1855 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Frances Wright

Sarah Josepha Hale, Woman's Record; or, Sketches of all Distinguished Women (1852; 1855) 842-43, 898.



FRANCES DARUSMONT, better known as Miss Fanny Wright, was left an orphan at the age of nine years, with a younger sister, the two being heirs to a considerable property. They were placed under the guardianship of a man who was an accomplished adept in the philosophy of the French Encyclopaedists. Her parents had been strict Presbyterians, and, apparently, she was brought up in that faith; yet the poison of the French philosophical ideas was instilled with zeal into her young and eager soul, that should have been moulded by a pious mother's wise care; for, with warm feelings and a mind of strong powers, Fanny Wright had an enthusiasm of nature which would have its way. If such women are trained rightly, what noble beings they become!

When Miss Wright came of age, she found that the Old World was a hard field for her philanthropic plans. She had been taught by her infidel friend, and honestly believed, that religion, or the priest, rather, was the greatest obstacle in the way of human happiness and social improvement. She therefore came to the New World to see another phase of society. Her travels and observations at that time extended through three years, from 1818 to 1820; and her work, "Views on Society and Manners in America," evinced a hopeful mind, enlarged and liberal political views, with no expressed hostility to the Christian religion, which she found here not in state establishments, but in the hearts of the people. Her second work, "A Few Days in Athens," published in 1822, is dedicated to Jeremy Bentbam. In this she endeavours to prove the truth and utility of the Epicurean doctrine—that pleasure is the highest aim of human life. It is written with vigour, and the classic beauty of its style won much praise; but its tendency is earthward.

Miss Wright returned to America about 1825, and settled at Nashoba, Tennessee, with the avowed intention of cultivating the minds of some negroes whom she emancipated, and thus proving the equality of races. Her philanthrophy was doomed to disappointment. She finally abandoned her plan; came to the eastern cities and began a course of lectures, setting forth her particular views of liberty. She was followed and flattered by many men in New York, particularly; who formed "Fanny Wright Societies," with notions of "reform" similar to the present communists of France. Rarely did an American woman join her standard, and so Miss Wright could find no true friend; for between the sexes there can he no real bond of generous sympathy without Christian sentiment hallows the intercourse. Miss Wright left America for France, where she had before resided. Here she married M. Darusmont; a man who professed her own philosophy; the result has not been happy for her. They separated some years ago; she returned with their only child, a daughter, to America, where she owns landed property. Her husband is endeavouring to wrest this from her, and the matter is now undergoing examination in the law courts of the West. Meantime, Madame Darusmont has recommenced her philanthropic labours on behalf of the coloured race. In justice to her, it must be said that she is not like the fanatics who would destroy the Union to carry out an abstract principle of human rights — she seeks to prove the slave may be made worthy of freedom, and she does this at her own care and cost. There is no doubt that she has sought to do good, and it is a sorrowful thought that such a mind should have been so misdirected in its forming-time. We have been told by a lady who lately conversed with Madame Darusmont, that she ascribes her errors of opinion (there is no substantial charge against her purity of conduct) to the misfortune of her early training; that she has freed herself from many of these errors, and we hope she will yet be redeemed from the heavy servitude of infidelity, and find that true liberty and happiness which the Gospel only can give the human soul....

Fanny Wright died at Cincinnati, Dec. 2d, 1852.