The Dollar Magazine,
March 01, 1851
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The Wide, Wide World. By Elizabeth Wetherell. In 2 volumes. New York: George P. Putnam, 153 Broadway. 1851.
It seems to savor somewhat of the sacrilegious to parade the literary defects of a book which is so excellent in its design, and so wholly and unmistakaebly [sic] good in the moral and religious instruction as is the one before us. And yet when the frame-work of a story is badly constructed, when it is disjointed and rickety, when its style is artificial and forced, when its embellishments are bad English, and its adornments poor rhetoric, one cannot but allude to such facts, although the orthodoxy of the book may be unquestionable, and its spirit blameless. And yet, even in the matter of morality it seems as if some “more excellent way” could be devised of teaching it, than is followed in this novel. Truth, to find a lodgement in the heart, by the means of fiction, must glide in imperceptibly, and not be pushed in bodily, in the shape of long harangues and labored discourses. We doubt also in regard to the correctness of some of the teachings of this book. For example, a christian mother, in her last sickness, is represented as deceiving her husband and physician, and making her only daughter a party to the deception, in order that she may go herself and by a Bible for the daughter, there being no necessity of her going, which can, in any degree justify the deception: we do not approve of such practices. The heroine too acts at times, we fear, under a mistaken idea of duty, and it certainly is not very consistent for the author of a novel to put into the mouth of the hero, who is supposed always to say what is right, the advice to his friend, never, under any circumstances, to read any novel of any description. Still the “Wide, Wide World” has some excellent things in it--some passages of real beauty, and some sentiments of genuine nobleness. It is a pity however, that the author has such a taste for crying. The frequent outburst of tears are really too harrowing to one’s sympathies. We never knew such incessant blubbering, not even on a crowded canal boat, when every other passenger went for half price, or nothing, being “under ten years of age.” Indeed, this Wide, Wide World is nothing but one wide, wide waste of waters, with only here and there an Ararat struggling to surface. We hope that the next work of E. W. will contain less dry logic and more dry land.
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