Tuesday, November 18, 2008

from The Life of Charlotte Bronte (1857)

Elizabeth Gaskell

When a man becomes an author, it is probably merely a change of employment to him. He takes a portion of that time which has hitherto been devoted to some other study or pursuit; he gives up something of the legal or medical profession . . . or relinquishes part of the trade or business by which he has been striving to gain a livelihood; and another merchant or lawyer, or doctor, steps into his vacant place, and probably does as well as he. But no other can take up the quiet, regular duties of of the daughter, the wife, or the mother . . . : a woman's principal work in life is hardly left to her own choice; nor can she drop the domestic charges devolving on her as an individual, for the exercise of the most splendid talents that were ever bestowed. And yet she must not shrink from the extra responsibility implied by the very fact of her possessing such talents. She must not hide her gift in a napkin.

This may or may not be true, but it's not necessarily making me feel calmer about the possibility of taking a full-time job.


JaneGS said...

What a wonderful passage you quoted from Gaskell's bio of CB. I recently read the bio and that passage stuck with me as well, being an author, a wife/mother, and I work outside the home as well.

Good luck to you as you juggle all the spheres.

Dawn Potter said...

Yes, it's a great passage, not least because it leaves me feeling so ambiguous about that age-old question: what is a woman, and what is she for? Though I imagine male writers might also take exception to it, for obvious reasons.