Courage And Tenderness
( Originally Published 1884 )
Generosity of the Brave.—The Douglass.—Laplace.—The Magnanimous Man.—Education of Women in Courage.—Moral Strength of Women. Heroism of Women.
"The heroic example of other days is in great part the source of the courage in each generation, and men walk up composedly to the most perilous enterprises, beckoned onward by the shades of the brave that. were. "—HELPs.
COURAGE is by no means incompatible with tenderness. On the contrary gentleness and tenderness have been found to characterize the men, not less than the women, who have done the most courageous deeds. Sir Charles Napier gave up sporting because he could .not bear to hurt dumb creatures. The same gentleness and tenderness characterized his brother, Sir William, the historian of the Peninsular War. Such, also, was the character of Sir James Outram, pronounced by Sir Charles Napier to be " the Bayard of India, sans peur el sans reproche "—one of the bravest and yet gentlest of men; respectful and reverent to women,. tender to children, helpful of the weak, stern to the corrupt, but kindly as summer to the honest and deserving. Moreover, he was himself as honest as day, and as pure as virtue. Of him it might be said with truth, what Fulke Greville said of Sidney: He was a true model of worth a man fit for conquest, reformation, plantation, or what action soever is the greatest and hardest among men; his chief ends withal being, above all things, the good of his fellows, and the service of his sovereign and country."
It is the courageous man who can best afford to be generous; or, rather, it is his nature to be so. When Fairfax, at the battle of Naseby, seized the colors from an ensign whom he had struck down in the fight, he handed them to a common soldier to take care of. The soldier, unable to resist the temptation boasted to his comrades that he had. himself seized the colors, and the boast was repeated to Fairfax. " Let him retain the honor," said the commander; " I have enough besides."
So when Douglas, at the battle of Bannockburn, saw Randolph, his rival, outnumbered and apparently over-powered by the enemy, he prepared to hasten to his assistance; but, seeing that Randolph was already driving them back, he cried out, " Hold and halt ! We are come too late to aid them; let us not lessen the victory they have won by affecting to claim a share in it."
Quite as chivalrous, though in a very different field of action, was the conduct of Laplace to the young philosopher Biot, when the latter had read to the French Academy his paper, " Sur les Equations aux difference Melees." The assembled savants, at its close, felicitated the reader of the paper on his originality. Monge was delighted at his success. Laplace also praised him for the clearness of his demonstrations, and invited Biot to accompany him home. Arrived there, Laplace took from a closet in his study a paper yellow with age, and handed it to the young philosopher. To Biot's surprise, he found that it contained the solutions, all worked out, for which he had just gained so much applause. With rare magnanimity, Laplace withheld all knowledge of the circumstances from Biot until the latter had initiated his reputation before the Academy; moreover, he enjoined him to silence; and the incident would have remained a secret had not Biot himself published it, some fifty years afterwards.
An incident is related of a French artisan, exhibiting the same characteristic of self-sacrifice in another form. In front of a lofty house in course of erection at Paris was the usual scaffold, loaded with men and materials. The scaffold, being too weak, suddenly broke down, and the men upon it were precipitated to the ground-all except two, a young man and a middle aged one, who hung on to a narrow ledge, which trembled under their weight, and was evidently on the point of giving way. " Pierre," cried the elder of the two, " let go; I am the father of a family." " C'est juste!" said Pierre; and, instantly letting go his hold, he fell and was killed on the spot. The father of the family was saved.
The brave man is .magnanimous as well as gentle. He does not take even an enemy at a disadvantage, nor strike a man when he is down and unable to defend himself. Even in the midst of deadly strife such in-stances of generosity have not been uncommon. Thus, at the battle of Dettingen, during the heat of the action, a squadron of French cavalry charged an English regiment; but when the young French officer, who led them, and was about to attack the English leader, observed that he had only one arm, with which he held his bridle, the Frenchman saluted him courteously with his sword and passed on.
It is related of Charles V. that, after the siege and capture of Wittenburg by the Imperialist army, the monarch went to see the tomb of Luther. While reading the inscription on it, one of the servile courtiers who accompanied him proposed to open the grave and give the ashes of the " heretic" to the winds. The monarch's cheek flushed with honest indignation: " I war not with the dead," said he; " let this place be respected."
The portrait which the great heathen, Aristotle, drew of the Magnanimous Man, in other words, the True Gentleman, more than two thousand years ago, is as faithful now as it was then. " The magnanimous man," he said, " will behave with moderation both with good fortune and bad. He will know how to be exalted and how to be abased. He will neither be delighted with success nor grieved by failure. He will neither shun danger nor seek it, for there are few things which he cares for. He is reticent, and somewhat slow of speech, but speaks his mind openly and boldly when occasion calls for it.
He is apt to admire, for nothing is great to him. He overlooks injuries. He is not given to talk about him-self or about others; for he does not care that he him-self should be praised, or that other people should be blamed. He does not cry out about trifles, and craves help from none."
On the other hand, mean men admire meanly. They have neither modesty, generosity, nor magnanimity. They are ready to take advantage of the weakness or defencelessness of others, especially where they have themselves succeeded, by unscrupulous methods, in climbing to positions of authority. Snobs in high places are always much less tolerable than snobs of low degree, because they have more frequent opportunities of making their want of manliness felt. They assume greater airs, and are pretentious in all that they do; and the higher their elevation, the more conspicuous is the incongruity of their position. " The higher the monkey climbs," says the proverb, " the more he shows his tail."
Much depends on the way in which a thing is done. An act which might be taken as a kindness if done in a generous spirit, when done in a grudging spirit may be felt as stingy, if not harsh and even cruel. When Ben Johnson lay sick and in poverty, the king sent him a paltry message, accompanied by a gratuity. The sturdy, plain-spoken poet's reply was: " I suppose he sends me this because I live in an alley; tell him his soul lives in an alley."
From what we have said, it will be obvious that to be of an enduring and courageous spirit is of great importance in the formation of character. It is a source not only of usefulness in life, but of happiness. On the other hand, to be of a timid and, still more, of a cowardly nature, is one of the greatest misfortunes. A wise man was accustomed to say that one of the principal objects he aimed at in the education of his sons and daughters was to train them in the habit of fearing nothing so much as fear. And the habit of avoiding fear is, doubtless, capaple of being trained like any other habit, such as the habit of attention, of diligence, of study, or of cheerfulness.
Much of the fear that exists is the offspring of imagination, which creates the images of evils which may happen, but perhaps rarely do, and thus many persons who are capable of summoning up courage enough to grapple with and overcome real dangers, are paralyzed or thrown into consternation by those which are imaginary. Hence, unless the imagination be held under strict discipline, we are prone to meet evils more than half-way to suffer them by forestallment, and to assume the burdens which we ourselves create.
Education in courage is not usually included among the branches of female training, and yet it is really of much greater importance than either music, French, or the use of the globes. Contrary to the view of Sir Richard Steele, that woman should be characterized by a " tender fear," and " an inferiority which makes her lovely," we would have women educated in resolution and courage, as a means of rendering them more helpful, more self-reliant, and vastly more useful and happy.
There is, indeed, nothing attractive in timidity, nothing lovable in fear. All weakness, whether of mind or body, is equivalent to deformity, and the reverse of interesting. Courage is graceful and dignified : while fear, in any form, is mean and repulsive. Yet the utmost tenderness and gentleness are consistent with courage. Ary Scheffer, the artist, once wrote to his daughter: " Dear daughter, strive to be of good courage, to be gentle-hearted; these are the true qualities for woman. ' Troubles ' every body must expect. There is but one way of looking at fate whatever that be, whether blessings or afflictions to behave with dignity under both. We must not lose heart, or it will be the worse both for ourselves and for those whom we love. To struggle, and again and again to renew the conflict this is life's inheritance."
In sickness and sorrow none are braver and less complaining sufferers than women. Their courage, where their hearts are concerned, is indeed proverbial.
Experience has proved that women can be as enduring as men under the heaviest trials and calamities; but too little pains are taken to teach them to endure petty terrors and frivolous vexations with fortitude. Such little miseries, if petted and indulged, quickly run into sickly sensibility, and become the bane of their life, keeping themselves and those about them in a state of chronic discomfort.
The best corrective of this condition of mind is whole-some moral and mental discipline. Mental strength is as necessary for the development of woman's character as of man's. It gives her capacity to deal with the affairs of life, and presence of mind, which enable her to act with vigor and effect in moments of emergency. Character in a woman, as in a man, will always be found the best safeguard of virtue, the best nurse of religion, the best corrective of Time. Personal beauty soon passes; but beauty of mind and character increase in attractiveness the older it grows.
Ben Jonson gives a striking portraiture of a noble woman in these lines:
" I meant she should be courteous, facile, sweet,
The courage of woman is not the less true because it is for the most part passive. It is not encouraged by the cheers of the world, for it is mostly exhibited in the quiet recesses of private life. Yet there are cases of heroic patience and endurance on the part of women which occasionally come to the light of day. One of the most celebrated instances in history is that of Gertrude Von der Wart. Her husband falsely accused of being an accomplice in the murder of the Emperor Albert, was condemned to the most frightful of all punishments to be broken alive in the wheel. With the most profound conviction of her husband's innocence, the faithful woman stood by his side to the last, watching over him during two days and nights, braving the empress's anger and the inclemency of the weather, in the hope of contributing to soothe his dying agonies.
But women have not only distinguished themselves for their passive courage; impelled by affection, or the sense of duty, they have occasionally become heroic. When the band of conspirators who sought the life of James II. of Scotland burst into his lodgings at Perth, the king called to the ladies, who were in the chamber outside his room, to keep the door as well as they could, and give him time to escape. The conspirators had previously destroyed the locks of the doors, so that the keys could not be turned; and when they reached the ladies' apartment, it was found that the bar had also been removed. But, on hearing them approach, the brave Catharine Douglas, with the hereditary courage of her family, boldly thrust her arm across the door instead of the bar, and held it there until, her arm being broken, the conspirators burst into the room with drawn swords and daggers, overthrowing the ladies, who, though, unarmed, still endeavored to resist them.
The defense of Lathom House by Charlotte de Tremouille, the worthy descendant of William of Nassau and Admiral Coligny, was another striking instance of heroic bravery on the part of a noble woman. When summoned by the Parliamentary forces to surrender, she declared that she had been intrusted by her husband with the defense of the house, and that she could not give it up without her dear lord's orders, but trusted in God for protection and deliverance. In her arrangements for the defense, she is described as having ' left nothing with her eye to be excused afterwards by fortune or negligence, and added to her former patience a most resolved fortitude." The brave lady held her house and home good against the enemy for a whole year during three months of which the place was strictly besieged and bombarded until at length the siege was raised, after a most gallant defense, by the advance of the Royalist army.
Nor can we forget the courage of Lady Franklin, who persevered to the last, when the hopes of all others had died out, in prosecuting the search after the Franklin Expedition. On the occasion of the Royal Geographical Society determining to award the " Founder's Medal " to Lady Franklin, Sir Roderick Murchison observed that, in the course of a long friendship with her, he had abundant opportunities of observing and testing the sterling qualities of a woman who had proved herself worthy of the admiration of mankind. " Nothing daunted by failure after failure, through twelve long years of hope deferred, she had perserved, with a singleness of purpose and a sincere devotion which were truly unparalleled. And now that her one last expedition of the Fox, under the gallant M'Clintock, had realized the two great facts that her husband had traversed wide seas unknown to former navigators, and died in discovering a north-west passage then, surely, the adjudication of the medal would be hailed by the nation as one of the many recompenses to which the widow of the illustrious Franklin was so eminently entitled."
But that devotion to duty which marks the heroic character has more often been exhibited by women in deeds of charity and mercy. The greater part of these are never known, for they are done in private, out of the public sight, and for the mere love of doing good. Where fame has come to them, because of the success which has attended their labors in a more general sphere, it has come unsought and unexpected, and is often felt as a burden. Who has not heard of Mrs. Fry and Miss Carpenter as prison-visitors and reformers; of Mrs. Chisholm and Miss Rye as promoters of emigration; and of Miss Nightingale and Miss Garrett as apostles of hospital nursing?
That these women should have emerged from the sphere of private and domestic life to become leaders in philanthropy, indicates no small degree of moral courage on their part; for to women, above all others, quiet and ease and retirement are most natural and welcome. Very few women step beyond the boundaries of home in search of a larger field of usefulness. But when they have desired one, they have had no difficulty in finding it. The ways in which men and women can help their neighbors are innumerable. It needs but the willing heart and ready hand. Most of the philanthropic workers we have named, however, have scarcely been influenced by choice. The duty lay in their way it seemed to be the nearest to them and they set about doing it without desire for fame, or any other reward but the approval of their own conscience.