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The Greeks are very ignorant; but both men and women generally evince a desire to receive books, and have schools established among them. Females of the lower class often labor hard in the fields, and thereby lose the beauty for which their countrywomen are distinguished. Madox speaks of seeing women in the Greek islands winnowing corn, who looked like the witches in Macbeth.
In giving this brief outline of European manners, either in the middle ages or modern times, the poor have been nearly left out of the account. In the middle ages, nobles treated their vassals as slaves. They were scantily fed, miserably clothed, obliged to marry according to the dictates of a master, and seldom addressed in any better language than “ villain,” or “base hound.” The condition of Polish and Russian serfs in modern times is about the same. The Polish peasant women have scarcely clothing enough for decency, and the hardships and privations to which they are subjected destroy every vestige of good looks. In Russia, women have been seen paving the streets, and performing other similar drudgery. In Finland, they work like beasts of burden, and may be seen for hours up to the middle in snow-water, tugging away at boats and sledges. In Flanders, girls carry heavy baskets of coal to mar. ket strapped on their shoulders. The old peasant women in France are said to be frightfully ugly, in consequence of continued toil and exposure to the weather. In England, it is not unusual to see poor women scraping up manure from the streets, with
their hands, and gathering it into baskets. In a word, there is no part of Europe where an American would not see the novel sight of females laboring in the fields, or carrying burdens in the streets, without a bonnet to shield them from sun or rain.
But the European structure of society differs from that of Asiatic nations or savage tribes in the comparative equality of labor between the sexes; if poor women are obliged to work hard, poor men are so likewise; they do not, like Orientals, sit in idleness, while women perform nearly all the drudgery. In some districts, such as Croatia, Morlachia, &c. women have more than their share of toil. In Savoy and the north of Italy, emigration, for the purpose of gaining a livelihood in other countries, is general among the peasantry, especially during the winter. In some districts it is uncommon to find a tenth part of the male population at home. The women and children take care of the goats, sheep, and cattle, do all the out-of-door work, and spin and weave garments for their absent husbands.
Nearly all the amusements of modern times are shared by the women as well as the men. No recreations are more universally enjoyed by all nations, and all classes, than music and dancing. In the splendid saloons of the wealthy and the fashionable they are introduced in a thousand forms, to vary the excitements of life; and the toil-worn peasant dancing with the girl of his heart, with the green-sward for his carpet, and heaven for his canopy, has enjoyment that princes might sigh for in vain. A traveller, speaking of Greek dances, says: “Though the com. pany was generally composed of boatmen, fishermen, and donkey drivers, with their wives, daughters, sisters, or sweethearts, I have seen more beauty and grace, and infinitely more spirit and gayety, than it has been my lot to meet in saloons luminous with chandeliers, and furnished with all the appurtenances of luxury.” The Irish are extravagantly fond of dancing. Weddings and other festivals are celebrated with much dancing, and Sunday rarely passes without it. Dancing-masters travel through the country, from cabin to cabin, with a piper or blind fiddler, and their pay is sixpence a quarter. The waltz is a graceful dance of German origin. Modest matrons formerly objected to their daughters waltzing with gentlemen, on account of the frequent intertwining of arms, and clasping each other's waists; but this is now common in the fashionable circles of Europe, not only among the voluptuous nations of the South, but with the more reserved inhabitants of the North. The waltz is said to have been danced at Luther's wedding, when he married the nun.
Theatrical representations are as open to women as to men, though custom requires that they should not appear in such public places without some protector. In Spain, no man is allowed to enter the boxes appropriated to women ; but in other places, the male and female members of the same family, or the same party, sit together. As dramatic performers, men and women have manifested about an equal degree of talent. This profession, from the wandering life it induces, the absence of home influences, and the excitement of continual relations with the public, has not generally been found favorable to the domestic virtues. But honorable exceptions are by no means wanting. Many of this class have preserved great purity of character, and been as much respected for virtue as for talent. The nobility and gentry of Europe have very frequently intermarried with distinguished actresses.
In Holland and Russia, skating is a favorite amusement both with men and women. The Friesland women often make a match to contend for a prize. At one of these races, which took place in 1805, one of the competitors was past fifty, and many only fifteen. A girl about twenty gained the principal prize, which was a golden ornament for the head; another, sixteen years old, gained the second prize, a coral necklace with a gold clasp. It is stated that the former skated a mile in something less than two minutes and a half. They commonly go two and two, each with an arm round the other's waist, or one before the other, holding by the hand; but sometimes thirty persons may be seen skating all together, and holding each other by the hand.
In Catholic countries festival days are too numerous to be described. During the Carnival there is one universal spirit of gayety and fun. People appear abroad in all manner of fantastic carriages, and masquerade dresses. Buffoons, peasant girls, Gipseys, Tartar warriors, and Indian queens, are mingled
together in grotesque confusion. People pelt each other with sugar-plums, or with small comfits made of plaster of Paris and flour, until they look as if a sack of meal had been shaken over them. Beautiful girls have showers of bon-bons bestowed, as they
are contained in fanciful little baskets tied with ribbons. On certain days it is allowable to play all manner of mischievous pranks; these are called intruding days, and probably have the same origin as our April-fool day.
In the Greek church Easter is observed with great pomp. No person meets another without kissing him on each side of his face and saying, “Christ is risen!” The answer uniformly is, “He is risen indeed!” On Easter Monday begins the presentation of the paschal eggs, which have been previ. ously blessed by the priest. These ornamental eggs, either of glass, porcelain, or gold, or real eggs with fanciful colors and patterns, are presented by lovers to their mistresses, by friends to each other, and by servants to their masters. The poorest peasant, when he presents his paschal egg and repeats the words, “ Christ is risen !" may demand a kiss even of the empress. All business is laid aside. The rich devote themselves to suppers, balls, and masquerades, while the poor sing and carouse in the streets.
Christmas is observed with great festivity in Protestant countries, as well as Catholic. All the schools give a vacation, that families may be enabled to meet together round the merry Christmas table. The