Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Clare Boothby, David Newman, Alison Hadwin and PG
THE ABOMINATIONS OF MODERN SOCIETY.
BY REV. T. DE WITT TALMAGE,
AUTHOR OF "CRUMBS SWEPT UP"
This is a buoy swung over the rocks. If it shall keep ship, bark,
fore-and-aft schooner, or hermaphrodite brig from driving on a lee
shore, "all's well."
The book is not more for young men than old. The Calabria was wrecked
"the last day out."
Nor is the book more for men than women. The best being that God ever
made is a good woman, and the worst that the devil ever made is a bad
one. If anything herein shall be a warning either to man or woman, I
will be glad that the manuscript was caught up between the sharp teeth
of the type.
BROOKLYN, January 1st, 1872.
The Curtain Lifted
The Power of Clothes
The Indiscriminate Dance
The Massacre by Needle and Sewing-Machine
Pictures in the Stock Gallery
The Fatal Ten-Strike
Some of the Club-Houses
Flask, Bottle, and Demijohn
House of Blackness of Darkness
The Gun that Kicks over the Man who Shoots it off
Lies: White and Black
The Good Time Coming
* * * * *
THE CURTAIN LIFTED.
Pride of city is natural to men, in all times, if they live or have
lived in a metropolis noted for dignity or prowess. Caesar boasted of
his native Rome; Lycurgus of Sparta; Virgil of Andes; Demosthenes of
Athens; Archimedes of Syracuse; and Paul of Tarsus. I should suspect
a man of base-heartedness who carried about with him no feeling of
complacency in regard to the place of his residence; who gloried not
in its arts, or arms, or behavior; who looked with no exultation upon
its evidences of prosperity, its artistic embellishments, and its
I have noticed that men never like a place where they have not behaved
well. Swarthout did not like New York; nor Dr. Webster, Boston. Men
who have free rides in prison-vans never like the city that furnishes
When I see in history Argos, Rhodes, Smyrna, Chios, Colophon, and
several other cities claiming Homer, I conclude that Homer behaved
Let us not war against this pride of city, nor expect to build up
ourselves by pulling others down. Let Boston have its _Common_,
its _Faneuil Hall_, its _Coliseum_, and its _Atlantic Monthly_. Let
Philadelphia talk about its _Mint_, and _Independence Hall_, and
_Girard College_. When I find a man living in either of those places,
who has nothing to say in favor of them, I feel like asking him, "What
mean thing did you do, that you do not like your native city?"
New York is a goodly city. It is one city on both sides of the river.
The East River is only the main artery of its great throbbing life.
After a while four or five bridges will span the water, and we shall
be still more emphatically one than now. When, therefore, I say "New
York city," I mean more than a million of people, including everything
between Spuyten Duyvil Creek and Gowanus. That which tends to elevate
a part, elevates all. That which blasts part, blasts all. Sin is a
giant; and he comes to the Hudson or Connecticut River, and passes it,
as easily as we step across a figure in the carpet. The blessing of
God is an angel; and when it stretches out its two wings, one of them
hovers over that, and the other over this.
In infancy, the great metropolis was laid down by the banks of the
Hudson. Its infancy was as feeble as that of Moses, sleeping in the
bulrushes by the Nile; and like Miriam, there our fathers stood and
watched it. The royal spirit of American commerce came down to the
water to bathe; and there she found it. She took it in her arms,
and the child grew and waxed strong; and the ships of foreign lands
brought gold and spices to its feet; and, stretching itself up into
the proportions of a metropolis, it has looked up to the mountains,
and off upon the sea,--one of the mightiest of the energies of
The character of the founder of a city will be seen for many years in
its inhabitants. Romulus impressed his life upon Rome. The Pilgrims
relax not their hold upon the cities of New England. William Penn has
left Philadelphia an inheritance of integrity and fair dealing; and
on any day in that city you may see in the manners, customs, and
principles of its people, his tastes, his coat, his hat, his wife's
bonnet, and his plain meeting-house. The Hollanders still wield an
influence over New York.
Grand Old New York! What southern thoroughfare was ever smitten by
pestilence, when our physicians did not throw themselves upon the
sacrifice! What distant land has cried out in the agony of famine, and
our ships have not put out with bread-stuffs! What street of Damascus,
or Beyrout, or Madras that has not heard the step of our missionaries!
What struggle for national life, in which our citizens have not poured
their blood into the trenches! What gallery of exquisite art, in
which our painters have not hung their pictures! What department of
literature or science to which our scholars have not contributed!
I need not speak of our public schools, where the children of the
cordwainer, and milkman, and glass-blower stand by the side of the
flattered sons of millionnaires and merchant princes; or of the
insane asylums on all these islands, where they who came out cutting
themselves, among the tombs, now sit, clothed and in their right mind;
or of the Magdalen asylums, where the lost one of the street comes to
bathe the Saviour's feet with her tears, and wipe them with the hairs
of her head,--confiding in the pardon of Him who said--"Let him who
is without sin cast the first stone at her." I need not speak of the
institutions for the blind, the lame, the deaf and the dumb, for the
incurables, for the widow, the orphan, and the outcast; or of the
thousand-armed machinery that sends streaming down from the reservoir
the clear, bright, sparkling, God-given water that rushes through
our aqueducts, and dashes out of the hydrants, and tosses up in
our fountains, and hisses in our steam-engines, and showers out the
conflagration, and sprinkles from the baptismal font of our churches;
and with silver note, and golden sparkle, and crystalline chime, says
to hundreds of thousands of our population, in the authentic words of
Him who made it--"I WILL: BE THOU CLEAN!"
They who live in any of the American cities have a goodly heritage;
and it is in no depreciation of our advantages that I speak, but
because, in the very contrast with our opportunities and mission, THE
ABOMINATIONS are tenfold more abominable.
The sources from which I will bring the array of facts will be police,
detective, and alms-house reports; city missionaries' explorations,
and the testimony of the abandoned and sin-blasted, who, about to take
the final plunge, have staggered back just for a moment, to utter the
wild shriek of their warning, and the agonizing wail of their despair.
I shall call upon you to consider the drunkenness, the stock-gambling,
the rampant dishonesties, the club-houses so far as they are
nefarious, the excess of fashion, the horrors of unchastity, the
bad books and unclean newspapers, and the whole range of sinful
amusements; and with the plough-share of truth turn up the whole
If we could call up the victims themselves, they would give the most
impressive story. People knew not how Turner, the painter, got such
vivid conceptions of a storm at sea, until they heard the story that
oftentimes he had been lashed to the deck in the midst of the tempest,
in order that he might study the wrath of the sea.
Those who have themselves been tossed on the wave of infamous
transgressions could give us the most vivid picture of what it is
to sin and to die. With hand tremulous with exhausting disease, and
hardly able to get the accursed bowl to his lips--put into such a hand
the pencil, and it can sketch, as can no one else, the darkness, the
fire, the wild terror, the headlong pitch, and the hell of those who
have surrendered themselves to iniquity. While we dare only come near
the edge, and, balancing ourselves a while, look off, and our head
swims, and our breath catches,--those can tell the story best who have
fallen to the depths with wilder dash than glacier from the top of a
Swiss cliff, and stand, in their agony, looking up for a relief
that comes not, and straining their eyes for a hope that never
dawns--crying, "O God!" "O God!"
It is terrible to see a lion dashing for escape against the sides of
his cage; but a more awful thing it is to behold a man, caged in bad
habit, trying to break out,--blood on the soul, blood on the cage.
Others may throw garlands upon Sin, picturing the overhanging fruits
which drop in her pathway, and make every step graceful as the dance;
but we cannot be honest without presenting it as a giant, black with
the soot of the forges where eternal chains are made, and feet rotting
with disease, and breath foul with plagues, and eyes glaring with woe,
and locks flowing in serpent fangs, and voice from which shall rumble
forth the blasphemies of the damned.
I open to you a door, through which you see--what? Pictures and
fountains, and mirrors and flowers? No: it is a lazar-house of
disease. The walls drip, drip, drip with the damps of sepulchres. The
victims, strewn over the floor, writhe and twist among each other in
contortions indescribable, holding up their ulcerous wounds,
tearing their matted hair, weeping tears of blood: some hooting with
revengeful cry; some howling with a maniac's fear; some chattering
with idiot's stare; some calling upon God; some calling upon fiends;
wasting away; thrusting each other back; mocking each other's pains;
tearing open each other's ulcers; dropping with the ichor of death!
The wider I open the door, the ghastlier the scene.--Worse the
horrors. More desperate recoils. Deeper curses. More blood. I can no
longer endure the vision, and I shut the door, and cover my eyes, and
turn my back, and cry, "God pity them!"
Some one may say, "What is the use of such an exposure as you propose
to make? Our families are all respectable." I answer, that no family,
however elevated and exclusive, can be independent of the state of
However pleasant the block of houses in which you dwell, the
wretchedness, the temptation, and the outrage of municipal crime will
put its hand on your door-knob, and dash its awful surge against the
marble of your door-steps, as the stormy sea drives on a rocky beach.
That condition of morals is now being formed, amid which our children
must walk. Do you tell me it is none of my business what street
profanity shall curse my boy's ear, on his way to school? Think you it
is no concern of yours what infamous advertisements, placarded on
the walls, or in the public newspaper, shall smite the vision of your
innocent little ones? Shall I be nervous about a stagnant pool of
water, lest it breed malaria, and be careless when there are in the
very heart of our city thousands of houses, devoted to various forms
of dissipation, which day and night steam with miasma, and pour out
the fiery lava of pollution, and darken the air with their horrors,
and fill the skies with the smoke of their torment, that ascendeth up
forever and ever? If a slaughter-house be opened in the midst of the
town, we hasten down to the Mayor to have the nuisance abated. But
now I make complaint, not to the Mayor or Common Council, but to the
masses of the people, who have the power to lift men up to office, and
to cast them down, against a hundred thousand slaughter-houses in
our American cities. In the name of our happy homes, of our refined
circles, of our schools, of our churches,--in the name of all that is
dear and beautiful and valuable and holy,--I enter the complaint. If
you now sit unconcerned, and leave to professed philanthropists
the work, and care not who are in authority or what laws remain
unexecuted, you may live to see the time when you will curse the day
in which your children were born.
My belief is that such an exposition of public immoralities will
do good, by exciting pity for the victims and wholesale indignation
against the abettors and perpetrators.
Who is that man fallen against the curbstone, covered with bruises and
beastliness? He was as bright-faced a lad as ever looked up from your
nursery. His mother rocked him, prayed for him, fondled him, would
not let the night air touch his cheek, and held him up and looked down
into his loving eyes, and wondered for what high position he was being
fitted. He entered life with bright hopes. The world beckoned him,
friends cheered him, but the archers shot at him; vile men set traps
for him, bad habits hooked fast to him with their iron grapples; his
feet slipped on the way; and there he lies. Who would think that that
uncombed hair was once toyed with by a father's fingers? Who would
think that those bloated cheeks were ever kissed by a mother's lips?
Would you guess that that thick tongue once made a household glad with
its innocent prattle? Utter no harsh words in his ear. Help him up.
Put the hat over that once manly brow. Brush the dust from that coat
that once covered a generous heart. Show him the way to the home that
once rejoiced at the sound of his footstep, and with gentle words tell
his children to stand back as you help him through the hall.
That was a kind husband once and an indulgent father. He will kneel
with them no more as once he did at family prayers--the little ones
with clasped hands looking up into the heavens with thanksgiving for
their happy home. But now at midnight he will drive them from their
pillows and curse them down the steps, and howl after them as, unclad,
they fly down the street, in night-garments, under the calm starlight.
Who slew that man? Who blasted that home? Who plunged those children
into worse than orphanage--until the hands are blue with cold, and the
cheeks are blanched with fear, and the brow is scarred with bruises,
and the eyes are hollow with grief? Who made that life a wreck, and
filled eternity with the uproar of a doomed spirit?
There are those whose regular business it is to work this death. They
mix a cup that glows and flashes and foams with enchantment. They
call it Cognac, or Hock, or Heidsick, or Schnapps, or Old Bourbon, or
Brandy, or Champagne; but they tell not that in the ruddy glow there
is the blood of sacrifice, and in its flash the eye of uncoiled
adders, and in the foam the mouth-froth of eternal death. Not knowing
what a horrible mixture it is, men take it up and drink it down--the
sacrificial blood, the adder's venom, the death-froth--and smack their
lips and call it a delightful beverage.
Oh! if I had some art by which I could break the charm of the
tempter's bowl, and with mailed hand lift out the long serpent of
eternal despair, and shake out its coils, and cast it down, and crush
it to death!
But the enchantment cannot thus be broken. It hides in the bottom of
the bowl; and not until a man is entirely fallen does the monster
lift itself up, and strike with its terrific fangs, and answer all
his implorations for mercy with fiendish hiss. We must arouse public
opinion, until city, State, and national officials shall no longer
dare to neglect the execution of the law. We have enough enactments
now to revolutionize our cities and strike terror through the
drinking-houses and gambling-dens and houses of sin. Tracts
distributed will not do it; Bibles printed will not accomplish it;
city missionaries have not power for the work.
_Will_ tracts do it? As well try with three or four snow-flakes to put
We want police officers, common councilmen, aldermen, sheriffs,
mayors, who will execute the law. Give us for two weeks in our cities
an honest city hall, and public pollution would fall like lightning
If you republicans, and you democrats, do not do your duty in this
regard, we will, after a while, form a party of our own, and put
men in position pledged to anti-rum, anti-dirt, anti-nuisances,
anti-monopolies, anti-abominations, and will give to those of you who
have been so long feeding on public spoils, careless of public morals,
not so much as the wages of a street sweeper.
We are not discouraged. It may seem to many that all of our battling
against these evils will come to naught. But if the coral insects can
lift an island, our feeble efforts, under God, may raise a break-water
that will dash back the surges of municipal abomination. Beside, we
toil not in our own strength.
It seemed insignificant for Moses to stretch his hand over the Red
Sea. What power could that have over the waters? But the east wind
blew all night; the waters gathered into two glittering palisades on
either side. The billows reared as God's hand pulled back upon their
crystal bits. Wheel into line, O Israel! March! March! Pearls crash
under the feet. The flying spray springs a rainbow arch over the
victors. The shout of hosts mounting the beach answers the shout of
hosts mid-sea; until, as the last line of the Israelites have gained
the beach, the shields clang, and the cymbals clap; and as the waters
whelm the pursuing foe, the swift-fingered winds on the white keys of
the foam play the grand march of Israel delivered, and the awful dirge
of Egyptian overthrow.
So we go forth; and stretch out the hand of prayer and Christian
effort over these dark, boiling waters of crime and suffering. "Aha!
Aha!" say the deriding world. But wait. The winds of divine help will
begin to blow; the way will clear for the great army of Christian
philanthropists; the glittering treasures of the world's beneficence
will line the path of our feet; and to the other shore we will be
greeted with the clash of all heaven's cymbals; while those who resist
and deride and pursue us will fall under the sea, and there will be
nothing left of them but here and there, cast high and dry upon the
beach, the splintered wheel of a chariot, and, thrust out from the
surf, the breathless nostril of a riderless charger.
The inhabitants of one of the old cities were told that they would
have to fly for their lives. Such flight would be painful, even in
the flush of spring-time, but superlatively aggravating if in cold
weather; and therefore they were told to pray that their flight be not
in the winter.
There is something in the winter season that not only tests our
physical endurance, but, especially in the city, tries our moral
character. It is the winter months that ruin, morally, and forever,
many of our young men. We sit in the house on a winter's night, and
hear the storm raging on the outside, and imagine the helpless crafts
driven on the coast; but if our ears were only good enough, we could,
on any winter night, hear the crash of a hundred moral shipwrecks.
Many who came last September to town, by the first of March will have
been blasted. It only takes one winter to ruin a young man. When the
long winter evenings have come, many of our young men will improve
them in forming a more intimate acquaintance with books, contracting
higher social friendships, and strengthening and ennobling their
characters. But not so with all. I will show you before I get through
that, at this season of the year, temptations are especially rampant:
and my counsel is, _Look out how you spend your winter nights!_
I remark, first, that there is no season of the year in which vicious
allurements are so active.
In warm weather, places of dissipation win their tamest triumphs.
People do not feel like going, in the hot nights of summer, among the
blazing gas-lights, or breathing the fetid air of assemblages. The
receipts of the grog-shops in a December night are three times what
they are in any night in July or August. I doubt not there are
larger audiences in the casinos in winter than in the summer weather.
Iniquity plies a more profitable trade. December, January, and
February are harvest-months for the devil. The play-bills of the low
entertainments then are more charming, the acting is more exquisite,
the enthusiasm of the spectators more bewitching. Many a young man who
makes out to keep right the rest of the year, capsizes now. When he
came to town in the autumn, his eye was bright, his cheek rosy, his
step elastic; but, before spring, as you pass him you will say to your
friend, "What is the matter with that young man?" The fact is that one
winter of dissipation has done the work of ruin.
This is the season for parties; and, if they are of the right kind,
our social nature is improved, and our spirits cheered up. But many
of them are not of the right kind; and our young people, night after
night, are kept in the whirl of unhealthy excitement until their
strength fails, and their spirits are broken down, and their taste for
ordinary life corrupted; and, by the time the spring weather comes,
they are in the doctor's hands, or sleeping in the cemetery. The
certificate of their death is made out, and the physician, out of
regard for the family, calls the disease by some Latin name, when the
truth is that they died of too many parties.
Away with these wine-drinking convivialities! How dare you, the
father of a household, trifle with the appetites of our young people?
Perhaps, out of regard for the minister, or some other weak temperance
man, you have the decanter in a side-room, where, after refreshments,
only a select few are invited; and you come back with a glare in your
eye, and a stench in your breath, that shows that you have been out
serving the devil.
Some one asks, "For what purpose are these people gone into that
"O," replies one who has just come out, smacking his lips, "they have
gone in to see the white dog!"
The excuse which Christian men often give for this is, that it is
necessary, after such late eating, by some sort of stimulant to help
digestion. My plain opinion is, that if a man have no more control
over his appetite than to stuff himself until his digestive organs
refuse to do their office, he ought not to call himself a man, but
rather to class himself among the beasts that perish. I take the words
of the Lord Almighty, and cry, "Woe to him that putteth the bottle to
his neighbor's lips!"
Young man, take it as the counsel of a friend, when I bid you _be
cautious where you spend your winter evenings_. Thank God that you
have lived to see the glad winter days in which your childhood was
made cheerful by the faces of fathers and mothers, brothers and
sisters, some of whom, alas! will never again wish you a "happy New
Year," or a "Merry Christmas."
Let no one tempt you out of your sobriety. I have seen respectable
young men of the best families drunk on New Year's day. The excuse
they gave for the inebriation was that the _ladies_ insisted on their
taking it. There have been instances where the delicate hand of woman
hath kindled a young man's taste for strong drink, who after many
years, when the attractions of that holiday scene were all forgotten,
crouched in her rags, and her desolation, and her woe under the
uplifted hand of the drunken monster who, on that Christmas morning
so long ago, took the glass from her hand. And so, the woman stands on
the abutment of the bridge, on the moon-lit night, wondering if, down
under the water, there is not some quiet place for a broken heart. She
takes one wild leap,--and all is over!
Ah! mingle not with the harmless beverage of your festive scene this
poison of adders! Mix not with the white sugar of the cup the snow
of this awful leprosy! Mar not the clatter of cutlery at the holiday
feast with the clank of a madman's chain!
Stop and look into the window of that pawnbroker's shop. Elegant furs.
Elegant watches. Elegant scarfs. Elegant flutes. People stand with a
pleased look gazing at these things; but I look in with a shudder, as
though I had seen into a window of hell.
Whose elegant watch was that? It was a drunkard's watch!
Whose furs? They belonged to a drunkard's wife!
Whose flute? Whose shoes? Whose scarf? They belonged to a drunkard's
If I could, I would take the three brazen balls hanging at the
door-way, and clang them together until they tolled the awful knell
of the drunkard's soul. The pawnbroker's shop is only one eddy of the
great stream of municipal drunkenness.
Stand back, young man! Take not the first step in the path that leads
here. Let not the flame of strong drink ever scorch your tongue. You
may tamper with these things and escape, but your influence will be
wrong. Can you not make a sacrifice for the good of others?
When the good ship _London_ went down, the captain was told that there
was a way of escape in one of the life-boats. He said--"No; I will go
down with the rest of the passengers!" All the world acknowledged that
Can you not deny yourself insignificant indulgences for the good of
others? Be not allured by the fact that you drink only the moderate
beverages. You take only ale; and a man has to drink a large amount of
it to become intoxicated. Yes; but there is not in all the city to-day
an inebriate that did not _begin_ with ale.
"XXX:" What does that mark mean? XXX on the beer-barrel: XXX on the
brewer's dray: XXX on the door of the gin-shop: XXX on the side of
the bottle. Not being able to find any one who could tell me what this
mark means, I have had to guess that the whole thing was an allegory:
XXX--that is, thirty heartbreaks. Thirty agonies. Thirty desolated
homes. Thirty chances for a drunkard's grave. Thirty ways to
"XXX." If I were going to write a story, the first chapter would be
XXX.; the last--"A pawnbroker's shop."
Be watchful! At this season all the allurements to dissipation will be
especially busy. Let not your flight to hell be in the winter.
I also remark that the winter evenings, through their very length,
allow great swing for indulgences. Few young men would have the taste
to go to their room at seven o'clock, and sit until eleven, reading
_Motley's Dutch Republic_ or _John Foster's Essays_. The young men
who have been confined to the store all day want fresh air and
sight-seeing; and they must go somewhere. The most of them have, of
a winter's evening, three or four hours of leisure. After the evening
repast, the young man puts on his hat and coat and goes out.
"Come in here," cries one form of allurement.
"Come in here," cries another.
"Go;" says Satan. "You ought to see for yourself."
"Why don't you go?" says a comrade. "It is a shame for a young man
to be as _green_ as you are. By this time you ought to have seen
Especially is temptation strong in such times as this, when business
is dull. I have noticed that men spend more money when they have
little to spend.
The tremendous question to be settled by our great populace, day by
day, is how to get a livelihood. Many of our young men, just starting
for themselves, are very much discouraged. They had hoped before this
to have set up a household of their own. But their gains have been
slow, and their discouragements many. The young man can hardly take
care of himself. How can he take care of another? And, to the curse
of modern society, before a young man is able to set up a home of his
own, he is expected to have enough to support in idleness somebody
else; when God intended that they should begin together, and jointly
earn a livelihood. So, many of our young men are utterly discouraged,
and utterly unfit to resist temptation.
The time the pirate bears down upon the ship is when its sails are
down and it is making no headway.
People wish they had more time to think. The trouble is now, that
people have too much time to think. Give to many of our commercial men
the four hours of these winter nights, with nothing to divert them,
and before spring they will have lodgings in an insane asylum.
I remark further, that the winter is especially trying to the moral
character of our young men, because some of their homes in winter are
especially unattractive. In summer they can sit on the steps, or have
a bouquet in the vase on the mantel; and the evenings are so short
that soon after gas-light they feel like retiring. Parents do not take
enough pains to make these long winter nights attractive.
It is strange that old people know so little about young people. One
would think that they had never been young themselves, but had been
born with their spectacles on. It is dolorous for young people to
spend the three or four hours of a winter's evening with parents
who sit talking over their own ailments and misfortunes, and the
nothingness of this world. How dare you talk such blasphemy? God was
busy six days in making the world, and has allowed it to hang six
thousand years on his holy heart; and that world hath fed you, and
clothed you, and shone on you for fifty years: and yet you talk about
the nothingness of this world! Do you expect the young people in
your family to sit a whole evening and hear you groan about this
magnificent, star-lighted, sun-warmed, shower-baptized, flower-strewn,
angel-watched, God-inhabited planet? From such homes young men make a
wild plunge into dissipation. Many of you have the means: why do you
not buy them a violin or a picture? or have your daughter cultured in
music until she can help to make home attractive?
There are ten thousand ways of lighting up the domestic circle. It
requires no large income, no big house, no rich wardrobe, no chased
silver, no gorgeous upholstery, but a parental heart awake to its
Have a doleful home and your children will not stay in it, though
you block up the door with Bibles, and tie fast to them a million
I said to a man, "This is a beautiful tree in front of your house."
He answered, with a whine, "Yes; but it will fade."
I said to him, "You have a beautiful garden."
He replied, "Yes; but it will perish."
I found out afterward that his son was a vagabond, and I was not
surprised at it.
You cannot groan men into decency, but you can groan them out.
Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter! Devote these December,
January and February evenings to high pursuits, innocent amusements,
intelligent socialities, and Christian attainments. Do not waste this
winter. We shall soon have seen the last snow-shower, and have passed
up into the companionship of Him whose raiment is exceeding white as
snow--as no fuller on earth can whiten it.
To the right-hearted, the winter nights of earth will soon end in the
June morning of heaven.
The River of God, from under the Throne, never freezes over. The
foliage of Life's fair tree is never frost-bitten. The festivals, and
hilarities, and family gatherings of Christmas times on earth, will
give way to the larger reunions, and the brighter lights, and the
gladder scenes, and the sweeter garlands, and the richer feastings of
the great holiday of Heaven.
THE POWER OF CLOTHES.
One cannot always tell by a man's coat what kind of a heart he has
under it; still, his dress is apt to be the out-blossoming of his
character, and is not to be disregarded.
We make no indiscriminate onslaught upon customs of dress. Why did
God put spots on the pansy, or etch the fern leaf? And what are
china-asters good for if style and color are of no importance?
The realm is as wide as the world, and as far-reaching as all the
generations, over which fashion hath extended her sceptre. For
thousands of years she hath sat queen over all the earth, and the
revolutions that rock down all other thrones have not in the slighest
affected her domination. Other constitutions have been torn, and other
laws trampled; but to her decrees conquerors have bowed their plumes,
and kings have uncovered. Victoria is not Queen of England; Napoleon
was not Emperor of France; Isabella was not Queen of Spain. _Fashion_
has been regnant over all the earth; and lords and dukes, kings and
queens, have been the subjects of her realm.
She arranged the mantle of the patriarch, and the toga of the Roman;
the small shoe of the Chinese women, and the turban of the Turk;
the furs of the Laplander, and the calumet of the Indian chieftain.
Hottentot and Siberian obey the mandate, as well as Englishman and
American. Her laws are written on parchment and palm-leaf, on broken
arch and cathedral tracery. She arranged how the Egyptian mummy should
be wound, and how Caesar should ride, and how the Athenians should
speak, and how through the Venetian canals the gondoliers should row
their pleasure-boat. Her hand hath hung the pillars with embroidery,
and strewn the floor with plush. Her loom hath woven fabrics graceful
as the snow and pure as the light. Her voice is heard in the gold
mart, in the roar of the street, in the shuffle of the crowded
bazaars, in the rattle of the steam-presses, and in the songs of the
You have limited your observation of the sway of fashion if you have
considered it only as it decides individual and national costumes.
It makes the rules of behavior. It wields an influence in artistic
spheres--often deciding what pictures shall hang in the house, what
music shall be played, what ornaments shall stand upon the mantle.
The poor man will not have on his wall the cheap wood-cut that he can
afford, because he cannot have a great daub like that which hangs on
the rich man's wall, and costing three hundred dollars.
Fashion helps to make up religious belief. It often decides to what
church we shall go, and what religious tenets we shall adopt. It goes
into the pulpit, and decides the gown, and the surplice, and the style
It goes into literature and arranges the binding, the type, the
illustrations of the book, and oftentimes the sentiments expressed and
the theories evolved.
Men the most independent in feeling are by it compelled to submit to
social customs. And before I stop I want to show you that fashion has
been one of the most potent of reformers, and one of the vilest of
usurpers. Sometimes it has been an angel from heaven, and at others it
has been the mother of harlots.
As the world grows better there will be as much fashion as now, but
it will be a different fashion. In the future life white robes always
have been and always will be in the fashion.
There is a great outcry against this submission to social custom,
as though any consultation of the tastes and feelings of others were
deplorable; but without it the world would have neither law, order,
civilization, nor common decency.
There has been a canonization of bluntness. There are men and women
who boast that they can tell you all they know and hear about you,
especially if it be unpleasant. Some have mistaken rough behavior for
frankness, when the two qualities do not belong to the same family.
You have no right, with your eccentricities, to crash in upon the
sensitiveness of others. There is no virtue in walking with hoofs over
fine carpets. The most jagged rock is covered with blossoming moss.
The storm that comes jarring down in thunder strews rainbow colors
upon the sky, and silvery drops on orchard and meadow.
There are men who pride themselves on their capacity to "stick"
others. They say "I have brought him down: Didn't I make him squirm!"
Others pride themselves on their outlandish apparel. They boast of
being out of the fashion. They wear a queer hat. They ride in an odd
carriage. By dint of perpetual application they would persuade the
world that they are perfectly indifferent to public opinion. They are
more proud of being "out of fashion" than others are of being in. They
are utterly and universally disagreeable. Their rough corners have
never been worn off. They prefer a hedge-hog to a lamb.
The accomplishments of life are in nowise productive of effeminacy
or enervation. Good manners and a respect for the tastes of others
is indispensable. The Good Book speaks favorably of those who are
a "_peculiar_" people; but that does not sanction the behavior of
_queer_ people. There is no excuse, under any circumstances, for not
being and acting the lady or gentleman. Rudeness is sin. We have no
words too ardent to express our admiration for the refinements of
society. There is no law, moral or divine, to forbid elegance of
demeanor, ornaments of gold or gems for the person, artistic display
in the dwelling, gracefulness of gait and bearing, polite salutation,
or honest compliments; and he who is shocked or offended by these had
better, like the old Scythians, wear tiger-skins, and take one wild
leap back into midnight barbarism.
As Christianity advances there will be better apparel, higher styles
of architecture, more exquisite adornments, sweeter music, grander
pictures, more correct behavior, and more thorough ladies and
But there is another story to be told. Excessive fashion is to be
charged with many of the worst evils of society, and its path has
often been strewn with the bodies of the slain.
It has often set up a false standard by which people are to be
judged. Our common sense, as well as all the divine intimations on the
subject, teach us that people ought to be esteemed according to their
individual and moral attainments. The man who has the most nobility
of soul should be first, and he who has the least of such qualities
should stand last. No crest, or shield, or escutcheon, can indicate
one's moral peerage. Titles of duke, lord, esquire, earl, viscount,
or patrician, ought not to raise one into the first rank. Some of
the meanest men I have ever known had at the end of their name D.D.,
LL.D., and F.R.S. Truth, honor, charity, heroism, self-sacrifice,
should win highest favor; but inordinate fashion says--"Count not a
woman's virtues; count her rings;" "Look not at the contour of the
head, but see the way she combs her hair;" "Ask not what noble deeds
have been accomplished by that man's hand; but is it white and soft?"
Ask not what good sense was in her conversation, but "in what was she
dressed." Ask not whether there was hospitality and cheerfulness in
the house, but "in what style do they live."
As a consequence, some of the most ignorant and vicious men are at
the top, and some of the most virtuous and intelligent at the bottom.
During the late war we suddenly saw men hurled up into the highest
social positions. Had they suddenly reformed from evil habits? or
graduated in a science? or achieved some good work for society? No!
They simply had obtained a government contract!
This accounts for the utter chagrin which men feel at the treatment
they receive when they lose their property. Hold up your head amid
financial disaster, like a Christian! Fifty thousand subtracted from a
good man leaves how much? Honor; Truth; Faith in God; Triumphant Hope;
and a kingdom of ineffable glory, over which he is to reign forever
If a millionnaire should lose a penny out of his pocket, would he sit
down on a curb-stone and cry? And shall a man possessed of everlasting
fortunes wear himself out with grief because he has lost worldly
treasure? You have only lost that in which hundreds of wretched
misers surpass you; and you have saved that which the Caesars, and the
Pharaohs, and the Alexanders could never afford.
And yet society thinks differently; and you see the most intimate
friendships broken up as the consequence of financial embarrassments.
You say to some one--"How is your friend ----?" The man looks bewildered,
and says, "I do not know." You reply, "Why; you used to be intimate."
"Well," says the man, "our friendship has been dropped: the man has
Proclamation has gone forth: "Velvets must go up, and homespun must
come down;" and the question is "How does the coat fit?"--not, "Who
wears it?" The power that bears the tides of excited population up
and down our streets, and rocks the world of commerce, and thrills all
nations, Transatlantic and Cisatlantic, is--_clothes_. It decides
the last offices of respect; and how long the dress shall be totally
black; and when it may subside into spots of grief on silk, calico, or
gingham. Men die in good circumstances, but by reason of extravagant
funeral expenses are well nigh insolvent before they get buried. Many
men would not die at all, if they had to wait until they could afford
Excessive fashion is productive of a most ruinous strife. The
expenditure of many households is adjusted by what their neighbors
have, not by what they themselves can afford to have; and the great
anxiety is as to who shall have the finest house and the most costly
equipage. The weapons used in the warfare of social life are not
Minie rifles, and Dahlgren guns, and Hotchkiss shells, but chairs
and mirrors, and vases, and Gobelins, and Axminsters. Many household
establishments are like racing steamboats, propelled at the utmost
strain and risk, and just coming to a terrific explosion. "Who cares,"
say they, "if we only come out ahead?"
There is no one cause to-day of more financial embarrassment, and of
more dishonesties, than this determination, at all hazards, to live as
well as or better than other people. There are persons who will risk
their eternity upon one fine looking-glass, or who will dash out the
splendors of heaven to get another trinket.
"My house is too small." "But," says some one, "you cannot pay for a
larger." "Never mind that; my friends have a better residence, and so
will I." "A dress of that pattern I must have. I cannot afford it by
a great deal; but who cares for that? My neighbor had one from that
pattern, and I must have one." There are scores of men in the dungeons
of the penitentiary, who risked honor, business,--everything, in the
effort to shine like others. Though the heavens fall, they must be "in
The most famous frauds of the day have resulted from this feeling. It
keeps hundreds of men struggling for their commercial existence. The
trouble is that some are caught and incarcerated, if their larceny
be small. If it be great, they escape, and build their castle on the
Rhine. Men go into jail, not because they steal, but because they did
not steal enough.
Again: excessive fashion makes people unnatural and untrue. It is a
factory from which has come forth more hollow pretences, and unmeaning
flatteries, and hypocrisies, than the Lowell Mills ever turned out
shawls and garments.
Fashion is the greatest of all liars. It has made society insincere.
You know not what to believe. When people ask you to come, you do
not know whether or not they want you to come. When they send their
regards, you do not know whether it is an expression of their heart,
or an external civility. We have learned to take almost everything at
a discount. Word is sent, "Not at home," when they are only too lazy
to dress themselves. They say, "The furnace has just gone out," when
in truth they have had no fire in it all winter. They apologize
for the unusual barrenness of their table, when they never live any
better. They decry their most luxurious entertainments, to win a
shower of approval. They apologize for their appearance, as though it
were unusual, when always at home they look just so. They would make
you believe that some nice sketch on the wall was the work of a master
painter. "It was an heir-loom, and once hung on the walls of a castle;
and a duke gave it to their grandfather." People who will lie about
nothing else, will lie about a picture. On a small income we must make
the world believe that we are affluent, and our life becomes a cheat,
a counterfeit, and a sham.
Few persons are really natural. When I say this, I do not mean to slur
cultured manners. It is right that we should have more admiration for
the sculptured marble than for the unhewn block of the quarry. From
many circles in life fashion has driven out vivacity and enthusiasm.
A frozen dignity instead floats about the room, and iceberg grinds
against iceberg. You must not laugh outright: it is vulgar. You must
_smile_. You must not dash rapidly across the room: you must _glide_.
There is a round of bows, and grins, and flatteries, and oh's! and
ah's! and simperings, and namby-pambyism--a world of which is not
worth one good, round, honest peal of laughter. From such a hollow
round the tortured guest retires at the close of the evening, and
assures his host that he has enjoyed himself.
Thus social life has been contorted, and deformed, until, in
some mountain cabin, where rustics gather to the quilting or the
apple-paring, there is more good cheer than in all the frescoed
ice-houses of the metropolis.
We want, in all the higher circles of society, more warmth of heart
and naturalness of behavior, and not so many refrigerators.
Again: inordinate fashion is incompatible with happiness. Those who
depend for their comfort upon the admiration of others are subject to
frequent disappointment. Somebody will criticise their appearance, or
surpass them in brilliancy, or will receive more attention. Oh! the
jealousy, and detraction, and heart-burnings of those who move in this
The clock strikes _one_, and the company begins to disperse. The host
has done everything to make all his guests happy; but now that they
are on the street, hear their criticisms of everybody and everything.
"Did you see her in such and such apparel?" "Wasn't she a perfect
fright!" "What a pity that such an one is so awkward and uncouth!"
"Well, really,--I would rather never be spoken to than be seen with
such a man as that!"
Poor butterflies! Bright wings do not always bring happiness. "She
that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth." The revelations
of high life that come to the challenge and the fight are only the
occasional croppings out of disquietudes that are, underneath, like
the stars of heaven for multitude, but like the demons of the pit for
hate. The misery that to-night in the cellar cuddles up in the straw
is not so utter as the princely disquietude which stalks through
splendid drawing-rooms, brooding over the slights and offences of high
life. The bitterness of trouble seems not so unfitting, when drunk
out of a pewter mug, as when it pours from the chased lips of a golden
chalice. In the sharp crack of the voluptuary's pistol, putting an
end to his earthly misery, I hear the confirmation that in a hollow,
fastidious life there is no peace.
Again: Excessive devotion to fashion is productive of physical
disease, mental imbecility, and spiritual withering.
Apparel insufficient to keep out the cold and the rain, or so fitted
upon the person that the functions of life are restrained; late hours,
filled with excitement and feasting; free draughts of wine, that make
one not beastly intoxicated, but only fashionably drunk; and luxurious
indolence--are the instruments by which this unreal life pushes its
disciples into valetudinarianism and the grave. Along the walks
of high life Death goes a mowing--and such harvests as are reaped!
_Materia medica_ has been exhausted to find curatives for these
physiological devastations. Dropsies, cancers, consumptions, gout, and
almost every infirmity in all the realm of pathology, have been the
penalty paid. To counteract the damage, pharmacy has gone forth with
medicament, panacea, elixir, embrocation, salve, and cataplasm.
To-night, with swollen feet, upon cushioned ottoman, and groaning
with aches innumerable, is the votary of luxurious living, not half so
happy as his groom or coal-heaver.
Fashion is the world's undertaker, and drives thousands of hearses to
Laurel Hill and Greenwood.
But, worse than that, this folly is an intellectual depletion. This
endless study of proprieties and etiquette, patterns and styles, is
bedwarfing to the intellect. I never knew a man or a woman of extreme
fashion that knew much. How belittling the study of the cut of a coat,
or the tie of a cravat, or the wrinkle in a shoe, or the color of a
ribbon! How they are worried if something gets untied, or hangs awry,
or is not nicely adjusted! With a mind capable of measuring the
height and depth of great subjects; able to unravel mysteries; to
walk through the universe; to soar up into the infinity of God's
attributes,--hovering perpetually over a new style of mantilla! I have
known men, reckless as to their character, and regardless of interests
momentous and eternal, exasperated by the shape of a vest-button!
What is the matter with that woman--wrought up into the agony of
despair? O, her muff is out of fashion!
Worse than all--this folly is not satisfied until it has extirpated
every moral sentiment, and blasted the soul. A wardrobe is the rock
upon which many a soul has been riven. The excitement of a luxurious
life has been the vortex that has swallowed up more souls than the
Maelstrom off Norway ever devoured ships. What room for elevating
themes in a heart filled with the trivial and unreal? Who can wonder
that in this haste for sun-gilded bawbles and winged thistle-down,
men should tumble into ruin? The travellers to destruction are not
all clothed in rags. On that road chariot jostles against chariot; and
behind steeds in harness golden-plated and glittering, they go down,
coach and four, herald and postilion, racketing on the hot pavements
of hell. Clear the track! Bazaars hang out their colors over the road;
and trees of tropical fruitfulness overbranch the way. No sound of
woe disturbs the air; but all is light and song, and wine and
gorgeousness. The world comes out to greet the dazzling procession
with Hurrah! and Hurrah! But, suddenly, there is a halt and an outcry
of dismay, and an overthrow worse than the Red Sea tumbling upon the
Egyptians. Shadow of grave-stones upon finest silk! Wormwood squeezed
into impearled goblets! Death, with one cold breath, withering the
leaves and freezing the fountains.
In the wild tumult of the last day--the mountains falling, the heavens
flying, the thrones uprising, the universe assembling; amid the boom
of the last great thunder-peal, and under the crackling of a burning
world--what will become of the fop and the dandy?
He who is genuinely refined will be useful and happy. There is no gate
that a gentleman's hand cannot open. During his last sickness there
will be a timid knock at the basement door by those who have come to
see how he is.
But watch the career of one thoroughly artificial. Through
inheritance, or perhaps his own skill, having obtained enough for
purposes of display, he feels himself thoroughly established. He sits
aloof from the common herd, and looks out of his window upon the poor
man, and says--"Put that dirty wretch off my steps immediately!" On
Sabbath days he finds the church, but mourns the fact that he must
worship with so many of the inelegant, and says, "They are perfectly
awful!" "That man that you put in my pew had a coat on his back that
did not cost five dollars." He struts through life unsympathetic with
trouble, and says, "I cannot be bothered." Is delighted with some
doubtful story of Parisian life, but thinks that there are some very
indecent things in the Bible. Walks arm in arm with a millionnaire,
but does not know his own brother. Loves to be praised for his
splendid house; and when told that he looks younger than ten years
ago, says--"Well, really; do you think so!"
But the brief strut of his life is about over. Up-stairs--he dies.
No angel wings hovering about him. No gospel promises kindling up the
darkness;--but exquisite embroidery, elegant pictures, and a bust of
Shakespeare on the mantel. The pulses stop. The minister comes in to
read of the Resurrection, that day when the dead shall come up--both
he that died on the floor, and he that expired under princely
upholstery. He is carried out to burial. Only a few mourners, but
a great array of carriages. Not one common man at the funeral. No
befriended orphan to weep a tear upon his grave. No child of want
pressing through the ranks of the weeping, saying--"He is the last
friend I have; and I must see him."
What now? He was a great man: Shall not chariots of salvation come
down to the other side of the Jordan, and escort him up to the palace?
Shall not the angels exclaim--"Turn out! a prince is coming." Will the
bells chime? Will there be harpers with their harps, and trumpeters
with their trumpets?
No! No! No! There will be a shudder, as though a calamity had
happened. Standing on heaven's battlement, a watchman will see
something shoot past, with fiery downfall, and shriek: "Wandering
star--for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever!"
With the funeral pageant the brilliant career terminated. There was a
great array of carriages.
When night came down on Babylon, Nineveh, and Jerusalem, they needed
careful watching, otherwise the incendiary's torch might have been
thrust into the very heart of the metropolitan splendor; or enemies,
marching from the hills, might have forced the gates. All night long,
on top of the wall and in front of the gates, might be heard the
measured step of the watchman on his solitary beat; silence hung in
air, save as some passer-by raised the question: "Watchman, what of
It is to me a deeply suggestive and solemn thing to see a man standing
guard by night. It thrilled through me, as at the gate of an arsenal
in Charleston, the question once smote me, "Who comes there?" followed
by the sharp command: "Advance and give the countersign." Every moral
teacher stands on picket, or patrols the wall as watchman. His work
is to sound the alarm; and whether it be in the first watch, in
the second watch, in the third watch, or in the fourth watch, to be
vigilant until the daybreak flings its "morning glories" of blooming
cloud across the arching trellis of the sky.
The ancients divided their night into four parts--the first watch,
from six to nine; the second, from nine to twelve; the third, from
twelve to three; and the fourth, from three to six.
I speak now of the city in the third watch, or from twelve to three
I never weary of looking upon the life and brilliancy of the city in
the _first_ watch. That is the hour when the stores are closing. The
laboring men, having quitted the scaffolding and the shop, are on
their way home. It rejoices me to give them my seat in the city car.
They have stood and hammered away all day. Their feet are weary. They
are exhausted with the tug of work. They are mostly cheerful. With
appetites sharpened on the swift turner's wheel and the carpenter's
whetstone, they seek the evening meal. The clerks, too, have broken
away from the counter, and with brain weary of the long line of
figures, and the whims of those who go a-shopping, seek the face of
mother, or wife and child. The merchants are unharnessing themselves
from their anxieties, on their way up the street. The boys that lock
up are heaving away at the shutters, shoving the heavy bolts, and
taking a last look at the fire to see that all is safe. The streets
are thronged with young men, setting out from the great centres of
Let idlers clear the street, and give right of way to the besweated
artisans and merchants! They have _earned_ their bread, and are now on
their way home to get it.
The lights in full jet hang over ten thousand evening repasts--the
parents at either end of the table, the children between. Thank God!
"who setteth the solitary in families!"
A few hours later, and all the places of amusement, good and bad, are
in full tide. Lovers of art, catalogue in hand, stroll through the
galleries and discuss the pictures. The ball-room is resplendent with
the rich apparel of those who, on either side of the white, glistening
boards, await the signal from the orchestra. The footlights of the
theatre flash up; the bell rings, and the curtain rises; and out from
the gorgeous scenery glide the actors, greeted with the vociferation
of the expectant multitudes. Concert-halls are lifted into enchantment
with the warble of one songstress, or swept out on a sea of tumultuous
feeling by the blast of brazen instruments. Drawing-rooms are filled
with all gracefulness of apparel, with all sweetness of sound, with
all splendor of manner; mirrors are catching up and multiplying the
scene, until it seems as if in infinite corridors there were garlanded
groups advancing and retreating.
The out-door air rings with laughter, and with the moving to and fro
of thousands on the great promenades. The dashing span, adrip with
the foam of the long country ride, rushes past as you halt at the
Mirth, revelry, beauty, fashion, magnificence mingle in the great
metropolitan picture, until the thinking man goes home to think more
seriously, and the praying man to pray more earnestly.
A beautiful and overwhelming thing is the city in the first and second
watches of the night.
But the clock strikes twelve, and the third watch begins. The thunder
of the city has rolled from the air. Slight sounds now cut the night
with a distinctness that excites your attention. You hear the tinkling
of the bell of the street-car in the far distance; the baying of the
dog; the stamp of the horse in the adjoining street; the slamming of
a saloon door; the hiccoughing of the inebriate; and the shriek of
the steam-whistle five miles away. Solemn and stupendous is this third
watch. There are respectable men abroad. The city missionary is
going up that court, to take a scuttle of coal to a poor family. The
undertaker goes up the steps of that house, from which there comes a
bitter cry, as though the destroying angel had smitten the first-born.
The minister of Jesus passes along; he has been giving the sacrament
to a dying Christian. The physician hastens past, the excited
messenger a few steps ahead, impatient to reach the threshold. Men who
are forced to toil into the midnight are hastening to their pillow.
But the great multitudes are asleep. The lights are out in the
dwellings, save here and there one. That is the light of the watcher,
for the remedies must be administered, and the fever guarded, and the
restless tossing of the coverlet resisted, and the ice kept upon the
temples, and the perpetual prayer offered by hearts soon to be broken.
The street-lamps, standing in long line, reveal the silence and the
slumber of the town.
Stupendous thought: a great city asleep! Weary arm gathering strength
for to-morrow's toil. Hot brain getting cooled off. Rigid muscles
relaxing. Excited nerves being soothed. White locks of the
octogenarian in thin drifts across the white pillow--fresh fall of
flakes on snow already fallen. Children with dimpled hands thrown put
over the pillow, with every breath inhaling a new store of fun and
Let the great hosts sleep! A slumberless Eye will watch them. Silent
be the alarm-bells and merciful the elements! Let one great wave of
refreshing slumber roll across the heart of the great town, submerging
trouble and weariness and pain. It is the third watch of the night,
and time for the city to sleep.
But be not deceived. There are thousands of people in the great
town who will not sleep a moment to-night. Go up that dark court. Be
careful, or you will fall over the prostrate form of a drunkard lying
on his own worn step. Look about you, or you will feel the garroter's
hug. Try to look in through that broken pane! What do you see?
Nothing. But listen. What is it? "God help us!" No footlights, but
tragedy--mightier, ghastlier than Ristori or Edwin Booth ever acted.
No bread. No light. No fire. No cover. They lie strewn upon the
floor--two whole families in one room. They shiver in the darkness.
They have had no food to-day. You say: "Why don't they beg?" They did
beg, but got nothing. You say: "Hand them over to the almshouse."
Ah! they had rather die than go to the almshouse. Have you never heard
the bitter cry of the man or of the child when told that he must go to
You say that these are vicious poor, and have brought their own
misfortune on themselves.
So much the more to be pitied. The Christian poor--God helps them!
Through their night there twinkles the round, merry star of hope, and
through the cracked window-pane of their hovel they see the crystals
of heaven. But the vicious are the more to be pitied. They have no
hope. They are in hell now. They have put out their last light. People
excuse themselves from charity by saying they do not deserve to be
helped. If I have ten prayers for the innocent, I shall have twenty
for the guilty. If a ship be dashed upon the rocks, the fisherman, in
his hut on the beach, will wrap the warmest flannels around those who
are the most chilled and battered. The vicious poor have suffered
two awful wrecks, the wreck of the body, and the wreck of the soul; a
wreck for time and a wreck for eternity.
Go up that alley! Open the door. It is not locked. They have nothing
to lose. No burglar would want anything that is there. There is only a
broken chair set against the door. Strike a match and look around you.
Beastliness and rags! A shock of hair hanging over the scarred visage.
Eyes glaring upon you. Offer no insult. Be careful what you say. Your
life is not worth much in such a place. See that red mark on the wall.
That is the mark of a murderer's hand. From the corner a wild face
starts out of the straw and moves toward you, just as your light goes
Strike another match. Here is a little babe. It does not laugh. It
never will laugh. A sea-flower flung on an awfully barren beach: O
that the Shepherd would fold that lamb! Wrap your shawl about you,
for the January wind sweeps in. Strike another match. The face of that
young woman is bruised and gashed now, but a mother once gazed upon it
in ecstasy of fondness. Awful stare of two eyes that seem looking up
from the bottom of woe. Stand back. No hope has dawned on that soul
for years. Hope never will dawn upon it. Utter no scorn. The match has
gone out. Light it not again, for it would seem to be a mockery.
Pass out! Pass on! Know that there are thousands of such abodes in our
cities. An awful, gloomy, and overwhelming picture is the city in the
After midnight the crime of the city does its chief work. At eight
and a half o'clock in the evening the criminals of the city are at
leisure. They are mostly in the drinking saloons. It needs courage to
do what they propose to do. Rum makes men reckless. They are getting
their brain and hand just right. Toward midnight they go to their
garrets. They gather their tools. Soon after the third watch they
stalk forth, silently, looking out for the police, through the alleys
to their appointed work. This is a burglar; and the door-lock will fly
open at the touch of the false keys. That is an incendiary; and before
morning there will be a light on the sky, and a cry of "Fire! Fire!"
That is an assassin; and a lifeless body will be found to-morrow in
some of the vacant lots.
During all the day there are hundreds of villains to be found lounging
about, a part of the time asleep, apart of the time awake; but at
twelve to-night they will rouse up, and their eyes will be keen, and
their minds acute, and their arms strong, and their foot fleet to fly
or pursue. Many of them have been brought up to the work. They were
born in a thief's garret. Their childish plaything was a burglar's
dark lantern. As long ago as they can remember, they saw, toward
morning, the mother binding up the father's head, wounded by a
watchman's billet. They began by picking boys' pockets, and now they
can dig an underground passage to the cellar of the bank, or will
blast open the door of the gold vault. So long as the children of the
street are neglected there will be no lack of desperadoes.
In the third watch of the night the gambling-houses are in full blast.
What though the hours of the night are slipping away, and the wife
sits waiting in the cheerless home! Stir up the fires! Bring on the
drinks! Put up the stakes! A whole fortune may be made before morning!
Some of the firms that two years ago first put out their sign of
copartnership have already foundered on the gambler's table. The
money-drawer in many a mercantile house will this year mysteriously
spring a leak. Gaming is a portentous vice, and is making great efforts
to become respectable. Recently a member of Congress played with a
member elect, carrying off a trophy of one hundred and twenty thousand
dollars. The old-fashioned way of getting a fortune is too slow! Let
us toss up and see who shall have it!
And so it goes, from the wheezing wretches who pitch pennies in a rum
grocery, to the millionnaire gamblers in the gold-market.
After midnight the eye of God will look down and see uncounted
gambling-saloons plying their destruction. Passing down the street
to-night, you may hear the wrangling of the gamblers mingling with
the rattle of the dice, and the clear, sharp crack of the balls on the
The finest rooms in the city are gambling dens. In gilded parlor, amid
costly tapestry, you may behold these dens of death. These houses have
walls attractive with elaborate fresco and gems of painting--no sham
artist's daub, but a masterpiece. Mantel and table glitter with vases
and statuettes. Divans and lounges with deep cushions, the perfection
of upholstery, invite to rest and repose. Aquaria alive with fins and
strewn with tinged shells and zoophytes. Tufts of geranium, from bead
baskets, suspended mid-room, drop their witching perfume. Fountains
gushing up, sprinkling the air with sparkles, or gushing through the
mouth of the marble lion. Long mirrors, mounted with scrolls and wings
and exquisite carvings, catching and reflecting back the magnificence.
At their doors merchant-princes dismount from their carriages;
official dignitaries enter; legislators, tired of making laws, here
take a respite in breaking them.
From all classes this crime is gathering its victims: the importer of
foreign silks, and the Chatham street dealer in pocket-handkerchiefs;
clerks taking a game in the store after the shutters are put up; and
officers of the court whiling away the time while the jury are out. In
the woods around Baden Baden, in the morning, it is no rare thing to
find the suspended bodies of suicides. No splendor of surroundings can
hide the dreadful nature of this sin. In the third watch of this very
night, the tears of thousands of orphans and widows will dash up in
those fountains. The thunders of eternal destruction roll in the deep
rumble of that ten-pin alley. And as from respectable circles young
men and old are falling in line of procession, all the drums of woe
begin to beat the dead march of ten thousand souls.
Seven millions of dollars are annually lost in New York city at the
gaming-table. Some of your own friends may be at it. The agents of
these gaming-houses around our hotels are well dressed. They meet a
stranger in the city; they ask him if he would like to see the city;
he says, "Yes;" they ask him if he has seen that splendid building up
town, and he says "No." "Then," says the villain to the greenhorn, "I
will show you the lions and the elephants." After seeing the lions
and the elephants, I would not give much for a young man's chance for
decency or heaven. He looks in, and sees nothing objectionable; but
let him beware, for he is on enchanted ground. Look out for the men
who have such sleek hats--always sleek hats--and such a patronizing
air, and who are so unaccountably interested in your welfare and
entertainment. All that they want of you is your money. A young man
on Chestnut street, Philadelphia, lost in a night all his money at the
gaming-table, and, before he left the table, blew his brains out; but
before the maid had cleaned up the blood the players were again at the
table, shuffling away. A wolf has more compassion for the lamb whose
blood it licks up; a highwayman more love for the belated traveller
upon whose carcass he piles the stone; the frost more feeling for
the flower it kills; the fire more tenderness for the tree-branch it
consumes; the storm more pity for the ship that it shivers on Long
Island coast, than a gambler's heart has mercy for his victim.
Deed of darkness unfit for sunlight, or early evening hour! Let it
come forth only when most of the city lights are out, in the third
watch of the night!
Again, it is after twelve o'clock that drunkenness shows its worst
deformity! At eight or nine o'clock the low saloons are not so
ghastly. At nine o'clock the victims are only talkative. At ten
o'clock they are much flushed. At eleven o'clock their tongue is
thick, and their hat occasionally falls from the head. At twelve they
are nauseated and blasphemous, and not able to rise. At one they fall
to the floor, asking for more drink. At two o'clock, unconscious and
breathing hard. They would not fly though the house took fire. Soaked,
imbruted, dead drunk! They are strewn all over the city, in the
drinking saloons,--fathers, brothers, and sons; men as good as you,
Not so with the higher circles of intoxication. The "gentlemen" coax
their fellow-reveller to bed, or start with him for home, one at each
arm, holding him up; the night air is filled with his hooting and
cursing. He will be helped into his own door. He will fall into the
entry. Hush it up! Let not the children of the house be awakened to
hear the shame. He is one of the merchant princes.
But you cannot always hush it up.
Drink makes men mad. One of its victims came home and found that his
wife had died during his absence; and he went into the room where she
had been prepared for the grave, and shook her from the shroud, and
tossed her body out of the window. Where sin is loud and loathsome and
frenzied, it is hard to keep it still. This whole land is soaked with
the abomination. It became so bad in Massachusetts, that the State
arose in indignation; and having appointed agents for the sale of
alcohol for mechanical and medicinal purposes, prohibited the
general traffic under a penalty of five hundred dollars. The popular
proprietors of the Revere, Tremont, and Parker Houses were arrested.
The grog-shops diminished in number from six thousand to six hundred.
God grant that the time may speed on when all the cities and States
shall rouse up, and put their foot upon this abomination.
As you pass along the streets, night by night, you will see the awful
need that something radical be done. But you do not see the worst.
That will come to pass long after you are sleeping--in the third watch
of the night.
Oh! ye who have been longing for fields of work, here they are
before you. At the London midnight meetings, thirteen thousand of the
daughters of sin were reformed; and uncounted numbers of men, who were
drunken and debauched, have been redeemed. If from our highest circles
a few score of men and women would go forth among the wandering and
the destitute, they might yet make the darkest alley of the town
kindle with the gladness of heaven. Do not go in your warm furs, and
from your well-laden tables, thinking that pious counsel will stop the
gnawing of empty stomachs or warm their stockingless feet. Take
food and medicine, and raiment, as well as a prayer. When the city
missionary told the destitute woman she ought to love God, she said:
"Ah! if you were as cold and hungry as I am, you could think of
I am glad to know that not one earnest prayer, not one heartfelt
alms-giving, not one kind word, ever goes unblessed. Among the
mountains of Switzerland there is a place where, if your voice be
uttered, there will come back a score of echoes. But utter a kind,
sympathetic, and saving word in the dark places of the town, and there
will come back ten thousand echoes from all the thrones of heaven.
There may be some one reading this who knows by experience of the
tragedies enacted in the third watch of the night. I am not the man
to thrust you back with one harsh word. Take off the bandage from your
soul, and put on it the salve of the Saviour's compassion. There
is rest in God for your tired soul. Many have come back from their
wanderings. I see them coming now. Cry up the news to heaven! Set
all the bells a-ringing! Under the high arch spread the banquet of
rejoicing. Let all the crowned heads of heaven come in and keep the
jubilee. I tell you there is more joy in heaven over one man who
reforms than over ninety-and-nine who never got off the track.
But there is a man who will never return from his evil ways. How many
acts are there in a tragedy? Five, I believe:
ACT I.--_Young man starting from home. Parents and sisters weeping to
have him go. Wagon passing over the hills. Farewell kiss thrown back.
Ring the bell and let the curtain drop_.
ACT II.--_Marriage altar. Bright lights. Full organ. White
veil trailing through the aisle. Prayer and congratulation, and
exclamations of "How well she looks!" Ring the bell, and let the
ACT III.--_Midnight. Woman waiting for staggering steps. Old garments
stuck into the broken window-pane. Many marks of hardship on the face.
Biting of the nails of bloodless fingers. Neglect, cruelty, disgrace.
Ring the bell, and let the curtain drop_.
ACT IV.--_Three graves in a very dark place. Grave of child who died
from lack of medicine. Grave of wife who died of a broken heart. Grave
of husband and father who died of dissipation. Plenty of weeds, but no
flowers. O what a blasted heath with three graves! Ring the bell, and
let the curtain drop_.
ACT V.--_A destroyed soul's eternity. No light; no music; no hope!
Despair coiling around the heart with unutterable anguish. Blackness
of darkness forever_.
Woe! Woe! Woe! I cannot bear longer to look. I close my eyes at this
last act of the tragedy. Quick! Quick! Ring the bell and let the
THE INDISCRIMINATE DANCE.
It is the anniversary of Herod's birthday. The palace is lighted. The
highways leading thereto are ablaze with the pomp of invited guests.
Lords, captains, merchant princes, and the mightiest men of the realm
are on the way to mingle in the festivities. The tables are filled
with all the luxuries that the royal purveyors can gather,--spiced
wines, and fruits, and rare meats. The guests, white-robed, anointed
and perfumed, take their places. Music! The jests evoke roars of
laughter. Riddles are propounded. Repartees indulged. Toasts drunk.
The brain befogged. Wit gives place to uproar and blasphemy. And yet
they are not satisfied. Turn on more light. Give us more music. Sound
the trumpet. Clear the floor for the dance. Bring in Salome, the
graceful and accomplished princess.
The doors are opened and in bounds the dancer. Stand back and give
plenty of room for the gyrations. The lords are enchanted. They never
saw such poetry of motion. Their souls whirl in the reel, and bound
with the bounding feet. Herod forgets crown and throne,--everything
but the fascinations of Salome. The magnificence of his realm is as
nothing compared with that which now whirls before him on tiptoe. His
heart is in transport with Salome as her arms are now tossed in
the air, and now placed akimbo. He sways with every motion of the
enchantress. He thrills with the quick pulsations of her feet, and is
bewitched with the posturing and attitudes that he never saw before,
in a moment exchanged for others just as amazing. He sits in silence
before the whirling, bounding, leaping, flashing wonder. And when
the dance stops, and the tinkling cymbals pause, and the long, loud
plaudits that shook the palace with their thunders had abated, the
entranced monarch swears unto the princely performer: "Whatsoever thou
shalt ask of me I will give it to thee, to the half of my kingdom."
Now there was in prison a minister by the name of John the Baptist,
who had made much trouble by his honest preaching. He had denounced
the sins of the king, and brought down upon himself the wrath of the
females in the royal family. At the instigation of her mother, Salome
takes advantage of the king's extravagant promise and demands the head
of John the Baptist on a dinner-plate.
There is a sound of heavy feet, and the clatter of swords outside of
the palace. Swing back the door. The executioners are returning, from
their awful errand. They hand a platter to Salome. What is that on the
platter? A new tankard of wine to rekindle the mirth of the lords? No!
It is redder than wine, and costlier. It is the ghastly, bleeding head
of John the Baptist! Its locks dabbled in gore. Its eyes set in the
death-stare. The distress of the last agony in the features. That
fascinating form, that just now swayed so gracefully in the dance,
bends over the horrid burden without a shudder. She gloats over the
blood; and just as the maid of your household goes, bearing out on a
tray the empty glasses of the evening's entertainment, so she carried
out on a platter the dissevered head of that good man, while all the
banqueters shouted, and thought it a grand joke, that, in such a brief
and easy way, they had freed themselves from such a plain-spoken,
What could be more innocent than a birthday festival? All the kings
from the time of Pharaoh had celebrated such days; and why not Herod?
It was right that the palace should be lighted, and that the cymbals
should clap, and that the royal guests should go to a banquet; but,
before the rioting and wassail that closed the scene of that day,
every pure nature revolts.
Behold the work, the influence, and the end of an infamous dancer!
I am, by natural temperament and religious theory, utterly opposed
to the position of those who are horrified at every demonstration
of mirth and playfulness in social life, and who seem to think that
everything, decent and immortal, depends upon the style in which
people carry their feet. On the other hand, I can see nothing but
ruin, moral and physical, in the dissipations of the ball-room, which
have despoiled thousands of young men and women of all that gives
dignity to character, or usefulness to life.
Dancing has been styled "the graceful movement of the body adjusted
by art, to the measures or tune of instruments, or of the voice." All
nations have danced. The ancients thought that Pollux and Castor at
first taught the practice to the Lacedaemonians; but, whatever be its
origin, all climes have adopted it.
In other days there were festal dances, and funeral dances, and
military dances, and "mediatorial" dances, and bacchanalian dances.
Queens and lords have swayed to and fro in their gardens; and the
rough men of the backwoods in this way have roused up the echo of the
forest. There seems to be something in lively and coherent sounds to
evoke the movement of hand and foot, whether cultured or uncultured.
Men passing the street unconsciously keep step to the music of the
band; and Christians in church unconsciously find themselves keeping
time with their feet, while their soul is uplifted by some great
harmony. Not only is this true in cultured life, but the red men of
Oregon have their scalp dances, and green-corn dances, and war dances.
It is, therefore, no abstract question that you ask me--Is it right to
The ancient fathers, aroused by the indecent dances of those days,
gave emphatic evidence against any participation in the dance. St.
Chrysostom says:--"The feet were not given for dancing, but to walk
modestly; not to leap impudently like camels."
One of the dogmas of the ancient church reads: "A dance is the devil's
possession; and he that entereth into a dance, entereth into his
possession. The devil is the gate to the middle and to the end of the
dance. As many passes as a man makes in dancing, so many passes doth
he make to hell." Elsewhere, these old dogmas declare--"The woman
that singeth in the dance is the princess of the devil; and those
that answer are his clerks; and the beholders are his friends, and
the music are his bellows, and the fiddlers are the ministers of the
devil; for, as when hogs are strayed, if the hogs'-herd call one,
all assemble together, so the devil calleth one woman to sing in the
dance, or to play on some instrument, and presently all the dancers
This wholesale and indiscriminate denunciation grew out of the utter
dissoluteness of those ancient plays. So great at one time was the
offence to all decency, that the Roman Senate decreed the expulsion of
all dancers and dancing-masters from Rome.
Yet we are not to discuss the customs of that day, but the customs of
the present. We cannot let the fathers decide the question for us.
Our reason, enlightened by the Bible, shall be the standard. I am not
ready to excommunicate all those who lift their feet beyond a certain
height. I would not visit our youth with a rigor of criticism that
would put out all their ardor of soul. I do not believe that all the
inhabitants of Wales, who used to step to the sound of the rustic
pibcorn, went down to ruin. I would give to all of our youth the right
to romp and play. God meant it, or he would not have surcharged
our natures with such exuberance. If a mother join hands with her
children, and while the eldest strikes the keys, fill all the house
with the sound of agile feet, I see no harm. If a few friends,
gathered in happy circle, conclude to cross and recross the room to
the sound of the piano well played, I see no harm. I for a long while
tried to see in it a harm, but I never could, and I probably never
will. I would to God men kept young for a greater length of time.
Never since my school-boy days have I loved so well as now the
hilarities of life. What if we have felt heavy burdens, and suffered a
multitude of hard knocks, is it any reason why we should stand in the
path of those who, unstung by life's misfortunes, are exhilarated and
full of glee?
God bless the young! They will have to live many a day if they want to
hear me say one word to dampen their ardor or clip their wings, or
to throw a cloud upon their life by telling them that it is hard,
and dark, and doleful. It is no such thing. You will meet with many a
trial; but, speaking from my own experience, let me tell you that you
will be treated a great deal better than you deserve.
Let us not grudge to the young their joy. As we go further on in life,
let us go with the remembrance that we have had our gleeful days. When
old age frosts our locks, and stiffens our limbs, let us not block up
the way, but say, "We had our good times: now let others have theirs."
As our children come on, let us cheerfully give them our places. How
glad will I be to let them have everything,--my house, my books, my
place in society, my heritage! By the time we get old we will have had
our way long enough. Then let our children come on and we'll have it
their way. For thirty, forty, or fifty years, we have been drinking
from the cup of life; and we ought not to complain if called to pass
the cup along and let others take a drink.
But, while we have a right to the enjoyments of life, we never will
countenance sinful indulgences. I here set forth a group of what
might be called the dissipations of the ball-room. They swing an awful
scythe of death. Are we to stand idly by, and let the work go on, lest
in the rebuke we tread upon the long trail of some popular vanity? The
whirlpool of the ball-room drags down the life, the beauty, and the
moral worth of the city. In this whirlwind of imported silks goes out
the life of many of our best families. Bodies and souls innumerable
are annually consumed in this conflagration of ribbons.
This style of dissipation is the abettor of pride, the instigator of
jealousy, the sacrificial altar of health, the defiler of the soul,
the avenue of lust, and the curse of the town. The tread of this wild,
intoxicating, heated midnight dance jars all the moral hearthstones of
the city. The physical ruin is evident. What will become of those
who work all day and dance all night? A few years will turn them out
nervous, exhausted imbeciles. Those who have given up their midnights
to spiced wines, and hot suppers, and ride home through winter's cold,
unwrapped from the elements, will at last be recorded suicides.
There is but a short step from the ball-room to the grave-yard. There
are consumptions and fierce neuralgias close on the track. Amid that
glittering maze of ball-room splendors, diseases stand right and left,
and balance and chain. A sepulchral breath floats up amid the perfume,
and the froth of death's lip bubbles up in the champagne.
Many of our brightest homes are being sacrificed. There are families
that have actually quit keeping house, and gone to boarding, that
they may give themselves more exclusively to the higher duties of
the ball-room. Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, finding
their highest enjoyment in the dance, bid farewell to books, to quiet
culture, to all the amenities of home. The father will, after a while,
go down into lower dissipations. The son will be tossed about
in society, a nonentity. The daughter will elope with a French
dancing-master. The mother, still trying to stay in the glitter,
and by every art attempting to keep the color in her cheek, and the
wrinkles off her brow, attempting, without any success, all the arts
of the belle,--an old flirt, a poor, miserable butterfly without any
If anything on the earth is beautiful to my eye, it is an aged woman;
her hair floating back over the wrinkled brow, not frosted, but white
with the blossoms of the tree of life; her voice tender with
past memories, and her face a benediction. The children pull at
grandmother's dress as she passes through the room, and almost pull
her down in her weakness; yet she has nothing but a cake, or a candy,
or a kind word for the little darlings. When she goes away from us
there is a shadow on the table, a shadow on the hearth, and a shadow
in the dwelling.
But if anything on earth is distressful to look at, it is an old woman
ashamed of being old. What with paint and false hair, she is too much
for my gravity. I laugh, even in church, when I see her coming. One of
the worst looking birds I know of is a peacock after it has lost its
feathers. I would not give one lock of my mother's gray hair for fifty
thousand such caricatures of old age. The first time you find these
faithful disciples of the ball-room diligently engaged and happy in
the duties of the home circle, send me word, for I would go a great
way to see such a phenomenon. These creatures have no home. Their
children unwashed. Their furniture undusted. Their china closets
disordered. The house a scene of confusion, misrule, cheerlessness,
and dirt. One would think you might discover even amid the witcheries
of the ball-room the sickening odors of the unswept, unventilated, and
unclean domestic apartments.
These dissipations extinguish all love of usefulness. How could you
expect one to be interested in the alleviations of the world's misery,
while there is a question to be decided about the size of a glove
or the shade of a pongee? How many of these men and women of the
ball-room visit the poor, or help dress the wounds of a returned
soldier in the hospital? When did the world ever see a perpetual
dancer distributing tracts? Such persons are turned in upon
themselves. And it is very poor pasture!
This gilded sphere is utterly bedwarfing to intellect and soul. This
constant study of little things; this harassing anxiety about
dress; this talk of fashionable infinitesimals; this shoe-pinched,
hair-frizzled, fringe-spattered group--that simper and look askance
at the mirrors and wonder, with infinity of interest, "how that one
geranium leaf does look;" this shrivelling up of man's moral dignity,
until it is no more observable with the naked eye; this taking of a
woman's heart, that God meant should be filled with all amenities,
and compressing it until all the fragrance, and simplicity, and
artlessness are squeezed out of it; this inquisition of a small shoe;
this agony of tight lacing; this wrapping up of mind and heart in
a ruffle; this tumbling down of a soul that God meant for great
I prophesy the spiritual ruin of all participators in this rivalry.
Have the white, polished, glistening boards ever been the road to
heaven? Who at the flash of those chandeliers hath kindled a torch
for eternity? From the table spread at the close of that excited and
besweated scene, who went home to say his prayers?
To many, alas! this life is a masquerade ball. As, at such
entertainments, gentlemen and ladies appear in the dress of kings
or queens, mountain bandits or clowns, and at the close of the dance
throw off their disguises, so, in this dissipated life, all unclean
passions move in mask. Across the floor they trip merrily. The lights
sparkle along the wall, or drop from the ceiling--a very cohort of
fire! The music charms. The diamonds glitter. The feet bound. Gemmed
hands, stretched out, clasp gemmed hands. Dancing feet respond to
dancing feet. Gleaming brow bends low to gleaming brow. On with the
dance! Flash, and rustle, and laughter, and immeasurable merry-making!
But the languor of death comes over the limbs, and blurs the sight.
_Lights lower!_ Floor hollow with sepulchral echo. Music saddens into
a wail. _Lights lower!_ The maskers can hardly now be seen. Flowers
exchange their fragrance for a sickening odor, such as comes from
garlands that have lain in vaults of cemeteries. _Lights lower!_ Mists
fill the room. Glasses rattle as though shaken by sullen thunder.
Sighs seem caught among the curtains. Scarf falls from the shoulder of
beauty,--a shroud! _Lights lower!_ Over the slippery boards, in dance
of death, glide jealousies, disappointments, lust, despair. Torn
leaves and withered garlands only half hide the ulcered feet.
The stench of smoking lamp-wicks almost quenched. Choking damps.
Chilliness. Feet still. Hands folded. Eyes shut. Voices hushed.
THE MASSACRE BY NEEDLE AND SEWING-MACHINE.
Very long ago the needle was busy. It was considered honorable for
women to toil in olden time. Alexander the Great stood in his palace
showing garments made by his own mother. The finest tapestries at
Bayeux were made by the Queen of William the Conqueror. Augustus the
Emperor would not wear any garments except those that were fashioned
by some member of his royal family. So let the toiler everywhere be
The greatest blessing that could have happened to our first parents
was being turned out of Eden after they had done wrong. Adam and Eve,
in their perfect state, might have got along without work, or only
such slight employment as a perfect garden, with no weeds in it,
demanded. But, as soon as they had sinned, the best thing for them
was to be turned out where they would have to work. We know what a
withering thing it is for a man to have nothing to do. Old Ashbel
Green, at fourscore years, when asked why he kept on working, said,
"I do so to keep out of mischief." We see that a man who has a
large amount of money to start with has no chance. Of the thousand
prosperous and honorable men that you know, nine hundred and
ninety-nine had to work vigorously at the beginning.
But I am now to tell you that industry is just as important for
a woman's safety and happiness. The most unhappy women in our
communities to-day are those who have no engagements to call them up
in the morning; who, once having risen and breakfasted, lounge through
the dull forenoon in slippers down at the heel and with dishevelled
hair, reading George Sand's last novel; and who, having dragged
through a wretched forenoon and taken their afternoon sleep, and
having spent an hour and a half at their toilet, pick up their
card-case and go out to make calls; and who pass their evenings
waiting for somebody to come in and break up the monotony. Arabella
Stuart never was imprisoned in so dark a dungeon as that.
There is no happiness in an idle woman. It may be with hand, it may
be with brain, it may be with foot; but work she must, or be wretched
forever. The little girls of our families must be started with that
idea. The curse of our American society is that our young women are
taught that the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh,
tenth, fiftieth, thousandth thing in their life is to get somebody to
take care of them. Instead of that, the first lesson should be, how,
under God, they may take care of themselves. The simple fact is that
a majority of them do have to take care of themselves, and that, too,
after having, through the false notions of their parents, wasted the
years in which they ought to have learned how successfully to maintain
themselves. We now and here declare the inhumanity, cruelty, and
outrage of that father and mother, who pass their daughters into
womanhood, having given them no facility for earning their livelihood.
Madame de Stael said: "It is not these writings that I am proud of,
but the fact that I have facility in ten occupations, in any one of
which I could make a livelihood."
You say you have a fortune to leave them. O man and woman! have you
not learned that, like vultures, like hawks, like eagles, riches
have wings and fly away? Though you should be successful in leaving
a competency behind you, the trickery of executors may swamp it in
a night; or some elders or deacons of our churches may get up an
oil company, or some sort of religious enterprise sanctioned by the
church, and induce your orphans to put their money into a hole in
Venango County; and if, by the most skilful derricks, the sunken money
cannot be pumped up again, prove to them that it was eternally decreed
that that was the way they were to lose it, and that it went in the
most orthodox and heavenly style.
O the damnable schemes that professed Christians will engage in--until
God puts his fingers into the collar of the hypocrite's robe and rips
it clear down to the bottom!
You have no right, because you are well off, to conclude that your
children are going to be as well off. A man died, leaving a large
fortune. His son, a few months ago, fell dead in a Philadelphia
grog-shop. His old comrades came in and said, as they bent over his
corpse: "What is the matter with you, Boggsey?" The surgeon standing
over him said: "Hush up! he is dead!"--"Ah, he is dead!" they said.
"Come, boys, let us go and take a drink in memory of poor Boggsey!"
Have you nothing better than money to leave your children? If you
have not, but send your daughters into the world with empty brain and
unskilled hand, you are guilty of assassination, homicide, regicide,
infanticide--compared with which that of poor Hester Vaughan was
innocence. There are women toiling in our cities for three and four
dollars per week, who were the daughters of merchant princes. These
suffering ones now would be glad to have the crumbs that once fell
from their father's table. That worn-out, broken shoe that she wears
is the lineal descendant of the twelve-dollar gaiters in which
her mother walked; and that torn and faded calico had ancestry of
magnificent brocade, that swept Broadway clean without any expense to
the street commissioners. Though you live in an elegant residence, and
fare sumptuously every day, let your daughters feel it is a disgrace
to them not to know how to work. I denounce the idea, prevalent in
society, that though our young women may embroider slippers, and
crochet, and make mats for lamps to stand on, without disgrace, the
idea of doing anything for a livelihood is dishonorable. It is a shame
for a young woman, belonging to a large family, to be inefficient when
the father toils his life away for her support. It is a shame for a
daughter to be idle while her mother toils at the wash-tub. It is as
honorable to sweep house, make beds, or trim hats, as it is to twist a
As far as I can understand, the line of respectability lies between
that which is useful and that which is useless. If women do that which
is of no value, their work is honorable. If they do practical work, it
is dishonorable. That our young women may escape the censure of doing
dishonorable work, I shall particularize. You may knit a tidy for the
back of an armchair, but by no means make the money wherewith to buy
the chair. You may, with delicate brush, beautify a mantel-ornament,
but die rather than earn enough to buy a marble mantel. You may
learn artistic music until you can squall Italian, but never sing
"Ortonville" or "Old Hundred." Do nothing practical, if you would, in
the eyes of refined society, preserve your respectability.
I scout these finical notions. I tell you a woman, no more than a man,
has a right to occupy a place in this world unless she pays a rent for
In the course of a lifetime you consume whole harvests, and droves of
cattle, and every day you live breathe forty hogsheads of good pure
air. You must, by some kind of usefulness, _pay_ for all this. Our
race was the last thing created,--the birds and fishes on the fourth
day, the cattle and lizards on the fifth day, and man on the sixth
day. If geologists are right, the earth was a million of years in the
possession of the insects, beasts, and birds, before our race came
upon it. In one sense, we were innovators. The cattle, the lizards,
and the hawks had pre-emption right. The question is not what we are
to do with the lizards and summer insects, but what the lizards and
summer insects are to do with us.
If we want a place in this world we must _earn_ it. The partridge
makes its own nest before it occupies it. The lark, by its morning
song, earns its breakfast before it eats it; and the Bible gives an
intimation that the first duty of an idler is to starve, when it
says if he "will not work, neither shall he eat." Idleness ruins the
health; and very soon Nature says, "This man has refused to pay his
rent; out with him!"
Society is to be reconstructed on the subject of woman's toil. A vast
majority of those who would have woman industrious shut her up to a
few kinds of work. My judgment in this matter is, that a woman has a
right to do anything she can do well. There should be no department
of merchandise, mechanism, art, or science barred against her. If Miss
Hosmer has genius for sculpture, give her a chisel. If Rosa Bonheur
has a fondness for delineating animals, let her make "The Horse
Fair." If Miss Mitchell will study astronomy, let her mount the starry
ladder. If Lydia will be a merchant, let her sell purple. If Lucretia
Mott will preach the Gospel, let her thrill with her womanly eloquence
the Quaker meeting-house.
It is said, if woman is given such opportunities, she will occupy
places that might be taken by men. I say, if she have more skill and
adaptedness for any position than a man has, let her have it! She has
as much right to her bread, to her apparel, and to her home, as men
But it is said that her nature is so delicate that she is unfitted for
exhausting toil. I ask, in the name of all past history, what toil on
earth is more severe, exhausting, and tremendous than that toil of the
needle to which for ages she has been subjected? The battering-ram,
the sword, the carbine, the battle-axe have made no such havoc as the
needle. I would that these living sepulchres in which women have for
ages been buried might be opened, and that some resurrection trumpet
might bring up these living corpses to the fresh air and sunlight.
Go with me, and I will show you a woman who, by hardest toil, supports
her children, her drunken husband, her old father and mother, pays her
house-rent, always has wholesome food on her table, and, when she
can get some neighbor on the Sabbath to come in and take care of
her family, appears in church, with hat and cloak that are far from
indicating the toil to which she is subjected.
Such a woman as that has body and soul enough to fit her for _any_
position. She could stand beside the majority of your salesmen and
dispose of more goods. She could go into your wheelwright shops and
beat one-half of your workmen at making carriages. We talk about woman
as though we had resigned to her all the light work, and ourselves had
shouldered the heavier. But the day of judgment, which will reveal
the sufferings of the stake and inquisition, will marshal before the
throne of God and the hierarchs of heaven the martyrs of wash-tub and
Now, I say, if there be any preference in occupation, let woman have
it. God knows her trials are the severest. By her acuter sensitiveness
to misfortune, by her hour of anguish, I demand that no one hedge up
her pathway to a livelihood. O the meanness, the despicability of
men who begrudge a woman the right to work anywhere, in any honorable
I go still further, and say that women should have equal compensation
with men. By what principle of justice is it that women in many of our
cities get only two-thirds as much pay as men, and in many cases only
half? Here is the gigantic injustice--that for work equally well, if
not better done, woman receives far less compensation than man. Start
with the National Government: women clerks in Washington get nine
hundred dollars for doing that for which men receive eighteen hundred.
To thousands of young women of New York to-day there is only this
alternative: starvation or dishonor. Many of the largest mercantile
establishments of our cities are accessory to these abominations;
and from their large establishments there are scores of souls being
pitched off into death; _and their employers know it!_
Is there a God? Will there be a judgment? I tell you, if God rises up
to redress woman's wrongs, many of our large establishments will be
swallowed up quicker than a South-American earthquake ever took down
a city. God will catch these oppressors between the two mill-stones of
his wrath, and grind them to powder!
Why is it that a female principal in a school gets only eight hundred
and twenty-five dollars for doing work for which a male principal gets
sixteen hundred and fifty?
I hear from all this land the wail of woman-hood. Man has nothing to
answer to that wail but flatteries. He says she is an angel. She is
not. She knows she is not. She is a human being, who gets hungry
when she has no food, and cold when she has no fire. Give her no more
flatteries: give her _justice!_
There are thirty-five thousand sewing-girls in New York and Brooklyn.
Across the darkness of this night I hear their death-groan. It is not
such a cry as comes from those who are suddenly hurled out of life,
but a slow, grinding, horrible wasting away. Gather them before you
and look into their faces, pinched, ghastly, hunger-struck! Look at
their fingers, needle-picked and blood-tipped! See that premature
stoop in the shoulders! Hear that dry, hacking, merciless cough!
At a large meeting of these women, held in a hall in Philadelphia,
grand speeches were delivered, but a needle-woman took the stand,
threw aside her faded shawl, and, with her shrivelled arm, hurled a
very thunder-bolt of eloquence, speaking out of the horrors of her own
Stand at the corner of a street in New York at half-past five or six
o'clock in the morning, as the women go to their work. Many of them
had no breakfast except the crumbs that were left over from the night
before, or a crust they chew on their way through the street. Here
they come! the working girls of New York and Brooklyn! These engaged
in bead-work, these in flower-making, in millinery, enamelling, cigar
making, book-binding, labelling, feather-picking, print-coloring,
paper-box making, but, most overworked of all, and least compensated,
the sewing-women. Why do they not take the city-cars on their way
up? They cannot afford the five cents! If, concluding to deny herself
something else, she get into the car, give her a seat! You want to see
how Latimer and Ridley appeared in the fire: look at that woman and
behold a more horrible martyrdom, a hotter fire, a more agonizing
death! Ask that woman how much she gets for her work, and she will
tell you six cents for making coarse shirts, and finds her own thread!
Last Sabbath night, in the vestibule of my church, after service, a
woman fell in convulsions. The doctor said she needed medicine not so
much as something to eat. As she began to revive in her delirium,
she said, gaspingly: "Eight cents! Eight cents! Eight cents! I wish I
could get it done! I am so tired! I wish I could get some sleep, but I
must get it done! Eight cents! Eight cents!" We found afterwards that
she was making garments for eight cents apiece, and that she could
make but three of them in a day! Hear it! Three times eight are
twenty-four! Hear it, men and women who have comfortable homes!
Some of the worst villains of the city are the employers of these
women. They beat them down to the last penny, and try to cheat them
out of that. The woman must deposit a dollar or two before she
gets the garments to work on. When the work is done it is sharply
inspected, the most insignificant flaws picked out, and the wages
refused, and sometimes the dollar deposited not given back. The
Women's Protective Union reports a case where one of these poor souls,
finding a place where she could get more wages, resolved to change
employers, and went to get her pay for work done. The employer says:
"I hear you are going to leave me?"--"Yes," she said, "and I have come
to get what you owe me." He made no answer. She said: "Are you not
going to pay me?"--"Yes," he said, "I will pay you;" and _he kicked
her down the stairs_.
How are these evils to be eradicated? What have you to answer, you
who sell coats, and have shoes made, and contract for the Southern and
Western markets? What help is there, what panacea, what redemption?
Some say: "Give women the ballot." What effect such ballot might have
on other questions I am not here to discuss; but what would be the
effect of female suffrage upon woman's wages? I do not believe that
woman will ever get justice by woman's ballot.
Indeed, women oppress women as much as men do. Do not women, as much
as men, beat down to the lowest figure the woman who sews for them?
Are not women as sharp as men on washerwomen, and milliners, and
mantua-makers? If a woman asks a dollar for her work, does not her
female employer ask her if she will not take ninety cents? You say
"only ten cents difference;" but that is sometimes the difference
between heaven and hell. Women often have less commiseration for women
than men. If a woman steps aside from the path of virtue, man may
forgive,--woman never! Woman will never get justice done her from