Some Examples Of Excellence
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
In the Century Magazine for January, 1884, an interesting story is told of an Indian girl from which we take the following account. Toru Dutt was the youngest of three children of a magistrate of Calcutta, a gentleman of unusual culture and erudition. Toru was born in 1856 and died in 1877, only twenty-two years of age. Yet in her short life she accomplished one of the greatest literary feats of modern times. Her father was her instructor. She spoke the native language of Calcutta, but before she was eighteen years of age she had acquired a perfect mastery of French, English, German and Sanskrit. In 1876 she published a book entitled " A Sheaf gleaned in French Fields by Toru Dutt." The book contained one hundred and sixty-six poems, being original compositions in English, of almost literal translations from the fore-most of the French poets, Victor Hugo, Alfred Mus-set, Beranger and several others. Now conceive an English speaking person translating more than a hundred poems of French writers into idiomatic and grammatical German, and you have an idea of the feat accomplished by Toru Dutt. She reproduced these French poems with absolute fidelity to the original, and at the same time expressed herself in English as well as though it had been her vernacular. In addition to this literary feat, difficult as it was, she ventured still farther and composed a novel in the French language, which was published in Paris and well received by the French critics. Among her posthumous papers was found a fragment of an English romance. This remarkable person was no doubt a genius, but her life was passed in the most exhausting labor and the extent and variety of her studies ; each being pursued with the utmost diligence and thoroughness, at last undermined her health and destroyed her life. George Eliot, George Sand, and Madame de StaŽl did not exhibit such remarkable energy of genius at the age when this Indian girl closed her life. This was, perhaps, the most remarkable piece of work that was ever accomplished in so short a time. It shows what devotion and energy can do in a woman's life.
The circumstances under which Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin ought to serve as an inspiration, for centuries to come, to the girls of America. This story was called into being by the terrible experiences which Mrs. Stowe had seen and heard about during her life in Cincinnati. The immediate occasion of her writing the book was perhaps a kind word spoken by her husband upon finding a few sheets of paper in his study upon which she had vividly described the death of Uncle Tom. Uncle Tom's Cabin was not the product of leisure hours, but was composed under the most grievous burdens and disadvantages. Her husband was a college professor at Bowdoin, in Brunswick, Maine. She had sole charge of a large family, with no one to help her except the older children. She was not in good health and was compelled by the sternest necessities to make her husband's modest salary meet the expenses of their living. A large part of that book which thrilled the world and which did more than all else to break down the institution of slavery, was written in the kitchen. This resolute author, with her portfolio on her knee, saved the moments that she could snatch from domes-tic care, to write one of the most remarkable books of modern times. Some one has said that, going to the house one day they found Mrs. Stowe kneading bread, with a pencil in her teeth and scraps of paper at her side, upon which she now and then stopped to write down the burning thoughts that were swelling in her soul for utterance. Prof. Stowe himself writes of this book as follows : "The book was written in sorrow, in sadness, and in obscurity. With no expectation of reward save in the prayers of the poor. And with a heart almost broken in view of the sufferings which it described and the still greater sufferings which it dare not describe." The book was first published in the National Era in 1851 and 1852. It was afterwards sent to a firm in Boston and respectfully declined. It was left to a woman's shrewdness to see the worth of a woman's work. The wife of another Boston publisher had read the story and urged her husband to obtain the manuscript and publish it. The publisher remarked to Prof. Stowe, when the arrangement was completed, that he believed the publication would bring his wife something handsome ; when Prof. Stowe repeated the remark to his wife, she answered with a smile, that she hoped it would bring enough to buy the silk dress that she had needed so long. A few months later the publisher made his first settlement and a check for ten thousand dollars was placed in the hands of Prof Stowe. "More money," says he " than I had ever before seen." Six months after its first publication, one hundred and fifty thousand copies had been sold. The publisher was a millionaire, Mrs. Stowe and her happy household were not rich, but they have never since seen want.
Numberless examples might be cited to show the value and glory of woman's work ; but these two typical illustrations of great achievements, won by application and devotion, are sufficient to illustrate the rule that woman may accomplish very noble deeds if she prepare herself for the work and labor assiduously for its accomplishment. We hope the day will soon be here when the great mass of our mothers, wives and sisters shall be competent and productive workers in the hives of human industry.