« IndietroContinua »
“I gave some years ago to Sir James Mackintosh, as a definition of
a proverb“A “proverb " may be said to consist of the wit of one man and the wisdom of many.'
Earl Russell, (1875.)
Place aux dames! Ladies first. Feminine proverbs
every way entitled to precedence, whether it be in respect of quality or quantity.
And, why is it that Womankind has in every age been made the mark for so many winged witticisms ? Because, says 'a severe critic but perfect wife' who is looking over my shoulder, - because it is you men who make all the proverbs ! because it is the Unfair Sex with which they originate !
This suggests a keen encounter of wits in Dean Swift's day.
Said Sylvia to a reverend dean,
What reason can be given,
Why there is none in heaven?
She quick returns the jest,
They cannot find a priest ! Women there are no doubt, and in abundance, as ready of retort as the sprightly Sylvia, but 'carent vate sacro,' their smart sayings have not been equally well recorded : there is, most unquestionably, another side of the question; though as far as I can learn, it is but scantily represented.
I propose in the present chapter to glance shortly at some of the principal Feminine Proverbs; mindful, if Ι I may, of what was said to the sign painter by the
, Green Lion, who remarked that, if the Lions should
ever take to drawing the men, they would find themselves shown up in quite as startling colours.
The facts that have most afflicted the proverbmaking mind, appear to have been Woman's Wilfulness, her Wordiness, and I grieve to admit, sometimes ,
, also her Wickedness ; further, that she either cannot or at any rate will not reason. And thus much, I think, may be admitted at starting, that women are mostly either better or worse than men, more frequently the former; while that, at the same time, a really bad woman is very bad indeed. Jezebel, Messalina, and Lucretia Borgia would be hard to match with any equally evil men in their generation. We dare not think how low woman may fall, if she does fall. To man's foul shame no doubt, his, far more often, the greater sin. But this is the idea that seems to have provoked that coarse old saying
A wicked woman and an evil
Is some nine points worse than the devil. It has been urged also,—
If woman were little as she is good
A pease cod would make her a bonnet and hood. But this is evidently the outbreak of some testy Timon.
Glasses and lasses are brittle ware. All the more reason, then, for the owners to be extra careful over them.
There are but two good women in the whole world around,
This is almost an echo of that apparently hard saying of the wise man.
“One man among a thousand have I found;
Eccles. vii, 28. However, the ladies' angwer is perfectly ready.