Page:Female Prose Writers of America.djvu/83

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65
MARIA J. McINTOSH.

were received with constantly increasing favour, as the series proceeded, and, after its completion, were republished in England with equal success. They are simple tales of American life, told in graceful and easy language, and conveying a moral of beauty and truthfulness that wins love at once for the fictitious character and the earnest writer. And many a girl, as she read of the charities of Harriet Armand, of Florence Arnott, and O’Donnel’s cabin, and the nameless Aunt Kitty, who wove a moral with every pleasure, a lesson with every pain, and yet so secretly that the moral could never be discerned until the tale was finished, has laid down the book and wondered involuntarily who Aunt Kitty was.

In the year 1844, she published “Conquest and Self-Conquest.” This work is a fiction of a more ambitious character than any of the preceding. The hero of the tale is a midshipman. One portion of the plot is laid in the city of Washington, another at sea. It is then changed to New Orleans, and again to the piratical island of Barrataria, on the Mexican coast. Frederick Stanley, the hero of the story, is made to feel that constant self-restraint will win self-command, and that self-command will rule his own happiness and the minds of others.

In the same year appeared another work, entitled “Woman an Enigma.” It is an attempt to delineate, not moral principles that are well defined—not religious duties, that are more easily depicted,—but the ideal, impalpable, varied substance of woman’s love. This seems to be a natural ground for a woman to walk upon, when she has passed the days of girlhood, and arrived at such a distance from the scenes of passion as to look back with a calm eye on the rush of early thoughts.

The first scene in the book opens in a convent in France, where young Louise waits upon a dying friend, and the friend leaves her ward as an affianced bride to her brother the Marquis de Montrevel.

The vow is duly made between the noble courtier and the trusting girl. Louise is then taken to Paris by her parents and introduced to fashionable life, with its gayeties and seductions, while the Marquis is absent on his estate. The new world of pleasure has no effect on the novice, save so far as it stimulates her to excel, that she may the more be worthy of her husband’s love. She mingles in the dance to acquire grace, in the soirée to learn the styles of fashionable life, and all for the sole purpose of being the better fitted to be the companion and wife of the high-born noble. But the absent lover hears of the brilliant life of his so lately timid girl, and, ignorant of the mighty power that impels her to the exertion, scorns the supposed fickleness that will give to the many that regard which he had hoped to have won exclusively for himself.

Then follows the portion of the work which most perfectly pictures the author’s ideas of womanly love. The earnest toil of the poor girl for the pittance of a smile that is rewarded by jealousy with a sneer; the pas-