A Woman of the World
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Part 3 out of 3
life, all these things make motherhood a different ordeal for our women
than our grandmothers. Where our grandfathers took their share of the
care and guidance of children, and the children came up in a wholesome
country fashion, our men to-day are so driven by the money gadfly that
they can only whirl around and around and attend "to business," and all
the care of the children falls upon the mother, or else upon the nurses
and governesses, who in turn are a care and a worry to the wife.
You assured me Edna had all the assistants in caring for her children
she wanted, but you did not realize that every paid employe in a
household is, as a rule, just so much more care to the mistress, not
less than a tax on the husband's purse and, consequently, on his time.
What Edna craves is _your_ love, _your_ attention, _your_ sympathy, not
the service of paid domestics. She wants you to notice her fading bloom,
and to take her in your arms and say, tenderly, "Little girl, we must
get those old roses back. And we must go away for a new honeymoon, all
alone, and forget every care, even if we forget the babies for a few
One little speech like that, one little outing like that, would do more
toward driving away the demon of jealousy than all I could by a thousand
sermons and homilies.
I remember at your own board you made me uncomfortable talking about my
complexion, which you chose to say was "remarkable for a woman of my
age." And then you proceeded to describe some wonderful beauty you had
seen at the Country Club the day previous, and all the time I saw the
tears hidden back under the lids of Edna's tired eyes, and a hurt look
on her pale face. Do you imagine she was _jealous_ of your compliment to
me? or of your praise of the girl's beauty at the Country Club?
No, no, my dear Mr. Gordon, I know Edna too well to accuse her of such
petty feelings. She was only hurt at your lack of taste in accenting her
own lost bloom by needlessly emphasizing another's possession of what
had once been hers.
Yet she called upon the young lady that very day and invited her to
luncheon, and even then you indulged in pronounced admiration of the
guest's cheeks, gallantly requesting your wife to have the bouquet of
carnation pinks removed from the table, as they were so shamed by the
complexions of the ladies.
Of course it was gracefully worded in the plural, but your pallid wife
could not claim her share of it, and you should have realized the fact.
And the reason she could not was that she had sacrificed her health in
your service, in giving your children to you, and in losing her lover.
She adores her splendid babies, but she is still a woman and a
wife,--though you seem to ignore that she is anything but a mother.
Right about face, Mr. Gordon, and become the lover you were, and
jealousy will be driven from your threshold.
It is your own lack of thoughtfulness, your own tactless and tasteless
methods with your wife, which have caused the change in her manner. She
is not jealous, she is only lonely, heart-hungry, disillusioned.
You are less noble, less considerate, less tender, less sympathetic
than she believed. For the man to whom these adjectives can be applied
will guard, love, and cherish the wife of his youth, and the mother of
his children, before all other considerations; and he will understand
how sensitive a fading wife may be, and not confound that sensitiveness
with ignoble jealousy.
It is you, Charles Gordon, who must cure your wife of nerves, hysteria,
and incipient jealousy, not I.
To Mrs. Clarence St. Claire
_Concerning Her Husband_
I am sorry that your matrimonial barque meets so many rough winds while
hardly out of Honeymoon Bay.
Clarence and you seemed so deeply in love when I last saw you, six
months after your wedding, that I had hoped all might go well with you.
I knew the disposition of Clarence to be tainted with jealousy, but
hoped you would be able to eradicate it from his nature.
You know his poor mother suffered agonies from the infidelities of his
father before Clarence was born. She had married a handsome foreigner
with whom she was desperately enamoured, while he cared only for the
fortune she brought him.
While still in the full light of the honeymoon he began to indulge in
flirtations and amours, and poor Clarence, during the important prenatal
period of life, received the mark of suspicion and the tendency to
hypersensitiveness which then dominated the mother.
By the time Elise was born she had passed through the whole process, and
was passive and indifferent.
I cannot help a sensation of amusement, even in face of the condition
you describe (which is little short of tragic), as I recall the letter
Clarence wrote begging me to try and prevent, by fair means or foul, his
sister's marriage to old Mr. Volney.
That was two years before you and Clarence were married.
Elise, we all know, wedded for the money and position Mr. Volney gave,
in return for her young beauty.
Clarence and you were ideal lovers, seeing nothing in the world outside
of your own selves.
Yet Elise is quite contented, and Mr. Volney uses what little brain he
has left to exult over his possession of such a beautiful young wife.
Elise upholds his dignity and flatters him into a belief that he is a
great philanthropist and a social power, and in this way she has the
handling of his millions, which is her idea of happiness. She travels,
entertains, and poses for photographs and paintings in imported gowns,
and there is no rumour of discontent or divorce.
Meanwhile, Clarence, who was so opposed to her marriage because it was
loveless, is making a mess of his own love-match, through his jealousy.
You, who knew him to be insanely jealous as a lover, and who seemed to
be flattered with what you thought a proof of his devotion, appeal to me
now to know what to do with the husband who is destroying your love and
your happiness! Surely, if Elise knew of this she might well say, "He
laughs best who laughs last."
I know that you were absorbed in Clarence for the first year of your
married life, and that you gave no least cause for any jealousy, and I
know, as you say, that even then he was often morbid and unhappy over
nothing at all.
He was jealous even of girl friends and relatives, and if you attended a
matinee with one of them, he sulked the whole evening.
This was little more than he did as a lover, and you should have begun
in those days to reason him out of such moods.
You imagined then it was his mad love for you which caused his
But jealousy is self-love, and selfishness lies at the root of such
conditions of mind as his.
A woman should say to a man who sulks or goes into tantrums when she
pays courteous attentions to relatives or acquaintances, "You are
lowering my ideal of you--I cannot love a man who will indulge such
unworthy moods. You insult my womanhood and doubt my principles by your
suspicions; you intimate that I have neither truth, or judgment, or
pride. You must conquer yourself, and learn to trust me and to believe
in me, or I must decide I am no woman for you to take as a life
companion." A man should take the same course toward a jealous
sweetheart or wife.
A few quiet but firm assertions of this nature, when you were being
wooed, would have given Clarence an idea that he could lose you, and
that he was making himself ridiculous in your eyes. Instead, you boasted
to your friends how wildly infatuated he was, and Clarence took new
pride in his own blemish of character.
Now that you have to live day, and night, and week, and month, and year,
with this trait, it seems a less romantic phase of devotion, I fancy.
But you are not wise to grow reckless and ignore the wishes of your
husband in all ways, because he is unreasonable. "Since he is so
absolutely impossible to please," you say, "I may as well please myself.
I have decided to take some of the liberties so many of my acquaintances
do, and enjoy life outside my home if I cannot enjoy it within."
Then you proceed to tell me how more than half your associates drive,
lunch, and dine with men acquaintances, and how old-fashioned they
consider your scruples. And you tell me that, despite your rectitude,
Clarence insults you almost daily by his unreasoning jealousy of men,
women, and even children.
"I have about made up my mind to be less prudish and enjoy myself, as I
am sure Clarence cannot be any more jealous than he is," you say.
Now since you have asked my advice in the matter, I can only urge you to
reconsider this last determination.
So long as you are, according to law and in the eyes of the world, the
wife of a man, you cannot escape comment if you are frequently seen in
public places alone with another.
Were you to look into the hearts of other men who ask you to dine,
drive, or lunch alone with them, you would find a feeling of increased
respect when you decline, although they may show only disappointment on
the surface. I know that many wives of unblemished reputation accept
courtesies of this kind from masculine friends, and I of course
understand that circumstances may arise which make an occasional
But the fewer such occasions, the better and the safer for the married
woman. The man who is perfectly willing his wife should appear
frequently in public with other men does not fully appreciate the
dignity of her position or his own, or else he has lost his love for
The fact that your husband is jealous without reason is no excuse for
giving him reason. The moment men know that a husband is inclined to
jealousy, he falls in their estimation, and they are seized with a
desire to aggravate him, while they sympathize with the wife.
The sympathetic friend of the abused wife is a dangerous companion for
her. He may mean to be platonic and kind, but almost invariably he
becomes sentimental and unsafe.
Once in a thousand times the absolutely happy wife of a husband she
respects as well as loves can enjoy a platonic friendship with a man who
respects her, and himself, and her husband. But even that situation is
liable to prove insecure, if they are much together, owing to the
selfishness and weakness of human nature when the barriers of convention
But the unhappy wife must take no chances with Fate.
She must either decide to accept her lot and bear it with philosophy, or
escape from it and begin life over, after the courts have given her the
right to reconstruct her destiny.
You know all that entails. It is not a pleasant process.
If your love for your husband is entirely dead, and you feel that he has
forfeited all right to your sympathy, pity, or patience, then break the
fetters and go free. But if you feel that you are not ready for that
ordeal, and that you must still remain living under the same roof with
him, and continue to bear his name, then do not join the great army of
wives who are to be seen in public restaurants and hotels dining
tete-a-tete with "platonic friends" over emptied glasses.
You can but make trouble for yourself and add to the misery of your
husband by such a course. In your particular case, I feel that your
knowledge of the jealous disposition of the man you married renders it
your duty to bear and forbear, and to try every method of reformation
before you resort to the very common highway of divorce as an exit from
A woman has no right to complain of the fault in a husband which she
condoned in a lover. And a man has no right to complain of the fault in
a wife he condoned in a sweetheart. Yet both may strive to correct that
Insist upon having women and men friends who can be received at your
home in presence of your husband. Make Clarence realize how he belittles
himself in your estimation by unreasoning jealousy. Give him to
understand that you want to love him and respect him, and that you have
no intention of lowering your standard of behaviour, because he is
constantly expecting you to. Tell him it mortifies you to find greater
pleasure away from him than in his presence, yet when he insults you
with his suspicions, and destroys your comfort with his moods, you can
no longer think of him as your girlhood's ideal.
Ask him to try, for your sake, to use more common sense and self-control
in this matter, and to help you to restore the happiness which seems
flying from your wedded lives.
Do nothing to aggravate or irritate him, but do not give up your friends
of either sex; this is but to increase his inclination to petty tyranny,
while it will in no sense lessen his jealousy.
And when you are alone, endeavour to think of him always as sensible,
reasonable, and kind.
By your mental picture you can help to cure him of the blight he
received before his birth. It is the task set many a wife, to counteract
the errors and neglect of mothers.
Look to the Divine source for help in your work, and remember the lovely
qualities Clarence possesses when he is not under the ban of this
Love him out into the light if you can--and I believe you can if you are
not too soon discouraged.
It is a nobler effort to try and create in your husband the ideal you
have in your mind, than to go seeking him elsewhere.
Be patient and wait awhile. Such love as you and Clarence felt in your
courtship and early marriage cannot so soon have died. It is only
sleeping, and suffering from a nightmare. Awaken it to life and reality
To Young Mrs. Duncan
And so the serpent has appeared in your Eden, attired in widow's weeds,
and talking the usual jargon of "devoted mother love." I do not like to
say I told you so, but you must remember our rather spirited discussion
of this very serpent, when you announced your engagement and said Mr.
Duncan's mother was to make her home with you after your return from
I had met Mrs. Duncan, and I knew her type all too well. Alfred is her
only child, and she adores him, naturally, but it is adoration so
mingled with selfishness and tyranny that it is incapable of considering
the welfare of its object.
Mrs. Duncan was always jealous of any happiness which came to her son
through another source than herself. That type of mother love is to be
encountered every day, and that type of mother believes herself to be
the most devoted creature on earth; while the fact is, she sits for ever
in the boudoir of her mentality, gazing at her own reflection. She loves
her children because they also reflect herself, and is incapable of
unselfish pleasure in their happiness apart from her.
You will remember I urged you to wait until you could have a home,
however humble, alone with your husband, and even at the cost of that
most undesirable condition, a long engagement.
But you assured me with much spirit that you had every confidence in
your power to win Mrs. Duncan's heart, and to crown her declining years
with peace and happiness.
As well talk of decking a porcupine with wreaths of flowers, and making
it a household pet, to coddle and caress.
When I congratulated Mrs. Duncan on her son's engagement to such a
sweet, bright girl as my cousin, she assumed a martyr expression and
said, "She hoped he would be happy, even if her own heart must suffer
the pain of losing an only son."
"But," I urged, "he really adds to your life by bringing you the
companionship of a lovely daughter. My cousin will, I am sure, prove
such to you."
"I have no doubt your cousin is a most estimable girl," Madame Duncan
answered, with dignity, "but I have never yet felt the need of any close
companion save my son. You, having no children, are excusable for not
understanding my feelings, now when another claims his thoughts."
"Yet the world is maintained by such occurrences," I replied. "You took
some mother's son, or you would not have had your own."
With austere self-righteousness Mrs. Duncan corrected me.
"I married an orphan," she said.
"How thoughtful of you," I responded. "But you see it is not lack of
thought, only an accident of fate, which has prevented my cousin from
marrying an orphan. There are not enough desirable orphans to keep our
young women supplied with husbands, you know."
I think Mrs. Duncan suspected me of covert sarcasm, for she changed the
topic of conversation. But I heard her afterward talking to a bevy of
women on the sorrow of giving up a child after having reared him to
manhood's estate, and her listeners all seemed duly sympathetic.
Of course, my dear Ruth, there is an element of sadness in the happiest
of marriages for the parents of children. I think it is particularly sad
when a mother gives up a daughter, whose every thought she has shared,
and whose every pleasure she has planned, and sees her embark upon the
uncertain ocean of marriage, with a strange pilot at the helm.
The really good and loving mother endears herself to that pilot, and
loves him and seeks his affection for her daughter's sake. She hides
her own sorrow in her heart, and does not shadow her daughter's voyage
by her repining.
The man who is worthy of a good girl's love will understand what it must
mean to a mother to give her daughter to him, and he will in every way
seek to recompense her for her loss, by bestowing upon her sympathy,
courteous attentions, and a son's devotion.
Just so will the girl, who is worthy of being a good man's wife, seek to
make his mother love her.
I know how you have tried to win Mrs. Duncan's heart. I know your
amiable, sweet disposition, and your unselfishness and tact, and I know
how you failed.
I can imagine your feelings when you overheard Mrs. Duncan say to a
caller that she was going to leave your house and take rooms elsewhere,
as she could not endure your "billing and cooing."
Do you know, Ruth, that nearly all the trouble between mothers-and
daughters-in-law is due to vanity and jealousy.
Fifty mothers are friends to their daughters' husbands where one is a
friend to her son's wife. That is because, wholly unconsciously to
herself, the mother resents another woman sharing the attention of a man
she loves. The fact that he is her son, and that the love he gives his
wife is a wholly different sentiment, does not prevent blind,
unreasoning jealousy from dominating her nature.
Mrs. Duncan wants to stand always in the centre of the stage, with every
other woman in the play in the background.
It is a most pathetic situation for a man,--this position between a wife
and a jealous mother. My heart always aches for the man in the case even
more than for the woman who is misused.
All young men are reared to think mother-love the most unselfish and
wonderful devotion on earth, even in the face of facts which so often
prove it otherwise; and when a son sees his mother unhappy he is
inclined to make every possible excuse for her, because he feels that to
take issue against her will put him in a false light before the whole
established order of society, and that he will beat his head against
traditions wherever he turns.
So, he ofttimes tries to conciliate the wife he has promised to cherish,
and to convince her that she may exaggerate matters, and that she may
even be the aggressor, and then he finds himself standing between two
raging fires, with no escape save through flames, and over hot fagots,
which will leave him scarred for life.
Sometimes the wife _is_ in the wrong. Sometimes a man marries a woman
who is so narrow and so selfish and so jealous that she begrudges the
husband's mother her son's affection. But I must affirm that, in my
observation of humanity, I have seen but one such wife, where I have
seen ten jealous and unreasonable mothers.
And with what pleasure and admiration I recall the few beautiful and
noble mothers-in-law I have known! I can count them on the fingers of
one hand without including the thumb. I mean mothers of sons.
There are just four whom I can recall. They really loved their sons, and
loved whatever and whoever gave those sons happiness.
One mother objected to her son's choice before marriage, and tried
vainly to convince him that he had made a mistake. But after his
marriage she took the girl into her heart, made her a companion and
friend, and when the son began to discover her glaring faults, she told
him to be patient and wait, and that all would be well. Instead of
saying, "I told you so," she said, "Your wife is young, and has had no
wise hand to guide her. You married her for love, and if you exercise
the love-spirit, and are patient and self-controlled in your treatment
of her, she will overcome these faults which annoy you."
And day by day she called his attention to the pleasing qualities the
girl possessed, and by praise, tact, love, and sympathy bridged over
the threatened chasm.
The couple live happily together to-day, thanks to the mother-in-law.
Oh, that there were more such mothers of sons!
Be as patient and sweet as you can, dear Ruth, toward Mrs. Duncan; think
how difficult the situation is for your husband, and say or do nothing
to make it harder for him. But allow Mrs. Duncan to live by herself,
and, if need be, bear many privations cheerfully that she may do so, and
that you may have your own home in peace. Every wife is entitled to
that, and if she has made every possible effort which love and tact can
make to cast the seven devils of jealousy out of her mother-in-law, and
they still remain, it is for the general welfare that two separate
When a son has done all he can in reason to make his mother happy, save
to turn against the wife he has promised to cherish, he is a cad and a
weakling if he does the latter. He must learn that it is a larger duty
to be a just man than to be an obedient son.
I am sure Mr. Duncan will have the character and judgment to do what is
right in this matter.
To a Young Man
_Ambitious for Literary Honours_
Your achievements in college, where you distinguished yourself in
rhetoric and literature, would justify you in thinking seriously of a
career as an author.
And the fact that your father wishes you to take charge of his brokerage
business, and to relinquish your literary aspirations, should not deter
you from carrying out your ambitions.
Prom your mother you inherit a mind and temperament which wholly unfit
you for the pursuits your father follows and enjoys. You are no more
suited to make a successful broker than he is fitted to write an Iliad.
Try and make him understand this, and try and convince him that to
yield to his wishes in this matter, means the sacrifice of your tastes,
the waste of your talents, and the destruction of your happiness.
If he cannot be convinced by your consistent and respectful arguments,
then you must quietly, but firmly, refuse to accept a career distasteful
No parent has a right to drive a child into so undesirable a path for
life as this would prove to one of your nature.
Your father would think the horticulturist insane, who took a delicate
fern and planted it in arid soil, on a hilltop, far from shade, and
expected it to thrive and bear blossoms like the cactus.
Yet this would be no more unreasonable, than to expect a son of your
temperament and inclinations to be happy and successful in Wall Street.
It is a curious study to watch parents, and to observe their utter lack
of knowledge regarding a child's nature and capabilities; and to find
them not only ignorant in those important matters, but unwilling to be
You say it makes your father angry to have any one refer to your
I remember when your father bred race-horses, and how proud he was that
a two-year-old colt showed traits and points noticeably like its
He chose for your mother, a woman of rare mind, and of poetic taste, and
why should he not be proud and glad that his son resembles her? When
will fathers learn that sons are more frequently like their mothers, and
daughters like their fathers, than otherwise?
The temporary dissatisfaction of your father is not so sad to
contemplate as your own lifelong disappointment if you accede to his
wishes in this matter.
Each individual has a right to choose his own career in life, so long as
that career is respectable and bodes no evil to humanity.
If, as your father threatens, he refuses to give you support while you
are exploring the field of literature, you should feel grateful to him
for this unintentional incentive to success.
I do not agree with those who consider the necessity to earn money a
misfortune to genius.
I believe the greatest works of art given to the world have been brought
to light through necessity.
The artistic temperament is almost invariably combined with a propensity
to dream, and to float upon the clouds of imagination.
The ranks of wealth and comfort are full of talented and accomplished
people who "never are, but always to be" great.
One great man in a score may have been reared in affluence, but I doubt
if the statistics would show so large a percentage.
There are many hills which contain valuable ore, but if the owner sits
in ease upon these elevations, and gazes at the sunsets, he does not
find the ore. If he is a poor man, and takes his pick and _digs_, he
finds his fortune.
At first he may cast out only loose earth and stones, but by this very
necessity to find valuables, he continues to search until the ore is
Were you to remain at home and enjoy all the benefits of your father's
wealth, I doubt if you would have the persistence to dig down into the
mine you possess within you.
You would sit on the hilltop and dream.
If you are forced to write to live, you may cast up some rubbish from
the surface; yet by the continual digging you will reveal all that lies
Regarding the style you speak of adopting, let your feeling come
_first_, your style of expressing that feeling _second_. Say nothing
merely to exhibit your style--and hold back some strong feelings until
you can give them the best expression.
As to the methods of getting your work before the public and the
"influence" you need, I can only assure you that unless you write with
purpose, and power, and passionate enjoyment of your art, forgetful of
all things save your desire to express yourself, no influence on earth
can do more than give you a page in a magazine, or a column in a
newspaper for an occasion or two. And if you do write under those
conditions, you will need no influence: for it is just such writing the
world wants; and the editors and publishers will be forced to read you,
whether they are inclined to or not.
Christopher Columbus found his continent because he was so determined,
so persistent, so certain that unknown lands awaited him.
It made no difference who told him that all the earth had been
discovered, and that he would never be able to succeed in his wild
venture. His purpose was too strong to be influenced by the doubts of
It has always seemed to me that God would have made a continent to
reward such a search, had it not already existed.
Unless you set forth on the sea of literature, with the spirit of a
Columbus in your soul, you may as well give up the idea of finding the
Port of Glory. If you do set forth with that spirit, you need ask no
God is the only influence genius needs.
Perseverance the only method.
To find the way to success alone, is the test of talent.
Some influential author might give you the entree once to a magazine.
But editors and publishers are men of purely business instincts, and
they will not accept work on the recommendation of any third party,
which they think their public will not like. Their constant effort is to
find what that public _does like_, and the unknown author has an equal
advantage with the genius, if he sends such material.
An author once told me that he "trapped" twenty manuscripts and sent
them out to editors, and all came back unread, as his "trap" proved.
Since he sent them forth with such doubts in his mind, it is no wonder
his trap succeeded and his manuscripts failed.
No great literary fire of purpose could be in the mind of a man who
spent thought and time on such a plot to trick an editor. And because
there was no great flame, the inanimate manuscripts were returned
unread. For even a package of paper sends out its "aura," and invites or
If you are discouraged by the people who tell you that "everything has
been written," and that you can only be a faint echo of greater souls,
then you do not deserve success. I have no doubt the croakers of that
day told Shakespeare the same.
It seems that Shakespeare did take many old themes and other people's
plots and ideas to re-create in his own way. And what a way! Surely he
who best uses an idea is most entitled to the credit.
There is nothing new under the sun, but there is always the new
audience. For the majestic old poem of Spring, bound over in new covers
of green, God creates fresh, eager young eyes and hearts each year. And
not yet has he said to the year, "Do not attempt another spring--there
have been so many before, you can but repeat their beauties." Then why
should any mortal say to the poet or the author, "Do not try to
write--it has all been said before."
Proceed, my young friend, and write what is in your heart. Nothing quite
the same was ever in any heart before, and yet the greater part of it
has been in all hearts, and will be in all hearts, so long as the world
Remember that when you write from the heart, it will go to the hearts of
your readers: and when you write from your head it will go no lower than
And if the critics score or ridicule you, consider yourself on the path
If you have a message for the world, nothing and nobody can prevent you
from delivering it.
He only fails who has nothing to say.
To Mrs. McAllister
_Concerning Her Little Girl_
How strange it seems that your daughter is ten years old.
It is such a brief hour since you wrote me you were eighteen and had
entered Vassar. Having no children of my own to stand as milestones on
life's highway, and keeping a very young heart in my breast all these
years, it seems at times little less than impertinent in the children I
have known to develop so rapidly into matrons and fathers.
I am glad for you that the doctor has reached the desirable goal where
he can rest from his laborious profession for two years, and take that
journey abroad you have so long contemplated. And I am glad that you
feel the satisfaction you say you do, in never having left him alone
for a whole season as you once thought of doing.
A satisfied conscience is a better comrade to journey along beside, than
a remembered pleasure.
But now about Genevieve.
You tell me she is to be left with your sister, and that she will, for
the first time, attend the public school.
You are right in thinking this will make her more American in spirit
than an education gained through home teaching or private schools.
The girl who attends private schools only, is almost invariably
inoculated with the serum of aristocracy.
She believes herself a little higher order of being than the children
who attend public schools, and it requires continual association with
people of broad common sense to counteract this influence. I know you
and the doctor have exerted this influence, but your sister might not
realize the necessity of making a special effort in that direction.
Then, too, since the fathers or grandfathers of our most conspicuous
social leaders were self-made and self-taught, and since our American
society is composed of so many varied types of humanity, it is well for
a young girl to come in contact with all classes while she is yet a
child, that she may understand humanity as she is sure to encounter it
later. Yet, as you say, it is indeed a serious thought to know your
little rosebud of a child is to be tossed into the dust of the public
"I do not want the delicate leaves forced into premature blossom or
blight," you say, and I feel for you, as I read the words.
You remember your own experience as a school-child in the country, and
you tell me you would fain guard your daughter from hearing or seeing
much that came to your ears and eyes as a school-child.
But now, my dear Winifred, listen.
It is utterly and absolutely impossible for you to keep Genevieve
ignorant of _life_, or of the great fundamental principles of life. It
is utterly useless to undertake to ignore the set impulse in all nature.
Since God did not ignore it in constructing the universe, parents cannot
afford to in educating children. The one thing to do is to teach your
child early to respect and revere the subject, and to regard all things
pertaining to birth as sacred, never to be lightly discussed. Wherever
the eyes of an observing child turn, they see something to arouse
curiosity upon this subject.
All literature (the Bible particularly) contains some reference to sex
and birth. Unless you stuff the ears of children with cotton, they must
hear expressions, suggestions, and references, which necessitate
explanations of the same vital subject. From insects to man, through all
the various kingdoms, sex laws are the foundation of life.
Why parents have chosen to taboo this important subject, and why they
surround it with falsehood and subterfuge, and suggest that it is
unclean or vulgar, has always puzzled me.
Inconceivable harm, lifelong disaster, has befallen many a girl and many
a boy through this mistaken attitude of parents to God's basic law of
Genevieve is only ten. But she is a child with a most inquiring mind,
and she already indicates a tendency to coquetry. She prefers boys to
dolls, and evidently finds them more interesting than girls.
The things you would guard her from knowing, she is sure to learn in
some undesirable and unfortunate manner, unless you prepare her for them
with loving delicacy and refinement.
My suggestion is that you take a plant, and talk to her about its
growth. Tell her how it springs from a seed, and hides in the bosom of
the earth, expanding until it bursts through, and becomes the baby of
Tell her, too, of the bird life in the egg, and make her realize the
mother-impulse in all nature. Then say to her that she is a part of it
all and that she came into life by the same divine law, and that when
she is older you will explain whatever puzzles her young mind.
Tell her that she was carried under your heart, as the sprout was
carried in the bosom of mother earth, and that it is a very holy and
beautiful thing; so holy and so beautiful that the refined and sweet
people of the world do not talk freely of the subject, but keep it like
a religion, for those very near to them.
Then say, You will hear other children, who have not been told this by
their mothers, speak rudely and even jest on this subject. They are to
be pitied, for not knowing such jests are vulgar, but you must walk away
from them, and refuse to listen, after telling them your mother has
explained all you need to know. Impress upon her that she is never to
discuss the topic with any one else, unless you advise her to do so.
I have known only two mothers who took this method with their children,
but both succeeded in rearing beautiful and remarkable daughters and
sons. For the sons were included in the talk by one mother, and they
were ideal boys and gentlemen--popular with, and respected by their
comrades, in spite of their delicacy and reserve on subjects jested over
by other boys.
I am sure that you can protect Genevieve from the soil and shock you
fear for her, by making her your confidante at this early age, and by
convincing her of your loving companionship in the future. Under no
other conditions would I for one day allow a little girl (or a little
boy for that matter) to attend a public school. Not one parent in a
thousand realizes the moral dangers surrounding small children who go to
and from school in country or city places.
Many remember their own precocious education on forbidden topics, yet
seem to imagine their children will be immune from such experiences.
But until the Creator produces life by some new process, children will
never be exempt from curiosity regarding the present method, and parents
may as well realize the fact and become their children's reverent
instructors, instead of leaving them to be taught God's holiest truths
by vulgar chance or dreadful design.
Do not imagine that innocence necessitates ignorance.
Your child will be far more innocent minded, if you give her the
instruction I suggest, than if you leave her to ungoverned imagination
and unenlightened observation.
Deep in each human entity the sex impulse is planted, and will assert
itself sooner or later.
Ignorance and curiosity lead often to precocious development of the
impulse. By proper care on your part, your child's mind may be kept
normal, innocent, and wholesome.
See to it that you give this important care before you leave.
To Mr. Ray Gilbert
_Attorney at Law, Aged Thirty_
My dear Mr. Gilbert:--Your letter followed me across the ocean, and
chanced to be the first one opened and read in my weighty home mail
to-day. I have lost all trace of you during the last six years, in that
wonderful way people can lose sight of one another in a large city. Once
or twice I heard you had just left some social function as I arrived, or
was expected just as I was leaving, and once, recently, I saw you across
the house at a first night, with a very pretty girl at your side. I
fancy this is the "one woman in the world for you," of whom you speak in
the letter before me--the letter written the evening before your
marriage. How good you are to carry out my request made seven years
ago, and to write me this beautiful letter, after reading over and
burning your former boyish epistle, returning to me my reply.
It is every man's duty to himself, his bride, and the other woman, to
destroy all evidences of past infatuations and affections, before he
enters the new life. It is every woman's duty to do the same--_with a
reservation_. Since men demand so much more of a wife than a wife
demands of a husband, a woman is wise to retain any proof in her
possession that some man has been an honourable suitor for her hand. She
should make no use of such evidence, unless the unaccepted lover
indulges in disrespectful comments or revengeful libels, as some men are
inclined to when the fruit for which they reached is picked by another
And it is when the grapes are called sour that the evidence may prove
effective of their having been thought sweet and desirable.
It is a curious fact that no woman thinks less of a man for his having
had his vain infatuations, and that all men think less of a woman if she
has loved without response.
Therefore, it behoves her to destroy no evidence that the other man, not
herself, was the discarded party.
But woe unto the man who retains old love-letters, or other tokens of
dead loves and perished desires.
Few men could be guilty of showing or repeating the contents of another
man's love-letters. Women who are models of virtue and goodness have
been known to make public the letters written a man in earlier years by
another object of his affections. I have to my personal knowledge known
a woman to place before the eyes of a third person, lines written
evidently in the very heart's blood of a former sweetheart of her
husband--words the man believed he had destroyed with other letters,
more than a score of years before. Imagine what the feelings of that
early sweetheart, now a happy and beloved wife, would be, did she know
the words written so long ago were spread before cold and critical
eyes, and discussed by two people who could have no comprehension of the
conditions and circumstances which led to their expression.
Because I know otherwise tender-hearted and good women are capable of
such acts, I am glad you have obeyed my wish of seven years ago, and
that all proofs of your boyish infatuation for an older woman are
destroyed. You say you have told the girl you love that you once were
foolishly fond of me, and that I helped you to higher ideals of
womanhood and life.
That is wise and well, since you found her to be broad and sensible
enough to share such a confidence. But had she seen your written words
to me and my reply, it would have been less agreeable to her than to
hear your own calm recital of the now dead passion.
Words written in a state of high-wrought intensity retain a sort of
phosphoric luminosity, like certain decaying substances, and even after
the passage of years, and when the emotions which gave them expression
are dead and for-gotten, they seem to emit life and feeling.
_Burn your bridges as you walk along the highways of romance to St.
Since you compliment me by saying I have helped you to higher ideals of
life, will you allow me to give you a little advice regarding your
treatment of your wife?
You have every reason to know that I have been a happy and well-loved
wife of the man of my choice. You know that I have neither sought nor
accepted the attentions of other men when they crossed the danger-line
lying between friendship and love.
Therefore it may astonish you when I confess that, at the time you
temporarily lost your head, I was conscious of an undercurrent of
feminine vanity at the thought that I was capable of inspiring a young
and talented man with so sincere a feeling.
A similar experience with an older man would have suggested an insult,
since older men understand human nature, and realize what a flirtation
with a married woman means. But your ingenuousness, and your romantic,
boyish temperament, were, in a measure, an excuse for your folly, and
made me lenient toward you.
My happy life, my principles and ideals, submerged this sentiment of
feminine vanity to which I confess, but I knew it was there, and it led
me to much meditation, then and ever since, upon the matter of woman's
weakness and folly.
As never before, I was able to understand how a neglected or misused
wife might mistake this very sentiment of flattered vanity for the
recognition of an affinity.
Had I been suffering from coldness and indifference at home, how
acceptable your boyish devotion might have proved to me.
And how easily I would have been persuaded by your blind reasoning that
we were intended by an all-wise Providence for life companions.
There is no sin a woman so readily forgives as a man's unruly love for
her, and hundreds of noble-hearted women have been led to regard a
lawless infatuation as a divine emotion, because they were lonely, and
neglected, and hungry for affection.
See to it, my dear friend, as the years go by, that your wife needs no
romance from the outside world to embellish her life with sentiment.
Do not drop into the humdrum ways of many contented husbands, and forget
to pay the compliment, and cease to act the lover.
Notice the gowns and hats your wife wears, and share her pleasures and
interests when it is possible.
Not that you should always be together, for separate enjoyments and
occupations sometimes lend an added zest to life for husband and wife,
but do not drift apart in all your ideas and interests, as have so many
You are the husband of a bright and lovely girl, and if you forget this
fact after a time, remember there are other Ray Gilberts who may realize
it, and seek to awaken such an interest in her heart as you sought to
arouse in mine.
You found the room occupied by its rightful host.
See it that no man finds the room vacant in your wife's heart.
Study the art of keeping your wife interested and interesting.
A woman thrives on love and appreciation. I know a beautiful bride of
eighty years, who has been the daily adoration of her husband for more
than half a century.
She has been "infinite in her variety," and he has never failed to
appreciate and admire.
Devote a portion of each day to talking to your wife about herself.
Then she will not find it a novelty when other men attempt the same
method of entertainment.
Whatever other matters engross your time and attention, let your wife
realize that she stands first and foremost in your thoughts and in your
Do not forget the delicacies of life, manner, speech, and deportment in
the intimacy of daily companionship.
Never descend to the vulgar or the commonplace.
One characteristic of men has always puzzled me. No matter how wide has
been a bachelor's experience with the wives and daughters of other men,
when he marries it never occurs to him that his wife or daughters could
meet temptation or know human weakness.
It must be the egotism of the sex.
Each man excuses the susceptibility of the women with whom he has had
romantic episodes, on the ground of his especial power or charm. And
when he marries, he believes his society renders all the women of his
family immune from other attractions.
Do not rely upon the fact that your wife is legally bound to you, and
therefore need not be wooed by you hereafter.
There are women who are born anew with each dawn, and who must be won
anew with each day, or the lover loses some precious quality than can
never be regained.
It will pay you to study your wife as the years pass.
Do not take for granted that you know her to-day, because you knew her
thoroughly last year.
This is a long letter, but when one writes only once in seven years,
brevity is not to be expected.
My greeting to you, and may the years be weaver's hands, which shall
interlace and bind two lives into one complete pattern.
To the Sister of a Great Beauty
I am far from laughing, my dear girl, at your assertion that your
position is little short of tragic.
To be the ordinary sister of an extraordinary beauty, is a position
which calls for the exercise of all the great virtues in order to be
borne with dignity, good taste, and serenity.
I remember seeing you and Pansy when you were ten and she twelve years
of age. I foresaw what lay before you then, and have often wondered how
you would meet the occasion when you were both "finished," and at home
under the same roof, and socially launched. It was wise for your mother
to separate you so early in life, and place you under different
teachers, and in different schools.
It is difficult for a girl in her late childhood and early teens to use
philosophy and religion to support her, when she is made a Cinderella by
unthinking associates and friends, and forgotten and neglected while a
more attractive sister is lionized.
Had you always walked in the shadow of your handsome sister until
to-day, I fancy your disposition would have become warped with
resentment and envy.
And perhaps your feelings for Pansy would have been less affectionate
I am glad to have you tell me that Pansy is so modest and unassuming and
so genuinely solicitous for your happiness.
She must have been particularly fortunate in her environment while at
school to possess such qualities after knowing as she has known for
twenty-two years that her beauty is dazzling to the eye of even the
There is no greater obstacle to the development of the best qualities
in a young woman than the possession of such unusual beauty. From her
cradle she is made to realize its power, and men and women teach her in
a thousand unconscious ways to be selfish and self-centred. She receives
attentions, and her acquaintance is sought, with no effort on her part,
while more gifted and deserving companions are unnoticed. She is made to
realize that she is one to be served, where less attractive girls are
taught to "stand and wait."
The love nature of each human being is either developed or stunted by
neglect during the early years of life, and, as a rule, the beautiful
woman is incapable of a deep, absorbing, and unselfish love, because she
has grown up the receiver instead of the giver.
Were you, my dear Sallie, to know the number of great beauties who have
failed to find happiness in marriage, you would be amazed. But the
explanation is simple; for man is a being who, however he may worship
beauty before marriage, worships his own comfort more deeply afterward.
And it is rare indeed when a famous beauty troubles herself to plan for
the comfort or happiness of the man she marries. It is the natural
result of her education to think man made to adore and serve her.
I hope Pansy may keep her loving and lovable qualities, and that she may
marry before the adoration and admiration of many men become necessary
to her life. For the beauties' matrimonial barque most often founders on
the reef of plural lovers.
As for yourself, I can only suggest that you acquire many
accomplishments, and perfect yourself in music and languages, and that
you seek for the attainment of all the subtle graces, which are, in the
long run, more lasting as sources of happiness for a woman than mere
beauty. It is a peculiarly significant fact that the great passions of
history have not been inspired by very young or startlingly beautiful
women, but by those of maturity and mental charms.
Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, Aspasia, Petrarch's Laura, had all crossed
the line between youth and middle life, and there are no authentic
proofs that any one of the number was a dazzling beauty. Some of the
world's most alluring women have been absolutely plain.
You are not plain. It is only by comparison that you so regard yourself.
There is much you can do to make yourself more attractive personally.
You know what Rochefoucauld said: "No woman is in fault for not being
beautiful at sixteen; any woman is in fault if she is not beautiful at
However much it may sound like a platitude, it is a great and eternal
truth that your mental activities are chiselling your features. By
keeping yourself concerned with good, gracious, and great thoughts, you
are shaping your face into a noble beauty minute by minute, and hour by
Avoid as much as possible looking at repulsive and ugly objects.
Look at whatever is beautiful and seek for it.
Search for whatever is admirable in nature and human nature, and muse
upon those things in your moments of solitude.
Cultivate love-thoughts for humanity at large.
Avoid severe criticisms, and develop sympathy and pity in your soul.
Study the comfort and pleasure of strangers in public places, and
friends and associates in nearer relations.
Remember always how brief a thing, and ofttimes sad, life is to many,
and seek to brighten and better it as you pass along.
Meanwhile, take care of your person, study your lines and your features,
and learn how to dress and how to carry yourself; how to obtain
"presence," that indescribable charm in woman.
Take daily care of your complexion, which to a woman is of prime
Call in the skill of the specialist to help you preserve and beautify
your skin and hair, just as the dentist and the oculist are to be
consulted to help you preserve teeth and eyes. Think beauty for mind,
soul, and body; live it, and believe it is your right.
And just as surely as you pursue this line of conduct for ten years,
just so surely will you find yourself at thirty far more attractive than
at twenty, and at forty more lovely than at thirty. Learn to be a
linguist, and acquire skill upon some one instrument, that you may
entertain those who care to converse, and give pleasure to those who
wish to be silent.
You are young, and life with its splendid possibilities is before you.
There is nothing a woman with youth, will-power, and _love_ may not
accomplish--even to the convincing of the world that she is beautiful,
when her mirror may say otherwise.
For enduring and all-encompassing beauty is a composite thing, and
unless a woman possesses the spiritual and mental portions, the physical
phase soon loses its attractions for the cultivated eye; while with the
development of the first two, the third is certain to come.
Begin to-day, my dear girl, to _grow beauty_ which shall make you a
power and an influence in the world where you move, and which shall
invite, rather than fear, the approach of time.
To Mrs. White Peak
_One of the Pillars of Respectable Society_
Ever since your call and our conversation regarding Sybyl Marchmont, I
have felt a rising tide of indignation. It has reached the perigee mark
and must overflow. If it reaches you and gives you a thorough soaking, I
shall feel satisfied.
I have always known you were only half-developed. There are many such
people in the world. They serve their purpose and often do much good.
They miss a great deal of life, but as they rarely know that they miss
anything, it is a waste of sentiment to pity them.
I have pitied you, nevertheless. I have often wished I could give you
the vital qualities you lack.
My pity turned to indignation when I heard you express yourself in such
unqualified terms of condemnation regarding other women who happened to
be unlike you in temperament.
You say there is a certain line which no well-born and womanly woman can
pass in thought or feeling or action.
You regard the true women of earth as a higher and rarer order of
creation than the best of men, and any woman who by action or word
confesses herself to be quite human in her temperament, you feel is, to
a certain extent, "unclean and unsexed." You believe the really good
women of earth are always on a plane above and beyond the physical. When
any woman falls from her pedestal you despise her.
How dare you, madam, sitting in your cold, white chastity, lay down laws
of what you consider purity, morality, and cleanliness, for other human
How dare you condemn those who do not reach your standard?
What do you know of life, great, palpitating, throbbing, vital life,
terrible and beautiful life, terrible while passing through the valleys
of temptation, beautiful upon the heights of self-control?
How dare you assume greater virtue, greater respectability, greater
fineness of sentiment, than the tempest-tossed, passion-beaten souls,
What do you know of real virtue, real strength?
You have been poor, you tell me, in worldly riches, and you have been
lonely, yet you have never once degraded your womanhood by an "unworthy
" impulse. Never known a temptation of the senses. Those things
You have preferred toil to taking favours from inferiors, and you have
kept yourself clean in thought, word, and deed, and now you have the
reward of such virtues--a good home, a husband, and children.
You are a more devoted mother than wife, as you have always dwelt upon a
lofty white peak of chaste womanhood, from which any descent into the
earthly realms of life and love was repugnant--so rarely "pure" and high
Yet you have been a dutiful, loyal wife, and you are a devoted mother.
You despise all carnal-minded women, and cannot understand how women
fall--save that they lack good birth and breeding.
You will aid in a benefit for their reformation, but you do not want to
see them or to come near them. It makes you ill.
You are to be congratulated on never having added to the evil in the
But permit me, madam, to tell you some truths about yourself--and the
large army of "respectable women" you represent.
However "well born" you may be, you are only half-born. The complete
human being has three sides to his nature--spiritual, mental, physical.
The men and women who are evenly developed on the three sides are few.
This is sometimes their fault--sometimes their misfortune.
We all pity the human being who is mentally dwarfed. We are sorry for
the one whose spiritual nature is undeveloped.
But why should the many women who are devoid of the physical qualities
of human nature presume to lay claim to perfection and to regard the
normal woman as a suspicious character?
You have a fine, active mind, a highly spiritual nature, but you are
stunted in strong, physical emotion. You are incapable of it, and pride
yourself upon the fact.
If that pleases you, well and good.
But how dare you criticize God's _complete human_ beings, who feel the
great vibrations of the universe, who glow and thrill with that divine
creative force, who live a thousand lives and die a thousand deaths
before they learn the glory of self-conquest.
How dare you shrink even from those who fall by the wayside, and call
your shrinking "purity"!
Let me ask you another question:
How dare you turn away from that girl who went through the door of the
Magdalene Home you helped establish, with her fatherless child in her
She fell from woman's holy estate!
Yes, through mad love for a man--she loved him with her soul, her mind,
her body. She lacked knowledge, balance, and wisdom; she had only love
And you, madam, how about _your_ children?
They were born of a "dutiful" wife. You descended from your lofty
altitude unwillingly--only at duty's call. You are so "refined," yet you
are a loving mother and pose as the highest type of woman.
_God never made in his whole universe of worlds such a "duty" as
unwilling motherhood_. Motherhood without the call of sex for sex is
indecent--criminal. You, too, madam, _fell_.
That girl in yonder "home" your "charity" helped establish, who loved
unwisely, fell. Her fall was through love--yours through a legal
All the churches, all the religions and the laws of earth, cannot make
motherhood holy and right without the mutual mental, spiritual, and
physical union of two beings.
Heaven and earth _both_ must sanction a child's conception to produce a
There is no greater sin on earth than the creation of a human life
without complete accord of the creators.
No wonder the world is full of miserable half-born beings, when mothers
like _you_ claim to be the Madonnas of earth.
No wonder natural, complete, striving souls hide their true natures
under a false exterior, when women like _you_ rule church and society.
What shame or degradation is there, pray, in being animate with the
all-pervading impulse which underlies the entire universe? Every planet,
every tree, every flower, every insect, is the result of sex seeking
sex, atom calling atom.
The universe _is_ because of the law of sex attraction.
And you, poor, puny, pallid woman, dare decry and despise that law, and
dare insult God's animate creature!
Know this, madam, there is no strength worth boasting that has not
conquered weakness. No virtue worth the name that has not conquered
temptation. No greatness of character that has not overcome unworthy
Enjoy your negative goodness and be glad you are "good."
Morality is acceptable to the world, however it conies; but dare not sit
in judgment on other human beings fighting battles whose smoke never
reaches your nostrils, striving for heights of which you never even
dream, and who meanwhile have missed certain degradations which you seem
to consider creditable achievements.
Madam, I bid you adieu. That word means "I commend you to God," the God
who made the two sexes, and intended love to unite them.
May He enlighten you in other lives, if not in this.
To Maria Owens
_A New Woman Contemplating Marriage_
Surprise, I am free to confess, was my dominant emotion on reading your
letter. Marriage and Maria had never associated themselves in my mind,
fond as I am of alliteration.
Never in the ten years I have known you have I heard you devote ten
minutes to the subject of any man's good qualities. You always have
discoursed upon men's faults and vices, and upon their tendency, since
the beginning of time, to tyrannize over woman. I was unable to
disprove many of your statements, for I know the weight of argument is
upon your side, even while I boldly confess my admiration and regard for
men, as a class, is greater than that for women.
The fact that the world has allowed men such latitude, and such
license, and made them pay such very small penalties, comparatively
speaking, for very large offences, causes me to admire their wonderful
achievements in noble living all the more: and to place the man of
unblemished reputation and unquestioned probity on a pedestal higher
than any I could yet ask builded for woman.
It is more difficult to be great before the extended tentacles of the
self-indulgence octopus than in the face of oppression and danger. When
the laws of the land and the sentiment of the people permit a man to be
selfish, licentious, tyrannical, and yet call him great if he
accomplishes heroic deeds, it proves what intrinsic worth must lie in
the nature of those who attain the heights of unselfishness and
benevolence, and martyrdom, asking no reward and often receiving none
until posterity bestows it.
Those who can take the broad road of selfishness unmolested, and choose
the narrow path of high endeavour instead, seem to me greater than those
who overcome mere externals.
Many such men have existed, and the steady, slow, but certain progress
of the world from barbarism to civilization, from accepted cannibalism
and slavery to ideals of brotherhood, we owe to them. All new
discoveries, all greatest achievements are due to men. Woman, I know,
has been handicapped and oppressed for centuries by superstitions, and
traditions, and unjust laws; but it is unfair to ignore the bright, and
see only the dark side of the picture, which the centuries have painted
for us, on the background of time.
This letter is only a resume of many conversations between you and me,
and it leads up to the explanation of why I am somewhat dazed and
stunned by your announcement that marriage is a possible event in your
My self-conceit in regard to my knowledge of human nature every now and
then receives a blow. So soon as I have arrived at a positive conviction
that I understand any human being thoroughly, and feel that I can safely
predict what that person will or will not do, I usually meet some such
bewildering experience as this.
I would have laughed at any one who suggested the possibility of your
considering a proposition of marriage.
You tell me you are thirty-five years old, and say you have never before
met the man to whom your thoughts reverted, no matter how you
endeavoured to occupy yourself with other subjects. You also tell me "he
is not like other men." These two statements are wonderfully familiar to
me, indeed they have been confided to me in precisely the same words by
at least a score of women, young and not so young, who met the
compelling man. _Maria, I believe you are in love_. Your heart is
awakened from its stupor, caused by an overdose of intellect. For too
much intellect is often a drug which deadens the consciousness of a
woman's heart. But you have been drugged so long that you are still
under a hazy spell, to judge from that portion of your letter which took
the form of an inquiry.
You ask my opinion in regard to the point of disagreement between you
and your semi-fiance. To much that you say I agree. You have carved a
name and a place for yourself in the world. Your lectures, and your
books, have made your name familiar to many people. Your lover is
unknown to the public, a man in the private walks of life. Therefore you
think if he loves you as he should to become your husband, he ought to
give up his own name and take yours, or at least add yours to his own.
You assure me it is merely a matter of habit, that women have
obliterated themselves on the altar of marriage, and that it is time a
new order was instituted. You think the hour calls for pioneers to
establish new boundaries, in a new world where woman will be allowed to
keep her individuality after marriage. Meantime your lover does not feel
that you really love him, when you ask him to take this somewhat radical
step for your sake, or for the sake of all women, as you put it.
And there you both stand, with only this ridiculous barrier between you
You are still influenced by the intellectual drug, and it hinders your
heart from following out its best impulses. You have not yet learned
more than the A B C of love, or you would know that the greatest
happiness in loving lies in sacrifice. To take and not give, to gain
something and give up nothing, is not loving. Now I think I hear you
saying, "But why should not my lover give this proof of devotion as well
as I? Why should not he be ready to sacrifice a tradition, and a name,
to please me? Why am I more unloving, or selfish, than he, to refuse to
give up my name?"
My answer follows.
Any woman who asks a man to give up his name and take hers (unless some
great legal matter which involves the property rights of others hangs on
so doing) asks him to make himself ridiculous in the eyes of the world.
She indicates, also, that her family name and her own achievements are
dearer to her than his. No woman loves a man enough to be happy as his
wife, if he is not dearer to her than any mere personal success, however
The man who asks a woman to take his name obeys a tradition and a
custom, to be sure, and the woman who accepts it does not display any
especially heroic trait. Therefore, what you demand of your lover is a
far greater proof of devotion than what he asks of you. No woman who
fully understood the meaning of love could ask this of her future
husband. If he occupied the place in her life which a husband should, no
matter what were her personal attainments, she would glory in adding his
name to her own, and in having its shelter to hide under at times from
the glare of publicity.
Should you choose to keep your name Maria Owens with no addition, for
your lectures and your books, it is quite probable your husband would
not object. And again, if your achievements are worth the thought you
give them in this matter, they are great enough to endure even should
you add the name of Chester to that of Owens. But certainly, if you love
the man you think of marrying, you will be happy in the thought of
wearing his name legally and socially in every-day life, and the sight
of a card engraved, "Mrs. Rupert Chester," will give your heart a
sweeter thrill than it has ever known in connection with the newspaper
notices of Maria Owens.
Unless you can arouse your heart to such an understanding of love, you
are not yet acquainted with the little god. If your lover consents to
the sacrifice you have demanded, he will indicate a weakness of
character which augurs ill for the future: and if you insist upon the
sacrifice, you will establish a selfish precedent which can only make
you a tyrant in your own domain, and at the same time belittle your
husband in the public eye.
However proud and happy you may be in the thought of noble achievements
of your own, you must realize that there are many brutal and painful
phases to a public career for a woman. These phases do not exist to any
such degree for a man. I do not believe it is the result of tradition or
habit, but of sex and temperament, that this difference exists, and that
the shelter of a man's name means more to woman than any shelter to be
found in her own, and that the sacrifice of her own name means less to
her than the sacrifice of his means to him. Unless you can reach this
same conclusion, do not marry--for you do not love.
To Mrs. St. Claire
_The Young Divorcee_
And so you have joined the increasing army of the divorcees.
It is worse than useless to discuss again the causes which led to this
situation, and now that the law of the land has made you a free woman,
the one thing for you to consider is your future, and to formulate to
some degree a code of conduct for your guidance.
You are in the prime of beautiful womanhood, pleasing to the eye, and
agreeable to the mind. Women will regard you with more or less mental
reservation, and men will seek you at every opportunity.
Some witty creature has said, "A little widow is a dangerous thing."
It might be added, "A grass widow whets the appetites of bovines".
You will find yourself at a loss to choose when an escort is needed, so
many and persistent will be the applicants for the position.
After having passed through the black waters of an unhappy marriage,
this sudden freedom and return to the privileges of girlhood will be
liable to affect you like the glare of sunlight after confinement in a
You will be blinded for a time. It would be well for you to walk slowly,
and to use a cane of common sense, and even to feel your way with the
outstretched hands of discretion, until you become accustomed to the
To fall and scar yourself now, would be a disaster.
It is a curious fact that a woman who has been unhappy with one man
usually finds many others ready to give her the opportunity for a
repetition of her experience. And it is equally curious that one unhappy
marriage frequently leads to another.
A disastrous rencontre with Hymen seems to destroy a woman's finer
intuitions. If you feel that you must marry again, go slowly, and wait
until the bruised tendrils of your heart have healed and are rooted in
healthy soil. Do not let them twine about any sort of a dead tree or
frail reed. Run no chance of a second sorrow.
One divorce always contains elements of tragedy. A second becomes a
You tell me that you and your former husband entertain the kindest
feeling for each other. You have seen him and talked with him on several
occasions, and you regard him as a friend. You say all love and
sentiment perished long before your separation, and that to continue as
his wife was to die a thousand deaths daily.
You tell me that your own higher development demanded this separation. I
know such situations do exist in the world of men and women, and that to
submit to them is a crime. Yet I also know that this idea of
"development" is used often as a cloak for all sorts of selfish impulses
Many men and women to-day seem to forget that certain other objects
besides happiness enter into self-development.
It is not only the pilot who deserts the ship and swims ashore who saves
his life. The one who keeps his hand on the wheel, and his eye on the
lighthouse, he, too, sometimes saves his own life, as well as saves the
But since to jump overboard was the only way to save your own life, now
that you are ashore, and dry, and comfortable, your first consideration
should be to avoid falling into mires and pits as you go along.
Though romance died out of your marriage, do not let it die out of your
heart. It is commendable that you feel no bitterness or resentment
toward your husband. But do not carry your kindly feelings toward him to
the extent of frequent association and comradeship.
Outside of criminal situations, life offers no more ghastly and
unpleasant picture than that of dead passion galvanized into a semblance
of friendship, and going about the world devoid of the strong elements
of either sentiment.
There is something radically wrong with a woman's ideals when she does
not feel an instinctive unwillingness to be thrown with the man from
whom she has been divorced.
There is something akin to degeneracy in the man or woman who can
contemplate without shrinking the intimate encounter of legally parted
husbands or wives.
The softening of the human brain is a terrible malady.
Quite as terrible is the hardening of the human heart.
The loss of happiness is deemed a tragedy. But far greater is the
tragedy when the illusive charm of romance departs, and love and
marriage are reduced to the commonplace. Unless you find the man who
carries your whole nature by storm, and who makes you feel that life
without him will be insupportable, do not be led again to the altar of
Life has many avenues for a bright and charming woman which lead to
satisfaction and peace, if not to happiness.
If you desire to be a picturesque figure in the world, remember that the
divorced woman who never marries again is far more so than she who has
taken the names of two living men.
And remember how much there is in life to do for other people, how much
there is to achieve, and how much there is to enjoy, for the woman who
has eyes wherewith to see, and ears with which to hear.
Life is a privilege, even to the unhappy. It allows them the opportunity
to display the great qualities which God implanted in every soul, and to
give the world higher examples of character.
He who leaves such an example to the world earns happiness for eternity.
To Miss Jessie Harcourt
_Regarding Her Marriage with a Poor Young Man_
And so there is trouble in the house of Harcourt, my dear Jessie. You
want to marry your intellectual young lover, who has only his pen
between him and poverty, and your cruel father, who owns the town, says
it is an act of madness on your part, and of presumption on his.
And you are thinking of going to the nearest clergyman and defying
You have even looked at rooms where you believe you and Ernest could be
ideally happy. And you want me to act as matron-of-honour at that very
informal little wedding.
Now, my dear girl, before you take this important step, give the matter
Your impulses are beautiful, and your ideal natural and lovely. God
intended men and women to choose their mates in this very way, with no
consideration of a worldly nature to mar their happiness.
But civilized young ladies are a far call from God's primitive woman.
You have lived for twenty-three years in the lap of modern luxury. Your
father prides himself upon the fact that, although your mother died when
you were very young, he has carefully shielded you from everything which
could cast a shadow upon your name or nature. Your lover is fascinated
with your absolute purity and innocence. Yet he does not realize that a
young woman who has so long "sat in the lap of Luxury," is unfit to be a
poor man's wife.
Some girl who might know much more than you of the dark and vulgar side
of life, would make him a better companion if he could love her enough
to ask her hand in marriage.
The girl who has received the addresses of this fascinating old fellow
"Luxury," never quite forgets him, or ceases to bemoan him if she
throws him over for a poor man.
To _look_ at two rooms and a bath is one thing, to _live_ in them
another, after having all your life occupied a suite which a queen might
envy, with retinues of servitors at call.
You tell me you could die for your lover.
But can you bathe from a wash-bowl and pitcher, and can you take your
meals at cheap restaurants, and make coffee and toast on an oil-stove or
Can you wear cheap clothing and ride in trolleys, and economize on
laundry bills to prove your love for this man?
You never have known one single hardship in your life; you never have
faced poverty, or even experienced the ordinary economies of well-to-do
You are an only daughter of wealth--_American wealth_. That sentence
conveys a world of meaning. _It means that you are spoiled for anything
but comfort in this life_.
For a few weeks you might believe yourself in a fairy-land of romance
if you married your lover and went to live in the two rooms. But at the
end of that period you would begin to realize that you were in a very
actual land of poverty and discomfort.
Discomfort is relative. Those rooms to the shop-girl who had toiled for
years, and lived in a fourth-flight-back tenement, would represent
luxury. To you, after a few months, they would mean absolute penury.
You would begin to miss your beautiful home, and your maids, and your
carriages. Your husband would know you were missing them, and he would
be miserable. Unless your father came to your rescue, your dream of
romantic love would end in a nightmare of regret and sorrow.
Your father knows you,--the creature of refined tastes and luxurious
habits that he has made you,--and your lover does not. Neither do you
It requires a woman in ten thousand, one possessed of absolute heroism,
like the old martyrs who sang at the stake while dying, to do what you
contemplate, and to be happy in the doing.
Nothing like a life of self-indulgence disintegrates great qualities.
You are romantically and feverishly in love with a handsome and gifted
young man. But do not rush into a marriage with him until you can bring
your father to settle a competence upon you, or until your lover has
spanned the abyss of poverty with a bridge of comfort. You have had no
training in self-denial or self-dependence. The altar is a bad place to
begin your first lesson.
Wait awhile. I know my advice seems worldly and cold, but it is the
result of wide observation.
If you cannot sit in your gold and white boudoir, and be true to Ernest
while he battles a few more years with destiny, then you could not
remain loyal in thought while you held your numb fingers over a chilly
radiator in an uncomfortable flat, or omitted dessert from your dinner
menu to cut down expenses.
Your brain-cells have been developed in opulence.
You could not train your mind to inexorable economy, even at the command
Take the advice of a woman of the world, my dear girl, and do not
attempt the impossible and so spoil two lives.
Again I say, wait awhile.
There are girls who could be perfectly happy in the position you picture
for yourself with Ernest, but not you.
Better hide your ideal in your heart than shatter it on the unswept
hearthstone of the commonplace.
Better be in your lover's life the unattained joy, than ruin his
happiness by discontent.
It is less of a tragedy for a man to hear a woman say "I cannot go with
you," than to hear her say "I cannot stay with you."
To Miss Jane Carter
_Of the W.C.T.U._
And so, my dear Jane, I have fallen from my pedestal, in your
estimation. Yet, having carefully regarded myself in the mirror, and
finding no discolorations, and feeling no wounds or contusions, I think
my pedestal must have been very near the earth, else I would be
conscious of some bruises.
And now, Jane, to be frank, I am very glad to be off my perch.
I do not want to dwell upon a pedestal.
It necessitates a monotonous life, and it is an unsocial position.
I prefer to walk on the earth, among my fellow creatures.
You were greatly shocked, I saw, when I told my little Russian guest
that she might light her cigarette in my boudoir. Your sudden departure
told its own story, and your letter was no surprise. But I am glad you
wrote me so frankly, as it gives me the opportunity to be equally frank.
There is nothing more beneficial, in true friendship, than a free
exchange of honest criticisms.
You tell me that I lowered my standard by lending countenance to a
pernicious and unladylike habit. You felt I owed it to myself, as a good
woman, and to my home, as a respectable house, to show my unswerving
principles in this matter, and to indicate my disapproval of a
disgusting vice, which is growing in our midst.
Life is too short, my dear Jane, in which to achieve all our ideals, and
to arrive at all our goals.
I have learned the futility of attempting to reform the whole world in
one day. And I have also learned that there are more roads than one, to
Miss Ordosky is the daughter of a dear old friend of my youth, who
married a Russian nobleman with more titles than dollars.
Her parents are dead, and Wanda has come to her mother's native land, to
teach her father's language. She has come with all her Russian habits
and ideas accented by her mother's American indifference to public
opinion. The girl is young, lovely, and wholly dependent upon herself
for a livelihood. I invited her to be my guest for two months, before
establishing herself in her business, with the hope of helping her to
adapt herself somewhat to American ideas and customs.
I could never hope for such a result, had I antagonized her the first
day under my roof by an austere attitude toward a habit which I knew she
had been reared to think proper.
I do not like to see a woman smoke, and I regret as much as you do the
increasing prevalence of the vice in America.
Like almost every schoolgirl, I had my day of thinking a surreptitious,
cigarette was wonderfully cunning.
That day passed, like the measles and the whooping-cough, and left me
immune. I have never seen a woman so beautiful and alluring that she was
not less charming when she put a cigarette to her lips. I am confident
the habit vitiates the blood, injures the digestion, and renders the
breath offensive. I have known many American men who taught their wives
to smoke; and I do not know _one_ who has not lived to regret it, when
the cigarette he fancied would be an occasional luxury became a
A woman who expects ever to bring children into the world, is little
better than a criminal to form such a habit: for, argue as we may for
one moral code for both sexes, we cannot change nature's law, which
imposes the greater responsibility upon the mother of the unborn child;
the child she carries so many months beneath her heart, giving it hour
by hour the impression of her mental and physical conditions.
Fathers ought not to smoke or indulge in other bad habits.
_Mothers must not_.
I hope in time to discuss these topics with Wanda, and to make an
impression upon her mind by my arguments.
But your methods and mine, dear Jane, differ widely. And, begging your
pardon, I believe mine accomplish more good for a larger number of human
beings than yours.
And, added to that fact, I get more happiness for myself out of life.
Miss Ordosky would have managed to smoke her cigarette, however rigid
had I been in expressing my principles. And she would have found some
excuse to shorten her visit under my roof, and then where would be my
opportunity to influence her?
As it is, she puffs her cigarette in my company, listens to my opinions,
seems to respect my ideas, and is interested in my views of life. We are
becoming excellent comrades, and this is far more gratifying to me than
to know that I had antagonized her into a formal acquaintance by my
aggressive morality. I have an idea that, before my pretty guest
reaches the time when she will consider wifehood and motherhood as life
professions, I may convince her from a scientific standpoint that she
better abandon her cigarettes. And to convince one's mind is far better
than to drive one to submission.
And now, Jane, has it never occurred to you that you have made some
mistakes in life by the very methods you are so sorry I did not pursue
with Miss Ordosky?
Years ago, I recall your surrounding a certain young man with an aureole
of idealism. Then you were obliged to dethrone him from his pedestal
because he, too, forsooth, smoked a cigar.
That young man married a woman quite as worthy and good as yourself, and
he has made the best of husbands and citizens. I know of no man who does
more good in the world in a quiet way than this same unpedestaled old
admirer of yours. Whether he still smokes his cigar or not I could not
say. But as a man, it seems to me, he is quite as worthy and noble a
citizen, as you are a woman.
I know that you are doing all you can, to spread the gospel of clean
living abroad in the land, and that your influence is all for a higher
standard of morality.
But if you live on too high an altitude, in this world, and refuse to
associate with any one who will not climb up to your plane, you are
destined to a lonely life, and your sphere of influence is limited. You
will do far more good by taking your place with other human beings, and
by gradual, sane efforts leading the thoughts of your associates to turn
to your wholesome ideas of life. You are making morality unpopular by
your present aggressive methods. And you are missing many sweet
friendships and experiences by your insistence that all your friends
must follow the narrow path you have decided is the only road to good
Come down from your pedestal, my dear Jane--come and dwell on the earth.
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