Слике страница

feeling and interest. The whole of the world, the whole of life, reflects for him but one image—that of Juliet; and had he heard the pretty though childishly fanciful wish which she expresses concerning him, that when he is dead he should be “cut out into little stars in order to make the face of heaven more bright,” he might have answered in the words of a verse which has been ascribed to Plato—“Then every star should be an eye to gaze upon thy beauties' here."

The effect which this concentration of feeling produces on his intellect is worth remarking. If we judge of him by the ideas which he expresses, and the language in which he clothes those ideas, ascribing these to himself, and not (as we must do in the case of Juliet if we would preserve her consistency of character) to Shakespeare, we should say that he was naturally a man of considerable parts, and that whatever intellect he possessed, was strengthened in respect of the subject-matter on which it was exercised, by being concentrated into one focus, and kindled into warmth and life by the flame which inspired it, so that it became perfect in the one province to which it was confined, i.e. the poetry of love.

There is another small trait of character which Romeo exhibits, and which is also worth noting, and that is his presentiment of coming evil. This is in accordance with the dreamy character of his mind. For those who live in a world of dreams must expect to find that world haunted by phantoms of the future, some of them real, some imaginary, which, owing to the peculiar constitution of their mind, they have not the strength to combat.

We must now consider what is the peculiar defect in Romeo's character. This, I think, the description which we have just given of him sufficiently shows; but it may be summed up in these few words. He loves like a woman and not like a man. We do not (when we say this) mean to imply that he is altogether an effeminate character--far from it; if he were so, he would not possess the peculiar fascination which he does. We mean neither more nor less than what we have said.

But in order to make ourselves more clearly understood, we must digress a little from our subject, and endeavour to show what is the peculiar difference between man and woman's love. The distinction we shall make will not be an invidious one, for it implies a difference in kind rather than in degree. In Miss Austin's novel of “ Persuasion,” there is a conversation between the heroine and a naval officer, which bears upon this subject, and one passage of which I shall quote; though I am well aware that in so doing I shall be guilty of injustice towards the authoress, for you ought to have read the whole conversation from which the passage is extracted, and indeed the whole novel, in order to appreciate it fully. When the gentleman has eloquently pleaded the cause of his sex in respect of the strength of their affections, the lady replies :

God forbid that I should undervalue the warm and faithful feelings of any of my fellow-creatures.

“I should deserve utter contempt if I dared to suppose that true attachment and constancy were known only by women. No, I believe you capable of everything great and good. I believe you equal to every important exertion, so long as if I may be allowed the expression - so long as you have an object. I mean, while the woman you love lives, and lives for you. All the privilege I claim for my sex (it is not a very enviable one, you need not covet it) is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone."

In this beautiful passage the authoress has stated, what I believe to be true, (at least as regards appearances,) not only in respect of that kind of love to which she is especially alluding, but of every kind of love of which woman is capable. She has not, however, given us the reason for the truth which she has asserted ; and she has rather left us to infer from it that the love of woman is stronger and more enduring than that of man-a proposition which certainly requires to be modified or explained. The true reason for the phenomenon which she has noticed I believe to be this. The life of woman lies more in the sphere of her affections than that of man. The inner life, of which the heart is the centre, just as the brain is of the outer, and which is the life of feeling, instinct, and imagination, just as the outer life is of reason and calculation ; this inner life is, generally speaking, more developed in woman than in man—if we except poets, who are indeed altogether an exceptional class of beings, and even these have a different kind of inner life than that of woman. Theirs is the life of the imagination ; woman's that of the affections. As a general rule, the difference between woman and man in this point, may be thus described : The inner life, in woman, rises more to the surface than in man; it mixes more with her every-day existence. In man that life is more hidden and less diffused, but it is (perhaps for this very reason) proportionably deeper, on the principle that “the stillest streams run the deepest.” And this difference in the constitution of their minds, adapts them for the respective work which the Creator has designed them to perform, and also points out in what sphere their duty lies. The business of man's existence lies in the outer world—in public life, in the support of his family, and the discharge of the duties of his profession. The business of woman lies in private lifein the care of her household, her husband, her children, or her parents, as the case may be ; and if she have none of these ties, the feelings and sentiments of friendship or of philanthropy ought to create for her objects on which her care may be expended ; and her power consists in the influence which she exerts in ministering to the comfort and moulding the minds of those who are thus united to her by the bonds, either of consanguinity or affection; and this is no mean power. It is a power scarcely inferior to that of man ; for though man moves the world, makes laws, and carries on the business of public life, it is woman who makes man what he is. But such being their respective spheres of action, we can

easily see that man cannot live in his inner life-in his affections. These must be the episodes in his existence, his relaxations; whereas in woman they are the business of life. Man's affections may be equally strong, but their very strength leads him forth into the outer world, for the sake of those who are the objects of them, and in order that he may shape out such a path in life as will be advantageous to them. Such, then, being the state of the case, I cannot help incidentally suggesting the question, whether it is not a mistake to educate women like men, and still more so, to try and bring them into public life ; for in making such an attempt, we run the risk of losing the substance by grasping at a shadow. We cannot indeed destroy that inner life, in which woman's real strength lies, but we may shut it up; and I should say that publicity of life, and also an essentially masculine cultivation of the intellect, have a tendency to produce this result, and by so doing, injure, if they do not destroy, that delicate tact, which is peculiar to woman—that subtile power of instinctive discrimination, which decides more quickly and often more justly than the boasted reason of man. And I doubt whether you get an equivalent for what you lose. Of course wherever there is a demand, there will be a certain KIND of supply, but will it be in this case a supply of the genuine article? I doubt it. In those countries where they make women do all the field work, their muscles attain to something like the strength of

« ПретходнаНастави »