The most mischievous form
of feminine silliness is the literary form,
because it tends to confirm the popular prejudice against the solid
education of women.
That she believed in the solid education of women is apparent in her own efforts towards obtaining it for herself, and her conception of what is to be done with it was large and generous. Mere learning she did not hold to be an adornment in a woman. The culture must be transmuted into life-power, and be poured forth, not as oracular wisdom in silly novels, but as sympathy and enlarged comprehension of the daily duties of life. When educated women “mistake vagueness for depth, bombast for eloquence, and affectation for originality,” she is not surprised that men regard rhodomontade as the native accent of woman’s intellect, or that they come to the conclusion that “the average nature of women is too shallow and feeble a soil to bear much tillage.”
It is true that the men who come to such a decision on such very superficial and imperfect observation may not be among the wisest in the world; but we have not now to contest their opinion—we are only pointing out how it is unconsciously encouraged by many women who have volunteered themselves as representatives of the feminine intellect. We do not believe that a man was ever strengthened in such an opinion by associating with a woman of true culture, whose mind had absorbed her knowledge instead of being absorbed by it. A really cultured woman, like a really cultured man, is all the simpler and the less obtrusive for her knowledge; it has made her see herself and her opinions in something like just proportions; she does not make it a pedestal from which she flatters herself that she commands a complete view of men and things, but makes it a point of observation from which to form a right estimate of herself.... She does not write books to confound philosophers, perhaps because she is able to write books that delight them, in conversation she is the least formidable of women, because she understands you, without wanting to make you aware that you can’t understand her. She does not give you information, which is the raw material of culture,—she gives you sympathy, which is its subtlest essence.