A Woman of the World
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Charles Aldarondo, Joris Van Dael and PG Distributed
A Woman of the World
HER COUNSEL TO OTHER PEOPLE'S SONS AND DAUGHTERS
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Fourth Impression, April, 1910
TO MR. RAY GILBERT, _Law Student, Aged Twenty-three_
TO MISS WINIFRED CLAYBORNE, _At Vassar College_
TO EDNA GORDON, _During Her Honeymoon_
TO MISS GLADYS WESTON, _Who Faces the Necessity to Earn a Living_
TO CLARENCE ST. CLAIRE, _Regarding His Sister's Betrothal_
TO MISS MARGARET RILEY, _Shop Girl, Concerning Her Oppressors_
TO MISS GLADYS WESTON, _After Three Years as a Teacher_
TO A YOUNG FRIEND, _Who Has Become Interested in the Metaphysical
Thoughts of the Day_
TO WILFRED CLAYBORN, _Concerning His Education and His Profession_
TO MISS ELSIE DEAN, _Regarding the Habit of Exaggeration_
TO SYBYL MARCHMONT, _Who Has Learned Her Origin_
TO MISS DIANA RIVERS, _A Young Lady Contemplating a Career as a
TO NANETTE, _A Former Maid_
TO THE REV. WILTON MARSH, _Regarding His Son and Daughter_
TO MRS. CHARLES MCALLISTER, _Formerly Miss Winifred Clayborne_
TO MRS. CHARLES GORDON, _Concerning Maternity_
TO MR. ALFRED DUNCAN, _Concerning the Ministry_
TO MR. CHARLES GRAY, _Concerning Polygamy_
TO WALTER SMEED, _Concerning Creeds and Marriage_
TO SYBYL MARCHMONT, _Concerning Her Determination to Remain Single_
TO MRS. CHARLES GORDON, _Concerning Her Sister and Her Children_
TO MRS. CHARLES GORDON, _Concerning Her Children_
TO Miss ZOE CLAYBORN, ARTIST, _Concerning the Attentions of Married Men_
TO MR. CHARLES GORDON, _Concerning the Jealousy of His Wife After Seven
Years of Married Life_
TO MRS. CLARENCE ST. CLAIRE, _Concerning Her Husband_
TO YOUNG MRS. DUNCAN, _Regarding Mothers-in-Law._
TO A YOUNG MAN, _Ambitious for Literary Honours_
TO MRS. MCALLISTER, _Concerning Her Little Girl_
TO MR. RAY GILBERT, _Attorney at Law, Aged Thirty_
TO THE SISTER OF A GREAT BEAUTY
TO MRS. WHITE PEAK, _One of the Pillars of Respectable Society_
TO MARIA OWENS, _A New Woman Contemplating Marriage_
TO MRS. ST. CLAIRE, _The Young Divorcee_
TO MISS JESSIE HARCOURT, _Regarding Her Marriage with a Poor Young Man_
TO MISS JANE CARTER, _Of the W.C.T.U_
To Mr. Ray Gilbert
_Late Student, Aged Twenty-three_
Were you an older man, my dear Ray, your letter would be consigned to
the flames unanswered, and our friendship would become constrained and
formal, if it did not end utterly. But knowing you to be so many years
my junior, and so slightly acquainted with yourself or womankind, I am
going to be the friend you need, instead of the misfortune you invite.
I will not say that your letter was a complete surprise to me. It is
seldom a woman is so unsophisticated in the ways of men that she is not
aware when friendship passes the borderline and trespasses on the domain
I realized on the last two occasions we met that you were not quite
normal. The first was at Mrs. Hanover's dinner; and I attributed some
indiscreet words and actions on your part to the very old Burgundy
served to a very young man.
Since the memory of mortal, Bacchus has been a confederate of Cupid, and
the victims of the former have a period (though brief indeed) of
believing themselves slaves to the latter.
As I chanced to be your right-hand neighbour at that very merry board,
where wit, wisdom, and beauty combined to condense hours into minutes, I
considered it a mere accident that you gave yourself to me with somewhat
marked devotion. Had I been any other one of the ladies present, it
would have been the same, I thought. Our next and last encounter,
however, set me thinking.
It was fully a week later, and that most unromantic portion of the day,
between breakfast and luncheon.
It was a Bagby recital, and you sought me out as I was listening to the
music, and caused me to leave before the programme was half done. You
were no longer under the dominion of Bacchus, though Euterpe may have
taken his task upon herself, as she often does, and your manner and
expression of countenance troubled me.
I happen to be a woman whose heart life is absolutely complete. I have
realized my dreams, and have no least desire to turn them into
nightmares. I like original roles, too, and that of the really happy
wife is less hackneyed than the part of the "misunderstood woman." And I
find greater enjoyment in the steady flame of one lamp than in the
flaring light of many candles.
I have taken a good deal of pride in keeping my lamp well trimmed and
brightly burning, and I was startled and offended at the idea of any man
coming so near he imagined he might blow out the light.
Your letter, however, makes me more sorry than angry.
You are passing through a phase of experience which comes to almost
every youth, between sixteen and twenty-four.
Your affectional and romantic nature is blossoming out, and you are in
that transition period where an older woman appeals to you.
Being crude and unformed yourself, the mature and ripened mind and body
A very young man is fascinated by an older woman's charms, just as a
very old man is drawn to a girl in her teens.
This is according to the law of completion, each entity seeking for what
it does not possess.
Ask any middle-aged man of your acquaintance to tell you the years of
the first woman he imagined he loved, and you will find you are
following a beaten path.
Because you are a worth while young man, with a bright future before
you, I am, as I think of the matter, glad you selected me rather than
some other less happy or considerate woman, as the object of your
An unhappy wife or an ambitious adventuress might mar your future, and
leave you with lowered ideals and blasted prospects.
You tell me in your letter that for "a day of life and love with me you
would willingly give up the world and snap your fingers in the face of
conventional society, and even face death with a laugh." It is easy for
a passionate, romantic nature to work itself into a mood where those
words are felt when written, and sometimes the mood carries a man and a
woman through the fulfilment of such assertions. But invariably
afterward comes regret, remorse, and disillusion.
No man enjoys having the world take him at his word, when he says he is
ready to give it up for the woman he loves.
He wants the woman and the world, too.
In the long run, he finds the world's respect more necessary to his
continued happiness than the woman's society.
Just recall the history of all such cases you have known, and you will
find my assertions true.
Thank your stars that I am not a reckless woman ready to take you at
your word, and thank your stars, too, that I am not a free woman who
would be foolish enough and selfish enough to harness a young husband to
a mature wife. I know you resent this reference to the difference in our
years, which may not be so marked to the observer to-day, but how would
it be ten, fifteen years from now? There are few disasters greater for
husband or wife than the marriage of a boy of twenty to a woman a dozen
years his senior. For when he reaches thirty-five, despair and misery
must almost inevitably face them both.
You must forgive me when I tell you that one sentence in your letter
caused a broad smile.
That sentence was, "Would to God I had met you when you were free to be
wooed and loved, as never man loved woman before."
Now I have been married ten years, and you are twenty-three years old!
You must blame my imagination (not my heart, which has no intention of
being cruel) for the picture presented to my mind's eye by your wish.
I saw myself in the full flower of young ladyhood, carrying at my side
an awkward lad of a dozen years, attired in knickerbockers, and
probably chewing a taffy stick, yet "wooing and loving as never man
I suppose, however, the idea in your mind was that you wished Fate had
made me of your own age, and left me free for you.
But few boys of twenty-three are capable of knowing what they want in a
life companion. Ten years from now your ideal will have changed.
You are in love with love, life, and all womankind, my dear boy, not
with me, your friend.
Put away all such ideas, and settle down to hard study and serious
ambitions, and seal this letter of yours, which I am returning with my
reply, and lay it carefully away in some safe place. Mark it to be
destroyed unopened in case of your death. But if you live, I want you to
open, re-read and burn it on the evening before your marriage to some
lovely girl, who is probably rolling a hoop to-day; and if I am living,
I want you to write and thank me for what I have said to you here. I
hardly expect you will feel like doing it now, but I can wait.
Do not write me again until that time, and when we meet, be my good
sensible friend--one I can introduce to my husband, for only such
friends do I care to know.
To Miss Winifred Clayborne
_At Vassar College_
My dear niece:--It was a pleasure to receive so long a letter from you
after almost two years of silence. It hardly seems possible that you are
eighteen years old. To have graduated from high school with such honours
that you are able to enter Vassar at so early an age is much to your
I indulged in a good-natured laugh over your request for my advice
regarding a college course. You say, "I remember that I once heard you
state that you did not believe in higher education for women, and,
therefore, I am anxious to have your opinion of this undertaking of
Now of course, my dear child, what you wish me to say is, that I am
charmed with your resolution to graduate from Vassar. You have entered
the college fully determined to take a complete course, and you surely
would not like a discouraging or disapproving letter from your auntie.
"Please give me your opinion of my course of action" always means,
"Please approve of what I am doing."
Well I _do_ approve. I always approve when a human being is carrying out
a determination, even if I am confident it is the wrong determination.
The really useful knowledge of life must come through strong
convictions. Strong convictions are usually obtained only on the pathway
of personal experience.
To argue a man out of a certain course of action rarely argues away his
own beliefs and desires in the matter. We may save him some bitter
experience in the contemplated project, but he is almost certain to find
that same bitter experience later, because he has been coerced, not
Had he gained his knowledge in the first instance, he would have escaped
the later disaster.
A college education does not seem to me the most desirable thing for a
woman, unless she intends to enter into educational pursuits as a means
of livelihood. I understand it is your intention to become a teacher,
and, therefore, you are wise to prepare yourself by a thorough
education. _Be the very best_, in whatever line of employment you enter.
Scorn any half-way achievements. Make yourself a brilliantly educated
woman, but look to it that in the effort you do not forget two other
important matters--health and sympathy. My objection to higher education
for women, which you once heard me express, is founded on the fact that
I have met many college women who were anaemic and utterly devoid of
emotion. One beautiful young girl I recall who at fourteen years of age
seemed to embody all the physical and temperamental charms possible for
womankind. Softly rounded features, vivid colouring, voluptuous curves
of form, yet delicacy and refinement in every portion of her anatomy,
she breathed love and radiated sympathy. I thought of her as the ideal
woman in embryo; and the brightness of her intellect was the finishing
touch to a perfect girlhood. I saw her again at twenty-four. She had
graduated from an American college and had taken two years in a foreign
institution of learning. She had carried away all the honours--but,
alas, the higher education had carried away all her charms of person and
of temperament. Attenuated, pallid, sharp-featured, she appeared much
older than her years, and the lovely, confiding and tender qualities of
mind, which made her so attractive to older people, had given place to
cold austerity and hypercriticism.
Men were only objects of amusement, indifference, or ridicule to her.
Sentiment she regarded as an indication of crudity, emotion as an
insignia of vulgarity. The heart was a purely physical organ, she knew
from her studies in anatomy. It was no more the seat of emotion than
the liver or lungs. The brain was the only portion of the human being
which appealed to her, and "educated" people were the only ones who
interested her, because they were capable of argument and discussion of
intellectual problems--her one source of entertainment.
Half an hour in the society of this over-trained young person left one
exhausted and disillusioned with brainy women. I beg you to pay no such
price for an education as this young girl paid. I remember you as a
robust, rosy girl, with charming manners. Your mother was concerned, on
my last visit, because I called you a pretty girl in your hearing. She
said the one effort of her life was to rear a sensible Christian
daughter with no vanity. She could not understand my point of view when
I said I should regret it if a daughter of mine was without vanity, and
that I should strive to awaken it in her. Cultivate enough vanity to
care about your personal appearance and your deportment. No amount of
education can recompense a woman for the loss of complexion, figure,
or charm. And do not let your emotional and affectional nature grow
Control your emotions, but do not crucify them.
Do not mistake frigidity for serenity, nor austerity for self-control.
Be affable, amiable, and sweet, no matter how much you know. And listen
more than you talk.
The woman who knows how to show interest is tenfold more attractive than
the woman who is for ever anxious to instruct. Learn how to call out the
best in other people, and lead them to talk of whatever most interests
them. In this way you will gain a wide knowledge of human nature, which
is the best education possible. Try and keep a little originality of
thought, which is the most difficult of all undertakings while in
college; and, if possible, be as lovable a woman when you go forth into
the world "finished" as when you entered the doors of your Alma Mater:
for to be unlovable is a far greater disaster than to be uneducated.
To Edna Gordon
_During Her Honeymoon_
I am very much flattered that you should write your first letter as Mrs.
Gordon to me. Its receipt was a surprise, as I have known you so
slightly--only when we were both guests under a friend's roof for one
I had no idea that you were noticing me particularly at that time, there
was such a merry crowd of younger people about you. How careful we
matrons should be, when in the presence of debutantes, for it seems they
are taking notes for future reference!
I am glad that my behaviour and conversation were such that you feel you
can ask me for instructions at this important period of your life. Here
is the text you have given me:
"_I want you to tell me, dear Mrs. West, how to be as happy, and loved,
and loving, after fifteen years of married life, as you are. I so dread
the waning of my honeymoon_."
And now you want me to preach you a little sermon on this text. Well, my
dear girl, I am at a disadvantage in not knowing you better, and not
knowing your husband at all.
Husbands are like invalids, each needs a special prescription, according
to his ailment.
But as all invalids can be benefited by certain sensible suggestions,
like taking simple food, and breathing and exercising properly, and
sleeping with open windows or out-of-doors, so all husbands can be aided
toward perpetual affection by the observance of some general laws, on
the part of the wife.
I am, of course, to take it for granted that you have married a man with
principles and ideals, a man who loves you and desires to make a good
husband. I know you were not so unfortunate as to possess a large amount
of property for any man to seek, and so I can rely upon the natural
supposition that you were married for love.
It might be worth your while, right now, while your husband's memory is
fresh upon the subject, to ask him what particular characteristics first
won his attention, and what caused him to select you for a life
Up to the present moment, perhaps, he has never told you any more
substantial reason for loving you than the usual lovers'
explanation--"Just because." But if you ask him to think it over, I am
sure he can give you a more explicit answer.
After you have found what qualities, habits, actions, or accomplishments
attracted him, write them down in a little book and refer to them two or
three times a year. On these occasions ask yourself if you are keeping
these attractions fresh and bright as they were in the days of
courtship. Women easily drop the things which won a man's heart, and are
unconscious that the change they bemoan began in themselves. But do not
imagine you can rest at ease after marriage with only the qualities,
and charms, and virtues, which won you a lover. To keep a husband in
love is a more serious consideration than to win a lover.
You must add year by year to your attractions.
As the deep bloom of first youth passes, you must cultivate mental and
spiritual traits which will give your face a lustre from within.
And as the mirth and fun of life drifts farther from you, and you find
the merry jest, which of old turned care into laughter, less ready on
your lip, you must cultivate a wholesome optimistic view of life, to
sustain your husband through the trials and disasters besetting most
Make one solemn resolve now, and never forget it. Say to yourself, "On
no other spot, in no other house on earth, shall my husband find a more
cheerful face, a more loving welcome, or a more restful atmosphere, than
he finds at home."
No matter what vicissitudes arise, and what complications occur, keep
that resolve. It will at least help to sustain you with a sense of
self-respect, if unhappiness from any outside source should shadow your
life. An attractive home has become a sort of platitude in speech, but
it remains a thing of vital importance, all the same, in actual life and
Think often and speak frequently to your husband of his good qualities
and of the things you most admire in him.
Sincere and judicious praise is to noble nature like spring rain and sun
to the earth. Ignore or make light of his small failings, and when you
must criticize a serious fault, do not dwell upon it. A husband and wife
should endeavour to be such good friends that kindly criticism is
accepted as an evidence of mutual love which desires the highest
attainments for its object.
But no man likes to think his wife has set about the task of making him
over, and if you have any such intention I beg you to conceal it, and go
about it slowly and with caution.
A woman who knows how to praise more readily than she knows how to
criticize, and who has the tact and skill to adapt herself to a man's
moods and to find amusement and entertainment in his whims, can lead him
away from their indulgence without his knowledge.
Such women are the real reformers of men, though they scorn the word,
and disclaim the effort.
It is well to keep a man conscious that you are a refined and
delicate-minded woman, yet do not insist upon being worshipped on a
pedestal. It tires a man's neck to be for ever gazing upward, and
statues are less agreeable companions than human beings.
If you wish to be thought spotless marble, instead of warm flesh and
blood, you should have gone into a museum, and refused marriage.
Remember God knew what He was about, when He fashioned woman to be man's
companion, mate, and mother of his children.
Respect yourself in all those capacities, and regard the fulfilment of
each duty as sacred and beautiful.
Do not thrust upon the man's mind continually the idea that you are a
vastly higher order of being than he is.
He will reach your standard much sooner if you come half-way and meet
him on the plane of common sense and human understanding. Meantime let
him never doubt your abhorrence of vulgarity, and your distaste for the
familiarity which breeds contempt.
It is a great art, when a wife knows how to attract a husband year after
year, with the allurements of the boudoir, and never to disillusion him
with the familiarities of the dressing-room.
Such women there are, who have lived with their lovers in poverty's
close quarters, and through sickness and trouble, and yet have never
brushed the bloom from the fruit of romance. But she who needs to be
told in what this art consists, would never understand, and she who
understands, need not be told.
Keep your husband certain of the fact that his attention and society is
more agreeable to you than that of any other man. But never beg for his
attentions, and do not permit him to think you are incapable of enjoying
yourself without his playing the devoted cavalier.
The moment a man feels such an attitude is compulsory, it becomes
irksome. Learn how to entertain yourself. Cling to your accomplishments
and add others. A man admires a progressive woman who keeps step with
the age. Study, and think, and read, and cultivate the art of listening.
This will make you interesting to men and women alike, and your husband
will hear you praised as an agreeable and charming woman, and that
always pleases a man, as it indicates his good taste and good luck.
Avoid giving your husband the impression that you expect a detailed
account of every moment spent away from you. Convince him that you
believe in his honour and loyalty, and that you have no desire to
control or influence his actions in any matters which do not conflict
with his self-respect or your pride.
Cultivate the society of the women he admires. There is both wisdom and
tact in such a course.
Wisdom in making an ideal a reality, and tact in avoiding any semblance
of that most unbecoming fault--jealousy.
Let him see that you have absolute faith in your own powers to hold him,
and that you respect him too much to mistake a frank admiration for an
unworthy sentiment. Do not hesitate to speak with equal frankness of the
qualities you admire in other men. Educate him in liberality and
generosity, by example.
Allow no one to criticize him in your presence, and do not discuss his
weaknesses with others. I have known wives to meet in conclaves, and
dissect husbands for an entire afternoon. And each wife seemed anxious
to pose as the most neglected and unappreciated woman of the lot. With
all the faults of the sterner sex, I never heard of such a caucus of
Take an interest in your husband's business affairs, and sympathize with
the cares and anxieties which beset him. Distract his mind with pleasant
or amusing conversation, when you find him nervous and fagged in brain
Yet do not feel that you must never indicate any trouble of your own,
for it is conducive to selfishness when a wife hides all her worries and
indispositions to listen to those of her husband. But since the
work-a-day world, outside the home, is usually filled with irritations
for a busy man, it should be a wife's desire to make his home-coming a
season of anticipation and joy.
Do not expect a husband to be happy and contented with a continuous diet
of love and sentiment and romance. He needs also much that is practical
and commonplace mingled with his mental food.
I have known an adoring young wife to irritate Cupid so he went out and
sat on the door-step, contemplating flight, by continual neglect of
There were never any matches in the receivers; when the husband wanted
one he was obliged to search the house. The newspaper he had folded and
left ready to read at leisure was used to light the fire, although an
overfilled waste-basket stood near. The towel-rack was empty just when
he wanted his bath, and his bedroom slippers were always kicked so far
under the bed that he was obliged to crawl on all fours to reach them.
Then his loving spouse was sure to want to be "cuddled" when he was
smoking his cigar and reading,--a triple occupation only possible to a
human freak, with three arms, four eyes, and two mouths.
Therefore I would urge you, my dear Edna, to mingle the practical with
the ideal, and common sense with sentiment, and tact with affection, in
your domestic life.
These general rules are all I can give to guide your barque into the
smooth, sea of marital happiness.
It is a wide sea, with many harbours and ports, and no two ships start
from exactly the same point or take exactly the same course. You will
encounter rocks and reefs, perhaps, which my boat escaped, and I have no
chart to guide you away from those rocks.
If I knew you better, and knew your husband at all, I might steer you a
little farther out of Honeymoon Bay into calm waters, and tell you how
to reef your sails, and how to tack at certain junctures of the voyage,
and with the wind in certain directions.
But if you keep your heart full of love, your mind clear of distrust,
and your lips free from faultfinding, and if you pray for guidance and
light upon your way, I am sure you cannot miss the course.
To Miss Gladys Weston
_Who Faces the Necessity to Earn a Living_
It is indeed a problem, my dear Gladys, to face stern-visaged Necessity
after walking with laughing-lipped Pleasure for twenty-two years.
What an unforeseen event that your father should sink his fortune in a
rash venture and die of remorse and discouragement scarcely six months
after you were travelling through Europe with me, and laughing at my
vain attempts to make you economize.
You have acted the noble and womanly part, in using the last dollar of
your father's property to pay his debts, and I could imagine you doing
no other way.
But now comes the need of earning a livelihood for yourself, and your
I know you have gone over the list of your accomplishments and taken
stock of all your inherited and acquired qualities. You play the piano
well, but in these days of Paderewskies and pianolas, no one wants to
employ a young girl music-teacher. You do not sing, and if you did, that
would not afford you a means of support. The best of natural voices need
a fortune spent before half a fortune can be earned.
You dance like a fairy, and swim like a mermaid, and ride like an Indian
princess, but these accomplishments are not lucrative, save in a Midway
Plaisance or a Wild West show. You are well educated and your memory is
remarkable. You have a facility in mathematics, and your knowledge of
grammar and rhetoric will, as you say, enable you to pass the
examination for a teacher in the public schools after a little brushing
up and study. Then, with the political influence of your father's old
friends, you will no doubt be able to obtain a position.
I recollect you as surpassingly skilful with the needle. I know you
once saw a charming morning gown in Paris which I persuaded you not to
buy at the absurd price asked for it, after the merchant understood we
were Americans. And I remember how you passed to another department,
purchased materials, went home to our hotel, and cut and made a
surprising imitation of the gown at one-tenth the cost.
Why have you not considered turning this talent to account? Though the
world goes to war and ruin, yet women will dress, and the need of good
seamstresses ever exists.
Go to some enterprising half-grown Western or interior Eastern town,
announce yourself in possession of all the Paris styles (as you are),
and launch out. Increase your prices gradually, and go abroad on your
savings at the end of a year, then come back with new ideas, a larger
stock, and higher prices.
You will be on the road to fortune, and can retire with a competence
before you are middle-aged. A little skill with the scissors and
needle, lots of courage and audacity, and original methods will make a
woman succeed in this line of endeavour.
But why do I not approve of the profession upon which you have almost
decided--that of teaching--you ask.
I will tell you why.
Next to motherhood, the profession of teacher in public or private
schools is the most important one on earth.
It is, in a certain sense, more responsible than that of motherhood,
since the work of poor and bad mothers must be undone by the teacher,
and where the mother has three or four children for a period of years to
influence, the teacher has hundreds continually. There are very few
perfect teachers. There are too few excellent ones. There are too many
poor ones. I do not believe you possess the requisites for the calling.
A teacher should first of all love children as a class. Their
dependence, their ignorance, their helplessness, and their unformed
characters should appeal to a woman's mind, and make her forget their
many and varied faults and irritating qualities. You like lovable,
well-bred, and interesting children, but you are utterly indifferent to
all others. You adore beauty, and an ugly child offends your taste. A
stupid child irritates you.
You have a wonderful power of acquiring and remembering information, but
you do not possess the knack of readily imparting it. You expect others
to grasp ideas in the same way you do. This will make you unsympathetic
and impatient as a teacher. You have no conception of the influence a
teacher exerts upon children in public schools. You were educated in
private schools and at home, I know. I attended the country public
school, and to this day I can recall the benefits and misfortunes which
resulted to me from association with different teachers. Children are
keenly alive to the moods of teachers and are often adepts in
A teacher should be able to enter into the hearts and souls of the
children under her charge, and she should find as great pleasure in
watching their minds develop as the musical genius in watching a
composition grow under his touch.
An infinite number of things not included in the school routine should
be taught by teachers. Courtesy, kindness to dependents and weaker
creatures, a horror of cruelty in all forms, a love of nature,
politeness to associates, low speaking and light walking, cleanliness
and refinement of manner,--all these may be imparted by a teacher who
loves to teach, without extra time or fatigue. I fear a proud disdain,
and a scarcely hidden disgust, would be plainly visible in your
demeanour toward the majority of the untrained little savages given to
your charge in a public school. You have not the love of humanity at
large in your heart, nor the patience and perseverance to make you take
an optimistic view in the colossal work of developing the minds of
children. Therefore it seems to me almost a sin for you to undertake
the profession merely because you need to earn a living. There are other
things to be considered besides your necessities. Fond as I am of you, I
have the betterment of humanity at my heart, too, and cannot feel it is
right for you to place yourself in a position where you will not be
doing the best for those dependent upon you that could be done.
I have given up hope of seeing mothers made to realize their
responsibilities. But I still have hope of the teachers. On them and
their full understanding of all it is in their power to do, lies the
hope of the world.
Therefore, my dear girl, I urge you to take up dressmaking or millinery
instead of school-teaching.
If you ruin a piece of goods in the making, you can replace it and
profit by your error. But if you mar a child's nature in your attempt to
teach him, you have done an irreparable injury not only to him but to
If you saw a design started by a lace-maker, you would not think of
taking the work and attempting to complete it until you had learned the
art of lace-making.
Just so you ought not to think of developing the wonderful intricacies
of a child's mind until you have learned how.
It is all right to deliberately choose a vocation which gives us contact
only with inanimate things, but we have no right to take the handling of
human souls unless we are specially fitted for the task.
To Clarence St. Claire
_Regarding His Sister's Betrothal_
Your request, my dear Clarence, that I try to influence your sister to
change her determination in this matter, calls for some very plain
statements from me.
I have known you and Elise since you were playing with marbles and
rattles, and your mother and I have been very good acquaintances
(scarcely intimate enough to be called friends) for more than a score of
years. You are very much like your mother, both in exterior appearance
and in mind. Elise is the image of her father at the time he captured
your mother's romantic fancy, and as I recollect him when he died.
You were five years old, Elise three, at that time. Your mother lived
with your father six years in months, an eternity in experience. You
know that she was unhappy, and that he disillusioned her with love, and
almost with life. He married your mother solely for her fortune. She was
a sweet and beautiful girl, of excellent family, but your father had no
qualities of mind or soul which enabled him to appreciate or care for
any woman, save as she could be of use to him, socially and financially.
In six years he managed to dispose of all but a mere pittance of her
fortune, and humiliated her in a thousand ways besides. His only decent
act was to die and leave her undisturbed for the remainder of her life.
Your uncle assisted in her support and saved the remnant of her
property, so that she has, by careful and rigorous economy, been able to
educate you and Elise, and keep up a respectable appearance in a quiet
Of course it was impossible to retain her place among the associates of
her better days, and you know how bitter this fact has always made
Elise. Your sister has the physical beauty and the overwhelming love of
money and power which characterized your father. She has a modicum of
your mother's sense of honour, but has been reared in a way not
calculated to develop much strength of character. Your mother has been a
slave to your sister. Elise is incapable of a deep, intense love for any
man, and your mother's pessimistic ideas of love and marriage have still
further acted upon her brain cells and atrophied whatever impulses may
have been latent in her nature, to love and be loved. These qualities
might have been developed had Elise been under the tutelage of some one
versed in the science of brain building, but your mother, like most
mothers, was not aware of the tremendous possibilities within her grasp,
or of the effect of the ideas she expressed in the hearing of her
children. Neither did she seem to recognize the father's traits in
Elise, and undertake the work of eliminating them, as she might have
done. She has been an unselfish and devoted mother, and has made too
many sacrifices for Elise. At the same time, she has awakened the mind
of your sister to ideals of principle and honour which will help her to
be a better woman than her inheritance from your father would otherwise
permit. But now, at the age of twenty-one, it is impossible to hope that
she will develop into a self-sacrificing, loving, womanly woman, whose
happiness can be found in a peaceful domestic life. She has seen your
mother sad and despondent, under the yoke of genteel poverty, and heard
her bemoan her lost privileges of wealth and station. This, added to her
natural craving for money and place, renders a wealthy marriage her only
hope of happiness on earth.
Mr. Volney has an enormous fortune. He is, as you say, a senile old man
in his dotage. As you say again, such a marriage is a travesty. But
Elise is incapable of feeling the love which alone renders marriage a
holy institution. She has undesirable qualities which ought not to be
transmitted to children, and she is absolutely devoid of maternal
I have heard her say she would consider motherhood the greatest
disaster which could befall her. But she is unfitted for a
self-supporting career, and she wants a home and position.
She has beauty, kind and generous impulses, and a love of playing Lady
Bountiful. It is not so much that she wants to benefit the needy, as
that she likes to place people under obligations and to have them look
up to her as a superior being.
Old Mr. Volney is a miser, and his money is doing no one good. He has
only distant relatives, and by taking Elise for a wife (according to
law) he will wrong no one, and she will make much better use of his
fortune than his heirs would make.
Your mother will be relieved of worry and care. Many worthy poor people
and charities will receive help, and Elise will have her heart's
desire--fine apparel, jewels, a social position, and no one to bother
her. The valet and nurse will look after Mr. Volney, and his simple old
heart will bask in the pride of an old man--the possession of a pretty
Had he full use of his mental faculties, and did he long for love and
devotion, I would try and dissuade Elise from the marriage, but solely
on _his_ account, not on hers.
The young man you mention, as your choice of a suitor for the hand of
your sister, might better go up in a balloon to seek for Eutopia than to
expect happiness as her husband. He has a sweet, gentle, loving nature,
a taste for quiet home joys, fondness for children, and he has two
thousand a year, with small prospects of more in the near future.
He should marry a modest, domestic girl, with tastes similar to his own,
and with no overweening ambitions. Elise would simply drive him mad in a
year's time, with her restless discontent, her extravagance, and her
desire for the expensive pleasures of earth. It is useless to reason
with her, or to expect her to model her ideas to suit her circumstances.
Inheritance and twenty-one years of wrong education must be taken into
consideration. What would mean happiness for many women would mean
misery for her. I can imagine no more dreadful destiny than to be tied
to a senile old man by a legal ceremony, even were I given his millions
in payment. But that will mean happiness to Elise.
I think we should let people seek their own ideals of happiness, when
they break no law, and injure no other life by it.
I shall congratulate Elise by this post on having made so fortunate an
alliance. I could not congratulate her were she to marry her young
suitor. I shall congratulate your mother on having nothing to worry
about, regarding the future of Elise.
And I advise you to take a philosophical view of the situation, and to
remember that, in judging the actions of our fellow beings, we must take
their temperaments, characteristics, and environment into consideration,
not our own.
You have made the very common error of thinking, because Elise is a
handsome young girl, that love, and home, and children would mean
happiness to her.
Women vary as greatly as do plants and flowers in their needs. The
horticulturist knows that he cannot treat them all alike, and he studies
their different requirements.
To some he gives moisture and sun, to some shade, and to some dry, sandy
soil. The thistle pushes forth a gorgeous bloom from an arid bed. It
would die in the pond where the lily thrives.
Too much sentiment is wasted in this world and too much effort expended
in trying to make all people happy in some one way.
When I was a little girl, a Sunday-school superintendent presented every
girl in the class with a doll, and each doll was exactly the same. Most
little girls like dolls, but I never played with one, as they were
always so hopelessly inanimate. If the good man had given me a sled, or
a book, or a picture, I would have been happy. As it was, his gift was a
failure. You want to present your sister with a devoted young husband,
a cottage, and several children, because you think every woman should
possess these things. Your sister happens to be one who prefers a
wealthy old invalid.
Let her have what she wants, my dear Clarence, and let her work out her
destiny in her own way. She will do less harm in the world than if you
forced her into your way. Now you must remember that you asked me to
help you in this matter, and I could only write you the absolute facts
of the situation, as I knew it to be. I feel fairly confident that you
will accept my point of view, and act as best man at your sister's
To Miss Margaret Riley
_Shop Girl, Concerning Her Oppressors_
Your letter has been destroyed, as you requested, and you need not fear
my betraying your confidence.
Your mother was so long in my employ that I feel almost like a
foster-mother to you, having seen you grow up from the cradle to
self-supporting young womanhood.
The troubles and evils which you mention as existing about you, I know
to be quite universal in all large shops, factories, and department
stores, indeed in all houses where the two sexes are employed.
I know that a certain order of men in power use that power to lower the
ideals and standards of womanhood when they can.
A pretty young girl once in my service related to me the cold-blooded
suggestions made to her by her employer to increase the miserable wage
paid her in a sweat-shop.
The sacrifice of her virtue seemed no more to this man than the sale of
an old garment.
The girl did not make the sacrifice, however, and she did not starve,
freeze, or die. She managed to exist and to better her condition by
doing domestic work and saving her money to fit herself for more
congenial employment. When I last saw her she was planning to become a
trained nurse, and had paid for a course of instruction in massage. I
tell you this merely to illustrate a fact I fully believe, that any girl
who is determined to live an honourable life and retain her self-respect
can make her way in the world and rise from lesser to higher positions,
if she is patient and willing to do what is termed menial work as a
stepping-stone. You tell me that scores of girls are kept in poorly
paying, inferior positions when capable of filling better places,
simply because they will not accept the dishonourable attentions of some
of the men in authority.
You beg me to arouse the good women of America to a crusade against what
you say is a growing evil and to boycott such shops and stores.
But you ask me to do what is an impracticable thing.
You would not like to be called as a witness were this matter brought
before the courts. Were all the good women of America to begin such a
crusade, where would they obtain the proofs of their accusations?
And even if the witnesses were ready, there is not a newspaper in the
land that would dare champion the reform. And no great reform can be
made without the aid of the press. The daily papers, as you say, give
columns to protests against lesser evils, but you must know that these
newspapers are largely supported by the profitable advertisements of
manufactories and dry-goods houses. Glance over the columns of any of
our large dailies and see how much space such advertising occupies.
Imagine what it would mean to lose all this high-priced patronage.
Therefore, even if the most moral of editors knew that these
establishments were undermining our social conditions and invading our
homes, I doubt if he could be induced to make a protest. It is a curious
thing to see how many are the kinds of victims caught and held in the
clutches of the money-devil-fish in our wonderful land of freedom.
Even clergymen who are preaching morality and brotherly love are
compelled to keep their mouths shut on certain evils and abuses, lest
they offend the pillars of the church and deprive the treasury of its
In a certain New England town famous for its educational institution, a
clergyman denounced a corporation which had swindled the poor and
deceived scores of citizens. He was requested to discontinue further
references to the matter, as the church treasury was supplied by the
money which accrued from this monopoly.
The most powerful members of the church were officers in the
The young clergyman sent in his resignation and gave up an assured
salary to follow the light of his own conscience. But there are few with
his bravery and, therefore, the strongholds of selfishness and
self-indulgence remain impregnable. While we admire the splendid
character which makes a man capable of refusing a salary which means
hush-money, we can at the same time understand the difficult position of
a clergyman with a hungry brood of children to support, who hesitates at
such a move. We can understand how he argues with himself, that by
taking the money of the monopolists, he is able to do more good for
humanity than by refusing it, and losing both influence and income. It
is a false argument, yet the worn and weary mind of the average orthodox
minister will accept it as the advisable course to pursue. So you will
see how difficult is the task you suggest my undertaking. You tell me
that it is useless for you to leave one shop and go to another, as all
are more or less conducted on the same lines; and that it is mere chance
if a girl finds herself in a position where she can advance on her
merits. Even then a sudden change in heads of departments some day may
destroy all her hopes.
You say I have no idea how many girls go wrong just through the
persecution and tyranny of these men--forced to fall in order to keep
herself fed and clothed. I repeat what I said already in this
connection,--that I am certain any girl determined to keep herself above
reproach and ambitious to rise in the world can do so. She may have to
endure many privations and sorrows for a time, and that time may seem
long and weary, _but a change will come for the better as surely as
spring follows winter, if she does not waver_.
If you will look carefully into the facts of the cases which fall under
your observation, I am confident you will see that it is vanity and
indolence, not hunger and oppression, which cause the majority of the
girls you mention to go astray. They desire to make as good an
appearance, and to be given the same privileges of leisure, as the
favourite who has been promoted through unworthy methods.
You tell me you would rather jump from Brooklyn Bridge and end the
struggle at once than lose your self-respect, but that you are weary of
seeing the girls with less conscience, and lesser capabilities, pushed
ahead of you and your worthy associates. Yet I am certain from the tone
of your letter that you will never forget your self-respect, and I have
faith that you can make your way in the world in spite of all the
designing masculine oppressors in existence.
So will any woman, who sets her mark high, and believes in the
invincible power of her own spirit to conquer all the demons of earth.
Do not imagine your position is one of unusual trial and temptation. A
young actress of my acquaintance has been obliged to fight her way
slowly to partial recognition because she would not accept the
conditions offered, with leading roles and fine wardrobe, by two
She is making her way, however, and the very battle she is fighting with
life has strengthened her powers as an artist. A young stenographer has
been compelled to give up two positions because she would not allow the
loverlike attentions of married employers. She was called a silly prude
and discharged. Yet she is occupying an excellent position with a clean
high-class business house to-day.
Domestics are sometimes driven from private homes by the same pursuit of
the employer. Men are only in a state of evolution, and the animal
instincts are still strong in them. The world has allowed them so much
license, and society has been so lenient with their misdeeds, that it
has been difficult for them to practise self-control and aspire to a
higher standard. You must be sorry for them and do what you can to help
them understand the worth and value of true womanhood. Never for one
instant believe that you can be hindered by the machinations of a few
unworthy men, from reaching any goal you set.
One good, intelligently virtuous woman, determined to make the most of
her capabilities by fair methods, can overcome a whole army of
self-indulgent, sensual men, and compel them to doff their hats to her.
I am always deeply sympathetic toward the girl who is tempted through
her emotions, or her affections, to forget herself. But I have no great
pity for the woman who sells herself. There are always charitable
societies, and there are always menial labours to do, and either door of
escape from the sale of honour would be sought by the girl of right
ideals. It is a bitter experience to see the woman who _has_ stepped
down into the soil of life flaunting her finery and her power in the
face of virtue. But look about you and see how soon the finery becomes
tatters--how soon the power is transferred to another.
Woman's position in the world is growing better, brighter, and more
independent with each year. There are more avenues open to her--larger
opportunities waiting for the employment of her abilities. She has tried
a thorny path for centuries, but she has small reason to despair of her
Each woman must fight her battle alone, and walk by the light from
The world gives her only a superficial protection, either through its
courts or its society.
Men demand virtue from woman and endeavour in every way to lead her away
from its path.
But the divinity within her can carry her to the heights, if she will
not be lured by the voice of the senses, or frightened by the demands of
the appetite, or debased by the mercenary spirit of the age.
Go on in your brave determination to lead a sensible and moral life, my
dear girl, and let your example be a guide to others, and prove that
woman may succeed on the right basis if she will, in spite of
temptations and oppressions.
To Miss Gladys Weston
_After Three Years as a Teacher_
The way you took my frank criticisms and doubts of your ability to make
a good school-teacher, proves you to be a girl of much character. Your
success proves, too, that given the general qualifications of a fairly
capable and educated human being, add concentration and will, and we can
achieve wonders in any line of work we undertake. I am still of the
opinion that no woman of my acquaintance was more wholly unfit to teach
young children, as they should be taught, than your fair self as I last
I take pride in believing that my heroic methods were what brought out
the undeveloped qualities you needed to ensure such success.
There are certain natures that need to be antagonized before they do
their best. Others are prostrated and robbed of all strength by a
criticism or a doubt.
You have realized this, I am sure, in your experiences with pupils.
"_You cannot do it_" is a more stimulating war-cry to some people than
"_You can_." And to such the sneer of the foe does more good, than the
smile of the friend. A phrenologist would tell us that strongly
developed organs of self-esteem and love of approbation accompanied this
trait of character.
I am sure it proves to be the case with you.
Brought up as you were, the only child of indulgent parents, and given
admiration and praise by all your associates, you could hardly reach the
age of twenty-two without having developed self-esteem and love of
praise. You were naturally brighter than most of your companions. (They
were also children of fortune, as the term goes, but to my idea the
children reared in wealth, are usually children of misfortune. For the
real fortune of life is to encounter the discipline which brings out
our strongest qualities.)
Your father was a poor boy, who fought his way up to wealth and power
before you were born; but he unfortunately wanted the earth beside, and
so died in poverty after staking all he had, which was enough, to make
more, which he did not need.
You inherit much of his force of character, and that is what gave you
the reputation of extreme cleverness among your more commonplace
companions. Compared with the really brilliant and talented people of
earth, you are not clever. That is why I found you so companionable and
charming, no doubt; for the brilliant people--especially women--are
rarely companionable for more than a few hours at a time. I gave you
that supreme test of friendship--the companionship of travel for a
period of months. And I loved you better at the end of the time than at
I have often thought how much less occupation there would be for the
divorce courts and how many more "indefinitely postponed" announcements
of engagements would result from an established custom of a
If a young man and woman who were enamoured could travel for two or
three months, with a chaperon (in the shape of a mother-in-law or two),
the lawyers would lose much profit; but I fear race suicide might ensue.
Nothing, unless it is the sick-room or the card-table, brings out the
real characteristics of human beings like travel.
The irritating delays of boats and trains, and the still more irritating
unresponsiveness of officials, when asked the cause, will test the
temper and the patience of even a pair of lovers. It is not surprising
if the traveller does lose both at times, but it is admirable if he does
not. I remember how adorable you were, while I was a bundle of dynamite,
ready to explode and send the stolid, uncommunicative conductor and
brakemen into a journey through space, when we suffered that long delay
coming from California. It is due the travelling public to explain such
delays, but the railroads of America have grown to feel that they owe no
explanation to any one, even to God, for what they do or do not. While I
lost vitality and composure by such idle reflections, you were amusing
the nervous travellers by your bright bits of narrative and ready
repartee. That fortunate fellow you have promised to marry at the end of
two years has no idea what a charming companion he will find in you for
It is interesting to have you say you feel that you need two more years
as a teacher, before you are fully developed enough to take up the
responsibilities of marriage. You will be twenty-seven then:--that is
the age at which the average American girl begins to be most
interesting, and the age when she is first physically mature.
And your children will be more fully endowed mentally than if you had
become a mother in your teens.
As a rule the brainy people of the world are not born of very youthful
parents; you will find youth gives physique, maturity gives brains to
I did not quite finish my train of reasoning about your self-esteem.
It was because you had always believed yourself to be capable of doing
anything you undertook to do, that you were roused by my assertion that
you could not make a good school-teacher, to attempt it. I hurt your
pride a bit, and you were determined to prove me wrong. Had you been
self-depreciating and oversensitive, what I said would have turned you
from that field of effort. And that would have been a desirable result,
since one who can be turned from any undertaking _ought to be_.
I still think the world has lost a wonderful artist by your not entering
the lists of designers and dressmakers. But since my recital of the
faults which would prevent your success as a teacher led you to overcome
them, I am proud and glad, that you have gone on in the work you
contemplated. Good teachers are more needed than good dressmakers.
And you are sweet and charming as usual, to tell me that your
popularity with children and parents, is greatly due to that letter of
What you write me of the young girl who is making you so much trouble by
her jealousy of all other pupils, interests and saddens me. Her devotion
to you is of that morbid type, so unwholesome and so dangerous to her
peace, and the peace of all her associates. It is a misfortune that
mothers do not take such traits in early babyhood, and eradicate them by
patient, practical methods. Instead, this mother, like many others,
seems to think her little girl should be favoured and flattered because
of her morbid tendency.
She mistakes selfishness, envy, greediness, and hysteria for a loving
I can imagine your feelings when this mother told you with a proud
smile, "Allie always wants the whole attention of any one she loves, and
cannot stand sharing her friends. She was always that way at home. We
never could pet her little brother without her going into a spasm. And
you must be careful about showing the other children attention before
her. It just breaks her heart--she is so sensitive."
Oh, mothers, mothers, what are you thinking about, to be so blind to the
work put in your hands to do?
You have little time comparatively to work upon this perverted young
mind: but under no conditions favour her, and, no matter what scenes she
makes, continue to give praise and affection to the other children when
it is their due. The prominence of her parents in the neighbourhood, and
the power her father wields in the school board, need not worry you. Go
ahead and do what is best for the child and for the school at large.
Never deviate one inch from your convictions. Take Allie some day to a
garden where there are many flowers, and talk to her about them. Speak
of all their different charms, and gather a bouquet. Then say to her,
"Now, Allie, you and I love each of these pretty flowers, and see how
sweetly they nestle together in your hand. Not one is jealous of the
other. Each has its place, and would be missed were it not there. The
bouquet needs them all. Just so I need all the dear children in my
school, and just so I would miss any one. It makes me ashamed to think
any little girl is more selfish and unreasonable than a plant, for
little girls are a higher order of creation, and we expect more of them
than we expect of plants or of animals. All are parts of God, but the
human kingdom is the highest expression of the Creator.
"When you show such jealousy of other children I lose respect for you,
and cannot love you as much as I love them. When you are gentle and
good, and take your share of my love and attention, and let others have
their share, then I am proud of you and fond of you. Suppose one plant
said to the sunlight that it must have all the sun, would not that be
ridiculous and selfish?"
I would make frequent references to this idea when alone with her, and
indeed it would serve as an excellent subject for a talk to all your
pupils some day. Then try and make Allie understand how unbecoming and
unlovable jealousy is, and how it renders a man or woman an object of
pity and ridicule to others.
Praise the people you know who are liberal and broad, and absolutely
ignore her moods when in school.
Perhaps in time you can do a little toward awakening her mind to a more
What you tell me of her hysterical devotion to one of her classmates,
makes me realize that the girl needs careful guidance.
You should talk to her mother, and warn her against encouraging such
conditions of mind in her child.
Urge her to keep the girl occupied, and to give her much out-door life,
and to teach her that pronounced demonstrations of affection are not
good form between young girls. The mother should be careful what books
she reads, and should see that she makes no long visits to other homes
and receives no guests for a continued time. The child needs to
cultivate universal love, not individual devotion.
Ideals, principles, ambitions, should be given the girl, not close
companions, for her nature is like a rank, weedy flower that needs
refining and cultivating into a perfected blossom.
All this needs a mother's constant care and tact and watchfulness. It is
work she should have begun when her little girl first indicated her
It is late for you to undertake a reconstruction of the misshapen
character, but you may be able to begin an improvement, and if you can
obtain the mother's cooperation the full formation may be accomplished.
And do not fail to use mental suggestion constantly, and to help the
child by your assertions to be what you want her to become. Dwell in
conversation with her and in her presence, upon the lovableness and
charm of generosity of spirit in general, rather than on the selfishness
you observe in herself.
At her least indication of an improvement, give her warm praise. Be
careful about bestowing caresses upon her, as she needs to be guarded
against hysteria, I should judge from your description. To some children
they are the sunlight, to others miasma.
Think of yourself as God's agent, given charge of his unfinished work,
and recognize the unseen influences ready to aid you with suggestion and
courage when you appeal to them.
To a Young Friend
_Who Has Become Interested in the Metaphysical Thoughts of the Day_
Your letter bubbled with enthusiasm, and steamed with optimism. I am
rejoiced that you have come into so healthful a line of thought, for I
know of no one who was in more immediate need of it than you, when we
As your hostess, I could not tell you how wearing to the nerves your
continual reverting to your physical ills became: and I hope I did not
seem wholly unsympathetic to you when I so frequently made the effort to
change the conversation to more cheerful topics.
And now you tell me that you are astounded to find how universal is this
topic with all classes, and on all occasions when one or two human
beings gather together even in "His name." Your recital of the church
sewing-bee, where all the good Christian women described their diseases
and the different operations they and their friends had undergone, is as
amusing as it is distressingly realistic.
What a pity that the old theology fostered the idea that God especially
loved the people he afflicted with illness and poverty and trouble! It
has filled the world with egotistical and selfish invalids and idlers,
who have believed they were "God's chosen ones," instead of realizing
that they were the natural results of broken laws, which might be mended
by the aid of the God-power in themselves, once they understood it.
How Christians have reconciled the idea of a God of love with a God who
wanted his chosen ones to be sick and poor, is a problem I cannot solve.
Of course you are well, and growing stronger daily, now that you realize
the fact that God made only health, wealth, and love, and that he
intended all his children to share his opulence.
As soon as the mind is filled with a dominating idea, no lesser ones can
find lodgment therein.
A woman of my acquaintance suffered agonies from seasickness.
She crossed the ocean twice each year, yet seemed unable to accustom
herself to the experience.
On her last voyage her child fell dangerously sick with typhoid fever on
the second day out at sea.
So wrought up was the mother, and so filled with the thought of her
child, that she never felt one moment's seasickness. Her mind was
Now you have filled your mind with a consciousness of your divine right
to health and happiness, and the thought of sickness and disease has no
Yet do not be discouraged if you feel the old ailments and
indispositions returning at times. A complete change in mental habits,
is difficult to obtain in a moment.
Be satisfied to grow slowly. A wise philosopher has said, "It is not in
never falling that we show our strength, but in our ability to rise
after repeated falls, and to continue our journey in triumph."
Avoid talking your belief to every individual you meet. It will be
breaking your string of pearls for the feet of swine to tread upon.
Those who are ready for these truths will indicate the fact to you, and
then will be your time for speech. And when you do speak, say little,
and say it briefly and to the point.
Leave some things for other minds to study out alone. The people who are
not ready for higher ideals of religion and life, will only ridicule or
combat your theories and beliefs, if you force them to listen.
Wait until you have fully illustrated by your own conduct of life, that
you have something beside vague theories to prove your statements of the
power of the mind to conquer circumstance. The world is full to-day of
bedraggled and haggard men and women, who are talking loudly of the
power of mind to restore youth and health, and bestow riches and
Do not add yourself to the unlovely and tiresome army of talkers, until
you prove yourself a doer.
And even after you have shown a record of health and prosperity and
usefulness, let your silent influence speak louder than your uttered
The moment a philosopher becomes a bore, he ceases to be a philosopher.
To Wilfred Clayborn
_Concerning His Education and His Profession_
My Dear Nephew:--I have considered your request from all sides, and have
resolved to disappoint you. This seems to me the kindest thing I can do
under the circumstances.
You have gone through two years of college life, and I am sure you are
not an ignoramus. Most of the great men of the world's history have
enjoyed no fuller educational advantages. To lend you money to finish
the college course, would be to help you to start life at the age of
twenty-two under the burden of debt. If you are determined to finish a
college course, and feel that only by so doing will you equip yourself
for the duties of life, I would advise you to drop out for a year and
teach, or go into any kind of work which will enable you to earn enough
to proceed with your studies. However hard and however disappointing
this advice seems to you, I know it suggests a course which will do more
for your character than all the money I could lend you.
Aside from the fact that you would begin life with a debt, is the
possibility of your contracting the debt habit.
One man in a thousand who borrows money to help himself along in early
life is benefited by it.
The other 999 are harmed.
To do anything on another's money is to lean on the shoulder of another
instead of walking upright. It is not good calisthenic exercise.
A few years ago I would have acceded to your request.
But each year I live I realize more and more that lending money is the
last method to be used in helping people to better themselves. In almost
every case where I have lent money, I have lived to regret it. Not
because I lost my money (which has usually been the fact), but because
I lost respect for my friends.
I remember the case of a young newspaper man and author, who came to me
for the loan of five dollars. I had never seen him before, but I knew
his brother, a brilliant playwright, in a social way.
The young man told me he had met with a series of disasters on the
voyage to New York, and was stranded there absolutely penniless,
although money would come at almost any hour from his brother.
Besides this, he showed me letters from editors who had taken work which
would be paid for on publication.
"I do not know any one here," the young man said, "and to-day, when I
used my last twenty-five cents, I thought of you in desperation.
"Your acquaintance with my brother would serve as an introduction, I
felt, and I was confident you would realize my straits when I told you
Of course I lent the young man five dollars. "I am sure it must be a
great humiliation for you to ask for this," I said, "and I am certain
you will repay it, though many former experiences have made me question
the memory of friends and strangers to whom I have been of similar
One week later the young man called to tell me he had not been able to
do more than keep himself sustained at lunch-counters since he called,
but hoped soon to obtain a position on a daily newspaper.
That was ten years ago. The young man sat in an orchestra chair the
other night at the theatre directly in front of me, and his attire was
faultlessly up to date. From the costume of his companion, I should
judge their carriage waited outside.
The young man did not seem to recognize me, and no doubt the incident I
mention has escaped his memory.
In all probability I was but one of a score of people who helped him
with small loans. Had the young man had been forced to appeal to the
society organized in every city for aiding the deserving poor, by being
sent disappointed from my door, the ordeal would have so hurt his pride,
that he might not have become the professional borrower he undoubtedly
I could relate innumerable cases of a similar nature. One man, who was a
fashionable teacher of French among the millionaires of New York for
several seasons, appealed to me at a time of year when all his patrons
were out of the city for a loan to enable him to give his wife medical
He was to repay it in the autumn. Instead, he came to me then with a
much more distressing story of immediate need and seeming proof of money
coming to him in a few months. To my chagrin, the loan I advanced was
employed in giving a feast to friends at his daughter's wedding, after
which he obliterated himself from my vision.
Financial aid lent a woman who soon afterward circled Europe, brought no
reimbursement. Her handsomely engraved card, with the "Russell Square
Hotel, London," as address, reached me instead of the interest money
which perhaps paid the engraver.
Money lent a young man to start a small business, was used for his
wedding expenses, and an interval of five years brings no word from him.
Poor and despicable beings indeed, become the victims of the borrowing
habit. It is the shattered faith in humanity, and the heart hurts that I
regret, rather than the loss of what can be replaced. I tell you these
incidents that you may realize how I have come to regard money-lending,
as a species of unkindness to a friend or relative.
It is only one step removed from giving a sick or overtaxed man or woman
a morphine powder.
Sleep and rest ensue, but ten to one the habit is formed for life.
The happy experiences of my life in money-lending, have been two
instances where I offered loans which were not asked, and which proved
to be bridges over the chasm of temporary misfortune, to the success
awaiting a worthy woman and man. The really deserving rarely ask for
I can imagine with what pleasure you would take a cheque from this
letter, for the amount which would carry you through college.
Yet when you had finished your course, you would find so many things you
wanted to do, and must do, the debt would become too heavy to lift, save
by borrowing from some one else.
If not that, then you would impose upon the fact of our relationship,
and on your belief that I had plenty of means without the amount you
owed me: and so you would join the great army of good-for-nothings in
There is one thing you must always remember:
No matter how close the blood tie between two beings, even twins, each
soul comes into the world alone, and with a separate life destiny to
If I have worked out my destiny to financial independence, that does
not entitle you to a share of it. If it seems best for me to aid you, it
is not because a blood tie makes it a duty. I grow to believe there is a
sort of curse on money which is not earned, even when it is bestowed by
father, on son or daughter.
It cripples individual development. Only when money is earned is it
Regarding your future profession, I cannot agree with your idea that
because you feel no particular love for any one calling, and have a
halfway tendency toward several, that you will never be a success. Great
geniuses are often consumed with a passion for some one line of study or
employment, but there have been many great men who did not know what
they were fitted to do until accident or necessity gave them an
Success means simply concentration and perseverance.
Whether you decide to be a mechanic, a lawyer, a doctor, or a merchant,
the one thing to do is to fix all your mental powers upon the goal you
select, and then call all the forces from within and from without, to
aid you to reach it.
It would, of course, be folly for you to select a profession which
requires special talent. No matter how you might concentrate and apply
yourself, you could never be a great poet, a great artist, or a great
You have not the creative genius.
But law, medicine, mechanics, or mercantile matters, with your good
brain and fair education, you could conquer.
You say you vacillate from one to another, like the wind which goes to
the four points of the compass in twenty-four hours.
But you are very young, and this should not discourage you.
It would be well to think the four vocations over quietly, when alone,
and sit down by yourself early in the morning asking for guidance. Then,
when you feel you have made a decision, let nothing turn you from it.
Direct all your studies and thoughts to further that decision.
Think of yourself as achieving the very highest success in your chosen
field, and work for that end.
You cannot fail.
If you desire light from without upon the best path to pursue, I would
advise you to find a good phrenologist, and have a careful reading made
of your head. Its formation and the development of its organs would
indicate in what direction lay your greatest strength, and where you
needed to be especially watchful.
But remember if your phrenologist tells you that you have a weak will,
it does not mean that you must necessarily _always_ have a weak will. It
means that you are to strengthen it, by concentration. There is a great
truth underlying phrenology, palmistry, and astrology; but it is
ridiculous to accept their verdicts as final and unchangeable, and it is
unwise to ignore the good they may do, rightly applied and understood.
I recall the fact that you were born in early June. I know enough about
the influence of the planets upon a child born at that period to assert
that you are particularly inclined to a Gemini nature--the twin nature,
which wants to do two things at one time. You want to stay in and go
out, to read a book and play tennis, to swim and sit on the sand. Later
in life, you will want to remain single and marry, and travel and remain
at home, unless you begin _now_ to select one course of the two which
are for ever presenting themselves to you, in small and large matters.
Whenever you feel yourself vacillating between two impulses, take
yourself at once in hand, decide upon the preferable course, and go
ahead. Dominate your astrological tendencies, do not be dominated by
them. Dominate your weaknesses as exhibited by your phrenological chart,
and build up the brain cells which need strengthening, and lessen the
power of the undesirable qualities by giving them no food or indulgence.
It is a great thing to understand yourself as you are, and then to go
ahead and make yourself what you desire to be.
When a carpenter starts to build a house, he knows just what tools and
what materials to work with are his. If there is a broken implement, he
replaces it with another, and if he is short of material he supplies it.
But young men set forth to make futures and fortunes, with no knowledge
of their own equipment.
They do not know their own strongest or weakest traits, and are
unprepared for the temptations and obstacles that await them.
I would advise you to call in the aid of all the occult sciences, to
help you in forming an estimate of your own higher and lower tendencies,
and in deciding for what line of occupation you were best fitted. Then,
after you have compared the statistics so gathered with your own idea of
yourself, you should proceed to make your character what you wish it to
This work will be ten thousand times more profitable to you than a mere
routine of college studies, gained by running in debt.
To know yourself is far better knowledge than to know Virgil. And to
make yourself is a million times better than to have any one else make
To Miss Elsie Dean
_Regarding the Habit of Exaggeration_
During your visit here with my niece, I became much interested in you.
Zoe had often written me of her affection for you, and I can readily
understand her feeling, now that I have your personal acquaintance.
You have no mother, and your father, you say, absorbed in business, like
so many American fathers, seems almost a stranger. Even the most devoted
fathers, rarely understand their daughters.
Now, I want to take the part of a mother and write you to-day, as I
would write my own daughter, had one been bestowed upon me with the many
other blessings which are mine.
I could not ask for a fairer, more amiable, or brighter daughter than
you, nor one possessed of a kinder or more unselfish nature.
You are lovable, entertaining, industrious, and refined.
But you possess one fault which needs eradicating, or at least a
propensity which needs directing.
_It is the habit of exaggeration in conversation_.
I noticed that small happenings, amusing or exciting, became events of
colossal importance when related by you.
I noticed that brief remarks were amplified and grew into something like
orations when you repeated them.
I confess that you made small incidents more interesting, and
insignificant words acquired poetic meaning under your tongue.
And I confess also that you never once wronged or injured any one by
your exaggerations--save yourself.
Zoe often said to me, "Isn't it wonderful how Elsie's imagination lends
a halo to the commonest event," and all your friends know that you have
this habit of hyperbole in conversation.
Now, in your early girlhood, it is lightly regarded as "Elsie's way."
Later, in your maturity, I fear it will be called a harsher name.
When you come to the time of life that larger subjects than girlish
pranks and badinage engage your mind, it will be necessary for you to be
more exact in your descriptions of occurrences and conversations.
Besides this, there is the heritage of your unborn children to consider.
I once knew a little girl who possessed the same vivid imagination, and
allowed it to continue unchecked through life. She married, and her son,
to-day, is utterly devoid of fine moral senses. He is a mental
monstrosity--incapable of telling the truth. His falsehoods are many and
varied, and his name is a synonym of untruth. He relates, as truth, the
most marvellous exploits in which he really never took part, and
describes scenes and places he has never visited, save through the
pages of some novel.
His lack of moral sense has blighted his mother's life, and she is
wholly unconscious that he is only an exaggerated edition of herself.
I think, as a rule, such imaginations as you possess belong to the
literary mind. I would advise you to turn your attention to
story-writing, and in that occupation you will find vent for your
Meanwhile watch yourself and control your speech.
Learn to be exact.
Tell the truth in small matters, and do not allow yourself to indulge in
seemingly harmless white lies of exaggeration.
There are times when we should refrain from speaking all the truth, but
we should refrain by silence or an adroit change of subject. We should
not feel called upon to relate all the unpleasant truths we know of
When asked what we know of some acquaintance, we are justified in
telling the worthy and commendable traits, and saying nothing of the
Therefore, while to suppress a portion of the truth is at times wise and
kind, to distort it, or misstate facts, is never needed and never
When you and Zoe came from your drive one day you were full of
excitement over an adventure with a Greek road merchant.
As you told the story, the handsome peddler had accosted you at the exit
of the post-office and asked you to look at his wares.
When you declined he became familiar, paid a compliment to Zoe's beauty,
and assured her that a certain lace shawl in his possession would be
irresistible draped about her face.
Then he had pursued the carriage on his wheel and continued to "make
eyes" and pay compliments to the very gate of my home, where he
abandoned the chase.
The facts were, according to further investigation, that the man paid a
simple trade compliment in reference to the shawl and its becomingness
to a pretty face, mounted his wheel and rode away, as it happened, in
the same direction you and Zoe were taking.
Again, you related a bit of repartee between Zoe and a caller, which I
had chanced to over-hear, and out of two short sentences you made a
small brochure, most amusing, but most untrue.
It was complimentary to both Zoe and her caller, yet it was not the
conversation which took place, and therefore was not truthful.
These are trifling incidents, yet they are the straws, telling that the
wind blows from the marsh-lands of inexactness--not from the mountain
tops of truth.
Once a woman loses a sense of the great value of absolute truthfulness,
she has blurred the clear mirror of her soul.
Put yourself upon a diet of _facts_, my sweet young friend, and cure
this propensity, harmless enough now, but dangerous for your future.
Watch your tongue that it does not say _five or six_ when it should say
_two_, or _yards_ when it should say _inches_.
Even in the smallest matters, practise the habit of being exact.
You will thank me for this advice sometime, even if it seems
unreasonable to you to-day, and remember, I would not take the liberty
or the trouble to so advise you, did I not love you and feel anxious for
To Sybyl Marchmont
_Who Has Learned Her Origin_
Your despairing letter lies before me. I wish you were here, my dear
child, that I might talk from my heart, instead of writing from it. I am
sorry that the secret, so long hidden, has been revealed to you, and in
such a despicable manner.
An anonymous letter always carries with it the venom of a serpent. I
have long known your history, though the world generally believed you to
be the actual daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Marchmont, who adopted you when
you were scarcely one week old.
No daughter ever received more affection or better care than these good
people gave you. Mrs. Marchmont lived always with a fear in her heart
that you might learn your history from some idle or malicious lip, and
before she died begged me to be your comforting friend, if that hour
ever came, which has now arrived.
As your mother's nearest friend, it is natural you should turn to me in
your crucial hour of pain. And in reply to your questions regarding the
truth of this anonymous assertion, I will tell you all I know.
Your own mother was well born, and a girl of great beauty and charm. She
was of foreign blood, and her parents, after the foreign custom,
selected for her, at the age of seventeen, a man of mature years and
unattractive personality, but some fortune. The family lived in a
seaport town, and your mother attracted the eye of a young seafaring
man, holding a government position. An intense and uncontrollable love
sprang up between them. Your mother had been kept in ignorance of God's
great law of sex attraction, its purpose and its results, and she was
like a new-born babe towed on the sea of her own suddenly awakened
It was arranged that your mother was to elope with her lover on his next
arrival in port. All plans were to be made by him during the voyage on
which he went forth, after a stolen interview with your mother. He was
lost at sea, and all on board the ship perished with him. Mr. and Mrs.
Marchmont chanced to be sojourning in the place at the time of your
birth. Mr. Marchmont had longed for a child, and the tragic story came
to his ears through the physician of your mother's family, and he and
his wife decided to adopt you and take you to America.
I was the one friend who shared with Mrs. Marchmont the story of your
birth. Other friends knew she had adopted a child, and of course all
sorts of rumours were afloat for a time. Mr. Marchmont's nephew was
particularly unfriendly, I remember, as he had believed himself heir to
his uncle's estate until your adoption.
Some three years ago I chanced to be in the seaport town where you were
born, and I made quiet inquiries about your mother. I learned that she
had recently died, leaving a husband and three children. I hunted up the
children, and found them to be most uninteresting and ordinary. The
oldest daughter I met and studied. She was plain and commonplace in
appearance, and the other children were dull and unattractive.
The husband was the elderly man selected by your grandparents. Just how
he had been led to accept the second place in your mother's life, and
whether he had known of the tragedy, I could not learn without asking
more questions than I deemed wise.
But what I want to impress upon your mind by this recital is, _your own
divine inheritance of love,_ the inheritance which has bestowed upon you
physical beauty, mental power, and rare qualities of heart and soul. I
know few women so endowed by the Creator as you. I know of few young
girls--in fact, not one--I would so gladly and proudly claim as a
daughter, or wish a daughter to be like, as your lovely self.
When I read your letter, with its wild expressions of self-abasement and
despair and regret that you were in the world, where, you seemed to
believe, you had no right to be, I could not help picturing to myself
the dull face and disagreeable personality of your half-sister, the
child whom you no doubt believe has a greater right than yourself on
earth. Now whatever society has decided is legal and right for human
beings, you must not forget that God also has made rules, and that those
rules must first be obeyed, before the rules of man can be regarded as
God's first law, regarding the propagation of the human species, is that
the _mother must be dominated by a supreme and ruling emotion to give to
the world the highest type of a child_.
Your mother loved your father with all her heart and soul. She was a
young girl, ignorant of the world. She thought of her lover as her
rightful mate, and lived but for the hour when he should rescue her
from the unhappy fate arranged by unwise and sordid-minded parents.
Your father loved her, and they were in God's sight more truly husband
and wife than the soulless and loveless ceremony of the law made her and
her legal husband afterward.
It is a great misfortune that your parents lacked the self-control which
is necessary to every well-balanced human being who seeks for the
fullest development. It is a sad thing that over your life this shadow
of unlegalized birth must rest.
But were I given the choice to-day to be what you are, or what your
sister is, and what thousands of children born of loveless marriages
are, I would not for one second hesitate in my choice.
The world needs marriage laws to keep any order in society.
The wisely reared and well-balanced woman will keep herself in womanly
reserve for her legal husband.
Your mother, by a moment's weakness and loss of self-control, left a
blight upon her life for ever, and a shadow upon yours.
But do not for one instant think of yourself as anything but _a child of
God_, endowed with all the wealth of the spiritual kingdom, whatever the
law may withhold from you here.
You are legitimized by love, your sister is legitimate by law. She is
illegitimate in the sight of heaven, you in sight of earth.
Be glad of your beautiful nature and beautiful qualities, and do not
spoil them by despondency or pessimism.
Think of yourself as if you were a child of Adam and Eve, born before
the serpent appeared, when there was no law but the law of love to
govern two souls, drawn together by irresistible attraction.
The best and highest qualities of two human beings meet and mingle in
your nature. Do you suppose the great Creator of all things regards you
as base born, when he has so endowed you with all that makes woman
lovable and charming.
Live up to your divine inheritance, my dear girl. Make the world better
for your presence in it, and bear your sorrow with that resignation and
philosophy which all human beings must cultivate if they do not wish to
become weak repiners when they face the sorrows of life.
Look the world squarely in the eyes, and feel no shame.
Your mother's marriage to the man she detested, and the birth of
children conceived in loathing, were acts which in my mind called for
more shame on her part than your own birth. Both were misfortunes for
her, since only by living an orderly, controlled, and lawful life can
any human being find happiness or self-respect in the world.
But when we come to the close analysis of motives and impulses, many an
act the world condemns is far less reprehensible than other acts which
meet its loud acclaim.
You have received from the vast spiritual realms about us your rarely
beautiful qualities. Go forth and give them to humanity.
Be strong, be good, be brave, be happy.
No one and nothing can harm you but your own mind.
The world, as we encounter it, is but an echo of our own strong
convictions. Respect yourself absolutely, believe in yourself
absolutely, and the world will respect you and believe in you.
Say to yourself every hour, "I am God's divine creature," and no one
will dare look you in the eyes and say you are anything less than that.
The arms of infinite love enfold you--have no fear.
To Miss Diana Rivers
_Young Lady Contemplating a Career as a Journalist_
Your interesting letter regarding your future plans has been food for my
thoughts ever since its receipt this morning.
I remember when you were my guest a year ago that you told me you felt
like a big bird in a small cage. Every time you tried to spread your
wings you were bruised by bars. Your home environment with its few
duties and small responsibilities, your church and your charities,
failed to give you full opportunity for the exercise of all your vital
I knew then that you were longing for a career, and I felt confident
that some word would come from you before long, announcing a change in
I was prepared to hear one of two things--that you were soon to be
married, or that you had decided to enter the dramatic profession. When
a young and attractive woman grows restless and eager for change, she
is, unconsciously to herself, sending out a challenge to Fate to create
new conditions in her life. Despite the fact that no male member in the
"Fate" family has ever attained prominence in the eyes of the world, and
that the three sisters have claimed so much power over the destinies of
the human family, a little investigation will prove that they never make
any pronounced move without calling in the aid of Cupid.
Cupid is their prime minister, and we all know that prime ministers are
the power behind the throne of rulers.
When you sent out your eager thoughts for "something to happen," to
change the monotony of your existence, I knew the Fate sisters were
quite likely telegraphing Cupid that his assistance was needed to quiet
a small riot in the human family.
Once they set Cupid busy with a human heart, the Fates need give it no
further attention. When Cupid reports that his work with the heart is
finished, then the Angel of Resignation or the Angel of Death must
finish the task.
Knowing you to be particularly fond of the theatre as a distraction, I
had thought you might essay the role of society actress, confounding
appreciation for talent, as so many women do; and when your letter
opened with the announcement that you were about to give me a great
surprise, I was prepared to hear that you were billed to appear in a
walking role, with a road company, next season, with promises of greater
things "soon afterward."
But I confess to absolute surprise, as I read on, and learned that your
career was to lead you, not through Lovers' Lane, not before the
footlights, but along the hurly-burly byways and highways of American
newspaper work, beginning with interviews and reporting. Allow me to
quote from your letter before me.
"I do not imagine I have talent save the talent for work. I am, as you
know, well educated, as that expression goes to-day. I have always found
expression with the pen an easy mode of communicating my impressions and
"I am observing, and I have a keen sense of humour, and I have (so
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