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ORIGINALS. - Harriet Martineau, Retrospect of Western Travel, vol. 3 
Retrospect of Western Travel in Three Vols (London: Saunders and Otley, 1838). Vol. 3.
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“The Ideal is in thyself; thy condition is but the stuff thou art to shape that same Ideal out of. What matters whether such stuff be of this sort or of that; so the form thou give it be herois be poetic?”
Every state of society has, happily, its Originals; men and women who, in more or fewer respects, think, speak, and act, naturally and unconsciously in a different way from the generality of men. There are several causes from which this originality may arise; particularly in a young community, less gregarious than those of the civilized countries of the Old World.
The commonest of these causes in a society like that of the United States is, perhaps, the absence of influences to which almost all other persons are subject. The common pressure being absent in some one direction, the being grows out in that direction, and the mind and character exhibit more or less deformity to the eyes of all but the individual most concerned. The back States afford a full harvest of originals of this class; while in England, where it is scarcely possible to live out of society, such are rarely to be found.
Social and professional eccentricity comes next. When local and professional influences are inadequately balanced by general ones, a singularity of character is produced, which is not so agreeable as it is striking and amusing. Of this class of characters, few examples are to be seen at home; but instead of them, something much worse, which is equally rare in America. In England we have confessors to tastes and pursuits, and martyrs to passions and vices, which arise out of a highly artificial state of society. In England we have a smaller proportion of grave, innocent, professional buffoons; but in America there are few or no fashionable ingrained profligates; few or no misers.
In its possession of a third higher class, it is reasonable and delightful to hope that there is no superiority in the society of any one civilized country over that of any other. Of men and women who have intellectual power to modify the general influences to which, like others, they are subject, every nation has its share. In every country there have been beings who have put forth more or less of the godlike power involved in their humanity, whereby they can stein the current of circumstance, deliberately form the purpose of their life, and prosecute it, happen what may. The number is not large anywhere; but the species is nowhere unknown.
A yet smaller class of yet nobler originals remains: those who, with the independent power of the last-mentioned, are stimulated by strong pressure of circumstance, to put forth their whole force, and form and achieve purposes in which not only their own life, but the destiny of others, is included. Such, being the prophets and redeemers of their age and country, rise up when and where they are wanted. The deed being ripe for the doing, the doer appears. The field being while for harvest, the reaper shows himself at the gate,—whether the song of fellow-reapers cheers his heart, or lions are growling in his solitary path.
Many English persons have made up their minds that there is very little originality in America, except in regions where such men as David Crockett grow up. In the wilds of Tennessee and Kentucky, twenty years ago, and now in Arkansas and Missouri, where bear-hunting and the buffalo chase are still in full career, it is acknowledged that a man's natural bent may be seen to advantage, and his original force must be fully tested. But it is asked, with regard to America, whether there is not much less than the average amount of originality of character to be found in the places where men operate upon one another? It is certain that there is an intense curiosity in Americans about English oddities; and a prevailing belief among themselves that England is far richer in humorists than the United States. It is also true that the fickleness and impressibleness of the Americans (particularly of the New Englanders) about systems of science, philosophy, and morals, exceeds any thing ever seen or heard of in the sober old country: but all this can prove only that the nation and its large divisions are not original in character; and not that individuals of that character are wanting.
It should be remembered that one great use of a metropolis, if not the greatest, is to test every thing for the benefit of the whole of the rest of the country. The country may, according to circumstances, be more or less ready to avail itself of the benefit; but the benefit exists, and waits for acceptance. Now, the Americans have no metropolis. Their cities are all provincial towns. It may be, in their circumstances, politically good that they should have the smallest possible amount of centralization; but the want of this centralization is injurious to their scientific and philosophical progress and dignity, and therefore to their national originality. A conjurer's trip through the English counties is very like the progress of a lecturer, or newly-imported philosopher, through the American cities. The wonder, the excitement, the unbounded credulity, are much alike in the two cases; but in the English village there may be an old man under the elm smiling good-naturedly at the show without following after it; or a sage young man who could tell how the puppets are moved, as well as if he saw the wires. And so it is in the American cities. The crowd is large, but every body is not in it: the believers are many; but there are some who foresee how soon the belief will take a new turn.
When Spurzheim was in America, the great mass of society became phrenologists in a day, wherever he appeared; and ever since, itinerant lecturers have been reproducing the same sensation, in a milder way, by retailing Spurzheimism, much deteriorated, in places where the philosopher had not been. Meantime, the light is always going out behind, as fast as it blazes up round the steps of the lecturer. While the world of Richmond and Charleston is working at a multiplication of the fifteen casts (the same fifteen or so) which every lecturer carries about, and all caps and wigs are pulled off, and all fair tresses dishevelled, in the search after organization, Boston has gone completely round to the opposite philosophy, and is raving about spiritualism to an excess which can scarcely be credited by any who have not heard the Unknown Tongues. If a phrenological lecturer from Paris, London, or Edinburgh, should go to Boston, the superficial, visible portion of the public would wheel round once more, so rapidly and with so clamorous a welcome on their tongues, that the transported lecturer would bless his stars which had guided him over to a country whose inhabitants are so candid, so enlightened, so ravenous for truth. Before five years are out, however, the lecturer will find himself superseded by some professor of animal magnetism, some preacher of homoeopathy, some teacher who will undertake to analyze children, prove to them that their spirits made their bodies, and elicit from them truths fresh from heaven. All this is very childish, very village-like; and it proves any thing rather than originality in the persons concerned. But it does not prove that there is not originality in the bosom of a society whose superficial movement is of this kind; and it does not prove that national originality may not arise out of the very tendencies which indicate that it does not at present exist.
The Americans appear to me an eminently imaginative people. The unprejudiced traveller can hardly spend a week among them without being struck with this every day. At a distance, it is seen clearly enough that they do not put their imaginative power to use in literature and the arts; and it does certainly appear perverse enough to observers from the Old World that they should be imitative in fictions (whether of the pen, the pencil, stone, or marble), and imaginative in their science and philosophy, applying their sober good sense to details, but being sparing of it in regard to principles. This arbitrary direction of their imaginative powers, or rather its restriction to particular departments, is, I believe and trust, only temporary. As their numbers increase, and their society becomes more delicately organized; when, consequently, the pursuit of literature, philosophy, and art, shall become as definitely the business of some men as politics and commerce now are of others, I cannot doubt that the restraints of imitation will be burst through, and that a plenitude of power will be shed into these departments as striking as that which has made the organization of American commerce (notwithstanding some defects) the admiration of the world, and vindicated the originality of American politics, in theory and practice.
However this may be, it is certain that there are individuals existing everywhere, in the very heart of Boston itself, as original as Sam Weller and David Crockett, or any other self-complacent mortal who finds scope for his humours amidst the kindly intricacies of London, or the cane-brakes of Tennessee.
Some of the most extraordinary instances I met with of persons growing mentally awry were among the scholars who are thinly sprinkled through the Southern and Western settlements. When these gentlemen first carried their accomplishments into the wilderness, they were probably wiser than any living and breathing being they encountered. The impression of their own wisdom was deep from the beginning; and it continues to be deepened by every accident of intercourse with persons who are not of their way of thinking; for, to differ from them is to be wrong. At the same time, their ways of thinking are such as are not at all likely to accord with other people's; so that their case of delusion is complete. I saw a charming pair of professors in a remote State, most blest in their opinions of themselves. They were able men, or would have been so amidst the discipline of equal society; but their self-esteem had sprouted out so luxuriantly as to threaten to exhaust all the better part of them. One of the most remarkable circumstances in the case was that they seemed aware of their self-complacency, and were as complacent about it as about anything else. One speaking of the other says—“A, has been examining my cranium. He says I am the most conceited man in the States,—except himself.”
The exception was a fair one. When I saw B., I thought that I had seen the topmost wonder of the world for self-complacency; but upon this Alp another was to arise, as I found when I knew A. The only point of inferiority in A, is that he is not quite immoveably happy in himself. His feet are far from handsome; and no boot-maker at the West End could make them look so. This is the bitter drop in A.'s cup. This is the vulnerable point in his peace. His pupils have found it out, and have obtained a hold over him by it. They have but to fix their eyes upon his feet to throw him into disturbance: but, if they have gone too far, and desire to grow into favour again, they need only compliment his head, and all is well again. He lectures to them on Phrenology; and when on the topic of Galen's skull, declares that there is but one head known which can compare with Galen's in its most important characteristics. The students all raise their eyes to the professor's bald crown, and the professor bows. He exhibits a cast of Burke's head, mentioning that it combines in the most perfect manner conceivable all grand intellectual and moral characteristics; and adding that only one head has been known perfectly to resemble it. Again the students fix their gaze on the summit of the professor, and he congratulates them on their scientific discernment.
This gentleman patronizes Mrs. Somerville's scientific reputation. He told me one morning, in the presence of several persons whom he wished to impress with the highest respect for Mrs. Somerville, the particulars of a call he once made upon her, during a visit to England. It was a long story: but the substance of it was that he found her a most extraordinary person, for that she knew more than he did. He had always thought himself a pretty good mathematician: but she had actually gone further. He had prided himself upon being a tolerable chemist, but he found she could teach him something there. He had reason to think himself a good mineralogist: but when he saw her cabinet, he found that it was possible to get beyond him. On entering her drawing-room, he was struck by some paintings which he ascertained to be done by her hand: while he could not pretend to be able to paint at all. He acknowledged that he had, for once, met his superior. Two days after, among a yet larger party, he told me the whole story over again. I fell into an absent fit, in planning how I could escape from the rest of his string of stories, to talk with some one on the opposite side of the room. When he finally declared—“In short, I actually found that Mrs. Somerville knows more than I do,” I mechanically answered. “I have no doubt of it.” A burst of laughter from the whole party roused me to a sense of what I had done in taking the professor at his word. His look of mortification was pitiable.
It was amusing to see him with the greatest statesman in the country, holding him by the button for an hour together, while lecturing in the style of a master to a hopeful school-boy. The pompous air of the professor, and the patient snuff-taking of the statesman under instruction made a capital caricature subject. One of the professor's most serious declarations to me was that the time had long been past when he believed he might be mistaken. He had once thought that he might be in the wrong, like other people; but experience had taught him that he never erred. As, therefore, he and I did not agree on the point we were conversing about, I must be mistaken. I might rely upon him that it was so.
It is hot to be expected that women should resist dangers of position which men, with their wider intercourses, cannot withstand. The really learned and able women of the United States are as modest and simple as people of sound learning and ability are: but the pedantry of a few bookish women in retired country situations exceeds any thing I ever saw out of novels and farces.
In a certain region of the United States, there are two sisters, living at a considerable distance from each other, but united (in addition to their undoubted sisterly regard.) by their common belief that they are conspicuous ornaments of their country. It became necessary for me to make a call on one of these ladies. She knew when I was going, and had made preparation for my reception. I was accompanied by three ladies, one of whom was an avowed authoress: a second was a deep and thoroughly exercised scholar, and happened to have published; which the pedantic lady did not know. The third was also a stranger to her, but a very clever woman. We were treated with ludicrous precision, according to our supposed merits; the third-mentioned lady being just honoured with a passing notice, and the fourth totally neglected. There was such an unblushing insolence in the manner in which the blue-stocking set people who had written books above all the rest of the world, that I could not let it pass unrebuked: and I treated her to my opinion that they are not usually the cleverest women who write: and that far more general power and wisdom are required to conduct life, and especially to educate a family of children well, than to write any book or number of books. As soon as there was a pause in the conversation. I rose to go. Some weeks afterwards, when I was on a journey, a lady drove up from a distance on two miles, to make an afternoon call upon me. It was the sister. She told me that she came to carry me home with her for the night, “in order,” said she, “that you may see how we who scribble can keep house.” As I had never had any doubt of the compatibility of the two things, it was of little consequence that I could not go. She informed me that she lectured on Mental and Moral Philosophy to young ladies. She talked with much admiration of Mr. Brown as a metaphysician. I concluded this gentleman to be some American worthy, with whom I had to become acquainted: but it came out to be Dr. Thomas Brown whom she was praising. She appeared not to know even the names of metaphysicians out of the Scotch school; and if the ghosts of the Scotch schoolmen were present, they might well question whether she understood much of them. She told me that she had a great favour to ask of me: she wanted permission to print, in a note to the second edition of her Lectures on Mental and Moral Philosophy, a striking observation of mine made to her sister, which her sister had transmitted to her by the next post. I immediately assured her that she might print any thing that I had said to her sister. She then explained that the observation was that they are not usually the cleverest women who write. I recommended her to make sure of the novelty of the remark before she printed it: for I was afraid that Shakspeare or somebody had had it first. What was the fate of the opinion I do not know; but it may be of use to the sisters themselves if it suggests that they may be mistaken in looking down upon all their sex who do not “scribble.”
I think it must have been a pupil of theirs who wrote me a letter which I threw into the fire in a fit of disgust, the moment... I had read it. A young lady, who described herself as “an ambitious girl,” sent me some poetry in a magazine and an explanation in writing of her own powers and aspirations. No one likes aspiration better than I, if only there be any degree of rational self-estimate connected with it. This young lady aspired to enter the hallowed precinets of the temple where Edgeworth. More, and others were immortalized. As for how she was to do it, her case seemed to be similar to that of a West Indian lady who once complained to me that while she was destined by her innate love of the sublime and the beautiful to be distinguished. Providence would not let her. The American young lady, however, hoped that a friendship with me might persuade the world to recognize her powers: and she informed me that she had come to town from a distance, and procured an invitation to a house where I was to spend the evening, that we might begin our friendship. The rooms happened to be so tremendously crowded that I was not obliged to see any more persons than those immediately about me. I was told that the “ambitious girl” was making herself very conspicuous by standing on tiptoe, beaming and fluttering; but I did not look that way and never saw her. I hope she may yet read her own poetry again with new eyes, and learn that the best “ambition” does not write about itself, and that the strongest “powers” are the least conscious of their own operation.
In two of the eastern cities. I met with two ladies who had got a twist in opposite directions. It has been represented in England that a jealousy of English superiority, even in natural advantages, is very prevalent in the United States. I do not think so: and I am by no means sure that it is not nearly as rare as the opposite extreme. One instance of each kind of prejudice came under my notice, and I am not aware of more. At a party at Philadelphia, a lady asked me if I had not crossed the Alleghanies, and whether I did not think them stupendous mountains. I admired the views they presented, and said all I could for the Alleghanies; but it was impossible to agree that they were stupendous mountains. The lady was so evidently mortified, that I began to call the rivers stupendous, which I could honestly do: but this was not the same thing. She said, in a complaining tone,
“Well, I cannot think how you can say there are no high mountains in the United States.”
“You mistake me.” I said. “I have not seen the White Mountains yet; and I hear they are very grand.”
“You English boast so of the things you have got at home!” said she. “Why, I have seen your river Avon, that you make so much of. I stood by the Avon, under Warwick Castle, and I said to my husband that it was a mighty small thing to be talked of at such a distance. Why, if I had been ten years younger. I could almost have jumped over it.”
I told her that I believed the Avon was not so celebrated for the quantity of water in it as on some other accounts.
The lady, who went on the opposite tack, is not very old; and I suppose, therefore, that her loyalty to the crown of England is hereditary. She made great efforts to see me, that she might enjoy my British sympathies. With a grieved countenance she asked me whether the folly and conceit of her countrymen in separating themselves from the crown were not lamentable. She had hoped that before this they would have become convinced of the guilt and silliness of their rebellion, and have sought to be taken back; but she hoped it was not yet too late. I fear she considered me a traitor to my country in not condemning hers. I was sorry to deprive her of her last hope of sympathy; but what could one do in such a case?
There must be many local and professional oddities in a country like America, where individuals fill a larger space in society, and are less pressep upon by influences, other than local and professional, than in Old World communities. A judge in the West is often a remarkable personage to European eyes. I know one who unites all the odd characteristics of the order so as to be worth a close study. Bofore I left home, a friend desired me to bring her something, she did not care what, that should be exclusively American,—something which could not be procurable any where else. When I saw this judge. I longed to pack him up, and direct him, per next packet from New York to my friend; for he was the first article I met with that could not by possibility have been picked up any where out of the United States. He was about six feet high, lank as a flail, and seeming to be held together only by the long-tailed drab great-coat into which he was put. He had a quid in his cheek whenever I saw him, and squirted tobacco-juice into the fire-place or elsewhere, at intervals of about twenty seconds. His face was long and solemn, his voice monotonous, his manner dogmatical to a most amusing degree. He was a dogged republican, with an uncompromising hatred of the blacks, and with an indifferent sort of pity for all foreigners. This last feeling probably induced him to instruct me on various matters. He fixed his eyes on the fire, and talked on for my edification, but without taking express notice of the presence of any one; so that his lecture had the droll appearance of being a formal soliloquy. In the same speech he declared that no man was made by God to run wild through a forest who was not able to comprehend Christianity at sight; missions to the heathen being therefore sanctioned from heaven itself; and that men with a dark skin cannot, in three years, learn the name of a rope or a point of the compass, and that they are therefore meant to be slaves. It seemed to me that he was bound to suspend the operation of the law against all coloured persons on the ground of their incapacity,—their lack of understanding of the common affairs of life. But the ground of their punishment in this life seemed to be that they might be as wise as they pleased about the affairs of the next. He proceeded with his enunciations, however, without vouchsafing an explanation of these mysteries. It must be an awkward thing to be either a heathen or a negro under his jurisdiction, if he acts upon his own doctrines.
Country doctors are not unlike wild country judges. Being obliged to call in the aid of a village doctor to a companion. I found we had fallen in with a fine specimen of the class. I was glad of this afterwards; but much annoyed at the time by the impossibility of extracting from him the slightest information as to my friend's state and prospects in regard to her health. I detained him in conversation day after day to no purpose; and varied my questions with as much American ingenuity as I could command; but all in vain. He would neither tell me what was the matter with her, nor whether her illness was serious or trifling, or whether it was likely to be long or short. He would give me no hint which could enable me to form my plans, or to give my distant friends an idea whether or when they might expect to see us. All that he would say was, “Hope your friend will be better:"—"hope she will enjoy better health:"—"will make her better if we can:"—"must try to improve her health:” and so on. I was informed that this was all that I should extract, if the illness were to last a twelvemonth. He took a blue paper with some white powder in it out of one pocket, and a white paper with some other powder out of another pocket; spilled some at random into smaller papers, and gave directions when they should be taken; and my friend speedily and entirely recovered. I never was so completely in the dark about the nature of any illness I witnessed; and I am completely in the dark still. I fancy I hear now the short, sharp, conceited tones of the doctor, doggedly using his power of exasperating my anxiety. Such was not his purpose, however. The country doctors themselves and their patients believe that they cure with far more certainty than any other doctors: the profession are probably convinced that they owe much to the implicit faith of their charge, and are resolved to keep up this faith by being impenetrable; allowing no part of their practice to be made a subject of discussion which can possibly be rendered mysterious. The chief reason of the success of country doctors is, doubtless, that they have to treat chiefly diseases of local prevalence, about which they employ long experience and practised sagacity, without having much account to give of their method of proceeding.
A country physician of higher pretensions than the one who tormented me while curing my friend, told me that Yankee inquisitiveness is the plague of the life of a country doctor. The querists seem to forget that families may object to have domestic sickness made the talk of the village or hamlet, and that the doctor must dislike to be the originator of news of this kind. They stop him on his rounds, to ask whom he is visiting in this direction, and whom in that, and who could be sick on the road in which he was seen going yesterday morning; and what such a one's complaint is called, and how it is going to be cured, &c. The physician told me that he was driven to invent modes of escape. If he was riding, he appeared to see some acquaintance at a distance, clapped spurs to his horse, and was off: if he was walking, he gave a name of six syllables to the disease asked about, and one of seven syllables to the remedy; thus defying repetition. If our doctor took me to be one of this class of querists, I could easily forgive his reserve.
I was told a story of an American physician which is characteristic, (if it be true.) showing how patriotic regards may enter into the practice of medicine. But I give it only as an on dit. It is well known that Adams and Jefferson died on the 4th of July of one year, and Monroe of another. Mr. Madison died on the 28th of June, last year. It is said that the physician who attended Mr. Monroe expressed regret that he had not the charge of Mr. Madison, suspecting that he might have found means to keep him alive (as he died of old age) till the 4th of July. The practice in Mr. Monroe's case is said to have been this:—When he was sinking, some one observed what a remarkable thing it would be if he should die on the anniversary, like Adams and Jefferson. The physician determined he would give his patient the chance of its ending so. He poured down brandy and other stimulants, and omitted no means to keep life in the failing body. On the 3rd of July, the patient was sinking so rapidly that there seemed little chance of his surviving the day. The physician's exertions were redoubled; and the consequence was that, on the morning of the 4th, there seemed every probability of the patient's living to the 5th; which was not exactly desired. He died (just as if he wished to oblige his friends to the last,) late in the afternoon of the 4th. So the story runs.
It is astonishing what may be done by original genius, in availing itself of republican sentiment for professional purposes. The drollery infused into the puffing system in America would command the admiration of Puff himself. It may be doubted whether he would have been up to the invention of a recommendation of a certain oil for the hair which I saw at Washington; and which threw us into such a convulsion of laughter that the druggist behind the counter had to stand waiting some time before we could explain our business to him. A regiment of persons were represented walking up to a perfumer's counter with bald skulls of all degrees of ugliness; and walking away from it graced with flowing tresses of every hue, which they were showing off with gestures of delight. This was an ingenious device, but not perfectly wise, as it contained no appeal to patriotic feelings. I saw one at an optician's at Baltimore, of a decidedly more elevated character. There were miniature busts in the window of Franklin, Washington, and Lafayette, each adorned with a tiny pair of spectacles, which made the busts appear as sage as life. Washington's spectacles were white; Franklin's green; and Lafayette's neutral tint.
I acknowledge myself indebted for a new professional idea to an original in the bookselling line, in a large American city. I am not sure that his originality extended beyond the frankness of his professional discourse; but that was infinitely striking. He told me that he wanted to publish for me, and would offer as good terms as anybody. I thanked him, but objected that I had nothing to publish. He was sure I must have a book written about America. I had not, and did not know that I ever should have. His answer, given with a patronizing air of suggestion, was, “Why, surely, madam, you need not be at a loss about that. You must have got incident plenty by this time: and then you can Trollopize a bit, and so make a readable book.”
In the West, we were thrown into the society of a girl, about whom we were completely puzzled. Our New England friends could only conclude, with us, that she had been trained amidst the usages of some retired district, to a freedom which is certainly very unusual in the country. In a stage which took up our party at a country hotel, near the Mammoth Cave, in Kentucky, was a girl, of about two-and-twenty, oddly dressed. She got out and break-fasted with the other passengers, looking perfectly at her case. We concluded that she belonged to one of two gentlemen in the stage; and we rather wondered that any gentleman should like to travel with a companion so untidily dressed as she was. She had a good black silk gown; but over it was pinned a square net handkerchief, unhemmed, and therefore looking ragged. She had black stockings; but shabby shoes, of some dark-coloured leather, not black; and they were tied on with twine, where the strings had given way. Her straw bonnet was shabby. She had nothing with her but a basket which she carried on her knees. She joined freely and pleasantly in conversation; and showed none of the common troublesome timidity, amidst the disasters of the day and of the ensuing night. It was very sultry weather. One of the horses fell from heat, in the midst of the Barrens; and we all had to walk up the hills, and no short distance in the forest. The roads were so bad that the driver tried his utmost to alarm the passengers, in order to induce some to lighten his vehicle by remaining behind; but the girl seemed not in the least daunted. In the course of the night we were overturned, and had no light but what was afforded by the gentlemen walking before the stage, holding tallow candles which they had bought by the road-side; but nothing disconcerted the young lady. She was a girl of nerve and of patience, it was clear. She refused to sit down to the first meal we had on the road; and the reason of her abstinence appeared before the day was over. When we changed coaches, and it was necessary to pay, on striking into a new route, she coolly inquired if any gentleman would ask a free passage for her, till she could send the money out of Indiana, where she was going. It was now evident that she was alone; every passenger having supposed that she was of the party of somebody else. She gave no further explanation than that she had “come off in a hurry,” no one knowing of it but two of the slaves; and that she should send the money out of Indiana. There was not the slightest confusion in her manner; nor any apparent consciousness that she was behaving strangely. One of the gentlemen made himself answerable for her fare, and she proceeded with us.
At Elizabeth's-town, the next morning, she refused breakfast, with the utmost cheerfulness; but our friend Mr. L. invited her to sit down with us; which she did with a good grace. At seven in the evening we arrived at Louisville, and alighted at the great hotel; one of the largest, handsomest, and most luxurious in the United States, and of course expensive. We chose apartments while Mr. L. ordered supper in a private room for our party. Almost before my companion and I could turn ourselves round in our chamber, the lone girl, who had followed us about like a ghost, was taking her hair down at my dressing-table. Mrs. L. hastened to inform her that this room was engaged; but, pointing out that there were three beds, she said she should like to lodge here. Of course this could not be allowed; and, as soon as she found that we wished to be alone, she went away. When we descended with Mrs. L. to her room, we found the poor girl dressing there. Mrs. L. now took upon her to advise. She observed to the young person that she would probably be more comfortable in a less expensive hotel; to which she agreed. The same elderly gentleman who answered for her fare took her to a respectable hotel near at hand, and commended her to the care of the landlady, who promised to see her off for Indiana in the morning. We quitted Louisville at dawn, and heard no more of the lone girl, of whom we have often since thought and spoken. The odd circumstances of the case were her freedom from all embarrassment, and her cheerfulness on the road and while fasting, from want of money. There was not a trace of insanity in her manners, though her dress at first suggested the idea; and we could perceive no symptoms of the fear of pursuit or hurry of spirits which would have been natural consequences of a clandestine flight. Yet, by her own account, she must have done something of the kind.
Though the freedom of travelling is not such as to admit of young ladies making their way about quite alone, in a way so unceremonious as this, the liberty of intercourse on the road is very great, and highly amusing to a stranger. One day in Virginia, on entering our parlour at a hotel where we were merely stopping to dine, I was amused to see our lawyer companion, Mr. S., in grave consultation with the hostess, while Mrs. S., her silk bonnet on her knee, and a large pair of scissors in hand, was busy cutting, slashing, and rending a newspaper on which the bonnet peak was spread. There was evidently so much more show than use in what she was doing, that I could not understand her proceedings. “What are you about?” asked I. Mrs. S. pointed to the landlady, and, trying to help laughing, told me that the hostess had requested the pattern of her bonnet. While this pretence of a pattern was in course of preparation by the lady, the hostess was getting a legal opinion out of the gentleman about a sum of 800 dollars which was owing to her. If we had only staid to tea, I doubt not our landlady would have found some employment for every one of us, and have favoured us, in return, with all the rest of her private affairs.
Originals who are so in common circumstances, through their own force of soul, ruling events as well as being guided by them, yield something far better than amusement to the observer. Some of these, out of almost every class, I saw in America, from the divine and statesman down to the slave. I saw a very old lady whom I consider to be one, not on account of her extraordinary amiability and sympathy with all ages (which cause her to be called Grandmama by all who know her), but because this temper of mind is the result of something higher than an easy disposition and prosperous circumstances. It is the accomplishment of a long-settled purpose. When Grandmama J. was eight years old, she was in company with an old lady who was jealous, exacting, and peevish. On returning home, the child ran to her mother and said, “If I am ever an old lady, I will be a good-tempered old lady.” This was not said and forgotten, like many childish resolutions formed under the smart of elderly people's faults. It was a real purpose. She knew that in order not to be cross when old, it is necessary to be meek, patient, and cheerful when young. She was so; and the consequence is, that Grandmama J.'s popularity is unbounded. She is cherished by the whole community to whom she is known. The children want to have her at their dances; and the youths and maidens are always happiest where she is. She looks as if no shadow of care had been cast over her bright spirit for many a long year; and as if she might yet have many sunny years to come. She is preacher, prophet, and dispenser of amiability, all in one.
The venerable Noah Worcester is an original. I am thankful to have seen this aged apostle,—for so he should be considered,—having had a mission, and honourably discharged it. He is the founder of Peace Societies in America. Noah Worcester was a minister of the Gospel, of orthodox opinions. By the time he was surrounded by a family of young children, he had changed his opinions, and found himself a Unitarian. He avowed the change, resigned his parish, and went forth with his family, without a farthing in the world, or any prospect of being able to obtain a subsistence. He wrote diligently, but on subjects which were next his heart, and on which he would have written, in like manner, if he had been the wealthiest of American citizens. He set up the “Christian Disciple,”—a publication which has done honour to its supporters, both under its original title, and its present one of “The Christian Examiner.” He devoted his powers to the promotion of Peace principles, and the establishment of Peace Societies. Whatever may be thought of the practical effects, in a narrow view, of such societies, they seem to have well answered a prodigious purpose in turning men's contemplations full on the subject of true and false honour, and in inducing a multitude of glorious experiments of living strictly according to a principle which happens to be troublesome in its application. The number of peace-men, practisers of non-resistance, out of the Quaker body, is considerable in America; and their great living apostle is Noah Worcester. The leaders of the abolition movement are for the most part peace-men; an inestimable circumstance, as it takes out the sting from the worst of the slanders of their enemies, and gives increased effect to their moral warfare. Human nature cannot withstand the grandeur of the spectacle of men who have all the moral power on their side, and who abide unresistingly all that the physical power of the other side can inflict. The boldest spirits tremble, hearts the most hardened in prejudice melt, when once they come into full view of this warfare; and the victory vests with the men of peace,—who all love the name of Noah Worcester. Nearly twenty years ago he was encompassed with distresses for a time. Indeed, his life has been one of great poverty till lately. He is not one of the men made to be rich, or to spend his thoughts on whether he was happy or not. He was sent into the world for a very different purpose, with which, and with its attendant enjoyments, poverty could but little interfere. But, in the midst of his deep poverty came sickness. His two daughters were at once prostrated by fever, and a severe struggle it was before they got through. Two friends of mine nursed them; and in the discharge of their task learned lessons of faith which they will be for ever thankful for; and of those graces which accompany the faith of the heart,—cheerfulness of spirits, and quietude and simplicity of manner. My friends were not at the beginning fully aware of the condition of the household. They were invited to table at the early dinner hour. On the table stood a single brown loaf and a pitcher of water. Grace was said, and they were invited to partake with the utmost ease and cheerfulness; and not a word passed in reference to the restriction of the fare. This was what God had been pleased to provide, and it was thankfully accepted and hospitably shared. The father went from the one sick room to the other, willing to receive what tidings might await him, but tender to his daughters, as they have since been to him. On one evening, when all looked threatening, he asked the friendly nurse whether the voice of prayer would be injurious to his sick children: finding that they desired to hear him, he set open the doors of their chambers, kneeled in the passage between, and prayed—so calmly, so thankfully, that the effect was, to compose the spirits of the invalids. One now lives with him, and cherishes him. She has changed her religious opinions, and become orthodox; but she has not changed towards him. They are as blessed in their relation as ever.
Noah Worcester was seventy-six when I saw him, in the autumn of 1835. He was very tall, dressed in a grey gown, and with long white hair descending to his shoulders. His eye is clear and bright; his manner serious but cheerful. His evening meal was on the table, and he invited us to partake, with the same grace with which he offered his harder fare to the guests of former years. He lives at Brighton, a short distance from Boston, where his daughter manages the post-office; by which their humble wants are supplied. He had lately published, and he now presented me with his “Last Thoughts,” on some religious subjects which had long engaged his meditations. I hope his serene old age may yet be prolonged, gladsome to himself and eloquent to the world.
There is a remarkable man in the United States, without knowing whom it is not too much to say that the United States cannot be fully known. I mean by this, not only that he has powers and worth which constitute him an element in the estimate to be formed of his country, but that his intellect and his character are the opposite of those which the influences of his country and his time are supposed almost necessarily to form. I speak of the author of the Oration which I have already mentioned as being delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society last August,—Mr. Emerson. He is yet in the prime of life. Great things are expected from him; and great things, it seems, he cannot but do, if he have life and health to prosecute his course. He is a thinker and a scholar. He has modestly and silently withdrawn himself from the perturbations and conflicts of the crowd of men, without declining any of the business of life, or repressing any of his human sympathies. He is a thinker without being solitary, abstracted, and unfitted for the time. He is a scholar without being narrow, bookish, and prone to occupy himself only with other men's thoughts. He is remarkable for the steadiness and fortitude with which he makes those objects which are frequently considered the highest in their own department subordinate to something higher still, whose connexion with their department he has clearly discovered. There are not a few men, I hope, in America, who decline the pursuit of wealth: not a few who refrain from ambition: and some few who devote themselves to thought and study from a pure love of an intellectual life. But the case before us is a higher one than this. The intellectual life is nourished from a love of the diviner life of which it is an element. Consequently, the thinker is ever present to the duty, and the scholar to the active business of the hour: and his home is the scene of his greatest acts. He is ready at every call to action. He lectures to the factory people at Lowell when they ask it. He preaches when the opportunity is presented. He is known at every house along the road he travels to and from home, by the words he has dropped and the deeds he has done. The little boy who carries wood for his household has been enlightened by him; and his most transient guests owe to him their experience of what the highest grace of domestic manners may be. He neglects no political duty, and is unmindful of nothing in the march of events which can affect the virtue and peace of men. While he is far above fretting himself because of evil-doers, he has ever ready his verdict for the right, and his right hand for its champions. While apart from the passions of all controversies, he is ever present with their principles, declaring himself and taking his stand, while appearing to be incapable of contempt of persons, however uncompromising may be his indignation against whatever is dishonest and harsh. Earnest as is the tone of his mind, and placidly strenuous as is his life, an exquisite spirit of humour pervades his intercourse. A quiet gaiety breathes out of his conversation: and his observation, as keen as it is benevolent, furnishes him with perpetual material for the exercise of his humour. In such a man, it is difficult to point out any one characteristic; but if, out of such a harmony, one leading quality is to be distinguished, it is in him modest independence. A more entire and modest independence I am not aware of having ever witnessed; though in America I saw two or three approaches to it. It is an independence equally of thought, of speech, of demeanour, of occupation, and of objects in life: yet without a trace of contempt in its temper, or of encroachment in its action. I could give anecdotes; but I have been his guest, and I restrain myself. I have spoken of him in his relation to society; and have said only what may be and is known to common observers.
Such a course of life could not have been entered upon but through discipline. It has been a discipline of calamity as well as of toil. As for the prospect, it is to all appearance very bright. Few persons are apparently placed so favourably for working out such purposes in life. The condition seems hard to find fault with; and as to the spirit which is to work upon it,—though I differ from some of the views of the thinker, and do not sympathize with all of those tastes of the scholar which I am capable of entering into,—I own that I see no defect, and anticipate nothing short of triumph in the struggle of life.
Something may be learned of this thinker and his aims from a few passages of his address; though this is the last purpose, I doubt not, that he dreamed of his work being used for. He describes the nature of the occasion. “Our holiday has been, simply a friendly sign of the survival of the love of letters amongst a people too busy to give to letters any more.” His topic is, the American scholar; and he describes the influences which contribute to ferm or modify him:—the influence of Nature; the mind of the past; and action in life. He concludes with a consideration of the duty of the scholar.
“There goes in the world a notion that the scholar should be a recluse, a valetudinarian,—as unfit for any handiwork or public labour as a penknife for an axe. The so-called ‘practical men’ sneer at speculative men, as if, because they speculate or see, they could do nothing. I have heard it said that the elergy,—who are always more universally than any other class, the scholars of their day,—are addressed as women; that the rough spontaneous conversation of men they do not hear, but only a mincing and diluted speech. They are often virtually disfranchised: and, indeed, there are advocates for their celibacy. As far as this is true of the studious classes, it is not just and wise. Action is with the scholar subordinate, but it is essential. Without it, he is not yet man. Without it, thought can never ripen into truth. Whilst the world hangs before the eye as a cloud of beauty, we cannot even see its beauty. Inaction is cowardice; but there can be no scholar without the heroic mind. The preamble of thought, the transition through which it passes from the unconscious to the conscious, is action. Only so much do I know as I have lived.”
... “The mind now thinks; now acts; and each fit reproduces the other. When the artist has exhausted his materials, when the fancy no longer paints, when thoughts are no longer apprehended, and books are a weariness,—he has always the resource to live. Character is higher than intellect. Thinking is the function. Living is the functionary.
“The stream retreats to its source. A great soul will be strong to live, as well as strong to think. Does he lack organ or medium to impart his truths? He can still fall back on this elemental force of living them. This is a total act. Thinking is a partial act. Let the grandeur of justice shine in his affairs. Let the beauty of affection cheer his lowly roof. Those ‘far from fame’ who dwell and act with him, will feel the force of his constitution in the doings and passages of the day better than it can be measured by any public and designed display. Time shall teach him that the scholar loses no hour which the man lives. Herein he unfolds the sacred germ of his instinct screened from influence. What is lost in seemliness is gained in strength. Not out of those on whom systems of education have exhausted their culture, comes the helpful giant to destroy the old or to build the new, but out of unhandselled savage nature, out of terrible Druids and Bersirkirs, come at lat Alfred and Shakspeare. I hear therefore with joy whatever is beginning to be said of the dignity and necessity of labour to every citizen. There is virtue yet in the hoe and the spade, for learned as well as for unlearned hands. And labour is every where welcome: always we are invited to work: only be this limitation observed, that, a man shall not, for the sake of wider activity, sacrifice any opinion to the popular judgments and modes of action.”
... “They (the duties of the scholar) are such as become Man Thinking. They may all be comprised in self-trust. The office of the scholar is to cheer, to raise, and to guide men by showing them facts amidst appearances. He plies the slow, unhonoured, and unpaid task of observation. Flamsteed and Herschel, in their glazed observatory, may catalogue the stars with the praise of all men, and the results being splendid and useful, honor is sure. But he, in his private observatory, cataloguing obscure and nebulous stars of the human mind, which as yet no man has thought of as such,—watching days and months, sometimes, for a few facts: correcting still his old records; must relinquish display and immediate fame. In the long period of his preparation, he must, betray often an ignorance and shiftlessness in popular arts, incurring the disdain of the able who shoulder him aside. Long he must stammer in his speech; often forego the living for the dead. Worse yet, he must accept—how often! poverty and solitude. For the case and pleasure of treading the old road, accepting the fashions, the education, the religion of society, he takes the cross of making his own, and, of course, the self-accusation, the faint heart, the frequent uncertainty, and loss of time which are the nettles and tangling vines in the way of the self-relying and self-directed; and the state of virtual hostility in which he seems to stand to society, and especially to educated society. For all this loss and scorn, what offset? He is to find consolation in exercising the highest functions of human nature. He is one who raises himself form private considerations, and breathes and lives on public and illustrious thoughts. He is the world's eye. He is the world's heart. He is to resist the vulgar prosperity that retrogrades ever to barbarism, by preserving and communicating heroic sentiments, noble biographics, melodious verse, and the conclusions of history. Whatsoever oracles the human heart in all emergencies, in all solemn hours has uttered as its commentary on the world of actions,—these he shall receive and impart. And whatsoever new verdict Reason from her inviolable seat pronounces on the passing men and events of to-day,—this he shall hear and promulgate. These being his functions, it becomes him to feel all confidence in himself, and to defer never to the popular cry. He and he only knows the world. The world of any moment is the merest appearance. Some great decorum, some fetish of a government, some ephemeral trade, or war, or man, is cried up by half mankind and cried down by the other half, as if all depended on this particular up or down. The odds are that the whole question is not worth the poorest thought which the scholar has lost in listening to the controversy. Let him not quit his belief that a popgun is a popgun, though the ancient and honourable of the earth affirm it to be the crack of doom. In silence, in steadiness, in severe abstraction, let him hold by himself; add observation to observation; patient of neglect, patient of reproach, and bide his own time,—happy enough if he can satisfy himself alone that this day he has seen something truly.”
... “I read with joy some of the auspicious signs of the coming days as they glimmer already through poetry and art, through philosophy and science; through Church and State. One of these signs is the fact that the same movement which effected the elevation of what was called the lowest class in the State, assumed in literature a very marked and as benign an aspect. Instead of the sublime and beautiful, the near, the low the common was explored and poetized. That which had been negligently trodden under foot by those who were harnessing and provisioning themselves for long journeys into far countries, is suddenly found to the richer than all foreign parts. The literature of the poor, the feelings of the child, the philosophy of the street, the meaning of household life, are the topics of the time. It is a great stride. It is a sign —is it not?—of new vigour, when the extremities are made active, when currents of warm life run into the hands and feet. I ask not for the great, the remote, the romantic; what is doing in Italy and Arabia; what is Greek art, or Provencal minstrelsy; I embrace the common. I explore and sit at the feet of the familiar, the low. Give me insight into to-day, and you may have the antique and future worlds. What would we really know the meaning of? The meal in the firkin; the milk in the pan; the ballad in the street; the news of the boat; the glance of the eye; the form and the gait of the body;—show me the ultimate reason of these matters;—show me the sublime presence of the highest spiritual cause lurking, as always it does lurk, in these suburbs and extremities of nature; let me see every trifle bristling with the polarity that ranges it instantly on an eternal law; and the shop, the plough, and the ledger, referred to the like cause by which light undulates and poets sing; —and the world lies no longer a dull miscellany and lumber-room, but has form and order; there is no trifle; there is no puzzle; but one design unites and animates the farthest pinnacle and the lowest trench.”
... “Another sign of our times, also marked by an analogous political movement, is, the new importance given to the single person. Everything that tends to insulate the individual,—to surround him with barriers of natural respect, so that each man shall feel the world is his, and man shall treat with man as a sovereign State with a sovereign State,—tends to true union as well as greatness. ‘I learned,’ said the melancholy Pestalozzi, ‘that no man in God's wide earth is either willing or able to help any other man.’ Help must come, from the bosom alone. The scholar is that man who must take up into himself all the ability of the time, all the contributions of the past, all the hopes of the future. He must be an university of knowledges. If there be one lesson more than another which should pierce his ear, it is,—The world is nothing: the man is all; in yourself is the law of all nature, and you know not yet how a globule of sap ascends; in yourself slumbers the whole of Reason; it is for you to know all; it is for you to dare all. Mr. President and Gentlemen, this confidence in the unsearched might of man belongs by all motives, by all prophecy, by all preparation, to the American Scholar. We have listened too long to the courtly muses of Europe. The spirit of the American freeman is already suspected to be timid, imitative, tame. Public and private avarice make the air we breathe thick and fat. The scholar is decent, indolent, complaisant. See already the tragic consequence. The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself. There is no work for any but the decorous and the complaisant. Young men of the fairest promise, who begin life upon our shores, inflated by the mountain winds, shined upon by all the stars of God, find the earth below not in unison with these,—but are hindered from action by the disgust which the principles on which business is managed inspire, and turn drudges, or die of disgust,—some of them suicides. What is the remedy? They did not yet see, and thousands of young men as hopeful now crowding to the barriers for the career, do not yet see, that if the single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts, and there abide, the huge world will come round to him. Patience—patience;—with the shades of all the good and great for company; and for solace the perspective of your own infinite life; and for work, the study and the communication of principles, the making those instincts prevalent, the conversion of the world. Is it not the chief disgrace in the world, not to be a unit?—not to be reckoned one character;—not to yield that peculiar fruit which each man was created to bear; but to be reckoned in the gross, in the hundred, or the thousand, of the party, the section, to which we belong; and our opinion predicted geographically, as the North or the South. Not so, brothers and friends,—please God, ours shall not be so. We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds.”
Of the last class of originals,—those who are not only strong to form a purpose in life and fulfil it, but who are driven by pressure of circumstance to put forth their whole force for the control of other destinies than their own,—there is no more conspicuous example than Father Taylor, as he is called. In America there is no need to explain who Father Taylor is. He is known in England, but not extensively. Father Taylor is the seamen's apostle. He was a sailor-boy himself; and at twenty years old was unable to read. He rose in his calling, and at length became full of some religious convictions which he longed to express. He has found a mode of expression, and is happy. He is one of the busiest and most cheerful of men; and of all preachers living, probably the most eloquent to those whom his preaching suits. So it would appear from events. I heard him called a second, homely Jeremy Taylor: and I certainly doubt whether Jeremy Taylor himself could more absolutely sway the minds and hearts of the learned and pious of his day than the seamen's friend does those of his flock. He has a great advantage over other preachers in being able to speak to his hearers from the ground of their common experience; in being able to appeal to his own sea-life. He can say, “You have lodged with me in the forecastle; did you ever know me profane?” “You have seen me land from a long voyage. Where did I betake myself? Am not I a proof that a sea-life need not be soiled with vice on land?” All this gives him some power; but it would be little without the prodigious force which he carries in his magnificent intellect and earnest heart.
A set of institutions is connected with the Boston Port Society, whose agent Mr. Taylor is. There is the Seamen's Bethel, in North Square, where Mr. Taylor preaches: a Reading-room, and a Nautical School; a Temperance Society, and the Bethel Union; the last being an association of seamen and masters of vessels, for the purpose chiefly of settling disputes without litigation and scandal, promoting the just and kind treatment of seamen, and watching over their rights. There is also a Clothing Society, the object of which is economy rather than charity: and a Savings' Bank for seamen, the merits of which are sufficiently indicated by the title.
Father Taylor is the life and soul of all this. Some help him liberally with the purse, and many with head and hands: but he is the animating spirit of the whole. His chapel is filled, from year's end to year's end, with sailors. He has no salary, and will not hear of one. He takes charge of all the poor connected with his chapel. To many this must look like an act of insanity. No class is more exposed to casualties than that of seamen; and when a life is lost, an entire helpless family comes upon the charity of society. Father Taylor speaks of his ten thousand children: and all the woes and faults of a multitude are accumulated upon his hands: and yet he retains the charge of all his poor, though he has no fixed income whatever. He does it by putting his charge in the way of helping each other and themselves. He encourages sobriety and economy in all their habits, and enforces them with a power which it would be vain to attempt to give an idea of. He uses the utmost openness about his plans: and thereby obtains valuable co-operation. He has a collection of money made twice every Sunday in his church. The sums are given by the seamen, almost exclusively, and are in very small coin; but the amount has gone on increasing, from first to last, except during intervals when Father Taylor was absent for his health. Between the years 1828 and 1835, the annual sum thus contributed rose from 98 to 1079 dollars.
Boston owes to Mr. Taylor, and to Dr. Tuckerman, its convictions of the pernicious operation of some of the old methods of charity by almsgiving; and the names of these gentlemen ought ever to be held in honour, for having saved the young community in which they dwell from the curse of such pauperism in kind,—(the degree could never have become very formidable,)—as has afflicted the kingdoms of the old world. Mr. Taylor owns that he little foresaw what he was undertaking in assuming the charge of all his poor, under such liabilities as those who follow the seaman's calling are exposed to: but he does it. The funds are, as it has been seen, provided by the class to be benefited; and they have proved hitherto sufficient, under the wise administration of the pastor and his wife, and under the animating influence of his glowing spirit, breathed forth from the pulpit and amidst their dwellings. It seems as if his power was resorted to in difficult and desperate cases, like that of a superior being; such surprising facts was I told of his influence over his flock. He was requested to visit an insane man, who believed himself to be in heaven, and therefore to have no need of food and sleep. The case had become desperate, so long had the fasting and restlessness continued. Father Taylor prevailed at once: the patient was presently partaking of “the feast of the blessed,” with Father Taylor, and enjoying the “saints' rest on a heavenly couch.” From carrying a single point like this to redeeming a whole class from much of the vice and woe which had hitherto afflicted it, the pastor's power seems universally to prevail.
I have not mentioned all this time what Father Taylor's religion is,—or, rather, what seet he belongs to. This is one of the last considerations which, in his case, occurs to an observer. All the essentials of his faith must be so right, to produce such results, that the separate articles of belief do not present themselves for inquiry. He is “orthodox,” (Presbyterian:) but so liberal as to be in some sort disowned by the rigid of his sect. He opens his pulpit to ministers of any protestant denomination; and Dr. Beecher, and other bigots of his own sect, refused to preach thence after Unitarians. When this opposition of theirs diminished the contributions of his people, during his absence, they twitted him with it, and insultingly asked whether he cheated the Unitarians, or they him? to which he replied, that they understood one another, and left all unfair proceedings to a third party.
Mr. Taylor has a remarkable person. He is stoutly built, and looks more like a skipper than a preacher. His face is hard and weather-beaten, but with an expression of sensibility, as well as acuteness, which it is wonderful that features apparently so immoveable can convey. He uses a profusion of action. His wife told me that she thought his health was promoted by his taking so much exercise in the shape of action, in conversation as well as in the pulpit. He is very loud and prodigiously rapid. His splendid thoughts come faster than he can speak them; and at times he would be totally overwhelmed by them, if, in the midst of his most rapid utterance of them, a burst of tears, of which he is wholly unconscious, did not aid in his relief. I have seen them streaming, bathing his face, when his words breathed the very spirit of joy, and every tone of his voice was full of exhilaration. His pathos, shed in thoughts and tones so fleeting as to be gone like lightning, is the most awful of his powers. I have seen a single clause of a short sentence call up an instantaneous flush on the hundreds of hard faces turned to the preacher; and it is no wonder to me that the widow and orphan are cherished by those who hear his prayers for them. The tone of his petitions is importunate,—even passionate; and his sailor hearers may be forgiven for their faith, that Father Taylor's prayers cannot be refused. Never, however, was anything stranger than some particulars of his prayers. I have told elsewhere* , how importunately he prayed for rain, in fear of conflagration,—and as it happened, the Sunday before the great New York fire. With such petitions, urged with every beauty of expression, he mixes up whatever may have struck his fancy during the week, whether mythology, politics, housewifery, or anything else. He prayed one day, when dwelling on the moral perils of seamen, “that Bacchus and Venus might be driven to the end of the earth, and off of it.” I heard him pray that Members of Congress might be preserved from buffoonery. Thence he passes to supplication, offered in a spirit of sympathy which may appear bold at another moment, but which is true to the emotion of the hour. “Father! look upon us! We are a widow.” “Father! the mother's heart thou knowest: the mother's bleeding heart thou pitiest. Sanctify to us the removal of this lamb!”
The eloquence of his sermons was somewhat the less amazing to me from my feeling that, if there be inspiration in the world, it arises from being so listened to. It was not like the preaching of Whitfield; for all was quiet in Father Taylor's church. There were no groans, few tears, and those unconsciously shed, rolling down the upturned face, which never for a moment looked away from the preacher. His voice was the only sound,—now tremendously loud and rapid, overpowering the senses; now melting into a tenderness like that of a mother's wooings of her infant. The most striking discourse I heard from him was on the text, “That we, through the comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope.” A crew from among his hearers were going to sail in the course of the week. He gave me a totally new view of the great trial of the seaman's life,—the pining for rest. Never, among the poets of the earth, was there finer discourse of the necessity of hope to man; and never a more tremendous picture of the state of the hopeless. Father Taylor is no reader, except of his Bible; and probably never heard of any poem on the subject on which he was speaking: and he therefore went unhesitatingly into a picture of what hope is to the mariner in his midnight watches, and amidst the tossing of the storm; and if Campbell had been there, he would have joyfully owned himself outdone. But then the preacher went off into one of his strange descriptions of what people resort to when longing for a home for their spirits, and not finding the right one. “Some get into the stomach, and think they can make a good home of that: but the stomach is no home for the spirit:” and then followed some particular reasons why. Others nestle down into people's good opinion, and think if they can get praise enough, they shall be at peace. “But opinion is sometimes an easy trade-wind, and sometimes a contrary hurricane.” Some wait and wait upon change; but the affairs of Providence go on while such are standing still, “and God's chronometer loses no time.” After a long series of pictures of forlornness, and pinings for home, he burst forth suddenly upon the promise, “I will give you rest.” He was for the moment the wanderer finding rest; his flood of tears and of gratitude, his rapturous account of the change from pining to hope and rest were real to himself and to us for the time. The address to the departing seamen was tender and cheerful; with a fitting mention of the chances of mortality, but nothing which could be ever construed by the most superstitious of them, in the most comfortless of their watches, into a foreboding.
Such preaching exerts prodigious power over an occasional hearer; and it is an exquisite pleasure to listen to it: but it does not, for a continuance, meet the religious wants of any but those to whom it is expressly addressed. The preacher shares the mental and moral characteristics, as well as the experience in life of his nautical hearers; their imaginative cast of mind, their superstition, their strong capacity for friendship and love, their case about the future,—called recklessness in some, and faith in others. This is so unlike the common mind of landsmen, that the same expression of worship will not suit them both. So Father Taylor will continue to be the seaman's apostle; and, however admired and beloved by the landsman, not his priest. This is as it should be, and as the good man desires. His field of labour is wide enough for him. No one is more sensible than he of its extent. He told me what he tells seamen themselves,—that they are the eyes and the tongues of the world,—the seed carriers of the world—the winged seeds from which good or evil must spring up on the wildest shores of God's earth. His spirit is so possessed with this just idea of the importance of his work, that praise and even immediate sympathy are not necessary; though the last is, of course, pleasant to him. One Christmas-day there was a misunderstanding as to whether the chapel would be open; and not above twenty people were present: but never did Father Taylor preach more splendidly.
There is one great drawback in the religious services of his chapel. There is a gallery just under the roof for the people of colour; and “the seed carriers of the world” are thus countenanced by Father Taylor in making a root of bitterness spring up beside their homes., which, under his care, a better spirit should sanctify. I think there can be no doubt that an influence so strong as his would avail to abolish this unchristian distinction of races within the walls of his own church: and it would elevate the character of his influence if the attempt were made.
No one doubts Garrison's being an original. None who know him can wonder that the coloured race of Americans look upon him as raised up to be their deliverer, as manifestly as Moses to lead the Israelites out of bondage.
William Lloyd Garrison was, not many years ago, a printer's boy. The time will come when those who worked by his side will laboriously recal the incidents of the printing-office in those days, to make out whether the poor boy dropped expressions or shot glances which indicated what a spirit was working within him, or prophesied of the work which awaited him. By some accident his attention was turned to the condition of the coloured race, and to colonization as a means of rescue. Like all the leading abolitionists, Garrison was a colonizationist first; but before his clear mind, enlightened by a close attachment to principles, and balanced by his being of a strong practical turn, the case soon appeared in its true aspect.
Garrison, then a student in some country college, I believe, engaged to deliver a lecture on colonization; and, in order to prepare himself, he went down to Baltimore to master the details of the scheme, on the spot where it was in actual operation. His studies soon convinced him of the fallacies and iniquities involved in the plan; and he saw that nothing short of the abolition of the slave system would redeem the coloured race from their social depression. A visitation of persecution came at this time in aid of his convictions. A merchant of Newburyport, Massachusetts, gave permission to the master of a vessel of which he was the owner to freight the ship with slaves at Baltimore, and carry them down to the New Orleans market. Garrison commented upon this transaction in a newspaper, in the terms which it deserved, but which were libellous, and was in consequence brought to a civil and criminal trial, thrown into prison, and fined 1000 dollars, which he had not the remotest prospect of being able to pay. When he had been imprisoned three months, he was released by the fine being paid by Arthur Tappan, of New York; a gentleman who was an entire stranger to Garrison, and who did this act (the first of a long series of munificent deeds) for the sake of the principle involved in the case.
Of this gentleman a few words before we proceed. He is one of the few wealthy original abolitionists; and his money has been poured out freely in the cause. He has been one of the most persecuted, and his nerves have never appeared to be shaken. He has been a mark for insult from the whole body of his countrymen (except a handful of abolitionists) for a series of years; and he has never, on this account, altered his countenance towards man or woman. His house was attacked in New York, and his family driven from the city: he quietly took up his abode on Long Island. His lady and children are stared at like wild beasts on board a steam-boat: he tranquilly observes on the scenery. His partners early remonstrated with him on the injury he was doing to his trade by publicly opposing slavery, and supported one another in declaring to him that he must give up his connexion with the abolitionists. He heard them to an end: said, “I will be hanged first,” and walked off. When I was in America, immense rewards for the head, and even for the cars of Mr. Tappan, were offered from the South, through advertisements in the newspapers, and hand-bills. Whether these rewards were really offered by any Committee of Vigilance or not was the same thing to Mr. Tappan: he was in either case in equal danger from wretches who would do the deed for money. But it cannot be thought improbable that a Committee of Vigilance should commit an act of any degree of eccentricity at a time of such panic that a meeting was called in a new settlement in Alabama, for the purpose of voting Mr. O'Connell a nuisance. Mr. Tappan's house on Long Island is in an exposed situation: but he hired no guard, and lost not an hour's sleep. When some one showed him one of these handbills, he glanced from the sum promised to the signatures;—“Are these good names?” said he. A cause involving a broad principle, and supported to the point of martyrdom by men of this make, is victorious from the beginning. Its complete triumph is merely a question of time.
Garrison lectured in New York, in favour of the abolition of slavery, and in exposure of the colonization scheme; and was warmly encouraged by a few choice spirits. He went to Boston for the same purpose: but in the enlightened and religious city of Boston, every place in which he could lecture was shut against him. He declared his intention of lecturing on the Common if he could get no door opened to him: and this threat procured for him what he wanted. At his first lecture he fired the souls of some of his hearers; among others, of Mr. May, the first Unitarian clergyman who embraced the cause. On the next Sunday Mr. May, in pursuance of the custom of praying for all distressed persons, prayed for the slaves; and was asked, on descending from the pulpit, whether he was mad.
Garrison and his fellow-workman, both in the printing-office and the cause,—his friend Knapp,—set up the Liberator,—in its first days a little sheet of shabby paper, printed with old types, and now a handsome and flourishing newspaper. These two heroes, in order to publish their paper, lived for a series of years in one room, on bread and water, “with sometimes,” when the paper sold unusually well, “the luxury of a bowl of milk.” In course of time twelve men formed themselves into an abolition society at Boston, and the cause was fairly afoot.
It was undergoing its worst persecutions just before I entered Boston for the winter. I had resolved, some time before, that having heard every species of abuse of Garrison, I ought in fairness to see him. The relation of the above particulars quickened my purpose; and I mentioned my wish to the relator, who engaged that we should meet, mentioning that he supposed I was aware what I should encounter by acknowledging a wish to see Garrison. I was staying at the house of a clergyman in Boston, when a note was brought in which told me that Mr. Garrison was in town, and would meet me at any hour, at any friend's house, the next clay. My host arrived at a knowledge of the contents of the note, quite against my will, and kindly insisted that Mr. Garrison should call on me at home. At ten o'clock he came, accompanied by his introducer. His aspect put to flight in an instant what prejudices his slanderers had raised in me. I was wholly taken by surprise. It was a countenance glowing with health, and wholly expressive of purity, animation, and gentleness. I did not now wonder at the citizen who, seeing a print of Garrison at a shop window, without a name to it, went in and bought it, and framed it, as the most saint-like of countenances. The end of the story is, that when the citizen found whose portrait he had been hanging up in his parlour, he took the print out of the frame and huddled it away. Garrison has a good deal of a Quaker air; and his speech is deliberate like a Quaker's, but gentle as a woman's. The only thing that I did not like was his excessive agitation when he came in, and his thanks to me for desiring to meet one “so odious” as himself. I was, however, as I told him, nearly as odious as himself at that time; so it was fit that we should be acquainted. On mentioning afterwards to his introducer my impression of something like a want of manliness in Garrison's agitation, he replied that I could not know what it was to be an object of insult and hatred to the whole of society for a series of years: that Garrison could bear what he met with from street to street, and from town to town; but that a kind look and shake of the hand from a stranger unmanned him for the moment. How little did the great man know our feelings towards him on our meeting;—how we, who had done next to nothing, were looking up to him who is achieving the work of an age, and, as a stimulus, that of a nation!
His conversation was more about peace principles than the great subject. It was of the most practical cast. Every conversation I had with him confirmed my opinion that sagacity is the most striking attribute of his conversation. It has none of the severity, the harshness, the bad taste of his writing: it is as gladsome as his countenance, and as gentle as his voice. Through the whole of his deportment breathes the evidence of a heart at ease: and this it is, I think, more than all his distinct claims, which attaches his personal friends to him with an almost idolatrous affection.
I do not pretend to like or to approve the tone of Garrison's printed censures. I could not use such language myself towards any class of offenders; nor can I sympathise in its use by others. But it is only fair to mention that Garrison adopts it warily; and that I am persuaded that he is elevated above passion, and has no unrighteous anger to vent in harsh expressions. He considers his task to be the exposure of fallacy, the denunciation of hypocrisy, and the rebuke of selfish timidity. He is looked upon by those who defend him in this particular, as holding the branding-iron: and it seems true enough that no one branded by Garrison ever recovers it. He gives his reasons for his severity with a calmness, meekness, and softness which contrast strongly with the subject of the discourse, and which convince the objector that there is principle at the bottom of the practice. One day, when he was expressing his pleasure at Dr. Channing having shaken hands with him the preceding day, he spoke with affectionate respect of Dr. Channing. I asked him who would have supposed he felt thus towards Dr. Channing, after the language which had been used about him and his book in the Liberator of the last week. His gentle reply was,
“The most difficult duty of an office like mine is to find fault with those whom I love and honour most. I have been obliged to do it about—, who is one of my best friends. He is clearly wrong in a matter important to the cause; and I must expose it. In the same way, Dr. Channing, while aiding our cause, has thought fit to say that the abolitionists are fanatical; in other words, that we set up our wayward wills in opposition to the will we profess to obey. I cannot suffer the cause to be injured by letting this pass: but I do not th less value Dr. Channing for the things he has done.”
I was not yet satisfied of the necessity of so much severity as had been used. Garrison bore with me with a meekness too touching to be ever forgotten.
He never speaks of himself or his persecutions unless compelled; and his child will never learn at home what a distinguished father he has. He will know him as the tenderest of parents, before he becomes aware that he is a great hero. I found myself growing into a forgetfulness of the deliverer of a race in the friend of the fireside. One day, in Michigan, two friends (who happened to be abolitionists) and I were taking a drive with the Governor of the State, who was talking of some recent commotion on the slavery question. “What is Garrison like?” said he. “Ask Miss M.,” said one smiling friend: “Ask Miss M.,” said the other. I was asked accordingly: and my answer was that I thought Garrison the most bewitching personage I had met in the United States. The impression cannot but be strengthened by his being made such a bugbear as he is: but the testimony of his personal friends, the closest watchers of his life, may safely be appealed to as to the charms of his domestic manners.
Garrison gaily promised me that ho would come over whenever his work is done in the United States, that we may keep jubilee in London. I believe it would be safe to promise him a hundred thousand welcomes as warm as mine.
[*]Society in America, vol. ii. p. 264.