The Religious Education of Women.
By Richard Frederick Littledale.
London: Henry S. King, 1874.
IN sending forth a fresh edition of this brief statement of opinion on a very weighty subject, I desire to draw attention to some points which recent controversies have brought into new prominence.
Foremost amongst the truths which biological science has revealed, stands this: that great fertility of reproduction always goes along with weakness. Those lower animals which are remarkably prolific are also feeble, while the strongest and most highly organized are comparatively sterile. This law manifests itself in a very stern fashion in the human family, in that very high mental endowments and culture are found to operate so far unfavourably, especially upon women, in draining the sources of physical energy, as to make them less able for the [iii/iv] discharge of parental duties; so that the offspring of brilliant parents are found, as a rule, fewer in number and inferior in vigour as compared with the children of less cultivated persons. This tendency is more marked where the mother is unusually distinguished; and therefore it has been argued that any attempt to give a dead-lift to the intellectual level of women would be an ultimate injury to humanity at large, because necessarily resulting in the dying-out of the mentally highest, though physically feebler, progeny, and the survival, through sheer numerical and bodily superiority, of the dullest.
It appears to me, nevertheless, that no case is hereby really made out against the higher culture of women.
On the one hand, the loss of physical energy referred to is partly due to the neglect of physical education, intelligently conducted at the same time that the mental education is going on. If there were something provided in the bodily exercises of girls which, without overtasking their strength, would do for them what cricket and boating do for their brothers, the piano and easel would be less mischievous. And further, strain is the true cause of that [iv/v] physical deterioration which it is idle to dispute. Wherever culture is exceptional, wherever educational ' methods are unscientific, the demand on the bodily powers becomes an exhausting strain. The physical wear and tear induced by mental labour is between three and four times as great as that caused by an equal time spent in bodily toil; and therefore the problem to be solved is the diminution of strain. The solution is not to be sought in a return to the theory that women are to be trained and treated as pet animals, but in such a widening of culture as shall make the strain disappear through the formation of general habit, general in the individual and in the class; because when a certain level of acquirement becomes very common—when' it is, so to speak, in the air—the effort needful to reach it is much lightened for each fresh beginner. Consider the facilities afforded to a German or Italian child in mastering vocal music as compared with those within reach of a French or English child, and this truth will be easily discovered.
On the other hand, it is fairly worth considering whether the law of comparative sterility as the price of intellectual advance is not the true solution of that problem of over-population which dismays publicists [v/vi] as they look at the rapid filling-up of the available free spaces of the earth.
If by extending culture we can certainly and steadily check over-population, without needing to adopt any direct means, it seems that we thus interpose a barrier to that survival of the unfittest which feeds and swells the ranks of disease and pauperism.
One result from these considerations is, that if physical risks of any kind are bound up with mental advance—and yet it can in no way be the duty of a complex being like man to deliberately sacrifice his intellect to his frame—women should be taught to the fullest extent those physiological laws which are needful to be observed for their own harmonious development. And that they may be taught them in such wise that every nursery and school-room shall have the benefit of the highest knowledge on these subjects, it is, I believe, imperatively necessary to throw open the study of medicine without restriction to women students. I think I know most, if not all, that has been urged against this proposition. I cannot but believe that if its opponents knew what I have learnt of the tremendous evils of the existing [vi/vii] practice, they would have been less decided. There can be little doubt that much of the hysteria and sentimentalism which work such disastrous evil to the religion and morals of women is due to faulty physical training; and I am convinced that the prospect of healthy moral education being substituted for frivolous accomplishment must be very unpromising until such time as the mutual reaction of mind and body has become a familiar truth to all instructed women. And that cannot be till they can hear physiological laws from the lips of women teachers, who must first be taught themselves. I dwell on these points because I am fully convinced of the enormous part the body plays in religious questions, and therefore I hold them to be entirely germane to the subject of the following essay.
R. F. L.
London, Christmas, 1873.
THE RELIGIOUS EDUCATION OF WOMEN.
IN a former paper in this REVIEW, wherein I attempted to show the desirability of a fuller training of the clergy in secular studies, I alleged the preponderance of feminine society as one of the chief intellectual drawbacks which unnecessarily limit the due and reasonable influence of ecclesiastics as a teaching body in the State. I stated my conviction that the very low standard of female education amongst us, not any inherent defect in women themselves, was to blame for this condition of things. ["The Contemporary Review," December, 1871.]
Hence, my objection is open to the rejoinder that the rapid change in` the theory of female education which is passing over and affecting society, must inevitably do away in a short time with any possible evils from the source I named.
The University examinations for women, the ladies' [1/2] colleges, the now more ambitious programmes of private girls' schools, the breaking down of a hundred barriers which warned women off from various studies and professions, now surely, if somewhat grudgingly, being opened to them, may all be taken, I shall be told, not merely as signs, but as proofs, of a swiftly coming time when women shall be the intellectual rivals of men—not their counterparts, but their equivalents. There needs, therefore, nothing save a little patience, and the matter will right itself.
I am not so sure of it. In the first place, the demand which has been put forward for and by women, on the part of the principal advocates of a fundamental change, has been simply expressed in the formula, “Let girls learn whatever boys learn." But the main difficulty is not now capable of being met in any such fashion, for the very sufficient reason that the tide of transition and change has reached the level of male education also, and no question is more hotly contested at the present moment than that of the best course of study for boys and young men. It would be altogether beside my present purpose to state the conflicting theories, or to argue on behalf of any one of them, but it is necessary to point out that until some agreement has been come to as to what y is, or shall be, the formula "Let x = y" is of exceedingly little use to us.
If the proposition were stated in terms really wider and deeper, but not savouring so much of sexual rivalry, and were couched thus, “Let girls learn anything and [2/3] everything for which they have bent or capacity," we should, I apprehend, be somewhat nearer the solution of the difficulty.
Even so, however, the deteriorating effects of feminine society on the clergy would only be mitigated, not neutralized, unless the educational reformers could be persuaded to extend their programme.
In a careful examination of most of what has been written of late years on the “Woman's Rights Question," and especially all that deals with the subject of mental training, I have observed that the religious side of that training scarcely enters at all into the field surveyed. A minority of these cases of omission is no doubt due to a frame of thought which regards religion as altogether too vague and speculative to be entitled to much weight in deciding the conduct of life; but the great majority of instances must, I am convinced, denote satisfaction, or at least acquiescence, in the existing theory and practice; for persons most widely divergent from each other in the form and expression of their creeds are substantially at one in their view of the legitimate influence of religion on women.
That view, tersely stated, is that religion (and for my present purposes it does not matter to the argument what its special form, from Christianity to Theism or Pantheism, may be) is designed to supply a safety-valve for the emotional and affective side of women, to deepen their natural tendency towards patient self-sacrifice, to encourage in them a condition of passive receptivity, and, above all, to make them so [3/4] domestic in habits and wishes as to limit their entire horizon by the boundaries of home, and make them glad and proud to be the dependants and humble assistants of men. With a little intensifying of phrases here and there, and the addition of a few technicalities, this definition will do not merely for the scheme of life as propounded for women living as members of secular families, but also for those who have found their ties in the Common Life of religious organizations.
From this view I profoundly dissent. It would seem enough to ensure its rejection to point out that it is, with the barest verbal differences, the interpretation given, not so long ago, by the advocates of slavery to Christianity considered as affecting the negro, and that it is based on the assumption of the inherent inferiority of women's souls to those of men—an opinion logically and morally unconnected with any theory as to the relative qualities of their bodies and minds.
It is, in fact, attempting to obtain a religious sanction for the very proceeding which has vitiated the whole of women's secular education hitherto, to wit, treating attractiveness to men as the basis and the end of all instruction conferred upon the weaker sex. If religion is merely to come in as an adjunct to music and dancing, in order to tempt men into an investment because the article offered can be warranted docile and domesticated as well as accomplished, one hardly sees why it should be ranked any higher than such pursuits. And yet this is the sentiment which [4/5] meets us, more or less frankly, in most of the so-called religious works which undertake to consider this problem, albeit the pill is usually gilt by explaining to women how very much happier they will be if they will take the advice tendered to them. This is the language held alike by English Nonconformists like Mr. Landels, foreign Protestants like M. Monod and Count Agénor de Gasparin, the authors of most of the modern books of spiritual reading designed for the inmates of Roman Catholic convents, and the whole army of safe and kindly writers who produce the Anglican religious novelette of the day. It is not unworthy of remark that it is also the teaching of Rousseau in his Emile. I have found only one person bold enough to do battle with the popular theory, and even he has been hampered in his attack by the peculiarities of his position—I mean Mgr. Dupanloup, Bishop of Orleans, in his brilliant essay, “Femmes Savantes et Femmes Studieuses." What I mean by his being hampered by, his peculiar position is this: He brings charges, at once sweeping and specific, against the whole tone and result of female education in France. He again and again implies that it is as defective on its religious side as it is in its secular aspect, but he does not say, what of course his readers all know, that the great majority of French girls who are educated at all, receive their instruction in convents. Consequently, his blame, if logically expressed, would fall on the teaching of the priesthood.
 But, in common justice to the French clergy, it should be said that they have the merit of consistency. They preach the superiority of the passive virtues, the primary value of obedience and self-abnegation, the total subjection of personality, quite as forcibly to men as to women, and they are perfectly ready to practise their own lessons, as they have proved times without number. Thus, albeit the greater weakness and susceptibility of women permit this teaching to crush their individuality more completely than is possible with masculine natures, yet it cannot be fairly alleged that the French clergy are guilty of making the usual invidious distinction between men and women, and inculcating as a first principle that the relation between them, however modified by affection or by civilization, must essentially be that of lord and serf.
The objection to all such teaching lies far deeper, and is based on primary philosophical and theological verities. I mean that the aim of the repressive, or at best merely emotional, scheme of religion is as far as possible to neutralize the operation of free-will, and to dethrone human personality, making men all but unconscious of it.
Now, the mischief of this, apart from any direct moral enfeeblement, is that it tends to abolish the only sure barrier against either a materialistic or Pantheistic conception of the universe.
For my own personality is the only fact which I certainly know. Everything else is matter of appearance or [6/7] inference. I am practically obliged, no doubt, to act on the hypothesis of the real existence of the visible creation, comprising all the objects of sense; but considering that they are just as vividly present to my sight, hearing, smelling, taste, and touch when I am asleep and dreaming as when I am awake, it follows that I have no warrant for asserting without possibility of contradiction that they are truly present to my waking faculties, and are no mere phantasms. What I can be sure of is that the Something which takes cognizance of all the objects of sense is myself, and nothing else. Hence I can establish the insufficiency of the sense-philosophy to account for the phenomena of mind, and I can further argue for the personality of the Power which gave being to my own personality. For no person or thing can make or evolve that of which no inward potentiality first existed. Ten million generations of blind men could never have invented a telescope—ten million generations of deaf men could not have produced a violin. And no conceivable impersonal force immanent in nature could, by parity of reasoning, have produced the countless myriads of separate personalities which make up the aggregate of humanity. It is simply unthinkable.
Now, though the stages between a practical effort to suppress the individuality of one man, on the plea of spiritual advance, and the denial of a Personal God, are almost indefinitely numerous, yet they follow in an inexorable sequence, and work out into a theory of religion not [7/8] intellectually discernible from the higher Buddhism of the East and the neo-Spinozism of the West. Any failure to reach this goal is due simply to a happy inconsistency of practice, a fortunate paralogism of reasoning, but not to any lack of connection between the premisses and the conclusion.
On this ground, therefore, any religious education which aims at the suppression, not the wholesome and harmonious development, of individual character stands condemned. I may fitly cite the eloquent words in which Mgr. Dupanloup expresses this notion, though he is specially combating the theories of De Maistre on the training of women:—"Coupez donc les rameaux de cette plante à laquelle il faudrait trop d'air, d'espace, et de soleil, retranchez cette sève inutile. Mais la plante était née pour devenir un grand arbre, et vous allez en faire un arbuste amaigri renez garde dans cette mutilation de la faire d'abord cruellement souffrir, et enfin périr tout entière. Eteindre une âme que Dieu avait créée pour être lumineuse, c'est y enfouir le germe d'une souffrance intérieure que vous ne guérirez jamais, et qui égarera peut-être et épuisera cette âme en aspirations vagues et exagérées. Il n'y a pas de tourment comparable à ce sentiment du beau qui ne peut se faire jour, a cette douleur intime d'une âme qui, sans peut-être le savoir, aura manqué sa vocation; et ce mot qui semble exprimer les appels d'en haut, les appels sérieux et irrésistibles, [8/9] s'applique aux femmes comme aux hommes, â la vie idéale comme â la vie extérieure. Notre âme est une pensée de Dieu, a-t-on dit, c'est-â-dire qu'il y a pour elle un plan divin, dont tous nos efforts ou notre langueur nous éloignent ou nous rapprochent, mais qui n'en existe pas moins dans la sagesse et la bonté divines. Et pour le réaliser, tout notre développement d'âme, de coeur et d'intelligence n'est pas de trop."
That is, in short, the repressive scheme of education is a deliberate effort to counteract the purpose of God, and is thus fundamentally irreligious, whatever specious pleas of devotion it may put forward, and whatever success it may have to show in cultivating certain qualities which have, no doubt, a definite place in all really beautiful and admirable characters.
What is more, it always, by a most righteous Nemesis, brings about its own frustration. Its noblest aim is the subjugation of self; its practical issue is in the generation of a selfishness wider, deeper, more penetrating and absorbing than anything else can produce; that "other-worldliness," to use Coleridge's happy phrase, which outstrips all mere secularity in its mean and persistent greed.
I will take, as an instance of what I mean, an example borrowed from the convent rather than from the family, as an extreme case will better exhibit the theory and the result. Few things are so insisted on by a certain stamp of writers for the inmates of convents as "detachment;" that [9/10] is, indifference to all ties and possessions, resulting in a total isolation of personality.
Now this has of course its good side, which has got perverted. Detachment, in the sense of sitting comparatively loose to everything which may draw back or hamper people in the execution of duty, is needful in every time of conflict or peril. A soldier must not hesitate to sacrifice the comforts of his home, and risk the impoverishment of his wife and children, when the State summons him to battle; a teacher must not refrain from proclaiming unpopular truths, because he may be driven out with execrations by his former hearers, and be forced to seek another sphere where, perchance, he can scarcely win daily bread. But the “detachment" of which I speak with censure, is an effort to crush out the affections and the ties of association. It inculcates apathetic disregard of family, it endeavours to forbid all sense of personal preference between any two inmates of the same community, it stigmatizes as weak, if not sinful, an innocent liking for some little personal belonging, a picture, a crucifix, even a memory. What comes of it? Simply this, that the horizon of the person under such treatment is gradually narrowed, till there is no horizon at all; everything is taken away but the one thing which is irremovable, the fact of personality; and the patient seeing nothing but himself; and having nothing but himself, is detached from everything else, to concentrate his entire thought and affection on himself, and the securing the salvation of his own [10/11] single soul; thereby exactly reversing the spiritual order denoted by the question of the gaoler at Philippi, in the first startled moment which preceded his conversion: "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" as contrasted with the saying of the aged Apostle, many years later, “I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh."
In this last expression we find the highest form of detachment, that is, separation from self, not for a time only, with the view of indulging a more perfect selfishness in another world, but entire and unconditional. Yet its source is not in apathy, but in sympathy, not in placid indifference, but in keen personal affection; for, in truth, the only manner of extruding selfism is to adopt altruism in its fullest sense, to postpone one's own wishes and advantage to those of others, out of hearty good-will towards them; to escape from the pettiness of a single interest into the breadth and nobleness of the common weal. But if this breadth is not to become a mere shallow puddle, which may dry up at any moment, it must be deepened by the sense of individual liking, which is exactly the one thing against which the ordinary inculcators of "detachment" strive with all their might.
I have, as I said, given this as an extreme example of repression; but, in truth, the teaching which urges women to merge their own individuality wholly in that of the other sex, to regard themselves as merely adjectives to the lordly noun-substantive man, is of the same kind, [11/12] and quite as immoral, albeit it has Milton's sanction in his too famous line,--
He for God only, she for God in him.
Religion cannot admit of any such intermediate standard of right and wrong, any such vicegerent of Deity. Woman, as well as man, must look up directly to her Creator, for we read of woman, as of man, that she was created in the image of God. Conformity to that image, therefore, not to the blurred and defaced impression of it left still faintly traceable on man's battered soul, is to be her ideal. Therefore, our theories as to the nature, extent, and variety of the religious education desirable for women, will vary in the exact ratio of our notional apprehension of God. If we limit her, it is because we have first limited Him, and have entirely failed to recognise His infinity.
There is no more popular commonplace than that which tells us that women are more pious than men. It is an acknowledgment generally made with a certain flavour of contempt in it, partly directed against women, and partly against piety. But I doubt its truth. It seems to me based on no sounder foundation than that, in a complex life, such as Christianity, the affections count for more than the intellect, and women are, whether naturally or artificially, more affectionate than men; so that very many of them consequently find an outlet in religion for certain emotional feelings which men are less apt to entertain. [12/13] The error of the commonplace, therefore, appears to me to lie in the idea that this kindly emotionalism is the highest, or at any rate the normal, expression of religion; whereas the practical scope of Christianity is much wider, being no other than the making men and women Godlike. Now, without entering into a dissertation on the attributes of Deity, it is sufficient to point out that the notions of power, truth, liberality, wisdom, and justice, as well as those of purity and love, are bound up in the Christian conception of God; and, therefore, our aim in training Christian women must be not merely that they should be pure, gentle, and affectionate—qualities which abound amongst women under heathenism almost everywhere, as well as under the Gospel—but that they should be strong, true, liberal, wise, and just, no mere foolish virgins with amiable intentions and expiring lamps.
It is obvious that it is quite possible to stimulate the emotional side of our nature while leaving the others uncultivated, and that religious sentimentalism to the verge, and beyond the verge, of hysteria, is perfectly compatible with a low moral tone, and with cowardice, untruthfulness, stinginess, and folly. A great deal of popular religionism has no ethical nor tonic value whatever, and cannot contribute in any degree to the formation of character, though it may fatally weaken such character as it finds already formed.
Now, so far as this condition of things is encouraged [13/14] by religious teachers,—and many of them are very guilty in the matter,—it tends to forbid religious progress to women, and not merely acts as a drag on their spiritual life, but, by thus compelling them to stand on a lower level than men as regards many aspects of religion, it gives rise to a great deal of that total estrangement and lack of sympathy between men and women on the most solemn and important of subjects, which is such a prominent evil in French social life, and so far from being unknown amongst ourselves.
Several details in the ordinary religious life of women conspire to this most undesirable end. Foremost amongst them stands an opinion, deeply rooted in many masculine minds, that women do not know, and do not wish to know, the whole truth about any question; that they cannot give a reason for the faith that is in them. This is so, no doubt, but the teachers are, I fully believe, more in fault than the taught, for they give them, to quote Bishop Dupanloup again, "de la science religieuse, ce qu'on en demande pour faire une première communion, pas assez pour répondre aux objections les plus vulgaires, aux calomnies les plus notoires, pas assez pour avoir l'intelligence de sa position et de ses devoirs, pas assez pour imposer silence aux détracteurs de la religion, aux adversaires de la raison et de l'évidence Chrétienne; pas assez pour réfuter les sophismes les plus grossiers, pour ramener â la foi et â ses saintes pratiques son jeune mari, [14/15] peut-être son vieux père: avec une telle instruction, quelle influence peut avoir une jeune femme?"
Next, the very narrow range of women's moral training, dealing as it does almost exclusively in negatives, so as to be a merely prohibitory code, is very repellent to men of large minds and lofty views. They complain that if a husband, brother, or father be called on by his sense of duty to brave and defy public opinion, the woman's influence will be altogether, with the rarest exceptions, enlisted on the side of conventionality and against conscience; that while she is capable of even exaggerated self-sacrifice for persons or things which are dear to her, she can most rarely lift herself into perfect disinterestedness, or say Fais ce que dois, advienne que pourra. But in truth this is once again the fault of the teaching she gets. We train her to look to the approval of men as her standard and. reward, and then we wonder that she is not ready to brave the aggregate disapproval of most of the men and all the women she knows, and that for some purely abstract principle, while we have been needlessly developing her natural tendency to look to concrete details alone. Yet it is certain that many a man's noble life has been saddened and hindered, if not altogether marred and made fruitless, by the miserable female worship of Mrs. Grundy, by the lack of an ideal which might dignify the character, and give a continuous aim to existence.
 Yet again, the lack of impartial justice, almost universal in women, is a crying defect which needs to be made good. Thackeray observes more than once in his writings, not only that women are not just, but that it would be a thousand pities if they were, if anything so hard and angular, so stern and implacable, could be predicated of them. I cannot see that a woman would become less lovable by sharing an attribute of the Supreme Loveliness, and I do see very clearly the remorseless cruelty of the wounds which women will inflict on men and on each other daily, just because they are not deterred by a sense of justice. Men are less emotionally compassionate than women, but men rarely stab one another with the personal stilettos of concentrated spite which women are apt to wield, and, above all, men are loth to strike a fallen enemy; whereas too many women delight in trampling on him to the last. This lack of generosity, quite distinct ethically from lack of charity, is made up of equal parts of weakness and injustice, and can be eradicated only by a method of training which shall make strength and justice part of the normal religious education of women.
Once more, a most common result of the false system on which we have been working, is a lower standard of truthfulness amongst women than amongst men. It is not so much deliberate and conscious mendacity—though even in that department an accomplished female impostor is far the superior of men—as small social hypocrisies, continual in [16/17] accuracy, and a marked tendency to exaggeration. The two latter faults are common to most children, a fact which at once points to imperfect training as their source, and the former is a result of the physical weakness and social inferiority which have put women for so many centuries under the feet of men. It may be laid down as an axiom, that although freemen do not always speak truth, slaves, and the subjects of a despotism, always tell lies. Our social laws, though now much ameliorated, have yet been based hitherto on two theories—that marriage is the normal and highest vocation of women, and that the normal and highest vocation of marriage is that the wife should please her husband. I am perfectly ready to concede the large element of truth which blends with these commonplaces, but I am justified in pointing out that continual submissiveness to external authority is incompatible with perfect veracity, as the temptation to say not what is the truest thing, but what is the most conciliating thing, will be almost insuperable, as it will be always present. I can cite no better example than the bated breath and dexterous ambiguities with which almost alone the great French preachers of two hundred years ago, men of undoubted piety, zeal, and courage, ventured to glance at the notorious vices and crimes of Louis XIV.
That part of untruthfulness which is moral, and comes from cowardice, must be dealt with morally, and by the removal of the disabilities which now exist, that is, by giving ampler protection from marital ill-usage, physical or mental, [17/18] to women than they now enjoy, so as to implant in them the virtues of freedom along with its status; but the part which is merely intellectual, and arising from shallowness of training, can be met by advocating more exact studies, and greater precision in those studies, than has been usual for women hitherto, and by making war on the mere superficiality of accomplishment now popular, which may be defined as the art of teaching a little of a great many things as badly as possible.
I cannot enter on a very wide branch of the subject which suggests itself here, further than by pointing out that a habit of accurate thought and statement, formed by wisely chosen pursuits, would deal a formidable blow to the excesses of gossip. Wherever there is little society, small scope for activity, and a narrow range of intellectual thought, gossip will always prevail; but the sting may be taken out of it by accustoming people to say no more than what they have actually seen or heard, instead of varying and enlarging the details at each repetition of the story.
Yet another particular in which women often jar against the sensitive nerves of men, is their want of liberality, not in its higher sense of comprehensive sympathy—though that, too, is a true count of the indictment—but in that of fairness and open-handedness in money matters. Let us be just. In a very large proportion of households the division of labour is extremely simple; the husband earns the income, and commits the whole charge of its judicious [18/19] disbursement to the wife. It is her business to make both ends meet, and if possible to secure some surplus for relaxations and emergencies, and the whole blame of failure in the discharge of this task, often a most difficult one, lies on her shoulders. Hence she is continually liable to the charge of stinginess, when she is merely exercising an absolutely necessary economy, and avoiding the criminal gulf of debt. But I am not dealing with such cases, which deserve respectful admiration instead of censure. The fault I desire to point out is the determination to have a thing without giving a fair price for it. The disposition which says, "Such an article is too costly for my means, and I must go without it," is upright and commendable, though it may sometimes be pushed to the extreme of blameable parsimony; but the temper which resolves on having the thing by means of stinting others of their due—that is, by "bargain-hunting," —is utterly mean and contemptible. Partly, no doubt, it grows out of the inactive lives led by too many women, which make them incapable of understanding the value of labour, especially of skilled labour, and of time. To be sure, one would think that a single dressmaker's bill would be sufficient to teach them the economic distinction between charges for material and for manual industry, but, as a fact, they do not realise the latter as being a just integer of cost, and therefore constantly try to get articles at a price below that of the raw material of manufacture. But scientific ignorance counts for only a small part of this [19/20] widespread defect, and the chief blame is moral, and comes back to the imperfect sense of justice amongst women, of which I have already spoken. And consequently the censure must deservedly be transferred to religious teachers, who, holding theoretically that justice is one of the cardinal virtues, take no pains whatever to recommend or inculcate it.
I look in vain for any instruction, in the pulpit or in most books of spiritual reading, which deals with such feminine defects as those which I have been discussing. Tirades against dress have been as common as ineffectual in ancient and modern homiletics; ineffectual because directed partly against a natural instinct, which should be guided rather than anathematized, and partly against that very wish to be attractive in the eyes of men, which the reverend orators themselves continually uphold and enforce from another point of view.
But of any clear and steady effort, to cultivate the faculty of spiritual apprehension in women, to lift them to the conception of the Godlike ideal of which I have spoken, to educate their conscience into healthy candour and decisiveness—not into morbid scrupulousness or hysteric susceptibility, which are common lessons—small trace is visible to my eyes in modern religious teaching, of whatever school. And therefore the grave faults of character I have described, and some more yet to be mentioned, owe their rankness and profusion, if not their first sowing, to the neglect or ineptitude of religious teachers.
 There is no conceivable reason, either in the nature of Christianity, in the faculties of women, or in the past history of our race, why this state of things should continue.
It is true that we are met at the outset by two great and universal facts by which the whole subject is conditioned. Women are much inferior to men in physical strength, and even this weaker force is severely enfeebled by the suffering and exhaustion consequent on bearing and nourishing children. The abstention from many forms of labour caused by the former peculiarity, and the domesticity enforced for long periods together by the latter, have inevitably qualified the dispositions and capacities of women. Whether there be a sex of souls as well as of bodies is an inquiry for which we do not possess adequate data, because we have never been able to consider the soul apart from the body which conditions it. But the practical result, whether due to inherent distinctions, to immemorial custom, or to natural selection, is that a sufficiently marked difference will invariably be noted in the intellectual methods of boys and girls of equal capacities, and educated together in the same subjects, after they reach the age of adolescence. It does not at all follow that they will be unequal, but they will certainly be unlike, and the qualities which will be usually more developed in the cultivated woman than in the man of similar training are as follows:—Her apprehension will, for the most part, be quicker. She will have, as [21/22] a rule, surer and swifter insight into character. She will be far more mobile than men, less tied down by precedent (despite what has been said above touching the cultus of Mrs. Grundy), and more capable of rapidly assimilating the essence of new matter. She will reach, by instantaneous intuition, conclusions at which men painfully arrive by the slower, though fuller, process of reasoning, like a diligence bringing newspapers to a town many hours after their most interesting contents have been flashed along the telegraph wires, and become the common talk of the streets. Her bent is entirely to the practical, to details, to individuals. She rarely, to use Mr. J. S. Mill's phrase, "runs wild after an abstraction," and by thus insisting on bringing everything to the test of concrete applicability, she serves as the best check in the world on mere vague and unprofitable speculation. Added to all this, her self-forgetfulness, her simplicity where she has not been artificially spoiled, her faculty of enthusiasm, and her frequent intensity of purpose, blend in such marvellous beauty and luxuriance, that one cannot help getting in a rage with the besotted folly and superstition that would crush this wonderfully varied creature into a mere mass of limp affectionateness or hysteric sentimentalism, according as the domestic or devotional ideal is uppermost; and teach her to lead, in Miss Thackeray's forcible language, “existences unutterably dull, commonplace, respectable, stinted, ugly, and useless."
The complexities of life in the present day, moreover, [22/23] which make marriage, regarded as a profession, a matter of increasing difficulty, and which further intensify this difficulty by bringing about the marked disproportion of numbers which exists between the adult sexes in England, and the spread of a temper of practical philanthropy amongst women, denoted alike by their share in Social Science Congresses on the one hand, and their attraction towards Sisterhoods on the other, are sufficient to show the most careless observer that the time is past, if it were ever present, for treating religion as an agency for turning women into devout simpletons. If one set of influences is at work which compels an increasing number of women to shift for themselves, instead of looking to husbands to maintain them, and another set is forcing very many of these women into the vast field of practical amelioration of the evils of society (but not towards Borrioboola Gha, by any means), it is clear that for both these functions we shall more and more need what the Americans call “facultized" women. Not merely capable women, educated women, clever women, but such as have had capacity trained into practical efficiency and decisiveness; like the noble portrait in the last chapter of the Book of Proverbs.
The career of the individual woman becomes steadily more difficult to predict, and it no longer suffices to give her the special instruction which may fit her for occupying one lot in life, with the prospect of another, not as a voluntary [23/24] alternative, but as a mere refuge in case of failure in the first venture. The aim of all education, and especially of religious education, should be the general development of all the faculties in due proportion, so that any one or any set of them may be fitted to receive subsequent special training, according to the particular work which has to be done. That is, in a word, it ought to have the same relation to the separate concerns of life as a University course bears to that of a technical school.
In this wise, preparation will be made for any event, and the drawbacks of vacuity and frivolity, by which so many feminine minds are laid waste, can be held in permanent check, which is a more important step for the elevation of women than even the opening of professions (especially that of medicine) or the bestowal of the right of suffrage.
For the ethical value of religious training (even leaving out of sight the doctrine of future rewards and punishments) consists in lifting life up into a higher plane and a purer atmosphere, and in producing a keener sympathy than mere secular culture can give, that "sweetness" which ought to be found with the “light." And most of the advocates of fundamental changes in the social and legal position of women will readily allow that the higher mental elevation to which they look forward as a result of greater personal freedom to the weaker sex, is of far more value in their eyes than the possible economic gain which might come of the redistribution of employment. Consequently, it is quite worth [24/25] while to achieve, if possible, this desirable end without the cost of great social disturbances; and it seems to me that it is in a great degree feasible by falling back on the original theories of Christianity, and the actual practice which meets us at regular intervals along the course of ecclesiastical history.
It is hardly recognized, as it should be, that the condition of things which Mr. Mill has designated by the phrase "Subjection of Women" is no outgrowth of Christianity, not even an evil which Christianity tolerated, as it did slavery, with the intent of ultimately destroying it.
Lawyers, not divines, Justinian, not St. Paul, are answerable for the rehabilitation under the Gospel of the old Roman law maxim, that a woman never comes to years of discretion, but must always have a guardian, with the almost inevitable corollary that docility towards that guardian is the chief virtue she is bound to practise.
The ancient Christian Church, on the other hand, recognizing woman's separate responsibility for her actions, and having a great career for her, did not merely abolish the old invidious restrictions, so that it is a mere commonplace to remark how the position of women was ameliorated by the Gospel, but threw open to her all the stores of learning, all the methods of education, then available. Recognizing that the operation of culture is fourfold—namely, judicious development or equally judicious pruning of whatever valuable plant is found already rooted in the soil, sowing [25/26] useful things not hitherto there, and weeding out useless ones, the early teachers of Christendom did not fail to impart to women all they knew themselves, and to inculcate not merely certain dissuasive precepts, but the whole Science of Religion. They did not content themselves with stimulating the emotions, affections, and submissiveness of women into disproportionate prominence; for their psychology was far too clear-sighted to lead them into any such moral quagmire; but they did aim at strengthening them where they are weaker, in solid reflection, in breadth of view, in accuracy of reasoning, in justice of aim, in steadfastness of purpose.
It was this method which forced from the unwilling lips of the reactionary sophist Libanius the exclamation, “Ye gods of Greece! how wonderful are the Christian women!" Not to give a tedious catalogue, it will be enough to draw attention to a few salient examples.
No one, I suppose, would be other than surprised if here in England, after our twelve hundred years of Christianity, and our boasted spread of education, it were rumoured abroad that the revision of the Authorized Version of the Bible had been undertaken at the instance of women, or if the “Speaker's Commentary" were dedicated to a lady on the ground of her critical learning, or yet again, if erudite Biblical works like those of Professor Westcott or Mr. Scrivener took the form of correspondence with the inmates of a modern Sisterhood.
 Yet all this does but describe the literary relation which St. Jerome, the greatest Biblical critic of his day, and amongst the greatest of all time, held towards several of his female contemporaries, while he was engaged on his famous translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Latin. Marcella, Principia, Paula, Eustochium, Fretella, are some of the most eminent in this distinguished group, while a Macrina, an Anthusa, and an Olympia, almost at the same time, illustrated the Eastern half of the Church with their abilities and learning.
We may pass through the troubled era of the crash of the Roman Empire, without finding any change of principle in this respect. No places would seem less favourably situated for the cultivation of educated refinement than the barbarian courts of the fierce kinglets who parted Gaul and Britain amongst them, and we should not look for much trace of erudition even in the cloister.
Yet amongst the Frankish queens we find the names of a Radegund and a Batildis, distinguished for attainments which are of the rarest amongst women of rank even in our own day, and under Dagobert, St. Gertrude the Great made a translation of the Scriptures from the Greek. Lioba of Bischofsheim; Hrotswitha, in the darkest era of all, the miserable tenth century, issuing her Christian dramas in Terentian Latin from her German convent; our English Hilda, two centuries earlier, sitting beside Bishops and Ealdormen in council, and listened to by them with [27/28] deferential respect; the Duchess Hedwig of Swabia, who introduced the study of Greek at the Abbey of St. Gall, all illustrate the annals of female Christianity.
It is possible, despite the express testimony which we have as to the attainments of these ladies and of many of their successors down to the date of the Renaissance, that objectors may reply that all that is hereby established is the general ignorance which could make marvels of their moderate acquirements. Still, the important fact is that the devout women named, rose not merely far above the average of their own sex, but above that of the educated men of their day, and that study of this advanced character was considered as perfectly befitting them, winning, as it did, admiration, and not sneers. But poor as the suggested reply is, even it is not available when we come to note the remarkable group of Frenchwomen who were eminent in the reigns of Louis XIII. and XIV. A galaxy such as Mme. de Miramion, Jacqueline Pascal, Angélique and Agnes Arnauld, Adelaide de Rochechouart-Mortemart, Jeanne Francoise de Chantal, Antoinette Bourignon, with many others of lesser note and various shades of opinion, who were thoroughly able to hold their own in capacity and acquirements against the able men of that epoch, is sufficient to prove that no necessary connection between piety and imbecility was then held to exist.
It is only too evident that the method of religious culture which is now dominant, leaves out two of the most [28/29] important operations. It prunes and weeds, it does not sow and develop. It aims at repression, not at evolution; at making women resigned and even content in one plane, not at raising them into a higher one. And its teachers have abundant clap-traps ready in defence of their system.
Perhaps the commonest of all these is that an enlarged and scientific instruction in theology would make women dogmatic, conceited, self-asserting.
If that be true, if the deeper pursuit of any subject does bring such results in its train, then that subject ought to be laid aside altogether, even by men, as morally hurtful, and its very rudiments be abandoned as being but the key to mischief. But it is not true. What may fairly enough be said is, that if we make such training rare and exceptional, then the few who possess it will be likely to look down on the many who do not; but by making it a common thing, it will form no such ground of superiority, and will rather tend to encourage modesty, by teaching very many people how unspeakably the unknown exceeds the known, which is exactly the notion impossible for a dunce to take in. Men say, frequently enough, that they dislike "strongminded" women. As a rule, such women are somewhat less disagreeable and incomparably less mischievous than weak-minded ones, whose stupidity is accountable for many of the ills of life. And it should be remembered that the, few women whose eccentric and unsuccessful imitation of [29/30] men has discredited in part the elevation of their sex, are merely the outcome of revolt and transition, and will disappear with the readjustment of social laws. Just so, conversely, when the current training of men aimed at coarsening and hardening them, the first male revolters against drinking, swearing, duelling, and the like, carried their reaction into effeminacy, and were denounced as "milksops" by their hardier rivals. But with the general softening of manners the “exquisite" vanished, and so will the shrewish Ecclesiazusa disappear when women are educated, and religiously educated. If Religion be worth teaching at all, it is worth teaching fully and accurately, just because it is so many-sided, and adaptable to a very much larger variety of temperaments and circumstances than any other study, covering as it does an area which embraces intellects of all calibres, and operations of all kinds.
Those who believe that women can be safely kept in a condition of perpetual pupilage at the primer of their creed, forget certain sufficiently obvious facts, the chief of which is, that such of them as become wives and mothers will be unable to retain the intellectual respect of their husbands or to influence the mental bias of their sons, so that all the masculine forces which have learnt to contemn religion as put before them in their own families, will scarcely be inclined to give it a fair hearing elsewhere.
Nay, when men come to church, they hear for the most [30/31] part sermons written from the woman's lowered point of view, and practically addressed to women only; appealing to the emotions, the affections, to love of order and regularity, to submission to authority, but rarely rising into cogent argument, or inculcating broad and lofty views of life and duty. The preachers have brought the weariness and disdain that ensue upon themselves, by making the women whom they influence toys and automata, and then being reacted on by the very natures they have cramped, till their own powers and horizon dwindle too.
In the boot and shoe trade, which has very many subdivisions of labour, there are two great classifications, under which all the others are grouped. They are "Mensmen" and "Womensmen." The same distinction would exactly serve as a mode of division between the teachers of religion, with the unfortunate addition that the "womensmen" are not only in the incalculable majority, but do the work in a fashion which is good neither for their clients nor themselves.
One of the most ardent female champions of women's rights has said that it is high time that the woman's side of religion should be heard from the pulpit, that men have too long had the monopoly, and have set the masculine aspect of Christianity too exclusively and persistently forward.
Begging the lady's pardon, I cannot but think that the exact contrary is the truth. To me, judging from the sermons I have heard and read, and the devotional books I [31/32] have examined, it is precisely the feminine way of regarding theology, and not the masculine, which is in the ascendant amongst us. Preachers have acted, consciously or unconsciously, on the principle that there is no use in trying to influence men, and that it is better to devote their energies to women, as they now are, and the policy has 'of course ended in creating the premises from which it apparently started. No doubt there are exceptions, numerous and brilliant, but nevertheless the broad fact is that a negative and unprogressive faith is usually taught, and that by all schools alike. The shibboleths may vary in accent, but they are all pitched in the treble clef, and one does long for the mighty bass of a masculine theology, an Augustine, a Vieyra, a Du Bosc, a Saurin, a Brydaine, a South, a Lacordaire, to give weight and massiveness to the thin and reedy utterances which High Church, Broad Church, and Low Church, conspire to emit.
What then are the elements lacking? Mgr. Dupanloup, speaking for France, alleges that what he misses is any notion on the part of women of the sacredness and dignity of work, whether physical or mental, and he complains that Frenchwomen of the higher classes are consequently frivolous in body and soul, that they will not labour or think themselves, that they try, whenever they can, to withdraw their husbands from active life, and to make marriage the beginning of a perennial holiday, spent in aimless conventionalities, even when the strict prohibitive code [32/33] learnt in the convent has been able to maintain itself sufficiently to produce regularity in the externals of religion and abstention from things absolutely wrong in themselves, which is by no means always the case.
Now, although the social tone of England is so far different from that of France, that a wife who would strive to make her husband sell out of the army, retire from the commission of the peace, withdraw from Parliament, quit the bar, or the like, is probably a rare exception, yet there are two facts which we must allow for, and that considerably, before we can begin to feel complacent about ourselves.
One of these facts is, that there is a very much wider and higher average of social and business capacity found amongst French-women than amongst English-women. They are better hostesses, better shopwomen, better housekeepers, better partners in commercial ventures, as a rule, than women amongst us. The other contrast was more forcible a few years ago than it now is; I mean that the Roman Catholic system alone opened out to unmarried women a sphere of useful activity, either in the Common Life, or as independent workers, from which they were long cut off by the habits of Protestantism, which is as completely the religion of isolation as the other is of association. Therefore, an old maid with no interests and nothing to do, was, and even still is, a much rarer sight in France than in England. These things being so, what would Mgr. Dupanloup [33/34] say of our teaching? Would he not complain, and justly, that passive blamelessness, leading to spiritual atrophy, was completely our feminine ideal, whereas we might have learnt from our Baptismal formula that women, no less than men, are the soldiers of Christ, and must advance through conflict to victory?
And if they are to be soldiers, they must be trained. In a supreme strife like that with evil, it will never do to trust to merely undisciplined valour, and women with prayer-books are the correlatives, in the defence of Mansoul, of the “men with muskets," whom Bismarck and Von Moltke refused to recognize as constituting an army fit to take the field. Rather they must, like Pompilia,
Rise from law to law,
The old to the new, promoted at one cry
O' the trump of God to the new service, not
To longer bear, but henceforth fight—be found
Sublime in new impatience with the foe:
Endure man and obey God.
Culture is needed, in order to make religion interpenetrate the whole life, and not merely ruffle the surface of emotion, it is needed as a safeguard against the coarse, yet subtle, materialism that is now following, as it always has followed, on the steps of an indeterminate and undogmatic creed, on views which (to cite a phrase used by another writer on a political question) "call themselves broad, when they are only vague and unconscientious." [34/35] This materialistic theory of life has been much stimulated by the great accumulation and imperfect distribution of national wealth, so that
Plain living and high thinking are no more;
The homely beauty of the good old cause
Is gone; our peace, our fearful innocence,
And pure religion breathing household laws.
So far, then, as the idleness of which the Bishop of Orleans speaks refers to delight in mere physical enjoyment, and eagerness to avoid anything which may interfere with ease and comfort, we are, to say the least, just as liable to its influence as the French, and need the bracing air of "plain living and high thinking" to counteract its debilitating influence. It is the union of these in Sisterhood life, more than any specific dogmas, which makes it so attractive to many women now, the absolute contrast it affords with all that has palled and cloyed them in the luxurious habits of the prosperous classes. There is the plain living, no doubt, but there is not always the high thinking, the effort to lift all the minds within each community to the highest level of which they are capable. On the contrary, there is too often an effort visible to make the rule, by its fixed provisions, and the devotions, by their stated recurrence, do the work of living guides, and thus a formal pietism is apt to be engendered, instead of a seeking, active, and ascending faith. One fact, familiar to all who know the working of Anglican Sisterhoods, is, that [35/36] women of the humbler class rarely assimilate the system. It needs a certain degree of cultivation to exercise full self-control, to develop a high standard of conscientiousness, to practise the salutary habit of meditation, to exhibit any steady fervour of devotion; and the failures in perseverance amongst candidates of the lower social grade very much exceed proportionally those of the more educated. This is not the case to so great an extent amongst Roman Catholics, because the conventual ideal is so thoroughly familiar to all their women from childhood; but with them, as with us, ladies make the best Sisters. Now, the obvious corollary from this circumstance is, that if education makes such a difference to begin with, it will make as great a difference to go on with; and that by raising the lady's mind and spirit to the nth power, we shall make her as much more effective and happy than she now is, as she already is than the peasant or servant-woman who is trying the life beside her. Yet, as a fact, there is little pains devoted to this task; so that we might imagine that the reflection that the Person in Whose honour these communities are formed, and Whose pattern they are exhorted to imitate, is, in Christian theology, the Eternal Wisdom of God, and cannot be much resembled by artificially reared imbeciles, never strikes some of His votaries; albeit there is a pregnant saying of an ancient Christian writer: "Religion cannot be separated from Wisdom, nor Wisdom from Religion, for it is one and the same God Who ought to be [36/37] understood, which is Wisdom, and honoured, which is Religion." [Lactantius, Div. Inst. iv, 4.]
If we omit this consideration, and look merely to practical issues, we do not avoid the same conclusion. For the enormous majority of Religious Houses founded during the last two hundred years are those of Active Orders. The Contemplative ones, and especially those which, like the Poor Clares and the Vive Sepolte, exist mainly for the practice of severe austerities, have been so far discouraged by the Church of Rome that they are merely suffered to continue, and are not much propagated or multiplied. Now in Active Orders, more than anywhere else, “facultized" women are a paramount necessity. It is moderately easy to get devout, kindly women, who will do what they are bid; it is a matter of the very greatest difficulty to get women capable of taking the headship of any offshoot of the main work, or of supplying an important post on an emergency.
Take the average inmate of a Sisterhood out of her routine, put her in a new combination of circumstances, and she is at sea, and may very likely wreck herself and her charge, from sheer incapacity and indecision. She has been used to be merely a wheel in a regular machine, and has no idea how to act if separated from the cogs on each side of her.
It is clear that practical wisdom will dictate such a method [37/38] of training as would fit the largest number possible for the task of independent rule, and that involves a far wider and more accurate range than is usually attempted. Unless I am misinformed, the Roman Catholic authorities in this country found it necessary to import Sisters from Germany, France, and Belgium, to take charge of several charitable institutions in London and elsewhere, because the English members of the communities were simply "feckless," and had no idea of organisation or of economy, though they left nothing to be desired in goodwill and kindliness. There can be no doubt that narrow and routine training must be even more fatal to high spirituality, which needs spacious clear air to breathe in, than to practical helpfulness; but the evils of mechanical formalism and of over-direction do not appear to be as widely understood and avoided as is to be wished. Mr. Mill has said, truly enough, that by far the greater part of the outcry against clerical influence over women has no more respectable source than the unwillingness of husbands to allow any corrective to their own tyranny to exist. But there is a perfectly valid objection against its misuse, of which no persons are more fully aware than the higher stamp of ecclesiastics themselves. That misuse is over-direction, or the habit which many women, encouraged by many religious teachers of many denominations, yield to, of making over their whole conscience and freewill to a spiritual adviser, never so much as attempting to judge for themselves in the simplest issue of right and [38/39] wrong, and substituting a minute and servile compliance with the advice of the chosen counsellor for all the Christian graces. It is only bare justice to the memory of Dr. Faber to say that he utters some wholesome truths on this head in one of his works, “Growth in Holiness." But his warnings would have been unnecessary if the error of treating mere submission to authority, irrespective of the nature of the claims made by authority, as a primary grace and virtue, instead of being too often a treason against conscience, had not been far too current amongst his co-religionists.
If the failure of popular theology in France be, as the Bishop of Orleans alleges, that it does not teach women that piety ought never to be parted from work, its failure in England seems to be its neglect of ideality.
It may run very counter to current notions, but I confess that the defect which strikes me most in women is their lack of imagination.
Of fancy they have a superabundance, as they often have of wit, but of imagination, with its creative power, and its abstract pictures, they have, I think, as a rule, no more than they have of humour. And yet it is just imagination which is needed to take them out of that absorption in detail which, with all its obvious utility, tends to pettiness, and to frittering away the faculties on insignificant minutim, to the exclusion of comprehensive views. The Scriptures, with their vivid portraiture, high-wrought imagery, and transcendent poetry, ought to serve, by their habitual perusal [39/40] amongst us, to a degree almost indefinitely great, to counteract this prosaic bent, and to fill with lofty ideas minds which scarcely ever come in contact with good secular literature. There is thus a basis to build On from which great things might be expected from women; but, from the lack of scientific instruction, they have done almost nothing of permanent value in this direction; and, so far as I know, only two women, both of them saints of the Roman Kalendar, have permanently enlarged the domain of religious thought; to wit, Catharine of Genoa and Teresa of Avila, an Italian and a Spaniard.
We should not better ourselves, nor achieve the desired elevation of women, by rushing into the opposite extreme, and adopting Comte's apotheosis of women as the “self-constituted priestesses of humanity," with the special, though somewhat incompatible, function of receiving, instead of offering, the worship of men to the Idea of their race.
Their divinity, according to this code, is to prove itself by supreme calm and perfect inactivity, by complete withdrawal from all the cares and anxieties of life, burdens to be borne entirely by men henceforward, who are to adore, in default of a visible concentration of humanity, women as vice-deities, but not because they are wiser, stronger, higher than men, since every pains is to be taken, by secluding them, in more than Oriental fashion, from all public duties, and all private ones also, save the inevitable one of maternity, to make their existence an entire blank, with perhaps [40/41] an occasional exception in favour of—not a Monica, not a Clara, not a Joan d'Arc, not an Elizabeth Barrett Browning, not a Mary Somerville, not a Florence Nightingale, but—a Clotilde de Vaux! And we may not unreasonably doubt whether the most enthusiastic Positivists in England are prepared to accept that ideal as a pattern for their sisters, daughters, or wives.
No; women may, if they please, cede their rights, though it is better for themselves and for men that they should not, but they may not abandon their duty; and that duty is, precisely as with men, to be of use in their generation, with a varied and beautiful usefulness, not narrowed to one or two types, but as diverse as the temperaments and circumstances of mankind.
Every woman is, or ought to be, a cathedral,
Built on the ancient plan—a cathedral pure and perfect—
Built by that only law, that Use be suggester of Beauty;
Nothing concealed that is done, but all things done to adornment;
Meanest utilities seized as occasions to grace and embellish.
The direct and practical benefit to women themselves in raising their ideal of life is that they would thereby be delivered from the aimlessness which is now so often their curse, from the total incapacity they seem frequently under of understanding that time is life, and life a trust. And the one special matter in which, as I think, religion chiefly fails to do its duty by women is in teaching them true and lofty notions of love and marriage.
 We are apt to pride ourselves on the freedom of choice given to young persons amongst us—though, if we would be honest, we should confess many unacknowledged restrictions—and to contrast it with the family compacts of the Continent, wherein the principals have little or no voice. But it would be rank catachresis to call the motives which lead to the average wedding by the sacred name of love. Idleness, propinquity, vanity, desire for an establishment—a motive just as strong with a maid-of-all-work as with a duke's daughter—entanglements in flirtation carried further than either party intended, and the like, account for a great many matches; and it is not easy to see how they stand on a higher level than the avowed marriage of convenience, when the parents on both sides have really tried to do their best for their children.
Till we get rid of the peculiarly English notion that the domestic ideal is the highest—a notion, I may observe, never countenanced for so much as a moment by Christian theology—we shall not free ourselves of the error of bringing all girls up with the view that they are to try to get married, and that it is not only a misfortune, but in some sense a disgrace, to miss that career. We do not so deal with men, and yet people might remember that in monogamous countries every married woman connotes a married man. But the man has not been trained all his early years in the notion that his one duty in life is "to range himself," and to make himself so agreeable to women by his courtesy [42/43] and assiduity as to run no risk of a refusal when he proposes, although there is no obvious reason why he should not be so taught, if the converse training be good for women.
The result of this custom is the generation of a low, debased, and sometimes, though not necessarily, vicious, tone in treating of the relations of the sexes, the commonest symptoms of which are the jokes, always small and stupid, and often coarse, which are habitual in speaking of or to persons likely to become engaged or married. If Mgr. Dupanloup disapproves of the frivolous result of even the strict supervision and training of girls in French convents, I wonder what he would say of the idle chatter about sweethearts and love-letters, about marriages and establishments, which makes the chief leisure employment of girls in English boarding-schools! But when we reflect that, with the rarest exceptions, the instruction given in these boarding-schools is but the thinnest veneer of accomplishments, a little ungrammatical jabber of two or three languages, with no idea of their literature; a little bad strumming on two or three instruments, with no counterpoint; a little scratching and daubing, with no theory of perspective or colour; and all this with the nearly openly avowed design of fitting the pupils for the marriage-market—is it wonderful that they should discuss in recreation-time the subject which is the underlying aim of the hours of so-called study?
 Religion ought to step in here—its present place and influence in boarding-schools is peculiar, and would deserve an essay to itself—and teach young women a nobler and more comprehensive theory of life. It should impress them from the first with the conviction that they will certainly have duties to perform towards God and society, and only possibly have to discharge them for a husband, so that the certain duties should be taken into account before the contingent ones. And as regards marriage itself, higher views of the nature, responsibilities, and privileges of the contract than are at all current, are sorely needed. Even were the wedding-day itself less a time of flurry and excitement, the Anglican marriage-office, recast in a coarse and tyrannical age, and inferior in tone to the earlier rite which it displaced, is hardly calculated to remedy the defects of home instruction. Here, then, is a subject on which preachers ought to speak frankly and often; and if they guess or know, as they ought to do, what is the received doctrine on these subjects amidst the whole lower-middle and poorer classes, to say nothing of the higher, they cannot but recognize the necessity. The members of the celibate priesthood of the Latin Church may, perhaps, believe themselves interdicted from treating questions of this sort in the pulpit, but a married clergy ought to be outspoken about them, if wives are indeed to be helpmates to their husbands, and not, as too often, clogs [44/45] and drags on them, or, as it is somewhat bluntly put in an old ballad:
Her oxen may dye in the house, Willie,
And her lye into the byre;
And I sail hae nothing to mysel
Bot a fat fadge by the fyre.
It is easy to point out defects and abuses—there is nothing more difficult than to find practical remedies. I dare not, therefore, say more of the brief suggestions I now proceed to make than that they may, even by their very errors, help wiser thinkers to calculate the forces necessary to overcome the present inertness of woman's religious life. The order is merely arbitrary, and does not imply regular sequence.
First, She should be taught her direct personal responsibility, and the impossibility of shifting this off upon any person or system exterior to herself
Secondly, The methodization of time, as a religious duty, to prevent waste of powers and opportunities for good.
Thirdly, Concentration of religious aim. I mean setting her belief to do definite work, instead of using it as an emotional safety valve to let off steam.
Fourthly, She should be taught her creed, whatever it may be, thoroughly, and hear not merely its statements, but the reasons for these statements, and (this is most important) the function each such statement [45/46] has to discharge in affecting spiritual or practical religion. But care ought to be taken not to overload her memory, lest her faculty of spontaneous intuition, which is of greater value, should suffer in the process.
Fifthly, The doctrine of Rights, the due appreciation of which we call Justice; and the doctrine of Duties, which is its correlative.
Sixthly, The necessity of variety and progress in religion; that is, that while the articles of belief are the same for all, their aspects and application should not be restricted to one rigid type, but be modified according to individual needs and capacities; and that all believers should strive after a higher spirituality and efficiency than they feel themselves to have attained at any given time.
Seventhly, Two maxims very necessary for these times, that as doubt does not necessarily denote strength or impartiality, so neither does vehement assertion involve certainty or principle.
Lastly, The need of a combination of the Divine and Human in every perfect work on earth, or, in the language of Christian theology, the union of grace and free-will in holiness.
It will be readily seen that I might have translated these formula into equivalent terms. of my own belief, but I prefer to show that the principles for which I contend are universally applicable within the limits of Christianity and all forms of religious opinion which [46/47] have consciously borrowed therefrom. I am satisfied that the highest results are attainable only in the atmosphere of a purified Catholicism, but it seems true that great amelioration can be secured under other conditions, if religious teachers will cast aside the despotic notions of Pagan jurists, and, taking a broader and more genial view, accost woman in the language of one of the most gifted women our time or any time has seen:
Henceforward, rise, aspire
To all the calms and magnanimities,
The lofty uses and the noble ends,
The sanctified devotion and full work,
To which thou art elect for evermore.