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justifying their scepticism, although Sale tells us that once when he looked down into hell he perceived the majority of its denizens to be women. Doubtless this uncourteous vision occurred to him after a tiff with Ayesha. In much later days a celebrated Archbishop described woman as a creature that cannot reason and pokes the fire from the top"; and there are people who now urge me to treat the subject of her soul and its attributes after the manner of "Snakes in Ireland"! Again, the American woman is regarded by many people as the highest development of modern feminism, yet she is frequently accused of being soulless. A recent writer in the 'Contemporary Review' points out that she has failed to inspire the classical literature even of her own country, as the female characters of the great American novelists were drawn from English or Continental sources; and the reason, he thinks, must be sought in the lack of depth in her nature. An American girl in a recent novel, if I remember rightly, opines that she has no soul, "only digestion." Be this as it may, the average European appears to find the Transatlantic Undine sufficiently charming. He marries her, even though, owing to her congenital defect, he cannot vivisect her soul in three - volume novels. The American woman, as we see her on this side of the Ocean, is usually an exotic of the "orchidaceous type"; but, speaking generally, we may regard the vexed question of the existence of the feminine soul as being now finally set at rest. In order, however, that there may be no mistake about the matter, the lady writer has for some years past been busily occupied in baring
her soul for our benefit. And not only baring it, but dissecting it, analysing and probing into the innermost crannies of her nature. She is for ever examining her mental self in the looking-glass. Her every thought and impulse, her fleeting whims and fancies, along with the deepest fountains of her feeling, and above all her grievances, are set forth in naked black and white. The monotony of her life, its narrowness of interest, the brutality and selfishness of man, the burden of sex, and the newly awakened consciousness of ill-usage at Nature's hands, form the principal subjects of her complaint; and the chorus of her wailings surges up to heaven in stories, poems, and essays innumerable. Their dominant note is restlessness and discontent with the existing order of things; and that there is some reason in it few will be found to deny. Man has no idea what it feels like to be a woman, but it will not be her fault if he does not soon begin in some degree to understand.
The glory of woman in olden days, according to St Paul, was her hair. The glory of the woman of to-day, as portrayed in sexproblem literature, is her "complicatedness." To be subtle, inscrutable, complex irrational possibly, but at any rate incomprehensible-to puzzle the adoring male, to make him scratch his head in vexation and wonderment as to what on earth she will be up to next, this is the ambition of the latter-day heroine. She is consumed with a desire for new experiences, new sensations, new objects in life. Like Evadne in 'The Heavenly Twins,' she "wants to know"; to penetrate to the core of truth; to dive deep down into the sacred heart of things, and to learn their true sequence
and meaning. But in spite of the awakening of her intellect she remains a being of transient impulses and more or less hysterical emotions. Curiously enough, in all this mystification of hers, which to the uninitiated appears sheer puzzle - headedness, some weird witchery is supposed to lurk. Her lover, poor fellow, is baffled by her elusive and contradictory spirit; he understands nothing of the perpetual conflict within her, the canker of mysterious care that gnaws at her heart, her immense yearnings, and great vague thirst for heaven alone knows what. The dualism of her nature, half instinct, half intellect -for, as Mrs Roy Devereux explains, modern woman is not one incomprehensible, but two incomprehensibles-is all Greek to him. He endures her tantrums as best he may, though his simple self would be better mated with an open-hearted natural woman, who wore her heart upon her sleeve, than with an animated riddle or an enigma in flounces and furbelows. For, be it understood, love itself fails to unravel the mystery of her being, and Mr Spooner's flirtations with Miss Up-to-date in no way give him the key to the feminine abstraction of which she is the external garniture. And it is good for him that it should be so, else he, too, might suffer the pangs of disillusionment. Nowadays, however, the solution of the feminine conundrum is a less hopeless task than formerly for the bewildered and slightly irritated male; and the present year has given birth to at least two books which throw much light upon the subject.
Of these the most remarkable in some respects is the 'Ascent of Woman,' by Mrs Roy Devereux, to which allusion has been made
already. It is, to begin with, a distinctly clever book. It contains much shrewd observation, while the style is polished and epigrammatic to a fault, and replete with the curiosa felicitas of decadentism. But it is less with the manner than with some of the matter of these essays that I am now concerned, as much in them will be news to a great many people. They originally bore the title of 'Dies Domina,' and they are dedicated to "The most dear vision of Her that shall be." Signs, I think, are not wanting that the dies domina will dawn before very long, and in that case "She that shall be" will most probably appear as "She-who-must-be-obeyed." The authoress does not profess to dispel the cloud of mystery which envelops her subject, but she does raise for our benefit a corner of the veil which shrouds the Great Arcanum of the feminine soul. The picture thus revealed is a curious one, and she is aware that her method of presenting it is likely to arouse the resentment of her fellow-women; but she is prepared to face the consequences. There is so much to say about woman which has never yet been said, that the truth that is in her must out; and, like Lucifer the light-bringer, she feels bound to fulfil her mission of illuminating a people that now sit in the darkness of ignorance concerning the psychology of feminism.
The most characteristic portions of the book are those dealing with the great sex - problem, as it is called. "Man," says Mrs Roy Devereux, is apt to "rail at the sexlessness of the New Woman"; but, if we may take her as a trustworthy guide, the charge is a baseless one. For with the awakening of her intellect "there has been a coincident
awakening of the senses. Every problem in heaven and earth is brought to the edge of this newly-acquired consciousness, and the she- animal is abroad cursing man's monopoly of the joie-de-vivre." Moreover, the instincts of fidelity are not in her. "To every season its book and its bonnet; why not also its love?"
"So at each renascence of passion her spirit, drifting among the ghosts of disembodied kisses, has a faint foretaste of those yet to come. Nor is this the limit of her consciousness. With that realisation of her nature's complexity comes the prescience that no man will ever learn it through. . . . It is only the man who 'in love's deep woods will dream of loyal life'
This tribute to his constancy will doubtless be as agreeable to the much-abused male as it is unexpected. My only doubt is whether the perfidious creature deserves the compliment. In another strangely eloquent passage, which I quote in full, we have a terrible picture of the tumult raging in the modern Eve's bosom.
"At the moment woman seems still to be floating amid the mists of her lost illusions, on fire with the passion of the impossible, sick unto death of her outworn ideals, and girt about
with the incense of strange prayers. Having forsworn the service of love she would still retain the beauty of life, and wander over 'the crooked hills of delicious pleasure' without forfeiting the old-world sanctuary. She would sin and yet not suffer; she would pluck the roses and raptures' of passion, and yet be white of soul. But until she learns that love cannot be bought at store prices, she will drift deathwards undelighted and unshriven-a follower after empty symbols and impotent divinities. Yet will this quickened consciousness lead eventually to her perfecting."
To those who, like the writer, were brought up in the Sarah
Grandian school to believe in the moral and mental perfection of the modern incarnation of the feminine spirit, these indiscreet revelations came as a sad shock. They appeared originally in the form of an article in the 'Saturday Review' entitled "Dies Domina; The Value of Love, by a Woman of the Day"; and I remember that the editor appended thereto a homily in the form of a rejoinder a wholesome by Lady Jeune as corrective. corrective. As might be expected, Lady Jeune disputed entirely the accuracy of the picture. Indeed, to find its counterpart one would probably have to search in the miscellaneous gallery of feminins portraiture with which modern fiction supplies us. I need only mention a few of the types, for their names have become household
ds: the woman who did, who didn't; who would, who wouldn't, or would if she could; the girl who desires matrimony, but shrinks from its obligations; and the lady who yearns for motherhood, if only it could be managed (vide Keynotes') "without a husband or the disgrace; ugh, the disgusting men!" These searching studies in the sexual emotions of young ladies are, I fear, a source
of merriment to the masculine mind, but their popularity with the gentler sex survives alike their constant iteration and the gibes of the scoffer. Age cannot wither, nor custom stale, the infinite variety of the sex-problem novel
The second half of 'The Ascent of Woman' is less striking than the first. The mission of the authoress (everybody who writes nowadays must have a mission) seems to be to recall to the daughter of Eve that ideal of beauty which she has partially lost. The temple of Aphrodite is now a ruin,
says Mrs Roy Devereux in her grandiloquent way, and the world has long since ceased to pour libations to the goddess. But the religion of the woman of the future will be the service of beauty through the medium of comely apparel, and the gospel of the authoress may be termed the Gospel of the Higher Chiffon. Her contention, as I understand, is that the adornment of the female form is as legitimate an end of art as sculpture or painting; and, after all, is not a man-milliner just as much an artist in his way as a Royal Academician?
Another treatise, on the same bject, to which I should like to readers of Maga,' is 'Modern w an,' by Fru Marholm Hansson. consists of six psychological skhes of famous modern women of various alities. These sketches display much insight, sympathetic yet discriminating withal, into the characters they portray; and there is a level-headedness, if I may use the word, about them which is somewhat unusual in similar studies of feminine psychology. Some of Fru Hansson's views will probably be deemed old-fashioned by pioneers of the "woman movement," but she always writes kindly and sympathetically of her heroines, even when their ideas are least in harmony with her own. Her types are selected from some of the ablest and most representative women of the day, who struck out a line of their own in life. The results of their originality Fru Hansson does not consider to be satisfactory. She disapproves of the Ibsenite theory of female individualism, and asserts roundly that "a woman who seeks freedom by means of the modern method of independence is generally one who desires to escape from a woman's
In the case of the gifted people whose lives are depicted in her book, she says that the "woman question caused an unnatural breach between the needs of the intellect and the requirements of their womanly nature.
Most of them succumbed in the struggle."
Of these deviations from the
Fru Hansson describes
The sad story of the closing
and too late "wanted to be a woman and possess a woman's charm." Finally, after various unfortunate experiences, she became ill, worn out with nervous and mental exhaustion, and died at the age of forty-one.
Another Russian woman, less remarkable in many ways than Sonia Kovalevsky, is probably much better known in England. Among all our modern literary ebullitions of feminine fretfulness one stands out pre-eminent. It may safely be said that the present introspective craze with reference to the soul of woman began with the publication of Marie Bashkirtseff's Journal. One well remembers the appearance of that extraordinary book, so irritating in some respects, and yet so touching in its utter abandonment of self-revelation. It is the tragedy of a young girl, hopelessly vain, self-centred, neurotic, and egotistical; for if ever there was a victim of morbid ego-mania, as Max Nordau has it, it was poor Marie Bashkirtseff. "As for me, I am always excited," she cries; "I want to live faster, faster, fast. . . . Yes, I love only myself": it is all I, I, I, throughout the five hundred pages of the Journal. Her every action was ordered for effect, and with a view to description in her diary the same evening. The book sold like wild-fire. "All the tired and discontented women of the time recognised themselves on every page, and for many of them Marie Bashkirtseff's Journal became a kind of secret Bible, in which they read a few sentences every morning, or at night before going to sleep." Not a very satisfactory Bible, to be sure, but the literature of hysteria is always sure of its public, and she was symptomatic of a restless and fretful age. With all the advantages of wealth,
beauty, perfect breeding, and marvellous talent, she yet made shipwreck, like Sonia, of her life. She developed her individuality, like any Ibsenite neuropath, on the most approved principles of the "triumphant doctrine of the ego," and fretted herself into the grave at the age of twenty-four. Her self-absorption amounted to a disease, and outraged Nature exacted the penalty remorselessly. Tedious as the whole thing is in a way, I know of few things sadder than her despairing soliloquies towards the end of the volume. She felt herself, to quote Fru Hansson's pathetic words, "ever alone in the midst of an everlasting void, hungering at the table of life, spread for every one except herself, standing with hands outstretched as the days passed by and gave her nothing: youth and health were fading fast, the grave was yawning, just a little chink, then wider and wider, and she must go down without having had anything but work, constant work, trouble and striving, and the empty fame which gives a stone in the place of bread."
Besides the untimely fate of these two Russian ladies, Fru Hansson mentions three other Northern authoresses of talent who all committed suicide; but whether this was the result of too much psychologising or over selfabsorption does not appear.
Concerning Mrs George Egerton, who is to my mind the ablest of our women writers of the neurotic school, Fru Hansson writes with critical yet sympathetic insight. The authoress of 'Keynotes' ('Punch' profanely nicknamed it 'She Notes') is essentially a womanly writer. Her gifts are intuitive rather than intellectual, and she owes nothing whatever to the reason or the