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pleasure and gratitude. When she stops at the humble door to which she is bound, every window opposite is opened, and a hundred forlorn heads are thrust out; every eye is upon her, and watches her going in and waits her coming out of that honoured house. Audible blessings follow her as she retraces her steps, her charitable mission being done. The poor, frozen fishwoman, sitting huddled at the edge of the pavement, draws her unsavoury basket off the edge of the curb-stone, to give her freer passage, so that it may not soil the delicate beauty of her garments; and rising from her low stool, places her pipe behind her, sets her blue woolsey apron in order, and bobs a quick curtsey to the ground as she goes by. When she is once again in the open streets, the scavengers suspend their shovelling (and it was witnessing this courtesy that led me into this subject) till she has passed far out of the reach of all accidental splashes-touched with an immediate respect for her, which they feel throughout their rude, honest natures, but could not say wherefore, if they were asked. The brewer's servants, about to draw up an empty barrel from the cellar of the Blue Lion, catch sight of her coming, and, without thinking of their gallantry, drop their dirty ropes upon the ground, to let her step safely and cleanly over them; and Dick, the driver, stands at his horse's head to keep him from backing against her on the pavement. Rough fellows as they are, they look in her lovely face, pleased with their good intentions, and grimly smile in return to her soft smile-look into her eyes with a respectful rudeness, and whole-heart homage of their light and lustre; and, when she has passed along, gaze after her with reverence, as if they had seen an angel among men-silently admire the quiet ease and gentle grace of her steps—think they never saw anything so beautiful “in their born days” as the pearly satin she is clothed in—and never anything so white as the snowy whiteness of her skin. Having recovered a little from their admiring astonishment, one of them says to the other, “ Now, Rechard, I daur to zay yow'd think yowrzen cruel-ly ill-yowzed if yow wur compellit by the fowrce of zergumztaunzes to tako she for yowr missuz wi' twenty thowsand pownd a year, and as mooch beer as yow loiked for nowt?” And having puzzled Mr. Richard [Jones, we'll say, at a guess, as we have not the honour of knowing his patronymic), he pauses for a reply. Two minutes afterwards Richard suddenly shoves his red worsted cap half off his head, scratches it indiscriminately, and grinning in the face of his partner, makes up his mind that this shall be his facetious answer to his friend's facetious category :-“Yez, I shou'd conzider mysen cruel-ly ill-yowzed, for I'd tak' she for ten thowsand pownd, and pay for the beer as it coom'd in,”-a brewer's bon-mot!
This homage, and these gallantries, the true Gentlewoman may almost always rely upon as having willingly paid to her in town: in the country she is more certain of respect. The surly cottager—surly, perhaps, with the natural hardships of his employment--if she passes by his door, or his poor garden, or the tree or the sty he leans against when forced to idle, or when resting from his toils—touches his hat to her, makes wider way for her, and feels in his rude breast yearnings and stirrings of affection for her, and loves her as a happier sister. He would as soon think of expelling by force and violence a beautiful wild swan if it had alighted in his duck-pond, and made it its nestingplace; or of hurling stones up at an eagle, resting his tired wings upon his gable-end; or of pelting the cuckoo from his apple-tree, if, wandering like its voice, it paused there in its rural rounds—as dream of offering her a rudeness or an injury. Were he a brute, her “noble grace” would
dash rude violence
Be it not done in pride, or in presumption." Some flaunting “City Madam”-proud only because she is not poor, has, and deserves to have, her pretensions to be “the gentlewoman” disputed at every step she takes: she is denied the homage she demands because she demands it rudely, and would enforce it if she could, and does where she can. The true-born gentlewoman has a thousand willing attentions paid to her, because she asks not for them, and watches not jealously that they are rendered her.
By what powerful charm is it that those who would be set down by the meanly proud as the meanest of mankind—the old and the youngthe rude boor--the sylvan savage----the unsocial in society-the solitary among millions—the commonest drudge in the dirtiest occupations of life-how is it that they are, one and all, inspired with a respect for the true gentlewoman amounting almost to reverence?—Why is it that they are touched with gentleness-generosity of thoughts, at least -courage in her defence to self-devotion, and a hundred other kindred feelings, all at her service, in a moment, would she claim them?- It is not a superficial homage paid to her purple and fine raiment: for the true gentlewoman is less ostentatious in those outward signs of wealth than the wife of a tradesman rising in the world. One item of the dress of the vulgar fine lady would, very likely, buy up the entire suit of the true gentlewoman : one ring of the several rings on her several fingers outprice all that adorns her person in ornament-a vulgar boast which the upstart "my lady" is not very nice in expressing when the peacock plumes of her pride are spreading abroad, and her neck is swelling with vanity not to be suppressed. The would-be gentlewoman knows herself to be well dressed, because she knows how much silk or satin she walks abroad in-what it cost at Everington's—and what “the craft” is worth at a fair valuation, standing rigging, the plume of feathers (like a broom at her mast-head), and “all that vessel called the Wilhelmina, John Wilkins, master, lying in the port of London, together with her sails, rigging-tackles, and other materials.” The haberdashery about her would clothe a gentlewoman, who is not as desirous as the vulgar“ fine lady” of reminding you that the best half of her is “ late from Flint's.”
What is it, then, that wins the hearts of the poor and homely to the service of a gentlewoman? Is it her self-respect, and her respect for others—high and low, rich and poor, one with another ? Is it her grace-her graciousness-her courtesy-her beauty-her humility ?for the true gentlewoman has that lovely attribute-(I had almost written, in excess)-she, who is most apt to be suspected of pride.
I confess that I have a Quixotic craziness on the subject“ Gentlewoman :" extreme,' ultra notions of what she is, and always should be in word, and thought, and deed-in every action of her lovely life-in the silence and in the speaking of her gentle heart—in her public and in her private habits—in her “ sweet retired leisure ”-in the courtly circle-on the parade-at the exclusive Almack's-wherever she plays her part. Anything, therefore, that I hear of a gentlewoman by birth which jars with my ideas of a gentlewoman shocks me sensibly, and drives me for a moment to “hold faith with heretics,” and fall into their unbelief of her beautiful virtues and all-excelling excellencies. It was, consequently, with unutterable pain that I read in one of the fashionable newspapers, that two or three ladies had joined the hunt in Sussex, and were the most dashing sportswomen in the field.” I hardly think courage admirable in woman; but if it be, it must be under particular circumstances. Active courage, at any rate, is no part of her proper nature : passive courage is one of her noblest qualities, and endures the longest, and wears well. There are situations in life in which women may and do exhibit the firmest and most unblenching courage ;-in the daily distresses of domestic lifethe dangerous sick-chamber, into which it is like daring Death to his grisly face to enter, but into which their unfearing, unextinguishable love will carry them, and sustain them well while ministering there to the afflicted parent, or sister, or brother, and bring them forth from it, when all is over with the beloved object of their anxiety, unhurt and triumphant over pain, sickness, infection, and sorrow. Timidity—not temerity-is, however, one of the endearing weaknesses of womanhood: I had almost said that weakness is her strength; and so it is : for it makes the heart of anything like a man strong in her defence, and unflinching from any danger that threatens her dear life.-Oh! thou gentle woman to whom I owe most in lifeone of God's gentlewomen, a gentlewoman in humble life-mild and merciful—who shrunk from a blow falling upon the back of some poor beast as if it hurt thyself—whose heart trembled with compassion for it, and whose eloquent tongue, pity-tuned, feared not to express thy reprobation of the cruelty of its brute master, till, moved by the beauty of thy merciful words, the man would stand ashamed of his severities, and “hard unkindness' altered eye” would show that he was touched to the heart by thy most piteous pleadings for “ mercy for the beast that perishes :"-I should belie thy gentle nature, living with thy blood in my veins, if I did not abhor brutality, by whatsoever hand administered; and most especially abhor it when members of thy merciful sex are the offenders. I cannot conceive the picture of a woman-who should be all pity and tenderness for the meanest thing that has life and the pains which belong to it-corporeal sufferings as great to it, in proportion to its poor senses and its size, as they are to us—I cannot conceive a woman, “ of woman born,” hunting down that poor, helpless animal, the hare, whose very timidity should endear it to woman and make her plead for it-I cannot bear to picture her “ coming in at the death,” to witness its heart break with overbeating, and listen to its feeble cries in the agony of death, and not imagine her turning shocked and pitying away. Hunting, at the best, is but a lingering habit left to us of the old barbarian-the hungering savage of the woods and wilds, who must either have run down his prey, or gone without bis dinner : it was not the sport, but the necessity, of hungry man: but even the uncivilized woman took no part in the pursuit-perhaps pitied the victims, though she partook in the spoils. It would be hard if it should be reserved for civilized woman-woman in the highest state of modern refinement to make that a barbarous sport which is not now a civilized want. Were it a beast of prey-a crafty, stealthy despoiler of harmless creatures of their lives, there might be some excuse for hunting it down; but woman should not follow in the chace. What is the offence of the poor animal ?--I know of none-unless this be an offence—that it is weak, and flies, and far and fastly, from its remorseless enemies. Men may have leave to mock at its timidity, and think lightly of its agonies of fear; but can a woman do so, and “ moult no feather” of the dove-like softness of her gentle nature ? Can a woman look, too, upon the graceful deer, pulled down to the earth, and torn by dogs, its heart broken, and its dissolving eyes dropping tears of blood and suffering ? Can such a sight be looked upon by woman as a sport? Oh no-no-no! Think what it is ye do, ye few gentlewomen of England- the truest gentlewomen of the world-in departing from the proper amusements of your lovely sex, and return to pity, and to that tenderness of thought and heart which is your most endearing charm. The woman who has lost the gentleness of her sex is as displeasing a moral anomaly as the man who has lost caste for cowardice. Uneffeminacy in 'woman is as disgustful as unmanliness in man. How, and by what saving clause, can a hard, un pitying woman escape the odium of being unnatural—a libel and a reproach, a blot and a blemish upon her sex? The better, larger, and more lovely portion of the domestic virtues and sweet charities of life, that keep humanity alive among mankind, were given by Nature, as a sacred deposit and precious trust, to the safe keeping of Woman. If our common mother, Eve, by her weakness, brought Sin and Death into the world, she lost not, by her fall, all the original goodness and gentle beauty of her nature : her daughters, at least, have sacredly kept and transmitted down to our days the undiminished portion of her once angelic goodness-her love, pity, mercy, and charity. Else had these softening and restraining virtues died and departed altogether from this earth; and man, untaught by the example of woman-unfearing to offend her gentler affections—had been a pityless savage—more cruel than tigers thirsting for more blood -delighting in destruction-hardened as flint to the gently-touching hand of tenderness-unsoftened by a tear-deaf to supplication----unsubdued by the tender tone or prayer of pity. The heart of man would have been as the heart of a wild beast, had not woman kept it human.
Oh! think of these things, and of the precious trust committed to your charge, ye lovely, misled gentlewomen, whom fashion has perverted, and thoughtlessness, not estrangement of the heart, has led away. A noble poet-and an affectionate one-has said of ye that
“ One only care your gentle breasts should move :
Th' important business of your life is-Love." It is so: love, and all that appertains to it, and is akin to it-among which kind brotherhood and sisterhood are pity, and mercy,
and conscience, and tender heart."
“All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
Whatever stirs your mortal frame,
And feed its sacred flame." Delight, if you will, in “ witching the world with noble feats of horsemanship,” but forget not that ye are women even in that bold accomplishment: never, oh never lead, or even follow, in pursuits which are in their very nature cruel, and, however excusable in men, are inexcusable in women!
“ Ye gentle ladies! in whose soveraine power
Love hath the glory of his kingdom left,
Lest, if men you of cruelty accuse,
He from you take that chiefdome which ye do abuse." So advises that gentlest of poets, Spenser : listen to him, if not to me; and listen to your own hearts, whose “ still, small voice must silently reprove ye!
“Good morrow, lovely Lady! Is thy noble Lord with thee ?" “ Sir Knight, since to the wars he went, full moons have wasted three : “Three weary moons have wax'd and waned since he sail'd o'er the main, “And little wist I when these eyes shall see my Lord again." “ Forget him, lovely Lady, as by him thou art forgot." “ Thou dost him wrong, Sir Knight ; by him forgotten I am not : “I hold within mine arms a pledge for his true love to me, “ This new-born babe-his child and mine-which he hath yet to see."
Oh, let me be thy servant, Lady-I will love thee dear—" “ Sir Knight, I am a wedded wife, such words I may not hear “None else can hear them, Lady. What witnesses are nigh?” “ This heart, which is Hernando's, and God who sits on high.”
“ Sweet Lady, yet a boon upon my bended knee I crave.”