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Thomas Wentworth Higginson, John Greenleaf Whittier, Chapter 1: childhood (search)
e Whittier led a single life. Yet in certain gifts, apart from poetic quality, they were alike; both being modest, serene, unselfish, brave, industrious, and generous. They either shared, or made up between them, the highest and most estimable qualities that mark poet or man. Whittier, like Garrison,--who first appreciated his poems,--was brought up apart from what Dr. Holmes loved to call the Brahmin class in America; those, namely, who were bred to cultivation by cultivated parents. Emerson, Longfellow, Holmes, Lowell, were essentially of this class; all their immediate ancestors were, in French phrase, gens de robe; three of them being children of clergymen, and one of a lawyer who was also a member of Congress. All of them had in a degree — to borrow another phrase from Holmes — tumbled about in libraries. Whittier had, on the other hand, the early training of a spiritual aristocracy, the Society of Friends. He was bred in a class which its very oppressors had helped to e
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, John Greenleaf Whittier, Chapter 7: Whittier as a social reformer (search)
gress came out of such agitations, and at the very least they kept before the public the need of perpetual change and rearrangement of laws and usages, to keep up with the progress of invention and of democratic institutions. It was a time when Emerson wrote of the social structure, The nobles shall not any longer, as feudal lords, have power of life and death over the churls, but now in another shape, as capitalists, shall in all love and peace eat these up as before. Emerson, Life and letEmerson, Life and letters in New England. It was not possible for Whittier, with his temperament and principles, to keep himself aloof from these seething agitations; and he showed both the courage of Quakerism and its guarded moderation in encountering the new problems and their advocates. This is visible, for instance, in such letters as the following: To Ann E. Wendell. Lynn, 11th mo., 1840. I was in Boston this week, and looked in twice upon the queer gathering of heterogeneous spirits at the Chard
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, John Greenleaf Whittier, Chapter 9: Whittier at home (search)
nversations with fellow-authors. For instance, as he was driving one day with Emerson, the latter pointed out a small, unpainted house by the roadside, and said:-- pray for myself. Does thee? said Whittier. What does thee pray for, friend Emerson? Well, replied Emerson, when I first open my eyes upon the morning meadowsEmerson, when I first open my eyes upon the morning meadows, and look out upon the beautiful world, I thank God that I am alive, and that I live so near Boston. In one of their conversations, Mr. Emerson remarked that thMr. Emerson remarked that the world had not yet seen the highest development of manhood. Does thee think so? said Whittier. I suppose thee would admit that Jesus Christ is the highest ld has yet reached the ideals the Christ has set for mankind? No, no, said Emerson: I think not. Then is it not the part of wisdom to be content with what hthem. Whittier had a neighbour whose original remarks he loved to repeat, and Emerson once said, That man ought to read Plato, and offered him a volume through Whit
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, John Greenleaf Whittier, Chapter 10: the religious side (search)
the day, while he sat patiently on in the corner of the pretty room. Mrs. Thaxter was steadily at work at her table, yet always hospitable, losing sight of no cloud or shadow or sudden gleam of glory in the landscape, and pointing the talk often with keen wit. Nevertheless, the idleness of it all palled upon him. It was Sunday, too, and he longed for something which would move us to higher levels. Suddenly, as if the idea had struck him like an inspiration, he rose, and taking a volume of Emerson from the little library, he opened to one of the discourses, and handing it to Celia Thaxter, said:-- Read that aloud, will thee? I think we should all like to hear it. After she had ended he took up the thread of the discourse, and talked long and earnestly upon the beauty and necessity of worship — a necessity consequent upon the nature of man, upon his own weakness, and his consciousness of the Divine Spirit within him. His whole heart was stirred, and he poured himself out tow
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, John Greenleaf Whittier, Chapter 11: early loves and love poetry (search)
e the publication of his volume. She died several years ago, the widow of Judge Thomas of Covington, Ky. She was born in Haverhill, and was a distant relative of Whittier's, her maiden name being Mary Emerson Smith. Her grandmother, Mrs. Nehemiah Emerson, was a second cousin of Whittier's father. As a girl she was often at her grandfather Emerson's, and Whittier as a boy lived for a time at the same place, and attended school in that district. He called Mary's grandmother Aunt. AfterwaEmerson's, and Whittier as a boy lived for a time at the same place, and attended school in that district. He called Mary's grandmother Aunt. Afterward they were fellow students at Haverhill Academy. When Whittier was editing the American Manufacturer, in Boston, she was at a seminary at Kennebunk, Me., and they were in correspondence, which showed a warm attachment on his part. I have seen the originals of these letters. There were several considerations which forbade thought of marriage on the part of either of them. She went to Cincinnati with her uncles, about 1831, and for this reason he planned to go West in 1832, but was prevent
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, John Greenleaf Whittier, Chapter 12: Whittier the poet (search)
f his death. He could say of himself what Lowell said dramatically only, We draw our lineage from the oppressed. Compared with him Longfellow, Holmes, and even Lowell, seem the poets of a class; Whittier alone is near the people; setting apart Emerson, who inhabited a world of his own, so near and yet so far. His whole position was indeed characteristic of American society; had he lived in England, he would always have been, at his highest, in the position of some Corn-Law Rhymer, some Poetult of his reticent habit and retired life that his maturer poems impress us, as we dwell upon them, with more sense of surprise as to their origin and shaping than exists in the case of any of his compeers, save only the almost equally reticent Emerson. In Longfellow's memoirs, in Lowell's letters, we see them discussing their purposes with friends, accepting suggestion and correction, while Whittier's poems come always with surprise, and even Mr. Pickard's careful labours add little to our k
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, John Greenleaf Whittier, Chapter 13: closing years (search)
and when he could do nothing during the long hours but sit and think over the fire. This loss of sleep and other unfavourable symptoms were by no means due to a sedentary life. His love of nature was deep and constant, and more like that of Emerson and Thoreau, than that of Longfellow and Lowell. He liked to be actually immersed in outdoor life, not merely to enjoy it as an episode. He loved to recall his first stay among the hills, when his parents took him where he could see the great not unglad surprise I see my life-work through your partial eyes; Assured, in giving to my home-taught songs A higher value than of right belongs, You do but read between the lines The finer grace of unfulfilled designs. Works, II. 168, 169. Emerson then read with his unique impressiveness Whittier's Ichabod ; Holmes and Stoddard read poems, and speeches were made by Story, Howells, Norton, Warner, and myself. So complete was the success of the enterprise, then rather a novel one in Boston
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, John Greenleaf Whittier, Index. (search)
Douw, Gerard, 9. Dustin, Hannah, 4. E. Earle, Edward, 121. East Haverhill, Mass., 23, 51, 58. East Salisbury, Mass., 44. Edinburgh, Scotland, 107. Elliot, Me., 142. Ellis, Rev. G. E., 83. Emancipator, the, mentioned, 67. Emerson, Nehemiah, 137. Emerson, Mrs., Nehemiah, 137. Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 2, 37, 127,151,159,173,178; his Life and letters in New England, quoted, 80; Whittier's letter to, 46, 47; acquaintance with Whittier, 110, 111. Endicott, Gov., John, 83-85. EnEmerson, Mrs., Nehemiah, 137. Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 2, 37, 127,151,159,173,178; his Life and letters in New England, quoted, 80; Whittier's letter to, 46, 47; acquaintance with Whittier, 110, 111. Endicott, Gov., John, 83-85. England, 1, 26, 28, 50, 96, 104, 113, 152, 163. Era, the, mentioned, 109. Essex Agricultural Society, Whittier's letter to, 19, 20. Essex Club, 181. Essex County, Mass., 19, 20, 50, 138, 155. Europe, 13. Evarts, W. M., 97. Everett, Edward, 43. F. Faneuil Hall, Boston, 75. Farrar, Archdeacon, F. W., asks Whittier to write inscription for Milton Memorial Window, 181, 182; his letter to Whittier, 183. Federal Street, Boston, 60. Felice, Professor de, 167. Feuillevert