The Wit–or Wisdom–of Ellen Wood

I’m pretty sure that this bit of East Lynne is meant as wisdom, though I find it amusing:

‘Let the offices properly belonging to a nurse, be performed by the nurse–of course taking care that she is thoroughly to be depended on. Let her have the trouble of the children, their noise, their romping; in short, let the nursery be her place and the children’s place. But I hope I shall never fail to gather my children round me daily, at stated periods, for higher purposes: to instil into them Christian and moral duties; to strive to teach them how best to fulfil life’s obligations. This is a mother’s task–as I understand the question; let her do this work well, and the nurse can attend to the rest. A child should never hear aught from its mother’s lips but winning gentleness; and this becomes impossible, if she is very much with her children.’

I appreciate the juxtaposition of high-minded spiritual (and maternal) pretension with the offhand confession that too much time with one’s children makes “winning gentleness” impossible.

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