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CHAPTER XI.

WOMAN'S PLACE AND EDUCATION.

§ 1. The essentially right life for woman. § 2. Woman's work

within and without the home. § 3. Mr. Ruskin's temperamental bias in the intellectual subordination of women.

§ 4. Historical justification of the struggle for “rights" as a provisional not a final policy.

§ 1. To none of the doctrines and practices of modern “ liberalism” was Mr. Ruskin more vehemently hostile than to those which find general expression in“ the emancipation of woman.” His resentment to all such movements was indeed so deep as rarely to find expression in his writings. What he has to say in direct criticism is condensed into a scathing brevity which never condescends to reason. In Fors" he refers to the enlightened notion among English young women, derived from Mr. J. Stuart Mill, - that the career' of the Madonna is too limited a one, and that modern political economy can provide them ... with much more lucrative occupations than that of nursing the baby.'”1 66 Arrows of the Chace” also contains a brief letter to a Swiss journal which contains the same uncompromising testimony: “ Je ne puis trouver des termes assez forts pour exprimer la haine et le mépris que je ressens pour l'idée moderne qu'une femme doit cesser d'être mère, fille ou femme

Fors, Letter 497 (i. xxiv).

pour qu'elle puisse devenir commis ou ingénieur.” 1 Of women's suffrage he is far too contemptuous to discuss it. The position of woman was one of his most absolutely fixed principles through life, connected as it was with the central idea of home. A woman was to be primarily a useful, secondarily a beautiful, home-maker and home-keeper.

Occasionally Mr. Ruskin expresses himself in unqualified language, which seems to sanction the idea of drudgery or the narrow position of an average haus-frau in the middle classes of society to-day. For instance, he declares that “the essentially right life for all womankind is that of the Swiss paysanne.”2 But then he partly idealised that life, as he saw it through the glasses of the Swiss novelist Gotthelf, or as brightened by romantic memory, and partly he designed to offer a dramatic protest against the notion of frivolity and uselessness which he saw to inhere in the English idea of “ ladyhood.” He did not really mean that all women were to be farmers' wives like the heroine of " Ulric the Farm Servant," but that they were all to undertake useful service in the performance or the superintendence of manual labour connected with the life of the home. It is because agriculture is to him the basic industry that the life of the farmhouse is the type of “the essentially right life for all womankind.” The testimony of all history to the abuse of male physical power, in imposing an almost intolerable burden of servile drudgery upon the “paysanne,” is simply ignored by Mr. Ruskin, who, in his idyllic picture of true agricultural life, assumes relations of affection and comradeship which would give

1 Vol. ii. 224. 2 Fors, Letter xciv. (iv. 455).

happiness to any home. . While the farmer looks after the cattle and the crops, and superintends the outdoor labour in the fields, his wife manages the dairy and the fowl-yard, and concerns herself with the housework and the food supply. Here is a division or co-operation of labour imposed by nature and convenience: no troublesome question arises of what is a man’s, what a woman's work, or of competition between the two. The direct ordering of the home and of the industries which gather closely around the home is woman's work in every well-appointed peasant life.

§ 2. To all other kinds of life the same general rule applies. 6 Lilies” is written for the women of the wellto-do classes ; but, while it does not suppose a farm life, it applies the same principles of life. Manual work will not there absorb so much attention; the graces and refinements of life hold larger place, and demand a higher intellectual and emotional education. But the same central idea is present, woman as the Angel of the House, responsible for the making of the home, concerned with the arts of consumption rather than with the arts of production. As in the primitive society man goes out to the chase and to the fight, while woman tends the hut and the peaceful industries of growing and grinding corn, making clothes, etc.; so in the more complex civilisation of to-day, the more arduous and adventurous work of body or of mind, outside the house, is by nature and by moral considerations of utility reserved

Mr. Ruskin utterly disapproves of women going out into the arena of industrial or professional competition, struggling with men or among themselves for wages, profits, and fees.

He does not discuss the ques

for men.

tion whether women can or cannot do good work and “ hold their own” in fair competition of the trades or professions, but he deprecates the preference of such success to the higher success attainable in the arts of home, and the reaction such entering of the competitive life will exert upon the character of women. That motherhood and the related duties of the home, which nature has reserved for women, can either be repudiated or treated as a secondary consideration is, in Mr. Ruskin's eyes, the most pernicious doctrine which can be preached to women. It not only ignores the true laws of economy of effort, by belittling the importance and difficulties of the home arts, but, more fatal still, it misinterprets the differences of sex character which dominate the issue. “ The man's power is active, progressive, defensive. He is eminently the doer, the creator, the discoverer, the defender. His intellect is for speculation and invention; his energy for adventure, for war, and for conquest, wherever war is just, wherever conquest necessary. But the woman's power is for rule, not for battle, and her intellect is not for invention or creation, but for sweet ordering, arrangement, and decision.” Within the sacred circle of the home, guarded against the coarseness, the selfishness, and cruelty of the outside life, woman is to queen it, as “ the centre of order, the balm of distress, and the mirror of beauty." There is a certain poetic vagueness, a certain lack of substance and actuality in the eloquent description of woman's place in “ Lilies,” and the simple answer given to a correspondent through “ Fors” is more directly instructive. “ Woman's work is : I. To please people.

1 Sesame and Lilies, $ 67.

II. To feed them in dainty ways. III. To clothe them. IV. To keep them orderly. V. To teach them.”1 Here, in further explanation, it is suggested that “young ladies” shall practise plain cooking, dressmaking (a sewing-machine is here sanctioned !), ironing, etc., a little housemaid's work, spare minutes of gardening (have nothing to do with hothouses !), and reading books that are owned, not borrowed. This furnishes a solid material basis of work, upon which the more refined arts and graces required to enable her “to sympathise in her husband's pleasures, and in those of his best friends," may be engrafted. The public function accorded to her is not the franchise or the sitting on elected bodies, but the overflow of charity beyond the limits of the home, the personal offices of affection and care bestowed upon neighbours.

$ 3. The whole trend of woman's education is designed to conform to this conception of her place

But the eloquent passages of “Lilies” which sketch this education betray a certain temperamental basis, which justifies critics in affirming that Mr. Ruskin preaches the subordination of women. In the division of functions to accord with natural powers and social convenience, there is nothing to warrant the ascription of superior value to one sex or the other; indeed, no basis of comparison is possible. We can only say that the two kinds of work are equally essential to the organic life of a family and a society; the work of ordering the home and the arts of home consumption are just as skilled, just as serviceable, as the work in which man is to engage. It is only when we

1 Fors, Letter xlvi. (ii. 444).

and power.

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