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or circumstances, they must learn drawing, dancing, and music. These are agreeable accomplishments, and not to be denied, where the wealth of the parent, and the genius of the child, render such instruction reasonable. But is it rational and proper, that these ornaments should be indiscriminately thrown upon females? Are the most favoured ever compensated for the enormous expense of time and money that must be consumed to obtain but a moderate degree of skill, in music especially? What can excuse the parent, whose hard earnings are all necessary to the supply of the common conveniences of life, for wasting them on things so absolutely useless! We may be told of the pleasure of music, and the delight of a father, whoretires from his daily labour to the song and the dance of his children; of the pride of his heart when the piano of his daughter charms an admiring circle! Let him sooth his wearied mind by the more profitable employment of reading with his young people—let him excite their emulation by exercising them in questions of grammar, of geography, of history, he will confer on them more substantial benefits, and find his reward in the solidity of their characters. Objectionable, however, as we think these elegant ornaments in the measure and universality of their use in our day, they do not prevent our daughters from becoming “gentle, modest, economical wives,” when they are called to decide on the “Balance of Comfort.” Their former habits have hot induced an aversion to the “performance of woman's peculiar duties,” the piano is now shut up, the dance is relinquished, and their “happiness” is found in the practice of as many social and domestic virtues as can be found amongst any women on the face of the earth. Were we writing only for those who are acquainted with the character and habits of American women, we would remind them of the common objection that is made to the musical education of young ladies, that it is entirely neglected when they become the mistresses of families—a very sufficient proof that their passion for this “extravagance” at least, does not stand in the way of their becoming the “choicest gem of life,” according to this writer's notion of a gem. It is to those who know us not, that we are asserting our claims: and to a British reader it will not be much to our dishonour, that our accusation is found on the same pages that asperse their own excellent females. Such women as Miss More, and many others who have promoted the cause of religion and morality, by their writings, their influence, and their wealth, should have inspired us with something like a sentiment of sacred respect for the whole sisterhood of these islands. But the head must discern, and the heart must be impressed by the value of wisdom and virtue, before they can be respected! Had the judicious critic under consideration asserted of us, as General Pillet has said of the English ladies, that we were destitute of grace, of taste, of style, “that we have two left hands,” we might have submitted in silence —though perhaps we should have pouted a little. The practice of that very “usefulness and economy,” the want of which he so patriotically laments, is an injury to the elegance of our ladies. They are compelled to work; and
the instances are rare, in which their tasks are not performed with cheerfulness. The mediocrity of our fortunes, and the vices of our servants in this part of the union, oblige us to be actively employed in the work of the family. Even in the slave states, to the south, the women of America are proud of their housekeeping. The multitude of their domestic servants exempts them from the necessity of doing the same kinds of business with their own hands, which is imposed on us in this part of the union; but this multitude of dependents enlarges the circle of their cares, and changes, in some measure, their occupations. The providing of food and clothing for hundreds of servants is a weighty employment for the mistress of a house, who often cuts out and makes a great many garments herself. Besides this, she superintends, perhaps, the whole manufacture—spinning, weaving, sewing, and knitting, under her own roof. Let our calumniator himself acknowledge how often he has seen a woman the stay and the ornament of her family. How often has he beheld the wife whose fairy visions of perpetual love and elevated friendship have fled before the blighting influence of tyranny and ignorance; whose early prospects have been swept away by the vices or the indolence of her husband—instead of sinking under one of the severest trials that can assail the female heart:—exerting herself singly—and even when counteracted at every step—in the moral and intellectual education of her children? And when at last widowed, or deserted, perhaps, how often has she entered into active business; provided, by her judicious management, for all
their wants, and accomplished her sons and her daughters to bless herself and others! We are not contending in the spirit of Quixotism with wind-mills;–we are not disproving a position that has not been virtually advanced, whilst we assert that American women are notable housekeepers, methodical, neat, economical, and industrious. Such fruits are not reared in the wild soil of luxuriant youth, without the cultivating hand of a watchful mother. If “our young women” were, indeed, “brought up with an utter ignorance and disregard to every species of domestic usefulness and economy,” by what species of magic are they transformed into the best of wives—the best of mothers? Our girls are generally brought up at home, or if from the want of a suitable school, they are sent abroad for instruction, they spend but a few of their earlier years at a distance from their parents, and are seldom without the salutary influence of excellent examples. But although our generous countryman is so very moderate in his demands for furnishing out this choicest gem of life, our young ladies endeavour to acquire something more than the every-day qualifications of gentleness, modesty, and economy. They aspire to the honour of being companions to their future lords. They do not, indeed, affect to be philosophers:—they cannot explain, for instance,” why “ships might be rendered more buoyant in the water, by making them air-tight, and forcing in air by means of an air-pump;” because, to their unsophisticated
* See Analectic Magazine for August, 1818, p. 162.
understandings, it appears that if any weight be thrown in vessels, its tendency is not to “elevate them to a higher level in the water,” but to sink them deeper. In these cases they are content to take common sense as their guide, and she (i.e. common sense) teaches them to laugh at such absurdities. Our ladies, young, and—not young, listen to lectures on the phenomena of nature—on mineralogy, botany, and chemistry. This species of knowledge may be dispensed with by our homely adviser, yet if professor Cooper should instructus in the saving arts of making better bread, a cheaper pudding, more palatable beer, and so forth, than our mothers have been able to do, he will, peradventure, allow us to leave our needles now and then for the lecture room; and even be disposed to admit our pretensions to thinking “sometimes of saving as well as of spending.” When this very extraordinary paragraph first met our eye, we felt very much inclined to pass it over as we have since seen others do—with a smile at its absurdity. We have, however, amused ourselves, and we hope prevented some others from believing, that American women are good for nothing as helps-meet for man. Here we should be glad to dismiss the article, but it would seem almost a dereliction of duty, not to notice another characteristic which we do not resist as a slander of our countrywomen, but deprecate as an insidious sneer at religion. We never see such things from an American pen without feelings of shame and indignation, particularly when they appear in works of such high pretensions as this journal. Our butterflies, it seems, after “flaring away the summer of life,”