Imatges de pàgina
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CHAPTER II.

INTELLECT IN WOMAN.

"Well I know, in the prime end Of nature, her th’inferior; in the mind And inward faculties, which most excel."

Milton.

$ 1.–The true sphere of woman is a point, the importance of which can scarcely be overrated; and there are respects in which should he distinctly understood what it is not, as well as what it is. Now, although woman be, in common with man, distinguished by the possession of reason, yet is not the sphere of genius hers : she can claim neither its properties nor its privileges, and intellectual excellence is still less her province than it is her peculiarity.

Power of mind is sexual : that vigour of genius hich distinguishes man is rarely to be found in the opposite sex; in a word, woman is a creature less intellectual than man. If we regard the head as the fountain of intellect-the heart as the source of the affections we may adopt the figurative language of Chamfort:-" The female has a cell less in the head :" whether, as a recompense on the part of nature, she can boast “a fibre more in the heart," must be a point for consideration elsewhere *.

This much for the present we may be allowed to take for granted--the intellectual powers of woman differ from those of man, as well as her physical properties : Mind with her, both as to its operations and products, is of another kind, and takes a totally different direction.

Woman best appreciates what falls under the jurisdiction of sensation. She sometimes displays wit, but not genius; she thinks, but does not meditate, and is not so much a reasoning creature, as a creature capable of reason; while to improve is within the reach of the female mind, to create is matter of difficulty and performance ; rather subtle than solid, it analyses with elegance, but not logically—with considerable grace, but very rarely with accuracy (1).

* Vide chap. xv.

Profound thought in fact belongs to, and is the power of the man. That woman's capacity is not for intense application, her little aptitude for the perception of complicated truths, and all abstract studies, sufficiently shows. Unable to embrace the whole of anything, or to follow up the chain of an argument from its first principles to its remote consequences, she pauses upon minutiæ, and only remarks individually. By constitution also averse to the tediousness of deduction, and to a wearisome multiplicity of evidence, can she be expected to hold fairly the balance between latent truth and varnished error? To understand things well, they must be looked at in all their various relations; and these being almost endless, female knowledge can hardly fail to be imperfect.

The imaginative faculty in woman displays, indeed, a very remarkable versatility of its own; it is of the firefly kind, ever in motion—but in unmeaning motion, and often without a direction. We are astonished by its quickness of passage, as it hurries to and fro on most rapid wing, and flutters about from one blossom of opinion to VOL. I.

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another: but, meantime, the judgment thus bandied about like a shuttlecock between contrary opinions, is able to effect a complete investigation of nothing!

$ 2.-- Decision is a grand characteristic of mind; for there can scarcely be much consequence of character where there is no strength of intellect. The inference we are obliged to draw, is, that women are wanting in mental character; they do in fact appear to be, as a sex, stamped by nature with mental identity. There is no broad characteristic outline, no idiosyncrasy in the female mind: it can boast no distinct stock of native ideas--none such as produce others spontaneously; all that it has are acquired, - one by one, and with difficulty. A distinguished poet thus commences his “ Essay on Woman"

“ Most women have no character at all;

Matter too soft a lasting form to bear,
And best distinguished by black, brown, and fair."

Les femmes sont exirêmes,” says La Bruyère. Where there is any character it may be observed to be generally in extremes ; it has no genuine and fixed standard of moderation. Guided by no principle, impelled only by passion and feeling, they exist the mere creatures of sensibility; and, as the same author has observed, “it commonly happens that those whom they love form even their manners.”

Frequently has man been termed "an imitative animal :" the female division of the species is, however, entitled in a more exclusive degree to be so styled. From her cradle to her grave, woman is but learning to do what she sees others do;—and though to do things by example, and upon confidence of another's judgment, may be a point in prudence, it is only second wisdom, and writing as it were by a copy. Viewed in her strongest light, woman is still but an echo of the man; she owes, with the camelion, the colour she assumes to the colour of the object near her; and her mind, planet-like, is not brilliant in itself, but shines by aid of a borrowed light. “ If situation influences the mind, and if uniformity of conduct be frequently occasioned by

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