lundi 7 novembre 2011

Augusta Jane Evans, ST. ELMO, New York, G. W. Carleton & Co., 1867, 571 pages.

In the midst of prompt preparations for departure, Edna's new novel appeared. She had christened it "SHINING THRONES OF THE HEARTH," and dedicated it "To my countrywomen, the Queens who reign thereon."         The aim of the book was to discover the only true and allowable and womanly sphere of feminine work, and, though the theme was threadbare, she fearlessly picked up the frayed woof and rewove it.
        The tendency of the age was to equality and communism, and this, she contended, was undermining the golden thrones shining in the blessed and hallowed light of the hearth, whence every true woman ruled the realm of her own family. Regarding every pseudo "reform" which struck down the social and political distinction of the sexes, as a blow that crushed one of the pillars of woman's throne, she earnestly warned the Crowned Heads of the danger to be apprehended, from the unfortunate and deluded female mal-contents, who, dethroned in their own realm, and despised by their quondam subjects, roamed as pitiable, royal exiles, threatening to usurp man's kingdom; and to proud, happy mothers, guarded by Prætorian bands of children, she reiterated the assurance that
        "Those who rock the cradle rule the world."

        Most assiduously she sifted the records of history, tracing in every epoch the sovereigns of the hearth-throne who had reigned wisely and contentedly, ennobling and refining humanity; and she proved by illustrious examples that the borders of the feminine realm could not be enlarged, without rendering the throne unsteady, and subverting God's

Page 526 law of order. Woman reigned by divine right only at home. If married, in the hearts of husband and children, and not in the gilded, bedizened palace of fashion, where thinly veiled vice and frivolity hold carnival, and social upas and social asps wave and trail. If single, in the affections of brothers and sisters and friends, as the golden sceptre in the hands of parents. If orphaned, she should find sympathy and gratitude and usefulness among the poor and the afflicted.
        Edna attached vast importance to individual influence, and fearing that enthusiastic young minds would be captivated by the charms of communism in labor, she analyzed the systems of "sisterhoods" which had waxed and waned from the Béguinages of the eleventh century, to Kaiserswerth, and Miss Sellon's establishment at Devenport. While she paid all honor to the noble self-abnegation and exalted charity which prompted their organization, she pointed out some lurking dangers in all systems which permanently removed woman from the heaven-decreed ark of the family hearthstone.
        Consulting the statistics of single women, and familiarizing herself with the arguments advanced by the advocates of that "progress," which would indiscriminately throw open all professions to women, she entreated the poor of her own sex, if ambitious, to become sculptors, painters, writers, teachers in schools or families; or else to remain mantua-makers, milliners, spinners, dairy-maids; but on the peril of all womanhood not to meddle with scalpel or red tape, and to shun rostra of all descriptions, remembering St. Paul's injunction, that "It is not permitted unto women to speak;" and even that "It is a shame for women to speak in the church."
        To married women who thirsted for a draught of the turbid waters of politics, she said: "If you really desire to serve the government under which you live, recollect that it was neither the speeches thundered from the forum, nor the

Page 527 prayers of priests and augurs, nor the iron tramp of glittering legions, but the ever triumphant, maternal influence, the potent, the pleading 'My son!' of Volumnia, the mother of Coriolanus, that saved Rome."
        To discontented spinsters, who travelled like Pandora over the land, haranguing audiences that secretly laughed at and despised them, to these unfortunate women, clamoring for power and influence in the national councils, she pointed out that quiet happy home at 'Barley Wood,' whence immortal Hannah More sent forth those writings which did more to tranquillize England, and bar the hearts of its yeomanry against the temptations of red republicanism than all the eloquence of Burke, and the cautious measures of Parliament.
        Some errors of style, which had been pointed out by critics as marring her earlier writings, Edna had endeavored to avoid in this book, which she humbly offered to her countrywomen as the best of which she was capable.
        From the day of its appearance it was a noble success; and she had the gratification of hearing that some of the seed she had sown broadcast in the land, fell upon good ground, and promised an abundant harvest.

p. 525-527

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