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coming woman' pictured forth with many circumstances of picturesque effect, and designed for universal sway:
This is such a creature,
Would she begin a sect, might quench the zeal
How, not women?
Women will love her, that she is a woman,
The authoress is a mystic and transcendentalist, and her heroine embodies these qualities or opinions, and is an eclectic of the freest pattern. All forms of worship and belief, Pagan, Protestant, Catholic, Rationalistic, are hers by turns, and the personages of the story, who are living in an American village in the west, with a railway passing through it, are so elevated and glorified by her presence amongst them, that supernatural visitations and mysteries of all sorts are as common with them as the engine's whistle and its accompanying puffs of steam. There is a spiritual child in the story, after the pattern of American novels; but Eva' and the Pearl' of Mr. Hawthorne are creatures of gross flesh and blood compared to the Lily' of this story. Yet, through these absurdities there shines out much shrewd observation, and sometimes good sense, though this is a commodity quite alien from the design and conduct of the story. The principal characters are this Bertha, a woman transcendently intellectual and beautiful, of an age nearer thirty than authors often venture upon. But this maturity is necessary not only for the plot, but to support the dictum of the party, that female beauty does not attain its height till that age. With regard to her previous history, we are early informed in her own language, that she has overstepped partial relations; and again, that she has found the past rough, because a great soul must learn to know its power from a great experience. In fact, a disgraceful stain attached to her youth, which would have disabled her for a heroine in less liberal eyes, but was thought needful as a protest against existing prejudice. At the opening of the book we are allowed this insight into her journal:
'But am I happy? I ask again. Not quite. Now, however, I am fit for happiness. Now I am worthy of love. Yes, that is it; I am unselfish, I am truthful, I am courageous, I am individual, I am wise. Yes, I feel that I am all these, in a degree according to my capacities. I have sorrowed, but am not embittered. The largest life should bring the noblest love, and yet I prefer my single blessedness above all things.
'As these thoughts passed through my mind, I loosened my long hair, and sat up and drew the glass to me, and took a clear inventory of my charms. A pale clear complexion, regular features, a bust and arms that
I dare call beautiful, small feet and hands: "This is well," I said. "I hope never to grow old. Thou hast the dew of thy youth,' is the most beautiful of benedictions, and youth is in the soul."-Bertha and Lily, p. 19.
There is another lady, Julia,' designed to be the type of the 'feminine,' which involves with this authoress all that is flirting, flippant, selfish, pretty, and fascinating. The hero, pourtrayed with a good deal of cleverness and some humour, is the pastor of the village; and we presume is the authoress's type of man, for he marries Bertha at the last, after being in love with both ladies all through the book. We beg to disown him as our representative, yet feel obliged for the portrait, as frankly significant of the ulterior designs of this party against our sex, and of the position they hope to reduce us to. This milk-sop of a parson,' as he is candidly designated by one of the characters of the piece, recognises his subordinate place by slow degrees. As where he writes:
I find so many prejudices and opinions of mine, which I had conceived to be well-grounded principles, melting away under the intuitive truths of Bertha, that I begin to think a clear, true woman, one of God's oracles, whose utterances are to be treated most reverently. I am having strong doubts as to the immaculate superiority of men to women. They are far holier than we, I am sure. The truth is, Bertha has a way of taking the conceit out of man-entirely a way of her own.'-Ib. p. 45,
And his own weaker intellectual organization, lamented in such confessions as the following,-My sensibilities are too predominant, they weaken and distress me,' elicit her reproofs; Ernest, you are not self-poised, you are lacking in courage.' On the whole, however, the relative position of the parties suits each equally well, which we find well stated in Bertha's journal, just before the denouement :
The one who answers to our thoughts is ours. Ernest penetrates to the very soul of my speech, and answers thereto. He grows a lovely, inspired man-child when in my presence, and he does not know that only love can effect this.'-Ib. p. 257.
The course of the book exhibits faint struggles on Ernest's part against this female supremacy. As a popular and orthodox preacher, he ventures feeble remonstrances against her heterodoxy. She had made him adopt and domesticate in his parsonage two pauper children, and they are discussing their training:
"You have named the paupers' pew. Did you ever think, Ernest, what an infamous thing it is in the house of God? But tell me if you are quite certain what you will teach these children."
"Why, what I preach every Sunday from the pulpit, to be sure." "You are quite sure you are preaching a gospel there?"
'I wasn't sure of any such thing. I was preaching just what my predecessors had done; I was doing no more, and no less.
"If you had been bred in the Episcopal Church, you would be teaching them the Thirty-nine Articles, like the forty stripes save one of the ancient
discipline! but as you belong to the Dissenters, you will addle their poor brains over free will and predestination, and all the rough-shod trampings of Calvinism!"
"Bertha! you quite unsettle my life with your heresies. I will do away with the paupers' pew in Beech Glen at once! I am ashamed never to have thought of it before; but as for these doctrines-"
"You will consider them, Ernest," said Bertha, with perfect simplicity. Upon my word, Bertha begins to be very disagreeable. She talks to me as if I were a stupid boy. I have to remember that I have passed through collegiate and theological honours, and am regarded as fully competent to the office I fill. Somehow she sees behind all these considerations, and presents me a glass before which they all fade quite away, and I see a simple, majestic image of divine truth. But it is disagreeable to be made to feel this at the bidding of a woman.'-Ib. pp. 49, 50.
Considering their objection to theology, the yearning of these ladies for the preacher's office is something remarkable. The question is a good deal discussed between Bertha and Ernest. On her first settling, a wealthy and independent woman, in Beech Glen,' she abstains from going to church on the ground of the excessive dulness of sermons; but Ernest's voice and manner reconcile her to the practice, though she early asserts her right, in her argument with the Deacon,' to occupy the pulpit herself. On her concluding with the Quaker plea, There is neither male nor female, we find the following comment:
'As Bertha uttered this, in her clear musical voice, with exquisite intonation, her serene face, radiant with her inward convictions, I felt that a woman thus inspired must be a more effective expounder of truth than a preacher of our sex is likely to present; but I confess to a repugnance also. I trust in God envy has no place in my mind-but I will look to it.'—Ib. pp. 41, 42.
As his convictions strengthen, we are left to infer that he feels men have had their turn, and that his office was slipping from him:
It is now Thursday night, and I have no sermon written, and feel very much as if I never should be able to write another. Everything has been said worth saying upon the doctrines I preach; and as for daily life, why, my people are savagely virtuous. I do not know where to catch them tripping. I can't preach at them for the life of me. As I look down from the pulpit, the array of respectable, moral, dull faces is appalling to me. Every well-ironed cravat looks like a barricade; the stiff waistcoats, and long, tight silk boddices, are so many shields and cuirasses to ward off the sharp arrows of conviction. The people say good morning to me, piously, and speak of the weather with a sort of religious unction, and declare "things are better than we deserve." My predecessor in Beech Glen has left nothing for me to do. He has so swathed, balsamed, and glued them into orthodoxy, that they are perfectly mummified therein; and now they need somebody to poke them, as I have seen, when a boy, the keepers in a menagerie stir up the lions with a long pole, whereat the beasts would fetch a great yawn and lie down again. I must get the deacon waked up for the sake of an example.'-Ib. pp. 55, 56.
Bertha probably thought so too, but from her stand-point of calm superiority she would not willingly wound his self-love, and, like all great minds, desired rather the reality of power than the show of it. She therefore thus delicately seeks his cooperation, when, towards the close of the volume, her plans are matured:
Bertha now proposed that a small chapel, or whatever I might choose to call it, should be built near the junction, for the purpose of instruction. "I could wish," said Bertha, "once a-week, or oftener, to meet our people here. I will prepare readings, or lectures, upon such themes as shall best provoke thought and culture. And you, Ernest, will you not aid me-aid our women to think, feel, and act as women should, when so much of the world's destiny lies at their mercy?
1 winced after my old fashion. This looked like an encroachment upon my prerogatives, and seemed to imply also that my people needed teaching beyond what I was imparting to them. I think I reddened. I know I looked foolish; for the mean feeling in the soul, however disguised, will impart itself to the face. But Bertha went on with a serene sweetness.
"In the pulpit the clergyman is not altogether free. He is confined to a round of prayers and labours, that often have little effect in elevating or ennobling his people. I desire this little temple to be a spontaneous offering to God, where the form shall be more or less elaborate, as the spirit of true worship is realized within us. I would have it decorated with flowers. I would have it sacred to all that is pure and beautiful. No man or woman should enter it with foul feet, or desecrate it by a spit." I smiled, and Bertha opened her eyes in her earnest way.
"You will make your little temple holier than our place of worship,"
"Assuredly I would. It must be dedicated to the deepest sentiment of truth and beauty. The speaker must present the best example of taste. Ernest, I would not have even you enter this temple in the every-day suit of black, with a slight tinge of rust."
'I reddened again, but Bertha did not see it.
"But I would have you wear a robe of lawn, for I am persuaded that in elevating a people, the dress of the teacher is of no mean import."
"And so, under the shadow of a mountain, grew a lovely temple designed by Bertha a sort of portico, consisting of colonnades surrounding a circular building, terminating in a dome, through which the light entered, softened by ground glass. A delicate stand, like the unfolding of a white scroll, faced with crimson, composed the speaker's desk, leaving the person in full perspective, while vases filled with flowers ornamented the shafts and niches of the wall.
When all was completed, Bertha, at the close of the Sabbath exercises, with my permission, explained her plan to the people. There was much staring, some whispering, and attempted tossings of the head, amongst the feminine portion of the congregation; but the calm earnestness of Bertha at length allayed prejudice, and I had the mortification to see that her lectures were better attended than my own. Women had learned to understand somewhat of the pure, unselfish nobleness of her character, and sought her teachings from a genuine interest. She taught them botany, horticulture; she suggested new modes of industry, improvements in housekeeping, in dress; she gave them higher subjects for thought, and encouraged them to question her. Soon old and young, men and women, learned to prepare eagerly for Bertha's days in the pretty rotunda; indeed, nothing could be more picturesque than her audience, in, their improved costume,
garlanded with flowers, and their faces wreathed with content.'-Ib. pp. 191-193.
Unwillingly is the Pastor forced to own woman's greater fitness for the teacher's office, but candour compels the ad
'Bertha has done more in a few months than I have done in years of labour. She has seemed to pour oil upon the troubled waters of Beech Glen, and all has become not only peaceful but harmonious.
All this is well for the people; but how for me, who should have done this lovely work myself! I am ill at ease.
Bertha is the true genius of Beech Glen. She sees into the souls of others. She does not wait for others to move first; but, no matter how great the wrong, her clear voice and wise counsel are freely imparted, and the evil disappears.'-Ib. p. 194.
We must not dwell on this fond picture of what is to be, for we are not reviewing a romance, but discussing what may be regarded as a political movement. There is, however, a comparison between the ideal women of the piece, in the shape of two portraits from the fluent pen of the hero, which, with some abridgement, are worth extracting, as exhibiting the two contrasted types of woman as she should be; the first as she is supposed to be most pleasing to the vanity of man, the other as she harmonises with the aspirations of her own sex:
Julia is a full beautiful woman
"Not too wise nor good
For human nature's daily food."
She imparts a charm to the simplest thing. She breathes an atmosphere of poetry about her, a soft, lovely repose-and yet it is not repose. would be the hero of some castle of Indolence, with her by my side, smiling and weaving melodies, and floating in curves never wearying to the senses. She multiplies my thoughts; she quickens my fancy; she gratifies my selflove. I am not sure but half the love, so called, arises from the gratification of this egotism. We love a woman, not because she is a noble or beautiful creation in herself, but because this self-love of ours receives no check through her.
'I am not miserable at the uncertainty of a return on the part of Julia, now that I stand in true relations with myself. I am sure that a nature, so exquisitely sensuous as hers must cover a deep passionateness; but her character is so flexible, and her " variety" so infinite, that I grow glad in beholding her.
While I thought these things, I tried to think wherein the beauty of Bertha consists, but I cannot do it. She is wondrously beautiful; but it is of a kind that recedes and shades into something so intangible to the senses, that I cannot tell how nor what it is. I would call her serene. I would say that she stands a queen in the soul of nature, not as part and parcel of her. I would say nothing could detract from her sublime self-hood. Time will but ennoble her. Sickness stands aloof and rebuked before her. Poverty cannot touch her. She is herself -she is sovereign to all that breaks down and mars the integrity of others. I recall the scene in the church, but Bertha outlives all that is burtful. Ah! so gloriously does she bear her cross upward, that it has become a crown and sceptre. The thorn precedes the cross-the cross