Зображення сторінки

Two Letters from an Uncle to his Nieco.

way, she becomes one of those 'same metre ballad

mongers,' than whom any man or woman of sense 1.

would rather be a kitten, and cry mcw.' ON FEMALE POETRY.

Analyze the habit of verse-writing, and you will Dear Mary:—The verses in your last letter were perceive in it a natural tendency to hurt the strucgnite passable ; equal, I dare say, to most newspa- ture of her character, who is thus addicted. The per and magazine poetry.

faculty is a very fascinating one to its possessor ; But do you know the discredit, the ridicule, that partly because it is sufficiently uncommon to excite merely passable poetry ever did, and ever will in the wonder of her near acquaintance, and partly cur? A middling poet is laughed at by the foolish, because of its creative nature, which is highly pitied by the wise, and slighted by all. He is flattering to self-love. She therefore devotes much commonly regarded as unfit for any business, pro- time to it. She loses not only the time actually ftable either to himself or to others : and this spent with pen in hand—whether writing with, or spinion of him seldom proves unjust. Ten to one gnawing it—but hours on hours besides, employed he is a mere trifler; wasting more time and thought in thinking of rhymes, poetical phrases, poetical upon matching a dozen pairs of rhymes, and tag- subjects, and poetical images. She becomes abging them on to measured lines, to make a jin- stracted, and of a wandering mind. She looks at gle, -than would render him the lord of many an all things not in practical, useful points of view, but here, or of much inestimable knowledge; or gain in fanciful aspects. Disdaining the sober paths of hima many a blessing from affliction relieved by his common-sense, she is ever careering, sky-high, in charity, or from a country served by his useful the realms of imagination. The plodding, everymbition. No sooner is a young man-of-business day duties of life, become distasteful to her, and hown to addict himself to verse-making, than ex- are neglected. Think you, that she would stoop terienced, sagacious men shake their heads, and to know how long potatoes ought to be boiled, or ay · he won't do.' The ominous prognostic sel- how the best light-bread may be made ? Oh no! om fails to be verified.

she is too busy, holding high converse with the Two thousand years ago, a great author said Muses. And as to making or mending a coat or hat “ neither gods, nor men, nor book-shops, tole- other garment for her husband or brother,--she ited mediocre poets :" and it is as true now, as it would be shocked at the mention of an employment as then. Yes, it is true, even as to male poetas- so grovelling. Probably she cannot tell back-stitch R. But how much more, as to female !

from whip-stitch, or hemming from basting. Nor My dear girl, there is nothing, not positively is her deficiency confined to such housewifely ishonorable, that I would not as lief see you, as a points of knowledge : even in literature, she is apt betess. Of all unstained characters, that is one to be inaccurate, and slovenly. What she knows, bong the least respectable. I look for a poetess consists only of scraps, picked up in her random

i be slatternly in her dress and person ; a negli- reading, and never digested, or turned to any probent and dirty housekeeper ; an inattentive, un-fitable use. Her handwriting is hardly legible,to telady mother; a capricious or peevish wife; given be like Lord Byron's ; and she cannot spell. I

i setting up late o' nights, and of course lying have seen the MSS. of no less than four of these bed moch in the day. Her health necessarily female bards, and they every one spell believe, bes to wreck: and with it go her temper, her " beleive"-niece, “neice"-beautiful, “beautiIsband's happiness, her children's training and full”-skilful, “ skillfull”—and separate, “sepehances of usefulness. Figure her to yourself, with rate." Ecstasy (a favorite word with them) they er shoes ontied, hair disordered, a dirty and rum- are sure to spell “extacy :” ante-revolutionary,

cap if she wears one, her stockings undarned, they write “anti-revolutionary :” and they always id ber gown of a dark color to hide the dirt, - pronounce exquisite with the accent on the second izing, with an air of sentimental abstraction, upon syllable—exquis-ite. You, yourself, spell grateful Xhing—She is a fac-simile of the dame who guid- with two ls. Trifles these, I grant : but, like I the Dunciad hero on his tour through Tartarus : straws in the air, they show things of serious im*A slip-shod Sibyl led his steps along,

port. Good spelling, like common honesty, is no In lofty madness meditating song:

discreditaWith wild staring from poetic dreams,

great merit; but the want of it is very And never wash'd, but in Castalian streams.' ble, at least to educated people.

Heaven defend me from one of these slip-shod You know, that I am no contemner of woman's 3* ibyls !—I trust, my child, that you never will ex-intellect, or enemy to its wide and high culture.

de yourself to the risque of being one. I con- You have witnessed my constant homage to Miss antly fancy every female to be such, whose vapid More, wherever she is not too saintly; to Maria fusions I see in the magazines. And when a Edgeworth, to Mrs. Barbauld, to Jane Taylor, to oung lady's verses are handed about in manuscript, Mrs. Marcet, to Madame De Staël, and to our

You ritten in albums, and praised by her friends,—she American Edgeworth, Miss Sedgewick. s pot far from ventoring into print. Then, straight-'know the pains I have taken, since your dying





be- A very slight knowledge of the delicate and co

mother consigned you to me, to train and enrich your own mind. You know, too, that


relish for real poetry is as keen as most people's : that Dear Mary :-You should have consulted me, bethere is none of the great masters of English fore you put on corsets: I would have dissuaded you song, whom I have not read with a discriminating from it. However, your mentioning it the instant delight—from Spenser and Shakspeare, down to you supposed that I might not approve it, atones fa Byron and Campbell; nay, that our own Bryant, the omission-unless indeed, your frame has already Halleck, and Willis have not been without their suffered most serious injury; as I fear it has. charms for me. So that you cannot accuse me of That extreme weakness when you sit or standwaging a Gothic war against the Muses. In truth, that sinking of the spirits—that aversion to walka reverent adoration of them, is part of my motive ing, or riding on horseback—! My dear child, I pray for keeping away every unhallowed lip from their Heaven you may not have stored op for yourself fountain-every unauthorized foot from their sa- an amount of unhappiness that you little suspect! cred hill. With what indignation must they not behold, intruding upon their domain, ninety-nine hun- riously wrought fabric in which the lungs play and dredths of the bardlings, male and female, who the heart beats, is enough to show (I say not ube crowd the columns of every monthly and weekly dangerous or hurtful, but) the fatal effects of tighs periodical with their namby-pamby outpourings ! lacing; whether with, or without corsets. Fotel,

But my chief aim is, to prevail upon one, at least, to activity, to energy, to good spirits, to healto, of that misguided class, (for I see, you are tending and ultimately to life. that way), to make a better use of her talents. You may see a picture of that fabric—the bones Recollect how large a store of homely, but price of the human trunk-in any cyclopedia, or book of less accomplishments, may be attained with half anatomy; or in Combe's adınirable Physiology.* the time and pains necessary to make even the See the spine, or back-bone; composed of twentypoor figure of a middling poetess! How to cut out four joints called vertebre, all piled one upon anand make garments of every kind—to direct, and ther, and perforated from end to end by the spinal even to prepare, wholesome food—to nurse the marrow- —which is only an elongation, or off-short, sick-to manage a household—to ride a trotting of the brain. From the upper half of the spind, horse if necessary—to walk fast and far-to dance proceed twelve ribs on each side, curving forwards like a fay, and sing not in the Squallini style—all and outward, till they approach within one, or two these healthful and pleasing arts you may learn or three inches, of the sternum, or breast-bone during the mere pauses from those real studies, when their bony substance ends, and they become which every woman must rely upon, who hopes to mere gristles, seven of which are socketed a give any salutary or permanent impress of her hinged into the breast-bone, as the ribs are insta Mind to her age, or her circle. If you are bent on the spine. The breast-bone is long and flatwriting, cultivate a good prose style. Any one who inch or more broad-extending lengthwise abat at your age writes as well as you do, may with six or eight inches, from the throat to the pir el care attain as good a style as Addison's. Hav- the stomach : and is held firm in its place chiedy ing that dress for your thoughts, you will have only by the rib-gristles abovementioned, and by the cakto acquire enough of them, well enough arranged, lar bones, which come across from the shoulders to benefit mankind somewhat as the illustrious wo- and are fitted into its upper end. All these boon men before mentioned have done. Compared with and gristles are very soft in childhood; but haria the wreath that adorns either the English or the as we grow up, and are strongest at the age of American Edgeworth, how faded and poor is the thirty or forty. They, all together, form a spac203 renown of Mrs. Hemans or Miss Landon-the arched chamber or cavity, in which the heari, lazen most eminent, I suppose, of English poetesses! I and innumerable arteries, veins, valves, and inas would rather have written Edgeworth's' Frank,' or cles, perform their important offices : contracang Sedgewick's Poor Rich Man and Rich Poor dilating; inhaling fresh air with one set of ceux Man,' than all the “sweet new poems” that ever using part of it to purify the venous blood, as! proceeded from the fruitful pens of Hemans and then exhaling the rest through another set; recei** Landon : because, in either one of those two ing from the veins blood which has gone is works, I should feel myself to be a greater bene- round,-cleansing it with wonderful art in a few factor to mankind.

moments, and sending it on again by the artene The power of promptly writing good sense, in to meander through, and renovate continually every neat, forcible, and attractive prose, is likely to be part of the frame. At every breath the lungs diuseful in a thousand emergencies. How seldom, late and contract—at every breath the heart te if ever, is the talent for magazine poetry of the ceives a tide of blood into one of its divisions, and slightest utility !—It is, in truth, a sheer dissipa- pours out an equal tide from another ; propelling & tion; and a most hurtful one. Avoid it, I beseech with a force equal to forty or fifty pounds weiga Your affectionate uncle, G. T.


* Combe on Health-in Harper's Family Library.


For all these delicate and momentous operations, man, who does not wish to marry consumption, the chamber which Nature has provided is exactly carditis, angina pectoris, or dyspepsia, -beware of of the proper size ; not a hair's-breadth too small, that taper waist! or a hair's-breadth ton large. Nay, it is large When (as it always is) the lacing is carried beenough, and the vital movements can be performed, low the diaphragm, * injury little less fatal, results. only by certain motions of the bones which com- Then, softer and more compressible parts are afpose it. The ribs hinge into the spine, and the fected—various muscles, the stomach, and other gristles and collar bones hinge into the sternum; viscera. I leave you to infer the inevitable misthere are joints also where the ribs and gristles chief to these, from reducing them, by force, to unite. By means of these hinges and joints, the half the volume which the all-wise Creator has bones and gristles incessantly play in and out, or given. Thus cramped and fettered, it is impossiup and down, at each movement of the lungs; and ble that their nice and complicated functions can to their healthful movement, the freedom of that be well performed : and accordingly, in all my play is indispensable.

practice, I have met with no cases of inflamed Now a corset, or tight lacing of any kind, fet- stomach, disordered digestion, and dyspepsia in all ters the free play of those bones; destroys all the its forms, half so malignant, as those which sprung advantage of the joints and hinges which nature from tight-lacing. Not only corsets and tighthas provided ; and thus lessens the room in which lacing, but tight dressing of any kind, should be the lungs and heart move-besides depriving them avoided; so far as the trunk is concerned. The of the aid, the impulse they derive from the mo- organs of life should have free and fair play. tion of the bones and muscles. But all this is not After having worn corsets for sometime, the half the mischief. The ribs, especially at the victim finds herself excessively weak on taking joints or hinges, being soft in young people,—and them off: walking, standing, or sitting up is irkthe gristles much softer-are compressed by the some to her : a reclining posture alone is easy, lacing, so as to approach nearer and nearer to the This is because the muscles—those massive cords breast-bone in front; sometimes they lap over it, or bands of leant flesh--which traverse the back and meet each other: nay, there are instances of and sides, and support the spine by nature, have tight lacing, where the ribs have not only passed lost their power, through disuse. The corset has the sternum and met, but have over-lapped each relieved them of their duty and left them idle, till other! Far short of that extreme, however, fatal they have become relaxed and feeble-nay, have effects may be expected. Quite a moderate de- shrunk to half size : for muscles, and all the bogree of lacing suffices to bring the points of the dily organs, are strengthened by exercise and enribs several inches forward, and to press the ster- feebled by the want of it; like the memory. Tako non inwards : narrowing, just so much, that cham- away the corset, therefore, and the spinal coluinn ber which was at first not a hair’s-breadth too totters for lack of support. large for the lungs and heart to work in-besides This debility must be fought against. The corstopping the auxiliary motion of the bones them- set must be left off for several hours every day, and selves. The consequences need not be detailed. for a longer and longer time daily. While it is off, That the lungs, thus cribbed, and forced to beat in the whole body must be rubbed briskly, and as hard rain against the contracted walls of their prison, as can well be endured, for 15 or 20 minutes at a should be inflamed and diseased ; that the breath-time, with a coarse towel, or flesh-brush; and the ing should become short and difficult; that the patient must ride on horseback, or walk, till someheart should be subject to unnatural palpitations, what fatigued-keeping as erect as possible. One and no longer drive the blood with regular and or more companions ought to cheer these walks healthful vigor along the arteries ; that youth's and rides, with lively conversation. The rubbing joyous and active sports must be prematurely aban- should be done by the patient as far as practicable : doned; and that life itself

, perhaps after years of and then by a servant or friend. When the corset suffering, should retire from its beleaguered and op- is put on again, it should be made no tighter than pressed citadel; can excite no wonder.

is absolutely necessary to support the frame : and One fact will show, most strikingly, the horrible the degree of tightness should be lessened every violence done to Nature hy tight lacing. The fa- day—as it may readily be, while the muscles rebric I have described, -composed of the spine, the gain their strength. After dry-rubbing for some sternum, the ribs, and their gristles—is naturally days, it may be well to apply some cold water with cone-shaped ; smallest at top, and broadest at bottom, where the diaphragm separates it from the sto

* The diaphragm is a strong membrane, stretching somemach, &e. Now, by lacing, the lower ribs are so low the lungs and heart ; dividing the chest, or thorax, from

what horizontally across the hollow of the trunk, just becornpressed-their greater portions being gristle— the abdomen, or lower cavity, in which are the stomach, &c. that the lowest part of the cone is made the smallest! And this it is, which makes those foolishly more or less than lean flesh. Towards the joints, this har.

! It may not be generally known, that muscle is nothing admired waists, tapering downwards. Let every'dens and shrinks into tendon.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]





[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a sponge or the hand, and then rub dry with the of her age—the favorite companion of Michael coarse towel.

Angelo, but her life and works were but the eloquent This plan pursued for a few months—perhaps development of exalted womanhood. Madame even for six weeks—will cause the wasted mus- Roland displayed a strength of character singularly cles to swell and strengthen so, that the corset may heroic, but her brave dignity was perfectly feminine. be laid aside altogether : as it should be, the mo- Isabella of Spain gave evidence a mind remarkment it can be spared—Laid aside, never, never to ably comprehensive, and a rare degree of judg. be resumed, unless an anti-tight-lacing physician ment; yet in perusing her history, we are never should deliberately prescribe it. For all doctors beguiled from the feeling of her queenly character. are not to be trusted on this subject, any more than There is an essential quality of sex, to be felt upon the question of total abstinence from ardent rather than described, and it is when this is inarred, kes spirits. Some have their predilections for strong that a feeling of disappointment is the consequence. drink : these advise its use, and thus multiply It is as if we should find violets growing on a tall drunkards. Some are prejudiced in favor of cor- tree. The triumphs of mind always command sets; and thus lay many a poor girl in her grave, respect, but their style and trophies have diverse after a rickety and painful life of burdensome years. complexions in the two sexes. It is only when

Bless you, my child—and save you from all such these distinctions are lost, that they fail to interest. wretchedness--prays

It matters not how erudite or mentally gifted a
Your loving uncle,

G. T. woman may be, so that she remains in manner and

feeling a woman. Such is the idea that man
loves to see realized ; and in cherishing it, he gives and a da
the highest proof of his estimation of woman.

He delights to witness the exercise of her noblest

prerogative. He is charmed to behold her in the
most effective attitude. He appreciates too truly

the beauty and power of her nature to wish to see We have heard much of late regarding the rights it arrayed in any but a becoming dress. There is and sphere of woman. The topic has become trite. such a thing as female science, philosophy and One branch of the discussion, however, is worthy poetry, as there is female physiognomy and taste ; of careful notice—the true theory of cultivated not that their absolute qualities differ in the two and liberal men on the subject. This has been sexes, but their relative aspect is distinct. Their greatly misunderstood. The idea has been often sphere is as large and high, and infinitely more suggested that man is jealous of his alleged intel- delicate and deep than that of man, though not so lectual superiority, while little has been advanced obvious.

When they overstep their appropriate in illustration of his genuine reverence for female domain, much of their mental influence is lost

. character. Because the other sex cannot always Freely and purely exerted, it is at once recognized find erudition so attractive as grace in woman- and loved. "Man delights to meet woman in the and strong mental traits so captivating as a beautiful field of letters as well as in the arena of social life

. disposition, it is absurdly argued that mind and There also is she his better angel. With exquilearning are only honored in masculine attire. site satisfaction he learns at her feet the lessons The truth is, men of feeling instinctively recog- of mental refinement and moral sensibility. From nize something higher than intellect. They feel her teachings he catches a grace and sentiment that a noble and true soul is greater and more de- unwritten by his own sex. Especially in poetry

, lightful than mere reason, however powerful; and beams, with starlike beauty, the light of her soul. they know that to this, extensive knowledge and There he reads the records of a woman's beart

. active logical powers are not essential. It is not He hears from her own lips how the charms of the attainments, or the literary talent, that they nature and the mysteries of life have wrought in would have women abjure. They only pray that her bosom. Of such women, Mrs. Hemans is the through and above these may appear the woman. most cherished of our day. They desire that the harmony of nature may not Life is the prime source of literature, and esbe disturbed ; that the essential foundations of love pecially of its most effective and universal departmay not be invaded ; that the sensibility, delicacy ments. Poetry should therefore be the offspring and quiet enthusiasm of the female heart may con- of deep experience. Otherwise it is superacial tinue to awaken in man the tender reverence, which and temporary. What phase of existence is chiefis one of the most elevating of his sentiments. ly revealed to woman? Which domain of expe

Portia is highly intellectual; but even while array- rience is she best fitted by her nature and positiva ed in male costume and enacting the public advo- to illustrate ? Undoubtedly, the influence and power cate, the essential and captivating characteristics of the affections. In these her destiny is mare of her true sex inspire her mien and language. completely involved, through these her mind more Vittoria Colonna was one of the most gifted spirita'exclusively acts, than is the case with our set

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Accordingly, her insight is greater, and her inte- morality and spirituality of human love, is recogrest more extensive in the sphere of the heart. nized and proclaimed by her muse. Profoundly With a quicker sympathy, and a finer perception, does she feel the richness and the sadness, the will she enter into the history and results of the glory and the gloom, involved in the affections. affections. Accordingly, when the inantle of song She thinks it falls upon a woman, we cannot but look for new A fearful thing that love and death may dwell

In the same world! revelations of sentiment. Not that the charms of nature and the majesty of great events may not And reverently she declares that

He that sits above appropriately attract her muse; but with and around

In his calm glory, will forgive the love these, if she is a true poetess, we see ever en- His creatures bear each other, even if blent twined the delicate flowers that flourish in the at- With a vain worship ; for its close is dim

Ever with grief, which leads the wrung soul back to Him. mosphere of home, and are reared to full maturity

Devotion continually blends with and exalts her only under the training of woman. Thus the poetie in her character finds free development. She views of human sentiment:

I know, I know our love can here speak with authority. It is, indeed, irre

Shall yet call gentle angels from above, Ferent to dictate to genius, but the themes of fe. By its undying fervor. male poetry are written in the very structure of

Oh! we have need of patient faith below, the soul. Political economy may find devotees To clear away the mysteries of wo! among the gentler sex; and so an approach to the Bereavement has found in Mrs. Hemans a wormental hardihood of Lady Macbeth may appear thy recorder of its deep and touching poetry : once in the course of an age; whereas, every year But, oh! sweet Friend! we dream not of love's might we light on the traces of a Juliet, a Cleopatra and Till Death has robed with soft and solemn light

The image we enshrine !-- Before that hour, an Isabel. The spirit of Mrs. Hemans in all she

We have but ylimpses of the o'ermastering power has written, is essentially feminine. Various as Within us laid !- then doth the spirit-flame

With sword-like lightning rend iis mortal frame; are her subjects, they are stamped with the same

The wings of that which pants to follow fast, inage and superscription. She has drawn her

Shake their clay-bars, as with a prisoned blast,

She prevailing vein of feeling from one source.

The sea is in our souls ! has thrown over all her effusions, not so much

But thou ! whose thoughts have no blest home above, the drapery of knowledge, or the light of extensive Captive of earth! and canst thou dare to love ?

To nurse such feelings as delight to rest observation, as the warm and shifting hues of the Within that hallowed shrine a parent's breast ? heart. These she had at command. She knew To fix each hope, concentrate every tie,

On one frail idol,- destined but to die? their effects, and felt their mystery. Hence the

Yet mock the faith that points to worlds of light, lavish confidence with which she devoted them to Where severed souls, made perfect, re-unite?

Then tremble! cling to every passing joy the creations of fancy and the illustration of truth.

Twined with the life a momeni may destroy!
From the voice of her own consciousness, Mrs. If there be sorrow in a parting tear,
Hemans realized what capacity of joy and sor-

Still let " forever" vibrate on thine ear!

If some bright hour on rapture's wing hath flown, tou, of strength and weakness, exists in the hu- Find more than anguish in the thought-'is gone; man heart. This she made it her study to unfold.

Go! to a voice such magic influence give,

Thou canst not lose its melody and live ; The Restoration of the Works of Art to Italy is, And make an eye the lode-star of thy soul, as Byron said when it appeared, a very good poem.

And let a glance the springs of thought control ;

Gaze on a mortal form with fond delight, It is a fine specimen of heroic verse. The sub

Till the fair vision mingles with thy sight; ject is treated with judgment and ability, and the

There seek thy blessings, there repose thy trust,

Lean on the willow, idolize the dust! spirit which pervades the work is precisely what

Then when thy treasure best repays thy care, the occasion demanded. Still we feel that any Think on that dread “ forever," and despair! cultivated and ideal mind might have produced the The distinguishing attribute of the poetry of poem. There are no peculiar traits, no strikingly Mrs. Hemans is sentiment. She sings fervently original conceptions. The same may be said of of the King of Arragon, musing upon his slain Beveral of the long pieces. It is in the Songs of brother, in the midst of a victorious festival,-of the Affections and the Records of Woman that the the brave boy perishing at the battle of the Nile, poetess is preëminently excellent. Here the field at the post assigned him by his father,-of Del is emphatically her own. She ranges it with a Carpio, upbraiding the treacherous king :free step and a queenly bearing; and every where

Into these glassy eyes put light,-be still! keep down thine rich flowers spring up in her path, and a glowing

ire, atmosphere, like the rosy twilight of her ancestral Bid these white lips a blessing speak—this earth is not my land, enlivens and illumines her progress. In Give me back him for whom I strove, for whom my blood these mysterious ties of love, there is to her a Thou canst not-and a king ?–His dust be mountains on

was shed, World of poetry. She not only celebrates their thy head!" strength and mourns their fragility, but with pensive He loosed the steed; his slack hand fell,-upon the silent ardor dwells on their eternal destiny. The birth, He cast one long, deep, troubled look,—then turned from the growth, the decline, the sacrifices, the whole that sad place :


« НазадПродовжити »