Mandeville. I don’t mean gossip, by any means, or scandal. A woman of culture skims over that like a bird, never touching it with the tip of a wing. What she brings home is the freshness and brightness of life. She touches everything so daintily, she hits off a character in a sentence, she gives the pith of a dialogue without tediousness, she mimics without vulgarity; her narration sparkles, but it does n’t sting. The picture of her day is full of vivacity, and it gives new value and freshness to common things. If we could only have on the stage such actresses as we have in the drawing-room!
The fire-tender. We want something more of this grace, sprightliness, and harmless play of the finer life of society in the newspaper.
Our next door. I wonder Mandeville does n’t marry, and become a permanent subscriber to his embodied idea of a newspaper.
The young lady. Perhaps he does not relish the idea of being unable to stop his subscription.
Our next door. Parson, won’t you please punch that fire, and give us more blaze? we are getting into the darkness of socialism.
Herbert returned to us in March. The Young Lady was spending the winter with us, and March, in spite of the calendar, turned out to be a winter month. It usually is in New England, and April too, for that matter. And I cannot say it is unfortunate for us. There are so many topics to be turned over and settled at our fireside that a winter of ordinary length would make little impression on the list. The fireside is, after all, a sort of private court of chancery, where nothing ever does come to a final decision. The chief effect of talk on any subject is to strengthen one’s own opinions, and, in fact, one never knows exactly what he does believe until he is warmed into conviction by the heat of attack and defence. A man left to himself drifts about like a boat on a calm lake; it is only when the wind blows that the boat goes anywhere.
Herbert said he had been dipping into the recent novels written by women, here and there, with a view to noting the effect upon literature of this sudden and rather overwhelming accession to it. There was a good deal of talk about it evening after evening, off and on, and I can only undertake to set down fragments of it.
Herbert. I should say that the distinguishing feature of the literature of this day is the prominence women have in its production. They figure in most of the magazines, though very rarely in the scholarly and critical reviews, and in thousands of newspapers; to them we are indebted for the oceans of Sunday-school books, and they write the majority of the novels, the serial stories, and they mainly pour out the watery flood of tales in the weekly papers. Whether this is to result in more good than evil it is impossible yet to say, and perhaps it would be unjust to say, until this generation has worked off its froth, and women settle down to artistic, conscientious labor in literature.