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BY THE AUTHOR OF JOHN JENKINS: A CHAPTER FROM AN UNPUBLISHED VOLUME.
A Lip of beauty commands our thoughts on courtship, and our fingers, imbued with the spirit of gallantry, knuckle to her behest. Lady fair! were you ever courted, when your feelings disdained not the wooer, and his devotions wreathed like incense about your heart ? I see the assenting smile break like a sunny wavelet on thy lip! Was it not a brilliant season? — a choice day in the month of love ? replete with sunshine and sweetness, and an occasional cloud, astray from its native mountains, just to shadow the prospect? Then you believed with Addison, that it was the happiest period in the destiny of mortals. He had experience for his belief, for he was a devout lover; but when the gordian knot was tied, the countenance of his countess became cloudy, and March weather came down upon his heart; “Oceana' was ruffled by passion's storms and chilling rains ; and he who had launched his love, his hopes, his all of happiness, upon her bosom, found that even there, as near Charybdis, where he had fancied serenity and peace, rocks, breakers, and shipwrecks, were to be encountered.
Love, like religion, has many ways of approaching its altar, and various forms for the manifestation of its sentiments. Charity admits that the road to heaven may be reached by going round the prophet's coffin at Mecca, by hanging to the car of Juggernaut, or by straining up a Persian hill, and bending beneath the father of lights. VOL. VII.
And thus, the lover's terrestrial paradise, the heart of his mistress, may be reached, by gallant deeds on bloody fields, by genuflexions in ihe parlor, or by a display of personal fascinations, that captivate by their brilliancy. Let love, the master-passion of man's proper nature, and woman's also, but prove its deep sincerity, and the heart which it addresses, yearning for kindly feelings, must heed the appeal, and dissolve with tenderness.
Fashionable courtship may be considered under two main aspects. The one comes from the heart that acknowledges the potency of woman's charms, and the other rises from the mind which is convinced that woman's purse is the most desirable of all earth's attainments. The former comes from love, the latter from avarice. The one is pure, the other is mercenary: the first is divine, the second is devilish. Before we look particularly at courtship, as it at present exists, it is becoming that we glance at it as it has been.
And first, let us regard courtship as it was in the olden time, before the divine sceptre of Christianity was stretched out over the abominations of heathenism. In those twilight ages of civilization, matrimony was the result of desire in man and compliance in woman. The lovely sex, which since those times has been remarkable for the dread potency of its will, then submitted with the grace that belongs to it, to the tyrannical rule of man. In Babylon, the 'cradle of the sciences' though she was, the notions which prevailed in regard to the rights of woman, were utterly paganish. The father of history informs us, that in that famous city there was wont to be holden an annual fair, at which all the marriageable females were knocked down to the highest bidder. Of course, in those days, when beauty was considered the most valuable of feminine charms, the pretty girls excited a spirited competition among the purchasers. Beauty was a matter of speculation ; woman was estimated by her symmetry, and intellectual charms were not worth a groat. The pretty girls were sold, and became slaves to the richest men ; but those whom the barbarians thought bore more resemblance to Hecate than to Venus, were disposed of to moneyless men, at the lowest prices ! The rich men monopolized all the beauty, and the poor fellows, concluding, like the lady of Wakefield, that beauty is that beauty does, took their cash and their ladies, and went on their way rejoicing. What a profanation of the sacred rites of courtship! Think of it, ye ladies, who, priding yourselves on the charms of the mind, in the absence of those that are visible, are in the habit of bestowing
mittens’ rather than snowy hands on scores of suppliants! Think of it, ye who, like ill-formed ships, richly laden, pursue your courses onward with pride, and spurn and dash aside whole oceans of adulation which swell before you! Think of it, ye who look unlike Aspasia, if ye had made your appearance on the stage of action ten centuries before the Christian era, you might have stood from day to day in the market-place of Babylon, and found no masters to have accepted you, even when offered portions to do so! Think of the changes that have come over the spirit of the world, and fervently thank the weird sisters, who span your threads of existence in Christian countries, and among gallant men! In this heathenish way was matrimony got up at Babylon ; and of course, courtship was unknown.
his — baggage.
A lady who happened to have an eye that was not brilliant, a nose that turned up, or a mouth not exactly kissable, was compelled to stand shivering in the shambles for days, casting imploring glances on every genteel-looking fellow who came out that way to see the show, and supply himself with a wife. How mortifying to a delicate damsel, to stand and strain her charms to the utmost, in the forlorn hope of catching a master! And then to see first one and then another of her less lovely companions taken up, while she was passed by, like a sickly chicken! How crucifying to her hopes, and how excruciating to her self-love! Be thankful, girls, that such dismal destiny is not yours; and at the same time, we beseech you, feel no malice against the descendants of those who sinned so shamefully against your prerogatives, and let your angelic smiles convince the erring sex that you can ‘forget and forgive.'
There were no door-way divorcements, through which ladies could creep out of conditions that were unlovely, in Babylon, even if their masters should mete out to them never such refinement of cruelty. But the husband had an infallibly-certain resource, in case he caught a Tartar. If, at the expiration of a year, he fancied himself aggrieved by his bargain — if, like Cain, his miseries were greater than he could bear — if a stray rill of bad blood moistened the human nature of his spouse, all he had to do was, to shoulder her, carry her back, like a condemned criminal, to the place from whence she came, sell her to another master, buy himself a better spinster, and thus change
In this way was woman rocked and knocked about in the cradle of the sciences.' And her condition was not much more auspicious elsewhere. In Athens and Rome, not long after, although they made pretensions to something less abominable, yet they were far from dealing with woman according to her deserts. In courtships, she dared not do as she pleased with the palm and five fingers of her hand. She dared not fling a sickly-glaring satellite afar, and send it reeling through the never-ending shades of midnight desolation. This, the natural prerogative of charming woman, was a power
that Grecian men and Roman knights denied her practically, although in theory it was granted. Courtship was a one-sided business. Haughty man looked his desire, and slavish woman bowed down obsequiously. How was it with the Lesbian dame - the passion-breathing Sappho ? She who took the lover's leap, and by drowning, ended the lover's troubles ? Suppose a modern Sappho and thousands now exist should entreat an extant Phäon? Think ye deafness would fill his ear, and coldness be upon his heart ? No: although 'blue-stockings' are an horror and abomination to the men of our day, yet a Sappho’s harp will ring its tenderest symphonies on the masculine heart, and like the rock in the wilderness, smitten by the rod of the law-giver, its welling fountains will come forth in purity.
How long did he who saw the spirit-ladder in his vision, as he lay by the road side, serve the trickish Laban for the light-lipped Rachael ? She smiled upon him at the well; but as she was the chattel of her father, her smile alone could not make her suitor Jacob happy. For years he served her father, and thus he bought, not courted, ber. Among the Ishmaelites of the desert, the same kind of traffic is carried on to this day. Many a sighing swain, smitten by the smiles of some sweet spinster, works out his salvation from the horrors of celibacy, before his father-in-law, with fear and trembling. This state of things shows that man will do any thing to win woman, and it also shows, that woman is not free to kiss the winds as she pleases, and is very far from enjoying that privilege of choosing her own lord, to which she is of right entitled. When Paris stole Helen from her liege Menelaus, the Greeks sieged Ilium ten long years on account of the theft; and yet Helen, Andromache, nor none of the rest of the beauties, dared to treat men as ladies do in the era now upon us. In Germany, the sex was not so abominably abused; but every where else, the inferiority of woman was considered unquestionable, and courtship necessarily could have no proper existence.
Courtship cannot be properly appreciated and conducted, where the sexes are held to be unequal. Where the will of woman is shackled, her inclinations are disregarded, and her affections are not suffered to flow as they list. This freedom is essential to the highest class of courtships. We acknowledge all the rights of woman, as Christians ought to, and here her step is queenly, and her smile priceless. She can now be coquettish; and if that terra incognita of antiquity, the beautiful fabric of the female skull, were examined by a skilful phrenologist, he would discover that a new organ, that of coquetry, had lifted itself up since the reformation, as islands have heaved themselves above surrounding surges, within the same period.
In these latter days, ladies not only exercise the natural right to smile on whom they please, but they have the privilege of wounding whomsoever they list, with the fatal archery of their charms; and such is the gallantry of the times, that, although man has the exclusive enactment of laws, he has framed none for the punishment of those potent fair ones, who send their unrequited lovers brokenhearted to the grave! Coquetry results naturally from these relations of the sexes. In the ante-christian ages, it can scarce be said to have had a local habitation and a name' on earth. It originated about the time that the Crusades kicked up such a dust on the surface of this, the most abused of all planets. Then, when men got mad and raved, and swore that female beauty was the most magical thing beneath the stars, woman began to exercise an undisputed authority over the sex called masculine.
Beauty was throned in the supremacy of despotism, and the heart of man was the field on which its tyranny was exerted.
A pretty woman, in a chivalrous age, is the completest and most exquisite tyrant, before whose mandates human hopes and fears ever rose or fell. The tyranny of civil government relinquishes its power before the inroads of radicalism; the tyranny of superstition relaxes the energy of its icy grasp on man's spirit, as the warming rays of genuine religion fall upon it; but the tyranny of beauty, more potent than either, clings to its victim till fear is lost in death, and hope triumphs in immortality. The enchaining spell of woman is the only thing which has had exemption from the ravages of decay, and which has defied the gnawings of the iron tooth of time. Older than the pyramids, it is still fresh in its youth ; and
unnumbered åges after they shall have been mingled with the dust of the desert, it shall hold its carnival in the heart of man, and celebrate its triumphs in his sighs, and tears, and bleeding affections !
While knight-errantry was at its height, woman's visible power was at its acmé. Then, love-stricken knights bestrode their chargers, and looking up at the stars of evening, swore the eyes of their mistresses shamed Golconda's gems, and wore a lustre far brighter than ever met the gaze of lunatic or lover, in the firmament on high. The sexes were unequal, and courtship was shorn of its dignity. Every woman was a queen, and men were suppliants for the smiles of haughty and fair-browed tyrants. It was woman's province to command, and man's to obey — that is, until the link irrevocable was wrought in their twin destinies. And after that consummation, oh! what a change was there, my countrywomen! Woman left the imperial chair—the purple gradually fell from her graceful shoulders the sceptre departed from the grasp of her Jittle hand — and the career of the lioness of hearts was curbed forever ! The suppliant lover became the imperious lord ; the tiger expelled the lamb-like from his nature; and the masculine gender tyrannized over the domestic domain.
Not thus is it in the present age. Never was there a period to which the old saying, the gray mare is the better horse,' was more applicable. Woman is mistress, both before and after the vow to obey at the altar. Heavy charges against the present age, for its derelictions in matters of gallantry, have, we know, been made by those whose words were weighty. Burke poured forth a jeremiad over the grave of buried chivalry. The body is dead, but the spirit is with us. Were the age of chivalry gone, would heroes risk their lives, and stand up at only ten paces distance, living targets, to be shot down by rivals who, not content with taking away their sweethearts, must take away their lives, also ? Were the age of chivalry gone, would poets sigh, and whine, commit suicide, take up their abodes in lunatic asylums, and die of broken hearts — and all for love? We wot they would not ! Then Charles Lamb, the gentle, the tender, the pathetic Elia, says, that so long as women are hanged, he will be hanged if he will believe in the swagger about modern gallantry. It must be confessed, that to behold a multitude of men engaged in the graceless business of hanging a woman, is not a spectacle remarkable for its refinement of gallantry; but then, if Lamb had looked among the crowd beneath the scaffold, he might have seen even boorish men resign without a sigh the most eligible situations to curious-eyed woman ! Oh no! The age of chivalry is not gone ; and although woman occasionally may hang, yet is her retribution ample ; for who among us does she not suspend between a smile and tear, or hang high in air, midway betwixt hope and fear, until our sensibilities are stretched in agonizing tension ?
Former times cannot parallel the present in the longevity of its courtships. Many a lover besieges the flint-walled heart of his mistress for a period greater than the Greeks required to siege and sack Ilium. Right frequent are courtships that run the length of a mortal generation, performed by modern epicures in love. Just think o it a moment, brother bachelor! You fall in love with some lady to