Read “Get up, M. Le Comte!” of Stray Thoughts for Girls, free online book, by Lucy H. M. Soulsby, on

You have all been considering what qualities are most necessary in family life and what qualities are most to be deprecated you have, in short, been considering Dr. Johnson’s question as to what makes “a clubbable person.” I find, on comparing your suggestions, that there are thirty-eight things to avoid in home life (which suggests complexity); however, each of you was to confine her attention to three virtues and three failings, so in giving you my own likes and dislikes, I will not dwell on more than three.

I will not take manifest faults like irritability or selfishness we all strive against those, but I would suggest turns of mind that are often not realized as faults:

I. The Benevolent Despot who takes infinite trouble for your help or pleasure, but insists on your enjoying yourself in her way. (The young very often do this to the old or to the invalid, quite forgetting that one’s own way loses none of its charm, even in age or illness!)

II. Then there is the Peter Grievous who cannot stand a word of reproof; she is aggrieved or huffy or sulky in a minute she thinks that she has a delicate sense of justice, and that she does well to be angry; she feels as if her mother took a curious and selfish enjoyment in finding fault with her, whereas the poor mother has to take her courage in both hands before saying anything calculated to bring on those black looks.

III. And then there is The Snail, always slow, generally late, and frequently a martyr she has to be spoken to so often that her case usually develops into the Peter Grievous disease as well. For if a mother speaks, let us say, six times in the daughter’s mind it ceases to be reproof, and becomes Nagging. It never occurs to the daughter that she sinned six times (or even shall we say eight or ten?); she feels that she is being nagged at, and may therefore cease to attend, and may enjoy a grievance into the bargain!

Now, I have slow friends who really suffer from a sense of their failing, and who realize acutely what they make others suffer; they were not trained at first to pull themselves together and to collect beforehand any materials they were likely to want (as you can train yourselves by settling in properly to do your preparation) and they did not teach themselves to start five minutes sooner instead of leaving things to the last moment. (They think that the consequent family thundercloud is their sad fate from their being of a slow constitution.) But if you have only one horse and your neighbour two, and you are to dine at the same house, it only means that you must order yours earlier. Do not start together and then bewail your sad fate; nothing condemns you to be late except your own bad management.

Especially be careful to be up early when you are going to early service with your mother; it fidgets her to wait she recalls all your many previous sins of the same kind and just when you both want to feel at one, you start off together (rather, I should say, you overtake her), both feeling very much at two. And yet you made an effort to go! and you feel she ought to be pleased with you do not spoil it by that fly in the ointment of being late.

It seems to me that the Benevolent Despot, the Peter Grievous, and the Martyred Snail, are people to avoid in choosing your family!

Now, the people to choose for your family party are, first, the Reliable Person. I know one person who is a perfect tower of strength, she is full of common sense: if you give her a commission she is sure to get the right thing and to do it reasonably; she knows exactly what she paid, and she tells you! If she undertakes to do a thing it is certain to be done in good time; she does not wait till the very day the thing is wanted and then find that it cannot be got.

Now, you often let yourselves do a stupid thing, or a forgetful thing, and then say, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” and feel as if you had wiped it out. Not at all! You have lost one chance of growing into a reliable woman. In all your life you will only have a certain limited number of chances, and should use every one you have to be reliable is worth all the genius in the world for comfort to others, and you can each win this crown if you care to do so.

One other person I would choose if I were fated to have sisters, would be the one who purrs when she is pleased. It takes all the colour and air out of life when people gaze impassively at beautiful things, or hear lovely things and never seem to have taken them in; or meet kindness and look as if it was not there. You do not need to gush, but do purr!

And thirdly I want a magnanimous nature; one that takes slights and neglects in a large-minded way, and does not believe people meant them and, if they did, does not fret: one who is serene when little things go wrong, and does not fuss or worry: one who accepts generously as well as gives generously, and who is keenly alive to people’s good points and good intentions. Little petty motives and small spites and jealousy die away in the light of a nature like that. It keeps the family atmosphere sweet and wholesome.

Now, my lessons are generally about the things that can be carried out at home, or else about the beliefs that underlie them. You know that my ambition for you is that you should go out into the world and lead the ordinary small social life, but that you should live it in a great way and bring great beliefs to bear on it.

This is a special lesson the last of all to some of you the last in this year to all of you.

How long have you been at school, each of you? How many times have we come together here, and thought over together, point after point, the things that really matter to us?

Week after week we are reminded by these talks to pull ourselves together, first in one way, then in another, and I do believe we have all tried.

Have the suggestions I made and the Resolutions we made, soaked into our lives and altered the stuff of which we are made? That is the Responsibility for me who speak and for you who hear: “To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

A Bible lesson written for you and dwelling on your special life and dangers is a more pointed reminder to you than a general sermon, and when you leave you will not get these reminders: one is hardly ever spoken to religiously after being grown up. It is no one’s business afterwards (as it is mine now) to speak to you.

Therefore I want you always to keep some religious book on hand that is likely to speak to you. For instance, Bishop Wilkinson’s books speak, so do Dean Paget’s and Law’s “Serious Call,” and “Christian Perfection.” Read a little of such a book every day, and a longer bit on Sunday. If you only say your prayers and go to church, it is apt to become an outside thing; you want stirring up!

When you go out into the world you may drift into the ways of each household you are with for the time being; whereas I want you to have your own definite religious life, an inner life of rules and duties: dress like other people, but keep a hair shirt underneath, as the Saints did.

And when I talk about this and that piece of advice (advice which is often worldly wisdom; for goodness and worldly wisdom are closely allied), always remember that I pre-suppose the life of prayer and rule about which I so often speak only there can you gain strength to follow such advice.

But now (pre-supposing the inner religious life the effort after the Practice of the Presence of God) what shall I pick out as practical advice for a closing lesson to those who are going into the world?

I. Always vote on the right side in conversation.

Very often the lower side, or the unreligious side in talk (or in doings, such as not going to Church) is the easier side to take. It seems obtrusive to show what you feel to be right; and very often the one who takes the religious side is narrow-minded and tiresome compared to the others. Goodness is very often tiresome, and non-religion broad-minded and amusing. (Gallio is often a most attractive person!) It takes courage then to side with the tiresome one, instead of saying something rather clever. In youth one has a great horror of belonging to the tiresome side. Cleverness counts for so much, and it is hard in early life to put goodness first! One does not realize the beauty of the strength and principle shown by the tiresome people, and it takes real principle to show one’s colours in ordinary talk.

I once heard of an earnest religious girl who was asked to a pleasant country house, and who thought she might lawfully take a holiday, as it were, and be like other people while away from home; so she laughed and talked with the rest and kept her real life to herself. On the last night, a girl she had taken a fancy to came into her room, and, after a little time, said, “It has been so nice meeting you, but I rather wish your sister had come too.” “But I have no sister.” “Why, I have heard so much of her, and of how good she is, and though you wouldn’t think it, I have been bothered about things lately, and when I heard your name, I thought it was she who was coming here, and I planned to have a talk with her: you’re awfully nice, but of course one wouldn’t talk about those things to you any more than to any of the rest of us.”

I leave you to fancy the resolutions that girl made, to show her colours for the future!

And then it does not seem to matter no harm is being said or done, Gallio is generally an excellent person, and really “So-and-so” was unnecessarily tiresome in raising the point; and then, again, one’s indolence bids one be quiet and vote neither way.

But every vote on the right side counts; it alters the balance of the general feeling, and probably helps some one looking on, some one who never let out that they needed or cared for any help. “Right!” has a big battle to fight, and you and I are soldiers, and must stand to our guns.

Have the courage to show that you like goodness. It makes a difference, for no one ever tells an unkind story to a large-hearted woman, or a nasty story to a nice-minded woman.

If they tell either to you, it means an intuitive perception that you enjoy it, you bring out that side of them; if there is no response in you, that side of them goes to sleep while they are with you. You create your world in your own image, and are responsible for what is said to you, as well as for what you say.

II. My second advice is: Show your mother that you love her. “In one’s whole life one can never have more than a single mother. You may think this obvious.... You are a green gosling! I was at the same age as wise as you, and yet never discovered this till it was too late."

Your mother will plan for you to go out and enjoy yourselves, and she probably will not say that she is left alone by this or that arrangement; but you must think for her and protest against it, and see that she gets amusement, and is talked to.

I know girls who will leave their mother alone night after night, or sit at home and never utter a word. They do not think of it, and she feels left out. Even if she makes you go out, she will like your noticing and thinking for her. I believe each daughter fails to realize in her own case how much her mother values signs of the love which both know to be there.

You may say, “My mother does not like a fuss!” Very likely. But there are ways and ways. I do not believe any older person is ever anything but pleased when their little pleasures are seen to be a matter of real consideration to a younger one. I have watched so many mothers now that I see it, but I myself used to let my affection be taken for granted. I see now how much more pleasure I might have given, and I would give anything if you would do what they say is impossible i.e. profit by some one else’s experience, and try to show your affection for your mother. She is the only person to whom it is safe to fully express your affection. If you feel strongly for any one else, expressing it is apt to lead you to be silly, or sentimental, or wanting in self-control, but little loving ways with your mother are quite different they are always comforting to her and good for you. Every one of an older generation is apt to feel that the younger one does not want them; therefore express your affection doubly to an elder compared to what is necessary or right, or wise to an equal, because by nature the elder does not quite believe in it!

I dare say you are nevertheless thinking as I used to do. “One’s mother is quite different she knows I love her best.” In a way that is true, but all I have said is true too!

III. My third advice is: Put some salt into every day the salt of effort and self-denial. Go on with a book though it bores you. Go out for a walk though you feel lazy. Finish some drawing or needlework, which you would rather leave to begin something else. Make yourself do something which you do not like, and which is useful.

And I say to all of you, not only to the leaving ones: Do not lounge through the day just because it is holidays. You are not a little child who has to be made to do things: you are a sensible, reasonable being, who wants to grow. You do not leave off eating for a month, you do not leave off growing for a month; then do not leave off growing in other ways. Do not be worthless at any time.

Some of you seem to think you will not have to give account of holidays to God I think you will be more called to account for them, for then you have a chance of showing your real stuff.

And when you are grown up, and quite free, feel that you are still more responsible.

Enjoy yourself to the top of your bent, but see that each day you gain new power to do what you ought, and what you make up your mind to do; and remember that this power is only gained in the using and dies out if we do not use it. I shall be horribly disappointed if you do not gain this power, and if you do not use it well, “to the Glory of God and the Relief of Man’s Estate.”

Be ambitious be all you were meant to be; make the world different; be generous freely you have received, freely give.

Some one said to me the other day, “Girls are younger nowadays, and they go on being young till they are well through middle life. At sixteen we had to look after other people, but they shirk responsibility, till women of thirty are content to be like birds of the air, just amusing themselves, and feeling no call to be of any serious use.”

I said, “Well, I do not like to see even a girl of eighteen with no raison d’etre, ‘living like a prize animal!’”

Why were you born? God thought about you, and took trouble about you, and has something you can do for Him. To exist beautifully is not enough! Have you definite duties, which you stick to even though they bore you, e.g., house duties, or reading aloud, or lessons with the younger ones? If not, find some!

Marcus Aurelius counted each day lost in which he could not at night look back on something he had done for others.

Jeremy Taylor, in the “Golden Grove,” says: “Suppose every day to be a day of business: for your whole life is a race and a battle; a merchandise, a journey. Every day propounds to yourself a rosary or chaplet of works, to present to God at night.”

I have given you three pieces of advice

I. Vote on the right side in conversation.
II. Show that you love your mother.
III. Put salt into every day.

I would end with one more. I take it from Saint Simon, that clever on-looker at the Court of Louis XIV. whose memoirs are famous. His morning greeting to himself was

"Get up, M. lé Comte! you have great things to do to-day."

You will all of you go out to lives that you can make empty and self-indulgent and narrow if you like; you can shirk duties and eat capriciously or intemperately, and lie in bed too long; you can idle about all day amusing yourself, and fill your mind with dress and gossip and spite; perhaps you would feel there was “no harm” in such a life!

No harm! I would rather hear you were dead than that you lived a life like that!

On the other hand, every day of your life you can make the wings of your soul grow by an honest bit of self-denial, by an honest bit of work for others, by an honest bit of mental work.

Every day you can be more worth having; there is not one of you here who has not the power to make herself and to pray herself into a noble, dutiful woman.

"Get up, M. lé Comte! you have great things to do to-day."