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Retrospect of Western Travel in Three Vols (London: Saunders and Otley, 1838). Vol. 3.
After her trip to American in 1834-36, Martineau wrote a perceptive analysis of social and economic conditions in the U.S.
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M. DE TOCQUEVILLE'S NEW WORK.
Second Edition, in 2 vols. Svo., with Maps.
DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA.
BY M. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
Translated by his Friend. H. reeve, Esq., under the Author's inspection.
“We recommend M. de Tocqueville's work, as the very best on the subject we have ever met with.”—Blackwood.
“We think it the must complete work that has ever appeared on the government of the United States.”—Sun.
The villages of New England are all more or less beautiful; and the most beautiful of them all is, I believe, Northampton. They have all the graceful weeping elm; wide roads overshadowed with wood; mounds or levels of a rich verdure; white churches and comfortable and picturesque frame dwellings. Northampton has these beauties and more. It lies in the rich meadows which border the Connecticut, beneath the protection of high wooded hills. The habitations of its gentry crown the green knolls and terraces on which the village stands: or are half buried in gay gardens, or hid under clumps of elm. The celebrated Mount Holyoke and Mount Tom are just at hand, and the Sugarloaf is in view: while the brimming Connecticut winds about and about in the meadows, as if unwilling, like the traveller, to leave such a spot.
The pilgrims were not long in discovering the promise of the rich alluvial lands amidst which Northampton stands: and their descendants established themselves there, as in the midst of a wilderness, long before there were any settlements between the spot on which they had sat down and the coast. The perils of such an abode were extreme: but so were its temptations; and here, for many years, did a handful of whites continue to live, surrounded by red neighbours,—now trafficking, now fighting; sometimes agreeing to render mutual service, but always on the watch against mutual injury. So early as 1658, the township of Northampton (then called Nonotue) was purchased at the price set upon it by the Indians; viz., for ninety square miles of land, the sellers demanded one hundred fathom of wampum by tale, and ten coats; and that the purchasers should plough for the Indians sixteen acres of land, on the east side of the river, the next summer. The making the purchase was the smallest part of the settlers' business: the defending themselves in the wilderness, surrounded as they were by numerous tribes of Indians, was a far more serious matter. The usual arrangement of a village was planned with a regard to safety from plunder and massacre. The surviving effect is that of beauty, which the busy settlers cannot he supposed to have much regarded at the time. The dwellings were erected in one long street, each house within its own enclosure, and, in many cases, fortified. The street was bordered with trees; and in the midst stood the “meeting-house,” often fortified also. This street was, when it was possible, built across the neck of a peninsula formed by the windings of the river; or from hill to hill in the narrowest part of a valley. The cattle which grazed during the day in the peninsula, or under the eye of the owners, were driven at night into the area between the rows of houses. Here and there a village was surrounded with palisades. But no kind of defence availed for any long period. From time to time disasters happened to the most careful and the most valiant. Fire was an agent of destruction which could not be always defied. When the village was burned, its inhabitants were helpless. The women and children were carried off into captivity, and the place lay desolate till a new party of adventurers arrived to clear away the ruins, and commence a fresh experiment.
Traditions of the horrors of the Indian wars spring up at every stop in this valley, and make the stranger speculate on what men and women were made of in the days when they could voluntarily fix their abode among savage foes, while there were safer places of habitation at their command on the coast. The settlers seem, by the testimony of all history, to have been possessed of spirit proportioned to their needs. We hear of women being employed in the cellars casting bullets, and handing them to their husbands during an onset of the savages; and of a girl plucking a saddle from under the head of a sleeping Indian, saddling a horse, and galloping off, swimming rivers, and penetrating forests till she reached her home. The fate of the family of the Rev. John Williams, who were living in the valley of the Connecticut, at the end of the seventeenth century, and were broken up by the Indians in an attack on the village of Deerfield, is a fair specimen of the chances to which residents in such lodges in the wilderness were exposed.
The enemy came over the snow, which was four feet deep, and hard enough to bear them up, and thus were enabled to surmount the palisades. Not being expected at that time of year, they met with no opposition. The inhabitants had not time to rouse themselves from sleep before they were tomahawked or captured. Out of a population of two hundred and eighty, forty-seven were killed, and one hundred and twelve made prisoners. Mr. Williams was the minister of the settlement. Two of his children were killed on the threshold of his own door. His son Eleazer escaped, and was left behind. Mrs. Williams was one of the Mathers of Northampton. She was marched off, with her husband and several remaining children, in the direction of Canada: but they were not allowed to be together and comfort each other. It was a weary march for sufferers who carried such heavy hearts into so horrible a captivity. Over wastes of snow, through thawing brooks, among rugged forest-paths, they were goaded on,—not permitted to look back, or to loiter, or to stop, except at the pleasure of their captors. Mrs. Williams presently fell behind. She was in delicate health, and unused to hardship like this. When her husband had passed Green River, he looked back and saw her faltering on the bank, and then stumbling into the water. He turned to implore the savage who guarded him to allow him to go back and help his wife. He was refused, and when he looked again she had disappeared. Having fallen into the water through weakness, an Indian had buried his tomahawk in her skull, stepped over her body, and passed on. Her remains were discovered and carried back to Deerfield for interment.
For a few moments the captives had been tantalised with a hope of release. The Indians were attacked during their retreat by a small body of settlers, and pressed hard. At this moment an Indian runner was despatched to the guard, with orders to put all the prisoners to death. A hall laid him low while he was on his errand: and the settlers being compelled to give way, the order about the prisoners was not renewed.
At night they encamped on the snow, digging away spaces to be down in, and spreading boughs of the spruce-fir for couches. During the first night one of the captives escaped: and in the morning Mr. Williams was ordered to tell his companions, that if any more made their escape the rest of the prisoners should be burned.
At the close of a day's march, when they had advanced some way on their long journey, a maidservant belonging to Mr. Williams's family came to the pastor, requested his blessing, and offered her farewell. He inquired what she meant. She replied with great quietness of manner, that she perceived that all who lagged in the march were tomahawked: that she had kept up with great difficulty through this day; and that she felt she should perish thus on the morrow. Mr. Williams examined into her state of body, and was convinced that she was nearly exhausted. He gave his blessing and this was all he could do for her. He watched her incessantly the next day. He saw her growing more feeble every hour, but still calm and gentle. She kept up till late in the afternoon, when she lagged behind: being urged, she fell, and was despatched with the tomahawk. Two of the prisoners were starved to death on the road; and fifteen others were murdered like Mrs. Williams and her servant.
The pastor, with his remaining children, reached Canada, where he remained, suffering great hardships, for two years and a half. He was ransomed, with sixty-one others, and returned to Boston, where he was waited upon by a deputation from his old parish, and requested to resume his duties among the remnant of his people. He actually returned, and died in peace there twenty-three years afterwards. It appears that all his captive children but one were redeemed. Two besides Eleazer were educated at Harvard College. His little daughter, Eunice, was six years old when she was carried away. She grew up to womanhood among the Indians, and married a red man, retaining the name of Williams, and adopting the Romish faith. Being brought to Deerfield to see her family, she could not be persuaded to remain; nor would she accommodate herself to the habits of civilised life, preferring to sleep on the floor on a blanket, to using a bed. Some half-breed descendants of her's are living on the borders of Lake Michigan.
The sufferers seem to have consoled themselves with turning their disasters into verse; sometimes piously, in hymns, and sometimes in a lighter ballad strain, like the following:—
Many of the half-breeds who have sprung from the wars between the settlers and the natives have been missionaries among the savages. Much doubt hangs over the utility of Indian missions: if good has been done, it seems to be chiefly owing to the offices of half-breeds, who modify the religion to be imparted, so as to suit it to the habits of mind and life of the new converts. As far as I could learn, the following anecdote is no unfair specimen of the way in which missionaries and their religion are primarily regarded by the savages to whom they are sent.
Mr. K., a missionary among a tribe of northern Indians, was wont to set some simple refreshment,—fruit and cider,—before his converts, when they came from a distance to see him. An old man, who had no pretensions to be a Christian, desired much to be admitted to the refreshments, and proposed to some of his converted friends to accompany them on their next visit to the missionary. They told him he must be a Christian first. What was that? He must know all about the Bible. When the time came, he declared himself prepared, and undertook the journey with them. When arrived, he seated himself opposite the missionary, wrapped in his blanket, and looking exceedingly serious. In answer to an inquiry from the missionary, he rolled up his eyes, and solemnly uttered the following words, with a pause between each—
“What do you mean?” asked the missionary.
“Stop, stop. What do you mean?”
This is one way in which an unintelligible religion is received by savages. Another resembles the mode in which they meet offers of traffic from suspicious parties:—“the more you say bow and arrows, the more we won't make them.” Where Christianity is received among them with any efficacy, it appears to be exactly in proportion to the skill of the missionary in associating the new truth he brings with that which was already sanctified in their hearts; in proportion as the new religion is made a sequel of the old one, instead of a substitution for it.
The dusky race was in my mind's eye as we followed the windings of the river through the rich valley from Springfield to Northampton. The very names of the places, the hamlet of Hoccanum, at the foot of Mount Holyoke, and that of Pascommuc, lying below Mount Tom, remind the traveller how the possessors have been displaced from this fair land, and how their descendants must be mourning their lost Quonnecticut. Such sympathies soon wither away, however, amidst the stir and loveliness of the sunny village.
We had letters of introduction to some of the inhabitants of Northampton, and knew that our arrival was expected: but we little anticipated such eagerness of hospitality as we were met with. The stage was stopped by a gentleman who asked for me. It was Mr. Bancroft, the historian, then a resident of Northampton. He cordially welcomed us as his guests, and ordered the stage up the hill to his house; such a house! It stood on a lofty terrace; and its balcony overlooked first the garden, then the orchard stretching down the slope; then the delicious village, and the river with its meadows; while opposite rose Mount Holyoke. Far off in the valley, to the left, lay Hadley, half hid among trees; and on the hills, still further to the left, was Amherst, with its college buildings conspicuous on the height.
All was in readiness for us,—the spacious rooms with their cool arrangements; (it was the 7th of August;) and the ladies of the family, with their ready merry welcome. It was past noon when we arrived; and before the early dinner hour we were as much at home as if we had been acquainted for months. The American mirth, common everywhere, was particularly hearty in this house; and as for us, we were intoxicated with the beauty of the scene. From the balcony we gazed as if it was presently to melt before our eyes.—This day, I remember, we first tasted green corn—one of the most delicious of vegetables, and by some preferred to green peas. The greatest drawback is the way in which it is necessary to eat it. The cob, eight or ten inches long, is held at both ends, and, having been previously sprinkled with salt, is nibbled and sucked from end to end, till all the grains are got out. It looks awkward enough: but what is to be done? Surrendering such a vegetable from considerations of grace is not to be thought of.
After dinner, we walked in the blooming garden, till summoned within doors by callers. My host had already discovered my taste for rambling, and determined to make me happy during my short visit, by driving me about the country. He liked nothing better himself. His historical researches had stored his memory with all the traditions of the valley, of the State, and, I rather think, of the whole of New England. I find the entries in my journal of this and the next two days, the most copious of any during my travels.
Mr. Bancroft drove me to Amherst this afternoon. He explained to me the construction of the bridge we passed, which is of a remarkably cheap, simple, and safe kind for a wooden one. He pointed out to me the seats and arrangements of the villages we passed through; and amused and interested me with many a tale of the old Indian wars. He surprised me by the light he threw on the philosophy of society in the United States; a light drawn from history, and shed into all the present relations of races and parties to each other. I had before been pleased with what I knew of the spirit of Mr. Bancroft's History of the United States, which, however, had not then extended beyond the first volume. I now perceived that he was well qualified, in more ways than one, for his arduous task.
We mounted the steep hill on which Amherst stands, and stopped before the red brick buildings of the college. When the horse was disposed of, Mr. Bancroft left me to look at the glorious view, while he went in search of some one who would be our guide about the college. In a minute he beckoned me in, with a smile of great delight, and conducted me into a lecture-room, where Professor Hitchcock was lecturing. In front of the lecturer was a large number of students; and on either hand as many as forty or fifty girls. These girls were from a neighbouring school, and from the houses of the farmers and mechanics of the village. The students appeared quite as attentive as if they had had the room to themselves. We found that the admission of girls to such lectures as they could understand (this was on Geology), was a practice of some years' standing; and that no evil had been found to result from it. It was a gladdening sight, testifying both to the simplicity of manners, and the eagerness for education. I doubt whether such a spectacle is to be seen out of New England.
The professor showed us the Turkey Tracks, the great curiosity of the place; and distinct and gigantic indeed they were, deeply impressed in the imbedded stone. Professor Hitchcock's name is well known among geologists, from his highly-praised work. A Report on the Geology, Mineralogy, Botany, and Zoology of Massachusetts. We ascended to the observatory, whence we saw a splendid variety of the view I had been admiring all day, and we pronounced this college an enviable residence.
It is a presbyterian college, and is flourishing, as the presbyterian colleges of New England do, under the zeal of professors who are not content with delivering courses of lectures, but who work with the students, as much like companions as teachers. The institution had been at work only ten years; and at this time it contained two hundred and forty under-graduates,—a greater number than any in the state, except, perhaps, Harvard.
The next day was a busy one. We were called away from gazing from the balcony after breakfast, the carriage being at the door. Two more carriages joined us in the village, and we proceeded in the direction of Mount Holyoke. Our road lay through rich unfenced corn-fields, and meadows where the mowers were busy. There was a great contrast between the agriculture here and in other parts of the State. Here an annual inundation spares much of the toil of the tiller. It seems as if little more were necessary than to throw in the seed and reap the produce; while, in less-favoured regions, the farmer may be seen ploughing round the rocks which protrude from the soil, and bestowing infinite pains on his stony fields. The carriages conveyed us a good way up the far-famed hill. When it became too steep for the horses we alighted, and found the ascent easy enough. There are rude but convenient ladders, broad and strong, at difficult turns of the path; and large stones, and roots of trees, afford a firm footing in the intervals. The most wayward imagination could not conjure up the idea of danger; and children may be led to the top in perfect safety.
On the summit is a building which affords shelter in case of rain, and lemonade and toddy in case of thirst. There is a fine platform of rock on which the traveller may rest himself while he looks around over a space of sixty miles in almost every direction. The valley is the most attractive object, the full river coiling through the meadows, and the spires of village churches being clustered at intervals along its banks: but smokes rise on the hill sides, from the Green Mountains in the north, to the fading distance beyond Springfield in the south. To the east the view extends nearly to Newhaven (Connecticut), seventy miles off. Mount Holyoke is eleven hundred feet above the river.
While I was absorbed in the contemplation of this landscape, I was tapped on the shoulder. When I turned, a shipmate stood smiling behind me. She highly enjoyed the odd meeting on this pinnacle, and so did we. The face of a pleasant shipmate is welcome everywhere, but particularly in a scene which contrasts so strongly with those in which we have lived together, as a mountain-top with the cabin of a ship.—Some person who loves contrasts has entered a remarkable set of names in the album on Mount Holyoke as having just visited the spot,—Hannah More, Lord Byron, Martin Luther, & c.
We returned by a shorter, but equally pretty, road to dinner; and presently after, as we were not at all tired, we set off again for the Sugar Loaf, ten miles up the valley. We had a warm ride, and a laborious scramble up the Sugar Loaf; but we were rewarded by a view which I think finer than the one we saw in the morning, though not so various. It commanded the whole valley with its entire circle of hills. White dots of buildings on the hill sides spoke of civilization: Amherst, with its red buildings, glowed in the sun; and the river below was of a dark grey, presenting a perfect reflection of its fringed banks, of the ox-team on the margin, and of boys fishing among the reeds. Smokes rose where brush was burning, indicating the foundation of new settlements. In one of these places, which was pointed out to me, an accident had happened the preceding spring, which affords another hint of what the hearts of emigrant mothers have sometimes to bear. A child of two years old wandered away one afternoon from its parents' side, and was missing when the day's work was done. The family and neighbours were out in the woods for hours with torches, but they only lost their own way without discovering the little one. In the morning it was found, at a considerable distance from home, lying under a bush as if asleep. It was dead, however: the cold of the night had seized it, and it was quite stiff.
The sun set as we returned homewards with all speed,—having to dress for an evening party. While the bright glow was still lingering in the valley, and the sky was beginning to melt from crimson to the pale sea-green of evening, I saw something sailing in the air like a glistening golden balloon. I called the attention of my party to it just in time. It burst in a broad flash and shower of green fire. It was the most splendid meteor I ever saw. We pitied a quiet-looking couple whom we met jogging along in a dearborn, and whose backs had, of course, been turned to the spectacle. They must have wondered at the staring and commotion among our party. I saw an unusual number of falling-stars before we reached home.
The parties, on all the three evenings when I was at Northampton, were like the village parties throughout New England. There was an over proportion of ladies, almost all of whom were pretty, and all well dressed. There was a good deal of party spirit among the gentlemen, and great complaints of religious bigotry from the ladies. One inhabitant of the place, the son of a Unitarian clergyman, was going to leave it, chiefly on account, he told me, of the treatment his family received from their Calvinistic neighbours. While he was at home they got on pretty well; but he had to quit home sometimes, and could not bear to leave his wife to such treatment as she met with in his absence. This was the worst case I heard of: but instances of a bigotry nearly as outrageous reminded me painfully of similar cases of pious cruelty at home. The manners towards strangers in these social meetings are perfectly courteous, gay, and friendly. I had frequent occasion to wonder why a foreign Unitarian was esteemed so much less dangerous a person than a native.
There was endless amusement to me in observing village-manners and ways of thinking. Sometimes I had to wait for explanations of what passed before my eyes, finding myself wholly at fault. At other times I was charmed with the upright simplicity which villagers not only exhibit at home, but carry out with them into the world.
In one Massachusetts village a large party was invited to meet me. At tea-time I was busily engaged in conversation with a friend, when the teatray was brought to me by a young person in a plain white gown. After I had helped myself, she still stood just before me for a long while, and was perpetually returning. Again and again I refused more tea; but she still came. Her pertinacity was afterwards explained. It was a young lady of the village who wished to see me, and knew that I was going away the next day. She had called on the lady of the house in the afternoon, and begged permission to come in a plain gown as a waiter. She was, of course, invited as a guest; but she would not accept the invitation, and she was allowed to follow her own fancy.
In another village I became acquainted with one of its most useful residents, the schoolmaster, who has a passion for music, and is organist of a church. It was delightful to hear him revelling in his own music, pouring his soul out over his organ. He has been to Rome, and indulged himself with listening to the Miserere. He told me that two monks whom he met in Italy, before reaching Rome, saw him reading his Bible, with a Commentary lying before him. In his own words,
“They told me I had better give over that. ‘Give over what?’ says I. ‘Why, reading your Bible, with that book to help you.’ ‘Why shouldn't I read in my own Bible?’ says I. ‘Because the Pope won't like it,’ said they. ‘In my humble opinion,’ says I, ‘it is far from plain what the Pope has to do with my duty and way of improving myself. It's no wish of mine, I'm sure, to speak disrespectfully of the Pope, or to interfere with what he chooses to do in his own sphere; but I must save my own soul in the way I think right.’ Well, they talked about the Inquisition, and would fain have made me believe I was doing what was very unsafe: so, after a good deal more argument, I settled with myself what I would do. When I got to Rome, I put away the Commentary, thinking that that way of reading was not necessary, and might be left to another time: but I went on rending my Bible as usual.
“Well: when Passion Week came, I took care to see all that was going forward; and I was in the great square when the Pope came out to give the blessing. The square was as full as ever it could hold, and I stood near the middle of it. I found all the people were about to go down on their knees. Now, you know, it is against my principles altogether to go down on my knees before the Pope, or any man: so I began to think what I should do. I thought the right principle was to pay the same respect to the Pope that I would to any sort of chief ruler; but none in particular on religious grounds: so I settled to do just what I should do to the President of the United States. So, when the whole crowd dropped on their knees in one moment, there I stood, all alone, in the middle of the square. I knew the Pope must see me, and the people about him; but my hope was that the crowd would be so occupied with their own feelings that they would not notice me. Not so, however. One looked at me, and then another, and then it spread, till I thought the whole crowd was looking at nothing but me. Meantime I was standing with my body bent—about this much—and my hat off, which I held so, above my head. It happened the sun was very hot, and I got a bad headache with keeping my head uncovered; but that was not worth minding. Well, I was glad enough when the people all rose on their feet again. Rut it was by no means over yet. The Pope came down, and walked through the midst of the people; and as it happened, he came just my way. I was not sorry at the prospect of getting a near view of him, so I just stood still till he came by. The people kept dropping on their knees on cither side of him as he approached. Some of them tugged at me to do the same; but, said I, ‘excuse me, I can't.' So, when the old Pope came as near to me as I am to you, he stopped, and looked full in my face, while I stood bent, and my hat raised as before, and thinking within myself, ‘Now, Sir, I am paying you the same respect I would show to the President of the United States, and I can't show more to any one:' so, after a good look at me, the old gentleman went on; and the people near seemed soon to have forgot all about me. And so I got off.”
On the last day of my visit at Northampton, I went into the grave-yard. Some of the inhabitants smiled at Mr. Bancroft for taking me there, there being no fine monuments, no gardens and plantations, as in more modern cemeteries; but there were things which my host knew I should consider more interesting. There were some sunken, worn, mossy stones, which bore venerable pilgrims' names and pious inscriptions. Several of the original settlers lie here; and their graves, gay with a profusion of the golden rod, and waving with long grass, are more interesting to the traveller than if their remains reposed in a less primitive mode. The stranger is taken by surprise by finding how much stronger are the emotions excited among these resting-places of the pilgrims, than by the institutions in which their spirit still lives. Their spirit lives in its faulty, as well as its nobler characteristics. I saw here the grave of a young girl who was as much murdered by fanaticism as Mary Dyar, who was hanged for her Antinomianism, in, the early days of the colony. The young creature, whose tomb is scarcely yet grass- grown, died of a brain-fever, brought on by a revival.
I happened to be going the round of several Massachusetts villages when the marvellous account of Sir John Herschel's discoveries in the moon was sent abroad. The sensation it excited was wonderful. As it professed to be a republication from the Edinburgh Journal of Science, it was some time before many persons, except professors of natural philosophy, thought of doubting its truth. The lady of such a professor, on being questioned by a company of ladies as to her husband's emotions at the prospect of such an enlargement of the field of science, excited a strong feeling of displeasure against herself. She could not say that he believed it, and would gladly have said nothing about it: but her inquisitive companions first cross-examined her, and then were angry at her scepticism. A story is going, told by some friends of Sir John Herschel, (but whether in earnest, or in the spirit of the moon story I cannot fell,) that the astronomer has received at the Cape, a letter from a large number of Baptist clergymen of the United States, congratulating him on his discovery, informing him that it had been the occasion of much edifying preaching, and of prayer-meetings for the benefit of brethren in the newly explored regions; and beseeching him to inform his correspondents whether science affords any prospects of a method of conveying the Gospel to residents in the moon. However it may be with this story, my experience of the question with regard to the other, “Do you not believe it?” was very extensive.
In the midst of our amusement at credulity like this, we must remember that the real discoveries of science are likely to be more faithfully and more extensively made known in the villages of the United States, than in any others in the world. The moon hoax, if advantageously put forth, would have been believed by a much larger proportion of any other nation than it was by the Americans; and they are travelling far faster than any other people beyond the reach of such deception. Their common and high schools, their Lyceums and cheap colleges are exciting and feeding thousands of minds, which in England would never get beyond the loom or the plough-tail. If few are very-learned in the villages of Massachusetts, still fewer are very ignorant: and all have the power and the will to invite the learning of the towns among them, and to remunerate its administration of knowledge. The consequence of this is a state of village society in which only vice and total ignorance need hang the head, while (out of the desolate range of religious bigotry) all honourable tastes are as sure of being countenanced and respected, as all kindly feelings are of being reciprocated. I believe most enlightened and virtuous residents in the villages of New England are eager to acknowledge that the lines have fallen to them in pleasant places.
“A good way to continue their memories, while, having the advantage of plural successions, they could not but act something remarkable in such variety of being, and, enjoying the fame of their passed selves, make accumulation of glory unto their last durations.”
Sir Thomas Browne.
The Pilgrim Fathers early testified to the value of education. “When New England was poor, and they were but few in number, there was a spirit to encourage learning.” One of their primary requisitions, first by custom and then by law, was, “That none of the brethren shall suffer so much barbarism in their families, as not to teach their children and apprentices; so much learning as may enable them perfectly to read the English tongue.” They next ordered—“To the end that learning may not be buried in the graves of our forefathers, every township, after the Lord hath increased them to the number of fifty householders, shall appoint one to teach all children to write and read; and where any town shall increase to the number of one hundred families, they shall set up a grammar-school; the masters thereof being able to instruct youth so fur as they may be fitted for the University.”
This university was Harvard. In 1636, the General Court had voted a sum, equal to a year's rate of the whole colony, towards the erection of a college. Two years afterwards, John Harvard, who arrived at the settlements only to die, left to the infant institution one-half of his estate and all his library. The State set apart for the college the rent of a ferry. The wealthiest men of the community gave presents which were thought profuse at the time; and beside their names in the record stand entries of humbler gifts;—from each family in the colonies twelvepence, or a peck of corn, or an equivalent in wampum-peag: and from individuals the sums of five shillings, nine shillings, one pound, and two pounds. There were legacies also; from one colonist, a flock of sheep; from another, cotton-cloth worth nine shillings: from others, a pewter flagon worth ten shillings, a fruit-dish, a sugar-spoon, a silver-tipped jug, one great salt, one small trencher-salt. Afterwards, the celebrated Theophilus Gale bequeathed his library to the college; and in 1731. Bishop Berkeley, after visiting the institution, presented it with some of the Greek and Latin classics.
The year following John Harvard's bequest the Cambridge printing-press was set up: the only press in America north of Mexico. The General Court appointed licensers of this press, and did not scruple to interfere with the licensers themselves, when any suspicion of heresy occurred to torment the minds of the worthy fathers. Their supervision over other departments of management was equally strict. Mrs. Eaton, wife of the first president of the college was examined before the General Court, on a complaint of short or disagreeable commons, urged by the students. “The breakfast was two sizings of bread and a cue (or Q, quartus)of beer; and the evening commons were a pye.” What became of Mrs. Eaton, further than that the blame of the dissensions rested on her bad housewifery. I do not know.—Subsequently, a law was passed “for reforming the extravagancies of Commencements,” by which it was provided that “henceforth no preparation nor provision of either plumb cake, or roasted, boyled or baked meates or pyes of any kind shall be made by any Commencer:” no such was to have “any distilled lyquours in his chamber, or any composition therewith.” under penalty of a forfeiture of the good things, and a fine of twenty shillings. There was another act passed. “that if any, who now doe or hereafter shall stand for their degrees, presume to doe anything contrary to the said act, or goe about to evade it by plain cake, they shall forfeit the honours of the college.” Yet another law was passed to prohibit “the costly habits of many of the scholars, their wearing gold or silver lace or brocades, silk night-gowns, &c. as tending to discourage persons from giving their children a college education and as inconsistent with the gravity and decency proper to be observed in this society.”
For a hundred years after its establishment. Harvard college enforced the practice, in those days common in Europe of punishing refractory students by corporal infliction. In judge Sewell's manuscript diary the following entry is found, dated June 15th. 1674: “This was his sentence (Thos. Sargeant's):—
That being convicted of speaking blasphemous words concerning the H. G. he should be therefore publickly whipped before all the scholars.
“That he should be suspended as to taking his degree of bachelor. (This sentence read before him twice at the President's before the Committee, and in the Library, before execution.)
“Sit by himself in the Hall uncovered at meals, during the pleasure of the President and Fellows, and being in all things obedient, doing what exercise was appointed him by the President, or else be finally expelled the college.
The first was presently put in execution in the Library before the scholars. He kneeled down, and the instrument, Goodman Hely, attended the President's word as to the performance of his part in the work. Prayer was had before and alter by the President.”
In 1733, a tutor was prosecuted for inflicting this kind of punishment; yet, in the revised body of laws, made in the next year, we find the following: “Notwithstanding the preceding pecuniary, mulets, it shall be lawful for the President, Tutors, and Professors, to punish under-graduates by Boxing, when they shall judge the nature or circumstances of the offence call for it.”
The times are not a little changed. Of late years the students have more than once appeared to have almost come up to the point of boxing their tutors.
If Harvard is ever to recover her supremacy, to resume her station in usefulness and in the affections of the people, it must be by a renovation of her management, and a change in some of the principles recognised by her. Every one is eager to acknowledge her past services. All American citizens are proud of the array of great men whom she has sent forth to serve and grace the country; but, like some other universities, she is falling behind the age. Her glory is declining, even in its external manifestations; and it must decline as long as the choicest youth of the community are no longer sent to study within her walls.
The politics of the managers of Harvard University are opposed to those of the great body of the American people. She is the aristocratic college of the United States. Her pride of antiquity, her vanity of pre-eminence and wealth, are likely to prevent her renovating her principles and management, so as to suit the wants of the period: and she will probably receive a sufficient patronage from the aristocracy, for a considerable time to come, to encourage her in all her faults. She has a great name: and the education she affords is very expensive, in comparison with all other colleges. The sons of the wealthy will therefore flock to her. The attainments usually made within her walls are inferior to those achieved elsewhere: her professors. (poorly salaried, when the expenses of living are considered.) being accustomed to lecture and examine the students, and do nothing more. The indolent and the careless will therefore flock to her. But, meantime, more and more new colleges are rising up, and are filled as fast as they rise, whose principles and practices are better suited to the wants of the time. In them living is cheaper; and the professors are therefore richer with the same or smaller salaries: the sons of the yeomanry and mechanie classes resort to them: and, where it is the practice of the tutors to work with their pupils, as well as lecture to them, a proficiency is made which shames the attainments of the Harvard students. The middle and lower classes are usually neither Unitarian nor Episcopalian, but “orthodox.” as their distinctive term is: and these, the strength and hope of the nation, avoid Harvard, and fill to overflowing the oldest orthodox colleges; and when these will hold no more, establish new ones.
When I was at Boston, the state of the University was a subject, of great mourning amongst its-friends. Attempts had been made to obtain the services of three gentlemen of some eminence as professors; but in vain. The salaries offered were insufficient to maintain the families of these gentlemen in comfort, in such a place as Cambridge; though, at that very time, the managers of the affairs of the institution were purchasing lands in Maine. The Moral Philosophy chair had been vacant for eight years. Two of the professors were at the time laid by in tedious illnesses; a third was absent on a long journey; and the young men of the senior class were left almost unemployed. The unpopularity of the president among the young men was extreme; and the disfavour was not confined to them. The students had, at different times within a few years, risen against the authorities; and the last disturbances, in 1834, had been of a very serious character. Every one was questioning what was to be done next, and anticipating a further vacating of chairs which it, would be difficult to fill. I heard one merry lady advise that the professors should strike for higher wages, and thus force the council and supporters of the university into a thorough and serious consideration of its condition and prospects in relation to present and future times.
The salary of the president is above 2000 dollars. The salaries of the professors vary from 1500 dollars to 500; that is, from 375/. to 125/. Upon this sum they are expected to live like gentlemen, and to keep up the aristocratic character of the institution. I knew of one case where a jealousy was shown when a diligent professor, with a large family, made an attempt by a literary venture to increase his means. Yet Harvard college is in buildings, library, and apparatus, in its lands and money, richer than any other in the Union.
The number of undergraduates, in the year 1833–4, was two hundred and sixteen. They cannot live at Harvard for less than 200 dollars a-year, independently of personal expenses. Seventy-five dollars must be contributed by each to the current expenses; fuel is dear; fifteen dollars are charged for lodging within the college walls, and eighty are paid for board by those who use their option of living in the college commons. The fact is, I believe, generally acknowledged, that the comparative expensiveness of living is a cause of the depression of Harvard in comparison with its former standing among other colleges; but this leads to a supposition which does not to all appear a just one, that if the expenses of poor students could be defrayed by a public fund, to he raised for the purpose, the sons of the yeomanry would repair once more to Harvard. A friend of the institution writes, with regard to this plan,—
“It would probably have the immediate effect of bringing back that perhaps most desirable class of students, the sons of families in the middling ranks in respect of property, in town and country, who, we fear, were driven away in great numbers, by the change in the amount of tuition fees in or about 1807. They mean to pay to the full extent that others around them do for whatever they have. This is what they have been used to doing. It is their habit; perhaps it is their point of honour;—no matter which. But they are obliged strictly to consult economy. And the difference of an annual expense of twenty or thirty dollars, which their fathers will have to spare from the profits of a farm or a shop, and pinch themselves to furnish, is, and ought to be, with such, a very serious consideration. It is, in fact, a consideration, decisive, year by year, of the destination of numbers of youth, to whom the country owes, for its own sake, the best advantages of education it can afford;—of those who, in moral and intellectual structure, are the bone and sinew of the commonwealth, and on all accounts, personal and public, entitled to its best training. ”
It may be doubted whether; if a gratis education to poor students were to be dispensed from Harvard to-morrow, it would rival in real respectability and proficiency the orthodox colleges which have already surpassed her. Her management and population are too aristocratic, her movement too indolent, to attract young men of that class; and young men of that class prefer paying for the benefits they receive; they prefer a good education, economically provided, so as to be within reach of their means, to an equally good education furnished to them at the cost of their pride of independence. The best friends of Harvard believe that it is not by additional contrivances that her prosperity can be restored; but by such a renovation of the whole scheme of her management as shall bring her once more into accordance with the wants of the majority, the spirit of the country and of the time.
The first Commencement was held in August, 1642, only twenty years after the landing of the pilgrims. Mr. Peirce, the historian of the University, writes: “Upon this novel and auspicious occasion, the venerable fathers of the land, the Governor, magistrates, and ministers from all parts, with others in great numbers, repaired to Cambridge, and attended with delight to refined displays of European learning, on a spot which but just before was the abode of savages. It was a day which on many accounts must have been singularly interesting.” In attending the Commencement of 1835. I felt that I was present at an antique ceremonial.
We had so arranged our movements as to arrive at Cambridge just in time for the celebration, which always takes place on the last Wednesday in August. We were the guests of the Natural Philosophy Professor and his lady; and we arrived at their house before noon on Monday the 24th. Next to the hearty greeting we—received, came the pleasure of taking possession of my apartment—it looked so full of luxury. Besides the comfort of complete furniture of the English kind, and a pretty view from the windows, there was a table covered with books and flowers, and on it a programme of the engagements of the week. On looking at the books, I found among them a History and some Reports of the University; so that it was my own fault if I plunged into the business of the week without knowing the whence and the wherefore of its observances.
The aspect of Cambridge is charming. The college buildings have no beauty to boast of, it is true; but the professors' houses, dropped around, each in its garden, give an aristocratic air to the place, which I saw in no other place of the size, and which has the grace of novelty. The green sward, the white palings, the gravel walks, are all well kept; and nowhere is the New England elm more flourishing. The noble old elm under which Washington first drew his sword, spreads a wide shade over the ground.
After refreshing ourselves with lemonade, we set out for the Botanic Garden, which is very prettily situated and well taken care of. Here I saw for the first time red water-lilies. None are so beautiful to my eyes as the white; but the red mix in well with these and the yellow in a large pond. There were some splendid South American plants; but the head gardener seemed more proud of his dahlias than of any other individual of his charge. From a small cottage on the terrace at the upper end of the garden, came forth Mr. Sparks, the editor of Washington's Correspondence. While engaged in his great work, he lives in this delightful spot. He took me into his study, and showed me his parchment-bound collection of Washington's papers, so fearful in amount that I almost wondered at the intrepidity of any editor who could undertake to go through them. When one looks at the shelf above shelf of thick folio volumes, it seems as if Washington could have done nothing but write, all his life. I believe Mr. Sparks has now finished his arduous task, and given to the world the last of his twelve ample volumes. It is interesting to know that he received orders for the book from the remotest corners of the Union. A friend writes to me, “Two hundred copies have recently gone to the Red River; and in Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama, the work is generously patronized. Can the dead letter of such a man's mind be scattered through the land without carrying with it something of his spirit?”
From the Botanic Garden we proceeded to the College, where we visited a student's room or two, the Museum, our host's lecture-room and apparatus, and the library.
The Harvard library was, in 1764, destroyed by fire (as everything in America seems to be, sooner or later). The immediate occasion of the disaster was the General Court having sat in the library, and (it being the month of January) had a large fire lighted there. One of the most munificent contributors to the lost library was the benevolent Thomas Hollis. He afterwards assisted to repair the loss, writing, “I am preparing, and going on with my mite to Harvard College, and lament the loss it has suffered exceedingly; but hope a public library will no more be turned into a council-room.” On this occasion there was a great mourning. The Governor sent a message of condolence to the Representatives; the newspapers bewailed it as a “ruinous loss;” and the mother-country and the colonies were stirred up to repair the mischief. Yet now, when the library consists of 40,000 volumes, some of them precious treasures, there seems as much carelessness as ever about fire. This is vehemently complained of on the spot, one honest reviewer declaring that he cannot sleep on windy nights for thinking of the risk arising from the library being within six feet of a building where thirty fires are burning, day and night, under the care of students only, who are required by their avocations to be absent three times a day. It is to to be wished that the Cambridge scholars would take warning by the fate of the statue of Washington, by Canova. This statue was the property of the State of North Carolina, and was deposited at Raleigh, the ornament and glory of that poor State. A citizen expressed his uneasiness at such a work of art being housed under a roof of wood, and urged that a stone chapel should be built for it. He was only laughed at. Not long after, the statue was utterly destroyed by fire, and there was a general repentance that the citizen's advice had not been attended to.
Thomas Hollis was the donor of a fine Polyglott Bible, which I saw in the library, inscribed with his hand, he describing himself a “citizen of the world.” With his contributions made before the fire he had taken great pains, lavishing his care, first on the selection of the books, which were of great value, and next on their bindings. He had emblematical devices cut, such as the Caduceus of Mercury, the Wand of Æsculapius, the Owl, the Cap of Liberty, &c.: and when a work was patriotic in its character, it had the cap of liberty on the back; when the book was of solid wisdom (I suppose on philosophy or morals), there was the owl; when on eloquence, the caduceus; when on medicine, the Æsculapian wand, and so forth. All this ingenuity is lost, except in tradition. Five and thirty years ago, Fisher Ames observed that Gibbon could not have written his history at Cambridge for want of works of reference. The library then consisted of less than 20,000 volumes. Seven years ago there was no copy of Kepler's Works in the library. Much has been done since that time. The most obvious deficiencies have been supplied, and the number of volumes has risen to upwards of 40,000. There is great zeal on the spot for a further enlargement of this treasure; and the prevailing opinion is, that whenever a proper building is erected, the munificence of individuals will leave nothing to be complained of, and little to be desired. The names of the donors of books are painted up in the alcoves of the library; but the books are now assorted by their subjects. There are portraits of some of the patrons of the institution; two of which, by Copley, are good.
The rest of our first day at Cambridge was spent in society. This was the first time of my meeting Professor Norton, who, of all the theologians of America, impressed me, as I believe he has impressed the Unitarians of England generally, and certain other theologians, with the most respect. In reach of mind, in reasoning power, in deep devotional feeling, and, according to the universal testimony of better judges than myself, in biblical learning, he has no superior among the American divines; and in some of these respects no peer. He is regarded with grateful veneration by the worthiest of his pupils, for the invaluable guidance he afforded them, while professor, in their biblical studies; though they cannot but grieve that his philosophical prejudices, and his extreme dread and dislike of opposition to his own opinions, should betray him into a tone of arrogance, and excite in him a spirit of persecution, which, but for ages of proof to the contrary, would seem to be incompatible with so large a knowledge, and so humble and genuine a faith as his. His being duly reverenced is the reason of his having been hitherto unduly feared. His services to theological science and to religion are gratefully appreciated; and, naturally, more weight has, at least till lately, been allowed to his opinions of persons and affairs, than should ever be accorded to those of a man among men. But this is a temporary disadvantage. When the friends of free inquiry, and the champions of equal intellectual rights, have gone on a little longer in the assertion of their liberty, Professor Norton's peculiarities will have lost their power to injure, and his great qualities, accomplishments, and services will receive a more ready and unmixed homage than ever.
On the Tuesday, several friends arrived to breakfast; and we filled up the morning with visiting the admirably-conducted Lunatic Asylum at Charlestown, and with a drive to Fresh Pond, one of the pretty meres which abound in Massachusetts. We dined at the house of another professor, close at hand. The house was full in every corner with family connexions, arrived for Commencement. I remember there were eleven children in the house. We were a cheerful party at the long dinner-table; and a host of guests filled the rooms in the evening. The ladies sat out on the piazza in the afternoon, and saw the smoke of a fire far off. Presently the fire-bells rang, and the smoke and glow increased; and by dark it was a tremendous sight. It was the great Charlestown fire, which burned sixty houses. Some of us mounted to the garrets, whence we could sec a whole street burning on both sides—stack after stack of chimneys falling into the flames. It is thought that the frequency of fires in America is owing partly to the practice of carrying wood-ashes from room to room; perhaps from general carelessness about wood-ashes; and partly to the houses being too hastily built, so that cracks ensue, sometimes in the chimneys, and beams are exposed.
The important morning rose dark and dull, and soon deepened into rain. It was rather vexatious that in a region where, at this tune of year, one may, except in the valleys, put by one's umbrella for three or four months, this particular morning should be a rainy one. Friend after friend drove up to the house, popped in, shook hands, and popped out again, till an hour after breakfast, when it was time to be setting out for the church. I was fortunate enough to be placed in a projecting seat at a corner of the gallery, over a flank of the platform, where I saw everything, and heard most of the exercises. The church is large, and was completely filled. The galleries and half the area were crowded with ladies, all gaily dressed; some without either cap or bonnet, which had a singular effect. We were sufficiently amused with observing the varieties of countenance and costume which are congregated on such occasions, and in recognising old acquaintances from distant places, till ten o'clock, when music was heard, the bar was taken down from the centre door of the church, and students and strangers poured in at the side-entrances, immediately filling all the unoccupied pews. A student from Marylands was Marshal, and he ushered in the President, and attended him up the middle aisle and the steps of the platform. The Governor of the State and his aides, the Corporation and officers of the College, and several distinguished visitors, took their seats on either hand of the President. The venerable head of Dr. Bowditch was seen on the one side, and Judge Story's animated countenance on the other. The most eminent of the Unitarian clergy of Massachusetts were there, and some of its leading politicians. Mr. Webster stole in from behind, when the proceedings were half over, and retired before they were finished. A great variety of exercises were gone through by the young men—orations were delivered, and poems, and dialogues, and addresses. Some of these appeared to me to have a good deal of merit; two or three were delivered by students who relied on their reputation at College, with a manner mixed up of pomposity and effrontery, which contrasted amusingly with the modesty of some of their companions, who did things much more worthy of honour. I discovered that many, if not most of the compositions, contained allusions to mob-law—of course reprobating it. This was very satisfactory; particularly if the reprobation was accompanied with a knowledge of the causes, and a recognition of the real perpetrators of the recent illegal violences;—a knowledge that they have invariably sprung out of a conflict of selfish interests with eternal principles; and a recognition that their perpetrators have universally been, at first or second hand, aristocratic members of American society.
The exercises were relieved by music four times during the morning; and then everybody talked, and many changed places, and the intervals were made as refreshing as possible. Yet the routine must be wearisome to persons who are compelled to attend it every year. From my high seat I looked down upon the top of a friend's head,—one of the reverend professors,—and was amused by watching the progress of his ennui. It would not do for a professor to look wearied or careless; so my friend had recourse to an occupation which gave him a sufficiently sage air, while furnishing him with entertainment. He covered his copy of the programme with an infinite number of drawings. I saw stars, laurel-sprigs, and a variety of other pretty devices, gradually spreading over the paper as the hours rolled on. I tried afterwards to persuade him to give me his handiwork, as a memorial of Commencement; but he would not. At length, a clever valedictory address, in Latin, drolly delivered by a departing student, caused the large church to re-echo with laughter and applause.
The president then got into the antique chair from which the honours of the University are dispensed, and delivered their diplomas to the students. During this process we departed, at half-past four o'clock, the business being concluded, except the final blessing, given by the oldest clerical professor.
At home we assembled, a party of ladies, without any gentlemen. The gentlemen were all to dine in the College Hall. Our hostess had happened to collect round her table a company of ladies more or less distinguished in literature, and all, on the present occasion at least, as merry as children; or, which is saying as much, as merry as Americans usually are. We had, therefore, a pleasant dining enough, during which one of these clever ladies agreed to go with us to the White Mountains, on our return from Dr. Channing's, in Rhode Island. It was just the kind of day for planning enterprises.
After dinner several of the gentlemen came in to tell us what had been done and said at the Hall. Their departure was a signal that it was time to be dressing for the president's levee. It was the most tremendous squeeze I encountered in America, for it is an indispensable civility to the President and the University to be seen at the levee. The band which had refreshed us in the morning was playing in the hall; and in the drawing-rooms there was a splendid choice of good company. I believe almost every eminent person in the State, for official rank, or scientific and literary accomplishment, was there. I was presented with flowers as usual; and was favoured with some delightful introductions; so that I much enjoyed the brief hour of our stay. We were home by eight, o'clock, and felt ourselves quite at rest again in our hostess's cool drawing-room, where the family party sat refreshing themselves with champagne and conversation till the fatigues of Commencement were forgotten. My curiosity had been so roused by the spectacles of this showy day, that I could not go to rest till I had run over the history of the University, which lay on my table. On such occasions I found it best to defer till the early morning the making notes of what I had seen. Many things which appear confused when looked at so near, are, like the objects of the external world, bright and distinct at sunrise; but then the journal should be written before the events of a new day begin.
Mr. Sparks breakfasted with us on the morning of the 27th. He brought with him the pass given by Arnold to André, and the papers found in André's boots. He possesses also the Reports of the West Point fortifications in Arnold's undisguised handwriting. The effect is singular of going from Andrés's monument in Westminster Abbey to the shores of the Hudson, where the treachery was transacted, and to Mr. Sparks's study, where the evidence lies clear and complete.
After breakfast we proceeded once more to the church, in which were to be performed the rites of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. This society consists of the élite of the scholars who owe their education to Harvard, and of distinguished professional men. Its general object is to keep alive the spirit, and perpetuate the history of scholarship. Every member is understood to owe his election to some evidence of distinction in letters, though the number of members is so great as to prove that no such supposition has become a rule. The society holds an annual celebration in Cambridge the day after Commencement; when public exercises take place in the church, and the members dine together in the College Hall.
We saw the society march in to music, and take possession of the platform, as on the preceding day. They were, on the whole, a fine-looking set of men, and interesting to a stranger, as being the élite of the lettered society of the republic. A traveller could not be expected to understand why they were so numerous, nor what were the claims of the greater number.
Prayers were said by the chaplain of the society; and then a member delivered an address. This address was, and is, to me a matter of great surprise. I do not know what was thought of it by the members generally; but if its doctrine and sentiments are at all sanctioned by them, I must regard this as another evidence, in addition to many, that the minority in America are, with regard to social principles, eminently in the wrong. The traveller is met everywhere among the aristocracy of the country with what seems to him the error of concluding that letters are wisdom, and that scholarship is education. Among a people whose profession is social equality, and whose rule of association is universal self-government, he is surprised to witness the assumptions of a class, and the contempt which the few express for the many, with as much assurance as if they lived in Russia or England. Much of this is doubtless owing to the minds of the lettered class having been nourished upon the literature of the old world, so that their ideas have grown into a conformity with those of the subjects of feudal institutions, and the least strong-minded and original indiscriminately adopt, not merely the language, but the hopes and apprehensions, the notions of good and evil which have been generated amidst the antiquated arrangements of European society: but, making allowance for this, as quite to be expected of all but very strong and original minds, it is still surprising that within the bounds of the republic, the insolence should be so very complacent, the contempt of the majority so ludicrously decisive as it is. Self-satisfied, oracular ignorance and error are always as absurd as they are mournful; but when they are seen in full display among a body whose very ground of association is superiority of knowledge and of the love of it, the inconsistency affords a most striking lesson to the observer. Of course, I am not passing a general censure on the Association now under notice; for I Know no more of it than what I could learn from the public exercises of this day, and a few printed addresses and poems. I am speaking of the tone and doctrine of the orator of the day, who might be no faithful organ of the society, but whose ways of thinking and expressing himself were but too like those of many literary and professional men whom I met in New England society.
The subject of the address was the “Duties of Educated men in a Republic;” a noble subject, of which the orator seemed to be aware at the beginning of his exercise. He well explained that whereas, in all the nominal republics of the old world, men had still been under subjection to arbitrary human will, the new republic was established on the principle that men might live in allegiance to Truth under the form of Law. He told that the primary social duty of educated men was to enlighten public sentiment as to what truth is, and what law ought, therefore, to be. But here he diverged into a set of monstrous suppositions, expressed or assumed:—that men of letters are the educated men of society in regard not only to literature and speculative truth, but to morals, politics, and the conduct of all social affairs:—that power and property were made to go eternally together:—that the “masses” are ignorant:—that the ignorant masses naturally form a party against the enlightened few:—that the masses desire to wrest power from the wealthy few:—that, therefore, the masses wage war against property:—that industry is to be the possession of the many, and property of the few:—that the masses naturally desire to make the right instead of to find it:—that they are, consequently, opposed to law:—and that a struggle was impending in which the whole power of mind must be arrayed against brute force.—This extraordinary collection of fallacies was not given in the form of an array of propositions; but they were all taken for granted when not announced. The orator made large reference to recent outrages in the country: but, happily for the truth, and for the reputation of “the masses,” the facts of the year supplied as complete a contradiction as could be desired to the orator of the hour. The violences were not perpetrated by industry against property, but by property against principle. The violators of law were, almost without an exception, members of the wealthy and “educated” class, while the victorious upholders of the law were the “industrious” masses. The rapid series of victories since gained by principle over the opposition of property, and without injury to property,—holy and harmless victories,—the failure of the law-breakers in all their objects, and their virtual surrender to the sense and principle of the majority, are sufficient, one would hope, to enlighten the “enlightened;” to indicate to the lettered class of American society, that while it is truly their duty to extend all the benefits of education which it is in their power to dispense to “the masses,” it is highly necessary that the benefit should be reciprocated, and that the few should be also receiving an education from the many. There are a thousand mechanics shops, a thousand loghouses where certain members of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the orator of the day for one, might learn new and useful lessons on morals and politics,—on the first principles of human relations.
I have had the pleasure of seeing the address delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society at its last celebration,—an address differing most honourably from the one I was present at. The address of last August was by Mr. R. Waldo Emerson a name which is a sufficient warrant on the spot for the absence from his production of all aristocratic insolence, all contempt of man or men, in any form and under any combination. His address breathes a truly philosophical reverence for Humanity, and exhibits an elevated conception of what are the right aims and the reasonable discipline of the mind of a scholar and thinker. Whatever the reader may conclude as to the philosophical doctrine of the address, and the mode in which it is conveyed,—whether he accuse it of mysticism or hail it as insight,—he cannot but be touched by the spirit of devotedness, and roused by the tone of moral independence which breathe through the whole. The society may be considered as having amply atoned, by this last address, for the insult rendered by its organ (however uconsciously), to republican morals by that of 1835).
The address was followed by the reading of the poem, whose delivery by its author I have before mentioned as being prevented by his sudden and alarming illness. The, whole assembly were deeply moved; and this was the most interesting part of the transactions of the day.
The society marched out of the church to music, and, preceded by the band, to the college, and up the steps of the hall to dinner, in the order of seniority as members.
We hastened home to dress for dinner at the president's, where we met the Corporation of the University. My seat was between Dr. Bowditch and one of the professors; and the entertainment, to us strangers, was so great and so novel, that we were sorry to return home, though it was to meet an evening party no less agreeable.
The ceremonial of Commencement-week was now over; but not the bustle and gaiety. The remaining two days were spent in drives to Boston and to Bunker Hill, and in dinner and evening visits to Judge Story's, to some of the professors, and to Mr. Everett's, since governor of the State.
The view from Bunker Hill is fine, including the city and harbour of Boston, the long bridges and the Neck, which connect the city with the mainland, the village of Medford, where the first American ship was built, and the rising grounds which advantageously limit the prospect. The British could scarcely have had much leisure to admire the view while they were in possession of the hill, for the colonists kept them constantly busy. I saw the remains of the work which was the only foothold they really possessed. They roamed the hills, and marched through the villages, but had no opportunity of settling themselves anywhere else. Their defeat of the enemy was more fatal to themselves than to the vanquished, as they lost more officers than the Americans had men engaged.
A monument is in course of erection: but it proceeds very slowly for want of funds. It is characteristic of the people that funds should fall short for this object, while they abound on all occasions when they are required for charitable, religious, or literary uses. The glory of the Bunker Hill struggle is immortal in the hearts of the nation, and the granite obelisk is not felt to be wanted as an expression. When it will be finished no one knows, and few seem to care, while the interest in the achievement remains as enthusiastic as ever.
While we were surveying the ground, a very old man joined us with his plan of the field. It was well worn, almost tattered: but he spread it out once more for us on a block of the monumental granite, and related once again, for our benefit, the thousand times told tale. He was in the battle with his musket, being then fifteen years old. Many were the boys who struck some of the first blows in that war; and of those boys one here and there still lives, and may be known by the air of serene triumph with which he paces the field of his enterprise, once soaked with blood, but now the centre of regions where peace and progress have followed upon the achievement of freedom.
“Hast thou entered the store-houses of the snow?”
Book of Job.
One of the charms of such travelling as that of the English in the United States, is its variety. The stopping to rest for a mouth at a farm-house after a few weeks of progress by stage, with irregular hours, great fatigues and indifferent fare, is a luxury which those only can understand who have experienced it: and it is no less a luxury to hie away from a great city, leaving behind its bustle and formalities, and the fatigues of sight-seeing and society, to plunge into the deepest mountain solitude. I have a vivid recollection of the dance of spirits amidst which we passed the long bridge at Boston, on our way out to New Hampshire, on the bright morning of the 16th of September. Our party consisted of four, two Americans and two English. We were to employ eight or ten days in visiting the White Mountains of New Hampshire, returning down the valley of the Connecticut. The weather was brilliant the whole time: and I well remember how gay the hedges looked this first morning, all starred over with purple, lilac, and white asters, and gay with golden rod; with which was intermixed, here and there, a late pale brier rose. The orchards were cheerful with their apple-cropping. There was scarcely one which had not its ladder against a laden tree, its array of baskets and troughs beneath, and its company of children picking up the fruit from the grass. What a contrast to the scenery we were about, to enter upon!
Of the earlier part of this trip, (our visit to Lake. Winnepiscogee and the Red Mountain.) I gave an account in my former work , little supposing that I should ever return to the subject. My narrative must now be taken up from the point where I then dropped it.
From the summit of Red Mountain I had seen what kind of scenery we were to pass through on our road to Conway. It was first mountain and wild little valleys, and then dark pine scenery,—barrens, with some autumnal copses, and intervals of lake and stream. Lake Ossippee looked like what I fancy the wildest parts of Norway to be; a dark blue expanse, slightly ruflled, with pine fringing all its ledges; and promontories, bristling with pines, jutting into it; no dwellings, and no sign of life but a pair of wildfowl, bobbing and ducking, and a hawk perched on the tip-top of a scraggy blighted tree.
In the steam-boat on Lake Winnepiseogee there was a party whom we at once concluded to be bride, bridegroom, and bridemaid. They were very young, and the state of the case might not have occurred to us but for the obvious pride of the youth in having a lady to take care of. Our conjectures were confirmed by the peculiar tone in which he spoke of “my wife” to the people of the inn, in giving orders. It had a droll mixture of pride and awkwardness: of novelty with an attempt to make the words appear quite familiar. For some days we were perpetually meeting this party: and this afternoon they introduced themselves to me, on the ground of their having expected to see me at Portsmouth, on my way to the White Mountains. I imagine they would have been too busy with their wedding arrangements to have cared much about me if I had gone. I was glad we fell in with them, as it added an interest to the trip. We looked at the scenery with their eyes, and pleased ourselves with imagining what a paradise these landscapes must appear to the young people; what a sacred region it will be to them when they look back upon it in their old age, and tell the youth of those days what the White Mountains were when they towered in the midst of a wilderness.
We all took up our quarters at the inn at Conway; and the next morning we met again at breakfast, and improved our acquaintance by sympathizing looks about the badness of every thing on the table. Eggs were a happy resource; for the bread was not eatable. We did not start till ten, our party having bespoken a private conveyance, and the horses having to be sent for, to a distance of eight miles. So the wedding party had the companionship of our luggage instead of ourselves in the stage; and we four stepped merrily into our little open carriage, while the skirts of the morning mist were drawing off from the hill-tops, and the valley was glowing in a brilliant autumn sunshine. This was to be the grand day of the journey—the day when we were to pass the Notch; and we were resolved to have it to ourselves, if we could procure a private conveyance from stage to stage.
We struck across the valley, which is intersected by the Saco river. Never did valley look more delicious; shut in all round by mountains, green as emerald, flat as water, and chumped and fringed with trees tinted with the softest autumnal hues. Every reach of the Saco was thus belted and shaded. We stopped at Pendexter's, the pretty house well known to tourists: having watered the horses, we went on another stage, no less beautiful, and then entered upon the wilderness. For seven miles we did not see a single dwelling; and a head now and then popped out of the stage window, showing that our friends “the weddingers,” were making sure of our being near, as if the wildness of the scene made them relish the idea of society.
The mountains had opened and closed in every direction all the morning: they now completely shut us in, and looked tremendous enough, being exceedingly steep and abrupt, bare, and white where they had been seamed with slides, and in other parts dark with stunted firs. At the end of seven miles of this wilderness, we arrived at the elder Crawford's, a lone house invested with the grateful recollections of a multitude of travellers. The Crawfords, who live twelve miles apart, lead a remarkable life; but one which seems to agree well with mind and body. They are hale, lively men, of uncommon simplicity of manners, dearly loving company, but able to make themselves happy in solitude. Their year is passed in alternations of throngs of guests with entire loneliness . During the long dreary season of thaw no one comes in sight; or, if a chance visitor should approach, it is in a somewhat questionable shape—being no other than a hungry bear, the last of his clan. During two months, August and September, while the solitaries are trying to get some sort of harvest out of the impracticable soil, while bringing their grain from a distance, a flock of summer tourists take wing through the region. Then the Crawfords lay down beds in every corner of their dwellings, and spread their longest tables, and bustle from morning till night, the hosts acting as guides to every accessible point in the neighbourhood, and the women of the family cooking and waiting from sunrise till midnight. After the 1st of October comes a pause—dead silence again for three months, till the snow is frozen hard, and trains of loaded sleighs appear in the passes. Traders from many distant points come down with their goods, while the roads are in a state which enables one horse to draw the load of five. This is a season of great jollity; and the houses are gay with roaring fires, hot provisions, good liquor, loud songs, and romantic travellers' tales—tales of pranking wild beasts, bold sleigh-drivers, and hardy woodsmen.
The elder Crawford has a pet album, in which he almost insists that his guests shall write. We found in it some of the choicest nonsense and “brag” that can be found in the whole library of albums. We dined well on mutton, eggs, and huckleberries with milk. Tea was prepared at dinner as regularly as bread, throughout this excursion. While the rest of the party were finishing their arrangements for departure. I found a seat on a stone, on a rising ground opposite, whence I could look some way up and down the pass, and wonder at leisure at the intrepidity which could choose such an abode.
We proceeded in an open wagon, the road winding amidst tall trees, and the sunshine already beginning to retreat up the mountain sides. We soon entered the secluded valley where stands the dwelling of the Willeys—the unfortunate family who were all swept away in one night by a slide from the mountain in the rear of the house . No one lives in that valley, now; and this is not to be wondered at, so desolate is its aspect. The platform on which the unharmed house stands is the only quiet green spot in the pass. The slides have stripped the mountains of their wood; and they stand tempest-beaten, seamed, and furrowed; while beneath lies the wreck of what was brought down by the great slide of 1826—a heap of rock and soil, bristling with pine-trunks and upturned roots, half hid by a rank new vegetation, which will in time turn all the chaos into beauty.
A dark pine hill at the end of this pass is the signal of the traveller's approach to the Notch. We walked up a long ascent, the road overhanging a ravine, where rocks were capriciously tumbled together, brought down doubtless by a winter-torrent. At present, instead of a torrent, there were two sparkling waterfalls leaping down the mountain. The Notch is, at the narrowest part, only twenty-two feet wide. The weather was so still that we were scarcely aware of the perpetual wind, which is one characteristic of the pass. There the wind is always north or south; and it ordinarily blows so strong as to impair the traveller's pleasure in exploring the scene. It merely breathed cool upon us as we entered the tremendous gateway formed by a lofty perpendicular rock on the right hand, and a steep mountain on the left. When we were through, and had rejoined our wagon, my attention was directed to the Profile—an object which explains itself in being named. The sharp rock certainly resembles a human face—but what then? There is neither wonder nor beauty in it. I turned from it to see the infant Saco bubble forth from its spring among stones and bushes, under the shelter of the perpendicular rock, and in a semicircular recess of the greenest sward. Trees sprang from sharp projections, and wrenched themselves out of crevices—giving the last air of caprice to the scene.
We were just in time for the latest yellow light. Twilight stole on, and we grew silent. The stars appeared early to us on our shadowy way, and birds flitted by to their homes. A light still lingered on the mountain stream, when Sirius was tremblingly reflected in it. When the lights of Ethan Crawford's dwelling were seen twinkling in the distance, we were deep in mutual recitation of poetry. As we drove up to the open door, Mr. D. said, quietly, as he looked up into the heavens, “Shall we get out, or spend the evening as we are?” We got out, and then followed supper, fiddle and dancing, as I have elsewhere related .
We proposed to ascend Mount Washington the next morning, if the weather should allow. It is a difficult and laborious ascent for all travellers; and few ladies venture upon the enterprise; but the American lady of our party was fully disposed to try her strength with me. I rose very early, and seeing that the mountain peak looked sharp and clear, never doubted that I ought to prepare myself for the expedition. On coming down, however, I was told that there was rather too much wind, and some expectation of rain. By noon, sure enough, while we were basking upon Mount Deception (so called from its real being so much greater than its apparent height), we saw that there was a tempest of wind and snow about the mountain top. This peak is the highest in the Union. It rises 6634 feet above the level of the sea: 4000 feet of this height being clothed with wood, and the rest being called the bald part of the mountain. We spent our day delightfully in loitering about Mount Deception, in tracking the stream of the valley through its meadows, and its thickets of alders, and in watching the course and explosion of storms upon the mountains. Some gay folks from Boston were at Crawford's; and they were not a little shocked at seeing us pack ourselves and our luggage into a wagon, in the afternoon, for a drive of eighteen miles to Littleton. We should be upset—we should break down—we should be drowned in a deluge—they should pick us up on the morrow. We were a little doubtful ourselves about the prudence of the enterprise; but a trip to Franconia Defile was in prospect for the next day, and we wished that our last sight of the White Mountains should be when they had the evening sun upon them. Our expedition was wholly successful; we had neither storm, breakage, nor overturn; and it was not sunset when we reached and walked up the long hill which was to afford us the last view of the chain. Often did we stand and look back upon the solemn tinted mountains to the north, and upon the variegated range behind, sunny in places, as if angels were walking there, and shedding light from their presence.
We passed the town of Bethlehem, consisting, as far as we could see, of one house and two barns. It was no more than six o'clock when we reached Littleton: so, when we had chosen our rooms, out, of a number equally tempting from their cleanliness and air of comfort, we walked out to see what the place looked like. Our attention was caught by the endeavours of a woman to milk a restless cow, and we inadvertently stood still to see how she would manage. When she at last succeeded in making the animal stand, she offered us milk. We never refused kindness which might lead to acquaintanceship; so we accepted her offer, and followed her guidance into her house, to obtain a basin to drink out of. It was a good interior. Two pretty girls, nicely dressed, sat, during the dusk, by a blazing fire. Their talkative father was delighted to get hold of some new listeners. He sat down upon the side of the bed, as if in preparation for a long chat, and entered at large into the history of his affairs. He told us how he went down to Boston, to take service, and got money enough to settle himself independently in this place; and how much better he liked having a house of his own than working for any amount of money in a less independent way. He told us how Littleton flourishes by the lumber-trade; wood being cut from the hills around, and sent floating down the stream for five miles, till it reaches the Connecticut, with whose current it proceeds to Hartford. Twenty years ago there was one store and a tavern in the place; now it is a wide-spreading village on the side of a large hill, which is stripped of its forest. The woods on the other bank of the river are yet untouched. Scarcely a field is to be seen under tillage; and the axe seems almost the only: tool in use.
We were admirably cared for at Gibb's house at Littleton, and we enjoyed our comforts exceedingly. It appeared that good manners are much regarded in the house; some of the family being as anxious to teach them to strangers as to practise them themselves. In the morning, one of my American friends and I, being disposed to take our breakfast at convenient leisure, sat down to table when all was ready, our companions (who could make more haste) not having appeared. A young lady stood at the sidetable to administer the steaming coffee and tea. After waiting some time, my companion modestly observed,
“I should like a cup of coffee, if you please.”
There was no appearance of the observation having taken effect; so my friend spoke again:
“Will you be so good as to give me a cup of coffee?”
No answer. After a third appeal, the young lady burst out with,
“Never saw such manners! To sit down to table before the other folks come!”
I hope she was pacified by seeing that our friends, when they at length appeared, did not resent our not having waited for them.
We set out early in an open wagon for a day's excursion to Franconia Defile—a gorge in the mountains which is too frequently neglected by travellers who pass through this region. Before we reached Franconia, some part of our vehicle gave way. While it was in the hands of the blacksmith, we visited the large ironworks at Franconia, and sat in a boat on the sweet Ammonoosuc, watching the waters as they fell over the dam by the ironworks. When we set off again, our umbrellas were forgotten; and as we entered upon the mountain region, the misty, variegated peaks told that storm was coming. The mountain sides were more precipitous than any we had seen; and Mount Lafayette towered darkly above us to the right of our winding road. We passed some beautiful tarns, fringed with trees, and brimming up so close to the foot of the precipices as to leave scarcely a footpath on their margin. A pelting rain came on, which made us glad to reach the solitary dwelling of the pass, called the Lafayette Hotel. This house had been growing in the woods thirteen weeks before; and yet we were far from being among its first guests. The host, two boys, and a nice-looking, obliging girl, wearing a string of gold beads, did their best to make us comfortable. They kindled a blazing wood fire, and the girl then prepared a dinner of hot bread and butter, broiled ham, custards, and good tea. When the shower ceased, we went out and made ourselves acquainted with the principal features of the pass, sketching, reciting, and watching how the mists drove up and around the tremendous peaks, smoked out of the fissures, and wreathed about the woods on the ledges. The scene could not have been more remarkable, and scarcely more beautiful in the brightest sunshine. It was not various: its unity was its charm. It consisted of a narrow rocky road, winding between mountains which almost overhung the path, except at intervals, where there were recesses filled with woods.
After dinner, our host brought in the album of the house—for even this new house had already its album. When we had given an account of ourselves we set out, in defiance of the clouds, for the Whirlpool, four miles at least further on. On the way we passed a beautiful lake, overhung by ash, beech, birch, and pine, with towering heights behind. Hereabouts the rain came on heavily, and continued for three hours. The Whirlpool is the grand object of this pass; and it is a place in which to spend many a long summer's day. A full mountain stream, issuing from the lake we had left behind, and brawling all along our road, here gushes through a crevice into a wide basin, singularly overhung by a projecting rock, rounded and smoothed as if by art. Here the eddying water, green as the Niagara floods, carries leaves and twigs round and round, in perpetual swift motion, a portion of the waters brimming over the lower edge of the great basin at each revolution, and the pool being replenished from above. I found a shelter under a ledge of rock; and here I could have stood for hours, listening to the splash and hiss, and watching the busy whirl. The weather, showever, grew worse every moment; the driver could not keep the seats of the wagon dry any longer; and after finding to our surprise that we had staid half an hour by the pool, we jumped into our vehicle, and returned without delay. There were no more wandering gleams among the mountains; but just as we descended to the plain, we saw the watery sun for a moment, and were cheered by a bright amber streak of sky above the western summits. By the time we recovered our umbrellas there was no further need of them.
It soon became totally dark; and if there had been any choice, the driver would have been as glad as ourselves to have stopped. But we were wet, and there were no habitations along the roads: so we amused ourselves with watching one or two fire-flies, the last of the season, and the driver left the horses to find their own way, as he was unable to see a yard in any direction. At last, the lights of Littleton appeared, the horses put new spirit into their work, and we arrived at Gibb's door before eight o'clock. The ladies of the house were kind in their assistance to get us dried and warmed, and to provide us with tea.
Our course was subsequently to Montpelier (Vermont), and along the White River, till we joined the Connecticut, along whose banks we travelled to Brattleborough, Deerfield, and Northampton. The scenery of New Hampshire and Vermont is that to which the attention of travellers will hereafter be directed, perhaps more emphatically than to the renowned beauties of Virginia I certainly think the Franconia Defile the not mountain pass I saw in the United States.
“And let me tell you, good company and good discourse are the very sinews of virtue.”
There is no task more difficult than that of speaking of one's intimate friends in print. It is well that the necessity occurs but seldom; for it is a task which it is nearly impossible to do well. Some persons think it as dangerous as it is difficult: but I do not feel this. If a friendship be not founded on a mutual knowledge so extensive as to leave nothing to be learned by each of the opinions of the other regarding their relation; and if, moreover, either party, knowing what it is to speak to the public,—the act of all acts most like answering at the bar of eternal judgment,—can yet be injuriously moved by so much of the character and circumstances being made known as the public has an interest in,—such a friendship is not worthy of the name; and if it can be thus broken up, it had better be so. In the case of a true friendship, there is no such danger; for it is based upon something very different from mutual ignorance; and depends upon something much more stable than the ignorance of the world concerning the parties.
Dr. Channing is, of all the public characters of the United States, the one in whom the English feel the most interest. After much consideration, I have decided that to omit, because the discussion is difficult to myself, the subject most interesting to my readers, and one on which they have, from Dr. Channing's position, a right to information, would be wrong. Accounts have already been given of him,—one, at least, to his disadvantage. There is no sufficient reason why a more friendly one should be withheld, while the account is strictly limited to those circumstances and appearances which might meet the observation of a stranger or a common acquaintance. All revelations made to me through the hospitalities of his family, or by virtue of friendship, will be, of course, carefully suppressed.
Dr. Channing spends seven or eight months of the year in Rhode Island, at Oakland, six miles from Newport. There I first saw him, being invited by him and Mrs. Channing to spend a week with them. This was in September, 1835. I afterwards staid a longer time with them in Boston.
The last ten miles of the journey to Dr. Channing's house, from Boston, is very pretty in fine weather. The road passes through a watery region, where the whims of sunshine and cloud are as various and as palpable as at sea. The road passes over a long bridge to the island, and affords fine glimpses of small islands in the spreading river, and of the distant main with its breakers. The stage set me down at the garden-gate at Oakland, whither my host came out to receive me. I knew it could be no other than Dr. Channing; but his appearance surprised me. He looked younger and pleasanter than I had expected. The common engraving of him is undeniably very like; but it does not altogether do him justice. A bust of him was modelled by Persico, the next winter, which is an admirable likeness,—favourable, but not flattering. Dr. Channing is short, and very slightly made. His countenance varies more than its first aspect would lead the stranger to suppose it could. In mirth, it is perfectly changed, and very remarkable. The lower part of other faces is the most expressive of mirth: not so with Dr. Channing's, whose muscles keep very composed, while his laughter pours out at his eyes. I have seen him laugh till it seemed doubtful where the matter would end; and I could not but wish that the expression of face could be dashed into the canvas at the moment.—His voice is, however, the great charm. I do not mean in the pulpit: of what it is there I am not qualified to speak, for I could not hear a tone of his preaching: but in conversation his voice becomes delightful after one is familiarised with it. At first, his tones partake of the unfortunate dryness of his manner; but by use they grow, or seem to grow, more and more genial, till, at last, the ear waits and watches for them. Of the “repulsiveness” of his manners, on a first acquaintance, he is himself aware; though not, I think, of all the evil it causes, in compelling mere strangers to carry away a wrong idea of him, and in deterring even familiar acquaintances from opening their minds, and letting their speech run on as freely to him as he earnestly desires that it should.
It might not be difficult to account for this manner; but this is not the place in which we have to do with any but the facts of the case. The natural, but erroneous conclusion of most strangers is, that the dryness proceeds from spiritual pride; and all the more from there being an appearance of this in Dr. Channing's writings,—in the shape of rather formal declarations of ways of thinking as his own, and of accounts of his own views and states of mind,—still as his own. Any stranger thus impressed will very shortly be struck, be struck speechless, by evidences of humility, of generous truth, and meek charity, at such variance with the manner in which other things have been said as to overthrow all hasty conclusions. It was thus with me; and I know that it has been so with others. Those superficial observers of Dr. Channing who, carrying in their own minds the idea of his being a great man, suppose that the same idea is in his, and even kindly account for his faults of manner on this ground, do him great injustice,—whatever may be his share of the blame of it. No children consulting about their plays were ever further from the idea of speaking like an oracle than Dr. Channing: and the notion of condescending,—of his being in a higher, while others are in a lower spiritual state,—would be dismissed from his mind, if it ever got in, with the abhorrence with which the good chase away the shadows of evil from their souls. I say this confidently, the tone of his writings notwithstanding: and I say it, not as a friend, but from such being the result of a very few hours study of him. Whenever his conversation is not earnest,—and it is not always earnest,—it is for the sake of drawing out the person he is talking with, and getting at his views. This method of conversation is not to be defended,—even on the ground of expediency,—for a person's real views are not to be got at in this way,—no one liking to be managed: but Dr. Channing's own part in this kind of conversation is not played in the spirit of condescension, but of inquiry. One proof of this is the use he makes of the views of the persons with whom he converses. Nothing is lost upon him. He lays up what he obtains for meditation; and it reappears, sooner or later, amplified, enriched, and made perfectly his own. I believe that he is, to a singular degree, unconscious of both processes, and unaware of his part in them; —both the drawing out of information, and the subsequent assimilation: but both are very evident to the observation of even strangers.
One of the most remarkable instances of all this is in the case of Mr. Abdy's visit to Dr. Channing, and its results. Mr. Abdy has thought fit to publish the conversation he had with Dr. Channing, and had an undoubted right to do so, as he gave fair warning on the spot that he visited Dr. Channing as a public character, and should feel himself at liberty to report the circumstances of his visit. It is not necessary to repeat the substance of the conversation as it stands in Mr. Abdy's book: but it is necessary to explain that Mr. Abdy was not aware of his host's peculiarities of manner and conversation, and that he misunderstood him; and that, on the other hand, no stranger could be expected to make allowance for the unconsciousness which Dr. Channing expressed of the condition of the free coloured population of America. Some mutual friends of the two gentlemen tried to persuade Mr. Abdy not to publish the conversation he had with Dr. Channing till he knew him better; and Mr. Abdy, very reasonably, thought that what was said was said, and might, honourable warning having been given, be printed.
Immediately after Mr. Abdy's departure, Dr. Channing took measures to inform himself of the real state of the case of the blacks; and within the next month, preached a thorough-going abolition sermon. He laid so firm a grasp on the fundamental principles of the case as to satisfy the far-sighted and practised abolitionists themselves, who were among his audience. The subject was never again out of his mind; and during my visit, the next autumn, our conversation was more upon that topic than any other. Early in the winter after, he published his book on slavery. This has since been followed by his Letter to Birney, and by his noble Letter to Clay, on the subject of Texas,—of all his works the one by which his most attached friends and admirers would have him judged and remembered.
No one out of the United States can have an idea of the merit of taking the part which Dr. Channing has adopted on this question. Abroad, whatever may be thought of the merits of the productions, the act of producing them does not seem great. It appears a simple affair enough for an influential clergyman to declare his detestation of outrageous injustice and cruelty, and to point out the duty of his fellow-citizens to do it away. But it is not a very easy or simple matter on the spot. Dr. Channing lives surrounded by the aristocracy of Boston, and by the most eminent of the clergy of his own denomination, whose lips are rarely opened on the question except to blame or ridicule the abolitionists. The whole matter was, at that time, considered “a low subject,” and one not likely therefore to reach his ears. He dislikes associations for moral objects: he dislikes bustle and ostentation: he dislikes personal notoriety; and, of course, he likes no better than other people to be the object of censure, of popular dislike. He broke through all these temptations to silence, the moment his convictions were settled;—I mean not his convictions of the guilt and evil of slavery, but of its being his duty to utter his voice against it. From his peaceful and honoured retirement he came out into the storm, which might and probably would be fatal to his reputation, his influence, his repose,—and perhaps to more blessings than even these. Thus the case appears to the eye of a passing traveller.
These bad consequences have only partially followed; but he could not anticipate that. As it has turned out, Dr. Channing's reputation and influence have risen at home and abroad precisely in proportion to his own progress on the great question,—to the measure of justice which he learned by degrees to deal out to the abolitionists, till, in his latest work, he reached the highest point of all. His influence is impaired only among those to whom it does not seem to have done good,—among those who were vain of him as a pastor, and a fellow-citizen, but who have not strength and light to follow his guidance in a really difficult, and obviously perilous path. He has been wondered at and sighed over in private houses, rebuked and abused in Congress, and foamed at in the South: but his reputation and influence are far higher than ever before; and by his act of self-devotion, he has been on the whole a great gainer, though not, of course, holding a position so enviable, (though it may look more so) than that of some who moved earlier, and have risked and suffered more in the same cause.
Dr. Channing bore admirably the wrath he drew upon himself by breaking silence on the slavery question. Popular hatred and the censure of men whom he respected were a totally new experience to one who had lived in the midst of something like worship; and though they reached him only from a distance, they must have made him feel that the new path he had at his years struck into, was a thorny one. He was not careless of censure, though he took it quietly. He read the remarks made in Congress on his book, re-examined the grounds of what he had said that was questioned, about the morals of the South, with the intention of retracting anything which he might have stated too strongly. Finding that he had in his assertions kept within the truth, he appeared satisfied. But he could feel for others who were exposed in the same cause. When I was staying in his house, at the end of the winter. I was one morning sealing up my papers in his presence, in order to their being put in a place of safety, news having reached us the night before of a design to lynch me in the West, where I had been about to take a journey. While I was scaling, Dr. Channing told me that he hoped I should, on my return to England, boldly expose the fact that I was not allowed the liberty of going where I would in the United States. I told him I should not, while there was the far stronger fact that the natives of the country were not allowed to use this, their constitutional liberty. Dr. Channing could not, at that time, have set his foot within the boundaries of half the States, without danger to his life: but he appeared more moved at my case than I ever saw him about his own. No doubt we both felt ashamed to be concerned about ourselves while others were suffering to the extremity,—to the loss of fortune, liberty, and life. Still, to Dr. Channing, the change in the temper of a large portion of the nation towards him must have been no light trial.
He loves the country retirement in which I first saw him; for his habit of mind is not one which renders him indifferent to the objects about him. He never sits in his study for hours together, occupied with books and thoughts, but, even when most deeply engaged in composition, walks out into his garden frequently that the wonder to persons who use different methods is how, amidst so many interruptions, he keeps up any continuity of thought, or accomplishes any amount of composition at all. He rarely has his pen in his hand for more than an hour at a time, and does not therefore enter into the enjoyments of writers who find the second hour twice as productive and pleasurable as the first, and the third as the second; and who grudge moving under five or six hours. Instead of the delight of this continuous labour. Dr. Channing enjoys the refreshment of a change of objects. In his last publication, as in some former ones, he affords an indication of this habit of his, which, to those who know him, serves as a picture of himself in his garden, sauntering alone in his grey morning; gown, or chatting with any of his family whom he may meet in the walks. “I have prepared this letter,” he says, “not amidst the goadings, irritations, and feverish tumults of a crowded city, but in the stillness of retirement, amid scenes of peace and beauty. Hardly an hour has passed in which I have not sought relief from the exhaustion of writing, by walking abroad amidst God's works, which seldom fail to breathe tranquility, and which, by their harmony and beneficence, continually cheer me, as emblems and prophecies of a more harmonious and blessed state of human affairs than has yet been known.” He has frequently referred in conversation, even to strangers, and once at least in print, to the influence on his mind of having passed his boyhood on the seashore; and to this shore he lost no time in taking me. He liked that we should be abroad almost all day. In the morning we met early in the garden; at noon he drove me, or we went in the carriage, to some point of the shore; and in the afternoon we walked to the glen,—where, truly, any one might be thankful to go, every summer evening and autumn afternoon. The way was through a field, an orchard, a narrow glen, shadowy with rocks and trees, down to the shore, where the sea runs in between the island and the mainland. The little coves of clear blue water, the boats moving in the sunlight, the long distant bridge on the left hand, and the main opening and spreading on the right, made up a delicious scene—the favourite haunt of Dr. Channing's family. To the more distant shore of the ocean itself he drove me in his gig,—even to Purgatory. By the way, he showed me Berkeley's house, of grey stone, rather sunk among trees,—built by the bishop in a rather unpromising spot, selected on account of the fine view of Newport, the downs, the beach, and the sea, which is obtained from the ridge of the hill over which he must pass on his way to and from the town. The only beauty which the scene lacked, when I saw it, was a brighter verdure. It was the end of summer, and the downs were not green. They were sprinkled over with dwellings and clumps of trees; rocks jutted out for the waves to break upon, the spray dashing to a great height; on the interval of smooth sand, the silver waves spread noiselessly abroad, and retired; while flocks of running snipes and a solitary seagull were the only living things visible. This interval of smooth beach is bounded inland by the pile of rocks which was Berkeley's favourite resort, and where the conversations in the Minute Philosopher are supposed to have taken place. They are not a lofty, but a shelvy, shadowy pile, full of recesses, where the thinker may sit sheltered from the heat; and of platforms, where he may lie basking in the sun.
Purgatory is a deep and narrow fissure in the rock, where the sea flows in;—one of those fissures which, as Dr. Channing told me, are a puzzle to geologists. The surfaces of the severed rocks are as smooth as marble, though the split has taken place through the middle of very large stones. These rocks are considered remarkable specimens of pudding-stone. After fearfully looking down into the dark floods of Purgatory, we wandered about long among the piles of rocks, the spray dashing all around us. Birds and spiders have thought fit to make their homes amidst all the noise and commotion of these recesses. Webs were trembling under the shelves above the breakers, and swallows' nests hung in the crevices. These are the spots in which Dr. Channing passed his boyhood; and here were the everlasting voices which revealed to him the unseen things for which he is living.
The one remarkable thing about him is his spirituality; and this is shown in a way which must strike the most careless observer, but of which he is himself unconscious. He is not generally unconscious: his manner, indeed, betokens a remarkable self-consciousness: but he is not aware of what is highest in himself, though painfully so of some other things. Every one who converses with him is struck with his natural, supreme regard to the true and the right; with the absence of all suspicion that any thing can stand in competition with these. In this there is an exemption from all professional narrowness,—from all priestly prejudice. He is not a man of the world: anxious as he is to inform himself of matters of fact, and of the present condition of affairs every where, he does not succeed well; and this deficiency, and a considerable amount of prejudice on philosophical subjects are the cause of his being extensively supposed to be more than ordinarily professional in his views, judgments, and conduct. But in this I do not agree; nor does any one, I believe, who knows him. No one sees more clearly than he the necessity of proving and exercising principles by hourly action in all kinds of worldly business. No one is more free from attachment to forms, or more practically convinced that rules and institutions are mere means to an end. He showed this, in one instance out of a thousand, by proposing to his congregation, some time ago, that they should not always depend on their pastors for the guidance of their worship, but that any members who had any thing to say should offer to do so. As might have been foreseen, every one shrank from being concerned in so new an administration of religion; but Dr. Channing was disappointed that the effort was not made. No one, again, is more free from all pride of virtue. His charity towards frailty is as singular as his reprobation of spiritual vices is indignant. The genial side of his nature is turned to the weak; and the sorely tempted and the fallen best know the real softness and meekness of his character. He is a high example of the natural union of lofty spirituality with the tenderest sympathy with those who are the least able to attain it. If the fallen need the help of one into whose face they would look without fear, Dr. Channing is that one,—even though he may be felt to be “repulsive” by those who have no particular claim upon his kindness: and as for spiritual pride,—when it has once passed his credulity, and got within the observation of his shrewdness, it had better be gone out of the reach of his rebuke.
It may be seen that I feel the prevalent fear of him to be ill-grounded. There is little gratification to one's self-complacency to be expected in his presence. He never flatters, and he is more ready to blame than to praise: but his blame, like every other man's, should go for what it is worth; should be welcome in as far as it is deserved, and should pass for nothing where it is not. But there is no assumption and no bitterness in his blame: it is merely the expression of an opinion; and it leaves no sting. All intercourse with him proceeds on the supposition that the parties are not caring about their petty selves, but about truth and good; and that all are equal while engaged in this pursuit. There is no room for mutual fear in such a case. He one day asked an intimate friend, a woman of great simplicity and honesty, some question about a sermon he had just delivered. She replied that she could not satisfy him, because she had not been able to attend to the sermon after the first sentence or two; and he was far better pleased with the answer than with the flatteries which are sometimes addressed to him about his preaching. This lady's method is that in which Dr. Channing's intimate friends speak to him, and not as to a man who is to be feared.
I have mentioned prejudice on philosophical subjects to be a drawback on his liberality. This might have been the remark of a perfect stranger, as long as his celebrated note on Priestley remains unretracted in public,—whatever he may say about it in private. His attachment to the poetry of philosophy,—the mysticism prevalent among the divines of New England who study philosophy at all,—and his having taken no means to review his early decisions against the philosophers of another school, are the cause of a prejudice as to the grounds, and an illiberality as to the tendencies of any other mental philosophy than his own, the results of which are exhibited in that note. This is not the only instance in Dr. Channing's life, as in the lives of other cautious men, where undue caution has led to rashness. His reason for writing that note was a fear lest, the American Unitarians being already too cold, they should be made colder by philosophical sympathy with the Unitarians of England. This fear led to the rashness of concluding the English Unitarians to be generally disciples of Priestley: of attributing to Priestley's philosophy the coldness of the English Unitarians: and of concluding Priestley to be the perfect exponent of the philosophy which the American divines of Dr. Channing's way of thinking declare to be opposed to spiritualism.
Disposed as Dr. Channing is to an excess of caution both by constitution and by education, he appears to be continually outgrowing the tendency. He has shown what his moral courage is, by proofs which will long outlast his indications of slowness in admitting the full merits of the abolitionists. Here again, his caution led him into rashness,—into the rashness of giving his sanction to charges and prejudices against them, the grounds of which he had the means of investigating. This is all over now, however; and it was always a trifle in comparison with the great services he was at the same time rendering to a cause which the abolitionists cared for far more than for what the whole world, or any part of it, thought of their characters. He is now completely identified with them in the view of all who regard them as the vanguard in the field of human liberties.
When I left his door, at the close of my first visit to him, and heard him talked of by the passengers in the stage, I was startled by the circumstance into a speculation on the varieties of methods and degrees in which eminent authors are revealed to their fellow-men. There is, to be sure, the old rule, “by their fruits ye shall know them:” but the whole harvest of fruits is in some cases so long in coming in, that the knowledge remains for the present very imperfect. As a general rule, earnest writers show their best selves in their books: in the series of calm thoughts which they record in the passionless though genial stillness of their retirement, whence the things of the world are seen to range themselves in their right proportions, in their justest aspect; and where the glow of piety and benevolence is not damped by, but rather consumes fears and cares which relate to self, and discouragement arising from the faults of others. In such cases, a close inspection of the life impairs, more or less, the impression produced by the writings. In other cases, there is a pretty exact agreement between the two modes of action,—by living and writing. This is a rarer case than the other; and it happens either when the principles of action are so thoroughly fixed and familiarised as to rule the whole being; or when the faults of the mind are so intimately connected with its powers as to be kept in action by the exercise of those powers in solitude, as they are by temptations in the world.
There is another case rarer still; when an earnest writer, gifted and popular, still falls below himself, conveying an impression of faults which he has not, or not in the degree in which they seem to appear. In such an instance, a casual acquaintance may leave the impression what it was, while a closer inspection cannot but be most grateful to the observer. In my opinion, this is Dr. Channing's case. His writings are powerful and popular, abroad and at home; and have caused him to be revered wherever they are known: but revered as an exalted personage, a clerical teacher, conscious of his high station, and endeavouring to do the duties of it. A slight acquaintance with him must alter this impression, without, perhaps, improving it. When he becomes a companion, the change is remarkable and exhilarating. He drops glorious thoughts as richly as in his pages, while humble and gentle feelings shine out, and eclipse the idea of teaching and preaching. The ear listens for his step and his voice, and the eye watches for the appearance of more of his writings, not as for a sermon or a lesson, but as a new hint of the direction which that intellect and those affections are taking which are primarily employed in watching over the rights and tendencies, and ameliorating the experience of those who occupy his daily regards.
“Another noble response to the battle-cry of the Prince of Peace, summoning his hosts to the conquest of suffering and the rescue of humanity.”—Rationale of religious Inquiry.
“Vicaria linguæ manus.”
“Protected, say enlightened, by the ear.”
Some weeping philosophers of the present day are fond of complaining of the mercenary spirit of the age, and insist that men are valued (and treated accordingly) not as men, but as producers of wealth; that the age is so mechanical, that individuals who cannot act as parts of a machine for creating material comforts and luxuries, are cast aside to be out of the way of the rest. What do such complainers make of the lot of the helpless in these days? How do they contrive to overlook or evade the fact that misery is recognized as a claim to protection and solace, not only in individual cases, which strike upon the sympathies of a single mind, but by wholesale,—unfortunates as a class being cared for on the ground of their misfortunes? Are deformed and deficient children now cast out into the wastes to perish? Is any one found in this age who is of Aristotle's opinion, that the deaf and dumb must remain wholly brutish? Does any one approve the clause of the code of Justinian by which deaf-mutes are deprived of their civil rights? Will any one now agree with Condillac that the deaf and dumb have no memory, and consequently are without, reasoning power? If every one living is wiser than to believe these things, he owes his wisdom to the benevolent investigation which has been made into the condition of these isolated and helpless beings; an investigation purely benevolent, as it proceeded on the supposition that they were irremediably deficient. The testimony of their best benefactors goes to prove this. The Abbé de l'Epée, Sicard, Guyot of Groningen, Eschke of Berlin, Cæsar of Leipsic, all began their labours in behalf of the deaf and dumb with the lowest notion of the capabilities of the objects of their care, and the humblest expectations as to what could be done for them. Sicard acknowledged a change of views when his experience had become enlarged. He says, “It will be observed that I have somewhat exaggerated the sad condition of the deaf and dumb in their primitive state, when I assert that virtue and vice are to them without reality. I was conducted to these assertions by the fact that I had not yet possessed the means of interrogating them upon the ideas which they had before their education; or that they were not sufficiently instructed to understand and reply to my questions.” It should be remembered, to Sicard's honour, and that of other benefactors of the deaf and dumb, that their labours were undertaken more in pity than in hope, in benevolence which did not look for, though it found reward. None were more astonished than they at the revelation which took place of the minds of the dumb, when the power of expression was given them; when, for instance, one of them, Peter Desloges, declared, with regard to his deaf and dumb acquaintance, “There passes no event at Paris, in France, or in the four quarters of the globe, which does not afford matter of ordinary conversation among them.” The deaf and dumb are prone to hyperbolical expression; of which the above sentence may be taken as an instance; but it is founded in fact.
The benevolence which undertook the care of this class of unfortunates, when their condition was esteemed hopeless, has, in many cases, through a very natural delight at its own success, passed over into a new and opposite error, particularly in America, where the popular philosophy of mind comes in aid of the delusion. From fearing that the deaf and dumb had hardly any capacities, too many of their friends have come to believe them a sort of sacred, favoured class, gifted with a keener apprehension, a more subtle reason, and a purer spirituality than others, and shut out from little but what would defile and harden their minds. Such a belief may not be expressed in propositions, or allowed on a full statement; but much of the conversation on the condition of the class proceeds on such an idea; and, in my own opinion, the education of deaf-mutes is and will be materially impaired by it. Not only does it give rise to mistakes in their treatment, but there is reason to fear bad effects from the disappointment which must sooner or later be occasioned. If this disappointment should act as a damper upon the exertions made in behalf of the deaf and dumb, it will be sad: for only a very small number are yet educated at all, in any country: and they are far more numerous than is generally supposed. In 1830 the total number of deaf and dumb, of all ages, in the United States, was 6106. Of a teachable age the number was 2000; of whom 466 were in course of education. The number of deaf-mutes in Europe at the same time was 140,000. It is of great importance that the case of so large a class of society should be completely understood, and rescued from one extreme of exaggeration, as it has been from the other.
When at New York, I paid a visit one morning, in company with a clergyman, to the mother of a young lady who was deaf and dumb; and for whose education whatever advantages were obtainable by money and pains had been procured. My clerical friend shared, I believe, the popular notions about the privileged condition of the class the young lady belonged to. Occasion arose for my protesting against these notions, and declaring what I had reason to think the utmost that could be done for deaf-mutes, in the present state of our knowledge. The clergyman looked amazed at my speaking thus in the presence of the mother; but I knew that experience had taught her to agree with me; and that her tenderness made her desire that her daughter's situation should be fully understood, hat she might receive due allowance and assistance from those who surrounded her. The mother laid her hand on mine, and thanked me for pleading the cause of the depressed against those who expected too much from them. She said that, after all that could be done, the knowledge of deaf-mutes was generally confined and superficial; their tastes frivolous; their tempers wilful and hasty; their whole mental, state puerile: and she added that, as long as all this was not allowed, they would be placed in positions to which they were unequal, and which they did not understand, and would not be so amply provided as they might be with enjoyments suited to their condition.
This is not the place in which to enter upon the interesting inquiry into the principles of the education of the deaf and dumb; a deep and wide subject, involving matters important to multitudes besides the class under notice. Degerando observed that the art of instructing deaf-mutes, if traced back to its principles, terminates in the sciences of psychology and general grammar. A very superficial view of the case of the class shows something of what the privation really is, and consequently, furnishes hints as to the treatment by which it may be in part supplied. Many kind-hearted people in America, and not a few in Europe, cry out, “They are only deprived of one sense and one means of expression. They have the infinite human spirit within them, active and irrepressible, with infinite objects in its view. They lose the pleasures of the ear; they lose one great opportunity of spiritual action, both on the world of matter, and on human minds: but this is compensated for by the activity of the soul in other regions of thought and emotion; and their contemplation of their own objects is undisturbed, in comparison with what it would be if they were subject to the vulgar associations with which we have to contend.”
It is true that the deaf from birth are deficient in one sense only, while they are possessed of four: but the one in which they are deficient is beyond all estimate the most valuable in the formation of mind. The eye conveys, perhaps, more immediate and vivid pleasures of sense, and is more requisite to external and independent activity; so that, in the case of the loss of a sense after the period of education, the privation of sight is a severer misfortune, generally speaking, than the loss of hearing. But, in the case of deficiency from birth, the deaf are far more unfortunate than the blind, from the important power of abstraction being in them very feeble in its exercise, and sadly restricted in the material on which it has to work. The primary abstractions of the blind from birth will be less perfect than those of other children, the great class of elements from visual objects being deficient: but when they come to the second and more important class of abstractions. — when from general qualities of material objects they pass on to the ideas compounded from these, their disadvantages disappear at each remove; till, when intellectual and moral subjects open before them, they may be considered almost on equal terms with the generality of mankind. These intellectual and moral ideas, formed gradually out of lower abstractions, are continually corrected, modified, and enlarged by intercourse with the common run of minds, alternating with self-communion. This intercourse is peculiarly prized by the blind, from their being precluded from solitary employments and amusements; and the same preclusion impels them to an unusual degree of self-communion; so that the blind from birth are found to be, when well educated, disposed to be abstract in their modes of thought, literal in their methods of expression, and earnest and industrious in the pursuit of their objects. Their deficiencies are in general activity, in cheerfulness, and in individual attachments.
The case of the deaf from birth is as precisely opposite as can be imagined, and much less favourable. They labour under an equal privation of elementary experience; and, in addition, under an almost total absence of the means of forming correct abstractions of the most important kinds. Children in general learn far less of the most essential things by express teaching than by what comes to them in the course of daily life. Their wrong ideas are corrected, their, partial abstractions are rectified and enriched by the incessant unconscious action of other minds upon theirs. Of this kind of discipline, the deaf-mute is deprived; and the privation seems to be fatal to a healthy intellectual and moral growth. He is taught expressly what he knows of intellectual and moral affairs: of memory, imagination, science, and sagacity: of justice, fortitude, emotion, and conscience. And this through imperfect means of expression. Children in general learn these things unconsciously, better than they learn anything by the most complete express teaching. So that we find that the deaf-mute is ready at defining what he little understands; while the ordinary child feelingly understands what he cannot define. This power of definition comes of express teaching, but by no means implies full understanding. Its ample use by the deaf and dumb has led to much of the error which exists respecting their degree of enlightenment. They are naturally imitative, from everything being conveyed to them by action passing before the eye: and those who observe them can scarcely avoid the deception of concluding that the imitative action, when spontaneous, arises from the same state of mind which prompted the original action. It is surprising how long this delusion may continue. The most watchful person may live in the same house with a deaf-mute for weeks and months, conversing on a plain subject from time to time, with every conviction of understanding and being understood, and find at length a blank ignorance, or an astounding amount of mistake existing in the mind of his dumb companion, while the language had been fluent and correct, and every appearance of doubt and hesitation excluded. There need be no conceit and no hypocrisy, all this time, in the mind of the deaf-mute. He believes himself in the same state of mind with those who say the same thing: and has no comprehension that that which is to him literal is to them a symbol. While nothing can be easier than to conduct the religious education of the blind,—since all the attributes of Deity are exercised towards them, in inferior degrees, by human invisible beings, it is difficult to ascertain what is gained by deaf-mutes under a process of instruction in religion. No instance has been known. I understand, of a deaf-mute having an idea of God prior to instruction. For a long time, at least, the conception is low,— the idea pictorial; and if it ceases to be so, the teacher cannot confidently pronounce upon it; the common language of religion being as easily accommodated by superficial minds to their own conceptions, as adopted by minds which mean by it something far higher and deeper. A pupil at Paris, who was considered to have been effectually instructed in the first principles of religion, was discovered, after a lapse of years, to have understood that God was a venerable old man, living in the clouds; that the Holy Spirit was a dove surrounded with light; and that the devil was a monster, dwelling in a deep place. Life, with its truths conveyed under appearances, is to them what German and other allegorical stories are to little children. They perceive and talk glibly about the pictorial part, innocently supposing it the whole; while they are as innocently supposed, by unpractised observers, to perceive the philosophical truth convoyed in the picture.
It is often said that, if the blind have the advantage of communication with other minds by conversation, the deaf have it by books. This is true; but, alas! to books must be brought the power of understanding them. The grand disadvantage of the deaf is sustained antecedently to the use of books; and though they gain much knowledge of facts, and other advantages, by reading, books have no power to remedy the original faulty generalization by which the minds of deaf-mutes are kept narrow and superficial. If a remedy be ever found, it seems as if it must be by rendering their intercourse by the finger-alphabet and writing much more early than it is, and as nearly as possible general. If it could be general, and take place as early as speech usually does, they would still be deprived, not only of all inarticulate sounds, and the instruction which they bring, but of the immense amount of teaching which comes through the niceties of spoken language, and of all that is obtained by hearing conversation between others: but still, the change from almost total exclusion, or from intercourse with no minds but those suffering under the same privation, and those of three or four teachers, to communion with a variety of the common run of persons, would be so beneficial that it is scarcely possible to anticipate its results. But the finger-alphabet is not yet practised, or likely to be practised, beyond the sufferers themselves and their teachers and families: and before a deaf and dumb child can be taught reading and writing the mischief to his mind is done.
As for the general intellectual and moral characteristics of deaf-mutes, they are precisely what good reasoners would anticipate. The wisest of the class have some originality of thought; and most have much originality of combination. They are active, ingenious, ardent, impressible, and strongly affectionate towards individuals; but they are superficial, capricious, passionate, selfish, and vain. They are like a coteric of children, somewhat spoiled by self-importance, and prejudiced and jealous with regard to the world in whose intercourses they do not share. So far from their feeling ashamed of their singularity, generally speaking, they look down upon people who are not of their coterie. It is well known that deaf and dumb parents sometimes show sorrow that their children can hear and speak,—not so much from a selfish fear of alienation, as from an idea that they themselves are somehow a privileged class. The delight of mutes in a school is to establish a sign-language which their teachers cannot understand; and they keep up a strong esprit de corps. This is maintained among other means, by a copious indulgence in ridicule. Their very designations of individuals are derived from personal peculiarities, the remembrance of which is never lost. If any visitor folds his arms, sneezes, wears a wig, has lost a tooth, or, as in the case of Spurzheim, puts, his hand up for a moment to shade his eyes from the sun, the mark becomes his designation for ever.
Much has been said and written about whether people always think in words. Travellers in a foreign country are surprised to find how soon and constantly they detect themselves thinking in the language of that country. Degerando took pains to ascertain how deaf-mutes think. The uninstructed can, of course, know nothing of words. It seems that their thoughts are few, and that they consist of the images of visual objects passing merely in the order of memory,— i.e., in the order in which they are presented. As soon as the pupils become acquainted with language, and with manual signs of abstract ideas, they use these signs as we do words. Degerando Clearly ascertained that they use gesticulation in their private meditations; a remarkable fact.
The first efforts towards erecting an institution for the education of the deaf and dumb in America, were made in 1815, at Hartford. Connecticut. This institution, called the American Asylum, from its having been aided by the General Government, has always enjoyed a high reputation. I lament that I was prevented seeing it, by being kept from Hartford by bad weather. The Pennsylvania Institution followed in 1821; and the New York Asylum, opened in 1818, began to answer the hopes of its founders only in 1830. These two I visited. There are two or three smaller schools in different parts of the Union, and there must yet be many more before the benevolent solicitude of society will be satisfied.
The number of deaf-mutes in Pennsylvania was, at the period of the last census, seven hundred and thirty; six hundred and ninety-four being whites, and thirty-six persons of colour. As usual, it is discovered on inquiry, that in a large majority of cases the hearing was lost in childhood, and not deficient from birth; so that it is to the medical profession that we must look for a diminution of this class of unfortunates. The number of pupils in the Institution, in 1833, was seventy-four; thirty-seven of each sex; and of deaf-mute assistants six. The buildings, gardens, and arrangements are admirable, and the pupils look lively and healthy.
They went through some of their school exercises in the ordinary manner, for our benefit. Many of them were unintelligible to us, of course; but when they turned to their large slates, we could understand what they were about. A teacher told a class of them, by signs, a story of a Chinese who had fish in his pond, and who summoned the fish by ringing a bell, and then fed them by scattering rice. All told it differently, as regarded the minor particulars; and it was evident that they did not understand the connexion of the bell with the story. One wrote that the fishes came at the trembling of the bell: but the main circumstances were otherwise correct. They all understood that the fishes got the rice. When they were called upon to write what smooth meant, and to describe what things were smooth, they instanced marble, the sky, the ocean, and eloquence. This was not satisfactory: the generalization was imperfect, and the word eloquence meaningless to them. Nor did they succeed much better in introducing certain phrases, such as “on account of,” “at the head of,” into sentences; but one showed that he knew that the President was at the head of the United States.—Then the word “glorious” was given, and their bits of chalk began to work with great rapidity. One youth thought that a woman governing the United States would be glorious: and others declared Lord Brougham to be glorious.—The word “cow” was given; and out of a great number of exercises, there was not one which mentioned milk. Milk seemed almost the only idea which a cow did not call up. The ideas appeared so arbitrarily connected as to put all our associations at fault. One exercise was very copious. The writer imagined a cow amidst woods and a river, and a barn, whence the thought, by some imperceptible link, fastened upon Queen Elizabeth dress, which was glorious, as was her wisdom; and this, of course, brought in Lord Brougham again. He is the favourite hero of this institution. Prior to our visit, a youth of sixteen, who had been under instruction less than four years, was desired to prepare a composition, when he presented the following
“Lord Chancellor Brougham remains in the city of London. He is the most honourable man in England, for his mind is very strong, excellent, and sharp. I am aware that I am beneath Brougham in great wisdom and influence. It afforded me great pleasure to receive a letter from Brougham, and I read in it that he wanted me to pay a visit to him, with astonishment. Soon after, I came to the conclusion that I would go to London and visit Brougham. I prepared all my neat clothes and some other things in my large trunk. After my preparation, I shook hands with all my relations and friends living in the town of C., and they looked much distressed, for they thought that I would be shipwrecked and eaten by a large and strong fish. But I said to them, I hope that I should reach London safely, and that I should return to the United States safely. They said yes, with great willingness, and they told me that I must go and see them again whenever I should return from London to the United States. I sailed in a large ship and saw many passengers, with whom I talked with much pleasure that I might get much advantage of improvement. I slept in the comfortable cabin, and it was agreeable to me to stay in it. I saw the waves very white, with great wonder, and I was astonished at the great noise of the storm, which was so gloomy that I could not endure the tempest of it. I perceived the country of England and I hoped I would reach there in great safety. Many passengers were much pleased to arrive at the country. I met Brougham unexpectedly in the street, and he went with me to his beautiful house, and I talked with him for a long time. He asked me to tarry with him several months, because he wished to converse with me about the affairs of the Institution and the pupils and teachers. He said that he loved all the pupils because he pitied them who were deaf and dumb, so that he wished that all of the pupils could go to his house and be at the large feast. I walked with Brougham through the different streets of London, and I saw many interesting curiosities and excellent houses. I had the pleasure of seeing William IV, in the palace by the favour of Brougham, and he was delighted to talk with me for a long time. At length Brougham parted with me with great regret. I reached the United States and I found myself very healthy. I went to my relations and friends again, and they were much pleased to talk with me about my adventures, the matter of London, and the character of Lord Chancellor Henry Brougham. I was struck with vast wonder at the city of London. I have made my composition of the fable of Brougham.”
A pretty little girl told the pupils a humorous story by signs; and her action was so cloquent that, with little help from the teacher, we were able to make it all out. It was a story of a sailor and his bargain of caps; and the child showed a knowledge of what goes on on board a ship which we should scarcely have expected from her. Her imitation of heaving the lead, of climbing the rigging, and of exchanging jokes upon deck, was capital. It was an interesting things to see the eyes of all her companions fixed on her, and the bursts of laughter with which they greeted the points of the story.
The apparatus-room is full of pretty things; and the diversity of the appeals to the eye is wonderful. A paper sail is enclosed in the receiver, from which the air is exhausted in the view of the pupils. As they cannot hear the air rushing back, the fluttering of this paper sail is made use of to convey the fact to them. The natural sciences afford a fine field of study for them, as far as they occasion the recognition of particular facts. The present limited power of generalization of the learners, of course, prevents their climbing to the heights of any science; but an immense range of facts is laid open to them by studies of this nature, in which they usually show a strong interest. The Philadelphia pupils are lectured to by a deaf and dumb teacher, who passes a happy life in the apparatus-room. He showed us several mechanical contrivances of his own; among the rest, a beautiful little locomotive engine, which ran on a tiny rail-road, round two large rooms. The maker testified infinite glee at the wonder and interest of a child who was with us, who raced after the engine, round and round the rooms, with a grave countenance, for as long as we could stay.
In the girls' work-room there were rows of knitters, straw-plaiters, and needle-women. The ingenuity they put into their work is great. The nicety of the plaiting of dolls' straw-bonnets cannot be surpassed; and I am in possession of a pair of worsted gloves, double knitted, of the size of my thumb-nail, of which every finger is perfect in its proportions. Perhaps this may be the class of American society destined to carry on the ingenuity of handiworks to perfection, as the Shakers seem to be appointed to show how far neatness can go.—One little girl, who was knitting in the work-room, is distinguished from the rest by being able to speak. So the poor little thing understands the case. She can speak two words, “George” and “brother,” having become deaf when she had learned this much of language. She likes being asked to speak, and gives the two words in a plaintive tone, much like the inarticulate cry of a young animal.
I visited the New York Institution in company with several ladies, two of whom were deaf and dumb, and had been pupils in the school. One of these had married a teacher, and had been left a widow, with three children, the year before. She was a most vivacious personage, and evidently a favourite among the pupils. The asylum is a large building, standing on high ground, and with great advantages of space about it. It contains 140 out of the 1066 deaf-mutes existing in the State of New York. The pupils are received up to the age of 25 years; and there was one of 27 from North Carolina, who was making great progress. The girls' dormitory, containing 80 beds, was light, airy, and beautifully neat; the small philosophical apparatus, museum, and library, were in fine order, and a general air of cheerfulness pervaded the Institution.
I had had frequent doubts whether nearly all the pupils in these asylums were perfectly deaf: on this occasion, I caused my trumpet to be tried on several, and found that some could hear, and some imitate the sounds conveyed through it. The teachers rather discouraged the trial, and put away all suggestions about the use of these means of getting at the minds of their pupils. They were quite sure that the manual methods' of teaching were the only ones by which their charge can profit. It is natural that, wedded as they are to the methods which to a certain extent succeed in the asylum, they should not like any interference with these: but surely the guardians of these institutions should see that, while so few out of the large number of deaf-mutes can be provided with education, those few should be of a class to whom no other means are open. The totally deaf should be first served, in all reason and humanity. And those who have any hearing at all should have the full advantage of the remains of the sense. The most meagre instruction by oral language is worth far more than the fullest that can be given by signs and the finger alphabet. In their case, the two should be united, where it is possible; but especially the car should be made use of as long as there are any instruments by which it may be reached. My own belief is that there are, in these institutions and out of them, many who have been condemned to the condition of mutes who have hearing enough to furnish them with speech, imperfect to the listener, perhaps, but inestimable as an instrument of communication, and of accuracy and enlargement of thought. I would strongly urge upon the benevolent under whose notice the cases of deaf young children may come, that they should try experiments with every car-trumpet that has been invented, before they conclude that the children are perfectly deaf, and must therefore be dumb.
I may mention here that I some time ago discovered, by the merest accident, that I could perfectly hear the softest notes of a musical snuff-box by putting it on my head. The effect was tremendous,—at first intolerably delicious. It immediately struck me that this might be a resource in the case of deaf-mutes. If the deafness of any was of a kind which would admit of the establishment of means of hearing any thing, there was no saying how far the discovery might be improved. The causes and kinds of deafness vary almost as the subjects; and there might be no few who could hear as I did, and with whom some kind of audible communication might be established. I wrote to New York, and begged two of my friends to go out to the asylum with musical boxes, and try the effect. Their report was that they believed none of the pupils could hear at all by this method. But I am not yet fully satisfied. So few of them have the slightest idea of what hearing is, they show that their notion is so wide of the mark, and they are so inexpert at giving an account of their feelings, that I have not given up the matter yet. At any rate, no harm can be done by offering the suggestion to any who may be disposed to take it up.
We went to the New York asylum without notice, and walked immediately into one of the class-rooms, where the pupils were at a historical lesson, each standing before a slate as tall as himself. In a minute, while the five ladies of our party were taking their seats, an arch-looking lad wrote down in the middle of his lesson about Richard I, and John, that I was there, describing me as the one next the lady in green, and giving a short account of me, for the edification of his companions. It was almost instantly rubbed out, before it was supposed we had seen it. We could not make out by what means he knew me.
The lessons here were no more satisfactory than elsewhere, as to any enlargement or accuracy of thought in the pupils. I doubt whether the means of reaching their wants have yet been discovered; for nothing can exceed the diligence and zeal with which the means in use are applied. Their repetition of what they had been taught was so far superior to what they could bring out of their own minds, as to convince us that the reproduction was little more than an act of memory. They told us the history of Richard I, and John with tolerable accuracy; but they gave us the strangest accounts of the seasons of the year that ever were seen. A just idea occurred, however, here and there. A boy mentioned swimming as a seasonable pleasure; and others fruits: and one girl instanced “convenience of studying” as an advantage of cool weather. In geography, but little if any progress had been made; and the arithmetic was not much more promising. Every thing that can be done, is zealously done, but that all is very little. The teachers declare that the greatest difficulty is with the tempers of their pupils. They are suspicious and jealous; and when they once get a wrong idea, and go into a passion upon it, there is no removing it: no possibility of explanation remains. They are strongly affectionate, however, towards individuals; and, as we could bear witness, very sudden in their attachments. We doubtless owed much to having two deaf and dumb ladies in our party: but, when we went away, they crowded round us to shake hands again and again, and waved their hats and kissed their hands from the windows and doors, as long as we remained in sight.
Among the exercises in composition which are selected for the annual Report of this institution, there is one which is no mere recollection of something read or told, but an actual account of a piece of personal experience; and so far superior to what one usually sees from the pens of deaf-mutes that I am tempted to give a portion of it. It is an account, by a lad of fifteen, of a journey to Niagara Falls.
“And soon we went into the steam-boat. The steam-boat stayed on the shore for a long time. Soon the boat left it and sailed away over the Lake Ontario. We were happy to view the Lake, and we stayed in the boat all night. The next morning we arrived at Lewiston, and after breakfast we entered one of the stages for Niagara Falls. About 12 o'clock we arrived at Niagara Falls and entered Mr. B.'s uncle's house. I was soon introduced to Mr. B.'s uncle, aunt and cousins, by himself. After dinner, we left the house of his uncle for the purpose of visiting the Falls, which belong to his uncles, Judge and General Porter, and we crossed the Rapids; but we stopped at a part of the bridge and viewed the Rapids with a feeling of interest and curiosity. The Rapids appeared to us beautiful and violent and quarrelsome. Soon we left it, and went to one of the islands to see the Falls. When we arrived in a portion situated near the Falls, we felt admiration and interest, and went near the river and saw the Falls. We felt much wonder. The Falls seemed to us angry and beautiful. We stayed in the part near the Falls for a long time, and felt amazement. We went into the staircase and descended, and we were very tired of descending in it, and we went to the rock to view the Falls. The Falls' are about 160 feet in height. We saw the beautiful rainbow of red, green, blue, and yellow colours. One day we went to the river and crossed it by means of a ferry-boat, and left it. We went to the Canada side, and arrived at Table Rock. Mr. B. dressed himself in some old coarse clothes, and then he descended and went under the sheet of the Falls. I felt earnest and anxious to go into it. In a few minutes he returned to me, and soon we went back to the river and crossed the river, and came home, and soon sat down and dined. We went to the island and found some plant whose name I did not know. I had never seen it. When we were on the United States side, we could see Canada. One day we again went to the ferry to cross the river, and went to Table Rock. We dressed ourselves in some old clothes, and entered under the Falls with curiosity and wonder. We stayed at Niagara Falls a week. I wonder how the water of the Niagara River never is exhausted.”
That so much power of expression as this can be attained is, to those who reflect what grammar is, and what a variety of operations is required in putting it to use at all, a great encouragement to persevere in investigating the minds of the deaf and dumb, and in teaching them, in the hope that means may at length be found of so enlarging their intercourses at an early age as to create more to be expressed, as well as to improve the mode of expression. Those who may aid in such a conquest over difficulty will be great benefactors to mankind. Greater still will be the physicians who shall succeed in guarding the organ of hearing from early accident and decay. It should not be forgotten by physicians or parents that, in the great majority of cases, the infirmity of deaf-mutes is not from birth.
The education of the blind is a far more cheering subject than that of the deaf and dumb. The experiments which have been made in regard to it are so splendid, and their success so complete, that it almost seems as if little improvement remained to be achieved. It appears doubtful whether the education of the blind has ever been carried on so far as at present in the United States; and there is one set of particulars, at least, in which we should do well to learn from the new country.
I am grieved to find in England, among some who ought to inform themselves fully on the subject, a strong prejudice against the discovery by which the blind are enabled to read, for their own instruction and amusement. The method of printing for the blind, with raised and sharp types, on paper thicker and more wetted than in the ordinary process of printing, is put to full and successful use at the fine institution at Boston. Having seen the printing and the books, heard the public readings, and watched the private studies of the blind, all the objections brought to the plan by those who have not witnessed its operation appear to me more trifling than I can express.
The pupils do the greater part of the printing,—the laying on the sheets, working off the impressions, &c. By means of recent improvements, the bulk of the Books, (one great, objection) has been diminished two-thirds: the type remaining so palpable that new pupils learn to read with ease in a few weeks. Of course, the expense is lessened with the bulk; and a further reduction may be looked for as improvement advances, and the demand increases. Even now the expense is not great enough to be an objection in the way of materially aiding so small a class as the blind.
I have in my possession the alphabet, the Lord's prayer, some hymns, and n volume on grammar, printed for the use of the blind: and six sets of all that has been printed at the Boston press, with the exception of the Testament, are on the way to me. It is my wish to disperce this precious literature where it may have the fairest trial; and I shall be happy to receive any aid in the distribution which the active friends of the blind may be disposed to afford.
The common letters are used; and not any abbreviated language. I think this is wise; for thus the large class of persons who become blind after having been able to read are suited at once; and it seems desirable to make as little difference as possible in the instrument of communication used by the blind and the seeing. It appears probable that, before any very long time, all valuable literature may be put into the hands of the blind; and the preparation will take place with much more case if the common alphabet be used, than if works have to be translated into a set of arbitrary signs. It is easy for a, blind person, previously able to read, to learn the use of the raised printing. Even adults, whose fingers ends are none of the most promising, soon achieve the accomplishment. An experiment has been made, on a poor washerwoman, with the specimens I brought over. She had lost her sight eight years; but she now reads, and is daily looking for a new supply of literature from Boston, which a kind friend has ordered for her.
It will scarcely be believed that the objection to this exercise which is most strongly insisted on, is that it is far better for the blind to be read to than that they should read, to themselves. It seems to me that this might just as well be said about persons who see; that it would save time for one mem ber only of a family to read. While the others might thus be saved the trouble of learning their letters. Let the blind be read to as much as any benevolent person pleases: but why should they not also be allowed the privilege of private study? Private reading is of far more value and interest to them than to persons who have more diversified occupations in their power. None could start this objection who had seen, as I have, the blind at their private studies. Instead of poring over a book held in the hand, as others do, they lay their volume on the desk before them, lightly touch the lines with one finger of the right hand, followed by one finger of the left, and, with face upturned to the ceiling, show in their varying countenances the emotions stirred up by what they are reading. A frequent passing smile, an occasional laugh, or an animated expression of grave interest passes over the face, while the touch is exploring the meaning which it was till lately thought could enter only through the eye or the ear. They may be seen going back to the beginning of a passage which interests them, reading it three or four times over, dwelling upon it as we do upon the beauties of our favourite authors, and thus deriving a benefit which cannot be communicated by public reading.
One simple question seems to set this matter in its true light. If we were to become blind to-morrow, should we prefer depending on being read to, or having, in addition to this privilege, a library which we could read for ourselves?
As to the speed with which the blind become able to read, those whom I heard read aloud about as fast as the better sort of readers in a Lancasterian school; with, perhaps, the interval of a second between the longer words, and perfect readiness about the commonest little words.
Alphabetical printing is far from being the only use the Boston press is put to. The arithmetical, geometrical, and musical signs are as easily prepared: and there is an atlas which far surpasses any illustrations of geography previously devised. The maps made in Europe are very expensive, and exceedingly troublesome to prepare; the boundaries of sea and land being represented by strings glued on to the lines of a common map, pasted on a board. The American maps are embossed; the land being raised, and the water depressed; one species of raised mark being used for mountains, another for towns, another for boundaries; the degrees being marked by figures in the margin, and the most important names in the same print with their books. These maps are really elegant in appearance, and seem to serve all purposes.
“Do you think,” said I, to a little boy in the Blind School at Philadelphia, “that you could show me on this large map where I have been travelling in the United States?”
“I could, if you'd tell me where you have been,” replied he.
“Well, I will tell you my whole journey; and you shall show my friends here where I have been.”
The little fellow did not make a single mistake. Up rivers, over mountains, across boundaries, round cataracts, along lakes, straight up to towns wont his delicate finger, as unerringly as our eyes. This is a triumph. It brings out the love, of the blind pupils for geography; and with this, the proof that there are classes of ideas which we are ignorant or heedless of, and which yield a benefit and enjoyment which we can little understand, to those to whom they serve instead of visual ideas. What is our notion of a map, and of the study of geography, putting visual ideas out of the question? The inquiry reminds one of Saunderson's reply, from his death-bed, to the conversation of a elergyman, who was plying the blind philosopher with the common arguments in Natural Theology: “You would fain have me allow the force of your arguments, drawn from the wonders of the visible creation; but may it not be, that they only seem to you wonderful? for you and other men have always been wondering how I could accomplish many things which seem to me perfectly simple.”
The best friends and most experienced teachers of the blind lay down, as their first principle in the education of their charge, that the blind are to be treated in all possible respects like other people; and these respects are far more numerous than the inexperienced would suppose. One of the hardest circumstances in the lot of a blind child is that his spirits are needlessly depressed, and his habits made needlessly dependent. Form his birth, or from the period of his loss of sight, he never finds himself addressed in the every-day human voice. He hears words of pity from strangers, uttered in tones of hesitating compassion; and there is a something in the voices of his parents when they speak to him, which is different from their tone towards their other children. Everything is done for him. He is dressed, he is fed, he is guided. If he attempts to walk alone, some one removes every impediment which lies in his way. A worse evil than even helplessness arises out of this method of treatment. The spirits and temper are injured. The child is depressed when some one is not, amusing him, and sinks into apathy when left to himself. If there is the slightest intermission or abatement of tenderness in the tone in which he is addressed, he is hurt. If he thinks himself neglected for a moment, he broods over the fancied injury, and in his darkness and silence nourishes bad passions. The experienced students of the case of the blind hint at worse consequences still, arising from this pernicious indulgence of the blind at home. Unless the mind be fully and independently exercised, and unless the blind be drawn off from the contemplation of himself as an isolated and unfortunate, if not injured being, the animal nature becomes too strong for control, and some species of sensual vice finishes the destruction which ill-judged indulgence began.
In the New England Institution at Boston, the pupils are treated, from the time of their entrance, like human beings who come to be educated. All there are on an equality, except a very few of the people about the house. The teachers are blind, and so all have to live on together on the same terms. It is a community of persons with four senses. It is here seen at once how inexpressibly absurd it is to be spending time and wasting energy in bemeaning the absence of a fifth power, while there are four existing to be made use of. The universe is around them to be studied, and life is before them to be conquered; and here they may be set vigorously on their way. At first, the pupils bitterly feel the want of the caressing and pampering they have been used to at home. Some few, who have come in too late, are found to have been irretrievably incapacitated by it: but almost all revive in a surprisingly short time, and experience so much enjoyment from their newly-acquired independence, their sense of safety, their power of occupation, the cessation of all pity and repining, and the novel feeling of equality with those about them, that they declare themselves to have entered upon a new life. Many drop expressions resembling that of one of the pupils, who declared that she never thought before that it was a happy thing to live.
Their zeal about their occupations appears remarkable to those who do not reflect that holiday is no pleasure to the blind, and idleness a real punishment, as it is the one thing of which they have had too much all their lives. They are eager to be busy from morning till night: and the care of their teachers is to change their employments frequently, as there is but little suspension of work. They have a play-ground, with swings and other means of exercise; but one of the greatest difficulties in the management is to cause these to be made a proper use of. The blind are commonly indisposed to exercise; and in the New England Institution, little is done in this way, though the pupils are shut out into the open air once, and even twice a-day in summer; the house doors actually closed against them. They sit down in groups and talk, or bask in some sunny corner of the grounds, hurrying back at the first signal to their books, their music, their mat and basket making, sewing, and travels on the map.
Another great difficulty is to teach them a good carriage and manners. Blind children usually fall into a set of disagreeable habits while other children are learning to look about them. They wag their heads, roll their eyes, twitch their elbows, and keep their bodies in a perpetual see-saw, as often as they are left to themselves; and it is surprising how much time and vigilance are required to make them sit, stand, and walk like othor people. As all directions to this purpose must appear to them purely arbitrary, their faith in their instructors has to be drawn upon to secure their obedience, in these particulars; and the work to be done is to break the habits of a life; so that it really seems easier to them to learn a science or a language than to hold up their heads and sit still on their chairs. The manners of the blind usually show a great bashfulness on the surface of a prodigious vanity. This is chiefly the fault of the seeing with whom they have intercourse. If their compassionate visitors would suppress all tears and sighs, make an effort to forget all about the sense that is absent, and treat them, on the ground of the other four, as they would treat all other pupils in any other school, the demeanour of the blind would nearly cease to be peculiar. Their manners are rectified easily enough by the only method which can ever avail for the cure of bad manners: by cultivating their kindly feelings and their self-respect, and by accustoming them to good society.
The studies at the institution at Boston are appointed according to the principles laid down in the valuable Report of the gentleman, Dr. Howe, who studied the case of the blind in Europe, and who is now at the head of the establishment under our notice. Among other principles is this, “that the blind can attain as much excellence in mathematical, geographical, astronomical, and other sciences, as many seeing persons, and that he can become as good a teacher of music, language, mathematics, and other sciences: all this and yet more can he do.” The ambition, from the very beginning of the enterprise, was far higher than that of rescuing a few hundreds of blind persons from pauperism and dependent habits: it was proposed to try how noble a company of beings the blind might be made; and thus to do justice to the individuals under treatment, and to lift up the whole class of the sightless out of a state of depression into one of high honour, activity, and cheerfulness. The story, besides being a pleasant one, is a fair illustration of American charity, in its principles and in its methods: and I will therefore give it in brief. I do not believe there exists, in American literature, any work breathing a more exhilarating spirit of hopefulness, a finer tone of meek triumph, than the Reports of the New England Institution for the Education of the Blind.
It appears to be only about five-and-forty years since the education of the blind was first undertaken: and it is much more recently that any just idea has been formed by any body of the actual number of the blind. Even now few are aware how numerous they are. The born-blind are far fewer than those who lose their sight in infancy. Taken together, the numbers are now declared to be, in Egypt, one blind to every three hundred: in Middle Europe, one to every eight hundred: in North Europe, one in a thousand. In the United States, the number of blind is supposed to be eight thousand at the very least.
The announcement of this fact caused a great sensation in New England. The good folks there who had been accustomed to bestow their kindness each on some sightless old man or woman, or some petted blind child in his own village, had not thought of comparing notes, to ascertain how many such cases there were; and were quite unaware of the numbers who in towns sit wearing their cheerless lives away by their relations' firesides: no immediate stimulus of want sending them forth into the notice of the rich and the philanthropic.
The first step was the passing of an act by the legislature of Massachusetts, incorporating trustees of the New England Asylum for the Blind. These trustees sent Dr. Howe to Europe, to study the similar institutions there, and bring back the necessary teachers and apparatus. Dr. Howe's Report on his return is extremely interesting. He brought over a blind teacher from Paris, who, besides being skilled in the art of communicating knowledge, is learned in the classics, history, and mathematics. With him came a blind mechanic from Edinburgh, who instructs the pupils in the different kinds of manufacture, on which many of them depend for subsistence.
Six young persons were taken at random from different parts of the State of Massachusetts, and put under tuition. They were between the ages of six and twenty years. At the end of five months, all these six could read correctly by the touch; had proceeded further in arithmetic than seeing children usually do in the time; knew more of geography; had made considerable attainment in music; and offered for sale moccasins and door-mats of as good quality and appearance as any sold in the shops of Boston. The legislature testified its satisfaction by voting an annual appropriation of 6000 dollars to the institution, on condition of its boarding and educating, free of cost, twenty poor blind persons from the State of Massachusetts.
The public was no less delighted. Every one began to inquire, what he could do. Money was given, objects were sought out; but some rallying point for all the effort excited was wanted. This was soon supplied. A wealthy citizen of Boston, Colonel Perkins, offered his mansion and out-buildings in Pearl Street as a residence for the pupils, if, within a given time, funds were raised to support the establishment. This act of munificence fully answered the purposes of the generous citizen who performed it. Within one month, upwards of fifty thousand dollars were contributed, and placed to the credit of the institution. The legislatures of three other New England States have made appropriations for the object; an estate joining Colonel Perkins's has been purchased, and thrown into a play-ground; the establishment contains five officers and about fifty pupils; and it is in contemplation to increase the accommodations so as to admit more. The funds are ample, and the means of instruction of a very superior kind.
The business of the house is carried on by the pupils, as far as possible; and mechanical arts are taught with care and diligence; but the rule of the establishment is to improve the mental resources of the pupils to the utmost. Those who cannot do better, are enabled to earn their livelihood by the making of mats, baskets, and mattrasses: but a higher destination is prepared for all who show ability to become organists of churches, and teachers of languages and science. I saw some of the pupils writing, some sewing, some practising music, some reading. I was struck with an expression of sadness in many of their faces, and with a listlessness of manner in some; but I am aware that, owing to the illness of the director, and some other circumstances, I saw the establishment to great disadvantage. I believe, however, that not a few of its best friends, among whom may perchance be included some of its managers themselves, would like to see more mirthful exercises and readings introduced in the place of some of the exclusively religious contemplations offered to the pupils. The best homage which the guardians of the blind could offer to Him whose blessing they invoke is in the thoroughly exercised minds of their charge; minds strong in power, gay in innocence, and joyous in gratitude.
The institution which I had the best means of observing, and which interested me more than any charitable establishment in America, was the Philadelphia Asylum for the Blind. It was humble in its arrangements and numbers when I first went; but before I left the country, it seemed in a fair way to flourish. It is impossible to overrate the merits of Mr. Friedlander, its Principal, in regard to it. The difficulties with which he had to struggle, from confined space, deficient apparatus, and other inconveniences resulting from narrow means, would have deterred almost any one else from undertaking anything till better aid could be provided. But he was cheered by the light which beamed out daily more brightly from the faces of his little flock of pupils, and supported by the intellectual power which they manifested from period to period of their course. Of the eleven, he found, to his delight, that no fewer than “six were endowed with remarkable intellectual faculties, and three with good ones; while, with regard to the remaining two, the development of their minds might still be expected.” A larger dwelling was next engaged; the legislature showed an interest in the institution; and I have no doubt it is by this time flourishing.
Mr. Friedlander and the matron, Miss Nicholls, had succeeded in rectifying the carriage and manners of nearly all their pupils. As to their studies, the aim is as high as in the New England Institution, and will, no doubt, be equally successful. The music was admirable, except for the pronunciation of words in the singing. It was a great pleasure to me to go and hear their musical exercises, they formed so good a band of instrumentalists, and sang so well. There were horns, flute, violins, and the piano. As for humbler matters, besides the ornamental works of the girls, the fringes, braids, lamp-stands, &c., I saw a frock made by one of them, during the leisure hours of one week. The work was excellent, the gathers of the skirt being stocked into the waistband as evenly and regularly as by a common mantua-maker. The girls hair was dressed like that of other young ladies, only scarcely a hair was out of its place; and each blind girl dresses her own hair. They peel potatoes with the utmost accuracy, and as quickly as others. But, with all this care, their cultivation of mind is the most attended to. The girls stand as good an examination as the boys in mental arithmetic, geography, and reading aloud.
Before I left Philadelphia, the annual meeting of the public in the Music Hall, to witness the progress of Mr. Friedlandcr's pupils, took place. I was requested to write the Address to be delivered by one of the blind, in the name of the rest; and now I found what the difficulty is to an inexperienced person, of throwing one's self into the mind of a being insuch different circumstances, and uttering only what he might say with truth. I now saw that the common run of hymns and other compositions put into the mouths of the blind become no less cant when uttered by them, than the generality of the so-called religious tracts which are written for the poor. The blind do not know what they miss in not receiving the light of the sun; and they would never spontaneously lament about it: nor would they naturally try to be submissive and resigned about privations which they are only by inference aware of. Their resignation should be about evils whose pressure they actually feel. To a blind child it is a greater pain to have a thorn in its foot than not to have eyes: to a blind man it is a greater sorrow not to have got his temper under control than to be shut out from the face of nature. The joy of the sightless should, in the same manner, be for the positive powers they hold, and the achievements they grasp, and not for what others call compensations for what they do not miss. To bear all this in mind, and to conceive one's thoughts accordingly; to root out of the expression of thought every visual image, and substitute such, derived from other senses, as may arise naturally from the state of mind of the blind, is no easy task; as any one may find who tries. It led me into a speculation on the vast amount of empty words which the blind must swallow while seeking from books their intellectual food. We are all apt in reading to take in, as true and understood, a great deal more than we verify and comprehend; but, in the intercourses of the blind, what a tremendous proportion does the unreal bear to the real which is offered them!
I saw at the Deaf and Dumb Asylum at Boston one of those unhappy beings, the bare mention of whose case excites painful feelings of compassion. I was told that a young man who was deaf, dumb, and blind was on the premises; and he was brought to us. Impossible as it was to hold communication with him, we were all glad when, after standing and wandering awkwardly about, he turned from us, and made his way out. He is not quite blind. He can distinguish light from darkness; but cannot be taught by any of the signs which are used with his deaf-mute companions. His temper is violent, and there seems to be no way of increasing his enjoyments. His favourite occupation is piling wood; and we saw him doing this with some activity, mounted on the wood pile.
It is now feared that the cases of this tremendous degree of privation are not so few as has been hitherto supposed. In a Memorial of the Genoa Deaf and Dumb Institution, it is stated that there are seven such cases in the Sardinian States on the main land of Italy: and the probability is that about the same proportion, as in other kinds of infirmity, exists among other nations. Copious accounts have been given of three sufferers of this class; and a fourth, Hannah Lamb, who was accidentally burned to death in London, at the age of nine years, has been mentioned in print. The three of whom we have been favoured with copious accounts are James Mitchell, who is described to us by Dugald Stewart; Victoria Morisseau, at Paris by M. Bébian; and Julia Brace, at Hartford, (Connecticut) by Mrs. Sigourney. All these have given evidence of some degree of intellectual activity, and feeling of right and wrong; enough to constitute a most affecting appeal to those who are too late to aid them, but who may possibly be the means of saving others from falling into their state. The obligation lies chiefly on the medical profession. Every enlightened member of that profession laments that little is known about the diseases of the car and their treatment. Whenever this organ, with its liabilities, becomes as well understood as that of sight, the number of deaf-mutes will doubtless be much reduced; and such cases as that of poor Julia Brace will probably disappear. At least the chances of the occurrence of such will be incalculably lessened.
The generosity of American society, already so active and extensive, will continue to be exerted in behalf of sufferers from the privation of the senses, till all who need it will be comprehended in its care. No one doubts that the charity will be done. The fear is lest the philosophy which should enlighten and guide the charity should be wanting. Such sufferers are apt to allure the observer, by means of his tenderest sympathies, into the imaginative regions of philosophy. Science and generosity equally demand that the allurement should be resisted. If observers will put away all mere imaginations respecting their charge; if they will cease to approach them as superior beings in disguise, and look upon them as a peculiar class of children, more than ordinarily ignorant, and ignorant in a remarkable; direction, facts may be learned relative to the formation of mind and the exercise of intellect, which may give cause to the race of ordinary men to look upon their infirm brethren with gratitude and love, as the medium through which new and great blessings have been conferred. By a union of inquirers and experimenters, by the speculative and practical cordially joining to work out the cases of human beings with four senses, the number might perhaps be speedily lessened of those who seeing see not, and who hearing hear not, nor understand.
“A breath of our free heaven and noble sires.”
The whole coast of Massachusetts Bay is well worth the study of the traveller. Nothing can be more unlike than the aspect of the northern and southern extremities of the Bay. Of Cape Ann, the northern point, with its bold shores and inexhaustible granite quarries, I have given some account in another book . Not a ledge of rock is to be seen near Cape Cod, the southern extremity; but instead of it, a sand so deep that travellers who have the choice of reaching it by horse or carriage, prefer going over the last twenty miles on horseback: but then the sand-hills are of so dazzling a whiteness as to distress the eyes. The inhabitants are a primitive race of fishermen and saltmen, dwelling in ground-floor houses, which are set down among the sand ridges without plan or order. Some communication is kept up between them and a yet more secluded race of citizens,—the inhabitants of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard,—two islands which lie south of the southern peninsular of the Bay. I much regretted that I had no opportunity of visiting these islands. Some stories that are abroad about the simplicity of the natives are enough to kindle the stranger's curiosity to see so fresh a specimen of human nature. In Nantucket, there is not a tree, and scarcely a shrub. It is said that a fisherman's son, on accompanying his father for the first time to the main-land, saw a scrubby apple-tree. In great emotion, he cried, “O father! look there! what a beautiful tree! And what are those beautiful things on it? Are they lemons?” It was not my fortune to see any citizen of the United States who did not know an apple-tree at sight. It must be highly instructive to take a trip from this remarkable place across the Bay to Nahant, in the month of August.
It was October when I visited Nahant, and all the gay birds of the summer had flown. I was not sorry for this; for fine people may be seen just as well in places where they are less in the way than on this rock. Nahant is a promontory which stretches out into the Bay, a few miles north of Boston. Or it might rather be called two islands, connected with each other and with the main-land by ridges of sand and pebbles. The outermost of the islands is the larger, and it measures rather above a mile and a half in circumference. The whole promontory was bought, in the seventeenth century, by a certain farmer Dexter, of an Indian chief, Black Willy, for a suit of clothes. Probably the one party was as far as the other from foreseeing what use the place would be put to in the coming days. Nahant is now the resort of the Boston gentry in the hot months. Several of them have cottages on the promontory; and for those who are brought by the indefatigable steam-boat, there is a stupendous hotel, the proportion of which to the place it is built on, is as a man-of-war would be riding in one of the lovely Massachusetts ponds. Some middle-aged gentlemen remember the time when there was only one house on Nahant; and now there are balls in this hotel, where the extreme of dress and other luxury is seen, while the beach which connects the rock with the main-land, is gay with hundreds of carriages and equestrians on bright summer mornings.
This beach consists of grey sand, beaten so hard by the action of the waves, from the harbour on one side and the bay on the other, that the wheels of carriages make no impression, and the feet of horses resound as on the hardest road. It is the most delightful place for a drive or a gallop that can be imagined, except to the timorous, who may chance to find their horses frightened when the waves are boisterous on either hand at once. We entered upon it when the water was nearly at its height, and the passage was narrow. We had passed through the busy town of Lynn, and left its many hundreds of shoe-making families at their work behind us. We had passed many a field where the shoe-maker turned farmer, for the season, was manuring his land with fish heads and offal; and now we burst into a region where no sounds of labour were heard, few signs of vegetation seen. We were alone with our own voices and the dashing of the sea, which seemed likely to take us off our feet.
When we reached Great Nahant, several picturesque cottages of the gentry came into view. All had piazzas, and several were adorned with bright creeping plants. No inhabitants were visible. Some rows of miserable young trees looked as if they were set up in order to be blown down. Many attempts have been made to raise forest trees, but hitherto in vain. Some large willows grow in a partially sheltered spot; and under these are the boarding-houses of the place. The verdure is scanty, of course; and this is not the kind of beauty to be looked for in Nahant. The charms of the place are in the distant views, and among the picturesque and intricate rocks.
The variety contained within the circuit of a mile and a half is fully known only to the summer residents; but we saw something of it. At one moment we were prying into the recesses of the Swallows' Cave, listening to the rumbling of the waves within it, making discoveries of birds' nests, and looking up through its dark chasms to the sky. At the next, we caught a view between two rising grounds of Boston, East Boston, and Chelsea, sitting afar off upon the sunny waters. Here and there was a quiet strip of beach, where we sat watching the rich crop of weed swayed to and fro by the spreading and retreating of the translucent waters; and then at intervals we came to where the waves boil among the caverns, making a busy roar in the stillest hour of the stillest day. Here all was so chill and shadowy that the open sea, with its sunny sail and canopy of pearly clouds looked as if it were quite another region, brought into view by some magic, but really lying on the other side of the world.
There is a luxurious bathing-place for ladies,—a little beach so shut in by rocks, along the top of which runs - high fence, that the retirement is complete. Near it is the Spouting Horn, where we sat an unmeasured time, watching the rising tide spouting more magnificently every moment from the recess called The Horn. Every wave rushed in, and splashed out again with a roar, the fragments of sea-weed flying off like shot. A clever little boy belonging to our party was meantime abroad among the boarding-houses, managing to get us a dinner. He saved us all the trouble, and came to summon us, and show us the way. His father could not have managed better than he did.
We rambled about in the afternoon till we could no longer conceal from ourselves that the sun was getting low. We intended to describe a circuit in returning, so as to make as much of our road as possible lie along the beach. Never was the world bathed in a lovelier atmosphere than this evening. The rocks, particularly the island called Egg Rock, were of that soft lilac hue which harmonizes with the green sea on sunny evenings. While this light was brightest, we suddenly came upon a busy and remarkable scene,—the hamlet of Swampscot, on the beach,—the place where novel readers go to look for Mucklebacket's cottage,—so much does it resemble the beach scenes in the Antiquary. Boats were drawn up on the shore,—the smallest boats, really for use, that I ever saw. They are flat-bottomed, and are tenanted by one man, or at most two, when going out for cod. The men are much cramped in these tiny boats, and need exercise when they come to shore; and we saw a company playing at quoits at the close of their working day. Many children were at play, their little figures seen in black relief against the sea, or trailing long shadows over the washed and glistening sands. Women were coming homewards with their milk-pans, or taking in their linen from the lines. All were busy, and all looked joyous. While my companions were bargaining for fish, I had time to watch the singular scene; and when it was necessary to be gone, and we turned up into the darkening lanes, away from the sea, we looked back to the last moment upon this busy reach of the bright shore.
The scenery of Massachusetts Bay is a treasure which Boston possesses over and above what is enjoyed by her sister cities of the East. New York has a host of beauties about her, it is true,—the North River, Hoboken, and Staten Island; but there is something in the singularity of Nahant, and the wild beauty of Cape Ann more captivating than the crowded, fully appropriated beauties round New York. Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington have no environs which can compare with either of the Northern cities. The islands which lie off Charleston, and where the less opulent citizens repair for health in the hot months, are praised more for their freshness and fertility than for any romantic beauty; and the coasts of the South are flat and shoaly. The South has the advantage in the winter, when none but the hardiest fishermen can be abroad to watch the march of the wintry storms over the Northern sea and sky; but in summer and autumn, when the Southerners who cannot afford to travel are panting and sickening in the glare among sands and swamps, the poorest of the citizens of Massachusetts may refresh himself amidst the sea-breezes on the bright promontories or cool caverns of his native shore.
“Il no faut pas une bien grande force d'esprit pour comprendre que ni le's richesses ni le pouvoir ne rendent hemeux. Assez de gens sentent cette vérité. Mais de ceux qui la connoissent pleinement et se conduisent en conséquence, le nombre en est si petit qu'il semble que ce soit là l'effort le plus rare de la raison humaine.”
Paul Louis Courier.
Some few years hence it will be difficult to believe what the state of the times was in some parts of the United States, and even in the maritime cities, in 1835. The system of terrorism seems now to be over. It did not answer its purpose, and is dropped: but in 1835 it was new and dreadful. One of the most hideous features of the times was the ignorance, and unconcern of a large portion of society about what was being done and suffered by other divisions of its members. I suppose while Luther was toiling and thundering, German ladies and gentlemen were supping and dancing as usual; and while the Lollards were burning, perhaps little was known or cared about it in warehouses and upon farms. So it was in America. The gentry with whom I chiefly associated in New York knew little of the troubles of the abolitionists in that city, and nothing about the state of the anti-slavery question in their own region. In Boston, I heard very striking facts which had taken place in broad daylight, vehemently and honestly denied by many who happened to be ignorant of what had been done in their very streets. Not a few persons applied to me, a stranger, for information about the grand revolution of the time which was being transacted, not only on their own soil, but in the very city of their residence. A brief sketch of what I saw and experienced in Boston, during the autumn of 1835, will afford some little information as to what the state of society actually was.
At the end of August, a grand meeting was held at Faneuil Hall, in Boston. The hall was completely filled with the gentry of the city; and some of the leading citizens took the responsibility, and conducted the proceedings of the day. The object of the meeting was to soothe the South, by directing public indignation upon the abolitionists. The pretext of the assembly was, that the Union was in danger; and though the preamble to the resolutions declared disapprobation of the institution of slavery, the resolutions themselves were all inspired by fear of, or sympathy with slave-holders. They reprobated all agitation of the question, and held out assurances to the South, that every consideration should be made subordinate to the grand one of preserving the Union. The speeches were a disgrace to the constituents of a democratic republic; pointed as they were against those rights of free discussion and association at the time acted upon by fellow-citizens, and imbued with deference for the South. In the crowded assembly, no voice was raised in disapprobation, except when a speaker pointed to the portrait of Washington as “that slave-holder;” and even then the murmur soon died into silence. The gentlemen went home, trusting that they had put down the abolitionists, and conciliated the South. In how short a time did the new legislature of the State pass, in that very city, a series of thoroughgoing abolition resolutions, sixteen constituting the minority! while the South had already been long despising the half and half doctrine of the Faneuil Hall meeting!
Meantime, the immediate result of the proceeding was the mob of which I have elsewhere given an account . After that mob, the regular meetings of the abolitionists were suspended, for want of a place to meet in. Incessant attempts were made to hire any kind of public building; but no one would take the risk of having his property destroyed by letting it to so obnoxious a set of people. For six weeks exertions were made in vain. At last, a Boston merchant, who had built a pleasant house for himself and his family, said that while he had a roof over his head, his neighbours should not want a place in which to hold a legal meeting for honest objects; and he sent an offer of his house to the ladies of the Anti-slavery Society. They appointed their meeting for three o'clock in the afternoon of Wednesday, November 18th. They were obliged to make known their intentions as they best could; for no newspaper would admit their advertisements; and the clergy rarely ventured to give out their notices, among others, from the pulpit.
I was, at this time, slightly acquainted with three or four abolitionists; and I was distrusted by most or all of the body who look any interest in me at all. My feelings were very different from theirs about the slave-holders of the South;—naturally enough, as these southern slave-holders were nothing else in the eyes of abolitionists; while to me they were, in some cases, personal friends, and in more, hospitable entertainers. It was known, however, that I had declared my intention of attending an abolition meeting. This was no new resolution. From the outset of my inquiry into the question, I had declared that, having attended colonization meetings, and heard all that the slave-holders had to say for themselves and against the abolitionists, I felt myself bound to listen to the other side of the question. I always professed my intention of seeking acquaintance with the abolitionists, though I then fully and involuntarily believed two or three charges against them which I found to be wholly groundless. The time was now come for discharging this duty.
On the Monday, two friends, then only new acquaintances, called on me at the house of a clergyman where I was staying, three miles from Boston. A late riot at Salem was talked over.—a riot in which the family of Mr. Thompson had been driven from one house to another three times in one night, the children being snatched from their beds, carried abroad in the cold, and injuriously terrified. It was mentioned that the ladies of the Anti-slavery Society were going to attempt a meeting on the next Wednesday, and I was asked whether I was in earnest in saying that I would attend one of their meetings. Would I go to this one if I should be invited? I replied that it depended entirely on the nature of the meeting. If it was merely a meeting for the settlement of accounts, and the despatch of business, where I should not learn what I wanted, I should wait for a less perilous time: if it was a bená fide public meeting, a true reflection of the spirit and circumstances of the time and the cause, I would go. The matter was presently decided by the arrival of a regular official invitation to me to attend the meeting, and to carry with me the friend who was my travelling companion, and any one else who might be disposed to accompany me.
Trifling as these circumstances may now appear, they were no trifles at the time; and many considerations were involved in the smallest movement a stranger made on the question. The two first things I had to take care of were to avoid involving my host in any trouble I might get into, and to afford opportunity to my companion to judge for herself what she would do. My host had been reviled in the newspapers already for having read a notice, (among several others) of an anti-slavery meeting from Dr. Channing's pulpit, where he was accidentally preaching. My object was to prevent his giving an opinion on any thing that I should do; that he might not be made more or less responsible for my proceedings. I handed the invitation to my companion, with a hint not to speak of it. We separately made up our minds to go, and announced our determination to our host and hostess. Between joke and earnest, they told us we should be mobbed; and the same thing was repeated by many who were not in joke at all.
At two o'clock on the Wednesday, we arrived at the house of a gentleman where we were to meet a few of the leading abolitionists, and dine, previous to the meeting. Our host was miserably ill that day,—unfit to be out of his chamber: but he exerted himself to the utmost, being resolved to escort his wife to the meeting. During dinner, the conversation was all about the southern gentry; in whose, favour I said all I could, and much more than the party could readily receive; which was natural enough, considering that they and I looked at the people of the South from different points of view. Before we issued forth on our expedition, I was warned, once more, that exertions had been made to get up a mob, and that it was possible we might be dispersed by violence. When we turned into the street where the house of meeting stood, there were about a dozen boys hooting before the door, as they saw ladies of colour entering. We were admitted without having to wait an instant on the steps; and the door was secured behind us.
The ladies assembled in two drawing-rooms, thrown into one, by the folding-doors being opened. The total number was a hundred and thirty. The President sat at a small table by the folding-doors: and before her was a large bible, paper, pens, and ink, and the secretary's papers. There were only three gentlemen in the house,—its inhabitant, the gentleman who escorted us, and a clergyman who had dined with us. They remained in the hall, keeping the front door fastened, and the back way clear for our retreat, if retreat should be necessary. But the number of hooters in the streets at no time exceeded thirty, and they treated us to nothing worse than a few yells.
A lady who sat next me amused me by inquiring, with kindness, whether it revolted my feelings to meet thus in assembly with people of colour. She was as much surprised as pleased with my English deficiency of all feeling on the subject. My next neighbour on the other hand was Mrs. Thompson, the wife of the anti-slavery lecturer, who had just effected his escape, and was then on the sea. The proceedings began with the reading of a few texts of Scripture by the President. My first impression was that the selection of these texts gave out a little vain-glory about the endurance of persecution; but when I remembered that this was the re-union of persons who had been dispersed by a mob, and when I afterwards became aware how cruelly many of the members had been wounded in their moral sense, their domestic affections, and their prospects in life. I was quite ready to yield my too nice criticism. A prayer then followed, the spirit of which appeared to me perfect in hopefulness, meekness, and gentleness. While the secretary was afterwards reading her report, a note was handed to me, the contents of which sunk my spirits fathom deep for the hour. It was a short pencil note from one of the gentlemen in the hall; and it asked me whether I had any objection to give a word of sympathy to the meeting, fellow-labourers as we had long been in behalf of the principles in whose defence they were met. The case was clear as daylight to my conscience. If I had been a mere stranger, attending with a mere stranger's interest to the proceedings of a party of natives, I might and ought to have declined mixing myself up with their proceedings. But I had long before published against slavery, and always declared my conviction that this was a question of humanity, not of country or race; a moral, not a merely political question; a general affair, and not one of city, state, party, or nation. Having thus declared on the safe side of the Atlantic, I was bound to act up to my declaration on the unsafe side, if called upon. I thought it a pity that the call had been made, though I am now very glad that it was, as it was the means of teaching me more of the temper and affairs of the times than I could have known by any other means; and as it ripened the regard which subsisted between myself and the writer of the note into a substantial, profitable, and delightful friendship: but at the moment, I foresaw none of these good consequences, but a formidable array of very unpleasant ones. I foresaw that almost every house in Boston, except those of the abolitionists, would be shut against me; that my relation to the country would be completely changed, as I should be suddenly transformed from being a guest and an observer to being considered a missionary or a spy: and results even more serious than this might reasonably be anticipated. During the few minutes I had for consideration, the wife of the writer of the note came to me, and asked what I thought of it, begging me to feel quite at liberty to attend to it or not, as I liked. I felt that I had no such liberty. I was presently introduced to the meeting, when I offered the note as my reason for breaking the silence of a stranger, and made the same declarations of my abhorrence of slavery and my agreement in the principles of the abolitionists which I had expressed throughout the whole of my travels through the South.
Of the consequences of this simple affair it is not my intention to give any account; chiefly because it would be impossible to convey to my English readers my conviction of the smallness of the portion of American society which was concerned in the treatment inflicted upon me. The hubbub was so great, and the modes of insult were so various, as to justify distant observers in concluding that the whole nation had risen against me. I soon found how few can make a great noise, while the many are careless or ignorant of what is going on about a person or a party with whom they have nothing to do; and while not a few are rendered more hearty in their regard, and more generous in their hospitality, by the disgraces of the individual who is under the oppression of public censure. All that I anticipated at the moment of reading the note came to pass; but only for a time. Eventually nothing remained which in the slightest degree modified my opinions or impaired my hopes of the society I was investigating.
The Secretary's Report was drawn up with remarkable ability, and some animating and beautiful letters were read from distant members of the Association. The business which had been interrupted by violence was put in train again; and when the meeting broke up, a strong feeling of satisfaction visibly pervaded it. The right of meeting was vindicated; righteous pertinacity had conquered violence, and no immediate check to the efforts of the Society was to be apprehended.
The trials of the abolitionists of Boston were, however, not yet over. Two months before, the Attorney General of the State bad advocated in Council the expected demand of the South, that abolitionists should be delivered up to the Slave States for trial and punishment under Southern laws. This fact is credible to those, and perhaps to those only, who have seen the pamphlet in reply to Dr. Channing's work on Slavery, attributed to this gentleman. The South was not long in making the demand. Letters arrived from the Governors of Southern States to the new Governor of Massachusetts, demanding the passing of laws against abolitionism in all its forms. The Governor, as was his business, laid these letters before the legislature of his State. This was the only thing he could do on this occasion. Just before, at his entrance upon his office, he had aimed his blow at the abolitionists, in the following passages of his Address. The same delusion (if it be mere delusion) is visible here that is shared by all persons in power, who cannot deny that an evil exists, but have not courage to remove it,—a vague hope that “fate, or Providence, or something,” will do the work which men are created to perform,—men of principle, and men of peace, like the abolitionists;—victims, not perpetrators of violence. “As the genius of our institutions and the character of our people are entirely repugnant to laws impairing the liberty of speech and of the press, even for the sake of repressing its abuses, the patriotism of all classes of citizens must be invoked, to abstain from a discussion, which, by exasperating the master, can have no other effect than to render more oppressive the condition of the slave; and which, if not abandoned, there is great reason to fear, will prove the rock on which the Union will split.”... “A conciliatory forbearance,” he proceeds to say, “would leave this whole painful subject where the Constitution leaves it, with the States where it exists, and in the hands of an all-wise Providence, who in his own good time, is able to cause it to disappear, like the slavery of the ancient world, under the gradual operation of the gentle spirit of Christianity.” The time is at hand. The “gradual operation of the gentle spirit of Christianity” had already educated the minds and hearts of the abolitionists for the work they are doing, but which the Governor would fain have put off. It thus appears that they had the Governor and Attorney General of the State against them; and the wealth, learning, and power of their city. It will be seen how their legislature was affected towards them.
As soon as they were aware of the demands of the southern governors, they petitioned their legislature for a hearing; according to the invariable practice of persons who believe that they may be injured by the passing of any proposed law. The hearing was granted as a matter of course: and a committee of five members of the legislature was appointed to hear what the abolitionists had to say. The place and time appointed were the Senate Chamber, on the afternoon of Friday, the 4th of March.
The expectation had been that few or none but the parties immediately concerned would be present at the discussion of such “a low subject:” but the event proved that more curiosity was abroad than had been supposed. I went just before the appointed hour, and took my scat, with my party, in the empty gallery of the Senate Chamber. The abolitionists dropped in, one by one,—Garrison, May, Goodell, Follen, E. G. Loring, and others. The committee treated them with ostentatious neglect, dawdling away the time, and keeping them waiting a full hour beyond the appointed time. The gallery filled rapidly, and more and more citizens entered the room below. To our great delight, Dr. Channing made his appearance there. At length it was manifest that the Senate Chamber was not large enough; and we adjourned to the Hall of Representatives, which was soon about two-thirds filled.
I could not have conceived that such conduct could have been ventured upon, as that of the chairman of the committee. It was so insulting as to disgust the citizens present, whatever might be their way of thinking on the question which brought them together. The chairman and another of the five were evidently predetermined. They spared no pains in showing it, twisting the meaning of expressions employed by the pleaders, noting down any disjointed phrase which could be made to tell against those who used it, conveying sarcasms in their questions, and insult in their remarks. Two others evidenced a desire to fulfil their function,—to hear what the abolitionists had to say. Dr. Channing took his seat behind the pleaders; and I saw with pleasure that he was handing them notes, acting on their side as decisively, and almost as publicly as if he had spoken. After several unanswerable defences against charges had been made, and Mr. Loring had extorted the respect of the committee, by a speech in which he showed that a legislative censure is more injurious than penal laws, it was Dr. Follen's turn to speak. He was presently stopped by the chairman, with a command that he should be respectful to the committee; with an intimation that the gentlemen were heard only as a matter of favor. They protested against this, their hearing having been demanded as a matter of right: they refused to proceed, and broke up the conference.
Much good was done by this afternoon's proceedings. The feeling of the bystanders was, on the whole, decidedly in favour of the pleaders; and the issue of the affair was watched with much interest. The next day, the abolitionists demanded a hearing as a matter of right: and it was granted likewise as an affair of course. The second hearing was appointed for Tuesday the 8th, at the same place and hour.
Some well-meaning friends of the abolitionists had in the interval advised that the most accomplishcd, popular, and gentlemanly of the abolitionists should conduct, the business of the second day; that the speeches should be made by Dr. Follen, Messrs. Loring and Sewall, and one or two more; and that Garrison and Goodell, the homely, primitive, and eminently suffering men of the apostleship, should be induced to remain in the background. The advice was righteously rejected; and, as it happened, theirs were the speeches that went furthest in winning over the feeling of the audience to their side. I shall never forget the swimming eye and tremulous voice with which a noble lady of the persecuted party answered such a suggestion as I have mentioned. “O,” said she, “above all things, we must be just and faithful to Garrison. You do not know what we know,—that unless we put him, on every occasion, into the midst of the gentlemen of the party, he will be torn to pieces. Nothing can save him but his being made one with those whom his enemies will not dare to touch.” As for Mr. Goodell, he had been frequently stoned. “He was used to it.” They appeared in the midst of the professional gentlemen of the Association, and did the most eminent service of the day.
The hall was crowded, and shouts of applause broke forth, as the pleaders demolished an accusation, or successfully rebutted the insolence of the chairman. Dr. Follen was again stopped, as he was showing that mobs had been the invariable consequence of censures of abolitionism passed by public meetings in the absence of gag-laws. He was desired to hold his tongue, or to be respectful to the committee: to which he replied in his gentlest and most musical voice, “Am I then to understand that in speaking ill of mobs, I am disrespectful to the committee?” The chairman looked foolish enough during the applauses which followed this question. Dr. Follen fought his ground, inch by inch, and got out all he had to say. The conduct of the chairman became at last so insufferable that several spectators attempted a remonstrance. A merchant was silenced; a physician was listened to, his speech being seasoned with wit so irresistible as to put all parties into good humour.
The loudly expressed opinion of the spectators, as they dispersed, was that the chairman had ruined his political career, and probably filled the chair of a committee of the legislature for the last time. The result of the affair was that the Report of the committee “spoke disrespectfully” of the exertions of the abolitionists, but rejected the suggestion of penal laws being passed to control their operations. The letters from the South therefore remained unanswered.
The abolitionists held a consultation whether they should complain to the legislature of the treatment their statements had received, and of the impediments thrown in the way of their self-justification. They decided to let the matter rest, trusting that there were witnesses enough of their case to enlighten the public mind on their position. A member of the legislature declared in his place what he had witnessed of the treatment of the appellants by the chairman, and proposed that the committee should be censured. As the aggrieved persons made no formal complaint, however, the matter was dropped. But the faith of the abolitionists was justified. The people were enlightened as to their position; and in the next election they returned a set of representatives, one of whose earliest acts was to pass a series of anti-slavery resolutions by a majority of 378 to 16.
These were a few of the signs of the times in Massachusetts when I was there. They proved that while the aristocracy of the great cities were not to be trusted to maintain the great principles on which their society was based, the body of the people were sound.
I believe no one attempts to praise the climate of New England. The very low average of health there, the prevalence of consumption and of decay of the teeth, are evidences of an unwholesome climate which I believe are universally received as such. The mortality among children, throughout the whole country, is a dark feature of life in the United States. I do not know whether any investigation has been made into the numbers who die in infancy; but there can be no mistake in assuming that it is much greater than among the classes in Europe who are in a situation of equal external comfort. It was afflicting to meet with cases of bereavement which seem to leave few hopes or objects in life: it is afflicting to review them now, as they rise up before my mind. One acquaintance of mine had lost four out of six children; another five out of seven; another six out of seven; another thirteen out of sixteen; and one mourner tells me that a fatality seems to attend the females of his family, for, out of eighteen, only one little grand-daughter survives: and most of this family died very young, and of different kinds of disease. Never did I see so many woe-worn mothers as in America. Wherever we went in the North, we heard of “the lung fever” as of a common complaint; and children seemed to be as liable to it as grown persons. The climate is doubtless chiefly to blame for all this; and I do not see how any degree of care could obviate much of the evil. The children must be kept warm within doors; and the only way of affording them the range of the house is by warming the whole, from the cellar to the garret, by means of a furnace in the hall. This makes all comfortable within; but then the risk of going out is very great. There is far less fog and damp than in England; and the perfectly calm, sunny days of midwinter are endurable: but the least breath of wind seems to chill one's very life. I had no idea what the suffering from extreme cold amounted to till one day, in Boston, I walked the length of the city and back again, in a wind, with the thermometer seven degrees and a half below zero. I had been warned of the cold, but was anxious to keep an appointment to attend a meeting. We put on all the merinos and furs we could muster; but we were insensible of them from the moment the wind reached us. My muff seemed to be made of ice; I almost fancied I should have been warmer without it. We managed getting to the meeting pretty well, the stock of warmth we had brought out with us lasting till then. But we set out cold on our return: and by the time I got home, I did not very well know where I was, and what I was about. The stupefaction from cold is particularly disagreeable, the sense of pain remaining through it: and I determined not to expose myself to it again. All this must be dangerous to children: and if, to avoid it, they are shut up during the winter, there remains the danger of encountering the ungenial spring.
The fiery part of the trial, however, I did not much mind; for, after the first week of languor, I enjoyed the heat, except for the perpetual evidence that was before us of the mischief or fatality of its effects to persons who could not sit in the shade, and take it quietly, as we could. There were frequent instances of deaths in the streets: and the working-people suffer cruelly in the hot months. But the cold is a real evil to all classes, and I think much the most serious of the two. I found the second winter more trying than the first, and I hardly know how I should have sustained a third.
Every season, however, has its peculiar pleasures; and in the retrospect these shine out brightly, while the evils disappear.
On a December morning you are awakened by the domestic scraping at your hearth. Your anthracite fire has been in all night; and now the ashes are carried away, more coal is put on, and the blower hides the kindly red from you for a time. In half an hour the fire is intense, though, at the other end of the room, every thing you touch seems to blister your fingers with cold. If you happen to turn up a corner of the carpet with your foot, it gives out a flash; and your hair crackles as you brush it. Breakfast is always hot, be the weather what it may. The coffee is scalding, and the buckwheat cakes steam when the cover is taken off. Your host's little boy asks whether he may go coasting to-day; and his sisters tell you what day the schools will all go sleighing. You may see boys coasting on Boston Common all the winter day through; and too many in the streets, where it is not so safe. To coast is to ride on a board down a frozen slope; and many children do this in the steep streets which lead down to the Common, as well as on the snowy slopes within the enclosure where no carriages go. Some sit on their heels on the board; some on their crossed legs. Some strike their legs out, put their arms a-kimbo, and so assume an air of defiance amidst their velocity. Others prefer lying on their stomachs, and so going head-foremost; an attitude whose comfort I never could enter into. Coasting is a wholesome exercise for hardy boys. Of course they have to walk up the ascent, carrying their boards, between every feat of coasting; and this affords them more exercise than they are at all aware of taking.
As for the sleighing, I heard much more than I experienced of its charms. No doubt early association has something to do with the American fondness for this mode of locomotion; and much of the affection which is borne to music, dancing, supping, and all kinds of frolic, is transferred to the vehicle in which the frolicking parties are transported. It must be so, I think, or no one would be found to prefer a carriage on runners to a carriage on wheels,—except on an untrodden expanse of snow. On a perfectly level and crisp surface I can fancy the smooth rapid motion to be exceedingly pleasant; but such surfaces are rare in the neighbourhood of populous cities. The uncertain, rough motion in streets hillocky with snow, or on roads consisting for the season of a ridge of snow with holes in it, is disagreeable, and provocative of headache. I am no rule for others as to liking the bells; but to me their incessant jangle was a great annoyance. Add to this the sitting, without exercise, in a wind caused by the rapidity of the motion, and the list of désagrémens is complete. I do not know the author of a description of sleighing which was quoted to me, but I admire it for its fidelity. “Do you want to know what sleighing is like? You can soon try. Set your chair on a spring board out in the porch on Christmas-day: put your feet in a pail full of powdered ice: have somebody to jingle a bell in one ear, and somebody else to blow into the other with the bellows,—and you will have an exact idea of sleighing.”
I was surprised to find that young people whose health is too delicate to allow them to do many simple things, are not too delicate to go out sleighing, in an open sleigh. They put hot bricks under their feet, and wrap up in furs; but the face remains exposed; and the breathing the frosty air of a winter's night, after dancing, may be easily conceived to be the cause of much of the “lung fever” of which the stranger hears. The gayest sleighing that I saw was on the day when all the schools in Boston have a holiday, and the pupils go abroad in a long procession of sleighs. The multitude of happy young faces, though pinched with cold, was a pretty sight.
If the morning be fine, you have calls to make, or shopping to do, or some meeting to attend. If the streets be coated with ice, you put on your India-rubber shoes—unsoled—to guard you from slipping. If not, you are pretty sure to measure your length on the pavement before your own door. Some of the handsomest houses in Boston, those which boast the finest flights of steps, have planks laid on the steps during the season of frost; the wood being less slippery than stone. If, as sometimes happens, a warm wind should be suddenly breathing over the snow, you go back to change your shoes; India-rubbers being as slippery in wet as leather soles are on ice. Nothing is seen in England like the streets of Boston and New York at the end of the season, while the thaw is proceeding. The area of the street had been so raised that passengers could look over the blinds of your ground-floor rooms: when the side-walks become full of holes and puddles, they are cleared, and the passengers are reduced to their proper level: but the middle of the street remains exalted, and the carriages drive along a ridge. Of course this soon becomes too dangerous; and for a season ladies and gentlemen walk; carts tumble, slip, and slide, and get on as they can; while the mass, now dirty, not only with thaw, but with quantities of refuse vegetables, sweepings of the poor people's houses, and other rubbish which it was difficult to know what to do with while every place was frozen up, daily sinks and dissolves into a composite mud. It was in New York, and some of the inferior streets of Boston, that I saw this process in its completeness.
If the morning drives are extended beyond the city, there is much to delight the eye. The trees are eased in ice; and when the sun shines out suddenly, the whole scene looks like one diffused rainbow,—dressed in a brilliancy which can hardly be conceived of in England. On days less bright, the blue harbour spreads in strong contrast with the sheeted snow which extends to its very brink.
The winter evenings begin joyously with the festival of Thanksgiving Day, which is, if I remember rightly, held on the first Thursday of December. The festival is ordered by proclamation of the Governor of the State; which proclamation is read in all the churches. The Boston friends with whom we had ascended the Mississippi, and travelled in Tennessee and Kentucky, did not forget that we were strangers in the land; and many weeks before Thanksgiving Day, they invited us to join their family gathering on that great annual festival. We went to church in the morning, and listened to the thanksgiving for the mercies of the year, and to an exemplification of the truth that national prosperity is of value only as it is sanctified to individual progression; —an important doctrine, well enforced. This is the occasion chosen by the boldest of the clergy to say what they think of the faults of the nation,—and particularly to reprobate apathy on the slavery question. There are few who dare do this, though it seems to be understood that this is an occasion on which “particular preaching” may go a greater length than on common Sundays. Yet a circumstance happened in New York on this very day which shows that the clergy have, at least in some places, a very short tether, even on Thanksgiving Day. An episcopalian clergyman from England, named Pyne, who had been some years settled in America, preached a thanksgiving sermon in which he made a brief and moderate, even common-place allusion to the toleration of slavery, among other national sins. For some weeks, he heard only the distant mutterings of the storm which was about to burst upon him; but within three months, he was not only dismissed from his office, but compelled to leave the country, though he had settled his family from England beside him. He was anxious to obey the wishes of his friends, and print verbatim the sermon which had caused his ruin; but no printer would print, and no publisher would agree to sell his sermon. At length, he found a printer who promised to print it, on condition of his name being kept secret; and the sermon was dispersed without the aid of a publisher. Mr. Pyne sailed for England on the following 1st of April; as it happened, in the same ship with Mr. Breckinridge, the presbyterian clergyman who put himself into unsuccessful opposition to Mr. Thompson, at a public discussion at Glasgow, last year. The voyage was not a pleasant one, as might be supposed, to either clergyman. Nothing could be more mal-à-propos than that one who came over with a defence in his mouth of the conduct of the American clergy on the slavery question should be shut up for three weeks with a clergyman banished for opening his lips on the subject.
After service, Dr. Channing took us to Persico's studio, where the new bust of Dr. Channing stood; and one, scarcely less excellent, of Governor Everett. We then spent an hour at Dr. Channing's, and he gave me his book on slavery, which was to be published two days afterwards. I was obliged to leave it unread till the festivities of the day were over; but that night, and two succeeding ones, I read it completely through before I slept. It is impossible to communicate an idea of the importance and interest of that book at the time it was published. I heard soon afterwards that there was difficulty in procuring it at Washington,—partly from the timidity of the booksellers, it having been called in Congress “an incendiary book.” It was let out at a high price per hour. Of course, as soon as this was understood at Boston, supplies were sent, otherwise than through the booksellers, so that members of Congress were no longer obliged to quote the book merely from the extracts contained in the miserable reply to it which was extensively circulated in the metropolis.
This book was in my head all the rest of the day, from whose observances all dark subjects seemed banished. At three o'clock, a family party of about thirty were assembled round two wellspread tables. There was only one drawback,—that five of the children were absent, being ill of the measles. There was much merriment among us grown people at the long-table; but the bursts of laughter from the children's side-table, where a kind aunt presided, were incessant. After dinner, we played hunt-the-slipper with the children, while the gentlemen were at their wine; and then went to spend an hour with a poor boy in the measles, who was within hearing of the mirth, but unable to leave his easy chair. When we had made him laugh as much as was good for him with some of our most ludicrous English Christmas games, we went down to communicate more of this curious kind of learning in the drawing-rooms. There we introduced a set of games quite new to the company; and it was delightful to see with what spirit and wit they were entered into and carried on. Dumb Crambo was made to yield its ultimate rhymes; and the story-telling in Old Coach was of the richest. When we were all quite tired with laughing, the children began to go away: some fresh visitors dropped in from other houses, and music and supper followed. We got home by eleven o'clock, very favourably impressed with the institution of Thanksgiving Day. I love to dwell upon it now, for a new interest hangs over that festival. The friend by whose thoughtfulness we were admitted to this family gathering, and in whose companionship we went,—the beloved of every heart there, the sweetest, the sprightliest of the party,—will be among them no more.
Christmas evening was very differently passed, but in a way to me even more interesting. We were in a country village, Hingham, near the shores of Massachusetts Bay; and were staying in the house of the pastor,—our clerical shipmate. The weather was bad,—in the early part of the day extremely so; and the attendance at the church was therefore not large, and no one came to dinner. The church was dressed up with evergreens, in great quantity, and arranged with much taste. The organist had composed a new anthem, which was well sung by the young men and women of the congregation. At home, the rooms were prettily dressed with green, and an ample supply of lights was provided against the evening. Soon after dinner, some little girls arrived to play with the children of the house: and we resumed the teaching of English Christmas games. The little things were tired, and went away early enough to leave us a quiet hour before the doors were thrown open to “the parish.” whose custom it is to flock to the pastor's house, to exchange greetings with him on Christmas night. What I saw makes me think this a delightful custom. There is no expensive or laborious preparation for their reception. The rooms are well lighted, and cake and lemonade are provided: and this is all.
The pastor and his wife received their guests as they came in: and then all moved on to offer the greetings of the season to me. Many remained to talk with me, to my great delight. There was the schoolmaster with his daughters. There was farmer B., who has a hobby. This place was colonised by English from Hingham in Norfolk; and farmer B.'s ancestors were among them. He has a passion for hearing about Old Hingham: and by dint of questioning every stranger, and making use of all kinds of opportunity, he has learned far more than I ever knew about the old place. His hopes rose high when he found I was a native of Norfolk; but I was obliged to depress them again by confessing how little I could tell of the old place, within a few miles of which my early years were spent. I was able, to give him some trifling fact, however, about, the direction in which the road winds; and for this he expressed fervent gratitude. I was afterwards told that he is apt to drive his oxen into the ditch, and to lose a sheep or two when his head is running on “the old place.” I have not yet succeeded in my attempts to obtain a sketch of Old Hingham, to send over to Farmer B.: but I wish I could, for I believe it would please him more than the bequest of a fortune.
Then came Captain L. with his five fine daughters. He looked too old to be their father; and well he might. When master of a vessel, he was set ashore by pirates, with his crew, on a desert island, where he was thirty-six days without food. Almost all his crew were dead, and he just dying, when help arrived,—by means of freemasonry. Among the pirates was a Scotchman, a mason, as was Captain L. The two exchanged signs. The Scotchman could not give aid at the moment: but, after many days of fruitless and anxious attempts, he contrived to sail back, at the risk of his life, and landed on the desert island, on the thirty-sixth day from his leaving it. He had no expectation of finding any of the party alive: but, to takc the chance and lose no time, he jumped ashore with a kettle full of wine in his hand. He poured wine down the throats of the few whom he found still breathing, and treated them so judiciously that they recovered. At least, it was called recovery: but Captain L.'s looks are very haggard and nervous still. He took the Scotchman home, and cherished him to the day of his death.
Then there was an excellent woman, the general benefactress of the village, who is always ready to nurse the sick and help the afflictcd, and to be of eminent service in another way to her young neighbours. She assembles them in the evenings, once or twice a week, and reads with them and to them; and thus the young women of the village are obtaining a knowledge of Italian and French, as well as English literature, which would have been unattainable without her help. The daughters of the fishermen, bucket and net-makers, and farmers of Hingham, are far more accomplished than many a high-bred young lady in England and New York. Such a village population is one of the true glories of America. Many such girls were at their pastor's this evening, dressed in silk gowns of the latest make, with rich French pelerines, and their wellarranged hair bound with coloured ribbon;—as pretty a set of girls as could be collected anywhere.
When it appeared that the rooms were beginning to thin, the organist called the young people round him, and they sang the new Christmas anthem, extremely well. Finally, a Christimas hymn was sung by all to the tune of the Old Hundred: the pastor and his people exchanged the blessing of the season, and, in a few minutes, the house was cleared.
About this scene also hangs a tender and mournful interest. Our hostess was evidently unwell at this time; I feared seriously so; and I was not mistaken. She was one of the noblest women I have ever known; with a mind large in its reach, rich in its cultivation, and strong in its independence: yet never was there a spirit more yearning in its tenderness, more gay in its innocence. Just a year after this time, she wrote me tidings of her approaching death, cheerfully intimating the probability that she might live to hear from me once more. My letter arrived just as she was laid in her coffin. Her interest in the great objects of humanity, to which she had dedicated her best days, never failed. Her mind was active about them to the last. She was never deceived, as the victims of consumption usually are, about her state of health and chance of life, but saw her case as others saw it; only with far more contentment and cheerfulness. She left bright messages of love for all of us who knew what was in her mind, with an animating bidding to go on with our several works. Nothing could be more simple than the state of her mind, and the expression of it,—proving that she so knew how to live as to find nothing strange in dying.
I was present at the introduction into the new country of the spectacle of the German Christmas-tree. My little friend Charley, and three companions, had been long preparing for this pretty show. The cook had broken her eggs carefully in the middle for some weeks past, that Charley might have the shells for cups; and these cups were gilt and coloured very prettily. I rather think it was, generally speaking, a secret out of the house; but I knew what to expect. It was a New-Year's tree, however; for I could not go on Christmas-eve; and it was kindly settled that New-Year's-eve would do as well. We were sent for before dinner; and we took up two round-faced boys by the way. Early as it was, we were all so busy that we could scarcely spare a respectful attention to our plum-pudding. It was desirable that our preparations should be completed before the little folks should begin to arrive; and we were all engaged in sticking on the last of the seven dozen of wax-tapers, and in filling the gilt egg-cups, and gay paper cornucopiæ with comfits, lozenges, and barley-sugar. The tree was the top of a young fir, planted in a tub, which was ornamented with moss. Smart, dolls, and other whimsies, glittered in the evergreen; and there was not a twig; which had not something sparkling upon it. When the sound of wheels was heard, we had just finished; and we shut up the tree by itself in the front drawing-room, while we went into the other, trying to look as if nothing was going to happen. Charley looked a good deal like himself, only now and then twisting himself about in an unaccountable fit of giggling. It was a very large party; for besides the tribes of children, there were papas and mammas, uncles, aunts, and elder sisters. When all were come, we shut out the cold: the great fire burned clearly; the tea and coffee were as hot as possible, and the cheeks of the little ones grew rosier, and their eyes brighter every moment. It had been settled that, in order to cover our designs, I was to resume my vocation of teaching Christmas games after tea, while Charley's mother and her maids went to light up the front room. So all found seats, many of the children on the floor, for Old Coach. It was difficult to divide even an American stage-coach into parts enough for every member of such a party to represent one: but we managed it without allowing any of the elderly folks to sit out. The grand fun of all was to make the clergyman and an aunt or two get up and spin round. When they were fairly practised in the game, I turned over my story to a neighbour, and got away to help to light up the tree.
It really looked beautiful; the room seemed in a blaze; and the ornaments were so well hung on that no accident happened, except that one doll's petticoat caught fire. There was a sponge tied to the end of a stick to put out any supernumerary blaze; and no harm ensued. I mounted the steps behind the tree to see the effect of opening the doors. It was delightful. The children poured in; but in a moment, every voice was hushed. Their faces were upturned to the blaze, all eyes wide open, all lips parted, all steps arrested. Nobody spoke; only Charley leaped for joy. The first symptom of recovery was the children's wandering round the tree. At last, a quick pair of eyes discovered that it bore something eatable; and from that moment the babble began again. They were told that they might get what they could without burning themselves; and we tall people kept watch, and helped them with good things from the higher branches. When all had had enough, we returned to the larger room, and finished the evening with dancing. By ten o'clock, all were well warmed for the ride home with steaming mulled wine, and the prosperous evening closed with shouts of mirth. By a little after eleven, Charley's father and mother and I were left by ourselves to sit in the New Year. I have little doubt the Christmas-tree will become one of the most flourishing exotics of New England.
The sky-sights of the colder regions of the United States are resplendent in winter. I saw more of the aurora borealis, more falling stars and other meteors during my stay in New England than in the whole course of my life before. Every one knows that splendid and mysterious exhibitions have taken place in all the Novembers of the last four years, furnishing interest and business to the astronomical world. The most remarkable exhibitions were in the Novembers of 1833 and 1835,—the last of which I witnessed.
The persons who saw the falling stars of the 14th of November, 1833, were few; but the sight was described to me by more than one. It was seen chiefly by masters of steam-boats, watchmen, and sick nurses. The little children of a friend of mine, who happened to sleep with their heads near a window, surprised their father in the morning with the question what all those sparks were that had been flying about in the night. Several country people, on their way to early market, saw the last of the shower. It is said that some left their carts, and kneeled in the road, thinking that the end of the world was come;—a very natural persuasion; for the spectacle must have been much like the heavens falling to pieces. About nine o'clock in the evening, several persons observed that there was an unusual number of falling stars; and went home, thinking no more about it. Others were surprised at the increase by eleven, but went to rest, notwithstanding. Those who were up at four, saw the grandest sight. There were then three kinds of lights in the heaven, besides the usual array of stars. There were shooting points of light, all directed from one centre to the circuit of the horizon, much resembling a thick shower of luminous snow. There were luminous bodies which hung dimly in the air: and there were falling fire-balls, some of which burst, while others went out of sight. These were the meteors which were taken by the ignorant for the real stars, falling from the sky. One was seen, apparently larger than the full moon; and they shed so bright a light that the smallest objects became distinctly visible. One luminous body was like a serpent, coiling itself up; another “like a square table;” another like a pruning-hook. Those which burst left trains of light behind them, some tinged with the prismatic colours. The preceding day had been uncommonly warm for the season: but before morning the frost was of an intensity very rare for the month of November. The temperature of the whole season was unusual. Throughout November and December, it was so warm about the Northern lakes that the Indians were making maple sugar at Mackinaw, while the orange trees were cut off by the frost in Louisiana. A tremendous succession of gales at the same time set in along the Eastern coast. Those may explain these mysteries who can.
It is exceedingly easy to laugh at men who, created to look before and after, walking erect, with form “express and admirable” under the broad canopy of heaven, yet contrive to miss the sights which are hung out in the sky: but which of us does not deserve to be thus laughed at? How many nights in the year do we look up into the heavens? How many individuals of a civilized country see the stars on any one night of the year? Some of my friends and I had a lesson on this, during the last April I spent in America. I was staying at a house in the upper part of New York. My host and hostess had three guests at dinner that day,—three persons sufficiently remarkable for knowing how to use their eyes,—Miss Sedgwick, Mr. Bryant, and the author of the Palmyra Letters. During dinner, we amused ourselves with pitying some persons who had actually walked abroad on the night of the last 17th of November without seeing the display. Our three friends walked homewards together, two miles down Broadway, and did exactly the same thing,—failed to look up while an aurora borealis, worthy of November, was illuminating the heavens. We at home failed to look out, and missed it too. The next time we all met, we agreed to laugh at ourselves before we bestowed any more of our pity upon others.
On the 17th of November in question, that of 1835, I was staying in the house of one of the Professors of Harvard University, at Cambridge. The Professor and his son John came in from a lecture at nine o'clock, and told us that it was nearly as light as day, though there was no moon. The sky presented as yet no remarkable appearance; but the fact set us telling stories of sky-sights. A venerable Professor told us of a blood-red heaven which shone down on a night of the year 1789; when an old lady interpreted the whole French revolution from what she saw. None of us had any call to prophesying, this night. John looked out from time to time while we were about the piano; but our singing had come to a conclusion before he brought us news of a very strange sky. It was now near eleven. We put cloaks and shawls over our heads, and hurried into the garden. It was a mild night, and about as light as with half a moon. There was a beautiful rose-coloured flush across the entire heaven, from south-east to north-west. This was every moment brightening, contracting in length, and dilating in breadth. My host ran off, without his hat, to call the Natural Philosophy Professor. On the way, he passed a gentleman who was trudging along, pondering the ground. “A remarkable night, sir,” cried my host. “Sir! how, sir?” replied the pedestrian. “Why, look above your head!” The startled walker ran back to the house he had left, to make every body gaze. There was some debate about ringing the college-bell; but it was agreed that it would cause too much alarm.
The Natural Philosophy Professor came forth, in curious trim: and his household and ours joined in the road. One lady was in her night-cap; another with a handkerchief tied over her head, while we were cowled in cloaks. The sky was now resplendent. It was like a blood-red dome, a good deal pointed. Streams of a greenish white light radiated from the centre in all directions. The colours were so deep, especially the red, as to give an opaque appearance to the canopy; and as Orion and the Pleiades, and many more stars could be distinctly seen, the whole looked like a vast dome inlaid with constellations. These sky sights make one shiver,—so new are they, so splendid, so mysterious. We saw the heavens grow pale, and before midnight believed that the mighty show was over; but we had the mortification of hearing afterwards that at one o'clock it was far brighter than ever, and as light as day.
Such are some of the wintry characteristics of New England.
If I lived in Massachusetts, my residence during the hot months should be beside one of its ponds. These ponds are a peculiarity in New England scenery, very striking to the traveller. Geologists tell of the time when the valleys were chains of lakes; and in many parts the eye of the observer would detect this without the aid of science. There are many fields, and clusters of fields, of remarkable fertility, lying in basins, the sides of which have much the appearance of the greener and smoother of the dykes of Holland. These suggest the idea of their having been ponds at the first glance. Many remain filled with clear water,—the prettiest meres in the world. A cottage on Jamaica Pond, for instance, within an easy ride of Boston, is a luxurious summer abode. I know of one, unequalled in its attractions,—with its flower garden, its lawn, with banks shelving down to the mere; banks dark with rustling pines, from under whose shade the bright track of the moon may be seen, lying cool on the rippling waters. A boat is moored in the cove at hand. The cottage itself is built for coolness; and its broad piazza is draperied with vines, which keep out the sun from the shaded parlours.
The way to make the most of a summer's day in a place like this is to rise at four, mount your horse, and ride through the lanes for two hours, finding breakfast ready on your return. If you do not ride, you slip down to the bathing-house, on the creek; and, once having closed the door, have the shallow water completely to yourself, carefully avoiding going beyond the deep water-mark, where no one knows how deep the mere may be. After breakfast you should dress your flowers, before those you gather have quite lost the morning dew. The business of the day, be it what it may, housekeeping, study, teaching, authorship, or charity, will occupy you till dinner at two. You have your dessert carried into the piazza, where, catching glimpses of the mere through the wood on the banks, your water-melon tastes cooler than within, and you have a better chance of a visit from a pair of humming-birds. You retire to your room, all shaded with green blinds, lie down with a book in your hand, and sleep soundly for two hours at least. When you wake and look out, the shadows are lengthening; on the lawn, and the hot haze has melted away. You hear a carriage behind the fence, and conclude that friends from the city are coming to spend the evening with you. They sit within till after tea, telling you that you are living in the sweetest place in the world. When the sun sets, you all walk out, dispersing in the shrubbery, or on the banks. When the moon shows herself above the opposite woods, the merry voices of the young people are heard from the cove, where the boys are getting out the boat. You stand, with a companion or two, under the pines, watching the progress of the skiff, and the receding splash of the oars. If you have any one, as I had, to sing German popular songs to you, the enchantment is all the greater. You are capriciously lighted home by fire-flies; and there is your table covered with fruit and iced lemonade. When your friends have left you, you would fain forget it is time to rest; and your last act before you sleep is to look out once more from your balcony upon the silvery mere and moon-lit lawn.
The only times when I felt disposed to quarrel with the inexhaustible American mirth was on the hottest days of summer. I liked it as well as ever; but European strength will not stand more than an hour or two of laughter in such seasons. I remember one day when the American part of the company was as much exhausted as the English. We had gone, a party of six, to spend a long day with a merry household in a country village; and, to avoid the heat, had performed the journey of sixteen miles before ten o'clock. For three hours after our arrival, the wit was in full flow; by which time we were all begging for mercy, for we could laugh no longer with any safety. Still, a little more fun was dropped all round, till we found that the only way was to separate; and we all turned out of doors. I cannot conceive how it is that so little has been heard in England of the mirth of the Americans: for certainly nothing in their manners struck and pleased me more. One of the rarest characters among them, and a great treasure to all his sportive neighbours, is a man who cannot take a joke.
The prettiest playthings of summer are the humming-birds. I call them playthings because they are easily tamed, and are not very difficult to take care of for a time. It is impossible to attend to book, work, or conversation, while there is a humming-bird in sight; its exercises and vagaries are so rapid and beautiful. Its prettiest attitude is vibrating before a blossom which is tossed in the wind. Its long beak is inserted in the flower, and the bird rises and falls with it, quivering its burnished wings with dazzling rapidity. My friend E, told me how she had succeeded in taming a pair. One flew into the parlour where she was sitting, and perched. E's sister stepped out for a branch of honeysuckle, which she stuck up over the mirror. The other bird followed, and, the pair alighted on the branch, flew off, and returned to it. E, procured another branch, and held it on the top of her head; and hither also the little creatures came without fear. She next held it, in her hand, and still they hovered and settled. They bore being shut in for the night, a nest of cotton-wool being provided. Of course it was impossible to furnish them with honeysuckles enough for food; and sugar and water was tried, which they seemed to relish very well. One day, however, when E, was out of the room, one of the little creatures was too greedy in the saucer; and when E, returned, she found it lying on its side, with its wings stuck to its body, and its whole little person clammy with sugar. E, tried a sponge and warm water; it was too harsh: she tried old linen, but it was not soft enough: it then occurred to her that the softest of all substances is the human tongue. In her love for her little companion, she thus cleansed it, and succeeded perfectly, so far as the outward bird was concerned. But though it attempted to fly a little, it never recovered, but soon died of its surfeit. Its mate was, of course, allowed to fly away.
Some Boston friends of mine, a clergyman and his wife, told me of a pleasant summer adventure which they had,—quite against their will. The lady had been duly inoculated or vaccinated, (I forget which.) in her childhood, but nevertheless had the smallpox, in a way, after her marriage. She was slightly feverish, and a single spot appeared on her hand. The physician declared “that is it,” and, as good citizens are bound to do, they gave information of this fearful smallpox to the authorities. The lady and her husband were ordered into quarantine: the city coach came for them, and they were transported to the wharf, and then to the little quarantine island in the harbour, where they spent a particularly pleasant week. My friend was getting well when she went, and she was quite able to enjoy the charms of her new residence. Her husband read to her in the piazza as she worked: he bathed, and was spared a Sunday's preaching; she looked abroad over the sea, and laughed as often as she imagined what their friends supposed their situation to be. They had the establishment all to themselves, except that there was a tidy Scotchwoman to wait on them. Was ever quarantine so performed before?
The reader may think, at the end of this chapter, that there is something far more pleasant than worthy of complaint in the extremes of the seasons in the United States. It would be so if health were not endangered by them; but the incessant regard to the physical welfare which prudence requires is a great drawback to ease and pleasure; and the failure of health, which is pretty sure to come, sooner or later, is a much worse. In my own opinion, the dullest climate and scenery may be turned to more pleasurable account by vigour of body and mind, than all the privileges of American variety and beauty by languid powers. All that the people of New England can do is to make the best of their case. Those who are blessed with health should use every reasonable endeavour to keep it; and it may be hoped that an improved settlement and cultivation of the country will carry on that amelioration of its climate, which many of its inhabitants are assured has already begun.
“The Ideal is in thyself; thy condition is but the stuff thou art to shape that same Ideal out of. What matters whether such stuff be of this sort or of that; so the form thou give it be herois be poetic?”
Every state of society has, happily, its Originals; men and women who, in more or fewer respects, think, speak, and act, naturally and unconsciously in a different way from the generality of men. There are several causes from which this originality may arise; particularly in a young community, less gregarious than those of the civilized countries of the Old World.
The commonest of these causes in a society like that of the United States is, perhaps, the absence of influences to which almost all other persons are subject. The common pressure being absent in some one direction, the being grows out in that direction, and the mind and character exhibit more or less deformity to the eyes of all but the individual most concerned. The back States afford a full harvest of originals of this class; while in England, where it is scarcely possible to live out of society, such are rarely to be found.
Social and professional eccentricity comes next. When local and professional influences are inadequately balanced by general ones, a singularity of character is produced, which is not so agreeable as it is striking and amusing. Of this class of characters, few examples are to be seen at home; but instead of them, something much worse, which is equally rare in America. In England we have confessors to tastes and pursuits, and martyrs to passions and vices, which arise out of a highly artificial state of society. In England we have a smaller proportion of grave, innocent, professional buffoons; but in America there are few or no fashionable ingrained profligates; few or no misers.
In its possession of a third higher class, it is reasonable and delightful to hope that there is no superiority in the society of any one civilized country over that of any other. Of men and women who have intellectual power to modify the general influences to which, like others, they are subject, every nation has its share. In every country there have been beings who have put forth more or less of the godlike power involved in their humanity, whereby they can stein the current of circumstance, deliberately form the purpose of their life, and prosecute it, happen what may. The number is not large anywhere; but the species is nowhere unknown.
A yet smaller class of yet nobler originals remains: those who, with the independent power of the last-mentioned, are stimulated by strong pressure of circumstance, to put forth their whole force, and form and achieve purposes in which not only their own life, but the destiny of others, is included. Such, being the prophets and redeemers of their age and country, rise up when and where they are wanted. The deed being ripe for the doing, the doer appears. The field being while for harvest, the reaper shows himself at the gate,—whether the song of fellow-reapers cheers his heart, or lions are growling in his solitary path.
Many English persons have made up their minds that there is very little originality in America, except in regions where such men as David Crockett grow up. In the wilds of Tennessee and Kentucky, twenty years ago, and now in Arkansas and Missouri, where bear-hunting and the buffalo chase are still in full career, it is acknowledged that a man's natural bent may be seen to advantage, and his original force must be fully tested. But it is asked, with regard to America, whether there is not much less than the average amount of originality of character to be found in the places where men operate upon one another? It is certain that there is an intense curiosity in Americans about English oddities; and a prevailing belief among themselves that England is far richer in humorists than the United States. It is also true that the fickleness and impressibleness of the Americans (particularly of the New Englanders) about systems of science, philosophy, and morals, exceeds any thing ever seen or heard of in the sober old country: but all this can prove only that the nation and its large divisions are not original in character; and not that individuals of that character are wanting.
It should be remembered that one great use of a metropolis, if not the greatest, is to test every thing for the benefit of the whole of the rest of the country. The country may, according to circumstances, be more or less ready to avail itself of the benefit; but the benefit exists, and waits for acceptance. Now, the Americans have no metropolis. Their cities are all provincial towns. It may be, in their circumstances, politically good that they should have the smallest possible amount of centralization; but the want of this centralization is injurious to their scientific and philosophical progress and dignity, and therefore to their national originality. A conjurer's trip through the English counties is very like the progress of a lecturer, or newly-imported philosopher, through the American cities. The wonder, the excitement, the unbounded credulity, are much alike in the two cases; but in the English village there may be an old man under the elm smiling good-naturedly at the show without following after it; or a sage young man who could tell how the puppets are moved, as well as if he saw the wires. And so it is in the American cities. The crowd is large, but every body is not in it: the believers are many; but there are some who foresee how soon the belief will take a new turn.
When Spurzheim was in America, the great mass of society became phrenologists in a day, wherever he appeared; and ever since, itinerant lecturers have been reproducing the same sensation, in a milder way, by retailing Spurzheimism, much deteriorated, in places where the philosopher had not been. Meantime, the light is always going out behind, as fast as it blazes up round the steps of the lecturer. While the world of Richmond and Charleston is working at a multiplication of the fifteen casts (the same fifteen or so) which every lecturer carries about, and all caps and wigs are pulled off, and all fair tresses dishevelled, in the search after organization, Boston has gone completely round to the opposite philosophy, and is raving about spiritualism to an excess which can scarcely be credited by any who have not heard the Unknown Tongues. If a phrenological lecturer from Paris, London, or Edinburgh, should go to Boston, the superficial, visible portion of the public would wheel round once more, so rapidly and with so clamorous a welcome on their tongues, that the transported lecturer would bless his stars which had guided him over to a country whose inhabitants are so candid, so enlightened, so ravenous for truth. Before five years are out, however, the lecturer will find himself superseded by some professor of animal magnetism, some preacher of homoeopathy, some teacher who will undertake to analyze children, prove to them that their spirits made their bodies, and elicit from them truths fresh from heaven. All this is very childish, very village-like; and it proves any thing rather than originality in the persons concerned. But it does not prove that there is not originality in the bosom of a society whose superficial movement is of this kind; and it does not prove that national originality may not arise out of the very tendencies which indicate that it does not at present exist.
The Americans appear to me an eminently imaginative people. The unprejudiced traveller can hardly spend a week among them without being struck with this every day. At a distance, it is seen clearly enough that they do not put their imaginative power to use in literature and the arts; and it does certainly appear perverse enough to observers from the Old World that they should be imitative in fictions (whether of the pen, the pencil, stone, or marble), and imaginative in their science and philosophy, applying their sober good sense to details, but being sparing of it in regard to principles. This arbitrary direction of their imaginative powers, or rather its restriction to particular departments, is, I believe and trust, only temporary. As their numbers increase, and their society becomes more delicately organized; when, consequently, the pursuit of literature, philosophy, and art, shall become as definitely the business of some men as politics and commerce now are of others, I cannot doubt that the restraints of imitation will be burst through, and that a plenitude of power will be shed into these departments as striking as that which has made the organization of American commerce (notwithstanding some defects) the admiration of the world, and vindicated the originality of American politics, in theory and practice.
However this may be, it is certain that there are individuals existing everywhere, in the very heart of Boston itself, as original as Sam Weller and David Crockett, or any other self-complacent mortal who finds scope for his humours amidst the kindly intricacies of London, or the cane-brakes of Tennessee.
Some of the most extraordinary instances I met with of persons growing mentally awry were among the scholars who are thinly sprinkled through the Southern and Western settlements. When these gentlemen first carried their accomplishments into the wilderness, they were probably wiser than any living and breathing being they encountered. The impression of their own wisdom was deep from the beginning; and it continues to be deepened by every accident of intercourse with persons who are not of their way of thinking; for, to differ from them is to be wrong. At the same time, their ways of thinking are such as are not at all likely to accord with other people's; so that their case of delusion is complete. I saw a charming pair of professors in a remote State, most blest in their opinions of themselves. They were able men, or would have been so amidst the discipline of equal society; but their self-esteem had sprouted out so luxuriantly as to threaten to exhaust all the better part of them. One of the most remarkable circumstances in the case was that they seemed aware of their self-complacency, and were as complacent about it as about anything else. One speaking of the other says—“A, has been examining my cranium. He says I am the most conceited man in the States,—except himself.”
The exception was a fair one. When I saw B., I thought that I had seen the topmost wonder of the world for self-complacency; but upon this Alp another was to arise, as I found when I knew A. The only point of inferiority in A, is that he is not quite immoveably happy in himself. His feet are far from handsome; and no boot-maker at the West End could make them look so. This is the bitter drop in A.'s cup. This is the vulnerable point in his peace. His pupils have found it out, and have obtained a hold over him by it. They have but to fix their eyes upon his feet to throw him into disturbance: but, if they have gone too far, and desire to grow into favour again, they need only compliment his head, and all is well again. He lectures to them on Phrenology; and when on the topic of Galen's skull, declares that there is but one head known which can compare with Galen's in its most important characteristics. The students all raise their eyes to the professor's bald crown, and the professor bows. He exhibits a cast of Burke's head, mentioning that it combines in the most perfect manner conceivable all grand intellectual and moral characteristics; and adding that only one head has been known perfectly to resemble it. Again the students fix their gaze on the summit of the professor, and he congratulates them on their scientific discernment.
This gentleman patronizes Mrs. Somerville's scientific reputation. He told me one morning, in the presence of several persons whom he wished to impress with the highest respect for Mrs. Somerville, the particulars of a call he once made upon her, during a visit to England. It was a long story: but the substance of it was that he found her a most extraordinary person, for that she knew more than he did. He had always thought himself a pretty good mathematician: but she had actually gone further. He had prided himself upon being a tolerable chemist, but he found she could teach him something there. He had reason to think himself a good mineralogist: but when he saw her cabinet, he found that it was possible to get beyond him. On entering her drawing-room, he was struck by some paintings which he ascertained to be done by her hand: while he could not pretend to be able to paint at all. He acknowledged that he had, for once, met his superior. Two days after, among a yet larger party, he told me the whole story over again. I fell into an absent fit, in planning how I could escape from the rest of his string of stories, to talk with some one on the opposite side of the room. When he finally declared—“In short, I actually found that Mrs. Somerville knows more than I do,” I mechanically answered. “I have no doubt of it.” A burst of laughter from the whole party roused me to a sense of what I had done in taking the professor at his word. His look of mortification was pitiable.
It was amusing to see him with the greatest statesman in the country, holding him by the button for an hour together, while lecturing in the style of a master to a hopeful school-boy. The pompous air of the professor, and the patient snuff-taking of the statesman under instruction made a capital caricature subject. One of the professor's most serious declarations to me was that the time had long been past when he believed he might be mistaken. He had once thought that he might be in the wrong, like other people; but experience had taught him that he never erred. As, therefore, he and I did not agree on the point we were conversing about, I must be mistaken. I might rely upon him that it was so.
It is hot to be expected that women should resist dangers of position which men, with their wider intercourses, cannot withstand. The really learned and able women of the United States are as modest and simple as people of sound learning and ability are: but the pedantry of a few bookish women in retired country situations exceeds any thing I ever saw out of novels and farces.
In a certain region of the United States, there are two sisters, living at a considerable distance from each other, but united (in addition to their undoubted sisterly regard.) by their common belief that they are conspicuous ornaments of their country. It became necessary for me to make a call on one of these ladies. She knew when I was going, and had made preparation for my reception. I was accompanied by three ladies, one of whom was an avowed authoress: a second was a deep and thoroughly exercised scholar, and happened to have published; which the pedantic lady did not know. The third was also a stranger to her, but a very clever woman. We were treated with ludicrous precision, according to our supposed merits; the third-mentioned lady being just honoured with a passing notice, and the fourth totally neglected. There was such an unblushing insolence in the manner in which the blue-stocking set people who had written books above all the rest of the world, that I could not let it pass unrebuked: and I treated her to my opinion that they are not usually the cleverest women who write: and that far more general power and wisdom are required to conduct life, and especially to educate a family of children well, than to write any book or number of books. As soon as there was a pause in the conversation. I rose to go. Some weeks afterwards, when I was on a journey, a lady drove up from a distance on two miles, to make an afternoon call upon me. It was the sister. She told me that she came to carry me home with her for the night, “in order,” said she, “that you may see how we who scribble can keep house.” As I had never had any doubt of the compatibility of the two things, it was of little consequence that I could not go. She informed me that she lectured on Mental and Moral Philosophy to young ladies. She talked with much admiration of Mr. Brown as a metaphysician. I concluded this gentleman to be some American worthy, with whom I had to become acquainted: but it came out to be Dr. Thomas Brown whom she was praising. She appeared not to know even the names of metaphysicians out of the Scotch school; and if the ghosts of the Scotch schoolmen were present, they might well question whether she understood much of them. She told me that she had a great favour to ask of me: she wanted permission to print, in a note to the second edition of her Lectures on Mental and Moral Philosophy, a striking observation of mine made to her sister, which her sister had transmitted to her by the next post. I immediately assured her that she might print any thing that I had said to her sister. She then explained that the observation was that they are not usually the cleverest women who write. I recommended her to make sure of the novelty of the remark before she printed it: for I was afraid that Shakspeare or somebody had had it first. What was the fate of the opinion I do not know; but it may be of use to the sisters themselves if it suggests that they may be mistaken in looking down upon all their sex who do not “scribble.”
I think it must have been a pupil of theirs who wrote me a letter which I threw into the fire in a fit of disgust, the moment... I had read it. A young lady, who described herself as “an ambitious girl,” sent me some poetry in a magazine and an explanation in writing of her own powers and aspirations. No one likes aspiration better than I, if only there be any degree of rational self-estimate connected with it. This young lady aspired to enter the hallowed precinets of the temple where Edgeworth. More, and others were immortalized. As for how she was to do it, her case seemed to be similar to that of a West Indian lady who once complained to me that while she was destined by her innate love of the sublime and the beautiful to be distinguished. Providence would not let her. The American young lady, however, hoped that a friendship with me might persuade the world to recognize her powers: and she informed me that she had come to town from a distance, and procured an invitation to a house where I was to spend the evening, that we might begin our friendship. The rooms happened to be so tremendously crowded that I was not obliged to see any more persons than those immediately about me. I was told that the “ambitious girl” was making herself very conspicuous by standing on tiptoe, beaming and fluttering; but I did not look that way and never saw her. I hope she may yet read her own poetry again with new eyes, and learn that the best “ambition” does not write about itself, and that the strongest “powers” are the least conscious of their own operation.
In two of the eastern cities. I met with two ladies who had got a twist in opposite directions. It has been represented in England that a jealousy of English superiority, even in natural advantages, is very prevalent in the United States. I do not think so: and I am by no means sure that it is not nearly as rare as the opposite extreme. One instance of each kind of prejudice came under my notice, and I am not aware of more. At a party at Philadelphia, a lady asked me if I had not crossed the Alleghanies, and whether I did not think them stupendous mountains. I admired the views they presented, and said all I could for the Alleghanies; but it was impossible to agree that they were stupendous mountains. The lady was so evidently mortified, that I began to call the rivers stupendous, which I could honestly do: but this was not the same thing. She said, in a complaining tone,
“Well, I cannot think how you can say there are no high mountains in the United States.”
“You mistake me.” I said. “I have not seen the White Mountains yet; and I hear they are very grand.”
“You English boast so of the things you have got at home!” said she. “Why, I have seen your river Avon, that you make so much of. I stood by the Avon, under Warwick Castle, and I said to my husband that it was a mighty small thing to be talked of at such a distance. Why, if I had been ten years younger. I could almost have jumped over it.”
I told her that I believed the Avon was not so celebrated for the quantity of water in it as on some other accounts.
The lady, who went on the opposite tack, is not very old; and I suppose, therefore, that her loyalty to the crown of England is hereditary. She made great efforts to see me, that she might enjoy my British sympathies. With a grieved countenance she asked me whether the folly and conceit of her countrymen in separating themselves from the crown were not lamentable. She had hoped that before this they would have become convinced of the guilt and silliness of their rebellion, and have sought to be taken back; but she hoped it was not yet too late. I fear she considered me a traitor to my country in not condemning hers. I was sorry to deprive her of her last hope of sympathy; but what could one do in such a case?
There must be many local and professional oddities in a country like America, where individuals fill a larger space in society, and are less pressep upon by influences, other than local and professional, than in Old World communities. A judge in the West is often a remarkable personage to European eyes. I know one who unites all the odd characteristics of the order so as to be worth a close study. Bofore I left home, a friend desired me to bring her something, she did not care what, that should be exclusively American,—something which could not be procurable any where else. When I saw this judge. I longed to pack him up, and direct him, per next packet from New York to my friend; for he was the first article I met with that could not by possibility have been picked up any where out of the United States. He was about six feet high, lank as a flail, and seeming to be held together only by the long-tailed drab great-coat into which he was put. He had a quid in his cheek whenever I saw him, and squirted tobacco-juice into the fire-place or elsewhere, at intervals of about twenty seconds. His face was long and solemn, his voice monotonous, his manner dogmatical to a most amusing degree. He was a dogged republican, with an uncompromising hatred of the blacks, and with an indifferent sort of pity for all foreigners. This last feeling probably induced him to instruct me on various matters. He fixed his eyes on the fire, and talked on for my edification, but without taking express notice of the presence of any one; so that his lecture had the droll appearance of being a formal soliloquy. In the same speech he declared that no man was made by God to run wild through a forest who was not able to comprehend Christianity at sight; missions to the heathen being therefore sanctioned from heaven itself; and that men with a dark skin cannot, in three years, learn the name of a rope or a point of the compass, and that they are therefore meant to be slaves. It seemed to me that he was bound to suspend the operation of the law against all coloured persons on the ground of their incapacity,—their lack of understanding of the common affairs of life. But the ground of their punishment in this life seemed to be that they might be as wise as they pleased about the affairs of the next. He proceeded with his enunciations, however, without vouchsafing an explanation of these mysteries. It must be an awkward thing to be either a heathen or a negro under his jurisdiction, if he acts upon his own doctrines.
Country doctors are not unlike wild country judges. Being obliged to call in the aid of a village doctor to a companion. I found we had fallen in with a fine specimen of the class. I was glad of this afterwards; but much annoyed at the time by the impossibility of extracting from him the slightest information as to my friend's state and prospects in regard to her health. I detained him in conversation day after day to no purpose; and varied my questions with as much American ingenuity as I could command; but all in vain. He would neither tell me what was the matter with her, nor whether her illness was serious or trifling, or whether it was likely to be long or short. He would give me no hint which could enable me to form my plans, or to give my distant friends an idea whether or when they might expect to see us. All that he would say was, “Hope your friend will be better:"—"hope she will enjoy better health:"—"will make her better if we can:"—"must try to improve her health:” and so on. I was informed that this was all that I should extract, if the illness were to last a twelvemonth. He took a blue paper with some white powder in it out of one pocket, and a white paper with some other powder out of another pocket; spilled some at random into smaller papers, and gave directions when they should be taken; and my friend speedily and entirely recovered. I never was so completely in the dark about the nature of any illness I witnessed; and I am completely in the dark still. I fancy I hear now the short, sharp, conceited tones of the doctor, doggedly using his power of exasperating my anxiety. Such was not his purpose, however. The country doctors themselves and their patients believe that they cure with far more certainty than any other doctors: the profession are probably convinced that they owe much to the implicit faith of their charge, and are resolved to keep up this faith by being impenetrable; allowing no part of their practice to be made a subject of discussion which can possibly be rendered mysterious. The chief reason of the success of country doctors is, doubtless, that they have to treat chiefly diseases of local prevalence, about which they employ long experience and practised sagacity, without having much account to give of their method of proceeding.
A country physician of higher pretensions than the one who tormented me while curing my friend, told me that Yankee inquisitiveness is the plague of the life of a country doctor. The querists seem to forget that families may object to have domestic sickness made the talk of the village or hamlet, and that the doctor must dislike to be the originator of news of this kind. They stop him on his rounds, to ask whom he is visiting in this direction, and whom in that, and who could be sick on the road in which he was seen going yesterday morning; and what such a one's complaint is called, and how it is going to be cured, &c. The physician told me that he was driven to invent modes of escape. If he was riding, he appeared to see some acquaintance at a distance, clapped spurs to his horse, and was off: if he was walking, he gave a name of six syllables to the disease asked about, and one of seven syllables to the remedy; thus defying repetition. If our doctor took me to be one of this class of querists, I could easily forgive his reserve.
I was told a story of an American physician which is characteristic, (if it be true.) showing how patriotic regards may enter into the practice of medicine. But I give it only as an on dit. It is well known that Adams and Jefferson died on the 4th of July of one year, and Monroe of another. Mr. Madison died on the 28th of June, last year. It is said that the physician who attended Mr. Monroe expressed regret that he had not the charge of Mr. Madison, suspecting that he might have found means to keep him alive (as he died of old age) till the 4th of July. The practice in Mr. Monroe's case is said to have been this:—When he was sinking, some one observed what a remarkable thing it would be if he should die on the anniversary, like Adams and Jefferson. The physician determined he would give his patient the chance of its ending so. He poured down brandy and other stimulants, and omitted no means to keep life in the failing body. On the 3rd of July, the patient was sinking so rapidly that there seemed little chance of his surviving the day. The physician's exertions were redoubled; and the consequence was that, on the morning of the 4th, there seemed every probability of the patient's living to the 5th; which was not exactly desired. He died (just as if he wished to oblige his friends to the last,) late in the afternoon of the 4th. So the story runs.
It is astonishing what may be done by original genius, in availing itself of republican sentiment for professional purposes. The drollery infused into the puffing system in America would command the admiration of Puff himself. It may be doubted whether he would have been up to the invention of a recommendation of a certain oil for the hair which I saw at Washington; and which threw us into such a convulsion of laughter that the druggist behind the counter had to stand waiting some time before we could explain our business to him. A regiment of persons were represented walking up to a perfumer's counter with bald skulls of all degrees of ugliness; and walking away from it graced with flowing tresses of every hue, which they were showing off with gestures of delight. This was an ingenious device, but not perfectly wise, as it contained no appeal to patriotic feelings. I saw one at an optician's at Baltimore, of a decidedly more elevated character. There were miniature busts in the window of Franklin, Washington, and Lafayette, each adorned with a tiny pair of spectacles, which made the busts appear as sage as life. Washington's spectacles were white; Franklin's green; and Lafayette's neutral tint.
I acknowledge myself indebted for a new professional idea to an original in the bookselling line, in a large American city. I am not sure that his originality extended beyond the frankness of his professional discourse; but that was infinitely striking. He told me that he wanted to publish for me, and would offer as good terms as anybody. I thanked him, but objected that I had nothing to publish. He was sure I must have a book written about America. I had not, and did not know that I ever should have. His answer, given with a patronizing air of suggestion, was, “Why, surely, madam, you need not be at a loss about that. You must have got incident plenty by this time: and then you can Trollopize a bit, and so make a readable book.”
In the West, we were thrown into the society of a girl, about whom we were completely puzzled. Our New England friends could only conclude, with us, that she had been trained amidst the usages of some retired district, to a freedom which is certainly very unusual in the country. In a stage which took up our party at a country hotel, near the Mammoth Cave, in Kentucky, was a girl, of about two-and-twenty, oddly dressed. She got out and break-fasted with the other passengers, looking perfectly at her case. We concluded that she belonged to one of two gentlemen in the stage; and we rather wondered that any gentleman should like to travel with a companion so untidily dressed as she was. She had a good black silk gown; but over it was pinned a square net handkerchief, unhemmed, and therefore looking ragged. She had black stockings; but shabby shoes, of some dark-coloured leather, not black; and they were tied on with twine, where the strings had given way. Her straw bonnet was shabby. She had nothing with her but a basket which she carried on her knees. She joined freely and pleasantly in conversation; and showed none of the common troublesome timidity, amidst the disasters of the day and of the ensuing night. It was very sultry weather. One of the horses fell from heat, in the midst of the Barrens; and we all had to walk up the hills, and no short distance in the forest. The roads were so bad that the driver tried his utmost to alarm the passengers, in order to induce some to lighten his vehicle by remaining behind; but the girl seemed not in the least daunted. In the course of the night we were overturned, and had no light but what was afforded by the gentlemen walking before the stage, holding tallow candles which they had bought by the road-side; but nothing disconcerted the young lady. She was a girl of nerve and of patience, it was clear. She refused to sit down to the first meal we had on the road; and the reason of her abstinence appeared before the day was over. When we changed coaches, and it was necessary to pay, on striking into a new route, she coolly inquired if any gentleman would ask a free passage for her, till she could send the money out of Indiana, where she was going. It was now evident that she was alone; every passenger having supposed that she was of the party of somebody else. She gave no further explanation than that she had “come off in a hurry,” no one knowing of it but two of the slaves; and that she should send the money out of Indiana. There was not the slightest confusion in her manner; nor any apparent consciousness that she was behaving strangely. One of the gentlemen made himself answerable for her fare, and she proceeded with us.
At Elizabeth's-town, the next morning, she refused breakfast, with the utmost cheerfulness; but our friend Mr. L. invited her to sit down with us; which she did with a good grace. At seven in the evening we arrived at Louisville, and alighted at the great hotel; one of the largest, handsomest, and most luxurious in the United States, and of course expensive. We chose apartments while Mr. L. ordered supper in a private room for our party. Almost before my companion and I could turn ourselves round in our chamber, the lone girl, who had followed us about like a ghost, was taking her hair down at my dressing-table. Mrs. L. hastened to inform her that this room was engaged; but, pointing out that there were three beds, she said she should like to lodge here. Of course this could not be allowed; and, as soon as she found that we wished to be alone, she went away. When we descended with Mrs. L. to her room, we found the poor girl dressing there. Mrs. L. now took upon her to advise. She observed to the young person that she would probably be more comfortable in a less expensive hotel; to which she agreed. The same elderly gentleman who answered for her fare took her to a respectable hotel near at hand, and commended her to the care of the landlady, who promised to see her off for Indiana in the morning. We quitted Louisville at dawn, and heard no more of the lone girl, of whom we have often since thought and spoken. The odd circumstances of the case were her freedom from all embarrassment, and her cheerfulness on the road and while fasting, from want of money. There was not a trace of insanity in her manners, though her dress at first suggested the idea; and we could perceive no symptoms of the fear of pursuit or hurry of spirits which would have been natural consequences of a clandestine flight. Yet, by her own account, she must have done something of the kind.
Though the freedom of travelling is not such as to admit of young ladies making their way about quite alone, in a way so unceremonious as this, the liberty of intercourse on the road is very great, and highly amusing to a stranger. One day in Virginia, on entering our parlour at a hotel where we were merely stopping to dine, I was amused to see our lawyer companion, Mr. S., in grave consultation with the hostess, while Mrs. S., her silk bonnet on her knee, and a large pair of scissors in hand, was busy cutting, slashing, and rending a newspaper on which the bonnet peak was spread. There was evidently so much more show than use in what she was doing, that I could not understand her proceedings. “What are you about?” asked I. Mrs. S. pointed to the landlady, and, trying to help laughing, told me that the hostess had requested the pattern of her bonnet. While this pretence of a pattern was in course of preparation by the lady, the hostess was getting a legal opinion out of the gentleman about a sum of 800 dollars which was owing to her. If we had only staid to tea, I doubt not our landlady would have found some employment for every one of us, and have favoured us, in return, with all the rest of her private affairs.
Originals who are so in common circumstances, through their own force of soul, ruling events as well as being guided by them, yield something far better than amusement to the observer. Some of these, out of almost every class, I saw in America, from the divine and statesman down to the slave. I saw a very old lady whom I consider to be one, not on account of her extraordinary amiability and sympathy with all ages (which cause her to be called Grandmama by all who know her), but because this temper of mind is the result of something higher than an easy disposition and prosperous circumstances. It is the accomplishment of a long-settled purpose. When Grandmama J. was eight years old, she was in company with an old lady who was jealous, exacting, and peevish. On returning home, the child ran to her mother and said, “If I am ever an old lady, I will be a good-tempered old lady.” This was not said and forgotten, like many childish resolutions formed under the smart of elderly people's faults. It was a real purpose. She knew that in order not to be cross when old, it is necessary to be meek, patient, and cheerful when young. She was so; and the consequence is, that Grandmama J.'s popularity is unbounded. She is cherished by the whole community to whom she is known. The children want to have her at their dances; and the youths and maidens are always happiest where she is. She looks as if no shadow of care had been cast over her bright spirit for many a long year; and as if she might yet have many sunny years to come. She is preacher, prophet, and dispenser of amiability, all in one.
The venerable Noah Worcester is an original. I am thankful to have seen this aged apostle,—for so he should be considered,—having had a mission, and honourably discharged it. He is the founder of Peace Societies in America. Noah Worcester was a minister of the Gospel, of orthodox opinions. By the time he was surrounded by a family of young children, he had changed his opinions, and found himself a Unitarian. He avowed the change, resigned his parish, and went forth with his family, without a farthing in the world, or any prospect of being able to obtain a subsistence. He wrote diligently, but on subjects which were next his heart, and on which he would have written, in like manner, if he had been the wealthiest of American citizens. He set up the “Christian Disciple,”—a publication which has done honour to its supporters, both under its original title, and its present one of “The Christian Examiner.” He devoted his powers to the promotion of Peace principles, and the establishment of Peace Societies. Whatever may be thought of the practical effects, in a narrow view, of such societies, they seem to have well answered a prodigious purpose in turning men's contemplations full on the subject of true and false honour, and in inducing a multitude of glorious experiments of living strictly according to a principle which happens to be troublesome in its application. The number of peace-men, practisers of non-resistance, out of the Quaker body, is considerable in America; and their great living apostle is Noah Worcester. The leaders of the abolition movement are for the most part peace-men; an inestimable circumstance, as it takes out the sting from the worst of the slanders of their enemies, and gives increased effect to their moral warfare. Human nature cannot withstand the grandeur of the spectacle of men who have all the moral power on their side, and who abide unresistingly all that the physical power of the other side can inflict. The boldest spirits tremble, hearts the most hardened in prejudice melt, when once they come into full view of this warfare; and the victory vests with the men of peace,—who all love the name of Noah Worcester. Nearly twenty years ago he was encompassed with distresses for a time. Indeed, his life has been one of great poverty till lately. He is not one of the men made to be rich, or to spend his thoughts on whether he was happy or not. He was sent into the world for a very different purpose, with which, and with its attendant enjoyments, poverty could but little interfere. But, in the midst of his deep poverty came sickness. His two daughters were at once prostrated by fever, and a severe struggle it was before they got through. Two friends of mine nursed them; and in the discharge of their task learned lessons of faith which they will be for ever thankful for; and of those graces which accompany the faith of the heart,—cheerfulness of spirits, and quietude and simplicity of manner. My friends were not at the beginning fully aware of the condition of the household. They were invited to table at the early dinner hour. On the table stood a single brown loaf and a pitcher of water. Grace was said, and they were invited to partake with the utmost ease and cheerfulness; and not a word passed in reference to the restriction of the fare. This was what God had been pleased to provide, and it was thankfully accepted and hospitably shared. The father went from the one sick room to the other, willing to receive what tidings might await him, but tender to his daughters, as they have since been to him. On one evening, when all looked threatening, he asked the friendly nurse whether the voice of prayer would be injurious to his sick children: finding that they desired to hear him, he set open the doors of their chambers, kneeled in the passage between, and prayed—so calmly, so thankfully, that the effect was, to compose the spirits of the invalids. One now lives with him, and cherishes him. She has changed her religious opinions, and become orthodox; but she has not changed towards him. They are as blessed in their relation as ever.
Noah Worcester was seventy-six when I saw him, in the autumn of 1835. He was very tall, dressed in a grey gown, and with long white hair descending to his shoulders. His eye is clear and bright; his manner serious but cheerful. His evening meal was on the table, and he invited us to partake, with the same grace with which he offered his harder fare to the guests of former years. He lives at Brighton, a short distance from Boston, where his daughter manages the post-office; by which their humble wants are supplied. He had lately published, and he now presented me with his “Last Thoughts,” on some religious subjects which had long engaged his meditations. I hope his serene old age may yet be prolonged, gladsome to himself and eloquent to the world.
There is a remarkable man in the United States, without knowing whom it is not too much to say that the United States cannot be fully known. I mean by this, not only that he has powers and worth which constitute him an element in the estimate to be formed of his country, but that his intellect and his character are the opposite of those which the influences of his country and his time are supposed almost necessarily to form. I speak of the author of the Oration which I have already mentioned as being delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society last August,—Mr. Emerson. He is yet in the prime of life. Great things are expected from him; and great things, it seems, he cannot but do, if he have life and health to prosecute his course. He is a thinker and a scholar. He has modestly and silently withdrawn himself from the perturbations and conflicts of the crowd of men, without declining any of the business of life, or repressing any of his human sympathies. He is a thinker without being solitary, abstracted, and unfitted for the time. He is a scholar without being narrow, bookish, and prone to occupy himself only with other men's thoughts. He is remarkable for the steadiness and fortitude with which he makes those objects which are frequently considered the highest in their own department subordinate to something higher still, whose connexion with their department he has clearly discovered. There are not a few men, I hope, in America, who decline the pursuit of wealth: not a few who refrain from ambition: and some few who devote themselves to thought and study from a pure love of an intellectual life. But the case before us is a higher one than this. The intellectual life is nourished from a love of the diviner life of which it is an element. Consequently, the thinker is ever present to the duty, and the scholar to the active business of the hour: and his home is the scene of his greatest acts. He is ready at every call to action. He lectures to the factory people at Lowell when they ask it. He preaches when the opportunity is presented. He is known at every house along the road he travels to and from home, by the words he has dropped and the deeds he has done. The little boy who carries wood for his household has been enlightened by him; and his most transient guests owe to him their experience of what the highest grace of domestic manners may be. He neglects no political duty, and is unmindful of nothing in the march of events which can affect the virtue and peace of men. While he is far above fretting himself because of evil-doers, he has ever ready his verdict for the right, and his right hand for its champions. While apart from the passions of all controversies, he is ever present with their principles, declaring himself and taking his stand, while appearing to be incapable of contempt of persons, however uncompromising may be his indignation against whatever is dishonest and harsh. Earnest as is the tone of his mind, and placidly strenuous as is his life, an exquisite spirit of humour pervades his intercourse. A quiet gaiety breathes out of his conversation: and his observation, as keen as it is benevolent, furnishes him with perpetual material for the exercise of his humour. In such a man, it is difficult to point out any one characteristic; but if, out of such a harmony, one leading quality is to be distinguished, it is in him modest independence. A more entire and modest independence I am not aware of having ever witnessed; though in America I saw two or three approaches to it. It is an independence equally of thought, of speech, of demeanour, of occupation, and of objects in life: yet without a trace of contempt in its temper, or of encroachment in its action. I could give anecdotes; but I have been his guest, and I restrain myself. I have spoken of him in his relation to society; and have said only what may be and is known to common observers.
Such a course of life could not have been entered upon but through discipline. It has been a discipline of calamity as well as of toil. As for the prospect, it is to all appearance very bright. Few persons are apparently placed so favourably for working out such purposes in life. The condition seems hard to find fault with; and as to the spirit which is to work upon it,—though I differ from some of the views of the thinker, and do not sympathize with all of those tastes of the scholar which I am capable of entering into,—I own that I see no defect, and anticipate nothing short of triumph in the struggle of life.
Something may be learned of this thinker and his aims from a few passages of his address; though this is the last purpose, I doubt not, that he dreamed of his work being used for. He describes the nature of the occasion. “Our holiday has been, simply a friendly sign of the survival of the love of letters amongst a people too busy to give to letters any more.” His topic is, the American scholar; and he describes the influences which contribute to ferm or modify him:—the influence of Nature; the mind of the past; and action in life. He concludes with a consideration of the duty of the scholar.
“There goes in the world a notion that the scholar should be a recluse, a valetudinarian,—as unfit for any handiwork or public labour as a penknife for an axe. The so-called ‘practical men’ sneer at speculative men, as if, because they speculate or see, they could do nothing. I have heard it said that the elergy,—who are always more universally than any other class, the scholars of their day,—are addressed as women; that the rough spontaneous conversation of men they do not hear, but only a mincing and diluted speech. They are often virtually disfranchised: and, indeed, there are advocates for their celibacy. As far as this is true of the studious classes, it is not just and wise. Action is with the scholar subordinate, but it is essential. Without it, he is not yet man. Without it, thought can never ripen into truth. Whilst the world hangs before the eye as a cloud of beauty, we cannot even see its beauty. Inaction is cowardice; but there can be no scholar without the heroic mind. The preamble of thought, the transition through which it passes from the unconscious to the conscious, is action. Only so much do I know as I have lived.”
... “The mind now thinks; now acts; and each fit reproduces the other. When the artist has exhausted his materials, when the fancy no longer paints, when thoughts are no longer apprehended, and books are a weariness,—he has always the resource to live. Character is higher than intellect. Thinking is the function. Living is the functionary.
“The stream retreats to its source. A great soul will be strong to live, as well as strong to think. Does he lack organ or medium to impart his truths? He can still fall back on this elemental force of living them. This is a total act. Thinking is a partial act. Let the grandeur of justice shine in his affairs. Let the beauty of affection cheer his lowly roof. Those ‘far from fame’ who dwell and act with him, will feel the force of his constitution in the doings and passages of the day better than it can be measured by any public and designed display. Time shall teach him that the scholar loses no hour which the man lives. Herein he unfolds the sacred germ of his instinct screened from influence. What is lost in seemliness is gained in strength. Not out of those on whom systems of education have exhausted their culture, comes the helpful giant to destroy the old or to build the new, but out of unhandselled savage nature, out of terrible Druids and Bersirkirs, come at lat Alfred and Shakspeare. I hear therefore with joy whatever is beginning to be said of the dignity and necessity of labour to every citizen. There is virtue yet in the hoe and the spade, for learned as well as for unlearned hands. And labour is every where welcome: always we are invited to work: only be this limitation observed, that, a man shall not, for the sake of wider activity, sacrifice any opinion to the popular judgments and modes of action.”
... “They (the duties of the scholar) are such as become Man Thinking. They may all be comprised in self-trust. The office of the scholar is to cheer, to raise, and to guide men by showing them facts amidst appearances. He plies the slow, unhonoured, and unpaid task of observation. Flamsteed and Herschel, in their glazed observatory, may catalogue the stars with the praise of all men, and the results being splendid and useful, honor is sure. But he, in his private observatory, cataloguing obscure and nebulous stars of the human mind, which as yet no man has thought of as such,—watching days and months, sometimes, for a few facts: correcting still his old records; must relinquish display and immediate fame. In the long period of his preparation, he must, betray often an ignorance and shiftlessness in popular arts, incurring the disdain of the able who shoulder him aside. Long he must stammer in his speech; often forego the living for the dead. Worse yet, he must accept—how often! poverty and solitude. For the case and pleasure of treading the old road, accepting the fashions, the education, the religion of society, he takes the cross of making his own, and, of course, the self-accusation, the faint heart, the frequent uncertainty, and loss of time which are the nettles and tangling vines in the way of the self-relying and self-directed; and the state of virtual hostility in which he seems to stand to society, and especially to educated society. For all this loss and scorn, what offset? He is to find consolation in exercising the highest functions of human nature. He is one who raises himself form private considerations, and breathes and lives on public and illustrious thoughts. He is the world's eye. He is the world's heart. He is to resist the vulgar prosperity that retrogrades ever to barbarism, by preserving and communicating heroic sentiments, noble biographics, melodious verse, and the conclusions of history. Whatsoever oracles the human heart in all emergencies, in all solemn hours has uttered as its commentary on the world of actions,—these he shall receive and impart. And whatsoever new verdict Reason from her inviolable seat pronounces on the passing men and events of to-day,—this he shall hear and promulgate. These being his functions, it becomes him to feel all confidence in himself, and to defer never to the popular cry. He and he only knows the world. The world of any moment is the merest appearance. Some great decorum, some fetish of a government, some ephemeral trade, or war, or man, is cried up by half mankind and cried down by the other half, as if all depended on this particular up or down. The odds are that the whole question is not worth the poorest thought which the scholar has lost in listening to the controversy. Let him not quit his belief that a popgun is a popgun, though the ancient and honourable of the earth affirm it to be the crack of doom. In silence, in steadiness, in severe abstraction, let him hold by himself; add observation to observation; patient of neglect, patient of reproach, and bide his own time,—happy enough if he can satisfy himself alone that this day he has seen something truly.”
... “I read with joy some of the auspicious signs of the coming days as they glimmer already through poetry and art, through philosophy and science; through Church and State. One of these signs is the fact that the same movement which effected the elevation of what was called the lowest class in the State, assumed in literature a very marked and as benign an aspect. Instead of the sublime and beautiful, the near, the low the common was explored and poetized. That which had been negligently trodden under foot by those who were harnessing and provisioning themselves for long journeys into far countries, is suddenly found to the richer than all foreign parts. The literature of the poor, the feelings of the child, the philosophy of the street, the meaning of household life, are the topics of the time. It is a great stride. It is a sign —is it not?—of new vigour, when the extremities are made active, when currents of warm life run into the hands and feet. I ask not for the great, the remote, the romantic; what is doing in Italy and Arabia; what is Greek art, or Provencal minstrelsy; I embrace the common. I explore and sit at the feet of the familiar, the low. Give me insight into to-day, and you may have the antique and future worlds. What would we really know the meaning of? The meal in the firkin; the milk in the pan; the ballad in the street; the news of the boat; the glance of the eye; the form and the gait of the body;—show me the ultimate reason of these matters;—show me the sublime presence of the highest spiritual cause lurking, as always it does lurk, in these suburbs and extremities of nature; let me see every trifle bristling with the polarity that ranges it instantly on an eternal law; and the shop, the plough, and the ledger, referred to the like cause by which light undulates and poets sing; —and the world lies no longer a dull miscellany and lumber-room, but has form and order; there is no trifle; there is no puzzle; but one design unites and animates the farthest pinnacle and the lowest trench.”
... “Another sign of our times, also marked by an analogous political movement, is, the new importance given to the single person. Everything that tends to insulate the individual,—to surround him with barriers of natural respect, so that each man shall feel the world is his, and man shall treat with man as a sovereign State with a sovereign State,—tends to true union as well as greatness. ‘I learned,’ said the melancholy Pestalozzi, ‘that no man in God's wide earth is either willing or able to help any other man.’ Help must come, from the bosom alone. The scholar is that man who must take up into himself all the ability of the time, all the contributions of the past, all the hopes of the future. He must be an university of knowledges. If there be one lesson more than another which should pierce his ear, it is,—The world is nothing: the man is all; in yourself is the law of all nature, and you know not yet how a globule of sap ascends; in yourself slumbers the whole of Reason; it is for you to know all; it is for you to dare all. Mr. President and Gentlemen, this confidence in the unsearched might of man belongs by all motives, by all prophecy, by all preparation, to the American Scholar. We have listened too long to the courtly muses of Europe. The spirit of the American freeman is already suspected to be timid, imitative, tame. Public and private avarice make the air we breathe thick and fat. The scholar is decent, indolent, complaisant. See already the tragic consequence. The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself. There is no work for any but the decorous and the complaisant. Young men of the fairest promise, who begin life upon our shores, inflated by the mountain winds, shined upon by all the stars of God, find the earth below not in unison with these,—but are hindered from action by the disgust which the principles on which business is managed inspire, and turn drudges, or die of disgust,—some of them suicides. What is the remedy? They did not yet see, and thousands of young men as hopeful now crowding to the barriers for the career, do not yet see, that if the single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts, and there abide, the huge world will come round to him. Patience—patience;—with the shades of all the good and great for company; and for solace the perspective of your own infinite life; and for work, the study and the communication of principles, the making those instincts prevalent, the conversion of the world. Is it not the chief disgrace in the world, not to be a unit?—not to be reckoned one character;—not to yield that peculiar fruit which each man was created to bear; but to be reckoned in the gross, in the hundred, or the thousand, of the party, the section, to which we belong; and our opinion predicted geographically, as the North or the South. Not so, brothers and friends,—please God, ours shall not be so. We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds.”
Of the last class of originals,—those who are not only strong to form a purpose in life and fulfil it, but who are driven by pressure of circumstance to put forth their whole force for the control of other destinies than their own,—there is no more conspicuous example than Father Taylor, as he is called. In America there is no need to explain who Father Taylor is. He is known in England, but not extensively. Father Taylor is the seamen's apostle. He was a sailor-boy himself; and at twenty years old was unable to read. He rose in his calling, and at length became full of some religious convictions which he longed to express. He has found a mode of expression, and is happy. He is one of the busiest and most cheerful of men; and of all preachers living, probably the most eloquent to those whom his preaching suits. So it would appear from events. I heard him called a second, homely Jeremy Taylor: and I certainly doubt whether Jeremy Taylor himself could more absolutely sway the minds and hearts of the learned and pious of his day than the seamen's friend does those of his flock. He has a great advantage over other preachers in being able to speak to his hearers from the ground of their common experience; in being able to appeal to his own sea-life. He can say, “You have lodged with me in the forecastle; did you ever know me profane?” “You have seen me land from a long voyage. Where did I betake myself? Am not I a proof that a sea-life need not be soiled with vice on land?” All this gives him some power; but it would be little without the prodigious force which he carries in his magnificent intellect and earnest heart.
A set of institutions is connected with the Boston Port Society, whose agent Mr. Taylor is. There is the Seamen's Bethel, in North Square, where Mr. Taylor preaches: a Reading-room, and a Nautical School; a Temperance Society, and the Bethel Union; the last being an association of seamen and masters of vessels, for the purpose chiefly of settling disputes without litigation and scandal, promoting the just and kind treatment of seamen, and watching over their rights. There is also a Clothing Society, the object of which is economy rather than charity: and a Savings' Bank for seamen, the merits of which are sufficiently indicated by the title.
Father Taylor is the life and soul of all this. Some help him liberally with the purse, and many with head and hands: but he is the animating spirit of the whole. His chapel is filled, from year's end to year's end, with sailors. He has no salary, and will not hear of one. He takes charge of all the poor connected with his chapel. To many this must look like an act of insanity. No class is more exposed to casualties than that of seamen; and when a life is lost, an entire helpless family comes upon the charity of society. Father Taylor speaks of his ten thousand children: and all the woes and faults of a multitude are accumulated upon his hands: and yet he retains the charge of all his poor, though he has no fixed income whatever. He does it by putting his charge in the way of helping each other and themselves. He encourages sobriety and economy in all their habits, and enforces them with a power which it would be vain to attempt to give an idea of. He uses the utmost openness about his plans: and thereby obtains valuable co-operation. He has a collection of money made twice every Sunday in his church. The sums are given by the seamen, almost exclusively, and are in very small coin; but the amount has gone on increasing, from first to last, except during intervals when Father Taylor was absent for his health. Between the years 1828 and 1835, the annual sum thus contributed rose from 98 to 1079 dollars.
Boston owes to Mr. Taylor, and to Dr. Tuckerman, its convictions of the pernicious operation of some of the old methods of charity by almsgiving; and the names of these gentlemen ought ever to be held in honour, for having saved the young community in which they dwell from the curse of such pauperism in kind,—(the degree could never have become very formidable,)—as has afflicted the kingdoms of the old world. Mr. Taylor owns that he little foresaw what he was undertaking in assuming the charge of all his poor, under such liabilities as those who follow the seaman's calling are exposed to: but he does it. The funds are, as it has been seen, provided by the class to be benefited; and they have proved hitherto sufficient, under the wise administration of the pastor and his wife, and under the animating influence of his glowing spirit, breathed forth from the pulpit and amidst their dwellings. It seems as if his power was resorted to in difficult and desperate cases, like that of a superior being; such surprising facts was I told of his influence over his flock. He was requested to visit an insane man, who believed himself to be in heaven, and therefore to have no need of food and sleep. The case had become desperate, so long had the fasting and restlessness continued. Father Taylor prevailed at once: the patient was presently partaking of “the feast of the blessed,” with Father Taylor, and enjoying the “saints' rest on a heavenly couch.” From carrying a single point like this to redeeming a whole class from much of the vice and woe which had hitherto afflicted it, the pastor's power seems universally to prevail.
I have not mentioned all this time what Father Taylor's religion is,—or, rather, what seet he belongs to. This is one of the last considerations which, in his case, occurs to an observer. All the essentials of his faith must be so right, to produce such results, that the separate articles of belief do not present themselves for inquiry. He is “orthodox,” (Presbyterian:) but so liberal as to be in some sort disowned by the rigid of his sect. He opens his pulpit to ministers of any protestant denomination; and Dr. Beecher, and other bigots of his own sect, refused to preach thence after Unitarians. When this opposition of theirs diminished the contributions of his people, during his absence, they twitted him with it, and insultingly asked whether he cheated the Unitarians, or they him? to which he replied, that they understood one another, and left all unfair proceedings to a third party.
Mr. Taylor has a remarkable person. He is stoutly built, and looks more like a skipper than a preacher. His face is hard and weather-beaten, but with an expression of sensibility, as well as acuteness, which it is wonderful that features apparently so immoveable can convey. He uses a profusion of action. His wife told me that she thought his health was promoted by his taking so much exercise in the shape of action, in conversation as well as in the pulpit. He is very loud and prodigiously rapid. His splendid thoughts come faster than he can speak them; and at times he would be totally overwhelmed by them, if, in the midst of his most rapid utterance of them, a burst of tears, of which he is wholly unconscious, did not aid in his relief. I have seen them streaming, bathing his face, when his words breathed the very spirit of joy, and every tone of his voice was full of exhilaration. His pathos, shed in thoughts and tones so fleeting as to be gone like lightning, is the most awful of his powers. I have seen a single clause of a short sentence call up an instantaneous flush on the hundreds of hard faces turned to the preacher; and it is no wonder to me that the widow and orphan are cherished by those who hear his prayers for them. The tone of his petitions is importunate,—even passionate; and his sailor hearers may be forgiven for their faith, that Father Taylor's prayers cannot be refused. Never, however, was anything stranger than some particulars of his prayers. I have told elsewhere , how importunately he prayed for rain, in fear of conflagration,—and as it happened, the Sunday before the great New York fire. With such petitions, urged with every beauty of expression, he mixes up whatever may have struck his fancy during the week, whether mythology, politics, housewifery, or anything else. He prayed one day, when dwelling on the moral perils of seamen, “that Bacchus and Venus might be driven to the end of the earth, and off of it.” I heard him pray that Members of Congress might be preserved from buffoonery. Thence he passes to supplication, offered in a spirit of sympathy which may appear bold at another moment, but which is true to the emotion of the hour. “Father! look upon us! We are a widow.” “Father! the mother's heart thou knowest: the mother's bleeding heart thou pitiest. Sanctify to us the removal of this lamb!”
The eloquence of his sermons was somewhat the less amazing to me from my feeling that, if there be inspiration in the world, it arises from being so listened to. It was not like the preaching of Whitfield; for all was quiet in Father Taylor's church. There were no groans, few tears, and those unconsciously shed, rolling down the upturned face, which never for a moment looked away from the preacher. His voice was the only sound,—now tremendously loud and rapid, overpowering the senses; now melting into a tenderness like that of a mother's wooings of her infant. The most striking discourse I heard from him was on the text, “That we, through the comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope.” A crew from among his hearers were going to sail in the course of the week. He gave me a totally new view of the great trial of the seaman's life,—the pining for rest. Never, among the poets of the earth, was there finer discourse of the necessity of hope to man; and never a more tremendous picture of the state of the hopeless. Father Taylor is no reader, except of his Bible; and probably never heard of any poem on the subject on which he was speaking: and he therefore went unhesitatingly into a picture of what hope is to the mariner in his midnight watches, and amidst the tossing of the storm; and if Campbell had been there, he would have joyfully owned himself outdone. But then the preacher went off into one of his strange descriptions of what people resort to when longing for a home for their spirits, and not finding the right one. “Some get into the stomach, and think they can make a good home of that: but the stomach is no home for the spirit:” and then followed some particular reasons why. Others nestle down into people's good opinion, and think if they can get praise enough, they shall be at peace. “But opinion is sometimes an easy trade-wind, and sometimes a contrary hurricane.” Some wait and wait upon change; but the affairs of Providence go on while such are standing still, “and God's chronometer loses no time.” After a long series of pictures of forlornness, and pinings for home, he burst forth suddenly upon the promise, “I will give you rest.” He was for the moment the wanderer finding rest; his flood of tears and of gratitude, his rapturous account of the change from pining to hope and rest were real to himself and to us for the time. The address to the departing seamen was tender and cheerful; with a fitting mention of the chances of mortality, but nothing which could be ever construed by the most superstitious of them, in the most comfortless of their watches, into a foreboding.
Such preaching exerts prodigious power over an occasional hearer; and it is an exquisite pleasure to listen to it: but it does not, for a continuance, meet the religious wants of any but those to whom it is expressly addressed. The preacher shares the mental and moral characteristics, as well as the experience in life of his nautical hearers; their imaginative cast of mind, their superstition, their strong capacity for friendship and love, their case about the future,—called recklessness in some, and faith in others. This is so unlike the common mind of landsmen, that the same expression of worship will not suit them both. So Father Taylor will continue to be the seaman's apostle; and, however admired and beloved by the landsman, not his priest. This is as it should be, and as the good man desires. His field of labour is wide enough for him. No one is more sensible than he of its extent. He told me what he tells seamen themselves,—that they are the eyes and the tongues of the world,—the seed carriers of the world—the winged seeds from which good or evil must spring up on the wildest shores of God's earth. His spirit is so possessed with this just idea of the importance of his work, that praise and even immediate sympathy are not necessary; though the last is, of course, pleasant to him. One Christmas-day there was a misunderstanding as to whether the chapel would be open; and not above twenty people were present: but never did Father Taylor preach more splendidly.
There is one great drawback in the religious services of his chapel. There is a gallery just under the roof for the people of colour; and “the seed carriers of the world” are thus countenanced by Father Taylor in making a root of bitterness spring up beside their homes., which, under his care, a better spirit should sanctify. I think there can be no doubt that an influence so strong as his would avail to abolish this unchristian distinction of races within the walls of his own church: and it would elevate the character of his influence if the attempt were made.
No one doubts Garrison's being an original. None who know him can wonder that the coloured race of Americans look upon him as raised up to be their deliverer, as manifestly as Moses to lead the Israelites out of bondage.
William Lloyd Garrison was, not many years ago, a printer's boy. The time will come when those who worked by his side will laboriously recal the incidents of the printing-office in those days, to make out whether the poor boy dropped expressions or shot glances which indicated what a spirit was working within him, or prophesied of the work which awaited him. By some accident his attention was turned to the condition of the coloured race, and to colonization as a means of rescue. Like all the leading abolitionists, Garrison was a colonizationist first; but before his clear mind, enlightened by a close attachment to principles, and balanced by his being of a strong practical turn, the case soon appeared in its true aspect.
Garrison, then a student in some country college, I believe, engaged to deliver a lecture on colonization; and, in order to prepare himself, he went down to Baltimore to master the details of the scheme, on the spot where it was in actual operation. His studies soon convinced him of the fallacies and iniquities involved in the plan; and he saw that nothing short of the abolition of the slave system would redeem the coloured race from their social depression. A visitation of persecution came at this time in aid of his convictions. A merchant of Newburyport, Massachusetts, gave permission to the master of a vessel of which he was the owner to freight the ship with slaves at Baltimore, and carry them down to the New Orleans market. Garrison commented upon this transaction in a newspaper, in the terms which it deserved, but which were libellous, and was in consequence brought to a civil and criminal trial, thrown into prison, and fined 1000 dollars, which he had not the remotest prospect of being able to pay. When he had been imprisoned three months, he was released by the fine being paid by Arthur Tappan, of New York; a gentleman who was an entire stranger to Garrison, and who did this act (the first of a long series of munificent deeds) for the sake of the principle involved in the case.
Of this gentleman a few words before we proceed. He is one of the few wealthy original abolitionists; and his money has been poured out freely in the cause. He has been one of the most persecuted, and his nerves have never appeared to be shaken. He has been a mark for insult from the whole body of his countrymen (except a handful of abolitionists) for a series of years; and he has never, on this account, altered his countenance towards man or woman. His house was attacked in New York, and his family driven from the city: he quietly took up his abode on Long Island. His lady and children are stared at like wild beasts on board a steam-boat: he tranquilly observes on the scenery. His partners early remonstrated with him on the injury he was doing to his trade by publicly opposing slavery, and supported one another in declaring to him that he must give up his connexion with the abolitionists. He heard them to an end: said, “I will be hanged first,” and walked off. When I was in America, immense rewards for the head, and even for the cars of Mr. Tappan, were offered from the South, through advertisements in the newspapers, and hand-bills. Whether these rewards were really offered by any Committee of Vigilance or not was the same thing to Mr. Tappan: he was in either case in equal danger from wretches who would do the deed for money. But it cannot be thought improbable that a Committee of Vigilance should commit an act of any degree of eccentricity at a time of such panic that a meeting was called in a new settlement in Alabama, for the purpose of voting Mr. O'Connell a nuisance. Mr. Tappan's house on Long Island is in an exposed situation: but he hired no guard, and lost not an hour's sleep. When some one showed him one of these handbills, he glanced from the sum promised to the signatures;—“Are these good names?” said he. A cause involving a broad principle, and supported to the point of martyrdom by men of this make, is victorious from the beginning. Its complete triumph is merely a question of time.
Garrison lectured in New York, in favour of the abolition of slavery, and in exposure of the colonization scheme; and was warmly encouraged by a few choice spirits. He went to Boston for the same purpose: but in the enlightened and religious city of Boston, every place in which he could lecture was shut against him. He declared his intention of lecturing on the Common if he could get no door opened to him: and this threat procured for him what he wanted. At his first lecture he fired the souls of some of his hearers; among others, of Mr. May, the first Unitarian clergyman who embraced the cause. On the next Sunday Mr. May, in pursuance of the custom of praying for all distressed persons, prayed for the slaves; and was asked, on descending from the pulpit, whether he was mad.
Garrison and his fellow-workman, both in the printing-office and the cause,—his friend Knapp,—set up the Liberator,—in its first days a little sheet of shabby paper, printed with old types, and now a handsome and flourishing newspaper. These two heroes, in order to publish their paper, lived for a series of years in one room, on bread and water, “with sometimes,” when the paper sold unusually well, “the luxury of a bowl of milk.” In course of time twelve men formed themselves into an abolition society at Boston, and the cause was fairly afoot.
It was undergoing its worst persecutions just before I entered Boston for the winter. I had resolved, some time before, that having heard every species of abuse of Garrison, I ought in fairness to see him. The relation of the above particulars quickened my purpose; and I mentioned my wish to the relator, who engaged that we should meet, mentioning that he supposed I was aware what I should encounter by acknowledging a wish to see Garrison. I was staying at the house of a clergyman in Boston, when a note was brought in which told me that Mr. Garrison was in town, and would meet me at any hour, at any friend's house, the next clay. My host arrived at a knowledge of the contents of the note, quite against my will, and kindly insisted that Mr. Garrison should call on me at home. At ten o'clock he came, accompanied by his introducer. His aspect put to flight in an instant what prejudices his slanderers had raised in me. I was wholly taken by surprise. It was a countenance glowing with health, and wholly expressive of purity, animation, and gentleness. I did not now wonder at the citizen who, seeing a print of Garrison at a shop window, without a name to it, went in and bought it, and framed it, as the most saint-like of countenances. The end of the story is, that when the citizen found whose portrait he had been hanging up in his parlour, he took the print out of the frame and huddled it away. Garrison has a good deal of a Quaker air; and his speech is deliberate like a Quaker's, but gentle as a woman's. The only thing that I did not like was his excessive agitation when he came in, and his thanks to me for desiring to meet one “so odious” as himself. I was, however, as I told him, nearly as odious as himself at that time; so it was fit that we should be acquainted. On mentioning afterwards to his introducer my impression of something like a want of manliness in Garrison's agitation, he replied that I could not know what it was to be an object of insult and hatred to the whole of society for a series of years: that Garrison could bear what he met with from street to street, and from town to town; but that a kind look and shake of the hand from a stranger unmanned him for the moment. How little did the great man know our feelings towards him on our meeting;—how we, who had done next to nothing, were looking up to him who is achieving the work of an age, and, as a stimulus, that of a nation!
His conversation was more about peace principles than the great subject. It was of the most practical cast. Every conversation I had with him confirmed my opinion that sagacity is the most striking attribute of his conversation. It has none of the severity, the harshness, the bad taste of his writing: it is as gladsome as his countenance, and as gentle as his voice. Through the whole of his deportment breathes the evidence of a heart at ease: and this it is, I think, more than all his distinct claims, which attaches his personal friends to him with an almost idolatrous affection.
I do not pretend to like or to approve the tone of Garrison's printed censures. I could not use such language myself towards any class of offenders; nor can I sympathise in its use by others. But it is only fair to mention that Garrison adopts it warily; and that I am persuaded that he is elevated above passion, and has no unrighteous anger to vent in harsh expressions. He considers his task to be the exposure of fallacy, the denunciation of hypocrisy, and the rebuke of selfish timidity. He is looked upon by those who defend him in this particular, as holding the branding-iron: and it seems true enough that no one branded by Garrison ever recovers it. He gives his reasons for his severity with a calmness, meekness, and softness which contrast strongly with the subject of the discourse, and which convince the objector that there is principle at the bottom of the practice. One day, when he was expressing his pleasure at Dr. Channing having shaken hands with him the preceding day, he spoke with affectionate respect of Dr. Channing. I asked him who would have supposed he felt thus towards Dr. Channing, after the language which had been used about him and his book in the Liberator of the last week. His gentle reply was,
“The most difficult duty of an office like mine is to find fault with those whom I love and honour most. I have been obliged to do it about—, who is one of my best friends. He is clearly wrong in a matter important to the cause; and I must expose it. In the same way, Dr. Channing, while aiding our cause, has thought fit to say that the abolitionists are fanatical; in other words, that we set up our wayward wills in opposition to the will we profess to obey. I cannot suffer the cause to be injured by letting this pass: but I do not th less value Dr. Channing for the things he has done.”
I was not yet satisfied of the necessity of so much severity as had been used. Garrison bore with me with a meekness too touching to be ever forgotten.
He never speaks of himself or his persecutions unless compelled; and his child will never learn at home what a distinguished father he has. He will know him as the tenderest of parents, before he becomes aware that he is a great hero. I found myself growing into a forgetfulness of the deliverer of a race in the friend of the fireside. One day, in Michigan, two friends (who happened to be abolitionists) and I were taking a drive with the Governor of the State, who was talking of some recent commotion on the slavery question. “What is Garrison like?” said he. “Ask Miss M.,” said one smiling friend: “Ask Miss M.,” said the other. I was asked accordingly: and my answer was that I thought Garrison the most bewitching personage I had met in the United States. The impression cannot but be strengthened by his being made such a bugbear as he is: but the testimony of his personal friends, the closest watchers of his life, may safely be appealed to as to the charms of his domestic manners.
Garrison gaily promised me that ho would come over whenever his work is done in the United States, that we may keep jubilee in London. I believe it would be safe to promise him a hundred thousand welcomes as warm as mine.
Everybody who has heard of American scenery has heard of Lake George. At one time I was afraid I should have to leave the States without having visited the lake of all others which I most desired to see; so many hinderances had fallen in the way of my plans. A few weeks before I left the country, however. I was fortunate enough to be included in a party of four, who made a trip to the Springs and the Lake. It was not in the fashionable season: and for this I was not sorry. I had seen the Virginia Springs and Rockaway in the plenitude of their fashionable glory: and two such exhibitions are enough for one Continent.
It was about noon on the 12th of May when we alighted shivering from the rail-car at Saratoga. We hastened to the Adelphi: and there found the author of Major Jack Downing's Letters, and two other gentlemen, reading the newspapers round a slove. We had but little time to spare; and as soon as we had warmed ourselves, and ascertained the dinner hour, we set forth to view the place, and taste the Congress Water. There is nothing to be seen but large white frame-houses, with handsome, piazzas, festooned with creepers.—(at this time only the sapless remains of the garlands of the last season). These houses and the wooden temple over the principal spring are all that is to be seen.—at least by the bodily eye. The imagination may amuse itself with conjuring up the place as it was less than half a century ago, when these springs bubbled up amidst the brush of the forest.—their qualities being; discovered by the path through the woods worn by the deer in their resort to it. In those days, the only edifices were a single log-hut and a bear-pound; a space enclosed with four high walls, with an extremely narrow entrance, where it was hoped that bears might get in during the dark hours, and be unable to find their way out again. Times are much changed now. There are no bears at Saratoga but a two-legged species from Europe, dropping in, one or two in a season, among the gentiy at the Springs.
The process of bottling the Congress Water was in full activity when we took our first draught of it. Though the utmost celerity is used, the water loses much of its virtue and briskness by bottling. The man and boy whom we saw filling and corking the bottles with a dexterity which only practice can give, are able to dispatch a hundred dozen per day. There are several other springs, shedding waters of various medicinal virtues: but, the Congress fountain is the only one from which the stranger would drink as a matter of taste.
The water-works are just at hand, looking like a giant's shower-bath. At the top of the eminence close by, there is a pleasure rail-road.—a circular track, on which elderly children may take a ride round and round in a self-moving chair; an amusement a step above the old merry-go-round in gravity and scientific pretension. But for its vicinity to some tracts of beautiful scenery. Saratoga must be a very dull place to persons shaken out of their domestic habits, and deprived of their usual occupations: and the beauties of the scenery must be sought, Saratoga Lake lying three miles, Glen's Falls eighteen, and Lake George twenty-seven miles from the Springs.
At dinner, Mr. R., the gentleman of our party, announced to us that he had been able to engage a pretty double gig, with a pair of brisk ponies, for ourselves, and a light cart for our luggage. The day was very cold for an open carriage; but it was not improbable that, before twenty-four hours were over, we might be panting with heat: and it was well to be provided with a carriage in which we might most easily explore the lake scenery, if we should be favoured with fine weather.
The cart preceded us. On the road, a large while snake made a prodigious spring from the grass at the driver, who, being thus challenged, was not slow in entering into combat with the creature. He jumped down, and stoned it for some time with much diligence, before it would he down so that he might drive over it. As we proceeded, the country became richer, and we had fine views of the heights which cluster round the infant Hudson, and of the Green Mountains of Vermont.
We were all astonished at the splendour of Glen's Falls. The full though narrow Hudson rushes along amidst enormous masses of rock, and leaps sixty feet down the chasms and precipices which occur in the passage, sweeping between dark banks of shelving rocks below, its current speckled with foam. The noise is so tremendous that I cannot conceive how people can fix their dwellings in the immediate neighbourhood. There is a long bridge over the roaring floods, which vibrates incessantly; and clusters of saw-mills deform the scene. There is stone-cutting as well as planking done at these mills. The fine black marble of the place is cut into slabs, and sent down to New York to be polished. It was the busiest scene that I saw near any water-power in America.
Lake George lies nine miles beyond Glen's Falls. We saw the lake while we were yet two miles from Caldwell, the pretty village at its southern extremity. It stretched blue among the mountains in the softening light; and we anticipated what our pleasures were to be, as we looked upon the framework of mountains in which this gem is set. We had just emerged from a long and severe winter. We had been walking streets in every stage of thaw; and it was many months since we had loitered about in the full enjoyment of open air and bright verdure, as we hoped to do here. This trip was to be a foretaste of a long summer and autumn of outdoor delights.
The people at the inn were busy cleaning, in preparation for summer company: but they gave us a welcome, and lodged and tended us well. Our windows and piazza commanded a fine view of the lake, (here just a mile broad,) of the opposite mountains, and of the white beach which sweeps round the southern extremity of the sheet of waters,—as transparent as the sea about the Bermudas.
As we had hoped, the next morning was sunny and warm. We employed it in exploring the ground about Fort William Henry, which stands on an eminence a little way back from the water, and is now merely an insignificant heap of ruins. The French and Indians used to pour down upon the settlements in the plains by the passes of the lakes Champlain and George; and near these passes were fought some of the severest battles recorded in American history. The mountain opposite our windows at the Lake House is called French Mountain, from its being the point where the French showed themselves on the bloody 8th of September, 1755, when three battles were fought in the neighbourhood on the same day. It was two years later, when the Marquis of Montcalm conducted an army of 10,000 men to invest Fort William Henry. Colonel Monroe, who held it for the British, was obliged, after a gallant defence, to capitulate. He marched out with 3000 men, and many women and children. The Indians attached to the French army committed outrages which it is thought the Marquis might have prevented. But it is probable that when the guilt of taking savages for allies in offensive warfare is once incurred, any amount of mischief may ensue, which no efforts of the commander can control. Every one knows the horrible story of Miss Mc Crea, the young lady who was on the way to be married to her lover in the British army, and was tomahawked and scalped by the Indians in whose charge she was travelling. During the recrimination between the commanders on this occasion, General Burgoyne explained his inability to control the movements of passionate savages: and it must be supposed that Montealm had no more power over the Indians who plundered and then murdered almost the whole number of the British who evacuated Fort William Henry. It was a horrible scene of butchery. We went over the ground, now waste and still, tangled with bushes, and inhabited only by birds and reptiles.
After wandering for some hours on the beach, and breaking our way through the thick groves which skirt it, dwelling upon the exquisite scene of the blue lake, with its tufted islands, shut in by mountains, we wished to find some place where we might obtain an equally good distant view, and yet enjoy the delights of the margin of the water. By climbing a fence, we got to a green bank, whence we could reach a log in the water; and here we basked, like a party of terrapins, till dinner—time. The foliage of the opposite woods, on French Mountain, seemed to make great progress under the summer warmth of this day; and by the next morning, the soft green tinge was perceptible on them, which, after the dry hardness of winter, is almost as beautiful as the full leaf.
After dinner, we took a drive along the western bank of the lake. The road wound in and out, up and down on the mountainous barrier of the waters; for there was no beach or other level. One of the beauties of Lake George is that the mountains slope down to its very margin. Our stout ponies dragged us up the steep ascents, and rattled us down on the other side in charming style; and we were so enchanted with the succession of views of new promontories and islands, and new aspects of the opposite mountains, that we should have liked to proceed while any light was left, and to have taken our chance for getting back safely. But Mr. R. pointed to the sinking sun, and reminded us that it was Saturday evening. If the people at the inn were Yankees, they would make a point of all the work of the establishment ceasing at sunset, according to the Sabbath customs of New England; and we must allow the hostler a quarter of an hour to put up the ponies. So we unwillingly turned, and reached Caldwell just as the shutters of the stores were in course of being put up, and the last rays of the sun were gushing out on either side the mountain in the rear of the village. At the Lake House, the painters were putting away their brushes, and the scrubbers emptying their pails; and by the time twilight drew on, the place was in a state of Sunday quietness. We had descried a church standing under the trees close by; and the girl who waited on us was asked what services there would be the next day. She told us that there was regular service during the summer season, when the place was full, but not at present: she added, “We have no regular preacher just now; but we have a man who can make a very smart prayer.”
The next day was spent in exploring the eastern side of the lake for some distance, on foot; and in sitting on a steep grassy bank under the pines, with our feet overhanging the clear waters glancing in the sun. Here we read and talked for some hours of a delicious summer Sunday. I spent part of the afternoon alone at the fort, amidst a scene of the profoundest stillness. I could trace my companions as they wound their way at a great distance, along the little white beaches, and through the pine groves: the boat in the cove swayed at the end of its tether, when the wind sent a ripple across its bows: the shadows stole up the mountain sides; and an aged labourer sauntered along the beach, with his axe on his shoulder, crossed the wooden bridge over a brook which flows into the lake, and disappeared in the pine grove to the left. All else was still as midnight. My companions did not know where I was, and were not likely to look in the direction where I was sitting: so when they came within hail,—that is, when from mites they began to look as big as children,—I sang as loud as possible to catch their attention. I saw them speak to each other, stop, and gaze over the lake. They thought it was the singing of fishermen; and it was rather a disappointment when they found it was only one of ourselves.
On the Monday we saw the lake to the best advantage by going upon it. We took boat, directly after breakfast, having a boy to row us;—a stout boy he must be; for he can row twenty—eight miles on the hottest summer's day. The length of the lake is thirty—six miles; a long pull for a rower; but accomplished by some who are accustomed to the effort. First, we went to Tea Island. I wish it had a better name; for it is a delicious spot, just big enough for a very lazy hermit to live in. There is a tea—house to look out from; and, far better, a few little reposing places on the margin,—recesses of rock and dry roots of trees, made to hide one's—self in for thought or dreaming. We dispersed; and one of us might have been seen by any one who rowed round the island, perched in every nook. The breezy side was cool, and musical with the waves. The other side was warm as July, and the waters so still that the cypress twigs we threw in seemed as if they did not mean to float away. Our boatman laid himself down to sleep, as a matter of course; thus bearing testimony to the charms of the island; for he evidently took for granted that we should stay some time. We allowed him a long nap, and then steered our course to Diamond Island. This gay handful of earth is not so beautiful as Tea Island, not being so well tufted with wood; but it is literally carpeted with Forget—me—not. You tread upon it as upon clover in a clover field.
We coasted the eastern shore as we returned, winning our way in the still sunshine, under walls of rock, overhung by projecting trees; and round promontories, across little bays, peeping into the glades of the shore, where not a dwelling is to be seen, and where the human foot seems never to have trod. What a wealth of beauty is there here, for future residents yet unborn! The transparency of the waters of this lake is its great peculiarity. It abounds with fish, especially fine red trout. It is the practice of the fishermen to select the prime fish from a shoal; and they always get the one they want. I can easily believe this; for I could see all that was going on in the deep water under our keel, when we were out of the wind; every ridge of pebbles, every tuft of weed, every whim of each fish's tail I could mark from my seat. The bottom seemed to be all pebbles where it was not too deep to be clearly seen. In some parts the lake is of unmeasured depth.
It was three o'clock before we returned; and, as it is not usual for visitors to spend six or seven hours of a morning on the lake, the good people at the Lake House had been for some time assuring one another that we must have been cast away. The kind—hearted landlady herself had twice been out on the top of the house to look abroad for our boat. I hope the other members of my party will be spared to visit this scene often again. I can hardly hope to do so; but they may be assured that I shall be with them in spirit: for the time will never come when my memory will not be occasionally treated with some flitting image of Lake George.
As might have been predicted, one of the first directions in which the Americans have indulged their taste, and indicated their refinement, is in the preparation and care of their burial—places. This might have been predicted by any one who meditates upon the influences under which the mind of America is growing. The pilgrim origin of the New England population, whose fathers seemed to think that they lived only in order to die, is in favour of all thoughts connected with death filling a large space in the people's minds. Then, in addition to the moving power of common human affections, the Americans are subject to being more incessantly reminded than others how small a section of the creation is occupied by the living in comparison with that engrossed by the dead. In the busy, crowded empires of the old world, the invisible are liable to be forgotten in the stirring presence of visible beings, who inhabit every corner, and throng the whole surface on which men walk. In the new world, it is not so. Living men are comparatively scarce, and the general mind dwells more on the past and the future, (of both which worlds death is the atmosphere,) than in the present. By various influences death is made to constitute a larger element in their estimate of collective human experience, a more conspicuous object in their contemplation of the plan of Providence than it is to, perhaps, any other people. As a natural consequence, all arrangements connected with death occupy much of their attention, and engage a large share of popular sentiment.
I have mentioned that family grave—yards are conspicuous objects in country abodes in America. In the valley of the Mohawk, on the heights of the Alleghanies, in the centre of the north—western prairie, wherever there is a solitary dwelling there is a domestic burying—place,—generally fenced with neat white palings, and delicately kept, however full the settler's hands may be, and whatever may be the aspect of the abode of the living. The new burial—places which are laid out near the towns may already be known from a distance, by the air of finish and taste about their plantations: and I believe it is allowed that Mount Auburn is the most beautiful cemetery in the world.
Before visiting Mount Auburn, I had seen the Catholic cemetery at New Orleans; and the contrast was emarkable enough. I never saw a city churchyard, however damp and neglected, so dreary as the New Orleans cemetery. It lies in the swamp, glaring with its plastered monuments in the sun, with no shade but from the tombs. Being necessarily drained, it is intersected by ditches of weedy stagnant water, alive with frogs, dragon—flies, and mosquito—hawks. Irish, French, and Spanish, are all crowded together, as if the ground could scarcely be opened fast enough for those whom the fever lays low; an impression confirmed by a glance at the dates. The tombs of the Irish have inscriptions which provoke a kind of smile, which is no pleasure in such a place. Those of nuns bear no inscription but the monastic name,—Agathe, Serabine, Thérèse,—and the date of death. Wooden sses, warped in the sun, or rotting with the damp, are in some places standing at the heads of graves, in others are leaning or fallen. Glass boxes containing artificial flowers, and tied with faded ribands stand at the foot of some of these crosses Elsewhere, we saw pitchers with bouquets of natural flowers; the water dried up and the blossoms withered. One enclosure, surrounding a monument, was adorned with cypress, arbor vitæ, roses, and honeysuckles; and this was a relief to the eye, while the feet were treading the hot dusty walks, or the parched grass. The first principle of a cemetery was here violated,—necessarily, no doubt; but by a sad necessity. The first principle of a cemetery,—beyond the obligation of its being made safe and wholesome,—is that it should be cheerful in its aspect. For the sake of the dead this is right,—that their memories may be as welcome as possible to survivors: for the sake of the living, that superstition may be obviated, and that death may be brought into the most familiar connexion with life that the religion and philosophy of the times will allow; that, at least, no hinderance to this may be interposed by the outward preparations for death.
It has sometimes occurred to me to wonder where a certain class of persons find sympathy in their feelings about their dead friends, or whether they have to do without it;—those, and they are not a few, who are entirely doubtful about a life beyond the grave. There are not a few Christians, I believe, and certainly many who are Christians only nominally or not at all, who are not satisfied about whether conscious life ends here, or under what circumstances it will be continued, or resumed, if this life be but a stage of being. Such persons can meet nothing congenial with their emotions in any cemeteries that I know of; and they must feel doubly desolate when, as bereaved mourners, they walk through rows of inscriptions which all breathe more than hope, certainty of renewed life and intercourse, under circumstances which seem to be reckoned on as ascertained. How strange it must be to such to read of the trumpet and the clouds, of the tribunal and the choirs of the saints, as literal realities, expected like the next morning's sunrise, and awaited as undoubtedly as the stroke of death,—while they are sending their thoughts abroad meekly, anxiously, imploringly, through the universe, and diving into the deepest abysses of their own spirits to find a resting—place for their timid hopes! For such there is little sympathy anywhere, and something very like mockery in the language of the tombs.
Evidences of the two extremes of feeling on this matter are found, I am told, in Père la Chaise and Mount Auburn. In Père la Chaise, every expression of mourning is to be found; few or none of hope. The desolate mother, the bereaved brother, the forlorn child, the despairing husband, all breathe their complaint, with more or less of selfishness or of tenderness; but there is no light from the future shining over the place. In Mount Auburn, on the contrary, there is nothing else. A visitor from a strange planet, ignorant of mortality, would take this place to be the sanctum of creation. Every step teems with the promise of life. Beauty is about to “spring up out of ashes, and life out of the dust::” and Humanity seems to be waiting, with acclamations ready on its lips, for the now birth. That there has been any past is little more than matter of inference. All the woes of bereavement are veiled; all sighs hushed; all tears hidden or wiped away; and thanksgiving and joy abound instead. Between these two states of mind, the seriously, innocently doubtful stand alone, and most desolate. They are speechless, for none question them, or care to know their solicitudes: for they are an unsupposed class in a Christian community. In no consecrated ground are there tombs bearing an expression of doubt or fear; yet with the mind's eye I always see such, while treading the paths of a cemetery. It cannot be but that among the diversity of minds, diversely trained, there must be some less easily satisfied than others, some sceptical in proportion to the intensity of their affection for the departed; and it is to these that the sympathies of the happier should be given. If the rich should be mindful of the poor, if those who are ashore during the storm cannot but look out for the tempest driven bark, those who part with their friends in sure and certain hope of a joyful resurrection, should bear in mind with all tenderness such as have to part with their friends without the solace of that hope. Not that anything can be done for them beyond recognising them as fellow—mourners laid under a deeper burden of grief, and needing, therefore, a larger liberty of expression than themselves.
While rambling about in the cheerful glades of Mount Auburn, such thoughts occurred to me, as I hope they often do to others. To us, in whom education, reason, the prophecies of natural religion, and the promises of the gospel unite their influence to generate a perfect belief in a life beyond the grave, it is scarcely possible to conceive how these scenes must appear to one whose prospects are different or doubtful. But it is good for our human sympathies and for our mutual reverence to make the attempt. The conclusion would probably be, with others as with me, that the consecration of this place to hope and triumph would make it too sad for the hesitating and hopeless: and that such probably turn away from the spot where all is too bright and lovely for the desolate of heart.
It is indeed a place for the living to delight in, while watching the sleep of the dead. There is no gloom about it to any but those who look abroad through the gloom of their own minds. It is a mazy paradise, where every forest tree of the western continent grows; and every bird to which the climate is congenial builds its nest. The birds seem to have found out that within that enclosure they are to be unmolested: and there is a twittering in every tree. The clearings are few: the woods preside, with here and there a sunny hill—side, and a shady dell; and a gleaming pond catching the eye at intervals. From the summit of the eminence, the view abroad over the woods is wonderfully beautiful,—of the city of Boston on an opposite hill; of Fresh Pond on another side; of the University; and of the green country, studded with dwellings, and terminating in cloud–like uplands. Every aspect of busy life seems to be brought full into the view of the gazer from this “place of sleep.” If he looks immediately below him, he sees here and there a monument shining among the trees; and he can hide himself in a moment in the shades where, as the breeze passes, the birch twinkles among the solemn pines.
As the burial lots have to be described with reference to different portions of the enclosure, every hill, every avenue, foot–path and dell must have its name. This naming might have spoiled all, if it had been mismanaged; but this has been skilfully guarded against. The avenues and hills are called after forest trees; the footpaths after shrubs and flowers. Beech, Cypress, and Poplar Avenues; Hazel, Vine, and Jasmine Paths; and on. The monuments must, of course, be ordered by the taste of the holders of lots: and the consequence necessarily is occasional incongruity.
This place arose out of a happy union between two societies; one which had long wished to provide a private rural cemetery, and the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. It occurred to some of the members of the latter that the objects of the two associations might be advantageously united; and upon a tract of ground, fit for the purpose, being offered, no time was lost in crying the scheme into execution. This was seven years ago. The tract of ground lay at a distance of four miles from Boston, and consisted of seventy–two acres. The protection of the legislature was secured at its session in 1831. A large number of lots was immediately taken, and a day was fixed for the consecration of the ground by a public religious service. The day fixed was the 24th of September, 1831. The weather was delicious, and the day one which will never be forgotten by those who assisted in its services.
A deep dell, almost circular, was fitted up with seats. The speakers stood at the bottom, with a pine wood behind them, and at their feet a pond shining with water lilies. From the form of the place, every tone of the speakers voices was heard by the topmost row of persons on the verge of the dell. After instrumental music by the Boston band, there was a prayer, by a venerable Professor of the University; and a hymn, written for the occasion, was sung by all the persons present to the tune of the Old Hundred. Judge Story delivered the Address,— a beautiful composition, full of the feelings natural to one who was about to deposit here a rich heart's treasure, and who remembered that here he and all who heart him were probably to lie down to their rest.
Judge Story had made me promise at Washington that I would not go to Mount Auburn till he could take me there. The time arrived, the next August; and early on a warm afternoon, we set forth. Several carriages were at the gate; for the place is a favourite resort on other accounts besides its being a “place of sleep.” The gate at the entrance is of imitation granite; for which it is to be hoped the real stone will soon be substituted. The structure is Egyptian, as are the emblems,—the winged globe, the serpent, and the lotus. It is rather strange that the inscription should be taken from the Old Testament, even from Ecclesiastes: “Then shall the dust return to the earth, and the spirit unto God who gave it.”
One of the most conspicuous monuments is Spurzheim's,—visible almost immediately on entering the place. It is a fac–simile of Scipio's tomb! I could not understand its idea, nor did I meet with any one else who did: nor is it easy to conceive how any thing appropriate to Scipio could suit Spurzheim. I was informed that the fact was that the monument happened to arrive just at the time of Spurzheim's death: and that the Committee appointed to dispense his funeral honours saved themselves trouble by purchasing the marble. It stands well, on a green mound, on the left hand side of the avenue. Mrs. Hannah Adams, the historian of the Jews, had the honour of being the first to be interred in this cemetery. The white obelisk is frequent, and looks well in a place so thickly wooded. Under one of these lie five children of Judge Story removed from another place of sepulture to this beautiful spot. The Connecticut free–stone is much in use, and its reddish hue harmonizes well with what surrounds it. It is particularly fit for the Egyptian fronts to vaults hollowed out of the hill–sides. The objection to it for tombs which have to receive an inscription is that it will bear none but gold letters. The granite fronts of Egyptian tombs look well. I thought them the most beautiful burial–places I ever saw,—the grass growing thick on the hill–side above and on either hand: and, in some instances, a little blooming garden smiling in front. I saw many lots of ground well tended, and wearing the air of luxuriant gardens: some surrounded with palings: some with posts and chains: and others with hedges of cypress or belts of acacia. Many separate graves were studded with flowers: the narrowest and gayest of gardens. Of all the inscriptions, the one which pleased me most was on a monument erected by an only surviving sister to her brother:—“Jesus saith unto her. Thy brother shall rise again.”
While writing. I have been struck by the strong resemblance between the retrospect of travel from home, and that of life from the cemetery. In each contemplation the hosts of human beings who have been seen acting, suffering, and meditating, vise up before the mind's eye as in a kind of judgment scene, except that they rise up, not to be judged, but to instruct. The profit of travel is realized at home, in the solitude of the study; and the true meaning of human life (as far as its meaning can become known to us here) is best made out from its place of rest. While busy among strangers, one is carried away by sympathy and by prejudice from the point whence foreign society can be viewed with any thing like impartiality: one cannot but hear the mutual criminations of parties: one cannot but be perplexed by the mutual misrepresentations of fellow–citizens: one cannot but sympathize largely with all in turn, since there is a large mixture of truth in all views about which people are strongly persuaded. It is only after sitting down alone at home that the traveller can separate the universal truth from the partial error with which he has sympathized, and can make some approximation towards assurance as to what he has learned, and what he believes. So it is in the turmoil of life. While engaged in it, we are ignorantly persuaded, and liable therefore to be shaken from our certainty: we are disproportionately moved, and we sympathize with incompatibilities; so as to be sure of disappointment and humiliation, inflicted through our best sensibilities. In the place of retrospect we may find our repose again in contemplating our ignorance and weakness, and ascertaining the conviction and strength which they have wrought out for us.
What is gained by living and travelling?
One of the most striking, and even amusing, results is the perception of the transient nature of troubles. The thoughtful traveller feels something like wonder and amusement at himself for being so depressed by evils as he finds himself in the midst of long–idealized objects. He is surprised at his own sufferings from hunger, cold, heat, and weariness; and at his being only prevented by shame from passing some great object unseen, if he has to rouse himself from sleep to look at it, or to forego a meal for its sake. The next time he is refreshed, he wonders how his troubles could ever so affect him: and when at home he looks through the picture–gallery of his memory, the aflictions of past hours would have vanished.—their very occurrence would be denied but for the record in the journal. The contemptible entries about cold, hunger, and sleepiness stand, ludicrously enough, among notices of cataracts and mountains, and of moral conflicts in the senates of nations. And so with life. We look back upon our pangs about objects of desire, as if it were the object and not the temper of pursuit which was of importance. We look back on our suffering from disease, from disappointment, from suspense, in times when the great moral events of our lives, or even of the age, were impending, and we disregarded them. We were mourning over some petty loss or injury while a new region of the moral universe was about to be disclosed to us: or fretting about our “roast chicken and our little game at cards.” while the liberties of an empire were being lost or won.
Worse than our own little troubles; probably, has been the fear and sorrow of hurting others. One of the greatest of a traveller's hardships is the being aware that he must be perpetually treading on somebody's toes. Passing from city to city, from one group of families to another, where the divisions of party and of sect, the contrariety of interests, and the world of domestic circumstance, are all unknown to him, he can hardly open his lips without wounding somebody; and it makes him all the more anxious if, through the generosity of his entertainers, he never hears of it. No care of his own can save him from his function of torturer. He cannot speak of religion, morals and politics: he cannot speak of insanity, intemperance, or framing, or even of health, riches, fair fame and good children, without danger of rousing feelings of personal remorse or family shame in some, or the bitter sense of bereavement in others. Little or nothing has been said of this as one of the woes of travelling; but in my own opinion, this is the direction in which the fortitude of the traveller is the most severely tried. Yet in the retrospect, it seems even good that we should have been obliged thus to call the generosity and forbearance of our hosts into exercise. They are doubtless benefited by the effort; and we may perhaps be gainers,—the direct operation of forbearance and forgiveness being to enhance affection. The regard of those whom we have wounded may perhaps be warmer than if we had never hurt them. It is much the same with men's mutual inflictions in life. None of us, especially none who are frank and honest, can speak what we think, and act according to what we believe, without giving pain in many directions. It is very painful, but quite unavoidable. In the retrospect, however, we are able to smile on the necessity, and to conclude that, as we have been willing to bear our share of the wounding from others, and should perhaps have been sorry if it had not happened, it is probable that others may have regarded us and our inflictions in the same way.
Nothing is more conspicuous in the traveller's retrospect than the fact how little external possession has to do with happiness. As he wanders back over city and village, plantation and prairie, he sees again care on the brow of the merchant, and mirth in the eyes of the labourer: the soulless faces of the rich Shakers rise up before him, side by side with the gladsome countenance of the ruined abolitionist. Each class kindly pities the one below it in power and wealth: the traveller pities none but those who are wasting their energies in the exclusive pursuit of either. Generally speaking, they have all an equal endowment of the things from which happiness is really derived. They have, in pretty equal distribution, health, senses and their pleasures, homes, children, pursuits, and successes. With all these things in common, the one point of difference in their respective amounts of possession of more than they can at present eat, use, and enjoy, seems to him quite unworthy of all the compassion excited by it: though the compassion, having something: amiable in it, is of a kindly use, as far as it goes. In a cemetery, the thoughtless are startled into the same perception. How destitute are the dead in their graves! How naked is the spirit gone from its warm housings and environment of luxuries! This is the first thought. The next is, was it ever otherwise? Had these luxuries ever anything to do with the peace of the spirit, except as affording a pursuit for the employment of its energies? Is not as vigorous and gladsome a mind to be found abroad in the fields, or singing at the mill, as doing the honours of the drawing–room? and, if it were not so, what words could we find strong enough for the cruelty of the decree under which every human being is compelled to enter his grave solitary and destitute? In the retrospect of the recent traveller in America, the happiest class is clearly that small one of the original abolitionists,—men and women wholly devoted to a lofty pursuit, and surrendering for it much that others most prize: and in the retrospect of the traveller through life, the most eminently blessed come forth from among all ranks and orders of men,—some being rich and others poor; some illustrious and others obscure; but all having one point of—resemblance, that they have not staked their peace on anything so unreal as money or fame.
As for the worth of praise, the traveller cannot have gone far without finding it out. He has been praised and blamed at every turn: and he soon sees that what people think of him matters to themselves and not to him. He applies this to himself, and finds confirmation. It is ludierous to suppose that what he thinks of this man and that, whose motives and circumstances he can never completely understand, should be of lasting importance to the subjects of his observation; while he feels it to be very important to his own peace and state of temper that he should admire as much and despise as little as reason will allow. That this is not more felt and acted upon is owing to the confined intercourses of the majority of men. If, like the traveller, they were for a long time exposed to a contrariety of opinions respecting themselves, they would arrive at the conviction which rises “by natural exhalation” from the field of graves, that men's mutual judgements are almost insignificant to the objects of them, while immeasurably important to those who form them. When we look about us upon this obelisk and that urn, what matter the applauses and censures of the neighbours of the departed, in the presence of the awful facts here declared, that he has lived and is gone? In this mighty transaction between himself and his Maker, how insignificant to him are the comments of beings between whom and himself there could exist no complete understanding in this life! But there is no overrating the consequences to himself of having lived with high or low models before his eyes; in a spirit of love or a spirit of contempt; in a process of generous or disparaging interpretation of human actions. His whole future condition and progress may be affected by it.
Out of this matter of mutual opinion arises a cheering emotion, both to the retrospective traveller and to the thinker among the tombs. Each foreign companion of the one, and each who lies buried about the path of the other, has had his hero, and even succession of heroes, among the living. I know not what those who despise their kind can make of this fact,—that every human being whom we know has found in every stage of his conception of moral beauty, some living exemplification which satisfied him for the time. The satisfaction is only temporary, it is true; and the admiration fades when the satisfaction is impaired; but this only shows the vigour of the moral nature, and its capacity of progress. The fact that every man is able to make idols, though he must “find them clay,” is a proof of the vast amount of good which human character presents to every observer. The reality of this is very striking in the existence of villagers, who find so much excellence round about them that they cannot believe any other part of God's world is so good as their village: but the effect to the traveller of going from village to village, from city to city, during his wanderings of ten thousand miles, and finding the same worship, the same prejudice, born of mutual reverence and love, wherever he goes, is exhilarating to his heart of hearts. The testimony at the same time to the love and existence of goodness is so overpowering, that it must subdue misanthropy itself, if only misanthropy could be brought into the presence of a large number of the human race; which, it may be suspected, has never been done. When we extend our view from the field of travel to the world of the dead, and remember that every one of the host has had his succession of heroes and demigods, and probably of worshippers also, what words can express the greatness of the homage rendered to goodness? It drowns all the praises practically offered to the powers of evil, from the first hour of sin and sorrow till now.
The mysterious pain of partings presses upon the returned traveller and the survivor, with nearly equal force, I do not know whether this woe is usually taken into the estimate of travellers when they are counting the cost of their scheme before setting out; but I know that it deserves to be. I believe that many would not go if they could anticipatc the misery of such partings as those which must be encountered in a foreign country, in long dreary succession, and without more hope than in parting with the dying. The chances of meeting again are small. For a time, the grief soothes itself by correspondence; but this cannot last, as one family group after another opens its arms to the stranger, and gives him a home, only that he must vacate it for another. The correspondence slackens, fails, and the parties are to one another as if they were dead, with the sad difference that there is somewhat less faith in each other than if they were in circumstances in which it is physically impossible that they could communicate. To the survivor of intercourse, in either place of meditation, there remains the heart-soreness from the anguish of parting,—that pain which, like physical pain, takes us by surprise with its bitterness at each return, and disposes us at length to either cowardice or recklessness: and each of these survivors may be conscious of some visitations of jealousy,—jealousy lest the absent should be learning to forget the past in new interests and connexions.
The strongest point of resemblance in the two contemplations of the life which lies behind, is this; that a scene is closed, and another is opening. The term of existence in a foreign land, and the somewhat longer term spent on this planetary island, are viewed as over; and the fatigues, enjoyments, and perplexities of each result in an amount of calm experience. The dead, it is hoped, are entering on a new region in which they are to act with fresh powers and a wiser activity. The refreshed traveller has the same ambition. I have surveyed my experience, and told my tale; and, though often visiting America in thought, can act no more with reference to my sojourn there, but must pass over into a new department of inquiry and endeavour. Friendships are the grand gain of travel over a continent or through life: and these may be carried forward into new regions of existence here, as we hope they may be into the unexplored hereafter, to give strength and delight to new exertions, and to unite the various scenes of our being by the strongest ties we know.
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