Blanche Douglas Hoffman, Francis Moncaster,
Chapters VIII-XI, pages 66-71
The Literary Age, I:3, pages 69-70
Liberty, VA, September 1878
Edited by Blanche Douglas Hoffman
Hoffman & Murrell, Publishers
On the morning after their arrival in Richmond, Bessie Fauntleroy and Mamie de La Rue, were enjoying from one of the windows of the St. James the fine view of Capitol Square which that hotel affords.
"Just look, Mamie," said Bessie, with naivete, pointing to a cabriolet, which was drawn by two beautiful sleek horses. "Frank is coming early to fulfill his engagement to Hollywood, but I told him that my second afternoon would be taken up in shopping. I must dress with all possible dispatch. In a fit of communicativeness, he told me not long since, that he considered nothing so disagreeable, as to be kept waiting for a lady—for an incalculable length of time. You know, dearie, that it is my weakness, to be long in dressing. I acquired that disagreeable habit years ago, and you know with what tenacity, even a trifling habit clings to one."
"Yes," said Mamie, "I know of nothing grander than a strong man fighting against a habit which has grown almost fixed—for instance such as the use of spirituous drink. 1 firmly believe that Divine assistance will alone enable him to remain strong. Don't you remember how beautifully Owen Meredith speaks of overcoming ? I believe the lines run thus—
"The spirits of just men made perfect on high,
The army of martyrs who stand by the Throne
And gaze Into the Face that makes glorious their own,
Know this, surely, at last. Honest love, honest sorrow,
Honest work for the day, honest hope for the morrow,
Are these worth nothing more than the hand they make weary,
The heart they have saddened, the life they leave dreary?
Hush! The seven fold heavens to the voice of the spirit
Echo: He that o'erecometh shall all things inherit."
"Lucile embodies some beautiful thoughts," said Bessie. "One of Owen Meredith's thoughts strikes me with much force, I can't remember his words, but his idea. He speaks of ages gone by as the irreclaimable days, when giant minds conceived and executed; now he affirms that we distribute power by dividing work. That our age is too vast and complex for one man to embody its purpose. Two lines I distinctly remember :—
"In life's lengthened alphabet what used to be
To our sires X Y Z is to us A B C"
"Lucile has been criticised severely," said Miss de La Rue. "Just criticisms elevate and improve but most critics forget that their true province is to point out beauties, as well as defects. Not long since I picked up a June number of the Southern Literary Messenger, which I kept and have laid by; it was published in this city during the war by Macfarlane & Ferguson, and edited by Dr. G. W. Bagby, a charmingly facetious writer, whom you of course know by reputation ! In a criticism of 'Tanuhauser,' [sic.] selected from the Charleston Mercury, the writer thus speaks of Lucile. But I'll get the Messenger and read it to you. Here it is right in the tray of my trank [i.e., trunk?]. Now listen. 'With Lucile, we thought we had done with Owen Meredith, whose poems first introduced him to readers on this side of the Atlantic. His lyrics showed some musical talent, a tolerably well cultivated ear, and a limited degree of fancy, exercised unfortunately, on rather inferior subjets [sic.], which left us doubtful what his future would be. Our chief objection to him, and one from which we did not augur well, was the viciousness of his style ; diffuse, erratic, and seeking after startling effects rather than real performance; as one less careful of what he says, than how he says it. Remembering, however, the feeble first notes of some afterwards great poets, we suspended our judgment on an author who exhibited some promise, though little more. Lucile satisfied us; and nothing but the poverty of the literary market, which a two years blockade has caused, would have tempted us to take up Tannhauser, whose fame has been so widely blown by the English press.'"
"Severe, isn't it?" said Bessie. "One of the best prefaces to a book, and one of the happiest, is the one to Augusta Evans's 'Infelice.' D'Israeli never uttered a truer thing; To-morrow the critics begin their work. Who are the critcs [sic.]? Those who have failed in literature and art."
"It seems to be the tendency of human nature," said Mamie, "to underrate and drag down, if possible. All history demonstrates this fact. Men bow in adoring reverence to those who are in power, but let the wheel of fortune change, let the mighty conqueror meet with reverses, the politician fail to be supported, and the fawning, hypocritical masses are down upon them. In literature it is just so. Genius ennobles the world, but it is ever at strife with it." Owen Meredith says somewhere—
'The world is a nettle; disturb It, It stings;
Grasp it firmly, it stings not. On one of two things,
If you would not be stung it behooves you to settle:
Avoid it, or crush it.'
Be superior to the world, it will fawn at your feet, or in other words crush the nettle. The great do not avoid it, but conquer it, despite its stings.
In speaking of critics, I more thoroughly enjoy Mrs. Herricks' criticisms than those of any whom I know. But we must cease talking. Frank has been waiting for you for at least an hour. Hurry and make your toilet. Wear your black silk and blue trimmings, they are so becoming."
"Yes, Mamie, dear, I must hurry."
Mamie's deft fingers rendered effective assistance, and in a short time Bessie was dressed. Never did she look more lovely. Her black dress heightened the exquisite clearness of her complexion, and her blue trimmings added to its fairness. In a few moments she entered the parlor, in which for one hour Frank had eagerly watched her appearance.
Last revised: 5 July 2011