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the abstractions of mind. And this is neither of these indeed comprehensive providentially ordained, that we may be categories, should yield the acquiescence obliged to earn the bread of wisdom only even of silence to this pernicious despot. by constant assiduity, circumspection and ism, whether of critics or populace : a labor. In availing ourselves at all, then, despotism which goes to compromise of the circumstances, whethor moral or truth by checking inquiry, to consecrate physical, in which we are placed here, every existing error and abuse, to prewe must take the evil with the good, the vent the diffusion of much innocent false with the true. That is to say, we amusement and useful instruction; which, must “ try all things.” This is the dic. in short, opposes the liberalization and tate of reason and the demand of necessity, disciplination of the public mind, and, of as well as the precept of revelation. The course, the civilization of humanity: for wisdom, both speculative and practical, such evidently are the direct tendencies of mankind consists in a knowledge of of all restraint upon the utmost freedom events including that of the laws of their of speculation. occurrence, and in the choice and appli A dangerous book”! Dangerous to cation of them, so as best to educe the whom? to what? To the institutions or greatest amount of benefit—of Good, al- the tenets moral, political, religious, of loyed with the least of inconvenience society? But the established opinions of Evil. This is what the ancients too and systems are so are salutary, or understood by prudence, which they made they are not. If the latter, inquiry and 'the mother of all the virtues: Prudentia est exposure is, we take it for granted, to be enim locala in delectu bonorum et malorum. desired, not to be deprecated. If the forBut this knowledge implies and requires mer be the fact, where is the danger? an acquaintance with the false as well as There certainly can be none, if the new the true. To quote the Christian Cicero doctrines be true, and be rationally urged (or rather the Cicero of the Christians) as —truth being necessarily not merely comwe have introduced the Pagan; Primus, patible with, but confirmative of itself. says Lactantius, sapientiæ gradus FALSA In neither alternative, then, can such a intelligere. We might still accumulate book be accounted dangerous to the the authority of Satan (or Milton) to prove true interests of society ; on the contrathis study, so very contaminating to mor ry, its tendency must be, in the one case, tal purity, to be a principal ingredient of to reform bad institutions; in the other, even angelic and god-like knowledge. to reinforce good ones. Facts, moreover, all bear out the position; the doctrines to be dangerous," to be, and we venture the opinion, however in fact, opposed to those interests, and of paradoxical it may seem to the unreflect course false, politically. Is it to be ading, that science and civilization are at mitted that truth, in the present day, and least as much indebted to the errors and in matters within popular competency, exploded theories, as they are to the saga- within general experience, is not, at least city and successes, of the searchers after even-handed, a match for error ? But in Truth.
the case in contest, truth would derive It may be additionally remarked, that incalculable odds, from the circumstances. the iniquity of this critical dogmatism Not to mention the physical protection does not confine itself to the past, and the of the public force, it has the sanction of actual, of its victim. It assumes to de- establishment; it is consecrated by precide, also, upon the future of the fallen judice as well as conviction ; it is aided author. By a sort of literary attainder, by the propensity (salutary as a check, more irrational and barbarous still than pernicious as a principle,) of mankind to the feudal, it consigns his subsequent adhere to things as they are, and the offspring, however free in fact from the consequent difficulty of disturbing even parental offence, to the merciless hue-and- the worst form of creed or government cry of the popular prejudice, for all time. thus cemented by the interest of many,
It is, after all, no more than natural the ignorance of most, and the indolence that hypocrites should be rigorous exact- of all
. Public force, personal interest, ors of the observances which they them- popular prejudice, can truth, and truth selves despise and live by. That dupes thus triply guarded, be imperilled, be afshould be ostentatiously intolerant of dis- fected, by the false doctrines or the fa. respect to the sounds or symbols they patical denunciations of every radical blindly revere. But is it natural, is it “visionary,” or obscure pamphleteer ? excusable, that persons who belong to The apprehension is ludicrously absurd !
But further, however exceptionable we ment, if true, cannot be detrimental—if might imagine a book to be, it should false, not dangerous.” The answer is, always be remembered that the motives that such are properly neither true nor of the author may yet be benevolent and false. Addressing themselves to the paspatriotic. Indeed, the writers of this ob- sions, they afford no hold to argument. noxious class, more generally and in- They are, therefore, still less refutable tensely than any others, are known to than a “sneer” (a thing, by the by, quite be in fact thus nobly actuated. What refutable, with deference to Paley); they else than enthusiasm, and enthusiasm are thus insusceptible of the common ankindled and fed by virtuous intention, tidote, irresistible by the common weapcould induce and enable them to encoun on, of reason, and are properly therefore ter the probability, if not certainty, of a subject of police. the abuse and calumny of the sort of criticism in question, and to expose them Among the many who have fallen vic. selves to what is more galling still, per- tims to, and the few who have triumphhaps, to the generous mind, the ingrati ed over, the persecutions of popular big. tude of those whom it has devoted, dis- otry and the denunciations of its jackalls interestedly, its energies, its time, and its of the critical press, we select for the extalents to serve ? We should not, how- emplification of the preceding observaever, insist upon this credit to the author, tions, one of the most signal sufferers in examining the book. It is a consid- from this injustice; time will, perhaps, eneration for the public, to be decided upon able the literary historian to add, one of the a different principle, and to be offered only most victorious instances of the triumph. in mitigation of critical rigor. With mo We do not here intend a review of the tives, as with all else that is merely per- writings, various and voluminous, of this sonal, we cannot allow the critic, as such, author-not even of the single work to to have any proper concern.
which we shall confine ourselves. Our One or two precautionary remarks be- notice of it, which, for the rest, will be fore quitting this general aspect of our kept to the letter of our own critical cansubject. We may be deemed, in the pre on-expositive, not judicative—is meant ceding animadversions upon the delin. to be subsidiary to the main design, of quency of the critic and the intolerance vindicating the great principle of FREEof the crowd, to have employed an undue, DOM OF SPECULATION. or at least an unusual warmth or harsh This is a principle of infinite and of ness of language. To this charge we universal importance in the present day. should only have to say, that the writer It is, we think, of peculiar consequence protests he has no other feelings in the to this country: Politically and to a dematter than such as he cares not and gree religiously, the American people dares not to dissemble, namely—a cor have renounced the tutelage with the iydial contempt for dogmatical ignorance; ranny of Authority, have abandoned the a detestation almost morbid of all hy- beaten paths of the past, and recognize, pocrisy and cant, especially, the “cant or profess to recognize, Reason alone for of criticism ;” an enthusiastic love of their public and private guide. Other the sole independence which has much countries have their creeds“ established of reality for man upon earth—the inde. by law,”—human or divine. There, cuspendence of the mind; a not unintelligent tom, antiquity still maintain an undispuconviction that the exercise and the en ted dominion or a decisive influence. couragement of this independence (things Even in those States where Liberty has almost entirely in the dispensation of a conquered an organization more or less sound and liberal criticism,) are the means imperfect, in the form of a systematic or and the measure of human happiness and a settled constitution, the rules of private social progress; and, finally, a reverence action and the restraints upon opinion too sincere for the sanctity of Truth to remain, in most cases, amenable to par. permit the slightest mitigation of the au ticular and peremptory usages. It is degust severity of her image, by the profane plorable no doubt that men should be lead foppery of your courtly phrases. by these “blind guides;" but blind though
The other remark is, that we would they be they are not unsafe ones, being, not be understood as including in this of course, familiar with routes which remonstrance what are really " indecent they have been passing over for ages. publications.” Such,” it may be ob. They leave less freedom, indeed, but, jected to us, “ according to your argue also, less need, for inquiry; they pre
vent the advantages, but they preclude of great celebrity as a philosophical novthe dangers, of uninterdicted innovation. el-writer, and who,--perhaps from deliWith us the state of things is nearly the cacy no less than diffidence, —had chosen reverse. We will not obey authority, this pseudonomous designation, to conwhile we have not the courage, or not the ceal her sex as well as identity, in the contidence, to follow out reason. Reli- world of Letters. Her real name is, by gion even is not held sacred from popular marriage, Dudevant; by family, Dupin: curiosity and arbitrament. And though she is, we believe, a kinswoman of the we have written constitutions and a muldistinguished French lawyers of this titude of other principles recognized in The conjugal history of Madame practice they are allowed (at least theo- Dudevant we beg to leave with her biog. retically) to oppose no bar to the utmost rapher and confessor-first, because, freedom of examination and discussion. doubtless, there is no curiosity to hear it Conclusive upon as only de facto, they repeated, but chiefly, because we deem it permit—indeed it is their spirit to solicit irrelevant to the merits of her writings. -appeal to an ulterior tribunal, to a more Some critics, and after them the public, perfect truth. We then, the American have, we know, determined otherwise, people—and it is now the rapid, how- and insisted upon viewing the successful ever unconscious, tendency of almost en author through the medium of the rebeltire Europe also-may be said to have lious wife. But this is part of our issue cut ourselves adrift on the great ocean of with the critics and the public. Without inquiry, with Speculation for our bark prejudicing her cause, it may, however, be and Reason our compass. And it is on admitted that the lady is in fact “guilty" the progress of this speculation, on the of the inexpiable transgression of having perfectionment of this reason alone that separated, -separated, however, by mudepend, very evidently, our actual safety tual consent--from a man whom she and our ultimate success.
found it, after several years of painful In a people thus circumstanced how effort, impossible to live with. But, particularly preposterous the disregard of what is perhaps still more un pardonable, this the cardinal principle of its action she has continued to maintain berself in and existence! how pernicious, the daily this state of defiance, without the alimo. violation of it in the persons of thinking nial or the eleemosynary aid of husband writers, our sole navigators (to resume the or public. It is, of course, no extenuametaphor) through those devious seas! tion of her offence that an utter incomHow inconsistent, not to say unwise, af- patibility of temper and taste had in fact ter repudiating all authority, to substitute existed, though the stereotyped and the blind impulses of the multitude for competent plea, in a majority of such the time-tried axioms of Antiquity and cases. Nothing, that a young woman, Aristotle! Nor is it to be supposed that full of the exquisite sensibility, the yearnintolerance towards individual authors is ing sympathy, the expansive independno disavowal or violation of the general ence which are the tax we pay for genprinciple. A principle, it is hardly ne- ius, should continue to brook the brutal cessary to say, is violated equally in the despotism, or repulsive rusticity, of a most obscure, as in the most important country-bred soldier in the decline of life instance; and it is in the former that it is -a condition which to a woman so convindicated the most effectually; for there stituted, is the most oppressive, perhaps, we the most emphatically assert the of tyrannies, the most unendurable of exsanctity of its character.
istences. The character of this man is Entertaining these views of the im- supposed to be drawn in that of Colonel portance of free discussion and the mis. Delmaire, in Indiana, one of the earlichievousness of the opposition which it est publications of the author ; and it encounters, we select, for the clearer illus- is presented with those occasional effutration, the writer and the work of that sions of kindly feeling and of selfwriter which seem to us best to represent criminating candor, and that constant the principle we contend for, and the in- consideration of both the intirmities of fraction of that principle which we have the species and the redeeming points of deemed it a duty to denounce. The the individual, which, coming from the writer is George Sand--the book is pen of an “injured wife,” it must be re“ Lelia.”
garded as a proof of woman's highest George Sand, our readers, or most of qualities to have retained, of more than them, must be aware is a French woman woman's magnanimity not to have dis
sembled. In this respect, how advanta- paper) in the explicit original. “Quelques geously would Madame Dudevant com personnes qui lisent mes livres ont le pare with the cold-hearted, prudish Ma- tort de croire que ma conduite est une dame Byron, or that virulent and vulgar profession de foi, et le choix des sujets caricaturist, the authoress of “ Cheveley,” de mes historiettes une sorte de plaidoyer in their treatment of men endowed with contre certaines lois; bien loin de là, je perfections above the common, both of reconnais que ma vie est pleine de fautes, body and mind. Yet these are held up et je croirais commettre une lâcheté si je to the “rising generation” as patterns of me battais les flancs pour trouver une pious prudery-victims of marital tyran- philosophie qui en autorisât l'example."* ny! while George Sand, for having done The other charge, of seeking the subonly what they did — left her lord”—but version of marriage might be met by an with the difference of having left, without equally peremptory denial from the calumniating, him—is decried as if she author. · In truth, I have been astonhad outraged the entire decalogue. It ished,” says she, in the work just reis charged indeed, that the latter has ferred to, “when asked by some Sainterected her transgression into a principle, Simonians,- conscientious philanthroand that she advocates (particularly in pists, estimable and sincere searchers after the publication we are about to consider) truth-what I was going to substitute the substitution of libertinism for the instead of husbands. I answered them marriage relation. The private conduct naïvely, that it was marriage ; in the of the author, we repeat, we have noth same manner as for a priesthood that has ing to do with, and do not, of course, pre- so much compromised religion, I would sume to extenuate, denounced as it is on have religion be made the substitute.” earth and condemned, no doubt, in heav- This, the main matter of the accusation, en. But with respect to the charge against may, however, demand a more full and her writings, of being designed to defend particular discussion. In conducting the any irregularities of her life, we venture examination (to be more than fair, ez to reply:
abundanti) we pledge ourselves to pro1st. That it were at least a “hard duce only the passages most susceptible case,” that George Sand should be denied of the obnoxious construction. And the natural and legal right of defending here, it will be in order, to premise a few her own conduct, and in her own way. remarks on the nature and general char
2d. That she has not availed herself, acter of the book itself in question. in fact, of this right, by any such means “ Lelia,” in many respects, must be as those imputed, but on the contrary, has regarded as one of the most original proexpressly renounced these means with ductions of the age. It is stamped with something of the despairing resignation of the noble audacity of genius. It comHecuba,
bines the speculative boldness of Faust, Non tali auxilio, nec defensoribus istis.
with the philosophical design of St.
Leon—more systematic than the former, 3d. That the aim of her speculations more comprehensive than the latter, more on the subject of marriage, (an aim we eloquent, perhaps, than either of these think she has not unsuccessfully attained) most eloquent writers. But, in conception, was, simply, to shew, that there must
in arrangement, in the execution generalbe something somewhere wrong-pos- ly, the author, indeed of her own aditively, not naturally or necessarily-in mission, has entirely failed. With all the actual organization of this institu- her imagination-an imagination at once tion.
fine and fertile—and a vigor of intellect The first proposition asserts a principle still rarer in her sex, she seems to have which, enunciated in the abstract, no sunk appalled beneath the titanic magni. one, we suppose, will be found to con tude of her idea. She has, however, test. The second and third involve given us, in “Lelia,” the skeleton of a points of fact, which we undertake to grand poem, (for poem it is--a poem of sustain severally from the very words of life) teeming with those thoughts which our author. To the former, the follow- involve whole sciences, and views which ing direct disclaimer will be a sufficient open upon the intelligent reader like answer. As it is short, and to obviate revelations. With the thinker, the tame all suspicion of the translation, we quote handicraft of the artist could add nothit (contrary to our rule throughout this ing to the value of such a book, while it
* Lettres d'un Voyageur.
would, probably, diminish its impressive- of them, in the positive worid. This ness. Lelia, in the grandeur of its im- system of transcendental impersonation perfection, reminds you of the Hyperion (so to call it) has obvious and great adof Keats,—whom, by-the-by, (Keats vantages over that of ordinary fiction. cockneyism aside) our author, we think, While this, copying as it does, from the remarkably resembles. The genius of present, or some other particular point of George Sand is essentially Grecian; at time, must contain much that is transionce subtle and sublime, clear and com tory and trivial; the former, embracing prehensive; prone rather to the contem- also the future and the past, exhibits but plative than the active; too attentive to, what is, more or less proximately, univeror instinct with, the spirit of form, to be sal and unchangeable. The characters prolific of creation ; too devoted an ad- taken from actual life, create, of course, mirer of the ideal to be a diligent obser more interest in the mass of readers; ver of the real. To this character it is being addressed to the senses and to the easy to trace the failure alluded to, in sympathies of all, they are intelligible the execution of Lelia. And accordingly to ordinary, to every comprehension. the same defects are, more or less, charge. But those of the other description are able to all the productions of the author infinitely more instructive; instead of -which while admirable for acute an individuals, or any aggregations of indialysis and profound views into character, viduals, they are theories personified, emas for skill and force of description, and bodying grand social results as they have a style (if a foreigner may pronounce) been evolved consecutively in the prowithout a living equal, are greatly want- gress of civilization, and indicating, in ing (at least as taste goes) in plot, action ihe leading tendencies of the periods they and incident.
symbolize, the direction, the destination, The story, it is obvious, from the pre- and the desires of humanity. ceding intimations, would be of little That, on the other hand, distinctness of account to the reader, even were it with character and life-like realization of in our purpose. The truth is, there is action and incident, are extremely diffionly so much of it as serves to string cult, if not impossible, in the latter systogether the disquisitions, which mainly tem, is a disadvantage, no doubt; but it compose the book. These disquisitions is a disadvantage here to be remembered, are thrown into the discussive and fa- only in justice to the author, by those who miliar form of dialogue, or colloquies, censure Lelia as vague and visionary. which pass between the principal person- Thanking George Sand for having chosen age and the subordinates who, severally, the better part, let us excuse her for gravitate around her, and on the subjects not having combined incompatabilities. respectively which the latter are designed Nothing, at least short of the highest to typify. Before coming to quotation it creative energies, disciplined in the school is proper to introduce the speakers. of the world, and directed by a familiar
The chief characters are Lelia, Stenio, knowledge of men as well as of man-a Trenmor, and Pulcherie. These are sym- knowledge and a discipline which genius bolical, not merely fictitious, imperson- is peculiarly unfitted to acquire and to ations. They represent classes, orders, undergo--could hope to succeed in clothages; but not as in other philosophical ing the abstractions of imagination or of novels—not socially, but psychologi. intellect, with that flesh-and-blood garb cally. In the generalizations of our of habit, manner, and circumstance, author, all that which comes under the which alone can ensure the recognition, denomination of “manners,” is allowed and of course excite the interest, of the no place, or no part. They are incar. mass of readers. Shakspeare himself has nations of certain faculties or passions, not done this--has not, indeed, attemptconceived as essential, and of course ed it. universal, to the particular description to From the foregoing very imperfect acbe personified. These personages do not count of the nature and distinctive charprofess to act every day life; they only acter (as we interpret them) of this pretend to exhibit lise, on a large scale-- remarkable book, it must, we think, be to represent the forces and the tendencies evident that the author is to be criticized that latently actuate society, disencum- upon other—upon higher—than the combered of the accidental circumstances and mon canons, moral as well as literary. the distracting details which so complicate This it is that we claim for her. Those and mystify its operations, and the study who will not ascend to the sphere where