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

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

Miss Barrett's Poems

What happiness for the critic when, as in the present instance, his task is, mainly, how to express a cordial admiration; to indicate an intelligence of beauties, rather than regret for defects!

We have read these volumes with feelings of delight far warmer than the writer, in her sincerely modest preface, would seem to expect from any reader, and cannot hesitate to rank her, in vigor and nobleness of conception, depth of spiritual experience, and command of classic allusion, above any female writer the world has yet known.

In the first quality, especially, most female writers are deficient. They do not grasp a subject with simple energy, nor treat it with decision of touch. They are in general most remarkable for delicacy of feeling, and brilliancy or grace in manner.

In delicacy of perception, Miss Barrett may vie with any of her sex. She has what is called a true woman's heart, although we must believe that men of a fine conscience, and good organization will have such a heart no less. Signal instances occur to us in the cases of Spenser, Wordsworth and Tennyson.1 The woman who reads them will not find hardness or blindness as to the subtler workings of thoughts and affections.

If men are often deficient on this score,n women, on the other hand, are apt to pay excessive attention to the slight tokens, the little things of life. Thus, in conduct or writing, they tend to weary us by a morbid sentimentalism. From this fault Miss Barrett is wholly free. Personal feeling is in its place; enlightened by Reason, ennobled by Imagination. The earth is no despised resting place for the feet, the heaven bends while above, rich in starry hopes, and the air flows around exhilarating and free.

____________________
1
Edmund Spenser (ca. 1552–99), English poet best known for The Fairie Queene (1590); William Wordsworth (1770–1850), British poet and a cofounder with Coleridge of the Romantic movement; Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–92), named poet laureate of England in 1850 to succeed Wordsworth.
n
score; [score,

-20-

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