Hannah More.

The complete works of Hannah More online

. (page 92 of 135)
Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 92 of 135)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

warm enemies f — ^that * the generous love and
hate with all their heart;* that *a refiurmed rake
makes the best husband;' — that * there is no
medium in marriage, but that it is a state of
exquisite happiness or exquisite misery ;* with
many other doctrines of equal currency and
equal soundness! These they consider as axiomsi
and adopt them as rules of life. From the two
first of these oracular sayings, girls are in no
small danger of becoming uinusl throo^ the
very warmth of their heslts : ror they will ac-
quire a habit of making their estimate of the
(food or ill quality of others merely in propor-
tion to the greater or less degree of kindness
which the^ themselves have received fit>m them.
Their estimation of general character is thus
fermed on insulated and partial grounds ; on the
accidental circumstance of personal predilection
or personal pique. Kindness to themselves or
their friencD involves all ponible excellence;
neglect, all imaginable defects. fVieodship and
gratitude can and should go a great way ; but as
they cannot convert vice into virtue, so they
ought never to convert troth into felsehood.
And it may be the more necessary to be upon
our guard in this instuice, because the very
idea of gratitude may mislead us, by converting
injustice into the semUanee of a mtne. Warm
expressions should therefore be limited to the eoiw
veying a sense of our own individual obligations
wbicli are real, rather than employed to give an
impression of general excellence m the person
who has obli^^ us, which may be imaginary.
A good man is still good, though it may not have
falfen in his way to oUige or serve ««, nay,
though he may nave neglected, or even unin*
tentbnafly hurt us t and sin is still sin, though
committed by the person in the world to whom
we are the most obliged, and whoin we best love.

There is danger lest our exoeoiye commen-
dation of our friends, merely as such, may be
derived from vanity as well as gratitude. WnHe
we only appear to be triumphing in the virtues
of our fnend, we may be guilty of self^xim-
plaoency ; the person so excellent is the person
who distinguishes u$, and we are too apt to in-
sert iirto the general eulogium the dutincticni
we ourselves have receive from him who is
himself so much distinffoished by others.

With respect to that fetal and most indelicateii
nay gross maxim, that a * reformed rake makes ,
the Mst husband,* (an aphorism to which the
principles and happiness of so many young wt^
men have been sacrificed) — it goes upon the
preposterous ikupposition, not only that eflfects do
not fellow causes, but that ihey oppoeo them ;
on the supposition, that habitual vice creates
rectitude of character, and that ain produoet
happiness : thus flatiy contradicting what tht
moral government of God uniformly exhibits in
the course of human events ; and what reveb
tion so evidenUy and universally teaches.

Digitized by



For it alkNikl be obwrved that the refamnation
IS generally, if not always ■iippoted to be brought
whont by tiie all-oonquering force of ftmale
eharma. Let bat a prtmigate youn^ man baye a
point to carry by winning theafifectionB of avain
and thoogbtlees girl ; he will begin his attack
opoa her heart by andermining her religbm
principles, and artfally removing erery impedi-
ment which might ha?e obstructMl her receifing
the addresses of a man withoot character. And
while he will lead her not to hear without ridi-
cule the mention of that chanp;e of heart which
Scripture teaches and ezpenenee proves, that
the power of Divine grace can work on a vicious
character ; while he wiD teach her to sneer at a
ehange which he would treat with contempt, be-
cause he denies the possibility of so strange and
miraculous a conversion ; yet he will not scru-
ple to swear that the power of her beauty has
worked a revdution in his own loose practices
which is eqnaDy complete and instantaneous.

But supposing his reformation to be genuine,
it would even then by no means involve the
truth of her propuotion, that past fiberti^i8m in-
sures future folicity; yet man^ a weak girl,
eonfirmed in this palatable doctrine by examples
sIm has frequently admired of those surprising
reformations so conveniently efibcted in the last
scene of most of our comedies, has not scrupled
le risk her earthly and eternal happiness with a
man, who is not ashamed to ascribe to the in-
fluence of her beauty that power of changing
the heart which he impiously denies to Omni-
potence itself.

As to the last of these practical aphorisms,
that * there is no medium in marriage, but that
it is a state of exquisite happiness or exquisite
misery ;* this, though not e(|aally sinftil, is equal-
\jf delusive ; for marriage is only one modifica-
tion of human lifo, and human Hfe is not com-
monly in itself a state of exquisite extremes ;
but is for the most part that mixed and mode-
rate state, BO naturally dreaded by those who set^
out with fancying this world a state of rapture ;
and so naturally expected by those who know it
to be a state of probation and discipline. Mar-
riage, therefore, b only one condition, and often
the best condition, of that imperfect stale of be-
ing which, though seldom yerj exquisite, is often
very tolerable ; and which may yield much com-
fort to those who do not knk for constant trans-
port But unfortunately, those who find them-
selves disappointed of the uneeasmg raptures
they had anticipated in marriage disdaining to
stt down with so poor a provision as comfort,
and scorning the acceptance of that moderate
lot which Providence eommonly bestows with a
view to check despondency and to repress pre-
sumption, give themselves up to the o^er alter-
native ; and, by abandoning their hearts to dis-
content, make to themselm that misery with
which their forvid imagination had filled the op-
posite scale.

• The truth ii, these young ladies are very apt
to |nok up their opinions, less firom the divines
than the poets ; and the poets, though it must be
confessed they are some of the best embellishers
of lifo, are not juite the safest conductors through
it In traveUing through a wilderness, though
W9 avail ourselves of the harmony of singing

birds to sender the grove deligbtftd, yet we neve*
think of following Uiem as guides to conduct us
through its labyrmths.

Those women in whom the natural defects of
a warm temper have been strengthened by an
education which fosters their faults, are very
dexterous in availing themselves of a hint, when
it favours a ruling inclination, sooths vanity, iiw
dulges indolence, or gratifies their love of power.
They have heard so often from their favourite
sentimental authors, and their more flattering
male friends, * that when nature denied them
strength, she gave them fascinating graces in
compensation; that their strength consists in
their weakness;* and that* they are endowed
with arts of persuasion which supply the absence
of force, and the place of roason ;* that they may
learn, in time, to pride themselves on that very
weakness, and to become vain of their imperfec
tions ; till at length they begin to claim for their
defects not only pardon, but admiration. Hence
they acquire a nabit of cherishing a species of
feeung which, if not checked, terminates in ex-
cessive selfishness; they learn to produce their
inability to bear contradiction as a proof of their
tenderness ; and to indulge in that sort of irrita-
bility in all that relates to themselves, which in-
evitably leads to the utter exclusion of all interest
in the su^rin^ of others. Instead of exercising
their sensibihty in the wholesome duty of re
lieving distress and visiting scenes of sorrow
that sensibility itself is pleaded as a reason for
their not being able to endure siffhts of wo, and
fbr shunningUie distress it should be exerted in
removing. That exquisite sense of fooling which
God implanted in the heart as a stimulus to
quicken us in relieving the miseries of others, is
thus introverted, and learns to consider self not
as the agent, but the object of compassion. Ten-
demess is made an excuse for being hard-heart-
ed ; and instead of drying the weeping eyes of
others, this false delicacy reserves its selfish and
ready tears for the more elegant and lees expen-
sive sorrows of the meking novel, or the pathetic

When feeling stimulates only to self-indul-
gence ; when tne more exquisite afleotions of
sympathy and pity evaporate in sentiment, in-
stead of flowing out in active charity, and afford-
ing assistance, protection, or consolation to every
species of distress within its reach, it is an evi-
dence that the feeling is of a spurious kind ; and
instead of being nourished as an amiable tender-
ness, it should be' subdued as a fond and base

That idleness, to whose cruel inroads many
women of fortune are unhappily exposed, from
not having been trained to consider wholesome
occupation, vigorous exertion, and systematio
employment, as making part of the indispensable
duties and pleasures of lifo, lays them open to a
thousand evib of this kind, from which the use.
ful and the busy are exempted ; and, perhaps, it
would not be easy to find a more pitiable object
than a woman with a great deal of time, and a
great deal of money on her hands, who, never
having been taught the conscientious use of
either souanders both at random, or rather moul
dors both away, without plan, without principle
imd without pleasure : all whose projects begin

Digitized by




•nd tenniiiAte in mIT; who oonaiden the iMtof
the world only as Uiey maj be lobtenrient to
her gratification ; and to whom it nerer oeearTOd,
that both htr time and mooej were given Cat the
gratification and good of others.

It b not moch to the credit of the other aez,
that they now and then lend themeelvee to the
indolgeace of thia aelfiah nirit in their wirea,
and cherish by a kind of &be fondness those
faolta which should be oombatted br food sense
and a reas on a bl e ooantoractkm ; slothfblly pre-
ftrring a litUe &]se peace, the porchase of pre-
cacioos qoiet, and the popolar reputation of good
nature, to the higher do^ of ibnninr the mind,
fixing the pindiples, and strengthemng the cha-
racter of ner with whom they are connec^tod.
Perhaps too, a little vanity in the hosband helps
oat his ffood nature ; he secretly rewards him-
self ^r his sacrifiice by the consciousness of his
superiority ; he feels a self-oompUcency in his
patient condescension to her weakness, which
Ucitiy flatters his own strength : and he is, as
it were, paid for stooping, by Uie increased sense
of his own taUness. Seeing also, perhaps, but
littie of other women, he is taught to believe that
they are all pretty much alike, and that, as a
man of sense, be must content himself with what
he takes to be the common lot Whereas, in
truth, by his misplaced indulgence, he has ra-
ther made his own lot than drawn it ; and thus,
through an indolent despair in the husband of
being able to efiect any amendment by opposi-
tion, and through the want of that sound afiection
which Ubours to improve and exalt the character
of ite object; it happens, that many a helpless,
fretful, and daudlinff wiie aequires a more pow-
erfhl ascendancy than the most discreet and
amiable woman; and that the most absduto fe-
male t^rranny is established by these sickly and
camicious humours.

The poete again, who, to do them instiee, are
alwavs ready to lend a helping hand when any
mischief is to be done, have contributed their
fhU share towards confirming these feminine
fellies: they have strengthened by adulatory
maxims, sung b seducing strains, those fiinlte
which their talenta and their influence shojild
have been employed in cocrecting.. By feir and
youthi^il females, an argument drawn from
sound experienoe and real life, is commonly re*
polled by a stanza or a sonnet ; and a ooaptot is
oonsidered as nearly of the same validitv with
a text When ladies are complimented with

nae by defect aad daUeatsly weak

is not a standard of feebleness held out to them,
to which vanity will gladly resort, and to which
softness and indolence can easily act up, or ra-
ther act dmn, if I may be allowed the expres-

When ladies are told by the same misleading,
but to them, high authority, that 'smiles and
tears are the irresistible arms with which nature
nas fiimished the weak fer conquering the
strong,' will they not eagerly fly to this cheap
and ready artillery, instead of labouring to fur-
nish themselves with a reasonaUe mind, an equa-
ble temper, and a meek and quiet spirit 7

Bvery animal is endowed by nfovidep^ wA
the peculiar powers adapted to ite nntnre and
ite wanta ; while none, except the homan, by
grafttnjr art on natural sagacity,injures or mars
ue gift. Spoilt women, who fenc^ there is
som^ing move jmefommt and alluring in the
muUble graces of caprice, than in the monoto-
nous smoothness of an even temper ; and who
also having heard moch, as was observed be-
fere, about their * amiable weaknesa,' learn to
look about them fiir the best succedanenm to
stren|rUi, the supposed absence of which, they
sometimes endeavour to supply by artifice. By
this engine the weakest woman fireqoenUy fer-
nishes the converse to the femoos reply of the
French minister, who, when he was aorased of
governing the mind of tbat feeble queen, Ifary
de Medicis, by sorcery, replied, * that the eely
sorcery he had used, was toat influence whidi
strong minds naturally have over weak ones.'

^t though it be feir so to study the t em p e rs ,
defects, and weaknesses of others, as to convert
our knowledge of them to the promotion of their
benefit and our own ; and thoogh it be making
a lawibl use of our penetration to avail ourselves
of the feulto of others fer * their good to edifice
tion ;' vet all deviations firom the straight line
of tnitn and simplicity ; every ptot in^liooslv
to turn influence to onfeir account ; all contri
vances to extort from a bribed complaisance
what reason and justioe would reAwe to our
wishes; these are some of the operations of that
k>westand most despicable engine, selfish cun-
ning, by which UtUa mhM aamtUvmn gsvcrw

And, nnfertnnately, women from their natural
desire to please, and from their sometimee doubt,
injjf by what means this grand end may be best
efteotod, are in more danger of being led into
dissimulation than men; fer dissimulation is
the result of weakness; it is the refuge of doubt
and distrust, rather than of conscious strength,
the dangers of which lie another way. Fnmk.
ness, truth, and simplicity, therefere, as they
are inexpressihly charming, so are they peco.
liarly commendable in women ; and noUy evince
that while the possessors of them wish to please
(and why should they not wish it 7) they die-
dain to have reoourM to auT thing but what is
feir, and just, and honourable to efiect it ; that
they scorn to attain the most desired end by any
but the most kwfbl means. The beauty of
simplicity is indeed so intimately feH and gene-
rally acknowledged by all who have a troe taste
fer perspnal, mml, or inteUectoal beauty, that
women of the deepeat dissimulation often find
their account in assuming an extsrior the most
fereign to their character, and exhibiting the
most engaging mattaeU. It is curious to see how
much art uey put in practice in order to appear
naftirsZ; and the deep d§$igm which is est at
work to displajr aw^ficiiy. And, indeed, this
feigned simplicity is the most misduevoos, be-
cause the most engaging of all the Proteus feras
which artifice can put on. For the most free
and bold sentimento have been sometimes ha-
zarded with fetel success under this unsufpeet
ed mask. And an innocent, quiet, indolent, ar^
lees manner, has been adopted as the most re
fined and unfluccessfiil accompaniment of seati

Digitized by




meiite, :d6a0« an^ cMgns, neither artleee, quiet,
nor innocent


Oh diMnpatum, aM the modem habiU qffaekion-
abU life.

Pe&hafs the interests of true friendship, ele-
fant conversation, mental improvement, social
pleasure, maternal duty, and conjugal comfort,
never received such a blow as when Fashion
issued out that arbitrary and universal decree,
that even body must be aequairUed voHh every
i body ; together with that consequent, authori.
tative, but rather inconvenient clause that every
body must also go every where every night. The
implicit and ifevout obedience paid to this law,
is incompatible with the very being of friend-
■hip; for as the circle of acqiiaintance expands,
and it will be continually expanding, the afiec
tions will be beaten out into such thin lamina,
as to leave little solidity remaining. The heart
which is continually exhaustinf itself in profes-
sions, grows cold and hard. The feelings of
kindness diminish in proportion as the expres-
sion of it becomes more diifuse and indiscrimi.
nate. The very traces of* simplicity and Godly
sincerity,' in a delicate female, wear away im.
perceptibly by constant collision with the world
at large. And perhaps no woman takes so little
interest in the happiness of her real friends, as
she whose affections are incessantly evaporat-
mg in universal civilities ; as she who is saying
fond und flattering things at randpm, to a circle
of five hundred people every night
^ The decline and fall of animated and instruc
tive conversation, has been in a good measure
effected by this barbarous project of assembling
en masse. An excellent prelate,* with whose
friendship the author was long honoured, and
who himself excelled in the art of conversation,
nsed to remark, that a few years had brought
about a great revolution in the manners of so-
ciety ; that it used to be the custom, previously
to going into company, to think that something
was to be communicated or received, taught or
learnt ; that the powers of the understanding
were expected to be brought into exercise, and
that it was therefore necessary to quicken the
mind, by reading and thinking, for the share
the individual might be expected to take in the
genera] discourse ; but that now, knowledge and
taste, and wit, and erudition, seemed to be
scarcely considered as necessary materials to
be brought into the pleasurable commerce of the
'world ; because now there was tittle diance of
turning them to much account; and therefore,
be who possessed them, and he who possessed
them qpt, Vere nearly on a footing.

It is obvious also that multitumnous assem-
)Bes are so little &vourable to that cheerfulness
which it should seem to be their very end to
fromote, that if there were any chemical pro-
fess by which the quantum of spirits, animal or
intellectual, 'could be ascertained, the diminu-
lion vAuld be found to have been inconceivably

Vou I.

* Tbe late Bishop Home.

great, since the transformation of man and wo
man from a social to a gregarious animal.

But if it be true that friendship, society, and
cheerfulness, have sustained so much injury by
this change of manners, how much more point-
edly does the remark apply to fiunily happmess;

Notwithstanding the Imown fluctuation of
manners, and the mutability of language, could
it be foreseen when the apostle Paul exhorted
' married women to be keepers at home,'* that
the time would arrive when that very phrase
would be selected to designate one of the most
decided acts of dissipation 7 Could it be foreseen
that when a fine lady should send out a notifi-
cation that on such a night she shall be at bomi,
these two significant words (besides imitating
the rarity of the thing) would present to the
mind an image the most undemestic which Ian*
guage can convey 7 Could it be anticipated that
Die event of one lady's beinff at home could only
be effected by tbe universal concurrence of all
her acquaintance to be abroad 7 That so simple
an act should require such complicated oo-ope«
ration 7 And that the rep«;rt that one person
would be found in her own lUase, should ope-
rate with such an electric force as to empty Uie
houses of all her friends 7

My country readers, wno may require to have
it explained that these two magnetic words at
home, now possess the powerful influence of
drawing together every thing Jlne within the
sphere of their attraction, may need also to be
apprized, that the guests aif\erwards ars not ask-
ed what was said by the company, but whether
the crowd was prodigious ; the rule for deciding
on the merit of a facuiionable society, not beini
by the taste or the spirit, but by the score and
the hundred. The question of pleasure, like t
parliamentary question, is now carried by num-
bers. And when two parties modish, like two
parties political, are run one against another on
the same night, the same kind of mortification
attends the leader of a defeated minority, the
same triumph attends the exulting earner of
superior narobers, in the one case as in the other.
The scale of enjoyment is rated by the measure
of fatigue, and the quantity of inconvenience
furnisl^s the standard of gratification: the
smallness of the dimensions to which each per-
son is limited on account of the multitudes
which must divide among them a certain i^iven
space, adds to the sum iMi of general delight ;.
the aggregate of pleasure is produced by the
proportion of individual suffering ; and not till
every guest feels herself in the state of a cat in-
an exhausted receiver, does the delighted host-
ess attain the consummation of that renown
which is derived from such overflowm^ rooms
as shall throw all her competitors at a disgrace-
fbl distance.

An eminent divine has said, that either per-
severance in prayer will malce a man leave off
sinning, or a continuance in sin will make him
leave off prayer.* This remark may be accom.
modated to those ladies wh'H w'^ile ^ey are de
voted to the enjoyments ol Jie worlo, yet rt»ai«»
considerable solicitude for the instructiou of
their daughters. But if they are really in earliest
to give them a christian education, they must
themselves renounee a dissipated life. Or if

' Digitized by




they resolve to pursue the chase of pleasure, they
must renounce this prime duty. Contraries can-
not unite. The moral nurture of a tall daughter
can no more be administered by a mother whose
time is absorbed by crowds abroad, than, the
physica] nurture of her infant o&pring can be
supplied by her in a perpetual absence from
home. And is not that a preposterous affection,
which, ailer leading a mother to devote a few
months to the inferior duty of furnishing ali-
ment to the mere animal life, allows her to de-
sert her post when the more important moral
and intellectual cravings require sustenance?
Ibis great object is not to be effected with the
^reds and parings rounded off from the circle
of a dissipated life ; but in order to its adequate
execution, the mother should carry it on with
the same spirit and perseverance at home, which
the father thinks it necessary to be exerting
abroad in his public duty or professional en-

The usual vindication (and in theory it has a
plansible sound) which has been oflfered for the
large portion of time spent by women in ac-
quiring ornamental talente is, that they are cal-
culated to make the possessor love home, and
that tliey innocently fill up the hours of leisure.
The plea has indeed so promuing an appear-
ance, that it is worth inquiring whether it be in
fact true. Do we then, on feirly pursuing the
inquiry, discover that those who have spent most
time in such light acquisitions, are really re-
markable fer loving home, or staying quietly
there 7 or that when there, they are sedulous in
taming time to the best account 1 I speak not
of that rational and respectable class of women,
who, applym^ (as many of them do) these ele-
gant talente to their true purpose, employ them
to fill up the vacancies of better occupations,
and to embellish the leisure of a life actively
good. But do we generally see that even the
most valuable and sober part of the reigning fe-
male acquisitions leads their possessor to scenes
most fevourable to the enjoyment of them ? to
scenes which we should naturally suppose she
would seek, in order to the more effectual culti-
vation of such rational pleasures 7 To learn to
endure, to enjoy, and to adorn solitude, seems
to be one great end for bestowin? accomplish-

Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 92 of 135)