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Chapter 11: anti-slavery attitude: literary work: trip to Cuba

Returning to Boston in 1851, I found the di. vision of public sentiment more strongly marked than ever. The Fugitive Slave Law was much in the public mind. The anti-slavery people attacked it with might and main, while the class of wealthy conservatives and their followers strongly deprecated all opposition to its enactments. During my absence Charles Sumner had been elected to the Senate of the United States, in place of Daniel Webster, who had hitherto been the political idol of the Massachusetts aristocracy. Mr. Sumner's course had warmly commended him to a large and ever increasing constituency, but had brought down upon him the anger of Mr. Webster's political supporters. My husband's sympathies were entirely with the class then derided as ‘a band of disturbers of the public peace, enemies of law and order.’ I deeply regretted the discords of the time, and would have had all people good friends, however diverse in political persuasion. As this could not be, I felt constrained to [219] cast in my lot with those who protested against the new assumptions of the slave power. The social ostracism which visited Charles Sumner never fell upon Dr. Howe. This may have been because the active life of the latter lay without the domain of politics, but also, I must think, because the services which he continually rendered to the community compelled from all who knew him, not only respect, but also cordial good-will.

I did not then, or at any time, make any willful breach with the society to which I was naturally related. It did, however, much annoy me to hear those spoken of with contempt and invective who, I was persuaded, were only far in advance of the conscience of the time. I suppose that I sometimes repelled the attacks made upon them with a certain heat of temper, to avoid which I ought to have remembered Talleyrand's famous admonition, ‘Surtout point de zele.’ Better, perhaps, would it have been to rest in the happy prophecy which assures us that ‘Wisdom is justified of all her children.’ Ordinary society is apt to class the varieties of individuals under certain stereotyped heads, and I have no doubt that it held me at this time to be a seeker after novelties, and one disposed to offer a premium for heresies of every kind. Yet I must say that I was never made painfully aware of the existence of such a feeling. There was always a leaven of [220] good sense and good sentiment even in the worldly world of Boston, and as time went on I became the recipient of much kindness, and the happy possessor of a circle of substantial friends.

Shortly after my return to Boston, my husband spoke to me of a new acquaintance,—a Polish nobleman, Adam Gurowski by name,—concerning whom he related the following circumstances. Count Gurowski had been implicated in one of the later Polish insurrections. In order to keep his large estates from confiscation he had made them over to his younger brother, upon the explicit condition that a sufficient remittance should be regularly sent him, to enable him to live wherever his lot should thenceforth be cast. He came to this country, but the remittances failed to follow him, and he presently found himself without funds in a foreign land. Being a man of much erudition, he had made friends with some of the professors of Harvard University. They offered him assistance, which he declined, and it soon appeared that he was working in the gardens of Hovey & Co., in or near Cambridge. His new friends remonstrated with him, pleading that this work was unsuitable for a man of his rank and condition. He replied, ‘I am Gurowski; labor cannot degrade me.’ This independence of his position commended him much [221] to the esteem of my husband, and he was more than once invited to our house. Some literary employment was found for him, and finally, through influence exerted at Washington, a position as translator was secured for him in the State Department. He was at Newport during the summer that we passed at the Cliff House, and he it was who gave it the title of Hotel Rambouillet. His proved to be a character of remarkable contradictions, in which really noble and generous impulses contrasted with an undisciplined temper and an insatiable curiosity. While inveighing constantly against the rudeness of American manners, he himself was often guilty of great impoliteness. To give an example: At his boarding-house in Newport a child at table gave a little trouble, upon which the count animadverted with great severity. The mother, waxing impatient, said, ‘I think, count, that you have no right to say so much about table manners; for you yesterday broke the crust of the chicken pie with your fist, and pulled the meat out with your fingers!’

His curiosity, as I have said, was unbounded. Meeting a lady of his acquaintance at her door, and seeing a basket on her arm, he asked, ‘Where are you going, Mrs.——, so early, with that basket?’ She declined to answer the question, on the ground that the questioner had no concern in her errand. [222] On the evening of the same day he again met the lady, and said to her, ‘I know now where you were going this morning with that basket.’ If friends on whom he called were said to be engaged or not at home, he was at great pains to find out how they were engaged, or whether they were really at home in spite of the message to the contrary. One gentleman in Newport, not desiring to receive the count's visit, and knowing that he would not be safe anywhere in his own house, took refuge in the loft of his barn and drew the ladder up after him.

And yet Adam Gurowski was a true-hearted man, loyal to every good cause and devoted to his few friends. His life continued to the last to be a very checkered one. When the civil war broke out, his disapprobation of men and measures took expression in vehement and indignant protest against what appeared to him a willful mismanagement of public business. William H. Seward was then at the head of the Department of State, and against his policy the count fulminated in public and in private. He was warned by friends, and at last officially told that he could not be retained in the department if he persisted in stigmatizing its chief as a fool, a timeserver, no matter what. He persevered, and was dismissed from his place. He had been on friendly terms with Charles Sumner, to whom he probably owed his appointment. [223] He tormented this gentleman to such a degree as to terminate all relations between the two. Of this breach Mr. Sumner gave the following account: ‘The count would come to my rooms at all hours. When I left my sleeping-chamber in the morning, I often found him in my study, seated at my table, perusing my morning paper and probably any other matter which might excite his curiosity. If he happened to come in while a foreign minister was visiting me, he would stay through the visit. I bore with this for a long time. At last the annoyance became insupportable. One evening, after a long sitting in my room, he took leave, but presently returned for a fresh seance, although it was already very late. I said to him, “Count, you must go now, and you must never return.” “How is this, my dear friend?” exclaimed the count. “There is no explanation,” said I, “only you must not come to my room again.” ’ This ended the acquaintance! The count after this spoke very bitterly of Mr. Sumner, whose procedure did seem to me a little severe.

Unfortunately the lesson was quite lost upon Gurowski, and he continued to make enemies of those with whom he had to do, until nearly every door in Washington was closed to him. There was one exception. Mrs. Charles Eames, wife of a well-known lawyer, was one of the notabilities [224] of Washington. Hers was one of those central characters which are able to attract and harmonize the most diverse social elements. Her house had long been a resort of the worthies of the capital. Men of mark and of intelligence gathered about her, regardless of party divisions. No one understood Washington society better than she did, and no one in it was more highly esteemed or less liable to be misrepresented. Mrs. Eames well knew how provoking and tormenting Count Gurowski was apt to be, but she knew, too, the remarkable qualities which went far to redeem his troublesome traits of character. And so, when the count seemed to be entirely discredited, she stood up for him, warning her friends that if they came to her house they would always be likely to meet this unacceptable man. He, on his part, was warmly sensible of the value of her friendship, and showed his gratitude by a sincere interest in all that concerned her. The courageous position which she had assumed in his behalf was not without effect upon the society of the place, and people in general felt obliged to show some respect to a person whom Mrs. Eames honored with her friendship.

I myself have reason to remember with gratitude Mrs. Eames's hospitality. I made more than one visit at her house, and I well recall the distinguished company that I met there. The [225] house was simple in its appointments, for the hosts were not in affluent circumstances, but its atmosphere of cordiality and of good sense was delightful. At one of her dinner parties I remember meeting Hon. Salmon P. Chase, afterwards Chief Justice of the United States, Secretary Welles of the Navy, and Senator Grimes of Iowa. I had seen that morning a life-size painting representing President Lincoln surrounded by the members of his Cabinet. Mr. Chase, I think, asked what I thought of the picture. I replied that I thought Mr. Lincoln's attitude rather awkward, and his legs out of proportion in their length. Mr. Chase laughed, and said, ‘Mr. Lincoln's legs are so long that it would be difficult to exaggerate them.’

I came to Washington soon after the conclusion of the war, and heard that Count Gurowski was seriously ill at the home of his good friend. I hastened thither to inquire concerning him, and learned that his life was almost despaired of. Mr. Eames told me this, and said that his wife and a lady friend of hers were incessant in their care of him. He promised that I should see him as soon as a change for the better should appear. Instead of this I received one day a message from Mrs. Eames, saying that the count was now given up by his physician, and that I might come, if I wished to see him alive once more. I went to the house [226] at once, and found Mrs. Eames and her friend at the bedside of the dying man. He was already unconscious, and soon breathed his last. At Mr. Eames's request I now gave up my room at the hotel and came to stay with Mrs. Eames, who was prostrated with the fatigue of nursing the sick man and with grief for his loss. While I sat and talked with her Mr. Eames entered the room, and said, ‘Mrs. Howe, my wife has always had a menagerie here in Washington, and now she has lost her faithful old grizzly.’

I was intrusted with some of the arrangements for the funeral. Mrs. Eames said to me that, as the count had been a man of no religious belief, she thought it would be best to invite a Unitarian minister to officiate at his funeral. I should add that her grief prevented her from perceiving the humor of the suggestion. I accordingly secured the services of the Rev. John Pierpont, who happened to be in Washington at the time. Charles Sumner came to the house before the funeral, and actually shed tears as he looked on the face of his former friend. He remarked upon the beauty of the countenance, saying in his rather oratorical way, ‘There is a beauty of life, and there is a beauty of death.’ The count's good looks had been spoiled in early life by the loss of one eye, which had been destroyed, it was said, in a duel. After death, however, this blemish [227] did not appear, and the distinction of the features was remarkable.

Among his few effects was a printed volume containing the genealogy of his family, which had thrice intermarried with royal houses, once in the family of Maria Lesczinska, wife of Louis XV. of France. Within this book he had inclosed one or two cast-off trifles belonging to Mrs. Eames, with a few words of deep and grateful affection. So ended this troublous life. The Russian minister at Washington called upon Mrs. Eames soon after the funeral, and spoke with respect of the count, who, he said, could have held a brilliant position in Russia, had it not been for his quarrelsome disposition. Despite his skepticism, and in all his poverty, he caused a mass to be said every year for the soul of his mother, who had been a devout Catholic. To the brother whose want of faith added the distresses of poverty to the woes of exile, Gurowski once addressed a letter in the following form: ‘To John Gurowski, the greatest scoundrel in Europe.’ A younger brother of his, a man of great beauty of person, enticed one of the infantas of Spain from the school or convent in which she was pursuing her education. This adventure made much noise at the time. Mrs. Eames once read me part of a letter from this lady, in which she spoke of ‘the fatal Gurowski beauty.’ [228]

It was in the early years of this decade (1850– 1860) that I definitively came before the world as an author. My first volume of poems, entitled ‘Passion Flowers,’ was published by Ticknor and Fields, without my name. In the choice and arrangement of the poems James T. Fields had been very helpful to me. My lack of experience had led me to suppose that my incognito might easily be maintained, but in this my expectations were disappointed. The authorship of the book was at once traced to me. It was much praised, much blamed, and much called in question. From the highest literary authorities of the time it received encouraging commendation. Mr. Emerson acknowledged the copy sent him, in a very kind letter. Mr. Whittier did likewise. He wrote, ‘I dare say thy volume has faults enough.’ For all this, he spoke warmly of its merits. Prescott, the beloved historian, made me happy with his good opinion. George Ripley, in the ‘New York Tribune,’ Edwin Whipple and Frank Sanborn in Boston, reviewed the volume in a very genial and appreciative spirit. I think that my joy reached its height when I heard Theodore Parker repeat some of my lines from the pulpit. Miss Catharine Sedgwick, in speaking of the poems to a mutual friend, quoted with praise a line from my long poem on Rome. Speaking of my first hearing of the nightingale, it says:— [229]

A note
Fell as a star falls, trailing sound for light.

Dr. Francis Lieber quoted the following passage as having a Shakespearean ring:—

But, as none can tell
Among the sunbeams which unconscious one
Comes weaponed with celestial will, to strike
The stroke of Freedom on the fettered floods,
Giving the spring his watchword-even so
Rome knew not she had spoke the word of Fate
That should, from out its sluggishness, compel
The frost-bound vastness of barbaric life,
Till, with an ominous sound, the torrent rose
And rushed upon her with terrific brow,
Sweeping her back, through all her haughty ways,
To her own gates, a piteous fugitive.

I make mention of these things because the volume has long been out of print. It was a timid performance upon a slender reed, but the great performers in the noble orchestra of writers an-answered to its appeal, which won me a seat in their ranks.

The work, such as it was, dealt partly with the stirring questions of the time, partly with things near and familiar. The events of 1848 were still in fresh remembrance: the heroic efforts of Italian patriots to deliver their country from foreign oppression, the struggle of Hungary to maintain her ancient immunities. The most important among my ‘Passion Flowers’ were devoted [230] to these themes. The wrongs and sufferings of the slave had their part in the volume. A second publication, following two years later, and styled ‘Words for the Hour,’ was esteemed by some critics as better than the first. George William Curtis, at that time editor of ‘Putnam's Magazine,’ wrote me, ‘It is a better book than its predecessor, but will probably not meet with the same success.’ And so, indeed, it proved.

I had always contemplated writing for the stage, and was now emboldened to compose a drama entitled, ‘The World's Own,’ which was produced at Wallack's Theatre in New York. The principal characters were sustained by Matilda Heron, then in the height of her popularity, and Mr. Sothern, afterwards so famous in the role of Lord Dundreary. The play was performed several times in New York and once in Boston. It was pronounced by one critic ‘full of literary merits and of dramatic defects.’ It did not, as they say, ‘keep the stage.’

My next literary venture was a series of papers descriptive of a visit made to the island of Cuba in 1859, under the following circumstances.

Theodore Parker had long intended to make this year one of foreign travel. He had planned a journey in South America, and Dr. Howe had promised to accompany him. The sudden failure of Parker's health at this time was thought to [231] render a change of climate imperative, and in the month of February a voyage to Cuba was prescribed for him. In this, Dr. Howe willingly consented to accompany him, deciding also that I must be of the party.

Our departure was in rough weather. George Ripley, formerly of Brook Farm and then of the ‘New York Tribune,’ an early friend of Parker, came to see us off. My husband insisted somewhat strenuously upon my coming to table at the first meal served on board, as this would secure me a place for the entire voyage. I felt very ill, and Parker, who was seated at the same table, looked at my husband and said, ‘Natura duce,’ for which I was very grateful. Presently the captain, who was carving a roast of beef, asked some one whether a slice of fat was likewise desired. At this I fled to my cabin without waiting for permission. Parker also took refuge in his berth, and we did not meet again for some time. We had encountered a head wind in the Gulf Stream, and were rolled and tossed about in great discomfort. I persisted in being carried on deck every day. My stewardess once said to the stout steward who rendered me this service, ‘This lady has a great deal of energy and no power.’ My bearer, seeking, no doubt, to comfort me, growled in my ear, ‘Well now, I expect this seasickness is a dreadful thing.’ Soon a brighter [232] day dawned upon us, and Parker appeared on deck, limp and helpless, and glad to lie upon a mattress. We had sad tales to tell of what we had suffered. A pretty lady passenger, who sat with us, held up a number of the Atlantic Monthly containing Colonel Higginson's wellre-membered paper, ‘Ought Women to learn the Alphabet?’ ‘Yes,’ cried her husband, ‘for they have got to teach it.’ By this time we had reached the southern seas, and I had entirely recovered from my sea-sickness. When I made my appearance, standing erect, and in my right clothes and mind, people did not recognize me, and asked, ‘Where did that lady come from?’

On our way to Havana we stopped for a day at Nassau. Here we were entertained at luncheon by a physician of the island. Among the articles served to us was the tropical breadfruit, which might really be mistaken for a loaf fresh from the baker's oven. Before this we attended a morning drill of soldiers at the fort. In the book which I published afterwards, I spoke of the presiding officer as a lean Don Quixote on a leaner Rosinante. The colonel, for such was his rank, sent me word that he did not resent my mention of himself, but thought that I might have spoken more admiringly of his horse, of which he was very proud. A drive in the environs and an evening service at the church completed [233] my experience of the friendly little island. When we reembarked for Cuba a gay party of young people accompanied us, all in light summer wear, fluttering with frills and ribbons. The rough sea soon sent them all below, to reappear only when we neared the end of our journey.

The voyage had been of small service to our friend Parker, who was a wretched sailor. Arrived in Havana, he was able to go about somewhat with Dr. Howe. He had, however, a longer voyage before him, and my husband and I went with him to the Spanish steamer which was to carry him to Vera Cruz, whence he sailed for Europe, never to return. Our parting was a sad one. Parker embraced us both, probably feeling, as we did, that he might never see us again. I still carry in my mind the picture of his serious face, crowned with gray locks and a soft gray hat, as he looked over the side of the vessel and waved us a last farewell.

The following extract from my ‘Trip to Cuba’ preserves the record of our mutual leave-taking.

A pleasant row brought us to the side of the steamer. It was dusk already as we ascended her steep gangway, and from that to darkness there is at this season but the interval of a breath. Dusk too were our thoughts at parting from Can Grande, the mighty, the vehement, the great fighter. How were we to miss his deep music, [234] here and at home! With his assistance we had made a very respectable band; now we were to be only a wandering drum and fife,—the fife particularly shrill and the drum particularly solemn.

And now came silence and tears and last embraces; we slipped down the gangway into our little craft and, looking up, saw bending above us, between the slouched hat and the silver beard, the eyes that we can never forget, that seemed to drop back in the darkness with the solemnity of a last farewell. We went home, and the drum hung himself gloomily on his peg, and the little fife shut up for the remainder of the evening.

To our hotel in Havana came, one day, a lovely lady, with pathetic dark eyes and a look of ill health. She was accompanied by her husband and little son. This was Mrs. Frank Hampton, formerly Miss Sally Baxter, a great belle in her time, and much admired by Mr. Thackeray. When we were introduced to each other, I asked, ‘Are you the Mrs. Hampton?’ She asked, ‘Are you the Mrs. Howe?’ We became friends at once. The Hamptons went with us to Matanzas, where we passed a few pleasant days. Dr. Howe was very helpful to the beautiful invalid. Something in the expression of her face reminded him of a relative known to him in early life, and on inquiry he found that Mrs. Hampton's father was a [235] distant cousin of his own. Mrs. Hampton talked much of Thackeray, who had been, while in this country, a familiar visitor at her father's house. She told me that she recognized bits of her own conversation in some of the sayings of Ethel Newcome, and I have little doubt that in depicting the beautiful and noble though wayward girl he had in mind something of the aspect and character of the lovely Sally Baxter. In his correspondence with the family he was sometimes very playful, as when he wrote to Mrs. Baxter thanking her for the ‘wickled palnuts and pandy breaches,’ which she had lately sent him.

When we left Havana our new friends went with us to Charleston, and invited us to visit them at their home in Columbia, S. C. This we were glad to do. The house at which the Hamptons received us belonged to an elder brother, Wade Hampton, whose family were at this time traveling in Europe. Wade Hampton called upon Dr. Howe, and soon introduced a topic which we would gladly have avoided, namely, the strained relations between the North and the South. ‘We mean to fight for it,’ said Wade Hampton. But Dr. Howe afterwards said to me: ‘They cannot be in earnest about meaning to fight. It would be too insane, too fatal to their own interests.’ So indeed it proved, but they then knew us as little as we knew them. They [236] thought that we could not fight, and we thought that they would not. Both parties were soon made wiser by sad experience.

My account of this trip, after publication in the ‘Atlantic Monthly,’ was issued in book form by Ticknor and Fields. Years after this time, a friend of mine landed in Cuba with a copy of the book in her hand luggage. It was at once taken from her by the custom-house officers, and she never saw it again. This little work was favorably spoken of and well received, but it did not please everybody. In one of its chapters, speaking of the natural indolence of the negroes in tropical countries, I had ventured to express the opinion that compulsory employment is better than none. Good Mr. Garrison seized upon this sentence, and impaled it in a column of ‘The Liberator’ headed, ‘The Refuge of Oppression.’ I certainly did not intend it as an argument in favor of negro slavery. As an abstract proposition, and without reference to color, I still think it true.

The publication of my Cuban notes brought me an invitation to chronicle the events of the season at Newport for the ‘New York Tribune.’ This was the beginning of a correspondence with that paper which lasted well into the time of the civil war. My letters dealt somewhat with social doings in Newport and in Boston, but more with [237] the great events of the time. To me the experience was valuable in that I found myself brought nearer in sympathy to the general public, and helped to a better understanding of its needs and demands.

It was in the days now spoken of that I first saw Edwin Booth. Dr. Howe and I betook ourselves to the Boston Theatre one rainy evening, expecting to see nothing more than an ordinary performance. The play was ‘Richelieu,’ and we had seen but little of Mr. Booth's part in it before we turned to each other and said, ‘This is the real thing.’ In every word, in every gesture, the touch of genius made itself felt. A little later I saw him in ‘Hamlet,’ and was even more astonished and delighted. While he was still completing this his first engagement in Boston, I received a letter from his manager, proposing that I should write a play for Mr. Booth. My first drama, though not a success, had made me somewhat known to theatrical people. I had been made painfully aware of its defects, and desired nothing more than to profit by the lesson of experience in producing something that should deserve entire approbation. It was therefore with a good hope of success that I undertook to write the play. Mr. Booth himself called upon me, in pursuance of his request. The favorable impression which he had made upon me was not lessened [238] by a nearer view. I found him modest, intelligent, and above all genuine,—the man as worthy of admiration as the artist. Although I had seen Mr. Booth in a variety of characters, I could only think of representing him as Hippolytus, a beautiful youth, of heroic type, enamored of a high ideal. This was the part which I desired to create for him. I undertook the composition without much delay, and devoted to it the months of one summer's sojourn at Lawton's Valley.

This lovely little estate had come to us almost fortuitously. George William Curtis, writing of the Newport of forty years ago, gives a character sketch of one Alfred Smith, a well-known real estate agent, who managed to entrap strangers in his gig, and drove about with them, often succeeding in making them purchasers of some bit of property in the sale of which he had a personal interest. In the summer of 1852 my husband became one of his victims. I say this because Dr. Howe made the purchase without much deliberation. In fact, he could hardly have told any one why he made it. The farm was a very poor one, and the farmhouse very small. Some necessary repairs rendered it habitable for our family of little children and ourselves. I did not desire the purchase, but I soon became much attached to the valley, which my husband's care greatly beautified. This was a wooded gorge, perhaps [239] an eighth of a mile from the house, and extending some distance between high rocky banks. We found it a wilderness of brambles, with a brook which ran much out of its proper course. Dr. Howe converted it into a most charming outof-door salon. A firm green sod took the place of the briers, the brook was restrained within its proper limits, and some fine trees replaced as many decayed stumps. An old, disused mill added to the picturesqueness of the scene. Below it rushed a small waterfall. Here I have passed many happy hours with my books and my babies, but it was not in this enchanting spot that I wrote my play.

I had at this time and for many years afterward a superstition about a north light. My eyes had given me some trouble, and I felt obliged to follow my literary work under circumstances most favorable for their use. The exposure of our little farmhouse was south and west, and its only north light was derived from a window at the top of the attic stairs. Here was a platform just large enough to give room for a table two feet square. The stairs were shut off from the rest of the house by a stout door. And here, through the summer heats, and in spite of many wasps, I wrote my five-act drama, dreaming of the fine emphasis which Mr. Booth would give to its best passages and of the beautiful appearance he would make [240] in classic costume. He, meanwhile, was growing into great fame and favor with the public, and was called hither and thither by numerous engagements. The period of his courtship and marriage intervened, and a number of years elapsed between the completion of the play and his first reading of it.

At last there came a time in which the production of the play seemed possible. Charlotte Cushman and Edwin Booth were both in Boston performing, as I remember, but not at the same theatre. They agreed to act in my play. E. L. Davenport, manager of the Howard Athenaeum, undertook to produce it, and my dream was very near becoming a reality. But lo! on a sudden, the manager bethought him that the time was rather late in the season; that the play would require new scenery; and, more than all, that his wife, who was also an actress, was not pleased with a secondary part assigned to her. A polite note informed me of his change of mind. This was, I think, the greatest ‘let down’ that I ever experienced. It affected me seriously for some days, after which I determined to attempt nothing more for the stage.

In truth, there appeared to be little reason for this action on the part of the manager. Miss Cushman, speaking of it, said to me, ‘My dear, if Edwin Booth and I had done nothing more [241] than to stand upon the stage and say “good evening” to each other, the house would have been filled.’

Mr. Booth, in the course of these years, experienced great happiness and great sorrow. On the occasion of our first meeting he had spoken to me of ‘little Mary Devlin’ as an actress of much promise, who had recently been admired in ‘several heavy parts.’ In process of time he became engaged to this young girl. Before the announcement of this fact he appeared with her several times before the Boston public. Few that saw it will ever forget a performance of Romeo and Juliet in which the two true lovers were at their best, ideally young, beautiful, and identified with their parts. I soon became well acquainted with this exquisite little woman, of whose untimely death the poet Parsons wrote:—

What shall we do now, Mary being dead,
     Or say or write that shall express the half?
What can we do but pillow that fair head,
     And let the spring-time write her epitaph?—

As it will soon, in snowdrop, violet,
     Windflower and columbine and maiden's tear;
Each letter of that pretty alphabet
     That spells in flowers the pageant of the year.

She hath fulfilled her promise and hath passed;
     Set her down gently at the iron door!
Eyes look on that loved image for the last:
     Now cover it in earth,—her earth no more.

[242] These lines recall to me the scene of Mary Booth's funeral, which took place in wintry weather, the service being held at the chapel in Mount Auburn. Hers was a most pathetic figure as she lay, serene and lovely, surrounded with flowers. As Edwin Booth followed the casket, his eyes heavy with grief, I could not but remember how often I had seen him enact the part of Hamlet at the stage burial of Ophelia. Beside or behind him walked a young man of remarkable beauty, to be sadly known at a later date as Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Lincoln and the victim of his own crime. Henry Ward Beecher, meeting Mary Booth one day at dinner at my house, was so much impressed with her peculiar charm that, on the occasion of her death, he wrote a very sympathetic letter to Mr. Booth, and became thenceforth one of his most esteemed friends.

The years between 1850 and 1857, eventful as they were, appear to me almost a period of play when compared with the time of trial which was to follow. It might have been likened to the tuning of instruments before some great musical solemnity. The theme was already suggested, but of its wild and terrible development who could have had any foreknowledge? Parker, indeed, writing to Dr. Howe from Italy, said, [243] ‘What a pity that the map of our magnificent country should be destined to be so soon torn in two on account of the negro, that poorest of human creatures, satisfied, even in slavery, with sugar cane and a banjo.’ On reading this prediction, I remarked to my husband: ‘This is poor, dear Parker's foible. He always thinks that he knows what will come to pass. How absurd is this forecast of his!’

‘I don't know about that,’ replied Dr. Howe.

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