Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. J. A. Harrison), “Review of Letters to Young Ladies,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. IX: Literary Criticism - part 02 (1902), 9:64-66


[page 64, continued:]


[Southern Literary Messenger, July, 1836.]

WE have to apologize for not sooner calling the attention of our readers to these excellent Letters of Mrs. Sigourney — which only to-day we have had an opportunity of reading with sufficient care to form an opinion of their merits. Our delay, however, is a matter of the less importance, when we consider the universal notice and approbation of the public at large. In this approbation we cordially agree. The book is, in every respect, worthy of Mrs. Sigourney — and it would be difficult to say more.

The Letters (embraced in a duodecimo of two hundred and twelve pages,) are twelve in number. Their subjects are, Improvement of TimeDomestic EmploymentsHealth and DressManners and AccomplishmentsBooksFriendshipCheerfulnessConversationBenevolenceSelf-GovernmentUtility — and Motives to Perseverance. Little has been said on any one of these subjects more forcibly or more beautifully than now by Mrs. Sigourney — and, collectively, as a code of morals and manner for the gentler sex, we have seen nothing whatever which we would [page 65:] more confidently place in the hands of any young female friend, than this unassuming little volume, so redolent of the pious, the graceful, the lofty, and the poetical mind from which it issues.

The prose of Mrs. Sigourney should not be compared, in its higher qualities, with her poetry — but appears to us essentially superior in its minutiæ. It would be difficult to find fault with the construction of more than a very few passages in the Letters — and the general correctness and vigor of the whole would render any such fault-finding a matter of hyper-criticism. We are not prepared to say whether this correctness be the result of labor or not — there are certainly no traces of labor. The most remarkable feature of the volume is its unusually extensive circle of illustration, in the way of brief anecdote, and multiplied reference to authorities — illustration which, while apparently no more than sufficient for the present purpose of the writer, gives evidence, to any critical eye, of a far wider general erudition than that possessed by any of our female writers, and which we were not at all prepared to meet with in one, only known hitherto as the inspired poetess of Natural and Moral Beauty.

Would our limits permit us we would gladly copy entire some one of the Letters. As it is, we must be contented with a brief extract, (on the subject of Memory,) evincing powers of rigid thought in the writer. Few subjects are more entirely misapprehended than that of the faculty of Memory. For a multiplicity of errors on this head Leibnitz and Locke are responsible. That the faculty is neither primitive nor independent is susceptible of direct proof. That it exists in conjunction with each primitive faculty, and inseparable from it, is a fact which might be readily [page 66:] ascertained even without the direct assistance of Phrenology. The remarks of Mrs. Sigourney apply, only collaterally, to what we say, but will be appreciated by the metaphysical student.

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We heartily recommend these Letters (which the name of their author will more especially recommend,) to the attention of our female acquaintances. They may be procured, in Richmond, at the bookstore of Messrs. Yale and Wyatt.





[S:1 - JAH09, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (Review of Letters to Young Ladies)