Sarah Stickney Ellis.

The daughters of England : their position in society, character and responsibilities online

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frequently unlawful means, for warding off blame, or ob-


taining praise. There is but one thing we can say — that
in common kindness, in Christian charity, her educa-
tion should be studiously rendered such as to strengthen
her under this weakness, not to involve her more deeply in
its worst consequences — the loss of her integrity.

Few persons are aware, until they have entered into a
full and candid examination of this subject, how very mi-
nute, and apparently insignificant, are those beginnings,
from whence flow some of the deepest channels of decep-
tion. Falsehood makes a serious beginning at school,
when the master helps out a drawing, and the pupil ob-
tains the praise, as if the whole work was her own. The
master has most probably added only a few effective
touches, so extremely small as not to be detected by an un-
practised eye; and while the proud and triumphant mo-
ther exhibits the drawing to her flattering friends, it would
be difficult indeed for the little girl to say it was not her
own doing, because all the patience, all the labour, and a
great deal of the merit, v/ere unquestionably hers. Yet, to
let it pass with these unqualified commendations bestowed
upon her as the author, is a species of lying to God. Her
young heart knows it to be so, and she feels either hum-
bled, or confirmed in the deception. Happy ! thrice happy,
if it be the former !

Nor is home-education by any means exempt from its
temptations to falsehood. There are many little decep-
tions practised upon unsuspecting mothers and absent fa-
thers, which stain the page of youthful experience, and
lead to farther and more skilful practice in the school of
deception. There are stolen sweets, whose bitter fruit has
been deliberate falsehood ; excuses made, and perhaps
wholly believed, which were perhaps only half true ; and
sly thefts committed upon household property, to serve a
selfish end ; all which have had a degrading effect upon


the character, and which in their worst consequences have
led to one falsehood made use of to conceal another, and a
third or a fourth to cover both.

But if childhood is beset with these temptations, how
much has woman to guard against, when she first mixes
with society, and enters the disputed ground, where, to be
most agreeable, constitutes the strongest title to possession.
She is then tempted to falsehood, not in her words only,
but in her looks ; for there is a degree of integrity in looks,
as well as in expressions ; and I am not quite sure that the
woman who can look a falsehood, is not a worse deceiver
than she who only tells one. All sweetness of look and
manner, assumed for the purpose of gaining a point, or
answering a particular end, comes under this description of
artifice. Many persons who cannot conscientiously assent
to what is said, assume a look of sympathy or approval,
which sufficiently answers the purpose of deception, and at
the same time escapes all risk of discovery as such. Thus,
an implied assent by a smile and a nod, to what we do not
believe, often spares us the trouble and pain of exposing
our real sentiments, where they are unpopular, or would be
likely to meet with inconvenient opposition.

Still I should be sorry to set down all persons who smile,
and nod, and appear to assent to two different sides of a
question, as intentional deceivers ; because I believe that
much of this sort of double-dealing arises out of the habit so
many women indulge, of never making up their minds de-
cidedly on any point of general interest, or viewing any sub-
ject in a distinct and determinate manner ; so that they may
almost be said really to think for the time in two different
ways ; at any rate, during the time they listen to each
speaker separately, they are sufficiently convinced for

Thus it becomes the first act of integrity to endeavour to


see, hear, and believe the truth, and then to speak it. A
grateful woman, regardless of this rule, speaks of all per-
sons as good, to whom she is indebted, or who have in any
way served her purposes. Another, and a far more serious
instance of the same kind of practice, consists in pretend-
ing not to see, or not to understand vice, where it is not
convenient to believe in its existence ; and this is often
done by the same persons, who are quick to detect and ex-
pose it where such exposure is suited to their purpose.

And thus women in general become habituated to an in-
definite way of thinking, and a careless mode of speech, both
which may be serviceable to the mean-spirited, by prevent-
ing the detection of error in sentiment, or unsoundness of
principle ; though I believe neither of them were ever yet
found available in assisting the cause of truth or righte-

Again, in the act of doing good, there is a manner of
speaking of what we have done, which, though not directly
false, is certainly at variance with strict integrity. I mean
when young ladies talk especially about their schools, their
poor women, and their old men ; as if their individual cha-
rities were most benevolent in their operation, and unbound-
ed in their extent ; when perhaps they have but recently
begun to be exercised in these particular channels. This
is speaking the truth in such a manner, as to produce a false
impression ; and the consequence not unfrequently is, when
really zealous and devoted people hear the speaker give
this account of her good deeds, and when they take up the
subject, and address her upon it, according to the impres-
sion her words have produced ; that, rather than descend
from the false position she has assumed, and lower herself
in the opinion of those with whom she wishes to stand well,
she goes on to practise farther artifice, or possibly plunges
into actual falsehood.


And it ought always to be borne in mind, that these little
casual, but sometimes startling turns in common conversa-
tion, produce more actual untruths than the most trying cir-
cumstances in life, where we have incomparably more at
stake. If we were all to take account each night of the un-
truths we had told in the course of the day, from an exag-
gerated description designed to make a story more amus-
ing, down to the frequent case of receiving credit for an
original remark, which we knew was not our own, I ima-
gine few persons would find themselves altogether clear of
having done violence to the pure spirit of truth. And if we
add, also, to this list of falsehoods, all those unfair or gar-
bled statements, which may tend to throw a brighter colour-
ing over some cause we wish to advocate, or cast another
into shade, I believe we should find that we had indeed
abundant need to pray for the renewed assistance of the
Holy Spirit, to touch and guard our lips, so that they should
utter no more guile.

Besides these instances of the want of integrity, in which
our own consciences alone are concerned, there are others
which demand a stricter attention to the claims of justice,
as they relate to our friends, and to society at large. Under
which head, I would notice the duty of doing justice to
those we do not love, and especially to those who have in-
jured us. Instead of which, how frequently do we find that
young women begin to tell all the bad qualities of their
friends, as soon as they have quarrelled with them. How
often do we find, too, that such disagreements are related
with conscious unfairness, their own evil being kept out of
sight, as well as their friend's good, where there has been
a mixture of both.

There is a common practice, too, when our own conduct
is in any way called in question, and our friends kindly as-
sign a plausible reason for what we have done, to let that


pass as the real one, though we know, within our hearts,
it is not so ; or to let persons make a favourable guess re-
specting us, without contradicting it, though we know their
conclusions, in consequence of our silence, or apparent as-
sent, will be false ones.

Now, all these things, how insignificant soever they may
appear to man, are important between the soul and its
Maker, and must be deeply offensive in the sight of that
Being who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. They
are important, as forming parts of a whole, items of a mass,
links in a chain, steps in a downward progress, which must
lead away from a participation with the blessed, in a king-
dom, whose enjoyments consist of purity and truth.

We have now come to that consideration of the subject
of integrity, which relates to pecuniary affairs. And here
what a field of operation opens before us, for the develop-
ment of those principles of good or evil, of benevolence or
selfishness, of uprightness or artifice, which I have endea-
voured to describe, less by their own nature, than by their
influence upon the manners and general conduct of women.

I believe there is nothing in the usages of society more
fatal to the interests of mankind, to the spiritual progress of
individuals, or to the general well-being of the human soul,
than laxity of principle as regards our pecuniary dealings
with each other. It is a case which all can understand —
the worldly, as well as religious professors ; if, then, the
slightest flaw appears in the conduct of the latter in this re-
spect, the interests of religion must be injured in conse-
quence, and the cause of Christ must suffer.

"But it is impossible," say the fair readers of this page,
" that this part of the subject can have any reference to
us, we have so little to do with money ;" or, perhaps, they
say, " so little in our power to spend." Perhaps it is the
very smallness of your supply according to the ideas you



have formed of its Inadequacy to meet your wishes, which
is the cause of your want of integrity ; for no one can act
in strict accordance with the principles of integrity, until
they have learned to practise economy. By economy, I
do not mean simply the art of saving money, but the nobler
science of employing it for the best purposes, and in its just

In order to act out the principles of integrity in all their
dignity, and all their purity, it is highly important, too, that
young women should begin in early life to entertain a scru-
pulous delicacy with regard to incurring pecuniary obliga-
tions ; and especially, never to throw themselves upon the
politeness of gentlemen, to pay the minutest sum in the
way of procuring for them gratification, or indulgence. I
do not say that they may not frequently be so circum-
stanced, as, with the utmost propriety, to receive such
kindness from near relations, or even from elderly persons ;
but I speak of men in general, upon whom they have not
the claim of kindred ; and I have observed the carelessness
with which some young ladies tax the politeness — nay, the
purses of gentlemen, respecting which it would be difficult
to say, whether it indicated most an absence of delicate
feeling, or an absence of integrity.

I am aware, that, in many cases, this unsatisfactory kind
of obligation is most difficult to avoid, and, sometimes,
even impossible ; yet, a prompt and serious effort should
always be made — and made in such a way that you shall
clearly be understood to have both the wish, and the power,
to pay your own expenses. If the wish is wanting, I can
have nothing to say in so humiliating a case ; but if you
have not the means of defraying your own charges, it is
plain that you have no right to enjoy your pleasures at
the expense of another. There are, however, different
ways of proposing to discharge such debts ; and there is


sometimes a hesitancy in the alternate advance and retreat
of the fair lady's purse, which would require extraordinary
willingness on the part of the gentleman, were his object
to obtain a repayment of his own money.

It is the same in the settlement of all other debts. De-
licacy ought seldom, if ever, to form a plea for their ad-
justment "being neglected. Indeed, few persons feel their
delicacy much wounded, by having the right money paid
to them at the right time ; or, in other words, when it is
due. The same remarks will apply to all giving of com-
missions. Never let such affairs stand on and on, for
want of a suitable opportunity for arranging their settle-
ment ; especially, never let the payment of a debt be
longer delayed, because it is evidently forgotten by the
party to whom it is owing.

All matters of business should also be adjusted as fairly,
and as promptly, with friends and near relations, as with
strangers ; and all things in such cases should be as clearly
understood. If the property transferred be intended as a
gift, say so ; if a loan, say that the thing is lent ; and if a
purchase, either pay for it, or name the price you expect.
How many lasting and lamentable misunderstandings
amongst the nearest connections would this kind of in-
tegrity prevent ! how much wounded feeling, disappoint-
ment, and chagrin !

It is a mistaken view of economy, and evinces a great
want of integrity, when persons are always endeavouring
to obtain services, or to purchase goods, at a lower rate
than their just value. But if the vender of an article be
indebted to you for a kindness, it is something worse
than mean, to ask, for that reason, an abatement in its

In many cases where our claims are just, it is easy to
press them in an unjust manner ; and we never do this


more injuriously to the interests of society, than when we
urge work-people beyond what is necessary, by telling
them that a thing will positively be needed at a certain
time, when we do not really believe it will. There is a
general complaint against dressmakers, shoemakers, and
many other makers of articles of clothing, that they are
habitually regardless of punctuality and truth. But I am
disposed to think the root of the grievance in a great mea-
sure arises out of the evil already alluded to, on the part
of the ladies by whom they are employed.

Let us imagine the case of a young dressmaker, one of
that most pitiable class of human beings, whose pallid
countenances, and often deformed and feeble frames, suf-
ficiently attest the unnatural exertions by which they obtain
their scanty bread. A young lady wishes to have a dress
elaborately made, and for the sake of having it done expe-
ditiously, names the precise day on which it must be
finished, adding as a sufficient reason for punctuality, that
it must then be worn. The poor dressmaker sits all night
long in her little joyless room, working by the light of a
thin candle, while the young lady sleeps soundly in her
bed. The Sabbath dawns, and the dressmaker is still at
work ; until passing feet begin to be heard in the street,
and shutters are unclosed ; and then, with aching head and
weary limbs, she puts away her unfinished task, doubting
whether the remainder of the day shall be devoted to the
sleep which exhausted nature demands, or to wandering
abroad to search for purer air, of which that nature is
equally in need. The day arrives at last on which the
dress must be taken home, according to appointment. This
time the dressmaker is punctual, because she believes that
delay would be of consequence. She knocks at the door
of the lady's mansion. The servant coolly tells her that
her young mistress has gone to spend a few days in the


country. Is it likely that this poor workwoman should
be equally punctual the next time her services are re-
quired ? or need we ask how the law of love has operated
here ?

The habit of keeping strict accounts with regard to the
expenditure of money, is good in all circumstances of life ;
but it is never so imperative a duty, as when we have the
property of others committed to our care. Unfaithfulness
in the keeping and management of money which belongs
to others, has perhaps been the cause of more flagrant dis-
aster and disgrace, than any other species of moral delin-
quency which has stained the character of man, or woman
either. Yet, how easily may this occur, without an ex-
treme of scrupulous care, which the young cannot too soon,
or too earnestly learn to practise. Even in the collecting
of subscriptions for two different purposes, small sums, by
some slight irregularity, may become mixed ; and integrity
is sacrificed, if the minutest fraction be eventually placed
to the wrong account.

I cannot for an instant suppose that a Christian woman,
under any circumstances, even the most difficult and per-
plexing, could be under the slightest temptation to appro-
priate to her own use, for a month, a week, a day, or an
hour, the minutest item of what she had collected for an-
other purpose, trusting to her own future resources for its
reimbursement ; because this would be a species of dis-
honesty, which, if once admitted as a principle of conduct,
would be liable to terminate in the most fearful and disas-
trous consequences. It is the privilege of the daughters
of England, that they have learned a code of purer morals,
than to admit even such a thought, presented under the
form of an available means of escape from difficulty, or
attainment of gratification. Still it is well to fortify
the mind, as far as we are able, against temptation of


every kind, that if it should occur — and who can be secure
against it ? — we may not be taken unawares by an enemy
whose assaults are sometimes as insidious, as they are
always untiring.

One of the means I would now propose to the young
reader, is to turn with serious attention to the case of Ana-
nias and Sapphira, as related in the Acts of the Apostles ;
nor let it be forgotten, that this appalling act of moral de-
linquency, originating in selfishness, and terminating in
falsehood, was the first sin which had crept into the fold of
Christ, after the Shepherd had been withdrawn, and while
the flock remained in a state approaching the nearest to
that of perfect holiness, which we have reason to believe
was ever experienced on this earth, since the time when
sin first entered into the world.

Yes, it is an awful and impressive thought, that even in
this state, temptation was allowed to present itself in such
a form, accompanied with a desire still to stand well with
the faithful, even after integrity was gone. The words of
Peter are most memorable on this occasion. Whiles it re-
mained, was it not thine own ? and after it. was sold, was it
not in thine own power ? Evidently implying, that it was
better not to pretend to act upon high and generous princi-
ples, than not to do so faithfully. He then concludes in
this emphatic language : " Thou hast not lied unto men, but
unto God." By which we learn, that every species of dis-
honesty practised between the soul and its Maker, is equal-
ly offensive in the sight of God, as that which is evident to
men ; and that there is no clear, upright, and faithful walk for
any human being in this world, whether young or old, whe-
ther rich or poor, whether exalted or lowly, but that which
is in strict accordance with the principles of integrity.



Without having made any pretension in this volume to
class it under the head of a religious work, I have endea-
voured to render it throughout conducive to the interests of
religion, by pointing out those minor duties of life, and those
errors of society, which strictly religious writers almost
universally consider as too insignificant for their attention.
And, perhaps, it is not easy to interweave these seeming
trifles in practice, with the great fundamental principles of
Christian faith.

I cannot but think, however, that, to many, and especially
to the young, this minuteness of detail may have its use,
by bringing home to their attention familiar instances upon
which Christian principle may be brought to bear. For I
am one of those who think that religion ought never to be
treated or considered as a thing set apart from daily and
familiar use, to be spoken of as belonging almost exclu-
sively to sabbaths, and societies, and serious reading. To
me it appears that the influence of religion should be like
an atmosphere, pervading all things connected with our
being ; that it ought to constitute the element in which the
Christian lives, more than the sanctuary into which he re-
tires. When considered in this point of view, nothing can
be too minute to be submitted to the test of its principles ;
so that, instead of our worldly and our spiritual concerns
occupying two distinct pages in our experience, the one,
according to this rule, becomes regulated by our spiritual


views ; and the other applied to our worldly avocations, as
well as to our eternal interests.

In relation to this subject, it has been remarked, in the
quaint language of an old writer, that no sin is " little in
itself, because there is no little law to be despised ; no lit-
tle heaven to be lost ; no little hell to be endured ;" and it is
by this estimate that I would value every act, and every
thought, in which the principles of good and evil are in-

The great question, whether the principles of Christian
faith, or, in other words, whether the religion of the Bible,
shall be adopted as the rule of conduct by the young, re-
mains yet to be considered, not in relation to the nature of
that faith, but as regards the desirableness of embracing it
at an early period of life, willingly and entirely, with ear-
nestness, as well as love.

I am writing thus, on the supposition, that, with all who
read these pages, convictions of the necessity and excel-
lence of personal religion have at one time or other been
experienced. The opinion is general, and, I believe, cor-
rect, that the instances are extremely rare in which the
Holy Spirit does not awaken the human soul to a sense of
its real situation as an accountable being, passing through
a state of probation, before entering upon an existence of
endless duration. Nor amongst young persons born of
Christian parents, and educated in a Christian country,
where the means of religious instruction are accessible to
all, is it easy to conceive that such convictions have not,
at times, been strong and deep ; though, possibly, they may
have been so neglected as to render their recurrence less
frequent, and less powerful in their influence upon the

Still it is good to recall the time when the voice of warn-
ing, and of invitation, was first heard ; to revisit the scene


of a father's faithful instruction, and of the prayers of a lost
mother ; to hear again the sabbath-evening sermon, to visit
the cottage of the dying Christian ; or even to look back
once more into the chamber of infancy, where our first tears
of real penitence were shed. It is good to remember how
it was with us in those by-gone days when we welcomed
the chastisements of love, and kissed the rod that was
stretched forth by a Father's hand. How blest did we
then feel, in the belief that we were not neglected, not for-
gotten, not overlooked ! Has anything which the world,
we have too much loved, since offered us, afforded a hap-
piness to be compared with this belief? Oh! no. Then
why not hearken, when the same voice is still inviting you
to come ? and why not comply when the same hand is still
pointing out the way to peace ? What is the hinderance
which stands in your way ? What is the difficulty which
prevents the dedication of your youth to God ? Let this
question be seriously asked, and fully answered ; for it is
of immense importance that you should know on what
grounds the invitations of the Holy Spirit have been reject-
ed ; and why you are adopting another rule of conduct than
that which is prescribed in the gospel of Christ.

I repeat, it is of immense importance, because this is a
subject which admits of no trifling. If it is of importance
in every branch of mental improvement, that we should be
active, willing, earnest, and faithful, it is still more impor-
tant here. When we do not persevere in learning, it does
not follow of necessity that we grow more ignorant, because
we may remain where we are, while the rest of the world
goes on. But, in religion, there is no standing still, be-
cause opportunities neglected, and convictions resisted, are
involved in the great question of responsibility; so that no

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Online LibrarySarah Stickney EllisThe daughters of England : their position in society, character and responsibilities → online text (page 20 of 22)