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nothing of the laws that occasionally bring out genius in men — that create a Shakespeare, for instance-and in her case we know still less. We only know that slowly, at long intervals, and in spite of all the obvious disadvantages of physical weakness, social discouragement, and insufficient education, she is beginning to do, here and there, what may fairly be regarded as first-class intellectual work. Until within a century but one single instance of this success was recorded — that of Sappho, in lyric poetry. Within the last century other instances have followed-Rachel in dramatic art, Rosa Bonheur in animal painting, George Sand and George Eliot in prose fiction. These cases are unquestionable. Other women have at least reached a secondary place in other spheres — as Mrs. Somerville in science, Harriet Martineau in political economy, Elizabeth Barrett Browning in poetry. The inference would seem natural that it is simply a case of slower development — a thing not at all d
s Fund? If not, her success does no more credit to woman, in the opinion of these critics, than Kit's not happening to take that particular five-pound note did to his honesty. Just wait a while, they say, and you will see some woman fail in something, never fear. One critic goes so far as to say that all high creative work still remains out of the reach of woman. Romola does not seem to such a critic to be high creative work, probably; that phrase should be reserved for men — for little Twiggs, perhaps, with his fine realistic study, The Trippings of Tom Popinjay. What a flood of light all this throws on the reasons why such very able women write under masculine names! George Sand, Currer Bell, George Eliot, are but the type of many others. They wrote in that way not because they wished to be men, but because they wished for an unbiassed judgment as artists; and in each case they got it. When it came, and in the form of triumphant success, all women were benefited by it, and
Elizabeth Thompson (search for this): chapter 51
to be that if one point of the compass was not too much for her, it would only be a question of time when she would reach all the rest. When Mrs. Somerville wrote her Mechanism of the Heavens, critics of this description admitted that she had proved, indeed, that women could master astronomy after a fashion, but probably chemistry would be beyond them. When Rosa Bonheur painted cattle it was remarked that probably she could not have painted men as well if she had tried. Then came Elizabeth Thompson in England, and painted men fighting-actual battle-pieces-and the critics turned round and wondered if she could delineate men at rest. No matter what a clever woman does, the stupidest man has always discernment enough to think of something that she has not done; and if, step by step, women held their own in every conceivable department except in writing treatises on whist or backgammon, then it would suddenly be discovered that whist and backgammon were the inaccessible climax of hu
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