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TRAITS OF THE FEMALE CHARACTER.
What a beautiful Poem, if I may illiberal as it is unphilosophical. The so call it, is the Book of Ruth. Here sneer couched in the very gender of is one of the few sweet and exqui- Virgil's “varium et mutabile semper sitely faithful pictures, left us by the femina.”. is sufficient to indicate the Ancients, of that noble tenderness opinion of the earlier ages; the literal which distinguishes the Female cha- translation of this sentence being, racter. Ruth is both the pattern Woman is a fickle and changeable and the copy of the best of her sex. animal. Indeed they seldom in their It has often, no doubt, been remark- writings give us any reason to suped as a defect among the Poets of pose that they examined the subject Antiquity, that they have so rarely with due attention; they do not apexhibited Woman in all the peculiar pear ever to have justly appreciated loveliness of her nature. The He- the peculiar graces of the female mind, brews, the Greeks, and the Romans, or the characteristic virtues of the though Sophocles and a few others female disposition. The Turks are may afford partial exceptions, seem said to hold that women have no to have regarded the female sex as souls, and I cannot but conclude the almost below the dignity of poetical Greeks and the Romans so far barnotice. When they are introduced barians, that they were wholly ignoupon the scene, it is almost always rant of a fact which I am sure needs in masculine characters : "they are only be asserted to obtain general men in women's apparel. Clytem- assent,-viz. the higher perfection of nestra, Medea, Camilla, Amata, have that quality which we denominate all the roughness of the other sex, soul, in the female breast than in and but little of the tenderness of ours. Whatever we may arrogate their own.
Or if they are occasion- in point of Understanding, whatever ally drawn with a more delicate pen- with respect to the grander emotions cil, it is only to exhibit them at the of the soul;—where the finer disposiloom, amongst their maids, or en- tions or feelings (which we denomi. gaged in their household affairs. Not nate, par excellence, soul) are conto speak of the Deities, who seem to cerned, it must be allowed that the participate all the vices of the Hu- sex which is pre-eminent for delicacy man race and none of the virtues, of outward form, is proportionably Penelope, nay Andromache herself, endued with these nicer refinements the most amiable female characters of the spirit. painted by Homer (who in powers of Friendship and Love are two of delineation was the Shakspeare of those gentler passions in which soul that age), are but faint and lifeless is principally concerned. And the representations of Woman as she is story of Ruth appears to confirm an often to be found upon the great old theory of mine, upon the comstage of Nature. The draught of the parative capacities of the two sexes poet was infinitely less poetical than for the entertainment of these kina the original, for the cold majestic dred emotions. It has long been a housewifely deportment of Andro- favourite opinion with me, that in mache towards Hector, even in the purity of feelings where love is the height of her grief for his departure, passion, in devotedness of heart, and is such as no matron who tenderly strength of attachment to the object loves her husband would assumé. preferred, Women are, generally In this respect the Moderns have not speaking, far nobler beings than men. only manifested a more delicate taste Indeed if the reader agrees with me and refined sensibility, but have in the assertions made above, first taken a much more philosophical that women are pre-eminent in soul, view of human nature. The Ancients and secondly that soul is predominant evidently seem to have considered in love, he must of necessity also women as an inferior species of be- agree with me, that women love ings to men, which is a doctrine as with more truth and intensity than
we do ; thus far, my theory is im- such allegation be true, which I am pregnable. But besides the intensity by no means inclined to admit. Comof the feeling, I think its purity in paring them with ourselves in this the female breast is for the most particular, I dare say were Female part confirmed by observation. In Biography as copious and historical her loves, Woman is seldom more as ours, for every Pylades ånd Oresthan an ardent friend; in his, Man tes, it would be easy to quote a is never less than a lover. The last Naomi and Ruth. and best quality engaged in this pas- The story or poem, as given in sion-Constancy, is, however, that the Sacred Writings, is an historical in which I think the nobleness of testimony in favour of the above conthe female heart chiefly remarkable. clusion. As well, therefore, to illusThere is a spirit of peculiar devoted- trate my position, as to make a few ness to the object of her love, in the cursory observations on the beauties breast of a woman, a certain forti- of Scripture Poetry, I beg leave to tude of affection, which no changes rehearse a few passages of the Book or chances of life can discourage, of Ruth. which increases with adversity, and which unkindness itself cannot sub
And Naomi said unto her two daughtersdue: Woman's love, like an April in-law, Go, return each to her mother's flower, seems to bloom most sweetly house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as in tears. To her, love is a second ye have dealt with the dead and with me.
The Lord grant that ye may find rest nature, the business of her life, the each of you in the house of her husband. motive of her actions, the theme of Then she kissed them, and they lift up her waking thoughts, the shadow their voice, and wept. which her fancy pursues even in slumber; it is the innate principle of I must interrupt the course of the her constitution it is born with her, narrative here, to remark upon the it grows with her heart-strings, and exquisite beauty of the common she rarely parts with it but with her scriptural phrase, “ they lift up their life. Constancy is then, in her, al- voice, and wept." It is not only a most an unavoidable virtue, for her very bold, but a critically just metahappiness consists in loving and be- phor; and also expresses most aptly ing loved, which latter constancy that kind of action which generally best ensures. By the very delicacy accompanies loud weeping, where of her constitution she is bound to the bosom expands upwards and the home, she is essentially domestic; head is involuntarily raised or thrown her temperament therefore must be back, to give strength and freedom one which can be satisfied with same
to the voice. The expression “ to ness, else there would be no fitness raise the voice” is much feebler, and between the being and its circum- whatever metaphor might once have stances; in other words, she is of been in it, is now unperceived by a constant, faithful disposition. Of reason of its triteness. course I shall be understood as speaking generally; there are many in
And they said unto her, Surely we will
return with thee unto thy people. constant women. Nay, perhaps,
And Naomi said, 'Turn again, my where love is not immediately con- daughters ; why will you go with me ? Are cerned, the same exquisite sensibi- there yet any more sons in my womb, that lity to every thing charming will in- they may be your husbands ?" duce fickleness: new pleasurable ob- And they lift up their voice, and wept jects will excite new feelings. again: and Orpah kissed her mother-in
It is from this devotedness of spirit, law; but Ruth clave unto her. that I conclude, in opposition to com
And she said, Behold thy sister-in-law mon opinion, that Women are more is gone back unto her people, and unto her capable of niutual Friendship than gods : returu thou after thy sister-in-law. The domestic nature of the
And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave, circumstances in which they are
thee, or to return from following after thee :
for whither thou goest, I will go ; and placed, whereby their little weak- where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy nesses are perpetually brought into people shall be my people, and thy God collision, sufficiently accounts for the
my infrequency or impermanency of their Where thou diest will I die, and there friendship amongst themselves,-if will I be buried : the Lord do so to me,
and more also, if aught but death part of devotion and determinedness of thee and me.
constancy, which I noted as a cha. When she saw that she was steadfastly racteristic of the female disposition, minded to go with her, then she left speak is here most strikingly displayed. ing unto her.
Ruth persists to the verge of obstiHow beautiful, how affecting is nacy in accompanying her motherthis story! and how simply, yet po- in-law, and will not be persuaded etically told.
The chasteness and even by the person she loves so concision of the manner is peculiarly ardently. The expression “ Ruth admirable. There is nothing like clave unto her,” denotes this amiable false ornament or ambitious decora- persistence very happily. tion in the language; all is naturally In the several accounts which hisand expressively related. What a torians have given us of Friendship pleasing image of amiability and ten- between man and man, we see much derness does the second verse pre- nobleness of mind, much firmness sent; the matron blessing her two of purpose displayed. Pylades and daughters, embracing them, and Orestes, Damon and Pythias, are their returning no answer, but weep- splendid examples of honour, maging. The loneliness, the resignation nanimity, courage, and fidelity. But of the widowed childless Naomi, is yet, if we curiously examine these also beautifully painted in the first. stories, we shall find that the pecue' I would moreover especially point liar devotedness of spirit which I'am out to the notice of the reader, the inclined to attribute to the female mode in which Orpah's departure is sex, is never dwelt upon by the hismade known. The sacred poet says, torian, never brought out into the she “ kissed her mother-in-law; foreground, never particularly insistbut he does not add, as a less skilful ed on as the sole ruling motive of writer would have done,--and went action. There is always some other her way. He leaves that to be im- inducement, some selfish principle plied by the remainder of the sen- leading one or other of the parties to tence. This brief way of narrating the commission of the said act of by implication, is very difficult of friendship, some motive of action attainment, being apt to degene- beside the apparent one. Thus we rate into obscurity. And for this are told in the story of Theseus and best quality of narration,-concise Pirithous, that one of these heroes perspicuity, the Scriptures, it must accompanied his friend to hell (by. be acknowledged, are remarkable. which some difficult adventure was There is no laborious preparation for figured). Here is fidelity to be sure, a coming incident, no minute detail but this
was clearly not the only motive. of worthless circumstantials; the The principle of honour was another writer directly, yet not abruptly, in- incitement, and quite distinct from troduces the next subject at once.' love or friendship. The glory of the Ossian likewise excels in this parti- action was a third. It is to the cular. But the verses quoted above Book of Ruth we must turn, if we are also as poetical in their measure, look for an historical example of pure as in the imagery they contain. There and disinterested friendship. The is a sweet melancholy cadence runs all fidelity of Ruth was built upon the through them, which is uncommonly single motive, love; there was here delightful to the ear. It is particu- no debt of honour to be paid, no larly remarkable in the first verse, fame or glory to be won. She foland in Ruih’s answer to Naomi. In- lowed Naomi from the sole and simple deed, whether we consider the music impulse of generous affection. And of the periods, or the strength and how beautifully this is set forth by pathos of the sentiments, I do not the sacred poet, it is needless to obthink it possible to point out in any serve. book whatsoever, sacred or profane,
And Naomi had a kinsman of her husa more truly poetical passage than band's, a mighty man of wealth, of the. this answer of Ruth. What an elo- family of Elimelech, and his name was quence breathes through it, how Boaz. forcible are the expressions, and how And Ruth the Moabitess said unto impassioned the manner. That spirit Naomi, Let me now go into the field, and
glean ears of com after him, in whose the more refined gallantry of modern sight I shall find grace. And she said times. His attentions towards Ruth unto her, Go, my daughter.
are quite in the spirit of simplicity Here is another remarkable in- which prevailed in those unpolished stance of that direct and simple bre- ages, yet Raleigh himself could not vity which renders the style of these have more adroitly contrived to furwritings so animated; And she nish the Beautiful Gleaner with an said unto her, Go, my daughter."
abundant gathering. Ruth goes into the field to glean Ruth then returns with her gleanafter the reapers, and there it was ings to Naomi, who upon hearing of “ her hap to light on a part of the the favour she had obtained in the field belonging unto Boaz.' Boaz sight of Boaz, advises her to solicit inquires of his servant, “ What his protection according to the cere-. damsel is this?” and learning her monial of the Jews. story, addresses her:
Ruth accordingly performs this ceThen said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest remonial, and, as the reader is doubtthou not, my daughter? Go not to glean less aware, is finally married to Boaz: in another field, neither go from hence, So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his but abide here fast by my maidens.
wife....and she bare a son. Let thine eyes be on the field that they And the women said unto Naomi, Blessdo reap, and go thou after them : Have I ed be the Lord which hath not left thee not charged the young men, that they shall this day without a kinsman, that his name not touch thee? And when thou art
be famous in Israel. athirst, go unto the vessels and drink of And he shall be unto thee a restorer of that which the young men have drawn. thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age :
Then she fell on her face, and bowed for thy daughter-in-law which loveth thee, herself unto the ground, and said unto' which is better to thee than seven sons, hath him, Why have I found grace in thine borne him. eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge And Naomi took the child, and laid it of me, seeing I am a stranger ?
in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. And Boaz answered, and said unto her, It hath fully been shown to me, all thou
With this beautiful image of the hast done unto thy mother-in-law, since grateful widow with her daughter's the death of thine husband : and how thou child in her bosom, the sacred author hast left thy father and thy mother, and concludes his interesting, his pathetic, the land of thy nativity, and art come his incomparable story, unto & people which thou knewest not
Reverting to my theory concerns heretofore.
ing Friendship, it may be asked, Is What an excellent moral lesson is not Orpah's departure as unfavourahere conveyed; Ruth's virtuous fide- ble to your opinion, as Ruth's perlity to Naomi is rewarded by the manence is the contrary? No: no protection of Boaz. Indeed the more than the comparative weakness whole story is a striking exemplifi- of Cæsar's boatman, is an argument cation of retributive justice; Ruth is against the courage of our sex, bepreferred not only to be the wife of cause he was not as brave as Cæsar
a mighty man of wealth," but to himself. A much more plausible be the ancestress in a direct line of objection would be, that although the Messiah, for her goodness of friendships amongst women are, from heart and innate amiability of dis- their spirit of constancy, more perposition, as displayed in her conduct manent when made, yet that there is towards Naomi. But let the his- no natural tendency in that sex totorian speak :
wards mutual friendship. This may And when she was risen up to glean, be very true, and when I see it Boaz commanded his young men, saying, proved I shall believe it. To say, Let her glean cven among the shcaves, and however, that Woman's love for the reproach her not.
other sex interferes with her love for And let fall also some of the handfuls on
her own, goes but a very little way purpose for her, and leave them that she in advancing this proof,—for is not may glean them, and rebuke her not.
Man in an exactly similar predicaThere is a kind of rude delicacy in ment? We are told : Men, after marthis proceeding of Boaz, which per- riage, frequently preserve their friendhaps would be but ill exchanged for ships as close as before; women ge
nerally, after the same ceremony, sa- reader, would Shakspeare have drawn
worthy of notice, peare on my side, whose
that her brother Orestes, who had name is a tower of strength,
reason to perform this Which they upon the adverse faction want. revolting deed of justice, is quite a
We can not, surely, forget Helena's secondary personage in the tragedy, address to Hermia, when Oberon had he is little more than a passive inthrown his enchantments around strument in the hands of Electra. So them.
that in both these cases, whether Is all the counsel that we two have shared, poetical fiction, fidelity of spirit is
considered as matters of history or The sisters' vows, the hours that we have
assigned to the female sex, as a chaspent, When we have chid the hasty-footed time
racteristic attribute distinguishing For parting us—0, is all now forgot ?
them above men. I do not however All school-days' friendship, childhood in. adduce either deed as a proof of nocence ?
woman's constancy of affection ; they We Hermia, like two artificial gods, were rather acts of beathen piety. Have with our neelds created both one Much less are the Antigone and flower,
Electra of Sophocles to be looked Both on one sampler, sitting on
upon as favourable pictures of the cushion,
sex in general, nor as exonerating Both warbling of one song, both in one key,
the poets of antiquity from the impuAs if our hands, our sides, voices, and tation of apathy with respect to the minds,
peculiar beauty of the female chaHad been incorporate. So we grew toge- racter. They are both, especially ther,
the latter, marked by a spirit of Like to a double cherry, seeming parted; fierceness, t which is by no means But yet an union in partition,
amiable. Antigone in the Edipus Two lovely berries moulded on one stem : Coloneus (which affords another inSo with two seeming bodies, but one heart. stance of devotedness, in the same per
Midsummer Night's Dream. son,) is a far more faithful copy of woHere is Shakspeare, who seems to man in the best array of her virtues. have made for himself a window in But where shall we find the tenderness, every human breast, here is the the delicacy of soul, the fineness of Grand Inquisitor who penetrates sensibility, and all the mild excelwith an intuition almost supernatural lencies of the female character, pour, the mysteries of this “ little world trayed with such exquisite truth and of man,” here is the infallible inter- feeling, as in our own Juliet, Desdepreter of Nature, Shakspeare himself, mona, Ophelia, Cordelia, Imogen, delineating a picture of friendship thé Hermione, and Miranda ? Rutu is most perfect; and who compose the alone worthy to join such a band of group on the foreground? Women! sister Perfections.
D. Now I put it to the candour of the
• The description of the Princes in the Tower is not in point. They were brothers, and mere children.
of They forcibly illustrate the Poet's own doctrine : rgv yuvaus bio u's Apns.