網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

cannot always dispel. Of this fact all women ought to be fully aware, and as they value their own happiness and that of society, they ought to study to moderate their feelings, and take those general and philosophical views of things, which forbid us to lay any thing too much to heart in this short and uncertain life. In judging them too, it must be remembered that this fault grows upon the same branch, and arises from the same peculiarity of temperament whence spring her brightest virtues, her capacity for strong, devoted, and unalterable attachment, and another characteristic no less essential to her happiness, the power of overlooking in those whom she loves, the most glaring faults and imperfections of character.

It is said that woman is irrationally fond of ornament, and is led by that passion into hurtful extravagance. This censure, however just it may be, must be made with discrimination. The propensity to ornament in woman is an instinct, it is universal and unvarying. It is coeval with our race. The oldest book we have, often mentions it, and generally without disapprobation. The catacombs of Egypt are filled with the relics of

ancient female ornaments. The streets of Thebes on a fine day exhibited doubtless as brilliant a spectacle as is now witnessed in Paris, London or New York. If it be an instinct, and I believe it is, it was made to be indulged, and answers some good purpose. It springs from the same principle which produces order, neatness and cleanliness in the house, which is woman's peculiar province. It is unphilosophical and unwise therefore, to banish ornament. This is not the way in which the Almighty himself has proceeded. He has not constructed this world upon the bare principle of utility. He has added beauty, or rather ornament to his works. Men do but imitate him then, in adding beauty to usefulness, when they consult the taste, the sense of beauty, which the Deity has implanted within them.

The Deity with his superior power and wisdom, does not ornament his works as an after thought, but he blends beauty with utility in the original creation. No one will deny the usefulness of woman herself, and God has not poured beauty more lavishly on any of his works. There is, moreover, provision made for the gratification of this

taste for the beautiful and ornamental. The earth furnishes more than a subsistence for those who cultivate it. That surplus population, which may be supported from the soil, find a being and a subsistence in ministering to the taste of the rest. Hence the fine arts, Music, Statuary and Painting. Hence the thousand innocent comforts and luxuries with which life is embellished, and which, when kept within due bounds, promote elevation of sentiment and refinement of manners. Hence Literature, Philosophy, Poetry and Eloquence. These certainly minister boundlessly to the happiness of mankind. Among the beneficial influences of the Christian Sabbath may undoubtedly be reckoned the fact, that it redeems one day in seven from the negligence and soil of labor. The cleanliness and decency of the outward person promote the moral elevation of the soul within. This taste for ornament undoubtedly has its purpose as connected with the moral discipline of mankind. But, as in all other things, the difficulty is to say where it shall stop. Too much money may be expended in this way. The ornaments of woman are of such a nature that with infinite

ease they may be carried to the most ruinous extravagance. The necessaries of life have a value which is certain, and bears a near proportion to the cost of production. Not so with luxuries, ornaments especially. Their price is altogether arbitrary, generally two or three times their real cost. When, therefore, the love of finery gets possession of a people it becomes an enormous evil, politically speaking. It is sufficient to upset the balance of trade, and drain the precious metals from a country.

If the American woman chooses to purchase with a whole day's labor of her husband what costs the labor of a Parisian milliner or glove maker, or a silk weaver of Lyons only an hour, and the difference between the day's labor of the American farmer and the French operative is to be settled by the payment of coin, is it not evident that the price she pays for the gratification of her taste is ruin to her country? This is the explanation of the accounts we see almost weekly of the shipment of large amounts of specie to Europe. Parisian skill and taste, operating upon this love of finery, have made

the world their tributary. The current of money sets in upon them from all quarters of the globe. But what is to become of a nation like ours which imports twenty three millions' worth of silks in one year? What will become of a nation, one tenth of whose exports goes to pay for jewelry and trinkets?

The over indulgence in a taste for finery does not stop at its economical effects. Its social and moral consequences are no less pernicious. It is one great cause and instrument of the follies and sins of what is called fashionable life, which is woman's great snare. It creates distinctions in society, which are as absurd as they are invidious and unjust. It brings about a principle of association, which is fatal to the dignity of human nature, that those shall come together for mutual entertainment, not whose minds are most accomplished, or whose manners are most refined, but who are able to change their dresses the oftenest during the winter. This operates upon all but the most opulent as the most grinding oppression. Oh! how many hearts there are in the brilliant saloon, where all should be joyous, sad and depressed

« 上一頁繼續 »