and admiration of those
it loves and respects; envy is in despair, if those whom it despises
bestow the least portion of attention or admiration on those whom
perhaps she despises still more. Jealousy inquires only into the
feelings of the few valued ones; envy makes no distinction in her
cravings for universal preference. The very attentions and admiration
which were considered valueless, nay, troublesome, as long as they were
bestowed on herself, become of exceeding importance when they are
transferred to another. Envy would make use of any means whatever to win
back the friend or the admirer whose transferred attentions were
affording pleasure to another. The power of inflicting pain and
disappointment on one whose superiority is envied, bestows on the object
of former indifference, or even contempt, a new and powerful attraction.
This is very wicked, very mean, you will say, and shrink back in horror
from the supposition of any resemblance to such characters as those I
have just described. Alas! your indignation may be honest, but it is
without foundation. Already those earlier symptoms are constantly
appearing, which, if not sternly checked, must in time grow into
hopeless deformity of character. There is nothing that undermines all
virtuous and noble qualities more surely or more insidiously than the
indulged vice of envy. Its unresisting victims become, by degrees,
capable of every species of detraction, until they lose even the very
power of perceiving that which is true. They become, too, incapable of
all generous self-denial and self-sacrifice; feelings of bitterness
towards every successful rival (and there are few who may not be our
rivals on some one point or other) gradually diffuse themselves
throughout the heart, and leave no place for that love of our neighbour
which the Scriptures have stated to be the test of love to God.[37]

Unlike most other vices, envy can never want an opportunity of
indulgence; so that, unless it is early detected and vigilantly
controlled, its rapid growth is inevitable.

Early detection is the first point; and in that I am most anxious to
assist you. Perhaps, till now, the possibility of your being guilty of
the vice of envy has never entered your thoughts. When any thing
resembling it has forced itself on your notice, you have probably given
it the name of jealousy, and have attributed the painful emotions it
excited to the too tender susceptibilities of your nature. Ridiculous as
such self-deception is, I have seen too many instances of it to doubt
the probability of its existing in your case.

I am not, in general, an advocate for the minute analysis of mental
emotions: the reality of them most frequently evaporates during the
process, as in anatomy the principle of life escapes during the most
vigilant anatomical examination. In the case, however, of seeking the
detection of a before unknown failing, a strict mental inquiry must
necessarily be instituted. The many great dangers of mental anatomy may
be partly avoided by confining your observations to the external
symptoms, instead of to the state of mind from whence they proceed. This
will be the safer as well as the more effectual mode of bringing
conviction home to your mind. For instance, I would have you watch the
emotions excited when enthusiastic praise is bestowed upon another, with
relation to those very qualities you are the most anxious should be
admired in yourself. When the conversation or the accomplishments of
another fix the attention which was withheld from your own,--when the
opinion of another, with whom you fancy yourself on an equality, is put
forward as deserving of being followed in preference to your own, I can
imagine you possessed of sufficient self-respect to restrain any
external tokens of envy: you will not insinuate, as meaner spirits would
do, that the beauty, or the dress, or the accomplishments so highly
extolled are preserved, cherished, and cultivated at the expense of
time, kindly feelings, and the duty of almsgiving--that the conversation
is considered by many competent judges flippant, or pedantic, or
presuming--that the opinion cannot be of much value when the conduct has
been in some instances so deficient in prudence.

These are all remarks which envy may easily find an opportunity of
insinuating against any of its rivals; but, as I said before, I imagine
that you have too much self-respect to manifest openly such feelings, to
reveal such meanness to the eyes of man. Alas! you have not an equal
fear of the all-seeing eye of God. What I apprehend most for you is the
allowing yourself to cherish secretly all these palliative
circumstances, that you may thus reconcile yourself to a superiority
that mortifies you. If you habitually allow yourself in this practice,
it will be almost impossible to avoid feeling pleasure instead of pain
when these same circumstances happen to be pointed out by others, and
when you have thus all the benefit, and none of the guilt or shame, of
the disclosure. When envy is freely allowed to take these two first
steps, a further progress is inevitable. Self-respect itself will not
long preserve you from outward demonstrations of that which is inwardly
indulged, and you are sure to become in time the object of just contempt
and ridicule. It will soon be well known that the surest way to inflict
pain upon you is to extol the excellences or to dwell on the happiness
of others, and your failings will be considered an amusing subject for
jesting observation to experimentalize upon. I have often watched the
downward progress I have just described; and, unless the grace of God,
working with your own vigorous self-control, should alter your present
frame of mind, I can see no reason why you should escape when others
inevitably fall.

The circumstance in which this vice manifests itself most painfully and
most dangerously is that of a large family. How deplorable is it, when,
instead of making each separate interest the interest of the whole, and
rejoicing in the love and admiration bestowed on each separate
individual, as if it were bestowed on the whole, such love and such
admiration excite, on the contrary, irritation and regret.

Among children, this evil seldom attracts notice; if one girl is praised
for dancing or singing much better than her sister, and the sister
taunted into further efforts by insulting comparisons, the poor mistaken
parent little thinks that, in the pain she inflicts on the depreciated
child, she is implanting a perennial root of danger and sorrow. The
child may cry and sob at the time, and afterward feel uncomfortable in
the presence of one whose superiority has been made the means of
worrying her; and, if envious by nature, she will probably take the
first opportunity of pointing out to the teachers any little error of
her sister's. The permanent injury, however, remains to be effected when
they both grow to woman's estate; the envious sister will then take
every artful opportunity of lessening the influence of the one who is
considered her superior, of insinuating charges against her to those
whose good opinion they both value the most. And she is only too easily
successful; she is successful, that success may bring upon her the
penalty of her sin, for Heaven is then the most incensed against us when
our sin appears to prosper. Various and inexhaustible are the mere
temporal punishments of this sin of envy; of the sin which deprives
another of even one shade of the influence, admiration, and affection,
they would otherwise have enjoyed.

If the preference of a female friend excites angry and jealous feelings,
the attentions of an admirer are probably still more envied. In some
unhappy families, one may observe the beginning of any such attentions
by the vigilant depreciation of the admirer, and the anxious
manoeuvres to prevent any opportunities of cultivating the detected
preference. What prosperity can be hoped for to a family in which the
supposed advantage and happiness of one individual member is feared and
guarded against, instead of being considered an interest belonging to
the whole? You will be shocked at such pictures as these: alas! that
they should be so frequent even in domestic England, the land of happy
homes and strong family ties. You are of course still more shocked at
hearing that I attribute to yourself any shade of so deadly a vice as
that above described; and as long as you do not attribute it to
yourself, my warning voice will be raised in vain: I am not, however,
without hope that the vigilant self-examination, which your real wish
for improvement will probably soon render habitual, may open your eyes
to your danger while it can still be easily averted. Supposing this to
be the case, I would earnestly suggest to you the following means of
cure. First, earnest prayer against this particular sin, earnest prayer
to be brought into "a higher moral atmosphere," one of unfeigned love to
our neighbour, one of rejoicing with all who do rejoice, "and weeping
with those who weep." This general habit is of the greatest importance
to cultivate: we should strive naturally and instinctively to feel
pleasure when another is loved, or praised, or fortunate; we should try
to strengthen our sympathies, to make the feelings of others, as much as
possible, our own. Many an early emotion of envy might be instantly
checked by throwing one's self into the position of the envied one, and
exerting the imagination to conceive vividly the pleasure or the pain
she must experience: this will, even at the time, make us forgetful of
self, and will gradually bring us into the habit of feeling for the pain
and pleasure of others, as if we really believed them to be members of
the same mystical body.[38] We should, in the next place, attack the
symptoms of the vice we wish to eradicate; we should seek by reasonable
considerations to realize the absurdity of our envy: for this, nothing
is more essential than the ascertaining of our own level, and fairly
making up our minds to the certain superiority of others. As soon as
this is distinctly acknowledged, much of the pain of the inferior
estimation in which we are held will be removed: "There is no disgrace
in being eclipsed by Jupiter." Next, let us examine into the details of
the law of compensation--one which is never infringed; let us consider
that the very superiority of others involves many unpleasantnesses, of a
kind, perhaps, the most disagreeable to us. For instance, it often
involves the necessity of a sacrifice of time and feelings, and almost
invariably creates an isolation,--consequences from which we, perhaps,
should fearfully shrink. On the brilliant conversationist is inflicted
the penalty of never enjoying a rest in society: her expected employment
is to amuse others, not herself; the beauty is the dread of all the
jealous wives and anxious mothers, and the object of a notice which is
almost incompatible with happiness: I never saw a happy beauty, did you?
The great genius is shunned and feared by, perhaps, the very people whom
she is most desirous to attract; the exquisite musician is asked into
society _en artiste_, expected to contribute a certain species of
amusement, the world refusing to receive any other from her. The woman
who is surrounded by admirers is often wearied to death of attentions
which lose all their charm with their novelty, and which frequently
serve to deprive her of the only affection she really values. Experience
will convince you of the great truth, that there is a law of
compensation in all things. The same law also holds good with regard to
the preferences shown to those who have no superiority over us, who are
nothing more than our equals in beauty, in cleverness, in
accomplishments. If Ellen B. or Lydia C. is liked more than you are by
one person, you, in your turn, will be preferred by another; no one who
seeks for affection and approbation, and who really deserves it, ever
finally fails of acquiring it. You have no right to expect that every
one should like you the best: if you considered such expectations in the
abstract, you would be forced to acknowledge their absurdity. Besides,
would it not be a great annoyance to you to give up your time and
attention to conversing with, or writing to, the very people whose
preference you envy for Ellen B. or Lydia C.? They are suited to each
other, and like each other: in good time, you will meet with people who
suit you, and who will consequently like you; nay, perhaps at this
present moment, you may have many friends who delight in your society,
and admire your character: will you lose the pleasure which such
blessings are intended to confer, by envying the preferences shown to
others? Bring the subject distinctly and clearly home to your mind.
Whenever you feel an emotion of pain, have the courage to trace it to
its source, place this emotion in all its meanness before you, then
think how ridiculous it would appear to you if you contemplated it in
another. Finally, ask yourself whether there can be any indulgence of
such feelings in a heart that is bringing into captivity every thought
to the obedience of Christ,--whether there can be any room for them in a
temple of God wherein the spirit of God dwelleth.[39]


[37] 1 John iii.

[38] 1 Cor. xii. 25, 26.

[39] Cor. iii. 16.



This is a difficult subject to address you upon, and one which you will
probably reject as unsuited to yourself. There are few qualities that
the possessor is less likely to be conscious of than either selfishness
or unselfishness; because the actions proceeding from either are so
completely instinctive, so unregulated by any appeal to principle, that
they never, in the common course of things, attract any particular
notice. We go on, therefore, strengthening ourselves in the habits of
either, until a double nature, as it were, is formed, overlaying the
first, and equally powerful with it. How unlovely is this in the case of
selfishness, even where there are, besides, fine and striking features
in the general character, and how lovely in the case of unselfishness,
even when, as too frequently happens, there is little comparative
strength or nobleness in its intellectual and moral accompaniments!

You are now young, you are affectionate, good-natured, obliging,
possessed of gay and happy spirits, and a sweetness of temper that is
seldom seen united with so much sparkling wit and lively sensibilities.
Altogether, then, you are considered a very attractive person, and, in
the love which all those qualities have won for you from those around
you, may bring forward strong evidence against my charge of selfishness.
But is not this love more especially felt by those who are not brought
into daily and hourly collision with you. They only see you bright with
good-humour, ready to talk, to laugh, and to make merry with them in any
way they please. They therefore, in all probability, do not think you
selfish. Are you certain, however, that the estimate formed of you by
your nearest relatives will not be the estimate formed of you by even
acquaintance some years hence, when lessened good-humour and
strengthened habits of selfishness have brought out into more striking
relief the natural faults of your character?

The selfishness of the gay, amusing, good-humoured girl is often
unobserved, almost always tolerated; but when youth, beauty, and
vivacity are gone, the vice appears in its native deformity, and she who
indulges it becomes as unlovely as unloved. It is for the future you
have cause to fear,--a future for which you are preparing gloom and
dislike by the habits you are now forming in the small details of daily
life, as well as in the pleasurable excitements of social intercourse.
As I said before, these, at present almost imperceptible, habits are
unheeded by those who are only your acquaintance: but they are not the
less sowing the seeds of future unhappiness for you. You will,
assuredly, at some period or other, reap in dislike what you are now
sowing in selfishness. If, however, the warning voice of an "unknown
friend" is attended to, there is yet time to complete a comparatively
easy victory over this, your besetting sin; while, on the contrary,
every week and every month's delay, by riveting more strongly the chains
of habit, increases at once your difficulties and your consequent

This day, this very hour, the conflict ought to begin: but, alas! how
may this be, when you are not yet even aware of the existence of that
danger which I warn you. It is most truly "a part of sin to be
unconscious of itself."[40] It will also be doubly difficult to effect
the necessary preliminary of convincing you of selfishness, when I am so
situated as not to be able to point out to you with certainty any
particular act indicative of the vice in question. This obliges me to
enter into more varied details, to touch a thousand different strings,
in the hope that, among so many, I may by chance touch upon the right

Now, it is a certain fact, that in such inquiries as the present, our
enemies may be of much more use to us than our friends. They may, they
generally do, exaggerate our faults, but the exaggeration gives them a
relief and depth of colouring which may enable the accusation to force
its way through the dimness and heavy-sightedness of our self-deception.
Examine yourself, then, with respect to those accusations which others
bring against you in moments of anger and excitement; place yourself in
the situation of the injured party, and ask yourself whether you would
not attach tho blame of selfishness to similar conduct in another
person. For instance, you may perhaps be seated in a comfortable chair
by a comfortable fire, reading an interesting book, and a brother or
sister comes in to request that you will help them in packing something,
or writing something that must be finished at a certain time, and that
cannot be done without your assistance: the interruption alone, at a
critical part of the story, or in the middle of an abstruse and
interesting argument, is enough to irritate your temper and to
disqualify you for listening with an unprejudiced ear to the request
that is made to you. You answer, probably, in a tone of irritation; you
say that it is impossible, that the business ought to have been attended
to earlier, and that they could then have concluded it without your
assistance; or perhaps you rise and go with them, and execute the thing
to be done in a most ungracious manner, with a pouting lip and a surly
tone, insinuating, too, for days afterwards, how much you had been
annoyed and inconvenienced. The case would have been different if a
stranger had made the request of you, or a friend, or any one but a near
and probably very dear relative. In the former case, there would have
been, first, the excitement which always in some degree distinguishes
social from mere family intercourse; there would have been the wish to
keep up their good opinion of your character, which they may have been
deluded into considering the very reverse of unselfish. Lastly, their
thanks would of course be more warm than those which you are likely to
receive from a relative, (who instinctively feels it to be your duty to
help in the family labours,) and thus your vanity would have been
sufficiently gratified to reconcile you to the trouble and interruption
to which you had been exposed.

Still further, it is, perhaps, only to your own family that you would
have indulged in that introductory irritation of which I have spoken.
We have all witnessed cases in which inexcusable excitement has been
displayed towards relatives or servants who have announced unpleasant
interruptions, in the shape of an unwelcome visitor; while the moment
afterwards the real offender has been greeted with an unclouded brow and
a warm welcome, she not having the misfortune of being so closely
connected with you as the innocent victim of your previous ill-temper.

I enter into these details, not because they are necessarily connected
with selfishness, for many unselfish, generous-minded people are the
unfortunate victims of ill-temper, to which vice the preceding traits of
character more peculiarly belong; but for the purpose of showing you
that your conduct towards strangers can be no test of your
unselfishness. It is only in the more trying details of daily life that
the existence of the vice or the virtue can be evidenced. It is,
nevertheless, upon qualities so imperceptible to yourself as to require
this close scrutiny that most of the happiness and comfort of domestic
life depends.

You know the story of the watch that had been long out of order, and the
cause of its irregularity not to be discovered. At length, one
watchmaker, more ingenious than the rest, suggested that a magnet might,
by some chance, have touched the mainspring. This was ascertained by
experiment to have been the case; the casual and temporary neighbourhood
of a magnet had deranged the whole complicated machinery: and on equally
imperceptible, often undiscoverable, trifles does the healthy movement
of the mainspring of domestic happiness depend. Observe, then,
carefully, every irregularity in its motion, and exercise your
ingenuity to discover the cause in good time; the derangement may
otherwise soon become incurable, both by the strengthening of your own
habits, and the dispositions towards you which they will impress on the
minds of others.

Do let me entreat you, then, to watch yourself during the course of even
this one day,--first, for the purpose of ascertaining whether my
accusation of selfishness is or is not well founded, and afterwards, for
the purpose of seeking to eradicate from your character every taint of
so unlovely, and, for the credit of the sex, I may add, so unfeminine a

Before we proceed further on this subject, I must attempt to lay down a
definition of selfishness, lest you should suppose that I am so mistaken
as to confound with the vice above named that self-love, which is at
once an allowable instinct and a positive duty.

Selfishness, then, I consider as a perversion of the natural and
divinely-impressed instinct of self-love. It is a desire for things
which are not really good for us, followed by an endeavour to obtain
those things to the injury of our neighbour.[41] Where a sacrifice which
benefits your neighbour can inflict no _real_ injury on yourself, it
would be selfishness not to make the sacrifice. On the contrary, where
either one or the other must suffer an equal injury, (equal in all
points of view--in permanence, in powers of endurance, &c.,) self-love
requires that you should here prefer yourself. You have no right to
sacrifice your own health, your own happiness, or your own life, to
preserve the health, or the life, or the happiness of another; for none
of these things are your own: they are only entrusted to your
stewardship, to be made the best use of for God's glory. Your health is
given you that you may have the free disposal of all your mental and
bodily powers to employ them in his service; your happiness, that you
may have energy to diffuse peace and cheerfulness around you; your life,
that you may "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." We read
of fine sacrifices of the kind I deprecate in novels and romances: we
may admire them in heathen story; but with such sacrifices the real
Christian has no concern. He must not give away that which is not his
own. "Ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body,
and in your spirit, which are God's."[42]

In the case of a sacrifice of life--one which, of course, can very
rarely occur,--the dangerous results of thus, as it were, taking events
out of the hand of God cannot be always visible to our sight at present:
we should, however, contemplate what they might possibly be. Let us,
then, consider the injury that may result to the self-sacrificer,
throughout the countless ages of eternity, from the loss of that
working-time of hours, days, and years, wilfully flung from him for the
uncertain benefit of another. Yes, uncertain, for the person may at that
time have been in a state of greater meetness for heaven than he will
ever again enjoy: there may be future fearful temptations, and
consequent falling into sin, from which he would have been preserved if
his death had taken place when the providence of God seemed to will it.
Of course, none of us can, by the most wilful disobedience, dispose
events in any way but exactly that which his hand and his counsel have
determined before the foundation of the world;[43] but when we go out of
the narrow path of duty, we attempt, as far as in us lies, to reverse
his unchangeable decrees, and we "have our reward;" we mar our own
welfare, and that of others, when we make any effort to take the
providing for it out of the hands of the Omnipotent.

It is, however, only for the establishment of a principle that it could
be necessary to discuss the duties involved in such rare emergencies. I
shall therefore proceed without further delay to the more common
sacrifices of which I have spoken, and explain to you what I mean by
such sacrifices.

I have alluded to those of health and happiness. We have all known the
first wilfully thrown away by needless attendance on such sick friends
as would have been equally well taken care of had servants or hired
nurses shared in the otherwise overpowering labour. Often is this labour
found to incapacitate the nurse-tending friend for fulfilling towards
the convalescent those offices in which no menial could supply her place
--such as the cheering of the drooping spirit, the selection and patient
perusal of amusing books, an animated, amusing companionship in their
walks and drives, the humouring of their sick fancy--a sickness that
often increases as that of the body decreases. For all these trying
duties, during the often long and always painfully tedious period of
convalescence, the nightly watcher of the sick-bed has, it is most
likely, unfitted herself. The affection and devotion which were useless
and unheeded during days and nights of stupor and delirium have probably
by this time worn out the weak body which they have been exciting to
efforts beyond its strength, so that it is now incapable of more useful
demonstrations of attachment. Far be it from me to depreciate that fond,
devoted watching of love, which is sometimes even a compensation to the
invalid for the sufferings of sickness, at periods, too, when hired
attendance could not be tolerated. Here woman's love and devotion are
often brightly shown. The natural impulses of her heart lead her to
trample under foot all consideration of personal danger, fatigue, or
weakness, when the need of her loved ones demands her exertions.

This, however, is comparatively easy; it is only following the instincts
of her loving nature never to leave the sick room, where all her
anxiety, all her hopes and fears are centred,--never to breathe the
fresh air of heaven,--never to mingle in the social circle,--never to
rest the weary limbs, or close the languid eye. The excitement of love
and anxiety makes all this easy as long as the anxiety itself lasts: but
when danger is removed, and the more trying duties of tending the
convalescent begin, the genuine devotion of self-denial and
unselfishness is put to the test.

Nothing is more difficult than to bear with patience the apparently
unreasonable depression and ever-varying whims of the peevish
convalescent, whose powers of self-control have been prostrated by long
bodily exhaustion. Nothing is more trying than to find anxious exertions
for their comfort and amusement, either entirely unnoticed and useless,
or met with petulant contradiction and ungrateful irritation. Those who
have themselves experienced the helplessness caused by disease well know
how bitterly the trial is shared by the invalid herself. How deeply she
often mourns over the unreasonableness and irritation she is without
power to control, and what tears of anguish she sheds in secret over
those acts of neglect and words of unkindness her own ill-humour and
apparent ingratitude have unintentionally provoked.

Those who feel the sympathy of experience will surely wish, under all
such circumstances, to exercise untiring patience and unremitting
attention; but, however strong this wish may be, they cannot execute
their purpose if their own health has been injured by previous
unnecessary watchings, by exclusion from fresh air and exercise. Those
whose nervous system has been thus unstrung will never be equal to the
painful exertion which the recovering invalid now requires. How much
better it would have been for her if walks and sleep had been taken at
times when an attentive nurse would have done just as well to sit at the
bedside, when absence would have been unnoticed, or only temporarily
regretted! This prudent, and, we must remember, generally self-denying
care of one's self, would have averted the future bodily illness or
nervous depression of the nurse of the convalescent, at a time too when
the latter has become painfully alive to every look and word, as well as
act, of diminished attention and watchfulness; you will surely feel
deep self-reproach if, from any cause, you are unable to control your
own temper, and to bear with cheerful patience the petulance of hers.

I have dwelt so long on this part of my subject, because I think it very
probable that, with your warm affections, and before your selfishness
has been hardened by habits of self-indulgence, you might some time or
other fall into the error I have been describing. In the ardour of your
anxiety for some beloved relative, you may be induced to persevere in
such close attendance on the sick-bed as may seriously injure your own
health, and unfit you for more useful, and certainly more self-denying
exertion afterwards. How much easier is it to spend days and nights by
the sick-bed of one from whom we are in hourly dread of a final
separation, whose helpless and suffering state excites the strongest
feelings of compassion and anxiety, than to sit by the sofa, or walk by
the side, of the same invalid when she has regained just sufficient
strength to experience discomfort in every thing;--when she never finds
her sofa arranged or placed to her satisfaction; is never pleased with
the carriage, or the drive, or the walk you have chosen; is never
interested in the book or the conversation with which you anxiously and
laboriously try to amuse her. Here it is that woman's power of
endurance, that the real strength and nobleness of her character is put
to the most difficult test. Well, too, has this test been borne: right
womanly has been the conduct of many a loving wife, mother, and sister,
under the trying circumstances above described. Woman alone, perhaps,
can steadily maintain the clear vision of what the beloved one really
is, and can patiently view the wearisome ebullitions of ill-temper and
discontent as symptoms equally physical with a cough or a hectic flush.

This noble picture of self-control can be realized only by those who
keep even the best instincts of a woman's nature under the government of
strict principle, remembering that the most beautiful of these instincts
may not be followed without guidance or restraint. Those who yield to
such instincts without reflection and self-denial will exhaust their
energies before the time comes for the fulfilment of duties.

The third branch of my subject is the most difficult. It may, indeed,
appear strange that we should not have the right to sacrifice our own
happiness: that surely belongs to us to dispose of, if nothing else
does. Besides, happiness is evidently not the state of being intended
for us here below; and that much higher state of mind from which all
"_hap_"[44] is excluded--viz. blessedness--is seldom granted unless the
other is altogether withdrawn.

You must, however, observe that this blessedness is only granted when
the lower state--that of happiness--could not be preserved except by a
positive breach of duty, or when it is withheld or destroyed by the
immediate interposition of God Himself, as in the case of death,
separation, incurable disease, &c. Under any of the above circumstances,
we have the sure promise of God, "As thy days are, so shall thy strength
be." The lost and mourned happiness will not be allowed to deprive us of
the powers of rejoicing in hope, and serving God in peace; also of
diffusing around us the cheerfulness and contentment which is one of the
most important of our Christian duties. These privileges, however, we
must not expect to enjoy, if, by a mistaken unselfishness, (often deeply
stained with pride,) we sacrifice to another the happiness that lay in
our own path, and which may, in reality, be prejudicial to them, as it
was not intended for them by Providence: while, on the contrary, it may
have been by the same Providence intended for us as the necessary drop
of sweetness in the otherwise overpowering bitterness of our earthly

We take, as it were, the disposal of our fate out of the hands of God as
much when we refuse the happiness He sends us as when we turn aside from
the path of duty on account of some rough passage we see there before
us. Good and evil both come from the hands of the Lord. We should be
watchful to receive every thing exactly in the way He sees it fit for

Experience, as well as theory, confirms the truth of the above
assertions. Consider even your own case with relation to any sacrifice
of your own real happiness to the supposed happiness of another. I can
imagine this possible even in a selfish disposition, not yet hardened.
Your good-nature, warm feelings, and pride (in you a powerfully
actuating principle) may have at times induced you to make, in moments
of excitement, sacrifices of which you have not fully "counted the
cost." Let us, then, examine this point in relation to yourself, and to
the petty sacrifices of daily life. If you have allowed others to
encroach too much on your time, if you have given up to them your
innocent pleasures, your improving pursuits, and favourite companions,
has this indulgence of their selfishness really added to their
happiness? Has it not rather been unobserved, except so far to increase
the unreasonableness of their expectations from you, to make them angry
when it at last becomes necessary to resist their advanced
encroachments? On your own side, too, has it not rather tended to
irritate you against people whom you formerly liked, because you are
suffering from the daily and hourly pressure of the sacrifices you have
imprudently made for them? Believe me, there can be no peace or
happiness in domestic life without a _bien entendu_ self-love, which
will be found by intelligent experience to be a preservative from
selfishness, instead of a manifestation of it.

From all that I have already said, you will, I hope, infer that I am not
likely to recommend any extravagant social sacrifices, or to bring you
in guilty of selfishness for actions not really deserving of the name.
Indeed, I have said so much on the other side, that I may now have some
difficulty in proving that, while defending self-love, I have not been
defending you. We must therefore go back to my former definition of
selfishness--namely, a seeking for ourselves that which is not our real
good, to the neglect of all consideration for that which is the real
good of others. This is viewing the subject _an grand_,--a very general
definition, indeed, but not a vague one, for all the following
illustrations from the minor details of life may clearly be referred
under this head.

These are the sort of illustrations I always prefer--they come home so
much more readily to the heart and mind. Will not some of the following
come home to you? The indulgence of your indolence by sending a tired
person on a message when you are very well able to go yourself--sending
a servant away from her work which she has to finish within a certain
time--keeping your maid standing to bestow much more than needful
decoration on your dress, hair, &c., at a time when she is weak or
tired--driving one way for your own mere amusement, when it is a real
inconvenience to your companion not to go another--expressing or acting
on a disinclination to accompany your friend or sister when she cannot
go alone--refusing to give up a book that is always within your reach to
another who may have only this opportunity of reading it--walking too
far or too fast, to the serious annoyance of a tired or delicate
companion--refusing, or only consenting with ill-humour, to write a
letter, or to do a piece of work, or to entertain a visitor, or to pay a
visit, when the person whose more immediate business it is, has, from
want of time, and not from idleness or laziness, no power to do what she
requests of you--dwelling on all the details of a painful subject, for
the mere purpose of giving vent to and thus relieving your own feelings,
though it may be by the harrowing up of those of others who are less
able to bear it. All these are indeed trifles--but

    Trifles make the sum of human things,[45]

and are sure to occur every day, and to form the character into such
habits as will fit or unfit it for great proofs of unselfishness, should
such be ever called for. Besides, it is on trifles such as these that
the smoothness of "the current of domestic joy" depends. It is a
smoothness that is easily disturbed: do not let your hand be the one to
do it.

In all the trifling instances of selfishness above enumerated, I have
generally supposed that a request has been made to you, and that you
have not the trouble of finding out the exact manner in which you can
conquer selfishness for the advantage of your neighbour. I must now,
however, remind you that one of the penalties incurred by past
indulgence in selfishness is this, that those who love you will not
continue to make those requests which you have been in the habit of
refusing, or, if you ever complied with them, of reminding the obliged
person, from time to time, how much serious inconvenience your
compliance has subjected you to. This, I fear, may have been your habit;
for selfish people exaggerate so much every "little" (by "the good man")
"nameless, unremembered act," that they never consider them gratefully
enough impressed on the heart of the receiver without frequent reminders
from themselves. If such has been the case, you must not expect the
frank, confiding request, the entire trust in your willingness to make
any not unreasonable sacrifice, with which the unselfish are gratified
and rewarded, and for which perhaps you often envy them, though you
would not take the trouble to deserve the same confidence yourself. Even
should you now begin the attempt, and begin it in all earnestness, it
will take some time to establish your new character. _En attendant_, you
must be on the watch for opportunities of obliging others, for they will
not be freely offered to you; you must now exercise your own
observation to find out what they would once have frankly told
you,--whether you are tiring people physically or distressing them
morally, or putting them to practical inconvenience. I do not make the
extravagant supposition that all those with whom you associate have
attained to Christian perfection; the proud and the resentful, as well
as the delicate-minded, will suffer much rather than repeat appeals to
your unselfishness which have often before been disregarded. They may
exercise the Christian duty of forgiveness in other ways, but this is
the most difficult of all. Few can attain to it, and you must not hope

Finally; I wish to warn you against believing those who tell you that
such minute analysis of motives, such scrutiny into the smallest details
of daily conduct, has a tendency to produce an unhealthy
self-consciousness. This might, indeed, be true, if the original state
of your nature, before the examination began, were a healthy one. "If
Adam had always remained in Paradise, there would have been no anatomy
and no metaphysics:" as it is not so, we require both. Sin has entered
the world, and death by sin; and therefore it is that both soul and body
require a care and a minute watchfulness that cannot, in the present
state of things, originate either disease or sin. They have both existed

No one ever became or can become selfish by a prayerful examination into
the fact of being so or not. In matters of mere feeling, it is indeed
dangerous to scrutinize too narrowly the degree and the nature of our
emotions. We have no standard by which to try them. If a medical man
cannot be trusted to ascertain correctly the state of his own pulse,
how much more difficult is it for the amateur to sit in judgment on the
strength and number of the pulsations of his own heart and mind.

The case is quite different when feelings manifest themselves in overt
acts: then they become of a nature requiring and susceptible of minute
analyzation. This is the self-scrutiny I recommend to you.

May you be led to seek earnestly for help from above to overcome the
hydra of selfishness, and may you be encouraged, by that freely offered
help, to exert your own energies to the utmost!

Let me urge on your especial attention the following verses from the
Bible on the subjects which we have been considering. If you selected
each one of these for a week's _practice_, making it at once a question,
a warning, and a direction, it would be a tangible, so to speak, use of
the Holy Scriptures, that has been found profitable to many:--

"We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and
not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for
his good to edification. Even Christ pleased not himself."[46]

"The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister."[47]

"He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto
themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again."[48]

"Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things
of others."[49]

"Let all your things be done with charity."[50]

"By love serve one another."[51]

"But as touching brotherly love, ye need not that I write unto you, for
ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another."[52]

"My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in
deed and in truth."[53]

"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his
neighbour, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."[54]

"All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so
to them."[55]


[40] Archdeacon Manning.

[41] See Bishop Butler's Sermons.

[42] 1 Cor. vi. 20.

[43] Acts iv. 28.

[44] Coleridge's Aids to Reflection.

[45] Hannah More.

[46] Rom. xv. 1, 2, 3.

[47] Matt. xx. 28.

[48] 2 Cor. v. 15.

[49] Phil. ii. 4.

[50] 1 Cor. xvi. 14.

[51] Gal. v. 13.

[52] Thess. iv. 9.

[53] 1 John iii. 18.

[54] Rom. xiii. 9, 10.

[55] Matt. vii. 12.



You will probably think it strange that I should consider it necessary
to address you, of all others, upon the subject of self-control,--you
who are by nature so placid and gentle, so dignified and refined, that
you have never been known to display any of the outbreaks of temper
which sometimes disgrace the conduct of your companions.

You compare yourself with others, and probably cannot help admiring your
superiority. You have, besides, so often listened to the assurances of
your friends that your temper is one that cannot be disturbed, that you
may think self-control the very last point to which your attention
needed to be directed. Self-control, however, has relation to many
things besides mere temper. In your case I readily believe that to be of
singular sweetness, though even in your case the temper itself may still
require self-control. You will esteem it perhaps a paradox when I tell
you that the very causes which preserve your temper in an external state
of equability, your refinement of mind, your self-respect, your delicate
reserve, your abhorrence of every thing unfeminine and ungraceful, may
produce exactly the contrary effect on your feelings, and provoke
internally a great deal of contempt and dislike for those whose conduct
transgresses from your exalted ideas of excellence.

On your own account you would not allow any unkind word to express such
feelings as I have described, but you cannot or do not conceal them in
the expression of your features, in the very tones of your voice. You
further allow them free indulgence in the depths of your heart; in its
secret recesses you make no allowances for the inferiority of people so
differently constituted, educated, and disciplined from
yourself,--people whom, instead of despising and avoiding, you ought
certainly to pity, and, if possible, to sympathize with.

In this respect, therefore, the control which I recommend to you has
reference even to your much vaunted temper, for though any outward
display of ill-breeding and petulance might be much more opposed to your
respect for yourself, any inward indulgence of the same feelings must be
equally displeasing in the sight of God, and nearly as prejudicial to
the passing on of your spirit towards being "perfect, even as your
Father which is in heaven is perfect."[56]

Besides, though there may be no outbreak of ill-temper at the time your
annoyance is excited, nor any external manifestation of contempt even in
your expressive countenance, you will certainly be unable to preserve
kindness and respect of manner towards those whose errors and failings
are not met by internal self-control. You will be contemptuously
heedless of the assertions of those whose prevarication you have even
once experienced; those who have once taunted you with obligation will
never be again allowed to confer a favour upon you; you will avoid all
future intercourse with those whose unkind and taunting words have
wounded your refinement and self-respect. All this would contribute to
the formation of a fine character in a romance, for every thing that I
have spoken of implies your own truth and honesty, your generous nature,
your delicate and sensitive habits of mind, your dread of inflicting
pain. For all these admirable qualities I give you full credit, and, as
I said before, they would make an heroic character in a romance. In real
life, however, they, every one of them, require strict self-control to
form either a Christian character, or one that will confer peace and
happiness. You may be all that I have described, and I believe you to be
so, while, at the same time your severe judgments and unreasonable
expectations may be productive of unceasing discomfort to yourself and
all around you. Your friends plainly see that you expect too much from
them, that you are annoyed when their duller perceptions can discover no
grounds for your annoyance, that you decline their offers of service
when they are not made in exactly the refined manner your imagination
requires. Your annoyance may seldom or never express itself in words,
but it is nevertheless perceptible in the restraint of your manner, in
your carelessness of sympathy on any point with those who generally
differ from you, in the very tone of your voice, in the whole character
of your conversation. Gradually the gulf becomes wider and wider that
separates you from those among whom it has pleased God that your lot
should be cast.

You cannot yet be at all sensible of the dangers I am now pointing out
to you. You cannot yet understand the consequences of your present want
of self-control in this particular point. The light of the future alone
can waken them out of present darkness into distinct and fatal

Habit has not yet formed into an isolating chain that refinement of mind
and loftiness of character which your want of self-control may convert
into misfortunes instead of blessings. Whenever, even now, a sense of
total want of sympathy forces itself upon you, you console yourself with
such thoughts as these: "Sheep herd together, eagles fly alone,"[57]&c.

Small consolation this, even for the pain your loneliness inflicts on
yourself, still less for the breach of duties it involves.

There must, besides, be much danger in a habit of mind that leads you to
attribute to your own superiority those very unpleasantnesses which
would have no existence if that superiority were more complete. For, in
truth, if your spiritual nature asserted its due authority over the
animal, you would habitually exercise the power which is freely offered
you, of supreme control over the hidden movements of your heart as well
as over the outward expression of the lips.

I would strongly urge you to consider every evidence of your
isolation--of your want of sympathy with others--as marks of moral
inferiority; then, from your conscientiousness of mind, you would seek
anxiously to discover the causes of such isolation, and you would
endeavour to remove them.

Nothing is more difficult than the perpetual self-control necessary for
this purpose. Constant watchfulness is required to subdue every feeling
of superiority in the contemplation of your own character, and constant
watchfulness to look upon the words and actions of others through, as it
were, a rose-coloured medium. The mind of man has been aptly compared to
cut glass, which reflects the very same light in various colours as well
as different shapes, according to the forms of the glass. Display then
the mental superiority of which you are justly conscious, by moulding
your mind into such forms as will represent the words and actions of
others in the most favourable point of view. The same illustration will
serve to suggest the best manner of making allowances for those whose
minds are unmanageable, because uneducated and undisciplined. They
cannot _see_ things in the same point of view that you do; how
unreasonable then is it of you to expect that they should form the same
estimate of them.

Let us now enter into the more minute details of this subject, and
consider the many opportunities for self-control which may arise in the
course of even this one day. I will begin with moral evil.

You may hear falsehoods asserted, you may hear your friend traduced, you
may hear unfair and exaggerated statements of the conduct of others,
given to the very people with whom they are most anxious to stand well.
These are trials to which you may be often exposed, even in domestic
life; and their judicious management, the comparative advantages to
one's friends or one's self of silence or defence, will require your
calmest judgment and your soundest discretion; qualities which of course
cannot be brought into action without complete self-control. I can
hardly expect, or, indeed, wish that you should hear the falsehoods of
which I have spoken without some risings of indignation; these, however,
must be subdued for your friend's sake as well as your own. You would
think it right to conquer feelings of anger and revenge if you were
yourself unjustly accused, and though the other excitement may bear the
appearance of more generosity, you must on reflection admit that it is
equally your duty to subdue such feelings when they are aroused by the
injuries inflicted on a friend. The happy safeguard, the _instinctive_
test, by which the well-regulated and comparatively innocent mind may
safely try the right or the wrong of every indignant feeling is this: so
far as the feeling is painful, so far is it tainted with sin. To "be
angry and sin not,"[58] there must be no pain in the anger: pain and sin
cannot be separated: there may indeed be sorrow, but this is to be
carefully distinguished from pain. The above is a test which, after
close examination and experience, you will find to be a safe and true
one. Whenever they are thus safe and true, our instinctive feelings
ought to be gratefully made use of; thus even our animal nature may be
made to come to the assistance of our spiritual nature, against which it
is too often arrayed in successful opposition.

I have spoken of the exceeding difficulty of exercising self-control
under such trying circumstances as those above described, and this
difficulty will, I candidly confess, be likely to increase in proportion
to your own honesty and generosity. Be comforted, however, by this
consideration, that, conflict being the only means of forming the
character into excellence, and your natural amiability averting from you
many of the usual opportunities for exercising self-control, you would
be in want of the former essential ingredient in spiritual discipline
did not your very virtues procure it for you.

While, however, I allow you full credit for these virtues, I must insist
on a careful distinction between a mere virtue and a Christian grace.
Every virtue becomes a vice the moment it overpasses its prescribed
boundaries, the moment it is given free power to follow the bent of
animal nature, instead of being, even though a virtue, kept under the
strict control of religious principle.

I must now suggest to you some means by which I have known self-control
to be successfully exhibited and perpetuated, with especial reference to
that annoyance which we have last considered. Instead, then, of dwelling
on the deviations from truth of which I have spoken, even when they are
to the injury of a friend, try to banish the subject from your mind and
memory; or, if you are able to think of it in the very way you please,
try to consider how much the original formation of the speaker's mind,
careless habits, and want of any disciplining education, may each and
all contribute to lessen the guilt of the person who has annoyed you. No
one knows better than yourself that tho original nature of the mind, as
well as its implanted habits, modifies every fact presented to its
notice. Still further, the point of view from which the fact or the
character has been seen may have been entirely different from yours.
These other persons may absolutely have _seen_ the thing spoken of in a
position so completely unlike your mental vision of it, that they are as
incapable of understanding your view as you may be of understanding
theirs. If sincere in your wish for improvement, you had better prove
the truth of the above assertion by the following process. Take into
your consideration any given action, not of a decidedly honourable
nature--one which, perhaps, to most people would appear of an
indifferent nature,--but to your lofty and refined notions deserving of
some degree of reprehension. You have a sufficiently metaphysical head
to be able to abstract yourself entirely from your own view of the case,
and then you can contemplate it with a total freedom from prejudice.
Such a contemplation can only be attempted when no feeling is
concerned,--feeling giving life to every peculiarity of moral sentiment,
as the heat draws out those characters which would otherwise have passed
unknown and unnoticed. I would then have you examine carefully into all
the considerations which might qualify and alter, even your own view of
the case. Dwell long and carefully upon this part of the process. It is
astonishing (incredible indeed until it is tried) how much our opinions
of the very same action may alter if we determinately confine ourselves
to the favourable aspect in which it may be viewed, keeping the contrary
side entirely out of sight.

As soon as this has been carried to the utmost, you must further (that
my experiment may be fairly tried) endeavour to throw yourself, in
imagination, not only into the position, but also into the natural and
acquired mental and moral perceptions of the person whose action you are
taking into your consideration. For this purpose you must often
imagine--natural dimness of perception, absence of acute sensibility,
indifference to wounding the feelings of others from mere carelessness
and want of reflective powers, little natural conscientiousness, an
entire absence of the taste or the power of metaphysical examination
into the effect produced by our actions. All these natural deficiencies,
you must further consider, may in this case be increased by a totally
neglected education,--first, by the want of parental discipline, and
afterwards of that more important self-education which few people have
sufficient strength of character to subject themselves to. Lastly, I
would have you consider especially the moral atmosphere in which they
have habitually breathed: according to the nature of this the mental
health varies as certainly as the physical strength varies in a bracing
or relaxing air. A strong bodily constitution may resist longer, and
finally be less affected by a deleterious atmosphere than a weak or
diseased frame; and so it is with the mental constitution. Minds
insensibly imbibe the tone of the atmosphere in which they most
frequently dwell; and though natural loftiness of character and natural
conscientiousness may for a very long period resist such influences, it
cannot be expected that inferior natures will be able to do so.

You are then to consider whether the habits of mind and conversation
among those who are the constant associates of the persons you blame
have been such as to cherish or to deaden keen and refined perceptions
of moral excellence and nobility of mind; still further, whether their
own literary tastes have created around them an even more penetrating
atmosphere; whether from the elevated inspirations of appreciated
poetry, from the truthful page of history, or from the stirring
excitements of romantic fiction, their heart and their imagination have
received those lofty lessons for which you judge them responsible,
without knowing whether they have ever received them.

There is still another consideration. While the actions of those who are
not habitually under the control of high principle depend chiefly on the
physical constitution, as they are too often a mere yielding to the
immediate impulse of the senses, their judgment of men and things, on
the contrary, when uninfluenced by _personal_ feeling, depend probably
more on that keen perception of the beautiful which is the natural
instinct of a superior organization. Morality and religion will indeed
supply the place of these lofty _natural_ instincts, by giving habits of
mind which may in time become so burnt in, as it were, that they assume
the form of natural instincts, while they are at once much safer guides
and much stronger checks.

It is surprising that a mere sense of the beautiful will often confer
the clearest perceptions of the real nature of moral excellence. You may
hear the devoted worldling, or the selfish sensualist, giving the
highest and most inspiring lessons of self-renunciation, self-sacrifice,
and devotedness to God. Their lessons, truthful and impressive, because
dictated by a keen and exquisite perception of the beautiful, which ever
harmonizes with the precepts and doctrines of Christianity, have
kindled in many a heart that living flame, which in their own has been
smothered by the fatal homage of the lips and of the feelings only,
while the actions of the life were disobedient. Often has such a writer
or speaker stood in stern and truthfully severe judgment on the weak
"brother in Christ" when he has acted or spoken with an inconsistency
which the mere instinct of the beautiful would in his censor have
prevented. Such censors, however, ought to remember that these weak
brethren, though their instincts be less lofty, their sensibility less
acute, live closer to their principles than they themselves do to their
feelings; for the moment the natural impulse, in cases where that is the
only guide, is enlisted on the side of passion, the perception of the
beautiful is entirely sacrificed to the gratification of the senses.
When the animal nature comes into collision with the spiritual, the
highest dictates of the latter will be unheeded, unless the supremacy of
the spiritual nature be habitually maintained in practice as well as in
theory. In short, that keen perception of the true and the beautiful,
which is an essential ingredient in the formation of a noble character,
becomes, in the case of the self-indulgent worldling, only an increase
of his responsibility, and a deepening dye to his guilt. At present,
however, I suppose you to be sitting in judgment on those who are
entirely destitute of the aids and the responsibilities of a keen sense
of the beautiful: by nature or by education they know or have learned
nothing of it. How different, then, from your own must be their estimate
of virtue and duty! Add this, therefore, to all the other allowances
you have to make for them, and I will answer for it that any action
viewed through this qualifying medium will entirely change its aspect,
and your blame will most frequently turn to pity, though of course you
can feel neither sympathy nor respect.

On the other hand, the practice of dwelling only on the aggravating
circumstances of a case, will magnify into crime a trifling and
otherwise easily forgotten error. This is a fact in the mind's history
of which few people seem to be aware, and only few may be capable of
understanding. Its truth, however, may be easily proved by watching the
effect of words in irritating one person against another, and
increasing, by repeated insinuations, the apparent malignity of some
really trifling action. No one, probably, has led so blessed a life as
not to have been sometimes pained by observing one person trying to
exasperate another, who is, perhaps, rather peacefully inclined, by
pointing out all the aggravating circumstances of some probably
imaginary offence, until the listener is wrought up to a state of angry
excitement, and induced to look on that as an exaggerated offence which
would probably otherwise have passed without notice. What is in this
case the effect of another's sin is a state often produced in their own
mind by those who would be incapable of the more tangible, and therefore
more evidently sinful act of exciting the anger of one friend or
relative against another.

The sin of which I speak is peculiarly likely to be that of a
thoughtful, reflective, and fastidious person like yourself. It is
therefore to you of the utmost importance to acquire, and to acquire at
once, complete control over your thoughts,--first, carefully
ascertaining which those are that you ought to avoid, and then guarding
as carefully against such as if they were the open semblance of positive
sin. This is really the only means by which a truthful and candid nature
like your own can ever maintain the deportment of Christian love and
charity towards those among whom your lot is cast. You must resolutely
shut your eyes against all that is unlovely in their character. If you
suffer your thoughts to dwell for a moment on such subjects, you will
find additional difficulty afterwards in forcing them away from that
which is their natural tendency, besides having probably created a
feeling against which it will be vain to struggle. It is one of the
strongest reasons for the necessity of watchful self-control, that no
mind, however powerful, can exercise a direct authority over the
feelings of the heart; they are susceptible of indirect influence alone.
This much increases the necessity of our watchfulness as to the indirect
tendencies of thoughts and words, and our accountability with respect to
them. Our anxiety and vigilance ought to be altogether greater than if
we could exercise over our feelings that direct and instantaneous
control which a strong mind can always assert in the case of words and

Unless the indirect influence of which I have spoken were practicable,
the warnings and commands of Scripture would be a mockery of our
weakness,--a cruel satire on the helplessness of a victim whose efforts
to fulfil duty must, however strenuous, prove unavailing. The child is
commanded to honour his parent, the wife to reverence her husband; and
you are to observe attentively that there is no exception made for the
cases of those whose parents or husbands are undeserving of love and
reverence. There must, then, be a power granted, to such as ask and
_strive_ to acquire it, of closing the mental eyes resolutely against
those features in the character of the persons to whom we are bound by
the ties of duty, which would unfit us, if much dwelt upon, for
obedience in such important particulars as the love and reverence we are
commanded to feel towards them.

Even where there is such high principle and such uncommon strength of
character as to induce perseverance in the mere external forms of
obedience, how vain are all such while the heart has turned aside from
the appointed path of duty, and broken those commands of God which, we
should always remember, have reference to feeling as well as to
action:--"Honour thy father and thy mother;"[59] "Let the wife see that
she reverence her husband."[60]

In the habitual exercise of that self-control which I now urge upon you,
you will experience an ample fulfilment of that promise,--"The work of
righteousness shall be peace."[61] Instead of becoming daily further and
further severed from those who are indeed your inferiors, but towards
whom God has imposed duties upon you, you will daily find that, in
proportion to the difficulty of the task, will be the sweetness and the
peace rewarding its fulfilment. No affection resulting from the most
perfect sympathy of mind and heart will ever confer so deep a pleasure,
or so holy a peace, as the blind, unquestioning, "unsifting"[62]
tenderness which a strong principle of duty has cherished into

Glorious in every way will be the final result to those who are capable
(alas! few are so) of such a course of conduct. Far different in its
effects from the blind tenderness of infatuated passion is the noble
blindness of Christian self-control. While the one warms into existence,
or at least into open manifestation, all the selfishness and wilfulness
of the fondled plaything, the other creates a thousand virtues that were
not known before. Flowers spring up from the hardest rocks, the coldest,
sternest natures are gradually softened into gentleness, the faults of
temper or of character that never meet with worrying opposition, or
exercise unforgiving influence, gradually die away, and fade from the
memory of both. The very atmosphere alone of such rare and lovely
self-control seems to have a moral influence resembling the effects of
climate upon the rude and rugged marble,--every roughness is by degrees
smoothed away, and even the colouring becomes subdued into calm harmony
with all the features of its allotted position.

To the rarity of the virtue upon which I have so long dwelt, we may
trace the cause of almost all the domestic unhappiness we witness
whenever the veil is withdrawn from the secrets of _home_. Alas! how
often is this blessed word only the symbol of freely-indulged
ill-tempers, unresisted selfishness, or, perhaps the most dangerous of
all, exacting and unforgiving requirements. While the one party select
their home as the only scene where they may safely and freely vent their
caprices and ill-humours, the other require a stricter compliance with
their wishes, a more exact conformity with their pursuits and opinions,
than they meet with even from the temporary companions of their lighter
hours. They forget that these companions have only to exert themselves
for a short time for their gratification, and that they can then retire
to their own home, probably to be as disagreeable there as the relations
of whom the others complain. For then the mask is off, and they are at
liberty,--yes, at liberty,--freed from the inspection and the judgments
of the world, and only exposed to those of God!

My friend, I am sure you have often shared in the pain and grief I feel,
that in so few cases should home be the blessed, peaceful spot that
poetry pictures to us. There is no real poetry that is not truth in its
purest form--truth as it appears to eyes from which the mists of sense
are cleared away. Surely our earthly homes ought to realize the
representations of poetry; they would then become each day a nearer,
though ever a faint type of, that eternal home for which our earthly
one ought daily to prepare us.

Poetry and religion always teach the same duties, instil the same
feelings. Never believe that any thing can be truly noble or great, that
any thing can be really poetical, which is not also religious. The poet
is now partly a priest, as he was in the old heathen world; and though,
alas! he may, like Balaam, utter inspirations which his heart follows
not, which his life denies, yet, like Balaam also, his words are full of
lessons for us, though they may only make his own guilt the deeper.

I have been led to these concluding considerations respecting poetry by
my anxiety that you should turn your refined tastes and your acute
perceptions of the beautiful to a universally moral purpose. There is no
teaching more impressive than that which comes to us through our
passions. In the moment of excited feeling stronger impressions may be
made than by any of the warnings of duty and principle. If these latter,
however, be not motives co-existent, and also in strength and exercise,
the impressions of feeling are temporary, and even dangerous. It is only
to the faithful followers of duty that the excitements of romance and
poetry are useful and improving. To such they have often given strength
and energy to tread more cheerfully and hopefully over many a rugged
path, to live more closely to their beau-ideal, a vivid vision of which
has, by poetry, been awakened and refreshed in their hearts.

To others, on the contrary, the danger exceeds the profit. By the
excitement of admiration they may be deceived into the belief that
there must be in their own bosoms an answering spirit to the greatness,
the self-sacrifice, the pure and lofty affections they see represented
in the mirror of poetry. They are deceived, because they forget that we
have each within us two natures struggling for the mastery. As long as
we practically allow the habitual supremacy of the lower over the
higher, there can be no real excellence in the character, however a mere
sense of the beautiful may temporarily exalt the feelings, and thus
increase our responsibility, and consequent condemnation.

I am sure you have experimentally understood the subject on which I have
been writing. I am sure you have often risen from the teaching of the
poet with enthusiasm in your heart, ready to trample upon all those
temptations and difficulties which had, perhaps an hour before, made the
path of self-denial and self-control apparently impracticable.

Receive such intervals of excitement as heaven-sent aids, to help you
more easily over, it may be, a wearying and dreary path. They are most
probably sent in answer to prayer--in answer to the prayers of your own
heart, or to those of some pious friend.

Our Father in heaven works constantly by earthly means, and moulds the
weakest, the often apparently useless instrument to the furtherance of
his purposes of mercy, one of which you know is your own sanctification.
It is not his holy word only that gives you appointed messages and helps
exactly suited to your need. The flower growing by the way-side, the
picture or the poem, the works of God's own hand, or the works of the
genius which he has breathed into his creature Man, may all alike bear
you messages of love, of warning, of assistance.

Listen attentively, and you will hear--clearer still and clearer--every
day and hour. It is not by chance you take up that book, or gaze upon
that picture; you have found, because you are on the watch for it, in
the first, a suggestion that exactly suits your present need, in the
latter an excitement and an inspiration which makes some difficult
action you may be immediately called on to perform comparatively easy
and comparatively welcome.

There is a deep and universal meaning in the vulgar[63] proverb, "Strike
while the iron is hot." If it be left to cool without your purpose being
effected, the iron becomes harder than ever, the chains of nature and of
habit are more firmly riveted.

There are some other features of self-control to which I wish, though
more cursorily, to direct your attention. They have all some remote
bearing on your moral nature, and may exercise much influence over your
prospects in life.

Like many other persons of a refined and sensitive organization, you
suffer from the very uncommon disease of shyness. At the very time,
perhaps, when you desire most to please, to interest, to amuse, your
over-anxiety defeats its own object. The self-possession of the
indifferent generally carries off the palm from the earnest and the
anxious. This is ridiculous; this is degrading. What you wish to do you
ought to be able to do, and you will be able, if you habitually
exercise control over the physical feelings of your nature.

I am quite of the opinion of those who hold that shyness is a bodily as
well as a mental disease, much influenced by our state of health, as
well as by the constitutional state of the circulation; but I only put
forward this opinion respecting its origin as additional evidence that
it too may be brought under the authority of self-control. If the grace
of God, giving efficacy and help to our own exertions, can enable us to
resist the influence of indigestion and other kinds of ill-health upon
the temper and the spirits, will not the same means be found effectual
to subdue a shyness which almost sinks us to the level of the brute
creation by depriving us of the advantages of a rational will? Even this
latter distinguishing feature of humanity is prostrated before the
mysterious power of shyness.

You understand, doubtless, the wide distinction that exists between
modesty and shyness. Modesty is always self-possessed, and therefore
clear-sighted and cool-headed. Shyness, on the contrary, is too confused
either to see or hear things as they really are, and as often assumes
the appearance of forwardness as any other disguise. Depriving its
victims of the power of being themselves, it leaves them little freedom
of choice, as to the sort of imitations the freaks of their animal
nature may lead them to attempt. You feel, with deep annoyance, that a
paroxysm of shyness has often made you speak entirely at random, and
express the very opposite sentiments to those you really feel,
committing yourself irretrievably to, perhaps, falsehood and folly,
because you could not exercise self-control. Try to bring vividly before
your mental eye all that you have suffered in the recollection of past
weaknesses of this kind, and that will give you energy and strength to
struggle habitually, incessantly, against every symptom of so painful a
disease. It is, at first, only the smaller ones that can be successfully
combated; after the strength acquired by perseverance in lesser efforts,
you may hope to overcome your powerful enemy in his very stronghold.

Even in the quietest family life many opportunities will be offered you
of combat and of victory. False shame, the fear of being laughed at now,
or taunted afterwards, will often keep you silent when you ought to
speak; and you ought to speak very often for no other than the
sufficient reason of accustoming yourself to disregard the hampering
feeling of "What will people say?" "What do I expose myself to by making
this observation?" Follow the impulses of your own noble and generous
nature, speak the words it dictates, and then you may and ought to
trample under foot the insinuations of shyness, as to the judgments
which others may pass upon you.

You may observe that those censors who make a coward of you can always
find something to say in blame of every action, some taunt with which to
reflect upon every word. Do not, then, suffer yourself to be hampered by
the dread of depreciating remarks being made upon your conversation or
your conduct. Such fears are one of the most general causes of shyness.
You must not suffer your mind to dwell upon them, except to consider
that taunting and depreciating remarks may and will be made on every
course of conduct you may pursue, on every word you or others may speak.

I have myself been cured of any shackling anxiety as to "What will
people say?" by a long experience of the fact, that the remarks of the
gossip are totally irrespective of the conduct or the conversation they
gossip over. That which is blamed one moment, is highly extolled the
next, when the necessity of depreciating contrast requires the change;
and as for the _inconsequence_ of the remarks so rapidly following each
other, the gossip is "thankful she has not an argumentative head." She
is, therefore, privileged one moment to contradict the inevitable
consequences of the assertions made the moment before.

You cannot avoid such criticisms; brave them nobly. The more you
disregard them, the more true will you be to yourself, the more free
will you be from that shyness which, though partly the result of keen
and acute perceptions and refined sensibilities, has besides a large
share of over-anxious vanity and deeply-rooted pride.

Do not believe those who tell you that shyness will decrease of itself,
as you advance in age, and mix more in the world. There is, indeed, a
species of shyness which may thus be removed; but it is not that which
arises from a morbid refinement. This latter species, unguarded by
habitual self-control, will, on the contrary, rather increase than
decrease, as further experience shows you the numerous modes of failure,
the thousand tender points in which you may be assailed by the world

Be assured that your only hope of safety is in an early and persevering
struggle, accompanied by faith in final victory,--without that who can
have strength for conflict? Do not treat your boasted intellect so
depreciatingly as to doubt its power of giving you successful aid in
your triumph over difficulties. What has been done may be done
again,--why not by you?

Nothing is more interesting (and also imposing) than to see a strong
mind evidently struggling against, and obtaining a victory over, the
shyness of its animal nature. The appreciative observer pays it, at the
same time, the involuntary homage which always attends success, and the
still deeper respect due to those who having been thus "Caesar unto
themselves,"[64] are also sure, in time, to conquer all external things.

In conclusion, I must remind you that your life has, as yet, flowed on
in a smooth and untroubled course, so that you cannot from experience be
at all aware of the much greater future necessity there may be for those
habits of self-control which I am now urging upon you. But though no
overwhelming shocks, no stunning surprises, have, as yet, disturbed the
"even tenor of your way," it cannot be always thus. Alas! the time must
come when sorrows will pour in upon you like a flood, when you will be
called upon for rapid decisions, for far-sighted and comprehensive
arrangements, for various exercises of the coolest, calmest judgment, at
the very moment that present anguish and anxiety for the future are
raising whirlwinds of clouds around your mental vision. If you are not
now acquiring the power of self-control in minor affairs by managing
them judiciously under circumstances of trifling excitement or
disturbance, how will you be able to act your part with skill and
courage, when the hours of real trial overtake you? A character like
yours, as it possesses the power, so likewise is it responsible for the
duty of moving on steadily through moral clouds and storms, seeing
clearly, resisting firmly, and uninfluenced by any motives but those
suggested by your higher nature.

The passing shadow, or the gleam of sunshine, the half-expressed sneer,
or the tempests of angry passion, the words of love and flattery, or the
cruel insinuations of envy and jealousy, may pale your cheek, or call
into it a deeper flush; may kindle your eye with indignation, or melt
its rays in sorrow; but they must not, for all that, turn you aside one
step from the path which your calm and deliberate judgment had before
marked out for you: your insensibility to such annoyances as those I
have described would show an unfeminine hardness of character; your
being influenced by them would strengthen into habit any natural
unfitness for the high duties you may probably be called on to fulfil.
When in future years you may be appealed to, by those who depend on you
alone, for guidance, for counsel, for support in warding off, or bearing
bravely, dangers, difficulties, and sorrows, you will have cause for
bitter repentance if you are unable to answer such appeals; nor can you
answer them successfully unless, in the present hours of comparative
calm, you are, in daily trifles, habituating yourself to the exercise of
self-control. Every day thus wasted now will in future cause you years
of unavailing regret.


[56] Matt. v. 48.

[57] Sir Philip Sidney.

[58] Eph. iv. 26.

[59] Ex. xx. 12.

[60] Eph. v. 33.

[61] Isa. xxxii. 17.


    _Maria_. How can we love?--

    _Giovanna_ (interrupting). Mainly, by hearing none
    Decry the object, then by cherishing
    The good we see in it, and overlooking
    What is less pleasant in the paths of life.
    All have some virtue if we leave it them
    In peace and quiet, all may lose some part
    By sifting too minutely good and bad.
    The tenderer and the timider of creatures
    Often desert the brood that has been handled,
    Or turned about, or indiscreetly looked at.
    The slightest touches, touching constantly,
    Irritate and inflame.

LANDOR'S _Giovanna and Andrea_.

[63] Miss Edgeworth says that proverbs are vulgar because they are
common sense.

[64] Emerson.



Perhaps there is no lesson that needs to be more watchfully and
continually impressed on the young and generous heart than the difficult
one of economy. There is no virtue that in such natures requires more
vigilant self-control and self-denial, besides the exercise of a free
judgment, uninfluenced by the excitement of feeling.

To you this virtue will be doubly difficult, because you have so long
watched its unpleasant manifestations in a distorted form. You are
exposed to danger from that which has perverted many notions of right
and wrong; you have so long heard things called by false names that you
are inclined to turn away in disgust from a noble reality. You have been
accustomed to hear the name of economy given to penuriousness and
meanness, so that now, the wounded feelings and the refined tastes of
your nature having been excited to disgust by this system of falsehood,
you will find it difficult to realize in economy a virtue that joins to
all the noble instincts of generosity the additional features of
strong-minded self-control.

It will therefore be necessary, before I endeavour to impress upon your
mind the duty and advantages of economy, that I should previously help
you to a clear understanding of the real meaning of the word itself.

The difficulty of forming a true and distinct conception of the virtue
thus denominated is much increased by its being equally misrepresented
by two entirely opposite parties. The avaricious, those to whom the
expenditure of a shilling costs a real pang of regret, claim for their
mean vice the honour of a virtue that can have no existence, unless the
same pain and the same self-control were exercised in withholding, as
with them would be exercised in giving. On the other hand, the
extravagant, sometimes wilfully, sometimes unconsciously, fall into the
same error of applying to the noble self-denial of economy the degrading
misnomers of avarice, penuriousness, &c.

It is indeed possible that the avaricious may become economical,--after
first becoming generous, which is an absolutely necessary preliminary.
That which is impossible with man is possible with God, and who may dare
to limit his free grace? This, however, is one of the wonders I have
never yet witnessed. It seems indeed that the love of money is so
literally the "root of all evil,"[65] that there is no room in the heart
where it dwells for any other growth, for any thing lovely or excellent.
The taint is universal, and while much that is amiable and interesting
may originally exist in characters containing the seeds of every other
vice, (however in time overshadowed and poisoned by such neighbourhood,)
it would seem that "the love of money" always reigns in sovereign
desolation, admitting no warm or generous feeling into the heart which
it governs. Such, however, you will at once deny to be the case of
those from whose penuriousness your early years have suffered; you know
that their character is not thus bare of virtues. But do not for this
contradict my assertion; theirs was not always innate love of money for
its own sake, though at length they may have unfortunately learned to
love it thus, which is the true test of avarice. It has, on the
contrary, been owing to the faults of others, to their having long
experienced the deprivations attendant on a want of money, that they
have acquired the habit of thinking the consciousness of its possession
quite as enjoyable as the powers and the pleasures its expenditure
bestows. They know too well the pain of want of money, but have never
learned that the real pleasure of its possession consists in its
employment.[66] It is only from habit, only from perverted experience,
that they are avaricious, therefore I at once exonerate them from the
charges I have brought against those whose very nature it is to love
money for its own sake. At the same time the strong expressions I have
made use of respecting these latter, may, I hope, serve to obviate the
suspicion that I have any indulgence for so despicable a vice, and may
induce you to expect an unprejudiced statement of the merits and the
duty of economy.

It is carefully to be remembered that the excess of every natural virtue
becomes a vice, and that these apparently opposing qualities are only
divided from each other by almost insensible boundaries. The habitual
exercise of strong self-control can alone preserve even our virtues from
degenerating into sin, and a clear-sightedness as to the very first
step of declension must be sought for by self-denial on our own part,
and by earnest prayer for the assisting graces of the Holy Spirit, to
search the depths of our heart, and open our eyes to see.

Thus it is that the free and generous impulses of a warm and benevolent
nature, though in themselves among the loveliest manifestations of the
merely natural character, will and necessarily must degenerate into
extravagance and self-indulgence, unless they are kept vigilantly and
constantly under the control of prudence and justice. And this, if you
consider the subject impartially, is fully as much the case when these
generous impulses are not exercised alone in procuring indulgences for
one's friends or one's self, but even when they excite you to the relief
of real suffering and pitiable distress.

This last is, indeed, one of the severest trials of the duty of economy;
but that it is a part of that duty to resist even such temptations, will
be easily ascertained if you consider the subject coolly,--that is, if
you consider it when your feelings are not excited by the sight of a
distressed object, whose situation may be readily altered by some of
that money which you think, and think justly, is only useful, only
enjoyable, in the moment of expenditure.

The trial is, I confess, a difficult one: it is best the decision with
respect to it should be made when your feelings are excited on the
opposite side, when some useful act of charity to the poor has
incapacitated you from meeting the demands of justice.

I am sure your memory, ay, and your present experience too, can furnish
you with some cases of this kind. It may be that the act of generosity
was a judicious and a useful one, that the suffering would have been
great if you had not performed it; but, on the other hand, it has
disabled you from paying some bills that you knew at the very time were
lawfully due as the reward of honest labour, which had trusted to your
honour that this reward should be punctually paid. You have a keen sense
of justice as well as a warm glow of generosity; one will serve to
temper the other. Let the memory of every past occasion of this kind be
deeply impressed, not only on your mind but on your heart, by frequent
reflection on the painful thoughts that then forced themselves upon
you,--the distress of those upon whose daily labour the daily
maintenance of their family depends, the collateral distress of the
artisans employed by them, whom they cannot pay because you cannot pay,
the degradation to your own character, from the experience of your
creditors that you have expended that which was in fact not your own,
the diminished, perhaps for ever injured, confidence which they and all
who become acquainted with the circumstances will place in you, and,
finally, the probability that you have deprived some honest,
industrious, self-denying tradesman of his hardly-earned dues, to bestow
the misnamed generosity upon some object of distress, who, however real
the distress may be now, has probably deserved it by a deficiency in all
those good qualities which maintain in respectability your defrauded
creditor. The very character, too, of your creditor may suffer by your
inability to pay him, for he, miscalculating on your honesty and
truthfulness, may, on his side, have engaged to make payments which
become impossible for him, when you fail in your duty, in which case you
can scarcely calculate how far the injury to him may extend; becoming a
more permanent and serious evil than his incapacity to answer those
daily calls upon him of which I have before spoken. In short, if you
will try to bring vividly before you all the painful feelings that
passed through your mind, and all the contingencies that were
contemplated by you on any one of these occasions, you will scarcely
differ from me when I assert my belief that the name of dishonesty would
be a far more correct word than that of generosity to apply to such
actions as the above: you are, in fact, giving away the money of another
person, depriving him of his property, his time, or his goods, under
false pretences, and, in addition to this, appropriating to yourself the
pleasure of giving, which surely ought to belong by right to those to
whom the gift belongs.

I have here considered one of the most trying cases, one in which the
withholding of your liberality becomes a really difficult duty, so
difficult that the opportunity should be avoided as much as possible;
and it is for this very purpose that the science of economy should be
diligently studied and practised, that so "you may have to give to him
that needeth," without taking away that which is due to others. Probably
in most of the cases to which I have referred your memory, some previous
acts of self-denial would have saved you from being tempted to the sin
of giving away the property of another. I would not willingly suppose
that an act of self-denial at the very time you witnessed the case of
distress might have provided you with the means of satisfying both
generosity and honesty, for, as I said before, I know you to have a keen
sense of justice; and though you have never yet been vigilant enough in
the practice of economy, I cannot believe that, with an alternative
before you, you would indulge in any personal expenditure, even bearing
the appearance of almost necessity, that would involve a failure in the
payment of your debts. I speak, then, only of acts of previous
self-denial, and I wish you to be persuaded, that unless these are
practised habitually and incessantly you can never be truly generous. A
readiness to give that which costs you nothing, that which is so truly a
superfluity that it involves no sacrifice, is a mere animal instinct, as
selfish perhaps, though more refinedly so than any other species of
self-indulgence. Generosity is a nobler quality, and one that can have
no real existence without economy and self-denial.

I have spoken several times of the study of economy, and of the science
of economy; and I used these words advisedly. However natural and
comparatively easy it may be to some persons to form an accurate
judgment of the general average of their ordinary expenses, and of all
the contingencies that are perpetually arising, I do not believe that
you possess this power by nature: you only need, however, to force your
intellectual faculties into this direction to find that here, as
elsewhere, they may be made available for every imaginable purpose. You
have sometimes probably envied those among your acquaintance, much less
highly gifted perhaps than yourself, who have so little difficulty in
practising economy, that without any effort at all, they have always
money in hand for any unexpected exigency, as well as to fulfil all
regular demands upon their purse. It is an observation made by every
one, that among the same number of girls, some will be found to dress
better, give away more, and be better provided for sudden emergencies,
than their companions. Nor are these ordinarily the more clever girls of
one's acquaintance: I have known some who were decidedly below par as to
intellect who yet possessed in a high degree the practical knowledge of
economy. Instead of vainly lamenting your natural inferiority on such an
important point, you should seek diligently to remove it.

An acquired knowledge of the art of economy is far better than any
natural skill therein; for the acquisition will involve the exercise of
many intellectual faculties, such as generalization, foresight,
calculation, at the same time that the moral faculties are strengthened
by the constant exercise of self-control. For, granted that the
naturally economical are neither shabbily penurious nor deficient in the
duty of almsgiving, it is still evident that it cannot be the same
effort to them to deny themselves a tempting act of liberality, or the
gratification of elegant and commendable tastes, as it must be to those
who are destitute of equally instinctive feelings as to the inadequacy
of their funds to meet demands of this nature. It is invariably true
that economy must be difficult, and therefore admirable in proportion to
the warm-heartedness and the refined tastes of those who practise it.
The highly-gifted and the generous meet with a thousand temptations to
expenditure beyond their means, of the number and strength of which the
less amiable and refined can form no adequate conception. If, however,
those above spoken of are exposed to stronger temptations than others,
they also carry within themselves the means, if properly employed, of
more powerful and skillful defence. There is, as I said before, no right
purpose, however contrary to the natural constitution of the mind, for
which intellectual powers may not be made available; and if strong
feelings render self-denial more difficult, especially in points of
charity or generosity, they, on the other hand, serve to impress more
deeply and vividly on the mind the painful self-reproach consequent to
any act of imprudence and extravagance.

The first effort made by your intellectual powers towards acquiring a
practical knowledge of the science of economy should be the important
one of generalizing all your expenses, and then performing the same
process upon the funds that there is a fair probability of your having
at your disposal. The former is difficult, as the expenditure of even a
single person, independent of any establishment, involves so many
unforeseen contingencies, that, unless by combining the past and the
future you generalize a probable average, and then bring this average
_within_ your income, you can never experience any of the peace of mind
and readiness to meet the calls of charity which economy alone bestows.

No one of strict justice can combine tranquillity with the indulgence of
generosity unless she lives _within_ her income. Whether the expenditure
be on a large or a small scale, it signifies little; she alone is truly
rich who has brought her wants sufficiently within the bounds of her
income to have always something to spare for unexpected contingencies.
In laying down rules for your expenditure, you will, of course, impose
upon yourself a regular dedication of a certain part of your income to
charitable purposes. This ought to be considered as entirely set apart,
as no longer your own: your opportunities must determine the exact
proportion; but the tenth, at least, of the substance which God has
given you must be considered as appropriated to his service; nor can you
hope for a blessing upon the remainder, if you withhold that which has
been distinctly claimed from you. Besides the regular allowance for the
wants of the poor, I can readily suppose that it will be a satisfaction
to you to deny yourself, from time to time, some innocent gratification,
when a greater gratification is within your reach, by laying out your
money "to make the widow's heart to sing for joy; to bring upon yourself
the blessing of him that was ready to perish."[67] Here, however, will
much watchfulness be required; you must be sure that it is only some
self-indulgence you sacrifice, and nothing of that which the claims of
justice demand. For when, after systematic, as well as present,
self-denial, you still find that you cannot afford to relieve the
distress which it pains your heart to witness, be careful to resist the
temptation of giving away that which is lawfully due to others. For the
purpose of saving suffering in one direction you may cause it in
another; and besides, you set yourself as plainly in opposition to that
which is the will of God concerning you as if your imprudent
expenditure were caused by some temptation less refined and unselfish
than the relief of real distress. The gratification that another woman
would find in a splendid dress, you derive from more exalted sources;
but if you or she purchase your gratification by an act of injustice, by
spending money that does not belong to you, you, as well as she, are
making an idol of self, in choosing to have that which the providence of
God has denied you. "The silver and the gold is mine, saith the Lord;"
and it cannot be without a special purpose, relating to the peculiar
discipline requisite for such characters, that this silver and gold is
so often withheld from those who would make the best and kindest use of
it. Murmur not, then, when this hard trial comes upon you, when you see
want and sorrow which you cannot in justice to others relieve; and when
you see thousands, at the very moment you experience this generous
suffering, expended on entirely selfish, perhaps sinful gratifications,
neither be tempted to murmur or to act unjustly. "Is it not the Lord;"
has not he in his infinite love and infinite wisdom appointed this very
trial for you? Bow your head and heart in submission, and dare not to
seek an escape from it by one step out of the path of duty. It may be
that close examination, a searching of the stores of memory, will bring
even this trial under the almost invariable head of needful
chastisement; it may be that it is the consequence of some former act of
self-indulgence and extravagance, which would have been forgotten, or
not deeply enough repented of, unless your sin had in this way been
brought to remembrance. Thus even this trial assumes the invariable
character of all God's chastisements: it is the inevitable consequence
of sin,--as inevitable as the relation of cause and effect. It results
from no special interposition of Providence, but is the natural result
of those decrees upon which the whole system of the world is founded;
secondarily, however, overruled to work together for good to the
penitent sinner, by impressing more deeply on his mind the humbling
remembrance of past sin, and leading to a more watchful future avoidance
of the same.

It is indeed probable, that without many trials of this peculiarly
painful kind, the duty of economy could not be deeply enough impressed
on a naturally generous and warm heart. The restraints of prudence would
be unheeded, unless bitter experience, as it were, burned them in.

I have spoken of two necessary preparations for the practice of
economy,--the first, a clear general view of our probable expenses; the
second, which I am now about to notice, is the calculation of the
probable funds that are to meet these expenses. In your case, there is a
certain income, with sundry contingencies, very much varying, and
altogether uncertain. Such probabilities, then, as the latter, ought to
be appropriated to such expenses as are occasional and not inevitable:
you must never calculate on them for any of your necessary expenditure,
except in the same average manner as you have calculated that
expenditure; and you must estimate the average considerably within
probabilities, or you will be often thrown into discomfort. It is much
better that all indulgences of mere taste, of entirely personal
gratification, should be dependent on this uncertain fund; and here
again I would warn you to keep in view the more pressing wants that may
arise in the future. The gratification in which you are now indulging
yourself may be a perfectly innocent one; but are you quite sure that
you are not expending more money than _you_ can prudently, or, to speak
better, conscientiously afford, on that which offers only a temporary
gratification, and involves no improvement or permanent benefit? You
certainly are not sufficiently rich to indulge in any merely temporary
gratification, except in extreme moderation. With relation to that part
of your income which is varying and uncertain, I have observed that it
is a very common temptation assailing the generous and thoughtless,
(about money matters, often those who are least thoughtless about other
things,) that there is always some future prospect of an increase of
income, which is to free them from present embarrassments, and enable
them to pay for the enjoyment of all those wishes that they are now
gratifying. It is a future, however, that never arrives; for every
increase of property brings new claims or new wants along with it; and
it is found, too late, that, by exceeding present income, we have
destroyed both the present and the future, we have created wants which
the future income will find a difficulty in supplying, having in
addition its own new ones to provide for.

It may indeed in a few, a very few, cases be necessary, in others
expedient, to forestall that money which we have every certainty of
presently possessing; but unless the expenditure relates to particulars
coming under the term of "daily bread," it appears to me decided
dishonesty to lay out an uncertain future income. Even if it should
become ours, have we not acted in direct contradiction to the revealed
will of God concerning us? The station of life in which God has placed
us depends very much on the expenditure within our power; and if we
double that, do we not in fact choose wilfully for ourselves a different
position from that which he has appointed, and withdraw from under the
guiding hand of his providence? Let us not hope that even temporal
success will be allowed to result from such acts of disobedience.

What a high value does it stamp on the virtue of economy, when we thus
consider it as one of the means towards enabling us to submit ourselves
to the will of God!

I cannot close a letter to a woman on the subject of economy without
referring to the subject of dress. Though your strongest temptations to
extravagance may be those of a generous, warm heart, I have no doubt
that you are also, though in an inferior degree, tempted by the desire
to improve your personal appearance by the powerful aid of dress. It
ought not to be otherwise; you should not be indifferent to a very
important means of pleasing. Your natural beauty would be unavailing
unless you devoted both time and care to its preservation and adornment.
You should be solicitous to win the affection of those around you; and
there are many who will be seriously influenced by any neglect of due
attention to your personal appearance. Besides the insensible effect
produced on the most ignorant and unreasonable spectator, those whom you
will most wish to please will look upon it, and with justice, as an
index to your mind; and a simple, graceful, and well-ordered exterior
will always give the impression that similar qualities exist within.
Dressing well is some a natural and easy accomplishment; to others, who
may have the very same qualities existing in their minds without the
power (which is in a degree mechanical) of displaying the same outward
manifestation of them, it will be much more difficult to attain the same
object with the same expense. Your study, therefore, of the art of dress
must be a double one,--must first enable you to bring the smallest
details of your apparel into as close conformity as possible to the
forms and tastes of your mind, and, secondly, enable you to reconcile
this exercise of taste with the duties of economy. If fashion is to be
consulted as well as taste, I fear that you will find this impossible;
if a gown or a bonnet is to be replaced by a new one, the moment a
slight alteration takes place in the fashion of the shape or the colour,
you will often be obliged to sacrifice taste as well as duty. Rather
make up your mind to appear no richer than you are; if you cannot afford
to vary your dress according to the rapidly--varying fashions, have the
moral courage to confess this in action. Nor will your appearance lose
much by the sacrifice. If your dress is in accordance with true taste,
the more valuable of your acquaintance will be able to appreciate that,
while they would be unconscious of any strict and expensive conformity
to the fashions of the month. Of course, I do not speak now of any
glaring discrepancy between your dress and the general costume of the
time. There could be no display of a simple taste while any singularity
in your dress attracted notice; neither could there be much additional
expense in a moderate attention to the prevailing forms and colours of
the time,--for bonnets and gowns do not, alas, last for ever. What I
mean to deprecate is the laying aside any one of these, which is
suitable in every other respect, lest it should reveal the secret of
your having expended nothing upon dress during this season. Remember how
many indulgences to your generous nature would be procured by the price
of, a fashionable gown or bonnet, and your feelings will provide a
strong support to your duty. Another way in which you may successfully
practise economy is by taking care of your clothes, having them repaired
in proper time, and neither exposing them to sun or rain unnecessarily.
A ten-guinea gown may be sacrificed in half an hour, and the indolence
of your disposition would lead you to prefer this sacrifice to the
trouble of taking any preservatory precautions, or thinking about the
matter at all. Is this right? Even if you can procure money to satisfy
the demands of mere carelessness, are you acting as a faithful steward
by thus expending it? I willingly grant to you that some women are so
wealthy, placed in situations requiring so much representation, that it
would be degrading to them to take much thought about any thing but the
beauty and fashion of their clothes; and that an anxiety on their part
about the preservation of, to them, trifles would indicate meanness and
parsimoniousness. Their office is to encourage trade by a lavish
expenditure, conformable to the rank in life in which God has placed
them. Happy are they if this wealth do not become a temptation too hard
to be overcome! Happier those from whom such temptations, denounced in
the word of God more strongly than any other, are entirely averted!

This is your position; and as much as it is the duty of the very wealthy
to expend proportionally upon their dress, so is it yours to be
scrupulously economical, and to bring down your aspiring thoughts from
the regions of poetry and romance to the homely duties of mending and
caretaking. There will be poetry and romance too in the generous and
useful employment you may make of the money thus economised. Besides, if
you do not yet see that they exist in the smallest and homeliest of
every-day cares, it is only because your mind has not been sufficiently
developed by experience to find poetry and romance in every act of
self-control and self-denial.

There is, I believe, a general idea that genius and intellectual
pursuits are inconsistent with the minute observations and cares that I
have been recommending; and by nature perhaps they are so. The memoirs
of great men are filled with anecdotes of their incompetency for
commonplace duties, their want of observation, their indifference to
details: you may observe, however, that such men were great in learning
alone; they never exhibited that union of action and thought which is
essential to constitute a heroic character.

We read that a Charlemagne and a Wallenstein could stoop, in the midst
of their vast designs and splendid successes, to the cares of selling
the eggs of their poultry-yard,[68] and of writing minute directions
for its more skilful management.[69] A proper attention to the repair
of the strings of your gowns or the ribbons of your shoes could scarcely
be farther, in comparison, beneath your notice.

The story of Sir Isaac Newton's cat and kitten has often made you smile;
but it is no smile of admiration: such absence of mind is simply
ridiculous. If, indeed, you should refer to its cause you may by
reflection ascertain that the concentration of thought secured by such
abstraction, in his particular case, may have been of use to mankind in
general; but you must at the same time feel that he, even a Sir Isaac
Newton, would have been a greater man had his genius been more
universal, had it extended from the realms of thought into those of

With women the same case is much stronger; their minds are seldom, if
ever, employed on subjects the importance and difficulty of which might
make amends for such concentration of thought as would necessarily,
except in first-rate minds, produce abstraction and inattention to
homely every-day duties.

Even in the case of a genius, one of most rare occurrence, an attention
to details, and thoughtfulness respecting them, though certainly more
difficult, is proportionally more admirable than in ordinary women.

It was said of the wonderful Elizabeth Smith, that she equally excelled
in every department of life, from the translation of the most difficult
passages of the Hebrew Bible down to the making of a pudding. You should
establish it as a practical truth in your mind, that, with a strong
will, the intellectual powers may be turned into every imaginable
direction, and lead to excellence in one as surely as in another.

Even where the strong will is wanting, and there may not be the same
mechanical facility that belongs to more vigorous organizations, every
really useful and necessary duty is still within the reach of all
intellectual women. Among these, you can scarcely doubt that the science
of economy, and that important part of it which consists in taking care
of your clothes, is within the power of every woman who does not look
upon it as beneath her notice. This I suppose you do not, as I know you
to take a rational and conscientious view of the minor duties of life,
and that you are anxious to fulfil those of exactly "that state of life
unto which it has pleased God to call you."[70]

I must not close this letter without adverting to an error into which
those of your sanguine temperament would be the most likely to fall.

You will, perhaps--for it is a common progress--run from one extreme to
another, and from having expended too large a proportion of your income
on personal decoration, you may next withdraw even necessary attention
from it. "All must be given to the poor," will be the decision of your
own impulses and of over-strained views of duty.

This, however, is, in an opposite direction, quitting the station of
life in which God has placed you, as much as those do who indulge in an
expenditure of double their income. Your dressing according to your
station in life is as much in accordance with the will of God
concerning you, as your living in a drawing-room instead of a kitchen,
in a spacious mansion instead of a peasant's cottage. Besides, as you
are situated, there is another consideration with respect to your dress
which must not be passed over in silence. The allowance you receive is
expressly for the purpose of enabling you to dress properly, suitably,
and respectably; and if you do not in the first place fulfil the purpose
of the donor, you are surely guilty of a species of dishonesty. You have
no right to indulge personal feeling, or gratify a mistaken sense of
duty, by an expenditure of money for a different purpose from that for
which it was given to you; nor even, were your money exclusively your
own, would you have a right to disregard the opinions of your friends by
dressing in a different manner from them, or from what they consider
suitable for you. If you thus err, they will neither allow you to
exercise any influence over them, nor will they be at all prejudiced in
favour of the, it may be, stricter religious principles which you
profess, when they find them lead to unnecessary singularity, and to
disregard of the feelings and wishes of those around you. It is
therefore your duty to dress like a lady, and not like a peasant
girl,--not only because the former is the station in life God himself
has chosen for you, but also because you have no right to lay out other
people's money on your own devices; and, lastly, because it is your
positive duty, in this as in all other points, to consult and consider
the reasonable wishes and opinions of those with whom God has connected
you by the ties of blood or friendship.


[65] 1 Tim. vi. 10.

[66] The saying of the "Great Captain," Gonsalvo di Cordova.

[67] Job xxix. 13.

[68] Montesquieu. Esprit des Lois.

[69] Colonel Mitchell's Life of Wallenstein.

[70] The Church Catechism.



In writing to you upon the subject of mental cultivation, it would seem
scarcely necessary to dwell for a moment on its advantages; it would
seem as if, in this case at least, I might come at once to the point,
and state to you that which appears to me the best manner of attaining
the object in view. Experience, however, has shown me, that even into
such minds as yours, doubts will often obtain admittance, sometimes from
without, sometimes self-generated, as to the advantages of intellectual
education for women. The time will come, even if you have never yet
momentarily experienced it, when, saddened by the isolation of
superiority, and witnessing the greater love or the greater prosperity
acquired by those who have limited or neglected intellects, you may be
painfully susceptible to the slighting remarks on clever women, learned
ladies, &c., which will often meet your ear,--remarks which you will
sometimes hear from uneducated women, who may seem to be in the
enjoyment of much more peace and happiness than yourself, sometimes from
well-educated and sensible men, whose opinions you justly value. I fear,
in short, that even you may at times be tempted to regret having
directed your attention and devoted your early days to studies which
have only attracted envy or suspicion; that even you may some day or
other attribute to the pursuits which are now your favourite ones those
disappointments and unpleasantnesses which doubtless await your path, as
they do that of every traveller along life's weary way. This
inconsistency may indeed be temporary; in a character such as yours it
must be temporary, for you will feel, on reflection, that nothing which
others have gained, even were your loss of the same occasioned by your
devotion to your favourite pursuits, could make amends to you for their
sacrifice. A mind that is really susceptible of culture must either
select a suitable employment for the energies it possesses, or they will
find some dangerous occupation for themselves, and eat away the very
life they were intended to cherish and strengthen. I should wish you to
be spared, however, the humiliation of even temporary regrets, which, at
the very least, must occasion temporary loss of precious hours, and a
decrease of that diligent labour for improvement which can only be kept
in an active state of energy by a deep and steady conviction of its
nobleness and utility; further still, (which would be worse than the
temporary consequences to yourself,) at such times of despondency you
might be led to make admissions to the disadvantage of mental
cultivation, and to depreciate those very habits of study and
self-improvement which it ought to be one of the great objects of your
life to recommend to all. You might thus discourage some young beginner
in the path of self-cultivation, who, had it not been for you, might
have cheered a lonely way by the indulgence of healthy, natural tastes,
besides exercising extensive beneficial influence over others. Your
incautious words, doubly dangerous because they seem to be the result
of experience, may be the cause of such a one's remaining in useless and
wearisome, because uninterested idleness. That you may guard the more
successfully against incurring such responsibilities, you should without
delay begin a long and serious consideration, founded on thought and
observation, both as to the relative advantages of ignorance and
knowledge. When your mind has been fully made up on the point, after the
careful examination I recommend to you, you must lay your opinion aside
on the shelf, as it were, and suffer it no longer to be considered as a
matter of doubt, or a subject for discussion. You can then, when
temporarily assailed by weak-minded fears, appeal to the former
dispassionate and unprejudiced decision of your unbiassed mind. To one
like you, there is no safer appeal than that from a present excited, and
consequently prejudiced self, to another dispassionate, and consequently
wiser self. Let us then consider in detail what foundation there may be
for the remarks that are made to the depreciation of a cultivated
intellect, and illustrate their truth or falsehood by the examples of
those upon whose habits of life we have an opportunity of exercising our

First, then, I would have you consider the position and the character of
those among your unmarried friends who are unintellectual and
uncultivated, and contrast them with those who have by education
strengthened natural powers and developed natural capabilities: among
these, it is easy for you to observe whose society is the most useful
and the most valued, whose opinion is the most respected, whose example
is the most frequently held up to imitation,--I mean by those alone
whose esteem is worth possessing. The giddy, the thoughtless, and the
uneducated may indeed manifest a decided preference for the society of
those whose pursuits and conversation are on a level with their own
capacity; but you surely cannot regret that they should even manifestly
(which however is not often ventured upon) shrink from your society.
"Like to like" is a proverb older than the time of Dante, whose answer
it was to Can della Scala, when reproached by him that the society of
the most frivolous persons was more sought after at court than that of
the poet and philosopher. "Given the amuser, the amusee must also be
given."[71] You surely ought not to regret the _cordon sanitaire_ which
protects you from the utter weariness, the loss of time, I might almost
add of temper, which uncongenial society would entail upon you. In the
affairs of life, you must generally make up your mind as to the good
that deserves your preference, and resolutely sacrifice the inferior
advantage which cannot be enjoyed with the greater one. You must
consequently give up all hope of general popularity, if you desire that
your society should be sought and valued, your opinion respected, your
example followed, by those whom you really love and admire, by the wise
and good, by those whose society you can yourself in your turn enjoy.
You must not expect that at the same time you should be the favourite
and chosen companion of the worthless, the frivolous, the uneducated;
you ought not, indeed, to desire it. Crush in its very birth that mean
ambition for popularity which might lead you on to sacrifice time and
tastes, alas! sometimes even principles, to gain the favour and applause
of those whose society ought to be a weariness to you. Nothing, besides,
is more injurious to the mind than a studied sympathy with mediocrity:
nay, without any "study," any conscious effort to bring yourself down to
their level, your mind must insensibly become weakened and tainted by a
surrounding atmosphere of ignorance and stupidity, so that you would
gradually become unfitted for that superior society which you are formed
to love and appreciate. It is quite a different case when the
dispensations of Providence and the exercise of social duties bring you
into contact with uncongenial minds. Whatever is a duty will be made
safe to you: it can only be from your own voluntary selection that any
unsuitable association becomes injurious and dangerous. Notwithstanding,
however, that it may be laid down as a general rule that the wise will
prefer the society of the wise, the educated that of the educated, it
sometimes happens that highly intellectual and cultivated persons
select, absolutely by their own choice, the frivolous and the ignorant
for their constant companions, though at the same time they may refer to
others for counsel, and direction, and sympathy. Is this choice,
however, made on account of the frivolity and ignorance of the persons
so selected? I am sure it is not. I am sure, if you inquire into every
case of this kind, you will see for yourself that it is not. Such
persons are thus preferred, sometimes on account of the fairness of
their features, sometimes on account of the sweetness of their temper,
sometimes for the lightheartedness which creates an atmosphere of
joyousness around them, and insures their never officiously obtruding
the cares and anxieties of this life upon their companions. Do not,
then, attribute to want of intellect those attractions which only need
to be combined with intellect to become altogether irresistible, but
which, however, I must confess, it may have an insensible influence in
destroying. For instance, the sweetness, of the temper is seldom
increased by increased refinement of mind; on the contrary, the latter
serves to quicken susceptibility and render perception more acute; and
therefore, unless it is guarded by an accompanying increase of
self-control, it will naturally produce an alteration for the worse in
the temper. This is one point. For the next, personal beauty may be
injured by want of exercise, neglect of health, or of due attention to
becoming apparel, which errors are often the results of an injudicious
absorption in intellectual pursuits. Lastly, a thoughtful nature and
habit of mind must of course induce a quicker perception, and a more
frequent contemplation of the sorrows and dangers of this mortal life,
than the volatile and thoughtless nature and habit of mind have any
temptation to; and thus persons of the former class are often induced,
sometimes usefully, sometimes unnecessarily, but perhaps always
disagreeably, to intrude the melancholy subjects of their own
meditations upon the persons with whom they associate, often making
their society evidently unpleasant, and, if possible, carefully avoided.
It is, however, unjust to attribute any of the inconveniences just
enumerated to those intellectual pursuits which, if properly pursued,
would prove effectual in improving, nay, even in bestowing,
intelligence, prudence, tact, and self-control, and thus preserving from
those very inconveniences to which I have referred above. Be it your
care to win praise and approbation for the habits of life you have
adopted, by showing that such are the effects they produce in you. By
your conduct you may prove that, if your perceptions have been quickened
and your sensibilities rendered more acute, you have at the same time,
and by the same means, acquired sufficient self-control to prevent
others from suffering ill-effects from that which would in such a case
be only a fancied improvement in yourself. Further, let it be your care
to bestow more attention than before on that external form which you are
now learning to estimate as the living, breathing type of that which is
within. Finally, while your increased thoughtfulness and the developed
powers of your reason will give you an insight in dangers and evils
which others never dream of, be careful to employ your knowledge only
for the improvement or preservation of the happiness of your friends.
Guard within your own breast, however you may long for the relief of
giving a free vent to your feelings, any sorrows or any apprehensions
that cannot be removed or obviated by their revelation. Thus will you
unite in yourself the combined advantages of the frivolous and
intellectual; your society will be loved and sought after as much as
that of the first can be, (only, however, by the wise and good--my
assertion extends no further,) and you will at the same time be
respected, consulted, and imitated, as the clever and educated can alone

I have hitherto spoken only of the unmarried among your acquaintance:
let us now turn to the wives and mothers, and observe, with pity, the
position of her, who, though she may be well and fondly loved, is felt
at the same time to be incapable of bestowing sympathy or counsel. It is
indeed, perhaps, the wife and mother who is the best loved who will at
the same time be made the most deeply to feel her powerlessness to
appreciate, to advise, or to guide: the very anxiety to hide from her
that it is the society, the opinion, and the sympathy of others which is
really valued, because it alone can be appreciative, will make her only
the more sensibly aware that she is deficient in the leading qualities
that inspire respect and produce usefulness.

She must constantly feel her unfitness to take any part in the society
that suits the taste of her more intellectual husband and children. She
must observe that they are obliged to bring down their conversation to
her level, that they are obliged to avoid, out of deference to, and
affection for her, all those varied topics which make social intercourse
a useful as well as an agreeable exercise of the mental powers, an often
more improving arena of friendly discussion than perhaps any professed
debating society could be. No such employment of social intercourse can,
however, be attempted when one of the heads of the household is
uneducated and unintellectual. The weather must form the leading, and
the only safe topic of conversation; for the gossip of the
neighbourhood, commented on in the freedom and security of family life,
imparts to all its members a petty censoriousness of spirit that can
never afterwards be entirely thrown off. Then the education of the
children of such a mother as I have described must be carried on under
the most serious disadvantages. Money in abundance may be at her
disposal, but that is of little avail when she has no power of forming a
judgment as to the abilities of the persons so lavishly paid for forming
the minds of the children committed to their charge: the precious hours
of their youth will thus be very much wasted; and when self-education,
in some few cases, comes in time to repair these early neglects, there
must be reproachful memories of that ignorance which placed so many
needless difficulties in the path to knowledge and advancement.

It is not, however, those alone who are bound by the ties of wife and
mother, whose intellectual cultivation may exercise a powerful influence
in their social relations: each woman in proportion to her mental and
moral qualifications possesses a useful influence over all those within
her reach. Moral excellence alone effects much: the amiable, the loving,
and the unselfish almost insensibly dissuade from evil, and persuade to
good, those who have the good fortune to be within the reach of such
soothing influences. Their persuasions are, however, far more powerful
when vivacity, sweetness, and affection are given weight to by strong
natural powers of mind, united with high cultivation. Of all the
"talents" committed to our stewardship, none will require to be so
strictly accounted for as those of intellect. The influence that we
might have acquired over our fellow-men, thus winning them over to think
of and practise "all things lovely and of good report," if it be
neglected, is surely a sin of deeper dye than the misemployment of mere
money. The disregard of those intellectual helps which we might have
bestowed on others, and thus have extensively benefited the cause of
religion, one of whose most useful handmaids is mental cultivation, will
surely be among the most serious of the sins of omission that will swell
our account at the last day. The intellectual Dives will not be punished
only for the misuse of his riches, as in the case of a Byron or a
Shelley; the neglect of their improvement, by employing them for the
good of others, will equally disqualify him for hearing the final
commendation of "Well done, good and faithful servant."[72] This,
however, is not a point on which I need dwell at any length while
writing to you: you are aware, fully, I believe, of the responsibilities
entailed upon you by the natural powers you possess. It is from worldly
motives of dissuasion, and not from any ignorance with regard to that
which you know to be your duty, that you may be at times induced to
slacken your exertions in the task of self-improvement. You will not be
easily persuaded that it is not your duty to educate yourself; the doubt
that will be more easily instilled into your mind will be respecting the
possible injury to your happiness or worldly advancement by the increase
of your knowledge and the improvement of your mind. Look, then, again
around you, and see whether the want of employment confers happiness,
carefully distinguishing, however, between that happiness which results
from natural constitution and that which results from acquired habits.
It is true that many of the careless, thoughtless girls you are
acquainted with enjoy more happiness, such as they are capable of, in
mornings and evenings spent at their worsted-work, than the most
diligent cultivation of the intellect can ever insure to you. But the
question is, not whether the butterfly can contentedly dispense with the
higher instincts of the industrious, laborious, and useful bee, but
whether the superior creature could content itself with the insipid and
objectless pursuits of the lower one. The mind requires more to fill it
in proportion to the largeness of its grasp: hope not, therefore, that
you could find either their peace or their satisfaction in the
purse-netting, embroidering lives of your thoughtless companions. Even
to them, be sure, hours of deep weariness must come: no human being,
whatever her degree on the scale of mind, is capable of being entirely
satisfied with a life without object and without improvement. Remember,
however, that it is not at all by the comparative contentedness of their
mere animal existence that you can test the qualifications of a habit of
life to constitute your own happiness; that must stand on a far
different basis.

In the case of a very early marriage, there may be indeed no opportunity
for the weariness of which I have above spoken. The uneducated and
uncultivated girl who is removed from the school-room to undertake the
management of a household may not fall an early victim to _ennui_; that
fate is reserved for her later days. Household details (which are either
degrading or elevating according as they are attended to as the
favourite occupations of life, or, on the other hand, skilfully managed
as one of its inevitable and important duties) often fill the mind even
more effectually to the exclusion of better things than worsted-work or
purse-netting would have done. The young wife, if ignorant and
uneducated, soon sinks from the companion of her husband, the guide and
example of her children, into the mere nurse and housekeeper. A clever
upper-servant would, in nine cases out of ten, fulfil all the offices
which engross her time and interest a thousand times better than she can
herself. For her, however, even for the nurse and housekeeper, the time
of _ennui_ must come; for her it is only deferred. The children grow up,
and are scattered to a distance; requiring no further mechanical cares,
and neither employing time nor exciting the same kind of interest as
formerly. The mere household details, however carefully husbanded and
watchfully self-appropriated, will not afford amusement throughout the
whole day; and, utterly unprovided with subjects for thought or objects
of occupation, life drags on a wearisome and burdensome chain. We have
all seen specimens of this, the most hopeless and pitiable kind of
_ennui_, when the time of acquiring habits of employment, and interest
in intellectual pursuits is entirely gone, and resources can neither be
found in the present, or hoped for in the future. Hard is the fate of
those who are bound to such victims by the ties of blood and duty. They
must suffer, secondhand, all the annoyances which _ennui_ inflicts on
its wretched victims. No natural sweetness of temper can long resist the
depressing influence of dragging on from day to day an uninterested,
unemployed existence; and besides, those who can find no occupation for
themselves will often involuntarily try to lessen their own discomfort
by disturbing the occupations of others. This species of _ennui_, of
which the sufferings begin in middle-life and often last to extreme old
age, (as they have no tendency to shorten existence,) is far more
pitiable than that from which the girl or the young woman suffers before
her matron-life begins. Then hope is always present to cheer her on to
endurance; and there is, besides, at that time, a consciousness of power
and energy to change the habits of life into such as would enable her to
brave all future fears of _ennui_. It is of great importance, however,
that these habits should be acquired immediately; for though they may be
equally possible of acquisition in the later years of youth, there are
in the mean time other dangerous resources which may tempt the
unoccupied and uninterested girl into their excitements. Those whose
minds are of too active and vivacious a nature to live on without an
object, may too easily find one in the dangerous and selfish amusements
of coquetry--in the seeking for admiration, and its enjoyment when
obtained. The very woman who might have been the most happy herself in
the enjoyment of intellectual pursuits, and the most extensively useful
to others, is often the one who, from misdirected energies and feeling,
will pursue most eagerly, be most entirely engrossed by, the delights of
being admired and loved by those to whom in return she is entirely
indifferent. Having once acquired the habit of enjoying the selfish
excitement, the simple, safe, and ennobling employments of
self-cultivation, of improving others, are laid aside for ever, because
the power of enjoying them is lost. Do not be offended if I say that
this is the fate I fear for you. At the present moment, the two paths of
life are open before you; youth, excitement, the example of your
companions, the easiness and the pleasure of the worldling's career,
make it full of attractions for you. Besides, your conscience does not
perhaps speak with sufficient plainness as to its being the career of
the worldling; you can find admirers enough, and give up to them all the
young, fresh interests of your active mind, all the precious time of
your early youth, without ever frequenting the ball-room, or the
theatre, or the race-course,--nay, even while professedly avoiding them
on principle: we know, alas! that the habits of the selfish and
heartless coquette are by no means incompatible with an outward
profession of religion.

It is to save you from any such dangers that I earnestly press upon you
the deliberate choice and immediate adoption of a course of life in
which the systematic, conscientious improvement of your mind should
serve as an efficacious preservation from all dangerously exciting
occupations. You should prepare yourself for this deliberate choice by
taking a clear and distinct view of your object and your motives. Can
you say with sincerity that they are such as the following,--that of
acquiring influence over your fellow-creatures, to be employed for the
advancement of their eternal interests--that of glorifying God, and of
obtaining the fulfilment of that promise, "They that turn many to
righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever."[73] If this
be the case, your choice must be a right and a noble one; and you will
never have reason to repent of it, either in this world or the next.
Among the collateral results of this conscientious choice will be a
certain enjoyment of life, more independent of either health or external
circumstances than any other can be, and the lofty self-respect arising
from a consciousness of never having descended to unworthy methods of
amusement and excitement.

To attain, however, to the pleasures of intellectual pursuits, and to
acquire from them the advantages of influence and respect, is quite a
distinct thing from the promiscuous and ill-regulated habits of reading
pursued by most women. Women who read at all, generally read more than
men; but, from the absence of any intellectual system, they neither
acquire well-digested information, nor, what is of far more importance,
are the powers of their mind strengthened by exercise. I have known
women read for six hours a day, and, after all, totally incapable of
enlightening the inquirer upon any point of history or literature; far
less would they be competent to exercise any process of reasoning, with
relation either to the business of life or the occurrences of its social
intercourse. How many difficulties and annoyances in the course of
every-day life might be avoided altogether if women were early exercised
in the practice of bringing their reasoning powers to bear upon the
small duties and the petty trials that await every hour of our
existence! Their studies are altogether useless, unless they are pursued
with the view of acquiring a sounder judgment, and quicker and more
accurate perceptions of the every-day details of business and duty. That
knowledge is worse than useless which does not lead to wisdom. To
women, more especially, as their lives can never be so entirely
speculative as those of a few learned men may justifiably be, the great
object in study is the manner in which they can best bring to bear each
acquisition of knowledge upon the improvement of their own character or
that of others. The manner in which they may most effectually promote
the welfare of their fellow-creatures, and how, as the most effectual
means to that end, they can best contribute to their daily and hourly
happiness and improvement,--these, and such as these, ought to be the
primary objects of all intellectual culture. Mere reading would never
accomplish this; mere reading is no more an intellectual employment than
worsted-work or purse-netting. It is true that none of these latter
employments are without their uses; they may all occupy the mind in some
degree, and soothe it, if it were only by creating a partial distraction
from the perpetual contemplation of petty irritating causes of disquiet.
But while we acknowledge that they are all good in their way for people
who can attain nothing better, we must be careful not to fall into the
mistake of confounding the best of them, viz. _mere_ reading, with
intellectual pursuits: if we do so, the latter will be involved in the
depreciation that often falls upon the former when it is found neither
to improve the mind or the character, nor to provide satisfactory
sources of enjoyment.

There is a great deal of truth in the well-known assertion of Hobbes,
however paradoxical it may at first appear: "If I had read as much as
others, I should be as ignorant." One cannot but feel its applicability
in the case of some of our acquaintance, who have been for years mere
readers at the rate of five or six hours a day. One of these same hours
daily well applied would have made them more agreeable companions and
more useful members of society than a whole life of their ordinary

There must be a certain object of attainment, or there will be no
advance: unless we have decided what the point is that we desire to
reach, we never can know whether the wind blows favourably for us or

In my next letter, I mean to enter fully into many details as to the
best methods of study; but during the remainder of this, I shall confine
myself to a general view of the nature of that foundation which must
first be laid, before any really valuable or durable superstructure can
be erected.

The first point, then, to which I wish your attention to be directed is
the improvement of the mind itself,--point of far more importance than
the furniture you put into it. This improvement can only be effected by
exercising deep thought with respect to all your reading, assimilating
the ideas and the facts provided by others until they are blended into
oneness with the forms of your own mind.

During your hours of study, it is of the utmost importance that no page
should ever be perused without carefully subjecting its contents to the
thinking process of which I have spoken: unless your intellect is
actively employed while you are professedly studying, your time is worse
than wasted, for you are acquiring habits of idleness, that will be most
difficult to lay aside.

You should always be engaged in some work that affords considerable
exercise to the mind--some book over the sentences of which you are
obliged to pause, to ponder--some kind of study that will cause the
feeling of almost physical fatigue; when, however, this latter sensation
comes on, you must rest; the brain is of too delicate a texture to bear
the slightest over-exertion with impunity.[74] Premature decay of its
powers, and accompanying bodily weakness and suffering, will inflict
upon you a severe penalty for any neglect of the symptoms of mental
exhaustion.[75] Your mind, however, like your body, ought to be
exercised to the very verge of fatigue; you cannot otherwise be certain
that there has been exercise sufficient to give increased strength and
energy to the mental or physical powers.

The more vigorous such exercise is, the shorter will be the time you can
support it. Perhaps even an hour of close thinking would be too much for
most women; the object, however, ought not to be so much the quantity as
the quality of the exercise. If your peculiarly delicate and sensitive
organization cannot support more than a quarter of an hour's continuous
and concentrated thought, you must content yourself with that.
Experience will soon prove to you that even the few minutes thus
employed will give you a great superiority over the six-hours-a-day
readers of your acquaintance, and will serve as a solid and sufficient
foundation for all the lighter superstructure which you will afterwards
lay upon it. This latter, in its due place, I should consider as of
nearly as much importance as the foundation itself; for, keeping
steadily in view that usefulness is to be the primary object of all your
studies, you must devote much more time and attention to the
embellishing, because refining branches of literature, than would be
necessary for those whose office is not so peculiarly that of soothing
and pleasing as woman's is. Even these lighter studies, however, must be
subjected to the same reflective process as the severer ones, or they
will never become an incorporate part of the mind itself: they will, on
the contrary, if this process is neglected, stand out, as the knowledge
of all uneducated people does, in abrupt and unharmonizing prominence.

It is not to be so much your object to acquire the power of quoting
poetry or prose, or to be acquainted with the names of the authors of
celebrated fictions and their details, as to be imbued with the spirit
of heroism, generosity, self-sacrifice,--in short, the practical love of
the beautiful which every universally-admired fiction, whether it have a
professedly moral tendency or not, is calculated to excite. The refined
taste, the accurate perceptions, the knowledge of the human heart, and
the insight into character, which intellectual culture can highly
improve, even if it cannot create, are to be the principal results as
well as the greatest pleasures to which you are to look forward. In
study, as in every other important pursuit, the immediate
results--those that are most tangible and encouraging to the faint and
easily disheartened--are exactly those which are least deserving of
anxiety. A couple of hours' reading of poetry in the morning might
qualify you to act the part of oracle that very evening to a whole
circle of inquirers; it might enable you to tell the names, and dates,
and authors of a score of remarkable poems: and this, besides, is a
species of knowledge which every one can appreciate. It is not, however,
comparable in kind to the refinement of mind, the elevation of thought,
the deepened sense of the beautiful, which a really intellectual study
of the same works would impart or increase. I do not wish to depreciate
the good offices of the memory; it is very valuable as a handmaid to the
higher powers of the intellect. I have, however, generally observed that
where much attention has been devoted to the recollection of names,
facts, dates, &c., the higher species of intellectual cultivation have
been neglected: attention to them, on the other hand, would never
involve any neglect of the advantages of memory; for a cultivated
intellect can suggest to itself a thousand associative links by which it
can be assisted and rendered much more extensively useful than a mere
verbal memory could ever be. The more of these links (called by
Coleridge hooks-and-eyes) you can invent for yourself, the more will
your memory become an intellectual faculty. By such means, also, you can
retain possession of all the information with which your reading may
furnish you, without paying such exclusive attention to those tangible
and immediate results of study as would deprive you of the more solid
and permanent ones. These latter consist, as I said before, in the
improvement of the mind itself, and not in its furniture. A modern
author has remarked, that the improvement of the mind is like the
increase of money from compound interest in a bank, as every fresh
increase, however trifling, serves as a new link with which to connect
still further acquisitions. This remark is strikingly illustrative of
the value of an intellectual kind of memory. Every new idea will serve
as a "hook-and-eye," with which you can fasten together the past and the
future; every new fact intellectually remembered will serve as an
illustration of some formerly-established principle, and, instead of
burdening you with the separate difficulty of remembering itself, will
assist you in remembering other things.

It is a universal law, that action is in inverse proportion to power;
and therefore the deeply-thinking mind will find a much greater
difficulty in drawing out its capabilities on short notice, and
arranging them in the most effective position, than a mind of mere
cleverness, of merely acquired, and not assimilated knowledge. This
difficulty, however, need not be permanent, though at first it is
inevitable. A woman's mind, too, is less liable to it; as, however
thoughtful her nature may be, this thoughtfulness is seldom strengthened
by habit. She is seldom called upon to concentrate the powers of her
mind on any intellectual pursuits that require intense and
long-continuous thought. The few moments of intense thought which I
recommend to you will never add to your thoughtfulness of nature any
habits that will require serious difficulty to overcome. It is also,
unless a man be in public life, of more importance to a woman than to
him to possess action, viz. great readiness in the use and disposal of
whatever intellectual powers she may possess. Besides this, you must
remember that a want of quickness and facility in recollection, of ease
and distinctness in expression, is quite as likely to arise from
desultory and wandering habits of thought as from the slowness referable
to deep reflection. Most people find difficulty in forcing their
thoughts to concentrate themselves on any given subject, or in
afterwards compelling them to take a comprehensive glance of every
feature of that subject. Both these processes require much the same
habits of mind: the latter, perhaps, though apparently the more
discursive in its nature, demands a still greater degree of
concentration than the former.

When the mind is set in motion, it requires a stronger exertion to
confine its movements within prescribed limits than when it is steadily
fixed on one given point. For instance, it would be easier to meditate
on the subject of patriotism, bringing before the mind every quality of
the heart and head that this virtue would have a tendency to develop,
than to take in, at one comprehensive glance,[76] the different
qualities of those several individuals who have been most remarked for
the virtue. Unless the thoughts were under strong and habitual control,
they would infallibly wander to other peculiarities of these same
individuals, unconnected with the given subject, to curious facts in
their lives, to contemporary characters, &c.; thus loitering by the
way-side in amusing, but here unprofitable reflection: for every
exercise of thought like that which I have described is only valuable in
proportion to the degree of accuracy with which we can contemplate with
one instantaneous glance, laid out upon a map as it were, those features
_only_ belonging to the given subject, and keeping out of view all
foreign ones. There is perhaps no faculty of the mind more susceptible
of evident, as it were tangible, improvement than this: besides, the
exercise of mind which it procures us is one of the highest intellectual
pleasures; you should therefore immediately and perseveringly devote
your efforts and attention to seek out the best mode of cultivating it.
Even the reading of books which require deep and continuous thought is
only a preparation for this higher exercise of the faculties--a useful,
indeed a necessary preparation, because it promotes the habit of fixing
the attention and concentrating the powers of the mind on any given
point. In assimilating the thoughts of others, however, with your own
mind and memory, the mind itself remains nearly passive; it is as the
wax that receives the impression, and must for this purpose be in a
suitable state of impressibility. In exact proportion to the
suitableness of this state are the clearness and the beauty of the
impression; but even when most true and most deep, its value is
extrinsic and foreign: it is only when the mind begins to act for itself
and weaves out of its own materials a new and native manufacture, that
the real intellectual existence can be said to commence. While,
therefore, I repeat my advice to you, to devote some portion of every
day to such reading as will require the strongest exertion of your
powers of thought, I wish, at the same time, to remind you that even
this, the highest species of _reading_, is only to be considered as a
means to an end: though productive of higher and nobler enjoyments than
the unintellectual can conceive, it is nothing more than the
stepping-stone to the genuine pleasures of pure intellect, to the
ennobling sensation of directing, controlling, and making the most
elevated use of the powers of an immortal mind.

To woman, the power of abstracted thought, and the enjoyment derived
from it, is even more valuable than to man. His path lies in active
life; and the earnest craving for excitement, for action, which is the
characteristic of all powerful natures, is in man easily satisfied: it
is satisfied in the sphere of his appointed duty; "he must go forth, and
resolutely dare." Not so the woman, whose scene of action is her quiet
home: her virtues must be passive ones; and with every qualification for
successful activity, she is often compelled to chain down her vivid
imagination to the most monotonous routine of domestic life. When she is
entirely debarred from external activity, a restlessness of nature, that
can find no other mode of indulgence, will often invent for itself
imaginary trials and imaginary difficulties: hence the petty quarrels,
the mean jealousies, which disturb the peace of many homes that might
have been tranquil and happy if the same activity of thought and feeling
had been early directed into right channels. A woman who finds real
enjoyment in the improvement of her mind will neither have time nor
inclination for tormenting her servants and her family; an avocation in
which many really affectionate and professedly religious women exhaust
those superfluous energies which, under wise direction, might have
dispensed peace and happiness instead of disturbance and annoyance. A
woman who has acquired proper control over her thoughts, and can find
enjoyment in their intellectual exercise, will have little temptation to
allow them to dwell on mean and petty grievances. That admirable Swedish
proverb, "It is better to rule your house with your head than with your
heels," will be exemplified in all her practice. Her well-regulated and
comprehensive mind (and comprehensiveness of mind is as necessary to the
skilful management of a household as to the government of an empire)
will be able to contrive such systems of domestic arrangement as will
allot exactly the suitable works at the suitable times to each member of
the establishment: no one will be over-worked, no one idle; there will
not only be a place for every thing, and every thing in its place, but
there will also be a time for every thing, and every thing will have its
allotted time. Such a system once arranged by a master-mind, and still
superintended by a steady and intelligent, but not _incessant_
inspection, raises the character of the governed as well as that of her
who governs: they are never brought into collision with each other; and
the inferior, whose manual expertness may far exceed that to which the
superior has even the capability of attaining, will nevertheless look up
with admiring respect to those powers of arrangement, and that steady
and uncapriciously-exerted authority, which so facilitate and lighten
the task of obedience and dependence. This mode of managing a household,
even if they found it possible, would of course be disliked by those
who, having no higher resources, would find the day hang heavy on their
hands unless they watched all the details of household work, and made
every action of every servant result from their own immediate
interference, instead of from an enlarged and uniformly operating

This subject has brought me back to the point from which I began,--the
_practical_ utility of a cultivated intellect, and the additional power
and usefulness it confers,--raising its possessor above all the mean and
petty cares of daily life, and enabling her to impart ennobling
influences to its most trifling details.

The power of thought, which I have so earnestly recommended you to
cultivate, is even still more practical, and still more useful, when
considered relatively to the most important business of life--that of
religion. Prayer and meditation, and that communion with the unseen
world which imparts a foretaste of its happiness and glory, are enjoyed
and profited by in proportion to the power of controlling the thoughts
and of exercising the mind. Having a firm trust, that to you every other
object is considered subordinate to that of advancement in the spiritual
life, it must be a very important consideration whether, and how far,
the self-education you may bestow on yourself will help you towards its
attainment. In this point of view there can be no doubt that the mental
cultivation recommended in this letter has a much more advantageous
influence upon your religious life than any other manner of spending
your time. Besides the many collateral tendencies of such pursuits to
favour that growth in grace which I trust will ever remain the principal
object of your desires, experience will soon show you that every
improvement in the reflective powers, every additional degree of control
over the movements of the mind, may find an immediate exercise in the
duties of religion.

The wandering thoughts which are habitually excluded from your hours of
study will not be likely to intrude frequently or successfully during
your hours of devotion; the habit of concentrating all the powers of
your mind on one particular subject, and then developing all its
features and details, will require no additional effort for the pious
heart to direct it into the lofty employments of meditation on eternal
things and communion with our God and Saviour: at the same time, the
employments of prayer and meditation will in their turn react upon your
merely secular studies, and facilitate your progress in them by giving
you habits of singleness of mind and steadiness of mental purpose.


[71] Carlyle.

[72] Matt. xxv. 23.

[73] Dan. xii. 3.

[74] "The vessel whose rupture occasioned the paralysis was so minute
and so slightly affected by the circulation, that it could have been
ruptured only by the over-action of the mind"--_Bishop Jebb's Life_.

[75] "This is nature's law; she will never see her children wronged. If
the mind which rules the body, ever forgets itself so far as to trample
upon its slave, the slave is never generous enough to forgive the injury
but will rise and smile its oppressor. Thus has many a monarch been

[76] It is the theory of Locke, that the angels have all their knowledge
spread out before them, as in a map,--all to be seen together at one




In continuation of my last letter, I shall proceed at once to the minor
details of study, and suggest for your adoption such practices as others
by experience have found conducive to improvement. Not that one person
can lay down any rules for another that might in every particular be
safely followed: we must, each for ourselves, experimentalize long and
variously upon our own mind, before we can understand the mode of
treatment best suited to it; and we may, perhaps, in the progress of
such experiments, derive as much benefit from our mistakes themselves as
if the object of our experiments had been at once attained. It is not,
however, from wilful mistakes, or from deliberate ignorance, that we
ever derive profit. Instead, therefore, of striking out entirely new
plans for yourself, in which time and patience and even hope may be
exhausted, I should advise you to listen for direction to the
suggestions of those who by more than mere profession have frequented
the road upon which you are anxious to make a rapid progress. In books
you may find much that is useful; from the conversation of those who
have been self-educated you may receive still greater assistance,--as
the advice thus personally addressed must of course be more
discriminating and special. For this latter reason, in all that I am now
about to write, I keep in view the peculiar character and formation of
your mind. I do not address the world in general, who would profit
little by the course of education here recommended: I only write to my
Unknown Friend.

In the first place, I should advise, as of primary importance, the
laying down of a regular system of employment. Impose upon yourself the
duty of getting through so much work every day; even, if possible, lay
down a plan as to the particular period of the day in which each
occupation is to be attended to; many otherwise wasted moments would be
saved by having arranged beforehand that which is successively to engage
the attention. The great advantage of such regularity is experienced in
the acknowledged truth of Lord Chesterfield's maxim: "He who has most
business has most leisure." When the multiplicity of affairs to be got
through absolutely necessitates the arrangement of an appointed time for
each, the same habits of regularity and of undilatoriness (if I may be
allowed the expression) are insensibly carried into the lighter pursuits
of life. There is another important reason for the self-imposition of
those systematic habits which to men of business are a necessity; it is,
however, one which you cannot at all appreciate until you have
experienced its importance: I refer to the advantage of being, by a
self-imposed rule, provided with an immediate object, in which the
intellectual pursuits of a woman must otherwise be deficient. I would
not depreciate the mightiness of "the future;"[77] but it is evident that
the human mind is so constituted as to feel that motives increase in
strength as they approach in nearness; otherwise, why should it require
such strong faith, and that faith a supernatural gift, to enable us to
sacrifice the present gratification of a moment to the happiness of an
eternity. While, therefore, you seek by earnest prayer and reverential
desire to bring the future into perpetually operating force upon your
principles and practice, do not, at the same time, be deterred by any
superstitious fears from profiting by yourself and urging on others
every immediate and temporal motive, not inconsistent with the great
one, "to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever."[78]

While your principal personal object and personal gratification in your
studies is to be derived from the gradual improvement of your mind and
tastes, this gradual improvement will be often so imperceptible that you
will need support and cheering during many weeks and months of
apparently profitless mental application. Such support you may provide
for yourself in the daily satisfaction resulting from having fulfilled a
certain task, from having obeyed a law, though only a self-imposed one.
Men, in their studies, have almost always that near and immediate object
which I recommend to you to create for yourself. For them, as well as
for you, the distant future of attained mental eminence and excellence
is indeed the principal object. They, however, have it in their power to
cheat the toil and cheer the way by many intermediate steps, which
serve both as landmarks in their course and objects of interest within
their immediate reach. They can almost always have some special object
in view, as the result and reward of the studies of each month, or
quarter, or year. They read for prizes, scholarships, fellowships, &c.;
and these rewards, tangibly and actually within their reach, excite
their energies and quicken their exertions.

For women there is nothing of the kind; it is therefore a useful
exercise of her ingenuity to invent some substitute, however inferior to
the original. For this purpose, I have never found any thing so
effectual as a self-imposed system of study,--the stricter the better.
It is not desirable, however, that this system should be one of very
constant employment; the strictness of which I spoke only refers to its
regularity. As the great object is that you should break through your
rules as seldom as possible, it would be better to fix the number of
your hours of occupation rather below, certainly not above, your average
habits. The time that may be to spare on days in which you meet with no
interruption from visitors may also be systematically disposed of: you
may always have some book in hand which will be ready to fill up any
unoccupied moments, without, even on these occasions, wasting your time
in deliberating as to what your next employment shall be.

You understand me, therefore, to recommend that those hours of the
system which you are to impose upon yourself to employ in a certain
manner are not to exceed the number you can ordinarily secure without
interruption on _every_ day of the week, exclusive of visitors, &c. &c.
Every advantage pertaining to the system I recommend is much enhanced by
the uniformity of its observance: indeed, it is on rigid attention to
this point that its efficacy principally depends. I will now enter into
the details of the system of study which, however modified by your own
mind and habits, will, I hope, in some form or other, be adopted by you.
The first arrangement of your time ought to be the laying apart of a
certain period every day for the deepest thinking you can compel
yourself to, either on or off book.

Having said so much on this point in my last letter, I should run the
risk of repetition if I dwelt longer upon it here. I only mention it at
all to give it again the most prominent position in your studies, and to
recommend its invariably occupying a daily place in them. For every
other pursuit, two or three times a week might answer as well, perhaps
better, as it would be too great an interruption to devote to each only
so short a period of time as could be allotted to it in a daily
distribution. It may be desirable, before I take leave of the subject of
your deeper studies, to mention here some of the books which will give
you the most effectual aid in the formation of your mind.

Butler's Analogy will be perhaps the very best to begin with: you must
not, however, flatter yourself that you in any degree understand this or
other books of the same nature until you penetrate into their extreme
difficulty,--until, in short, you find out that you can _not_ thoroughly
understand them _yet_. Queen Caroline, George II.'s wife, in the hope of
proving to Bishop Horsley how fully she appreciated the value of the
work I have just mentioned, told him that she had it constantly beside
her at her breakfast-table, to read a page or two in it whenever she had
an idle moment. The Bishop's reply was scarcely intended for a
compliment. He said _he_ could never open the book without a headache;
and really a headache is in general no bad test of our having thought
over a book sufficiently to enter in some degree into its real meaning:
only remember, that when the headache begins the reading or the thinking
must stop. As you value tho long and unimpaired preservation of your
powers of mind, guard carefully against any over-exertion of them.

To return to the "Analogy." It is a book of which you cannot too soon
begin the study,--providing you, as it will do, at once with materials
for the deepest thought, and laying a safe foundation for all future
ethical studies; it is at the same time so clearly expressed, that you
will have no perplexity in puzzling out the mere external form of the
idea, instead of fixing all your attention on solving the difficulties
of the thoughts and arguments themselves. Locke on the Human
Understanding is a work that has probably been often recommended to you.
Perhaps, if you keep steadily in view the danger of his materialistic,
unpoetic, and therefore untrue philosophy, the book may do you more good
than harm; it will furnish you with useful exercise for your thinking
powers; and you will see it so often quoted as authority, on one side as
truth, on the other as falsehood, that it may be as well you should form
your own judgment of it. You should previously, however, become guarded
against any dangers that might result from your study of Locke, by
acquiring a thorough-knowledge of the philosophy of Coleridge. This will
so approve itself to your conscience, your intellect, and your
imagination, that there can be no risk of its being ever supplanted in a
mind like yours by "plebeian"[79] systems of philosophy. Few have now
any difficulty in perceiving the infidel tendencies of that of Locke,
especially with the assistance of his French philosophic followers,
(with whose writings, for the charms of style and thought, you will
probably become acquainted in future years.) They have declared what the
real meaning of his system is by the developments which they have proved
to be its necessary consequences. Let Coleridge, then, be your previous
study, and the philosophic system detailed in his various writings may
serve as a nucleus, round which all other philosophy may safely enfold
itself. The writings of Coleridge form an era in the history of the
mind; and their progress in altering the whole character of thought, not
only in this but in foreign nations, if it has been slow, (which is one
of the necessary conditions of permanence,) has been already
astonishingly extensive. Even those who have never heard of the name of
Coleridge find their habits of thought moulded, and their perceptions of
truth cleared and deepened, by the powerful influence of his
master-mind,--powerful still, though it has probably only reached them
through three or four interposing mediums. The proud boast of one of
his descendants is amply verified: "He has given the power of vision:"
and in ages yet to come, many who may unfortunately be ignorant of the
very name of their benefactor will still be profiting daily, more and
more, by the mental telescopes he has provided. Thus it is that many
have rejoiced in having the distant brought near to them, and the
confused made clear, without knowing that Jansen was the name of him who
had conferred such benefits upon mankind. The immediate artist, the
latest moulder of an original design, is the one whose skill is extolled
and depended upon; and so it is even already in the case of Coleridge.
It is those only who are intimately acquainted with him who can plainly
see, that it is by the power of vision he has conferred that the really
philosophic writers of the present day are enabled to give views so
clear and deep on the many subjects that now interest the human mind.
All those among modern authors who combine deep learning with an
enlarged wisdom, a vivid and poetical imagination with an acute
perception of the practical and the true, have evidently educated
themselves in the school of Coleridge. He well deserves the name of the
Christian Plato, erecting as he does, upon the ancient and long-tried
foundation of that philosopher's beautiful system of intuitive truths,
the various details of minor but still valuable knowledge with which the
accumulated studies of four thousand intervening years have furnished
us, at the same time harmonizing the whole by the all-pervading spirit
of Christianity.

Coleridge is truly a Christian philosopher: at the same time, however,
though it may seem a paradox, I must warn you against taking him for
your guide and instructor in theology. A Socinian during all the years
in which vivid and never-to-be-obliterated impressions are received, he
could not entirely free himself from those rationalistic tendencies
which had insensibly incorporated themselves with all his religious
opinions. He afterwards became the powerful and successful defender of
the saving truths which he had long denied; but it was only in cases
where Arianism was openly displayed, and was to be directly opposed. He
seems to have been entirely unconscious that its subtle evil tendencies,
its exaltation of the understanding above the reason, its questioning,
disobedient spirit, might all in his own case have insinuated themselves
into his judgments on theological and ecclesiastical questions. The
prejudices which are in early youth wrought into the very essence of our
being are likely to be unsuspected in exact proportion to the degree of
intimacy with which they are assimilated with the forms of our mind.
However this may be, you will not fail to observe that, in all branches
of philosophy that do not directly refer to religion, Coleridge's system
of teaching is opposed to the general character of his own theological
views, and that he has himself furnished the opponents of these peculiar
views with the most powerful arms that can be wielded against them.

Every one of Coleridge's writings should be carefully perused more than
once, more than twice; in fact, they cannot be read too often; and the
only danger of such continued study would be, that in the enjoyment of
finding every important subject so beautifully thought out for you,
natural indolence might deter you from the comparatively laborious
exercise of thinking them out for yourself. The three volumes of his
"Friend," his "Church and State," his "Lay Sermons," and "Statesman's
Manual," will each of them furnish you with most important present
information and with inexhaustible materials for future thought.

Reid's "Inquiry into the Human Mind," and Dugald Stewart's "Philosophy
of the Mind," are also books that you must carefully study. Brown's
"Lectures on Philosophy" are feelingly and gracefully written; but
unless you find a peculiar charm and interest in the style, there will
not be sufficient compensation for the sacrifice of time so voluminous a
work would involve. Those early chapters which give an account of the
leading systems of Philosophy, and some very ingenious chapters on
Memory, are perhaps as much of the book as will be necessary for you to
study carefully.

The works of the German philosopher Kant will, some time hence, serve as
a useful exercise of thought; and you will find it interesting as well
as useful to trace the resemblances and differences between the great
English and the great German philosophers, Kant and Coleridge. Locke's
small work on Education contains many valuable suggestions, and Watts on
the Mind is also well worthy your attention. It is quite necessary that
Watts' Logic should form a part of your studies; it is written
professedly for women, and with ingenious simplicity. A knowledge of the
forms of Logic is useful even to women, for the purpose of sharpening
and disciplining the reasoning powers.

Do not be startled when I further recommend to you Blackstone's
"Commentaries" and Burlamaqui's "Treatise on Natural Law." These are
books which, besides affording admirable opportunities for the exercise
of both concentrated and comprehensive thought, will fill your mind with
valuable ideas, and furnish it with very important information. Finally,
I recommend to your unceasing and most respectful study the works of
that "Prince of modern philosophers," Lord Bacon. In his great mind were
united the characteristics of the two ancient, but nevertheless
universal, schools of philosophy, the Aristotelic and the Platonic. It
is, I believe, the only instance known of such a difficult combination.
His "Essays," his "Advancement of Learning," his "Wisdom of the
Ancients," you might understand and profit by, even now. Through all the
course of an education, which I hope will only end with your life, you
cannot do better than to keep him as your constant companion and
intellectual guide.

The foregoing list of works seems almost too voluminous for any woman to
make herself mistress of; but you may trust to one who has had extensive
experience for herself and others, that the principle of "Nulla dies
sine linea" is as useful in the case of reading as in that of painting:
the smallest quantity of work daily performed will accomplish in a
year's time that which at the beginning of the year would have seemed to
the inexperienced a hopeless task.

As yet, I have only spoken of philosophy; there is, however, another
branch of knowledge, viz. science, which also requires great
concentration of thought, and which ought to receive some degree of
attention, or you will appear, and, what would be still worse, feel,
very stupid and ignorant with respect to many of the practical details
of ordinary life. You are continually hearing of the powers of the
lever, the screw, the wedge, of the laws of motion, &c. &c., and they
are often brought forward as illustrations even on simply literary
subjects. An acquaintance with these matters is also necessary to enter
with any degree of interest into the wonderful exhibitions of mechanical
powers which are among the prominent objects of attention in the present
day. You cannot even make intelligent inquiries, and betray a graceful,
because unwilling ignorance, without some degree of general knowledge of

Among the numerous elementary works which make the task of
self-instruction pleasant and easy, none can excel, if any have
equalled, the "Scientific Dialogues" of Joyce. In these six little
volumes, you will find a compendium of all preliminary knowledge; even
these, however, easy as they are, require to be carefully studied. The
comparison of the text with the plates, the testing for yourself the
truth of each experiment, (I do not mean that you should practically
test it, except in a few easy cases, for your mind has not a sufficient
taste for science to compensate for the trouble,) will furnish you with
very important lessons in the art of fixing your attention.

"Conversations on Natural Philosophy," in one volume, by a lady, is
nearly as simple and clear as the "Scientific Dialogues;" it will serve
usefully as a successor to them. It is a great assistance to the memory
to read a different work on the same subject while the first is still
fresh in your mind. The sameness of the facts gives the additional force
of a double impression; and the variation in the mode of stating them,
always more striking when the books are the respective works of a man
and of a woman, adds the force of a trebled impression, stronger than
the two others, because there is in it more of the exercise of the
intellect, that is, on the supposition that, in accordance with the
foregoing rules, you should think over each respective statement until
you have reconciled them together by ascertaining the cause of the

I shall now proceed to those lighter branches of literature which are
equally necessary with the preceding, and which will supply you with the
current coin of the day,--very necessary for ordinary intercourse,
though, in point of real value, far inferior to the bank-stock of
philosophic and scientific knowledge which it is to be your chief object
to acquire. History is the branch of lighter literature to which your
attention should be specially directed; it provides you with
illustrations for all philosophy, with excitements to heroism and
elevation of character, stronger perhaps than any mere theory can ever
afford. The simplest story, the most objective style of narrative, will
be that best fitted to answer these purposes. Your own philosophic
deductions will be much more beneficial to your intellect than any one
else's, supposing always that you are willing to make, history a really
intellectual study.

Tytler's "Elements of History" is a most valuable book, and not an
unnecessary word throughout the whole. If you do not find getting by
heart an insuperable difficulty, you will do well to commit every line
to memory. Half a page a day of the small edition would soon lay up for
you such an extent of historic learning as would serve for a foundation
to all future attainments in this branch of study. Such outlines of
history are a great assistance in forming the comprehensive views which
are necessary on the subject of contemporaneous history: a glance at a
chart of history, or at La Voisne's invaluable Atlas, may be allowed
from time to time; but the principal arrangement ought to take place
within your own mind, for the sake of both your memory and your
intellect. Such outlines of history will, however, be very deficient in
the interest and excitement this study ought to afford you, unless you
combine with them minute details of particular periods, first, perhaps,
of particular countries.

Thus I would have Rollings Ancient History succeed the cold and dry
outlines of Tytler. Hume's History of England will serve the same
purpose relatively to the modern portion; and for the History of France,
that of Eyre Evans Crowe imparts a brilliancy to perhaps the most
uninteresting of all historic records. If that is not within your reach,
Millet's History of France, in four volumes, though dull enough, is a
safe and useful school-room book, and may be read with profit
afterwards: this, too, would possess the advantage of helping you on at
the same time, or at least keeping up your knowledge of the French

It is desirable that all books from which you only want to acquire
objective information should be read in a foreign language: you thus
insensibly render yourself more permanently, and as it were habitually,
acquainted with the language in question, and carry on two studies at
the same time. If, however, you are not sufficiently acquainted with the
language to prevent any danger of a division of attention by your being
obliged to puzzle over the mere words instead of applying yourself to
the meaning of the author, you must not venture upon the attempt of
deriving a double species of knowledge from the same subject-matter: the
effect of the history as a story or picture impressed on the mind or
memory would be lost by any confusion with another object.

Sir Walter Scott's "Tales of a Grandfather" are the best history of
Scotland you could read: Robertson's may come afterwards, when you have

Of Ireland and Wales you will learn enough from their constant
connection with the affairs of England. Sismondi's History of the
Italian Republics, in the Cabinet Cyclopedia, the History of the Ottoman
Empire, in Constable's Miscellany, the rapid sketches of the histories
of Germany, Austria, and Prussia, in Voltaire's Universal History, will
be perhaps quite sufficient for this second class of histories.

The third must enter into more particular details, and thus confer a
still livelier interest upon bygone days. For instance, with reference
to ancient history, you should read some of the more remarkable of
Plutarch's Lives, those of Alexander, Caesar, Theseus, Themistocles, &c.;
the Travels of Anacharsis, the worthy results of thirty years' hard
labour of an eminent scholar:[80] the Travels of Cyrus, Telemachus,
Belisarius, and Numa Pompilius, are also, though in very different
degrees, useful and interesting. The plays of Corneille and Racine,
Alfieri, and Metastasio, on historical subjects, will make a double
impression on your memory by the excitement of your imagination. All
ought to be read about the same time that you are studying those periods
of history to which they refer. This is of much importance.

The same plan is to be pursued with reference to modern history. The
brilliant detached histories of Voltaire, Louis XIV. and XV., Charles
XII., and Peter the Great, ought to be read while the outlines of the
general history of the same period are freshly impressed on your memory.
The vivid historical pictures of De Barante are to be made the same use
of: he stands perhaps unrivalled as an objective historian.

Shakspeare's historical plays are the best accompaniment to Hume's
History of England. Our modern novels, too, will supply you with rich
and varied information, as to the manners and characters of former
times. They are a very important part of our literature, and ought to be
considered essential to the completion of your circle of study. That
they also may be rendered as useful as possible, they should be read at
the same time with the entirely true history of the period to which they

From history, I have insensibly glided into the subject of works of
fiction, one which perhaps previously requires a few words of apology;
for the strong recommendations with which I have pressed their study
upon you may sound strangely to the ears of many worthy people. In your
own enlightened and liberal mind, I do not indeed suspect the
indwelling of any such exclusive prejudices as those which forbid
altogether the perusal of works of fiction: such prejudices belong,
perhaps, to more remote periods, to those distant times when title-pages
were seen announcing "Paradise Lost, translated into prose for the
benefit of those pious souls whose consciences would not permit them to
read poetry."[81] This latter prejudice--that against poetry--seems, as
far as my observation extends, to be entirely forgotten. Fiction in this
form is now considered universally allowable; and some conscientious
persons, who would not allow themselves or others the relaxation of a
novel of any kind, will indulge unhesitatingly in the same sort of
love-stories, rendered still more exciting through the medium of poetry.
Most women, unfortunately, are incapable of carrying out the argument
from one course of action into another, or even of clearly
comprehending, when it is suggested to them, that whatever is wrong in
prose cannot be right in poetry. In a general way you will be able to
form your own judgment on this subject, by observing how much safer
prose-fiction is for yourself at times, when your feelings are excited,
and your mind unsettled and exhausted. A novel, even the most trifling
novel of fashionable life, if it has only cleverness sufficient to
engage your thoughts, would be, perhaps, a very desirable manner of
spending your time at the very period that poetry would be decidedly
injurious to you. Indeed, at all times, those who have vivid
imaginations and strong feelings should carefully guard and sparingly
indulge themselves in the perusal of poetic fictions.

If it were possible, as some say, to study poetry artistically alone,
contemplating it as a work of art, and not allowing it to excite the
affections or the passions, there is no kind of poetry that might not be
enjoyed with safety in any state of mind: it is doubtful, however,
whether any work of art ought to be so contemplated. Its excellence can
only be estimated by the degree of emotion it produces; how then can an
unimpassioned examination ever form a true estimate of its merit? When
such an inspection of any work of art can be carried through, there is
generally some fault either in the thing criticized or in the critic;
for the distinctive characteristic of art is, that it is addressed to
our _human_ nature, and excites its emotions. In the words of the great
German poet:--

    Science, O man, thou sharest with higher spirits;
    But art thou hast alone.

Pure science must be the same to all orders of created beings, but, as
far as our knowledge extends, the physical organization of humanity is
required for a perception of the beauties of art: therefore physical
excitement must be united with mental, in proportion as the work of art
is successful. Do not then hope ever to be able to study poetry without
a quickened pulse and a flushing cheek; you may as well leave it alone
altogether, if it produces no emotion. It must be either rhyme and no
poetry, or to you poetry can be nothing but rhyme.

Think not, however, that I do wish you to leave it alone altogether;
nothing could be farther from my purpose.

There is some old saying about fire being a good servant, but a bad
master. Now this is what I would say of the faculty of imagination, as
cultivated and excited by works of fiction in general, including, of
course, poetic fictions. As long as you can keep your imagination, even
though thus quickened and excited, under the strict control of religious
feeling--as long as you are able to prevent its rousing your temper to
an uncontrollable degree of susceptibility--as long as you can return
from an ideal world to the lowly duties of every-day life with a steady
purpose and unflinching determination, there can be no danger for you in
reading poetry. Perhaps you will, on the contrary, tell me that all this
is impossible, and, coward-like, you may prefer resigning the pleasure
to encountering the difficulties of struggling against its consequences:
but this is not the way either to strengthen your character or to form
your mind. All cultivation requires watchfulness and additional
precautions, either more or less: you must not, for the sake of a few
superable difficulties, resign the otherwise unattainable refinement
effected by poetry. Besides, its exalting and ennobling influence, if
properly understood and employed, will help you incalculably over the
rugged paths of your daily life; it will shed softening and hallowing
gleams over many things that you would otherwise find difficult to
endure, many duties otherwise too hard to fulfil; for there is poetry in
every thing that is really good and true. Happy those practical students
of its beauties who have learned to track the ore beneath the most
unpromising surfaces! Poetry, I look upon, in fact, as the most
essential, the most vital part of the cultivation of your mind, as from
its spirit your character will receive the most beneficial influence:
you must learn the double lesson of extracting it from every thing, and
of throwing it around every thing; and, for the better attainment of
this object, you must study it in itself, that you may become deeply
imbued with its spirit.

Along with the poetry of every age and of every nation, I would have you
diligently study the criticisms of the masters of the art. It is true
that the intimate knowledge of all that has been written on this
hackneyed subject will never supply the want of natural poetic taste, of
that union of mental and moral refinement which produces the only
infallible touchstone of the beautiful; still such criticisms will tend
to refine and sharpen a natural taste, where it does exist; and without
bringing its technical rules practically to bear upon the objects of
your delighted admiration,[82] they will insensibly improve, refine, and
subtilize the natural delicacy of your perceptions.

No criticisms can perhaps equal the masterly ones of Frederick Schlegel,
or those of the less powerful but not less rich mind of Augustus William
Schlegel,"--those two wonderful brothers," as a modern litterateur has
justly called them. Leigh Hunt, with perhaps more poetic originality,
but with less accuracy of aesthetical perception, will be a useful guide
to you in English poetry. Burke's "Treatise on the Sublime and
Beautiful" will give you the most correct general ideas on the subject
of taste. These are always best and most influential after they have
been for some time assimilated with the forms of the mind. It is a far
more useful exercise to apply them yourself to individual cases than
merely to lend your attention, though carefully and fixedly, to the
applications made for you by the writer. Alison's "Essay on Taste,"
though interesting and improving, saves too much trouble to the reader
in this way.

Your enjoyment and appreciation of poetry will be much heightened by
having it read aloud,--by yourself to yourself, if you should have no
other sympathizing reader or listener.

The sound of the metre is essential to the full _sense_ of the meaning
and of the beauty of all poetry. Even the rhymeless flow of blank verse
is absolutely necessary to an accurate and entire perception of the
effect the author intends to produce: it is in both cases as the
colouring to a picture. It may be, indeed, that part of the composition
which appeals most directly to the senses; but all the works of art must
be imperfect which do not make this appeal; for, as I said before, all
works of art are intended to affect our _human_ nature.

A well-practised _eye_ will, it is true, detect in a moment either the
faults or the excellence of the rhyme or the flow; but the effect on the
mind cannot be the same as when the impression is received through the

Nor is the fuller appreciation of the poetry you read aloud the only
advantage to be derived from the practice I recommend. Few
accomplishments are more rare, though few more desirable, than that of
reading aloud with ease and grace. Great are the sufferings inflicted on
a sensitive ear by listening to one's favourite passages, touching in
pathos, or glorious in sublimity, travestied into twaddle by the false
taste or the want of practice of the reader. For it is not always from
false taste that the species of reading above complained of proceeds; on
the contrary, there may be a very correct perception of the writer's
meaning and object, while from want of practice, from mere mechanical
inexpertness, there may be an incapability of giving effect to that
meaning: hence arises false emphasis, and a thousand other

In this art, this important art of reading aloud, simplicity ought to be
the grand object of attainment, at the same time that it is the last
that can be attained. It is a point to reach after long efforts; not to
start from, as those of uncultivated or artificial taste would imagine.
I must repeat, that it cannot be acquired without persevering practice.
The best time to set vigorously about such practice would be when you
have but just listened with dismay to the injuries inflicted on some
favourite poet by the laboured or tasteless reading of an unpractised

From reading aloud, I pass on to a still more important subject,--that
of writing: both are intimately connected branches of the main
one--cultivation of the mind. When this latter is attained in the first
place, a slight individual direction of previously acquired powers will
enable you to succeed in both the former. In your own case, however, as
in that of all those who have not the active organisation which involves
great facilities for mechanical efforts, it will be quite necessary to
give a special direction to your studies for the attainment of any
degree of excellence in both those arts. Those, on the contrary, whose
organization is more lively and vigorous, and whose nature and habits
fit them more for action than thought, will find little difficulty in
making any degree of cultivation of mind an immediate stepping-stone to
the other attainments: such persons can read at once with force and
truth as soon as education has given them accurate perceptions; they
will also write with ease, rapidity, and energy, as soon as the mind is
furnished with suitable materials. This is a kind of superiority which
you may often be inclined to envy, at least until experience has taught
you, in the first place, that the law of compensation is universal, and
in the second, that every thing is doubly valuable which is acquired
through hard labour and many struggles. For the first, you may observe
that such persons as possess naturally the mechanical facilities of
which I have spoken will never attain to an equal degree of excellence
with those whose naturally soft and inactive organization obliges them
to labour over every step of their onward way. They can, I repeat, never
attain to the same degree of excellence, either in feeling or
expression, because they do not possess the same refined delicacy of
perceptions, the same deep thoughtfulness and intuitive wisdom, as those
who owe these advantages to the very organization from which they
otherwise suffer. This is another illustration of the universal
law--that action is always in inverse proportion to power. For the
second, you will find that there is a pleasure in overcoming
difficulties, compared with which all easily attained or naturally
possessed advantages appear tame and vapid:[83] and besides the
difference in the pleasurable excitement of the contest, you are to
consider the advantage to the character that is derived from a battle
and a victory.

When I speak to you of writing, and of your attaining to excellence in
this art, I have nothing in view but the improvement of your private
letters. It can seldom be desirable for a woman to challenge public
criticism by appearing before the world as an author. "My wife does not
write poetry, she lives it," was the reply of Richter, when his
highly-gifted Caroline was applied to for literary contributions to her
sister's publications. He described in these words the real nature of a
woman's duties. Any degree of avoidable publicity must lessen her peace
and happiness; and few circumstances can make it prudent for a woman to
give up retirement and retired duties, and subject herself to public
criticism, and probably public blame.

The writing, then, in which I have advised you to accomplish yourself,
is the epistolary style alone, at once a means of communicating pleasure
to your friends, and of conferring extensive and permanent benefits upon
them. How useful has the kind, judicious, well-timed letter of a
Christian friend often proved, even when the spoken word of the same
friend might, during circumstances of excitement, have only increased
imprudence or irritation!

Few printed books have effected more good than the private
correspondence of pious, well-educated, and strong-minded persons.
Indeed, the influence exercised by letters and conversation is so much
the peculiar and appropriate sphere of a woman's usefulness, that all
her studies should be pursued with an especial view to the attainment of
these accomplishments. The same qualities are to be desired in both. The
utmost simplicity--for nothing can be worse than speaking as if you were
repeating a sentence out of a book, except writing a friendly letter as
if you were writing out of a book,--a great abundance and readiness of
information for the purpose of supplying a variety of illustrations, an
intelligent perception of, and a cautious attention to, that which you
are called upon to answer, a conciseness of expression, that is
perfectly consistent with those minute details, which, gracefully
managed, as women only can, form the chief charm of their conversation
and writing,--with all these you should be careful to give free play to
the peculiarities of your own individual mind: this will always, even
where there is little or no talent, produce a pleasing degree of

Before every thing else, however, let unstudied ease, I could almost add
carelessness, be the marked characteristics of both your conversation
and your writing. Refined taste will indeed insensibly produce the
former, without any effort of your own, far better than the strictest
rules could do.

The praises of nonsense have been often written and often spoken; nor
can it ever be praised more than it deserves. However "within its magic
circle none dare walk"[84] but those who have naturally quick and
refined perceptions, assisted by careful cultivation. Narrow indeed is
the boundary which divides unfeminine flippancy from the graceful
nonsense which good authority and our own feelings pronounce to be
"exquisite."[85] The unsuccessful attempt at its imitation always
reminds me of Pilpay's fable of the Donkey and the Lapdog:--The poor
donkey, who had been going on very usefully in its own drudging way,
began to envy the lap-dog the caresses it received, and fancied that it
would receive the same if it jumped upon its master as the lap-dog did:
how awkwardly and unnaturally its attempts at playfulness were executed,
how unwelcome they proved, I need not tell you. Nothing is more
difficult than playfulness or even vivacity of manner--nothing is so
sure a test of good breeding and high cultivation of mind; either may
carry you safely through, but their union alone can render playfulness
and vivacity entirely fascinating.

After all that I have written, I must again repeat what I began
with,--that you are to try each different mode of study for yourself,
and that the advice of others will be of use to you only when you have
assimilated it with your own mind, testing it by your own practice, and
giving it the fair trial of _patient_ perseverance.

I ought perhaps, before I close this letter, to make some apology for
recommending, as a part of your course of study, either Rollin or Hume,
one because he is "_trop bon homme_,"[86] the other because he is not
"_bon_" in any sense of the word. My apology, or rather my reason, will,
however, be only a repetition of that which I have said before, viz.
that I should wish you to read history strictly, and merely, as a story,
and to form your _own_ philosophic and religious opinions previously,
and from other sources.

So many valuable and important histories, so many necessary books on
every subject, have been written by the professed infidel, as well as by
the practical forgetter of God, that you must prepare yourself for a
constant state of intellectual watchfulness, as to all the various
opinions suggested by the different authors you study. It is not their
opinions you want, but their facts. Most standard histories, even Hume
and Voltaire, tell truth as to all leading facts: after half-a-century
or so of filtration, truth becomes purified from contemporary passions
and prejudices, and can be easily got at without any importantly
injurious mixture.

It was to mark my often-repeated wish that you should _philosophize_ for
yourself, that I have omitted the names of Guizot and Hallam in the list
of authors recommended for your perusal. With the tastes which I suppose
you to possess and to acquire, you will not be likely to leave them out
of your own list. The histories of Arnold and Niebuhr also belong to a
distinct class of writings. I should prefer your being intimately
acquainted with the so-called poetical histories which have been so
long received and loved, before you interest yourself in these modern

The lectures of Dr. Arnold upon Modern History contain, however, such a
treasure of brilliant philosophy, of deep thought and forcible writing,
that the sooner you begin them, and the more intimately you study them,
the better pleased I should be. With respect to his singular views on
religion and politics, you must always keep carefully in mind that his
peculiar mental organization incapacitated him from forming correct
opinions on any subject connected with imagination or metaphysics. You
will soon be able to trace the manner in which the absence of these two
powers affected all his reasonings, and closed up his mind against the
most important species of evidence. I carry on the supposition that you
have formed, or will form, all your views on religion and politics from
your own judgment, assisted by the experience of those whose mind you
know to be qualified by their many-sidedness to judge clearly and
impartially--upon universal, not _partial_ data. Remember, at the same
time, however, that you belong to a church which professedly protests
against popes of every description, against the unscriptural practice of
calling any man "Father upon earth." May you attend diligently, and in a
child-like spirit of submission, to the teaching of that Holy and
Apostolic Church, and there will then be no danger of your being led
astray either by the infidel Hume or the sainted Arnold.

Finally, I would again refer to that subject which ought to be the
beginning and end, the foundation and crowning-point of all our studies.
Let "whatever you do be done to the glory of God."[87] Earthly motives,
if pure and amiable ones, may hold a subordinate place; but unless the
mainspring of your actions be the desire "to glorify your Father which
is in heaven," you will find no real peace in life, no blessedness in
death. As one likely means of keeping this primary object of your life
constantly before you, I should strongly recommend your making the
cultivation and improvement of your mental powers the subject of special
prayer at all the appointed seasons of prayer; at the same time, your
studies themselves should never be entered upon without prayer,--prayer,
that the evil mingled with all earthly things may fall powerless on your
sanctified heart,--prayer, that any improvement you obtain may make you
a more useful servant of the Lord your God--more persuasive and
influential in that great work which in different ways is appropriated
to all in their several spheres of action, viz. the high and holy office
of winning souls to Christ.[88]


[77] Coleridge.

[78] Assembly's Catechism.

[79] Plebeii videntur appellandi omnes philosophi qui a Platone et
Socrate et ab ea familia dissiderent.--CICERO, _Tuscul._ 1, 2, 3.

[80] L'Abbe Barthelemi.

[81] Quarterly Review.

[82] The critic who suffers his philosophy to reason away his pleasure
is not much wiser than a child who cuts open his drum to see what is
within it that causes the music.--_Edinburgh Review_.

[83] Ce n'est pas la victoire, c'est le combat qui fait le bonheur des
nobles coeurs.--_Montalembert_.

Si le Tout-puissant tenait dans une main la verite, et dans l'autre la
recherche de la verite, c'est la recherche que je lui demanderais.

[84] Dryden, of Shakspeare.

[85] Miss Ferrier. Mrs. H.E.

[86] Napoleon's remark on Rollin's History.

[87] 1 Cor. x. 31.

[88] 1 Pet. iii. 1.



In addressing the following observations to you, I keep in mind the
peculiarity of your position,--a position which has made you, while
scarcely more than a child, independent of external control, and forced
you into the responsibilities of deciding thus early on a course of
conduct that may seriously affect your temporal and eternal interests.
More happy are those placed under the authority of strict parents, who
have already chosen and marked out for themselves a path to which they
expect their children strictly to adhere. The difficulties that may
still perplex the children of such parents are comparatively few: even
if the strictness of the authority over them be inexpedient and over
strained, it affords them a safeguard and a support for which they
cannot be too grateful; it preserves them from the responsibility of
acting for themselves at a time when their age and inexperience alike
unfit them for a decision on any important practical point; it keeps
them disengaged, as it were, from being pledged to any peculiar course
of conduct until they have formed and matured their opinion as to the
habits of social intercourse most expedient for them to adopt. Thus,
when the time for independent action comes, they are quite free to
pursue any new course of life without being shackled by former
professions, or exposing themselves to the reproach (and consequent
probable loss of influence) of having altered their former opinions and

Those, then, who are early guarded from any intercourse with the world
ought, instead of murmuring at the unnecessary strictness of their
seclusion, to reflect with gratitude on the advantages it affords them.
Faith ought, even now, to teach them the lesson that experience is sure
to impress on every thoughtful mind, that it is a special mercy to be
preserved from the duties of responsibility until we are, comparatively
speaking, fitted to enter upon them.

This is not, however, the case with you. Ignorant and inexperienced as
you are, you must now select, from among all the modes of life placed
within your reach, those which you consider the best suited to secure
your welfare for time and for eternity. Your decision now, even in very
trifling particulars, must have some effect upon your state in both
existences. The most unimportant event of this life carries forward a
pulsation into eternity, and acquires a solemn importance from the
reaction. Every feeling which we indulge or act upon becomes a part of
ourselves, and is a preparation, by our own hand, of a scourge or a
blessing for us throughout countless ages.

It may seem a matter of comparative unimportance, of trifling influence
over your future fate, whether you attend Lady A.'s ball to-night, or
Lady H.'s to-morrow. You may argue to yourself that even those who now
think balls entirely sinful have attended hundreds of them in their
time, and have nevertheless become afterwards more religious and more
useful than others who have never entered a ball-room. You might add,
that there could be more positive sin in passing two or three hours with
two or three people in Lady A's house in the morning than in passing the
same number of hours with two or three hundred people in the same house
in the evening. This is indeed true; but are you not deceiving yourself
by referring to the mere overt act? That is, as you imply, past and over
when the evening is past; but it is not so with the feelings which _may_
make the ball either delightful or disagreeable to you; feelings, which
may be then for the first time excited, never to be stilled
again,--feelings which, when they once exist, will remain with you
throughout eternity; for even if by the grace of God they are finally
subdued, they will still remain with you in the memory of the painful
conflicts, the severe discipline of inward and outward trials, required
for their subjugation. Do not, however, suppose that I mean to attribute
exclusive or universally injurious effects to the atmosphere of a
ball-room. In the innocent smiles and unclouded brow of many a fair
girl, the experienced eye truly reads their freedom from any taint of
envy, malice, or coquetry; while, on the other hand, unmistakeable and
unconcealed exhibitions of all these evil feelings may often be
witnessed at a so-called "religious party."

This remark, however, is not to my purpose; it is only made _par
parenthese_, to obviate any pretence for mistaking my meaning, and for
supposing that I attribute positive sin to that which I only object to
as the possible, or rather the probable occasion of sin. I always think
this latter distinction a very important one to attend to in discussing,
in a more general point of view, the subject of amusements of every
kind: it is, however, enough merely to notice it here, while we pass on
to the question which I urge upon you to apply personally to yourself,
namely, whether the ball-room be not a more favourable atmosphere for
the first excitement and after-cultivation of many feminine failings
than the quieter and more confined scenes of other social intercourse.

It is by tracing the effect produced on our own mind that we can alone
form a safe estimate of the expediency of doubtful occupations. This is
the primary point of view in which to consider the subject, though by no
means the only one; for every Christian ought to exhibit a readiness in
his own small sphere to emulate the unselfishness of the great apostle:
"If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world
standeth, lest I make my brother to offend."[89] The fear of the awful
threatenings against those who "offend," _i.e._ lead into sin, any of
"God's little ones,"[90] should combine with love for those for whom the
Saviour died, to induce us freely to sacrifice things which would be
personally harmless, on the ground of their being injurious to others.

This part of the subject is, however, of less importance for our present
consideration, as from your youth and inexperience your example cannot
yet exercise much influence on those around you.

Let us therefore return to the more personal part of the subject,
namely, the effect produced on your own mind. I have spoken of feminine
"failings:" I should, however, be inclined to apply a stronger term to
the first that I am about to notice--the love of admiration, considering
how closely it must ever be connected with the fatal vice of envy. She
who has an earnest craving for general admiration for herself, is
exposed to a strong temptation to regret the bestowal of any admiration
on another. She has an instinctive exactness in her account of receipt
and expenditure; she calculates almost unconsciously that the time and
attention and interest excited by the attractive powers of others is so
much homage subtracted from her own. That beautiful aphorism, "The human
heart is like heaven--the more angels the more room for them," is to
such persons as unintelligible in its loving spirit as in its wonderful
philosophic truth. Their craving is insatiable, once it has become
habitual, and their appetite is increased and stimulated, instead of
being appeased, by the anxiously-sought-for nourishment.

These observations can only strictly apply to the fatal desire for
general admiration. As long as the approbation only of the wise and good
is our object, it is not so much that there are fewer opportunities of
exciting the feeling of envy at this approbation being granted to
others; there is, further, an instinctive feeling of its incompatibility
with the very object we are aiming at. The case is altogether different
when we seek to attract those whose admiration may be won by qualities
quite different from any connected with moral excellence. There is here
no restraint on our evil feelings: and when we cannot equal the
accomplishments, the beauty, and the graces of another, we may possibly
be tempted to envy, and, still further, to depreciate, those of the
hated rival--perhaps, worse than all, may be tempted to seek to attract
attention by means less simple and less obvious. If the receiving of
admiration be injurious to the mind, what must the seeking for it be!
"The flirt of many seasons" loses all mental perceptions of refinement
by long practice in hardihood, as the hackneyed practitioner
unconsciously deepens the rouge upon her cheek, until, unperceived by
her blunted visual organs, it loses all appearance of truth and beauty.
Some instances of the kind I allude to nave come before even your
inexperienced eyes; and from the shrinking surprise with which you now
contemplate them, I have no doubt that you would wish to shun even the
first step in the same career. Indeed, it is probable that you, under
any circumstances, would never go so far in coquetry as those to whom
your memory readily recurs. Your innate delicacy, your feminine
high-mindedness may, at any future time, as well as at present, preserve
you from the bad taste of challenging those attentions which your very
vanity would reject as worthless if they were not voluntarily offered.

Nevertheless, even in you, habits of dissipation may produce an effect
which to your inmost being may be almost equally injurious. You may
possess an antidote to prevent any external manifestations of the
poisonous effects of an indulged craving for excitement; but general
admiration, however spontaneously offered and modestly received, has
nevertheless a tendency to create a necessity for mental stimulants.
This, among other ill-effects, will, worst of all, incapacitate you from
the appreciative enjoyment of healthy food.

    The heart that with its luscious cates
      The world has fed so long,
    Could never taste the simple food
    That gives fresh virtue to the good,
      Fresh vigour to the strong.[91]

The pure and innocent pleasures which the hand of Providence diffuses
plentifully around us will, too probably, become tasteless and insipid
to one whose habits of excitement have destroyed the fresh and simple
tastes of her mind. Stronger doses, as in the case of the opium-eater,
will each day be required to produce an exhilarating effect, without
which there is now no enjoyment, without which, in course of time, there
will not be even freedom from suffering.

There is an analogy throughout between the mental and the physical
intoxication; and it continues most strikingly, even when we consider
both in their most favourable points of view, by supposing the victim to
self-indulgence at last willing to retrace her steps. This fearful
advantage is granted to our spiritual enemy by wilful indulgence in sin;
that it is only when trying to adopt or resume a life of sobriety and
self-denial that we become exposed to the severest temporal punishments
of self-indulgence. As long as a course of this self-indulgence is
continued, if external things should prosper with us, comparative peace
and happiness may be enjoyed--(if indeed the loftier pleasures of
devotion to God, self-control, and active usefulness can be
forgotten,--supposing them to have been once experienced.) It is only
when the grace of repentance is granted that the returning child of God
becomes at the same time alive to the sinfulness of those pleasures
which she has cultivated the habit of enjoying, and to the mournful fact
of having lost all taste for those simple pleasures which are the only
safe ones, because they alone leave the mind free for the exercise of
devotion, and the affections warm and fresh for the contemplation of
"the things that belong to our peace."

Sad and dreary is the path the penitent worldling has to traverse;
often, despairing at the difficulties her former habits have brought
upon her, she looks back, longingly and lingeringly, upon the broad and
easy path she has lately left. Alas! how many of those thus tempted to
"look back" have turned away entirely, and never more set their faces

From the dangers and sorrows just described you have still the power of
preserving yourself. You have as yet acquired no factitious tastes; you
still retain the power of enjoying the simple pleasures of innocent
childhood. It now depends upon your manner of spending the intervening
years, whether, in the trying period of middle-age, simple and natural
pleasures will still awaken emotions of joyousness and thankfulness in
your heart.

I have spoken of thankfulness,--for one of the best tests of the
innocence and safety of our pleasures is, the being able to thank God
for them. While we thus look upon them as coming to us from his hand, we
may safely bask in the sunshine of even earthly pleasures:--

    The colouring may be of this earth,
    The lustre comes of heavenly birth.[92]

Can you feel this with respect to the emotions of pleasurable excitement
with which you left Lady M.'s ball? I am no fanatic, nor ascetic; and I
can imagine it possible (though not probable) that among the visitors
there some simple-minded and simple-hearted people, amused with the
crowds, the dresses, the music, and the flowers, may have felt, even in
this scene of feverish and dangerous excitement, something of "a child's
pure delight in little things."[93] Without profaneness, and in all
sincerity, they might have thanked God for the, to them, harmless

This I suppose possible in the case of some, but for you it is not so.
The keen susceptibilities of your excitable nature will prevent your
resting contented without sharing in the more exciting pleasures of the
ball-room; and your powers of adaptation will easily tempt you forward
to make use of at least some of those means of attracting general
admiration which seem to succeed so well with others.

"Wherever there is life there is danger;" and the danger is probably in
proportion to the degree of life. The more energy, the more feeling, the
more genius possessed by an individual, the greater also are the
temptations to which that individual is exposed. The path which is safe
and harmless for the dull and inexcitable--the mere animals of the human
race--is beset with dangers for the ardent, the enthusiastic, the
intellectual. These must pay a heavy penalty for their superiority; but
is it therefore a superiority they would resign? Besides, the very
trials and temptations to which their superior vitality subjects them
are not alone its necessary accompaniment, but also the necessary means
for forming a superior character into eminent excellence.

Self-will, love of pleasure, quick excitability, and consequent
irritability, are the marked ingredients in every strong character; its
strength must be employed against itself to produce any high moral

There is an analogy between the metaphysical truths above spoken of and
that fact in the physical history of the world, that coal-mines are
generally placed in the neighbourhood of iron-mines. This is a provision
involved in the nature of the thing itself; and we know that, without
the furnaces thus placed within reach, the natural capabilities of the
useful ore would never be developed.

In the same way, we know that an accompanying furnace of affliction and
temptation is necessarily involved in that very strength of character
which we admire; and also, that, without this fiery furnace, the vast
capabilities of their nature, both moral and mental, could never be
fully developed.

Suffering, sorrow, and temptations are the invariable conditions of a
life of progress; and suffering, sorrow, and temptations are all of them
always in proportion to the energies and capabilities of the character.

There is another analogy in animated nature, illustrative of the case of
those who, without injury to themselves, (the injury to our neighbour
is, as I said before, a different part of the subject,) may attend the
ball-room, the theatre, and the race-course. Those animals lowest in the
scale of creation, those who scarcely manifest one of the energies of
vitality, are also those which are the least susceptible of suffering
from external causes. The medusae are supposed to feel no pain even in
being devoured, and the human zoophyte is, in like manner, comparatively
out of the reach of every suffering but death. Have you not seen some
beings endowed with humanity nearly as destitute of a nervous system as
the medusae, nearly as insusceptible of any sensation from the accidents
of life. Some of these, too, may possess virtue and piety as well as the
animal qualities of patience and sweetness of temper, which are the mere
results of their physical organization. No degree of effort or
discipline, however, (indeed they bear within themselves no capabilities
for either,) could enable such persons to become eminently useful,
eminently respected, or eminently loved. They have doubtless some work
appointed them to do, and that a necessary work in God's earthly
kingdom; but theirs are inferior duties, very different from those which
you, and such as you, are called on to fulfil.

Have I in any degree succeeded in reconciling you to the
unvaryingly-accompanying penalties necessary to qualify the glad
consciousness of possessing intellectual powers, a warm heart, and a
strong mind? Your high position will indeed afford you far less
happiness than that which may belong to the lower ranks in the scale of
humanity; but the noble mind will soon be disciplined into dispensing
with happiness;--it will find instead--blessedness.

If yours be a more difficult path than that of others, it is also a more
honourable one: in proportion to the temptations endured will be the
brightness of that "crown of life which the Lord hath promised to them
that love him."[94]

But there is, perhaps, less necessity for trying to impress upon your
mind a sense of your superiority than for urging upon you its
accompanying responsibility, and the severe circumspection it calls upon
you to exercise. Thus, from what I have above written, it necessarily
follows that you cannot evade the question I am now pressing upon you by
observing the effect of dissipation upon others, by bringing forward the
example of many excellent women who have passed through the ordeal of
dissipation untainted, and, still themselves possessing loving hearts
and simple minds, are fearlessly preparing their daughters for the same
dangerous course. Remember that those from whom you would shrink from a
supposed equality on other points cannot be safely taken as examples for
your own course of life. Your own concern is to ascertain the effect
produced upon your own mind by different kinds of society, and to
examine whether you yourself have the same healthy taste for simple
pleasures and unexciting pursuits as before you engaged, even as
slightly as you have already done, in the dissipation of a London

I once heard a young lady exclaim, when asked to accompany her family on
a boating excursion, "Can any thing be more tiresome than a family
party?" Young as she was, she had already lost all taste for the simple
pleasures of domestic life. As she was intellectual and accomplished,
she could still enjoy solitude; but her only ideas of pleasure as
connected with a party were those of admiration and excitement. We may
trace the same feelings in the complaints perpetually heard of the
stupidity of parties,--complaints generally proceeding from those who
are too much accustomed to attention and admiration to be contented with
the unexciting pleasures of rational conversation, the exercise of
kindly feelings, and the indulgence of social habits--all in their way
productive of contentment to those who have preserved their mind in a
state of freshness and simplicity. Any greater excitement than that
produced by the above means cannot surely be profitable to those who
only seek in society for so much pleasure as will afford them
_relaxation_; those who engage in an arduous conflict with ever-watchful
enemies both within and without ought carefully to avoid having their
weapons of defence _unstrung_. I know that at present you would shrink
from the idea of making pleasure your professed pursuit, from the idea
of engaging in it for any other purpose but the one above stated--that
of necessary relaxation; I should not otherwise have addressed you as I
do now. Your only danger at present is, that you may, I should hope
indeed unconsciously, _acquire_ the habit of requiring excitement during
your hours of relaxation.

In opposition to all that I have said, you will probably be often told
that excitement, instead of being prejudicial, is favourable to the
health of both mind and body; and this in some respects is true: the
whole mental and physical constitution benefit by, and acquire new
energy from, nay, they seem to develop hidden forces on occasions of
natural excitement; but natural it ought to be, coming in the
providential course of the events of life, and neither considered as an
essential part of daily food, nor inspiring distaste for simple,
ordinary nourishment. I fear much, on the other hand, any excitement
that we choose for ourselves; that only is quite safe which is dispensed
to us by the hand of the Great Physician of souls: he alone knows the
exact state of our moral constitution, and the exact species of
discipline it requires from hour to hour.

You will wonder, perhaps, that throughout the foregoing remonstrance I
have never recommended to you the test so common among many good people
of our acquaintance, viz. whether you are able to pray as devoutly on
returning from a ball as after an evening spent at home? My reason for
this silence was, that I have found the test an ineffectual one. The
advanced Christian, if obedience to those who are set in authority over
her should lead her into scenes of dissipation, will not find her mind
disturbed by being an unwilling actor in the uninteresting amusements.
She, on the other hand, who is just beginning a spiritual life, must be
an incompetent judge of the variations in the devotional spirit of her
mind,--anxious, besides, as one should be to discourage any of that
minute attention to variations of religious feeling which only disturbs
and harasses the mind, and hinders it from concentrating its efforts
upon obedience. Lastly, she who has never been mindful of her baptismal
vows of renunciation of the world, the flesh, and the devil, will "say
her prayers" quite as satisfactorily to herself after a day spent in one
manner as in another. The test of a distaste for former simple
pursuits, and want of interest in them, is a much safer one, more
universally applicable, and not so easily evaded. It is equally
effectual, too, as a religious safeguard; for the natural and
impressible state in which the mind is kept by the absence of habitual
stimulants is surely the state in which it is best qualified for the
exercise of devotion,--for self-denial, for penitence and prayer.

Let us return now to a further examination of the nature of the dangers
to which you may be exposed by a life of gayety--an examination that
must be carried on in your own mind with careful and anxious inquiry. I
have before spoken of the duty of ascertaining what effects different
kinds of society produce upon you: it is only by thus qualifying
yourself to pass your _own_ judgment on this important subject that you
can avoid being dangerously influenced by those assertions that you hear
made by others. You will probably, for instance, be told that a love of
admiration often manifests itself as glaringly in the quiet drawing-room
as in the crowded ball-room; and I readily admit that the feelings
cherished into existence, or at least into vigour, by the exciting
atmosphere of the latter cannot be readily laid aside with the
ball-dress. There will, indeed, be less opportunity for their display,
less temptation to the often accompanying feelings of envy and
discontent, but the mental process will probably still be carried on--of
distilling from even the most innocent pleasures but one species of
dangerous excitement: I cannot, however, admit, that to the
unsophisticated mind there will be any danger of the same nature in the
one case as in the other. Society, when entered into with a simple,
prayerful spirit, may be considered one of the most improving as well as
one of the most innocent pleasures allotted to us. Still further, I
believe that the exercise of patience, benevolence, and self-denial
which it involves, is a most important part of the disciplining process
by which we are being brought into a state of preparation for the
society of glorified spirits, of "just men made perfect."

I advise you earnestly, therefore, against any system of conduct, or
indulgence of feeling, that would involve your seclusion from
society--not only on the grounds of such seclusion obliging you to
unnecessary self-denial, but on the still stronger grounds of the loss
to our moral being which would result from the absence of the peculiar
species of discipline that social intercourse affords. My object in
addressing you is to point out the dangers to you of peculiar kinds of
society, not by any means to seek to persuade you to avoid it

Let us, then, consider carefully the respective tendencies of different
kinds of society to cherish or create the feelings of "envy, hatred, and
malice, and all uncharitableness," by exciting a craving for general
admiration, and a desire to secure the largest portion for yourself.

You have already been a few weeks out in the world; you have been at
small social parties and crowded balls: they must have given you
sufficient experience to understand the remarks I make.

Have you not, then, felt at the quiet parties of which I have spoken (as
contrasted with dissipated ones) that it was pleasure enough for you to
spend your whole evening talking with persons of your own sex and age
over the simple occupations oL your daily-life, or the studies which
engage the interest of your already cultivated mind? Lady L. may have
collected a circle of admirers around her, and Miss M.'s music may have
been extolled as worthy of an artist, but upon all this you looked
merely as a spectator; without either wish or idea of sharing in their
publicity or their renown, you probably did not form a thought,
certainly not a wish, of the kind. In the ball-room, however, the case
is altogether different; the most simple and fresh-minded woman cannot
escape from feelings of pain or regret at being neglected or unobserved
here. She goes for the professed purpose of dancing; and when few or no
opportunities are afforded her of sharing in that which is the amusement
of the rest of the room, should she feel neither mortification at her
own position, nor envy, however disguised and modified, at the different
position of others, she can possess none of that sensitiveness which is
your distinctive quality. It is true, indeed, that the experienced
chaperon is well aware that the girl who commands the greatest number of
partners is not the one most likely to have the greatest number of
proposals-at the end of the season, nor the one who will finally make
the most successful _parti_. This reconciles the prudential looker-on to
the occasional and partial appearance of neglect. Not so the young and
inexperienced aspirant to admiration: _her_ worldliness is now in an
earlier phase; and she thinks that her fame rises or falls among her
companions according as she can compete with them in the number of her
partners, or their exclusive devotion to her, which after a season or
two is discovered to be a still safer test of successful coquetry. Thus
may the young innocent heart be gradually led on to depend for its
enjoyment on the factitious passing admiration of a light and
thoughtless hour; and still worse, if possessed of keen susceptibilities
and powers of quick adaptation, the lesson is often too easily learned
of practising the arts likely to attract notice, thus losing for ever
the simplicity and modest freshness of a woman's nature. That may be a
fatal evening to you on which you will first attract sufficient notice
to have it said of you that you were more admired than Lucy D. or Ellen
M.; this may be a moment for a poisonous plant to spring up in your
heart, which will spread around its baleful influence until your dying
day. It is a disputed point among ethical metaphysicians, whether the
seeds of every vice are equally planted in each human bosom, and only
prevented from germinating by opposing circumstances, and by the grace
of God assisting self-control. If this be true, how carefully ought we
to avoid every circumstance that may favour the commencing existence of
before unknown sins and temptations. The grain that has been destitute
of vitality for a score of centuries is wakened into unceasing, because
continually renewed existence, by the fostering influences of light and
air and a suitable soil. Evil tendencies may be slumbering in your
bosom, as destitute of life, as incapable of growth, as the oats in the
foldings of the mummy's envelope. Be careful lest, by going into the way
of temptation, you may involuntarily foster them into the very existence
which they would otherwise never possess.

When once the craving for excitement has become a part of our nature,
there is of course no safety in the quietest, or, under other
circumstances, most innocent kind of society. The same amusements will
be sought for in it as those which have been enjoyed in the ball-room,
and every company will be considered insufferably wearisome which does
not furnish the now necessary stimulant of exclusive attention and
general admiration.

I write the more strongly to you on the subject of worldly amusements,
because I see with regret a tendency in the writings and conversation of
the religious world, as it is called, to extol every other species of
self-denial, but to Observe a studied silence respecting this one.

A reaction seems to have taken place in the public mind. Instead of the
puritanic strictness that condemned the meeting of a few friends for any
purposes besides those of reading the Scriptures and praying extempore,
practices are now introduced, and favoured, and considered harmless,
almost as strongly contrasted with the former ones as was the
promulgation of the Book of Sports with the strict observances that
preceded it. We see some, of whose piety and excellence no doubt can be
entertained, mingling unhesitatingly in the most worldly amusements of
those who are by profession as well as practice "lovers of pleasure more
than lovers of God."

How cruelly are the minds of the simple and the timid perplexed by the
persons who thus act, as well as by those popular writings which
countenance in professedly religious persons these worldly and
self-indulgent habits of life. The hearts and the consciences of the
"weak brethren" re-echo the warnings given them by the average opinions
of the wise and good in all ages of the world, namely, that, with
respect to worldly amusements, they must "come out and be separate." How
else can they be sons and daughters of Him, to whom they vowed, as the
necessary condition of entering into that high relationship, that they
would "renounce the pomps and vanities of this wicked world?" If the
question of pomps should be perplexing to some by the different
requirements of different stations in life, there is surely less
difficulty of the same kind in relation to its vanities. But while the
"weak in faith" are hesitating and trembling at the thought of all the
opposition and sacrifices a self-denying course of conduct must, under
any circumstances, involve, they are still further discouraged by
finding that some whom they are accustomed to respect and admire have in
appearance gone over to the enemy's camp.

It is only, indeed, in their hours of relaxation that they select as
their favourite companions those who are professedly engaged in a
different service from their own--those whom they know to be devoted
heart and soul to the love and service of that "world which lieth in
wickedness."[95] Are not, however, their hours of relaxation also their
hours of danger--those in which they are more likely to be surprised and
overcome by temptation than in hours of study or of business? All this
is surely very perplexing to the young and inexperienced, however
personally safe and prudent it may be for those from whom a better
example might have been justly expected. It is deeply to be regretted
that there is not more unity of action and opinion among those who "love
the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity," more especially in cases where such
unity of action is only interfered with by dislike to the important and
eminent Christian duty of self-denial.

I am inclined to apply terms of stronger and more general condemnation
than any I have hitherto used to those amusements which are more
especially termed "public."

You should carefully examine, with prayer to be guided aright, whether a
voluntary attendance at the theatre or the race-course is not in a
degree exposed to the solemn denunciation uttered by the Saviour against
those who cause others to offend.[96] Can that relaxation be a part of
the education to fit us for our eternal home which is regardless of
danger to the spiritual interests of others, and acts upon the spirit of
the haughty remonstrance of Cain--"Am I my brother's keeper?"[97] For
all the details of this argument, I refer you to Wilberforce's
"Practical View of Christianity." Many other writers besides have
treated this subject ably and convincingly; but none other has ever been
so satisfactory to my own mind: I think it will be so to yours. I am
aware that much may be said in defence of the expediency of the
amusements to which I refer; and as there is a certainty that both of
them, or others of a similar nature, will meet with general support
until "the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of the Lord and of
his Christ,"[98] it is a compensatory satisfaction that they are neither
of them without their advantages to the general welfare of the country;
that good is mixed with their evil, as well as brought out of their
evil. This does not, however, serve as an excuse for those who, having
their mind and judgment enlightened to see the dangers to others and the
temptations to themselves of attending such amusements, should still
disfigure lives, it may be, in other respects, of excellence and
usefulness, by giving their time, their money, and their example to
countenance and support them. Wo to those who venture to lay their
sinful human hands upon the complicated machinery of God's providence,
by countenancing the slightest shade of moral evil, because there may be
some accompanying good! We cannot look forward to a certain result from
any action: the most virtuous one may produce effects entirely different
from those which we had anticipated; and we can then only fearlessly
leave the consequences in the hands of God, when we are sure that we
have acted in strict accordance with His will. Does it become the
servant of God voluntarily to expose herself to hear contempt and
blasphemy attached to the Holy Name and the holy things which she loves;
to see on the stage an awful mockery of prayer itself, on the
race-course the despair of the ruined gambler and the debasement of the
drunkard? The choice of the scenes you frequent now, of the company you
keep now, is of an importance involved in the very nature of things,
and not dependent alone on the expressed will of God. It is only the
pure in heart who can see God.[99] It is only those who have here
acquired a meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light[100] who
can enjoy its possession.

It is almost entirely in this point of view that I have urged upon you
the close consideration of the permanent influences of every present
action. At your age, and with your inexperience, I know that there is an
especial aptness to deceive one's-self by considering the case of those
who, after leading a gay life for many years, have afterwards become the
most zealous and devoted servants of God. That such cases are to be met
with, is to the glory of the free grace of God: but what reason have you
to hope that you should be among this small number? Having once wilfully
chosen the pleasures of this life as your portion, on what promise do
you depend ever again to be awakened to a sense of the awful alternative
of fulfilling your baptismal vows, by renouncing the pomps and vanities
of the world, or becoming a withered branch of the vine into which you
were once grafted--a branch whose end is to be burned?

Without urging further upon you this hackneyed, though still awful
warning, let me return once more to the peculiar point of view in which
I have, all along, considered the subject; namely, that each present act
and feeling, however momentary may be its indulgence, is an inevitable
preparation for eternity, by becoming a part of our never-dying moral
nature. You must deeply feel how much this consideration adds to the
improbability of your having any desires whatever to become the servant
of God some years hence, and how much it must increase in future every
difficulty and every unwillingness which you at present experience.

Let us, however, suppose that God will still be merciful to you at the
last; that, after having devoted to the world during the years of your
youth that love, those energies, and those powers of mind which had been
previously vowed to his holier and happier service, he will still in
future years send you the grace of repentance; that he will effect such
a change in your heart and mind, that the world does not only become
unsatisfactory to you,--which is a very small way towards real
religion,--but that to love and serve God becomes to you the one thing
desirable above all others. Alas! it is even then, in the very hour of
redeeming mercy, of renewing grace, that your severest trials will
begin. Then first will you thoroughly experience how truly it is "an
evil thing and bitter, to forsake the Lord your God."[101] Then you will
find that every late effort at self-denial, simplicity of mind and
purpose, abstinence from worldly excitements, &c., is met, not only by
the evil instincts which belong to our nature, but by the superinduced
difficulty of opposing confirmed habits.

Smoothly and tranquilly flows on the stream of habit, and we are unaware
of its growing strength until we try to erect an obstacle in its course,
and see this obstacle swept away by the long-accumulating power of the

In truth, all those who have wilfully added the power of evil habits to
the evil tendencies of their fallen nature must expect "to go mourning
all the days of their life." It is only to those who have served the
Lord from their youth that "wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and
all her paths peace." To others, though by the grace of God they may be
finally saved, there is but a dreary prospect until the end come. They
must ever henceforth consult their safety by denying themselves many
pleasant things which the well-regulated mind of the habitually pious
may find not only safe but profitable. At the same time they sorrowfully
discover that they have lost all taste for those entirely simple
pleasures with which the path of God's obedient children is abundantly
strewn. Their path, on the contrary, is rugged, and their flowers are
few: their sun seldom shines; for they themselves have formed clouds out
of the vapours of earth, to intercept its warming and invigorating
radiance: what wonder, then, if some among them should turn it back into
the bright and sunny land of self-indulgence, now looking brighter and
more alluring than ever from its contrast with the surrounding gloom?

Let not this dangerous risk be yours. While yet young--young in habits,
in energies, in affections, devote all to the service of the best of
masters. "The work of righteousness," even now, through difficulties,
self-denial, and anxieties, will be "peace, and the effect thereof
quietness and assurance for ever."[102]


[89] 1 Cor. viii. 13.

[90] Matt. xviii. 6, 7.

[91] Milnes.

[92] Keble.

[93] French.

[94] James i. 12.

[95] 1 John v. 19.

[96] Matt. xviii. 6, 7.

[97] Gen. iv. 9.

[98] Rev. xi. 15.

[99] Matt. v. 8.

[100] Col. i. 12.

[101] Jer. ii. 19.

[102] Isa. xxxii. 19.


"Whatever may be the customs and laws of a country, women always give
the tone to morals. Whether slaves or free, they reign, because their
empire is that of the affections. This influence, however, is more or
less salutary, according to the degree of esteem in which they are
held:--they make men what they are. It seems as though Nature had made
man's intellect depend upon their dignity, as she has made his happiness
depend upon their virtue. This, then, is the law of eternal
justice,--man cannot degrade woman without himself falling into
degradation: he cannot elevate her without at the same time elevating
himself. Let us cast our eyes over the globe! Let us observe those two
great divisions of the human race, the East and the West. Half the old
world remains in a state of inanity, under the oppression of a rude
civilization: the women there are slaves; the other advances in
equalization and intelligence: the women there are free and honoured.

"If we wish, then, to know the political and moral condition of a
state, we must ask what rank women hold in it. Their influence embraces
the whole life. A wife,--a mother,--two magical words, comprising the
sweetest sources of man's felicity. Theirs is the reign of beauty, of
love, of reason. Always a reign! A man takes counsel with his wife; he
obeys his mother; he obeys her long after she has ceased to live, and
the ideas which he has received from her become principles stronger even
than his passions.

"The reality of the power is not disputed; but it may be objected that
it is confined in its operation to the family circle: as if the
aggregate of families did not constitute the nation! The man carries
with him to the forum the notions which the woman has discussed with him
by the domestic hearth. His strength there realizes what her gentle
insinuations inspired. It is sometimes urged as matter of complaint that
the business of women is confined to the domestic arrangements of the
household: and it is not recollected that from the household of every
citizen issue forth the errors and prejudices which govern the world!

"If, then, there be an incontestable fact, it is the influence of women:
an influence extended, with various modifications, through the whole of
life. Such being the case, the question arises, by what inconceivable
negligence a power of universal operation has been overlooked by
moralists, who, in their various plans for the amelioration of mankind,
have scarcely deigned to mention this potent agent. Yet evidence,
historical and parallel, proves that such negligence has lost to mankind
the most influential of all agencies. The fact of its existence cannot
be disputed; it is, therefore, of the greatest importance that its
nature should be rightly understood, and that it be directed to right

It would not be uninteresting to trace the action and reaction by which
women have degraded and been degraded--alternately the source and the
victims of mistaken social principles; but it would be foreign to the
design and compass of this work to do so. The subject, indeed, would
afford matter for a philosophical treatise of deep interest, rather than
for a chapter of a small work. A rapid historical sketch, and a few
deductions which seem to bear upon the main point, are all that can be
here attempted.

The gospel announced on this, as on every other subject, a grand
comprehensive principle, which it was to be the work of ages (perhaps of
eternity) to develop. The rescue of this degraded half of the human race
was henceforth the ascertained will of the Almighty. But a long series
of years were to elapse before this will worked out its issues. Its
decrees, with the noble doctrines of which it formed a part, lay buried
beneath the ruins of human intellect. But they were only buried, not
destroyed; and rose, like wildflowers on a ruined edifice, to adorn the
irregularity which they could not conceal. The fantastic institutions of
chivalry which it is now the fashion to deride (how unjustly!) were
among the first scions of this plant of heavenly origin. They bore the
impress of heaven, faint and distorted indeed, but not to be mistaken!
Devotion to an ideal good,--self-sacrifice,--subjugation of selfish and
sensual feelings; wherever these principles are found, disguised,
disfigured though they be, they are not of the earth,--earthly. They,
like the fabled amaranth, are plants which are not indigenous here
below! The seeds must come from above, from the source of all that is
pure, of all that is good! Of these principles the gospel was the remote
source: women were the disseminators. "Shut up in their castellated
towers, they civilized the warriors who despised their weakness, and
rendered less barbarous the passions and prejudices which themselves
shared."[105] It was they who directed the savage passions and brute
force of men to an unselfish aim, the defence of the weak, and added to
courage the only virtue then recognised--humanity. "Thus chivalry
prepared the way for law, and civilization had its source in

At this epoch, the influence of women was decidedly beneficial; happy
for them and for society if it had continued to be so! If we attempt to
trace the source of this influence, we shall find it in the intellectual
equality of the two sexes; equally ignorant of what we call knowledge,
the respect due by men to virtue and beauty was not checked by any
disdain of real or fancied superiority on their part.

The intellectual exercises (chiefly imaginative) of the time, so far
from forming a barrier between the two sexes, were a bond of union. The
song of the minstrel was devoted to the praise of beauty, and paid by
her smile. The spirit of the age, as imbodied in these effusions, is
the best proof of the beneficial influence exercised over that age by
our sex. In them, the name of woman is not associated in the degrading
catalogue of man's pleasures, with his bottle and his horse, but is
coupled with all that is fair and pure in nature,--the fields, the
birds, the flowers; or high in virtue or sentiment,--with honour, glory,

To the age of chivalry succeeded the revival of letters; and (strange to
say!) this revival was any thing but advantageous to the cause of women.
Men found other paths to glory than the exercise of valour afforded, and
paths into which women were forbidden to follow them. Into these
newly-discovered regions, women were not allowed to penetrate, and men
returned thence with real or affected contempt for their unintellectual
companions, without having attained true wisdom enough to know how much
they would gain by their enlightenment.

The advance of intelligence in men not being met by a corresponding
advance in women, the latter lost their equilibrium in the social
balance. Honour, glory, were no longer attached to the smile of beauty.
The dethroned sovereigns, from being imperious, became abject, and
sought, by paltry arts, to perpetuate the empire which was no longer
conceded as a right. Influence they still possessed, but an influence
debased in its character, and changed in its mode of operation. Instead
of being the objects of devotion of heart,--fantastic, indeed, but
high-minded,--they became the mere playthings of the imagination, or
worse, the mere objects of sensual passion. Respect is the only sure
foundation of influence. Women had ceased to be respected: they
therefore ceased to be beneficially influential. That they retained
another and a worse kind of influence, may be inferred from the spirit,
as imbodied in the literature, of the period. Fiction no longer sought
its heroes among the lofty in mind and pure in morals--its heroines in
spotless virgins and faithful wives. The reckless voluptuary, the
faithless and successful adulteress,--these were the noble beings whose
deeds filled the pages which formed the delight of the wise and the
fair. The ultimate issues of these grievous errors were most strikingly
developed in the respective courts of Louis XIV. and Charles II., where
they reached their climax. The vicious influence of which we have spoken
was then at its height, and the degradation of women had brought on its
inevitable consequence, the degradation of men. With some few
exceptions, (such exceptions, indeed, prove rules!) we trace this evil
influence in the contempt of virtue, public and private; in the base
passions, the narrow and selfish views peculiar to degraded women, and
reflected on the equally degraded men whom such women could have power
to charm.[107]

A change of opinions and of social arrangements has long been operating,
which ought entirely to have abrogated these evils. That they have not
done so is owing to a grand mistake. Women having recovered their
rights, moral and intellectual, have resumed their importance in the eye
of reason: they have long been the ornaments of society, which from them
derives its tone, and it has become too much the main object of their
education to cultivate the accomplishments which may make them such. A
twofold injury has arisen from this mistaken aim; it has blinded women
as to the true nature and end of their existence, and has excited a
spirit of worldly ambition opposed to the devoted unselfishness
necessary for its accomplishment. This is the error of the
unthinking--the reflecting have fallen into another, but not less
serious one. The coarse, but expressive satire of Luther, "That the
human mind is like an intoxicated man on horseback,--if he is set up on
one side, he falls off on the other," was never more fully justified
than on this subject. Because it is perceived that women have a dignity
and value greater than society or themselves have discovered,--because
their talents and virtues place them on a footing of equality with men,
it is maintained that their present sphere of action is too contracted a
one, and that they ought to share in the public functions of the other
sex. Equality, mental and _physical_, is proclaimed! This is matter too
ludicrous to be treated anywhere but in a professed satire; in sober
earnest, it may be asked, upon what grounds so extraordinary a doctrine
is built up! Were women allowed to act out these principles, it would
soon appear that one great range of duty had been left unprovided for in
the schemes of Providence; such an omission would be without parallel.
Two principal points only can here be brought forward, which oppose this
plan at the very outset; they are--

1st. Placing the two sexes in the position of rivals, instead of
coadjutors, entailing the diminution of female influence.

2d. Leaving the important duties of woman only in the hands of that part
of the sex least able to perform them efficiently.

The principle of divided labour seems to be a maxim of the Divine
government, as regards the creature. It is only by a concentration of
powers to one point, that so feeble a being as man can achieve great
results. Why should we wish to set aside this salutary law, and disturb
the beautiful simplicity of arrangement which has given to man the
power, and to woman the influence, to second the plans of Almighty
goodness? They are formed to be co-operators, not rivals, in this great
work; and rivals they would undoubtedly become, if the same career of
public ambition and the same rewards of success were open to both.
Woman, at present, is the regulating power of the great social machine,
retaining, through the very exclusion complained of, the power to judge
of questions by the abstract rules of right and wrong--a power seldom
possessed by those whose spirits are chafed by opposition and heated by
personal contest.

The second resulting evil is a grave one, though, in treating of it,
also, it is difficult to steer clear of ludicrous associations. The
political career being open to women, it is natural to suppose that all
the most gifted of the sex would press forward to confer upon their
country the benefit of their services, and to reap for themselves the
distinction which such services would obtain; the duties hitherto
considered peculiar to the sex would sink to a still lower position in
public estimation than they now hold, and would be abandoned to those
least able conscientiously to fulfil them. The combination of
legislative and maternal duties would indeed be a difficult task, and,
of course, the least ostentatious would be sacrificed.

Yet women have a mission! ay, even a political mission of immense
importance! which they will best fulfil by moving in the sphere assigned
them by Providence: not comet-like, wandering in irregular orbits,
dazzling indeed by their brilliancy, but terrifying by their eccentric
movements and doubtful utility. That the sphere in which they are
required to move is no mean one, and that its apparent contraction
arises only from a defect of intellectual vision, it is the object of
the succeeding chapters to prove.


[103] We hare come to the close of the Letters. The following pages are
quoted from writers of eminence, and bear directly upon the main subject
of "Female Education." The first quotations are from the anonymous
author of "Woman's Mission." They are of inestimable value. EDITOR.

[104] Aime Martin.

[105] Aime Martin.

[106] Ibid.

[107] See the Memoirs of Pepys, Evelyn, De Grammont, &c.


"The fact of this influence being proved, it is of the utmost importance
that it be impressed upon the mind of women, and that they be
enlightened as to its true nature and extent."

The task is as difficult as it is important, for it demands some
exercise of sober judgment to view it with requisite impartiality; it
requires, too, some courage to encounter the charge of inconsistency
which a faithful discharge of it entails. For it _is_ an apparent
inconsistency to recommend at the same time expansion of views and
contraction of operation; to awaken the sense of power, and to require
that the exercise of it be limited; to apply at once the spur and the
rein. That intellect is to be invigorated only to enlighten
conscience--that conscience is to be enlightened only to act on
details--that accomplishments and graces are to be cultivated only, or
chiefly, to adorn obscurity;--a list of somewhat paradoxical
propositions indeed, and hard to be received; yet, upon their favourable
reception depends, in my opinion, the usefulness of our influence, the
destinies of our race; and it is my intention to direct all my
observations to this point.

It is astonishing and humiliating to perceive how frequently human
wisdom, especially argumentative wisdom, is at fault as to results,
while accident, prejudices, or common sense seem to light upon truths
which reason feels after without finding. It appears as though _a
priori_ reasoning, human nature being the subject, is like a skilful
piece of mechanism, carefully and scientifically put together, but which
some perverse and occult trifle will not permit to act. This is
eminently true of many questions regarding education, and precisely the
state of the argument concerning the position and duties of women. The
facts of moral and intellectual equality being established, it seems
somewhat irrational to condemn women to obscurity and detail for their
field of exertion, while men usurp the extended one of public
usefulness. And a good case may be made out on this very point. Yet the
conclusions are false and pernicious, and the prejudices which we now
smile at as obsolete are truths of nature's own imparting, only wanting
the agency of comprehensive intelligence to make them valuable, by
adapting them to the present state of society. For, as one atom of
falsehood in first principles nullifies a whole theory, so one
principle, fundamentally true, suffices to obviate many minor errors.
This fundamentally true principle, I am prepared to show, exists in the
established opinions concerning the true sphere of women, and that,
whether originally dictated by reason, or derived from a sort of
intuition, they are right, and for this cause: the one quality on which
woman's value and influence depend is the renunciation of self; and the
old prejudices respecting her inculcated self-renunciation. Educated in
obscurity, trained to consider the fulfilment of domestic duties as the
aim and end of her existence, there was little to feed the appetite for
fame, or the indulgence of self-idolatry. Now, here the principle
fundamentally bears upon the very qualities most desirable to be
cultivated, and those most desirable to be avoided. A return to the
practical part of the system is by no means to be recommended, for, with
increasing intellectual advantages, it is not to be supposed that the
perfection of the conjugal character is to consult a husband's palate
and submit to his ill-humour--or of the maternal, to administer in due
alternation the sponge and the rod. All that is contended for is, that
the fundamental principle is right--"that women were to live for
others;" and, therefore, all that we have to do is to carry out this
fundamentally right principle into wider application. It may easily be
done, if the cultivation of intellectual powers be carried on with the
same views and motives as were formerly the knowledge of domestic
duties, for the benefit of immediate relations, and for the fulfilment
of appointed duties. If society at large be benefited by such
cultivation, so much the better; but it ought to be no part of the
training of women to consider, with any personal views, what effect they
shall produce in or on society at large. The greatest benefit which they
can confer upon society is to be what they ought to be in all their
domestic relations; that is, to be what they ought to be, in all the
comprehensiveness of the term, as adapted to the present state of
society. Let no woman fancy that she can, by any exertion or services,
compensate for the neglect of her own peculiar duties as such. It is by
no means my intention to assert that women should be passive and
indifferent spectators of the great political questions which affect
the well-being of community; neither can I repeat the old adage, that
"women have nothing to do with politics." They have, and ought to have
much to do with politics. But in what way? It has been maintained that
their public participation in them would be fatal to the best interests
of society. How, then, are women to interfere in politics? As moral
agents; as representatives of the moral principle; as champions of the
right in preference to the expedient; by their endeavours to instil into
their relatives of the other sex the uncompromising sense of duty and
self-devotion, which ought to be _their_ ruling principles! The immense
influence which women possess will be most beneficial, if allowed to
flow in its natural channels, viz. domestic ones,--because it is of the
utmost importance to the existence of influence, that purity of motive
be unquestioned. It is by no means affirmed that women's political
feelings are always guided by the abstract principles of right and
wrong; but they are surely more likely to be so, if they themselves are
restrained from the public expression of them. Participation in scenes
of popular emotion has a natural tendency to warp conscience and
overcome charity. Now, conscience and charity (or love) are the very
essence of woman's beneficial influence; therefore every thing tending
to blunt the one and sour the other is sedulously to be avoided by her.
It is of the utmost importance to men to feel, in consulting a wife, a
mother, or a sister, that they are appealing _from_ their passions and
prejudices, and not _to_ them, as imbodied in a second self: nothing
tends to give opinions such weight as the certainty that the utterer of
them is free from all petty or personal motives. The beneficial
influence of woman is nullified if once her motives, or her personal
character, come to be the subject of attack; and this fact alone ought
to induce her patiently to acquiesce in the plan of seclusion from
public affairs.

It supposes, indeed, some magnanimity in the possessors of great powers
and widely extended influence, to be willing to exercise them with
silent, unostentatious vigilance. There must be a deeper principle than
usually lies at the root of female education, to induce women to
acquiesce in the plan, which, assigning to them the responsibility, has
denied them the _eclat_ of being reformers of society. Yet it is,
probably, exactly in proportion to their reception of this truth, and
their adoption of it into their hearts, that they will fulfil their own
high and lofty mission; precisely because the manifestation of such a
spirit is the one thing needful for the regeneration of society. It is
from her being the depository and disseminator of such a spirit, that
woman's influence is principally derived. It appears to be for this end
that Providence has so lavishly endowed her with moral qualities, and,
above all, with that of love,--the antagonist spirit of selfish
worldliness, that spirit which, as it is vanquished or victorious, bears
with it the moral destinies of the world! Now, it is proverbially as
well as scripturally true, that love "seeketh not its own" interest, but
the good of others, and finds its highest honour, its highest happiness,
in so doing. This is precisely the spirit which can never be too much
cultivated by women, because it is the spirit by which their highest
triumphs are to be achieved: it is they who are called upon to show
forth its beauty, and to prove its power; every thing in their
education should tend to develop self-devotion and self-renunciation.
How far existing systems contribute to this object, it must be our next
step to inquire.


"The education of women is more important than that of men, since that
of men is always their work."[108]

We are now to consider how far the present systems of female education
tend to the great end here mentioned--the truth of which, reflection and
experience combine to prove. Great is the boast of the progress of
education; great would be the indignation excited by a doubt as to the
fact of this progress. "A simple question will express this doubt more
forcibly, and place this subject in a stronger light: 'Are women
qualified to educate men?' If they are not, no available progress has
been made. In the very heart of civilized Europe, are women what they
ought to be? and does not their education prove how little we know the
consequences of neglecting it?"[109] Is it possible to believe, that
upon their training depends the happiness of families--the well-being of
nations? The selfishness, political and social; the forgetfulness of
patriotism; the unregulated tempers and low ambition of the one sex,
testify but too clearly how little has been done by the vaunted
education of the other. For education is useless, or at least neutral,
if it do not bear upon duty, as well as upon cultivation, if it do not
expand the soul, while it enlightens the intellect.

How far expansion of soul, or enlightenment of intellect, is to be
expected from the present systems of female education, we have seen in
effects,--let us now go back to causes.

It is unnecessary to start from the prejudice of ignorance; it is now
universally acknowledged that women have a right to education, and that
they must be educated. We smile with condescending pity at the blinded
state of our respected grandmothers, and thank God that we are not as
they, with a thanksgiving as uncalled for as that of the proud Pharisee.
On abstract ground, their education was better than ours; it was a
preparation for their future duties. It does not affect the question,
that their notion of these duties was entirely confined to the physical
comfort of husbands and children. The defect of the scheme, as has been
argued, was not in rationality, but in comprehensiveness,--a
fundamentally right principle being the basis, it is easy to extend the
application of it indefinitely.

Indiscriminate blame, however, is as invidious as it is useless; if the
fault-finder be not also the fault-mender, the exercise of his powers
is, at best, but a negative benefit. Let us, therefore, enter into a
calm examination of the two principal ramifications, into which
education has insensibly divided itself, as far as the young women of
our own country are concerned; bearing in mind that women can only
exercise their true influence, inasmuch as they are free from
worldly-mindedness and egotism, and that, therefore, no system of
education can be good which does not tend to subdue the selfish and
bring out the unselfish principle. The systems alluded to are these:--

1st. The education of accomplishments for shining in society.

2d. Intellectual education, or that of the mental powers.

What are the objects of either? To prepare the young for life; its
subsequent trials; its weighty duties; its inevitable termination? We
will examine the principles on which both these educations are made to
work, and see whether, or how far, they have any relation to those most
called for, by the future and presumed duties of the educated. The
worldly and the intellectual, alternately objects of contempt to each
other, are equally objects of pity to the wise, as mistaken in their
end, and deceived as to the means of attaining that end.

The education of accomplishments, (especially as conducted in this
country,) would be a risible, if it were not a painful subject of
contemplation. Intense labour; immense sums of money; hours, nay, days
of valuable time! What a list of sacrifices! Now for results. Of the
many who thus sacrifice time, health, and property, how few attain even
a moderate proficiency. The love of beauty, the power of self-amusement
(if obtained) might, in some degree, justify these sacrifices; they are
valuable ends in themselves, still more valuable from contingent
advantages. There is a deep influence hidden under these beautiful
arts,--an influence far deeper than the world in its thoughtlessness, or
the worldly student in his vanity, ever can know,--an influence
refining, consoling, elevating: they afford a channel into which the
lofty aspirings, the unsatisfied yearnings of the pure and elevated in
soul may pour themselves. The perception of the beautiful is, next to
the love of our fellow-creatures, the most purely unselfish of all our
natural emotions, and is, therefore, a most powerful engine in the hands
of those who regard selfishness as the giant passion, whose castle must
be stormed before any other conquest can be begun, and in vanquishing
whom all lawful and innocent weapons should, by turns, be employed.

Let us consider how we employ this mighty ally of virtue and loftiness
of soul. Into the cultivation of the arts, disguised under the hackneyed
name of accomplishments, does one particle of intellectuality creep?
Would not many of their ablest professors and most diligent
practitioners stare, with unfeigned wonder, at the supposition, that the
five hours per diem devoted to the piano and the easel had any other
object than to accomplish the fingers? The idea of their influencing the
head would be ridiculous! of their improving the heart, preposterous!
Yet if both head and heart do not combine in these pursuits, how can the
cultivators justify to themselves the devotion of time and labour to
their acquisition: time and labour, in many cases, abstracted from the
performance of present, or preparation for future duties,--this is
especially applicable to the middle classes of society.

Let us now turn to the issues of this education! The accomplishments
acquired at such cost must be displayed. To whom? the possessor has no
delight in them,--her immediate relatives, perhaps, no taste for
them;--to strangers, therefore. It is not necessary to make many
strictures on this subject; the rage for universal exhibition has been
written and talked down: in fact, there are great hopes for the world
in this particular; it has descended so low in the scale of society,
that we trust it will soon be exploded altogether. The fashion,
therefore, need not be here treated of, but the spirit which it has
engendered, and which will survive its parent. This, as influencing the
female character--especially the maternal--bears greatly upon the point
in view;--to live for the applause of the foolish _many_, instead of the
approbation of the well-judging _few_; to rule duty, conscience, morals,
by a low worldly standard; to view worldly admiration as the aim, and
worldly aggrandizement as the end of life; these are a few,--a very few,
indications of this spirit, and these have infected every rank, from the
highest to the middle and lower classes of society. To every thing
gentle or refined, to every thing lofty or dignified in the female
character, this spirit is utterly opposed. Refinement would teach to
shun the vulgar applause which almost insults its object,--dignity would
shrink from displaying before heartless crowds those emotions of the
soul, without which all art is vulgar,--and how can women, who have
neither refinement nor dignity, retail that influence which, rightly
used, is to be so great an engine in the regeneration of society? How
can the vain and selfish exhibitor of paltry acquirements ever mature
into the mother of the Gracchi, the tutelary guardian of the rising
virtues of the commonwealth? It is in vain to hope it.

Before making any strictures on intellectual education, it is necessary
to enter into a short explanation; for it is not denied that
rightly-cultivated mental power is a great good. The kind of cultivation
which is here decried is open to the same objections as the last
mentioned. It is the cultivation of power, with a view, not to the
happiness of the individual, but to her fame; not to her usefulness, but
to her brilliancy. We have only to look round society, and see that
intellect has its vanity as well as beauty or accomplishments, and that
its effects are more mischievous. It has a hardening, deadening kind of
influence; the more so, that the so-called mental cultivation frequently
consists only of a pedantic heaping up of information, valuable indeed
in itself, but wanting the principle of combination to make it useful.
Stones and bricks are valuable things, very valuable; but they are not
beautiful or useful till the hand of the architect has given them a
form, and the cement of the bricklayer has knit them together. It is a
fine expression of Miss Edgeworth, in speaking of the mind of one of her
heroines, "that the stream of literature had passed over it was apparent
only from its fertility." Intellectual cultivation was too long
considered as education, properly so called. The mischief which this
error has produced, is exactly in proportion to the increase of power
thereby communicated to wrong principles.

What, then, is the true object of female education? The best answer to
this question is, a statement of future duties; for it must never be
forgotten, that if education be not a training for future duties, it is
nothing. The ordinary lot of woman is to marry. Has any thing in these
educations prepared her to make a wise choice in marriage? To be a
mother! Have the duties of maternity,--the nature of moral
influence,--been pointed out to her? Has she ever been enlightened as
to the consequent unspeakable importance of personal character as the
source of influence? In a word, have any means, direct or indirect,
prepared her for her duties? No! but she is a linguist, a pianist,
graceful, admired. What is that to the purpose? The grand evil of such
an education is the mistaking means for ends; a common error, and the
source of half the moral confusion existing in the world. It is the
substitution of the part for a whole. The time when young women enter
upon life, is the one point to which all plans of education tend, and at
which they all terminate: and to prepare them for that point is the
object of their training. Is it not cruel to lay up for them a store of
future wretchedness, by an education which has no period in view but
one; a very short one, and the most unimportant and irresponsible of the
whole of life? Who that had the power of choice would choose to buy the
admiration of the world for a few short years with the happiness of a
whole life? the temporary power to dazzle and to charm, with the growing
sense of duties undertaken only to be neglected, and responsibilities
the existence of which is discovered perhaps simultaneously with that of
an utter inability to meet them? Even if the mischief stopped here, it
would be sufficiently great; but the craving appetite for applause once
roused, is not so easily lulled again. The moral energies, pampered by
unwholesome nourishment,--like the body when disordered by luxurious
dainties,--refuse to perform their healthy functions, and thus is
occasioned a perpetual strife and warfare of internal principles; the
selfish principle still seeking the accustomed gratification, the
conjugal and maternal prompting to the performance of duty. But duty is
a cold word; and people, in order to find pleasure in duty, must have
been trained to consider their duties as pleasures. This is a truth at
which no one arrives by inspiration! And in this moral struggle, which,
like all other struggles, produces lassitude and distaste of all things,
the happiness of the individual is lost, her usefulness destroyed, her
influence most pernicious. For nothing has so injurious an effect on
temper and manners, and consequently on moral influence, as the want of
that internal quiet which can only arise from the accordance of duty
with inclination. Another most pernicious effect is, the deadening
within the heart of the feeling of love, which is the root of all
influence; for it is an extraordinary fact, that vanity acts as a sort
of refrigerator on all men--on the possessor of it, and on the observer.

Now, if conscientiousness and unselfishness be the two main supports of
women's beneficial influence, how can any education be good which has
not the cultivation of these qualities for its first and principal
object? The grand objects, then, in the education of women, ought to be,
the conscience, the heart, and the affections; the development of those
moral qualities which Providence has so liberally bestowed upon them,
doubtless with a wise and beneficent purpose. Originators of
conscientiousness, how can they implant what they have never cultivated,
nor brought to maturity in themselves? Sovereigns of the affections, how
can they direct the kingdom whose laws they have not studied, the
springs of whose government are concealed from them? The conscience and
the affections being primarily enlightened, all other cultivation, as
secondary, is most valuable. Intelligence, accomplishments, even
external elegance, become objects of importance, as assisting the
influence which women have, and exert too often for unworthy ends, but
which in this case could not fail to be beneficial. Let the light of
intellect and the charm of accomplishments be the willing handmaids of
cultivated and enlightened conscience. Cultivate the intellect with
reference to the conscience, that views of duty may be comprehensive, as
well as just; cultivate the imagination still with reference to the
conscience, that those inward aspirations which all indulge, more or
less, may be turned from the gauds of an idle and vain imagination, and
shed over daily life and daily duty the halo of a poetic influence;
cultivate the manners, that the qualities of heart and head may have an
additional auxiliary in obtaining that influence by which a mighty
regeneration is to be worked. The issues of such an education will
justify the claims made for women in these pages; then the spirit of
vanity will yield to the spirit of self-devotion: that spirit
confessedly natural to Women, and only perverted by wrong education.
Content with the sphere of usefulness assigned her by Nature and
Nature's God, viewing that sphere with the piercing eye of intellect,
and gilding it with the beautiful colours of the imagination, she will
cease the vain and almost impious attempt to wander from it. She will
see and acknowledge the beauty, the harmony of the arrangement which has
made her physical inferiority (the only inferiority which we
acknowledge) the very root from which spring her virtues and their
attendant influences. Removed from the actual collision of political
contests, and screened from the passions which such engender, she brings
party questions to the test of the unalterable principles of reason and
religion; she is, so to speak, the guardian angel of man's political
integrity, liable at the best to be warped by passion or prejudice, and
excited by the rude clashing of opinions and interests. This is the true
secret of woman's political influence, the true object of her political
enlightenment. Governments will never be perfect till all distinction
between private and public virtue, private and public honour, be done
away! Who so fit an agent for the operation of this change as
enlightened, unselfish woman? Who so fit, in her twofold capacity of
companion and early instructor, to teach men to prefer honour to gain,
duty to ease, public to private interests, and God's work to man's
inventions? And shall it be said that women have no political existence,
no political influence, when the very germs of political regeneration
may spring from them alone, when the fate of nations yet unborn may
depend upon the use which they make of the mighty influences committed
to their care? The blindness which sees not how these influences would
be lessened by taking her out of the sphere assigned by Providence, if
voluntary, is wicked--if real, is pitiable. As well might we desire the
earth's beautiful satellite to give place to a second sun, thereby
producing the intolerable and glaring continuity of perpetual day. Those
who would be the agents of Providence must observe the workings of
Providence, and be content to work also in that way, and by those means,
which Almighty wisdom appoints. There is infinite littleness in
despising small things. It seems paradoxical to say that there are no
small things; our littleness and our aspiration make things appear
small. There are, morally speaking, no small duties. Nothing that
influences human virtue and happiness can be really trifling,--and what
more influences them than the despised, because limited, duties assigned
to woman? It is true, her reward (her task being done) is not of this
world, nor will she wish it to be--enough for her to be one of the most
active and efficient agents in her heavenly Father's work of man's
regeneration,--enough for her that generations yet unborn shall rise up
and call her blessed.


[108] Aime Martin.

[109] Ibid.


The conventual and monastic origin of all systems of education has had a
very injurious influence, on that of women especially, because the
conventual spirit has been longer retained in it.

If no education be good which does not bear upon the future duties of
the educated, it follows that the systematic exclusion of any one
subject connected with, or bearing upon, future duties, must be an evil.
The wisdom of employing those who had renounced the world to form the
minds of those who were to mix in it, to be exposed in all its
allurements, to share in all its duties, was doubtful indeed; and the
danger was enhanced by the fact, that the majority of recluses were any
thing but indifferent to the world which they had renounced. The convent
was too often the refuge of disappointed worldliness, the grave of
blasted hopes, or the prison of involuntary victims; a withering
atmosphere this in which to place warm young hearts, and expect them to
expand and flourish. The evil effects would be varied according to the
different characters submitted to its influence. The sensitive entered
upon life oppressed with fears and terrors; with a conscience morbid,
not enlightened; bewildered by the impossibility of reconciling
principles and duties. The ardent and sanguine, longing to escape from
restraint, pictured to themselves, in these unknown and untried
regions, delights infinite and unvaried; and, seeing the incompatibility
of inculcated principles and worldly pleasures, discarded principle
altogether. It is needless to pursue this subject further, because a
universal assent will (in this country, at least,) await the remarks
here made; their applicability to what follows may not at first be so
apparent. The conventual spirit has survived conventual
institutions,--in the department of female education especially.

In the first place, the instructors of female youth are considered
respectable and trustworthy only in proportion as they cease to be
young, or at least in proportion as they appear to forget that they ever
were so. Any touch of sympathy for the follies of childhood, or the
indiscretions of youth, would blast the prospects of a candidate for
that honourable office, and, in the opinion of many, render her unfit
for its fulfilment. The unfitness is attached to the opposite
disposition; for the very fact of its existence is as effectual an
obstacle to her being a good trainer of youth, as if she had taken a vow
never to see the world but through an iron grating. Experience can never
benefit youth, except when combined with indulgence. The instructor who,
from the heights of past temptations and subdued passion, looks down
with cool watchfulness on the struggles of his youthful pupil, will see
him lie floundering in the mire, or perishing in the deep water. He must
retrace his own steps, take him by the hand, and sustain him, till he is
passed the dangerous and slippery paths of youth. He must become as a
little child to the young and frail being committed to his care, and
whose welfare and safety depend (in great measure) upon him. A cold and
unloving admiration never will produce imitation: it is like the
hopeless love of poor Helena:--

    'Twere all as one as I should love a bright particular star!

Here, then, the conventual spirit has been in injurious operation;--no
less so on other points.

This conventual prejudice has banished from our school-rooms the name of
love, and presented to their youthful inmates fragments instead of
books, cramped and puny publications instead of the works of
master-spirits, lest the mind should be contaminated by any allusion to
that passion contained in them. The wisdom of such a proceeding is much
upon a par with that which devoted the feet to stocks and the shoulders
to backboards, in order to make them elegant, and denied them heaven's
air and active exercise through care for their health. The result, in
the one case as in the other, is disease and distortion. Nature will
assert her rights over the beings she has made; and she avenges, by the
production of deformity, all attempts to force or shackle her
operations. The golden globe could not check the expansive force of
water; equally useless is it to attempt any check on the expansive force
of mind,--it will ooze out! We ought long ago to have been convinced
that the only power allowed to us is the power of direction. If one-half
the amount of effort expanded to useless endeavours to cramp and check,
had been turned towards this channel, how different would be the
results! It is true that it is easier to check than to guide,--to fetter
than to restrain; and that to attempt to remove evil by the
first-occurring remedy is a natural impulse. But a pause should by made,
lest in applying the remedy a worse evil be not engendered. Distorted
spines and "pale consumptions," the result of the one mistake, are
trifling evils, when compared with the moral evils resulting from the
other. For if, as is affirmed, no education can be good which does not
bear upon future duties, how can that be wise which keeps love and its
temptations, maternity and its responsibilities, out of view? Who would
believe that this love, so denounced, so guarded against, so carefully
banished from the minds of young women, is the one principle on which
their future happiness may be founded or wrecked? It is sure to seek
them, (most of them, at least,) like death in the fable, to find them
unprepared,--too often to leave them wretched.

Meanwhile, these exaggerated precautions in the education of one sex
have been met by equally fatal negligence in the education of the other;
and while to girls have been denied the very thoughts of love,--even in
its noblest and purest form,--the most effeminate and corrupt
productions of the heathen writers have been unhesitatingly laid open to
boys; so that the two sexes, on whose respective notions of the passion
depends the ennobling or the degrading of their race, meet on these
terms:--the men know nothing of love but what they have imbibed from an
impure and polluted source; the women, nothing at all, or nothing but
what they have clandestinely gathered from sources almost equally
corrupt. The deterioration of any feeling must follow from such
injudicious training, more especially a feeling so susceptible as love
of assuming such differing aspects.

Let no sober-minded person be startled at the deductions hence drawn,
that it is foolish to banish all thoughts of love from the minds of the
young. Since it is certain that girls will think, though they may not
read or speak, of love; and that no early care can preserve them from
being exposed, at a later period, to its temptations, might it not be
well to use here the directing, not the repressing power? Since women
will love, might it not be as well to teach them to love wisely? Where
is the wisdom of letting the combatant go unarmed into the field, in
order to spare him the prospect of a combat? Are not women made to love,
and to be loved: and does not their future destiny too often depend upon
this passion? And yet the conventual prejudice which banishes its name
subsists still.

"Mothers forget, in presence of their children, all the dangers with
which this prejudice has surrounded themselves; the illusions which
arise from that ignorance, and the weakness which springs from those
illusions. To open the minds of the young to the nature of true love, is
to arm them against the frivolous passions which usurp its name, for in
exalting the faculties of the soul, we annihilate, in a great degree,
the delusions of the senses."[110]

Examine the first choice of a young girl. Of all the qualities which
please her in a lover, there is, perhaps, not one which is valuable in a
husband. Is not this the most complete condemnation of all our systems
of education? From the fear of too much agitating the heart, we hide
from women all that is worthy of love, all the depth and dignity of that
passion when felt for a worthy object;--their eye is captivated, the
exterior pleases, the heart and mind are not known, and, after six
months union, they are surprised to find the beau ideal metamorphosed
into a fool or a coxcomb. This is the issue of what are ordinarily
called love-matches, because they are considered as such. "Cupid is
indeed often blamed for deeds in which he has no share." In the opinion
of the wise, the mischief is occasioned by the action of vivid
imaginations upon minds unprepared by previous reflection on the
subject; that is, by the entire banishment of all thoughts of love from
education. We should endeavour, then, to engrave on the soul a model of
virtue and excellence, and teach young women to regulate their
affections by an approximation to this model; the result would not be an
increased facility in giving the affections, but a greater difficulty in
so doing; for women, whose blindness and ignorance now make them the
victims of fancied perfections, would be able to make a clear-sighted
appreciation of all that is excellent, and have an invincible repugnance
to an union not founded upon that basis. Love, in the common acceptation
of the term, is a folly,--love, in its purity, its loftiness, its
unselfishness, is not only a consequence, but a proof of our moral
excellence,--the sensibility to moral beauty, the forgetfulness of self
in the admiration engendered by it, all prove its claim to be a high
moral influence; it is the triumph of the unselfish over the selfish
part of our nature.[111]

What is meant by educating young women to love wisely is simply this,
that they be taught to distinguish true love from the false spirit which
usurps its name and garb; that they be taught to abstract from it the
worldliness, vanity, and folly, with which it has been mixed up. They
should be taught that it is not to be the amusement of an idle hour; the
indulgence of a capricious and greedy vanity; the ladder, by the
assistance of which they may climb a few steps higher in the grades of
society; in short, that except it owe its origin to the noble qualities
of heart and mind, it is nothing but a contemptible weakness, to be
pitied perhaps, but not to be indulged or admired.

When the might influence of this passion is considered, the important
relations and weighty responsibilities to which it gives rise, we have
reason to be astonished at the levity with which the subject is treated
by the world at large, and the unconsciousness and indifference with
which those responsibilities are assumed. It is like the madman who
flings about firebrands and calls it sport. The remedy for this evil
must begin with the sex who have in their hands that powerful influence,
the liberty of rejection. Let them not complain that liberty of choice
is not theirs; it would only increase their responsibilities without
adding to their happiness or to their usefulness. The liberty which they
do possess is amply sufficient to insure for them the power of being
benefactors of mankind. As soon as the noble and elevated of our sex
shall refuse to unite on any but moral and intellectual grounds with the
other, so soon will a mighty regeneration begin to be effected: and this
end will, perhaps, be better served by the simple liberty of rejection
than by liberty of choice. Rejection is never inflicted without pain; it
is never received without humiliation, however unfounded, (for simply to
want the power of pleasing can be no disgrace;) but in the existence of
this conventional feeling we find the source of a deep influence. If
women would, as by one common league and covenant, agree to use this
powerful engine in defence of morals, what a change might they not
effect in the tone of society! Is it not a subject that ought to crimson
every woman's cheek with shame, that the want of moral qualifications is
generally the very last cause of rejection? If the worldly find the
wealth, and the intellectual the intelligence, which they seek in a
companion, there are few who will not shut their eyes in wilful and
convenient blindness to the want of such qualifications. It is a fatal
error which has bound up the cause of affection so intimately with
worldly considerations; and it is a growing evil. The increasing demands
of luxury in a highly civilized community operate most injuriously on
the cause of disinterested affections, and particularly so in the case
of women, who are generally precluded from maintaining or advancing
their place in society by any other schemes than matrimonial ones. I
might say something here on the cruelty of that conventional prejudice
which shackles the independence of women, by attaching the loss of
caste to almost all, nay, all, of the very few sources of pecuniary
emolument open to them. It requires great strength of principle to
disregard this prejudice; and while urged by duty to inveigh against
mercenary unions, I feel some compunction at the thoughts of the
numerous class who are in a manner forced by this prejudice into forming
them. But there are too many who have no such excuse, and to them the
remaining observations are addressed. The sacred nature of the conjugal
relation is entirely merged in the worldly aspect of it. That union
sacred, indissoluble, fraught with all that earth has to bestow of
happiness or misery, is entered upon much of the plan and principle of a
partnership account in mercantile affairs--each bringing his or her
quantum of worldly possessions--and often with even less inquiry as to
moral qualities than persons so situated would make; God's ordinances
are not to be so mocked, and such violations of his laws are severely
visited upon offenders against them. It would be laughable, if it were
not too melancholy, to see beings bound by the holiest ties, who ought
to be the sharers in the most sacred duties--united, perhaps, but in one
aim, and _that_ to secure from a world which cares not for them, a few
atoms more of external observance and attention: to this noble aim
sacrificing their own ease and comfort, and the future prospects of
those dependent on them. If half the sacrifice thus made to the
imperious demands of fashion, (and which is received with the
indifference it deserves,) were exerted in a good cause, what benefits
might it not produce?

While women are thus content to sacrifice delicacy, affection,
principle, to the desire of worldly establishment or aggrandizement, how
is the regeneration of society to be expected from them? Formerly, too,
this spirit was confined to the old, hackneyed in the ways of the world,
and who, having worn out the trifling affections which they ever had,
would subject those of their children to the maxims of worldly prudence.
This we learn from fiction and the drama, where the worldly wisdom of
age is always represented as opposed to the generous but imprudent
passions of youth. But now, in these our better and more enlightened
days, those mercenary maxims which were odious even in age, are found in
the mouths of the young and the fair,--or at least, if not in their
mouths, in their actions. To sacrifice affection to interest is a
praiseworthy thing. It is fearful to hear the withering sneer with which
that folly, love, is spoken of by young and innocent lips--a sneer of
conscious superiority, too! It is a superiority not to be envied, and
which makes them objects of greater pity than those whom they affect to
despise. There is no subject so sacred that it has not a side open to
ridicule, and all the most pure and noble attributes of our nature may
be converted into subjects for a jest, by minds in which no lofty idea
can find an echo. All notions of unworldly and unselfish attachment are
branded with the name of romantic follies, unworthy of sensible persons;
and the idealities of love, like all other idealities, are fast
disappearing beneath the leaden mantle of expediency.

The reform must begin here, as in all great moral questions, with the
arbiters of morals--those from whom morals take their tone--women. That
we have no right to expect it to begin with the other sex, may be
proved even by a vulgar aphorism. It is often triumphantly said, that "a
man may marry when he will--a woman must marry when she can." How keen a
satire upon both sexes is couched in this homely proverb! and how long
will they consent not only patiently to acquiesce in its truth, but to
prove it by their actions? That women may be able thus to reform
society, it is of importance that conscience be educated on this subject
as on every other; educated, too, before the tinsel of false romance
deceive the eye, or the frost of worldly-mindedness congeal the heart of
youth. It seems to me that this object would best be effected, not by
avoiding the subject of love, but by treating it, when it arises, with
seriousness and simplicity, as a feeling which the young may one day be
called upon to excite and to return, but which can have no existence in
the lofty in soul and pure in heart, except when called forth by
corresponding qualities in another. Such training as this would be a far
more effectual preventive of foolish passions, than cramping the
intellect in narrow ignorance, and excluding all knowledge of what life
is--in order to prepare people for entering upon it: a plan about as
wise in itself, and as successful as to results, as the bolts, bars, and
duennas of a Spanish play. Outward, substituted for inward, restraints
are sure to act upon man mentally, as actual bonds do physically; he
only wants to get free from them. Noble and virtuous principles in the
heart will not fail to direct the conduct aright, and it is to transfer
these things from matters of decorum or expediency, to matters of
conscience, that we should use our most earnest endeavours. Above all,
it is incumbent upon those who have the training of the young--of women
especially--so to imbue their souls with lofty and conscientious
principles of action, that they may be alike unwilling to deceive, or
liable to be deceived; that they may not be led as fools or as victims
into those responsible relations, for the consequences of which, (how
momentous!) to themselves, to others, and to society at large, they are
answerable to a God of infinite wisdom and justice.


[110] Aime Martin.

[111] It is Coleridge who speaks of the "unselfishness of love," in one
of the volumes of his "Remains."



Women, we fear, cannot do every thing; nor every thing they attempt. But
what they can do, they do, for the most part, excellently--and much more
frequently with an absolute and perfect success, than the aspirants of
our rougher and ambitious sex. They cannot, we think, represent
naturally the fierce and sullen passions of men--nor their coarser
vices--nor even scenes of actual business or contention--nor the mixed
motives, and strong and faulty characters, by which affairs of moment
are usually conducted on the great theatre of the world. For much of
this they are disqualified by the delicacy of their training and habits,
and the still more disabling delicacy which pervades their conceptions
and feelings; and from much they are excluded by their necessary
inexperience of the realities they might wish to describe--by their
substantial and incurable ignorance of business--of the way in which
serious affairs are actually managed--and the true nature of the agents
and impulses that give movement and direction to the stronger currents
of ordinary life. Perhaps they are also incapable of long moral or
political investigations, where many complex and indeterminate elements
are to be taken into account, and a variety of opposite probabilities to
be weighed before coming to a conclusion. They are generally too
impatient to get at the ultimate results, to go well through with such
discussions; and either stop short at some imperfect view of the truth,
or turn aside to repose in the shade of some plausible error. This,
however, we are persuaded, arises entirely from their being seldom set
on such tedious tasks. Their proper and natural business is the
practical regulation of private life, in all its bearings, affections,
and concerns; and the questions with which they have to deal in that
most important department, though often of the utmost difficulty and
nicety, involve, for the most part, but few elements; and may generally
be better described as delicate than intricate;--requiring for their
solution rather a quick tact and fine perception, than a patient or
laborious examination. For the same reason, they rarely succeed in long
works, even on subjects the best suited to their genius; their natural
training rendering them equally averse to long doubt and long labour.

For all other intellectual efforts, however, either of the understanding
or the fancy, and requiring a thorough knowledge either of man's
strength or his weakness, we apprehend them to be, in all respects, as
well qualified as their perceptions of grace, propriety, ridicule--their
power of detecting artifice, hypocrisy, and affectation--the force and
promptitude of their sympathy, and their capacity of noble and devoted
attachment, and of the efforts and sacrifices it may require, they are,
beyond all doubt, our superiors.

Their business being, as we have said, with actual or social life, and
the colours it receives from the conduct and dispositions of
individuals, they unconsciously acquire, at a very early age, the
finest perception of character and manners, and are almost as soon
instinctively schooled in the deep and more dangerous learning of
feeling and emotion; while the very minuteness with which they make and
meditate on these interesting observations, and the finer shades and
variations of sentiment which are thus treasured and recorded, train
their whole faculties to a nicety and precision of operation, which
often discloses itself to advantage in their application to studies of a
different character. When women, accordingly, have turned their
minds--as they have done but too seldom--to the exposition or
arrangement of any branch of knowledge, they have commonly exhibited, we
think, a more beautiful accuracy, and a more uniform and complete
justness of thinking, than their less discriminating brethren. There is
a finish and completeness, in short, about every thing they put out of
their hands, which indicates not only an inherent taste for elegance and
neatness, but a habit of nice observation, and singular exactness of

It has been so little the fashion, at any time, to encourage women to
write for publication, that it is more difficult than it should be, to
prove these truths by examples. Yet there are enough, within the reach
of a very careless and superficial glance over the open field of
literature, to enable us to explain, at least, and illustrate, if not
entirely to verify, our assertions. No _man_, we will venture to say,
could have written the Letters of Madame de Sevigne, or the Novels of
Miss Austin, or the Hymns and Early Lessons of Mrs. Barbauld, or the
Conversations of Mrs. Marcet. Those performance, too, are not only
essentially and intensely feminine; but they are, in our judgment,
decidedly more perfect than any masculine productions with which they
can be brought into comparison. They accomplish more completely all the
ends at which they aim; and are worked out with a gracefulness and
felicity of execution which excludes all idea of failure, and entirely
satisfies the expectations they may have raised. We might easily have
added to these instances. There are many parts of Miss Edgeworth's
earlier stories, and of Miss Mitford's sketches and descriptions, and
not a little of Mrs. Opie's, that exhibit the same fine and penetrating
spirit of observations, the same softness and delicacy of hand, and
unerring truth of delineation, to which we have alluded as
characterizing the purer specimens of female art. The same
distinguishing traits of woman's spirit are visible through the grief
and piety of Lady Russel, and the gayety, the spite, and the
venturesomeness of Lady Mary Wortley. We have not as yet much female
poetry; but there is a truly feminine tenderness, purity, and elegance
in the Psyche of Mrs. Tighe, and in some of the smaller pieces of Lady
Craven. On some of the works of Madame de Stael--her Corinne
especially--there is a still deeper stamp of the genius of her sex. Her
pictures of its boundless devotedness--its depth and capacity of
suffering--its high aspirations--its painful irritability, and
inextinguishable thirst for emotion, are powerful specimens of that
morbid anatomy of the heart, which no hand but that of a woman's was
fine enough to have laid open, or skilful enough to have recommended to
our sympathy and love. There is the same exquisite and inimitable
delicacy, if not the same power, in many of the happier passages of
Madame de Souza and Madame Cottin--to say nothing of the more lively and
yet melancholy records of Madame de Stael, during her long penance in
the court of the Duchesse de Maine.

We think the poetry of Mrs. Hemans a fine exemplification of Female
Poetry--and we think it has much of the perfection which we have
ventured to ascribe to the happier productions of female genius.

It may not be the best imaginable poetry, and may not indicate the very
highest or most commanding genius; but it embraces a great deal of that
which gives the very best poetry its chief power of pleasing; and would
strike us, perhaps, as more impassioned and exalted, if it were not
regulated and harmonized by the most beautiful taste. It is singularly
sweet, elegant, and tender--touching, perhaps, and contemplative, rather
than vehement and overpowering; and not only finished throughout with an
exquisite delicacy, and even severity of execution, but infused with a
purity and loftiness of feeling, and a certain sober and humble tone of
indulgence and piety, which must satisfy all judgments, and allay the
apprehensions of those who are most afraid of the passionate
exaggerations of poetry. The diction is always beautiful, harmonious,
and free--and the themes, though of great variety, uniformly treated
with a grace, originality, and judgment, which mark the same master
hand. These themes she has occasionally borrowed, with the peculiar
imagery that belongs to them, from the legends of different nations, and
the most opposite states of society; and has contrived to retain much
of what is interesting and peculiar in each of them, without adopting,
along with it, any of the revolting or extravagant excesses which may
characterize the taste or manners of the people or the age from which it
has been derived. She has transfused into her German or Scandinavian
legends the imaginative and daring tone of the originals, without the
mystical exaggerations of the one, or the painful fierceness and
coarseness of the other--she has preserved the clearness and elegance of
the French, without their coldness or affectation--and the tenderness
and simplicity of the early Italians, without their diffuseness or
languor. Though occasionally expatiating, somewhat fondly and at large,
among the sweets of her own planting, there is, on the whole, a great
condensation and brevity in most of her pieces, and, almost without
exception, a most judicious and vigorous conclusion. The great merit,
however, of her poetry, is undoubtedly in its tenderness and its
beautiful imagery. The first requires no explanation; but we must be
allowed to add a word as to the peculiar charm and character of the

It has always been our opinion, that the very essence of poetry--apart
from the pathos, the wit, or the brilliant description which may be
imbodied in it, but may exist equally in prose--consists in the fine
perception and vivid expression of the subtle and mysterious analogy
which exists between the physical and the moral world--which makes
outward things and qualities the natural types and emblems of inward
gifts and emotions, or leads us to ascribe life and sentiment to every
thing that interests us in the aspects of external nature. The feeling
of this analogy, obscure and inexplicable as the theory of it may be, is
so deep and universal in our nature, that it has stamped itself on the
ordinary language of men of every kindred and speech: that to such an
extent, that one-half of the epithets by which we familiarly designate
moral and physical qualities, are in reality so many metaphors, borrowed
reciprocally, upon this analogy, from those opposite forms of
expression. The very familiarity, however, of the expression, in these
instances, takes away its political effect--and indeed, in substance,
its metaphorical character. The original sense of the word is entirely
forgotten in the derivative one to which it has succeeded; and it
requires some etymological recollection to convince us that it was
originally nothing else than a typical or analogical illustration. Thus
we talk of a sparkling wit, and a furious blast--a weighty argument, and
a gentle stream--without being at all aware that we are speaking in the
language of poetry, and transferring qualities from one extremity of the
sphere of being to another. In these cases, accordingly, the metaphor,
by ceasing to be felt, in reality ceases to exist, and the analogy being
no longer intimated, of course can produce no effect. But whenever it is
intimated, it does produce an effect; and that effect we think is

It has substantially two functions, and operates in two directions. In
the _first_ place, when material qualities are ascribed to mind, it
strikes vividly out, and brings at once before us, the conception of an
inward feeling or emotion, which it might otherwise have been difficult
to convey, by the presentiment of some bodily form or quality, which is
instantly felt to be its true representative, and enables us to fix and
comprehend it with a force and clearness not otherwise attainable; and,
in the _second_ place, it vivifies dead and inanimate matter with the
attributes of living and sentient mind, and fills the whole visible
universe around us with objects of interest and sympathy, by tinting
them with the hues of life, and associating them with our own passions
and affections. This magical operation the poet too performs, for the
most part, in one of two ways--either by the direct agency of similies
and metaphors, more or less condensed or developed, or by the mere
graceful presentment of such visible objects on the scene of his
passionate dialogues or adventures, as partake of the character of the
emotion he wishes to excite, and thus form an appropriate accompaniment
or preparation for its direct indulgence or display. The former of those
methods has perhaps been most frequently employed, and certainly has
most attracted attention. But the latter, though less obtrusive, and
perhaps less frequently resorted to of set purpose, is, we are inclined
to think, the most natural and efficacious of the two; and it is often
adopted, we believe unconsciously, by poets of the highest order;--the
predominant emotion of their minds overflowing spontaneously on all the
objects which present themselves to their fancy, and calling out from
them, and colouring with their own hues, those that are naturally
emblematic of its character, and in accordance with its general
expression. It would be easy to show how habitually this is done, by
Shakspeare and Milton especially, and how much many of their finest
passages are indebted, both for force and richness of effect, to this
general and diffusive harmony of the external character of their scenes
with the passions of their living agents--this harmonizing and
appropriate glow with which they kindle the whole surrounding
atmosphere, and bring all that strikes the sense into unison with all
the touches the heart.

But it is more to our present purpose to say, that we think the fair
writer before us is eminently a mistress of this poetical secret; and,
in truth, it was solely for the purpose of illustrating this great charm
and excellence in her imagery, that we have ventured upon this little
dissertation. Almost all her poems are rich with fine descriptions, and
studded over with images of visible beauty. But these are never idle
ornaments; all her pomps have a meaning; and her flowers and her gems
are arranged, as they are said to be among Eastern lovers, so as to
speak the language of truth and of passion. This is peculiarly
remarkable in some little pieces, which seem at first sight to be purely
descriptive--but are soon found to tell upon the heart, with a deep
moral and pathetic impression. But it is, in truth, nearly as
conspicuous in the greater part of her productions; where we scarcely
meet with any striking sentiment that is not ushered in by some such
symphony of external nature--and scarcely a lovely picture that does not
serve as an appropriate foreground to some deep or lofty emotion. We may
illustrate this proposition, we think, by the following exquisite lines,
on a palm-tree in an English garden.

    It waved not through an Eastern sky,
    Beside a fount of Araby
    It was not fanned by southern breeze
    In some green isle of Indian seas,
    Nor did its graceful shadows sleep
    O'er stream of Africa, lone and deep.

    But far the exiled Palm-tree grew
    Midst foliage of no kindred hue;
    Through the laburnum's dropping gold
    Rose the light shaft of orient mould,
    And Europe's violets, faintly sweet,
    Purpled the moss-beds at his feet.

    There came an eve of festal hours--
    Rich music filled that garden's bowers:
    Lamps, that from flowering branches hung,
    On sparks of dew soft colours flung,
    And bright forms glanced--a fairy show--
    Under the blossoms, to and fro.

    But one, a lone one, midst the throng,
    Seemed reckless all of dance or song:
    He was a youth of dusky mien,
    Whereon the Indian sun had been--
    Of crested brow, and long black hair--
    A stranger, like the Palm-tree, there!

    And slowly, sadly moved his plumes,
    Glittering athwart the leafy glooms:
    He passed the pale green olives by,
    Nor won the chestnut-flowers his eye;
    But, when to that sole Palm he came,
    Then shot a rapture through his frame!

    To him, to him its rustling spoke:
    The silence of his soul it broke!
    It whispered of his own bright isle,
    That lit the ocean with a smile;
    Ay, to his ear that native tone
    Had something of the sea-wave's moan!

    His mother's cabin home, that lay
    Where feathery cocoas fringed the bay;
    The dashing of his brethren's oar;
    The conch-note heard along the shore;--
    All through his wakening bosom swept;
    He clasped his country's Tree--and wept!

    Oh! scorn him not! The strength whereby
    The patriot girds himself to die,
    The unconquerable power, which fills
    The freeman battling on his hills--
    These have one fountain deep and clear--
    The same whence gushed that child-like tear!



There are two great sources of unhappiness to those whom fortune and
nature seem to have placed above the reach of ordinary miseries. The one
is _ennui_--that stagnation of life and feeling which results from the
absence of all motives to exertion; and by which the justice of
Providence has so fully compensated the partiality of fortune, that it
may be fairly doubted whether, upon the whole, the race of beggars is
not happier than the race of lords; and whether those vulgar wants that
are sometimes so importunate, are not, in this world, the chief
ministers of enjoyment. This is a plague that infects all indolent
persons who can live on in the rank in which they were born, without the
necessity of working; but, in a free country, it rarely occurs in any
great degree of virulence, except among those who are already at the
summit of human felicity. Below this, there is room for ambition, and
envy, and emulation, and all the feverish movements of aspiring vanity
and unresting selfishness, which act as prophylactics against this more
dark and deadly distemper. It is the canker which corrodes the
full-blown flower of human felicity--the pestilence which smites at the
bright hour of noon.

The other curse of the happy, has a range more wide and indiscriminate.
It, too, tortures only the comparatively rich and fortunate; but is most
active among the least distinguished; and abates in malignity as we
ascend to the lofty regions of pure _ennui_. This is the desire of being
fashionable;--the restless and insatiable passion to pass for creatures
a little more distinguished than we really are--with the mortification
of frequent failure, and the humiliating consciousness of being
perpetually exposed to it. Among those who are secure of "meat, clothes,
and fire," and are thus above the chief physical evils of existence, we
do believe that this is a more prolific source of unhappiness, than
guilt, disease, or wounded affection; and that more positive misery is
created, and more true enjoyment excluded, by the eternal fretting and
straining of this pitiful ambition, than by all the ravages of passion,
the desolations of war, or the accidents or mortality. This may appear a
strong statement; but we make it deliberately; and are deeply convinced
of its truth. The wretchedness which it produces may not be so intense;
but it is of much longer duration, and spreads over a far wider circle.
It is quite dreadful, indeed, to think what a sweep of this pest has
taken among the comforts or our prosperous population. To be though
fashionable--that is, to be thought more opulent and tasteful, and on a
footing of intimacy with a greater number of distinguished persons than
they really are, is the great and laborious pursuit of four families out
of five, the members of which are exempted from the necessity of daily
industry. In this pursuit, their time, spirits, and talents are wasted;
their tempers soured; their affections palsied; and their natural
manners and dispositions altogether sophisticated and lost.

These are the great twin scourges of the prosperous: But there are
other maladies, of no slight malignity, to which they are peculiarly
liable. One of these, arising mainly from want of more worthy
occupation, is that perpetual use of stratagem and contrivance--that
little, artful diplomacy of private life, by which the simplest and most
natural transactions are rendered complicated and difficult, and the
common business of existence made to depend on the success of plots and
counterplots. By the incessant practice of this petty policy, a habit of
duplicity and anxiety is infallibly generated, which is equally fatal to
integrity and enjoyment. We gradually come to look on others with the
distrust which we are conscious of deserving; and are insensibly formed
to sentiments of the most unamiable selfishness and suspicion. It is
needless to say, that all these elaborate artifices are worse than
useless to the person who employs them; and that the ingenious plotter
is almost always baffled and exposed by the downright honesty of some
undesigning competitor. Miss Edgeworth, in her tale of "Manoeuvring,"
has given a very complete and most entertaining representation of "the
by-paths and indirect crooked ways," by which these artful and
inefficient people generally make their way to disappointment. In the
tale, entitled "Madame de Fleury," she has given some useful examples of
the ways in which the rich may most effectually do good to the poor--an
operation which, we really believe, fails more frequently from want of
skill than of inclination: And, in "The Dun," she has drawn a touching
and most impressive picture of the wretchedness which the poor so
frequently suffer, from the unfeeling thoughtlessness which withholds
from them the scanty earnings of their labour.


The immense importance of personal character is a subject which does not
enough draw the attention of individuals or society, yet it is to the
power of gaining influence, what the root is to the tree,--the soul to
the body. It is doubtful if any of us can be acquainted with the
infinitely minute ramifications into which this all-pervading influence
extends. A slight survey of society will enable us, in some degree, to
judge of it. There are individuals who, by the sole force of personal
character, seem to render wise, better, more elevated, all with whom
they come in contact. Others, again, stand in the midst of the society
in which they are placed, a moral upas, poisoning the atmosphere around
them, so that no virtue can come within their shadow and live. Family
virtues descend with family estates, and hereditary vices are hardly
compensated for by hereditary possessions. The characters of the junior
members of a family are often only reflections or modifications of those
of the elder. Families retain for generations peculiarities of temper
and character. The Catos were all stern, upright, inflexible; the Guises
proud and haughty at the heart, though irresistibly popular and
fascinating in manner. We _see_ the influence which men, exalted and
powerful, exert on their age, and on society; it is difficult to
believe that a similar influence is exerted by every individual man and
woman, however limited his or her sphere of life: the force of the
torrent is easily calculated,--that of the under-current is hidden, yet
its existence and power are no less actual.

This truth opens to the conscientious a field of duty not enough
cultivated. The improvement of individual character has been too much
regarded as a matter of personal concern, a duty to ourselves,--to our
immediate relations perhaps, but to no others,--a matter affecting out
individual happiness here, and our individual safety hereafter! This is
taking a very narrow view of a very extended subject. The work of
individual self-formation is a duty, not only to ourselves and our
families, but to our fellow-creatures at large; it is the best and most
certainly beneficial exercise of philanthropy. It is not, it is true,
very flattering to self-love to be told, that instead of mending the
world, (the mania of the present day,) the best service which we can do
that world is to mend ourselves. "If each mends one, all will be
mended," says the old English adage, with the deep wisdom of those
popular sayings,--a wisdom amply corroborated by the unsettled
principles and defective practice of too many of the self-elected
reformers of society.

It is peculiarly desirable, at this particular juncture of time, that
this subject be insisted upon. Man, naturally a social and gregarious
animal, becomes every day more so. The vast undertakings, the mighty
movements of the present day, which can only be carried into operation
by the combined energy of many wills, tend to destroy individuality of
thought and action, and the consciousness of individual responsibility.
The dramatist complains of this fact, as it affects his art, the
representation of surface,--the moralist has greater cause to complain
of it, as affecting the foundation of character. If it be true that we
must not follow a multitude to do evil, it is equally true that we must
not follow a multitude even to do good, if it involve the neglect of our
own peculiar duties. Our first, most peremptory, and most urgent duty,
is, the improvement of our own character; so that public beneficence may
not be neutralized by private selfishness,--public energy by private
remissness,--that the applause of the world may not be bought at the
expense of private and domestic wretchedness. So frequent and so
lamentable are the proofs of human weakness in this respect, that we are
sometimes tempted to believe the opinion of the cold and sneering
skeptic,[112] that the two ruling passions of men are the love of
pleasure and the love of action; and that all their seemingly good deeds
proceed from these principles. It is not so: it is a libel on human
nature: men,--even erring men,--have better motives, and higher aims:
but they mistake the nature of their duties and invert their order; what
should be "first is last, and the last first."

It may be wisely urged, that if men waited for the perfecting of
individual character, before they joined their fellow men in those great
undertakings which are to insure benefit to the race, nothing would ever
be accomplished, and society would languish in a state of passive
inertness. It is far from necessarily following that attention to
private should interfere with attention to public interests; and public
interests are more advanced or retarded than it is possible to believe,
by the personal characters of their agitators. It is difficult to get
the worldly and the selfish to see this, but it is, nevertheless, true;
and there is no wisdom, political or moral, in the phrase, "Measures,
not men." Measures, wise and just in themselves, are received with
distrust and suspicion, because the characters of their originators are
liable to distrust and suspicion. Lord Chesterfield, the great master of
deception, was forced to pay truth the compliment of declaring, that
"the most successful diplomatist would be a man perfectly honest and
upright, who should, at all times, and in all circumstances, say the
truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." So the rulers of
nations ought to be perfectly honest and upright; not because such men
would be free from error, but because the faith of the governed in their
honour would obviate the consequences of many errors. It is the want of
unselfishness and truth on the part of rulers, and the consequent want
of faith in the ruled, that has reduced the politics of nations to a
complicated science. If we could once get men to act out the gospel
precept, "Do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you,"
nations might burn their codes, and lawyers their statute-books. These
are the hundred cords with which the Lilliputians bound Gulliver, and he
escaped. If they had possessed it, or could have managed it, one cable
would have been worth them all. Much has been said,--much written,--on
the art of governing. Why has the simple truth been overlooked or
suppressed, that the moral character of the rulers of nations is of
first-rate importance? Except the Lord build the city, vain is the
labour of them who build it; except religion and virtue guide the state,
vain are the talents and the acts of legislators. Is it possible that
motives of paltry personal advancement, or of pecuniary gain, can induce
men to assume responsibilities affecting the welfare of millions? The
voice of those millions replies in the affirmative, and their
reproachful glances turn on _you_, mothers of our legislators! It might
have been yours, to stamp on their infant minds the dispassionate and
unselfish devotedness which belongs to your own sex,--the scorn of
meanness; the contempt of self, in comparison with others, peculiar to
woman. How have you fulfilled your lofty mission? Charity itself can
only allow us to suppose that its existence is as unknown as its spirit.

The important fact, then, of the great influence of personal character,
can never be too much impressed upon all; but it is peculiarly needful
that women be impressed with it, because their personal character must
necessarily influence that of their children, and be the source of their
personal character. For, if the active performance of the duties of a
citizen interfere, and it undoubtedly does so, with the duty of
self-education, of what importance is it that men enter upon them with
such a personal character as may insure us confidence while it secures
us from temptation? The formation of such a character depends mainly on
mothers, and especially on their personal character and principles. The
character of the mother influences the children more than that of the
father, because it is more exposed to their daily, hourly observation.
It is difficult for these young, though acute observers, to comprehend
the principles which regulate their father's political opinions; his
vote in the senate; his conduct in political or commercial relations;
but they can see,--yes! and they can estimate and imitate, the moral
principles of the mother in her management of themselves, her treatment
of her domestics, and the thousand petty details of the interior. These
principles, whether lax or strict, low or high in moral tone, become, by
an insensible and imperceptible adoption, their principles, and are
carried out by them into the duties and avocations of future life. It
would be startling to many to know with what intelligence and accuracy
motives are penetrated, inconsistencies remarked, and treasured up with
retributive or imitative projects, as may best suit the purpose of the
moment. Nothing but a more extensive knowledge of children than is
usually possessed on entering life, can awaken parents to the perception
of this truth; and awakened perception may, perhaps, be only awakened
misery. How important is it, then, that every thing in the education of
women should tend to enlighten conscience, that she may enter on her
arduous task with principles requiring only watchfulness, not
reformation; and such a personal character as may exercise none by
healthy influences on her children!


[112] Gibbon.


The qualities which seem more especially needful in a character which is
to influence others, are, consistency, simplicity, and benevolence, or

By consistency of character, I mean consistency of action with
principle, of manner with thought, of _self_ with _self_. The want of
this quality is a failing with which our sex is often charged, and
justly; but are we to blame? Our hearts are warm, our nerves irritable,
and we have seen how little there is, in existing systems of female
education, calculated to give wide, lofty, self-devoted principles of
action. Without such principles, there can be no consistency of conduct;
and without consistency of conduct, there can be no available moral

The peculiar evil arising from want of consistency, is the want of trust
or faith which it engenders. This is felt in the common intercourse with
the world. In our relations with inconsistent persons, we are like
mariners at sea without a compass. On the other hand, intercourse with
consistent persons gives to the mind a sort of tranquillity, peculiarly
favourable to happiness and to virtue. It is like the effect produced by
the perception of an immutable truth, which, from the very force of
contrast, is peculiarly grateful to the inhabitants of so changeable a
world as this. It is moral repose.

This sort of moral repose is most peculiarly advantageous to children,
because it allows ample scope for the development of their mental and
moral faculties; banishing from their minds all that chaotic
bewilderment into which dependence on inconsistent persons throws them.
It is advantageous to them in another, and more important way,--it
prepares them for a belief in virtue; a trust in others, which it is
easy to train up into a veneration for the source of all virtue; a trust
in the origin of all truth. There can be no clearness of moral
perception in the governed, where there is no manifestation of a moral
rule of right in the governor. In speaking of moral perception, I do not
mean to say that children have, properly speaking, a moral perception of
inconsistency; but it affects their comfort and well-being,
nevertheless. There is, in the nature of man, as great a perception of
moral, as of physical order and proportion; and the absence of the moral
produces pain and disgust to the soul, as the absence of the physical
does to the senses. This state of pain and disgust is felt, though it
can never be expressed, by children, who are under the management of
inconsistent persons,--that is, persons whose conduct is guided solely
by feeling, (good or bad,) by caprice, or impulse; and how injurious it
is to them, we may easily conceive. If, however, their present comfort
only were endangered by it, the evil would be of comparatively small
magnitude; but it affects their character for life. They cease to trust,
and they cease to venerate; now, trust is the root of faith, and
veneration of piety:--and when the root is destroyed, how can the plant
flourish? Perhaps we may remark that the effect here produced upon
children is the same as that which long intercourse with the world
produces in men: only that the effect differs in proportion to their
differing intellectual faculties. The child is annoyed, and knows not
the cause of annoyance; the man is annoyed, and endeavours to lose the
sense of discomfort in a universal skepticism as to human virtue, and a
resolving of all actions into one principle, self-interest. He thus
seeks to create a principle possessing the stability which he desires,
but seeks in vain to find; for, be it remembered, our love of moral
stability is precisely as great as our love of physical change;--another
of the mysteries of our being. The effects on the man are the same as on
the child,--he ceases to believe, and he ceases to venerate; and the end
is the most degrading of all conditions,--the abnegation of all abstract
virtue, generosity, or love. Now, into this state children are brought
by the inconsistency of parents,--that is, these young and innocent
creatures are placed in a condition, moral and intellectual, which we
consider an evil, even when produced by long contact with a selfish and
unkind world. And thus they enter upon life, prepared for vice in all
its forms,--and skepticism, in all its heart-withering tendencies. How
can parents bear this responsibility? There is something so touching in
the simple faith of childhood,--its utter dependence,--its willingness
to believe in the perfection of those to whom it looks for
protection--that to betray that faith, to shake that dependence, seems
almost akin to irreligion.

The value of principle, then, in itself so precious, is enhanced tenfold
by constancy in its manifestations, and therefore consistency, as a
source of influence, can never be too much insisted upon.

Consistency of principle is brought to the test in every daily, hourly
occurrence of woman's life, and if she have been brought up without an
abiding sense of duty and responsibility, she is of all beings most
unfortunate; influences the most potent are committed to her care, and
from her they issue like the simoom of the desert, breathing moral
blight and death. I have endeavoured, in some degree, to enforce the
power of indirect influences on the minds of _children_: they are very
powerful in the other relations of life; in the conjugal, the truth is
too well known and attested by tale and song to need additional
corroboration here--and this book is principally, though not wholly,
dedicated to woman in her maternal character.

The extreme importance of the manifestation of consistency in mothers
may be argued from this fact, that it is of infinite importance to
children to see the daily operation of an immutable and consistent rule
of right, in matters sufficiently small to come within the sphere of
childish observation, and, therefore, if called upon to give a
definition of the peculiar mission of woman, and the peculiar source of
her influence, I should say it is the application of large principles to
small duties,--the agency of comprehensive intelligence on details. That
largeness of mental vision, which, while it can comprehend the vast, is
too keen to overlook the little, is especially to be cultivated by
women. It is a great mistake to suppose the two qualities are
incompatible; and the supposition that they are so, has done much
mischief; the error arises not from the extent, but from the narrowness
of our capacity, _To aspire_ is our privilege, and a privilege which we
are by no means slack to use, without considering that the operations of
infinitude are even more incomprehensible in their minuteness than in
their magnitude, and that, therefore, to be always looking from the
minute towards the vast, is only a proof of the finite nature of our
present capacity. The loftiest intellect may, without abasement, be
employed on the minutest domestic detail, and in all probability will
perform it better than an inferior one: it is the motive and end of an
action which makes it either dignified or mean. In the homely words of
old Herbert

    All may of thee partake:
      Nothing can be so mean,
    Which, with this tincture, _for thy sake_
      Will not grow bright and clean.

It is then in the minutiae of daily life and conduct that this
consistency has its most beneficial operation, and it must derive its
power from the personal character for this reason, that no virtues but
indigenous ones are capable of the sort of moral transfusion here
mentioned. It is rare to see a parent, eminently distinguished by any
moral virtue, unsuccessful in the transmitting that virtue to children,
simply because, being an integral part of character, it is consistent in
its mode of operation; so virtues originating in effort, or practised
for the sake of example, are seldom transferable; the same consistency
cannot be expected in the exercise of them, and this may explain the
small success of pattern mothers, _par excellence_ so called, and whose
good intentions and sacrifices ought not to be objects of derision; the
very appearance of effort mars the effect of all effort.

The world is sometimes surprised to see extraordinary proofs of moral
influence exercised by persons who never planned, never aimed, to obtain
such influence,--nay, whose conduct is never regulated by any fixed aim
for its attainment; the fact is, that those characters are composed of
truth and love;--truth, which prevents the assumption even of virtues
which are not natural, thereby adding to the influence of such as are;
love, the most contagious of all moral contagions, the regenerating
principle of the world!

The virtue which mainly contributes to the support of
consistency--without which, in fact, consistency cannot exist--is
simplicity: consistency of conduct can never be maintained by characters
in any degree double or sophisticated, for it is not of simplicity as
opposed to craft, but of simplicity as opposed to sophistication, that I
would here speak, and rather as the Christian virtue, single-mindedness;
the desire to _be_, opposed to the wish to _appear_. We have seen how
rarely influence can be gained where no faith can be yielded; now an
unsimple character can never inspire faith or trust. People do not
always analyze mental phenomena sufficiently to know the reason of this
fact, but no one will dispute the fact itself. It is true there are
persons who have the power of conciliating confidence of which they are
unworthy, but it is only because (like Castruccio Castrucciani) they are
such exquisite dissemblers, that their affection of simplicity has
temporarily the effect of simplicity itself. This power of successful
assumption is, fortunately, confined to very few, and the pretenders to
unreal virtues and the utterer of assumed sentiments are only ill-paid
labourers, working hard to reap no harvest-fruits.

An objection slightly advanced before, may here naturally occur again,
and may be answered more fully, viz. the opposition of the conventional
forms of society to entire simplicity of thought and action, and
consequently to influence. The influence which conventionalism has over
principle is to be utterly disclaimed, but its having an injurious
influence over manner is far more easily obviated; so easily, indeed,
that it may be doubted whether there be not more simplicity in
compliance than in opposition. Originality, either of thought or
behaviour, is most uncommon, and only found in minds above, or in minds
below, the ordinary standard; neither is this peculiar feature of
society in itself a blame-worthy one: it arises out of the constitution
of man, naturally imitative, gregarious, and desirous of approbation.
Nothing would be gained by the abolition of these forms, for they are
representatives of a good spirit; the spirit, it is true, is too often
not there, but it would be better to call it back than to abolish the
form. We have an opportunity of judging how far it would be convenient
or agreeable to do so, in the conduct of some _soi-disant_ contemners of
forms; we perceive that such contempt is equally the offspring of
selfishness with slavish regard: it is only the exchange of the
selfishness of vanity for the selfishness of indolence and pride, and
the world is the loser by the exchange. Hypocrisy has been said to be
the homage which vice pays to virtue. Conventional forms may, with
justice, be called the homage which selfishness pays to benevolence.

How then is simplicity of character to be preserved without violating
conventionalism, to which it seems so much at variance, and yet, which
it ought not to oppose? By the cultivation of that spirit of which
conventional forms are only the symbol, by training children in the
early exercise of the kind the benevolent affections, and by exacting in
the domestic circle all those observances which are the signs of
good-will in society, so that they may be the emanations of a benevolent
heart, instead of the gloss of artificial politeness. Conventionalism
will never injure the simplicity of such characters as these, nay, it
may greatly add to their influence, and secure for their virtues and
talents the reception that they deserve; it is a part of benevolence to
cultivate the graces that may persuade or allure men to the imitation of
what is right. "Stand off, I am holier than thou," is not more foreign
to true piety, than "Stand off, I am wiser than thou," is to true
benevolence, as relates to those "things indifferent," in which we are
told that we may be all things to all men.

The cultivation of domestic politeness is a subject not nearly enough
attended to, yet it is the sign, and ought to be the manifestation, of
many beautiful virtues--affection, self-denial, elegance, are all called
into play by it; and it has a potent recommendation in its being an
excellent preservative against affectation, which generally arises from
a great desire to please, joined to an ignorance of the means of
pleasing successfully. It is to be hoped that these remarks will not be
deemed trifling or irrelevant in a chapter on the means of securing
personal influence. Powers of pleasing are a very great source of that
influence, and there is no telling how great might be the benefit to
society, if all on whom they are bestowed (and how lavishly they are
bestowed on woman!) would be persuaded to use them, not as a means of
selfish gratification, but as an engine for the promotion of good.[113]
Such powers are as sacred a trust from the Creator as any other gift,
and ought to be equally used for his glory and the advancement of moral
good. Virtue, indeed, in itself is venerable, but it must be attractive
in order to be influential. And how attractive it might be, if the
powers of pleasing, which can cover and even recommend the deformity of
vice, were conscientiously excited in its behalf! This is the peculiar
province of women, and they are peculiarly fitted for it by Nature.
Their personal loveliness, their versatile powers, and lively fancy,
qualify them in an eminent degree to adorn, and by adorning to
recommend, virtue and religion.

    Cosi all' egro fanciul porgiamo aspersi
    Di soare licor gli orli del vaso.


[113] It was a beautiful idea in the mythology of the ancients, which
identified the Graces with the Charities of social life.


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