The Imaginative Woman
Modern Woman: Her Intentions
The Imaginative Woman
Now women can look at love from a great many points of view. If it were not so, Byron would hardly have been justified when he said:
“Love is from men’s lives a thing apart,
’Tis woman’s whole existence.”
Women can look upon love as a physical act which enables them to become mothers. They can look upon it as a sanctification or a means of enjoyment. They can look upon it as a subject of scientific curiosity, in which mood they logically compare facts and come to sage conclusions. They can consider their own temperaments and peculiarities, and take into account their personal bias and characters, philosophically. Or they can use their imaginations to alter all the conditions which life has imposed upon them, to transcend all the limitations of incarnation, and, having passed beyond philosophy, science, emotion, and experience, bathe in the love between the fixed stars and comets rushing from the spaces beyond. They can take dim legends and embroider them with rich details. In a word, the imaginative woman from her childhood has known dreams of such rare beauty that nothing life shows her is good enough. She passes from disappointment to disappointment. She never finds in one place or one person the wonder that description had made her see in her mind’s eye.
Thousands of less imaginative women long for the impossible. They are fed on romantic stories and live in the more or less commonplace imagination of the novelists or playwrights they patronize. Thousands of tired men have this same love of vicarious sensation—anything that lifts them out of the drab of their surroundings into a merry or sentimental atmosphere is a relief.
Life seems hopeless to the middle-aged. Most of them once thought they could put it right in a week if they had a free hand. They try, they fail, they marry and spend the evening of their lives trying to destroy the illusions of their children as quickly as possible, so that they also may “settle down” to hard facts. To excuse himself a thinker will say, “I know the dangers of cultivating the imagination; I know that unless it is nipped in the bud this wild flower of the mind will twine its tendrils round me, cover me with its shadows, intoxicate me with its fragrance, and destroy reason and physical health.” In answer, I admit there are dangers, but on the other hand if the possibly evil weed is cultivated by wise gardeners, it may show itself at last as the most splendid flower of the soul. The cultivator of flowers that sterilizes the bud and diverts the life-force into creations of elaborate beauty has found the physical side of the religious mystery called the Coronation of the Virgin. The imaginative power that has reached this point transmutes human nature, whether philosophic, scientific, sensual, or physical, and it is then that the soul may be said to have attained the regenerate state which makes for the unnatural beauty we call perfection of culture.
The imaginative woman may reach the degree of joyous saintly beauty, or she may stop short at the next stage in which she is enough of a philosopher to recognize the great variety of temperaments to be met with among her fellow-creatures, and to greet them all alike with sympathy and interest. She may not reach the philosophic or really sympathetic stage, she may remain in a third stage, where her mind can coldly classify her fellow-creatures with critical discretion, and laugh at them all cynically. Or she may not be able to perceive clearly, but may be carried away perpetually by her own feelings and sensations, in the fourth degree of unawakened ignorance. Lastly, she may abandon the four regions of beautiful image making, sympathy, perception, and sensation, and deliberately devote herself with common-sense prudence to the patient task of getting her daily bread and reproducing her species until she dies of it. On the other hand, she may go mad, she may become silly, she may drown her disgust with life in alcohol or drugs, or she may irritate her feeble dream-power with novelettes. These states of degenerate imaginations are the worst curses of the woman’s sphere as it is at present understood. Good hard work, rewarded by a decent income, varied by motherhood and love, is the best cure for these vapourings.
The men who have a good deal of womanhood in their natures suffer and enjoy through their imaginations in the same way, and it is interesting to observe that a really virile man has no trace of imaginative power in his composition. He cares for nothing but tangible reality. When men of imagination talk to him he has not the smallest conception of what they mean. I think it was Goethe who said that he felt the universe in his arms when he embraced a woman. What I am obliged to call a virile man feels nothing of the kind, he is merely amusing himself like Don Juan, or any cat or dog. However, Don Juan is a rarity.
It is very difficult to classify temperaments without alluding to Weiningen’s Sex and Character. That book has been followed by other classics on the subject by Forel and Bloch, but I only want to remind my readers that in Weiningen’s book they will find, set out at length, the ingenious theory that virile men and feminine women are the rarest creatures on earth, and that the great majority of us are made up of various proportions of the two sexes. He further suggests that happy unions are those in which the proportions of sex in the two lovers together make up one virile man and one feminine woman. For instance, a man who was one-eighth feminine should marry a woman who was one-eighth masculine.
I am told that Mr. Austen Chamberlain repeatedly made the very careless statement that “men are men, and women are women,” in a speech delivered in 1909. He evidently has not acquainted himself with the elementary science of sex. Is it not time that the books alluded to above should be made generally accessible? Then our younger statesmen, at least, might come to the platform with some less absurd refrain than that obsolete inaccuracy. Let me assure Mr. Chamberlain that German science and research have proved that the contrary statement would be rather more exact.