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How admirable what Sir James Mackintosh says of Madame de Maintenon !that “she was as vir tuous as the fear of hell and the fear of shame could make her.” The same might be said of the virtue of many women I know, and of these, I believe that more are virtuous from the fear of shame than the fear of hell.—Shame is the woman's hell.
Rahel * said once of an acquaintance, “ Such a one is an ignorant man. He knows nothing but what he has learned, and that is little, for a man can only learn that which man already knows.”Well, and truly, and profoundly said !
Every faculty, every impulse of our human na. ture, is useful, available, in proportion as it is dan. gerous. The greatest blessings are those which may be perverted to most pain : as fire and water · are the two most murderous agents in nature, and the two things in which we can least endure to be stinted.
Who that has lived in the world, in society, and looked on both with observing eye, but has often
* Madame Varnhagen von Ense, whose remains were published a few years ago. The book of "Rahl" is famous from one eud of Germany to the other, but remaius, I believe, a sealed foun: tain still for English readers.
been astonished at the fearlessness of women, and the cowardice of men, with regard to public opinion? The reverse would seem to be the natural, the necessary result of the existing order of things, but it is not always so. Exceptions occur so often, and so immediately within my own province of observation, that they have made me reflect a good deal. Perhaps this seeming discrepancy might be thus explained.
Women are brought up in the fear of opinion, but, from their ignorance of the world, they are in fact ignorant of that which they fear. They fear opinion as a child fears a spectre, as something shadowy and horrible, not defined or palpable. It is a fear based on habit, on feeling, not on principle
When their passions are strongly excitéd, or when reason becomes matured, this exaggerated fear vanishes, and the probability is, that they are immediately thrown into the opposite extreme of incredulity, defiance, and rashness; but a man, even while courage is preached to him, learns from habitual intercourse with the world the immense, the terrible power of opinion. It wraps him round like despotism; it is a reality to him; to a woman a shadow, and if she can overcome the fear in her own person, all is overcome.
A man fears opinion for himself, his wife, his daughter; and if the fear of opinion be brought into conflict 'with primary sentiments and principles, it is ten to one but the habit of fear prevails, and opinion triumphs over reason and feeling too.
The new law passed during the last session of our provincial parliament, “ to render the remedy. in cases of seduction more effectual,” has just come into operation. What were the circumstances which gave rise to this law, and to its peculiar provisions, I cannot learn. Here it is touching on delicate and even forbidden ground to ask any questions. One person said that it was to guard against infanticide; and I recollect hearing the same sort of argumeni used in London against one particular clause of the new Poor Law Act, viz: that it would encourage infanticide. This is the most gross and unpardonas ble libel on our sex ever uttered. Women do not murder their children from the fear of want, but from the fear of shame. In this fear, substituted for the light and the strength of virtue and genuine self-respect, are women trained, till it becomes a second nature—not indeed stronger than the natural instincts and the passions which God gave us, but strong enough to drive to madness and delirious outrage, the wretched victim who finds the struggle between these contradictory feelings too great for her conscience, her reason, her strength. Nothing, as it seems to me, but throwing the woman upon her own self-respect and added responsibility, can bring a remedy to this fearful state of things. To say that the punishment of the fault, already too great, is thereby increased, is not true; it admitted of no real increase. In entailing irremediable disgrace, and death of name and fame, upon the frail woman, the law of society had done its utmost; and to let it be supposed that the man had power to make amends by paying a nominal tax for irdulgence bought at such a tremendous price, what was it but to flatter and delude both the vanity of lordly, sensual man, and the weakness of wretched, ignorant, trusting, woman? As long as treachery to woman is honorable in man; as long as men do not, or will not protect us; as long as we women cannot protect ourselves, their protecting laws are a farce and a mockery. Opinion has ever been stronger than law. Luckily there is something stronger than either.
I HAVE only three books with me here, besides the one book needful, and find them sufficient for all purposes,—Shakspeare, Schiller, Wordsworth. One morning, being utterly disinclined for all effort, either of conversation or movement, I wandered down to a little wild bosquet beyond the Table Rock, not very accessible to dilettante hunters after the picturesque, and just where the waters, rendered smooth by their own infinite velocity, were sweeping by, before they take their leap into the gulf below; —there I sat all the sultry noontide,-quiet, among the birds and the thick foliage, and read through & Don Carlos, "--one of the finest dramas in the world, I should think.
It is a proof of the profound humanity of Schiller, that in this play one must needs pity King Philip, though it is in truth the sort of pity which Saint Theresa felt for the devil,—one pities hin because he is the devil. The pitiableness and the misery of wickedness were never so truly and so pathetically demonstrated. The unfathomable abyss of egotism in the character turns one giddy to look into.
With regard to Posa, it has been objected, I . believe—for I never read any criticism on this play --that he is a mere abstraction, or rather the embodied mouthpiece of certain abstract ideas of policy and religion and morals—those of Schiller himself—and not an individual human being-in short, an impossibility. Yet why so ? Perhaps sich a man as Posa never did exist ;—but why impossible? Can a man conceive that which a man could not by possibility be? If Schiller were great enough to invent such a character, is not humanity great enough to realize it? My belief is, that it is only a glorious anticipation—that poets, in some sort, are the prophets of perfection—that Schiller himself might have been a Posa, and, had he lived a century or two hence, would have been a Posa. Is that a mere abstraction which, while I read, makes me thrill, tremble, exult, and burn, and on the stage filled my eyes with most delicious tears ? Is that a mere abstraction which excites our human sympathies in the strongest, highest degree ? Ev ery woman, methinks, would like a Posa for a lover