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SECTION IX. - Harriet Martineau, Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography, vol. 2 and Memorials of Harriet Martineau 
Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography and Memorials of Harriet Martineau, ed. Maria Weston Chapman (Boston: James R. Osgood & Co., 1877). 2 vols. Vol. 2.
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By December, I felt somewhat better; but I was not able to write my usual New Year’s letters to my family. The odd obliteration of words and half letters when I read returned once or twice when there was certainly no indigestion to account for it; and a symptom which had perplexed me for months grew upon me, — an occasional uncertainty about the spelling of even common words. I had mentioned this, as an odd circumstance, to a Professor of Mental Philosophy, when he was my guest in October; and his reply was, “there is some little screw loose somewhere:” and so indeed it proved. Throughout December and the early part of January, the disturbance on lying down increased, night by night. There was a creaking sensation at the heart (the beating of which was no longer to be felt externally;) and, after the creak, there was an intermission, and then a throb. When this had gone on a few minutes, breathing became perturbed and difficult; and I lay till two, three, or four o’clock, struggling for breath. When this process began to spread back into the evening, and then forward into the morning, I was convinced that there was something seriously wrong; and with the approbation of my family, I wrote to consult Dr. Latham; and soon after, went to London to be examined by him. That honest and excellent physician knew beforehand that I desired, for reasons which concerned others more than myself, to know the exact truth; and he fulfilled my wish. — I felt it so probable that I might die in the night, and any night, that I would not go to the house of any of my nearest friends, or of any aged or delicate hostess; and I therefore declined all invitations, and took rooms at Mr. Chapman’s, where all possible care would be taken of me, without risk to any one. There Dr. Latham visited and examined me, the day after my arrival, and frankly told me his “impression,” — observing that it could not yet be called an opinion. The impression soon became an opinion, as I knew it would, because he would not have told me of such an impression without the strongest ground for it. He requested me to see another physician; and Dr. Watson’s opinion, formed on examination, without prior information from Dr. Latham or me, was the same as Dr. Latham’s. Indeed the case appears to be as plain as can well be. It appears that the substance of the heart is deteriorated, so that “it is too feeble for its work;” there is more or less dilatation; and the organ is very much enlarged. Before I left London, the sinking-fits which are characteristic of the disease began to occur; and it has since been perfectly understood by us all that the alternative lies between death at any hour in one of these sinking-fits, or by dropsy, if I live for the disease to run its course.
Though I expected some such account of the case, I was rather surprised that it caused so little emotion in me. I went out, in a friend’s carriage, to tell her the result of Dr. Latham’s visit; and I also told a cousin who had been my friend since our school-days. When I returned to my lodgings, and was preparing for dinner, a momentary thrill of something like painful emotion passed through me, — not at all because I was going to die, but at the thought that I should never feel health again. It was merely momentary; and I joined the family and Mr. Atkinson, who dined with us, without any indisposition to the merriment which went on during dinner, — no one but my hostess being aware of what had passed since breakfast. In the course of the evening, I told them; and I saw at once what support I might depend on from my friend. I did not sleep at all that night; and many were the things I had to think over; but I never passed a more tranquil and easy night. As soon as my family heard the news, a beloved niece, who had repeatedly requested to be allowed to come to me, joined me in London, and gave me to understand, with her parents’ free consent, that she would not leave me again. I sent for my Executor, made a new will, and put him in possession of my affairs, my designs and wishes, as fully as possible, and accepted his escort home to Ambleside. As there was but one possible mode of treatment, and as that could be pursued in one place as well as another, I was eager to get home to the repose and freshness of my own sweet place. It was not only for the pleasure of it; but for the sake of my servants; and because, while prepared, in regard to my affairs, to go at any time, there were things to be done, if I could do them, to which the quiet of home was almost indispensable. The weather was at that time the worst of a very bad winter; and it was a very doubtful matter whether I could perform the journey. By the kindness of a friend, however, the invalid carriage of the North Western Railway was placed at my disposal; and we four, — my niece, my Executor, my maid and myself, travelled in all possible comfort. The first thing I saw in my own house, — the pale, shrunk countenance of the servant I had left at home, — made me rejoice that I had returned without further delay. I found afterwards that she had cried more than she had slept from the time that she had heard how ill I was, and what was to happen. — That was three months ago: and during those three months, I have been visited by my family, one by one, and by some dear friends, while my niece has been so constantly with me as to have, in my opinion, prolonged my life by her incomparable nursing. The interval has been employed in writing this Memoir, and in closing all my engagements, so that no interest of any kind may suffer by my departure at any moment. The winter, after long lingering, is gone, and I am still here, — sitting in the sun on my terrace, and at night going out, according to old custom, to look abroad in the moon or star-light. We are surrounded by bouquets and flowering plants. Never was a dying person more nobly “friended,” as the Scotch have it. My days are filled with pleasures, and I have no cares; so that the only thing I have to fear is that, after all the discipline of my life, I should be spoiled at the end of it.
When I learned what my state is, it was my wish (as far as I wish any thing, which is indeed very slightly and superficially) that my death might take place before long, and by the quicker process: and such is, in an easy sort of way, my wish still. The last is for the sake of my nurse, and of all about me; and the first is mainly because I do not want to deteriorate and get spoiled in the final stage of my life, by ceasing to hear the truth, and the whole truth: and nobody ventures to utter any unpleasant truth to a person with “a heart-complaint.” I must take my chance for this; and I have a better chance than most, because my nurse and constant companion knows that I do not desire that any body should “make things pleasant” because I am ill. I should wish, as she knows, to live under complete and healthy moral conditions to the last, if these can be accommodated, by courage and mutual trust, with the physical conditions. — As to the spoiling process, — I have been doubting, for some years past, whether I was not undergoing it. I have lived too long to think of making myself anxious about my state and prospects in any way; but it has occurred to me occasionally, of late years, whether I could endure as I formerly did. I had become so accustomed to ease of body and mind, that it seemed to me doubtful how I might bear pain, or any change; for it seemed as if any change must be for the worse, as to enjoyment. I remember being struck with a saying of Mrs. Wordsworth’s, uttered ten years ago, when she was seventy-six, — that the beauty of our valley made us too fond of life, — too little ready to leave it. Her domestic bereavements since that time have doubtless altered this feeling entirely; but, in many an hour of intense enjoyment on the hills, I have recalled that saying; and, in wonder at my freedom from care, have speculated on whether I should think it an evil to die, then and there. I have now had three months’ experience of the fact of constant expectation of death; and the result is, as much regret as a rational person can admit at the absurd waste of time, thought and energy that I have been guilty of in the course of my life in dwelling on the subject of death. It is really melancholy that young people, (and, for that matter, middle-aged and old people) are exhorted and encouraged as they are to such waste of all manner of power. I romanced internally about early death till it was too late to die early; and, even in the midst of work and the busiest engagements of my life, I used to be always thinking about death, — partly from taste, and partly as a duty. And now that I am awaiting it at any hour, the whole thing seems so easy, simple and natural that I cannot but wonder how I could keep my thoughts fixed upon it when it was far off. I cannot do it now. Night after night since I have known that I am mortally ill, I have tried to conceive, with the help of the sensations of my sinking-fits, the act of dying, and its attendant feelings; and, thus far, I have always gone to sleep in the middle of it. And this is after really knowing something about it; for I have been frequently in extreme danger of immediate death within the last five months, and have felt as if I were dying, and should never draw another breath. Under this close experience, I find death in prospect the simplest thing in the world, — a thing not to be feared or regretted, or to get excited about in any way. — I attribute this very much, however, to the nature of my views of death. The case must be much otherwise with Christians, — even independently of the selfish and perturbing emotions connected with an expectation of rewards and punishments in the next world. They can never be quite secure from the danger that their air-built castle shall dissolve at the last moment, and that they may vividly perceive on what imperfect evidence and delusive grounds their expectation of immortality or resurrection reposes. The mere perception of the incompatibility of immortality and resurrection may be, and often is, deferred till that time; and that is no time for such questions. But, if the intellect be ever so accommodating, there is the heart, — steady to its domestic affections. I, for one, should be heavy-hearted if I were now about to go to the antipodes, — to leave all whom I love, and who are bound up with my daily life, — however certain might be the prospect of meeting them again twenty or thirty years hence; and it is no credit to any Christian to be “joyful,” “triumphant” and so forth, in going to “glory,” while leaving any loved ones behind, — whether or not there may be loved ones “gone before.” An unselfish and magnanimous person cannot be solaced, in parting with mortal companions and human sufferers, by personal rewards, glory, bliss, or any thing of the sort. I used to think and feel all this before I became emancipated from the superstition; and I could only submit, and suppose it all right because it was ordained. But now, the release is an inexpressible comfort; and the simplifying of the whole matter has a most tranquillizing effect. I see that the dying (others than the aged) naturally and regularly, unless disturbed, desire and sink into death as into sleep. Where no artificial state is induced, they feel no care about dying, or about living again. The state of their organisation disposes them to rest; and rest is all they think about. We know, by all testimony, that persons who are brought face to face with death by an accident which seems to leave no chance of escape, have no religious ideas or emotions whatever. Where the issue is doubtful, the feeble and helpless cry out to God for mercy, and are in perturbation or calmness according to organisation, training, and other circumstances: but, where escape appears wholly impossible, the most religious men think and feel nothing religious at all, — as those of them who have escaped tell their intimate friends. And again, soldiers rush upon death in battle with utter carelessness, — engrossed in other emotions, in the presence of which death appears as easy and simple a matter as it does to me now. — Conscious as I am of what my anxiety would be if I were exiled to the antipodes, — or to the garden of Eden, if you will, — for twenty or thirty years, I feel no sort of solicitude about a parting which will bring no pain. Sympathy with those who will miss me, I do feel, of course: yet not very painfully, because their sorrow cannot, in the nature of things, long interfere with their daily peace; but to me there is no sacrifice, no sense of loss, nothing to fear, nothing to regret. Under the eternal laws of the universe, I came into being, and, under them, I have lived a life so full that its fulness is equivalent to length. The age in which I have lived is an infant one in the history of our globe and of Man; and the consequence is, a great waste in the years and the powers of the wisest of us; and, in the case of one so limited in powers, and so circumscribed by early unfavorable influences as myself, the waste is something deplorable. But we have only to accept the conditions in which we find ourselves, and to make the best of them; and my last days are cheered by the sense of how much better my later years have been than the earlier; or than, in the earlier, I ever could have anticipated. Some of the terrible faults of my character which religion failed to ameliorate, and others which superstition bred in me, have given way, more or less, since I attained a truer point of view: and the relief from old burdens, the uprising of new satisfactions, and the opening of new clearness, — the fresh air of Nature, in short, after imprisonment in the ghost-peopled cavern of superstition, — has been as favourable to my moral nature as to intellectual progress and general enjoyment. Thus, there has been much in life that I am glad to have enjoyed; and much that generates a mood of contentment at the close. Besides that I never dream of wishing that any thing were otherwise than as it is, I am frankly satisfied to have done with life. I have had a noble share of it, and I desire no more. I neither wish to live longer here, nor to find life again elsewhere. It seems to me simply absurd to expect it, and a mere act of restricted human imagination and morality to conceive of it. It seems to me that there is, not only a total absence of evidence of a renewed life for human beings, but so clear a way of accounting for the conception, in the immaturity of the human mind, that I myself utterly disbelieve in a future life. If I should find myself mistaken, it will certainly not be in discovering any existing faith in that doctrine to be true. If I am mistaken in supposing that I am now vacating my place in the universe, which is to be filled by another, — if I find myself conscious after the lapse of life, — it will be all right, of course; but, as I said, the supposition appears to me absurd. Nor can I understand why any body should expect me to desire any thing else than this yielding up my place. If we may venture to speak, limited as we are, of any thing whatever being important, we may say that the important thing is that the universe should be full of life, as we suppose it to be, under the eternal laws of the universe: and, if the universe be full of life, I cannot see how it can signify whether the one human faculty of consciousness of identity be preserved and carried forward, when all the rest of the organisation is gone to dust, or so changed as to be in no respect properly the same. In brief, I cannot see how it matters whether my successor be called H. M. or A. B. or Y. Z. I am satisfied that there will always be as much conscious life in the universe as its laws provide for; and that certainty is enough, even for my narrow human conception, which, however, can discern that caring about it at all is a mere human view and emotion. The real and justifiable and honourable subject of interest to human beings, living and dying, is the welfare of their fellows, surrounding them, or surviving them. About this, I do care, and supremely; in what way I will tell presently.
Meantime, as to my own position at this moment, I have a word or two more to say. — I had no previous conception of the singular interest of watching human affairs, and one’s own among the rest, and acting in them, when on the verge of leaving them. It is an interest which is full even of amusement. It has been my chief amusement, this spring, to set my house and field in complete order for my beloved successor; — to put up a handsome new garden fence, and paint the farming man’s cottage, and restore the ceilings of the house, and plan the crops which I do not expect to see gathered. The mournful perplexity of my good farm-servant has something in it amusing as well as touching; — the necessity he is under of consulting me about his sowings, and his plans for the cows, — relating to distant autumn months, and even to another spring, — the embarrassing necessity that this is to him, while his mind is full of the expectation that I shall then be in my grave. In the midst of every consultation about this or that crop, he interposes a hope that I may live to see his hay, and to eat his celery and artichokes and vegetable marrow, and to admire the autumn calf; and his zeal for my service, checked by the thought that his services are in fact for others, has something in it as curious as touching. — And so it is, more or less, with all my intercourses, — that a curious new interest is involved in them. Mere acquaintances are shocked that the newspapers should tell that I am “in a hopeless state,” that “recovery is impossible” &c., while my own family and household have no sort of scruple in talking about it as freely as I do. A good many people start at hearing what a cheerful, — even merry — little party we are at home here, and that we sometimes play a rubber in the evenings, and sometimes laugh till I, for one, can laugh no more. To such wonder, we answer — why not? If we feel as usual, why not do as usual? Others, again, cannot conceive how, with my “opinions,” I am not miserable about dying; and declare that they should be so; and this makes me wonder, in my turn, that it does not strike them that perhaps they do not comprehend my views and feelings, and that there may be something in the matter more than they see or understand. There is something very interesting to me in the evidences of different states of mind among friends and strangers in regard to my “good” or “bad spirits,” — a matter which appears to me hardly worth a thought. As it happens, my spirits are good; and I find good spirits a great blessing; but the solicitude about them, and the evident readiness to make much of bad spirits, if I had them, are curious features in my intercourse with acquaintance or strangers who are kind enough to interest themselves in my affairs. One sends me a New Testament (as if I had never seen one before) with the usual hopes of grace &c., though aware that the bible is no authority with me; and, having been assured that I am “happy,” this correspondent has the modesty to intimate that I ought not to be happy, and that people sometimes are so “without grounds.” It is useless to reply that, as I have not pursued happiness as an aim, all this kind of speculation is nothing to me. There is the fact; and that is enough. — Others, again, who ought, by their professions, to know better, are very glad about this “happiness,” and settle it in their own minds that christian consolations are administered to me by God without my knowing it. If so, I can only say it is a bounty not only gratuitous, but undesired. Christian consolations would certainly make me any thing but happy, after my experience of them in contrast with the higher state of freedom, and the wider sympathies opened by my later views.
The lesson taught us by these kindly commentators on my present experience is that dogmatic faith compels the best minds and hearts to narrowness and insolence. Even such as these cannot conceive of my being happy in any way but theirs, or that there may be views whose operation they do not understand. In a letter just received, a dear friend says “I have seen no one since I left you who is ‘sorry’ about you (about my ‘opinions.’) Still I see that the next row, and the next, still more so, are ‘very sorry’ and ‘very very sorry.’ ” The unconscious insolence revealed in this “sorrow” is rebuked by the more rational view of others who are no nearer agreeing with me than the second and third “row.” “Not agreeing,” says my friend, “they still see no more reason for lamentation over you than for you to lament over them. ‘Il y a aussi loin de chez toi chez moi que de chez moi chez toi,’ is the perfectly applicable French proverb.” Another, who professes to venerate martyrs and reformers (if only they are dead) is “sorry” again because this, that, or the other Cause suffers by my loss of influence. The mingled weakness and unconscious insolence of this affords a curious insight. First, there is the dereliction of principle shown in supposing that any “Cause” can be of so much importance as fidelity to truth, or can be important at all otherwise than in its relation to truth which wants vindicating. It reminds me of an incident which happened when I was in America, at the time of the severest trials of the Abolitionists. A pastor from the southern States lamented to a brother clergyman in the North the introduction of the Anti-slavery question, because the views of their sect were “getting on so well before!” “Getting on!” cried the northern minister. “What is the use of getting your vessel on when you have thrown both captain and cargo overboard?” Thus, what signifies the pursuit of any one reform, like those specified, — Anti-slavery and the Woman question, — when the freedom which is the very soul of the controversy, the very principle of the movement, — is mourned over in any other of its many manifestations? The only effectual advocates of such reforms as those are people who follow truth wherever it leads. The assumption that I have lost influence on the whole exposes itself. Nobody can know that I have lost influence on the whole, either in regard to ordinary social intercourse or to subjects of social controversy; and I have reason to believe that I have (without at all intending it) gained influence in proportion to the majority that the free-thinkers of our country constitute to the minority existing in the form of the sect in which I was reared, or any other.
As to the curious assortment of religious books and tracts sent me by post, they are much what I have been accustomed to receive on the publication of each of my books which involved religious or philosophical subjects. They are too bad in matter and spirit to be safe reading for my servants; so, instead of the waste-basket, they go into the fire. I have not so many anonymous letters now as on occasions of publication; but some which are not anonymous are scarcely wiser or purer. After the publication of “Eastern Life,” I had one which was too curious to be forgotten with the rest. It was dated “Cheltenham,” and signed “Charlotte;” and it was so inviting to a reply that, if it had borne any address, I should have been tempted to break through my custom of silence in such cases. “Charlotte” wrote to make the modest demand that I would call in and destroy all my writings, “because they give pain to the pious.” It would have been amusing to see what she would think of a proposal that “the pious” should withdraw all their writings, because they give pain to the philosophical. It might have been of service to suggest the simple expedient, in relief of the pious, that they should not read books which offend them. After the publication of the “Atkinson Letters,” anonymous notes came in elegant clerical hand-writing, informing me that prayers would be offered up throughout the kingdom, for my rescue from my awful condition, “denying the Lord that bought me,” &c. Now, the concern seems to be of a gentler sort, and to relate more to my state of spirits at present than to my destiny hereafter. — But enough of this. I have referred to these things, not because they relate to myself, but because the condition of opinion in English society at present affords material for profitable study; and my own position at this moment supplies a favourable opportunity. In the midst of the meddlesomeness, I do not overlook the humanity thus evidenced. My only feeling of concern arises from seeing how much moral injury and suffering is created by the superstitions of the Christian mythology; and again, from the chaotic state of opinion among Christians themselves, and among those who would fain retain the name, while giving up all the essentials, and unfurnished with a basis of conviction, while striving to make the fabrics of the imagination serve the purpose. — As for me, who unexpectedly find myself on the side of the majority of thoughtful persons on these questions, I am of course abundantly solaced with sympathy which I can accept; and I am more and more sensible, as I recede from the active scenes of life, of the surpassing value of a philosophy which is the natural growth of the experience and study, — perhaps I may be allowed to say, — the progression of a life. While conscious, as I have ever been, of being encompassed by ignorance on every side, I cannot but acknowledge that philosophy has opened my way before me, and given a staff into my hand, and thrown a light upon my path, so as to have long delivered me from doubt and fear. It has moreover been the joy of my life, harmonising and animating all its details, and making existence itself a festival. Day by day do I feel that it is indeed
A state like mine of late has its peculiar privileges, — the first felt of which is its freedom from cares and responsibilities. I have hitherto loved solitude perhaps unduly; partly, no doubt, on account of my deafness, which, from its attendant fatigues, has rendered solitude necessary, to husband my strength, — (always, I now suspect, below the average,) for my work; but partly also from the unusual amount of intellectual labour which it has been my duty to undertake. Now, when my work is done, I am enjoying genuine holiday, for the first time for a quarter of a century. I relish, very keenly, the tending of affection, and the lawful transference of my responsibilities to the young and strong, and those who have a tract of life before them, and who are pausing on their way to give me the help I need. I am now free for intellectual luxury, — to read what charms me most, without the feeling that I am playing truant from the school of technical knowledge, for which I shall have no further occasion. Again, I enjoy the free expenditure of my resources. It is something pleasant not to have to consider money, — the money which I have earned, and laid up to meet such an occasion. But it is more and better not to grudge my time. My hours are now best spent in affectionate intercourses, and in giving a free flow to every passing day. I need not spare my eyes, nor husband my remaining hearing. I may, in short, make a free and lavish holiday before I go.
Such is the selfish aspect of the case; and I am bound, having begun, to tell the whole case. — Far greater are the privileges I enjoy in regard to the world outside my home. I need not say that one’s interests in regard to one’s race, and to human life in the abstract, deepen in proportion to the withdrawal of one’s own personal implication with them. Judging by my own experience, one’s hopes rise, and one’s fears decline as one recedes from the action and personal solicitude which are necessary in the midst of life, but which have a more or less blinding and perturbing influence on one’s perception and judgment. When at the zenith, clouds are apt to come between one’s particular star and the wide world; whereas, on the clear horizon, at the moment of the star’s sinking, nothing intervenes to shroud or distort the glorious scene. I was always hopeful for the world; but never so much so as now, when I am at full leisure to see things as they are, and placed apart where the relation of the past and the future become clear, and the meeting-point of the present is seen in something like its due proportion. It appears to me now that, while I see much more of human difficulty from ignorance, and from the slow working (as we weak and transitory beings consider it) of the law of Progress, I discern the working of that great law with far more clearness, and therefore with a far stronger confidence, than I ever did before.
When I look at my own country, and observe the nature of the changes which have taken place even within my own time, I have far more hope than I once had that the inevitable political reconstitution of our state may take place in a peaceable and prosperous manner. There have been times in my life when, having a far obscurer view than I now entertain of the necessity of a total change in the form of government, I yet apprehended a revolution in the fearful sense in which the word was understood in my childhood, when the great French Revolution was the only pattern of that sort of enterprise. I now strongly hope that, whenever our far-famed British Constitution gives place to a new form of government, it may be through the ripened will of the people, and therefore in all good will and prudence. That the change must be made, sooner or later, was certain from the time when the preponderance of the aristocratic over the regal element in our state became a fact. From the natural alliance between king and people, and the natural antagonism of aristocracy and people, the occurrence of a revolution is always, in such a case, a question merely of time. In our case, the question of time is less obscure than it was in my childhood. The opponents of the Reform Bill were right enough, as every body now sees, in saying that the Constitution was destroyed by that act; though wrong, of course, in supposing that they could have preserved the balance by preventing the act of reform. A constitution of checks and balances, made out of old materials, can never be more than a provisional expedient; and, when the balance is destroyed, — when the power of the Crown is a mere lingering sentiment, and the Commons hold the Lords in the hollow of their hand, while no recent House of Commons has been in any degree worthy of such a trust, the alternative is simply between a speedy revolution with an unworthy House of Commons, or a remoter one, with a better legislature in the mean time. The circumstances of the hour in which I write seem to show that so much social change is near as may be caused by the exposure of administrative incompetence under the stress of the war. It may be this, or it may be something else which will rouse the people to improve the House of Commons: and under an improved House of Commons, the establishment of a new method of government may be long delayed. From the general state of prosperity and contentment at home, the retrieval of Ireland, the rapid advance of many good popular objects, and the raising of the general tone of the popular mind, we may hope that what has to be done will be done well. — Meantime, the thing that causes me most anxiety, in regard to our political condition, is the universal ignorance or carelessness about the true sphere of legislation. Before the people can be in any degree fit for the improved institutions, it is highly necessary that they should understand, and be agreed upon, the true function of legislation and government; and this is precisely what even our best men, in and out of parliament, seem to know nothing about. I regard this as a most painful and perilous symptom of our condition, — though it has been brought to light by beneficent action which is, in another view, altogether encouraging. Our benevolence towards the helpless, and our interest in personal morality, have grown into a sort of public pursuit; and they have taken such a hold on us that we may fairly hope that the wretched and the wronged will never more be thrust out of sight. But, in the pursuit of our new objects, we have fallen back, — far further than 1688, — in the principle of our legislative proposals, — undertaking to provide by law against personal vices, and certain special social contracts, while refusing that legitimate legislative boon, — a system of national education, — which would supersede the vices and abuses complained of by intelligence more effectually than acts of parliament can ever obviate them by penalty. If I were to form one hope rather than another in relation to the political condition of England, it would be that my countrymen should rise to the level of their time, and of their intelligence in other respects, in regard to the true aims of government and legitimate function of legislation.
As to the wider political prospects outside our own empire, I am of much the same opinion now as when I wrote a certain letter to an Anti-slavery friend in America in 1849, which I will subjoin. That letter was published in the newspapers at the time by my correspondent, and it has been republished in England since the outbreak of the war with Russia.
October 1st, 1849.
“My Dear —;
We can think of little else at present than of that which should draw you and us into closer sympathy than even that which has so long existed between us. We, on our side the water, have watched with keen interest the progress of your War of Opinion, — the spread of the great controversy which cannot but revolutionize your social principles and renovate your social morals. For fifteen years past, we have seen that you are ‘in for it,’ and that you must stand firm amidst the subversion of Ideas, Customs and Institutions, till you find yourselves encompassed by ‘the new heavens and the new earth’ of which you have the sure promise and foresight.
We, — the whole population of Europe, — are now evidently entering upon a stage of conflict no less important in its issues, and probably more painful in its course. You remember how soon after the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars our great Peace Minister, Canning, intimated the advent, sooner or later, of a War of Opinion in Europe; a war of deeper significance than Napoleon could conceive of, and of a wider spread than the most mischievous of his quarrels. The war of Opinion which Canning foresaw was in fact a war between the further and nearer centuries, — between Asia and Europe, — between despotism and self-government. The preparations were begun long ago. The Barons at Runnymede beat up for recruits when they hailed the signature of Magna Charta; and the princes of York and Lancaster did their best to clear the field for us and those who are to come after us. The Italian Republics wrought well for us, and so did the French Revolutions, one after the other as hints and warnings; and so did the voyage of your Mayflower, — and the Swiss League, and German Zollverein, and in short, every thing that has happened for several hundreds of years. Every thing has tended to bring our continent and its resident nations to the knowledge that the first principles of social liberty have now to be asserted and contended for, and to prepare the assertors for the greatest conflict that the human race has yet witnessed. It is my belief that the war has actually begun, and that, though there may be occasional lulls, no man now living will see the end of it.
Russia is more Asiatic than European. It is obscure to us who live nearest to her where her power resides. We know only that it is not with the Emperor, nor yet with the people. The Emperor is evidently a mere show, — being nothing except while he fulfils the policy or pleasure of the unnamed power which we cannot discern. But, though the ruling power is obscure, the policy is clear enough. The aim is to maintain and extend despotism; and the means chosen are the repression of mind, the corruption of conscience, and the reduction of the whole composite population of Russia to a brute machine. For a great lapse of time, no quarter of a century has passed without some country and nation having fallen in, and become a compartment of the great machine; and, the fact being so, the most peace-loving of us can hardly be sorry that the time has come for deciding whether this is to go on, — whether the Asiatic principle and method of social life are to dominate or succumb. The struggle will be no contemptible one. The great tarantula has its spider-claws out and fixed at inconceivable distances. The people of Russia, wretched at home, are better qualified for foreign aggression than for any thing else. And if, within her own empire, Russia knows all to be loose and precarious, poor and unsound, and with none but a military organisation, she knows that she has for allies, avowed or concealed, all the despotic tempers that exist among men. Not only such Governments as those of Spain, Portugal, Rome and Austria are in reality the allies of Eastern barbarism; but all aristocracies, — all self-seekers, — be they who and where they may. It is a significant sign of the times that territorial alliances are giving way before political affinities, — the mechanical before the essential union: and, if Russia has not for allies the nations that live near her frontier, she has those men of every nation who prefer self-will to freedom.
This corrupted “patriarchal” system of society, (but little superior to that which exists in your slave States) occupies one-half of the great battle-field where the hosts are gathering for the fight. On the other, the forces are ill-assorted, ill-organised, too little prepared; but still, as having the better cause, sure, I trust, of final victory. The conflict must be long, because our constitutions are, like yours, compromises, our governments as yet a mere patch-work, our popular liberties scanty and adulterated, and great masses of our brethren hungry and discontented. We have not a little to struggle for among ourselves, when our whole force is needed against the enemy. In no country of Europe is the representative system of government more than a mere beginning. In no country of Europe is human brotherhood practically asserted. Nowhere are the principles of civilisation of Western Europe determined and declared, and made the ground-work of organised action, as happily your principles are as against those of your slave-holding opponents. But, raw and ill-organised as are our forces, they will be strong, sooner or later, against the serried armies of the Asiatic policy. If, on the one side, the soul comes up to battle with an imperfect and ill-defended body, on the other, the body is wholly without a soul, and must, in the end, fall to pieces. The best part of the mind of Western Europe will make itself a body by dint of action, and the pressure which must bring out its forces; and it may be doubted whether it could become duly embodied in any other way. What forms of society may arise as features of this new growth, neither you nor I can say. We can only ask each other whether, witnessing as we do the spread of Communist ideas in every free nation of Europe, and the admission by some of the most cautious and old-fashioned observers of social movements that we in England cannot now stop short of “a modified communism,” the result is not likely to be a wholly new social state, if not a yet undreamed-of social idea.
“However this may be, — while your slave question is dominant in Congress, and the Dissolution of your Union is becoming a familiar idea, and an avowed aspiration, our crisis is no less evidently approaching. Russia has Austria under her foot, and she is casting a corner of her wide pall over Turkey. England and France are awake and watchful; and so many men of every country are astir, that we may rely upon it that not only are territorial alliances giving way before political affinities, but national ties will give way almost as readily, if the principles of social liberty should demand the disintegration of nations. Let us not say, even to ourselves, whether we regard such an issue with hope or fear. It is a possibility too vast to be regarded but with simple faith and patience. In this spirit let us contemplate what is proceeding, and what is coming, doing the little we can by a constant assertion of the principles of social liberty, and a perpetual watch for opportunities to stimulate human progress.
“Whether your conflict will be merely a moral one, you can form a better idea than I. Ours will consist in a long and bloody warfare — possibly the last, but inevitable now. The empire of brute force can conduct its final struggle only by brute force; and there are but few yet on the other side who have any other notion or desire. While I sympathise wholly with you as to your means as well as your end, you will not withhold your sympathy from us because our heroes still assert their views and wills by exposing themselves to wounds and death in the field, and assenting once more to the old non sequitur about Might and Right. Let them this time obtain the lower sort of Might by the inspiration of their Right, and in another age, they will aim higher. But I need not thus petition you; for I well know that where there is most of Right, there will your sympathies surely rest.
“Believe me your friend,
I have no doubt whatever of the power of France and England to chastise Russia, without the aid of any other power. I should have no doubt of the power of England alone (if that power were well administered) to humble Russia, provided the case remained a simple one. But that is precisely what appears impossible, under the existing European dynasties. I now expect, as I have anticipated for many years, a war in Europe which may even outlast the century, — with occasional lulls; and I suppose the result must be, after a dreary chaotic interval, a discarding of the existing worn-out methods of government, and probably the establishment of society under a wholly new idea. Of course, none but a prophet could be expected to declare what that new idea will be. It would be rational, but it is not necessary here, to foretell what it would not be or include. But all that I feel called on to say now, when I am not writing a political essay, is that the leading feature of any such radical change must be a deep modification of the institution of Property; — certainly in regard to land, and probably in regard to much else. Before any effectual social renovation can take place, men must efface the abuse which has grown up out of the transition from the feudal to the more modern state; the abuse of land being held as absolute property; whereas in feudal times land was in a manner held in trust, inasmuch as every land-holder was charged with the subsistence of all who lived within his bounds. The old practice of Man holding Man as property is nearly exploded among civilised nations; and the analogous barbarism of Man holding the surface of the globe as property cannot long survive. The idea of this being a barbarism is now fairly formed, admitted, and established among some of the best minds of the time; and the result is, as in all such cases, ultimately secure.
These considerations lead my thoughts to America; and I must say that I regard the prospects of the republic of the United States with more pain and apprehension than those of any other people in the civilised world. It is the only instance, I believe, of a nation being inferior to its institutions; and the result will be, I fear, a mournful spectacle to the world. I am not thinking chiefly, at this moment, of American slavery. I have shown elsewhere what I think and expect about that. Negro slavery in the United States, as regards the existing Union, is near its end, I have no doubt. I regard with a deeper concern the manifest retrogression of the American people, in their political and social character. They seem to be lapsing from national manliness into childhood, — retrograding from the aims and interests of the nineteenth century into those of the fifteenth and sixteenth. Their passion for territorial aggrandisement, for gold, for buccaneering adventure, and for vulgar praise, are seen miserably united with the pious pretensions and fraudulent ingenuity which were, in Europe, old-fashioned three centuries ago, and which are now kept alive only in a few petty or despised States, where dynasty is on its last legs. I know that there are better men, and plenty of them, in America than those who represent the nation in the view of Europe; but those better men are silent and inactive; and the national retrogression is not visibly retarded by them. I fear it cannot be. I fear that when the bulk of a nation is below its institutions, — whether by merely wanting the requisite knowledge, or by being in an immature moral condition, — it is not the intelligence and virtue of a small, despairing, inactive minority that can save it from lapse into barbarism. I fear that the American nation is composed almost entirely of the vast majority who coarsely boast, and the small minority who timidly despair, of the Republic. It appears but too probable that the law of Progression may hold good with regard to the world at large without preventing the retrogression of particular portions of the race. But the American case is not exactly of this kind. I rather take it to be that a few wise men, under solemn and inspiring influences, laid down a loftier political programme than their successors were able to fulfil. If so, there is, whatever disappointment, no retrogression, properly speaking. We supposed the American character and policy to be represented by the chiefs of the revolution, and their Declaration of Independence and republican constitution; and now we find ourselves mistaken in our supposition. It is a disappointment; but we had rather admit a disappointment than have to witness an actual retrogression.
Effacing these national distinctions, in regarding the peoples as the human race, the condition of humanity appears to one who is taking leave of it very hopeful, though as yet exceedingly infantine. It is my deliberate opinion that the one essential requisite of human welfare in all ways is scientific knowledge of human nature. It is my belief that we can in no way but by sound knowledge of Man learn, fully and truly, any thing else; and that it is only when glimpses of that knowledge were opened, — however scantily and obscurely, — that men have effectually learned any thing else. I believe that this science is fairly initiated; and it follows of course that I anticipate for the race amelioration and progression at a perpetually accelerated rate. Attention is fully fixed now on the nature and mode of development of the human being; and the key to his mental and moral organisation is found. The old scoff of divines against philosophers must now soon be dropped, — the reproach that they have made no advance for a thousand years; — that there were philosophers preaching two thousand years ago, who have hardly a disciple at this day. In a little while this can never more be said; nor could it be said now by any one who understood the minds of the people among whom he lives. The glorious aims and spirit of philosophy have wrought for good in every age since those ancient sages lived; and the name and image of each is the morning star of the day in which each lived. In this way were the old philosophers truly our masters; and they may yet claim, in a future age, the discipleship of the whole human race. But to them scientific fact was wanting: by them it was unattainable. Their aim and their spirit have led recent generations to the discovery of the element wanting, — the scientific fact; and, now that is done, the progression of philosophy is secure. The philosophy of human nature is placed on a scientific basis; and it, and all other departments of philosophy, (for all depend mainly on this one) are already springing forward so as to be wholly incomparable with those of a thousand years ago. There is no need to retort the scoff of divines, as facts are against them. There is no need to inquire of them what is the state of Christianity at the end of 1800 years, nor what it has done in regenerating human nature, and establishing peace on earth and goodwill among men, according to its promise. Leaving divines on one side, as professionally disqualified for judging of the function and prospects of philosophy, and looking at the matter in a speculative, and not an antagonistic way, I should say that the time cannot be far off when, throughout the civilised world, theology must go out before the light of philosophy. As to the fact, the civilised world is now nearly divided between gross Latin or Greek catholicism and disbelief of Christianity in any form. Protestantism seems to be going out as fast as possible. In Germany the Christian faith is confessedly extinct; and in France it is not far otherwise. The Lutheranism of Sweden is, in its effects, precisely like the catholicism of Spain or Italy, and will issue in “infidelity” in the one country as surely as in the others. In England, the lamentations of the religious world, and the disclosures of the recent Census, show how even outward adhesion to Christianity is on the decline: and if they did not, the chaotic state of religious opinion would indicate the fact no less reliably. In America we see Protestantism run wild, — each man being his own creed-maker; and the result, — a seeking erelong for something true and stable, — is secure. — Not only is such the state of the civilised world, but it must be so. Precisely in proportion to Man’s ignorance of his own nature, as well as of other things, is the tendency of his imagination to inform the outward world with his own consciousness. The fetish worshipper attributes a consciousness like his own to every thing about him; the imputation becomes more select and rare through every rising grade of theology, till the Christian makes his reflex of himself invisible and intangible, or, as he says, “spiritual.” His God is an invisible idol, fading away into a faint abstraction, exactly according to the enlightenment of the worshipper, till he who does justice to his own faculties gives up the human attributes, and the personality of that First Cause which the form of his intellect requires him to suppose, and is called an atheist by the idolaters he has left behind him. By the verification and spread of the science of human nature, the conflict which has hitherto attended such attainment as this will be spared to our successors. When scientific facts are established, and self-evident truths are brought out of them, there is an end of conflict; — or it passes on to administer discipline to adventurers in fresh fields of knowledge. About this matter, of the extinction of theology by a true science of human nature, I cannot but say that my expectation amounts to absolute assurance; and that I believe that the worst of the conflict is over. I am confident that a bright day is coming for future generations. Our race has been as Adam created at nightfall. The solid earth has been but dark, or dimly visible, while the eye was inevitably drawn to the mysterious heavens above. There, the successive mythologies have arisen in the east, each a constellation of truths, each glorious and fervently worshipped in its course; but the last and noblest, the Christian, is now not only sinking to the horizon, but paling in the dawn of a brighter time. The dawn is unmistakable; and the sun will not be long in coming up. The last of the mythologies is about to vanish before the flood of a brighter light.
With the last of the mythologies will pass away, after some lingering, the immoralities which have attended all mythologies. Now, while the state of our race is such as to need all our mutual devotedness, all our aspiration, all our resources of courage, hope, faith and good cheer, the disciples of the Christian creed and morality are called upon, day by day, to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling,” and so forth. Such exhortations are too low for even the wavering mood and quacked morality of a time of theological suspense and uncertainty. In the extinction of that suspense, and the discrediting of that selfish quackery, I see the prospect, for future generations, of a purer and loftier virtue, and a truer and sweeter heroism than divines who preach such self-seeking can conceive of. When our race is trained in the morality which belongs to ascertained truth, all “fear and trembling” will be left to children; and men will have risen to a capacity for higher work than saving themselves, — to that of “working out” the welfare of their race, not in “fear and trembling,” but with serene hope and joyful assurance.
The world as it is is growing somewhat dim before my eyes; but the world as it is to be looks brighter every day.
MEMORIALS OF HARRIET MARTINEAU.
BY MARIA WESTON CHAPMAN.
“But do thou, O Muse, and thou, Truth, daughter of Zeus, put forth your hands and keep from me the reproach of having wronged a friend by breaking my pledged word. For from afar hath overtaken me the time that was then yet to come, and hath shamed my deep debt.”
“The sea-sand none hath numbered; and the joys that Theron hath given to others — who shall declare the tale thereof?”
JAMES R. OSGOOD AND COMPANY,
Late Ticknor & Fields, and Fields, Osgood, & Co
It was about the New Year’s time of 1855, being then resident in Paris, that I wrote to my most valued friend, Harriet Martineau, expressing the natural feelings of the season, and the hope that she would soon visit me. Knowing that she had been even more than commonly occupied, and not in her usual health, I entreated her to spare herself the fatigue of writing to me, unless she had more leisure at command than I supposed. A few days brought me the following letter: —
London, January 24th.
My dear Friend, —
You are generous in desiring me not to write to you if too busy. I need not say that keeping up my friendship with you is more important than any business, and dearer than most pleasures. I must tell you now why I have not written before; and I wish I could spare you, by the way of telling, any of the pain which I must give you. The last half-year has been the gravest, perhaps, that I have ever known. I think I told you of the sad cholera season when I was at Sydenham, and some of the best people at work among us died, and others were sick, and I had their work to do while ill myself, and sore at heart for the world’s loss in them. Two months later died my very dear friend, the editor of the “Daily News,”* — cut off by a fever at the age of forty, — a man whose place cannot possibly be filled. Since Dr. Follen’s death, I have not had such a personal sorrow; but in sight of his devoted wife and his four children, and the gap made in our public action by his loss, I could not dwell on my own sorrow. And now it turns out that I need not; for I am going to follow him. My dear friend, you are a brave woman, and you have shown that you can serenely part with comrades and friends, and work on for the cause; and you must do the same again. I will try to work with you for such time as I remain; but I am mortally ill, and there is no saying for how long this may be. For many months past I have had symptoms of what now turns out to be organic disease of the heart; — symptoms occasioning so little trouble (no pain), that I did not attend sufficiently to them. Nothing could have been done if I had. The anxiety and fatigue of the autumn increased the ailment, and for a month past, and from week to week, it has become so much worse that I put myself under the charge of Dr. Latham, the first man for heart-complaints. After a little correspondence, we met yesterday. He made a long examination by auscultation, and did not attempt to conceal the nature and extent of the mischief. He made me observe that he gave me his impression, — reserving a positive opinion till he should have watched the case; but the impression was one which he would not have communicated if he had not been very sure of his ground. From his being unable to feel the pulsation of the heart in any direction, while it is audible over a large surface, he believes that the organ is extremely feeble in structure, — “too weak for its work,” — and very greatly enlarged. The treatment prescribed only shows the desperation of the case. We do not yet know when I may return home, — I wish to be there for the latter period, — which may be a long one for aught I know, but I think not, from the great progress the case has made within a month. If I should be living when you are in England, I am sure you will come and see me: you will meet me if I am alive, and we can manage it. If not, my beloved friend, take my blessing on yourself and your labors, and my assurance that my knowledge of you has been one of the greatest privileges and pleasures of my life.
This is not the answer you are looking for to your charming invitation; but such is life, and such a marplot is death! I think you can hardly want much information as to my state of feeling. My life has been a full and vivid one, — so that I consider myself a very old woman indeed, and am abundantly satisfied with my share in the universe (even if that were of any real consequence). I have not the slightest anxiety about dying, — not the slightest reluctance to it. I enjoy looking on, and seeing our world under the operation of a law of progress; and I really do not feel that my dropping out of it, now or a few years hence, is a matter worth drawing attention to at all, — my own or another’s. Your friend’s book arrived safe, — you must have it again, dear friend. Your name is on it, and it shall return to you. I have, as yet, only looked at it. When I go home, I will see whether or not I can read it, and serve it by notice. I hope to work to the last in the “Daily News,” which is easy work, and the most important possible; and now the more so because the present editor is more up to American subjects than any Englishman I have met with. It is really a substantial comfort to find how sound and enlightened and heartily conscientious he is about the vices of Yankeedom and the merits of your true patriots.
And now, dear friend, farewell, at least for the present. If you wish to write, do so. But I do not ask it, because I desire that you should do what is most congenial to your own feelings. If you do write, address to Ambleside, for I cannot at all tell how long I must remain here, and your letters will be constantly forwarded.
My love to your daughters and your sisters, and best wishes to your son-in-law.
I am, while I live,
|Interest from Harriet Martineau||8||0||2|
|From Fox, for sale of series||21||6||7|
|From London and Westminster Review||18||0||0|
|£ 271 8s. 9d.|
|Dress and conveniences||35||2||7½|
|Postage and coach-hire||18||2||10|
|Books and stationery||14||3||2½|
|£ 261 1s. 3d.|
|Balance||£ 10 7s. 6d.|
Many portions of her journal of the next year, 1838, show the tone and temper to which the sharp changes of English praise and American blame, worldly success and unworldly aspirations, had brought her mind. The reader will not need to have them pointed out.
This diary, which is contained in one of Letts’s volumes of four hundred pages, is accompanied by lists of books read in each month, remarkable events of the year in relation to herself, and, like all her years, with a statement of receipts and expenditures.
Monday, January 1st, 1838. — A fine bright morning to begin the year with. I had read in bed last night, to watch the year in, and thought of my beloved Follens, to whom I think this hour of the year will be ever consecrated. I am making myself anxious already about my novel. I must learn to trust the laws of suggestion, having had good reason to know how well they serve me. My plot will grow as I proceed. Wrote the rest of my paper on the Catholics in America. Was sorry to leave it for a call, yet enjoyed the call. Heard it said “If Macready’s enterprise* is not a high Christian enterprise, it is something better.” Bravo! Heard of a lady’s marriage with a young Irishman of half her age, and with no practice. What follies women of forty-eight do!
Afternoon. — Finished my paper with great joy. Now going to read for the evening. O, what leisure I am going to have, I hope!
Tuesday, 2d. — Mr. Roebuck called early and gave me facts about Canada, which I wrote down as soon as he was gone. They are very strong in favor of Canada. Finished the tables of last year’s diary, and went out to walk. How summer-like did all look! Count Krazinski called, and dear Miss Mitchell, whom I had not seen for above six years. She is unchanged. Carlyle called; says he has peace of mind now he has no writing to do. Very kind. Looks finely, and it is worth while watching his entrance into a room full of company. So modest, so gentlemanly! The Polish children dined with us. I wrote notes, dressed, coffee, and off to the theatre. A fine row of children in the next box. Our children were well pleased, drumming with their fingers to the music. The pantomime was admirable, and I was surprised to find how I enjoyed it. We all got pretty well tired before it was over, and it was past twelve when we got home. Found a paper, sent me by Robert Sedgwick, with my letter to him about “Home.”
Wednesday, 3d. — I certainly have great sympathy with shy people. Such odd fits of shyness come over me now and then. People can’t see it, I think, except from my face. Mrs. Booth called, Rev. Mr. Hunter, and Browning.
Friday, 5th. — The meeting held yesterday in favor of Canada was very striking, and must awaken the people and the ministers surely. A letter from the Follens, very loving, but conveying news of ridiculous charges against me in America; among the rest, of my being insane. I don’t mind pure calumnies. A mixture of the truth is what infuses the sting. Wrote to Dr. Channing. Mr. Porter called, and we went to his house. Had a very pleasant day. Mr. and Mrs. Ricardo were there, and I liked them very much. Mr. Urquhart, late ambassador or something to Turkey. He is one of the great fearers of Russia. When all were gone we talked till eleven. I like such visits as this. They are the true pleasure of society.
Saturday, 8th. — Talked over low morals in novels. — fully agrees with me about Miss Edgeworth’s. Read, in Blackwood, article on Mademoiselle Gautier, a devotee, — much like other devotees, whose tales are, however, very instructive.
Sunday, 7th. — Carlyle sends me a full list of his writings for Mr. Loring. How much may happen to American minds, from this one sheet which lies beside me! Heaven’s blessing on it! Read Life of Scott, Vol. VI. It is far more interesting than the former ones; and here his pride takes the form of despising money, which is far better than grasping at it. But this pride was a great snare. While his diary tells of sleepless nights, so many that he fears becoming unfitted for work, he writes to Lady Davy that his troubles have not broken and will not break his rest. It amuses me to see how his diary reveals a state of mind and way of working like mine. The pride, too, is like me, and the insouciance about things which cannot be helped.
Monday, 8th. — Lazy, in bed; partly from Scott’s eulogium on thoughts before rising. They are very ingenious and clear then, certainly. Mended and quilted till noon, very much enjoying my quiet over my own fire. Then Mr. and Mrs. Macready called, very full of Drury Lane. The Examiner, I hear, has gone against the Canadians altogether, bidding them be patient, like the Irish. How can Fonblanque? Read Scott till I finished. Very interesting. It seems as if one might trust to a novel growing out as it proceeds, instead of having the whole cut and dry before the beginning. Scott speaks of writing out the plot, and carefully weaving the story, if it should prove necessary to try something new. How he reveres Miss Austen! He never knew what poverty really was. He always had carriage, house, grounds, pictures, butler, &c. Only restriction, never privation. I have all to-day and all to-morrow disengaged, which is exceedingly pleasant. It must be good for me to be idle, and I’m sure it is very pleasant. I do not find just now, as formerly, that all unpleasant thoughts come back to plague my leisure, — thoughts of angry, backbiting Americans, and of all the wrong and awkward things I have ever done.
Tuesday, 9th. — Read “Pride and Prejudice” again last night. I think it as clever as before. Cold night. Read the Follens’ letter and answered it, on account of the calumnies against me. These scarcely trouble me at all; I suppose because they are so wholly false. I think praise and blame at a distance scarcely matter at all. It is a good lesson, though, to see how the same people who so greatly flattered me when there are abusing me now. I bound and mended two pair of shoes, and darned a handkerchief. Finished Judges, in Pictorial Bible, which is a great treat to me. Finished “Pride and Prejudice.” It is wonderfully clever, and Miss Austen seems much afraid of pathos. I long to try. Brushed my hair by the fire, for it is very cold, and slept badly from cold. But how do the poor live through such weather? I cannot forget them in their brick-paved cellars, without fire. I know that the human lot is more equalized than we are apt to think; but yet I fear sometimes lest my faith should give way, — such an abode of various misery, much of which might be obviated, does the world seem.
Wednesday, 10th. — Cold! cold! Walked in the Park. Thick snow drove me home. Put lace in my satin gown. Nobody came, it snowed so. Read “Les précieuses Ridicules,” which did not amuse me very much; though acted I can fancy it capital. Dressed and went down to tea. Put pretty books in the drawing-room. Delightful party, — Milmans, Lyells, Beauforts, Montagues, Procters, and Babbage. Osgood asked Procter to tell him which was Barry Cornwall. Miss Beaufort agrees with me about Miss Sedgwick making opinion too strong a sanction. No hope of her coming here at present. She is active, but not very strong. Lent the Milmans Miss Sedgwick’s “Home.” Several of us had a great bout of praising Mrs. Barbauld.
Thursday, 11th. — While we were sleeping some folks were hot and busy enough. The Royal Exchange was burned down. There is no telling the extent of the damage. My first thoughts were for the Fishers. I shall soon know how it affects them. The fine bells chimed their last while the framework on which they were hung was catching fire. The clock showed twenty-five minutes past one when the dial-plate was red hot. The stock-brokers’ offices are burnt, with their contents, — all the books and papers at Lloyd’s. The kings and queens all tumbled into the court, — all lost. The Gresham committee must rebuild. Mr. Lyell* called. Told me of absent geological gentleman who never knows how the world is going; who stared about him when told of the throwing out of the Reform Bill: “What decision?” “What bill?” “What reform?” So he scarcely seemed to know this morning what the Royal Exchange was. Buckland’s Bridgewater Treatise sold off six thousand immediately, and the second edition of five thousand is far gone now. How much greater sale than novels! There is some great mistake about the public being so fond of fiction. But Buckland united the religious and scientific world, probably. Read “Northanger Abbey.” Capital: found two touches of pathos.
Saturday, 13th. — Bright morning. After mending several things walked in the park. It was a busy scene, with skating and sliding. Never saw cheeks so red as some of the bairns’. My mother’s manner on hearing of an invitation to her set me thinking on the question which occupies her a good deal, — the quality of our acquaintance. She is surely right about some; and why should not I make acquaintance, too, among those of middle rank? Surely I am right in thinking that if I enlarge my acquaintance at all, it shall be among those below rather than those above me. I want insight into the middle classes, and to communicate with the best of them can surely do one nothing but good. If, as my mother says, the high quit me on that account, let them. They will not be worth the keeping. But I don’t believe it. I must keep my mission in view, and not my worldly dignity. Miss Mitchell dined and slept here. She and I had a nice talk over our fire at night. She told me how people insist that I am helped with my books. A bad compliment enough to the sex. — How is it that I do not get into perfect peace about my communicativeness? I ought either not to communicate so much, or not to fear my mother’s opinions and remarks about it.
Sunday, 14th. — Kept up too much talk about the Pictorial Bible and prayer-book with my mother. I should have let her prejudice pass with a simple protest. I often think I ought to do this, yet it would be really paying less respect to do so. How different, in such a case, to reconcile truth, respect, and peace! Read Channing’s “Texas,” and found it nobler than ever before. Was animated and shamed to-day to think I should have spent a thought on what people are thinking of me, however unjustly, in Boston, when my book and my position bear the relation they do to the great subjects Dr. Channing grows warm on. What matters it what is done to me, if I can give the faintest impulse to what is right, true, and permanent? Let me place myself above these things. Read aloud Southey’s article in the Quarterly on cemeteries; much learning, but little interest. How little I guessed what might come of my selecting that particular volume of the Quarterly!
Monday, 15th. — We little know, indeed, what a day may bring forth! Probably this is the greatest day of my year. While I was reading one article in the twenty-first volume of the Quarterly, on Grecian philosophy, there being an article in the same number on Hayti, it flashed across me that my novel must be on the Haytian revolution, and Toussaint my hero. Was ever any subject more splendid, more fit than this for me and my purposes? One generally knows when the right idea, the true inspiration, comes, and I have a strong persuasion that this will prove my first great work of fiction. It admits of romance, it furnishes me with story, it will do a world of good to the slave question, it is heroic in its character, and it leaves me English domestic life for a change hereafter. I spent the morning busily looking out materials, which abound. Dined out, — evening party. At my mother’s earnest desire, told her my Haytian project. This extreme cold puts one out of all one’s habits; but it is not for us to complain, but rather to consider the poor.
Tuesday, 16th. — Lord Eldon dead, — obliged to leave his honours and his fears and his money! Poor soul! how will the next world look to one so narrow? And yet, when we come to think of narrowness, there is but little difference as regards the whole of truth between the wisest and the foolishest of us. Went to call on Miss Beaufort. Then dear Erasmus came, and was delightful. Wrote notes and letters, then sat down to read Smedley. What a tale of privation and suffering! total deafness first, — then gradual incapacity of every sort, all most meekly and strongly borne. Here lay his strength, — in his piety and constitutional cheerfulness, for his intellect was nothing remarkable. He was a hack writer and small poet. His powers of style were much impaired by his deafness, I think; a consequence which had never occurred to me. But between the open and the shut eye, great difference.
Wednesday, 17th. — Met at dinner Mr. H. C. Robinson. I was silly at dinner in offering some sort of answer to Mr. Robinson’s question about the Seigneurial rights of the French Canadians, when I knew next to nothing about them. I dare say I talked nonsense, but I declared I did not understand. Mr. Booth does not care much about the grievances, but thinks the question whether Canada is capable of self-government or not. If the majority think they are, let them try. Then came the question, what majority? I say the majority of the electors who have chosen so wise a set of legislators as the Assembly.
The Searles came to tea. Mr. Searle says he remembers Dr. Channing, a young man, morose, low-spirited, repulsive. Long may he live, growing more genial every day.
Thursday, 18th. — . . . . Letter from an unknown lady remonstrating against the preference I have given to Christianity over natural religion in my book. It is a clever, frank, moderate, and ladylike epistle, which I must answer. The unbelief must surely be of a reasonable character: read much of “Emma” this evening, and looked out for information about Hayti. I love this leisure, but still feel as if I did not sit down to think enough. Heard of another unwise engagement. Surely women ought to love and marry early; if they do not, how many make fools of themselves after forty! — I suppose as they grow older and friends drop off and they feel the want of protection and companionship, and, above all, of affection. With what an air did Crompton pronounce against the Pictorial Bible, not having seen it! Do we not all do likewise — I, especially? Called on the —s; found a most affectionate welcome, — such a one as makes me think of the importance of human beings to each other. How were these stimulated and moved by me, ignorant and almost utterly weak as I feel myself to be, and as dependent upon the wise whom I meet! But these are meek and affectionate, not ignorant and weak. Read “Emma,” — most admirable. The little complexities of the story are beyond my comprehension, and wonderfully beautiful. Corrected proof of my “Letter to the Deaf.” I would not alter it, even where the expression seems to me poor. It was written in the full flow of feeling, and so let it stand. May it bring some comfort to some who have suffered as I have! But where is all the suffering gone?
Saturday, 20th. — The sun shone. Dressed and set off for Chelsea. Walked it within three quarters of an hour. Mrs. Carlyle looked like a lady abbess; black velvet cap with lappets, white scarf, and rosary. Very elegant creature.
Sunday, 21st. — Dusted my study furniture, and brushed and rubbed for near an hour. Sarah is hard pressed in her work this severe weather, so I bestirred myself to make things nice. Then read Toussaint in the “Biographie Universelle,” making notes as I went. Leigh Hunt tells Carlyle that his troubles will cease at five-and-forty; that men reconcile themselves, and grow quiet at that age. Let me not wait for forty-five, but reconcile myself daily and hourly to all but my own curable faults.
Monday, 22d. — The “Morning Chronicle” says Roebuck will be heard at the bar of the House to-day, but cautions people against believing his statements. Shameful! — to prejudge. I think it likely the matter will end in all his suggestions being adopted, while he is allowed none of the credit. Mr. Ker called and took me to his house, and I had a delicious day there. We talked over every species of novel. Rogers observes that in Scott’s the story stands still during the dialogue, while in Miss Austen’s, as in a play, the story proceeds by means of the dialogue. Mr. Ker says Scott’s characters are not true to nature, — only the vestments of nature. Miss Austen’s, you know every one. Told me of Brougham’s promise to Lady Jersey to let her know just the contents of the Reform Bill. Had a messenger to bring word when Lord John Russell was on his legs, and then sent in a letter to Lady Jersey, next door, with an outline of the bill. She had a large dinner-party, and read it at the head of the table. Every one believed it a joke, except the Duke of Wellington, who pronounced, — “’T is damned true.” We sat over the fire, talking of my novel, till half past twelve — objects wholly to Toussaint. Victor Hugo has a story of St. Domingo. Mrs. — thinks such a story hazardous, to begin with. Talked over Joe Miller at breakfast with much admiration and affection.
Saturday, January 28. — I think the prison chapter will prove the most interesting of my book. I do not think it is waste of time to look over one’s own works thus. It is necessary, to see how they appear.
February 6. — Note from Carlyle, most hearty, about my book, and advising me to keep clear of theory, and cling to giving pictures of facts. What a true heart he has, with an insane horror of moral and political science! I want to find out how near he comes to wishing men to live without any mutual agreement whatever.
Mr. Wedgwood called. Is busy trying to get a law to exempt scrupulous persons from judicial oaths Showed how, after all, you depend on a man’s affirmation that he believes in a God, &c.; as Mr. W. says, like the Hindoo belief that the world rests on an elephant, the elephant on a tortoise, and the tortoise on nothing. Read and lunched, and read again and dressed till just seven, and then off for Captain Beaufort’s. Met a host of naval officers and travellers. Also C. Darwin, Mr. F. Edgeworth, and Mr. Hamilton, brother-in-law of the Duke of Wellington, who had been reading my book up to dinnertime, and took a good gaze at me. Mr. Edgeworth’s belief that diaries are always written to be read, and does not like Scott’s. Surely this is for my own future eye and not for others, for my own future instruction, and for suggestion.
Sunday, February 18. — Read beautiful speeches at the Lovejoy meeting in Boston, in the “Liberator.” Edmund Quincy’s is fine. His father must have been touched with his hope of speedy departure, if departure might aid cause, rather than living in loss of freedom. What a different aspiration from the ordinary run of young republican citizens, with the world before them? Mr. Loring told of Arnold von Winkelried, at the battle of Sempach, who clasped an armful of Austrian lances, which transfixed him. He cried, “I will make a lane for you! — faithful, dear companions! remember my family.” The Swiss rushed in over his body, and conquered; and his death is commemorated to this day, — nearly five hundred years.
Finished Toussaint with a great relish. How I have enjoyed doing this, and how infinitely do these emotions transcend all pleasures of sense and all gratifications of vanity!
Wednesday, April 11. — Erasmus Darwin and Browning called, who is just departing for Venice to get a view of the localities of Sordello. He is right.
Afternoon. — I dozed for an hour, and then went out into the Park, and saw the yellow sunset, and the troops of shouting children at play on the fresh grass. The policeman seemed sorry to give them notice that the gates were going to be shut. Home to tea. Gave orders for framing Follen and Garrison. Dressed for the Bullers’, and walked there through the Park. Roebuck was there, — long talk with him; the Gaskells, Carlyle, and Lady Harriet Baring, who came to see me again. Buller thinks her superior to —. He can sympathize with all in turn. I told him I could with Voltaire, Fénelon, &c., seeing that the truth is that all of us are right and all are wrong. Does it follow that there is no truth? Surely not.
Thursday, April 12. — Finished my “Maid of all Work.” Walked in the afternoon to library for the Edinburgh review of me. Poor and stupid, except a good passage or two, — such as a clever woman getting at the minds of foreigners better than men.
June 26. — The Duke of Wellington wrote repeatedly to Croker and Lockhart to get the article on Soult suppressed. They would not. He said, “That is the way with these literary people. They are so pig-headed they will have their own way.” A pretty large generalization. When introduced to Soult, he said he was happy to meet him, and had not seen him before except through a telescope.
June 30. — Wrote ten pages of “Lady’s Maid,” though — — and — — called and sat some time. I love them both. Then a long list of others. My cold nearly gone to-day. How much less I think of illness than I used to do! I used to make the most of it, from vanity and want of objects; now I make the least of it, for fear of being hindered in my business. I suffer much less for this. But I am not near so happy as I was. I want inner life. I must take to heart the “Ode to Duty,” and such things, and do without the sympathy I fancy I want. If I am not happy, what matters it? But I am happy, only less so than I have been.
June 30. — Wrote to the antislavery ladies, who have made me one of their sisterhood. Read the Gospel of John in Porteusian Bible. Happy day, on the whole.
The idea of still further serving the antislavery cause in America never left her. It went with her through her Scotch tour, and is filtered through the whole year amid fêtes by the way and mountain scenes and continual attentions from distinguished persons, in a way that shows how it came between her and rest.
“Very happy,” she journalizes on August 26, “in reading American newspapers. Lovejoy’s speech a few days before his murder was sublime; it sets me above every thing, to read of these people. It is the grandest affair now transacting on earth.”
Again, on the 30th of November: —
“Sat down in earnest to finish my article, which I did with a glowing heart an hour after midnight. I am glad I have told this noble story. O, may no mishap befall it!”
“Deerbrook,” a fruit of 1838, was republished in America immediately, and is to this day highly esteemed, and seems likely to live. Mrs. Gaskell in an especial manner was moved by it, and thanked her for it as a personal benefit. John Sterling wrote thus of it to Mrs. Fox: —
“By the way, do you ever read a novel? If you ever mean to do so hereafter, let it be Miss Martineau’s ‘Deerbrook.’ It is really very striking, and parts of it are very true and very beautiful. It is not so true or so thoroughly clear and harmonious among delineations of English middle-class gentility as Miss Austen’s books, especially as ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ which I think exquisite.”
This remark of Sterling is just. Harriet Martineau’s writings are true to no class. Though so true to humanity they overleap its subdivisions, and, like oaks planted in flower-pots, are sure to outgrow their limitations.
Long afterwards, on the appearance of Mr. Macmillan’s edition, Sir Arthur Helps writes to him thus: —
Yes, my dear Macmillan, I shall have much pleasure and much honour in being the medium of presenting to the queen anything written by Miss Martineau. She is a great writer. I have lately reread “Deerbrook” with exceeding delight. I certainly should care to have a copy of Miss Martineau’s book for myself.
In great haste, yours always,
In the journal of 1839 is this entry: —
Wednesday, June 12, 1839. — My birthday. This day twelve months I began “Deerbrook,” and I shall not forget what I have done to-day. Who would have thought then that I should spend my next in Venice? Am much better, and enjoy it. J. and I out between six and seven walking about St. Mark’s, and over the bridge below the Bridge of Sighs, examining the marbles and looking about us. People do not seem to be very early here, and the Piazza was quiet. The three red pillars are of wood, with cords for raising the ensigns, of Cyprus, Candia, and the Morea. Remember the Lion’s Mouth at the Ducal Palace; and the two red marble pillars amid the white in the little piazza, whence criminal sentences were read. Beautiful canal laving the walls under the Bridge of Sighs. Breakfast, and then off to the Campanile, which we found mighty easy to climb, an ascending path round the four sides. Spent above an hour on the top, most charmingly. Heard the quarters strike four times and the chimes play, so melodious as to make the noise tolerable. How the great green bells swung! Looked down with infinite pleasure into the shady, dim court-yards of many a noble house, — upon the Ducal Palace, upon the royal gardens; upon the myriads of pigeons; upon the bronze horses; upon the domes of St. Mark, with their melon-branches for weather-cocks; upon the folk in the piazza, — the water-carriers, the people walking in the shadow of the Campanile, or sketching in the niches of the church; upon the brilliant mosaics in the porches; and upon the many isles. Saw the Lido, where Byron rode; the Arsenal; traced the Grand Canal, and the Campo di Rialto. The mountains were delicious, afar off. The city from above looks vast, sun-dried, and old. The old man and another live at the top all the year round, and ring the quarters and hours. . . . . To the Ducal Palace again. Sat on the Golden Staircase while the keys and permission were sent for. Remember the well, round and of bronze, — the birds came to it, and the men and women to draw. . . . . Stood on the Bridge of Sighs. Did not go to the common prisons, but back to those of the Inquisition. One floor, contaming eight cells, belonged to the Council of Ten. Horrible dungeons! . . . . Saw the vestibule and council-chamber, — nothing remarkable. Council-chamber empty of furniture; marble floor, all cubes and painted ceiling. Went through many rooms in the palace, — very splendid. Saw the Titian, — liked St. Mark and a boy on guard, but not the woman angel. Stucco figures in ceiling very fine. Paul Veronese’s four pictures exquisite, especially Mercury with the Graces, which J. fell in love with. Ceiling of Collegio very fine, — an artist on a high stage copying one compartment well. Have not seen the senate-chamber yet. Home at twelve. What a morning!
She expressed as follows her gratification on receiving the certificate of membership in the Massachusetts Antislavery Society, in a letter to Abby Kelly,* through whose hands it came.
Fludyer Street,Westminster, June 20, 1838.
My dear Madam, —
On my return from the country I find the certificate of membership of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society, which the members of the Lynn Society have had the kindness to forward to me. I accept the valued gift with feelings of high gratification. The generous interpretation which my American sisters put upon the small efforts of those who have done less than themselves shows that the spirit of disinterestedness is strong among them; and my great pleasure in this mark of kindness arises, not from a consciousness of merit in myself, but from an appreciation of the generosity of my correspondents. I do not wish to enlarge on the subject of myself and my doings; but I must just remind you that, in bearing my testimony in print against slavery, I have incurred no risk and no discredit. Here public sentiment is wholly with me on this subject. The only sacrifice I had to make was of the good opinion of some of my friends in America; and I cannot but trust that the time is not far distant when they will forgive and agree with me.
You and your sisters, my dear madam, have a far harder battle to wage, in which I beg to assure you that you have all my sympathy, and, I believe, the sympathy of this whole nation. Not one of your efforts is lost upon us. You are strengthening us for the conflicts we have to enter upon. We have a population in our manufacturing towns almost as oppressed, and in our secluded rural districts almost as ignorant, as your negroes. These must be redeemed. We have also negroes in our dominions, who, though about to be entirely surrendered as property, will yet, we fear, be long oppressed as citizens, if the vigilance which has freed them be not as active as ever. I regard the work of vindicating the civil standing of negroes as more arduous and dangerous than freeing them from the chain and the whip. Both you and I have a long and hard task before us there, when the first great step is, as in our colonies, safely accomplished. But this is a kind of labour which renews strength instead of causing fatigue; the reason of which is, that a sure and steadfast hope is before us. May this hope sustain you! I think it surely will; for nothing was ever to my mind more sure than that there is no delusion connected with your objects; that they are sanctioned by the calmest reason and the loftiest religion, and that in the highest condition of wisdom in which you may find yourselves in the better world to which you are tending, you will never despise your present action in your great cause.
We have heard with mingled feelings of the outrages at Philadelphia. Upon the whole, we hope for great good from them; but, till I hear more particulars, I shall not cease to wonder at the extent and intensity of the bigotry still existing in that city. I should have supposed that your enemies had seen enough, by this time, of the fruits of persecution. While earnestly desiring that God will advance the cause in his own best way, we cannot but hope that no more struggles of this nature, involving so much guilt, may be in store for you. It is a severe pain to witness so cruel a worship of Mammon, however strong may be our faith in the persecuted. By whatever means, however, the cause is destined to advance, God’s will be done!
It gives me heartfelt pleasure to remember that I am now one of your sisterhood, in outward as well as inward relation. If I should ever be so blessed as to be able to assist you, you may count upon me. At least, you will always have my testimony, my sympathy, and my prayers. I fear there is no prospect of visiting your country again. I have both domestic and public duties here which I cannot decline; but my thoughts and hopes will be with your people, though I must continue to live among my own.
Believe me, dear madam, with high respect for the body in whose name you have addressed me,
Gratefully and affectionately theirs and yours,
CONSEQUENCES,—TO LIFE PASSIVE.
“A good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose, to a life beyond time.”
Sorrow, suffering, fame, foreign travel, danger, had always, up to the time of her return from America, kept Harriet Martineau’s health below the degree she might otherwise have enjoyed.
Now, added to all these, was the preparation and putting through the press of so many important volumes.
Though she was not then fully aware of the too great exertion, she did afterwards make efforts for rest and refreshment. But a tour among the lakes and a journey with an invalid cousin to Switzerland were so filled up with various work and thoughtful planning for more work, that she returned to London in a state of health that, perforce, put a stop to further exertion until she should have consulted with her brother-in-law, the physician at Newcastle. The result of a month’s visit in his family, and under his care, was to confirm the need of rest and quietness, and she went thence to the lodgings at Tynemouth, which she did not leave till long years afterwards.
It seems on a mere glance at the outward facts a very strange life; — but it is accounted for. There was for her at this period, as ever previously, the heaviest family grief and responsibility, mingled with real family affection and care; a life of thought and industry in the midst of patient suffering; a life of loneliness, yet of much solace from the friendship of many.
These six years of enforced retreat she always called the passive period of her life. And one desirous to follow this passive period in all its suffering and solace, should fill in the preceding Autobiography from such journals and letters as are permitted.
The literary works will be found recorded in the first, but the work that told upon the world will be better shown from the two latter sources.
After the Swiss journey there related, the breaking down of health, the return to Fludyer Street, Westminster, and the visit to Newcastle, the journal begins: —
December 15, 1839. — Strange but pleasant to begin again after five months’ interval. I shall not have much to put down at present, but it may be useful and pleasant hereafter to see how it was with me when thus confined, with a near future wholly dark and uncertain.
For the better understanding of this journal, let it be noted that the “Oberlin,” as Harriet Martineau always called it, is the college founded for the Western States of America, when it was found that “Lane Seminary” would not allow its students to be abolitionists. Eyes of farther reach into futurity than those of any of the presidents of American colleges at that time, saw the pressing need of immediate effort to place education on a better basis; and we sent two of our number to England to raise funds there for the purpose of founding a new institution, which should afford instruction irrespective of colour and of sex. It was to this effort that she gave herself till the object was accomplished; all the while revolving in her mind the practicability of coming to live in America, to share the life of the abolitionists. In her journal at Tynemouth is the following record: —
Am much disposed to live for the great enterprise. I opened it to-day to — —. Must consult. At present it seems much like an inspiration. God grant it, through whatever suffering. . . . .
I wrote the “Dress-Maker” during this and the next month, a little at a time, with slowness and uncertainty. At the time thought it hardly worth the pains, — the doing it so painfully. But when done glad to have undertaken. Great satisfaction in a finished thing. This one much approved. Health much the same. No suffering worth speaking of from being laid by, which my distant friends conclude to be a very hard trial. My future will be provided for somehow, and the present is full of comforts. Bodily suffering not great just now, and kindness of friends most cheering. Out of doors once this month, and do not mean to try again at present. Lord Durham asked me over to Lambton to meet the Duke of Sussex. Could not go, of course. Much enjoyed some talk on politics with Mr. Hawes and Charles Buller, who came over from Lambton. Striking review of Carlyle by Sterling in the London and Westminster. Carlyle writes to me that it is like the Brocken Spectre, — a very large likeness and not very correct.
December 15. — The Mayor, Mr. Carr, called and got interested about the Oberlin.
December 16. — Mr. McAlister spent the evening to hear all about Oberlin and the abolition. I hope a sermon may come out of it.
January 17. — Miss F. came to bring me a contribution of £10, and to tell me of Dr. Winterbottom’s delight at the “Martyr Age.” Madame Goethe is charmed with my America. I rejoice thereat. Letter from Lord Murray about the Oberlin. The article will be reprinted, I trust. Letter from Wicksted. Will do what he can for the Oberlin. Letters from Milnes, Mrs. Reid, and a lump besides. Also letters from Mr. Keep, the American delegate. There was a burst of tearful joy at the Oberlin, when they received the first instalment (£600) of our contributions. Mr. Dawes called, — an Ohio man, good-looking and hearty: says the corporation of London were unanimous, and proposed giving £1,000, first and last, but they were tampered with, he suspects, by the American Minister, Stevenson, and made to believe that helping the Oberlin would be flying in the face of the American government. When Dawes came in I was practising quadrilles for the children’s dance in the evening. It is curious to middle-aged persons to see little boys and girls dancing quadrilles perfectly and gracefully, and out in a country-dance. The gallopade step in a country-dance is a great improvement on the old jigging step. Our frivolity in comparison with the interests of the Oberlin struck me much, yet it is right enough in its way. Merry dance in the evening.
December 27. — Mr. Dawes called, and gave charming view of the Oberlin. The mischief-maker in the London corporation has lost his election in consequence, and they hope for a good vote from the reaction. The American Antislavery Society ask to reprint my article as a cheap tract. I am very glad of this. A dweller in Ohio, eleven miles from Oberlin, took in some seventy of the students and boarded them for a year. Another, many miles off, took in thirty. In like manner a farmer drove a cow a long way to present her to them. Some students are sons and brothers of slaveholders, and lose all their resources in going to Oberlin. So much for slavery being charming on the spot. One of the professors was offered $2,000 to preside at the proposed hall for free inquiry in Boston, but, as Dawes says, they might as well have tried to get one of the great Western oaks up by the roots. He went back to toil and poverty. Bad headache. Mr. Dawes, with capital facts and papers. His simplicity is very moving.
December 30. — Set about the Oberlin business after breakfast, when Mr. Dawes came in. He melted us all presently. It gives me great pleasure to recognize the fine American qualities which I used to admire there, — the glorious faith and piety, together with the shrewdness and business-like character of mind, sublime when applied to philanthropic instead of selfish affairs. Wrote some pages for them. — — came in. Thinks the Misses Grimké go a great deal too far in self-denial. So people thought in the days of the early Christians, no doubt. — — came in. Very solemn about the “Times” having taken up its song with Captain Marryatt against me; is earnest with me to answer. Shall not. Wrote a valentine for the boys.
December 31. — Wrote for the Oberlin as long as duty would allow. That subject warms one’s whole heart. Mr. Frederic Hill called to know if I could point out a person fit to be governor of the new prison at Perth. (He is Inspector of Prisons.)
December 31, 1839. — The year is within an hour of its close, — a year of little work, yet of some value, though I doubt having voluntarily improved. I have neglected some of my best means and encouraged my selfishness. An invalid state will not improve me in this. How long will it last? Who of us will depart this next year? There is a strange list at each year’s end. Now for joining heart with the Follens over the sea. They are thinking of me this midnight, I know.
On the next page, headed “Miscellaneous Observations,” I find this description: —
Château de Joux lies in the Jura, on the French side. Toussaint must have approached through the defile, winding round a rocky hill, and disclosing the tiny valley, — the little basin of fertile fields, with the clear stream winding through it, which was the last bit of green earth he ever saw. He must have walked or gone on horseback up the winding path to the fort. Dreary rock, crested by the fort. Grand rock opposite, and four roads meeting beneath. Perpendicular rock on the back side, part of which he might see from his window. Dark firs above, and a snowy summit behind knolls, with firs sprinkled about, and glimpses into two valleys; patches of enclosure; ditto of pasture in a recess, with a few cows and children. Cow-bells; — boys; — singing; — church-bell. A bird or two. A flock of goats. Small running stream beside the road.
Two drawbridges and portcullis. Great well, court-yard, long staircase, on the right; past the wheel, door to the left: damp and dark by vault and passage, and then Toussaint’s room on left hand. Is vaulted, low, with charcoal drawings on the ceiling, about twenty-eight feet long and thirteen wide, window breast-high, deep and grated, with some view of the court-yard and the perpendicular rock opposite. Floor planked, very much decayed, and quite wet. Dripping of water heard all round, and wet clay in the passages, and flakes of ice from the roof and walls lying about. Door by one corner; window opposite; fireplace in middle of left side; and formerly (they say) a stove opposite. Toussaint was found dead, lying by his fire, — they said on some straw alone; but the woman gave another account. Fire burning when he was found. High up, not under ground (but not the less damp for that. Dim light, but no sunshine ever).
Woman’s account seems to me not to be true. She was clearly opposed to other testimony in most of her story; but here it is. She never saw him; but her first husband was in St. Domingo, and died there. She says Toussaint was caught by being banqueted by Le Clerc, on board a ship (at the farther end of two hundred men), which sailed away while he was at table: that his servant remained with him to the last. (The old man in the village says the porter waited on him.) She says the commandant Rubeau, or Rubaut, had orders from government to treat him well, supplied him with books, and had him daily to his house because he saw that “il avait du chagrin”: that Toussaint went, daily; and the last night excused himself as being unwell. It was proposed to have his servant with him, — he refused it, — was left with fire, flambeaux, book, and fauteuil, and was found dead in the morning: that physicians examined him and declared it to be rupture of a blood-vessel in the heart. He had liberty to walk about within the drawbridge, — need be in his room only at night; was small, had “du génie,” spoke negro language as well as French, and had a ceremonious funeral. She showed us where he is buried. It was in the church, but alterations have lately been made.
This story is much what might be expected to be put forth, in the case of a murdered or neglected prisoner. How came he to be in such a vile dungeon? This is irreconcilable with the rest.
Toussaint lived among “the skeletons of the earth,” — the rocks (as Julia says): contrast with the warm and living scenery of the tropics. What time of year did he arrive? How much snow?
Make him speculate on how Napoleon would like to be fixed on a rock.
January 1, 1840. — Read Examiner and tried to write for the Oberlin, but could not write at all. Made a cap, therefore. C— T— came in to wish me good wishes. How charmingly she looked! My grandmother very ill, but likely to be better. Read Rahel (Varnhagen). Unsatisfactory. Went on with the Oberlin appeal. Writing fatigues me much. But what a cause it is! How it warms one as one proceeds! In Wilberforce I meet with a few facts about Toussaint. Curious, when it seems a dead subject, — one left for me to revive. — — to dinner. She became anxious to read about the Oberlin the moment she heard that Lords Brougham and Morpeth were interested in it. — — called. Odd, sometimes, to see thoroughly vulgar people. It enlarges one’s ideas.
January 3. — Wrote for the Oberlin. Mr. Dawes called, and all were charmed with him. He listened, deeply affected, to my additions, with moist eyes, as if the story were new to him which I had learned from himself. “You have had great assistance,” was his characteristic way of approving what I have done.
Evening. — Read Wilberforce, and looked over Dr. Crowther’s book. All envious of Sir William Ellis. Says I wrote on Hanwell at their dictation: whereas I had never seen them but once, and they knew nothing about it. Read an account of a case like my own. While every body seems to conclude that I shall get well perfectly in time, I feel far from sure of ever being well again, and that this complaint, mild as it is now, will not be my death. If so, it will probably be a few (very few) years of increasing ailment, ending with my sinking. There is nothing agitating in this thought, — much owing to my insensibility to some immense realities, partly to long experience of great events and change, and partly to habitual confidence that all is ordered well.
January 4. — Finished appeal for the Oberlin. Felt raised and joyful, as this subject always makes me. Quiet day, very happy. Charming letter from my mother, and from Lady Coltman telling me of £20 more for the Oberlin.
Read Mr. Thom’s account of the Oxford theology, drawn from their own writings: good. The irrevocable concessions, — concessions they have made for the sake of their plea of authority, which must fail, so the good will remain when the fallacy is overthrown. I feel a strong sympathy with them. Saving their premises, I go with them. Have been reading Wilberforce: grows twaddling in his old age, through want of cultivation of mind. Very noble, however, — his keeping back Brougham’s pledge about the queen, and silently suffering universal censure.
January 5. — C— T— and I had a sweet, long talk. Some chance through her of good to the class of unhappy women. If I live, this too must be my work. If not, some one else will do it, I doubt not.
January 13. — Mr. Dawes came on business about the Oberlin tract, which completely tired me, and made a bad day of it. Mr. Dawes is gloriously business-like.
The following letter shows that the antislavery problem was not the only one she bore in mind.
TO MRS. HENRY G. CHAPMAN.
Tynemouth, Northumberland,April 24, 1840.
My dear Friend, —
I must send you a word of love, thanks, and blessing. You know, I dare say, that I have been very ill for nearly this year past, and that it is very doubtful when I shall be better, or whether ever. Instead of writing to you, I have been writing for the Oberlin, — doing the little I could, — and not in vain. Messrs. Keep and Dawes hope and believe that the institution is safe. But for our national immoralities, which have brought on, as a part of their retribution, visitations of poverty almost amounting to famine, we should have sent you more ample aid. If, however, the Oberlin is safe, we are humbly thankful. Mr. Dawes has endeared himself to us, and I thank you for introducing him to me. I have not yet seen Mr. Keep, but I hear that he is much beloved. . . . .
Living and dying I shall be in spirit with you and your cause. If I can do any thing, however little, for your work, ask me, and while I have breath in my body, I will work for you. I am now about a book which I hope may do some good if I am permitted to finish it. The barest hope of this would cheer my days if they wanted cheering, — which, however, they do not. You need feel no sorrow for me, my dear friend. How often am I full of joy for you, and yet I am sensible of your trials. They are very great, but they bear their own death-warrant, while the strength you oppose to them is immortal.
My kindest regards to Mr. Chapman. I should like to think that Mr. Garrison remembered me with regard.
Farewell, my dear friend. Many prayers rise for you and yours, from this land as well as your own.
Ever your affectionate
How goes your mind about a community of goods, and yet an inviolate personal freedom? . . . . When you see light, give it me.
July, 1840, Harriet Martineau writes to America thus: —
TO MRS. CHAPMAN.
Dear Friend, —
I have seen Garrison; and among all the pleasures of this meeting I seem to have been brought nearer to you. If I were well, and had health, and if my mother’s life were not so fast bound to mine as it is, I think I could not help coming to live beside you. Great ifs, and many of them. But I dream of a life devoted to you and your cause, and the very dream is cheering. I have not been out of these two rooms for months, and now I begin to doubt whether I shall ever again step across their threshold. I may go on just as I am, for years, and it may end any day; yet I am not worse than when I last wrote.
We had a happy day, we four, when Garrison was here. I am sure he was happy. How gay he is! He left us with a new life in us.
Garrison was quite right, I think, to sit in the gallery at Convention. I conclude you think so. It has done much for the woman question, I am persuaded. You will live to see a great enlargement of our scope, I trust; but, what with the vices of some women and the fears of others, it is hard work for us to assert our liberty. I will, however, till I die, and so will you; and so make it easier for some few to follow us than it was for poor Mary Wollstonecraft to begin.
I must not begin upon Convention subjects. I am so tired; and there would be no end. You know what I should say, no doubt. The information brought out will do good, but the obvious deficiencies of the members in the very principles they came to advocate will surely do more.
Garrison brings you £2 from me, which I have earned by my needle for your society, being fond of fancy-work, and fit only for it, in this my invalid state. I feel in my soul the honour of the appointment of delegate. You know that I could not have discharged its duties, even if the others had been admitted. But there is in me no lack of willingness to serve our cause in any capacity.
Believe me ever your faithful and affectionate
Again she writes to America, to the same friend: —
We are fighting many battles here, — great and important. We are doing away with the punishment of death. Yesterday morning I told a government man that Parliament and people are forwarder than he (who is a commissioner on the question) had any idea of; and last night he got his gradualism assented to in Parliament, by a majority of only one! All the best men, almost, came out against capital punishment altogether.
Well, my dear friend, live long as we may, there is no prospect of a want of work for us. We have a scope and a call such as few women have. What can there be in the world’s gift to tempt either men or women aside from such a destiny?
My kind regards to Mr. Chapman. He is always sure of my love and sympathy.
Ever your affectionate
In a letter to Mr. Empson, dated December, 1840, friendly and familiar, and which he had no idea would ever reach her eyes, Lord Jeffrey writes thus of “The Hour and the Man”: —
“I have read Harriet’s first volume, and give in my adhesion to her Black Prince with all my heart and soul. The book is really not only beautiful and touching, but noble; and I do not recollect when I have been more charmed, whether by very sweet and eloquent writing and glowing description, or by elevated as well as tender sentiments. I do not at all believe that the worthy people (or any of them) ever spoke or acted as she has so gracefully represented them, and must confess that in all the striking scenes I entirely forgot their complexion, and drove the notion of it from me as often as it occurred. But this does not at all diminish, but rather increases the merit of her creations. Toussaint himself, I suppose, really was an extraordinary person; though I cannot believe that he actually was such a combination of Scipio and Cato and Fénelon and Washington as she seems to have made him out. Is the Henri Christophe of her story the royal correspondent of Wilberforce in 1818? His letters, though amiable, are twaddly enough. The book, however, is calculated to make its readers better, and does great honour to the heart as well as the talent and fancy of the author. I would go a long way to kiss the hem of her garment, or the hand that delineated this glowing and lofty representation of purity and noble virtue. And she must not only be rescued from all debasing anxieties about her subsistence, but placed in a station of affluence and honour; though I believe she truly cares for none of these things. It is sad to think that she suffers so much, and may even be verging to dissolution.”
Miss Edgeworth also sent a fervent and enthusiastic assurance of her admiration of “The Hour and the Man.” The title of the book was chosen as the one best calculated to conceal the hero’s colour, as this complexional prejudice was running high in the United States, and she hoped the work might tell in favour of her cause there. It was republished there immediately, and has since been republished at different intervals, in different forms; and our most admired and impressive orator, Wendell Phillips, seizing the subject for lecturing-tours on behalf of the cause, bore it through the whole land, deep into the prejudiced hearts of the people.
The next year Harriet Martineau addressed, from her sickroom at Tynemouth, the subjoined letter to her friend Elizabeth Pease of Darlington,* on the occasion of what were at that time called by careless observers “the divisions among the abolitionists”: —
Tynemouth, Northumberland, February 27, 1841.
My dear Friend, —
I have read the statements in “Right and Wrong among the Abolitionists of the United States,” with respect to the differences between the two antislavery societies in America, with a strong and painful interest. I wish I could adequately express my sense of the duty of every one interested in the cause of the negro, — of human freedom at large, — to read and deeply meditate this piece of history. I am not more firmly persuaded of any thing, than that those who, on the present occasion, listen to one side only, or refuse to hear either, are doing the deepest injury in their power to the antislavery cause, and sowing the seeds of a bitter future repentance.
I am aware how distasteful are the details of a strife. I know but too well, from my own experience, how natural it is to turn away, with a faint and sickening heart, from the exposure of the enmities of those whose first friendship sprang up in the field of benevolent labours. I fully understand the feelings of offended delicacy which would close the ears and seal the lips of those who have been fellow-workers with both the parties now alienated. Among all these causes of recoil, I see how it is but too probable that the antislavery parties on the other side of the Atlantic may be left by many of their British brethren to “settle their own affairs,” to “fight their own battles.” But if I had a voice which would penetrate wherever I wished, I would ask in the depths of every heart that feels for the slave whether it should be so; whether such indifference and recoil may not be as criminal in us as dissension in them; whether in declining to do justice to the true friends of the slave (on whichever side they may appear to be), we may not be guilty of treachery as fatal as compromising with his enemies.
Those who devote themselves to the redemption of an oppressed class or race do, by their act of self-devotion, pledge themselves to the discharge of the lowest and most irksome offices of protection, as much as to that of the most cordial and animating. We are bound, not only to fight against foes whom we never saw, and upon whom our sympathies never rested; not only to work for millions of poor creatures, so grateful for our care that they are ready to kiss the hem of our garments, — this kind of service, however lavish it may require us to be of our labour, our time, our money, is easy enough in comparison with one which is equally binding upon us; — it is also our duty to withdraw our sympathy and countenance from our fellow-labourers (however great their former merits and our love), when they compromise the cause. It is our duty to expose their guilt when, by their act of compromise, they oppress and betray those brethren whose nobleness is a rebuke to themselves. This painful duty may every friend of the negro in this country now find himself called upon to discharge, if he gives due attention to the state of antislavery affairs in America. If he does not give this attention, it would be better for him that he never named the negro and his cause; for it is surely better to stand aloof from a philanthropic enterprise than to mix up injustice with it.
The first movers in the antislavery cause in America, those who have stood firm through the fierce persecutions of many years, who have maintained their broad platform of catholic principles, who have guarded their original Constitution from innovation and circumscription, — Garrison, and his corps of devout, devoted, and catholic fellow-labourers, with the Bible in their heart of hearts and its spirit in all their ways, — are now in a condition in which they need our support. They have been oppressed, betrayed, pillaged, and slandered. Not they, but their foes, are the innovators, the bigots, the unscrupulous proselyters, the preachers of a new doctrine, modified to propitiate the proslavery spirit of the country in which they live. No one will call my words too strong, my accusations exaggerated, who will read the evidence relating to the transfer of the “Emancipator” (for one instance), or, casting an eye upon the statement of accounts of the American Antislavery Society, will perceive who voted into their own pockets the money by which the “Emancipator” might have been sustained, under whose commission the assailants of the Old Organization crossed the Atlantic and at whose expense they travelled throughout our country, sowing calumnies against Garrison and his faithful companions through the length and breadth of our land. When the friends of the slave here are told of treachery, pillage, and slander, will they hazard being a party to the guilt, for want of inquiry, even though the London Antislavery Committee, and their organ, the “Reporter,” at present appear to stand in that predicament? If they would avoid such a liability, let them read and consider the statement by which the case is placed fully before them.
No one is more ready than I to make allowance for lapse in the friends of the negro in America. I have seen too much of the suffering (not conceivable here) consequent upon a profession of antislavery principles, to wonder that there are but few who can endure, from year to year, the infliction from without, the probing of the soul within, which visits the apostles of freedom in a land which maintains slavery on its soil. From my heart I pity those who, having gone into the enterprise, find that they have not strength for it, and that they are drawn by their weakness into acts of injustice towards such as are stronger than themselves; for those who are not with the thoroughgoing are necessarily against them. We must regard with even respectful compassion the first misgivings, before they have become lapse. But what then must we feel, — what ought we to do — for those who have strength, for those who can suffer to the end, for those who are, after the pelting of a ten years’ pitiless storm, as firm, as resolved, as full of vital warmth as ever, as prepared still to abide the tempest, till the deluge of universal conviction shall sweep away the iniquity of slavery from the earth? Shall we refuse to hear the tale of their injuries, of their justification, because others have refused, or because the story is painful? May we dare to call ourselves workers in the antislavery cause while thus deserting the chief of its apostles now living in the world?
All believe that the truth will finally prevail; and you and I, dear friend, have a firm faith that therefore the Old Organization, with Garrison at its head, will prevail, at length, over the base enmity of the seceders. But we ought not to be satisfied with their prevailing at length, till we see whether they cannot be enabled to stand their ground now. Not a moment is to be lost. Not for a moment should their noble hearts be left uncheered; not for a moment should the slaveholder be permitted to fan his embers of hope; not for a moment should the American slave be compelled to tremble at the adversity of his earliest and stanchest friends, if we can, by any effort, obtain a hearing for the cause. Let us urge and rouse all who are about us, — not to receive our mere assertions, — not to take our convictions upon trust, — but to read, search out, and weigh the evidence, and judge for themselves.
This is all that is needed; for I believe there is not a friend of the slave, in any part of the world, who, knowing the facts, would not make haste to offer his right hand to Garrison and his company, and his voice and purse to their cause.
I am yours very truly,
In a brief review of the year at the end of this volume of journal is the following: —
Two things occurred at the beginning of December which cheered me greatly. Lady Byron, being pleased with my refusal of a pension, placed £100 at my disposal for the relief of cases of desert and distress. It was done in the most delicate way, and the plenitude of my charity-purse will long be a comfort to me.
R. Monckton Milnes, the poet, I had felt to be on cordial terms with me, though a Puseyite and a Tory M. P. I had no idea, however, of what he could do for me. He heard of me through mutual friends, sent me his “one tract more,” and a beautiful letter, and those most truthful lines, ‘Christian Endurance,’ ” which have since supported me much and often. They will bear pondering, and well have I pondered them. It was a good deed of a young man to sit down to speak to the soul of one like me.
September 24. — Sir C. Clarke came. I could not but admire the frankness with which he told me that my illness is incurable; and I can never again feel health, if his judgment be true.
It is strange that this did not move me in the least, and does not now. I have long disbelieved that I should ever be in health again, and I have no wish that it were otherwise. How my mother will grieve! I never spoke to her of the hope of relief, but others have. That was too low a hope for me, though I am far from saying that I may not some time sink for want of it. At present I fear only the intellectual and moral consequences of a life of confinement. If they cannot be obviated, I must meekly bear them too.
Mr. Macready visited her about this time, and thus records in his journal the impression she left upon his mind: —
“March 28, 1841. — Intended to post to South Shields and cross the ferry to Tynemouth, but stopped and turned the postboy, and made him go to Newcastle, from thence to take the railway. Was half an hour before the train started; lunched; wrote a note for Miss Martineau. Went by railway to North Shields. Walked to Tynemouth, and inquiring at the post-office Miss Martineau’s address, called on her, sending up my note; she was very glad to see me. We talked over many things and persons. She is a heroine, or, to speak more truly, her fine sense and her lofty principles, with the sincerest religion, give her a fortitude that is noble to the best height of heroism.”
Writing in 1842 to console her friend under severe bereavement, she says: —
“I know that you will endure, — you are experienced in death. What would it be to you in this hour, that he had gained wealth, and lived in the praises of the vulgar part of society? What comfort is there not now, in the truth that he has sacrificed his wealth and his repose, and put his reputation to hazard, from love to the helpless! We are of one mind, dear friend, about these things. You do not perplex yourself with repining at the loss of your dearest friends, and I am satisfied to be confined to two rooms for a long time or a short, — and there the matter ends. We can smile an understanding to each other, and proceed to our business. When you hear me inquired for, just state the main truth, that I am not likely to die yet, but can never recover if the physicians are right. I am so unfit now for authorship, that I close with the fourth volume of the ‘Playfellow.’ I thank you for what you tell me of the first volume, — The Settlers at Home. It rejoices me always to hear of children being moved by any thing I write. You hear of the awful position of our public affairs. How are our starving multitudes to be fed?”
Writing again a letter of consolation for the loss of Henry Grafton Chapman, who sent his love to her from his death-bed, she says, —
“How kind, how beautiful in him it was to leave me those words.”
Dr. Channing too, who died at the same date, spoke of her frequently to his family with much affectionate admiration during the time previous to his death.
These lines, sent to her on learning her hopeless condition, are by Lord Houghton.
- CHRISTIAN ENDURANCE.
- Mortal! that standest on a point of time
- With an eternity on either hand,
- Thou hast one duty above all sublime;
- Where thou art placed, serenely there to stand.
- To stand, undaunted by the threatening death,
- Or harder circumstance of living doom;
- Nor less untempted by the odorous breath
- Of hope, that issues even from the tomb.
- For hope will never dull the present pain,
- Nor fear will ever keep thee safe from fall,
- Unless thou hast in thee a mind, to reign
- Over thyself, as God is over all.
- ’T is well in deeds of good, though small, to thrive;
- ’T is well some part of ill, though small, to cure;
- ’T is well with onward, upward hope to strive;
- Yet better and diviner to endure.
- What but this virtue’s solitary power,
- Through all the lusts and dreams of Greece and Rome,
- Bore the selected spirits of the hour
- Safe to a distant immaterial home?
- But in that patience was the seed of scorn, —
- Scorn of the world, and brotherhood of man;
- Not patience such as, in the manger born,
- Up to the cross endured its earthly span.
- Thou must endure, yet loving all the while;
- Above, yet never separate from thy kind:
- Meet every frailty with a tender smile,
- Though to no possible depth of evil blind.
- This is the riddle thou hast life to solve;
- And in the task thou shalt not work alone;
- For while the worlds about the sun revolve,
- God’s heart and mind are ever with his own.
These are the lines that Dr. Channing so much admired, and after reading which he bade her be glad that she was the inciter of such holy thoughts and generous sympathies. His letters were a solace during her long exile from active life, and their friendship was constant to his latest hour. Their opinions on the doctrine of necessity and other philosophical subjects were unlike. “I am less and less troubled,” he said, “about theories which I disapprove when adopted by the good and true,” and his affection for her was undiminished by opinions which he could not abide. “You can hold them,” he said, “and hold your moral judgment and sensibilities too. You are unharmed by what would be death to me.” Of “Toussaint” he said, “I thank you for ‘The Hour and the Man.’ You have given a magnificent picture, and I know not where the heroic character is more grandly conceived.”
The annexed letter to Mrs. Chapman, dated March 29, 1842, gives the mind of Harriet Martineau on the American political leaders of that time.
“One way or another I learn all the important features of your enterprise, and keep up with the history of your country. Just now, the best lovers of your country here are covered with shame. Webster’s instructions to Everett about the Creole have arrived, and the ludicrousness of the transaction is as remarkable as the shamefulness. . . . .
“For many years your writers and ours have exhibited Webster as your cheval de bataille, and have thrust him forward as the great American, so that his disgrace covers your whole country in English eyes. I am glad now that I bore my testimony against him in print so long ago. Those who believe in me and my book will want to see whether there is not yet something better than Webster on your continent. I hope he will be stung to the quick by the papers on his instructions. The Spectator, such a sinner generally against us abolitionists, is capital on that head. But I should wish him a more solemn retribution and a more corrective one, than wounded vanity for the tremendous sin of treason against reason; of laying aside such logical faculties as he has, to put false cases, out of the insincerity of his heart. . . . .
“I feel it much to gain time before our inevitable revolution comes. If it could only be put off to another generation, our educational plans expanding, our aristocratic institutions relaxing meanwhile, there might be an immense diminution of the guilt and misery which must more or less attend such a bouleversement as must take place.”
Tynemouth,March 30. — The majestic unchanged posture of the faithful is impressive and cheering, but what an uprooting of the poison-tree there must be which is ramifying under the walls of the Supreme Court, and exhaling its venom into the eyes and brains of the Judiciary!
On the 15th of September, 1843, stands this entry in her journal: —
“A new imperative idea occurred to me, — Essays from a Sick-Room.”
Of this book her friend Henry Crabb Robinson said, that no praise could be too strong for the integrity of the work, as of some earlier ones; that a very few lines or phrases inserted, with a reserved sense of her own, a very trifling amount of concession, would have gained her the praises and the custom of “the religious world,” so that she would have been comforted and made much of, and have made her £ 30,000, like Hannah More. This grated upon her temper, and she almost felt as if she had been praised for honour in not reading an open letter if left alone with it, or with a purse of gold without stealing. She “shuddered at the idea of the religious world laying its paws upon me.”
“The new and imperative idea” came to her on the 15th. The entry in the journal on the 19th is, “Wrote first of the essays on ‘Becoming Inured.’ ”
So it was ever in her life. Thought and action were simultaneous, and the sound followed the flash to the beholders.
“Life in a Sick-Room” was republished in America, and called a blessing to humanity in all English-speaking lands; and it was said that all who read it found their thoughts and their hearts visiting her sick-room with grateful love. Great numbers of persons prefer it to any of her works. Philosophers are less impressed by it.
Again the poet, and by this time the friend, sends consolation.
- TO HARRIET MARTINEAU.
- Because the few with signal virtue crowned,
- The heights and pinnacles of human mind,
- Sadder and wearier than the rest are found,
- Wish not thyself less wise nor less refined.
- True that the small delights that day by day
- Cheer and distract our being are not theirs;
- True that when vowed to virtue’s nobler sway,
- A loftier being brings severer cares:
- Yet have they special pleasures, — even mirth,
- By those undreamt of who have only trod
- Life’s valley smooth; and if the rolling earth
- To their nice ear have many a painful tone,
- They know man does not live by joy alone,
- But by the presence of the power of God.
R. MONCKTON MILNES.
But at length endurance reached its bounds; and after her recovery she writes thus: —
TO MRS. HENRY G. CHAPMAN.
Birmingham, March 15, 1845.
My dear Friend,—
Once again I write to you from the midst of life, — from a house full of busy, gay young people, where there is no check upon occupations, talk, or mirth for my sake. It feels very strange, but very delightful. I am glad you have had some personal knowledge of mesmeric effects. I like that those whom I love should know something of the wonderful influence whereby I have been restored, and by which my present duties are marked out. My case has made a great sensation; and similar cases are being told, and the knowers are comparing notes, and consulting how best to concentrate and use the powers put into our hands by our knowledge. And the sick and their doctors write to me, — a multitude of them; and my business is thus put under my hand very clearly. In addition to this, I have now to write a tale, — a little book for our great League Bazaar, — being too well and busy to do the fancy-work I had intended to send. It is all I can do “to keep my stockings mended.” [An allusion to the popular proslavery charges to American women: “Go spin, you jade, go spin!” and “Better be mending your stockings!”] To finish about myself, I am, as far as all kinds of evidence can show, perfectly well. I now doubt whether I was ever well before. I have a very unusual degree of strength, shown not only in my daily long walks, but in my going through daily business, and much odious persecution from the doctors, with entire ease and composure. It is, however, a clear duty to take care that this good state is confirmed, before entering on the hurry and fatigue of my old life in London; and I have agreed to a charming plan suggested by some friends at the Lakes, that I shall settle among them for some months, and lead an open-air and holiday life (as far as mine can be) for the whole summer and autumn. The Arnolds, Wordsworths, Gregs, and Fletchers will be my neighbours and companions. From the first of June my address will be, “Ambleside, Westmoreland.” Till then, “Robert Martineau, Esq., Birmingham.” To whom shall I give this direction about the “Standard”?* I value it highly, and I should like still to have it come as hitherto. It was a delightful surprise to me last week to see what had been done about my table-cover. No such destination had ever occurred to me, but I will now own I did feel a little sorry on sending it off, as the thought that that which held inwrought so many of my deepest ideas and feelings would probably go into the hands of some entire stranger, who would be wholly unconscious of the real value of the work to a friend. I say this just to indicate to you what must have been my gratification when I saw what had been done. How amusing it is, in face of such facts, to remember the contemptuous charge of ordinary folk against you, that you are “people of one idea!” You seem to have a good many feelings, at all events.
I do long to see what is to happen next among you. While your well-wishers here are mournful, and think your condition low and your prospects dark beyond repair (I mean those of your country), I cannot help recurring to my old ground of hope and cheer for you, — that your people (never beginning to do their best till they are at their worst) do rise up in moral might when the danger is pressing, and discharge their duty better than any other people when once they set about it. I cannot conceive that the North will succumb to the South in such times as all men see you are now entering upon. I have such faith in your countrymen as to expect from them that they will surrender their false pride, and give up their idolatry of the existing form of the Union, — now become a malignant and obscene idol, — in order to apprehend and do homage to the true spirit of which it was once the representative. If you (in or out of the “Standard”) can justify this hope by your testimony, it will make me very happy. I have, myself, no doubt that the whole matter is in the hands of the North. Without calling the South a bully or a coward, or other hard names, I suppose it is an indisputable fact, that the South is actually powerless, if the North do but think so, and act accordingly. Its not acting accordingly is the impediment I find on every hand, when I try to make your case understood here as well as my small knowledge permits. Another difficulty that I meet with is from your (the abolitionists) being, as a matter of course, mixed up with our Antislavery Society here, which is now disgraced almost to the lowest point; your true alliance is with our League, as you all know through George Thompson. And there is now the most absurd and shocking virtual alliance between the antislavery folk and the West India interest. I protest, with all my might, against your being classed with your namesakes here, showing the while how different your work is, even if they were in the way of their duty. But argument and explanation do little with people who do not know your country. The only effectual evidence will be your enforcing a clear demand for a renovated and purified Act of Union. But I am always vexed with myself when I write in this way to you, my ignorance may so easily make it all a waste of your precious time; yet, even so, you may like to see where those who love your cause want enlightening. We are doing well in our public affairs, — morally better, I think, than ever before within my memory. The prosperity is pleasant, but the awakened spirit of society is good. The sugar question is all wrong, but must erelong be better treated. In other matters, fiscal and moral, I do think we are pretty rapidly improving. The Anti-Corn-Law League is, I do think, a noble body, with a glorious function.
And now, my dear friend, for this time farewell. I bless you for all your acts of love towards me. I need not tell you that my heart is with you.
This brother, whose address she gives in the foregoing letter, is he whom Harriet Martineau always spoke of as “my good brother.” He died in 1870, leaving a name so much respected in Birmingham as to need no eulogy, whether as chief magistrate or as a public benefactor.
Besides the immense amount of writing done at Tynemouth, during those years of pain which she called her passive period, she used to fill in the chinks of time with fancy-work. She made pretty baskets of braid and wire-ribbon, which sold for a sum sufficient to found a library for the Barracks. She sent them also to the National Antislavery Bazaar in Boston, United States. But a really remarkable piece of work, both for its great beauty and the amount of time bestowed upon it, was a table-cover, “the four seasons,” of Berlin wool wrought into fruits and flowers, which was bought by subscription by her antislavery friends, and presented to Mrs. Follen. Thus it was the means of raising one hundred dollars for the cause, and gave those friends the occasion for expressing what they felt of affectionate gratitude for all her works and her labours and her patience.
This residence at Tynemouth during her long severe illness she always called her “passive period,” — but with small show of reason, seeing that head, heart, and hands were so full of activity. Much has been told of what she did, but more must remain untold. For example, in her journal this note frequently occurs: “Wrote Grainger paper,” “Grainger came,” “Wonderful man.” From after writings of hers it appears that his great public works in Newcastle bear witness to him. He had Harriet Martineau’s best help in carrying on his enterprises.
With the money placed at her disposition by Lady Byron she caused a drain to be laid the length of Tynemouth Street, and ordered a well to be dug in the garden of her lodgings, that served the whole row of houses and “kept the maids from bad company.”
It was after many years of suffering from illness that Harriet Martineau’s mind was exercised a second time by the proposal of a pension. It was then a period of public distress, and her means of livelihood were failing with her power to write. She however preferred to share their privations with the people to being supported by ministerial patronage.
Her decision was appreciated by the people, and they held a public meeting in London, Colonel Perronet Thompson in the chair, by which it was resolved unanimously, —
1. That this meeting fully appreciates the moral and political honesty which led Miss Martineau to refuse the pension offered by the late Whig administration; though they think there has rarely occurred an instance in which the royal bounty would have been so well bestowed.
2. That it is the opinion of this meeting that the answer of Miss Martineau involves a great principle, since if the people were fully represented, the act of the executive would be the act of the people.
3. That this meeting holds Miss Martineau to have pre-eminently deserved well of her country, and that it respectfully and cordially recommends and urges upon the public at large meetings like the present, to show to her, in an unequivocal form, public appreciation of her conduct and character.
4. That a copy of the foregoing resolution be transmitted by the chairman to Miss Martineau.
The thanks of the meeting were then given to the chairman for his conduct in the chair, and to the proprietors of the hall for the gratuitous use thereof, for the purposes of the meeting.
P. PERRONET THOMPSON, Chairman.
I received a long time since from Mrs. Henry Turner of Nottingham, a friend and relative of Harriet Martineau, a letter containing an interesting narrative of the circumstances attending her restoration to health; but as it does not differ from her own in a preceding volume, except in incidentally giving the names of many witnesses, I need not here repeat it.
Now came her removal from Tynemouth to the neighbourhood of Windermere, where she first saw Mr. Atkinson, a gentleman who devoted his fortune and life to philosophical pursuits and studies, and who afterwards became her coadjutor in the publication of the philosophical work called, for brevity’s sake, “The Letters.”
When she afterwards made an inquiry about him of Dr. Samuel Brown, a deep student of philosophy, whose name is always associated with his “Atomic Theory,” his reply was as follows: —
“I think him the noblest man I have known. If his attainments in positive knowledge and his culture in the art of expression were equal to the nobleness and magnitude of his proper genius, he would be the foremost man of the age. His acquirements are not small, — his gift of speech is excellent and even admirable of its kind. But a soul of such capacity and fineness should know as much as Humboldt and Comte, and be able to write itself out with as much strength and delicacy as Carlyle and Tennyson. But I ask wondrous things of him.”
This unexpected acquaintance between Miss Martineau and Mr. Atkinson became a firm and lasting friendship. Being so much younger than herself, — brother at once and son in years and in reverential and sincere devotedness, he received and gave furtherance in their scientific studies; and was induced by her to give the world the benefit of those studies in the work they published in concert, — the “Letters on the Laws of Man’s Nature and Development.”
Harriet Martineau’s works during this “passive period” were, “Deerbrook,” “The Hour and the Man,” “Settlers at Home,” “Peasant and Prince,” “Feats on the Fiord,” “Crofton Boys,” “Guide to Service,” “The Dressmaker,” “The Maid of all Work,” “The Housemaid,” “Life in the Sick-Room,” “Letters on Mesmerism,” or sixteen volumes by English publication estimate.
This was what Dr. Walter Channing presented to the American faculty in a medical publication, in warning against pampered idleness, as a bedridden case.
The opinions of the readers of “Deerbrook” have been as various as possible; one thinking it a proof of the inferiority to themselves to which great writers sometimes sink, and another declaring it to be “one of the eight great novels of the world,” while the reading world delights in it up to the present time.
As one good deed or thought helps another, so her home deeds were strengthened by her foreign aspirations. Witness the following letter to an American friend at this time.
EXTRACT FROM A LETTER FROM HARRIET MARTINEAU.
Our greatest achievement, of late, has been the obtaining of the penny postage. I question whether there be now time left for the working of beneficent measures to save us from violent revolution; but if there be, none will work better than this. It will do more for the circulation of ideas, for the fostering of domestic affections, for the humanizing of the mass generally, than any other single measure that our national wit can devise. Have you read the evidence before the Bankers’ and Merchants’ Committee? Did you see, for one instance, the proof that the morals of a regiment depend mainly on the readiness of the commanding officer in franking the soldiers’ family letters? We are all putting up our letter-boxes on our hall doors with great glee, anticipating the hearing from brothers and sisters, — a line or two almost every day. The slips in the doors are to save the postmen’s time, — the great point being how many letters may be delivered within a given time, the postage being paid in the price of the envelopes or paper. So all who wish well to the plan are having slips in their doors. It is proved that poor people do write, or get letters written, wherever a franking privilege exists. When January comes round, do give your sympathy to all the poor pastors’ and tradesmen’s and artisans’ families, who can at last write to one another as if they were all M. Ps. The stimulus to trade, too, will be prodigious. Rowland Hill is very quiet in the midst of his triumph; but he must be very happy. He has never been known to lose his temper, or be in any way at fault, since he first revealed his scheme.
In consequence of words like these from her in a letter to himself, Mr. Hill, the prime mover and conductor of this great achievement, replied thus: “An expression of approbation from you more than repays me for whatever I have done.”
It was just after the publication of “The Hour and the Man” that Garrison wrote thus of Harriet Martineau in remembrance of all her great devotedness: —
- England! I grant that thou dost justly boast
- Of splendid geniuses beyond compare;
- Men great and gallant, — women good and fair, —
- Skilled in all arts, and filling every post
- Of learning, science, fame, — a mighty host!
- Poets divine, and benefactors rare, —
- Statesmen, — philosophers, — and they who dare
- Boldly to explore heaven’s vast and boundless coast.
- To one alone I dedicate this rhyme,
- Whose virtues with a starry lustre glow;
- Whose heart is large, whose spirit is sublime,
- The friend of liberty, of wrong the foe:
- Long be inscribed upon the roll of Time
- The name, the worth, the works of Harriet Martineau!
FOREIGN LIFE, — EASTERN.
“I felt my brow strike against the stairway, and in an instant my feet were on the steps. . . . . I perceived that each successive step, as my foot left it, broke away from beneath me. . . . . And thus did I for a few seconds continue to ascend. . . . . Till, happy as a shipwrecked mariner at the first touch of land, I found my feet on firm ground.”
Harriet Martineau’s health restored, and with it her restoration to what was always so precious to her, — the society of her family and friends, — her mesmeric mission accomplished, her house built and time taken to confirm her cure, the way then opened for the best use of her renovated powers.
She had lived the life of her time, in sympathy with its every variety of human being, and she was now, by sympathy, to enter into the life of all time; passing successively, by means of modern travel, through the fourfold life of Eastern antiquity. The book she subsequently wrote, combining as it does the deepest studies, thoughts, and feelings with the interests and acts of daily life in the lands called “blest” and “cursed” and “holy,” — the lands of the pyramids and of the desert, her thoughts meanwhile sweeping through all time from Menes to Moses, and from Nazareth to Mecca, — fully merits the title of “Eastern Life, Present and Past.”
It harmonizes what is perdurable in the four faiths of Egypt, Sinai, Palestine, and Syria; and shows how the main ideas of moral obligation, strict retribution, the supreme desire of moral good, and the everlasting beauty of holiness are ever passing through all systems from age to age, gathering to themselves all with which they are in agreement, and finally annihilating all besides, and crowning with blessings the whole human race.
As Harriet Martineau’s life was a continual progress, it might be expected that, after such far-reaching thoughts as she has recorded, she should begin to cast back a depreciatory glance upon what was transient in her life in America and her life in a sick-room, — as, for example, upon the metaphysical disquisitions and the traditional forms, — while seizing with an ever-strengthening grasp on what is everlasting. Philosophy was superseding metaphysics.
Besides being a standing benefit to Eastern travellers, the book keeps its place as a way-mark and stands as a philosophical stepping-stone in the public mind. On its first appearance, thirty years ago, it was warmly praised, with a reservation. Now, its reappearance is hailed with unreserved satisfaction. One of her latest acts was to write a preface for the new edition. Of course there are never wanting those who stigmatize this work of a good heart seeking and appropriating its own through the past, as an unpardonable deviation from the present; but the book is generally felt to be one of those things which survive their day, to light the path of those about to enter upon a serious search for truth. It is a preparation of heart, and the mind soon follows the heart’s lead.
To know the impression it made on its first appearance on minds qualified by literary cultivation to appreciate it in part, one should turn back to the “Edinburgh Review” of 1848, where one of the representatives of literature spoke thus warmly of it, selecting for commendation the description of the temples of Philœ.
“A work giving fresh interest to the beaten track of Egyptian travel and researches was put into our hands, — Miss Martineau’s ‘Eastern Life,’ of which the first volume and part of the second relate to ‘Egypt and its Faith.’ Excellent as a book of travels, it is equally excellent as an adjunct to history. Miss Martineau unites the observant with the learned traveller, sees for herself, even after Eothen; and has put spirit into the dry bones of Champollion, Wilkinson, and Lane. The bustle of Cairo and the solitude of Thebes are sketched with equal power and truth; even the desert has its gorgeous hues, and the silence of centuries becomes eloquent in her pages. A single extract is all we can afford at present. Were we looking out for a merely descriptive or a merely reflective passage, or for one startling from its speculative boldness, we should be at a loss where to begin and where to end. But as we must begin and end with a single extract, we have selected the following observations, as not only true in themselves, when properly limited and understood, but of general application to all researches which have for their object the practical moral and intellectual life of antiquity. The tendency of Europe, at the revival of classical learning, was to idolize the past. We now incline to desecrate and depose it. The earlier propensity was that of the bookworm; the latter is that of the sciolist. Surely there is a medium in which scepticism may acquiesce and faith repose; in which research and reverence may be reconciled, and the present illustrate without disfiguring the past. Detur hœc venia antiquitati ut, miscendo humana divinis, primordia augustiora faciat.”
In order to possess at first hand the vivid descriptions and penetrative thoughts from which the book on Eastern Life was made, one must search the voluminous Eastern Journal. It is filled not only with wayside adventures and interviews with persons of all nations, but also with citations from past writers in comparison with present conditions, accompanied by pencil-drawings illustrating the temples and architecture, the rocks and various changes of scenery through which the little party passed, amid the bustle of Cairo and the solitude of Thebes, — and so onward. One should travel in imagination in company with these closely written pages in Nile boats and on camels’ backs to the journey’s end; for it is but here and there a glance that can in this place be afforded, whether at things or thoughts. But these are not countries, as she herself says of Egypt, to go to for recreation.
“All is too suggestive and too confounding to be met but in the spirit of study. One’s powers of observation sink under the perpetual exercise of thought; and the light-hearted voyager who sets forth from Cairo eager for new scenes and days of frolic, comes back an antique, a citizen of the world of six thousand years ago.”
. . . . I used to be surprised to find how much less preternatural Shakspere appeared after I became acquainted with some of the elder dramatists; and for a long time I have been becoming aware how much Judaism owes to Egyptian predecession, and Christianity to both; and to heathen wisdom mingled with it, — not by Christianity, but by the recorders of the Gospel. And I see much less advance upon the wisdom of heathendom than I used to suppose; the chief wonder to me now being in the comprehensiveness of mind which existed in a Jew, and in the popular purport of his mission and instructions. And the farther I go in an Eastern country the more natural and accountable seems the whole matter, — the more easily supposable in the ordinary course of human thought and action. And to me it is much more animating and encouraging to see that, in natural course, and by ordinary operation of universal faculties, prophets and saviours arise, and will doubtless continue to arise, than to believe that by a special intervention one Redeemer was once sent, whose influence has certainly, thus far, not been adequate to so singular an occasion and office. What I already see and learn of Oriental life and modes of thought takes as much from the marvellousness of the Bible as it enhances the hopefulness of its purposes and of the destiny of universal man. It does not follow from this that the best prepared and exercised imagination will not on the spot see the deepest and the most clearly, — even as Lord Byron could see more of the beauties of Lake Leman than a dolt, though he found it impossible to write poetry in the actual scene, and had to wait till he got within four walls, as all writers have to do who write any thing worth reading, unless they have power of abstraction enough to enable them to abolish their surroundings. Surely the destiny of man is secure and clear enough under these great conditions, — that he shall be for ever living in the presence of and in general allegiance to great ideas as historical facts, till he can entertain them fitly for their own sake, and that by the natural structure of the human mind such great ideas must for ever be arising in the succession needed; the order being, Need, Appliance, Superstition, Philosophy, Wisdom, — a new Need having meantime arisen to animate, a new Gain through the same process.
Then follows a rapid wayside story of interviews with Selim Pasha; and the description that gives local colour to her book: —
Yellow beaches, shady palms, rugged Libyan Hills, glowing red and orange sunsets with green and lilac shed between upon the waters, the young moon meanwhile so bright behind the branches of trees that any one would have noted it, notwithstanding the surrounding brightness, as a hazy heavenly body. Moored to an island for the night. The country fertile and much tilled; the people in good condition. Many water-draughts. The men work only two hours at a time. A voice along the banks proclaims the resting-time. They are mostly small proprietors. Much tobacco and millet. Mr. Yates gathered what seems to be cotton. The yellow flower beautiful. Castor-oil plant beautiful too. I suppose the dogs of the peasantry are really formidable, from the warnings given to me of them. But I never remember to be afraid of them. The excitement about Thebes now began. We were looking towards the Libyan Hills which contained the tombs of the kings. We got into a wind which carried us nimbly on towards the great point of our voyage. To the east spread a wide, level country, backed by peaked mountains, quite unlike the massive Arabian rocks with which we had become so familiar.
Alee pointed out some of the heavy Karnac ruins behind the wood on the eastern bank. Very large and massive they looked. But the chief interest, as yet, was on the other shore. There we saw through glasses, and pretty clearly with the naked eye, traces every where of mighty works, which seem to show that, if one could blow away the sand, a whole realm of architectural grandeur would appear. Long rows of square apertures indicated the vast burying-places. Straggling remains of buildings wandered down the declivities of sand. And then the Memnonium appeared, and I could see its pillars of colossal statues; and next we saw — and never shall I lose the impression — The Two! — the Memnon and his brother, — sitting alone and serene, the most majestic pair ever, perhaps, conceived of by the imagination of art. No description of this scene can ever avail; it cannot convey the vastness of the surroundings, the expanses of sand, the rear-guard of mountains, the spread and flow of the river, the sparse character of the remains and the extent which they claim for themselves. The lines of the scenery seem to enhance the vastness; the almost uniformity of land-colouring, of the natural and artificial features, with the vivid green of the intermediate shores, where Arabs and camels and buffaloes were busy (the modern world obtruding itself before the ancient), the blue or gray river, reach behind reach where divided by green promontories, — the softness of all this is not to be conveyed to a European conception. I like the old name for this part of Thebes, — “The Libyan Suburb.” I first stepped ashore at Luxor. Alee had to buy a sheep and some bread; so we took a guide who could speak English, and set off for the ruins. First were conspicuous the fourteen pillars which front the river in a double row. But we went first to the great entrance of the temple. No preconception can be formed of these places. It was not the vastness of the buildings which strikes one here, but their being dimly covered with sculptures, so old, so spirited, so multitudinous! The stones are in many places parting, for the cement is gone, and the figures of men and horses extend over the cracks, as full of life as if painted. But the guardian colossi! What mighty creatures they are! The massive shoulders, and bend of the arm, and serene air of fixity, how they make one long to see the whole! A third helmet is visible, and a fourth among the Arab huts elsewhere, — those miserable round patches which destroy all unity of impression about this awful building. I was much struck with the nearly buried columns, with the melon or lotus (or what?) shaped capitals, which are hardly seen from the river. What vast stones rest on them! One of these architrave stones of the other range (the fourteen) has fallen upon the rims of the cup composing the capital without breaking it. Yet the stone is not granite. These last capitals were all painted, and the blossoms, buds, and leaves which adorned the flower-like capitals were very distinct.
The one sensation, after all, was the sight of the Memnon pair on the Gournon side. To conceive of the avenue of sphinxes from the main entrance here at Karnac, and then to look from another face over the river to these sitting statues, and think of them as the outposts of the great temple there, — what a chain of magnificence was this! Certainly no work of human hands ever before impressed me with any sense of the sublime like these statues. There is an air of human vigilance about them, amidst their desert and the vastness of the scene, which is truly awe-striking. And one wonders that works so primitive should reach the sense of the soul more effectually than those which are the result of centuries of experience and experiment. These and many wondrous detached portions of the temple, dispersed among Arab ovens, stables, and dwellings, were all we now saw. The rest, on our return.
The people looked well, intelligent, and sleek, for the most part. They crowded around us. . . . .
The rank held by the women in old Egypt is a most striking consideration. Are there any other instances? The Germans were distinguished for this, but in quite a different way. There seems to have been a real equality among the old Egyptians which indicates a degree of enlightenment which may make their lofty mythology not a single marvel.
Then Philœ in descriptive fulness, with ground-plan and all its special temples, courts, corridors, and avenues, omitting only the lateral chambers; “but this,” she says, “is from memory only; and quite untrustworthy.”
Doubtless since she asserts it, so it is; but her memory, as a general thing, was wellnigh unexampled. Those who knew her best say she outrivalled Macaulay. “She never forgot any thing.” She goes on, with an expression of satisfaction at what she has done: —
“The satisfaction of the clearing up of my mind about the contents of Philœ is greater than I could have supposed; and it has left imagery, and old processions by water to the sacred isle, such as I could not have had by any meaner experience than that of this day.”
Here she met Mr. Findlay and Prince Czartoryski, between whom and herself there was the bond of deep interest in Poland.
Evening. — Settled myself; saw the Creykes, relations of Wilberforce, and received Count Zamoyski. I omitted to mention an inscription in French, in the side of the large propylon, relating the arrival here of the republican army under Dessaix in 1799; and over it is a line printed, — “La page de l’histoire ne doit pas être délié.”
For a delightful chapter of Eastern life one has only to turn to the preceding volume. Sufficient in addition to say, that after Harriet Martineau’s return, her “dear aunt Margaret Rankin” did not wait in vain for the story of wonders which she had bespoken; — “from your own lips,” “with bottles of water from the Jordan and from the Nile; for I cannot expect you to purloin a step of four feet long from the great Pyramid.”
This book was the occasion of some comical experiences. A lady whom she had mentioned with reproof, though not by name, for having purloined specimens of Egyptian antiquity from some cave or temple, accused her in the “Times” of false witness, the lady having never been at the place mentioned. Miss Martineau promptly replied that, having become aware of that fact, she had already ordered a correction to be made in the next edition. For the rest, as the spoliation remained a fact, no correction was needed. The lady responded at much length, awaiting a reply. Miss Martineau repeated her assurance of a correction as to the locality, reaffirming the fact. The lady threatened a libel suit, and there the matter ended.
A second experience was no laughing matter, for it concerned the feelings of a young churchman, who feared to lose the approbation of his bishop if he should become involved in her account of “a young clergyman of the church of England carrying candles in a procession” during some ceremony at Jerusalem. In this instance she was fortunately able to obviate all mischief; but unforeseen risks, it seems, beset the path of Eastern as well as Western travellers. In compensation, however, she had often been able to do individual good by the way. “You have probably heard,” says Mr. Edward W. Lane, the author and Oriental scholar whom she met at Cairo, “of the patronage accorded me by our government. It is most highly gratifying to me; and for it I feel that my thanks are due to you as well as to others.”
She entered her newly built house, that was to be for years the home of health and happy industry, of study and of strenuously active benevolence, of which we have her own description, on the 7th of April, 1846.
The mental field that had as she thought been lying fallow during the passive period at Tynemouth now showed the germs it had been unconsciously cherishing; and, while scattering into the field of the world such seed-growths as “Eastern Life, Past and Present,” and “The Letters on the Laws of Man’s Nature and Development,” she was busy with her great works, “The History of the Thirty Years’ Peace,” “Comte” (Philosophie Positive), and constant leading articles for the “Daily News.”
- “Hands full of hearty labours: pains that pay
- And prize themselves, — do much that more they may
- No cruel guard of diligent cares, that keep
- Crowned woe awake, as things too wise for sleep:
- But reverent discipline, religious fear,
- And soft obedience find sweet biding here.
- Silence and sacred rest, peace and pure joys, —
- Kind loves keep house, lie close, and make no noise;
- And room enough for monarchs, while none swells
- Beyond the limits of contentful cells
- The self-remembering soul sweetly recovers
- Her kindred with the stars: not basely hovers
- Below, — but meditates the immortal way,
- Home to the source of light, and intellectual day.”
How many travellers from all lands have visited this dwelling among the Westmoreland mountains, as a shrine! Yet varied and beautiful in its grandeur as the surrounding region is, one was always too much absorbed in listening to the genius of the place to be able to observe the scene without or the surroundings within. For the first, I need only indicate her “Guide” to the land she loved so well, and her papers in “Sartain’s Philadelphia Magazine,” where are to be found incomparably accurate and beautiful pictures of the Lake country. But she has not mentioned “The Knoll,” restrained by that same sentiment that made her refuse to gratify the friends who entreated her to allow her initials to be drilled into the stone above her door: “I think such things savour of vanity.” On entering it, guests were merely aware of being in a dwelling of the utmost convenience and comfort; in a home pervaded with the subtle influence of well-ordered and elegant hospitality. And although one could not then, at first, have told the cause, it is made clear by that passage of her Autobiography which tells of the purchase of the land and the building of the house, why the whole seemed so worthy of her: she had fashioned it after her own likeness. And one desiring to gratify many feels bound of course to note the particulars by which the general effect is produced, as observed in the leisure of an after day. The house is perfectly planned for all her purposes, being roomy and convenient. It is built of the dark gray Westmoreland stone, in the fashion of the houses in Elizabeth’s time, with large bay-windows, gables, and clustering chimneys, and overgrown to the very eaves with ivy, jasmine, the snowberry plant, passion-flowers, and climbing roses, which make a harbourage for the birds. Scores of them fly out of it at sunset, if you do but open the door, returning instantly to their perch among the leaves; so safe and quiet are their lives here. The house is built on a little knoll, — and hence its name, — in the valley of the Rotha, nearest to the village of Ambleside, a mile beyond Lake Windermere.
On approaching from the village, no part of the building can be seen from the road; and you pass in between massive lozenge-built gate-posts by a drive well planted with larches, beeches, holly, and a thicket of hawthorn, laurel, and laurustinus, — incredulous and uncertain where it may be. But following the gravelled sweep, a few steps bring you suddenly upon the terrace before the house, which fronts upon the valley; and thence you look down upon the parterres bright with a thousand flowers between. The greater part of the little domain — “our farm of two acres” — is flanked to right and left by an oak-copse, and enclosed by a cross-pole fence of larch-wood entangled with rose-bushes, — a luxury to see. Almost concealed by the copse, at the foot of the steps to the left, below the terrace, is the farm-servants’ cottage and the cow-house; while the little root-house, farther down, by the lower gate, with its young pine-tree and pollard willow, makes a pretty accident in the sketch.
Standing before the charming woodbine-covered porch, on your left, in the middle distance, lies the village of Ambleside, at the foot of Wansfell. Farther on, beyond the church-spire, in the valley, rise the more distant Furness Fells, and through the near wide-branching oak-tree of a thousand years, which helps to draw the boundary of the property, you catch a gleam of Windermere. Thence the eye climbs the steep, well-wooded end of Loughrigg; and, following the high horizon line in front, notes the charming variety of heath and shrubbery, and green fields and forest-trees, along its side as far as Wordsworth’s house in the Rydal pass, through which in early spring a gush of wintry sunshine comes down towards evening, flooding it with beauty and splendour. All along on Loughrigg side are the sheep and cattle pastures; and it is a pretty sight to see these white and dark moving spots, that seem placed there merely for beauty, while they constitute so important a part of the wealth of the country. On a mild, breezy day there rises a most soothing sound of the wind on its way through the clumps of trees in the valley, mingled with the rushing of the mountain streams. The continual strengthening or fading of the hills as the mists grew denser or were swept away, and all the changes of their colour from dawn to sunset, none but herself could describe.
The low stone-wall around the terrace is marked by a hedge of eglantine; and I know not whether its flowers in summer or its hips in winter make the prettiest effect. The large bay-windows, still more embayed without in ivy, subjected the proprietor to a tax of five guineas a year at the time they were planned. But Harriet Martineau knew she had not laboured in vain for the abolition of the window-tax, and she built in the secure determination that her successors, at least, should enjoy the mountain landscape and the play of clouds, the sunlight and the air, which she had so zealously laboured to make the heritage of every cottager. Her faith was justified. The window-tax was long since commuted for a very moderate house-tax.
On the right of the terrace, a flight of some thirty or forty stone steps takes you easily down to the orchard-slope below, where stands the costly sun-dial, of light gray granite, the gift of her friend, Miss Sturch of London. It is fashioned like a Gothic font, affording seats on its octagonal base; and catches the eye like a gleaming speck from the opposite side of the valley, whence you see The Knoll relieved against Fairfield, and instantly distinguished by its dial from the other dwellings. And surely the apostrophe to intellectual illumination, her own device, inscribed upon the base, — “Light! come visit me!” — has not been made by her in vain.
On the same level is the stone-pine planted by Wordsworth; and before you reach the swarded field, from which you are separated by the iron fence, is a little nook or grotto quarried into the knoll itself, and furnished with comfortable rustic seats, — the gift of her sister; and having taken sanctuary there you may feel safe though all Westmoreland were in pursuit of you, and listen undisturbed to the cawing of the distant rooks.
In view from the terrace of this “well-neighboured house,” as Emerson in those old times called it, curls the smoke of Fox How, the residence of Dr. Arnold’s family; and farther on lived Mr. Quillinan, the son-in-law of Wordsworth. Thus there were strong human interests and a strong local glory around the Rocky Knoll when she made it her own, for Wordsworth and many another well-known name still dwelt there.
But not only was Harriet Martineau’s house well-neighboured: by the most important principle of decoration it was well-furnished too; for of every thing within it one might affirm that, for the best possible reasons that thing should be there and no other, — almost every picture, object, and piece of furniture uniting elegant convenience and adornment with some family remembrance or token of friendship. The drawing-room was especially enriched by them. There was placed the collection of lighter and contemporary literature, mostly the homage of the authors. The beautiful carpet, of the time I am telling of, was the gift of her friend Jacob Bright, who procured the dimensions and had it placed in her absence, to give her a pleasant surprise. The whole furniture of the room illustrated the points of Harriet Martineau’s character by bringing to the thoughts of beholders the persons, so numerous and so various, who, separately and strangers to each other, had this one experience in common, — that they were each drawn into sympathy by one of the many sides of her powerful nature. At the entrance, on the right, stands the marble-mounted sideboard, sent by her friend H. Crabb Robinson, the eminent English and German student, the philosopher of the Unitarians, the admired and cherished friend of so many distinguished persons of the last century, that he modestly said of himself, “Some men are famous on their own account: I am famous for my friends.” The little silver almanac was a present from her friend Mr. Darwin. The stone jardinière was given by the proprietors of a neighboring slate-quarry, on the occasion of her visit to them described in her little volume of Letters on Ireland. Richmond’s fine crayon-drawing of Harriet Martineau, of nearly life-size, the engraving from which adorns so many dwellings, placed nearly opposite the door of entrance, was a homage from himself. What touching stories ought to be told of so many another useful and ornamental object, all brought together from different nations and kindred and tongues and people; but a few more must suffice as illustrating parts of her own experience. On the sideboard stands her brother Robert’s gift, — the household lamp that lighted her evenings. On a little table is an ebony papeterie, the gift of Florence Nightingale. The gold inkstand on another was the expression of her friend Lord Durham’s grateful appreciation of the restraining power she exercised over a riotous population. The tea-caddy was bought of a poor and suffering neighbour at its full price the day before a sale at which the rest of the furniture was sacrificed. The pretty French clock, on the centre bookcase (which covered one side of the room, filled with works principally of belles-lettres given by the authors of the day), marks the sense her family entertained of her generosity in influencing her mother to omit all mention of Harriet in her will. The Prie-Dieu of Berlin tapestry-work, begun by herself at Tynemouth, was finished and presented to her by her nieces, her brother Robert’s daughters. The statuettes, Aristides and Niobe, were placed there by her sister and her aunt; and the square, Egyptian-modelled oaken pedestals were a part of her furniture at Tynemouth. The engraving of Scheffer’s “Christus Consolator,” which she enjoyed and understood so thoroughly, was the consolation of her sick-room at Tynemouth, through the kind thoughtfulness of Miss Adelaide Kemble.* Between the engraved portraits of her friends, Lord and Lady Durham, hung a pastel of one of the Norwegian Fiords (described in “The Playfellow”), sent her by Lady Byron; and above it, Eastlake’s gift of his “Byron’s Dream.” The full-length engraving of Mrs. Fry was there, presented by Richmond, whose work it is. The engraving after Raphael was a token of regard from Mrs. Carlyle. In her own room hung Miss Stephen’s gift, — a water-colour by herself, — “Woodland.” The other souvenirs in the drawing-room are “Mrs. Calmady’s Children,” from her friend Evans, the artist; Goethe’s “Mignon,” from her friend Mr. Knight. The “Pet Antelopes” is from Mrs. Mackintosh; the portrait of Admiral Beaufort, a present from the Beaufort family. “Corwen Inn,” a charming oil-painting by Baker, was presented by Mr. Vincent Thompson; an engraving of Sir William Napier is from Lord Aberdere, his son-in-law; “Christ and the Tribute-Money,” from Mrs. Jameson; “A Heathery Moor in Yorkshire” is by sister artists, the Misses Gittings; the Prie-Dieu is from her early friend and sister-in-law, Mrs. Robert Martineau. The solid reading-desk is from Mrs. Richard Martineau; the work-box, from her dear and early friend, Mrs. Ker.
The flowers and plants with which the room was always filled were also offerings from far and near.
The large photograph of Colonel Shaw, first white colonel of the first black regiment raised during the civil war in America, was sent to Harriet Martineau by his mother, Mrs. Francis George Shaw of Staten Island, N. Y. It was placed conspicuously; “and it always melts my heart,” she said, “to look at it, and think of that great deed that proved two races worthy of each other, and helped to save your land for both!”
Across the hall, to the left as one enters the house, is the study, two sides of which accommodate the more voluminous and useful of her books; probably the best woman’s library extant, — certainly the best I have ever seen, consisting of between two and three thousand volumes. They are books of art, biograraphy, education, general literature, geography, voyages and travels, history, morals and politics, political economy, theology, and works of reference. This last department was peculiarly well chosen. There were all sorts of annuaries: and first the annual register, of a hundred volumes; American ditto and American Almanac, a present from Judge Story; the various American constitutions of nation and States; reports of the poor-law commissions, annuaries of astronomical observatories, Almanach de Gotha, annual reports of the antislavery societies, Gorton’s Biographical Dictionary, Biographie Universelle in eighty-three volumes, census returns of the British Empire, all the concordances and dictionaries, — Bayle’s, Johnson’s, Lemprière’s, — dictionaries of all the classic and modern European languages. Then there were encyclopædias of agriculture and essays on all subjects; books of jurisprudence and prison discipline; school-inspectors’ and sanitary books, and all possible hand-books; with Hone’s popular works, and all the useful works of reference on Ireland. The Mémoires of the French Institute were a present from Ampère. Then there were the reports of all sorts of commissioners, — on education, mining, criminal law, poor law, idiocy, and pauperism; juvenile books; and catalogues of public libraries. The purchase of these valuable works, necessary for a political writer who would fain make known what the world has been, the better to make it what it ought to be, was a great but satisfactory item of her occasional expenditure. There were all manner of books on woman’s duties and rights. Knight’s weekly volumes which she had planned with the Countess of Elgin, Biographical History of Philosophy. Hardly an eminent name of her time that is not affixed to some presentation copy. A guest deeply interested in education took pains, with her consent, to obtain a catalogue in order to be enabled to aid socialscience efforts in the formation of town libraries.
On the walls hung two views of Lambton Castle, from the Countess of Elgin. In each of the twelve panels of red pine round the bay window was a cartoon of Raphael in wood-engraving, from her friend Mr. Ker. “I’ll tell you how to treat this red pine for doors and wainscoting,” she said to one who was admiring it: “varnish when new, — leave it two years, — then another coat, and you have it as you see.” The colour of the carpet and curtains, the hangings being then in red velvet with a touch of gold, were in harmony with the tint of the woodwork.
Imagine, — between globes and little stands for precious objects, with here and there casts of Clytie and the Huntress Diana, — the bay-window, filled with geraniums, and the library-table with her chaise-longue behind it, and you have a general idea of this room, which seemed less a library than an oratory, consecrated as it was by a devotedness to the world’s welfare so instinctive as to have become unconscious; but visitors were always conscious of it, and stepped softly and spoke low, as if the place were holy.
“Voila ses saints!” said one of them, standing before the chimney, where was placed a bust of Mr. Atkinson and over it the bas-relief of a friend which Harriet Martineau had procured to be executed by Foley. On each side were the engravings of Dr. Follen and Mr. Garrison. Over these was the proof before the letter of the engraving of himself sent her by Mr. Macready.
Here stood the library-table, and I must confess to have shared the general feeling in no ordinary degree as the drawers of this table were opened for me: the records of a lifetime — and such a lifetime! — placed in my hands and at my discretion.
There, sitting in the seat which illness had obliged her to quit, I begin with the drawer at the right hand. There are three on each side. These are the labels on each great package of papers: —
- 1. Accounts and correspondence with booksellers.
- 2. Letters of pecuniary business.
- 3. Letters of moral business.
- 4. Letters from strangers or otherwise curious.
- 5. Letters from deceased persons.
- 6. Letters to be returned unopened.
- 7. Correspondence with reviews and newspapers.
- 8. Letters of literary business.
- 9. Letters of family business.
- 10. Letters of Testimony and American Intercourses.
No. 11 was two cardboards tied together with tape, inscribed “Unpaid Bills.” But there were no papers between them, and, as I learned, there never had been.
Beneath the table was a stack of tin boxes containing years of journals, diaries, jotting note-books, sketch-books, and accounts. “Take away with you every thing you want when you go!” And that dear friend of mine who “was unto her as a daughter,” her niece, Maria Martineau, aided me in the selection.
In every other part of the house tokens of love and reverence and family affection were as abundant. Of the more general “Testimonial,” that the preceding Autobiography tells of, £120 were expended by the subscribers in a tea and dinner service, the principal piece of which was inscribed thus: —
Memorial OF A Testimonial. H.M.
I find allusion in her journal to the first use of it, on the happy day when the Ladies Lambton came to Tynemouth, and “it was a testimonial fête.”
Harriet Martineau’s life in this little paradise was manifold. As mistress of a family and as a domestic economist, one may know some of the particulars by referring to her little book, “Our Farm of Two Acres,” which is so constantly in circulation, and reprinted in America, “in the conviction,” say the publishers, “that the local character of the experiences will not affect their value to American readers.” This agricultural experiment of hers was so successful as to attract a great deal of notice, and influenced some proceedings in the neighbourhood. A heavy package of letters under my hand proves the burden of correspondence that the accidental publication of her letters on cow-keeping in the “Times” occasioned her. Her papers in “Sartain’s Magazine” (Philadelphia) show her passionate enjoyment of the glorious nature by which she was surrounded. It made her strong and happy in her influential political work, to the eventual extent of which more than sixteen hundred leading articles in the “London Daily News” bear witness. The subjects of them are as various as the interests of the world, of which she watched the fluctuations with the same calmness of deep emotion that shone in her eyes while enjoying the cloud-shadows chasing each other across the valley.
We know how she looked in childhood and youth. There was a remarkable change in her appearance in mature age. Every one noticed it. “How handsome she looks!” “One of the handsomest old ladies I have ever seen!” “Does n’t she look like a sovereign princess!” and such like notes of admiration were continually heard; and, indeed, as she sat in thought at her daily hour of rest, with her Berlin embroidery by her side, and her beautiful hands (“hands that the rod of empire might have swayed!”) folded across the newspaper on her knee, her whole presence instinct with high thinking and goodwill, her whole expression so full of restful activity, it would have been difficult to find so impressive yet fascinating a presence. When comes such another! Happily a trace — necessarily a faint one — yet remains in Holl’s excellent engraving of Richmond’s admirable portrait.
One great secret of this new beauty was the joy of mental progress. She had ceased to make her God in human image; and, following the path that stretched before her from childhood, had thought and felt her way to a more satisfactory worship.
Her celebrity had always been a tax in many ways, and the difficult problem was how to bear it aright.
It was about this time that she was so overwhelmed with the ever-increasing amount of correspondence drawn to her by a general sense of boundless sympathy conveyed in all her writings, that she found it impossible to answer its demands.
Her own generation, with its questionings and plans, she still had time for; but the young pressed so thickly around her that it seemed as if they could neither do well nor ill; do good or repent of evil; marry, choose a path in life, or die, without looking to her. Sister of charity and spiritual counsellor as by nature she was, she now found herself under the absolute necessity of letting it be generally known that her whole life would be insufficient to meet this continual call. “They all so evidently think I am of their own age! I must try to show them their mistake, and be to them even as I am. Was n’t there Mrs. Hannah More and Mrs. Edgeworth? I see there were reasons for it: I will be Mrs. Harriet Martineau, which will, besides, obviate mistakes in the delivery of letters, there are so many Misses Martineau!” This arrangement so soon occasioned a sensible relief, that she had reason to congratulate herself on having so easily diminished the inconvenience without wounding the sympathies of the elders: many old friends soon fell in with her wishes, and numbers of them wrote promissory notes, as it were, beginning their letters, “Dear Mistress Harriet;” but the public at large were true to their first love, and, unaware how many were the misses of the same name, would never acknowledge her but as Miss Martineau.
It was at The Knoll, at about this period, that, in the midst of many lighter books, her most laborious works were written. One was the Thirty Years’ Peace, all after the first book; and it was that unexampled thing, a history on moral principles of the time not yet passed away.
Mrs. Martineau entered The Knoll in 1846, on the 7th of April; and it was while preparing to do so, on the 25th of March, that her friend Macready
“Saw a brown-faced looking woman watching for the coach; thought I knew the face; looked out of window; it was Miss Martineau. She came to the inn where we stopped; a few words passed; she told me to get my dinner at the inn, as she had but one room, and then come to her. I got a very bad dinner and set out to her old lodgings, to which the servant had misdirected me; met her on my return in search of me, and walked with her to her newly built or building house, — a most commodious, beautifully situated, and desirable residence in all respects. I could not but look with wonder at the brown hue of health upon her face, and see her firm and almost manly strides as she walked along with me to Fox How, Dr. Arnold’s place, from which the family are at present abroad. We walked on to Rydal Mount, to call on Wordsworth, who was ill in bed, and had had leeches this morning. I left my regards, &c., took a walk along his terraces, and, returning to my inn, soon after rejoined Miss Martineau at Mrs. Davy’s, with whom and Mr. Greg I took tea and passed a very agreeable evening. I had received a pamphlet and long letter from Professor Gregory on the subject of mesmerism, on which we had talked a little at Major Thom’s, on Saturday last; it is a translation of Reichenbach, and, with some curious facts mentioned by Miss Martineau, certainly made me pause in my utter rejection of this hitherto inscrutable and mysterious power, if power it really be.”
Of his next day’s visit to The Knoll: —
“I do enjoy the air, the hills and streams, that are keeping up their gentle noise all around me; the morning was one of the best of early spring’s. I planted two oaks for Harriet Martineau, which, with her small spade, cost me some strain of the back. The more I see of her pretty house the more I am pleased with it; it has not, that I perceive, one point of objection, with an infinite number of recommendable qualities. We walked to the chapel over the Brathay, took a lovely view of Windermere, and walked home, talking hard all the way. I read to her Willie’s account of the shipwreck; it was to me a very pleasant morning.
“I spoke to her of my wish that Nina* should hereafter spend some time with her, which she appeared to concur in very heartily.”
While Hawthorne was in England he saw Mrs. Martineau, and recorded his impression of her in his note-book: —
“. . . . I saw Miss Martineau a few weeks since. She is a large, robust, elderly woman, and plainly dressed; but withal she has so kind, cheerful, and intelligent a face, that she is pleasanter to look at than most beauties. Her hair is of a decided gray, and she does not shrink from calling herself old. She is the most continual talker I ever heard; it is really like the babbling of a brook, and very lively and sensible too; and all the while she talks she moves the bowl of her ear-trumpet from one auditor to another, so that it becomes quite an organ of intelligence and sympathy between her and yourself. The ear-trumpet seems a sensible part of her, like the antennæ of some insects. If you have any little remark to make, you drop it in; and she helps you to make remarks by this delicate little appeal of the trumpet, as she slightly directs it towards you, and if you have nothing to say, the appeal is not strong enough to embarrass you. All her talk was about herself and her affairs; but it did not seem like egotism, because it was so cheerful and free from morbidness. And this woman is said to be atheistical! I will not think so, were it only for her sake. What! only a few weeds to spring out of her mortality, instead of her intellect and sympathies flowering and fruiting for ever!”
Dr. Samuel Brown, the philosopher and friend of such extremely opposed theological opinions, with whom she so often held the high argument that high-minded disputants alone can, wrote as follows at this period: —
“. . . . And my ‘beautiful enemy’ in theory, my noble friend in life (Harriet Martineau), is condemned to death! The physicians pronounce her incurable. She writes us a long letter, a sort of last farewell; but, sooth to say, it is like the abdication of a queen, this dying! Without the faith of a Christian (or even that of a Mahometan in God), and with a philosophical scheme most defective, this great woman seems to me endowed with certain of the most eminent religious virtues, — fortitude, self-possession, resignation, the having no will of her own, and perfect trust in the optimism that is at the centre of things, to say nothing of her many fine moral qualities. And what a life of virtuous industry! ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter thou into the joy of thy (misknown but secret) Lord.’ ”
Perhaps the following letter of a later date, from a visitor at The Knoll, while Harriet Martineau’s life seemed to hang each day in the balance, may serve better than any narrative to show what effect she produced on the minds of her inmates.
The Knoll, Ambleside, 1855.
My dear Friend, —
Here I am at H. M.’s; and I must needs say, that an hour in death may be worth a year of life. Not that she is in articulo mortis as yet, but she may die at any moment, in one of these fainting or sinking fits, which are so distressing to see. Let the pulse stop a second or two longer, and all would be over, — just as the last drop sinks the ship. She is now engaged in writing her life, — her inner life that is, — and the changes her mind has undergone, and the reasons of them. Don’t mention this, for I do not wish to have any thing go out of this house which she has not seen. Not that she would have any objection; she has vexed and perplexed the world, during her fifty years, to the greatest extent, by her unexampled sincerity; but I do not choose to supply matter for possible misrepresentation of any thing I say. I never saw such transparency in all my experience. The French are, as a nation, far beyond the most open English in this respect. But she is like a diamond, — hard and solid, bright and sparkling, and you see through and through it, and the stronger the light the brighter it shines. But then she is like water, too, — soft, yielding, purifying, and gentle or overwhelming, as the case may be. She talks of your friend — —, to give the outside of her life. It needs no great literary ability to do it. Any body would have capacity enough to hold up so precious a stone to the light, and shift it about a little, although no lapidary or jeweller. To know its value would be the great qualification, and that, I think, — — does.
The Knoll, Ambleside, 1855.
. . . . I am still here; and here is death at the door; but Harriet Martineau is the happiest person in her enjoyment of life and her anticipation of its immediate close, that I ever saw. I see what it is to have lived, — not under the exhausted receiver of ladyhood or mere womanhood, — but the life of a human being. Yet her sensibilities, risible or pathetic, are like those of early youth. Her laugh is like that of a child, and in her sleep she seems like one, when not disturbed by the heart-difficulty. It is impossible to describe the beauty of the place here. The larches are not yet in bud, yet it is lovely past expression. I will tell you, as I think of them, the things likely to interest you, but do not mention them to friends less wise than yourself. There are people who should never hear a really interesting thing; for they have not retention enough to keep it to themselves, nor sense enough to transmit it unchanged. I mean, too, the unfriendly, such as A—, who hates Harriet Martineau fiercely on account of moral oppugnancy, or B—, who hates her gently because of theological differences. You would be astonished to know how all England and France are agitated by what I will call the death-bed question. — Her death-bed seems to have set them all on the qui vive. The anonymous letters, that pour in, apropos or mal-apropos of the Harriet Martineau letters are curious indeed. Original verses on pink paper, entitled the “Folly of Atheism;” copies of the New Testament; manuscript collections of texts about immortality, and the like. The letters from “Christian friends” are yet more curious. The kindest of them account for her peace of mind by the supposition that God is especially sustaining her and supporting her, although she does not know it. “In short,” she says, “they can easily account for my being comfortable and happy in mind, by supposing me the special favourite of their God, whom I reject.” She will use the word “religion” in the bad sense. I argue for it, — but no. Then her “views”! I have been travelling in England in the heat of the Crimean war, and I protest to you that her “views” seem much more in the minds of all the people I have met than the siege of Sevastopol. . . . .
I am so struck with her absolute, candid, real love of truth. She seems utterly destitute of prejudice. Then she is so womanly, in the good sense of the word, and in some senses so sensitive. She sometimes suffers much from little things I could not possibly suffer from at all. For instance, a story in the newspapers that she “hoed her own cabbages,” and the story of the old peasant at Ambleside, who said, “I should ha’ liked one like she for my good woman; for she would ha’ ploughed.” This would be called feminine delicacy, I suppose, but it really is human sensitiveness: I could hardly conceive of such things as annoying to such a one as she, till I learned from her that they were distressing to persons that she loved and respected. How weak is the mind of a certain part of England! I could see, by this little incident, how her “views” must strike such persons, — persons who, like one of her neighbours, expressed the sentiment that “people owed it to their friends not to change their opinions.”
In the course of conversation one evening at The Knoll, Mrs. Martineau told us of a letter she had received in 1851 from Mr. E. J. Furnival. He said that in the judgment of William Johnson of King’s College, Cambridge, the development theory and the doctrine of the non-existence of personality like man’s personality, in God, are capitally answered by Tennyson, in his “In Memoriam,” — the first by Strophe CXIX., the second by CXXIII. He did not like “The Letters.” Some one remarked that he did, however, like “Deerbrook,” and told all his friends that he had made thirty men read it. “He wanted to know,” she continued, “whether I knew Austin’s ‘Jurisprudence,’ and his distinction between the laws proper, of the moral world, and the laws improper, of the outward or natural world, — natural laws. He could not brook the accusation against Bacon (as of Moses, in ‘Eastern Life’), he said, of being what he should call a blackguard, — saying false things, when he knew the truth.”
She gave us an abstract of her reply; but as I find it in the Athenæum, and as there is in it no confidential communication, I subjoin it (in preference to my own recollections), as it gives so many of her “views” in reply to objections to them.
The Knoll, Ambleside, October 5, 1851.
Dear Mr. —, —
Your packet and I arrived here almost together. I must beg of you to thank Mr. — very heartily for me for the wonderful pleasure he has sent me in this little volume. Like most other people (whom I have met with, at least), I shrank from a whole volume of published griefs; and the more, because I knew Arthur Hallam; and, like every body that has read it, I forego my objection (which I still think natural) during the reading. I began to cut and read last night; and I stopped at last, by a virtuous effort, from the feeling that I ought not to be able to take in so much at once, — that I ought to spread it out, — though, happily, I have the volume to refer to at all times. I cannot honestly say that I had any thing like so much pleasure from “The Princess.” There are bits of wisdom and of beauty, — many; but the impression of the whole is more than odd; — it is very disagreeable, — to my feeling. It does not follow that I am not glad to know it; still less, that I am not as much obliged to you for making me read it as if I had liked it ever so much.
And now I am wondering how Mr. J. and you can see any “answer” in those two poems of Tennyson’s to anything Mr. Atkinson and I have said. Who has ever said that men are only brain? Does any one say that an orange-grove is only carbon, silica, &c.; or the nightingale only a chemical and mechanical compound, — passing over the product or result, — making no mention of the fragrance and the music? If any one did say so, and could establish it, would he not be elevating the chemical and mechanical elements and forces, and not lowering the blossom and the bird? There they are! — beyond his power to disparage. And so “we are what we are, — however we came to be,” as I said in that book. “Science” is very far from pretending to say that men are “magnetic mockeries,” or any sort of mockeries; but the most real of all things that men can have cognizance of, and therefore proper subjects of science. Science goes to show us that there is far more in man than Tennyson or any one else has ever dreamed of; and the one very thing that science most strenuously and constantly insists on is that we do not and cannot know any thing whatever of essence, but only of attributes or qualities, — say phenomena. — As for the other poem, we should scarcely object to any part of it, and eagerly agree with most of it. You know we think it nonsense — a mere jingle of words — to profess to disbelieve in a First Cause. It is an inseparable, an essential part of human thought and feeling to suppose a First Cause. (See our book, pp. 240, 342.) It is only when men presume to say what are the attributes or qualities, — making it out a magnified human being (which Xenophanes so well saw our tendency to do), that we decline to abet such hardihood, and to attach our awe and reverence to an idol. — As for our making Bacon a “blackguard” (your word, you know), the question is one of fact, — always remembering that the avowal of convictions on speculative subjects is not the same virtue in all times. I do not admit the “blackguardism” of Moses, for instance, but rather regard his avowal of so much as he did declare as worthy of reverent admiration. Bacon was awfully faulty in that matter; but, as you well know, far more criminal in others; a thorough “blackguard” as Chancellor, if timid and cunning as a philosopher. But you can satisfy yourself about this, which is better than taking any body’s word for it. Study him well, ascertaining his bearings, and not forgetting to look into the dates of his various writings, and see how the matter is; and don’t blame us for Bacon’s weaknesses, nor yet judge him by the circumstances of your and my station and time. (For that matter, however, do you know no very good people who sanction what they believe to be untrue, for other folks’ good yet more than their own peace and quiet?) As for your question about the grounds of our aspiration after self-sacrifice, &c., our ground is much the same as yours, I should think. If you were asked why you obey the will of God, you would say that it is because your nature impels you so to do; because you feel it to be best; because you long, and yearn, and love so to do. So we, — if asked why we prefer health to sickness, peace to turmoil of mind, benevolence to self-indulgence, — reply simply that we do. Our moral, like our physical faculties, indicate health and happiness as our natural action; and, as we incline to temperance as the rule of health, we naturally aspire to a life of self-sacrifice, or, say rather, of active good-will, because it is inexpressibly desirable in our eyes. This is one ground. But I think it is a higher, and therefore more natural, state (when simply living, and not arguing) not to think about the matter expressly at all, but simply to give way to our love of our neighbour, and act from it, without reviewing any “grounds.” As for the reviewers, they have been more fraudulent (in misquotations and the like) than I had supposed possible; but that is their affair, and not ours. As for their wrath, we must bear in mind that most of them are divines, doctors, or somehow concerned in metaphysics; and that we have attacked the very staple of their thoughts and lives. Thus, great allowance is to be made for them, and they really cannot do us justice. We do not see that any one of them has touched any one point of our book; and they answer one another so effectually as to save us the trouble of doing it. We have brought a great deal of censure on ourselves through the form of our book, — its mere epistolary form, and its stopping short in the middle. Some day we shall probably give out our views in a more complete and orderly way. Meantime we have the pleasure of some hearty sympathy; and, where we are most abused, it is a true satisfaction to sympathize the more with our enemies the less they are able to do so with us. There is nothing but the sheer dishonesty (of which I am sorry to say there is a terrible deal) that afflicts us at all. . . . .
Our field prospers. Every lot is sold; and all were paid for in one day, — to the last shilling. The money is in the bank; and I am thinking how to get up baths and a reading-room with it. The roofs are on the two cottages now nearly finished; and very nice houses they are. I find my ground will admit of two, and I have been asking — — — whether I may not venture on a second. . . . . I have lost (you kindly inquire, you know) some of my potatoes this year, and nearly all my turnips, — from the absence of frost last winter. All else is flourishing, and beautiful beyond description. I come home, with work for two years on my hands, — in full health, — after a capital holiday with my family, and with not a care in the world.
Now I think I have answered all your questions. And what a quantity I have given you to read!
Believe me truly your obliged
O yes, — I have Austin’s “Jurisprudence” on my shelves.
But whatever she did, though in the most simple and private manner, was sure to attract public attention in an inexplicable way, both from her village neighbours, the labourers and mechanics, and her country neighbours, the nobles and gentry. The former sought her as a source of instruction, help, and information, and “the noble lords in the chair” gave her health as such at public entertainments.
Nothing is more interesting to housewives than to know how their contemporaries live; and nothing was more interesting to the great writer on political economy than the details of domestic economy the world over. The world will repay to her the compliment. Below are subjoined the accounts of one year at The Knoll.
|Dividends and interest||382||10||5|
|Earned. “D. N.”||280||7||0|
|Old papers, &c.||1||0||9|
|House and selves||230||5||3|
|Highest sums, beyond wages.|
|Wine and beer||12||4||9|
Such was The Knoll, Harriet Martineau’s house, and such was its mistress: no less admirable was her household.
All interests there were harmonized and welded into one; for she could not help treating her servants as if they were her children, and their deferential duty was truly filial. They generally came to her young and lived with her long; and friends visiting her at intervals never failed to notice, from time to time, their improvement in manners, general appearance, and intelligence. There were who made light of her knowledge of the “higher classes,” because in one of the “Illustrations” a certain Lady F. is described as treating her servants with affection. But she always thought it a libel on every class to assume that they have not all one human heart, and she wrote this tale as an example, and painted this portrait as a vindication of the higher class from the aspersion of being without exception indifferent to the humbler. Yet she recommended to all the dress and expenditure suited to their means and condition. We have already seen that she understood so thoroughly the theory of domestic service, that persons who saw her name for the first time on the little title-page of “The Maid of All Work” supposed she must herself be a servant. Looking over these little guides to domestic details in after years, how many have been reminded of the words of Scripture: “Whoso is greatest among you let him be your servant.” Neither the education nor the household training of her servants was neglected, and their devotedness was the natural fruit of her loving care.
I was authorized by the writers to print the subjoined correspondence, seeing I so much desired it, as more illustrative than any statement of mine: —
MRS. MARTHA ANDREWS TO MISS MARTINEAU.
My dear Miss Martineau, —
I write a line to say that I hope dear Mrs. Martineau is better this week. I have thought much of her to-day as I was looking over a memorandum I have of our first meeting. I think it will not be uninteresting to her, just as I put it down at the time.
“September 24, 1847. — I met with the kindest reception from Miss Martineau, who was now become my mistress.
“We travelled together to Birmingham, and I shall never forget the delight I felt in her company; and the day was glorious. I enjoyed the journey exceedingly, the country was so beautiful; and we passed so many country churches, and here and there a hill in the distance. We were met at the station by Miss M.’s brother. We stayed a fortnight at Edgbaston, and I was so happy!”
I hope I am not intruding by referring to the past, but I had indeed forgotten it till to-day, when I dropped upon it, and I just copy it down, as I then wrote it, after getting to Ambleside.
With kind love and duty to Mrs. Martineau, I beg you to accept the same from
Your humble and affectionate servant,
It was to this servant, whom she always mentioned as “my dear Martha,” that her mistress wrote the following letter while in near prospect of death.
Ambleside, March 31.
Dear Martha, —
I have been anxious for some time to send you a line under my own hand, and now I do it, partly to thank you for your very interesting and gratifying letter to me, and partly to ask your acceptance of a little gift from me which I hope to send by the next post (as I cannot put in the packet on a Sunday). It is a brooch containing a bit of my hair. We cut off my long hair lately, and I knew you would like to have a piece, so I had it set in a brooch; and I send it now, not at all knowing how long I may be able to hold converse with you in any way.
You are fully aware of my state, I believe, — that I may live for even many months; but that it is more probable that I shall go off suddenly in one of the sinking fits which occur every few days. . . . . But we all think the sudden and easier ending the more probable. One does not think of having any personal wishes in matters so serious and solemn; but when I consider my dear nieces (Maria especially as head nurse), and the sacrifices they are making for me, and the anxiety to so many friends of my being in so precarious a state, and, I may add, my own former experience of long illness, I certainly feel that the end, whenever it comes, will be a welcome release.
I have no great suffering, though of course I never feel well, and often very ill, — with the strange ailments which attend a disordered circulation and an irregular action of the heart. But there is nothing which prevents our being as cheerful a little household as you could easily find. We have no concealments, and we do not wish any thing in our lot to be otherwise than as it is. We employ ourselves, and enjoy the beauty of the valley; and one friend or relation comes after another. Sister Higginson came first; then Mr. Atkinson for a month; then my brother Robert, who left us to-day; and next, my sister, his wife, will come in Susan’s place. My sister Rachel I saw in London. Elizabeth and Caroline are as kind and good as can be, and so is your brother.* I have taken care that my good servants shall be protected and assisted after my death, as I have told him. I am so happy to think, dear Martha, that you look back on your abode here as a not unprofitable time, — morally. It is a great pleasure to believe that, at that important period of your life, you were able to derive benefit from your position, and I thank you for giving me the pleasure of telling me so. Of my affection for you, you need no fresh assurance. If this should be the last time of my writing to you, accept from me, with confidence, the assurance of the love of
Your affectionate friend,
My kind regards and wishes to your good husband.
TO MRS. MARTINEAU.
My dear Madam, —
It is with a great deal of feeling that I attempt these few lines, as it possibly may be the last time. Still I think that if you are able to be calm and cheerful in the near prospect of death, surely I ought not to be unhappy or selfish; and I wish again to express my thanks to you for the many lessons I have learnt from you. I only wish I was able to carry them out more efficiently. All the instruction I received from you comes fresh into my mind. One great principle was love and forbearance with others, not to be so rash in judging others, — suspicious, &c., which I remember I was, very strongly, when I first came to live with you. Then the lessons on calmness and patience under trouble, — the desire for honesty in every sense of the word. These things I have endeavoured to work upon, and now I try to use the same influence on the minds of those under my power. But your influence, of course, was greater than I can expect to have, because I felt that strong love for you which not many servants have or can have, because they and their employers are differently situated. I have often thought of the great dangers we were exposed to, had it not been for your love and kindness to us.
Then to act conscientiously to our own hurt. I earnestly wish this noble principle was more taught. What a different state of society there would be!
I hope you will forgive my troubling you. Please to accept my warmest love. I hope you may yet be spared for some time to the world and those that love you. I can say with truth that the kind attentions I have received have not increased my pride or my ambition. I feel thankful and humble. This lesson also I have learnt from you.
With many thanks for all the past, I remain, my dear madam,
The guests at The Knoll were often impressed by the devotedness they witnessed of both mistress and maids. One of these, a visitor from America, who had, as the friend of the mistress, received much attention from the maid, wrote to her afterwards, with a gift distinctively American, — a gold eagle.
Twenty years of such service justifies such a reply. The handwriting is that of a person of cultivation; and guests were always prompt to say, in view of this devotedness,
- “How well in thee appears
- The constant service of the antique world.”
May 15, 1873.
Dear Madam, —
I really do not feel equal to express my gratitude for your beautiful letter. The contents surprised me very much. Please accept hearty thanks for your handsome present, and for what you so touchingly allude to in my long service at The Knoll. I hope to spend it in “remembrance of you.”
I feel sure it will be a comfort to you to know that our prospects are getting brighter. I need scarcely add it has been a most trying time since Miss Jane M. left us. Her illness has been a terrible sorrow to my mistress, but I am happy to say she now begins to take comfort and courage again. The last three months there is much more ease and quiet. I had the pleasure of going over to Leamington to see Miss Jane the week before last, and found she was really getting on, and she assured me she felt conscious of returning strength, and the great object of her life is to come back to us. She longs to be by her aunt’s side again: there is such a strong union of affection between them, that I trust they will be united again.
My mistress is in real delight about the steady improvement, and is quite content to wait. Of course we do our very best for her, and she often tells me we are very kind to her, and there is hardly any thing she does not praise in those around her.
I sometimes feel I should ill deserve many blessings if I indulged in any regret, and daily I preserve a tranquillity which I earnestly hope may not be construed into indifference. I regard my mistress with as much reverence as I do affection, and look upon it as a bright privilege to do all I can for her in my humble way; indeed, it is a pleasure to me!
I often wish you could see her, she is such a handsome old lady. The cap you sent her makes her look almost divine. I’m quite sure she is much better since taking the phosphate you sent. We go on so regularly and comfortably! but at the same time there is little strength to struggle with difficulties.
With renewed thanks for your kindness, and wishing you health and happiness,
I remain, gratefully and respectfully,
It was not her fame only, but also her delight in the exercise of hospitality, that drew around her so many guests. She was most anxious to receive the friends of her American life. The Hutchinson family — the sweet singers of our American Israel — sung to her upon her own lawn at The Knoll the songs of her other beloved land. Either to Tynemouth or The Knoll came almost all the early abolitionists. To her came Sumner in his youth, and received from her an introduction to her numerous London friends; and so many others came that it were in vain to try to name them all. “She is so — well, fascinating!” they all said; “there is no other word for her.”
There are some inconveniences, however, attending a great fame, a reputation for hospitality, and a general benevolence. As, for example, when her maid saw carriages descending, the occupants standing up with their heads stretched forward in search of The Knoll, she could not help being impressed with an idea that they must needs be admitted. “Caroline is so softhearted!” said her mistress to an old friend, an inmate for the time being; “visitors tell her they cannot go away without seeing me, when I am too much engaged or too ill perhaps to receive them.” “But what can I do, ma’am?” interrupts Caroline. “What can I do when they tell me they worship you, ma’am! and that they were brought up upon your works! — they have come from ever so far and from every where to see you!” And Caroline could seldom help fairly yielding up the castle.
Mrs. Parkinson, the old woman who lived in the cottage near the gate, used to say, “If I had a penny for every time they stop the coachman to ask where Miss Martineau lives, I should be a rich woman.”
Hither it was that statesmen came across the country for an interchange of thought with her; here it was that she wrote the Autobiography; and some few of them, who were trusted and valued friends, were privileged to read it. One of these was the Earl of Carlisle, who read it with the feelings he thus expresses, for “such an infidel” as herself: —
London, December 12, 1855.
My dear Miss Martineau, —
It is difficult to read your account of yourself with a serenity like your own. I most earnestly trust that the decline may be gentle and painless.
I should wish you to be entirely guided by your own judgment and inclination in inserting or omitting any thing about myself, only be assured I could never have the baseness or the blindness to shrink from such companionship.
I should have much liked to see you again, and to visit you in your gabled and terraced abode, but this must not be for the present, at least, as I am just setting out again for my island.
May that spirit of love and justice to which I believe you have always wished to be faithful be evermore with you.
Yours very sincerely,
Notwithstanding her suffering condition during the twenty years preceding her death, and the amount of literary and other work she did, I suppose no one ever welcomed so many visitors of all classes, from the highest to the lowest. The heart-failure under which she laboured made it sometimes impossible to admit those she most wished to see; and to one of them she expressed her regret as she felt it, strongly: —
“I would willingly die for the pleasure of seeing you; but if it should kill me, it would make you unhappy for life.”
Charlotte Brontë, for whom Mrs. Martineau cherished a deep affection, was previous to this time a guest at The Knoll. She gives her sister Emily an account of that visit, — the second event in their earlier acquaintance. She says: —
“I am at Miss Martineau’s for a week. Her house is very pleasant both within and without; arranged at all points with admirable neatness and comfort. Her visitors enjoy the most perfect liberty; what she claims for herself she allows them. I rise at my own hour, breakfast alone. . . . . I pass the morning in the drawing-room, she in her study. At two o’clock we meet, talk and walk till five, — her dinner-hour, — spend the evening together, when she converses fluently and abundantly, and with the most complete frankness. I go to my own room soon after ten, and she sits up writing letters. She appears exhaustless in strength and spirits, and indefatigable in the faculty of labour: she is a great and good woman; of course not without peculiarities, but I have seen none as yet that annoy me. She is both hard and warm hearted, abrupt and affectionate. I believe she is not at all conscious of her own absolutism. When I tell her of it, she denies the charge warmly; then I laugh at her. I believe she almost rules Ambleside. Some of the gentry dislike her, but the lower orders have a great regard for her. . . . . I have truly enjoyed my visit here. . . . . Miss Martineau I relish inexpressibly. . . . .
“She is certainly a woman of wonderful endowments, both intellectual and physical; and though I share few of her opinions, and regard her as fallible on certain points of judgment, I must still award her my sincerest esteem. The manner in which she combines the highest mental culture with the nicest discharge of feminine duties filled me with admiration; while her affectionate kindness earned my gratitude. . . . . I think her good and noble qualities far outweigh her defects. It is my habit to consider the individual apart from his (or her) reputation; practice independent of theory; natural disposition isolated from acquired opinion. Harriet Martineau’s person, practice, and character inspire me with the truest affection and respect.”
After another visit at The Knoll she writes thus: —
“Of my kind hostess herself I cannot speak in terms too high. Without being able to share all her opinions, — philosophical, political, or religious, — without adopting her theories, I yet find a worth and greatness in herself, and a consistency and benevolence and perseverance in her practice, such as win the sincerest esteem and affection. She is not a person to be judged by her writings alone, but rather by her own deeds and life, than which nothing can be more exemplary or nobler. She seems to me to be the benefactress of Ambleside, yet takes no sort of credit to herself for her active and indefatigable philanthropy. The government of her household is admirably administered; all she does is well done, from the writing of a history down to the quietest feminine occupation. No sort of carelessness or neglect is allowed under her rule, and yet she is not over-strict, or too rigidly exacting; her servants and her poor neighbours love as well as respect her.
“I need not, however, fall into the error of talking too much about her, merely because my mind is just now deeply impressed with what I have seen of her intellectual power and moral worth.”
There Charlotte Brontë saw Mr. Atkinson, who had been described to her as a combination of the Greek sage of antiquity with the modern European man of science.
“But,” she says, “he serenely denies us our hope in immortality, and quietly blots from man’s future, heaven and the life to come. That is why a savour of bitterness seasoned my feeling towards him.”
No wonder that, with such a predisposition, she should herself have been disturbed and distressed by the publication of “The Letters.”
They had talked of Comte, on whose lectures Mrs. Martineau was then engaged; she had admired the laborious devotedness which could compel into an English existence a work so utterly opposite in character to the impressive fictions that occupied her own mind, but she was too strongly bound to the past to be willing to cast a thought beyond its vague shadows on futurity. She accepted, as it was natural for a clergyman’s daughter to do, the clerical declarations that philosophy was atheism; and so she told her friend. Harriet Martineau’s affection was in no way impaired by this. She thanks her friend warmly for the frankness of the letter, saying, —
“It charmed me, and I thank you for it. Only one remark. I have no objection to words, when, as you do, people understand things; but I am not an atheist according to the settled meaning of the term. An atheist is ‘one who rests in second causes,’ who supposes things that he knows to be made or occasioned by other things that he knows. This seems to me complete nonsense; and this Bacon condemns as the stupidity of atheism. I cannot conceive the absence of a First Cause; but then I contend that it is not a person, i. e. that it is to the last degree improbable, and that there is no evidence of its being so. Now, though the superficial, ignorant, and prejudiced will not see this distinction, you will; and it will be clear to you what scope is left for awe and reverence under my faith.”
This extract is from a very long letter, full of news and pleasant thoughts, ending thus: —
“My lecture was upon Wickliffe; — was in raptures with it. Now I must go to my proofs, my dear. How I like to think that I have you, be you any where from atheist to Latter-day Saint; I don’t care, as long as you love me, without regard to the results of the understanding.”
More correspondence there was, and it was not on this ground that Charlotte Brontë felt for a time repelled from her friend. She had earnestly adjured Harriet Martineau to give her a full and frank opinion of her novel, “Vilette;” and, however affectionately and thoughtfully given, it was only the more painful to the receiver, seeing that it confirmed the current and more roughly expressed opinion of the world. Greater experience than Miss Brontë possessed would come to her, doubtless Harriet Martineau thought, in season to correct the fault in question.
It is painful to remember that Charlotte Brontë did not live to profit by the just criticism she had so ardently evoked. More knowledge of some kinds would in all probability have shown her its justice. But death prevented the two friends from again meeting.
The affectionate fear of the younger that the publication of “The Letters” might deprive H. Martineau of valued friends proved entirely unfounded.
Perhaps the best way of correcting certain mistakes that are noticeable in periodicals, even to this day, is to insert this letter from Harriet Martineau to the editor of “Men of the Time.”
Ambleside, March 22, 1856.
Mr. Murray is always glad to receive information of mistakes in his hand-books; and I presume you wish to be made aware of all such serious errors in your “Men of the Time” as may discredit a work upon so excellent a plan. The mistakes of fact in the notice of myself are so numerous, and I must say so inexcusable, considering the means of information that exist in print, that you ought to be informed of them on authority, in order to their rectification. If allowed to remain, such mistakes discredit the whole work, as is the case already with my family and friends, who ask how they can trust any part of the book, when any one memoir is so unnecessarily full of errors.
1. My forefathers were not manufacturers, but surgeons. It was that profession which descended from generation to generation.
2. There was no silk manufacturer in Norwich till after my father’s death, and the removal of the family from the city. My father (the first manufacturer of the family) was a bombazine and camlet manufacturer.
3. This is the most important mistake of all, because it deprives my parents of honour due to them. My education was not of the “limited character” imputed. On the contrary, my parents gave their children, girls as well as boys, an education of a very high order, including sound classical instruction and training. What the family have done is sufficient evidence that their education was not of “a limited character.”
4. It was in 1834 that I went to America.
5. “Deerbrook” has been more popular than almost any of my works, and has gained a higher reputation than any other. It has gone through two large editions (a rare thing for a novel) and I have disposed of it for a third.
6. Lord Grey never offered me a pension. The one which was at first proposed was not £150, but £300.
7. It was at the end of 1842, and not 1853, that my medical man declared me incurably ill.
8. Rev. James Martineau was not of the party to the East, or ever in the East at all. The names of the party are given in my “Eastern Life.”
9. Mr. Atkinson is not a “Mesmerist,” but a philosophical student, and a gentleman of independent fortune. The standing of the “Letters on Man’s Nature and Development” is, in point of fact, as different as possible from that groundlessly asserted in the memoir.
10. My version of Comte does not close the list of my labours.
11. One of the best received and most important of my books is not mentioned, — “Household Education.”
12. Nobody has witnessed “flashes of wit” from me. The giving me credit for wit shows that the writer is wholly unacquainted with me. . . . .
Now, what will you do? Of course, you will not allow proved errors to continue to circulate uncontradicted. Will you cancel these notices, or print this letter, or what will you do?
You are probably aware that I am mortally ill. I have written and got printed an Autobiography, which will be published immediately after my death. But this does not affect the case, as your notice will then be withdrawn. It is the interval between this time and that, that you have to provide for: and I hope to hear, before I decide on a public contradiction, what course you propose to take.
It is hardly necessary to add that the editor of “Men of the Time” was much obliged by the corrections, and profited by them immediately.
When I consented to Harriet Martineau’s desire that I should make such additions as I judged proper to her Autobiography, I entreated her to allow me the publication of such letters as I might select from her correspondence with myself. The following is her reply, with this preliminary note: —
“For publication if you wish it.”
Ambleside, June 11, 1855.
My dear Friend, —
You desire my permission to publish, after my death, certain letters of mine to yourself. Mr. Atkinson desires permission to give you some of my letters to him for publication. I give you my sanction with entire willingness, and I hope you will employ it as freely as you like in regard to these two sets of letters.
Such use of them is perfectly consistent with the principle on which I have forbidden, in my will, the unauthorized publication of my private correspondence. That interdict is grounded on the objection that all freedom and security in epistolary correspondence are destroyed by the liability that unreserved communication may hereafter become public. No such danger is incurred when writer and receiver agree to make known what they have said to each other. There would be no fireside confidence if téte-à-tête conversation were liable to get abroad, through some third person thinking what he had overheard might be useful. But if the two talkers agree to say elsewhere what they have said to each other, there can be no possible objection to their doing so.
You have, therefore, my full permission to make any use you please of any thing I have written to you; and Mr. Atkinson has the same, as I am going to tell him.
“Christianity, I conceive, is to be re-established by clear development of its original essential truths. No religion can now prevail which is not plainly seen to minister to our noblest sentiments and powers, and unless Christianity fulfils this condition I cannot wish it success.”
“There is no condition in life, no degree of talent, no form of principle, which affords protection against an accusation [as of Atheism] that levels conditions, confounds characters, renders men’s virtues their sins, and rates them as dangerous in proportion as they have influence, though attained in the noblest manner and used for the best purposes.”
— Walter Scott.
“But the commandment of knowledge is yet higher than the commandment over the will: for it is a commandment over the reason, belief, and understanding of man, which is the highest part of the mind, and giveth law to the will itself. For there is no power on earth which setteth up a throne or chair of state in the spirits and souls of men, and in their cogitations, imaginations, opinions, and beliefs, but knowledge and learning.”
Harriet Martineau, by independent thought, study, and travel having arrived at an ascent whence a wider view of existence became visible to her; and Mr. Atkinson, after long study and induction, having attained, by a new application of an old method, the knowledge for which she was labouring, it followed, after her cure by the means he recommended to the lady whose mesmeric patient she had been, that he became a personal acquaintance, a coadjutor in philosophical pursuits, and ultimately a most valued friend. He was not “a mesmerist,” but a philosophical student of all natural phenomena; and, being a gentleman of independent fortune, was at liberty to devote himself entirely to the examination of facts and the search for truth.
It was he who, Margaret Fuller thought, possessed “a fine instinctive nature:” —
“A man of about thirty; in the fulness of his powers; tall and finely formed, with a head for Leonardo to paint; mild and composed, but thoughtful and sagacious; he does not think, but perceives and acts. He is intimate with artists, having studied architecture himself, as a profession. . . . . Sometimes stationary and acting in the affairs of other men, sometimes wandering about the world and learning, — he seems bound by no tie, and yet looks as if he had relations in every place.”
It ought, however, to be noted, that Mr. Atkinson, though so rapid in thought, was pre-eminently a thinker; possessing that faculty of clear, methodical explanation of the essence, the nature, and the qualities of things, that Plato rates so highly.
The results of research on the part of Harriet Martineau and himself, as given in “The Letters” they conjointly published, were popularly called “views;” but having had warning sufficient that common fame is as deceitful as the human heart, and sometimes as desperately wicked, I determined not to rely upon it; and I frankly asked Mr. Atkinson what were his “views.” Hers I had already learned: and it seemed but fair to ask the question of himself, and thus avoid the mistake of asking one person to make a confession of faith for another. “The Letters” told what views were held in common; but each being independent in mind, it seemed needful and desirable to one deeply interested in the premises to learn what each thought at first hand.
This was Mr. Atkinson’s reply both to my inquiries respecting our dear friend’s now failing health, and touching his philosophical views: —
MR. ATKINSON TO MRS. CHAPMAN.
May 29, 1856.
My dear Mrs. Chapman, —
Thanks for your kind note. I like to see what you say of our dear friend; and she is a dear friend, and I do not know what we shall do without her. It seems almost unnatural that such a fine nature and clear perception should be dying away like a flower, astonishing us with its great beauty for an hour, and then gone for ever.
But to question the ways of nature according to the demands of the human heart is the province of the poet, not the duty of the philosopher. The philosopher must leave the little nook of his own nature, and study and learn obedience to the divine law discovered on a wider view. It is this peeping out from under the cover of self that has given to our friend Harriet Martineau this wide range of view and this superiority, in a corrected sense of the end and order of nature. She is not an investigator, a discoverer in science, but she is, strictly speaking, a philosopher, as a lover of truth in a highly practical sense, for the sake of mankind. She is not an original philosophic genius, but her artistic power and ability to learn is extraordinary: and more extraordinary still is the power of seizing on salient points, and reproducing in a clear form what has been imperfectly stated by others.
But it is not my purpose now to go into the statement of what I think of her intellect and character and the scope of her powers. This is not what you have asked me. You may be sure that I quite assent to your proposition that, had our friend possessed a less pure and elevated nature, she would have been better understood, and more certainly received the praise of the multitude; more especially in relation to that brave exercise of her free nature in expressing opinions which she conscientiously believed for the ultimate good of mankind. That the views promulgated should be mistaken and maligned (as you notice) is of small consequence. It could not, in the nature of things, have been otherwise. All improved and true views, and almost all discoveries, have been at first opposed and maligned; so that Bacon very properly says, “There is no worse augury in intellectual matters than that derived from unanimity,” with the exception of divinity and politics where suffrages are allowed to decide. For nothing pleases the multitude unless it strike the imagination or bind down the understanding with the shackles of vulgar notions. Hence we may well transfer Phocion’s remark from morals to the intellect, “that men should immediately examine what error or fault they have committed when the multitude concurs with and applauds them.” Again, says Bacon, “to speak plainly, no correct judgment can be formed, either of our method or its discoveries, by those anticipations which are now in common use; for it is not to be required of us to submit ourselves to the judgment of the very method we ourselves arraign.” Hence there is nothing for it but to submit to the misinterpretation and disapproval of the old world we are leaving behind us.
I hope it is no presumption to say this. I merely speak after the manner and spirit of Lord Bacon, as one who has endeavoured to carry forward his principles. But as to those who speak or think or write in a harsh and presumptuous spirit of my views, I would remind them that “they who live in glass houses should not throw stones;” for they may be sure they will find it difficult to make good their own ground, either from a moral or an intellectual point of view.
If you ask what I am, I should say, a rationalist; that I take my view from the point of reason. Or I may say I am a naturalist; as opposed to the non-natural or supernaturalists; that man is a reasoning being, and that his progress in power and excellence depends on his acquired knowledge of nature; — of nature in general, but of human nature in particular. I see and feel that logic or reason implies the fixity of principles; and hence we speak of eternal truths, and of universal laws; and until we perceive the absolute necessity of things being just what they are, and the impossibility of their being different in law and principle, we have a sense undeveloped and are neither philosophers nor, strictly speaking, natural beings. “Neither is it possible” (says Bacon) “for any power to loosen or burst the chain of causes, nor is nature to be overcome, except by submission.” Because the power of man over nature, and over his own nature, rests in his knowledge of causes; and the province of the philosopher is to trace all effects to their causes in nature, to their material causes and conditions, in order to the discovery of the laws concerned. And there is no possibility of an exception to causation. Hence the notion of an interfering providence, acting by results and by a free-will, is sheer nonsense; the shallow and dangerous dreaming of unenlightened and unphilosophic minds. But the study of human nature must be pursued as a pure science: for the human mind in general, like the separate senses, is subject to error, the correction of which imperfection cannot arise out of meditation, but must be sought by experiment in deep investigation into causes, and by the analogies of knowledge. We require a new mode of investigation, another range of facts; for the attempt to understand human nature by reasoning and by simple abstract reflection, without a scientific procedure by experiment and observation by which to trace effects to their causes, is absurd. We may as well try to live by the study of the multiplication-table, leaving out all respect of the loaves and fishes.
Bacon finely admonishes: “But if any individual desire, and is anxious not merely to adhere to and make use of present discoveries, but to penetrate still further, and not to overcome his adversaries by disputes, but nature by labour; not, in short, to give elegant and specious opinions, but to know to a certainty and demonstration, let him, as a true son of science, join with us; that when he has left the antechambers of Nature trodden by the multitude, an entrance may at last be discovered to her inner apartments.” But then, granting all this, our good friends or enemies of the old world may say, “What becomes of those sentiments of our nature that have been exercised in religion?” I reply, that those sentiments that have been misdirected by error, and crushed by folly and degrading and hideous notions; which have been little better than a jingle of words, will spring up again unimpeded, — a new growth of beautiful flowers in our path; for our philosophy is —
- “Not harsh and crabbed as dull fools suppose,
- But musical as is Apollo’s lute.”
But in speaking of the philosophical method and of the development of the sentiments, you must consider that I speak of myself alone, and do not answer for our friend’s agreeing with me implicitly. For in using common terms, such as religion or spirit, she thinks I shall be misunderstood.
In Froude’s article* you will find a reference to Appendix O (of “The Letters”), which I wrote purposing to soften any ill impression and prevent misinterpretation. But our friend thinks the terms were misinterpreted by Froude; or, as she expresses herself to-day, in a note in reply to what I told her I should write to you, that “they will be supposing the old bottles to hold the old wine.” “To be sure, if they read you as a whole, paying due attention to every part, they could not make the mistake; but then people are so run away with by sounds and associations!” This is quite true, but we cannot invent new terms for the sentiments; and by dropping such terms as religion, spirituality, and the like, we shall be equally misinterpreted, in another way, and be called dull, cold, unimpassioned atheists, dry reasoning materialists, and indeed be found wanting in the faculties and feelings more or less common to the human race. But with this caution people must be indolent indeed if they misunderstand me. True philosophy, in an emotional sense, may be termed an affection of the mind, obedient to the highest reason; but this can hardly be entertained by those who, as Plutarch says, “retain the foolish and frightful opinions they received in infancy.” And when I speak of the old world, it must be understood that the old world is, in reality, the young world. My opinion is, then, that philosophy rightly felt as well as understood is deeply reverential, and a profoundly pure religion, and the only high and elevating religion; the only religion completely discarding idol-worship and selfish principles; the only religion that distinctly excludes pride, in the humbling sense of our being wholly dependent on causes, which, in their effects, appear as a uniform, perpetual, and universal miracle, in the wondrous working of an incomprehensible something we term power, or fundamental nature, or the nature of nature, as Bacon calls it; or the first cause, more commonly termed (or can be termed) miraculous: — this idea of power, meanwhile, in contradistinction to our sensational experience, recognizing the course of effects; which sensational appearances (effects) again, from their order and beauty, rivet attention and claim a tribute from the feelings. The contemplation, referring to the cause or power, is wonder, or knowledge broken off. The contemplation of the effect is admiration and exquisite enjoyment. But these sentiments with which I am so solemnly impressed are not to be explained in a few lines; may easily, as our friend fears, be mistaken; and are hardly to be comprehended by those under the dreary slavery of old superstitions, where power is personified and evil is personified, just as Beauty, Time, Strength, and Fleetness were personified in the heathen mythology. People still rest among the same or similar delusions, the “spirit” of power being shaded off into three distinctions, opposed by the Devil, who really seems to have had it pretty much his own way; and in the last day is to get the lion’s share of the poor human race, for eternal damnation. Now I really don’t think our view of things, which excludes this fearful demon, and damnation, can be so very offensive. But if I am to be damned here and hereafter for discrediting the Devil, I cannot help it.
Yet if we would seek that spirit of excellence, of wisdom, and of power, that eternal reason or mind in nature, or the inspired word that is spoken from the depths of human nature, it must be, as it were, by an invocation of the enlightened conscience; by an appeal to the untrammelled understanding; by a deep and devoted love of all that is virtuous and most noble; by a reverential love of beauty and excellence in every form; and by a strict fidelity to truth and honour: for truth must be considered what Plato terms it, “the body of God; and light, as his shadow.” The religion of philosophy should pervade our whole being, and prevail throughout our whole life, and under all circumstances: should be seen in the artist devoutly conscientious towards that nature which he so loves; in the statesman’s disinterested labour for the good of mankind; in the merchant’s undeviating honest course; nay, in fact, must be seen in a growth towards true magnanimity, and in the abnegation of self, and in the respectful feeling of every man towards his fellow-man.
The great privilege of the freethinker being in the pursuit of knowledge as of an enterprise, and, freed from error, to learn wisdom in a deeper devotion to truth, and for its own sake as well as for the good of mankind, depend upon it we shall not by any power in reason, or, as it were, jugglery of the intellect, rob human nature of its devotional feeling and hero-worship. We must love, though, alas! that love may be often blind and misplaced. We shall retain self-respect, though we cease to have pride. We shall retain the desire of approbation, though freed from the slavery of vanity. So also of the devotional feelings: they will retain a sphere of action and acquire a more healthy vigour, when no longer perverted and misdirected by the belief in the silly fables of the ancients. Be sure the devotional feelings will not wither away and perish when we awake from the long dream, and have cast down the idols that have so long disgraced the altar, and trampled hell under our feet, and extinguished its “eternal fires,” putting to flight all the lies and blasphemies consequent upon those erroneous opinions established by the blind ignorance of the infant world.
Some mean by philosophy the being raised above, or the becoming indifferent to, the accidents of life; or the being, as it were, a law unto yourself. Thus we speak of a person bearing a matter philosophically; we never say a person bears a misfortune religiously, because few of the old religions teach fortitude, but chiefly compensation and the low principle of reward and punishment for “poor miserable sinners.” But supposing I call the fortitude of philosophy the religion, and the compensation doctrine a worldly and vain philosophy: — shall I be misunderstood? And when I say that philosophy by knowledge is erecting a strong mansion, while the old religions are but propping up a tottering house that was built on a shifting sand-heap, let it not for an instant be supposed that philosophy ends in the reasoning ourselves out of ancient beliefs; for a clearance from such beliefs is simply opening the way, and making it possible for us to pursue philosophy, somewhat as the musician runs down the keys to make silence ere he begins his song. And let none pride themselves in the goodness of their natures, though there be some that truly seem, by the beauty of this form, to be a law unto themselves; but let even these remember that the best minds are most capable of being improved, and that those who have pronounced on the value of philosophy have been the giants of the world, some of the noblest and the best of mankind. The pride of supposing we can discern good from evil without knowledge was the ignorant pride fabled in the fall of Adam.
Granting, then, the beauty and the value of knowledge, the next question is, what kind of knowledge it is we are chiefly in want of, and how this is to be acquired: and for a reply to this I refer you to my published letters to Harriet Martineau; for the critics on those letters have discussed what they do not like, but have not endeavoured to comprehend that which would lead them to something better than they at present like: and instead of their becoming, by the force of a native and wild reason, sceptical of ancient beliefs, they shall become acquainted with facts which will exhibit the nature of the delusion, and the reason of those follies which have so beset and perverted the human understanding. For by a new range of fact, and by another method alone, is it possible for us to attain a knowledge of human nature, and of those differences, similitudes, and orders which are the elements of a true science; but which attained, we shall then define clearly the meaning of “the flesh warring against the spirit,” and of that inspiration speaking, as it were, out of the depth of our nature; and by the study of abnormal conditions, and by a new view and experimenting, learn the true laws of our being, and thence attain practical rules for our guidance; calmly considering the facts, yet patiently waiting upon further discoveries; earnest and attentive as a little child beginning to learn, and hopeful as a child with the world of knowledge all undiscovered before it, and humble as a child that, feeling its own weakness, seeks knowledge and protection from without, ever from its “mother,” — that is, from truth, — and from knowledge, which has been termed the mind of that nature which is our universal parent. And the man who thinks himself sufficient unto himself is only a little child who in sheer ignorance and folly thinks itself wiser than its parents.
I have been called sceptical, and at the same time credulous; and certainly I am very sceptical of opinions derived from the dark ages, and am somewhat credulous in respect of the value of knowledge and the progress of the race when more enlightened; and if people choose to consider me credulous for relating simply, and without haste or ostentation, what I have witnessed and carefully studied for so many years, for believing, in fact, that which I know to be true, I cannot help it. But as I am not one who lives after the opinions of others, I can very well afford to leave the matters I have advanced to be credited and proved in due course, when men, instead of uttering indolent criticism, choose to investigate. And if I am not orthodox in science any more than in religion, I cannot help it; and I remember what has been said about this: “Orthodoxy is my doxy, and heterodoxy is any body else’s doxy.” I have no doubt but Franklin was thought credulous, in believing that he brought down electricity from the passing cloud to ring the little bell by his side. And, it may be, he was thought sceptical in not afterwards believing thunder to be the voice of God. We must submit to the conditions of men’s minds and the judgment of our times. But the philosopher need no longer waste his time in contending with error and folly, but devote himself entirely to the study of nature, and to the tracing of effects to their natural causes in order to discover their laws of action, in which is hidden power. Formerly men put lance in rest to uphold the virtue of their wives or the beauty of their mistresses; and engaged in what were strangely termed holy wars, in defence of their religion; and philosophers were not wholly free from this contentious spirit; simply because they were not yet free from the errors of the divine and the metaphysician, and brought down upon their knees to the study of nature out of the little world of their own thoughts, as nature ought to be studied and in the only way in which it can be understood and rightly interpreted; and to the study of human nature in particular as a pure science. And if philosophy was such a glorious pursuit, as understood and practised by those noble minds in olden times (before the forced paralysis of the understanding by theology and its professors) by those first natural rulers of the race who shone out like stars in the night and early dawn of the world’s history, what may not philosophy become when wholly purified of a debasing and obstructive theology, with all the follies and dissolving-views and phantasmagoria of metaphysics (as metaphysics has been as yet considered); and when all truth shall be felt to be divine, and philosophy to be divinity itself, that is, to be the science of divine things, — a science exhibiting the nature and laws of man’s constitution, and the sure and only means of attaining to a higher state of existence, each according to his talent and inherent capacity: and if all do not become equally great, at least the rule for all will be the highest; and from the moral and intellectual assent to this there will be no exception among cultivated and sane minds. Only think what glorious old Socrates would be, were he now one among us, — learning his misleading error about the clairvoyance of the oracles, which he could not then suppose was any thing else but the word of a god, nor think that voice within was his own nature prompting him. How could he then judge but after the popular belief, and conclude it to be an attendant demon? For the great difficulty in the progress of mind and the science of the mind is, that the error and impediment preventing clear seeing can only be cleared away by the very light which is obscured by the error. Hence the course of the mind’s progress, until fairly cleared of all superstition, could not but be devious and slow, — falling upon truth step by step and from age to age, as it were by accident.
O, it will be a strange sight to watch the last spasms of dying superstition, — the superstition of the scientific! And the High Church will go ahead of the freethinkers, as the tories often go ahead of the “liberals” in politics. We have Cardinal Wiseman in his lectures now taking phrenology under his protection, preaching the all-importance of philosophy; but it won’t do. New wine may not be put into old bottles; and it is vain to expect any great progress in the science by the superinducing or ingrafting new matters upon the old. An instauration must be made from the very foundation, if we do not wish to revolve in a circle; but theologians will be driven to desperate efforts to reconcile new truth with their ancient belief; and they will pretend to be the very first to welcome the very matters they have been so violently opposing. Yes — we may well smile to observe the shifts that are made to appear consistent and to consider how it must all end, just by letting the responsibility slip away, — leaving the priest of dogma and of form and ceremonies, a reformed man, — the deep-feeling and devoted priest of all holy and virtuous natures; in a word, a true philosopher, sagacious and full of wisdom, — that empress of knowledge. He will have left the shifting sand-heap for the solid rock; belief for knowledge; and in a position demonstrably true, as founded on the clear logical condition of the mind, and in the pursuit of truth, finding universal evidence of that logical position; and, as the end of all, displaying the true and natural bent, meaning, and realization of all man’s fondest hopes and highest aspirations.
It is now time to stop and apologize for the bad writing. If I have not rightly understood your question, pray ask me any thing further you may wish me to explain.
I fear this our dear friend is something worse, but you will have an account from herself by the post which brings you this.
Believe me, with great regard, very sincerely yours,
HENRY G. ATKINSON.
P. S. I should like to draw your attention to Appendix O, in “The Letters.”
The following letter from Mr. Atkinson finds its best place here, though twenty years intervene. Not in vain is the appeal to Time, —
- “Sole philosopher,
- For all besides are sophists.”
Boulogne-sur-Mer,August 23, 1876.
Dear Mrs. Chapman, —
The enclosed document will show you that Professor Tyndall’s views, as given in his famous Belfast Address, as president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, are precisely what was condemned in “The Letters” twenty-five years before.
Again, the one method, as applicable to all questions, physical and metaphysical, exemplified in “The Letters,” is now set forth by Dr. Maudsley, in his opening chapter on Method, in his great work on Man; and by Mr. George Henry Lewes, in his “Problems of Life and Mind;”* whilst the deep truth of unconscious cerebration or atomatic mind, as fundamental to the conscious accompaniments, has since been explained by Sir William Hamilton and Dr. Carpenter, as discoveries of their own, though clearly referred to in “The Letters.”
Then, again, all the wonders of mesmerism are being discussed in all the many newly founded psychological societies; whilst the late Mr. Jackson, in his opening address as President of the Glasgow Psychological Society, referred to my discovery of phreno-mesmerism as a matter of the deepest importance to psychology and the investigation of man’s nature; and even Professor Huxley has at length expressed his interest in mesmerism, which he says he heard so much of in his youth.
And our friend lived to know all this. And what a true prophet was her sympathizing friend Professor Gregory! And all this, I think, ought to be referred to in your own Memoir, as most certainly our friend would have been sure to do, and desired that you should do.
Yours very truly,
H. G. ATKINSON.
This was Professor Gregory of Edinburgh (long since dead), who wrote to Harriet Martineau as follows, on the publication of “The Letters:” —
“Although you and I may not live to see it, yet you may feel satisfied that, whether all your conclusions be subsequently established or not, no work has ever yet borne your name fit to be compared with ‘The Letters’ in its ultimate effect for good on the human race. We require to be roused from the lethargy of our priest-ridden mental slumber; and a more effectual rousing than that given by ‘The Letters’ it is not easy to imagine.”
In his letters to me Mr. Atkinson frequently expresses much indifference to any fame accruing from this priority of discovery:—
“What we do not discover somebody else will; and when progress is made the main point is secured.”
It was during this period that Harriet Martineau became interested in the philosophy of Auguste Comte, the great genius to whom so many have been indebted who have not, like her, acknowledged their obligations. She has told how she became associated with his “Philosophie Positive,” the great work of his devoted, uncompromising, severe life of poverty and toil.
His hopes of ultimate success in thinking out his system and presenting it to the world were at the highest, and his worldly fortunes, broken and blighted by the treatment to which the theological cast of Charles X.’s reign must needs subject one whose vocation it was to prove that the reign of theology was over, were at the lowest, when Harriet Martineau became acquainted with his name and works.
In consequence of the interest she expressed to me in his career, I inquired among my gay entourage in Paris who and what was Comte. “A poor worthless lecturer to about five hundred of the raggedest vagabonds in France,” was the frequent reply. The flower of the École Polytechnique, whose professor he had been till removed for his opinions, did not, however, agree in this judgment, and they taxed themselves at that crisis for his pecuniary support. Every where in English-speaking lands his philosophy was labouring under popular misunderstanding, though so clear to students and the scientific world, whether accepted or rejected.
The misunderstanding among those who only knew it by name was in part owing to the different shades of meaning attached to the word “positive,” which in popular English we make the equivalent of “dogmatical” or “unreasonably peremptory;” while in French it would be defined as what can be rigorously demonstrated from and sustained by facts. M. Comte used the term with regard to philosophy because it was the one that described the method hitherto used in the investigation of the special sciences which his system includes. When the persecution that makes even wise men mad had told upon a delicate frame, he was, in consequence of a brain fever, placed for many months of the year 1826 - 7, in a maison de santé; but he completely recovered his health, and went on with his deep and high thinking till he had produced the works which have not only immortalized his own name, but have opened the way for other men to positions which they adorn in the world of thought. This is not the place to say more of him than belongs to the point where the circle of his thought touched that of Harriet Martineau. She was drawn to the study of his works by the philosophical integrity which refused the slightest concession of his principles to the tyranny of his times, though under pressure from loss of place and means. “What is a great life?” is a question to which she must needs reply, with Alfred de Vigny, “A thought of youth realized in mature age.” And when any man on earth was seen struggling in adverse circumstances to realize the thoughts he deemed sacred, he was sure to be followed by Harriet Martineau’s help and blessing.
She has told how it came about that she was led to introduce M. Comte to the English-speaking world, but she has not told how he was impressed by the way in which she had interpreted his grand original work, the “Philosophie Positive.” But one learns from his own letters how highly he estimated the uprightness, the exactitude, and the sagacity shown in the long and difficult labour of translating and condensing a work which she considered as one of the chief honours of the age.
He is “grateful for the noble Preface,” in which she says that one reason for her undertaking the work is, “that most or all of the English writers who have added substantially to our knowledge for many years past are under obligations to this work, which they would have thankfully acknowledged but for fear of offending the prejudices of the society in which they live;” and therefore, “though his fame is safe, it does not seem to me right to assist in delaying the recognition of it till the author of so noble a service is beyond the reach of our gratitude and honour: and it is, besides, demoralizing to ourselves to accept and use such a boon as he has given us in a silence which is, in fact, ingratitude. His honours we cannot share: they are his own, and incommunicable. His trials we may share, and by sharing, lighten; and he has the strongest claim upon us for sympathy and fellowship in any popular disrepute which, in this case, as in all cases of signal social service, attends upon a first movement.”
A stronger reason for her undertaking was, that M. Comte’s work in its original form does no justice to its importance, even in France, much less in England; and she gave in two volumes what filled six volumes in the original lectures, with redundancies and repetitions. He thanks her for these judicious omissions, especially those which the advance of astronomical science made imperative. He sees that her work makes the “Philosophie Positive” known in a degree that he could never in his lifetime have hoped. And when it became a question of popularizing his principles in France, he gave the preference to her work over his own; and long years after his death, M. Avezac-Lavigne, one of his friends, wrote to her for permission to translate her work into French. The letter is here subjoined.
LETTER FROM M. AVEZAC-LAVIGNE TO H. MARTINEAU.
Bordeaux, le 23 Mai, 1871.
Vous n’ignorez pas, sans doute, que M. Comte a placé, parmi les livres devant former la bibliothèque d’un positiviste, votre traduction de son système de philosophie, à l’exclusion des six volumes qu’il avait composés. Cette substitution d’un livre en langue étrangère à son livre français a dû être amenée par des motifs puissants bien honorables pour vous. Mais, quoique parfaitement justifiée, la préférence de M. Comte ne pouvait pas avoir le résultat qu’il s’en était promis; car, en réalité, votre traduction, malgré son eminente valeur, ne devait trouver en France qu’un nombre très restreint de lecteurs, et les personnes qui désiraient connaître la philosophie positive continuaient à avoir recours aux six volumes de M. Comte. Or, la longueur de cet ouvrage, son prix élevé, et sa rareté, avant l’édition qu’en a donnée Germer Baillière, étaient des obstacles à son expansion; en sorte que, ni votre excellente traduction, ni l’ouvrage français ne devaient populariser la philosophie positive. En presence de cette difficulté, je formai le projet de traduire vos deux volumes, et c’est la première livraison de mon travail que j’aurai l’honneur de vous soumettre prochainement, afin que, si ce specimen vous agrée vous vouliez bien m’autoriser à publier le reste.
Mademoiselle, si j’ai pris la liberté de livrer à l’impression le premier fascicule, de 100 pages environ, sans vous en donner avis, c’est que j’ai pensé qu’il vous paraîtrait nécessaire de pouvoir apprécier, du moins d’après quelques pages, mon humble travail, dont, soit dit en passant, je n’espère retirer ni honneur ni profits. Dans la malheureuse phase que traverse la France, les esprits sont naturellement détournés des études abstraites, et cependant j’ai la conviction que si le livre de M. Comte avait été plus répandu, beaucoup de malheurs auraient ete épargnés à mon pauvre pays. C’est le motif que m’a fait perséverer dans l’entreprise que j’avais commencée avant la guerre, malgré les graves préoccupations qui m’agitaient, et j’espère que cette consideration contribuera a vous faire accueillir favorablement la demande que j’ai l’honneur de vous adresser.
Je suis avec respect, Mademoiselle, votre très humble et dévoué serviteur,
With a refreshing unconsciousness of her own superiority in scientific comprehension and expression, Mrs. Martineau caused this reply to be made: —
Your letter was forwarded to Mrs. H. Martineau by Messrs. Trubner & Co., which she begs me to acknowledge with her kind regards. I trust you will accept her reply through me, as she is unable to carry on all her correspondence with her own hand, and I am anxious to save her what fatigue of writing I can. My aunt begs me to say that she feels much interest in the subject of your letter, and hopes that you may be able to carry out the project you propose. On account of a long and suffering illness, from heart complaint, she has for many years lived a most secluded and quiet life. She has long given up public writing, and now with increasing weakness and old age she is obliged to withdraw from business of all kinds. I am therefore sorry to tell you that it is quite out of the question for her to grant your request, or to enter into the details of your work.
My aunt begs me to say that she did not insert any thing new in her version of M. Comte’s Lectures. This being the case, she asks whether it would not be a more simple plan for you also, instead of translating her two volumes into French, merely to compress the original? It appears to her to be the most effectual, as well as the easiest method to present the substance of M. Comte’s own words instead of through a double translation.
With best wishes believe me
J. S. M.
On first receiving her work, M. Comte had written at great length expressing to Harriet Martineau his gratitude and admiration, affirming that in sharing his labours she had become a sharer of his fame.
So too said M. Littré, his biographer, who, as a profound student of philosophy, and in every sense a savant, besides being an eminent physician, was in all respects qualified to make him known to the world as he really was in individual life. While appreciating his greatness and his wonderful powers of thought till age and disease overtook him, he does not shrink from such a detailed account of the latest phase of his life as justifies the inference that it was through physical failure that he fell back at last, — not into theology indeed, as the word is understood by the world at large, but into a theological method, which his real self would have condemned, and which, of itself, absolved his disciples, of whom M. Littré had been one, from elaborate care to show that they no longer agreed with him in his wanderings and retrogressions.
Harriet Martineau heard from a distance of his decline, and however pained by the evidence of failure in a brain that had been in middle life so strong, had ever the consolation of having done him justice and given him aid at a time when he could appreciate both. As the verdict of a qualified Englishman, it may be well to note that, after examining her presentation of Comte, Mr. Grote wrote to her thus: —
“I tell you of this piece of work of yours, not only that it is extremely well done, but that it could not be better done.”
Dr. Nichol, the astronomer, qualified by his life of science to form a judgment on such a work as this compression without loss (amounting, in fact, to a gain) of the “Philosophie Positive,” gave the subjoined expression of his opinion: —
My dear Miss Martineau, —
Most admirable! It quite surpasses my expectation. Your success is complete.
Yours ever truly,
J. P. NICHOL.
THE LIFE SORROW.
“It is not wonderful, therefore, if the bonds of antiquity, authority, and unanimity have so enchained the power of man, that he is unable (as if bewitched) to become familiar with things themselves.”
— Bacon,Nov. Org., Aph. 84.
“It does not become the spirit which characterizes the present age distrustfully to reject every generalization of views, and every attempt to examine into the nature of things by the process of reason and induction.”
— Humboldt,Introduction to Cosmos.
“Atrocitata mansuetudo est remedium.”
One consequence of Harriet Martineau’s publication of “The Laws of Man’s Nature and Development” was to bring most painfully before the public eye the great sorrow of her whole life, hitherto so well concealed from all but those who were compelled by proximity to know it, that I never before suspected its existence, intimate as the relation of our minds had been.
Now I learned, in common with the rest of the beholders, how heavy and how steadily borne, for the sake of all it concerned, this long-standing burden of private suffering had been, which Mr. James Martineau now brought before the world.
When in June, 1851, I visited London during the great Exhibition, I found in that circle of society most nearly in connection with Unitarianism a little buzzing commotion over “The Letters.” It surprised me, both as coming from a class pledged by principle and taught by persecution to respect the rights of opinion, and because accompanied in so many instances by assurances that the speaker had not read the book, yet knew it to be so very bad a one as to make it a subject of the deepest regret that such a one should ever have been written. Not having myself seen it, I could only say in reply, that, at least until after reading, the character of the writer ought to be a sufficient voucher for a book. I was assured substantially by various persons in their various ways that so it would have been of course in an ordinary case; but this was a book which persons did not like to read, lest it should undermine their faith; besides being too foolish to waste time upon. It was blank atheism, and it removed all the barriers to vice and immorality by denying moral obligation. Moreover, it garbled and falsified Bacon, in order to bring the support of his great name to what he never dreamed of. It was Miss Martineau’s act, inasmuch as done by and under her sanction, for she had prefaced and presented the whole to the public; and what was not her own she had procured to be written by a very ignorant man, who had imposed upon her by mesmeric influence, — if there were such a thing, which they did not believe.
This mixture of falsehood and nonsense bearing to an unprejudiced mind its own refutation, it was not necessary for me to have read the book to be able, in talking with those equally ignorant, to deny every thing and call for the proof.
“O, it was in vain to deny it; it was only too true. Her own brother, the Rev. James Martineau, had published an article in which he affirmed all this; and what her own brother felt thus obliged to declare to the world must be true.”
I hastened to procure both the book and her brother’s review of it (“Prospective Review,” No. XXVI. Art. IV., “Mesmeric Atheism”). Ignorance, with a mingling of worldly and superstitious terror, is capable of any degree of misrepresentation; and I thought it quite possible that both book and review might have been misunderstood among those who were thus trusting to hearsay against their own better knowledge of Harriet Martineau. I carefully read both, and found nothing in the book to justify what report had given me as the substance of it. But the review had presented Miss Martineau and her associate to the world as atheists and reckless of moral obligation; and at a time when members of the medical faculty were labouring to brand mesmerism as immorality, the article was entitled “Mesmeric Atheism.” The review did present Mr. Atkinson, Miss Martineau’s friend and co-worker in the cause of philosophy and progress, as both knavish and foolish, both vain and ignorant. Miss Martineau and Mr. Atkinson had, in fine, “piled up a set of loose and shapeless assertions, serving to mark, but not to protect, the territory they open for all the black sheep of unbelief.” Further on, the review proceeds thus: —
“But enough of this hierophant of the new atheism. With grief we must say that we remember nothing in literary history more melancholy than that Harriet Martineau should be prostrated at the feet of such a master, should lay down at his bidding her early faith in moral obligation, in the living God, in the immortal sanctities; should glory in the infection of his blind arrogance and scorn, mistaking them for wisdom and pity, and meekly undertake to teach him grammar in return. Surely this inversion of the natural order of nobleness cannot last. If this be a specimen of mesmeric victories, such a conquest is more damaging than a thousand defeats.”
After this I came to know that Mr. Atkinson was a gentleman and a scholar, and a remarkably able, high-minded, and true-hearted man, esteemed by all who knew him, and spoken of with high respect as a devoted student of science, and also for his reverential tone of mind, by other reviews adverse to his opinions; and I learned, moreover, what all who saw for themselves already knew of Miss Martineau, that, so far from denying, he affirmed man’s moral obligation and the existence of a fundamental cause, eternal and immutable, — the last as incomprehensible to human nature, the first as the great business of life to ascertain and fulfil.
But so little do people understand themselves and their own creeds, that many who had plumed themselves upon their superiority to image-worshippers were as startled on reading this book as Tacitus tells us those Romans were at the siege of Jerusalem, who, bursting into the Holy of Holies, found the fane empty.
For “The Letters,” I found the book to be an inquiry or search after the best way of studying the faculties of man, in order to obtain a right understanding of his nature, place, business, and pleasure in the universe; and consequently not always within the comprehension of minds not previously familiar with the authors’ range of studies. For the review, I saw that it sometimes shared the general ignorance, and sometimes took advantage of it, to destroy the reputation of the authors of “The Letters.” But it was the review that had garbled and misquoted Bacon, in a vain endeavour to fix on them the charge of having done so: and it exposed itself to some keen remarks, by scoffing at Bacon’s first aphorism, unwittingly attributing it to Mr. Atkinson, while in the sequel misquoting Mr. Atkinson, to make him seem to the unread to be ignorantly censuring Bacon. “The Letters” had but represented Bacon as he really showed himself to be, — not latterly a theist; and being stronger in intellect than in moral principle, willing to advance his opinions at the expense of his sincerity, in times when persecution made men more prudent than true. The argument of “The Letters” is that what Bacon said about Christianity was poetical, and by way of accommodation, as seen, for example, in his “Christian Paradoxes.” It would seem that Bacon’s views were like those of every other thinker, — changing with time, and therefore very much a matter of dates.
I was astonished to find a Unitarian, whom the Catholic and Anglican churches consider no Christian, so wrathful against the “infidelity” of this book. The authors were faithful to themselves: were the Unitarians more? . . . .
“Could this reviewer possibly be a brother of Harriet Martineau?” I asked myself, and I felt confident it must be a mistake to think so. The curious public in its talkative carelessness is capable of almost any confusion of ideas, and surely, I thought, there must be a misunderstanding here. I carried my doubts to herself to be resolved, and asked her plainly, “Who is the author of that review?”
“It is my brother James; and you must not believe it, for it is not so.”
No possibility of believing it for any one who would read and compare; no risk of it for any one who knew her. I was too much afflicted to seek further conversation with herself at that time on a subject so distressing. The circumstances must needs compel so much denial, explanation, and self-defence, that I could not bear to add to such a pain even by expressions of sympathy. I saw instantly the estrangement that Mr. James Martineau’s course would make a duty to her cause, to the coadjutor whom she had associated with herself in its promotion, and to herself as the vowed servant of truth. Private insult to herself she might choose to overlook, but a threefold fidelity forbade her any further choice. If there be any thing established by the experience of mankind, it is this: while forgiving an enemy and doing him good, never to let him travel the world with your sanction affixed to his evil offices. It is the dictate alike of good sense, good feeling, and self-defence. No one proclaiming unpopular truth at every risk but is compelled by self-respect and self-preservation to take this course, — of letting the word “brother” on no enemy’s lips beat down this only effectual guard against the dagger-stroke aimed under the fifth rib.
So near and dear a friend as Harriet Martineau was to me, it became my duty to inquire carefully into this case; and every body talked freely. This excuse was occasionally offered for the reviewer, — that it was his duty as a Christian minister, and his duty to his God, to clear himself and Unitarianism of the burden of imputed heresy. He had not been able, it was said, to prevail on Mr. Thom and Mr. J. J. Tayler,* his co-editors, to do it for him, and so he was obliged to forget that he was a man and a brother, to discharge what seemed to him a higher duty.
But, as it would have been so much simpler, so much easier, so much more effectual a way, to have disclaimed all responsibility for “The Letters” by a note in the review to the effect that he had neither sanctioned the opinions nor approved of the publication, that part of the public which in such a case is amused with looking on drew the conclusion, from this otherwise incomprehensible course on the part of an advocate of free thought, that masculine terror, fraternal jealousy of superiority, with a sectarian and provincial impulse to pull down and crush a worldwide celebrity, had moved to this public outrage.
Happily for the authors of “The Letters,” British literary usage required no reply. Men did not construe silence as consent to the imputations of reviewers.
But in private it was not so. Miss Martineau was continually obliged to encounter these misrepresentations: sometimes in reply to direct inquiries of her friends; sometimes to counteract the actual mischief which the review had stimulated and set at work, and which threatened to put in peril her pecuniary affairs by exciting a panic among the publishers.
Of this sort of painful duty thus devolved upon Harriet Martineau by her brother’s course, it then seemed as if there could be no end but the ending of life.
It was pitiable to behold the distress this whole affair occasioned the short-sighted and the feeble, who wished to maintain undisturbed relations with both parties, without in the slightest degree appreciating Miss Martineau’s moral obligation to protect her cause and her associate from injury, — especially not to desert her associate; precluded by her relationship from defending himself against these calumnies.
As to the general desertion of friends on occasion of this publication, which Charlotte Brontë supposes,* it was not a fact, nor was Harriet Martineau one to grieve, if it had been so, over the sundering of false relations. It was the regard of those she really loved and honoured that she valued, and I am not aware of a single instance in which it was not ultimately increased by this renewed example of her fidelity to what she had ever esteemed the strongest moral obligation, — “the obligation of inquirers after truth to communicate what they obtain.”
Her friends outside of Unitarianism were not wrathful or distressed. I had the opportunity to see numbers of the representative men and women of the great world in London meeting her with undiminished cordiality when she came thither immediately afterwards, and her presence there speedily dispersed the momentary panic in which I had seen some of the Unitarian-trained, minister-worshipping minds.
Few are qualified by previous philosophical, anatomical, and phreno-mesmeric studies, any more than by love of truth and faith in it, to pronounce on such a book as “The Letters.” Numbers who had been troubled by its publication soon began to suspect as much. Some were fain to let the subject-matter drop, for fear of finding out things in contradiction to established usages. Some had not even understood what they were talking about when the conversation fell on the merits of the method recommended in the book. They had found it “sadly immethodical;” while other some pronounced this old method of question and answer not a successful one except in school-books. The advantage of scientific investigation and careful study and reasoning over taking for granted or taking on authority, was never the idea suggested to such by the word “method,” to which deeper thinkers sometimes begged their attention as the main thing in this book. It gave more offence for alleged want of reverence among minds of exclusively Unitarian training than among those of more liberal culture and biblical enrichment. Mr. Martineau, for example, seemed shocked as at blasphemy, that his sister should have given the words “supreme lawless will” as a definition of the Christian God; while at that very time Christian Britain was employed upon its tenth million of Jonathan Edwards’s sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” in which “God’s mere pleasure,” “his arbitrary will restrained by no obligation,” is, as by all Calvinistic doctrinal teachers, insisted upon in every form of expression.
This is not the place for an analysis of “The Letters” or a refutation of the review. “The Letters” are republished; but there is no call for abuse and calumny against their authors.
To an intelligent and unprejudiced observer one of the most painful things at that time, as at all times, is to see persons mourning over what they should most exult in, — the confession and worship of what one believes to be the truth; blaming what they should most admire, — the consistent, upright course of a righteous heart in the consequent emergency. Although herself keenly alive to such griefs as these, whether springing from wickedness or weakness, Harriet Martineau was one in whom they wearied themselves down. Sustained by her alacrity of mind and her devotedness of heart, she outlived this, and kindred blows. Public outrage is absolution; and the cruelty of compelling her in this way to choose between science and sectarism, progress and pause, the scientific associate who was also a friend and the brother who was no friend, wrought deliverance from a life sorrow: her broken idol was removed from her path.
Although this is no place for analysis of “Letters” or review, yet one undertaking to throw light upon the life of Harriet Martineau cannot with truth or justice or common sense ignore the act by which “her own brother” placed himself in the same category with the defamers of old times whom she must never again meet.
So many mingled motives springing from the troubling of the affections, family pride, forgiveness, pain, and magnanimity, must needs arise in the heart of one so tried, that I am not surprised to find, in her Autobiography, so few words given to this great calamity of her life. But what in her is magnanimity in me would be unfaithfulness.
I ought not to close this passage without stating that, as I would never be guilty of the absurdity of showing a life overshadowed, and no object visible between it and the sun, so, when she asked of me this final service, I only consented at length (and in a sense reluctantly) on the understanding that I should nothing conceal or extenuate which, either for joy or sorrow, told strongly upon her life. Her reply, given thoughtfully, slowly, and at intervals, was, “When you speak of my brother James, be as gentle as you can.”
The mass of communications that the publication of the “H. M. Letters,” as they were called, brought upon her from self-styled friends and real friends after the misrepresentations of the “Prospective Review,” became at length utterly unmanageable, and she decided to address them all under one cover; for although the degrees of their friendship, the variety of their feelings, and the tone of their correspondence were so very different, yet in one thing almost all agreed, — regret that she had left the spot on which they had stood together; and the following is the letter which I received from her, with a request to send a copy to each of them, — knowing as she did in advance, what actually proved to be the fact, — that those to whose case it did not apply would make no personal application of it.
Ambleside, May 10, 1856.
My dear Friend,—
It appears to me that you can help me in a small embarrassment that I should like to get rid of, if I can do it without causing more trouble than the matter is worth. I call the embarrassment of slight consequence, because a short time must put an end to it; but the interest involved is not a trifle. You know how much I value the confidence and affection of my more intimate American friends; and you will not need to be assured by me that the recent letters I have had from several of them express the kindliest respect and regard, as well as interest in my departing condition. Yet these letters manifest so extraordinary a notion of my state of mind, and are so very wide of the mark as to our relation to each other (theirs and mine), that I feel as if it were wrong to let the mistakes pass in silence, while yet I have not strength to reply to each correspondent. Some believe that they have touched so lightly on what is evidently uppermost in their minds that they spare me all need to reply, and they would really regret having obliged me to answer; while the character of the light touch they do give is exactly what makes me feel some sort of reply a duty. It is true they will erelong see in my Autobiography (which I leave for posthumous publication) what my philosophy really is; but it would be hardly right to wait if, by writing one letter, I can enable them to understand me better while I am still among you.
In all the letters I refer to it is clear that the supreme association with me at present is, not my past life, present illness, or approaching death, but my “views” on theological subjects. Again, all the correspondents I am speaking of carefully and distinctly assure me that they do not hold my “views.” Most of them call me “sceptical” (even the phrase “the slough of scepticism” occurs in one letter), and others write of “unbelief,” “darkness,” “doubt,” &c. All this shows so entire an unacquaintance with even the first principles and main characteristics of positive philosophy as surprises me a good deal, after the progress which I have hoped and supposed it was making in your country. By positive philosophy I mean not any particular scheme propounded by any one author, but the philosophy of fact, as arising from the earliest true science, and rehabilitated by Bacon’s exposition of its principles. There must be thinking and educated men in all your cities who could tell my friends that positive philosophy is at the opposite pole to scepticism, that it issues in the most affirmative (not dogmatical) faith in the world, and excludes unbelief as absolutely as mathematical principles do; that there is no “darkness” in it, but all clear light, up to the well-defined line which separates knowledge from ignorance; that positive philosophy is, in short, the brightest, clearest, strongest, and only irrefragable state of conviction that the human mind has ever attained.
You see, my difficulty in speaking at all about this is that what I say of my philosophy will, almost inevitably, look like conceit and boasting about myself. I really must say that such an appearance should be laid to the charge of those who, while meaning to be affectionate and even respectful, write to me as to one somehow fallen or gone astray, or in some way in an inferior condition of faith to theirs. This conception is not true, — it is in fact the reverse of the truth; but you see how impossible it is to declare this without offending the feelings of persons who consider it a merit, rather than a weakness, to rest satisfied in ignorance of the basis of the notions or “views” they hold. If fidelity to the truth on which I take my stand must bring on me the charge of presumption, so be it! I cannot help it, and must bear it as the lesser evil of two.
You, and others of my friends, and I myself may well be tired of hearing questions or opinions about my “views.” “Views” is not the word for disciples of positive philosophy, but for those who are still within the dogmatic circle or the metaphysical wilderness. They may speak of the “views” of persons who see through the eyes of authority, like the dogmatic part of the theological world, or of those who make their own “consciousness” their point of view, and who therefore differ mutually as their consciousness differs. Among these — the metaphysical “believers” or speculators — the views are as various as would be those of the earth by the same number of persons, each in a balloon of his own, all wafted by different currents at different elevations, with no other mutual connection than travelling in the same atmosphere. The disciples of positive philosophy have no more variation of views than students of mathematics have in regard to the mathematical field already explored. The truth compels unanimous conviction in both cases. If difference of “views” arises, it is during the first attempts to conquer some fresh territory, which, when annexed, will, like all that has gone before, become unquestionable and leave no room for diversity of “views.” If, instead of the “views,” people asked about my point of view, that would be sensible and practical. The point of view is indeed the grand difference between the dogmatists, the metaphysical speculators, and the positive philosophers. The first take their stand on tradition, and the second on their own consciousness. Their point of view is in their own interior, from whence it is manifestly impossible, not only to understand the universe, but to see the true aspect of any thing whatever in it. We, seeing the total failure in the pursuit of truth consequent on this choice of a standpoint, try to get out of the charmed circle of illusion, and to plant our foot in the centre of the universe, as nearly as we can manage it, and, at all events, outside of ourselves. Copernicus has been the great benefactor of his race, in this matter; and by showing that our globe is not the centre of the universe, nor man its aim and object, he overthrew theology and metaphysics without knowing it. However, this would lead me too far. I must keep to my own correspondents and their “views.”
The first great function of Baconian philosophy is to separate indisputably the knowable from the unknowable; and the next is, to advance the pursuit of the knowable. It is obvious that the process of ascertainment first, and constant verification of knowledge afterwards, is destructive of “scepticism.” Scepticism is doubt; and the positive philosopher is in a position of direct antagonism to it. He may hold, and must hold, his decision in suspense, in the interval between the first conception and the verification of new truth; but “scepticism” about old propositions which he has duly attended to is impossible to him. In the same way there is no wandering in “darkness” for the positive philosopher. He walks in light as far as he goes. It is, to be sure, but a short way up to the blank wall of human ignorance; but we can separate, on our own side of that blank wall, what is actually known from what is becoming revealed; and both from what we never can know. I need not add that the wall itself is destined to be forced, and the limits of ignorance to be set perpetually farther back, while we can never be any nearer to knowing what our faculties are unable by their constitution to apprehend. While the disciples of dogma are living in a magic cavern, painted with wonderful shows, and the metaphysical philosophers are wandering in an enchanted wood, all tangle and bewilderment, the positive philosophers have emerged upon the broad, airy, sunny common of nature, with firm ground underfoot and unfathomable light overhead. So much for the “darkness,” “doubt,” falling away, “scepticism,” &c.
Among the unknowable things, the first we recognize is the nature or attributes of the First Cause; and this is why we are called atheists. We are atheists in the sense in which all reformers in essential matters have always been called atheists. Like the apostles, and the Lutheran reformers, and many more, the positive philosophers are called atheists, and for the same reason, — because they are disbelievers in the popular theology. For the same reason they are insolently compassionated and insultingly grieved over. The “interest” or corporation of the great Diana of the Ephesians pitied as well as vituperated the reformers, no doubt; pitied them for what they lost, they themselves being disqualified for estimating the gain. At the Reformation the Catholics sincerely, however insolently, pitied the Protestants for their loss of the old resources and consolations, the procurableness of indulgences, the comfort of absolution, the resource of the intercession of saints, and the protection of the Virgin. In the same way now Christians, who have no more authority from Scripture or reason for their personal fancies or general dogmas about a future life and an adaptation of the universe to the moral government of our world according to human notions than the Catholics for their special comforts, insolently pity us for what they consider loss, without asking themselves whether they are qualified to estimate our gain. The case is one of constant repetition, world without end. If disbelieving in the popular theology, therefore, is atheism, then we are atheists, but not in the philosophical and only permanent sense of the term “disbelief in a First Cause.” To us the only wonder is that men are so long in perceiving that they must be wrong in “realizing” (as you would say in America) the First Cause, more or less, in any mode or direction whatever. The form or constitution of the human mind requires the supposition of a First Cause. To go further than the supposition is to give an extension to Fetishism which the nineteenth century might be ashamed of, in its grown and educated men. Infant man — the race and the individual — instinctively (therefore constantly and necessarily) transfers his own consciousness or experience to every thing his senses encounter. Enlightenment constantly restricts this application till the individual or the race, which at first concluded that every thing in the universe had a life and a will of its own, arrives at the advanced stage of believing in one Supreme Being made up of human attributes in a highly magnified form. As Xenophanes described men making gods in their own image in his day, so we see men doing it still, for the same reason that Xenophanes gives, and whereby, “if oxen and lions had hands like our own, and fingers, then would horses, like unto horses, and oxen to oxen, paint and fashion their god-forms.” In this way has the God of monotheists been in a barbaric age a “Lord of Hosts” and a “God of Israel;” and is now, after a succession of phases, the Father of mankind, with the affections, powers, and intellect of man vastly magnified. He designs; he foresees and plans; he creates and preserves; he loves, pardons, gives laws and admits exceptions, — is, in short, altogether human in mind and ways. The positive point of view — that external to man — shows that this conception cannot possibly be true in any degree, no portion of the universe having, more or less, the characteristics of the Cause of the whole. Throughout the universe, again, nothing caused bears any resemblance to its cause, or can bear such resemblance, because the functions of the two are wholly different. What is knowable about a First Cause is simply this, — as any disciple of positive philosophy is fully aware, — that our mental constitution compels us to suppose a First Cause, and that that First Cause cannot be the God of theology.
I need not say how puerile, barbaric, and irreverent appear to us the “views” of Christian Fetishism in their whole extent, comprising that conception of a future life which is fetish in being a transference of our present experience to other conditions. It is not “another life” that people desire and expect, but the same life in another place. Once regarded from the higher (exterior) point of view, the folly and practical mischief of this superstition become evident to a degree which it would startle some of my friends exceedingly to become aware of. The belief was no doubt of use in its proper day, like every general belief, but its proper date is past; that which was a substantial faith (as when the early Christians looked for the Millennium) is now (whenever it goes beyond a limited dogma) a personal fancy, a bastard conception of unchastened imagination, and a sentimental egotism. The state of anticipation which religious people try to establish in themselves appears to us in its true colours, as a selfish egotism, like that of children who would have the universe ruled to gratify their fancies and desires. I need spend no words in showing that the conceptions of no two people in Protestant Christendom, as to a future life, can be made compatible, if thoroughly examined. Christians find it difficult (and most difficult in the most anxious moments) to make out what view of a future life can be right. Positive philosophy shows that there is no evidence that any are right, while there is strong presumptive evidence that all are wrong. As for the effect on our minds of this kind of recognition, I can no more hope to convey to theological believers any sense of our privileges of emancipation, than the Lutheran reformers could show their Romish friends why they were happier than when they believed in the absolution of their sins, the protection of the Virgin, and the intercession of saints. Whatever freedom my more liberal Christian friends have gained, that we possess in greater measure. Whatever sin and sorrow they see in the superstitions they have left behind, that we are in a yet greater measure thankful to have been delivered from. As for the sense of general health, intellectual and moral, the full and joyous liberty under the everlasting laws of nature, and the disappearance of incongruity, perplexity, and moral disturbance such as every theory of the government of the universe must cause to thoughtful minds, we can only enjoy these blessings in sympathy with our fellow-disciples. It is only by attaining them that the blessing of them can be understood. What Christians may know by observation, if they will, is that we who have gone through their experience (whereas they have not had ours) are healthier in mind, higher in views and conduct, and happier in life and the prospect of death, than we were before. Our old friends may wonder at it; but that is their affair. We know our own feelings; and the wonder to us is that inexperienced persons should pronounce upon them.
Perhaps my correspondents may now see how unnecessary is their careful and express declaration to me that they do not share my views. How should they, when they have not even attempted the requisite study? An astronomer calculating an eclipse needs no assurance from those who take the stars to be spangles, that they do not share his views. After having gone through the prior stages of dogmatic and metaphysical belief, it was through years of thought and study, under able guidance, that I attained my present standpoint; and to me, who know what the requisite labour is, and how gradual is the evolution of the way, my friends who have never pursued it at all think it necessary to explain that they do not stand by my side! I speak thus confidently about their not having pursued truth in this direction, because they entirely mistake my position and state of mind. If they understood either, they would feel and express something very unlike the innocent compassion and the well-meant insolence of their recent letters. It is impossible, and of course no matter of desire, that every body should engage in the pursuit of truth, which is the most laborious as it is the highest of human occupations; but those who decline the toil should be at least capable of respect towards those who achieve it. The whole matter will be easier to a future generation, who will have less to unlearn than we have. If it should be thought an objection to the faith which I hold that it takes long to attain, the obvious reply is that fresh truth is always hard of attainment, because of the requisite amount of unlearning; but that the hard acquisition of one generation becomes the easy inheritance of another. Thus, our Protestant world suffers nothing now from dogmas which it cost the early reformers much agony to expose; and thus, again, every child will hold convictions a century hence which it costs the wisest men of our time much toil and pains to attain. I say this, which cannot in a general way be new to any body, simply to guard against its being supposed that a life of scientific pursuit is always necessary to the attainment of truth. The chief part of the business is only temporary, — the unlearning of error, the discrimination of the knowable from the unknowable.
The deepest chasm, however, which yawns between my correspondents and me is an unbelief on their part which, while it lasts, renders impossible all mutual sympathy on the most important subjects of human thought and feeling. They are wholly indifferent to philosophy as vital truth. Reality is nothing to the superstitious, in comparison with the safety of their own dogmas and persuasions. Science is to them a mere word in its highest relation of all, — as the basis of all true belief. They approve of science and philosophy as mental exercise and an innocent pursuit; and, in a utilitarian sense, as conducive to human welfare in material conditions. But they do not recognize in it the special and crowning duty and boon of man’s life, — the source of all truth and the highway to all wisdom. They do not see in science the test of all other things, including beliefs, theological and other; and till they do recognize this, they will not see how philosophy — which is wisdom derived from science — is good enough to fulfil our most ardent desires, and holy enough to occupy our loftiest aspirations. The levity and presumption with which theological and metaphysical believers and speculators treat the holiest and loftiest aim and pursuit open to us, is so painful to my feelings of reverence, and discloses so broad a severance between us, that I hope for nothing more from this letter, or from any intercourse now possible on these topics, than to awaken some sense in my old friends that there may be more than they see in the great study of my life, and in its results, and possibly to fix the attention of one or another on the difference between an indulgence in the use of time-hallowed words and images and the bona fide pursuit of everlasting truth. Perhaps I may at least have checked the unconscious presumption with which those who rest upon tradition, or amuse themselves with speculation, are apt to treat labourers who deal with a toil which they have declined.
I hope, and in my own mind I feel sure, that there is nothing in what I have said incompatible with real and warm affection for my old friends, or with gratitude for the kindliness and efforts at respect with which they have written to me. I am as sensible of their interest and their fidelity (as far as their knowledge goes) as if our theological agreement was the same as of old, and they will feel, I am sure, that I could not appear, by silence, to acquiesce in the position they assign me, without betraying at once our mutual confidence and the philosophy which is the reverse of what they suppose. I believe they will not be offended. If they are, I cannot take the blame to myself. If they are not, how much better is frank explanation than concealment or silence!
I am, dear friend, yours ever,
- “He that to such a height hath built his mind,
- And reared the dwelling of his thoughts so strong
- As neither fear nor hope can shake the frame
- Of his resolvéd powers, nor all the wind
- Of vanity or malice pierce, to wrong
- His settled peace, or to disturb the same, —
- What a fair seat hath he! — from whence he may
- The boundless wastes and wilds of man survey.”
- “And deeds of week-day holiness
- Fall from her, noiseless as the snow;
- Nor hath she ever chanced to know
- That aught were easier than to bless”
James Russell Lowell.
The work of the years passed in her own home is so various as to be with difficulty classified. There is room but for the merest mention of the building-plans for cottages. The “Harriet Martineau Cottages,” at Ambleside, stand as a monument of the movement she initiated for the creation of comfortable, economical homes and the lowering of rents.
The years of winter lectures, meanwhile, were building up men’s minds. The people highly appreciated them, and could never say enough of the benefit and the pleasure these lectures gave them. They were so carefully prepared, so effectively delivered, and so widely attended by those for whom they were gratuitously given, that they make a subject of conversation and grateful remembrance to this day in the region round about.
Then the Berlin-wool work, which sometimes excited a smile in those who “wondered how the great authoress could bear such a frivolous occupation.” It was not merely for rest and amusement that these groups of flowers and fruit and forest leaves were wrought, though that alone were motive enough; but each of them was a gift of solid pecuniary value to some greater work.
“Result of raffle for Miss Martineau’s needlework, — fifty subscribers at £1 each = £50: amount to be added to the fund for the relief of the distress in the manufacturing districts.” And by a glance at the list it would appear that the names most illustrious in the worlds of rank and philanthropy were rivalling each other for its possession.
Many of these works were executed for the benefit of the anti-slavery cause in the United States. One in particular (“The Four Seasons”) was presented by a subscription of five dollars each from the best-known of the American antislavery associates to a well-known friend of hers, and was thus the means of raising one hundred dollars for the cause. “So many of my thoughts and feelings,” she said, “are wrought into that table-cover, that I dreaded lest it should pass into unknown hands. But now — How much pleasure this has given me! Thank every one of the ‘chivalry’ for me!”
Some fatiguing agricultural labours became a matter of necessity in consequence of her improvements at the Knoll. Having written an account of them to a friend, the letter by some unknown means was published in the “Times,” and brought down upon her an avalanche of letters of inquiries about small farming and cow-keeping; and as many of them were from the heads of public institutions for the improvement of cultivation and the care of the poor, and in the interests of the poorer and suffering classes, she could not refuse to reply. These letters came to her from all the country round; and “Not for me, but for the poorer than I am, I hope, dear lady, to induce you to be at this trouble,” was sure to act upon her like a spell.
The following is a specimen of the sort of reply she gave, and the result of the whole matter, ultimately, was the republication, with additions, of her “Letter on Cow-keeping” and “Our Farm of Two Acres.” “I am not sorry it was published,” she said, “but I had nothing to do with it.”
“Mrs. Martineau’s experience is, that nothing yields so small a return to industry here as the land. As the art of tillage advances, industry has less and less chance against capital and land in masses, while skilled labour commands better wages. In that part of the country where she lives small land-tillage leads directly to poverty in proportion as skilled agriculture answers more and more. To till waste lands some capital is necessary, and the cases are very rare in which subsistence can be obtained at all comparable with that which can be had through wages in almost any occupation; and labourers who can till the soil in any way have a much better chance under employment by the farmer than at their own risk. Such is, in a general way, Mrs. Martineau’s view, and she believes that of most people who observe the rapid advance made in agriculture.”
She was always anxious to correct any mistakes which the success of her own experiments might cause. “For my success,” she said, “is the sum of many elements, including home comfort and accommodation, and the maintenance of two persons — my farm-servant and his wife — whom otherwise I should not employ.”
Under this head of work at The Knoll comes the “History of the Thirty Years’ Peace,” which was projected in 1846 by Mr. Charles Knight, the publisher. Having found it too much for him at that time to undertake, he applied to another, whose method showed that he would spin it out too long. It lay nearly two years in abeyance, and this circumstance was most injurious to its success. But Mr. Knight was pledged to a list of subscribers to whom it must be issued in numbers, and he became very uneasy at the delay. At length it occurred to him to lay the subject before his friend Harriet Martineau, and to entreat her as the greatest possible favour to consider whether or no she would undertake it. She did so, — this was about the time of the Chartist outbreak in 1848, the Tenth of April time, — on condition of being herself responsible for the whole history, after the first book; and, as she says in the preface to the history, “solely responsible.”
The most careless observer can hardly fail to see what difficulties lie in the way of a writer of contemporaneous history. There are a thousand risks in taking time as it flies. It is sometimes a blindfold walk amid hot ploughshares, sometimes like the conducting of as hot a conflict. Whoever undertakes it must charge over the fallen, alive or dead, and as often be accused of misapprehension, both by the vanquished and the victorious. He must expect the blame, most likely the ill offices, of all who stand condemned as their deeds are placed in line. Who among authors is brave enough to risk what may befall while standing under fire to identify the columns amid the battle-smoke, and drawing them up in successive masses or files for public review? So it must needs be for the writer who takes the responsibility “solely,” and yet such a writer was the one the publisher must have; for who will read the flat, unprofitable tale of the moral craven? Then the terror of inaccuracy, and the vague dread of the unknown, which may cause unexpected explosion, to the author’s detriment and pain, are alone enough to stay his undertaking. “But who,” — as Harriet Martineau used to say on so many occasions, — “who could ever stir a finger, if only on condition of being guaranteed against oversights, misinformation, mistakes, ignorance, loss, and danger?” And she courageously undertook the unprecedented task of casting ethics into the stream of contemporaneous time. The work is written throughout with reference to the principles of right, with no yielding of judgment to the plea of political necessity, and is yet most candid in all its statements of these necessities, as no partisan could have been; thus merging the piquancy which is always at the command of the pamphleteer in the judicial integrity which is the grand characteristic of the historian. Hampered as such a work must be by its linear, chronological necessities, it is most remarkable for its interest as a narration under its inevitable disadvantages. The historian of any former age can give effect to his work by front lights and side lights, which the contemporary historian does not possess, the light of its coming time being wholly wanting. These helps to the success of a Thierry with the Norman Conquest, of a Miguet with personal delineations, or of a Motley with the Dutch Republic must of necessity be wanting to a picture of the present times. These grounds of critical judgment seem to have been overlooked by some who considered this history as wanting in success. But all praised its rare exactitude, and its great value as a most lucid and able arrangement of all classes of facts, and numerous editions up to the present time prove the public to be in the right. As far as the field of vision permitted, it dealt with the present as truthfully and dispassionately as if it were the past, — a mode of procedure not at the time to be popularly appreciated, but which makes the work sure of its place in the public heart of the future, and in the treasury of facts and guiding lines for its historians. But all the author’s care in guarding her sole responsibility proved in one instance insufficient to contend with the terrors of the publisher lest his pecuniary interests should suffer. This is the story as I noted it at the time from the author’s conversation, which was not a private one.
“When a certain number was to appear, it being actually printed, Mr. Knight came, in a great flurry of spirits. He told me he had just had a letter from a Whig official touching this period, and he felt in consequence great uneasiness and anxiety. But I will give you, I said, the proofs of the truth and correctness of what I have asserted; and I ran over the evidence. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘no doubt of its truth and correctness, — I am satisfied of that, but its publication might ruin me. Government might take from me the printing’ (of the poor-law matter, &c., worth £800 per annum to him); and he went on in a despairing, frightened way to complain of the position in which it might put him. Long after, he told me he had taken the responsibility of ordering that page to be cancelled. I then told him he should never more publish for me. Had he submitted the matter to me, I would have consented to all reasonable change, but he did not. And it was ‘my sole responsibility’ he took, without my knowing it! His frequent changes of mind as to time of publication were very detrimental to the success of the History. In such a mode of publication delay is eminently dangerous. I wrote it in twelve months, and he paid me £1,000, which he thought moderate, for both parts. For the last part, beginning with the century to the Battle of Waterloo, he paid £200. This last payment was made after the ‘Letters on Man’s Nature and Development’ were published. Soon after this, Robert Chambers came to take tea with me, and told me that Mr. Knight, being pressed for money, had sold the whole, and the purchasing house was delighted with the acquisition. But before the season was over Mr. Knight bought back £800 worth of the property.
“Robert Chambers after this entered into a treaty with me, — for he had bought the whole History of Mr. Knight, — to complete it up to the present time, which my illness prevented my doing. But I ought to tell you of Mr. Knight’s most handsomely proposing to me to buy back the first book, that I might have the satisfaction of the beginning as well as the completion of the work.”
She afterwards wrote an entirely new book for the American publishers, who were induced by a sense of its need, and by a manifest demand indicating the same in the public mind, to republish it in Boston, in the heat of the slaveholding rebellion. It was felt by the most observant of those Americans who read it at the time to be a fit medicine for the hour; and the author was entreated by the American publishers to furnish them with a preface of warning against the policies that have ruined nations in old times, and that should be accordingly avoided by the statesmen of to-day. She immediately consented, and not only wrote the preface, but the new part, continuing the work to the Russian war in 1854. That edition is entirely exhausted.
The publishers preface the American edition thus: —
“The reproduction of this work may be regarded as peculiarly opportune at the crisis through which this nation is now passing. Our people are studying anew the great problems which have been agitating England for more than half a century. The questions connected with an extension of the suffrage, the emancipation of the blacks, a paper currency, the removal of restrictions on trade, the increase of taxation and the national debt, have to-day their direct analogies for the consideration of the citizens of the United States. To a certain extent the solution may be found in these volumes. . . . . The personal opinions of the distinguished author are forcibly stated, but the expression of them is characterized by an admirable fairness.”
The same year — 1846 — that the History of the Peace was projected the “Daily News” was started, under the management of Mr. Charles Dickens, Mr. Forster being the chief editor. The arrangements were of a very costly character, and the success of the paper was by no means commensurate to its expenditure. Mr. Dickens retired in a few weeks, and Mr. Forster threw up the editorship; and the proprietors, under the advice of Mr. Dilke, determined to try the experiment of a cheap paper, and to establish a daily paper at a reduced price. But after a trial of two years the cheap paper was abandoned as unsuccessful, as the circulation, at one time 20,000 per day, had fallen off to scarcely a quarter of that amount. Since the first of the year 1849 the paper continued (till the very recent change to a penny) at the ordinary price of daily London newspapers, that of five pence with a stamp. The politics of the paper have since been uniformly liberal, and in favour of free trade. Its devotion to the latter object caused it to be spoken of as the Cobden organ. But it was always independent, and it never followed the peace view nor the proslavery tendencies of that party, and has in those respects been its energetic opponent.
In view of Harriet Martineau’s numerous leading articles, at the rate at times of six per week, her valued friend, Mr. Hunt, said at that period: —
“Our contributors never wrote more than four articles a week at most. It is all that the best of them could fairly do. And political writers commonly deteriorate. The first article is excellent, and we think we have found a treasure. The second is less striking, but we are not surprised that so high a standard cannot in every instance be maintained. At the third we say, ‘Have we not read something like this very lately?’ The next is so manifest a falling off that we desire no more.”
There was no such feeling or failure in the political career of Harriet Martineau. “Do you know,” said Mr. Hunt to one of her family, “that your sister is a great political writer?” He told, too, how these writings moulded public opinion through Parliament. “They are read in the clubs; they precede the debates and modify the ‘Times.’ The ‘Daily News’ leads.” And well it might and must lead; “for these,” said a friend to Mr. Hunt, “are not only newspaper articles, but poems.” And so they were, — the full sweet harmonies to which
- “The powers militant that stood for Heaven
- Moved on.”
The subjects of these articles cover the whole field of national and political action, philanthropic effort, and agricultural statistics. In the department of agriculture no one had done so much, except Sir John Walsham. Irish, Jewish, and American subjects, Indian and educational reform, antislavery, geographical, and historical articles, economical and West Indian interests, reviews and miscellaneous writings, made up her sixteen hundred strong.
It was fortunate for all whom political knowledge and integrity might concern, that, on the death of Mr. Hunt, his successor should have been such a man as William Weir.
He had been early trained by classical studies at home, and by the study and use of the European Continental languages abroad; and foreign travel and a University course in Germany had completed his preparation for life. It was currently said of him that he was master of the library of Europe. A man of great natural abilities, a barrister by profession, and a fluent and eloquent speaker, his career was arrested by a deafness which increased with years, and he became a journalist. He brought to the editorship of the “Daily News” long training in other journals, and an extraordinary array of qualifications for the post. Law, history, geographical research, literature, — he was at home in them all; and nothing in his experience had worn away the native vigour of his mind or warped the rectitude of his principles. It was his unalterable determination to hold the “Daily News” in its independent political position, and to make it the guardian of popular rights, needed reforms, and social improvement; and his cosmopolitan tendencies disposing him to believe that the field was the world, he was greatly gratified to find in Harriet Martineau the same purposes and accomplishments as his own. “When I returned from the Continent,” he used to say, “her writings took me between wind and water, and went a long way towards determining the direction and character of my mind for life.” It was probably the same with his colleagues in the office; for it was by having more or less formed the minds of her whole generation, that she was enabled so greatly to influence her times.
When it fell, in regular succession, to Mr. Weir to reorganize the office, he at once recognized the supreme value of her collaboration, and wrote to her as follows: —
My dear Miss Martineau, —
You are no Miss Martineau, but a benevolent, indefatigable fairy, who knows instinctively what is wanted, and how it should be done. There is something supernatural in the patness of many of your articles (that on the queen, for example) to my views and wishes.
Seriously, I do not know how I should have wrestled through this last week without you. As we say north of the Tweed, “I owe you a day in hairst.”
Ever gratefully yours,
What most commended Mr. Weir to Mrs. Martineau (she had now for good reasons taken the style that had been in use in the last century for maiden ladies no less than married ones) was his readiness to encounter the opprobrium that always attends those who intermeddle for good with public affairs. She found him always valiant for the truth.
In another letter, written during a suspension of her articles, he says: —
My dear Mistress Harriet, —
I should have answered your note, but I have been severely indisposed, and at the same time more severely tasked than usual. I have had to go more into public company than usual, and have had to take my daughter to school.
You cannot doubt that your aid will always be acceptable. In political principles we are probably as nearly at one as two distinct existences can be. The only modification I am likely ever to suggest in any communication with which you favour me, would be when the accident of position enables me to know some recent fact that renders a different strategy advisable, or disproves some inference.
I have said before, and say again, your loss has been to me irreparable. I have never before met — I do not hope again to meet — one so earnest to promote progress, so practical in the means by which to arrive at it. My aim in life is to be able to say, when it is closing, “I too have done somewhat, though little, to benefit my kind;” and there are so few who do not regard this as quixotism or hypocrisy, that I shrink even from confessing it.
The “sold to the Ministry” story must be an American echo of what was once said here. I cannot conceive how any person who has read the “Daily News” can imagine such a thing. We are opposed to them on all broad, general principles; we neither spare men nor measures. There is only one way to get rid of such reports, — to live them down.
My great object just now is, to stir up the more or less instructed class to self-exertion; to assert its right to participation in administrative office, and to that end to be more careful in its selection of the men to be sent to Parliament. I believe we are on the eve of a great social revolution, and that cool-headed and earnest men are the only thing that can carry us safely through it. But where are they to be found? . . . .
Ever gratefully yours,
Mrs. Martineau’s objects being identical with those of Mr. Weir, their correspondence was one of mutual consultation as to means and measures. At the moment when the affairs of India became of paramount importance to Great Britain, she felt the necessity to the general public of more information and a wider diffusion of it; and she wrote to inquire of the “Master of the Library of Europe,” whether any book calculated to convey the requisite knowledge was in existence.
Mr. Weir immediately replied: —
Dear Mistress Harriet, —
There is no such book, and it is much wanted.
There are only two people in England who could do it. One would do it admirably, — yourself; the other very indifferently, — myself. When I came to the bottom of your third page, I cried, “That is just what crossed my mind when you first spoke of the ignorance of the public regarding India.” I wish you would try it. I will strain heaven and earth to get in two chapters (so call them) a week.
Much will depend on selecting the starting-point, — not too far back. As for a ballad or an epic, some epoch comparatively recent ought to be selected; and as opportunity offers, the growth of the army, administrative system, judicial system, etc., observed ab initio, so as to render intelligible their actual characters.
Perhaps the present mutiny, — apparently confined as yet to the army, — the relation of the army to the presidency, the relations of the three presidencies to each other, and so forth. I throw these things out hurriedly; for I have no doubt you have already a plan of your own sketched out, and this may help to fill it up.
You must have much matter, and many intelligent friends who will aid. I will give what I can, and search for more.
Would it not be best to commence it from the beginning by “H. M.”? I will write again to-morrow.
I wish you were at work.
Mr. Walker, known as “the friend of the United States,” succeeding at the death of Mr. Weir, it is needless to say that, under such management, the circulation of the “Daily News” continually increased.
It was vastly more influential than the “Times” with the great middle class in England, from the time that Harriet Martineau’s spirit was moving in the wheels; and it is the great middle class that ministers and cabinets watch with most interest for the guidance of their course.
Besides what other authorship she might have on hand, whether light or weighty, Harriet Martineau wrote for this paper above sixteen hundred leading articles, at the rate sometimes, for months in succession, of six in a week, — all so valuable that it was once proposed to her to have twelve volumes of them republished. This idea she did not much favour. “Three volumes would be enough,” she said, “as so many of them are merely temporary.”
Through the kind offices of her friend Mr. Robinson, the managing editor of the “Daily News,” the experiment was tried long after with a volume of her biographical articles. She was too ill to attend to the publication herself, and in the midst of his own engrossing duties he assumed the whole labour of putting this work through the press, — a testimony of devoted friendship for the author.
The volume on British India, of which she felt the public need, published in 1851, is “beautiful exceedingly.” In 1855 appeared her “Guide to the English Lakes,” in another way no less beautiful. In 1859 the book, “England and her Soldiers,” for the promotion of army reform, was written in aid of Florence Nightingale’s objects. In 1861 came the volume entitled “Health, Husbandry, and Handicraft,” and also a volume containing a collection of her contributions to “Once a Week,” the periodical for which she wrote after she felt obliged, by the refusal of “Household Words” to publish any article reflecting credit on the Catholics, to sever her connection with Mr. Dickens. In 1869 the “Biographical Sketches” reappeared, with the same admiration as at first, and the same reserves on the part of those who use some few words in a narrower sense than herself. One of these was the word “heart;” and one of her very latest utterances to a friend who inquired what she meant by saying that Lord Macaulay was not a man of heart, illustrates this difference. “I do not mean,” she said, “that he did not love his family, or that he was not, in a small way, benevolent. But if he had been a man of heart, could he have gone through the world, without taking it in, with all its grand interests, its sufferings, and its destinies? He did not live on the high level of the heart. But he was a most charming littérateur, and as such admired and rewarded.”
It may be remarked of her appreciations of character in general, that they suggest this conclusion, — that disinterestedness unfetters the judgment. Let almost any one try the experiment of uttering his exact opinion as if in the palace of truth: it will be found to differ materially from his utterances in other palaces. But it was not so with her.
Her correspondence shows how every originator or promoter of a benevolent plan looked to her for co-operation.
Mr. Rathbone of Liverpool, knowing how busy she always was for the natives of Westmoreland, her proceedings there “sending a sunbeam into his room” (as he writes to her), sent her a plan for the introduction of penny banks among the people; and he tells her at the same time how much he has been struck by her plan for better organization of life for single ladies, and of the economies of life in general, that all the toiling millions may have leisure to be good; and all these thoughts make him sign himself “respectfully and affectionately” hers.
Her very numerous articles in leading periodicals were all written with some strong purpose of service to mankind, and her biographical articles were written on the principles of fidelity and openness, as the only security for a similar result from them. Her method seems to have secured general approval, for almost every newspaper in England hailed them with admiration, and there was actually a renewal of the enthusiasm attendant on her early fame. Her object in writing them was to be true to what she had known and observed of the life she was dealing with. Nothing to extenuate and nothing to overcharge was her way. To copy the portrait her subject had himself painted was her endeavour; and in observing the manners that indicate the mind, she used to say the alert eyes of the partially deaf, so constant in their watchfulness, learn many things unknown to others. Harriet Martineau was for long periods of her life in correspondence with her friend — I believe, too, her distant relative — Mr. Henry Reeve, so well known and highly esteemed as editor of the “Edinburgh Review,” in which many of her most valuable articles from time to time appeared. The “Westminster Review,” the foundation of which she had prophesied in the days of her early fame, was always at her command; and when it fell into financial difficulties, she took a mortgage of it as property, great as was the ultimate risk of ever being indemnified. “But I owe that amount of loss,” she said, “if it be one, to the review that has so often been my organ of communication with the world.”
These review articles and pamphlets were no “paper capital,” no “charming twaddle;” but all of heartfelt value and depth, written because her intellect and experience told her the world needed them, whether in great national interests or in defence of individual rights. A narrative of the rise and progress of every one of them would be a light cast upon her life. Those written in behalf of desert or in deprecation of neglect or wrong were always full of power. As when, for example, she studied so many volumes in order to be qualified to take up the cause of the Rajah Brooke, — that Sir James Brooke who devoted his life and fortune to the service of the natives of the Eastern Archipelago, and was made a prince by them because he had fostered their industry, stimulated their commerce, counselled their foreign policy, protected them from piracy, and ruled them in their own native customs and ideas, using these meanwhile as a basis for reforms, and resisting all efforts of the Dutch, English, French, or Belgians to settle in the country in great bodies, or to make of it a European colony. A man so high-minded and devoted, a man of such practical genius and utter disinterestedness, a born ruler, was sure to be maligned and calumniated. And it was while he was striving under this load of calumny to obtain such recognition by his native country as might best enable him to serve his adopted one, that Harriet Martineau consulted with his counsel, Mr. Templer, studied his case, received himself at her home, and wrote that able article in the “Westminster Review,” which, showing her thorough understanding and strong grasp of the whole matter, made him desire her action as a legislator for the Eastern Archipelago. But her various other duties precluded such an effort.
The rest and peace of home after Eastern life gave opportunity for Western exertion; and remembering the dust flung in her own eyes by slaveholders about the “intermeddling” of the North, and finding the same process constantly in use to blind the eyes of England at large, she threw before the country, in the “Daily News,” a history of the American compromises. There was an immediate demand for it in book form, as there had before been nothing to which the people could refer, and the ignorance of the people was profound. It made a great noise, not only in England, where the work was speedily and loudly applauded, but on the Continent. Four days after its appearance in London the “Milan Official Gazette” was earnest in its recommendations. It had a great circulation, gentlemen in various parts of the kingdom ordering copies by the hundred for distribution.
Mrs. Martineau wrote another much-needed work touching the important theme of the true functions of government. Its title was “The Factory Controversy: a Warning against Meddling Legislation.” She had written it with difficulty, on account of the head and heart attacks, at this time very severe, as a gift to the editor of the “Westminster Review,” then in pecuniary difficulty; for she always felt it a duty to sustain it, as a medium for the free expression of opinion of which she had so frequently found the usefulness. The editor accepted the article, but when he saw the manuscript he started back. He approved of her doctrine, but dreaded the personalities it contained. Its object was to show that Mr. Dickens, in “Household Words,” and Mr. Leonard Horner as factory inspector, were in the wrong in demanding of government what governments have no business to undertake. She did not know, when she determined to take the working of the factory acts as a most complete illustration of the vice of the principle of meddling legislation, that an association of factory occupiers was in existence. But learning it from Mr. Horner’s report, she obtained all the evidence on both sides, and wrote her article.
“My article won’t do,” is the only entry in her skeleton journal on the day that she received back her manuscript from the editor of the “Westminster Review.”
She then placed it at the disposal of the Factory Occupiers’ Association, with a letter of which the following is an extract:—
I, for my part, cannot modify what I have said [of Mr. Dickens, Mr. Horner, and others]. These gentlemen have publicly assumed a ground which in the opinion of sound statesmen cannot be maintained; and I believe my article proves that they have supported their position by inaccurate statements, and in a temper and by language which convey their own condemnation.
In a matter of literary judgment or taste, one may soften one’s tone of criticism and opposition to the gentlest breath of dissent; but in a matter of political morality so vital as this, there must be no compromise and no mistake. Mr. Horner and Mr. Dickens, as inspector and editor, have taken up a ground which they do not pretend to establish on any principle; and they hold it in an objectionable temper and by indefensible means. It seems to me, therefore, necessary to meet them unflinchingly, and expose, with all possible plainness, the mischief they are doing. They cannot complain, with any appearance of reason, of any plainness of speech. I have judged them by their own published statements; and the language of Mr. Horner’s Reports and of Mr. Dickens’s periodical leaves them no ground of remonstrance on the score of courtesy. I like courtesy as well as any body can do; but when vicious legislation and social oppression are upheld by men in high places, the vindication of principle and the exposure of mischief must come before considerations of private feeling. These gentlemen have offered a challenge to society, — and certainly in no spirit or tone of courtesy; and they will not, if they claim to be rational men, object to a fair encounter of their challenge.
On these grounds I declined to modify my article, preferring to publish it unaltered through some other channel. As the best means of meeting the mischief it denounces, I offer it to your association, to be published as a pamphlet, or in any way which in the judgment of your committee may insure the widest circulation for it. In my present state of health it has been something of an effort to write this article, and if I had consulted my own ease, I should have let the matter alone altogether; but the struggle for the establishment of a good or bad law in this vital case is so important, and the existence of your association seems to me a social fact of such extraordinary significance, that I could not have been easy to let the occasion pass without an effort on my part, for no better reason than its occasioning me fatigue and many painful emotions. . . . .
I suppose and hope you will print this paper just as it stands, in the form of an article intended for a quarterly review. It will insure the reader against lapsing into a supposition that the writer is the agent or advocate of your committee, or in some way or other less independent and impartial than I really am.
Believe me, dear sir, truly yours,
The result was the amendment of the objectionable law; and in communicating to Mrs. Martineau this welcome news, the committee of the Factory Occupiers’ Association informed her that they had repeated evidences of the valuable service she had rendered, especially in quarters where disinterested statements were most needed. When they met for the first time after the passage of the amended bill, they all felt and expressed the obligation under which they lay to her, and it was suggested that this feeling ought to have expression in some substantial form. They considered her probable feelings in the matter, — her known feeling against being paid for doing good; and they appointed three of their number to ask her wishes as to the appropriation or expenditure of one hundred guineas which was placed for that purpose in their hands.
The chairman of the committee continues:—
I am desired by my colleagues, Mr. Turner and Mr. Ashworth, to make this intimation to you, and to assure you of the great satisfaction it gives them personally to be the medium of paying this small tribute to your estimable character and attainments. They further desire me to assure you of the perfectly unanimous request of the committee that you will allow them, through this medium, to place upon permanent record their appreciation of the service you have rendered to the cause of good government; and I can only add on behalf of the sub-committee that they will be exceedingly happy to execute your wishes in the appropriation of the amount in such form as you may most desire.
I am, dear Mrs. Martineau,
Yours most faithfully,
Mrs. Martineau caused the sum to be invested for others.
This work was done in 1855; and in consequence of the way in which it was done, numberless wrongs were presented to her for redress. Among those, she selected such as she could best treat of, from present circumstances and past knowledge. “Corporate Tradition and National Rights,” considered in connection with local dues on shipping, she examined in conjunction with the Liverpool Association for the right Appropriation of Town Dues, in 1857.
One of the pieces of work at The Knoll (after the book on “British Rule,” which followed the mutiny) was the planning of “Suggestions for a Future Government of India.” Persons who knew most about India, able men who had been trained in the theory and practice of Indian government from their youth up, declared they had never seen a work, not written by one of their own number, which gave so clear an impression of every thing essential to a wise solution of the great question then agitating the public mind. Many, indeed, who had spent their lives in India, and thought themselves especially qualified to treat of it, were pronounced, by the really qualified, to be, in comparison with one whom they called “this sagacious and thoughtful writer,” but as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.
“These,” men said, “are the genuine, honest utterances of a clear, sound understanding; an understanding neither obscured nor enfeebled by party prejudice or personal selfishness.” And they wondered how any reasonable being could dissent from the propositions thus laid down in Harriet Martineau’s incisive words:—
“The time has arrived which will soon determine whether we shall lose India very soon, or keep it as a more valuable portion of the British Empire than it has ever been yet. Events have hastened the hour when we must take a new departure in our administration of our great dependency.
“If we take time to collect, and reason from, all procurable knowledge on the subject of India, we may make arrangements for which the whole world will be the better. If we hastily decide that India shall be a crown colony, ruled directly and entirely from England, according to existing British notions and habits of colonial government, we shall lose India speedily, disgracefully, and so disastrously that the event will be one of the most conspicuous calamities in the history of nations. If it is true that this is the alternative before us, every man’s duty is plain, — to exert himself to avert a hasty decision, first, and to procure a wise one afterwards.”
She goes on to deprecate the government of the great Eastern Empire, not for India itself, but for a parliamentary majority; and dreads the total departure, dreamed of by some, from all the principles and rules of action which had up to that time enabled England to maintain her Anglo-Indian government, at the very moment when for the first time the nation is called upon to decide on a method of dealing with that territory without aid from precedent or analogy. She continues:—
“Even if we made no change at all in the apparatus of government, it would be a new departure, because it would be a choice, — a deliberate adoption of a scheme of rule; and to such a choice there is no parallel in our history, nor perhaps in any other. Our great privilege as a nation is, that our British institutions have grown up, naturally and inevitably, from our character and our circumstances together. No man, or body of men, ever invented, or even foresaw, our constitution as we are living under it now. . . . .
“Already the nation prefers the company’s generals to the queen’s; and as other departments of service are laid open to view, the superiority will every where appear on the same side. Important as this is, there is a consideration (before touched upon) which is more vital still: that India has long been, and now is, governed on behalf of the Indians; whereas, from the hour when so-called parliamentary government should be instituted, that aim could never more be steadily maintained and fulfilled. No practical citizen will assert that it could; for the steady maintenance of such an aim can be looked for only from a special association (under whatever name) of men of special and rare knowledge, qualified for their task by a lifetime of such experience as no man can pick up in Parliament, or attain any where in a hurry. When we cease to rule India for the Indians, we lose India; and to vest the service of India in the Horse Guards and our civil departments, is to hand over India and the Indians to parties whose distinctive characteristic it is to regard all public service as a patrimony of their own.”
But in this whole regnant work of suggestion there is perhaps nothing more true than the following: —
“Through whole centuries of irregular changes and frequent perturbations, which Englishmen could control and overrule at home, but which made terrible sport of the interests of our colonies, the government of India has been stable, consistent, as immutable in the eyes of its Indian subjects as a god ruling from a steadfast throne. In so peculiar a case this has been an inestimable blessing. Its corporate character, and successions of various men, have redeemed its rule from the curse of despotisms, — the power of self-will; while its independence of the politics of the day has protected its dominion from the manifold mischiefs of party changes, — mischiefs which we admit to be evils at home, though we prefer them to the evils of any other system. To Hindostan the non-political character of the company has been absolutely a vital matter. Our rule there could not have been maintained if the authorities at the India House had been changed as often as the Ministry, and at the same time with the ins and outs of the President of the Board in Cannon Row. But the benefit has also been great to ourselves at home, though we may only now be beginning to understand the greatness of it. While subject to a constant sense of nightmare under our painful efforts to get the national business done by groups of officials who always and necessarily begin in an incompetent condition, and usually go out of office or change their function as soon as they become equal to their work, so that the conduct of public business is a perpetual irritation to middleclass people who, in their private affairs, are accustomed to efficient performance, it has been a real blessing to have one public body in the midst of us which did work effectively, as far as it undertook to work at all. No doubt, it was often jealous in its temper and restrictive in its policy, and repressive and vexatious towards adventurous men; but whatever it undertook to do was done in an orderly, prompt, liberal manner, and with a continuous force which would have been impossible if it had been implicated with the Ministers of the day. Before we abolish such an institution as this we are bound to take care that the government of India is secured, as carefully as hitherto, from being affected by party changes; but so far from such a precaution being a feature of the Ministerial proposal, the plan actually is to bring India within that very sphere of fluctuations to exclusion from which she owes her existence as a dependency of England. Englishmen may now show that they value a blessing before they lose it.”
The superiority of the officials of the East India Company over any others possible was strongly set forth: —
“On this head the public are provided with a notion and a wish. They see that wherever the officials of the imperial government and those of the company come into comparison, the superiority of the latter is conspicuous and unquestionable. The company’s military officers, or queen’s officers, well practised in Indian warfare under the company’s arrangements, have achieved, wherever tried, successes as brilliant as the failures of the other class have been intolerable. The people of England have less opportunity of knowing how far a similar contrast prevails in the civil service; but it is at least as striking to all who have penetrated into the business offices of the two governments. It is generally understood that nothing, in the way of transaction of business, exists that can compare with the achievements in Leadenhall Street, and in most of the offices in India, which are held duly responsible to the central authority; whereas we are in the habit of hearing a good deal of the opposite weakness, and feeling something of the misfortune of it, in our home administration. The natural inference is that in the highest office, as in both classes of subordinate functions, a nominee of the company would answer better than one appointed by the imperial government. All eyes turn at this moment to Sir John Lawrence as the right man. Whether he be so or not, the general desire should operate as a popular nomination, to check an unpopular one. If it were duly attended to, neither royalty, administration, nor aristocracy would venture to propose any ordinary home-bred Englishman as the ruler of a hundred millions of men, while there are Anglo-Indians in existence who are familiar with the country and the people, and have proved that they can administer the one and rule the other.”
Such truths as these were eagerly studied by all honestly in search of truth; and some of the wisest men in the nation said, “Take this book of suggestions to heart, earnestly and ineffaceably.”
It was written because the writer believed that Lord Palmerston, then in power, would follow up with rash precipitancy the wellnigh fatal apathy and procrastination of the past, and it would be doing the nation a service to rouse it to active and profound consideration and caution in so unprecedented a case. She had been earnestly entreated to write this book, and she consented, “because the leisure, quiet, and impartial position of the sick-room seem to render the request reasonable.”
“Endowed Schools in Ireland” was demanded by a parliamentary need, and was reprinted from the “Daily News” in 1859; and as “Life in the Sick-Room” at Tynemouth was a blessing to individuals in numberless sick-rooms, so these four works — a blessing to nations and cities in their corporate capacity — might properly be lettered, in contradistinction, “Life in a Sick-Room;” for it is doubtful if there could be another of such a character.
These grave political labours were occasionally enlivened by narratives of previous experiences, which she had written out at the time of their occurrence, under the following title: —
TWO TRUE STORIES ABOUT CLAIRVOYANCE.
Early in 1849 I stayed a few days at Mr. S. Dukinfield Darbishire’s, at Manchester. One night, after a party, Mrs. Darbishire told me that she had to go, the next morning, to Bolton, and she hoped I would go with her. She had a question to ask of the girl Emma, whose strange powers as a somnambule had just become known through an accident. Mrs. D.’s question related to some missing property (not, I think, her own, but a friend’s). Emma’s information had recently led to the discovery of some mislaid bank-notes, and the saving of the character of a clerk; and this induced Mrs. D.’s experiment. I shall say nothing about that business, however, but shall relate only incidents within my own experience and observation. At first I refused to go, being unwilling to countenance the practice of exposing invalids (as somnambules very commonly are) to be mesmerized for money, and urged beyond the natural exercise of the faculty, whatever it be. At bedtime, however, Mrs. D. said, “I think, if you consider that your going will make no difference to the girl, that it will be merely two ladies being in the room instead of one, you will see that you may as well use the opportunity.” I was very willing, of course; and I went.
It was a bitter cold winter’s morning; and when we left the station at Bolton Mrs. D. said she hoped we might meet brother Charles presently, and not have to wait long in the street. She had sent him a request to meet her at Mr. Haddock’s (where Emma lived), but it had now occurred to her that we had better meet him in the street, that she might caution him against mentioning either of our names in Mr. Haddock’s house. We did meet him, a few yards beyond Mr. Haddock’s shop; he was introduced to me, and we agreed to mention no name during the interview. Mr. Charles Darbishire (I believe a bachelor) lived eight miles from Bolton, and I think he and I had met once before; but we were quite strangers to each other. Of me and my ways he knew nothing but that I lived at Ambleside, and that I had been much interested in the facts of mesmerism. For his part, what he knew of Emma was the recovery of the banknotes, by her information, he being one of the witnesses of the transaction.
We entered the shop, — an apothecary’s shop. Emma was the maid-of-all-work to Mr. Haddock. As we were not expected, we had to wait in the shop while the fire was lighted in the sitting-room, and while, doubtless, Emma dressed. I will say nothing of Mrs. Darbishire’s business, but merely remark that she and I were the only persons present, after Mr. C. Darbishire went away, except that Mr. Haddock went out and came in, two or three times, as business called him. He had nothing to do with Emma while she was under my hands.
She was a vulgar girl, anything but handsome, and extremely ignorant. It does not matter to my story; but it is the fact, that she could not read. What I saw disposed me to try what I could make of her when Mrs. D.’s business was done. I mesmerized her, and soon saw she was fast. She exclaimed at once that “the lady had warmed her.”
After a good deal of very striking disclosure on her part, it suddenly struck me that I might try her power of seeing about places and persons. So I took a handful — a large handful — of letters from my pocket, Mrs. D. asking me what I was doing. I told her she would soon see: and so she did; and so did Mr. C. D., who returned in the middle of my experiment.
I was aware that the girl could not read: but to make all sure, I chose a letter which was not in an envelope, and was altogether blank outside. There was not a scratch of ink on it, and it was close folded. I asked Emma who that letter was from. She clapped it on her head, close folded, and said a gentleman wrote it who was then walking up and down his parlour, with a silk handkerchief in his hand. Her account of his appearance, ways, and habit of mind was as accurate as possible.
“Who is it?” asked Mrs. D. “Who is she talking about?”
“I will tell you all about it by and by,” I said; “surely not now.”
Emma described the room; but I need not, unless I mention one particular. It was a London dining-room, one of hundreds which any one might venture on describing. One article, however, Emma mentioned as “a long-down picture,” hanging in fact where she said it did. The gentleman was Mr. Atkinson, in his own dining-room; and the “long-down picture” was a part plan, part bird’s-eye view of Rome, two or three times longer than it was broad.
“Now,” said I, “go into the next room, and tell me what you see there.”
“The next room?” said she. “There is a room, but I can’t get into it; there is no door.” And, moving in a troubled way, “How can I get into it when there is no door?”
“I suppose somebody gets into it to clean it,” said I.
“O, yes; they go in by the hall.”
“Well! do you go in by the hall.”
“Yes, I can do that. Ah! this is a smaller room. There are some cut stones stuck up, — one, two, three.”
“Cut stones!” said Mrs. Darbishire; and I begged her to wait.
“And there are some book-shelves, — not many books: there are boxes. Some are gray, some are green; and they have large white marks upon them, — letters, I think. They are in rows, a lot of them, one on top of another between the shelves.”
“Yes, some; only one shelf of them.”
“Any thing else?”
She writhed in her chair, and shuddered, and spoke unwillingly and hesitatingly.
“Ye—s; there are some things on the top shelf. I don’t like them,” shuddering much.
“Tell me about them.”
“Well, there are six on ’em; and one is very well; but the others—” And she shuddered.
“Well, there is one below in the shop, — one of the sort.”
This was true: I had seen it when we entered.
Mrs. D. could wait no longer. “What is she talking about?” she exclaimed. “She talks of ‘things’ and ‘things’; — what things are they?”
I said to Emma, “You talk of ‘things.’ What sort of things are they?”
“Well, I can’t tell you what they are.”
“Are they apples and oranges, or what?”
“O no, no! nothing of that sort, I should say,” — and she shuddered out her words, and spoke doubtfully, — “they are a sort of heads. But one goes this way,” — putting up her hands, and describing a wide arch from side to side of her head, — “and one goes that way,” describing a great arch from the nape of her neck to the root of her nose. This was enough; and I relieved her from her painful state of disgust by turning to other objects.
This may end my first story; for I could have nothing more remarkable to tell. As soon as we were out of the house I explained it all to my companions.
The second room was the place of deposit of some curious property of Mr. Atkinson’s deceased father, as well as some odd things of his own. The old Lord Elgin gave Mr. Atkinson, Sr., some of the most fragmentary of the Elgin marbles; and these “cut stones” were on pedestals in various parts of the room.
Mr. Atkinson, Sr., was an architect of eminence, and the plans, &c., of the mansions and grounds of many noblemen and gentlemen were kept by him, as deeds are by lawyers, in tin boxes, — in this case gray and green, with the names of the owners and estates painted outside in large white letters, — the boxes being shelved as described.
Above them was a shelf of books; and above them, on the top shelf, six “things” which, as it happened, I had forgotten, till the girl’s horrors brought them back to mind.
They were six casts of heads, — one, as she said nothing remarkable, or “very well.” The other five were casts of the heads of a family of idiots in Norfolk, hideous beyond expression; and two of them enormous, as Emma described, — one in length, the other in breadth.
Of course I told Mr. C. Darbishire that I should be ready to bear witness to the reality of Emma’s powers, at that date, — so far at least as (what is called) “thought-reading” is concerned, — in case of her meeting with the too common treatment, — the insult and imputation of imposture which are the weapons of the prejudiced, the ignorant, and people who are too indolent to ascertain facts for themselves. I implored him, however, to do all he could to prevent the girl being over-worked or over-urged; and thus to save her from the danger of filling up her failing power by material from the imagination, and at last resorting to tricks, deceiving herself and others, rather than give up.
After I got home it struck me that it might be well to ascertain Emma’s faculty in regard to myself; to try in some way, which should be indisputable if it succeeded, her power of clairvoyance in the case of a person with whom mesmeric relations had been established. I therefore wrote to Mr. Charles Darbishire, who was frequently seeing her, to explain my notion. I told no person whatever of my writing to him; and he, living alone, told no person whatever of my letter. Between us we managed so that communication with Emma — if anybody had known of the project — was impossible in point of time. There was no telegraph within reach from hence at that time, if there had been any body able to use it. I wrote on a Thursday, saying that for a week from the hour when he would receive my letter he had my leave to learn from Emma what I was doing at any time between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.
The immediate method was put into my head by Mr. C. D. having said, once before, that he was tempted to put a note of mine on her head, to see what she would say; but that he considered that it would be hardly right to do this without my leave. He had therefore never referred at all to me and my visit, and did not know how far the girl was conscious of it. Mr. C. D. received my letter the next morning — Friday — at his home, eight miles from Bolton. Very considerately remembering that it must be somewhat genant to me to be under possible inspection all day, and seeing the advantage of wasting no time, he determined to send me his report by the same day’s post. In the afternoon he made his call at Mr. Haddock’s, found Emma quite ill with a bad cold, and expected nothing from her while so “stuffed” and stupid and headachy; but, as mesmerizing would do her good, he tried what she could do, giving no hint of any particular reason. He was so satisfied that she was confused, and talking at random, that he presently broke off; and much surprised he was to find her accounts of things all right.
As I have said, he knew nothing more about my position here than that I lived at Ambleside. My house was just built; and whether I lived in lodgings, or how or where, he was entirely ignorant. Such was the fact; though it would have made no difference in the essential points of the story if he had known my house as well as his own.
He put on Emma’s head a folded paper, — blank except a few words which told nothing and were not signed, and were written merely to establish the necessary relation. I had also breathed on the paper, for the same reason. Outside it was blank; and it was never unfolded. As soon as she put it on her head she said she could see “the lady that warmed her.” The lady was sitting at a round table before the fire, and opposite the fire was a large window, and there was on another side another window, that opened down to the ground. The sofa, chairs, and window-curtains were light-coloured, &c., &c., — all correct. The only remarkable points of the description were two: the sideboard having a white marble top; and the bookcase, which she called “a right-up” bookcase. It was a straight, tall, narrow bookcase, made to fit in between two windows in our house in London, and looking exceedingly ugly in any other position.
“The lady” was fumbling in her work-box at the table, — turning things over. All this seemed so commonplace, and yet so unlikely (according to Mr. C. D’s. notions) that the business stopped here; and he wrote an account of it after he got home, intending to call (unexpectedly) pretty early the next day, to see if the girl was in better condition. He would carry his letter in his pocket, and finish and post it in Bolton, whatever was the result.
The girl was right in every particular. The time was near five of a February afternoon. I had come into the drawing-room from my work in the study, and was sitting in the dusk before dinner. I had sent my maid out to buy a piece of canvas for a new enterprise of woolwork; and I was looking out my needles and other needful things, ready to begin.
This was Friday afternoon, my proposal having been posted on the Thursday evening. On Saturday Mr. C. Darbishire paid his visit some hours earlier, — from half past eleven to just one. He found Emma not much better, and had no expectations whatever from the interview.
“The lady that warmed her” was in another room to-day; a long room, with a large bay-window at one end and the fireplace at the other. The furniture was black horse-hair, all but the sofa, which was light-coloured. (All true.) But the girl’s interest was about the books. Such a quantity of books she had never seen before; what were they for? She began talking to “the lady,” asking why she had so many books, and whether she could ever read the half of them. At last she came to what “the lady” was doing. She had a cloth in her hand, and she was wiping and doing among some of the books. This upset the girl’s credit with Mr. C. D., to whom it seemed more likely to be a servant-girl’s dream than my occupation.
“Now she has got a book,” Emma declared, — “a big, square, brown book, and she is going to read it on the sofa. Now she is reading it.”
Presently she declared this “tiresome.” She should not “wait long” if the lady did not leave off; and what a tune this reading had gone on! At last she exclaimed, “Well, I shall not wait any longer, if you won’t leave off.” Then, with a laugh, “Ah! but you ‘d better leave off. Tou are not thinking about your book. You have got some dust on your hands, and you are thinking you will go up stairs and wash them! Well, go! You’d better go!” Presently, “Ah! now she’s really going.”
She described my going up stairs, and my standing before the glass, “smoothing her hair,” said Emma; “and there is a lady coming in. No, she has gone out again softly. I don’t know that she is a lady exactly; but she is a nice-looking young person. And the lady never found out she came in.”
Here they stopped, Mr. C. D. as hopeless as the day before, it seemed all so improbable, and the girl was really so oppressed with her cold! He left her at 1 p. m., went to a counting-house to finish his letter, posted it himself, and went home to dinner. I received the letter the next morning, — Sunday, just after breakfast
The facts were these. I had arranged my books the day before (Friday), and being tired, had left one shelf untouched. At eleven on Saturday, and on to about half past, I had a duster in my hand, and was dusting and placing the books. Having finished, I took up one of them, — a volume of Mémoires of the French Institute, sent me just before by M. Ampère, for the sake of a paper on the Memnon at Thebes (apropos to something in my “Eastern Life,” lately published). The volume was rather large, square, and with a yellowish-brown back. I read for a considerable time; but at length observed that my hands were dirty, — wanted to finish the paper, — hesitated, but presently went up to my room and washed my hands.
So far I could testify. When I had finished the letter I rang for my maid. I asked her, “Do you remember whether at any time yesterday you came into my bedroom while I was there?”
After considering a moment, she answered, surprised, “Why, yes, ma’am, I did. I was going to fill the water-jugs; and when I went in you were before the glass; so I went out softly, thinking you did not see me.”
“What time was that?”
After considering again, she said, “It must have been about a quarter to one; for I had just finished up stairs before I brought in your lunch at one.”
This is my second story. Many have heard it; and no one, as far as I know, has ever treated it with levity or incivility. There is nothing new or exceptional in the facts. Every one who has paid any adequate attention to the subject is aware that such instances of clairvoyance are very common; but it does not often happen that allegations of fraud or fancy are so completely excluded as in this case. There may be people who, rather than believe facts that they have stiffened their minds against, would charge Mr. C. Darbishire and me with having fabricated the whole narrative; but, short of this, there seems to be no escape from an admission that there are facts in human nature which require a good deal of humble and candid study before we can honestly claim to know the extent and character of human powers.
Prince Albert might well wonder, as he said he did, what men of science and physicians in England could mean by neglecting such a department of study as this. And nobody ought to be surprised when, as a natural consequence of such neglect, such a hell-feast as the witch-hanging in Salem takes place, or a madness takes possession of a multitude of (professedly) educated people in the nineteenth century about a supposed commerce with the spirits of the dead. When due observation is directed upon such phenomena as those of mesmerism, mankind will take a great new step onwards; and meantime the candid have the advantage over the ignorant and scoffing, that they are in possession of a very interesting and important knowledge of which the others deprive themselves, not knowing what they lose.
Among the more voluminous works of the ten years succeeding her entrance at The Knoll appeared her little book, “Household Education,” — the oracle of so many homes; and the papers afterwards collated by the suggestion of the proprietors, under the title of “Health, Husbandry, and Handicraft,” which she calls “the results of a long experience and observation of the homely realities of life.”
It was at the early part of this period of what seemed impending dissolution that Matthew Arnold, the poet and the student of public educational institutions, wrote the following lines after passing an evening with Harriet Martineau and Charlotte Brontë: —
- HAWORTH CHURCHYARD.
- Where, under Loughrigg, the stream
- Of Rotha sparkles, the fields
- Are green, and the house of one
- Friendly and gentle, now dead,
- Wordsworth’s son-in-law, friend, —
- Four years since, on a marked
- Evening, a meeting I saw.
- Two friends met there, — two famed,
- Gifted women. The one,
- Brilliant with recent renown,
- Young, unpractised, had told
- With a master’s accent her feigned
- History of passionate life;
- The other, maturer in fame,
- Earning she, too, her praise
- First in fiction, had since
- Widened her sweep, and surveyed
- History, politics, mind.
- They met, held converse: they wrote
- In a book which of glorious souls
- Held memorial; bard,
- Warrior, statesman, had left
- Their names, — chief treasure of all,
- Scott had consigned there his last
- Breathings of song with a pen
- Tottering, a death-stricken hand.
- I beheld; the obscure
- Saw the famous. Alas!
- Years in number, it seemed,
- Lay before both, and a fame
- Heightened, and multiplied power.
- Behold! the elder, to-day,
- Lies expecting from Death,
- In mortal weakness, a last
- Summons: the younger is dead.
- First to the living we pay
- Mournful homage; the Muse
- Gains not an earth-deafened ear.
- Hail to the steadfast soul
- Which, unflinching and keen
- Wrought to erase from its depth
- Mist and illusion and fear!
- Hail to the spirit which dared
- Trust its own thoughts before yet
- Echoed her back by the crowd!
- Hail to the courage which gave
- Voice to its creed ere the creed
- Won consecration from time!
- Turn, O Death, on the vile,
- Turn on the foolish the stroke
- Hanging now o’er a head
- Active, beneficent, pure!
- But if the prayer be in vain,
- But if the stroke must fall,
- Her whom we cannot save
- What might we say to console?
- She will not see her country lose
- Its greatness, nor the reign of fools prolonged.
- She will behold no more
- This ignominious spectacle, —
- Power dropping from the hand
- Of paralytic factions, and no soul
- To snatch and wield it; will not see
- Her fellow-people sit
- Helplessly gazing on their own decline.
- Myrtle and rose fit the young,
- Laurel and oak the mature.
- Private affections for these
- Have run their circle and left
- Space for things far from themselves,
- Thoughts of the general weal,
- Country and public cares:
- Public cares which move
- Seldom and faintly the depth
- Of younger passionate souls,
- Plunged in themselves, who demand
- Only to live by the heart,
- Only to love and be loved.
- . . . . .
FRESH FOREIGN INTERCOURSE.
“It is easier to change many things than one.”
— Lord Bacon.
“Am I, therefore, become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?”
I learn from all her journals and letters of this period, as well as by her communications to myself, how deeply her American intercourses touched her heart and mind. She felt that they were not mere formal or flattering expressions, but testimonies of grateful remembrance and regard from the members of the American Antislavery Society to their co-worker of so many perilous years both in England and in America; and they kept alive in her mind the recollection of the years during which she had cherished the purpose of living with them in their own land. The value of that constant co-operation was more and more appreciated, as the news of her hopeless illness from time to time reached the United States; especially as communicated by her American friend, Mr. Pillsbury, who enjoyed the hospitalities of The Knoll shortly after her consultations with Dr. Latham.
At the annual meeting of the Antislavery Society at Boston in 1856, Mr. Garrison, on behalf of the business committee of the meeting, reported the following resolution: —
“Resolved, That, since the briefest historical retrospect of the last quarter of a century would be imperfect without an expression of feeling in view of one great and holy life which the world has seen so unreservedly and strenuously devoted to the welfare of mankind; and since that whole noble life, now approaching the term that gives freedom to speak the whole truth concerning it, has a peculiar claim on our hearts, we feel privileged by our cause, to express to Harriet Martineau, while yet there is time, our deep, affectionate, and reverential gratitude for the benefit of her labours, the honour of her friendship, and the sublime joy of her example.”
And the whole audience stood up in affirmation.
Her illness at this time subjected her to very severe suffering. The frequently recurring suspension of the heart’s action was very alarming. Her recovery from each attack seemed at the time as doubtful as resuscitation after drowning. “Really and truly,” said her friend Lord Houghton, who was accidentally present at one of these sudden seizures, “we may use St. Paul’s words, ‘She dies daily.’ ” She was more than ready, — she was even joyful in the prospect of sudden departure. All her affairs had been settled, her will made, her friends remembered, as soon as Dr. Latham’s warning was given, and while her subsequent condition was becoming more and more hopeless. But she wrought on unremittingly, at every possible moment, with her Autobiography; and when that was finished, resumed her political, antislavery, and literary labours, while more than cheerfully, gladly, waiting for death. Thus life went on, kept in motion, probably, by the quietness of her spirit as well as the great care of her young family friends, till 1859, when her American friends felt the need of her more immediate assistance. For with the increase, in general estimation, of the importance of the great enterprise to which their lives had been devoted, grew a new responsibility, — that of making known on both sides of the sea whatever in relation to it might concern the two great English-speaking nations. To do the needed work effectually, it was felt that the enterprise could no longer be treated topically. It would require the trained power of thought and observation, the political intuition and accomplishment, the historic faculty and knowledge, which it is always the standing difficulty on either side of the Atlantic to combine, and the common despair of both to find united. The great antislavery enterprise of the century demanded, in addition, a universal and impartial sympathy, and a proved power to forego all things else, for the opportunity of usefulness to the world. All these deeply felt needs turned the antislavery mind to Harriet Martineau. She was a member of the Antislavery Society, and it was one of her delights to look at her certificate of membership, forwarded in behalf of the women of Lynn, by Abby Kelly,* their secretary. Long before that time she had devoted herself to the cause. She was one of the earliest abolitionists. She knew the ground and the subject thoroughly in all its bearings; and the executive committee entreated her once more to give the cause the benefit of her co-operation in their own country. Signs of a coming change in the affairs of the nation then began to be seen and felt. The work of wellnigh thirty years began to tell, and to require additional processes in aid of old principles.
Harriet Martineau’s preliminary reply was that such was the corruption that slavery had brought about in our country, and such the defects in our statesmanship, that the difficulties in the way of her compliance would be very great. The more severe and uncompromising we had been in dealing with slavery, its defenders, the apologists for its longer continuance, and its tongue-tied minions whipped into silence, the greater was her sense of the responsibility that must devolve upon herself if she accepted the proposal. But she did accept it, only, however, on condition that whenever her communications did not meet the approval of her American friends they should at once inform her of it. She replied thus: —
March 10, 1859
My dear Friend, —
I have received and read with great pleasure your letter of February 22, containing an invitation to me to write semi-monthly letters to the “Standard” on political subjects, with the object of inducing such interaction as may be possible between the European and American peoples for the extinction of slavery. It has long appeared to me that a link was wanting by which much benefit to your cause was lost; namely, a comparison of the doings of the two continents, as they affect the destinies of the oppressed, and of the negro race in particular. I perceive that our antislave-trade and West India debates and action are reported in your newspapers without any application to your own great national case, and that American transactions are detailed in our journals without any apparent consciousness that any universal interest is at all involved in the case. It is but little that one person can do towards establishing any recognition of a common interest between the two parties, and my power is much impaired by my state of health. But I have experience. I have long endeavoured to make your case understood here; and I am most heartily disposed to try what I can do on the converse side. I will send a letter to the “Standard” by next week’s mail, and will devote my best attention to the consideration of how I may most effectually carry out your wish. The drawback in this transaction is the pain of taking money for my work. I would not do it if I could help it. My friends on the committee know me well enough to know that. If I were not ill and helpless (as to my mode of living), I would beg you to accept my services as a free gift. As it is otherwise, I can only engage to make my service as good as study and care can make it, and entreat you to speak frankly, and without the slightest scruple, if, for any reason whatever, you should wish to dissolve our agreement. I trust you to do so, with or without reason assigned.
If you think proper, will you communicate to your committee (all of whom I regard as dear friends) what I have now said.
Believe me, ever yours affectionately,
Her mind and time were then very full of army work, and the book she was just preparing for the press in aid of Florence Nightingale’s objects, and the critical state of affairs in Europe bound her to the “Daily News.” But it always seemed as if her heart were large enough.
“To take in all, and verge enough for more.”
She accompanied her official consent with a private note, urging still more strongly, in underlined sentences, her earnest desire to be immediately notified of any change in their wishes: —
March 10, 1859.
. . . . That letter of yours gratifies me much; and I am less troubled than usual on such occasions, about my fitness and responsibility. One great thing is that I absolutely trust your fidelity to the cause, to say nothing of my claims on you for honest treatment, to tell me in the plainest and broadest way if I do not answer the committee’s expectations, or aid the cause to such a degree as to make the engagement worth while. . . . .
Understand that you are simply to say ‘stop.’
In another month my book will be out, and I can have some real long talks with you. M— will tell you that I cannot to-day. You see how critical our European affairs are; and I must give what help I can here.
She always bore in mind Lord Bacon’s opinion, — “letters are the things,” — and it was agreed between the friends that the articles should appear in this form, as insuring greater ease and freedom of expression, and as to plainness of speech and choice of topics, the committee gave her carte blanche.
She wrote some ninety letters in “The National Antislavery Standard” during the three succeeding years, learning from time to time, through the editor, “that the friends of the cause on both sides of the Atlantic might,” in his opinion, “will felicitate themselves, for the cause’s sake, that the ‘Standard’ was in future to have the benefit of her guidance in respect to European politics.” He adds: —
“Do not hesitate, I pray you, to utter any word of counsel that may be from time to time suggested by the course of the American abolitionists. Your intimate relations with the cause, and your long-continued and faithful devotion to it, will command for you the respectful attention of all its friends on this side of the water. Exercise the freedom and frankness of speech that pertains to the most intimate and friendly relations.”
And he disapproves of a disposition to magnify mere differences of judgment as to individual character, and a too great unwillingness to admit of sincerely offered aid for the cause working in political or other channels than the Antislavery Society.
“Any views which you may be moved to express in relation to these matters would, I am sure, be well received by all concerned.”
While the first year’s letters were appearing, as had been agreed, over the signature of “H. M.,” the youth of the cause used to call Harriet Martineau “Her Majesty,” as an expression of their satisfaction. But by and by some were offended.
The first occasion was the warning she gave that the friction of debate about individual antislavery character, which was using up the time of the meetings at a moment when change was impending over the nation, was working ill to the society and to the cause.
“Why could not these valued friends [and personal friends of her own, too, some of them were] work apart by themselves, in their own way, if they found themselves unable to work any longer with their own acknowledged and chosen leaders?”
But these friends, being unaware of the technical parliamentary use of the word “leaders” in English politics, where it implies neither disparagement of the members nor abatement of political independence, were exceedingly indignant. “God is our leader! we have no other!”
Other some felt it an indispensable duty to tolerate intolerance; and declared their conviction that the meetings would lose their charm if these brethren should not be sustained. It was the duty of the hour. So the framing and debating of proscriptive resolutions went on.
A very interesting debate followed on the presentation of one, at a great meeting of the abolitionists. The Rev. Samuel May opposed them, and Mr. William Lloyd Garrison, the president of the Antislavery Society, seconded him. “I agree with my friend May,” he said; “as a matter of conscience and from a sense of duty, I cannot vote for these resolutions.” There was a long debate, the result of which was, that the proscriptive resolutions were laid on the table by a large vote, and the society adjourned sine die; and Harriet Martineau congratulated those with whom she was in correspondence upon the event. “It is a good thing that your standpoint remains unchanged.”
The society did indeed remain uncommitted to the incorporation into its records that Mr. Greeley, the editor of the “New York Tribune,” and Mr. Cheever, the pastor of the New York Church of the Puritans (the one active in the Republican party, and the other engaged in organizing a New York Church Antislavery Society), were enemies of the antislavery gospel; but the movers and supporters of these resolutions felt it their duty to carry them through the country, and so debated them as to convey the accusation that Mr. Garrison, the founder, the leader, the president, and the representative man of the society had, by not acting in accordance with them, “lowered the standard” and “betrayed the cause.”
The next “H. M.” letter was as follows: —
It is no part of the object of our correspondence that I should engage in a controversy about any American affairs; and least of all about what concerns your association. Justice seems to require, however, that I should say in reply to a suggestion in the “Standard” that letters are written by our friends in the United States to bias our judgments, that I, for one, refer altogether to the published reports of your proceedings when I comment on any of them. I derived my impressions from published documents, and the speeches on the points they embraced. All I have to say is, that your friends here have always understood the strong point of your association to be that it was not doctrinal in any direction; that it set up no test of opinion and allowed none to be set up; that (as Dr. Follen used to explain to me) it had not even any plan, but that it left opinion free, requiring only that its members should earnestly desire and work at the abolition of slavery, by the means which should present themselves at each passing moment, — the object perdurable, the aim steady, the means whatever time and change should offer. We still understand such to have been the original character of your organization. If we are mistaken we shall be grieved; because the failure of associations grounded on or subjected to opinion is assured in the nineteenth century. When, therefore, a few members attempting to introduce a new principle and method require assent to points of opinion in which unanimity is wellnigh impossible, it seems to us that those who propose to change are the party to withdraw. They say, “We believe this and that, and we must be faithful to our convictions.” By all means; let them say what they think of persons and parties; but surely it is directly contrary to the principles of your association that they should require other members to think as they do, or say whether they do or not. To declare by resolution the demerits of various persons and parties is a direct enforcement of a test in a matter of individual opinion and an infringement on the liberty of every member of the body. Any man has a right to say, on his own account, that he believes A to be as bad as B or C; but when this opinion is pressed as a resolution, the natural objection arises that it is no part of the business of the society to pronounce on such a matter. If the movers go on to intimate that, whereas A is as bad as B and C, D is as bad as either of them if he does not admit it, a further encroachment on liberty is made; for this is forcing D and his friends to assent or dissent. If they do not dissent, they may create a false impression; and if they do, they are compelled to appear as opponents of those with whom they do not desire to dispute. This seems to us a wrong on the one side and a hardship on the other. In salaried agents of the society it seems something graver than impolicy. To us there is no manner of doubt about the prodigious advance of the cause. We see Americans enough, and read and hear enough of what goes on, to be able to compare the tone of united speech at this day with what it was ten, five, three years ago. An association which has to work on through such changes as you have experienced and we have watched, must necessarily be what we have always been assured that yours is, free to act according to the circumstances of the time, sympathizing with all who are doing any thing for the abolition of slavery, and not concerned with the shortcomings of any body else when once you have obtained an open course for yourselves.
As I have said before, and as nobody will dispute, the church stands on a different ground from any other portion of the community, because it assumes to be master of the spiritual and moral situation at all times and under all circumstances; and its false pretensions in the particular case must be exposed, because the abolition of slavery is its primary and express duty, and the omission of its proper and peculiar business is a perilous hypocrisy. There is and can be no case analogous to this; and there is, I suppose, no difference of opinion in your association about it. Those members who think it right to “criticise” colleagues for opinions which they force them to declare, or for a procedure on which every man must judge for himself, cannot be displeased at criticism on such an occasion as their attempt to shift your association to a new basis. That all are faithfully and fervently devoted to the object of your association, no one, I believe, on either side of the water, ever had a moment’s doubt.
The foregoing letter, as well as the preceding one, had been submitted to the editor of the “Standard” in the following letter: —
August 1, 1859.
My dear Sir, —
Let me beg the favour of you to consider carefully (with my friends of the committee, if you like) whether to print the last section of my letter, especially the parts in pencil brackets. My desire is to aid in establishing the principle of your association as we understand it here, and I should be heartily grieved to do any harm. So allow me to put that part of my letter absolutely under the veto of my friends. Of course I don’t wish the part to be altered. That is of course out of the question. But the omission of all that section, or of the parts I have marked, will not in any way vex me. We all have one object. To me it seems well to explain thus far, but I may be mistaken, and unable to settle the expediency at this distance, though I feel sure of my principle.
Yours very truly,
The editor’s conclusion was: —
“I could not see that there was any thing calculated to do harm to the cause or to any individual; and could see no good reason for withholding what was evidently written in charity to all concerned.”
By this time the political signs were threatening in the United States, and Mrs. Martineau became more and more careful to avoid at such a crisis all small issues, while desirous to keep open whatever communication might be deemed useful, and she again took counsel, as follows: —
Ambleside, August 15, 1859.
Mrs. H. G. Chapman.
My dear Friend, —
As you were before the medium of communication between your committee and myself on the subject of my correspondence with the “Standard,” I ask leave to transmit through you an inquiry which new circumstances call upon me to make.
I do not suspect my friends on the committee of forgetting my request that they would speak frankly and without the slightest scruple, if for any reason whatever they should wish to dissolve our agreement. But it is necessary to my own satisfaction that I should repeat this request at the present stage of the correspondence. I hardly need explain that the occasion is the letters . . . . in the “Standard” . . . . which suggest to me the possibility that the committee may think my correspondence no longer likely to be profitable to the cause we all have at heart. It may be that they think so, or that they think otherwise. I wish to know their pleasure, which I am ready and anxious to obey.
I have only to say this, further. If I go on, it must be in frank fulfilment of my engagement to write whatever I believed would promote a mutual understanding and interaction between your country and mine in regard to the antislavery cause. If I stop, it must be publicly and clearly made known that the arrest of the correspondence is by the committee’s desire, and not mine.
My single desire is to do what is best for the cause. On so great a question as that of changing the principle of the American Antislavery Association I could not but remark, while obeying the invitation of your committee; but I am equally willing to speak or be silent, as they may now instruct me. Till I hear from them, I shall write as usual; and under all circumstances and arrangements I shall remain their hearty well-wisher and affectionate friend in the cause.
This letter having been read to the committee, the result was the adoption of the following expression: —
Voted, That it is the unanimous desire of this committee that Mrs. Harriet Martineau should continue her correspondence with “The Antislavery Standard,” exercising the largest liberty of thought and expression according to her own perceptions of right and duty, with reference to whatever may seem to affect the interests of the American Antislavery Society, or the welfare of our cause at large; and that her continued co-operation is deemed of essential service to that cause on both sides of the Atlantic.
From the records
SAMUEL MAY, Jr.
On receiving this vote, Mrs. Martineau immediately replied to Mr. May, conveying her grateful acknowledgments to the executive committee, and expressing the satisfaction and pleasure it would give her to continue the letters: —
I shall fulfil my welcome duty with fresh animation, now that I have received decisive proof that my friends of the committee and I are of one mind as to the necessity of a perfect freedom in our acts and words while working for the gravest and greatest cause now agitating human society.
With cordial esteem and regard, I am yours faithfully,
The scene between antislavery and proslavery might have now reminded the beholders of that at Bothwell Brigg, when the hosts were about to close in front while the preachers were wrangling in the rear; for the slaveholders’ rebellion, confusion, and civil war were at hand.
First came the enterprise of John Brown. The “H. M.” letters deprecated the act, as precipitating the conflict and placing the North at a disadvantage; while deeply moved with admiration for the saintly heroism of the man, she questioned his political sagacity.
Then followed, as topics, the antislavery and friendly feeling of England; the duty of American abolitionists to sustain the United States government the moment it should take its rightful position; the importance to a nation, in process of being renovated, of getting rid of a protective tariff; the course of damaging diplomacy adopted by Mr. Seward; the neutrality of England not hostility: on all of which a statesmanlike view was taken, which, in the opinion of so many, time has since justified, though some of the American coadjutors were much dissatisfied at the moment.
Still, as no official disapprobation came from the antislavery committee, the “H. M.” letters went on. Noticing, however, in the “Standard” here and there, slight signs of the discontent, the correspondent again sought information of the editor of the “Standard” as to the desirability of discontinuance. “I trust, for one,” he replied, “that the committee will never discontinue them.”
The next “H. M.” letter spoke thus: —
“I had hoped that a recent paragraph of my American letters would be noticed as an explanation of my method. I remarked that I need say but little of the discontent with myself; I do not wish to occupy your space in such a way. Every practical purpose will be answered by a brief explanation of my point of view. My course has always been to fight your battles on this side the water to the utmost extent that truth will allow, while speaking the plain truth on the other side on all matters which relate to the principle and conduct of the cause of human freedom. This is not the way to gain popularity, it is the way to insure displeasure on both sides. But that is a small matter in comparison with the least good that may be done in either country. I certainly think that it is the course most conducive to peace and a clear understanding between the two nations. I shall go on as long as I live with that part of the work which lies here. As to the other half, it rests with you, as you are aware, whether I continue it. You know that I wait upon your pleasure in regard to corresponding with the ‘Standard,’ as I have always done. A word from you, at any time, will bring my farewell, as I have repeatedly reminded you and the committee.”
Meanwhile, she had learned the empty condition of the Antislavery Society’s treasury, and thought, besides, that if dissatisfaction existed in a single mind among her associates, it were better to remove all pecuniary considerations out of the way; and she wrote to the general agent of the American Antislavery Society declining further payments.
The reply to this was a vote from the committee assuring her that “her generous offer to continue her correspondence without pay if the committee will be pleased to accept the service, is fully appreciated, and that she be requested to continue her letters to the ‘Standard,’ but upon the same terms as during the past year.”
The secretary, Mr. May, went on to say that her “clear eye and vigorous hand enable us to see many things which are transpiring in Europe which otherwise we might not and probably should not see; and we need,” he added, “your continued criticism here; . . . . trusting you may long be spared and be strong to do the work which so much needs to be done, of encouraging and directing the labours of those who would build justly and benevolently, and of watching and thwarting those whose law is selfishness and whose measures are oppression.”
Finally came the seizure of the Rebel commissioners from beneath the British flag. Congressional and State approbation immediately followed the bursts of popular acclamation and the banqueting in honour of the deed. The commercial newspapers were forward in checking anxiety as to any ill consequences. They knew “what Great Britain always does in such cases will be done now: she will protract negotiations till the affair is forgotten.” Still anxiety did arise in some minds, and there was talk in the outside row of politicians surrounding men in office, of sending acute observers to watch, in England, the temper of the times; and Everett, Beecher, Thurlow Weed, and others were mentioned as the right sort of men to report from thence the actual feeling of the hour.
Harriet Martineau wrote instantly to the “Standard” that England was arming; but with the deepest feeling against going to war, and with the strongest self-control and the most earnest desire — submitting passion to law — that America might recede, England awaited the alternative.
Thereupon the editor of the “Standard” says, “You cannot imagine the storm about my ears!”
Remonstrants had rushed into the office, demanding the suppression of the letter. It was the long, legal, just, eloquent, and, above all, the much-needed one that should have been welcomed by wise men, to turn back the tide of popular emotion that does not distinguish between a casus belli and a self-gratification.
The editor was able, however, to clear himself from the charge of “misusing the society’s funds by paying for such letters.” “The letters are a gift,” he said to such as accused him of malappropriation of funds. But he was obliged to suppress the very letter that would have given the needed information about the public mind and assured course of England in case the action of the American public as displayed in Congressional votes, popular eulogy, and the praises of the press should not be reversed.
An abstract of the suppressed letter will show that no abolitionist need have been dissatisfied. It was the very echo of the antislavery voice and spirit, and it was no more severe upon the American government and people in this exigency than the reform voice had been ever wont to be.
It affirmed that this was not a case for the protracted negotiations that the commercial newspapers had predicted; that the right of asylum had been violated, and the English nation compelled with loathing to become the champion and protector of the slaveholding commissioners; that, while awaiting the alternative of peace or war with controlled passion and earnest demand for legal direction, England’s dock-yards and barracks and line-of-battle ships were all alive with preparation; that a terrible condemnation was the due of the Everetts, the Websters, the Sewards, the Bigelows, and all who in past times and present had misled the American people on international duties and morals; with scathing rebuke of the commander of the American naval ship whose absurd folly the American people seemed to be hailing as “pluck” and “dash,” closing with a fervent blessing on the American abolitionists, and a call to them to come to the front with such counsel for immediate emancipation as they in England longed to hear. “This and this only can avail. This and this only will secure foreign sympathy, while a foreign war in the hope of thereby uniting North and South would be madness, and the negroes would be the sacrifice. If ever men deserved the blessing of redemption from a national curse it is the abolitionists.”
But happily the “Standard” was not “H. M.’s” only American correspondent, nor her warnings confined to the antislavery office; and all English letters and despatches confirmed her information. The Washington government was wise in time; and they who had cried at banquets, “Off coats and fight!” now cried, “Off hats and apologize!”
It would have been absurd indeed at such an hour of impending civil war for any antislavery committee to debate over this or any other incidental action. The day of free speech was over, and the day of martial law had begun; and so thought Harriet Martineau. She merely said: —
“I am sorry for them that are so angry, but for myself I have seen a great many such American displays: they must, however, insert a letter of leave-taking from me (as far only as writing for the ‘Standard’ is concerned), but my work for you will go on here just the same; and, happily, I have great opportunities to do it.”
And, in effect, her writings on behalf of the United States as against the Confederates became more and more frequent and influential.
She wrote at this time, besides occasional articles in second-rate periodicals, in four leading organs of English public opinion.
Her respect for Mr. Garrison was, if possible, increased by the way in which he had borne himself under the attempts, which she had rebuked, to brand him as unfaithful to the cause. She received many entreaties on both sides of the ocean to reprint the “H. M.” letters in book form, but she constantly refused.
“It would defeat my plan to grant such requests. I see our friends have not observed my previous paragraph, which would explain why I refuse; and they do not remember that I am one of their comrades.”
It should here be remembered that from her earliest political action Harriet Martineau’s method had been the same, — to use her influence on both sides.
Previous to the exclusion of the “H. M.” letters, their treatment of the subject of “protection” had given to some readers much dissatisfaction.
The letters had strongly urged the abandonment of the protective policy as the highest expediency and the truest morality: “The sin of the North is ‘protection,’ as the sin of the South is slavery.” If the letters had said the guilt of the two sections on these different grounds was equal, the indignation could hardly have been greater; and persons brought up upon the Assembly’s Catechism to be aware that some sins are less heinous than others, and yet classed as sins in the Ten Commandments, were now laying it down as a grievous offence that here were things mentioned in the same sentence that ought not to be mentioned in the same week; and although the committee had given the letters carte blanche, it was loudly affirmed that they were “off the platform.”
Some of Harriet Martineau’s correspondence of this period is subjoined, in illustration of her opinions on the subjects of protection and American politics.
Now, as ever, was manifest Harriet Martineau’s unshaken reliance — the consequence of her long experience — on the expediency of the frankest communication between individuals and nations in cases of misunderstanding. On receiving from William W. Story (the sculptor, the poet, the traveller, the biographer, the student of jurisprudence, and the son of her old and dear friend, Judge Story) a long argument on the American side of the pending questions, with the request to procure for it insertion in the “Daily News,” she immediately sent it to the editor with an introduction from herself, urging the importance of a knowledge of the American view to England, as well as of the English view to America; and, long as it was, it was inserted at full length. Her heart having been so long given to the United States for their freedom and their peace, the “Daily News” did but become the more effectual in accomplishing these two ends, as the change of standpoint made in the “Standard” released her from its columns. The benefit of her influence in England in favour of the Union was felt and acknowledged by many.
In the words of “Harper’s Weekly,” a magazine of very extensive circulation under the editorship of the Hon. George W. Curtis, —
“Our children’s children may well gratefully remember this course of the London ‘Daily News.’ ”
It is time, before going further, to complete the story of the Trent.
The Rebel commissioners were carried to the North, and imprisoned at Fort Warren in Boston harbour. One of them was of that widely known Mason family which had received Harriet Martineau with so much enthusiasm half a lifetime before, now separated from her by her life of opposition to him.
A sumptuous banquet was prepared next day in Boston at the Revere House (hotel), to do honour to the deed of Commodore Wilkes in seizing the rebel commissioners. Among the men of note who assisted at it were Governor Andrew of Massachusetts and his staff, the Mayor of Boston, the president of the Board of Trade, and other leading men. “Wilkes did right!” they all said.
When, long afterwards, Mr. George Thompson was demonstrating the friendliness of England before a great public meeting in Boston, by statistics of the vast gatherings of Englishmen all over their country; by the universal adhesion of the labouring classes, especially the population of Lancashire; by the unvarying course (with but here and there an exception) of the press; by the steady refusal of the government to acknowledge the Confederates; by the constant support in that refusal received from Parliament, he added, —
“For certain Confederate sympathizers among our aristocracy, defeated as they were, I offer no excuse. You can afford to pardon them.”
Governor Andrew, who sat near Mr. Thompson on the platform, here interrupted, half rising and touching Mr. Thompson’s arm: “Say no more, my friend! We all have need of pardon.”
A further portion of Mrs. Martineau’s previous and subsequent correspondence is subjoined, illustrating her political principles.
May 16, 1861.
I am glad you encourage me to answer Greeley, and that you think Mr. Johnson will print my reply. I don’t want to throw away a bit of work that I hope may be useful. I do wish your people would attend a little to a subject which involves so much of moral and material importance, and so affects their national repute. But I doubt whether any body there has really studied the subject at all. Greeley certainly does not understand it. All his mistakes cannot be dishonesty. A more flagrant piece of nonsense could hardly be pointed out since men began setting up fancies against knowledge and science, in political economy. . . . . It would be a great thing to bring your nation up to simple principles which should preclude class legislation and insure justice all round.
Tell me what you think of my answer when you see it. There will be nothing for you to be ashamed of, for I decline noticing personalities. I see that — — and — — are both clearly unaware of my position in regard to political economy generally, and free trade in particular, and I shall not in any way refer to it. True, I ought to tell the editor, who may not be aware that I speak with any authority; but it is not a pleasant thing to do, and I had rather not. Very likely you have.
Well! I am glad you anticipate an answer. It gives me more spirit to do it; and I trust it may be of use. I don’t understand the objection to my criticism which you mention, — “of my country being a sinner like the United States.” This is not so. We have not a penny of protective duty now; and we began to reform the system as soon as Adam Smith showed us where we were wrong. Your tariff is a plunge back again into barbarism, when even the late king of Naples and such like had been removing protective duties.”
Her niece’s postscript is to the effect that her aunt is more than usually ill, but is at work on one of her articles.
May 29, 1861.
. . . . To day I am happier than I have been yet about your war. Russell’s letter to the “Times” ends with a paragraph — date, May 2 — which seems to show that the South will collapse on hearing of the spirit of the North. O, the “instant turning tail” is delightful! . . . .
What a wretched figure the “Times” cuts in its leaders beside Motley’s exposition! The latter is a great benefit here; just what was wanted. It feels so strange to me, — every body now coming round to me on American affairs. . . . .
Do you know I am very glad of your sort of assurance that my answer to Greeley will appear. It is a very long letter, but I shall be really sorry if it does not appear entire, because of the importance of the subject and the desirableness of showing that Greeley does not understand it. The Spitalfields catastrophe must go into my next, — the finest illustration of the case that events could furnish. The rapid conversion of the French manufacturers is excellent too. It is regretable that the South should have this handle against the North, owing to (it seems to me) the blank ignorance of society on the question. What does Greeley think of Motley’s mention of it, I wonder.
I will say something about sanitary care of your precious soldiers in my “Standard” letter of Monday next.
After remarking that Mr. Russell’s situation precludes his writing full letters: —
“One good consequence is, however, that, poor as they may be, they will dispose forever of the cry that your rupture is the result of ‘Democratic institutions.’ ”
June 13, 1861.
. . . . The feeling here is changed, — not at all in favour of the South; but what a pity it is that your journalists and envoys and others have no notion of political rationality and propriety! Cassius Clay and Burlingame at Paris, and Seward at Washington, and bullies every where, have made sad confusion of your cause and reputation. . . . . If it were the bigotry of a high-principled, narrow nation there would be something respectable in the rancour, and it would be appreciated here. But coming from the most profligate political writers and speakers and actors in the world, it is wholly disgusting; and the good people and the best parts of your case are involved in the general disgrace. Clay, Burlingame, and the speakers and writers on this question have not the remotest conception of the principles of science on the one hand, or of honour on the other, on which government is carried on in a European monarchy. There is, also, a style of imputation which shows the level of the writers’ conceptions. So it is in the motives found for me by Mr. Greeley and others. It really seems to be so with every speaker and writer on any part of the subject. The conception of a principled, consistent, independent national policy, such as is a matter of course under a constitution like ours, and which our statesmen are bred up to, is altogether beyond their ken. But you abolitionists will be able now to abate these vulgar disgraces of the Republic. You mention Cobden and “protection.”
You seem to lament that a very good man is not a very great one. He is so far great, however, as to be equal to his work, a very high order of work indeed, — a diffusion of social justice which tends to international peace.
“Protection.” Is not protection a sin? It involves more sin, and a greater variety of it, than any system I know of, except slavery.
It would astonish some folk not a little to learn what relation the system (in any form or degree) bears to sin.
Mr. Adams is liked thus far, because less puerile, more moderate, not frantic in preaching and proselyting. . . . . He must speak out, decidedly and honestly, and then his self-command will tell.
How I have run on politics! very needlessly, for I know you think just what I have been saying.
June 26, 1861.
. . . . As to the protectionist matter, I need only say that we see more and more plainly that the subject is not understood; which is quite natural among a flourishing new people. Mr. Greeley ought to understand it, if he tries to make tariffs; but he clearly does not, nor do those who have any doubt about the “sin.” I wish they knew how the degradation of our peasantry (who are now rising hourly), the crime of our cities, the brigandage of our coasts, the deprivation of our poor-law system, and the demoralization of whole classes have been occasioned by the protective system, which they seem to consider an optional matter, with only some considerations of expediency, pro or con. “Protection” has ruined more of our people, body and soul, than drink. Your people cannot, in this age, be so overridden as ours was before the world was better; but if you judge wrong on this point, you will settle the point of progression or lapse. You will establish an influence, second only to slavery, in debasing the common morals and manners. I know that this is not perceived; but there is our experience and the French for younger folks’ benefit. The rowdy and vagabond and plundering element will acquire a terrible ascendency if any ground is afforded for illicit trade.
July 11, 1861.
About the “Standard.” . . . . I am very sorry it is in need of funds. Command me if I can do good by still writing. I will send you a monthly letter (gratuitous) till you bid me stop. You see by this time that there is no cotton-homage here. There is a total absence of all regards to it in the conduct of both government and people. Every thing has been said and done as if no cotton existed. The South has been as completely out in her reckoning, as the North in her judgment and temper about us. The sympathetic interest is over here, — in the public, I mean. Nothing can at present restore the feeling of last spring, because nothing can restore the confidence in American judgment or even perception of facts. Having made up their minds that England would be mercenary, the North concluded, without evidence, that she was mercenary. And then, finding that she was not so, fancied that she had altered! The despair of the American case is in the vices of democratic government, which render steadiness and consistency impossible. This is more fatal than even the quarrelsome temper; and I cannot but fear great mischief from it during this session of Congress.
Talking of low preconceptions, I observe every where, in all the American newspapers, the same notion, — that we judge the Northern policy of protection by the rate of duty on iron and woollens that we have to pay. It does not enter into the heads of even liberal and moral writers that we can have any other objection to the principle than its affecting our purse. They are wholly ignorant of the aristocratic and pillaging character of the system, and of its damning influence on the character and reputation of a democratic republic; and they see no further than the damage to Britishers, and assume that that is what the Britishers are thinking about.
It was no vague impression, no mere wish, the parent of the thought, that dictated this assurance that England would not break the blockade on account of cotton.
She was then in the midst of the distress occasioned by the blockade, and witness to the noble way in which it was borne; and while writing to her American friends assuring them of English sympathy, she was daily engaged in such correspondence as the following, — counselling, planning, co-operating, and giving money.
For example: correspondence with Blackburn about food and clothing in mitigation of distress and abatement of the intolerance which was excluding Unitarian dissenters there from relief; the same correspondence with Ashton-under-Lyne, — the intolerance, however, being on the other side, manifested by insulting resolutions excluding clergymen and ministers of religion; correspondence, with aid to Denton Rectory; correspondence, with aid to Hulme, for Workingmen’s Institute; correspondence, with aid to relief fund, Burnley Borough; correspondence, with aid to Stockport, through central relief committee; correspondence, with aid to relief fund, Oldham; correspondence, with donation of clothing, London; correspondence, with donation to Lancashire Emigration Society, Manchester; donation to Denton Rectory; to relief committee, Salford; to relief committee, Old-field; to cooking-schools, Manchester.
Again from Manchester, entreating a letter of counsel about the management of emigration.
The following was her appeal in behalf of the distress in Lancashire, in response to the entreaty to “aid us with your pen and influence.”
To the Editor of the “Daily News.”
I have just seen something which impresses me so much that I hope you will grant me space to describe it, and to commend the facts to my countrywomen, on behalf of the sewing-schools of Lancashire and Cheshire.
I need hardly explain that these sewing-schools furnish at once a safe refuge for the unemployed factory-girls, a good training in domestic needlework, and the means of buying clothing exceedingly cheap. The plan is in every way admirable; and to sustain and multiply these schools is to do unmixed good. While some people send money (and much money is wanted) others cannot do better than send materials for clothing. The cry for material is very urgent; and it is about this that I write. Whatever is sent should be good and suitable. It would be a cruel mockery to send rubbish, when cold weather is coming on, and substantial warm clothing is becoming a necessary of life. But there are ways of getting good materials cheap. For children’s dress particularly this is easy; and the children have the very first claim if Lord Palmerston’s advice is to be taken, and the present dreary opportunity is to be used for keeping every boy and girl at school.
The other day a friend of mine went forth with £5 in her pocket, to see how much good sound clothing material she could get for that sum. I have just been looking over her package, before it goes to the Blackburn Sewing-School, and I find the contents to be as follows: —
- 15 Women’s gowns, seemly and serviceable.
- 7 Frocks for young girls and children.
- 6 Petticoats, linsey and stuff.
- 4 Petticoats, woven.
- 5 Flannel petticoats, very good.
- 1 Child’s pinafore.
- 2 Boy’s blouses, dark blue flannel, very good.
- 11 Women’s shifts, unbleached calico.
- 7 Caps, strong muslin, checked.
- 4 Bonnets, coburg, drab.
A good supply of tapes, linen, buttons, and hooks and eyes.
It will be asked how such a purchase was achieved, and this is what I have to tell.
My friend went to a shop (kept by a good-natured tradesman, which is an important element in the case) where there was likely to be a remainder stock at the close of each season of the year. She explained her object, and was shown remnants of flannel and calico, dresses out of fashion, out of season, or soiled (being washable) or faded. Pieces too short for a gown would serve for a frock; odd ends of stuff would make bonnets; the discarded fashions in linseys yield excellent warm petticoats very cheap. There were no cheap shawls in stock, nor cloaks; but in a town these might probably have been obtainable. So might the list and cloth selvages from clothiers’ and woollen-drapers’ shops, from which warm capes may be made, in a way which every needlewoman knows.
Now, there are good-natured shopkeepers every where; and wherever there is a draper’s shop of any consideration there are remnants, and faded and old-fashioned articles of dress. Ladies who have hours to spare can do much to serve their Lancashire sisters by trying, as my friend has done, how much they can get for £5. Fifty ladies, doing this, might go a long way towards clothing the women and children of the suffering districts. And why should there not be fifty and twice fifty ladies doing this thing within a week?
I may remind them that there is little time on the spot, and little space and resource of convenience; and that therefore every thing should be sent in readiness for the needle. The unbleached calico should be washed out, the garments should be cut out, in breadths at least, if not to fit; and each sort should be ticketed, each parcel of gowns, petticoats, &c., being separate, and ticketed with the number and quantity.
It will be a great kindness to put in half-worn clothes. As I said before, no rubbish. But there are few houses in which there are not some articles of dress which can be spared before they are nearly worn out. I will only say further that every charge of carriage should be paid by the sender, and as little trouble given as possible. It will add a grace to the gift if every thing that can be wanted is put into the parcel, — linings, tape, buttons, hooks and eyes, thread, and even needles and pins. The very completeness will be a lesson to the girls, and will give pleasure in places where pleasures are very rare at present.
HARRIET MARTINEAU TO MRS. CHAPMAN.
July 25, 1861
With regard to raising money in Europe to sustain the “Standard,” I don’t see any probability of success whatever. The people would be astonished at being asked, at a time when the American nation is up in arms (as is understood here) on the very question, and when the government asks such enormous sums wherewith to battle for the right, and £100,000,000 are being levied to sustain an antislavery revolution and war; why should Europe send you a few hundreds? So they will ask, and I think it will not be easy to answer. But I shall not desert the “Standard.” I will, as I said, send a monthly letter (if able) till you or the editor bid me stop. And I certainly shall not take any payment . . . . no use talking about it. I wish you would just forget it. I shall not, of course, be able to give my annual £5 to the cause, but my letters I can give, and you will be welcome to them. As to Dr. Follen’s saying of having no plan, — which I myself quoted last year, — I think I know what he would have said to the proposal that the managers of a revolution and civil war should have no plan. I know what he would have said to applying to such a case a proposal suitable enough for a little band of moral apostles beginning to feel their way to the nation’s heart. So, again, — —’s notion that no serious moral principle is involved in the financial regulation of industry and commerce! Supremely silly, however, is the confounding a censure of a political system with personal impertinences. Of course there is no sort of doubt about it, political action is a proper subject for discussion, censure, denunciation. Nobody here comprehends such soreness as is shown by Greeley and others. Every political scheme here is discussed with all possible freedom, and nobody dreams of being offended. But the moment any man passes from the matter in question to insult any body personally, he is simply regarded as a blackguard (excuse the term) and sent to Coventry accordingly. Nobody would speak to Greeley here after reading those letters. You will see I have dealt with the whine about personalities in two lines. I hardly liked stooping to do it, but as they really did not seem to see the distinction in the case, I just said there could be no personality on my side, as I did not know who were the parties responsible for the policy.
Dear friend, don’t either be or seem sensitive on my account. I don’t like being insultingly treated, so entirely as I am unused to it here, but it is of no real consequence. I must keep clear of further controversy; not only that I am too ill for it, but I see it is useless. As to what you say of Clay and Burlingame, I don’t think any thing of diplomatic traditions, etiquette, court-manners, and all that. These things signify less and less, and are not expected of republican ministers. It is the utter unfitness for political counsel that amazes us in those men; the absence of judgment, temper, and decent manners. They misapprehended the plainest transactions going on before their eyes, went into a groundless passion, assumed the function of agitators, and tried to play upon the supposed jealousy between France and England; getting only laughed at by both sides, because the two were exactly of one mind. “A pretty sort of ambassador!” the world cries. I need not say what qualities are indispensable in grave negotiation and in protecting the honour and interests of one’s country; nor need I say that B. and C. have shown a most remarkable deficiency in those qualities.
The function of the “Times” (self-assumed) which you speak of I take to be, leading the most popular surface sentiment or notion of the moment, without the slightest regard to truth or right or consistency. As there is the utmost ignorance there, it is often getting wrong and always supposing a lower class (morally) than the real one to be the majority.
“It was well said by Themistocles, that speech was like cloth of gold, whereby the imagery doth appear in figures; whereas in thought they be but as in packs. . . . .
It is good in discourse and speech of conversation to vary and intermingle speech of the present occasion with arguments; tales with reasons; asking questions with telling of opinions.”
In the most faithful sketches of animated conversation it may well be that old friends should hardly find the picture true; so tame and ineffectual is all such reproduction, lacking the lighting smile, the penetrative glance, the eager or earnest or watchfully alert eye, the long look into far futurity, that go with a visible unfolding of the heart in so transparent a being as Harriet Martineau; but all will recognize the opinions.
Looking at the engraving of the Antislavery Society’s certificate of membership, when the rights of the women who were members were hotly contested, she said, “All that turmoil about the rights of all your members to make speeches on your platforms, while the very figure-head of your society is a woman preaching!”
The word “truth” often raised a ripple in conversation: “What do you mean by it? Are we both meaning the same thing? Is it veracity, or actualness, that you mean? The correspondence of thing to thing throughout the universe is what we ought to reckon truth to be.”
“True to our colours,” “true to our convictions,” “true to ourselves,” “true to our friends,” “speaking the truth,” were texts as the talk went on. At last the inquiry was made whether it were justifiable or not for philosophers to quote Scripture or enrich their intercourse with biblical phraseology. “Who finds fault with us,” said one, “for talking about
‘The fair humanities of old religion,’
or for quoting with gusto the old classics?” “Why not indeed?” she asked, — “why not? Why, because every body has transcended them as completely as you have done; and there is no danger in the case of becoming double-minded, or of being accused of duplicity or insincerity. But about the Bible, and the existing forms, we must be more careful. We can have respect and sympathy for others in all their forms and all their books of religion. But we must not give occasion for these accusations. We must take care not to deceive our listeners as to our real mental condition. No, no! better forbear the phraseology than be constantly encumbered with explanations.
“But one accused of infidelity may rightly affirm his attachment to religion? Is it not the true name of all that binds the human race together? — and ‘piety’ too?” “No, I should hardly allow you the word; there is no piety without a personal God in these days.” “But there was the pious Æneas?” “True; but you cannot use these words in any such philological, old-world way, at this time of day, without being misunderstood.” “But is it not really so, if these words do really mean what we define them to mean?” “Look in your Johnson’s Dictionary. What you say may be true to you, but, as he would say, ‘such is not the common opinion of mankind.’ ”
“I see the London correspondent of one of your American papers says that he trusts the Grote Memoir will be ‘racy’ and ‘sprightly.’ It sickens me. Professor Bain shares the task of Mr. Grote’s aged widow, and is no less grave than she in regard to the great scholar and philosophic historian whose labours they record.”
“Tell me about the ‘Westminster Review,’ was a question I asked her. “It was mortgaged to me in 1854,” she replied; “and if I had then known of the plots and devices going on in the office, I would not have advanced the sum. It was £ 500, and the Westminster was in danger of stopping. A base attempt having been made to get it out of Dr. Chapman’s hands in order to give it over to an anti-Comtist, some indignant friends of Chapman and of myself made great sacrifices to keep it in its proper track. The three greatest of these friends were Mr. Grote, Mr. Courtauld, and Mr. Octavius Smith; the two latter bought off the conspirators, who would otherwise have made Chapman a bankrupt and taken the Review out of his hands. It was then necessary to disburden the Review of the mortgage; Mr. Grote offered to manage that business, I offering to surrender £50 of my claim; which, however, turned out but £45, the money contributed being £5 more than was necessary. I believe [she went on in reply to my inquiry whether Mill gives the history of the origin of the Westminster correctly] that his account is correct. It was established as the organ of the advanced liberals, but it never had capital enough to prosper.”
Talking of forgiveness, she one day said, “I do not know what people in general mean by the word. Some use it as if it implied that they were to act against common-sense.” “How? Pray exemplify.” “Why, when Jack or Gill are persisting in doing you a wilful injury and from no good motive, of course you are to forgive them, till seventy times seven if you will; that is, you are not to revenge yourself, but do them all the good you can: but does this imply that you are to expose yourself to their malice? You forgive such a one; but can you respect, can you esteem such a one? Can you trust such a one? You may have forgiven one that it is not safe for you to meet except before witnesses; or to meet at all if you chance to be so low in health as to be easily shocked, or if the enemy chances to be one trying to take advantage of your society to put you in a false position.”
“Do you agree with Dr. Channing in his preference for individual to associated action?” “To a certain extent. I do hate decent time-wasting work done together by many which could be better done singly and apart. I am not fond of routine-doings, — work done to-day that had better cease, and for which no other reason can be given than that it was done yesterday. I often see people preferring the spinning-wheel after the great manufactories are in motion. All that I dislike. But we must each judge for ourselves, and I think we shall no doubt follow our natures. When individual action is insufficient for individual enterprise and desire, one naturally seeks association. In that case only is it likely to be other than a decent form. Associations for the promulgation of ideas should have enterprises involved, or they will soon die out, or be turned to selfish purposes.”
Reading an article of Miss Alcott’s, she says, “ ‘Transcendental Wild Oats’! — what a capital title! It has genius in it.”
“Sara Coleridge’s Life, at last. A melancholy book it seems to me. What a contrast is Mrs. Somerville’s! What absolute serenity! What low expectations from human kind! But she took things and people as they came, and supposed all was right. She was a charming woman, and I am thankful the world has had her.”
“This vote of the members of Congress to enrich themselves prospectively seems to me the most menacing disgrace and discouragement that has yet wounded the spirit of republicanism. But nothing pleases me like what I hear of the awakening sense in the United States of the need of a training in statesmanship. I think hitherto the Americans have seen the English governing classes in one light alone, — as lovers of power and dignity, getting grandeur and wealth by claims of birth and position; as, in short, a selfish aristocracy living for their own purposes. We regard ‘the governing classes’ as a portion of society of very great value, as qualified from the outset to render social services for which no other class or order of citizens can be qualified. One may meet with a man here and there in promiscuous society who knows something of political history, or understands more or less of political philosophy, but the cases are rare, and their worth needs proving before it can be used, and they may never light upon an entrance into public life. Whereas, where there is an aristocracy like ours, educated at the universities, and connected with statesmen on all hands, and with hereditary duty of statesmanship for their birthright, their country is tolerably secure against moral corruption (political) on the one hand, and social blundering on the other. The Americans have wonderful energy in bearing and vanquishing the mischiefs of misgovernment, but it would be a happier spectacle and a finer lesson for the rest of the world, if the men in office were educated for their work.”
“My beloved ‘Nation’ has just come to hand; but the article about Mill at the Carlyles’ [as to the destruction of Carlyle’s manuscript by a careless servant] (p. 368) is incorrect, and at p. 372 I find a misunderstanding of Mr. Grote’s action in the matter of the philosophical chair in University College. It would be a complete breach of the very principle which is the raison d’être of the institution and of the chair itself, to install a teacher whose philosophy is the product of his theology. The college was largely founded, and has since been supported, by Jews, for the education of Jewish youth; and there are many Hindoos, and the sons of others; and for special ideal Christian philosophy people must go elsewhere. It is no question of toleration or intolerance at all. As we hoped, the result is admirable. ‘The Unknown Man’* was thoroughly known to Mr. Grote, Mr. Bain, and others, and he is wholly successful and highly valued in his office. I wish the ‘Nation’ could see this matter as I do. Do you know who is the writer?
“Mill’s melancholy book is out; he is much overrated as a man, but his book is the book of the season.”
“We have heard of the great Boston fire,” she writes to Mrs. Chapman in New York, “and my first anxiety was for Mary Chapman, and whether she was safe, and whether you and she had lost much endeared property such as no insurance could compensate for. Then came the thought whether my chest of papers had been perhaps consumed by the fire. Now, mind, I am prepared to hear this; yet it will not trouble me injuriously, be assured. If the whole mass should be lost, do not heed it. Be assured my mind is free from all care about it, or about any thing, indeed. The truth is, I have been unusually glad and easy at heart for above a week past. You will know at once what this means, as you will feel that I am again worse. Yes, that is what it means. I am too far gone for any thing but humouring. I fully recognize the fact, and do not feel humbled by it. I have no pride about owning or denying the great suffering belonging to my present state. The truth is, it is great suffering, and I am thankful for any soothing or intermission of it. When your time comes, may it be easy and gentle, — this process of surrendering life. Every body is so kind and watchful! I have had a sweet greeting from Madame Mohl and from Elizabeth Pease.”
The conversation turning on what is allowable in publication, and on the shells and husks of lives given as biography, she expressed the opinion that what concerned the public should in a general sense be given to the public. “Not,” she added, “but what I feel myself suddenly turning hot, in sympathy for the pain they must feel, when I see persons praised in print more than they deserve.” I spoke of her own praise of Mary Ware of Boston, the story of whose devotedness to an English village ravaged by fever she had herself made public, and that too in Mrs. Ware’s lifetime; and of the pain that publicity gave to Mrs. Ware’s daughter. “Yes,” replied Mrs. Martineau. “She found fault with me vehemently, — unreasonably, as I thought; but I said, ‘My dear child; your mother’s high character and noble life made a part of our riches before you were born!’ ”
“Senior’s Book of Conversations? Yes; with its journals and talk with prominent men in France between 1848 and 1852 it is the fullest representation yet given or likely to be given of the interior life of the politics of both countries during an important period.”
“Paulding? No; we never saw him, nor wished to see him, nor thought of seeing him. Miss Jeffrey says the same. Somebody has been falsifying. An odd thing to take up thirty years after.”
At another time, free speech being the topic, Mrs. Martineau spoke as she always did of its necessity. “Yet,” she continued, “it is to be used with judgment. Free speech on a criminal case, for example, through the press, undisputed and universal when the trial is over, must be mischievous, and may be and generally is illegal and unjust, while the trial is in progress. The American correspondents of newspapers seem not to be clear in this matter. They mislead the American public upon the two great points of the liberty of speech and the administration of justice in English law-courts.”
“How many times in my life have I virtually said the same thing, — that if we all knew that half the existing generation of mankind would die, and half be immortal, who would not long to be sure of being in the dying half?”
“The managers of the Mill memorial put my name, without even leave asked, on their executive committee. I wrote a remonstrance, desiring it to be withdrawn. It was reason enough to assign that age and illness incapacitated me for any duty of the sort. But there are other reasons. I do not wish to implicate myself with his repute. I have a great admiration for his intellect, and a strong regard for his heart, and a full belief in his innocence of intention. But he was deplorably weak in judgment, with the weakness, so damaging to a man, of being as impressionable as a woman.
“My contemporaries are dying off fast. I am thankful for your sympathy about Bulwer’s death. There was the making of a great, good man in him.”
Talking of the “Liberty Bell,” an antislavery annual for which she used to write and procure articles from her friends, I recalled contributions of Milnes and others, written at her request. “Yes,” she said, “and I should have got you a sonnet from Wordsworth, too, if Quincy had not been so witty and Lowell so crushing upon his sonnets on capital punishment. I could not ask him after one of you had called him ‘the Laureate of the gallows’ and the other
‘An old man, faithless to humanity.’ ”
Reminding her one day of her strenuous efforts in the United States for an international copyright, “Yes!” she replied, I did a work — a vain one up to this time — on that behalf in England and in America both.”
Before me lies the English circular on the blank page of which she had written one of a sheaf of letters addressed to Judge Story, Mr. Adams, Mr. Clay, Mr. Palfrey, Dr. Follen, and others, with whom she had consulted in 1836.
The letter is as follows: —
London, November 8, 1836.
Dear Friend, —
Here is our petition. Help us get up a similar one from American authors. Rouse all Boston and New York. No time for more.
“I do admire Miss Thackeray’s ‘Old Kensington.’ ”
“The Ballantines were deceived by Scott and insulted by Lockhart. I do hope Constable’s third volume will do justice to them.”
No sooner had the American antislavery cause been merged in the national one, than the English cause of social virtue and national existence appealed to her whole nature.
“I am told,” she said, “that this is discreditable work for woman, especially for an old woman. But it has always been esteemed our especial function as women, to mount guard over society and social life, — the spring of national existence, — and to keep them pure; and who so fit as an old woman?”
Being told that American ladies were shocked to think of such personal exposure, “English ladies think of the Lady Godiva!” was her reply.
Speaking of herself, she one day said: “I have an inveterate contentedness of disposition, — not constitutional, I think, but induced, — which makes me satisfied from day to day, whatever happens, and without the merit of much effort. How this would serve if I had not so much to do, I do not know.”
Referring to the invectives poured out in leading American journals against Great Britain, by representative men high in office, after the proclamation of neutrality and the escape of the Alabama, she said: “How gladly would I die, to put a stop to these senseless, fearful outbursts! Men do not know how mischievous they are. One insulting word is sometimes more dangerous to nations than even a hostile deed; and always more disgraceful to him who utters it. See what your wisest statesmen thought of such words in 1793! They are alarming, fearful, for there is no telling where they will end.”
Speaking of Margaret Fuller’s regret that “Society in America” was such a hasty book, she said, “She ought not to have said that. It had three years of the best of my life.”
“Tell us,” we one day said, “what was the condition of political economy before your ‘series’ appeared?”
“It was never heard of outside of the Political Economy Club, except among students of Adam Smith; but the ‘series’ made it popular, aided as it was by the needs and events of the time; such as strikes, the pressure of the Corn-Laws, &c. There was cheering evidence of this in 1842, when the agitation of chartism tested the relation between employers and employed, and proved it clear and sound. Still more striking was the proof during the recent American war, when the operatives throughout the manufacturing districts braved the cotton famine, instead of seeking escape at the expense of sound economical principles. . . . . But I wish to impress it upon your Americans that these tales relate to a state of things that has for the most part passed away, though they did certainly contribute largely to that result. The young people — a multitude of them — were interested and instructed in what to strive for in politics in their schooldays.”
“When the secularists applied to you to give them a service for the grave, may I ask if you granted the request?”
“I have never done so: I have been busier with their lives than their graves; and I have my doubts about the utility of a formal service, except in the case of great men, dying in public stations.”
In the course of one of our conversations on the characteristics and merits of her works and those of other authors, she said: “My article on the census is the most marked thing I have ever done.”*
One day, after Lord and Lady Belper had sent to The Knoll a magnificent basket of game and fruit, the conversation turned on what Sydney Smith said to her on such an occasion: “They who send you good things are sure of heaven, provided they also pay her dues to the Church of England.” This set all present to considering how far the absolution extended; and it was thought to be an enormous act of indulgence, till philosophically examined; and then it was found to have a good foundation.
Harriet Martineau’s heart being in the work of freeing the United States from slavery and preserving peace between the two countries, the “Daily News” did but become the more effectual in accomplishing those two ends, and the benefit was acknowledged in America by many. The fear she felt on hearing of the early disasters of the war was very great, as her letters from time to time show.
EXTRACTS OF LETTERS TO MRS. CHAPMAN.
August 8, 1861.
I hear of Bull Run with an anguish of shame and discouragement such as I never thought to feel again, . . . . yet I can understand your Henry’s even thinking it desirable (as cutting off all chance of compromise). But it troubles my very soul. I am glad to be living so apart. I groan over it on all accounts. . . . .
Davis’s message makes one’s heart sink and one’s gorge rise. Well, all this is better than previous hypocrisy. You are happily more hopeful than I about the effect of the misfortune. I have no doubt whatever about the eagerness to make sacrifices; but there is no sudden cure for such an inveterate habit of rash and conceited judgment, such unconsciousness of ignorance and insensibility to the requirements of the occasion, as have overborne military commanders. . . . .
Every mail brings a bushel of letters from Northern citizens, insisting that the only question is of the Union, and that nothing will be done about slavery.
And then the preference of passion to reason, and fancy to fact! . . . .
Whether they really believe that nothing will be done about slavery, or say so because they think it will please people here (which is a mistake), the act is equally disgusting. But such people have not been truckling and trimming all these years to be trusted by you or me to-day.
October 2, 1861.
My dear Friend, —
I have been writing this week to somebody else in the United States; to whom, do you think? Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War. “What about?” Well, I had told F. Nightingale (glad to send her any word of cheer in her affliction) that our book was known and read in America. She is thankful, and wrote at once to offer me, for your government, not only the military sanitary reports (which I should have sent to Dr. Howe), but all our war-office regulations arising out of them, some of which are not yet under cognizance of Parliament, and others are admitted to be the best in existence, and are applied for by foreign governments.
I thought these ought to go straight to your war-office, and got them packed in London, and despatched this week. In writing an explanation, I took occasion to say that we should be thankful to furnish the results of our experience and our reforms to all armies, every where, if we had the power. I also marked my letter “private,” lest the transaction should come out in American newspapers as an act of “aid and comfort” to the North, preferentially, on the part of England: whereas it is F. N.’s and my doing, and nobody’s else; and we should have done the same by any other army, of course, if we could. If duly attended to, I really hope and believe these documents may save some of your good soldiers’ lives. . . . . The confidential part in them relates chiefly to delicate and difficult considerations about the quality, attributes, conditions, and circumstances of nurses, nuns, seculars, married or single, &c., &c.
Mr. H. Reeve gives me the most cheering account of the effect of free trade on the French, and on our relations with them. Really there seem to be no limits to the good to be expected in the diminution of the false military spirit and evil ambition fostered by discouragement at home. . . . . The extension of commerce for the benefit of every body will evidently be enormous. I do wish I had had Mr. Reeve’s letter before I wrote the leader which appeared yesterday (in this 1st October, on France). I could have made it a brighter picture. The consumers are beginning to see how they have been oppressed, and the protected are so far consumers that they are becoming free-traders as fast as possible. I shall have to speak of these facts in the “Standard” in their bearing on European politics and African prospects, and in connection with the awful state of society in Russia. I have not heard from Sumner since I wrote to him. . . . . It is a misfortune to a public man, in such times, to have the sort of egotism in his way (if it be so) which could make him ignore me on account of my opinion of vituperative oratory from a man in office. And we who are otherwise with him are bound to dissent from his choice of a mode of utterance which we consider indefensible. However, he may be all right as to temper; and he has sent me documents since I gave him that offence; and he may reply as soon as he has news. I wonder if those poor Andersons will ever see one another again. . . . .
O, no! I do not get out on the terrace, nor ever shall, — not beyond the porch. As seen from the windows the valley is gloriously beautiful just now.
October 17, 1861.
My news is, this week, that our ministers have the extremest difficulty in holding back Louis Napoleon and Spain from breaking the blockade. It is actually playing into the enemy’s hands, to distrust and insult a government which is doing its duty well in difficult times. Your correspondent, — —’s, letters, have been so exceedingly good on the whole, that I the more regret this senseless freak of his. Well as he judges of your affairs and of others which he has the means of understanding, he really is almost always more or less wrong about London doings, — Ministry and Parliament. He reads scarcely any papers on general politics. He can please himself about that, but he should not speak unless he will first qualify himself on that set of subjects.
I hope somebody will tell me when either “yes” or “no” becomes apparent about Anderson’s family. Surely Sumner will tell either you or me when he has any sort of notion whether there will be any sort of result.
. . . . It is mischievous for the cause that — and — and — do not know what a “personality” is. Let them look for “personal” in Johnson. It is the third or fourth meaning, I believe. Never mind it all. I don’t. But they, in their mood, will be likely to fancy every thing sensitiveness. It is only to say “stop writing,” and I stop. I have no sort of personal interest in the matter, and all this is to me simply an unaccountable spectacle. Very odd.
Harriet Martineau wrote during this period a series of papers on Army Hygiene for Messrs. Fields and Osgood’s “Atlantic Monthly.”
There was a time in England when the mistakes of American envoys abroad, of officials at home, of editors undertaking military movements, with expressions of ill-will from popular journalists de part et d’autre, — added to the assurances of the American government that the conflict was going on for the status quo ante bellum, — had both irritated and depressed the English public mind. At such a moment it was that the Rt. Hon. W. E. Forster made his great speech at Bradford on American affairs. He was able to do a statesman’s duty by both countries in the face of all discouragements; for he had sympathy at home and a friend at hand able in counsel, with whose mind he had been intimate during his whole political life. Yet at that moment of national agitation he could not help saying that it seemed as if Harriet Martineau alone was keeping this country straight in regard to America. Referring to this afterwards, she says: —
“It made my heart stop; but I am sure it was not so exactly, because I know how finely our ministers were and are putting forth their whole power to restrain France and Spain from breaking the blockade. But that any thing like what he said should hang on my life makes me willing to live longer.”
Shortly after, in allusion to this incident, she writes: —
“It was not about the cotton that W. E. Forster was discouraged. We shall do well enough for cotton. It is really surprising how very little influence that question has had throughout. The feeling here is owing to a lowness of spirit and conduct observable from hence where better things were expected; the ignorance of the many at the North, and the concealments and falsehoods of the few.”
October 31, 1861.
I don’t believe Fremont will do for a hero. A man who has done, in such a way, what he has done, cannot be a statesman or a farsighted or adequate man in any way, unless a purely military way, which remains to be proved.
I perceive you ground your disapprobation of the protective system on the injustice and unkindness to foreign peoples. This is a very strong and quite indisputable ground, but it is not the one I have at all had in view at this time, or wished to bring forward in discussing the matter in the “Standard” or elsewhere. I protest against the vicious aristocratic principle, and the rank oppression exercised over the American people at large, for the selfish interest of certain classes. It is true your shippers and merchants are concerned in and injured by every injury inflicted on foreign commerce; but it is a graver consideration to my mind that every workingman in the country is injured for the illicit benefit of wealthier classes. Popular ignorance alone can have permitted it thus long. It is true the disposition to tyranny and greed, which is conspicuous wherever a democracy exists, has made protectionists of all or most democratic associations, such as the most stringent trades-unions, and other socialistic organizations; but still, it is inconceivable that, in a country full of workingmen like yours, a handful of monopolists will be permitted to saddle and bridle the industrial majority, as at present. When the case is understood, it is inconceivable that the majority will put up with it. I wish some Member of Congress, or other man who would be listened to, would propose, as a matter of economy, a handsome direct appropriation to the iron-masters and mill-owners, instead of preserving the tariff. It would be a vast, incalculable saving to pension them in a thoroughly handsome way and throw trade open. The proposal would open people’s eyes to the aggression they are submitting to.
I look anxiously for some sort of news of Anderson’s wife. I fear the poor fellow is in wearing suspense. C. Sumner has sent me his speech, which I am glad of, (but, entre nous, how very bad it is!)
November 25, 1861.
Your letters make my heart ache, but it would ache ten times worse if they were any thing but what they are. . . . .
That young Putnam martyr’s glimpse of the future* is dreadfully painful, notwithstanding the satisfaction from his devotedness. Ten thousand precious lives thrown away through bad government, in a self-governing nation! . . . .
You and I attribute these calamities to the influence of slavery, while ignorant and distant observers generally attribute too little to that and too much to the democratic system. . . . . There is cotton enough now for six months of three fourths time, and plenty coming.
It is pleasant to find that the temptation even will be less than we expected, and that we can cut all connection with the South in future if duty requires it. I never believed that we should act essentially different on cotton considerations.
Ambleside, March 27, 1862.
My dearest Friend, —
I had pen and paper before me when your letter and the “Tribune” came, and ill fared all the intended letters. I wrote off a letter for “Daily News” on Schurz’s speech as the happiest incident since Lincoln’s accession. I yielded to the impulse to tell the good news to the English. I need not spend space or strength in telling you what I think of it, only this, — that even you can perhaps scarcely conceive the relief and pleasure it is to read a political speech which is wholly clear of adulation of any body, and of self-praise (American). And O, how wise, and — Well, we agree about it, of course. . . . . It promises what we had been sickening for want of, — the uprising of men fit for the crisis, men made by the time to make a new time. . . . .
One cannot help laughing, shocking as the thing is, at the idiotic notion we hear of, that we (the English) shall be grieved and mortified at American virtue and happiness! On the very lowest supposition, — that we could spare, time and thought for our own little complacencies, — it is for our interest, our repute as the champions of the North, that the North should justify our championship. Can’t they comprehend that? It is no laughing matter, however, that there should be any where malice enough to make such a delusion. . . . .
I hear that Professor Masson, editor of “Macmillan’s Magazine,” desires me to write in it on American matters. Yet keep it to yourself, please, at present, as it may not come to pass. . . . . This week I have got “Pierce and his Clients” into “Once a Week,” but there is not much satisfaction in treating of American subjects there, the editor being too much of a “Times” contributor to like what I say about America. It is only out of deference that he inserts such things. To be sure, it is ground rescued from the enemy, and that is good. . . . .
I am abundantly disgusted with Club and “Times” insolence and prejudice, and I speak and write against them with all my might. I also see that distaste to Americans and disapprobation aroused by the instances of lowness of official conduct and national morality have increased during the last year; but I do not believe there is any ill-will whatever. It is a case of impaired esteem, and not of ill-will; and of course the esteem may be and certainly will be recovered by good desert. The ideal of temper and manners is widely different in the two nations.
Because we hear so little from the South, ignorant people suppose the conduct and manners are better there; you and I know to the contrary; but the inference is natural from the greater reticence (or what here appears so) of the Southerners; and then we do not get from the South the petty spite which amazes the readers of Northern newspapers.
If your people would but abstain from boasting till they may put off their armour! . . . .
The finance is the doom which they evidently do not perceive. Well, they will find it out; and meantime the aspect of affairs has brightened every way.
December 13, 1863.
One of the American correspondents of “Daily News,” I think, concludes “S.,” the letter-writer in the “Times,” to be Slidell. But it is Spence, as I dare say you know. If it happens that you hear the mistake repeated, just set it right. Even the “Times” would not admit a Southern editor to write letters as a contributor. You see, according to Cobden, the “Times” has one tenth of the circulation of the daily papers. Why should Northern people seem to believe that the “Daily News,” the organ of the great liberal party in Great Britain, and to a considerable extent in Europe, has no subscription? I can’t understand the sense of running down the best friend the North has in the European press. But the delusion is even odder than the impolicy. The superior order of the press here is pretty strong on the right side. But I suppose it is difficult for some to admit any thing to be friendly, short of large draughts of unqualified praise.
The puzzle is to me that those who have been impressing upon England for a quarter of a century, that the crowning evil of slavery was its having deteriorated the national morale, — the very people who have been denouncing the corruption of all but a very few of the whole of Northern society, — seem to have forgotten all this, and to stand up for the virtue, on all points, of the society they condemned before. Now, we cannot forget these lessons in an hour in that way. We do believe such to be the operation of slavery; and we see that it has been so; and a nation and its moral sense cannot be regenerated — made pure, and free, and steadfast in virtue — in a day, or a year, or a generation. But they are not satisfied unless every sort of American people are admitted to be greater and wiser and better than any body else; and all the advantages to be owing to the excellence of the people. We know this not to be true; and we don’t pretend to think it. I am sure we recognize the improvement as far as it is apparent; but we do not believe, and we will not say we believe, that the moral devastation caused by slavery in every part of the Union can be suddenly and completely repaired. We see that it is not by this very passion which has no patience in it. . . . . Look at the flagrant disregard of truth in patriotic Americans. Look at Beecher’s statement about the Trent in matters in which I for one could teach him. Look at Sumner’s speech, furious and untrue, which any school-boy in England would despise, and then look at the reckless statements that Sumner’s speech caused the stopping of the rams; when the truth is that Mr. Adams and the editor of the “Daily News,” and Mr. Forster and I, and many more knew that the rams were stopped twelve days, and the newspapers announced it on authority nine days, before Sumner’s speech arrived in England. (I will put the dates down on another sheet.)
I do not talk in this way to English folk, except to Maria and W. E. Forster, — to those who will help the more the more has to be done.
About this Cobden turmoil; I am very sorry Cobden is so cross, — so often and so very cross. . . . . One comfort is that the “Times’” ways are exposed. It will do good in many directions; but it is a pity that the injury to Cobden should be so great, after the vast services he has rendered to both England and France. I must stop.
July 8, 1862.
I think the very worst thing yet done on this side the water is the “Times” leader on the 4th of July. I call every body I know to witness that if we have war with the United States the “Times” may be considered answerable for it. It seems to me to be a sort of crazy malignity.
. . . . We are so pleased that Professor Cairnes’s book has had such a circulation; out of print a fortnight ago. This is beyond my hopes.
I meant to try to send you my second Historiette to-day. I wonder how you will like it. And I wonder how I shall like it too, with Millais’s illustrations.
Hoo-ray! here is your letter. It comforts me about the plain speech with which we go on together. Yes, we are agreed as regards ourselves, — plain truth spoken; kindly, generously received, and done with. Louis Napoleon is in a mess about Mexico. He cannot be quiet. He will be meddling with you, and in Eastern Europe, and coaxing Russia, and teazing Germany. At home, however, and in France, many things are improving. If Mr. Lucas’s book should come in your way (“Secularia: Surveys on the Main Stream of History”) do look at the chapter last but one, — “Absolutism in Extremis,” — for his revelations of the conditions and perplexity of French politics. To my taste this book is charming, though he and I differ about American politics. Nearly all the rest is a very great treat to me. But that is much owing to the work I do.
Yes, I am pleased, as you suppose, at my, or any body’s, Political Economy being read by any of your people. I hope, however, that some one will bid them remember that the abuses shown up are nearly or quite all remedied here, — some mainly through that very book. It really should be understood that the evils have long ceased to exist.
July 22, 1862.
My dearest Friend, —
Our hearts and heads are too full now for writing, since this bad news from the army. . . . .
Before you get this you will have seen the debate on Friday last (“Daily News,” July 19). Mason was under the gallery during Forster’s speech. Lindsay went straight up to speak to Mason on finishing his own dull, silly speech. You will be struck by the wariness of Forster (in one so impetuous, especially). It produced a very great effect, and I think Lord P.’s conclusion must have damped any hopes of Mason’s very effectually. I doubt not the French Emperor is as eager for intervention as people say; but I am confident there never was an idea of it here. None but the cronies of the Southern agitators can ever have imagined it possible. As for the “small and strong war party” that you hear of, if you will read instead hostile party, I could agree; but I know no person who believes there is a man, woman, or child in the kingdom who desires war. There is a singular recoil from American temper and manners, on account of the newspapers there being mistaken for organs of the national spirit and intellect. There is the gross mistake also of fancying the South more sensible, practicable, and better behaved than the North. But this is very different from wishing for war. The feeling is not pugnacious, but rather of weariness and disgust; a wishing never to hear of America again. The most insulting letters are sent to “Daily News” as if from Lancashire, but they are understood to be a Southern device. Our editor has been very ill, but is recovering. He will not be at the office till September, and I have promised to help all I can. He was sub-editor when Mr. Weir died, and succeeded him, of course, having risen and risen to that post, and was for some time in charge of the foreign department, which requires languages and large knowledge. He is now editor, and long may he continue so. They write from the office thus: “The truth is, he takes his work very much to heart, and on the American question especially. There is no editor in Europe, I am persuaded, so nobly conscientious and high-minded.” Is not this pleasant? M. A. (I think I told you, — the most fastidious of men and scholars) met him at dinner, and was profoundly struck by his power and earnestness. You ask how many articles I have written for “Daily News.” Well, there is a boxful of them here and a list at the office, all safe, if that were of any consequence; but all I care for is, not to be credited with articles I did not write. Any body is welcome to the credit of those I did. . . . . Lord Palmerston I believe to have no principle, no heart; he is insolent, light, unscrupulous, and kept right about the United States now by national opinion and by his colleagues. . . . . How on earth can any body admire Louis Napoleon! I hope it is not being illiberal, but I find it difficult to admire any body that does admire him. “Daily News” is as far from doing so as can be, as you must perceive. . . . .
Abolition I consider secure, in one way or another, but I see nothing else cheering; and the financial difficulties —
O my friend, how I mourn with you over this bad news from the army! I hardly venture near the subject, it is so overwhelming. Day and night I am thinking of your suffering country and the tension upon you.
My Friend, —
I cannot let my mere envelope go without a line, especially because you have answered my questions so distinctly and openly, just as I wished. I must repeat just one; because I really, as an advocate, need the answer. What do your best citizens, such as Mr. Jay, say at this time as to the clause in the Declaration of Independence, that “Government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed”? Do they give up the doctrine as unsound? If so, what do they substitute? If not, how justify coercion? You will see at once that this is a stumbling-block here. As men say, “Who may have a will as to the government they will live under, if not five, six, or seven millions of people of our own race?”
We do rejoice over that First South Carolina Regiment. It is the only thing in the actual fighting that has given me any pleasure at all. How manly and rational the good fellows were!
How few on your side of the water who do not seem crazy with revolutionary passion! Some of the feelings are fine, and some of the conduct; but reason seems gone, and knowledge and philosophy of no effect. It is more than mournful; it is fearful. You see that there is no fear of English intervention, nor ever was. Scamp* will do you a mischief if he can.
My best love.
Remarking upon the consequences of the Legal Tender Act, she says: —
“I suppose there must be some people among you who know now what to expect about finance. I wish they could influence the newspapers not to mislead the people so cruelly. The prolific character of the country, the triumphant industry of the people, — it is all true; and in course of time these may create any amount of wealth; but this has nothing to do with the deficit of the case in hand. It does not apply to the agony caused meanwhile to the people by the creation of money which turns to dry leaves in the use . . . . actually appeals to the briskness of trade and plenty of money as a sign of Mr. Chase’s wisdom and the prosperity of the country, when these are precisely the symptoms of the coming destruction. He wonders that foreigners are not eager to lend their money, at the very moment when the last chance of any security is destroyed by such a creation of fictitious wealth as the world should never have seen again.”
The annexed poem, an effusion of the heart whose sympathies in joy as in sorrow knew no distinction of class or nationality, ought to find a place at this date (March 10, 1863).
- THE SISTER BRIDES.
- The sun is up; the cottage girl is springing from her bed.
- The day is come, — there’s much to do; and soon her prayers are said:
- She feeds the chicks, she sweeps the house and makes the kettle boil;
- Once more, this once, she does it all, to save dear mother’s toil.
- Now she puts on her Sunday gown, pets Dicky on his perch, —
- She knows her love is there outside, all ready for the church.
- Her face tells what is in her heart in turning from the door, —
- “To live with him all day! my love, my own for evermore.”
- The Danish maiden by the sea is looking far and wide, —
- She knows the boat will soon come in with this fresh morning tide:
- And there it comes; deep-laden sure, for well the nets are blest:
- She could not stay within before, but now she must be dressed.
- He lifts his oar, — she moves her hand, and trips within the cot;
- ’T is the last time he’ll land without one waiting at that spot.
- When evening comes those twain are one, and whispering on the shore,
- “To live together, O my love! my own for evermore.”
- The factory-girl is up before the early bell is ringing;
- “The day is come, — my wedding-day,” her busy heart is singing.
- The noisy mill is music now; her secret is her own;
- The neighbours feel how gay she is, how kind in every tone.
- The breakfast-hour gone by, they see the ring upon her finger,
- They tell how at the factory-gate they saw her lover linger.
- She lets them talk; she thinks all day, till that day’s task is o’er,
- “It is my husband now, my love! my own for evermore.
- The handmaid early comes to wake the daughter of the house;
- The slumber is but feigned, for she is still as any mouse, —
- Is full of thoughts; more silent she, the more her heart is singing.
- What is’t to her that guests are come, that the church-bells are ringing?
- The day is like a dream, — the feast, the flowers, the bridal veil;
- The blessing in the church and home. Who cannot read the tale
- Her eyes relate to him who with her leaves her father’s door?
- “To live my life with him, my love! my own for evermore.”
- All England rings with wedding peals. The people cry aloud
- Their blessing on the royal pair whose lot is bright and proud.
- In sweetness all the pride is lost to her whose day is come;
- The brightness all is in the thought of husband and of home.
- What though within the chapel throng the nobles of the realm,
- Her in her bliss no splendour daunts, no pomp can overwhelm:
- The bridal song in low or high is still, the wide world o’er,
- “To live my life with him, my love! my own for evermore.”
March 10, 1863. (Wedding-day of Albert Edward and Alexandra.)
LETTER TO MRS. F. G. SHAW.
Ambleside, March 24, 1864.
My dear Madam, —
An hour ago arrived the precious portrait of your son; and it stands before me now, as it will for many a day, to cheer me for his country, and to melt my heart for you. I think you must have perceived that no one feature of this fearful war has interested people so much as the career and death of your son. Many hearts have been touched and many minds enlightened by that sacrifice, which were blind and insensible.
While I was writing Dr. Arnold’s youngest daughter came in. She had told me before that she could not look at the portrait (the smaller one) without tears, for its singularly touching expression. You may imagine her pleasure at finding here the larger one, where she can come and see it whenever she likes. She and her mother are the best sympathizers I have here in the American cause.
It is so good of you to send me this sacred gift, that I really do not know how to thank you for it. I can only say that it is a sacred possession to me, and that it shall go next to no one who does not regard it as I do, after I am gone.
Believe me, with much respect and sympathy, yours,
LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE “STANDARD.”
Ambleside, June 14, 1865.
I beg to express my thanks for the kindness shown in sending me the “Standard” up to this time; and to say that I shall now be obliged by your discontinuing to forward it to me. The American Antislavery Society, having fulfilled its mission of rousing and convincing the nation and securing the emancipation of the negroes, may now work in fellowship with society, and no longer in opposition to, or censure of it. The interest of the friends of the negroes and their rights now passes over to the efforts made on behalf of the freed people. Neither that strong interest nor any other will ever in the slightest degree impair the world’s gratitude to the great leaders of this moral revolution, who have completed their great task, and are now ready for the new labours in which the old have merged. Of their many distinctions, none will be brighter in the eyes of future generations than this particular manifestation of their disinterested patriotism. It is so profoundly impressive to old friends of the cause watching from a distance. To such, of course, the “Standard” has lost its interest, even if it does not become misleading; and this is the reason of my request to you. I am, sir,
Your obedient servant,
November 27, 1871.
What capital news New York is sending to the civilized world! What a fine spectacle it is, — the higher order of citizens, the men of culture, trained tastes, and gentle manners, repairing to the field of political action because it is the field of patriotic duty; the more zealously the greater disgust they must encounter. If they now persevere, they will have regenerated their city and State; they will have done more to republicanize the world than has been done yet. They will have exactly met the fatal doubt that has not yet been solved in connection with genuine republican government.
March 6, 1873.
I think you had rather have a short, sincere letter, neither gay nor comfortable, than none. I feared I must fail to-day. It is one of my worst days. Meantime, this will be a busy month, with the spring cleaning and whitewashing. (Do you remember the turning out of the books on the terrace, which you thought so unnecessary?) Then the new carpet for the drawing-room for my successor, the killing and curing the pig, and then my maid’s journey.
March 20, 1873.
The Life of Dickens is far too exclusively occupied by his personal relations with Forster. The book must lower Dickens in popular estimation, and can do no credit to Forster. Yet it has an interest, and is worth reading. In the second volume I am much struck by Dickens’s hysterical restlessness. It must have been terribly wearing to his wife. His friends ought to have seen that his brain was in danger, — from apoplexy, not insanity. To how great an extent the women of his family are ignored in the book! The whole impression left by it is very melancholy. . . . . At all times, in all his writings, Dickens opposed and criticised all existing legal plans for the relief of the poor. I had almost forgotten the “Historiettes” [her stories in “Once a Week”]. I have no copy of them. You ask why they should not be republished. If they and “Representative Men” are worth it, I should be quite willing.
April 3, 1873.
. . . . If your statesmen could only be trained for their offices, better qualified to meet and fulfil the wishes of the best republicans in the commonwealth! No doubt matters will come to this. Rising disgust at the evils of the present time has risen as high as it will go. You will again have real statesmen, as in the early days of the Republic; and what nation has ever been so happy as yours may be then?
But I did not mean to scribble on in this way, and will tell you something you will care for far more. I have just been in the midst of our parting emotions with our friends the Arnolds, who are to be away three months. I miss them more and more painfully every time they go; and the changes in my state of health are so many, that I have no expectation of being in my present condition when they return. I am now putting before them the great enterprise which has grown out of the C. D. Acts agitation, and the national Association for the Promotion of Social Purity, — the combination of people who believe personal purity to be as possible, as desirable, as absolutely requisite, in men as in women.
I send you some letters and papers which will give you an idea of what is doing. . . . . It is a blessing to see if one cannot help such an enterprise, undertaken in the spirit of hope and faith by such people as Mr. Shaen, Mr. Warr, Mrs. Butler, and the Sheldon Amos family, and many more, who know what it is to go into a great cause, into conflict with the passions of the most unscrupulous men, — the influence of the medical profession in particular.
July 9, 1873.
I don’t think there is much change in me. I am sure I don’t make blunders, but the ineffectiveness increases. I do not fancy unreal things.
I am in a state of something like remorse about a visitor who came last week, — Mrs. Wistar, once Anne Furness. That any Furness should be here, and I not ready with such a welcome as I long to give, and they so richly deserve from me! But I was so much more than usually ill and worn out, that I could with difficulty see or hear. How beautiful was Mrs. Furness when I saw her! I like to hear of her being so still.
I see in an American paragraph, commenting on a statement in the “London Athenæum,” that Mr. Grote was the author of a work called “An Analysis of the Operation of Natural Religion.” Now, it was not written by Mr. Grote, but by Jeremy Bentham; nor was it published, only printed. If you should at any time or any where hear of that atheistical work as written by either Mr. or Mrs. Grote, please to contradict it. — and I not only decline being on the Mill memorial committee, but keep back for the present our contribution to the memorial fund. I would willingly pay my tribute to Mill in certain capacities, but we have warning to wait and see what construction is put upon the act.
August 21, 1873.
Worse than ever, no delusions, or mistakes, or haunting ideas, but the strange feelings I have tried to convey to you, — in vain; as I am aware one cannot convey a sensation. But it is no morbid fancy that I am failing, and I don’t object to the fact, if it is probable that the general power, the life, fails naturally and uniformly. I will endeavour to occupy and amuse myself, and let the near future take care of itself. I am not always unable to read.
October 21, 1873.
Worse in health. No second fainting-fit, nor any loss of sense; a pretty complete consciousness; but the days grow dim and uncertain as they recede, and I seem unable, without exactly understanding why, to get any thing done. Happily, strength and power of brain diminish in about equal proportions, so that all who love me may reasonably hope that the last stage, with its irksome characteristics, will not be a long one. Surely your love, so faithful and so strong, will unite you with me in this hope. I am certain it would, if you could feel one hour what I am feeling always. My anxiety is to keep exactly the right line between complaint on the one hand and concealment on the other. Those who have the care of me ought to know what I only can tell them, yet I dread troubling them with evils which cannot be mended.
November 20, 1873.
Our chief interest now is the election of the school-boards at Birmingham. The League has an immense triumph, — eight League men and women heading the poll. Their association for religious education apart from secular has set them right with those who fancied them irreligious. My sister-in-law, aged eighty, went in a car, with an invalid friend, to vote. My nephew Frank,* an official in the League, was entreated by an elderly Quaker to write to his mother, a Quaker lady of ninety, imploring her to come some miles into Birmingham to vote. I hope she did. No one election in the country is of so much consequence. The League did a clever thing in printing, as a prodigious poster, a passage from the Queen’s book about the Dublin schools, which her husband and she visited, ending with a well-expressed view of the true Christian way of combining religious education, where desired, with liberty of conscience. Household news: Our superb meal-fed pig weighs nearly nineteen stone. I have had the ivy clipped close; in mercy to the small birds I do it in late autumn, when the nests are found deserted, and in spring they newbuild.
TO MRS. F. G. SHAW.
Ambleside, July 17, 1874.
Dear Mrs. Shaw, —
I wish to send you my thanks under my own hand, — if I can but do it, — for sending me what I so much wished to see as Mr. Curtis’s “Eulogy” on his friend. It is very beautiful, and in ways which are not interfered with by differences of opinion in regard to its subject.
Nobody can have admired Charles Sumner more, in his day, nor expected more from him, than myself; and so many associations of this kind remain affectionately linked with his name, that it is a deepfelt enjoyment to his oldest friends — of my own generation — to read such an estimate of him as Mr. Curtis has given us. But it is required by self-respect, in such a case as my own, that one should disclaim any thing like a full agreement with that estimate, or perfect sympathy with the mourning of those who believed him to have been greater than he really was.
I knew him well, from the time of his being a law-student, — a favourite of Judge Story, from whom I took my first estimate of him. Just after my return home he appeared in London, and my mother and I had the pleasure of introducing him into some of the best society that he saw. I was struck by the character of the remarks made on him by friends, — the same in the case of all eminent in political life. They found him morally delightful, and a thorough gentleman in mind and manners; but they could not understand the ground of any high expectation from him in a political career.
When he came again, many years later, — some twelve or more years ago, — and spent a few days with me here, I was inexpressibly surprised by his change of manner and air of assumption in political matters. It was the saddest disappointment in the career of a political aspirant that in my long and special experience I had ever known. Then followed the dreadful Alabama speech, — the introduction of the “Indirect Claims,” — which might have plunged two nations in war but for Mr. Forster’s effective reply; and it left no choice to Charles Sumner’s friends but to admit his absolute incapacity for political action, or — worse. I had no hope of him after that; . . . . but here is enough. It is a comfort to turn to the bright aspects presented by Mr. Curtis, not only in all sincerity, but with actual truth.
And here I should like, if my strength holds out, to give you one anecdote characteristic of two good men, in the vigour of their political life, and friends worthy of each other, — at that time. (Afterwards one lost ground, while the other continued to rise.) Charles Sumner and Lord Carlisle wished to know each other, and I brought them together. Lord Carlisle was then viceroy of Ireland, and Charles Sumner became his guest at the castle at Dublin, when he wanted to see Ireland.
On his return to the castle, after a tour in the provinces, he found his host full of one subject, the “Westminster Review” having just appeared with the article, “The Martyr Age of the United States.”
“Have you read it?” asked Lord Carlisle.
“Yes,” said Sumner.
“Then you can tell me, — is it true?”
“I believe it is true.”
“Is it wholly true, — true, so that you could abide by it?”
“Except on two points,” said Sumner, “I could agree to it all. I believe that — would have been arrested if he had not been an abolitionist; and I do not think Mrs. Chapman so beautiful as Miss Martineau does.”
“So that is all?” said Lord Carlisle.
“That is all,” replied Sumner.
“Then may I ask, — if such is the state of things with you, — what do you propose to do?” (very emphatically.)
Sumner’s answer was, “Well! I think we cannot stand the moral blockade of the world longer than ten years.”
Charles Sumner told me this the next time we met; and it shows him as he was then (in 1839), and I like to dwell upon it rather than on later times.
Dear Mrs. Shaw, you will excuse the look of my scrawl, — if you know into what depths of illness I have sunk. My remaining days, we all think, must now be very few. There is infinite sweetness in them, from the love which surrounds me; but the fatigue does make me long for rest. So you will not be sorry when you hear that I am gone.
Mrs. Chapman still writes weekly! Only think of it! And she has sent me the two best photographs of Sumner. I like both, but much prefer the one so pathetic and full of mind, — taken a very short time before his death.
Kindly accept my warm thanks for what you have sent, and believe me,
Truly and gratefully yours,
TO MRS. CHAPMAN.
January 14, 1874.
Now let me try to say what I like! Not that there is any thing remarkable or new to tell, but I long at times to feel as I used to do and to write as of old, — as if I were speaking. Certainly I am much altered, though I could not point to any marked change at any particular date, and could not say that my “faculties are failing,” in the popular sense of the term. But it is mere waste of strength to describe what is so indescribable as my condition. I have just discovered that I can still read as I used to do.
WAITING FOR DEATH.
“Sunt homines qui cum patientia moriuntur: sunt autem quidam perfecti qui cum patientia vivunt.”
— St. Augustine.
“O, yet a nobler task awaits thy hand.”
All misliking of sudden death was taken away from them who years before had seen its approach at The Knoll in a form so consoling that they said, as did Madame de Motteville in attendance on Anne of Austria, “La mort en elle sembloit belle et agréable.”
And so it did not fail to be during the ten years succeeding her relinquishment of regular daily work, supported as she was, under the severe and various suffering that slowly wears out life, by the “still unfailing sweetness of temper” told of by all who knew her earlier years; by the imperturbable patience, the subdued self-will, and the never-ceasing disinterested devotedness to the highest purposes on the justest principles.
The necessity of the case, however, compelled the relinquishment of the “Daily News.” And to one so accomplished for sage counsel whether best to preserve peace or to uphold war, knowing what so few do know respecting civil and spiritual powers and the limitations of each, the act, however unavoidable, was a difficult one to perform. She had literally and truly sat under the palm-tree for forty years, and all Israel had come up to her for judgment; and when the judgment, ripened by experience, is at its highest perfection, the suspension of the power to wield it is the most deeply felt.
So thought Arago, when he told us of his readiness to die, with a shade of regret as he realized that till now he had never been so competent to live.
With her this feeling was but momentary, and what it was will be better seen from her own letters than in any other way.
LETTER TO MRS. CHAPMAN.
My dearest Friend, —
I have never before, for above two years, — never since Maria’s death, — shrunk from writing to you. I do now, though it is a comfort to myself, for I know how you will feel when you hear that my work in life — my special business — is done and over. You will have been prepared for this by what I said and asked of you about resigning my engagement at “Daily News,” but no forewarning lessens the feeling when the parting moment comes, and the signs and tokens of office and the materials of business have to be cleared away. To me it is not the great pain that my friends suppose. I am too far gone to feel it in that way; but I know what it will be to you, and I have dreaded sending this letter more than any thing. By last Tuesday week it had become impossible to doubt that I must resign all engagements, and free myself from all obligation and temptation to work. On that day, therefore, I wrote fully to the editor, resigning my engagement, and telling him exactly the state of the case about my health, and what my physician said, as an honest man, and what he anticipated: “Why, you know the stormy weather has been against you. It is possible that, with settled weather, you may rally — a little.” I believed that I had fully prepared Mr. Walker by my preceding letter; but it seems not. I am sure his reply will go to your heart, as it has done to all ours. I was always sure he was a man of deep and warm feelings, but he is so undemonstrative that even I had no conception of what he and his staff felt towards me as a comrade; and I am not sure now how much belongs to my leaving “Daily News” and how much to the closing of my career of authorship, — for these men are of an age to have been in a manner “brought up,” as they say, on my earlier works, — yet the strength of their regret and tenderness surprises almost as much as it moves me. The most emotional, penetrating, true, and exquisite letter I have received within the last remarkable week, with many more, all kind and gravely tender, while otherwise as various as possible, is from my sister Rachel. . . . .
It is a great satisfaction to me that the effort fell naturally in the time of my dear niece’s absence. Not only was it her pride and her joy to help me, but she fully believes that I cannot live without working, or at least shall languish for want of it. I am not so sure of this; and I don’t care a straw, except for her and you, whether it is so or not. But as she thinks so, I am glad she is spared all details.
All is being done in her absence, — putting the peculiar paper and envelopes out of sight, — and now I desire nothing except in the languid way which is all I ever feel since I lost Maria, — I mean as to daily life. I care as much for the great and the distant as ever.
The extracts given below are from the letter of the editor of the “Daily News,” told of in the preceding page.
“Daily News” Office, April 26, 1866.
Dear Madam, — . . . .
I was very poorly yesterday, from influenza, when your letter arrived; and it had such an effect upon me that I was at the time quite unable to reply to it. The resolution you announce is one which I cannot discuss, but only bow to, after the grounds on which you put it. I showed your letter to Mr. — and to Mr. —.
There is only one feeling among us, — regret that a connection which has lasted so long under different administrations, and been so pleasant and fruitful, should terminate. But let us be thankful that it ends, as it has flowed on, in peace and mutual regard. I trust that you may have before you a more comfortable future than you apprehend. If there is any thing the office can do for you now, or at any time, pray let us know, and you may always command our services.
With kindest regards,
I am yours ever truly,
And this tender of service from the office was no mere compliment. When the time came for the publication of “The Biographical Sketches,” her excellent friend Mr. Robinson, overwhelmed as he was by office duties, took upon himself gratuitously the whole burden of putting that book through the press. His friendship found ample remuneration in the fact that it was hailed by the public as if in renewal of her early fame. The truth of her method commended it to the whole press of England and America.
I was about to say from my own knowledge what Harriet Martineau had been to the “Daily News,” when I came across the following letter from a man not accustomed to eulogize, on the occasion of her ceasing to write for it any longer.
London, May 3, 1866.
My dear Friend, —
I return you Mr. Walker’s note. Nothing could be better or more satisfactory on such an occasion. They must have all felt not only your intellectual gifts, resources, and reliableness, but your great womanly kindness, as a helpmate at all times, when absent to recruit health, or really suffering from actual illness. You could not nurse them, but took extra labour on yourself to enable them to be nursed, and to give them repose. Nothing could be more admirable than your relationship with the “Daily News” and its different conductors, or more touching than the editor’s expressions on your finding it necessary to withdraw after a joint and harmonious action, enduring for such a length of time. And without doubt, in now retiring, you have done the right thing at the right time, and what was at once most prudent, just, and wise; leaving a lasting lesson to the world that even bishops might take a hint from. You have had a glorious reign of forty-five years, and now have abdicated gracefully, at your own free-will and discretion, actuated by an abiding sense of the highest law of moral action, — duty. You are one of those who have always been supremely wise and right in regard to your own actions; and your present resignation crowns the sequence it will not, I trust, terminate. And now, my dear friend, you are one of us; and I hail you amongst the noble band of lookers-on. The business of a philosopher, said Pythagoras, is to look on. However, it is not so literally, nor do I suppose you will ever be such literally; any how, you will do what is best, and be equal to the occasion, come what may. And as for Death, he is a quiet, kind, gentlemanly fellow, and will pay us all a friendly visit at his own time and leisure, though in truth he is a person we need not much concern ourselves about. At least, so preached the wise Epicurus, who said, “Death does not concern us; for whilst alive it is nothing to us, and when dead we no longer exist.” I am sure your kind and constant friends will highly approve the step you have taken.
H. G. ATKINSON.
There was now a widespread idea that spiritualism as well as mesmerism had been studied by her. The following note upon the subject will explain her position with respect to it: —
H. MARTINEAU TO MARY CARPENTER.
Ambleside, April 17, 1866.
. . . . What your friend has heard of my belief in spiritualism (so called) is not true. As far as direct personal knowledge goes, I am in a state of blank ignorance of the whole matter. I have never witnessed any of the phenomena, nor conversed with any qualified observer who had. This would be wrong if I could have helped it, but the whole thing has come up (in a popular way) since my illness began. Mr. Home endeavoured, through more than one channel, to get permission to come and show me his wonders; but I have been in no condition for watching and testing such experiments, and declined it altogether. Of course one has some impression or other from what one hears; and mine is this. From what I learned in my experience and observation of mesmerism, I am so far aware of the existence of rarely used and undeveloped powers and capacities in the brain, as to disapprove very strongly the gratuitous supposition, in the spirit-rapping case, of pure imposture on the one hand and of the presence of departed spirits on the other. I see no occasion or justification whatever for either supposition: and I observe this is the view of persons whose judgment is most respected, — persons who have waited till the first excitement had passed off, and they could look into the matter as philosophers should. About the facts of mesmerism, my position is the same that it was twenty years ago, — simply because I hold not an opinion based on any theory (for I never had any theory on it), but knowledge of facts. If Cuvier and other eminent naturalists justly insisted that no group of facts in natural history is better established on observation and experiment than those of mesmerism, it is not possible for any reasonable person who knows the facts to have variable opinions on the case.
In Harriet Martineau’s Tynemouth journal stands a passage which records the strong feeling that moved her to the service of unhappy women, and her conviction that it must be, if possible, a part of her future life. “If not,” she says, “some one else will do it.”
This feeling and purpose never left her from that time forward; and I learned from herself the mingled dread and doubt that wrought together in her mind when consulted by a sanitary commission appointed under King William IV. to consider, with regard to the case to come before it, whether the good of government regulation could overbalance the evil of government sanction.
The death of King William stayed proceedings, and they were not revived under Queen Victoria, except by a mischievous influence on the public mind through the press in 1859. Harriet Martineau felt the coming danger, and met it by correspondence with Florence Nightingale and other influential persons who had like herself been long aware of the growing evil; and in 1859 she met it by a series of powerful leading articles in the “Daily News.” The “Times” took service in opposition; and thus, in 1864, the government was committed to the wrong side.
Her early prevision that some one would arise to do the work that had taken such strong possession of her mind at Tynemouth, was now amply fulfilled in the person of her honoured and beloved friend Mrs. Josephine Butler, with whom she instantly put herself in communication; and they wrought together through all the last suffering period of her life. Her leading articles of 1863 were circulated afresh, and, all the while aiding this cause of social purity and national preservation by various efforts, she went on in its service till 1869. It was during this period that the interest she had taken in the abolition of compulsory church-rates found its reward. She had been one of Mr. Courtauld’s most active fellow-labourers, and had been threatened with distraint; she had circulated arguments and practical directions how to proceed against them; and she had worked as an individual and in conjunction with others; and now, August 11, 1868, she writes, “Accomplished at last!” It had been a severe and protracted struggle, in which the patient and self-sacrificing exertion of those who carried it on exposed them to distraint, prosecution, and imprisonment; till at length Parliament put an end to the unrighteous system throughout the kingdom.
It was during this last period of her life that the condition of the London and Brighton Railroad threatened her with a loss of her principal means of living. This she took very little notice of, merely giving the fact as news to a friend, with this remark: —
“I am surprised that I feel it so little. I shall go into small lodgings and live by letting my Knoll, and am beyond the reach of anxiety in any event, my time being so short.”
The railroad company ultimately retrieved its affairs, and resumed payment so soon that she was not obliged to make any change in her mode of living; and the many friends in both hemispheres who had entreated her to allow them to insure her against inconvenience were met by thanks as warm as if they had been accompanied by acceptance.
Perhaps nothing will so well acquaint one with the current of Harriet Martineau’s days of waiting for death as a letter she addressed at this time to Mrs. Chapman.
“A happy new year to you and yours, my dearest friend. The wish is in time, though you will be some way into the year before you get it. We shall be almost more glad than usual to get past the anniversaries, — i. e. into the new year, — for our minds have been filled full of business and interests (some sad), and a variety of ideas too great for my now weak state. Instead of writing to you yesterday (as I like to do on Wednesdays to make sure), I had to write three other letters, as the day before and also on Sunday. It feels like a holiday to be able to pour out to you to-day in the free way which makes writing a relief. We have a rather heavy secret, — Jenny* and I, — and I am going to tell it to you. I fear it will be all out in a few days; but it will be a secret for you till you know it is all abroad.
“I told you something, but I forget how much, about the Ladies’ Association, founded to obtain the repeal of the Acts (Contagious Diseases Acts) for establishing the French and Belgian system, first in military stations, and then over nine times as large an area, comprehending a large civil population. The members, headed by Mrs. Butler, are working zealously to get up an irresistible demand to Parliament to undo its evil work; and they make great use of my name and Florence Nightingale’s. Mrs. Butler is familiar with the workingmen in town and country; her position as the wife of a working clergyman and head of a great school, and her courage, enthusiasm, and intelligence, give her great power. She has been visiting several of the great manufacturing towns and addressing the workingmen, and, by their eager request, their wives. They are, every man and woman of them, on the right side on this subject, and aware of the enormous importance of the crisis.”*
The work went on, of forming societies, calling meetings, sending out agents, and signing petitions, and its objects were promoted by her in the same fervent spirit that prompted her early energies in and for America. The labour was exhausting, as it threw upon her a weight of private correspondence that she was ill able to sustain. “But how can I refrain,” she said, “when A and B and C (all friends high in place and influence) need to have principles exhibited to them, and doubts removed?”
More than a paragraph or two should be accorded in memorial of one of the noblest among the deeds that illustrate this great life, — in nothing more radiant than in its closing years of labour for the classes whose degradation puts in peril the very existence of nations.
There were, at this time, two Acts of Parliament, — one passed in 1866 and the other in 1869, — most oppressive, insulting, and outrageous in their application to women, while men in the same conditions were wholly exempt from their penalties. A Ladies’ National Association for their repeal was formed, and a protest signed by Harriet Martineau, with Florence Nightingale, Josephine E. Butler, Martha E. Baines, Ursula Bright, Margaret Lucas, Jane Wigham, Elizabeth Pease Nichol, Eliza Wigham, Mary Estlin. But so numerous are the names following that of Harriet Martineau in protest, that it is impossible to do more on such a page as this than to crown with thanks and blessing every one of the great cloud of witnesses.
THE LADIES’ NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE REPEAL OF THE CONTAGIOUS DISEASES ACTS.
There are two Acts of Parliament — one passed in 1866, the other in 1869 — called the Contagious Diseases Acts. These Acts are in force in some of our garrison towns, and in large districts around them. Unlike all other laws for the repression of contagious diseases, to which both men and women are liable, these two apply to women only, men being wholly exempt from their penalties. The law is ostensibly framed for a certain class of women, but in order to reach these, all the women residing within the districts where it is in force are brought under the provisions of the Acts. Any woman can be dragged into court, and required to prove that she is not a common prostitute. The magistrate can condemn her, if a policeman swears only that he “has good cause to believe” her to be one. The accused has to rebut, not positive evidence, but the state of mind of her accuser. When condemned, the sentence is as follows: To have her person outraged by the periodical inspection of a surgeon, through a period of twelve months; or, resisting that, to be imprisoned, with or without hard labour — first for a month, next for three months, — such imprisonment to be continuously renewed through her whole life unless she submit periodically to the brutal requirements of this law. Women arrested under false accusations have been so terrified at the idea of encountering the public trial necessary to prove their innocence, that they have, under the intimidation of the police, signed away their good name and their liberty by making what is called a “voluntary submission” to appear periodically for twelve months for surgical examination. Women who, through dread of imprisonment, have been induced to register themselves as common prostitutes, now pursue their traffic under the sanction of Parliament; and the houses where they congregate, so long as the government surgeons are satisfied with the health of their inmates, enjoy, practically, as complete a protection as a church or a school.
We, the undersigned, enter our solemn protest against these Acts —
1. Because, involving as they do, such a momentous change in the legal safeguards hitherto enjoyed by women in common with men, they have been passed, not only without the knowledge of the country, but unknown to Parliament itself; and we hold that neither the representatives of the people nor the press fulfil the duties which are expected of them, when they allow such legislation to take place without the fullest discussion.
2. Because, so far as women are concerned, they remove every guaranty of personal security which the law has established and held sacred, and put their reputation, their freedom, and their persons absolutely in the power of the police.
3. Because the law is bound, in any country professing to give civil liberty to its subjects, to define clearly an offence which it punishes.
4. Because it is unjust to punish the sex who are the victims of a vice, and leave unpunished the sex who are the main cause, both of the vice and its dreaded consequences; and we consider that liability to arrest, forced surgical examination, and, where this is resisted, imprisonment with hard labour, to which these Acts subject women, are punishments of the most degrading kind.
5. Because, by such a system, the path of evil is made more easy to our sons, and to the whole of the youth of England; inasmuch as a moral restraint is withdrawn the moment the State recognizes and provides convenience for the practice of a vice which it thereby declares to be necessary and venial.
6. Because these measures are cruel to the women who come under their action, — violating the feelings of those whose sense of shame is not wholly lost, and further brutalizing even the most abandoned.
7. Because the disease which these Acts seek to remove has never been removed by any such legislation. The advocates of the system have utterly failed to show, by statistics or otherwise, that these regulations have in any case, after several years’ trial, and when applied to one sex only, diminished disease, reclaimed the fallen, or improved the general morality of the country. We have, on the contrary, the strongest evidence to show that in Paris and other Continental cities, where women have long been outraged by this forced inspection, the public health and morals are worse than at home.
8. Because the conditions of this disease, in the first instance, are moral, not physical. The moral evil through which the disease makes its way separates the case entirely from that of the plague or other scourges, which have been placed under police control or sanitary care. We hold that we are bound, before rushing into the experiment of legalizing a revolting vice, to try to deal with the causes of the evil, and we dare to believe that with wiser teaching and more capable legislation those causes would not be beyond control.
(And a great number of others.)
But other things fell to her lot than writing petitions, summoning meetings, and raising funds. She had learned the use of placards, when Joseph Sturge, after his exchange of flatteries with the Czar of Russia, covered the walls of Birmingham with a quotation from her writings in favour of peace, wrested to promote his “peace” at any price, at a crisis when she thought that national honour demanded war; and this gave her the trouble and expense of posting a strong denial below his every affirmation.
To this means the Reform Association had recourse; and this is a copy of their placard, written and first signed by Harriet Martineau: —
TO THE WOMEN OF COLCHESTER.
As Englishwomen loving your country, and proud of it, as many generations of women have been, listen to a word from three of your countrywomen.
The most endearing feature in our English life has been the reality of its homes. Married life is, with us, we have been accustomed to think, more natural and simple than in most other countries, youth and maidenhood at once more free and pure, and womanhood more unrestrained, more honoured and safe beyond comparison, in person and repute.
Are you aware that this eminent honour and security of our sex and our homes are at present exposed to urgent danger, and even undergoing violation? You women of Colchester ought to be aware of this fact, for the violation is going on within your own town. The story is short.
Some fifteen months ago a bill was carried through Parliament, by trick and under a misleading title, and without awakening the suspicions of the country, by which the personal violation of hundreds of thousands of Englishwomen is not only permitted, but rendered inevitable. And it is the aim and purpose of the authors of the law and its policy, to have the act extended over the whole country. It was asked for on account of our soldiers and sailors. It is now sought to be extended to the population of the whole kingdom. It was intended to mitigate the disease occasioned by debauchery; but it has aggravated it. It has not diminished the vice, but encouraged it by a false promise of impunity. It gives a distinct government sanction to profligacy, and is degrading to English society wherever it operates, to the fearful condition of health and morals existing on the continent wherever such legislation has been established long enough to show its effects.
Foremost among the promoters of this fearful system and fatal law is Sir Henry Storks, one of the candidates for the representation of Colchester. He was a candidate at the Newark election, some months since; but the Newark people knew what he had been doing, and they would not hear of him as a representative. He had no chance when the facts were understood, and he withdrew from certain defeat.
Do the people of Colchester know these facts? Let it be your work to take care that your husbands, fathers, and brothers hear of them. Sir Henry Storks’s own words are to be found in the printed evidence offered to the Committee of the Lords on the Acts. At Newark he complained of false accusations and libels; but the following words written by his own hand, in a letter produced in that evidence, are full justification for any efforts you will make to drive him from Colchester: —
“I am of opinion that very little benefit will result from the best-devised means of prevention, until prostitution is recognized as a necessity!”
This is the professed “opinion” of a man who is regarded as a Christian gentleman, who cannot but be aware how fornication is denounced in the Scriptures.
Let his evidence be further studied in regard to the operation of the legal outrage which Sir Henry Storks is endeavouring to introduce wherever the sceptre of our virtuous queen bears sway, and there can be no doubt of his rejection at Colchester by every elector who values, as an Englishman should, the sanctity of his home, the purity of his sons, and the honour and safety of his daughters.
You surely will not sacrifice greater things to less by any indulgence of prudery. The subject is painful, even hateful to every one of us; but that is not our fault, and our country is not to be sacrificed to our feelings as women. We are not fine ladies, but true-hearted Englishwomen; and there are thousands at this hour who have proved that in this cause they can sacrifice whatever is necessary to save our country from the curse of these Acts.
It is your business to lift up your voices within your homes and neighbourhoods, against being ruled by lawmakers like the authors of these Acts; in other words, against Sir Henry Storks as candidate for Colchester.
Sir Henry Storks’s election was defeated.
The same process of election-placards was repeated afterwards, abridged, as follows: —
OLD ENGLAND! PURITY AND FREEDOM!
To the Electors of North Nottinghamshire.
We, as Englishwomen, loving our country and our Old National Constitution, entreat you, the Electors of North Nottinghamshire, in the name of Religion, of Morality, and of our National Freedom, to vote for no man who will not pledge himself to vote for the total and unconditional Repeal of those un-English Laws, that Continental abomination stealthily smuggled into our Statute-Book, called the Contagious Diseases Acts, and to oppose any Future Legislation that involves their Principles.
LYDIA E. BECKER.
Thus the kingdom was made aware of the earnestness of its women in the cause.
In 1871 a correspondent received the following words of rejoicing from Mrs. Martineau: —
“The conspiracy of silence is broken up, and the London papers have burst out. Our main point now is, to secure every variety of judgment inside and outside of the Commission. The ‘Daily News’ came out clearly and strongly on the right side before any other London paper broke the silence. The satisfaction to us all is immense, to see the paper uphold its high character — the very highest — in this hour of crisis. I feel unusually ill in consequence of heart-failure, but I must make you know something of what you shall know more of hereafter. . . . .
“Samuel J. May! — how well I remember the snowy day he came over to Hingham, to open the cause to me.”
Again, in 1871: —
“I must tell you, though so feeble to-day, that our cause is, for this time, safe. The packed Commission, supplied with packed evidence, comes out thirteen to six in our favour! The conversions under every disadvantage are astonishing. Huxley’s delights me. He and two others — Sir Walter James, military, and Admiral Collinson, naval — made speeches on the Commission, declaring that they had verily believed in the good of the C. D. Acts, but they have been compelled to see that they are thoroughly mischievous. We never could have dreamed of such a victory. As victory no matter. But what a prospect is opened for the whole sex in Old England! For the stronger and safer sort of women will be elevated in proportion as the helpless or exposed are protected.”
At about this time Mrs. Butler received the following letter from Mrs. Martineau.
LETTER FROM HARRIET MARTINEAU TO MRS. BUTLER.
My dear Friend, —
I am truly grateful to you for taking charge of the chair which I have worked in hope of its bringing in some money — more money than I could offer in any other form — towards obtaining the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts. I assure you very earnestly that no one can be more thoroughly aware than I am that this is the very lowest method of assisting the movement. I can only say that I have adopted it simply because, in my state of health, no other is open to me. While you and your brave sisters in the enterprise have been enduring exhausting toils, and facing the gravest risks that can appall the matronage and maidenhood of our country, I have been content to ply my needle when I could do