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whether in marriage or any other near connexion, than an elevated one, will leave no void in her feelings ; and if even she be connected with those she is incapable of understanding ; in pursuing her own duties and avocations she will be quite happy without it. What we are not capable of, we never want; what we are capable of, we may want and be miserable. In society she will not certainly interest a whole party by conversation, or convey pleasure and improvement to whomsoever she converses with: but neither will she be sick to death of the
company she has amused, nor feel the poverty of for ever spending what nobody repays. My less accomplished character will enjoy herself where your superior woman would go to sleep, or hopelessly wish she might. In short, she will find fellowship and ciprocation in every little mind she meets with, while yours is left to pine in the solitude of her own greatness."
At the close of this speech, I felt quite determined that I would not be such a woman.
Mrs. A. rejoined—“You have left my genius in a doleful condition, though I question whether you will persuade her to come down. I will admit, howSever, for I am afraid I must, that the woman of talent is less likely to find reciprocation, or to receive enjoyment, from ordinary people and ordinary circumstances ; but then she is like the camel that traverses the desert safely where others perish, because it carries its sustenance in its own bosom. I will concede certain yawnings during a large dinner, and a certain dropping of the eyelids pending the performance of young ladies on the piano, especially if it happens to be Rossini instead of Mozart, as symptoms of losing enjoyment where others find it. But in return, I must beseech you to visit with me your
unlettered ladies in wet weather—in a long December evening, when you will find them sitting in the dark, lest lighting candles early should make it seem longer—in a lonely country house, when the children are asleep, and the husband away, and the servants are so unfortunately attentive as not to want teasing. I never remember to have heard a really sensible and cultivated woman complain of ennui under such circumstances~no small balance on the side of enjoyment positive, is misery escaped. But, to leave jesting :-admitting that the woman of more elevated mind derives less pleasure from the adventitious circumstances that surround her, from what money can purchase, and a tranquil mind enjoy, and activity gather, of the passing flowers of life-she has enjoyments, independent of them, in the treasures of her own intellect. Where she finds reciprocation, it is a delight of which the measure compensates the rareness; and where she finds nothing else to enjoy, she can enjoy herself. And when the peopled walks of life becomes a wilderness, and the assiduities of friendship rest unclaimed, and the sensible gratifications are withered before the blight of poverty, and the foot is too weary,
eye is too dim, to go after what no one remembers to bring ; still are her resources untouched. Poverty cannot diminish her revenue, or friendlessness leave her unaccompanied, or privation of every external incitement consign her to the void of unoccupied powers. She will traverse the desert, for her store is with her; and if, as you have suggested, she be doomed to supply others what no one pays her back, there is One who has said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive."
At this point of the discussion, I made up my mind to be a very sensible woman.
Mrs. W. resumed_“You will allow, at least, that selfish enjoyment is not the object of existence; and, I think, on the score of usefulness, I shall carry my poor, dependent housewife far above yours. And for this very
The duties which Providence has assigned to woman, do not require extraordinary intellect. She is the daughter, the wife, the mother, perhaps the nurse: good sense and good feeling, a pleasing exterior and an affectionate heart, are all that is necessary for the fulfilment of the duties incident to these characters ; endowments that need not the help of books or learning. If she be poor, assiduous industry will make her house comfortable; if she be rich, taste and attention will make it elegant. She can manage her husband's household, and economize his substance ; and if she cannot entertain his friends with her talent, she can at least give them welcome; and be his nurse in sickness, and his watchful companion in health, if not capable of sharing his more intellectual occupations. She can be the support and comfort of her parents in the decline of life, or of her children in their helplessness, according as her situation may
be. And out of her house, she may be the benefactress and example of a whole neighbourhood: she may comfort the afflicted, and clothe and feed the poor, and visit the sick, and advise the ignorant; while, by the domestic industry, and peaceful, unaspiring habits with which she plods, as you may please to call it, through the duties of her station, whether higher or lower, she is a perpetual example to those beneath her, to like sober assiduity in their own, and to her children's children, to foilow in the path in which she leads them. She may be superintending the household occupations, or actually performing them; giving employment by her
wealth to others' ingenuity, or supplying the want of it by her own, according as her station is; but still she will make many happy. I am not so prejudiced as to say, that your woman of talent will refuse these duties : of course, if she has principle, she will not. But literary pursuits must at least divide her attention, if not unfit her altogether for the tasks the order of Providence has assigned her; she will distaste such duties, if she does not refuse them; while the distance at which her attainments place her from ordinary minds, forbid all attempts to imitate or follow her.”
“ You have drawn a picture," answered Mrs. A., “ which would convert half the world, if they were not of your mind already, as I believe they are. It is a picture so beautiful, I would not blot it with the shadow of my finger. I concede that talent is not necessary to usefulness, and a woman may fulfil every duty of her station without it. question is of comparative usefulness; and there I have something to say. It is an axiom, that knowledge is power; and 'if it is, the greater the knowledge, the greater should be the power of doing good. To men, superior intelligence gives power to dispose, control, and govern the fortunes of others. To women, it gives influence over their minds. The greater knowledge which she has acquired of the human heart, gives her access to it in all its subtleties; while her acknowledged superiority secures that deference to her counsels which weakness ever pays to strength. If the circumstances of her condition require it, I believe the greater will suffice the less, and she will fulfil equally well the duties you have enumerated ; shedding as bright a light upon her household, as if it bounded her horizon. Nay, more—there may be minds in her
household that need the reciprocation of an equal mind, or the support of a superior one; there may be spirits in her family that will receive from the influence of intellect, what they would not from simple and good intention. There may be other wants in her neighbourhood than hunger and na. kedness, and other defaulters than the ignorant and the poor. Whether she writes, speaks, or acts, the effect is not bounded by time, or limited to space. That is worth telling of her, and is repeated from mouth to mouth, which, in an ordinary person, none would notice. Her acknowledged superiority gives her a title, as well as a capacity, to speak where others must be silent, and carry counsel and consolation where commoner characters might not intrude.
The mass of human misery, and human need, and human corruption, is not confined to the poor, the simple-minded, and the child. The husband's and the parent's cares are not confined to their external commodities, nor the children's to the wellbeing of their physical estate. The mind that could illumine its own solitude, can cheer another's destitution; the stength that can support itself, can stay another's falling; the wealth may be unlocked, and supply another's poverty. Those who in prosperity seek amusement from superior talent, will seek it in difficulty for advice, and in adversity for support. If I would name names of women who have been distinguished for talent, I would ask you how many blessings have been heaped on them, which they never heard ; how many smiles they have lighted, which never shone on them; how many sorrows soothed, that never were confided to their sympathy. The knowledge of the human heart, the power of influencing it, and the capacity Vol. II.