that his finger could generally blot out the faulty word while the ink was still wet. He had a habit of gently tapping the paper with his pen-hand while deliberating for a phrase.
The psychical and moral side of this was an extreme scrupulousness, that weighed every word and uttered nothing at random.
It is seldom that anything like abandon is found in his private correspondence, despite the haste in which he commonly wrote.
In his letters, as in his speeches, he had always first in mind justness and aptness of expression, not the pleasure of the reader or listener, least of all the effect (how will it sound?), as gratifying his own vanity or sense of rhetorical power.
He thus lacked both the ease and versatility and the perfect sympathy which are combined in the great letterwriters.
His tact, however, was remarkable, and his letters were highly prized by the recipients, especially when of a consolatory nature.
In controversy or in exhortation they partook of the best qualities of his public style; and I cannot imagine, for example, that such an appeal as his to Dr. Channing
in 1834 could have been1
read without a thrill.
His domestic correspondence did not escape the general stiffness of his epistolary manner.
A man so much in the glare of public censure could not shake off the consciousness of the scrutiny to which his most trivial and private utterances might be subjected.
Even when addressing his wife, especially if he was absent on a lecturing tour, he either wrote so that extracts might be made for the Liberator
as a quasi-report
, or in view of the necessity of the letter being shown to the abolition circle for their information.
When any of the children were away from home, it was our mother chiefly who kept us supplied with the family news.
On the whole, the volume of my father's private correspondence was large enough to be a monument to his resolute grappling with the mechanical impediment, even if not to be compared with that of purely literary men. As for his editorial writing, that could doubtless be claimed for it which Edmund Quincy