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EMPLOYMENT FOR A WIFE. (EXTRACTED FROM A BOOK OF HUSBANDRY, PUBLISHED IN
THE EARLY PART OF THE 16TH CENTURY.] If a man had presumed to hint to the late Mrs. Woolstoncroft, that a married woman who followed these die rections might be as happy in herself, and as useful a member of society, as one formed upon her plan, and exhibited in a certain singular and very reprehensible book, published since her death, the bare supposition would probably have produced a sneer from the heroine, and a contemptuous frown in the philosopher, who, in the memorial he has left of his deceased wife, has palpably overleaped the boundaries of decorum and good sense: perhaps the sceptic, who is for discussing aud unveiling every thing, had in his mind the sentiment of a certain poet, and was of opinion that he was
“ Never so sure our wonder to create
As when he touch'd the bounds of all we hate.” But the old-fashioned doctrine of domestic duties, and female occupations, must not be forgotten.
• When first thou awakest in the morning, lift up thy heart and voice in thankfulness to God, who made thee; thus calling to mind thy Maker at thy early rising, thou shalt speed better for it the rest of the day.
“ Having arrayed thyself as becometh a decent housewife, sweep thy house and dress thy dish-board, and see that all things be set in due order within and without, that the kine be milked, the calves suckled, and the milk skimmed; then let the young children be taken up,
washed right wholesomely all over them in spring water, combed and kirtled, and sit down with thy family to breakfast.
« Corn and malt must be ordered for the mill; and, that thou have thy measure again, meet it to and from the miller, who else will not deal truly with thee; or thy malt will not be dried as it should be.
• Thou must make butter and cheese according as the weather urgeth, and the cows fill the dishes; the swine must be served morning and evening, not forgetting the poultry; and when the time of year cometh, thou wilt take good heed how thy hens, ducks, and geese, do lay ; gather up their eggs diligently, and when they wax broody, set them right cunningly, so that neither beast
swine, nor vermin, hurt or molest them; all whole-footed fowls, thou kuowest, will sit a month ; and all cloven-footed fowls three weeks, except pea-hens, turkeys, cranes, and busiards.
“ I advise thee earnestly to remember well one thing; when in winter time, that the days be short and the evenings long, and thou sitteth by the fire, and hast supped, consider in thy mind whether the works that thou and thy maiden do are of advantage equal to the fire and candle, the meat and the drink, that they consume; if not, go to thy bed, sleep, and be up by time to breakfast before day-light, that thou mayest have all the day before thee entire, to thy business.
“ In the beginning of March it is time for a wife to have an eye to her garden, and to get as many good seeds and herbs as she can for the pot and the platter; in March also is the season to sow flax and hemp; it needeth not for me to shew how it should be sown, weeded, pulled, watered, dried, beaten, broken, tawed, hackled, spun, wounden, warped and wove, for in such matters, peradventure, thou art better instructed than me. " It is
business to observe, that although a woman cannot wholly and altogether get her living honestly by the distaff, yet it should always be ready for a pastime; it stoppeth many unemployed gaps, and provideth articles both for bed and board, for which hard money must otherwise go forth from thy husband's purse; there be spinsters, as well as wives, who make it a matter of conscience never to buy sheets, body clothes, towels, shirts, smocks, and such like.
“ It is a wife's occupation to winnow all manner of corn, and to keep a watchful eye that the day-labourers and outdwellers bring not with them, nor carry forth nor conceal their pokes (bags), which, under a pretence of holding their bottle and scrip, only serve to lower the heap on the barn floor.
“ It is a wife's occupation to wash and to wring, or to see well after and be among them, that the soap and firewood be not made waste of; to be brisk at harvest; and in time of need, while the coppers are boiliny the provisiou, to help her husband to load the waggon or the cart ; to go or ride to market, and sell her butter, cheese, eggs, chickens, geese, and pigs; to purchase all necessary things, and to make a true reckoning and account thereof to her husband when she returns.”
To address the above homely directions indiscriminately to women of all ranks would be caricaturing advice, and converting wholesome rules into ironical ridicule.
Yet, if the majority of our young women of scanty expectations would not fix their eyes so steadily as for the most part they do on the more elevated and wealthy classes of society, whom they vainly and ruinously attempt to imitate; if in their views, their education, their habits, their dress, and their manners, they could happily be prevailed on to attend more to domestic duty, and less to trifling amusement and ornamental accomplishment; if they could be convinced that to make a pudding or a shirt, or even their own gowns, is a species of knowledge rather more useful than dancing a minuet, talking bad French, or spoiling a piano-forte; we might in that case hope to see gradually diminished that shocking and enormous mass of venal beauty, which renders our passing the streets, after a certain hour, distressing to our feelings, hazardous to the morals, and injurious to the health of the rising generation.
Women, indeed, formed on the narrow unphilosophic plan here aimed at, would probably not reach that criterion of absolute perfection and equality sought after and expected by Mrs. Woolstoncroft; they perhaps would, in some respects, come under the description of what she calls domestic drudges : surely a more desirable state than being drudges to infamy and prostitution.
Women thus educated and thus instructed, would probably revolt at living as concubines with one man, or at indulging warm wishes for another, the husband of a friend ; they would not only submit to stated returns of religious worship without repugnance, but would seize with eagerness and pleasure every opportunity of pouring forth their hearts in gratitude and adoration to the Almighty Creator of the universe.
When their last hour was come, as reasonable beings, sensible of their frailties and faults, they would naturally cast an anxious eye towards that world unknown; they would neither desire nor deserve the panegyric of a moderu philosopher, by quitting a scene of trial and temptation, on which eternal happiness or eternal misery depended, with cold indifference, or suppressed anxiety.
MODERN PREACHERS. It is allowed, on all hands, that our English divines res ceive a more liberal education, and improve that education by frequent study, more than any others of this reverend profession in Europe. In general also, it may be observed, that a greater degree of gentility is affixed to the character of a student in England than elsewhere, by which means our clergy have an opportunity of seeing better company while young, and of sooner wearing off those prejudices which they are apt to imbibe even in the best-regulated universities, and which may be justly termed the vulgar errors of the literary republic.
Yet with all these advantages it is very obvious, that the clergy are no where so little thought of, by the populace, as here; and though our divines are foremost, with respect to abilities, yet they are found last in the effects of their ministry, the vulgar, in general, appearing no way impressed with a sense of religious duty. I am not for complaining of the depravity of the times, or for endeavouring to paint a prospect more gloomy than in nature; but certain it is, no person who has travelled will contradict me when I aver, that the lower orders of mankind in other countries testify on every occasion the profoundest awe of religion, wbile in England they are scarcely awakened into a sense of its duties, even in circumstances of the greatest distress.
This dissolute and fearless conduct foreógners are apt to attribute to climate and constitution ; may not the vulgar, being pretty much neglected in our exhortations from the pulpit, be a conspiring cause ? Our divines seldom stoop to their mean capacities; and they, who want instruction most, find least in our religious assemblies. Whatever
become of the higher orders of mankind, who are generally possessed of collateral motives to virtue, the vulgar should be particularly regarded, whose behaviour in civil life is totally hinged upon their hopes and fears. . Those who constitute the basis of the
great fabric of society, should be particularly regarded ; for in policy, as in architecture, ruin is most fatal when it begins from the bottoin.
Men of real sense and understanding prefer a prudent mediocrity to a precarious popularity; and, fearing to overdo their duty, leave it half undone. Their discourses from the pulpit are generally dry, methodical, and unaf. fecting; delivered with the most insipid calmness, insomuch, that should the peaceful preacher lift his head over the cushion, which alone he seems to address, he might discover his audience, instead of being awakened into remorse, actually sleeping over his methodical and laboured composition.
This method of preaching iss however, by some called an address to reason, and not to the passions ; this is styled the making of converts from conviction; but such are indifferently acquainted with human nature, who are not sensible that men seldom reason about their debaucheries till they are committed ; reason is but a weak antagonist when headlong passion dictates; in all such cases we should arm one passion against another; it is with the human mind as in nature, from the mixture of two opposites the result is most frequent neutral tranquillity. Those who attempt to reason us out of our follies begin at the wrong end, since the attempt naturally presupposes us capable of reason : but to be made capable of this is one great point of the cure.
There are but few talents requisite to become a popular preacher, for the people are easily pleased if they perceive any endeavours in the orator to please them; the nieanest qualifications will work this effect, if the preacher sincerely sets about it. Perhaps little, very little more is required, than sincerity and assurance; and a becoming sincerity is always certain of producing a becoming assurance. Si vis me flere, dolendum est primum ipsi tibi, is so trite a quotation, that it almost demands an apology to repeat it; yet, though all allow the justice of the remark, how few do we find put it in practice; our orators, with the most faulty bashfulnes, seem impressed rather with an awe of their audience than with a just respect for the truths they are about to deliver; they of all professions seem the most bashful, who have the greatest right to glory in their eommission.
The French preachers generally assume all that dignity which becomes men who are ambassadors from Christ'; the English divines, like erroneous envoys, seem more solicitous not to offend the court to which they are sent, than to drive home the interests of their employer. The Bishop of Massillon, in the first sermon he ever preached, found the whole audience, upon his getting into the pulpit, in a disposition no way favourable to his intentions; their nods, whispers, or drowsy behaviour, shewed him that there was no great profit to be expected from his sowing in a