« AnteriorContinuar »
OWING TO DIVERSITY OF NATURAL TEMPERAMENT, BUT EDUCATION.
The principal bar to a more thorough intellectual intercourse between men and women, is, generally, dissipation in men—frivolity in women.
Men and women are in the habit of reproaching each other as if their respective failings were the inevitable concomitants of
We lay upon nature the onus of our own social institutions. Woman is no more naturally vain, frivolous, and capricious, than man is naturally addicted to vice and laxity of morals.
Nothing,” observes Mrs Jameson, “ in all my experience of life has so shocked me as the low moral standard of one sex for the other. among women of the higher classes—those who have lived much in the world, as it is called—a sort of mysterious horror of the immorality of men, not as a thing to be resisted, or resented, or remedied, but to be submitted to, as a sort of fatality or necessity (for so it has been instilled into them), or guarded against by a mere inefficient barricade of conyen
tional proprieties; while I see in men of the world a contemptuous mistrust of women, an impression of their faithlessness, heartlessness, feebleness, equally fatal and mistaken.”
It is evident that the peculiar faults, vices, weaknesses, &c., which are characteristic of each sex respectively, are deducible to the modification of men and women in an artificial state of society; and consequently, if, instead of blindly abusing each other, they would honestly attempt to discover the true cause of their separate failings, each sex would find that it is in a great degree answerable for the shortcomings of the other.
If we ask the question, “Why are men dissipated, why are they inordinately addicted to clublife and bachelor pleasures which they cannot enjoy in the society of virtuous women ?" ninety-nine women out of a hundred will make some such illogical reply as this :- -“ Because men are naturally more vicious and sensual than women; neither so refined in their tastes, so constant in their affections, so domestic or simple in their pleasures."
These ninety-nine women are quite satisfied that no possible blame can attach to them for the faults of their sons, brothers, or husbands. That is a supposition not to be entertained for an instant. The hundredth woman would reply—“ It is owing to the constitution of society, as well as to natural temperament, that men can never be so pure and good as women. They mingle more with the world; their temptations are much greater ; public opinion is more lax respecting their conduct; they take advantage of the impunity granted them; their sense of virtue becomes blunted.”
This woman is worth arguing with. She has told us some truth, but not all. It is true that the causes of dissipation are generally the impetuosity and thoughtlessness of youth, joined to the love of
enterprise and action, the surplus energy and impatience of control characteristic of early manhood especially; the encouragement, rather than hindrance, given by public opinion to male wickedness; the indescribable temptations to which young men are exposed : but the greatest and principal causes of laxity in morals to youths of generous minds I believe to be, the miserably artificial state of society, inducing to an open violation of its hollow precepts and hypocritical cant, and—though last, not least—the want of sympathy and comprehension, not only from the world at large, but more particularly from that portion whence they expect most, and are consequently most disappointed—women !
I willingly pass over, as out of the question, a certain proportion of men whose tastes have become so thoroughly vitiated that they prefer vice to virtue ; who appear to have said, “Evil, be thou my good.” Let us also assume another large portion of fools who become dissipated just as they adopt all-round collars and peg-tops, because it is the fashion ;
who sin merely from the force of imitation, as they smoke and drink, not because they like it, but because it is too great an effort to reflect.
There still remains a vast number of men for whose errors it will be difficult to account on the ordinary pleas of youthful indiscretion, and other vague general excuses ; men of delicate sensibilities and superior abilities, carefully cultivated and refined by education. We must go deeper into the question if we would discover why men like these are too often found the most frantic votaries and most signal victims of dissipation.
What should we think of the proprietor who not only affixed no warning against trespassers, but left the gates wide open, in addition to gaps in the hedge and holes in the wall, thus inviting the way. farer to enter his tempting pleasure-grounds? Would such a man be justified in making use of traps and spring-guns ? Yet this is the conduct of society with respect to young men.
We thrust them forth to encounter all the contaminations and temptations of the world. Prudery winks and shuts her eyes
to the dangers that surround them; Religion and Virtue turn away from the bare mention of certain things. But all at once, when the poor sinner has overstepped certain conventional limits, Respectability and Decorum demand a scapegoat; that is to say, some one who has been 66
found out” must be disgraced, while hundreds go on sowing their wild oats with impunity.
As society at present exists, the young man who dares to remain pure must either cut himself off entirely from intercourse with others of his own age, or must possess a moral courage which not one in a thousand, I venture to think, does possess, to render him proof against that most irresistible of all weapons, ridicule—that most terrible of all punishments, so powerfully typified by Sir Bulwer Lytton, by 66 the Dweller on the Threshold" in Zanoni-fear of the world; for every man's world is made up of the circle of his companions and associates.
The modern Joseph would be assailed by continued insults, innuendoes, jeers, and taunts, levelled against him, as “a spoon,” “a muff," "a slow coach ;" a whole host of terms of reproach expressive of a deficiency in manly sentiments: and this, not merely from foolish young men, but from many who are old enough to know better, and especially from a quarter whence every shaft rankles in the heart of a sensitive man-from women.
I would not be mistaken here. I do not for ,a moment imagine that respectable women like a man better on account of laxity of morals ; but, unfortunately, women, in their ignorance of the world,