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CONVERSATIONS. - 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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“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).
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.
[* ]Professor Croome Robertson holds the chair in University College.
[* ]Results of the Census of 1851. Westminster Review for April, 1854. No. CXX.
[* ]This gallant, devoted young man said, “Ten thousand of us must fall, and all will then go right.”
[* ]This was her abbreviation for Louis Napoleon.
[* ]Mr. Councillor R. F. Martineau, of Birmingham.