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S. MARGARET FULLER.
Ar this present time there are three women who greatly resemble each other in their intellectual nature : and they belong to the three greatest nations in the world. France has her Madame Dudevant, or better known by the name of George Sand; England, her Elizabeth Barrett; and America, her Margaret Fuller. Singular to add, they are all now within a short distance of each other, two being in Italy, and the other in Paris. The personal meeting of these, the first women of the age, must be of extraordinary interest, and we would cheerfully barter away a year of our own existence to listen to their communings for one day.
An American author of great eminence, some time since, denominated Margaret Fuller the George Sand of America ; and, much as we dislike that hackneyed fashion of making the great intellect of one nation a kind of duplicate of another, yet there is more justness in this comparison than generally falls to the lot of that absurd method of getting at facts, or something like them.
It must of course be understood that we mean here only an
intellectual parallel. We name this to guard against the possibility of any misconception, as we know there is a prejudice against the French authoress on account of sundry freaks she is supposed to indulge in, such as assuming male attire, roaming the streets, and smoking cigars. With all these drawbacks, she is a woman of great and undoubted genius, and as such she has been acknowledged by the first intellects of the age.
We may as well mention here as a justification for our admiration of George Sand, that Elizabeth Barrett, wife to the poet Browning, has, in one of the finest sonnets of the time, warmly acknowledged her claim to the respect and sympathy of womankind. The praise of Elizabeth Barrett Browning outweighs a host of mongrel carpers.
It is a common method to attack every woman who endeavors to earn for her sex a loftier and more appreciatory position in the government of the world, or in the constitution of society. It certainly has happened with a few female reformers that they have carried their theories somewhat too wildly into practice, and overproved their case: like vaulting ambition, they have overleaped themselves. But while the world condemns the personal conduct of Mary Wolstoncroft, Mrs. Shelley, and some others, it should at least be just to those who avoid these errors. Were Christianity to be judged by the Simeon Stylites and other fanatics, who would profess themselves Christians ? But it is the cunning of falsehood to confound an abuse with the use, and so make the truth itself hateful, or at all events doubtful.
It is a singular fact that man should have this enmity to women who endeavor the most to render woman more helpful
to him ; and no less strange that woman herself should join in this crusade against the recovery of her long-lost birthright.
It seems almost absurd to say so, but it appears to us to be the truth (and confirmed by the experience of others) that there is great jealousy shown by men of all classes to women of great intellect.
This may, perhaps, account for the unpopularity of female writers, more especially if they happen to tread upon forbidden subjects, such as the equality of the sexes. In
many men there is a great appearance of deference to the gentler part of creation, but we take it this proceeds from a lower feeling than that of respect. It is seldom that man shows a deference to anything except wealth or beauty: his instinct is against woman's intellect.
It is not, however, our intention to discuss this question ; we merely give it as the opinion of many of the wisest men we have conversed with, and we content ourselves with merely making the assertion.
We have been led chiefly to this statement by the tone which many have adopted towards the eminent authoress at the head of this article.
We have carefully read, and at first with a prejudiced eye, all her writings, and we see no ground for the objections which have been made against her doctrines.
We hope to show that she is not alone one of the first of the daughters of America, but that she is one of the wisest of women.
We shall consider her prose writings first, and then “illumi
nate our pages
” with some of the most genuine poetry the female
of the New World has produced. We commence with the volume which first roused our attention and excited our admiration.
In 1843 she published her “Summer on the Lakes,” and seldom has so small a volume contained so much fine thought and been so full of suggestiveness.
There is a total absence of the old notions. We here find one who has a freshness of nature which can think and feel for herself. How unlike the stale common-place rhapsodies on Niagara is the following:
“We have been here eight days, and I am quite willing to go away. So great a sight soon satisfies, making us content with itself, and with what is less than itself. Our desires once realized, haunt us again less readily: having "lived one day' we would depart, and become worthy to live another.
“We have not been fortunate in weather, for there cannot be too much or too warm sunlight for this scene, and the skies have been lowering with cold, unkind winds. My nerves, too much braced up by such an atmosphere, do not well bear the continual stress of sight and sound. For here there is no escape from the weight of a perpetual creation; all other forms and motions come and go, the tide rises and recedes, the wind at its mightiest, moves in gales and gusts, but here is really an incessant, an indefatigable motion.
“ Awake or asleep there is no escape; still this rushing round you and through you. It is in this way I have most felt the grandeur,---somewhat eternal, if not infinite.
“ At times a secondary music rises; the cataract seems to seize
its own rhythm, and sing it over again, so that the ear and soul are roused by a double vibration. This is some effect of the wind, causing echoes to the thundering anthem. It is very sublime, giving the effect of a spiritual repetition through all the spheres."
Although we have never seen Niagara, nor listened to its deafening anthem, we feel the truth of this description; and that is the gift of genius, to enable us to feel the presence of a great man, a stirring heroic event, or sublimity of nature, by means of the poet's soul.
How vigorously she portrays the sentiment which all have felt in the presence of beautiful or sublime scenery!
“But all great expression, which, on a superficial survey, seems so easy as well as so simple, fornishes, after a while, to the faithful observer its own standard by which to appreciate it. Daily these proportions widened and towered more and more upon my sight, and I got at last a proper foreground for these sublime distances. Before coming away, I think I really saw the full wonder of the scene. After awhile it so drew me into itself as to inspire an undefined dread, such as I never knew before, such as may be felt when death is about to usher us into a new existence.”
Miss Fuller, in her desire to dip the plummet down to the very depths of human nature, has, with her usual boldness, seized upon a presentiment which, no doubt, at particular seasons, has impressed every mind. We pause over her remark in italics, as it affords us an opportunity of noticing that love of psychological illustration which seems to be so natural to her.