A LECTURE DELIVERED AT WINCHESTER, MARCH 17, 1869.
Ladies,–I have chosen for the title of this lecture a practical and prosaic word, because I intend the lecture itself to be as practical and prosaic as I can make it, without becoming altogether dull.
The question of the better or worse education of women is one far too important for vague sentiment, wild aspirations, or Utopian dreams.
It is a practical question, on which depends not merely money or comfort, but too often health and life, as the consequences of a good education, or disease and death–I know too well of what I speak–as the consequences of a bad one.
I beg you, therefore, to put out of your minds at the outset any fancy that I wish for a social revolution in the position of women; or that I wish to see them educated by exactly the same methods, and in exactly the same subjects, as men. British lads, on an average, are far too ill-taught still, in spite of all recent improvements, for me to wish that British girls should be taught in the same way.
Moreover, whatever defects there may have been–and defects there must be in all things human–in the past education of British women, it has been most certainly a splendid moral success. It has made, by the grace of God, British women the best wives, mothers, daughters, aunts, sisters, that the world, as far as I can discover, has yet seen.
Let those who will sneer at the women of England. We who have to do the work and to fight the battle of life know the inspiration which we derive from their virtue, their counsel, their tenderness, and–but too often–from their compassion and their forgiveness. There is, I doubt not, still left in England many a man with chivalry and patriotism enough to challenge the world to show so perfect a specimen of humanity as a cultivated British woman.
But just because a cultivated British woman is so perfect a personage; therefore I wish to see all British women cultivated. Because the womanhood of England is so precious a treasure; I wish to see none of it wasted. It is an invaluable capital, or material, out of which the greatest possible profit to the nation must be made. And that can only be done by thrift; and that, again, can only be attained by knowledge.
Consider that word thrift. If you will look at Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary, or if you know your Shakespeare, you will see that thrift signified originally profits, gain, riches gotten–in a word, the marks of a man’s thriving.
How, then, did the word thrift get to mean parsimony, frugality, the opposite of waste? Just in the same way as economy–which first, of course, meant the management of a household–got to mean also the opposite of waste.
It was found that in commerce, in husbandry, in any process, in fact, men throve in proportion as they saved their capital, their material, their force.
Now this is a great law which runs through life; one of those laws of nature–call them, rather, laws of God–which apply not merely to political economy, to commerce, and to mechanics; but to physiology, to society; to the intellect, to the heart, of every person in this room.
The secret of thriving is thrift; saving of force; to get as much work as possible done with the least expenditure of power, the least jar and obstruction, the least wear and tear.
And the secret of thrift is knowledge. In proportion as you know the laws and nature of a subject, you will be able to work at it easily, surely, rapidly, successfully; instead of wasting your money or your energies in mistaken schemes, irregular efforts, which end in disappointment and exhaustion.
The secret of thrift, I say, is knowledge. The more you know, the more you can save yourself and that which belongs to you; and can do more work with less effort.