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extort attention, on the part of those who ought to be the sought, not the seekers; or how those accomplishments, acquired at such a sacrifice, are paraded upon every occasion, often to the visible eunui, real, or affected, of the ingrates for whom they are displayed. Rather than endure such humiliation, surely, a right-minded girl would retire into the seclusion of an obscure home, and of celibacy, for ever.
But the end in view, the purpose for which they have been reared, inspires these damsels with the courage and patience of martyrs.
When these schemes and machinations fail, which every body knows they often, very often do, what is the result? That which must ever be the result of a total shipwreck of the hopes and expectations of the human heart; a blighted existence, unless, indeed, some higher principle is called in to brighten and sustain the spirit, and holier hopes awakened. The young female, educated exclusively with a view to her forming a matrimonal connexion, and who, in consequence, cannot form the least notion that there can be either happiness or respectability in single life, must, of necessity, should circumstances condemn her to the latter, sink into a state of great unhappiness. She has been taught to cherish those natural affections, which, according to the creed in which she was reared, are alone legitimate; that is to say, she believes, that if a wife and a mother, she should love her husband and her children. Of the possibility of the affections flowing in another channel,
of the heart taking refuge in other interests, other sympathies, other cares, she entertains not the faintest idea. Year after year passes away, her bloom fades, and her health declines; for strong must be the constitution that can withstand the depressing influence of disappointment. She becomes listless, perhaps peevish; pitied, but not sympathized with; and unless something occur to rouse any latent power that still may lurk in mind or constitution, into healthy action, pines and dies.
Now, would it not be both wiser and more humane, to provide, in the education of girls, especially of portionless girls, against such a contingency? Would it not be well, instead of educating them only for married life, to fit them also for single life, should such be their destiny; instilling into them some principles, and creating in them some resources, which should render a life of celibacy not only endurable, but happy?
Let us proceed to consider what are the chances of happiness in matrimonial connexions formed upon so pernicious a principle as ostentation, for that it is the principle upon which the majority of marriages are founded, is as undeniable, as that display is the chief means resorted to in order to bring them about. Were it a competency only, -for, be it remembered, ostentation is, after all, the great bar to matrimony,-mutual affection, congeniality of tastes, and parity, in respect to age, grade, and condition, no such pains need be taken, nor the aid of display called in; the thing would
PRODUCTIVE OF UNHAPPINESS.
progress of itself.
of itself. But a more difficult game
is to be played; and ostentation, according to the pretensions of the aspirant to matrimonial honours, is to be maintained. In the words of the old Scottish ballad,
“The hale o' their marriage is gowd and a carriage,
When matrimonial connexions are formed upon sound and rational principles, when reciprocal affection, arising out of a knowledge of each others character and disposition, is the basis, then there can be no doubt that the married state is the most consonant to the ordinances of nature, and, consequently, the most likely to conduce to happiness. But when they are forced upon false principles, when every other consideration is made subservient to the supposed necessity of being married, the chances of happiness are at least equivocal.
That supposed necessity of being married, is another of the fallacies of the age; so also is the presumed discomfort and want of respectability of that state, called, in mockery and derision, a state of single-blessedness. Although several authors, whom I could name, persevere in their ungentlemanly sarcasms against umarried females, some pains have lately been taken by more than one sensible writer, to place the matter in a right point of view; and it would not require any very profound investigation of the subject, to prove, that a state of celibacy is blessedness indeed, contrasted with
the existing mass of misery and degradation in married life.*
The prejudices against unmarried women are gross and cruel in the extreme, and quite unworthy a civilized age and country; and their total explosion is necessary to the reformation of evils whose detail has occupied so large a portion of this chapter. Until they are exploded, I fear that women will continue to have recourse to those unbecoming arts, and prostitute their talents and energies to those worldly aims that now bound their wishes, and chain their souls to this life's ignoble coil.
Unmarried women, had they fair play, would constitute one of the great charms, as they do a peculiar feature of English society. No longer constrained and embarrassed by a painful consciousness of the world's scorn and neglect, their spirits would be free to receive and impart enjoyment, for which their unencumbered position particularly fits them. Having no family cares, save those that are collateral, we must assume that they have more time for the cultivation of the mind
* To quote Malthusian doctrine, will, I know, by many, be voted exceedingly incorrect. Nevertheless, let those who can, contradict the following remarks.
“The old maid, who has either never formed an attachment, or who has been disappointed in the object of and has, under the circumstances in which she has been placed, conducted herself with the most perfect propriety, has acted a much more virtuous and honourable part in society than those women who marry without a proper degree of love, or, at least, of esteem, for their husbands; a species of immorality which is not reprobated as it deserves. There are few women who might not have married in some way or other.”-Malthus, on Population.
UNRECOGNIZED MERITS OF SINGLE WOMEN. 109
than females engrossed by family avocations and anxieties; and their more disengaged hearts, it may be presumed, would be more abounding in general sympathy; consequently, as companions, casual, or otherwise, they ought to prove both more intelligent and agreeable. In fact, even under their present disadvantages, they frequently
In the purely domestic circle, around the household hearth, the ready sympathy, cheerful converse, and good offices of the unmarried female, are invaluable. Without instancing the luckless " Aunt Becky,” of Miss Ferrier's clever novel, “ The Inheritance," who, taking fright at the cares and troubles of her married friends, doomed herself to celibacy for no other purpose than to be made common property of by a host of relations, who all laid claim to her services, and constituted her a sort of nursery-maid's assistant; is it not to the single sisterhood that the married woman ever looks for that sympathy and assistance she is well aware she should look for in vain from her married neighbours? They are all too much engrossed with their own family cares, their joys or their sorrows, to take any interest in hers. Be it, then, to lament some misfortune, or to exult, with maternal pride, in the talents and amiability of her promising progeny, if she would have consolation or sympathy, it is to the unmarried that she appeals.
If the family is in straitened circumstances, too