WESTMINSTER REVIEW FOR OCTOBER, 1856. New York: Published by Leonard Scott & Co.
This number contains articles of curious learning and various research as well as of general literature. The first article is entitled, Alchemy and the Alchemists. Speaking of the philosopher's stone, the reviewer says, this was but the out-growth from the original purpose of alchemy. The really scientific problem, which was the original problem of the transmutation of metals, was insoluble in those days, nor is it soluble in our own, but it has latterly, by all the best chemists, ceased to be regarded as chemical. Up to the time of Davy, the earths and alkalies were considered as simple bodies; he proved them to be oxides of metals, and some future Davy may prove metals to be as composite as water. All the articles in this number are written with power and interest. We have for article III an eloquent appeal to the English public in behalf of the change of the existing laws relating to the rights of married women to their own property. On page 185 there is copied the petition of the most eminent women of England, praying a change of existing laws. This is signed by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Mary Cowden Clarke, Mary Howitt, Anna Jameson, and many others, whose names are familiar as household words to our readers. It was signed by upwards of 3,000 women of the first class of English society, and was presented to both Houses of Parliament on the 16th of March last. Article VI is entitled, "SILLY NOVELS BY LADY NOVELISTS." It would seem by this article that the English press is flooded by lady novels, which are here classed as frothy, prosy, pious, and pedantic. Besides these, there is "a composite order of feminine fatuity," (we use the words of the critic,) which is called "the mind-and-millinery species." Of these various styles of novels, we have specimens given which seem to uphold the severity of the criticism. The writer says, that in England there exists a system of puffing which is in exact ratio with the worthlessness of the book be praised; and that when a woman of real genius and effective talent comes before the public, she receives the tribute of being moderately praised or severely criticized; and, in proof of this, he cites the examples of Currer Bell and Mrs. Gaskell, who "have been treated as cavalierly as if they had been men." This may be the case on the other side of the ocean; but the American public have had no occasion to make any such outcry against the new-born zeal of such of their wives and daughters as have devoted themselves to literature. They may point to the words of Mrs. Stowe, Mrs. Southworth, Mrs. Stephens, and Miss Warner, as well known in England as in our own land, in proof that we have no reason to deplore either their ability or their industry. If the question cannot now be asked, in any part of the known world, "Who has ever read and American book?" it is because Mrs. Stowe has written "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and "Dred;" Mrs. Southworth, her "Retribution," and other works of fiction; Mrs. Stephens, her "Fashion and Famine;" and Miss Warner, "The Wide, Wide World," "Queechy," &c.