[Boston—Saturday, 13 March 1869]
Saturday March 13. Mr. Emerson read in the afternoon. The subject was Wordsworth in chief, but the time was far too short to do justice to the notes he had made.
In the evening we went to Cambridge to hear Mr. James read his paper on “Woman.” We took tea first with the family and afterward listened to the lecture. He took the highest, the most natural and the most religious point of view from which I have heard the subject discussed. He dealt metaphysically with it, after his own fashion showing the subtle inherent counterparts of man to woman, showing to what extremes either would be led without the other. He spoke with unmingled disgust of the idea of woman, except for union in behalf of some charity for the time, forsaking the sanctity and privacy of her home to battle and unsex herself in the hot and dusty arena of the world.
(The members of the Woman’s Club asked him to write this lecture for them. He did not wish to spare the time, but promised to do so if they would invite him afterward to deliver it in Public. They disliked the lecture so much that although they did send him a public invitation, there were but 20 people present.) Nothing could be holier or more inspiring than his ideal of womanhood. She is the embodied social idea, the genius of home, the light of life—“ever desiring novelty her life without man would be a long chase from one field to another accompanied by soft gospel truth.”
He did not fail to whip the “pusillanimous” clergy & as the room was well stocked with them it was odd to watch the effect. Mr. James is perfectly brave, almost inapprehensive of the storm of opinion he raises, and he is quite right. Nothing could be more clearly his own, and inherent, than his views in this lecture. Nothing which the times need more. He helps to lay that dreadful phantom of yourself which appears now and then conjured up by the W. Rights people, haranguing the crowd and endeavoring to be something for which you were clearly never intended by heaven.
I think I shall never forget a pretty little niece of Mrs Dale Owen who was with her at the first Sorosis Club meeting in New York. Her face was full of softness & Madonna like beauty but she was learning to contract her brow over ideas and become “strong”! in her manner of expressing them. It was a kind of night-mare.