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

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

[Review of Eliza W. Farnham, Life in Prairie Land]

Here is another good book about the great West.—It is written by the lady so favorably and extensively made known to the public by the wisdom and firmness she has evinced in her care of the female department of the Sing Sing Prison—wisdom and firmness which have enabled her to rise above the obstacles which envy and selfishness put in her way outside the Prison, as well as accomplish an admirable reformation within its walls.

This work shows strong good sense, enlarged views of life, and a great deal of experience in the paths of action and feeling. The writer is a correct and animated observer, and the descriptions, though too much in detail, and made with too heavy a hand to suit our own taste, are good in their kind.

The sketch of her sister and the relation between them, is affecting. It is rarely that any thing so personal could be addressed to the public and not displease; but it does not, the manner is so simple, strong, and in harmony with the whole character of the writer. Narratives from the domestic life of others are given with the same power of depicting realities without loss of their living force; the story of the tomb on the Prairie, p. 268, is a fine specimen of this. It is the power of the historian as contradistinguished from that of the artist.

We must observe in the dialogue a disagreeable and coarse style of repartee ascribed by the writer to herself; we know not whether as descriptive of her actual habit of answering, or merely as a way of expressing what came into her mind at the time. A specimen we may take from an early page:

Captain—“You are going up the Illinois, miss?”

“I am delighted with your sagacity, sir,” I replied; “that forms a part of my
present expectation.”

“Have you ever been up?”

“Never, sir.”

“I admire your taste,” &c.

-429-

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