men whom they would feel and acknowledge their superiors on many points of creative power. Let this intellect, then, be developed,
if there were no other reason
than that wife should sympathize more with husband, sister with brother.
2. It is truly said by Maurice (in the Introductory lecture,
Lectures to Ladies
) that we are all, men and women alike, born under the
law of instructing others, under penalty of ourselves forgetting what we know. He adds that women possess the capability of
instructing more than men, bringing
forward instances which will satisfy many. Whether this latter be true or not, these two things we may certainly lay down,
that women are under the obligation
of imparting their knowledge, and that, in this, as in all cases, where a duty is imposed, the faculty for discharging it
is also given; they have by nature a
capacity for teaching. To nearly all the task of professedly teaching must fall: to a few,
, as governesses, to the majority as
mothers and elder sisters. Let all do this first, obvious duty well, with all their strength and all their skill; in every
case let the nearest duties,
especially those of home, be first fulfilled; let us establish this unmistakeably; now we may add that those who, after the
performance of their professional
and domestic duties, still have leisure and opportunity, may extend their sphere beyond their pupils, their children and younger
brothers and sisters. To dwell
upon the importance of this duty is surely unnecessary. I hope, too, that the cowardly and selfish prejudice against educating
the poor is by now fast dying
out. What urgent necessity there is, may be shown by a single fact mentioned by Mrs. Jameson, that one half of the women who
are married annually in England
cannot sign their names in the parish register. This indicates an amount of ignorance for which few of us, I think, were prepared.—But
the benefit is
expected to be limited to the mere acquisition of information: much good is looked for from the intercourse of ladies with
women of lower rank; while,
if ladies engage personally in boys’ schools, they cannot fail to exercise a beneficial influence all their own, such as gentlemen,
on the one hand,
however refined, and, on the other, the boys’ own mothers and sisters, perhaps almost as ignorant as the boys themselves,
do not, and cannot,
possess.—Let me recommend this Introductory Lecture to the thoughtful examination of such of my female readers as have health
and unoccupied time.
Moral duties.—A vast subject, in which I cannot pretend to do more than point out a few duties which I think are most
pressingly urged upon women by the wants of the time, some of which are already receiving attention, but all of which will
bear further consideration and
recommendation. I shall entirely omit those which they owe to their families, that I may have the more space for some of their
obligations to society at large,
of which the family is a miniature.
No one, of either sex, and of whatever age, can be unaware that an enormous mass of ignorance, crime and misery, in their
most revolting shapes, exists in
this civilized country,—not here and there, in London and Liverpool, or in unheard-of villages, but everywhere, throughout
the length and breadth of
the land; in our metropolis and huge manufacturing and sea-port towns, in our small country towns, in the mining Counties,
in our Arcadia, the agricultural
districts,—these last, it would seem, according to Kingsley, the worst of all. No one who looks into a Newspaper or a Magazine,
or dips ever so
lightly into any of the many books which treat of social questions, can be ignorant of this. It is almost as easily learnt,
too, that a large proportion of this
sin and misery is preventible,—
preventible in this very present time, and that, not only by State measures, or even by the combined labours of
“Societies,” but also by private efforts, if only made energetically, and directed by knowledge and discretion. But nothing
mind less than mere general statements, nothing blunts it more than repetition of those generalities. The slightest knowledge
of particulars, howsoever gained,
would do more towards inducing a practical attempt at a remedy than a lifetime’s reading or hearing of such, however interesting
and startling. This
knowledge is very easily gained, nothing more easily; the experience of a morning’s visits would give it (the best way, as
bringing the evil under
personal observation); it may be obtained from a daily newspaper, from dozens of books. The books under review, especially
the Lectures, will furnish quite a
sufficient amount, and will open the eyes of ladies both to the particular forms of evil existing round them, and to the means
for alleviating it. I will
enumerate some of the departments, in which the authors of these lectures call upon
women to combine with men
for the extinction or mitigation
of the vices and miseries which degrade and oppress their fellow men and fellow women. Nothing more is needed than to transcribe
the titles of the majority of
- 1. The College and the Hospital.
- 2. The Country Parish.
- 3. On Over-work, Distress and Anxiety, as causes of mental and bodily disease amongst the poor, &c.
- 4. On Dispensaries and allied institutions.
- 5. District Visiting.
- 6. The Influence of Occupation on Health.
- 7. On Law as it affects the poor.
- 10. On Sanitary Law.
- 11. Workhouse Visiting.
What a field is here opened for ladies whose family duties do not engross them; and how many there are
who not only have leisure from household
occupations, but who positively have nothing, or scarcely anything to do, except to amuse themselves,—hardest task of all,
possible to no human
being. Everybody knows that among you, ladies of the higher and middle classes, there are hundreds “sickening of a vague disease,”
for interesting and useful employment, for something far different from pianoforte playing and novel-reading and visiting;
for something which may unfold the
mind and satisfy those affections which cannot be (for they were never meant to be) bestowed all upon your families and personal
friends. Here is work for you
to do, ready to your hand, noble work in its end, if difficult and distasteful in its process. I appeal to you now on the
selfish grounds of the development of
your own mind, and the satisfying of the cravings of your own heart; but I can take a far higher stand than that; thousands
are dying round you, dying in and of
hunger, nakedness, ignorance, vice, misery; you can do something, it may be much, to save them; to do it is your duty, which
remains the same, whether you heed
it or not. And there are darker scenes even than those I have pointed to; there are Reformatories, there are Penitentiaries;
there is evil which I will not name
here. Surely here is work for you, brought home to your very door; only begin, and from the smallest beginnings you know not
what may arise.
But let me guard against misconception. Do I call upon
all ladies to undertake these offices? First let me say that I think there are
very few who could not do something, even though it were very little; and, having premised this, I freely answer that but
a very small proportion can
devote themselves to these charitable works even for a short period; few, especially married ladies, can even give much of their
time to them.
Again, those who
ground. And there lies Florence reposing in the noonday sun! In the outlook on the right we see the broad blue Arno winding,
(for two turreted bridges span its
waters at different angles,) and a boat is sailing there, its white sail filling and its blue pendant streaming gaily to the
breeze; and in the foreground on
the hither bank is a windmill with its own bell, and mossy wall, and overhanging tree; whilst on the other side, though the
pillars of the staircase, we see an
ample square, a public well in the centre of it, a house with porch and turrets, and just a single figure. Beyond are streets
with other towers and houses,
gathered in fellowship, fading away in the distance, the light still on them: and below the stair is a peep of wall and garden
This landscape, which in such little compass (for it is quite subordinate to the rest of the picture) speaks to us of light
and space and distance, and
above all of human fellowship, is introduced, I think, with exquisite judgment. It is welcome to us as the sweet natural close
of one of Tennyson’s
impassioned stories, “Love and Duty”, for instance, or “Edwin Morris”. Not only does it here serve to mark the when and where of the story, giving the entire character of the scene on which Dante
and Beatrice looked on
every day of the happy past, not only does the broad gladsome light of day make contrast with the gloom of the presence-chamber
of Death, and so endue it with
deeper solmenity and impressiveness, just as the light of life in the ministrant women makes only more touching the pale motionless
face of her who is dead; not
only this, but a truth is here, very precious to the mourner. For does not this landscape unite that narrow sorrow-haunted
cell to the great city of Florence,
to that greater city, which is called the World?—seeming to say to Dante’s
poor chastened heart, “In thy sorrow
think not thou art alone, think not so; but lift up thine eyes and behold, There is a whole world beside thee; and the sun
is shining there, and men dwell
there, and are happy there, and busy there, even as our Universal Father has in His mercy provided. The mill-sail goes round,
the serving maidens trip to
the well morning and evening, and the boatman plies his sail; and there are garden and bower, lovely sights and sounds, and
all is well. Let not thy heart,
O Son of Man, cling to selfish repining, awake to holy love and gratitude and joy!” And Dante shall see this, shall hear and feel
this—not now, but presently.
Perhaps these words recall to the reader another poem which is so familiar to us all.
- “Break, break, break,
- On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
- And I would that my tongue could utter
- The thoughts that arise in me.
- Oh well for the fisherman’s boy,
- That he shouts with his sister at play!
- Oh well for the sailor lad,
- That he sings in his boat on the bay!
- And the stately ships go on
10To their haven under the hill;
- But oh for the touch of a vanish’d hand,
- And the sound of a voice that is still!
- Break, break, break,
- At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
- But the tender grace of a day that is dead
- Will never come back to me.”
I quote it to show how kindred are the hearts of poets* and of all men, and to observe how the painter’s brush
and the poet’s pen have worked in the self-same spirit; the scene is in both cases just indicated by a few touching features.
I now bid farewell to the meaning of this picture, much of it yet unfathomed, its fulness altogether impossible to words,
and turn to the workmanship. It
is as a work of colour that this picture, or rather drawing, for it is executed in water colours only, is
Transcribed Footnote (page 483):
*There is a beautiful poem of R.C. Trench’s to the like effect, called “A Walk in a churchyard.”
most remarkable. To perception of colour the modern eye, even of the painter’s, is comparatively dead
(though it will not be so much longer!) so that chromatic splendour is either altogether denied, or else the painter rests
content with just defining a thing as
red or blue or what not. But in this drawing, as in other works by the same artist, is manifested a fervent love for rich
and brilliant colour, and a rare
mastery in handling it. The plumage of tropical birds is the only thing I can compare to it for general effect. Green and
purple, scarlet, crimson, blue, and
many another glory of the paintbox, in themselves as soon as they touch the pallet the delight of the eye, are here freely
bestowed upon us, and at once
surprise us with joy, like a rainbow in the sky; and no words can express the tenderness, the subtlety of their beauty truly
blent; not in the drapery only and in
the countenances, where the colour is principal and brilliant, but even in things of the most subordinate interest, the gloom
of the archway, the stone stair,
the timbers of the floor: think not, simple reader, that these are mere brown things!—the shadows in the white sheet which
is raised over Beatrice
are wrought, magically, it seems no less, in faint green and blue-gray inter-blending; I name these, yet despair of naming
them rightly; they are almost as
nameless as the colours which live in the petals of the pale garden anemones, of which they remind me. All too, when looked
closely into, is so mysterious,
attained one cannot tell how, but by the magic instinct of genius guiding the hand through strangest confusions to the beautiful
purpose of the mind; but one
secret of the work seems to lie in a wondrous feeling for the play of shadow, its spirit-like wanderings and ethereal colours,
for a few paces back these many
hues melt into the proper unity which belongs to each object, and articulate the lights and shadows with impressive emphasis.
Is not this the truth of
mystery, life within life, and a clear voice through all? Another attribute of this colour, if indeed it be not vitally
included in the first, is the bloom of its surface; not radiant however and dazzling, as in sunshine, but softly glowing with
secret life in every
particle, as the sustained undertone of a sweet and quiet melody. Perhaps the reader, who two months ago saw a cluster of
wild hyacinths in a shady nook of
wood, may know how true, how lovely this is!
There must also be a harmony of colour in the whole, as in every great work; but this is here so complex that I do not pretend
to comprehend it; this only
I know, that I would change nothing.
One word may well be given to the frame, as it is of the Artist’s own designing. Beside a double beaded moulding of gilt,
is a broad band of
silver, on which, above the picture, are inscribed the words “Vita Nuova”, followed by the stanza of the poem, which, distributed prose-wise, is completed below; on the right border are the words
“Quomodo sedet sola civitas”, the exclamation which broke from Dante when he heard of Beatrice’s death, on the left “Veni sponsa de Libano,” the angel-song of their meeting in Paradise; and beneath all is the date of her true death, “12 Giogno 1290.”
And now it may well be asked, “Who has done this? Who is it who has thus made new again and beautiful this old touching story,
which so endears
to us the memory of the great Voice of Italy?”—One Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
Let the reader now turn his thoughts to a far different scene. Away from the thirteenth century to the nineteenth; from ancient
dream to modern fact; from
sunny Florence to the wintry English Channel; from that quiet chamber to the noisy deck of an Emigrant-ship. And another Poet
shall now reveal his thoughts to
us; not Rossetti any longer, but Madox