Now the education of men is another text; but for women there can be little doubt but that the prime educationary in the laws of being is domestic service. You can be ribald about it. That is easy. But where else is a girl to learn how to keep house? And if she does not learn how to be a mother, as indeed she may, poor dear, she gets to know very much of what to do when she becomes one.
So I hope to see a soberer generation of girls return to a profession which they have always adorned, for the schooling of which their husbands and children shall rise up and call them blessed.
A good friend of mine, poet and scholar, was recently approached by the President, or other kind of head of a Working Men’s Association, for a paper. A party of them was to visit Oxford, where, after an inspection, there should be a feast, and after the feast, it was hoped, a paper from my friend—upon Addison. The occasion was not to be denied: I don’t doubt that he was equal to it. I wish that I had heard him; I wish also that I had seen him; for he had determined on a happy way of illustrating and pointing his discourse. He had the notion of providing himself with a full-bottomed wig, a Ramillies; at the right moment he was to clothe the head of the President with it; and—Bless thee, Bottom, how art thou translated! In that woolly panoply, if one could not allow for Cato and the balanced antitheses of the grand manner, or condone rhetoric infinitely remote from life past, present or to come—well, one would never understand Addison, or forgive him. This, for instance:—
CATO (loq.): Thus am I doubly arm’d; my death and life, My bane and antidote are both before me: This in a moment brings me to an end; But this informs me I shall never die. The soul, secured in her existence, smiles At the drawn dagger....
Ten pages more sententious and leisurely comment; then:
There is much to be said for it, in a Ramillies wig. It is stately, it is dignified, it is perhaps noble. If, as I say, it is not very much like life, neither are you who enact it. But be sure that out of sight or remembrance of the wig such a tragedy were not to be endured.
That is very well. The wig serves its turn, inspiring what without it would be intolerable. I am sure my friend had no trouble in accounting for Addison in full dress and his learned sock. Nor need he have had with Addison the urbane, Addison of the Spectator condescending to Sir Roger de Coverley and Will Honeycomb. There is in that, the very best gentlemanly humour our literature possesses, nothing inconsistent with the full-bottomed wig and an elbow-chair. But when the right honourable gentleman set himself to compose Rosamond: an Opera, and disported himself thus:
Behold on yonder rising ground
The bower, that wanders
Glades on glades,
Shades in shades,
Running an eternal round.