Page images


“ They say that when men and women are equals they will love no more. Your highly cultured women will not be loveable, will not love. ... A great soul draws and is drawn with a more fierce intensity than any small one. By every inch we grow in intellectual height our love strikes down its roots deeper, and spreads out its arms wider. It is for love's sake yet more than for any other that we look for that new time." She had leaned her head against the stones, and watched with her sad, soft eyes the retreating bird. Then when that time comes," she said slowly, “ when love is no more bought and sold, when it is not a means of making bread, when each woman's life is filled with earnest independent labour, then love will come to her, a strange sudden sweetness, breaking in upon her earnest work; not sought for, but found. Then, but not now

There we have the brief of the Modern Woman, the leaven which is working directly and indirectly in all the woman novels of to-day.

MRS. MONA CAIRD, After Olive Schreiner, in order of tiine, comes Mona Caird, who has already given us two novels, and who has just finished a third, “The Daughters of Danaus," which will be published this autumn. Mrs. Caird is better known, than by her novels, by the famous article in which she scandalised the British household by audaciously asking the question "Is Marriage a Failure ? In her writings we have the exaggerated recoil of womanhood against two great evils which the sex has borne with the dumb patience of despair for generation after generation. The first is marriage without love, and the second maternity without consent. No sensitive mind which reflects upon the infany and the brutality involved

cried. “When we ask to be doctors, lawyers, law-makers, anything but ill-paid drudges, they say, ' No; but you have men's chivalrous attention. Now think of that and be satisfied ! What would you do without it?' ... I shall be old and ugly too one day, and I shall look for men's chivalrous help, but I shall not find it.

“The bees are very attentive to the flowers till their honey is done, and then they fly over them. I don't know if the flowers feel grateful to the bees'; they are great fools if they do.”

THE SOLE STUDY OF THE SEX. “ Yes, we have power; and since we are not to expend it in tunnelling mountains, nor healing diseases, nor making laws, nor money, nor on any extraneous object, we expend it on you. You are our goods, our merchandise, our material for operating on; we buy you, we sell you, we make fools of you, we act the wily old Jew with you, we keep six of you crawling to our little feet, and praying only for a touch of our little hand; and they say truly, there was never an ache or a pain or broken heart but a woman was at the bottom of it. We are not to study law, nor science, nor art, so we study you. There is never a nerve or fibre in your man's nature but we know it. We keep six of you dancing in the palm of one little hand,” she said, balancing her outstretched arm gracefully, as though tiny beings disported themselves' in its palm. “There--we throw you away, and you sink to the Devil,” she said, folding her arms composedly. “There was never a man who said one word for woman but he said two for man, and three for the whole human race.”

THE ONE GREAT WORK OF WOMAN. “ They say women have one great and noble work left them, and they do it ill. That is true; they do it execrably. It is the work that demands the broadest culture, and they have not even the narrowest. The lawyer may see no deeper than his law books, and the chemist see no deeper than the windows of his laboratory, and they may do their work well. But the woman who does woman's work needs a many-sided multiform culture; the heights and depths of human life must not be beyond the reach of her vision; she must have knowledge of men and things in many states, a wide catholicity of sympathy, the strength that springs from knowledge, and the magnanimity which springs from strength. We bear the world, and we make it. The souls of little children are marvellously delicate and tender things, and keep for ever the shadow that first falls on them, and that is the mother's, or at best a woman's. There was never a great man who had not a great mother-it is hardly an exaggeration. The first six years of our life make us; all that is added later is veneer; and yet some say, if a woman can cook a dinner or dress herself well she has culture enough.

HER ONLY EDUCATION. “The mightiest and noblest of human work is given to us, and we do it ill. Send a navyie to work into an artist's studio, and see what you will find there! And yet, thank God, we have this work,” she added quickly : “it is the one window through which we see into the great world of earnest labour. The meanest girl who dances and dresses becomes something higher when her children look up into her face and ask her questions. It is the only education we have and which they cannot take from us.

They say that we'complain of woman's being compelled to look upon marriage as a profession; but that she is free to enter upon it or leave it as she pleases.

“ Yes—and a cat set afloat in a pond is free to sit in the tub till it dies there, it is under no obligation to wet its feet; and a drowning man may catch at a straw or not, just as he likesit is a glorious liberty! Let any man think for five minutes of what old maidenhood means to a woman, and then let him be silent. Is it easy to bear through life a name that in itselt signifies defeat? to dwell as nine out of ten unmarried women must, under the finger of another woman? Is it easy to look forward to an old age without honour, without the reward of useful labour, without love? I wonder how many men there are who would give up everything that is dear in life for the sake of maintaining a high ideal purity.”




(From a pholograph by Mr. H. S. Mendelssohn.)

in these phrases will be disposed to be censorious because Mrs. Caird, giving articulate utterance to the "dumb despair of trampled centuries," errs by excess, and carries her protest far beyond the bounds of moderation. But there is little danger that women, in their recoil against


loveless unions, will sacrifice the lifelong monogamic tie study or labour the physical and nervous vitality which which is their chief safeguard, nor will any amount should be stored up as a kind of natural banking of fierce denunciations of “ the reproductive rage

" make

account to the credit of their children. Every woman, motherhood other than divine in the estimation of the Dr. Kenealy declared, who uses up her natural vitality in

a profession or business, or in study, will bear feeble, rickety children, and is in fact spending her infant's inheritance on herself. Mrs. Fawcett's portrait gallery of infants born by Newnham and Girton graduates may be quoted on the other side, but that does not prove Dr. Kenealy is wrong. It is possible to be a graduate and retain more vitality in reserve available for nourishing a baby than would be left after a season's dissipation or years of listless idleness. Mens sana in corpore sano is not impossible for women as for men. In “Dr. Janet of Harley Street we have the doctrine of the article somewhat veiled and even obscured by the insistence with which Dr. Kenealy presses the other point in the modern woman's charter, the right to know and the right to understand. Her own account of the motif of her novel is thus expressed

“Dr. Janet of Harley Street” was inspired by the pathos of the “young person's” position, when all knowledge of facts which underlie modern existence having been assiduously veiled from her, she finds herself bound for life to a man whose sympathy with her ideals or comprehension even of them are possibilities buried in his remote past. If men and women are to be friends--and friendship is love's very fibrethen they must not be trained along opposing lines. That which is needed is a levelling-up or a levelling-down process either the woman must descend in her life and thought towards the masculine standard -- which Heaven forbid ! or the man must come up to the standard of womanly living —which Heaven hasten! Until one of these things happen, the diversity of thought and feeling between the sexes upon that which most intimately concerns them will place an insurmountable barrier between them. “Woman is a sexless animal” a famous scientific mutilator of women's bodies has laid

down, thus crudely interpreting the truth that sex in woman is race. This is Mrs. Caird's own account of the object to

something which Nature has made more silent on the physical which she has devoted her pen :

plane, in order that its sense may listen to whisperings on Granted that it be right in the main, and that motherhood emotional and spiritual planes—which are higher phases of the is above all other things imperatively and supremely the best same force—and which are lost in the crude clamour of the thing for woman, even though it takes from her all the world merely physical. Yet because these delicate activities informed beside, granted that man's teaching has been right in that by our Great Mother Nature are dumb and unresponsive in the point, yet it has hitherto been accepted as an unquestioned presence of sex which interprets the teachings of the music fiat, and woman has been compelled to follow it, and persuaded halls, they brand us with the blame of sexlessness! This more to believe it religiously by every force that can be brought to silent woman-sense is in touch with some of Nature's subtlest bear upon her, educational, legal, sentimental, and so forth, secrets. It sees Divinity in that vast patient power which Now, if it be so true and sacred, this is not the way to teach permits the profligate to be the father of a tender little child, it; this is just the way to degrade and desecrate it. Woman with God's sun in the gold of its hair, His heaven in its blue must doubt on this point before she can believe, and her eyes. It sees that in this, more than in any other faculty, man belief, if it does come, will inevitably be a very different partakes of the Immortal; for by it he is enabled to perpetuate and an infinitely better thing than the old stupid, obedient, 2. race which will one day inherit the stars. · And when man servile faith, which men have delighted to see in their women, learns from woman, he will learn that love and birth, even in and have guarded more jealously than any other thing, con their mere natural physical aspects, are mysteries to bow the sciously or instinctively, or both. Let us doubt; let us fling head before; mysteries that hold the forces of human evolution, off this old garment of rotting faith ; be true to our own belief not powers to prostitute and pervert to a perpetual unseemly in freedom; let us be wrong in liberty rather than right at the jest. point of the bayonet, and if your convictions are in the line of truth, every year, every hour of liberty will bring us all nearer to that truth, and to your convictions.

A. distinctly new note is sounded by the next woman

whose novel may be regarded as the most distinctively DR. ARABELLA KENEALY.

characteristic of all the novels of the modern woman. In sharp contrast to Mona Caird's belittling of the Sarah Grand in "The Heavenly Twins” has achieved the divine privilege of maternity is the notable protest of greatest success among women writers of fiction since Dr. Arabella Kenealy, whose story, “ Dr. Janet of Harley Mrs. Humphrey Ward wrote “Robert Elsmere." But the Street," sounds a distinct and valuable note on the other phenomenal sale of her novel is a small thing compared side. Dr. Kenealy first attracted attention by a very with the result she achieved in breaking up the consuggestive article in one of the monthly reviews, in which spiracy of silence in society on the serious side of she maintained with the maternal instincts of her sex, marriage. Society talks and has always talked of the reinforced by the studies of a physiologist, that it was a frivolous side of marriage, but upon the serious side of grave mistake, and a crime against the next generation, matrimony discussion has been tabooed. Around that for women who hope some day to be mothers, to spend in subject Mrs. Grundy built a great wall of prudish inter




dict, bolted and barred the door, and banned all who think that as likely as not his bride may have a baby in would open it with all the anathemas at her disposal. the Foundling to match his bastard in the workhouse. Up to that barred and bolted door Sarah Grand stepped After "The Heavenly Twins" came The Superfluous with the heroism of a forlorn hope, carrying with her a Woman,” a story which taught the same moral although bomb of dynamite, which she exploded with wonderful in a rather less moral fashion. For the superfluous results. The heavily barred gate was blown to atoms, woman, also like the unfortunate victim in Sarah Grand's and the conspiracy of silence was at an end. In the book, is doomed to experience the horror of becoming a last twelve months, in drawing-rooms and in smoking mother of a syphilitic child by a reprobate husband. rooms, an astonished and somewhat bewildered society But before she consents, with her eyes open, to has been busily engaged in discussing the new demand of become particeps criminis in this mutual outrage on the new woman.

posterity, she has an evanescent gleam of a higher life. HER OBJECTION TO SECOND-HAND HUSBANDS.

it is characteristic of the times, perhaps even bodefully And what was that demand ? Simply that woman,

ominous, that the authoress should make her heroine's equally with man, is entitled to object to second-hand

nearest approach to a moral act a barely veiled proposal goo is in the marriage market. Man has long insisted

to a peasant lover whom she has promised to marry to upon this as his right. No bridegroom cares to take to

anticipate the marriage ceremony. Here we see woman the altar a woman who has been another man's mistress.

levelling down to the man's level with a vengeance, and even below it. The peasant Colin was immeasurably her superior in every point but that of wealth and station. Yet when her advances were rejected, she immediately abandoned the man whom she seems to have loved with such intensity as was possible to her shallow nature, and the next thing we hear of her is that she has yoked herself to the leprous lord, whom she loathes, but by whom she is willing to bear children. The Superfluous Woman is a superficial creature, a bundle of weak instincts and gusty fits of appetite which it would be flattery to call passion, a poor thing blown about by every wind of doctrine. From the point of view of this article its whole significance lies in the supreme audacity of the authoress. She is so penetrated by a sense of the hideous horror of the fashionable, loveless marriage of a healthy young woman to a roué worn out by excess and honeycombed by disease, that she compels her readers to admit that even the unblushing proposal her heroine made to a man who loved her was virtue itself compared with the union which the Church blessed and all the papers chronicled with admiration. So far, therefore, have we got in the revolt of woman, that we have it now formulated in so many words,-it is more womanly, more virtuous, for a lady to offer to cohabit with a peasant who loves her, and whom she intends to marry, than it is for her to make "the greatest match of the season with a peer whom she does not love and who makes her the agent for the perpetuation of a scrofulous and degenerated stock.


The author of « ·Keynotes” hardly deserves to be (From a photograph by Mr. H. S. Mendelssohn.)

included among the woman novelists. Her short stories, Then why, asked the authoress of “ The Heavenly - wins,"

however, although not so ambitious as a three-volume should you expect the bride, whom you insist should

novel, present one side, and that an unpleasant one, of

the modern woman. There are passages in “ Keynotes be so stainless, to welcome a bridegroom who has been the paramour of the

of the town?

that suggest anything rather than an English matron. scum - woman

“What half creatures,” she says, The demand is obviously reasonable. Mantegazza, in

we are, we women, the little book just published on “ The Art of Choosing a

Hermaphrodite by force of circumstances. Bride,” declares that if he were a woman he should prefer unpleasant

taste in the mouth. It were better to believe

explain some things in “George Egerton” which leave an as a husband a man who had previously had a dozen mistresses. Possibly he might, and possibly there are

her hermaphrodite than a typical woman of our time. women who would agree with him, just as there are men

But although she is coarse, she no doubt expresses who may prefer to take their wife from the street. Sarah

roughly what some women have felt. For instance, Grand would not interfere with them. All she asks is

speaking of her Belinda, she says:that the man shall come to the hymeneal altar with as

She is one bump of philo-progenitiveness, but she hates men, reputable a moral outfit as the woman. And although

she says. If one could only have a child, ma'am, without a husSarah Grand does not say it, possibly does not even

band, or the disgrace-ugh, the disgusting men. Do you know

I think that is not an uncommon feeling amongst a certain think it, the real sting that lies latent in her appeal is number of women. I have known many, particularly older the consciousness of men that if they do not level their

women, who would give anything in God's world to have a morals up women may begin to level their morals down. child of “their own,” if it could be got just as Belinda says, For even the most lawless libertine would not care to * without the horrid man or the same." It seems congenital



This may

with some women to have deeply rooted in their innermost has of the fundamental truth of the world's life. “It is nature a smouldering enmity, ay, sometimes a physical disgust love that makes the world go round,” says the old song, to men.

and “A Yellow Aster" is a heroic attempt to show the That is surely not a pleasant keynote. “George kind of monstrosity that we may expect when the healthy Egerton," like Marie Bashkirtzeff, who used to admire human instincts are chastened into subservience by a

prolonged course of conic sections, and when scientists are so absorbed in their studies as to forget all parental duties towards the children whom-in a moment of inadvertence surely — they brought into the world. “Iota,” however, is still the Modern Woman. Whilo inculcating the old-fasbioned virtues and defending aboriginal human instincts, she is as earnest as any Dr. Kenealy in demanding that women should not go blindfolded into marriage; but she is not enough of the Modern Woman to raisc even a passing protest against the pre-nuptial immoralities of her hero. When she discovers that she is about to be a mother she bursts out in the following strain :

"And so I-I-I, Gwen Strange, will soon be the mother of a child, and Humphrey its father!”

She hid her face in the soft fur. “It is ghastly!" she cried; “it is degradation, feeling towards him as I do, and as I've always done! I am debased to think that any man should Jiave the least part of a woman so terribly in his power, when she can't—can't-can't,” she almost shrieked, “give him the best. What do girls know of the things they make lawful for themselves ? If they did, if they were shown the nature of their sacrifice, then marriage would cease till it carried love, absolute love, in its train. Was I mad, my God, was I mad, with all my boasts of sanity? Nothing, nothing,” she moaned, "but perfect love makes marriage sacred-nothing, neither God's law nor man's; and now the climax has come here in the outward and visible sign of my shame. I have sinned, not only in the present and the past, but in the fnture. I



(From a photograph by Messrs. Elliott and Pry.) herself in her mirror, and note the fact in her journal, scrutiniges herself undraped in the glass but finds the result not so admirable. Men she tells us have never discovered why “a refined physically fragile woman will mate with a brute, a mere male animal with primitive passions,” but she solves the mystery. “They have overlooked the original wildness, the untamed primitive savage temperament that lurks in the mildest and best woman. Each woman is conscious of it in her truthtelling hours of quiet self-scrutiny, and each woman in God's wide world will deny it, for the woman who tells the truth and is not a liar about these things is untrue to her sex and abhorrent to man.” This doctrine is at least as abhorrent to any decent human as Pope's cynically libellous couplet.

It is to be hoped that such an assertion of the untameable savage in woman is not meant to be presented as the result of the confidences made her by women. One of her characters says: “ Women talk to me-why I can't say—but always they come, strip their hearts and souls naked, and let me see the hidden folds of their natures." If so they had better fold them up again—the spectacle is the reverse of edifying.

A YELLOW ASTER." "A Yellow Aster" is a book of another kind. It is exceedingly clever—as caricature—which would have been all the more effective if it had not been so preposterously overdone. “Iota ” has not yet learned the truth that sometimes the half is more than the whole. But the crudity of her gigantesque exaggeration cannot obscure the ability of the author or the sound grasp which she


Prom a photograpi by Hessrs. Elliolt and Fry.) have hurt an innocent unborn creature, I have set a barrier between it and its mother."


“Talk of the shame of women who have children out of the pale of marriage-it's nothing to the shame of those who have

[ocr errors]

children and don't love. Those others, they have the excuse of love that's natural, that purifies their shame; this-our life, the portion of quite half the well-to-do world—this is umnatural-no sin can beat it for cruel baseness ! ”

Here we have once more asserted with passionate emphasis the deep conviction of the Modern Woman. “ Better lawless love than loveless marriage," of which let Mrs. Grundy and the established order take due note.

“The Yellow Aster”-the woman who is not a woman but a neuter, until maternity wakes up the latent sexreminds one of the larva of the hive, which is selected to take the place of the queen when the bees have lost their head, Ân ordinary common larva which would in ordinary course have developed into a neuter working bee is subjected to special treatment, such as a more liberal diet, and behold the neuter becomes female, and is established on the throne as queen. In “The Yellow Aster," poor Givea was subjected, not to moro

fault of a failure to realise them. I am aware that, through the many artistic and literary faults of my story, I have largely failed, having left on many minds a chaotic muddle and doubts ns to my sanity.

Her own baby “ leapt in her womb," and the sales fell from her eyes, and her heart melted within her, and the breast of her dying mother was as an open book to her: she could read all the love there, and the remorse, and the infinite sorrow.

I am a yoman at last, a full, complete, proper woman, and it is magnificent.

And afterwards, the baby in words all his own, and untranslatable, but mightier than those of gods or churches, decreed that henceforth and for ever those two should be one flesh. Which, after all, is the especial mission of his kind.

There is something powerful though revolting in the discorery of the fact that Gwen, who cannot bring herself even to touch her liusbanci, who eveu in imminent pro





(From a photograph by Jessrs. Elliott and Fry.) generous feeding, but to the stern scourge of death spect.of death shrinks from kissing him, has actually and the imperious summons of a new life. It was not consented, as an experiment, to permit him to make her till her mother died and the quickened child stirred the mother of his child. Gwen certainly seems to have beneath her heart that Gwen's womanhood awoke.

lived up to her conception of her sex as the least part The root-thought in my own mind as I wrote my story was of a woman,” when she regarded conjugal intercourse as the very old and commonplace one—that after all's said and a mere bagatelle compared with a voluntary touch of her done, love remains the most important factor in the highest

husband's hand. development in a woman---the love of God, mother, man, and of her own child-that she has a divine and human right to

“THE STORY OF A MODERN WOMAN." all knowledge and all experience, but that knowledge and Miss Hepworth Dixon, who boldly styles her novel experience only go to her perfecting, inasmuch as they enlarge “The Story of a Modern Woman,” portrays two women, and broaden, make purer, more holier, and more significant these natural loves. With this conception of the power and

both of the modern variety. One of them refuses to marry

the man to whom she is engaged after coming upon a majesty of love as a factor in development the hideousness of consciously loveless marriage appeals forcibly to me, and in

cast-off mistress of his left to die in the hospital, after the course of the story my crude thoughts came naturally to

having been flung upon the streets. “She, at any rate." the surface. I should have liked then, if I had dared to hope

we are told, “was not one of those girls wh infinite to leave any impression at all on my readers’ minds, to have complaisances for a possible husband." The result of deepened, in ever so small a degree, their sense of the all which was that she broke down and died. The other mportance of all true natural loves, and of the individual heroine was not less heroical, although in a different way.

« PreviousContinue »