Chapter 8: first years in Boston
In the autumn of 1844 we returned from our wedding journey, and took up our abode in the near neighborhood of the city of Boston
, of which at intervals I had already enjoyed some glimpses.
These had shown me Margaret Fuller
, holding high communion with her friends in her wellremembered conversations; Ralph Waldo Emerson
, who was then breaking ground in the field of his subsequent great reputation; and many another who has since been widely heard of. I count it as one of my privileges to have listened to a single sermon from Dr. Channing
, with whom I had some personal acquaintance.
I can remember only a few passages.
Its theme must have been the divine love; for Dr. Channing
said that God loved black men as well as white men, poor men as well as rich men, and bad men as well as good men. This doctrine was quite new to me, but I received it gladly.
The time was one in which the Boston
community, small as it then was, exhibited great differences of opinion, especially regarding the new
transcendentalism and the anti-slavery agitation, which were both held much in question by the public at large.
While George Ripley, moved by a fresh interpretation of religious duty, was endeavoring to institute a phalanstery at Brook Farm, the caricatures of Christopher Cranch
gave great amusement to those who were privileged to see them.
One of these represented Margaret Fuller
driving a winged team attached to a chariot on which was inscribed the name of her new periodical, ‘The Dial,’ while the Rev. Andrews Norton
regarded her with holy horror.
Another illustrated a passage from Mr. Emerson
's essay on Nature—‘I play upon myself.
I am my own music’—by depicting an individual with a nose of preternatural length, pierced with holes like a flageolet, upon which his fingers sought the intervals.
Yet Mr. Cranch
belonged by taste and persuasion among the transcendentalists.
As my earliest relations in Boston
were with its recognized society, I naturally gave some heed to the views therein held regarding the transcendental people.
What I liked least in these last, when I met them, was a sort of jargon which characterized their speech.
I had been taught to speak plain and careful English
, and though always a student of foreign languages, I had never thought fit to mix their idioms with those of my native tongue.
Apropos of this, I remember that
the poet Fitz-Greene Halleck
once said to me of Margaret Fuller
, ‘That young lady does not speak the same language that I do,—I cannot understand her.’
's English was as new to me as that of any of his contemporaries; but in his case I soon felt that the thought was as novel as the language, and that both marked an epoch in literary history.
The grandiloquence which was common at that time now appears to me to have been the natural expression of an exhilaration of mind which carried the speaker or writer beyond the bounds of commonplace speech.
The intellect of the time had outgrown the limits of Puritan
The narrow literalism, the material and positive view of matters highly spiritual, abstract, and indeterminate, which had been handed down from previous generations, had become irreligious to the foremost minds of that day. They had no choice but to enter the arena as champions of the new interpretation of life which the cause of truth imperatively demanded.
I speak now of the transcendental movement as I had opportunity to observe it in Boston
Let us not ignore the fact that it was a world movement.
The name seems to have been borrowed from the German phraseology, in which the philosophy of Kant
was termed ‘the transcendental philosophy.’
More than this, the breath which kindled among us this new flame of hope and
aspiration came from the same source.
For this was the period of Germany
's true glory.
Her intellectual radiance outshone and outlived the military meteor which for a brief moment obscured all else to human vision.
The great vitality of the German nation, the indefatigable research of its learned men, its wholesome balance of sense and spirit, all made themselves widely felt, and infused fresh blood into veins impoverished by ascetic views of life.
Its philosophers were apostles of freedom, its poets sang the joy of living, not the bitterness of sin and death.
These good things were brought to us piecemeal, by translations, by disciples.
published an English rendering of some of the masterpieces of German prose.
gave us lovely versions of many poets.
John S. Dwight
produced his ever precious volume of translations of the minor poems of Goethe
's ‘Conversations with Goethe
wrote his wonderful essays, inspired by the new thought, and adding to it daring novelty of his own. The whole is matter of history now, quite beyond the domain of personal reminiscence.
I have spoken of the transcendentalists and the abolitionists as if they had been quite distinct bodies of believers.
Reflecting more deeply, I feel that both were features of the new movement.
the transcendentalists the enthusiasm of emancipated thought was paramount, while the abolitionists followed the vision of emancipated humanity.
The lightning flash which illuminated the heaven of the poets and philosophers fell also on the fetters of the slave, and showed them to the thinking world as a disgrace no longer to be tolerated by civilized peoples.
I recall my first years of life in Boston
as nearly touched by the sense of the unresolved discords which existed in its society.
My husband was much concerned in some of the changes of front which took place at this time.
An ardent friend both of Horace Mann
and of Charles Sumner
, he shared the educational views of the first and the political convictions of the second.
In the year 1845, having been elected to serve on the Boston School Board, Dr. Howe
instituted so drastic a research into the condition of the public schools as to draw upon himself much animadversion and some ill-will.
, on the other hand, characterized this work as ‘one which only Sam Howe
or an angel could have done.’
and Mr. Mann
, during their travels in Europe
, had become much interested in the system of training, new at that time, by which deaf-mutes were enabled to use vocal speech, and to read on the lips the words of those who addressed them.
Soon after his return from
, Mr. Mann
published a report in which he dwelt much on the great benefit of this new departure in the education of deaf-mutes, and advocated the introduction of the system into our own schools.
expressed the same views, and the two gentlemen were held up to the public as disturbers of its peace.
My husband disapproved of the use of signs, which, up to that time, had figured largely in the instruction of American deaf-mutes, and in their intercourse with each other.
He felt that the use of language was an important condition of definite thought, and hailed the new powers conferred by the European
system as a liberation of its pupils from the greatest of their disabilities, the privation of direct intercourse with their fellow creatures.
His advice, privately sought and given, induced a number of parents to undertake themselves the education of their deaf children, or, at least, to have that education conducted at home, and under their own supervision.
In after years such parents and children were forward in expressing their gratitude for the advice given and followed.
The Horace Mann school in Boston
, and the Clarke school
, attest the perseverance of the advocates of the new method of instruction, and their ultimate success.
I had formerly seen Boston
as a petted visitor from another city would be apt to see it. I had
found it altogether hospitable, and rather eager to entertain a novelty.
It was another matter to see it with its consideration cap on, pondering whether to like or mislike a new claimant to its citizenship.
I had known what we may term the Boston
of the Forty, if New York may be called the city of the Four Hundred.
I was now to make acquaintance with quite another city,—with the Boston
of the teachers, of the reformers, of the cranks, and also—of the apostles.
Wondering and floundering among these new surroundings, I was often at a loss to determine what I should follow, what relinquish.
I endeavored to enter reasonably into the functions and amusements of general society
, and at the same time to profit by the new resources of intellectual life which opened out before me. One offense against fashion I would commit: I would go to hear Theodore Parker
My society friends shook their heads.
‘What is Julia Howe
trying to find at Parker
asked one of these one day in my presence.
‘Atheism,’ replied the lady thus addressed.
I said, ‘Not atheism, but a theism.’
The change had already been great, from my position as a family idol and ‘the superior young lady’ of an admiring circle to that of a wife overshadowed for the time by the splendor of her husband's reputation.
This I had accepted willingly.
But the change from my life of easy circumstances and brilliant surroundings to that of the mistress of a suite of rooms in the Institution
for the Blind at South Boston
was much greater.
The building was two miles distant from the city proper, the only public conveyance being an omnibus which ran but once in two hours. My friends were residents of Boston
, or of places still more remote from my dwelling-place, and South Boston
was then, as it has continued to be, a distinctly unfashionable suburb.
My husband did not desire that I should undertake any work in connection with the Institution
under his charge.
I found its teachers pleasant neighbors, and was glad to have Laura Bridgman
continue to be a member of the household.
had a great fancy for a piece of property which lay very near the Institution
In due time he purchased it. We found an ancient cottage on the place, and made it habitable by the addition of one or two rooms.
Our new domain comprised several acres of land, and my husband took great pleasure in laying out an extensive fruit and flower garden, and in building a fine hothouse.
We removed to this abode on a lovely summer day; and as I entered the grounds I involuntarily exclaimed, ‘This is green peace!’
Somehow, the nickname, jocosely given, remained in use. The estate still stands on legal records
as ‘The Green Peace Estate.’
Friends would sometimes ask us, ‘How are you getting on at Green Beans—is that the name?’
My husband was so much attached to this place that when, after a residence of many years in the city, he returned thither to spend the last years of his life, he spoke of it as ‘Paradise Regained
It partly amuses, and partly saddens me to recall, at this advanced period of my life, the altogether mistaken views which I once held regarding certain sets of people in Boston
, of whom I really knew little or nothing.
The veil of prejudgment through which I saw them was not, indeed, of my own weaving, but I was content to dislike them at a distance, until circumstances compelled a nearer and a truer view.
I had supposed the abolitionists to be men and women of rather coarse fibre, abounding in cheap and easy denunciation, and seeking to lay rash hands on the complex machinery of government and of society.
My husband, who largely shared their opinions, had no great sympathy with some of their methods.
held them in great esteem, and it was through him that one of my strongest imaginary dislikes vanished as though it had never been.
The object of this dislike was William Lloyd Garrison
, whom I had never seen, but of whose malignity of disposition I entertained not the smallest doubt.
It happened that I met him at one of Parker
's Sunday evenings at home.
I soon felt that this was not the man for whom I had cherished so great a distaste.
Gentle and unassuming in manner, with a pleasant voice, a benevolent countenance, and a sort of glory of sincerity in his ways and words, I could only wonder at the falsehoods that I had heard and believed concerning him.
had then recently received the gift of a piano from members of their congregation.
A friend began to play hymn tunes upon it, and those of us who could sing gathered in little groups to read from the few hymn-books which were within reach.
presently looked up and saw me singing from the same book with Mr. Garrison
He told me afterward that few things in the course of his life had surprised him more.
From this time forth the imaginary Garrison
ceased to exist for me. I learned to respect and honor the real one more and more, though as yet little foreseeing how glad I should be one day to work with and under him. The persons most frequently named as prominent abolitionists, in connection with Mr. Garrison
, were Maria Weston Chapman
and Wendell Phillips
presided with much energy and grace over the anti-slavery bazaars which were held annually in Boston
through a long space of years.
For this labor of love she was somewhat
decried, and the sobriquet
of ‘Captain Chapman
’ was given her in derision.
She was handsome and rather commanding in person, endowed also with an excellent taste in dress.
I cannot remember that she ever spoke in public, but her presence often adorned the platform at anti-slavery meetings.
She was the editor of the ‘Liberty Bell
,’ and was a valued friend and ally of Wendell Phillips
Of Mr. Phillips
I must say that I at first regarded him through the same veil of prejudice which had caused me so greatly to misconceive the character of Mr. Garrison
I was a little softened by hearing that at one of the bazaars he had purchased a copy of my first volume of poems, with the remark, ‘She does n't like me, but I like her poetry.’
This naturally led me to suppose that he must have some redeeming traits of character.
I had not then heard him speak, and I did not wish to hear him; but I met him, also, at one of the Parker Sunday
evenings, and, after a pleasant episode of conversation, I found myself constrained to take him out of my chamber of dislikes.
was entitled, by birth and education, to an unquestioned position in Boston
His family name was of the best.
He was a graduate both of Harvard College and of its Law School.
No ungentlemanly act had ever tarnished his fame.
His offense was that, at a critical moment,
he had espoused an unpopular cause,—one which was destined, in less than a score of years, so to divide the feeling of our community as to threaten the very continuance of our national life.
Oh, to have been in Faneuil Hall on that memorable day when the pentecostal flame first visited him; when he leaped to the platform, all untrained for such an encounter, and his eloquent soul uttered itself in protest against a low and sordid acquiescence in the claims of oppression and tyranny!
In that hour he was sealed as an apostle of the higher law, to whose advocacy he sacrificed his professional and social interests.
The low-browed, chain-bound slave had now the best orator in America
to plead his cause.
It was the beginning of the end. Mr. Phillips
, without doubt, sometimes used intemperate language.
I myself have at times dissented quite sharply from some of his statements.
Nevertheless, a man who rendered such great service to the community as he did has a right to be judged by his best, not by his least meritorious performance.
He was for years an unwelcome prophet of evil to come.
Society at large took little heed of his warning; but when the evil days did come, he became a counselor ‘good at need.’
I recall now a scene in Tremont Temple just before the breaking out of our civil war. An anti-slavery meeting had been announced, and a
scheme had been devised to break it up. As I entered I met Mrs. Chapman
, who said, ‘These are times in which anti-slavery people must stand by each other.’
On the platform were seated a number of the prominent abolitionists.
was to be the second speaker, but when he stepped forward to address the meeting a perfect hubbub arose in the gallery.
Shrieks, howls, and catcalls resounded.
Again and again the great orator essayed to speak.
Again and again his voice was drowned by the general uproar.
I sat near enough to hear him say, with a smile, ‘Those boys in the gallery will soon tire themselves out.’
And so, indeed, it befell.
After a delay which appeared to some of us endless, the noise subsided, and Wendell Phillips
, still in the glory of his strength and manly beauty, stood up before the house, and soon held all present spellbound by the magic of his speech.
The clear silver ring of his voice cared conviction with it. From head to foot, he seemed aflame with the passion of his convictions.
He used the simplest English
, and spoke with such distinctness that his lowest tones, almost a whisper, could be heard throughout the large hall.
, the only man who could report Wendell Phillips
's speeches, once told my husband that it was like reporting chain lightning.
On the occasion of which I speak, the unruly element was quieted once for all, and the further
proceedings of the meeting suffered no interruption.
The mob, however, did not at once abandon its intention of doing violence to the great advocate.
Soon after the time just mentioned Dr. Howe
attended an evening meeting, at the close of which a crowd of rough men gathered outside the public entrance, waiting for Phillips
to appear, with ugly threats of the treatment which he should receive at their hands.
The doors presently opened, and Phillips
came forth, walking calmly between Mrs. Chapman
and Lydia Maria Child
Not a hand was raised, not a threat was uttered.
The crowd gave way in silence, and the two brave women parted from Phillips
at the door of his own house.
My husband spoke of this as one of the most impressive sights that he had ever witnessed.
His report of it moved me to send word to Mr. Phillips
that, in case of any recurrence of such a disturbance, I should be proud to join his bodyguard.
was one of the early advocates of woman suffrage.
I remember that I was sitting in Theodore Parker
's reception room conversing with him when Wendell Phillips
, quite glowing with enthusiasm, came in to report regarding the then recent woman's rights convention at Worcester
Of the doings there he spoke in warm eulogy.
He complained that Horace Mann
had written a non-committal letter, in reply to the
invitation sent him to take part in the convention.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
, he said, had excused himself from attendance on the ground that he was occupied in writing a life of Margaret Fuller
, which, he hoped, would be considered as a service in the line of the objects of the meeting.
This convention was held in October of the year 1850, before the claims of women to political efficiency had begun to occupy the attention and divide the feeling of the American
When, after the close of the civil war, the question was again brought forward, with a new zeal and determination, Mr. Phillips
gave it the great support of his eloquence, and continued through a long course of years to be one of its most earnest advocates.
The last time that I heard Wendell Phillips
speak in public was in December, 1883, at the unveiling of Miss Whitney
's statue of Harriet Martineau
, in the Old South Meeting-House
. Mrs. Livermore
was one of the speakers of the occasion.
When the stated exercises were at an end, she said to me, ‘Let us thank Mr. Phillips
for what he has just said.
We shall not have him with us long.’
I expressed surprise at this, and she said further, ‘He has heart disease, and is far from well.’
Soon after this followed his death, and the splendid public testimonial given in his honor.
I was one of those admitted
to the funeral exercises, in which friends spoke of him most lovingly.
I also saw his remains lying in state in Faneuil Hall, on the very platform where, in his ardent youth, he had uttered his first scathing denunciation of the slave power and its defenders.
The mournful and reverent crowd which gathered for one last look at his beloved countenance told, better than words could tell, of the tireless services which, in the interval, had won for him the heart of the community.
It was a sight never to be forgotten.
I first heard of Theodore Parker
as the author of the sermon on ‘The Transient and the Permanent in Christianity.’
At the time of its publication I was still within the fold of the Episcopal Church, and, judging by hearsay, was prepared to find the discourse a tissue of impious and sacrilegious statements.
Yet I ventured to peruse a copy of it which fell into my hands.
I was surprised to find it reverent and appreciative in spirit, although somewhat startling in its conclusions.
At that time the remembrance of Mr. Emerson
's Phi Beta address was fresh in my mind.
This discourse of Parker
's was a second glimpse of a system of thought very different from that in which I had been reared.
Not long after my marriage, being in Rome
with my husband, I was interested to hear of Parker
's arrival there.
As Dr. Howe
had some slight
acquaintance with him, we soon invited him to dine with us. He was already quite bald, and this untimely blemish appeared in strange contrast with the youthful energy of his facial expression.
He was accompanied by his wife, whose mild countenance, compared with his, suggested even more than the usual contrast between husband and wife.
One might have said of her that she came near being very handsome.
Her complexion was fair, her features were regular, and the expression of her face was very naif and gentle.
A certain want of physical maturity seemed to have prevented her from blossoming into full beauty.
It was a great grief both to her and to her husband that their union was childless.
's reputation had already reached Rome
, and there as elsewhere brought him many attentions from scholars, and even from dignitaries of the Catholic Church.
He remained in the Eternal City
, as we did, through the winter, and we saw him frequently.
When, in the spring, my eldest child was born, I desired that she should be christened by Parker
This caused some uneasiness to my sisters, who were with me at the time.
One of them took occasion to call upon Parker
at his lodgings, and to inquire how the infant was to be christened, in what name.
Our friend replied that he had never heard of any baptismal formula other than the
usual one, ‘in the name of the Father
, Son, and Holy Ghost.’
My sister was much relieved, and the baptism was altogether satisfactory.
This was the beginning of a family intimacy which lasted many years, ending only with Parker
After our return to America
my husband went often to the Melodeon, where Parker
preached until he took possession of the Music Hall
The interest which my husband showed in these services led me in time to attend them, and I remember as among the great opportunities of my life the years in which I listened to Theodore Parker
Those who knew Parker
only in the pulpit did not half know him. Apart from the field of theological controversy, he was one of the most sympathetic and delightful of men. I have rarely met any one whose conversation had such a ready and varied charm.
His idea of culture was encyclopedic, and his reading, as might have been inferred from the size of his library, was enormous.
The purchase of books was his single extravagance.
One whole floor was given up to them, and in spite of this they overflowed into hall and drawing-room.
He was very generous in lending them, and I often profited by his kindness in this respect.
His affection for his wife was very great.
From a natural love of paradox, he was accustomed to
style this mild creature ‘Bear,’ and he delighted to carry out this pleasantry by adorning his étagere
with miniature bears, in wood-carving, porcelain, and so on. His gold shirt stud bore the impress of a bear.
At one Christmas time he showed me a breakfast cup upon which a bear had been painted, by his express order, as a gift for his wife.
At another he granted me a view of a fine silver candlestick in the shape of a bear and staff, which was also intended for her.
To my husband Parker
often spoke of the excellence of his wife's discernment of character.
He would say, ‘My quiet little wife, with her simple intuition, understands people more readily than I do. I sometimes invite a stranger to my house, and tell her that she will find him as pleasant as I have found him. It may turn out so; but if my wife says, “Theodore, I don't like that man; there's something wrong about him,” I always find in the end that I have been mistaken,—that her judgment was correct.’
's ideal of culture included a knowledge of music.
His endeavors to attain this were praiseworthy, but unsuccessful.
I have heard the late John S. Dwight
relate that when he was a student in Harvard Divinity School, Parker
, who was then his fellow student, desired to be taught to sing the notes of the musical scale.
volunteered to give him lessons, and began,
as is usual, by striking the dominant do
and directing Parker
to imitate the sound.
responded, and found himself able to sing this one note; but when Dwight
passed on to the second and the third, Parker
could only repeat the note already sung.
He had no ear for music, and his friend advised him to give up the hopeless attempt to cultivate his voice.
In like manner, at an earlier date, Dr. Howe
and Charles Sumner
joined a singing class, but both evincing the same defect were dismissed as hopeless cases.
attended sedulously the concerts of classical music given in Boston
, and no doubt enjoyed them, after a fashion.
I remember that I once tried to explain to him the difference between having an ear for music and not having one.
I failed, however, to convince him of any such distinction.
The years during which I heard him most frequently were momentous in the history of our country and of our race.
They presaged and preceded grave crises on both sides of the Atlantic
was going on the ferment of ideas and theories which led to the revolutions of 1848 and the temporary upturning of states and of governments.
In the United States
, the seed of thought sown by prophetic minds was ripening in the great field of public opinion.
Slavery and all that it involved became not only hateful but
intolerable to men of right mind, and the policy which aimed at its indefinite extension was judged and condemned.
Parker at this time had need in truth of the two-edged sword of the Spirit.
On the one hand he encountered the foes of religious freedom, on the other the advocates and instruments of political oppression.
His sermons on theism belonged to one of these domains, those which treated of public men and measures to the other.
Among these last, I remember best that on Daniel Webster, and the terrible ‘Lesson for the Day’ which denounced Judge Loring
for the part he had taken in the rendition of Anthony Burns
The discourse which treated of Webster
was indeed memorable.
I remember well the solemnity of its opening sentences, and the earnest desire shown throughout to do justice to the great gifts of the great man, while no one of his public misdeeds was allowed to escape notice.
The whole performance, painful as it was in parts, was very uplifting, as the exhibition of true mastery must always be. Its unusual length caused me to miss the omnibus which should have brought me to South Boston
in good time for our Sunday dinner.
As I entered the house and found the family somewhat impatient of the unwonted delay, I cried, ‘Let no one find fault!
have heard the greatest thing that I shall ever hear!’
At the time of the attempted rendition of the fugitive slave Shadrach a meeting was held in the Melodeon, at which various speakers gave utterance to the indignation which aroused the whole community.
had been the prime mover in calling this meeting.
He had written for it some verses to be sung to the tune of ‘Scots wha hae wia Wallace
bled,’ and he made the closing and most important address.
It was on this occasion that I first saw Colonel Higginson
, who was then known as the Rev. Thomas Wentworth Higginson
, pastor of a religious society in Worcester, Mass.
The part assigned to him in the exercises was to read portions of Scripture appropriate to the day. This he did with excellent effect.
, in the course of his address, held up a torn coat, and said, ‘This is the coat of our brother Shadrach,’ reverting in his mind to the Bible
story of the torn coat of Joseph over which his father grieved so sorely.
As I left the hall I heard some mischievous urchins commenting upon this.
cried one of them, ‘that was n't Shadrach's coat at all. That was Theodore's coat.’
was amused when I told him of this.
From time to time Parker
would speak in his sermons of the position which woman should hold
in a civilized community.
The question of suffrage had not then been brought into prominence, and, as I remember, he insisted most upon the claim of the sex to equality of education and of opportunity.
On one occasion he invited Lucretia Mott
to his pulpit.
On another its privileges were accorded to Mrs. Seba Smith
I was present one Sunday when he announced to his congregation that the Rev. Antoinette L. Brown
would address them on the Sunday following.
As he pronounced the word ‘Reverend
,’ I detected an unmistakable and probably unconscious curl of his lip. The lady was, I believe, the first woman minister regularly ordained in the United States
She was a graduate of Oberlin
, in that day the only college in our country which received among its pupils women and negroes.
She was ordained as pastor by an Orthodox Congregational society, and has since become better known as Antoinette Brown Blackwell
, a strenuous advocate of the rights of her sex, an earnest student of religious philosophy, and the author of some valuable works on this and kindred topics.
I am almost certain that Parker
was the first minister who in public prayer to God addressed him as ‘Father and Mother of us all.’
I can truly say that no rite of public worship, not even the splendid Easter
service in St. Peter
's at Rome
, ever impressed me as deeply as did Theo
The volume of them which has been published preserves many of his sentences, but cannot convey any sense of the sublime attitude of humility with which he rose and stood, his arms extended, his features lit up with the glory of his high office.
Truly, he talked with God, and took us with him into the divine presence.
I cannot remember that the interest of his sermons ever varied for me. It was all one intense delight.
The luminous clearness of his mind, his admirable talent for popularizing the procedures and conclusions of philosophy, his keen wit and poetic sense of beauty,—all these combined to make him appear to me one of the oracles of God.
Add to these his fearlessness and his power of denunciation, exercised in a community a great part of which seemed bound in a moral sleep.
His voice was like the archangel's trump, summoning the wicked to repentance and bidding the just take heart.
It was hard to go out from his presence, all aglow with the enthusiasm which he felt and inspired, and to hear him spoken of as a teacher of irreligion, a pest to the community.
As all know, this glorious career came too soon to an end. While still in the fullness of his powers, and at the moment when he was most needed, the taint of hereditary disease penetrated his pure and blameless life.
He came to my husband's
office one day, and said, ‘Howe
, that venomous cat which has destroyed so many of my people has fixed her claws here,’ pointing to his chest.
The progress of the fatal disease was slow but sure.
He had agreed with Dr. Howe
that they should visit South America
together in 1860, when he should have attained his fiftieth year.
Alas! in place of that adventurous voyage and journey, a sad exodus to the West Indies
and thence to Europe
was appointed, an exile from which he never returned.
Many years after this time I visited the public cemetery in Florence
, and stood before the simple granite cross which marks the resting-place of this great apostle of freedom.
I found it adorned with plants and vines which had evidently been brought from his native land.
A dear friend of his, Mrs. Sarah Shaw Russell
, had said to me of this spot, ‘It looks like a piece of New England
And I thought how this piece of New England
belonged to the world.
One of the most imposing figures in my gallery of remembrance is that of Charles Sumner
, senator and martyr.
When I first saw him I was still a girl in my father's house, from which the father had then but recently passed.
My eldest brother, Samuel Ward
, had made Mr. Sumner
's acquaintance through a letter of introduction given to the latter by Mr. Longfellow
At his suggestion we
invited Mr. Sumner
to pass a quiet evening at our house, promising him a little music.
Our guest had but recently returned from England
, where letters from Chief Justice Story
had given him access both to literary and to aristocratic circles.
His appearance was at that time rather singular.
He was very tall and erect, and the full suit of black which he wore added to the effect of his height and slenderness of figure.
Of his conversation, I remember chiefly that he held the novels of Walter Scott
in very light esteem, and that he quoted with approbation Sir Adam Ferguson
as having said that Manzoni
's ‘Promessi Sposi’ was worth more than all of Sir Walter's romances put together.
was at this time one of a little group of friends which an ironical lady had christened ‘the Mutual Admiration Society
The other members were the poet Longfellow
, George S. Hillard
, Cornelius Felton
, professor of Greek
at Harvard College, of which at a later day he became president, and Dr. Howe
These gentlemen were indeed bound together by ties of intimate friendship, but the humorous designation just quoted was not fairly applicable to them.
They rejoiced in one another's successes, and Summer on one occasion wrote to Dr. Howe
, apropos of some new poem of Mr. Longfellow
's, ‘What a club we are!
I like to indulge in a little
The developments of later years made some changes in these relations.
When the Boston
public became strongly divided on the slavery question, Hillard
were less pronounced in their views than the others, while Longfellow
, and Dr. Howe
remained united in opinion and in feeling.
, who possessed more scholarship and literary taste than Sumner
, could never understand the reason of the high position which the latter in time attained.
He remained a Webster Whig, to use the language of those days, while Sumner
was elected to Webster
's seat in the Senate.
was a man of very genial temperament, devoted to the duties of his Greek
professorship and to kindred studies.
He was by nature averse to strife, and the encounters of the political arena had little attraction for him. The five always remained friends and well-wishers.
They became much absorbed in the cares and business of public and private life, and the club as such ceased to be spoken of.
In the days of their great intimacy, a certain grotesqueness of taste in Sumner
made him the object of some good-natured banter on the part of the other ‘Mutuals.’
It was related that on a certain Fourth of July he had given his office boy, Ben, a small gratuity, and had advised him to pass the day at Mount Auburn
, where he would be able to enjoy quiet and profitable meditation.
was especially merry over this incident; but he, in turn, furnished occasion for laughter when on a visit to New York, in company with the same friends.
A man-servant whom they had brought with them was ordered to carry Felton
's valise to the Astor House
This was before the days of the baggage express.
The man arrived late in the day, breathless with fatigue, and when questioned replied, ‘Faith!
I went to all the oyster
houses in Broadway
before I could find yees.’
I little thought when I first knew Mr. Sumner
that his most intimate friend was destined to become my own companion for life.
was a man of great qualities and of small defects.
His blemishes, which were easily discerned, were temperamental rather than moral He had not the sort of imagination which enables a man to enter easily into the feelings of others, and this deficiency on his part sometimes resulted in unnecessary rudeness.
His father, Sheriff Sumner
, had been accounted the most polite Bostonian of his day. It was related of him that once, being present at the execution of a criminal, and having trodden upon the foot of the condemned man, the sheriff took off his hat and apologized for the accident.
Whereupon the criminal exclaimed, ‘Sheriff Sumner
, you are the politest man I ever knew, and if I am to be hanged, I had rather be hanged by
you than by any one else.’
It was sometimes re marked that the sheriff's mantle did not seem to have fallen upon his son.
's appearance was curiously metamorphosed by a severe attack of typhoid fever, which he suffered, I think, in 1843 or 1844.
After his recovery he gained much in flesh, and entirely lost that ungainliness of aspect which once led a friend to compare him to a geometrical line, ‘length without breadth or thickness.’
He now became a man of strikingly fine presence, his great height being offset by a corresponding fullness of figure.
His countenance was strongly marked and very individual,—the features not handsome in themselves, but the whole effect very pleasingly impressive.
He had but little sense of humor, and was not at home in the small cut-and-thrust skirmishes of general society
He was made for serious issues and for great contests, which then lay unguessed before him. Of his literalness some amusing anecdotes have been told.
At an official ball in Washington
, he remarked to a young lady who stood beside him, ‘We are fortunate in having these places; for, standing here, we shall see the first entrance of the new English
ministers into Washington society.’
The young girl replied, ‘I am glad to hear it. I like to see lions break the ice.’
was silent for a few minutes, but presently said, ‘Miss
——,in the country where lions live there is no ice.’
During the illness of which I have spoken, he was at times delirious, and his mother one day, going into his room, found that he was endeavoring to put on a change of linen.
She begged him to desist, knowing him to be very weak.
He said in reply, ‘Mother, I am not doing it for myself, but for some one else.’
Some debates on prison discipline, held in Boston
in the year 1845, attracted a good deal of attention.
had become much dissatisfied with the management of prisons in Massachusetts
, and desired to see the adoption of the Pennsylvania
system of solitary confinement.
entered warmly into his views.
The matter was brought before the Boston
public, and the arguments for and against the proposed change were very fully stated and discussed.
spoke several times in favor of the solitary system, and on each occasion carried off the honors of the meeting.
The secretary of the prison discipline association at that time, a noted conservative, opposed very strenuously the introduction of the Pennsylvania
In the course of the debates, Mr. Sumner
turned upon him in a sudden and unexpected manner, with these words: ‘In what I am about to say, I
shall endeavor to imitate the secretary's candor, but not his temper.’
Now the secretary was one of the magnates of Boston
, accustomed to be treated with great consideration.
The start that he gave on being thus interpellated was so comic that it has impressed itself upon my memory.
The speaker proceeded to apply to this gentleman a well-known line of Horace, descriptive of the character of Achilles
Impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer.
I confess that to me this direct attack appeared uncalled for, and I thought that the cause could have been as well advocated without recourse to personalities.
I once invited Mr. Sumner
to meet a distinguished guest at my house.
He replied, ‘I do not know that I wish to meet your friend.
I have outlived the interest in individuals.’
In my diary of the day I recorded the somewhat ungracious utterance, with this comment: ‘God Almighty, by the latest accounts, has not got so far as this.’
was told of this, in my presence, though not by me. He said at once, ‘What a strange sort of book your diary must be!
You ought to strike that out immediately.’
was often robbed in the street or at a railroad station; his tall figure attracting attention, and his mind, occupied with things far away,
giving little heed to what went on in his immediate presence.
Members of his family were wont to say, ‘It is about time now for Charles to have his pocket picked again.’
The fact often followed the prediction.
's eloquence differed much in character from that of Wendell Phillips
The two men, although workers in a common cause, were very dissimilar in their natural endowments.
had a temperament of fire, while that of Sumner
was cold and sluggish.
had a great gift of simplicity, and always made a bee line for the central point of interest in the theme which he undertook to present.
was recondite in language and elaborate in style.
He was much of a student, and abounded in quotations.
In his senatorial days, I once heard a satirical lady mention him as ‘the moral flummery member from Massachusetts
, quoting Tibullus
The first political speech which I heard from Mr. Sumner
was delivered, if I mistake not, at a schoolhouse in the neighborhood of Boston
I found his oratory somewhat overloud and emphatic for the small hall and limited attendance.
He had not at that time found his proper audience.
When he was heard, later on, in Faneuil Hall or Tremont Temple, the ringing roll of his voice was very effective.
His gestures were forcible rather than graceful.
In argument he would
go over the same ground several times, always with new amplifications and illustrations of his subject.
There was a dead weight of honesty and conviction in what he said, and it was this, perhaps, that chiefly gave him his command over an audience.
He had also in a remarkable degree the trait of mastery, and the ability to present his topic in a large way.
I am not sure whether Sumner
's idea of culture was as encyclopaedic as that of Theodore Parker
, but he certainly aspired to be what is now called ‘an all-round man,’ and especially desired to attain connoisseurship in art. He had not the many-sided power of appreciation which distinguished Parker
, yet a reverence for the beautiful, rather moral than aesthetic, led him to study with interest the works of the great masters.
In his later years, he never went abroad without bringing back pictures, engravings, or rare missals.
He had little natural apprehension of music, but used to express his admiration of some favorite operas, among them Mozart
's ‘Don Giovanni
’ and Rossini
's ‘Barbiere di Seviglia
In the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, of which he was chairman for many years, his acquaintance with foreign languages was much valued.
I remember a line of Tasso
which he sometimes quoted when beautiful hands were spoken of:—
Dove ne nodo appar, ne vena eccede.
On the other hand, I have heard him say that mathematics always remained a sealed book to him; and that his professor at Harvard once exclaimed, ‘Sumner
, I can't whittle a mathematical idea small enough to get it into your brain.’
The period between 1851 and the beginning of the civil war found Mr. Sumner
at his post in the Senate of the United States.
His position was from the outset a difficult one.
His election had displaced a popular idol.
His views regarding the heated question of the time, the extension of slavery to the territories, were far in advance of those held by the majority of the senatorial body or by the community at large.
His uncompromising method of attack, his fiery utterances, contrasting strangely with the unusual mildness of his disposition, exasperated the defenders of slavery.
These, perhaps, seeing that he was no fighting man, may have supposed him deficient in personal courage.
He, however, knew very well the risks to which he exposed himself.
His friends advised him to carry arms, and my husband once told old Mrs. Sumner
, his mother, that Charles ought to be provided with a pistol.
‘Oh, doctor,’ said the old lady, ‘he would only shoot himself with it.’
In the most trying days of the civil war, this same old lady came to Dr. Howe
's office, anxious to learn his opinion concerning the progress of
in reply referred her to her own son for the desired information, saying, ‘Dear Madam Sumner
, Charles knows more about public affairs than I do. Why don't you ask him about them?’
‘Oh, doctor, if I ask Charles, he only says, “Mother, don't trouble yourself about such things.”
I was in Washington
with Dr. Howe
early in the spring of 1856.
I remember being present in the senate chamber when a rather stormy debate took place between Stephen A. Douglas
, of Illinois
, and Henry Wilson
, of Massachusetts
looked up and, seeing me in the gallery, greeted me with a smile of recognition.
I shall never forget the beauty of that smile.
It seemed to me to illuminate the whole precinct with a silvery radiance.
There was in it all the innocence of his sweet and noble nature.
I asked my husband to invite Sumner
to dine with us at Willard's Hotel, where we were staying.
‘No, no,’ he said, ‘Sumner
would consider it infra dig
. to dine with us at the hotel.’
He did, however, call upon us. In the course of conversation he said to me, ‘I shall soon deliver a speech in the Senate which will occasion a good deal of excitement.
It will not surprise me if people leave their seats and show signs of unusual disturbance.’
The speech was delivered soon after this time.
It was a direct and forcible arraignment of the slave power, which was then endeavoring to change the free Territory of Kansas
into a slave State.
The disturbance which Mr. Sumner
had anticipated did not fail to follow, but in a manner which neither he nor any of his friends had foreseen.
At the hotel I had remarked a handsome man, evidently a Southerner, with what appeared to me an evil expression of countenance.
This was Brooks
of South Carolina
, the man who, not long after this time, attacked Charles Sumner
in his seat in the senate chamber, choosing a moment when the personal friends of his victim were not present, and inflicting upon him injuries which destroyed his health and endangered his life.
I will not enlarge here upon the pain and distress which this event caused to us and to the community at large.
For several weeks our senator's life hung in the balance.
For a very much longer time his vacant seat in the senate chamber told of the severe suffering which incapacitated him for public work.
This time of great trial had some compensation in the general sympathy which it called forth.
had won the crown of martyrdom, and his person thenceforth became sacred, even to his enemies.
It was after a residence of many years in Washington
that Mr. Sumner
decided to build and
occupy a house of his own. The spot chosen by him was immediately adjoining the well-known Arlington Hotel.
The house was handsome and well appointed, adorned also with pictures and fine bronzes, in both of which he took great delight.
and I were invited to visit him there one evening, with other guests.
Among these was Caleb Cushing
, with whom Mr. Sumner
soon became engaged in an animated discussion, probably regarding some question of the day. So absorbed were the two gentlemen in their argument that each of them frequently interrupted the other.
The one interrupted would expostulate, saying, ‘I have not finished what I have to say;’ at which the other would bow and apologize, but would presently offend again, in the same way.
At my own house in Boston
, Mr. Sumner
called one evening when we were expecting other company.
The invited guests presently arrived, and he abruptly left the room without any parting word or gesture.
I afterwards spoke of this to Dr. Howe
, who said, ‘That is Sumner
's idea of taking French leave.’
Whereupon our dear eldest said, ‘Why, mamma, Mr. Sumner
's way of taking French leave is as if the elephant should undertake to walk incognito down Broadway
The last important act of Mr. Sumner
's public life was the elaborate argument by which he defeated the proposed annexation of Santo Domingo
to the United States
This question presented itself during the first term of General Grant
The proposal for annexation was made by the President
of the Dominican Republic
, with the forethought of a military commander, desired that the United States
should possess a foothold in the West Indies
A commission of three was accordingly appointed to investigate and report upon the condition of the island.
The three were Hon. Benjamin F. Wade
, of Ohio
, Andrew D. White
, at that time president of Cornell University, and Dr. Howe
A thorough visitation of the territory was made by these gentlemen, and a report favorable to the scheme of annexation was presented by them on their return.
was greatly interested for the Dominicans, who had achieved political independence and separation from Hayti by a severe struggle, which was always liable to be renewed on the part of their former masters.
, on the other hand, espoused the cause of the Haytian government so warmly that he would not wait for the report of the commission to be presented, but hastened to forestall public opinion by a speech in which he displayed all his powers of oratory, but showed something less than his usual acquaintance with facts.
His eloquence carried the day, and the plan of annexation was defeated and abandoned, to the great regret
of the commissioners and of the Dominicans themselves.
I shall speak elsewhere of my visiting Santo Domingo
in company with Dr. Howe
Our second visit there was made in the spring of the year 1874.
I had gone one day to inspect a school high on the mountains of Samana
, when a messenger came after me in haste, bearing this written message from my husband: ‘Please come home at once.
Our dear, noble Sumner
is no more.’
The monthly steamer, at that time the only one that ran to Santo Domingo
, had just brought the news, deplored by many, to my husband inexpressibly sad.
In the winter of 1846-47 I one day heard Dr. Holmes
speak of Agassiz
, who had then recently arrived in America
He described him as a man of great talent and reputation, who added to his mental gifts the endowment of a superb physique.
Soon after this time I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of the eminent naturalist, and of attending the first series of lectures which he gave at the Lowell Institute.
The great personal attraction of Agassiz
, joined to his admirable power of presenting the results of scientific investigation in a popular form, made a vivid impression upon the Boston
All his lecture courses were largely attended.
These and his continued presence among us gave a new
impetus to the study of natural science.
In his hands the record of the bones and fossils became a living language, and the common thought was enriched by the revelation of the wonders of the visible universe.
's was an expansive nature, and his great delight lay in imparting to others the discoveries in which he had found such intense pleasure.
This sympathetic trait relieved his discourse of all dryness and dullness.
In his college days he had employed his hour of intermission at noon in explaining the laws of botany to a class of little children.
When required to furnish a thesis at the close of his university course, he chose for his theme the proper education of women, and insisted that it ought not to be inferior to that given to men.
I need hardly relate how a most happy marriage in later life made him one of us, nor how this opened the way to the establishment in his house of a school whose girl pupils, in addition to other valuable instruction, enjoyed daily the privilege of listening to his clear and lucid exposition of the facts and laws of his favorite science.
His memory is still bright among us. The story of his life and work is beautifully told in the ‘Life and Correspondence’ published soon after his death by his widow, Mrs. Elizabeth Cary Agassiz
, well known to-day as the president of Radcliffe College.
His children and grandchildren
are among our most valued citizens.
His son, Professor Alexander Agassiz
, inherits his father's devotion to science, while his daughter, Mrs. Quincy Shaw
, has shown her public spirit in her great services to the cause of education.
An enduring monument to his fame is the Cambridge
Museum of Comparative Zoology, and I am but one of many still surviving who recall with gratitude the enlargement of intellectual interest which he brought to our own and other communities.
Women who wish well to their own sex should never forget that, on the occasion of his first lectures delivered in the capital of Brazil
, he earnestly requested the emperor that ladies might be allowed to be present,—a privilege till then denied them on grounds of etiquette.
The request was granted, and the sacred domain of science for the first time was thrown open to the women of South America
I cannot remember just when it was that an English visitor, who brought a letter of introduction to my husband, spoke to me of the ‘Bothie of Toper-na-Fuosich’ and its author, Arthur Hugh Clough
The gentleman was a graduate of Oxford
or of Cambridge
He came to our house several times, and I consulted him with regard to the classic rhythms, in which he was well versed.
I had it in mind at this time to write a poem in classic
It was printed in my first volume, ‘Passion Flowers
;’ and Mr. Sanborn
, in an otherwise very friendly review of my work, characterized as ‘pitiable hexameters’ the lines which were really not hexameters at all, nor intended to pass for such.
They were pentameters constructed according to my own ideas; I did not have in view any special school or rule.
I soon had the pleasure of reading the ‘Bothie,’ which I greatly admired.
While it was fresh in my mind Mr. Clough
arrived in Boston
, furnished with excellent letters of introduction both for that city and for the dignitaries of Cambridge
My husband at once invited him to pass some days at our house, and I was very glad to welcome him there.
In appearance I thought him rather striking.
He was tall, tending a little to stoutness, with a beautifully ruddy complexion and dark eyes which twinkled with suppressed humor.
His sweet, cheery manner at once attracted my young children to him, and I was amused, on passing near the open door of his room, to see him engaged in conversation with my little son, then some five or six years of age. In Dr. Howe
's daily absences I tried to keep our guest company a little, but I found him very shy. I remember that I said to him, when we had made some acquaintance, that I had often wished to meet Thackeray
, and to give him two buffets, saying,
‘This one is for your Becky Sharp
and this one for Blanche Amory
,’ —regarding both as slanders upon my sex. Mr. Clough
suggested that in the great world of London
such characters were not out of place.
The device of Blanche Amory
's book, ‘Mes Larmes,’ seemed to have afforded him much amusement.
It happened that, while he was with us, I dined one day with a German friend, who served us with quite a wonderful repast.
The feast had been a merry one, and at the dessert two such sumptuous dishes were presented to us that I, having tasted of one of them, said to a friend across the table, ‘Anna
, this is poetry!’
She was occupied with the opposite dish, and, mindful of the old pleasantry to which I alluded, replied, ‘Julia, this is religion.’
At breakfast, the next morning, I endeavored to entertain those present with some account of the great dinner.
As I enlarged a little upon the excellence of the details, Mr. Clough
said, ‘Mrs. Howe
, you seem to have a great appreciation of these matters.’
I disclaimed this; whereupon he rejoined, ‘Mrs. Howe
, you are modest.’
Some months later I met Mr. Clough
at a friend's house, where some informal charades were about to be attempted.
Being requested to take part in one, I declined; and when urged, I replied, ‘No, no, I am modest,—Mr. Clough
once said so.’
He looked at me in some pretended surprise, and said, ‘It must have been at a very early period in our acquaintance.’
This ‘give and take’ was all in great good humor, and Mr. Clough
was a delightful guest in all societies.
Sorry indeed were we when, having become quite at home among us, he returned to England
, there to marry and abide.
I remember that he told me of one winter which he had passed at his university without fire in his quarters.
When I heard of his illness and untimely death, it occurred to me that the seeds of the fatal disease might have been sown during that season of privation.