HINDOO WIVES AND MOTHERS.
ATISS CARPENTER, one of the most efficient among English J1. philanthropists, is about, it is said, to visit Bombay, to see whether with her skill in organization she cannot quicken the movement towards the education of native women. The experi- ment is a bold one, for she knows no native language, and will soon find that the Palaces are too exceptional a race to be taken as guides, that to accomplish anything really great she must address herself to the main body of the people, who in every pro- vince and town of India are Hindoos. Theyare far less accessible than the Parsees, who in a few years will be as frankly European as Armenians or Eastern Jews, and far more difficult to comprehend. Indeed her main difficulty, if she sets out, will be to clear her mind of all preconceived notions as to the precise social position of Hindoo women, and as to the difficulties -which really impede the spread of intelligence among them. That position is in many respects unique, so absolutely without precedent or parallel, that the analogies by which alone the mass of Englishmen estimate it mislead them more completely than ignorance would do. Deceived by the few facts they know of Oriental life, facts mainly derived from the Bible and the Thousand and One Nights, i. e., from the histories and stories of the two best known branches of the Semitic race, they will have it that the Hindoo woman of the better class is the inmate of a harem, which, again, they regard as little better than a legalized brothel. She is not. It is true that the Hindoo creed, like every other Asiatic creed,—we do not say every Asiatic opinion,—considers the relation of the sexes to be mainly physical, and consequently admits of relaxations of law directly opposed to any European idea of morals. It is also true that the object of Hindooism, as of every other creed except that of the English Broad Church, is to secure the selfish end of individual salvation, and as the instrument it selects is worship to be paid by the son to, or rather for, his father's manes, every law is postponed to the necessity of obtaining heirs. If one woman will not bring the husband a son another may, but the rule of reputable Ilinclooistn is nevertheless monogamy, and the middle-class Hindoo goes back Irons his business, his office, or his social meeting, to live amidst his " fainily,"—he always steals that English word—precisely as an Englishman does. It is tree that in most such middlosclass houses there will be many women, for your decent libido° sup- ports all relatives who cannot support themselves ; true also that they are strictly secluded, for it would once have been dangerous for Mussulinans to see them; true also that what with seclusion, realism, and the influence of the root thought of Asia, "nothing which is natural can be improper," the ways of a Hindoo house would seem to an English materfamilias very "dangerous," even if she did not pronounce them "shocking," but still, as a matter of fact, at the head of every Hindoo house are husband and wife, bound by laws quite as strict as those of F. gland, and quite as seldom violated, if the husband is licentious—a phenomenons known even in England—it is out of his own house ; if the wife, she is killed, a check which, though not complete, has its effect on intrigue. This one wife, again, has at least as much household sway as in England. Her husband talks to her about every- thing, business included, consults her, trusts her vary often as he will trust nobody else, invariably leaves her his wealth if he has no children living, and gives her after his own fashion very considerable independence of action. Over her children the mother is by force of opinion as absolute as the father, and in the general affairs of the family her voice counts for more than anybody's except that of the father, the eldest son, and the favourite son, generally the youngest—a position, we take it, common enough in the houses of English squires. These being the facts, what on earth is the use of telling the average Hindoo, in a manner more or less objurgatory and disagreeable, that if his wife is educated she will be a fitter companion for himself and a better educator to his children ? He knows that quite as well as his lecturer, considering he passes some sixteen hours a day in the said woman's company, that he is habitually a bored man—whence his astounding bursts of energy, fury, or feeling—and that he cares more about his boys than any other earthly or heavenly thing. He thinks he knows it a little better, and either puts the argument aside with a suave indifference, which reminds one of the Oxford manner, and is infinitely aggravat- ing, or, obeying his dialectic instincts, which are stronger in a Hindoo than in any human being except an Irish peasant or an Eng- lish theologian, fights. What he wants to see is not a reason for teaching his wife, which he sees, but for teaching his daughter, which he does not sea, and till society is a little modified will not see. As to his wife, it is with the new generation a question of means only. The old school still adhere to their opposition, not because they prefer ignorant wives, but because they prefer the native system of culture, and think it as unsuited to women as we think our public-school scheme of mental training. The choice lies with them between Sanserit or nothing, and they object to -Sanscrit on the grounds which make most Englishmen object to their daughters becoming claesics. But the educated Hindoo under thirty-five will teach his wife himself if he can, will spend imurs a day in a task which must be to him very dreary, will sub- scribe endlessly to get her a few decent books in her own lan- gnage,—being strict in his own way, though it is not quite ours,— will sometimes break all manner of rule a to let English female teachers within the penetralia of his house. Male teachers are of course out of the question. Even if the Ilindoo had not ideas of his own upon the subject of "virtue," ideas which are the result mot only of his creed, but of his poetry, and his philosophy, and his experience, he has a capacity for jealousy in his blood, which is eaet the -result of his ethics, but is as much a race peculiarity as Ids patience, or his power of being energetic only by gasps and apasins. He won't do it if he is brayed in a mortar, and he will out you down if you talk too mu& about it, so it is advisable to put that aside. But he will admit female teachers. Any woman of tact who knows the people and their tongue always gets more wife-pupils than she can manage. The late Mrs. Mullens, of Cal- cutta, one of the few women of genius who ever adorned the mis. sionary body, was at last, we believe, admitted wherever she chose to teach, and there is no limit to the "field." Of course the iaanilies do not much like religious teaching. English families are
• fiaill to compel poor Frenchwomen who come over here to perjure themselves pretty extensively for a morsel of bread by saying, poor things ! that they are Protestants, because a Catholic version of Ztre and ainzer would be regarded in Islington as "dangerous," and a Hindoo is nearly as bigoted an animal as a British -bourgeois. But if nothing else is to be had they will put up even with religious teaching, and hundreds of Hiudoo wives are now being taught by ladies who would not conceal their distinctive opinions to save themselves from martyrdom. If that were all, we believe with a little address, a little liberality as to means, and a little more tolerance for laws of modesty which are not British, but are efficient for their end, the philanthropists would win that battle, one very well worth winning, and make the education of married women an etiquette necessary to Hindoo grade. Of course where the husband disbelieves in education altogether his wife will tuot be educated, bat neither would she be in England, and the Hindoos are getting beyond that stage so fast that if an English- man opens a barn anywhere, and says he will teach, the barn is instantly crammed to suffocation.
The difficulty is to teach the daughters, English philanthropy -demanding that they shall be taught, partly from a belief that -childhood is the time to learn—a delusion, as every student of thirty knows—partly from an absolute inability to realize the truth that there are countries where a mother with two or three children about her is a girl of fifteen. The respectable middle-class Hindoo does not like his daughter, betrothed or unmarried, to be *aught at all. Firstly, he does not see the use of it, not believing
greatly in the mental capabilities of little girls. Secondly, he thinks that the question to teach or not to teach is the husband's business, and not his—remember a spinster in India is an impossi- bility; and thirdly, he has an idea which we will, if we cane endeavour to make intelligible without being too plain-spoken. He thinks intelligence in girls very dangerous to their morals, so dangerous as to be ruinous. He is an obscurantist with regard to them, just as most English and French mothers are with regard to their daughters, and for the same reasons, though his obscurant- ism refers rather to the brain itself than to the subjects on which the brain is exercised. The mad jealousy which we have men- tioned as a race peculiarity may have something to do with this. An immovable conviction as to the truth of certain physio- logical laws which Europe either disbelieves or ignores may have more. But the main reason for the fear in him is this. The fear is just, and education is dangerous to Hindoo morals. The state of society cannot be altered in a moment to meet a new want, and as it exists every Hindoo girl lives in a moral forcing house, an atmosphere which is the absolute converse of that with which English and French men and women strive to surround their daughters. She hears everything she should not hear, and sees everything she shoald not see, and till Hindooism itself, the very creed of the people, ceases out of the land, there is and can be no remedy. Hindooism is perhaps the only cult, certainly the only one reverenced by great populations, which is inherently worse than the instincts of those who accept it. The French succeed in keeping their daughters in the necessary half-light by means of the conventual system of education. We succeed by means of a system of combined espionage and etiquette, which together create walls round every house- hold as strong, though less visible, than those of the con- vent. The Hindoo cannot try either scheme, and he falls back therefore on his own devices, an ignorance which represses pre- cocity and favours blind obedience, and a custom of excessively early marriage. Education interferes with all his devices, makes the little acute but shallow brain morbidly bright and precocious, gives its possessor a wish, however vague, to choose for herself,— and any system of choice must involve the possibility of spinster- hood which the Hindoo does not intend to admit—and produces a vague unsettlement and a discontent with the divine order of things which is to hitn synonymous with the spirit of evil doing. He re- sents it as an English mother would resent the training which sent her daughter home to her with a disposition to -wear Bloomers, to do her own proposals, and to talk atheism, aad from his point of view he is right. It is all quite true. If every Hindoo girl were educated from eight to fourteen, Libido° society must go to pieces, and Ilindoos are not prepared that their society should go to pieces, any more than we are. They see no substitute except English society, and they neither like that—thinking it to be based, as it is, on a brutal individualism Rich as even the civilized Celt abhors—nor see their way to attaining it. They may be quite wrong, we of course think they are, but at all events they are right thus far. Female education as understood by Englishmen involves for them social revolution. If Miss Carpenter can induce them to face that, well and good, though we have a suspicion that when all is done Asia and Europe will not be quite so identical as philanthropists imagine. But at all events let teachers acknowledge that, and not pour out so many platitudes about the value of education, and maternal training, and intelligent companionship, and so on, which no Hiudoo in his life ever doubted. Teaching the mothers, as it seems to us, would be easier, work than teaching the daugh- ters, and education filters down like water, but if the philan- thropists think that insufficient or too slow, their watchword should be conventual education—a system, that is, which will give the Ilindoo a guarantee against the evils he fears, and not against the evils he does not fear. The English system does not do that, and will never, so far as we have been able to probe that strange pit full of jewels, raga, and filth, of gleaming thoughts, and morbid fears, and horrid instincts—the Hindoo mind—be honestly accepted in liindostan. It is like most other Anglo-Saxoa peculiarities, essentially local, and consistent only with a: scheme of society in which individual freedom is considered a privilege worth any risks, any sufferings, and any loss of coherence in the social organiza- tion. The Hindoo does not want that societes but another, in which the individual is merged in the -family, in which the father is absolute over his childreu, yet is only tenant fer life-of his own property, and in which every one leads a protected life, buttressed round by a clan whose interests, and honour, sill fortunes are identical with hisvwn.