Read CHAPTER XXXI of Her Royal Highness Woman, free online book, by Max O'Rell, on


Another answer to critics-Distorted minds-The portrait of a
womanly woman.

I once wrote an article on ‘The Woman I Hate,’ which brought me an avalanche of letters, not all very pleasing reading. Many of them conveyed to me the wrath of viragos, women’s-righters, petticoated males, trousered females, misunderstood and unclaimed women, ripe, spectacled spinsters, cockatoos of all sorts and conditions, who happened by the irony of fate and freaks of nature to be born of a sex of which they failed to be an ornament.

One of these correspondents accused me of ‘possessing a nasty mind’ for sneering at lady doctors. ‘You insult women,’ she says. ’Can you imagine, for instance, a respectable woman submitting to an examination by a man?’ My dear lady, I am afraid I must return you the compliment. Let me assure you that, just as an artist will see nothing in a female figure beyond beauty and perfect harmony of lines, and will admire her with as cool a mind as he would a statue, just so a doctor will examine a woman as he would a piece of anatomy, and your mind must be fearfully distorted and impure, if you imagine for a moment that a single objectionable thought will pass through the mind of this man of science.

If you really do think so, let me assure you that I pity you, or even must despise you, from the bottom of my heart. And, while on this subject, allow me to remind you that an eminent American man exclaimed only the other day: ’In our country we have a great many female doctors, female lawyers, female journalists, female orators, female preachers, and females in all classes and professions and trades, but what we want is a good many more female women.’

The woman I love is the female woman that I would protect and cherish in return for all the sweet attention she would pay me, and which would enable me to cheerfully fight the battle of life. How to describe her I hardly know.

Should she be beautiful? Not necessarily. Pretty? Yes, rather. Good figure? Decidedly. Clever? H’m-yes. Cheerful? By all means. Punctual? Like a military man. Serious? Not too much. Frivolous? Yes, just a little. Of a scientific turn of mind? B-r-r-r! no; I should shudder at the idea of it. Of an artistic nature, then, with literary tastes? Yes, certainly. But, above all, a keen, sensible, tactful little woman who would make it the business of her life to study me, as I would make it the business of my life to study her; a woman who could be in turn, according to circumstances, a housewife, a counsellor, a ‘pal,’ a wife, a sweetheart, a nurse, a patient, the sunshine of my life, and always a confidante, a friend, and a partner.

In a little Normandy town I have a dear lady friend, Parisienne to the core, whom I have known and loved from childhood. She is not far from sixty, but, upon my word, I think she is still very beautiful. She was in succession a loving, devoted daughter, an excellent wife, and an adorable mother. She has now lost all she loved in the world, and she devotes her time cultivating a lovely garden of flowers and attending all the church services of the parish. A beggar never passes her without receiving a little contribution, and she helps many a poor family. In a word, the gay life of Paris is all forgotten, and you would imagine that my recluse friend was a hermit, a sort of lay nun, as it were.

Well, yes, she is all that; but isn’t she a woman still, though! ’Do you see,’ she was saying to me one day, ’I have renounced all my worldly ideas? My flowers, my books, my poor friends, that’s the only thought of my life now. I am old; I don’t care how I dress or how I look. Anything does for me now. The Parisienne that you used to know, my dear friend, is dead and buried.’

‘What a charming dress you have on!’ I remarked. ’I do admire the material and the colour, and the cut, too. And how beautifully made and finished! Did you have that made in this town?’

The expression of her face was a study.

‘My dear friend,’ she exclaimed, ’you do not imagine I would get a dress made in this stupid little hole of a town. They make bags here, not gowns.’ And she almost looked indignant, the dear! at the idea that I could suppose she had not her dresses made in Paris. I smiled, and said nothing.

And, as I looked at the book-shelves in her boudoir, I saw ’L’Imitation de Jesus-Christ.’ The volume next to it was ’Les Secrets du Cabinet de Toilette.’ I could not help making a little sarcastic remark to my dear old friend.

‘Well, mon cher ami,’ she said, ’do you think the bon Dieu would give me a better reception if I presented myself with a face covered with wrinkles? By the way, what is that stuff they make in England which you told me is so good for the skin?’

Those little contradictions in a good and delightful woman make her lovable. So I think, at any rate.

The woman I love is the woman who possesses all the womanly virtues and qualities-sweetness, devotion, reliability. The little failings I forgive in her are those of her sex-frivolity and the divine right of changing her mind. If in any way woman apes man, she is intolerable and hateful.