Not to Live in Vain: Catherine Sedgwick Essay

2151 Words Apr 13th, 2013 9 Pages
Victoria Zegler
HST 326: Women in America
November 14, 2011

Not To Live in Vain:
Faith and Ideals of Catherine Sedgwick

Love, involuntary and mysterious, holds a tight grip on the imagination. As young women, we ponder questions of marriage, careers and the ideals of love in our future. Ideals, such as these, were vital to the nineteenth century moralities. The principles of love and marriage provided models for women’s goals, as well as the opportunity to speak of their experience. Both of these ideals and the value of character represented the standards of perfection, which were essential to the sphere of life. Catharine Sedgwick, a fiction writer, subscribed to these high standards and refused to compromise. Her writings
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This new understanding of spiritualization linked love with marriage, which allowed couples to focus on their happiness. By the nineteenth century the ideal of marriage based on love was widely accepted. The notion that marriage was to be based on romance rather than rational love indicated the understanding of human feelings. Catharine Sedgwick's reasons for breaking off her first engagement show the changing understanding of love and marriage. She explains to her brother Robert that her fiancé "has been so generous as to relinquish the promise I then gave him and all is now ended forever. He is very unhappy...I am degraded in my own opinion but I cannot help it. It is strange but it is impossible for me to create a sentiment of tenderness by any process of reasoning, or any effort of gratitude." [4] Sedgwick refers to the earlier understanding of love as friendship. However, she already believes in the new standard of natural love. A later journal entry brings this new understanding into sight. Sedgwick pondered her feelings toward a former admirer confessing, "I liked him, and not knowing quite as much of the heart (or of my heart) as I do I fancied that liking might ripen into something warmer." [5] Once Sedgwick became familiar with the imaginable sensations her heart could create; she came to realize that love is not just an increase in liking but a separate

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