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

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

Books of Travel

Innumerable as are the books of travel now into every region of the world, the proportion of good ones to the whole is still very small. For because traveling is the fashion, and almost every one who has a little money and time to spare makes use of the daily increasing facilities to extend the range of his experience, it does not follow that many of these shall have the elements of knowledge, the equipoise and discipline of faculties needful either to appreciate the known, or detect the unknown. Neither is the power of picturesque, concise and suggestive recital of what has been seen and heard commensurate with that of writing grammatically and in a legible hand.

Indeed the requisites for a good observer and narrator are many, and their combination rare.

1st. The person should be in good health. We do not want the partial or exaggerated statements that come from a morbid state in the traveler. Beside, without vigor and elasticity he cannot have the necessary enterprise and persistence in striking out new paths.

2d. He must have a generally cultivated mind and just at the right point; knowing enough of the views and suggestions of others to be on the look-out for all they were seeking for, yet not too much burthened with theories and opinions to receive its own proper benefit from the hour and the occasion. But if there must be an excess, it is better to be too little than too much informed as to what has already been seen and known.

3d. The traveler should have some knowledge of science, and some notion of the scope of the fine arts, or the peculiar influences and the most expressive features of life in each land and nation will be likely to escape him.

4th. He must have a poetic sensibility to what is special and individual both in nations and men.—Fineness and largeness in perception and sympathy are strangely rare among men, so that not one in ten thousand is able to see his fellows as they are.—The rest of the ten thousand look upon their fellowman

-299-

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