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woman have? Is it not a sphere worthy of an angel's selectest powers ? Let us confess, without any wish to be invidious, that there are hardly any good books fit to be placed in the hands of little ones. We need books that shall have a serene and healthful influence upon the expanding minds of our children; free from morbid excitement, from the quality of excessive stimulus: that shall nourish, not force; that shall foster, not too hotly urge the already precocious mind of childhood in this country. When I think of the moral agencies constantly at work in education, agencies baptized by courtesy with the name of moral, when I think of the over stimulation of the mental and moral nature of our young people, I can
I but shudder at the thought of the result. The wits of infancy are sharpened from the cradle. Boys and girls are shrewd and cunning in short clothes. Artificiality and self-consciousness become the fearful dower of youth, while it should be luxuriating in “ the simple creed of childhood.” I know of no more urgent demand in the whole field of literature, than for books which shall suit themselves to the familiar necessities of early life; that shall tend to keep our children young and fresh, full of genial heartiness, faith and enthusiasm.
Man interprets character and life through the intellect. Imagination stands him instead of affection. Woman appreciates and expounds through her
WOMEN THE BEST LITERARY INSTRUCTORS.
heart. Sensibility and sympathy may come to perform as divine and majestic an office in conceiving a character, in apprehending it, and in adapting supplies to its necessities, as the regal power of imagination itself. Who can understand the wants and minister to the needs of childhood as completely and graciously as those who love it most? The mother that pressed the infant upon her breast with inexpressible tenderness, that hushed its cries with gentle lullaby and care, that soothed its early sorrows and gladdened its happiest hours by her sympathy and fondness; to whose knee the little one always runs for refuge and succor; into whose eye it looks up with unfaltering confidence for counsel and approval; and whose own character has been ripened and enriched by these ceaseless ministrations of solicitude; must not she be the best and holiest guide to lead its uncertain and wayward feet into the paths of knowledge and virtue? I am satisfied that when we have a “ Library of Choice Reading” adapted to children, most if not all the books will have come from women's pens—and hearts.
Here, then, is the whole field of literature, an ample field, glorious as any which God ever vonchsafed to the tillage of man, open to the patient hopeful labor, to the untiring earnest care of woman. Her sisters have wrought in it faithfully and well. Her natural endowments, her experience and position qualify her pre-eminently for the task. The contri. butions of the past in the department of female literature are only as the first fruits of the magnificent harvest which the future years shall garner.
Society, as the sphere of woman's best exertions, next claims our consideration. It may be stated with justice that the social life of this country is the reflected image of woman's character and culture. As a priestess, she presides at the shrine; as a ruler she issues the laws; and at the same time the interpretation and execution of these laws are intrusted to her. Holding her to this standard of responsibility, do we find good reason for complacency on her part or congratulation upon our own? What are the facts which a candid inquiry into the form and force of American social life reveals to us? In
every community throughout our country there is an association of men and women which takes the title of society; and this, let it be recollected, is the thing which we are considering. By far the majority of the members of these circles are remarkable for their youth and inexperience; and, as our country is a republic, the majority govern. Business and professional men, and officials, are so absorbed by their pursuits or oppressed by labor, that they have little or no time for the recreation of friendly intercourse; and even when they attend a party, or enter the smaller group of the drawing-room, they
are either so jaded or so engrossed, that they scarce take any interest in the scenes and conversation transpiring about them.
Manhood therefore finds itself represented on these occasions by those whose youth disqualifies them, or whose indolence and incapacity unfit them for the professions or the mart. Sophomorical inflation, and punctilious regard to the state of the hair, moustaches and linen, and almost equally scrupulous disregard of good breeding and manly behavior, the affectation of little wickednesses and indulgence in great ones, with a fearful state of intellectual vacuity, may be accepted as the characteristics of these youthful gallants. Gentlemen of eighteen polk and flirt in our ball-rooms, talk all manner of indecency, perform all sorts of rudeness, and before the close of the evening are very probably so tipsy that they must be deposited under the table or carried home. Gentlemen of one-and-twenty discourse to you gravely in the intervals of their pleasure-hunting, about the emptiness of life and the world; declaring that in their private opinion there is neither honor among men, nor chastity among women. They aver to you with a solemnity that amounts to drollery that they have seen the whole of life, and that they are now disgusted and blasés. And yet at the next party—which by the way they are as eager to attend as the first one to which they were invited—they will empty a saucer of ice-cream under the table upon the host's Wilton carpet, in order to help themselves to chicken salad, and will gobble indiscriminately and extensively enough to impair the digestion of an ostrich. Seeming to realize that their virtue and brains reside in their heels, they give them ample exercise in the indecent motions of the “fancy dances.” Now, however, that these affectionate forms of pastime between the sexes are falling into disuse, it is to be feared that our society will be robbed of many of its choicest ornaments. Ought not the charitable voice of the public to be raised in protest against the discountenance of these lately fashionable amusements ? for what will become of the descendants of the heroes of the Revolution, if they are not allowed to display their only accomplishment?
The conversation of society, amid the excited whirl of the ball, or in the quieter groups of the smaller re-unions, consists of idle gossip, idler tattle, and pernicious scandal. And these goodly staples of discourse are garnished with profane epithets and interjections, cant words and slang phrases, mumbled out in a half inarticulate style, and at frequent intervals choked by the speaker's laughing at his own smart things and queer conceits. This may be termed the general style of talk. The special kind is devoted to love-making; not a whit more elegant and refined, it is more dangerous because more passionate. Neither