Page images
PDF
EPUB

LETTERS TO THE COUNTRY.

No. II. Reason for writing to a lady—Disavowal of politeness-The misogynist answered—The two little milliners-A specimen of family conversation-Difference between the mental powers of the sexes stated and demonstrated-Argu. ment interrupted by Miss Kitty Rivers—Beauty in a rage – Richard's character -Argument resumed and concluded. Why is my second letter addressed ment. He disorders the whole ecoto Mrs. instead of, to Mr. Rivers? nomy of the room by his indefatigaAm I about to turn tail (if I had ble attentions to propriety and deone), and flee communication with corum. Out upon him! my own contemplative sex? Where- You, and all who know my heart, fore do I not lay my epistle at the feet will exonerate me from the imputaof him who reigns over the Riversdale tion of being a gallant man. (That family,—one of the “ lords of the we will, says Kate, looking slyly creation?”—For the best of good through her long lashes at a certain reasons: because I love the ladies of person whom she would tease a litthe creation better. And, by my tle, and the laugh that she endeabeard ! they deserve that title more vours to repress on her lips swimtruly than we do ours. We may ming out at her eyes,—that we will, be the tyrants of the creation, if you indeed ; especially when you get into will; but the temperate dignity of chat with sweet Miss Sigh-away there mind, which almost echoes in the of an evening, and leave me to pokę monosyllable “ lord,” is seldom an the fire, snuff the candles, ring the inmate of our bosoms: we have, then, bell, &c. &c.) But although there no right to usurp the appellation, is a good deal of incivility, nay, aswith so little pretence to the attri- perity, in my manner towards wobute. But in the word “ lady," what men,-I had rather (to my shame I is implied ?-Sweet sway and gentle confess it) spend an hour in the somajesty. And how often do we meet ciety of an amiable sensible woman, those of your sex, who are justly en- than an age in the company of Plato titled to this name, by the mildness himself. I had rather correspond and grace with which they exert that with one of your sex, than with all little influence which custom and il- of my own put together. Now do liberal philosophy have left them? not say, that this proceeds from the

La! what a gallantman Mr. ungenerous pleasure of exulting in Chatterton is !-No, I am not. I de- my own sexile superiority of mind, spise and detest a gallant man. I and that I prefer the conversation of would as soon see my great-grand- a woman only that I may enjoy father'sghost enter the room, as agal- my intellectual pre-eminence without lant man. I had rather be a downright fear of rivalry. To say this, would monkey at once, than a gallant man; be unjust not only to our sex, but to with his bows, and his smiles, and his your own. For though I candidly grimaces ; his compliments and his avow my opinion, that in the excourtesies ; his perpetual handing of tremes of intellect, genius, wisdom, chairs, and picking up of gloves, energy of mind, profimdity of handkerchiefs, and pincushions ; his thought, and sublimity of imaginaincessant exertions in plying you tion, women have never reached, with bread and butter, watching and never can, by the very nature your cup that he may snatch it away of their frames, habits, and constitubefore it is comfortably exhausted, tion, reach the heights to which men his inevitable" you are perfectly frequently soar,--yet I think that in right, madam,” his pert common- all the qualities of mind less than places, and smirking poetry,–1 hate these, and which we may denominatė him. I had rather, any time, be conversational qualities, the balance, half an hour in Hades (if you know upon the whole, inclines equally toit by that tender and poetical name), wards your side. On an average, than have one of these philandering I think there is as much intellectual fellows billetted my society power dispersed through the general through the length of an entertain- female mind, as through the general MARCH, 1821.

U

on

male--but being more equally dif- mizzle falls thick and fast upon their fused, is inconsiderable in each indi- tippets, and the gusts, every now and vidual. This, to be sure, looks too then, from an adjacent alley, blow like an hypothesis ; perhaps it would back curls, caps, and bonnets, in be better to say, that the general beautiful confusion—there they stand, mental' power of your sex is inferior I say, and neither rain, wind, josin kind, but equal in the degree of tlings, nor impudent salutations ; its kind, to ours,- both kinds being nor the uproar of the middle of the supposed to be evenly distributed street, the thunder of the heavy over their respective sex, and such a rolling vans and drays, drawn by a comparison instituted between them team of black elephants with their as two dissimilar powers of mind will ponderous tread and splatter, nor the bear. Away with your metaphysics braying rattle of the stage-coach, nor and mystifications ! says the Miso- the wild whoop of the Jarvies, * nor gynist, answer me to this: where do the swift flash of the landau, grindyou meet a woman, who can uttering the curb-stones as it flies along; any thing beyond a stream of silly no, nor the mingled din and clamour prattle, sweet enough, I grant you, of coachmen, coal-heavers, criers, but withal insipid ? And where do ballad-singers, barrel-organs, and you meet a man, say I, who can ut- blackguard boys,-- Punch with his ter any thing at alí

, silly or solid, peculiar squeak down one lane, the sweet or sour, insipid or sapid ? Be- Pandeans swelled with a rope-strung hold two boobies salute in the street! violoncello up another,—not all this “ Haw diddoo, Tom?” “ Haw did- broil and brattle, this worse than Badoo, Jack?" make up the sum of their bel in the best of its days, can hinder conversation. The tail-less monkies the two little milliners from talking.

-No: to call them so, would be a From hearing, it does undoubtedly ; libel on the Ape, for they cannot but from talking, is beyond its effieven chatter.—The boobies, I say, cacy, or that of any sublunary preare not only senseless, but speech- ventive short of cutting out their less; it is not that they have ideas, tongues, or sewing up their lips. but no words or words, but no ideas, " Though hell itself should gape, and they have neither ideas nor words. bid them hold their peace.” And if what some philosophers assert Why, Richard! why my dear boy, be true, namely, that it is the use I thought you were speaking in deof speech which puts the difference fence of women? between men and brutes, I wonder Why, so I am, Ma'am, as hard as how far removed these dumb

young gentlemen are from the condition of What! by saying that we would upright quadrupeds, and whether speak in spite of they may not be considered as the In spite of the d; yes, Ma'am. veritable Monboddo men, who have Upon my word, we are much obliged just gotten rid of their dorsal appen- to you for your advocacy. Mary, dages. Now cast your eyes over to love, in your next letter to Richard, the other side of the street, and look be sure you cross it in blue ink, as at those two little milliners, propped usual, and then diamond-cross it in each

upon a couple of clattering red, that you may not seem to de pattens, holding in one hand a bon- generate from the volubility of speech, net or a band-box, and with the which this Defender of the sex só other keeping their scanty trains out particularly admires. of the gutter.-Only look at them, Ah! mamma, I'm sure he is not so where they stand; I wish you could bad as he seems (my protecting anonly see them, standing with invin- gel replies). cible patience in the very middle of Odious,' odious Richard! (says the pathway, elbowed, joggled, and Kitty). jostled, by the careless herd of pas- He says what I am afraid is but sengers, now driven two yards a- too true of our sex in general (says sunder, now pushed into each other's grave Susan). bosom—there they stand, whilst the Mamma, I remember (says Cherry)

• Extra-sedent bipeds, who transfer intra-sedent bipeds, from place to place, through the instrumentality of rotatory vehicles, each solicited by a pair of ambling quadrupeds : they were formerly known by the generic appellation of-hackney-coachmen.

I can.

- don't you, Mary? don't you rem iş cast in a grander mould. than member Richard saying you had a that of his more delicate compasilver tongue ?

nion, and is composed of a firmSo I did, Cherry; a tongue that er material. Not that I mean to incould discourse most eloquent music, stitute any hypothetical analogy bea voice

tween body and mind, or to argue As sweet and musical from the weight of a man's fist to the As bright Apollo's harp, strung with his solidity of his understanding ; perhair

sons great in mind are frequently (This is too bad ; this is down- very diminutive in stature.

Ta ing right love-making ; no more of it!) another and more philosophical view But I do love to hear a woman's of it, however, the form and frame of sweet voice; and methinks, were I the stronger sex furnish, in my opinto die now, it would be a sweeter ion, an indisputable proof, that the death than mortal ever met, to die same sex is also endowed with whilst Mary sung me to eternal

a more vigorous and energetic powslumber in one of those low-breathed er of mind; for, unless we admit melancholy ditties of her's, which this, Providence would contravene seems to be made up of little more

itself, and break down its own genethan a succession of musical sighs.

ral law, whereby the faculties of its 'Pon my honour, he's making love creatures are proportioned to the ciragain! says that wicked girl (whom cumstances in which they are placed. I cannot often enough wish-over The frame and figure of man show head and ears in love, herself ), and him to be destined to fulfil the active, then goes on

perilous, external duties of life, as

opposed to the inactive, peaceful, and Distracted with care

domestic offices, adapted to the sofFor Phyllis the fair, Poor Damon her lover

ter and more delicate sex. It is he

who must build the house, cultivate trembling with secret laughter all the the field, barter the commodities, time, whilst poor Mary is drowned in defend his property and his family ; a flood of blushes.

or, to speak of him in a more adBut where, in the name of all the vanced state of human affairs, it is planete, have I wandered? Let me to him that the difficult and imporregress to the point from whence I tant duties of life are committed, have travelled so far and so wide. women are physically incapable of

I was saying, and I now say, that, executing them. Man, therefore, taking the intellectual advantages must be endowed with the faculties which masculine education confers which the due performance of these upon us, and the disadvantages which offices require; that is, he must be enfeminine education entails upon wo- dowed with superior vigour, strength, men, taking these things into ac- boldness, and sagacity of mind. For, count, I say that the mean mental if not, there would be no congruity height is pretty nearly the same for between the creature and its circumboth sexes; in other words, that wo- stances; and he would be in the men, in general, are equally gifted, in same unphilosophical situation as an point of mind, with men in general, eagle with the soul of a dove, or a that they are as pleasing companions, lion with the spirit of a mouse. The and not a whit inferior in powers of frame of woman fits her for duties of conversation. So that you are un

an opposite kind, which therefore just to yourselves, and to men also, demand opposite faculties. It is suwhen you impute our preference of perfluous to confirm what I have female society to a feeling or an idea above, I think, demonstrated, by an that we shall find ourselves superior: appeal to general biography and exat least, speaking for myself, I can perience: if any one, recurring to that truly say, that I never sought a wo- test, should affirm that our superiman's conversation for the purpose of ority of genius or understanding is finding my own strength in her weak- wholly owing to education, I would ness; but for the positive cause, that ask, how it happens that, in a peher conversation has charms in which riod of six thousand years, there that of my own sex is deficient.. should have been no instance of a

The mind of man, like his body, Burns, or a Bloomfield, a John

you in

Bunyan, or a John Clare, in pet- fright from such contemplations; ticoats? We find many such illi- you tremble at the voice of the terate geniuses amongst men, and mightier Muse, after having invoked very few geniuses, literate or illite- her, and the spirit which she would rate, amongst women. Even Sappho breathe into your feebly-ambitious and Semiramis, or at least, their deeds, bosoms suffocates you whilst are apocryphal. Catherine of Russia, hale it, How then can you pretend and Elizabeth of England, Madame to equal energy, vigour, power, or de Staël, and Miss Edgeworth, with (as I may call it) ferocity of mind, a few others, are some proof that with us, when you disclaim and degenius does not always wear a beard precate all intereourse with those and a pair of breeches but the passions, in the delineation of which value at which these gems are es- alone energy, vigour, and power of "teemed amongst you indicate their mind are supremely displayed? You scarcity. Moreover, to make assur- shut your eyes upon the play of the ance treble sure, I may as well add, deadly passions, exhibited by the --that you are avowedly inimical tó poets of our sex, and yet you pretend the exhibition of the greater passions, to those qualities of mind which are to their delineation, and to their fic- most congenial to such passions, titious exercise, by the poet, the which taught us to delineate them, orator, or the imaginator; whilst it and which would teach you (did you is in the developement of these greater possess them) to enjoy the delineapassions, and the transient assump- tion ! tion of them by the poet, or imagina- I take it then, as completely estator, that genius ascends to its highest blished :- 1st, by the necessary ecopoint of sublimity. In fact, you dare nomy of Providence, which adapts not be great imaginators, you are the faculties of its creatures to their afraid to be creatures of genius. 'Are circumstances, giving to men the the dagger and the bowl dear to your more strenuous powers of mind, as, thoughts? Are the demons of jea- by the structure of their bodies, they lousy, hatred, anger, revenge, scorn, are engaged in the more arduous and impious ambition, the compa- offices of life: *-2d, by the evidence nions of your meditative hours? No: of general biography and experience, -then pretend not to genius. A which not only afford no instance of powerful imagination and a soaring a female Homer or Milton, whose fancy delight in pictures of horror, superiority may be attributed to agony, madness, guilt, and trans- education, but which cannot adduce cendent woe; these inspire you with one woman who has raised herself fear and aversion. Genius is ever above the common standard of the dipt in visionary blood: the groans world, for every hundred thousand of midnight murder, the supplication, men who have sprung up from the the shriek of perishing mortality, are lowest and most ignorant classes of music upon which the ear of a true society, by the mere force of natural poet, in his waking dreams, feeds abilities:--3d, by the peculiar diswith horrid pleasure: the imaginary position of the female minid (a pecubowl from which he drinks his most liarity, manifest to observation, and potent draughts of inspiration is evinced, theoretically, from such pestained with gore, and is mingled culiar disposition of mind being neof death-sweat and bitter-scalding cessarily congruous to such a peculiar tears. He revels, he riots, in scenes form of body), a disposition which of anguish, cruelty, darkness, death, abjures even the poetic assumption and despair: Hell is the poet's or display of the greater passions, heaven: tragedy, deep and dreadful, the fruit of the grander energies of is the gloomy amusement of his soul. the soul, and withdraws for relief You turn away in sickness and af- from the terrible and sublime to

Even on the supposition of mental equality between the two sexes, at first setting out froin infancy, it is plain, that the stronger-bodied sex, being therefore engaged in the more important line of actions, must eventually acquire stronger powers of mind; and that our intellectual superiority over the weaker-bodied sex is as firmly established, from the same premise of corporeal structure, as it was before, on the hypothesis of faculties being the immediate gift of Providence itself. 4

themes more congenial, a love-tale, a passion, all about nothing. Look a narrative of domestic sorrow, á how I've tumbled all my things! Bless pathetic story, or a scene of gentle me! where's my needle ? Mary dear, woe: I say, 1 take it as completely that's a good girl, lend me a needle established by any one of these ar- Run, Cherry, and bring me the hall of guments, and à fortiori by all three, cotton that fell off my lap while I was that women, as intellectual creatures, talking ; there it is under the sofa. are inferior to men, in power of Heigh-ho! I'm all in a flutter. thought and energy of mind. Nay, I thought he would end with some even where we cannot use these such piece of foolery, drily observes terms with propriety, even in the Mr. R. When nature was about put“common cry" of society, I think ting the finishing touch to Richard's those qualities of mind in which composition, she was called away in energy or vigour make a part, such a hurry to some more important buas judgment, penetration, subtilty, siness, the formation of a beau, or are chiefly visible in our sex: or to a butterfly, perhaps,--and left poor come more nearly to the subject I Dick quite in doubt whether she had set out with, I think, the conversa- intended him for a fool or a philosotion, even of ordinary men, superior pher. Thus he is perpetually oscilto that of women, in sense and soli- lating between sense and nonsense; dity.

one time you would take him for a See what a passion Kitty is in! grave sexagenarian, and another time O, she could bite me, she could! See for a witless child. how the blood dashes over her cheeks, Sir, I do not dissent one tittle from and fires her red lip with a double the opinion you have just passed portion of vermilion! See how her upon me; though I give you no creglossy-black curls swell on her fore- dit for your penetration, inasmuch as head, like the leaves of a young pine you only repeat what I have often tree preparing to blow! Now the pronounced of myself. Sometimes I rack begins !

do and say things, which a Cretin Why, you'odious fellow, didn't you would condemn; sometimes those say this instant, that our conversa- which a rational man might fairly tional powers were not a “ whit” in- allow. Despondency has, sometimes, ferior to yours?

no depth to which I do not sink, No.

under the consciousness of my own No? O what a -! Mary, weakness and folly; I sometimes indidn't he say that?

dulge in aspirations which I should What?

be ashamed to declare. Incessantly “ What !” Do you hear her, replacing the rational by the absurd, now? You know as well as I do, the only question is, whether the star only you won't speak against him. of stupidity does not generally predloDidn't he say, I say, what I said he minate over my words and actions. said, just this intstant, about conver- But, as to Women versus Men: if sation ?

Miss Kitty would have let me explain 1-1-1 don't exactly remember; myself out, I would have said,--that I believe I believe

sense and solidity characterise (not the You belee-ee-ve! No, but you general conversation of our sex, for know as well as your name's Mary, these qualities are seldom to be met that he said not a moment ago,

with anywhere, but) the conversation I did not.

of our sex as opposed to that of yours, You did not! Now, Richard, Yet I say also, that your general upon your honour-Now, have you conversation is not inferior to ours, the face

How is this apparent contradiction to The same I've had, man and boy, be reconciled? Why, by the proany day these eight and twenty duction of other qualities, which years.

counterbalance in your conversation So you say you didn't say, that in the weight of ours. And what are powers of conversation we were not these? --delicacy and feeling: Now inserior to you, just this moment? mark !for I will not sacrifice one I do, for it was-a

a full half hour ago. particle of truth (at least, of what I Well, did you ever know such a conceive to be the truth,) to false provoking fellow! Put me into such gallantry; I will not, for the sake of

« PreviousContinue »