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Advice by James Russell Lowell, Mrs. Linton, Mrs. Oliphant, Sarah Orne Jewett, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Hawthorne, Haggard and James Payn.

     An association of literary young ladies in a western city recently deputed one of their number to write to their favorite authors in both hemispheres, requesting them to favor her with some words of wise counsel and advice by which she and her associates might profit. The result was the appended symposium of "Advice to Our Young Women Readers," which will be read to-day with interest and benefit by thousands of young women in all parts of our country.

Voice from the Grave.

     In the appended letter from one of the greatest of American poets any one familiar with his style will recognize at once the mingled sweetness and strength so characteristic of the lovable nature of its writer, the late James Russell Lowell.

     ELMWOOD, CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Jan. 30, 1891. -

My Dear Young Friend: A heart that would not be touched by a letter like yours must be duller than mine. To have any one appeal to us for counsel is one of the strongest proofs of a perfect faith reposed in us that can possibly be afforded. I think I cannot do better than to urge upon you and all my other young women readers the importance of sincerity and earnestness of purpose. Let it be your aim in every act of life to be rather than seem. Avoid all hypocrisies and shams of every kind. Be wholly sincere in every word you speak and everything you do.

     Remember that intense earnestness is the key to success in every undertaking. Be in earnest, then. Having formed a purpose, let nothing tempt you from its accomplishment. Like the gallant race-horse, who, steadily maintaining his swift, even stride, goes straight to the goal without the slightest swerving to the right or left, so let your course be in the accomplishment of any purpose upon which you have determined. If you have high and lofty aims, no matter how hard the struggle you may have to make before they can be realized, press on, fight on until you have attained them. What if you do have to sacrifice the thousand and one pleasures of life? Let them go without a thought. Time enough for them when sincerity and earnestness have made you more than conqueror, have brought you the triumphant winner of a good fight, to a commanding elevation whence you can look down in peace and contentment upon the rugged path up which you have struggled. If you and all my other young women readers will conscientiously follow this advice, and be true to yourselves and to God, you will do all that is possible to attain the happiness that is sincerely wished you by faithfully yours.

     J. R. Lowell.

Mrs. E. Lynn Linton's Letter.

     Mrs. E. Lynn Linton is widely known as the author of many novels dealing fearlessly with social problems. Her story "Though the Long Nights," has made her name honored and revered among thousands of readers.


My Dear Girl: I need hardly say that your letter has deeply touched me. There is no greater reward of endeavor than to know that one has inspired such trust in one's fellows that they come to one for words of encouragement and help in fighting the hard battle of life, and this reward is doubly great when it is the young who come to us for counsel. If you and other young women who have read my books have found in them help or direction I am indeed happy, proud and enriched, and if now or in the future I can pen any words of cheer or helpful advice to you all I shall feel that I am blessed indeed.

     In all I have written I have always kept one point steadily before me - the value of sincerity. All forms of pretense, untruth and hypocrisy I hate and loathe as infinitely degrading to the mind and character and hurtful to society. I want all my girl readers to feel the same way. But with this one has also to recognize the supremacy of the reason and to thus refuse blind obedience to one virtue under all conditions and in all circumstances. Truth itself has sometimes to yield to a virtue which in that special case is higher and more imperative. I have more than once been asked by the young what action I would recommend where they are, say, agnostic as regards religion, while their family, their father and mother, hold orthodox opinions. In some such cases I have advised outward conformity for the sake of the higher duty to the parent. In others I have recommended bold testimony for the sake of (in that particular case) the higher duty to truth. Nothing that can be named, no virtue even, fits in with all circumstances; and the reason, untrammeled, unprejudiced and without superstition, is our best and safest guide. Remember that, dear young women readers. Rest assured that what your clear, calm, dispassionate, unprejudiced reason tells you is best to do is always the very best you can do. Follow, then, that guide. With grateful love I am affectionately yours.

          E. Lynn Linton.

What Mrs. Oliphant Writes.

     Mrs. Margaret Oliphant, or, as she always writes her own name, "Margaret Oliphant W. Oliphant," needs no introduction to American readers. She enjoys the reputation of being at once the most prolific, versatile and industrious writer of her time, and has won enduring laurels as a novelist, a historian, a biographer and an essayist.

     WINDSOR, Nov. 2, 1891. - My Dear Girl: I am very glad that you and others of my young women readers in America make so good a response to an unknown and distant friend like myself, who being old and full of years and experience may perhaps be able to teach something now and then in her many books to young souls like you. To know that I have awakened in you and your associates a belief that I can write something that will benefit you is the best thing for which a writer can hope. Dear girl, cultivate self-reliance and self-control. Burns has written truly:

     "Prudent, cautious self-control is wisdom's root."

     Know yourself thoroughly and be complete mistress of yourself. Learn to rely upon yourself always - upon others never. Sweetness, strength, truth and courage are qualities that I should love to see combined as the leading characteristics of all my young women readers. Kindly yours,

     Margaret W. Oliphant.

Sarah Orne Jewett's Best Word.

     Few writers of short stories have ever attained greater popularity than Sarah Orne Jewett, and few have shown such an intimate acquaintance with the characteristics of young girlhood and such tender, delicate sympathy with them. Of these qualities she gives fresh proof in the appended letter:

     SOUTH BERWICK, Me., Nov. 4 - Dear Miss - : I am very glad that you and others of my girl readers - your friends - associate my stories with your every-day life, and I deeply feel the compliment you pay me in coming to me personally for some word that shall come even more nearly home to you, but as you grow older you will always be finding out that other people can't begin to do for us that we can do for ourselves, and that the best thing in the world is, as Charles Kingsley has said: "To live in the love that floweth forth instead of the love that floweth in." Yet nobody knew better than he how helpful and delightful it is to have the love of friends and to find pople and books and music and pictures reaching out to us all the way along our lives with their hands full of help and pleasure! I think that you and your associates have learned already something of the delight of growing and of learning and of being more and more interested in other people. As I write to you, I cannot help thinking that, after all, my best word to you is in my last year's story of "Betty Leicester." Do you remember when Betty went to Tideshead to stay with the grandaunts? If so I presume you remember how she wrote: "I wish they wouldn't keep saying how slow it is, and nothing going on. We might do so many nice things, but they make such great fusses first, instead of just going [and] doing them. *** They think of every reason why you can't do what you can do."

     As you read the above you must remember that I meant it for a long letter to girls who, like Betty, have passed the time when they only thought of the world's relation to themselves and have begun to be very serious "about their relation to the world." Dear friend, I send you and all my girl readers a great many good wishes in this note. I pray God to bless you all and make you all a blessing, and so good-by, with my best thanks to all kind friends and readers. Yours affectionately,

     Sarah O. Jewett.

The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table.

     Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, the genial autocrat of the breakfast table, is a striking illustration that we are old according to our feelings and not our years. Though now two years past 80, his letter would seem to indicate that his heart must have been born more than half a century after his body.

     BOSTON, Mass., Oct. 25. - My Dear Miss: I am delighted to learn that you and your girl friends who have read my writings have found in them such pleasure and profit as to make you desirous of receiving something directly from my own hand and in my own hand-writing. You will doubtless remember that Lockhart tells us in his life of Sir Walter Scott that when Sir Walter lay upon his dying bed he said to Lockhart: "My dear, be virtuous, be religious, be good. Nothing else will give you any comfort when you come to lie here." I know of no better words of advice that I can give to you and other girl readers of my writing than those of the author of "Waverly." Be clever if you will and can, but first of all be good. Believe me, dear miss, very truly yours.

     Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Hawthorne Says an Author Likes Flattery.

     Julian Hawthorne, the well-known writer of mysterious stories of deep and thrilling interest, writes very sensibly as follows:

     Dear Miss: I am glad to have been of use to you and to your girl friends who are, like yourself, numbered among my readers, but I will continue the good work by telling you that you must not write letters to people you do not know personally. It might result in something that would make you sorry. An author, like other men, likes flattery, and the flattery implied by having a bevy of girl readers apply to him for direction and advice is especially agreeable. It might lead to a correspondence which would soon pass the limits of ordinary literary sympathy and affect you in ways that you are probably far from anticipating now. If there is anything in me that can benefit you you will find it in my writings and not in any posible intercourse with me personally. Yours sincerely,

     Julian Hawthorne.

Rider Haggard Says Cultivate Observation.

     H. Rider Haggard has probably had as many women readers in this country during the comparatively short time that his books have been before the public as any other English writer of our day has secured within the same period. In his subjoined letter he urges upon young women readers the cultivation of a most important habit.

     NO. 24 REDCLIFFE SQUARE, LONDON, S.W., Nov. 9, 1891. - Dear Miss: It is a pleasure to be informed that you and others of my feminine American readers like my books and think you have been benefitted [benefited] by them. I should have thought some of them rather too old for very young ladies, but perhaps girls grow up more quickly in America than here.

     You ask me for some words of advice and I presume you mean of a literary nature. Let me say, then, to all young women readers, cultivate the habit of observing when you read. Let no unfamiliar word or technical term escape your notice. Have a dictionary beside you and when you come to such a word or term look it out at once and do not rest till you are thoroughly familiar with its meaning. If this causes too much interruption then have paper and pencil at hand and write down all such words, to be hunted out when you have lain aside the book you are reading. In this way even desultory reading may be made a source of intellectual improvement. Very truly yours,

     H. Rider Haggard.

Payn Recommends Some Life Work.

     James Payn is one of the best known of present-day English novelists.

     LONDON, Nov. 11. - Dear Madame: To all young women readers I would say select some definite life work and prepare yourself to excel in it, remembering that, as the poet says:

     "The heights by great men reached and kept
          Were not attained by sudden flight;
     For they, while their companions slept,
          Were toiling upward through the night."

     Yours truly,

     James Payn.



"Reading for Young Women" appeared in Chicago Weekly News, December 3, 1891. This text is from Richard Cary's clipping collection, courtesy of Special Collections at the Miller Library of Colby College.
    In a letter of 17 January 1891, Jewett indicates that she obtained the James Russell Lowell letter that appears in this piece.  This suggests that her role in the publication exceeded that of contributing her own part.
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James Russell Lowell: Lowell (1819-1891) was an American poet and literary critic, well remembered for his humorous poetry, such as "The Biglow Papers" (1848).
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E. Lynn Linton: According to The Oxford Companion to English Literature, the English novelist, Eliza Lynn Linton (1822-1898) was especially successful with her novels of contemporary life, such as Rebel of the Family (1880). "She offended many of her female contemporaries by her essays attacking feminism...." (575).
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Margaret Oliphant: Oliphant (1828-97) was a Scots writer of over 100 books.
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Burns has written truly: From Scots poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796) "A Bard's Epitaph":
      Reader, attend! whether thy soul
      Soars Fancy's flights beyond the pole,
      Or darkling grubs this earthly hole
      In low pursuit;
      Know, prudent, cautious, self-control
      Is wisdom's root.
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Kingsley:  Charles Kingsley (1819-1875), was a British Christian socialist and author, best remembered today perhaps for The Waterbabies (1863).  However, this quotation appears to be not from Kingsley, but rather from the Scot's author, George MacDonald (1824-1905).  See Phantastes (1858), chapter 19:
     Better to sit at the waters' birth,
     Than a sea of waves to win;
     To live in the love that floweth forth,
     Than the love that cometh in.
     Flowing, and free, and sure;
     For a cistern of love, though undefiled,
     Keeps not the spirit pure.
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Betty Leicester: This letter is from the end of Chapter 12: "I feel more like a Tideshead girl lately, but I wish they wouldn't keep saying how slow it is and nothing going on. We might do so many nice things, but they make such great fusses first, instead of just going and doing them, the way you and I do. They think of every reason why you can't do things that you can do."
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Oliver Wendell Holmes: Holmes (1809-1894) was an American poet and author of The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table (1858). Trained as a physician, he was the father of the Supreme Court Justice, Oliver W. Holmes, Jr.
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Lockhart: John Gibson Lockhart's (1794-1854) is the author of Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott (1837-8).
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Waverly: Scots novelist and poet, Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) published his novel, Waverly, in 1814.
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Julian Hawthorne: Hawthorne (1846 - 1934), the son of Nathaniel Hawthorne, was an author in his own right, publishing short stories and novels such as Idolatry: A Romance (1874), Archibald Malmaison (1879), and The Professor's Sister (1888).
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H. Rider Haggard: Sir Henry Rider Haggard (1856-1925) was a British novelist and agriculturalist, the author of such popular novels as King Solomon's Mines (1885) and Allan Quatermain (1887). He also advised the British government on agriculture.
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James Payn: Payn (1830-1898) was a British editor, poet, essayist, and a prolific novelist of 100 titles, including Lost Sir Massinberd (1864) and By Proxy (1878).
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the poet says: This passage is from the American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, (1807-1882), The Ladder of St. Augustine (1858), stanza 10.
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Edited and annotated by Terry Heller, Coe College.

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Uncollected Essays