Page images
PDF
EPUB

trifling manner. It is the never failing topic of giddy girls at boarding-schools, and especially so of novel-readers, and of such as have been accustomed to hear the tattle of vulgar and uneducated persons. Happy are those young females who have received their first intimations on the subject from the lips of a judicious mother, interwoven with lessons of practical instruction ! Happy the girl who has not been taught to value herself on her blue or black eyes, or her clear complexion and glossy ringlets, as likely to attract the admiration of a handsome, an accomplished, or a wealthy lover: but who has been taught to dress her doll with neatness and care, because it is probable that in future years she will, like her mother, have the care of children ; to control her temper, that she may be fitted to govern others ; to be industrious, orderly, and economical in all her little concerns, because at some future period greater affairs may be entrusted to her management; and to assist her parent in domestic duties, not only as an act of grateful and willing obedience, but also as the means of acquiring skill and aptitude for the discharge of those occupations, which will, perhaps, constitute a great part of her habitual employment in future life. To such a girl the idea of being married, and entering on the cares of a family, will be a weighty and interesting consideration ; but she will not be likely to regard it as a matter of jesting, or to treat it in a light, thoughtless, hasty manner. Such a mother as she is supposed to possess, without joking with her, or asking her opinion, or encouraging flippant remarks on this or that

young man of their acquaintance, will have made her habitually sensible of the vast importance of a judicious selection, by frequently referring her to the advantages resulting from her own happy relation ; she will probably also have pointed out to her some affecting instances in which an indiscreet and hasty, or self-willed choice, has rendered a well-meaning female wretched for life, and almost rendered it impossible for her to discharge her duties with propriety and success. One or two real examples, both of a happy and of an unhappy character, brought before her notice, and impressed on her mind by a friend on whose judgment, fidelity, and disinterestedness, she can so fully rely, will probably prove the best guard against her treating the subject of matrimony with that levity, inconsideration, and folly, so common and so ruinous to youth, and will strengthen her to treat the “ foolish talking and jesting” of others with the contempt they deserve.

Young people should be guarded against supposing that it is essential to their respectability or happiness that they should marry. This mistaken notion has led

many
to engage

undesirable connexions from the sheer dread of living unmarried, a most irrational course, and one in which the remedy is worse than the disease ; for surely an absence of good might be better borne than a positive evil. Besides, such persons did not consider, when they foolishly accepted an offer which they could not in their consciences approve, that they were throwing away the chance of a better, which might be yet in reserve. It would be easy to adduce proofs that it does not invariably happen that persons remain single because they are not worth having ; that they have never had an opportunity of changing their condition, had they chosen to do so; or that they are necessarily morose, fidgety, disagreeable, and useless beings in society ; but that there really are such beings as unmarried ladies who are cheerful, amiable, and useful. Reference might be made to some of distinguished eminence in the lite, rary world, such as Hannah More, Elizabeth Carter, Elizabeth Hamilton, and others, who were equally admired and loved for their domestic and social virtues—as cheerful, intelligent companions -warm-hearted, faithful friends—and judicious and unwearied benefactors. And, in more private life, many examples might be found of females, neither married nor intending to marry, who are yet far more worthy of admiration and imitation than a host of giddy-minded girls intent on display, and boasting of their conquests. We might point to many an affectionate daughter tenderly ministering to the comforts of her aged parents ; many a kind maiden sister sharing and lightening the burden of domestic care, affording her valuable aid in the sick chamber and the nursery, imparting instruction to nephews and nieces, and alleviating the distresses of the poor, an enlightened and indefatigable agent in diffusing knowledge and happiness in the world; enjoying the inward repose of a peaceful conscience, a contented mind, and pious anticipations; and lodging a testimony in the bosoms of all around her, that hers is neither a useless nor a miserable life.

in very

Still, however, in a great majority of instances,

a single life is not expected or preferred. To return, therefore, to the young female who, more or less, anticipates forming a matrimonial connexion-It may not be improper to begin with a word of caution as to behaviour in company with persons of the other sex, whose age, and other circumstances, render it probable or possible that sentiments of partiality may be entertained, which, however, have not been distinctly expressed. Being placed in the society of such persons is somewhat embarrassing, and demands a high degree of discretion and circumspection. Nothing can be more ridiculous and contemptible than the conduct of a young woman who sets herself to attract notice and admiration, and seems trying to persuade every young man she meets to fall in love with her. However adroitly this may be practised, it is sure to be seen through, and to excite disgust. It is not, however, intended to recommend prudery, or the affectation of avoiding notice in society ; this is equally ridiculous : indeed, prudery and coquetry, so far from being necessarily placed in opposition to each other, are often very nearly allied. The best preventive of either is genuine simplicity of manners, which will lead a young person to conduct herself in a natural straightforward way, according to the circumstances in which she is placed, without once imagining that she is an object of notice. Her unassuming and almost unconscious, at least instinctive propriety of demeanour, will at once repel impertinence, and attract real admiration.

Should a young female have reason to suspect that particular attentions are intended towards her, discretion and delicacy will suggest the impropriety of eagerly encouraging those advances, either by throwing herself in the way of the individual, or by making the matter a subject of conversation with her young companions. She will do wisely, also, to guard against suffering her own feelings to be wrought upon, until the attachment is explicitly avowed ; and until she has ascertained that the character of the individual is such as to render him worthy of her affections. For want of due circumspection in such circumstances, many an estimable girl has been unsuspectingly led on, and had her feelings deeply engaged by one who was only trifling with them, and who avoided coming to the point, that he might retreat at pleasure; or whom her own sober judgment could not approve, and who was not at all likely to meet the approbation of her judicious friends, or to promote her own happiness. It has cost her, perhaps, years of painful effort to subdue her misguided feelings, or a life of wretchedness in yielding to them. To avoid similar disasters, it will be advisable for a young female, as soon as she imagines that a companion of the other sex is inclined to pay her particular attentions, rather to avoid than seek his company,

and

especially to refrain from meeting him alone ; yet in all this to guard against any marked difference of conduct, any thing like a display of shunning him ; against such prudery we have already protested. She had better also, as much as may be, avoid making him the theme of her solitary musings, or of her free conversation. She need not fear checking, by a little reserve on her part, any advances that

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »