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

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

[Review of Schoolcraft Jones, Ellen; or Forgive and Forget]

We notice this coarsely written little fiction, because it is one of a class which we see growing with pleasure. We see it with pleasure because, in its way, it is genuine. It is a transcript of the crimes, calumnies, excitements, half blind love of right, and honest indignation at the sort of wrong which it can discern, to be found in the class from which it emanates.

That class is a large one in our country villages, and these books reflect its thoughts and manners as half-penny ballads do the life of the streets of London. The ballads are not more true to the facts, but they give us, in coarser form, far more of the spirit than we get from the same facts reflected in the intellect of a Dickens, for instance, or of any writer far enough above the scene to be, properly, its Artist.

So in this book we find what Cooper, Miss Sedgwick, and Mrs. Kirkland might see, as the writer did, but could hardly believe in enough to speak of with such fidelity.1

It is a current superstition that country people are more pure and healthy in mind and body than those who live in cities. It may be so in countries of old established habits where a genuine peasantry have inherited some of the practical wisdom and loyalty of the past with most of its errors. We have our doubts, though, from the stamp upon literature, always the nearest evidence of truth we can get, whether, even there, the difference between town and country life is as much in favor of the latter as is generally supposed. But in our land where the country is at present filled with a mixed population who come seeking to be purified by a better life and culture from all the ills and diseases of the worst forms of civilization, things often look worse than in the city, perhaps because men have more time and room to let their faults grow and offend the light of day.

____________________
1
James Fenimore Cooper (1789–1851), novelist and social commentator; Catharine Maria Sedgwick (1789–1867), novelist.

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