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LITTELL’S LIVING AGE.-No. 715.–6 FEBRUARY, 1858.
From Chamber's Journal. to the summit of life, whence the next step A WOMAN'S THOUGHTS ABOUT
must necessarily be decadence. Ay, though WOMEN.
you do not feel it; though the air may GROWING OLD,
fresh, and the view as grand-still, you know · Do ye think of the days that are gone, Jeanie, that it is so. Slower or faster, you are going As ye sit by your fire at night?
down-hill. To those who go “hand-in-hand," Do ye wish that the morn would bring back the
“And sleep thegither at the foot," When your heart and your step were so light? it may be a safer and sweeter descent; but I "I think of the days that are gone, Robin, And of all that I joyed in then:
am writing for those who have to make the Bat the brightest that ever arosc on me,
descent alone. I have never wished back again.”
It is not a pleasant descent at the beginGROWING old. A time we talk of, and ning. When you find at parties that you jest or moralize over, but find almost impos- are not asked to dance as much as formerly, sible to realize—at least to ourselves. In and your partners are chiefly stont middleothers, we can see its approach clearer: yet aged gentlemen and slim lads who blush even then we are slow to recognize it. terribly and require a great deal of drawing “What, Miss So-and-so looking old did you out. When you are “ dear ”-ed and patrosay ? Impossible : she is quite a young per- nized by stylish young chits who were in their son ; only a year older than I- -and that cradles when you were a grown woman; or would make her just — Bless me! I am when some boy, who was your plaything in forgetting how time goes on. Yes ”—with petticoats, has the impertinence to look over a faint deprecation which truth forbids you your head, bearded and grand, or even to to contradict, and politeness to notice—“I consult you on his love-affairs. When you suppose we are neither of us so young as we find your acquaintance delicately abstaining used to be."
from the term “old-maid ” in your presence, Without doubt, it is a trying crisis in a or immediately qualifying it by an eager panwoman's life—a single woman's particularly egyric on the solitary sisterhood. When -when she begins to suspect she is “not so servants address you as “Ma'am " instead of soung as she used to be;" that, after crying " Miss ;” and if you are at all stout and com“Wolf” ever since the respectable maturity fortable-looking, strange shopkeepers persist of seventeen-as some young ladies are fond in making out your bills to“ Mrs. Blank," of doing, to the extreme amusement of their and pressing upon your notice toys and perfriends—the grim wolf, old age, is actually ambulators. showing his teeth in the distance; and no Rather trying, too, when in speaking of courteous blindness on the part of these said yourself as girl”—which, from long friends, no alarmed indifference on her own, habit, you unwittingly do—you detect a can neutralize the fact that he is, if still far covert smile on the face of your interlocutor; off, in sight. And, however charmingly poet- or, led by chance excitement to deport yourical he may appear to sweet fourteen-and-a- self in an ultra-youthful manner, some inhalf
, who writes melancholy verses about " I stinct warns you that you are making yourwish I were again a child,” or merry three- self ridiculous. Or catching in some strange and-twenty, who preserves in silver paper “my looking-glass the face that you are too fafirst gray hair," old age, viewed as a near miliar with to notice much, ordinarily, you approaching reality, is-quite another thing. suddenly become aware that it is not a young
To feel that you have had your fair half at face; that it will never be a young faceleast of the ordinary term of years allotted again ; that it will gradually alter and alter;
you have no right to expect until the known face of your girlhood, to be any handsomer, or stronger, or hap- whether plain or pretty, loved or disliked, ad pier than you are now; that you have climbed mired or despised, will have altogether van:DCCXV.
VOL. XX. 21
; LIVING AGE.
ished—nay, is vanished: look as you will, | desperately to the youth that will not stay? you cannot see it any more.
and which, after all, is not such a very pre There is no denying the fact,'and it ought cious or even a happy thing? Why give to silence many an ill-natured remark upon herself such a world of trouble to deny or " mutton dressed lamb-fashion," 'young conceal her exact age, when half her acladies of a certain age,” and the like—that quaintance must either know it or guess it, with most people the passing from maturity or be supremely indifferent abo it ? Why to middle age is so gradual, as to be almost appear dressed-undressed, cynics would imperceptible to the individual concerned. say—after the pattern of her niece, the belle It is very difficult for a woman to recognize of the ball; annoying the eye with beauty that she is growing old; and to many—nay, either half withered, or long overblown, avd to all more or less—this recognition cannot which in its prime would have been all the but be fraught with considerable pain. Even lovelier for more concealment ? the most frivolous are somewhat to be pitied, In this matter of dress, a word or two. when, not conducting themselves as passées, There are two styles of costume which ladies because they really do not think it, they past their première jeunesse are most prone expose themselves to all manner of miscon- to fall into : one hardly knows which is the structions by still determinedly grasping that worst. Perhaps, though, it is the ultra-jufair sceptre of youth, which they never sus- venile--such as the insane juxtaposition of a pect is now the merest“ rag of sovereignty” yellow skin and white tarlatane, or the anom-sovereignty deposed.
alous adorning of grey hair with artificial Nor can the most sensible woman fairly flowers. It may be questioned whether at put aside her youth, all it has enjoyed, or any age beyond twenty a ball-costume is lost, or missed-its hopes and interests, really becoming ; but after thirty, it is the omissions and commisions, doings and suf- very last sort of attire that a lady can ferings-satisfied that it is henceforth to be assume with impunity. It is said that you can considered entirely as a thing gone by—with only make yourself look younger by dress
a momentary spasm of the heart. ing a little older than you really are ; and Young people forget this as completely as truly I have seen many a woman look withthey forget that they themselves may one ered and old in the customary evening-dress day experience the same, or they would not which, being unmarried, she thinks necessary be so ready to laugh at even the foolishest to shiver in, who would have appeared fair of those foolish old virgins, who deems her as a sunshiny October day, if she would only self juvenile long after everybody else has have done nature the justice to assume, in ceased to share in the pleasing delusion, and her autumn-time, an autumnal livery. If thereby makes both useless and ridiculous she would only have the sense to believe that that season of early autumn which ought to gray hair was meant to soften wrinkles and be the most peaceful, abundant, safe, and brighten faded cheeks, giving the sacred time in a woman's whole existence. effect for which our youtiful grandmothers They would not, with the proverbial harsh wore powder; that fiimsy, light-colored judgment of youth, scorn so cruelly those gowns, fripperied over with trimmings, only poor little absurdities, of which the unlucky suit airy figures and active motions; that a person who indulges therein is probably sober-tinted substantial gown and a pretty quite unaware—merely dresses as she has cap will any day take away ten years from a always done, and carries on the harmless lady's appearance. Above all, if she would coquetries and minauderies of her teens, un- observe this one grand rule of the toilet, conscious how exceedingly ludicrous they always advisable, but after youth indispensaappear in a lady of—say forty! Yet in this ble—that though good personal “ points" sort of exhibition, which society too often are by no means a warrant for undue exhibisees and enjoys, any honest heart cannot but tion thereof, no point that is positively unoften feel that of all the actors engaged in it, beautiful ought ever, by any pretence of the one who plays the least objectionable fashion or custom, to be shewn. and disgraceful part is she who only makes a The other sort of dress, which, it must be fool of herself.
owned, is less frequent, is the dowdy style Yet why should she do it? Why cling so' People say--though not very soon-Oh, I
am not a young woman now; it does noration no Fifth of November) involuntarily signify what I wear.” Whether they quite“ making a Guy of herself.” believe it, is another question; but they say That slow, fine, and yet perceptible change it and act upon it when laziness or indiffer- of mien and behavior, natural and proper to ence prompts. Foolish women! they for- advancing years, is scarcely reducible to rule. get that if we have reason at any time more at all. It is but the outward reflection of an than another to mind our “ looks," it is when inward process of the mind. We only disour looks are departing from us.
cover its full effect by the absence of it, as do almost any thing in the toilet-middle noticeable in a person who has such very age cannot; yet is none the less bound to young 'manners,” who falls into raptures of present to her friends and society the most enthusiasm, and expresses loudly every emopleasing exterior she can. Easy is it to do tion of her nature. Such a character, when this when we have those about us who love real, is unobjectionable, nay, charming, in us, and take notice of what we wear, and in extreme youth ; but the great improủability whose eyes we would like to appear gracious of its being real, makes it rather ludicrous, and lovely to the last, so far as nature allows; if not disagreeable, in mature age, when the
en things are oth ise. This passions out, or are quieted down, the perhaps is the reason why we see so many sense of happiness itself is calm, and the fullunmarried women grow careless and " old-est, tenderest tide of which the loving heart fashioned ” in their dress—“What does it sig- is capable, may be described by those "still nify-nobody cares."
waters ” which “ run deep." I think a woman ought to care a little for To "grow old gracefully," as one, who truly herself—a
-a very little. Without preaching up has exemplified her theory, has written and vanity, or undue waste of time over that most expressed it, is a good and beautiful thing; thankless duty of adorning one's self for no- to grow old worthily, a better. And the first body's pleasure in particular--is it not still a effort to that end, is not only to recognize, right and becoming to feeling have some but to become personally reconciled to respect for that personality which, as well as the fact of youth's departure; to see,'or, if our soul, heaven gave us to make the best of? not seeing, to have faith in, the wisdom of And is it not our duty-considering the great that which we call change, yet which is in number of uncomely people there are in the truth progression ; to follow openly and fearworld—to lessen it by each of us making lessly, in ourselves and our own life, the same herself as little uncomely as she can ?
law which makes spring pass
summer, Because a lady ceases to dress youthfully, summer into autumn, autumn into winter, she has no excuse for dressing untidily; and preserving an especial beauty and fitness in though having found out that one general each of the four. style suits both her person, her taste, and Yes, if women could only believe it, there convenience, she keeps to it, and generally is a wonderful beauty even in growing old. prefers moulding the fashion to herself, The charm of expression arising from softrather than herself to the fashion. Still, ened temper or ripened intellect, often amthat is no reason why she should shock the ply atones for the loss of form and coloring; risible nerves of one generation, by shewing and, consequently, to those who never could up to them the out-of-date costume of an- boast either of these latter, years give much other. Neatness invariable; hues carefully more than they take away. A sensitive perharmonized, and, as time advances, subsiding son often requires half a lifetime to get thorinto a general unity of tone, softening and dark- oughly used to this corporeal machine, to atening in color, until black, white, and gray, tain a wholesome indifference both to its dealone remain, as the suitable garb for old age; fects and perfections—and to learn at last, these things are every woman's bounden duty what nobody would acquire from any teacher to observe as long as she lives. No poverty, but experience, that it is the mind alone grief, sickness, or loneliness—those mental which is of any consequence; that with a causes which act so strongly upon the exter- good temper, sincerity, and a moderate stock nal life can justify any one (to use a phrase of brains-or even the two former only—any probalıly soon to be obsolete when charity sort of body can in time be made useful, reand common sense have left the rising gene- I spectable, and agreeable, as a travelling dress
for the soul. Many a one, who was abso- | as we cease to expect, or conduct ourselves lutely plain in youth, thus grows pleasant and as if we expected, that Providence will apwell-looking in declining years. You will pear as Deus ex machinâ for our own prihardly ever find anybody, not ugly in mind, vate benefit. We are able to pass out of who is repulsively ugly in person after middle our own small daily sphere, and take interlife.
est in the marvellous government of the uniSo with the character. If a woman is ever verse; to see the grand workings of cause to be wise or sensible, the chances are that and effect, the educing of good out of apshe will have become so somewhere between parent evil, the clearing away of the knots thirty and forty. Her natural good quali- in tangled destinies, general or individual, ties will have developed; her evil ones have the wonderful agency of time, change, and either been partly subdued, or have over- progress in ourselves, in those surrounding grown her like rampant weeds; for however us, and in the world at large. We have we may talk about people being “not a lived just long enough to catch a faint tone whit altered "_"just the same as ever or two of the large harmonies of nature and not one of-us is, or can be, for long together fate—to trace the apparent plot and purpose exactly the same; no more than that the body of our own life and that of others, suffiwe carry with us is the identical body we ciently to make us content to sit still and see were born with, or the one we supposed ours the play played out. As I once heard 'said: seven years ago. Therein, as in our spiri- |“We feel we should like to go on living, tual self which inhabits it, goes on a perpet- were it only out of curiosity.” ual change and renewal : if this ceased, the In small minds, this feeling expands itself result would be, not permanence, but cor- in meddling, gossiping, scandal-mongering; ruption. In moral and mental, as well as but such are only the abortive developments physical growth, it is impossible to remain of a right noble quality, which, properly stationary; if we do not advance we retro- guided, results in benefits incalculable to the grade. Talk of “too late to improve "- individual and to society. For, undoubtedly, “ too old to learn,” &c. Idle words! A the after-half of life is the best workinghuman being should be improving with time. Beautiful is youth's enthusiasm, and every day of a lifetime; and will probably grand are its achievements; but the most have to go on learning through all the ages solid and permanent good is done by the perof immortality.
sistent strength and wide experience of midAnd this brings me to one among the dle age. number of what I may term “ the pleasures A principal agent in this is a blessing of growing old.”
which rarely comes till then-contentment: At our outset, “ to love ” is the verb we not mere resignation, a passive acquiescence are most prone to conjugate; afterwards, we in what cannot be removed, but active condiscover that though the first, it is by no tentment; bought, and cheaply, too, by a means the sole verb in the grammar of life, personal share in that daily account of joy or even the only one that implies (vide Len- and pain, which, the longer one lives the nie or Murray) “ to be, to do, or to suffer.” more one sees, is pretty equally balanced in To know—that is, to acquire, to find out, to all lives. Young people are happy-enjoy be able to trace and appreciate the causes of ecstatically, either in prospect or fruition, things, gradually becomes a necessity, an ex- “the top of life ; ” but they are very seldom quisite delight. We begin to taste the full contented. It is not possible. Not till the meaning of that promise which describes cloudy maze is half travelled through, and the other world as a place where we shall we begin to see the object and purpose of it, know even as we are known.” Nay, even can we really be content. this world, with all its burdens and pains, One great element in this—nor let us presents itself in a phase of abstract interest think shame to grant that which God and naentirely apart from ourselves and our small ture also allow-consists in the doubtful lot therein, whether joyful or sorrowful. question “ to marry or not to marry,” being We take pleasure in tracing the large work- by this time generally settled; the world's ings of all things—more clearly apprehended lidle curiosity or impertinent meddling there
with having came to an end; which alone is many things "—whom I would fain remind of a great boon to any woman. Her relations the anecdote of the ambassador in China. To with the other sex imperceptibly change their him, tossing sleepless on his bed, his old sercharacter, or slowly decline. Though there vant said : are exceptions, of old lovers who have be- “ Sir, may I put to you, and will you ancome friends, and friends whom no new love swer, three questions ? First, did not the could make swerve from the fealty of years, Almighty govern this world very well before still it usually happens thus. If a woman you came into it?” wishes to retain her sway over mankind, not
66 Of course.” an unnatural wish even in the good and ami- “ And will He not also do the same when able, who have been long used to attention you are gone out of it ? ” and admiration in society, she must do it by “ I know that.” means quite different from any she has hith- Then, do you not think, sir, that He is erto employed. Even then, be her wit ever able to govern it while you are in it ?” so sparkling, her influence ever so pure and The ambassador smiled assent, turned true, she will often find her listener prefer- round, and slept calmly. ring bright eyes to intellectual conversation, Alas, it is the slowest and most painful and the satisfaction of his heart to the improve- lesson that Faith has to learn-Faith, not ment of his mind. And who can blame him? Indifference—to do steadfastly and patiently
Pleasant as men's society undoubtedly is; all that lies to her hand; and there leave it, honorable, well-informed gentlemen, who believing that the Almighty is able to govern meet a lady on the easy neutral ground of His own world. mutual esteem, and take more pains to be It is said that we suffer less as we grow agreeable to her than, unfortunately, her own older, that pain, like joy, becomes dulled by sex frequently do; they are, after all, but repetition, or by the callousness that comes men. Not one of them is really necessary with years. In one sense this is true. If to a woman's happiness, except the one there is no joy like the joy of youth, the rapwhom, by this time, she has probably either ture of a first love, the thrill of a first ambiseen, or lost, or found. Therefore, however tion, God's great mercy has also granted that uncomplimentary this may sound to those there is no anguish like youth's pain; so tocharming and devoted creatures, which of tal, so hopeless, blotting out' earth and course they always are in ladies', young la- heaven, falling down upon the whole being dies' society, an elderly lady may be well like a stone. This never comes in after-life, becontent to let them go, before they depart of cause the sufferer, if he or she have lived to any their own accord. I fear the waning coquette purpose at all, has learned that God never and the ancient beauty, as well as the ordi- meant any human being to be crushed under nary women, who has had her fair share of any calamity like a blindworm under a stone. both love and liking, must learn and shew by For lesser evils, the fact that our interests her demeanor she has learned that the only gradually take a wider range, allows more way to preserve the unfeigned respect of the scope for the healing power of compensation. opposite sex, is by letting them see that she Also our strongest idiosyncrasies, our loves, can do without either their attention or their hates, sympathies, and prejudices, having asadmiration.
sumed a more rational and softened shape, Another source of contentment which in we do not present so many angles for the youth's fierce self-dependence it would be vain rough attrition of the world. Likewise, with to look for—is the recognition of one's own the eye of that Faith already referred to, we comparative unimportance and helplessness have come to view life in its entirety, instead in the scale of fate. We begin by thinking of agonizingly puzzling over its disjointed we can do everything, and that everything parts, which are not, and were never meant rests with us to do; the merest trifle frets to be, made winolly clear to mortal eye. And and disturbs us, the restless heart wearies it- that calm twilight, which by nature's kindly self with anxieties over its own future, the law so soon begins to creep over the past, tender one over the futures of those dear to throws over all things a softened coloring it. Many a young face do I see, wearing the which together 'transcends and forbids reindescribable Martha-look —" troubled about Igret. I suppose there is hardly any woman