Thursday, May 03, 2007

St. Elmo by Augusta J. Evans

So much of life and philosophy is connected. Evolution attacks the entire biblical worldview because to be consistent, evolution requires certain conclusions at odds with the Bible. Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof claims about finding a husband, "There's more to life than that! Don't ask me what?" So in my life I find that I can associate (and often do) almost anything with biblical womanhood (and, ok, finding a husband).

When I was reading Augusta Evans' novel, St. Elmo, today, I was delighted then to encounter this paragraph illustrating the connectedness of facts about culture.

"Statesmen were almost extinct in America - a mere corporal's guard remained, battling desperately to save the stabbed constitution from the howling demagogues and fanatics, who raved and ranted where Washington, Webster, and Calhoun had once swayed a free and happy people. Republicanism was in its death-throes, and would soon be a dishonoured and insulted ghost, hunted out of the land by the steel bayonets of a centralized despotism. The old, venerated barriers and well-guarded outposts which decorum and true womanly modesty had erected on the frontiers of propriety, were swept away in the crevasse of sans souci manners that threatened to inundate the entire land; and latitudinarianism in equality, dangerous to morals and subversive of all chivalric respect for woman.

"A double-faced idol, Fashion and Flirtation, engrossed the homage of the majority of females, while a few misguided ones, weary of the inanity of the mass of womanhood and desiring to effect a reform, mistook the sources of evil, and, rushing to the opposite extreme, demanded power, which, as a privilege, they already possessed, but as a right could never extort."

There is much more in the book that gives an enlightening perspective on a world uncontrolled by feminists. We, having lived all our lives in a world that sees perfect goodness in woman's suffrage, who are contented citizens of the United States that defeated its seceding South, know so little of the way things were - and worked before these facets of our lives were established. Who were the women who clamored in a sisterhood for the equal right to suffrage? How many more good, virtuous women were keeping their homes and excelling in their spheres of true influence while these malcontents wrecked the world unchecked by men whose role it was to, frankly, defy them and keep them out of politics and pulpits? Augusta J. Evans presents a convincing case for why an anti-suffragist's position was the more biblical.

I recommend St. Elmo for though it is horribly saturated with references to classical literature and the philosophies of the day (which are, at least in my education, completely lacking today and therefore make me feel ignorant), the story is dimensioned, convincing, gripping, and vivid. Until the last paragraph I did not know how it would end.

(In defense against my criticism, the authoress addresses our objections in her own book, saying that while the author or speaker appears learned, they have themselves only scratched the surface of all the knowledge to be had and are trying to impart it to you. It may be a speaker's responsibility to supply you with definitions, but, as a character scornfully says in the book, it is not his responsibility to supply brains to understand them.)

To God be all glory.


zjramsli said...

Hey Lisa,

When was that book written?

Lisa of Longbourn said...

It was published in 1867. When it was written I can't quite tell. The text is available online here:
though you have to scroll through copyright rules first. And I prefer book form which can be carried with me, set down, and picked (in this case) immediately back up.
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn