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Current Literature

The Illustrated London News, vol. 46, no. 1308, p. 310.

April 1, 1865

CURRENT LITERATURE.

A New Atmosphere. By Gail Hamilton. (Sampson Low, Son, and Marston.). An importation from the other side of the Atlantic, where she-doctors, and she-lecturers, and she-clerks, and she-nondescripts receive more encouragement than they have yet met with amongst us, and where the independence of women has broken out in the form of Bloomerism and other extravagances. Our author deals with the "woman question." It appears that the moral and social atmosphere of our age is extremely corrupt, and that we want a new one. Upon that point there will probably be little difference of opinion, but upon the means whereby the required purification is to be effected there will be great diversity of sentiment. Whether the "oak-and-vine" relationship between men and women should be confined simply to poetry, and women from girlhood upward should be instructed in such trades, callings, arts, and sciences as will enable them to gain a livelihood in competition with and independently of men, is a serious question; but our author seems to think it ought to be unhesitatingly answered in the affirmative. Man, if we read our author correctly, is a selfish, grasping, cowardly, double-faced oppressor; woman is, by force of circumstances, a sly, designing, over-worked, suffering slave. And this is the result of existing laws and customs--especially so far as marriage is concerned. Our author by no means blasphemes marriage in the abstract, but scoffs at the preliminaries which precede and the conditions which follow the actual practice. Husbands have all the sweets, wives have all the bitters, of connubial life. If husbands would suckle the baby, and take their turn at the perambulator, and put the children to bed, and wash the linen, and make the caps, there would be some chance of a fair adjustment of domestic duties; but, as things are, selfish man "goeth forth to his work and to his labour until the evening," and expects his harassed wife to perform the household drudgery, have his lordship's refection prepared, and bring his offspring in apple-pie order to receive the rare paternal caress. No doubt there is more of the spirit of traffic than there should be in many a marriage; no doubt there is too much selfishness in many husbands; no doubt there is too much labour imposed on many wives; no doubt there is too little chance of profitable employment for many unmarried women; but whether a general withdrawal of the "restrictions of existing customs" would be the best cure for the evils we beg leave to doubt. Readers of Aristophanes do not need to be told that "woman's rights" have been advocated before our day, and that the consequence of woman's complete independence have been described by a master-hand. Gail Hamilton's views are put forward in a very earnest, very dogmatical, sometimes sensible, and occasionally rhapsodical, style; but we do not think they will be generally adopted on this side of the Atlantic. It will be long before we cease to associate the idea of independence with inexpressibles, and of protection with petticoats; nor is it by any means certain that, because a great difficulty is co-existent with certain restrictions, the difficulty is traceable merely to the restrictions; there may be collateral causes which might be found, if sought for, and which might be more safely removed than the restrictions....

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