The Angel and the Author
[Woman and her behaviour.]
Should women smoke?
The question, in four-inch letters, exhibited on a placard outside a small newsvendor's
shop, caught recently my eye. The wanderer through London streets is familiar with
such-like appeals to his decision: "Should short men marry tall wives?" "Ought we to cut
our hair?" "Should second cousins kiss?" Life's problems appear to be endless.
Personally, I am not worrying myself whether women should smoke or not. It seems to
me a question for the individual woman to decide for herself. I like women who smoke; I
can see no objection to their smoking. Smoking soothes the nerves. Women's nerves
occasionally want soothing. The tiresome idiot who argues that smoking is unwomanly
denounces the drinking of tea as unmanly. He is a wooden- headed person who derives
all his ideas from cheap fiction. The manly man of cheap fiction smokes a pipe and
drinks whisky. That is how we know he is a man. The womanly woman--well, I always
feel I could make a better woman myself out of an old clothes shop and a hair-dresser's
But, as I have said, the question does not impress me as one demanding my particular
attention. I also like the woman who does not smoke. I have met in my time some very
charming women who do not smoke. It may be a sign of degeneracy, but I am prepared to
abdicate my position of woman's god, leaving her free to lead her own life.
Candidly, the responsibility of feeling myself answerable for all a woman does or does
not do would weigh upon me. There are men who are willing to take this burden upon
themselves, and a large number of women are still anxious that they should continue to
bear it. I spoke quite seriously to a young lady not long ago on the subject of tight lacing;
undoubtedly she was injuring her health. She admitted it herself.
"I know all you can say," she wailed; "I daresay a lot of it is true. Those awful pictures
where one sees--well, all the things one does not want to think about. If they are correct,
it must be bad, squeezing it all up together."
"Then why continue to do so?" I argued.
"Oh, it's easy enough to talk," she explained; "a few old fogies like you"--I had been
speaking very plainly to her, and she was cross with me--"may pretend you don't like
small waists, but the average man does."