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Chapter 21:

To Sir Charles Lyell.

Boston, May 17, 1859.
My dear Lyell,—By the time this letter reaches London, I trust that you will be safely back in Harley Street, from the land of dikes and canals,—a strange country, which I visited once, and seemed to lead such a sort of amphibious existence, that I have never cared to go there again. But it was in the month of July, and the waters pumped up by the windmills did not give out Sabean odors.

We feel very uncomfortable about the news we get from your side of the Atlantic . . . . But I had rather talk about the progress of civilization than its decay and death, which are, I conceive, the natural results of the prevalence of military governments. So I will tell you about Agassiz and his affairs. . . . . The establishment1 is a grand one, and I take an interest in it, not from any knowledge about the subject, or any personal regard for it, but because I think such an institution will tend, more than anything else, at the present time, to lay the foundation for a real university among us, where all the great divisions of human knowledge shall be duly represented and taught. I had a vision of such an establishment forty years ago, when I came fresh from a two-years' residence at Gottingen; but that was too soon. Nobody listened to me. Now, however, when we have the best law school in the country, one of the best observatories in the world, a good medical school, and a good botanical garden, I think the Lawrence Scientific School, with the Zoological and Paleontological Museum, may push through a true university, and bring up the Greek, Latin, mathematics, history, philosophy, etc., to their proper level. At least I hope so, and mean to work for it. . . . . .

We are looking for your paper on Etna, and I hope to be able to understand it, but do not feel sure. Of Mansell's lectures I have [423] better hopes. They are published here. We are all well, and all send love to dear Lady Lyell. . . . .

Yours always,

In 1867 Mr. Ticknor, as one of the Trustees of the Zoological Museum, made some extemporaneous remarks before a committee of the Legislature of Massachusetts, and after returning home he wrote down a part of what he remembered saying. One passage so connects itself with the contents of the preceding letter, that it seems well it should be added here. He evidently felt that, during the eight years that had intervened, his expectations had been realized in some degree.
I know almost nothing of the science he [Professor Agassiz] has illustrated, by labors and sacrifices, which I cannot find elsewhere among us. But this we all know. The different branches of human knowledge are closely connected, and each contributes its part to make up the grand sum of a state's culture and civilization. Nor do we find that, in any well-organized institution for education, any one of these branches gets easily much in advance of all the others. It is very difficult, very rarely known in Europe, where so much depends on protection and privilege. In our own country, where everything is so free, where competition is of the very essence of our institutions, and where there are everywhere such ambitious longings for progress, it seems absolutely impossible. The great difficulty is at the beginning, to awake the first interest, to persuade us that we are really deficient. It is the first step that costs. Get one department to move, and the rest will follow. Get mathematics to move, or natural science, and the languages, history, and literature will follow. Active, earnest men, who are interested in any one branch, will not suffer it to linger far behind the others.

Nobody will, I suppose, deny that natural science. has been doing this work in Harvard College of late. But it has done more. It has tended to open that institution; to make it a free university, accessible to all, whether they desire to receive instruction in one branch or in many. And for these great services, tending to make our chief college like a university on the Continent of Europe, and not like a close corporation,—such as the English universities are,—the cause of natural science has, of late years, been much favored by liberal and intelligent men in Massachusetts, as well as by the Legislature. [424]

To Hon E. Everett.

Niagara Falls, August 22, 1859.
My dear Everett,—By intimations in my letters from Boston, I find you must have been there, only two or three days ago. Of course your plans must have been changed since we parted. Pray write to me, therefore, and tell me what they are. I hope you will remain in Boston until I return, which will be in about a month,— certainly before October 1 . . . .

We have had a very pleasant summer so far, and are living here most agreeably in a cottage by ourselves, but belonging to the hotel on the English side, and facing both the falls. It is, on the whole, I think, the grandest scene known to me, though I dare say there are. grander that I have never visited. . . . .

When we first came here, Sir Edmund and Lady Head—who are only four or five hours off by rail—came and made us a visit of a few days, since which we have passed a fortnight with them at Toronto and are not without hopes that they will come to us again before we return home. She is a very charming, highly cultivated person, and he is one of the most accurate and accomplished scholars I have ever known. He has been a good deal in Spain, and has some curious Spanish books in his large library, over which we have had much talk. I think he can repeat more poetry, Greek, Latin, German, and Spanish, than any person I ever knew.

Toronto is much more of a place, and there are more cultivated people there, than I had any notion of. They have a good college for certain purposes, but the Province has another, on a larger and more liberal scale. They are just completing for it a very large stone building,—three sides of a quadrangle,—which is a finer building and better adapted to its purposes than any similar one in the United States; I suspect a finer building than any we have for any purpose whatever, except the Capitol at Washington. It is in the Norman style of architecture.. . . .

But if we are ignorant, as I think we are, about Canada, they are quite as ignorant about us. I think they hardly know more than the people in England do. . . . .

We are all well, and send kindest regards. . . . .

Yours sincerely,


To Sir Edmund Head.

Boston, March 26, 1860.
I have been invited by the Historical Society of New York, with Everett and one or two more hereabouts, to listen in their Music Hall to a discourse which Bryant, the poet, will deliver on Washington Irving's birthday, April 3, in honor of his genius and virtues. As I really loved and admired him very much,—having lived a good deal with him in London in 1818-19, just before the Sketch Book came out, when he was in straitened circumstances and little known, —I mean to go. I will not disguise from you, however, that Mrs. Ticknor and Anna, without whom, and their influence, I should not move, want a spree, and that Everett has entered into a bond to do all the talking. In this way I count upon a good time. . . . .

I had a letter yesterday from Lord Carlisle. He seems to think that busy times are on them in Europe, and rejoices—as we do here --that there are no complications with the United States. Gladstone, too, he praises, as Reinike says, utermaten; but throws in a little doubt whether his judgment is equal to his genius and virtue. How striking it is, that two such scholars as he and Lewis should have made such capital Chancellors of the Exchequer! I think either of them could, while in office, have stood successfully for a scholarship at Oxford. But what is Lewis doing with Babrius, and what set him out to do anything with him? I only know the booksellers announcement.

To Sir Edmund Head.

Gardiner, Maine, July 26, 1860.
My dear Head,—Your letter has come round by Boston, and reached me here, where Mrs. Ticknor and I are making a visit to our old friends, the Gardiners. I was very glad to get it, and to know that you are safe and well home from your fishing-frolic; and that you had good success. I take it that few of the one hundred and five salmon that were slaughtered were killed by any hand but yours. If you get from it strength to face the campaign now impending, it will have done a good work for you.

We came here last week, and shall remain till the last day of the present one, when we return home, where I have needful occupations for three or four days. But after that we shall be most happy to join Lady Head, having no engagements from August 5 to September. We shall arrange our affairs so as to go to Gorham, whenever Lady [426] Head advises us that she shall be glad to have us come. It is a good while since I have been in that country, and I shall enjoy it very much; and besides that, I think I shall find it salutary. Since the last winter and spring, when I was a little overworked and run down, I find a tonic atmosphere very useful. . . . .

Certainly We shall be at home all the month of October, . . . . and count very much upon your visit. Pray make it as long as you can. .

I shall be glad to have Garibaldi succeed; but I do not see how all the Italian questions, which seem to be getting more and more complicated every day, are to be peaceably solved. Venice cannot remain as it is, and yet the rest of Italy be made quiet; the Pope will not give up; the Emperor cannot depose him, or permit revolution to go further in Italy than it has gone. In short, it is much like the old case of undertaking to blow the barrel of gunpowder half-way down. I do not see how it is to end. I am in great hopes, however, that Louis Napoleon was made to feel, at Baden, that there are limits to his power which he must not attempt to pass; and from what I hear, I think he was made to feel it.

I shall hardly hear from you again until your flurry is over, 2 but Lady Head will tell us all about it. Her case is a new illustration of the beneficent result of the revolution of 1776, which made the United States a refuge for the oppressed. Please give the love of all of us to her, and to C. and A., and assure them that we shall endeavor to keep up the reputation of our country for humanity.

Yours always faithfully,

To Mr. Charles S. Daveis.

Boston, October 13, 1860.
My dear Charles,—Since I wrote from the Glen, 3 I have heard of you-until yesterday-only by accident. Our calculations for our tour in the Mountains were overrun by two days, so that, when we reached Gorham again, I had no time either to see Lady Head off for Quebec, or to stop a night in Portland and see you, both of which I much regretted. Since our nominal return to Boston, which was necessary to keep other engagements, we have been little at home. We made a visit directly to our kinsfolk in Berkshire, 4 which had [427] been promised three successive years; then we went to New York to buy carpets, missing Cogswell, or, as he pretends, avoiding him by a day; then we went to some friends on the North River; and now we are just come back from Savage's, 5 where we have been due since 1855. Of course the few intervening days at home have been busy enough. The practical result, however, of the whole is, that we have had an uncommonly pleasant summer,—generally a gay one for old folks,—and that we are now in excellent health, gathered comfortably to our own hearthstone, with good pluck to encounter a New England winter, which the two Annas like less than I do.

Touching the Prince's visit,—of which you speak inquiringly,—I think you know just about as much as I do . . . . Everything, however, has, I believe, been done circumspectly, and is likely to turn out as well as can be expected. My whole service, I suppose, will be to conduct Anna to the ball,—her mother refusing absolutely to go, —for, as Judge Shaw will not be vis-à--vis to the Prince, neither Sparks nor I, nor any of the other gay young fellows associated with us, can aspire to that distinction . . . .

Thank you very much for your kind invitation; but my migrations for the rest of the year can hardly be more than the good Vicar's, from the blue bed to the brown. You must come here. You are due some time before winter, and the sooner you come the better. Meantime, we all send love and kindest wishes.

G. T.

To Sir Edmund Head.

Boston, Tuesday, October 23, 1860.
The Prince's visit went off as well as possible . . . . . Two things strike me in the whole affair. The first is, the deep ground of the cordiality on the part of the masses. It is, I believe, that they felt they could show their good-will, without any fear of its being misconstrued into flattery. When we were young and weak, our pride made us sensitive, and we were not disposed to such exhibitions of feeling. The ill — will of the War of Independence continued long; continued, indeed, until lately; and there has been a strong sense—produced by the ignorance and indiscretion of reviews and newspapers—that we were undervalued by your nation. But the coming of your Prince among us was a compliment not to be misinterpreted or misunderstood, and showed a confidence in our good feelings, which a people, [428] with much less generosity in their natures than I believe my countrymen to possess, could not fail to accept, in the spirit in which it was offered. And they have certainly done it. I have no more doubt of it than I have of any fact in history.6

The other thing is, that the open cordiality of the people here has rebuked and silenced anything that remained, in newspaper editors and reporters, of the old feelings of ill — will toward your country. I have watched the tone of our papers ever since the Prince touched at Newfoundland, and have observed how their tone has gradually changed, from occasional touches of ill manners to such as are unexceptionable. This is especially true of the old democratic papers; those, I mean, that have always taken sides against England, from the time of the French Revolution. It is most desirable, and important, that this tone in our newspapers should be kept up, and that it should be met in a similar spirit by yours. On this point, both sides have heretofore behaved badly enough, and done more, I suspect, than all other causes, to keep up an ill — will between the two countries. Formerly, we were most in fault. Latterly,—allow me to say it,—you have been most in fault, especially the ‘Times,’ the ‘Saturday Review,’ and. the ‘Quarterly’; whose occasional blunders about the most obvious things only vex us the more, that men, so ignorant of what they discuss, should undertake to pass judgment upon our character and doings.

Now is the time to change all this. We are in the best possible temper for it, and are likely to continue so, if nothing comes from your side to cross and disturb us. . . . . Our people are now in excellent humor with themselves, and with you; such, so far as England is concerned, as I never saw before, and never hoped to live to see. If your people are in the same temper about us, I think no trouble of a serious nature will arise in this generation. . . . .

I have written such a long letter, about matters with which I have very small concern, that I have hardly room to send the love of all of us to dear Lady Head, and C. and A. I shall look to hear from you very soon, and to have you all again under my roof-tree in February.

Faithfully yours,


From Sir E. Head.

ATHENAeUM, [London, ] November 23, 1860.
My dear Ticknor,—I owe you another letter, were it only to thank you for your kindness in writing again so soon. I am able to say that everybody in this country sets the highest value on the courtesy and friendly bearing towards the Prince, shown in the United States. I may begin from the top, for I had the opportunity of talking both to the Queen and Prince Albert on the subject last week. Your Minister (Dallas) and his wife were at the Castle at the same time with myself. The Prince appeared in good spirits, and perfectly recovered from his long voyage. Neither her Majesty nor the Prince spoke to me of your letters, but General Phipps wrote to Lewis, saying how much they were interested by the first. Lewis read to them such portions of the second as were adapted to royal ears . .

Prince Albert expressed himself to me personally in terms much stronger than were necessary with reference to the Prince's visit. I attributed a large portion of its success to the Prince of Wales's own courtesy and good-nature, which is strictly true. Palmerston and Lord John Russell were at the Castle,—the former vigorous enough to walk upwards of three miles with me and Lord St. Germans in the afternoon of Sunday.

Lady Head is tolerably well, but she has had a bad cold. We are at Farrance's, near Eaton Square, which is a most comfortable hotel. On Saturday, December 11, we shall be at Oxford, on our way to the West. Milman is very well; so are the Lyells. I examined Lyell's collection of the flint axe-heads from St. Acheul, in Picardy, contemporaneous with the elephants, etc. Of their human origin there can be no doubt. The evidence of design in their fabrication is as clear as it would be in Paley's watch. Lyell speaks confidently of their geological date.

Twisleton and his wife dined at Kent House last night. She is looking ‘peaky’ from a cold, but otherwise well.

Hogarth will resuscitate your print, and I have told him to frame it plainly.

There is, I think, a considerable theological movement, since I was last in England, in a rationalistic direction.

Kind regards to Mrs. Ticknor and Anna.

Yours truly,


To Sir Charles Lyell, Bart.

Boston, November 27, 1860.
My dear Lyell,—You will be glad, I think, to hear something about the state of affairs in the United States, from somebody with whom you are so well acquainted that you will know how to measure what he says. . . . . All men, I think, are satisfied that our principles of government are about to be put to the test as they never yet have been. The sectional parties, that Washington and Hamilton foresaw as our greatest danger, and which Calhoun, Clay, Webster, and J. Q. Adams died believing they would break up the Union, are now fully formed. . . . From the time of Calhoun, or from the announcement of his dangerous and unsound doctrines, that is, from 1828, to 1832, the people of South Carolina have been gradually coming to the conclusion that it is not for their material interest to continue in the Union. Nearly all have now come to this persuasion.7 . . . . They care little whether any other State goes with them; so extravagantly excited have they become . . . . The State most likely to go with them is Alabama. Georgia is very much excited, and very unsound, as we think; and Florida, a State of less consequence, is quite ready to go . . . . . South Carolina, however, is the only State about which, at this moment, there seems little or no doubt. But property everywhere is the great bond of society; and in our slave-holding States the negroes constitute an extraordinary proportion of the wealth of the people. . . . . This property, which, at the time when the Constitution was formed, existed in nearly all the States, we all promised should be secured to the South by the return of their fugitive slaves, and without this promise the Constitution could not have been formed at all. The slave States are now in a minority, and several of the free States have enacted laws to prevent the return of these fugitives. This is the main, substantial ground of their complaints. But it is not the only or chief ground. They believe themselves in danger; and many of the leading men all through the South believe that if there were no danger in the case they should be better out of the Union than they are in it.

All this, as you at once perceive, is neither legal nor logical. The [431] laws they complain of have nowhere prevented the return of their fugitive slaves. . . . . Moreover, they can be in no immediate danger. . . . . But all this avails nothing. The cry is, that the South is in danger, because the South is in the minority, and is weak; and they had better go out of the Union before they become weaker and more feeble by the constantly increasing power of the free States. . . . .

Meanwhile, the very suggestion has thrown the finances of the country into confusion. There was a panic last week, worse in many respects than the formidable one of 1857 . . . . It was foreseen by nobody, and is a proof not only of the importance of the political questions at issue, but of the peculiar sensitiveness of men in a government which is so purely a matter of opinion, and which has so few traditions and precedents to rest upon. Where it will end, no man can tell. With greater real wealth than we ever had before; with enormous crops, which are so much wanted in Europe that they are sure to be turned into ready money at once; and with exchanges in our favor, so that gold is coming in daily, one would think that it should end at once. But if we are going to quarrel at home, we have an element in our reckoning that was never there before, and the value and import of which none are wise enough to estimate. . . . . If any country in all the world were governed according to the well-understood demands of its material interests, the people of that country would be better off than the people of any other country on the face of the earth. But passions and personal interests rule more or less everywhere. Plectuntur Achivi is as true now as it was eighteen hundred or three thousand years ago. . . . .

One thing, however, is certain. There will be more real profitable, substantial thinking upon political subjects done in the United States during the next six months, than has been done during the last ten years . . . . In no event will there be any attempt at coercion until we are much further ahead in our troubles and exasperation. . . . . If it comes to fighting, we of the North of course shall beat. We have the moral and physical power, the wealth, and all the other means needful to carry through the contest successfully. But it will be such a contest as the civilized world has not seen for a long time; much like one of the old contests between the Greek republics, and at the end, when, if it ever happens, we must have three, or four, or five millions of uneducated slaves on our hands, what shall we do with them? Anna—the younger—asked this question of Count Cavour, in his opera-box, one night, 8 after he had shown us that he [432] knew more about the politics and parties of this country than any Italian we had seen all the preceding winter. ‘Mademoiselle,’ he answered, ‘je crois que vous parlerez beaucoup de laemancipation, et que vous émanciperez fort peu.’ Shall we come to this condition, this point? I trust not in my time; but we are nearer to it than— six months ago—I thought it was possible we should be in ten years. . . . . By the end of January you will be able to judge of all these things as well as we can. By that time the programme will be out.

Some people—and among them two or three whose opinions are worth having—believe that leading men at the South have already an understanding with Louis Napoleon, that, for certain advantages in trade, he should enter into an alliance, offensive and defensive, with them. I do not believe in this. But it may come with time. . . .

Anna wrote to Lady Lyell so much about the Prince's visit, that I can add nothing, except my conviction that it has done good to the relations of the two countries. . . . . . The Duke of Newcastle and Dr, Acland were the only two persons of whom I saw a little, to any real purpose, during their two or three days visit here. The Doctor is a most interesting and attractive person. There can be no doubt about that. The Duke talked well and wisely. . . . .

Commend us to Sir Edmund and Lady Head when you see them. We had a charming visit from them when they embarked, and most pleasant letters since their arrival.

Yours faithfully,

In a letter to Sir Edmund Head Mr. Ticknor says:—
With Dr. Acland I had a charming day, driving about in Cambridge, Charlestown, and Boston, seven or eight hours,—one of which, or nearly one, was spent with him and Agassiz, alone in Agassiz's Museum, and of which I must give you an account when I see you. It was one of the remarkable hours of my life.

To Sir Edmund Head, Bart.

Boston, April 8, 1861.
My dear Head,—We are all asleep here, and have been for some time, personally and politically. . . . All North--the old Union —is asleep, but is not therefore doing well. In my judgment we are drifting. Perhaps some anchor will hold. But, if it does, the cable may snap. Of course, with these views, I do not feel better about our [433] affairs than I did when you were here;9 nor take a more cheerful view of them than you do in your letters.

To Sir Edmund Head.

Boston, April 9, 181.
I had a letter this morning from a gentleman in Baltimore, eminent for his talents and position, who has exercised much influence through the border States against secession during the last four months. But he is now much disheartened. He says that disunion sentiments are gaining ground in Virginia and Maryland. He feels, as I think I told you I do, that we are drifting, and that nobody knows where we shall fetch up. ‘An intimate friend,’ he says, ‘and as I think the clearest-headed of the foreign ministers at Washington, and a lover, too, of the United States, writes to me, “We are here still in great uncertainty, and the process of disintegration finds no remedy.” ’

I think the same sense of uncertainty prevails everywhere. This, in itself, is mischief and disaster.

Yours faithfully,

To Sir Edmund Head.

Boston, April 21, 1861.
My dear Head,—I sent you by yesterday's express a parcel, about which the two papers I enclose will give you all the information you will need. The Danish books, I think, will be all you will want for some time.

But there are other things to talk about now. The heather is on fire. I never before knew what a popular excitement can be. Holiday enthusiasm I have seen often enough, and anxious crowds I remember during the war of 1812-15, but never anything like this. Indeed, here at the North, at least, there never was anything like it; for if the feeling were as deep and stern in 1775, it was by no means so intelligent or unanimous; and then the masses to be moved were as a handful compared to our dense population now.

The whole people, in fact, has come to a perception that the question is, whether we shall have anarchy or no. The sovereign—for the people is the only sovereign in this country—has begun to exercise his sovereign functions. Business is substantially suspended. Men [434] think, wisely or unwisely, of the state of affairs, and not of much else. The whole population, men, women, and children, seem to be in the streets with Union favors and flags; walking about uneasily, because their anxiety and nervous excitement will not permit them to stay at home, where all ordinary occupation has become unsavory. Public meetings are held everywhere, in the small towns and villages as much as in the cities; considerable sums of money are voted to sustain the movement and take care of the families of those who are mustered into service; and still larger sums are given by individuals. Nobody holds back. Civil war is freely accepted everywhere; by some with alacrity, as the only means of settling a controversy based on long-cherished hatreds; by others as something sent as a judgment from Heaven, like a flood or an earthquake; by all as inevitable, by all as the least of the evils among which we are permitted to choose, anarchy being the obvious, and perhaps the only alternative.

Here in Boston the people are constantly gathering about the State House—which you know is in front of my windows—and about Faneuil all, where the troops chiefly assemble or halt on their way through town. When soldiers march by there is grave shouting; nothing like the common cheering. There is an earnestness such as I never witnessed before in any popular movement.

To Sir Edmund Head.

Boston, April 28, 1861.
It [the last letter] was written just a week ago, and contained my first impressions about our outbreak at the North. Its character— that of the outbreak—remains the same; much enthusiasm, much deep earnestness. Men and money are profusely offered; the best blood among us volunteering and going, and money untold following them. Of course, more or less of both will be wasted; but it is of consequence that the resolute courage and devotion should be sustained, and they are not likely to cost too much. We have been slow to kindle; but we have made a Nebuchadnezzar's furnace of it at last, and the heat will remain, and the embers will smoulder, long after the flames that now light up everything shall cease to be seen or felt.

The solid men of Boston are just organizing a State movement to collect funds, which shall be systematically applied when the resources of this first enthusiasm begin to fail. . . . . Thus far it has been, on our part, a sort of crusade. But the regular armies will soon be ready to follow. [435]

Through the whole of the last six months, you see the working of our political institutions most strikingly. The people is the practical sovereign, and, until the people had been appealed to, and had moved, the Administration, whether of Buchanan or of Lincoln, could act with little efficiency. We drifted. Now the rudder is felt. Maryland must yield, or become a battle-ground over which the opposing forces will roll their floods alternately. Baltimore must open her gates, or the city will be all but razed. At least, so far we seem to see ahead.

But the people, the sovereign, came to the rescue at the last moment. . . . . Now the movement—partly from having been so long delayed and restrained—is become absolute and impetuous, so that twice as many troops will speedily be in Scott's hands as he will want. . . . .

Meantime, I think that the moral effect of our union and vigor at the North—which was wholly unexpected. at the South—will tend to repress the Southern ardor for conquest, if not for fighting. We have never apprehended that we should be worsted in the end, and we do not now anticipate early reverses, or accidents of any consequence. We mean, on all accounts, to fight it out, once for all. . . . .

Yours truly,

1 The Museum of Comparative Zoology at Cambridge.

2 The visit of the Prince of Wales to Canada.

3 In the White Mountains.

4 Hon. B. R. Curtis and his family.

5 Mr. James Savage's country-place at Lunenburg, in the northern part of Massachusetts.

6 In answering this letter Sir Edmund says: “The views which you express with reference to the effect of the Prince's visit are, I believe, quite correct. I have taken measures for letting the Queen see such portions of your letter as bear directly on the benefits likely to accrue to both countries, and I hope you will not think me indiscreet in doing so.. . . .”

7 The passages omitted consist of amplifications and citations of facts, which seem needless now, and occupy much space.

8 In 1857. See ante, p. 352.

9 Six months before.

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