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little trouble and annoyance, and give way to pettish irritation, till one is almost tempted to think that they consider their Christian principles of patience and resignation as too costly for everyday wear, and so keep a different set for common use! There are none of the minor defects of character which cause more domestic discomfort. No man can long find pleasure in the society of a fretful, fussy wife. He goes home for rest and enjoyment, and if, instead of finding them, he is harassed by petty complaints, and teased by petty disturbances, he will probably soon seek them elsewhere. Nor are the effects of a fretful temper less pernicious to the happiness of children; their natural spirits are damped by it, and the foundation of a similar disposition is too often laid.
It need scarcely be remarked how indispensable is cheerfulness of temper to the single woman. It is essential to preserve her from the listlessness and the depression which are too frequently the consequence of a solitary life; to arm her, as with a shield, against the small but numerous trials belonging to her position in society; to enable her to struggle on-as she must strugglealone, free from sourness or discontent; and to win for herself the respect and affection which seem the natural rights of a happier position.
It is often taken for granted, that cheerfulness depends entirely on circumstances or natural disposition. We believe, on the contrary, that it is the invariable attendant of a well-regulated mind, where order and activity prevail, and the desires and will have been carefully and sincerely trained into accordance with, and submission to, the will of God. The young are necessarily cheerful, except under peculiar circumstances; some persons there are, also, endowed by nature with elastic spirits, which spring up again with a powerful re-action even from severe affliction, and effectually resist the gloomy influences which gather round us with the progress of years; but unless in these exceptional cases, cheerfulness, as an habitual tone of the mind, must be the result of thought and discipline.
Few of us after early youth can take a bright view of life; its cares, disappointments, and sorrows have thrown their gloomy shadows over the prospects. Its dark problems seem more mysterious, as with fresh experience we inquire into them; the state and prospects of society less hopeful and brilliant as we know them better; and the natural effect of contemplating these things is a weary sadness, which gradually deadens the power of enjoyment. Hence, if unchecked, an unhealthy gloom settles on the mind; unhealthy, because in the train of gloom come discontent, and repining and morbid feeling. Sources of comfort and enjoyment, which might have lightened care, are neglected in contempla
tion of the cares themselves. Energy for social usefulness is lost by dwelling morbidly on social evils, which are probably in such a view exaggerated, or the counterbalancing advantages lost sight of; and too often a sour or an indolent temper results from this nursing of gloomy images, or at best we are pained by that spectacle so mournful to all who thoughtfully observe human life,the waste of means of happiness. Happiness-that rare and precious boon on earth-is within the grasp, and they who might seize it are occupied with dissecting the films that dim its brilliancy.
Cheerfulness, on the other hand, is hopeful, active, easily pleased, cherishing every source of innocent enjoyment, keeping the mind ready for social usefulness or social pleasure. How essential is it, then, that as soon as the cares and trials of life begin to be felt, the preservation of cheerfulness should be esteemed a duty, and that over-anxious thought and morbid dwelling upon the worries of daily life, or the gloom of wider ews of human suffering, should be resolutely checked as wrong. There is weakness, though of a much more amiable kind, in allowing the mind to be worn by contemplation of what we cannot avoid or remedy, as in the frivolous thoughtlessness which does not suffer because it cannot feel. In striving to subdue anxiety, as in repressing irritation, the only effectual means is to turn the thoughts forcibly to some other subject. We cannot think down suffering, whether of mind or body; the more we dwell upon it, the more sensible we become of a thousand aggravations of the evil; but in the case of the former at least we can divert attention from it, so far as to keep the mind equable and healthy. Unfortunately, there is seldom a sincere desire to resist the impression of the moment. The gloomy, like the irritable temper, cherishes its own suffering; it is not pleased to have the pretext for anger or anxiety removed, and the emotion having been once excited, there is a morbid desire to indulge it till it finds relief in its own excess. The more closely we examine the more we perceive that want of honesty of purpose is at the bottom of most failures in self-improvement.
This view of cheerfulness as a voluntary habit, is a most important one for women who are so hemmed in with anxious cares, and excluded from the absorbing interests and exciting aims which enable men to lose sight of home anxieties. The commonest expression on the face of women past the prime of youth is anxiety. It is not the impress of thought but of care, habitually clouding the brow, and as might be expected, the commonest defect of temper among them is peevishness, the effect of the gradual souring of the mind, by little trials and disappointments, unrelieved by the elevating influences of wide interests and sympathies. This
might be less common if they early learnt that difficult part of self-control, which establishes dominion over our thoughts. The gay spirits of youth, the buoyancy of mind which nothing can long depress, are, as we have said, the attributes of a bright existence, and fade, alas! with it; but serenity of mind is attainable by all who value its blessings sufficiently to make the effort to attain them, and will endure through time and change to the last hours of conscious existence. Happy spirits are the charm of youth, but cheerfulness in age is far more beautiful. It is the loveliness, not of seasons or of circumstance, but of character. It testifies to the strong and loving heart, which the trials of life have neither soured nor subdued; it speaks of earnest trust in Him who has promised to "keep in perfect peace the mind that is stayed upon Him;" and amid the wreck of earthly joys, and the gradual closing of earthly prospects, it proclaims the triumph of the spiritual over the earthly nature, by shedding the soft and steady light of an immortal hope over the very descent into the grave.
Let us beware however of confounding such serenity as this with the soulless placidity which arises from want of sensibility. The test is easily applied. When habitual cheerfulness is combined with warm affections and keen sympathies; when it has survived sorrow, and vicissitudes acutely felt at the time, then we may feel sure that it is the genuine offspring of a well-tempered mind; that it is the calm of deep waters, not the mere glassiness of the shallow pool.
TO BE CULTIVATED.
Certain constitutional tendencies greatly increase the difficulty of bringing the mind to this condition. With some a morbid sensitiveness, with others a naturally gloomy turn of thought and imagination, with others, again, the causeless but most painful depression attending highly nervous temperaments, make the effort to attain or preserve habitual cheerfulness, a task, the arduousness of which none perhaps can fully appreciate who have not experienced its difficulties. Still these are all forms of mental disease which may with more or less success be resisted, and which, if unresisted, acquire a power destructive to health both of mind and body. Witness the numberless victims of low or nervous spirits who add to the real miseries of life all the phantoms of a diseased imagination. These mental peculiarities, being unconnected with the actual trials of life, show themselves at every age; and though the really depressing influences of life increase their force in some cases, so that they grow worse with advancing years, in others, they manifest themselves more decidedly in youth while the feelings are most acute and imagination most powerful. For the same reason they are common among women, and are necessarily fostered by the absence of stirring objects and engrossing occupation.
It is on its first insidious approaches that depression must be resisted, even though, as in early youth, it come clothed in soft romantic beauty. Once allowed to take possession of the mind, the energy to resist it is soon paralysed. Attention must, as we have said before, be forcibly turned from gloomy thoughts and images, and this is best done by constant and active employment. Idleness is the nurse of vain fancies, and the first step towards health of mind must be the substitution of defined and regular occupation for those vague and listless reveries in which, as through a false medium, every object is seen distorted and discoloured. An honest effort must be made to clear away these delusions, to look at things in their true light, and to estimate fairly, both our trials and our blessings, the real causes we have for depression, and those we have for thankfulness. Here again we find the inestimable value of the love of truth, which will not allow us to deceive ourselves any more than others. With self-deception, many of the miseries, and more than half of the errors of mankind, would vanish from the world.
SECT. III.-DECISION OF CHARACTER.
WE are aware, in writing the title of this section, that most people in reading it will exclaim, "Why treat of decision of character in a work addressed to women! what can be more unnecessary and (many will add) more odious than decision in a woman!" The best proof of the universality of this opinion is found in the general system of female education, which, so far from cultivating decision of character as an essential feature of moral strength, carefully represses even the natural tendency to it, treating it as a sign of presumption, or of obstinacy. Girls are reproved instead of encouraged, when they attempt to exercise their judgment, and to act on their own principles, and in this manner not only are their reasoning powers weakened by the habit of adopting conclusions of the most important nature without investigation, but their moral vigour is impaired, owing to the action of inferior motives only on the will. The naturally decided person will probably become rash and impatient of advice, adhering to her views or resolutions with all the obstinacy which belongs to ignorance and want of the habit of reasoning; whilst those more gentle and yielding characters, which might have been trained into firmness without losing any of their softer qualities, continue to lean on those around them, equally incapable of deciding whether the latter are trustworthy guides, or of acting without their guidance: distrusting their own conclusions, and
shrinking from responsibility, till they sink into mere puppets, useless to themselves and, to others.
If such results are pronounced to be beneficial to society, if it be really thought desirable that women should exercise no influence but that of beauty and sentiment, then let men cease, at least, to reproach them with weakness and caprice: and we may also cease to urge the necessity of an education that shall correct the weakness, and exchange caprice for consistency. If, on the other hand, it is allowed that consistency and sound judgment are equally desirable in woman as in man, then surely it is but just that education should seek to form those qualities on which rational and consistent conduct depends.
The complete dependence in which a woman spends her youth, and which, if she either remain under her parents' roof or marries a man of despotic temper, often continues till late in life, is naturally unfavourable to the acquisition of judgment and decision. Generally the first occasion on which she is called upon to judge for herself is the most important in her life, the great irrevocable step of marriage. Is it to be wondered at that her choice is so often unwise? that in the agitation of such a moment, beset by the opinions of friends, the persuasions of a lover, and uncertain of her own feelings, to which the circumstances give an unnatural excitement, she, who has never, perhaps, chosen a ball-dress on her own responsibility, should be incapable of the clearness of thought, confidence in her own judgment and firmness in acting upon it, which are necessary for so momentous a decision? How many an unhappy wife has rued the hour when her weakness of purpose and unpractised judgment betrayed her into a marriage which a little more firmness would have taught her to reject.
Placed in a wholly new position in worldly circumstances, perhaps widely different from those of her previous life, the young wife will soon feel the evil of being unused to decide for herself. At first her incapacity bears with it a grace most flattering to the naturally despotic temper of the other sex; and if her husband has leisure, or that peculiar disposition that loves interference in all things, great or small, he will lay down his laws for her governance on each household detail, no matter how remote from a man's province to understand, till she feels how galling is the yoke her own deficiencies have invited him to lay upon her. If, on the other hand, he is occupied with graver things, and hates, as most men justly hate, to have dissected before him the tiresome working of the household machine, of which he has a right to know nothing but its comfortable cheering results to welcome him after a day of toil or anxiety, then the consequence is