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 a 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
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 ponder, 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.
Reading as Recreation
Pp. 56-57 After the duties of your house have been satisfactorily arranged for the day, there can be no objection to vary the occupation of needle work occasionally by reading' as if the books are properly selected, their reasoning powers are improved, some lesson of wisdom is continually acquired, some information obtained, which will tend to facilitate the performance of your ordinary duties, and enable you to make your home more delightful to its various inmates; when a female mind is properly furnished, there is no charm so attractive to our sex as the conversation of woman: from the natural construction of her mind, from the minuteness of her observation, from the rapidity of her perceptions, and the intensity of her feelings, she is provided by the Deity with the means of becoming the magnet of the social circle, the charm by which its members should be united and made happy. One of the most delightful of home amusements is conversation; by this we improve our own attainments by imparting them, receiving in exchange new views of each subject, or confirmation in the justness of those we possess. What treasures of delight have those been deprived of, who have never known the happiness, the ever-varying pleasure, of a reciprocal exchange of intellectual feelings and acquirements - what a powerful ally has that woman lost who has not that intellectual hold upon her husband's heart, which arises from the power of a reciprocation of ideas, a community of feelings.
But, while proper reading furnishes the mind and matures the judgment, there is a class of books which has a tendency directly the contrary; I refer to works of imagination, novels and the like. Not that I would wholly exclude works of imagination from the female library, but I would urge a most careful selection and a very limited perusal of them. The indiscriminate reading of novels is one of the most injurious habits to which a married woman can be subject. Besides the false views of human nature it will impart, and the waste of time, it indisposes for all serious occupation, it produces contempt for ordinary realities, which will be highly detrimental. It is a habit also that increases by its gratification and in many cases becomes so inveterate from indulgence, that not only the convenience of a family, the duty owed to husband and children, have been forgotten, but the health has been destroyed by the excitation produced, and the loss of rest caused, by pursuing the infatuation object during the hours which nature has allotted to sleep. "I am assured," says Mrs. Chapone, "that the reading of such kind of books corrupts more female hearts than any other cause whatever."
P. 311 The long agitated question, whether woman is or is not equal to man in capacity for intellectual improvement, need not, surely, be discussed in this place. It is sufficient, perhaps, to know that every young woman is capable of a much higher degree of improvement than she has yet attained, and to urge her forward to do all she can for herself, and to do it with all her might.
Intellectual Improvement, 301
It is far from being in my power to point out a course of study which shall be adapted to the wants and circumstances of all young married people. The previous studies and modes of thinking, and especially the predilections, will and should be considered, especially if the young wife is to study alone. If she is to have the company of her husband, his habits and preferences too, are to be taken into consideration; and one or the other must make concessions - not to say sacrifices: I mean, of inclination. The wife, perhaps, will be fond of natural science, while the husband will be fond of history - civil, political and ecclesiastical. Or she will prefer botany, while he prefers chemistry. But there is no need of difficulty. Each, for the sake of the other, must be willing to yield their own preferences; and no wife of good sense will prefer studying botany alone, as the first step, to the pursuit of a highly valuable science in which she can have company. She should be especially ready to yield her will to his, in matters of this kind, when she considers that it is less the object of all education to teach facts - to impart knowledge, properly so called - than to discipline the mental powers and faculties.
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