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

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

Story Books for the Hot Weather

Does any shame still haunt the age of bronze—a shame, the lingering blush of a heroic age, at being caught in doing anything merely for amusement? Is there a public still extant which needs to excuse its delinquencies by the one story of a man who liked to lie on the sofa all day and read novels, though he could, at time of need, write the gravest didactics! Live they still, those reverend signiors, the object of secret smiles to our childish years, who were obliged to apologize for midnight oil spent in conning story books, by the “historic bearing” of the novel, or the “correct and admirable descriptions of certain countries, with climate, scenery and manners therein contained,” wheat for which they, industrious students, were willing to winnow bushels of frivolous loveadventures? We know not—but incline to think the world is now given over to frivolity so far as to replace by the novel the minstrel's ballad, the drama, and worse still, the games of agility and strength in which it once sought pastime, for indeed, mere pass-time is sometimes needed. The nursery legend comprised a primitive truth of the understanding and the wisdom of nations in the lines—

“All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy; But, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

We having reversed the order of arrangement to suit our present purpose. For we, O useful reader, being ourselves so far of the useful class as to be always wanted somewhere, have also to fight a good fight for our amusements, either with the foils of excuse, like the reverend signiors above mentioned, or with the sharp weapons of argument, or maintenance of a view of our own without argument, which we take to be the sharpest weapon of all.

Thus far do we defer to the claims of the human race, with its myriad of useful errands to be done, that we read most of our novels in the long sunny days, which call all beings to chirp and nestle or fly abroad as the birds do, and permit the very oxen to ruminate gently in the just-mown fields.

-138-

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