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ON TEMPER, AS CONNECTED WITH SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS TOWARDS A HUSBAND, CHILDREN, SERVANTS, AND SOCIETY.
MRS. L. It requires but little penetration, and even less experience, to acknowledge the importance of a good temper in the married woman; but who can advise her how to attain it? We can all eulogize it; but if nature have not laid its foundation within us, we find advice but an inefficient instructor in the art of raising its superstructure. Will you, my dear madam, give me your opinion, and afford me such assistance as the nature of the subject will permit?
MRS. B. A good temper is indeed a blessing, not only to the individual who possesses it, but to every being and object within its influence. It is like a healthy atmosphere: - it promotes cheerfulness and elasticity of spirits in all around; and even gloomy and discontented dispositions can scarcely resist its happy power. But the temper which casts this influence around it, is not to be confounded with that easy disposition which nature sometimes gives, and in which no feeling, either pleasurable or painful, proceeds beyond the point of mediocrity. Such a disposition may pass by painful and vexa
tious events without annoying us by fretful lamentations, but it does no more; it neither heightens our pleasures nor lessens our griefs by its sympathy. It sheds no cheerfulness around it, and is hardly to be considered as a blessing to the possessor, since it weakens the social feelings which connect him with his fellow-creatures. The temper I would recommend is to be acquired by the aid of self-government, and to be possessed by every one, although perhaps in different degrees.
MRS. L. But should not the task of regulating the temper begin long before the responsibility of a wife or a mother commences? Will not the difficulty then prove too great, for those whose tempers have been injured, either by the false indulgence of their parents, or by other defects in their early management?
MRS. B. In such cases the difficulties are indeed great; but where there is energy of mind, much may be done, especially if there be, also, a thorough conviction of the importance of self-control, both as it regards the happiness of the individual, and of every one connected with her. Upon her temper, the welfare of her family may be said to turn, because it has the greatest effect in moulding the characters, and in promoting or destroying the happiness of the domestic circle. Even should the temper of her husband be peculiar, she may, by having the command of her own, lessen some of its bad effects upon the happiness of the family; and though she may not be able to avert them entirely, yet she will derive much satisfaction from knowing she has not increased the evil, by her own want of
forbearance and good-humour. One of the agreeable consequences which she will find to result from good temper, is the influence it gives her within the domestic sphere. It is a virtuous influence, honourable to herself, and beneficial as far as it extends; and very different from that love of power, which, the sarcastic say, is inherent in woman. Good temper in a wife is indispensable to conjugal happiness. A man may possess every advantage which the world has to give, and may have talents that render him a valuable member of society; yet, if his wife be contentious, fretful, or discontented, his sum of happiness is most incomplete.
Every man, whether employed in the duties of public or of professional life, meets with numerous circumstances and disappointments which harass and distress him. For the painful effects of these, a happy home provides an instantaneous antidote. thing beyond its walls seems for a time forgotten, while the mind is relieved, and its powers renovated for future exertions in the world, by the healthy air of cheerfulness which he breathes in the domestic circle. How different when home is a scene of ill humour and discord! Into such a home no one can retire from the harassing business of life, with any hope of comfort and relaxation, but must seek elsewhere to dissipate the weight upon his spirits; though nowhere can he find relief so effectual, as that which, under happier auspices, his home might have afforded him. The desires which he might once have entertained to cultivate domestic tastes, and to seek for happiness in domestic enjoyments, are turned
from their course, and directed into channels which can give him no permanent satisfaction, but in which, by too eager a pursuit, he may be brought into situations destructive to his peace of mind.
The world corrupts; home should refine: the one, even in the sober transactions of life, presents examples of craftiness, self-interestedness, and freedom in moral principle; while, in its more alluring scenes of pleasure, it only nourishes folly and vanity. By the contemplation of these, even without participating in them, the mind is injured; it contracts a rust which nothing can better remove than home, when it is properly organized. When that presents an opposite picture of virtue, innocence, and peace, none but a depraved mind can withstand its influence, which tends to purify the heart, and to restore to the mind its moral lustre. How important then is it, that the wife should obtain that influence over her husband's mind which will prompt him to turn frequently from the world to her society, for happiness and refinement ! MRS. L. You will tell me that the welfare of children is also as deeply involved in the temper of their mother. But you do not expect that she can always maintain it in one even tenor, when assailed by vexatious and irritating circumstances?
MRS. B. It is not, indeed, always possible to preserve good-humour and composure, under the various attacks made upon them; but a mother must be defective in the management of her children, if she be herself ruled by the impulse of the moment. No precept to restrain their passions can work with effect, if her example teach them a con
trary lesson. Fear may restrain them in her presence, but its effects will extend no farther; and when away from her, their waywardness will be without control. Duplicity is sometimes engendered by fear, in children of timid dispositions; and the parent who, in giving way to the impulses of her temper, renders her children afraid of her, must not be surprised if they practise towards her all the petty arts of subterfuge they can devise in order to conceal from her causes which
might excite her anger. Thus a vice may be implanted in their minds which she may never have the power to eradicate. Had she disciplined herself better, she might, instead of governing them by fear, and urging them to take refuge from her displeasure in craftiness, have established their confidence in her, and encouraged in them a candid spirit. Restraining herself in all but just displeasure, she might have induced them to found their strength and security on her approbation, rather than in the concealment of their childish misdemeanours. Her influence over them would then have tended to remedy the weakness in their characters, until they, by the force of habit, had become incapable of practising any course of systematic deception.
MRS. L. I have witnessed the effects you describe upon a family of young people, in whom fear towards their parents predominated over affection. While very young, I saw them endeavouring daily to avoid anger or disgrace, by every art of evasion and deceit in their power: at last they became such proficients, that it might have