The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."

by Dorothea Beale
Volume 7, 1896, pgs. 90-96

"Let it be your objective to spend so as to give pleasure to others, not to be admired nor envied yourself."

[Dorothea Beale, 1831-1906, was an educational reformer and author. She began her career as a math teacher. Like Charlotte Mason, she was deeply religious and founded a teacher's college.]

A Paper read to the Junior Section of the Women's Work Conference by Dorothea Beale, Principle of the Cheltenham Ladies' College.

The subject on which I am to address you is wide, and the circumstances of my audience so little known to me, that I feel I have undertaken a task without due consideration. I was moved to say I would speak at this conference, by seeing how much misery comes from the fact that young people are expected to spend wisely when they have not been educated in the principles of economics--and I shall address myself, not so much to those who are earning their bread, not to those who have a superabundance of wealthy, but to those who have but a moderate income.

What is it.--What is money? Have you ever thought what a marvellous thing this is--a little bit of shining metal, or something that stands for it, which we can carry in a small compass, and which is able to procure for us some share of an infinite variety of earth's products--it is the fabled wishing cap which appears in the poetry of all times.

Desire for it not wrong.--And the desire for money is one of the distinguishing characteristics of humanity, for money stands in the same relation to the world of things, that names do to ideas--the name calls before us the idea of the thing--the money is the means of obtaining the material object; it is, if I may so express it, a material or objective abstraction, as a word is an immaterial or subjective abstraction--words are the exchange medium of the treasury of thought, as money is of the things which belong to the body. Both are desirable; not for their own sake, but for the realities they represent. If we value neither, we should lose one of the attributes of man--the thinker; we should, like the beasts, see only the immediate present, or express by cries only, the immediate want--we should not objectify such a generalisation (the power to provide what we need) and make that the object of our desire.

Some, especially religious people, have spoken of money as an evil thing. We are all familiar with Milton's teaching:--

    "That riches grow in hell; that soil may best
    Deserve the precious bane."

And Spenser represents mammon as the dispenser of wealth:--

         "God of the world and worldings I me call,
         Great mammon, greatest god below the skye,
    That of my plenty poure out unto all,
         And unto none my graces do envye;
    Riches, renowne and principality,
         Honour, estate, and all this worlde's good,
    For which men swinck and sweat incessantly,
         Fro me do flow into an ample flood,
    And in the hollow earth have their eternal brood."

Often has that passage been misquoted, which tells us that the love of money, not money itself, is the root of all evil. If we believe that the "earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof," that "every creature of God is good, and nothing to be rejected, if it be received with thanksgiving," then we may be sure that when God makes us stewards of wealth, He will give us grace sufficient, and so we shall receive it with gratitude, though with reverent fear, from His hand. Of course, it is otherwise if we obtain money by wrong or baseness; this is indeed to take the devil's wages; this is to worship mammon. The evil thing is not in money, but in our own hearts. Love money or food, and both become a cause of evil--love the good attainable by their means, and you make those things which are the supreme good of the unrighteous, a friendly power, a means of bringing about lasting good. But we must distinguish between poverty and poverty of spirit. Numbers of earnest men in all ages failing to do this have thought it wrong to possess, and have lived as beggars on other's bounty; so also misinterpretation of scripture led people until recent times to consider it a sin to receive interest for money.

Wrong if sought for its own sake.--The desire for food, the desire to possess is (in its rudimentary form) an animal instinct, it is lifted by the reason into the world of thought, so that, as Professor [Thomas Hill] Green shows, (Prolegemena to Ethics) even the act of eating is different in man and the mere animal; man may dwell in imagination on animal pleasures, making them an end in themselves, as the mere animal cannot, and sink as much below the mere animal as his reason has lifted him above. The unreasoning instinct of money getting, πλεουεξια, is more common that is generally supposed, and we are loth to credit ourselves with so degrading a passion, but how many there are who are ready to give up what is of far more worth, health or happiness, simply asking, "shall I get more money?"--if we cease to think, if we cease to pursue noble ends, we become monstrosities like the drunkard and the miser.

There is but one good in the world, as Kant has truly said in his Ethics:--

"Nothing can possibly be conceived in the world or even out of it, which can be called good without qualification, except a good will--these gifts of nature may become extremely bad and mischievous if the will which is to make use of them, and which constitutes character is not good. Thus, a good will appears to constitute the indispensable condition even of being worthy of happiness."

A curse if gained by sin.--To be rich, then, is never a good in itself. If we do or say anything false for the sake of riches, we are selling our birthright, we are poisoning the soul and degrading our life. One marvels that any woman should seek a marriage "à la mode"--words fail me when I would speak of its baseness.

We may, of course, none of us in a sentimental spirit undertake responsibilities we cannot fulfil, and so one must regard the want of means as a providential direction to wait. But to undertake the most solemn obligations in a mere mercenary spirit; to enter into the spirit of worldliness and selfishness upon a life which can be blessed only through the spirit of self-sacrifice; like the degraded priest of old, "to crouch for a piece of silver, or a morsel of bread"; for money's sake to enter upon the sacred office of wife and mother--is a desecration of the most sacred things, and daily we see examples of the misery it brings--the desolation of that home in which there burns on the hearth no fire of love.

    "In palaces are hearts that ask
    In discontent and pride
    Why life is such a dreary thing
    And all good things denied."

Not to be the first consideration.--Again, I think that to change one's position--to give up one post for another, merely for a larger income--is not right, and that, often, a life is marred because we do not wait like Abraham for God's call ere we change; because we choose our homes rather for things which the world values, than for its moral and spiritual surroundings--the faith of Abraham would keep many from destruction.

But suppose that by right means, by the industry or self-denial of ourselves, or those who have denied themselves to leave us rich, we have more than is necessary for our immediate wants here--have, that is, capital or income--what are the legitimate objects on which it may be spent?

Individual ownership.--Some have said, and still say, no one who is a Christian ought to have capital. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth;" provide nothing; sell what thou hast. The spirit of these precepts we ought to obey, but they were in this form, given only, I believe, to those whom the Lord was sending out on a campaign. "No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier." It was clearly not regarded as an universal command, and it seems to me that those whom God has made stewards, do wrong when they hand over their fortune to others to administer, for God has made them responsible for its administration.

Objects of Expenditure.-- I think the legitimate objects of expenditure cannot be better summed up than in the words of the book of Genesis. We may spend money on --

    Things good for food.
    Things pleasant to the eyes.
    Things to be desired to make one wise.

(1) All that is necessary to sustain the health and activity of the body.

(2) That which satisfies the sense of order and beauty, which shows we are not mere animals whose instinct is to live, but children of Him Who created a Kosmos, Who has made all things beautiful in their season.

(3) On acquiring that knowledge which sustains and makes possible something more than the life of the body and the life of sense, that which helps to interpret and harmonise our life.

Domestic Expenditure. Things good for food.--Do not despise the first duty to be a faithful and wise steward, "to give meat in due season;" an economist, in the Greek sense, means--a manager of the house. Many a valuable life has been sacrificed, and powers weakened, by the carelessness or false economy of a bad housekeeper in food, fires, or clothing. Consider, too, that a bad housekeeper leads her servants into temptation--temptation to dishonesty or waste. Women have devoted themselves to nursing the sick--there would be less people to nurse if every woman tried, as far as possible, to study the conditions of health. Make this, then, part of your duty. If you are young and have leisure, do not be impatient for work, take the opportunity of learning all you can--the healthy conditions of food, of houses, of clothing. There are now good technical schools where all things belonging to economy in its etymological sense can be learned. If you keep house, have proper housekeeping books, so that you may compare expenses; acquaint yourselves with the kinds of food that are necessary for children's health, and take care that it is made palatable by proper cooking; you ought to do many things yourselves.

Things pleasant to the eyes.--In considering this question of expenditure too, conscience--not the vague on dits [rumors] of the world (I cannot even call them opinions)--must rule the actions of reasonable beings. How much it is right for us to spend on what is beautiful and graceful, is a question to be decided by each. We shall not undervalue that which refines the feelings and expresses, in any form, noble emotions. Ruskin has taught us much on these lines, and enabled us to read better that book of beauty which God has written for us, which is also the book of wisdom and of love, and many have, by reverent labours, ennobled art, but the senseless imitation of others, is only folly. The multiplication of dresses, because we are ashamed to wear one often--the desire to be the leaders of absurd fashions, how contemptible it is. Happily, there are so many now who wear good, simple, and inexpensive stuffs, that one may dress at small expense. We may and should, in matters indifferent, conform to innocent customs of society, rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; but we may not, for fashion's sake, take money which we know ought to be spent otherwise. Sometimes there is a beauty not apparent to the world's eye in an old dress. I often think of that suit in which a friend appeared, that he might have wherewithal to give a piano to a missionary nephew.

Have we not special warning from the Master that no wealth ought to make us careless or wasteful. "Gather up the fragments." Could we not educate our servants by letting them see how much good can be done by economy. It is wonderful how small an income will suffice for the necessaries of life. I have heard of one who has written books full of wise thoughts, who lived in London on sixpence a day. I do not wish you to take him as an example.

I think ugliness in dress and surroundings is quite as often the result of wealth as of poverty. Is there beauty, i.e., harmony, in a room full of heterogeneous things, with no thought to group them together. Study beauty by all means in your house, but remember this is quite consistent with simplicity. Expenditure for the sake of ostentation is essentially vulgar. Happily, with a higher tone of thought among woman, there is greater simplicity in dress, and in some cases in entertainments, the overloaded tables of former times are no longer approved. Let it be your objective to spend so as to give pleasure to others, not to be admired nor envied yourself.

Shopping.--Then, do be on your guard against what forms much of the occupation of idle girls--shopping. Do not venture into the snare, unless you have strength to turn away from useless and seductive wares, and do not fritter away what is more precious than money, and which alone can never be recovered,--your time--in the curious research of bargain. Of course, you may choose favourable times for purchase, and lay up for the future; I am only urging you not to do what your calmer judgement will disapprove.

But, above all, let me press on you never to buy things that you have not the means of paying for; never say I must have this, I cannot do without it,--you must, if it is not yours. Do not use any euphemism as running into debt. It is the way in which the rich, or those who seem so, steal. Never be ashamed of old and unfashionable clothes, if you cannot get others honestly. It is sad, indeed, to see wasteful expenditure among those, who will afterwards be appealing for a bare subsistence. Dread and avoid the temptations of shops, if you are--and what woman is not--tempted by pretty things that you do not need.

Things to be desired to make one wise.--We often, amongst girls, see a lavish expenditure upon a dress, and a parsimony as regards those storehouses of beautiful thoughts, good books--books that you can read and re-read, and mark, and lend--which, as you are able, you should get for yourselves. The lending library is not enough: and do not say, "I have so many books, I shall not want them always, so I will not get them." You do not say this of a dress, but, when done with, you give it away; do so, also, with your books. Pictures, too, which represent great thoughts, or prints of great pictures, are a means of lifting up our souls and keeping great truths before us. But pictures which merely make us wonder at the power of execution, which lack all spiritual element, seem to me as pernicious as concerts at which one hears only music intended to show the mechanical skill of hand or voice.

Spending and giving.--I may, in conclusion, add a few words on giving, though I do not wish to insist much on the distinction. Spending, employing people, is often more true charity than giving. It is thus that God gives generally. He sets us work and gives us hire. There are those who rob the poor by underpaying, and then give, as they think, to God. The Charity Organisation Society has helped us to form juster opinions. "Give to him that asketh" will be explained by the text, "If he ask a fish, will the father give his son a serpent?" We are not to give what would injure the recipient. Gifts which win us a temporary popularity, but which encourage waste, and idleness, and selfishness, we must refuse.

It is a question whether we should set apart a certain proportion of our income to be given away. I think the proportion, in that case, must be determined by ourselves. One-tenth to the father of a family who had little over might be too much, whilst to another who had few expenses, one-half might be too little. Clearly, if we are stewards, we must act on principle, not on impulse. Woe to us if we lay up for ourselves that which God requires at our hands, if we are unjust in paying or giving. Surely those who have the spirit of Christ cannot pride themselves upon giving; there is no privilege so great as that of being permitted to offer to God; no sorrow like that of Cain, whose sacrifice was not accepted. So, too, we must judge, as far as we are able, what we ought to spend, and what we ought to give, not once for all, but in the varying circumstances of life; and if we grow in grace, and therefore in love, the offerings we once thought enough will become contemptible in our sight--the mere offering of our possessions will seem as nothing; we shall know, in some far-off way, the meaning of St. Paul's words, "Ye are not your own, for ye were bought with a price; glorify God therefore in your body and in spirit." We shall learn better, year by year, thus to "enter into the joy of our Lord."

Family claims.--Family claims are, of course, the first. Most of us have received, not only in money but in education, what we have, from our family, and the duties of children to their parents are not recognised as they ought to be. But it often happens that a woman is tempted to give, when she knows she ought not, merely on the ground of relationship. It is hard to say "No" to those with whom one is brought in contact. I think, e.g., that a brother ought not to ask, and a sister seldom to give, that which is necessary for her maintenance in the present or the future. A mother ought not to deprive her children of what is theirs to escape the importunity of a husband. Neither ought we to fail through thoughtlessness to put by when we are able. We ought to consider it a duty to provide for the future, if we are able to do so. It is not generous to compel others to provide for us in sickness and old age, if we can do so ourselves. I think a small pension gives one a sense of freedom in spending which can scarcely be attained otherwise.

On the other hand, many a woman mistakes her duty, if she saves for her relations, instead of spending for them at the time of life when they need it most.

There are, too, kindred obligations to the neighbour wounded at the door--to the town in which we live, to the work God has given us to finish. Distant lands and great societies, and the slums of the metropolis appeal to the imagination. We like, too, the sympathy of numbers, and so the quiet, even solitary ministry which is ours, is neglected, we join the crowd and pour our money into the great streams, leaving our own garden dry.

Spend as Stewards.--Again, if we remember we are stewards, we shall consider what we ought to do, as St. Paul teaches, calmly, not acting on impulse. We must not yield to strong appeals that our judgment condemns; and we must remember that giving to one means taking from another--meanness and extravagance go hand in hand, when there is not a due sense of proportion.

Begging for Subscriptions.--One great fault of the present day, and one to which young women are specially prone seems to me the practice of begging for subscriptions. Do we all of us consider, when asking for something for ourselves or others, that we are diverting the vote or money for one perhaps who needs it more? We or a friend may be lying upon some battlefield longing for a draught of cold water, but there is one whose need is greater than ours, do we put from us the tempting cup, or do we grasp at all that we can get for self and friends. "I require this, I need that," we often hear from those to whom God has not given these things. If each of us is a steward, none of us ought to try to influence others to do anything but what conscience approves--or say, "subscribe to this, I am interested in it." It is, of course, right for some both to urge the duty of giving and to point out special ways, but let us be sure we can judge others rightly, ere we dare to say to another whose circumstances we cannot know, "you ought to give this or that." Each must decide for herself regarding duty. Hard it is often for the poor, who have to keep up appearances, to refuse to do what the world says they ought.

On the other hand, there are so many who find it difficult to spend rightly, that we may help them by bringing to their notice work that cannot be advertised.

Societies.--Again, I believe we ought, many of us, to be more honest in our gifts. We give too much by machinery, and machine cannot discriminate, and it is one thing to receive from a human being, and another from a machine. Still, many things have to be done by collective action. If you have promised a subscription, do not fail--a promise makes the subscription a debt, expenses are incurred on the faith of your promise. Oh, you say perhaps, I forgot; sick at heart are often those who are spending their lives in works of charity, when the needed and promised subscriptions fail; salaries of secretaries and collectors, and postage might be saved, if all would enter in a day book what they owe, and pay without being asked. Let me entreat you to do this, and if you have failed in this duty, do not be angry with those who remind you; do not expect their thanks--it is we who can do the work ourselves, who ought to be grateful to those who do. It is the little things that are forgotten, the small debts, the few shillings due to the workwoman, or the struggling shopkeeper, that come to so much when many forget, and often mean ruin--it is by our faithfulness in little, more than in great things, that our characters are tested.

Sales.--The practice of giving by sales of work, by concerts, etc., I cannot condemn. There are those who can give time and provide pleasures for which people would be glad to pay them. I cannot see that it is wrong to make use of these gifts, and then appropriate the money, yet I much dislike the methods usually employed. The waste of time and money is often so great, the mingling of frivolity and religion so sad, and the money spent in entertainments, and the useless trumpery of fancy sales, is often diverted from other better uses.

Teaching the use of Money.--I wish more pains were taken to educate children in spending rightly and conscientiously. It is of great importance that they should have some regular allowance, increasing gradually from the penny of the little one to sums bearing relation to the needs of the older child. I cannot help thinking it would be well if the growing girl had a larger fixed allowance than is usually given, and were called on to provide out of it many things usually supplied by the mother. I am sure it would often check extravagance, educate the judgment, awaken the sense of responsibility, and teach lessons which can be learned only by degrees, and in the school of experience. How often do girls pass from a home in which everything has been provided for them, into one in which they have to purchase all their experience, and it may be at ruinous cost.

Experience, too, is like the Sybil's books, it grows dearer as we delay; that which in childhood we could have purchased for a few pence, costs in mature life perhaps more than all our money and happiness.

I think children should early begin to keep classified account-books showing how much is wasted on selfish indulgences, as sweets, and how much is spent on books, gifts, on charity, etc. Such a book would certainly convict many of greediness and selfishness.

Not think it is easy to spend rightly.--Let me, in conclusion, remind you of the promise--"If any lack wisdom, let him ask of God." It is because we think we know enough, and that it is easy to spend, that we do not seek wisdom. If I have led you to feel more the responsibility of money, if I have led you to seek wisdom for the spending of those things over which God has made you stewards, I shall not have spent our time in vain.

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