Mrs. Louisa C. Tuthill. The Young Lady's Home. Boston:1847. illustration in front. G526 T966 Y847.
Absence of Mind
Pp. 14-15 Absence of mind has so long been considered a mark of genius, that few take pains to avoid the pernicious habit. It is one of the infirmities of great minds, and is almost unpardonable, even when associated with the overpowering splendor of superior talents. It is no positive proof of genius; the weakest minds are prone to extreme absence. This is very different from the power of abstraction, which belongs, in a preeminent degree, only to minds of the highest order. It is peculiarly inconvenient for women to be absent-minded. The thousand and one daily cares and employments, which must each receive due attention in a well ordered household, render it necessary for a woman to have her thoughts always about her. Suppose, at the head of her dinnertable, she falls into a fit of absence; - her guests are neglected, the servants are at fault, and make dozens of blunders in consequence of hers, and when at last she comes back again, she resumes the conversation where it had been dropped, ten minutes before, much to the amusement or embarrassment of her guests, and her own and her husband's mortification. An absent-minded woman cannot be uniformly polite. She may be kindly disposed and perfectly well-bred, yet she will pass her most intimate friend in the street without speaking to her; take the most convenient and comfortable seat at a neighbor's fireside, appropriated to an aged and infirm member of the family; fix her eyes in church upon some one until the person is exceedingly annoyed and embarrassed; interrupt conversation by remarks entirely irrelevant, and commit many other peccadilloes while under this temporary alienation of mind, which would shock her, at another time, as offending against the plainest rules of propriety.
The Reasoning Faculty
Pp. 38-39 It is a reproach often cast upon our sex, that we are either naturally deficient in the reasoning faculty, or that it is so little cultivated in education as to remain very feeble. Is it so? "We hope better things of you." Woman, in being raised to the true dignity of her station by Christianity, has also been exalted to her rank as an intellectual being. Her "dark age" has long since passed away, and there are no Inquisitions where you will be tried for witchcraft, though there are still some where, if you are "learned, wise, judicious," you may be pronounced a decided blue and a decided bore. But what says the learned, the elegant Story? "These things have, in a great measure, passed away. The prejudices that dishonored the sex have yielded to the influence of truth. By slow but sure advances, education has extended itself to all ranks of female society. There is no longer any dread that the culture of science should foster that masculine boldness or restless independence, which alarms by its sallies, or wounds by its inconsistencies. We have seen that her, as everywhere else, knowledge is favorable to human virtue and human happiness; that the refinement of literature adds lustre to the devotion of piety; that true learning, like true taste, is modest and unostentatious; that grace of manners receives a higher polish from the discipline of the schools; that cultivated genius sheds a cheering light over domestic duties, and its very sparkles, like those of the diamond, attest at once its power and its purity. there is not a rank of society, however high, which does not pay homage to literature, or that would not blush even at the suspicion of that ignorance, which half a century ago was neither uncommon nor discreditable. there is not a parent, whose pride may not glow at the thought that his daughter's happiness is, in a great measure, within her own command, whether she keeps the cool, sequestered vale of life, or visits the busy walks of fashion."
Judgment in Regards to Studies and Domestic Duties
Pp. 40-41 Do not think it a mark of judgment to despise the appropriate duties of woman. The pursuits of your school-days may have given you habits of study incompatible with the present demands upon your time. The true excellence of your education will now be tested. If you can practise cheerful self-denial, in yielding up for a time your own tastes and pleasures, and learning with readiness many things in domestic economy, as useful, but less agreeable, than your former pursuits, you have acquired something of the art of self-government. In amusing your younger brothers and sisters, you may exercise judgment as well as good- nature. Good-sense may be shown about trifles, and not wasted upon them either. Dr. Johnson used to say of Mrs. Elizabeth Carter, "that she could make a pudding as well as translate Epictetus from the Greek, and work a handkerchief as well as compose a poem."
How to Read History
P. 45 The knowledge that we gain from history is various and important. But, in order to make the knowledge thus acquired of any real value, it must be made the subject of mature reflection. We should have a specific object in view in reading a particular history; name this object or subject, and make it a leading one.
For example: -
The causes that have advanced religious liberty.
The progress of civil liberty.
The influence of laws and government upon national character.
The gradual improvement in the useful arts.
The progress of the fine arts.
The evils of war.
The influence of literature upon the character of age, and vice versa.
The misery occasioned by daring and sinful ambition.
The influence of Christianity upon national prosperity.
The influence of women.
Pp. 53-54 A taste for reading is indeed a never-failing source of enjoyment. How many vacant hours of life would pass heavily away, were it not for the companionship of books! During a course of school education, very little time can be devoted to miscellaneous reading. Many are the illustrious names stored up in memory, whose more intimate acquaintance is now to be sought. The long-wished period has arrived; but is it a season of leisure? Let the young lady who is out in society answer. Innumerable are the demands upon her time; like the belle quoted at the beginning of the chapter, she might say, - "If at any time I can gain an hour by not being at home, I have so many things to do, so many alterations to make in my clothes (the sleeves especially), so many visitant's names to read over, so many invitations to accept or refuse, so many cards to write, so many fashions to pondor, that I am lost in confusion. When shall I either stop my course, or so change it as to want a book?" If all young ladies had thus given themselves over to frivolity, we might write in vain. Some there are, we trust, who find time for the improvement of mind.
Composition: women's rights...
Pp. 61-62 A labored defence of woman's rights might do for the meridian of Constantinople. All the rights which she ought to claim are allowed in this blessed country. The only danger now is, that she may overstep the bounds which modesty and delicacy prescribe, and come forward upon that arena of strife which ought to belong exclusively to man. All such encroachments should be frowned upon by an enlightened community, for "they foster that masculine boldness or restless independence, which alarms by its sallies or wounds by its inconsistencies." The bold and fearless spirit with which men enter public discussion and controversy well becomes them, but should excite our admiration without provoking to emulation. The paths that are open to us are many, but they lie along "the cool, sequestered vale." Such are the vicissitudes of life, that we need all the resources which can be accumulated. Few of you, my friends, probably either expect or wish to become authoresses; but you all wish to enjoy the pleasures of literature, and will not deny the utility of being able to write a perspicuous and pleasing style. Were it only for the sake of those "winged messengers of love"despatched to absent friends, you need and agreeable vehicle of the style may may be easy and graceful, and at the same time to the person addressed. Even the folding and superscription of a letter tell something of the character of the writer, and the deference she deems due to her correspondents. In early life we are not aware what insight these trifles give to the character and feelings, to those who have knowledge and experience. Far be it from you to cultivate the exterior graces alone; the respect and regard should be felt, of course, and a careful expression of it should be exhibited. A letter ought to be written in legible, neat, and, if possible, elegant handwriting; not that delicate cobweb scribble, which costs more to read than it is generally worth. when a letter is franked, or sent by a private conveyance, it should be folded in an envelope as neatly as possible. Fashion regulates the mode of sealing; sometimes a single wafer is deemed almost an insult; the fastidious Chesterfield thought it so; at other times it is preferred by those who are tired of the sickly sentimentality of mottoes. Sufficient attention should be paid, even to this seeming trifle, to know what is the custom of the day, and to follow it.
Pp. 74-76 It has been thought vulgar to possess health, - rude health; not that any one would acknowledge herself so ridiculously absurd, yet the old adage in this case is true, - "Actions speak louder than words." It is generally believed that the beautiful, fragile beings, too delicate to meet the first rude blast without shrinking are most interesting to those whose taste is all-decisive on this matter. Man, strong and robust, likes to be the defender and protector of the weak; he likes, too, that his superiority should be felt and acknowledged. The natural delicacy and weakness of the other sex are thus fostered. That it should be so is owning to a refined state of society that has its many advantages, and this one among its evils. But the arduous, imperative duties that in life's progress devolve upon woman call for physical, as well as mental, vigor. To hover around the couch of sickness, and smooth the pillow of the dying; to bear patiently with the querulous impatience of the aged, and the petulance of childhood; to lead into the right path the boisterous waywardness of youth; and to soothe, by unwearied kindness, tempers rendered harsh and irritable by intercourse with a cold, unfeeling world; - are not these a part of her humble ministry? It seems preposterous to urge the necessity of health; but when we consider the many ways in which it is heedlessly injured, we reason as if it were considered of little importance. Want of exercise at one time, and too violent exertion at another; exposure to cold and dampness; imprudence in dress and diet; all these conspire to impair the constitution, and produce premature old age.
Poem: Health and Ballroom activities
P. 76 "Away! away! thiser is ganer here,-
A terrible phantom is bending near;
Ghastly and sunk, his rayless eye
Scowls on thy loveliness scornfully;
With no human look, with no human breath,
He stands beside thee, - the haunter DEATH.
"In the lighted hall where the dancers go,
Like beautiful spirits, to and fro, -
When thy fair arms glance in their stainless white,
Like ivory bathed in the still moonlight,
And not one star in the holy sky
Hath a clearer light than thine own blue eye, -
"O, then, even then, he will follow thee,
As the ripple follows the bark at sea;
In the softened light, in the turning dance,
He will fix on thine his dead, cold glance;
The chill of his breath on thy cheek shall linger,
And thy warm blood shrink from his icy finger!"
P. 161 The satirists of every age have considered woman's vanity and love of dress legitimate subjects for their keenest strokes. The enormous hoops, crape- cushioned head-dresses, furbelows, powder, and patches of the days of Addison and goldsmith only gave place to other fantastic modes, which have in turn called forth the ridicule of lesser wits down to the present day. Whether all their poignant witticisms ever lessened the number of patches, made "top-knots come down," or reduced the size of a sleeve, is somewhat doubtful. Fashion is a goddess who will not be laughed out of countenance. Her frown is terrific; her votaries proclaim from her high places - "It is better to be out of the world than out of the fashion."
Pp. 79-80 True politeness has its origin in the heart; but he external expression of it is what is commonly called good-manners. Who has not acknowledged its charm, and yielded to its influence?
1. It is necessary to understand the customs of the place where you are, to avoid any departure from conventional good-manners. In going into company, a young lady should learn the mode of entree. In most places in our country, it is customary to take a gentleman's arm, to walk up to the lady of the house and drop a courtsey, - very gracefully, of course. If this is the custom, she should take his left arm her, - and in walking, riding, entering church, and the hymeneal altar, the left side, - thus leaving his right arm free. These things seem trifling; but by understanding them much embarrassment may be escaped. At a dinner-party, be sure to know before you leave the drawing-room, whether the first seat at the table belongs of right to yourself; if so, never decline it; if it does not, you will find yourself very awkwardly situated, if some gentleman, not knowing his own place, interfere with the arrangements of the lady of the house, and place you at her right hand. A quick and observant eye will soon give you a knowledge of any local peculiarities in etiquette, to which you can readily conform. A truly well- bred lady is such everywhere; she would handle an ivory chop-stick in China as gracefully as a silver fork at home, or a steel one, if she happened where they used no other. Even if it should have but two tines, and incommoder her not a little, she would take no notice of it; for true politeness avoids giving pain. We have seen young ladies assume such airs, - on occasions where they have met with things different from what they have been accustomed to see at home, -- such airs as made them quite ridiculous. The spectators probably would reason in this way: -- "You may have eaten with a silver fork at home, but you are no lady."
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