Margaret Fuller, Critic: Writings from the New-York Tribune, 1844-1846

By Judith Mattson Bean; Joel Myerson | Go to book overview

French Novelists of the Day: Balzac…….
George Sand……. Eugene Sue

This thirteenth number of the “Wandering Jew,” just published by Winchester,1 has delivered us from our anxieties as to the objects of Jesuit persecution, though by a coup de main clumsier than is usual even with Sue. Now, we have matters arranged for a few months more of contest with the Society of Jesus, but we think our author must depend for interest during the last volume, no longer on the conduct of the plot, but on the portraiture of characters.

It is cheering to know how great is the influence such a writer as Sue exerts, from his energy of feeling on some objects of moral interest. It is true that he has also much talent and a various experience of life; but writers who far surpass him here, as we think Balzac does, wanting this heart of faith, have no influence, except merely on the tastes of their readers.

We hear much lamentation among good people at the introduction of so many French novels among us, corrupting, they say, our youth by pictures of decrepit vice and prurient crime, such as would never, otherwise, be dreamed of here, and corrupting it the more that such knowledge is so precocious—for the same reason that a boy may be more deeply injured by initiation into wickedness than a man, for he is not only robbed of his virtue, but prevented from developing the strength that might restore it. But it is useless to bewail what is the inevitable result of the movement of our time. Europe must pour her corruptions, no less than her riches, on our shores, both in the form of books and of living men. She cannot, if she would, check the tide which bears them hitherward; no defenses are possible, on our vast extent of shore, that can preclude their ingress. We have exulted in premature and hasty growth; we must brace ourselves to bear the evils that ensue. Our only hope lies in rousing, in our own community, a soul of goodness, a wise aspiration, that shall give us strength to assimilate this unwholesome food to better substance, or

____________________
1
The Wandering Jew, translated by H. W. Herbert, was published by J. Winchester in nineteen parts between 1844 and 1845.

-54-

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