Liberty and Responsibility

LIBERTY AND RESPONSIBILITY

   "Without household motions light and free,
   And steps of virgin liberty,"

says Wordsworth of the girl who was to become that "perfect woman." Now, it sometimes happens that the mothers who take most pains to make their daughters deft and capable in "household motions," forget the "steps of virgin liberty." If the girl is to become a free woman with the courage of her opinions, she must grow up to the habit of liberty––not license, but liberty, for the use of which she is open to be called to account. Let her distribute her time as she likes, but count her tale of bricks; let her choose books for her own reading, but know what she chooses; let her choose her own companions, but put before her the principles on which to choose, and the home duties which should prevent their having too much of her time. Let her have the spending of money,––first, a small allowance out of which certain necessary expenses must come, as well as spendings for her pleasure, and a reserve for gifts and alms; and as soon as she can be trusted with it, an allowance large enough to dress herself out of,––that she may learn prudence by doing without necessaries when she wastes on fancies. One reason why she should have the spending of her own allowance is, that she may learn early the delight and the cost of giving, and may grow up in the habit of appropriating a fixed part of her little income to the help of the needy.

The care of her own health is another responsibility which should be made over to the young maiden. She cannot learn too soon that good health is not only a blessing, but a duty; that we may all take means to secure more or less vigorous health, and that we are criminal in so far as we fail to make use of these means. Any little book on the laws of health will put her in possession of the few simple principles of hygiene: the daily bath, attended with much friction of the skin; regular and sufficient exercise in the open air; the vigorous use of all the limbs; exercise of moderation in diet and in sleep; the free admission of fresh air to the bedroom; the due airing of the underclothing taken off at night; the necessity for active habits, for regular and hard, but not excessive brain-work; the resolute repression of ugly tempers and unbecoming thoughts––all of these are conditions of a sound mind in a sound body.

And for keeping ourselves in this delightful state of existence we are all more or less responsible. The girl who eats too much, or eats what does not suit her, and is laid up with a bilious attack; the girl who sits for hours poring over a novel, to the damage of her eyes, her brain, and her general nervous system, is guilty of a lesser fault of the nature of suicide. We are all apt, especially in youth, to overlook our accountability in the matter of health, and to think we may do what we like with our own; but, indeed, no offences are more inevitably and severely punished by the action of natural law than the neglect of the common principles of hygiene.

"Thine own friend and thy father's friend forsake not." The responsibility of keeping up courteous and kindly relations, by letter, call, or little attentions, with near and distant neighbours and friends is wholesome for the young people, and is a training in that general kindliness of spirit in which the ardour of their particular affections sometimes causes them to fail.