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knowledge, and how obvious the consequences of the want of it! The young girl marries, and if naturally careless, she neglects her household altogether till her husband is disgusted with bad living or high bills; she is cheated and laughed at by her servants; or, if more conscientious, she spends hours in doing that which should require only a few minutes, feels her new duties a heavy responsibility, on account of her ignorance, and buys experience at the expense of time, of pleasanter occupation, of much care and anxiety, and of money which can perhaps be illspared.


We shall scarcely be accused of wishing women to devote too much time to domestic employments, but, at the same time, it is with great regret that we sometimes see those employments despised, that which contributes so materially to comfort deserves a higher place than it obtains with the highly accomplished ladies of the present day, and we would fain see it restored to its proper place in female education. Much sense and judgment, a spirit of order and method, conscientious economy and value of time, much self-control and desire to please others, joined to no small share of tact and good taste, are required to make an accomplished maitresse de maison, whose household avocations shall be scrupulously attended to by herself, but never intruded upon the attention of her guests, or allowed to trespass on her husband's leisure and enjoyment. The degree in which it is necessary for the mistress of a family to interfere in the minutiae of household occupations, must depend upon her station and means, and cannot, therefore, admit of any rules; but whatever the establishment, it is well that servants should know that their mistress is perfectly au fait of every detail, and that if she sees occasion to inquire, she cannot be deceived.

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Again, needlework is universally acknowledged as an indispensable female accomplishment, but even that is now degenerating into the mere prettiness of fancy-work. It appears to us, however, that skill in plain work of every kind, and in cutting out all such articles of clothing as are manufactured at home, should enter as an important part into the education of girls of every rank. Where this accomplishment has not been taught in early life, we earnestly recommend all whose time is at their own disposal, to acquire it without delay. The importance of it, in an economical point of view, is immense, and much of the petty misery of poor marriages would be avoided, if this and other useful arts were more general. We do not desire to see women now, as in days of yore, spend a large portion of their lives in the kitchen, or in the still-room; but we do think that a slight practical acquaintance with the occupations of each is far beyond



contempt, even among the richest. Little delicacies are often required in the sick-room, which are more relished if prepared by a beloved hand. In cases of illness abroad, it often happens that the weakened appetite of the invalid might be tempted by some of the far-off delicacies of home, which the helpless hands of wife or daughter are unable to prepare. Would the skin be less white, the fingers less taper, or more unfit for the harp or the pencil, if they could make a custard pudding, or mix a cup of gruel? In different circumstances, such accomplishments need still less apology. If economy requires that a country girl should be hired as cook, it is not beneath the attention of any gentlewoman to add to the comfort of her husband's table by personal teaching, or to increase its delicacies without incurring expense, by preserving with her own hands the fruit which her garden affords. Such little things as these may make the difference of his feeling ashamed to allow even a friend to witness their poverty, or being able gladly to ask an agreeable stranger to share their humble, but nice, well-ordered, and well-prepared dinner. Let no woman undervalue the importance of this consideration, and let none suppose that this attention to household drudgery is inconsistent with mental cultivation. We believe that the really best educated woman will always prove herself, when circumstances demand it, the most fit for the humblest, or most irksome duties, and will display in them the vigour and activity of mind which she has cultivated in higher pursuits.

It is difficult, when speaking of small things, to bring up instances,—and impossible to enumerate all we wish to enforce. Such things must vary according to all the different circumstances of life, but the principle remains the same, and if women examine conscientiously their daily lives, they will need no further guide. Let them recollect that the neglect of minor duties leads to the neglect of the most important, that the waste of minutes inures us to the waste of hours, that thoughtless expenditure in little things denotes the spirit of the spendthrift, and that the carelessness about trifles, which lessens our influence, prepares the misery of some future day, when we would in vain exert the power we have frittered away. Let them remember that, however high their attainments, however noble their conduct in the great affairs of life, they have failed in a most important part of their mission, if they have neglected the minor cares, which properly belong to those who are saved from arduous toil, or the minor graces, which throw a charm over existence, and endear even the blessed sanctuary of home.

To return from this long digression to the causes which interfere with proper decision of character.


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There is one great cause of indecision, namely, the incoherence of our own aims and wishes. The single-minded see their path clearly before them, while they who wish to serve a double purpose must ever hang perplexed between conflicting objects. Nor are these only the intentionally insincere; many persons who would abhor any conscious deviation from rectitude of purpose, are yet guilty of it unconsciously to a great extent. They choose some one thing as the aim of all their exertions,—they sacrifice to its attainment every other object, and when they have attained it they complain of the injustice of fortune, because they do not possess also those things which they renounced in making their choice.* Thus some make the acquisition of wealth their great and principal object, and when wealth is attained they murmur that they have not also the peace which belongs to contentment, and the joys of friendship which they forget in the search for gold. Others cherished a nobler ambition: they wished to serve their fellow-creatures, and chose a career of usefulness and selfdenial; yet when they have done the good they desired, they accuse fate, because the riches and honours which they openly despised do not also crown their labours. A woman perhaps feels that life would be desolate without the ties and affections of domestic life; she marries accordingly, and then murmurs because she cannot enjoy the absence of care, the freedom of action of the unmarried. Another shrinks from the burden and dependence of marriage; she chooses a solitary lot, and then pines because solitude is not rich in affections, in the joys of that chequered state, the trials of which she refused to encounter.

We find this kind of inconsistency at every turn in things great and small. In the instances we have alluded to, the course is irrevocable, therefore, although the mind is fretted by querulous discontent, the indecision caused by repentance is not apparent, since the opportunity for action does not recur. But in all the minor decisions we have to make in the daily transactions of business, the arrangements of convenience or pleasure, in which, whenever we make a choice it still must be upon some principle, or at least some dominant motive in the mind, the consequence of yielding to this kind of inconsistency in our expectations is total indecision, and a degree of wavering, which increases with every occasion of action or of choice, from the settlement of property to the purchase of a ribbon.

One secret of decision as well as of contentment is to know our own wants, and wishes, and capabilities, and having, according to


* See Mrs. Barbauld's eloquent Essay on Wishes."

The Inconsistency of Human


that knowledge, chosen our course, to abide by the principles which guided the choice. No doubt time may prove the principles themselves to have been unsound; if so, that is the real subject of regret; but so long as they still approve themselves to our reason it is childish weakness to quarrel with the result. So long as in looking back over some past transaction we feel that we judged for the best according to our knowledge, and that if placed again in the same position, and with the same means of judging, we should again come to the same conclusion, there is no rational ground of self-reproach or repentance. The new light furnished by the result should guide us in our future course, not be thrown back upon the past to make its errors appear as crimes. The habit of so doing will destroy that confidence necessary to decision.

Nothing is so universally acknowledged as the mixed nature of all earthly advantages or blessings; the black spot is known to be in the fairest prospect, the bitter drop in the cup that seems sparkling with Heaven's nectar; yet this most trite of all truisms is what we generally refuse to remember in practice. We still think the rose without a thorn may fall to our lot; we still fancy that ere we decide, we may find a course of life free from uncertainties and difficulties, and in our restless search after a condition in which there shall be nothing to endure, we lose the peace of mind which might be ours, and sink into that irresolution and inconsistency which are fatal alike to vigour of character, and to real happiness.

Above all it is painful to see this inconsistency contradicting the lofty aims and principles of the Christian. We profess to consider this life as a pilgrimage to a more enduring home. We speak with contempt of its fleeting joys when compared with the blessings of eternity. We acknowledge as divine the virtue we openly take for our model, yet too often murmur in our secret hearts that this virtue wants the allurements of vice, that the joys of earth are not immortal, that the house of pilgrimage is not a haven of rest. "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon," said He, whose lips distilled wisdom; and to serve the one, and yet expect to receive the wages of the other, is no less weak, no less destructive of firm and simple uprightness.


The crowning requisite then for decision of character is the harmony of the mind with itself, of which consistency in our desires and aims is an essential part. This harmony is the agreement of the whole mind in the act or course of action decided on, and that complete conviction of the justice of its views or endeavours, or of the soundness of the means by which the decision was formed, which will prevent regret and wavering repentance.

If all the powers of the mind, the affections, reason, and con


science, approve the design we have formed, the mental vigour is undivided; no strength is wasted in contending with inward scruples or misgivings. On the other hand, if those several powers are at variance, the mind is harassed, and its energy weakened by division. Hence we derive a new proof of the necessity that reason and conscience should be habitually supreme, since their supremacy can alone establish such harmony. The several passions and affections tend to individual objects, and therefore to frequent disorder when their claims interfere with each other; the habit of subjecting them all to one supreme rule can alone enable the mind to act with undivided force in one direction, and in search of one end. Any predominant passion, whether good or evil, will indeed produce this harmony for a time, but the effect must necessarily be as transient as the object which excites the passion. The only legitimate sovereignty is that of conscience; passion conquers its rival forces for a time, conscience alone maintains the harmonious action of all the powers through life.*

In many cases, however, it is necessary to act when this union of the mind is-at first at least-impossible, either from the apparent equal weight of argument for and against the course we meditate, or from the nature and strength of the feelings opposed to the calm conclusions of the judgment. These are the cases which, as we have said elsewhere, complicate in so painful a manner the considerations of duty; but the habit of acting under the supreme guidance of conscience will secure us at least that degree of inward peace which arises from the sense of having earnestly striven to do what was right, leaving the issue to Him who overrules actions and consequences to the ends of His unerring Providence.


Without such decision of character as this, there may be good impulses, energetic attempts, and amiable conduct, but there will be no steady and consistent virtue.

*The cases of a ruling passion maintaining its dominion to the last hour of life, are apparent exceptions; but in them unity of purpose is produced at the expense of the highest faculties of the mind. Conscience is crushed, that its sway may be usurped by the tyrant passion, and reason is silenced, except as it indicates the means to attain the chosen aim.

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