An Unfounded Assertion Disproved - Woman the Helpmate, not the Hinderer - Some Notable
Examples of Noble Wives
That woman was created to be man's helpmate we have upon the very highest authority.
That there are all sorts of women, good, bad, and indifferent, is as true as that there is the same variety in men. The ill-mated hinder each other, not only in their respective spheres of work, but also in the strivings after happiness that human nature makes, consciously or otherwise. In this connection there is a terrible indictment of woman in a chapter on "Power in the Crucible" of Dr. Charles J. Whitby's book, "Makers of Man." The writer begins the attack by asserting that "it is not to the wife of his bosom that a man usually looks for sympathy with and encouragement of his inmost cherished purpose." The wife is represented as jealous of and intriguing against this rival of her own claims upon him. She querulously insists upon its abandonment, and requires that his devotion shall be exclusively for her.
A Cruel Indictment
That there have been cases of this kind no one can possibly deny. One can lay one's finger on but too many instances. But, according to Dr. Whitby, this state of affairs is a normal and usual one. His portrait of the exigent, selfish, tyrannical wife seems to have been drawn from the life-from some single member of a type.
He speaks of woman's lower nature, as compared with man's; of her ruthlessness, her lack of chivalry, her relentlessness as a task-mistress.
The same theories are expressed by Schopenhauer in his "Studies in Pessimism." He says: "Woe to the man who sets up claims and interests that will conflict with those of women. They will be unmercifully crushed at the first encounter." It is in the same chapter, by the way, that occurs his famous description of "that undersized, narrow-shouldered, broad-hipped and short-legged race." Since Schopenhauer's days some of these defects have been considerably corrected, but he would find the alteration objectionable, since he could see nothing admirable in woman, whom he thought unworthy of being placed on equal terms with man.
An echo of all this is found in "Makers of Man." But for every case in which the wife sets herself in opposition to the husband's dreams and ideals, there could be found scores in which he has been helped and uplifted,, sustained and encouraged by her. Many eminent men have acknowledged this ungrudgingly, sometimes in their books, sometimes in speeches made in public. Mr. Whitby cites Lady Nelson, who acted ever as a wet blanket to the great admiral's aims, and with this single instance endeavours to strengthen his case-viz., that a wife is likely to "resent her husband's absorption in ends, however exalted, tending to endanger their common prospects of material and social success." In such cases the author recommends the husband to seek for sympathy wherever it is to be found. This is often done, but a man of principle, one loyal to his marriage vows, resists the temptation and continues to lead an unhappy home life, his work suffering in consequence, his objects frustrated, his energies dulled for lack of the encouragement and sympathy a true helpmate gives.
There are, however, many instances of happy husbands rejoicing in wifely sympathy and active help.
Disraeli owed to his wife much of his success. Alphonse Daudet's wife was " the light of his hearth, the regulator of his work, and the discreet counsellor of his inspiration." To her indefatigable collaboration her husband testified in his dedication of " Le Nabab," but she would not allow this dedication to appear. And she was a splendid housewife, withal. It was owing to a remark of his wife that Fenimore Cooper became a novelist; and Nathaniel Hawthorne also was led to write " The Scarlet Letter " by an exactly similar incident. Thomas Hood read, re-read, and corrected all he wrote with his wife. He ends a letter to her with, " Bless you again and again, my dear one, my one as good as a thousand a year to your old Unitarian in love.-t. H." Charles Lever's wife helped him so well in his work that from the day she died he felt that his right hand had lost its cunning.
The musical world knows well what a wonderful wife to Schumann was Madame Schumann. Both loved music, and years after marriage they would sit side by side at the piano playing, he with his left hand, she with her right. Schumann did his best to ruin his own life and stultify his gifts, but she invariably came to the rescue, and saved him.
Dr. Arnold, the celebrated Head of Rugby, has placed it on record that it was " the rare, the unbroken, the almost awful happiness of his domestic life that enabled him to accomplish his work," the reform of public schools in England. Dr. Keble, whose wife was an invalid, said that she entered into all his hopes, and greatly helped him in his work. She was, he said, "his conscience, his memory, his common-sense." Mrs. Gladstone was a devoted wife, and took incessant care of her husband, protecting him from bores, dieting him, and in every way fitting him for his strenuous life of constant work. To her loving care he doubtless owed the wonderful preservation of his mental and physical powers to a ripe old age. And being also a gifted woman, she was able to help him in his life-work.
Lady Huggins helped her husband, the late Sir William, in his scientific work, and was joint author with him of many scientific papers and of their "Atlas of Representative Stellar Spectra." He wrote and spoke of his wife as an invaluable aid in his work. Madame Curie, as is well known, worked with her late husband in studying the properties of radium, and helped him to make his world-famous discoveries. He said repeatedly that without her he could not have made them. Tennyson's dedication of his "Cenone" is the most exquisite tribute that wife has ever received from husband.
Princess Bismarck also took care to keep away bores from her husband, the famous Chancellor. He said of her, "She it is who has made me what I am." Could tribute be stronger?
The wives of poets have suffered, often unjustly, from the aspersions of misogynists, but, nevertheless, literature can present many a noble exception, from the lowly-born and uncomprehending but deeply-loving wife of William Blake to the twin poetic soul who gladdened the life and inspired the muse of Robert Browning. No breath of personal self-seeking, no shadow of the jealousy often deemed an integral part of the artistic temperament ever sullied the clear mirror of the wedded love of this husband and his helpmate.
Scores of similar instances could be quoted, but those given suffice amply to prove that women are capable of being the true helpmates of the men they marry, and that those who fail to do so are exceptional. They are likely to become even fewer in these days when women are more highly educated, have more chance of developing character and those qualities of self-reliance, endurance, and patient endeavour that were once regarded as almost phenomenal when found in woman apart from her domestic life. A woman could be submissive in illness-she always has been so-but she had never entered on the strenuous life of achievement in which so many have distinguished themselves in recent years. This it is that makes them true help-mates to man, and if the love of home-making accompany these virile characteristics, the husband of such an one is fortunate indeed.