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A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton

And all manner of frivolity and materialism


it so fair and fertile that

every luxury shall seem but its natural outgrowth, its proper adornment; to make the soul so simply dominant as to give their laws to fashion and society instead of receiving laws from them, and so have fashion and society for its nimble servitors instead of being itself their creature and slave. Is it not so now? Who dares bend social life to his uses? Who dares run counter to its caprices? Who dares stand on his own dignity and defy its frown or sneer? But, you say, this adaptation of one's self to others is what Christianity requires. This self-seeking, this self-elevation, is directly opposed to the spirit of the Gospel, which demands that every one seek not his own, but the things which are another's. Not at all. You can in no other way benefit your generation than through your own heart and life. Can a stream rise higher than its fountain? Can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruits? The Apostle says: Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth. Does that mean that a farmer must not plough his own field, or plant his own corn, or hoe his own potatoes, but go over to till his neighbor's farm and leave his own fallow? But it is written, "He that provideth not for his own house hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel," and common sense need not be propped up by revelation, for it stands firmly on the same ground. You say a woman must not be thinking of herself, her own growth, and good all the time. So do I. But is she to obtain and exhibit self-forgetfulness
by self-culture, or self-neglect? Will you be most likely to forget your head by thoroughly combing and brushing your hair every morning, or by brushing it not at all? Does not health consist in having your organs in such a condition that you do not know you have organs? A dyspeptic man is the most subjective person in the world. He thinks more about himself in a week than a well person does in a year. The true way for women and men to be thoroughly self-forgetful, is to be so thoroughly self-cultured, so healthy, so normal, so perfect, that all they have to do is their work. Themselves are perfectly transparent. No headaches and heartaches interpose between themselves and their duties. They are not forced back to concentrate their interest on a torpid liver, or tubercled lungs. They are not wasting their power by working in constant jar and clash. They are at full liberty to bring means to bear on ends. And just in proportion as sound minds have sound bodies, will people be able to forget themselves and do good to others.

Now--the connection between some of my paragraphs may be a little underground, but it is always there. If you don't quite see it, you must jump. If I should stop to say everything, I should never get through. I am not sure I shall, as it is--now, such has been the amount of gluttony, and all manner of frivolity and materialism, indirectly but strenuously inculcated by literature, that we are arrived at a point where they are almost the strongest grappling-hooks between the sexes. Understand: I am not saying that dress is frivolity. Dress is development. A woman's dress is not her first duty, but it follows closely on first duty's heels. She should dress so as to be grateful to her husband's eye, I grant, nay, I enjoin: and he is under equally strong obligations to dress so as to be grateful to her eye. But this is scarcely a matter of expense. It need not cost, appreciably, more to be neat and tasteful than it does to be dowdy and slouching. But, I have heard women say, variety in dress is necessary in order that a husband may not be wearied. But does a man ever think of having several winter coats or summer waistcoats, so that his wife may not weary of him? Does she ever think of being tired of seeing one hat till it begins to look shabby? And if a man buys his clothes and wears them according to his needs,--which is quite right,--why shall not a woman do the same? Is there any law or gospel for forcing a woman to be pleasing to her husband, while the husband is left to do that which is right in his own eyes? Or are the visual organs of a man so much more exquisitely arranged than those of a woman, that special adaptations must be made to them, while a woman may see whatever happens to be _a la mode_? Or has a man's dress intrinsically so much more beauty and character than a woman's, that less pains need be taken to make it charming?


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