J. G. (Josiah Gilbert) Holland.

Titcomb's letters to young people single and married online

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Qever think of marrying a man simply because you love
him. You may love a man who has personal habits
that will make you miserable. You may love a man so
lazy or so inefficient that your whole life will be neces-
sarily a continued struggle with poverty. You may
love a man who has no adaptation to you — who is surly
and stupid and unresponsive ; who can give no satis&c-


tory return of your affection, and who will repulse every
demonstration of your fondness. You may love a man
who is supremely selfish. When you become bound
for life to a man, he should be one who can make you
happier than you would be alone. There are doubtless
Home instances of a love so noble and so self-sacrificing
that it will welcome poverty and want, with the object
of its desire, as being far better than riches without it.
I will not quarrel with this. I only say that, generally,
competence (I do not mean wealth) is necessary to that
degree of comfort without which love fails of its sweetest
exercises and most grateftd rewards. Love for a man
is only one reason why you should marry him. There
may be a round dozen of reasons why you should not.

A woman's heart is a very queer thing, on the whole.
It falls in love in the most unaccountable way, with the
most unaccountable men. It is a hard thing tor reason
with, and a much harder thing to reason about, yet
there are some things which may be said to those whose
judgment is not yet blinded by a passion that contemns
reason. You should marry a man to whom you will
be willing to bend, or one whom you know you can
manage without his knowledge, or with his consent.
The instances are very rare in which two strong wills
can harmonize in close companionship. They must
both be governed by principle, and be mutually forbear-


ing from principle. I have seen noble instances of this,
but not often. The law of nature is that the wife shall
bend to the husband — that her will shaJl, at last, be
subject ; yet there are instances of true affection between
man and woman when subjection on the part of the
man becomes the law of nature, the woman's judgment
being the best, and her will the strongest. In these
cases, the female mind possesses masculine characteris-
tics and the male mind feminine characteristics ; and it
is just as proper that her mind should govern in these
instances as that the male mind should govern in others.
But there is something unnatural in this, after all — or
something, I should say, out of the common order of

If a woman sincerely believe that there is no man to
whose will she can gladly subordinate her own, let her
seek out a feminine man, and make suit for his hand.
A noted female vocalist, whom aU of us love, had the
credit of doing this. He gave up even his religion for
her, though that may not have cost him much. I pre-
sume that she governs him, and I have yet to learn that
the union is not thoroughly a happy one. After all, if
the lady were a graceful subject of a kingly intellect, I
cannot help thinking that she would be in a more
natural position, and one in which she would be hap-
pier than she is now.


You are placed in a position of peculiar temptation.
You have ambitions to be something more than pretty,
accomplished, and loved — at least, some of you have.
You want a career. As a woman, you see that you
cannot have one, save through a matrimonial connexion.
You wish to do something — to be something — to be
mistress of an establishment, or to be associated with one
who has the public eye, or the public consideration. It
is thus that wealth and position come to you with very
great temptations. A man of wealth or a man of power
offers you his hand, and, unless he is absolutely repul-
sive, he will generally get it. You will try to love him,
or learn to love him, or think you love him ; or perhaps
yon will take a mercenary or a worldly view of the
whole thing, and marry him for what of wealth and
position he can bring you. , Now all this marrying for
money, or for position, or for any other consideration,
when genuine love is absent, is essential prostitution. I
know of no difference between selling one's self for a
lifetime, and that sale of the soul and body which is
made in the house of her whose steps take hold on hell ,
If you find yourself willing to give up yourself to a man
in a life-long connexion for the house he gives you, for
the silks and furs with which he clothes you, for the
society into which he introduces you, for the position
with which he endows you, then, whether you know it


or not, you become the sister of the drab whom yoQ
60 inconsistently spurn from your side. In fact, the
motives that have made her what she is may be white
by the side of yours. Manying for love may seem to be
a very silly thing to a woman of the world ; but marry-
ing without love, for a consideration, is wicked. " Love
in a cottage" is laughed at by very "judicious people,"
but it is a very sweet thing by the ade of indifference
in a palace. ( I know of nothing more disgusting in all
Ithe world than that mercenary tie which, under the
Dame of marriage, binds a woman to the bosom of one
who bought her with his money.

I know what the world says about this matter, and I
very heartily despise the world for it. "When I ask the
world if Jane has " made out well" by her union, and
am told that she has done finely, and married a man
worth a hundred thousand dollars, I am tempted to be
profane. When I ask the world how Kate has settled,
and am informed, as the essential portion of the reply,
that her husband is "an exceUont provider," I am
tempted to spit in its face. The conventional idea of a
happy and proper matrimonial connexion is so mean
and so arbitrary, that it is no wonder that unsophisti-
cated girls sacrifice themselves. I pity them from the
bottom of my heart. They cannot have even the repu
tation of marrying well unless they allow base motives


to erJer into their calculations. They learn early to aim
tit wealth or position as primary and supremely desira-
ble things. A brilliant match, in the eyes of the world,
atones for low morals, uncongenial tastes, and luke-
warm hearts.

Now, if you must make calculations, let rac help you.
Make genuine affection the first thing. This is abso-
lutely indispensable. It takes precedence of everything
else. You are not at liberty to consider anything before
this. A union based upon anything else, is, as I have
already told you, essential prostitution. It is against
nature — against God's most wise and benevolent inten-
tions. You can make no union with a man, not based
on this, that will give you happiness. Friendship alone
will not do. Esteem alone will not do. The idea of
giving yourself to a man simply because you esteem
him, and respect him, is disgusting. The union of the
current of your life with that of a man is the great
event of your history, and if this be not through those
natural affinities, sympathies, and partialities — that pas-
tion of your soul which heaven intended should be
called into exercise by manhood — then is it only a con-
ventional union, and no union in fact. Love, then, I
say, is the essential thing, and yet love, as I have said
before, is only one thing. There may be in the man
who excites the holiest and stiotigest passion of yoiu-


nature many things which, if you value peace— if you
value J our own purity, even — should lead you to pluck
that passion from your breast, and turn your back upon
its object, that God's light may rest upon your brow,
even if sorrow make darkness in your heart.

It is hard to examine character, and profit by the
study, after the heart has become the seat of an absorb-
ing passion ; but it is indispensably necessary to do it
sometimes. It is far better that the passion be excited
by the influence of character, disposition, and bearing,
but when study becomes necessary, it should be entered
upon conscientiously; for the second requisite for a
happy union is sound character. A woman possessing
the best elements of womanhood cannot be happy with
a man who has not a sound character. He may have
a good disposition, he may be intelligent, he may have
wealth and honor, but if his character be weak or faulty,
she has no reliance ; and she must ultimately lose her
respect for him. When respect is gone, she may love,
the may pity, she may forgive, but she cannot be happy.
Disposition comes in for consideration in the third place,
and worldly circumstances in the fourth, or perhaps still
lower in the scale. I might speak of another thing,
requisite to happiness in the highest degree, but I will
not, now and hero.

In the consideration of worldly circimistances, be


wise. Remember that if your lover be intelligent,
(healthy, the master of a business or a profession, he
stands many more chances to die in the possession of
wealth or competence than he would if rich now, and
without a settled business and settled purposes. I hav
watched the results of many matches, and I have seen
ten which started with a fortune to be acquired, turn out
well in a worldly point of view, where I have seen one
result happily, starting with the fortune made. If a
young man is honorable, intelligent, industrious, and
manly in every respect, an4 you love him, marry him.
There is no power under heaven that has a moral right
to stand between you and your happiness. Many a
poor girl who married for money now pines in poverty,
and covets the position of girls whose wiser choice she
once contemned,

I speak in this way for two reasons. The first is, that
it is nt./t only your right but your duty to consider
whether a life of certain poverty will be compensated by
a life of association with the man you love. The
second is, that when you take this matter into conside-
ration you should make your judgment upon a sound
basis. Wealth in hand, without business habits, busi-
ness tastes, and business interests, is the most unreliable
thmg in the world. It may even spoil a good lover,
and in time transform him into a loafer or a sot. On

132 TITCOMB'S letters to young "WOMEN.

the contrary, good business habits, good charactei;
enterprise, ambition — all these combined — are almost
sure to secure competence and success. If you would
rely on anything, rely on these, for they are the only
reliable things. Misfortune may deal harshly with these,
but thai is the business of Providence.

I fancy one reply that may be made to all this wise
talk. Women practically have comparatively little
choica in the matter. They grow up from the cradle
with the idea that it is a horrible thmg to live and die
an old maid. That, in the ininds of half the girls, is the
most terrible thing in all the world. They can abide
anything better than that. So they feel a kind of obli-
gation to jump at the first ofier, they are so much
afraid they shall never have another. Let them remem-
ber that a mismated match is much worse than an
unmated life. I believe that marriage is the true condi-
tion, and that no man or woman can fully enjoy life
unmamed ; but I know they will be more unhappy if
they are badly matched than if not matched at all. But
women have more choice than they think, and would
have still more than they do, if their intercourse with
young men were placed upon the basis indicated in my
last letter.

Most young women study the character of men but lit-
tle, because they have but little opportunity. Thoy see


comparatively few, and, through the character of their
intercourse, know them very incompletely. It is a sin
and a shame that young women enjoy such inferior
opportunities of learning the character of young men, —
of weighing, comparing, and judging tiiem. It is a
shame that they have no more opportunities for a choice.
My own wife vciy fortunately got an excellent hus-
band, but it is something for which she is to be grateful
to an overruling Providence, for her own knowledge had
very little to do vpith it. I could have cheated her
beyond all account. I tell you, men want studyiny for
some years, before you find them out, and it becomes
you to run fewer risks than the most of your sex run in
this business. It is a good deal of a step — this getting
married, and I am very anxious that you shall know a
great many men, that you shall get the one you love,
that he shall be worthy of you, and that you shall be
happy all the days of your life.



Of aU the griefi that harara the distressed,
Sure the most bitter is a scornltal jest

Bamiiel tToHicBOir.

And lovelier things have mercy shown
To every falling bnt their own.
And every woe a tear can clfdm
Except an erring sister^s shame.

I HAVE met witli a good many young women, first
and last, whose intellects .were of that keen, quick
variety which delights in uttering sharp things — often
very hard things. They do it, at first, playfully ; they
produce a laugh which flatters them; and they soon
get to doing it wantonly. They acquire an appetite
for praise, and they become willing to procure it al


whatever expense to othere. Genuine wit in a man is
almost always genial ; wit in a woman, however genial
It may be at first, almost always gets into personalities,
sooner or later, which makes it very dangerous and very
hateful. Man is held in restraint, whatever his tenden-
cies may be, by the consideration that, as a man, he will
be held responsible for his words; women presume
upon the fiict that they are women, in taking license to
say what they choose of each other, and of men in par-
ticular. There is not always — perhaps there is not
generally — malice in these sharp and hard speeches, but
they poison, nevertheless. They poison her who utters
them, and they poison those who suffer from them.
The utterer becomes the student, for a purpose, of the
weak points of her friends, and they learn to hate her.
I have known not a few women whose personal witti-
cisms were enjoyed by the gossip-loving crowd around
her, every man of whom would as soon think of marry-
ing a tigress as the one he was flattering by the applause
of his laugh.

Therefore I say that to be a witty woman is a very
dangerous thing. To be a witty woman is to be the
subject of very great temptations, for personality forms
the very zest of gossip— an employment of which most
women, I think, know something by experiment. Men
are afraid of witty women, especially those who delight


in making cutting speeches. Ttcy say, very rationally
that if a woman will secure praise at the expense of one
friend, she will also at the expense of others, and that
no one can be safe^ There is nothing in my eyes more
admirable in a woman than an honest wish to hear no
one spoken againstj-than that consideration for the
feelings of others which leads her to treat all faults with
tenderness, and all weaknesses and natural unpleasant
peculiarities with indulgence. One of the most attrac-
tive sights in the world, to any young man of common
sensibility, is that of a young woman who not only will
neither say nor hear ill of any one, but who takes spe-
cial pains to notice those whom the crowd neglect.
Such a woman is the admired of all whose admiration is
worth securing. And now, young woman, if you are
one of the sharp ones, and arc tempted to say sharp
things, remember that you are in very great danger of
injuring yourself, not only in your own soul, but in the
eyes of all those whom you imagine you are pleasing.

I think, as a general thing, that women are harder in
their judgments of their own sex than men are of theirs,
or even of them. This arises partly from jealousy — a
wish to stand among the uppennost in the popular
esteem. The praise of women, poured into the ears of
other women, is not usually gratefully received. The
disposition of women to judge harshly of each other is


Been partii}ularly m those instances in -whicli a ivoman
has taken a false step. Here the fact is patent; — a
■woman forgets, or forgives, much less promptly than a
man. However deep the repentance, however decided
the reformation, a woman never forgets that her sister
has sinned, notwithstanding the fact that weakness and
misfortune and a hundred mitigating if not exculpating
circumstances plead in her behalf. It is the same with
less important lapses of behavior, in a corresponding
degree. I do not know but this is one of the safe-
guards which God intended should be around a woman's
path, but it seems to me a very unwomanly and a very
unchristian thing. It seems to me, too, to be a very
unnatural thing. I judge that, much more than a man,
a woman should be interested in securing justice for her
own sex ; and that if a sinning or a silly woman should
find a charitable defender anywhere, it should be among
those who, like her, are exposed to the temptations, and
particularly to the uncharitable misconstructions, of a
captious world.

What I would insist upon, is, that you not only do not
wound the feelings of your own sex by sharp criticisms,
but that you be heartily enlisted in maintaining their
honor. Do not think that you do this while putting
down this one and that, in order to make your own im-
maculateness the more conspicuous. Believe what is


generally trae, that those who sin arc those who sin
rather through weakness than vicious tendencv ; that
villains who wear cravats and waistcoats — ^the very men
whom you are by no means particular enough to exclude
from your company — are those who most deserve your

And now that I am upon this subject of talk, it wUl
be well to say all I have to say upon it. It is a very com-
mon thing for young women to indulge in hyperbole.
A pretty dress is very apt to be " perfectly splendid ;" a
disagreeablepersonistoooften "perfectly hateful;" aparty
in which the company enjoyed themselves, somehow be-
comes transmuted into the " most delightful thing ever
seen." A young man of respectable parts and manly
bearing is very often " such a magnificent fellow !" The
adjective "perfect," that stands so much alone as never
to have the privilege of help from comparatives and
superlatives, is sadly over-worked, in company with seve-
ral others of the intense and extravagant order. The
result is that, by the use of such language as this, your
opinion soon becomes valueless.

A woman who deals only in superlatives demonstrates
at once the feet that her judgment is subordinate to her
feelings, and that her opinions are entirely unreliable.
All language thus loses its power and significance. The
same words are brought into use to describe a ribbon in


a milliner's window, as are employed in the endeavor to
do justice to Thalberg's execution of Beethoven's most
heavenly symphony. The use of hyperbole is so com-
mon among women that a woman's criticism is generally
without value. Let me insist upon this thing. Be more
economical in the use of your mother tongue. Apply
your terms of praise with precision ; use epithets with
some degree of judgment and fitness. Do not waste
your best and highest words upon inferior objects, and
find that when you have met with something which
really is superlatively great and good, the terms by which
you would distinguish it have all been "thrown away upon
inferior things — that you are bankrupt in expression. If
a thing is simply good, say so ; if pretty, say so ; if very
pretty, say so ; if fine, say so ; if very fine, say so ; if
grand, say so ; if sublime, say so ; if magnificent, say
so ; if splendid, say so. These words all have difierent
meanings, and you may say them all of as many different
objects, and not use the word " perfect" once. That is
a very large word. You will probably be obliged to save
it for application to the Deity, or to his works, or to that
serene rest which remains for those who love him.

Young women are very apt to imbibe another bad habit,
namely, the use of slang. I was walking along the street
the other day when I met an elegantly dressed lady and
gentleman upon the sidewalk. My attention was the


more attracted to them because tliev wore evidently
strangers. At any rate they impressed me as being very
thoroughly refined and genteel people. As I came with-
in hearing of their voices — they were quietly chatting
along the way — I heard these words from the woman's
lips : " You may bet your life on that." I was disgusted.
I could almost have boxed her ears. I remember once
being in the coinpany of a belle — one who had had a
winter's reign in Washington. Some kind of game was
in progress, when, in a moment of surprise, she exclaimed,
" My Gracious !" Now you may regard this as a finical
notion, but I tell you that woman fell as flatly in my
esteem as if she had uttered an oath. A lady, fresh
from Paris, once informed me that it would do the resi-
dents of a certain quiet village a great deal of good to
be " stirred up with a long pole." Let us see how you
like this kind of talk.

If you wish to be an " A No. 1 " woman, you have
got to " toe the mark,'' and be less " hifalutin." " You
may bet your head on that." You may sing " slightu-
ally " " like a martingale," you may " spin street yarn "
at the rate of ten knots an hour, you may " talk like a
book," you may dance as if you were on " a regular
break-down," you may " turn up your nose at common
folks," and play the piano " mighty fine," but " I-tell-
you," you " can't come to tea.'' " You may be hand-


some, but you can't come in." You might just as well
" cave jn," first as last, and " absquatulate," for you can't
" put it tbrough," " any way you can fix it." If you
imagine that you may " go it while you are young, for
when you are old you can't," you Won't " come it," "by
a long chalk." " Own up," now, and " do the straight
thing," and Til " set you down " as " one of the women
we read of." If you can't " come up to the scratch,"
why I must "let you slide." But if you have a
" sneakin' notign " for being a " regular brick," there is
no other way — " not as you knows on " — '' no sir-ree-
hoss ?" If a young man should " kind o' shine up to
you," and you should " cotton to him," and he should
hear you say " by the jumping Moses," or " by the liv-
"Jg jingo," or "my goodness," or "I vow," or "go it,
Betsey, TU hold your bonnet," or " mind your eye,'' or
" hit 'im agin," or " take me away," or " dry up, now,"
or " draw your sled," or " cut stick," or " give him par-
ticular fits," he would pretty certainly " evaporate."

I would by no means insinuate that all young women
use slang as coarse as this, but I acknowledge to have
heard some of these phrases from friends whom I really
esteem. Is not the use of these phrases, and of phrases
like them whose number is legion, a very vulgar habit ?
It seems so to me, and I can hear them from the lips
of no pretty woman except with pain, and a certaiD

142 tttcomb's lettees to TorrNG -women.

degree of diminution of my respect for her. The habit
certainly detracts from womanly dignity. It can be
dropped without the slightest danger of goihg into that
extreme of precision in the use of language, which takes
out all the life and freedom from social intercourse.
Slang is bad enough in young men, and they indulge in
far too much of it ; but in a- young woman, it is disgust-
ing. It is not the outgrowth of fine natures ; it is not
accordant with refined taste. Any young woman who
indulges in it does it at a very sad expense to her mind,
and manners, and reputation. Therefore, beware of it ;
discard it ; guard the door of your lips, and leave it to
those coarse specimens of your sex of whose natures and
habits of thought it is tlie natural and fitting expression.
One more bad habit of your tongues, and I conclude.
It is very common for young women to imagine that all
tradesmen have a desire to cheat them. They will talk
to the provision dealers and peddlers who call at their
doors, and to tradesmen in their shops, with a hai'shness
that would not be forgiven in a man. Men become

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Online LibraryJ. G. (Josiah Gilbert) HollandTitcomb's letters to young people single and married → online text (page 7 of 13)