A Protest

— I want to raise my voice in polite objection to “a novel suggestion” recently made in the Club.

You must all remember the advice to novelists to consider the uses of a “ spiritual Don Juan,” and the sketch, for their guidance, of his relations with the lady who loved him despite his piteous efforts to turn her love to hate.

Here, in my opinion, is a Mrs. Harris. “ I don’t believe there’s no sich a person.”

I mean, I don’t believe in the spiritual Don Juan of noble intellect, who first tries to make himself loved, and then to undo his fatal work with ridicule. As for the lady who loves unasked and in spite of all, I know she is real, in the novelist’s sense. She is so familiar to any close observer of matters between the sexes that I have about made up my mind that woman is naturally the aggressor in love ; that is, that there are more women than men fitted for the initiator’s part, and that one reason why things go so badly is that the poor men are trained to believe themselves pursuers, when in fact they are pursued. Anyway, that training must certainly put them to dreadful disadvantage when they are pursued; and I rejoice that the misunderstood gentleman (I am sure he is charming) of the guiding sketch bears the obloquy of his position bravely, and will not, as so many a man has done, make believe that he loves because he is beloved. He has Thoreau’s example to support him, and he can comfort himself with the obvious reflection that if a woman was found gallant enough to attack Thoreau, no one can be considered safe from siege, and none necessarily deemed blameworthy when it comes.

Of course I am misbehaving myself, after the usual manner of the controversialist,— I am setting forth the other side as it was not stated ; but I cannot believe in a superior and able man who seeks to win women’s love, and does it by vague suggestions of admiration and sympathy only, and has no use for it when he has it. Why should n’t he give expression in a modest way to his admiration and sympathy if he feels these sentiments, and why should n’t he feel them for many women whom he does not love nor wish to love him ? What charm can there he in any society that discourages him in this civilized course ? In fact, in the more special sense, how can there lie any society where he, for such couduct, is looked upon askance ?

I speak feelingly, because I have suffered so deeply for social interchange when such pleasures would have been possible had not the unwritten code of rural circles in the Northern States all but forbidden association between the sexes except on tlye ground of courtship to the end of marriage. I fid that code intolerably coarse, among other things. Accidents certainly will happen, and both men and women, if they live at all, run the risk of falling in love with the wrong people ; but I do not believe that a society that permits — nay, demands — some touch of romance in its manners, that embodies in its traditions and etiquette subtle shades of masculine gallantry and feminine graciousness (as do all the older and more civilized of the Occident), subjects its members to any more risk of unhappiness thereby ; and the gain in happiness, I submit, is inestimable.

I have betrayed my sex plainly enough (unless the New Woman has blinded you to the old signs), and I might as well now boldly state what you are sure to infer; that is, that I like men to like me and to show it, and that I deeply deplore anything calculated to make them more cautious about it than they are now. I have known in my life several men who displayed, without provocation, a noble disposition to protect me from their dangerous charms, who took pains to make it clear in time that they must not be loved. They afforded me some pleasure, — that it were ungrateful to deny; but as models of manners and taste I did not care about them, and I do not desire to see their tribe increase in the land.