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A Victorian Scrapbook

A Scrapbook of Newspaper Articles Compiled by George Burgess (1829-1905)

Victorian Family, People and Relationships

Men & Women

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Transcript from original newspaper article: -

How delicious is the blunt, honest frankness of men toward each other, in their everyday intercourse, in contrast with the polite little subterfuges, which form the basis of women-friendships! When one man goes to make a man-call on another, he talks when he pleases, and don’t talk when he don’t please. He is free to take a nap, or to take a book; and his host is as free, when he has had enough of him, or has any call away, to put on his hat, and to out to attend to it; nor does the caller feel himself aggrieved. Now a woman’s nose, under similar circumstances, would be up in the air for a month, with the “slight!” her female friend had put upon her. The more a woman don’t want her friend to stay, the more she is bound to urge her to do it; and to ask her why she hadn’t called before; and to wish that she might never go away, and all that sort o’ thing. What she remarks to her husband in private about it afterwards is a thing you and I have nothing to do with.

When two men meet, after a long absence, ten to one the first salutation is, “Old boy, how ugly you’ve grown!” In the female department we reverse this. “I never saw you look prettier,” being the preface to the aside – (what a fright she has become!) Then – (“blest be the tie that binds”) – mark one man meet another in the street – perhaps to light his cigar at that other’s nose, and pass on – without knowing the important fact, whether he lives in “a mansion” or not. How instructive the free-and-easy-and-audacious manner in which, after this ceremony, they go their several ways to the tombstones, without a spoken word! See them in the streets, my sisters, exchanging passing remarks on any object of momentary street-interest, looking over one another’s shoulders at each other’s “extras,” all the same as it the same hatter had capped their climaxes, or as if they had been introduced in an orthodox Grundy fashion!

See them, again, walk boldly up to a looking-glass, in a show window, and honestly stare at their ridiculous solemn selves; whereas, you women, pretend to be examining something else when you are bent on a like errand, intend on smoothing your ruffled feathers.

The other day, in an omnibus, a gentleman “nudged” another gentleman to hand down his fare. Now the nudged creature was out of sorts – wanted his dinner or something – and so sat like an image, without responding; another nudge – with no better success – not a muscle of the nudged man’s face moved. At last, with heightened colour, the gentleman handed it to the conductor himself, to the inconvenience of several ladies; but he didn’t talk to his next elbow-neighbour about “some people being so disagreeable,” or call him a “nasty thing;” or try to look him into eternal annihilation for what was really an ungracious action. He only rubbed his left ear a little, and put his mind on something else, and he looked very well, too, while he was doing it.

If a woman is visiting another at her house, and the latter goes upstairs for anything, her female guest trots right after her, like a little hunting dog. If she go to the closet to get her boots, the shadow follows; she must be present when they are laced on; and discusses rights and lefts, and hosiery, &c. When her hostess goes to the glass to arrange her hair, or put on her bonnet, the shadow follows, leaning both hands on the toilet table to witness the operation. Without this bandbox-freemason confidence, you see at once that female friendship could not be that sacred intermingling of congenial natures that it is. Your friend would weep, sirs, and ask you “what she had done to be treated so?”

A mouse and a woman! I know one of the latter, who always gets up on a table if she sees either coming. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu said a very witty thing once. I am afraid that not even her discovery of inoculation will cancel the sin of it. It was this: “The only comfort I ever had in being a woman is, that I can never marry one.”

The moral of all this is, that women need reforming in their intercourse with one another. There should be less kissing among them, and more sincerity; less “palaver,” and more reticence. But if you think I am going to tell them this in person, you must need suppose that I have already arranged my sublunary affairs in case of accident. This, not being the case, I decline the office, except so far as I can fill it at a safe distance on paper.

Fanny Fern