Shoreham Camp, Sussex, England
Sunday July 29 /17
Dear Mother and Marion,
I got a letter from Marion and a card from Mother to day announcing your arrival at Bass Lake and was glad to hear you were comfortable and enjoying yourselves. By the same mail arrived a letter from Jean Bull in a long, thin, pale green envelope very pleasant and gossipy; but it seems to me very unfortunate that she finds it necessary to adopt such excessively exotic phraseology. As you may know Lees is over here at Witby and Jean herself is going to teach school at Port Hope. Feel positive you did well on your exams. May seem strange to say I have been thinking a lot about you lately and wondering what you are going to do. I have a sneaking suspicion that, in spite of your being a relation of mine, you are rather a superior sort of girl – at least you must be developing into something of that sort. Your natural goal is marriage and motherhood and I think you may accept that as inevitable for you have sufficient endowment to make it possible to make it possible for you to get a good husband without making strenuous efforts to hook one. Still women are, apparently, in ever greater numbers, going out into the world and earning their own living so I suppose you had better learn a trade. I agree with Father and Mother on the whole that nursing is too hard for you; you have no appreciation of music; you would do on the stage, but that would cut out or at least delay matrimony which would be unfortunate; you haven’t enough masculine qualities to enter any of the aggressive professions; but you have a mild, probably ever growing interest in literature and you write most awfully well; so that seems to point to some sort of secretarial position or why not some of the byways of Journalism, Sunday School publications for example? Once you get started in something like that you would have plenty of opportunities to do stuff on the side. I suppose Father and Mother are not anxious for you to marry for awhile yet. Still early marriages are good, of they’re not imprudent and you have too much good sense and too much homour to do anything absurd. The problem of the ‘emancipated woman’ of the future is most absorbing and most perplexing. I have a theory that men have more of what might be called acquired virtues while women have more of the in [?] or inherent virtues. Now there is something in the old fashioned argument against women’s suffrage that womanhood is sordid by contact with the dirt and the scuffle of active life in the world and I don’t think that most girls have been properly brought up to go out into the world on their own. I wonder if you have. Still, the probability is that it won’t be necessary for you, to any great extent. You see I haven’t all settled that you are to get married. So while I am in a generalizing mood, you must perforce listen while I hold faith on that subject. I have been aching lately to talk to somebody about interesting and important subjects. Dorland and I can hardly start on any topic now without exasperating each other almost to the point of quarreling. You know the old idea that unlikes attract. I think it is all wrong, that in reality likes attract; the more two people of the opposite sex are interested in the same things and have somewhat the same temperament, the more they can help each other in life. I don’t deny that there should be counterbalancing qualities in each but in the main, they should have somewhat the same ambitions, ideals and the same outlook on life because how otherwise can the understand each other? Then a woman can really help a man in the work which brings in the money, by encouragement, criticism and in some cases even by active co-operation; so that even if she doesn’t actually help to rake in the shekels, she doesn’t need to feel any sense of economic dependence. Of course there’s the other type of woman who, while she may be unselfish almost to the point of masculine incomprehension, is so lacking in what I have called the acquired virtues that she can be little more than a playtoy a relaxation and a comfort for her husband, the kind who makes him ‘comfy’, cooks him good meals, holds his hand and strokes his hair and brings his slippers for him in the evening. You may think that it is sheer masculine egoism for me to refer to a woman as a ‘man’s playtoy’ (Cousin Isa would probably have a fit) but even in my extremely straitened acquaintance with girls, I have found so many who seem actually to like to play that role, that I have to accept a phenomenon which I don’t quite understand – owing to a complete ignorance of feminine psychology. For some men this may be the best type of wife; but you, as I have said, are a superior girl, and ought to enjoy a more ideal relationship. Mind you, I believe every woman should know something of household sciences and domestic economy which means cooking and sewing and housecleaning and the care of babies, but still when she has a mind a married woman ought to have at least one servant. Of course the servant problem is another thing to solve, but with some changes in the general status of a maid and still more in the attitude of the people towards her and her work, its solutions ought not to be impossible.
Now do pardon this excessively long winded sermon. I’ve got to stop soon and I have several things to tell about my own affairs which may interest you. Still another draft of about a hundred men has to be sent to the infantry, in order to bring down the reserve to the required strength. Someday, the beginning of last week, Dorland and I received the news that both of us were on the draft after sixteen months training for cyclists in England! It was a dirty piece of business all through and as far as I can find out was done for purely personal reasons but, though I feel fairly sure of where the responsibility lies, you can’t get any redress so the less said the better. We were rather glad to tell the truth that the prospect of getting away from this stagnation , and still better satisfied when yesterday we were all medically examined to go, not to the infantry, but to the machine gun corps, a much more interesting proposition. But, what do you think, Dorland was passed and I was turned down! Now I’ll tell you a secret about Dorland. He’s going to get an Imperical commission. Last January he put in his application and the old imbecile who rules us, didn’t send it away till just a few weeks ago. However, the other day Dorland was ordered to go up before the general in command of the cap. He thinks he got through the interview satisfactorily; so in all probability his papers have gone up to the War Office in London and in a month or so he will probably get word to proceed to a cadet school I don’t mind telling you that I am feeling a bit depressed at the prospect of parting from D. especially as there are no other friends of mine on the draft. However, I really don’t know whether I am going to the infantry now or not. I paraded sick this morning and got marked ‘iregular heart action and weak feet’ as it is hardly probably I shall be considered A I and I may be taken off the draft. It doesn’t matter a rap to me whether I go or stay. The whole way they do things in the army is so [?] ridiculous that I don’t dare think of it for fear of going raving mad. If it had been any sort of an equal fight the well ordered efficient German would have beaten u to a frazzle long ago and even yet they may do it. There’s no use mincing matters I made a confoundedly foolish mistake in enlisting, and if it were over again I’d stay out till conscription and then apply for exemption. Apart from selfish considerations the arrestation of my development
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