Page images
PDF
EPUB

MENTAL SLAVERY. It is not as of yore. Eve puts not forth her hand to gather the fair fruit of knowledge. The wily serpent now hath better learned his lesson; and, to secure his reign in the garden, beguileth her not to eat. Promises, entreaties, threats, tales of wonder, and, alas! tales of horror, are all poured in her tender ears. Above, her agitated fancy hears the voice of a god in thunders; below, she sees the yawning pit, and before, behind, around, a thousand phantoms, conjured from the prolific brain of insatiate priestcraft, confound, alarm, and overwhelm her reason!

Oh! were that worst evil withdrawn which now weighs upon our race, how rapid were its progress in knowledge! Oh! were men-and, yet more, women, absolved from fear, how easily, and speedily, and gloriously would they hold on their course in improvement! The difficulty is not to convince, it is to win attention. Could truth only be heard, the conversion of the ignorant were easy. And well do the hired supporters of error understand this fact. Well do they know, that if the daughters of the present, and mothers of the future generation, were to drink of the living waters of knowledge, their reign would be ended—“their occupation gone.". So well do they know it, that, far from obeying to the letter the command of their spiritual leader, “Be ye fishers of men,” we find them every where fishers of women. Their own sex, old and young, they see with indifference swim by their nets; but closely and warily are their meshes laid, to entangle the female of every age.

Fathers and husbands! Do ye not also understand this fact? Do ye not see how, in the mental bondage of your wives and fair companions, ye yourselves are bound? Will ye fondly sport yourselves in your imagined liberty, and say, “It matters not if our women be mental slaves” ? pleasure yourselves in the varied paths of knowledge, and imagine that women, hood-winked and unawakened, will make the better servants and the easier playthings? They are greatly in error who so strike the account; as many a bankrupt merchant and sinking mechanic, not to say drowning capitalist, could bear witness. But setting aside dollars and cents, which men, in their present uncomfortable state of existence, are but too prone exclusively to regard, how many nobler interests of the mind and the heart cry "treason !" to this false calculation?

Will ye

However novel it may appear, I shall venture the assertion, that, until women assume the place in society which good sense and good feeling alike assign to them, human improvement must advance but feebly. It is in vain that we would circumscribe the power of one half of our race, and that half by far the most important and influential. If they exert it not for good, they will for evil, if they advance not knowledge they will perpetuate ignorance. Let women stand where they may in the scale of improvement, their position decides that of the race. Are they cultivated ?—so is society polished and enlightened. Are they ignorant ?--so is it gross and insipid. Are they wise? so is the human condition prosperous. Are they foolish ?-so is it unstable and unpromising. Are they free?—so is the human character elevated. Are they enslaved ?--so is the whole race degraded. Oh! that we could learn the advantage of just practice and consistent principles ! that we could understand, that every departure from principle, how speciously soever it may appear to administer to our selfish interests, invariably saps their very foundation! that we could learn that what is ruinous to some is injurious to all! and that whenever we establish our own pretensions upon the sacrificed rights of others, we do in fact impeach our own liberties, and lower ourselves in the scale of being !-- Frances Wright.

MAL-APPROPRIATION OF DUTIES. It is actually supposed that what are called the hardy virtues are more appropriate to men, and the gentler to women. As all virtues nourish each other, and can not otherwise be nourished, the consequence of the admitted fallacy is that men are, after all, not nearly so brave as they ought to be; nor women so gentle. But what is the manly character till it be gentle? The very word magnanimity cannot be thought of in relation to it till it becomes mild— Christ-like. Again, what can woman be, or do, without bravery? Has she not to struggle with the toils and difficulties which follow upon the mere possession of a mind? Must she not face physical and moral pain-physical and moral danger? Is there a day of her life in which there are not conflicts wherein no one can help her-perilous work to be done, in which she can have neither sympathy nor aid? Let her lean upon man as much as she will, how much is it that he can do for her? from how much can he protect her? From a few physical perils, and from a very few social evils. This is all. Over the moral world he has no control, except on his own account; and it is the moral life of human beings which is all in all. He can neither secure any woman from pain and grief, nor rescue her from the strife of emotions, nor prevent the film of life from cracking under her feet with every step she treads, nor hide from her the abyss which beneath, nor save her from sinking into it at last alone. While it is so, while woman is human, men should beware how they deprive her of any of the strength which is all needed for the strife and burden of humanity. Let them beware how they put her off her watch and defence, by promises which they cannot fulfil;—promises of a guardianship which can arise only from within; of support which can be derived only from the freest moral action,—from the self-reliance which can be generated by no other means.-Harriet Martineau.

WOMAN'S HONOUR. I cannot avoid feeling the most lively compassion for those unfortunate females who are broken off from society, and by one error torn from all those affections and relationships that improve the heart and mind. It does not frequently even deserve the name of error; for many innocent girls become the dupes of a sincere, affectionate heart, and still more are, as it may emphatically be termed, ruined before they know the difference between virtue and vice:-and thus prepared by their education for infamy, they become infamous. Asylums and Magdalens are not the proper remedies for these abuses. It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world!

A woman who has lost her honour, imagines that she cannot fall lower, and as for recovering her former station, it is impossible; no exertion can wash this stain away.

Losing thus every spur, and having no other means of support, prostitution becomes her only' refuge, and the character is quickly depraved by circumstances over which the poor wretch has little power, unless she possesses an uncommon portion of sense and loftiness of spirit

. Necessity never makes prostitution the business of men's lives; though numberless are the women who are thus rendered systematically vicious. This, however, arises, in a great degree, from the state of idleness in which women are educated, who are always taught to look up to man for a maintenance, and to consider their persons as the proper return for his exertions to support them. Meretricious airs, and the whole science of wantonness, have then a more powerful stimulus than either appetite or vanity; and this remark gives force to the prevailing opinion, that with chastity* all' is lost that is respect

Honour celibacy,

able in woman. Her character depends on the observance of one virtue; though the only passion fostered in her heart—is love. Nay, the honour of a woman is not made even to depend on her will.

When Richardson makes Clarissa tell Lovelace that he had robbed her of her honour, he must have had strange notions of honour and virtue. For, miserable beyond all names of misery is the condition of a being, who could be degraded without its own consent! This excess of strictness I have heard vindicated as a salutary error. I shall answer in the words of Leibnitz* Errors are often useful; but it is commonly to remedy other errors.?

Mary Wollstonecraft.

THE SEXUAL LAW.

Next to that law of human nature which has been described in the preceding section, the one now to be considered is the most important to be understood in principle, and to be pursued, through all its ramifications, fully, honestly and fairly in practice. No one law of human nature, except the one preceding, has been so little understood; and of no one law, with the same exception, has the infringement produced such direful consequences to mankind." Thé misery inflicted on the human race, by the errors respecting this law of human nature, has been of a peculiar character; producing bodily diseases, mental aberrations, concealed torments afflicting in many cases even to death; and engendering falsehood, hypocrisy and crime, to an extent which cannot be appreciated by the most powerful imagination, even to a tithe of its real amount.

This is a law of nature which the great mass of the world has never yet been put into a condition to examine. They have, from infancy, been taught the most absurd notions respecting it, their minds, individually, and in association, have been, most unnaturally, trained to acknowledge an error completely opposed to this law; and hence all manner of unjust laws, unwise regulations, and cruel arrangements have been adopted and acted upon, in direct opposition to all the most plain, obvious and powerful feelings of human nature; feelings always exerting themselves as instincts of man's organization, to direct him in the right course to health, virtue and happiness; but which until now, in all countries termed civilized, have been met and turned out of nature's course by the prejudices implanted, in all, from infancy, through ignorance of the everlasting laws of the universe. And, thus, that law which, when known, and acted upon in conformity with nature, will produce the finest, highest, and most exquisite feelings of pleasure and satisfaction to the human race, has been made, through the grossest ignorance, the means of corrupting those feelings to the basest purposes, and of poisoning all their enjoyments, making earth a pandemonium instead of a paradise, as it so easily might be made, by acting in obedience to the simple and unerring instincts of our organization ; an organization formed purposely to direct man, in the same manner as the general instincts of nature, to those movements, exertions, and feelings which are necessary to his sustenance, health and enjoyment.

If man had attentively examined facts, he would long ago have ascertained, that liking or disliking, loving or hating, or indifference with regard to any of the human senses individually, or to the whole collectively, were never in a single instance, an act of the will, but always an instinct of human nature, and made an instinct for the most important of all purposes—to lead the organized being to unite with those objects which its own nature required, to fill a void or satisfy a want, which, by its nature, it was for some wise end, or necessary purpose, compelled to experience.

Nature, when allowed to take its course through the whole life of organized beings, produces the desire to combine or unite with those objects with which it is the best for them to unite, and to remain united with them as long as it is the most beneficial for their well-being and happiness that they should continue together; and Nature is the only correct judge in determining her own laws. ”It is man, alone, who has disobeyed this law; it is man, alone, who has, thereby, brought sin and misery into the world, and engendered the disunion and hatred which now render the lives of so many human beings wretched.

It is to secure the performance of this law that nature rewards, with so much satisfaction and pleasure, the union of those organized beings, who often, in despite of man's absurd artificial arrangements to the contrary, contain, between them, the pure elements of union, by being the most perfectly formed to unité together, physically, intellectually and morally.

Robert Owen.

[ocr errors]

LIFE OF HELOISE. HELOISE was born about the beginning of the twelfth century. She was the niece of one Fulbert, a canon of Paris, who bestowed much pains on her education. She was possessed of beauty by no means of the lowest order; she had literary acquirements of the highest. Such was she at the age of eighteen, when she attracted the notice of Abelard, one of the most celebrated doctors of theology, of that time. Her, having well considered all those things which act as enticements to a lover, I'deemed the fittest to be connected with me in the amatory bond”—said the sensualist; and, to accomplish his purpose, hired lodgings in the house of the canon; who readily received him, out of desire of gain, and persuasion that his niece would be forwarded in her literary attainments. Abelard now set himself deliberately to work to win the affections of Heloise. Little, however, did he appreciate her character, or know how utterly unworthy his gross passion was of the love which his mental accomplishments, his dazzling intellectual renown, and engaging person and manners speedily acquired for him. Her own reputation for learning was widely established previous to his personal acquaintance with her. Her high and healthy nature had wondrously baffled the trammels of artificiality, and had grown up into a mighty thing of harmony. With a fine person and fine intellect, which she had in common with Abelard, she had also the superior qualification of a heart as pure and impassioned as her intellect was clear and vigorous. Abelard was heartless. He had no thought beyond his own selfishness. She, in the spirit of the “philosophic Aspasia,” had looked into the depths of Love, and sought to compass the realization of her dream. Willingly she gave herself to one whom she believed worthy of her. She became pregnant; and was secretly taken by Abelard from her uncle's house, into Britany; where she gave birth to a son. To appease the resentment of Fulbert, Abelard now proposed a private marriage. Heloise herself objected to this. She would not mar his prospects in the church, and she chose not that her free and sacred love should be fettered by common ceremonies. In her own words, in one of her Epistles to Abelard—“Though I knew that the name of wife was honourable in the world, and holy in religion, yet the name of your mistress had greater charms, because it was more free. The bonds of marriage, however honourable, still bear with them a necessary engagement. And I was very unwilling to be necessitated to love always a man who perhaps would not always love me. I despised the name of wife, that I might live happy with that of mistress ;-I esteemed those public engagements insipid, which form alliances only to be dissolved by death, and which put life and love under the same unhappy necessity." "When," says Abelard," she found she could not divert me from my resolution-sighing and weeping bitterly, she thus ended her appeal: All that remains to be said, then, is to wish that there may not, to the

ruin of us both, be sorrow in store for us great as has been our love."" They returned to Paris; and were privately married: meeting afterwards but seldom, and in secret, to conceal what had taken place. Fulbert, however, began to divulge the marriage, in violation of the agreement made to save the clerical prospects of Abelard, who, as a church-man, was bound to celibacy. For this reason, Heloise obstinately denied her marriage; and being therefore abused by her uncle, was by Abelard removed to the convent of Argenteuil, near Paris. Fulbert, enraged at this, thinking that Abelard intended to make her a nun, and so rid himself of her, surprised him in his lodgings, and inflicted on him a cruel and shameful revenge. Aware that the mutilation excluded him, according to the Levitical law, from all ecclesiastical offices, and overcome with shame, he sought the covert of the cloister, having first most ungenerously insisted that Heloise, who was entirely devoted to his will, should take the veil in the convent of Argenteuil. “ In that one thing,” thus writes Heloise, “I own, your distrust tore my heart. I blushed for you.” She was for á long time utterly neglected by Abelard, yet maintained with dignity the uncongenial part she, at his selfish bidding, had assumed. In a few years she became prioress of Argenteuil, next in rank to the abbess. Not long after, the abbot of St. Denis laid violent hands on the convent and possessions of Argenteuil, as the property of the abbey of St. Denis. The nuns were dispersed; and Abelard offered the Paraclete (an oratory erected by him, near Troyes, in Champagne) as an asylum for Heloise and some few of the sisters --more, it would

seem, to provide for the service of his chapel, than to testify his affection for Heloise. But she had warmer motives for accepting his offer than he could estimate. Here she lived for some time in extreme indigence; till the sanctity of her character procured increase of worldy goods. All alike admired her devotion, her prudence, and, in all things, her incomparable mildness and patience. Rarely seen, keeping herself retired within her cell, given to meditation and prayer, her presence, and the counsels to be drawn from her spiritual converse, were but the more eagerly desired. Abelard paid her some few formal visits; but allowed himself to be deterred even from these, by gross imputations cast upon the fact of his occasionally repairing to her residence. A letter to a friend, (though he left her unnoticed) in which he detailed his sufferings, happening to fall into her hands, was the cause of the first of her impassioned Epistles, which her lover so little understood, and so coldly and heartlessly replied to. Little more remains to be told of Heloise. Abelard died. The monks of the convent in which he expired refused to part with his body; but six months after his death, the abbot conveyed the corpse, by night, to Heloise; who buried him in the Paraclete. The remainder of her breathing-time she was a living monument over his grave. She survived him just the number of years which had made the difference between their ages; and was laid, as she had desired, close beside him, in the same coffin.

The following are extracts from her intense and love-souled Epistles.-.

" True tenderness makes us separate the lover from all that is external to him, and, setting aside his quality, fortune and employments, consider him singly by himself.

"If there is any thing which may properly be called happiness here below, I am persuaded it is in the union of two persons who love each other with perfect liberty, who are united by a secret inclination, and satisfied with each other's merit. Their hearts are full, and have no vacancy for any other passion.

“No little venal should that woman esteem herself who more willingly marries a rich man than a poor one; coveting in her husband his possessions rather than himself. To her, assuredly, whom this kind of cupidity leads to marriage, recompense is due rather than affection. For certain it is that the worldly substance attracts her, not the man himself; and that, had she opportunity, she would prostitute herself to one still wealthier, as is convincingly

« PreviousContinue »