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August, 1840 AD (search for this): chapter 4
bring that highest tribunal to a work of art, namely, the calm presence of greatness, which only greatness in the object can satisfy. Yet the opinion was often well worth hearing on its own account, though it might be wide of the mark as criticism. Sometimes, too, she certainly brought to beautiful objects a fresh and appreciating love; and her written notes, especially on sculpture, I found always original and interesting. Here are some notes on the Athenaeum Gallery of Sculpture, in August, 1840, which she sent me in manuscript:— Here are many objects worth study. There is Thorwaldsen's Byron. This is the truly beautiful, the ideal Byron. This head is quite free from the got-up, caricatured air of disdain, which disfigures most likenesses of him, as it did himself in real life; yet sultry, stern, all-craving, all-commanding. Even the heavy style of the hair, too closely curled for grace, is favorable to the expression of concentrated life. While looking at this head, yo
November, 1840 AD (search for this): chapter 4
d go; and, on her refusal, entreated the interference of friends to overcome her objections; Margaret would not hear of it, and devoted herself to the education of her brothers and sisters, and then to the making a home for the family. She was exact and punctual in money matters, and maintained herself, and made her full contribution to the support of her family, by the reward of her labors as a teacher, and in her conversation classes. I have a letter from her at Jamaica Plain, dated November, 1840, which begins, This day I write you from my own hired house, and am full of the dignity of citizenship. Really, it is almost happiness. I retain, indeed, some cares and responsibilities; but these will sit light as feathers, for I can take my own time for them. Can it be that this peace will be mine for five whole months? At any rate, five days have already been enjoyed. Here is another, written in the same year:— I do not wish to talk to you of my ill-health, except that
ich brought her near to all people. I am to say that she had also a strong temperament, which is that counter force which makes individuality, by driving all the powers in the direction of the ruling thought or feeling, and, when it is allowed full sway, isolating them. These two tendencies were always invading each other, and now one and now the other carried the day. This alternation perplexes the biographer, as it did the observer. We contradict on the second page what we affirm on the first: and I remember how often I was compelled to correct my impressions of her character when living; for after I had settled it once for all that she wanted this or that perception, at our next interview she would say with emphasis the very word. I think, in her case, there was something abnormal in those obscure habits and necessities which we denote by the word Temperament. In the first days of our acquaintance, I felt her to be a foreigner,—that, with her, one would always be sensible of
May, 1844 AD (search for this): chapter 4
me truth; cheat me by no illusion. O, the granting of this prayer is sometimes terrible to me! I walk over the burning ploughshares, and they sear my feet. Yet nothing but truth will do; no love will serve that is not eternal, and as large as the universe; no philanthropy in executing whose behests I myself become unhealthy; no creative genius which bursts asunder my life, to leave it a poor black chrysalid behind. And yet this last is too true of me. She describes a visit made in May, 1844, at the house of some valued friends in West Roxbury, and adds: We had a long and deep conversation, happy in its candor. Truth, truth, thou art the great preservative! Let free air into the mind, and the pestilence cannot lurk in any corner. And she uses the following language in an earnest letter to another friend:— My own entire sincerity, in every passage of life, gives me a right to expect that I shall be met by no unmeaning phrases or attentions. Reading to-day a fe
August, 1846 AD (search for this): chapter 4
med to make both sharers of the whole horizon of each others' and of all truth, did not yet make her false to any other friend; gave no title to the history that an equal trust of another friend had put in her keeping. In this reticence was no prudery and no effort. For, so rich her mind, that she never was tempted to treachery, by the desire of entertaining. The day was never long enough to exhaust her opulent memory; and I, who knew her intimately for ten years,—from July, 1836, till August, 1846, when she sailed for Europe,—never saw her without surprise at her new powers. Of the conversations above alluded to, the substance was whatever was suggested by her passionate wish for equal companions, to the end of making life altogether noble. With the firmest tact she led the discourse into the midst of their daily living and working, recognizing the good — will and sincerity which each man has in his aims, and treating so playfully and intellectually all the points, that one se<
June, 1844 AD (search for this): chapter 4
e Divine, a sheltering love; truth, an alwaysspringing fountain; and my soul more alone, and less lonely, more hopeful, patient, and, above all, more gentle and humble in its living. New minds have come to reveal themselves to me, though I do not wish it, for I feel myself inadequate to the ties already formed. I have not strength or time to meet the thoughts of those I love already. But these new have come with gifts too fair to be refused, and which have cheered my passive mind. June, 1844. Last night, in the boat, I could not help thinking, each has something, none has enough. I fear to want them all; and, through ages, if not forever, promises and beckons the life of reception, of renunciation. Passing every seven days from one region to the other, the maiden grows weary of packing the trunk, yet blesses Thee, O rich God! Her letters at this period betray a pathetic alternation of feeling, between her aspiring for a rest in the absolute Centre, and her necessity
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