Page:Female Prose Writers of America.djvu/33

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her recent publications have been prepared expressly for children and young persons. “The Boy of Mount Rhigi,” published in 1848, is one of a series of tales projected for the purpose of diffusing the sentiments of goodness among the young. The titles of some of her other small volumes are “Facts and Fancies,” “Beautitudes and Pleasant Sundays,” “Morals of Manners,” “Wilton Harvey,” “Home,” “Louisa and her Cousins,” “Lessons without Books,” &c.

The quality of mind which is most apparent in Miss Sedgwick’s writings is that of strength. The reader feels at every step that he has to do with a vigorous and active intellect. Another quality, resulting from this possession of power, is the entire absence of affectation of every kind. There is no straining for effect, no mere verbal prettinesses. The discourse proceeds with the utmost simplicity and directness, as though the author were more intent upon what she is saying than how she says it. And yet, the mountain springs of her own Housatonick do not send up a more limpid stream, than is the apparently spontaneous flow of her pure English. As a novelist, Miss Sedgwick has for the most part wisely chosen American subjects. The local traditions, scenery, manners, and costume, being thus entirely familiar, she has had greater freedom in the exercise of the creative faculty, on which, after all, real eminence in the art mainly depends. Her characters are conceived with distinctness, and are minutely individual and consistent, while her plot always shows a mind fertile in resources and a happy adaptation of the means to ends.


One of the brethren from a Shaker settlement in our neighborhood, called on us the other day. I was staying with a friend, in whose atmosphere there is a moral power, analogous to some chemical test, which elicits from every form of humanity whatever of sweet and genial is in it. Our visitier was an old acquaintance, and an old member of his order, having joined it more than forty years ago with his wife and two children. I have known marked individuals among these people, and yet it surprises me when I see an original stamp of character, surviving the extinguishing monotony of life, or rather suspended animation among them. What God has impressed man cannot efface. To a child’s eye, each leaf of a tree is like the other; to a philosopher’s each has its distinctive mark. Our friend W.’s individuality might have struck a careless observer. He has nothing of the angular, crusty, silent