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Saturday, 20 June 2015

Starlight in Their Eyes

Reading, by co-incidence, Thomas Hardy's Two on a Tower, I am amused to read the following in the letter of his great-uncle to young Swithin St Cleve, wannabe astronomer:
‘A woman of honourable feeling, nephew, would be careful to do nothing to hinder you in your career, as this putting of herself in your way most certainly will.  Yet I hear that she professes a great anxiety on this same future of yours as a physicist.  The best way in which she can show the reality of her anxiety is by leaving you to yourself.  Perhaps she persuades herself that she is doing you no harm.  Well, let her have the benefit of the possible belief; but depend upon it that in truth she gives the lie to her conscience by maintaining such a transparent fallacy.  Women’s brains are not formed for assisting at any profound science: they lack the power to see things except in the concrete.  She’ll blab your most secret plans and theories to every one of her acquaintance—’
‘She’s got none!’ said Swithin, beginning to get warm.
‘—and make them appear ridiculous by announcing them before they are matured.  If you attempt to study with a woman, you’ll be ruled by her to entertain fancies instead of theories, air-castles instead of intentions, qualms instead of opinions, sickly prepossessions instead of reasoned conclusions.  Your wide heaven of study, young man, will soon reduce itself to the miserable narrow expanse of her face, and your myriad of stars to her two trumpery eyes. 
‘A woman waking a young man’s passions just at a moment when he is endeavouring to shine intellectually, is doing little less than committing a crime.
‘Like a certain philosopher I would, upon my soul, have all young men from eighteen to twenty-five kept under barrels; seeing how often, in the lack of some such sequestering process, the woman sits down before each as his destiny, and too frequently enervates his purpose, till he abandons the most promising course ever conceived!
‘But no more.  I now leave your fate in your own hands.  Your well-wishing relative, 
‘Jocelyn St. Cleeve,
Doctor in Medicine.’
And I reflected. Thank goodness nobody thinks like that anymore.

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