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The Elect Lady   By: (1824-1905)

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(A Duplex Edition)

By George MacDonald




In a kitchen of moderate size, flagged with slate, humble in its appointments, yet looking scarcely that of a farmhouse for there were utensils about it indicating necessities more artificial than usually grow upon a farm with the corner of a white deal table between them, sat two young people evidently different in rank, and meeting upon no level of friendship. The young woman held in her hand a paper, which seemed the subject of their conversation. She was about four or five and twenty, well grown and not ungraceful, with dark hair, dark hazel eyes, and rather large, handsome features, full of intelligence, but a little hard, and not a little regnant as such features must be, except after prolonged influence of a heart potent in self subjugation. As to her social expression, it was a mingling of the gentlewoman of education, and the farmer's daughter supreme over the household and its share in the labor of production.

As to the young man, it would have required a deeper seeing eye than falls to the lot of most observers, not to take him for a weaker nature than the young woman; and the deference he showed her as the superior, would have enhanced the difficulty of a true judgment. He was tall and thin, but plainly in fine health; had a good forehead, and a clear hazel eye, not overlarge or prominent, but full of light; a firm mouth, with a curious smile; a sun burned complexion; and a habit when perplexed of pinching his upper lip between his finger and thumb, which at the present moment he was unconsciously indulging. He was the son of a small farmer in what part of Scotland is of little consequence and his companion for the moment was the daughter of the laird.

"I have glanced over the poem," said the lady, "and it seems to me quite up to the average of what you see in print."

"Would that be reason for printing it, ma'am?" asked the man, with amused smile.

"It would be for the editor to determine," she answered, not perceiving the hinted objection.

"You will remember, ma'am, that I never suggested indeed I never thought of such a thing!"

"I do not forget. It was your mother who drew my attention to the verses."

"I must speak to my mother!" he said, in a meditative way.

"You can not object to my seeing your work! She does not show it to everybody. It is most creditable to you, such an employment of your leisure."

"The poem was never meant for any eyes but my own except my brother's."

"What was the good of writing it, if no one was to see it?"

"The writing of it, ma'am."

"For the exercise, you mean?"

"No; I hardly mean that."

"I am afraid then I do not understand you."

"Do you never write anything but what you publish?"

"Publish! I never publish! What made you think of such a thing?"

"That you know so much about it, ma'am."

"I know people connected with the papers, and thought it might encourage you to see something in print. The newspapers publish so many poems now!"

"I wish it hadn't been just that one my mother gave you!"


"For one thing, it is not finished as you will see when you read it more carefully."

"I did see a line I thought hardly rhythmical, but "

"Excuse me, ma'am; the want of rhythm there was intentional."

"I am sorry for that. Intention is the worst possible excuse for wrong! The accent should always be made to fall in the right place."

"Beyond a doubt but might not the right place alter with the sense?"

"Never. The rule is strict"

"Is there no danger of making the verse monotonous?"

"Not that I know."

"I have an idea, ma'am, that our great poets owe much of their music to the liberties they take with the rhythm. They treat the rule as its masters, and break it when they see fit."

"You must be wrong there! But in any case you must not presume to take the liberties of a great poet"

"It is a poor reward for being a great poet to be allowed to take liberties... Continue reading book >>

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