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upon the faithful and obedient spirit. It is from the soil of meekness that the true strength of womanhood grows, and it is because it has its root in such a soil that it has a growth so majestic, showering its blossoms and its fruits upon the world. Her influence follows man from the cradle to the grave, and the sphere of it is the whole region ou humanity. We marvel at the might of it, because its tranquil triumphs are so placid and so noiseless, and penetrating into the deep places of our nature. It was the sun and the wind that in the fable strove for the mastery, and the strife was for a traveller's cloak; the quiet moon had nothing to do with such fierce rivalry of the burning or the blast, but as in her tranquil orbit she journeys round the earth, silently sways the tides of the ocean.
There probably can be found no better test of civilization than the prevailing tone of feeling and opinion with regard to womanhood, and the recognition of woman's influences and social position. be the rude use of woman in barbaric life, or the frivolous uses of an over-civilised society. There may be the high-wrought adulation of an age of chivalry, which, so far as it is a sentiment of idolatry, is at once false and pernicious ; or there may be that wise and well-adjusted sense of affectionate reverence of womanhood, which is thoughtful of the vast variety of human companionship - matronly, maidenly, sisterly, daughterly. In woman, there may be a true sense of sex, its duties and its claims, meekness with its hidden heroism ; or there may be the unfeminine temper, fit to be rebuked by the Desdemona model. Such a rebuke may be apposite where female character disfigures itself by obtrusiveness and self-sufficiency and pedantry. But, as far as my observation goes, that is not the state of society here; on the contrary, there is needed an effort much more difficult than repressing the froward; and that is, to lift modest, intelligent, sensitive womanhood above the dread of the ridicule of pedantry. Manly culture would gain by it as well as womanly. I heard lately from a woman's lips one of the finest pieces of Shakspeare criticism I ever met with; admirable in imagination and in the true philosophy of criticism, and yet uttered in conversation in the easy, natural intercourse of society.
Such should be the culture of woman, and such the tone of society, that these fine processes of womanly thought and feeling may mingle naturally with men's judgments.
There may be a social condition in which womanly culture is in advance of the manly, and then the woman is placed in the sad dilemma of either lowering the tone of her own thoughts, or of raising the minds of men and their habits of thought-a task that demands all of womanly sagacity and gentleness, and is a trial to womaniy modesty.
The companionship of the sexes is important in the culture of each, and by such communion the marvellous harmony of diverse qualities is made more perfect for the strength and beauty of their common humanity. One of the latest strains of English poetry has well proclaimed
" The woman's cause is man's: they rise or sink
Together, dwarf'd or godlike, bond or free:
(She must) “Live, and learn, and be
I have been tempted further into this subject than I meant to be, but what I have said respecting the companionship of the sexes can have no better illustration than in the study of literature. All that is essential literature belongs alike to mind of woman and of man; it demands the same kind of culture from each, and most salutary may the companionship of mind be found, giving reciprocal help by the diversity of their power. Let us see how this will be. In the first place, a good habit of reading, whether in man or woman, may be described as the combination of passive recipiency from the book and the mind's reaction upon it: this equipoise is true culture. But, in a great deal of reading, the passiveness of impression is well nigh all
, for it is luxurious indolence, and the reactive process is neglected. With the habitual novel-reader, for instance, the luxury of reading becomes a perpetual stimulant, with no demand on the mind's own energy, and slowly wearing it away. The true enjoyment of books is when there is a co-operating power in the reader's mind- an active sympathy with the book; and those are the best books that demand that of you. And here let me notice how unfortunate and, indeed, mischievous a term is. the word "taste” as applied in intercourse with literature or art; a. metaphor taken from a passive sense, it fosters that lamentable error, that literature, which requires the strenuous exertion of action and sympathy, may be left to mere passive impressions. The temptation to receive an author's mind unreflectingly and passively is common to us all, but greater, I believe, for women, who gain, however, the advantages of a readier sympathy and a more unquestioning faith. The man's mind reacts more on the book, sets himself more in judgment upon it, and trusts less to his feelings; but, in all this, he is in more danger of bringing his faculties separately into action: he is more apt to be misled
by our imperfect systems of metaphysics, which give us none but the most meagre theories of the human mind, and which are destined, I believe, to be swept away, if ever a great philosopher should devote himself to the work of analyzing the processes of thought. Thai pervading error of drawing a broad line of demarcation between our moral and intellectual nature, instead of recognising the intimate inter dependence of thought and feeling, is a fallacy that scarce affects the workings of a woman's spirit. If a gifted and cultivated woman take a thoughtful interest in a book, she brings her whole being to bear on it, and hence there will often be a better assurance of truth in her conclusions than in man's more logical deductions, just as, by a similar process, she often shews finer and quicker tact in the discrimination of character. It has been justly remarked, that, with regard “to women of the highest intellectual endowments, we feel that we do them the utmost injustice in designating them by such terms as clever,' able,' • learned, intellectual:' they never present themselves to our minds as such. There is a sweetness, or a truth, or a kindness—some grace, some charm, some distinguishing moral characteristic which keeps the intellect in due subordination, and brings them to our thoughts, temper, inind, affections, one harmonious whole."
A woman's mind receiving true culture and preserving its fidelity to all womanly instincts, makes her, in our intercourse with literature, not only a companion, but a counsellor and a helpmate, fulfilling in this sphere the purposes of her creation. It is in letters as in life, and there (as has been well said by Henry Taylor) the woman “ who praises and blames, persuades and resists, warns or exhorts upon occasion given, and carries her love through all with a strong heart, and not a weak fondness—she is the true helpmate.”
Cowper, speaking of one of his female friends, writes, “She is a critic by nature and not by rule, and has a perception of what is good or bad in composition, that I never knew deceive her ; insomuch that when two sorts of expressions have pleaded equally for the precedence in my own esteem, and I have referred, as in such cases I always did, the decision of the point to her, I never knew her at a loss for a just one."
His best biographer, Southey, alluding to himself, and to the influence exerted on Wordsworth's mind by the genius of the poet's sister, adds the comment, “Were I to say that a poet finds his best advisers among his female friends, it would be speaking from my own experience, and the greatest poet of the age would confirm it by his. But never was any poet more indebted to such friends than Cowper. Had it not been for Mrs. Unwin, he would probably never have appeared in his own
person as an author ; had it not been for Lady Austin, he never would have been a popular one.”
The same principles which cause the influences thus salutary to authorship, will carry it into reading and study, so that by virtue of this companionship the logical processes in the man's mind shall be tempered with more of affection, subdued to less of wilfulness, and to a truer power of sympathy; and the woman's spirit shall lose none of its earnest, confiding apprehensiveness in gaining more of reasoning and reflection; and so, by reciprocal influences, that vicious divorcement of our moral and intellectual natures shall be aone away with, and the powers of thought and the powers of affection be brought into that harmony which is wisdom. The woman's mind must rise to a wiser activity, the man's to a wiser passiveness ; each true to its nature, they may consort in such just companionship that strength of mind shall pass from each to each ; and thus chastened and invigorated, the common humanity of the sexes rises higher than it could be carried by either the powers peculiar to man or the powers peculiar to woman.
Now in prouf of this, if we were to analyze the philosophy which Coleridge employed in his judgment on books, and by which he may be said to have made criticism a precious department of literature raising it into a higher and purer region than was ever approached by the contracted and shallow dogmatism of the earlier school of critics it would, I think, be proved that he differed from them in nothing more than this, that he cast aside the wilfulness and self-assurance of the more reasoning faculties; his marvellous powers were wedded to a child-like humility and a womanly confidingness, and thus his spirit found an avenue, closed to feeble and less docile intellects, into the deep places of the souls of mighty poets: his genius as a critic rose to its majestic height, not only by its inborn manly strength, but because, with womanlike faith, it first bowed beneath the law of obedience and love.
It is a beautiful example of the companionship of the manly and womanly mind, that this great critic of whom I have been speaking proclaimed, by both principle and practice, that the sophistications which are apt to gather round the intellects of men, clouding their vision, are best cleared away by that spiritual condition more congenial to the souls of woman, the interpenetrating the reasoning powers with the affections.
Coleridge taught his daughter that there is a spirit of love to which the truth is not obscured; that there are natural partialities, moral sympathies, which clear rather than cloud the vision of the mind; that in our communion with books, as with mankind, it is noť true that
“ love is blind.” The daughter has prescrved the lesson in lines worthy of herself, her sire, and the precious truth embodied in them.
I have in this introductory lecture attempted nothing beyond the exposition of a few broad and simple principles of literature, the importance of which will perhaps best be seen in the practical application of them to the guidance and formation of our habits of reading. It was my intention to have worked those principles out to their application, but I have already consumed more of your time than I desire to do during one evening. It seemed necessary to show, in the first place, that I appreciated the difficulties which are caused by the multiplicity of buuks; an then to set forth these essential principles of literature, as distinguished from mere books, that it is addressed to our universal human nature, and that it gives power not to the intellect alone, but to our whole spiritual being; and that if it be true to its high purpose, it gives power of wisdom and happiness. I felt it to be important also, with a view to some applications to be made in subsequent lectures — to consider the reciprocal relations of the manly and womanly mind.
I propose in the next lecture to consider the application of these principles to habits and causes of reading; reserving for the third lecture the subject of the English language, to which I am anxious to devote an entire lecture.