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Clever Women

( Originally Published 1851 )



There is an unaccountable antipathy to clever women. Almost all men profess to be afraid of blue stockings that is, of women who have cultivated their minds ; and hold up as a maxim, that there is no safety in matrimony, or even in the ordinary intercourse of society, except with females of plain understandings. The general idea seems to be, that a dull ordinary woman, or even a fool, is more easily managed than a woman of spirit and sense, and that the acquirements of the husband ought never to be obviously inferior to those of his wife. If these propositions were true, there would be some show of reason for avoiding clever women. But I am afraid they rest on no good grounds. Hardly any kind of fool can be so easily managed, as a person of even first-rate intellect; while the most of the species are much more untractable. A dull fool is sure to be obstinate, obstinate in error as well as in propriety ; so that the husband is every day provoked to find that she wilfully withholds him from acting rightly in the most trifling, and perhaps also the most important, things. Then the volatile fool is full of whim and caprice, and utterly defies every attempt that may be made by her husband to guide her aright. In the one case, his life is imbittered for days, perhaps, by the sulkiness of his partner ; in the other, he is chagrined by the fatal consequences of her levity. Are these results so much to be desired, that a man should marry beneath the rank of his own understanding, in order to se-cure them ? I rather apprehend that cowardice in this case, as in most others, is only the readiest way to danger. As for the rest of the argument, I would be far from saying, that to marry a woman much superior to one's self in intellect, is a direct way to happiness. 1 must insist, however, that there is more safety for a man of well-regulated feelings, in the partnership of a superior than of an inferior woman. In the former case, I verily believe, his own understanding is likely to be more highly estimated than in the other. In the first place, he is allowed the credit of having had the sense at least to choose it good wife. In the second, he has counsel and example always at hand, for the improvement of his own appearances before society. The very superiority, however, of his wife, ensures that she will be above showing off to the disadvantage of her husband : she will rather seek to conceal his faults, and supply his deficiencies, for her own credit. Now, what sense a fool has, she must always show it, even though sure to excite ridicule from its being so little.

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