Boston, December 2d.
Here I am now, my dear child, in the midst of severe cold, but in a warm and handsome room in Revere House, with a glowing fire to bear me company. Here I am installed by Marcus and Rebecca, who merely exhorted me to be comfortable, and not to want for any thing.
In the forenoon I went with them to church, and heard a singular kind of sermon from Theodore Parker, a man of powerful character, and richly gifted as a speaker, who, with a strong and fearless spirit, applies the morality of Christianity to the political and social questions of the day and the country. He has a Socratic head, large, well-formed hands, and his whole being, expression, gestures, struck me as purely original--the expression of a determined and powerful nature.
I shall go in the evening to a Socialist meeting; that is to say, if I do not prefer remaining in my own room, and enjoying an evening's peace; and if I had requested this of my friends, I should have done so. But I allow myself to be borne along with the stream as long as I am able.
In the morning we go to Emerson's, who lives in a [p. 117] little city called Concord, at about an hour's distance by rail-way from Boston; and the next day, or the day following that, I go to the Lowells, at the University of Cambridge, a few miles from this place, where I remain some days, and where I shall more exactly determine my stay in Boston. I have had various invitations to different families, but as yet have not accepted any. It will be a painful thing to me to part from these excellent people, Marcus and Rebecca. They belong to the best kind of people, and are infinitely agreeable to live with.
My dear Agatha! I write very imperfectly to you about both things and people here; but neither things nor people here allow me any time in which to write about them. So much the more, however, shall we have to talk about, and so much the more shall I sometime have to write about; for people and circumstances affect me powerfully, and in a manner which astonishes and excites me greatly. I feel every day how altogether necessary for my whole life, and for the development of my moral and intellectual being, is this American journey.
Tuesday, December 4th. Just returned from my little journey with the S----s and Bergfalk to Concord, the oldest town in Massachusetts, and the residence of Ralph Waldo Emerson. We drove there, and arrived in the midst of a regular snow-storm. But the rail-way carriages are well warmed, and one sits there in beautiful ease and comfort, excepting that one gets well shook, for the rail-roads here are much more uneven than those on which I have traveled in Europe.
Emerson came to meet us, walking down the little avenue of spruce firs which leads from his house bare-headed amid the falling snow. He is a quiet, nobly grave figure, his complexion pale, with strongly marked features, and dark hair. He seemed to me a younger man, but not so handsome as I had imagined him; his exterior less fascinating, but more significant. He occupied himself [p. 118] with us, however, and with me in particular, as a lady and a foreigner, kindly and agreeably. He is a very peculiar character, but too cold and hypercritical to please me entirely; a strong, clear eye, always looking out for an ideal, which he never finds realized on earth; discovering wants, short-comings, imperfections; and too strong and healthy himself to understand other people's weaknesses and sufferings, for he even despises suffering as a weakness unworthy of higher natures. This singularity of character leads one to suppose that he has never been ill: sorrows, however, he has had, and has felt them deeply, as some of his most beautiful poems prove; nevertheless, he has only allowed himself to be bowed for a short time by these griefs --the deaths of two beautiful and beloved brothers, as well as that of a beautiful little boy, his eldest son. He has also lost his first wife, after having been married scarcely a year.
Emerson is now married for the second time, and has three children. His pretty little boy, the youngest of his children, seems to be, in particular, dear to him. Mrs. Emerson has beautiful eyes, full of feeling, but she appears delicate, and is in character very different to her husband. He interested me without warming me. That critical, crystalline, and cold nature may be very estimable, quite healthy, and, in its way, beneficial for those who possess it, and also for others who allow themselves to be measured and criticised by it; but--for me--David's heart with David's songs!
I shall return to this home in consequence of a very kind invitation to do so from Emerson and his wife, and in order that I may see more of this sphinx-like individual.
From the worshiper of nature, Emerson--who does not belong to any church, and who will not permit his children to be baptized, because he considers the nature of a child purer than is commonly that of a full-grown, sinful [p. 119] man--we went to sleep at the house of a stern old Puritan, where we had long prayers, kneeling with our faces to the wall. Elizabeth H., the only daughter of the family, is still beautiful, although no longer young, and a very noble and agreeable woman. She was engaged to be married to Emerson's best-beloved brother, and, after his death, declined all other matrimonial offers. She is evidently a noble creature, gifted with fine and estimable qualities, and her friendship for Emerson seems to me something very pure and perfect. I also hope to see her again in the course of the winter.
It looked like a true Swedish winter morning, in the pretty little Idyllian city of Concord. Miss H. went out with me, and we visited the monument erected over the first victim who fell in the American war of Independence, for here he fell when the first bloody contest occurred. It was now nearly snowed up, and ice and snow covered, also, the little river which beautifies the city, and which was called by the Indians Musketaquid, "the Grassy River." Emerson has given that name to one of the freshest and sweetest of his poems. Wandering in that pure winter atmosphere, beneath trees covered with glittering snow, and by the side of Elizabeth H., whose atmosphere is to me as inspiriting as the pure, sunny air, made me cheerful, both soul and body. On we rambled; we met Bergfalk, who came quite warm in heart and joyful from a ladies' school in the city, where he had heard the young girls solve mathematical problems, which he had been requested to give them--and solve them easily and well too. He was quite charmed with the young girls and their teacher, a lady in the highest degree gentlewoman-like, as he described her. Bergfalk had made a little speech to express his pleasure, and the estimable and agreeable clergyman, who had accompanied Bergfalk, was no less warm in his praise, declaring that every girls' school would be delighted in the highest degree with "the [p. 120] Professor," as he was called here, and every where during our journey, for people scarcely attempted to pronounce his name, as if they considered it quite impossible.
I visited, also, several of those small homes, which are very comfortable, although the family waits upon itself, and does all the business of the house without a servant. This is a thing to be esteemed, but not to be loved, and I am not comfortable with it.
We left Concord in the afternoon, without having again seen Emerson.
As to the Socialist meeting this evening, I must tell you that I saw there a great number of respectable-looking people, and heard theories for the future, as to how human beings-- instead of going to heaven, as now, by the thorny path----will wander thither on roses, and more of the same kind. I heard, also, various beautiful plans for the accomplishing of this, but they all were remarkable for their want of basis in possibility and in human nature, such as it really is. In general, it seems to me that the Socialists fail by not taking into consideration the dualism of human nature. They do not see the evil, and they believe that every thing can become right in this world by outward institutions. I have during their discussions a feeling of wandering among the clouds, or of being lost in a great wood. The humane side of their theories, of their endeavors for the best interests of humanity, can not be doubted.
The Swedish consul in Boston, Mr. Benzon, who was with us, made me, through Rebecca, an offer of his house, as my home during the winter, which was agreeable to me, although I do not know whether I shall be able to accept it. But I have received many kind and beautiful invitations.
And now, my dear heart, I must tell you that I am losing all patience with the incessant knocking at my door, and with visiting cards and letters, and am quite [p. 121] annoyed at being continually obliged to say "Come in," when I would say "Go away!" Ah! ah! I am quite fatigued by the Welcome here, which will not leave me at peace! I have, in the mean time, not yet received any one, but say I shall be at home in the evening.
In the morning I leave for Cambridge. A horrible murder has just been committed here by one professor on another, and the whole university and city are in a state of excitement about it. It is an unheard-of occurrence, and as the accused has many acquaintances and friends, and has been known as a good husband, and in particular as a good father, many maintain his innocence. He is, in the mean time, conveyed to prison. People talk now about scarcely any thing else.
I must yet add that I am perfectly well amid all my vagaries, and shall so manage during my stay in Boston as to have more repose. I shall have one or two reception-days during the week, and arrange so that I may have time for myself; I know that I require it. Bergfalk is well and lively, and liked by every one; and he sends cordial greetings to mamma and to you. Greet cordially from me Hagbeg, Maria, and Christine, our servants and friends.
P.S.--I must yet tell you that I am not sure that I have judged rightly of Emerson. I confess that I was a little staggered by the depreciating manner in which he expressed himself about things and persons whom I admired. I am not certain whether a steadfastness and pride so little akin to my own did not tempt me to act the fox and the grapes. Certain it is that Emerson's behavior and manner made upon me an impression unlike that which other haughty natures produce, and which it is easy for me to condemn as such, or as such to despise. Not so with Emerson; he ought not to be acquitted so easily. He may be unjust or unreasonable, but it certainly is not from selfish motives: there is a higher nature in this man; and I must see more [p. 122] of him, and understand him better. For the rest, this acquaintance may end as it will; I shall be calm. "If we are kindred, we shall meet!" and if not--the time is long since past when I wished very much to please men. I have passed through the desert of life; I have by my own efforts fought, through much difficulty, my way up to that Horeb from whose summit I behold the promised land; and this long-suffering and this great joy have made, for all time, the splendid figures of this world, its crowns, its laurels, and its roses, pale before my eyes. I may be fascinated or charmed by them for a moment, but it is soon over; that which they give makes me no richer; that which they take away no poorer; and many a time can I say to them as Diogenes to Alexander--"Go out of my sunshine!" I should not even desire to come to this proud magi, Emerson, and to see the stars in his heaven, if I had not my own heaven and stars, and sun, the glory of which he can scarcely understand.
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