Reams of writing could not more clearly explain what is meant by “inability to understand” American conditions and to judge fairly the literature growing out of them; and reams of writing would be wasted in the attempt to make our curious critic comprehend the situation. There is nothing in his experience of “farmers’ daughters” to give him the key to it. We might tell him that his notion of a farmer’s daughters in England does not apply to New England. We might tell him of a sort of society of which he has no conception and can have none, of farmers’ daughters and farmers’ wives in New England—more numerous, let us confess, thirty or forty years ago than now—who lived in homely conditions, dressed with plainness, and followed the fashions afar off; did their own household work, even the menial parts of it; cooked the meals for the “men folks” and the “hired help,” made the butter and cheese, and performed their half of the labor that wrung an honest but not luxurious living from the reluctant soil. And yet those women—the sweet and gracious ornaments of a self-respecting society—were full of spirit, of modest pride in their position, were familiar with much good literature, could converse with piquancy and understanding on subjects of general interest, were trained in the subtleties of a solid theology, and bore themselves in any company with that traditional breeding which we associate with the name of lady. Such strong native sense had they, such innate refinement and courtesythe product, it used to be said, of plain living and high thinking—that, ignorant as they might be of civic ways, they would, upon being introduced to them, need only a brief space of time to “orient” themselves to the new circumstances. Much more of this sort might be said without exaggeration. To us there is nothing incongruous in the supposition that Lydia Blood was “ready to become an ornament to society the moment she lands in Venice.”
But we lack the missionary spirit necessary to the exertion to make our interested critic comprehend such a social condition, and we prefer to leave ourselves to his charity, in the hope of the continuance of which we rest in serenity.