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That learned and excellent scholar, Dr. Adam Smith, it is well known, contended that every individual is a burthen upon the society to which he belongs, who does not contribute his proportion of productive labour for the good of the whole community. The Doctor, when he propounded this principle, spoke, as I believe, in general terms of man, as a being capable of forming a social compact for mutual defence, and the ultimate, if not immediate advantage of the public at large. He did not absolutely assert, that both sexes, in order to render them. selves good and useful members of society, were equally required to conform to these terms; but since the sex is included in the idea of the species, and as
“woman' possesses the same qualities as man, however different in degree, her sex cannot release her from the claim of the community for her due and proper share of practical utility. That the greater part of the sex, more particularly those among the loftier grades, neglect to fulfil this self-evident obligation, is a fact that cannot be deniedand renders the propriety and expediency of an inquiry into their deficiency, necessary.
The continuous indulgence and general character of the pursuits in which those who are “distinguished" often pass their lives, may be attributed either to the absence of a substantial education, or to that most obtrusive and ephemeral trifler—Custom, rather than to any real defect in their intellectual powers. The contest for equality in the mental strength of the sexes has been maintained, hitherto, on either side, with no small share of ingenuity; but as a judgment only can be formed from facts, as they arise in this most important epoch of manifest enlightenment and advanced general female education ; if the trial be fairly and honourably made, the rare instances of extraordinary talents, which have been brought forward to support the system of “equality,” must yield to the irresistible influence of corporeal powers; which leads to a conclusion, that the intellectual faculties of either sex are wisely suited to their peculiar purposes; and that, putting aside the impolite terms of superiority and inferiority, the perfection of mind in man and woman, consists in a power to establish and support the admirable characteristics of excelence in each. But this concession by no means demonstrates, that even in the nineteenth century, the mental powers of women have been morally and religiously exerted to the greatest stretch of their acknowledged and distinguished capacity, or that they have been sensibly directed towards objects
useful and important; neither does it go to show that the cultivation they receive is competent to bring into action the full strength of those capacities which have been presented to them by nature. The mental qualities of the female mind have been too long in a state of pusillanimous incarceration by a spurious, but ostentatious education ; and thus have been concealed, not merely from others, but from themselves, the ener. gies of which they are evidently quite capable. The "difficulties " attending private life are known to have elicited many and truly exemplary instances of womanly prudence, magnanimity, and fortitude, all which proves no less a clearness of conception than a temperature of ennobling feeling-reflecting, like the colours of the rainbow, that sublime and beautiful emblem of divinityhonour upon the heads and hearts of our fair country-women. Neither has the spirit of history been silent in recording unforgotten instances of womanly capacity, in all the different distinctions of human excellence.
These memorable and gratifying testimonies (gratifying and memorable they surely must be to manhood—to British manhood,) are doubtless sufficient to justify an opinion, that the imperfect as well as comparatively unimportant contributions to the mass of public activity, have not arisen from a want of ability to be useful, but from a moral defect of a different description, which it becomes those interested in the progress of education to find out, in order to afford a remedy for this contagious and se ductive malady.
In nations celebrated for their civilization for their great and enlightened statesmen and counsellors—for their authors—for their poets---for their love of country —for their admiration of beauty—for their manly and noble affection for woman-for their religious and moral culture—for all that is ennobling-great-good-wise and just; it has, most unhappily, ever been the misfortune (a misfortune terrible to human tenderness), of the sex, either to be highly exalted, or deeply lowered in the scale of human society: now exalted beyond the condition of their fellow-creatures, upon the score of their “personal charms ;” and now sunken below that of endowed mortals in regard to their intellectual capacities. The result of this untoward procedure has been a neglect of the mental powers which they possess, but do not exercise skilfully; and they have condescended to commerce with the dignity of reason for the imaginary privilege of an empire, of the existence of which they can have no stouter hope than the endurance to the end of trembling life-ephemeral youth and beauty.
Of those who have raised themselves to pre-eminence by daring to quit the circumscribed and octagonal path, the envy
of their own, and the jealousy or contempt of the other sex, have too frequently been the attendants ; a fate which, it is fair to presume, has deterred others from following in the same direction, or of emulating even in a less degree, the seeming unenviable distinction they have realized.
But notwithstanding these manifold disadvantages of less perceptible influence the shining ui Cinsi's ar. 3 Religion's lovels and mos: sacreà banners in the evan. gelical world, both at home and abroad; the practical striving of our exemplary prelates and benevolent and pious clergy, to do good-the difusion of christianity, and the progress of general education, bare raised the “importance” of the female character; and it has become a branch of philosophy, not a little interesting, to ascertain the offices which the different ranks of women are required to fulfil. Their “rights” and their duties hare lately occupied the pens of some of our best and ablest writers; the employments which may respectively exercise their cultivated minds, and fill and occupy their time to the greatest advantage, without trenching upon those professions which are peculiar to men, remain to be determined and pointed out.
There are unquestionably many branches of science, and many delightful and serviceable occupations, in which our countrywomen may employ their talents, beneficially to themselves, and to the present and succeeding generations, without disparaging the peculiar characteristic of their sex, or exceeding the limits of innate modesty, and virtuous circumspection. Whatever compels them to mix in public with mankind, or places the young in too familiar a situation with the other sex; whatever is at variance with the delicacy and natural reserve of the female character, or opposed to the strictest moral purity, are inadmissible. The native sphere of feminine action is necessarily limited by many obstructions that are no impediments to masculine employments.