Page:Female Prose Writers of America.djvu/345

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with a firm hand and an unrelenting heart. But the critic who judges by rules of art alone, does not give us the highest truth any more than the chemist, who, while he shows us how to analyze the diamond and to resolve it to its original elements, forgets to place it before us flashing in the sunlight; or the botanist who, in dissecting the flower, leaves its beauty to pass unnoticed, and its perfume to escape. Mere criticism is the judgment of the intellect alone; but the highest and truest judgment is that where the heart also has a voice, and an object seen through the one or the other medium, intellect or heart, is like those transparencies which in one light represent the dreary desolation of a winter landscape, and in the other, all the luxuriance and beauty of summer.

The age in which we live is one of scepticism, of analysis, and of transition. Religion, government, society, are all in turn investigated by its indomitable spirit of inquiry. All great questions relating to humanity, its reform, its progress, and its final destiny, are agitated to a degree not known before at any period of the world’s history. The conservative and destructive principles are at war, and there are moments when those of the firmest faith seem to doubt what the final issue of the contest may be. The literature, as could not fail to be the case, takes its tone from the spirit of the age, and no department of literature has more direct bearing upon the popular mind than that of fiction. He who writes the songs and romances of a people may well leave to others to make their laws. Not, indeed, those lighter romances, intended only to interest or amuse the fancy, but those which embody some deep sentiment, or some vital principle of society or of religion. Truths and principles thus inculcated or diffused, have their most direct influence upon the youthful mind, and, like the impressions made upon the rock in its transition state, they harden and remain.

As an instance of the extent of this influence of fiction, we may refer to the writings of that woman, who, possessing the most extraordinary combination of masculine and feminine qualities under the name of George Sand, for the last few years has taken the first rank among the writers of her native language, and from that eminence has exercised such incalculable influence, not only over