Sunday, July 31, 2011

MyLadyWeb and A Very Merry Chase Present Summer Giveaway Hop

A Very Merry Chase
~ An Old-Fashioned Regency Romance ~
(Now available in large print paperback.)

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August 1 - 8, 2011

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A Very Merry Chase

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Smiles & Good Reading,
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent.
W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

Monday, July 25, 2011

Jordan Alexander: Author of Godhead: Interview and Giveaway

Today, I'm delighted to Welcome Jordan Alexander, author of Godhead to MyLadyWeb's Women's History and Women's Author's Showcase.  In honor of the occasion Jordan will be giving away a copy of Godhead to 5 lucky people leaving comments, with the winners chosen via on August 26, 2011.  Also I have provided a Complimentary Commemorative Musical Jigsaw Puzzle of the cover of Godhead just to say thank you for stopping by.

Please join me in welcoming Jordan.  

Hello. My name is Jordan Alexander, and I am the author of Godhead, a psychological romance suspense novel set in Belize in the 1960's.

I am Everywoman with a pen.  I have children, and a husband, and a cat, and dishes.  A long time ago in a galaxy far far away I had a college education, a plan, and a ton of amazing experiences.  When you mix all that together you end up with a writer.

Q. Tell us about Godhead.

A. My books are about freedom, about the choices women have to make. In Godhead, I tell the story of Isabel Cordova, a young woman that thinks she's getting what she wants, but ultimately none of it really belongs to her.

She inherits a banana plantation In British Honduras (Belize) from a father she barely knew, and she leaves everything behind hoping to find freedom, to rekindle a childhood romance, to start her life.  But the plantation is dying, she can't have the man she loves, and the man she ends up entangled with is the worst possible choice.  He leads her down a very dark path, manipulates her into making bad choices that began to destroy her and the people she loves.  The more she struggles for freedom the more she becomes trapped.  To escape she will ultimately have to embrace herself, her cultural identity...her power.
That's what woman wrestle much to give in and how much to hold onto.  The only power that we have is inside of us, and sometimes it's a very difficult journey to reach that awareness.

Q. What was it about romance/suspense that captured your fancy?

A. Actually the genre captured me.  My stories dictate themselves.  I sit down thinking I'm writing one thing and another comes out.  Godhead is very sensual and very dark.  It started out kind of cheerful and I knew there was a darker story to tell. I kept wondering when that was going to happen, and then whump...suddenly I was in this shadowy space telling a much deeper and more sinister tale than I expected.  I finished the first draft, and read the whole thing totally on edge.  I didn't know until I was finished that it would be suspense and romance.  I was relieved to find out there was such a genre!

Q. Do you have an all-time favorite novel in your genre, and what elements make it your favorite?

A.  I'm a genre hopper.  My books cross genres or deviate from the typical genre all the time, so this is a difficult question.  I'm a sucker for Diana Gabaldon.  She's an incredible writer and researcher.  I love the layers of complexity in her books, the details that bring the era alive, the round flesh and blood believability of her characters, and the way she weaves a history lesson into an epic story that is always at its core about love and family. She has really elevated romance in the public eye.

Q. How do you research your novels?

A. I worked in a bank years ago and people would tell me some unbelievable things in the five minutes we had together.  I remember so vividly the day a particular elderly man came in.  He was in his eighties, his voice, his body, large and jovial.  We were all eating chocolates and we apologized for eating in front of him.  "Never apologize for enjoying yourself, “he said, "Never apologize for happiness, it is a great gift." He gestured to his sloping St. Nick belly.  "You see how fat I am," he exclaimed.  "So fat.  In 1938 when I got out of the camps I weighed seventy five pounds.  Now I am fat, and I am alive. Enjoy every moment."

That had a profound effect on me.  Every human being has a story of survival, of their own personal search for freedom.  Sometimes it's epic, sometimes so small you don't even notice it until you pick at the threads.

There are a thousand books in the lives of everyone riding the morning commute with you.  Talk to people.  You will be inspired and humbled.   And the internet is an incredible tool.  I am amazed by the information that is available instantly at the touch of a button.  What kind of insecticide did they use on bananas in Belize in 1960?... Nemagon.  It's all there, this gigantic brain that I can access anytime.  Much better than my own, which takes three cups of coffee to be able to connect with anything.

Q. Tell us about your favorite novel that you have written, and why it's your favorite?

A. My first novel. "In the Grey".  It's still unpublished.  I'm probably a dysfunctional author-parent because I won't let it leave the nest, even though it's reached maturity.  It's set during the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya Africa and I researched for fourteen years to complete it.  After all that time with the characters I feel them, I see them, I live life through their eyes.  It's exhausting to be so committed to a story like that, a gut wrenching story pulled out of real events.  The people I've met, the things they've seen...I am just awed.  And somehow I’ve managed to transfer some of that awe, that substance into the novel.  And now I'm afraid to let it go.  I love it so much, I can't stand the idea that other people won't love it like I do.  So I shelter it.  Soon though...stay tuned.

On Writing:

Q. Is there anything you absolutely must have in order to write?  

A.  I don't need silence, or a good luck totem, or my own private space. I have four children, so it's always noisy. I can tune it out most of the time.

 However, I just got a blue tooth headset, and when I put it on with music it's like falling into Narnia.  A whole new world with only me in it. And of course, I need my muse. She has platinum blond hair and slinky clothes, and she sits next to me drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, and she dispenses her best advice at three in the morning.

Q. What is the most difficult part of writing for you?

A. I love research and writing, when the words just flow.  But editing.  Yuck.  Get thee gone grammatical errors! It's just so tedious.

Q. What's a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write?

A. I used to have an office space in an unused corner of the house.  But the children would just hover around me like gnats.  So I decided to invade their space.  Now my desk is smack dab in the living room where the TV and the toys are.  They totally ignore me now that I'm accessible. The challenge is gone.

I have no typical day; I'm totally erratic and unscheduled.  I do however commit to one or two hours of marketing and at least ten pages of whatever I'm working on.  I'm disciplined only in the fact that I accomplish what I need to each day, somehow, at some point, even if it's in the middle of the night.  I like to achieve my objective.

Q. Tell us a little bit about your life online and the sites you maintain.

A.   I used to blog a lot.  I had this great one about being a dad on weekends for my kids.  It was so much fun and I had a good readership and a lot of exposure.  I'm thinking about resurrecting it.

 I’ve taken from that experience and launched two blogs this month.   The first is Jordan Alexander Writes, which chronicles my experience in the e publishing business and expands my reader’s knowledge on the settings of my novels.  And I'm about to launch a blog for my young adult series due out in August, Lux.

I have a dot com in development and that's a whole new thing to me, it seems so official, not as personal as a blog.  I try to make the blogs fun.  And interactivity is so important, not just comments, but playlists you can add to as a follower,  and widgets that you can play with.  I try not to overwhelm the blog with words.  It's hard, because as you can see, I talk a lot.

Just For Fun:

Q. What is your favorite quote?

A.  This is embarrassing. But really my favorite quote is from Saturday Night Live.

If trees could scream, maybe we wouldn't be so cavalier about cutting them down.
Unless of course, they screamed all the time,
For no good reason.


Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

Anything Khalil Gibran says is astounding.

Q. Where is your favorite place to read?

A.  On a deserted tropical island, with a frappe and a bowl of mangoes.  In real life, the bathtub with the door locked.

Q. What is your favorite OUT OF YOUR GENRE book and author, and why?

A. I’m reading an amazing book right now, Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee.  I suppose it would  be considered literary fiction, but it has so many elements. It’s about the dissolution of a marriage.  The man is a spy but not the glamorous sort, the behind the scenes  sort.  The author is Korean-American and so his culture paints every line in the book, offers a different angle to consider.  Every word, every line, is exquisite, flawless.  It’s the kind of book where you grab the person next to you and make them listen to a passage.  His words are like a beautiful song that gets stuck in your head.

Q. If you were a supernatural or mythological entity, what, or who, would you be, and why?

A.  I would be a mermaid.  I grew up on a sailboat and I lived in the water, it’s my natural element.   I would go as deep as I could, swim down to the black, the deep mysterious layer where the sharks live, and I wish I could linger there.  I pictured myself trailing long silver hair and being courted by mermen with great abs.

Q. If you were stranded on a desert island what 3 things would you desperately want with you, and why?

A. My lap top, toilet paper, and a volleyball to keep to keep me company.

Complimentary Commemorative Musical Jigsaw Puzzle
This Puzzle Created To Commemorate
Jordan Alexander Author Interview
Presented July 26, 2011
Available At

Book trailers


Lux teaser-


Jordan Alexander Writes -
Lux The Series-
Twitter- @ jalexwrites

Thanks to everyone for stopping by, and don't forget Jordan has generously offered to give a copy of Godhead to 5 lucky people leaving comments, with the winners chosen via on August 26, 2011.
Smiles & Good Reading
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

Friday, July 22, 2011

Great Women of History - MADAME RÉCAMIER - The Woman of Society

* * * * *
A. D. 1777-1849.
I know of no woman who by the force of beauty and social fascinations, without extraordinary intellectual gifts or high birth, has occupied so proud a position as a queen of society as Madame Récamier. So I select her as the representative of her class.
It was in Italy that women first drew to their _salons_ the distinguished men of their age, and exercised over them a commanding influence. More than three hundred years ago Olympia Fulvia Morata was the pride of Ferrara,–eloquent with the music of Homer and Virgil, a miracle to all who heard her, giving public lectures to nobles and professors when only a girl of sixteen; and Vittoria Colonna was the ornament of the Court of Naples, and afterwards drew around her at Rome the choicest society of that elegant capital,–bishops, princes, and artists,–equally the friend of Cardinal Pole and of Michael Angelo, and reigning in her retired apartments in the Benedictine convent of St. Anne, even as the Duchesse de Longueville shone at the Hôtel de Rambouillet, with De Retz and La Rochefoucauld at her feet. This was at a period when the Italian cities were the centre of the new civilization which the Renaissance created, when ancient learning and art were cultivated with an enthusiasm never since surpassed.
The new position which women seem to have occupied in the sixteenth century in Italy, was in part owing to the wealth and culture of cities–ever the paradise of ambitious women–and the influence of poetry and chivalry, of which the Italians were the earliest admirers. Provençal poetry was studied in Italy as early as the time of Dante; and veneration for woman was carried to a romantic excess when the rest of Europe was comparatively rude. Even in the eleventh century we see in the southern part of Europe a respectful enthusiasm for woman coeval with the birth of chivalry. The gay troubadours expounded and explained the subtile metaphysics of love in every possible way: a peerless lady was supposed to unite every possible moral virtue with beauty and rank; and hence chivalric love was based on sentiment alone. Provence gave birth both to chivalry and poetry, and they were singularly blended together. Of about five hundred troubadours whose names have descended to us, more than half were noble, for chivalry took cognizance only of noble birth. From Provence chivalry spread to Italy and to the north of France, and Normandy became pre-eminently a country of noble deeds, though not the land of song. It was in Italy that the poetical development was greatest.
After chivalry as an institution had passed away, it still left its spirit on society. There was not, however, much society in Europe anywhere until cities arose and became centres of culture and art. In the feudal castle there were chivalric sentiments but not society, where men and women of cultivation meet to give expression and scope to their ideas and sentiments. Nor can there be a high society without the aid of letters. Society did not arise until scholars and poets mingled with nobles as companions. This sort of society gained celebrity first in Paris, when women of rank invited to their _salons_ literary men as well as nobles.
The first person who gave a marked impulse to what we call society was the Marquise de Rambouillet, in the seventeenth century. She was the first to set the fashion in France of that long series of social gatherings which were a sort of institution for more than two hundred years. Her father was a devoted friend of Henry IV., belonged to one of the first families of France, and had been ambassador to Rome. She was married in the year 1600, at the age of fifteen. When twenty-two, she had acquired a distaste for the dissipations of the court and everything like crowded assemblies. She was among the first to discover that a crowd of men and women does not constitute society. Nothing is more foreign to the genius of the highest cultivated life than a crowded _salon_, where conversation on any interesting topic is impossible; where social life is gilded, but frivolous and empty; where especially the loftiest sentiments of the soul are suppressed. From an early period such crowds gathered at courts; but it was not till the seventeenth century that the _salon_ arose, in which woman was a queen and an institution.
The famous queens of society in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries do not seem to have mixed much in miscellaneous assemblies, however brilliant in dress and ornament. They were more exclusive. They reserved their remarkable talents for social reunions, perhaps in modest _salons_, where among distinguished men and women they could pour out the treasures of the soul and mind; where they could inspire and draw out the sentiments of those who were gifted and distinguished. Madame du Deffand lived quietly in the convent of St. Joseph, but she gathered around her an elegant and famous circle, until she was eighty and blind. The Saturday assemblies of Mademoiselle de Scudéry, frequented by the most distinguished people of Paris, were given in a modest apartment, for she was only a novelist. The same may be said of the receptions of Madame de la Sablière, who was a childless widow, of moderate means. The Duchesse de Longueville–another of those famous queens–saw her best days in the abbey of Port Royal. Madame Récamier reigned in a small apartment in the Abbaye-au-Bois. All these carried out in their _salons_ the rules and customs which had been established by Madame de Rambouillet, It was in her _salon_ that the French Academy originated, and its first members were regular visitants at her hotel. Her conversation was the chief amusement. We hear of neither cards nor music; but there were frequent parties to the country, walks in the woods,–a perpetual animation, where ceremony was banished. The brilliancy of her parties excited the jealousy of Richelieu. Hither resorted those who did not wish to be bound by the stiffness of the court. At that period this famous hotel had its pedantries, but it was severely intellectual. Hither came Mademoiselle de Scudéri; Mademoiselle de Montpensier, granddaughter of Henry IV.; Vaugelas, and others of the poets; also Balzac, Voiture, Racan, the Duc de Montausier, Madame de Sévigné, Madame de la Fayette, and others. The most marked thing about this hotel was the patronage extended to men of letters. Those great French ladies welcomed poets and scholars, and encouraged them, and did not allow them to starve, like the literary men of Grub Street. Had the English aristocracy extended the same helping hand to authors, the condition of English men of letters in the eighteenth century would have been far less unfortunate. Authors in France have never been excluded from high society; and this was owing in part to the influence of the Hôtel de Rambouillet, which sought an alliance between genius and rank. It is this blending of genius with rank which gave to society in France its chief attraction, and made it so brilliant.
Mademoiselle de Scudéry, Madame de la Sablière, and Madame de Longueville followed the precedents established by Madame de Rambouillet and Madame de Maintenon, and successively reigned as queens of society,–that is, of chosen circles of those who were most celebrated in France,–raising the intellectual tone of society, and inspiring increased veneration for woman herself.
But the most celebrated of all these queens of society was Madame Récamier, who was the friend and contemporary of Madame de Staël. She was born at Lyons, in 1777, not of high rank, her father, M. Bernard, being only a prosperous notary. Through the influence of Calonne, minister of Louis XVI., he obtained the lucrative place of Receiver of the Finances, and removed to Paris, while his only daughter Juliette was sent to a convent, near Lyons, to be educated, where she remained until she was ten years of age, when she rejoined her family. Juliette’s education was continued at home, under her mother’s superintendence; but she excelled in nothing especially except music and dancing, and was only marked for grace, beauty, and good-nature.
Among the visitors to her father’s house was Jacques Rose Récamier, a rich banker, born in Lyons, 1751,–kind-hearted, hospitable, fine-looking, and cultivated, but of frivolous tastes. In 1793, during the Reign of Terror, being forty-two, he married the beautiful daughter of his friend, she being but fifteen. This marriage seems to have been one of convenience and vanity, with no ties of love on either side,–scarcely friendship, or even sentiment. For a few years Madame Récamier led a secluded life, on account of the troubles and dangers incident to the times, but when she did emerge from retirement she had developed into the most beautiful woman in France, and was devoted to a life of pleasure. Her figure was flexible and elegant, her head well-poised, her complexion brilliant, with a little rosy mouth, pearly teeth, black curling hair, and soft expressive eyes, with a carriage indicative of indolence and pride, yet with a face beaming with good-nature and sympathy.
Such was Madame Récamier at eighteen, so remarkable for beauty that she called forth murmurs of admiration wherever she appeared. As it had long been a custom in Paris, and still is, to select the most beautiful and winning woman to hand round the purse in churches for all charities, she was selected by the Church of St. Roche, the most fashionable church of that day; and so great was the enthusiasm to see this beautiful and bewitching creature, that the people crowded the church, and even mounted on the chairs, and, though assisted by two gentlemen, she could scarcely penetrate the crowd. The collection on one occasion amounted to twenty thousand francs,–equal, perhaps, to ten thousand dollars to-day. This adaptation of means to an end has never been disdained by the Catholic clergy. What would be thought in Philadelphia or New York, in an austere and solemn Presbyterian church, to see the most noted beauty of the day handing round the plate? But such is one of the forms which French levity takes, even in the consecrated precincts of the church.
The fashionable drive and promenade in Paris was Longchamps, now the Champs Élysées, and it was Madame Récamier’s delight to drive in an open carriage on this beautiful avenue, especially on what are called the holy days,–Wednesdays and Fridays,–when her beauty extorted salutations from the crowd. Of course, such a woman excited equal admiration in the _salons_, and was soon invited to the fêtes and parties of the Directory, through Barras, one of her admirers. There she saw Bonaparte, but did not personally know him at that time. At one of these fêtes, rising at full length from her seat to gaze at the General, sharing in the admiration for the hero, she at once attracted the notice of the crowd, who all turned to look at her; which so annoyed Bonaparte that he gave her one of his dreadful and withering frowns, which caused her to sink into her seat with terror.
In 1798 M. Récamier bought the house which had Récamier belonged to Necker, in what is now the Chaussée d’Antin. This led to an acquaintance between Madame Récamier and Madame de Staël, which soon ripened into friendship. In the following year M. Récamier, now very rich, established himself in a fine chateau at Clichy, a short distance from Paris, where he kept open house. Thither came Lucien Bonaparte, at that time twenty-four years of age, bombastic and consequential, and fell in love with his beautiful hostess, as everybody else did. But Madame Récamier, with all her fascinations, was not a woman of passion; nor did she like the brother of the powerful First Consul, and politely rejected his addresses. He continued, however, to persecute her with his absurd love-letters for a year, when, finding it was hopeless to win so refined and virtuous a lady as Madame Récamier doubtless was,–partly because she was a woman of high principles, and partly because she had no great temptations,–the pompous lover, then Home Minister, ceased his addresses.
But Napoleon, who knew everything that was going on, had a curiosity to see this woman who charmed everybody, yet whom nobody could win, and she was invited to one of his banquets. Although she obeyed his summons, she was very modest and timid, and did not try to make any conquest of him. She was afraid of him, as Madame de Staël was, and most ladies of rank and refinement. He was a hero to men rather than to women,–at least to those women who happened to know him or serve him. That cold and cutting irony of which he was master, that haughty carriage and air which he assumed, that selfish and unsympathetic nature, that exacting slavery to his will, must have been intolerable to well-bred women who believed in affection and friendship, of which he was incapable, and which he did not even comprehend. It was his intention that the most famous beauty of the day should sit next to him at this banquet, and he left the seat vacant for her; but she was too modest to take it unless specially directed to do so by the Consul, which either pride or etiquette prevented. This modesty he did not appreciate, and he was offended, and she never saw him again in private; but after he became Emperor, he made every effort to secure her services as maid-of-honor to one of the princesses, through his minister Fouché, in order to ornament his court. It was a flattering honor, since she was only the wife of a banker, without title; but she refused it, which stung Napoleon with vexation, since it indicated to him that the fashionable and high-born women of the day stood aloof from him. Many a woman was banished because she would not pay court to him,–Madame de Staël, the Duchesse de Chevreuse, and others. Madame Récamier was now at the height of fashion, admired by Frenchmen and foreigners alike; not merely by such men as the Montmorencys, Narbonne, Jordan, Barrère, Moreau, Bernadotte, La Harpe, but also by Metternich, then secretary of the Austrian embassy, who carried on a flirtation with her all winter. All this was displeasing to Napoleon, more from wounded pride than fear of treason. In the midst of her social triumphs, after having on one occasion received uncommon honor, Napoleon, now emperor, bitterly exclaimed that more honor could not be shown to the wife of a marshal of France,–a remark very indicative of his character, showing that in his estimation there was no possible rank or fame to be compared with the laurels of a military hero. A great literary genius, or woman of transcendent beauty, was no more to him than a great scholar or philosopher is to a vulgar rich man in making up his parties.
It was in the midst of these social successes that the husband of Madame Récamier lost his fortune. He would not have failed had he been able to secure a loan from the Bank of France of a million of francs; but this loan the Government peremptorily refused,–doubtless from the hostility of Napoleon; so that the banker was ruined because his wife chose to ally herself with the old aristocracy and refuse the favors of the Emperor. In having pursued such a course, Madame Récamier must have known that she was the indirect cause of her husband’s failure. But she bore the reverse of fortune with that equanimity which seems to be peculiar to the French, and which only lofty characters, or people of considerable mental resources, are able to assume or feel. Most rich men, when they lose their money, give way to despondency and grief, conscious that they have nothing to fall back upon; that without money they are nothing. Madame Récamier at once sold her jewels and plate, and her fine hotel was offered for sale. Neither she nor her husband sought to retain anything amid the wreck, and they cheerfully took up their abode in a small apartment,–which conduct won universal sympathy and respect, so that her friends were rather increased than diminished, and she did not lose her social prestige and influence, which she would have lost in cities where money is the highest, and sometimes the only, test of social position. Madame de Staël wrote letters of impassioned friendship, and nobles and generals paid unwonted attention. The death of her mother soon followed, so that she spent the summer of 1807 in extreme privacy, until persuaded by her constant friend Madame de Staël to pay her a visit at her country-seat near Geneva, where she met Prince Frederick of Prussia, nephew of the great Frederic, who became so enamored of her that he sought her hand in marriage. Princes, in those days, had such a lofty idea of their rank that they deemed it an honor to be conferred on a woman, even if married, to take her away from her husband. For a time Madame Récamier seemed dazzled with this splendid proposal, and she even wrote to the old banker, her husband, asking for a divorce from him. I think I never read of a request so preposterous or more disgraceful,–the greatest flaw I know in her character,–showing the extreme worldliness of women of fashion at that time, and the audacity which is created by universal flattery. What is even more surprising, her husband did not refuse the request, but wrote to her a letter of so much dignity, tenderness, and affection that her eyes were opened. “She saw the protector of her youth, whose indulgence had never failed her, growing old, and despoiled of fortune; and to leave him who had been so good to her, even if she did not love him, seemed rightly the height of ingratitude and meanness.” So the Prince was dismissed, very much to his surprise and chagrin; and some there were who regarded M. Récamier as a very selfish man, to appeal to the feelings and honor of his wife, and thus deprive her of a splendid destiny. Such were the morals of fashionable people in Europe during the eighteenth century.
Madame Récamier did not meddle with politics, like Madame de Staël and other strong-minded women before and since; but her friendship with a woman whom Napoleon hated so intensely as he did the authoress of “Delphine” and “Germany,” caused her banishment to a distance of forty leagues from Paris,–one of the customary acts which the great conqueror was not ashamed to commit, and which put his character in a repulsive light. Nothing was more odious in the character of Napoleon than his disdain of women, and his harsh and severe treatment of those who would not offer incense to him. Madame de Staël, on learning of the Emperor’s resentment towards her friend, implored her not to continue to visit her, as it would certainly be reported to the Government, and result in her banishment; but Madame Récamier would obey the impulses of friendship in the face of all danger. And the result was indeed her exile from that city which was so dear to her, as well as to all fashionable women and all gifted men.
In exile this persecuted woman lived in a simple way, first at Chalons and then at Lyons, for her means were now small. Her companions, however, were great people, as before her banishment and in the days of her prosperity,–in which fact we see some modification of the heartlessness which so often reigns in fashionable circles. Madame Récamier never was without friends as well as admirers. Her amiability, wit, good-nature, and extraordinary fascinations always attracted gifted and accomplished people of the very highest rank.
It was at Lyons that she formed a singular friendship, which lasted for life; and this was with a young man of plebeian origin, the son of a printer, with a face disfigured, and with manners uncouth,–M. Ballanche, whose admiration amounted to absolute idolatry, and who demanded no other reward for his devotion than the privilege of worship. To be permitted to look at her and listen to her was enough for him. Though ugly in appearance, and with a slow speech, he was well versed in the literature of the day, and his ideas were lofty and refined.
I have never read of any one who has refused an unselfish idolatry, the incense of a worshipper who has no outward advantage to seek or gain,–not even a king. If it be the privilege of a divinity to receive the homage of worshippers, why should a beautiful and kind-hearted woman reject the respectful adoration of a man contented with worship alone? What could be more flattering even to a woman of the world, especially if this man had noble traits and great cultivation? Such was Ballanche, who viewed the mistress of his heart as Dante did his Beatrice, though not with the same sublime elevation, for the object of Dante’s devotion was on the whole imaginary,–the worship of qualities which existed in his own mind alone,–whereas the admiration of Ballanche was based on the real presence of flesh and blood animated by a lovely soul.
Soon after this friendship had begun, Madame Récamier made a visit to Italy, travelling in a _voiture_, not a private carriage, and arrived at Rome in Passion Week, 1812, when the Pope was a prisoner of Napoleon at Fontainebleau, and hence when his capital was in mourning,–sad and dull, guarded and occupied by French soldiers. The only society at Rome in that eventful year which preceded the declining fortunes of Napoleon, was at the palace of Prince Torlonia the banker; but the modest apartment of Madame Récamier on the Corso was soon filled with those who detested the rule of Napoleon. Soon after, Ballanche came all the way from Lyons to see his star of worship, and she kindly took him everywhere, for even in desolation the Eternal City is the most interesting spot on the face of the globe. From Rome she went to Naples (December, 1813), when the King Murat was forced into the coalition against his brother-in-law. In spite of the hatred of Napoleon, his sister the Queen of Naples was devoted to the Queen of Beauty, who was received at court as an ambassadress rather than as an exile. On the fall of Napoleon the next year the Pope returned from his thraldom; and Madame Récamier, being again in Rome, witnessed one of the most touching scenes of those eventful days, when all the nobles and gentry went out to meet their spiritual and temporal sovereign, and amid the exultant shouts and rapture of the crowd, dragged his gilded carriage to St. Peter’s Church, where was celebrated a solemn _Te Deum._
But Madame Récamier did not tarry long in Italy, She hastened back to Paris, for the tyrant was fallen. She was now no longer beaming in youthful charms, with groups of lovers at her feet, but a woman of middle age, yet still handsome,–for such a woman does not lose her beauty at thirty-five,–with fresh sources of enjoyment, and a keen desire for the society of intellectual and gifted friends. She now gave up miscellaneous society,–that is, fashionable and dissipated crowds of men and women in noisy receptions and ceremonious parties,–and drew around her the lines of a more exclusive circle. Hither came to see her Ballanche, now a resident of Paris, Mathieu de Montmorency, M. de Châteaubriand, the Due de Broglie, and the most distinguished nobles of the ancient regime, with the literary lions who once more began to roar on the fall of the tyrant who had silenced them, including such men as Barante and Benjamin Constant. Also great ladies were seen in her _salon_, for her husband’s fortunes had improved, and she was enabled again to live in her old style of splendor. Among these ladies were the Duchesse de Cars, the Marchionesses de Podences, Castellan, and d’Aguesseau, and the Princess-Royal of Sweden. Also distinguished foreigners sought her society,–Wellington, Madame Krüdener, the friend of the Emperor Alexander, the beautiful Duchess of Devonshire, the Duke of Hamilton, and whoever was most distinguished in that brilliant circle of illustrious people who congregated at Paris on the restoration of the Bourbons.
In 1819 occurred the second failure of M. Récamier, which necessarily led again to a new and more humble style of life. The home which Madame Récamier now selected, and where she lived until 1838, was the Abbaye-au-Bois, while her father and her husband, the latter now sixty-nine, lived in a small lodging in the vicinity. She occupied in this convent–a large old building in the Rue de Sèvres–a small _appartement_ in the third story, with a brick floor, and uneven at that. She afterwards removed to a small _appartement_ on the first floor, which looked upon the convent garden.
Here, in this seclusion, impoverished, and no longer young, Madame Récamier received her friends and guests. And they were among the most distinguished people of France, especially the Duc de Montmorency and the Viscount Châteaubriand. The former was a very religious man, and the breath of scandal never for a moment tainted his reputation, or cast any reproach on the memorable friendship which he cultivated with the most beautiful woman in France. This illustrious nobleman was at that time Minister of Foreign Affairs, and was sent to the celebrated Congress of Vienna, where Metternich, the greatest statesman of the age, presided and inaugurated a reaction from the principles of the Revolution.
But more famous than he was Châteaubriand, then ambassador at London, and afterwards joined with Montmorency as delegate to the Congress of Vienna, and still later Minister of Foreign Affairs, who held during the reign of Louis XVIII. the most distinguished position in France as a statesman, a man of society, and a literary man. The author of the “Genius of Christianity” was aristocratic, moody, fickle, and vain, almost spoiled with the incense of popular idolatry. No literary man since Voltaire had received such incense. He was the acknowledged head of French literature, a man of illustrious birth, noble manners, poetical temperament, vast acquisitions, and immense social prestige. He took sad and desponding views of life, was intensely conservative, but had doubtless a lofty soul as well as intellectual supremacy. He occupied distinct spheres,–was poet, historian, statesman, orator, and the oracle of fashionable _salons_, although he loved seclusion, and detested crowds. The virtues of his private life were unimpeached, and no man was more respected by the nation than this cultivated scholar and gentleman of the old school.
It was between this remarkable man and Madame Récamier that the most memorable friendship of modern times took place. It began in the year 1817 at the bedside of Madame de Staël, but did not ripen into intimacy until 1818, when he was fifty and she was forty-one. His genius and accomplishments soon conquered the first place in her heart; and he kept that place until his death in 1848,–thirty years of ardent and reproachless friendship. Her other friends felt great inquietude in view of this friendship, fearing that the incurable melancholy and fitful moods of the Viscount would have a depressing influence on her; but she could not resist his fascinations any easier than he could resist hers. The Viscount visited her every day, generally in the afternoon; and when absent on his diplomatic missions to the various foreign courts, he wrote her, every day, all the details of his life, as well as sentiments. He constantly complained that she did not write as often as he did. His attachment was not prompted by that unselfish devotion which marked Ballanche, who sought no return, only the privilege of adoration. Châteaubriand was exacting, and sought a warmer and still increasing affection, which it seems was returned. Madame Récamier’s nature was not passionate; it was simply affectionate. She sought to have the wants of her soul met. She rarely went to parties or assemblies, and seldom to the theatre. She craved friendship, and of the purest and loftiest kind. She was tired of the dissipation of society and even of flatteries, of which the Viscount was equally weary. The delusions of life were dispelled, in her case, at forty; in his, at fifty.
This intimacy reminds us of that of Louis XIV. and Madame de Maintenon. Neither could live without the other. But their correspondence does not reveal any improper intimacy. It was purely spiritual and affectionate; it was based on mutual admiration; it was strengthened by mutual respect for each other’s moral qualities. And the friendship gave rise to no scandal; nor was it in any way misrepresented. Every day the statesman, when immersed even in the cares of a great office, was seen at her modest dwelling, at the same hour,–about four o’clock,–and no other visitors were received at that hour. After unbending his burdened soul, or communicating his political plans, or detailing the gossip of the day, all to the end of securing sympathy and encouragement from a great woman, he retired to his own hotel, and spent the evening with his sick wife. One might suppose that his wife would have been jealous. The wife of Carlyle never would have permitted her husband to visit on such intimate terms the woman he most admired,–Lady Ashburton,–without a separation. But Châteaubriand’s wife favored rather than discouraged the intimacy, knowing that it was necessary to his happiness. Nor did the friendship between Madame Récamier and the Due de Montmorency, the political rival of Châteaubriand, weaken the love of the latter or create jealousy, a proof of his noble character. And when the pious Duke died, both friends gave way to the most sincere grief.
It was impossible for Madame Récamier to live without friendship. She could give up society and fortune, but not her friends. The friendly circle was not large, but, as we have said, embraced the leading men of France. Her limited means made no difference with her guests, since these were friends and admirers. Her attraction to men and women alike did not decrease with age or poverty.
The fall of Charles X., in 1830, led of course to the political downfall of Châteaubriand, and of many of Madame Récamier’s best friends. But there was a younger class of an opposite school who now came forward, and the more eminent of these were also frequent visitors to the old queen of society,–Ampère, Thiers, Mignet, Guizot, De Tocqueville, Sainte-Beuve. Nor did she lose the friendship, in her altered fortunes, of queens and nobles. She seems to have been received with the greatest cordiality in whatever chateau she chose to visit. Even Louis Napoleon, on his release from imprisonment in the castle of Ham, lost no time in paying his respects to the woman his uncle had formerly banished.
One of the characteristic things which this interesting lady did, was to get up a soiree in her apartments at the convent in aid of the sufferers of Lyons from an inundation of the Rhône, from which she realized a large sum. It was attended by the _élite_ of Paris. Lady Byron paid a hundred francs for her ticket. The Due de Noailles provided the refreshments, the Marquis de Verac furnished the carriages, and Châteaubriand acted as master of ceremonies. Rachel acted in the rôle of “Esther,” not yet performed at the theatre, while Garcia, Rubini, and Lablache kindly gave their services. It was a very brilliant entertainment, one of the last in which Madame Récamier presided as a queen of society. It showed her kindness of heart, which was the most conspicuous trait of her character. She wished to please, but she desired still more to be of assistance. The desire to please may arise from blended vanity and good-nature; the desire to be useful is purely disinterested. In all her intercourse with friends we see in Madame Récamier a remarkable power of sympathy. She was not a woman of genius, but of amazing tact, kindness, and amiability. She entered with all her heart into the private and confidential communications of her friends, and was totally free from egotism, forgetting herself in the happiness of others. If not a woman of genius, she had extraordinary good sense, and her advice was seldom wrong. It was this union of sympathy, kindness, tact, and wisdom which made Madame Récamier’s friendship so highly prized by the greatest men of the age. But she was exclusive; she did not admit everybody to her salon,–only those whom she loved and esteemed, generally from the highest social circle. Sympathy cannot exist except among equals. We associate Paula with Jerome, the Countess Matilda with Hildebrand, Vittoria Colonna with Michael Angelo, Hannah More with Dr. Johnson. Friendship is neither patronage nor philanthropy; and the more exalted the social or political or literary position, the more rare friendship is and the more beautiful when it shines.
It was the friendships of Madame Récamier with distinguished men and women which made her famous more than her graces and beauty. She soothed, encouraged, and fortified the soul of Châteaubriand in his fits of depression and under political disappointments, always herself cheerful and full of vivacity,–an angel of consolation and spiritual radiance. Her beauty at this period was moral rather than physical, since it revealed the virtues of the heart and the quickness of spiritual insight. In her earlier days–the object of universal and unbounded admiration, from her unparalleled charms and fascinations–she may have coquetted more than can be deemed decorous in a lady of fashion; but if so, it was vanity and love of admiration which were the causes. She never appealed to passion; for, as we have said, her own nature was not passionate. She was satisfied to be worshipped. The love of admiration is not often allied with that passion which loses self-control, and buries one in the gulf of mad infatuation. The mainspring of her early life was to please, and of her later life to make people happy. A more unselfish woman never lived. Those beauties who lure to ruin, as did the Sirens, are ever heartless and selfish,–like Cleopatra and Madame de Pompadour. There is nothing on this earth more selfish than what foolish and inexperienced people often mistake for love. There is nothing more radiant and inspiring than the moral beauty of the soul. The love that this creates is tender, sympathetic, kind, and benevolent. Nothing could be more unselfish and beautiful than the love with which Madame Récamier inspired Ballanche, who had nothing to give and nothing to ask but sympathy and kindness.
One of the most touching and tender friendships ever recorded was the intercourse between Châteaubriand and Madame Récamier when they were both old and infirm. Nothing is more interesting than their letters and daily interviews at the convent, where she spent her latter days. She was not only poor, but she had also become blind, and had lost all relish for fashionable society,–not a religious recluse, saddened and penitent, like the Duchesse de Longueville in the vale of Chevreuse, but still a cheerful woman, fond of music, of animated talk, and of the political news of the day, Châteaubriand was old, disenchanted, disappointed, melancholy, and full of infirmities. Yet he never failed in the afternoon to make his appearance at the Abbaye, driven in a carriage to the threshold of the salon, where he was placed in an arm-chair and wheeled to a corner of the fireplace, when he poured out his sorrows and received consolation. Once, on one of those dreary visits, he asked his friend to marry him,–he being then seventy-nine and she seventy-one,–and bear his illustrious name. “Why,” said she, “should we marry at our age? There is no impropriety in my taking care of you. If solitude is painful to you, I am ready to live in the same house with you. The world will do justice to the purity of our friendship. Years and blindness give me this right. Let us change nothing in so perfect an affection.”
The old statesman and historian soon after died, broken in mind and body, living long enough to see the fall of Louis Philippe. In losing this friend of thirty years Madame Récamier felt that the mainspring of her life was broken. She shed no tears in her silent and submissive grief, nor did she repel consolation or the society of friends, “but the sad smile which played on her lips was heart-rending…. While witnessing the decline of this noble genius, she had struggled, with singular tenderness, against the terrible effect of years upon him; but the long struggle had exhausted her own strength, and all motives for life were gone.”
Though now old and blind, yet, like Mme. du Deffand at eighty, Madame Récamier’s attractions never passed away. The great and the distinguished still visited her, and pronounced her charming to the last. Her vivacity never deserted her, nor her desire to make every one happy around her. She was kept interesting to the end by the warmth of her affections and the brightness of her mind. As it is the soul which is the glory of a woman, so the soul sheds its rays of imperishable light on the last pathway of existence. No beauty ever utterly passes away when animated by what is immortal.
Madame Récamier died at last of cholera, that disease which of all others she had ever most dreaded and avoided. On the 11th of May, 1849, amid weeping relatives and kneeling servants and sacerdotal prayers, this interesting woman passed away from earth. To her might be applied the eulogy of Burke on Marie Antoinette.
Madame Récamier’s place in society has never since been filled with equal grace and fascination. She adopted the customs of the Hôtel de Rambouillet,–certain rules which good society has since observed. She discouraged the _tête-à-tête_ in a low voice in a mixed company; if any one in her circle was likely to have especial knowledge, she would appeal to him with an air of deference; if any one was shy, she encouraged him; if a _mot_ was particularly happy, she would take it up and show it to the company. Presiding in her own _salon_, she talked but little herself, but rather exerted herself to draw others out; without being learned, she exercised great judgment in her decisions when appeals were made to her as the presiding genius; she discouraged everything pedantic and pretentious; she dreaded exaggerations; she kept her company to the subject under discussion, and compelled attention; she would allow no slang; she insisted upon good-nature and amiability, which more than anything else marked society in the eighteenth century.
We read so much of those interesting reunions in the _salons_ of distinguished people in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that we naturally seek to know what constituted their peculiar charm. It seems to me to have been conversation, which is both an art and a gift. In these exclusive meetings women did not reign in consequence of their beauty so much as their wit. Their vivacity, intelligence, and tact, I may add also their good-nature, were a veil to cover up all eccentricities. It was when Madame du Deffand was eighty, and blind, that Horace Walpole pronounced her to be the most interesting woman in France. Madame de Staël, never beautiful, was the life of a party at forty-five; Madame Récamier was in her glory at fifty; Hannah More was most sought when she was sixty. There can be no high society where conversation is not the chief attraction; and men seldom learn to talk well when not inspired by gifted women. They may dictate like Dr. Johnson, or preach like Coleridge in a circle of admirers, or give vent to sarcasms and paradoxes like Carlyle; but they do not please like Horace Walpole, or dazzle like Wilkes, or charm like Mackintosh. When society was most famous at Paris, it was the salon–not the card table, or the banquet, or the ball–which was most sought by cultivated men and women, where conversation was directed by gifted women. Women are nothing in the social circle who cannot draw out the sentiments of able men; and a man of genius gains more from the inspiration of one brilliant woman than from all the bookworms of many colleges. In society a bright and witty woman not merely shines, but she reigns. Conversation brings out all her faculties, and kindles all her sensibilities, and gives expression to her deepest sentiments. Her talk is more than music; it is music rising to the heights of eloquence. She is more even than an artist: she is a goddess before whom genius delights to burn its incense.
Success in this great art of conversation depends as much upon the disposition as upon the brains. The remarkable women who reigned in the salons of the last century were all distinguished for their good-nature,–good-nature based on toleration and kind feeling, rather than on insipid acquiescence. There can be no animated talk without dissent; and dissent should be disguised by the language of courtesy. As vanity is one of the mainsprings of human nature, and is nearly universal, the old queens of society had the tact to hide what could not easily be extirpated; and they were adepts in the still greater art of seeming to be unconscious. Those people are ever the most agreeable who listen with seeming curiosity, and who conceal themselves in order to feed the vanity of others. Nor does a true artist force his wit. “A confirmed punster is as great a bore as a patronizing moralist.” Moreover, the life of society depends upon the general glow of the party, rather than the prominence of an individual, so that a brilliant talker will seek to bring out “the coincidence which strengthens conviction, or the dissent which sharpens sagacity, rather than individual experiences, which ever seem to be egotistical. In agreeable society all egotism is to be crushed and crucified. Even a man who is an oracle, if wise, will suggest, rather than seem to instruct. In a congenial party all differences in rank are for the time ignored. It is in bad taste to remind or impress people with a sense of their inferiority, as in chivalry all degrees were forgotten in an assemblage of gentlemen.” Animated conversation amuses without seeming to teach, and transfers ideas so skilfully into the minds of others that they are ignorant of the debt, and mistake them for their own. It kindles a healthy enthusiasm, promotes good-nature, repels pretension, and rebukes vanity. It even sets off beauty, and intensifies its radiance. Said Madame de la Fayette to Madame de Sévigné: “Your varying expression so brightens and adorns your beauty, that there is nothing so brilliant as yourself: every word you utter adds to the brightness of your eyes; and while it is said that language impresses only the ear, it is quite certain that yours enchants the vision.” “Like style in writing,” says Lamartine, “conversation must flow with ease, or it will oppress. It must be clear, or depth of thought cannot be penetrated; simple, or the understanding will be overtasked; restrained, or redundancy will satiate; warm, or it will lack soul; witty, or the brain will not be excited; generous, or sympathy cannot be roused; gentle, or there will be no toleration; persuasive, or the passions cannot be subdued.” When it unites these excellences, it has an irresistible power, “musical as was Apollo’s lyre;” a perpetual feast of nectared sweets, such as, I fancy, Socrates poured out to Athenian youth, or Augustine in the gardens of Como; an electrical glow, such as united the members of the Turk’s Head Club into a band of brothers, or annihilated all distinctions of rank at the supper-table of the poet Scarron.
We cannot easily overrate the influence of those who inspire the social circle. They give not only the greatest pleasure which is known to cultivated minds, but kindle lofty sentiments. They draw men from the whirlpools of folly, break up degrading habits, dissipate the charms of money-making, and raise the value of the soul. How charming, how delightful, how inspiring is the eloquence which is kindled by the attrition of gifted minds! What privilege is greater than to be with those who reveal the experiences of great careers, especially if there be the absence of vanity and ostentation, and encouragement by those whose presence is safety and whose smiles are an inspiration! It is the blending of the beatitudes of Bethany with the artistic enjoyments of Weimar, causing the favored circle to forget all cares, and giving them strength for those duties which make up the main business of human life.
When woman accomplishes such results she fills no ordinary sphere, she performs no ordinary mission; she rises in dignity as she declines in physical attractions. Like a queen of beauty at the tournament, she bestows the rewards which distinguished excellence has won; she breaks up the distinctions of rank; she rebukes the arrogance of wealth; she destroys pretensions; she kills self-conceit; she even gains consideration for her husband or brother,–for many a stupid man is received into a select circle because of the attractions of his wife or sister, even as many a silly woman gains consideration from the talents or position of her husband or brother. No matter how rich a man may be, if unpolished, ignorant, or rude, he is nobody in a party which seeks “the feast of reason and the flow of soul.” He is utterly insignificant, rebuked, and humiliated,–even as a brainless beauty finds herself _de trop_ in a circle of wits. Such a man may have consideration in the circle which cannot appreciate anything lofty or refined, but none in those upper regions where art and truth form subjects of discourse, where the aesthetic influences of the heart go forth to purify and exalt, where the soul is refreshed by the communion of gifted and sympathetic companions, and where that which is most precious and exalted in a man or woman is honored and beloved. Without this influence which woman controls, “a learned man is in danger of becoming a pedant, a religious man a bigot, a vain man a fool, and a self-indulgent man a slave.” No man can be truly genial unless he has been taught in the school where his wife, or daughter, or sister, or mother presides as a sun of radiance and beauty. It is only in this school that boorish manners are reformed, egotisms rebuked, stupidities punished, and cynicism exorcised.
But this exalting influence cannot exist in society without an attractive power in those ladies who compose it. A crowd of women does not necessarily make society, any more than do the empty, stupid, and noisy receptions which are sometimes held in the houses of the rich,–still less those silly, flippant, ignorant, pretentious, unblushing, and exacting girls who have just escaped from a fashionable school, who elbow their brothers into corners, and cover with confusion their fathers and mothers. A mere assemblage of men and women is nothing without the charms of refinement, vivacity, knowledge, and good-nature. These are not born in a day; they seldom mark people till middle life, when experiences are wide and feelings deep, when flippancy is not mistaken for wit, nor impertinence for ease. A frivolous slave of dress and ornament can no more belong to the circle of which I now speak, than can a pushing, masculine woman to the sphere which she occasionally usurps. Not dress, not jewelry, not pleasing manners, not even innocence, is the charm and glory of society; but the wisdom learned by experience, the knowledge acquired by study, the quickness based on native genius. When woman has thus acquired these great resources,–by books, by travel, by extended intercourse, and by the soaring of an untrammelled soul,–then only does she shine and guide and inspire, and become, not the equal of man, but his superior, his mentor, his guardian angel, his star of worship, in that favored and glorious realm which is alike the paradise and the empire of the world!
Miss J. M. Luyster’s Memoirs of Madame Récamier; Memoirs and Correspondence by Lenormant; Marquis of Salisbury’s Historical Sketches; Mrs. Thomson’s Queens of Society; Guizot’s sketch of Madame Récamier; Biographie Universelle; Dublin Review, 57-88; Christian Examiner, 82-299; Quarterly Review, 107-298; Edinburgh Review, 111-204; North British Review, 32; Bentley’s Magazine, 26-96; The Nation, 3, 4, 15; Fraser’s Magazine, 40-264.
Lectures by John Lord
I have a graduate degree in history and I love history in all it’s forms–especially women’s history. A graduate degree in women’s studies was not an option at the university where I received my MA in History so I had to make do with a more generalized degree. However, in every class I made up for the lack by researching the condition of women in each age that I studied. I have always been fascinated by women’s history, so I thought I would start sharing some of the lost treasures that I uncover. I believe that most people have curious minds and like glimpses of how the world was, and how things were perceived in the past. I firmly believe in the idea that we must remember history in order to learn from it, grow and hopefully cut down on the number of stupid mistakes that random impulse and intellectual curiosity and greed and a thousand other human motivators lead us to make.
 Smiles and Good Fortune,
Teresa Thomas Bohannon
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent.
– W. Somerset Maugham (1874 - 1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Great Women of History - HANNAH MORE - The Education of Woman

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A. D. 1745-1833.
One of the useful and grateful tasks of historians and biographers is to bring forward to the eye of every new generation of men and women those illustrious characters who made a great figure in the days of their grandfathers and grandmothers, yet who have nearly faded out of sight in the rush of new events and interests, and the rise of new stars in the intellectual firmament. Extraordinary genius or virtue or services may be forgotten for a while, but are never permanently hidden. There is always somebody to recall them to our minds, whether the interval be short or long. The Italian historian Vico wrote a book which attracted no attention for nearly two hundred years,–in fact, was forgotten,–but was made famous by the discoveries of Niebuhr in the Vatican library, and became the foundation of modern philosophical history. Some great men pass out of view for a generation or two owing to the bitterness of contemporaneous enemies and detractors, and others because of the very unanimity of admirers and critics, leading to no opposition. We weary both of praise and censure. And when either praise or censure stops, the object of it is apparently forgotten for a time, except by the few who are learned. Yet, I repeat, real greatness or goodness is never completely hidden. It reappears with new lustre when brought into comparison with those who are embarked in the same cause.
Thus the recent discussions on the education of women recall to our remembrance the greatest woman who lived in England in the latter part of the last century,–Hannah More,–who devoted her long and prosperous and honorable life to this cause both by practical teaching and by writings which arrested the attention and called forth the admiration of the best people in Europe and America. She forestalled nearly everything which has been written in our times pertaining to the life of woman, both at school and in society. And she evinced in her writings on this great subject an acuteness of observation, a good sense, a breadth and catholicity of judgment, a richness of experience, and a high moral tone which have never been surpassed. She reminds us of the wise Madame de Maintenon in her school at St. Cyr; the pious and philanthropic Mary Lyon at the Mount Holyoke Seminary; and the more superficial and worldly, but truly benevolent and practical, Emma Willard at her institution in Troy,–the last two mentioned ladies being the pioneers of the advanced education for young ladies in such colleges as Vassar, Wellesley, and Smith, and others I could mention. The wisdom, tact, and experience of Madame de Maintenon–the first great woman who gave a marked impulse to female education in our modern times–were not lost on Hannah More, who seems to have laid down the laws best adapted to develop the mind and character of woman under a high civilization. England seems to have been a century in advance of America, both in its wisdom and folly; and the same things in London life were ridiculed and condemned with unsparing boldness by Hannah More which to-day, in New York, have called out the vigorous protests of Dr. Morgan Dix. The educators of our age and country cannot do better than learn wisdom from the “Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education,” as well as the “Thoughts on the Manners of the Great,” which appeared from the pen of Hannah More in the latter part of the 18th century, in which she appears as both moralist and teacher, getting inspiration not only from her exalted labors, but from the friendship and conversation of the great intellectual oracles of her age. I have not read of any one woman in England for the last fifty years, I have not heard or known of any one woman in the United States, who ever occupied the exalted position of Hannah More, or who exercised so broad and deep an influence on the public mind in the combined character of a woman of society, author, and philanthropist. There have been, since her day, more brilliant queens of fashion, greater literary geniuses, and more prominent philanthropists; but she was enabled to exercise an influence superior to any of them, by her friendship with people of rank, by her clear and powerful writings, and by her lofty piety and morality, which blazed amid the vices of fashionable society one hundred years ago.
It is well to dwell on the life and labors of so great and good a woman, who has now become historical. But I select her especially as the representative of the grandest moral movement of modern times,–that which aims to develop the mind and soul of woman, and give to her the dignity of which she has been robbed by paganism and “philistinism.” I might have selected some great woman nearer home and our own time, more intimately connected with the profession of educating young ladies; but I prefer to speak of one who is universally conceded to have rendered great service to her age and country. It is doubly pleasant to present Hannah More, because she had none of those defects and blemishes which have often detracted from the dignity of great benefactors. She was about as perfect a woman as I have read of; and her virtues were not carried out to those extremes of fanaticism which have often marked illustrious saints, from the want of common-sense or because of visionary theories. Strict and consistent as a moralist, she was never led into any extravagances or fanaticisms. Stern even as a disciplinarian, she did not proscribe healthy and natural amusements. Strong-minded,–if I may use a modern contemptuous phrase,–she never rebelled against the ordinances of nature or the laws dictated by inspiration. She was a model woman: beautiful, yet not vain; witty, yet never irreverent; independent, yet respectful to authority; exercising private judgment, yet admired by bishops; learned, without pedantry; hospitable, without extravagance; fond of the society of the great, yet spending her life among the poor; alive to the fascinations of society, yet consecrating all her energies of mind and body to the good of those with whom she was brought in contact; as capable of friendship as Paula, as religious as Madame Guyon, as charming in conversation as Récamier, as practical as Elizabeth, as broad and tolerant as Fénelon, who was himself half woman in his nature, as the most interesting men of genius are apt to be. Nothing cynical, or bitter, or extravagant, or contemptuous appears in any of her writings, most of which were published anonymously,–from humility as well as sensitiveness. Vanity was a stranger to her, as well as arrogance and pride. Embarking in great enterprises, she never went outside the prescribed sphere of woman. Masculine in the force and vigor of her understanding, she was feminine in all her instincts,–proper, amiable, and gentle; a woman whom everybody loved and everybody respected, even to kings and queens.
Hannah More was born in a little village near Bristol, 1745, and her father was the village schoolmaster. He had been well educated, and had large expectations; but he was disappointed, and was obliged to resort to this useful but irksome way of getting a living. He had five daughters, of whom Hannah was the fourth. As a girl, she was very precocious in mind, as well as beautiful and attractive in her person. She studied Latin when only eight years of age. Her father, it would seem, was a very sensible man, and sought to develop the peculiar talents which each of his daughters possessed, without the usual partiality of parents, who are apt to mistake inclination for genius. Three of the girls had an aptitude for teaching, and opened a boarding-school in Bristol when the oldest was only twenty. The school was a great success, and soon became fashionable, and ultimately famous. To this school the early labors of Hannah More were devoted; and she soon attracted attention by her accomplishments, especially in the modern languages, in which she conversed with great accuracy and facility. But her talents were more remarkable than her accomplishments; and eminent men sought her society and friendship, who in turn introduced her to their own circle of friends, by all of whom she was admired. Thus she gradually came to know the celebrated Dean Tucker of Gloucester cathedral; Ferguson the astronomer, then lecturing at Bristol; the elder Sheridan, also giving lectures on oratory in the same city; Garrick, on the eve of his retirement from the stage; Dr. Johnson, Goldsmith, Reynolds, Mrs. Montagu, in whose _salon_ the most distinguished men of the age assembled as the headquarters of fashionable society,–Edmund Burke, then member for Bristol in the House of Commons; Gibbon; Alderman Cadell, the great publisher; Bishop Porteus; Rev. John Newton; and Sir James Stonehouse, an eminent physician. With all these stars she was on intimate terms, visiting them at their houses, received by them all as more than an equal,–for she was not only beautiful and witty, but had earned considerable reputation for her poetry. Garrick particularly admired her as a woman of genius, and performed one of her plays (”Percy”) twenty successive nights at Drury Lane, writing himself both the prologue and the epilogue. It must be borne in mind that when first admitted to the choicest society of London,–at the houses not merely of literary men, but of great statesmen and nobles like Lord Camden, Lord Spencer, the Duke of Newcastle. Lord Pembroke, Lord Granville, and others,–she was teaching in a girls’ school at Bristol, and was a young lady under thirty years of age.
It was as a literary woman–when literary women were not so numerous or ambitious as they now are–that Hannah More had the _entrée_ into the best society under the patronage of the greatest writers of the age. She was a literary lion before she was twenty-five. She attracted the attention of Sheridan by her verses when she was scarcely eighteen. Her “Search after Happiness” went through six editions before the year 1775. Her tragedy of “Percy” was translated into French and German before she was thirty; and she realized from the sale of it £600. “The Fatal Falsehood” was also much admired, but did not meet the same success, being cruelly attacked by envious rivals. Her “Bas Bleu” was praised by Johnson in unmeasured terms. It was for her poetry that she was best known from 1775 to 1785, the period when she lived in the fashionable and literary world, and which she adorned by her wit and brilliant conversation,–not exactly a queen of society, since she did not set up a _salon_, but was only an honored visitor at the houses of the great; a brilliant and beautiful woman, whom everybody wished to know.
I will not attempt any criticism on those numerous poems. They are not much read and valued in our time. They are all after the style of Johnson and Pope;–the measured and artificial style of the eighteenth century, in imitation of the ancient classics and of French poetry, in which the wearisome rhyme is the chief peculiarity,–smooth, polished, elaborate, but pretty much after the same pattern, and easily imitated by school-girls. The taste of this age–created by Burns, Byron, Wordsworth, Browning, Tennyson, Longfellow, and others–is very different. But the poems of Hannah More were undoubtedly admired by her generation, and gave her great _éclat_ and considerable pecuniary emolument. And yet her real fame does not rest on those artificial poems, respectable as they were one hundred years ago, but on her writings as a moralist and educator.
During this period of her life–from 1775 to 1785–she chiefly resided with her sisters in Bristol, but made long visits to London, and to the houses of famous or titled personages. In a worldly point of view these years were the most brilliant, but not most useful, period of her life. At first she was intoxicated by the magnificent attentions she received, and had an intense enjoyment of cultivated society. It was in these years she formed the most ardent friendships of her life. Of all her friends, she seems to have been most attached to Garrick,–the idol of society, a general favorite wherever he chose to go, a man of irreproachable morals and charming conversational powers; at whose house and table no actor or actress was ever known to be invited, except in one solitary instance; from which it would appear that he was more desirous of the attentions of the great than of the sympathy and admiration of the people of his own profession. It is not common for actors to be gifted with great conversational powers, any more than for artists, as a general thing, to be well-read people, especially in history. Hannah More was exceedingly intimate with both Garrick and his wife; and his death, in 1779, saddened and softened his great worshipper. After his death she never was present at any theatrical amusement. She would not go to the theatre to witness the acting of her own dramas; not even to see Mrs. Siddons, when she appeared as so brilliant a star. In fact, after Garrick’s death Miss More partially abandoned fashionable society, having acquired a disgust of its heartless frivolities and seductive vices.
With the death of Garrick a new era opened in the life of Hannah More, although for the succeeding five years she still was a frequent visitor in the houses of those she esteemed, both literary lions and people of rank. It would seem, during this period, that Dr. Johnson was her warmest friend, whom she ever respected for his lofty moral nature, and before whom she bowed down in humble worship as an intellectual dictator. He called her his child. Sometimes he was severe on her, when she differed from him in opinion, or when caught praising books which he, as a moralist, abhorred,–like the novels of Fielding and Smollet; for the only novelist he could tolerate was Richardson. Once when she warmly expatiated in praise of the Jansenists, the overbearing autocrat exclaimed in a voice of thunder: “Madam, let me hear no more of this! Don’t quote your popish authorities to me; I want none of your popery!” But seeing that his friend was overwhelmed with the shock he gave her, his countenance instantly changed; his lip quivered, and his eyes filled with tears. He gently took her hand, and with the deepest emotion exclaimed: “Child, never mind what I have said,–follow true piety wherever you find it.” This anecdote is a key to the whole character of Johnson, interesting and uninteresting; for this rough, tyrannical dogmatist was also one of the tenderest of men, and had a soul as impressible as that of a woman.
The most intimate woman friend, it would seem, that Hannah ever had was Mrs. Garrick, both before and after the death of her husband; and the wife of Garrick was a Roman Catholic. Hannah More usually spent several months with this accomplished and warm-hearted woman at her house in Hampton, generally from March to July. This was often her home during the London season, after which she resided in Bristol with her sisters, who made a fortune by their boarding-school. After Hannah had entered into the literary field she supported herself by her writings, which until 1785 were chiefly poems and dramas,–now almost forgotten, but which were widely circulated and admired in her day, and by which she kept her position in fashionable and learned society. After the death of Garrick, as we have said, she seemed to have acquired a disgust of the gay and fashionable society which at one time was so fascinating. She found it frivolous, vain, and even dull. She craved sympathy and intellectual conversation and knowledge. She found neither at a fashionable party, only outside show, gay dresses, and unspeakable follies,–no conversation; for how could there be either the cultivation of friendship or conversation in a crowd, perchance, of empty people for the most part? “As to London,” says she, “I shall be glad to get out of it; everything is great and vast and late and magnificent and dull.” I very seldom go to these parties, and I always repent when I do. My distaste of these scenes of insipid magnificence I have not words to tell. Every faculty but the sight is starved, and that has a surfeit. I like conversation parties of the right sort, whether of four persons or forty; but it is impossible to talk when two or three hundred people are continually coming in and popping out, or nailing themselves to a card table. “Conceive,” said she, “of the insipidity of two or three hundred people,–all dressed in the extremity of fashion, painted as red as bacchanals, poisoning the air with perfumes, treading on each other’s dresses, not one in ten able to get a chair when fainting with weariness. I never now go to these things when I can possibly avoid it, and stay when there as few minutes as I can.” Thus she wrote as early as 1782. She went through the same experience as did Madame Récamier, learning to prefer a small and select circle, where conversation was the chief charm, especially when this circle was composed only of gifted men and women. In this incipient disgust of gay and worldly society–chiefly because it improved neither her mind nor her morals, because it was stupid and dull, as it generally is to people of real culture and high intelligence–she seems to have been gradually drawn to the learned prelates of the English Church,–like Dr. Porteus, Bishop of Chester, afterwards of London; the Bishop of St. Asaph; and Dr. Home, then Dean of Canterbury. She became very intimate with Wilberforce and Rev. John Newton, while she did not give up her friendship for Horace Walpole, Pepys, and other lights of the social world.
About this time (1785) she retired to Cowslip Green, a pretty cottage ten miles from Bristol, and spent her time in reading, writing, and gardening. The country, with its green pastures and still waters, called her back to those studies and duties which are most ennobling, and which produce the most lasting pleasure. In this humble retreat she had many visitors from among her illustrious friends. She became more and more religious, without entirely giving up society; corresponding with the eminent men and women she visited, especially Mrs. Montagu, Dr. Porteus, Mrs. Boscawen, Mr. Pepys, and Rev. John Newton. In the charming seclusion of Cowslip Green she wrote her treatise on the “Manners of the Great;” the first of that series in which she rebuked the fashions and follies of the day. It had an immense circulation, and was published anonymously. This very popular work was followed, in 1790, by a volume on an “Estimate of the Religion of the Fashionable World,” which produced a still deeper sensation among the great, and was much admired. The Bishop of London (Porteus) was full of its praises; so was John Newton, although he did not think that any book could wean the worldly from their pleasures.
Thus far most of the associations of Hannah More had been with the fashionable world, by which she was petted and flattered. Seeing clearly its faults, she had sought to reform it by her writings and by her conversation. But now she turned her attention to another class,–the poor and ignorant,–and labored for them. She instituted a number of schools for the poor in her immediate neighborhood, superintended them, raised money for them, and directed them, as Madame de Maintenon did the school of St. Cyr; only with this difference,–that while the Frenchwoman sought to develop the mind and character of a set of aristocratic girls to offset the practical infidelity that permeated the upper walks of life, Hannah More desired to make the children of the poor religious amid the savage profligacy which then marked the peasant class. The first school she established was at Cheddar, a wild and sunless hollow, amid yawning caverns, about ten miles from Cowslip Green,–the resort of pleasure parties for its picturesque cliffs and fissures. Around this weird spot was perhaps the most degraded peasantry to be found in England, without even spiritual instruction,–for the vicar was a non-resident, and his living was worth but £50 a year. In her efforts to establish a school in such a barbarous and pagan locality Hannah met with serious obstacles. The farmers and petty landholders were hostile to her scheme, maintaining that any education would spoil the poor, and make them discontented. Even the farmers themselves were an ignorant and brutal class, very depraved, and with intense prejudices. For a whole year she labored with them to disarm their hostilities and prejudices, and succeeded at last in collecting two hundred and fifty children in the schoolhouse which she had built. Their instruction was of course only elemental, but it was religious.
From Cheddar, Hannah More was led to examine into the condition of neighboring places. Thirteen contiguous parishes were without a resident curate, and nine of these were furnished with schools, with over five hundred scholars. Her theory was,–a suitable education for each, and a Christian education for all. While she was much encouraged by her ecclesiastical aristocratic friends, she still encountered great opposition from the farmers. She also excited the jealousy of the Dissenters for thus invading the territory of ignorance. All her movements were subjected to prelates and clergymen of the Church of England for their approval; for she put herself under their patronage. And yet the brutal ignorance of the peasantry was owing in part to the neglect of these very clergymen, who never visited these poor people under their charge. As an excuse for them, it may be said that at that time there were 4,809 parishes in England and Wales in which a clergyman could not reside, if he would, for lack of a parsonage. At that time, even in Puritan New England, every minister was supposed to live in a parsonage. To-day, not one parish in ten is provided with that desirable auxiliary.
Not only were the labors of Hannah More extended to the ignorant and degraded by the establishment of schools in her neighborhood, at an expense of about £1,000 a year, part of which she contributed herself, but she employed her pen in their behalf, writing, at the solicitation of the Bishop of London, a series of papers or tracts for the times, with special reference to the enlightenment of the lower classes on those subjects that were then agitating the country. The whole land was at this time inundated with pamphlets full of infidelity and discontent, fanned by the French Revolution, then passing through its worst stages of cruelty, atheism, and spoliation. Burke about the same time wrote his “Reflections,” which are immortal for their wisdom and profundity; but he wrote for the upper classes, not merely in England, but in America and on the continent of Europe. Hannah More wrote for the lower classes, and in a style of great clearness and simplicity. Her admirable dialogue, called “Village Politics,” by Will Chip, a country carpenter, exposed the folly and atrocity of the revolutionary doctrines then in vogue. Its circulation was immense. The Government purchased several thousand copies for distribution. It was translated into French and Italian. Similar in spirit was the tract in reply to the infidel speech of M. Dupont in the French Convention, in which he would divorce all religion from education. The circulation of this tract was also very great. These were followed, in 1795, by the “Cheap Repository,” a periodical designed for the poor, with religious tales, most of which have since been published by Tract Societies, among them the famous story of “The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain.” The “Cheap Repository” was continued for three years, and circulated in every village and hamlet of England and America. It almost equalled the popularity of the “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Two millions of these tracts were sold in the first year.
In 1799 Hannah More’s great work entitled “Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education” appeared, which passed through twenty editions in a few years. It was her third ethical publication in prose, and the most powerful of all her writings. Testimonies as to its value poured in upon her from every quarter. Nothing was more talked about at that time except, perhaps, Robert Hall’s “Sermons.” It was regarded as one of the most perfect works of its kind that any country or age had produced. It made as deep an impression on the English mind as the “Émile” of Rousseau did on the French half a century earlier, but was vastly higher in its moral tone. I know of no treatise on education so full and so sensible as this. It ought to be reprinted, for the benefit of this generation, for its author has forestalled all subsequent writers on this all-important subject. There is scarcely anything said by Rev. Morgan Dix, in his excellent Lenten Lectures, which was not said by Hannah More in the last century. Herbert Spencer may be more original, possibly more profound, but he is not so practical or clear or instructive as the great woman who preceded him more than half a century.
The fundamental principle which underlies all Hannah More’s theories of education is the necessity of Christian instruction, which Herbert Spencer says very little about, and apparently ignores. She would not divorce education from religion. Women, especially, owe their elevation entirely to Christianity. Hence its influence should be paramount, to exalt the soul as well as enlarge the mind. All sound education should prepare one for the duties of life, rather than for the enjoyment of its pleasures. What good can I do? should be the first inquiry. It is Christianity alone that teaches the ultimate laws of morals. Hannah More would subject every impulse and every pursuit and every study to these ultimate laws as a foundation for true and desirable knowledge. She would repress everything which looks like vanity. She would educate girls for their homes, and not for a crowd; for usefulness, and not for admiration; for that; period of life when external beauty is faded or lost. She thinks more highly of solid attainments than of accomplishments, and would incite to useful rather than unnecessary works. She would have a girl learn the languages, though she deems them of little value unless one can think in them. She would cultivate that “sensibility which has its seat in the heart, rather than the nerves.” Anything which detracts from modesty and delicacy, and makes a girl bold, forward, and pushing, she severely rebukes. She would check all extravagance in dancing, and would not waste much time on music unless one has a talent for it. She thinks that the excessive cultivation of the arts has contributed to the decline of States. She is severe on that style of dress which permits an indelicate exposure of the person, and on all forms of senseless extravagance. She despises children’s balls, and ridicules children’s rights and “Liliputian coquetry” with ribbons and feathers. She would educate women to fulfil the duties of daughters, wives, and mothers rather than to make them dancers, singers, players, painters, and actresses. She maintains that when a man of sense comes to marry, he wants a companion rather than a creature who can only dress and dance and play upon an instrument. Yet she does not discourage ornamental talent; she admits it is a good thing, but not the best thing that a woman has. She would not cut up time into an endless multiplicity of employments, She urges mothers to impress on their daughters’ minds a discriminating estimate of personal beauty, so that they may not have their heads turned by the adulation that men are so prone to lavish on those who are beautiful. While she deprecates harshness, she insists on a rigorous discipline. She would stimulate industry and the cultivation of moderate abilities, as more likely to win in the long race of life,–even as a barren soil and ungenial climate have generally produced the most thrifty people. She would banish frivolous books which give only superficial knowledge, and even those abridgments and compendiums which form too considerable a part of ordinary libraries, and recommends instead those works which exercise the reasoning faculties and stir up the powers of the mind. She expresses great contempt for English sentimentality, French philosophy, Italian poetry, and German mysticism, and is scarcely less severe on the novels of her day, which stimulate the imagination without adding to knowledge. She recommends history as the most improving of all studies, both as a revelation of the ways of Providence and as tending to the enlargement of the mind. She insists on accuracy in language and on avoiding exaggerations. She inculcates co-operation with man, and not rivalry or struggle for power. What she says about women’s rights–which, it seems, was a question that agitated even her age–is worth quoting, since it is a woman, and not a man, who speaks:–
“Is it not more wise to move contentedly in the plain path which Providence has obviously marked out for the sex, and in which custom has for the most part rationally confirmed them, rather than to stray awkwardly, unbecomingly, unsuccessfully, in a forbidden road; to be the lawful possessors of a lesser domestic territory, rather than the turbulent usurpers of a wider foreign empire; to be good originals, rather than bad imitators; to be the best thing of one’s kind, rather than an inferior thing even if it were of a higher kind; to be excellent women, rather than indifferent men? Let not woman view with envy the keen satirist hunting vice through all the doublings and windings of the heart; the sagacious politician leading senates and directing the fate of empires; the acute lawyer detecting the obliquities of fraud, or the skilful dramatist exposing the pretensions of folly; but let her remember that those who thus excel, to all that Nature bestows and books can teach must add besides that consummate knowledge of the world to which a delicate woman has no fair avenues, and which, even if she could attain, she would never be supposed to have come honestly by…. Women possess in a high degree that delicacy and quickness of perception, and that nice discernment between the beautiful and defective which comes under the denomination of taste. Both in composition and action they excel in details; but they do not so much generalize their ideas as men, nor do their minds seize a great subject with so large a grasp. They are acute observers, and accurate judges of life and manners, so far as their own sphere of observation extends; but they describe a smaller circle. And they have a certain tact which enables them to feel what is just more instantaneously than they can define it. They have an intuitive penetration into character bestowed upon them by Providence, like the sensitive and tender organs of some timid animals, as a kind of natural guard to warn of the approach of danger,–beings who are often called to act defensively.
“But whatever characteristic distinctions may exist between man and woman, there is one great and leading circumstance which raises woman and establishes her equality with man. Christianity has exalted woman to true and undisputed dignity. ‘In Christ Jesus there is neither rich nor poor, bond nor free, male nor female,’ So that if we deny to women the talents which lead them to excel as lawyers, they are preserved from the peril of having their principles warped by that too indiscriminate defence of right and wrong to which the professors of the law are exposed. If we question their title to eminence as mathematicians, they are exempted from the danger of looking for demonstration on subjects which, by their very nature, are incapable of affording it. If they are less conversant with the powers of Nature, the structure of the human frame, and the knowledge of the heavenly bodies than philosophers, physicians, and astronomers, they are delivered from the error into which many of each of these have sometimes fallen, from the fatal habit of resting on second causes, instead of referring all to the first. And let women take comfort that in their very exemption from privileges which they are sometimes disposed to envy, consist their security and their happiness.”
Thus spoke Hannah More at the age of fifty-four, with a wider experience of society and a profounder knowledge of her sex than any Englishwoman of the eighteenth century, and as distinguished for her intellectual gifts and cultivation as she was for her social graces and charms,–the pet and admiration of all who were great and good in her day, both among men and women. Bear these facts in mind, ye obscure, inexperienced, discontented, envious, ambitious seekers after notoriety or novelty!–ye rebellious and defiant opponents of the ordinances of God and the laws of Nature, if such women there are!–remember that the sentiments I have just quoted came from the pen of a woman, and not of a man; of a woman who was the best friend of her sex, and the most enlightened advocate of their education that lived in the last century; and a woman who, if she were living now, would undoubtedly be classed with those whom we call strong-minded, and perhaps masculine and ambitious. She recognizes the eternal distinction between the sphere of a man and the sphere of a woman, without admitting any inferiority of woman to man, except in physical strength and a sort of masculine power of generalization and grasp. And _she_ would educate woman for her own sphere, not for the sphere of man, whatever Christianity, or experience, or reason may define that sphere to be. She would make woman useful, interesting, lofty; she would give dignity to her soul; she would make her the friend and helpmate of man, not his rival; she would make her a Christian woman, since, with Christian virtues and graces and principles, she will not be led astray.
But I would not dwell on ground which may be controverted, and which to some may appear discourteous or discouraging to those noble women who are doomed by dire and hard misfortunes, by terrible necessities, to labor in some fields which have been assigned to man, and in which departments they have earned the admiration and respect of men themselves. This subject is only one in a hundred which Hannah More discussed with clearness, power, and wisdom. She is equally valuable and impressive in what she says of conversation,–a realm in which she had no superior. Hear what she says about this gift or art:
“Do we wish to see women take a lead in metaphysical disquisitions,–to plunge in the depths of theological polemics? Do we wish to enthrone them in the chairs of our universities, to deliver oracles, harangues, and dissertations? Do we desire to behold them, inflated with their original powers, laboring to strike out sparks of wit, with a restless anxiety to shine, and with a labored affectation to please, which never pleases? All this be far from them! But we _do_ wish to see the conversation of well-bred women rescued from vapid commonplaces, from uninteresting tattle, from trite communications, from frivolous earnestness, from false sensibility, from a warm interest about things of no moment, and an indifference to topics the most important; from a cold vanity, from the overflows of self-love, exhibiting itself under the smiling mask of an engaging flattery; and from all the factitious manners of artificial intercourse. We _do_ wish to see the time passed in polished and intelligent society considered as the pleasant portion of our existence, and not consigned to premeditated trifling and systematic unprofitableness. Women too little live or converse up to their understandings; and however we deprecate affectation and pedantry, let it be remembered that both in reading and conversing, the understanding gains more by stretching than stooping. The mind by applying itself to objects below its level, contracts and shrinks itself to the size of the object about which it is conversant. In the faculty of speaking well, ladies have such a happy promptitude of turning their slender advantages to account, that though never taught a rule of syntax, they hardly ever violate one, and often possess an elegant arrangement of style without having studied any of the laws of composition, And yet they are too ready to produce not only pedantic expressions, but crude notions and hackneyed remarks with all the vanity of conscious discovery, and all from reading mere abridgments and scanty sketches rather than exhausting subjects.”
Equally forcible are her remarks on society:–
“Perhaps,” said she, “the interests of friendship, elegant conversation, and true social pleasure, never received such a blow as when fashion issued the decree that _everybody must be acquainted with everybody_. The decline of instructive conversation has been effected in a great measure by the barbarous habit of assembly _en masse_, where one hears the same succession of unmeaning platitudes, mutual insincerities, and aimless inquiries. It would be trite, however, to dwell on the vapid talk which must almost of necessity mark those who assemble in crowds, and which we are taught to call society, which really cannot exist without the free interchange of thought and sentiment. Hence society only truly shines in small and select circles of people of high intelligence, who are drawn together by friendship as well as admiration.”
About two years after this work on education appeared,–education in the broadest sense, pertaining to woman at home and in society as well as at school,–Hannah More moved from her little thatched cottage, and built Barley Wood,–a large villa, where she could entertain the increasing circle of her friends, who were at this period only the learned, the pious, and the distinguished, especially bishops like Porteus and Horne, and philanthropists like Wilberforce. The beauty of this new residence amid woods and lawns attracted her sisters from Bath, who continued to live with her the rest of their lives, and to co-operate with her in deeds of benevolence. In this charming retreat she wrote perhaps the most famous of her books, “Coelebs in Search of a Wife,”–not much read, I fancy, in these times, but admired in its day before the great revolution in novel-writing was made by Sir Walter Scott. Yet this work is no more a novel than the “Dialogues of Plato.” Like “Rasselas,” it is a treatise,–a narrative essay on the choice of a wife, the expansion and continuation of her strictures on education and fashionable life. This work appeared in 1808, when the writer was sixty-three years of age. As on former occasions, she now not only assumed an anonymous name, but endeavored to hide herself under deeper incognita,–all, however, to no purpose, as everybody soon knew, from the style, who the author was. The first edition of this popular work–popular, I mean, in its day, for no work is popular long, though it may remain forever a classic on the shelves of libraries–was sold in two weeks. Twelve thousand were published the first year, the profits of which were £2,000. In this country the sale was larger, thirty thousand copies being sold during the life of the author. It was also translated into most of the modern languages of Europe. In 1811 appeared her work on “Christian Morals,” which had a sale of ten thousand; and in 1815 her essay on the “Character and Practical Writings of Saint Paul,” of which seven thousand copies were sold. These works were followed by her “Moral Sketches of Prevailing Opinions and Manners,” of which ten thousand were sold, and which realized a royalty of £3,000.
At the age of eighty, Hannah More wrote her “Spirit of Prayer,” of which nearly twenty thousand copies were printed; and with this work her literary career virtually closed. Her later works were written amid the pains of disease and many distractions, especially visits from distinguished and curious people, which took up her time and sadly interrupted her labors. At the age of eighty, though still receiving many visitors, she found herself nearly alone in the world. All her most intimate friends had died,–Mrs. Garrick at the age of ninety-eight; Sir William Pepys (the Laelius of the “Bas Bleu”); Dr. Porteus, Bishop of London; Dr. Fisher, Bishop of Salisbury; Bishop Horne, Bishop Barrington; Dr. Andrew, Dean of Canterbury; and Lady Cremon, besides her three sisters. The friends of her earlier days had long since passed away,–Garrick, Johnson, Reynolds, Horace Walpole. Of those who started in the race with her few were left. Still, visitors continued to throng her house to the last, impelled by admiration or curiosity; and she was obliged at length to limit her _levee_ to the hours between one and three.
Hannah More lived at Barley Wood nearly thirty years in dignified leisure, with an ample revenue and in considerable style, keeping her carriage and horses, with a large number of servants, dispensing a generous hospitality, and giving away in charities a considerable part of her income. She realized from her pen £30,000, and her sisters also had accumulated a fortune by their school in Bristol. Her property must have been considerable, since on her death she bequeathed in charities nearly £10,000, beside endowing a church. She spent about £900 a year in charities.
The last few years of her residence at Barley Wood were disturbed by the ingratitude and dishonesty of her servants. They deceived and robbed her, especially those to whom she had been most kind and generous. She was, at her advanced age, entirely dependent on these servants, so that she could not reform her establishment. There was the most shameless peculation in the kitchen, and money given in charity was appropriated by the servants, who all combined to cheat her. Out of her sight, they were disorderly: they gave nocturnal suppers to their friends, and drank up her wines. So she resolved to discharge the whole of them, and sell her beautiful place; and when she finally left her home, these servants openly insulted her. She removed to a house in Clifton, where she had equal comfort and fewer cares. In this house she spent the remaining four years of her useful life, dispensing charities, and entertaining the numerous friends who visited her, and the crowd who came to do her honor. She died in September, 1833, at the age of eighty-eight, retaining her intellectual faculties, like Madame de Maintenon, nearly to the last. She was buried with great honors. A beautiful monument was erected to her memory in the parish church where her mortal remains were laid,–the subscription to this monument being five times greater than the sum needed.
Hannah More was strongly attached to the Church of England, and upheld the authority of the established religious institutions of the country. She excited some hostility from the liberality of her views, for she would occasionally frequent the chapels of the Dissenters and partake of their communion. She was supposed by many to lean towards Methodism,–as everybody was accused of doing in the last century, in England, who led a strictly religious life. She was evangelical in her views, but was not Calvinistic; nor was she a believer in instantaneous conversions, any more than she was in baptismal regeneration. She contributed liberally to religious and philanthropic societies. The best book, she thought, that was ever published was Jeremy Taylor’s “Holy Living and Dying;” but her opinion was that John Howe was a greater man. She was a great admirer of Shakspeare, whom she placed on the highest pedestal of human genius. She also admired Sir Walter Scott’s poetry, especially “Marmion.” She admitted the genius of Byron, but had such detestation of his character that she would not read his poetry.
The best and greatest part of the life of Hannah More was devoted to the education and elevation of her sex. Her most valuable writings were educational and moral. Her popularity did not wane with advancing years. No literary woman ever had warmer friends; and these she retained. She never lost a friend except by death. She had to lament over no broken friendships, since her friendships were based on respect and affection. Her nature must have been very genial. For so strict a woman in her religious duties, she was very tolerant of human infirmities. She was faithful in reproof, but having once given her friendship she held on to it with great tenacity; she clung to the worldly Horace Walpole as she did to Dr. Johnson. The most intimate woman friend of her long life was a Catholic. Hannah was never married, which was not her fault, for she was jilted by the man she loved,–for whom, however, she is said to have retained a friendly feeling to the last. Though unmarried, she was addressed as Mrs., not Miss, More; and she seems to have insisted on this, which I think was a weakness, since the dignity of her character, her fame and high social position, needed no conventional crutch to make her appear more matronly. As a mere fashionable woman of society, her name would never have descended to our times; as a moralist she is immortal, so far as any writer can be. As an author, I do not regard her as a great original genius; but her successful and honorable career shows how much may be done by industry and perseverance. Her memory is kept especially fresh from the interest she took in the education of her sex, and from her wise and sage counsels, based on religion and a wide experience. No woman ever had better opportunities for the study of her sex, or more nobly improved them. She was the most enlightened advocate of a high education for women that her age and even her century produced.
Now, what is meant by a high education for women? for in our times the opinions of people in regard to this matter are far from being harmonious. Indeed, on no subject is there more disagreement; there is no subject which provokes more bitter and hostile comments; there is no subject on which both men and women wrangle with more acerbity, even when they are virtually agreed,–for the instincts of good women are really in accord with the profoundest experience and reason of men.
In the few remarks to which I am now limited I shall not discuss the irritating and disputed question of co-education of the sexes, which can only be settled by experience. On this subject we have not yet sufficient facts for a broad induction. On the one hand, it would seem that so long as young men and women mingle freely together in amusements, at parties and balls, at the theatre and opera, in the lecture-room, in churches, and most public meetings, it is not probable that any practical evils can result from educational competition of the two sexes in the same class-rooms, especially when we consider that many eminent educators have given their testimony in its favor, so far as it has fallen under their observation and experience. But, on the other hand, the co-education of the sexes may imply that both girls and boys, by similarity of studies, are to be educated for the same sphere. Boys study the higher mathematics not merely for mental discipline, but in order to be engineers, astronomers, surveyors, and the like; so, too, they study chemistry, in its higher branches, to be chemists and physicians and miners. If girls wish to do this rough work, let them know that they seek to do men’s work. If they are to do women’s work, it would seem that they should give more attention to music, the modern languages, and ornamental branches than boys do, since few men pursue these things as a business.
The question is, Is it wise for boys and girls to pursue the same studies in the more difficult branches of knowledge? I would withhold no study from a woman on the ground of assumed intellectual inferiority. I believe that a woman can grasp any subject as well as a man can, so far and so long as her physical strength will permit her to make exhaustive researches. There are some studies which task the physical strength of men to its utmost tension. If any woman has equal physical power with men to master certain subjects, let her pursue them; for success, even with men, depends upon physical endurance as well as brain-power. And thus the question is one of physical strength and endurance; and women must settle for themselves whether they can run races with men in studies in which only the physically strong can hope to succeed.
Then, again, I would educate women with reference to the sphere in which they must forever move,–a sphere settled by the eternal laws of Nature and duty, against which it is folly to rebel. Does any one doubt or deny that the sphere of women _is_ different from the sphere of men? Can it be questioned that a class of studies pursued by women who are confined for a considerable period of life to domestic duties,–like the care of children, and the details of household economy, and attendance on the sick, and ornamental art labors,–should not be different from those pursued by men who undertake the learned professions, and the government of the people, and the accumulation of wealth in the hard drudgeries of banks and counting-houses and stores and commercial travelling? There is no way to get round this question except by maintaining that men should not be exempted from the cares and duties which for all recorded ages have been assigned to women; and that women should enter upon the equally settled sphere of man, and become lawyers, politicians, clergymen, members of Congress and of State legislatures, sailors, merchants, commercial travellers, bankers, railway conductors, and steamship captains. I once knew the discontented wife of an eminent painter, with a brilliant intellect, who insisted that her husband should leave his studio and spend five hours a day in the drudgeries of the nursery and kitchen to relieve her, and that she should spend the five hours in her studio as an amateur,–that they thus might be on an equality! The husband died in a mad-house, after dying for a year with a broken heart and a crushed ambition. He was obliged to submit to his wife’s demand, or fight from morning to night and from night to morning; and as he was a man of peace, he quietly yielded up his prerogative. Do you admire the one who prevailed over him? She belonged to that class who are called strong-minded; but she was perverted, as some noble minds are, by atheistic and spiritualistic views, and thought to raise women by lifting them out of the sphere which God has appointed.
If, then, there be distinct spheres, divinely appointed, for women and for men, and an education should be given to fit them for rising in their respective spheres, the question arises, What studies shall woman pursue in order to develop her mind and resources, and fit her for happiness and usefulness? This question is only to be answered by those who have devoted their lives to the education of young ladies. I would go into no details; I would only lay down the general proposition that a woman should be educated to be interesting both to her own sex and to men; to be useful in her home; to exercise the best influence on her female and male companions; to have her affections as well as intellect developed; to have her soul elevated so as to be kindled by lofty sentiments, and to feel that there is something higher than the adornment of the person, or the attracting of attention in those noisy crowds which are called society. She should be taught to become the friend and helpmate of man,–never his rival She is to be invested with those graces which call out the worship of man, which cause her to shine with the radiance of the soul, and with those virtues which men rarely reach,–a superior loftiness of character, a greater purity of mind, a heavenlike patience and magnanimity. She is not an angel, but a woman; yet she should shine with angelic qualities and aspire to angelic virtues, and prove herself, morally and spiritually, to be so superior to man, that he will render to her an instinctive deference; not a mock and ironical deference, because she is supposed to be inferior and weak, but a real deference, a genuine respect on which all permanent friendship rests,–and even love itself, which every woman, as well as every man, craves from the bottom of the soul, and without which life has no object, no charm, and no interest.
Is woman necessarily made a drudge by assuming those domestic duties which add so much to the unity and happiness of a family, and which a man cannot so well discharge as he can the more arduous labors of supporting a family? Are her labors in directing servants or educating her children more irksome than the labors of a man, in heat and cold, often among selfish and disagreeable companions? Is woman, in restricting herself to her sphere, thereby debarred from the pleasures of literature and art? As a rule, is she not already better educated than her husband? However domestic she may be, cannot she still paint and sing, and read and talk on the grandest subjects? Is she not really more privileged than her husband or brother, with more time and less harassing cares and anxieties? Would she really exchange her graceful labors for the rough and turbulent work of men?
But here I am stopped with the inquiry, What will you do with those women who are unfortunate, who have no bright homes to adorn, no means of support, no children to instruct, no husbands to rule: women cast out of the sphere where they would like to live, and driven to hard and uncongenial labors, forced to run races with men, or starve? To such my remarks do not apply; they are exceptions, and not the rule. To them I would say, Do cheerfully what Providence seems to point out for _you_; do the best you can, even in the sphere into which you are forced. If you are at any time thrown upon your own resources, and compelled to adopt callings which task your physical strength, accept such lot with resignation, but without any surrender of your essentially feminine and womanly qualities; do not try to be like men, for men are lower than you in their ordinary tastes and occupations. And I would urge all women, rich and poor, to pursue some one art,–like music, or painting, or decoration,–not only for amusement, but with the purpose to carry it so far that in case of misfortune they can fall back upon it and get a living; for proficiency in these arts belongs as much to the sphere of women as of men, since it refines and cultivates them.
But again some may say,–not those who are unfortunate, and seemingly driven from the glories and beatitudes of woman’s sphere, but those who are peculiarly intellectual and aspiring, and in some respects very interesting,–Why should not we embark in some of those callings which heretofore have been assigned to or usurped by man, and become physicians, and professors in colleges, and lawyers, and merchants, not because we are driven to get a living, but because we prefer them; and hence, in order to fit ourselves for these departments, why should we not pursue the highest studies which task the intellect of man? To such I would reply, Do so, if you please; there is no valid reason why you should not try. Nor will you fail unless your frailer bodies fail, as fail they will, in a long race,–for do what you will to strengthen and develop your physical forces for a million of years, you will still be women, and physically weaker than men; that is, your nervous system cannot stand the strain of that long-continued and intense application which all professional men are compelled to exert in order to gain success. But if you have in any individual case the physical strength of a man, do what you please, so long as you preserve the delicacy and purity of womanhood,–practise medicine or law, keep school, translate books, keep boarders, go behind a counter; yea, keep a shop, set types, keep accounts, give music and French lessons, sing in concerts and churches,–do whatever you can do as well as men. You have that right; nobody will molest you or slander you. If you must, or if you choose to, labor so, God help you!
So, then, the whole question of woman’s education is decided by physical limitations, concerning which there is no dispute, and against which it is vain to rebel; and we return to the more agreeable task of pointing out the supreme necessity of developing in woman those qualities which will make her a guide and a radiance and a benediction in that sphere to which Nature and Providence and immemorial custom would appear to have assigned her. Let her become great as a woman, not as a man. Let her maintain her rights; but in doing so, let her not forget her duties. The Bible says nothing at all about the former, and very much about the latter. Let her remember that she is the complement of a man, and hence that what is most feminine about her is most interesting to man and useful to the world. God made man and woman of one flesh, yet unlike. And who can point out any fundamental inferiority or superiority between them? The only superiority lies in the superior way in which each discharges peculiar trusts and responsibilities. It is in this light alone that we see some husbands superior to their wives, and some wives superior to their husbands. No sensible person would say that a girl is superior to her brother because she has a greater aptness for mathematics than he, but because she excels in the queen-like attributes and virtues and duties peculiar to her own sex and belonging to her own sphere,–that sphere so beautiful, that when she abdicates it, it is like being expelled from Paradise; for, once lost, it can never be regained. That education is best even for a great woman,–great in intellect as in soul,–which best develops the lofty ideal of womanhood; which best makes her a real woman, and not a poor imitation of man, and gives to her the dignity and grace of a queen over her household, and brings out that moral beauty by which she reigns over her husband’s heart, and inspires the reverence which children ought to feel. Do we derogate from the greatness of women when we seek to kindle the brightness of that moral beauty which outshines all the triumphs of mere intellectual forces? Should women murmur because they cannot be superior in everything, when it is conceded that they are superior in the best thing? Nor let her clutch what she can neither retain nor enjoy. In the primeval Paradise there was one tree the fruit of which our mother Eve was forbidden to touch or to eat. There is a tree which grows in our times, whose fruit, when eaten by some, produces unrest, discontent, rebellion against God, unsatisfied desires, a revelation of unrealized miseries, the mere contemplation of which is enough to drive to madness and moral death. Yet of all the other trees of life’s garden may woman eat,–those trees that grow in the boundless field which modern knowledge and enterprise have revealed to woman, and which, if she confine herself thereto, will make her a blessing and a glory forever to fallen and afflicted humanity.
Life of Hannah More, by H.C. Knight; Memoirs, by W. Roberts; Literary Ladies of England, by H.K. Elwood; Literary Women, by J. Williams; Writings of Hannah More; Letters to Zachary Macaulay; Edinburgh Review, vol. xiv.; Christian Observer, vol. xxxv.; Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. xxv.; American Quarterly, vol. lii.; Fraser’s Magazine, vol. x.
Lectures by John Lord
I have a graduate degree in history and I love history in all it’s forms–especially women’s history. A graduate degree in women’s studies was not an option at the university where I received my MA in History so I had to make do with a more generalized degree. However, in every class I made up for the lack by researching the condition of women in each age that I studied. I have always been fascinated by women’s history, so I thought I would start sharing some of the lost treasures that I uncover. I believe that most people have curious minds and like glimpses of how the world was, and how things were perceived in the past. I firmly believe in the idea that we must remember history in order to learn from it, grow and hopefully cut down on the number of stupid mistakes that random impulse and intellectual curiosity and greed and a thousand other human motivators lead us to make.
 Smiles and Good Fortune,
Teresa Thomas Bohannon
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent.
– W. Somerset Maugham (1874 - 1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915