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III. Groton and Providence. Letters and journals.

What hath not man sought out and found,
     But his dear God? Who yet his glorious love
Embosoms in us, mellowing the ground
     With showers, and frosts, with love and awe.

No one need pride himself upon Genius, for it is the free-gift of God; but of honest Industry and true devotion to his destiny any man may well be proud; indeed, this thorough integrity of purpose is itself the Divine Idea in its most common form, and no really honest mind is without communion with God Fichte.


God did anoint thee with his odorous oil,
To wrestle, not to reign; and he assigns
All thy tears over, like pure crystallines,
For younger fellow-workers of the soil
To wear for amulets. So others shall
Take patience, labor, to their hearts and hands,
From thy hands, and thy heart, and thy brave cheer,
And God's grace fructify through thee to all.

While I was restless, nothing satisfied,
Distrustful, most perplexed—yet felt somehow
A mighty power was brooding, taking shape
Within me; and this lasted till one night
When, as I sat revolving it and more,
A still voice from without said,—‘Seest thou not,
Desponding child, whence came defeat and loss?
Even from thy strength.’

Heaven's discipline has been invariable to me. The seemingly most pure and noble hopes have beer blighted; the seemingly most promising connections broken. The lesson has been endlessly repeated: ‘Be humble, patient, self-sustaining; hope only for occasional aids; love others, but not engrossingly, for by being much alone your appointed task can best be done!’ What a weary work is before me, ere that lesson shall be fully learned! Who shall wonder at the stiff-necked, and rebellious folly of young Israel, bowing down to a brute image, though the prophet was bringing messages from the holy mountain, while one's own youth is so obstinately idolatrous! Yet will I try to keep the heart with diligence, nor ever fear that the sun is gone out because I shiver in the cold and dark!

Such was the tone of resignation in which Margaret wrote from Groton, Massachusetts, whither, much to her regret, her father removed in the spring of 1833. Extracts from letters and journals will show how stern [1146] was her schooling there, and yet how constant was her faith, that
God keeps a niche
     In heaven to hold our idols! And albeit
He breaks them to our faces, and denies
     That our close kisses should impair their white,
I know we shall behold them raised, complete,
     The dust shook from their beauty,—glorified,
New Memnons singing in the great God-light.

Sad welcome home.

Groton, April 25, 1833.—I came hither, summoned by the intelligence, that our poor——had met with a terrible accident. I found the dear child,—who had left me so full of joy and eagerness, that I thought with a sigh, not of envy, how happy he, at least, would be here,—burning with fever. He had expected me impatiently, and was very faint lest it should not be ‘Margaret’ who had driven up. I confess I greeted our new home with a flood of bitter tears. He behaves with great patience, sweetness, and care for the comfort of others. This has been a severe trial for mother, :fatigued, too, as she was, and full of care; but her conduct is angelic. I try to find consolation in all kinds of arguments, and to distract my thoughts till the precise amount of injury is surely known. I am not idle a moment. When not with——, in whose room I sit, sewing, and waiting upon him, or reading aloud a great part of the day, I solace my soul with Goethe, and follow his guidance into realms of the ‘Wahren Guten, and Schonen.’


May, 1833.—As to German, I have done less that [1147] I hoped, so much had the time been necessarily broken up. I have with me the works of Goethe which I have not yet read, and am now engaged upon ‘Kunst and Alterthum,’ and ‘Campagne in Frankreich.’ I still prefer Goethe to any one, and, as I proceed, find more and more to learn, and am made to feel that my general notion of his mind is most imperfect, and needs testing and sifting.

I brought your beloved Jean Paul with me, too. I cannot yet judge well, but think we shall not be ultimate. His infinitely variegated, and certainly most exquisitely colored, web fatigues attention. I prefer, too, wit to humor, and daring imagination to the richest fancy. Besides, his philosophy and religion seem to be of the sighing sort, and, having some tendency that way myself, I want opposing force in a favorite author. Perhaps I have spoken unadvisedly; if so, I shall recant on further knowledge.

And thus recant she did, when familiar acquaintance with the genial and sagacious humorist had won for him her reverent love.


Poet of Nature! Gentlest of the wise,
     Most airy of the fanciful, most keen
Of satirists!—thy thoughts, like butterflies,
     Still near the sweetest scented flowers have been
With Titian's colors thou canst sunset paint,
     With Raphael's dignity, celestial love;
With Hogarth's pencil, each deceit and feint
     Of meanness and hypocrisy reprove; [1148]
Canst to devotion's highest flight sublime
     Exalt the mind, by tenderest pathos' art,
Dissolve, in purifying tears, the heart,
     Or bid it, shuddering, recoil at crime;
The fond illusions of the youth and maid,
     At which so many world-formed sages sneer,
When by thy altar-lighted torch displayed,
     Our natural religion must appear.
All things in thee tend to one polar star,
     Magnetic all thy influences are!

Some murmur at the ‘want of system’ in Richter's writings.
A labyrinth! a flowery wilderness!
     Some in thy ‘slip-boxes’ and ‘honey-moons’
Complain of—want of order, I confess,
     But not of system in its highest sense.
Who asks a guiding clue through this wide mind,
     In love of Nature such will surely find.
In tropic climes, live like the tropic bird,
     Whene'er a spice-fraught grove may tempt thy stay;
Nor be by cares of colder climes disturbed-
     No frost the summer's bloom shall drive away;
Nature's wide temple and the azure dome
     Have plan enough for the free spirit's home!

Your Schiller has already given me great pleasure. I have been reading the ‘Revolt in the Netherlands’ with intense interest, and have reflected much upon it. The volumes are numbered in my little book-case, and as the eye runs over them, I thank the friendly heart that put all this genius and passion within my power.

I am glad, too, that you thought of lending me ‘Bigelow's Elements.’ I have studied the Architecture attentively, till I feel quite mistress of it all [1149] But I want more engravings, Vitruvius, Magna Graecia, the Ionian Antiquities, &c. Meanwhile, I have got out all our tours in Italy. Forsyth, a book I always loved much, I have re-read with increased pleasure, by this new light. Goethe, too, studied architecture while in Italy; so his books are full of interesting information; and Madame De Stael, though not deep, is tasteful.

American History! Seriously, my mind is regenerating as to my country, for I am beginning to appreciate the United States and its great men. The violent antipathies,—the result of an exaggerated love for, shall I call it by so big a name as the ‘poetry of being?’ —and the natural distrust arising from being forced to hear the conversation of half-bred men, all whose petty feelings were roused to awkward life by the paltry game of local politics,—are yielding to reason and calmer knowledge. Had I but been educated in the knowledge of such men as Jefferson, Franklin, Rush! I have learned now to know them partially. And I rejoice, if only because my father and I can have so much in common on this topic. All my other pursuits have led me away from him; here he has much information and ripe judgment. But, better still, I hope to feel no more that sometimes despairing, sometimes insolently contemptuous, feeling of incongeniality with my time and place. Who knows but some proper and attainable object of pursuit may present itself to the cleared eye? At any rate, wisdom is good, if it brings neither bliss nor glory.

March, 1834.—Four pupils are a serious and fatiguing charge for one of my somewhat ardent and [1150] impatient disposition. Five days in the week I have given daily lessons in three languages, in Geography and History, besides many other exercises on alternate days. This has consumed often eight, always five hours of my day. There has been, also, a great deal of needle-work to do, which is now nearly finished, so that 1 shall not be obliged to pass my time about it when everything looks beautiful, as I did last summer. We have had very poor servants, and, for some time past, only one. My mother has been often ill. My grandmother, who passed the winter with us, has been ill. Thus, you may imagine, as I am the only grown-up daughter, that my time has been considerably taxed.

But as, sad or merry, I must always be learning, I laid down a course of study at the beginning of winter, comprising certain subjects, about which I had always felt deficient. These were the History and Geography of modern Europe, beginning the former in the fourteenth century; the Elements of Architecture; the works of Alfieri, with his opinions on them; the historical and critical works of Goethe and Schiller, and the outlines of history of our own country.

I chose this time as one when I should have nothing to distract or dissipate my mind. I have nearly completed this course, in the style I proposed,—not minute or thorough, I confess,—though I have had only three evenings in the week, and chance hours in the day, for it. I am very glad I have undertaken it, and feel the good effects already. Occasionally, I try my hand at composition, but have not completed anything to my own satisfaction. I have sketched a number of plans, but if ever accomplished, it must be in a season of more joyful energy, when my mind has been renovated, and [1151] refreshed by change of scene or circumstance. My translation of Tasso cannot be published at present, if it ever is.

My object is to examine thoroughly, as far as my time and abilities will permit, the evidences of the Christian Religion. I have endeavored to get rid of this task as much and as long as possible; to be content with superficial notions, and, if I may so express it, to adopt religion as a matter of taste. But I meet with infidels very often; two or three of my particular friends are deists; and their arguments, with distressing sceptical notions of my own, are haunting me forever. I must satisfy myself; and having once begun, I shall go on as far as I can.

My mind often swells with thoughts on these subjects, which I long to pour out on some person of superior calmness and strength, and fortunate in more accurate knowledge. I should feel such a quieting reaction. But, generally, it seems best that I should go through these conflicts alone. The process will be slower, more irksome, more distressing, but the results will be my own, and I shall feel greater confidence in them.

Miss Martineau.

In the summer of 1835, Margaret found a fresh stimulus to self-culture in the society of Miss Martineau, whom she met while on a visit at Cambridge, in the house of her friend, Mrs. Farrar. How animating this intercourse then was to her, appears from her journals. [1152]
Miss Martineau received me so kindly as to banish all embarrassment at once. * * We had some talk about ‘Carlyleism,’ and I was not quite satisfied with the ground she took, but there was no opportunity for full discussion. * * I wished to give myself wholly up to receive an impression of her. * * What shrewdness in detecting various shades of character! Yet, what she said of Hannah More and Miss Edgeworth, grated upon my feelings.

* *

Again, later:—

I cannot conceive how we chanced upon the subject of our conversation, but never shall I forget what she said. It has bound me to her. In that hour, most unexpectedly to me, we passed the barrier that separates acquaintance from friendship, and I saw how greatly her heart is to be valued.

And again:—

We sat together close to the pulpit I was deeply moved by Mr.——'s manner of praying for ‘our friends,’ and I put up this prayer for my companion, which I recorded, as it rose in my heart: ‘Author of good, Source of all beauty and holiness, thanks to Thee for the purifying, elevating communion that I have enjoyed with this beloved and revered being. Grant, that the thoughts she has awakened, and the bright image of her existence, may live in my memory, inciting my earth-bound spirit to higher words and deeds. May her path be guarded and blessed. May her noble mind be kept firmly poised in its native truth, unsullied by prejudice or error, and strong to resist whatever outwardly or inwardly shall war against its high vocation. May each day bring to this generous seeker new riches of true philosophy [1153] and of Divine Love. And, amidst all trials, give her to know and feel that Thou, the All-sufficing, art with her, leading her on through eternity to likeness of Thyself.’

I sigh for an intellectual guide. Nothing but the sense of what God has done for me, in bringing me nearer to himself, saves me from despair. With what envy I looked at Flaxman's picture of Hesiod sitting at the the feet of the Muse! How blest would it be to be thus instructed in one's vocation! Anything would I do and suffer, to be sure that, when leaving earth, I should not be haunted with recollections of ‘aims unreached, occasions lost.’ I have hoped some friend would do,—what none has ever yet done,—comprehend me wholly, mentally, and morally, and enable me better to comprehend myself. I have had some hope that Miss Martineau might be this friend, but cannot yet tell. She has what I want,—vigorous reasoning powers, invention, clear views of her objects,—and she has been trained to the best means of execution. Add to this, that there are no strong intellectual sympathies between us, such as would blind her to my defects.

A delightful letter from Miss Martineau. I mused long upon the noble courage with which she stepped forward into life, and the accurate judgment with which she has become acquainted with its practical details, without letting her fine imagination become tamed. I shall be cheered and sustained, amidst all fretting and uncongenial circumstances, by remembrance of her earnest love of truth and ardent faith.



A terrible feeling in my head, but kept about my usual avocations. Read Ugo Foscolo's Sepolcri, and Pindemonti's answer, but could not relish either, so distressing was the weight on the top of the brain; sewed awhile, and then went out to get warm, but could not, though I walked to the very end of Hazel-grove, and the sun was hot upon me. Sat down, and, though seemingly able to think with only the lower part of my head, meditated literary plans, with full hope that, if I could command leisure, I might do something good. It seemed as if I should never reach home, as I was obliged to sit down incessantly. * *

For nine long days and nights, without intermission, all was agony,—fever and dreadful pain in my head. Mother tended me like an angel all that time, scarcely ever leaving me, night or day. My father, too, habitually so sparing in tokens of affection, was led by his anxiety to express what he felt towards me in stronger terms than he had ever used in the whole course of my life. He thought I might not recover, and one morning, coming into my room, after a few moments' conversation, he said: ‘My dear, I have been thinking of you in the night, and I cannot remember that you have any faults. You have defects, of course, as all mortals have, but I do not know that you have a single fault.’ These words,—so strange from him, who had scarce ever in my presence praised me, and who, as I knew, abstained from praise as hurtful to his children,— affected me to tears at the time, although I could not foresee how dear and consolatory this extravagant expression of regard would very soon become. The [1155] family were deeply moved by the fervency of his prayer of thanksgiving, on the Sunday morning when I was somewhat recovered; and to mother he said, ‘I have no room for a painful thought now that our daughter is restored.’

For myself, I thought I should die; but I was calm, and looked to God without fear. When I remembered how much struggle awaited me if I remained, and how improbable it was that any of my cherished plans would bear fruit, I felt willing to go. But Providence did not so will it. A much darker dispensation for our family was in store.

Death of her father.

On the evening of the 30th of September, 1835, my father was seized with cholera, and on the 2d of October, was a corpse. For the first two days, my grief, under this calamity, was such as I dare not speak of. But since my father's head is laid in the dust, I feel an awful calm, and am becoming familiar with the thoughts of being an orphan. I have prayed to God that duty may now be the first object, and self set aside. May I have light and strength to do what is right, in the highest sense for my mother, brothers, and sister. * *

It has been a gloomy week, indeed. The children have all been ill, and dearest mother is overpowered with sorrow, fatigue, and anxiety. I suppose she must be ill too, when the children recover. I shall endeavor to keep my mind steady, by remembering that there is a God, and that grief is but for a season. Grant, oh Father, that neither the joys nor sorrows of this past [1156] year shall have visited my heart in vain! Make me wise and strong for the performance of immediate duties, and ripen me, by what means Thou seest best, for those which lie beyond. * *

My father's image follows me constantly. Whenever I am in my room, he seems to open the door, and to look on me with a complacent, tender smile. What would I not give to have it in my power, to make that heart once more beat with joy! The saddest feeling is the remembrance of little things, in which I have fallen short of love and duty. I never sympathized in his liking for this farm, and secretly wondered how a mind which had, for thirty years, been so widely engaged in the affairs of men, could care so much for trees and crops. But now, amidst the beautiful autumn days, I walk over the grounds, and look with painful emotions at every little improvement. He had selected a spot to place a seat where I might go to read alone, and had asked me to visit it. I contented myself with ‘When you please, father;’ but we never went! What would 1 not now give, if I had fixed a time, and shown more interest! A day or two since, I went there. The tops of the distant blue hills were veiled in delicate autumn haze; soft silence brooded over the landscape; on one side, a brook gave to the gently sloping meadow spring-like verdure; on the other, a grove,—which he had named for me,—lay softly glowing in the gorgeous hues of October. It was very sad. May this sorrow give me a higher sense of duty in the relationships which remain.

Dearest mother is worn to a shadow. Sometimes, when I look on her pale face, and think of all her grief, and the cares and anxieties which now beset her, I am [1157] appalled by the thought that she may not continue with us long. Nothing sustains me now but the thought that God, who saw fit to restore me to life when I was so very willing to leave it,—more so, perhaps, than I shall ever be again,—must have some good work for me to do.

Nov. 3, 1835.—I thought I should be able to write ere now, how our affairs were settled, but that time has not come yet. My father left no will, and, in consequence, our path is hedged in by many petty difficulties. He has left less property than we had anticipated, for he was not fortunate in his investments in real estate. There will, however, be enough to maintain my mother, and educate the children decently. I have often had reason to regret being of the softer sex, and never more than now. If I were an eldest son, I could be guardian to my brothers and sister, administer the estate, and really become the head of my family. As it is, I am very ignorant of the management and value of property, and of practical details. I always hated the din of such affairs, and hoped to find a lifelong refuge from them in the serene world of literature and the arts. But I am now full of desire to learn them, that I may be able to advise and act, where it is necessary. The same mind which has made other attainments, can, in time, compass these, however uncongenial to its nature and habits.

I shall be obliged to give up selfishness in the end. May God enable me to see the way clear, and not to let down the intellectual, in raising the moral tone of my mind. Difficulties and duties became distinct the [1158] very night after my father's death, and a solemn prayer was offered then, that I might combine what is due to others with what is due to myself. The spirit of that prayer I shall constantly endeavor to maintain. What ought to be done for a few months to come is plain, and, as I proceed, the view will open


The death of her father brought in its tram a disappointment as keen as Margaret could well have been called on to bear. For two years and more she had been buoyed up to intense effort by the promise of a visit to Europe, for the end of completing her culture. And as the means of equitably remunerating her parents for the cost of such a tour, she had faithfully devoted herself to the teaching of the younger members of the family Her honored friends, ProfessorFarrar and Mrs. Farrar, who were about visiting the Old World, had invited her to be their companion; and, as Miss Martineau was to return to England in the ship with them, the prospect before her was as brilliant with generous hopes as her aspiring imagination could conceive. But now, in her journal of January 1, 1836, she writes:—
The New-year opens upon me under circumstances inexpressibly sad. I must make the last great sacrifice, and, apparently, for evil to me and mine. Life, as I look forward, presents a scene of struggle and privation only. Yet ‘I bate not a jot of heart,’ though much ‘of hope.’ My difficulties are not to be compared with those over which many strong souls have triumphed. Shall I then despair? If I do, I am not a strong soul.


Margaret's family treated her, in this exigency, with the grateful consideration due to her love, and urgently besought her to take the necessary means, and fulfil her father's plan. But she could not make up her mind to forsake them, preferring rather to abandon her longcherished literary designs. Her struggles and her triumph thus appear in her letters:—

January 30, 1836.—I was a great deal with Miss Martineau, while in Cambridge, and love her more than ever. She is to stay till August, and go to England with Mr.Farrar and Mrs. Farrar. If I should accompany them I shall be with her while in London, and see the best literary society. If I should go, you will be with mother the while, will not you?1 Oh, dear E——, you know not how I fear and tremble to come to a decision. My temporal all seems hanging upon it, and the prospect is most alluring. A few thousand dollars would make all so easy, so safe. As it is, I cannot tell what is coming to us, for the estate will not be settled when I go. I pray to God ceaselessly that I may decide wisely.

April 17th, 1836.—If I am not to go with you I shall be obliged to tear my heart, by a violent effort, from its present objects and natural desires. But I shall feel the necessity, and will do it if the life-blood follows through the rent. Probably, I shall not even think it best to correspond with you at all while you are in Europe. Meanwhile, let us be friends indeed. The generous and unfailing love which you have shown me during these three years, when I could be so little to you, your indulgence [1160] for my errors and fluctuations, your steady faith in my intentions, have done more to shield and sustain me than any other earthly influence. If I must now learn to dispense with feeling them constantly near me, at least their remembrance can never, never be less dear. I suppose I ought, instead of grieving that we are soon to be separated, now to feel grateful for an intimacy of extraordinary permanence, and certainly of unstained truth and perfect freedom on both sides.

As to my feelings, I take no pleasure in speaking of them; but I know not that I could give you a truer impression of them, than by these lines which I translate from the German of Uhland. They are entitled


Our youthful fancies, idly fired,
     The fairest visions would embrace;
These, with impetuous tears desired,
     Float upward into starry space;
Heaven, upon the suppliant wild,
     Smiles down a gracious No!—In vain
The strife! Yet be consoled, poor child,
     For the wish passes with the pain.

But when from such idolatry
     The heart has turned, and wiser grown,
In earnestness and purity
     Would make a nobler plan its own,—
Yet, after all its zeal and care,
     Must of its chosen aim despair,--
Some bitter tears may be forgiven
     By Man, at least,—we trust, by Heaven.


May 23d, 1836.—I have just been reading Goethe's Lebensregel. It is easy to say ‘Do not trouble yourself [1161] with useless regrets for the past; enjoy the present, and leave the future to God.’ But it is not easy for characters, which are by nature neither calm nor careless, to act upon these rules. I am rather of the opinion of Novalis, that ‘Wer sich der hochsten Lieb ergeben Genest von ihnen Wunden nie.’

But I will endeavor to profit by the instructions of the great philosopher who teaches, I think, what Christ did, to use without overvaluing the world.

Circumstances have decided that I must not go to Europe, and shut upon me the door, as I think, forever, to the scenes I could have loved. Let me now try to forget myself, and act for others' sakes. What I can do with my pen, I know not. At present, I feel no confidence or hope. The expectations so many have been led to cherish by my conversational powers, I am disposed to deem ill-founded. I do not think I can produce a valuable work. I do not feel in my bosom that confidence necessary to sustain me in such undertakings, —the confidence of genius. But I am now but just recovered from bodily illness, and still heart-broken by sorrow and disappointment. I may be renewed again, and feel differently. If I do not soon, I will make up my mind to teach. I can thus get money, which I will use for the benefit of my dear, gentle, suffering mother, —my brothers and sister. This will be the greatest consolation to me, at all events.

Death in life.

The moon tempted me out, and I set forth for a house at no great distance. The beloved south-west was blowing; the heavens were flooded with light, which [1162] could not diminish the tremulously pure radiance of the evening star; the air was full of spring sounds, and sweet spring odors came up from the earth. I felt that happy sort of feeling, as if the soul's pinions were budding. My mind was full of poetic thoughts, and nature's song of promise was chanting in my heart.

But what a change when I entered that human dwelling! I will try to give you an impression of what you, I fancy, have never come in contact with. The little room—they have but one—contains a bed, a table, and some old chairs. A single stick of wood burns in the fire-place. It is not needed now, but those who sit near it have long ceased to know what spring is. They are all frost. Everything is old and faded, but at the same time as clean and carefully mended as possible. For all they know of pleasure is to get strength to sweep those few boards, and mend those old spreads and curtains. That sort of self-respect they have, and it is all of pride their many years of poortith has left them.

And there they sit,—mother and daughter! In the mother, ninety years have quenched every thought and every feeling, except an imbecile interest about her daughter, and the sort of self-respect I just spoke of. Husband, sons, strength, health, house and lands, all are gone. And yet these losses have not had power to bow that palsied head to the grave. Morning by morning she rises without a hope, night by night she lies down vacant or apathetic; and the utmost use she can make of the day is to totter three or four times across the floor by the assistance of her staff. Yet, though we wonder that she is still permitted to cumber the ground, joyless and weary, ‘the tomb of her dead self.’ we [1163] look at this dry leaf, and think how green it once was, and how the birds sung to it in its summer day.

But can we think of spring, or summer, or anything joyous or really life-like, when we look at the daughter? —that bloodless effigy of humanity, whose care is to eke out this miserable existence by means of the occasional doles of those who know how faithful and good a child she has been to that decrepit creature; who thinks herself happy if she can be well enough, by hours of patient toil, to perform those menial services which they both require; whose talk is of the price of pounds of sugar, and ounces of tea, and yards of flannel; whose only intellectual resource is hearing five of six verses of the Bible read every day,—‘my poor head,’ she says, ‘cannot bear any more;’ and whose only hope is the death to which she has been so slowly and wearily advancing, through many years like this.

The saddest part is, that she does not wish for death. She clings to this sordid existence. Her soul is now so habitually enwrapt in the meanest cares, that if she were to be lifted two or three steps upward, she would not know what to do with life; how, then, shall she soar to the celestial heights? Yet she ought; for she has ever been good, and her narrow and crushing duties have been performed with a self-sacrificing constancy, which I, for one, could never hope to equal.

While I listened to her,—and I often think it good for me to listen to her patiently,—the expressions you used in your letter, about ‘drudgery,’ occurred to me. I remember the time when I, too, deified the ‘soul's impulses.’ It is a noble worship; but, if we do not aid it by a just though limited interpretation of what ‘Ought’ means, it will degenerate into idolatry. For [1164] a time it was so with me, and I am not yet good enough to love the Ought.

Then I came again into the open air, and saw those resplendent orbs moving so silently, and thought that they were perhaps tenanted, not only by beings in whom I can see the germ of a possible angel, but by myriads like this poor creature, in whom that germ is, so far as we can see, blighted entirely, I could not help saying, ‘O my Father! Thou, whom we are told art all Power, and also all Love, how canst Thou suffer such even transient specks on the transparence of Thy creation? These grub-like lives, undignified even by passion,— these life-long quenchings of the spark divine,— why dost Thou suffer them? Is not Thy paternal benevolence impatient till such films be dissipated?’

Such questionings once had power to move my spirit deeply; now, they but shade my mind for an instant. I have faith in a glorious explanation, that shall make manifest perfect justice and perfect wisdom.


Cut off from access to the scholars, libraries, lectures, galleries of art, museums of science, antiquities, and historic scenes of Europe, Margaret bent her powers to use such opportunities of culture as she could command in her solitary country-home. Journals and letters thus bear witness to her zeal:—
I am having one of my ‘intense’ times, devouring book after book. I never stop a minute, except to talk with mother, having laid all little duties on the shelf [1165] for a few days. Among other things, I have twice read through the life of Sir J. Mackintosh; and it has suggested so much to me, that I am very sorry I did not talk it over with you. It is quite gratifying, after my late chagrin, to find Sir James, with all his metaphysical turn, and ardent desire to penetrate it, puzzling so over the German philosophy, and particularly what I was myself troubled about, at Cambridge,—Jacobi's letters to Fichte.

Few things have ever been written more discriminating or more beautiful than his strictures upon the Hindoo character, his portrait of Fox, and his second letter to Robert Hall, after his recovery from derangement. Do you remember what he says of the want of brilliancy in Priestley's moral sentiments? Those remarks, though slight, seem to me to show the quality of his mind more decidedly than anything in the book. That so much learning, benevolence, and almost unparalleled fairness of mind, should be in a great measure lost to the world, for want of earnestness of purpose, might impel us to attach to the latter attribute as much importance as does the wise uncle in Wilhelm Meister.

As to what you say of Shelley, it is true that the unhappy influences of early education prevented his ever attaining clear views of God, life, and the soul. At thirty, he was still a seeker,—an experimentalist. But then his should not be compared with such a mind as ——'s, which, having no such exuberant fancy to tame, nor various faculties to develop, naturally comes to maturity sooner. Had Shelley lived twenty years longer, I have no doubt he would have become a fervent [1166] Christian, and thus have attained that mental harmony which was necessary to him. It is true, too, as you say, that we always feel a melancholy imperfection in what he writes. But I love to think of those other spheres in which so pure and rich a being shall be perfected; and I cannot allow his faults of opinion and sentiment to mar my enjoyment of the vast capabilities, and exquisite perception of beauty, displayed everywhere in his poems.

March 17, 1836.—I think Herschel will be very valuable to me, from the slight glance I have taken of it, and I thank Mr. F.; but do not let him expect anything of me because I have ventured on a book so profound as the Novum Organum. I have been examining myself with severity, intellectually as well as morally, and am shocked to find how vague and superficial is all my knowledge. I am no longer surprised that I should have appeared harsh and arrogant in my strictures to one who, having a better-disciplined mind, is more sensible of the difficulties in the way of really knowing and doing anything, and who, having more Wisdom, has more Reverence too. All that passed at your house will prove very useful to me; and I trust that I am approximating somewhat to that genuine humility which is so indispensable to true regeneration. But do not speak of this to——, for I am not yet sure of the state of my mind.

1836.—I have, for the time, laid aside De Stael and Bacon, for Martineau and Southey. I find, with delight, that the former has written on the very subjects I wished most to talk out with her, and probably [1167] I shall receive more from her in this way than by personal intercourse,—for I think more of her character when with her, and am stimulated through my affections. As to Southey, I am steeped to the lips in enjoyment. I am glad I did not know this poet earlier; for I am now just ready to receive his truly exalting influences in some degree. I think, in reading, I shall place him next to Wordsworth. I have finished Herschel, and really believe I am a little wiser. I have read, too, Heyne's letters twice, Sartor Resartus once, some of Goethe's late diaries, Coleridge's Literary Remains, and drank a great deal from Wordsworth. By the way, do you know his ‘Happy Warrior’? I find my insight of this sublime poet perpetually deepening.

Mr.—— says the Wanderjahre is ‘wise.’ It must be presumed so; and yet one is not satisfied. I was perfectly so with my manner of interpreting the Lehrjahre; but this sequel keeps jerking my clue, and threatens to break it. I do not know our Goethe yet. I have changed my opinion about his religious views many times. Sometimes I am tempted to think that it is only his wonderful knowledge of human nature which has excited in me such reverence for his philosophy, and that no worthy fabric has been elevated on this broad foundation. Yet often, when suspecting that I have found a huge gap, the next turning it appears that it was but an air-hole, and there is a brick all ready to stop it. On the whole, though my enthusiasm for the Goetherian philosophy is checked, my admiration for the genius of Goethe is in nowise lessened, and I stand in a sceptical attitude, ready to try his philosophy, and, if needs must, play the Eclectic.

Did I write that a kind-hearted neighbor, fearing I might be dull, sent to offer me the use of a book-caseful of Souvenirs, Gems, and such-like glittering ware? I took a two or three year old ‘Token,’ and chanced on a story, called the ‘Gentle Boy,’ which I remembered to have heard was written by somebody in Salem. It is marked by so much grace and delicacy of feeling, that I am very desirous to know the author, whom I take to be a lady.

* *
With regard to what you say about the American Monthly, my answer is, I would gladly sell some part of my mind for lucre, to get the command of time; but 1 will not sell my soul: that is, I am perfectly willing to take the trouble of writing for money to pay the seamstress; but I am not willing to have what I write mutilated, or what I ought to say dictated to suit the public taste. You speak of my writing about Tieck. It is my earnest wish to interpret the German authors of whom I am most fond to such Americans as are ready to receive. Perhaps some might sneer at the notion of my becoming a teacher; but where I love so much, surely I might inspire others to love a little; and I think this kind of culture would be precisely the counterpoise required by the utilitarian tendencies of our day and place. My very imperfections may be of value. While enthusiasm is yet fresh, while I am still a novice, it may be more easy to communicate with those quite uninitiated, than when I shall have attained to a higher and calmer state of knowledge. I hope a periodical may arise, by and by, which may think me worthy to furnish a series of articles on German literature, giving room enough and perfect freedom to say what I please. In this case, I should wish to devote at [1169] least eight numbers to Tieck, and should use the Garden of Poesy, and my other translations.

I have sometimes thought of translating his Little Red Riding Hood, for children. If it could be adorned with illustrations, like those in the ‘Story without an End,’ it would make a beautiful little book; but I do not know that this could be done in Boston. There is much meaning that children could not take in; but, as they would never discover this till able to receive the whole, the book corresponds exactly with my notions of what a child's book should be.

I should like to begin the proposed series with a review of Heyne's letters on German Literature, which afford excellent opportunity for some preparatory hints. My plans are so undecided for several coming months, that I cannot yet tell whether I shall have the time and tranquillity needed to write out the whole course, though much tempted by the promise of perfect liberty. I could engage, however, to furnish at least two articles on Novalis and Korner. I trust you will be interested in my favorite Korner. Great is my love for both of them. But I wish to write something which shall not only be free from exaggeration, but which shall seem so, to those unacquainted with their works.

I have so much reading to go through with this month, that I have but few hours for correspondents. I have already discussed five volumes in German, two in French, three in English, and not without thought and examination. * *

Tell —— that I read ‘Titan’ by myself, in the afternoons and evenings of about three weeks. She need not be afraid to undertake it. Difficulties of detail may, perhaps, not be entirely conquered without a master [1170] or a good commentary, but she could enjoy all that is most valuable alone. I should be very unwilling to read it with a person of narrow or unrefined mind; for it is a noble work, and fit to raise a reader into that high serene of thought where pedants cannot enter.

Farewell to Groton.

The place is beautiful, in its way, but its scenery is too tamely smiling and sleeping. My associations with it are most painful. There darkened round us the effects of my father's ill-judged exchange,—ill-judged, so far at least as regarded himself, mother, and me,— all violently rent from the habits of our former life, and cast upon toils for which we were unprepared: there my mother's health was impaired, and mine destroyed; there my father died; there were undergone the miserable perplexities of a family that has lost its head; there I passed through the conflicts needed to give up all which my heart had for years desired, and to tread a path for which I had no skill, and no call, except that it must be trodden by some one, and I alone was ready. Wachuset and the Peterboroa hills are blended in my memory with hours of anguish as great as I am capable of suffering. I used to look at them towering to the sky, and feel that I, too, from birth, had longed to rise, and, though for the moment crushed, was not subdued.

But if those beautiful hills, and wide, rich fields, saw this sad lore well learned, they also saw some precious lessons given in faith, fortitude, self-command and unselfish love. There too, in solitude, the mind acquired more power of concentration, and discerned the beauty of strict method; there too, more than all, the [1171] heart was awakened to sympathize with the ignorant, to pity the vulgar, to hope for the seemingly worthless, and to commune with the Divine Spirit of Creation, which cannot err, which never sleeps, which will not permit evil to be permanent, nor its aim of beauty in the smallest particular eventually to fail.

Winter in Boston.

In the autumn of 1836 Margaret went to Boston, with the two-fold design of teaching Latin and French in Mr. Alcott's school, which was then highly prosperous, and of forming classes of young ladies in French, German, and Italian.

Her view of Mr. Alcott's plan of education was thus hinted in a journal, one day, after she had been talking with him, and trying to place herself in his mental position:—

Mr. A.

O for the safe and natural way of Intuition! I cannot grope like a mole in the gloomy passages of experience. To the attentive spirit, the revelation contained in books is only so far valuable as it comments upon, and corresponds with, the universal revelation. Yet to me, a being social and sympathetic by natural impulse, though recluse and contemplative by training and philosophy, the character and life of Jesus have spoken more forcibly than any fact recorded in human history. This story of incarnate Love has given me the key to all mysteries, and showed me what path should be taken in returning to the Fountain of Spirit. Seeing that other redeemers have imperfectly fulfilled their tasks, I have sought a new way. They all, it seemed [1172] to me, had tried to influence the human being at too late a day, and had laid their plans too wide. They began with men; I will begin with babes. They began with the world; I will begin with the family. So I preach the Gospel of the Nineteenth Century.


But, preacher, you make three mistakes.

You do not understand the nature of Genius or creative power.

You do not understand the reaction of matter on spirit.

You are too impatient of the complex; and, not enjoying variety in unity, you become lost in abstractions, and cannot illustrate your principles.

On the other hand, Mr. Alcott's impressions of Margaret were thus noted in his diaries:—

‘She is clearly a person given to the boldest speculation, and of liberal and varied acquirements. Not wanting in imaginative power, she has the rarest good sense and discretion. She adopts the Spiritual Philosophy, and has the subtlest perception of its bearings. She takes large and generous views of all subjects, and her disposition is singularly catholic. The blending of sentiment and of wisdom in her is most remarkable; and her taste is as fine as her prudence. I think her the most brilliant talker of the day. She has a quick and comprehensive wit, a firm command of her thoughts, and a speech to win the ear of the most cultivated.’

In her own classes Margaret was very successful, and thus in a letter sums up the results:—

I am still quite unwell, and all my pursuits and propensities have a tendency to make my head worse. It [1173] is but a bad head,— as bad as if I were a great man! I am not entitled to so bad a head by anything I have done; but I flatter myself it is very interesting to suffer so much, and a fair excuse for not writing pretty letters, and saying to my friends the good things I think about them.

I was so desirous of doing all I could, that I took a great deal more upon myself than I was able to bear. Yet now that the twenty-five weeks of incessant toil are over, I rejoice in it all, and would not have done an iota less. I have fulfilled all my engagements faithfully; have acquired more power of attention, selfcommand, and fortitude; have acted in life as I thought I would in my lonely meditations; and have gained some knowledge of means. Above all,—blessed be the Father of our spirits!—my aims are the same as they were in the happiest flight of youthful fancy. I have learned too, at last, to rejoice in all past pain, and to see that my spirit has been judiciously tempered for its work. In future I may sorrow, but can I ever despair

The beginning of the winter was forlorn. I was always ill; and often thought I might not live, though the work was but just begun. The usual disappointments, too, were about me. Those from whom aid was expected failed, and others who aided did not understand my aims. Enthusiasm for the things loved best fled when I seemed to be buying and selling them. I could not get the proper point of view, and could not keep a healthful state of mind. Mysteriously a gulf seemed to have opened between me and most intimate friends, and for the first time for many years I was entirely, absolutely, alone. Finally, my own character and designs lost all romantic interest, and I felt vulgarized, [1174] profaned, forsaken,—though obliged to smile brightly and talk wisely all the while. But these clouds at length passed away.

And now let me try to tell you what has been done. To one class I taught the German language, and thought it good success, when, at the end of three months, they could read twenty pages of German at a lesson, and very well. This class, of course, was not interesting, except in the way of observation and analysis of language.

With more advanced pupils I read, in twenty-four weeks, Schiller's Don Carlos, Artists, and Song of the Bell, besides giving a sort of general lecture on Schiller; Goethe's Hermann and Dorothea, Goetz von Berlichingen, Iphigenia, first part of Faust,—three weeks of thorough study this, as valuable to me as to them,— and Clavigo,—thus comprehending samples of all his efforts in poetry, and bringing forward some of his prominent opinions; Lessing's Nathan, Minna, Emilia Galeotti; parts of Tieck's Phantasus, and nearly the whole first volume of Richter's Titan.

With the Italian class, I read parts of Tasso, Petrarch,—whom they came to almost adore,—Ariosto, Alfieri, and the whole hundred cantos of the Divina Commedia, with the aid of the fine Athenaeum copy, Flaxman's designs, and all the best commentaries. This last piece of work was and will be truly valuable to myself.

I had, besides, three private pupils, Mrs.——, who became very attractive to me,——, and little—— who had not the use of his eyes. I taught him Latin orally, and read the History of England and Shakspeare's historical plays in connection. This lesson was [1175] given every day for ten weeks, and was very interesting, though very fatiguing. The labor in Mr. Alcott's school was also quite exhausting. I, however, loved the children, and had many valuable thoughts suggested, and Mr. A.'s society was much to me.

As you may imagine, the Life of Goethe is not yet written; but I have studied and thought about it much. It grows in my mind with everything that does grow there. My friends in Europe have sent me the needed books on the subject, and I am now beginning to work in good earnest. It is very possible that the task may be taken from me by somebody in England, or that in doing it I may find myself incompetent; but I go on in hope, secure, at all events, that it will be the means of the highest culture.

In addition to other labors, Margaret translated, one evening every week, German authors into English, for the gratification of Dr. Channing; their chief reading being in De Wette and Herder.

It was not very pleasant,

she writes,
for Dr. C. takes in subjects more deliberately than is conceivable to us feminine people, with our habits of ducking, diving, or flying for truth. Doubtless, however, he makes better use of what he gets, and if his sympathy were livelier he would not view certain truths in s. steady a light. But there is much more talking than reading; and I like talking with him. I do not feel that constraint which some persons complain of, but am perfectly free, though less called out than by other intellects of inferior power. I get too much food for thought from him, and am not bound to any tiresome formality of respect on account of his age and rank in [1176] the world of intellect. He seems desirous to meet even one young and obscure as myself on equal terms, and trusts to the elevation of his thoughts to keep him in his place.

She found higher satisfaction still in his preaching:—

A discourse from Dr. C. on the spirituality of man's nature. This was delightful! I came away in the most happy, hopeful, and heroic mood. The tone of the discourse was so dignified, his manner was so benignant and solemnly earnest, in his voice there was such a concentration of all his force, physical and moral, to give utterance to divine truth, that I felt purged as by fire. If some speakers feed intellect more, Dr. C. feeds the whole spirit. O for a more calm, more pervading faith in the divinity of my own nature! I am so far from being thoroughly tempered and seasoned, and am sometimes so presumptuous, at others so depressed. Why cannot I lay more to heart the text, ‘God is never in a hurry: let man be patient and confident’?


In the spring of 1837, Margaret received a very favorable offer to become a principal teacher in the Greene Street School, at Providence, R. I.
The proposal is, that I shall teach the elder girls my favorite branches, for four hours a day,—choosing my own hours, and arranging the course,—for a thousand dollars a year, if, upon trial, I am well enough pleased to stay. This would be independence, and would [1177] enable me to do many slight services for my family. But, on the other hand, I am not sure that I shall like the situation, and am sanguine that, by perseverance, the plan of classes in Boston might be carried into full effect. Moreover, Mr. Ripley,—who is about publishing a series of works on Foreign Literature,—has invited me to prepare the ‘Life of Goethe,’ on very advantageous terms. This I should much prefer. Yet when the thousand petty difficulties which surround us are considered, it seems unwise to relinquish immediate independence.

She accepted, therefore, the offer which promised certain means of aiding her family, and reluctantly gave up the precarious, though congenial, literary project.

School experiences.

The new institution of which I am to be ‘Lady Superior’? was dedicated last Saturday. People talk to me of the good I am to do; but the last fortnight has been so occupied in the task of arranging many scholars of various ages and unequal training, that I cannot yet realize this new era. * *

The gulf is vast, wider than I could have conceived possible, between me and my pupils; but the sight of such deplorable ignorance, such absolute burial of the best powers, as I find in some instances, makes me comprehend, better than before, how such a man as Mr. Alcott could devote his life to renovate elementary education. I have pleasant feelings when I see that a new world has already been opened to them. * *

Nothing of the vulgar feeling towards teachers, too often to be observed in schools, exists towards me. [1178] The pupils seem to reverence my tastes and opinions in all things; they are docile, decorous, and try hard to please; they are in awe of my displeasure, but delighted whenever permitted to associate with me on familiar terms. As I treat them like ladies, they are anxious to prove that they deserve to be so treated. * *

There is room here for a great move in the cause of education, and if I could resolve on devoting five or six years to this school, a good work might, doubtless, be done. Plans are becoming complete in my mind, ways and means continually offer, and, so far as I have tried them, they succeed. I am left almost as much at liberty as if no other person was concerned. Some sixty scholars are more or less under my care, and many of them begin to walk in the new paths pointed out. General activity of mind, accuracy in processes, constant looking for principles, and search after the good and the beautiful, are the habits I strive to develop. * *

I will write a short record of the last day at school. For a week past I have given the classes in philosophy, rhetoric, history, poetry, and moral science, short lectures on the true objects of study, with advice as to their future course; and to-day, after recitation, I expressed my gratification that the minds of so many had been opened to the love of good and beauty.

Then came the time for last words First, I called into the recitation room the boys who had been under my care. They are nearly all interesting, and have showed a chivalric feeling in their treatment of me. People talk of women not being able to govern boys; but I have always found it a very easy task. He must be a coarse boy, indeed, who, when addressed in a resolute, yet gentle manner, by a lady, will not try to merit her [1179] esteem. These boys have always rivalled one another in respectful behavior. I spoke a few appropriate words to each, mentioning his peculiar errors and good deeds, mingling some advice with more love, which will, I hope, make it remembered. We took a sweet farewell. With the younger girls I had a similar interview.

Then I summoned the elder girls, who have been my especial charge. I reminded them of the ignorance in which some of them were found, and showed them how all my efforts had necessarily been directed to stimulating their minds,—--leaving undone much which, under other circumstances, would have been deemed indispensable. I thanked them for the favorable opinion of my government which they had so generally expressed, but specified three instances in which I had been unjust. I thanked them, also, for the moral beauty of their conduct, bore witness that an appeal to conscience had never failed, and told them of my happiness in having the faith thus confirmed, that young persons can be best guided by addressing their highest nature. I declared my consciousness of having combined, not only in speech but in heart, tolerance and delicate regard for the convictions of their parents, with fidelity to my own, frankly uttered. I assured them of my true friendship, proved by my never having cajoled or caressed them into good. Every word of praise had been earned; all my influence over them was rooted in reality; I had never softened nor palliated their faults; I had appealed, not to their weakness, but to their strength; I had offered to them, always, the loftiest motives, and had made every other end subordinate to that of spiritual growth. With a heartfelt blessing, [1180] I dismissed them; but none stirred, and we all sat for some moments, weeping. Then I went round the circle and bade each, separately, farewell.


Margaret's Providence journals are made extremely piquant and entertaining, by her life-like portraiture of people and events; and every page attests the scrupulous justice with which she sought to penetrate through surfaces to reality, and, forgetting personal prejudices, to apply universally the test of truth. A few sketches of public characters may suffice to show with what sagacious, all-observing eyes, she looked about her.
At the whig caucus, I heard Tristam Burgess,—‘The old bald Eagle!’ His baldness increases the fine effect of his appearance, for it seems as if the locks had retreated, that the contour of his very strongly marked head might be revealed to every eye. His personnel, as well as I could see, was fitted to command respect rather than admiration. He is a venerable, not a beautiful old man.

He is a rhetorician,—if I could judge from this sample; style inwoven and somewhat ornate, matter frequently wrought up to a climax, manner rather declamatory, though strictly that of a gentleman and a scholar. One art in his oratory was, no doubt, very effective, before he lost force and distinctness of voice. I allude to his way,—after having reasoned a while, till he has reached the desired conclusion,—of leaning forward, with hands reposing but figure very earnest, and communicating, confidentially as it were, the result to the audience. The impression produced in former days, when those low, emphatic passages could be distinctly [1181] heard, must have been very strong. Yet there is too much apparent trickery in this, to bear frequent repetition. His manner is well adapted for argument, and for the expression either of satire or of chivalric sentiment.

Mr. John Neal addressed my girls on the destiny and vocation of Woman in this country. He gave, truly, a manly view, though not the view of common men, and it was pleasing to watch his countenance, where energy is animated by genius. He then spoke to the boys, in the most noble and liberal spirit, on the exercise of political rights. If there is one among them who has the germ of a truly independent man, too generous to become a party tool, and with soul enough to think, as well as feel, for himself, those words were not spoken in vain. He was warmed up into giving a sketch of his boyhood. It was an eloquent narrative, and is ineffaceably impressed on my memory, with every look and gesture of the speaker. What gave chief charm to this history was its fearless ingenuousness. It was delightful to note the impression produced by his magnetic genius and independent character.

In the evening we had a long conversation upon Woman, Whigism, modern English Poets, Shakspeare,—and, in particular, Richard the Third,—about which we had actually a fight. Mr. Neal does not argue quite fairly, for he uses reason while it lasts, and then helps himself out with with sentiment and assertion. I should quarrel with his definitions upon almost every subject, but his fervid eloquence, brilliancy, endless resource, and ready tact, give him great advantage. There was a sort of exaggeration and coxcombry [1182] in his talk; but his lion-heart, and keen sense of the ludicrous, alike in himself as in others, redeem them. I should not like to have my motives scrutinized as he would scrutinize them, for I prefer rather to disclose them myself than to be found out; but I was dissatisfied in parting from this remarkable man before having seen him more thoroughly.

Mr. Whipple addressed the meeting at length. His presence is not imposing, though his face is intellectual. It is difficult to look at him, for you cannot be taken prisoner by his eye, while, en revanche, he can look at you as long as he pleases; and, as usual, with one who can get the better of his auditors, he does not call out the best in them. His gestures are remarkably fine, free, graceful, and expressive. He has no natural advantages of voice,—for it is without compass, depth, sweetness,—and has none of the winning tones which reach the inmost soul, and none of the tones of passionate energy, which raise you out of your own world into the speaker's. But his modulation is smooth, measured, dignified, though occasionally injured by too elaborate a swell, and his enunciation is admirable.

His theme was one which has been so thoroughly discussed that novelty was not to be looked for; but his method and arrangement were excellent, though parts were too much expanded, and the whole might well have been condensed. There were many felicitous popular hits. The humorous touches were skilful, and the illustrations on a broad scale good, though in single images he failed. Altogether, there was a pervading air of ease and mastery, which showed him fit to be a leader of the flock. Though not a man of the Webster [1183] class, he is among the first of the second class of men who apply their powers to practical purposes,—and that is saying much.

I went to hear Joseph John Gurney, one of the most distinguished and influential, it is said, of the English Quakers. He is a thick-set, beetle-browed man, with a well-to-do-in-the-world air of pious stolidity. I was grievously disappointed; for Quakerism has at times looked lovely to me, and I had expected at least a spiritual exposition of its doctrines from the brother of Mrs. Fry. But his manner was as wooden as his matter, and had no merit but that of distinct elocution. His sermon was a tissue of texts, illy selected, and worse patched together, in proof of the assertion that a belief in the Trinity is the one thing needful, and that reason, unless manacled by a creed, is the one thing dangerous. His figures were paltry, his thoughts narrowed down, and his very sincerity made corrupt by spiritual pride. One could not but pity his notions of the Holy Ghost, and his bat-like fear of light. His Man-God seemed to be the keeper of a mad-house, rather than the informing Spirit of all spirits. After finishing his discourse, Mr. G. sang a prayer, in a tone of mingled shout and whine, and then requested his audience to sit a while in devout meditation. For one, I passed the interval in praying for him, that the thick film of self-complacency might be removed from the eyes of his spirit, so that he might no more degrade religion.

Mr. Hague is of the Baptist persuasion, and is very popular with his own sect. He is small, and carries his head erect; he has a high and intellectual, though [1184] not majestic, forehead; his brows are lowering and, when knit in indignant denunciation, give a thunderous look to the countenance, and beneath them flash, sparkle, and flame,—for all that may be said of light in rapid motion is true of them,—his dark eyes. Hazel and blue eyes with their purity, steadfastness, subtle penetration and radiant hope, may persuade and win, but black is the color to command. His mouth has an equivocal expression, but as an orator perhaps he gains power by the air of mystery this gives.

He has a very active intellect, sagacity and elevated sentiment; and, feeling strongly that God is love, can never preach without earnestness. His power comes first from his glowing vitality of temperament. While speaking, his every muscle is in action, and all his action is towards one object. There is perfect abandon. He is permeated, overborne, by his thought. This lends a charm above grace, though incessant nervousness and heat injure his manner. He is never violent, though often vehement; pleading tones in his voice redeem him from coarseness, even when most eager; and he throws himself into the hearts of his hearers, not in weak need of sympathy, but in the confidence of generous emotion. His second attraction is his individuality. He speaks direct from the conviction of his spirit, without temporizing, or artificial method. His is the ‘unpremeditated art,’ and therefore successful. He is full of intellectual life; his mind has not been fettered by dogmas, and the worship of beauty finds a place there. I am much interested in this truly animated being.

Mr. R. H. Dana has been giving us readings in the [1185] English dramatists, beginning with Shakspeare. The introductory was beautiful. After assigning to literature its high place in the education of the human soul, he announced his own view in giving these readings: that he should never pander to a popular love of excitement, but quietly, without regard to brilliancy or effect, would tell what had struck him in these poets; that he had no belief in artificial processes of acquisition or communication, and having never learned anything except through love, he had no hope of teaching any but loving spirits, &c. All this was arrayed in a garb of most delicate grace; but a man of such genuine refinement undervalues the cannon-blasts and rockets which are needed to rouse the attention of the vulgar. His naive gestures, the rapt expression of his face, his introverted eye, and the almost childlike simplicity of his pathos, carry one back into a purer atmosphere, to live over again youth's fresh emotions. I greatly enjoyed his readings in Hamlet, and have reviewed in connection what Goethe and Coleridge have said. Both have successfully seized on the main points in the character of Hamlet, and Mr. D. took nearly the same range. His views of Ophelia, however, are unspeakably more just than are those of Serlo in Wilhelm Meister. I regret that the whole course is not to be on Shakspeare, for I should like to read with him all the plays.

I never have met with a person of finer perceptions. He leaves out nothing; though he over-refines on some passages. He has the most exquisite taste, and freshens the souls of his hearers with ever new beauty. He is greatly indebted to the delicacy of his physical organiation for the delicacy of his mental appreciation. But when he has told you what he likes, the pleasure of [1186] intercourse is over; for he is a man of prejudice more than of reason, and though he can make a lively expose of his thoughts and feelings, he does not justify them. In a word, Mr. Dana has the charms and the defects of one whose object in life has been to preserve his individuality unprofaned.


While residing at Providence, and during her visits to Boston, in her vacations, Margaret's mind was opening more and more to the charms of art.
The Ton-Kunst, the Ton-Welt, give me now more stimulus than the written Word; for music seems to contain everything in nature, unfolded into perfect harmony. In it the all and each are manifested in most rapid transition; the spiral and undulatory movement of beautiful creation is felt throughout, and, as we listen, thought is most clearly, because most mystically, perceived.

I have been to hear Neukomm's Oratorio of David. It is to music what Barry Cornwall's verses and Talfourd's Ion are to poetry. It is completely modern, and befits an age of consciousness. Nothing can be better arranged as a drama; the parts are in excellent gradation, the choruses are grand and effective, the composition, as a whole, brilliantly imposing. Yet it was dictated by taste and science only. Where are the enrapturing visions from the celestial world which shone down upon Haydn and Mozart; where the revelations from the depths of man's nature, which impart such passion to the symphonies of Beethoven; where, even, the fascinating fairy land, gay with [1187] delight, of Rossini? O, Genius! none but thee shall make our hearts and heads throb, our cheeks crimson, our eyes overflow, or fill our whole being with the serene joy of faith.

* *
I went to see Vandenhoff twice, in Brutus and Virginius. Another fine specimen of the conscious school; no inspiration, yet much taste. Spite of the threadpaper Tituses, the chambermaid Virginias, the washerwoman Tullias, and the people, made up of half a dozen chimney-sweeps, in carters' frocks and red nightcaps, this man had power to recall a thought of the old stately Roman, with his unity of will and deed. He was an admirable father, that fairest, noblest part,— with a happy mixture of dignity and tenderness, blendking the delicate sympathy of the companion with the calm wisdom of the teacher, and showing beneath the zone of duty a heart that has not forgot to throb with youthful love. This character,—which did actual fathers know how to be, they would fulfil the order of nature, and image Deity to their children,—Vandenhoff represented sufficiently, at least, to call up the beautiful ideal.

Fanny Kemble.

When in Boston, I saw the Kembles twice,— in ‘Much ado about Nothing,’ and ‘The Stranger.’ The first night I felt much disappointed in Miss K. In the gay parts a coquettish, courtly manner marred the wild mirth and wanton wit of Beatrice. Yet, in everything else, I liked her conception of the part; and where she urges Benedict to fight with Claudio, and where she reads Benedict's sonnet, she was admirable. But I received no more pleasure from Miss K.'s acting out the part than I have done in reading it, and [1188] this disappointed me. Neither did I laugh, but thought all the while of Miss K.,—how very graceful she was, and whether this and that way of rendering the part was just. I do not believe she has comic power within herself, though tasteful enough to comprehend any part. So I went home, vexed because my ‘heart was not full,’ and my ‘brain not on fire’ with enthusiasm. I drank my milk, and went to sleep, as on other dreary occasions, and dreamed not of Miss Kemble.

Next night, however, I went expectant, and all my soul was satisfied. I saw her at a favorable distance, and she looked beautiful. And as the scene rose in interest, her attitudes, her gestures, had the expression which an Angelo could give to sculpture. After she tells her story,—and I was almost suffocated by the effort she made to divulge her sin and fall,—she sunk to the earth, her head bowed upon her knee, her white drapery falling in large, graceful folds about this broken piece of beautiful humanity, crushed in the very manner so well described by Scott when speaking of a far different person, ‘not as one who intentionally stoops, kneels, or prostrates himself to excite compassion, but like a man borne down on all sides by the pressure of some invisible force, which crushes him to the earth without power of resistance.’ A movement of abhorrence from me, as her insipid confidante turned away, attested the triumph of the poet-actress. Had not all been over in a moment, I believe I could not have refrained from rushing forward to raise the fair frail being; who seemed so prematurely humbled in her parent dust. I burst into tears; and, with the stifled, hopeless feeling of a [1189] real sorrow, continued to weep till the very end; nor could I recover till I left the house.

That is genius, which could give such life to this play; for, if I may judge from other parts, it is defeced by inflated sentiments, and verified by few natural touches. I wish I had it to read, for I should like to recall her every tone and look.

I have been studying Flaxman and Retzsch. How pure, how immortal, the language of Form! Fools cannot fancy they fathom its meaning; witless dillettanti cannot degrade it by hackneyed usage; none but genius can create or reproduce it. Unlike the colorist, he who expresses his thought in form is secure as man can be against the ravages of time.

I went to the Athenaeum in an agonizing conflict ot mind, when some high influence was needed to rouse me from the state of sickly sensitiveness, which, much as I despise, I cannot wholly conquer. How soothing it was to feel the blessed power of the Ideal world, to be surrounded once more with the records of lives poured out in embodying thought in beauty! I seemed to breathe my native atmosphere, and smoothed my ruffled pinions.

No wonder God made a world to express his thought. Who, that has a soul for beauty, does not feel the need of creating, and that the power of creation alone can satisfy the spirit? When I thus reflect, the Artist seems the only fortunate man. Had I but as much creative genius as I have apprehensiveness!

How transcendently lovely was the face of one young angel by Raphael! It was the perfection of physical, [1190] moral, and mental life. Variegated wings, of pinkish. purple touched with green, like the breasts of doves, and in perfect harmony with the complexion, spring from the shoulders upwards, and against them leans the divine head. The eye seems fixed on the centre of being, and the lips are gently parted, as if uttering strains of celestial melody.

The head of Aspasia was instinct with the voluptuousness of intellect. From the eyes, the cheek, the divine lip, one might hive honey. Both the Loves were exquisite: one, that zephyr sentiment which visits all the roses of life; the other, the Amore Greco, may be fitly described in these words of Landor: ‘There is a gloom in deep love, as in deep water; there is a silence in it which suspends the foot, and the folded arms and the dejected head are the images it reflects. No voice shakes its surface; the Muses themselves approach it with a tardy and a timid step, with a low and tremulous and melancholy song.’

The Sibyl I understood. What grace in that beautiful oval! what apprehensiveness in the eye! Such is female Genius; it alone understands the God. The Muses only sang the praises of Apollo; the Sibyls interpreted his will. Nay, she to whom it was offered, refused the divine union, and preferred remaining a satellite to being absorbed into the sun. You read in the eye of this one, and the observation is confirmed by the low forehead, that the secret of her inspiration lay in the passionate enthusiasm of her nature, rather than in the ideal perfection of any faculty. [1191]

A Christ, by Raphael, that I saw the other night, brought Christianity more home to my heart, made me more long to be like Jesus, than ever did sermon. It is from one of the Vatican frescoes. The Deity,—a stern, strong, wise man, of about forty-five, in a square velvet cap, truly the Jewish God, inflexibly just, yet jealous and wrathful,—is at the top of the picture, looking with a gaze of almost frowning scrutiny down into his world. A step below is the Son. Stately angelic shapes kneel near him in dignified adoration,—brothers, but not peers. A cloud of more ecstatic seraphs floats behind the Father. At the feet of the Son is the Holy Ghost, the Heavenly Dove. In the description, by a connoisseur, of this picture, read to me while I was looking at it, it is spoken of as in Raphael's first manner, cold, hard, trammeled. But to me how did that face proclaim the Infinite Love! His head is bent back, as if seeking to behold the Father. His attitude expresses the need of adoring something higher, in order to keep him at his highest. What sweetness, what purity, in the eyes! I can never express it; but I felt, when looking at it, the beauty of reverence, of self-sacrifice, to a degree that stripped the Apollo of his beams.


Immediately after reading Miss Martineau's book on America, Margaret felt bound in honor to write her a letter, the magnanimity of which is brought out in full relief, by contrast with the expressions already given of her affectionate regard. Extracts from this letter, recorded in her journals, come here rightfully in place:— [1192]
On its first appearance, the book was greeted by a volley of coarse and outrageous abuse, and the nine days wonder was followed by a nine days hueand-cry It was garbled, misrepresented, scandalously illtreated. This was all of no consequence. The opinion of the majority you will find expressed in a late number of the North American Review. I should think the article, though ungenerous, not more so than great part of the critiques upon your book.

The minority may be divided into two classes: The one, consisting of those who knew you but slightly, either personally, or in your writings. These have now read your book; and, seeing in it your high ideal standard, genuine independence, noble tone of sentiment, vigor of mind and powers of picturesque description, they value your book very much, and rate you higher for it.

The other comprises those who were previously aware of these high qualities, and who, seeing in a book to which they had looked for a lasting monument to your fame, a degree of presumptuousness, irreverence, inaccuracy, hasty generalization, and ultraism on many points, which they did not expect, lament the haste in which you have written, and the injustice which you have consequently done to so important a task, and to your own powers of being and doing. To this class I belong.

I got the book as soon as it came out,—long before I received the copy endeared by your handwriting,—and devoted myself to reading it. I gave myself up to my natural impressions, without seeking to ascertain those of others. Frequently I felt pleasure and admiration, but [1193] more frequently disappointment, sometimes positive distaste.

There are many topics treated of in this book of which I am not a judge; but I do pretend, even where I cannot criticize in detail, to have an opinion as to the general tone of thought. When Herschel writes his Introduction to Natural Philosophy, I cannot test all he says, but I cannot err about his fairness, his manliness, and wide range of knowledge. When Jouffroy writes his lectures, I am not conversant with all his topics of thought, but I can appreciate his lucid style and admirable method. When Webster speaks on the currency, I do not understand the subject, but I do understand his mode of treating it, and can see what a blaze of light streams from his torch. When Harriet Martineau writes about America, I often cannot test that rashness and inaccuracy of which I hear so much, but I can feel that they exist. A want of soundness, of habits of patient investigation, of completeness, of arrangement, are felt throughout the book; and, for all its fine descriptions of scenery, breadth of reasoning, and generous daring, I cannot be happy in it, because it is not worthy of my friend, and I think a few months given to ripen it, to balance, compare, and mellow, would have made it so. * *

Certainly you show no spirit of harshness towards this country in general. I think your tone most kindly. But many passages are deformed by intemperance of epithet. * * Would your heart, could you but investigate the matter, approve such overstatement, such a crude, intemperate tirade as you have been guilty of about Mr. Alcott;—a true and noble man, a philanthropist, whom a true and noble woman, also a philanthropist, [1194] should have delighted to honor; whose disinterested and resolute efforts, for the redemption of poor humanity, all independent and faithful minds should sustain, since the ‘broadcloth’ vulgar will be sure to assail them; a philosopher, worthy of the palmy times of ancient Greece; a man whom Carlyle and Berkely, whom you so uphold, would delight to honor; a man whom the worldlings of Boston hold in as much horror as the worldlings of ancient Athens did Socrates. They smile to hear their verdict confirmed from the other side of the Atlantic, by their censor, Harriet Martineau.

I do not like that your book should be an abolition book. You might have borne your testimony as decidedly as you pleased; but why leaven the whole book with it? This subject haunts us on almost every page. It is a great subject, but your book had other purposes to fulfil.

I have thought it right to say all this to you, since I felt it. I have shrunk from the effort, for I fear that I must lose you. Not that I think all authors are like Gil Blas' archbishop. No; if your heart turns from me, I shall still love you, still think you noble. I know it must be so trying to fail of sympathy, at such a time, where we expect it. And, besides, I felt from the book that the sympathy between us is less general than I had supposed, it was so strong on several points. It is strong enough for me to love you ever, and I could no more have been happy in your friendship, if I had not spoken out now.

Spiritual life.

You question me as to the nature of the benefits conferred upon me by Mr. E.'s preaching. I answer, [1195] that his influence has been more beneficial to me than that of any American, and that from him I first learned what is meant by an inward life. Many other springs have since fed the stream of living waters, but he first opened the fountain. That the ‘mind is its own place,’ was a dead phrase to me, till he cast light upon my mind. Several of his sermons stand apart in memory, like landmarks of my spiritual history. It would take a volume to tell what this one influence did for me But perhaps I shall some time see that it was best for me to be forced to help myself.

Some remarks which I made last night trouble me, and I cannot fix my attention upon other things till I have qualified them. I suffered myself to speak in too unmeasured terms, and my expressions were fitted to bring into discredit the religious instruction which has been given me, or which I have sought.

I do not think ‘all men are born for the purpose of unfolding beautiful ideas;’ for the vocation of many is evidently the culture of affections by deeds of kindness. But I do think that the vocations of men and women differ, and that those who are forced to act out of their sphere are shorn of inward and outward brightness.

For myself, I wish to say, that, if I am in a mood of darkness and despondency, I nevertheless consider such a mood unworthy of a Christian, or indeed of any one who believes in the immortality of the soul. No one, who had steady faith in this and in the goodness of God, could be otherwise than cheerful. I reverence the serenity of a truly religious mind so much, that I think if I live, I may some time attain to it. [1196]

Although I do not believe in a Special Providence regulating outward events, and could not reconcile such a belief with what I have seen of life, I do not the less believe in the paternal government of a Deity. That He should visit the souls of those who seek Him seems to me the nobler way to conceive of his influence. And if there were not some error in my way of seeking, I do not believe I should suffer from languor or deadness on spiritual subjects, at the time when I have most need to feel myself at home there. To find this error is my earnest wish; and perhaps I am now travelling to that end, though by a thorny road. It is a mortification to find so much yet to do; for at one time the scheme of things seemed so clear, that, with Cromwell, I might say, ‘I was once in grace.’ With my mind I prize high objects as much as then: it is my heart which is cold. And sometimes I fear that the necessity of urging them on those under my care dulls my sense of their beauty. It is so hard to prevent one's feelings from evaporating in words.

‘The faint sickness of a wounded heart.’ How frequently do these words of Beckford recur to my mind! His prayer, imperfect as it is, says more to me than many a purer aspiration. It breathes such an experience of impassioned anguish. He had everything,—health, personal advantages, almost boundless wealth, genius, exquisite taste, culture; he could, in some way, express his whole being. Yet well-nigh he sank beneath the sickness of the wounded heart; and solitude, ‘country of the unhappy,’ was all he craved at last.

Goethe, too, says he has known, in all his active [1197] wise, and honored life, no four weeks of happiness. This teaches me on the other side; for, like Goethe, I have never given way to my feelings, but have lived active, thoughtful, seeking to be wise. Yet I have long days and weeks of heartache; and at those times, though I am busy every moment, and cultivate every pleasant feeling, and look always upwards to the pure ideal region, yet this ache is like a bodily wound, whose pain haunts even when it is not attended to, and disturbs the dreams of the patient who has fallen asleep from exhaustion.

There is a German in Boston, who has a wound in his breast, received in battle long ago. It never troubles him, except when he sings, and then, if he gives out his voice with much expression, it opens, and cannot, for a long time, be stanched again. So with me: when I rise into one of those rapturous moods of thought, such as I had a day or two since, my wound opens again, and all I can do is to be patient, and let it take its own time to skin over. I see it will never do more. Some time ago I thought the barb was fairly out; but no, the fragments rankle there still, and will, while there is any earth attached to my spirit. Is it not because, in my pride, I held the mantle close, and let the weapon, which some friendly physician might have extracted, splinter in the wound?

Sunday, July, 1838.—I partook, for the first time, of the Lord's Supper. I had often wished to do so, but had not been able to find a clergyman,—from whom I could be willing to receive it,—willing to admit me on my own terms. Mr. H——did so; and I shall ever respect and value him, if only for the liberality he displayed [1198] on this occasion. It was the Sunday after the death of his wife, a lady whom I truly honored, and should, probably, had we known one another longer, have also loved. She was the soul of truth and honor; her mind was strong, her reverence for the noble and beautiful fervent, her energy in promoting the best interests of those who came under her influence unusual. She was as full of wit and playfulness as of goodness. Her union with her husband was really one of mind and heart, of mutual respect and tenderness; likeness in unlikeness made it strong. I wished particularly to share in this rite on an occasion so suited to bring out its due significance.

Farewell to summer.

The Sun, the Moon, the Waters, and the Air,
     The hopeful, holy, terrible, and fair,
All that is ever speaking, never spoken,
     Spells that are ever breaking, never broken,
Have played upon my soul; and every string
     Confessed the touch, which once could make it ring
Celestial notes. And still, though changed the tone,
     Though damp and jarring fall the lyre hath known,
It would, if fitly played, its deep notes wove
     Into one tissue of belief and love,
Yield melodies for angel audience meet,
     And paeans fit Creative Power to greet.
O injured lyre! thy golden frame is marred,
     No garlands deck thee, no libations poured
Tell to the earth the triumphs of thy song;
     No princely halls echo thy strains along.
But still the strings are there; and, if they break,
     Even in death rare melody will make,
Might'st thou once more be tuned, and power be given
     To tell in numbers all thou canst of heaven!

1 Her eldest brother.

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