Story type: Essay
[We make the following extract from one of our books–“Advice to Young Men on their Duties and Conduct in Life.”]
IF you have younger sisters, who are just entering society, all your interest should be awakened for them. You cannot but have seen some little below the surface, and already made the discovery that too few of the young men who move about in the various social circles to which you have admission, are fit associates for a pure-minded woman. Their exterior, it is true, is very fair; they sing well, they dance well, their persons are elegant, and their manners attractive; but you have met them when they felt none of the restraints of female society, and seen them unmask their real characters. You can remember the ribald jest, the obscene allusion, the sneer at virtue, the unblushing acknowledgment of licentiousness. You have heard them speak of this sweet girl, and that pure-minded woman, in terms that would have roused your deepest indignation, had your own sister been the subject of allusion.
You may know all these things, but your innocent sisters at home cannot know them, nor see reason for shunning the society of those whose real characters, if revealed, would cause them to turn away in disgust and horror. From the dangers of an acquaintanceship with such young men it is your duty to guard your sisters; and you must do this more by warding off the evil than by warnings against it. In order to this, you should make it a point of duty always to go with your sisters into company, and to be their companion, if possible, on all public occasions. By so doing, you can prevent the introduction of men whose principles are bad; or, if such introductions are forced upon them in spite of you, can throw in a timely word of caution. This latter it may be too late to do after an acquaintanceship is formed with a man whose character is detestable in your eyes, provided he have a fair exterior. Your sister will hardly be made to believe that one who is so attractive in all respects, and who can converse of virtue and honour so eloquently, can possibly have an impure or vicious mind. She will think you prejudiced. The great thing is to guard, by every means in your power, these innocent ones from the polluting presence of a bad man. You cannot tell how soon he may win the affections of the most innocent, confiding, and loving of them all, and draw her off from virtue. And even if his designs be honourable–if he win her but to wed her–her lot will be by no means an enviable one; he cannot make her happy; for happy no pure-minded woman ever has been, or ever can be made, by a corrupt, evil-minded, and selfish man.
You are a brother; your position is one of great responsibility; let this be ever before your mind.
On your faithfulness to your duty, may depend a lifetime of happiness or misery for those who are, or ought to be, very dear to you. But not only should you seek to guard them from the danger just alluded to–your affection for them should lead you to enter into their pleasures as far as in your power to do so; to give interest and variety to the home circle; to afford them, at all times, the assistance of your judgment in matters of trivial as well as grave importance. By this you will gain their confidence and acquire an influence over them that may, at some later period, enable you to serve them in a moment of impending danger.
We very often–indeed, far too often–see young men with sisters who appear to be entirely indifferent in regard to them. They rarely visit together; their associates, male and female, are strangers to each other; they appear to have no common interests. This state of things is the fault, nine times in ten, of the young men. It is the result of their neglect and indifference. There are very few sisters who do not love with a most tender and unselfish regard their brothers, especially their elder brothers, and who would not feel happier in being their companions than in the companionship of almost any one. Notwithstanding all this neglect and indifference, how willingly is every little office performed that adds to the brother’s comfort! How much care is there for him who gives back so little in return! The sister’s love is as unselfish as it is unostentatious. It is shown in acts, not in professions. How can any young man be indifferent to such love? How can he fail in its full and free reciprocation?
A regard for himself, as well as for his sisters, should lead a young man to be much with them. Their influence in softening, polishing, and refining his character, will be very great. They have perceptions of the propriety and fitness of things far quicker than he has; and this he will soon see if he observe their remarks upon the persons with whom they come in contact, and the circumstances that transpire around them. While he is reasoning on the subject, and balancing many things in his mind before coming to a satisfactory conclusion, they, by a kind of intuition, have settled the whole matter, and settled it, he will find, truly. In the graver things of life, a man’s judgment is more to be relied upon than a woman’s, because here a regular course of reasoning from premises laid down is required, and this a man is much more able to do than a woman; but in matters of taste and propriety, and in the quick appreciation of character, a woman’s perceptions are worth far more than a man’s judgment. And in the more weighty and serious matters of life, a man will always find that he will receive aid, in coming to a nice decision, from a wife or sister who loves him, if he will only carefully lay the whole subject before her, with the reasons that appeal to his judgment, and be guided in some measure by her perceptions of what is right. This is because man is in the province of the understanding, which acts by thought, and woman in the province of the affections, which act by perceptions; not that a man does not have perceptions and a woman reason, but the leading characteristic difference between the sexes is as stated, and each comes to conclusions mainly by either the one or the other of these two modes. This position, which we believe to be the true one in regard to the difference between the sexes, demonstrates the great use of female society, especially the society of those who feel some interest in and affection for us. In such society, there is a reciprocation of benefits that is nearly, if not quite, equal. And nowhere can this reciprocation be of greater utility than among brothers and sisters, just entering upon life, with all their knowledge of human character and human life to gain.