THE POWER OF WOMANHOOD OR MOTHERS AND SONS
A BOOK FOR PARENTS, AND THOSE IN LOCO PARENTIS
BY ELLICE HOPKINS
AUTHOR OF "LIFE AND LETTERS OF JAMES HINTON," "WARS AMONG WORKINGMEN," ETC.
Sow an act, and you reap a habit: Sow a habit, and you reap a character: Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.
NEW YORK E.P. DUTTON & COMPANY 31 West Twenty-Third Street 1901 Copyright, 1899
Copyright, 1899 By E.P. DUTTON & CO.
The Knickerbocker Press, New York
This little book has been written under great physical disabilities, chiefly while wandering about in search of health, and consequently far from the libraries which would have enabled me to give proper references to all my quotations. Often for a whole year I have been unable to touch it; but again and again I have returned to my task, feeling it worth any risk to mind or body if only in the end its words might prove of some service to the educated mothers of England and America.
Under these circumstances, I know I may plead for indulgence as to any defects its pages may present.
But now that, after six years, I have realized the pretty Eastern proverb, "By patience and perseverance, and a bottle of sweet-oil, the snail at length reaches Jerusalem,"—now that by God's unfailing help I have finished my difficult task, I can but commit the book into the hands of the women who have implanted in me, next to my faith in God, faith in the "Power of Womanhood," and whose faithful adherence and co-operation remain the deepest and most grateful memory of my life. Most of the ordinary means of circulation are closed to a book of this nature. The doors of circulating libraries are for the most part shut; notices in papers for the general public are necessarily few; nor can I any longer hope, as I once did, to visit America, and give it a wide circulation by my own efforts. I can but stretch out my hands to my many dear unknown friends in America,—hands which have grown too weak to hold the sword or lift the banner in a cause for which I have laid down my all,—and ask any mother who may find help or strength in this book to help me in return by placing it in the hands of other mothers of boys she may know, especially,—I would plead,—young mothers. Do not say they are too young to know. If they are not too young to be the mothers of boys, they are not too young to know how to fulfil the responsibility inherent in such motherhood. They at least can begin at the beginning, and not have occasion to say, as so many mothers have said to me, with tears in their eyes, "Oh, if I could only have heard you years ago, what a difference it would have made to me! But now it is too late."
Enable me thus, by your aid, to do some helpful work for that great country which I have ever loved as my own; and which with England is appointed in the Providence of God to lead in the great moral causes of the world.
If, indeed, each mother whom, either by word or deed, I may have helped would do me this service of love now that I am laid aside, not yielding to the first adverse criticism, which is so often only a cry of pain or prejudice, but patiently working on at enlightening and strengthening the hands of other mothers in her own rank of life, what vital work would be done:—work so precious in its very nature, so far-reaching in its consequences, that all the travail and anguish I have endured, all the brokenness of body and soul I have incurred, would not so much as come into mind for joy that a truer manhood is being born into the world, even the manhood of Him who—
"Came on earth that He might show mankind What 'tis to be a MAN: to give, not take; To serve, not rule; to nourish, not devour; To help, not crush; if needs, to die, not live."
2 BELLE VUE GARDENS, WALPOLE ROAD, BRIGHTON, Nov. 1, 1899.
II.—"WHY SHOULD I INTERFERE?" 13
III.—FIRST PRINCIPLES 26
IV.—THE SECRET AND METHOD 38
V.—EARLY BOYHOOD 56
VI.—BOYHOOD AND SCHOOL LIFE 69
VII.—EARLY MANHOOD 131
VIII.—THE INFLUENCE OF SISTERS 157
IX.—THE MODERN WOMAN AND HER FUTURE 170
X.—NATIONAL AND IMPERIAL ASPECTS 191
XI.—THE DYNAMIC ASPECT OF EVIL 206
"No advice, no exposure, will be of use until the right relation exists between the father and mother and their son. To deserve his confidence, to keep it as the chief treasure committed to them by God;—to be, the father his strength, the mother his sanctification, and both his chosen refuge, through all weakness, evil, danger, and amazement of his young life."
THE POWER OF WOMANHOOD
In a banquet given in honor of Heinrik Ibsen by a Norwegian society known as the Woman's League, in response to a speech thanking him in the name of the society for all he had done for the cause of women, the poet, while disclaiming the honor of having consciously worked for the woman's cause—indeed, not even being quite clear as to what the woman's cause really was, since in his eyes it was indistinguishable from the cause of humanity—concluded his speech with the words:
"It has always seemed to me that the great problem is to elevate the nation and place it on a higher level. Two factors, the man and the woman, must co-operate for this end, and it lies especially with the mothers of the people, by slow and strenuous work, to arouse in it a conscious sense of culture and discipline. To the woman, then, we must look for the solution of the problem of humanity. It must come from them as mothers: that is the mission that lies before them."
Whether we are admirers of the great Norwegian poet or not, whether we are afflicted with Ibsenism, or regard his peculiar genius in a more critical and dispassionate light, no one would deny to him that deep intuitive insight which belongs to a poet, and which borders so closely on the prophet's gift.
It is now some years since I have been laid aside, owing to the terrible strain and burthen of my ten years' conflict with the evils that are threatening the sanctity of the family, the purity of the home, and all that constitutes the higher life of the nation. But in those ten years the one truth that was burnt into my very soul was the truth enunciated by Ibsen, that it is to the woman that we must look for the solution of the deepest moral problems of humanity, and that the key of those problems lies in the hands of the mothers of our race. They, and they alone, can unlock the door to a purer and a stronger life. This, in Ibsen's words, "is the mission that lies before them." And it is this strong conviction which makes me feel that, even with broken powers and shattered health, I cannot rest from my labors without, at any cost to myself, placing the knowledge and experience gained in those years of toil and sorrow at the disposal of the educated women of the English-speaking world who, either as mothers or in other capacities, have the care and training of the young.
No one recognizes more thankfully than I do the progress that the woman's movement has made during what have been to me years of inaction and suffering. The ever-increasing activity in all agencies for the elevation of women; the multiplication of preventive institutions and rescue societies; above all, that new sense of a common womanhood, that esprit de corps in which hitherto we have been so grievously lacking, and which is now beginning to bind all our efforts together into one great whole—these I thankfully recognize. We no longer each of us set up in separate and somewhat antagonistic individuality our own little private burrow of good works, with one way in and one way out, and nothing else needed for the wants of the universe. We realize now that no one agency can even partially cover the ground, and conferences are now held of all who are working for the good of women and children, to enable the separate agencies to work more effectually into one another's hands and unite more fervently in heart and soul in a common cause. Beneath all this, apart from any external organization whatever, there is a silent work going on in the hearts of thoughtful and educated mothers, which never comes before the public at all, but is silently spreading and deepening under the surface of our life.
But when all this is thankfully recognized and acknowledged, I still cannot help questioning whether the mass of educated women have at all grasped the depth and complexity of the problem with which we have to grapple if we are to fufil our trust as the guardians of the home and family, and those hidden wells of the national life from which spring up all that is best and highest in the national character. Nay, I sometimes fear lest even our increased activity in practical work may not have the effect of calling off our attention from those deep underlying causes which must be dealt with if we are not to engage in the hopeless task of trying to fill a cistern the tap of which has been left running. This absorption in the effect and inattention to the cause is to a certain degree bred in us by the very nature of the duties that devolve upon us as women. John Stuart Mill has compared the life of a woman to an "interrupted sentence." The mere fact that our lives are so interrupted by incessant home calls, and that we are necessarily so concerned in the details of life, is apt to make us wanting in grasp of underlying principles. Perhaps it is the fact of my having been associated all the early years of my life with eminent scientific men that has formed in me a habit of mind always to regard effects in relation to causes, so that merely to cure evil results without striking at the evil cause seems to me, to use a Johnsonian simile, "like stopping up a hole or two of a sieve with the hope of making it hold water."
It is, therefore, on these deeper aspects that more especially bear upon the lives and training of our own sons that I want to write, placing before you some facts which you must know if you are to be their guardians, and venturing to make some suggestions which, as the result of much collective wisdom and prayer, I think may prove helpful to you in that which lies nearest your heart. Only, if some of the facts are such as may prove both painful and disagreeable to you, do not therefore reject them in your ignorance as false. Do not follow the advice of a politician to a friend whom he was urging to speak on some public question. "But how can I?" his friend replied; "I know nothing of the subject, and should therefore have nothing to say." "Oh, you can always get up and deny the facts," was the sardonic reply.
Let me first of all give you my credentials, all the more necessary as my long illness has doubtless made me unknown by name to many of the younger generation, who may therefore question my right to impart facts or make any suggestions at all. Suffer me, therefore, to recount to you how I have gained my knowledge and what are the sources of my information.
In the first place, I was trained for the work by a medical man—my friend Mr. James Hinton—first in his own branch of the London profession, and a most original thinker. To him the degradation of women, which most men accept with such blank indifference, was a source of unspeakable distress. He used to wander about the Haymarket and Piccadilly in London at night, and break his heart over the sights he saw and the tales he heard. The words of the Prophet ground themselves into his very soul, with regard to the miserable wanderers of our streets: "This is a people robbed and spoiled; they are all of them snared in holes and hid in prison-houses; they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore."
The very first time he came down to me at Brighton, to see if I could give him any help, speaking of all he had seen and heard, his voice suddenly broke, and he bowed his face upon my hands and wept like a child. That one man could suffer as he did over the degradation of this womanhood of ours has always been to me the most hopeful thing I know—a divine earnest of ultimate overcoming. The only thing that seemed in a measure to assuage his anguish was my promise to devote myself to the one work of fighting it and endeavoring to awake the conscience of the nation to some sense of guilt with regard to it. In order to fit me for this work he considered that I ought to know all that he as a medical man knew. He emphatically did not spare me, and often the knowledge that he imparted to me was drowned in a storm of tears. We were to have worked together, but his mind, already unhinged by suffering, ultimately gave way, and, with all that this world could give him—health, fame, wealth, family affection, devoted friends—he died prematurely of a broken heart.
For ten years, therefore, after my friend's death I gave up everything for the purpose of carrying on the work he left me, and beat wearily up and down the three kingdoms, holding meetings, organizing practical work, agitating for the greater legal protection of the young, afterwards embodied in two Acts—one for removing children from dens of infamy and one known as the Criminal Law Amendment Act, which have done much to educate the public sentiment of the country; but always making it my chief object to rouse educated women to face the facts about their own womanhood, and, above all, to rouse mothers to realize the perils of their own boys and to be determined to know enough to enable them to act as their guardians.
During those ten years of warfare, passing as I did from family to family, and always concerned with questions that touch upon the innermost shrine of our life, I necessarily became the recipient of many hidden sorrows. In fact, my fellow-creatures used me as a bottomless well into which they could empty their household skeletons; and I used often to reflect with sardonic satisfaction that I should never run dry like other old wells, but that death would come and fill me up with a good wholesome shovelful of earth, and I and my skeletons would lie quiet together. But in this way I gained a knowledge of what is going on under the surface of our life, whether we choose to ignore it or not, which possibly can only come to those who are set apart to be confessors of their kind; and the conclusion was forced upon me that this evil, in one form or another, is more or less everywhere—in our nurseries, in our public, and still more our private, schools, decorously seated on magisterial benches, fouling our places of business, and even sanctimoniously seated in our places of worship.
After the first two years of work among women I found that it was absolutely hopeless attacking the evil from one side only, and I had to nerve myself as best I could to address large mass meetings of men, always taking care clearly to define my position—that I had not come upon that platform to help them, but to ask them to help me in a battle that I had found too hard for me, and that I stood before them as a woman pleading for women. The first of these meetings I addressed at the instance of the late revered Bishop of Durham, Dr. Lightfoot, who took the chair, and inaugurated the White Cross Movement, which has since spread over the civilized world. And throughout this most difficult side of my work I had his priceless co-operation and approval; besides the wise counsel, guidance, and unfailing sympathy of one whom but to name is to awake the deepest springs of reverence, Dr. Wilkinson, then the incumbent of St. Peter's, Eaton Square, afterwards Bishop of Truro, and now Bishop of St. Andrews. But so great was the effort that it cost me, that I do not think I could have done this part of my work but for my two favorite mottoes—the one, that "I can't" is a lie in the lips that repeat, "I believe in the Holy Ghost"; the other, received from the lips of Bishop Selwyn, that "If as soldiers of the Cross we stick at anything, we are disgraced forever."
But lastly, and perhaps best of all, as giving weight to any suggestions that I may make, across the dismal mud swamp that I often trod with such an aching heart and faltering steps came to meet me God's best and highest, with outstretched hands of help and encouragement. It was the highly-cultivated and thoughtful women who, amidst the storm of obloquy that beat upon me from every quarter, first ranged themselves by my side, perceiving that the best way to avoid a danger is not to refuse to see it. Some were women already in the field in connection with Mrs. Butler's movement, to which our nation owes so much, some were roused by my words.
In all our large towns where I formed Associations for the Care of Friendless Girls I was in the habit of reporting my work to the clergy of my own church, whose sympathy and cooperation I shall ever gratefully acknowledge. Ultimately, the leading laity, as well as some Nonconformist ministers, joined with us; often these conferences were diocesan meetings—to which, however, Nonconformists were invited—with the Bishop of the diocese in the chair; and after my address free discussion took place, so that I had the advantage of hearing the opinions and judgments of many of our leading men in regard to this difficult problem, and getting at men's views of the question.
The matter that I lay before you, therefore, has been thoroughly and repeatedly threshed out at such conferences, as well as in long, earnest, private talks with the wisest and most experienced mothers and teachers of our day; and it is in their name, far more than in my own, that I ask you to ponder what I say.
Do not, however, be under any fear that I intend in these pages to make myself the medium of all sorts of horrors. I intend to do no such thing. It is but very little evil that you will need to know, and that not in detail, in order to guard your own boys. We women, thank God, have to do with the fountain of sweet waters, clear as crystal, that flow from the throne of God; not with the sewer that flows from the foul imaginations and actions of men. Our part is the inculcation of positive purity, not the part of negative warning against vice. Nor need you fear that the evil you must know, in order to fulfil your most sacred trust, will sully you. This I say emphatically, that the evil which we have grappled with to save one of our own dear ones does not sully. It is the evil that we read about in novels and newspapers, for our own amusement; it is the evil that we weakly give way to in our lives; above all, it is the destroying evil that we have refused so much as to know of in our absorbing care for our own alabaster skin—it is that evil which defiles the woman. But the evil that we have grappled with in a life and death struggle to save a soul for whom Christ died does not sully: it clothes from head to foot with the white robe, it crowns with the golden crown. Though I have had to know what, thank God! no other woman may ever again be called upon to know, I can yet speak of the great conflict that involved this knowledge as being the one great purifying, sanctifying influence of my life. But even if, as men would often persuade us, the knowledge of the world's evil would sully us, I know I utter the heart of every woman when I say that we choose the hand that is sullied in saving our own dear ones from the deep mire that might otherwise have swallowed them up, rather than the hand that has kept itself white and pure because it has never been stretched out to save. That hand may be white, but in God's sight it is white with the whiteness of leprosy. Believe, rather, the words of James Hinton, written to a woman friend: "You women have been living in a dreamland of your own; but dare to live in this poor disordered world of God's, and it will work out in you a better goodness than your own,"—even that purified womanhood, strong to know, and strong to save, before whose gracious loveliness the strongest man grows weak as a child, and, as a little child, grows pure.
God grant that, in view of the tremendous responsibilities that devolve upon us women in these latter days, we may cry from our hearts:
"Let not fine culture, poesy, art, sweet tones, Build up about my soothed sense a world That is not Thine, and wall me up in dreams. So my sad heart may cease to beat with Thine, The great World-Heart, whose blood, forever shed, Is human life, whose ache is man's dull pain."
"WHY SHOULD I INTERFERE?"
I am, of course, aware that at the very outset I shall be met by the question—far less frequently urged, however, by thoughtful mothers than it used to be—"Why need I interfere at all in a subject like this? Why may I not leave it all to the boy's father? Why should it be my duty to face a question which is very distasteful to me, and which I feel I had much better let alone?"
I would answer at once, Because the evil is so rife, the dangers so great and manifold, the temptations so strong and subtle, that your influence must be united to that of the boy's father if you want to safeguard him. Every influence you can lay hold of is needed here, and will not prove more than enough. The influence of one parent alone is not sufficient, more especially as there are potent lines of influence open to you as a woman from which a man, from the very fact that he is a man, is necessarily debarred.
You must bring the whole of that influence to bear for the following considerations.
Let me take the lowest and simplest first. Even if you be indifferent to your boy's moral welfare, you cannot be indifferent to his physical well-being, nay, to his very existence. Here I necessarily cannot tell you all I know; but I would ask you thoughtfully to study for yourself a striking diagram which Dr. Carpenter, in one of our recognized medical text-books, has reproduced from the well-known French statistician, Quetelet, showing the comparative viability, or life value, of men and women respectively at different ages.
The female line, where it differs from the male, is the dotted line, the greater or less probability or value of life being shown by the greater or less distance of the line of life from the level line at the bottom. Infant life being very fragile, the line steadily rises till it reaches its highest point, between thirteen and fourteen. In both cases there is then a rapid fall, the age of puberty being a critical age. But from fifteen, when the female line begins to right itself, only showing by a gentle curve downwards the added risks of the child-bearing period in a woman's life, the male line, which ought, without these risks, to keep above the female line, makes a sharp dip below it, till it reaches its lowest point at twenty-five, the age when the excesses of youth have had time to tell most on the system. Here, at least, is evidence that none can gainsay. The more you ponder that mysterious sharp dip in the man's line of life at the very age which Nature intended should be the prime and flower of life, the more deeply you will feel that some deep and hidden danger lies concealed there, the more earnestly you will come to the conclusion that you cannot and will not thrust from you the responsibility that rests upon you as the boy's mother of helping to guard him from it. Keep him from the knowledge of evil, and the temptations that come with that knowledge, you cannot. The few first days at school will insure that, to say nothing of the miserable streets of our large towns. As Thackeray long ago said in a well-known passage, much animadverted on at the time:
"And by the way, ye tender mothers and sober fathers of Christian families, a prodigious thing that theory of life is, as orally learnt at a great public school. Why! if you could hear those boys of fourteen who blush before their mothers, and sneak off in silence in the presence of their daughters, talking among each other, it would be the woman's turn to blush then. Before Pen was twelve years old, and while his mother thought him an angel of candour, little Pen had heard enough to make him quite awfully wise upon certain points; and so, madam, has your pretty rosy-cheeked son who is coming home from school for the ensuing Christmas holidays. I don't say that the boy is lost, or that the innocence has left him which he had 'from heaven, which is our home,' but that the shades of the prison house are closing very fast round him, and that we are helping as much as possible to corrupt him."
But though you cannot keep him from the knowledge of evil, you can be a potent factor in teaching him the hidden dangers that beset him, in seeing that his young feet rest on the rock of true knowledge, and not on the shifting quagmire of the devil's lies; but above all, in inspiring him with a high ideal of conduct, which will make him shrink from everything low and foul as he would from card-sharping or sneaking, proving yourself thus to him as far as in you lies—
"A perfect woman, nobly planned, To warn, to comfort, and command; And yet a spirit still, and bright With something of an angel light."
The boy thus mothered is saved as a rule from all physical risk.
And this in part anticipates my second point. You cannot let this question alone if you are to aim at the highest for your boy. High character is more to be accounted of than long life. And it is to you, as a woman, that the guarding of the higher springs of his nature is especially entrusted. My whole experience has gone to teach me, with ever-increasing force, that the proposition that purity is vitally necessary for the woman, but of comparatively small account for the man, is absolutely false. Granted that, owing to social ostracism, the outward degradation of impurity to the woman is far greater, I contend that a deeper inner debasement is its sure fruition in the man. Cruelty and lies are its certain accompaniment. As Burns, with a poet's insight, has truly said:
"But oh! it hardens a' within, And petrifies the feeling."
Yes, it is exactly that; "it hardens all within"—hardens and darkens. It is as our Lord says: only "the pure in heart" are capable of divine vision. Only the man who has kept himself pure, who has never sullied his white faith in womanhood, never profaned the sacred mysteries of life and love, never fouled his manhood in the stye of the beast—it is only that man who can see God, who can see duty where another sees useless sacrifice, who can see and grasp abiding principles in a world of expediency and self-interest, and discern
"In temporal policy the eternal Will,"
who can see God in the meanest of His redeemed creatures. It is only the virginal heart that has kept itself pure, that grows not old, but keeps its freshness, its innocent gaiety, its simple pleasures. The eminent Swiss Professor, Aime Humbert, does but echo these words from the sadder side, when, speaking of the moral malady which is the result of impurity, he says:
"It does not attack any single organ of the human frame, but it withers all that is human—mind, body, and soul. It strikes our youth at the unhappy moment when they first cross the thresholds of vice. For them the spring has no more innocent freshness; their very friendships are polluted by foul suggestions and memories; they become strangers to all the honorable relations of a pure young life; and thus we see stretching wider and wider around us the circle of this mocking, faded, worn-out, sceptical youth, without poetry and without love, without faith and without joy."
Too soon and too earnestly we cannot teach our boys that the flaming sword, turning all ways, which guards the tree of life for him, is purity.
But thirdly, there are wider issues than the welfare, physical and moral, of our own boys which make it impossible for us to take up any neutral attitude on this question. We cannot remain indifferent to that which affects so deeply both the status and the happiness of women. We cannot accept a standard for men which works out with the certainty of a mathematical law a pariah class of women. We cannot leave on one side the anguish of working-class mothers just because we belong to the protected classes, and it is not our girls that are sacrificed. At least, we women are ceasing to be as base as that, and God forgive us that, from want of thought rather than from want of heart, educated women could be found even to hold that the degradation of their own womanhood is a necessity!
Take but one instance out of the many that crossed my via dolorosa of the anguish inflicted on the mothers of the poor. I take it, not because it is uncommon, but because it is typical.
At one of my mass meetings of working women in the North I was told at its close that a woman wished to speak with me in private. As soon as I could disengage myself from the crowd of mothers who were always eager to shake hands with me, and to bless me with tears in their eyes for taking up their cause, I went down the room, and there, in a dimly-lighted corner of the great hall, I found a respectable-looking woman waiting for me. I sat down by her side, and she poured out the pent-up sorrow of her heart before telling me the one great favor she craved at my hands. She had an only daughter, who at the age of sixteen she had placed out in service, at a carefully-chosen situation. We all know what a difficult age in a girl's life is sixteen; but our girls we can keep under our own watchful care, and their little wilfulnesses and naughtinesses are got over within the four walls of a loving home, and are only the thorns that precede the perfect rose of womanhood. But the poor have to send their girls out into the great wicked world at this age to be bread-winners, often far away from a mother's protecting care. The girl, however, in this case was a good, steady girl, and for a time did well. Then something unsettled her, and she left her first place, and got another situation. For a time it seemed all right, when suddenly her letters ceased. The mother wrote again and again, but got no answer. She wrote to her former place; they knew nothing of her. At last she saved up a little money and went to the town where she believed her girl to be. She sought out and found her last address. The family had gone away, and left no address. She made inquiries of the neighbors, of the police. Yes, they remembered the girl—a nice-looking girl with a bright color; but no one had seen her lately. It was as if a trap-door had opened and let her through. She had simply disappeared. In all that crowded city her mother could find no trace of her. "It is now thirteen years, ma'am, since I lost her."
But all through those thirteen years that poor mother had watched and waited for her. All through those weary years, whenever she read in the local paper of some poor girl's body being found in the river, some poor suicide, who had leapt,
"Mad from life's history, Swift to death's mystery, Anywhere, anywhere, out of the world,"
that poor mother would get into her head it might be her dear girl that was lying there alone and unclaimed; and she would pay her fare—if she could afford it—or if not, trudge the distance on foot, creep, trembling, into the mortuary or the public-house where the body lay, blue from drowning, or with the ugly red gash across the throat, take one look, and then cry with a sigh of relief, "No, it ain't my child," and return again to her watching and waiting.
"Once, ma'am," she said, "I had a dream. I saw a beautiful place, all bright and shiny, and there were lots of angels singing so sweet, when out of the midst of the glory came my poor girl. She came straight to me, and said, 'Oh, mother, don't fret; I'm safe and I'm happy!' and with those words in my ears I awoke. That dream has been a great comfort to me, ma'am; I feel sure God sent it to me. But oh, ma'am," she exclaimed, with a new light of hope in her face, and clasping her hands in silent entreaty, "the thought came into my head whilst you were a-speakin', if you would be so kind as to ask at the end of every one of your meetin's, 'Has anyone heard or seen anything of a girl of the name of Sarah Smith?' As you go all about the country, maybe I might get to hear of her that way."
Ah me! the pathetic forlornness of the suggestion, the last hope of a broken-hearted mother, that I should go all over the three kingdoms asking my large audiences, "Have you seen or heard anything of Sarah Smith?" And I was dumb. I had not a word of comfort to give her. I had heard the words too often from the lips of outcast girls in answer to my question, "Does your mother know where you are?" "Oh, no; I couldn't bear that mother should know about me!"—not to know what the fate of that young girl had been. She had been trapped, or drugged, or enticed into that dread under-world into which so many of our working-class girls disappear and are lost. Possibly she had been sent out of the country, and was in some foreign den. One's best hope was that she was dead.
But picture to yourselves the long-drawn anguish of that mother, with nothing but a dream to comfort her amid the dread realities of life. Picture her as only one of thousands and thousands of our working-class mothers on whose poor dumb hearts the same nameless sorrow rests like a gravestone; and I think no woman—no mother, at least—but will agree with me, that this is a matter from which we, as women, cannot stand off. Even if we had not the moral and physical welfare of our own boys to consider, we are baptized into this cause by the tears of women, the dumb tears of the poor. But there is one last consideration, exquisitely painful as it is, which I cannot, I dare not, pass over, and which more than any other has aroused the thoughtful women of England and America to face the question and endeavor to grapple, however imperfectly as yet, with the problem. For some strange reason the whole weight of this evil in its last resort comes crushing down on the shoulders of a little child—infant Christs of the cross without the crown, "martyrs of the pang, without the palm." The sins of their parents are visited on them from their birth, in scrofula, blindness, consumption. "Disease and suffering," in Dickens's words, "preside over their birth, rock their wretched cradles, nail down their little coffins, and fill their unknown graves." More than one-half of the inmates of our Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children are sent there by vice. But would to God it were only innocent suffering that is inflicted on the children of our land. Alas! alas! when I first began my work, a ward in a large London penitentiary, I found, was set apart for degraded children! Or take that one brief appalling statement in the record of ten years of work—1884 to 1894—issued by a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. In the classification of the various victims it is stated that the society had dealt with 4460 pitiable child victims of debauchery! Alas for our England, and the debasement which a low moral standard for men has made possible in our midst! And, judging by the absence of proper legal protection and the extraordinarily low age of consent adopted by some of the States of the Union, I fear things are not much better in America.
One of our sweetest poets, Charles Tennyson Turner, in an exquisite sonnet on a three-year-old child being presented with a toy globe, has portrayed the consecration of a child's innocence, bathing the world itself in its baptismal dew:
"She patted all the world; old empires peep'd Between her baby fingers; her soft hand Was welcome at all frontiers."
And when at length they turn "her sweet unlearned eye" "on our own isle," she utters a little joyous cry:
"Oh yes, I see it! Letty's home is there! And while she hid all England with a kiss, Bright over Europe fell her golden hair."
By the side of that exquisite picture of the beatitude of a child's innocence place the picture of that long procession of desecrated children, with no "sweet unlearned eye," but eyes learned in the worst forms of human wickedness and cruelty; and let any woman say, if she can or dare, that this is a subject on which she is not called to have any voice and which she prefers to let alone. Surely our womanhood has not become in these last days such a withered and wilted thing that our ears have grown too nice for the cry of these hapless children! As women, we are the natural guardians of the innocence of all children. The divine motherhood that is at the heart of every woman worthy of the name "rises up in wrath" within us and cries: "We will fulfil our trust, not only to our own children, but to the helpless children of the poor." The day is at hand when every mother of boys will silently vow before God to send at least one knight of God into the world to fight an evil before which even a child's innocence is not sacred and which tramples under its swine's feet the weak and the helpless.
Indeed, when one reflects that this great moral problem touches all the great trusts of our womanhood, the sanctity of the family, the purity of the home, the sacredness of marriage, the sweet innocence of children, it seems like some evil dream that women can ever have asked, "Why cannot I leave this matter to men? Why should I interfere?"
[Footnote 1: Dr. Carpenter does not hesitate to attribute this sharp dip in the male line of life to the indulgence of the passions in youth, and the subsequent rise to marriage and a more regular life.]
[Footnote 2: Pendennis, vol. i., p. 16.]
"But what can we do?" will be the next question, uttered perhaps in the forlorn accents of a latent despair.
Before answering this question in detail, I would endeavor to impress two cardinal points upon you.
The first point I want you to recognize, though it may seem to minister to the very hopelessness which most lames and cripples for effective action, is the depth and magnitude of the problem we have to grapple with. All other great social evils, with the possible exception of greed or covetousness, which in Scripture is often classed with impurity, may be looked upon as more or less diseases of the extremities. But the evil which we are now considering is no disease of the extremities, but a disease at the very heart of our life, attacking all the great bases on which it rests. It is not only the negation of the sanctity of the family and the destroyer of the purity of the home, as I have already pointed out, but it is also the derider of the sacredness of the individual, the slow but sure disintegrator of the body politic, the dry-rot of nations, before which the mightiest empires have crumbled into dust. The lagoons of Venice mirror it in the departed grandeur of her palaces, overthrown by the licentiousness of her merchant princes. The mute sands that silt up the ruins of old empires are eloquent of it. The most brilliant civilization the world has even seen through it became the most transitory. Even the vast and massive structure of the Roman Empire, undermined by moral corruption, vanished before barbarian hordes like the baseless fabric of a dream. To think that we can solve a problem of this depth and magnitude by any mere external means—as so many good and earnest women seem to imagine—by any multiplication of Rescue Societies, Preventive Institutions, and other benevolent organizations—is to think that we can plug up a volcano with sticks and straws. The remedy, like the evil, must be from within, and must to a great degree revolutionize our life.
My second cardinal point is, that the first step we have to take, the step which must precede all others, if anything is to be of the least avail, must be to restore the moral law and get rid of the double standard. I know well how much has been said and written on this point; it has been insisted on possibly ad nauseam. But even now I do not think we fully realize how completely we have been in the grasp of a "tradition of the elders," which has emphatically "made the law of God of none effect." Side by side with the ethics of Christianity have grown up the bastard ethics of society, widely divergent from the true moral order. Man has accepted the obligation of purity so far as it subserves his own selfish interests and enables him to be sure of his own paternity and safeguard the laws of inheritance. The precepts which were primarily addressed to the man, as the very form of the Greek words demonstrate, were tacitly transferred to the woman. When, in a standard dictionary of the English language, I look out the word "virtue," which etymologically means "manliness"—the manliness which would scorn to gratify its own selfish passions at the cost of the young, the poor, and the weak, at the cost of a woman—I find one of its meanings defined, not as male but as "female chastity." Long ago I suggested that as manliness thus goes by default, the word had better be changed from virtue to "muliertue."
In a passage in one of our standard school-books, Green's Short History of the English People, the historian, alluding to the coarseness of the early Elizabethan drama, remarks that "there were no female actors, and the grossness which startles us in words which fall from a woman's lips took a different color when every woman's part was acted by a boy." Why, in the name of all moral sense, should it be less dreadful that gross and obscene passages should be uttered at a public spectacle by young and unformed boys than by adult women, who at least would have the safeguard of mature knowledge and instincts to teach them their full loathsomeness? Do we really think that boys are born less pure than girls? Does the mother, when her little son is born, keep the old iron-moulded flannels, the faded basinette, the dirty feeding-bottle for him with the passing comment, "Oh, it is only a boy!" Is anything too white and fine and pure for his infant limbs, and yet are we to hold that anything is good enough for his childish soul—even, according to Mr. Green, the grossness of the early Elizabethan stage—because he is a boy? But I ask how many readers of that delightful history would so much as notice this passage, and not, on the contrary, quietly accept it without inward note or comment, possessed as we are, often without knowing it, by our monstrous double standard?
If we want to see what is the final outcome of this moral code, of this one-sided and distorted ethic, we have only to turn our eyes to France. On the one hand we have "la jeune fille" in her white Communion robe, kept so pure and ignorant of all evil, that "une societe ecclesiastique," I am told, exists for the emendation of history for her benefit—Divine Providence, as conducting the affairs of men, being far too coarse for her pure gaze; and at the other end of the stick we find Zola, and a literature intended only for the eyes of men, of whose chastity, according to Renan, "Nature takes no account whatever,"—a literature which fouls with its vile sewage the very wellsprings of our nature, and which, whatever its artistic merit, I make bold to say is a curse to the civilized world.
Now, I earnestly protest that while we have this social code, which is in direct violation of the moral law, we may set on foot any number of Rescue Societies, Preventive Agencies, Acts for the Legal Protection of the Young, etc., but all our efforts will be in vain. We are like a man who should endeavor to construct a perfect system of dynamics on the violation of Newton's first law of motion. The tacitly accepted necessity for something short of the moral law for men will—again I say it—work out with the certainty of a mathematical law a degraded and outcast class, with its disease, its insanity, its foul contamination of the young, its debasement of manhood, its disintegration of the State, its curse to the community. You cannot dodge the moral law; as Professor Clifford said, "There are no back-stairs to the universe" by which we can elude the consequences of our wrong, whether of thought or action. If you let in one evil premise by the back-door, be sure Sin and Death will come out at the front.
Here, then, you must take a firm and watchful stand. As the mothers of the future generation of men, you must look upon it as your divinely-appointed task to bring back the moral law in its entirety, the one standard equally binding on men and women alike. Whatever your creed, you have got to hold fast to this great truth, which life itself forces upon you, and which is a truth of Christian ethics because first of all it is a truth of life. It is simply a moral Q.E.D., that if chastity is a law for women—and no man would deny that—it is a law for every woman without exception; and if it is a law for every woman, it follows necessarily that it must be for every man, unless we are going to indulge in the moral turpitude of accepting a pariah class of women made up of other women's daughters and other women's sisters—not our own, God forbid that they should be our own!—set apart for the vices of men.
But perhaps, looking at our complicated civilization, which, at least in the upper classes, involves, as a rule, the deferring of marriage—looking at the strength of the passions which generations of indulgence have evolved beyond their natural limits, some women will feel constrained to ask, "Is this standard a possible one? Can men keep their health and strength as celibates? Is not my husband right when he says that this is a subject we women can know nothing about, and that here we must bow to the judgment of men?"
I answer that a mother must know by what standard she is to educate her boy, and therefore must have the data supplied to her on which to form her own judgment, and be fully persuaded in her own mind what she is to aim at in the training she is to give him; and the mere fact that the current judgment of men involves the sacrifice in body and soul of a large class of our fellow-women lays a paramount obligation upon all women to search for themselves into the truth and scientific accuracy of the premises on which that judgment is based.
"Can men keep their health and strength as celibates till such time as they have the means to marry?" is the question we have, then, to face. Is the standard of the moral law possible to men who have to maintain a high level of physical efficiency in the sharp competition of modern life?
Primarily, the answer to this question must come from the acknowledged heads of the medical profession. Now, I am thankful to say, we have in England a consensus of opinion from the representative men of the faculty that no one can gainsay. Sir James Paget, Acton in his great text-book, Sir Andrew Clark, Sir George Humphrey, of Cambridge, Professor Millar, of the Edinburgh University, Sir William Gowers, F.R.S., have all answered the above question in the strongest affirmative. "Chastity does no harm to body or mind; its discipline is excellent; marriage may safely be waited for," are Sir James Paget's terse and emphatic words. Still more emphatic are the words of Sir William Gowers, the great men's specialist, who counts as an authority on the Continent as well as here:
"The opinions which on grounds falsely called 'physiological' suggest or permit unchastity are terribly prevalent among young men, but they are absolutely false. With all the force of any knowledge I possess, and any authority I have, I assert that this belief is contrary to fact; I assert that no man ever yet was in the slightest degree or way the worse for continence or better for incontinence. From incontinence during unmarried life all are worse morally; a clear majority, are, in the end, worse physically; and in no small number the result is, and ever will be, utter physical shipwreck on one of the many rocks, sharp, jagged-edged, which beset the way, or on one of the banks of festering slime which no care can possibly avoid. They are rocks which tear and rend the unhappy being who is driven against them when he has yielded to the tide of passion, they are banks which exhale a poison for which, no true antidote exists."
In face of such testimony as this, well might Mr. George Russell, in an address to young men, speak of "this exploded lie which has hitherto led so many astray."
Turning now from knowledge to fact, we have only to look at the French clergy to see that even in the extreme case of life-long celibacy it is not injurious to health. I know, in taking this case, I am grating somewhat harshly against Protestant prejudice. But the testimony that Renan bears on this point is irrefutable. Himself a renegade priest, he certainly would not have hesitated to expose the Order to which he had once belonged, and vindicate his broken vows by the revelation of any moral rottenness known within the walls of its seminaries. Far from this, he bears the most emphatic testimony in his autobiography that there is enough virtue in St. Sulpice alone to convert the world; and owns so strong was the impress made on his own soul by his training as a priest that personally he had lived a pure life, "although," he adds, with an easy shrug of his shoulders, "it is very possible that the libertine has the best of it!" Another renegade priest, also eminent in literature, bears exactly the same testimony. Indeed, when we remember the argus-eyed hatred with which the French priesthood is watched by the anti-clerical party, and the few scandals that appear in the public prints only too anxious to give publicity to them, this unimpeachable testimony is borne out by fact. I believe this testimony to be equally true of the English and Irish Roman Catholic clergy. Yet few would dispute the vigor of the physique of the Roman Catholic priests, or their capacity for hard and often exhausting work.
Let me, however, guard myself from misapprehension. That a celibate life, combined with rich feeding, French novels, and low thinking, does produce a great deal of physical harm goes almost without saying. Nature, like her Lord, requires truth in the inward parts, and takes but small care of outward respectabilities that are but the whitewashed graves of inward foulness. Surely Lowell is right when he says, "I hold unchastity of mind to be worse than that of body." To live the unmarried life one must, of course, fulfil its conditions of plain living and clean thinking.
It is almost with a feeling of shame that I have dwelt at some length on the point we have been considering; but all through my ten years of work the sunken rock on which I was always making shipwreck was the necessity of the evil—often openly avowed by men, but haunting even the minds of women like a shadow—a shadow which gained solidity and substance from a sense of their helpless ignorance. I have even met with Christian women who have serenely averred to my face that they have been told, on authority that they could not question, that, were it not for the existence of an outcast class, no respectable woman would be safe and we could not insure the purity of the home! So low had the moral consciousness fallen, through ignorance and thoughtless acceptance of the masculine code, that women calling themselves Christians could be found who seemed wholly unconscious of the deep inner debasement of accepting the degradation of other women as a safeguard to our own virtue and of basing the purity of the Christian home on the ruined bodies and souls of the children of the poor. Truly the dark places of the world within, as well as of the world without, are full of cruelty!
What can I do, in the face of such an experience as this, but humbly and earnestly beseech the women of England and America not to play fast and loose with the moral sense within them—- which is God's voice within us—but to hold fast to the moral law, one, equal, and indivisible, for men and women alike; and to know and feel sure that, whatever else is bound up with the nature of man or with an advancing civilization, the hopeless degradation of woman is not that something. It is God who has made us—not we ourselves, with our false codes, false notions, and false necessities; and God has made the man to love the woman and give himself for her, not to degrade her and destroy the very function for which she was made the blessed "mother of all living."
Only be sure of this: that men will rise to the level of any standard that we set them. For the present standard of what Sainte Beuve calls "l'homme sensuel moyen," which we have accepted and tacitly endorsed, we women are largely to blame. In my conferences with the clergy and earnest laity held in all our large towns it was always this that men spoke of as the greatest stumbling-block in their way. With the utmost bitterness they would urge that men of known fast life were admitted into society, that women seemed to prefer them rather than not; and it seemed to make no difference to them what kind of life a man led—whether he reverenced their womanhood or not. How could I deny this bitter accusation in the face of facts? All I could urge in extenuation was that I believed it was due rather to the ignorance than to the indifference of women, owing to the whole of this dark side of life having been carefully veiled from their view; but now that this ignorance was passing away, I was only one of hundreds of women who ask nothing better than to lay down their lives in the cause of their own womanhood. Only when women learn to respect themselves; only when no woman worthy the name will receive into her own drawing-room in friendly intercourse with her own girls the man who has done his best to make her womanhood a vile and desecrated thing; only when no mother worthy the name will, for the sake of wealth or position,—what is called "a good match,"—give her pure girl to a man on the very common conditions, as things have been, that some other ten or twenty young girls—some poor mothers' daughters—have been degraded and cast aside into the gutter, that she, the twenty-first in this honorable harem, may be held in apparent honor as a wife; only when no woman worthy the name will marry under the conditions portrayed by our great novelist, George Eliot,—that of another woman being basely forsaken for her sake—then, and then only, will this reproach that men level at us drop off; then, and then only, shall we be able to save our own sons and bring in a better and purer state of things, enabling them to fight the battle of their life at less tremendous odds; then, and then only, shall we be able to evolve the true manhood, whose attitude is not to defile and destroy, but "to look up and to lift up."
[Footnote 3: Short History of the English People, by J.R. Green, p. 247.]
[Footnote 4: See a little White Cross paper entitled, Medical Testimony.]
THE SECRET AND METHOD
There is a simile of Herbert Spencer's, in his book on Sociology, which has often helped me in dealing with great moral problems. He says:
"You see that wrought-iron plate is not quite flat; it sticks up a little here towards the left, 'cockles,' as we say. How shall we flatten it? Obviously, you reply, by hitting down on the part that is prominent. Well, here is a hammer, and I give the plate a blow as you advise. Harder, you say. Still no effect. Another stroke. Well, there is one, and another, and another. The prominence remains, you see; the evil is as great as ever, greater, indeed. But this is not all. Look at the warp which the plate has got near the opposite edge. Where it was flat before it is now curved. A pretty bungle we have made of it! Instead of curing the original defect, we have produced a second. Had we asked an artisan practised in 'planishing,' as it is called, he would have told us that no good was to be done, but only mischief, by hitting down on the projecting part. He would have taught us how to give variously directed and specially adjusted blows with a hammer elsewhere, so attacking the evil not by direct but by indirect actions. The required process is less simple than you thought. Even a sheet of metal is not to be successfully dealt with after those common-sense methods in which you have so much confidence. 'Do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe?' asked Hamlet. Is humanity more readily straightened than an iron plate?"
Now, in our moral "planishing" we need to know where and how to direct our blows, lest in endeavoring to lessen the evil we not only increase the evil itself, but produce other evils almost as great as the one we intended to cure. The mistake that we commit—and this is, I think, especially true of us women—is to rush at our moral problems without giving a moment's thought to their causes, which often lie deep hidden in human nature. Our great naturalist, Darwin, gave eight years' study to our lowly brother, the barnacle; he gave an almost equal amount of time to the study of the earthworm and its functions, revealing to us, in one of his most charming books, how much of our golden harvest, of our pastures, and our jewelled garden-beds, we owe to this silent and patient laborer. Yet we think that we can deal with our higher and more complex human nature without giving it any study at all. We hit down directly on its moral inequalities, without giving a thought to what has caused the imperfection, when constantly, as in the sheet of metal which has to be straightened, the moral disorder has to be met, not directly, but indirectly—not at the point of the disorder itself, but of its often unsuspected cause. Purity, like health, like happiness, like so many of the higher aims of our life, has to be attained altruistically. Seek them too directly, and they elude our grasp. Like the oarsman, we have often to turn our back upon our destination in order to arrive at our end.
Do not, therefore, think impatiently that I am putting you off with vague theories when you want practical suggestions, if I ask you first to give some patient thought to the causes of the disorder which seems to mark the side of our human nature on which the very existence of the race depends, and which cannot, therefore, be evil in itself. To me the problem presented was almost paralyzing. It seemed as if Nature, in her anxiety to secure the continuance of the species, had taken no account whatever of the moral law, but had so overloaded the strength of passion as not only to secure the defeat of the moral law, but even of her own ends, by producing the sterility which results from vicious indulgence. It was not till I met with two wonderful sermons on "The Kingdom of God," by that great master of "divine philosophy," Dr. James Martineau, that I first got a clue to the moral difficulty and to that fuller understanding of our human nature which is so essential to all who have the training and moulding of the young. And, therefore, I ask you to let me enter at some length into this teaching, which will not only give us light for our own guidance, but enable us to grasp the right principles on which we have to act in the moral training of the coming generation.
Now, in trying to think out the laws of our own being, we are met at the very outset by the great crux in the moral world: What is the true relation of the material to the spiritual,—of the body, with its instincts and appetites, to the moral personality, with its conscience and will? On the one hand, seeing the fatal proneness of man to obey his appetites and run into terrible excesses, ascetics in all ages and of all creeds have taught that the body itself is evil and the seat of sin; that its instincts must be crushed and its appetites repressed and eradicated; and that it is only so far as you trample your animal nature under foot that you can rise to be a saint. "Brute," "blind," "dead," have been the epithets bestowed on matter, which is a ceaseless play of living forces that rest not day nor night. To look down on the material pleasures with suspicion, to fly contact with the rude world and lose one's self in the unembodied splendors of the spiritual, to save souls rather than men and women, to preach abstract doctrines rather than grapple with hideous concrete problems—this has been the tendency of the religious spirit in all ages, a tendency of which positive asceticism, with its mortification of the body, and its ideal of virginity, and marriage regarded as more or less a concession to the flesh, is only an exaggeration.
On the other hand, in disgust at the mutilation of human nature and under pretext of its consummation, has arisen the "fleshly school," whose maxim is "obedience to Nature,"—leaving undefined what nature, the nature of the swine or the nature of the man,—which holds that every natural instinct ought to be obeyed, which takes the agreeable as the test of the right, and which goes in for the "healthy animal" with enlightened self-interest as the safeguard against excesses.
Alas! the results are no happier. The healthy animal treads under his feet the helpless and the weak, who suffer that he may grow fat and kick. The attractive warmth and color and richness are found to be but rottenness and decay.
When, dissatisfied with the teaching of men, one turns to the great world at large, to see whether some practical instinct may not have guided men to a right adjustment, one's first feeling is one of dismay at the spectacle presented. The bodily instincts and appetites that seem to work aright in the animal world, in man seem fatally overloaded, and, instead of hitting the mark, explode with disaster and death at the outset.
Let us now turn to the teaching of Christ, and see whether it does not explain the deep disorder of the animal instincts in the world of man, and while saving us on the one hand from the self-mutilation of asceticism, and from the swinishness of the fleshly school on the other, whether it does not embrace the truth that is in both and teach us how to correlate the material and the spiritual.
Now, Dr. Martineau points out that Christ teaches, in contradistinction to asceticism, that the animal body, with its instincts and appetites, is as good on its own plane as the higher and spiritual attributes of man are on theirs. Our Father knoweth that, in common with other creatures, we have need of physical good, and He has provided us with a self-acting mechanism for its attainment, which will work rightly if only it is left alone and not tampered with. There is the same provision in us as in them of unconscious instincts and appetites for carrying on the lower life which is necessary as the platform of the higher spiritual being, to set it free, as it were, for the pursuit of its legitimate ends—all those higher and wider interests in life which are comprised under the one comprehensive name of "the kingdom of God." And the teaching of Christ is: Neither hate nor fear this part of your nature with the ascetic, nor pamper and stimulate it with the Hedonist, but let it alone to act on its own plane; trust it, trust God who made it, while you throw all your conscious energies into the higher concerns of life; and you will find, when left to its own unconscious activity, it is neither an over-nor an under-provision for carrying on your subsistence and that of the race. "Take no anxious thought [(Greek: me merimnesete)] for the morrow." "Your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things," and has arranged your being accordingly. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you." "Behold the birds of the air; your heavenly Father feedeth them."
"Oh," says the practical man at once, "that is all very fine as sentiment; it is very Eastern and poetical; but I should like to know how, in these overcrowded days, I could support myself and family if I am to trust God to feed me and them like the birds of the air, and only think about religion." But is not this wholly to misunderstand our Lord's teaching? How does God feed the birds of the air? Is it not by incessant and untiring effort on their part? Those who have watched a pair of birds flying backwards and forwards to the nest under the eave may well question whether industry can go further. But in the unconscious being of a bird it is toil without [Greek: merimna], without thought and worry, and becomes, therefore, the very picture to us of trust in a higher Power, who has thus adjusted an unerring instinct to an unfailing end. The insect and the bird provide for the morrow, while they take no anxious thought for the morrow. "The agility which achieves it is theirs, the skill and foresight absent from them remain with God. And thus the simple life of lower natures, in its unconscious surrender to involuntary though internal guidance, becomes the negative type of perfect trust."
But to leave his instincts and appetites to work, unimpeded and unconscious, on their own plane, while he concerns himself with matters of truly human interest, is just what man is not content to do. On the contrary, he takes his higher and spiritual nature down into them. He enhances their pleasure with all the powers of his imagination; he sets his intellect to work to plot and plan for their gratification; he loads them with the whole force of his spiritual will, and in so doing he overloads and maddens them. The instinct for food and drink, which in the animal is sufficient for the maintenance of health and activity, in the man becomes gluttony and drunkenness; the instinct for the preservation of the race becomes the licentiousness which produces sterility and defeats its own ends; the instinct of self-maintenance becomes the feverish greed and money-getting which leave no room for the higher life of beauty, and science, and worship, and disinterested service. "Seek ye first the material," says the world, "and all these things shall be added unto you when you get the time for them"—which will be probably never.
Now, then, do we not begin to see why the animal instincts and appetites, which make for order and happiness, and fufil their end in the animal world, lead to such intolerable disorder in the world of man? Their laws, like all other laws in the Divine economy, are holy and just and good; but man by not observing their conditions makes them work evil and death. Do you not see that to be a healthy animal is just what man cannot be except by being a true and high-minded man, all his conscious energies taken up and absorbed on a higher plane, with none left over to filter down into and disorder the animal instincts, which only work aright when left to their own unconscious activity? Fix your consciousness long enough on the tip of your little finger, and you will feel a pricking sensation in it. The mind directed intently to any part of the frame will produce a flow of blood there. Any physician will tell you that this is one of the greatest difficulties he has to contend with in his patients; the mind being steadily directed to some disordered spot increases the congestion which is the result of disease.
Unconsciousness, therefore, is the very channel in which our animal nature works healthily and undisturbed according to its own laws. But you are a self-conscious being, and not as the animals. God keeps the keys of their nature in His own hands. They are shut up to certain ends which are in His purpose rather than in their minds. They are locked within limits of their nature, which are absolute, and cannot, therefore, be transgressed. But man, in virtue of his self-consciousness, is emphatically "he who hath the keys, who openeth and no man shutteth, and who shutteth and no man openeth." All the secret recesses of your being lie open to you, and no man can close it to your vision. You can voluntarily shut the door of salvation and hamper the lock, and no man can open. A limit is no absolute limit to you because your very consciousness of the limit involves your consciousness of the beyond which makes it a limit. And therefore to you as a self-knowing existence, with your being necessarily surrendered into your own hands, two faculties have been given as a substitute for the unconscious necessity of an animal nature: First, a self-judging faculty which we call conscience, or a power of discerning between a lower and a higher, and a sense of obligation to the higher which enables you to correlate your faculties and functions in their true order of relative excellence; and secondly, a spiritual will, capable of carrying the decisions of conscience into practical execution and attaining to a necessity of moral law. The true function of man's will is not, therefore, to add itself on to any one of his instincts and give it a disordered strength, but, while throwing its chief conscious energies into the higher interests of life, to rule his instincts and appetites according to those higher interests. This, when the condition of that infinitely complex thing, modern civilized life, interferes, as at times it must do, with the legitimate exercise of his instincts, and his good has to be subordinated to the good of the greater number, may occasionally involve a hard struggle, even when the instincts have been left to their own healthy natural play; but at least it will be all the difference between a struggle with a spirited animal and a maddened and infuriated brute.
"But," asks Dr. Martineau, "if the animal instincts and appetites are to be directed by conscience and ruled by the will in accordance with the dictates of conscience, what becomes of the unconsciousness which is necessary for their right action? Its place is gradually supplied by habit, which is the unconsciousness of a self-conscious being." The habit of plain living and spare food, so necessary to high thinking, at first acquired possibly by real effort of will, by real fasting and prayer, becomes a second nature, that sets the will free for higher conquests. The habit of purity, which at first may have resulted only from a sleepless watch of the will in directing the thoughts and imagination into safe channels, becomes an instinctive recoil from the least touch of defilement. The habit of unworldly simplicity, which may have had to be induced by deliberate self-denial, becomes a natural disposition which rejects superfluities from unconscious choice.
This is what takes place where direct conflict is necessitated by the constant readjustment of the individual, with his instincts and appetites, to his social environment which so complex a state of society as that of modern civilization involves. But under ordinary circumstances, where the teaching of Christ is observed and all the conscious energies of the man are absorbed in seeking first the kingdom of God, there the need of conflict on the lower plane is at least partially done away with. The whole current of thought and will, flowing into higher channels, is drained away from the lower instincts and appetites, which are thus restored to their natural unconsciousness, with only an occasional interference on the part of the will to subordinate them to human ends and aims, or to those demands of a high and complex civilization in the benefits of which we all share, but for whose fuller and richer life we have in some directions to pay, and perhaps at times to pay heavily. The scientific man who in his passionate devotion to the search after truth—the kingdom of God as revealed in the order of the universe—exclaimed testily that he had no time to waste in making money, had no conflict with the instinct of self-subsistence maddened into greed. It worked out a sufficient quotient of bread and cheese to insure the healthy exercise of his brain, and that was enough. The Alpine climber, intent on mastering a printless snow-peak, has not to control an appetite sharpened by mountain air from sinking into the gluttony which would be fatal to the cool head and steady foot necessary for his enterprise. The man who has a noble passion for the weak and defenceless, who from the first has cultivated a chivalrous loyalty to women, putting far from him the lowering talk, the cynical expression, the moral lassitude of society, and guarding his high enthusiasm from the blight of worldly commonplace, has no need to fight against the lower instinct that would degrade them or wrong the weak and defenceless. The conflict is there, but it is removed to a nobler and higher battle-field, a battle against the sacrifice of the weak by the strong, whilst in him the lower life may be left to settle itself, as in the unconscious birds of the air. "Love God," as St. Augustine said, "and do what you will." "Be a child of the water, and you may be a child of the wind, blowing where it listeth." "Seek the kingdom of God first, and all these things shall be added to you."
This, then, is the first great practical lesson that we learn from the study of the laws of our human nature, taken in their widest aspect, under the teaching of the Divine Master, the "open secret" of overcoming in man and woman alike, that which restores to us our whole nature, and vindicates it, even in the depths of disorder into which it has practically fallen, as originally bearing the Divine stamp. The more unconscious we are in the pursuit of physical good, the better for the ends of life; the more conscious we are in the pursuit of moral and spiritual good, the nearer we are to that kingdom of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost which we seek. Get out of the narrow individualism or atomism—for let us never forget that individual and atom are the same word—which threatens to dwarf and pulverize us, which keeps within our view only the narrow range of our own interests and defeats their true pursuit by the very intensity of attention it concentrates upon them; and live, as Goethe says, "in the beautiful, the good, and the whole," the kingdom of the Eternal. Have the higher passion that casts out the lower. The physician whose conscious aim is the relief of human suffering and the enforcement of the laws of health, even though a large professional income may be added to him; the lawyer who regards himself as the minister of the Just One to uphold the law of right and equity, whose reputation does not rest on his skill in getting off a fraudulent company without costs, and who makes his money not by his "practices," but by his honest practice; the man of science who reverently devotes himself, as the servant of the truth, to "think God's thoughts after Him," in the words of Kepler's prayer, and establish the kingdom of law and order, in the humbleness of conscious limitation which forbids dogmatizing; the artist who is true to his art and does not subordinate the laws of the eternal Loveliness to the shifting laws of the temporary market; the capitalist who looks upon himself as the steward of the public good, and to whom material gain is the means and not the end; the workman who does good work for the kingdom of God's sake, knowing that every stroke of good work is a brick in the palace of the great King, and who scorns to scamp because it pays; and, generally speaking, every man who is so intent on helping and serving others that his thoughts are taken off himself and centred on another—these are the men who are seeking first a kingdom of God, wherein dwelleth righteousness; these are the men who, living in the higher life can rule the lower—the men whose feet are in the lilies, and to whom the floods of earthly passion, even when they beat hardest, end in the flight of a dove and in a triumphal arch of light.
Now, you will see at once the intensely practical bearing of this teaching on the training of your boys. You are not called to hit down directly on the evil, to give warnings against vice, or to speak on things which your womanhood unspeakably shrinks from mentioning. What you are called to do is to secure, so far as you can, that the mind and soul moves on its own proper plane. It is more an attitude you have to form than a warning you have to give. And here it is that the imperative need of high positive teaching comes in. Till parents, and especially mothers, recognize their God-given functions as the moral teachers of their own children, till they cease to shunt off their responsibilities on the professional shoulders of the schoolmaster, we had better frankly give up the whole question in despair. Strange and sad it seems to me that at the end of the nineteenth century after the coming of our Lord I should have to plead that the moral law is possible under every condition to any man, and that parents are ipso facto the moral teachers of their own children. And yet it is the denial, tacit or explicit, of these two primary truths that has been the greatest obstacle to the progress of my work.
But I appeal to you: Who but a mother can bring such a constant and potent influence to bear as to secure the mind and character moving on its own higher plane in relation to the whole of this side of our nature? Who so well as a mother can teach the sacredness of the body as the temple of the Eternal? Who else can implant in her son that habitual reverence for womanhood which to a man is "as fountains of sweet water in the bitter sea" of life? Who like a mother, as he grows to years of sense and observation, and the curiosity is kindled, which is only a cry for light and teaching, can so answer the cry and so teach as to make the mysteries of life and truth to be for ever associated for him with all the sacred associations of home and his own mother, and not with the talk of the groom or the dirty-minded schoolboy? Who so well as a mother, as he passes into dawning manhood, can plead faithfulness to the future wife before marriage as well as after? Nay, as I hold by the old Spanish proverb "An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy," who like a mother, by her prayers and ever-present example and influence, can lead him to the Highest, and impress upon him that his life is given him for no lower end than, in the words of the Westminster Confession, "to know God and to glorify Him for ever"; and that therefore he is made on a very high plan—as Browning puts it, "Heaven's consummate cup," whose end is to slake "the Master's thirst"; and that the cup from which He drinks must be clean inside as well as out, and studded within and without with the pearl of purity?
But refuse to give him this higher teaching and training; go on, as so many mothers have done, blankly ignoring the whole subject, because it is so difficult to speak to one's boys,—as if everything worth having in this life were not difficult!—leave him to the teaching of dirty gossip, of unclean classical allusions in his school-books, of scraps of newspaper intelligence, possibly of bad companions whom he may pick up at school or business, and be sure of it, as this side of his nature is awakened—in his search after gratified curiosity or pleasurable sensation, in utter ignorance of what he is doing, through your fault, not through his—he will use his imagination and his will to strengthen the animal instincts. What ought to have been kept on a higher plane of being will be used to stimulate functions just coming into existence, and pre-eminently needing to be let alone on their own plane to mature quietly and unconsciously. Thus dwelt upon and stimulated, these functions become in a measure disordered and a source of miserable temptation and difficulty, even if no actual wrong-doing results. If you only knew what those struggles are, if you only knew what miserable chains are forged in utter helpless ignorance, you would not let any sense of difficulty or shrinking timidity make you refuse to give your boy the higher teaching which would have saved him.
It is told of the beautiful Countess of Dufferin, by her son and biographer, Lord Dufferin, that when the surgeons were consulting round her bedside which they should save—the mother or the child—she exclaimed, "Oh, never mind me; save my baby!" If you knew the facts as I know them, I am quite sure you would exclaim, in the face of any difficulties, any natural shrinking on your part, "Oh, never mind me, let me save my boys!"
[Footnote 5: The Study of Sociology, by Herbert Spencer (International Scientific Series), p. 270, fifth edition, 1876.]
[Footnote 6: I quote here at some length from a White Cross paper called Per Augusta ad Augusta, in which I summarized and applied Dr. Martineau's teaching, as I do not think I can do it more clearly or in more condensed form. By some mistake it came out, not under my name, but under the initials of the writer of True Manliness and several others of the White Cross Series. I only mention the mistake now to safeguard my own intellectual honesty.]
[Footnote 7: Hours of Thought, by Dr. Martineau, vol. i., p. 35, third edition.]
Having now laid down the general principles which we have to recognize in the moral training of the young, let me endeavor to make some practical suggestions how these principles may be carried out, suggestions which, as a matter of fact, I have found to be helpful to educated mothers in the great and responsible task of training the men of the future generation.
All I would earnestly ask you to remember is, that in offering these suggestions I am in no way venturing to dictate to you, only endeavoring to place a wide experience at your service. Doubtless you will often modify and, in some cases, very possibly reverse my conclusions. All I ask is that you should weigh them thoughtfully and prayerfully and with an open and unprejudiced mind before you finally reject them.
Let us, therefore, begin with the nursery. It is in the nursery that the roots of the evil we have to contend with are often first planted, and this in more senses than one. In the more obvious sense all experienced mothers know what I mean. But I am quite sure that there are a large number of young wives who become mothers without the smallest knowledge of the dangers to which even infant boys may be exposed. This ignorance is painfully shown by the frequent application for nursemaids from our penitentiaries. At one house where I held a small meeting my young hostess, an intelligent literary woman, came into my room after the household had retired to rest to ask me about some curious actions which she had noticed in her baby boy at night. There could not be a doubt or a question that her nurse was corrupting her little child before that hapless young mother's eyes, and forming in him habits which could only lead to misery hereafter, and only too possibly to idiocy and death; and that young mother was too ignorant to save her own baby boy! Indeed, I know of no greater instance of the cruelty of "the conspiracy of silence" than the fact that in all the orthodox medical manuals for young mothers the necessary knowledge is withheld. But more marvellous still is the fact that women should ever have placidly consented to an ignorance which makes it impossible for them to save even baby boys from a corrupt nursemaid, who by some evil chance may have found her way into their service through a false character or under some other specious disguise, not seeing at once that the so-called delicacy which shrinks from knowing everything that is necessary in order to save is not purity but prurience.
I would, therefore, beseech young mothers who are conscious of their own ignorance to see a lady doctor, if they do not like to consult their own family physician, and ask her to tell them plainly what they have to guard against and the best methods to pursue. All I can say here is to beseech every mother to be absolutely careful about the antecedents of her nursemaids, and only to admit those of unblemished character into the precincts of the nursery. Never, if possible, let your baby boy sleep with any one but yourself, if through illness or any other cause he cannot sleep in his own little cot. Pyjamas, I think, are generally recognized now to be the best form of night gear, as keeping the little limbs warm and covered, when in the restlessness of sleep the child throws off the bedclothes, as well as for other and more vital reasons. If through straitened means you cannot afford an experienced nurse—not that I should altogether allow that even the experienced nurse is to be implicitly and blindly trusted until she has been well tested—then I would entreat you not to let sleepiness or ill health or any other excuse prevent you from being always present at your boy's morning bath. Often and often evil habits arise from imperfect washing and consequent irritation; and many a wise mother thinks it best on this account to revert to the old Jewish rite of initiation by which cleanliness was secured. Teach them from the first self-reverence in touch, as in word and deed, and watch even their attitudes in sleep, that the little arms are folded lightly upwards. Even experienced nurses are not always nice in their ways. Be vigilantly watchful that the utmost niceness is observed between the boys and girls in the nursery, and that childish modesty is never broken down, but, on the contrary, nurtured and trained. Knowledge and watchfulness are the two cherubim with the flaming sword turning all ways to guard the young tree of life and bar the way of every low and creeping thing. If I may venture in some sort to reverse our Lord's words, I should say His word to all mothers is, "What I say unto all I say especially unto you, Watch."