Lucy H.M. Soulsby.

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inclined to doubt whether his share of mother-wit can be very large, after
all. The people I have known who are clever, without having had the
careful school-training you enjoy, used all the advantages that came in
their way (though, when they were young, advantages were fewer), and
unless you do the same, you cannot expect to be like them. Also, clever
untrained people often feel very much hampered by their want of training;
you see the cleverness, but they feel how much more they could have done
if they had been trained. Therefore, do not allow yourselves to think
"Euclid is no good, because 'Aunt So-and-so' is quite clever enough, and
she never did it;" depend upon it, that is not going the right road to be
like her. I feel quite sure that if this "not impossible aunt" had had
opportunities of learning Euclid when she was young, she would have done
it, and very well too! Of course, if you mean to read Mathematics from
choice by-and-by, you will work hard at the subject now, but I can quite
understand that those who are not going to do this, perhaps sometimes
feel, "What is the good? I shall never look at a Euclid again after I
leave school - I want to learn how to hold my own in after-life, - I want to
be able to talk when I come out, - I want to be a sensible woman, whose
opinion will be asked by other people, - I want to be clever at house-work
or cooking, or to be able to manage a shop, - I want to be strong enough
and wise enough to be a support and comfort to others, - I want to be a
useful woman and not a mathematician!" Well! that is just what I want you
to be, but I am quite sure that Mathematics will help you to this, by
making you accurate and reasonable and attentive, without which qualities
you will be no use and very little comfort. If you work hard at
Mathematics while you are here, and gain these qualities, you have my free
leave to shut your Euclid for good on the day you leave school, - you will
have learnt his best lessons.

Is there any great mental good which you can gain by the study of
Languages, quite apart from the advantage of being able to read and speak
when you go abroad? Yes; it enlarges your mind to know the various ways in
which things are expressed by different nations. A person who knows no
language but his own is like a man who can only see with one eye. It opens
a whole new world of thought to realize that other nations have other

Again, it makes you know your own language. Translation gives you choice
of words and trains you to appreciate delicate shades of meaning; this
helps you to appreciate Poetry, for one of the main beauties of great
poets, such as Milton and Tennyson, is their marvellous perception of
shades of difference, and the felicity with which they choose exactly the
right adjective!

It is said that barbarous tribes use a very small vocabulary; I sometimes
fear we may be going back to a savage state, when I think of the
vocabulary of a modern schoolgirl, and see how much ground is covered over
with these two narrow words, "awfully" and "jolly." Hannah More
complained, in her day, of the indiscriminate use of the word "nice."
"Formerly," she says, "a person was 'charming,' or 'accomplished,' or
'distinguished,' or 'well-bred,' or 'talented,' etc., and each word had
its own shade of meaning; now, every one is 'nice,' which saves much
thought." "Nice" held its position, for we find Miss Austen making Henry
Tilney laugh at the same misuse of the word. "Awfully" and "jolly" seem to
perform the same kind office for us which "nice" did for our
grandmothers, - they "save us much thought," and are used with a large
disregard of their inappropriateness; I have even been told by a girl that
the _Christian Year_ was "such an awfully jolly book"! Now, I am sure of
this: you will find excessive use of those two words always betokens an
empty, or rather an uncultivated, mind. I do not believe in any exception;
their votaries may have learning, but they have not digested it, they are
not thoughtful, they are "young (or old) barbarians," for it is the
unfailing mark of a cultivated mind, to use the right word in the right
place, and never "to use a sixpenny word when a threepenny one will do."

History should not be bare facts; it illustrates and explains politics of
our own day; it teaches sympathy and large-mindedness, and the power of
admiring virtues which are not of our own type. The Royalist learns to see
the strength of Cromwell, and the Roundhead to see the beauty of "the
White King." It ought to make the world bigger to us by helping us to
realize other places and other times. If we are to live quiet stay-at-home
lives afterwards, it is very important that we should try not to be narrow
and "provincial," and history and geography should help us in this

Poetry in the same way helps to make us imaginative, which is necessary,
if we are to have the Christian graces of tact and sympathy. It is very
important to learn the best poetry by heart; it is dull perhaps at first,
but new meanings unfold themselves every time we say it. Mr. Ruskin says
we ought to read a few verses every day, as we should do with the Bible,
to keep our lives from getting choked with commonplace dust, to remind us
that the Ideal exists. It certainly puts new beauty into life if we know
what poets have said about it, and how they expressed themselves, and this
might save us from unworthy expression. I have heard an intelligent
schoolgirl, looking at a glorious sunset, say concisely, "How awfully
jolly!" I have heard a schoolboy say, "How rum!" I believe they were both
touched, but I think they would have expressed themselves differently and
have got more pleasure out of it if they had been taught to see, by having
it reflected from poets and painters, and had known more of "the best that
has been thought and said."

There was so much I wanted to say that it is difficult to stop. I have
given only general ideas, but bear in mind - as the main point of what I
have said - that I want you to educate yourselves, to get ready for life,
and to use your lessons here to bring out those qualities which you will
want afterwards in everyday life.

Now, how will such general lessons help you in after-life?

First, I want them to help you to be interested in the things you will
meet with in books and newspapers and conversation; you will not hear much
about some lessons, but you will about these things - they are things that
it "becomes a young woman to know."

Then, too, I want you to leave school with introductions to all sorts of
nice people in books; you will find it do you as much good as social
introductions. Schoolgirls are often "out of it" for a time, when they go
home, because they had only "lesson-book" interests; I should like to
begin outside interests with you.

Also, this kind of general interest makes the world seem bigger and more
interesting; we get an idea of how many delightful things there are in it,
and so our pleasures are increased, which is always a great advantage.
Happiness is a duty, and sensible interests are a wonderful help to it.

Touching on many interests shows us our ignorance. I have known
schoolgirls, who were kept to their lessons, Algebra and Latin and periods
of History, and who thought they knew a good deal, because they measured
by a schoolroom standard. When they came in contact with the number of
things that cultivated people of society care for and appreciate, they
learnt a good deal of humility. Certainly the more I read on general
subjects the more I feel my own ignorance, and I think it would be very
odd if it did not have the same effect on you.

The next reason for this sort of lesson, and one of the best, is that it
ought to raise our taste. It is not enough to like or dislike a book: we
ought to train ourselves to like the best books. We do not think ourselves
born judges in music or art; we submit to being trained before we think
our opinion worth giving. It would be just so with a book, but you often
hear girls quite sorry for the author if they find a book dull; they feel
he is to blame! When I find an author dull, whom good critics admire, I
feel pretty sure that I am deficient on that point, and I try to learn to
see in him what they do. I speak from experience; when I found Wordsworth
dull, I knew it was my own fault, and I read and re-read him, and listened
to those who could appreciate him, and now I am rewarded by his being a
real part of the pleasures of my life. We need not leave off liking the
merely pretty writers, such as Miss Procter and Longfellow. I love
Longfellow and admire Miss Procter, but I cared for them both quite as
much when I was seven, and an author who can be in some measure
appreciated at seven ought to give way to deeper authors by-and-by. Like
Guinevere, it is our duty "to love the highest." The great good of
cultivated homes is that we learn to "put away childish things" and to
admire the better things which we hear talked of. Some of you may not have
this advantage; your people may be too busy for talking about books and
such things, and some of you may be cut off from interesting talks by
having school lessons to prepare when you would like to listen. Therefore,
I should like you to get some talk in school on such subjects - to spend
some "Half-hours with the best Authors."


"Where shall we spend the holidays?" has doubtless been discussed in many
households, by both parents and children, - I wonder if the children
followed it up by a still more important question, "_How_ shall I spend
the holidays?" Just at the close of a term you will not want me to suggest
anything that is like lessons, but at the same time I do not see why you
should spend seven weeks in idleness and novel-reading, any more than you
would live for seven weeks on puddings and sweets. You like plenty of
sweets, and I hope you will get them, but I hope you will have meat as

There are many books which are not novels, and which you would yet
enjoy, - books which would send you back more thoughtful; and though you
might not know any one lesson better next term because of having read
them, yet you would be a step nearer to being the sort of women you would
like to be. I dare say when you go for your holiday you will get something
to read at the station bookstall. Now, several of the books I mean can be
got there, as easily as yellow novels, and can be got for the price of
_Punch_; they are so small you could have them in your pocket and get them
read in odds and ends of time, out-of-doors, so that you need not miss any
expedition, or any fresh air, through staying in the house to study. In
the same way you could get some really good poem for a penny, and learn it
by heart. Nothing would please me so much as if you all brought me next
term the name of some book you had read, of this kind, and repeated to me
a poem of the sort that you think I should like - which very likely is not
the sort _you_ like, as yet. It would do you good, whether you enjoyed it
or not, for you would be teaching yourselves to like the better kind of
books if you persevered with it, and your holidays would be pleasanter, as
well as better, if there was some effort of this kind to give backbone to
each day. Cooks say there should be a pinch of salt in everything you eat,
and I am sure we ought to have a pinch of the moral salt of self-conquest
in each day, just to keep it sweet and good.

Perhaps you will think I am always wanting you to read, and you would like
to remind me that there are many other commendable pursuits. I certainly
am rather of the opinion Lowell expresses in "Democracy." He says,
"Southey, in his walk one stormy day, met an old woman, to whom, by way
of greeting, he made the rather obvious remark that it was dreadful
weather. She answered, philosophically, that, in her opinion, 'any sort of
weather was better than none!'" I should be half inclined to say that any
reading was better than none.

Yet you are quite right about those other pursuits, and I hope you will
follow them; but at the same time, if you have not already got a taste for
reading, it is the most important of all tastes for you to strive to
acquire, as it is very doubtful if you will manage otherwise to do so in
later life. I should pity you terribly if you failed to acquire it, for
you will all find life hard in one way or another, and you will find that
a love of reading is even more valuable than a sense of humour in helping
you over rough places. And - over and above the minor, more "worldly"
support of its power of amusing and interesting you, even in the most "set
grey life" - it is linked to those higher helps, without which, neither
reading nor anything else will do us much good. St. Hugh of Lincoln made
much of good books because he said they "made illness and sorrow
endurable," and, besides this, they save you from many temptations. It has
been well said, "It is very hard for a person who does not like reading to
talk without sinning.... Reading hinders castle-building, which is an
inward disease, wholly incompatible with devotion.... Towards afternoon a
person who has nothing to do drifts rapidly away from God. To sit down in
a chair without an object is to jump into a thicket of temptation. A
vacant hour is always the devil's hour. Then a book is a strong tower,
nay, a very church, with angels lurking among the leaves."

But although I must allow reading to be my special hobby, - one, however,
which is run very hard in my affections by both cooking and
gardening, - still I quite appreciate other hobbies, and I should be quite
as much pleased next term if, instead of telling me about books read and
bringing me a piece of poetry learnt (by-the-by, I do very much wish you
would all learn Wordsworth's "Ode to Duty" during the holidays) - if,
instead of this, you showed me collections of wild flowers or shells. A
little time ago I saw a charming book of dried flowers, collected by a set
of children just out of a kindergarten. Each flower had a page to itself,
with its name neatly written, and any extra local names which it happened
to possess. On the opposite page was written any verses of poetry that the
children could find about it; and I was quite surprised to see what a good
collection they had of bits from Tennyson and Shakespeare and Wordsworth,
etc. Of course, the older sisters and the mothers must have helped them in
this part, but such a book, made in the holidays, would be the work of
the whole family, so you would have plenty of help; and you will notice
that the poetical part of it is a special attraction to me, as it affords
exercise to my own hobby both in reading and in verifying quotations.

I think I had better here give you warning that when you come back next
term every one will have to write an essay, describing some one place they
have been to during the holidays. I tell you now, that you may try to find
out all you can of the real interest of the place; its historical, or
legendary, or literary associations, or its flowers, or shells, or

There is one other point of holiday-making on which I should like to talk
to you. Some of you may have read Charles Lamb's amusing essay on "Popular
Fallacies;" I suppose every one could add to his list from their own
experience of life. One of the popular fallacies I should like to combat
is, that "holidays are 'the children's hour;'" though I quite allow that,
like most popular fallacies, it has many grains of truth in it. The little
victims consider that conscientious application to grammar and history
deserves a compensating course of lying in bed in the morning, sitting up
late at night, and general indulgence, with every right-minded member of
the household waiting upon them, and making plans for their amusement.
Now, I quite see their side of the question. It is not pleasant, day
after day, to go on steadily with work, which you do not happen to care
for; to be cut off from this or that expedition, because lessons
interfere; to have to get up early every morning; to lose this or that
visit; - and, therefore, I hope your holidays may be full of fun, and that
you may be richly rewarded for any struggles you may have made during the

But there is another side of it all, and _term-time_ is "the children's
hour," from one point of view.

Instead of the term being, for children, a time of self-denial, and the
holidays, a time of well-earned self-indulgence, - I feel that term-time
means self-denial for the parents, and selfishness for the children. Do
not misunderstand me; the selfishness which I mean is forced upon you, - it
is your duty, in term-time, to put lessons first. It may very well be that
some of you feel you were wrongly selfish in your way of doing it, - that
you allowed school work and school interests to blind you to the helpful
things you might have done at home without any injury to the lessons. I
occasionally hear such things as, that school is "so bad for girls,
because So-and-so gets so engrossed with her work that she is irritable
when any demand is made on her time, and is deep in her books when any
demand is made on her sympathies; and when she is not studying, she and
her school friends are running in and out of each other's houses, so that
her mother might as well have no daughter at all." I do beg that none of
you will bring this discredit on school life, for the system gets blamed
when it is really your individual shortcoming which is in fault; you ought
to be big enough to hold both school and home interests! But, setting
aside this form of term-time selfishness, which we shall all agree to
condemn, there remains another form of it, which is a duty. You must put
lessons first, or you will be wasting both your parents' money and that
leisure for self-improvement, which, as a rule, is only granted to us
while we are young. You are not free, yet, to be as useful at home as you
would like to be; your mother has to do without a daughter, to a large
extent, or to avail herself of one with the uncomfortable feeling that the
daughter is losing valuable time thereby, and probably is considering
herself a martyr in having to do unscholastic duties. I dare say the
daughter feels, "It isn't to please myself that I slave at my lessons;
mother would be vexed if I didn't; and it's very hard that I should be
both hindered in them and made to do other things as well, - it's quite bad
enough in term-time to have to fag at lessons." But just consider, for a
moment, this "fagging at lessons:" _you_ feel that in so doing you are
making a concession to your mother, for which she ought to show unbounded
gratitude by all manner of sweetmeats in the holidays. But who profits by
these lessons, - your mother, who denies herself many a small luxury to be
able to pay for them, or you, who are being fitted by them to take a good
place in after-life? It seems to me that the gratitude and the sweatmeats
ought to flow from you to her; I quite see the force of it, if any girl
feels what I have just described, - I flatter myself I generally do see the
force of my victim's complaints; but it does not do my victim much good,
because I generally also see the force of something else, which is of
superior importance, but which the victim, very likely, will not see till
she is older.

If you have read that pearl of stories, "Cranford," you will remember how
Mrs. Jenkyns, to avoid explaining things to the small Deborah, "took to
stirring the fire or sending the 'forrard' child on an errand." Now,
unlike Mrs. Jenkyns, I believe in explaining my views to the "forrard"
children, as I think the superiority of girls over boys consists in the
remarkably early age at which girls begin to be reasonable! After
expressing such a high opinion of you, I hope you will all prove me right,
by seeing the truth that underlies the theory I am putting before you,
which I am sure you will all be inclined to reckon as a fallacy!

There is no need for me to dwell on the desirability of holidays being
made pleasant for _you_ - fathers and mothers are only too ready to do it;
but there is a need for somebody to dwell on the desirability of holidays
being made pleasant for fathers and mothers. They are too unselfish
generally to speak for themselves, especially in holiday time. I hear them
saying, in deprecation of my hard-heartedness, "Oh, let the poor children
have a good time! they can only be young once; they work hard at school,
let them have a little fun in the holidays." I quite agree: I believe in
as much fun as you can get: I should like to be able to insist as sternly
on your all enjoying yourselves in the holidays, as I should on your
working in term-time. There was a great deal of sound wisdom in that
Eastern potentate, who proclaimed a general holiday, adding, "Make merry,
my children, make merry; he who does not make merry will be flogged!"

At the same time, much as I care for your having fun, I do not see why
"fun" should mean upsetting all the household arrangements, and doubling
the servants' work, by your late hours in the morning; at all events,
after the first few mornings, when perhaps it is only natural you should
wish to feel your liberty. But sooner or later you will have to learn that
liberty, for reasonable beings, only means being free to forge your own
chains, - being free to make such rules as you know are necessary, if you
are to live a wholesome, health-giving life. Being late for prayers is
hardly a form of self-government which we should admire in the abstract,
though it is very tempting in practice; and keeping your mother waiting
for her breakfast, or else letting her have a solitary meal, is hardly a
good way of being that domestic sunbeam which schoolgirls are supposed to
have time to be, - in holidays!

Holidays are sometimes spent in incessant excursions with young friends,
leaving your mother at home to look after the little ones; and yet,
perhaps, your mother had a very dull time of it in term-time, when you
were either at work, and could not be spoken to, or were busy over school
gossip with some friend, and, perhaps, she looked forward to the holidays
as a time when she would get a little companionship from the daughter for
whom she makes so many sacrifices. But she is too unselfish to be the
least drag upon you; so she asks a school friend to stay with you, and,
somehow, always has a good reason for really wanting not to join the
expedition, and takes the younger ones off your hands with an air of its
being almost self-indulgence on her part to do it. But, all the same,
whatever she says, mothers like going about too, and, even if they do not,
they like to feel that their presence makes part of their daughter's
pleasure in the holiday pleasurings. You may think it very hard-hearted
and mistaken of me to suppose that you would be so selfish with your
mother, but I have, often and often, seen it done, and I feel like a
little boy I know, who can hardly speak yet, but who is evidently born to
be a general redresser of wrongs, - he is very quickly struck by any
instance of the folly and injustice of the world, and his favourite remark
is, "_Somebody_ ought to tell them; why shouldn't I?" Now, _somebody_
ought to say this about mothers, and the mothers who do the unselfish
things are the last people who will ever remind you that they, too, have
feelings, so I will usurp that little boy's office, and tell you myself,
for I am quite sure that, if it ever struck you, you would be shocked at
doing it, but,

"Evil is wrought by want of thought,
As well as want of heart."

However, I do not intend to make this my closing quotation, as I am sure
my children will have plenty of both heart and thought, and that they will
shed around them a full supply of that sunshine which the weather seems so
determined to deny us! I suppose we must allow, with Southey's old woman,
that "any weather is better than none," but it is incontestable that we
seem likely to have every opportunity afforded us, during these holidays,
at all events, of

"Making a sunshine in a _shady_ place."


In many ways this is a disquieting age in which to live, and yet it is
also markedly hopeful. It is true that the power of authority and of
custom is crumbling on many sides, but surely this should lead to the
laying of deeper and truer foundations. In this very question of Sunday,
the Fourth Commandment used to settle the question, whereas now we
investigate its origins and claims in a way which sounds rebellious and
unfilial. Yet it may be nearer the mind of Christ than unthinking

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