By ALFRED GROSCH
I WONDER what reply a modern
girl would make if she were asked to name the virtue or the quality she most admired in her boy friends. Would she be extremely modern and name some entirely material quality. or would she agree with her grandmother and great aunts who were girls halfa-century ago?
I have been looking through a "Querist's Album," A Book for Confessions and Autographs kept by my sister who was just about 17 in the year 1900. and to me the little book proved strangely revealing.
First let me say that all those who answered the questions were known to me and with but one or two exceptions are alive to-day, Whether they would themselves now agree with what they wrote in their teens may be open to question though. let me add. no one could he ashamed of the views then expressed. for they were sound and full of sense.
One or two of the ultra moderns may feel inclined to smile, but on the whole 1 think most others would find themselves in sympathy with the girls of 50 years ago.
Among the many who wrote down their likes and dislikes were 17 girls who answered all or nearly all, the 36 questions beginning with "What virtue do you most esteem in your men friends." and "Define your ideal man?" Very nearly half of these gave courage as the virtue they most esteemed and they admired the manly. the unselfish, and—one on:y—the generous man.
On the other hand their ideal woman was gentle. sincere, truthful. charitable, and in almost every case "lovable" was added to one or the other of these.
Age of Romance IT was of course, still the age of romance.
Women wanted to love and be loved; some even gave this as their idea of the greatest earthly happiness. They were still under the iofiuence of Charlotte Bronte's hero. Rochester.
The protection of a husband. the shelter of his home. and the bringing forth of his children were the goals towards which they a'l strove and, of course. the books they read. the plays they saw and the music and songs they heard all fed this passionate longing.
If. therefore, we add the utiselfish, the manly and the generous to the courageous, the ideal man of most girls of 1900 becomes the brave. strong, and protective husband to whom they were prepared to give themselves in all truth, sincerity, gentleness, and love.
After this, however, it came as something of a surprise to find that J2 of the 17 girls considered 30 to 40 the best age for a man to mat ry, and 11 thought 25 to 30 the right age for a woman to do so.
These ages 50 years ago were, of course, governed by the then prevalent notion that a man at 40 had reached a stage of life when he knew without doubt what kind of wife he needed and. further, it usually took a man that number of years to accumulate sufficient money to furnish a home properly.
There were no such things as easy terms—at least, very few went in for them and cash down was more or less the rule.
Drink evil IT seems hardly necessary to add that most marriages made in those days lasted.
A man's working life was much longer, pensions were the exception, not the rule, and in consequence. grey beards and whiteheads held practically all the responsible posts in the great business houses,
Whenever I go into a hank today and find myself faced with a
row of young cashiers, my mind jumps back 50 years and 1 sec those cash desks as I saw them then. tilled with old, greyheadcd men shovelling and weighing piles of gold coins—sovereigns and halfsovereigns—and I must say that to my boyish gaze those old men looked wonderfully capable and vigorous.
Why, one may ask. did more than half the girls give drunkenness as the vice they most detested?
am afraid this reply is a bitter
,if unconsciously given—commentary on the times, for drunkenness among all classes was a great national evil. Much of the dreadful poverty existing then was brought about by drink and. possibly, in one ol two cases it may have conic near to these girls, I doubt whether, to-day, girls ever see a drunken person. I cannot myself remember the last time 1. saw such a sight. The truth is that the drink evil as known in 1900 no longer exists. I don't say people don't get drunk but that drunkenness is nothine like as prevalent. nor has drink the hold on the community to-da that it had in 1900.
Amusements THE favourite amusement was
given as reading, mostly allied to sonic other pursuit, such as writing. music. drama. a country walk, or a ride on top of a bus—the old London horse-bus. Only one gave dancing.
Among the books they loved. read and re-read were: "Night and Morning.". "A Talc of Two Cities." "Sentimental Journey." Peveril of The Peak." "The Mill on The Floss." "Our Mutual Friend." "Dombey and Son." "The Little Minister." "David Copperfield," "John Halifax." "Adam Bede," ''Westward Ho," "In the Golden Days." "Jane Eyre," "Bleak House," "Nicholas Nickleby" and "The Old Curiosity Shop."
It seems hardly necessary. therefore, to add that their favourite authors included Dickens. Scott, George Eliot. Charlotte BronW, George Meredith and Edna Lyall.
Strangely enough. none mentioned either of the other two Bronte sisters. now equally famous with Charlotte. To the best of my recollection Anne and Emily were not read to anything like the extent that Charlotte was. They were then going through a period of neglect as Charlotte herself was to endure later until the coming of radio brought them all a new lease of I ife.
It is also strange that out of the 17 girls. only two mentioned contemporary authors, George Meredith and Edna Lyall. The rest were content with what we now know as "classics."
Their heroes PERHAPS it was in their musical
loves that the girls of 1900 most nearly approached the girls of 1950. for Mozart, Chopin. Mendelssohn. Gounod, Schubert. Beethoven, Wagner Tchaikowsky, Puccini. Sullivan, and Piccolomini were among their likes and I don't think any modern girl would quarrel with that list.
Two, at least. of the answers to the question "Who is your favourite historical hero." put a date on the entries: One answer was "General Buller," completely unknown to any but the Boer War generation. The other was "Lord Kitchener." who did reach the first World War era.
Among other heroes mentioned more than once were George Washington. Napoleon. Sir (not then canonised) Thomas More, Henry V. (victor of Agincourt and founder of Syon Abbey). Sir William Wallace, Fr. Damien, Sir Philip Sidney, Wellington and Nelson.
Their favourite historical heroines were Joan of Arc (several mentions), though she was not then canonised—Charlotte Corday (two