Chapter 6: South Boston 1844-1851; aet. 25-32
The name of Laura Bridgman will long continue to suggest to the hearer one of the most brilliant exploits of philanthropy, modern or ancient. Much of the good that good men do soon passes out of the remembrance of busy generations, each succeeding to each, with its own special inheritance of labor and interest. But it will be long before the world shall forget the courage  and patience of the man who, in the very bloom of his manhood, sat down to besiege this almost impenetrable fortress of darkness and isolation, and, after months of labor, carried within its walls the divine conquest of life and of thought. J. W. H., Memoir of Dr. Samuel G. Howe.In September, 1844, the travellers returned to America and took up their residence at the Perkins Institution, in South Boston, in the apartment known as the “Doctor's wing.” At first, Laura Bridgman made one of the family, the Doctor considering her almost as an adopted child. His marriage had been something of a shock to her. “Does Doctor love me like Julia?” she asked her teacher anxiously. “No!” “Does he love God like Julia?” “Yes!” A pause: then--“God was kind to give him his wife!” She and Julia became much attached to each other, and were friends through life. Julia was now to realize fully the great change that had come in her life. She had been the acknowledged queen of her home and circle in New York. Up to this time, she had known Boston as a gay visitor knows it. She came now as the wife of a man who had neither leisure nor inclination for “Society” ; a man of tenderest heart, but of dominant personality, accustomed to rule, and devoted to causes of which she knew only by hearsay; moreover, so absorbed in work for these causes, that he could only enjoy his home by snatches. She herself says: “The romance of charity easily  interests the public. Its laborious details and duties repel and weary the many, and find fitting ministers only in a few spirits of rare and untiring benevolence. Dr. Howe, after all the laurels and roses of victory, had to deal with the thorny ways of a profession tedious, difficult, and exceptional. He was obliged to create his own working machinery, to drill and instruct his corps of teachers, himself first learning the secrets of the desired instruction. He was also obliged to keep the infant Institution fresh in the interest and goodwill of the public, and to give it a place among the recognized benefactions of the Commonwealth.” From the bright little world of old New York, from relatives and friends, music and laughter, fun and frolic, she came to live in an Institution, a bleak, lofty house set on a hill, four-square to all the winds that blew; with high-studded rooms, cold halls paved with white and gray marble, echoing galleries; where three fourths of the inmates were blind, and the remaining fourth were devoting their time and energies to the blind. The Institution was two miles from Boston, where the friends of her girlhood lived: an unattractive district stretched between, traversed once in two hours by omnibuses, the only means of transport. Again, her life had been singularly free from responsibility. First her Aunt Francis, then her sister Louisa, had “kept house” in Bond Street; Julia had been a flower of the field, taking no thought for food or raiment; her sisters chose and bought her clothes, had her dresses made, and put them on her. Her studies, her music, her dreams, her compositions-and, it must  be added, her suitors — made the world in which she lived. Now, life in its most concrete forms pressed upon her. The baby must be fed at regular intervals, and she must feed it; there must be three meals a day, and she must provide them; servants must be engaged, trained, directed, and all this she must do. Her thoughts soared heavenward; but now there was a string attached to them, and they must be pulled down to attend to the leg of mutton and the baby's cloak. This is one side of the picture; the other is different, indeed. Her girlhood had been shut in by locks and bars of Calvinistic piety; her friends and family were ready to laugh, to weep, to pray with her; they were not ready to think with her. It is true that surrounding this intimate circle was a wider one, where her mind found stimulus in certain directions. She studied German with Dr. Cogswell; she read Dante with Felice Foresti, the Italian patriot; French, Latin, music, she had them all. Her mind expanded, but her spiritual growth dates from her early visits to Boston. These visits had not been given wholly to gayety, even in the days when she wrote, after a ball: “I have been through the burning, fiery furnace, and it is Sadrake, Me-sick, and Abed-no-go!” The friends she made, both men and women, were people alive and awake, seeking new light, and finding it on every hand. Moreover, at her side was now one of the torch-bearers of humanity, a spirit burning with a clear flame of fervor and resolve, lighting the dark places of the earth. Her mind, under the stimulus of these influences,  opened like a flower; she too became one of the seekers for light, and in her turn one of the light-bringers. Among the poems of her early married life, none is more illuminating than the portrait of Dr. Howe, which heads this chapter. The concluding stanza gives a hint of the depression which accompanied her first realization of the driving power of his life, of the whitehot metal of his nature. She was caught up as it were in the wake of a comet, and whirled into new and strange orbits: what wonder that for a time she was bewildered? She had no thought, when writing “The rough sketch,” that a later day was to find her soul indeed matched with his, “in high resolve and hardihood” : that through her lips, as well as his, God was to sound forth a trumpet that should never call retreat. In her normal health she was a person of abounding vitality, with a constitution of iron: as is common with such temperaments, she felt a physical distaste to the abnormal and defective. It required in those days all the strength of her will to overcome her natural shrinking from the blind and the other defectives with whom she was often thrown. There is no clearer evidence of the development of her nature than the contrast between this mental attitude and the deep tenderness which she felt in her later years for the blind. After the Doctor's death, they became her cherished friends; she could never do enough for them; with every year her desire to visit the Perkins Institution, to talk with the pupils, to give them all she had to give, grew stronger and more lively. Of the friends of this time, none had so deep and  lasting an influence over her as Theodore Parker, who had long been a close friend of the Doctor's. She had first heard of him in her girlhood, as an impious and sacrilegious person, to be shunned by all good Christians. In 1843 she met him in Rome, and found him “one of the most sympathetic and delightful of men” ; an intimacy sprang up between the two families which ended only with Parker's life. He baptized the baby Julia; on returning to this country, she and the Doctor went regularly to hear him preach. This she always considered as among the great opportunities of her life. “I cannot remember,” she says, “that the interest of his sermons ever varied for me. It was all one intensedelight.... It was hard to go out from his presence, all aglow with the enthusiasm which he felt and inspired, and to hear him spoken of as a teacher of irreligion, a pest to the community.” These were the days when it was possible for a minister of a Christian church, hearing of Parker's dangerous illness, to pray that God might remove him from the earth. To her, it seemed that “truly, he talked with God, and took us with him into the divine presence.” Parker could play as well as preach; she loved to “make fun” with him. Witness her “Philosophmaster and poet-aster” in “Passion flowers.” Parker's own powers of merrymaking appear in his Latin epitaph on “the Doctor” (who survived him by many years), which is printed in the “Letters and Journals of Samuel Gridley Howe.”  She used in later years to shake her head as she recalled a naughty mot of hers apropos of Parker's preaching: “I would rather,” she said, “hear Theodore Parker preach than go to the theatre; I would rather go to the theatre than go to a party; I would rather go to a party than stay at home!” A letter to her sister Annie shows the trend of her religious thought in these days.
During the years between 1843 and 1859, her life was from time to time shadowed by the approach of a great joy. Before the birth of each successive child she was oppressed by a deep and persistent melancholy. Present and future alike seemed dark to her; she wept for herself, but still more for the hapless infant which must come to birth in so sorrowful a world. With the birth of the child the cloud lifted and vanished. Sunshine and joy — and the babyfilled the world; the mother sang, laughed, and made merry. In her letters to her sisters, and later in her journals, both these moods are abundantly evident. At first, these letters are full of the bustle of arrival and of settling in the Institution. 
I received the silver.... The soup-ladle is my delight, and I could almost take the dear old coffee-pot to bed with me.... But here is the most important thing. My tragedy is left behind! ... My house ... in great confusion, carpets not down, curtains not up, the devil to pay, and not a sofa to ask him to sit down upon....She now felt sadly the need of training in matters which her girlhood had despised. (She could describe every room in her father's house save one--the kitchen!) The Doctor liked to give weekly dinners to his intimates, “The five of Clubs,” and others. These dinners were something of a nightmare to Julia, even with the aid of Miss Catherine Beecher's cookbook. She spent weeks in studying this volume and trying her hand on its recipes. This was not what her hand was made for; yet she learned to make puddings, and was proud of her preserves. Speaking of the dinner parties, she tells of one for which she had taken special pains, and of which icecream, not then the food of every day, was to form the climax. The ice-cream did not come, and her pleasure was spoiled; she found it next morning in a snowbank outside the back door, where the messenger had “dumped” it without word or comment. “I should laugh at it now,” she says, “but then I almost wept over it.” Everything in the new life interested her, even the most prosaic details. She writes to her sister Louisa: “Our house has been enlivened of late by two delightful  visits. The first was from the soap-fat merchant, who gave me thirty-four pounds of good soap for my grease. I was quite beside myself with joy, capered about in the most enthusiastic manner, and was going to hug in turn the soap, the grease, and the man, had I not remembered my future ambassadress-ship, and reflected that it would not sound well in history. This morning came the rag-man, who takes rags and gives nice tin vessels in exchange.... Both of these were clever transactions. Oh, if you had seen me stand by the soap-fat man, and scrutinize minutely his weights and measures, telling him again and again that it was beautiful grease, and he must allow me a good price for it — truly, I am a mother in Israel.” Much as the Doctor loved the Perkins Institution, he longed for a home of his own, and in the spring of 1845 he found a place entirely to his mind. A few steps from the Institution was a plot of land, facing the sun, sheltered from the north wind by the last remaining bit of “Washington Heights,” the eminence on which Washington planted the batteries which drove the British out of Boston. Some six acres of fertile ground, an old house with low, broad, sunny rooms, two towering Balm of Gilead trees, and some ancient fruit trees: this was all in the beginning; but the Doctor saw at a glance the possibilities of the place. He bought it, added one or two rooms to the old house, planted fruit trees, laid out flower gardens, and in the summer of 1845 moved his little family thither. The move was made on a lovely summer day. As  our mother drove into the green bower, half shade, half sunshine, silent save for the birds, she cried out, “Oh! This is green peace!” The name fitted and clung: “Green Peace” was known and loved as such so long as it existed. This was the principal home of her married life, but it was not precisely an abiding one. The summers were spent elsewhere; moreover, the “Doctor's wing” in the Institution was always ready for habitation, and it often happened that for one reason or another the family were taken back there for weeks or months. Two of the six children, Florence and Maud, were born at the Institution; the former just before the move to Green Peace. She was named Florence in honor of Miss Nightingale. The Doctor had ardently desired a son; finding the baby a girl, “I will forgive you,” he cried, “if you will name her for Florence Nightingale!” Miss Nightingale became the child's godmother, sent a golden cup (now a precious heirloom), and wrote as follows:--
Letters to her sisters give glimpses of the life at Green Peace during the years 1845-50.
Well, life am strange! I am again cookless. I imprudently turned old Smith off and took a young girl, who left me in four days. Why? Her lover would not allow her to stay in a family where she did not sit at table with the lady. I had read of such things in Mrs. Trollope, and thought them quite impossible. In the place from which I took her, she had done all the cooking, washing and chamber work of the housewas, in fine the only servant, for the compensation of six dollars a month. But then, she sat at table!!! oh, ho! 
The Doctor's health had been affected by the hardships and exposures of his service in the Greek Revolution, and his arduous labors now gave him little time for rest or recuperation. He was subject to agonizing headaches, each of which was a brief but distressing illness. In the summer of 1846 he resolved to try the water cure, then considered by many a sovereign remedy for all human ailments, and he and our mother spent some delightful weeks at Brattleboro, Vermont. 
Finding that the isolation of South Boston was telling seriously upon her health and spirits, the Doctor decided on a change, and the winter of 1846 was spent at the Winthrop House in Boston.
The wayward moods shown in these letters sometimes found other expression. In those days her wit was wayward too: its arrows were always winged, and sometimes over-sharp. In later life, when Boston and everything connected with it was unspeakably dear to her, she would not recall the day when, passing on Charles Street the Charitable Eye and Ear Infirmary, she read the name aloud and exclaimed, “Oh! I did not know there was a charitable eye or ear in Boston!” Or that other day, when having dined with the Ticknors, a family of monumental dignity, she said to a  friend afterward, “Oh I am so cold! I have been dining with the Tete Noir, the Mer(e) de Glace, and the Jungfrau!” It may have been in these days that an incident occurred which she thus describes in “A plea for Humour” : “I once wrote to an intimate friend a very high-flown and ridiculous letter of reproof for her frivolity. I presently heard of her as ill in bed, in consequence of my unkindness. I immediately wrote, ‘Did not you see that the whole thing was intended to be a burlesque?’ After a while she wrote back, ‘I am just beginning to see the fun of it, but the next time you intend to make a joke, pray give me a fortnight's notice.’ It was now my turn to take to my bed.” In September, 1847, a heavy sorrow came to her in the death of her brother Marion, “a gallant, gracious boy, a true, upright and useful man.” She writes to her sister Louisa: “Let us thank Him that Marion's life gave us as much joy as his death has given us pain. . . . Our children will grow up in love and beauty, and one of us will have a sweet boy who shall bear the dear name of Marion and make it doubly dear to us.” This prophecy was fulfilled first by the birth, on March 2, 1848, of Henry Marion Howe (named for the two lost brothers), and again in 1854 by that of Francis Marion Crawford. The winter of 1847-48 was also spent in Boston, at No. 74 Mount Vernon Street; here the first son was born. The Doctor, recording his birth in the Family Bible, wrote after the name, “Dieu donne!” And, his  mind full of the Revolution of 1848 in France, added, “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite!” On April 18 she writes: “My boy will be seven weeks old to-morrow, and . . . such a darling little child was never seen in this world before .... I shall have some fears lest his temperament partake of the melancholy which oppressed me during the period of his creation, but so far he is so placid and gentle, that we call him the little saint. ... I have seen little of the world since his birth, and thought still less. I shall try to pursue my studies as I have through this last year, for I am good for nothing without them. I will rather give up the world and cut out Beacon Street, but an hour or two for the cultivation of my poor little soul I must and will have... .”
The winter of 1849-50 was also spent at No. 74 Mount Vernon Street. Here, in February, 1850, a third daughter was born, and named Laura for Laura Bridgman. In the spring, our parents made a second voyage to Europe, taking with them the two youngest children, Julia Romana and Florence being left in the household of Dr. Edward Jarvis. They spent some weeks in England, renewing the friendships made seven years before; thence they journeyed to Paris, and from there to Boppart, where the Doctor took the water cure. Julia seems to have been too busy for letter-writing during this year; the Doctor writes to Charles Sumner of the beauty of Boppart, and adds: “Julia and I have been enjoying walks upon the banks of the Rhine, and rambles upon the hillside, and musings among the ruins, and jaunts upon the waters as we have enjoyed nothing since we left home.” He had but six months leave of absence; it was felt by both that Julia needed a longer time of rest and refreshment; accordingly when he returned she, with the two little children, joined her sisters, both now  married, and the three proceeded to Rome, where they spent the winter. Mrs. Crawford was living at Villa Negroni, where Mrs. Mailliard became her companion; Julia found a comfortable apartment in Via Capo le Case, with the Edward Freemans on the floor above, and Mrs. David Dudley Field on that below. These were pleasant neighbors. Mrs. Freeman was Julia's companion in many delightful walks and excursions; when Mrs. Field had a party, she borrowed Mrs. Howe's large lamp, and was ready to lend her tea-cups in return. There was a Christmas tree — the first ever seen in Rome!--at Villa Negroni; “an occasional ball, a box at the opera, a drive on the Campagna.” Julia found a learned Rabbi from the Ghetto, and resumed the study of Hebrew, which she had begun the year before in South Boston. This accomplished man was obliged to wear the distinctive dress then imposed upon the Jews of Rome, and to be within the walls of the Ghetto by six in the evening. There were private theatricals, too, she appearing as “Tilburina” in “The critic.” Among the friends of this Roman winter none was so beloved as Horace Binney Wallace. He was a Philadelphian, a rosso. He held that “the highest effort of nature is to produce a rosso” ; he was always in search of the favored tint either in pictures or in living beings. Together the two rossi explored the ancient city, with mutual pleasure and profit. Some years later, on hearing of his death, she recalled these days of companionship in a poem called  “Via Felice,” 10 which she sang to an air of her own composition. The poem appeared in “Words for the hour,” and is one of the tenderest of her personal tributes:--
For Death's eternal cityIn the summer of 1851 she turned her face westward. The call of husband, children, home, was imperative; yet so deep was the spell which Rome had laid upon her that the parting was fraught with “pain, amounting almost to anguish.” She was oppressed by the thought that she might never again see all that had grown so dear. Looking back upon this time, she says, “I have indeed seen Rome and its wonders more than once since that time, but never as I saw them then.” The homeward voyage was made in a sailing-vessel, in company with Mr.Mailliard and Mrs. Mailliard. They were a month at sea. In the long quiet mornings Julia read Swedenborg's Divine love and wisdom; in the afternoons Eugene Sue's Mysteres de Paris, borrowed from a steerage passenger. There was whist in the evening; when her companions had gone to rest she would sit alone, thinking over the six months, weaving into song their pleasures and their pains. The actual record of this second Roman winter is found in “Passion flowers.”
Has yet some happy street;
'Tis in the Via Felice
My friend and I shall meet.