« PreviousContinue »
MRS. B. Not at all. The first object of every woman in married life should be the happiness of her husband, as connected with her own; therefore any concealment, in which he does not concur, should be avoided. And if there be a proper understanding between them, it can scarcely be considered as a breach of trust, should the wife think fit to confide the secret of her friend to her husband; nor should any one, in making private communications to a married friend, expect or demand more from her than a conditional promise of silence towards her husband.
MRS. L.-I perceive, however, that the comfort of married life may be disturbed by any reserve towards a husband, even though on subjects that have no connection with the family circle.
MRS. B.It is very true; and yet it is almost im
But, if mutual married, its in
possible to avoid it in every case. confidence subsisted between the conveniences would be lessened: neither of them would then suspect the other of sharing any confidence of an injudicious nature, or any that would be likely to bring trouble into the family circle. The propriety of maintaining such a reserve towards a husband, depends chiefly upon the nature of the confidence reposed by the friend. If it have no relation to her own concerns, and if she is merely the depositary of a secret communication, and not employed as an active agent in it, there may not be much inconvenience attending it. But if called upon to act and assist, reserve towards her husband should then cease; for I can perceive but
few things in which she could, unknown to her husband, assist her friend, without practising some degree of duplicity. Let me therefore advise you to decline participating in the confidence of any one who would require your assistance unknown to your husband.
How is a lady who settles at a distance
from her own family-connections to select her acquaintance? MRS. B. There are not many women who have the power to select their acquaintance after marriage. Most commonly they must enter, without much discrimination, into the circle in which marriage places them; and this is particularly the case with the wives of professional men, whose interest it is, not to be forgotten by those from whom they expect employment, nor to remain unknown to the public. MRS. L. But are there not some points to be observed in the formation of an acquaintance, which should always be firmly adhered to?
MRS. B. There are several. Thus, it is evident, that those whose characters and conduct stand impeached of any thing dishonourable should never be admitted into good society. This should be a rule with every one, of which neither interest, policy, nor even the pleadings of pity, should induce the neglect. As general security and good order require that the transgressors of the law of the
land should pay its penalties, so the purity and comfort of society depend upon the banishment of those who have proved themselves unworthy of its sanction. It is true the observance of this rule may, sometimes, deprive our circles of wit and talents equally amusing and instructive; but wit and talents, unaccompanied by moral worth, allure to danger. If the young view the vicious with approbation, half the barrier, in their minds, between right and wrong, is broken down; and an inlet made to more serious attacks on innocence and on virtuous principles.
MRS L.-Is not this rule of exclusion likely to check the desire of many to quit the paths of vice and dishonour; or to throw within the shade of melancholy those who, but for one unfortunate step, might have ranked with the innocent and happy?
MRS. B. Your remark is just: but, still, we must bear in mind, that repentance is not genuine unless it have a higher aim than merely to be restored to the world's approbation. The world has no power to heal the wounds of the mind, therefore its acts of grace, in restoring the fallen to his place in society, would be useless as well as pernicious. He who has fallen by his own misdemeanours, must be a warning to others, and pay, by exclusion from unspotted society, the penalty for his transgressions. Men practise this exclusion, in the most rigid manner, towards individuals of their own sex who have failed in the observance of those principles of conduct which, in polite society, are regarded as essential to constitute the gentleman and man of honour; and, this being the case, how
much more necessary is it for virtuous women to refuse to admit into their society those who have forfeited that character! Were this barrier broken down, the female world would lose that wellmerited homage which it now receives from men ; and, like fallen angels, become more contemptible by a comparison between their degraded state and their prior purity. I knew Alicia, who was the admiration of every eye for the beauty and the symmetry of her person; and eminently calculated to be the fascinating centre of every company, for the liveliness of her manners, the sweetness of her temper, and the brilliancy of her wit; but, nevertheless, she was the most wretched of her sex. I have seen her at an assembly, leaning upon the arm of a man of rank, pass through the room, and cast a look of ineffable contempt upon the other females of the party; and yet, when the artificial spirits, which the occasion and the situation had excited, subsided, and she found herself alone in her apartment, she would burst into tears, sink into a fit of despondency, and envy the plainest and most neglected female in the party she had quitted. The truth was, that Alicia had, unfortunately, deviated from the path of rectitude, the strict observance of which alone can gain respect to the female character; and found, from sad experience, that the very men who flocked around her in public, pouring out the incense of flattery to her beauty, and sacrificing at the shrine of her talents, withdrew their wives and daughters from her society, as if from a source of contamination and thus shut out from the fellowship of the