Friday, 1 August 2008

Friday Feminist - Charlotte Bronte

Cross post

'Joe, do you seriously think all the wisdom in the world is lodged in male skulls?'

'I think that women are a kittle and a froward generation; and I've a great respect for the doctrines delivered in the second chapter of St. Paul's first Epistle to Timothy.'

'What doctrines, Joe?'

''Let the woman learn in silence, with all subjection. I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man; but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve.''

'What has that to do with the business?' interjected Shirley: 'that smacks of rights of primogeniture. I'll bring it up to Mr. Yorke the first time he inveighs against those rights.'

''And,'' continued Joe Scott, ''Adam was not deceived; but the woman, being deceived, was in the transgression.''

'More shame to Adam to sin with his eyes open!' cried Miss Keeldar. 'To confess the honest truth, Joe, I never was easy in my mind concerning that chapter: it puzzles me.'

'It is very plain, Miss: he that runs may read.'

'He may read it in his own fashion,' remarked Caroline, now joining in the dialogue for the first time. 'You allow the right of private judgment, I suppose, Joe?'

'My certy, that I do! I allow and claim it for every line of the holy Book.'

'Women may exercise it as well as men?'

'Nay: women is to take their husbands' opinion, both in politics and religion: it's wholesomest for them.'

'Oh! oh!' exclaimed both Shirley and Caroline.

'To be sure; no doubt on't,' persisted the stubborn overlooker.

'Consider yourself groaned down, and cried shame over, for such a stupid observation' said Miss Keeldar. 'You might as well say men are to take the opinions of their priests without examination. Of what value would a religion so adopted be? It would be mere blind, besotted superstition.'

'And what is your reading, Miss Helstone, o' these words o' St. Paul's?'

'Hem! I - I account for them in this way: he wrote that chapter for a particular congregation of Christians, under peculiar circumstances; and besides, I dare say, if I could read the original Greek, I should find that many of the words have been wrongly translated, perhaps misapprehended altogether. It would be possible, I doubt not, with a little ingenuity, to give the passage quite a contrary turn: to make it say, 'Let the woman speak out whenever she sees fit to make an objection;' - 'it is permitted to a woman to teach and to exercise authority as much as may be. Man, meantime, cannot do better than hold his peace,' and so on.'

Charlotte Bronte, Shirley, 1849

1 comment:

Anna McM said...

This is really subversive for its time - both re gender stuff and Christianity. The Brontes are choice.