Seminar "What Does It
to Like People?"
Given at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, 141 Greene Street,
New York, NY 10012
What Is Our Motive with People?
In The Right of Aesthetic
Realism to Be Known,Mr.
that if you don't want the world to be and look as good as possible,
will not be sincere in your friendliness to a neighbor or relative.
Frances Wright very much wanted the
world and people
to be good. She could have used her parents' early deaths to feel angry
and separate, but she wanted to feel a kinship with other people's
"If grief becomes a means of kinship," Mr. Siegel explained, "it can be
borne." In an account of her life she wrote in the third person,
Frances has this description of herself seeing older people who were
She was perhaps
painful labor of the aged among the English peasantry; and again, when
she saw that peasantry ejected...from the estates of the wealthy.
man then no home upon the earth; and are age and infirmity entitled to
no care or consideration?"
She began to realize, she wrote, that
vice lay at the foundation of the whole human practice," and that she
to "devote her whole energies to its discovery."
When she was 17, she read about
the young United
States of America and was thrilled, writing later:
From that moment she
awoke, as it
were, to a new existence. Life was full of promise...There existed a
consecrated to freedom, and in which man might awake to the full
and full exercise of his powers.
At 23, she and her sister Camilla
made the boat voyage
to America unchaperoned--an unheard of thing for two young women to
From her travels in the Northern states she wrote her first book, about
the people she met, Views of Society and Manners in America,
of an Englishwoman. It was enthusiastic and highly praising,
in bold defiance of the contempt England wanted to feel towards their
colonies. The book caused a stir and she received a letter of
from Thomas Jefferson, whom she would later meet.
But when she returned, in 1824,
she saw that there
was also tremendous injustice here. Slavery, she wrote, is "the
atrocious of all sins that deface the annals of modern history," and
biographer says she was the first woman in America to act publicly
it. She founded "Nashoba" a community to educate and free slaves
near Memphis, Tennessee. The school she planned, Eckhardt writes,
would be one in which:
would be made between
white children and black and no privileges given to either the one or
other. ..Consequently, when those children grew up, they would together
enjoy "that complete equality of habits and knowledge, alone consistent
with the political institutions of the country."
She hoped that the slave owners
would, if given an
economic alternative, give up what was so evil, and that other
like Nashoba would spread through the South. But it was attacked
and ridiculed as "Frances Wright's Free Love Colony," because it was
that she was against laws that made women literally the property of
husbands. People were angry that she was calling for greater
and felt their positions were threatened.
Also the Cause of the Pain in Women's Lives
Frances Wright wrote to a friend
when she was
I am dissatisfied with
my own nature
and am driven to fear that all the evil I have seen in my short but
life has done evil unto me, by chilling my affections and rendering me
She didn't know that there was that
in herself that
wanted to chill her affections--the desire to have contempt for the
The young girl who was so moved by
the words of
our Declaration of Independence, who would later work till she nearly
in the woods of Tennessee so that an enslaved person be free and have
and dignity, had in her too, a desire to hate and be disdainful.
The way Frances saw the aunt who raised her was crucial; Eckhardt
that she "despised" her. It is likely her aunt, only 18 when put
in the position of being a mother to her, didn't have enough desire to
understand her. After Frances went to live in America, she had
further to do with her Aunt Campbell, and when her aunt tried to renew
contact, we see how scornful and hard Frances could be: "It is beyond
power to irritate me," she wrote to her, "You, Madame...you force me to
remind you of all that you have done and all that I have suffered?....
I have now expressed, leisurely and calmly," she closed the letter,
contempt which your conduct has inspired in me." "The haughty
Fanny unleashed against [her aunt]," Celia Morris Eckhardt writes, "she
would intermittently direct at others all her life."
"Before you start hating anybody,"
said in his lecture on people:
try to understand what
makes him confused,
and you will find, perhaps, that there is more confusion than just
is important that what we're against in a person not be seen as
person himself. Otherwise, we're not fair.