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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 be remarkable 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 by 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 be supposed to imbibe 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, by a pedantic jabbering of foreign lingoes; or understand how to keep an honest man's house, by drawing faces all day on a paper,-painting China roses with a little water and carmine, or making ugly tulips by wasting good colors, daubed in splatches upon a china plate. Doubtless, all those employments are extremely fashionable and fine; and besides being exceedingly profitable, in particular to certain foreigners, who come to live upon the English by teaching these precious accomplishments, are happily calculated for making ladies brilliant 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 bring out their latent virtues, or to give them a little good sense and mind furnishing, or aught else that might come to be really useful to them in their years of discretion. The worst of it, however, is, that this brilliancy and cleverness at everything that is fine, is becoming so common, that it is no longer a mark of much distinction; while, in the mean time, sensible knowledge and housewife mother-wit are gone clean out of fashion,-it having been discovered, in these enlightened times, that ladies are born for no other purpose than to play music all day, and dance gallopades all night.
Not that I would in the least be 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 being quite right—and that the men have nought to do but 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 become tiresome, I have thought it best to be beforehand with the world, and to lay before it a few of those old saws and quaint sayings which used to be in vogue before the march of intellect times came in, and by which the world was governed in old times, long before any of us were born. In those days, it having been 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 applicable 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 be easily floated about like current coin, for every-day use, and could conveniently be 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; but how they did without piano-fortes, and harps, and gallopades, it certainly puzzles me to know. They must, af. ter all, have been but ignorant vulgar creatures, compared to the Pene. lopes and Lucretias of the present day.
However this may be, it is certain that proverbs, and these sort of sayings, were fashionable, in very ancient times; and whatever is in fashion being naturally respectable, 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 bad wife; not to speak of king Solomon, who had more wives than he knew well how to manage. Saint Paul also said, in a very ungallant proverb, which is in common use with the Spaniards at this day,-namely, that he that marrieth a wife, doeth well, but he that marrieth not, doeth far better:' but St. Paul was a bachelor who never knew the comfort of a wife ; and the ladies are not at all obliged to him for this saying. In late times, our own philosophers propounded proverbs. The great Lord Bacon himself collected them, and so did the gallant Sir Walter Raleigh ; Archbishop Lowth wrote a discourse upon them; Cardinal Beaton, in Scotland; published a collection of them, and so did Camden, the antiquarian. Our own Alfred the Great taught his people by these means; and Scottish Jamie, the successor of Elizabeth, was so fond of them, that he seldom spoke but he seasoned his speech with these quaint sayings of oral wisdom. But, indeed, the Scots were always a rare people for the making of proverbs; 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 be 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 observations, and those characteristic scraps of common-sense philosophy, which have of late been so much banished from English colloquism. All this, however, and much more that we could add, may serve to show that we have not taken up a disreputable subject; but it is time that we should proceed to apply a few of those sayings which used to make up, perhaps, the best part of the practical wisdom of our fathers.
It is a pleasant thing, no doubt, 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 back these
agreeable frivolities, she may hang long on the hands of her foolish parents, according to the proverb,
A fair maiden, dowerless, is seen to get more wooers than husbands; because 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 casawhich, being Anglicised, maketh this rhyming proverb,
A nice wife, and a back door,
Doth often make a rich man poor. And therefore, it is rather a doubtful speculation, for parents to bring un daughters to the mere trade of playing ladies all their days, without any other useful or commendable quality, as is too much the practice of the present day.
I would not be so plain spoken on this delicate point, but that it is pretty freely admitted, that the great end of a lady's education is, that she may commend herself to a good husband; and if so, it is really paying a bad compliment to our sex, to suppose that they set a higher value upon mere fashionable accomplishments, than they do upon more useful or substantial virtues. If the plan is a matter of speculation, as it in general is, which agrees with the natural propensity of man to gamble in his own fortune and that of his children; it certainly may be true, that a pretty flirt, who can do nothing but show off in a drawingroom and spend money, does, now and then, succeed in catching a sickly nabob from the East Indies, or a senseless old man from the wealthy neighborhood of Cripplegate or Crutched-friars, who has, by 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 be a gentleman. Whether the lady gets any very desirable bargain, who obtains a catch of this kind, it is for sensible girls to consider ; but the number of these God.sends, compared to that of the old maids, which this system of unsuitable education entails upon every passing generation, is really becoming 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 obtain proper matches in these hard times. The ladies are not aware how much the men are guarded by 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 truismıs upon their nature, run through the proverbs of all nations. Thus the old Spanish proverb 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 a Sunday; that is to say, look at her in her plain dress and every-day circumstances, and judge of her not in her holiday appearance. The Italians appropriating, and more fully expressing, the proverb, say,
Choose neither women nor linen by candlelight. And even the thoughtless French have this maxim,
Femme sotte se cognoit à la cotte; concluding, that a foolish woman may be known by her finery. The Scots also, appropriating these proverbs 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 bonnie wife, needs mair than twa een; and,
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 be mild and meek,
Swift to hear, and slow to speak; which would be requiring an absolute impossibility, if maidens can speak French, Italian, Spanish, and so forth; for what were they taught these foreign lingoes for, but to speak them every hour that they can get men to listen to them? And what is the value of all their elaborate and showy accomplishments, if they are not to be frequently exhibited ? 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 be oft seen, and often heard too, according to the present mode of her rearing, whether she be disesteemed or not; but as to the gown being oft worn, that she will take care shall not be the case, if she can avoid it, as fathers and husbands 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 proverbial sayings, Shakspeare, holding in scorn himself, because the apparel proclaims the man and the woman,
Silken coats and caps, and golden rings,
And amber bracelets, beads, and all this knavery;asks, by the mouth of the spirited Petruchio,
What! is the jay more precious than the lark,
0! no, good Kate! But I must not say more on this subject, else the milliners and haberdashers will get up a conspiracy against me. And yet this passion
Silks and a
for dress is so strong in young ladies, (and sometimes, too, in those that are not very young,) that it is necessary to be kept constantly in check; and so I will not be deterred, by the threats of drapers and dress-makers, from doing my duty, and repeating the proverb, for the benefit of married ladies, which saith,
The more women look in their glasses, the less they look to their houses. And, besides this, there is the consideration of the expense ; for, saith another proverb,
Silks and satins put out the fire in the kitchen. And though dress is a brave thing, and beauty is pleasant to look upon, yet there is danger in giving too much way to these outside attractions, which are apt to bring the dear ladies into twenty troubles which they little dream of; for, saith the Italian proverb,
A fajr 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 abroad; and so, as another Italian proverb hath it,
Women and hens, through too much gadding, get lost; . which is a melancholy consummation, and ought to be guarded against.
But concerning love and marriage, and all that sort of thing, subjects which are ever interesting to the ladies, I have many shrewd things to say, if I dared say them; but the proverbs 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 blame upon me, for speaking too broadly my mind; or consider me their enemy, because I would tell them a word of truth.
It is wonderful what a difference there is between parents and children, and at least always between mothers and daughters, upon this subject. 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 before the present moment, or at least beyond the honey-moon—which is, of course, to last all their lives, if they can only get the object 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; but the difference is, that she does not know what her mother probably 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 be sure her lover, in whom she sees (at present) nothing but perfection, may make her imagine anything ; for, in those delightful interviews,
How silver-sweet sound lover's tongues by night,