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

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

“Mistress of herself, though china fall”

Women, in general, are indignant that the satirist should have made this the climax to praise of a woman.1 And yet, we fear, he saw only too truly.—What unexpected failures have we seen, literally, in this respect! How often did the Martha blur the Mary out of the face of a lovely woman at the sound of a crash amid glass and porcelain!2 What sad littleness in all the department thus represented! Obtrusion of the mop and duster on the tranquil meditations of a husband and brother. Impatience if the carpet be defaced by the feet even of cherished friends!

There is a beautiful side and a good reason here; but why must the beauty degenerate and give place to meanness?

To Woman the care of home is confided. It is the sanctuary of which she should be the guardian angel. To all elements that are introduced there she should be the “ordering mind.” She represents the spirit of beauty, and her influence should be spring-like, clothing all objects within her sphere with lively, fresh and tender hues, She represents purity, and all that appertains to her should be kept delicately pure. She is modesty, and draperies should soften all rude lineaments, and exclude glare and dust. She is harmony, and all objects should be in their places, ready for and matched to their uses.

We all feel that there is substantial reason for the offence we feel at defect in any of these ways. A woman who wants purity, modesty, and harmony in her dress and manners is unsufferable—one who wants them in the arrangements of her house disagreeable, to every one. She neglects the most obvious ways of expressing what we desire to see in her, and the inference is ready that the inward sense is wanting.

____________________
1
“Epigram on the Chinese Treaty,” l. 4, by Thomas Hood.
2
Fuller is comparing Martha, goddess of the household and symbol of the active life, with the Virgin Mary, symbol of the contemplative life.

-406-

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