« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
did not think it beneath them to be found at the spindle and the loom. Hence Hector's words to Andromache, when he was about to part with her, and head the Trojan forces "against the Grecians :
66 No more-but hasten to thy task at home,
There zuide the spindle and direct the loom." And when news was brought that Hector was slain in the battle, it is said of his wife
66 Far in the close recesses of the dome,
Pensive she play'd the melancholy loom." The names of Penelope, Calypso, and Circe, may also be mentioned, as irstances of housewifery, and other female arts, among the rich and honorable ancients. The women of the ancient Egyptians wrought in the house, while their husbands worked in the field ; they dressed the victuals, and served them up, as appears from several authorities. Augustus Cæsar commonly wore clothes made by his wife, sister, and daughter. And Solomon gives us the character of a good wife, when he says" She seeketh wool and flax, and worketh diligently with her hands. She riseth while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands take hold of the distaff. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry ; her clothing is silk and purple. She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the mer. chant. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed-her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all."
After all these examples of ancient simplicity and excellence, I am astonished at the perverted taste of the present time. The ancient manners are changed, but nothing is given us in return. Ladies thus falsely educated, may have a greater ceremonial outside, but it is doubtful whether they have as many external graces ; and it is certain, that the virtues of the mind, and useful knowledge, are greatly lacking.
Has not the transition, said Charles, from customs which till lately prevailed, to the present vitiated state, been very sudden? and have not the ladies sunk in point of real merit, in the same proportion as they have departed froni more established and better customs?
I think it will be found on enquiry, said Prudentia, that the
way has been preparing for a number of years ; that at first, the present perverted taste concerning female education, rose by slow degrees ; but it cannot be denied, that within a few years it has made a rapid progress. Its influence has become very extensive and powerful, not only in the metropolis, but has spread itself to farm houses, and obscure country villages. And if the evil continues to spread with the same rapiility, it will not be long, before it will be hard to find a female fit for a wife or mother. I would not, however, be considered as speaking censoriously or diminutively of my sex. Nay, their intellects are good, and in no age have been better ; nor are they more inclined to disgraceful vices, than in sormer ages; the fault is, therefore, to be charged on a defective system of education, and a wrong bias, which a few of the ignorant rich have, unhappily, been successful enough to introduce.
But I have spoken longer, added Prudentia, than becomes a female of my age, especially in presence of persons so venerable for their age and experience.
Not at all, replied the General, it was my intention you should speak freely, when I made the appeal to your opinion z and I am happy to find you have been so well taught on this subject, and that you have entered so deeply into it.
Charles then asked Mr. P. his opinion concerning musick and painting, as necessary parts of female education.
They are secondary accomplishments, but have their use; and may be learned when favorable circumstances concur. Should a young lady continue some years unmarried, expe. rience a reverse of fortune, or after having been married, be left a widow, teaching musick and painting may be a good resort ; or if she wishes to amuse herself by teaching, at the expense of others, she may lay out that which is so gained, in gifts of charity, and thus make an ornamental art subservient to the best of deeds. Musick, if rightly employed, will afford a help to devotion, elevate depressed spirits, and relieve a melancholy hour. It is scarcely possible to conceive, what effect good musick may have on a female of delicate constitution and weak nerves ; for while it affords an agreeable exercise, the soft enchanting sounds of the piano forte or harpsichord, are perfectly congenial with refined female tenderness ; and will brace and temper the nervous system, and ex. pel the dregs of melancholy, and prevent a worse method of spending time.
It is, however, to be confessed, that musick may be, and has been abused to the vilest of purposes. And what has not been subjected to abuse ? Our holy religion, though full of tenderness and charity, has been used for purposes the most in human and cruel.
But all which has yet been noticed, will be deficient, unless there be added a due cultivation of the moral powers. There are passions and appetites to be subdued and sanctified ; evils to be guarded against ; virtues to be planted, nourished, and perfected ; right motives of action to be laid down; right views to be inspired ; and other things, which all we have said of education, will not reach-unless it shall be thought, that what was said of a plain system of theology may answer this purpose. But it may be recollected, nothing more was there intended, than to give some general and correct views of doctrines.
The limits set to our conversation, will not permit us to take up at large the particulars just mentioned, yet it will certainly be proper to amplify a little. Pride and vanity are more or less common to both sexes, but seem peculiarly to beset females. Every degree of them is wrong; but where they become ascendant passions, they render a female intolerably disgusting. Humility and modesty are amiable qualities, and in which she should appear as constant as in her daily apparel. Anger is offensive in a man-more offensive in a woman-and most of all, in a young lady. Staring eyes, flashing with rage ; a red, bloated face ; load, threatening, disgraceful language ; clenched, brandished fists, and a menacing aspect; ill become the soft beautiful features, and native tenderness of a young lady. Meekness, patience, and forbearance, are therefore to be taught and regarded as essential to a good education.
But as we have not time to enlarge, the whole may be comprised in a few words. Females should be taught the necessity of experimental and practical religion; that this alone can subdue, sanctify, and direct the passions to their right object; that this alone can prove a safe guard against the surrounding evils of life; that this implants the heavenly virtues, and furnishes motives to nourish and perfect them, and opens to the soul those views which are truly great, exalting and delightful. All this is taught in the bible, which book is to be put into their hands, as a book of constant perusal ; and from
which they are to learn their duty to Goil, their fellow creatures, and themselves.
What do you think of politeness, said Charles, as a necessary part of female education ? Will it not give an additional lustre to a young lady's other accomplishments ?
If you mean what too generally passes for politeness, I should think it no more an additional grace, than lace on a negroe's hat, or tassels on a fop's boots. If you mean, as I think you must do, polished manners towards others, dictated by good will and good sense, avoiding to give offence, endeavoring to please, arising from simple goodness of heart, or forbearing to do that to others which you would not have done to yourself, and doing that to others which you would have done to yourself, and this performed in a ready, easy, graceful manner, and well directed as to time, place, circumstance, persons, &c. I should say it is an accomplishment which no young lady can dispense with, without showing a great defect of education : yet too much disregarded by teachers and learners.
CHARLES slept the next morning till the bell rung for prayer. He put on his clothes in haste, and went down to join in the devotion of the family. After which, Mr. P. in vited his two friends to take a morning walk in the garden. Such a walk was highly delightful to Charles, having lived at such a distance in the country, he had never before seen a garden so well laid out, or so highly cultivated. To him it appeared a second paradise. The morning sun sent out his horizontal beams ; the pearly dew stood quivering on the Lowers and leaves ; the early breeze moved gently, and brought with it odours of exquisite smell, and the songs of the matin lark saluted his ear; robia-red-breast, and the little sparrow were hopping among the flowers to gather insects for their unfledged young; and earth and sky seemed dressed in gay attire, and smiling, dispelled each rude and deep depressing thought.
Such was the state of things when they entered on the en
chanting spot. It contained nearly an acre of ground, adorned with fruit-trees, shrubs, flowers, esculent roots and plante. Figures equal sided, and oblong squares, triangles, equilateral, obtuse, acute, semi-circles, and all bordered with various kinds of flowers and odorous shrubs, mixed and arranged according to the nicest taste; circles with diameters, radii, and segments, formed by an intermixture of plants and flowers, gay, useful and Aourishing. Tbese first caught the eye of Charles; he gazed, admired, praised, and almost felt poetic raptures.
The next thing which caught his attention, was the summer arbor, at the end of a long, clean alley, which ran in a direct line through the whole garden. It stood on a rising ground, raised and shaped by art; the summit was gained by three or four grassy steps. An arching frame supported the curling vine, which was covered with a broad spreading foliage, and loaded with large clusters of unripe, but promising grapes. Here, said he bimself, Prudentia enjoys the fragrance of the garden, while she is defended from the sun's burning heat; those flowers have grown beneath her hand; her taste is seen in their arrangement. But these thoughts were interrupted by the coming up of the General, and Mr. P. Charles, said Mr. P. you need not the shady arbor at this early hour; come, let us walk further.
He obeyed with seeming readiness, but would much rather have been left to indulge his fancy a little longer on the fair florist. Interrupted as he was, he took a further survey, and saw the thriving nectarine bending beneath its load, half grown; a little further stood the rare-ripe, preparing to delight the taste with its blushing fruit; just by grew the orange cling stone, shortly to bow beneath its yellow load; the golden russeting hung out in the signs of hope, and promised to regale the appetite; the scarlet, and deeper dyed cherry said, pick and eat me; while at their feet were seen growing in thick clusters, the acid current, and the bland strawberry.
Nor could he pass without observing long rows of esculent roots and plants, shooting upward, or making their bed in a rich soil, where no thieving weed was suffered to dwell securely. The gardner's hoe and fingers had detected the little rogues, tried and executed them one by one, or else by scores he had brought them to the withering tribunal of the sun; from which there was no appeal, and under whose sentence they must die without reprieve.