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Chapter 20:

The following letter-which, being chiefly concerned with our national affairs, belongs rather in the present chapter than where its date would have placed it–is addressed to a person whose slight connection with this book is no indication of his position in Mr. Ticknor's esteem. Judge Curtis was regarded by his uncle with an affectionate and faithful interest from his boyhood, and in his maturer years he became the object of a respect, and admiration, which seemed to neutralize the natural effect of their relative ages. The appointment of Mr. Curtis to a seat on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States, in 1851, gratified Mr. Ticknor in an extreme degree, while he felt that it was the place for which his nephew was by all the qualities of his mind and character expressly fitted; and his high judicial reputation, and the estimation in which he came to be held throughout the country, seemed to confirm, by general testimony, the justice of Mr. Ticknor's privately cherished opinion. Judge Curtis, however, was never a diligent correspondent, and when the constant intercourse between him and his uncle, in Boston, was interrupted by the absence of either, the absorbing nature of his professional engagements interfered very seriously with any attempt at epistolary communication. Their mutual confidence was too faithful to suffer by such temporary silence.

This letter is characteristic of both men, inasmuch as their conversation was always on matters of grave and weighty import. [402]

To Mr. Justice Curtis.

Florence, May 12, 1857.
my dear Judge, 1—I thank you for your letter of February 27, which I received, I think, in Naples, but which I have been too busy earlier to answer. However, this is of no moment; I do not profess to be a regular correspondent any more than you do. It is enough for both of us that your letter was most welcome, and that I am glad of a chance to say so.

Your view of the present condition and future prospects of the affairs of the United States-written, I suspect, not without thought of the coming shadow of the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, in Dred Scott's case—is certainly not cheering. My own opinion is of little value, to be sure; but it is at least formed coolly at a distance, and I am sorry to say that it is not brighter than yours. . .

This condition of things is at last coming to be perceived in Europe; but the opinions formed on it by intelligent men, as I have gradually learnt them, are seldom wise, and often tinctured with the national interests, or personal character of the individuals who express them. We are no doubt felt to be a power in Christendom as we were never felt to be before; for we are, so to speak, visibly and tangibly grown great and rich, and are fast growing greater and richer. The two parties—liberal and conservative—into which Europe has long been separated, look upon us in this respect alike, and intelligently enough; but when they go a little further and come [403] to our present position and contests, they divide, and both fall into grave errors according to their respective parties. The liberals demand the abolition of slavery, much in the same sense in which Garrison demands it, and if this cannot be effected, would gladly see the North separated from the South, not at all comprehending the consequences of disunion to the whole country, or its fatal effects on the slave. Their philanthropy, from the days of the French Republic, has been an important part of their political judgments and systems at home, though not always a wise or consistent part of them, and they carry it now vehemently into their opinions of us, whom they have been accustomed to look up to with more admiration, perhaps, than we have deserved, as regards our form of government and our institutions as desirable and practicable to introduce throughout Europe. But our slavery is a great trouble to them. They have always felt it to be such; but since the immense success of ‘Uncle Tom,’—which is still acted, I am told, in the popular theatres in many parts of Europe, and was certainly acted in Rome last winter when I was there, --and since the bearing of slavery on our union and destinies has been discussed in Congress, and by our Presidents in their messages, the liberal party, throughout Europe, have everywhere taken it up in earnest . . . .

The opinion of the aristocracies and governments of Europe—excepting always Russia, who, for obvious reasons, is our natural ally against all—at least is simple and inevitable. They acknowledge our power, but they do not like it and never have, and they wish to see it diminished, which they know it would be, inevitably, by disunion. They can, as they see plainly, manage their affairs better with America divided, and weak by division, than with America united, already strong and growing stronger. They can, too, better oppose liberal and disorganizing opinions at home, when they can appeal to such a failure as disunion would be of our grand experiment of a free government in the United States, which has always been a main support of those opinions in Europe. You will find abundant traces of this feeling, even in England. The English like our growing rich so far as it leads us to buy their fabrics, but they do not like to have us growing very strong, lest we should claim a high place among the nations, and make trouble in the world. Multitudes among them cry out very honestly against our slavery, and take part with the North, to help put it down by force of the world's opinion. But, when once we are separated, they will make the best treaties they can for their own interests with both parties. In doing this, philanthropy [404] will have as little to do with their diplomacy as it has had in China. Their manufactures will be admitted free at the South, and they will receive free the great staples they need in return;but we at the North cannot make such treaties with them; and though we may possibly, but not probably, get Canada and Nova Scotia, about which they will care little, we can, if separated, never have profitable or really satisfactory relations with these provinces, or with the mother country. The same is the case, though in an inferior degree, with France and the other governments of the Continent, except, as I before said, with Russia, who would be glad to have us for a mighty counterpoise against all the other powers of Europe, with no one of whom can they have any really common interests or, at bottom, friendly relations. All the rest of the great aristocracies have been long predicting that we should prove to be like fruit imperfectly formed and nourished, which rots without ripening. They show us up now as cheats, filibusters who go for lawless conquests of foreign territory, who repudiate our honest debts, and as hypocrites who boast of universal suffrage and boundless liberty, while we hold three million of our fellow creatures in slavery; insinuating always that these are the natural results of democracy, and of intrusting power to ignorant hands to use. And their opinions are beginning to be accepted by the intelligent classes, who have heretofore been little inclined to them, but who, after seventy years of sufferings that have followed the Revolution, begin to fear that society must be preserved, and that the liberty they have hoped, and often struggled for, is to be given up, at least for a time, to do it.

I do not know whether, in writing so learnedly, I have made plain my purpose, and so I will explain it. I have desired to tell you that, in my judgment, whenever the fatal hour that strikes the dissolution of our Union comes, those who stand by it longest will have least sympathy in Europe. The question will be understood by few, and of these few many will be glad to have our country divided, for the sake of the benefits that, as they believe, will accrue to their own institutions, while the great majority will regard it as merely a commercial or political question, to be determined by the interests of their respective countries, which will generally be found opposed to our greatness and to the success of our principles of freedom and confederacy.

Having reached home in September, Mr. Ticknor found his time amply filled, especially by the affairs of the Public Library. [405] The only letter of any general interest that has been found, dating from the first four or five months after his return, is the following:—

To Sir Edmund Head, Bart., Toronto.

Boston, November 18, 1857.
dear Head,—The last time I saw you, I think you were in the hands of a London police officer.2 Of course we are all, in proportion, glad to find you safely returned to Toronto, and I should have told you so some days since, but I thought it was better to wait until you were fairly settled, and had got through your first batch of business. This, I trust, for your sake as well as mine, is now the case.

We a all well,—daughter that was so ill, grandchild, and all,— and all still living together in Park Street, after the fashion of the patriarchs. But the young folks will soon go away to a new home, which they are now fitting up with all the eagerness of inexperience; and we shall have a heavy miss of them, and a heavier one of the baby, who is now the plaything of the house. It is, however, all right.

But nothing else seems to be so just now. I need not tell you what a hurricane we have had in our commercial and monetary affairs. It has blown somewhat in Canada, I think, and even London and Paris have not been unconscious of it. But here it has been tremendous . . . . . A great deal has, no doubt, been owing to a mad panic. But there have been deep causes at work for years to produce it. The people of this country have been spendthrifts, to a degree that, I think, no people in all its classes ever were before; and as for the great merchants and manufacturers, the bank directors and railroad managers, they have been gamblers,—gamblers more adventurous than any at the Bourse in Paris or in the Credit Mobilier. We shall, however, get over it, and, I suppose, take nothing by our experience. The country was never more really prosperous,—never richer in all that goes to make up national wealth than it is now,— and as soon as this bourrasque is over, we shall go to spending, speculating, and gambling, just as if nothing had ever happened. One of the most curious things about it, and perhaps one of those most worth considering, is the way in which people accept it and submit to it, as if it were the work of an irresistible fate. Debtors claim, as if it were a right, an extension of time for paying their notes, and creditors [406] everywhere grant it as a matter of course. It seems as if we had become used to such catastrophes, and had learnt to take them easy. The very bank circulation seems to have grown insensible; for there is hardly a perceptible difference between gold and inconvertible paper. It was never so before under the same circumstances, and ought not to be so now. I cannot account for it on any good principle, and do not like it in its moral aspects . . . . I had an excellent passage home, the one Mrs. Ticknor ought to have had; for she had a very bad one, and was ill after her arrival. But, as I said, we are all well now, uncommonly well, and are enjoying the season, which, for two months, has been very fine, and is still very mild.3 I wish you had come this way, and given us a week.

Yours faithfully,

From Sir Edmund Head.

Toronto, November 21, 1857.
my dear Ticknor,—I got your letter this morning, and I was very glad to hear so good an account of you all. We have heard some rumors of the manner in which your monetary crisis had affected Mrs. Ticknor's family, and we were, I need not tell you, sincerely sorry for it.

You left me, as you say, in the custody of the police. I escaped, on the whole, as well as could be expected, though, no doubt, if my real deserts had been before the court, I might have been more severely dealt with.

We had a stormy passage out; but I was glad that we took the Quebec route, for the last three days one is pretty sure to have smooth water, which is something gained on the passage. We left England all green, and found icicles a yard long on the cliffs of Belleisle. . . . .

Our banks have held their ground pretty well, but some of our land speculators have suffered, and will continue to suffer, from the pressure. I agree with you that the equal value of gold and inconvertible paper at Boston is a strange phenomenon. I suppose, however, it marks confidence in the ultimate ability of the issuers to meet all engagements, and it also seems to show that there is none of that irrational fear which tends to the hoarding of specie in less enlightened [407] communities. I can easily understand that your suspension of cash payments was welcome on the other side of the Atlantic. So far as it had any effect, its tendency was to check the export of bullion. But I conceive that the consequences will last long after the resumption of specie payments, and will be felt in the pecuniary relations of New York and Boston. The readiness with which such a step can be resorted to will diminish confidence in Europe.

Nor do I see how the Legislature in New York is to help the banks by legalizing such a course. The fifth section of the eighth article of their Constitution is explicit, in depriving the Legislature of the power to authorize a suspension of specie payments. (I do not think that in Massachusetts you have any such clause, but I am not sure.) This will be a notable example of the difficulty caused by the absence of any living sovereign body, for the people of the State of New York can only speak when called into life for the purpose. Until they have so spoken, one of two things must be the case,—either the banks must openly and professedly violate the law, or the Legislature must deliberately set aside the Constitution.

I cannot enter on the slavery question, for I confess I do not see my way. If the Northern States secure Kansas as a free State, it will be the first time that their action has been ultimately successful. . . . .

With kindest regards,

Yours most truly,

Edmund had.

To Sir Charles Lyell.

Boston, February 19, 1858.
my dear Lyell,—. . . . I began a letter to you above a fortnight ago, the fragment of which is now before me, and would have crossed yours on the Atlantic if it had been finished; but Prescott's illness came the next day, and drove everything else out of my mind for a time. Anna wrote you about the first attack and the early relief. Since that time, thank God, he has constantly gone on improving, and is now almost restored . . . . . He is, of course, kept on a low diet, and knows that there must always be a cloud between him and the future; but, still, I believe there is many a year of happiness in store for him. His family, on both the father's and mother's side, have been long-lived; and he has a revenue of good spirits which is better than all the inheritances of fortune. His chief trouble. and it is one that he begins to feel already, will be the giving up his habits [408] of exact industry, getting out of those iron grooves in which his life has so long run, and becoming comparatively an idle man. . . . . But he must do it, and he has made up his mind to it. Indeed, he has understood his complaint perfectly from the first moment, and accepts all its conditions and consequences with the most absolute cheerfulness.

Our financial troubles here, of which you speak, have been much like yours in Europe, and have come from the same causes. The suffering has been great, and will be long felt; but whether anybody will learn anything by the bitter experience is very doubtful . . . . Our banking system is one cause of our troubles, but by no means the chief. The universal extravagance, the spendthrift character of the mass of the people, goes deeper than all their moneyed institutions. This, I think, is likely to be diminished for a good while. . . . .

Our politics are in a state of great confusion. As the elder Adams4 said to me, when he was eighty-nine years old, about the politics of the State of New York for seventy years previous, ‘they are the Devil's incomprehensibles.’ The reason is that the old parties are breaking up, and the new ones are not yet sufficiently formed and organized to be intelligible. The great contest, as you know, is about Kansas. Buchanan has behaved as badly as possible about it; the leaders of the Free Soil party no better. Both have treated it as a game for political power. It has been just as certain for nearly two years, as it is now admitted to be by everybody, that Kansas will be a free State, and yet, as each party has believed that it could profit more by the contest than its adversary could, the contest has been continued. Either party could have stopped it any time during the last two years. . . . .

Lecturing is as active as ever, and the lectures well attended. Among others we have now religious lectures, delivered in a large church on Sunday evenings by clergymen of all the different persuasions, except the Catholics, in answer to one and the same question, namely, ‘Why, from love to God and man, do I hold the opinions in religion which I do hold?’ The attendance, I understand, is very large, and the discussions are conducted in the most tolerant spirit. This I regard as the natural result of free inquiry; violence and bitterness, indeed, for a time, but at last fair and faithful discussion. Thirty years ago such lectures would not have been decently managed; forty years ago I think they would have been interrupted by rude noises and in other ways, so that they could not have been carried [409] on. Now they are listened to like any other grave discussions . . . . Remember us all most affectionately to Mr.Horner and Mrs. Horner and all their house, and believe us very affectionately yours. I sign for all.

To Sir Edmund Head.

Boston, April 24, 1858.
We have taken a very nice furnished house, five miles out of town, and shall go there next month, taking with us the Dexters and the grand-daughter. I would never go away from my town-house except for mere change; so pure is the air here, the Common so bright, and the house itself so much better and more comfortable—library and all-than anything I get elsewhere. But when I do leave my city appliances, I like to go to a new place every year, or nearly every year, so as to make a real change, and not go over the old drives annually. You governors have this changing life in perfection; only now and then you are sent to very out-of-the-way places.

To Sir Edmund Head.

Boston, May 20, 1858.
I cannot tell you how much we should be gratified if we could accept your invitation, so true a pleasure would it be to us to spend a few days with you at any time and anywhere. But I suppose it is quite out of the question. What I can have said to you about ‘moving round’ this summer, as if I thought I should be more than commonly free, I do not easily comprehend . . . . . The Public Library and two or three other things keep me here. I do not intend this shall be the case hereafter. Next year, I trust, I may execute a project I have had for many years at heart,—I mean that of making a good long visit at Niagara, where we shall be so near you that we can run down to Toronto, and spend a few days with you, at any time that it will be easiest and pleasantest for you to receive us. Only you must not go off to be Governor-General of India or Minister of State at home; for there we shall never follow you.

I do not wonder you are perplexed about J. Indeed, I partly foresaw the case, and I think you did last summer when we talked about it. But in this world we must not be like the good old lady, who asked at the bookseller's shop for the smallest-sized Bible with [410] the largest-sized print. And apropos of this, did you ever read Mrs. Barbauld's ‘Essay on Inconsistent Expectations’? It is a little harsh and uncomfortable in its tone, but there is a cruel wisdom in it about education, which often comes up to plague me. . . . . I have always had two fixed ideas about young men: first, that they should be substantially educated in the country where they are probably to live; and second, that not a small part of the value of a university or public-school education consists in adjusting a young man, during the most flexible period of his life, to his place among the associates who can best help him onward. To these two considerations I should always be willing to sacrifice a good deal. But the question of exactly how much must be settled in each particular case, balancing all advantages and disadvantages. And this is exactly your trouble now. I wish I could help you, as you suggest, but I cannot. He who stands in the centre is the only person who can see truly all the relations of the circumference.

To Robert H. Gardiner, Esq.

Boston, 5 June 25, 1858.
dear Mr. Gardiner,—I received with much pleasure your kind letter of the 17th, and the copy of Buckle, all safe and in good condition.6 It is a remarkable book, as you say, and shows an astonishing amount of knowledge for a man of his years, and a power of generalization remarkable at any age. His views of what is connected with our spiritual nature are, no doubt, unsound, and his radicalism is always offensive. I have seldom read a book with which I have so often been angry, and yet I have learnt, I think, a great deal from it, and had my mind waked up by it upon many matters, for it has suggested to me a great variety of points for inquiry, of which I might otherwise never have thought. . . . .

Yours very faithfully,

In May, 1858, Mr. Ticknor received the following letter from Baron Humboldt, of which, according to the request in the postscript, he immediately sent a translation to one of the Boston daily newspapers, with an appropriate preface. This does not [411] seem to preclude the insertion of the original here, which will be followed by Mr. Ticknor's answer, or so much of it as has been found.

mon Cher et excellent Ami,—Des rapports d'amitie qui remontent si haut dans ma famille, l'affection que mon frere Guillaume de Humboldt vous avait vouee lorsque tres jeune vous habitiez l'allemagne, m'imposent comme un devoir bien doux à accomplir, celui de vous donner un signe de vie, c'est-à--dire, une marque renouvellee de mon attachement, de mon interest pour votre patrie, un precis de mes travaux.

Mes forces physiques baissent, mais avec lenteur. Ma demarche est moins certaine de direction, à cause d'une faiblesse (d'un relachement) dans les ligaments des genoux, mais je peux rester debout, sans être fatigue, pendant une heure. Je continue à travailler le plus pendant la nuit, étant impitoyablement tourmente par ma correspondence, qui s'etend d'autant plus que l'on devient un objet de curiosity publique. Ce que l'on appelle la celebrite litteraire est surtout l'effet d'une longue patience de vivre. Ce genre d'illustration augmente à mesure que l'imbecilite devient plus manifeste. Je ne suis jamais malade, mais souvent souffrant, comme on doit laetre à laage de 89 ans.

N'ayant éte que deux personnes dans l'expedition Americaine (le malheureux Carlos Montufar, 7 fils du Marquis de Selvalegra de Quito, est tombe victime de son amour pour la liberte de sa patrie) il est assez remarquable que, tous deux, nous soyons arrives à laage si avance. Bonpland, encore tres occupe de travaux scientifiques, se bercant meme de l'espoir de visiter encore une fois l'europe, et de rapporter, lui-meme, ses riches et belles collections botaniques et geologiques à Paris, a 85 ans, et jouit de plus de forces que moi.

Je viens de publier en Allemagne le 4eme volume du Cosmos. On imprime en ce moment le 5eme volume, qui termine l'ouvrage si imprudemment commence, et si favorablement accueilli par le public. Le General Sabine maecrit que la traduction Anglaise est terminee, et va paraitre incessamment. La meme nouvelle m'est venue de France, de la part de M. Galuzzi, qui a passe tout l'hiver dans le midi, á Cannes. [412]

Le grand et bel ouvrage d'agassiz (les deux volumes) ne m'est arrive que depuis quelques jours. II produira un grand effet, par la grandeur des vues generales, et l'extreme sagacitye dans les observations speciales embryologiques. Je n'ai jamais cru que cet homme illustre, qui est en meme temps un homme de coeur, une belle âme, accepterait les offres que noblement on lui a faites à Paris. Je savais que la reconnaissance le retiendrait dans une nouvelle patrie ou il trouve un si immense terrain à exploiter, et de grands moyens de secours. Puisset-il, à cote de tant de travaux anatomiques et physiologiques, dans les organismes inferieurs, vouloir nous donner aussi l'ichthyologie specifique de ces bassins nombreux dans le far West, à commencer par le Saint Empire des Mormons.

Les sciences viennent de faire ici une perte immense, par la mort si inattendue du plus grand anatomiste de notre siecle, le Professeur Jean Muller.8 C'est une perte toute aussi immense pour les sciences, que la éte pour les arts la mort de limmortel sculpteur Rauch.9 L'universalite deseconnaissances zoologiques dans les classes inferieures de organization, rapprochait Jean Muller de Cuvier, ayant une grande preeminence dans la finesse du travail anatomique et physiologique. II a execute des grands et penibles voyages, à ses frais, sur les cotes de la Mediterranee, et dans les Mers du Nord. II n'y a que deux ans à peine qu'il a manque perir dans un naufrage sur le littoral de la Norvege. II s'est soutenu en nageant pendant plus d'une demie heure, et se croyait deja entierement perdu, lorsque merveilleusement il fut retire de l'eau. Je perds en lui un ami qui maetait bien cher. Caetait un homme d'un grand talent, et d'un beau caractere à la fois. On admirait et laelevation et l'independence de sentiments. II a fait daenormes sacrifices pour se former une bibliotheque choisie non seulement d'anatomie, de physiologie et de zoologie, mais s'etendant sur toutes les sciences physiques. Elle se compose de plus de trois milles volumes, bien relies, et d'autant de volumes renfermant des dissertations si difficiles à reunir. M. Muller depensait par an pres de 800 écus (thaler) pour la reliure seule. Il serait triste de voir dispersee, parcelee, une collection faite avec tant de soin. Comme en Europe [413] on craint les doubles, je dois presque redouter que cette belle collection traverse le grand fleuve atlantique. J'ai presque lair d'exciter votre appetit en me presentant devant vous comme citoyen du monde, tandis que la Kirchenzeitung de Vienne me nomme, en lettres majuscules, un naturaliste assassin des âmes, Seelenmorder.

Agreez, je vous prie, mon cher et respectable ami, le renouvellement de la haute et affectueuse consideration que j'ai vouee depuis tant d'annees à votre talent et à votre caractere.

À Berlin, ce 9 Mai, 1858.
Da so viele mir wohlwollende Menschen, farbige und weisse, in den Vereinigten Staaten, an mir Antheil nehmen, so ware es mir angenehm, theurer Freund, wenn dieser Brief von Ihnen ins Englische übertragen (ohne Weglassen dessen was sich auf unsere gegenseitige Freundschaft bezieht) gedruckt werden konnte. Wenn Sie es fur nothwendig halten, konnten Sie zusetzen, ich hatte die Bekanntmachung selbst erbeten, weil ich so viele an mich gerichtete Briefe unbeantwortet gelassen.

10 [414]

To Baron Alexander Von Humboldt.

Boston, U. S. A., July 8, 1858.
my dear and Venerated friend,—I was much surprised to receive your letter of May 9. I was still more gratified. Indeed, I cannot tell you how much I was gratified by it. It contained such excellent news of yourself; it was so flattering to me that you should write to me at all.

You are quite right in supposing that Agassiz will remain in the United States. In fact, he has never doubted. He is happily married. His social position is as agreeable as we can make it. His pecuniary resources are quite sufficient for his wants. The field for his peculiar labors is new and wide, and he is not only able, from his fine physical nature, to go over a large part of it himself, but he is forming a school which will carry on what he may leave unfinished. I think, therefore, that by remaining here, he not only does well for himself, but for the cause of science, to which he so earnestly and effectively devotes his life. I gave him at once so much of your letter to me as related to him personally. He was very much gratified with it, and immediately sent to me for you, with his most ample acknowledgments [415] for your kindness, three pamphlets on the subject of the fishes to be found in the basins of our ‘Far West.’ This subject, to which you desired his attention to be called, is a very important part of the ichthyology of all North America, to which he has devoted himself ever since he has been among us, and has made a collection which is already become of great value, and to which he is constantly making large additions. The three pamphlets in question I forwarded to you immediately, sending them through Mr. Cass, our Secretary of State, and the diplomatic channel; so that if you have not already received them from our Minister in Berlin, he will no doubt transmit them to you very soon after this letter reaches you.

I enclose you a copy of the translation of your letter to me. I caused it to be printed first in the Boston Courier of June 9, and from that journal it has been copied all over the country, into all sorts of newspapers. I think that not less than half a million of such copies of it have thus been distributed; so universal is the interest felt in your person and fame throughout the United States.

Everywhere it has produced the same effect; astonishment and gratitude for your continued health and strength, and for your unimpaired [416] intellectual resources and supremacy. In America we thank God for all these things, and count them among the blessings and honors of the age in which we live.

I suppose you hear much about the United States and its public policy that is disagreeable. Indeed, I know you do. But I pray you to believe as little of it as you can. I have never belonged to the party that brought Mr. Buchanan into power, and never expect to sustain its measures on any national subject. Still, I do not impute to Mr. Buchanan all the political extravagances that are sometimes charged on him by my more ardent friends. That he desires the extension of slavery I much doubt. That he cannot succeed in extending it, if he desire so to do, I feel sure. Be persuaded, I pray you, that Kansas will be a free State. I felt certain of this when I had the happiness of seeing you in 1856, and I have never doubted it for a moment since. It may be a year or two before this result can be accomplished. But it is, in my humble judgment, as certain as anything future can be. Nor will one square mile belonging now to the territory of the United States be cursed with slavery, which is not at this present moment cursed with it. Of course I do not speak of Cuba or Mexico. I only pray that they may never be added to our Confederacy. Nor will they, except with the consent of Europe.

To Sir Edmund Head.

Boston, June 21, 1858.
I hope the second edition of ‘Shall and Will’11 may come soon, and that there will be plenty of quotations from Shakespeare in it. There ought to be, after the pains you took. The Bible, too,—King James's,—will furnish the best of illustrations. I am not certain but that it is the constant use of this book that has kept us so very exact about ‘Shall and Will,’ from the Puritan times down. At any rate, we are all right in New England. I never knew a person among us—who was born here, or who was bred in our schools— to make a mistake in the use of these two idiomatic auxiliaries. Indeed, I do not think I hear one once a year, and it is so offensive to me, that I am sure a slight deviation would not escape my notice.

Boston, September 14, 1858
Please thank kind Lady Head for transcribing the version of the last elegy of Propertius.12 It is not very close, yet remarkably phrased, [417] —if I may use such a word,—so as to preserve the air and tone of the original. But I do not know how it is that all the expressions of feeling about death by the ancients—even this one, which is perhaps the best except the Alcestis—are so unsatisfactory. They seem to come out of dismal hollows in the earth, and to be without even that warmth of merely human feeling, which they might surely have without the confident belief of immortality that is granted to us. Thus, for instance, to say nothing of his other odes of the same sort, the Ode of Horace to Posthumus, and especially the phrase placens uxor, has always seemed to me ineffably mean. I dare say I may be wrong, but I can't help it.

Lord Napier spent seven or eight weeks at Nahant, and, I think, liked it very well. At any rate, he was very well liked by the people who saw him oftenest. I met him only two or three times, for the same reason that I saw so little of the R——s. They were all out of my beat by twenty miles. I suppose he represents the opinion of England when he shows less disposition than has been usual with your ministers, to fall in with our Northern notions about slavery, and to insist that Cuba shall not be annexed to the United States. Probably it would do no harm to England to have us possess all the West Indies and all South America; but I do not conceive it to be for our interest to have more territory, North or South. It is now nearly impossible to make, at Washington, laws which are absolutely necessary for one part of the country, and yet which can be endured or executed in another part; and the larger we grow the more formidable this difficulty will become.

The following note to Mr. Everett derives its interest from the anecdote with which it concludes, of an admirable old man, Mr. Thomas Dowse, who, beginning life as a journeyman leather-dresser, and continuing always in that craft, though becoming a wealthy master, early devoted every dollar he could save to the purchase of good English books. Having lived a bachelor to an advanced age, he left to the Massachusetts Historical Society a valuable library of about five thousand handsomely bound volumes. The simplicity and upright intelligence of Mr. Dowse had always attracted Mr. Ticknor, and he often quoted the autobiographical utterance which he records at the end of this note. [418]

To Hon. E. Everett.

Park Street, December 10, 1858.
my dear Everett,—. . . If I had known that you intended to use Mr. Dowse's account of his youth to me in your most agreeable and interesting lecture last night, 13 I would have given it to you in writing. One or two of the items of his economies I cannot remember; but for the others I will give you, on the next leaf, what I believe are the ipsissima verba of the old man, as he stood just by where I am now writing and leaned on the table. One item I have recalled since I repeated them to you, and if I could remember the others, the accumulation would be a little humorous and very striking. ‘But old, old, Master—’ not Shallow, though Falstaff has it so.

Yours sincerely,

[Mr. Dowse's account of his own youth.]

Mr. Ticknor, when I was twenty-eight years old I had never been anything better than a journeyman leather-dresser; I had never had more than twenty-five dollars a month; I had never paid five dollars to be carried from one place to another; I had never owned a pair of boots; I had never paid a penny to go to the play or to see a sight, but I owned above six hundred volumes of good books, well bound.’

To Hon. Edward Twisleton.

Boston, January 18, 1859.
my dear Twisleton,—I thank you for the correction you have taken the pains to send me of an error in my ‘History of Spanish Literature,’ which I immediately entered in the margin of the copy from which I intend speedily to reprint it. I only wish my other friends would be equally observant and kind. Von Raumer sent me one correction much like yours,--telling me that ‘Ferdinand,’ whom —in note 10 to Chapter XI. of the First Part—I had called ‘father of John I.’ of Portugal, was, in fact, his half-brother. But this is all, and I mention it because it is so, as well as from its odd similarity to the one you have suggested. Even in the notes to the German and Spanish translations few mistakes have been pointed out. Now all this would be very consoling,—even very gratifying,—if it were not for one circumstance, viz. that I have found out so many mistakes myself, [419] that I have little confidence in my readers and reviewers, and am really anxious about the number that may still remain after I have done my best.

Of family news, which are the most important and interesting to dear Ellen—and, therefore, to you—that I can send you, are they not written in the weekly chronicle she receives, from her old home, by every packet-ship? The new engagement and the new grandchild are old stories to you already, and I hate repetitions, vain repetitions. I will only, therefore, sum up all, by saying that we are all well, and that, notwithstanding the changes and trials that have occurred during the last fifteen months, 14 the average of content and happiness in the family is, I think, as great as it ever was.

As to the country, we go on much after the fashion you understand so well from autopsy. . . . . When we talked about our affairs in 1856-57, I easily foresaw that Buchanan would be chosen; that this would lead to no trouble with the governments of Europe, that Walker would fail as a flibustero, and that nothing could prevent Kansas from being a free State. But I cannot foresee now, as I could then. . . . Equally uncertain is what is more immediate,—the result of the present important discussions in Congress about the construction of a railroad from the Mississippi; though it is not doubtful, I fear, whenever it is constructed, that it will be made a stupendous job, involving great corruption, in Congress and out of it . . . . . And then, finally, as to the other great question, nobody, I think, knows what will be done about Utah; though I have no doubt Mormonism will perish of its own wickedness and corruption, and would, in fact, have perished long ago but for the large recruits it has received from the North of Europe. Now, from all these negative and uncertain quantities if you can extract anything positive, I wish you joy of your ingenuity. I cannot.

Your friends here, I think, are all well and doing well. Prescott told me yesterday that he had received letters from you and Mr. Adderley. I have seen him lately almost every day. He is looking as well as ever, and his constitution has accommodated itself, with wonderful alacrity, to the vegetable diet prescribed for him eleven months ago. But he does not yet feel himself equal to severe work, and has not undertaken any. In this I think he is wise.15 [420]

Savage, who is now, I think, seventy-five years old, is uncommonly vivacious and active. He is now getting proof-sheets of the first out of four volumes of his book of vain genealogies . . . . It may be hoped he will live to carry it through the press; and perhaps we ought to hope that he will not long survive its completion. He would be unhappy without the work into which he has put so large a part of his life.

Hillard is very well, and very active. . . . . These are the three people we see most constantly; oftener than we see anybody out of the family. . . . . Tell dear Ellen that I love her just as much as I did when I was at Rutland Gate and Malvern, and hope still that she will come to the United States once more before I die. I talked much about her lately with Sam Eliot, who, with his wife and children, spent a week with us at New Year, and again, only yesterday, with Cogswell, who, after spending three or four days with us, went to New York this morning.

The two Annas and Lizzie send love. So do I. So do Prescott and Hillard, to whom I gave your messages, and so does Savage, to whom you sent none.

Always yours,

To Sir Walter Calverly Trevelyan.

Boston, U. S. A., June 28, 1859.
my dear Sir Walter,—. . . . Hillard16 can tell you all you will want to know about this country . . . . On the Maine Liquor Law, which interests you so much, and which, if it were possible to execute it honestly, would interest me equally, he knows at least as much as I do. But I rather think his opinion is substantially like mine; namely, that it has not advanced the cause of temperance among us, and that it has tended much to bring all laws into disrepute which are not in themselves popular . . . . . It looks as if legislation upon the subject were effete. But we are a people fond of experiments; and, perhaps, in time we shall hit upon something that will do good. I am sure I hope we shall.

Just now I am much more troubled about the European war than about our liquor law, which I do not hear mentioned once a month. But, if you will keep out of it in England, I will be content. At one [421] time I trusted, or rather I hoped, that the financial question would override all the others, and that money would not be found to carry on the contest. But armed men seem to spring from the earth, as they did in the times of Cadmus and Jason, merely because wickedness has been sown broadcast; and the harvest of such seed can only be desolation and misery. Of course, our sympathies are all with the Italians. The difficulty is to see how they are to get any benefit from the struggle. . . . . The ultimate horror is that, with every revolution and war, the governments necessarily become more military,— the number of the standing armies is increased; and this, if the history of the race for three thousand years means anything, is the death of civilization . . . .

Yours very faithfully,

1 Mr. George T. Curtis places among his reminiscences, sent to Mr. Hillard, the following anecdote:—

‘When my brother [the late Benjamin R. Curtis] received the appointment to the Bench of the Supreme Court of the United States, an appointment which, as you know, came to him unsought, but with the approbation of all New England, Mr. Ticknor was deeply gratified and not a little excited by the event, as well he might be; for no person had ever lived who had contributed, more than he, to the formation of the character of the man who had thus been elevated at an early age to one of the highest judicial positions in the country. Speaking to me on the subject, as he felt, he ended by saying, “Well, I believe we must now leave off calling him Ben, ” as my brother had always been called in the family circle and among his familiar friends. Somewhat amused by my uncle's earnestness, I said, “What shall we call him?” “He must be called the Judge, ” was his decisive answer. We agreed, and conformed to this, as an authoritative family decree.’

After Mr. Ticknor's death, in a conversation between the brothers, Judge Curtis said of his uncle, ‘What I owe to that man is not to be measured.’

2 See ante, p. 398.

3 In the following February he writes: ‘We are enjoying a much finer winter than any of the three I have spent in Italy. . . . . We have had almost unbroken bright, cheerful sunshine and a delicious tonic atmosphere.’

4 President John Adams.

5 In another letter, of nearly the same date, he says: ‘I shall be in town a great deal, and do my work there rather than in the country.’

6 Lent by Mr. Ticknor to Mr. Gardiner.

7 Carlos de Montufar was a young man passionately attached to science, and accompanied Humboldt and Bonpland from Quito, where they arrived in January, 1802, through all their travels in Peru and Mexico, till their embarkation at Vera Cruz, in the spring of 1804. (Note by Mr. Ticknor to the translation published June 9, 1858.)

8 Johann Muller had recently died, only fifty-seven years old.

9 Rauch, who died in 1857, was above eighty, and seemed, until shortly before his death, destined to many years of health. When Humboldt kept his eighty-seventh birthday, the 14th September, 1856, with his niece, the admirable Mad. de Bulow, at Tegel, the favorite residence of her father, and of his brother William, he desired to have only one other person of the party, and that was Rauch, undoubtedly then the first of living sculptors. (Note by Mr. Ticknor.)

10 Translation of the above:—

my dear and excellent friend,—Bonds of friendship which have their origin so far back in my family, and the affection felt for you by my brother, William von Humboldt, when you lived in Germany as a young man, seem to impose on me the very pleasant duty of giving you some sign of life,—that is to say, a renewed proof of my attachment to you, and my interest in your country, and a brief account of my labors.

My physical strength declines, but it declines slowly. My steps are more uncertain in their direction, owing to a feebleness (a relaxing) of the ligaments of the knees; but I can remain standing for an hour without being fatigued. I continue to work chiefly at night, being unrelentingly persecuted by my correspondence, which increases the more as one becomes an object of public curiosity. What is called literary celebrity is especially the result of a long endurance of life. This kind of eminence increases, therefore, in proportion as imbecility becomes more manifest. I am never really ill, but often incommoded, as is to be expected at the age of eighty-nine.

Since we were only two persons in the American Expedition (the unfortunate Carlos Montufar, son of the Marquis de Selvalegra, of Quito, fell a victim to his love for the liberty of his country), it is somewhat remarkable that we should both have reached so advanced an age. Bonpland, still much occupied with scientific labors, even cherishing the hope of visiting Europe again, and of bringing in person back to Paris his rich and beautiful collections in botany and geology, is eighty-five years old, and enjoys greater strength than I do.

I have just published in Germany the fourth volume of ‘Cosmos,’ and they are now printing the fifth volume, which completes that work, so imprudently begun and so favorably received by the public. General Sabine writes me that the English translation is finished and will appear immediately. The same news comes to me from France, from M. Galuzzi, who has been passing the winter in the south, at Cannes.

The great and beautiful work of Agassiz (the first two volumes) reached me only a few days since. It will produce a great effect by the breadth of its general views, and by the extreme sagacity of its special embryological observations. I never believed that this illustrious man, who is no less a man of a constant and beautiful nature, would accept the offers nobly made him in Paris. I was sure that gratitude would bind him to a new country, where he finds a field so immense for his researches and great means of assistance. I hope he may be inclined, together with his great anatomical and physiological labors among the inferior organisms, to give us also the specific ichthyology of the numerous basins of the ‘far West,’ beginning with the Holy Empire of the Mormons.

Science has lately met with an immense loss here by the unexpected death of the greatest anatomist of our century, Prof. Johann Muller. This loss is as great for science as was for art the death of the immortal sculptor, Rauch. The universality of his zoological knowledge in the inferior organizations placed Johann Muller near Cuvier, having a great pre-eminence in the delicacy of his anatomical and physiological work. He made long and painful voyages, at his own expense, on the shores of the Mediterranean and in the Northern Seas. It is scarcely two years since he came near perishing by shipwreck on the coast of Norway. He sustained himself by swimming for more than half an hour, and considered himself quite lost, when he was wonderfully rescued. I lose in him a friend who was very dear to me. He was a man of great talent, and at the same time of a noble character. He was admirable for the elevation and independence of his opinions. By making enormous sacrifices he was able to form a choice library, not only of anatomy, physiology, and zoology, but one that extended over all the physical sciences. It consists of more than three thousand volumes, well bound, and of as many more volumes containing dissertations, so difficult to collect. Mr. Muller spent nearly eight hundred thalers a year [six hundred dollars] for binding alone. It would be sad to see a collection dispersed and broken up which was made with so much care. Since duplicates are dreaded in Europe, I cannot help fearing lest this fine collection should cross the great Atlantic river. I have almost the air of exciting your appetite when I thus present myself before you as a citizen of the world, while the Church Journal of Vienna calls me, in capital letters, a naturalist assassin of souls, Seelenmorder.

Accept, I beg you, my dear and respected friend, the renewal of the high and affectionate consideration which, for so many years, I have given to your talents and to your character.

Berlin, 9 May, 1858.
Since so many benevolent persons, colored as well as white, in the United States, take an interest in me, it would be agreeable to me, my dear friend, if this letter, translated into English by you, could be printed, without omitting what relates to our mutual friendship. If you think it necessary you can add that I have myself begged of you this publication, because I leave unanswered so many letters that are addressed to me.

11 An admirable treatise by Sir E. Head.

12 Translation by Sir E. Head.

13 When Mr. Everett had delivered a eulogy on Mr. Dowse, before the Massachusetts Historical Society.

14 The financial troubles of 1857 had impaired the fortunes of some of the relatives of Mrs. Ticknor and Mrs. Twisleton.

15 Mr. Prescott died nine days after this was written. The whole of this subject is reserved for a later chapter.

16 Then visiting England, and introduced to Sir Walter Trevelyan by Mr. Ticknor.

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