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An essay by Thomas Wentworth Higginson


Title:     Cupid-And-Psychology
Author: Thomas Wentworth Higginson [More Titles by Higginson]

The learned Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, England, is frequently facetious; and his jokes are quoted with the deference due to the chief officer of the chief college of that great university. Now it is known that the Cambridge colleges, and Trinity College in particular, are doing a great deal for the instruction of women. The young women of Girton College and Newnham College--both of these being institutions for their benefit, in or near Cambridge--not only enjoy the instruction of the university, but they share it under a guaranty that it shall be of the best quality; because they attend, in many cases, the very same lectures with the young men. Where this is not done, they sometimes use the vacant lecture-rooms of the college; and it was in connection with an application for this privilege that the Master of Trinity College made a celebrated joke. When told that the lecture-room was needed for a class of young women in psychology, he said, "Psychology? What kind of psychology? Cupid-and-Psychology, I suppose."

Cupid-and-Psychology is, after all, not so bad a department of instruction. It may be taken as a good enough symbol of that mingling of head and heart which is the best result of all training. One of the worst evils of the separate education of the sexes has been the easy assumption that men were to become all head, and women all heart. It was to correct the evils of this that Ben Jonson proposed for his ideal woman

"a learned and a manly soul."

It was an implied recognition of it from the other side when the great masculine intellect, Goethe, held up as a guiding force in his Faust "the eternal womanly" (_das ewige weibliche_). After all, each sex must teach the other, and impart to the other. It will never do to have all the brains poured into one human being, and christened "man;" and all the affections decanted into another, and labelled "woman." Nature herself rejects this theory. Darwin himself, the interpreter of nature, shows that there is a perpetual effort going on, by unseen forces, to equalize the sexes, since sons often inherit from the mother, and daughters from the father. And we all take pleasure in discovering in the noblest of each sex something of the qualities of the other,--the tender affections in great men, the imperial intellect in great women.

On the whole, there is no harm, but rather good, in the new science of Cupid-and-Psychology. There are combinations for which no single word can suffice. The phrase belongs to the same class with Lowell's witty denunciation of a certain tiresome letter-writer, as being, not his incubus, but his "pen-and-inkubus." It is as well to admit it first as last: Cupid-and-Psychology will be taught wherever young men and women study together. Not in the direct and simple form of mutual love-making, perhaps; for they tell the visitor, at universities which admit both sexes, that the young men and maidens do not fall in love with each other, but are apt to seek their mates elsewhere. The new science has a wider bearing, and suggests that the brain is incomplete, after all, without the affections; and so are the affections without the brain. A certain professorship at Harvard University which the Rev. Dr. Francis G.

Peabody now fills, and which Phillips Brooks was once invited to fill, was founded by a woman, Miss Plummer; and the name proposed by her for it was "a professorship of the heart," though they after all called it only a professorship of "Christian morals." We need the heart in our colleges, it seems, even if we only get it under the ingenious title of Cupid-and-Psychology.

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Thomas Wentworth Higginson's essay: Cupid-And-Psychology