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The Seventh Commandment
by [?]

Of course society has to make an occasional example and its moral maleficence, like death, loved a shining mark. It damned Breckinridge for getting tangled up with a desiring maid in a closed carriage, and relegated him to the political wilderness, yet twice elevated to the presidency the most disreputable old Falstaff that ever vibrated between cheap beer joints and ham-fatted old washerwomen who smelled of stale soap-suds and undeodorized diapers. Cleveland “told the truth”–when he had to–and was made a little tin Jesus of by the moral jabberwocks; Breckinridge, an infinitely better and brainier man, ‘fessed up–and couldn’t go to Congress from the studhorse district of Kentucky. When society goes hunting for scapegoats it usually manages to get a gnat lodged in its esophagus while relegating a mangy dromedary to its internal economy.

Such are the conditions which prevail to-day; but I am far from agreeing with the dictum of Pope that “whatever is, is right.” Had the world ever proceeded on that principle we would still be honoring robbers and liars, thieves and polygamists. The wider license accorded man harmonizes neither with divine law, decency nor the canons of common sense. We place womanly virtue on a pedestal and worship it while tacitly encouraging men to destroy it. We overlook the fact that a man cannot fracture the Seventh Commandment without considerable assistance. We should adopt a loftier standard of morality, nobler ideals for men. Because he is more earthly than woman it does not follow that he should be made altogether of muck. He has made some little progress since the days of Judah and Tamar, David and Bathsheba. He no longer consorts with courtesans on the public highway, nor pens up half a hundred wives in a harem, then goes broke buying concubines. He has learned that there is such a thing as shame, assumes a virtue though he has it not, seeks to conceal his concupiscence. What in one age society drives to a semblance of concealment in the next it brands as criminal, hence we may hope that at no distant day the single standard of morals will become more than an irridescent dream–that Josephs will not be confined altogether to gum-chewing members of the Y.M.C.A. We may eventually reach that moral plain where the male debauchee will be considered a moral outcast; but the time is not yet, and until its advent illicit commerce will continue to be more demoralizing to women than to men.

Of course there are exceptions to the rule–there are women who rise superior to the social law. George Eliot, Queen Elizabeth, Sarah Bernhardt and others have trampled the social edict beneath their feet and refused to consider themselves sinners–have laughed an outraged world to scorn and stood defiant, sufficient unto themselves. Those women were intellectual amazons whom naught but the writhen bolts of God could humble, whose genius flamed with a white light even through the dun clouds of lechery; but we cannot measure the workaday woman by the few “whose minds might, like the elements, furnish forth creation.” A Bernhardt is great, not because of her social sin, but despite thereof. With her art is the all-in-all, sex but an incident. She is strong enough to mount the empyrean despite the lernean serpent-coil which drags others to perdition–to compel the world to tolerate if not forgive the black stain in her heart because of the divine radiance which encircles her head. Occasionally there is a woman who can sacrifice her purity without sinking to the slums through loss of self-respect–can still maintain the fierce battle for fame, can be grand after she has ceased to be good. Mrs. Grundy can rave, and every orthodox goose stretch forth its rubberneck to express its disapproval; but instead of bending beneath the weight of scorn, instead of sinking into the mire of the slough upon which she has set her feet she seems like old Antaeus, to gather fresh strength from the earth with which to write her name among the immortals. Queen Elizabeth is to this good day the pride of orthodox England–she had more brains than all its other monarchs combined; yet by solemn act of parliament it was decreed that the first bastard born to the “Virgin Queen” should ascend the throne of Britain. Thus was the highest possible premium placed upon female lechery, and it was placed there after due deliberation by a “God- fearing,” Catholic-hating Episcopalian parliament! Fortunately for Mrs. Wettin, the present governmental figure-head, jolly old Liz either availed herself of some of the “preventatives” so extensively advertised in “great family newspapers,” or neglected to own her illegitimate offspring. I cannot help but think that a love-child by Elizabeth and the courtly Raleigh would have been a great improvement on any of the soggy-headed things spawned by the House of Hanover. I do not apologize for nor condone the sexual frailties of distinguished females; the noblest career to which any woman can aspire is that of honest wifehood, and if she attains to that she is, though of mediocre mind, infinitely superior to the most famous wanton.