20 September 1856
FRESH FERN LEAVES.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1856, by ROBERT BONNER, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York.
DEAR SUSY:—"How did I like Saratoga?" I have not been to Saratoga, the papers to the contrary notwithstanding. No, I am a dear lover of plenty of room, a dress one can tumble about in, and a private omelette; heterogeneous feeding is not to my taste—not on the ground of its in-exclusiveness, but that sympathy is as necessary to my digestion as well-cooked food. I would eat with (as I would kiss) only the few whom I love.
Speaking of sympathy, have you read "John Halifax, Gentleman?" I, who can never be bribed to wade through a novel, "leastways," not my own, have been bewitched with "John Halifax." So strong is he, yet so gentle; so firm, yet so tender; so conscientious, so religious, (in these days when a man would blush to own that he prayed.) I tell you, were it not that the demon sea-sickness, who once well-nigh demolished me, stands with a drawn sword between me and the Old World, I would cross the ocean to shake hands with the author of "John Halifax." Surely, no man could conceive such a character, who had not in himself the germ of all that was noble and good. Read it, and admire, with me, its deep, earnest feeling, its healthy moral tone, its delicious pictures of home life;—weep, with me, over the little blind Muriel, the first-born; over the gay, wronged, erring, beautiful Lady Caroline; over the patient, yearning, crippled Phineas; over the old iron Quaker, whose harsh nature softened at last to more than childhood's tenderness, under the chastening hand of sorrow; over the death of little blind Muriel, "the child of peace," over the birth of baby Maud, and the touching love of the old couple, growing deeper, tenderer, stronger, as their life-shadows lengthened, and their locks silvered.
It is hard to believe this book written by a masculine pen, so faithfully, so delicately is every shade of feminine feeling depicted; so beautifully are the minute home incidents, so telling upon home happiness or home sorrow, pourtrayed. Read it, and admire, with me, the artistic fidelity with which the shadows, as well as the sunshine, are painted;—the faults which, in making their possessors human, bring them the nearer to us, who have so much reason to cry "Our Father." He who could have conceived all this, must himself, through much tribulation, have washed his earth-robe white. To read this book is to pass into a purer atmosphere; it is to place the palsied hand of weakness upon the giant arm of strength; it is to flush with shame the brow of those who, in the simple, beautiful round of home duties, find no sanctifying, ennobling, or saving power.
How I have run on! but I can safely promise to retract all this commendation if, after a careful perusal, you do not respond me Amen! But when are you coming back to the city, you human butterfly? The Broadway dandies listen vainly for the rustle of your silken robes; dainty gloves, laces, brocades and ribbons challenge your eyes, and alas! your purse; dressmakers and milliners lie in wait for "foolish virgins" like yourself. The Opera has commenced. Stewart's is as brilliant as ever, with its rich and rare fabrics, all of which, thank heaven, one is permitted to look at, without being deafened by a volley of rattling tongues, or a highwayman-like grasp of one's purse strings; all of which, thank heaven, one may look at, as he looks at a beautiful face, without paying a fee. Talk of Napoleon's executive talent—look at the noiseless, yet beautiful results of system, in the well-drilled, well-mannered, gentlemanly, clerkly corps at Stewart's!
And now here is Autumn upon us. I love her not, the traitress! with her flaunting, rustling scarlet robe, her fragrant, but deceitful breath. I trust not her misty mornings, her sunny noons, her gorgeous, yet chilly twilights; for I have watched them from darkened chambers, where dropping tears fell with the dropping leaves, when the eddying leaf blossoms fluttered like the pulse of the dying. I love her not. Give me, rather, the gripe of hard old Winter, rough it may be, but honest and kindly.
Fanny Fern, "A Letter," The New-York Ledger (20 September 1856): 4
To cite this project:
Fanny Fern, "A Letter," Fanny Fern in The New York Ledger, Ed. Kevin McMullen (2015) http://fannyfern.org.