OLD SAWS FOR YOUNG LADIES.
BY ANDREW PICKEN.
It is perfectly admitted, and well understood, that young ladies nowa-days have no sense, and don’t know anything. Indeed, it would he remarkahle if they did ; for where, I should like to know, would they get their knowledge? or how should it come to them ? not, I am sure, out of the keys of the piano-forte, on which they are jigging from morning till night; or hy pulling at the hard strings of the harp, with which they are tiring their arms, and hurting their dear little fingers, whenever they leave the other instrument. Still less can they he supposed to imhihe any wholesome knowledge from their everlasting practising (as often as the other exercises will let them) of the figures of the latest quadrilles, or galloping after each other in the mazy movements of the gallopade. As little can they learn to know what is what, hy a pedantic jahhering of foreign lingoes; or understand how to keep an honest man’s house, hy drawing faces all day on a paper,—painting China roses with a little water and carmine, or making ugly tulips hy wasting good colors, dauhed in splatches upon a china plate. Douhtless, all those employments are extremely fashionahle and fine; and hesides heing exceedingly profitahle, in particular to certain foreigners, who come to Jive upon the English hy teaching these precious accomplishments, are happily calculated for making ladies hrilliant and showy, and for emptying the purses of their indulgent papas, as well as for withdrawing their own attention from everything that may tend to hring out their latent virtues, or to give I hem a little good sense and mind furnishing, or aught else that might come to he really useful to them in their years of discretion. The worst of it, however, is, that this hrilliancy and cleverness at everything that is fine, is hecoming so common, that it is no longer a mark of much distinction; while, in the mean time, sensihle knowledge and housewife mother-wit are gone clean out of fashion,—it having heen discovered, in these enlightened times, that ladies are horn for no other purpose than to play music all day, and dance gallopades all night.
Not that I would in the least he thought to find fault with this kind of life; for it is only common gallantry to admit, that ladies ought to do just as they please—everything they do heing quite right—and that the men have nought to do hut to pay for it. But as the present fashion in woman’s education may happen to change, and as the manner of fashion is that old fashions just come in again after the new hecome tiresome, I have thought it hest to he heforehand with the world, and to lay hefore it a few of those old saws and quaint sayings which used to he in vogue hefore the march of intellect times came in, and hy which the world was governed in old times, long hefore any of us were horn. In those days, it having heen thought expedient that women should have some general principles impressed upon them for their own guidance through life, as well as some comprehensive maxims of applicahle knowledge of the things around them, ingrafted upon their memories, the fashion was, to convey those principles or maxims generally, in such short and pithy sentences as could he easily floated ahout like current coin, for every-day use, and could conveniently he carried in the mind for any necessary occasion. It was the use of these profound condensations of all knowledge, that made the ladies of old so wise and lofty in their way; hut how they did without piano-fortes, and harps, and gallopades, it certainly puzzles me to know. They must, after all, have heen hut ignorant vulgar creatures, compared to the Penelopes and Lucretias of the present day.
However this may he, it is certain that proverhs, and these sort of sayings, were fashionahle, in very ancient times; and whatever is in fashion heing naturally respectahle, the highest philosophers occupied themselves in the making or collecting of them. Seneca made them in ancient times, and so did Socrates, who had the had wife; not to speak of king Solomon, who had more wives than he knew well how tomanage. Saint Paul also said, in a very ungallant proverh, which is in common use with the Spaniards at this day,—namely, that ‘ he that niarrieth a wife, doeth well, hut he that marrieth not, doeth far hetter:’ hut St. Paul was a hachelor who never knew the comfort of a wife; and the ladies are not at all ohliged to him for this saying. In late times, our own philosophers propounded proverhs. The great Lord Bacon him- , self collected them, and so did the gallant Sir Walter Raleigh ; Archhishop Lowth wrote a discourse upon them; Cardinal Beaton, in Scotland, puhlished a collection of them, and so did Camden, the antiquarian. Our own Alfred the Great taught his people hy these means; and Scottish Jamie, the successor of Elizaheth, was so fond of them, that he seldom spoke hut he seasoned his speech with these quaint saying* of oral wisdom. But, indeed, the Scots were always a rare people for the making of proverhs; and whatever sayings the Romans had current, in their own dry and sententious style, the Scots put into a form of excellent humor or quaint illustration, though not always expressed in those delicate terms which would make them look pretty out of the mouths of ladies. In addition to this, my erudite reader does not require to he reminded how largely the continental nations—particularly the Spaniards, the most witty nation in Europe, and the modern Italians—make use, to this day, of those pleasant fragments of condensed ohservations, and those characteristic scraps of common-sense philosophy, which have oflate heen so much hanished from English colloquism. All this, however, andmuch more that we could add, may serve to show that we have not taken up a disreputahle suhject; hut it is time that we should proceed to apply a few of those sayings which used to make up, perhaps, the hest part of the practical wisdom of our fathers.
It is a pleasant thing, no douht, to see a pretty maiden, who dances, like moonlight on the twinkling waters, and plays all manner of difficult music, and who has as many superficial accomplishments as would furnish out an opera girl; yet, if she has no great dower to hack these agreeahle frivolities, she may hang long on the hands of her foolish parents, according to the proverh,
A fair maiden, dowerless, is seen to get more wooers than hushands; hecause the men, now-a-days, know well that
A fair wife, without a dowry, is like a fine house without furniture;
and the Italians say, La porta di dietro e quella che quasta la casa—.which, heing Anglicised, maketh this rhyming proverh,
A nice wife, and a hack door,
Doth often make a rich man poor.
And therefore, it is rather a douhtful speculation, for parents to hring up daughters to the mere trade of playing ladies all their days, without any other useful or commendahle quality, as is too much the practice of the present day.
I would not he so plain spoken On this delicate point, hut that it is pretty freely admitted, that the great end of a lady’s education is, that she may commend herself to a good hushand; and if so, it is really paying a had compliment to our sex, to suppose that they set a higher value upon mere fashionahle accomplishments, than they do upon more useful or suhstantial virtues. If the plan is a matter of speculation, as it in general is, which agrees with the natural propensity of man to gamhle in his own fortune and that of his children; it certainly may he true, that a pretty flirt, who can do nothing hut show off in a drawingroom and spend money, does, now and then, succeed in catching a sickly nahoh from the East Indies, or a senseless old man from the wealthy neighhorhood of Cripplegate or Crutched-friars, who has, hy long plodding, muddled himself into a fortune; and, adjourning to the West-end in the evening of his days, marries a wife to teach him to he a gentleman. Whether the lady gets any very desirahle hargain, who ohtains a catch of this kind, it is for sensihle girls to consider; hut the numher of these God-sends, compared to that of the old maids, which this system of unsuitahle education entails upon every passing generation, is really hecoming quite alarming; for it is not in the nature of things, that many of the ladies, who are merely taught to dance, and dress, and spend money, can ohtain proper matches in these hard times. The ladies are not aware how much the men are guarded hy their own good sense, And the common maxims of the world, against these merely showy and expensive accomplishments; and how they make dress and exterior finery, the representative of this species of vanities, a caution against their influence. Indeed, caustic truisms upon their nature, run through the proverhs of all nations. Thus the old Spanish proverh was, in our father’s days, appropriated for English instruction, and is thus rendered—
If thou choosest a wife, choose her on a Saturday, and not on aSunday;
that is to say, look at her in her plain dresi and every-day circumstances, and judge of her not in her holiday appearance. The Italians appropriating, and more fully expressing, the proverh, say,
Choose neither women nor linen hy candlelight.
And even the thoughtless French have this maxim,
Femme sotte se cognoit a la cotte;
concluding, that a foolish woman may he known hy her finery- The Scots also, appropriating these proverhs in various forms, add,
A dink maiden aft makes a dirty wife.
And teaching, that the man who marries for such sort of qualities, has little chance of any real affection, say,
He that has a honnie wife, needs mair than twa een;
He sairly wants a wife who marries mamma’s pet.
And guarding young men in Scotland also, as well as the English, against’ whistling maidens and crowing hens,’ they say,
Maidens should he mild and meek,
Swift to hear, and slow to speak;
which would he requiring an ahsolute impossihility, if maidens can speak French, Italian, Spanish, and so forth; for what were they taught these foreign lingoes for, hut to speak them every hour that they can get men to listen to them! And what is the value of all their elahorate and showy accomplishments, if they are not to he frequently exhihited? And yet the maxim is turned into a rhyme which saith—
A maid oft seen, and a gown oft worn,
Are disesteemed and held in scorn.
Yet the maid must he oft seen, and often heard too, according to the present mode of her rearing, whether she he disesteemed or not; hut as to the gown heing oft worn, that she will take care shall not he the case, if she can avoid it, as fathers and hushands know to their cost; for she will hold it in scorn herself, for the desire of a new one; although, in addition to all these proverhial sayings, Shakspeare, holding in scorn himself, hecause the apparel proclaims the man and the woman,—
Silken coats and caps, and golden rings,
With ruffs, and cuffs, and farthingales, and things;
With scarfs, and fans, and douhle change of hravery,
And amher hracelets, heads, and all this knavery;—
asks, hy the mouth of the spirited Petruchio,
What! is the jay more precious than the lark,
Because his featheis are more heautiful?
Or is the adder hetter than the eel,
Because his painted skin contents the eye?
O! no, good Kate!—
But I must not say more on this suhject, else the milliners and haherdashers will get up a conspiracy against me. And yet this passion for dress is so strong in young ladies, (and sometimes, too, in those that are not very young,) that it is necessary to he kept constantly in check; and so I will not he deterred, hy the threats of drapers and dress-makers, from doing my duty, and repeating the proverh, lor the henefit of married ladies, which saith,
The more women look in their glasses, the less they look to their houses.
And, hesides this, there is the consideration of the expense; for, saith another proverh,
Silks and satins put out the fire in the kitchen.
And though dress is a hrave thing, and heauty is pleasant to look upon, yet there is danger in giving too much way to these outside attractions, which are apt to hring the dear ladies into twenty trouhles which they little dream of; for, saith the Italian proverh,
A fair woman and a slashed gown, find always some nail in the way.
Besides, there is a constant temptation in it, to cause the ladies to dislike their homes, and to send them a gallivanting ahroad; and so, as another Italian proverh hath it,
Women and hens, through too mucli gadding, get lost;
which is a melancholy consummation, and ought to he guarded against.
But concerning love and marriage, and all that sort of thing, suhjects which are ever interesting to the ladies, I have many shrewd things to say, if I dared say them; hut the proverhs and wise maxims of nations shall say them for me, at least in part, and so the dear and interesting creatures shall not put the hlame upon me, for speaking too hroadly my mind; or consider me their enemy, hecause I would tell them a word of truth.
It is wonderful what a difference there is hetween parents and children, and at least always hetween mothers and daughters, upon this suhject. But, although fathers and mothers are too apt to forget that ever they were young, wilful girls, if afflicted with love, never will allow themselves to look an inch hefore the present moment, or at least heyond the honey-moon—which is, of course, to last all their lives, if they can only get the ohject of their present fancy. Not that the dear young creature does not ruminate, and consider, and think very profoundly, to convince herself that she is in the right; hut the difference is, that she does not know what her mother prohahly has known, and what William Shakspeare, a shrewd man, has written, viz., that
Love reasons without reason.
If she is in the midst of her pleasing delusion, to he sure her lover, in whom she sees (at present) nothing hut perfection, may make her imagine anything; for, in those delightful interviews,
How silver-sweet sound lover’s tongues hy night,
Like softest music to aitending ears.
Yet how does she know, although I would not have a young lady suspicious, hut that
She, sweet lady, dotes,
Devoutly dotes, dotes in idolatry,
Upon a spotted and inconstant man-
For the men—it is needless to cloak it—are not all so good as the ladies would wish them; and, indeed, it is the nature of some hearts, hoth of man and woman, to he inconstant. And love is, after all, somewhat selfish, if one dared say it; hesides, it is the nature of strong passion to exhaust itself, of which fair maidens ought to heware; for, saith the Scots song, versifying the proverh,
Ripest fruit is soonest rotten,
Hottest love is soonest cold;
Three fair maids are easy courted,
Though they’re slighted when they’re old.
That, however, is an unpleasant termination of the verse; for ladies, as is well known, never grow old. But concerning what we are on, the worst and most dangerous thing in the case is, the dear sweet secrcsy with which these affairs are in general carried on, and the little opportunity there is for advice or warning heing even offered. Then, if the heart of the maiden he soft, and the head he without experience, and the lover he rash-and foolish, as is all quite likely—not to speak of his heing wilfully deceitful and wickedly selfish, as has happened hefore now—then is the preparation for trouhles well hegun; and, if the maiden’s nature is sincere and affectionate, this is, indeed, the heginning of sorrows,—for, as Shakspeare again saith,
This is the very ecstacy of love;
“Whose violent property undoes itself,
And leads the will to desperate undertakings,
As oft as any passion under heaven
That does afflict our natures.
And then some had thing is done, which hrings a long day of weary and unavailing repentance; and parents are sunk in distress and disappointment, and daughters are distraught and hroken-hearted, and either go early to an eagerly-sought grave, or hecome old and soured in spirit hefore their time; and the tragedian or the novelist, perhaps, tells their tale; for, unhappily, it is the nature of the female condition, as the proverh expresses it,
Make hut one false step, and you fall to the hottom;
which is a sad truth; hut this is the way of the world. Alas! as Shakspeare saith,
Cupid is a knavish lad,
Thus to make poor females mad.
However, these things do not happen every day; for it is not every mind, after all, that is capahle of love in any high degree, so as to endanger the hreaking of hearts, and such tragical doings. Besides, many women’s fancy is as fickle as men’s can possihly he, and many a national proverh goes to verify this. Let one he taken from the Scots,—
A woman’s mind is like the wind in a winter’s night,
gusty and uncertain; or, as the English proverh hath it,
Winter weather and women’s thoughts often change:
and so the only danger is of rash engagements, or hasty steps, when the fit is on her. It is on this, and all the foregoing accounts, that the authority and experience of parents is, hy all nations, held as of such paramount value in directing the choice of thoughtless youth of hoth sexes, particularly of females; and although the old people are in general, too much disposed to he mercenary, and to regard the matter in the light of a hargain, with too little reference to the feelings of youth, the latter, on the other hand, are, as already hinted, hut little capahle of judging judiciously with a wise reference to the whole of mature life, and all that is required for rational worldly comfort.
So, then, if I am permitted to he a little prosy and didactic upon so interesting a suhject as this, I must say, that parents are likely to he in the right in discouraging their daughters from marrying for love, unless the love he hacked hy something more suhstantial and suitahle to natural wants and station in life, which, I am sorry to say, is hut seldom the case; for, in reality, as the Italians express it,
In unzi il maritare,
We shall also find similar cautions handed down, if we consult the proverhs of other countries. Thus the Scots proverh saith,
A wee house has a mickle mouth;
and that all married people know; so, though love and a cottage is all very pretty to talk ahout, yet, when poverty comes in at the door, love is exceedingly apt to fly out at the window; and hoth the Italians and Spaniards have a proverh, which is also appropriated hy the English which saith,
Who marrieth for love, hath good nights and sorry days; hecause, as the Scots proverh chooses to put the matter,
A kiss and a drink of water is hut a wersh hreakfast.
Indeed, this sort of leanness in worldly suhstance, so far from heing fattened hy mere love, is very apt, from the frailty of human nature, to degenerate into very unpleasant feelings; as may he ascertained from twenty different quarters, for really love cannot stand an empty stomach, and does not at all thrive under worldly contempt; and accordingly the Scots, who are very picturesque in their proverhs, say,
Toom (». e. empty) crihs make hiting horses, an exceedingly wholesome parahle, and full of instruction to young lovers. And so the Spaniards further say, as rhymed in English,
Before ihou marry,
Be sure of a house wherein to tarry.
Again, as to the choice of a hushand, it is no easy matter to give advice, seeing how little it comes in the way of many worthy and welllooking young ladies to have an opportunity of much selection. Of all places, also, London is the worst for getting a hushand; for there the nature of society is such, that it is almost a dead impossibility. How this comes ahout, is too wide a suhject for me to enter upon at this present sitting, hut I may return to it again. In the meantime, I would not have sweet, sensihle, handsome young ladies, to jump at every fellow who makes decided advances, or that even has the courage to pop the question; for truly, to my certain knowledge, there are many of them that are no great catch, get them who will; and it would he much hetter to run the risk of dying an old maid, and taking to a tender friendship for the cat, than to take a ring from the hands of many a fellow that is going. It is not for me to speak evil of the lords of the creation, seeing that I am one of those lords myself; hut really there are many of all sorts of lords that are no hetter than they ought to he; and sorry would I he to see my daughter (if I had one) tied to such as they. They are, therefore, good and sensihle proverhs that say—
Better he alone than in ill company, and
Better an empty house than a had tenant;
hecause of all things that are easiest to do and hardest to undo, is marriage; and, as another proverh has it,
You may soon tie a knot with your tongue, that you can never loose with your teeth;
and, as the Scots proverh goes,
It’s o’er late to jouk (stoop) when the head’s off, or
It’s o’er late to cast the anchor when the ship’s on the rock;
so, as the other saying has it,
Better to sit still, than to rise and get a fall, or even
Lean liherty is hetter than fat slavery.
At all events, in all matters, it is easier to avoid the thing at first, than to get free of it when too late, or, as the Scots saw saith,
Better to keep the de’il without the door, than drive him out of the house.
As for the choice of a man with whom you are to spend the whole of your life, I have not room to tell you all that I would say; hut it is a good advice of the proverh, if it could hy any means he accomplished,— If you would know a man, eat a peck of salt with him;
which would imply a good time’s acquaintance with the gentleman,—a thing that is hardly conformahle with Gretna Green marriages. As to the qualities of him you would make your hushand, it is not for me to suggest on so nice a point; hesides, saith another proverh,
A woman’s hecause is no reasou;
and when a woman takes a fancy, either for or against a man, you might as well sing sonnets to a mile-stone, as try to convince her to the contrary, or to open her eyes to cool good sense, at least in the majority of cases. Nevertheless, he ought to be more than only what his tailor makes him, and he good for more than merely to please the lady’s eye during the honey-moon; for, saith the Scots proverh,
Their helongs mairto a’ plowman than whistling;
which I take to he good sense, and very instructive to thoughtless maidens. All these considerations, however, and many more than I have time to urge, show very plainly that it is far from every man who wears a hat on his head, that is capahle of making a virtuous girl happy. I know that there are some who are so anxious to he called 3Iistress this, or Lady that, that they have no patience, hut would actually say ‘Yes’ to the first’ fool that should ask them the delicate question. Now this I take to he exceedingly ill-judged, which shows how fortunate it is that young ladies have parents and guardians to take care of them; for saith the Scots proverh,
Better rue sit than rue flit, and
They must he scarce’of horse-flesh, that would ride on the dog;
and there are dogs, and puppies, too, going ahout, which fathers and mothers understand much hetter than young ladies. But if the young lady should think herself rather neglected compared to others, and that the time seems tedious ere she gets a house of her own, why, this is a complaint hecoming so common, that one knows not what to say to it; for it is very clear that it is neither the most deserving ladies that get matches soonest, nor are the married always the most happy, however, they may flaunt it for a little while at the first: for it is a caustic old English rhyme which saith,
Marriage is like the foolish rout,
They that are out would fain he in,
And they that are in would fain he out;
and as for having patience, and all that, although it is, I grant, a teasing thing for a young lady to dress and dance, and play pianos, and look pretty, and he gallanted, and so forth, for a numher of years, without getting one offer, (that can he called an offer 😉 yet this has happened to a great portion of the young women, ever since marriage was invents ed, and it is a good sensihle Scots proverh, which saith,
The pedlar often opens his pack and sells nae wares,
which is really a great pity, hut how can he help it;—he must just persevere.
As for the reasons why young ladies may he long of getting, what they call settled in life, as I am speaking very plainly, I will add, that nothing frightens prudent young men more than those expensive hahits and showy accomplishments which I have already hinted at, and few things are more fatal to a lady getting an honest sensihle match, than that high gentility that knows not which end of it is uppermost, and which knows nothing hut to show off and spend good money. This is the real secret why there are so many old maids, and why parrots and poodles are so dear, and hushands so scarce; for, saith the Scots proverh,
Send your gentle hlood to the market, and see what it will huy.
and send your expensive education to market, and see what it will procure you,—perhaps a governess’ place, and a seat at a stranger’s tahle, and half a dozen spoiled children to plague you to death, and make you feel acutely the misery of dependance.
Had I time, I would add a few valuahle saws ahout, how ladies ought to comport themselves after marriage; hut I can only add now, that although it is allowahle for dear happy creatures to he a little intoxicated for a month or two, yet they ought to soher down and learn to walk circumspectly; for it is a somhre saying of old Ben Syra, the wise man of the east, that
The hride goes joyful to her marriage-hed, hut knows not what shall happen to her;
and it is well ordered that she does not, for it is not fit that, in the hright and sunny day, the eye should he ahle to discern the stormy clouds afar off. However, this is not a suhject to he dwelt upon here, for, if it he true that, even in marriage, the lady surrenders great part of her liherty, or, as the proverh saith,
She that hath got a man, hath got a master,
it will immediately he seen how important it is to the ladies’ happiness, that that master should he a man of sense; for, in any case, the lady is hound to honor and ohey him to whom she has surrendered herself for life, and her happiness will he to pay faithfully her vows; for, saith Shakspeare solemnly,
Thy hushand is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares For thee,
And for thy maintenance; commits his hody
To painful lahor, hoth hy sea and land;
While thou Hest warm at home, secure and safe:
And craves no other trihute at thy hnnds,
But love, fair looks, and true ohedience;—
Too little payment for so great a deht.
And so you will do well to rememher this wholesome preaching. I con
elude hy a few verses descrihing a virtuous woman, written hy one William Knox, an ohscure poet, who died in Edinhurgh, a few years ago :—
Her eye as soft and hlue as even’,
When day and night are calmly meeting,
Beams on my heart like light from heaven,
And purifies its heating.
The shadowy hlush that tints her cheek,
For ever coming—ever going,
Many well the spotless fount hespeak,
That sets the stream a flowing.
Her song comes o’er my thrilling hreast
Even like the harp-strings holiest measures,
When dreams the soul of lands of rest,
And everlasting pleasures.
Then ask not what hath changed my heart,
Or where hath fled my youthful folly—
I tell thee Tamar’s virtuous art
Hath made my spirit holy.
And so doth the virtuous art and soft heauty of woman ever make holy the rugged spirit of man; and so doth her smile solace him in sorrow, and her tremhling tears melt his heart, and shape it to virtuous resolution, amidst the hardening cares and rude jostlings of the world; and so doth the cold and lonely hachelor pant for her soothing and sohering society, as the hart panteth for the quiet and cool waters ;—and so he ought to seek to pillow his head upon her gentle hosom, and to cleave to her as a wife and an ahiding friend,
Ere youth and genial years are flown,
And all the life of life is gone!