Page:Female Prose Writers of America.djvu/347

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

trasting, is an instance of the verification of this law in the intellectual or moral world. Some one has truly said, that “where nothing great is to be done, the existence of great men is impossible.” Goodness is only one form of greatness, and in opposing the influence of the materializing and disorganizing school of French romances, there was a great good to be attained; and by Miss Bremer, and the class of writers of which she stands at the head, it has been in a measure accomplished; for there is another law of Providence which secures the final triumph of good over evil, and renders the contest not doubtful in the end, although it may be of long duration.

Besides the French school of romance writers, there is another, to which the works of Miss Bremer offer an equally salutary antidote. We refer to those who, with contempt in their hearts, and bitterness and sarcasm on their lips, go through the world like Mephistopheles, only to sneer at the weaknesses of humanity, to magnify its errors, and to question or despise its virtues, and who, like certain birds of prey, seem to be attracted only by that which is in its nature offensive. The mischief of such works is, that they lower the standard of human excellence, they unsettle our faith in human nature, and they engender a sceptical and contemptuous spirit, that as fatally extinguishes the higher virtues and aspirations, as fire-damp extinguishes the miner’s lamp. Goethe has somewhere said that if we would make men better, we must treat them as if they were better than they are; if we take them at their actual level we make them worse; much more then do we render them worse when we put them below their actual level, preserving, though caricaturing the likeness.

The characters Miss Bremer has drawn, while they are free from this charge, do not on the other hand fall into the opposite error of being too favourably depicted. They represent human nature as it often is, as it is always capable of being, refined, elevated, and noble. The home affections that she so vividly portrays, though originating in the domestic circle, radiate from that centre until they encompass all that live and suffer, genial as the sun, and embracing as the atmosphere; and, like the sun and air in the