« НазадПродовжити »
From Blackwood's Magazine.
Felicia Hemans and the poetesses of Eng- but the reasoning powers not enough called
The difference between the mental qualities resents the mind, the culture, the feelings, of the sexes is owing, we apprehend, far and character, of the English gentlewoman. more to education than to nature. At all Her piety, her resignation, her love of nature events, there is no such natural difference as and of home—that cheerfulness easily moved warrants the distinction we make in the menby little incidents, that sadness into which tal discipline we provide for them. There reflection almost always settled—all speak of are certain professional studies with which no the cultivated woman bred under English one thinks of vexing the mind of any one, skies, and in English homes. Her attachment man or woman, but those who intend to practo the privacy of life, her wise dislike and tise the professions; but why, in a good Engavoidance of the éclat of literary renown, and lish library, there should be one half of it, the dull, dry, fever-heat of fashionable circles, and that the better half, which a young wotend to complete her qualifications as a fit man is not expected to read—this we never ting representative of her fair countrywomen. could understand, and never reflect on with The cultivation of her mind, in its weakness common patience. Why may not a Locke, as well as elegance, savored, perhaps, too or a Paley, or a Dugald Stewart, train the much of what we are compelled to call fem- mind of the future mother of a family? or inine. Alive at all times to beauty in all its why may not an intelligent young woman be forms, to music, to tender and imaginative a companion for her brother or her husband thought, she seems to have been almost in his more serious moods of thought as well equally averse to whatever bore the aspect as in his gayer and more trifling? Would of an analysis of feeling, or an approach to a | the world lose anything of social happiness or severe investigation of truth. Present her moral refinement by this intellectual equality with the beautiful, but spare her all scientific of the two sexes ? You vex the memory of dissection of it. Let the flower live as her a young girl with dictionaries and vocabularies companion ; do not rend it to pieces to show without end; you tax her memory in every its conformation. Let but the faith be ten- conceivable manner; and at an after-age you der and true to the heart, and disturb her not give the literature of sentiment freely to her with rude inquiries whether it possess any pillage ; but that which should step between other truth or not. That too much melan- | the two-the culture of the reason, this is choly (at least for her own happiness) which entirely forbidden. If she learns a dozen is traceable in her poems, arose in part from modern languages, she does not read a single events in her life, but in part, also, from this book in any one of them that would make her too partial and limited cultivation of the think. Even in her religious library, the mind. The feelings were excited or refined, same distinction is preserved. Books of sen
timental piety—some of them maudlin enough | seeking what he calls amusement in town or —are thrust with kindest anxiety and most country, the superior education he has reliberal profusion upon her; any work of the ceived makes him the more feeling, the more ology, any work that discusses and examines, imaginative, because the more reflective of is as carefully excluded.
the two. That brother who once shocked his We are not contending that there is no dif- little sister by his stupid and cruel amuseference whatever in the mental constitution ments, now looks with something like conof the two sexes. There may be less tendency tempt at the frivolous tastes and occupations to ratiocination in woman; there is certainly -at the system of artificial enjoyments more of feeling, a quicker and more sensitive -to which that sister has betaken herself. nature. One sees this especially in children. Now, if they are at the sea-side together, it Mark them in their play-hours, in their holiday is he who finds companionship in the waves, freedom, when they are left to themselves who finds thought grow more expanded, freer, to find matter of enjoyment—how much more and bolder, in the presence of the boundpleasure does the girl evidently derive from less ocean. She, too, dotes upon the sea, and any beautiful or living thing that comes be- sits down beside it—to read her novel. Now, fore it than the boy ! We have an instance if they ride or walk through the country toof it almost as we write. There is a group gether, it is his eye that sees the bird upon of children on the beach. The little girl is the bough—hers is on the distant dust some in perfect ecstasies, as she looks at the spark- equipage is making. ling waves that come bounding to her feet; But matters are mending, and will conshe shouts, she leaps, she herself bounds to- tinue to mend. There are so many women wards them, then springs back as they ap- of richly cultivated minds who have distinproach, half frightened and half pleased-she guished themselves in letters or in society, and knows not how to express her delight at this made it highly feminine to be intelligent as great playfellow she has found. Meanwhile well as good, and to have elevated as well as the boy, her brother, does nothing but throw amiable feelings, that by-and-by the whole stones at it—of that he seems never wearied. sex must adopt a new standard of education. The beach is a perfect armory to him, and he It must, we presume, be by leaders of their pelts the graceful waves remorselessly. What own starting out of their own body, that the is their grace to him? So, too, in an inland rest of the soft and timid flock must be led. scene, a garden or a lawn, we have often no Yes, we are mending. Very different are ticed what exquisite pleasure a little girl will our times from those when Madame de Genfeel as she watches a sparrow alight near her lis published her little work, De l'Influence upon the ground, in search of crumbs or other des Femmes sur la Littérature Francaise food. Her little frame quite thrills as this comme Protectrices des Lettres, et comme Auother little piece of life comes hopping and leurs. She had to contend, with the same pecking about her. She loads it, but with acrid energy, for the privilege of a lady to suppressed voice, with all the endearing epi- write, as a Turkish dame of the present centhets her vocabulary supplies. She is evi- tury might be supposed to display, who dently embarrassed that they are so few; should contend for the privilege of walking she makes up by their frequent repetition. abroad unveiled, or rather unmuffled. And She absolutely loves the little creature, with even she herself thinks it necessary to give all whose movements she seems to have the certain rules to young women who write keenest sympathy. Her brother, the boy, as she would to young women who dancehe has nothing for it but his unfailing stone, how to comport themselves with consumor he flings his hat at it. Unfailing, fortu- mate propriety; as not to enter into contronately, the stone is not; for, if his skill as a versy, or use big words--in short, to deal. marksman responded to his destructive zeal, with printer's ink without soiling the most there is nothing that a stone would kill that delicate fingers. As to that argument drawn would be left alive, or that a stone would from the supposed neglect of domestic duties break that would be left whole. A mere blind —which it seems, in those days just emerganimal-activity seems, at that very interesting ing from barbarity, was still heard of—she age, to distinguish the future lord of the cre- dismisses it very briefly. “Comme ces deation.
voirs dans une maison bien ordonnée, ne At an after-period of life, when thought peuvent jamais prendre plus d'une heure par has educated the youth into feeling, the pic- jour, cette objection est absolument nulle." ture is often entirely reversed. Then, unless As there is much implied in that “maison the man be bred up a mere pleasure-hunter, / bien ordonnée,” and as Madame de Genlis
VOL. XVI. NO. II.
did not write for simple gentle-folks, it is to, forsooth, a certain hesitation—a want of vigbe hoped that the one hour per diem
may or and certainty of touch. Nonsense Take admit of extension without any forfeiture of | Our Village, by Miss Mitford, and the Sketchliterary privileges. In her time, too, there Book, by Washington Irving: they are both was thought to be a sort of feud between of the graceful and elegant order of style; authors and authoresses-a thing which in but the lady writes the English language our day is quite inconceivable—for she writes, with far more freedom, ease, and vigor, than apropos of a charge of plagiarism against the gentleman. The poetic element is minLa Fontaine, in the following indignant gled in her diction with far more taste and strains :—“Quelles que soient le bonhomie et judgment. It glitters through her prose as la candeur d'un auteur, il sait que, par une loi the sunlight in the green tree-throwing its tacite mais universelle, il est toujours dispensé gold amongst the foliage, yet leaving it the de convenir qu'il doit à une femme une idée same green, and simple, and refreshing obheureuse. Dans ce cas seulement le plagiat ject as before. et le silence sont également légitimes.' No—we will grant to woman no monopoly
We have changed all that: we have had in the lighter elegancies, and presume nothing too many instances of women of talent and against her ability to excel in the graver of genius to doubt their ability to excel--we qualities of authorship. We have said that make no exception-in any branch of litera- Mrs. Hemans was peculiarly the poetess of ture whatever. We give them, on the other her country women, but we do not mean to hand, no monopoly of elegance or grace, or imply by this that her style is peculiarly delicacy of touch, as some affect to do. These feminine—for we do not pretend to know qualities they are very likely to display; but what a feminine style is; we thus characthey will be superior in them to authors of terized her because the sentiments she habituthe male sex, only just so far as they are su- ally expresses are those which will almost perior to those authors in genius and talent. universally find a response in the minds of There is still a practice in many critics to de her country women. tect the style feminine from the style mascu It seems an ungracious thing to say, but line. The sooner this is laid aside the bet we do wish that the biographical notice of ter. There are styles which, speaking meta- Mrs. Hemans, appended to the last edition phorically, one may say have a feminine of her works, had not been written by a sisgrace, or a feminine weakness. Such an ob- ter. So near a relative may be presumed, servation has been made, by Sir James Mack indeed, to know more of the person whose intosh, on the style of Addison. But to pre- life she undertakes to narrate than any one tend to say of a given page of composition else ; but she may not know what to tell us. whether an or a woman has penned it, is Her very familiarity with the subject is absurd. We often hear it said, that none against her: she cannot place it at a distance but a woman could have written the letters from her, and regard it with a freshness of of Madame de Sévigné. If Cowper had been view; she does not think of recording, she a woman, people would have said the same does not even remember, what to her has thing of his letters. They are unrivalled, at none of the interest of novelty. A sister least in our own language, for grace and ele- who should give to any impartial biographer gance, and wit and playfulness.
the materials he required of her, would be man, we believe—and the epistolary style is found to contribute far more to our knowlsupposed to belong by especial right to the edge of the person whose life was written, female pen-has ever written such charming than by holding the pen herself. Beŝides, a letters as those to Lady Hesketh, and his old sister can have none, and show none, but sisfriend Thomas Hill. As to the letters of terly feelings ; and though these are very Madame de Sévigné, they so evidently come proper and amiable, we want something more. from a mother to a daughter, that it is im The two or three events which we learn possible to forget for a moment the sex of the from this biographical notice, and which bear writer. But if the qualities which have upon the education of the poetess, are soon given them literary celebrity are to be pro- recorded, and they are the only class of nounced feminine, half the literature of events we feel particularly interested in. FeFrance is of the same gender. Still less can licia Dorothea Browne-such was the maidwe tolerate the affectation that pretends to name of Mrs. Hemans-was born at discern a certain weakness, a tremulousness Liverpool, 25th September, 1793. She is of the band, when the pen is held by a wo described as distinguished “almost from her
There is a grace and elegance, but, cradle by extreme beauty and precocious
talents." When of the age of seven years The young poetess was then only Gifteen her father, who had been a merchant of con in the full glow of that radiant beauty which siderable opulence, met with a reverse of was destined to fade so early. The mantling fortune, and the family retired to Wales, bloom of her cheeks was shaded by a pro" where for the next nine years they resided fusion of natural ringlets, of a rich golden at Grych, near Abergele, in Denbighshire, a brown; and the ever-varying expression of large old mansion, close to the sea, and shut her brilliant eyes gave a changeful play to in by a picturesque range of mountains,”—a her countenance, which would have made it change of residence which was, at all events, impossible for any painter to do justice to highly propitious for the development of the it. No wonder that so fair a being should poetic character. “In the calm seclusion of excite the admiration of a gallant captain. this romantic region, with ample range And the love on both sides was ardent and through the treasures of an extensive library, sincere : it supported the absence of three the young poetess passed a happy childhood, years; for Captain Hemans, soon after their to which she would often fondly revert introduction, was called upon to embark with amidst the vicissitudes of her after-life. Here his regiment for Spain. On his return, in she imbibed that intense love of nature which 1812, they were married. Of their domestic ever afterwards “ haunted her like a passion,' happiness, or unhappiness, nothing is said ; and that warm attachment for the 'green but six years after, in 1818, we are simply land of Wales'—its affectionate, true-bearted told that the Captain went to Rome—and people ; their traditions, their music, and all never returned. The separated pair never their interesting characteristics—which she met again. cherished to the last hours of her existence.” “ To dwell on this subject,” says her biA pleasant picture this—the large old house grapher, “would be unnecessarily painful; near the sea, and amongst mountains, with yet it must be stated, that nothing like a Welsh harpers and Welsh traditions, and permanent separation was contemplated at great store of books, and the little girl rang- the time, nor did it ever amount to more ing at will through all. This, and the pic than a tacit conventional arrangement, which ture we have of the young student conning offered no obstacle to the frequent interher Shakspeare, her choicest recreation, “in change of correspondence, nor to a constant a secret haunt of her own—a seat amongst reference to their father in all things relating the branches of an old apple-tree-where to the disposal of her boys. But years rolled she revelled in the treasures of the cherished on-seventeen years of absence, and consevolume”—are all we learn of her childhood, quently alienation ; and from this time to and all perhaps that remained to tell. the hour of her death, Mrs. Hemans and her
Our poetess was very soon in print. Few husband never met again.” have commenced their life of authorship so We are not in general anxious to pry into early. In 1808 some friends, “perhaps the domestic afflictions of any pair whom more partial than judicious,” published a wedlock has mismatched. If we feel a little collection of her poems, written at and before curiosity to know more than the sister has the age of fourteen, in a quarto volume. told us, in this instance, it is merely from a "Its appearance," our fair biographer tells wish to learn how far the poetic temperaus, “ drew down the animadversions of some ment of Mrs. Hemans could be assigned as self-constituled arbiter of taste.”
the real cause of her matrimonial unhappiheard of any critics being constituted by ness. Did the Captain grow weary of the royal patent, or any mode of popular elec- society of one whose feelings were pitched tion-certainly not by a committee of au in too high a key for him to sympathize with? thors. Self-constituted! why did not the Was there too much of poetry mingled with lady call him a self-conceited knave, while the daily food of life? she was about it? Just or unjust, there would have been some meaning in the phrase, “ Men. by St. Thomas ! cannot live like bees." at least. We suspect, for our part, that these friends,“ more partial than judicious," Did he yearn for something more homely, as who published the rhymes of a young girl of she, on her side, yearned for something more fourteen in a quarto volume, were themselves elevated ? Had he been made to feel that strangely constituted arbiters of taste. he did not approach the ideal of her imagi
Not long after this first publication of her nation, and that the admiration she once poems, the next great event of her life took' had given was withdrawn? Or should we place—her introduction to Captain Hemans. I say of her, in lines of her own,
“ There are hearts
But for those bonds all perfect made, So perilously fashioned, that for them
Wherein bright spirits blend, God's touch alone hath gentleness enough
Like sister-flowers of one sweet shade, To waken, and not break, their thrilling strings.” With the same breeze that bend;
For that full bliss of thought allied,
Never to mortals given-
Oh! lay the lonely dreams aside,
Or lift them unto heaven, poetry which show an intense longing for the sympathy of other minds; which show
We follow no further the events of her bithat, while her feelings were of a rare order for their refinement and elevation, she yet
ography. We have here all that reflects a
That sought—what for such a one it was difficult
light upon the poems themselves.
Welsh life to obtain—for the kindred sympathy of
among the mountains—that little others. She could not worship her goddes- girl with her Shakspeare in the
apple-treeses alone. This tendency of mind
enthusiasm and love marriage-disappointher verses indicate; and there is one sweet little poem where, if our fancy does not mis- ment—and the living afterwards, with her
children round her, in a condition worse than lead us, she secretly reproves herself for
widowhood ;-here is all the comment that having exacted too much in this respect from her biographer affords on her sweet and others: we do not say from any one in par- melancholy verse. ticular, for the verses bear reference to a brother, not a husband. Yet some personal
And how vividly the verse reflects the
life! reminiscence, or regret of this kind, might How true her pictures of mountain, and
How redolent of nature is her poetry! lead to the strain of thought so beautifully forest, and river, and sky! It requires that expressed in the following lines :
the reader should have been himself a long and accurate observer of rural scenes, to fol
low her imagination, and to feel the truth of Oh! ask not, hope not thou too much
her rapid and unpretending descriptions. It Of sympathy below;
is singular how, without the least apparent Few are the hearts whence one same touch effort, all the persons she brings before us Bids the sweet fountains flow;
are immediately localized on the green earth Few-and by still conflicting powers,
-trees wave around them, flowers spring at Forbidden here to meet; Such ties would make this life of ours
their feet, as if this were quite natural and Too fair for aught so fleet.
unavoidable. How sweet a part does the quiet charm of nature take in the piece
called It may be that thy brother's eye
Sees not as thine, which turns In such deep reverence to the sky Where the rich sunset burns;
Oh! when wilt thou return It may be that the breath of spring,
To thy spirit's early loves ? Born amidst violets lone,
To the freshness of the morn, A rapture o'er thy soul can bring
To the stillness of the groves ? A dream, to his unknown.
The summer birds are calling
The household porch around,
And the merry waters falling
With sweet laughter in their sound.
And a thousand bright-veined flowers,
From their banks of moss and fern, Some chord within can thrill
Breathe of the sunny hoursThese may have language all thine own,
But when wilt thou return ? To him a mystery still.
Oh! thou hast wandered long Yet scorn thou not, for this, the true
From thy home without a guide ; And steadfast love of years;
And thy native woodland song
In thine altered heart hath died.
Thou hast flung the wealth away,
And the glory of thy spring; And watched through sickness by thy bed And to thee the leaves' bright play Call his a kindred heart !
Is a long-forgotten thing.
THE VOICE OF HOME TO THE PRODIGAL.