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Health, or, How to Live

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    “THE ignorance of God’s laws must have been unfathomably profound, when delicacy of health, and fragility of frame, and tenuity of form became elements of female beauty; when chalk was chewed, and sirloin eschewed, in order to get the true graveclothes complexion; when the lady in the parlor cast her ruddy cheeks, with her faded calicoes, to the servants in the kitchen; when women were ashamed of freckles on the face, but not of tubercles on the lungs; when mothers were ashamed of a child dirtily clad, but not ashamed of a sickly one; and when they protected their daughters against the life-giving breezes of the north-west, with defence upon defence, and shelter above shelter, until, at last, they gave them the deep shelter of the grave; and when daughters were taught to become emulous of pallor and leanness, to recline upon sofas and ottomans, until, for all useful purposes, they lost their classification among the vertebrate species, and to persecute and expel health and strength from the limbs, by inactivity, and from the brain by novel-reading, until they came, at last, to retain only the semblance of an understanding at either extremity.HHTL 275.1

    Young describes the ghost-women, as follows:—HHTL 275.2

    ‘The languid lady next appears in state,
    Who was not born to carry her own weight,
    She rolls, reels, staggers, till some foreign aid
    To her own stature lifts the feeble maid.
    Then, if ordained to so severe a doom,
    She, by just stages, journeys round the room;
    But, knowing her own weakness, she despairs
    To scale the Alps, — that is, ascend the stairs.
    My fan! let others say, who laugh and toil;
    Fan! hood! glove! scarf! is her laconic style;
    And that is spoke with such a dying fall,
    That Betty rather sees than hears the call.
    The motion of her lips and meaning eye
    Piece out th’ idea her faint words deny.
    O, listen with attention most profound! Her voice is but the shadow of a sound.,
    And help! O, help! her spirits are so dead,
    One hand scarce lifts the other to her her head.
    If, there, a stubborn pin it triumphs o’er,
    She pants! she sinks away! and is no more.
    Let the robust and the gigantic carve,
    Life is not worth so much, she’d rather starve;
    But chew she must herself; ah, cruel fate!
    That Rosalinda can’t by proxy eat. ’
    HHTL 275.3

    “According to the plainest laws of health and hereditary descent, how imbecile and worthless must be the offspring of this phantom-class of women, when compared withHHTL 276.1

    ‘Such as the Doric mothers bore! ’HHTL 276.2

    “Another result of the proper education of woman would be a revolution in dress. Lest I should seem to cross the line of demarcation between the sexes which I have endeavored to draw, I shall make but few remarks on this subject; and these as far as I am able, will be of didactic character, and, in substance, as applicable to men as to women.HHTL 276.3

    “In the first place, dress is to be treated of as a necessity. Nature has provided other animals with a covering, — feathers, fur, wool, or other vesture. But man is born nude, while provision is made for the greatest profusion and elegance of the materials of clothing. By this arrangement, Nature seems to pay us the compliment of saying, ‘Choose your own wardrobe, and fit, diversify and color it as you will,’ — a compliment, I am sorry to say, we have as yet given so little proof that we deserve.HHTL 276.4

    “In the next place, the Forms and Materials of Dress should always be made rigidly subservient to the Laws of Health. No garment should ever be allowed to interfere with entire freedom of locomotion, or with the natural action of any bodily organ,or with the perfectly free circulation of the blood. Dress should be used to moderate the extremes of heat or cold, according to the climate of the wearer; and to ward off just the excess, and no more, of those inclemencies and violences of the weather, which the the system has not yet been trained to bear. And inasmuch as an inability to dress and undress one’s self is always held, in courts of law, to be one of the proofs of idiocy, all dresses should be so made, that the wearer can put them on and off without assistance, at all times, as well as in perils of fire or drowning. In all these respects, dress is one of the Useful Arts.HHTL 276.5

    “And thirdly, dress is one of the Fine Arts. Surely, whatever requires taste and imagination, in addition to knowledge, — whatever admits and courts a display of the harmonies of coloring and the symmetries of form, — belongs to the province of Beauty, and is therefore to be ranked with the Arts of Embellishment. Contrast the elegance of one style, where all the colors blend and harmonize, like those in the petals of a flower, or in the hues of the iris, and where all the motions seem copied from the waving of willow-branches or from ascending flame, with the viciousness of another, where the colors are clapboarded on in stripes of red and yellow or black and white, and where the motions are all as angular and spasmodic as the most jerking eccentrics of a machine-shop.HHTL 277.1

    “But dress is degraded from a useful art into a harmful one, and from a fine art into a vulgar one, whenever it is allowed to abate one jot or little from the beauty and the utility of Health. The laws of health come from God; the laws of fashion, from the Paris milliners. Is it not most lamentable, that when the command goes forth to the women of the land, ‘Choose ye this day which ye will serve,’ they have so uniformly responded, ‘The Paris milliners? ’HHTL 277.2

    “Health, then, is the paramount law of dress; comfort is always coincident with health; and, to the eye of an intelligent observer, nothing can ever be beautiful, everything is always odious, that interferes with either. Why should one wrap the furs of sable or ermine over shoulders and chest, while with the two-fold simplicity of kid or sheep, she covers her feet with but half the thickness of its pelt? When there is no law of nature more certain than that the highest radiance and charm of beauty can emanate only from the highest health, why should the limbs ever be tormented by ligature, or the vitals by compression, as if Heaven could be gained only through the penance of cadaverousness and languor? — Why should that exquisite shape which the cunning hand of nature has moulded with wavy outline of form, and graced with undulating flow of motion, beautiful as the swell and lapse of moon-lit waters, be cut up sharply into conic sections, or be be-bishoped or be-bustled as though the very genius of deformity had gone mad? I have read an anecdote of a Moslem priest in an oriental city, who, on seeing a French belle in the streets, fresh from parisian shops, called his daughter to him, and moralizingly said, ‘My daughter, when you forget Allah, and Mahomet his prophet, may you look like that woman! In fine, had not woman better retain what similitude she can to that form which the Creator moulded, until milliners and mantua-makers shall authenticate their title to change it, by some less pernicious miracle, than the destruction of beauty and life through the ‘evil eye’ of Fashion?HHTL 277.3

    “With one further reflection, I leave this fertile but unpleasant topic. Surely the bitterest woman-hater could devise no sharper sarcasm against the sex, than to exhibit an historic gallery of female fashions chronologically arranged, from year to year and from age to age. The fashions of man’s dress have been almost incredibly grotesque and absurd; but he, having less natural beauty than woman, could never bear so much caricaturing and spoiling as she. What incomputable wealth has been squandered, and what myriads of lifetimes thrown away, in inventing new modes of deforming the natural form, and in turning its beauty into ugliness! Take the human figure, as God causes a healthy one to grow, and you have a standard which has the venerableness of the ancient and the novelty of the modern, and one, too, which nature pronounces to be ‘modish;’ but when we once abandon this standard, we wander, without pattern or model, amid the endless caprices of folly. Hence those vagaries of fancy, those distertions like the images of a painful dream, and those dyspeptic imaginations which have been embodied in fashionable dress! Is the world a Lunatic Hospital, that sometimes a lady’s dress should be twice her height, and anon but half of it; that sometimes it should expand to the orbit of a farthingale, (when surely there was no want of amplitude in ‘woman’s sphere, ’) and then be shrunken into swaddling-bands; that sometimes it should be trailed downwards to sweep the earth, and then built-up, turret-like, on the top of the head, — so that, as Addison said of the women in his time, their faces were in the middle of them; and that sometimes the neck should be be-ruffed and be-puffed in the Elizabethan style, and then laid bare, with a vast anatomical mistake as to its nether boundary. This last unseemliness, happens to be the shame of our day. When that Turkish officer Amin Bey, on his late visit to this country, attended some fashionable parties at Washington, he remarked, that on going into our society, he expected to see as many of American ladies, but not as much. The more private exposures of the Model Artists were broken up as a scandal; but they have amply revenged themselves by taking many other spirits worse than the first, and going on public exhibition at Carusi’s and Papanti’s, at all assemblies and ball-rooms.HHTL 278.1

    “I regard this monthly lunacy, too, in the changes of dress, as even more reprehensible in its motives than distasteful in its forms. The ignoble purpose is to make a display of superior wealth, or to arrogate a higher caste, and thus to enforce upon others a sense of inferiority. Now, such motives, or emotions, all benevolent and Christian hearts must repudiate with abhorrence. It is the first impulse of a truly noble man, to temper himself to the condition of the inferiors whom he meets. He seeks to assuage the envy of bad minds, and the mortification of good ones, at the contrasts between his riches and their poverty, his elevation and their lowliness. A benevolent person will never put on airs of learning before the illiterate, nor of knowledge before the ignorant. He does not habit himself in his richest, but his poorest garb, when he is to meet the humble and lowly in their mean attire. I would forbear to speak of my keen eye-sight in the presence of the blind, to make known my acute hearing to the deaf, and I would moderate my steps in passing a lame man, so that the painful idea of his own privation need not be forced upon him. There is no littleness more little, nor despicableness more despicable, than the ostentation or covetable qualities before the consciously inferior. However high a man may seem to be raised by any enviable attribute or possession, the meanness of striving to make it an ostentation or a boast, proves that his real nature is antipodal to the accidents of his position. Yet, these contemptible and criminal motives in regard to dress are the very life and power of that hollow Olymphus, where dwell the lawgivers of fashion. In these motives originate those changes of dress, which come, as other lunacies were once supposed to come, with a change of the moon. Hence the discarding of a dress, as soon as it is seen to be worn or imitated by those in a supposed inferior condition. Hence, too, the low malice of equipping a servant in the costume of a rival “Lady Patroness;” and the spirit, equally low, that cares for it. Among the infinite of remorses and mortifications which will throng around the death-bed and the judgment-day, will there be anything that can make the offender feel quite so mean, as the retrospect and exposure of a life spent in the vulgar ostentation of dress, and in striving to make fellow-beings feel inferior for no better reason than because they happened to be clothed from a different set of animals and plants?”HHTL 279.1

    Again Mr. Mann says:HHTL 280.1

    “My regard for woman is too exalted and sincere to insult her by adulation. Duties lie all along the glorious vista into which I would lead her. I call for strength and endurance in all her frame; for fervor and a celestial enthusiasm in all her faculties; for toil and self-sacrifice, and the burning of the idols which the world now worships; because it is up the Mount of Transfiguration that she is appointed to ascend. I summon her to the services of a holy Temple, in whose very vestibule she must enrobe herself in the shining garments of Knowledge and Love.HHTL 280.2

    “One cannot discuss any part of this subject without encountering upon the threshold the modern question of ‘Woman’s Rights.’ An epicene school has arisen in our day, whose creed is, that the sexes are equal; that nature has endowed them both with equal faculties and equal capacities for thought and for action; and hence, that all departments of business, all pursuits and all professions, are a common arena where both may enter and wrestle for all the prizes of life. The leader of this sect, in Europe, is Miss Helen Maria Weber, (or, Helen Maria Weber, Esquire), of Brussels, in Belgium, who dresses like a man, in a strait-bodied coat of blue broadcloth, with shiny buttons, buff vest, and biped continuations. According to this theory of equal powers, equal duties and equal adaptations for the performance of duty, the only noteworthy difference between the sexes is that which cunning tailors and mantua-makers have made, and still manage to maintain, in order to increase their custom; and the old saying that ‘the tailor makes the man,’ so far from being a sarcasm, is but half the truth; for he makes men and women both, and the sexes are at his mercy; for, by the cut of his shears he can turn a man into a woman, or a woman into a man, according as he makes the nether portion of their garments bifurcate or cylindrical. 1In this country, I am ashamed to say, we have had some instances of women, — of notoriety, if not of eminence, — who have donned the outward semblance of the masculine gender. As Juno ‘walks a queen,’ so, it is said, we have one woman who walks a farmer, clad in male attire, with horsewhip in hand.
    “As means of preventive police, not all the laws that legislatures could enact, nor all the courts they could establish, nor all the executive officers they could appoint, would be half so efficacious to prevent society at large from becoming a Sodom at large, as the all-pervading though silent influence of a universal and unmistakable distinction in the costume of man and women. Where this distinction is observed, the very garments are a guard set over the wearer, going where she goes, stopping where she stops, and abiding with her as a perpetual and restraining monitor. But where this distinction is discarded, the mere fact of casting it aside, is evidence of guilty intent. Hence, any woman, however unnecessary she may deem the badge of dress to be for her own safety, is traitorous to the virtue of both sexes, when she practices or palliates or tolerates any departure from so protective a custom, — from a custom founded upon so strong and universal an instinct that none but tribes sunk in the very lowest barbarism have ever discarded it. These views are so prompt an outgrowth of the natural sentiments, and so strongly fortified by reason in all stages of its development, that whoever violates them is worthy not only of legal penalties, but of the ridicule and scorn of the community.
    HHTL 281.1

    “But, as it seems to me, one great and incontestable fact, — a fact of which the Creator himself is the immediate and ever-repeating author, — a fact which is embodied in our bodies, inspired into our spirits, and organized into our whole organizations, — settles this question at once and forever. God created the race, Male and Female, ON THE PRINCIPLE OF A DIVISION OF LABOR. Each sex is so far from being the other, that each is necessary as the complement of the other. It takes both to complete either. The relation of unlikeness is as remarkable as the relation of likeness between them. They are the subject of contrast, as much as of comparison. From the crown of the head to the sole of the foot, there is not a vital organ in the two, which, by its form, locality or function, would not reveal to the anatomist to which sex it belongs; and the subtler analyst of mind and heart will discover corresponding differences in all aesthetical and spiritual endowments.”HHTL 282.1

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