Lucy H.M. Soulsby.

Stray Thoughts for Girls online

. (page 11 of 11)
Online LibraryLucy H.M. SoulsbyStray Thoughts for Girls → online text (page 11 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


so little claim to it. Miss Edgeworth needed to decry sentimental and
high-flown feelings, - the Miss Edgeworth of to-day would need to uphold
romance.

Women may still be "Queens of noble Nature's crowning," but they too
often find that crown irksome, and prefer to be hail-fellow-well-met,
taking and allowing liberties, which give small encouragement to men to be
like Susan Winstanley's lover.

Dante never watched the young man and maiden of to-day accosting each
other, or he would not have said -

"If she salutes him, all his being o'er
Flows humbleness."

I am afraid Dante would now be left "_sole_ sitting by the shores of old
Romance," unless indeed he went to some of the seniors, who are supposed
to have no feelings left! "If you want to marry a young heart, you must
look for it in an old body."

Are you, then, to reject all suggestions of a sensible marriage with any
man who is not Prince Perfect? I once read a very sensible little poem
which described the heroine waiting year after year for Prince Perfect. He
came at last, but unfortunately "he sought perfection too," so nothing
came of it! Cromwell's rule in choosing his Ironsides is the safest in
choosing a husband: "Give me a man that hath principle - I know where to
have him." If he comes to you disguised as one of these somewhat
commonplace Ironsides, and recommended by your mother, consider how very
much the fairy Prince of your dreams would have to put up with in you, and
you will probably find it heavenly, as well as worldly wisdom, to "go
down on your knees and thank Heaven fasting for a good man's love." You
will tell me that many happy and useful lives are now open to women, and
that they need not be dependent on marriage for happiness, - and I shall
quite agree with you; you may go on to say that marriage can now be to a
woman a mere choice amongst many professions, a mere accident, as it is to
a man, - and there I shall totally disagree with you. It is quite possible
that Happiness may lie in the narrower, more self-willed work of the
single woman, but Blessedness, which is higher and more enduring than
happiness, can only be known to the married woman whose whole nature is
developed, and _fully_ known only to the "Queen of Marriage: a most
perfect wife."

Are you, then, to spend your lives making nets, or, following Swift's wise
caution, even in making cages, waiting, like Lydia Languish, for a hero of
romance, and beguiling the interval with reading "The Delicate Distress,"
and "The Mistakes of the Heart"? Not at all! The best way to prepare for
marriage is to prepare yourself to be like Bridget Elia, "an incomparable
old maid."

"The soul, that goodness like to this adorns
Holdeth it not concealed;
But, from her first espousal to the frame,
Shows it, till death, revealed.
Obedient, sweet, and full of seemly shame,
She, in the primal age,
The person decks with beauty; moulding it
Fitly through every part.
In riper manhood, temperate, firm of heart,
With love replenished, and with courteous praise,
In loyal deeds alone she hath delight.
And, in her elder days,
For prudence and just largeness is she known;
Rejoicing with herself,
That wisdom in her staid discourse be shown.
Then, in life's fourth division, at the last
She weds with God again,
Contemplating the end she shall attain;
And looketh back, and blesseth the time past." - _Dante_.

[Footnote 6: James Martineau.]

[Footnote 7: Channing.]




A Good Time.


We sometimes hear people lamenting the dangers of this age as regards
unsettled views in religion, while others lament that girls neglect home
duties for outside work.

I am not at all sure that our greatest danger does not lurk in that most
modern invention, "a good time," which, as a disturbing element, is
closely related to that other modern institution "week-ends."

Fifteen or twenty years ago, a self-willed or self-indulgent girl escaped
from the monotony of home duties by the door which led into slums and
hospitals. Nowadays the same girl finds that duties can be evaded by the
simpler plan of staying at home and having "a good time." I do not think
this will last, any more than slumming, as a mere fashion, has lasted. I
hope not, for it means that girls have had very full liberty given to
them, and that their sense of responsibility has not yet grown in
proportion to their freedom. Just now, pending the growth of that sixth
sense, "a good time" is very easily to be had - at the cost of a little
want of consideration for others - since the elders of to-day are curiously
large-hearted in giving freely and asking very little in return.

But it would be an ungenerous nature which took advantage of generosity,
and was content to take much and give little.

Surely it is utterly ignoble that any living soul sent into the great
battle should ask to pick flowers, while every one worth their salt was
hard at work fighting the foe, protecting the weak, nursing the wounded. I
do not believe a girl would do it if she thought twice; every generous
instinct would cry out against it. But a girl may drift into a very
selfish pleasure-seeking life, and the tendency of the day is to regard
this as a defendable and lawful line of life. Duty will hold its own with
the morally thoughtful and with generous natures, but it is no longer an
unquestioned motto for every one as it used to be in Nelson's days.

I have heard a girl rebel against her life, on the ground that she had a
right to a good time; youth was the time for pleasure, she would never
again have such a power of enjoyment, and it was absolutely criminal on
her parents' part not to provide her with more. I thought she already had
more than most; but in any case, I did not agree with her in saying that
she must enjoy now, or not at all. In case it should be any comfort to
those of you who may have a dull life, I can tell you that it is not so. I
am convinced we all have a certain power of enjoyment, and if you can get
your fill of pleasure in youth, you do not find as much keen enjoyment in
middle life as if you had been kept on a shorter allowance. It is true you
do not enjoy quite the same things - there are youthful amusements which
you can only enjoy at a certain stage; but take comfort, if you do not get
as much as you would like now, it will only mean keener enjoyment of the
pleasures of the next stage of life.

But what struck me most was her fundamental assumption that Pleasure was a
valid object in life, and that she was sent into the world to get as much
as she could.

If so, I think the world is a great Failure. I often hear people saying,
"I cannot believe in God, because of the Pain in the world;" and if this
world was the end of things, that would be reasonable; if Pleasure is the
object of Life, it would be better never to be born! But if we are sent
here to grow, then I cannot understand Pain being a reason for doubting
God's love. Looking back on life, I am sure each will feel, "I could not
afford to miss one of its shadows, no matter how black they were at the
time." And the fact that you and I each feel that the key of God's love
fits the lock of our individual life, should be one valid reason for
believing that all Life is ordered for a right and noble purpose; our
happy lives are as real a bit of Life, and as good a specimen of God's
government, as sad ones.

People say to me, "Yes, I feel as you do about myself, but others have
such terrible shadows that I cannot feel God is good!" Well, some
sufferers tell me they would not change their life, for they feel God's
love in it: surely they have a right to speak. We learn from them that
Pain works rightly into life.

What makes a woman's life worth living? That she has had this or that
pleasure - that she has riches or poverty - that she is married or lonely,
that she married the right man or the wrong?

No! What matters is, whether she is growing more and more into tune with
the Infinite? Is she learning God's lesson, and fitting herself for the
still nobler life He wants to give her?

You and I came into the world to do our part in a noble battle -

"'Twere worth a thousand years of strife,
'Twere worth a wise man's best of life.
If he could lessen but by one
The countless ills beneath the sun."

Besides, you will not find Pleasure-seeking pays in the long run! If you
are feeling that Pleasure with a big "P" is your due, then all the little
annoyances prick and irritate. If you pay heavily for a new dress which
hangs badly, it is trying; if you never expected a new dress at all, and
that same dress was unexpectedly given you, the drawback would be looked
at very differently.

It would pay pleasure-seekers to try the old plan of looking on life as a
Duty, where pleasures came by accident or kindness, and were heartily and
gratefully enjoyed. Do you remember in the "Daisy Chain," how Ethel says,
after the picnic, that the big attempts at pleasure generally go wrong,
and that the true pleasures of life are the little unsought joys that come
in the natural course of things? Dr. May disliked hearing her so wise at
her age, but I think it must have been rather a comfort to Ethel to have
found it out. No thought of that kind damps your pleasure when the dance
or the picnic turn out a great success! And when they do not, it is nice
to feel there are other things in life. Every one knows how often
something goes wrong at a big pleasure; the right people are not there, or
your dress is not quite right; you are tired, or you say the wrong thing;
while, if you get much pleasure, a certain monotony is soon felt, and you
envy the vivid enjoyment of the girl who scarcely ever has a treat.

It stands to reason, that if you are deliberately arranging to get
pleasure, and plenty of it, you cannot (from a purely pleasure point of
view) enjoy it as much as if your life consisted of duties, and your
pleasures came by the way. But there is a deeper reason why a life of
amusement fails to amuse. It is not only that we are so made that nearly
all our sensations of pleasure depend on novelty, the keenness wearing off
if a sensation is repeated.

The reason lies in a fact which militates against the Pleasure-seeker's
foundation idea: - the fact that we are made for something else than
pleasure, failing which we remain unsatisfied. "There is in man a HIGHER
than Love of Happiness: he can do without Happiness, and instead thereof
find Blessedness."

Here is the point I should like you to think clearly out for yourselves.
Fifty years ago, Carlyle taught this truth as with thunder from Sinai. Let
us imbue our minds with his passionate scorn for those who come into this
noble world to suck sweets, - to have "a good time." "Sartor Resartus," one
of the Battle-cries of Life, and "Past and Present," which has small mercy
for idlers and pleasure-seekers, are character-making books: -

"There went to the making of man
Time with a gift of tears,
Grief with a glass that ran,"

and there also go, to the making of man and woman, certain books.

These may vary in each case and in generation. Tom Brown and Mr. Knowles'
"King Arthur" may not do for you what they did for me; "Sesame and
Lilies," "Past and Present," Emerson's "Twenty Essays" may be superseded,
though I can hardly believe it; but see to it that you find and read their
true successors, carry out Dr. Abbott's advice to his boys - to "read half
a dozen de-vulgarizing books before leaving school."

Surely R.L. Stevenson should be on the list, for he speaks so splendidly
on Carlyle's great point that man was born for something better than
Happiness. He says, over and over again, "Happiness is not the reward that
mankind seeks. Happinesses are but his wayside campings; his soul is in
the journey; he was born for struggle, and only tastes his life in
effort." He sounds the same note as Marcus Aurelius, another of the
de-vulgarizing man-making books of the world.

The message of all these men is, "Love not Pleasure; love God. This is the
EVERLASTING YEA, wherein who walks and works it is well with him."

Surely, when we look into things and leave our hungry wishes on one side,
it seems clear to the best side of our nature that we are born, not with a
right to Pleasure, but with a right to opportunity for development on our
own highest lines.

A pig has a right to pigs-wash - he has no higher capacity. You and I have
a capacity for courage and helpfulness and friendship with God. Our life
will be a success if these things are developed, and a failure if they are
not. This is the success we have a right to, but as likely as not it may
need Pain, not Pleasure, for its achievement; and in this case you and I
are born with a right to Pain, and we should be defrauded if any one saved
us from it.

I know you want Happiness and pleasure, and I sympathize with you; but it
makes all the difference to your whole life if you go out into the world
like a vulture screaming for prey, or if you start out hoping, in the
first place, to be brave and helpful, and, only in the second place, ready
to take any pleasure as a good gift to be happy and grateful about.

"How needlessly mean our life is; though we, by the depth of our living,
can deck it with more than regal splendour!"[8]

Do you feel that this is very tall talk for quiet lives like yours and
mine? Yes, it is; but we need great ideals to live even small lives by.
Probably no one of us will ever get near living a noble life, but we can
make our lives of the same fibre as those of the heroes. We can live on
noble lines.

How?

I. - Let us _work for others_: which may mean no more than being the
useful one in the house and perhaps taking a Sunday-school class.

II. - Let us live with noble people, _i.e._ read steadily books which keep
us in touch with larger minds - if you are constantly meeting clever people
that does instead, but if you lead quiet lives with not much to talk
about, except gossip and family events, then secure a daily talk with
people worth talking to.

III. - Let us live part of each day with God. St. Christopher is the patron
saint of those who want to lead a noble, helpful life, and yet feel that
in them there lies no touch of saintliness, save it be some far-off touch
to know well they are not saints.

You know his story: how he sought to serve the strongest, first the
Emperor, then the Devil, then the Crucified; how he went to an old hermit
and said, "I am no saint, I cannot pray, but teach me to work for the
Master;" and how at last he found that in his common work he attained to
the service of the Crucified.

You and I are sent into the world to serve the strongest, and we know that
means the Crucified.

What makes Life worth while, and increasingly worth while, every year you
live, is that He does not offer us Pleasure, though He gives it to most of
us in overflowing measure: He offers us a share in His work. Think of all
we owe to others, to all who love us - to all who make life easy to
us - and feel what a debt we owe. Think of the work He is doing - of the
work He died for. Think how He calls each one to His side to be His friend
and helper and fellow-soldier. Think of the possibility which belongs to
each one of us, of being one of His great army of those whose name is
Help.

Let us thank Him for our Creation, in that such possibilities are before
us. Verily, Life is well worth living.

"Go forth and bravely do your part,
O knights of the unshielded heart."

[Footnote 8: Emerson.]


THE END.






WORKS BY L. H. M. SOULSBY


STRAY THOUGHTS FOR GIRLS, 2s. 6d. net.

(New and Enlarged Edition.)

CONTENTS: Lines written on being told that a Lady was "Plain and
Commonplace" - The Virtuous Woman - Making Plans - Conversation - Aunt Rachel;
or, Old Maids' Children - "Get up, M. le Comte!" - A Friday Lesson - A Home
Art; or, Mothers and Daughters - _Esprit de Corps_ - Rough Notes of a
Lesson - Holidays - Sunday - Friendship and Love - A Good Time.

The Original Edition of this book is still on sale, 16mo, 1s. 6d. net.


STRAY THOUGHTS FOR MOTHERS AND TEACHERS, 2s. 6d. net.

CONTENTS: The Religious Side of Secular Teaching - Home Education from 14
to 17 - Mothers and Day Schools - Teaching of History - etc.


STRAY THOUGHTS ON READING, 2s. 6d. net.

CONTENTS: Suggestions on Reading - Romola - Charles Kingsley - "The Happy
Warrior" - Paracelsus - Dante - Pilgrim's Progress - etc.


STRAY THOUGHTS ON CHARACTER, 2s. 6d. net.

CONTENTS: Happiness[A] - One Called Help[B] - Two Aspects of Education or
Self-Control and the Ideal Woman[B] - The Use of Leisure or Thoughts on
Education[B] - etc.

[Footnote A: This is printed separately, price 3d. net.]

[Footnote B: These are printed separately, price 4d. net each.]

The four books as above are also issued bound in limp leather, gilt
edges, and can be obtained through any bookseller.


STRAY THOUGHTS FOR INVALIDS, 2s. net.

CONTENTS: "I do well to be Angry" - "Purring when you're pleased" - The Duty
of Eating - Nervous Irritability - The Shadow of the Future - The Fear of
Death - etc.


SUGGESTIONS ON PRAYER, 1s. net, or in Cloth, 1s. 6d. net.

CONTENTS: Difficulties in Prayer - Making a Prayer Book - Prayer is
Power - Self-Examination - Questions on the Ten Commandments.


SHORT PRAYERS, cloth limp, 16mo, 6d. net.
CHRIST AND HIS CROSS, 2s. net.

Selections from Rutherford's Letters.


CHRISTIAN PERFECTION, 2s. net.

By WILLIAM LAW, EDITED BY L.H.M. SOULSBY.


LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.

LONDON, NEW YORK AND BOMBAY



***


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11

Online LibraryLucy H.M. SoulsbyStray Thoughts for Girls → online text (page 11 of 11)