The Literati of New York/No. V/Lydia M. Child

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Regarding poet Lydia Maria Child.

Mrs. Child has acquired a just celebrity by many compositions of high merit, the most noticeable of which are "Hobomok," "Philothea," and a "History of the Condition of Women." "Philothea," in especial, is written with great vigor, and, as a classical romance, is not far inferior to the "Anacharsis" of Barthelemi; — its style is a model for purity, chastity and ease. Some of her magazine papers are distinguished for graceful and brilliant imagination — a quality rarely noticed in our countrywomen. She continues to write a great deal for the monthlies and other journals, and invariably writes well. Poetry she has not often attempted, but I make no doubt that in this she would excel. It seems, indeed, the legitimate province of her fervid and fanciful nature. I quote one of her shorter compositions, as well to instance (from the subject) her intense appreciation of genius in others as to exemplify the force of her poetic expression: —


"Pillars are fallen at thy feet,
    Fanes quiver in the air,
 A prostrate city is thy seat,
    And thou alone art there.

"No change comes o'er thy noble brow,
    Though ruin is around thee;
 Thine eyebeam burns as proudly now
    As when the laurel crowned thee.

"It cannot bend thy lofty soul
    Though friends and fame depart —
 The car of Fate may o'er thee roll
    Nor crush thy Roman heart.

"And genius hath electric power
    Which earth can never tame;
 Bright suns may scorch and dark clouds lower,
    Its flash is still the same.

"The dreams we loved in early life
    May melt like mist away;
 High thoughts may seem, 'mid passion's strife,
    Like Carthage in decay;

"And proud hopes in the human heart
    May be to ruin hurled,
 Like mouldering monuments of art
    Heaped on a sleeping world:

"Yet there is something will not die
    Where life hath once been fair;
 Some towering thoughts still rear on high,
    Some Roman lingers there."

Mrs. Child, casually observed, has nothing particularly striking in her personal appearance. One would pass her in the street a dozen times without notice. She is low in stature and slightly framed. Her complexion is florid; eyes and hair are dark; features in general diminutive. The expression of her countenance, when animated, is highly intellectual. Her dress is usually plain, not even neatpage 130 — anything but fashionable. Her bearing needs excitement to impress it with life and dignity. She is of that order of beings who are themselves only on "great occasions." Her husband is still living. She has no children. I need scarcely add that she has always been distinguished for her energetic and active philanthropy.