//21 May 2021

On the education of editors and women (translation)

This is my (somewhat sloppy) attempt at translating an article from Bulgarian author Lyuben Karavelov (1834-1879). He was an important figure of the Bulgarian National Revival and he wrote the following in 1873. Hope you enjoy it, even without any context.

To those of you who intend to form any notion of the “education” or the “enlightenment” spread by our periodical Chitalishte—we advise you to not waste your time browsing its pages. The editors themselves would tell you that. You want proof? Here it is.

In the 7th edition of this esteemed yet wondrous newspaper, we find a wee article titled The education of women, written (translated) by a Mr A. P. Shopov. The editors admitted the article was “translated quite carelessly” and that Mr Shopov ought to write more decently, lest they would find themselves forced to reject his efforts. How peculiar, how funny, how disgraceful this affair was made out to be.

Just listen—then, these “wondrous” editors tell us the following: “We must even confess [,] that this [article] would not come to be, if it were not for our mistake to give it for print before we had read it [??!!], for which we beg [ask] our readership to indulge us, as we shall atone for our erroneousness with the assurance [,] that we shall be able to rear [??? to rear or to breed lice, perhaps] Mr Shopov as a useful and active worker in [on] the literary field.” Moreover, the editors claim that third-year pupils can write and translate all sorts of gibberish, as long as they “hold onto one grammatical system”.

Now the question is, why and for what do these editors print such garbage, which they themselves do not approve? “In order to encourage, whenever possible, their future activities,” answers the newspaper itself.

Another question. Has the editor, in his youth, learned the craft of sewing? If yes, then he ought to know that pupils start out with stitching, then they are allowed to sew pipe and tobacco pouches, after that—slippers and stockings, and eventually, they may sew cloaks, breeches, and so on. “Whoever wants to be a tailor and teach others, he has to be a master himself”. Get it now?

We plead you to answer the following questions as well. For whom is the Chitalishte newspaper published? Who finds it useful? For what purpose are ink and paper wasted there? What motives drive you to publish this exact newspaper, instead of employing yourself to the grazing of ducks? Who made you put children to tailoring, namely to waste fabric, thread and precious time? Who gave you the right to mock your audience and feed it with drivel? Lastly, who gave you the right to spoil the children, namely to encourage them to do foolish things?

If the editor of Chitalishte would be a clever, reasonable and mature person, he should say to Mr Shopov thus: “If you wish to educate others, then you first need to educate yourself. You must learn to think, to write and to know. Rather be a good porter than a bad writer.” If the editor should do that, he would rescue Mr Shopov and perhaps make a good citizen out of him. And now? Who knows. […] But the most peculiar thing remains that the editor of Chitalishte has sent the aforementioned article to the printing press without reading it first. This leads us to conclude such a newspaper can make do without an editor. Whoever fancies to write “a little something”, let them send it directly to the press. Nice and cheap.

Let us now see what the Shopov fellow has to say, i.e. let us snuff the smell of his theories on the education of women. Before he starts to philosophise and pour out his balms for the soul of the Bulgarian public, Mr Shopov quotes as an epigram the words of Jesus, son of Sirach: “A fine wife is a joy to her husband, and he can live out his years in peace”.

From these few words our readers would know that Mr Shopov was educated in Turkey, and that Oriental philosophy has also tickled his “voluptuousness”. Further down, the scholar tells us that the woman is the heart of the family, that she is “a knot of the question, which illuminates God’s vineyards with radiant rays”, and that she decides “the prosperity of every man”. Of course, if Mr Shopov had written his wee little article for the Qizilbash, the Kurds, the Hindus, the Persians, or the Afghans, then he would have gained immortal glory and eternal adoration—however, the Bulgarian climate does not put up with any “knots” or “radiant rays”. When a Bulgarian decides to marry, he sends his mother to find him not any “radiant rays” or “God’s vineyards”. Instead, he asks her to find him a humble, industrious, honest and faithful companion, capable to share with him joy and grief alike.

Hence, the Bulgarian has no inclination to Oriental lustfulness, nor to the Western-European idolatry of women. Naturally, we praise him greatly for this stance. In Bulgaria, women have equal human rights to men, therefore we have no need to think about the “well-being of the female sex”, or to invent means for their “education”. Science, scholarship and education are human: they do not recognise any “sexes” or ages. What is useful for the man cannot be useless for the woman; what is immoral for the woman cannot be moral for the man. Humanity remains human, the truth remains true. If we want to be human, we must treat our mothers like people and give them people’s education. The Oriental idea of “women have to fear men” and the Western-European notion for the male and female duties are humiliating, crude, barbaric and vile to any unspoiled society. […]

And so, a woman should be neither “the heart” of the family, nor “the knot” of questions, nor a “God’s vineyard”, but a person, just as the man. If we follow suit from Western Europe for the education of Bulgarian women, then we would get dolls; and if we listen to Solomon or Sirach, then we would produce slaves. When Solomon wrote his great wisdoms, he had 800 slaves in his harem. And when Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote his Emile, Madame de Pompadour was ruling in France, turning men with their heads upside down. But we already stated that modern Western-European education (male or female) is not for us, just like we rejected Oriental-Byzantine morals. And we can prove this at any time.

Western-European rules of female education ordain that a woman ought to know several phrases in French, English, Italian, or German, to have good manners, to dress up and seduce her suitors, to lift up her petticoats in such a manner as to show only one foot, to play the piano, not to take care of her children or her household, and so on, and so forth. While Oriental-Byzantine morals teach us to enjoy female beauty and make use of the female body in the manner of animals. “A woman fears a man”, “A woman decorates a man’s home”, “A woman is a pearl on a man’s wreath”, “A woman is a joy in a good household”.

We find these rhetorical phrases vile, low-minded, inhuman. Honourable people would say: “I want to be a person, therefore my mother should also be a person. If my mother decorates the wreath of my father, then I shall decorate the Sultan’s turban; and if my mother were a free being, then I would reject all despotism, too.

And so, we think that a woman must be educated the same way as a man. Truth must be open to anyone.

—Lyuben Karavelov. “Independence”, vol. 40 (1873)