1829 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Frances Wright

John Neal, in "Miss Wright's Lectures" The Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette [Portland] NS 2 (October 1829) 220-21.



The nine days' wonder that this lady occasioned in Boston, was succeeded by a very general indifference to her and to her doctrines. She said — and we do not doubt her sincerity — that her object was to disseminate useful knowledge; — that in order to prepare the minds of her hearers to receive this knowledge, it was necessary to expose the error of prevailing opinions, and the bad tendency of existing institutions. Her anathemas were principally directed against the clergy, considering them the greatest enemies to truth, — but she did not spare our literary institutions, nor the men of the law, and the trade by which they hope to thrive. She gave us six lectures, five of which, and a large half of the sixth, were employed in subverting all the institutions that now exist, burying all who uphold them beneath their ruins. Seeing the havoc she had made, and feeling compassion for us, we suppose, she kindly raised and shook us from the dust, and placed us in fairer and better temples, built with her own hands. She spoke much that was true, and much that would have had an excellent effect, if spoken with more discretion. Her views on religion, education, law, political equality, &c. &c. were in some points correct; and her declamation — her style was almost wholly declamatory — was frequently very fine. It is said by those who decry Miss Wright and her doctrines, that she teaches nothing new. It may be so, since there is nothing new under the sun. The principal merit of any moral teacher however, is to present to the mind a new and interesting combination of familiar truths. But we have not the time nor inclination to say more about this female. We are a little apprehensive that she may do more harm than good. She has got hold of some important principles, and shows them up well; but she combines her good matter with so much that is wild, erroneous and impracticable, and indulges in such bitter and unnecessary invective, that it grieved us to see truth in such unworthy company.