Mrs. C. E. Humphry.

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A WORD TO WOMEN

by

MRS. HUMPHRY
("MADGE" OF "TRUTH")

Author of "Manners for Women," "Manners for Men," etc.







London
James Bowden
10, Henrietta Street,
Covent Garden, W.C.
1898

* * * * *

BY THE SAME AUTHOR.

_And Uniform with this Volume._

1. Manners for Men.
(_Thirty-sixth Thousand._)

2. Manners for Women.
(_Twentieth Thousand._)

One Shilling each.

LONDON: JAMES BOWDEN.

* * * * *



PREFACE


My book "Manners for Women" has met with such a kindly reception that I am
encouraged to follow it up with the present little volume. Of a less
practical character than the former, it yet follows out the same line of
thought, and is the fruit of many years' observation of my countrywomen in
that home life for which England is distinguished among nations.

C. E. HUMPHRY.

_London, 1898._




CONTENTS.


PAGE

MOTHER AND DAUGHTER 9

OUR SCHOOL-GIRLS 18

WHAT ABOUT SEWING? 25

MOTHERS AND SONS 32

OUR CLEVER CHILDREN 38

ULTRA-TIDINESS 46

GOOD MANNERS AT HOME 51

ARE WOMEN COWARDS? 57

A GLASS OF WINE 64

SOME OLD PROVERBS 70

CANDOUR AS A HOME COMMODITY 76

GOLDEN SILENCE 81

A SOCIAL CONSCIENCE 88

OUR DEBTS 94

THE DOMESTIC GIRL 102

THE GIRL-BACHELOR 108

THE MIDDLE-AGED CHAPERON 114

LIGHTHEARTEDNESS 117

A BIT OF EVERYDAY PHILOSOPHY 122

DEADLY DULNESS 129

THE PLEASURES OF MIDDLE AGE 136

GROWING OLD 145




A WORD TO WOMEN.




_MOTHER AND DAUGHTER._


[Sidenote: The golden mean.]

There is a happy medium between narrowness and latitude; between the
exiguity which confines the mind between canal-like borders and the broad,
expansive amplitude which allows it to flow with the freedom of a great
river, though within certain definite limits. The tendency of the moment
is towards breadth and the enlarging of borders, the setting back of
frontier lines, and even to ignoring them. "One must move with the times"
is a phrase constantly heard and read. It is true enough. One would not
willingly be left stranded on the shores of the past; but then, in the
effort to avoid this, one need not shape a wild and devious course. There
is always the golden mean attainable, though occasionally it needs some
seeking to find it.

[Sidenote: Some modern daughters.]

In nothing so much as the relations between mother and daughter is this
modern tendency prolific of difficulty. For some generations the rule of
severity that began with the Puritans has been gradually relaxing more and
more, and now the spectacle of a harsh-voiced, domineering young woman,
ordering her mother about, is by no means an infrequent one, detestable as
it is. Nor does she always content herself by merely ordering. Sometimes
she scolds as well! If the mother, in these revolutionary times, has any
chance of maintaining her own position as the elder and the wiser of the
two, she must keep her eyes open to the successive grooves of change down
which the world is spinning. The daughter must not be permitted to suspect
her of old-fashioned notions. That would be fatal!

[Sidenote: The bicycling craze.]

When the bicycle craze began many mothers disapproved of the exercise for
their girls. But with doctors recommending it, and the girls themselves
looking radiantly bright and healthy after a few preliminary trials, what
remained for the mother but to overcome her first dislike and do all she
could to persuade the father to buy bicycles for all the girls? The next
step was, often, to learn to ride herself, and to benefit enormously
thereby. The mother who failed to follow her daughters' lead in this
particular, as in others, proved that she was too narrow to accept new
ideas; just the sort of thing to give the daughters a lead in these
century-end days. And of that one must beware! The poor mothers must not
give a single inch, or they will find themselves mulcted in many an ell.

[Sidenote: About Chaperons and Chaperonage.]

The old, strait-laced ideas about chaperons are now decidedly behind the
times, and the parents and guardians who try to maintain them in all their
rigid integrity will only find that the too-tightly-drawn bow will soon
snap. Far better to accept changes as they come, taking the wide, enlarged
view, and allowing the young creatures as much freedom of action as may be
consistent with the social laws. The old parallel of the hen-mother and
the young ducks would come in most usefully here, were it not so
hackneyed. But think what sad deprivations of the _joie de vivre_ the
ducks would have suffered had it been in the power of the hen to enforce
her objections. Think of this, oh ye nineteenth century mothers! What
trepidations, what anxieties, what feverish fears, assail us when the
young ones escape from the restrictions that bound ourselves when we were
girls! The father laughs at our tremors, and proves, by doing so, what
needs no proof, that the sense of responsibility is always deeper and
keener in the mother, and that, therefore, she is more bound than he to
exercise due caution. To combine the two with wide views is not always
easy.

[Sidenote: "The evils that never arrive."]

"These affectionate women," said Sir Andrew Clarke, the eminent physician,
"they make themselves miserable about things that may happen, and wear
themselves out in anxieties for which there is little or no foundation."
And Jefferson says: "How much have cost us the evils that never happened!"
True, indeed. But, also, how much have they cost to the objects of our
care? Can any one reckon up that difficult sum? The timid, fearful mother
has often ruined her boys out of pure anxiety to do her very (mistaken)
best for them. And as to girls, they are not allowed to do the very things
that would teach them self-reliance, make them vigorous in mind and body,
and teach them that lore, not in any girls' school curriculum, which is
best expressed in the French idiom, "_savoir faire_."

[Sidenote: Want of width.]

And all for want of width! What sort of life would a little chicken lead
if it were for ever under the good old hen's wing? Yet that is what some
of us would prefer for the bright young things, whose very life is in
change, variety, excitement, fun, laughter, and exercise of all kinds.
Small wonder that some of them rebel, feeling tethered, with the
inevitable longing for escape. Led with a silken string in wide ways of
the great world, they would be contented and happy enough.

[Sidenote: Mothers and daughters.]

Every girl is a queen to some one at some time in her life. Was there ever
a girl whom nobody loved? What would English homes be without their girls?
Mothers of sons are proud indeed, but they often long for a daughter. The
tie between girl and mother is a wonderfully close one. They almost share
each others' thoughts, and the home life together becomes, as the girl
grows up, a delicious duet. Sons, however affectionate and gentle, have
always some part of their nature veiled away. They cannot tell all to a
mother as a daughter can, with perfect open-mindedness, so that the page
lies clear to the eye of affection, like a book in good, large print. And
more particularly is this the case with an only daughter. Have you ever,
dear reader, noticed how the tendrils of the growing vines twine round
each other, at last becoming so inextricably close that they cannot be
separated without breaking them? That is the way that many a mother and
daughter whose lives are closely woven in with each other, forming a bond
of strength that, with the flowing of the years, increases in power and
influence.

[Sidenote: The inevitable man.]

And then comes some charming young man, with pretty eyes and a gentle
manner, and oh! the loneliness of the poor mother when he carries off her
girl to be the sunshine of his home, leaving hers in deepest shadow!

But mothers are unselfish and love to know their daughters happy,
fulfilling their destiny in the good old womanly way as wife and mother.
And the best way to make a girl a good wife is to train her to be a
first-rate daughter.

[Sidenote: A girl's idea of usefulness.]

[Sidenote: The ideal daughter.]

A girl's thoughts of usefulness sometimes begin a very long way off. They
appear to her at a distance, as if she were looking through the small end
of a telescope. "The thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts," and the
girl's idea of usefulness is to nurse the sick and wounded in war-time, to
go out as a missionary among the heathen, to write books with great
thoughts in them, to do noble deeds of tremendous self-sacrifice, to take
up some great life-work. She looks so far afield that she cannot see the
little duties lying to her hand, in the performance of which lies her best
training for great and worthy deeds. Many a girl dreams of such an ideal
as Florence Nightingale, and nevertheless shrieks and runs out of the room
when her little brother cuts his hand with the carving-knife. What a
scared, helpless creature she would be in a hospital! Another girl
pictures herself a heroine of self-denial, giving up "all" for some one,
while she is too lazy to run upstairs to fetch her mother's gloves, or too
self-indulgent to read the money article in _The Times_ to her father. She
is not "faithful in small things," though she fully intends to excel in
great. The ideal daughter is the unselfish, active, intelligent, and
good-tempered girl, who thinks out what she can do to help her mother, to
make life pleasanter for her father, and home happier for her brothers.

[Sidenote: True self-culture.]

Many girls think self-culture the first and greatest duty of all, but in
thinking so, and in acting on the thought, they turn their backs upon real
self-culture. Doing something for others, when we would rather be doing
something for ourselves, goes further towards self-culture, in its highest
and best sense, than reading the cleverest book ever written, or
practising the most difficult music. There have been girls who, thinking
it their duty, have refused to leave their parents, even to marry the man
they love. This is usually a mistaken notion of "_fais ce que dois_," for
it throws on the father and mother a terrible weight of obligation, never
to be paid off, and even if they know nothing of the sacrifice at the time
it is made, it is certain to come home to them sooner or later. Is it not
Ruskin who declares that self-denial, when it is carried beyond the
boundary of common sense, becomes an actual injury against those for whom
it is practised? There is a deep truth in this.

[Sidenote: About unselfishness.]

Youth is not naturally self-denying. Human nature is strongly selfish, and
when girls are young they have had little chance to oppose the strength of
this inherent quality. Some girls, however, are much less selfish than
others, while some are utterly spoilt! A doting mother is nothing more nor
less than a selfish mother, who, _to please herself_, allows her
daughter's faults to grow up unchecked. She fears to be firm, lest she
should lose some of the affection she prizes. Could she only know that the
child, at a very early age, is distinctly aware of this weakness and
despises it, she would plainly see the awful mistake she is making.
Children love best the mothers who are both firm and gentle. By a sort of
instinct the young ones seem to be aware of the true selflessness that
actuates the parent who battles with their early faults. It is not the
foolishly indulgent mothers who win the warmest love from their girls. It
is those who can temper justice with love. Girls soon know whether the
mother is swayed by selfishness or actuated by principle, and, with very
few exceptions, they follow in her steps.

[Sidenote: The home training.]

Could some of the happy lovers and happy husbands look back through the
years at the long and patient training, the loving care, that has
resulted in the complete realisation of their brightest dreams - "My queen!
my queen!" - they would find in them a guarantee for the future. Girls who
have not been spoiled by over-indulgence, and who have been taught to take
a sane, calm, rational view of all life's circumstances, are the best
helpmeets that man can have. Such an one is a delightful companion, with
her cultivated mind and her ready sympathies. She can enter into his
outside troubles in the battle of life, and there is a fibre of strength
in her on which he may safely lean in the day of disaster, should it
come.




_OUR SCHOOL-GIRLS._


[Sidenote: Growing Girls.]

Mothers of growing girls have many an anxious hour. The young things feel
so bright, so strong, so full of energy, that it is difficult for them to
listen to the voice of prudent counsel which bids them take care of
themselves, and mothers often give in when a word of warning is received
with laughing heedlessness. And how frequently they have to regret the
giving in! When girls are growing very fast, even if they keep up their
strength and look strong and well, there is much risk in any over-fatigue.
The heart is sometimes outpaced by the rest of the frame, and if care be
not taken there is a possibility of inducing strain, which may result in
permanent mischief. Girls want to run, play sett after sett of tennis, or
go on pulling a boat on the river when they are already hot and tired, and
it is only natural that they should fancy that their capacity for
enjoyment is as inexhaustible as their taste for it.

[Sidenote: Over-exertion.]

But the doctors will tell mothers to restrain the young creatures from
damaging their health by over-exertion, and if we fail to do so we may
some day feel agonies of remorse. It is easy enough to manage this so long
as they are quite young and under our own eyes all day, but when
school-time begins matters are very different. The spirit of emulation
awakes, and the keenest anxiety to equal other girls in progress spurs on
the young spirit. Teachers are anxious, too, and the mother often has to
do battle on behalf of her daughter, not only with the school authorities,
but with the girl herself. Firmness with both is the only method, and this
in face of protests on one side and tears and expostulations on the other.
The teachers think the mother "ridiculously fussy," and condole with the
girl, stirring her up to rebellion in a most injudicious way; but after
all the mother is in the right and must be firm. What is the use of class
successes if they are won at the expense of health? And though
scholarships are very pleasant things in more ways than one, they may cost
too dear. If the money they save has to go in doctors' fees, of what
earthly use are they?

[Sidenote: Too much study.]

At the same time mothers must not sacrifice the young ones to nervous or
morbid fears, as some are inclined to do. The only way to be sure that
precautions are really necessary is to have advice from a doctor, and if a
girl is growing very quickly he is almost sure to say that she must not do
too much. As a rule girls spend far too many hours a day in study.
School-days come just when they are very busy growing, and it is also the
time when habits are formed. With all these contradictory considerations
influencing the mother, she is often afraid to trust her own judgment as
to whether this or that course shall be pursued. If the girl is worked too
hard she may become nervous or anæmic, and if she is allowed to rest too
much she may grow up lazy and self-indulgent. So what is one to do? With
our limited powers all we can do is to watch the growing daughters from
day to day, and if they show any signs of failing energies, or of
weakening health, at once take steps to lessen the number of hours devoted
to study. At each succeeding term the school programme should be carefully
gone through, with a view to seeing if the lessons that follow
consecutively may not be too trying, and, if so, arrangements should be
made with the head of the school to spare the girl a long run of
monotonous subjects.

[Sidenote: Meal hours.]

The school authorities, naturally enough, arrange the hours to suit
themselves and their teachers, and sometimes with the result that a girl
has to rush back to school after a hasty meal, her food actually doing her
harm instead of good in consequence. It is in cases like this that the
mother comes in - not always, you may be very sure, to the unmitigated
delight of the teachers, or even of the girl herself! In fact, the poor
mother often gets blamed all round. The members of her own family are
profuse in criticism, as a rule, of everything that she does in connection
with her children. The best thing she can do is to ignore their opinion
completely, for, whatever she does, she is sure to be blamed. If two
diametrically opposite courses are open before her, whichever she chooses
is sure to be condemned by somebody. It is the old story of the old man
and his donkey. When it carried him the people found fault, and when he
carried it they were as censorious as ever. We must just go the way our
conscience points out, and present a stoical front to criticism. The
philosophy embodied in the good old French motto comes to our aid: "_Fais
ce que dois advienne que pourra_."

[Sidenote: The best way to rest.]

[Sidenote: Expressing thanks.]

It does wonders for a girl to lie down for even half an hour a day. But to
lie sideways or crumpled up in the extraordinary fashion beloved of girls
is of no use whatever. The shoulders must be flat, and the head not much
raised. If a book is read the while it must be held so that the eyes are
wide open in reading; the feet should be stretched out to their full
length, so as to give as much rest to the muscles as possible. Girls run
so tall nowadays that they need extra care, and it is the mothers who must
see to it that they get it. On free mornings an extra half hour in bed
will do no harm, but rather good; and it should be always understood that
this is an indulgence to be accepted as a boon for which gratitude is to
be felt and expressed. To encourage young people to express gratitude is
good for them. It is strange, but true, that human nature is averse to
express thanks with cordiality, and it is one of the marks of the
well-bred girl that her thanks follow as naturally upon the act that
elicits them as if the two were cause and effect.

[Sidenote: Dangers of High Schools.]

Some of the high schools offer so many facilities in the various
departments of education that the danger is of tremendously overworking
the girls. One of whom I knew was at work from nine a.m. till half-past
eight at night five days in the week, and from nine till two on Saturdays.
The only exercise that she had was in her daily walk to and from
school - once in the morning and again after lunch - and her only recreation
was an occasional romp with her small brothers and sisters in the nursery.
The girl broke down, as any one might safely have predicted that she
would, and her costly education was entirely thrown away, for by the time
that she was well enough to resume study she had forgotten all that she
had learned.

[Sidenote: Bad training.]

There is another danger connected with overdoing study in the time of
girlhood that must not be overlooked. It is that of wearying young people
with books, and so tiring them that they never want to open one on a
serious subject after they have left school-days behind them. To do this
is to lose for them one of the greatest pleasures of life. Education,
rightly understood, is a drawing out, not a crowding in. The best
education consists in developing the powers and eliciting the bent of the
mind, and laying a foundation for future culture. To speak of any girl's
education as being "finished" is tantamount to speaking of a scaffolding
as being finished, preparatory to the real work being begun. In after life
comes the true work, and circumstances have much to do in guiding it.
There is, therefore, no reason that growing girls should be overburdened
with ologies and isms. French and German they must learn; drawing, if they
have a special taste for it, and the piano, on the same terms. It is utter
waste to teach some girls to play on the piano, and the idea that it is a
necessary part of polite education is now rapidly disappearing from the
cultured classes of society. Simplification in every branch is one of the
safest rules of life, and this applies as much to the programme of a
girl's existence as to that of her mother.

[Sidenote: Hygiene and sanitation.]

There is no doubt that, in a great degree, the improvement in the physique
of English girls is largely due to the enlightened ideas of their parents
on subjects connected with hygiene and sanitation. The nation is
wonderfully improved on these matters, during the last fifteen years, and
it is at last beginning to be understood that a perfectly sound body is
necessary to a perfectly healthy and capable mind. If girls are encouraged
to place the culture of the mind not only before, but in opposition to,
that of the body, they must be consequent sufferers - if not in girlhood,
at some later period; and may bequeath suffering to others. So, mothers,
be advised in time, and let girlhood be the healthy, happy, sunny time
that Nature intended it to be. Our girls are young but once, and it is not
for long. The cares of life will soon enough cloud over their brightness.
Do not allow overwork or long hours to shadow the irrecoverable
springtime.




_WHAT ABOUT SEWING?_


[Sidenote: The prejudice against sewing.]

[Sidenote: A word in its favour.]

Some of the very advanced and extremely superior women of the present day
are strenuously opposed to the teaching of needlework in girls' schools
and colleges. A mere handicraft should be beneath the notice of highly
intellectual human beings, and should be left to those whose intelligence
is of a lower order. That is their creed. I am glad to see that one of the
cleverest and most learned women of the time, Mrs. Bryant, D.Sc.,
advocates, though in a half-hearted and semi-apologetic fashion, the
teaching of needlework to girls receiving the higher education. She thinks
that, just as a man is a somewhat incomplete person if he cannot make
himself useful with a hammer, a plane, and a saw, a woman who cannot sew
is equally an anomaly. The man who wants a rent in his glove stitched
would be likely to regard her as much more so. But I must not, from this,
be understood as advocating the accomplishment of sewing merely with a
view to the repair of men's sartorial damages. This would be to invoke
indeed the wrath of the superior woman, who thinks it degradation to stoop
to all the sweet, old-fashioned, housewifely uses and despises her gentler
sisters who delight in making home comfortable and life smooth for those
who dwell with her.

[Sidenote: The training it involves.]

[Sidenote: Its moral value.]

One of the best and foremost reasons for teaching sewing to girls is the
training it involves. Our wonderful finger-tips have within them
possibilities which oftentimes lie dormant throughout a whole lifetime for
the want of education. The Great Genius who made them gave them a capacity
of delicate, sensitive touch, which is blurred and lost when not
encouraged and promoted. The hands that can wield a needle with celerity
and skill have necessarily received a training that tells for them in many
another way besides mere sewing. The servant who sews well is the one who
breaks fewest things. She has learned to use her finger-tips. The clumsy
woman who uses brute force in dealing with the most delicate articles, and
is constantly smashing and damaging something or other is she who has
never been taught to sew, or in some way had manual training. The value of
this development of finger-training is greater than at first sight might
be imagined. Through the hands the mind and character are influenced.
Patience progresses while the diligent little fingers of the child are at
work, conquering difficulties gradually and achieving skill day after day


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