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Tact., Issue 7916, 25 May 1889, Supplement
" Male firmness is very often obstinacy; women have always something better, worth all qualities—they have tact." Such is the opinion which Mr Disraeli put into the month of Z.or<3 iSskdale, who ixi his knowledge of the female sex is supposed to be without a rival. Such, too, seems to be the common opinion of the world, and of the writerß on society who paint it for us, There is a certain quality which eoes by this name, of which women in general are believed to possess a larger share than men, and of which some men (or perhaps many men) are totally destitute. This is the orthodox creed, the catholic doctrine, from which we do not presume to differ altogether ; only thinking that it has perhaps been carried rather too far, both in what it claims for the one sex and in what it refuses to the other.
Tact is the power of perceiving with rapidity and nicety what is likely to grate upon another person's feelings ; to turn his thoughts into a disagreeable channel, or is out of harmony with the mood in which he may happen to be at the moment we address him. On minor occasions it is supposed to save us from making awkward mistakes in conversation, and to teach us exactly where to stop when we find that we are treading upon rather thin ice. In dealing with comparative strangers, or persons of uncertain temper, it enables us to steer safely between the numerous pitfalls which lie to the right and left of us, and into which, without the aid of this precious talisman, we should be sure to stumble. It is a quality that is useful in every station of life, and in intercourse alike with our superiors, our equals, and our inferiors. But we are heretical enough to think that not only have women no monopoly of this faculty, but that upon the whole they have no more of it than men. Pope has given some account of one kind of tact in his lines on Martha Blount: Sho who ne'er answers till a husband cools— Or, if she rules him, never shows she rulesCharms by acceptiDff, by submitting sways, Yet baa her humor most when she obeys. But these lines might be converted and applied to a husband as well as to a wife. There are men who manage their wives as well as wives who manage their husbands upon these principles. Women are not quioker than men at interpreting the outward signs which show that another person is ill at ease, and in accommodating their manner of conversation to the undercurrent of feeling which is thus generated. One reason is, perhaps, that women are much more impatient than men of fancied neglect, and that if a friend or a relative sits silent in their company their first impulse is to accuse him of sulkiness. Sometimes it is a relief to a man to pour out all his troubles to a female ear. Sometimes it is very much the reverse, and he shrinks from saying a word upon the subject. Tact should enable one to distinguish between these different effects produced upon the same mind at different times and by different circumstances, and to order one's behaviour accordingly. But is it really true that women are better able to do this than men? We very much question it. Women have a great insight into oharacter, and oan play on a man's vanity, as Sir Robert Peel did on the House of Commons, "like an old fiddle." Many a man of more than average ability is a child in the hands of a clever woman. Of course in this kind of management there is a good deal of tact
mixed up. All we mean is that men possess this quality in an almost equal degree, and that have more opportunities of exercising it on a large scale and in important a<fairs than women have. Of want of tact in society some of ‘Punch’s’ “Things one would rather not have said ” are excellent specimens, and our contemporary is quite right in attributing many of them to women, for women have a natural quickness and power of intuition which should make them superior to men in the kind of tact which is required on the spur of the moment; and, on the whole, though they blunder sometimes in the way described by Mr Punch, they are so far superior. But in a wider sense of the word “ tact ” we cannot see that the female sex is in any way superior to the male ; and we believe there are circumstances in which men would generally be found to have the larger share. Tact, we must remember, though partly a natural gift, is a good deal indebted to education and early habits; and the superiority of one sex to the other in this respect will often be found to depend on art quite as much as upon Nature.— ‘ Exchange.’
Tact., Issue 7916, 25 May 1889, Supplement
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