In beginning a series of modest papers under this rather ambitious title, I am reminded that, comprehensive as it seems, the phrase is in one respect very recent.
It is only within a century or so that the two sexes have been habitually addressed together.
The phrase “women and men,” or its more common form, “ladies and gentlemen,” or that other form, “gentlemen and ladies,” which the late Mr. Emerson
habitually used, is a comparatively modern thing.
Before the advent of Christianity we should not expect to find it used, and accordingly the great orations of ancient times were addressed to men only.
Even after Christianity had brought a theoretic equality between the sexes the Jewish tradition still held strongly, and most of the fathers of the Church
are, it must be owned, rather oppressively masculine.
But among them there is one great
exception, one who for non-theological purposes is more readable than all the rest put together; and he it is, Clement
by name, who introduced to the world in his discourses the phrase “men and women,” or “women and men,” for he uses both forms.
The truth is that Clement
was a very learned Greek
philosopher, who had gone through a conversion.
dearly loved the Greek mythology, in which women take a part so conspicuous; and though he felt bound to preach against that mythology all the time, he could not help dwelling on its picturesque details.
To him every woman was a sort of reformed Artemis
, always tempted to relapse into her sins.
The vanities of dress especially horrified him, though it surely was not in any undue profusion or variety of costume that the beautiful Greek
goddesses chiefly erred.
Had he lived in these times, and written for Harper's Bazaar
, he would doubtless have entered his protest on every page against the new fashions on the page opposite.
But his merit was that he bore his testimony, whether wise or unwise, for the benefit of both sexes alike.
For women to braid false hair upon the crown of the head was no worse than for men to displace from the chin the hair that God has placed there.
If women wear false hair, he says, they not only deceive men, but commit inpiety
towards the presbyter, who in blessing them really lays his hand of benediction on another's hair, and therefore on another head.
But men should crop their hair decently, and not disturb that upon the chin, as it “lends to the face dignity and paternal majesty.”
All this in a single paragraph of his series of discourses known as the “Instructor,” and he afterwards sends tile two sexes, thus impartially instructed, to church together.
“Women and men are to go to church decently attired, with natural step, embracing silence, possessing unfeigned love, pure in body, pure in heart, fit to pray to God.”
And again he says in a passage often quoted, “The virtue of man and woman is the same.”
It was long after the days of Clement
when it became a common thing to unite the two sexes for the purpose even of scolding them conjointly.
Gradually the habit arose of putting these admonitions into little twin volumes, always kept carefully apart.
The duties of men and women travelled, so to speak, on the same conveyance and with equal accommodations, but in separate cars or distinct cabins, and always, as in our own travelling arrangements, with a slight excess of courtesy towards the feminine side.
The author of “The
whole duty of man” published at Oxford
in 1673 another volume called “The ladies' calling,” with a frontispiece representing a British matron sitting in a transverse ray of sunlight, and stretching a robust right arm upward after the crown of wisdom.
According to the titles of these books it would seem that men have their “whole duty” to perform as “men,” while women follow their “calling” as “ladies,” a distinction even more confusing than that of the stations on the American
railways, whose doors are sometimes tersely labelled “Men” and “Women,” while others bear in preference the more fastidious designation “Gentlemen” and “Ladies.”
It was not till 1797 that the Rev. Thomas Gisborne
, having already published his “Duties of men,” came out with a corresponding volume, “Duties of women,” which at once superseded all similar works, and instructed the women of England-leaving the “ladies” to take care of themselves — for fifty years, the fourteenth edition appearing in 1847, and I know not how many others since that day. Since his time men and women have so constantly worked together for the purpose of moral instruction, at least, that we almost forget that the joint phrase practically originated with St. Clement.
But it was the British
stage, after all, which took the hint more promptly than the Church
; and although
at first it would not tolerate women upon its boards, soon addressed to both sexes its prologues and its epilogues.
In the epilogue to the old play of “Juliana
, or tie Princess
,” this being spoken in dialogue, as often happened, by an actor of each sex, the woman rebukes the man for addressing the audience as “You, gentlemen!”
and why, I pray, to them?
do the ladies merit no esteem?
She then takes his place, and addresses the whole audience as if it were a parliament, or, in the phrase then familiar, a diet:
Fair English Diet, then,
Senate of ladies, lower house of men,
I humbly pray, decree before you go.
This was in 1671, the author being “little starch Johnny Crowne
;” as Lord Rochester called him, from his starched neck-cloth.
was born in Nova Scotia
; and it is curious that even at that early day this continent should have begun to supply England
with the seeds of social heresy on “the woman question.”
In these days the joint phrase “Men and women” has thoroughly established itself, and needs no further vindication; and if I reverse it, putting women first, it is with no revolutionary design, although
for a definite purpose.
“It is all very well,” said Danton
, in the French Revolution
, “so long as people cry Danton and Robespierre
! It is when they begin to cry Robespierre and Danton
! that I must look to my safety.”
In saying “Women and men” it is only implied that these papers are addressed more to the one sex than the other, though exclusively to neither.
The interests, tastes, duties, and position of women have come to constitute a separate department of literature, and often a literature by itself.
The time has passed when men wrote down to women; and it was the mile-stone of a new era when the greatest of modern poets put into the hands of woman, at the close of his “Faust,” the guiding thread of the world's immediate future.
Das Ewigweibliche zieht uns hinan, or, as Bayard Taylor
The Woman-soul leadeth us
Upward and On.