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ARE THERE TWO SEXES?-"HIC MULIER: OR THE MAN WOMAN
IN times of political dis- of Oxford and Cambridge. turbance or decay it has They already enjoy all the been noticed that the natural privileges of education and barriers of sex have been examination. These privileges broken down. When all things are not enough for them. They are questioned and no fair an- insist that they shall be ad8 wers are forthcoming, the mitted to full membership of simplest facts of life are dis- the University, that they shall puted. If, being a stiff-necked vote in the senate, and shall Tory, you are reckless enough masquerade in male attire. to express such a simple truth The fact that Oxford and Camas that there are two sexes, bridge were endowed to be you are checked immediately. the resort of men alone does "How do you know that?" not weigh with them. They demands the controversialist. do not object to lay hands In vain you appeal to history upon what is not theirs. Nor and tradition. What are his- have they any respect for an tory and tradition to the dis- ancient tradition. Their policy putant who, to use his own follows their whim, and they phrase, is prepared to "deny care not if they provoke, for the facts"? 66 'Women are no purpose and without excuse, men," says he, "and if they a war of the sexes. aren't, they ought to be, and there's an end on't.”
It is not quite the end of it, and yet, in England at any rate, the identity of the sexes has been assumed for the last ten years. All the duties of men have been thrust unthinkingly upon women, and as yet no reprisals have been made. Hercules has not yet asked for the distaff. And nowhere have the women demanded what they call their "rights" more loudly than in the Universities
We do not wish to argue here an old case which has been argued many times before. It is enough to hope that, in the coming controversy, the men will have the spirit to defend what is their own, that they will turn a deaf ear to a certain lady, who, presiding
over a notorious seat of learning, once impudently asserted that men are disqualified by their sex from taking part in a discussion which they alone have a right to initiate. We
refer to the dispute because it is the last act in an old drama, on which the curtain has always been rung down in disaster.
The contest, indeed, began with the world, and its continuance is a proof of woman's restlessness, if not of woman's wisdom. When Athens was threatened with extinction after the Peloponnesian war there was a desperate attempt made, at least upon the stage, to break down the barriers of sex. In Aristophanes' comedy the ladies grow beards, don their husbands' garments, are booted after the Laconian fashion, and carry staves. It is true that Aristophanes treated the usurpers with a proper contempt, and that their aberration was as transitory 88 unsuccessful, And still, in ridicule's despite, the Man - Woman has emerged at intervals through the centuries, until in her last (and present) incarnation she would, if she could, declare herself independent of her secular enemy, and demand in the
the universities, as in politics, not not equality but government.
From one example you may learn all, and we will choose an illustration from the reign of James I., when Woman was more resolute than ever to masquerade as Man. The enterprise and courage of those who had fought England's battle in the glorious reign of Elizabeth met with an inevitable reaction; and while the love-locks of Mankind inolined to effeminacy, Womankind, donning the doublet and
hose, sought its proper revenge in a barbarity which should disconcert its rivals. Who set the fashion it would be hard to say. Maybe it was the adventurous Mary Frith; at any rate, by 1620, the fashion was firmly established upon the rock of custom, and the pamphleteers of the time are pitiless in their denunciation. The best and the rarest of all the pamphlets is ingenuously called, "Hio Mulier: or the Man Woman." The nameless author, whose work may boast a reference in Burton's Anatomy, writes with energy and spirit, and his subject incites him to an eloquent vituperation. His title-page, composed after the scrupulous habit of the time, already forces the note. "Hic Mulier: or the Man Woman," thus it runs, "being a medicine to oure the Coltish Disease of the Staggers in the MasculineFeminines of our Times Exprest in a brief Declamation." There follows an epigraph, characteristic in its inaccuracy: Non omnes possumus omnes, and by way of a motto the words: "Mistris, will you be trim'd or truss'd?" The pamphlet falls not an inch below the promise of the title-page, and it is of especial interest just now, because it shows what form and shape the unrest of women assumed three centuries ago. It is an heroio mixture of redundancy and epigram, of scholarship and ignorance; the author attacks his thesis with the fearlessness born of a good cause, and with the picturesque sense that belonged to an age
needles, "bawdy - jigs for prayer-books, "giant-like behaviours" for quiet gestures, and "all mimic and apish incivility for womanly modesty." So the pamphleteer breaks his butterfly upon a wheel. So he thunders in anger, when he might more happily have smiled away what after all was little else than a freak of fashion.
when prose and oontroversy she would take swords for were not yet heavy with years. If you deplore his sourrility, you remember that it was the habit of his time to prefer a bludgeon to a rapier. At the outset he declares that since the days of Adam women were never so masculine, and though the Man-Woman has always been a figure of imagination, it is possible that the seventeenth century shares with our own age the credit of producing the sturdiest warriors against the convention of sex. But while to-day the women would make an onslaught upon the domain of intellect, in 1620 they were agog to imitate no more than the carriage and costume of their unconscious rivals. Then they would have changed "the modest attire of the comely hood, cowl, coif, handsome dress or kerchief to the cloudy, ruffianly, broadbrimmed hat, and wanton feather, the the modest modest upper parts of a concealing straight gown, to the loose, lascivious open embracement of French doublet." The elegant lady, in fact, harboured the ambition to become a swashbuckler, and you are confident that she would have rivalled the Roaring Girl herself, if she could, and drawn her sword upon the first offender. But the extravagance of her costume was not in her chronieler's eyes her deadliest offence. Incredible though it seem, she would, this Diana of an effeminate age, cut and clip her hair ("the glory of a fair large hair") to the despicable fashion of the Puritans. Worse still,
Whence did they come, these bold apes of masculinity, and what the manner of their upbringing? Did they ever know comeliness or modesty? “Fie, no," answers their detractor, 'they never walked in those paths." They are, in truth, but the rags of gentry, "torn from better pieces for their foul stains," and as their origin is obscure, so, he hopes, they will go henee unpitied and unremembered. Their deformity he finds barbarous, "in that it is exerbitant from Nature, and an antithesis to kind." And straightway he rates them for their "ruffianly and uncivil" actions, when he might more justly have jibed at their wanton disguise of beauty, at their reckless distortion of gracious shape and handsome feature. Surely the errors of a fashionable extravagance, which are committed with gaiety and freedom, and which bring discredit only upon the guilty ones, yield more easily to laughter than to declamation. But declamation was the habit of the time, and the author of "Hio Mulier " lashes himself to a fury over the gestures of the ladies, who were his night
mare. How shall you characterise their gestures, he asks indignantly, which are 88 "piebald and as motly varias their disguises? How, indeed, he answers for himself, save that, like themselves, they are barbarous; and if they be not barbarous, why then, he insists in a noble peroration, "make the rude Soythian, the untamed Moor, the naked Indian, or the wild Irish, lords and rulers of wellgoverned cities.”
Nor in the seventeenth century was this folly of mannishness merely mad; it was infectious also, and none might escape the contamination. Like love, it visited the cottage as well as the palace, and all women felt the poison in a varying degree. The greater the station of the victim, the more violent was the disease, since fine-feathered hats and velvet doublets were beyond the reach of the slender purse. But even the poorest made shift to disguise her sex, became apt to anger, was pursuant of revenge, and held a restless hand ever upon a sword - hilt. "What are they all," asks the declaimer in an ingenious passage, “what are they all more than as silver bells on a jackanape's coat that show fair and chime sweet, but save not poor Jack from one lash of the whip when his knavery requires it? No more shall their greatness or wealth save them from one particle of disgrace which these monstrous disguises have cast upon them."
And he who attacked "the
coltish disease of the staggers with so bitter a pen was still a devout worshipper of women, and he supported his adoration with a more than doubtfal theology. Man, he says, was formed at his first ereation of slime and earth, woman of a purer and more refined metal, and he would have women sensible of their loftier destiny. "You in whom are all the harmonies of life, the perfection of symmetry," thus he apostrophises such as are loyal to their nature, "the true and curious consent of the most fairest colours and the wealthy gardens which fill the the world with living plants! Do but you receive virtuous inmates (as what palaces are more rich to receive heavenly messengers ?) and you shall draw men's souls unto you with that severe, devout, and holy adoration, that you shall never want praise, never love, never reverence. Besides, this whimsical casuist is firmly convinced that cOStume was designed and preordained by God, that coats were made for our first parents after a divine pattern-one for the man and one for the woman. The man's coat, says he, was fit for his labour, the woman's fit for her modesty; and he deems it a hideous blasphemy to lose the model contrived by "the great workmaster of Heaven." The argument, maybe, is unsound, but it is admirably intentioned; and it is devised, moreover, with an appreciative sympathy that may seem lacking in the more spirited passages of the
declamation. Thus the author deplores with sincere indignation the follies and disguises of his time, wherein no distinction was made between the city and the court, wherein the merchant's wife dressed herself up in gewgaws which were an extravagance in the wanton of Whitehall, It is not the splendour that affrights him, but the inappropriateness which prompts "such unnatural conceptions, that the whole world is not able to make a Democritus big enough to laugh at their foolish ambitions," And he concludes with an exhortation which not only resumes his displeasure, but advantageously displays the native energy of his style. "The Lacedæmonians,' so he writes, "seeing that their children were better taught by examples than precept, had hanging in their houses in fair painted tables all the virtues and vices that were in those days reigning, with their rewards and punishments. Oh, have you but in your houses the fashions of all attires constantly and without change held and still followed through all the parts of Christendom? Let them but see the modest Dutch, the stately Italian, the rich Spaniard, and the courtly French, with the rest, according to their climates, and they will blush that in a full fourth part of the world there cannot be found one piece of a charaeter, to compare or liken with the absurdity of their masculine invention. Nay, they shall see that their naked countryman, which had liberty with his
shears to out from every nation of the world one piece or patch te make up his garments, yet amongst them all could not find this miscellany or mixture of deformities, which only by those (which whilst they retained one spark of womanhood, were both loved and admired) is loosely, indiscreetly, wantonly, and unchastely invented." Such the womanquestion of the seventeenth century, and such the method of its discussion. The author is not content to laugh folly out of countenance. He frowns when he should smile; he ohides when ridicule would have been an apter weapon. He has weakened the force of his argument by a wanton exaggeration, and wins a grudging sympathy for his enemies by a style which, for all its force, is unsaved by humour. But his pamphlet is a veritable curiosity, and at least he reminds you that though controversy may change it never dies.
The odious fashion passed away. Would that the controversy which now disturbs what was once the cloistered serenity of our old Universities had as fair a chance of an honourable solution! But, alas, not only are our opponents stubborn with ignorance, but their masculinity is far less amiable than the mannish extravagance which roused the ire of the ancient pamphleteer. After all, the sins of the ladies who in the seventeenth century were plumed hats and carried swords, are not without a humorous attraction. They yielded