Chapter 7: “passion flowers” 1852-1858; aet. 33-39
We have seen that from her earliest childhood Julia Ward's need of expressing herself in verse was imperative. Every emotion, deep or trivial, must  take metrical shape; she laughed, wept, prayedeven stormed, in verse. Walking with her one day, her sister Annie, always half angel, half sprite, pointed to an object in the road. “Dudie dear,” she said; “squashed frog! little verse, dear?” We may laugh with the two sisters, but under the laughter lies a deep sense of the poet's nature. As in her dreamy girlhood she prayed-
Oh! give me back my golden lyre!so in later life she was to pray--
On the Matron's time-worn mantleThe tide of song had been checked for a time; after the second visit to Rome, it flowed more freely than ever. By the winter of 1853-54, a volume was ready (the poems chosen and arranged with the help of James T. Fields), and was published by Ticknor and Fields under the title of “Passion flowers.” No name appeared on the title-page; she had thought to keep her incognito, but she was recognized at once as the author, and the book became the literary sensation of the hour. It passed rapidly through three editions; was, she says, “much praised, much blamed, and much called in question.” She writes to her sister Annie:
Let the Poet's wreath be laid.
The history of all these days, beloved, is comprised in one phrase, the miseries of proof-reading. Oh, the endless, endless plague of looking over these proofsheets — the doubts about phrases, rhymes, and expressions,  the perplexity of names, especially, in which I have not been fortunate. To-morrow I get my last proof. Then a fortnight must be allowed for drying and binding. Then I shall be out, fairly out, do you hear? So far my secret has been pretty well kept. My book is to bear a simple title without my name, according to Longfellow's advice. Longfellow has been reading a part of the volume in sheets. He says it will make a sensation.... I feel much excited, quite unsettled, sometimes a little frantic. If I succeed, I feel that I shall be humbled by my happiness, devoutly thankful to God. Now, I will not write any more about it.The warmest praise came from the poets,--the “high, impassioned few” of her “Salutatory.” Whittier wrote:--
Oliver Wendell Holmes, always generous in his welcome to younger writers, sent the following poem, never before printed:--
This tribute from the beloved Autocrat touched her deeply, the more so that in the “Commonwealth” 2  Julia Ward Howe she had recently reviewed some of his own work rather severely. She made her acknowledgment in a poem entitled “A vision of Montgomery place,” 3 in which she pictures herself as a sheeted penitent knocking at Dr. Holmes's door.
I was the saucy Commonwealth:She writes her sister Annie:-- “My book came out, darling, on Friday last. You have it, I hope, ere this time. The simple title, ‘Passion Flowers,’ was invented by Scherb 4 and approved by Longfellow. Its success became certain at once. Hundreds of copies have already been sold, and every one likes it. Fields foretells a second edition-it is  sure to pay for itself. It has done more for me, in point of consideration here, than a fortune of a hundred thousand dollars. Parker quoted some of my verses in his Christmas sermon, and this I considered as the greatest of honors. I sat there and heard them, glowing all over. The authorship is, of course, no secret now. ...” Speaking of the volume long after, she says, “It was a timid performance upon a slender reed.” Three years later a second volume of verse was published by Ticknor and Fields under the title of “Words for the hour.” Of this, George William Curtis wrote, “It is a better book than its predecessor, but will probably not meet with the same success.” She had written plays ever since she was nine years old. In 1857, the same year which saw the publication of “Words for the hour,” she produced her first serious dramatic work, a five-act drama entitled “The world's own.” It was performed in New York at Wallack's Theatre, and in Boston with Matilda Heron and the elder Sothern in the leading parts. She notes that one critic pronounced the play “full of literary merits and of dramatic defects” ; and she adds, “It did not, as they say, ‘keep the stage.’ ” Yet her brother Sam writes to her from New York: “Lenore still draws the best houses; there was hardly standing room on Friday night” ; and again: “Mr. Russell went last night, a second time, bought the libretto, which I send you by this mail — declares that there is not a grander play in our language. He says that it is full of dramatic vigor, that the interest  Julia Ward Howe never flags — but that unhappily Miss H., with the soul and self-abandonment of a great actress, lacks those graces of elocution, which should set forth the beauties of your verses.” Some of the critics blamed the author severely for her choice of a subject — the betrayal and abandonment of an innocent girl by a villain; they thought it unfeminine, not to say indelicate, for a woman to write of such matters. At that time nothing could be farther from her thoughts than to be classed with the advocates of Women's Rights as they then appeared; yet in “The world's own” are passages which show that already her heart cherished the high ideal of her sex, for which her later voice was to be uplifted:--
Oh! help me to repent.
Behind my embrasure well-braced,
With every chance to hit,
I made your banner, waving wide,
A mark for wayward wit.
'T was now my turn to walk the street,
In dangerous singleness,
And run, as bravely as I might,
The gauntlet of the press.
And when I passed your balcony
Expecting only blows,
From height or vantage-ground, you stooped
To whelm me with a rose.
A rose, intense with crimson life
And hidden perfume sweet--
Call out your friends, and see me do
My penance in the street.
I think we call them Women, who upholdWe must not forget the Comic Muse. Comparatively  little of her humorous verse is preserved; she seldom thought it important enough to make two copies, and the first draft was often lost or given away. The following was written in the fifties, when Wulf Fries was a young and much-admired musician in Boston. Miss Mary Bigelow had invited her to her house “at nine o'clock” to hear him play, meaning nine in the morning. She took this for nine in the evening; the rest explains itself:--
Faint hearts and strong, with angel countenance;
Who stand for all that's high in Faith's resolve,
Or great in Hope's first promise.
Ev'n the frail creature with a moment's bloom,
That pays your pleasure with her sacrifice,
And, having first a marketable price,
Grows thenceforth valueless,--ev'n such an one,
Lifted a little from the mire, and purged
By hands severely kind, will give to view
The germ of all we honor, in the form
Of all that we abhor. You fling a jewel
Where wild feet tramp, and crushing wheels go by;
You cannot tread the splendor from its dust;
So, in the shattered relics, shimmers yet
Through tears and grime, the pride of womanhood.
Miss Mary Big'low, you who seem While she was pouring out her heart in poem and play, and the Doctor was riding the errands of the hour and binding up the wounds of Humanity, what, it may be asked,--it was asked by anxious friends, -was becoming of the little Howes? Why, the little Howes (there were now five, Maud having been born in November, 1854) were having perhaps the most wonderful childhood that ever children had. Spite of the occasional winters spent in town, our memories centre round Green Peace;--there Paradise blossomed for us. Climbing the cherry trees, picnicking on the terrace behind the house, playing in the bowlingalley, tumbling into the fishpond,--we see ourselves here and there, always merry, always vigorous and robust. We were also studying, sometimes at school, sometimes with our mother, who gave us the earliest lessons in French and music; more often, in those years, under various masters and governesses. The former were apt to be political exiles, the Doctor always having many such on hand, some learned, all impecunious, all seeking employment.. We recall a Pole, a Dane, two Germans, one Frenchman. The last, poor man, was married to a Smyrniote woman with a bad temper; neither spoke the other's language, and when they quarrelled they came to the Doctor, demanding his services as interpreter. Through successive additions, the house had grown to a goodly size; the new part, with large, high-studded rooms, towering above the ancient farmhouse, which nevertheless seemed always the heart of the place. Between the two was a conservatory, a posy of all sweet  flowers: the large greenhouse was down in the garden, under the same roof as the bowling-alley. The pears and peaches and strawberries of Green Peace were like no others that ever ripened; we see ourselves tagging at our father's heels, watching his pruning and grafting with an absorption equalling his own, learning from him that there must be honor in gardens as elsewhere, and that fruit taken from his hand was sweet, while stolen fruit would be bitter. We see ourselves gathered in the great dining-room, where the grand piano was, and the Gobelin carpet with the strange beasts and fishes, bought at the sale of the ex-King Joseph Bonaparte's furniture at Bordentown, and the Snyders' Boar Hunt, which one of us could never pass without a shiver; see ourselves dancing to our mother's playing,--wonderful dances, invented by Flossy, who was always premiere danseuse, and whose “Lady MacBETHeth” dagger dance was a thing to remember. Then perhaps the door would open, and in would come “Papa” as a bear, in his fur overcoat, growling horribly, and chase the dancers into corners, they shrieking terrified delight. Again, we see ourselves clustered round the piano while our mother sang to us; songs of all nations, from the Polish drinking-songs that Uncle Sam had learned in his student days in Germany, down to the Negro melodies which were very near our hearts. Best of all, however, we loved her own songs: cradleson!ma gs and nursery nonsense made for our very selves- 
So debonair and kind,
Pray, what the devil do you mean
(If I may speak my mind)
By asking me to come and hear
That Wulf of yours a-Friesing,
Then leaving me to cool my heels
In manner so unpleasing?
With Mrs. Dr. Susan you
That eve, forsooth, were tea-ing:
Confess you knew that I should come,
And from my wrath were fleeing!
To Mrs. Dr. Susan's I
Had not invited been:
So when the maid said, “Best go there!”
I answered, “Not so green!”
Within the darksome carriage hid
I bottled up my beauty,
And, rather foolish, hurried home
To fireside and duty.
It's very pleasant, you may think,
On winter nights to roam;
But when you next invite abroad,
This wolf will freeze at home!
(Sleep, my little child.“Put in the donkey!” cries Laura. The golden voice goes on without a pause--
So gentle, sweet and mild!
The little lamb has gone to rest,
The little bird is in its nest,--
The little donkey in the stableAgain, she would sing passionate songs of love or battle, or hymns of lofty faith and aspiration. One and all, we listened eagerly; one and all, we too began to see visions and dream dreams. Now and then, the Muse and Humanity had to stand aside and wait while the children had a party; such a party as no other children ever had. What wonder, when both parents turned the full current of their power into this channel? Our mother writes of one such festival:--
Sleeps as sound as he is able;
All things now their rest pursue,
You are sleepy too!)
My guests arrived in omnibus loads at four o'clock. My notes to parents concluded with the following P. S.: “Return-omnibus provided, with insurance against plum-cake and other accidents.” A donkey carriage afforded great amusement out of doors, together with swing, bowling-alley, and the Great Junk. While all this was going on, the H.'s, J. S., and I prepared a theatrical exhibition, of which I had made a hasty outline. It was the story of “Blue beard.” We had curtains which drew back and forth, and regular footlights. You can't think how good it was! There were four scenes. My antique cabinet was the “Blue beard”  cabinet; we yelled in delightful chorus when the door was opened, and the children stretched their necks to the last degree to see the horrible sight. The curtain closed upon a fainting-fit done by four women. In the third scene we were scrubbing the fatal key, when I cried out, “Try the “Mustang liniment!” It's the liniment for us, for you know we must hang if we don't succeed!” This, which was made on the spur of the moment, overcame the whole audience with laughter, and I myself shook so that I had to go down into the tub in which we were scrubbing the key. Well, to make a long story short, our play was very successful, and immediately afterward came supper. There were four long tables for the children; twenty sat at each. Icecream, cake, blanc-mange, and delicious sugar-plums, oranges, etc., were served up “in style.” We had our supper a little later. Three omnibus loads went from my door; the last — the grown people — at nine o'clock.And again:-- “I have written a play for our doll-theatre, and performed it yesterday afternoon with great success. It occupied nearly an hour. I had alternately to grunt and squeak the parts, while Chev played the puppets. The effect was really extremely good. The spectators were in a dark room, and the little theatre, lighted by a lamp from the top, looked very pretty.” It was one of these parties of which the Doctor wrote to Charles Sumner: “Altogether it was a good affair, a religious affair; I say religious, for there is nothing which so calls forth my love and gratitude to God as  the sight of the happiness for which He has given the capacity and furnished the means; and this happiness is nowhere more striking than in the frolics of the young.” Among the plays given at Green Peace were the “Three bears,” the Doctor appearing as the Great Big Huge Bear; and the “Rose and the ring,” in which he played Kutasoff Hedzoff and our mother Countess Gruffanuff, while John A. Andrew, not yet Governor, made an unforgettable Prince Bulbo. It was a matter of course to us children, that “Papa and Mamma” should play with us, sing to us, tell us stories, bathe our bumps, and accompany us to the dentist; these were things that papas and mammas did! Looking back now, with some realization of all the other things they did, we wonder how they managed it. For one thing, both were rapid workers; for another, both had the power of leading and inspiring others to work; for a third, so far as we can see, neither ever wasted a moment; for a fourth, neither ever reached the point where there was not some other task ahead, to be begun as soon as might be. Life with a Comet-Apostle was not always easy. Some one once expressed to “Auntie Francis” wonder at the patience with which she endured all the troublesome traits of her much-loved husband. “My dear,” she replied, “I shipped as Captain's mate, for the voyage!” Our mother, quoting this, says, “I cannot imagine a more useful motto for married life.” During the thirty-four years of her own married  life the Doctor was captain, beyond dispute; yet sometimes the mate felt that she must take her own way, and took it quietly. She was fond of quoting the words of Thomas Garrett,5 whose house was for years a station of the Underground Railway, and who helped many slaves to freedom. “How did you manage it?” she asked him. His reply sank deep into her mind. “It was borne in upon me at an early period, that if I told no one what I intended to do, I should be enabled to do it.” The bond between our mother and father was not to be entirely broken even by death. She survived him by thirty-four years; but she never discussed with any one of us a question of deep import, or national consideration, without saying, “Your father would think thus, say thus!” It has been told elsewhere 6 how she once, being in Newport and waked from sleep by some noise, called to him; and how he, in Boston, heard her, and asked, when next they met, “Why did you call me?” To the end of her life, if startled or alarmed, she never failed to cry aloud, “Chev!” Children were not the only guests at Green Peace. Some of us remember Kossuth's visit; our mother often told of the day when John Brown knocked at the door, and she opened it herself. To all of us, Charles Sumner and his brothers, Albert and George, Hillard, Agassiz, Andrew, Parker were familiar figures, and fit naturally into the background of Green Peace.  Of these Charles Sumner, always the Doctor's closest and best-beloved friend, is most familiarly remembered. We called him “the harmless giant” ; and one of us was in the habit of using his stately figure as a rule of measurement. Knowing that he was just six feet tall, she would say that a thing was so much higher or lower than Mr. Sumner. His deep musical voice, his rare but kindly smile, are not to be forgotten. We do not remember Nathaniel Hawthorne's coming to the house, but his shy disposition is illustrated by the record of a visit made by our parents to his house at Concord. While they were in the parlor, talking with Mrs. Hawthorne, they saw a tall, slim man come down the stairs, and Mrs. Hawthorne called out, “Husband! Husband! Dr. Howe and Mrs. Howe are here!” Hawthorne bolted across the hall and out through the door without even looking into the parlor. Of Whittier our mother says:-- “ I shall always be glad that I saw the poet Whittier in his youth and mine. I was staying in Boston during the winter of 1847, a young mother with two dear girl babies, when Sumner, I think, brought Whittier to our rooms and introduced him to me. His appearance then was most striking. His eyes glowed like black diamonds-his hair was of the same hue, brushed back from his forehead. Several were present on this occasion who knew him familiarly, and one of these persons bantered him a little on his bachelor state. Mr. Whittier said in reply: ‘The world's people have  taken so many of our Quaker girls that there is none left for me.’ A year or two later, my husband invited him to dine, but was detained so late that I had a tete-a-tAte of half an hour with Mr. Whittier. We sat near the fire, rather shy and silent, both of us. Whenever I spoke to Whittier, he hitched his chair nearer to the fire. At last Dr. Howe came in. I said to him afterwards, ‘My dear, if you had been a little later, Mr. Whittier would have gone up the chimney.’ ” The most welcome visitor of all was Uncle Sam Ward. He came into the house like light: we warmed our hands at his fire and were glad. It was not because he brought us peaches and gold bracelets, Virginia hams (to be boiled after his own recipe, with a bottle of champagne, a wisp of new-mown hay and -we forget what else!), and fine editions of Horace: it was because he brought himself. “I disagree with Sam Ward,” said Charles Sumner, “on almost every known topic: but when I have talked with him five minutes I forget everything save that he is the most delightful companion in the world!” A volume might be filled with Uncle Sam's mots and jests; but print would do him cold justice, lacking the kindling of his eyes and smile, the mellow music of his laugh. Memory pictures rise up, showing him and our mother together in every variety of scene. We see them coming out of church together after a long and dull sermon, and hear him whisper to her, “Ce pauvre Dieu!” Again, we see them driving together after some function at which the address of one Potts had roused  Uncle Sam to anger; hear him pouring out a torrent of eloquent vituperation, forgetting all else in the joy of freeing his mind. Pausing to draw breath, he glanced round, and, seeing an unfamiliar landscape, exclaimed, “Where are we?” “At Potsdam, I think!” said our mother quietly. Hardly less dear to us than Green Peace, and far dearer to her, was the summer home at Lawton's Valley, in Portsmouth,7 Rhode Island. Here, as at South Boston, the Doctor's genius for “construction and repairs” wrought a lovely miracle. He found a tiny farmhouse, sheltered from the seawinds by a rugged hillock; near at hand, a rocky gorge, through which tumbled a wild little stream, checked here and there by a rude dam; in one place turning the wheel of a mill, where the neighboring farmers brought corn to grind. His quick eye caught the possibilities of the situation. He bought the place and proceeded to make of it a second earthly paradise. The house was enlarged, trees were felled here, planted there; a garden appeared as if by magic; in the Valley itself the turbulent stream was curbed by stone embankments; the open space became an emerald lawn, set at intervals with Norway spruces; under the great ash tree that towered in the centre rustic seats and tables were placed. Here, through many years, the “Mistress of the Valley” was to pass her happiest hours; to the Valley and its healing balm of quiet she owed the inspiration of much of her best work. The following letters fill in the picture of a time to  which in her later years she looked back as one of the happiest of her life. Yet she was often unhappy, sometimes suffering. Humanity, her husband's faithful taskmistress, had not yet set her to work, and the long hours of his service left her lonely, and — the babies once in bed -at a loss. Her eyes, injured in Rome, in 1843, by the throwing of confetti (made, in those days, of lime), gave her much trouble, often exquisite pain. She rarely, in our memory, used them in the evening. Yet, in later life, all the miseries, little and big, were dismissed with a smile and a sigh and a shake of the head. “I was very naughty in those days” she would say.
Spite of the troublesome eyes, and the various “pribbles and prabbles,” she was in those days editor-in-chief of “The Listener,” a “Weekly publication.” Julia Romana was sub-editor, and furnished most of the material, stories, plays, and poems pouring with astonishing ease from her ten-year-old pen; but there was an Editor's Table, sometimes dictated by the chief editor, often written in her own hand. The first number of “The Listener” appeared in October, 1854. The sub-editor avows frankly that “The first number of our little paper will not be very interesting, as we have not had time to give notice to those who we expect to write for it.” This is followed by “Select poetry, Mrs. Howe” ; “The lost suitor” (to be continued), and “Seaside thoughts.” The “Editor's table” reads:-- “ It is often said that Listeners hear no good of themselves, and it often proves to be true. But we shall hope to hear, at least, no harm of our modest little paper. We intend to listen only to good things, and not to have ears for any unkind words about ourselves or others. Little people of our age are expected to listen to those who are older, having so many things to learn. We will promise, too, to listen as much as we  can to all the entertaining news about town, and to give accounts of the newest fashions, the parties in high life (nurseries are generally three stories high) and many other particulars. So, we venture to hope that ‘The Listener’ will find favour with our friends and Miss Stephenson's select public.” This was Miss Hannah Stephenson's school for girls, which Julia and Florence were attending. “The Listener” gives pleasant glimpses of life at Green Peace, the Nursery Fair, the dancing-school, the new baby, and so forth. Sometimes the “Table” is a rhyming one:--
On January 14, 1855, we read:-- “Last evening began the opera season. Now, as all the Somebodies were there, we would not like to have you suppose, dear reader, that we were not, although perhaps you did not see us, with our little squeezed-up hat slipping off of our head, and we screwing up our  eyebrows to keep it on. There was a moment when we thought we felt it going down the back of our neck, but a dexterous twitch of the left ear restored the natural order of things. Well, to show you that we were there, we'll tell you of what the Opera was composed. There was love of course, and misery, and plenty of both. The slim man married the lady in white, and then ran away with another woman. She tore her hair, and went mad. One of the stout gentlemen doubled his fists, the other spread out his hands and looked pitiful. The mad lady sang occasionally, and retained wonderful command of her voice. They all felt dreadfully, and went throa a great deal, singing all the time. The thing came right at last, but we have no room to explain how.” In May, 1855, the paper died a natural death.What shall we do for an Editor's table?That's all for the present, we make our best bow, And are your affectionate Editor Howe.
To make one really we are not able.
Our Editorial head is aching,
Our lily white hand is rather shaking.
Our baby cries both day and night,
And puts our “intelligence” all to flight.
Yet, for the gentle Julia's sake,
Some little effort we must make.
We did n't go vote for the know-nothing Mayor,
A know-nothing's what we cannot bear,
We know our lessons, that's well for us,
Or the school would be in a terrible fuss.