‘Do you know that I am going to England?’
wrote Colonel Higginson to a friend in April, 1872. ‘I look forward to it with boyish delight. . . . I have got my best sympathy so far out of the Hawthornes' book— Mr. and Mrs.—her accounts are delicious I think, as eloquent as possible, and they make me so long to see a cathedral and its close, those green homes of peace, but it is queer that neither describes a nightingale or a skylark—my first desiderata.’
This brief foreign trip included a hurried visit to Ireland
, and the Continent.
, the traveller went to see R. D. Webb
, an old Abolitionist, who received him with delight, and he visited the house ‘where Moore
was born and lived—still a grocery and wineshop such as his father kept . . . . This was my first shrine such as it was and I found it easy to conjure up the little sweet singer.’
A few days later in the ‘midst of the wonder and thrill’ of London
, he exclaimed:—
I feel as if I had just been born . . . . I do not see how there can be a place in the world more delightful than London for one who loves both study and society
. . . . I am having the most amazing time, perfectly overwhelmed with invitations and kindnesses.
After the above I will add that I breakfast with Froude Monday.
At the Athenaeum Club
he found Aubrey de Vere
, ‘my first author.
He came gliding downstairs to me a tall, refined, ascetic-looking man . . . and seemed and talked like a simple, sweet recluse.’
It may here be added that Colonel Higginson
spent his first hours in London
by gratifying his curiosity to see certain regions he had long known by reputation, and which were usually considered unsafe for visitors.
When he walked through the Seven Dials and St. Giles—then called the ‘Den of Thieves’—he was unmolested and perhaps a shade disappointed to find all London
A certain English correspondent of a New York paper gave exaggerated accounts of these rambles and declared that Colonel Higginson
was ‘protected by his rashness.’
In his book called ‘Carlyle
's Laugh’ the American
author has described a memorable walk which he took in Hyde Park
‘I wished,’ he wrote home, ‘we could all be photographed . . . . We three were nearly run over in crossing the tide [Rotten Row] and dear old Carlyle
had to run for life.
I am so glad to have seen him— he was charming.’
Not long after, he dined with
Darwin at his home, which he described in his letters as ‘enlawned.’
Soon enter the philosopher, taller than I, erect, white-bearded, like a kindlier Bryant, looking like his photograph, but more human and sweet—he was most genial, slight as was my claim on him ... he seemed even a greater man than I had thought him.
The daily record goes on:—
Heard Tyndall at Royal Institute and saw him afterwards—delightful man—asked me to dine with him. . . . I sat between Tyndall and one whom I supposed a physician but found to be Lord Lyttleton.
I remembered luckily a pretty Latin translation by him of a poem of Lord Houghton's and spoke of it . . . . I think the ease with which one steps into a round only too delightful here is amazing. ... Heard Bradlaugh the great popular orator of England . . . who came and took lunch with me.
Met Mr. Gladstone by appointment at 12—a fine wise keen face, voice like Emerson's without the hesitancy—we talked America and literature and he heard for the first time that his Juventus Mundi was reprinted.
He asked me to breakfast for Thursday next, but impossible.
The same day he met Huxley
whom he described as ‘shortish, strong, black-bearded, with blacking-brush style of hair, looks like a scientific shoemaker, but talks to the point.’
Bryce soon came in for me to go and hear Dean Stanley—it was a special service at the Univ.
church and the ‘Heads of houses’ (or colleges) went in procession, with scarlet gowns, and men bearing maces before them . . . . He is a little man, somewhat like Dr. Palfrey, face keener, and a peculiar intoning manner as he preaches, looking up to the sky every few minutes, but never at his hearers.
At another time when Colonel Higginson
heard Dean Stanley officiate at Westminster Abbey
, he said:—
Dean Stanley looked old and mediaeval, with a black velvet cap on, and wearing the red ribbon and jewel of the Bath, of which he is a sort of Chaplain.
‘Everything was done for me at Oxford
,’ the record continues, ‘by Bryce
, the indefatigable, and Dicey
; and I made a speech at a great college dinner and again at a students' supper where I was at first introduced as a Confederate officer, but I got round it.’
This little episode was referred to by Mr. Bryce
in a letter to Colonel Higginson
, dated 1907:—
Do you remember being with Dicey and myself at a Sunday dinner in Trinity College, Oxford . . . where you saved a perilous situation with a swift decision worthy of your military experience?
One of the dons had fancied you were a Confederate officer!
, also, Colonel Higginson
, the historian, Rawlinson
, Montague Bernard
, ‘the late “High Joint,” ’ and Miss Thackeray
, the novelist, ‘by far the most original and interesting woman I have seen in England
She pressed on me a letter to Tennyson
and I expect to go to see him.’
This visit to the poet at the Isle of Wight
is minutely described in ‘Cheerful Yesterdays
,’ and from the letters only this extract is taken:—
Presently I heard a clamping step and in walked rather heavily and awkwardly a man, the most singular compound of Sam Johnson and Professor Lovering . . . fine eyes under spectacles! . . . He was quite pleasant though never exactly interesting or agreeable, took me to his smoking room to the top of the house, through some lovely gardens full of roses, then to see Mrs. Cameron his neighbor and crony [the amateur photographer].
During his stay in London
, Colonel Higginson
preached for Mr. Conway
at South Place Chapel (Unitarian
). This sermon was reviewed in an English paper under the title ‘A Warrior in the Pulpit.’
The author of the article said some anxiety was felt lest Colonel Higginson
, whom he described as ‘gentle in speech and manner as Colonel Newcome
in society,’ would fail as an effective speaker.
These fears were speedily dispelled, for the English
exclaimed, ‘Some of his sentences were on fire!’
A London paper spoke of the evident delight this American traveller found in England
, adding, ‘Even the climate, he, like most Americans
, does not denounce!’
Before sailing for home, Higginson
was given a farewell entertainment by the Anglo-American Association.
At this meeting, of which Thomas Hughes
was president, a letter was read from Professor Tyndall
, saying, ‘The Association desire to express to Colonel Higginson
their sense of the services he has rendered to the cause of human freedom, and to wish him God speed as an unofficial messenger of peace between two nations.’
The last clause referred to the fact that there were then certain treaty complications between the two countries.
In the spring of 1878, Colonel Higginson
made a second visit to Europe
He wrote from the steamer:
When I sailed before I felt a sort of dismay as we left the wharf as if the experiment were wildly dangerous and I had better jump ashore; now I did not feel that, only that fear of having left something essential behind which we often have on setting out for journeys . . . . I found with regret that I could not look on the Irish hills with quite the intense delight they inspired when they were my first glimpse of Europe.
Arrived again in London
, in May, he writes:—
Went to see Prof. Masson at the Athenaeum Club and found that I am admitted as a guest through [Sir Frederick] Pollock and Hughes.
It is a great satisfaction and honor . . . . As we went through the hall the Archbishop of Canterbury was coming down stairs, Sir Henry Maine, the author was coming from the smoking room, and the three men in the smoking room were Galton, Palgrave and the editor of the Quarterly Review.
No building in the world has so many eminent men within its walls from 4 to 6 daily.
Then he records meeting at the Cosmopolitan Club
, Anthony Trollope
, Lord Houghton, whom he knew before, ‘brisk, small, and chatty’; and of having ‘a talk with Galton
, author of “Hereditary Genius.”
Heard a lecture from Max Muller at the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey.
Afterwards I went up to speak to him and found him as pleasant as possible.
He remembered at once my Sympathy of Religions which I had sent him and begged me to come to Oxford and see him. He looks quite English in style, but has a sweet sunny manner and slight German accent, about as much of both as Agassiz.
had been appointed a delegate to a Prison Reform Convention at Stockholm
, and of a preparatory English meeting in May he said:—
The one interesting person was Cardinal Manning—such a prepossessing and distinguished man,
the very ideal of an ecclesiastic—tall, spare, with noble head above and narrowing to a keen ascetic jaw—eyes and mouth full of mobility and sensitiveness, the most winning voice and manner, as much American as English, and speaking so nobly and sweetly and humanly.
I never felt more the power of the Roman Catholic Church than in seeing how it evolves its man and keeps the type.
I went to a reception at Mr. Martineau's (James) chiefly his students and parishioners. . . . It was rather stiffish and the person I liked best was a very pleasing young Professor, Knight of St. Andrew's (Scotland) who to my surprise had my Epictetus and knew all about it.
To the interesting trial of Mrs. Besant's claim to her child—a case between a Christian husband (clergyman) and an atheist wife, to be tried before a Jewish magistrate on the Jewish Sabbath . . . . It was strange waiting in the Court and seeing the wigged barristers come in. Conway says the wig is a survival of the patriarchal idea of seniority, to give a symbolical age to all concerned in administering justice.
Several cases came first and I was struck with the conversational tone between judge and counsel (no jury) and the weight and clearness of the judgment.
Mrs. Besant sat patiently, a very fine looking young woman of 28 with a strong sweet face . . . . The husband's lawyer treated her very courteously and made no personal imputation or allusion, but claimed the child for the husband because of her avowed atheism and her publication of books which had been condemned.
The second lawyer was more
vehement, but not discourteous.
She argued her own case, in opposition to the judge's advice, and he often interrupted her but not discourteously.
She appeared admirably and took his interruptions very sweetly.
She is tall and fair and with great ease and clearness of speech, but the effect was marred by Bradlaugh's standing behind her, his face being unprepossessing though intellectual . . . . She admitted all the facts very gently but explained that she had simply abstained from biasing the child's mind, thinking that all religious opinions should be postponed.
She made some weak points but on the whole was strong, but the judge ruled strongly against her, though admitting her personal character . . . . After the decision the Court adjourned.
The Conways and I spoke to her; I told her I did not agree with her in some things but could not but respect her and feel for her and she took it with sweetness and dignity.
A few people waited, about 30 perhaps; several applauded and one or two hissed as she walked away with Bradlaugh . . . .
Afterwards went by invitation to a meeting of the society for opening galleries on Sunday, a large fine meeting in the great hall of the Freemasons' Tavern.
The young Earl of Rosebery presided, he who married the Rothschild, a good-looking smooth-faced youth and a very pleasing speaker, frank and witty, evidently a great favorite and very independent.
He said once that he thought the majority should govern, which was applauded.
I should say he has a future before him, though they say both families bitterly opposed the marriage . . . . I was
called on late and introduced as from the United States and very warmly received; could not go on for some time.
An evening meeting of Woman Suffrage in London—really good and sensible speaking—Mrs. Fawcett, Miss Beeker, and others, several members of Parliament, but no one of rank as at other meetings . . . . I was asked for the 3rd time to make or second the vote of thanks to the chairman—an inevitable English formality; and I spoke briefly.
‘I am struck,’ he wrote,
with the multiplicity of societies and movements here for all sorts of odd things.
For instance I have just got a note from a total stranger, inviting me to the platform of a meeting of the society to resist compulsory vaccination by the state! . . . Now as I never even heard of Anti-Vaccination I am rather bewildered, and at any rate can't go.
I talked to pretty Mrs. H. who knows the pre-Raphaelite people and confirmed my impression of a very false and artificial vein among them.
She knows a set of artists who rendezvous at Hampstead Heath and every evening dress in costumes of the last century and try to get away from the commonplace present; they go so far as to have numbers of Addision's Spectator reprinted with modern dates so as to keep up the atmosphere of Queen Anne's day. This was almost past believing.
She knows Burne-Jones well and says he is a very simple person.
Dined with the Edwin Arnolds . . . . She was Fanny Channing, a tall, elegant, attractive woman and a most adoring wife of a loving husband.
is something un-English about Arnold, perhaps from his long life in the East and his poetic nature.
He is delightful when not talking politics, but there he is so vehement as to be a little fatiguing though always in a gentle, graceful way. He is a small man with a pleasing face. . . . He is somewhat egotistic about the Telegraph which has brought all England round to it he thinks and perhaps it is true—says “The Empire of Russia is an anachronism which I hope to destroy.”
He claims to be liberal and even radical, but thinks the thing now to be done is to save the colonial empire which only Beaconsfield can do. He thinks that Beaconsfield is not selfish, or vain in a petty way, but “has a sublime self confidence and thinks he (B.) alone can save this nation of stupid snub-nosed Englishmen” —and A. seems to think the same of Beaconsfield's policy.
To save the British Empire from the Russians is to Arnold like saving Rome from the Gauls.
Arnold the other day came upon that poem “He who died at Azan,” read it with delight and finally remembered that he wrote it himself in youth . . . . She (Fanny) showed me his “Star of India” with pride; but her children with as much [pride].
Found General Higginson and Henry H. waiting to go to the Guards' Review for Queen's birthday, “Trooping the colors,” as it is called.
There was a great crowd outside, but all the sentries were deferential to Gen. H. their late commander, and he got us a fine place, which he defended against noblemen and ladies for our sake.
Henry is as delighted with him
as I and says, “He's the best Higginson I've seen yet.”
The review was wonderfully beautiful—the 3 guard regiments (Grenadiers, Coldstreams, and Fusileers) being considered by Englishmen the finest regiments in the world and their officers ranking above all others of the same grade.
Gen. H. was Colonel of the Grenadiers and commanded the whole brigade till his promotion as Major-General, and he hopes to command it again.
The parade was before the Duke of Cambridge, commander-in-chief, with whom was the Prince Royal of Prussia, a very handsome blonde soldierly German, in beautiful white uniform.
With them rode many others of high rank. . . . The mounted bugle corps wears the picturesque uniform of Charles ii's day—black velvet caps and heavy gold lace coats.
All around the open square the houses were covered with people, and all uncovered at God save the Queen.
Of course there were showers but nobody minded that.
After review the Gen. said “our only chance for the music at St. James' Palace will be to keep close by these fellows” —so he, Henry and I marched rapidly between the ranks of the magnificent guards, keeping close to an officer he knew and just clearing the edge of the crowd, who pressed close to us. It was deliciously amusing to me—the audacity of the thing—Gen. H. striding on, out of uniform, but of distinguished bearing, then I behind him, and Henry H. behind me trying to look as if we had a right there which sometimes the mob at our side seemed seriously to doubt.
However, we got inside the Palace gates, heard some more fine music and then Henry and I
took our leave of our gallant kinsman, who for the sake of a tie of blood 250 years old had thus given us the position of temporary Guardsmen—in England a very high title.
The latter part of May he went to Beckenham,
to dine and sleep at Mr. Darwin's . . . Oh!
the beauty of Darwin's grounds, just a window looking on a few flower pots for the foreground, but so exquisitely arranged, such bright colors heaped together with a thicket of rhododendrons for a background and a straight path leading away under trees, I never grew tired of it. Mr. Darwin looks older and weaker than when I saw him 6 years ago, less distinguished and commanding, but always kindly and noble.
Mrs. Darwin stouter and also kind and intelligent—two younger sons at home. . . . I was assigned to a large room looking on the lovely flower-beds . . . inside an old-fashioned 4-post bed of the largest size with curtains and feather bed.
To my dismay the servant had unpacked my small bag and neatly laid its hastily assorted contents on the dressing table.
I do hate this waiting upon . . . . Mr. Darwin has a great desire to come to America, but never will, because of the voyage.
Lunched with Miss Anna Swanwich the translator of Aeschylus, with F. W. Newman translator of Homer, a quaint small long-faced man, with an American look.
Afterwards went to meet Browning at the Athenaeum Club—one of the desires of my former visit, unfulfilled then.
Of this meeting, which is fully described in ‘Cheerful Yesterdays
,’ Colonel Higginson
was very cordial, yet I felt it more the general temperament of the man than from any personal interest.
Then I went into a Cooperative meeting for a while—working men, who all dropped their H's, but spoke much to the point . . . . Later, I walked through Pall Mall, all illuminated for the Queen's birthday, and crowded with people . . . . I saw one fight and stopped it to the displeasure of the crowd so I decided not to interfere any more . . . .
I saw Herbert Spencer.
He was playing billiards as he does every afternoon.
Prof. Bain introduced me and he went back to his game, apologizing, but afterwards came to me in the library and we had some talk.
I liked him better than I had been told I should.
He looks like his pictures and like a Unitarian minister.
He is rather small, with large head, bald forehead and spectacles, bad figure and walks awkwardly, manner quite pleasant and cordial with a little that effect of whim and isolation more common with Englishmen than with us. He said billiards were of great value to him as his only recreation and form of activity, and spoke of the great danger of overwork to all. He seemed to have the common impression (English) that there is less freedom of thought in America than here, which seems to me quite untrue.
He thought any seeming shrinking on the part of Tyndall and Huxley due to their wives' influence, the only thing he said reflecting on women, nor was he cynical as I had heard.
He seemed pleased at the reception of his books in the United States, but said he should never go there as he could
not stand the loss of sleep in the voyage, which seemed to me a queer view.
I have always felt incredulous as to his being a really great man and this interview did not remove it, but I liked him more than I expected . . . .
Found Justin McCarthy and his pleasant wife and children at home, real Irish hospitality. . . . It was after 12 and they had just come down to breakfast.
He and his son both work for morning papers and are up late.
Then appeared at the door a great cheery handsome ruddy face with a mass of light gray hair standing out wildly all about it—this was Mrs. M. They are much with all the literary people, Rossettis, etc., and confirmed what I had heard that there is a strong reaction against Dickens—it is not the thing to admire him, his subjects are thought commonplace and his sentiments forced.
Walt Whitman among their set is the American poet; the taste for Miller has passed by and though he is here his poetry is forgotten.
He was thought original and characteristic and when he came to parties with trousers thrust in his boots, he was thought the only American who dared do in England as he would do at home.
Whittier was unknown they said, and Lowell only through the “Biglow Papers.”
Swinburne calls him no poet but a critic who tries to write poetry.
（13-14 June) I spent in Conway's Convention which was very interesting and called out strong character and ready speaking.
I was on the committee too to draft the Constitution which differs somewhat from our Free Religious Association (as does
the name ‘Association of Liberal Thinkers’). The best known people in it were Voysey (a small and narrow soul who got alarmed and withdrew), Leslie Stephen (who married Miss Thackeray), Stuart Glennie (who wrote the account of Buckle's Eastern travels), G. J. Holyoke (veteran radical), Mr. Blyden of Liberia (black and Mohammedan who has written on that subject in Fraser), Mrs. Rose (formerly of N. Y.), A. J. Eyres the philologist, and various Unitarian ministers.
I spoke several times and twice succeeded in allaying incipient contests by suggesting phrases that reconciled different opinions, so that one speaker proposed to send me as arbitrator to reconcile the strikes now going on at the North, and they all laughed and applauded.
In June Colonel Higginson
was in Oxford
on Commemoration Day and lunched with
the new D. C.L's and their wives and other notabilities, a grand affair in the beautiful hall of All Souls College.
I sat between Bryce and Mrs. Spottiswode, wife of one of the new D. C.L's, and opposite a young Lord Donoughmore, whose name delighted me because I thought of the statues of
Haythen goddesses most rare The song says of them farther that they are “all second cousin to My Lord Donoughmore” and here was the real youth.
Homer, Venus and Nebuchadnezzar
All standing naked in the open air.
Here he met Dr. Pattison
, author of ‘Essays and Reviews,’ who
spoke warmly to me of Atlantic
Essays which he got in consequence of an extract in a review.
He said, “You must have given great attention to the matter of style” ; and afterwards, “Do you find an audience in America for such critical refinement of style?
I fear there would hardly be in England.”
I told him I thought Americans when well educated cared more for refinement of style than English and he said he knew they formerly did but thought their style had grown more “rough and ready” as the English certainly had. He quoted one or two of my stories and said he had often repeated them . . .
Waked early with regret from my last night in College.
I can't imagine anything more rejuvenating than the way these men come back here and enter, as of right, on their old privileges.
H——for instance still has a right here as A. M. and can come back and claim a parlor and bedroom for these days if any one is vacant, and be served from the kitchen paying only very moderate fees.
We have nothing like it. College is with us a passing experience—for them a lifelong home.
came next and he reported:—
Going North I had for companion the Professor of Poetry of yesterday, Principal Sharp of St. Andrews, whose books have been printed in America, “Poetic Interpretation of Nature,” etc.—he is a thin Scotch looking man, recalling Eliot Cabot.
I did not at first fancy some things about him but about the time we crossed the border we got acquainted.
He soon said, “Did you ever hear of yarrow?”
hardly help laughing and . . . told him every educated American knew every place mentioned in Scott, Burns or the Border Minstrelsy.
Edinburgh. Had a delightful trip by coach to Roslin.
Nobody can be disappointed in Roslin Chapel . . . . I longed for hours of peace there.
Dined with the Massons—his talk about Edinburgh was very interesting.
He came here to the University from Aberdeen and says that three of the professors, Wilson (Chr. North) Chalmers and Sir Wm. Hamilton were the three most striking men in appearance that he ever saw. Wilson's hair was yellow, Chalmers's white and Hamilton's very dark—Wilson was a giant, and his statue does not exaggerate his lion like port; Chalmers's face was large and heavy and seamed—he had but little book knowledge but wonderful originality and power.
Hamilton had great hold upon young men collectively though not individually.
When Dickens first came here, Wilson said of him “How could that puppy have written such books.”
Masson says Dickens' imagination was so active his narratives had very little value . . . . The Massons knew Alexander Smith and Sydney Dobell the two young poets, both of whom have died and both interested me . . . . I praised Dobell's ballad of “Ravelston” so much that Mrs. M. ordered a carriage and drove me there in the dark leaving at 9 and returning at 11 . . . . The house is quaint and old and is the original Tully-Veolan of Waverley—Scott used to go there as a boy . . . . Dobell used to pass the house
daily almost and the ballad wrote itself I suppose— but the Massons did not know it and it seemed so strange and weird that an American from afar should go wandering about the old place, for the love of a ballad which perhaps the Keiths of Ravelston do not know.
Returning to London
in July, he went
to a charming garden party . . . . The company was distinguished—Huxley, Spencer, Galton, my friend and reader Mark Pattison from Oxford, Sir Rutherford Alcock, Walter Crane and his wife and others . . . . Huxley . . . was very cordial . . . . Walter Crane is quite a young man, modest and retiring and has a nice young wife of the same stamp who seemed pleased at hearing how well he was known in America . . . .
In the evening went to meet a few Women Suffrage people and Mrs. Livermore at Peter Taylor's M. P.—the author . . . . I saw people there who are quite American in their sympathies—Miss Helen Taylor, Mill's adopted daughter, being most interesting and more French than English in the grace and sweetness of her manners.
At the Voltaire Centenary
, Colonel Higginson
heard Victor Hugo
speak and was much struck with the storm of enthusiasm which greeted him. Another interesting event of this visit to France
was a fortunate meeting with Tourguenieff; and he found Louis Blanc
‘a most delightful little man.’
His impressions of these distinguished men
are preserved in ‘Cheerful Yesterdays
At a French Prison Reform meeting he found he ‘could get on in the general French Committee work well enough, but as for two excited Frenchmen talking to one another, it is like interpreting heat lightning.’
But Colonel Higginson
had a natural aptitude for acquiring languages, and on his first arrival at Paris
he wrote: ‘French came to me like a flash and I interpreted for stray Englishmen at the customhouse!’
During this second visit he strolled into the suburbs of Paris
and walked from Sceaux to Chatenay, and ‘bought vin ordinaire in the very room where Voltaire
To continue the extracts:—
Paris, Monday, July 22.
I dined at Mr. Hitt's (American Sec'y of Legation) to meet Stanley the explorer. . . . I sat next to Stanley who is a very queer combination—much smoothed and softened they say but a Herald reporter still—not of distinguished look but with a resolute air—accent neither English, American nor French—talks of course about himself mainly but not in a specially conceited way—and seems perfectly incapable of a joke . . . He gave an amusing description of his intense delight at finding the queer little old man [Livingstone] but as the natives were all looking on they repressed it all and he and Dr. L. met as if in Piccadilly, perfectly coldly.
Then he went on to complain and
scold most tediously at the way he was disbelieved and attacked and finally advised everybody not to go to Africa.
When the only Englishman present protested against what Stanley had said, the latter replied: “What I complain of in the English is that they got my girl away from me,” at which nobody could help laughing—it seems that his betrothed was convinced that the first Livingstone letters were forgeries and so dropped him . . . . Afterwards I had an almost equally amusing scene with one of the American jurors, who said, “I am glad to meet you, Col. H., I have been so interested with what you have accomplished in New Caledonia; your name has often been before us in the jury of honor.”
I knew as much of New Caledonia as Stanley at first of Livingstone, but recalled some English Higginson who had been in the papers as connected with copper mines there and it seems he is called Colonel too. What a chaos of Colonels!
I said if it was necessary to patriotism that I should take the credit, I'd do my best.
Of his further doings in the French
capital, he wrote:—
‘This was the day of the “ Congres Internationel de Droit des Femmes.” . . . Mrs. Howe read a paper in French ... the language seemed to give a clearness and precision to her ideas and kept her from the clouds and she read with much dignity and sweetness.’
At the Theatre Francais he ‘for the first time saw acting! ... Sarah Bernhardt seemed the legitimate
successor of Rachel and Ristori—a blonde Rachel, tall and slender and stately and fearfully ill like her—but oh!
such power, such expression by a glance, a whisper, a motion of the hand and such utter absence of the visibly histrionic.’
was the next country to be visited, and there Colonel Higginson
stayed with friends, going thence to Germany
Le Manier, Penne de Pie near Honfleur, Normandy.
Here I am at this perfectly charming place . . . wonderfully silent and deep, and delightful after Paris, and it was pleasant to go to sleep and not know what the morning would reveal.
I was waked by the bells for early mass in the old church opposite, 800 years old. My windows look upon the sea. . . . Once a day an old man comes with the mail, and once a day the omnibus goes by each way between Honfleur and Trouville,—that is all.
‘I got here this morning,’ he wrote from Cologne
, ‘leaving beautiful Normandy
and dear friends with difficulty . . . . I shall not feel solitary on the Rhine
, having Bettine's correspondence with me and meaning to visit some of her places.’
Apropos of Bettine, these passages occur in one of the diaries:—
Just now I am reading Gunderode with ever-new delight: I wish there were a million volumes.
Really there is not an author in the world, save Emerson
and Shakespeare, from whom I have had so much and so fresh enjoyment as from the perennial Child, Bettine.
Her effervescence always intoxicates me with delight; though her life flowed prematurely away in it, like champagne left uncorked.
Bingen, Aug. 7.
Hard at work on the castles with intervals of my dear Bettine Brentano on whose tracks I now am . . . . My main object just here is Bettine and I made a long dreamed of pilgrimage to her best loved haunt, whence many of her letters were written, the ruined chapel of St. Roch . . . . I found with dismay that the beautiful little ruin which Bettine describes as recently destroyed has been rebuilt but what was my delight to go round it and find a little ruin of two arches and a wall still remaining, with an altar and a stone crucifix, grim and battered, apparently the very one up which she climbed to stick a bunch of wild flowers in the top. I could have done the same in continuing her work for there were harebells like ours and heather in bloom all around, but just as I sprang down, a fair young priest such as she would have rejoiced in came reading his breviary round the corner and it was well to be discreet.
He also cooled my ardor a little by saying that this little ruin was of a second chapel to St. Michael which also stood there—still I dare say it was the same crucifix.
She used to write to Goethe there and kept his letters buried there and has an exquisite description of going to sleep there in the moonlight on the wall and having to sleep there all night.
She planted grapevines and honeysuckle and lilies there and she says “all sorts of plants,” but
there were only some ivy roots of which I took one and shall try to make it grow.
From Bingen to Frankfort.
O, what a charming day!
wandering along the Rhine with Bettine in my hand, studying out all the scenes of the letters I have always enjoyed so much.
First I crossed by ferry to Rudesheim and tried to fix the spot where Gunderode was found dead . . . . Bettine landed at Rudesheim that day and ran straight up Ostein, a mountain a mile high she says. . . . I went up the same hill.
It is a steep paved vineyard path.
The valley was utterly still and bathed in heat, it seemed, as B. writes elsewhere, as if the leagues of ripening grapes sent up an incense.
Along the path grew yarrow, tanzy and succory, just as in New England; the present emperor loves succory flowers especially and they always bring him bunches of it on public days .. .. At two I went on by train to Winkel—Bettine's regular summer home . . . . I staid long on the shore [of the Rhine] and the nearly 70 years since 1809 seemed nothing—the two girls were still young to me. I think I found the place where Guinderode died . . . . I walked back through the long villages again.
It was very hot. I had an hour at the station and lay down on a bench and slept as Bettine would have done . . . . It is such a delight to have an ideal object, especially in travelling alone.
Frankfort. Here still was Bettine, but lost in the greater stream of Goethe.
The Goethe house was my chief interest . . . . Below were his magnificent mother's rooms . . . portraits of her . . . in
the very room where she used to sit and chat with Bettine and they were (as the latter says) the only two people alive in Frankfort or anywhere else.
he saw Albert Durer's house, scene of ‘The Artist's Married Life,’ which interested him profoundly; and at Dresden
he ‘penetrated into the holy of holies where the Sistine Madonna
is. It quite fulfils the hopes I had fixed on that picture for so many years; and familiar as I was with the copies, it is really that event in my life that I imagined it to be . . . . The Sistine Madonna
, [the] Venus
—they really fulfil the ideal like cathedrals.’
After the traveller's return he wrote:—
The sojourner in a foreign country, while away from the safeguards of home has a peculiar feeling of safety in another sense—a sort of wall of defence around him in the fact of his own insignificance.
To go among a people who know neither you nor your kin is like going about invisible, those who see you take no account of you, you are simply one stranger more, unimportant as a fly. When I look back on my life in Paris, I seem to have carried about with me a moving wall of seclusion, which is now exchanged for the glare of publicity.
The following year, after his second marriage, Colonel Higginson
received, through Professor Longfellow
this letter from members of Mr. Conway
's parish, accompanied by fifty dollars:—
went abroad twice more, in 1897 and 1901, on both of these occasions taking his family with him. From Tintern, England
, one of the party wrote:—
Wentworth is too soft-hearted to travel in Europe.
He has discovered great holes in the roofs of some of the cottages near us, and heard that one old woman has to put up an umbrella in the night when it rains, and this makes him unhappy.
The 1897 visit brought us to London
at the time of the Queen
's Jubilee, and Colonel Higginson
London seems so confoundedly empty to me without the circle of great men whom I met twenty years ago . . . . You can have no conception of the absolute absorption of everything in the forthcoming
Queen's festival or the millions of people who are pouring into the city.
During his wanderings abroad, it was always assumed by strangers that Colonel Higginson
was an Englishman.
An Englishwoman said to him one day, ‘Then you have been in America
and he replied, ‘Very much so.’
At another time a respectable housekeeper said to him, ‘Are you an American gentleman, sir?
You don't speak like one.
I should have taken you rather for English
He said, rather severely, ‘I suppose you mean that for a compliment, but I don't consider it one.’
‘Ah,’ said she, ‘but you must admit they have a twang, a kind of accent-like.’
He said, ‘That's what we say of the English
’; and she laughed.
He wrote in his diary:—
We pick up lots of Americans we never heard of at home and learn a great deal that is new about our own country. . . . An Englishman watched me through a knot hole for some Americanism.
Said he detected a good many in Holmes.
One of his English friends, Rev. W. Garrett Horder
, has written down for this memoir his impressions of Colonel Higginson
From an English point of view no praise could be higher:—
I think he was the tallest, most erect, most aristocratic in his bearing of any American we had known.
While as to his speech, it was difficult to believe that he had been born and lived all his days
across the Atlantic . . . . But more important than his manner of speech was the spirit that expressed itself not only in his words but in his actions and bearing.
I have never seen in any other man so perfect a union of the most democratic (I use the word in our British sense) convictions and the most aristocratic bearing.
That to me was the most striking feature, and one very, very rarely found.
A memorial sermon was preached by this clergyman after Colonel Higginson
's death from the text, ‘A man shall be as an hiding place from the wind and a covert from the tempest,’ and reported in the London Times.
In this address Mr. Horder
called his subject a ‘perfect English gentleman, adding thereto the freshness of the American
An interesting chance acquaintance was made at the South Kensington Museum
, when the American
author was examining the original manuscripts of Coleridge
He was talking with the custodian of these treasures about Hartley Coleridge
and quoting his poems, when his listener suddenly remarked, ‘My name is Hartley Coleridge
and explained that he was a grandson of Samuel Taylor Coleridge
This new and congenial friend was full of interesting anecdotes about Coleridge
, and Lamb
Lunched with E. Hartley Coleridge at Oxford and Cambridge Club . . . . Coleridge does not
recall his grandfather but [remembers] well his great aunt Mrs. Lloyd a most superior woman at 90, reading Horace, etc. His aunt Mrs. H. A. Coleridge quoted her uncle Southey a great deal . . . . He says we must go to Torquay where his sister Christobel (!) lives.
To continue the extracts from the foreign journals and letters:—
The trip of 1897 included many delightful visits at English country-houses.
One of these was at General Sir George Higginson
's summer home on the Thames
, where we saw the Henley regatta.
In his description of this house, the American
visitor said, ‘The high
hall was lined with old cuirasses and bayonets, the latter all picked up on the field of Inkerman
, where Sir George, then a lieutenant, was engaged.’
The hospitality of English houses was fully appreciated, but the formalities made Colonel Higginson
a little impatient.
He amused his family by reporting after a London luncheon that he had been ‘swamped in Lords and Ladies.’
Great and prompt is the kindness of these English people.
Already invitations of some kind for almost every day, before we have been here twenty-four hours .. . The librarian of the great Bodleian library remembered me twenty-five years ago and says I ought to have had a degree of D. C.L. in place of some of the Colonial premiers.
He spent a Sunday at Stratford
I went to Shakespeare's church, a lovely place, and there was a very ritualistic service, a great deal of signs of the cross, etc. The rector presently announced that he would have a prayer service of thanks for an American party saved from danger at sea. After the service I was suddenly surrounded by American Librarians.
It proved that they were the party, the Cephalonia having broken a shaft.
And this is his family's account of that Sunday morning:—
Wentworth sat through the service unhappily, watching the people cross themselves, and then
walked home between the bishop and vicar, each of them claiming him as an old acquaintance!!!
An annoying incident happened on our way to Stratford
in the loss of luggage which prevented Colonel Higginson
from attending a dinner given near London
by the Omar Khayyam Club
Thereupon an amusing squib appeared in the Morning Post in which ‘incidents connected with the late Shah
and the present Colonel Wentworth Higginson
, he encountered a favorite novelist:—
This morning we discovered (through a tell-tale letter directed to him) that a man staying here was Thomas Hardy.
Hardy is small with a keen thin face, head nearly bald and little gray moustache.
He is very simple and pleasant, willing to talk about his own books, the scene of which is mostly laid in this region, and which portray manners now passing by. He is reputed shy, but when caught in this retired place is very easily approachable.
His wife is sturdy and bicycles. ... We have been very lucky in stumbling on people unexpectedly and have really seen the novelists I most care to see—Hardy, Anthony Hope, Mrs. Ward and Mrs. Alexander—the latter peculiarly dignified and attractive . . . . He [Hardy] surprised me by saying that all the dialect of his peasants (who are perfectly Shakespearean in quaintness and vigor) is from the memory of his childhood, and that he never in his life wrote down
a sentence after hearing it. I had always imagined him with a note-book.
In Paris Colonel Higginson
said the best thing he did was to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower
The little pension
which sheltered us was Victor Hugo
's old house, and the salon, which opened into a very pleasant garden, was his study.
In September the record says:—
We had a delightful run through Switzerland. .. The Protestant service in the cathedral [at Basle] seemed to me a glimpse of Puritanism of 200 years ago, even to the gown and band of the preacher and the tythingmen who stood up to keep the boys in order.
In the journey of 1901, we sailed direct for Italy
, and from Castellamare Colonel Higginson
Our visits to Madeira, Gibraltar, Tangier and Granada were perfectly successful and each of them worth crossing the ocean for.
we lived close to the Alhambra and found it more beautiful even than we had imagined, especially the ceilings of the rooms which were carved and colored like a celestial bee hive. . ..
We are spending a week at this beautiful place.
Vesuvius is only a few miles away; between us and it stretches a beach of exquisite curve, with a slight line of surf.
Behind it lies a level plain and a long row of grayish houses, and this is Pompeii.
Think of seeing Pompeii at last!
From the same place his family reported:—
He suffers very much from not being allowed to tip everybody; but after being suppressed all the time in Tangier, on our way to the boat there a handsome little Moorish girl smiled on him, and walked along with him smiling still, and the guide was n't looking, and he was lost.
We were detained at Castellamare for several weeks on account of an illness of our daughter Margaret.
A letter, dated April 19, says of the invalid:—
She is drinking a kind of local mineral water, prescribed by Pliny!! Some one suggested that a later endorsement might be valuable!
We have to superintend the goat's milking morn and night and we do it from an upstairs window.
The goat bleats, and then we go. Angelo stands by her with a silver tray, the “fat boy” (son of the former head-waiter who was murdered by the former cook) helps hold her contrary head, and the owner milks into a little pitcher.
When convalescence came, the interesting Swedish
doctor and author, Munthe
, advised us to go to Sorrento
and then to Capri
where he said Andrews
(American author and artist) would take care of us till he came.
had a villa there, but just then was in Rome
in charge of the future King
,’ wrote Colonel Higginson
, ‘we called on Marion Crawford
the novelist who has a perfectly beautiful villa and
begged us to come over this afternoon and see the children dance the Tarantella (national dance) in honor of their father.’
Removed to the bracing air of Capri
, the record continued:—
Found a very pleasant circle of English and American men. I enjoyed also meeting Wm. Wordsworth, grandson of the poet and himself a minor poet,—a most distinguished looking man, a handsome likeness of his grandpapa.
To tea at William Wordsworth's, returning on donkeys.
W. W. is the favorite grandson of the poet.
The next extract is from a Florence letter:—
To-day I lunched with the Marchesa Peruzzi de Medici.
She is the daughter of Story the sculptor.
She lives in a narrow street.
You come up a fine stairway into a series of dark high rooms, with some quaint old furniture, frescoed walls and many traces of Story's sculpture work.
Out of one parlor opens a small private chapel.
I waited a while and heard a door open softly and in glided a little elderly woman, quiet as possible, and putting out a shy soft hand to me. I was quite bewildered by her being so much older in appearance and more unworldly than the brilliant society woman I had expected; and when she sat down with an anxious look and seemed to wait for me, I reverted to the subject which led me there and said, “I was very sorry that Mr. Waldo
Story was not in Rome when I was there, that I might see him” —to which she said, still timidly, “Ah.”
Then she said breathlessly under her voice, “I never was in Rome but twice in my life,” and looked to me for sympathy.
Inasmuch as my hostess was born and bred there, this was rather bewildering; and at this moment in came hurriedly a fine-looking woman of the world who said eagerly to me, “Oh, I must apologize for being so late” ; and then looking at her said, “I must present you to Miss Browning.”
It was Browning's sister, companion, and amanuensis who still survives him at 88!! Then came in a younger man, short, round-faced and round-headed, looking like a capable business man and he was the present Mr. Browning, the son of two poets.
This was he whom I used to hear of in youth as Penini (from Apennines, a nickname given by his mother). . . . We of course talked poetry and Browning more or less, and we spoke of my favorite complaint of his alterations in his published works; and Miss B. said, “He used to say that of course he wished to be understood and if people could understand better in one way than another the words make little difference.”
She spoke of his horror of being lionized and how he shuddered on some public occasion when a lady was selected to sit next to him (he was told) because she was “used to sitting by poets.”
He said, “She will wish to give me my tea with a spoon!”
and managed to have the arrangement changed, and an unprofessional neighbor substituted.
Both she and the son spoke strongly of the practical character of Browning and said he was always ready to help
every one, while Tennyson lived more in the clouds; but they testified to the unbroken friendship between the poets.
In July we were back in England
, dipping into Wales
and exploring the Lake
From Grasmere Colonel Higginson
My wife and I drove out to Rydal Mount, Wordsworth's later home, and as we stood looking through the gate a very pleasing man came from among the rosebushes and asked if we would not like to see the place.
As we entered I told him that I had heard with pleasure that Rydal Mount was again occupied by some of the Wordsworth family.
When I said that I had heard it from the present William Wordsworth at Capri my host became quite interested and said that his wife was the niece of my Capri friend.
He showed us over the place where Wordsworth used to walk up and down and declaim his verses aloud before going to have his sister “pick 'em up for him” as an old woman said in describing the process.
He showed us also the particular rocks he had made his theme and the tree where the wren's nest was . . . . She [our host's wife] was quite ready to talk about her uncle, and then took us into the house and showed us some memorials of the poet, though most of the original furniture was sold by auction after his widow's death; but some things were left, e.g., the cuckoo clock out of which he made a poem and which struck, just in time for us to hear, the cuckoo peeping out just in time to inspect us. What interested me most in the house was a really
remarkable painting of Wordsworth by Haydon, a painter who always interested me by his tragic career; a picture of which the engravings give no adequate impression, and which brings out the shape and bearing of his head quite superbly.
Keswick, Aug. 10.
We have done a good deal ‘between drops’ and had a delightful companion in Canon Rawnsley the antiquarian and factotum of the whole region who has taken us everywhere . . . but for all literary associations this whole region is quite unequalled; it is Concord on a much larger scale.
, Colonel Higginson
wrote to the Reverend Reuben Kidner
, whom he facetiously called his pastor and to whom he bore the fictitious relation of warden:—
A London letter written in August reports:—
The Colonel and Margaret had a delightful afternoon
The house where he and Watts-Dunton live is full of Rossetti's pictures.
Swinburne devoted himself to Margaret and showed her many treasures.
The rest of our time was spent in the south of England
, Colonel Higginson
went to Glastonbury
partly ‘to see Mrs. Clarke
, John Bright's daughter, whom I saw in America
, a strong reformer and Anti-Imperialist.’
At Ottery St. Mary
, he enjoyed taking tea at Lord Coleridge's house which was full of interesting portraits and other memorials of the Coleridges.
In Lord Coleridge, who was a radical, the American
reformer found a congenial spirit.
For this was at the time of the South African war and although he ordinarily felt under bonds to keep silence, all of Colonel Higginson
's sympathies were with the Boers.
‘Nothing,’ he wrote, ‘ever revives my innate republicanism better than coming to England
The next step was to Winchester
, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Alfred the Great
, ‘to what they call the “millenary” celebration (1000th anniversary of King Alfred's death), probably so called because they all go in finery and I am to represent Harvard
, by President Eliot
A London letter thus described this event:—
I enjoyed greatly my trip to Winchester . . . a speech of my own was received most warmly by the English delegates and officials, and was more effusive than is my wont.
It is hard not to be so here, for no one in America can appreciate the warmth and width of the feeling in England about the President's [McKinley] death.
No European sovereign's death has ever called forth so much, they say-meetings and mourning, flags in all churches, on the streets, and in the smallest villages. . .
I did not know there was to be any speaking but the mayor came when lunch was half through and asked if I would respond for the delegates when he gave the toast, the only speech to be made; it was very sudden, but I did. It was most warmly received and people kept coming to me afterwards to thank me. I told them frankly that I was an anti-imperialist both at home and here and one of them said that this cleared the speech from all sound of flattery . . . .
Instead of the military part being the most showy as with us, the splendor was in the public officials, especially the mayors of a dozen cities who all wore costumes of rich furs, velvet, silk, and gold or jewelled necklaces.
You cannot imagine anything odder than to see those plain and common men, often awkward or fat or thin, or stooping or spectacled become transformed to something wholly gorgeous in the robing room before my eyes.
Then the academic men wore robes of black and purple or scarlet, I wearing the robes and scarlet hood of a Cambridge
(England) Ll.D., hired for 10/6 from a dealer in London. Colonel Higginson
's credentials, in the shape of a letter from Harvard University, commended him ‘as one whose experience as a teacher, soldier, author, and historian has fitted him to appreciate the character and services of the great king.’
Rev. Mr. Horder
writes of this event:—
It was never my good fortune to hear the Colonel speak, but I met with fine and quite unbiassed testimony as to the charm of his public utterance in connection with the unveiling of the Alfred Statue at Winchester where he represented his old University of Harvard.
A little time afterward I was visiting the Mayor of Winchester and describing the Alfred celebration, he said, “There was an American named Higginson who made quite the speech of the occasion,” and he added, “Rosebery and he were the speakers, and the rest were nowhere.”
This record of journeys would be incomplete without some account of two visits to the Southern States
In the winter of 1878, while Colonel Higginson
's home was still in Newport
, he revisited his old haunts at the South
He wrote to his sister that their Virginia cousins ‘gave such interesting accounts of their war life, when the two sides alternately occupied Culpeper; and when either [garrison] left, they hurried to the camp for boxes of hard-bread or salt left behind.
They liked to have a garrison there, for they always lived better and the soldiers almost always behaved well.
They were months without bread—living on potatoes, squashes and milk and sometimes even wild onions and garlic and boiled clover.’
‘It was so strange,’ he wrote from Florida
to touch at Jacksonville as a quiet passenger, where I could once have burned the city with a word.
However, greatness is always appreciated and a man came on board with a message for the steamboat Captain and insisted on delivering it to me. I have n't had such an honor since my little nephew took me (in uniform) for a policeman . . . . Colored church in evening with just such “shouting” as we used to have in my regiment—I feared it was all gone.
Things are so little changed to the eye, it is almost incredible that fifteen years have passed.
‘I have been down to Jacksonville
for the day,’ he wrote from Magnolia
I said in my “Army Life” that I should feel like a Rip Van Winkle who once wore uniform—but it went beyond my dreams in that way. The city I had last seen deserted and in flames, I found made over into a summer paradise. . . . I was alone with my ghosts of fifteen years ago and got a horse and went wandering round, searching for my past.
The forts we built were levelled, only a furrow here and there in the ground.
Where we made a lookout in a steeple, there was the church, but with a new spire.
The house where I sat all night on the doorsteps waiting for an attack was burned long since.
The house I had for headquarters, then the
pride of the town, is now an old house and in poor condition.
The railroad along which we used to skirmish is torn up and I traced its line with difficulty to the woods that formed our debatable ground; they were the same, [but] where once was a dangerous ford, was now a bridge and fine road.
Nothing was wholly unchanged but the exquisite climate and the budding spring.
I began to feel fearfully bewildered, as if I had lived multitudes of lives.
An individual seems so insignificant in presence of the changes of time; he is nothing, even if his traces are mingled with fire and blood.
Here the former Colonel
met one of his old sergeants, and
we agreed to have some others of the men come and meet me there next Tuesday, and with their warm hearts, I can let the past take care of itself.
One curious thing I should mention is that as it was Washington's birthday, guns were being fired all the while, so like those remote days.
A second visit in the spring of 1904 gave Colonel Higginson
an opportunity to see the wonders of the ‘New South.’
At this time he was a guest of Mr. Robert Ogden
on his educational trip through the Southern States
On account of Colonel Higginson
's war experience, he felt a little doubtful as to his reception by Southerners.
To find that he was known through his books,—many of which were in Southern libraries—rather than as leader of a black regiment was a delightful surprise.
seem to remember the war at all,’ he wrote.
‘Never in my life have I been received so warmly and everywhere I have found my books well known, one private school even using my “Young Folks History,” and one schoolmaster in South Carolina
holding my Epictetus
to be next to the Bible
To find that certain Southern libraries had been sadly injured in the Civil War
appealed to Colonel Higginson
's sense of justice; and he interested his friends in replenishing the vacant shelves, contributing many books from his own library.
schools were visited on this trip, but Booker Washington
's Institution at Tuskegee
and the Calhoun school
, of which Colonel Higginson
was a trustee, were of especial interest to him. At Calhoun
, which is in the ‘Black Belt,’ the colored people came from twenty miles around, many walking this distance barefoot, and gathered in a grove to listen to addresses, one of which was made by Colonel Higginson
It was a striking scene, this mass of jet black faces all eagerly upturned to the speaker, and responding to his words with sympathetic nods and ejaculations.
The objective point of the ‘Conference for Education in the South
’ was Birmingham, Alabama
Here the ‘Yankee’ Colonel
was cordially entertained by a man whose father had been in the Confederate army
and who was captured at Gettysburg
and died in prison.
At the evening opening of the Conference, which was in a large and crowded theatre, Colonel Higginson
was one of the speakers.
The only colored persons present were confined to an upper gallery and to this small contingent the former commander of a black regiment at once turned his attention and his remarks.
That was a tense half-hour for his special friends, who felt as if they were all treading the edge of a volcano.
The speaker, who was quite aware of this solicitude, kept skilfully within the danger-line and won the applause of his critical audience.
When the meeting broke up, he turned to a stately ex-Confederate officer, saying, ‘I hope I have said nothing improper!’
This old-time Southern gentleman laid a benignant hand on Colonel Higginson
's shoulder and exclaimed, ‘Say what you please!’
On his return from this memorable trip, Colonel Higginson
found that he was somewhat criticized by certain Boston
colored people, who were antagonistic to Booker Washington
, for taking part in the expedition and especially for speaking at Tuskegee
Thereupon, with his usual fearless way of grappling with difficulties, Colonel Higginson
requested his critics to meet him at Parker Memorial Hall.
With one sympathetic friend, Rev. Edward Cummings
second his efforts, he talked plainly to his audience of their mistakes and dangers, of their opportunities and responsibilities; and through his talk ran always the warm strain of personal sympathy and affection for the race.
He might well have ended this speech with these words uttered on another public occasion:
Formerly I had no protection around my tent except in the fidelity and courage of black soldiers, and so long as I live, every drop of blood in my veins will beat true to them.