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Viragoes Of The Brain Post by :apexpac Category :Essays Author :Richard Le Gallienne Date :August 2011 Read :3273

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Viragoes Of The Brain

The strength of the old-fashioned virago was in her muscles. That of the newfangled modern development is in her 'reason'--a very different thing indeed from 'woman's reasons.' As the former knocked you down with her fist, the latter fells you with her brain. In her has definitely commenced that evolutionary process which, according to the enchanting dream of a recent scientist, is to make the 'homo' a creature whose legs are of no account, poor shrivelled vestiges of once noble calves and thighs; and whose entire significance will be a noseless, hairless head, in shape and size like an idiot's, which the scientist, gloating over the ugly duckling of his distorted imagination, describes as a 'beautiful, glittering, hairless dome!' A sad period one fears for Gaiety burlesque. In that day a beautifully shaped leg and a fine head of hair will be rather a disgrace than a distinction. They will be survivals of a barbarous age. Indeed that they are already so regarded, there can be no doubt, by the more 'advanced' representatives of the female sex.

There is one radical difference between the old and the new virago: the old gloried in the fact that she was a woman, because thus her sex triumphed over that male whom she despised, like her modern sister, in proportion as she resembled him. The new virago, however, hates above all things to be reminded of her womanhood, which she is constantly engaged in repressing with Chinese ferocity. Not, as we have hinted, that she thinks any better of man. Though she dresses as like him as possible, she is very angry if you suggest that she at all envies him his birthright. And the humour of the situation, the hopeless dilemma in which she thus places herself--if it be right to apply the feminine gender!--never occurs to one whose sense of humour has long been atrophied, perhaps at Girton, or by a course of sterilising Extension lectures.

Obviously, there is but one course open for the advanced 'woman' in this dilemma--to evolve a third sex, and this she is doing her best to achieve, with, I am bound to admit, remarkably speedy success. The result up to date is the Virago of the Brain, or the Female Frankenstein. The patentees of this fearsome _tertium quid_ hope to present it to their patrons, within a very few years, in a form entirely devoid of certain physiological defects, with which the cussedness of human structure still uselessly burdens the Virago. As it is, of course, it is by no means uncommon for the virago to be born without that sentimental organ, the heart; and it can, therefore, only be a matter of time before she is rid of what the present writer has been criticised for calling 'her miraculous womb.' Doubtless, the patentees will then turn their attention to Sir Thomas Browne's suggested method for the propagation of the race after the reasonable, civilised, and advanced manner of trees.

But I am warned that I commit impropriety even in naming such matters. They are 'sacred,'--which means that we ought to be ashamed to mention them, however reverent our intention. Motherhood, it would appear, is not, as one had regarded it, a sanctifying privilege, but a shameful disability, of which not the Immaculate Conception, but the ignoble service for the 'purification' of women, is the significant symbol. It behoves not only the unmarried, but the married mothers, so to speak, to wear farthingales upon the subject, and pretend, with as grave a face as possible, that babies are really found under cabbages, or sent parcel post, on application, by her Majesty the Queen.

How long are we to retain the pernicious fallacy that sacredness is a quality inhering not in the sacred object itself, but in the superstitious 'decencies' that swaddle it, or that we best reverence such sacred object by a prurient prudish conspiracy of silence concerning it?

Then there is, it would also appear, a particular indignity, from the new virago's point of view, in the assumption that a woman's beauty is one of her great missions, or the supposition that she takes any such pride in it herself as man has from time immemorial supposed. No sensible woman, we have been indignantly assured, ever plays at Narcissus with her mirror. That all women find such pleasure in their reflections no one would think of saying. How could they, poor things? One is quite ready to admit that probably our virago looks in her glass as seldom as possible. But all sensible women that are beautiful as well should take joy in their own charms, if they have any feelings of gratitude towards the supernal powers which might have made them--well, more advanced than beautiful, and given them a head full of cheap philosophy instead of a transfiguring head of hair.

No one wants a woman to be silly and vain about her beauty. But vanity and conceit are qualities that exist in people quite independently of their gifts and graces. The ugly and stupid are perhaps more often conceited than the beautiful or the clever,--vain, it would appear, of their very ugliness and stupidity. Besides, is it any worse for a woman to be vain of her looks than of her brains?--and the advanced woman is without doubt most inordinately vain of those. Of the two, so far as they are at present developed, is there any doubt that the woman with beauty is better off than the woman with brains? In some few hundred years, maybe, the brain of woman will be a joy to herself and the world: when she has got more used to its possession, and familiar with the fruitful control of it. At present, however, it is merely a discomfort, not to say a danger, to herself and every one else--a tiresome engine for the pedantic assimilation of German and the higher mathematics. And it may well happen--horrid prophecy--that when that brain of woman has come to its perfection, the flower of its meditation will be to realise the significance, the sacredness, of the Simple Woman. It is in its apprehension of the mystery of simplicity that the brain of man, at present, is superior to that of woman.

Young brain delights in the complex, old in the simple. Woman's love of the complex has been illustrated abundantly during the last few years, in her enthusiasm for certain great imperfect writers, who have been able to stir up the mud in the fountain of life (doubtless, to medicinal ends) but unable to bring it clear again. An eternal enigma herself, woman is eternally in love with enigmas. Like a child, she loves any one who will show her the 'works' of existence, and she is still in that inquisitive stage when one imagines that the inside of a doll will afford explanation of its fascinating exterior. It is no use telling her that analysis can never explain the mystery of synthesis. Like an American humourist, she still goes on wanting 't'know.'

Even more than man, she exaggerates the value of the articulate, the organised. She has always been in love with 'accomplishments,' and she loves natures that are minted into current coin of ready gifts and graces. She cares more for the names of things than for the things themselves. Of things without names she is impatient. Talkative as she is said to be, and in so many modern languages, she knows not yet how to talk with Silence--unless she be the inspired Simple Woman--for to talk with Silence is to apprehend the mystic meanings of simplicity. For this reason, mystics are more often found among men than women--a fact on which the Pioneer Club is at liberty to congratulate itself. What advanced woman understands that saying of Paracelsus: 'who tastes a crust of bread tastes the heavens and all the stars.' Else would she understand also that the 'humblest' ministrations of life, those nearest to nature, are the profoundest in their significance: that it means as much to bake a loaf as to write a book, and that to watch over the sleep of a child is a liberal education--nay, an initiation granted only to mothers and those meek to whom mysteries are revealed. It has always been to the simple woman that the angel has appeared--to Mary of Bethany, to Joan of Arc. Is it impious to infer that the Angel Gabriel himself dreads a blue-stocking? What chance indeed would he have with our modern viragoes of the brain, the mighty daughters of the pen?


(The end)
Richard Le Gallienne's essay: Viragoes Of The Brain

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