Page:Female Prose Writers of America.djvu/331

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SARA J. CLARKE.

Huguenot descent. Sara, the youngest daughter, is one of eleven children, nine of whom are now living.

The following carefully written estimate of the intellectual character of Miss Clarke, is from the pen of that accomplished critic, the Rev. Henry Giles:

“That Grace Greenwood is a writer, ready, rapid, bold, brilliant, and most discursive, whatever she throws from her pen at once reveals. But to be ready and rapid is often to be nothing more than possessed of fatal facility; and to seem bold, brilliant, and discursive is frequently to have only the hardihood of ignorance, and to be glittering and superficial. The readiness and rapidity, however, of this writer are in themselves surprising, from the truth and force with which thought keeps pace with expression; and we wonder to find so much true beauty, so much genuine coinage of golden fancies in the prodigality with which she flings about her shining store. Yet not on these do we dwell, and not by these does she win the cordial feeling with which we regard her genius. We find in it a noble seriousness. Bounding, elastic, and sportive as her imagination is, it is not all a sparkling stream, and is not all in sunlight; it winds at times through the solemn shadows of life; and it has springs in the sources of reflective thought, to make for itself, and fill deeper and broader channels than any of those in which it has yet found outlets. As it is, the impulses of earnest purpose and the gush of generous desire, often break to pieces the delicate wreath which had been already half woven out of ingenious fancies, and cast the scattered flowers upon the boiling torrent of indignant sympathies. The workings of mere fancy, however admirable or admired, could never exhaust, could never express, could never content a nature such as hers for she feels too much in herself, and she feels too much for others, to find only play and summer-time in the life of genius. In the gayest tale of hers,—we read below it meanings from the heart; in the most laughing letter, we can often discern a pensive wisdom hidden in the smile; in the passing criticism on a work of art, we have often not only the fine enthusiasm, which flames up with the love of beauty; but when the work is devotional, we have, with phrase more happy and with spirit more profound, the subdued eloquence of inborn reverence. The seriousness of Grace Greenwood is not the less intense because it is not moody or murky; because it does not tire you with tears, nor disturb you with groans, nor disgust you with men, nor dishearten you with nature. Grace is too healthy for mumps; she is too sincere to be maudlin; she is too cheerful for lamentations; and her love is too large for creation and too kind, to tolerate the gloom of a dissatisfied spirit. But no soul is more quick to kindle at a wrong done to the lowest; and no soul more brave to rebuke unworthiness in the highest. Yet is her heart gentle, compassionate; aroused only by the very strength of its goodness; by its hatred against injustice, and by its sympathy with suffering. Even when a lofty