Boston, February 1st.
MOST hearty thanks, my dear little heart, for your letter of the 15th of December: it is so inexpressibly dear to me to hear and see how things are at home, as well in the little as the great. If you only had not your usual winter complaint. Ah that winter! but I am glad, nevertheless, that you feel a little better in December than in November, and assure myself that in January you will be better still. And then comes the prospect of summer and the baths of Marstrand. Mamma writes that you were evidently stronger for your summer visit to Marstrand. And you will be yet stronger still after your next summer's visit. But your ideal--that farm-yard servant girl, who took the bull by the horns, when will you come up to that?
My strength has increased considerably for some time, thanks to my excellent Dr. Osgood and his little nothing-powders and globules. And when I feel myself well my soul is cheerful and well, and then my mind is full of thoughts which make me happy; then I am glad to be on the Pilgrims' soil--that soil which the Pilgrim Fathers, as they are here called, first trod, first consecrated as the home of religious and civil liberty, and from which little band the intellectual cultivation of this part of the world proceeds and has proceeded.
It was in the month of December, 1620, when the little [p. 180] ship, the "Mayflower," anchored on the shore of Massachusetts with the first Pilgrims, one hundred in number. They were of that party which in England was called Puritan, which had arisen after the Reformation and in consequence of it, and which required a more perfect Reformation than that which Luther had brought about. But they desired more; to give full activity to the truth which Luther promulgated when he asserted man's direct relationship to God through Jesus Christ, denying any right of the Church or of tradition to interfere in the determination of that which should be believed or taught, and demanding liberty for every human being to examine and judge for himself in matters of faith, acknowledging no other law or authority than God's word in the Bible. The Puritans demanded on these grounds their right to reject the old ceremonial of the Established Church, and in the place of those empty forms, the right to choose their own minister; the right to worship God in spirit and in truth, and the right of deciding for themselves their form of church government. Puritanism was the rising of that old divine leaven which Christ had foretold should one day "leaven the whole lump" of the spiritual life of liberty in Jesus Christ. The charter of freedom given by him was the watch-word of the Puritans. With this in their hand and on their lips they dared to enter into combat with the dominant Episcopal Church; refused to unite themselves with it, called themselves Non-conformists, and held separate assemblies or religious conventicles. The state Church and the government rose in opposition, and passed an act against conventicles.
But the Puritans and the conventicles increased year by year in England. Noble priests, such as Wickliff, and many of the respectable of the land, became their adherents. Queen Elizabeth treated them, however, with caution and respect. Her successor, King James, raved blindly against them, saying "I will make them conform, or I will [p. 181] harry them out of the land; or worse, only hang them--that is all!" And the choice was given them, either to return to the State Church or imprisonment and death. This only strengthened the opposition; "for," says Thomas Carlyle, otherwise tolerably bitter in his criticism on human nature, "people do human nature an injustice when they believe that the instigation to great actions is self-interest, worldly profit, or pleasure. No; that which instigates to great undertakings, and produces great things, is the prospect of conflict, persecution, suffering, martyrdom, for the truth's sake."
In one of the Northern counties of England, a little company of men and women, inhabitants of small towns and villages, united in the resolve to risk all for the open acknowledgment of their pure faith, conformably with the teachings of which they determined to live. They were people of the lowest condition, principally artisans or tillers of the soil; men who lived by the hard labor of their hands, and who were accustomed to combat with the severe circumstances of life. Holland at this time offered to them, as it did to all the oppressed combatants for the truth, a place of refuge; and to Holland the little knot of Puritans resolved to flee. They escaped from their vigilant persecutors through great dangers, and Leyden, in Holland, became their city of refuge. But they did not prosper there; they felt that it was not the place for them; they knew that they were to be pilgrims on the earth seeking a father-land; and amid their struggles with the hard circumstances of daily life, the belief existed in their souls that they were called upon to accomplish a higher work for humanity than that which consisted with their present lot. "They felt themselves moved by zeal and by hope to make known the Gospel, and extend the kingdom of Christ in the far distant land of the New World; yes, if they even should be merely as stepping-stones for others to carry forth so great a work."[p. 182]
They asked, and, after great difficulty, obtained the consent of the English government to emigrate to North America, where they might endeavor to labor for the glory of God and the advantage of England.
They chartered two ships, the "Mayflower" and "Speedwell," to bear them across the sea. Only the youngest and strongest of the little band, who voluntarily offered themselves, were selected to go out first on the perilous voyage, and that after they had publicly prepared themselves by fasting and prayer. "Let us," said they, "beseech of God to open a right way for us and our little ones, and for all our substance!"
Only a portion of those who had gone out to Holland found room in the two vessels. Among those who remained was also their noble teacher and leader, John Robinson. But from the shores of the Old World he uttered, as a parting address, these glorious words: "I charge you, before God and his blessed angels, that you follow me no further than you have seen me follow the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord has yet more truth to break forth out of his holy word. I can not sufficiently bewail the condition of the Reformed Churches, who are come to a period in religion, and will go no further at present than the instruments of their reformation. Luther and Calvin were great and shining lights in their times, yet they penetrated not into the whole counsel of God. I beseech you remember it--'tis an article of your Church covenant--that you be ready to receive whatever truth shall be made known to you from the written word of God."
"When our vessels were ready to receive us on board," writes one of the party, "the brethren who had fasted and prayed with us gave us a parting feast at the house of our minister, which was roomy; and then, after shedding many tears, we refreshed ourselves with the singing of hymns, making joyful music in our hearts as well as [p. 183] with our voices, for many of our community were very skillful in music. After this, they accompanied us to Dreft Harbor, where we were to go on board, and there we were entertained anew. And after our minister had prayed with us, and floods of tears had been shed, they accompanied us on board. But we were in no condition to talk one with another of the exceeding great grief of parting. From our vessel, however, we gave them a salutation; and then extending our hands to each other, and lifting up our hearts for each other to the Lord our God, and so set sail."
A prosperous wind quickly conveyed the Pilgrims to the English shore; and then the smallest of the vessels, the "Speedwell," was compelled to lie to for repairs. But scarcely had they again left the English coast with sails unfurled for the Atlantic, when the captain of the "Speedwell" and his company lost courage in the prospect of the greatness of the undertaking and all its perils, and desired to return to England. The people of the "Mayflower" agreed that "it was very grievous and discouraging." And now the little band of resolute men and women, several of the latter far advanced in pregnancy, persevered in their undertaking, and with their children and their household stuff, an entire floating village, they sailed onward in the "Mayflower" across the great sea toward the New World, and at the most rigorous season of the year. After a stormy voyage of sixty-three days, the Pilgrims beheld the shores of the New World, and in two more days the "Mayflower" cast anchor in the harbor of Cape Cod, on the coast of Massachusetts.
Yet, before they land, and while the "Mayflower" yet rests upon the waves of the deep, they assemble to deliberate on some constituted form of government; and, drawing up the following compact, they formed themselves into a voluntary body politic.
"In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are [p. 184] underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign King James, having undertaken, for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do, by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof, to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most convenient for the general good of the colony. Unto which we promise all due submission and obedience."
This instrument was signed by all the men in company, forty-one in number. Thus was framed, in the cabin of the "Mayflower," the most truly democratic Constitution which the world had yet seen. That democratic, self-governing community came forth in a state of complete organization from the "Mayflower" to the shore of the New World.
Like Abraham, the pilgrim band went forth, obedient to the voice of God, into a land to them unknown, and not themselves fully cognizant of the work they were called to do.
They went forth to seek a free virgin soil on which to found their pure Church, for the glory of God's kingdom, aud unconsciously to themselves, likewise, to found, in so doing, a new civil community which should be a home and a community for all people of the earth. The "Mayflower" gave birth to popular constitutional liberty at the same time that it established the pure vitality of religion; and that was but natural, the latter included the former. The Pilgrims conveyed with them the new life of the New World without being themselves conscious of it.
They landed on a rock, since called "Plymouth Rock," [p. 185] or, also, "The Pilgrims' Rock." It was a young girl who was first permitted to spring from the boat on shore. It was her light foot which first touched the rock. It was at the commencement of winter when the Pilgrims reached the new land; and they were met by cold, and storm, and adverse circumstances. They made an excursion of discovery inland, and found in one place a little corn, but no habitations, only Indian graves.
They had been but a few days on shore, and were beginning to build habitations as a defense against the storms and the snow, when the Sunday occurred, and it is characteristic of that first Puritan community that, under their circumstances, they rested from all labor, and kept the Sabbath uninterruptedly and with all solemnity.
I have lately read a narrative, or, more properly speaking, a chronicle, kept as a diary of the life of the first colonists, their wars and labors during the first year of their settlement. It is a simple chronicle, without any wordiness or parade, without any attempt at making it romantic or beautiful, but which affected me more, and went more directly to the depths of the heart, than many a touching novel; and which seemed to me grander than many a heroic poem. For how great in all its unpretendingness was this life, this labor! What courage, what perseverance, what steadfastness, what unwavering trust in that little band! How they aided one another, these men and women; how they persevered through all sorrow and adversity, in life and in death. They lived surrounded by dangers, in warfare with the natives; they suffered from climate, from the want of habitations and conveniences, from the want of food; they lay sick; they saw their beloved die; they suffered hunger and cold; but still they persevered. They saw the habitations they had built destroyed, and they built afresh. Amid their struggles with want and adversity, amid the Indian's rain of arrows, they founded their commonwealth and their [p. 186] Church; they formed laws, established schools, and all that could give stability and strength to a human community. They wielded the sword with one hand and guided the plow with the other. Amid increasing jeopardy of life, they, in particular, reflected on the welfare of their successors, and framed laws which every one must admire for their sagacity, purity, and humanity. Even the animal creation was placed under the protection of these laws, and punishment ordained for the mistreatment of the beast.
During the first year their sufferings and hardships were extreme. "I have seen men," writes an eye-witness, "stagger by reason of faintness for want of food."
The harvest of the third year was abundant, and now, instead of, as hitherto, each one laboring for the common benefit, each colonist worked alone for his own family and his own advantage. This gave an impulse to labor and to good management. And when they had lived through the time of want, a time of prosperity commenced, and the colony increased rapidly in power and extent. In a few years it was said of it, "that you might live there from one year's end to another without seeing a drunkard, hearing an oath, or meeting with a beggar." They who survived the first period of suffering lived to be extremely old.
It is not to be wondered at, that from a parentage strong as this should be derived a race destined to become a great people. Other colonies more to the south, whose morals were more lax, and whose purpose of life was of a lower range, had either died out, or maintained merely a feeble existence amid warfare with the natives, suffering from the climate and encompassed with difficulties. The Puritans, on the contrary, with their lofty aims of life, their steadfast faith and pure manners, became the conquerors of the desert, and the lawgivers of the New World. Nor do I know of any nation which ever had a nobler foundation or nobler founders. The whole of humanity had taken a step onward with the Pilgrim Fathers in the New [p. 187] World. The work which they had to do concerned the whole human race.
And when from the land of the Pilgrims I look abroad over the United States, I see every where, in the South as well as in the North and the West, the country populated, the empire founded by a people composed of all peoples, who suffered persecution for their faith, who sought freedom of conscience and peace on a new free soil. I see the Huguenot and the Herrnhutter in the South, and along the Mississippi, in the West, Protestants and Catholics, who, from all the countries of Europe, seek for and find there those most precious treasures of mankind; and who, in that affluent soil, establish flourishing communities under the social and free laws instituted by the oldest Pilgrims.
To them belongs the honor of that new creation, and from them, even to this day, proceed the creative ideas in the social life of the New World; and whether willingly or unwillingly, widely differing people and religious sects have received the impression of their spirit. Domestic manners, social intercourse, form themselves by it; the life and church-government of all religious bodies recognize the influence of the Puritan standard, "Live conformably to conscience; let thy whole behavior bear witness to thy religious confession." And that form of government which was organized by the little community of the "Mayflower" has become the vital principle in all the United States of America, and is the same which now, on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, controls and directs with quiet power the wild, free spirits of California, educating them to self-government and obedience to law.
The old colonies have sent out to all parts of the Union crowds of Pilgrims, sons and daughters, and they constitute at this time more than one third of the population of the United States of North America. They were, nevertheless, most numerous in the North, and there they have left the strongest impression of their spirit.[p. 188]
When I contemplate that Puritan community as it exists in our time, about two centuries after its first establishment, it seems to me that there are two main-springs within its impulsive heart; the one is a tendency toward the ideal of moral life, the other impels it to conquer the earth, that is to say, the material power and products of life. The men of the New World, and pre-eminently the men of New England (humorously called Yankees), have a passion for acquisition, and for this object think nothing of labor--even the hardest--and nothing of trouble; nay, to travel half over the world to do a good stroke of business, is a very little thing. The Viking element in the Yankee's nature, and which he, perhaps, originally inherited from the Scandinavian Vikings, compels him incessantly to work, to undertake, to accomplish something which tends either to his own improvement or that of others; for when he has improved himself, he thinks, if not before, of employing his pound for the public good. He gets money, but only to spend. He puts it by, but not for selfish purposes. Public spirit is the animating principle of his life, and he prefers to leave behind him the name of an esteemed and beloved citizen rather than a large property. He likes to leave that which he has acquired to some institution or benevolent establishment, which thenceforth commonly bears his name. And I know those whose benevolence is so pure that they slight even this reward.
The moral ideal of man and of society seems to be clearly understood here, and all the more clearly in those Northern States which have derived their population from the old colonies. From conversation with sensible idealists among my friends, as well as from the attention I have given to the spirit of public life here, I have acquainted myself with the demands made by man and by society, and for which young America combats as for its true purpose and mission, and they appear to be as follows:[p. 189]
Every human being must be strictly true to his own individuality--must stand alone with God, and from this innermost point of view must act alone conformably to his own conscientious convictions.
There is no virtue peculiar to the one sex which is not also a virtue in the other. Man must in morals and conduct come up to the purity of woman.
Woman must possess the means of the highest development of which her nature is capable. She must equally with man have the opportunity of cultivating and developing her intellect. She must possess the same rights in her endeavors after freedom and happiness as man.
The honor of labor and the rewards of labor ought to be equal to all. All labor is in itself honorable, and must be regarded as such. Every honest laborer must be honored. The principle of equality must govern in society.
Man must become just and good through a just and good mode of treatment. Good must call forth good.
(This reminds me of that beautiful Swedish legend of the Middle Ages, about the youth who was changed by a witch into a wher-wolf, but who, at the sound of his Christian name, spoken by a loving voice, would recover his original shape.) The community must give to every one of its members the best possible chance of developing his human abilities, so that he may come into possession of his human rights. This must be done in part by legislation, which must remove all hinderances and impediments; in part by public educational institutions, which shall give to all alike the opportunity of the full development of the human faculties, until they reach the age when they may be considered as capable of caring for and determining for themselves.
The ideal of society is attained in part by the individual coming up to his own ideal; in part by those free institutions and associations in which mankind is brought into a [p. 190] brotherly relation with each other, and by mutual responsibility.
EVERY THING FOR ALL is the true object of society. Every one must be able to enjoy all the good things of earth, as well temporal as spiritual, every one according to his own capacity of enjoyment. None must be excluded who does not exclude himself. The chance of regaining his place in society must be given to every one. For this cause the prison must be an institution for improvement, a second school for those who need it. Society must, in its many-sided development, so organize itself that all may be able to attain every thing: EVERY THING FOR ALL.
The ideal of the man of America seems to me to be, purity of intention, decision in will, energy in action, simplicity and gentleness in manner and demeanor. Hence it is that there is a something tender and chivalric in his behavior to woman which is infinitely becoming to him. In every woman he respects his own mother.
In the same way it appeared to me that the ideal of the woman of America, of the woman of the New World, is, independence in character, gentleness of demeanor and manner.
The American's ideal of happiness seems to me to be, marriage and home, combined with public activity. To have a wife, his own house and home, his own little piece of land; to take care of these, and to beautify them, at the same time doing some good to the state or to the city --this seems to me to be the object of human life with most men; a journey to Europe to see perfected cities, and--ruins belong to it, as a desirable episode.
Of the American home I have seen enough and heard enough for me to be able to say that the women have, in general, all the rule there which they wish to have. Woman is the centre and the lawgiver in the home of the New World, and the American man loves that it should be so. He wishes that his wife should have her own will [p. 191] at home, and he loves to obey it. In proof of this, I have heard the Words of a young man quoted: "I hope that my wife will have her own will in the house, and if she has not, I'll make her have it!" I must, however, say, that in the happy homes in which I lived I saw the wife equally careful to guide herself by the wishes of her husband as he was to indulge hers. Affection and sound reason make all things equal.
The educational institutions for woman are, in general, much superior to those of Europe; and perhaps the most important work which America is doing for the future of humanity consists in her treatment and education of woman. Woman's increasing value as a teacher, and the employment of her as such in public schools, even in those for boys, is a public fact in these states which greatly delights me. Seminaries have been established to educate her for this vocation (I hope to be able to visit that at West Newton, in the neighborhood of Boston, and which was originated by Horace Mann). It even seems as if the daughters of New England had a peculiar faculty and love for this employment. Young girls of fortune devote themselves to it. The daughters of poor farmers go to work in the manufactories a sufficient time to earn the necessary sum to put themselves to school, and thus to become teachers in due course. Whole crowds of schoolteachers go hence to the Western and Southern States, where schools are daily being established and placed under their direction. The young daughters of New England are universally commended for their character and ability. Even Waldo Emerson, who does not easily praise, spoke in commendation of them. They learn in the schools the classics, mathematics, physics, algebra, with great ease, and pass their examinations like young men. Not long since a young lady in Nantucket, not far from Boston, distinguished herself in astronomy, discovered a new planet, and received, in consequence, a medal from the King of Prussia.[p. 192]
The literature of Germany has for some years taken a great hold in the Northern States, and has had a remarkable influence on the minds of the youthful student in particular, as awakening the mind to the ideal of life. The public speakers and lecturers, who attract multitudes to hear them, are the advocates and promulgators of the human ideal. Peace, liberty, genuineness of character, temperance, purity, and the ennobling of every phase and condition of life, the diffusion of the benefits of life and cultivation to all men, are the subjects which animate the eloquence of the speaker and attract thousands of listeners. All questions are treated and worked out with reference to "the benefit of all, the ennobling of all."
It is said of a tree that it grows when it raises itself nearer to heaven; and we may, in this sense, say of this community that it grows. It labors not merely to extend, but to elevate itself.
Since I last wrote, I have spent an amusing evening at an anti-slavery meeting in Faneuil Hall (a large hall for public assemblies), which was very animated. Mr. Charles Sumner, who wished me to see one of the popular assemblies here, accompanied me. Some runaway slaves were to be introduced to the public, and the talking was about them. The hall and the galleries were quite full. One of the best, and certainly most original, speaker of the evening, was a great negro, who had lately succeeded in escaping from slavery with his wife and child, and who related the history of his escape. There was a freshness, a life, an individuality in this man's eloquence and gestures which, together with the great interest of the narrative, were infinitely delightful. Sometimes he made use of such extraordinary similes and expressions, that the whole assembly burst into peals of laughter; but John Brown, that was his name, did not join in it; he did not allow himself to be moved, but went on only the more earnestly with his story.[p. 193]
I remember, in particular, when he described crossing a river While pursued by the men employed to catch him. "There sit I now," said he, "in a boat with merely one pair of oars, and row and row with all my might to reach the other, the free shore, where my wife and my child await me. And there I see the pursuers coming after me, rowing with three pair of oars. They have nearly caught me; but above us sits the great God and looks at us, and he gave me the start. I reach the shore; I am upon free ground! And now, this evening, I am with my wife and my child!"
The assembly clapped their hands in tumultuous applause. After this speaker a group came forward, which was also saluted with much clapping of hands; a young fair lady, in a simple white dress, and hair without any ornament, stepped forward, leading a dark mulatto woman by the hand. She had been a salve, and had lately escaped from slavery on board a vessel, where she had been concealed. Her owners, who suspected her place of concealment, obtained a warrant for searching the vessel, which they did thoroughly, burning brimstone in order to compel her to come forth. But she endured it all, and succeeded in making her escape. It was a beautiful sight, when the young white woman, Miss Lucy S., one of the ladies whom I had seen at my little doctress's, placed her hand upon the head of the black woman, calling her sister, and introducing her as such to the assembled crowd. It looked well and beautiful, and it was certainly felt by all that the white woman stood here as the friend and protector of the black. Miss Lucy performed her part very well, in a perfectly womanly, quiet, and beautiful manner. She then related the history of the late slave, and talked about slavery for a full hour with perfect self-possession, perspicuity, and propriety of tone and gesture. But instead of speaking, as she might and ought to have done, from her own womanly feeling [p. 194] of life--instead of awakening sympathy for those wrongs which woman especially suffers in slavery, inasmuch as her very children do not belong to her; that the beings whom she brings forth in sorrow are the property of her master, and may be taken from her and sold whenever he will--instead of laying stress upon this and many other circumstances repulsive to the heart and to every sense of justice, and which especially befall the female slave--Miss Lucy struck into the common track of so-much hackneyed abuse of the pro-slavery men of the North, and against Daniel Webster and his warm zeal for Hungarian freedom, while he saw with indifference three millions of native Americans held in slavery. She repeated merely what the men had already said, and said better and more powerfully than she had done; she entirely mistook her own mission as a female speaker. When will women perceive that, if they would worthily take a place in the forum, they must come forth with the dignity and power of the being who has new and mighty truths to enunciate and represent? They must feel and speak from the centre of the sphere of woman. Not all the good nature and courtesy of man will enable them to maintain their place on the public platform, if they do not take possession of it on their own positive ground. There is no want of this in itself; it lies near to the heart of woman; it is within her, around her, if she will but see it. But she must yet obtain a more profound knowledge both of herself and of life. The women who in all ages have stood forward as the priestesses of the inner life, as prophetesses and interpretesses of the most sublime and the most holy, and who were listened to as such by people and by kings, Deborah, Wala, Sybilla, merely naming in them some of the oldest types--these might point out to the women of the New World the path to public power and public influence. And if they do not feel this higher power in themselves, how much better to remain in quietness and silence! How [p. 195] powerful might they be even then! What power is mightier than that of love, than that of rational goodness? The eagle and the dove, as I have heard it said, are, of all birds, those which fly farthest and most rapidly to their object.
Miss Lucy Stone's audience were good-natured, listening attentively, and applauding at the close of the speech, but not much. People praise her clearness of delivery, her becoming manner, and the perspicuity of her mind: that was all; more could not be said--and that was not much.
The gentlemen who followed her brought with them more life and interest. But they offended me by their want of moderation and justice; by their style of declamation; by their endeavoring to point out, even in the galleries of the hall, individuals who did not agree with them in their anti-slavery labors; it offended me to hear family life desecrated by making known dissensions; for example, between the father and the daughter on these questions; thus overlooking the divine moral law of "Judge not!" These tirades were carried to an extreme, and with much personality. But all was animated and amusing, and the best understanding seemed to exist between the speaker and his audience. Wendell Phillips, the young lawyer, seemed to possess the greatest share of public favor; and he is really an unusually gifted and agreeable speaker, carrying the public along with him, and seeming to know his own power of moving and electrifying them. A Mr. Quincy, a young man, of one of the highest families in Boston, spoke violently against anti-slavery people, and among others against his own eldest brother, now mayor of Boston. But the public did not like his outbreak, especially against the mayor, and hissed and clamored terrifically. Mr. Quincy proceeded with still more violence, walking up and down the platform, his hands in the pockets of his coat skirts, which he fluttered about as [p. 196] if he enjoyed himself, and was fanned by the most agreeable of zephyrs.
At length the tumult and the cry of "Phillips!" "Wendell Phillips!" was so overpowering, that Mr. Quincy could not be heard. He paused, and beckoned with a smile to Wendell Phillips that he should take his place.
Phillips, a fair-complexioned young man, of a pleasing figure and very easy deportment, stepped forth, and was greeted with a salvo of clapping, after which a profound silence prevailed. Wendell Phillips spoke with the calmness and self-possession of a speaker who perfectly understands both himself and his hearers, and he took up that subject which Miss Lucy had passed over; he spoke for the female slave, for the mother whose new-born child belongs not to her, but to the slaveholder and to slavery. He spoke of this with the low voice of suppressed emotion, and a simplicity of language, yet powerful enough to excite to the utmost the human heart against the circumstances and the mode of treatment which he described. It was masterly. The assembly hung on his lips and took in every word. Once, during an argument, he addressed my companion, Mr. Sumner, saying, "Is it not so, brother Sumner?" Sumner smiled, and nodded an affirmative.
At the close of this speech an excited gentleman leapt upon the platform and began to declaim at the side of Phillips. Phillips laughed, and prayed the assembly not to listen to this "incapable gentleman." The assembly were thrown into a state of fermentation, yet in perfect good-humor; they smiled, they whistled, they shouted, they clapped, and hissed all together. During this commotion the people began to leave the galleries with the utmost calmness and composure. Plates were sent round through the hall to receive a collection for the mulatto woman, after which we left the hall, together with many others; and I could not but admire the quietness, the methodic [p. 197] manner in which this was done. There was no crushing nor confusion; each one followed silently in his turn, and thus the assembly flowed away like a quiet river.
I was glad to have been at a popular assembly where so much license prevailed, but which was yet under the control of order and good temper.
I visited the Senate House one day in company with Mr. Sumner. Saw the Senate sitting sleepily over a question of shoe-leather, and heard in the House of Representatives a good deal of very animated but somewhat plebeian eloquence in a debate on the question of "Plurality and Majority," as well as voting. But of this I shall say no more. The Americans speak extempore with great ease and fluency: their speeches here were like a rushing torrent; the gestures energetic, but monotonous, and without elegance.
The president, the speaker, and several of the members of both Houses, came and shook hands with me, and bade me welcome. I mention this because it seems to me beautiful and kind thus to welcome a foreigner and a woman, without importance in political life, but who properly belongs to the quiet world of home. Does not this show that the men of the New World regard the home as the maternal life of the state?
I was pleased by this visit to the State House of Boston, which is also, in its exterior, a magnificent building. Two immense fountains cast up their waters in front of its façade, and from the flight of steps outside the house the view is splendid. Below lies the extensive green called "Boston Common," in the middle of which is also a beautiful fountain, which throws up its water to a great height. Round it, on three sides, run three remarkably beautiful streets, each street planted through its whole length with lofty trees, mostly the elm, the favorite tree of Massachusetts, and some of the same kind beautify [p. 198] also the park-like Common. On the fourth side is an open view of the ocean creek.
Here, on the broad causeways, beneath the beautiful elms, I am fond of walking when the weather is mild, to behold through the branches of the trees the bright blue heaven of Massachusetts, and to see in the park the little republicans coming out of school, running and leaping about. In this neighborhood are various beautiful, well-built streets, among which "Mount Auburn Street," with its view of the sea, and along which I walk on my way to the Common from my home at Mr. Benzon's. Below the hill on the other side lies the market-place, "Louisberg Square," where I also often take a walk; but less for its little inclosure of trees and shrubs, and the there inclosed wretched statue of Aristides, but because Mrs. B. lives there; and with her I always feel myself quiet and happy, and am willing now and then to take an excellent little dinner in company with her mother, Mrs. L., a clever, cordial and splendid old lady, and one or two other guests. Mrs. B. is one of the genus fashionable, who has her clothes ready-made from Paris, and who lives as a rich lady, but whose heart is nevertheless open to life's modest works of love, and who endeavors to make all around her, even animals, happy. A magnificent gray greyhound, called Princess, has its home in the house, and is the most excellent house-dog I ever made acquaintance with.
Mrs. B's little daughter, Julia, is remarkably like her grandmother in her turn of mind, her liveliness, and even her wit. This charming little girl makes the most amusing puns without being at all aware of it.
One day when there was good sledging, Mrs. B. took me to see a sledge-drive on the Neck, a narrow promontory which is the scene of action for the sledging of the Boston fashionables. The young gentlemen in their light, elegant carriages, with their spirited horses, flew like the [p. 199] wind. It looked charming and animated. I once saw one of the giant sledges, in which were seated from fifty to a hundred persons. This was drawn by four horses, and certainly above fifty young ladies in white, and with pink silk bonnets and fluttering ribbons, filled the body of the carriage. It looked like an immense basket of flowers, and had also a splendid and beautiful appearance. But I am not fond of seeing people in a crowd, not even as a crowd of flowers; a crowd nullifies individuality. More beautiful sledging than that of the Swedish "Racken," where a gentleman and lady sit side by side, on bear or leopard skins, drawn by a pair of spirited horses covered with swinging white nets--more beautiful carriages and driving than these have I never seen.
There has been this winter no good sledging in Boston; nor has the winter been severe. Yet, nevertheless, it is with difficulty that I can bear the air as soon as it becomes cold. I, who have such a love of the Swedish winter, and who breathe easily in our severest weather, have really difficulty in breathing here when the atmosphere is as cold as it is just now--it feels so keen and severe. It seems to me as if the old Puritanic, austere spirit had entered, or rather gone forth into the air and penetrated it; and such an atmosphere does not suit me. Of a certainty the atmosphere of America is essentially different to that of Europe. It seems thin and dry, wonderfully fine and penetrating, and it certainly operates upon the constitutions of the people. How seldom one sees fat people or plump forms here. The women appear delicate and not strong. The men strong and full of muscular elasticity, but they are generally thin, and grow more in height than otherwise. The cheeks become sunk in the man even while he is but a youth, and the countenance assimilates to the Indian type. The climate of Boston is, for the rest, not considered good on account of the cold sea-winds.[p. 200]
Of Boston I shall not say much, because I have not seen much, and am not in the best state of mind to judge. The city itself does not seem to possess any thing remarkably beautiful, excepting that of which I have spoken. The neighborhood of Boston, on the contrary, I have heard described as very beautiful, and in many cases bearing a resemblance to that of Stockholm. As yet I have only seen it in a covered carriage and in its winter aspect. I have observed a great number of charming country houses or villas.
My most agreeable hours in Boston have been spent at Mrs. Kemble's readings from Shakspeare. She is a real genius, and her power of expression, and the flexibility of her voice, so that she at the moment can change it for the character she represents, are most wonderful. None can ever forget that which he has once heard her read; she carries her hearer completely into the world and the scene which she represents. Even Jenny Lind's power of personation is nothing in comparison with hers. She is excellent, and most so in heroic parts. I shall never forget her glowing, splendid countenance, when she as Henry V. incited the army to heroic deeds. And she gave the scene between the enamored warrior-king and the bashful, elegant, and yet naive French princess in such a manner as made one both laugh and cry; that is to say, one laughed with tears of sheer joy in one's eyes. When she steps forward before her audience, one immediately sees in her a powerful and proud nature, which bows before the public in the consciousness that she will soon have them at her feet. And then--while she reads, yes, then she forgets the public and Fanny Kemble; and the public forget themselves and Fanny Kemble too; and both live and breathe and are thrilled with horror, and bewitched by the great dramatic scenes of life which she with magic power calls forth. Her figure is strong, although not large, and of English plumpness; a countenance which, without being [p. 201] beautiful, is yet fine, and particularly rich and magnificent in expression. "In her smile there are fifty smiles," said Maria Lowell, who always says things beautifully.
Fanny Kemble was extremely amiable and kind to me, and sent me a free admission for myself and a friend to her Readings. She has read to-day my favorite of all the Shakspeare dramas, Julius Caesar, and she read it so that it was almost more than I could bear. In comparison with these glorious heroic characters and their life, that which at present existed around me, and I myself in the midst of it, seemed so poor, so trivial, so colorless, that it was painful to me. And that which made it still more so was, that I was obliged between every act, and while wholly excited by the reading, to turn to the right hand and to the left to reply to introductions and to shake hands--very possibly with the best people in the world, but I wished them altogether, for the time, in the moon. Besides which, a lady, a stranger to me, who sat by me, gave me, every time any thing remarkable occurred, either in the piece or in its delivery, a friendly jog with her elbow.
As regards the people around me, I may divide them into two, or rather into three classes. The first is worthy of being loved, full of kindness, refinement, and a beautiful sense of propriety; in truth, more amiable and agreeable people I have never met with; the second are thoughtless, mean well, but often give me a deal of vexation, leave me no peace either at home, in church, or at any other public place, and have no idea that any body can desire or need to be left at peace. Much curiosity prevails certainly in this class, but much real good-nature and heartfelt kindness also, although it often expresses itself in a peculiar manner. But then I should not, perhaps, feel this so keenly if I had my usual strength of body and mind. The third-- yes, the third, is altogether--but I will only say of it, that it is not a numerous class, and belongs [p. 202] to a genus which is found in all countries alike, and which I place in the Litany.
I receive invitations through the whole week, but I accept only one, and another invitation to dinner, that is to say, to small dinner-parties. These are for the most part very agreeable, and I thus am able to see happy family groups on their own charming and excellent hearths. One recognizes the English taste and arrangement in every thing. For the most part, I decline all invitations for the evening. Evening parties do not agree with me; the heat produced by the gas-lights of the drawing-rooms makes me feverish. On the contrary, I have greatly enjoyed my quiet evenings at home since I had a young friend to read aloud to me, that I could not wish for any thing better. Mr. V., an agreeable young man, son of Benzon's companion, and who also lives in the house, offered to read aloud to me in the evening, although he did not know, he said, whether he could do it to please me, as he had never before read aloud. He read rather stumblingly at first, but softly, and with the most gentle of manly voices. It was like music to my soul and my senses; it calmed me deliciously. Before long he lost all his stumbling, and his reading became continuous and melodious as a softly purling stream. And thus has he afforded me many good, quiet evenings in the reading of the biography of Washington, of the President of Cambridge, Jared Sparks', Emerson's Essays, or other works. Mr. Charles Sumner has also enabled me to spend some most agreeable hours, while he has read to me various things, in particular some of Longfellow's poems. One day he read a story to me, in itself a poem in prose, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, which gave me so much pleasure that I beg leave to tell it you with the greatest possible brevity. N.B.--Hawthorne is one of the latest of the prose writers of North America, and has acquired a great reputation. His works have been sent to me by some [p. 203] anonymous female friend, whom I hope yet to be able to discover, that I may thank her. He treats national subjects with great earnestness and freshness; and that mystical, gloomy sentiment, which forms, as it were, the background of this picture, like a nocturnal sky, from which the stars shine forth, exercises a magical influence on the mind of the New World, perhaps because it is so unlike their every-day life. The piece which Sumner read to me is called "The Great Stone Face," and the idea seems to be taken from the actual large rock countenance, which it is said may be seen at one place among the mountains of New Hampshire--the White Mountains, as they are called--and which is known under the name of "the Old Man of the Mountain."
"In one of the valleys of New Hampshire," says Hawthorne, "there lived in a mean cottage a young lad, the child of poor parents. From his home and from the whole valley might be seen, in one of the lofty, distant mountains, a large human profile, as if hewn out in the rock, and this was known under the name of 'the Great Stone Face.' There was an old tradition in the valley, that there should some day come a man to the valley whose countenance should resemble that of the great stone face; that he should be the noblest of men, and should introduce a golden age into the valley. The young lad grew up in the full view of that great stone face, which seemed to hold dominion over the dale, and in the constant thought of the expected stranger, who would one day come and make the dale's people so happy. For hours he would gaze at the large stone countenance, filling his whole soul with the sublime beauty and nobility of its features. Thus time passed; he went to school, grew up a young man, became a schoolmaster and clergyman; but he always kept looking at the lofty, pure countenance in the rock, and more and more grew his love of its beauty, and more and more deeply he longed after the man who had [p. 204] been foretold and promised, and whose countenance should resemble this.
"All at once a great cry rang through the dale, 'He is coming! he is coming!' And every body went out to meet and to welcome the great man, and the young minister among the rest. The great man came in a great carriage, drawn by four horses, surrounded by the shouting and exulting crowd; and every body exclaimed, as they looked at him, 'How like he is to the great stone face!'
"But the young clergyman saw at the first glance that it was not so, and that he could not be the foretold and promised stranger, and the people also, after he had continued some time in the valley, discovered the same thing.
"The young man went quietly on his way as before, doing all the good he could, and waiting for the expected stranger, gazing continually on the large countenance, and fancying that he was living and acting forever in its sight.
"Once more the cry went abroad, 'He is coming! he is coming! the great man!' And again the people streamed forth to meet him, and again he came with all the pomp of the former, and again the people cried out, 'How like he is to the great stone face!' The youth looked and saw a sallow countenance with really some resemblance to the large features of the face; but for all that, it was very unlike. And after a while he began to remark that the resemblance became still more and more unlike, nor was it long before every body found out that their great man was not a great man at all, and that he had no similarity to the large stone face. After this he disappeared from the dale. These expectations and these disappointments were repeated yet several times.
"At length, although the good clergyman gave up almost entirely his sanguine expectations, he still hoped silently, and continued silently to work in his vocation, but with [p. 205] more and more earnestness, extending yet more and more the sphere of his operations-- forever glancing upward to that large stone countenance, and, as it were, impressing yet deeper and deeper its features upon his soul. Thus time went on, and the young man had advanced toward middle life; his hair had begun to grow gray, and his countenance to be plowed by the furrows of advancing years, but the great long-expected stranger had not appeared. But he yet hoped on.
"In the mean time, the influence of his life and his labors had ennobled the dale's people, and given beauty to the dale itself. Universal peace and universal prosperity prevailed there during a long course of years. And by this time the locks of the clergyman were of a silvery whiteness; his face had become pale and his features rigid, yet was his countenance beaming with human love. About this time, the people began to whisper among themselves, 'Does not there seem to be a remarkable resemblance between him and the great stone face?'
"One evening a stranger came to the clergyman's cottage and was hospitably entertained there. He had come to the dale to see the great stone countenance, of which he had heard, and to see the man also of whom report said that he bore the same features, not merely in the outward face, but in the beauty of the spirit.
"In the calmness of evening, in presence of the Eternal, in presence of that large stone countenance of the rock, they conversed of the profound and beautiful mysteries of the spiritual life, and while so doing, they themselves became bright and beautiful before each other.
"'May not this be the long-expected, the long-desired one,' thought the clergyman, and gazed at the transfigured countenance of his guest. As he thus thought, a deep feeling of peace stole over him. It was that of death.
"He bowed his head, closed his eyes; and in those rigid but noble features, in that pure, pale countenance, the [p. 206] stranger recognized with amazement him whom they had sought for--him who bore the features of the great stone face."
Hawthorne is essentially a poet and idealist by nature. He is, for profound, contemplative life, that which N. P. Willis, with his witty, lively pen, is for the real and the outward. The former seeks to penetrate into the interior of the earth, the latter makes pen and ink sketches by the way; the former is a solitary student, the latter a man of the world. Hawthorne's latest work, "The Scarlet Letter," is making just now a great sensation, and is praised as a work of genius. I, however, have not yet read it, and there is a something in its title which does not tempt me. Hawthorne himself is said to be a handsome man, but belongs to the retiring class of poetical natures. I know his charming wife and sister-in-law. Both are intellectual women, and the former remarkably pretty and agreeable, like a lovely and fragrant flower. The Hawthornes are thinking of removing to the beautiful lake district in the west of Massachusetts, to Lenox, where also Miss Sedgwick resides. They have kindly invited me to their house, and I shall be glad to become better acquainted with the author of "The Great Stone Face."
Cooper and Washington Irving (the former lives on his own property west of New York) have already, by their works, introduced us to a nearer acquaintance with a part of the world of which we before knew little more than the names, Niagara and Washington. After these poets in prose, several ladies of the Northern States have distinguished themselves as the authors of novels and tales. Foremost and best of these are, Miss Catharine Sedgwick, whose excellent characteristic descriptions and delineations of American scenes even we in Sweden are acquainted with, in her "Redwood" and "Hope Leslie;" Mrs. Lydia Maria Child, who, in her pictures of the life of antiquity, as well as that of the present time, expresses her love for the [p. 207] ideal beauty of life, for every thing which is good, noble, and harmonious, and who in all objects, in mankind, in flowers, stars, institutions, the sciences, art, and in human events, endeavors to find the point or the tone wherein they respond to the eternal harmonies--a restless seeking after eternal repose in the music of the spheres, a Christian Platonic thinker, a Christian in heart and deed;--Mrs. Caroline Kirkland, witty, humorous, and sarcastic, but based upon a large heart and a fine understanding, as we also saw by her delicious book, "A New Home in the West;" Miss Maria M'Intosh, whom we also know by her novel, "To Seem or to Be," and whose every-day life is her most beautiful novel. (But that one might also say of the others.) Of Mrs. Sigourney I have already spoken. Mrs. L. Hall, the author of a great dramatic poem called "Miriam," I know as yet merely by report. Of the lesser authoresses and poetesses I say nothing, for they are legion. The latter sing like birds in spring time. There are a great many siskins, bullfinches, sparrows; here and there a thrush, with its deep and eloquent notes, beautiful though few; but I have not as yet heard among these minstrels either the rich, inspiriting song of the lark, or the full inspiration of the nightingale; and I do not know whether this rich artistic inspiration belongs to the womanly nature. I have not, in general, much belief in the ability of woman as a creative artist. Unwritten lyrics, as Emerson once said when we spoke on this subject, should be her forte.
The young Lowells are in affliction. Their youngest child, the pretty little Rose, is dead. James Lowell has just informed me of this in a few words. I must go to them; I have not seen them for a long time now, not since that little child's illness.
February 10th. Now, my little Agatha, I will for a moment take up the pen and--[p. 208]
February 15th. Down went the pen, just as I had taken hold of it.
A visitor came whom I was obliged to receive, and then--and then--Ah! how little of life's enjoyment can one have in this hurrying life, although it may be, and, indeed, is honorable. I will rest for one day from opening notes of invitation, requests for autographs, verses, packets and parcels, containing presents of books and flowers, and so on. I can not, or, to speak more properly, I am not able to read all the notes and letters which come to me in the course of the day, and merely to think of answering them puts me in a fever, and then-- people, people, people!!!
In the mean time, I am heartily thankful to God and my good physician that my health is so much better, because it will now enable me to accept more adequately the good-will which is shown toward me, and for which I feel grateful, and also to complete my campaign in the country. I can not sufficiently thank Mr. B. for the comfort which he has afforded me in Boston, neither Mr. and Mrs. K., my kind host and hostess since Mr. B. left. As regards my convenience and comfort, I have been treated like a princess. But I long for the South, long for a milder climate, and for life with nature. I long also for freer, more expansive views, for the immeasurable prairies, for the wonderful West, the Ohio and the Mississippi. There for the first time they tell me that I shall see and understand what America will become. But this much I do understand of what I hear about the fertility and affluence of this region--that if the millennium is ever to take place on this earth, it must be in the valley of the Mississippi, which is said to be ten times more extensive than the valley of the Nile, and capable of containing a population of two hundred and fifty millions of souls.
And now, my little heart, I will give you a bulletin of the manner in which the last days have been spent.[p. 209]
I went to Cambridge, accompanied by the estimable Professor P. Little Rose lay shrouded in her coffin, lovely still, but much older in appearance; the father sat at her head, and wept like a child; Maria wept too, so quietly, and I wept with them, as you may well believe. The affectionate young couple could weep without bitterness. They are two, they are one in love. They can bow down together and rest. They have both very susceptible feelings, and sorrow, therefore, takes a deep hold on them. Maria told me that little Mabel--she is three years old--came early in the morning to her bed, and said, "Are you lonely now, mamma?" (little Rose had hitherto always slept in her mother's bed); "shall I comfort you?"
I dined with Professor P., but I was distressed in mind, not well, and not very amiable either; I, therefore, excused myself from an evening party, and went home. If people could but know how much I suffer from this nervous indisposition they would excuse an apparent unfriendliness, which exists neither in my disposition nor my heart. In the evening I composed myself by listening to the melodious reading of young Mr. V.
One day I visited the celebrated manufactory of Lowell, accompanied by a young, agreeable countryman of mine, Mr. Wachenfelt, who has been resident here for several years. I would willingly have declined the journey, because it was so cold, and I was not well, but they had invited strangers to meet me, got up an entertainment, and therefore I was obliged to go. And I did not regret it. I had a glorious view from the top of Drewcroft Hill, in that star-light, cold winter evening, of the manufactories of Lowell, lying below in a half circle, glittering with a thousand lights, like a magic castle on the snow-covered earth. And then, to think and to know that these lights were not ignes fatui, not merely pomp and show, but that they were actually symbols of a healthful and hopeful life [p. 210] in the persons whose labor they lighted; to know that within every heart in this palace of labor burned a bright little light, illumining a future of comfort and prosperity which every day and every turn of the wheel of the machinery only brought the nearer. In truth, there was a deep purpose in these brilliant lights, and I beheld this illumination with a joy which made the winter's night feel warm to me.
Afterward I shook hands with a whole crowd of people in a great assembly, and the party was kept up till late in the night. The following morning I visited the manufactories, and saw "the young ladies" at their work and at their dinner; saw their boarding-houses, sleeping-rooms, etc. All was comfortable and nice as we had heard it described. Only I noticed that some of "the young ladies" were about fifty, and some of them not so very well clad, while others, again, were too fine. I was most struck by the relationship between the human being and the machinery. Thus, for example, I saw the young girls standing--each one between four busily-working spinning jennies: they walked among them, looked at them, watched over and guarded them much as a mother would watch over and tend her children. The machinery was like an obedient child under the eye of an intelligent mother.
The procession of the operatives, two and two, in shawls, bonnets, and green veils, as they went to their dinner, produced a fine and imposing effect. And the dinners which I saw at a couple of tables (they take their meals at small tables, five or six together) appeared to be both good and sufficient. I observed that, besides meat and potatoes, there were fruit tarts.
Several young women of the educated class at Lowell were introduced to me, and among these some who were remarkably pretty. After this my companions drove me out in a covered carriage over the crunching snow (there were seventeen degrees of cold this day), that I might see [p. 211] the town and its environs. The situation is beautiful, on the banks of the cheerfully, rushing Merrimac River (the Laughing River); and the views from the higher parts of the town as far as the White Mountains of New Hampshire, which raise their snowy crowns above every other object, are extensive and magnificent. The town was laid out somewhat above thirty years ago by the great-uncle of James Lowell, and has increased from a population at that time amounting to a few hundred persons, to thirty thousand, and the houses have increased in proportion.
Much stress is laid upon the good character of the young female operatives at the time of their entering the manufactories, and upon their behavior during the period of their remaining there. One or two elopements I heard spoken of. But the life of labor here is more powerful than the life of romance, although that too lives in the hearts and heads of the young girls, and it would be bad were it otherwise.
The industrious and skillful can earn from six to eight dollars per week, never less than three, and so much is requisite for their board each week, as I was told. The greater number lay by money, and in a few years are able to leave the manufactory and undertake less laborious work.
In the evening I returned by rail-way to Boston, accompanied by the agreeable Wachenfelt, who seemed to be very much taken with the inhabitants of Lowell. I lost one thing by my visit to Lowell, which I regret having lost; that was the being present at Fanny Kemble's reading of "Macbeth" the same evening. The newspaper had published the same day a full account of the judicial examination into the Parkman murder, and its melancholy details had so affected Fanny Kemble's imagination, as she herself said, that it gave to her reading of the Shakspearian drama a horrible reality, and to the night-scene with the witches, as well as to the whole piece, an almost [p. 212] supernatural power, as I have been told by several persons who were present.
I went last Sunday with Miss Sedgwick, who is come to the city for a few days, and two gentlemen, to the sailors' church to hear Father Taylor, a celebrated preacher. He is a real genius, and delighted me. What warmth, what originality, what affluence in new turns of thought and in poetical painting! He ought of a truth to be able to awaken the spiritually dead. On one occasion, when he had been speaking of the wicked and sinful man and his condition, he suddenly broke oil and began to describe a spring morning in the country; the beauty of the surrounding scene, the calmness, the odor, the dew upon grass and leaf, the uprising of the sun; then again he broke off, and returning to the wicked man, placed him amid his glorious scene of nature--but, "the unfortunate one! He can not enjoy it!" Another time, as I was told, he entered his church with an expression of profound sorrow, with bowed head, and without looking to the right and the left as is his custom (N.B.--He must pass through the church in order to reach the pulpit), and without nodding kindly to friends and acquaintances. All wondered what could have come to Father Taylor. He mounted the pulpit, and then bowing down, as if in the deepest affliction, exclaimed, "Lord have mercy upon us because we are a widow!" And so saying, he pointed down to a coffin which he had had placed in the aisle below the pulpit. One of the sailors belonging to the congregation had just died, leaving a widow and many small children without any means of support. Father Taylor now placed himself and the congregation in the position of the widow, and described so forcibly their grief, their mournful countenances, and their desolate condition, that at the close of the sermon the congregation rose as one man, and so considerable was the contribution which was made for the widow, that she was raised at once above want. In fact, [p. 213] our coldly moralizing clergy who read their written sermons ought to come hither and learn how they may touch and win souls.
After the service I was introduced to Father Taylor and his agreeable wife, who in disposition is as warm-hearted as himself. The old man (he is about sixty) has a remarkably lively and expressive countenance, full of deep furrows. When we thanked him for the pleasure which his sermon had afforded us, he replied, "Oh! there's an end, an end of me! I am quite broken down! I am obliged to screw myself up to get up a little steam. It's all over with me now!"
While he was thus speaking, he looked up, and exclaimed, with a beaming countenance, What do I see? Oh my son! my son!' And extending his arms, he went forward to meet a gigantically-tall young man, who, with joy beaming on his fresh, good-tempered countenance, was coming through the church, and now threw himself with great fervor into Father Taylor's arms, and then into those of his wife.
"Is all right here, my son?" asked Taylor, laying his hand on his breast; "has all been well kept here? Has the heart not become hardened by the gold? But I see it, I see it! All right! all right!" said he, as he saw large tears in the young man's eyes. "Thank God! God bless thee, my son!" And with that there was again a fresh embracing.
The young man was a sailor, no way related to Father Taylor, except spiritually; who, having been seized by the Californian fever, had set off to get gold, and now had returned after an interval of a year, but whether with or without gold, I know not. But it was evident that the heart had not lost its health. I have heard a great deal about the kindness and liberality of Father Taylor and his wife, in particular to poor sailors of all nations.
In the afternoon of the same day I attended divine [p. 214] service in the chapel of Mr. Barnard, as I had been invited to do, and I saw in his house proofs of this man's admirable activity in the aid of the poor and the unfortunate by means of education and work. There were present in the chapel about five hundred children, and after the service I shook hands with the whole five hundred little republicans, male and female, and with some of them twice over; the boys were especially zealous, and noble, merry lads they were. The earnest and effective means which are in operation throughout this state for the education of the rising generation are the most certain and beautiful signs of its own fresh vitality, and an augury of a great future.
Mr. Barnard is a missionary of the Unitarian community, and one of its most zealous members in its labors of human kindness. N.B.--Most of the larger sects in this country have their missionaries, or, as they are also called here, "ministers at large," whom they send forth to preach the Word, establish schools, or perform works of mercy, and who are maintained by the community to which they belong, and whose influence they thus extend.
I have, during my stay in Boston, visited different churches, and it has so happened that the greatest number of them have belonged to the Unitarian body. So great, indeed, is the predominance of this sect in Boston, that it is generally called "the Unitarian city." And as it has also happened that many of my most intimate acquaintances here are of this faith, it has been believed by many that I also am of it. You know how far I am otherwise, and how insufficient and how unsatisfying to my mind were those religious views which I held during a few months of my life, and which I abandoned for others more comprehensive. Here in this country, however, it is more consistent with my feelings not to follow my own sympathies, but to make myself acquainted with every important phase of feeling or intellect in its fullest individuality. [p. 215] I therefore endeavor to see and to study in every place that which is its characteristic. Hence I shall, in America, visit the churches of every sect, and hear, if possible, the most remarkable teachers of all. The differences of these, however important they may be for the speculative understanding of the entire system of life, are of much less importance to practical Christianity and to the inward life. And therefore, in reality, they trouble me but very little. All Christian sects acknowledge, after all, the same God; the same divine mediator and teacher; the same duty; the same love; the same eternal hope. The various churches are various families, who, having gone forth from the same Father, are advancing toward eternal mansions in the house of the Eternal Father. Every one has his separate mission to accomplish in the kingdom of mind. God has given different gifts of understanding, and thence different forms of comprehension and expression of truth. By this means, truth in its many-sidedness is a gainer. And the full discussion even of the highest subjects, which takes place in the different churches of this country, as well as in the pages of their public organs (for every one of the more considerable religious sects has its own publication, which diffuses its own doctrines as well as reports the transactions of its body), are of infinite importance for the development of the religious mind of the people. Besides this, it must tend to an increasingly clear knowledge of the essential points of resemblance in all Christian communities, to the knowledge of the positive in Christianity, and must prepare the way by degrees for a church universal in character and with a oneness of view, even in dogmas.
The two great divisions of the Church in the United States appear to be those of the Trinitarian and Unitarian. The Unitarians arose in opposition to the doctrine of a mechanical Trinity, and the petrified old State Church (the Episcopalian) which held it. The latter lays most [p. 216] stress upon faith, the former on works. Both acknowledge Christ (the one as God, the other as divine humanity), and regard him as the highest object for the imitation of man. Both have individuals within their pale who prove that in either it is possible to advance as far, and to deserve in as high a degree the name of a Christian.
I have heard two good sermons from the clergy of the old State Church in this country. It seems to me that this Church is regarded as the peculiarly aristocratic Church here, and that the fashionable portion of society generally belongs to it; it belongs to people of good ton. But the speculative mind in the Church appears to me not yet to have come forth from its cave of the Middle Ages; they still oppose faith to reason, and there appears not yet to be within the realm of theology an enlightened mind like that of our H. Martinsen in the North. I say this, however, without being fully certain on the subject. I have not yet heard or read sufficiently the theological literature of this country.
The most distinguished leader and champion of Unitarianism in this country, Dr. Ellery Channing, called also the Unitarian Saint, from the remarkable beauty of his character and demeanor, showed how far a human being might go in his imitation of Christ. I have heard many instances related by his friends of the deep earnestness, of the heartfelt sincerity with which this noble man sought after the just and the pure mode of action in every case, even in the most trifling. One may see in his portrait a glance which is not of this world, which neither seeks for nor asks any thing here, but which seeks for and inquires from a higher friend and counselor. One may see it also in his biography, and in the detached letters lately published by his nephew, H. W. Channing, and which the latter has had the kindness to send to me. I read them occasionally, and can not but think of your favorite text, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."[p. 217]
How pure and beautiful, for instance, is the sentiment which is contained in these words, which I now take at random from the volume before me:
"Reflect how unjust you are toward yourself if you allow any human being to hinder the growth of a soul such as yours. Bear in mind that you were created to love infinitely, to love eternally, and do not allow an unrequited affection to close this divine spring.
* * * *
"I can not reprove your wish to die. I know no advantage greater than that of death, but it is an advantage for those in whom evil has been more and more subdued, and who have been continually gaining an ascendency over self. I should be glad to awaken that disinterested self-sacrificing human love, both in you and in myself, as well as a more profound consciousness of our own spiritual nature, reliance on the divine principle within us, the innermost work of our loving, and on God's infinite love to that divine life. Nothing can harm us but infidelity to ourselves, but want of reverence for our own sublime spirit. Through failure in this respect we become slaves to circumstances and to our fellow-men."
Every where, and on all occasions, one sees Channing turning to that divine teacher in the human breast, which is one with the divine spirit of God for the fulfilling of the law, and it is from this inward point of view that he regulated his outward conduct.
And never, indeed, has God's blessing more visibly rested upon a human being. How fresh, how full are the expressions of his joy and gratitude as he became older; how he seemed to become younger and happier with each passing year! He reproached himself with having enjoyed too much, with being too happy in a world where so many suffered. But he could not help it. Friends, nature, the invisible fountains of love and gratitude in his soul--all united themselves to beautify his life. All only [p. 218] the more enlarged his sphere of vision; all the more, during declining health, increased his faith and hope in God and man; all the more his love for life, that great, glorious life!
It was during his old age that he wrote:
"Our natural affections become more and more beautiful to me. I sometimes feel as if I had known nothing of human life until lately--but so it will be forever. We shall wake up to the wonderful and beautiful in what we have seen with undiscerning eyes, and find a new creation without moving a step from our old haunts."
He often spoke of his enjoyment of life in advancing years. Somebody asked him one day what age he considered as the happiest. He replied with a smile, that he considered it to be about sixty.
During the illness which, gradually wasting him away, ended his days, his inward life seemed to increase in fervor and strength. He inquired with the most cordial interest about the circumstances of those who came to visit him. Every human being seemed to have become more important and dearer to him, and yet all the while his brain kept ceaselessly laboring with great thoughts and objects.
"Can you help me," said he to his friends during his last days, "to draw down my soul to every-day things from these crowds of images, these scenes of infinitude, this torrent of thought?"
Once, when some one was reading to him, he said, "Leave that; let me hear about people and their affairs!"
He was often heard, during his last painless struggle, to say, "Heavenly Father!" His last words were, "I do not know when my heart was ever so overflowed with a grateful sense of the goodness of God!" And his last feeble whisper was, "I have received many messages from the Spirit!"
"As the day declined," adds his biographer, "his countenance [p. 219] fell, he became weaker and weaker. With our aid he turned himself toward the window, which looked out over the valleys and wooded heights to the east. We drew aside the curtains and the light fell on his face. The sun had just gone down, and the clouds and sky were brilliant with crimson and gold. He breathed more and more softly, and without a sigh the body fell asleep. We knew not when the spirit departed."
Thus only can sink a sun-like human being; thus only can die a man whom God loves, and in whose heart His Spirit abides.
How great a power this true Christian exercised upon others I can judge from the following little occurrence:
One day I was walking with Mr. B. through the streets of Boston, and as we passed one house he bowed his head reverentially as he said, "That is a house which for several years I never approached without feelings of the most heartfelt reverence and love. There dwelt Dr. Channing!"
As regards my own private friends, I do not trouble myself in the least to what religious sect they belong--Trinitarians or Unitarians, Calvinists or Baptists, or whatever it may be --but merely that they are noble and worthy to be loved. Here, also, are many people who, without belonging to any distinct church, attend any one where there is a good preacher, and for the rest, live according to the great truths which Christianity utters, and which they receive into their hearts. Some of my best friends in this country belong to the invisible Church of God.
February 19th. What beautiful days! Three days of the most delicious spring weather. And this luxurious blue heaven, and this air, so pure, so spiritually full of life, and, as it were, so intoxicating. I have not felt any thing like it! I become, as it were, permeated by it. I have been so well these last days, have felt such a flood of fresh life in me, that it has made me quite happy, and childish enough to feel a desire to tell every body so, and [p. 220] to bid them rejoice with me. I know that many would do so; and I know that I myself should be glad to know some one who, having suffered as I have done, now feel as I do. In my joy, I compelled my little allopathic doctor, Miss H., to thank God for the progress which I and the homeopathic doctor had made. And she did so with all her heart. She has a heart as good as gold.
I have, these beautiful days, enjoyed the weather and my walks, and the company of agreeable people, and--the whole world. One day Mr. Longfellow came and took me to dine with them at his--father-in-law's, I believe (you know that my strength never lay in genealogy), Mr. A.'s. This was on the first of the beautiful days, and as soon as I came out of my gate, I stood quite amazed at the beauty of the sky and the deliciousness of the air. I told the amiable poet that I thought it must have been himself that had enchanted them.
The A.'s is one of the most beautiful homes I have yet seen in Boston; the elderly couple are both handsome; he an invalid, but with the most kind and amiable temper; she cheerful, both body and soul, and very agreeable. With them and the Longfellows I had a charming little dinner.
On Monday the Longfellows had a cast taken of my hand in plaster of Paris; for here, as elsewhere, it is a prevailing error that my hands are beautiful, whereas they are only delicate and small. When I returned, I found my room full of people. N.B.--It was my reception-day, and I had stayed out beyond my time. But I was all the more polite, and I fancy that no one was displeased. I felt myself this day to be a regular philanthrope; thus the people stayed till past three o'clock.
When my visitors were gone, the young Lowells came for the first time since their loss, and Maria set down upon the floor a basket full of the most beautiful mosses and lichens, which she and James had gathered on the [p. 221] hill for me, as they knew I was fond of them. This affected me sincerely; and it affected me, also, to see again the same kind of plants which I myself had gathered on the hill in the park at Aersta, and I could not help it--I watered them with tears; my soul is like a heaving sea, the waves of which flow and ebb alternately. But they are swayed in both cases by the same element.
Yesterday afternoon Waldo Emerson called on me, and we had a very serious conversation together. I was afraid that the admiration and the delight with which he had inspired me had caused me to withhold my own confession of faith--had caused me apparently to pay homage to his, and thereby to be unfaithful to my own higher love. This I could not be. And exactly because I regarded him as being so noble and magnanimous, I wished to become clear before him as well as before my own conscience. I wished also to hear what objection he could bring forward against a world as viewed from the Christian point of view, which in concrete life and reality stands so infinitely above that of the pantheist, which resolves all concrete life into the elemental. I fancied that he, solely from the interest of a speculative question, would have been led out of the universal into the inward. Because, when all is said which the wisdom of antiquity and of the noblest stoicism can say about the Supreme Being, about the "superior soul" as an infinite, lawgiving, impersonal power, which brings forth, and then, regardless of any individual fate, absorbs into itself all beings, who must all blindly submit themselves as to an eternally unjust and unsympathetic law of the world--how great and perfect is the doctrine that God is more than this law of the world; that he is a Father who regards every human being as His child, and has prepared for each, according to their kind, an eternal inheritance in His house, in His light; that He beholds even the falling sparrow: this is a doctrine which satisfies the soul! And when all is said which the noblest stoicism [p. 222] can say to man about his duty and his highest nobility, if it made Epictetes and Socrates, and set Simeon Stylites on his pillar, how incomparably high and astonishing is this command to mankind:
"Be ye perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect!"
A command, a purpose which it requires an eternity to attain to! And when all is said which all the wise men of the Old World, and all the Transcendentalists of the New World can say about the original nobility of the soul, and her ability to keep herself noble by constantly having her regards fixed on the ideal, and by avoiding the rabble and the trash of the earth; and when the endeavors of the Transcendentalists--when the divinely aspiring spark within us makes us acknowledge the poverty of this merely negative point of view, and our inability to attain to the highest requirement of our better nature; then how great and consolatory, how conclusive is the doctrine which says that the divine Spirit will put itself in connection with our spirit, and satisfy all our wants by the inflowing of its life!
This most extreme vitalizing process, this "new birth" and new development, which the Scriptures often speak of as a marriage, as the coming of the bridegroom to the bride, as a new birth, which we may see every day exhibited in natural life--as, for instance, by the grafting of a noble fruit tree upon a wild stock--is, finally, the only explanation of human life and its yearning endeavors.
This is what I wished to say to Emerson--what I endeavored to say, but I know not how I did it. I can not usually express myself either easily or successfully until I become warm, and get beyond or through the first thoughts; and Emerson's cool, and as it were, circumspect manner, prevented me from getting into my own natural region. I like to be with him, but when with him I am never fully myself. I do not believe that I now expressed myself intelligibly to him. He listened calmly and said nothing [p. 223] decidedly against it, nor yet seemed inclined to give his views as definite. He seemed to me principally to be opposed to blind or hypocritical faith.
"I do not wish," said he, "that people should pretend to know or to believe more than they really do know and believe. The resurrection, the continuance of our being is granted," said he also; "we carry the pledge of this in our own breast; I maintain merely that we can not say in what form or in what manner our existence will be continued."
If my conversation with Emerson did not lead to any thing very satisfactory, it led nevertheless to my still more firm conviction of his nobility and love of truth. He is faithful to the law in his own breast, and speaks out the truth which he inwardly recognizes. He does right. By this means he will prepare the way for a more true comprehension of religion and of life. For when once this keen glance, seeing into the innermost of every thing--once becomes aware of the concealed human form in the tree of life--like Napoleon's in the tree at St. Helena--then will he teach others to see it too, will point it out by such strong, new, and glorious words, that a fresh light will spring up before many, and people will believe because they see.
At the conclusion of our conversation I had the pleasure of giving Emerson "Geijer's History of Sweden," translated into English, which he accepted in the most graceful manner. I have never seen a more beautiful smile than Emerson's; the eyes cast a light upon it. Mr. Downing's is the only smile which resembles it; it is less brilliant, but has a more romantic grace about it.
Later in the evening I heard Emerson deliver a public lecture on "The Spirit of the Times." He praised the ideas of the Liberals as beautiful, but castigated with great severity the popular leaders and their want of nobility of character. The perversity and want of uprightness [p. 224] in party spirit prevented the upright from uniting with any party. Emerson advised them to wait for and look for the time when a man might work for the public without having to forego his faith and his character.
Emerson is much celebrated both here and in England as a lecturer. I do not, for my part, think him more remarkable as such than during a private conversation on some subject of deep interest. There is the same deep, strong, and at the same time melodious, as it were metallic tones; the same plastic turns of expression, the same happy phraseology, naturally brilliant; the same calm and reposing strength. But his glance is beautiful as he casts it over his audience, and his voice seems more powerful as he sways them. The weather, however, was this evening horrible; the wind was very high, and the rain fell in torrents (for it never rains here softly or in moderation), and very few people were present at the lecture. Emerson took it all very coolly, and merely said to some one, "One can not fire off one's great guns for so few people."
I have visited to-day the Navy Yard of Boston and Massachusetts, and have shaken hands with the officers of the fleet and their ladies at a collation given at the house of the commodore, during the whole of which we were regaled with fine instrumental music. It is a magnificent Navy Yard, and the whole thing was beautiful and kind, and afforded me pleasure.
I have this week also visited, in company with the distinguished school-teacher, G. B. Emerson (the uncle of Waldo), some of the common schools, and could not but be pleased with the excellent manner in which the children read, the girls in particular, that is to say, with so much life and expression, that one saw they fully understood both the words and the meaning; they also answered questions in natural history extremely well. Mr. E. has himself a large private school which is much celebrated.[p. 225]
In the evening I am going to Fanny Kemble's reading of Shakspeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream," and after that with Emerson to a musical soirée at the house of a wealthy merchant, his friend Mr. A., whom he greatly esteems for his practical abilities, as well as for his honest decided character.
And now, my little Agatha, I am preparing to set off to the South, first to New York, then to Philadelphia, then to Washington, then to Charleston, in South Carolina; from which place I shall further decide on my course. Thank God! I now feel strong and capable of the journey. I have invitations and offers of homes from all quarters, nearly from every one of the States. From Philadelphia alone I have above half a dozen. Some of them I can not accept; others I can accept with pleasure; but in any care it is good to experience so much warm and ready hospitality.
My good physician continues daily to visit and watch over me, I might almost say with fatherly tenderness. He brought with him to-day an allopathic physician, Dr. W., whom he wished to introduce to me, "Because," said he, "I have a high esteem for him." Dr. W. has for several weeks together, with two other allopathic physicians, attended a gentleman who has been ill of typhus fever, and who lives not far from Mr. B., one of the brothers C., and one of the most celebrated preachers of Boston. The crisis of the fever had happily passed; the patient lived, but continued to be ill with a great number of important symptoms, which defied, week after week, all the skill and experience of the physicians. One of them, Dr. W., said, "We have done all that is in our power as allopathists. We will call in a homeopathist and let him try his skill." My doctor was called in. He immediately began by applying specifics against the symptoms which caused the chaotic state of the disease, and got rid of them within six-and-thirty hours or less. The patient was brought into [p. 226] a calm state, when, after an examination of homeopathic accuracy, it was discovered that a tumor had begun to form in his left side, which had naturally kept up his feverish state. This was operated upon, and the sick man is now in a perfectly convalescent state, to the great joy of his family and his many friends. See now what homeopathy can do!
I lately heard a little boy spoken of, who, in consequence of having taken cold, had an attack of acute rheumatism, and lay in a state of such horrible suffering that he could not bear any one to come near him, and he became almost free from pain through homeopathic treatment within twelve hours. My good doctor was an allopathist in his younger days, and from over-exertion in his profession, suffered to that degree from neuralgia that the physicians gave him up, and as a last resource sent him over to Europe. There he met with Hannemann, who did not convince him by his teaching, but induced him to make trial of his means of cure. These immediately produced the most favorable results in his condition, and in so doing changed his medical theory. When he returned to America he was quite well, and a homeopathist. And I too praise homeopathy. But I believe, at the same time, that allopathy has its own sphere, and that it ought to go hand in hand with homeopathy, even as the excellent Dr. W. and Dr. O. came to visit me.
My good doctor has one trouble with me. The little globules which Mr. Downing gave me, and which caused me to sleep so well, have maintained their magic power over me, and cause me to sleep even when O.'s medicine will not do it. Downing will not tell me the name of this remedy, but carries on a merry little joke about it, saying that it is not the medicine, but the conjuration which he says over it, which makes it so efficacious, and when I ask for the name he merely sends me some more globules. My good doctor smiles, and says, "I don't like this Downing [p. 227] medicine, which excels mine. I do not like it, because it is not I who give it you." But I laugh (and he smiles too), and I always have my Downing medicine standing every night on a table by my bed. With it I lay myself down in confidence. There is a good spirit in the little vial.
February 25th. Where did I leave you last, my child? Yes, I know! I was going to hear Fanny Kemble. She read the "Midsummer Night's Dream." But this dream I have never quite understood, nor thought much of, nor do I yet, spite of Fanny Kemble's masterly reading. The evening at the A.'s was pleasant to me. Miss A. is a good and charming young girl, with sense and sterling character, and really a musical talent for the piano. Besides this, Emerson was kind and conversable. He is much struck with Fanny Kemble's appearance and talent. He now had seen her for the first time, and said, in speaking of her, "What an abundance there is in her! She is Miranda, Queen Catharine, and many more at the same time!"
He likes strongly-expressed individuality. And so do I. But Emerson sees human beings too much merely as individuals. He says of one person, "That is an actress!" of another, "That is a saint!" of a third, "That is a man of business!" and so on, and sets them away each one in his corner, after he has clapped his ticket upon them. And so, indeed, has every planet its own axis on which it turns; but its greatest importance seems to me to consist in its relationship to the sun, that centre around which it revolves, and which determines its life and its course.
I shall not now write any more to you from Boston, because I must get ready for my journey, and I have much to do in the way of visits and letter-writing before I can creditably leave the city and neighborhood. But ah! that will hardly be possible. I can not bear much; the least exertion brings on fever. The air is again cold and keen, and I am again not well--I know not whether from the [p. 228] air or the food, or whether from people and all one's social duties. But this I know, that I shall soon again be well. The climate, and I myself, here in this country, are alike variable; and when people ask me one of the standing questions here, "What similarity is there between the climate of your country and that of ours?" my answer is equally a standing one, "That between a staid married man and a changeable lover."
Last evening I spent very agreeably with Miss Sedgwick and her adopted daughter, a pleasing young wife, Mrs. M. Fanny Kemble was there, and her cheerful, strongly-marked character is always refreshing; as is also Miss Sedgwick's kindness and fine understanding.
Fanny Kemble asked me across the room a question about Lindblad. K "What do you know about our Lindblad?" replied I.
"Do I not know Lindblad?" replied she, with the air and pride of a queen. "Do I not know this beautiful singer?" And she mentioned several of Lindblad's ballads which she said she sang.
It delighted me to hear that Lindblad's songs are known and beloved in England and America.
I shall write no more this time. I shall now make my courtesy to Boston and Bunker Hill, the monument on which it is said was completed by the work of women (that is to say its top), that of the men not being sufficient.
And now--to the South! to the South!
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