Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

later days, as Sir Francis Wronghead; sitting, perhaps, all the while by the side of no less a personage than the celebrated Bollman, who so gallantly attempted the rescue of Lafayette. Or, if in our sister city, vibrating between the Wistars, the Rush's, the Copes, and the Wolcotts; walking round the metropolis with his intimate friend and correspondent, Charles Brockden Brown, tracing out the localities of that awful epidemic, which this distinguished author afterward so powerfully described, or hearing him read from the pages of his novel, while scarcely dry from his pen. Copies of a varied and interesting correspondence, with some of the most distinguished men and women of that period, are transcribed at large in the journal; and it is from this portion of the ms. volumes, whence we select the following passage, in relation to letter-writing. When Charles Lamb said that ‘one glimpse of the human face, one shake of the human hand, was worth whole reams of cold, thin correspondence,' we may suppose he had in his eye some such correspondents as those alluded to by our journalist below; men who, although they disfurnish their skulls to write a letter, yet make up a most stiltish model of written converse :'

You cannot but have observed how various are the powers of men in this respect; and how contemptibly the minds of some appear to have dwindled, when they come to give a written language to that which in ordinary conversation seemed to possess no little share of brilliancy and truth. There are so many resting places, in common talkings, (for they scarcely deserve the name of conversations,) so many ways of sliding out of difficulties, by means of an apt allusion, or pun, a repartee, or a new subject, that men of superficial minds and scanty information oftentimes obtain great credit, where they deserve none. The touch-stone of these is the

pen.

When men venture to assume this instrument, we look for something more than the passable; we expect precision, pertinence, method; and in no other species of composition do men so miserably fail, in these particulars, as in letter-writing. This is, perhaps, because they mistake the purpose of letters. For • a letter, they say, “is of no consequence;' and they make it the slovenly vehicle of crude and contemptible opinions. But, surely, my dear Sir, you do not think thus lightly of these substitutes for conversation. You will bear in mind that I am not speaking of mere letters of business. You do not think it sufficient to

ve scrawled half a dozen almost unintelligible lines, concerning some report of the day, and to have dismissed the abortive thing under the title of a letter. Much as you may love your friends, and dearly as you prize their welfare, you will

not be satisfied with mere testimonials of the continuance of their affection, assurances of their happiness, and wishes for your own. Letters, in your mind, must certainly assume a higher, a more dignified character. What this character is, becomes evident enough, when we have reflected for a moment on their design.

Had I been absent from my friend for many months, hearing nothing from him, no communication subsisting between us, and were we, after such an absence, to meet, should I content myself with bare inquiries after his health, and his pecuniary prosperity? Would he be satisfied with corresponding information respecting myself? Would either be likely to suppose that the purpose of our meeting was then effected, and quietly return to the same remote situations, and to the same long-continued silence? Is it not more probable, nay, is it not certain, that we should indulge ardently, passionately, and reasonably indulge, in many long, and to us interesting, conversations ? That we should not feel each other's company a burthen, for one, two, three, or even more hours ? And that, though our health and prosperity might, reciprocally, claim some part of our attention, we should seize on the occasion, with avidity, to discuss all those questions which, during our absence from each other, had greatly affected us? Should not we seek, in fine, to unfold the treasured volume of our soul, and expose the variegated pages to the inspection of our friend? If it be true, tható letters are intended to be the substitutes of discourse,' can there any longer remain a doubt as to what they should be ? Is it not clear, that the more copiously they treat of important matters, the more valuable they become, and the more perfectly they answer their true end ? It has been remarked of the celebrated Grotius, and greatly to his praise, that he wrote numerous letters, and that all his letters were complete treatises. Compared with such a standard, what would be the character of the infinitude of puny existences which daily arrogate to themselves the sacred appellation of letters ? Shall I answer you in the spirited and forcible language of my friend Charles Brockden Brown! Speaking on this subject, in one of his late letters, he says : ‘Letters, indeed, as they are usually written, are the ghosts, the skeletons of conversation; 'with bones as marrowless, and blood as cold,' as any gibbetted representation of death whatever. Of such mockeries of wit and ease, such shadowy resemblances of life and nature, it is not easy to speak in any other language than that of anger or ridicule.'

• When communications are frequent, they are apt to become very brief; and in short letters, all the real use of such an intercourse is lost, by frivolous inquiries, tiresome introductions, and impertinent conclusions. They are like fashionable tea parties where all is hurry and confusion, while the company are together; where every one is under constraint, through fear of not doing every thing just as it ought to be done, or of injuring her fine clothes; where the value and merit of fans, ribbons, and muslins, are the topics of discussion; and where, in fine, each guest is glad when the company separate, and the hostess happy to see her visitors depart. But long letters, when not very frequent, are like those visits which our distant friends make, when they come to stay with us occasionally, several days, in the true family way; where all things take their accustomed course; and where we are more anxious to enjoy their society, than to display the richness of our habiliments, and the magnificence of our furniture.'

From a letter to the writer, by a distinguished lady of Connecticut, the wife of an eminent member of the National Congress,' we copy the annexed remarks upon women, their rights, education, etc. The reader will bear in mind, that the letter is based upon a conversation held with our journalist, in relation to a recently published work upon the education and condition of women, and that hence the thoughts are thrown together in a random and miscellaneous manner. Nevertheless, we commend them to the serious attention of the reader, as embodying views and facts, which will at least be deemed important by those who properly estimate the great influence of well educated females:

• As to the proposed amendments in the education of women, I confess I see no objection to the attempt.

To eradicate a single folly, above all, to expel a single vice, from the character of women, is worth the united exertions of mankind, for at least one century. For after all, women are of great importance in the world, even with their present narrow views of things. Let them then possess legally that liberty which they now obtain by their illicit operations on the minds of their male acquaintances and connexions. This will show whether they will bear a reasonable independence; whether they will bear to be, lawfully, of consequence. The term which was first applied to woman, 'help-meet,' carries, to my understanding, an idea of equality.

* The light of science, where it has only beamed on half a nation, (for women, nationally, have never partaken but of the reflected blaze,) has shown us wonders. Suffer it, then, to have indiscriminate extension, to men and women, and I believe it will have, indiscriminately, good effects. As we are the work of the hands of the same God, and, independently of each other, accountable beings, I cannot conceive why women ought not to be so educated that they can think for themselves. It is allowed, on all hands, that exercise of mind, as well as of body, tends to strengthen its faculties.

• I believe the Deity sees latent talents in the human mind, which will, in his own time, be drawn into light and into use; and that the means appointed to this sublime end, are to be found in the mutual exertions of mankind. I have sometimes indulged the thought, that the whole human character is yet in its infancy. We daily see men stopping short, when they have but half ascended the hill, discouraged with the thought that they can never attain the summit of perfection which has been attained, much less go on to an ideal height; that is as dark as midnight. We are all in the habit of viewing things as dangerous, nay, as impossible, which are only difficult. A little more light, which would dawn upon us if we would shut our eyes to prejudice, and open them to reason, might excite astonishment, how we could have been so long in ignorance of simple truths, respecting one half of the human race, who interweave themselves with the happiness of the other half.

• Universal Love must gain ground, in all hearts, and Science spread, universally, its pure lights, before women will be completely emancipated from the chains of ignorance, and consequent folly; or men from their passion to tyrannize. I speak collectively, not individually. I do not call all men tyrants; nor all women slaves, or fools, or samples of blind ignorance. No! There is, here and there, a being, among both sexes, so enlightened, and so good, that nature may hold them forth, and, in the language of Minerva, say, 'These are my children!'

*I have only perused your little book once through, and therefore can only touch its prominent features; but you will be able to gather, from what I have written, my general opinions. Nor have I given them with diffidence; because you, I know, will not deem it an infringement on modesty, that a woman should venture to speak what she believes; and were I to give my sentiments otherwise than under the influence of unreserved freedom, depend upon it they would be artful disguises, not genuine principles.

"I do not wish to be understood to say that no author has written good and just sentiments on education, save the lady in question. I hold Lord Kaimes' • Hints on Education ’in high estimation. But I am not so inconsistent as to approve all he has advanced. He has too many sentiments in common with all those who have written on that subject

A considerable number of years ago, a gentleman, a friend of mine, put into my hands Rousseau's 'Emilius;' and, after praising it highly, he laid before me this inducement to read it; that if I had ever regretted the situation in which I or my sex were placed in the world, I should feel perfectly contented with it, after reading this work. I told him I had no reason to regret my particular allotment; and that I had hitherto lived among my acquaintances, full as well esteemed as I thought I deserved to be. I read the book; and, whether it deserves praise or blame, I confess I read by much the greater part with secret indignation. viewed his principles as corrupt, as his mind was enthusiastic. You will easily imagine, then, that I have looked patiently on, while your author, to adopt a common phrase, has 'cufied his ears.'

• You request me to make all the remarks I can think of. Alas! I have so many cares, and so many kinds of employment, that I am hardly left with sufficient leisure to take my rest. If I could rise at midnight, when my mind is calm, when all is stillness around me, and my recollection of every thing which has previously employed me is clear, I might give you some thoughts not altogether unworthy your attention; something more systematic. But, perplexed as I often am, and hurried from one subject to another, I have been tempted to destroy what I have already written, as a thing incompetent to explain my own wishes, and answer your expectations. But I will regard my promise as a sacred engagement; and however in substance I may fall short of the performance, I will send the form.

• The author's idea that women ought to learn certain professional business, I see no objection to. I know that great courage and fortitude are necessary to surgical operations, for example, and I hold that females possess these qualities, and united with the tenderest humanity. All men are not destined to the same employment, let the bent of their genius be what it may; then why should women ? They, too, differ in genius and capacity. Why not make surgeons, and physicians of some? I know many men, whose genius is better fitted to superintend a kitchen, than to practice in any learned profession ; who, however, have spent the morning and the evening of their lives in such ill-directed manner; pretending to acquire, and pretending to practice, what their wives and sisters knew more perfectly, without having devoted themselves to it, or having been instructed. On which side must this be determined ? Equal rights, equal claims, is all I ask for.

*I highly approve learning women some mechanic arts, by which they may earn honest, honorable, independent bread. The only resource left to a woman, who is destitute of natural support, is to repair to her needle, or the spinning-wheel. The latter is a healthful employment; but mantua-makers and milliners are, almost without exception, weak in mind and weak in body; for the simple reason, that both are in want of exercise. And, to speak generally, they are also more unfit than scholars are, to manage any thing in the domestic circle of business, beside the sewing of the family which is so unfortunate as to fall under their direction.

• The situation of women in the world is somewhat like the following example : Two men into a field to labor together, to obtain a certain object. The one is possessed of a competency to begin those occupations ; he, of course, assumes the right of proposing every scheme, and ordering the execution. The effect of this difference in their circumstances is, the one becomes most capable of governing, by having exercised his faculties independently; the other, incapable of directing even himself, and must be led ; because he has been in the habit of being led, and directed by another. I will touch the picture over again, now the effect is clear. The former is a cunning tyrant; the latter a simpleton, at least.

· Women, with a few exceptions, are not allowed to manage property, or considered as any body, in law, where matters of property come in question; (yes, they are allowed to make a last will and testament!) and we are, as a kind of compensation for this exclusion from privileges, exempted personally from taxation. But we are sometimes called, late in life, to the management of property, where we have to look carefully around us, as well for our children as ourselves; and property, too, under the most difficult and embarrassed circumstances. We can easily discern, here, the want and the worth of independent sentiments. But, even under the most difficult view of the case, I have seen women display superior capacity in management.

Is there danger in enlightening the understanding of women, as it respects practical religion, and the great duties we all owe to God's family on earth ? For myself, I think, in proportion to numbers, I have seen among the enlightened of my own sex more sacred regard paid to religious duties, than among the ignorant. Why not better, if more enlightened? I have, it is true, seen pious, well-meaning ignorant women; whose intentions, charity bids us hope, are accepted, for God looks at the heart; but can they comprehend why they ought to be virtuous ? Is not a woman who has principles of her own ; who acts right, because her reason tells her it is best ; a character more desirable to contemplate ? - a more desirable friend, wife, or mother, than she who is only a conformist to rules learned by rote? Which of these characters would men be most liable or necessitated to watch ?

• Has well directed scientific knowledge made men worse? It makes women pedantic, they say, to have read much. I have but a short answer to this hackneyed assertion. I never saw a man or a woman pedantic, who had reflected much. Is it envy which leads men to dispute with women the claim of almost every talent in common with men ? Or is it thus: women, in the aggregate, are not in the habit of cultivating their talents; and where, here and there,

« ПредишнаНапред »