Read To The Rev. Wilton Marsh of A Woman of the World, free online book, by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, on

Regarding His Son and Daughter

My dear Cousin Wilton:-You have no idea how your letter took me back to my merry girlhood, when you and I resided in the same neighbourhood, and I was the concern of your precociously serious mind.  Yes, indeed, I do realize what a mistake you made in living the repressed life you did all those early boyhood years.  What a pity your parents reared one of your sensitive and imaginative nature in the gloomy old doctrines of a depressing religion, which so misrepresented the God of love:  and how odd that your father and mine should have been born of the same parents, educated in the same schools, and yet be no more alike in beliefs or methods of life than two people of a different race and era.

And again it is not strange, when we realize that hundreds of generations lie back of both parents, and innumerable ancestors of both father and mother contribute their different mentalities to the children in a family.  Back of that is the great philosophy of reincarnation-the truth of which impresses me more and more each year I live.

Do you recall your horror the first time I told you I had read a book on reincarnation, and confessed that it had made me anxious to study the theory?

You said I was a pagan and a heathen, and that I would surely be damned forever unless I turned to the way of salvation.

And do you recall your misery when I seized you one evening at your birthday party (you were twenty), and dragged you about the room in a waltz?  That is, I waltzed, while you hobbled about like a lame calf, much to the amusement of most of the company.

There were more who sympathized with my views of life than with yours.  You were such a wet blanket on our youthful spirits.  Your ever-blazing lake of brimstone did not even serve to warm the blanket.

I have been gratified to watch your growth the last ten years.

You have so changed your point of view, which indicates your real worth and progressive good sense.  And when you tell me that you have for years regretted your lost opportunities for natural and moral pleasure, and that you suffered beyond your power to describe in those old days in conquering your desire to dance and play games, it brings the tears of mingled rage and pity to my eyes.  Rage at the old theology, and pity for the poor children whose lives were shadowed by it.

And now what you tell me of your son and daughter proves another of my theories true, and shows me how nature revenges its wrongs.

Children, my dear Wilton, especially the offspring of strong characters, inherit the suppressed tendencies of their parents.  They bring into action the unexhausted impulses and the ungratified desires of those parents.

The greatest singers are almost invariably the offspring of mothers or fathers who were music hungry, and who were given no complete gratification of this craving.

The poet, you will find, is the voice of an artistic-natured parent, who was forced to be emotionally dumb.

And the proverbial clergyman’s son is merely the natural result of the same cause.  He is charged with the tendencies and impulses which his father crucified.

That your son loathes study, and hates church-going, and adores a brass band and a circus, and runs away to the races, does not in the least surprise me.  Nor that your sixteen-year-old daughter grows hysterical at the sound of dance music, and prefers a theatrical show in your village hall to a Sunday-school picnic, and is mad to become an actress.

They are your own wronged and starved emotions personified, and crying out to you for justice.

The very best thing for you to do with the boy is to put him into a gymnasium and a football team as soon as possible.  Offer no opposition when he wants to see a good horse-race.  Urge him to go, and ask him to tell you all about it when he returns.  Begin right now to get close to the heart of your children.

Once you do that, once you convince them you are near enough to their lives to understand their needs and to try and gratify their natural longings, all your worries will take wing and fly away; for your children will cease to hide and cloak their actions and natures, and they will no longer wish to deceive or attempt to defy you.

Send your daughter where she can learn dancing, in company with other refined and well-bred young people.  You have so far emancipated yourself from your old superstitions and beliefs that this action on your part will not antagonize the desirable members of your congregation.

Only a remnant of the old bigots and intolerants are to be found in any congregation of intelligent people of to-day.

If that remnant is shaken out of its winding-sheet by being antagonized, you may galvanize it into life.

At all events, do not endanger the peace of your home and the happiness of your children, for fear of antagonizing a few parishioners of arrested spiritual development.

Give your son and daughter an outlet for the youthful vitality which is like steam:  a moving power when used, dangerous and destructive when pent up.

Take young Wilton and Rebecca into a room, and talk the whole matter over.

Tell them how deeply you love them, and how you have just come to realize the mistake you have made in trying to eradicate from them the natural desire for wholesome pleasure instead of giving it proper avenues of expression.

Say frankly that you see your error, and that you intend to rectify it.

Ask their cooeperation, and appeal to their good taste and affection not to mortify or humiliate you in your position of clergyman, by overstepping the bounds of decorum or discretion.

Lead them to talk of their ambitions and desires, and, as consistently as you can, gratify them.

Let your daughter come to me for a season.  I will help to reshape and modify her ideals of enjoyment to some degree.

I am sure if she sees a few of our best spectacular plays, and hears good music, and enjoys beautiful rhythmic dancing, she will not be so carried away with the travelling show.

I will acquaint her with some of the commonplace facts concerning the lives of theatrical people, and show her the frayed tinsel and worn faces by daylight.  This will do more for her than all your sermons on the dangers of a theatrical career.

The young heart is fascinated with the thought of danger and temptation.

It is repelled by the commonplace and the ugly.

When you talk to a young mind in a whisper and behind locked doors about a temptation to be avoided, you but give edge to appetite and curiosity.

When you bring the temptation out into the glare of sunlight, and speak of it in presence of the whole world, you dispel the illusion.

I will gather together some data concerning the sporting men of America, and send your son.  I will also mail him the sporting papers regularly.  Let him talk and read openly about the subject, and it will lose half its weird charm.

He, too, should learn to dance, swim, fence, and ride.  His bounding vitality needs directing in wholesome channels.  I have never understood the prejudice against dancing.

To me, it is a form of religious praise of the Creator of youth, health, vitality, and grace.  I have always loved dancing, and the exercise, besides being eminently beneficial to the health and wonderfully conducive to grace is, to my thinking, highly moral in its effect.  Its only danger lies in wrong associations, and these seem to threaten young people who are restricted from the enjoyment in their homes and among their rightful companions.

I cannot help thinking that Loie Fuller should have a niche in the hall of fame, among the “Immortals,” for having given the last century her exquisitely beautiful creations in dancing.

No woman has given us a great epic, or a great painting, or a great musical composition, but she has given us a great dance-poem, which is at the same time a painting and a song.  Oh, you poor starved, blind soul, to be deprived of such beautiful spectacles.  How I pity you, and how I pray you to give your children the privileges you have missed through a belittling idea of your Creator.

Do you fancy God would punish beautiful young Rebecca for dancing, any sooner than he would blight the willow-tree for waving its graceful arms to the tune the wind-harps play?

Come up out of the jungles of ignorance and bigotry, my dear cousin, and live on the hilltops and bring your children with you.  For there you will all find yourself nearer to God and to humanity.