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And the soft west winds shall come,
-Then shalt thou once more resume
A PLEA FOR FEMALE GENIUS.
-THERE are few periodical writers, to whom the public is more indebted, both for materials of thought and for helps in the correction of false thinking, than to the late Opium-eater: but, in his argument against a distinctive superiority of fancy in women, he puts us off with what the schools describe as à dicto secundùm quid ad dictum simpliciter. Thus, because men have written poems superior in imaginative power to those written by women, therefore women possess no imagination at all."
"Men," he says, are shy of pressing too hard upon women.' do not think that he can, himself, be accused of this shyness; nor do I agree with him. So far from a feeling of gallantry restraining men from indulging a severity of comment on the productions of female authors, the absurdity of female literary pretension is, with them, a proverbial topic:
I leave you to your daily tea is ready,' Snug coterie and literary lady: such is the slang of male candour and male politeness.
The author of the paper on "False Distinctions" has chosen his own ground, and himself fixed the standard by which women shall be tried: but there is a stumbling-block in his way, and he knows it; for, like an experienced controvertist, well aware of the weak and strong points of his own and his opponent's argument, he, quietly and with a composed inJULY, 1824.
difference, "sets aside SAPPHO and a few other female lyric poets." He knows very well that it is lyric poetry which is chiefly conversant with the "ideal;" with those "high abstractions" which he assumes to be unattainable by women; and he therefore "sets aside the female lyric poets." "We have not," forsooth, "sufficient samples of their poetry." But we have one very stubborn sample, which Longinus quotes expressly as embodying the TRUE SUBLIME; and its author is a woman: and, more than this, Catullus and Horace, though they tried hard, could never create any thing, which approached at all near it in simplicity, intensity, and spontaneous power. After this, it requires something like what is called a modest assurance" (Calve, tuâ veniâ) to come forward and accost the ladies with the courtly appellation of "good women," and to tell them that it is "sufficient honour for them to have produced us."
As the challenger does not demand a hundred or a score of samples in proof of women possessing imagination, but will be content with one,-one, himself being the judge, is as good as a score or a hundred. If we have but one or two remnants of Sappho, we have, at least, the testimony of ancient opinion to the merit of her nine books of odes; and if that opinion be confessedly just, as respects a part, we are bound to admit its justness as respects the whole.
I am content with the one sample of Longinus. Had only the Il Penseroso survived Milton, would posterity have squeamishly boggled in allowing Milton's claim to be considered as a poet? There is but one critic, of whom I ever heard, that estimated poetical merit by bulk; and that was the Dutch gentleman in Peter Pindar; who recommended his brother's poem by saying, that it was so big as von cheese."
I will say nothing of the tribute of tradition to Erinna; to Corinna, who, it is said, won a prize from Pindar; or to the Roman Sulpicia: I will "talk with him on the theme" of Sappho. I will not consent that she shall be thrown into a corner. I am asked (and the question is to make me start bolt upright in my easy chair), "what work of imagination, owing its birth to a woman, can Í lay my hand upon, which has exerted any memorable influence, such as history would notice, on the mind of man? I answer, SAPPHO'S ODE Εις έταιραν.
Pass we by the ladies of antiquity. I am not going to place the Colombiade of Madame du Boccage by the side of the Paradise Lost, though I should think twice before I gave the Henriade the preference to it; but I might inquire why, when we hear continually of Congreve, Wycherley, and Farquhar, no mention is ever made of Mrs. Centlivre; whose comedies, unrivalled for light bustle of intrigue, keep possession of the stage, to the shame of male critics, and the discomfiture of theories? It appears that living female authors are to be " set aside," together with the " Eolian girl" of old; or I might also inquire, if the authoress of De Monfort have not "risen to an entire sympathy with what is most excellent in the art of poetry," which of her male contemporaries has? Is it the author of
The defiance to the women, to produce their female Hudibras, or their female Dunciad, is something like calling on them to produce their female Spring and Langan; and in default of this, to resign all pretensions to grace and agility.
"Where is the female Rape of the Lock?" ejaculates, with a gay swelling of the cheeks, the detecter
of false distinctions: I cannot tell; and what then?
I will choose my own ground, and contend, that, because women do not run in parallels with men, their divergent likeness does not argue an absolute and hopeless inferiority.
If any mode of writing can be said to "have exerted a memorable influence on the mind of man," it is that of the novel; the epopea of every-day nature; and this, in the hands of women, has been equally successful in drawing tears and smiles: "sive risus essent movendi, sive lacrymæ." Truer portraits of men and women, more affecting passages of human life, more closely entwined interest, may be found in novels, and in female novels too, than in all the "solemnly planned poems that ever existed from the Æneid downwards to the Parish Register.
"What work of imagination, owing its birth to a woman, can I lay my hand upon?" The difficulty is in the choice.
Shall I name CORINNE? No-let our own fair country women take prethe cedence. I lay my hand upon "SIMPLE STORY."
I may be told of Tom Jones, and Molly Seagrim; of Roderick Random and Strap; of Lovelace's lace ruffles, and Clarissa's hoop-petticoat; or I may be told of Meg Merrilies, and of her hundredth double, the Spae-wife :
my affection: Nor moves my gall nor alters peculiarly a woI take a tale, man's; and in this her proper circle, with all appliances and means about her, I challenge the male superiority. I demand, where are the characters, of whose breathing individuality we are so assured, as of that Miss Milner? of Doriforth and Where are readiness of wit, nativeness of sentiment, refined and profound passion, the graces, the foibles, the pride and the weakness of woman; or the sterner and haughtier stuff, of which the mind of man is composed; the reasoning sensibility, the guarded, economized, self-retiring, self-wounding tenderness, that weeps behind the mask of fierce resentment, and wraps its bleeding anguish with the cloak of apathy? where are these conceived with such intuitive tact, and touched and blend
ed into light and shadow with so free, yet so firm, a pencil? Where is there such a grasp of the human heart, such a playful or tyrannous mastery over its finest and strongest chords?
Shall I be referred to the amiable male romance, in which, for the decent amusement of the ladies and gentlemen of England, a lover is made to eat his mistress alive?
"TWEEN Evening's farewell, and the Night's approach,
While glooms around me sluggishly encroach;
Or in some neighbouring spot short walks repeat,
The painted record vanishes away,
In Time's turn'd pages to be seen no more.
The past day's offspring, that hath smiles in store
SPECIMENS OF SONNETS
FROM THE MOST EMINENT POETS OF ITALY.
Se d'Amor queste son reti e legami,
If Love his captive bind with ties so dear,
How tempting sweet the limed twigs appear,
Nor less delight the wounds that inward smart,
Negli anni acerbi tuoi purpurea rosa
O più tosto parei (che mortal cosa
Or la men verde età nulla a te toglie,
Così più vago è il fior poichè le foglie
Thy unripe youth seem'd like the purple rose
Or like Aurora when the heaven first glows,
No loss from time thy riper age receives,
Thus lovelier is the flower whose full blown leaves
Perfume the air, and more than orient ray
The Sun's meridian glories blaze and warm.
Ben veggio avvinta al lido ornata nave,
Ma l'aria, e 'l vento, e'l mar fede non ave;
I see the anchor'd bark with streamers gay,
And only Zephyrs on the waters play.
But winds and waves and skies alike betray;
Others who to their flattery dared confide,
And late when stars were bright sail'd forth in pride, Now breathe no more, or wander in dismay.
I see the trophies which the billows heap,
Torn sails, and wreck, and graveless bones that throng
I must essay, not shoals and rocks among
Espero, sacra ed amorosa Stella,
Blest star of Love, bright Hesperus! whose glow
I wander not these gloomy shades among,
My ravish'd heart from cruel spoiler's sway
GODWIN'S HISTORY OF THE COMMONWEALTH.*
THIS is a work much wanted; though, as far as may be judged from the portion of history condensed in the volume before us, Mr. Godwin has restricted himself within the limits of a mere historical compendium. The voluminous collections of state-papers relative to this important period, the registers of historical affairs, whether military, civil, or religious, which have been preserved
to us in the form of Parliamentary histories, as of May and Spriggememorials and memoirs, as of Whitlock, Ludlow, and Warwick-and tracts by all parties, such as were collected by the late Baron Maseres, furnish ample groundwork for an extended and complete history: we are therefore somewhat disappointed at being presented in the room of it with a meagre abridgment. It may be
History of the Commonwealth of England from its Commencement to the Restoration of Charles the Second. By William Godwin. Volume the First, containing the Civil War. Colburn, 1824,
This is particularly the case in the military transactions. They might have been given more in detail without too much encroaching on the space prescribed to himself by the author. Thus the memorable surrender of Bristol, in 1645, which led to the revocation of Prince Rupert's commissions by the king, is dryly dismissed in a few words: "here the news reached him of the surrender of Bristol on the 11th of September." Mr. Godwin adds, "Rupert relied for the vindication of his conduct upon his inadequate means of defence and the improbability of any efforts at relief." Now Mrs. Macaulay properly states that, "this was a garrison, by his own particular desire, entrusted to the care of Prince Rupert: a garrison, which he had taken care to recruit with great proportions both of men and money, and of which he had written to the king, that he should be