Зображення сторінки

Mr. Andrews has added, in a short appendix, a train of reasoning on the subject, in aid of the author's. He remarks of the work in his preface, as, we think, very justly.

“The character of it, in every respct, is such as the Christian, the philosopher, the scholar, and the man of taste, would desire. It presents the most powerful, logical and convincing train of reasoning, clothed in the most lucid, harmonious and engaging style. As a mere piece of composition, it is beautiful; as a chain of reasoning, it is overpowering and irresistible.

The temper manifested in it too, is highly creditable to the author and grateful to the reader, The most perfect candor, calmness and amiability, prevails throughout it."

A popular work upon this subject, and on this plan, was really needed; and it could hardly have fallen into better hands. Mr. Godwin commands a bold, free and masterly style, that reminds the reader of Dr. Chalmers, though Mr. Godwin is superior in chasteness, taste and elegance. He is fluent, rapid and fervent. His illustrations are well chosen, and what is a great recommendation of the work, they are not digressions, they are not so labored, followed out and dwelt upon, that the the reader forgets the main argument in the study of astronomy, anatomy and natural history. The lecturer is constantly going forward, always with spirit, and often with brilliancy and eloquence.

In a course of lectures, delivered to such an audience, and under such circumstances, it might be expected that the lecturer would occasionally deviate from the most rigid train of ratiocination, into strong appeals intended for excitement as well as conviction. But on the whole, Mr. Godwin has very well withstood the temptations to address himself to the fears or prejudices of his auditors ; in general, he fairly deals with their understandings. He sometimes adopts an argument that would be better omitted, as for instance, that infinite

space must be a property of something, and can be such only of the divinity ; and he sometimes lays too great stress upon a questionable, or at least, a feeble argument, as for instance, the general belief of mankind in a Creator, as evidence of an original revelation of himself. But on the whole, the argument is treated, not only in a very interesting manner, but with ability and logical precision.

ART. VIII. - The Social Condition of Woman. 1. Memoirs of Celebrated Women of all Countries. By

MADAME JUNOT. 2 vols. 2. Noble Deeds of Woman. 2 vols. 12mo. 1836. 3. The History of the Condition of Women, in various

Ages and Nations. By Mrs. D. L. Child. 2 vols.

12mo. 1835. 4. Legouvé, Le Mérite des Femmes.

INVENTIVE writing is full of common-place respecting Woman, drawn from the feelings or the imagination, sometimes depicting her character as a brilliant constellation of all the virtues, sometimes as a virulent concentration of all the vices and weaknesses incident to hunian nature. For instance, we take up Otway's Orphan, and we read in one place verses like these :

“ Who can describe
Women's hypocrisies? Their subtle wiles,
Betraying smiles, feign’d tears, inconstancies ?
Their painted outsides, and corrupted minds?

The sum of all their follies and their falsehoods pas
And again, at another page, these :

" Your sex
Was never in the right : you 're always false
Or silly. Even your dreams are not more
Fantastical than your appetites. You think
Of nothing twice. Opinion you have none :
To-day you are nice, to-morrow not so fine;
Now smile, then frown; now sorrowful, then glad;
Now pleased, now not; and all you know not why.


affect." Is this harsh? Turn the leaves, and you come to the other side of the question, in that beautiful passage of the same Otway's Venice Preserved : “O woman, lovely woman! nature made you

To temper man ; we had been brutes without you.
Angels are painted fair, to look like you ;
There's in you all that we believe of heaven;
Amazing brightness, purity and truth,

Eternal joy and everlasting love."
It would be curious, if in our way, to run over what the

NO. 91. 62


novelists and dramatists have had to say upon this point. In the latter, especially, there is a persect arsenal of the small artillery of stale reproaches on feminine weakness and falsehood. In reference to all such matter, whether set fixedly in books, or Apating on the surface of society, we hold this axion in reverent belief; there is no man of good morals, who does not admire and esteem the female character. Whoever disparages the female sex, is, of necessity, a bad son, and a thousand to one he is, in his custom of life, a bad inember of society.

Reflecting upon the diverse forms under which Woman appears in the great classic writers of our language, we think it demonstrates that each one's individual temper and experience, much more than philosophical observation of general fact, have produced his particular representation of her social destiny.

Open, for instance, the poems of Pope and Swifi, which abound with such coarse, bitter, humiliating satire of the female sex. Are all women, then, without discrimination, utterly destitute of delicacy and purity of sentiment, as those writers would have it? Or was there not some seated distemper in the moral constitution of their minds, which jaundiced all their views of woman? The truth in this matter is familiar 10 every scholar. They were each the objects of the devoted, but unmerited and unrequited affections of some of the best hearts that ever beat in human bosoms. What men deeply injure, that they deeply hate. Festering in misanthropical celibacy, the inind of each transferred to the canvas its own dark tints of spiteful malignity, in place of the reflected image they professed to copy.

If we analyse the life and character of Milton and Byron, we shall there in like manner find a key to all the peculiarities in their conception of the social condition of woman. There is one poet and one prose writer, however, each pre-eminent for bis intuitive perception of character, and his marvellous knowledge of human nature, who have written a vast deal concerning the female sex, full of instruction, good sense, good feeling and truth. We mean Shakspeare and Scott. They loved fondly, but wisely, and there was not, therefore, in their domestic history, any great disturbing fact to distort their judgment of the fair sex; and they have recorded woman as she is; rich in the virtues and graces appropriate to her career on earth; if with less of the sustained vigor of active resolution, and less of the analytical comprehensiveness of intellect than man, yet with more intensity of purpose, and more instinctive quickness and force of thought in a given emergency; when good, in principle better than he, when bad, worse ; in a word, neither greater nor less than man, but different, as her natural vocation is different, and both so far equal, that each is superior to the other in their respective departments of thought and action.

In taking up this topic, of the social condition of Woman in modern christendom, we avow, in advance, that we are not preparing to present a mere panegyric on the female sex. What we propose to ourselves, on this occasion, is neither a reasoned analysis of the general spirit of the gentler sex, nor a diatribe upon her defects ; nor a declamation upon her excellences; but a just deduction and estimate, so far as we are able to give it, of what christian civilization has done for the condition and character of Woman. After speaking of the leading facts of her bistory, we may best pronounce upon her true rank in the scale of society, and of moral and intellectual beings.

Without covering so much ground as would be needful, were we to attempt elucidating at large the condition of Woman in societies unconnected with our own, it will suffice, if, as preliminary to considering her place in the economy of modern christendom, we briefly explain what she is in countries highly civilized but not christian, in a purely barbarous state of society generally, and what she was in those communities, which chiefly contributed to form the spirit of christendom, namely in Palestine, in Greece, in Roine, and among the ancient Germans.

Of modern countries highly civilized, but not christian, we shall take but two examples, China and Hindostan, both as composing so large a portion of the human race, and as having really attained a high degree of general culture.

In considering the purely savage or hunter stage of human society, notwithstanding there be in different countries great diversities in the condition of the female sex, yet in every case we discover certain marked traits, which clearly indicate the deleterious effect of barbarism of manners upon the social position of Woman. One is, the similarity of savage life, in the nearest of all the social relations, to the condition of brute animals. In the hunter state, the supply of the first necessity of life, food, is precarious ; and this uncertainty of the means of subsistence counteracts the natural tendency of mankind to a permanent connubial union between the sexes; a tendency which developes itself more and more in proportion as society grows more fixed and stable in its forms. Hence, in many such communities, children are distinguished with reference to their mother alone whose name they bear, and not their father's. In some of those tribes of North America, which adınitted of hereditary sovereignty, royalty of blood was tested by derivation from the mother alone, in reverse of the usage of all civilized nations. Such institutions or usages necessarily imply the degradation of the female sex. Another of the distinctive peculiarities of the savage life is the coromon fact, that women are held as property. In some barbarous communities, the wife is purchased, in others she is forcibly seized by her future husband and master. And universally we may say, at all times, in every climate, under whatever circumstances of local situation, savage man regards and treats the feebler sex as born to menial service. Woman is the humble slave of his pleasure, the handmaid of his daily wants, his laborious drudge of the field, the household and the journey, consigned to toil and subservience, whilst he, the proud lord of creation, aspires exclusively to the stirring chances of the chase, or the yet nobler gaine of Nor does this description apply to a class only of savage society. Such is the general condition of women in barbarous communities, however exalted the station of their rude connexions, how much soever they happen to be cherished by their untutored lords. Out of innumerable illustrations of this, which might be given, we select one, for its peculiar fulness, pertinency, and homely force and truth. Samuel Hearne is well known as one of the adventurous explorers of the arctic coast of North America. He was returning on his way back to Prince of Wales' Fort, unsuccessful from his second expedition, when he met Matonabbee, whom he describes as“ a powerful and intelligent chief,” and who undertook to explain the cause of his failure, ascribing it to the want of female attendants. “ In an expedition of this kind,” said Matonabbee, “ when all the men are so heavily laden that they can neither hunt nor travel to any considerable distance, in case they meet with success in hunting, who is to carry the produce of their labor ? Women were made for labor ; one of them can carry or haul as much as two men can do. They also pitch our tents, make and mend our clothing, rake our fires at night;


« НазадПродовжити »