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and workshop; to enter into the trades and professions; to become doctors, nurses, and so forth ; to have to look after themselves, and to hold their own as against men; to travel, to meet with sexual experience, to work together in trade unions, to join in social and political uprisings and rebellions, etc.' A modest programme! The ‘bottomless perjury of an etcetera” was never, perhaps, more exquisitely shown. If the ‘enormous hordes of unattached females living on interest and dividends,’ who now “prowl all over the country, filling the places of public entertainment in the proportion of three to one male,' and “blocking the pavements in front of fashionable shops, are ‘going the most direct way to work, and laying in stores of experience, the prospect is gloomy indeed. For it used to be an argument against frivolity and idleness that to them must be ascribed the hard lot of the Cinderellas and the Fantines, that mere fashion was essentially unproductive, except of castaways, victims high and low to the craze for enjoyment. The writer may, nevertheless, have caught a glimpse of to-morrow. Certainly, when we think of our great Cosmopolis, with its outlying regions, its suburbs, watering-places, and seaside resorts, of Nice and Saint Moritz, Saratoga Springs, and the “Ocean Drive’ at Newport, we feel how unlike is the woman that commands wealth and leisure to her ancestress whom the same sympathetic pen describes. “She, moving sad-eyed, to her patient and uncomplaining work, thus we read of the ‘propagative drudge,’ ‘to the narrow sphere and petty details of household life, was yet “filling the world with her myriad nameless unrecorded acts of tenderness and love, little noticed and less understood,' while her brain was “dwarfed,' her “outlook on the world marred by all falsity and ignorance.” So little did her “unrivalled power of finesse’ avail against man's
egoism, brutality, and sense of ownership. At length the scene is changing. Walt Whitman chaunts the feminine athlete who waits for him as a bride: ‘She can swim, row, ride, wrestle, shoot, run, strike, retreat, defend herself'; she is a Spartan girl, with a rifle at her shoulder. The ‘lady-chrysalis, putting off her absurd silken webs, and by rational diet and exercise overcoming her “dyspeptic depletion, is now on the wing in search of an emancipated mate; the “caged woman’ intends to be free. Free, to begin with, in the disposal of her heart! The ‘new code of ideals and customs” will leave no ambiguity where the ‘owner-husband’ may entrench himself: ‘Let every woman, so runs the decree, ‘insist on her right to speak, dress, think, act, and, above all, to use her sex, as she deems best, hampered as little as possible by legal,
legal, conventional, and economic considerations, and relying
to be '-what we might expects
modern manners would not approve. We are now asked to welcome the anarchism of the sexes, and let Saturnalian horrors cure themselves by the device of freedom. Can we do so? Happily not. “Woman's greatest and incomparable function is Motherhood, says Mr. Carpenter with decision, and “a sane maternity, in his view, involves ‘the broadest and largest culture'; it is “the indispensable condition of her future advance.' Nor can we fail to observe that in ‘The Heavenly Twins, in ‘David Grieve,’ and in ‘Marcella, the valiant woman whose good sense should equal her tenderness, and whose strength, courage, and resolution give character to the maternal instincts and light to her love, is not once to be found. George Sand was, no doubt, “fearless and untamed '; she endeavoured to combine ‘the passion for Nature with the love of Man, as the New Woman hopes to do ; and she was a kind, but surely not a pattern mother. If we may keep as the touchstone of advanced opinions, that sane maternity which the wise and the practical alike insist upon, we shall not go far astray in judging of what is fit, what is decorous, what is human and worthy to be cultivated, in the young maiden, the wedded wise, and even the spinster living on her dividends. But the world has never been a place of realized ideals. We must bear the facts in mind. Cinderella, perchance, may be set free from her kitchen; Marie Antoinette, if she is aware of her true interests, will give up playing at pastorals and making believe in the Little Trianon. Social service and household liberty may yet combine, unless women themselves sacrifice their essentially feminine virtues to the spirit of revolt. Frau von Troll, when reciting the praises of chloroform, bade us consider that, in the epoch of unlimited affinity, there would be small need of it; superfluous infants do not throng the steps of women who change husbands frequently. That, of course, was not the way in which she expressed the principle, but in substance we are agreed. ‘Sane maternity’ and the ‘free union' have such different ends in view, that the tender mothers of mankind know by instinct where the danger threatens, and cannot be persuaded not to detest the class of Aspasia. They will pity their unhappy sisters; from the woman who is “free” by choice they turn with loathing. She is their children's enemy no less than their own, a symbol as well as a product of civilization in decay. “What egoism can equal that,’ exclaims the French novelist,-himself a competent witness, which degrades the highest power of the soul, and makes it an instrument of the least human, the most barren, of pleasures?’ There is a ‘mortal sin of intellect, which, putting forward by way way of pretext the enthusiasm of love, ‘not hampered by legal restraints, turns the purpose without which life would be unendurable, to mere acting on the stage. The ‘free woman’ delights to remember that she can put off her feeling with her costume; that she is not bound; in the equal friendship the Tenor may die of unrequited love and a cold, but Angelica, while finding the joy of dilettantism in keeping a leash of men attached to her, goes about in the masquerade “with a kind of artistic sense in the ordering of her life.’ ‘She moves serene and prompt” to her desires, nor, though Angelica repents, can we be certain that the New Woman will do likewise; for has she not “a right to her personality’? What, then, is the choice? It seems to lie between the ‘open experiment, which allows of ‘complex,’ ‘occasional, and ‘transitory' forms of partnership, —Free Love, seasoned variously to suit all palates, Messalina's included, and the ‘marriage of true minds' as understood by Christians. “A woman,’ says Marcella to Raeburn, “is bound to cherish her own individuality sacredly, married or not married.' Yes; but will the lady be good enough to explain * What does she mean by this great word 2 A stream of sensations? A heap of molecules endowed with feeling? Or an immortal spirit, living under the law of conscience? Man has been compelled to ask himself these questions, and on the answer he gives to them his fate hangs. Hitherto, the immense majority of women have taken the answer which religion offers; they have believed in duty, self-denial, the world to come, and the supremacy of goodness. Now, in a day of conflicting ideals, the tempest which has broken out in that high region is sending down its hail and its rain upon them. The larger experience, the reading and travel, the freedom they have already won, must be paid for in a quickened sense of unrest, in freaks of enthusiasm; with advancing civilization, Mr. Ellis points out, crime and insanity among women have steadily increased. To speak in terms of art, this new world brings with it ‘a lower degree of mental integration'; if man's brain is almost overweighted by the pressure which is daily put upon him, what shall we conclude of woman, who has ever shown less balance and greater affectibility? To her immediate surroundings she is, and must be, susceptible; she has waking dreams, and falls into trance or ecstasy where the less sensitive man escapes. The centre of his life may vary from thought to action; but how seldom is it feeling ! Woman lives in her affections, and they demand, as all sentiment does, that the great postulates of existence shall be taken for granted. The period of luxury and decay o whic
which we are passing, the earthquake which is rocking so many institutions,—has begun to affect even the conservative sex, indifferent as it is by nature to these wider issues. The New Woman ought to be aware that her condition is morbid, or, at least, hysterical ; that the true name of science falsely so-called may be ‘brain-poisoning'; that “ideas' and love affairs, when mixed in unequal proportions, may explode like dynamite upon all concerned ; and that Rousseau, Diderot, John Stuart Mill, Comte, Bakounine, and Ibsen, are masters not to be trusted, for they have all put themselves at the mercy of sentiment, and mistaken impulse, or pleasure, for conscience. Wharton, and his doctrine of ‘thrill,’ command the situation;– Gefiihl ist alles.
But feeling is not the key to this problem. The forms of life are subject to law, and a broken law avenges itself by making an end of the law-breaker. The New Woman will not continue long in the land. Like other fashions, she is destined to excite notice, to be admired, criticised, and forgotten. The liberty which she invokes will be fatal to her. If on men's selection of their mates the future depends—and they are still, by force of numbers, able to choose—what likelihood is there that an untamed Marcella—still less the scientific Evadne, and the “savage viper’ with chloroform on her toilet-table—will attract either Hercules or Apollo? Who would bind himself to spend his days with the anarchist, the athlete, the bluestocking, the aggressively philanthropic, the political, the surgical woman? And what man would submit to an alliance which was terminable, not when he chose, but when his comrade was tired of him 2 Such are not the ideals to which he has looked up, or the qualities that win his affections. The age of chivalry cannot die, so long as woman keeps her peculiar grace, which is neither rugged strength nor stores of erudition, but a human nature predestined to Motherhood. She is called upon, in the plain language of Mr. Carpenter, “to bear children, to guard them, to teach them, to turn them out strong and healthy citizens of the great world.’ And she has a divine right to all
that will fit her for so noble a duty.