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NOGLE SCIENCE OF SELF-JUSTIFICATION.
“For which an eloquence that aims to vex,
ENDOWED as the fair sex indisputably are, with a natural genius for the invaluable art of self-justification, it may not be displeasing to them to see its rising perfection evinced by an attempt to reduce it to a science. Possessed, as are all the fair daughters of Eve, of an hereditary propensity, transmitted to them undiminished through succeeding generations, to be soon moved with slightest touch of blame ;' very little precept and practice will confirm them in the habit, and instruct them in all the maxims, of self-justification.
Candid pupil, you will readily accede to my first and fundamental axiom-that a lady can do no wrong.
But simple as this maxim may appear, and suited to the level of the meanest capacity, the talent of applying it on all the important, but more especially on all the most trivial, occurrences of domestic life, so as to secure private peace and public dominion, has hitherto been monopolized by the female adepts in the art of self-justification.
Excuse me for insinuating by this expression, that there may yet be amongst you some novices. To these, if any such, I principally address myself.
And now, lest fired with ambition you lose all by aiming at too much, let me explain and limit my first principle, “ That you can do no wrong.” You must be aware that real perfection is beyond the reach of mortals, nor would I have you aim at it; indeed it is not in any degree necessary to our purpose.
You have heard of the established belief in the infallibility of the sovereign pontiff, which prevailed not many centuries ago :-if man was allowed to be infallible, I see no reason why the same privilege should not be extended to woman ;but times have changed ; and since the happy age of credulity is past, leave the opinions of men to their natural perversity—their actions are the best test of their faith. Instead then of a belief in your infallibility, endeavour to enforce implicit submission to your authority. This will give you infinitely less trouble, and will answer your purpose as well.
Right and wrong, if we go to the foundation of things, are, as casuists tell us, really words of very dubious signification, perpetually varying with custom and fashion, and to be adjusted ultimately by no other standards but opinion and force. Obtain power, then, by all means; power is the law of man; make it yours.
But to return from a frivolous disquisition about right, let me teach you the art of defending the
wrong. After having thus pointed out to you the glorious end of your labours, I must now instruct you in the equally glorious means.
For the advantage of my subject I address myself chiefly to married ladies ; but those who have not as yet the good fortune to have that common enemy, a husband, to combat, may in the mean time practise my precepts upon their fathers, brothers, and female friends; with caution, however, lest by discovering their arms too soon, they preclude themselves from the power of using them to the fullest advantage hereafter. I therefore recommend it to them to prefer, with a philosophical moderation, the future to the present.
Timid brides, you have, probably, hitherto been addressed as angels. Prepare for the time when you shall again become mortal. Take the alarm at the first approach of blame ; at the first hint of a discovery that you are any thing less than infallible : -contradict, debate, justify, recriminate, rage, weep, swoon, do any thing but yield to conviction.
I take it for granted that you have already acquired sufficient command of voice ; you need not study its compass; going beyond its pitch has a peculiarly happy effect upon some occasions. But
voluble enough to drown all sense in a torrent of words? Can you be loud enough to overpower the voice of all who shall attempt to interrupt or contradict you? Are you mistress of the petulant, the peevish, and the sullen tone? Have you practised the sharpness which provokes retort, and the
continual monotony which by setting your adversary to sleep effectually precludes reply? an event which is always to be considered as decisive of the victory, or at least as reducing it to a drawn battle :-you and Somnus divide the prize.
Thus prepared for an engagement, you will next, if you have not already done it, study the weak part of the character of your enemy-your husband, I mean: if he be a man of high spirit, jealous of command and impatient of control, one who decides for himself, and who is little troubled with the insanity of minding what the world says of him, you must proceed with extreme circumspection ; you must not dare to provoke the combined forces of the enemy a regular engagement, but harass him with perpetual petty skirmishes: in these, though you gain little at a time, you will gradually weary the patience, and break the spirit of your opponent. If he be a man of spirit, he must also be generous; and what man of generosity will contend for trifles with a woman who submits to him in all affairs of consequence, who is in his power, who is weak, and who loves him?
“ Can superior with inferior power contend ?” No; the spirit of a lion is not to be roused by the teasing of an insect.
But such a man as I have described, besides being as generous as he is brave, will probably be of an active temper: then you have an inestimable advantage ; for he will set a high value upon a thing for which you have none-time ; he will acknowledge the force of your arguments merely from a dread of
their length ; he will yield to you in trifles, particularly in trifles which do not militate against his authority; not out of regard for you, but for his time; for what man can prevail upon himself to debate three hours about what could be as well decided in three minutes ?
Lest amongst infinite variety the difficulty of immediate selection should at first perplex you, let me point out that matters of taste will afford you, of all others, the most ample and incessant subjects of debate. Here you have no criterion to appeal to. Upon the same principle, next to matters of taste, points of opinion will afford the most constant exercise to your talents. Here you will have an opportunity of citing the opinions of all the living and dead you have ever known, besides the dear privilege of repeating continually:"Nay, you must allow that." Or, “ You can't deny this, for it's the universal opinion -every body says so! every body thinks so! I wonder to hear you express such an opinion ! Nobody but yourself is of that way of thinking!” with innumerable other phrases, with which a slight attention to polite conversation will furnish you. This mode of opposing authority to argument, and assertion to proof, is of such universal utility, that I pray you to practise it.
If the point in dispute be some opinion relative to your character or disposition, allow in general, that
you are sure you have a great many faults ;” but to every specific charge, reply, “ Well, I am sure I don't know, but I did not think that was one of my