A Decade of Italian Women
Library of Alexandria
The degree in which any social system has succeeded in ascertaining woman's proper position, and in putting her into it, will be a very accurate test of the progress it has made in civilisation. And the very general and growing conviction, that our own social arrangements, as they exist at present, have not attained any satisfactory measure of success in this respect, would seem, therefore, to indicate, that England in her nineteenth century has not yet reached years of discretion after all. But conscious deficiency is with nations at least, if not always with individuals, the sure precursor of improvement. The path before us towards the ideal in this matter is a very long one; extends, indeed, further than eye can see. What path of progress does not? And our advance upon it will still be a sure concomitant and proof of our advance in all civilisation. But the question of more immediate moment is, admitting that we are moving in this respect, are we moving in the right direction? We have been moving for a long time back. Have we missed the right road? Have we unfortunately retrograded instead of progressing? There are persons who think so. And there are not wanting, in the great storehouse of history, certain periods, certain individuals, certain manifestations of social life, to which such persons point as countenancing the notion, that better things have been, as regards woman's position and possibilities, than are now. There are, painted on the slides of Mnemosyne's magic lanthorn, certain brilliant and captivating figures, which are apt to lead those who are disgusted with the smoke and reek of the PhÏnix-burning going on around them, to suppose that the social conditions which produced such, must have been less far from the true path than our present selves. Nay, more. There have been constellations of such stars, quite sufficiently numerous to justify the conclusion, that the circumstances of the time at which they appeared were in their nature calculated to produce them.