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

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

[Review of Caroline M. Kirkland, Western Clearings

In this volume will be found all the excellences to which we are accustomed in this justly popular writer—a sweet and genial temper, able to sympathise with whatever is simple and healthful, balanced by a quick sense of folly, pretension, or morbid action in character; admirable good sense, ennobled by generous desires; a cultivated taste, and great comic power. When to these qualifications for observing men is added a familiar love of nature, with uncommon talents for description, it must be confessed that the combination of claims is rare. And Mrs. Kirkland has yet one more, that will not be less felt by the American reading public; and this is that, though she has received sufficient influence from the literature of the old world to refine and expand her powers, she belongs, both by her topics and the structure of her mind, to the new. She has represented a particular period in our social existence with so much success, that her works, though slight in their fabric, and familiar in their tone, are likely to have a permanent existence and enforce a permanent interest. She is only a sketcher, but with so clear an eye and vigorous a touch as to afford just views of the present and valuable suggestions for the future. As a specimen of the reflective portion of the book, take the following:

Aristocracy.—The great ones of the earth might learn many a lesson from the little. What has a certain dignity on a comparatively large scale, is so simply laughable when it is seen in miniature, (and, unlike most other things, perhaps, its real features are better distinguished in the small,) that it must be wholesome to observe how what we love appears in those whom we do not admire. The monkey and the magpie are imitators; and when the one makes a thousand superfluous bows and grimaces, and the other hoards what can be of no possible use to him, we may, even in those, see a far off reflex of certain things prevalent among ourselves. Next in order come little children; and the boy will put a napkin about his neck for a cravat, and the girl supply her ideal of a veil, by pinning a pocket handkerchief to her bonnet, while we laugh at the self-deception, and fancy that we value only realities. But what affords us

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