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Mrs. A. And Mrs. B.; or, What She Thinks About It
by [?]

“O, dreadful, dreadful!” exclaim, in one chorus, meek Mrs. M., and tall Mrs. F., and stiff Mrs. J.

“They are very unhealthy,” says Mrs. F.

“They disturb all family order,” says Mrs. J.

“They make one so sleepy the next day,” says Mrs. M.

“They are very laborious to get up, and entirely useless,” says Mrs. Q.; at the same time counting across the room the people that she shall invite next week.

Mrs. M. and Mrs. F. diverge into a most edifying strain of moral reflections on the improvement of time, the necessity of sobriety and moderation, the evils of conformity to the world, till one is tempted to feel that the tract society ought to have their remarks for general circulation, were one not damped by the certain knowledge that before the winter is out each of these ladies will give exactly such another party.

And, now, are all these respectable ladies hypocritical or insincere? By no means–they believe every word they say; but a sort of necessity is laid upon them–a spell; and before the breath of the multitude their individual resolution melts away as the frosty tracery melts from the window panes of a crowded room.

A great many do this habitually, resignedly, as a matter of course. Ask them what they think to be right and proper, and they will tell you sensibly, coherently, and quite to the point in one direction; ask them what they are going to do. Ah! that is quite another matter.

They are going to do what is generally done–what Mrs. A., B., and C. do. They have long since made over their conscience to the keeping of the public,–that is to say, of good society,–and are thus rid of a troublesome burden of responsibility.

Again, there are others who mean in general to have an opinion and will of their own; but, imperceptibly, as one and another take a course opposed to their own sense of right and propriety, their resolution quietly melts, and melts, till every individual outline of it is gone, and they do as others do.

Yet is this influence of one human being over another–in some sense, God-appointed–a necessary result of the human constitution. There is scarcely a human being that is not varied and swerved by it, as the trembling needle is swerved by the approaching magnet. Oppose conflict with it, as one may at a distance, yet when it breathes on us through the breath, and shines on us through the eye of an associate, it possesses an invisible magnetic power. He who is not at all conscious of such impressibility can scarce be amiable or human. Nevertheless, one of the most important habits for the acquisition of a generous and noble character, is to learn to act individually, unswerved by the feelings and opinions of others. It may help us to do this, to reflect that the very person whose opinion we fear may be in equal dread of ours, and that the person to whom we are looking for a precedent may, at that very time, be looking to us.

In short, Mrs. A., if you think that you could spend your money more like a Christian than in laying it out on a fashionable party, go forward and do it, and twenty others, whose supposed opinion you fear, will be glad of your example for a precedent. And, Mrs. B., if you do think it would be better for your children to observe early hours, and form simple habits, than to dress and dance, and give and go to juvenile balls, carry out your opinion in practice, and many an anxious mother, who is of the same opinion, will quote your example as her shield and defence.

And for you, young ladies, let us pray you to reflect– individuality of character, maintained with womanly sweetness, is an irresistible grace and adornment. Have some principles of taste for yourself, and do not adopt every fashion of dress that is in vogue, whether it suits you or not–whether it is becoming or not–but, without a startling variation from general form, let your dress show something of your own taste and opinions. Have some principles of right and wrong for yourself, and do not do every thing that every one else does, because every one else does it.

Nothing is more tedious than a circle of young ladies who have got by rote a certain set of phrases and opinions–all admiring in the same terms the same things, and detesting in like terms certain others–with anxious solicitude each dressing, thinking, and acting, one as much like another as is possible. A genuine original opinion, even though it were so heretical as to assert that Jenny Lind is a little lower than the angels, or that Shakspeare is rather dull reading, would be better than such a universal Dead Sea of acquiescence.

These remarks have borne reference to the female sex principally, because they are the dependent, the acquiescent sex–from nature, and habit, and position, most exposed to be swayed by opinion–and yet, too, in a certain very wide department they are the lawgivers and custom-makers of society. If, amid the multiplied schools, whose advertisements now throng our papers, purporting to teach girls every thing, both ancient and modern, high and low, from playing on the harp and working pincushions, up to civil engineering, surveying, and navigation, there were any which could teach them to be women–to have thoughts, opinions, and modes of action of their own–such a school would be worth having. If one half of the good purposes which are in the hearts of the ladies of our nation were only acted out without fear of any body’s opinion, we should certainly be a step nearer the millennium.