New York Evangelist
New York: 14 December 1854

For the New York Evangelist.


  In the domain of polite literature, as well as the empire of fashion, women seem destined to bear sway. We hear much of woman's rights and wrongs at the present day: but these complaints will soon be hushed, if woman gets control of the press. Her rights will then be speedily vindicated, and her wrongs redressed. There are certain departments of literature in which women excel. In the descriptive, pathetic and sentimental, they have no peers. Fiction is now the most popular dress for the thoughts of female writers. The success of some works of this class, within a few years past, is unparalleled. Ladies also make excellent travelers. They are nice and critical observers of men and manners. The minutiƦ of social life are carefully painted by them. This gives a charm to their sprightly narratives. Grace Greenwood, for instance, is so excitable and enthusiastic, that she pours her whole soul into her descriptions. Her lively sensibilities give a warmth and glow to her graphic sketches, which seldom characterize the writings of more phlegmatic savans. Her work, entitled "Haps and Mishaps," is one of the most readable, and most delightful of all the numerous journals of European tourists. Her style is always attractive, because it breathes forth her own sympathetic nature. It is a literal transcript of her own feelings. She entertains decided opinions, and she is fearless in the avowal of them. in vivid description, she has no superior. No man could utter the same thoughts in the same way. She gives novelty and variety to the most hackneyed themes, and the most familiar localities. She is so decided in her views, that the reader finds at once, that he has a character to deal with. He must yield or fight. The alternative would be ungallant: he therefore yields, (with an ill grace perhaps,) to the tide which bears him triumphantly along. Mrs. Stowe visits the same places, described by Grace Greenwood, and writes down her impressions. As a tourist, Mrs. Stowe is inferior to her rival. She is less impulsive, and therefore less natural. She decides too many questions in art, literature and politics, ex cathedra. Her critiques are dogmatical, not suggestive. She does not record impressions, but judgments. She does not tell so much what she feels as what she knows. Both these writers are characterized by strength and force of style, rather than elegance and finish. Beauty of expression is sometimes sacrificed to energy. This is remarkably manifest in "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Other authoresses of great merit are now dividing the popular applause with these favorites. Miss Cummings, the authoress of "The Lamplighter" has received general commendation for her style and invention. The first part of the work is intensely interesting: the coldest face must relax, and the most leaden eye melt over these pathetic pages. If the whole work had been completed with the touching pathos which marks the introductory chapters, no modern work of fiction could be compared with it. The moral tone of the work is truly Christian, and for this trait, it deserves patronage. The story is too prolix. The characters that play a subordinate part, are kept upon the stage too long, after "the Lamplighter," the chief actor, is withdrawn; still, people are willing to read the entire work, as appears from the sale of nearly 100,000 copies. The work of Miss Stephens, entitled "Fashion and Famine," secures a high degree of popular favor. Its aim is good, but the execution is defective; as in The Lamplighter, the interest excited at first, is not sustained to the close, though the most terrific scenes occur near the end. The characters are unnatural, and the catastrophe is revolting to our sense of justice. The style is pleasing and graceful. Some of the scenes are portrayed with great power; and the moral tendency of the work is commendable. These three writers all aim at the reform of social evils, and they are, undoubtedly exerting a healthy moral influence upon the community. They enlist the sympathies of the reader for the wronged and oppressed in society. They know the avenues to the popular heart, as well as to the popular ear; and they have been eminently successful in reaching both.