« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
the discipline of all the faculties, or some corroding prejudice has taken lodgment in the mind.*
There is another objection somewhat similar to the one which we have been considering. A course of study for females, framed substantially in accordance with that which is pursued at our colleges, will mar, it is said, that beautiful variety which now crowns the Creator's works. The graceful and the elegant in female character will be merged in that which is hard, muscular, and repulsive. An iron vigor of intellect will be a poor substitute for amenity of manners, refinement of sensibilities, and those thousand nameless qualities of the heart and the life which win esteem. We may have female philosophers or heroines, Maids of Orleans or Madame de Staëls; not Mrs. Huntingtons, nor De Broglies.
If such, however, should be the effect, it would be at variance with all reasonable expectation. In the present state of society, the amalgamation of the distinctive characteristics of the sexes is impossible; because, in opposition to it, there are certain general influences which are constantly at work. There is a decided public opinion which nothing can overcome. There is an innate sense of the propriety of these distinctions, which lies at the basis of that public sentiment. There is the irresistible agency of the world of
* We do not deny, that there are possible evils connected with a protracted and public course of female education. We think, however, that they can be obviated by a due measure of forethought and care on the part of the guardians and teachers of schools. If Mr. Isaac Taylor's ideas on " Home Education" could be reduced to practice in our country, we should anticipate happy results. But can we hope for this, at least in the present generation? How can that be communicated which is not possessed?
fashion, and the concurrent voice of the literature of all civilized nations. There never has been but one tribe of Amazons in fable; while there never was, and there never will be, one in history. The danger, therefore, which is apprehended, cannot be imminent. In order to realize the dreaded amalgamation, we must overturn the structure of society, run counter to the general sense of men, and annihilate some of the strongest impulses of our nature.
The objectors, to whom we refer, are often very inconsistent with themselves. They are accustomed to allude, in no very courteous terms, to the frivolous pursuits of females, and to the superficial character of their professed attainments in knowledge; and yet, when a proposition is made to impart to them an adequate intellectual discipline, they at once frown upon it as Utopian, or as contravening the order of nature, or the arrangements of Divine Providence.
Again, when an eminent statesman, scholar, or soldier, is the topic of conversation, their inference, almost invariably, is, that the genius of the son is owing to the genius of the mother. They leave the hero of a hundred battle-fields, in order to inquire into the character of the Corsican matron. They remember that he who was the Lord Chancellor of nature, as well as of England, grew up amid a constellation of female genius. They linger fondly over the memory of her who taught the greatest of American pulpit. orators, President Davies; and assert that it was to her strong mind and fervent prayer, that we owe this second Whitefield. But why, if female education is of so little value, why do they honor the mother, while recording the distinguished virtues of the son? Because their theory is overborne by facts. Unconsciously they bring forward
the highest possible testimony to the worth of that which they denounce.
But we are grateful for the evidence, that such cavillers do not abound here. We have solid proof, that the education of our countrywomen is, on this spot at least, duly honored. We rejoice in the noble testimony. We give thanks to a gracious Providence for what our eyes see, and our ears have heard. We adore that Holy Spirit whose converting grace descends, as it should seem, perennially, like the dew which distils on the mountains that are round about this daughter of Zion. We may be pardoned in adding, that but few names in our country will be had in more blessed remembrance than hers, who has carried a great and most benevolent object through, in the face of an unbelieving generation.
It is a benevolent object. It is the cultivation of the imperishable mind, of that which was made but a little lower than the angels. The youthful female who has a good intellectual and religious education, has every thing. She need not envy the dowry of the daughters of Croesus, nor the fortune of her Transatlantic cousin, whose sceptre stretches over regions, on which, as her people like to boast, the sun never sets.
THE POETRY OF WORDSWORTH."
We have a right to take for granted, that the poems of Wordsworth are not much appreciated on this side of the Atlantic. No inconsiderable part of a small edition of his Works, published in this city in 1824, remains unsold. The indifference to his writings is not confined to the prudent, the practical, the money-getting, nor to the light-minded and excitable. The men who profess to be able to relish good poetry, stand aloof. Those in whose lips Milton and Cowper are familiar words hold no communion with the living poet. We propose briefly to inquire into some of the causes of this general neglect.
It cannot be doubted that the shallow and contemptible criticisms, which appeared, fifteen or twenty years since, in the British Reviews, exerted considerable influence in this country. According to Blackwood, certainly sufficient au
*This Essay was published in the Biblical Repository, January, 1836, as a Review of "The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, in four volumes: Boston, Cummings, Hilliard, & Co., 1824, pp. 319, 368, 384, 382"; and "Yarrow Revisited, and other Poems, by William Wordsworth: Boston, James Munroe & Co., 1835, pp. 244."
thority, there has arisen but one good critic in Scotland,the poet Beattie. So far as the earlier notices of Wordsworth are to be taken into the account, England will fall under the same condemnation. The public mind was everywhere prejudiced. To praise Wordsworth was to rise up in rebellion against the canons of legitimate criticism. It was nearly as safe for a Jew to be found with a New Testament in his pocket, as for an Englishman or American to be caught reading Wordsworth.* We were taught to shudder at the mention of the "Lakes," as though something very terrible or very silly was wrapped up in that word. These unfriendly criticisms were not short-lived in their effects. Literary slander does not easily die. No subsequent recantation can fully extract its venom. The Review has lived to confess its sins, but the minds of its readers were incurably poisoned.
Again, much of the poetry of Wordsworth is of a calm, severe, and finished character. He lays a tax on the patience, the considerateness, the religious reflection of his reader. He requires in him honesty of purpose, and a mind undimmed by passion or prejudice. The careless votary has nothing to do at the altar of this poet. But men of the school of Byron and Moore have been lords of the ascendant in this country, as well as in Britain. The mass of reading people have been crazed with the unnatural fictions of the royal or the Irish bard. The continent of Europe, for the last thirty years, has not been the scene of more incessant and inordinate excitement, than the minds of the great body of the enlightened population of Christendom.
* Even Sir James Mackintosh, remarkably liberal in his literary judgments, confesses that he had cherished a most unworthy prejudice against Wordsworth.