Chapter 11: eighty years 1899-1900; aet. 80-81
though Jesus, Alas! is as little understood in doctrine as followed in example. For he has hitherto been like a beautiful figure set to point out a certain way, and people at large have been so entranced with worshipping the figure, that they have neglected to follow the direction it indicates. J. W. H.the winter of 1898-99 saw the publication of “from Sunset Ridge; poems old and New.” this volume contained many of the poems from “later Lyrics” (long out of print), and also much of her later work. It met with a warm recognition which gave her much pleasure. late in 1899 appeared the “reminiscences,” on which she had been so long at work. These were even  more warmly received, though many people thought them too short. Colonel Higginson said the work might have been “spread out into three or four interesting octavos; but in her hurried grasp it is squeezed into one volume, where groups of delightful interviews with heroes at home and abroad are crowded into some single sentence.” the book was written mostly from memory, with little use of the Journals, and none of the family letters and papers, which she had carefully preserved through many years; she needed none of these things. Her past was always alive, and she went hand in hand with its dear and gracious figures. but we have outstripped the Journals and must go back to the beginning of 1899. “[Boston.] January 1, 1899. I begin this year with an anxious mind. I am fighting the Wolf, hand to hand. I am also confused between the work already done on my ‘reminiscences,’ and that still wanting to give them some completeness. May the all-father help me!” “January 9. dined with the Massachusetts Press Club Association. I made a little speech partly thought out beforehand. The best bit in it--‘why should we fear to pass from the old Testament of our own liberties, to the New Testament of liberty for all the world?’ --came to me on the spur of the moment.. ..” “January 16. .. Dickens party at the New England Woman's Club. I despaired of being able to go, but did manage to get up a costume and take part.  many very comical travesties, those of Pickwick and Captain Cuttle remarkably good; also Lucia M. Peabody as Martin Chuzzlewit, and Mrs. Godding in full male dress suit. I played a Virginia reel and finally danced myself.” the part she herself took on this occasion was that of Mrs. Jellyby, a character she professed to resemble. At another Club party she impersonated Mrs. Jarley, with a fine collection of celebrities, which she exhibited proudly. She always put on her best motley for her “dear Club” ; and in those days its fooling was no less notable than its wisdom. Among other things, she instituted the Poetical Picnics, picnic suppers to which every member must bring an original poem: some of her best nonsense was recited at these suppers. it has been said that she had the gift of the word in season. This was often shown at the Club; especially when, as sometimes happened, a question of the hour threatened to become “burning.” it is remembered how one day a zealous sister thundered so loud against corporal punishment that some mothers and grandames were roused to equally ardent rejoinder. The President was appealed to. “dear Mrs. Howe, I am sure that you never laid a hand on your children!” “oh, yes,” said dear Mrs. Howe. “I cuffed 'em a bit when I thought they needed it!” even “militancy” could be touched lightly by her. Talk was running high on the subject one day; eyes began to flash ominously, voices took on “a wire  edge,” as she expressed it. Again the appeal was made. “can you imagine, Mrs. Howe, under any circumstances--” the twinkle came into the gray eyes. “well!” she said. “I am pretty old, but I think I could manage a broomstick!” the tension broke in laughter, and the sisters were sisters once more. “January 23. worked as usual. Attended the meeting in favor of the abolition of the death Penalty, which was interesting.... I spoke on the ground of hope.” “February 7.... I hope to take life more easily now than for some time past, and to have rest from the slavery of pen and ink.” “February 28. .... was interviewed by a Miss X, who has persevered in trying to see me, and at last brought a note from--. she is part editor of a magazine named ‘success,’ and, having effected an entrance, proceeded to interview me, taking down my words for her magazine, thus getting my ideas without payment, a very mean proceeding... .” “ March 21. Tuskegee benefit, Hollis Street Theatre.” “this meeting scored a triumph, not only for the performers, but for the race. Bishop Lawrence presided with much good grace and appreciation. Paul Dunbar was the least distinct. Professor Dubois, of Atlanta University, read a fine and finished discourse. Booker Washington was eloquent as usual, and the Hampton quartet was delightful. At the tea which  followed at Mrs. Whitman's studio, I spoke with these men and with Dunbar's wife, a nearly white Woman of refined appearance. I asked Dubois about the negro vote in the South. He thought it better to have it legally taken away than legally nullified.” “April 17. Kindergarten for the Blind .... I hoped for a good word to say, but could only think of Shakespeare's ‘the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones,’ intending to say that this does not commend itself to me as true. Mr. Eels spoke before me and gave me an occasion to use this with more point than I had hoped. He made a rather flowery discourse, and eulogized Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller as a New experience in human society. In order to show how the good that men do survives them, I referred to Dr. Howe's first efforts for the Blind and to his teaching of Laura Bridgman, upon whom I dwelt somewhat....” “April 23. ... had a sort of dream-vision of the dear Christ going through Beacon Street in shadow, and then in his glory. It was only a flash of a moment's thought...” “April 25. to Alliance, the last meeting of the season. Mrs.--- spoke, laying the greatest emphasis on Women acting so as to express themselves in freedom. this ideal of self-expression appears to me insufficient and dangerous, if taken by itself. I mentioned its insufficiency, while recognizing its importance. I compared feminine action under the old limitations to the touching of an electric eel, which immediately gives one a paralyzing shock. I spoke also  of the New Woman world as at present constituted, as like the rising up from the sea of a New continent. In my own youth Women were isolated from each other by the very intensity of their personal consciousness. I thought of myself and of other Women in this way. We thought that superior Women ought to have been born men. A blessed change is that which we have witnessed.” as her eightieth Birthday drew nigh, her friends vied with one another in loving observance of the time. The festivities began May 17 with a meeting of the New England Women's Press Association, where she gave a lecture on “patriotism in literature” and received “eighty beautiful pink roses for my eighty years.” next came the “annual meeting and lunch of the New England Woman's Club. This took the character of a pre-celebration of my eightieth Birthday, and was highly honorific. I can only say that I do not think of myself as the speakers seemed to think of me. Too deeply do I regret my seasons of rebellion, and my shortcomings in many duties. Yet am I thankful for so much good-will. I only deserve it because I return it.” between this and the day itself came a Memorial meeting in honor of the ninety-sixth anniversary of Emerson's birth. Here she spoke “mostly of the ladies of his family” --Emerson's mother and his wife. Said also, “Emerson was as great in what he did not say as in what he said. Second-class talent tells the whole  story, reasons everything out; great genius suggests even more than it says.” she was already what she used to call “Boston's old spoiled child!” all through the Birthday flowers, letters, and telegrams poured into the house. From among the tokens of love and reverence May be chosen the quatrain sent by Richard Watson Gilder:--
how few have rounded out so full a life!the “Woman's Journal” issued a special Birthday number. It was a lovely and heart-warming anniversary, the pleasure of which long remained with her. among the guests was the beloved physician of many years, William P. Wesselhoeft. Looking round on the thronged and flower-decked rooms, he said, “this is all very fine, Mrs. Howe; but on your ninetieth Birthday I shall come, and nobody else!” Alas! before that day the lion voice was silent, the cordial presence gone. three days later came an occasion which stirred patriotic Boston to its depths. The veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic had invited Major-General Joseph Wheeler to deliver the Memorial day oration in Boston Theatre. Our mother was the second guest of honor. She has nothing to say of this occasion beyond the fact that she “had a great time in the morning,” and that in the open carriage with her sat “General Wheeler's two daughters--very pleasing  girls” ; but pasted in the Journal is the following clipping from the Philadelphia Press :--
Priestess of righteous war and holy peace,
poet and sage, friend, sister, mother, wife,
long be it ere that noble heart shall cease!
the same evening she went “to Unitarian meeting in Tremont Temple, where read my screed about Governor Andrew, which has cost me some work and more anxiety. Rev. S. A. Eliot, whom I saw for the first time, was charmingly handsome and friendly. I was introduced as ‘Saint Julia’ and the whole audience rose when I came forward to read. Item: I had dropped my bag with my manuscript in the carriage, but Charles fox telephoned to the stable and got it for me.” the spring of this year saw an epidemic of negrolynching,  which roused deep indignation throughout the country. On May 20 the Journal records “a wonderful meeting at Chickering Hall, called by the colored women of Boston, to protest against the lynching of negroes in the South. Mrs. Butler M. Wilson presided, an octoroon and a woman of education. Her opening address was excellent in spirit and in execution. A daughter of Mrs. Ruffin also wrote an excellent address: Mrs. Cheney's was very earnest and impressive. Alice Freeman Palmer spoke as I have never before heard her. My rather brief speech was much applauded, as were indeed all of the others. Mrs. Richard Hallowell was on the platform and introduced Mrs. Wilson.” this brief speech brought upon her a shower of letters, mostly anonymous, from persons who saw only the anti-negro side of this matter, so dreadful in every aspect. These letters were often denunciatory, sometimes furious in tone, especially one addressed to Oak Glen.... my son and his wife came over from Bristol to pass the day. He looks as young as my grandsons do. At fifty, his hair is blond, without gray, and his forehead unwrinkled.” “July 16.... while in church I had a new thought of the energy and influence of Christ's teaching. ‘ask and ye shall receive,’ etc. These little series of commands  all incite the hearers to action: ask, seek, knock. I should love to write a sermon on this, but fear my sermonizing days are over, alas!” “August 7. determined to do more literary work daily than I have been doing lately. Began a screed about dear Broa Sam, feeling that he deserved a fuller mention than I have already given him....” “September 4. Discouraged over the confusion of my papers, the failure of printers to get on with my book, and my many bills. Have almost had an attack of the moral sickness which the Italians call Achidia. I suppose it to mean indifference and indolence....”
“September 7. have attacked my proofs fiercely....”
“October 21. my last moments in this dear place. The past season appears to me like a gift of perfect jewels. I pray that the winter May have in store for me some good work and much dear and profitable companionship. I must remember that this May be my last summer here, or anywhere on earth, but must bear in mind that it is best to act with a view to prolonged life, since without this outlook, it is very hard for us to endeavor or to do our best. Peace be with you, beautiful summer and autumn. Amen.” she was never ready to leave Oak Glen; the town house always seemed at first like a prison. “October 23. Boston. a drizzly, dark day. I struggled out twice, saying to myself: ‘it is for your life.’ . ..” “October 24. have had two days of chaos and discouragement. .. .” “October 27. a delightful and encouraging Conference of A. Aw. Held in my parlors. The prevailing feeling was that we should not disband, but should hold on to our association and lie by, hoping to find New innings for work. Florida was spoken of as good ground for us. I felt much cheered and quickened by the renewal of old friendships. ...” a Western lecture trip had been planned for this  autumn, but certain untoward symptoms developed and Dr. Wesselhoeft said, “no! no! not even if you had not had vertigo.” she gave it up most reluctantly, confiding only to the Journal the hope that she might be able to go later. “November 9. celebration of dear Chev's birthday at the Institution. I spoke of the New Testament word about the mustard seed, so small but producing such a stately tree. I compared this little seed to a benevolent impulse in the mind of S. G. H. And the Institution to a tree. ‘what is smaller than a human heart? what seems weaker than a good intention? yet the good intention, followed by the faithful heart, has produced this great refuge in which many generations have already found the way to a life of educated usefulness.’ . ..” “November 19 ... before the sermon I had prayed for some good thought of God. This came to me in the shape of a sudden perception to this effect: ‘I am in the father's house already.’ . . .” “November 30. ... in giving thanks to-day, I made my only personal petitions, which were first, that some of my dear granddaughters might find suitable husbands,... and lastly, that I might serve in some way until the last breath leaves my body....” “December 16. I had greatly desired to see the ‘Barber.’ kind Mrs. [Alfred] Batcheller made it possible by inviting me to go with her. The performance was almost if not quite bouffe. Sembrich's singing marvellous, the acting of the other characters excellent, and singing very good, especially that of de Reszke  and Campanari. I heard the opera in New York more than seventy years ago, when Malibran, then Signorina Garcia, took the part of Rosina.” “December 31. ... ‘Advertiser’ man came with a query: ‘what event in 1899 will have the greatest influence in the world's history?’ I replied, ‘the Czar's Peace Manifesto, leading to the Conference at the Hague.’ ” November, 1899, saw the birth of another Institution from which she was to derive much pleasure, the Boston Authors' Club. Miss Helen M. Winslow first evolved the idea of such a Club. After talking with Mmes. May Alden Ward and Mabel Loomis Todd, who urged her to carry out the project, she went to see the “Queen of Clubs.” “go ahead!” said our mother. “call some people together here, at my house, and we will form a Club, and it will be a good one too.” the Journal of November 23 says:-- “received word from Helen Winslow of a meeting of literary folks called for to-morrow morning at my house.” this meeting was “very pleasant: Mrs. Ward, Miss Winslow, Jacob Strauss, and Hezekiah Butterworth attended — later Herbert Ward came in.” it was voted to form the Boston Authors' Club, and at a second meeting in December the Club was duly organized. in January the Authors' Club made its first public appearance in a meeting and dinner at hotel Vendome,  Mrs. Howe presiding, Colonel Higginson (whom she described as her “chief vice” ) beside her. the brilliant and successful course of the Authors' Club need not be dwelt on here. Her connection with it was to continue through life, and its monthly meetings and annual dinners were among her pet pleasures. She was always ready to “drop into rhyme” in its service, the Muse in cap and bells being oftenest invoked: e.g., the verses written for the five hundredth anniversary of Chaucer's death:--
poet Chaucer had a sister,she and her “chief vice” were always making merry together; when their flint and steel struck, the flash was laughter. It May have been at the Authors' Club that the two, with Edward Everett Hale and Dr. Holmes, were receiving compliments and tributes one afternoon. “at least,” she cried, “no one can say that Boston drops its H's” this was in the winter of 1900. it was the time of the Boer War, and all Christendom was sorrowing over the conflict. On January 3 the Journal says:
he, the wondrous melodister.
she did n't write no poems, oh, no!
brother Geoffrey trained her so. ;
honored by the poet's crown,
her posterity came down. ...
ages of ancestral birth
went for all that they were worth.
Hence derives the Wentworth name
which heraldic ranks May claim.
that same herald has contrived
how the Higginson arrived.
he was gran-ther to the knight
in whose honor I indite
burning strophes of the soul
'propriate to the flowing bowl.
oft the worth I have defended
of the Laureate-descended,
but while here he sits and winks
I can tell you what he thinks.
“Never, whether old or young,
will that woman hold her tongue!
fifty years in Boston schooled,
still I find her rhyme-befooled. 
oft in earnest, oft in jest,
we have met and tried our best.
Nought I dread an open field,
I can conquer, I can yield,
self from foes I can defend,
but Heav'n preserve us from our friend! “
this morning before rising, I had a sudden thought of the Christ-babe standing between the two armies, Boers and Britons, on Christmas day. I have devoted the morning to an effort to overtake the heavenly vision with but a mediocre result.these lines are published in “at Sunset.” on the 11th the cap and bells are assumed once more. “ ... to reception of the College Club, where I was to preside over the literary exercises and to introduce the readers. I was rather at a loss how to do this, but suddenly I thought of mother Goose's ‘when the pie was opened, the birds began to sing.’ so when Edward Everett Hale came forward with me and introduced me  as ‘the youngest person in the hall,’ I said, ‘ladies and gentlemen, I shall prove the truth of what our reverend friend has just said, by citing a quotation from mother Goose [’ when the pie was opened, ‘ etc.], and the first bird that I shall introduce will be Rev. E. E. Hale.’ beginning thus, I introduced T. W. Higginson as the great American Eagle; Judge [Robert] Grant as a mocking-bird; C. F. Adams as the trained German canary who sings all the songs of Yawcob Strauss; C. G. Ames said, ‘you must n't call me an owl.’ I brought him forward and said, ‘my dear minister says that I must not call him an owl, and I will not; only the owl is the bird of wisdom and he is very wise.’ I introduced Mrs. Moulton as a nightingale. For Trowbridge I could think of nothing and said, ‘this bird will speak for himself.’ introduced N. H. Dole as ‘a bird rarely seen, the phoenix.’ at the close E. E. H. Said, ‘you have an admirable power of introducing.’ this little device pleased me foolishly.” “February 4. wrote a careful letter to W. F. Savage. He had written, asking an explanation of some old manuscript copy of my ‘Battle Hymn’ and of the theft perpetrated of three of its verses in ‘pen pictures of the War,’ only lately brought to my notice. He evidently thought these matters implied doubt at least of my having composed the ‘Hymn.’ to this suspicion I did not allude, but showed him how the verses stolen had been altered, probably to avoid detection...” “March 3. Count di Campello's lecture, on the religious  life in Italy, was most interesting. His uncle's movement in founding a National Italian Catholic Church seemed to me to present the first solution I have met with, of the absolute opposition between Catholic and Protestant. A Catholicism without spiritual tyranny, without ignorant superstition, would bridge over the interval between the two opposites and bring about the unification of the worldchurch....” “March 13.... passed the whole morning at State house, with remonstrants against petition forbidding Sunday evening concerts. T. W. H. Spoke remarkably well.. ..” “March 30. .. had a special good moment this morning before rising. Felt that God had granted me a good deal of heaven, while yet on earth. So the veil lifts sometimes, not for long.” April found her in Minneapolis and St. Paul, lecturing and being “delightfully entertained.” “May 8. Minneapolis. spoke at the University, which I found delightfully situated and richly endowed. Was received with great distinction. Spoke, I think, on the fact that it takes the whole of life to learn the lessons of life. Dwelt a little on the fact that fools are not necessarily underwitted. Nay, May be people of genius, the trouble being that they do not learn from experience....” on leaving she exclaims:-- “farewell, dear St. Paul. I shall never forget you, nor this delightful visit, which has renewed (almost)  the dreams of youth. In the car a kind old grandmother, with two fine little boy grands....” “the dear old grandmother and her boys got out at the Soo. Other ladies in the Pullman were very kind to me, especially a lady from St. Paul, with her son, who I thought might be a young husband. She laughed much at this when I mentioned it to her. Had an argument with her, regarding hypnotism, I insisting that it is demoralizing when used by a strong will to subdue a weak one.” “May 25. [Boston.] went in the afternoon to Unitarian meeting at Tremont Temple. S. A. Eliot made me come up on the platform. He asked if I would give a word of benediction. I did so, thanking God earnestly in my heart for granting me this sweet office, which seemed to lift my soul above much which has disturbed it of late. Why is he so good to me? surely not to destroy me at last.” “June 3.... before Church had a thought of some sweet spirit asking to go to hell to preach to the people there. Thought that if he truly fulfilled his office, he would not leave even that forlorn pastorate....” “June 10. ... could not find the key to my money bag, which distressed me much. Promised St. Anthony of Padua that if he would help me, I would take pains to find out who he was. Found the key immediately. . .” “June 18.... the little lump in my right breast hurts me a little to-day. Have written Wesselhoeft about it. 4.50 P. M. He has seen it and says that it is probably cancerous; forbids me to think of an operation;  thinks he can stop it with medicine. When he told me that it was in all probability a cancer, I felt at first much unsettled in mind. I feared that the thought of it would occupy my mind and injure my health by inducing sleeplessness and nervous excitement. Indeed, I had some sad and rather vacant hours, but dinner and Julia's 5 company put my dark thought to flight and I lay down to sleep as tranquilly as usual.” [whatever this trouble was, it evidently brought much suffering, but finally disappeared. We learn of it for the first time in this record; she never spoke of it to any of her family.] “Oak Glen. June 21. here I am seated once more at my old table, beginning another villeggiatura, which May easily be my last. Have read a little Greek and a long article in the ‘New world.’ I pray the dear heavenly father to help me pass a profitable season here, improving it as if it were my last, whether it turns out to be so or not.” [she was not in her usual spirits this summer. She felt the heat and the burden of years. The Journal is mostly in a minor key.] “July 16. took up a poem at which I have been working for some days, on the victims in Pekin; a strange theme, but one on which I feel I have a word to say. Wrote it all over....” “July 19. was much worn out with the heat. In afternoon my head gave out and would not serve me for anything but to sit still and observe the flight of birds and the freaks of yellow butterflies. ...”  “July 26. have prayed to-day that I May not find life dull. This prolongation of my days on earth is so precious that I ought not to cease for one moment to thank God for it. I enjoy my reading as much as ever, but I do feel very much the narrowing of my personal relations by death. How rich was I in sisters, brothers, elders! it seems to me now as if I had not at all appreciated these treasures of affection....” “July 31. have writ notes of condolence to Mrs. Barthold Schlesinger and to M. E. Powel. I remember the coming of Mrs. Powel's family to Newport sixtyfive years ago. The elders used to entertain in the simple ways of those days, and my brother Henry and I used to sing one duet from the ‘Matrimonio Segreto,’ at some of their evening parties. In the afternoon came the ladies of the Papeterie; had our tea in the green parlor, which was pretty and pleasant. ..”
“August 17.... In the evening I was seized with an attack of verse and at bedtime wrote a rough draft of a Te Deum for the rescue of the ministers in Pekin.” “August 20.... Got my poem smooth at some expense of force, perhaps. I like the poem. I think that it has been given me.” This Te Deum was printed in the Christian Herald in September, 1900. “Sunday, September 2 .... I had, before service began, a clear thought that self is death, and deliverance from its narrow limitations the truest emancipation. In my heart I gave thanks to God for all measure in which I have attained, or tried to attain, this liberation. It seems to me that the one moment of this which we could perfectly attain, would be an immortal joy.”  A week later, she went to New York to attend a reception given to the Medal of Honor Legion at Brooklyn Academy. She writes:-- “Last evening's occasion was to me eminently worth the trouble I had taken in coming on. To meet these veterans, face to face, and to receive their hearty greeting, was a precious boon vouchsafed to me so late in life. Their reception to me was cordial in the extreme. The audience and chorus gave me the Chautauqua salute, and as I left the platform, the girl chorus sang the last verse of my ‘Hymn’ over again, in a subdued tone, as if for me alone. The point which I made, and wished to make, was that, ‘ our flag should only go forth on errands of justice, mercy, etc., and that once sent forth, it should not be recalled until the work whereunto it had been pledged was accomplished.’ This with a view to Pekin. ...” “September 13.... The Galveston horror 6 was much in my mind yesterday. I could not help asking why the dear Lord allowed such dreadful loss of life. ...” “October 25. My last writing at this time in this dear place. The season, a very busy one, has also been a very blessed one. I cannot be thankful enough for so much calm delight — my children and grandchildren, my books and my work, although this last has caused me many anxieties. I cannot but feel as old John Forbes did when he left Naushon for the last time and went about in his blindness, touching his writing materials, etc., and saying to himself, ‘Never again, perhaps.’ If it should turn out so in my case,  God's will be done. He knows best when we should depart and how long we should stay....” “On the way home and afterwards, these lines of an old hymn ran in my mind:--
Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not afraid.This comforted me much in the forlorn exchange of my lovely surroundings at Oak Glen for the imprisonment of a town house.” “November 4. 241 Beacon Street. The dear minister preached on ‘All Saints and All Souls,’ the double festival of last week. At Communion he said: ‘Dear Sister Howe, remember that if you are moved to speak, you have freedom to do so.’ I had not thought of speaking, but presently rose and spoke of the two consecrated days. I said: ‘As I entered this church today, I thought of a beautiful cathedral in which one after another the saints whom I have known and loved, appeared on either side; first, the saints of my own happy childhood, then the excellent people whom I have known all my life long. The picture of one of them hangs on these walls.7 His memory is fresh in all our hearts. Surely it is a divine glory which we have seen in the faces of these friends, and they seem to lead us up to that dearest and divinest one, whom we call Master’ ; and so on. I record this to preserve this vision of the cathedral of heart saints. ...” “December 25. I was awake soon after five this morning, and a voice, felt, not heard, seemed to give me a friendly warning to set my house in order for  my last departure from it. This seems to bring in view my age, already long past the scriptural limit, suggesting also that I have some symptoms of an ailment which does not trouble me much, but which would naturally tend to shorten my life. In my mind I promised that I would heed the warning given. I only prayed God to make the parting easy for me and my dear ones, of whom dear Maud would be the most to be pitied, as she has been most with me and has no child to draw her thoughts to the future. After this, I fell asleep.” “We had a merry time at breakfast, examining the Christmas gifts, which were numerous and gratifying. ...” “December 31.. Here ends a year of mercies, of more than my usual health, of power to speak and to write. It has been a year of work. God be thanked for it.”
I, I am thy God, and will still give thee aid.