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Silly Novels By Lady Novelists
by [?]

We are not surprised to learn that the mother of this infant phenomenon, who exhibits symptoms so alarmingly like those of adolescence repressed by gin, is herself a phœnix. We are assured, again and again, that she had a remarkably original in mind, that she was a genius, and “conscious of her originality,” and she was fortunate enough to have a lover who was also a genius and a man of “most original mind.”

This lover, we read, though “wonderfully similar” to her “in powers and capacity,” was “infinitely superior to her in faith and development,” and she saw in him “‘Agape’-so rare to find-of which she had read and admired the meaning in her Greek Testament; having, from her great facility in learning languages, read the Scriptures in their original tongues.” Of course! Greek and Hebrew are mere play to a heroine; Sanscrit is no more than a b c to her; and she can talk with perfect correctness in any language, except English. She is a polking polyglot, a Creuzer in crinoline. Poor men. There are so few of you who know even Hebrew; you think it something to boast of if, like Bolingbroke, you only “understand that sort of learning and what is writ about it;” and you are perhaps adoring women who can think slightingly of you in all the Semitic languages successively. But, then, as we are almost invariably told that a heroine has a “beautifully small head,” and as her intellect has probably been early invigorated by an attention to costume and deportment, we may conclude that she can pick up the Oriental tongues, to say nothing of their dialects, with the same aërial facility that the butterfly sips nectar. Besides, there can be no difficulty in conceiving the depth of the heroine’s erudition when that of the authoress is so evident.

In “Laura Gay,” another novel of the same school, the heroine seems less at home in Greek and Hebrew but she makes up for the deficiency by a quite playful familiarity with the Latin classics-with the “dear old Virgil,” “the graceful Horace, the humane Cicero, and the pleasant Livy;” indeed, it is such a matter of course with her to quote Latin that she does it at a picnic in a very mixed company of ladies and gentlemen, having, we are told, “no conception that the nobler sex were capable of jealousy on this subject. And if, indeed,” continues the biographer of Laura Gray, “the wisest and noblest portion of that sex were in the majority, no such sentiment would exist; but while Miss Wyndhams and Mr. Redfords abound, great sacrifices must be made to their existence.” Such sacrifices, we presume, as abstaining from Latin quotations, of extremely moderate interest and applicability, which the wise and noble minority of the other sex would be quite as willing to dispense with as the foolish and ignoble majority. It is as little the custom of well-bred men as of well-bred women to quote Latin in mixed parties; they can contain their familiarity with “the humane Cicero” without allowing it to boil over in ordinary conversation, and even references to “the pleasant Livy” are not absolutely irrepressible. But Ciceronian Latin is the mildest form of Miss Gay’s conversational power. Being on the Palatine with a party of sight-seers, she falls into the following vein of well-rounded remark: “Truth can only be pure objectively, for even in the creeds where it predominates, being subjective, and parcelled out into portions, each of these necessarily receives a hue of idiosyncrasy, that is, a taint of superstition more or less strong; while in such creeds as the Roman Catholic, ignorance, interest, the basis of ancient idolatries, and the force of authority, have gradually accumulated on the pure truth, and transformed it, at last, into a mass of superstition for the majority of its votaries; and how few are there, alas! whose zeal, courage, and intellectual energy are equal to the analysis of this accumulation, and to the discovery of the pearl of great price which lies hidden beneath this heap of rubbish.” We have often met with women much more novel and profound in their observations than Laura Gay, but rarely with any so inopportunely long-winded. A clerical lord, who is half in love with her, is alarmed by the daring remarks just quoted, and begins to suspect that she is inclined to free-thinking. But he is mistaken; when in a moment of sorrow he delicately begs leave to “recall to her memory, a depôt of strength and consolation under affliction, which, until we are hard pressed by the trials of life, we are too apt to forget,” we learn that she really has “recurrence to that sacred depôt,” together with the tea-pot. There is a certain flavor of orthodoxy mixed with the parade of fortunes and fine carriages in “Laura Gay,” but it is an orthodoxy mitigated by study of “the humane Cicero,” and by an “intellectual disposition to analyze.”