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VII: the free church

On the eve of Mr. Higginson's departure from Newburyport, this resolution was adopted at a Free Soil caucus in that town:—

Resolved, That in the departure of one from this community whose purity of life, earnestness of purpose, restless energy, and remarkable abilities are universally acknowledged, we suffer a severe and an irreparable loss, and that our regret at the removal of the Rev. T. W. Higginson to Worcester is relieved only by the consideration that wherever he may be he will not cease in his efforts for the elevation of mankind.

Shortly before removing his household goods the faithful chronicler reported:—

Here we are still, wind and water-bound . . . . We are thoroughly packed and living on two or three chairs and a borrowed plate. M. thinks it is like a picnic. But I feel more as if it were a part of a menagerie, waiting to be transported across the country, when the great wagon is ready. We are exhibited in Worcester next.

The Higginsons were accompanied on their journey by ‘kit in a basket’ and a stout Irish damsel [118] who had been accustomed to doing housework for twenty-three truckmen, and who it was thought could probably take care of ‘kit and us.’ The new abode, which commanded a view of Wachusett, was not in the most select part of the town, nor was the new congregation drawn from circles of the elite. But undisturbed by these facts Mr. Higginson thus described the Worcester home:—

Nice little house, in a charming part of the town . . . nice tangled jungle of a small garden, with peach trees that carry one nearer the Mills than anything else. . . .I never knew what the love of one's own vegetables might be. I have a great dislike to tomatoes and yet I linger over the great red creatures, and nip off leaves to give them sun and treat them as tenderly as kitty.

. . . Close by us . . . is Mr. Brown, a tailor, quite a remarkable person I think, very original and agreeable, and rather the wit of the city; I have ridden, walked, and sailed with him with great satisfaction. In fact I find the merits of the masculine side of human nature rather coming uppermost here, quite unlike Newburyport. . .

People look busier and happier here . . . there is much more air of country too, the main street is filled all day with country wagons, and you buy your fire wood from the carts. . . . The Hall [Horticultural] is nearly or quite as large as the Universalist Church in Newburyport and is always well filled in the morning and crowded in the evening; [119] everything prospers in the Free Church and I like it very much. The people are a very wide-awake set; and we have a neighboring parishioner in Bloomer dress who sends us squash pies and alarms Mrs. H. continually . . . . Indeed the recognized respectabilities of the town are quite willing to honor us occasionally in the evening.

Sept. 23. To-day is cattle-show. I have always wished to live in a town where this happened and have been wandering about this morning and enjoying the country people. . . . More country people than I knew existed, enough to farm the whole solar system, I should think!

The new minister preached his own installation sermon and wrote to his mother in reference to it:—

The 1300 copies have been scattered far and wide, and met with favor [here] and elsewhere among various people. . . . The Boston Universalist Trumpet has denounced it violently and then eagerly borrowed all its Anti-Orthodox thunder. . . .

I have just had a singular epistle on my sermon from a Dr.——of Philadelphia, a distinguished Anti-Slavery man and writer generally; his wife charitably adds at the end that her husband is slightly delirious when he is feverish, and M. thinks the explanation was quite needful.

About this sermon Mr. Higginson received letters from all parts of the country and newspaper notices of equally miscellaneous origin. His mother was [120] somewhat aghast at the radical views propounded in the discourse, and wondered what would be said of a document ‘so bold, original, and independent.’ Early in his new career, she offered her son this bit of advice,—‘As to your admiring females, don't let your head be turned!’

Mr. Higginson's intense love of children enabled him to reach the little people in unusual ways. His Worcester Sunday-School is thus described in a letter to the writer by an eyewitness:—

It was unique, not at all modelled after the conventional type where the scholars are divided into classes and recite lessons to the teachers. He was himself the only teacher. He told them stories illustrating some simple moral principle—Truth, Generosity, Love, and Loyalty; talking familiarly with them of the perplexities which even children often suffer from, in deciding between Right and Wrong. These little talks were delightful to listen to, they were so simple and clear and impressive.

But companionship with the children was not confined to Sundays, for he ‘enticed a select circle of pet little girls to play Puss-in-the-corner on the green after tea.’ ‘I am plunging,’ he told his mother, ‘into parish visiting with great pleasure. It is rich to see the small children.’ In referring to one child, he said, ‘The little darling . . . showed me her dolly, with both legs broken off. It was a [121] young lady doll, but “He's broken his legs,” said she — “he has to walk on his drawers' . . . . ” But, “ she added hopefully—” one of 'em is growing out again — “I saw it!” Her name is Alice and she and her sister play Mr. Higginson!’

The young clergyman recorded in his Worcester journal that his only sorrow was ‘the absence of children to one whose passion for them is so rare and profound. . . . I try to pass for a sober and respectable man, but there is really no sentimental school-girl whose demand for being loved is greater or more comprehensive than mine—it makes me uncomfortable to be for five minutes in the room with a strange child without winning it to love me.’

The project of a Christmas tree delighted the Free Church people, and Mr. Higginson appealed to one of his former Newburyport parishioners for help: ‘I thought perhaps your mother and E. would gild some eggs for me and send them to Boston by and by. I shall want all manner of little duds for the children.’ After this successful event, it was found that

There were over 150 children (including about 20 colored children—invited guests). Where they all came from I don't know, but everybody who could claim eleventh cousinship to the Free Church came in. . . . Ever since that Tree we have been the most sociable parish in town.


‘Would you like to look in at the Free Church?’ wrote Mr. Higginson to his young friend, Harriet Prescott, May, 1854. ‘The people are bright and earnest, rather than cultivated. There is a tradition of a progressive improvement in the bonnets, oa evenings, since the first summer; but I doubt if we can bear this test of increased social distinction. Worcester is a great thoroughfare, and there are always many strangers, and many Nicodemuses there are, who come by night only.’—‘We are well,’ he reported to his mother, ‘and I am only too busy; too busy to read, which is the greatest trial. . . .And inwardly, my transplantation to this new soil has enriched and strengthened me immeasurably; and given me many steps toward maturity.’

He always craved books and more books, but the actual purchase of one was a luxury. With a little money sent him by his Aunt Nancy, he bought Mrs. Jameson's ‘Commonplace Book of Thoughts, Memories, and Fancies,’ and told his aunt, ‘I shall write very carefully in the beginning that it was a present, so that my parishioners and friends may not think it my own extravagance, in these hard times.’ Certain favorite books, such as Jane Austen's novels, Scott's ‘Pirate,’ and Thoreau's ‘Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers,’ Mr. Higginson usually read once a year. [123]

Four years of his ministry at the Free Church had gone by when the president of the organization wrote to the clergyman's mother, that, after listening to his preaching, ‘common sermons appear weak and stale, and our people will not go to hear them.’ He added that something in her son's appearance and manner ‘called out the masses.’

As a matter of course the newcomer interested himself in the schools, and was placed on the school committee. Reporting one of the meetings of this body he said triumphantly, ‘We raised all the female teachers' salaries.’ But for defending the right of a Roman Catholic pupil to use the version of Scripture approved by his parents he was dismissed from the board. He wrote to his mother, ‘I am half glad and half sorry that the Know-nothings have dropped me from the School Committee.’ Public opinion changed, however, and he was not only reinstated, but one of his companions on the later board was a Roman Catholic priest.

Never in Mr. Higginson's long life did he abandon his custom of fearless protest by voice or pen against anything which seemed to him wrong or unjust. Anonymous letters of abuse were speedily consigned to the waste basket; words of criticism or rebuke he received calmly, and kept on his chosen course. His equanimity was seldom disturbed, but when [124] confronted by what he considered a great wrong or injustice, anger could come in a mighty flash.

In his journals of that period, Mr. Higginson speaks of the ‘untamable gipsy element in me which gives me instant sympathy with every desperate adventure. . . . Never did I hear of anything daredevil without wishing to leave all else and do it. . . . I never read of but one thing which thoroughly came up to my idea of enjoyment, and that was the Charge of the Six Hundred. All the rest of existence would I freely give for one such hour.’ This was written soon after the actual event. Thirteen years later, Colonel Higginson added this pencilled note to the above: ‘The war slaked this appetite to some extent—but it will never die out.’

An occasional note of discontent appears in the diaries, as when he complains:—

All I ask of fate is—Give me one occasion worth bursting the door for—an opportunity to get beyond this boy's play . . . . Till then my life, frittered away in little cares and efforts for the sick, sad and sinful, is not worth the chronicling . . . . I never remember to have rested my cares on any earthly being—all with whom I have ever associated have rested theirs on me.

But the habitual frame of mind of this ‘incorrigible optimist,’ as he was called in later life, was [125] expressed in a letter to his mother when he was thirty-three:—

My birthdays pass by almost uncounted, for I never feel any older; indeed in these last years I feel a sort of exuberance of life, and love of action and adventure, which seem more like 23 than 33. I think the one great possession of my life has been this sunny vigor of nature and unfailing animal spirits, which have carried me buoyantly over everything so far, and which I am sure I inherited from you. And many as are my other causes of gratitude, this seems the greatest.

The ardent friendship between Higginson and Hurlbut, begun when they were both theological students and continued into these Worcester years, was destined to end in sorrow. After coolness began to separate the friends, Mr. Higginson still wrote to Hurlbut once a month, but scarcely ever received a reply. ‘Still, O changing child,’ he exclaimed, ‘out of the depths of my charity I still believe in you and out of the depths of my heart I still love you.’ Their letters were more like those between man and woman than between two men. Hurlbut's letters—still preserved—are always brilliant, often affectionate, sometimes full of rollicking fun. One of them begins, ‘The unfaithful to the unforgetting—greeting.’ In answer to a young friend's question, Mr. Higginson wrote this account of the romantic friendship:— [126]

[I have had] one terrible disappointment. You asked me, a while ago, and with some apparent shrinking, if I had ever had any very intimate friend. I do not wonder that you ask, for you have seen so little evidence of such intimacy. My child, I have never had but one; all others have been only acquaintances, though I have always had a profusion of those. But I never loved but one male friend with passion—and for him my love had no bounds—all that my natural fastidiousness and cautious reserve kept from others I poured on him; to say that I would have died for him was nothing. I lived for him; it was easy to do it, for there never was but one such person; never have I met such another all gifted, all accomplished, all fascinating person; some men were jealous of him, some women distrusted him; all the rest he fascinated. . . . He knew everything in advance of study, he could do everything at the first trial. In travelling I have been waylaid by utter strangers who saw me with him, and who having talked with him five minutes could not rest without learning who this wondrous creature was. To everybody he was an astonishment—to me he was a delight—we lived together at Cambridge like Warrington and Pendennis (for he was younger than I, and yet how barren I seemed compared to him!). To me, moreover, he was always noble and sweet, he loved me truly and generously—and I on the other hand when clouds came around his good name and at last utterly swallowed him I clung to him—for years. . . . My eyes were opened—too late to save him—and he was lost to me forever. [127] . . . And yet all his crime is an utter moral weakness, joined with gifts too brilliant for anything but a strong moral nature to carry steadily . . .

One good which I have gained even from this loss [lack of intimate friends] is that I have learned to stand alone, free from cliques, and parties, taking my own responsibilities and keeping my own counsel.

Apropos of this independence of outside sympathy, he wrote in the diary of 1860, ‘While I have M.'s unequalled brilliancy for a perpetual stimulus, I need none from others.’

Hurlbut's downfall is the hardest thing of all,’ Mr. Higginson once said when alluding to the privations and disappointments of life. In happier mood, he wrote: ‘For myself, the universe is all clear and sweet; nor do I see why it should not be so, to all healthy natures. . . . My own faith is simply and solely Natural Religion. To me Jesus is a brother and the Bible a book.’

The craving for larger opportunities was somewhat relieved by lecturing in other towns; and besides these outlets, Mr. Higginson frequently made stirring speeches at Free Soil, Temperance, and Anti-Slavery conventions. In his regular chronicles to his mother he reported that Worcester was very gay, but that his own evenings were engaged in public speaking. He also preached in pulpits other than his [128] own. These trips often took him some distance from home, and he wrote from Niagara:—

. . . .My Congregation was good, including Mr. Barnum, whose autobiography I came very near unconsciously referring to. In the afternoon I spoke at one of a series of remarkable meetings for free talk on theological subjects which Mr. May started in a public hall. All sorts of persons take part, Methodists, Jews, Catholics, &c. and no one can speak but ten minutes.

These absences from home not only gave a needed change, but took the young man among various interesting people. He wrote to his mother, after lecturing in Concord, that he had Mr. Emerson for an auditor ‘which made me nearly dumb at first . . . . ’

Last Saturday I was in Boston [Jan. 1853] and went to see no less a person than Mr. Thackeray— not as lion but as lecturer. We wanted him here for a new association and offered him $500 for 6 lectures —which he declined; he was very frank about it, saying it was more than he could get in England: but he could get more in other cities; in Providence $800 for three lectures!

He is six feet four, at least, very sweet and manly, with a large head and bushy gray hair, almost white; looks 55. He has very little English hoarseness or awkward breadth of voice; a very good voice and enunciation; and no hauteur or coldness; was laboriously anxious to show me that he meant me no discourtesy by refusing our offer.

[129] He adds that Thackeray's greatest desire in this country was to see Theodore Parker.

A saving quality through life was Mr. Higginson's keen sense of the ludicrous. He wrote to his Aunt Nancy:—

Worcester, June 29, 1858.
I spoke in Springfield on Sunday, to the Spiritualists so called. My name was paraded in the streets in the largest capitals I ever had as the Rev. T. W. H. “the eminent clergyman, popular author (!!) and eloquent lecturer.” Directly over it were the remains of a theatrical handbill in large letters “The Fool of the family.”

Describing a pilgrimage of young men to Concord, he says:—

No one had any acquaintance with Mr. Emerson except a certain Frank Sanborn, a remarkable young poetic youth, formerly farmer and shoemaker, more than six feet high. . . . He is a Junior and one of those who walked to Watertown when I preached there.

And again:—

Last Friday night I went to Concord to an Anti-Slavery tea-party, where I spoke, together with the Lieut. Governor. Mrs. Emerson was there with her fine daughters—(R. W. E. being at the West) —Elizabeth Hoar, looking very noble—Thoreau and his, mother and sister, and many other people of more or (especially) less note. . . . The Lieut. [130] Governor . . . said . . . slavery was a subject to which he never had paid much attention—see what it is to be absorbed in the larger interests of life.

To Worcester there came from time to time people whom it was a delight to meet. ‘Last week,’ wrote Mr. Higginson, ‘Mr. Emerson was here and gave one of his old style of lectures, rich and delicious, he staid here, and I never liked him so much; he had all his invariable gentleness and graciousness.’

At another time he writes, ‘To-day I have had a tolerably good time. Tea with Alice and Phoebe Cary, the latter a dumpy jolly milkmaid, the former rather fine and superior.’

Of the actress, Charlotte Cushman, whom Mr. Higginson introduced to a Worcester audience by reading a letter describing her, he wrote to Harriet Prescott:—

What a wonder she is! That magnificent vigor and vital heat of hers is enough to redeem her native land forever from the charge of producing sickly and lifeless women. . . . I was careful what I read, but there was one little sentence which described her so perfectly, I read on, but first I asked Miss ——, “Will she blush?” and the good great creature broke in herself in her hearty uproarious way, “Nary blush,” quoth she, shaking her wide brows merrily at me ..

Her acting affected me infinitely beyond Rachel, [131] though I thought the latter beyond anything; perhaps I saw C. C. in her greatest part—Queen Katherine; but I remember Rachel's death scene as the climax of acting, while in the last scene of this, it was as if my own mother was sinking and dying before me; if I had another thought it was of the wickedness of having a crowd of people to see all this. Where she put her person and all the abundance of her life and left nothing but that frail wasted shell of humanity, no thought could tell; she was seventy years old and reduced to the weight of a child. I felt as if I would have given worlds to be able to look away for a moment and yet I could not.

Then I saw her in comedy . . . the fun was on the same large scale with everything else, and carried every one along irresistibly.

One day the young clergyman encountered Henry Ward Beecher on the street ‘looking fresh and wholesome as a great Baldwin apple. . . . ’

‘I had in one hand,’ wrote Mr. Higginson,

a box of strawberries, a large box, and 2 pasteboard boxes, and in the other an umbrella. He said, “You are as badly off as I was in Boston t'other day, when I met Wendell Phillips. I saw a great red lobster on a stall—a thing I had n't seen since I was a boy” (as if he had ever ceased to be), “but in N. Y. they are not sold boiled. So I bought it and carried it with me to the Railroad Station, but presently I saw a much bigger one and bought that too. It was so big the claw would n't hold it and it dropped, and [132] then I held it by the other claw and that broke too and it dropped again and as I had just succeeded in picking it all up, two lobsters, two claws and all, I looked up—and there was Wendell Phillips and two ladies!”

He says he repays himself for overwork during the rest of the year, by six weeks of total inaction in the summer—no man is saved, he says, except by his inconsistencies. I told him he had laid up a large assurance of salvation in that line, to which he heartily agreed.

In 1855, Mr. Higginson ventured on an unusually extended lecture trip. He reported to his wife:—

I am too soft-hearted for a Lecturer and cannot bear to take money out of people's pockets. I wish I were as tough as old John Pierpont, who never relents, and insisted on $10 more than the $30 paid at Rochester; while I refunded $5—my audience being about as large—but not worth the money they offered me. ..

An Anti-Slavery Lecturer is better off than a mere Lyceum lecturer in this—that he is greeted with an enthusiasm of the heart and not merely of the head. . . . I have also seen rather a queer placard from Skaneateles which announces me as “leader of the forlorn-hope from Worcester.”

I had a pathetic scene at Syracuse with the dearest little pair of quaint rosy German children .. I bought a ball of parched corn and molasses candy . . . for them and they looked demure delight, trying in vain to discover how to eat it—I watched [133] them till their wicked father came along, as ignorant as they were, and examined it in vain till at last it broke in his fingers and he threw it down and trotted them hastily away! I watched it from a distance, powerless and desolate, till the queer little antiquities disappeared.

In Syracuse he encountered Horace Greeley, who ‘was observed by all, and people tried to make the newsboys sell him his own life.’ In a letter from this place, Mr. Higginson says:—

I am writing on the office desk and am constantly taken for the landlord. A man has just come up and whispered confidentially, “A lot of first rate segars I'd like to sell you, Sir.” “Thank you, Sir, I don't smoke,” I said without looking up. “Ah,” said he rather astonished, “ain't you the landlord of this here house?” “No,” said I, shuddering.—Next a man indignant at not having been waked in time for his train—but happily the real landlord has just come in—a man in ruffled shirt and two seal rings.

Although his lectures at that time could not have been very remunerative, he rejoiced in working, and in working all the time. He wrote to his wife while on this very trip:—

Like your father, and other very busy persons I suppose, I have the most intense dread of ennui. I very seldom suffer from the thing itself—but when I look forward and see a space of time which I cannot [134] easily use to advantage, it gives me a sort of suffocating sensation.

Lecturers in those days were apt to encounter hardships and discomforts—snowstorms delaying trains and preventing the keeping of engagements. Once Mr. Higginson wrote from Toledo in a most perplexed frame of mind, after missing various connections and mourning the loss of twenty-five dollars:—

Here I am spending Sunday in a city of absolute strangers in a wild snowstorm, in a rather forlorn hotel from whose windows no house is visible, but only a few sheds with a dirty pig or two, then a frozen river and a bleak uninhabited shore behind. .. I doubt not that here also there are Abolitionists and Women's Rights people who would welcome me, could I only get at them.

At another time, when attending certain suffrage meetings in New York city, he wrote:—

This morning our Woman's Suffrage Convention began—I being President thereof; think of me in that big Hall! We had a very successful beginning— large numbers. . . . Rev. Antoinette [Brown] is a soft, gentle-looking person, youthful, and “nervo-lymphatic” —quite unlike most of the Woman's Rights women. Lucy Stone is staying in the house with me and more charming than ever. . . . I am willing to have women preach, if they will do it as much better than average men as she [Antoinette [135] Brown] does. As for Lucy Stone, I admire and love her more every day.

Of the success of this convention, Mr. Higginson's mother wrote: ‘And altogether you have been decidedly the great gun of the New York meeting. What a singular position for a Higginson!!’

From Philadelphia, where he attended a similar convention, he wrote to his wife:—

We have had a very good meeting so far. I am staying at Edward Hopper's, a sturdy son of old Isaac (Mrs. E. H. being Lucretia Mott's daughter). I wear dear old Isaac's slippers and dressing-gown when I go to the bathroom in the morning and shave with his razor afterwards. ..

There is a medical student here named Ora Moon who beats Hattie Hosmer altogether. She is a Virginian, wears pistols and smokes; has a season ticket at the theatre and the pistol-gallery; rather a formidable result of the business—yet such there must be.

About this visit, one of his letters says:—

I have really had a most charming time . . . . Plain Friends by the dozen, male and female, would come up and say, “Well, Thomas Higginson, I am glad to see thee at last, I have often heard of thee and read thy words.” . . .

How shall I describe to you Lucretia Mott . . . the most brilliant eyes. Such a face and such a regal erectness! Nobody else ever stood upright before. [136] She said but little in the meetings, but that so clear and sagacious and wise; and there was such an instinct of her superiority, that she ruled like a queen on the platform, and when she looked as if she desired anything we all sprang to see what it might be. Then to see her at her house—at her long table in the great dining-room, eighteen at table (and filled twice over, one day)—she at one end and her quiet, sensible, manly husband, James Mott, at the other; a perpetual Thanksgiving Day; her children and their partners beside her, and all looking up to her so admiringly. . .

To his mother he wrote:—

Lucy Stone of course was the real presiding genius [at the Convention], dear little stainless saint that she is; but I was very much struck with the character and ability shown by the women.

When this lady was about to lecture in Brattleboro, Mr. Higginson thus besought his family:—

My principal object in now writing is to beg all of you, who will, to go and hear Lucy Stone speak. . . . She is simply one of the noblest and gentlest persons whom I know; with her homely face and her little Bloomerized-Quakerish person—and her delicious voice. . .. Lucy wears them [bloomers] for health she avers, being exposed to storms and wind and snowdrifts in her wanderings.

At the time of the gentle reformer's marriage in 1855, Mr. Higginson wrote to his mother:— [137]

Guess what wedding we are going to next—on May Day . . . dear Lucy Stone's!! . . . I am glad the world should see her as a wife and mother. Still there was something so powerful and beautiful in that lonely life of hers, nothing in history more so. . . . I spent several hours with her in Boston last week. . . . She said, “You will laugh when I tell you what I came to Boston for, to buy a wedding dress and to put my little property into the hands of trustees, so that my husband shall not control it; think what a thing that is, for a woman to have to do! But I am determined that it shall be held by a married woman in some way, so my sister is a trustee.” Then she added, “Harry says (Mr. Blackwell) that I ought to be very thankful that a woman has thus much freedom, but that is like telling a fugitive slave to be thankful there is a Canada, when he knows he ought to be free without going there.”

Mr. Higginson officiated at the wedding and heartily approved the protest made by the newly married pair against the existing laws which did not allow a married woman to own even her own wardrobe. This protest was read and signed as a part of the ceremony.

One of the many instances in which Mr. Higginson defended the equality of the sexes is preserved in an old newspaper account. He had been asked to serve on the committee of credentials at a temperance [138] convention in another State. In explanation of his failure to do this, a speaker at the convention, who called Mr. Higginson the heart and head of the temperance cause in Massachusetts, said, ‘He came here at the call, but declined to serve on a committee that could not recognize his sister as well as himself.’

With all this remarkable activity, the indefatigable pastor did not neglect outdoor exercise and recreation. His love of boating found a happy outlet at Worcester where he was instrumental in organizing a boat club for young men and also one for girls, the latter being practically an unheard-of thing in those days. These novices he patiently and enthusiastically coached, to their own great delight. Once with a few young friends he camped for the night on a tiny island in Lake Quinsigamond to see the pond-lilies open at sunrise. There they sailed among ‘acres’ of white lilies and hung wreaths of them on bow and mast. The boat he had owned at Newburyport went with him to Worcester, and he wrote to his mother: ‘This afternoon, under those wonderful clouds, I have been floating on Lake Quinsigamond, in the painted and rejuvenated Annie [Laurie].’

Another diversion was found in long walks, in which Mr. Higginson was sometimes accompanied [139] by H. G. O. Blake, Thoreau's friend and biographer, and occasionally by Thoreau himself. On some of these expeditions he collected birds' eggs: ‘If you only take one or two,’ he wrote, ‘the birds are not troubled. There is no form of re-creation so wonderful to me as this of eggs. That all the flashing splendor of the oriole, all the magnificent melody of the red thrush, should be coiled within these tiny and fragile walls.’

He officiated as president of an athletic club, exercising regularly in the gymnasium, himself; and was also president of skating and cricket clubs. One of his outdoor days is thus described in a letter:—

Day before yesterday I went over to play a cricket match at Clinton, a thing I have been dreaming about ever since I was a child and found it as pleasant as I expected. We were all day in the open air, in the pleasantest green meadow near a river with high wood banks. We played from 9 till 3 with short intermissions and then all took a swim in the river and went to dinner. Every one in Worcester supposed we should be beaten, but we beat them so tremendously, 3 to I, that our return was a perfect ovation and it was quite exciting.

To a young friend he wrote:—

I have felt so much strength and scope to come to me from even glimpses of an outdoor life that I understand your occasional longings to be a gipsy. [140] I think it almost impossible to waste time spent outdoors. . . .

The hours the idle school boy squandered
The man would die ere he'd forget.

Mr. Higginson's interest in botany here found scope; he continued the microscopic work begun in student days; and was the prime mover in forming the Worcester Natural History Society. He succeeded in securing only one woman member, and this lady asserts that the meetings were most entertaining. The reluctance of other women to become members is explained by the fact that in those days most women shrank from the least publicity. Mr. Higginson was also instrumental in organizing and managing the free public library, being one of its early trustees. In all these enterprises he enlisted a band of enthusiastic Worcester youth. His unusual gift for interesting young men is described by a former Harvard instructor who testifies that he saw ‘scores of instances of the perfectly extraordinary way in which his character inspired a desire in the hearts of young men to be like him.’

Mr. Higginson early concerned himself with prison reform and the problem of the future of discharged convicts. In spite of his multiplicity of cares, it was with a struggle that he decided on account of fatigue to forego the duties of an overseer of the [141] poor. Although most responsive to appeals for help, the weary pastor sometimes rebelled a little, as in the following complaint: ‘Mrs. Dall writes to me about Woman's Rights petitions. Always there is the same difficulty; if I touch a thing with my little finger, I am always compelled, by the failure of co-laborers, to grasp it with my whole hand. . . . I have spent a large part of my life in trying to set men upon their legs who were constitutionally disqualified for standing there.’

Many years later, in 1882, Mr. Higginson received a most unexpected tribute to his public work in Worcester. This was a bequest of five hundred dollars from a former resident of that town. The donor in his will left this sum to ‘Thos. Wentworth Higginson as a mark of my abiding appreciation of his noble labors in the city of Worcester.’

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