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laid down, albeit with a degree of effort and struggle unknown to the constitutional energy of others. The very difficulty does in truth add to the merit, since in such a case the triumph is due to moral causes alone.
Women very rarely possess any high degree of physical courage. On the other hand, they may be fully equal to men in moral courage, and generally far surpass them in that species of fortitude which is shown in the endurance of pain. How frequently in illness do we see the timid woman become a heroine, enduring tortures without complaint, and bearing with patient cheerfulness the long and gloomy confinement of a sick-room, which often sinks the strong man into a querulous and unruly child. From the absence of instinctive boldness in their nature, whenever women show courage it partakes of a moral character, and when prompted by a strong motive, is sometimes equal to that of the bravest man; the physical weakness is forgotten in the more powerful impulse of the moral nature, and the rack, the scaffold, or the stake is braved at the call of duty or affection. Thus women have at all times been found among the most fearless martyrs to religious faith; and in the great French Revolution the noblest examples of courage and self-devotion were exhibited by them. So rare was it to see a woman show fear, even in the presence of a violent death, that when Madame du Barry, the enervated creature of luxury and shame, was led to the guillotine, her abject cries for mercy were drowned in the contemptuous hootings of the populace at a cowardice so unusual.
Such scenes are, thanks be to God! without the ordinary current of human life. They occur amid the storms which now and then desolate nations, and overturn the settled course of things, to call forth the heroism which at other times lies latent and unknown in the silent depths of the heart. But the moral courage, which is an essential element of that heroism, is needed at all times and in all situations, if we would truly and faithfully perform our duty. It is required, as we have seen, by all who desire to act steadily on principle, and to rule their life in this world by a higher standard than that of the worldly. This species of courage, therefore, is as necessary to women as to men; but many causes, and especially that deference to the world's opinion which is so constantly inculcated upon them, makes its exercise more difficult in their case.
It is easy to lay down the broad principles on which a man is to adhere to his own sense of right, in defiance of the world and all its clamour. But the line is less defined, the distinctions are more delicate, which must guide a woman in her opposition to that public opinion whose censure is seldom
passed upon her without leaving some taint behind it. positive undoubted questions of principle, the course is a simple one though it may be difficult: but in numberless smaller decisions, which, though involving weighty considerations, are less defined in their character, it is not easy for the young to distinguish how far conscience really requires of them to take a separate course from that followed by the multitude, and how far, without violating principle, they may sacrifice minor considerations to that respect for the world's opinion which woman's peculiar position renders so necessary. A great yet gentle dignity must be added to woman's moral courage when she is called upon to act in contradiction to that opinion; for she has not only to oppose the world, but if possible, to disarm the censure which such opposition alone is sure to call forth.
It is impossible to lay down rules for guidance in cases intricate and various as the different positions, habits, and social relations of individuals. Each must judge for herself, and only be most careful that her moral vision be clear, her purpose single and upright. We have spoken elsewhere* of the danger of a love of singularity influencing the mind in forming opinions different from those of the majority. What we said there applies here to the care required in acting upon the principles we have adopted; otherwise, we may find that our boasted moral courage is mere love of notoriety, another and scarcely less contemptible form of the vanity which under different circumstances leads to the weak abandonment of principle at the faintest breath of censure or ridicule.
The whole course of such self-training as we have ventured in these pages to recommend to women, will bring them to a certain extent in opposition with public opinion, for the prejudices of society, though shaken, are still strong enough against a more solid and comprehensive education for our sex, to make considerable moral courage necessary in order to break through them. Here, however, supposing the arguments we have advanced to be admitted, -a question of principle is clearly made out. Where the dignity and happiness of our moral and social position, our means of usefulness, and the prospect of the future amelioration of the human race, are shown to be involved, public opinion, if opposed to us, must be braved without hesitation. Women must be content in such a cause to bear ridicule and even obloquy till their own efforts shall gradually create a better. tone of feeling. Their unpretending simple earnestness in the matter, as a question of principle, not of caprice or ambition, will best disarm the preju
* See Chap. IV., Sec. iii.
dice which moral courage must enable them to resist. The high tone of defiance with which a man throws down the gauntlet to the follies he despises, is as inexpedient if not as unbecoming for a woman to assume, a masculine boldness of manner in circumstances of personal danger. A gentle and unassuming self-possession will, in both cases, attract most sympathy and ensure the most cordial assistance.
We have hitherto spoken mostly of the courage required to brave moral suffering, but as women enjoy no exemption from the accidental dangers to which human life is exposed, we think a few words on the evils of cowardice may not be superfluous. Whenever women display courage, it partakes, as we have said, of a moral character; at least those cases in which women are constitutionally brave are exceptions too rare to deserve notice: it is, then, much to be wished that courage should be more generally considered as a quality to be cultivated in them. The duties of defence and protection so naturally fall to the share of the stronger sex, that the want of intrepidity in the weaker is not in itself an infirmity to be lamented, but we are inclined to think that it is a misfortune for women that cowardice in them brings no discredit, for a strong check is thus removed which might aid the moral sentiments in overcoming the physical defect. Female cowardice is at most regarded as a venial fault, and men having admired it as a sign of gentleness and a flattering recognition of their superiority, women have actually been led at times into affecting fear when they did not feel it, and seeking protection or assistance when they required neither. These interesting tremblers, however, will do well to remember that their cowardice will only attract admiration while it is associated with youth and beauty; the timidity of a middle-aged or an ugly woman is by no means found to excite so much interest. It may also happen that what was admired during the days of courtship, may be pronounced exceedingly tiresome after marriage, and the husband whose riding or yachting or travelling is interfered with by his wife's nervous fears, may not treat her terrors quite so gently, or soothe them quite so tenderly as the lover had done. At best it is probable that he will soon seek his amusement alone. We do not wish to advocate any needless or unfeminine display of courage. The woman who braves danger unnecessarily, is in most cases both foolish and criminal, since she has neither the agility of limb, nor the strength of nerve or muscle to enable her to cope with it; but whenever she is exposed unavoidably to danger, then the moral sentiment should come in to give her the courage in which she is physically deficient. The motive may not be strong enough to overcome fear, but she will control the
degrading exhibition of it,-the weak complaining or loud lamentation over an inevitable evil, which is really as contemptible in a woman as in a man. She will thus preserve her presence of mind and readiness to avail herself of all chances of escape, instead of increasing her nervous weakness by the agitation of uncontrolled terror, and becoming powerless to act for herself, while distracting the attention and frustrating the efforts of those who are endeavouring to act for her.
The habit of moral control is sufficient to give to women all the courage that can be required of them; it is only necessary that the moral sentiment or motive should habitually have more influence than the emotion of the moment, and if this is the case they will assuredly not betray fear or yield to any unworthy weakness, whatever the nature of the danger or difficulty to be encountered. The same feeling which will make them brave ridicule, thou h sensitively alive to the opinions of others, will enable them to face peril, though fearfully conscious of their physical helplessnes
The general cowardice of women is, in most cases, perhaps, less the result of their natural weakness, than of not feeling it to be a duty to struggle against it, and to practise self-control in things which, taken individually, are trifles, but which, together, exercise considerable influence on the formation of character. It is utterly unimportant in the common course of life whether a woman is a bold or a timid rider,—whether she can or cannot venture on a dizzy path, or step firmly into a tossing boat; but it is of infinite importance whether, on these or on any other occasions, she habitually yields to her weakness, or allows an emotion to overpower her reason, so as to make her incapable in a moment of danger of judging calmly or acting resolutely. Heaven has denied strength of limb to woman, but has given her a heart strong enough for every effort, if she allow it not to be unnerved by want of self-control.
One of the most painful trials of a woman's courage, when brought into circumstances of danger, is the seeing others exposed for her sake; perhaps some she loves, and whose peril is more dreadful to witness than her own; perhaps only strangers, the rude and the vulgar, whom the generous sentiment of pity for her weakness inspires with a chivalrous devotion to save her, worthy of the courtly knights of olden times. Such exertions, even when coldly related, make the heart beat high; but when in a moment of already painful excitement we feel they are made for our sake it is indeed no slight effort of self-control to repress emotion, and to look upon the struggle, for life and death, of which our own safety is the prize, without yielding to feelings which
would increase every difficulty and heighten the very peril we would give worlds to lessen. It will be enough to prevent a woman of any feeling exposing herself needlessly to danger if she remembers that such exertions will always be called forth to save her from the consequences of her own rash folly.
To most generous minds it is more difficult to control fear for others than to encounter personal danger; but this exercise of self-command is continually required of women. They must frequently be called upon to see those they love, husbands, fathers, brothers exposed to peril from which honour forbids them to shrink, but which a woman's weakness or terror may make them less fit to encounter. A man must often risk health, and fortune, and life at the call of duty, or in the prosecution of designs he does not feel justified in abandoning; but woman's weak lamentations, the forebodings of her fears, or the sight of her wretchedness, may increase ten-fold the arduousness of his struggle; while, on the other hand, her fortitude and moral courage may strengthen his resolution and brace his spirits with new power. This is not only a painful position for a woman, but one of great difficulty; the really tender and generous spirit will find the medium between the hardness that apes heroism, and the weak tenderness which is insensible to loftier motives.
In the education of their children, also, women are called upon for some exercise of this species of courage. Without it a timid mother not only perpetuates her own weakness in her daughters, by selfishly shrinking from seeing them undergo a more healthy training, but she runs the risk of producing still more serious evil effects on her sons. In one she may create the very foolhardiness she most dreads, by exhibiting unreasonable terror, which the boy thinks it manly to defy; in another who, from constitutional weakness or natural disposition, is nervous and timid, she fosters their infirmities, so painful in a man, till they become serious obstacles to his comfort and usefulness, and increase every real danger by making him incapable of coolness and self-confidence. Later in life he may acquire great moral courage, but the exertion which almost all men must be called upon to make will cost him a degree of painful effort which his mother might have spared him by greater command over herself. Presence of mind, a quality as necessary to woman as to man, is impossible without a certain degree of courage. We have spoken of cases of exposure to danger, but there are others of more frequent occurrence, when presence of mind is of no less importance. Danger is at every door, and in some of its most frightful forms; professional assistance is not always at hand, and presence of mind may be the only means of averting evil,