previous next

10% of the text is displayed below. If you wish to view the entire text, please click here


Chapter 2: the Worcester period

Mr. Higginson lived and preached in Worcester for about ten years before the Civil War called him away. Extracts from journals and letters of this period are apt to be undated and fragmentary and are often arranged according to subject rather than date. They are not chronicles of Worcester life, but rather a record of absences.

To an old parishioner:

Worcester, June.
. . . We are kept sound asleep all the time by the heavy scent of roses and pinks and syringas. Add to this Sir Charles Grandison in seven small volumes, and you will understand what Lotos-Eaters we have become.

Did you ever read “Sir Charles” ? It is a new experience to me and surpasses my best hopes. The heroines write as many letters every day as you write Sundays. Sir Charles, I find, to be a human being, whose grandeurs and graces fill me with reverence. And Lady G. you would find a piece of wickedness to whom you would instantly swear eternal friendship. Her matrimonial squabbles are as fresh and modern as David's and Dora's, though of a more piquant character. I cannot conceive of your not reading it every summer. .. [45]

Sir Charles has such beautiful ways; he goes to a house where single young ladies reside and a lover for each always happens in; then he immediately gives them five thousand pounds and they are married immediately. All those, however, who were married previously are found quarrelling; these he reconciles and gives them three thousand pounds.

These comments on American girls would hardly have been made in our changed days:

Just now we are staying a few days with my newly married niece. The gossip of her young lady acquaintances fills me with renewed dismay at the contemplation of young ladies' lives, especially those who have had what are called “advantages.” Girls talk folly enough to young men, but nothing to what they talk to each other.

Joyfully I turn to Harriet Hosmer the sculptor.

Mr. Higginson often got a good deal of entertainment as well as discomfort out of his lecture or preaching trips.

Brooklyn, N. Y., November, 1852
... We reached Norwich at nine and took the steamer; and here, better still, appeared Henry Ward Beecher. I sat by him and read “Bleak house” in the cabin, and at last, when he moved to go to bed, I introduced or recalled myself to him. “Oh, yes,” said he heartily, “bless your soul, I remember you” ; and so we talked until twelve o'clock: chiefly about Wasson and churches generally. He defended pews (to [46] be rented, not owned) and said some very sensible things in their defence, of which I had never thought before. He was very cordial — wished me to know Reverend Mr. Storrs of Brooklyn, his associate in the “Independent,” and said I must come to tea with him on Monday and Mr. S. should come also....

[Charles] Dana was at his office, much changed from his former brown and robust self, pale, thin, and bearded; but seemed very content, though rather tired; said he could endure much more labor in that way than any other. He had a good deal of his old dogmatism.... Mr. Ripley was there, fat and uninteresting.

George Curtis pleased me far better. He seemed very cordial and not at all foppish. His voice and manner are extremely like Mr. Bowen (Reverend C. J.). . . . The likeness kept recurring to me as I sat in his pretty study, full of books and engravings .... He has written two perfectly charming essays on Emerson and Hawthorne for the lovely illustrated “Homes of American Authors” ; a most racy and charming picture of Concord and its peculiar life. I read these at the bookstore afterward with great delight.

. . . I learned one good fact; that the arms of the Wentworths are three cats' heads, which explains my tendencies [fondness for milk].

This evening I have been to H. W. Beecher's church. It is wonderful — an immense church and every seat crowded — far beyond Theodore Parker's. Double rows of chairs in the aisles and such attention. He [47] preached almost entirely extempore and it was like his lectures; no eloquence of thought, or little, but much eloquence of feeling; intense, simple earnestness; no grace, no condensation; no moderation or taste in delivery; and very little to remember. I do not think I should go to hear him often, or it would be more for the magnetism of the congregation than anything else. I think him far less impressive intellectually than Mr. Parker, with whom one naturally compares him.

During the same visit, he wrote:

. . . H. W. B. is charming at home, a sort of great, happy child, and so his wife and Mr. S. treated him. They were as liberal and friendly as possible, and I talked all my heresies without fear. I wish you could have heard them roar with laughter when I quoted Mr. Emerson's remark that Evangelical doctrines were like the measles and the whooping-cough — important to those who have them and interesting to those who have had them; but not important or even very intelligible to those who have not H. W. B. also told me with infinite amusement of W. H. C.'s anxiously warning him not to underrate certain theological doctrines-a Channing warning a Beecher!

Of a later trip to Brooklyn, Higginson wrote:

I stayed with Sam Longfellow from Thursday night to Monday night. The former night was stormy, and I was invited to repeat the lecture, which I did to quite a different audience, on Monday. Henry Ward [48] Beecher announced it from his pulpit on Sunday, very cordially, and told his people he wished it could be given in his church, which indeed he had previously proposed to me. Besides this, I spoke twice on Sunday to large audiences, though it was quite stormy.

Sam dwells in clover with one of those elderly ladies who are born to coddle young bachelor divines, Mrs. Jackson. He has a large, charming study, a chaos of books and works of art, with a great magnificent chest of drawers, from the Palazzo d'oro in Venice which he happened upon with his usual luck; it is the handsomest piece of carved furniture I ever saw and had stood out of doors a whole winter when he captured it. Here dwells Sam, always nursing some little lumbago or dyspepsia of his own, and interchanging visits with Mrs. Jackson, similarly occupied in her parlor, while a pretty little grandchild and a pretty young lady protegee, who supervises him, vibrate between the apartments. The parishioners are also devoted and speak as earnestly of “the importance of retaining Mr. Longfellow in Brooklyn” as the Beecherites might of Beecher. The new church is a little box of choice art . . . stone-colored stucco ( “for surface” ) with a sort of basement of brick, painted red ( “for purposes of color” ). The brick is now very dirty, or, as Sam tenderly prefers to term it, “distained” ; there is also a distained little steeple or spire in the background. . . . This structure they enjoy to the utmost, and Sam now projects a little evening service, of music and reading Scripture, without a sermon, which he calls “vespers or even-song” ; the people meekly rebel a [49] little, especially at the even-song, and pant for a sermon, but I think he will carry it through.

... I took tea with the Millses, some leading people in Sam's parish. Then he invited Brownlee Brown, who wrote the fine article in the last “Atlantic,” “The ideal tendency,” to come down from Newburg and dine with me, but he did not appear. I spent part of a day with Octavius Frothingham at Jersey City. Then I moused about New York a good deal and saw various things I wished to see. I saw nothing so good, however, as a scene Frothingham reported to me, between two little street-sweeping boys, whom he passed at dusk the night before, it being terribly rainy and muddy. “Come, Bill,” said one, “ain't it about time to close up for the night?” Bill consented, and F. lingered to see in what the process of closing up consisted. It consisted in the two little wretches deliberately hoeing back over the crossing all the mud they had cleared off, so as to give a fair chance for next day's operations

My lecture stirred them up a good deal in Brooklyn and brought special appeals and insults to Sam from his flock (he being unable, because of lumbago, to attend). Some of them came home with me afterwards and tormented him with proffers of gymnasiums and chest expanders. One enthusiastic youth implored him to become a fireman.


Last Thursday I went to New Haven which is the most superb nursery of elms I know anywhere. . ... I got there early and had a charming walk to the top [50] of East Rock. I stayed with the Elliots. . .. They live in the old Roger Sherman house with painted tiles. My lecture took immensely with the college boys.

Last week we had Rarey here . .. but the most interesting parts — his personal simplicity and earnestness, and the expression in the horses' faces, render it perfectly fascinating. I feared he might be conceited, might mystify and be grand, but he seemed like a perfectly single-minded reformer, like Wendell Phillips, and his one desire seemed to be to show at each step how utterly simple and intelligible the whole process was.

Yesterday I was walking and crossed a pasture, where the cows all came around me attracted by some boughs I had and which I had to hold out of their reach; they were very gentle and timid, though trustful, and I had to keep very quiet, like Rarey. They seemed to wish to understand me — licked my arm to see if I were a branch and rubbed against me to see if I were a stump, and I did not know how to explain myself. I stood in a circle of six... they made a halo, or cow-low about me.

I saw Rachel in “Phedre” --one of the most terrible things I ever did, yet fascinating and superblike, as Mrs. James well says. I never saw an actress so far removed from the audience; even when called out, she ignores them and her bow seems a part of the play. The acting is more real than anything I ever [51] saw, and the character being detestable, she appears so. The serpent-like begins with her body, which has a joint in every inch of it, like a snake's; every motion is a glide, and her whole form expresses more than anybody's else face.

August 16, 1862
Yesterday I went to Lynn, exchanging with Sam Johnson. After tea I went up to a camp meeting of Millerites near there, on a beautiful lake. It was a strange scene, wagons, horses, dogs, rowdy young men, and in the centre a great tent with rows of pale, eager listeners squatting in semicircles among the trees, with tears and Amens. The speakers were earnest and vivid, the people less excited and less intelligent than I expected, but it was the close of the meeting. I found all the types of character I expected there and was glad to have gone (for the first time). I peeped into one of the company tents, with the walls all hung with little carpetbags; and elderly women (not hanging up) packing up “duds” with tears streaming.

. . . I, willing to join in any innocent amusement, took a hand at a round game of spiritual rappings, but withdrew (as usual) with small winnings.

It seemed queer to be in the midst of these two parties of seekers after the mysteries of another sphere, and both rather forgetting this world for it; and as I came out of the house to the dim evening view of Nahant and the sea horizon, I was rather glad that we do not learn too fast, but have time to digest as we go along.

[52] Again, he wrote:

I had a nice time on Sunday at

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Worcester (Massachusetts, United States) (26)
Lowell (Massachusetts, United States) (5)
Canada (Canada) (4)
United States (United States) (3)
Quaker (Missouri, United States) (3)
Newburyport (Massachusetts, United States) (3)
Nantucket (Massachusetts, United States) (3)
Accomack (Massachusetts, United States) (3)
Siasconset (Massachusetts, United States) (2)
Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (2)
New England (United States) (2)
Montreal (Canada) (2)
Maryland (Maryland, United States) (2)
Mariana (New Mexico, United States) (2)
Maine (Maine, United States) (2)
Kansas (Kansas, United States) (2)
France (France) (2)
Fort Niagara (New York, United States) (2)
Concord (Massachusetts, United States) (2)
Windsor, Conn. (Connecticut, United States) (1)
Winchendon (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Wilmington (Delaware, United States) (1)
Westchester (New York, United States) (1)
West Brookfield (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Watertown (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Verona (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Vermont (Vermont, United States) (1)
Venice (Italy) (1)
Syracuse (New York, United States) (1)
St. Peter (Minnesota, United States) (1)
Skaneateles (New York, United States) (1)
Sebastopol (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Rouse's Point (New York, United States) (1)
Plum Island (Wisconsin, United States) (1)
Paris, Ky. (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Norwich (Connecticut, United States) (1)
Niagara County (New York, United States) (1)
Newburg, N. Y. (New York, United States) (1)
Nazareth, Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Nahant (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Missouri (Missouri, United States) (1)
Merrimack (United States) (1)
Massachusetts (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Lynn (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Longwood (Missouri, United States) (1)
Jamaica, L. I. (New York, United States) (1)
Hudson (New Jersey, United States) (1)
Hartford (Connecticut, United States) (1)
Harper's Ferry (West Virginia, United States) (1)
Hamilton (Canada) (1)
Guiana (1)
Europe (1)
Elizabeth's Island (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
East Rock (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Dedham (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Chester County (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Chester (United Kingdom) (1)
Chelsea (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Cape Cod (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Brussels (Belgium) (1)
Brooklyn (New York, United States) (1)
Brookline (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Brescia (Italy) (1)
Brattleboro (Vermont, United States) (1)
Boston (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Boscobel (Wisconsin, United States) (1)
Belgium (Belgium) (1)
Bangor (Maine, United States) (1)
Amesbury (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Adam (Florida, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
T. W. Higginson (23)
John Holmes (14)
Wendell Phillips (13)
Stowe (12)
Theodore Parker (10)
Dearest Mother (9)
Elizabeth Whittier (8)
Maria Lowell (8)
Sam Longfellow (8)
Ellen Emerson (8)
John Brown (8)
Kane (7)
Edmund Quincy (6)
Harriet Prescott (6)
Charles Burleigh (5)
Elizabeth Blackwell (5)
John Wyman (4)
Underwood (4)
Henry D. Thoreau (4)
Charles Sumner (4)
Lucy Stone (4)
James Lowell (4)
Wordsworth (3)
Worcester (3)
Rose Terry (3)
Alfred Tennyson (3)
Scott (3)
Nora Perry (3)
Henry Higginson (3)
Hayes (3)
Jonas H. French (3)
English (3)
Rufus Choate (3)
Butman (3)
Henry Ward Beecher (3)
H. W. Beecher (3)
Anne Whitney (2)
E. P. Whipple (2)
B. West (2)
Ticknor (2)
Perry Thayer (2)
Bayard Taylor (2)
Harriet Prescott Spofford (2)
Gerrit Smith (2)
Percy Shelley (2)
Severn (2)
Frank Sanborn (2)
John Robinson (2)
Elizabeth Ripley (2)
John S. Rarey (2)
Squire Porter (2)
Moses (2)
Milne (2)
Pat Jackson (2)
Italian (2)
Leigh Hunt (2)
Julia Howe (2)
Harriet Hosmer (2)
Fitzhenry Homer (2)
Haynau (2)
Octavius Frothingham (2)
Fremont (2)
Stephen Foster (2)
Henry F. Durant (2)
Dickens (2)
George William Curtis (2)
George Curtis (2)
Lydia Maria Child (2)
Browns (2)
Robert Browning (2)
Brownlee Brown (2)
John Agnew (2)
Woodman (1)
Theodore Winthrop (1)
Wimple (1)
Maria White (1)
Welsh (1)
Sam Weller (1)
Marston Watson (1)
Wasson (1)
Washington (1)
Henry Ward (1)
Walden (1)
Vergniaud (1)
Harriet Tubman (1)
Trull (1)
Trench (1)
Thompson (1)
Sully (1)
Stowell (1)
Storrs (1)
Charles W. Storey (1)
William J. Stillman (1)
Stevenson (1)
George Smalley (1)
Shakespeare (1)
Saxon (1)
Sampson (1)
Russell (1)
Rachel (1)
Powell (1)
Porteous (1)
Pope (1)
Pierce (1)
Phoebe (1)
Peirce (1)
Paxton (1)
Anna Parsons (1)
J. W. Palmer (1)
Page (1)
Paganini (1)
Charles Norton (1)
Neander (1)
Edwin Morton (1)
Milton (1)
Mellen (1)
Marston (1)
Amos Lawrence (1)
Knickerbocker (1)
Kirkland (1)
Fanny Kemble (1)
Keats (1)
Juno (1)
Josephus (1)
Sam Johnson (1)
James (1)
Hoyt (1)
Julia Ward Howe (1)
George Hoar (1)
Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1)
Susan Higginson (1)
Julian Hawthorne (1)
Charlotte Hawes (1)
Hamilton (1)
Hallett (1)
Benjamin F. Hallet (1)
John P. Hale (1)
Edward Everett Hale (1)
Griffiths (1)
Mary Greenleaf (1)
Susan Gray (1)
Charles Grandison (1)
Goethe (1)
William Lloyd Garrison (1)
James T. Fields (1)
J. T. Fields (1)
Felton (1)
Richard S. Fay (1)
Farley (1)
Alexandre Dumas (1)
Frederick Douglass (1)
Elnathan Dodge (1)
Andrew Jackson Davis (1)
Charles Dana (1)
Betsey Cushing (1)
Robinson Crusoe (1)
Davy Crockett (1)
Crawfords (1)
Moncure D. Conway (1)
Coffin (1)
Sarah Clarke (1)
Chapman (1)
William Henry Channing (1)
Freewalder Channing (1)
Anthony Burns (1)
Fanny Burney (1)
Martin Buren (1)
James Buchanan (1)
Antoinette Brown (1)
Bowen (1)
Bloomer (1)
Montgomery Blair (1)
Antoinette Brown Blackwell (1)
Biglow (1)
Benton (1)
Bennett (1)
Peter Bell (1)
Beechers (1)
George Beaumont (1)
P. T. Barnum (1)
Balzac (1)
Von Arnim (1)
John A. Andrew (1)
Fisher Ames (1)
Amens (1)
A. Bronson Alcott (1)
Alexander Agassiz (1)
Addison (1)
J. Q. Adams (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: