No more agreeable consequence of the influence of civilization and culture upon prejudice and narrow-mindedness can be shown than the liberality with which, during the last few generations, men have regarded the mental growth and intellectual activity of women. It is not a little amusing, as well as edifying, to recall the primitive ideas which for a long period, it must be confessed, they cherished on the subject of feminine education, and the mingled anxiety and distrust with which they viewed the aspirations of the misguided women who yearned for knowledge and learning. " Seek to be good, but aim not to be great,”urged the guardians of the weaker portion of humanity ; and the philosopher succinctly expressed the feeling of his sex, regardless of time, place, or circumstance, when he declared that the two chief duties of a virtuous woman were “ to keep at home and be silent.”
Among many primitive peoples we find proverbs on the subject, most of them in the same key and couched in like admonitory terms. Here are two from the Saxon, plainly showing how advisable it was that a woman should be strictly domestic : —
“ It beseems a damsel to be at. her table.” “ A rambling woman scatters words ; a man thinks of her with contempt, and ” (no trifling being permitted at that era) “ oft her cheek smites.”
It is only honorable, however, to mention an exception to the general feminine illiteracy in the person of Queen Edith, who, according to Ingulf, the historian, was quite learned. He relates that when he happened to meet, her, on his way from school, she would stop and put him through an impromptu examination, rewarding him at the end by the regulation English school-boy " tip,” and, moreover, sending him to the royal larder to refresh himself. Here was real encouragement to learning, — an example which English sovereigns of a later date might have followed, to the benefit of other men of letters, with full heads and empty pockets.
Next to silence and a love of domesticity, a regard for cleanliness and good manners was to be enforced. Already were the small decorums of life relegated to womanly protection, and praise or blame was liberally bestowed according to the measure of obedience paid by the ladies to the rules of gentility laid down by their wise and complacent guardians. Chaucer’s Prioress shows her good-breeding in other ways than by an insular knowledge of the French tongue, inasmuch as she let no morsels fall from her lips during a meal, could convey her victuals to her mouth without dropping any on the way, and, to crown all, —
“ Hire over-lippe wiped she so clene That in hire cuppe was no ferthing sene Of grese, whan she drunken hadde hire draught.”
Probably this nicety in manners had been imported from the other side of the Channel, where, from quite an early period in the history of French civilization, the Trouvères— the critics and editors of their day — were never weary of recommending cleanliness, decorum, and reserve as highly desirable virtues in well-bred ladies. The precepts they give sound somewhat oddly to modern ears, and show how frank and ingenuous were the habits of good society at that time in La Belle France.
Women and girls of good-breeding, it was declared, should not run lip church, boast of attentions received from men, nor tell fibs ; moreover, they ought to eschew swearing, avoid over-eating and over-drinking, remember to wipe their mouths after meals, keep their hands and nails clean, and not permit the latter to grow beyond the finger-ends. Above all, they should not talk too much. A century or so later, we find the author of the Doctrinal des Filles giving pretty much the same sort of counsel; cautioning girls not to be too eager in dancing, not to believe in dreams, nor talk scandal, nor drink too much wine. He also hints that a certain degree of bashfulness would add a charm, by its novelty, to their personal attractions. Submission to parental, later to marital, authority was conscientiously impressed on the youthful feminine mind on both sides of the Channel. In an educational treatise which the Chevalier de Tour Landry wrote for his daughters, he tells the story of a woman who persisted in contradicting her husband, until, weary of remonstrance, he knocked her down and broke her nose. The count makes the following pathetic comment upon the sad occurrence : —*
“ Thus through her bad temper she had her nose spoiled, which was a great misfortune to her. It would have been better for her to have been submissive, for it is right that words of authority should belong only to her lord and master, and the wife’s honor requires that she should listen in peace and obedience.”
Even such a woman oweth to her husband,”
declares that reformed shrew Katherine ; and indeed long after Shakespeare’s time, theoretically speaking, women merely exchanged one servitude for another, when they married. It is reassuring, however, to find many exceptions to a rule which a modern Anglo-Saxon would, of course, remember with a blush of shame.
In that very curious and interesting collection, the Paston Letters, we find rather a strange picture of the relations existing between parents and children as shown in Mistress Elizabeth Paston’s suffering at the hands of her shrewd, respectable, and respected mother. Not only does Mrs. Paston seem to lavish on her daughter, in the harshest language, a wealth of personal abuse (in the style, perhaps, in which the Capulets vituperate their only and beloved child, when she differs from them in her matrimonial views), but this pious lady descends to personal chastisement. Although Elizabeth is between twenty and thirty years of age, she is not only forbidden to speak with any man, including the servants of the Paston household, but " she hath since Easter been beaten once in the week, or twice, and sometimes twice on a day, and her head broken in two or three places.” “ Burn this letter,” concludes the cousin who, with more sorrow than surprise, is confiding Elizabeth’s tribulations to an absent brother; “ for if my cousin, your mother, knew that I had sent you this letter she should never love me.” It is pleasant to know that a few years later Mistress Elizabeth marries, and that her husband, her “ master ” and her ‘‘best beloved,” as she terms him, is “ full kind ” to her, and apparently not inclined to break either the head or heart of this poor meek fifteenth-century damsel.
A somewhat more modern example of the parental severity, which seems to have been merely part of the feminine educational regimen of ancient days, is related by the author of the Schole-Master. Before visiting Germany, Master Roger Ascham goes to take leave of Lady Jane Grey, even then famous for her classical learning, and to whom he says he was “ exceeding moch beholding.” He found her in her chamber reading Phædon Platonis in Greek, while the vest of the household were hunting in the park. Upon his expressing astonishment that she should prefer solitude to companionship “under the greenwood tree,” she answered him in this wise. — for the story must be told in Master Roger’s own quaint diction:
“ Alas goode folke, they never felt what trewe pleasure ment. ... I will tell you, quoth she. . . . One of the greatest benefites that ever God gave me is that he sent me so sharpe and severe parents and so gentle a scholemaster. For when I am in presence of either father or mother, whether I speake, kepe silence, sit, stand, eate, drinke, be merie or sad, be sowing, plaieing, dauncing, or doeing anie thing els, I must do it . . . even so perfitely as God made the world, or els I am so sharplie taunted, so cruellie threatened, yea, sometimes with pinches, nippes, and bobbes, and other waies which I will not name for the honour I beare them, that I thinke myselfe in hell, till tyme cum that I must goe to Mr. Elmer, who teacheth me so gently, with soch faire allurement to learning, that when I am called from him 1 fall on weeping, because whatsoever I do els ... is full of grief, feare, and whole misliking unto me.”
One cannot help wishing that the poor soul could have been left to pore over her big, dusty tomes in peace, — not fated to receive at the hands of a harsh world severer “ nippes ” and “ bobbes ” than were meted out to her at home by hypercritical parents. Lady Jane, by the way, must have had a softening influence on this instructor of hers, for he was possessed of a spicy temper, and was noted for expressing himself with a bluntness which gained him many enemies in his day. Although not exactly pertaining to our subject, we cannot refrain from inserting tlie bishop’s opinion of the fair sex, —the majority of them. We presume the minority would include the lady pupils of this “ gentle scholemaster,” or else it would be hard to understand Lady Jane’s enthusiasm.
“ Women are of two sorts.” he says. " Some of them are wiser, better learned, discreeter, and more constant than a number of men. But the most part are fond, foolish, talkers, triflers, wavering, witless, feeble, careless, rash, proud, dainty, talebearers, eavesdroppers, rumour-raisers, evil-tongued, worseminded, and in every respect doltified with the dregs of the devil’s dunghill! ”
This short synopsis of the female character is really a good example of the coarse, pungent, breathless English of the time, — a time when people were never weary of slandering each other at the point of the pen, and never happier than when knee-deep in disputes of the noisiest, most unending, " Dryasdust ” nature.
The custom of sending young women of the middle class to reside for a time in the houses of the nobility was an ancient one, and seems to have obtained both in France and England. Perhaps the position of maid of honor may be considered a remnant of this curious habit. Still, the idea was no stranger than the modern plan of sending girls to herd together in boarding-schools, under the imperfect sway of a directress who has neither time nor ability to study the individual characters of her charges.
In France the young ladies were called chambrières ; they were frequently selected for good looks or sprightliness of demeanor, and were given better matrimonial opportunities than could be offered in their secluded homes. As in England, they were taught spinning, the finer kinds of sewing-work and embroidery, cooking, conserving, and sometimes music, especially if their ladypatronesses took a fancy to them. They were also supposed to acquire good manners, and fit themselves for a possible rise in life, should fortune favor them. Their hostesses very often, if not always, received a fixed sum in return for the board and instruction of their charges, and the young ladies thought it no degradation to sell their needle-work in order to assist in the payment of their personal expenses. Thus, in the beforementioned Pasten Letters, we find an " Item,” noted down by Elizabeth’s redoubtable mother, “ to say to Elizabeth Paston that she must use herself to work readily, as other gentlewomen do, and help herself therewith. Item. To pay Lady Pole " (Elizabeth’s patroness) “ twenty-six shillings eight pence for her board.”
Needle-work, indeed, ranked next to housewifery as the most important point in feminine education. If a young lady were preëminent in these two things, little more was needed to make her “ a perfect woman, nobly planned,” at least in masculine eyes.
“ Good housewifery is the supreme quality of a woman,” observes old Fuller, who is so dogmatic in his opinions as to what women should or should not be that one cannot help thinking he must have been pretty well henpecked. “ Let men say what they will,” he continues, “ I require in women the economical virtue above all other virtues. . . . I am ashamed to see, in several families I know, monsieur, about dinnertime, come home all dirt from trotting amongst his labourers, when madam is perhaps scarcely out of bed . . . and is pouncing and tricking herself up ! ”
Even during the Elizabethan era, when pedantry was very fashionable among ladies of breeding, the aforesaid practical arts were sturdily insisted on. The ladies might, like their queen, — who, according to Ascham, “ atteyned . . , to such a readie utterance of the latine as they be fewe in number in both the universities that can be comparable with her maiestie,”—become classical scholars of no mean order, but they must combine with learning the ability personally to manage their large household, pursue fancy-work with untiring energy, and find time to concoct those marvelous dishes which would fill the mind of the most enthusiastic modern housekeeper with dismay.
Shakespeare makes his Imogen familiar with household duties, although she is a reader, and indulges in the delightful but pernicious habit of reading in bed.
“ How angel-like he sings ! ” exclaims Arviragus, in admiration of the supposed youth. Then the more practical Guiderius observes : —
And sauc’d our broths, as Juno had been sick
And he her dieter.”
The very learned heroine in Pericles is described as weaving silk " with fingers long, small, white as milk;” and. moreover,
“ She would with sharp needle wound The cambric, which she made more sound By hurting it.”
And with the same useful implement she “ composes nature’s own shape of bud, bird, branch or berry,” which shows her to have been more of an adept than some of the decorative artists of the present, day, who certainly cannot be said to be base imitators of Dame Nature’s handiwork.
Helena says prettily, —
Have with our needles created both one flower,
Both on one sampler, sitting on one cushion.”
Sir Thomas More has been credited with having given a much-needed impulse towards the higher education of women, and it is probable that his mode of educating his daughters served as an example, and made a sufficiently deep impression at the time. Greek and Latin authors were as familiar to these ladies as household words : they studied astronomy, rhetoric, and logic, played on the various musical, or rather unmusical, instruments of the time, while Chaucer was chosen as a mental relaxation in place of the tedious romances of the day, of which Tindal speaks in such scornful terms: “ Robin Hood, Bevis of Hampton, Hercules, Hector, and Troilus. — histories and fables of love and ribaldry! ”
But though mention of learned ladies becomes rather more frequent during the century that followed, it must be remembered that to have a girl well educated meant, as a rule, that the parents were people of position and affluence. While there were plenty of free schools, Latin and English, for boys, young ladies needs must study at home, either with the chaplain or through the expensive medium of visiting tutors, unless, as in the case of the More family, the parent had a passion for instructing everybody within reach, willy-nilly. Thus we see, in the short autobiography prefixed to Mrs. Hutchinson’s beautiful memoirs of her husband, that at seven years of age she had at one time eight tutors, “ in languages, music, dancing, writing, and needle-work,”besides receiving instruction in Latin from her father’s chaplain. She had a French nurse, and learned to speak in two languages. It is noticeable that the precocious little girl’s love for her book and hatred of her needle became a source of vexation to her parents : the consistency of popular opinion in regard to the end and aim of feminine education was not disturbed by the appearance of any brilliant and bewildering exception to the ordinary run of wellbred women.
In a curious treatise called The Art of Thriving, published in 1636, the author observes sternly: —
“ Instead of song and music, let them” (the ladies) “learn cookery and laundry. . . . For I like not a female Poetesse, nor a precise she-Hypocrite, who overflows so with the Bible that she will not cudgil her maids without scripture ! ”
Another writer in the same century gives the following programme for female education, which is really liberal when contrasted with the narrow popular views on the subject.
“ I would have them well read.” he begins, with an affability which is born of a sense of innate superiority, — “ I would have them well read, but in scripture and geode bookes, not in playbookes and lovebookes.” (Alas for the seventeenth - century novel - reading damsels !) " To learn the use of the needle, but chiefly in useful kindes of workes — others, more curious, are to be learned — if at alle — onely to keepe them out of harm’s way.” (Mark the benevolence of this concession!) “To learn alle pointes of good housewifery, spining of linen, the ordering of dairies, to see to the salting of meate, brewing, bakery, and to understand the common prices of alle household provisions. To keepe account of alle things, to know the condition of the poultry—for it misbecomes no woman to be a hen-wife. To know how to order your clothes and with frugality to mend them, and to buy but what is necessary and with ready money. To love to keep at home,”
This last injunction certainly seems superfluous: any woman who fulfilled the duties prescribed by this stoical adviser would not have much spare time on her hands. The masculine aversion to fancy-work and the masculine terror of feminine bill-making are plainly shown. The programme is doubtless an excellent one, — only, a little awful to our modern ideas, in its stern practicality and placid rejection of any æsthetic coloring to the routine of daily toil. One cannot help exclaiming with Sir Toby, " Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale ? ”
A little later in the same century there flourished — if one can use the term of so sedate a flower of learning — an instructress who seems to have taken a different view of the nature of feminine education. Mrs. Makin was a linguist of no small celebrity in her day, and at one time held the position of governess to the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of Charles I. She wrote an essay on The Education of Gentlewomen, in Religion, Manners, Arts, and Tongues, in winch she dolorously notes that “ the barbarous custom of breeding women low hath progressed so far that it is verily believed that women are not endowed with such reason as man! ”
This astonishing conclusion she endeavors to refute by showing how many learned women had lived in former times, and to what heights of knowledge they had climbed, and then gives as a modern example her quondam pupil Elizabeth, who at nine years could read and write, and had a fair acquaintance with Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, and Italian. The prospectus of her school, which was “ within four miles of London, on the road to Ware,”tells us that, “ by the blessing of God. gentlewomen may be instructed in the principles of religion, and all manner of sober and virtuous education ; works of all sorts, dancing, music, singing, writing, keeping accounts. Half the time is to be spent in these things, the other half to be employed in gaining the Latine and French tongues, and those that please may learn Greek and Hebrew, the Italian and Spanish, in which this gentlewoman hath complete knowledge. Those that think one tongue enough for a woman,” she continues, as though in pathetic forbearance of the prejudices of the day, “ may learn only [!] Experimental Philosophy, and move or fewer of the other things as they incline. Those that please may learn Preserving, Pastry, and Cookery.”
I here is not much heartiness in the recommendation of the last three studies ; but Mrs. Makin was a very learned lady, and very anxious to elevate her sex. We should like to know what was her notion of “ Experimental Philosophy.”
The programme, however, is an interesting one. and shows what a confusion of ideas then existed as to what a woman should or should not learn, and lets us into the secret of the “ high ” as opposed to the “ low ” breeding of that era. The fee for this generous allowance of tuition was twenty pounds a year, though it is hinted that if the pupil made marked improvement “ something more ” was expected, the amount beingleft, in the circular, to the discretion and liberality of the parents.
Chose that think these things improbable, " concludes this ancient schoolma’am with a certain degree of naïveté, “may have further account every Tuesday at Mr. Mahon’s Coffee-House in Cornhill, and Thursdays at the ‘ Bolt and Tun ’ in Fleete Streete, by some person whom Mrs, Makin shall appoint.”
Let us hope that this decayed and accomplished gentlewoman met with due success in her endeavors to raise the educational status of her sex, and did not starve genteelly in doing it.
Toward the latter part of the seventeenth century, the study of the modern languages, as well as of art and music, began to be more fashionable among ladies of the upper middle class, as well as with those of higher birth. In Evelyn’s pathetic description of the acquirements and virtues of his daughter Mary, we have an interesting sketch of a genteel, well-trained young lady of the period,— a period when, it must be confessed, society damsels were more noted for the eagerness with which they indulged in the somewhat wild and unrestrained pleasures of the world of fashion than for their absorption in the sober and chastened delights of booklearning. Mr. Evelyn’s parental feelings break through his usual reserve and dignity, as he tells us how pious Mary was, how she would read and pray with the servants when they were sick, and how she was but nineteen when she died ; she fasted and read good books, keeping a commonplace-book on religious subjects. “She daunced with the greatest grace I had ever seene, and so would her master say,” observes the writer; for it is to be noted that religion was no bar to dancing, in those days.
Mistress Mary understood French and Italian, was a great reader of history, and was considered the best pupil of the two most notable music-masters of the day, Signors Pietro and Bartholomeo; “ had an excellent voice to which she played a thorough bass on the harpsichord.”
“ But alle these are vaine trifles to the virtues which adorn’d her soule . . . deare, sweete, and desirable child,” cries the sedate man of the world, whose pride, as well as affection, was wounded by the loss.
Cultivated as Mary Evelyn was, however, it is to be observed that her education was far less deep than that of the learned ladies of a generation or so previous. Accomplishments began to be more thought of, and it not infrequently happened that ladies who could not spell correctly nor cast up the simplest accounts were, according to a certain standard, proficient in music and art, and had a fair if superficial knowledge of the French and Italian languages. An amusing example of this is to be found in the wife of a noted contemporary of Evelyn’s, Mr. Samuel Pepys.
It is hard to say which is the more comical, Mr. Pepys’s doubts concerning his spouse’s yearnings after a higher education, or that lady’s spasmodic endeavors to acquaint herself with the accomplishments of polite society. In a desultory way she seems to have attended pretty faithfully to her household duties; but as Mr. Pepys becomes a person of importance, he complains bitterly of her shortcomings in the three R’s, though, as he confesses, he had himself considerable difficulty in conquering the mysteries of the “ multiplication ” table. He undertakes, with much condescension, however, to teach her “ the globes,” and as a preliminary introduces her to arithmetic. “ She takes it very well,” he remarks affably, as though he knew what a nauseous dose it was. “ I hope I shall bring her to understand many fine things.” The enthusiasm of both teacher and pupil continued, apparently, for some time afterwards we find husband and wife passing a whole Sunday afternoon in this exciting study, “ and she is come to do addition, subtraction and multiplication very well,” he observes. This success leads them on to astronomy, in which we hope Mrs. Pepys also arrived at the understanding of “ many fine things ; ” but her matrimonial tutor grows a trifle uneasy at finding his student as eager in the pursuit of the art of dancing as in that of mathematics.
“ A little angry with my wife for minding nothing but the dancing-master, having him come twice a day, which is folly ! ” And, In the evening merrily practicing the dance my wife had begun to learn this day, but I fear will hardly do any great good at it because she is conceited that she do it well already, though I think no such thing.”
We fear Mrs. Pepys got not a few small snubs of this kind ; but she seems to have been of a sanguine and unsnubable disposition, and we next hear of her as an artist, in which rôle she appears to have pleased her lord and master better.
“ By her beginning, upon some eyes, I think she will do some very fine things,” lie writes, and afterwards waxes almost enthusiastic over her success, — “beyond what I could have expected of her,” he adds frankly, — and is delighted to find that Mrs. Pegg Penn’s productions (Mrs. Pegg was William Penn’s sister) “ fall so far short of my wife’s as no comparison.
But we must not linger any longer with the ingenuous Mr. Pepys, tempting though he be with his delightful egotism, his simple frankness, his unblushing criticisms on himself and everybody else. Alas that there should he hut one Pepys, as hut one Shakespeare !
This airy and superficial style of education continued to be the popular one ; pedantry in the fair sex grew still more unfashionable, and in the early part of the next century we find Dr. Johnson thus commenting on the general condition of feminine education in his time : " At the time the Tatler first appeared in the female world, any acquaintance with books was distinguished only to be censured.” The doctor, who had no little indulgence for the sex he bullied so unmercifully, and which adored him so generously in return, had rather liberal ideas concerning feminine education.
“ Turn your daughter loose into your library,” he is reported to have said to Mrs. Sheridan, whose father considered reading and writing quite unnecessary accomplishments for a woman. “ If she is well inclined, she will choose only nutritious food ; if otherwise, all your precautions will avail nothing at all.”
Dick Steele, with the deep interest he always took in the fair sex,—nothing can be more edifying than his moral precepts to the ladies of his day,—wonders why learning is not considered appropriate to women of quality. “ Why should reason be left to take care of itself in one of the sexes, and be disciplined with so much care in the other?” he inquires, pertinently enough, it is to he confessed. Then he goes on to show why ladies should be learned ; giving their ample leisure, their domesticity, natural or enforced, the copia verborum which they possess above the other sex, as reasons for their advancement in different branches of knowledge. “ Could they discourse about the spots in the sun, it might divert them from publishing the faults of their neighbors. Could they talk of the aspects and conjunctions of the planets, they might not comment upon ugliness and clandestine marriages.” All which is ingenious and witty enough ; but we fear this whimsical cure for gossiping was no more of a success in Steele’s day than it would be in ours, notwithstanding Ihe popularity of the higher education of women.
“ If truly women had the same advantages ” (of education), “I dare not say but they would make as good returns of it as men,” cautiously observes the anonymous author of The Ladies’ Calling, companion piece to The Whole Duty of Man, whom Ballard declares to have been “ a Lady of Quality.”
It was a long while, however, before the idea that the ordinary run of womankind could or should have the same advantages as men took any palpable form or gained ground in popular opinion. The Vicar says of Mrs. Primrose that " for breeding there were few country ladies who could show more. She could read any English book without much spelling ; but for pickling, preserving, and cookery, none could excel her.” Doubtless this picture was a truthful one. Even in the towns of England the best girls’ schools, for the main part, taught little else but fancy-work, dancing, pastry-making, and " deportment; ” and well-bred ladies continued to read and spell in a manner that would shame many a servant-girl of to-day. Swift describes the method of feminine education in his time as being “ unaccountably wild.” Here is the way in which the learned Mrs. Montague talks of contemporary boarding-schools : —
“ I believe all boarding-schools are much on the same plan, so you may place the young lady wherever there is a good air and a good dancing-master.” And, " What girls learn at hoardingschools is trifling, but they unlearn what would he of great disservice, — a provincial dialect, which is extremely ungenteel. The carriage of the person is well attended to, and dancing is well taught. As for the French language, I do not think it necessary unless for persons in high life.” Although Dr. Johnson considered this lady possessed of the " most amazing powers of ratiocination ” and “ radiations of intellectual eminence,” she seems to have shared the popular prejudices concerning her sex, and declared it more important for a woman to dance a minuet well than to know a foreign language.
During this era. a passion for fancywork of the most pernicious nature — decorative art of the most Bnunmagen type — seems to have filled the feminine breast to overflowing. Here is an advertisement of a school kept by a London “gentlewoman,” taken from a gazette of 1703, which gives an idea of the way in which school-girls passed their time, and makes one shudder to think of the power they possessed to inflict such works of art on their friends and relations during the remainder of their genteel existences: —
“ There is to be taught wax-works of all sorts,—fruits upon trees or in dishes, all manner of confections, flesh, fish, fowl, or anything that can be made of wax.” (Here speaks the dauntless artist. Observe, too, the fine indifference as to the natural or artificial affinities of fruit in general !) “ Philligree work of any sort; . . . Japanese work ; painting on glass ; sashes for windows upon sarsnet or transparent paper ; straw-work of any sort, as horses, birds, or beasts; shell-work in sconces or flowers ; quillwork ; gum - work ; transparent - work ; puff-work ; paper-work ; tortoise-work ; gimp or bugle-work ; silver landskips ; a sort of work in imitation of Japan ” (as if the real Japan would not be bad enough!) ; “ tape - lace ; cutting glass ; washing lace; pastry of all sorts, with the finest shapes that’s used in London ; boning fowl without cutting the back ; butter-work ; conserving and candying ; all sorts of English wines ; writing and arithmetic ; music and the great end of dancing, which is a good carriage ; and several other things. Any who are desirous to learn the above may board with herself at a reasonable rate, or board themselves and come to her.”
We have omitted some of the “ works ” taught at this notable establishment, but have given them in the original order. Without danger of being considered hypercritical, one might venture to think that the ornamental somewhat usurped the useful, in this cneerful curriculum. Note how modestly the humdrum accomplishments of writing and arithmetic bring up the rear. As reading is not mentioned, we presume that the young ladies were supposed already possessed of that art; in fact, that they were merely to he “finished.” It is not a little interesting to notice that some of these artistic acquirements have retained their charms, in feminine opinion, to the present day ; that “ gentlewomen ” are still to be found who adorn their homes with shell-work, paper-flowers, and wax-work, even to “fruit in dishes.”' Certainly Mrs. Makin’s endeavors to educate and elevate her sex were better than anything this programme offers ; and from other advertisements of the same era, we find it was no exception to the general rule as far as the spirit of the thing went.
“ There will be taught the needle, Dauncing, The French tongue, a little music on the Harpsichord, to read, to cast accounts in a small way,” runs another, and in all may be observed a curious hesitation in offering to the fair sex anything but the mildest infusion of the rudiments of education or learning, interspersed with what the author of The Ladies’ Calling terms “ ornamental improvements.” To make girls “ discreet,” the same writer recommends a course of writing, languages, needlework, a little music, “or the like;” but this difficult and dangerous regimen is to be pursued with caution, ns “ the proper Feminine business ” is the art of “ Œconomy and Household Managery.”
At a much later date it is a little strange to hear Mrs. Barbauld expressing the same doubt regarding the notion of enlarging the sphere of feminine acquirements : “ Young ladies ought only to have such a general tincture of knowledge as to make them agreeable companions to men of sense ; ” and the best, mode of gaining such knowledge was, she considered, by means of conversation with a father, brother, or friend of the sterner sex. Such sentiments as these must, of course, forever blacken this misguided woman’s memory with her sex, especially when we learn further that she thought the notion of colleges for women not only unfeminine, but almost indelicate !
Swift somewhere draws a satirical picture of a girls’ college, where, “instead of scissors, needles, and samplers, pens, compasses, quadrants, Greek, Gatin, and Hebrew books,” are to occupy the time of the fair students. What an amazing change has taken place since those words were written ! Little did the ironical dean imagine that such a wild conception would in reality fall far short of the truth ; that collegiate training for girls would be an every-day fact; and that a large proportion of the sex would not only cast aside scissors, needles, and samplers us totally unnecessary adjuncts to feminine education, but would become familiar with learning and its implements after a fashion which would seem to the doctor simply miraculous.
L. D. Morgan.